The Writing Adventures of The Undead Duo–Julie Hutchings and Kristen Strassel

Julie’s Never Humble Opinion on Publishing Trends, Rejection and Doing What You Want

TODAY’S BREW: Coconut Crème until my heart explodes

By Julie

Whether you write in the genre or not, if you write and are on Twitter, you heard about the Romance Writers of America conference this past weekend plenty. I pay attention because you can always learn more, and any good book has SOME level of romance in it, in my opinion.

What I was particularly pleased to see was that paranormal seems to be on the watch list again for agents and publishers.

For as many vampire, weird-new-creature-we-made-up, werewolf and other paranormal novels out there being enjoyed as there are, there are as many publishers and agents saying that there’s no market for it. Editors aren’t looking for it.

I’ve always been of the opinion that if you write a novel that begs to be read, there’s a place for it and readers who want to read it.

Of course, I say this with THE HARPY still sitting on several editors’ desks, waiting for its big break.


You’ll hate this answer, probably, but OH WELL.

I’ve had rejections from publishers on THE HARPY. It’s been on submission with them for months now.


I’m kind of a jerk. I get my sights set on an idea, and by shit, I am going to make it happen. I will take this insane idea (i.e, harpies), and make every goddamn word on the page burn with how much I need to get them out. I’ll perfect the fucking thing by my standards. And when it’s perfect, I’ll ask people to read it and tell me what’s not perfect. While they do that, I go back through the book and I ask myself, does this character breathe life and have a voice and a story that makes them bursting with energy, fear, doubt, determination, anger, love, lust, failure, success, need, and every other complex human emotion that doesn’t work together?

Do I exploit each and every one so that they all seem important at the time they take precedence?

Do I love this character and hate some of their choices?

Do I hate this character but see how that could be me one day if I just thought or acted a little differently?

And I take those notes from the readers, and I pore over them. Sometimes I disagree, sometimes I wonder how the hell I didn’t see what they said before. But I always make sure that every word on the page has a purpose.

And when I put it out into the world of publishing to smite me down, I know that it only takes one to love it the way I do.

And I don’t cry when rejections come, for THE HARPY or any other book of mine, (and they all get rejected, trust me). Not because I did the best I could do–but because the book got read. It got rejected, but it got read, and that’s a step in the right direction.


This is a hard, ugly truth, and yet it fills me with excitement.

I’ve been writing and editing the whole time THE HARPY has been roaming free, experiencing the world. I’d be a fool to think that if I got my hands on it again that I wouldn’t want to change anything. Or that if an editor says it just isn’t strong enough in a certain aspect that I couldn’t make it stronger.


So when I hear that paranormal is back, or that editors are looking for a romance between eagles and chickens, or that zombies are over, I nod politely and write whatever I was going to write anyway.


No matter what the subject matter, or the trend, a book that bleeds is a book that people want to read. It may not happen tomorrow, but tomorrow isn’t your last chance, either.



The Education of Intern Sara: Writing Discoveries and the Charm of Dorky-cute

A friend and I were watching a crime-drama and the topic of dorky-cute came up. Actually, dorky-cute guy walked across the screen and inspired said topic. He’s not a guy who would normally catch my eye. As a man, he doesn’t really appeal to me and yet he does. He’s not the kind of guy I would describe as being gorgeous, sexy, or even exceptionally handsome. He does however possess something, a certain charm that comes from the way he carries himself, they way he owns whatever it is that he is. He’s kind of a dork, and he’s kind of cute, but he owns all of it and therefore, he is what is known as dorky-cute and I have to admit, I find him charming.

I’m not sure if others would describe dorky-cute the way I just did, and truth be told, I’ve given it very little thought, but I think my description of how someone attains dorky-cuteness might be on point.

The thing that intrigues me about dorky-cute is that once upon a time, not that long ago, a dorky-cute character was both endearing and mock-worthy, and nowadays it’s a quality that makes you charming and almost attractive. Think Arnold Horseshack from “Welcome Back Kotter.” 

Would I want to be Horseshack? Absolutely not. Do I find him endearing. Yes. Would I have had his back if he were being picked on? Absolutely. Do I find him attractive? HELL NO! And yet this new breed of dorky-cute appeals to me. I’m not sure exactly when that change happened, I’d say it was within the last ten years or so.

So in regards to my writing, I’m not sure if I would even want to write a dorky-cute character. I suppose that if I was writing for TV or film I would have a very different opinion. After all, some of the most endearing and interesting characters fit that description, but I’m not sure if I want to write that character for a book. Mostly because I’m not sure how I would even approach it, without using the words “dorky-cute,” which seems like kind of a cheat. The way I see it, a b-character could be described as dorky-cute, and you’d get it, but how do you convey dorky-cute for a main character? I have no doubt this is completely doable, I just know that I have yet to think about or figure out how it’s done.

