My daughter is a wrecking ball!

So yesterday my family went out for dinner. We have a mini-van, or to be more accurate, a mobile living room. The thing is super comfy. The sliding door was open. My daughter Olivia stood just inside the open door. As I approached, she jumped into my arms and I twirled her to the ground. She laughed and said the movement felt like a tornado. I told her she was a tornado.

“Meh,” she told me. “I’m more of a wrecking ball.”

Too funny.

My next novel is based on Olivia and her two younger brothers. The main character’s name is Maddie, but her personality is mirrored after my daughter. Maddie is spunky, rebellious and intriguing–an overall great main character who isn’t your stereotypical girl. And those words aren’t mine own, but of someone who has read the novel’s first chapter and provided constructive feedback.

Olivia’s comment yesterday reminded me of Maddie, because like my daughter, she is certainly a wrecking ball. In light of this revelation, I thought it would be fun to share the first chapter with you in the Maddie Jones saga. I’ve posted it below, so read and enjoy…and let me know what you think.

Maddie Jones & the Curse of the Terracotta Warriors

Chapter 1

The worst day of my life started like this.

I was climbing the rock wall in gym class, hoisting myself up one colorful handhold at a time, when I heard an angry voice yelling at me to speed up.

“You can do better than that, Jones,” Coach Sinclair, my pudgy P.E. instructor whose whistle rested on his round pot-belly, shouted from below.

I grunted, grabbed a yellow handhold, and climbed a bit higher. Ever since the first week of school, I’d grown to hate the rock wall. It was my worst activity in the whole gym class. Maybe it was because I lacked the upper body strength of boys. Or the sturdy legs of a sprinter. I refused to believe it was because I was a thirteen year old girl.

“Let’s go, Miss Jones,” Coach Sinclair blew his whistle. “Two minutes to reach the top!”

“You know, Coach,” I said as sweat dripped into my eyes. “I heard a rumor that you didn’t make your high school football team. Is it true?”

“What?” he barked. “That’s it, you’re running suicides next.”

I groaned. Me and my big fat mouth. It got me in trouble more than I cared to admit.

I finally reached the top. I struck the bell Coach Sinclair required us to hit. It chimed, signaling success. Then I repelled down thirty feet to the basketball court.

Coach Sinclair was there to greet me with arms folded across his chest and a toothy grin. “Suicides, Miss Jones. You’ve earned them.”

“I’m beginning to think you enjoy torturing kids,” I told him.

His grin widened. “What? Me? Never.” Then he stepped aside, motioning to the lines on the court I’d need to touch as I ran back and forth.

“This class sucks,” I said.

“That’ll be ten additional suicides,” he said. “Another word, and it will be ten more.”

I opened my mouth to protest, but thought better of it. My mouth got me into this mess. I doubted it would get me out of it.

So I crouched into a running stance and took a deep breath. But before I could begin, the gym doors opened and in walked Principal Watson in her business skirt and blouse. Two armed police officers joined her. Principal Watson looked around, her eyes settled on me, and she pointed.

“There she is,” her voice echoed across the spacious gym floor. “That’s Maddie Jones.”

The officers nodded to Principal Watson, then began walking my way.

Holy cow! What was this about? Did they find out it was me who stole the cow and put him in the school’s library? Or was it the issue with the front office’s aquarium, when the fish went missing and somehow appeared in bathroom toilets all over campus? I promised Principal Watson I had nothing to do with the incident when confronted a month ago, but apparently she wasn’t convinced. What more did she need?

Perhaps she wanted the missing fish. I’d kept one. He was too cute to give back.

The officer’s shoes thudded against the court, their handcuffs clinking as they approached.

I had to act fast. I wasn’t going to Juvie. Not again.

I don’t remember running, but the next thing I knew, I was sprinting to the girls locker room, where a back exit led to the outside tennis courts and football field.

I heard one of the officer’s shout, “Hey, Maddie, wait!” and he lunged to catch me.

But I was too fast, and seconds later, my Nike tennis shoes were kicking up grass and dirt as I sprinted through boys running scrimmages for next Tuesday’s football game.

Look, I know I said I’m not much of a sprinter. But when running from trouble, you’d be amazed how quickly your legs can move.

And you know what’s crazy? Running from the police wasn’t even why this was the worst day of my life.

Just wait, things are about to get interesting.

Failure is a motivator. Success is a paralyzer.

You’ve heard it before, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Or, if you’ve never failed, you’ve never tried anything new. Several years ago, I remember seeing a poster in a classroom I was observing that talked about how people who fail are in good company. The poster went on to show famous failures from history. It was pretty cool. Check it out:

Famous Failures

Anyway, yesterday I attended a school inservice with motivational speaker Salome Thomas-El, a school principal from Philadelphia. Principal El has appeared on Dr. Oz, and is an author to boot. He is renown for giving his inner-city students the game of chess and, with it, the power to escape the hard knocks of urban life. Cool guy. He talked a lot about caring for at-risk kids and reaching them on their level.

