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

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.

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.

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.