Saundra Mitchell's Blog

July 2, 2014

July 1st

A Reading Nurse & The Unofficial Addiction Book Fan Club - Welcome Post

July 2nd
Reading and Writing Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, and Romance - Q&A
Confessions of a Readaholic - Review
Imagine a World - Review
Bookish Things & More - Promo

July 3rd
The Anonymous Book Life - Review
A Thousand Words A Million Books – Review
Enticed by Books - Pro
It’s A Book Thing - Review

July 4th
Always in our own world - Review + Dream Cast
ImaginativeMinds - Review + Excerpt
SimplisticReviews - Promo Post
Addicted Readers - Q&A

July 5th
Literary Meanderings - Guest Post
Boricuan Bookworms - Review + Excerpt
Curling Up With A Good Book - Review
Bookish -  Dream Cast  + Excerpt

July 6th
Such a Novel Idea - Review + Playlist
Debz Bookshelf - Review
IKari - Review
A Dream Within A Dream - Review + Excerpt

July 7th
YA Midnight Reads - Review
Library of a Book Witch - Revivew + Playlist
Behind the Pages - Guest Post
Crossroad Reviews - Review

July 8th
A Reading Nurse & The Unofficial Addiction Book Fan Club - Review
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Published on July 02, 2014 07:18 • 4 views

April 17, 2014

Just trying to see if I fixed comments.

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Published on April 17, 2014 11:32 • 11 views

April 4, 2014

WYA Book I’m so excited! My secret identity’s books, WHILE YOU’RE AWAY, is a paperback you can hold now! It comes out May 20, 2014 and it’s so beyond incredibly pettable.

It will be available anywhere you love to buy books, so please do check it out!

It’s a great way to revisit Will and Sarah, this time in a bathtub-reading friendly format!


Jessa Holbrook

ISBN-13: 978-1595147325


Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Book Depository | Powell’s |

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Published on April 04, 2014 10:21 • 16 views

March 27, 2014

Oh wow, check out the amazing book trailer that Johnson County Public Library made for MISTWALKER. It’s so beautiful! It’s so perfect!! Thank you so much, JCPLIN!!

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Published on March 27, 2014 06:54 • 9 views

February 4, 2014


MISTWALKER comes out today, and I wanted to talk about where it came from. This is a special book to m

e. In my head, it’s a sort of companion to SHADOWED SUMMER. I’ve never wanted to write a book more than this one.

While I was drafting it, I disappeared into it. It’s a personal book, one that’s very special to me. But it w

asn’t a thunderbolt book, where it appeared in my head fully-formed and I just had to type fast enough to keep up. Nope.

The idea for MISTWALKER  came in two entirely separate pieces.  The book is written in two POVs, which reflect the dual inspiration:


So I told you that I write because I still have people to prove wrong. This is exactly where the mythology for this book came from. There was a blog post at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, talking about what the next big thing in YA would be.

This was pr

obably four or five years ago, back when paranormal was still the hugest of the huge. It was also when adult romance sites had just started reviewing YA novels as well. Which, as you can imagine, ticked off some of the romance-only readers. YA had invaded their space!

I was enjoying the comments until about midway through the comments. There, a couple of disgruntled readers started joking about the most ridiculous creatures that could be the next big YA monster. Somebody said leprechauns. Another suggested minotaurs. Then somebody said, far liath. 

I had no idea what that was, but if I was going to be outraged at all these suggestions, I needed to know.

So I looked it up. Far Liath– the Grey Man. He appears as fog, lures ships into the rocks, and unsuspected travelers to their death over cliffs.

Oh. Ohhhh.

Immediately, I could imagine a backstory for a character like that. Something more human than just a spectral, hateful fae.

And because somebody said it was ridiculous and couldn’t– or shouldn’t– be done, I decided I was going to do it. That’s where Grey began, cursed to haunt the lighthouse on Jackson’s Rock until he took a thousand souls or convinced someone else to take on the curse.


