"The Feast" Flash Fiction [Friday Fictioneers]

"The Feast" Flash Fiction [Friday Fictioneers]

The curling white mist seeped from the door of the freezer as Helena pulled it open.

“We’ll have a feast tonight.” Her eyes gleamed at the prospect.

“Eeeee!” screeched little Jessica, her tiny white hands clasped in front of her chest.

“But, Mom, the stove doesn’t work without power. Lights either,” her brother Ben said knowingly.

“There’s the grill,” Helena said, squatting next to the sink and pulling the trash can from its receptacle. She reached deeply, bringing out two lanterns.

She winked at her children and took a book of matches from her apron pockets. “Let’s play pretend,” she grinned.

"Skinny Dipping" Flash Fiction [Friday Fictioneers]

"Skinny Dipping" Flash Fiction  [Friday Fictioneers]

I stretch, the artificial turf beneath my mostly bare body scratching my skin as my back arches like a cat. I turn my head, resting my cheek on the second-story deck of the homemade raft swaying beneath us, my slender teenage body cradled above the waves.

“Kristy?” I murmur. “Sleeping?”

“No. The sun’s too hot. Wanna jump in?”

“Sure.” I stand. I gaze to the silent water below and pull the string of my bikini top...

"The Space Between" Flash Fiction [Friday Fictioneers]

"The Space Between" Flash Fiction  [Friday Fictioneers]

She thought of him from time to time. They didn’t speak anymore, though at one time his importance lay in the lap of her life like a colossal dog, too large to move. She couldn’t get out from under him. But that was then.

Now, it was as though they lived in separate rooms of the same home. Doors closed on opposite sides of the corridor that served as a neutral buffer between them. Behind the doors they lived their lives, and lived them happily, but each was forever colored by the other.

Still, the space between was tangible. 

"The Sister" by Louise Jensen Book Review

"The Sister" by Louise Jensen Book Review

The Sister is the debut novel of author Louise Jensen, and was one of three books I read on my honeymoon. It’s a good thing we had nothing to do but sleep and eat, because those were the only two other things I could make time for with such a gripping book just waiting to be read!

The story follows the “now” and “then” of Grace, a woman who is grief-stricken from the tragic loss of her best friend.

Luckiest Girl Alive Book Review & Why Ani is All of Us

Luckiest Girl Alive Book Review & Why Ani is All of Us

If you haven’t read the book yet, the story follows TifAni FaNelli, soon to be rebranded as Ani Harrison after her impending marriage to the epitome of urban WASP, Luke. The marriage is the summit of everything she believes she’s ever wanted—money, status, and overall, protection. But just before the wedding, Ani is scheduled to participate in a documentary about an internationally recognized event from her early teens—an event that was initiated by her own gang rape. She recounts the rape to the reader in flashbacks of her youth.

"The End" Short-Story [Friday Fictioneers]

Hi Friends!

I’m back from my honeymoon! Things are finally slowing down after the wedding, and I’m ready to write write write.

I’m also excited to start participating in the Friday Fictioneers challenge, courtesy of Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. If you want to give it a try, check the info on her blog. Stories are to be 100 words more or less, inspired by the photo she posts on Facebook each week.

Here’s my short story this week!

The End

“I didn’t think they’d get to us so quickly.”

“It’s their way.” His upturned face blazed with the crimson light as it bubbled and expanded, and though the pair could only see the edge of the throbbing mass, both of them understood the inevitability of what lay beyond the building.

“Still. I thought our Sector had more time.”

She gulped as the modified hydrogen cyanide fuel cells began their deconstruction, shooting brilliant points of light skyward.

“Let’s pretend, just for a moment, that those are fireworks.” She reached out and clasped his hand for the first and last time.

Check out other stories here.

Happy Friday!

S.M. Peterson

Author Update - Summer 2015!

Hi friends! It’s been a while since I’ve told you what’s happening in my life. While I love posting about books and hearing your thoughts, I figured I’d tell you a little bit about my summer. NYCWork has been busy! I’ve been to New York, New York twice this summer for work conferences. They always say it’s the “city so nice, they named it twice,” but I’ve got to say—“nice” is one adjective I wouldn’t necessarily select for Manhattan. I’m sure most of you have been there, and would agree that it’s more “chaotic,” or “frenzied,” or even “smelly.” But, of course, none of those fit neatly into the rhyme. Our company recently moved into a new office space in downtown Denver with a lovely open floor plan and a lot of natural light. It’s an amazing space, but as it turns out, setting up an office with furniture, internet, etc, is a busy job! For those of you who have administrative assistants or office managers, don’t take them for granted!