The pondering of the question, “How do I convey this particular personality type?” made me realize that I am being stumped by the particulars of a bigger question which is “How do you convey a personality type?” All of the characters that I’m writing have a personality type, and my hope is that they will also have those nuanced characteristics that make them unique and genuine and interesting. Perhaps the reason I can’t wrap my head around how to convey dorky-cute is because I have yet to create a character that possesses those characteristics and if and when I do, that’s when the real work begins.

Speaking of real work, even though I’d like to believe that the first draft of my books will have well fleshed-out characters whose traits and quirks are apparent, I know that they won’t be and I realize that I need to think much harder about how to convey THOSE particular traits. I have a great deal of work ahead of me, and my hope is that in the process of figuring out how to convey my character’s traits, I will discover the process that will allow me to write a compelling dorky-cute character. I may well write dorky-cute after all.

What to expect from a developmental edit.



Originally posted on Tammy Farrell:

After months and months…and MONTHS of sweating over my drafts of THE EMBERS OF LIGHT, I finally got it to the point where it was ready for developmental editing. I think this is a step many indie-authors skip, thinking that beta-readers, critique partners and a proofreader or even better, a line-editor will suffice.

But let me tell you this. Unless you have a super-genius friend who KNOWS what they’re talking about, you NEED a developmental editor, otherwise known as a content editor.

I’ve had experience with two developmental editors or DEs, as I call them. The first DE I had for The Darkness of Light used a summary approach. I sent her the manuscript, she read it, and then sent me a three page detailed report, mostly written in point form, of areas I needed to fix, plot holes that needed filling, and certain word choices I needed to cut.

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Reading Unlimited, Kindle Edition

Today’s Brew: Hot Blueberry. I have the AC going and I’m actually cold. The first world is a good place to be sometimes.

by Kristen

The big news in publishing this week was Amazon’s roll of of Kindle Unlimited.  For 9.99 a month, customers have unlimited access to over 600,000 titles in Amazon’s print and audio library.  If you missed it, here’s the announcement from Amazon:

Today we are excited to introduce Kindle Unlimited – a new subscription service for readers in the U.S. and a new revenue opportunity for authors enrolled in KDP Select. Customers will be able to read as many books as they want from a library of over 600,000 titles while subscribed to Kindle Unlimited. All books enrolled in KDP Select with U.S. rights will be automatically included in Kindle Unlimited.

KDP Select authors and publishers will earn a share of the KDP Select global fund each time a customer accesses their book from Kindle Unlimited and reads more than 10% of their book – about the length of reading the free sample available in Kindle books – as opposed to a payout when the book is simply downloaded. Only the first time a customer reads a book past 10% will be counted.

KDP Select books will also continue to be enrolled in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) available to Amazon Prime customers in the U.S., U.K., Germany, France and Japan where authors will continue to earn a share of the KDP Select global fund when their book is borrowed. KOLL borrows will continue to be counted when a book is initially downloaded.

For July we’ve added $800,000 to the fund, bringing the July fund amount to $2 million.

Too bad I am not the least bit tech savvy, because when I first subscribed to Netflix back in the way day, one of my first thoughts was, “Someone needs to do this with books!” Of course, at the time, no one had heard of an e-book, and I couldn’t figure out a way to make shipping heavy books back and forth profitable.  Now that it exists, I still love the idea, but now that I’m an author, I have a whole difference set of questions, besides where do I sign up?

DISCLAIMER:  As of writing this, my books are not in the KDP Select program or eligible for Kindle Unlimited.

Amazon isn’t the first company to do this.  Scribd and Oyster have similar programs with a similar amount of inventory.  But remember that number. 600,000. That sounds like a lot, and of course, the program is new, but that’s certainly not everything.  Even if I were to get a tally of the books available on Amazon as I wrote this, it would be inaccurate by the time you read this.  I’ve seen Amazon rankings as low as five million, so 600,000  is a great selection, but not everything.

Well, what’s included?  So far, the big five publishers seem to be holding off.  When I looked at the Kindle Unlimited Library, it reminded me a lot of Netflix.  There isn’t a ton of new stuff featured, and even though there are some best sellers available, they’re not all available.

What’s not included?  Self-published books are not eligible to participate unless they are signed up with KDP Select.  If you’re not familiar with that program, it’s offered to self-published authors as well as small presses. Amazon gives special promotional opportunities, such as free download days and Kindle Countdown Deals, in exchange for an exclusive listing.  The books KDP Select and now Kindle Unlimited can only be purchased, or now borrowed, from Amazon.

