Wednesday, December 6, 2017

WHAT ARE THEY UP TO NOW? Featuring Peter Adam Salomon

Today's author: PETER ADAM SALOMON



1. What role did your participation in a Miss Snark's First Victim contest or critique round play in your ultimate success as an author?

Technically I never even entered a contest or critique round. I had just ‘finished’ revising a YA Horror manuscript and was beginning to consider the whole ‘querying’ concept. I hadn’t even written a query letter at that point. All I had was a list of agents and agencies I was interested in and the thought that I should probably sit down and write a query letter.

While that was going on, there was a new MSFV contest but since I didn’t feel ready I figured it would be wiser to sit that one out and enter the next one.

Then, you unveiled the agent. Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency was at the top of my dream agent list. Unfortunately, they’re not open to submissions and, since I hadn’t entered, I’d just blown my chance to get my brand-new manuscript to her.

This is where I still sometimes think I’m dreaming. You posted a lovely note from your ‘Secret Agent’ that she was so impressed with the quality of your contestants that she’d open for submissions to anyone who put MSFV in the subject line.

I didn’t even have a query letter to send her. I just threw something together and emailed it as quickly as possible, thinking ‘so many people were going to email her that I’d better be quick.’ So, I basically didn’t even edit my query letter, just sent it off.

An hour later, she wrote back asking to see the whole manuscript. A week later, she wrote back asking to talk on the phone. A week after that, she wrote one more time offering representation.

It might have then taken well over a year for that novel to sell, but Flux liked that query letter I threw together so much that seven years later it is still the blurb for the book on Amazon and other booksellers.

2. Tell us what your journey has looked like from your MSFV Success Story until now.

What a strange adventure. It has been a paradigm shift and life-altering in so many ways. I’ve had a poem performed on the BBC by the creative geniuses behind the music for Dr. Who. I’ve been nominated for a Bram Stoker award, the highest honor in my genre. I’ve mentored some brilliant teen writers and seen them experience their first taste of success in the industry. And I have made so many dear friends. It’s hard to believe, sometimes, that any of it is real.

I’ve had my oldest dreams come true. What more can I ask for?

3. What has been the best part of your experience as an author? What has been most difficult/challenging?

There’s something amazing about being interviewed or signing autographs and all those trappings of being an author.

But, the teaching, mentoring, helping other writers? That’s where the magic is. This community of creative artists, striving together to make the world a better place, one person, one act, one word at a time. It’s an amazing thing to be a part of.

I’ve been mentoring teen writers for a few years now, after spending a couple years as a judge for different competitions and awards. That’s been the best part. When one of the teens I mentored made her first professional sale, that was pretty incredible.

The most difficult is the fact that everything starts all over again. All the waiting and revising and hoping and praying and dreaming that goes into that first sale also goes into the next one. And the one after that. I’m still waiting for that third sale, and the same doubts are there from the decades I spent as pre-published. I work all the time to remember how fortunate I am to have two novels and three poetry collections published in the last 5 years. And work just as hard, if not harder, on whatever comes next.

4. What's your latest offering, and where can we find it?

For poetry, 2017 saw the release of my third collection, PseudoPsalms: Sodom, which is available wherever poetry is sold (mainly Amazon since poetry isn’t exactly a best-selling kind of thing). Even after publishing two novels, I still think of myself as a poet first. I’ve been writing poetry since I was in elementary school, and only started writing fiction in college.

I also will be re-releasing my first poetry collection, PseudoPsalms: Prophets, soon, (also available on Amazon, etc) since the publisher went out of business making the collection go out-of-print.

5. Please leave us with some words of wisdom for all aspiring authors.

Whenever I’m asked for words of wisdom I cringe inside. I’m just not so sure how wise I am. Then, being serious for a moment, I tell everyone the same thing: write, read, write some more, read some more. Then edit. Edit a lot. No, edit more.

But most of all: love the process. Love every single moment of it. Love the creative passion driving you to write. Love the drudgery of revision that you feel will never end. Love it no matter what.