Fishers IslandMr. Perfect sold his house within three days of listing it, which was exciting in Denver’s crazy real estate market. Leading up to the sale was a lot of cleaning and moving, organizing and fixing. But the closing date is this week, so there is an end in sight! After that’s done, we get to start looking for a home together. I’m not sure yet what we’ll end up buying—whether it will be a starter home or a “forever” home—but I’ll be sure to update you with pictures once we decide on something.

Over Labor Day, we visited Fisher’s Island and participated in the Harbor Open Golf tournament. I use the word “participated” loosely, as the amount of drinking taking place at said tournament makes real participation a challenge. But it’s all part of the fun! We got plenty of beach time, and celebrated Mr. Perfect’s grandfather’s 90th birthday. His grandmother also just finished reading my books!  Fishers Island 2

Since I started writing, I’ve noticed that most people have a similar reaction when they hear I’ve written a book.

Other Person (OP): You’ve written two books? That’s amazing! How do you even write a book?

Me: Yep, two books. And I’m not sure how you write a book. Like Nike says, “Jus’ do it!” Maybe. Shrugs.

OP: Doesn’t that take a really long time? I wouldn’t know where or how to start.

Now, I usually just smile and nod at that point. But what I SHOULD say is this:

Me: Yep, it takes a really long time. And I never know where to start. Actually, I sat at my computer and drank wine for about an hour last night, and couldn’t figure out where to begin. The more wine I drank, the harder time I had remembering what the book was even about. Finally, I just shut my computer and went to bed.

All of this leads me (finally) to a point. Book #3 is under way! With all of the updates above, it’s been hard getting started and feeling ready to begin another adventure. But I have a feeling it’s going to be better than the first two.

Hold onto your pantaloons!

S. M. Peterson

Go Set a Watchman Book Review

"Prejudice, a dirty word, and faith, a clean one, have something in common: they both begin where reason ends." Harper Lee BooksHarper Lee's long-awaited sequel to the Pulitzer Prize winner To Kill a Mockingbird once more takes us back to the deeply racially divided South, where our color-blind heroine Scout Finch returns home to Maycomb County to visit her father Atticus in Go Set a Watchman. While discussing the book with a friend on a Labor Day trip to New York, I was reminded that though this is a sequel, it was, in fact, written before Mockingbird. In fact, it’s actually an early version of the novel that was to come To Kill a Mockingbird. I cannot imagine how hard this must be as a writer--to take a character on an emotional roller coaster and then yank them backward into their own childhood. Kudos, Ms. Lee.

Personally, I believe my own second book to be far better than my first attempt. This is how I feel about Harper Lee's work as well. To Kill a Mockingbird infuses the leisurely lifestyle of the southern culture into the novel itself, slowly easing the reader from young Scout's childhood adventures into the story at hand. But beneath her tomboy ways and misadventures with her brother and friends, a tidal wave of change arises in the form of racial inequality. Atticus, Scout's father, is a noble and steadfast rock, guiding Scout and Maycomb with a strong moral compass and nerves of steel. "It's not time to worry yet," he tells his children. The affliction of prejudice unfolds in a relatable and vibrant story.

Go Set a Watchman falls a little short of the pinnacle we see in Mockingbird. The novel starts slowly, introducing us to Scout's love interest and reminding us of how distasteful she finds the expectations put on her as a woman. This isn't surprising, considering we knew her as a tomboy girl, rough around every edge and existing in a largely sexist environment. When something does finally get moving in the plot, chapters filled with page after page of dialogue are difficult to follow. It's hard to understand how someone with such a close relationship with her father wouldn't stop to ask him a question or two before coming unhinged.

The writing isn't completely airtight, or perhaps Scout's personality evolved as she grew older--for some reason our strong, intelligent heroine can't seem to drive well, and never noticed a pregnant woman's belly enough to ask questions about the birds and the bees until in her mid-teens. She is no longer sensible. Instead, she pukes a lot from disgust and stress and refuses to listen to reason, which is one of the lessons imparted by her uncle at the end. There’s also a strange moment where the reader is told that “Atticus could and did prove consent,” with regards to the rape trial, which isn’t true of the first novel.

However, the lessons presented in both books are good ones. Change needs help to walk the miles to the finish line, and that the walk happens one small step at a time. Listening to others, even if you disagree is also important in order to build debate and gain trust. Those upholding the law have a duty to uphold it as written, and not write their own rules without following due process. And a sense of self and who we are, apart from those we admire, is important in guiding our opinions and lives.

We all know racism and discrimination are wrong. But as Hank says, sometimes a mild answer is better than showing his rage. It's difficult, at times, to understand the motivations of the characters in Watchman, but it is similarly difficult in real life. Perhaps that’s how the author meant it.

