Wednesday, June 30, 2021

I Wrote a Thing! Want to Join Me?

Engin Akyurt

Y'all! I've discovered a site for writers that I think some of you may enjoy. It's called VOCAL, and it allows you to publish your fiction or non-fiction story of 600-2000 words--and maybe make a little money, too.

I've posted my first story and would LOVE for you to go read it (and, if you enjoy it, to "heart" it!).  After you've read it, come back here to read the STORY BEHIND THE STORY! 


Many years ago, I wrote a YA dystopian novel called CITY LIMITS--and it's the novel that landed me an agent after 5 years of trying. (Josh Getzler, for those of you who either weren't here yet or didn't remember.) The market was glutted with dystopian, and the book never sold.

Honestly, I'm glad--because it wasn't as strong as it could've been. There are later drafts, but ultimately I had to shelve it. (You all know how that goes!) As most deserted novels tend to do, this one has lived quietly in my heart, occasionally tugging at me in a wistful sort of way.

The other day, my son DMed me a link to a short story contest--for dystopian fiction. Immediately, I thought, "I already have worlds and characters in this genre." (CITY LIMITS is one of several dystopians I've written.) But then I saw this: "CONTEST CLOSES IN 36 HOURS."

"Do I smell a challenge?" thought I.

So I pulled out CITY LIMITS, drew what I needed from the opening scene, and wrote the rest. The best part about this exercise is that I WAS EXCITED AND ENGAGED ALL DAY AS I WORKED ON THIS. I may have even squealed to myself a time or two. 

I haven't felt this way about writing in a long time. I've definitely allowed the pressures of publishing to steal my joy--and that's on me, not the publishing industry. Writing this short story reminded me that I am a writer and that I really do love writing! Sure, it would be great to win the contest--but I'm already walking away with something of so much value: a refreshed writing heart.

If you need an outlet for your writing that will give you a break from your latest WIP and perhaps infuse you with a piece of your writing heart that you may have lost, I encourage you to check out the VOCAL site. There is a free and a paid option (I chose the latter; we'll see in the months ahead if it's worth it) for membership; either way, they pay you per 1000 reads--and you can receive tips from your readers, too!

If you join, please let me know! 

And if you just took the time to read PARIAH--thank you! New ventures always feel like giant steps; I appreciate your support.


Thursday, June 3, 2021

Critique Partner Entries Are Up!

Hey, everyone!

We've got 14 entries for our Critique Partner Dating Service. Not a huge response, to be sure, but definitely enough to give each of you a chance to find your (almost) perfect Critique Partner.

Guidelines are as follow:

  1. If you see an entry that looks like it might be a good fit, send an email to introduce yourself (this is not the time to send materials).
  2. If you're not sure you want to send an email, leave a comment asking further questions.
  4. This is a public list.  I am no longer the "middle man."  Please do not come to me with your dating woes.  (If you have a legitimate technical difficulty, I will always help you with that.)
  5. For security purposes, I will remove these entries from the blog one week from tomorrow.

Please post your questions below!  I will check the comments regularly and try to stay up to date with public questions

Happy dating! 

Friday, May 28, 2021


 Go HERE for instructions.

Please remember that our bot is currently not working, so all entries need to be emailed to me directly at!

Here's to finding your (almost) perfect critique partner!!

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Now Available: Personal Writing Sessions!


In April, I enjoyed a lovely Zoom chat with a writer who had won the session from my preorder campaign for The Stolen Kingdom. She sent me her first chapter ahead of time so I could do a line edit, and she came to the meeting prepared with specific questions. It was a wonderful thirty minutes! The best part was watching her have distinct "Eureka!" moments as we talked.

It was so rewarding to watch a fellow writer become inspired and encouraged to press on with her work. I loved it so much, in fact, that I've decided to make it a thing.


For the first time, I am offering private, one-on-one sessions in which we can discuss your writing. This takes helping aspiring authors to a whole new level for me--it's personal, it's interactive, and it's fun!

Here's what Carla says about her 30-minute session with me:

I recently won a 30-minute consult with Jillian on my first chapter. It was a break-though consult for me. I had already shared my first chapter with 5 beta readers, and 5 critique partners. I felt like it was as good as I could make it. It is definitely a step up now after my consult with Jillian. What made her feedback so valuable for me was her ability to articulate, in a very non-threatening manner, not just the what but why certain changes needed to be made. The changes that she recommended were something that my critique partners had mentioned and I thought I had already addressed. Jillian helped me understand the underlying reason that I needed the changes and suddenly I really understood what I needed to do. Besides looking at content we discussed voice and where to go next. She gave me some great tips for moving forward.