When I was sixteen, my younger brother took his own life. He was fourteen and it was a tragedy. Everyone agreed, it was unnatural for my parents to have to bury a child. That’s not the order of things. That’s not how the world is supposed to work.

And that, I suppose, is why so many adults said to me, “You have to take care of your parents now.” Or, “You need to be strong for your parents.”

Because to them, this was my parents’ loss, not mine. So many people said it, family members, family friends, adults I trusted, I believed them. I wasn’t supposed to grieve, I was supposed to take care of my parents.

That’s exactly what I did. I sat between them at the funeral, and forced myself not to cry. I stuffed everything down, over and over. I did what I could to be the strong one– this meant holding my mother’s hand while she talked to news reporters about it. Making dinner at my dad’s house while he sat in the back room and cried.

It’s a strange sort of hole to have in your life. When you meet people, there are small talk subjects– but I don’t know the answer to “Do you have any brothers or sisters?” I guess to be absolutely correct, the answer is no. But that feels like a lie, because I once did.

I was shocked, and relieved, and furious to discover that I wasn’t the only one. Apparently that’s just what people say to surviving siblings: take care of your parents. You have to be the strong one now. (So if you’re in that position, friend, please instead say, “I’m so sorry for your loss. Do you need anything? How are you feeling?”)

That’s where Willa’s story comes from: struggling under that hopeless, oppressive, endless sense that you have to take care of everything because your brother or sister died. Her story is all about the way people treat you when you’re the kid who survives.


My best friend and I agree that when we die, we’re going to get on a ferry and go to Maine. We love it there, and I can’t imagine MISTWALKER taking place anywhere else. That’s not really a foundational point; it’s just a little trivia. A little bit more about where the book comes from. You can see why I say MISTWALKER is personal, a book of my heart.

I’m both excited and terrified that it’s out in the world today, but I’m so glad I get to share it with you.

Indiebound | Barnes & Noble Amazon | Powell’s | iBookstore

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Published on February 04, 2014 04:30 • 42 views

January 26, 2014

Maybe you don’t feel like reading an essay about queries. Why would you? You need to get one written, RIGHT NOW OMFG EMERGENCY NOW NOW NOW. Okay, yo. Cool. I can give you a short n’ dirty query bulletpoint list so that you can skim it real fast and get back to work.