S. M. Peterson

The Girl with All the Gifts Book Review and “Relationship Reading”

GirlWithAlltheGiftsLike most authors, reading is one of my favorite pastimes. I’ve always had this romanticized dream of meeting a man who wouldn’t think lying in bed and reading to each other was overly dorky. For the first time, I (sort of) realized that dream with Mr. Perfect! On a recent trip back to my hometown of Arnold, Nebraska, we decided to spend the five-hour drive listening to an audio book instead of the radio. We selected The Girl with All the Gifts because of the high ratings on Audible, Amazon.com’s audio book platform acquired for $300 million in 2008. Later we realized that this book was over 13 hours long, so it ended up taking us several car rides and many nights listening on the couch before we finished it.

But what a treat! Author M. R. Carey adds a chilling twist to the tried-and-true zombie apocalypse tale based upon real science in which cordyceps parasites take over the bodies of their hosts and eventually fruit, spread, and populate. One of the more impressive things about this book was the depth of the characters in this book—though the cast was small, each had a very clear goal they fought to realize and a distinctive voice that implants the reader into the brains of the narrators. The book is a bit verbose at times, and I can’t say the ending turned out as I hoped, but overall it was an excellent read/listen. ****4/5 Stars.

Listening to the book as a couple made me think a lot about the impact of reading on relationships. At first, I assumed it would be like watching a TV series together. But as we all know, translating the written (or spoken) word into pictures in our brains takes a little more effort than watching television. Perhaps because of this extra “work,” this experience felt far more interactive. There were many times when I paused the book to ask about some element of the plot. We talked about the book more than we do TV shows, wondering aloud whether or not they characters would make it safely to their destination or whether they were about to be killed.

The experience was particularly powerful to me right now, since Mr. Perfect has been working the night shift. He typically leaves around nine o’clock to head in to work, so listening to this book together felt like something we could share in the limited time we had each night. In fact, it almost felt like a private joke—we laughed together at the funny bits in the book and worried together about the fate of our favorite people. I think it’s because investing the time and effort into listening to or reading a book together creates a kind of special bond.

We’ve already talked about starting another book. Maybe this time we’ll read it aloud instead of having someone read it to us!

Has anyone out there ever done a little “relationship reading” of your own? What did you think? How did it make you feel?


S. M. Peterson

Paper Towns is Paper Thin: A Book Review

o-PAPER-TOWNS-facebookThere are so many things to hate about Paper Towns that it’s hard for me to know where to start. Perhaps I’ll make a list, since that tends to help organize my thoughts.

1. Quentin. The protagonist of Paper Towns, who largely goes by “Q,” has potential to be a pretty cool guy. Q is smart and funny and seemingly has his life on track. He has great friends. He’s usually pretty relatable.Q

Enter Margo (who we will discuss later). Margo, Q’s next-door neighbor, is the sole focus of his obsession and attention. She is the sun he revolves around. Though we all have been through pathetic obsessions at one point or another, this takes it to another level. The guy misses his own graduation, neglects school, and forces his quest for Margo down his friends’ throats rather than letting them enjoy their final few weeks in high school. His love for Margo ends up coming off as incredibly pathetic and leaves the reader wondering if he is a bit unstable.

2. Dorky or Cool? And other inaccuracies… At the beginning of the book, we’re led to believe that Q and his posse are the ultimate dorks in high school. Loveable dorks, but dorks nonetheless. They are the guys the jocks beat up, the guys who play video games every waking hour…you know the type.

If that’s the case, why are tides of classmates parting to let them by when they walk down the hall? How does Ben suddenly convince Lacey, arguably the most beautiful girl in school, to be his one-and-only? Why are they suddenly included in the cool kids wild drunk-fest? There’s very little believability in the whole “we’re dorks” concept, so I wonder if Green only added it to make Margo seem even more out of reach.

There’s also a lot of weird inaccuracies with regards to how teenagers use technology. There is almost no mention of texting in the book, but for some reason these teens are IMing up a storm every night. For some reason, they don’t seem to know how to Google things, and instead ask each other for URLs via their IM program. None of the hot girls are Instagramming selfies.

All in all, the characterization is as flat a single sheet of paper.

3. Margo Roth Spiegelman. Like many serial killers, Margo Roth Spiegelman has three names. She also appears to be as mentally unstable as a serial killer, so I suppose it makes sense.

margoMargo is a cliché within a cliché. She has it all—looks, beauty, brains, popularity and a feisty personality to match. She’s basically Rizzo from Grease—she’s tough, sarcastic, and has a comeback for everything. But deep down, she’s troubled and damaged. Fraught with worry over being a “paper girl,” a term she uses to describe a person with a false façade, Margo takes up running away in her spare time to get away from the horribleness that is real life. I’m sure the teen audience the novel is intended for thinks that’s pretty cool, but it shows a very important characteristic that Margo herself embodies—a narcissism so complete that it wounds everyone around her.

