Wednesday, December 6, 2017


First Wed of Every Month

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: As you look back on 2017, with all its successes and failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?

Co-Hosts: Julie Flanders,Shannon Lawrence, Fundy Blue,and Heather Gardner!

The end is near.
How did this happen? If I could backtrack, I would switch brains with a NY Times Bestselling author. Okay, maybe that's not what IWSG intended by the question of the month. But I write fiction. Can you blame me for dreaming?

My NaNo month ended on a high note. In November, I wrote almost 25k for my new MG mystery, and I started a new MG sci-fi thriller with another 8500 words. In fact, I'm so pumped about my new sci-fi that I'm ditching the other one (for now) and going full force with the newer one.
Did that make sense?
Brain is fuzzy.
Writer's cramp.
Where's my coffee IV?

During Thanksgiving vacation, we stopped at a hotel about an hour from Chicago where I got this crazy idea for a sci-fi novel. Inspiration can literally hit you anywhere at anytime. I don't think I've ever been struck before with such an overwhelming and fun idea for a story!

Good luck with revisions this month. I'm sticking to my rough draft. Hoping to edit after the new year. Merry Christmas!

How about you? What would you do differently this past year? Want to switch places with anyone?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

November #IWSG: NaNo Time!

First Wed of Every Month

IWSG Day Question: Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?

I n the month of October, I managed impromptu hiking excursions, trips to corn mazes, haunted houses, pumpkin patches, and indoor soccer games, trick or trreating, and binge-watching Stranger Things 2. Whew. I just got tired writing all of that.  

Writing? Er, not so much. But today's the day!!!

 I like to start my NaNo prep in late September, so I'm already fifty pages into my new MG mystery. I always finish my NaNo projects even if it's in the month of December. My first book ever published was a NaNo novel.

So grab your pencils, er, laptops, and let's get cracking! After a very busy month of playing around, I'm ready to rumble, er, write. Join me on a fantastic way to crank out a rough draft in thirty days.  

Good luck on your NaNo project or finishing your work-in-progress that you started last year. 

Corn Maze time!

Mathessin State Park near LaSalle Peru, Illinois


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

October #IWSG

I am a co-host today with these awesome members:

October 4 question Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?

Every single time I write a character I give them a bit of my twelve-year-old self. What can I say, I enjoyed my childhood. Okay, maybe not the red hair and glasses, but I loved spying on people and pretending to be a secret agent. 

My teenage boys always end up as main characters or quirky secondary characters. But I'm changing things up. In my new WIP, let me introduce my first girl protagonist! Loads of fun. But I must confess, the twin antagonists are turning out to be my favorite characters to write.

October is a time for change.

The weather (thank goodness!) chills, leaves turn, haunted houses pop up all over the Midwest. I just want to recognize my oldest son who redesigned my blog and website. He is a computer science major and quite talented. I've been wanting a complete overhaul for a long time and it's here!!!!

Take a look at my new website:  and tell me what you think!

I participated in two events this past month. On Monday, September 18th, I became a book fairie for the day for #Goodreadsturns10 and #Hideabookday world wide. You can read more on my website. I hid eighteen books in the downtown area of Hannibal, MO. 

Saturday, I was involved in my first ever author takeover event with a live chat on Facebook. My publisher Saguaro Books hosted the event. 

I hid books along Mark Twain's boyhood home
and even one in the paint bucket near the fence.

Now, get out there and enjoy the best month all year. Happy October!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

September #IWSG: Change Is in the Air

First Wed of Every Month

Question: Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? (For example, by trying a new genre you didn't think you'd be comfortable in?)

Change is in the air, or it's just pumpkin spice. My favorite season descends upon us like a teenage boy consuming a Taco Bell Quesarito: fast and furious.

In my current work in progress, I decided to switch things up. Because of the idea of branding, I plan to continue with MG mysteries, but will launch this new story in a different direction. Where's the fun in writing if you can't take detours and end up in an alternate dimension? 

Writing contests might be considered "surprising yourself" with your writing when you actually win. 

Over the weekend, I received good news! My current MG mystery (out with many different agents!!) Link Lakowski & the Dead House won third place in the "Awesome Openers" 2017 Rate Your Story Contest. WEEKEND MADE.

I even took a screen shot to savor the moment.

Hope you are trying new things in your writing world!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

August #IWSG: Pet Peeves and World Domination

First Wed of Every Month
Come join Alex J. Cavanaugh and the Insecure Writer's Support Group. We discuss our fears, insecurities, ups and downs of the writing process and post the first Wednesday of every month!

This month's question: What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?

My pet peeves consist mainly of slow drivers and teenage boys who make messes and don't clean them up. Oh, sorry, I forgot we were talking about writing and not everyday life. When does school start? Soon. Very soon. 

