What’s Success, Really?

Hello Friends,

This is the time of year where I tend to be busier both privately and publicly, and I enjoy it. September is my second favorite month, lagging only slightly behind October. The change in seasons creates a kinetic energy that moves all the way through my soul with crackles and embers, and so much anticipation.

September is my birthday month, and by month’s end, the Lucy story will head off to production with others in the anthology. ARCHON will be upon St. Louis, and one of the panel topics I’ve got in how to gauge your own success as a writer. It’s interesting because, when you start out, you think, “Okay, getting my book on the shelf in a store means I’m successful.” And it’s a wonderful success, but your idea of successes changes over the course of your career. It becomes fluid. MQM’s gotten starred reviews. I’ve earned out my advance. My book’s made lists. These are successes and achievements that deserve some happy feelings, but what’s the greater success to me? I take more heart in sharpening my craft, developing richer characters, or hearing from readers that something in what I’ve written touched their mind.

It’s easy to feel Imposter Syndrome, this idea that somehow success is so precarious and artificial that it can entirely slip away and people will find out you’re not as good as others have been led to believe. It’s sad, truly. I have friends who’ve had six-figure deals who still feel dogged by shortcomings or unmet expectations. It’s so easy to feel like you’ll never be enough. Except you are enough because you aren’t one published book, one story, one query. You are enough because you’re here. In this moment, you are a success. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not.



What’s Coming

Hello, friends,

The summer slow down becomes the end-of-summer speed up. I have a couple more things on the horizon. Late in September, I will be at Archon, which is a large con for sci-fi, fantasy, and horror fans and professionals. I’ve participated on panels the last few years and really enjoyed myself as I talked with other writers and readers about craft and fandoms. It will be September 29-October 1 at the Gateway Convention Center in Collinsville, IL (right outside St. Louis, MO). It should be a great time.

Also, my short YA horror story “Lucy Light, Lucy Dark” will be featured in an upcoming anthology that should be available in time for Halloween reading. Details are coming on that one . . .

This summer, I’ve finished a middle grade novel written with my eleven-year-old daughter, and it’s mysterious and puzzling. My daughter (for now, at least) leans toward the dark and creepy with her own work. She’s spent a great deal of time working on craft, voice, and figuring out who she is as a writer. Some of it brings up memories of when I was younger and starting to find my path. My mother was the first person who ever read my work. That encouragement was more valuable than any coursework I later took in college. She was the first person who said, “You can do this.” It takes drive. It takes a lot of determination and discipline as you force yourself to study not only your work but others’ to learn technique and voice and HOW DID THEY MAKE THAT CHARACTER SO REAL?! The other lesson that’s important for my daughter to see is that rejection is simply part of the industry. How I react to rejection or difficulty teaches her. Do I give up? Do I let the situation sink in and consider how I want to handle it? Do I try to fix it immediately? It’s all a learning process, and growing ourselves is a massive part of growing as a writer as well.

There are more stories I’m working on, more things I’m keeping a little closer to my heart for the moment as they’re forming.

Fall is coming, and it’s my favorite season, the one where I feel the most grounded against the earth and there’s a peculiar energy as we race to accomplish all the things before settling in to the stagnancy of winter. Let’s see how much we can get done.



Hello to all my dark and lovelies! I hope 2017 treats you all well, and let’s start it off with some excitement, yes?

On January 3, 2017, Louise Gornall’s UNDER ROSE-TAINTED SKIES hits store shelves, and if you watch my video below, you’ll find out why this book means so much and why I hope you’ll want to pick up a copy for yourselves.

I live with OCD and panic disorder. There have been times when it’s been such a challenge to even get out of bed and leave the house because the world outside seems so frightening. It can be easy to think you’re the only one going through it, but if you take away nothing else from UNDER ROSE-TAINTED SKIES, I hope it’s that you know you’re not alone. Other people live with these struggles and people love you.

See you all soon,

New Things! Updates! Wheee!

Happy 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,

The May Queen Murders

THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS took over 18 months to write the  books, much of the time lapses caused by bouts of severe vertigo where looking at the computer screen and typing made me physically ill (now under control) and having two of my three children fighting serious but different illnesses (better now), leaving me overstressed, fearful, and trying to grab a few coherent words in hospital rooms or when my brain didn’t make the world tilt. It was the book with a story I HAD to tell, a book of my heart so to speak. That first major falling out with your closest female friend and how can you cope. First love. First revelations about yourself and all that you thought you knew. And murder, horror, and old Ozarks folklore. It’s Southern/Midwestern Gothic and creepy and all the things I love.

