Sandra Gulland

Notes on (surviving) the writing life

Welcome to my blog. Please feel free to comment and join in discussions. 

From my office in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

Down for the count: getting sick on Tour


{I love the review quoted here.}

My poor publicity assistant Kelsey Marshall and those who attended my reading/talk last night at A Novel Spot (a fantastic little bookstore in Etobicoke)—by the end of the day, I was in the truly ugly stage of a cold.

I thought of Caroline Leavitt, who recently got sick before an author event, but carried on—and so I carried on. Mostly I was worried about infecting others, so I elbow-bumped greetings and had the hand-wipe handy while signing.

It was my first full presentation for The Shadow Queen. I have a week before my next one (at the Toronto Public Library on the 24th), so I will have time to think about it. People seemed to enjoy the talk, but I usually try different selections, and notice which ones go over best. This particular reading evoked the memory of my father, which made me a little emotional. 

I saw the Canadian edition for the first time: it is the same cover design as the U.S. edition, but with very subtle differences. I love the matt cover and the blue-green inside cover and end-papers—beautiful touches.

Those of you who posted a review to Amazon and/or Goodreads: thank you so much! (And those of you who tried to post to Amazon, but couldn’t, I hope you persevere.)

I’m staying in a studio apartment not far from my daughter Carrie and her family. I don’t think I’ll ever forget little Kiki running to greet me, “Nana, Nana!” It’s cruel to be so close and now cooped up with a cold. 

It’s an amazingly busy time, this birthing of a book. Fortunately, a lot of it can be done from a bed. :-) 

(How did we ever manage before without smiley faces?)


April 16, 2014 @ 4:49 pmBe the first to comment! | Leave a Comment

Highlights of my Shadow Queen mini-tour & blog hop … so far

actual NYTBR!

{Ad for The Shadow Queen in the New York Times Review of Books!}

Publication swirl: ups, downs, ups! Fatigue, exhilaration—and then, of course, a cold. (Grrrrr.) Plus snow (!) today in Toronto, which I hope doesn’t affect the turnout at the reading tonight at A Novel Spot in Etobicoke. 

My task today is to prepare for the talk/reading—my first full-on one. I never take this type of thing lightly. I think I have it basically plotted out, but I’ve not timed or honed it. That’s going to take time.

Plus, I need to get my talk printed out. This is surprisingly difficult on the road. I’m tempted to get a travel printer—but this would add to my already overly-bloated luggage. 

Some guest blog posts I’ve written: 

Getting around to it—on why I became a writer, for Meg Waite Clayton’s blog. 

Interview with Margaret Donsbach on (Margaret asks great questions.) 

The Page 69 Test: I love page 69 of The Shadow Queen. I plan to use this scene in my talk tonight. 

What I’m reading now: Are you a Penelope Fitzgerald fan? I am!

I was pleased with this review from The Free-Lance Star: Real life characters inhabit intriguing story, which concludes: ”A remarkably different and very interesting historical read.”

There have been some excellent reviews on that please me very much. 

Highlights from the tour so far: 

• The woman in North Vancouver who named her daughter Josephine after reading the Trilogy. She had a beautiful book her daughter had made a drawing in, and she asked me to sign the page opposite. I wish I had taken a photo. 

2014-03-13 14.31.44

• Moderator Jen Sookfong Lee at the “Enlivening the Past” panel in North Vancouver asking me if I’d brought my clown nose. (No, of course not—but it does  make me wonder if I could pull off a reading wearing it. Doubtful!) 

• Dinner in North Vancouver with writers Mary Novik and Roberta Rich. Shop-talk pals! 

• The best highlight from tour so far: seeing my daughter and her wonderful family in Toronto. The wee-ones are growing! 

April 15, 2014 @ 10:32 amBe the first to comment! | Leave a Comment

Publication day!

A friend just emailed: Is it as exciting as the first time? 

Although there is nothing quite like the first time, I woke up this morning and thought, with a big grin, PUB DAY!



It’s such a miraculous thing! 

I’m still in Mexico, so I can’t see it in bookstores in Canada and the U.S. If you see it, send me a photo (sgulland AT sandragulland DOT com) and I’ll post it here. 