Rather than taking the many talents she is so lucky to possess and putting them to good use, Margo instead chooses a friendless, homeless existence living in abandoned buildings. Author John Green tries to make this self-discovery the stuff heroes are made of, but it falls disappointingly short.

The book wasn’t all bad. It moves at a rapid pace and Q’s posse have some humorous banter. But I spent so much time thinking, “WHY is he still chasing this dumb chick?” that I couldn’t stay interested.

What I WOULD be interested in reading is a “Where are they now?” book, set 20 years in the future. By this point, Margo’s legendary good looks will have faded and with them, her ability to get food and shelter for free. Her decision to ignore school and career and “live free” will mean that she’s a bag lady. Inevitably, she will become the faceless person on the street reaching out a hand for Q’s leftovers as he exits a restaurant with his lovely wife and children.

Is it obvious that I don't recommend you buy the book? :) As timing would have it, you may be interested in picking up a free copy. John Green is hosting a Goodreads Giveaway for his book this week (August 7th-14th). If you feel so inclined, you can Enter Here to win 1 of 20 free copies.

Overall Book Rating: ** 2/5 Stars


S. M.

Far From the Madding Crowd Book & Movie Review

Up until very recently, I always thought the title of this classic novel was Far From the Maddening Crowd. “Maddening,” not “madding.” When Thomas Hardy wrote the novel in 1874, he took the title from a poem by Thomas Gray.

Far From the madding crowd's ignoble strife Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray; Along the cool sequester'd vale of life They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

I read somewhere that in this instance, Mr. Gray (not to be confused with THE Mr. Gray) meant that the crowd was frenzied. I always read it and assumed that the crowd was maddening just because it was a big ol’ bunch of people.

Whatever the crowd was like, in both the book and the movie adaptation of Far From the Madding Crowd, the readers and viewers are definitely far away from them. Set over 200 miles away from London, pastoral England is beautifully drawn in the story, as are the spirited cast of characters.

If you are unfamiliar with the story, it’s a classic love triangle, and at times a love quartet! Bathsheba, our female lead, is a vain, proud, and independent woman. Gabriel Oak, a man as strong and solid as his name, recognizes these qualities and loves her in spite of them. On the other hand, Farmer Boldwood, master of the neighboring farm, is so blinded by his need to possess Bathsheba he can’t see what she really is. Sergeant Troy, an impetuous cad of a soldier, is simply distracted by Bathsheba’s wealth and spirit, when the girl he really loves goes missing.

The movie has to cut a lot of fat from the book, of course, but it’s surprisingly well done. One of my only regrets is that I wish the film would have introduced Bathsheba and Gabriel more slowly. Her display of vanity at the beginning sets a slightly different stage for the book than the movie. There are also a few deviations from the book that don’t have a clear explanation.

One of my favorite things from the book is the extraordinary quotes. How someone can perfectly pour ideas like this into words is beyond me.

“It is safer to accept any chance that offers itself and extemporize a procedure to fit it, than to get a good plan matured, and wait for a chance of using it.”

“Wisdom lies in moderating mere impressions.”

“Some women only require an emergency to make them fit for one.”


S. M.

Why Women Must be Perfect (and The Girl on the Train Book Review)

girl on the train“Women are still only really valued for two things—their looks and their role as mothers. I’m not beautiful, and I can’t have kids, so what does that make me? Worthless.” I’ve always wondered if I’m the only woman who has ever felt this way. At least now I know Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train, has at the very least considered it.

When I was both single and without a particularly impressive career, not one person ever came to me with a twinkle in their eye to ask me, “What types of career successes are you chasing?” However, at least on a weekly basis, I got, “Have you been dating?” “Tick tock! You should try a dating site!” “Don’t you want to have kids some day? If you want to have kids, you really shouldn’t put your career first…”

In The Girl on the Train we become acquainted with two women, Megan and Rachel. At first, they seem to be as opposite as opposite could be—Megan is beautiful and slender; Rachel is fat and slovenly. Megan is sharp and successful; Rachel takes the train into London each day to pretend she wasn’t fired months prior. Megan has a gorgeous home and a handsome husband. Rachel, in contrast, says “It’s been a while since anyone touched me with anything approaching tenderness.” Megan is actually strikingly similar in my mind’s eye to Amy from Gone Girl. I’m not sure which of the two is more of a train wreck (pardon the pun!)—Megan or Rachel.