With the deluge of books that are being uploaded to Amazon and other retailers, free and discounted prices don’t pack the punch that they used to. When I uploaded my books, I didn’t think twice about distributing them to all retailers. Now indie authors may think twice about that, depending on the success of this program.  I did, however, opt in for the lending option, which is available to Kindle Prime members.

I’m not crazy about limited choices. While there are some upfront benefits to exclusivity, there are some drawbacks that can always rear their ugly head.  First, you’re limiting the amount of people who can have access to your product.  Secondly, when there is no competition, there’s no need to be competitive.  If the terms of the contract start to change, and the competition has been eliminated, then what do you do? You better start liking it, because there aren’t any other options. No thank you.

Subscribers pay a flat monthly fee, but how do authors and publishers get paid?  Self published authors will be paid for Kindle Unlimited borrows through the KDP Global Fund, equal to a “lend.”  Traditionally, this amount has been around two dollars per lend.  However, traditionally published books will be compensated as if the book was purchased.  I’m not exactly sure why there is a difference, but there is.

What does this mean for books?  We’ll have to wait and see.  For readers, it’s potentially amazing. However, I know I grew frustrated with Netflix. They didn’t have the selection I wanted, I didn’t always have a chance to watch my movies quickly enough to make the program really work for me. I never figured out how to stream from my computer to my TV. Eventually, I cancelled my subscription, and now I’ll get a movie from Redbox if I want to watch at home or actually go to the movies. (Note: I don’t watch a ton of movies, and I don’t even own any. I know, I’m weird.)  As an author, I have noticed a slight dip in sales on Amazon since the program launched, but there are still sales. However, my sales on other retailers have remained strong, and right now they’re outperforming my Amazon listings by about three to one.  Had I not had my books available on other retailers, would I have the same amount of lends through KU?  There’s no way to tell, but right now, I’m not scrambling to disable my listings on the other retailers.

This is definitely something to watch. I think all of us, as writers and readers, just want people to read and discover great books.  The program is super new, and it will grow with the needs and wants of its subscribers. I want to see it succeed, because anything that gets more people reading more books is a good thing.


The Worst 3 Little Words: I DON’T KNOW.

TODAY’S BREW: Life Is Good S’mores Flavor. Your jealousy tastes delicious.

By Julie


Reading makes you a better writer. Editing does even more so. I’m quiet about my Undeaditing services because they’ve been steady, and I want to be able to give attention completely to my work, both as an editor and an author.


This one line stands out to me in every book, published or not, first draft or elevendyhundreth draft; in every movie, in conversation now. This one:


It’s a natural answer, everyone on earth says it, but when writing you need everything your character says to show something about them. Consider these questions I just made up:

What are you going to do now that the aliens have breached the mother ship?

(I don’t know.)

Are you ever going to be normal again?

(I don’t know.)

Have you ever been so tired of being bland that you decided to make changes whether people liked them or not?

(I don’t know.)


“I don’t know” tells me zero about the character. But then there’s this:

Are you ever going to be normal again?

“Yes. I’ll be normal again because I choose to be, and not knowing how to do it won’t stop me from trying.”

We’re unaware of any of the background to this question, or the character answering it, but from his answer, we know something about him.

If you insist on I don’t know, do it with flourish.

“I don’t know!” or “How am I supposed to know?” or “Do you know?!” 

Give us a hotheaded, whiny, thoughtful, sobbing I don’t know so we can see the way the character reacts rather than just answering a question lazily.

Right now I’m reading Catherynne M. Valente’s THE GIRL WHO FELL BENEATH FAIRYLAND AND LED THE REVELS THERE. (That’s a helluva title.) The main character, a thirteen year old girl named September, is one of my favorite characters of all time. Let me show you an instance where she could have said, “I don’t know,” but she just plain didn’t:

“Are you afraid of going below? I am always curious.”

September considered this. “No,” she said finally. “I shall not be afraid of anything I haven’t even seen yet.”

SEE??? This kid has cojones. She could have said she doesn’t know, she’s never been there before and knows nothing about the place. She could have said merely, “I don’t know.” But she thought about it first, and she gave an answer that tells us she’s a thinker like hell, she’s open-minded, has more courage than you could shake an I don’t know at, and she’s adventurous to a fault.

I hate to say it, but there’s one place in particular that the words “I don’t know” seem to smack me upside the head, and that’s with Harry Potter. I AM NOT SAYING THAT I COULD HAVE WRITTEN POTTER BETTER, SHUT UP. I love Harry Potter. But if one of the times someone asked Harry what something elusive means, he didn’t say “I don’t know,” but instead said, “I don’t know but I’m going to find out,” that is the Potter boy I know. The one who stops at nothing to get the answers and solve the riddles. See what I mean?

