Monday, December 3, 2018


OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: What are five objects we'd find in your writing space? 

The awesome co-hosts today are December 5 posting of the IWSG are J.H. Moncrieff, Tonja Drecker, Patsy Collins, and Chrys Fey!

The five essentials you'd find in my writing space besides a laptop, of course, are the following: 

1. Punching bag (when I was querying) Rejection isn't easy. 

2. My favorite middle-grade murder mystery books for inspiring...well-formed plots, of course, silly.

3. A fort made out of my TBR list. Makes a good hiding place when you're trying to write and the kids keep asking about dinner. Sheesh.  

4. Cat one trying to type. 

5. Cat two trying to snuggle.The distractions are real, folks. 

Bonus item: My contract with my agent to remind me that I met my NUMBER ONE GOAL this year!! WOOHOO!!! 

Okay, so I don't really have a punching bag or plans for murder (or do I?) lying around my work space. And my virtual TBR list (I mostly order e-books) dwindles everyday. I just finished James Ponti's excellent MG mystery series, FRAMED!, VANISHED!, TRAPPED! I'm also finishing Sheila Turnage's MG mystery series, Three Times Lucky, Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, and I'm half way through The Odds of Getting Even. Boy, can Turnage write suspense and humor! My hero.  

People in the hallway outside my library door at school must think I'm crazy or plotting murder mysteries. Actually, I'm reading and giggling. Boy, do I read fast! I've tackled countless books since August. I've also written fifty plus pages of my WIP for the month of November. Not as much as I hoped. But I'm planning to write more this month. 

If you witness murder plots, criminal profiling books, and plans for the perfect crime, you've entered my work space. 

Hope you are enjoying this crazy busy month. Happy writing and Merry Christmas! 

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

November #IWSG: The Perks of Being a School Librarian

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: How has your creativity in life evolved since you began writing?
Co-Hosts:  Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, Ann V. Friend, JQ Rose, and Elizabeth Seckman!

Over the past few years, my creativity has evolved into an insatiable monster. Events, awkward situations, conversations, and personalities get thrown into a folder in the back of my brain, ready to use in any given scene. EVERYTHING that comes my way in life turns into potential story ideas. That goofy middle-aged man I just met would make a great side character. That annoyingly perky woman would make an awesome villain--hiding her real personality behind her perfect life. 

One of the perks of being a school librarian is the interaction with the kids. Eavesdropping on their conversations and watching them in the "wild" (aka school) provides great material since I write middle-grade.

Can you guess the best perk of being a librarian? Yep, I get to read all the books. The other day as I explored the library I discovered a stack of Mark Twain Award books on a top shelf. A whole stack of unread novels just waiting for me! I dove into the first one, a middle-grade mystery, FRAMED! by James Ponti and I was hooked. I read it in a day. Now I'm onto Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman. My kids at school are like, "Mrs. Hawes has her nose in a book again." And I'm like, "What? Oh, hey kids, didn't see you there."

I need an intervention.

Anyone else doing NaNo this month? Do you need an intervention? Are you reading all the books? I'm almost ten thousand words into my next murder mystery! 

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

October #IWSG: It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (to write murder mysteries)

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: How do major life events affect your writing? Has writing ever helped you through something?

Co-Hosts:  Dolorah @ Book Lover, Christopher D. Votey, Tanya Miranda, andChemist Ken!

October affects my writing like no other month. Ideas are piling up faster than the leaves falling. I'm already five thousand words into a new story! There's just something about this season that inspires a well plotted murder mystery. I sense a change in the atmosphere. Haunted houses creep up everywhere. Cooler nights descend on us in shadowy form. Spooky graveyards beckon for a visit. Wax museums become all too real.

My new job (major life change!) as an elementary school librarian has me scrambling for different writing times. Early morning is still a go, but no more afternoon writing binges. Late nights or weekends are my choice for writing all the words now.

Mark Twain's boyhood home town has it all: gorgeous fall colors, haunted houses and wagon rides. Yes, even a disturbingly life-like wax museum. The perfect writing inspiration for me!

Does October inspire you to write? How are you celebrating fall? 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

September #IWSG: Wait For It...(Getting the CALL!!)

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 apologize for being MIA last month. My crazy summer ended in a trip to Mackinac Island then off to a new job as an elementary school librarian to getting the most important phone call of my writing career!!! 

Wait for it...

A few weeks ago an agent emailed me (I assumed another lovely rejection) to tell me how much they loved my story. If I had a dollar for every time I've heard this before, but usually they end with a "but it just isn't a good fit for my list right now." Instead, she ended with the words, "I'd like to set up a phone call with you." 

I almost fainted. I most certainly cried. Probably screamed in excitement. Danced around the room a few times. Passed out in my writing chair.

Yes, it was THE CALL. I am now represented by Britt Siess at Martin Literary Management!!!! Britt is kind and knowledgeable and professional and personal! And I'm super excited about her vision for my book and my writing career.

