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.

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

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!

Six Steps to Self-Publishing Your First Novel

“It looks so professional,” the woman said, looking from the cover of my first novel to my face and back again. I sat behind the desk at a book signing in my wonderful hometown of Arnold, Nebraska. “There’s a bar code and everything! How did you do that?” “Well…” I started, before realizing that there wasn’t any way I could launch into the specifics of self-publishing a novel without getting unnecessarily windy.

I’ve had this question time and again. For anyone who hasn’t self-published a novel in the past, the concept of going from an empty word processing document to a finished, professional novel physically resting in your hands is daunting. In reality, it’s not all that tough! Here’s what the process looks like:

1. Brainstorm. As you know by now, I’m a big Stephen King fan. In his novel On Writing, King explains that writing is like an archaeologist uncovering bones in the ground. The writer should just write, without extensive planning.

I’ve always been a planner, but in my first novel I didn’t—I simply sat down and wrote. And it worked well, until I came to the editing phase of my process and realized much of my plot didn’t make sense. I had to rewrite like mad. I cut full scenes, added additional ones, and overall cleaned up my own huge mess.

Before writing my second novel I decided to do some planning in order to have a smaller mess to clean up when finished with my first draft. I wrote out some character descriptions for new additions to the sequel. I also visited How-to-write-a-book-now.com. Some of the plot generation tools on that website are extraordinarily useful. And it worked! The second novel took much longer to write, but brainstorming ahead of time meant that editing was much quicker and easier.

Sorry, Mr. King. I disagree with you on this one. :)

2. Write. Whether you wrote an entire outline for your novel or just organized a few bullet points, you’ve arrived at the best part—writing! Set some time aside for yourself and your writing. It’s tough when you’re working a full time job. Maybe you have children. Perhaps you have social obligations. But, you can always find SOME time each week for your writing.

Some authors claim that to write well, you have to write every single day. I tend to disagree. I simply don’t have time to write each day! But I’ve found that if I give myself a word count goal each week, I can find time to get it done.

Think about it for a moment. If an average novel is 90,000 words, you could write a novel in just 9 weeks if you wrote 10,000 words a week (as I did for my first novel). Or, if you gave yourself the much-more-achievable goal of 5,000 words a week, that’s just 4 ½ months! As long as I can write a novel in less time than a woman takes to grow a baby in her belly, I’m good. :)

3. Edit. I hate and love editing at the same time. It’s far less creative than writing. The storyline is mostly set. Going back over adjectives to ensure they are correct, removing passive voice, and fixing dialogue tags is boring as hell.

But I also love it, because by this point you’re seeing some real progress. You’ve met characters. You’ve set up cool scenes. You’ve taken yourself to amazing landscapes or beautiful buildings. They’ve said neat stuff, and shown their bravery/idiocy/love. Once you start editing, you get to revisit what you’ve done. It’s always fun to see progress.

I highly recommend hiring an editor who will read and edit for you after you’ve done a few initial passes of your work. No matter how amazing you are at writing, fresh eyeballs will catch more mistakes. Friends can read first drafts as well, but they won’t be able to match the skillset of a professional editor.

My first novel I had seven drafts. My second one, I had only three. Again, that brainstorming is coming in handy!

4. Cover art. You need some kind of cover art, even if it’s just the title on a black background. But let’s be honest—you have some talented friends, don’t you? There’s at least one person in your life who has a knack for graphics and design.

Even if you don’t have talented friends, it is possible to look at bestselling novels and find out what looks best for the genre and style of your novel. That being said, I’m hiring someone to take a stab at the art for the second book. I’m not visually creative, and I don’t want to do it. :)

5. Get an ISBN & bar code. You probably remember ISBN numbers from when you bought college textbooks. I remember typing that number into various book search engines before recoiling in horror at the prices. ISBN.org is the place to go to get these! If you’re doing both a printed book and an ebook, you’ll need a 10-pack, as you can’t share an ISBN across different formats. As of today, that’s about $295. You can also get a 10-pack and a barcode for your printed book for $320.

6. Format your file. I highly recommend buying Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur or APE by Guy Kawasaki. Though it’s not a perfect book, it does a great job of explaining file conversion for each platform. This is something I didn’t even consider when first writing a book. But if you don’t convert your book properly, the second someone opens it they will notice poor formatting, which will distract them from reading the beautiful words you’ve written.

For printed books, you’ll be able to order a test volume to make sure the font you’ve selected looks nice and the cover art ended up the color you anticipated.

Good luck, and happy writing! SP

“Four” Reasons to Love the Insurgent Movie More Than the Book

Insurgent BookInsurgent Movie*Warning - Contains spoilers!  I love the Divergent series. These thrillers are almost impossible to put down and are relatable in many ways. I almost always prefer the book version of any movie based on a novel. But with Insurgent, the movie is better! Here’s why:

1. The acting. Shailene Woodley (Tris) is a super-babe. There’s no doubt about that. She also happens to be a singularly gifted actress. One scene in particular comes to mind—Tris must suffer through a test in the Candor faction to prove that she did not have anything to do with the attack on Abnegation, as Jeanine (Kate Winslet) claims. While reading this scene in the novel, I couldn’t imagine how someone could act the way Tris is feeling. She’s struggling against the truth serum in a vain attempt not to reveal her deepest secrets. Eventually, they come spilling out, and her closest friends learn she killed her friend Will while he was under a simulation. Woodley nails the scene, right down to the ugly-cry that most of us would be too ashamed for anyone to see, much less millions of strangers around the globe.

Another notable performance in the film is Kate Winslet, whose Hitler-inspired super-villain helps the viewer to realize just how easy it would be to succumb to the calm logic inspiring her choices, and ignore all human emotion and feeling.

Finally, Theo James (Tobias) is easy on the eyes. ‘Nuff said.

2. The plot. Much has been made of the fact that the movie barely follows any of the original plotline of the novel. This is mainly due to plot problems with the novel structure; however, there are many scenes I wish they would have included (like the election of new Dauntless leadership).

The movie plotline is much easier to follow and Tris’ reasons for her choices are clearer. For instance, in the novel Tris inexplicably abandons Tobias to team up with Marcus—Tobias’ abusive father. We never receive a clear reason why she can’t find the information she’s seeking while accompanying Tobias and the rest of Dauntless on their mission to destroy Erudite. The film does an exemplary job of giving clear reasons for Tris’ actions.

3. The sex scene. Bucking the trend of the virgin hero a la Twilight and Hunger Games is a risky move! The thing I love about the sex scene in Insurgent is that Tris really does own her choices. In the prior film, we see that she’s nervous about losing her virginity and tells Tobias when to stop. In Insurgent, she makes the choice for the right reasons—she is comfortable with herself and her decision.

The sex scene in the novel is a bit harder for me to get behind, because Novel Tris seems a little mentally unstable at that point. I don’t love the idea that she’s soaking up her grief with physical affection, which is how it comes off.

4. The heroine. At the end of the novel, Tris is unable to finish her task of exposing the truth by showing everyone the video footage recorded by the community ancestors. Instead, she is bound and branded a traitor, waiting to find out what the factionless will do with her. Her boyfriend, Tobias, has to come to her rescue and finish the job of acquiring and showcasing the footage.

On the other hand, in the movie, we get to see Tris complete five simulations which unlock the box containing said footage. She’s branded a hero. This version would have made no sense in the book, as Tris spent the majority of the novel making rash decisions and throwing her life in danger for nonsensical reasons. That Tris wouldn’t have been strong enough to complete the sims. Luckily, this Tris is.

I prefer the movie version. What do you think?