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.

COVER REVEAL and GIVEAWAY: SWEET MADNESS by Lindsay Currie and Trisha Leaver

I am so excited to have the chance to share the cover of the next book, SWEET MADNESS, by the dynamic duo (and fellow YA Scream Queens) Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie (authors of CREED, Flux 2014).  I was a lucky duck who got to read an early draft of this book, and let me tell you, it is fantastic. I was hooked and had to keep reading. It’s not one to miss.

SWEET MADNESS, September 18 2015 from Merit Press

Lizzie Borden took an axe

And gave her mother forty whacks.

When she saw what she had done,

She gave her father forty one.

 

About the Authors:

trisha leaver

Trisha Leaver lives on Cape Cod with her husband, three children, and one rather irreverent black lab.  She is a chronic daydreamer who prefers the cozy confines of her own imagination to the mundane routine of everyday life.  She writes Young Adult Contemporary fiction, Psychological Horror and Science Fiction and is published with FSG/ Macmillan, Flux/Llewellyn and Merit Press. To can learn more about Trisha’s books, upcoming shenanigans, and her quest to reel in the perfect tuna, visit her website www.trishaleaver.com

 

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lindsay currie

Lindsay Currie lives in Chicago with her three awesome children, husband, and a one hundred and sixty pound lap dog named Sam. She has an unnatural fondness for coffee, chocolate and things that go bump in the night. She spends her days curled up in the comfortable confines of her writing nook, penning young adult psychological horror, contemporary fiction and science-fiction and is published with Flux/Llewellyn, Merit Press and Spencer Hill Contemporary. Learn more about her at www.lindsaycurrie.com

 

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ABOUT THE BOOK: 

Who was Lizzie Borden? A confused young woman, or a cold-hearted killer? For generations, people all over the world have wondered how Andrew Borden and his second wife, Abby, met their gruesome deaths. Lizzie, Andrew’s younger daughter, was charged, but a jury took only 90 minutes to find her not guilty. In this retelling, the family maid, Bridget Sullivan, shines a compassionate light on a young woman oppressed by her cheap father and her ambitious stepmother. Was Lizzie mad, or was she driven to madness?

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Mark it to read on Goodreads!

Preorder:

Amazon

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And now without further ado, the cover for SWEET MADNESS…

 

 

 

 

 

Keep Scrolling…

 

 

 

 

 

It's gorgeous, yes?

It’s gorgeous, yes?

Where I’m At

The flurry of activity surrounding the announcement of THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS has passed, and now it’s time to get to the real work. Editor Julie has some suggestions for augmenting the story and tightening it, making it stronger and staying true to my vision for the book. It’s nothing terribly hard and really is only a matter of shifting things around.

While I waited for edits, I was working on my addiction YA horror. It’s another dark book, a bit bleak, a bit maddening. The main characters has been in my head since 1999, and I could never quite get his story right. It’s right now, but I need to finish the MQM edits before I can return to his world and finish his tale.

Some very hard things happened at the end of last year. While I have dealt with panic attacks for several years, they became severe in September. It started off softly: a few in relation to some work troubles. The day before my birthday, I found myself pacing my house in tears because the inner terror was so great that I couldn’t breathe. Two of my friends dragged my three-year-old and me out for coffee. By the grace of God, I got in to see a brand new psychiatrist the next day and began a new medication routine. Things were OKAY.

They didn’t stay that way. December was a horrible month. It’s usually difficult for me. My late mother’s birthday was in December and she loved Christmas so very much. Last year marked ten years since she passed away, and with that anniversary, I found myself in renewed mourning. Several friends’ parents and other relatives passed away. I helped out with funerals. I believed I could help shoulder their grief, that I was strong enough. But I broke. My mentor, who I’ve had as a family friend for over thirty years, had a stroke. The prognosis wasn’t good. During that time, I flailed. It was ugly. I wrote a short story for the YA Scream Queens that I do not recall writing. I vacillated between alienating friends, panic, grief because I knew the inevitable was coming and soon. A strange thing sometimes occurs when you’re in a panic state. You either dwindle into a very isolated world or you start reaching out for anyone to be a rope. I reached out. It didn’t go well. On the morning of Christmas Eve, I awakened that morning and sensed my mentor was gone. A message from her daughters confirmed it, and it broke my heart. She was a mother-figure to me. She knew my mother and was one of the few tethers I still had to her. Losing her cracked my already fragile self. I had a long talk with my therapist and considered hospitalization. I scared my husband and mother-in-law because I lost my shit. I was ordered to stay home for New Year’s Eve instead of traveling. The stress of any travel was too much.

Grief doesn’t mix well with obsessive anxiety with panic attacks. There were friends who kept me afloat, but it was hard. New medication. Lots of therapy. I learned about meditation and art therapy. I got to the point where I could write again and wrote furiously.

It has been two and a half months since I had a nervous breakdown. It was only through self-care and the attentiveness of others that I managed to not go into the hospital. I love those people who got me through that time. They were strong for me when I was shattered glass.

To be able to edit, you have to be able to rip your book apart and find what it’s assets and weaknesses are. Ultimately, it is restitched into something better, stronger, most cohesive. My nervous breakdown allowed me to edit myself.

I am OKAY again. I hope you are, too.

Until next time,

S

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
Children’s:
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.

~S