deadlyeverafter

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

Archive for the tag “Julie Hutchings”

Wahlburger’s & Personal Assistants & Things That Don’t Go Together

TODAY’S BREW: Chocolate Capuccino. Not actual capuccino. Capuccino flavored.

By Julie

So, I’m watching this episode of Wahlburgers, because naturally, I am a Burger Broad, and I love burgers. Side note: Mark Wahlberg used to work out at my gym. Also, it’s right around our stomping ground, just about a half hour away in Hingham, where I used to work as a personal assistant to an artist and local businesswoman, as well as a long time friend.

Yeah, that’s right. I was a personal assistant. Imagine that.

Paul Wahlberg was forced into getting an assistant on the show, and the poor girl did a lot of what I felt like I did a lot of in that position, too. “Standing around like a weirdo.”

When you are a personal assistant, your mind wanders often to what you would have your own personal assistant do. In the event that I become a rich douchebag, by the way, this job as my assistant is already promised out to one Jennifer Wesson, my former co-manager at Victoria’s Secret. This has been set in stone for years. This is the same Jenn that is the basis for Jenniveve in RUNNING HOME.

Being an assistant was pretty kick ass. My employer hated food shopping. So I did it. She had a closet that had a life of its own, it just erupted in clothing heaps and dry cleaning bags and shoes and I would spend countless hours in there organizing for her. I loved this, by the way. Loved it.

But if I had an assistant? That poor thing would be going to the post office. And the bank. I hate that shit.

My assistant would be getting me so much food, it would basically be me, getting fatter by the second, handing cash to this assistant every half hour, and seeing what else they could bring me.

More things I would have my assistant do:

  1. Drink on the job. I have a solid belief that most jobs are performed just a little bit better with one beer in you.
  2. Claim I have a strange disease. This would get us into restaurants faster and get me better seats at sporting events.
  3. Cry in public. I would maybe just pinch her now and then so she would tear up, and I could be seen comforting her. “That Julie Hutchings is a real hero.” You’d hear that everywhere.
  4. Go the the movies with me. Like once a week, seriously.
  5. Pair the clean socks out of the laundry. Come on, I’m a fucking hero now, and I still have to do this?
  6. Wear knee pads. Because guess what, assistant girl? You’re playing Legos a lot and you’re probably going to get kicked in the knees by Sam a lot.
  7. Dig through Chuck Wendig’s trash. I need a day off now and then. The raccoons just don’t do the job they used to.
  8. Force me to get my hair cut. I will do anything to avoid getting my hair cut, because it is SO. FUCKING. BORING. Even though Kristen does it, and we drink, and I’m in my pajamas, I hate getting it done. The dull is too much.
  9. Play air hockey with me. All the time. We’d do this to relieve stress probably daily, and then once a week there would be drunk dodgeball tournaments. The assistant of course would have to arrange the details.
  10. Bring coffee to random people. This is something I want to do, just bring cups of coffee to people at shitty jobs. People I don’t even know. Now I can have an employee in her shitty job bring these coffees to people in their shitty jobs, and say it was from me, the author of RUNNING HOME. Hero points–Boom.

I hope we all have the opportunity to have an assistant for a week. In all seriousness, I would really just go out of my way to make it the most pleasant, fulfilling time I could. I’d have her do stuff I do with my family, and make her wear her pajamas. She’d get a tiara to wear around “the office” which is “my apartment.” And I would get to write, like, a book a second.

What kind of boss would you be in this situation? Tell me the things you hate to do.

Sick Frankenstein Obsession As Exemplified By Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Life Is Good S’mores Coffee. BECAUSE IT IS, SO EAT A S’MORE OR DRINK ONE.

By Julie

I, Frankenstein looms ever closer! I’ve been drooling over this movie coming out, and now I am a day away and THANK GOD BECAUSE I LOVE GOING TO THE MOVIES. And I love all things Frankenstein.

What’s my fascination with Frankenstein’s monster all about? I mean, the original guy is hardly a heartthrob, and it was actually the green dude I fell for first.