Okay, then. I'll stick with my editing pet peeve. It's personal. My editing brain needs an off button when I'm drafting. Seriously, someone shoot a tranq dart at me so I can write the first draft without freaking out. I'm 10k into my new WIP and now the editing bigwigs want world domination. "But we have such a long way to go," I keep telling my brain. 

Today, I shut down the inner nerd and let loose the creative geek to steer this story in the right direction.

Only a few weeks left of summer. I continue to spy, er, play tourist around town all in the name of research. Did I mention the Mark Twain Cave is 52 degrees all year round? Since Hannibal has been hotter than Texas lately, I plan to hang out with Jesse James as much as I can. Happy summer!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

July #IWSG: Critique Partners, Frog-Jumping Contests, and Mud Volleyball, Oh my!

First Wed of Every Month

This month's question: What is one valuable lesson you've learned since you started writing? 

Don't go it alone. You might think you can, but you won't last for very long. I'm writing this ahead of schedule and I've hit the were-going-on-vacation-tomorrow panic stage, so this will be short and probably not sweet, but to the point. 

You need an extra set of eyes on your work, and I don't mean your mom or significant other unless they are a professional editor. Then by all means go for it. I love my beta-readers and critique partners and writerly cheerleaders. Get over yourself if you think you can't take criticism. Make your work better!

Hannibal is hosting yet another festival this week. Come check out the always fun National Tom Sawyer Days complete with fence painting and frog jumping contests and mud volleyball. Not sure how the last one is relevant to Mark Twain, but who cares? Have fun this Fourth of July!

I'll be enjoying a week off. Who am I kidding? I'm outlining a new story!! I'll try to visit other blogs and get to your comments sometime this week. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

June #IWSG: I Quit (Just Kidding)

First Wed of Every Month

This month's Question: Did you ever say "I quit"? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing? 

Every. Single. Day. 

My crazy life includes two teenage boys, an eight-year-old princess, and enough stress to fill an entire galaxy. Of course, I want to quit some days. Then I stop whining and plunk down in front of my laptop and begin again. Did I mention I have two teenagers in the house? Now there's an endless supply of writerly inspiration. Paybacks are wonderful.

Writing always snaps me out of my notion to resign. When everyday life squeezes in and knocks me off center, I fight back. I'm a writer. Quitting isn't an option for me. I love what I do.

Don't give up, people!

And don't be afraid to take a break. It's summer for Pete's sake. Get out and live. Life moves too fast. Ferris Bueller, anyone? Oh, boy. 

Found this gem of a waterfall about a mile from my house. Sometimes you just need a change of scenery or to send those kids to summer camp or to send your hubs off on a fishing trip. By the way, he's caught some amazing fish this week.  

I hope everyone is enjoying their summer break!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

May #IWSG: All in the Name of Research

First Wed of Every Month

May IWSG Day Question: What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?

I am privileged to live in Mark Twain's boyhood hometown, where I can spy on the tourists and stick my nose in the past any day I please.

My favorite activity besides spying or eavesdropping, of course, is taking photographs. I think the twelve-year-old me has yet to grow up.

Part of my recent research for my current MG mystery led me to the most obvious place, hospitals. Teenage boys and accidents go together like peanut butter and jelly. Trust me, I know. Built in 1915, St. Elizabeth's Hospital still stands after more than a century. The abandoned rooms swirl with paranormal activity and trash and broken windows. Ghost hunters are drawn by the dozens to this old relic. The icing on the cake, there's a morgue in the basement. I needed to research one (preferably an autopsy room.) Since I'm writing MG, I had to keep it PG and lighthearted. Humor is a great coping mechanism for dealing with the macabre. I chose to avoid the low budget horror flick and leave the sightseeing to Ghostbusters or vandals, the internet being a safe alternative. But the exterior!! fueled my creative process.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Quincy Herald Whig

On a lighter note, my research also took me to the Mississippi River. Nice excuse for an early morning excursion.

For future research and stories, the Mark Twain Hotel holds a special place in my heart. Take my word for it, the architecture in the foyer is to die for. I will visit again someday. I've since lost the photos from my first trip back in time. Because the building is no longer a hotel (apartments), they keep the security pretty tight.

I can't wait to read everyone's interesting stories today! Happy researching, exploring, and eavesdropping. 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

April #IWSG: Taking Advantage of the A to Z Challenge

First Wed of Every MonthCome join Alex J. Cavanaugh and the Insecure Writer's Support Group. We discuss our fears, insecurities, ups and downs of the writing process and post the first Wednesday of every month!

April IWSG Day Question: Have you taken advantage of the annual A to Z Challenge in terms of marketing, networking, publicity for your book?

Several years ago, I participated in two consecutive A to Z Challenges. Last year, I had prior commitments. This year, my swamped life threatens to drown me, so I am unable to join in the fun blogging experience. I did not do any marketing or networking to my knowledge, but my sales from my first book increased during those times.