Here is the link to the newsletter I sent out yesterday:

I’ve emailed the winner of THE SHADOW QUEEN (always fun).

Reviews—even brief ones—on Goodreads, or are so very much appreciated now. If you’re not ready to review, give a “thumbs up” to a review you like. 


And, as well, all that usual Social Media stuff: thumbs up, likes, re-tweets and tweets! It’s a noisy type of day. 

But most of all, I hope you buy THE SHADOW QUEEN, or get it out of the library. I hope you read it. And if you love Claudette and her eccentric tribe, chat it up. Word-of-mouth is still the most powerful promotion there is. 


April 8, 2014 @ 10:55 am2 comments already! | Leave a Comment

Curtain about to go up on The Shadow Queen

17th-century-french-theatre-other-98a7b7732c0f99cad482ae74f4693530Perhaps one of the most heartening things for an author is when one’s work is understood. This review (see the link in @leaflette’s Tweet below) brought tears to my eyes.  


 I especially liked this from Leeanna’s review:

THE SHADOW QUEEN had just the right amount of historical detail to for me to perfectly imagine Claudette’s world, from the theatre to court. I’ve never had an interest in French plays or the history of them, but now I do, thanks to reading this book. Claudette’s parents are both actors, and so the beginning “acts” of the book take place in the theatre world. It was pretty cool to find out how plays were staged back then. Also, when Claudette moves to court, to be Athénaïs’ maid and companion, it was easy to draw allusions between both false worlds.

Thank you so much, Leeanna, whoever and wherever you are. 


From the This ‘n That Department:

Have you noticed my new website design? I am very pleased. 

Why I’ve been silent: so much to do. I am 4 days from pub date (OMG) and 6 days from heading north to Canada. (Yikes!) 

My first event will be at the North Shore Writers Festival on Saturday, April 12, 2:30-3:30pm: Enlivening the Past, historical fiction writers’ panel featuring authors Sandra Gulland, Daniel Kalla, Mary Novikand Roberta Rich is moderated by Jen Sookfong Lee. I am stoked to be seeing Roberta again, and am very much looking forward to meeting Daniel, Jen, and—especially, Mary, who I’ve long admired from afar. 

If you haven’t signed up for my newsletter, be sure to do so now. ( With every newsletter, a subscriber wins a book. (I’m loving doing this.) 

I was a bit over the moon that Flipboard mentioned my magazine in a Tweet:


The subscription has increased by over 500 already. 

And last, another Tweet I loved: 


April 5, 2014 @ 9:20 amBe the first to comment! | Leave a Comment

My latest newsletter: All Hail!


My latest newsletter! (Likes and shares and all that jazz VERY MUCH appreciated.)

March 27, 2014 @ 7:11 pmBe the first to comment! | Leave a Comment

All Hail: The Shadow Queen! The book trailer is launched …



Clicking takes you to YouTube. Feel free to “Like” it!

If you click “Share this video” you will be able to share it on any of your Social Media sites, which I’d love for you to do. For the tech-minded among you, clicking “embed” gives you the code you need to put the video on your own blog.   

I’m going to be getting out a newsletter in a few days, so if you’re not subscribed, you might want to get on the list. (Click here to sign up.) With each newsletter, a subscriber wins a  book. 

Another big change will be the redesign of this website … stay tuned! 

And, for those of us who do not have access to the New York Times Book Review, here is the ad that will be in the April 13 issue. (Yes, I am thrilled.) 



March 24, 2014 @ 4:03 pmBe the first to comment! | Leave a Comment

Confessions of a #MacAddict

I love this 1995 interview with Steve Jobs. I hope you can watch it too. I’ve been a #MacAddict from day one, and still am. 

Frankly, I’m not sure I would have become a novelist were it not for the Mac. Crazy to say, but true. (For starters, it could spell, and I could not.) I’d been a typewriter-writer, but the Mac became the singular tool with which I could create a large work, research and revise and all the rest of it.