Here's the timeline: 

I started writing this book in November during NANO. I slogged through December and January with tons of self doubt swirling around me, like an endless demon fog with sharp teeth ready to devour every shred of my self confidence. I finally convinced myself to continue in February to the shouting of my critique partner, "FINISH THE BOOK!" After bribing myself with coffee and more coffee, I  exchanged the final draft with my CP in March. I entered my middle-grade murder mystery in a contest at the end of April. Won Runner-Up in said contest!!! 

Confidence boost!!

In June, I entered the fierce competition of Query Kombat and found myself on Michelle Hauck's team. I lost the battle in round one, but became a host save and made it to the agent round. My MG entry THE INK AND PAPER SOCIETY nicknamed "I Can Keep a Secret" got the second highest number of agent requests! However, this summer has been slow, searing hot, and full of crickets. Britt was not one of the requesting agents from Query Kombat. I queried a few agents in July, but then stopped. Seriously, I barely queried this manuscript. Not wanting more rejections (because I freaking LOVE this story!!!!), I enjoyed the rest of my summer. I had queried another agent at her agency, and she kindly referred me to Britt! 

I'm over the moon at attaining my long-time dream of securing literary representation! How's your month going? 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

July #IWSG: Summer and My Great Expectations

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)?

Co-Hosts: Nicki Elson, Juneta Key, Tamara Narayan, and Patricia Lynne!

My ultimate writing goals stay the same: agent + book deal + bestseller list. Ha. A girl can dream. Last month I landed in the agent round of Query Kombat. I am pleased to say my middle grade mystery got the second highest amount of requests!! Now I wait. Always waiting. 

This week I am on vacation in the great cheese state of Wisconsin, visiting family and enjoying the great outdoors. Yes, you can actually step outside here and not get your face melted off. Oh, how I've missed my home state---in the summer. Not so much in the winter! 

I hope everyone has lofty writing goals and great expectations! Have a fantastic rest of summer.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

June #IWSG: The Art of War or Battle of the Nerves

First Wed of Every Month

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: What's harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names?

After last month's celebratory dance (winning runner-up in RevPit), I changed into camo gear and entered Query Kombat. Out of 400 entries, my new MG mystery was chosen for Michelle Hauck's team! But battling a middle-grade fantasy entry this past week turned brutal. I lost. 

Plot Twist

Drum Roll

Wait for it!

In a Host Save, Michelle snatched my entry from the rubble of lost dreams littered across the battle field. My new story enters the agent round (30 agents, people!!) starting Thursday!! Agents make requests in secret for four days.

*Locates paper bag*

*Passes out*

I'll just be hiding in a cave for the next week. 

Seriously, that is all, folks. After this nail-biting stress, I need a vacation.

P.S. I love naming characters. Titles of books? Not so easy. For my new mystery, I've tossed around three different titles. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

May #IWSG: Time for a Happy Dance

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!

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: It's spring! Does this season inspire you to write more than others, or not?

Spring brings out the editor in me. But as writers know, editing is re-writing. So, I guess I am writing! 


I spent the entirety of April editing my NaNo project. After ignoring my family for thirty days, I typed THE END. I finished just in time to enter my new middle-grade mystery into #RevPit. Revise and Resub is an online contest hosted by eleven professional editors who choose winners from about one hundred entrants each. The top winner gets to work with an editor for five weeks. The runner-up gets several critiques on a smaller scale. In a writer's world full of disappointment and rejection, it's nice to get good news!

Drum roll...

My new story staring a kick-butt, twelve-year-old girl solving a crime in Door County, Wisconsin, won RUNNER-UP!!! 

And that's all I can say about my book. The rest is top secret. I'd tell you, but, you know...

I don't usually talk about my submission journey. But I felt like shouting my latest victory to the world. Even small victories and accomplishments can push us to keep writing and moving forward. My shiny, new MG mystery is almost ready to sub to agents. My other middle-grade mystery Link Lakowski and the Dead House remains on sub with agents and a few editors from a different contest. But I am confident it will find its home very soon in the book world.

The submission phase is tedious, depressing, and not for everyone. Get yourself a CP or two. Read Story Genius, The First Five Pages, The Emotions Thesaurus, and EVERYTHING on K.M. Weiland's blog. Do it now. 

Fun Facts: 

I am a native of the great cheese state of Wisconsin--the setting for my new book.
My mystery is filled with more secrets than a teenage girl's diary.
My family didn't disown me this past month.

Anyone else enter #RevPit? Entering any contests this spring or summer? 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

April #IWSG: Rainy Days and Zoo Trips

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: 
When your writing life is a bit cloudy or filled with rain, what do you do to dig down and keep on writing?
Olga Godim, Chemist Ken, Renee Scattergood, and Tamara Narayan!

This past month brought tons of rain, a snow day, and the flu. I love rain. Don't even talk to me about the other two incidences. 