Being the experienced professional, Jillian was able to focus in on what was needed to add that final touch to my first chapter. Her helpful and direct approach made her feedback so accessible to me I was able to resolve weaknesses in my first chapter more succinctly than before, while still getting confirmation for the things I did that worked. I couldn’t recommend her more highly.

If you'd like a similar experience (and I'd love the opportunity to work with you!), I'm currently offering 3 different sessions at introductory prices:

The 30-minute session: This is a Q&A chat tailored by you! Come to the table with all your questions, whether they're about your current WIP, your writing in general, querying, the publishing industry--or anything else you can think of!

The 40-minute session: This session is specific to your WIP. I will ask you to send your first chapter (up to 10 pages) ahead of time so that I can line edit it prior to our session. We will spend most of our time discussing your work, though there will also be time for you to ask questions on other topics.

The double 40-minute session: The best deal! I will ask you to send your first 25 pages for a detailed line edit prior to our first session. After we've met, you can decide how much time you need before we meet again (2 to 4 weeks, probably, but it can be longer if you need more time). You'll also receive a 25% discount on any session you choose to purchase next.

Interested? Drop me an email at I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, May 25, 2021


Getty Images

I'm feeling "moved-in" enough to settle at my desk and roll out the Critique Partner Dating Service I've been promising you! Thank you for your patience.

Here's the disclaimer:  Finding good critique partners really is like finding good life partners.  Just because you both write fantasy or you've both been writing for exactly three years or your first names both begin with "N" doesn't mean you're going to be a good fit.  Relationship is a huge part of this, in addition to artistic vision and the ability to "get" each other's work.

So keep in mind that, as you seek people to swap work with, things may or may not work out, and that's okay.  What I'm offering you here is a springboard; a chance to get your name and your needs out there in the hope that you may click with someone.


  • Starting at 10:00 AM EDT on FRIDAY, MAY 28, I will accept your Dating Service Entry.  The submission window will remain open until 11:57 PM EDT on SUNDAY, MAY 30.
  • IMPORTANT: Our bot is currently under the weather. SEND YOUR SUBMISSIONS DIRECTLY TO ME at Please put CRITIQUE PARTNER ENTRY in the subject line.
  • Up to 100 entries will be accepted.  Even if we only get 2 entries, though, I will still post them.
  • Please format your entry EXACTLY as outlined below, for ease of browsing.  Please note that the word count for these entries will be limited to 100.  (Yes, I'll be checking.)
WRITER: (Put your screen name OR your first name here; NOT a title. Full name NOT NECESSARY)
GENRE: (list ALL genres that you write)
EMAIL: (PLEASE use (at) instead of "@"!! Like this: Authoress(at)

(double space here)

I'm working on my {1st/2nd/47th} novel.

{And here's your "pitch about me" -- a sentence or two that will express who you are and what your goals/dreams are.}
  • All entries will post on Thursday, June 3.  You may browse the entries and contact anyone who seems like a potential match.
  • YOU ARE NOT OBLIGATED TO CRITIQUE THE WORK OF SOMEBODY WHO CONTACTS YOU.  NEITHER IS ANYONE OBLIGATED TO CRITIQUE YOUR WORK SIMPLY BECAUSE YOU CONTACTED THEM.  This is simply a jumpstart to creating new friendships that could potentially become critique partnerships.
  • I will remove the entries after one week.  Simply because I don't think it's wise to keep this information up for longer than that.
To clarify the above, here is a sample entry:

WRITER: Authoress
EMAIL: Authoressmail(at)

I am working on my fourteenth novel.

I'm agented by the amazing Danielle Burby and my novels tend to be character-driven.  I'm a grammar nazi and my critiquing strengths lie in sentence structure, clarity, and dialogue. 

(You can write whatever you want about yourself.  Not to "sell" yourself, but to give a glimpse of who you are and where you're at in your journey.)

IMPORTANT: Because we are not using the bot for this event, I will have to format and post each entry by hand. THIS IS TIME-CONSUMING. Please (oh, please!) format your entries exactly as outlined above, and please don't use boldface or italics. Also, please type your entries directly into the email instead of copy-and-pasting them from somewhere else. 