A query letter is a BUSINESS LETTER . If you’re sending it by postal mail, format it exactly like your standard business letter. That link there will take you to Purdue University’s guide.
If by e-mail, you’re going to start with the salutation and leave out all contact information with your signature except your name, your e-mail address, and your URL.
WRITE IT LIKE A BUSINESS LETTER. Don’t print it on sparkly paper, don’t enclose confetti, don’t scent it with your favorite Axe spray, don’t. Don’t enclose food, bugs, hair, MONEY, character family tree– seriously. The only thing that goes in that envelope is the letter and SASE.
WRITE IT LIKE A BUSINESS LETTER. Do not attach documents, pictures, totally cute cat JPGs, no GIFs, do not doge or lolcat the subject line, do not ask people to follow links to your query letter which is elsewhere, do not ask them to read the book that’s posted on your website.
WRITE IT LIKE A BUSINESS LETTER. Don’t tell the agent about your aunt Suzie or how much your kids like your book. Nobody cares.
Do tell them if Oprah Winfrey personally promised to endorse your book and include her assistant’s e-mail address so they can verify that.
Your characters cannot sign contracts. Do not let them write your query letter.
Don’t write a query letter that’s longer than a page. If in e-mail, 3 substantial paragraphs should do it.
Paragraph One: My name is FROG WOBBLER SR, ESQ. I am querying you about my novel SNOT ROCKETS. It is a MIDDLE GRADE novel, complete at 45,000 words. I read in BABBLE DAILY that you’re especially looking for SNOT-RELATED MIDDLE GRADE, so I think this might be a good fit.
Paragraph Two: Concisely, in ONE paragraph, tell us who the protagonist of SNOT ROCKETS is, their conflict, and the resolution.
Do not explain your themes, the important lessons children will learn, discuss the symbolism, etcetera.
Don’t talk smack about other books. SNOT ROCKET may be middle grade for smart, discerning kids who don’t like paranormal garbage like SHADOWED SUMMER, but that’s something you say in your inside voice. You don’t know who the agent represents, or everything they love.
Only talk about what IS in your book, not what ISN’T.
Paragraph Three: My work has been published in (name of publication, and not “my mom’s gardening newsletter,” either.)
If you have REAL, substantial awards, mention them here. I am a PUSHCART PRIZE NOMINEE. Do not include super-local, dinky things. If the agent has to Google the SOCIETY OF LITTLE FREAKY FROGS OF THE MIDWEST to find out if it’s real, it really doesn’t count.
Paragraph Three (II): If you don’t have publications or real, substantial awards, then wrap this up short and sweet. This manuscript is available for your request. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
Paragraph Three (III): Even if you do have publications and awards, wrap it up nicely; see above.
And now…
If the agent’s submission guidelines contradict this, DO WHAT THE AGENT SAYS. It is a test. It’s a test to weed out people who don’t pay attention, aren’t concerned with guidelines, and probably will be a pain in the ass to work with later because they’re just gonna do what they want alllllll the time and have to be wrangled and jeez, they only get 15% for this, and it’s not ENOUGH AND…

That’s it. Nothing else. No bells, no whistles, no foolin’ around, no extraneous detail. It’s a business letter with three paragraphs: about you, about the book, about your gratitude. The end.

(Get back to work, slacker!)

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Published on January 26, 2014 09:39 • 35 views

(This is a repost from August 2010; I’m still rebuilding my Helping Writer posts from the database loss.)

So, I posted my very first query letter, which was a pretty bad query letter. Agent/Writer/Deb Extraordinaire Mandy Hubbard popped by to say it wasn’t half-bad. And it wasn’t- with some tinkering, I did manage to get a couple of partial requests with it.

Here’s the thing- I think most competent writers will produce an okay query letter. I know you’re scared, and your whole everything is tied up in your novel, and it’s a big deal to be searching for an agent and OMGSTRESS. But seriously– if you’re a competent writer, your query letter is probably okay. Not great, but okay.

That’s why it’s important to send your query out in small batches. I would send it to 5 or 10 agents at a time. If I got no response or instant rejections, then I’d revise the query letter until it got a better response.

So let me show you a successful query letter. Notice I’m not calling it a good query letter. Because at the end of the day- it’s still a query letter. I learned from the first one, I had a draft of this that I tested, I tinkered and this is the version that I sent that got several partial requests, which ultimately led to representation.

Dear Ms. Agent:

Nothing ever happened in Ondine, Louisiana, not even the summer Elijah Landry disappeared. His mother believed he ascended to heaven, the police thought he ran away, and his girlfriend felt he was murdered. Decades later, certain she saw his ghost in the town cemetery, fourteen-year-old Iris Rhame is determined to find out the truth.

Enlisting the help of her best friend Collette, and forced to endure the company of Collette’s latest crush, Ben, Iris spends a summer digging into the past and stirring old ghosts in search of the truth. What she doesn’t realize is that in a town as small as Ondine, every secret is a family secret.

{ The difference between this and the Weston query? It sets up the conflict immediately. This is what’s going to happen in this book, and this is who’s going to do it. It also sets the tone, because it confides in the reader, guess what– there’s something the characters don’t know, dun dun dun! }

My name is Saundra Mitchell, and I’ve been a writer for fifteen years, both in film and fiction. Currently, I write the Fresh Films short film series, and shorts from this series have been juried selections at Academy Award-qualifying festivals for the last three years. In fiction, I’ve recently published “An Accounting of Sins,” short fiction, with Edgar Literary Magazine, and “Revival Season,” flash fiction, with SmokeLong Quarterly.