Ivy is half-Mexican like many of my cousins, her father having gone to Mexico and come back with his wife like my uncle did 50+ years ago. She is a shy thing compared to her cousin, Heather, who seems to draw all the attention. But they are best friends. I think every teenager, especially girls, can relate to having that one friend they love to pieces and envy. It was also inspired, in part, by the murder of a friend who was the cousin of my best friend growing up. It was incredibly hard to not be able to say goodbye. And of course, there are woods with scary things, first love, first deep grief.

October 28, 2014, was special. This was the day Miriam told me an editor loved THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS and was taking it to her editorial director.

Things began to happen. Quickly.

November 10. My niece’s birthday. My daughter had a dentist appointment, and afterward, we were going into Target. While walking through the parking lot on a blustery afternoon with my daughter and Little B in tow, my phone rings and my cartoon picture of Miriam popped up. Oh, my God. I answered and told Miriam I was walking into the store and could barely hear here because of wind. Little B and I sat in the food court while my daughter announced quite loudly, “I gotta pee!” Off to the restroom, she goes. I’m watching the door and shaking. B is getting squirrely. Miriam says, “We have an offer.” Happy panic ensues. A woman asks if I’m okay because I’m beet-red. I call my husband and my sister. My phone battery dies. At home, I start calling my close group of writer friends and my mother-in-law.

I don’t remember much of the next few days until we accepted Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s offer to publish THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS. The phenomenal Julie Tibbott will be my editor. Look for it in spring 2016.

From Publisher's Marketplace

From Publisher’s Marketplace


Yeah, I can’t read that squinty, little writing either so:

January 21, 2015
Young Adult
Sarah Jude’s THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS, when a sixteen-year-old’s cousin is murdered by a legendary madman in the woods, she uncovers truths she never suspected about her cousin, the Ozarks commune where she lives, and herself all while trying not to become the next victim, to Julie Tibbott at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s, by Miriam Kriss at the Irene Goodman Agency (World English).

I feel really damn lucky.

Getting into the swing of 2015

Let’s just say the last month of 2014 was hell.

There were some very good things about 2014, but it was a particularly brutal year to endure. 2004 was like that. I suppose I should start dreading 2024.

2015 brings with it hope. That things will indeed improve. I became ill at the end of 2014 and was told by my doctor to expect a full year to recovery back to manageable baseline. I am taking each day in stride, making time for my family, my writing, and myself. My friends are pretty awesome, too.

I have been working toward an inner calm and trying to find peace that has eluded me for an entire year. Probably longer, if I’m honest with myself. I even got the word CALM tattooed on my wrist.

What I found in stepping back and making time is that I’ve become more productive. In less than a week, I’ve written 10,000 words in FATHOM. This is huge. I don’t write fast. My writing tends to be grabbed in that pre-dawn time before the littles come down to wreak havoc on the day or in the time when the littlest is away at preschool. I’m protective of my writing time. I need to be. But these past few days have been a flurry of words and story.

It’s been what I needed.

Stay tuned. On Monday, I have news.

It’s Cold Outside

Autumn fading into winter is my favorite time of year when the blue hour of morning comes late, dusk comes early.

It is also the saddest time of the year. Seasonal Affective Disorder is real. I use candles and essential oils to beat back the sorrow that seems to spring from nowhere. I have no qualms talking about obsessive anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. They are better managed now than at any time in my past.

I love the chill in the wind, the hesitancy of my dogs going outside in the morning, the crackle of wood in a fire. We had snow yesterday in Missouri. The last time it snowed so early was ten years ago, while my sister’s family was traveling to visit us for Thanksgiving. A six-hour drive turned into a hellish thirteen. It was the year my mother died. The first holiday without her.

November means I can’t help but miss those I’ve lost. Mother. Father. Brother. Grandparents and friends. Tomorrow marks two years since I lost my little dog Josephine. My husband found her collar this weekend. We looked at each other and grew teary-eyed. But this Friday marks two years since I rescued my girl Bella from Animal Control,  a twenty-five dollar dog that gives priceless love.

November is sorrow, sometimes, but it’s also hope. Because good things do happen in this month of changes.


The Sound of Silence

It was always one of my favorite Simon & Garfunkle songs. It makes me think of my mother, who loved their music.

