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.

~S

 

Finding Quiet

Hello friends,

It’s been a busy week, mostly with finishing up “Lucy Light, Lucy Dark,” editing another writer’s short story, and doing many, many things around my home. I’ve spent more time working on art–sculpting, painting, and graphics projects as well. As all the hustle and bustle tends to wear on me after a few days of run, run, run, I took some time for myself and drove out to my friend Angela’s farm not far from where I live. It’s beautiful. Tranquil. Many animals. Woods, water, and fields. It’s a small patch of everything I love having grown up in northern Illinois finding myself quite often wandering farmland. I was able to hold a bunny less than a week old, and what a soft face that seemed blissed out when I stroked my thumb across its forehead. Angela introduced me to all her pigs, her sheep and goats, the cows, so many cats and dogs. These aren’t all pets. They are working animals, but they know great love, too. It feels good in my soul today. I’ll take it.

I hope the coming week treats you all well. For those recovering from Hurricane Harvey or bracing for Hurricane Irma and the wildfires, you’re in my heart. I’m actively working with some relief groups that will bring aid to those affected.

Soon,
S

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.

~S

A Year in Progress

Friends, I looked at the calendar and still can’t believe it’s already in August.

Waaaaay back in January, when I posted about Louise Gornall’s wonderful book, I didn’t know that two days later I was going to become very, very ill. I hadn’t been feeling well for several months. The later part of 2016 was a slide into my anxiety and panic disorder, all of it compounded by knowing something was wrong and not being sure what that something was.

A gallbladder is something you never think about until you have to. Mine decided it was going to poison me. The surgery to remove it was delayed. I continued to get sick. Once it was gone though, I started to get better.

Sometimes it takes a really painful, frightening moment to make you take stock of things.

Without going into all the details, I have put my health first this year. Mental, physical, spiritual, creative. I made some massive changes, and it’s led to me finding an overall positive headspace. Twenty-five years of anxiety disorders and chronic pain because of a traumatic neck injury and all that comes with living amid those issues don’t go away overnight. But the care I’ve given toward working on them has honestly made a difference. I’m in an upswing.

I’m writing, and I’m having fun while writing. Mysterious things. Murdery things. Witches and folklore and trapdoors and swamps. There are more stories coming. So sit tight and hang on. You’ll hear more soon.

~S

Louise Gornall’s UNDER ROSE-TAINTED SKIES

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,
~S

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