Draft 8: check. Drafts 9, 10, 11: yet to come. On my painfully slow revision process

Draft 8: check. Drafts 9, 10, 11: yet to come. On my painfully slow revision process

{Lovely San Miguel de Allende, where I am right now. A photo by Leah Feldon, it is similar to the view from my writing room.}

Yesterday was a big day for me: I woke at 4:00am, and shortly before 8:00am I emailed my manuscript to my editor and agent. It was Friday 13. I am not superstitious, but that did give me pause.

Some writers are able to write a perfectly good novel in two or three drafts. I am not one of those writers! It takes me years (and years) to uncover the complexities, the depths and the “fall line” of a story. My revision process is extremely slow, in spite of all the techniques I use (i.e. plotting) to try to speed it up. I do hope I’m getting closer.

J.K. Rowling’s plot guideline. No doubt it helped!

Moonsick (working title) is my novel for Young Adults, a story based on the teen years of Josephine Bonaparte’s daughter Hortense. Is the novel too giddy? Too dark? I’m frankly not sure. This is why beta readers — teen beta readers — will be important to my final revision process.

Teen beta readers wanted

Later that same day I sent out a newsletter that included a call for teen beta readers. I now have three readers, and (I hope) more to come. I’d also like to find a book club that reads YA fiction — not exclusively, but often enough that they are comfortable with the genre. It occurs to me that a high school English class might be interested in reading it (although it really is a novel for girls). Let me know if you have a teen reader or a book club or class to suggest.

Going back to where it all began

Looking for reader guidelines I’ve used in the past, I discovered a blog post I wrote in February of 2012 — five years ago! — announcing that I would be writing a YA novel about Hortense.

Hortense as a teen — the subject of my next-next novel (Surprise!) 

(Note that This Bright Darkness, mentioned in the post, was the working title of The Shadow Queenwhich was published two years later, in the spring of 2014.)

Hortense de Beauharnais

Lovely Hortense as a teen. Energetic, creative, talented — a bright spark.


Historically dressed book club reads “Mistress of the Sun”

Some book clubs have book-themed dinners, but imaging a club whose members historically dressed for a discussion of a historical novel.

Then: imagine that they are discussing your book.

And now imagine that they are discussing your book in a bookstore.

You have to admit that that’s fairly special!

Historically dressed book club reads Mistress of the Sun

Tami Grondines, a Chapters/Indigo employee, reported to HarperCollins Canada that  Mistress of the Sun, was “very well received” by her book club. It scored a “solid 9 out of 10.” (Yay! :-)

Here are photos of two of the members who historically dressed for the discussion!



I love that there are three editions of Mistress of the Sun in the snapshot.

This book club is extra special to me because Tami, the organizer, gave me editorial feedback on an early draft of The Shadow Queen,

Here she is with published hardcover editionpointing to her name in the acknowledgements.



She wrote: “… seeing the changes that Sandra made due to my feedback was amazing and emotional.”

Thank you, Tami! Your feedback was important.

I have written an essay on this unusual editorial “experiment” asking bookstore employees to read an early draft of a manuscript.  I will link to here as soon as it is up.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy The Shadow Queen and Mistress of the Sun, the two novels in The Sun Court Duet, now both out in paperback.

The Shadow Queen, beautifully historically dressed


Here is a Pinterest blog on Book Inspired Costumes. Fun!

The “Why” of Skype meets with book clubs


Yesterday afternoon I told my husband I was thinking of giving up Skype meets with book clubs. So many times, the connection has been terrible. I had a Skype meet scheduled that night, and I felt uneasy, expecting the worst. 

Then of course, when I opened my Skype application, it crashed. And then again. And then again.

This did not bode well!

Very last minute, I had to download the application anew. But lo and behold, once launched, my connection with the book club in Hamilton, Ontario, was absolutely perfect. 

book club

But more importantly, this was a dynamite club, and we had a wonderful talk. I came away uplifted. No way am I going to give up book club meets! 


The life of a writer is solitary, and contact with readers is hugely sustaining. I wish I knew your name, Hamilton book club—for if I did, I would sing your praise here. Thank you. 


I love to Skype-meet with book clubs!

I finally had a Skype meet with a book club at the Carteret Public Library, in Carteret, NJ. This meet had been scheduled long ago by Supervising Librarian Samuel Latini, but Hurricane Sandy conspired to make it difficult. Now, the library is once again up-and-running (yay!), and we were able to have a chat.

This time, however, illness had swept through and only three of the members were able to make it: Joyce, Gail and Stephanie. They had read MISTRESS OF THE SUN, and they had lots of interesting questions. It made for an intimate and lively discussion!

There were, of course, the usual technical problems: my image froze (fortunately not with my mouth hanging open), but I could see them, which was nice, and we could hear each other fairly well.

We kept it to 1/2 hour: and I think that’s a good rule-of-thumb. That gives them time to discuss the meet among themselves after.

All in all: it was just great. I’m always aglow after these Skype sessions. I’ve talked to clubs and high school classes in the US and Canada, and even one in Germany. If you’re in a book club and would like to schedule a chat, email me at sgulland AT sandragulland DOT com or through my website here: http://www.sandragulland.com/contacts/.

OMG, I nearly forgot to mention: I sent off the “final” draft of IN THE SERVICE OF THE SHADOW QUEEN this morning!