Now, I challenge you to never write those three little words unless they mean something. This is the way we learn about the character that lives and breathes in your head–with every single word they do or do not say. Maybe they think that they don’t know, but lie and come up with some insane plan.

Kristen and I made sure in high school that we missed all 18 days we were allowed to miss. Our philosophy was, if someone is giving you 18 bucks for fun, do you only take 10 of it? No. You take all 18.

Your book is giving you 70,000 words to show us this awesome character you know. Don’t only take 50,000 of them. Make every word something that matters, because you don’t get the opportunity to use the 18th day when school is over.




The Education of Intern Sara: Riding the Rails (part one)

One of the first conversations I had with the Undead Duo regarding writing was about an Amtrak writer’s residency. I didn’t know what the residency entailed, or if I would even be eligible as a new writer, but the idea excited me just the same. I never really looked into whether I was eligible but I was inspired.

The idea of this residency appealed to me for so many reasons. I adore traveling. LOVE IT! There’s something about going somewhere, anywhere that just appeals to the sense of adventure in me. I find all leisurely and enjoyable tasks to be more… leisurely and enjoyable. Reading is more fun, eating is more fun, and going for a walk somewhere new is more fun. The list goes on. Be it car, plane, train, or bus, there’s just a sense of calm, relaxation, and the knowledge that you simply won’t be disturbed that makes it all go smoother. More than anything, writing seems to be more inspired. It just pours out of me when I’m traveling. The idea of being on a train for a long haul with nothing more than a laptop and some tunes, sounded amazing.

And lets be honest, writing a novel, or any part of a novel, just sounds cool. “Yeah, I totally wrote my first novel while riding the rails.” What’s cooler than that? Writing a novel on a gypsy caravan maybe, but I haven’t received any invitations, so Amtrak it is. I decided to create my own residency. Boston to Birmingham, here I come.

There is something to be said about that romantic notion of riding the rails. I have yet to actually jump into an open boxcar on a freight train, bindle stick in hand, but I’d really, really, really, like to. I’ll add it to my bucket list in a special section marked, “Things for my characters to do in future books.”

I may not ever ride the rails hobo-style but I’m no stranger to trains. I’ve taken them all over the northeast and I’ve even taken the twenty-four plus hour ride down the east coast down to Orlando. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. I took a week to escape my then hectic/busy life and got myself on a train armed with nothing more than my iPod and a couple of books. There was no Wi-Fi and an understanding that no one could/should bother me because without Wi-Fi there wasn’t much I could do for anyone anyhow. I had no responsibilities. No work duties, no errands, no nothing. For twenty-four beautiful hours, there would be no bringing-work-home, no dirty dishes to wash, no laundry to do, no bathtub to scrub. I ate, I slept, and I listened to music and I read, two whole books, one after another. That might not sound like a big deal to those of you who read as much as I would have like to at the time, but at the time, I couldn’t remember the last time I had just sat and read something for pleasure, much less two books in a row. It was glorious.

So glorious was that first long ride, that I promised myself I’d do it again. Last time it was Boston to Orlando armed with two books and plenty of music. This time it was Boston to Birmingham armed with my laptop, notebooks and a soundtrack of music inspired by my characters. The goal, write the hell out of one of my books specifically, the one about the magicians.

I started my trip at five-thirty in the morning by getting on my local commuter-rail, which takes me from my hometown to my beloved Boston. From there I got on the Amtrak that took me from South Station (Boston) to Penn Station (NYC). I decided to go easy on myself for this first part of the trip. Although my preference is to write shortly after waking up, it was a bit too early. After a bit of seat shuffling (I accommodated a young couple by moving up one row so they could sit together) I sort of hated myself. I had chosen a great seat that had a nice window and allowed myself to be shuffled to the one row in the car that didn’t have a window of it’s own. Bummer. But then, it happened. I can’t say for sure, but I think that the writing gods, and the magic gods, conspired together, in my favor.

To give you a little background, I’m writing this book about magicians and have been doing all kinds of delightful research. Everything from reading biographies on Houdini and scouring manuals on how to perform magic, to seeing two of the most well known and loved magicians the world has to offer. I never had any real love for research, until I started this book. A month ago, I was flipping through the TV looking for a Duck Dynasty marathon, or something to keep me company while I was writing and I lucked upon a movie that was only beginning. It was about two dueling magicians who lived and breathed what they did and had a twisted need to outdo one another. It was FANTASTIC! It was beautiful on so many levels. It showed me that a film (based on a book) could be made that could appeal to even those who have no particular love for magicians. It showed me the depth that exists in the world of magic and that I have a lot of important decisions to make regarding what of their world I share and what I don’t. This also means that my responsibility as a writer/researcher grows exponentially. The more my magicians reveal, or the more my narrator reveals, the more I need to know. In many ways, this film may have been the biggest gift that I could have received. I knew ten minutes into the film that I would want to watch it again, and again. I casually watched it a second time, by letting it play in the background while I worked on a project. This film and I had an understanding that we would be reacquainted again soon when I could really give it the attention it deserved.