Well, let’s get all thinky and stuff. I’ve long had this love of the monster that monstrous man created. He’s a hero to me from the get-go. A creature forced into a life he would never have chosen, unable to control his feelings and impulses. A feared outcast with a gentleness that goes unseen.

He’s a heartsick, primal thing and I want to take care of him.

Mary Shelley describes her creation when referring to herself:

Love and rage, Mary Shelley. Perfectly put, and describes my insides to a tee. I am a monster inside, a terrible, heartbroken beast.

Don’t we all have that in us? In Frankenstein’s monster, I find the beast I want to indulge. The near-animal with the most basic fears and the most complex of emotions. A misunderstood, pieced-together broken man, lost and alone. This is the man I see, when I think of Frankenstein.

I love this!! If anyone knows who the artist is please let me know! Thx :-)

Heartsick to the point of rage and despair. What more could you ask for in your own personal heartthrob? I rarely find the “normal” heartthrobs to be as swoon-worthy as the general public. I like a little monster in my man, to quote Spike from Buffy. And maybe I see a little of myself in the old green man. A being with basic wants and needs, but the most complicated of hearts that desires them.

I know I’m not alone, because look at Kyle in American Horror Story. A human ragdoll creation, destroyed and returned to life by the same hands, with only one overriding feeling inside his heart; love. I WANT THAT.

In short, Frankenstein’s monster, will you marry me? We are both afraid of fire. Call me.

Stumbling Along the Parenthood Path

TODAY’S BREW: Is Praying for Booze a flavor?

By Julie

Tonight is my beautiful 6 year old’s school concert. Moms always want to see their kids in things like this, myself included.

But my little boy has come down with recently a social anxiety in events like this that leaves me utterly baffled. Whenever attention is on him in a crowd, he panics. Even the thought of being in the middle of a situation like that sends him into tears. This only started this year, and extends from things like small family parties to meeting Santa at school.

Now bring him to a situation where he won’t be recognized? He’s incredible. Outgoing, a leader, totally confident.

I recognize that this is something everyone goes through, not just children, but how to treat it when it’s someone you would protect with your life is the question that plagues me. While I want him to grow past his fear and know that he’s supported, I don’t want to make him do anything he’s uncomfortable with. I don’t want him to think he can always Just Say No to situations that take him out of his comfort zone, but if this is a real social anxiety disorder, I don’t want to make it worse. I want him to know I will always be there to make sure he feels protected and that I’ll save him if things get to be too much, but when does that point come?

A friend’s 12 year old little girl has been having such trouble with bullies at school that she asked to be homeschooled. My immediate reaction was what a strong, brilliant kid to make such a grownup decision and take the stand that isn’t a stand, if you know what I mean. She didn’t adhere to the rules of standing up for yourself via outsmarting them with your words brand of confrontation.She realized she may not be cut out for public school and forced socialization.

This amazing child opted to say she wasn’t going to put herself in that situation anymore. She would make her own rules.

I want to have a parade for this kid. I think she is an amazing role model.

If my little boy doesn’t want to participate in these relatively small crowd social events, I want him to feel like he has the power to say no. I confess, I don’t like them either! I want to see my kids having a good time and being part of something, but I have a problem in small crowds like that, myself. I can do a presentation for hundreds of people, but when I had to run sales meetings for a group, I stressed over it for weeks. But I know that some things can’t be avoided, no matter how much I don’t want to do them. Sometimes you do have to play by the rules.

Hence, my confusion. I won’t really know until we leave for this little extravaganza tonight what’s going to happen. My friend doesn’t know if this homeschooling thing will work out either. I think there can’t be a solid rule for do it or don’t do it situations like this, there has to be an element of calling your shots in the moment, and knowing that there are choices.

I’ve asked this question before, and I will probably ask it again. Do you deal with this with your kids? Do your own memories of being bullied or being afraid as a child affect your decisions now for your own children? Stumble along this path of parenthood with me, and let me know your thoughts.

 

Flash Fiction Friday: SURPRISE! EXCERPT FROM RUNNING AWAY

TODAY’S BREW: Autumn Roast. Okay, it’s snowing, but AUTUMN ROAST.

