Friday Free-For-All

Hello, darklings,

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Friday Free-For-All. Mostly because a pox came upon Casa de Jude at the beginning of February in the form of 1) an allergic reaction, 2) a case of severe tonsillitis, 3) strep throat among the littles, and 4) an upper respiratory infection. All in the same week. This does not include the trip to the emergency room for my youngest in January after he fell on the claw part of a hammer and exposed a tendon in his knee. Home renovations are dangerous.

So some things have happened on THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS front. Publisher’s Weekly gave the book a STARRED review, stating, “Jude’s characters exude authenticity, and the suspense stayed palpable through the final pages.” Even Kirkus had something nice to say: “This present-day mystery is ripe with superstition and serves up an atmospheric, authentic-feeling setting.”

I am very humbled and thankful that my dark, little book is getting out into the world. It still seems unreal to me.

Also, my amazing author-artist pal Meghan Harker is designing a set of eight character cards for THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS. Yesterday, I unveiled the first of these cards, which features the main character, Ivy Templeton. There will be opportunities to win a set of these cards, and they are going on a very limited print run, so if you’re a collector, stay tuned!

Ivy Templeton. She is stronger than she seems.

Ivy Templeton. She is stronger than she seems.

So that’s about all for now! I’ll have character ready to view next week.
Less than two months. I can scarcely believe it.

~S

Things You Do Not See

I have been troubled lately, plagued by thoughts of how people will doubt you or your story because they can only see the surface. They don’t know what you face on the inside. It’s like you have to be credentials to prove you belong, and why is that? Why should that be so important to others? You cannot glean the whole of anyone from the sparse words of their bio, and yet there are those who believe they can.

But there’s the invisible you. The side that isn’t readily seen or tangible. Maybe the side you reserve only for those closest to you.

This is what I’m talking about. My Twitter bio reads very simply:

Episcopalian. Mama. Authoress. Rep: Miriam Kriss. THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS (May 3, 2016, HMH)

Things you know about me from this: my religion, that I have children, that I’m an author, and my skin color (if you see my photo).

Things you don’t know about me: my sexuality, my marital status, my disability status, the cultural heritage I and my family were raised with, any trauma I’ve endured, my education level, my family income, what struggles I have faced as a parent, my political leanings, and much more that I can’t even being to label.

You might get snippets of these things by reading my tweets or my posts. If you’re on my private facebook page, you get more because what I share there is for family and friends. But the fact remains that I am a very private person and anything that is seen of me in public online spaces is only what I allow for that venue.

Anyone who is on any social media has a public life and a private one. And we all make assumptions about other people based on what we see of them.

There is always so much more than what lies on the surface of every other human being.

Be kind. You do not know what people face in their everyday life or what has shaped them into becoming the person they are today.

Friday Free-For-All

Hello!

This will be short because it’s already late and I’m trying to squeeze in this post between feeding my boys dinner, rushing my girl off to violin, and simply staying awake after a hectic week.

*Thank you, thank you, thank you to the bloggers, librarians, teachers, and reviewers who have taken the time read advanced copies of THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS. While I usually don’t read reviews, I am very heartened to know that the book is simply being read.

*Thinking of spring already. I like the spring because it is a season of growth before the intense heat of summer. I grow a good many heirloom vegetables, and this year my dreams are already filled with thoughts of radishes and purple carrots.

*I’m taking a lot more time this year to read for pleasure and to draw. I’ve missed making art . . . and I’m actually looking at doing some things with that soonish. Stay tuned.

*My heart broke this week. I have vivid memories of sneaking into my parents’ bedroom as a child to watch TV. We were some of the earliest to have cable TV, and one of those channels was MTV. “Let’s Dance,” “China Girl,” and “Dancin’ in the Street” by David Bowie are some of the earliest songs I remember. I was instantly drawn to the snaggle-toothed man with a sonorous voice and swagger. I remember when he married Iman. I remember “Jump.” I remember Bowie turning 50 and what a big deal that was when all the heroes of my teens turned out to perform at his birthday celebration. And now I remember his passing, the tears I shed, and my daughter asking if she could learn “Life on Mars” for her music lessons. He made true art, and it is not trite to say there will not be another like him.

* Lastly, guys, I’m really proud to share that THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS is an ALAN January 2016 Pick. There’s a lovely review up on the site that you can find here.

Until next week,
S

Friday Free-For-All

Second Friday of 2016!