Please ask your questions below!

Monday, April 26, 2021

Sputtering to a Start

Maybe you're wondering why nothing else has come down the pike over here. I DON'T BLAME YOU.

Basically, when I ran our in-house critique last month, the bot crashed. I was able to receive entries by hand, which was fine--but, moving forward, I've got to get things straightened out. Michael, my illustrious and indispensable creator and maintainer of the bot, is as busy as can be, so I don't like to hound him.


I am going to try to continue to offer some smaller-scale things that I can upload by hand. In a way, this fits the feel of the blog a little better right now. Eventually, I'm hoping we can get things running the way they once were.

Obviously, I can't run another Secret Agent Contest until the bot has been fixed. What I want to do next is to run another CRITIQUE PARTNER DATING SERVICE. I need to make sure the system I come up with is workable on both ends before I launch this.

To help me gauge interest, will you please do me a favor? Leave me a comment below, letting me know if either you'd be interested in finding new critique partners or you have writer friends you know are looking for critique partners that you'd be happy to send our way. We've had great success with this in the past, and I definitely want to resurrect it!

In other news, we're closing on our new home THIS FRIDAY, so my life is sort of looking like this right now:

We have LOVED living in our apartment for the past 6 months--who knew??  We're actually staying here an extra couple of weeks so that we have time to do some painting in the new house and to move in s-l-o-w-l-y instead of having one big, exhausting moving day.

So, yes, I'm in the midst of All The Moving, but I didn't want to leave this blog by the wayside. PLEASE DO LEAVE A COMMENT concerning the Critique Partner Dating Service--I will be hanging on your every word!


I am currently accepting a LIMITED NUMBER of Premiere Critiques. Please email me at to secure your spot. A Premiere Critique looks like this:

*a line-edit of your first 75 pages

*a detailed editorial letter

*guaranteed 1-week turnaround

*cost: $289 payable in 2 installments via Venmo or Paypal

I will accept any genre except Erotica or Erotic Romance, in all categories (adult, YA, MG). Feel free to email me if you have any questions.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Winner of the Preorder Giveaway!

Congratulations to CARLA KESSLER, who has won the 30-minute FaceTime or Zoom meeting. Carla, I've sent an email!

Huge thanks to everyone who preordered--and continue to order--THE STOLEN KINGDOM. I just received my complimentary audiobook yesterday, and oh my goodness, it sounds great! I so admire voice actors who can bring stories to life. 

I'm committed to keeping things going here on the blog, but my calendar is going to remain busy for a bit longer. (Also I've got to get the submission form problem resolved.) Rest assured that it's on my radar.

Thanks again, and hugs to all!

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Please Join Me!


I'm thrilled beyond measure to be sharing my release-day author event with Mary E. Pearson, who is one of my favorite authors!

Mary and I will be chatting about The Stolen Kingdom, but also about books and writing in general--wherever the conversation may wander! I'd be delighted if you could join us.

The (free) event will take place THIS EVENING at 6 pm MT (8 pm ET).



Many of you know how long my journey to publication was--some of you have followed along almost from the beginning. It's an immeasurable blessing to watch my sophomore novel fly into the world, and to share an event with Mary E. Pearson on top of that? I have no words.

If you haven't read Mary's Remnant Chronicles, GRAB THEM NOW! It's one of my favorite trilogies. The Dance of Thieves duology is also magnificent.

I hope you'll be there tonight! Thanks, everyone, for being part of my online tribe. 

Monday, March 1, 2021

Are You Hooked -- Critique Guidelines

Dearest hearts! I definitely messed up the submissions for this one, and I'm sorry! Thank you to all entrants who were willing to flex and email your entries directly.

(This felt like old times, before I had an automated system. I have twitch-worthy memories of having to create 50 posts by hand for the Secret Agent contests. My, how easily we get spoiled!)

At any rate, here are 12 diverse entries for your critiquing pleasure!

PLEASE REMEMBER HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK ON AS MANY OF THESE YOU HAVE TIME FOR. We strengthen our critiquing chops every time we give it a try. Giving and receiving honest, helpful critique is an important part of our journey as authors. This is a safe environment for you to dive in and do it!