As we get to know the two women, we learn that they are actually quite similar. Both feel the weight of the pressure to be perfect, and yet deal with it in different ways. Rachel’s pain is all on the surface—she turns to alcohol and stops taking care of herself. Megan, on the other hand, hides her pain away, causing it to build and build in pressure until she has an affair and is ultimately murdered by a lover.

I really believe that as women, we’re saddled with much more pressure than men.

There’s the pressure to look perfect and pin-thin all the time. There’s a pressure to be “together,” with everything organized and planned perfectly. There’s pressure to have a personal trainer so you can talk about while showing off your toned calves, eat elegant meals so you can Instagram the photos, and travel to exotic places so you seem worldly and cultured. Don’t even get me started on Pinterest and the Martha Stewart-esque craft mania we’re supposed to recreate. (Disclaimer: I love Pinterest.)

And, of course, there’s pressure to have a picture-perfect family.

When we see women without these qualities and achievements, many of us are quick to judge. But at the same time, we HATE women who actually achieve this state of perfection.

In the rush to try to achieve more, we often forget to ask ourselves an important question: “Do I even WANT to be perfect?”

“Would I rather eat my ice cream and be a little rounder than go without, only to STILL fall short of the fitness levels of other women in the room? Would I rather spend my weekends with Mr. Perfect, or stuck behind my computer in pursuit of a career that will probably not end up as I imagine anyway?"

Do I hate Rachel from The Girl on the Train? I definitely dislike her. But extreme dislike is hard when there is so much about her to be pitied. It’s easier to hate Megan, because she at least has options, and she’s choosing wrong.

“I’m frightened and I don’t want to have to think,” Rachel says at one point. She’s so weak its painful. Part of me wants to tell her to sack up, put down the bottle, and get a frickin’ job. The other part of me wants to hug her and say, “I know exactly how you feel. Let’s snuggle and eat some ice cream!”

Perhaps the defining line is that Rachel has nobody in her life who finds her interesting, and she simply isn’t capable of becoming interesting on her own, so she inserts herself into someone else’s interesting story by force. Megan, on the other hand, is plenty capable. It’s laziness keeping her from finding a hobby or choosing a path for her life. That laziness eventually chooses the path for her—a path ending in death.

I keep searching for that line. How do we know the difference between trying—being un-lazy—and being so un-lazy it kills us? I’m not sure.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.


S. M.

Luce Launch Book Party at Denver Deep Dish Pizza

10389967_10100294746847076_7815068059528618322_nAttending a party thrown in your honor is a little awkward. I remember my high school graduation party—lots of great cake, punch, and friends and family congratulating me. On the one hand, I felt a lot of pride at my accomplishments. On the other, a “why is everyone looking at me?” discomfort. That’s a bit how I felt during the launch of Luce as well! I’m lucky to have Tami Milbrandt, a friend and expert marketer, helping me with the marketing for my books. She planned every detail of the party, from the surprise champagne toast to the arrangement of the book-signing table and much, much more. IMG_1287She arranged for the party to be held at Denver Deep Dish, a new, hip deep-dish pizza establishment in the super-cool Highlands neighborhood of Denver. Many attendees commented to me that they hadn’t heard of Denver Deep Dish, but would certainly be coming again soon!

Luce MenuFirst of all, let me say that the food was amazing. Tami orchestrated a Dynam-and-Luce themed menu that really hit the spot. The pepperoni pizza is quite literally award-winning, and you can tell! “The Calista,” my drink of choice for the evening was also a favorite with cucumber vodka, a champagne float, and you guessed it—a little Saint Germaine.

One of the most surreal moments of the night was when someone came up to the book signing table and earnestly asked, "Why did you change from 'Samantha Peterson' to 'S. M. Peterson'? Is that what the fans wanted?" I laughed. Fans? Do I have fans? No... I just know some really cool people who happen to spend some of their precious time reading my books. Those aren't fans... Are they?

I was so incredibly touched at the number of people who came by—members of my book club , friends from hours away, and fans I hadn’t met yet. A few notable guests were my aunt, uncle and cousin, who surprised me by driving all the way from Iowa to join us. What an amazing family I have! I also had the chance to catch up with my cover designer, Christopher Cover, who traveled from New Hampshire to attend and explore Denver. Thank you to everyone for helping me celebrate!luce ladies

If you didn’t make it to the event, you missed a great party! You can check out all the photos from the event on the Dynam Facebook Page.

If you haven't purchased your copies of Dynam and Luce, now is your chance! Grab them on Amazon today:



Thank you for your incredible support!