It’s been a week that ebbs from extremely calm and quiet to furious flow of activity. Often within the same day. The kids went back to school–except my oldest two missed the first day back due to a particularly nasty cold that I’m grateful not to have caught (Yet. Knock on wood.)

So what’s up for this week:

* THICKER THAN WATER by Kelly Fiore. Such an incredibly beautiful and sad and amazing book about addiction and its effects on a family. A Must-Read of this year.

*THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS will be at ALA Midwinter this weekend, and if you head over to the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt booth, you might just be able to snag an ARC. Even better if you tweet a pic of yourself with the ARC to me, I’ll send you some swag.

*Secret Projects. We all like to have secrets. My friend Meghan Harker is drawing up something very fun for MQM, and here’s a sneak peek:

Secret things....ooooh

Secret things….ooooh

*We are supposed to get our first accumulating snow of the winter this weekend. About right on time for the part of Missouri where I live. Fun fact: I love snow. I probably love it more than my kids or dogs. Snow is cold, red cheeks, cups of hot tea, embers glowing in the fireplace, and hunkering down in quiet as the world outside turns blue and white.

That’s all for now. See you soon.

~S

Friday Free-For-All

Happy New Year!

Thank you to all who have come along for the ride in 2015. I am heartened by each of you who’ve told me they look forward to reading THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS and to those who have and given their thoughts on the book.

This year, guys, this year. Almost four years in the making from when I began the book.

This spring, I’ll visit my in-laws in Florida, probably writing in the same spot where I first realized how tangled up Ivy, Heather, Rook, Violet, and the others would become. Writing while the alligators inched up the seawall and lounged in the sun. A little bit of danger close enough to touch.

This year feels so many things: dangerous like that alligator, anxious, and hopeful.

See you all in Rowan’s Glen soon.

~S

New Things! Updates! Wheee!

Happy December!

DECEMBER?!

Where the hell did 2015 go? (I’m not altogether sure I want it back.) Onward to 2016…and THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS!

Mostly, since I posted last I’ve been settling in to writing a new (old) project. The idea came to me several years ago, but due to other writing commitments, it had to wait in the queue. After finishing up work on THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS and the next project, I had a conversation with my awesome agent to discuss what I should be working on next. Initially, I went diving headlong into a really fun, dark book . . . and crashed and burned when my dog passed away. It’s amazing how emotions can just grind your ability to create to a halt. I tried to find my way back into that story and was met with dead ends and a great deal of frustration. More frustration than it was worth, so I had a long talk with Awesome Agent M and we talked about this old project of mine that I had pitched to her a few years ago. We decided maybe, just maybe it was time to dust off the opening pages and see what would happen. I haven’t gotten very far into it. It’s also writing itself in a bit of an odd manner. There are case files, incident reports, intake reports, and other official documents that are at least part of the background of the story, and those are demanding to be written first. Perhaps to give me a feel for what the hell is going on, how did things get to where they are now. Maybe they’ll show up in the finished project. Maybe they won’t.

It’s also one of the few projects where I feel compelled to draw certain aspects, and that’s okay. I can draw fairly well. I’m not, like, the greatest artist ever, but I’m competent. I spent my first semester of college as an art student until I realized I was going broke paying for supplies with money my mother and I didn’t have.

We’ll see where things end up. Right now, I’m just very grateful that I have a job that lets me do what I want to do and express myself in ways that would earn most people the side-eye.

Couple of quick things:

I’ve made a handful of updates to the website.
*Projects page: I’ve added the cover of THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS along with the blurb quotes and some easy buy links. Yeah, yeah, boring. I hope to have some news about future works soon. We’ll see. Fingers crossed. Salt over the shoulder. All that jazz.

*Extras page: I’ve updated my online haunts with more social media links because, really, I’m not that active here. I’m much more chatty on Twitter and post photos to Instagram and Tumblr. I’ve also included a FAQ on the extras page because, while I love getting emails from readers, aspiring authors, and bloggers, I do receive some of the same questions many times so it might be easier if I have an easy to find answer. Please, though, if there’s a question I’ve left unanswered, ask away.

*Review copy policy: I get a LOT of requests for a review copy of my work. This is fantastic, and I truly am heartened that there is so much interest in the book. Here’s the deal. I was given very few paper copies of THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS galley, and they have been spoken for. There are ways to find a digital galley, and I have written up that information on my Contact page.

Until next time,
S

Friday Free For All

It’s Friday the 13th!