1. ENTRANTS: Please critique a minimum of 3 other entries as your way of giving back.

2. It's helpful to start by commenting on something you like.

3. Be kind. Corrective criticism is never harsh.

4. ENTRANTS: Don't try to justify yourself by "explaining things" to critiquers in the comment box. Most of their questions are meant for you to answer yourself, as you revise. If you feel the need to explain your writing, then your writing isn't clear. Take the critique notes with you when you begin your revisions.

5. I can't police all these comments. If you see something inappropriate, please email me.

Thank you all for your participation! This is the heart and soul of the Miss Snark's First Victim community, and I'm thankful to have jumped back in.

Are You Hooked? #12

TITLE: Wish I Was Here
GENRE: YA Contemporary

I sometimes wished I was invisible, just to make life easier. That was the ironic part.


Wednesday--Day 0

When the bell announced the end of fourth period, jolting me back to the present, my thoughts scattered along with the notebook and pen on my desk. Someone behind me snickered, but I was used to that. I took a moment to reorient myself to clase de español. As usual I’d been daydreaming about this one guy I know. Or used to know. Sort of. Whatever.

I sighed, collected my stuff into my bag, and filed out of the classroom with my fellow sheep. In the hallway, students gathered in clusters around their lockers, but I kept moving. Someone spotted me and said, “Hey, Ana. Where were you last period? The moon?”

Another kid slapped the first’s arm and said, “No, Uranus,” then laughed at his own joke.

When are they going to grow up?

At a hallway intersection, Isaac fell into step beside me, his sandy blond hair flopping over his green eyes. He pushed it aside, only to have it fall back again, as always. "How many?" he asked.

“Just two a minute ago. For a while I thought today would be a shut-out for you. How’d you do?”

“I think Brad was feeling nostalgic. He tried to trip me, but I hopped over his foot.”

“Nice.” I held up a hand. He slapped me a half-hearted five.

“Then Jim called me Beaker Brain.”

“I’ve always liked that one.”

Are You Hooked? #11

TITLE: Untitled
GENRE: Romance

The phone call was disconnected and Coldplay resumed playing 


All those signs, I knew what they meant, 

Some things you can invent 

And some get made, and some get sent.  


Kyah stared at the Blue Heron in the swamp as she finished listening to the song. She 

wondered if he’d capture whatever he was watching. They were the most patient of birds. She 

had seen them flying away. She had seen them walking in the water. She even watched one 

swallow a fish once. But she had never seen one catch a fish. She wasn’t as patient as the Blue 


Her fingers hit the pause button on her headphones as she absorbed into the world of 

signs. Her unintended words. The truth of them. His words back. 


Some things you can invent 


Kyah knew those truths. Things were easily invented in a paranoid mind. Or even a 

protective mind. A mind that wanted to protect a heart from hurt. A mind that was afraid of 

losing that heart. Kyah closed her eyes as the wave of emotions washed over her. There were 

days, she was in control of the emotions. Other days, she wanted to curl up in the corner and 

sob. Seth was a trigger. The trigger of what she’d lost. A bit of her innocence, a bit of her sanity, and now, more of her heart. 

She wasn’t sure where they stood anymore. It was all muddled in her mind, by her mind. 

Are You Hooked? #10

TITLE: Zodiac Misfits
GENRE: MG Epic Fantasy

Without warning, the stars shifted to seal Abree’s fate. Her rotten day was about to get worse . . .


Chapter One

Abree sat before the fire in the orphanage’s common room. Her arms stretched out to the hearth. In her fingers was the tingling promise the flames would obey—but first, she needed to persuade the Fyre spirit she was its master.

Her lips move fiercely, repeating the ancient charm with all the will she could summon. 


Luminous wisps danced away from the blazing logs into the midst of the room, advancing and retreating, twisting into spirals and rosettes they approached her. Fire tickled her feet, only to withdraw before she could shape them. “Moon’s sake!” Abree cursed.

“Concentrate, child,” Nana hissed, her tongue flicked over her thin lips. “The flames are too agitated to shape. Calm them.”

Sweat formed and fell across Abree’s forehead, stinging her eyes. Her midnight-black hair was damp with it. She fluttered her fingers again in command and watched for signs of obedience.

“Ausculto. Ausculto.”

The blaze flickered in response. 

“Focus,” Nana encouraged. “Use the flame as a paintbrush. Create your form above us.”