{ I still include screenwriting information in this query because by then, I was doing well enough to name check the Oscars, so I thought it might help. (It didn’t.) But, this time, I had excised the random, extraneous publications and focused on my fiction as my primary credits. }

“Last Summer’s Iris” is a Southern Gothic young adult novel, complete at 50,400 words, and I’d like to offer it for your consideration. I’ve enclosed five sample pages; please feel free to recycle them if they’re unneeded. Thank you for your time; I look forward to hearing from you.

{ Hey look, I gave the title, I gave the genre, I gave the category. Now the agent knows exactly what’s on offer here. And by this point, I had figured out that no matter how good (or bad!) the query was, I got a better response rate if I sent pages. If an agent asked for more than five, I sent more. If they didn’t say either way, I sent five pages. I also gave them an out to just throw them away instead of trying to stuff them in my SASE and search for make-up postage. }


Saundra Mitchell

{This part, I still got right.}

Since I wrote both of my queries, you can see that they’re pretty similar.

But now that you’ve seen both, I think it’s clear why one was more successful than the other. The Weston query contains shockingly little information about the book. It’s almost a query that says, “I wrote a thing. Will you look at it?”

Whereas this query, for the book that became SHADOWED SUMMER, says, “I wrote this book. It’s about X, it contains Y, and it features Z. Will you look at it?”

My bad query wasn’t half-bad. And my successful query is still a query letter; the pages mattered the most.

So please take a deep, deep breath, and relax just a tiny bit. Querying is incredibly stressful, especially lately– but don’t let all the talk terrify you into believing your query letter has to be the word of the Muse dripped in gold-blood ink on the page. It doesn’t.

Write your query letter, send it in small batches. If you’re not getting a good response, revise the query letter! Send five pages (or more if the agent requests them.)

You can do this! And if #queryfail, #queryslam and Slushpilehell are getting you down, here’s a gif by Omar Noory that I enjoy when I need some perspective:

Haters Gonna Hate

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Published on January 26, 2014 09:02 • 25 views

(This is a repost from August 2010; I’m still rebuilding my Helping Writer posts from the database loss.)

Everybody writes bad queries, at least at first. There’s no set way to create one, advice conflicts on what to put in one, and frankly, it’s a skill like any other- you must practice it to excel at it.

In light of #queryfail #queryslam and SlushPileHell, I’d like to take another approach. Most people don’t have their learning curve slapped up on the Internet and soundly mocked, and I don’t think writers should, either. But people are going to do what they’re going to do– what’s important is how we respond to them.

So I’d like to share with y’all my first query, for my very first novel. It’s NOT a good query. I’m not proud of it. But I want you to know that I learned from this lousy query. And I learned from my naively crafted* first book. And eventually, I got competent enough that my query sold my book, I got manuscript requests, and I signed with an agent.

So here it is, in all its awful glory, so you can learn from it too!

Dear Ms. Agent:

Short skirts, cheap gin, and jazz reigned in 1928, but they never made it past the front gates of Weston Prep. More gothic than ivy, Weston tried to make gentlemen of near-society boys, but when JT Keller, a sheltered Catholic boy from Baltimore, and Jesse Stein, a townie who preferred playing Juliet to Romeo, accepted places in the class of 1932, Weston pretty much failed.

Initially homesick and baffled by strange customs, JT slowly absorbs some of the best, and the worst, traits from his new friends in their quest to run the school, scheme a way for Jesse to move in, and at the same time, oust the roommate they never wanted. In “Weston Boys,” JT discovers his father isn’t perfect, friends keep secrets together and from each other, and that an entire world can end in a single, black Monday.