Great stuff. During his talk, he said something that stuck with me all day long: “Failure is a motivator. Success is a paralyzer.” Now, I already knew how failure can motivate you to succeed. But I hadn’t heard how success can paralyze you. He explained how his chess students, after learning the game, began to win. Tournaments would approach, but the kids wouldn’t practice because they believed they were already good players. It wasn’t until the kids started losing that they became motivated to become better. Failure was the key.

Of course, as a writer and a person who is driven to succeed, I wondered how I can apply Principal El’s concepts not only to my students but to myself. And not only that, but where would I want to apply those principles? The obvious answer for me was with my writing. I crave success beyond the small measurable amount I’ve had over the past several years. I would be thrilled to have my work represented by a literary agent–my next goal. The road to reaching that goal, however, will be paved with failure. Does knowing this make the trial seem easier? I don’t think so. Failure is a tough pill to swallow. Nobody wants to be rejected. It hurts.

Recently, a fellow author I admire named Kathy McManis Holzapfel, who writes under the pen name, Cate Noble (check her out here), shared a video of a conversation between two blockbuster authors: Stephen King and George R.R. Martin. Within their conversation the authors talked about their projects and writing processes, but one story shared by Stephen King was an eye-opener.

He talked about failure.

In his bedroom when he was just starting out, Stephen King hung a nail in his wall. On that nail, he would stick all his rejection letters to it. He wanted to see his failure so it would motivate him to succeed. Eventually, the rejection letters became so heavy that the nail came out of the wall and fell to the ground. So what did he do? He went and bought a bigger nail. Holy cow! Talk about motivation. If you’d like to see the video, check it out below. It’s lengthy, so if you simply want to see the part of the conversation I’m referring to, it’s around the 21:19 mark. For my young readers out there, there is a little bit of language between the two authors. They are Stephen King and George R.R. Martin, after all.

So, what’s the takeaway from all this? I’d say, for me at least, that I need to buckle down and prepare for rejection. I plan to send out my work to countless literary agents soon. Could be good. Could be hurtful.

But I’ve bought a big nail.

Bummer! Last days of summer vacation, but keep calm and write on.

Back to school

Welp, summer break will officially be over for me Monday. It’s back to school, to teach those kids a thing or two about Civics and History. I enjoy my time in the classroom with my students. I’m looking forward to getting started, but I’m also sad to see the break end. I have enjoyed spending time with my wife and children tremendously. Usually, I’m in a funk for a few days once I start back to work. I will miss my family. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still see them every day, but my time with them will be lessened quite a bit–especially once my doctorate school starts back up at the end of August. Phew, boy. It’s going to get busy, and it will happen quick. Still need to find time to write.

I enjoy a challenge.

The year isn’t over yet. So far, 2017 has seen two book releases from me: The Hero’s Ballad, an anthology of award-winning short stories, and Adventures in the Arcane, Volume IIan anthology comprised of a myriad of authors written in a fun pulp style with arcane elements. Both are great reads, with strong tales filled with adventure, thrills and heart. But guess what. I still have one more book to release before the year is through.

That’s right. Medical MECH will be my second novel, a book written for middle school kids. The story follows thirteen-year-old Riley Davis as he attempts to stop a robot invasion from destroying his town. He discovers that the only way to defeat the machines is with music, and his bass guitar works best. But Riley will need the help of a punk rocker and her gang of misfit musicians if he is to succeed. Can Riley stop the robots before it’s too late?

Find out in September when Medical MECH hits store shelves. So summer is pretty much over, but life keeps moving forward. Although I will be super busy by the end of this month, I plan to keep devoting time to my writing projects. Not only in the form of Medical MECH, but also with the first novel in the Adventures of Maddie Jones series: Maddie Jones & the Curse of the Terracotta Warriors. Plus, I have set a goal for myself to send out my novels to literary agents this fall in order to secure representation.

Busy. Busy. But I believe hard work pays off.

Keep calm and write on

Hey you! Yeah, you! Will you like my Facebook author page?

Join me on Facebook

I know. Corny title. But hey, I finally got off my lazy butt and created an author Facebook page. I’ve been meaning to do it for quite some time. I just never got around to it. I blame the everyday hustle and bustle of our lives, I suppose.  But I told myself this week, “No more excuses,” and I got to work and created the page. Now you can follow me on Facebook if you’d like. Please do. I’d love to garner a group of followers who can help spread the word about my novels. Anyway, that was all. Nothing else to see here. Except…

… if you look closely enough at my Facebook page, you’ll notice a rough sketch for my next novel’s book cover, courtesy of the talented artist Rob Woodrum. Medical MECH is still in the pre-publication stages, but it’s getting close to complete. Stay tuned for more.