Abree tapped her finger to the air and willed the embers to transform from orange to her favorite deep-red. She drew her heart-shaped face, a puckish nose, then added wide-set eyes. Above the ear, Abree added her left horn to the silhouette, curving forward and circling into a ridged spiral that swooped up at the tip. She didn’t dare stop.

Are You Hooked? #9

TITLE: Broken Bird
GENRE: YA Suspense

Cole Zabek looked like he was destined to die young and become a 
vengeful spirit. Or maybe he looked like a romantic hero who should have been 
brooding on a windswept moor instead of standing in the doorway of a high 
school cafeteria. Either way, I couldn’t stop staring.

Beside me, Cole’s sister Julia pressed her hands flat against the table. She 
spoke to me, but her eyes were riveted on her older brother. 
“Remember, Callie, do not ask him anything about….”

“Anything. I promise.” Even without Julia’s warnings, I wouldn’t have asked 
questions. I couldn’t think of any that weren’t fatally awkward.

Julia caught Cole’s attention, and, at the tiniest gesture of her fingers, he 
moved across the room toward us. 

“He’s only been home for a week, and he’s still…fragile.”
“I know, Jules. I know.”

In the six months I’d known Julia, she’d talked constantly about her 
brother. He was smart. He was sensitive. He had a poet’s soul. When I asked why 
he didn’t go to our school, she squeezed her jaw tight, and her chin shook.

I had apologized for prying, but she took a shaky breath. “Don’t
apologize, Callie. I’m telling you, it’s just….”



“Private,” she finished. 

“You don’t have to….”

“I said I want to. I want you to know who I am, and Cole—he’s like a part 
of me.” She set down the napkin and pressed her palms together like she was 
praying. “He’s been in the hospital."

Are You Hooked? #8

TITLE: Beneath The Arctic Moon
GENRE: Romantic Suspense

"Never seen one like this, eh, Trevor?” the old Trooper muttered, nudging his wide-brimmed hat, tearing his eyes away from the mangled body to his partner. “She’s a young one, this one.”

Trevor shook his head, chewing the end of his pen. “No, Artie,” he agreed grimly, “and I thought I’d seen it all." Replacing the cover over the young woman’s battered face, he jotted down a few more notes before waving to the waiting ME. “She’s all yours.”

“I’m gonna call it like I see it, Trevor,” Artie leaned closer to Trevor, his voice lowered. “Same brunette hair,” he tugged nervously at the cross around his thick neck before adding, “and same voodoo painted on the walls.”

Trevor frowned, staring at the blazing red symbols, their paint still dripping grotesquely down the stark white wall. His stomach clenched. “Serial?”

Artie nodded his bushy white head. “Serial.”

“Maybe,” Trevor sighed, looking down at his notes. “But, it’s not religious.”


“Meaning,” Trevor pointed to the paint, “If it is as we suspect, the same person, that red paint is just that, paint, and nothing more,” he snapped a photo of the symbols with his phone. “And these symbols have little to do with the victim.” 

Artie frowned his confusion. “How do you know what the symbols mean?”

Trevor shrugged. “They’re not voodun, if that’s what you’re worried about, Artie.”

Artie shot him an offended look before tucking his cross beneath his shirt. “Who says I’m worried?"

Are You Hooked? #7

TITLE: Montysaurus
GENRE: MG Magical Realism

Everyone knows dinosaurs are extinct. They lived over a hundred and fifty million years ago, and all that’s left of them are a bunch of fossils and bones. That’s what I thought too, until I met Monty.

It all started on the day of our class trip to the Royal Ontario Museum, or the ROM. We were going to see a new dinosaur exhibit, called “T-Rex, The Ultimate Killing Machine.” At the time, I would have rather met up with a T-Rex in a dark alley than tour the ROM with my class.

“You’ve been grumbling all morning. What’s wrong?” my Mum asked. She had this keen Spidey sense and could always tell when something was bugging me.

“I’m not feeling well,” I said, which was kind of true. My stomach was tying itself into knots.

Mum felt my forehead. “You don’t have a fever.” She put her hands on my shoulders and looked me square in the eye. “You love dinosaurs. Why don’t you want to go?”

I shrugged. I didn’t want to tell her the truth, which was that we would be eating our lunches together at tables in the museum cafeteria and the odds were good that no one would want to sit with me.

“I don’t know anyone at my new school,” is what I said instead.

"You've only been there a few weeks, honey. Don't worry. You'll make friends," Mum reassured me. "Sometimes you have to make the first move. Ask if you can join in."

