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.

Friday Free-For-All

This Friday brings me to the end of a week that has left me tired and humbled and heartened. And I have thoughts.

1.) Writers cannot write alone. We need someone to check our work and call us on stupid things. However, I cringe when people claim to be harsh and brutal critique partners. That, to me, sounds like someone getting their jollies by bringing down another author’s works. There are more constructive ways to critique someone rather than saying, “This sucks.” If you have a suggestion for where to improve a critique partner’s work, you can couch in saying, “This is my opinion and this is why I think this adds/takes away from the story.” Things like drawing big red slashes through a critique is not about helping the author in need; it’s you feeding your ego. Don’t be that person. The flipside is that you also don’t want to be the person where every comment is, “YAY, I love this.” That’s great to hear, but it doesn’t help the author know where they need improvement because NO ONE has a golden pen that drips ink harvested from the fruit of the tree of knowledge. NO ONE.

2.) This week marked 11 years since my mother died, and it was a strange passing of time for me. One part grief. One part extremely bitter at the doctors who did not listen to her as their patient, dismissed her pain as imaginary, and ultimately sped up her death. And all this has led me down the rabbit hole of thinking about emotions and personal causes and how so much of the things we champion are because of the emotion we feel.  I try very hard not to be a bitter or angry person. I try very hard not to be negative. I’m not a Sunshine Bunny, but it doesn’t pay to be upset or pissed off all the time. Your body and mind will like you better if you learn acceptance. This is not to say that you shouldn’t bring the fury when it’s warranted. We all have our soapboxes. One of mine is healthcare, mental and physical. Because I’ve seen what it looks like when patients are dimissed. Because I know what it’s like to go to the ER and have the doctor see in my record that I suffer from panic attacks and assume I’m there to get a sedative when in reality I’m in a lot of pain and very scared. If you have the ability to channel your emotions into an outlet that reaches others, use it for good. Do not merely bark into the wind, as my friend Heather Reid calls it. There are better ways of reaching ears through thoughtful dialogue rather than, “You’re wrong. I’m right.” All that’s going to do is turn people away.

3.) A few mornings this week have felt like autumn is coming. And autumn means all of my favorite things like stormy gray skies, pumpkins, orchards, and Halloween. My kids have already picked out their Halloween costumes. My littlest is going to be a vampire Minion this year. Because he’s awesome. For me, autumn is the time of year that I want my books extra creepy, and there are some coming out soon that need some love. THE DEAD HOUSE by Dawn Kurtagich was one of my favorite reads earlier this year and it will hit stores in the US next month. Also, look out for SWEET MADNESS by Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie, because who doesn’t want a story about Lizzie Borden? The last book I’m going to recommend is BLOOD AND SALT by Kim Liggett. It’s beautiful and haunting. Do make sure to grab this one up.

That’s all for now!

See you on the dark side.

S

Friday Free-For-All

I’m trying something here. On Fridays, I’m going to mention a few things that are on my mind. Might be books, might be ghosts, you never know.

1.) My crit partner, Heather L. Reid, has a signing at Main Street Books in St. Charles, MO, tomorrow (Saturday, 8/15) from 2-4 pm. The event is called PRETTY DARK SATURDAY, so if you’re near St. Louis, come and see her to get a signed copy of her book PRETTY DARK SACRIFICE!

2.) My dog, Penny, a little black and white puggle, almost died last week. The vet had said that if we hadn’t gotten her to the emergency clinic when we did, we’d have had a very different outcome. I’m still having nightmares about it, but she’s okay.

3.) I’ve got some promo stuff to share. Sorry, sorry, sorry. Sort of. I did an interview with Tanya over at Bookish Babes and shared a little about my writing process and what inspired THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS.

4.) The cicadas are freakin’ loud this year. And their shells are everywhere. Mmm, crunchy bug shells.

5.) If you haven’t picked up a copy of Hillary Monahan’s MARY: THE SUMMONING, you might like to do so. It’s only $10 right now and MARY: UNLEASHED releases next month!

Back to School, Back to Writing

It’s no joke that summer vacation can kill a writer-parent’s productivity.