So bummed out about my lack of a window, I turned to my right to see if my across-the-aisle-neighbor had one. As expected, he didn’t. He had a different kind of window.

A laptop.

A laptop playing a movie.

A laptop playing a movie about two dueling magicians, who lived and breathed what they did, and had a twisted need to outdo one another.


I’m certain this was a sign. What is the sign supposed to tell me you ask? I’m not exactly sure but I have some thoughts. Perhaps it’s simply there, to inspire me? Maybe, it’s to let me know that it is possible to write a story about magicians that could be compelling even to those who have little interest in magic or magicians. It could be something else all together. I can’t be certain but I am sure that it will make another appearance in my life, and I can’t wait to see when and where that happens. Perhaps it will be clearer to me then.

Whatever the reason, the film, and the book that it was based on, give me a gold standard to live by. I don’t know if the book was a New York Times best seller, I have yet to read it myself, but any book that can inspire such a beautifully written movie, deserves my respect. I took time on my trip to think about what worked about this story. What was so compelling about these characters? What did the author/screenwriter share with us about the world of magic? It also made me think about the two world-renowned magicians I’d seen recently. How freakishly similar their shows were. How grossly different my reaction was to each of them. One who inspired me, to learn a few tricks of my own and the other who left me more baffled than intrigued or inspired. To be honest, this is going to require a lot more time than the short Boston to NYC ride afforded me, but it was time well spent.

The longer haul between NYC and Birmingham was blessed with such good intensions. Visions of me writing pages upon pages of brilliant dialogue and delicious words that would convey the depth of my world. Reality check. I wrote exactly 315 words. 315 words. Granted, I was happy with what I wrote, but it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. Instead of writing tomes of fantasy I ended up reading what I had previously written (overall, I was very pleased with myself, is that a good sign or a bad sign?)

I also ate all of the things I said I wouldn’t, including a Boston Kreme donut from Dunkin Donuts, a good sized bag of peanut M&Ms, a bags of Lays potato chips and I finally tried double stuff Golden Oreos. They are DELICOUS. Just saying.

Most importantly, I had the opportunity to meet one of the loveliest people I’ve will ever know. Her name is Linda, a beautiful, sweet grandmother, who had been transplanted from Biloxi, Mississippi to upstate New York after she lost everything in Katrina. She was taking the train from NYC to somewhere in Mississippi to visit her family, all of whom seemed to have stayed behind after Katrina hit. Linda was the ideal train-mate. Not only was she kind, and fun to chat with, she made it really easy for me to write. There was nothing stopping me from writing. I was comfortable, I was prepared, and I was organized. I knew what I needed to write, but there are times in life, when living life, and spending time with a new person is so much more valuable and pleasurable than creating and crafting worlds and characters. I love my world and I adore my characters, even the nasty ones, but I chose to spend the better part of my time, learning about and bonding with my new friend. We chatted, we ate junk food (she is the one who generously shared her Golden Oreos with me), and we slept as much as we could. It was the best train ride a girl could ask for. I did some writing, good writing, and I did some reading, good reading. I even started writing this blog post, but the best thing I did for myself was connect with another human being. Something we do far too little of these days.

I got off the train, refreshed, inspired, and with one more friend in the world. I still have high hopes that I’ll get more writing done, on my much shorter train ride on the way home, but I have no regrets about riding the rails with my new friend Linda or the minimal 315 words I wrote during that time.

Here’s to writing more on the next round and to spending real time with real people.

My Life As A Makeup Artist

Today’s Brew: Blueberry, as usual. Lukewarm because it’s muggier than a dog’s armpit.

by Kristen

I thought this might be a fun post, because a lot of people ask me about my job.  I am a freelance makeup artist. You might think that means I walk around with a magic wand, spreading glitter and beauty to everything I touch. This is partly true, but it has nothing to do with what I do for work.

So let me tell you about it.  Like I said, I’m a freelance makeup artist. I work for myself, but I rely on clients hiring me for their productions.  Sometimes I work on movie sets, TV shows, commercials, or do corporate videos. I’m a member of a union, Local 798, which is the east coast hair and makeup division of IATSE, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.

Movies seem to interest people the most.  Movies are long, long days requiring a lot of people to make things come together. I typically day play, which means I go in when there are scenes with a lot of background actors, aka extras, and help get them ready and keep them looking good. Sometimes, if we’re shooting present day, that is ridiculously easy. If it’s a period piece or a wedding scene, we have a lot more work to do. For example, on RIPD, we had a scene were there were “deados” from every decade of the 20th century, so we had to make them look appropriate for their specific period. Usually, we’re in the 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s for period work. The most fun part of that is dissecting the era, if it was 1983 in rural Maine, chances are, we’d really be doing a late 70’s look.