Because there’s going to be a lot of it. You’ll edit and revise and do it all over again and finally land an agent and the first thing they’re going to ask for are more edits and revisions until finally you sell the book and, you guessed it, the first thing they’re going to ask for are more edits and revisions.

So, you might as well learn to love the process. You’ll be doing it a lot.

Then write more. Read more. Revise more. And love it all.

Especially that moment your phone rings and you hear the best word in the English language: ‘Sold.’

You’ll love that moment the most.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

WHAT ARE THEY UP TO NOW? Featuring Piper J. Drake

Today's author: PIPER J. DRAKE

Here is Piper's ORIGINAL ENTRY ON THE BLOG (entered as PJ Schnyder) from an August, 2009 Secret Agent Contest featuring Emmanuelle Alspaugh Morgen. And here is the WINNERS POST from that contest.



1. What role did your participation in a Miss Snark's First Victim contest or critique round play in your ultimate success as an author?

Ms. Alspaugh provided valuable constructive feedback in follow-up to my 1st runner up win and 30 page request. The novel, Heart's Sentinel, was written as PJ Schnyder and became my first sale to Decadent Publishing. It went on to publish in both digital and print formats.

Participation in the Miss Snark's First Victim community helped me to receive constructive feedback. It helped me learn to pick out recommendations or critiques that resonated with my intent for my book and incorporate them. This skill has served me well for every book I've written since.

Now, I still participate in contests and critique rounds when I can because I strongly believe in paying it forward and I also believe the more we provide good critiques, the better we are at self editing our own work.

2. Tell us what your journey has looked like from your MSFV Success Story until now.

As PJ Schnyder, I went on to sell more paranormal romance and science fiction romance to Decadent Publishing and Carina Press, a Harlequin digital-first publishing company. I also co-wrote The Ministry Initiative steampunk role playing game and short stories for the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences. My books went on to win the Golden Leaf and the PRISM awards and my podcast of A Swan in Siam won the Parsec Award as part of the Tales from the Archive Vol 2.

In 2014, I was asked to reboot as Piper J. Drake, writing romantic suspense. It took a lot of courage and careful planning, which paid off in the form of a 3-book digital deal with Carina Press and then a 3-book print deal with Hachette Group, Grand Central Publishing's Forever imprint.

My True Heroes series made the Nielson Book Scan bestselling lists and has been featured two years in a row as a success in my genre by Nielson at their book summit. In 2016, I signed another 3-book print deal to continue the True Heroes series.

My digital format Safeguard series with Carina Press has been chosen for Harlequin's Direct To Consumer program and will be available in print from online retailers starting in January 2018.

While I plan to continue to write bestselling romantic suspense, I am also working on science fiction and fantasy while I plan for the right time to bring those stories back into my brand.

3. What has been the best part of your experience as an author? What has been most difficult/challenging?

Best Part: Seeing my books out there for readers to enjoy never gets old. It is my joy.

Most Difficult/Challenging: Balancing my writing schedule with my very demanding day job has been incredibly difficult. The biggest challenge is maintaining the balance because I love both my writing career and my day job career. I could not do either one nearly as well without the other.

4. What's your latest offering, and where can we find it?

From my True Heroes series, Absolute Trust is available online and in bookstores.

From my Safeguard series, Contracted Defense is available online at e-retailers everywhere.

5. Please leave us with some words of wisdom for all aspiring authors.

I've given this advice consistently for years and I still believe in it wholeheartedly: Surround yourself with nifty people who continually inspire you and challenge you to continue to do the next nifty thing.

Monday, November 27, 2017

One Young Writer

My niece will be 14 next month.  She lives and breathes ballet, and I'm thrilled that she is now studying at the School of Nashville Ballet.  She's also a gifted baker, a dependable childcare giver, a decent photographer (photo cred for the pointe shoe shot) and a lovely young woman.

And she writes.