By Julie

SURPRISE! I’M EXCERPTING YOU! BOOM!

For today’s Flash Fiction Friday, and because of last week’s Virtual Book Signing Party (http://wp.me/p2x7oj-DX) for RUNNING HOME, and my incessant babble about the sequel, RUNNING AWAY, I thought I would surprise you all with an excerpt! YOU’RE WELCOME.

I have one week to finish this first draft, and my excitement to get it out to all of you who’ve been so supportive of Eliza and crew is making me insane. I hope this little bit leaves you wanting more.

spring snow

Where vampires are made. Japan, naturally.

EXCERPT FROM RUNNING AWAY

By Julie Hutchings

It was dark, and I had no idea where I was.

“Nicholas? Nicholas?!”

I heard noises, and worse, I felt something. I felt it again, death, lurking around me, as invasive and comforting as always.

My limbs shook when I threw off the blankets and threw my legs over the side of the bed, only to discover the bed was on the floor. The noise of my feet hitting the floor made me gasp.

When my eyes adjusted to the light, I saw thankfully, nothing in the room but for the bed I’d been in and a few very small pieces of furniture. Shadows flitted across the walls from outside, the trees swaying in the winter night.

Japan, I’m in Japan, and in my own room. Nicholas isn’t here.

I steadied my breathing, knowing I was alone, and knowing anything could be waiting for me. The vampires had kept themselves hidden during the day, and now they were out, looking for blood.

No. These are Shinigami. They’re not that.

I needed light of some kind. Something. But there was nothing.

“Perfect time for some crap karate test, Nicholas, for the love of—“

A branch snapped. I could hear it as plain as day, the rice paper walls concealing nothing. Two walls of paper lead outside, and there was enough snow on the ground that a branch would have to be stepped on to snap.

Death was all around me. It was the only familiar thing I had here.

The silhouette of a man appeared on the other side of the door, inches from my face, and I screamed, stumbled backwards, and fell onto the bed.

He didn’t move. Didn’t try to run or come after me. He waited. Like death itself.

Death always knew I couldn’t resist. It owned me.

I stood, and walked to the door, never doubting if I should open it. When I slid the door open, the figure made no movement, and didn’t even blink. The full moon illuminated him.

He was breathtaking in his darkness.

The night made him brighter somehow. A full head taller than me, bare chested with only thin white karate pants the same crispness as the snow. Perfectly chiseled, smooth, strength in every pore. Beautiful and fearsome. He looked down at me with onyx eyes, shining black hair falling around his cheeks and chest, the front held up in a traditional knot.

He smelled like red wine and roses.

Rich, heady and slightly nauseating. The scent of looking into something beyond.

The smell slapped me with memory, one I hadn’t touched since it occurred. I knelt at my mother’s casket, eyes on my father’s next to her. My grandmother leaned over me, wine heavy on her breath, the scent of failing roses succumbing to it from the wreaths and bouquets all around us.

There’s shadows all around you,” she said into my ear. I hadn’t budged.

My mouth was opening and closing, no sound coming out as I stared at him.

He was Shinigami. And he was looking at me with as much wonder as I was him, all in his eyes. The rest of him was rigor mortis still.

A crack resounded, one I knew all too well, and the man was gone.

I think I scared him away.

Snow was drifting in over my bare feet. I shut the doors and turned to run back to the bed, only to smack into Nicholas, making me scream.

“You’re late,” I muttered, and breathed in his cinnamon plum scent. A mix of New Hampshire and my new home, Japan.

“Who was that?” he asked, like I’d answered the door to girl scouts, not a vampire.

“I don’t know. But he was the same vampire from earlier, in the shadows.”

Nicholas flashed to the doorway, and looked out but we both knew nobody was there.

I collapsed back onto the bed, still drained. I could have slept for a month. I didn’t know what day it was, or what time it was. But I knew that Nicholas was in the room with me, and that I wanted him to stay.

Dragging myself to sitting, I pushed away the nothingness I’d been feeling, reminded myself that what had happened all around me was not my fault, and wasn’t his. I tried to make it a fact in my head before I spoke to him.