Sometimes I work on featured actors, I rarely key long term projects. I’ve been asked, but I prefer to to day play. That means while there are plenty of A-listers on the set of the films, I don’t work on them. I typically don’t talk to them, either, unless I’m working with them directly or I’m brought into the conversation.

We stay on set all day. Our days typically start before dawn and last 12 to 14 hours. We go in between takes to do touchups, or get actors ready throughout the day when they are called in.

TV shows can be like this, if it’s a big series show, but a lot of cable shows come to Boston, usually travel shows, and they’re much smaller productions. If I work on something like that, I’m typically responsible for the host, and just touching up anyone else that is on camera.

Commercials again can be similar to movie sets, if they’re big companies and national campaigns, or they can be a guy talking about his business against a green screen.  On commericals, I can be responsible for the main talent, the supporting actors, or just the background. It all depends on the size of the commercial.

Corporate work sounds boring, but it’s easy and it pays well. These are web videos, training videos, internal videos, and sales videos.

I do some weddings, but I’ve never been able to concentrate on putting together a proper business model because I’ve been too busy with production work. I’m fine with this, I like having weekends free, especially now that I’m going to writing events.

There is no typical day. However, it’s not very often I’m hired to make people “pretty.” I’m usually hired so you don’t even know I’m there. To make people look naturally good, to even out skin tone, to take out shine, and in the summer, to control sweat. Gross, isn’t it?

Where do I work? Typically in the Boston area, but all over New England. I very rarely get asked to go to New York, because they have so many artists there. Sometimes I go to New Jersey or Pennsylvania. The farthest I’ve gone is Arizona in the US and England internationally.

What were your favorite jobs? I worked Superbowl week in 2008 for ESPN, I worked for Farm Aid, and I worked election night at Romney HQ. All of them were amazing experiences.


How did I get in this?  I couldn’t stand working in retail management another second, and signed up for cosmetology school. I quickly realized two things: I didn’t want to work in a salon, and I enjoyed makeup way more than hair. I headed to California, and took specialized makeup classes, then came home and worked my ass off until I had clients.

My big break came around noon one day. I was scheduled to close Piercing Pagoda that night, and someone cold called me and asked me to come in and help with background actors on a movie called The Box. They’d exhausted union options, and were pretty much desperate for hands. They needed me at 4 PM. After some thought, I called in to the Pag and went to the movie. Best decision I ever made. I made a good impression on the other artists, and they’ve been calling me ever since.

How do I find jobs? They find me, now. I get jobs by word of mouth and referrals. It took a long time to get to this place, and I am thankful for it. When I started, I would drop everything, like the scenario above, to go to work. Even today, I got a call for later this afternoon. Why not?  I combed the internet for every job I could find. I was eager and enthusiastic. I still am, I just don’t have to look for work anymore.
When do you work? Oh, if you can answer this question, you are better than I am. I work when I’m needed and stay until we’re done. I work more in the summer and fall than I do in the winter and spring. Sometimes I work 7 days a week, sometimes zero. We never know when we’ll get out, because we have to stay until we complete the job. This is why I can get so much book work done. For part of the year, I’m a full time writer, and I’m used to working extremely long hours until a project is completed.

Can I bring you to work? Have you wash my brushes or something? Or just watch?  No.

Don’t be a bitch, Kristen. Come on. No. Let me come hang out at your medical office and watch you work with patient files. Weird, isn’t it?  If I do need an extra set of hands, I have to hire an experienced artist. I need to trust they can do any facet of the job I need them to. I don’t have time to explain things on the fly.

How do you get paid?  Clients buy my day. They contract me for a certain amount of hours, and if they come in under that, they still pay the rate. If they go over it, they pay overtime. Those long hours don’t sound so bad anymore, do they?  I’m not a salon, I don’t schedule appointments. I book by the day because I can’t book another job once I sign on to a project for the day, no matter how short it is.

Wanna do my makeup just for fun?  Sure, after you have the time of your life doing my taxes, or whatever you do at work.

Do you like your job? Very much. I get to meet interesting people and see places the public doesn’t always get to see. Every day is different.

What’s your favorite makeup brand?  I don’t have one. Everyone does something well, and not all products are one size fit all. A primer isn’t going to work the same on a 20 year old as it will her grandmother, as it is an someone of another race.

If I become a super famous author, will I give up doing makeup? I don’t think I’ll ever quit totally. I would like for writing to give me the freedom to say no when I want or need time off to do other things.