Writing is one of her more recent pursuits, but like everything in her life, she isn't going at it halfway.  I knew she'd begun writing, but even her mom wasn't allowed to see anything she'd written.  When my grown daughters both shared with me that their cousin had let them read some of her stuff, I was determined to dig my little claws loving fingers in.

Fortunately, she bent, and shared with me the first chapter of her WIP.  To say that I felt honored is an understatement; garnering the trust of a 13-year-old is no small thing.  We all feel a bit "undressed" the first time someone reads our work, yes?  And these emotions are especially heightened in the young teen years.

You can tell my niece has what it takes.  And you can tell that she has read a lot of books.  Truth:  reading lots of books really does affect the depth and quality of your writing.  If you aspire to be an author but you never take the time to read novels, then you will never truly become the writer you want to be.  So, yes, my niece's reading habits are reflected nicely in her writing.

Her setting is historical--the "prairie" years of the United States--and she already has a great sense of how to create tension.  Is she ready to query agents?  Of course not.  Her work is raw, young, undeveloped. But SHE IS WRITING.  Her characters have emotion and believability.  She instinctually knew that she needed to create an inciting event that would propel her protagonist into the story arc.  With an instinct like that, this girl will go places.

Here's what struck me most of all:


What 13-year-old does this?  As soon as I saw this photo on her Instagram, I knew I wanted to write a blog post about my niece.  When I was 13, I had lots of story ideas that I started to write, but never finished.  I didn't even know what it meant to "plot a story".  Thanks to the Internet and the wealth of resources out there for writers, my niece is already way ahead of the game.

This is very much her personality as well, so I'm not completely surprised to find that she works out her stories so meticulously.  But still.  SHE'S 13.

I don't know.  Maybe I was just a slacker, but I find this attention to detail extraordinary at this age.

(Yeah, I'm doting a bit.  But I never gush about things that don't truly inspire me, so it's not blind dotage, I assure you!)

She's even got the find-a-pleasant-spot-to-write thing down.  This is a "work station" on the back deck of her home.  I'm pretty sure I'll be having coffee/writing dates with this gal at some point!

I love--I absolutely love--to fan the flames of passion in young people who write (or who do anything else that I also do, like music).  If anything reaffirms my own undying devotion to the art of writing, it's finding and affirming that same flame in someone less one third my age.  I'm so delighted to see my niece wholeheartedly pursuing this!

Need a pick-me-up?  Find a young writer and pour yourself into them.  You'll both benefit!  And you may just find yourself squealing and doting over someone with a fresh mind and an eager pen who wants, perhaps, to be just a little bit like you.

You have much to give, dear writers.  Go forth and give it!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Drop the Needle: Critique Guidelines

Okay, folks, here we go!  Let's see how well we do with sexual tension.

(There are 11 entries instead of 10 because several people ran into technical difficulties while trying to enter.  I took their entries and put them in manually, and since there were fewer than 10 entries this time, I just took everyone's.  I mean, why leave out one person? :) )

Guidelines for Critique on MSFV:
  • Please leave your critique for each entry in the comment box for that entry.
  • Please choose a screen name to sign your comments. The screen name DOES NOT have to be your real name; however, it needs to be an identifiable name.  ("Anonymous" is not a name.)
  • Critiques should be honest but kind, helpful but sensitive.
  • Critiques that attack the writer or are couched in unkind words will be deleted.*
  • ENTRANTS: As your way of "giving back", please critique a minimum of 3 other entries.

*I can't possibly read every comment.  If you ever see a comment that is truly snarky, please email me.  I count on your help.

Drop the Needle #11

Title: Rewriting History
Adult Contemporary Romance

Camilla and Ellis meet again after an errant kiss and a two-year separation.

Camilla reached for her wallet to pay for a much-needed cup of tea. Only her bag wasn't there.


“How about you add her order to mine? I’ll take a cappuccino, please.”

Ellis Jones materialized at her elbow pushing a crisp twenty across the counter. She swallowed hard while her stomach did a little flip.

“Thank you. Again. Seems you’re destined to come to my aid.”