S. M. Peterson

4 Pitfalls to Avoid in Your Work Space

With the launch of Luce rapidly approaching, I find myself thinking of how easily I’m distracted when I have a lot of work to do. It’s too simple to pull up Facebook or Instagram, and suddenly my entire focus is on a friend’s new baby, or some Buzzfeed article about why Lindsay Lohan has still got it.

However, I have found a few ways that help me keep focused and productive. Here are four pitfalls to avoid in your work space, whether that’s at home or in an office somewhere.

clean desk1. Too Many Papers. When I used to work in an office, it boggled my mind to see desks drowning in stacks of papers towering on either side of a computer monitor covered with sticky notes. Especially because, with today’s technology, there’s no reason for most of the paper clutter!

Do you really need to print that email? Wouldn’t it be easier to save it in file on your computer? Rather than writing out a paper to-do list, use Asana.com, a tool that helps me prioritize and be productive even on the sleepiest of Mondays.

Plus, it’s better for the environment to have fewer papers. Go green!

2. Not Enough Screen Space. I’m a big fan of having more than one computer monitor. Great monitors are cheap, and getting a big screen is better for your eyes! I really believe that my productivity quadruples when I can have an Excel sheet open on one monitor and email open in another.

Even when writing I have a thesaurus or dictionary open here, and my Word document open there. Not losing time or focus on finding that correct tab can pay off in the end.desk org

3. Not Having a Place for Things. It sounds vague, I know! But I’ve found that if I don’t have a hook for those keys or a drawer organizer for those paper clips or note cards, I end up losing track of everything.

Lately I’ve been realizing I need to do some spring cleaning. If I look through my stuff and fix ‘er up a bit every now and then I won’t be thinking, “Where’s that pen?” when I should be thinking, “What happens next in my story?”

4. Ignoring Your Health. Earlier this year I upgraded to a standing desk. I’d been having back aches a lot, and realized it was likely from crouching over my desk like Scrooge counting his pennies. By setting up my standing desk properly, my monitor is now at eye level.

ProductivityFor some people, it’s one of those ball chairs. For others, it’s a standing desk. Still others might find that just adjusting the lumbar support in their chair helps them feel better, stay focused, and be more productive. No matter what it is, you only have one body and one life. Take care of it.

Happy Friday!


S. M. Peterson

Luce Cover Reveal, Pre-Sale, and Launch Party!

It’s finally here! After over a year of hard work and rewriting, I finally get to share my next novel with you! The sequel to Dynam is called Luce. To those of you who have read Dynam, the 2nd novel title is probably no surprise! The book will officially launch on June 12th, 2015. So exciting! Keep reading for a sneak peak of the first chapter and details on the launch party.

Dynam and Luce Cover Reveal

Don’t get me wrong—I loved certain things about Dynam’s original cover. The model, Jaime Palmucci was gorgeous as always, and the photography by Julianne Brasher Photography took my breath away. But, as it turns out, I’m not a designer! The more I looked at my original cover art, the more I realized that I couldn’t put together the lovely elements provided to me in a creative way. And I definitely couldn’t create a theme that would carry through three novels.

Enter Christopher Cover, a friend from New Hampshire who is a pro at this sort of thing. Christopher spent many patient hours listening to my critique of his work. He got used to hearing concise comments like, “Uh, so that font is…like…not scary enough…or something.” Or, “It should feel mysterious, but not…ya know…in a really dark way.”

Also, Christopher’s last name really fits book cover design. Don’t you think?

Now, we have not only a Luce cover to reveal, but a fresh new Dynam cover! I love them so much! I would love to hear your thoughts, so please leave me comments below!

Dynam And Luce Angle Luce Pre-Order

The 2nd novel will officially launch on June 12th, 2015. However, if you want to be one of the FIRST to receive your copy of Luce, you can pre-order on Amazon or Dynambook.com!

Just to get you super excited about the new book, I’ve included the full book description (see image below) AND the full first chapter! Just click the PDF below to download, Luce Chapter 1 by S. M. Peterson. Enjoy!



Luce Launch Party

DDDThe Luce Launch Party will be at Denver Deep Dish Pizza in Lohi, Denver Colorado on June 12th from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm. I’d love for any and all to attend! There will be food and drink specials, and a special menu just for Dynam fans!

We’d love for you to RSVP to our Facebook Event. We’ll be selling copies of both Luce and Dynam but even if you’re not much of a reader, we’d love you to come eat some amazing deep dish pizza and chat with us!

Regardless of whether or not you can attend the Luce Launch Party, please help me spread the word about my new book! Please share with friends, family and of course all over social media! :)

Thanks so much for all of your continued support of Dynam and Luce. I just can’t adequately express how much it means to me!