I don't have to dig deep these days. The faucet in my writerly brain overfloweth. My CP and I are on a roll. Almost finished with our initial exchange-two-chapters-at-a-time method, I'm anxious to dig deeper. If you fail at digging a tunnel to the heart of your story or you're stuck in the muddy middle, I suggest reading K.M. Weiland's blog posts (talk about a gold mine!) and the book Story Genius by Lisa Cron.

I'm keeping this post short this month due to flu bug crawling its way into our home. I can't wait to hear how you guys dig deep and keep writing strong! 

We did manage a day outing during Easter break. I highly recommend the free St. Louis Zoo. The penguin exhibit and the sea lion tunnel are worth the traffic jams. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

March #IWSG: March Madness (aka editing like crazy) Month

First Wed of Every Month

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: How do you celebrate when you achieve a writing goal / finish a story?

Happy March Madness! 

I'm super excited to co-host today! My CP is a drill sergeant. Just kidding. But she keeps me moving on my WIP. When I finish two chapters and send them to her, I critique hers and get ready to send a few more. We go back and forth until we get through the entire manuscript this way. Then we will exchange the whole manuscript for a final walk-through. Along the way, I take breaks. Sometimes I hang out with this guy Oliver. And, yes, that is a kitty bow tie.

But mostly, after a long week of editing or writing, I take my youngest downtown to get ice cream while I get a coffee drink. Then we snoop around, checking out the local museums and attractions. One place she loves to visit is the Hannibal History Museum. They sponsor the local Steampunk festival each year. In the back room, they have about twenty dioramas. Each one displays a scene from Mark Twain's book Tom Sawyer. It's a frightening experience especially with the lights turned low. And when you press a button, you hear a lady's voice reading from the book. Not creepy at all.  

When I finish editing a manuscript, I clean my entire house. Yay me. How about you? How do you celebrate each step along the way? 

P.S. I apologize to my WordPress friends. In order for my avatar with a link to my blog to show up in your comment feed, do I need to create a Wordpress/Gravatar account? Not sure why it won't show up like on other blogs. Is there any other way to do this without having to get a WordPress account? Any thoughts? 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

February #IWSG: Murder, Anyone?

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: What do you love about the genre you write in most often?
Co-Hosts: Stephen Tremp, Pat Garcia,Angela Wooldridge, Victoria Marie Lees, and Madeline Mora-Summonte!

I write mostly upper middle-grade/young adult mysteries and fantasy with 12-14 year old protagonists. 

I have always loved mysteries: murder mysteries, art heists, stolen artifacts. It doesn't matter whether the mysteries are geared for kids or adults or anyone in between. I LOVE all forms of mysteries: books, movies, TV series. 

Any good story/TV show will incorporate a heavy dose of mystery and intrigue. In reading/writing mysteries, I love the set-up, the devious deed, the red-herrings, the suspect list, the plot twists, the motives, the means, the opportunity, and the big reveal. 

My favorite mystery writer for kids is Robin Stevens. Her Muder Most Unladylike series feature kid detectives Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong who solve murders in the English countryside at a boarding school known as Deepdean. They also solved one aboard the Orient Express, and in her most recent novel, they solved a double murder at Cambridge University. 

My favorite fantasy series staring paranormal investigators would be none other than the Lockwood & Co. books by Jonathan Stroud.

What keeps me turning the pages of a good mystery is my personal hunt for the murderer or the art thief or the villain, trying to solve the case before the main character does.

What is your favorite genre and why? 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

January #IWSG: Steps to Success

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: What steps have you taken to put a schedule in place for your writing and publishing?

I write everyday. Some days I write all the words and other days only a scene or two. With an active family of five, it's challenging to be an author, but I make it a priority. And the kids hand me plot twists left and right and enough dialogue to fill endless novels. So there's that.

As for the publishing side, I would like to state that I have pursued new book deals and an agent with full force this past year. I have a couple of finished manuscripts with publishers and one with several agents. Still waiting on decisions. *Twiddles thumbs, taps fingers on the desk, refreshes email every ten seconds* This process takes time and patience. Oh, did I mention patience? Like an ocean full of tearing-out-your-hair kind of patience??? 

In the meantime, while I wait for bookish news, I write and live life. My two WIPs are shaping up nicely. 

I thought the Midwest dodged a bullet called winter. A week and a half ago I hiked with my family in fifty-degree weather. Yes, we enjoy those temps around here for December. This past week we plunged into wind chills of thirty below. Send summer and a remote car starter. 

Creepy barn from our hike.

One week later. Yay, snow.

I hope everyone had a safe and warm Christmas. And if you tell me you spent your holiday in Hawaii, I will stick up my nose at you. Hope everyone writes all the words this new year and has much success! 

October #IWSG: The Rise of the Pumpkin-Head Bots

                                                                 Come join Alex J. Cavanaugh and the Insecure Writer's Support Group. We...