Ten years ago yesterday, my mother passed away after a short, furious battle with cancer. The Friday before she died, she spoke of not being ready to give up the fight. She wanted to live. But the cancer ravaged her body and brain, giving her symptoms of psychosis and dementia. She was gone the following Wednesday. I got to see her before she passed. My husband and I made the five hour drive from St. Louis to Rockford, IL, in about three hours and forty-five minutes. I have a lead foot indeed, and I do think God spirited me along.

Grief is a tangible thing at times, something we hold in our hands and the lines in our faces.

That tenth anniversary was a milestone anniversary. So much has changed. I don’t know that Mom would recognize my life now. And the tenth anniversary of her death is marked by unprecedented chaos in my city. St. Louis didn’t really feel like home to me until last year. Last year, I realized that I have friends, a community, a church family, and a comfortability I can’t recreate elsewhere. It is home. My home is rocked by the death of Mike Brown, the violence of looters, the protesters begging to have their voices heard. It is rocked by police tear gassing crowds, a media firestorm, and children who cannot yet begin their school year because it is simply too dangerous.

St. Louis has so much more to offer than media pictures of militarized police throwing tear gas into crowds, pictures of fire-scorched businesses and Holocaust survivors taken into custody for caring. But that is all that is seen right now. There are calls for peace from the people of Ferguson. There are people coming in from out of state who taking advantage of our discord and causing more. I wish I could explain everything I know about St. Louis from what I learned while pursuing my criminology studies and the social-political-psychological constructs that allowed this to happen here. Giving those explanations though doesn’t excuse what happened and may diminish the passion of the message, which is simply, if we hurt each other, more hurt spreads. If we are good to each other, more good spreads.

I do feel that good will eventually come of this chaos, but for now, the wound is still open and bleeding.

Six month in a vacuum…sort of

Honestly, I didn’t expect to disappear for over six months.

And I really didn’t.

The last time I blogged was right before my daughter wound up in the hospital. She had a total of three surgeries. The last was for hemorrhaging. You would think that, as a horror writer and someone who has dealt with blood and guts in the past, I could be prepared for such a thing. No. Nothing at all ever prepares you for the sight of your child with blood pouring from her mouth and into the bowl you just happen to grab from the kitchen while on the phone with 911. She was homeschooled through Christmas break. She is fine now, but she was quite sick for a time and Mama Sarah was very shaken up.

Severely shaken up. On New Year’s Eve, when everyone else was partying up, my struggle with panic attacks renewed itself. I don’t have panic attacks or depression while in the midst of a personal crisis. They wait until the crisis has passed. My body is addicted to the tension, so it creates its own. See something scary on the news? BOOM! Panic.

It starts as an insidious niggle that chills the back of my head and spreads down through my arms to my fingers. I can’t move. All I can do is rotate that obsessive fear through my brain over and over.

I know my history and symptoms well enough that I got help in February.

I was able to finish THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS and turned it into my agent Miriam, and I was very heartened that she enjoyed the story. It took a long time to write due to struggles with vertigo and the health problems with my daughter. It also took a while due to excitement with my other pen name. Good things, yes, but time consuming on that side. But once MQM was in Miriam’s hands, I noticed that my anxiety and panic tripped up again. I started having panic attacks not just three or four times a week, but three or four times a day. It wasn’t any way to function. You can’t function in a fear state. So I’ve taken control and have gotten more help, and I’m doing better. The only side effect is a bizarre shakiness in my hands I can’t control. I can live with that.

I am working on an untitled Gothic YA at the moment, and the project has me very excited. YA Scream Queens has something dark and delicious up our sleeves. Just wait and see.

Until next time,


What’s Up

Things are busy this November! I’m neck deep in a manuscript that I adore. I don’t do NaNoWriMo because I believe that you should be writing every day. Part of writing is editing and revising. So even if you’re not actively putting words on paper, you’re still engaged with your story and characters if you’re plotting and daydreaming of them. I draft my novels slowly, but they are often in good form by the time I turn them in to my agent. With this book, I’ve had it in my head for eighteen months, so now it’s coming out. There’s a lot of murder and love and chaos and terrible things in this book, and it’s hard to talk about it without giving too much away. So I just won’t.

It’s gotten very cold and damp in Missouri. It’s that time of year where I start looking at my fireplace and thinking, “Maybe tonight, we’ll burn things.” Those are the best nights for writing.

Make sure you check out YA Scream Queens! I’ve just posted an article about Ed & Lorraine Warren. They were the inspiration of The Conjuring, and their lives are a fascinating subject.