I have three kids, ranging from four to nine years old. They are hilarious, huggy, and also the reason that every summer I go from being able to work eight hours a day to maybe 2, if I’m lucky. Our sleep schedules are off. There are so many things to do (swimming! The Minion Movie! Trips to get Sno-Cones!), and I’m not gonna lie and say I don’t enjoy the weeks when they are able to go to camp or Vacation Bible School. But I also love the hours in the garden, teaching them about the plants we grow, the tiny frogs that hang out close by, or peering at the nest of baby rabbits.

This summer was a bigger challenge than most because my middle child broke his arm on June 29. That meant all of July and into August he had a massive cast (get the waterproof kind–God send) and that he couldn’t do his favorite activities like climbing, monkeybars, riding his bicycle, or pretty much anything a rambunctious seven-year-old wants to do. Lots of crafts became the norm this year. If it can have sequins, beads, felt, paint, string, we probably did it. A lot. I’m sure parts of me aren’t really made of skin but dried glue.

And then yesterday…they were off for a new school year. My older two got on the bus and disappeared, and I hoped they were adapting well to new teachers, making new friends, have a routine they like. Today, my littlest got on the bus to go to his second year of preschool. He ran up the steps as soon as the door opened and did not look back. I caught a glimpse of a wave. Then he was gone. I have time to write now.

But I miss my little buddies.

I’m that mom that peeks out through the blinds to see if the bus is coming yet to bring home her babies because there are no words for the hugs and happiness they give to my life.

THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS has a cover!

Hello dark and lovelies!

I have a treat for you today. I FINALLY get to show off the cover for THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS! I really couldn’t be happier with how it looks. Woods and water? Check. Creep factor? Check. And just wait until you see the inside…but that comes later.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt gave me quite a few mock-ups for the cover, but this one was a unanimous, “We have to have it” from everyone: my agent, my editor, my design team…there was something so striking and haunting about the picture. Truth be told, my nine-year-old is creeped out by it. Which is probably a good thing, considering the kind of book this is. Polish artist Marcin Nagraba is the photographer, and his work is jaw dropping in how gorgeous it is. His image reflects the isolation of Rowan’s Glen, and I love that the vintage quality of the picture makes it hard to tell if the photograph was recent or much older–perfect as past events play in heavily with the present. I don’t look at the cover model as a direct representation of Ivy or any of the characters but the idea of the May Queen as a whole and what she represents.

Here’s the summary of the book:

Two girls: one with a secret, one with a promise that she’d uncover it.

Welcome to Rowan’s Glen—a place full of old fashioned superstition and secrets. Twenty-five years back, a teenage girl was murdered after being crowned queen at the Glen’s May Day celebration, and outsiders have regarded the isolated farming community with suspicion ever since.

But that was before Ivy Templeton was even born. She’s lived in Rowan’s Glen for all of her sixteen years, and feels safe there with the company of her free-spirited cousin Heather, and their friend, Rook, son of the sheriff.

Until . . . animals start showing up dead, clearly from unnatural means. Dark omens seem to appear everywhere Ivy goes. And Heather, who used to tell Ivy everything, is sneaking off after dark with a mysterious lover.

Ivy worries her cousin could be in danger—especially after Heather is elected queen of the May Day celebration. When Heather goes missing, Ivy must come to terms with the fact that she never knew her beloved cousin—or Rowan’s Glen—as well as she thought she did.

Readers looking for horror, romance, and suspense will find it all in this chilling tale that resonates with dark beauty.

Ready???

Why, yes, THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS has its cover.

Why, yes, THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS has its cover.

Isn’t it gorgeous?

And if you’re so inclined, you can add it to your GoodReads To-Be-Read pile or preorder a copy: Amazon

Also, make sure to check out YA Books Central who is hosting a giveaway for your chance to win an Advanced Reader Copy of THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS and other goodies!

May can’t come soon enough!

All the things at once

This upcoming week is a big one for THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS. There’s a lot of stuff coming your way.

First, we have that MQM is up on GoodReads, and you can add it to your To-Be-Read pile.

Second, PREORDERS. Yes, they’re starting to show up on various websites. Like AMAZON. More will be available. So watch this website or Facebook for which sites have it. Also, know that if you preorder from Amazon, when the book comes out, you will be charged the lowest price of it’s preorder duration, so if it’s $17.99 and $13.13 the next, you’ll get the lower price.

Third, my publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is going to start putting out more information about it this week. Which brings us to…

Fourth, COVER REVEAL! It’s coming. Thursday. It’s going to be spooktacular.