XOXO, S. M. Peterson

Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape

I have exciting news to report! The truth is, Bellicise and Luce are real. There really is a war out there. It’s a tough and dangerous battle of good versus evil to save all of mankind. But, never fear! As long as we develop Dynam, the world will be saved!

You, too, can help in this cause. All you have to do is pay a course fee and I can train you how to help save the world. It will be for the greater good, so it’s very much worth it. The road will be long. You’ll work endlessly while earning very little money. You’ll rarely see your family. If you step out of line, you’ll have to be punished. (And let’s be honest, sometimes we’ll punish you “just cuz.”) But again, it’s for the greater good. So open your wallet and let’s get moving.

Ohhhh wait. Never mind! That’s not right! I’m talking about Scientology, NOT Dynam. But since L. Ron Hubbard created a religion out of thin air after gaining lots of writing practice on his Sci-Fi novels, can’t I do the same thing with my fiction? Oh, that seems strange to you? Yeah, I guess that’s because it is…

beyond beliefIn Beyond Belief, Jenna Miscaviage Hill, niece of the dictator ruling Scientology, David Miscaviage, gives us a poignant tale of her bizarre and dysfunctional upbringing within the Church. Because of her familial ties, we get an inside look at the organization that calls itself Scientology.

Before reading this book, I wasn’t aware Scientology had its own language. For instance, Scientologists undergo a process called auditing, where they’re asked a series of questions while holding fast to an electronic device called an E-Meter. It’s meant to be a cross between a lie detector test and psychotherapy—the receiver of the auditing is supposed to release bad “stuff” in their life, or in past lives. Do your spiritual housekeeping through auditing (while paying hefty fees!) and you’ll eventually gain the status of “Clear,” where you’ll be happily free of the nasty influence of engrams. Do REALLY well, and you’ll get to the Operating Thetan level. Scientology_e_meter_blue

So far, it doesn’t sound all that bad, does it? You pay some money and people talk to you about your childhood—not an unusual thing in our society. There are lots of made-up words, but that’s not the worst thing ever. And after all, if it’s good enough for Tom Cruise and John Travolta, it should be good enough for me, right? But, look more closely. There are important red flags.

Scientologists are encouraged to detach from emotion and approach everything with the rules that have been drilled into their heads—rules that are supposed to help Scientology save the world. Independent thought of any kind is discouraged, and folks who step out of line receive “chits” for bad behavior. They’ll be accused of things like an “Out 2D” or of being “Out Ethics”—all things which have arduous and terrifying consequences, like working 23-hour days with little food, only to be given a soggy mattress on a rooftop to sleep on at the end of the night.

Another incredibly scary thing about the religion is that if you vocalize concerns or leave the religion, you might be labeled a “Suppressive Person,” or a person that is against the aims of the church. Members of Scientology are instructed to disconnect from SPs—in a nutshell, cut them out of their life completely and never speak with them again. For some Scientologists who grew up in the church, like Jenna, this means choosing between your own health and safety, and never seeing your family or friends ever again.

scientology letterThe main point of the religion is quite clearly the cash money. L. Ron himself said to one of his ex-wives that the way to make the big bucks was to start a religion. And make the big bucks he sure did! For a Scientologist to reach the OT levels (the higher levels of Scientology) they would pay over $100,000. Keep in mind as you read—Scientology managed to get itself classified as a religion, and billions of tax dollars they owe you and I, as American citizens, go unpaid every single year they exist. You’re paying for this shit to go on, people.

Another interesting element to this story for me, personally, was that the author is just six months older than I am. As I read this book, I kept looking at her timelines and realizing that while she was doing manual labor hauling railroad ties, scrubbing toilets with a toothbrush, acting as “medical liason” at age 7, and reciting mindless quotes by L. Ron, I was doing normal kid stuff like building forts, crushing on boys, and being pissed off at my parents that we weren't having macaroni and cheese for dinner.

The writing itself is no masterpiece. There’s everything from bad grammar, to repetition, to spelling problems. The younger portions of the author’s timelines seem to have a ton of detail. I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember nearly as much as she did when I was two years old. She’s also got some major timeline issues in there. She mentions getting to the Ranch around March of 1999, shortly after that mentioning she was six years old. So, I’m pretty sure she meant 1990. Her publishers didn’t really do their jobs on the editing piece, which is a shame.

But all in all, the story is an emotional telling of the first eighteen years of a woman’s life, which were largely destroyed.

Way to make it out alive, Jenna.