“Nicholas,” I said to his back. He didn’t move. “I know I’ve been—missing pieces—lately. And I wish it hadn’t been you I saw every time I thought of Kat being dead. But I’m trying really hard to fix it, Nicholas, I promise you.”

His shoulders relaxed some, or they sagged. I couldn’t tell which. I didn’t see him turn around or come to me, but he was there, kneeling at the edge of my bed.

“I’m not a man who needs apologies for everything to be all right.”

“Good. Apologizing is awful.”

“But necessary. I’ve nearly killed myself for you, Eliza Morgan, and you resent me for it. Feelings don’t die any faster than I do, and it’s agonizing trying to kill them.”

“What are you saying?”

“I’m dying, and you’re spending the time we have hating me for something I had no control over.”

I stopped breathing.

“What is it, Eliza? All the times you said to me no, it’s not your fault, this is my fate you didn’t mean it? You seemed so sincere.”

“Your sarcasm isn’t making this easier.”

“Nothing is easy! Nothing!”

I was terrified that he was calling my bluff. I was terrified that I’d pushed him too far.

But I was pissed that he was treating me this way, knowing what I’d seen, what I’d been through, and what I was leaving; my life.

“I lost my best friend,” I said.

“And so did I. I spent my immortal life with Roman. Until you. Do I hold it against you? No. Because it’s not your goddamn fault. And for the number of times you’ve said to me through gritted teeth that it’s not my fault, it’s yours, maybe I started to believe you. You and I both know we need this to be somebody’s fault.”

The wind was knocked out of me. It felt like I was losing him, and of course, I was. He was melting into nothing because Roman took Kat’s life and he hadn’t. All this death for nothing, and no explanation except that there was no choice.

“I think we both need to remember what it feels like to be alone,” he said, and in a sickening flash, he was gone.

The only scent that lingered was red wine and roses.

 

Creativity In The Face Of Depression

TODAY’S BREW: Autumn Roast. Don’t tell me it’s not Autumn, you think I don’t know that?

By Julie

A couple of days ago a friend sent out a public tweet asking what writers do to stay creative in the face of depression, full time jobs and being full time parents. A lot of people answered her, and fast, because it seems as though there has to be an element of downtrodden to every writer, and yet we don’t know quite how to battle it.

Except you do. Every day, and with great vigor.

I tweeted this: I KNOW A LOT OF WRITERS ARE DEPRESSED, ISOLATED, EXHAUSTED AND SOMETIMES JUST AFRAID. WE NEED EACH OTHER.

The fact that writers reach out to each other, and still pick up the pen when they can barely get off the couch for a cup of coffee is a monumental achievement of creativity, especially when they’ve already endured a seemingly endless work day, or unemployment, and trying to maintain a normal family life with the worries of day to day life on the side. Trying to stick to a writing schedule when you’re at the mercy of everyone else’s schedule first is depressing in itself. The sheer desire to write after all that is an amazing achievement.

When I worked a full time job, and let me tell you, it was extra super full time, and had children that I felt guilty not spending every waking second with, writing was the thing that I waited for in the deep heart of the night. It wasn’t hard for me to write then because I was already going on so many cylinders that adding another one wasn’t a problem. I did it. And I loved doing it. I didn’t recognize the depression I was in because I didn’t give myself time to. (This isn’t a “how to overcome” method, just what happened to me.)

*PREPARE FOR GROSS PERSONAL STORY*

In the meantime, I was sleeping for a few hours a night, crying on my way to work and throwing up when I got there from the exhaustion and missing my children. even grosser, I suffereddebilitating chronic ulcerative colitis that had me bleeding all day long. Medication wasn’t helping, and in fact at one point actually nearly killed me, hospitalizing me with a side effect of pancreatitis. (I realize I talk about drinking pretty often and that this is a primary cause of pancreatitis. The fact is that I drink not that much. Socially, maybe twice a month back then.) The point is, you don’t always see depression for what it is, and when you look back on it, you don’t really understand it anyway.