During the second year of the challenge, my theme was my town of Hannibal, Missouri, located on the Mississippi River. Our town features the boyhood home of Mark Twain. Each day I highlighted a historic site with a photograph and a snippet of our town's history. And believe me, this place is chocked full of fun, ghostly legends. Don't forget all the many establishments celebrating the life of Mark Twain. My oldest son and I ran around town, snapping photos of everything from the Old Jail House, to the new Wax Museum, to the famous Mark Twain Cave and the lighthouse. All of these adventurous places stirred to life a fresh, new contemporary mystery.

As I was standing on Main Street yesterday, the clouds rolled in (as did the rain) and the tourists. Haunted Wagon rides are now departing daily, taking sight-seers to all the deliciously spooky spots in town, including the old Baptist Cemetery (featured in Tom Sawyer) and the vacant lot where the famous Amos J. Stillwell murder took place. The house was so haunted that eventually the city tore it down. A story has been sitting right in front of me for many years. Of course, I've changed the name of the town to protect the innocent.

You never know where an A to Z blogging challenge may lead, but take full advantage of the opportunity to gather story ideas for later and inspiration for your next book!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

March #IWSG: Got Stress?

First Wed of Every MonthCome join Alex J. Cavanaugh and the Insecure Writer's Support Group. We discuss our fears, insecurities, ups and downs of the writing process and post the first Wednesday of every month!

March IWSG Day Question: Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?

Several years ago I felt compelled to write a sequel to a MG mystery I had written. Yes, I understand that is considered taboo. No, I don't care. Locked away in my laptop, my story will be revived soon. The killer plot in this murder mystery (see what I did there?) and amazing setting still give me chills. 

Got stress? The answer to that question is a no brainer. Writers eat, breathe, and sleep heaps of stress. And if you have kids and laundry and games and practices, you deserve a trophy. Moving past the rough draft phase in my WIP, I dove into editing and polishing and more editing. Editing makes me positively giddy. I know. Weird. 

So, after making the final edits on my shiny, new MG mystery, I decided to submit to Brenda Drake's Pitch Madness contest. The winners are announced on Monday. Until then, I may need a paper bag or a stress kitty. Here are two to choose from: Oliver and Sniper. I finally caved and surprised my teenage boys with Christmas kittens. When I'm stressed, my youngest son hands me a kitten. 

Have you been stressed this past month? Are you reworking a story from your archives? Are you excited about editing? Are you getting a kitten?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

February #IWSG: Less Is More

First Wed of Every MonthCome join Alex J. Cavanaugh and the Insecure Writer's Support Group. We discuss our fears, insecurities, ups and downs of the writing process and post the first Wednesday of every month!

Question of the month: How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader?

Before I became a writer, I read for the experience and for pure pleasure. Now, I'm a ninja on a mission, always searching for that elusive "best book ever written." To discover why some novels stand out in an overcrowded book market and why others fall short, I read all the books: the good, the bad, and everything in between. I read in my genre and out of my genre. I read MG, YA, and Adult books.

One element I keep discovering in stellar works of fiction is story subtext. I admire an author who doesn't beat you over the head with every single detail and doesn't explain everything. Readers are intelligent. If a book can pass this simple test, I know right away it's going to be an instant hit.

K.M. Weiland said it best. "Overexplaining in fiction causes flabby sentences, confused metaphors, and condescending descriptions."

Anyone else have a crazy month? Between both of my boys knee deep in their wrestling seasons, and the flu virus flourishing, and finishing edits on my latest MG mystery, I'm ready for summer or a nap.

I read with a much better eye now that I am a writer. How about you? Do you study books in order to become a better writer? K.M. Weiland has written an excellent article on Story Subtext. Go check out her amazing blog for writers!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

January #IWSG: Are We There Yet?

First Wed of Every Month
Come join Alex J. Cavanaugh and the Insecure Writer's Support Group. We discuss our fears, insecurities, ups and downs of the writing process and post the first Wednesday of every month!

I'm going to skip the question of the month, because I can't think of any writing rule I wish didn't exist. But I'm sure all of your answers will be very interesting to read.

Nine hours in a car with three kids takes patience and caffeine and earplugs. With my current work in progress, I keep asking myself the same question: are we there yet? And I am happy to report that I am almost there! Hopefully in the next few weeks I can add the last finishing touches and send it off to beta-readers and critique partners. I've never fallen out of love (yet) with this new, shiny manuscript. 

We made it to Michigan to spend Christmas with the in-laws. I spotted this cozy barn on the side of the road. My techie son could've photo shopped the power line. Oh well. This pic makes me want to get out the laptop and the coffee and get writing. Anyone else almost there yet with your latest manuscript?

July #IWSG: Summer Mode Activated

           Come join Alex J. Cavanaugh and the Insecure Writer's Support Group. We discuss our fears, insecurities, ups and downs of the...