Character Stress and Motivation

I have some time to myself today for the first time in quite awhile. I also am taking time to relax for the first time in quite awhile. It’s the perfect writing weather for me: cool and misty. So I have a cup of tea, and my 00’s rock music is playing.

I’m not in the right mindset for writing, but I wanted to do something creative, so I decided to play with my characters. One of my friends has been studying personality theory for years (and has a background in psychology and brain stuff–I don’t, hence my professional terminology 🙂 ). So we’ve been looking at characters through the lens of different personality theories.

Note: I’m not a psychology person, and I think personality theories can sometimes be harmful, such as when people put themselves and others in boxes or think they understand others better than they do. But they can be useful tools. For this post, I’m going to talk about them in reference solely to characters.

I’ve found the Enneagram to be the most useful personality tool for characters, of the ones I’ve tried, because it has lots of variation as well as levels of health. Levels of health are important for characters! I could never figure out what Myers-Briggs types my villains were because nothing said what unhealthy types looked like. The Ennegram does.

Today, I was looking at one of the characters I hadn’t delved into yet. I had tentatively typed him as an Enneagram One with all of his by-the-book, follow-the-rules, I’m-better-than-everyone perfectionism. But as I read about Ones, I realized that those are more stress reactions for him. I thought about his growth as a character, where he starts from, and where he winds up. I turned to the Enneagram Three, and it fits him perfectly.

His perfectionism has more to do with his desire to be valuable than a desire to do good. Even though it doesn’t really change anything about the character, knowing this helps me understand him at a deeper level. I can articulate his motivation better now and put a finger on why he reacts the way he does.

It may not seem like a big deal, but I’m super excited. 🙂

Kid Lit Six

This week, Julie from Kid Lit Six features authors from Chicken Scratch Books! These are really fun, short videos to help middle schoolers and their parents and teachers decide what to read next. I highly recommend this channel. Here’s today’s video to get you started!

P.S. I love that Hope Bolinger wore her dinosaur suit to answer these questions 😂

Happy Book Birthday to The Cassandra Curse by Hope Bolinger


It’s release day for The Cassandra Curse by Hope Bolinger! I got to read an advanced copy of this book, and it was super fun. It’s a little different style of book that I generally gravitate toward, but I still really enjoyed it. I get the feeling that when my sister was in junior high, she would have liked it. Some of her favorite books around then were joke books and The Cooper Kids by Frank Peretti. You might be able to describe The Cassandra Curse as like the Cooper kids except super funny instead of super scary, but I’m not sure that makes sense. 🙂

There is a quirky sense of humor in this story and a distinct voice in the narrative. Both of those things can be hard to carry through an entire story and may even wind up sounding forced at the end. However, Bolinger managed to pull them off and make it seem effortless. The main character, Charity, was so fun. I had to love the way she kept trying, even when everything went wrong. I have a fear of failure, so I really admired that Charity didn’t give up.

And oh my goodness! The nods to nerd-dom were amazing! There’s a role-playing game, and the gamers made me think of my LOTR role-playing friends in high school and all my DnD playing friends today. That whole aspect of the story made me smile every time it showed up.

The biggest thing about this story, though, is the heart (which shouldn’t surprise me since the publisher is Chicken Scratch Books). The characters have real, fun, and sweet relationships with each other. The characters’ relationships with their families are real, challenging, and wholesome. I definitely teared up in spots (when I wasn’t laughing at the other spots).

Some kids start to gravitate toward thrillers and horror stories at a fairly young age (I’ve taught some of them in my classes). That can be concerning to some parents because the content of thrillers and horror stories isn’t always uplifting or wholesome. I think Cassandra Curse, while not a thriller or a horror story, could attract some of those readers and satisfy that urge while still providing them with an age-appropriate and good story. There’s an element of mystery reminiscent of murder mysteries or horror but totally age-appropriate, and it’s fun to journey with Charity to solve it.

But of course, lots of other kinds of readers will enjoy Cassandra Curse, too.

Overall, I give this book 5 stars and say, “Congratulations!” to author Hope Bolinger and publisher Chicken Scratch Books. I can’t wait to see what you come up with next!

Order your copy of The Cassandra Curse today!

P.S. Note for sensitive readers which contains **spoilers.**
There is a death and a disappearance that happened 13 years ago. It’s treated fairly light and doesn’t get too heavy, but sensitive readers or readers who recently had a friend pass away may find it troubling. There is also some bullying (which led to the death in a roundabout way) and divorce. They are all dealt with at age-appropriate levels and add to the heart of the story. I don’t think any of this is a problem or should keep anyone from reading it unless that reader is sensitive to these challenges. If you think your reader might be, just preview the book first.