When I couldn’t take it anymore, when I was so sick that I couldn’t focus, and my boss and management staff had an intervention with me because they knew I couldn’t do it any longer, I left my job to my financial horror. It was a matter of survival at that point, and I really felt I couldn’t survive much longer away from my kids all day. That was when I decided to make a go of it doing a bit of an odd job on the side and really throwing myself into my writing, the thing I wanted to do since I was a child. The thing I went to school for. The thing that kept my mind alive when no other part of me really was.

Yes, this was a freeing feeling, but it sent me into a depression that was really hard to come out of. I still fall into it frequently. I still have consecutive days where I go through the motions, and the guilt wracks me that I just don’t want to go to the park with the kids, and I just don’t feel like getting off the couch, and I can’t seem to do much of anything but nap. The worst of it, I think, is the sudden feeling over and over in a day that you can’t not cry. Standing in Target with the kids running circles and the music and the normal people, I sometimes struggle not to cry. Doing the dishes, thinking of all the small things that seem like mountains, I cry. I cry spontaneously, and wonder how anyone sees me as a role model for anything at all. I’ll be having a great day, laughing, enjoying every minute, and I will cry. I can’t explain it, but can only think it’s because I missed having that feeling for so long when I wouldn’t let myself live these feelings, when I pushed and pushed and refused to think that I could possibly be depressed. Why, I was an optimist! Still am! I’m eternally thankful, and say so all the time! I love and am loved, and hug strangers for chrissakes!

But I’ve realized that suffering depression is a depth of emotion. That whole you can’t have light without darkness thing.  It doesn’t make depression easier, but it does help me understand that I can be a happy person in the midst of depression, without being a manic depressive.

And I take great pleasure these days in feeling all of my emotions. They fuel me. Depression and anxiety, (and on my best of days I have crippling anxiety) are some of the most primal emotions I think you can have. So I own them. I don’t push them away the way I once did. Sure, I don’t love or even like them, but I don’t ignore them. The best way for me to do this, is to write.

One of my most painful depressions was last year in December. It consumed me. After weeks of not writing anything, and not wanting to get out of bed, I finally said, “Fuck this, I’m just going to sit down and write something. Just type whatever comes to mind, just do it.” And I did. I blanked my mind out, which wasn’t hard to do because nothing I was thinking was of any value anyway, and I wrote this line:

Everything reeked of sex to me. 

Then I wrote another line, and another, and I had no idea where it was going, but I kept writing until I’d written a book. THE ANIMAL, which has yet to see the light of day, is one of the closest things to my heart.

So, if this is an advice blog on how to stay creative in the face of depression? I guess this is where I’m going with it.