Seven Reasons to Visit the United Arab Emirates

As many of you know, I’m not currently a full-time author. Perhaps someday! For now, I really enjoy working in digital marketing and sales as I have for several years. I’ve recently accepted a new day job (more to come on that in a future post) which requires a lot of travel. IMG_6016Earlier this month, I traveled for work to Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The UAE is an Islamic country in the Middle East comprised of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah, and Fujairah. Though a relatively new country, the UAE is making rapid strides due to their foreign-investment-friendly laws and welcoming attitude towards business development.

This is a country that wants to be the best at everything! The world’s tallest building, the world’s largest shopping mall, and the world’s fastest roller coaster are all located here amidst the glittery glamour of new developments.

20150404_231545The Food. Hummus, hummus, and more hummus! I’m pretty sure I had some hummus every single day I was in the UAE. It’s available at every meal, and somehow (maybe it’s the fresh olive oil) it’s so much better than any I’ve ever tasted in the United States. We also had some fantastic meat and fish dishes, including a delectable lobster ravioli I ate one evening.

The only hurdle for me in the eating and drinking arena is that alcohol isn’t available at many restaurants due to the countries Islamic roots. Since I can be a bit of a wino, that was a bummer. But overall, the food made up for it. :)

20150405_13310620150405_134346Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. This lavish mosque in Abu Dhabi is one of the world’s largest, with a capacity for an astonishing 41,000 worshippers. It has 24-carat gold chandeliers and the worlds’ largest hand knotted carpet. (World’s largest something—toldja so!)

Krista, my co-worker and traveling companion, and I had to wear abayas to enter the mosque, which is the reason we look like Harry Potter characters in this photo. But the heat of an additional layer of clothing is well worth it once you get inside.

Many websites I found before leaving mentioned the conservative dress code required of women in the UAE, but once there I realized that Dubai in particular is extraordinarily modern. We saw many women wearing all different kinds of clothing. However, I always feel it’s best to err on the side of caution and cover knees and shoulders when visiting an Islamic country. There’s simply no reason to blatantly disrespect another countries customs when on a visit. When in doubt, bring a scarf to throw over your shoulders or wrap around your waist to cover your knees.

burjBurj Kalifah. The tallest building in the world! Book in advance for tickets to the observation deck. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to visit the deck, as they were all sold out! Instead, I walked around the nearby souk (marketplace) with some co-worker friends of mine and had dinner and a sheesha (flavored tobacco pipe) and some great views of the Burj. Luckily, the view from the outside isn’t too shabby either. But the observation deck is on my to-do list for my next visit to Dubai, which will likely take place in September.

20150405_164417The Beaches. As a resident told us one day, “We have six months of summer, and six months of Hell here in Dubai!” Since it was over 100 degrees on our beach day, I can see why he would say that, especially considering that temperature is in the cooler months of the year.

But, with clear turquoise water, shining white sand, and palm-tree spotted views, I’m not complaining. Dubai has many private beaches that belong to hotels. To visit those beaches, you have to pay a fee. Instead, my travel companion and I decided to visit the public beach and then spend some time at our hotel pool.

After all, we Denver-ites aren’t able to withstand the extreme heat for too long without frying. And yes, I did get sunburned.

20150406_11194420150406_105014Emirates Palace Hotel. Speaking of beaches, the white sand imported from Malaysia that squishes between your toes at the Emirates Palace Hotel is sensational. As one of the most luxurious hotels in the world, Emirates Palace Hotel quite literally has an ATM dispensing gold bars in the lobby.20150406_110836

We visited early in the morning, meaning it was a very quiet, tourist-free visit, which allowed us to traipse over the deep carpets and beneath chandeliers dripping crystals in peace.

The Malls. Dubai Mall, as part of the 20-billion-dollar Downtown Dubai complex, is the world’s largest, with 1,200 stores. Malls serve a gathering place as much as they do a shopping destinations. Families visiting restaurants, couples seeing movies—it all happens in the mall. It makes sense—the extreme heat means it’s nice to stay in the air conditioning as much as possible.

I’m not one for souvenirs, so the only thing I purchased on the trip was a silver necklace with my name in Arabic. Of course, since I don’t speak or read Arabic, it may not say my name. It could say “turd face” for all I know. But I like it anyway.

20150406_111950Saadiyat Island. Since I’m not much of a shopper, the development of Saadiyat Island fascinated me much more than spending my pennies at a mall. This island is a part of Abu Dhabi, and will host three architectural delights—an outpost of the Louvre, an outpost of the Guggenheim, and Zayad National Museum, which will be about the history of the Emirates.

The island also boasts an NYU extension and a mind-boggling array of hotels and living quarters. Though the project is not complete until 2017, I made a mental bookmark to come back and visit when the museums are open.20150406_104329

I highly recommend you visit if you ever get the opportunity. It’s a long flight, but well worth it!