I’m a superstitious sort, but I’m also the type who delights in the bad luck beliefs and subverts them. For instance, black animals often find themselves unwanted in shelters because of the belief that they are bad luck. I love black cats. If I could have a cat, I’d adopt a black one. As it is, I rescued a black dog a few years ago, and she is my ever loyal hellhound.

While some people may look upon Friday the 13th with a sense of trepidation brought on superstitions or cheesy horror films, it’s one of my favorite days of the year. Thirteen has always been my favorite number. So here are thirteen superstitions:

  1. Salt over your shoulder. Some old timers believe that the devil sits behind your left shoulder. To ward it off, you throw salt – a purifier – over your shoulder. To this day, anytime I take a pinch of salt from my salt cellar while cooking, I reserve a few grains to toss behind me.
  2. Step on a crack, break your mother’s back. We all know this one isn’t true, otherwise our poor mothers would all be fractured messes. However, knowing it wasn’t true and believing it wasn’t true are two completely different things, and let me tell you, when I was small, I avoided every crack I could out of sheer guilt that any harm might come to my mom. Even now, I still step over them if the chance arises.
  3. Broken mirror, seven years bad luck. I wish I could say I have never broken a mirror. If it wasn’t the mirror in a makeup compact that did me in, surely it was the double sided makeup mirror my mom had. And I dropped it. The glass stayed in one piece–except for a singular hole punched through the bottom edge. It wasn’t long after that a number of odd things began to happen to me.
  4. A black cat crossing your path. I found a black kitten one day when I was child. I promptly scooped her up and brought her home because I didn’t think it was right for a kitten to be running free in the alley behind our house. Despite my protests and tears, my parents made my older sister and me take her up and down the street, knocking on doors to ask residents if the kitten was theirs. We found her owners and learned her name was Coco. For the rest of the years that I lived in my parents’ home, Coco would come and find me when I was outside and often sat with me in the yard when I was reading books.
  5. A shiver down your back means someone’s walked over the place you’ll be buried. I have no way of knowing whether this one is true, but I do know that it crosses my mind every time I get an explained shudder. I’ll tell you when I get there.
  6. A lucky rabbit’s foot. No, no, no. Just no. I thought I had a lucky rabbit’s foot when I was about six years old. Thank God it was only a block of wood with some fake fur glued to it. Rather than having a bunch of three-legged rabbit’s hopping around, let’s just keep the animals whole please.
  7. Holding your breath when driving past a graveyard. I’m not sure how common this belief is. I distinctly remember crouching down in the back seat of my father’s car and holding my breath when he drove past the old Scandinavian cemetery on our way to pretty much anywhere in my hometown. I believed that if I didn’t hold my breath, the dead would rise from their graves and make me join them. Yes, I was a weird kid. I still am.
  8. Three crows. To see three crows roosting together was foul. (Har, har.) I’d once been told the three birds were the past, present, and future, and to scare them off was to end your life prematurely.
  9. Stopped clocks. It was always bad luck to let a clock remain stopped. My parents kept a German cuckoo clock wound, and they never let watch batteries die. The minute the time started to slow, that battery was replaced because a stopped clock foretold the hour of one’s death.
  10. Saying “MacBeth” while in a theater. This one has always amused me. Really, how could it be dangerous to say the name of the famous Scottish play? Well, my sister was in “MacBeth” in college . . . and had a horrible injury where she fell of a wooden rise and got not only a massive bruise on her hip but also hundreds of tiny splinters stuck down the inside of her leg from her thigh to her ankle. I’ll give you one guess to speculate whether she said the cursed word or not.
  11. An upside-down horseshoe. It’s fairly common knowledge that horseshoes a symbol of good luck, but did you know there’s a right way to hang them on the wall? The ends must face upward so that the horseshoe forms a U shape. Otherwise, the luck is thought to spill out.
  12. Gifting knives. Not that it’s a good idea to give someone you like a blade anyway, but if you do, you had better be ready for the relationship to be severed as the knife will cut right through it.
  13. Chain letters. Oh, these were really popular in the pre-Internet days. Christopher Pike even wrote two books about them and the horror that befell the teens who didn’t follow the letter’s instructions. We received exactly one chain letter from one of my older sister’s friends. I don’t know what it said–my mother didn’t allow me to read it, and she promptly set it on fire to get ride of it. As one did. Seems my parents, particularly my mother, was full of her own sorts of superstitions as well.

    I hope you’ve had fun with some of my Friday the 13th superstitions! Just beware of walking under ladders!