Ellis nodded. “Was it sprained?” He peered at her sock-covered foot. Under his gaze, each of the Hello Kitties scattered across the toe seemed to shrivel up from embarrassment. She wanted to do the same.


They moved away from the counter. Ellis slowed to match her hobbled gait.

“I’m Ellis, by the way.” His eyes were even bluer than she remembered.

“Camilla Tanner.” She watched his face carefully but the expression never changed. Something in her sank a little. He didn’t remember.

“Where are you headed?”

“I have a Public Policy presentation in a half-hour.”

A tapping overhead drew their attention. A frantic Sunny leaned over the railing tapping his wrist. ‘Hurry up,’ he mouthed.

“Team member,” Camilla added in explanation. “If I don’t hurry, there’ll be fighting over the slide fonts again.”

“Never underestimate the power of a good font.”

“Ah, but which one? Arial or Calibri?”

“No contest. I’m an economist, we scoff at Calibri.”

She swore his lips quirked. Oh, two could play this game.

“Really?" She tilted her head. "I’m more of a Baskerville girl myself.”

“Baskerville? As in hounds?” Ellis laughed, and she nearly melted. “That’s not a real font. You’re joking.”

“It is!” She grinned and tucked her hair behind her ear. “But, I am.”

Wide-eyed and smiling, he looked so boyish. And adorable. Camilla stared at the floor to hide her s***-eating grin.

Drop the Needle #10

Young Adult Fantasy

Reina and Quinn’s group has just escaped a surprise attack as they traveled through a mountain pass. After hard riding, they have set up camp for the night. Quinn and another companion have suffered mild wounds and Reina, as Healer, is tending to Quinn. 

I continued to hold the cloth to Quinn’s face as my eyes fell upon the dark stains on his tunic.

Finally, I asked, “What happened? To what chaos did we leave you?”

Quinn did not immediately respond. Instead, he reached a warm hand up, closing it gently over mine as he pulled it down and cradled my palm in his.

“Do not ask to know the details of death, Reina,” he said, his eyes dark.

I opened my mouth to reply, but was unable to find a suitable response. Did he think me too weak to hear of death? Did he think I’d never seen it myself? It was true that most of my experiences with death were due to illness and old age, but I had seen blood, I had seen pain, and I knew what waited in the end.

“Ah, settle, Reina,” he said upon seeing the fight in my eyes. “’Twas not an insult against you.”

I did not hesitate this time. “What am I to think?”

He covered my hand with both of his, rubbing a calloused thumb lightly against my palm. “You’ve too much life within you to hear of death. I would sooner steal the song from the meadowlark than dampen your light with talk of darkness.”

Wide-eyed, I found my lungs reluctant to fill with air. “What talk is this?” I managed in a whisper.

Quinn dropped my hand.

“Antony,” he said loudly. “You’ve a wounded arm. Let Moreina tend to you.”

Drop the Needle #9

Title: Will Not Fade Away
Adult Women's Fiction

 A.J.(Audrey Jane) met Reid while on her journey cross-country to locate her missing son after a volcanic eruption. Reid is a mysterious man fighting his own past demons. A.J. is on the road of healing, while juggling widowhood and parenthood to an autistic child. They’re sharing a hotel room at this stop. Reid wakes from a nightmare. He lifted our locked hands and placed one on his chest.

Dear God.

Perhaps it was my need for soulful resuscitation and human intimacy. Perhaps it was my vulnerability. Or perhaps I liked him.

…a man who had proven himself enough to earn a ticket on our trip…a kindred spirit who had wiggled his way into my heart the slightest…an attractive man who stirred my once dusty desires off and brought them bursting to the surface…

He pulled me toward him, and I allowed it. His kiss was warm, heavy, and slow. It was g****** intoxicating and I drank it in like a parched desert cactus. The stubble on his chin brushed my face. Tender lips caressed mine in a simple, sexy, non-intrusive way. Our hands remained interlaced, one set on his cheek, one set on his heart. God, oh, how I had forgotten what desire was like. His mouth was inviting and stirred me.