And now you know what I do all day. :)



Today’s Brew: Champagne!!

by Kristen

YOU GUYS. I’m so excited to finally be able to share these with you.  I feel like I’ve been talking about this for-evah, and now it’s finally real.  I hope you all love these covers as much as I do. Cover designs by Hang Le.

First, the reveal of WE OWN THE NIGHT (The Night Songs Collection #3)



The Ultimate Manipulation. 

Callie Chabot would stop at nothing to save her ex-boyfriend Blade Bennett from the clutches of vampire clan leader Talis de Rancourt, even if means becoming immortal herself. What she doesn’t know is that Blade has already defeated Talis, and he’s waiting for Callie in the afterlife.

Now Callie only has her creator, Tristan Trevosier, to turn to for guidance. But he’s too wrapped up in the debauchery of the Las Vegas rock scene to give a damn about the particulars of being undead. That’s enough to drive Callie crazy on its own, but female vampires are automatic clan leaders.

Not only does Callie have no idea how to wrangle a vampire clan, but her would-be followers have more to gain from her failure. They instead choose to follow Blade—and he’s hell-bent on making Callie pay for her bad decisions. Since he took out the existing clan leader, that automatically puts him at the helm of what should be Callie’s new clan.

A Master of Deception.

That’s when seasoned rogue vampire, Cash Logan, shows up, shrouded in magic and mystery. No one is sure which side Cash is on, but Callie needs to take a chance on the one vampire who is willing to give her the answers she needs, no matter how dark and frightening they may be. Callie must trust her instincts and form alliances that may backfire. Cash shows Callie that playing nice is no longer an option, and that fixing her wrongs won’t always make everything right.

To take control of her clan, Callie must look to her rival to discover exactly what makes her a leader.

Available September 1, 2014.

Add to Goodreads     Preorder on Smashwords     Preorder Audible

BECAUSE THE NIGHT and NIGHT MOVES are coming to the party, too!  They’re available again, and check out their new covers.



BECAUSE THE NIGHT has been revamped, with a new edit!  It’s also 99 cents in celebration of the relaunch!

Because the Night (The Night Songs Collection Book 1) on Amazon     Smashwords

NIGHT MOVES–I don’t have a release date for the Audible version, but it is coming soon. It’s being recorded at the same time as WE OWN THE NIGHT



Night Moves (The Night Songs Collection Book 2)on Amazon       Smashwords

To celebrate today you can hear me at 5 PM EST on Lydia’s Literary Lowdown on Blog Talk Radio, and at 7 PM EST, I’ll be “taking over” the Author Reader Con Facebook page. Stop by and say hello! I’ll have prizes and fun stuff!

The Education of Intern Sara: Getting to Know My Characters [Lila]

There has been so much and so little going on with my writing lately that I don’t know what to say about it. I’ve been moving around a bit so my daily writing ritual has been, well, less of a ritual and more of a fond memory of things that once were but I’m not worried. My lack of writing has been less about a lacking desire/interest and more to do with the fact that I’ve been exploring my characters and seeing them react to the situations that I’ve been putting myself in and all I have to say is ….

It’s the best thing ever!!!!

Let me explain. When I first started blogging, I talked about mind-writing, (see definition below- just humor me) which has less to do with writing and more to do with procrastinating about writing. What I’m talking about now is very different. I am in the process of writing two books, and although the writing has been minimal the last couple of weeks, the research has been in full swing. Normally, I would do the research and development BEFORE I started writing but as I may have mentioned before, I wanted to capitalize on my excitement and just start writing. So I did. Would I do it that way again? Probably not. I value process, organization and my type-A-superpower way too much to do that again but I have no regrets this time around.

Instead what I’m talking about is being in a certain place or situation, and knowing exactly how one of my characters would feel about being there or knowing how they would react to it.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been “moving around a bit.” It’s what Lila (pronounced Lee-Luh) would do. She’s an interesting b-character from one of my books who started off as a background player and has quickly become a significant character in my world. In fact, I have a little field trip planned for Lila in the near future. Maybe I’ll tell you about it, maybe I won’t, only time will tell.

When I first created Lila, she was sort of a generic, placeholder type of character who was fulfilling a need. I envisioned her as being, well, kind of annoying, one dimensional, rude, and not very genuine. And to be honest it kind of bothered me that I felt that way about her. At the time I just let it go. I figured that eventually I would replace her with a better character or develop her, or something. She was a b-character, so I’d get to her when I’d get to her. I have yet to actually write about her. Haven’t gotten there yet. So what’s the problem?