Are You Hooked? #6

TITLE: Fix You
GENRE: YA Contemporary


Mrs. Sherill Carter-Barrett is wearing heels, a navy suit, and a frown that suggests I’m wasting valuable minutes of her life. I figure I have about 90 seconds to win her over.

“Thanks for being our new sponsor, Mrs. Carter-Barrett. I’m sure you’ll do a great job,” I say.

“Thank you.” She’s shifting notes around on the podium in front of the stage, and she doesn’t look up from her papers.

I glance at the other students filing into the auditorium. “Will we be voting on new officers today? Because I’m very interested.”

Mrs. Carter-Barrett stops shuffling pages and looks at me. Her eyes are a surprising light gray next to her brown skin. “What’s your name?”

I stand taller. “Hally Nunn. I’ll be a senior next year.”

She looks me over. “Well, Hally, thank you for your interest. I will announce plans for electing officers, as well as a new focus for the NHS, during the meeting.”

Gabe shifts next to me. He’s standing exactly according to our plan, with his skinny but well-dressed body strategically placed to block anyone who might try to interrupt my conversation. I look up at his calm face, and he gives me a tiny nod of encouragement. I try again. “But could you-”

She holds up a hand. “Hally, I’d prefer to explain everything once, to everyone who is interested. Please have a seat.” She points to the rows behind me.

Gabe tilts his head toward some open chairs. “Come on, it’s chill.”

Are You Hooked? #5

TITLE: No Other Fish
GENRE: Science Fiction

On October 28th, 2021, Perry Greensborough — former Eagle Scout and National Spelling Bee semifinalist of 1982 — was sitting down with a bowl of microwaved sirloin burger soup to watch the nightly broadcast ofJeopardy! when a bat crashed into his satellite dish and turned the signal to static.

This was, Perry reflected as he clambered off the couch and into a pair of crocs by the trailer door, the one time he missed Lorna. For all her snoring, her bitching, her moaning, her trips to the store to buy another pair of glittery shoes she would never wear but which would fill the closet to bursting, she could stand in the trailer and call through the door when the picture was back.

Now that she’d run off to Tucson with that stock car driver, Perry would have to brave the cold desert night, climb up to the dish, fuss with it, then climb back down to the trailer and check the screen himself, over and over again, until Jeopardy! was over, and probably the next ice age had begun.

The dish planted on a pole behind his trailer was a relic from the eighties, nine feet across and rusted at the joints, but it caught the old broadcasts like a champ. Reruns of Seinfeld and The Andy Griffith ShowCelebrity Squares and Jeopardy!. True, every time there was a Mojave gale or a meteor shower he had to climb the ladder and poke it back into alignment and was it a pain in the ass? You bet your morning coffee it was.

Are You Hooked? #4

TITLE: Rook and Orion
GENRE: MG Contemporary

A hurricane roared outside, but the storm brewing inside was the one
Rook longed to fly away from.

"Are you listening to me, young lady?" Mom asked.

Not if she could help it. But Mom's words kept pecking at her.

Rook tied back her long, dark hair, shaking it free of the binoculars
strap, and slammed her arms down on top of the couch. The rough fabric
made her skin itch. Plywood covered the living room window, so she
pointed the binoculars through a knothole and focused them on the bent
trees outside, dark against the steel-grey clouds.

"I said I talked to Miss Elizabeth." Mom, reflected in the window,
hunched over the kitchen table. "She bought the house by the woods."

"The ugly one?" Not that Rook cared.

She tapped the leather patch on her shoulder. Orion spread his brown
wings and flapped over from his perch in the corner. He gripped the
patch, made by Dad to stop Orion's talons from wrecking all Rook's
clothes, and bent his head to preen his wing. He was used to the squalls
between her and Mom. Most were about him.

"She runs a bird rescue." Mom touched a soldering iron to the inside of
the weather radio and a thin wisp of smoke curled in the air. "I've been
talking to her about Orion."

Of course she had.

A raindrop streaked through the hole in the plywood and splatted in
front of Rook.

This argument was like the seasons—perennial.

Are You Hooked? #3

TITLE: The Secret of Bushland Bees 
GENRE: Contemporary Fantasy

Something feels different today, the way the last day of school feels different from the others. It’s weird because trips to the farm aren’t special, not in the least.