He removed his hand from mine on his cheek and drew it to the base of my head, urging me closer for a deeper kiss. His touch tickled the fine hairs on the nape of my neck. He tasted like chocolate and sleep. Before it went too far, he pulled away and stared at me, only inches from my face, dark eyes swirling with sentiment, a slight smirk upon his lips. I exhaled. He held my gaze for a long could-hear-the-clock-ticking-in-my-head moment, and then he fell on his pillow, closed his eyes, and was asleep.

Drop the Needle #8

TITLE: One of the Lucky Ones
GENRE: YA Contemporary

Annie and Liz are teens getting ready for a night out, who don't quite realize theyre in a friends-to-lovers story, yet. Annie is going to wake up in the middle of the night tonight and figure it out, which will make everything a lot worse (for a while).

Liz was sitting in the living room when I came down. As I descended the stairs (slowly, because heels) she rose and just stood there, watching me. When I reached the bottom she came to meet me in the front hall, with a look in her eyes I couldn't read. Whatever it was, it affected my breathing.

She reached out a hand, but dropped it halfway. "You look amazing."

"Thank you." I couldn't tear my eyes away from her.

"Let's check us out." She opened the hall closet, exposing the full length mirror attached to the inside of the door, and we stood side by side. She shook her head. "The mirror's not wide enough." She took a step back and moved partway behind me, so her head was over my shoulder. She rested her hand on the small of my back.

I turned so I was angled in and we made a sort of "v." This meant that her next words, "You're beautiful," were breathed into my ear. I got chills all the way down my back and to my toes, and a growing warmth everywhere else. The contrast was startling and highly distracting, as was the hand gliding across my back and around my waist. I locked eyes with her reflection and felt myself lean back into her arms.

With what was left of my breath I whispered, "So are you." Whatever I might have said or thought next, if anything, was interrupted by Dad's voice.

Drop the Needle #7

TITLE: Sugar Bea
GENRE: YA Contemporary

Though my mouth gets the Sahara dry feeling again, I push past it and the fear of an Amy Shumacker moment. “Would you like to eat with me?”

She looks around the mostly empty restaurant. “Aren’t you closed?”

I stare down at my boots and then force myself to look back at her. “Yes. But I meant like on a date?”
Is that even a thing? Going on a date?

“When?” She taps the top of her cello case.

But she doesn’t seem to care one way or the other if I call it a date. “Now. How about now?”

“Where’re we going? It’s pretty late.”

“I could make you something…” I swallow. No. This isn’t really how I want our first date to go. “Wait. Can I start over? What are you doing next Sunday?”

She smiles.



“Good. I’d like to take you on a date.”

She slides one finger over the top of the case. “There’s nothing wrong with a Sunday date, but couldn’t we do something Saturday night?”

Ugh. “Yes and no. I kinda have to work, but maybe we could go somewhere after I get off?”

Holland pushes the cello back and forth. “Well I kind of thought maybe you’d cook some of those mac and cheese balls for me.”

It’d be so much better if I could cook for her at my house. But Momma prevents that from happening. I step closer to her, catching her scent when she leans against her case.

Drop the Needle #6

GENRE: YA Science Fiction

Only two days until the (flying) motorcycle race in Tokyo, a group of racers spend the evening doing karaoke. Hiroki doesn’t know that Aya is a thief and has stolen from him.

Cushioned seats lined the perimeter of the private room and a large screen displayed the song options. Minutes later Ji-ho was doing an amazing impression of a Korean singer. She handed the remote to me next, but I passed. I didn’t know any of the songs, nor did I need the added embarrassment of singing in public. Then Yumi Sasakawa sang a Disney song I vaguely knew, complete with hand motions.

Hiroki volunteered, as Waku was very occupied devouring a sushi roll. He grabbed the remote, a small smile played at the corner of his mouth. I forced myself to look away from him.

Hiroki started singing.