{TOO LONG! What’s the book about? Who the heck are all these random people?! And why should we care about JT and his daddy issues??}

My name is Saundra Mitchell, and I have been a working writer for twelve years. For the last four years (and currently,) I’ve been the head writer for Dreaming Tree Films’ short film series, “Book of Stories,” with over forty short film productions, and next year, principal photography will begin on my first feature, “A Rain of Blood.” I have also published fiction with ATM Magazine and Smokelong Quarterly, poetry with Poems Niederngasse, Doll World Magazine, and Parnassus, non-fiction with @Internet Magazine and The Familiar Magazine, among others.

{This is all completely random. Writing scripts is interesting, but has nothing to do with writing novels, or my ability to do so. Neither does writing essays or poems– and the one thing that really matters, the fiction publications, are smooshed in with everything else.}

“Weston Boys” is my first novel, a literary piece in the vein of O’Neill’s “At Swim, Two Boys,” and Wolff’s “Old School.” I would like to submit it for your consideration; it’s complete at 75,511 words, and a full or partial manuscript is available on request. Thank you in advance for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.

{This is also a mess. First of all, one does not call oneself literary- and I should have used the full name of the authors I’m namechecking. Second of all, I haven’t told this poor agent whether this is a picture book, YA fiction or adult mainstream fiction. Third of all, saying it’s complete is all the agent needs to know- they’ll ask for a full or partial based on their needs.}


Saundra Mitchell

{I got that part right, at least!}

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Published on January 26, 2014 09:02 • 12 views

January 22, 2014

Right now, my computer backdrop is a simple white-on-black sign that says “I would quit, but I still have people to prove wrong.”

It’s the same thing as persistence, except with some spite in there for good measure. I’ve been a working writer since I was 19; I’m now 40. I’ve gotten one residual check in all that time. None of my books have earned out.

However, I’m further along than a lot of writers. I’m debt-free. I put a down payment on a house with an advance. I’ve seen actors say my words like they were living them. There’s a shelf in my office that has nothing on it but my books. Mine, mine, mine. I got to edit an amazing anthology; I’ve been privileged to write for others’.

Right now, I’m between contracts. I’m splashing around helplessly in the YA contraction, trying to figure out what I love writing that will also sell. My family’s income will probably halve this year, and two books of my heart that went nowhere later, I’m frustrated. Depressed. Demoralized.

Now would be a good time to quit. Get a nice office job and stop playing with imaginary friends. I’m an adult, after all. I got to go to the show. I could stop while I’m ahead, I suppose.

But you know what? I collected rejection letters on my wall until I sold my first novel. I had 1200 I took down and burned in 2007. Not because the hard part was over. It wasn’t– but I moved on to the next phase.

Now I’m a midlist author with little name recognition and no major awards under my belt. I have minor awards and great nominations, but no starred reviews, no royalty checks. No bestseller lists or book challenges or reviews in magazines my grandparents would have read. I’m not as good as I could be. I have voice and place, but man, I need to work out this whole plot thing to reach the next level.

I retired from screenwriting (my day job) in 2011, but I just finished writing a new movie to pay the bills. I’ve picked up write for hire pieces. Short fiction is once again something I’m writing and trying to sell. I sent my agent a list 15 miles long of non-fiction subjects about which I would love to write for hire for tween and teen audiences, if somebody’s buying.

Here I am, back to collecting rejection letters and plastering them on my wall. It’s a new wall, the rejections are different. Scrambling with all that to pay the bills, I’m still working on a new book. I think it’s a worthy one. It won’t shut up and leave me alone. So can’t stop. I won’t stop. I’m not done.

I still have people to prove wrong.


(I originally posted part of this on Metafilter in response to Kameron Hurley’s On Persistence, and the Long Con of Being a Successful Writer)


My comments aren’t working over here at the moment, grrrrrr. If you’d like to comment, the LJ version of this post is right here.

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Published on January 22, 2014 16:08 • 22 views

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