In 1984, I first read about the Mac and was curious. My husband Richard saw it at a trade show. What’s it like?! “Kind of an ugly little thing,” he said—and I knew then it was for me. It’s a sharp memory, standing at the stove in our log-cabin house.

I also clearly remember taking it out of the box and in a fever of excitement editing a children’s book on it that night. (I was a book editor at that time.)

Miraculous! I wish I had kept that wee little 128K computer.

I loved each and every one of my typewriters too, and did hold onto my Underwood, which, at 5, grand-daughter Ellie thought a simply marvellous thing, especially the clatter it made and how you could make the keys stick. I do miss that, but I wouldn’t trade—not for the world. 

March 12, 2014 @ 9:11 pmBe the first to comment! | Leave a Comment

My latest newsletter

Here’s my latest newsletter:

With every issue, a subscriber wins an autographed book. Sally Petrunia from Penticton, BC, won for the last one, and I’ve just emailed the winner from this one. So subscribe! (Click here.

There is more and more happening now as THE SHADOW QUEEN publication date approaches. April 8 is the day. 

Here’s the wrap-around cover for the hardcover, showing the front and back covers, the flaps and spine (so cool): 

fold-out cover

I’m eager to see this book! I think it’s going to be gorgeous

March 1, 2014 @ 11:39 amBe the first to comment! | Leave a Comment

For book club members: questions for discussion about The Shadow Queen

In case your book club is interested in reading The Shadow Queen, here are some questions for discussion. (Enlarge page to read or download.)


February 27, 2014 @ 12:50 pmBe the first to comment! | Leave a Comment

Praise for The Shadow Queen

(Enlarge to view or download.) 

Praise for TSQ

@ 11:38 am2 comments already! | Leave a Comment

What I didn’t know about Candlemas, the taste of urine, and what kind of “friends” to stay clear of

I subscribe to the wonderful newsletter, The Medievalverse. Invariably, I find their posts  fascinating, even though their historical focus is many hundred of years before “mine.” Here are some recent posts to give you an idea: 

On Amicitia, a 1205 guide to friendship — or rather, a guide to 23 types of friends to stay away from: The Powerful, the Vocal, the Here & There, the Conditional, the Imaginary, the Shadowy, the Counterfeit, the Haughty, the Hunter … etc.

On this last, Amicitia advises: “Nearly all women are hunter friends since they do not cease to set up nets and lay snares in order to catch the souls, and the money, of the unwary.” 


On what can be gleaned from urine: lots! By look, by taste, by smell. 


On birthing rituals: “The postnatal ‘churching’ of a woman occurred forty days after the birth, when she attended mass … this time bringing a candle with her. The unclean nature of childbirth even applied to the Virgin Mary herself … and Mary’s churching was celebrated with a widespread holiday, called “Candlemas” in England, which occurred forty days after Christmas.”

If you are interested in history, I highly recommend The Medievalverse

February 24, 2014 @ 11:04 amBe the first to comment! | Leave a Comment

In the works …website reno, book launch fever, and the revelations of my 14-year-old self

I’ve so much in the works, right now. For one thing, this website, which is being redesigned (long overdue!). Here’s a sample of how it is going to look:

Web page design

The main change, however, is that the site will be simplified and weeded, to make it easier for you (all) to navigate. For example, I won’t have two blogs (one on writing and one on research), but one—this one. You will begin to see research topics covered here now and then. 

The visual design is thanks to Kris Waldherr and the overall plan is thanks to Nancy MacDonald, who has a great deal of experience with author websites. My thanks to them both for their patience! (I tend to be resistant to change.)

Promotion plans for THE SHADOW QUEEN are coming together. (For those of you in the Vancouver and Toronto areas, see my Events page.) Doubleday has created a powerful book trailer which I won’t reveal until close to publication … so you will just have to wait! 

I will soon get an email newsletter out. If you haven’t subscribed, do so here. With each newsletter, someone from the subscriber list wins one of my novels. (It’s such a pleasure to do this—giving is truly as rewarding as it is said to be.) 

And, speaking of winners, Angela Guyton just won 20 novels (!!!) from various authors on a Goodreads promotion, including a copy of THE SHADOW QUEEN. 