Friday Free-For-All

Hello dark and lovelies!

It’s mid-October, and I can FEEL Halloween everywhere I go. The leaves are turning, and the air is brisk, skies are gloomy, and for me, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. My husband is not a Halloween person, not like I am. Oh, he enjoys taking the kids trick-or-treating and the bonfire we have with our neighbors each year. It is quite a fun bit of tradition. The kids have their costumes: a fairy, a red Power Ranger, and Vampire Mickey Mouse. I’ve never really been one to dress up the dogs for Halloween, but surely a devil dog and hellhound don’t need costumes, right?

So with Halloween coming, I like to watch scary movies. Scream has a special place in my heart because it mixed horror with comedy, and it’s actually pretty nostalgic for me. It still holds up surprisingly well. But my favorite Halloween film is, of course, the original Halloween directed by John Carpenter. Also, it’s really cool if you can watch The Inside Story about the making of the movie and see what went on to get the film made and all the behind-the-scenes action.

As far as spooky TV shows, I’m a sucker for things like A Haunting, An Amish Haunting, and Celebrity Ghost stories. They’re cheesy as hell but also pretty entertaining. I will sometimes turn them on to watch/listen to while puttering about the house. I do love American Horror Story, and this years version Hotel is pretty gruesome and not for the faint of heart. I do take some issues with some of Murphy’s go-to shock devices, and I’m still working on how to reconcile the parts that really bother me with the storytelling that I tend to enjoy. Sure, horror is designed to create unease in the viewer or reader, but I don’t know how far to take that unease over into repulsion. On the flip side, I was unsure about Scream Queens on Fox. I was underwhelmed by the first two episodes, but somewhere around episode 3, it has appeared to find its stride. It’s campy and corny, which is intentional, and still pretty damn gory for network TV, but it’s not something that’s going to disturb me into staying up all night, which AHS can do at times.

A couple of quick treats about THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS: yesterday it hit number one in Amazon’s New Releases for Teens and YA in LGBT issues, which I was really stunned and happy to learn, and it’s not available for pre-order at Barnes & Noble. Look, I hate hawking my books, but pre-orders are critical, especially for newer authors who are still trying to prove their worth to their publishers. Yes, it’s still a while off before MQM publishes, but even if the pre-order is bought before it’s dropped down in price for sale, a lot of retailers will give you the lowest pre-order price once the book is released.

Also, October has found me doused in black paint (rehabbing an old desk) and wearing a sling as I’ve injured my rotator cuff in my shoulder. It kinda sucks. The nice thing about October is that two of my littles have their birthdays this month, so there has been a surplus of cake in my house, which is always awesome.

Scare you soon,
S

Friday Free-For-All

September hasn’t been much of a kind of month to me, so it’s been a bit of a struggle to come up with a Friday Free-For-All. I’ll start with the hard one first and then things get better from there. I promise.

1.) At the very beginning of this month, I lost my sweet, little pug Hazel. My husband Tim and I got her five weeks after we got married, and she was with us for just over 15 years. We loved her dearly in that time. In her life, she had four doggy sisters, some who left before her and waited for her, two who are still with us. Losing her pretty much gutted me, and I still have my moments where I cry when thinking about her (like now). After we made the decision that it was time to let her go, we had a few days for our family to say goodbye. And it’s been one of the hardest times I’ve experienced as a person, let alone as a mother to three devastated children or animal lover. But I’m glad we had it as it gave me time to ponder how 15 years really is quite a long time, especially for an animal, and yet it wasn’t time enough. I don’t know that any amount could be time enough. She is at rest, and as my friend Father Nathaniel said to me this past Sunday, “She’s waiting for you. All dogs go to Heaven, you know.” I believe him.

2.) A highlight of this week was going to my friend Antony John’s book launch for IMPOSTER. My daughter and I headed down to Left Bank Book’s in St. Louis’s Central West End, and it was a joy getting to show our excitement for Antony’s new book. He’s a tricky fellow to find online, but I do highly recommend checking out his work. He’s written a bit of everything from contemporary to speculative to a thriller. I don’t think there’s anything Antony can’t do. Do check out his books.

3.) ARCs for THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS have arrived! The e-galley is up on Edelweiss for request, and I will soon be putting out a sign-up for a tour of the paper ARC. I love this book. I love the cover. I love the design on the inside. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt really put a lot of love into the packaging of this book. And then there’s the story inside…

So be on the lookout for the sign-up, which should go up sometime hopefully next week.