“Lara, can you come to the kitchen, please,” Dad calls. Hearing his voice surprises me. He usually heads straight to the paddocks when we arrive, to check on the cows.

I leave my mostly-unpacked bag on my bed and take the short hallway to the kitchen. Hopefully, I'll be able to solve the double mystery as quickly as possible. I hate mysteries.

Dad’s sitting at the table with Mum and my younger sister, Nellie. They’re all grinning, a loaf cake and glasses of juice between them.

“Here she is,” Dad says.

“We’re having another cake?” I take a seat, trying to act casual. Cake is a rare treat and we only finished off my birthday cake—a tall one with aqua icing and a number twelve in rainbow sprinkles—yesterday. I’m not complaining, who doesn’t love cake? I just want to know why I’m getting another.

“We’re celebrating!” Mum says with a wink. “I did some sneaky baking yesterday afternoon, while you were at the drama club meeting at school.”

“Lara, today is another special day for you.” Dad raises his orange juice in the air, eyes glistening.

Mum lifts her glass to touch Dad’s, so does Nellie. The three of them look at me expectantly and I do the same, as an idea dawns. Did my Kingsley results come early?

Are You Hooked? #2

TITLE: Trial and Error
GENRE: YA Contemporary

My mother’s maiden name is Jordan, though that never used to matter. Her life before us felt like a page in a history book – longer than a footnote but shorter than a chapter. The four of us, the Wexlers… that was my family. The Jordan family was a fiction, a hazy glimpse of my mother’s past that never breached state lines to creep into our lives in New York.

But here, now, in tiny Mayfair, Texas, the fact that my mother is a Jordan, and by association, so are her kids, is a really big deal. “She’s a Jordan,” the checkout girl whispered to the grocery bagger. “That’s Jessica’s girl,” my grandparents’ neighbor told the mail carrier, pointing straight at me. “The one that…” I waited for the rest, but it ended with a shrug and a disappointed, “Well. You know.”

I did know, though I pretended I didn’t. I’m the prodigal daughter of the Mayfair royal family, the accidental interloper into this sea of blonde hair and long legs. My dark curls, loud laugh, and curvy five-foot-two frame stand out. And, according to everyone in this town, not in a good way. “Real shame she didn’t get her momma’s looks,” I overheard the mayor lament to my grandmother at the Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast. I kept the polite smile plastered on my face while I secretly plotted his demise and pushed my leaden pancakes around my plate, drowning them in a puddle of syrup.

Are You Hooked? #1

TITLE: Undaunted
GENRE: Women's Fiction

Parked at the curb, I stay seated behind the wheel, my fingers tapping, heart thumping. This is the last chance I’ll have to see the family I’m responsible for before leaving them for good.

I’m sure my replacement will do a good job, just not as good as me. She doesn’t know Daisy’s favorite nursery rhymes, and that she can’t fall asleep without Mister Snuffles, and that bubblegum bubbles make her laugh so hard she gets the hiccups. My replacement won’t know that every time Violet falls off the wagon Daisy falls with her.

I swing open the car door, creating a breeze that lifts a cluster of dry leaves and scatters them like confetti. My boots crunch through trash tossed across the cracked asphalt and I pull my scarf tighter around my neck to ward off the autumn chill. I wonder if it’s this cold in Scotland, where I’ll soon be living with my cousin. My bags are packed, I’ve told my friends and co-workers goodbye, but I can’t leave without checking in on my most capricious case. I won’t miss my job at DCFS, but I will miss the little family I’ve come to love like my own. Violet has come far in her sobriety, and I hope my absence won’t give her reason to backslide. Change is hard on addicts who need consistency in their lives.

    It’s eerily quiet on the street in front of the building where Violet and Daisy live.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Submissions Are Now Open


UPDATE: There is something wrong with the submission form! Please send your entries directly to me at I'm sorry!!

ANOTHER UPDATE: The guidelines page wouldn't load because I HAD THE WRONG URL. It's just a day over here, folks! I've fixed the update page link.

Submissions for our Are You Hooked? critique round are now open!

Submit your entry HERE.

Read the submission guidelines HERE.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Call For Submissions: ARE YOU HOOKED?

 This is the original critique format for Miss Snark's First Victim, and the format used for the Secret Agent Contests and legendary Baker's Dozen Contests (now retired).  We haven't done this for quite some time, so I'm keeping it small--a maximum of 10 entries this time.