And, of course, I am writing/revising/researching GAME OF HOPE, my Young Adult novel about Josephine’s daughter Hortense. I recently was part of a panel of women writers at the San Miguel de Allende Writers’ Conference. Each of us read from our work for 5 minutes. I read from a diary I kept when I was 14—such an eye-opener! I definitely must revise the novel to include a fairly constant mention of Hortense’s love interest! 

This ‘n that … 


A Picture Says It All … or Does It? Judging an Author by their Photograph (poor Milton)

4 Easy Steps To An Irresistible Book Blurb (however, it’s never easy!)

Pixar’s 22 Rules to Phenomenal Storytelling (excellent)



February 19, 2014 @ 2:21 pmBe the first to comment! | Leave a Comment

On-line research, book-buying and image hunting: a guide for the wary


I’m at a research-intensive stage of Draft 2.0 of The Game of Hope. (YA1) I’m working to fill in all the pot-holes before sending it off—that is, all the xxx’s in the manuscript, the xxx’s I throw in while rushing through Draft 1. “I was offered a plate of xxx, xxx and xxx.” That type of thing. 

Now I’m trying to figure all those xxx’s out. 

If I don’t have the facts in my notes or books, I can usually find what I need to know on-line. I googgled “18th century cooking,” for example, and came up with a delightful “cheese wig”: a small bun coated with a cheese sauce that looked like a wig resting on a wig stand. (Then I googled images for “cheese wig”—gross! I don’t recommend it.) 

If Google fails, I go to, and look for searchable books. 

If that fails, I’ll go to Books Google. 

I everything fails, and the answer is in a book I must have, I’ll order it. 

I had an educational experience this morning. The book I want is out-of-print, but offered used on However, I discovered that to ship a 1$ book to me in Mexico could cost $25 to $75 dollars. (With delivery in April.)


Full stop.

I cut over to, and bought the same book from a used bookstore in the UK for only $1.04 with delivery to Mexico for $7.75—and it may well arrive in a week. 

Lesson learned: watch those shipping charges! And always check out

(Another lesson learned: in looking for illustrations for this blog post, I discovered not to google images of “xxx”!)

February 7, 2014 @ 2:30 pmBe the first to comment! | Leave a Comment

A belated newsletter announcement, an ebook special, plus this ‘n that


I sent out a newsletter on the 1st of the month, in time for Groundhog’s Day (or Candelaria in my winter part of the world). If you’re not on the subscriber list, you may read “On groundhogs, duets & lists” here

I’m happy to see that the ebook special for The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. is still on: under $2.00. (I was told that it would end February 2, so I’m pleased.)

I’m in the habit of emailing myself articles to later note on this blog. My inbox has gotten way out of hand, so I’m going to clip away at it from the bottom up. Here is one note I’ve long wanted to share: 

Leslie Fulton, who writes the delightful blog Pepy’s Wife, has filled out a book survey and I was  very pleased to see that Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe was her answer to the question, “Best sequel ever,” and further, that she described the Trilogy as a tour de force. (Go, Josephine!) (And thank you, Leslie!) 

I love to see Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe singled out: a difficult middle child of the Trilogy, it was a challenge to write. Bestselling author Anna Quindlen recently listed it as one of her top 5 favourite love stories. (Sigh.) 

I’m so busy! Writing the 2nd draft of The Game of Hope (working title of the first Hortense YA novel), preparing for publication of The Shadow Queen (soon!), a winter round of ailments, website renovation, etc. etc. etc. Where does time go? Please forgive me for not showing up here more often. Hang in! 

February 4, 2014 @ 8:42 pmBe the first to comment! | Leave a Comment

Longing for Paris … always


I suspect that a longing for Paris will always be with me. My husband and I will be spending three weeks there next September, but already I’m eager to go. 

Ann Coombs responded to my wish to see an exhibit at Malmaison by offering to be my eyes and ears. She’s there tomorrow! She’s been on an amazing European trip, and has been recently posting photos of Paris on her blog, PixieInParis.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

January 1, 2014 @ 10:01 pmBe the first to comment! | Leave a Comment