I tried not to look at him. I felt embarrassed for him, as if everyone would be looking at how I was taking his song choice, which was a romantic song about finding true love among the stars. His voice wasn’t great, but it was soothing and he belted out the song with an enthusiasm none of the previous singers had attempted. I kept my eyes glued on the food and tried to remember how much I looked at Li Min while she was singing so I could look at Hiroki the exact same number of times.

Finally, with a low warble he finished the song. Yumi, Li Min and Waku cheered and clapped as Hiroki took a dramatic bow. Then I glanced at him. As he stood back up our eyes met and I couldn’t breathe. He gave me a small smile before going to sit down and I realized with a start that I was in love with him.

 Wow, Aya, bad timing.

Drop the Needle #5

TITLE: Ravenseele
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Ashlynn has accepted a bounty to kill a monster. When the other mercenaries turn on her, Van, a stranger, steps in to fight at her side. Together they don’t just dispatch their attackers, but the monster as well.
Later, Ashlynn’s tutor, a talented mage shows up. Van conveniently disappears. When he reappears he questions Ashlynn about her magic and her tutor.

“The Thorn,” Ashlynn clarifies. “He’s a tutor. Nothing more.”
Van’s expression is too cheerful—disbelieving.
Ashlynn stretches her stiff arms. “The magic you saw were merely tricks. My real talent is with a blade.”
“In this particular instance, you’re being a tad modest. Those were not mere tricks.”
She smirks. “Is that a compliment?”
Van taps her steel arm. “And this?”
“Strong motivation to master those tricks.”
“A wizard did that to you.” Van crouches low to pull at something in the grass.
Ashlynn is grateful to be rid of his searching eyes. She swallows her dread. “…And a wizard prevented it from taking my life.”
When Van stands, there’s a pink flower between his fingertips. “This wizard who cursed your arm, was he by chance…known as the Alchemist? A mage obsessed with metals?”
Ashlynn’s world begins to tilt. “H-how did you guess?” How does he know a thing about mages? She wonders.
Van extends the flower. When Ashlynn reaches for it, he steps playfully backward, his smile as delicate as the breeze across Ashlynn’s skin.
She darts after it like a provoked child, but he has fooled her. It takes him just a half a step forward for them to converge like lovers joining a dance.
Ashlynn breathes in his honey-cypress scent as he tucks the flower behind her ear.
“I hate to tell you these things,” Van whispers.
Ashlynn can see nothing but rain-colored eyes and lashes made of gold.
“But the Alchemist and the Thorn were friends.”

Drop the Needle #4

TITLE: The Shoemaker's Daughter
GENRE: YA Retelling


Retelling of the twelve dancing princesses. The oldest princess has come to give the soldier a goblet of wine.



She pulled her fingers back to be certain his did not touch hers.

“You say you’re a Samson,” she challenged.

“You are the Delilah aren’t you?”

The abrasion of his words made her flinch.  He saw her as she had been in the library.  Yet in that moment the firmness returned.  Her eyes fixed upon the goblet.

Hesitation would cause suspicion.  Without thought, he took a gulp.   Immediately he was gagging in realization that he was killing himself.  He spit, wiping his sleeve across his mouth.  With horror, he looked at the princess.  He had spewed all over her.  Liquid dribbled down her face like tears.  He knew she was not crying although her chin trembled.  Ignoring his impulse, he stiffly offered a handkerchief.  She jerked away from him.

He couldn’t restrain himself, despite her fury.  He was beside her, grasping her shoulder and wiping her face as one would a messy toddler, gently pushing her hair back as he wiped it dry.  She didn’t struggle but stood rigid.  He traced the contours of her face with the handkerchief.  He had been intent on his task but now done, he looked at her.  He sensed her breath, the rise and fall of her shoulders, felt her warmth.  He released her.  She fell away from him, backing into the princesses who had gathered, drawn to the commotion.

Now he felt fresh humiliation.  He’d made a spectacle in front of so many.  This was not the place for emotion.  That was dangerous.