I had a conversation with a fellow writer about one of her characters. I guess I would describe her character as a cold, hard, bitch-type. I apologize to those of you who really hate when women use that word to describe other women, but to be fair, I think that description fits .At any rate I remember asking this writer friend how she felt about her character. I sort of expected her to secretly profess love for her evil, mean, awful character but she had no outpouring of love to give her. Fair enough. If this character existed in reality, I wouldn’t have any great outpouring of love for her either, but it made me think of Lila. I have an array of characters, but Lila was the only one I didn’t really like and now it really bothered me. I needed to understand why Lila was annoying, rude and not particularly genuine. I needed to get to know her so I could see her way of doing things so I could see that she was in fact genuine, in her own way, and understand why she was being perceived as being annoying and rude. Most importantly, I needed to make sure that she was in no way one-dimensional. As a reader, you might not ever know exactly how much depth Lila has, but I want to know. It’s important to me. I spent a great deal of time thinking about Lila the past several months. So much so, that she is now going to appear in at least two of my books (one I have yet to start) and if all goes to plan, she might have a book of her own. Is she my favorite character? No. But she is definitely in my top five. Whether Lila ends up starring in her own show or not, I now have a greater understanding for who she is, and a great love and respect for where she came from. She follows a code, I would never follow, but I respect her for having one and sticking to it and I love seeing the world through her eyes.

I’ve spent the last several months seeing the world through many of my characters eyes. It’s a very cool experience and they feel more and more real to me with each experience. Lila’s reactions tend to come up more often than not and perhaps because she is the most different from me, I tend to really enjoy the ride I get from those reactions/experiences. As for my upcoming Lila field trip, although I’m going to this mysterious place as a researching writer, the true fun will be to see how the Lila in me reacts to all the cool stuff I’m going to show her.

mind-writing mīnd-rīti ng

When a would-be-author creates brilliant scenes and dialogue in her mind that would-be a novel if only she could actually get herself to write down said brilliance. Can also be described as the writing equivalent of playing air guitar. In both cases the would-be artist would actually-be learning something and creating art if she spent nearly as much time holding a pen or guitar pick as she does wowing the audience in her mind.

Meet the Main Character- A Little Blog Hopping Goodness with Callie

Today’s Brew: Anything I don’t have to chew.

by Kristen

I feel like a mad scientist lately. Skulking around in the dark recesses of the Deadly Ever After labs, creating new and improved things to bring to all of you. I’ve been quiet lately, because I have so much to say but I had to be patient and wait. My wait is almost over, Saturday is the cover reveal of WE OWN THE NIGHT, a book I feel like I’ve been telling you about for-evah. It’s also the reveal of the NEW covers of BECAUSE THE NIGHT and NIGHT MOVES.

Aaaah! So excited.

When Shonda Brock tagged me for the Meet the Main Characters blog hop, she had no idea how perfect her timing was.  With all the excitement brewing in Night Songs City this week, it’s the perfect time to reacquaint you with Callie. You may know her, you may love her, you may cringe every time she graces a page. But we can all agree, she’s never boring.  So without further ado…

Finally! Someone who looks like Callie with Callie's coloring!!

 1. What is the name of your main character? Is she fictional or a historical person?

Callie Chabot is a fictional character. Without realizing it, I named her after the lyrical muse, Calliope.  Perfect coincidence. Callie definitely has a pull over musicians. Chabot is my grandmother’s maiden name.

2. When and where is the story set?

Because the Night and We Own the Night take place in present day Las Vegas. Instead of endless Cirque du Soleil shows, my fictional Las Vegas features many vampire rock bands in residence instead.  In the books, you meet several bands, but the main one is Immortal Dilemma. They’re in residence at the Alta Vista hotel, which is located where the former Sahara was and future SLS resort will be.  Callie winds up moving in with  Tristan, who lives at the Alta Vista.

Or something.

3. What should we know about her?

Callie doesn’t look before she leaps.  She’s passionate and driven, but that doesn’t always lead her to the right place.  She might not always make the right decisions, but her heart is always in the right place.

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up her life?

Callie goes to Las Vegas to figure out what the hell is going on with Tristan, since he disappeared and reemerges as a member of a vampire rock star band on a “reality” show.  While she’s there, she finds Tristan still has a pull over her, even though he’s a hot mess and she’s met someone else.  When Blade, her new love interest, goes missing, she turns to the vampire underworld and Tristan for help finding him.  When she does find him in We Own the Night, it creates a whole new mess for Callie. They’re both vying for the same position, as clan leader, and only one of them can do it.

5. What is her personal goal?

Over everything else, Callie wants happiness for herself and everyone around her.  Even when she makes a mess of things.  She also wants respect.  Her good intentions mistakenly thrust her into a leadership role and she needs to get people to take her seriously, like yesterday.


6. Is there a working title for this novel and can we read more about it?

Because the Night will be rereleased July 12.  We Own the Night will be released September 1.



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