The Packers Lost

Aww, well the Packers lost. But stay tuned because I think it would be really fun to have some sort of live event around the SuperBowl. I’m still figuring out what that would look like, but sign-up on my email list for more details!

P.S. This has been a really fun football season to follow!

You Could Win a Copy of Best Friends Playbook!

There’s still time to sign-up for a chance to win a copy of Best Friends Playbook–if the Packers win tonight, of course!

For the playoffs, I’m giving away a copy of my middle grade novel, Best Friends Playbook, to members of my email list every time the Packers win (the main character is a Packers fan, but fans of any kind welcome 🙂 ).

Here’s the link to my sign-up:

A book cover for Best Friends Playbook by A.W. Downer featuring a dragon standing in front of goal posts on a football field with a girl in a red dress and a football helmet running toward it with a football in hand.

#authorawdowner #bestfriendsplaybooknovel #chickenscratchbooks

Play-off Give-away

The Packers are in the playoffs! Since The Packers are Hannah’s favorite team (the main character in Best Friends Playbook), we should celebrate! If the Packers win the game on Saturday January 22, I will give away a signed copy of Best Friends Playbook to a random member of my email list. If you aren’t already on my email list, sign up today for a chance to win!

Emails typically go out once a month (that’s what I aim for–sometimes it’s less). Occasionally, if I have a book release coming up or another special event, I might send out more emails in a month.

Emails will have book recommendations, writing recommendations, resources for writing conferences or free videos, things like that.

P.S. You do not have to be a Packers fan to sign up. My husband introduced me to the Packers, but I come from a family of Cowboys fans, and I tend to root for lots of teams through the season. 🙂

Post-Launch Hibernation

Whew! November and December were such a whirlwind of book-launch activity that I went into hibernation post-launch. So first, let me congratulate the winners!

Jenn, copy of the book
Tiffany, copy of the book
Betty, copy of the book
Karine, copy of the book
Sarah, crochet gift from Mountain Colors
Hallie, knit gift from Mountain Colors
Pamela, virtual consultation or author visit

Second, let me thank everyone who participated in the launch events. I had so much fun!

Third, I’m planning out some blog posts this year so that I stay in touch a bit better than I have the last couple of years. If you’re interested in seeing a post on something, let me know.

I hope that you all had a wonderful holiday season and got lots of new books to read. 🙂

Aside from all my copies of Best Friends Playbook, I got two new books: an enneagram book by Don Riso and Russ Hudson (I like the enneagram for learning more about my characters and how to make them different from each other) and the Elephant and Piggie “Art-ivity” book. Yes, it was for me. I was wanting one of those guided art books from when I was a kid to help spark my creativity. 🙂

I will write more soon. In the meantime, Happy New Year and Happy Reading/Writing!

See You in One Hour!

The Virtual Launch Party for Best Friends Playbook begins in just one hour! You still have time to register.

I’ll read from Best Friends Playbook, we’ll have a Q&A, and I’ll announce the winners of the prizes (remember, you’ll be entered just by registering for the event).

My publisher, Kiri, will also be there to tell you a little about Chicken Scratch Books and the wonderful books they publish.

Hope to see you soon!

One More Chance to Win

It looks like most of my fans practice screen-free Sunday, so, I’ve extended the entry for the 55-minute virtual visit until 3pm MST on December 13. You still have a chance to win by entering your email, visiting the virtual launch event, or commenting on the blog.

Bonus fun question: What’s one of the weirdest things you’ve done with friends? (always keeping it G-rated)

Best Friends Playbook was inspired by my friendships as a kid. I had one group of friends who loved Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Gargoyles, superheroes, sci-fi, fantasy, etc. Then I got to know another group of friends who loved American Girl, dress-up, tea parties, and giggling over actors. But one thing both groups had in common was dreaming about getting to another world, like Narnia.

One of the strangest things I’ve done with friends is probably running down the street in the rain with all of us holding onto the handle of a parasol and yelling, “To Narnia!!!” in British accents. I had the morning’s leftover pancakes in my jeans pocket (wrapped in a napkin) so we wouldn’t be hungry when we arrived. 🙂

Photo by Ravi Kant on

Tonight’s the Night!

Get ready to party! Join us tonight for a LIVE virtual event. I’ll read from Best Friend’s Playbook, we’ll have a Q&A session, and the winners of the prizes will be announced. As a bonus, my publisher, Kiri of Chicken Scratch Books, will stop in to say hi!

The event will run from 5:30-6:30pm PST
6:30-7:30pm MST
7:30-8:30pm CST
8:30-9:30 EST

Just for registering, you’ll be entered into one final drawing for a signed copy of the book. I hope to see you this evening!