Here are the submission instructions:

  • Submission window: Friday, February 26, from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm CST.
  • Submit your entry HERE.
  • Genres: All genres except erotica/erotic fiction are eligible, in all categories (age groups).
  • No picture books or non-fiction. Narrative non-fiction is acceptable.
  • Please submit: The first 250 words of your manuscript.
  • This is a lottery. 10 entries will be chosen by the bot after submissions have closed.
  • Please do not end your excerpt in the middle of a

The winning entries will post to the blog on Monday, March 1, and will be immediately available for public critique. If your excerpt is chosen for the contest, I request that you critique at least 3 other entries (pay it forward, always!). 

Please post your questions below!

Monday, February 22, 2021

You Have Spoken!

I've gotta say--I was so encouraged by the response to Friday's poll. Thank you so much! 

Admittedly, I didn't take my time choosing a widget for the poll. (Blogger used to have one, but apparently they've gotten rid of it.) The one I chose, as I'm sure you noticed after voting, does not show the results. Kind of silly, yes?

There's more. The data they share is pretty convoluted, and I ended up having to use old fashioned tally marks on a sheet of paper! Basically, instead of simply telling me how many votes each of the six choices received, they shared all possible combinations of votes and how many of each of those were received. So, for instance, it told me how many people voted for "Secret Agent" and "Critique Partner Speed Dating". And then it told me how many people voted for "Secret Agent" and "Are You Hooked" and "Critique Partner Speed Dating". It wasn't particularly helpful.

BUT I'VE GOT THE NUMBERS, ANYWAY! And here they are:

SECRET AGENT: 51 votes

ARE YOU HOOKED: 36 votes

FIRST 3 WORDS: 25 votes




Obviously, the SECRET AGENT CONTEST is a big winner! Not that I'm surprised. Unfortunately, I can't just pull one of those out of my hat; they are always scheduled several months in advance.

MY PLEDGE TO YOU: I will get on this right away after my release hoopla has died down!

So the plan is this: We will have an ARE YOU HOOKED critique very soon--STAY TUNED!

For anyone who is new here:

ARE YOU HOOKED is an in-house critique in which writers submit the opening 250 words of their manuscript for public critique. 


A reminder that I'm currently running a special The Stolen Kingdom preorder giveaway just for writers! The prize is a 30-minute FaceTime or Zoom meeting with me, to discuss your WIP or writing in general. (And if you send me your first chapter prior to the call, I will critique it.)


And, finally, please be sure you're following me on Instagram. That's where I spend most of my time these days, and it's where you'll be able to connect with me most quickly.

Get your first pages in order! I'll be back soon with instructions. 

Friday, February 19, 2021

Want Some Stuff Here? Take This Poll!


My dear fellow writers!

I miss our interaction. I miss this blog. Every time I sit down and look at it and say to myself, "I really need to do something here," I feel overwhelmed and shut it back down. And then someone says something like this: "oh it's so good to see your blogs again! please tell us you're coming back soon to host more hijinks!" And I go all gooey inside.

SO HERE'S WHAT I WANT YOU TO DO: Please take a minute to answer this poll. It will give me starting place for something in-house, for starters. 

Also! If there's something you'd like to see that isn't included in the poll, please leave your suggestion/request in the comments below.

Spread the word! I can't promise the level of activity that we used to enjoy here, but there's no reason why I can't commit to some regular critiques and the occasional Secret Agent contest.

There. I've said it. Now hold me to it!

Thursday, February 11, 2021



Hello, friends!

Life has taken me far away from this blog, even though I keep telling myself I'm going to come back. For the record, I am no longer on Facebook and I seldom check in on Twitter. I'm most active on Instagram, though, so I hope you'll follow me there!

I'm writing today, though, to let you in on a PREORDER SPECIAL JUST FOR WRITERS that I've offered to subscribers of my newsletter and am now offering to you. If you preorder THE STOLEN KINGDOM before March 2, you can enter to win the following:

A free, 30-minute FaceTime or Zoom chat with me, to discuss your WIP and answer any writerly questions you'd like to ask. BONUS: If you send me your first chapter prior to the call, I will have notes for you!

Depending on how many entries I get, I may offer a second 30-minute chat so that I can give away two of them. Stay tuned!

Thank you, as always, for your support. Also? If you have a minute, please say hello in the comments. I MISS THIS COMMUNITY!!