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.