  1. DON’T PLAN, JUST WRITE. You’re at your most feeling-est right now. If you plan, you’re going to shoot yourself in the foot and think your plan is a failure anyway. Depression is a time for spitting out words, a word association sort of thing, even if they don’t make sense together. You might stumble upon one image or phrase that sparks an idea that snaps you out of your depression because you’re so amped about it.
  2. ADMIT YOU’RE DEPRESSED. Say it out loud, to whoever you want to, but especially to those you love and if you’re me, to the people on Twitter. So, one in the same often. Denying it, like you’ve done something wrong, is cancerous. And you’ll be shocked when dozens of people say “oh my God, I thought I was alone.” Suddenly, you feel a lot better.
  3. BE PART OF A WRITING COMMUNITY. I hear they have these things on Facebook, but Twitter is the only place for me. To be able to drop a line any time I want and just say, “hey, anybody upset for no reason and want to write?” and get several responses? This is invaluable to me. (Try @FriNightWrites, or search these hashtags: #amwriting, #writeclub, #amediting). WE NEED EACH OTHER, WRITERS. You are not a lonely little tadpole in a big pond. You are one of many. Get out of your own head, it’s toxic in there right now.
  4. TAKE A WRITING BREAK. Yes, this is contradictory to what I said before, but this isn’t a play by play list! It’s ideas for fuck’s sake! You can’t get up the gumption to write? Fine. Don’t. Maybe you’re burnt out. Or maybe you’re just waiting for someone to say it’s okay not to be awesome right now. Or maybe you’re waiting for the chance to say, “What the hell do you mean, take a break? I have to write!” AND OH, LOOK. NOW YOU WANT TO WRITE. Or maybe you need a couple of days or weeks off to remind yourself that not writing sucks for you. BECAUSE YOU’RE A WRITER.
  5. OWN THIS FEELING AND APPLY IT WHERE NEEDED. This is what I mean. I was having a baaaad couple of days, and I felt abandoned. Totally abandoned. I pulled out the sequel to RUNNING HOME and wrote “This is the feeling of abandonment Eliza has.” She was with Nicholas, but felt alone. She felt reckless, isolated, alone. So if I felt that way, then score! It counts as research.
  6. STOP LOOKING WHERE THERE IS NOTHING. Stop looking for this fucking muse. I hate the muse. Your inspiration has left the building. Go to another building. You usually gain inspiration from a long walk but right now all you want to do is drive pointlessly? Drive somewhere you’ve never been. Look for inspiration in new places, because you cannot be endlessly inspired by the same goddamn thing over and over.
  7. TOO DEPRESSED TO DO ANY OF THESE THINGS? Then right where you’re sitting, I want you to pick up a pen and one of the candy bar wrappers you’re sitting in and describe the scene around you. “The orange blanket was so gnatty it looked like a beaten muppet. The dog curled up in it and made it smell worse. The notebook lied open, asking for attention it wasn’t going to get. The crumpled up tissues were everywhere and it humiliated me.” It doesn’t have to be gold, but it gets the ball rolling. I promise you, if all else fails you, this works EVERY SINGLE TIME. Writing is excercise for your brain, no matter what kind of writing it is.
  8. STOP ME IF YOU’VE HEARD THIS ONE. GET OFF YOUR ASS AND GET SOME EXCERCISE. Walking the mall may sound like climbing Mount Everest right now, so instead, do 2 jumping jacks. Do a couple of lunges as you walk to the kitchen. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth as you do this stuff. Trust me. Make a triangle with your hands, place them around your belly button and breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth, as you stand up on your tiptoes. This calms you and moves your body at once. Little things like this help, I swear to Christ.
  9. READ. You know reading is inspirational. So do it. Read the book that gives you comfort when you need it. Then remember how it made you feel and write one of your own.
  10. REMEMBER THAT WHEN WE’RE EXHAUSTED, WE ARE MOST OURSELVES. Don’t let “I’m too tired” be your excuse. This is the time when you’ll say anything, kick and claw at anyone who looks at you sideways. So write, even if it’s only a line or two that don’t make sense. Embrace the exhaustion.

I do hope this helped someone, anyone. Know this, too. And Kristen, sorry if I doth say too much. But Kristen and I talk probably 5 times a week about how depressed/tired/unmotivated/crappy we feel. Every time we get together we spend like an hour doing this. Then we get productive. Laugh about it. If you need us to do this with, reach out. You know where we are. Tweet to us, drop us a line on Facebook, or leave a comment on the blog which we check way too often. We’re here for you.

Now go write a book.

Love Your Snowpocalypse

TODAY’S BREW: Anything hot.

By Julie

I loved Kristen’s post yesterday, and so today I shall expand upon it. BEHOLD AS I EXPAND UPON IT.

Kristen and I grew up together in a lovely apartment complex that boasted of a kickass pool, tennis courts we used for roller skating in, endless woods to get in trouble in, and hundreds of homes to trick or treat at. Summers there were pretty fantastic. We spent all day at that pool, tormenting the adults and life guard, rain or shine, ordering subs there, blaring the radio and playing cards, and treating it like it was our home. I’m sure everyone just loved that. A band of nightmare girls taking over their pleasant sunbathing experience.

This love of our childhood summers spurred Kristen to write SEASONS IN THE SUN.

Well, I am a lover of winter. The flip side of our summers in the apartment complex were the amazing winters. Going out on your cookie cutter balcony after a fresh snow to yell to your friends on their matching balconies. Bundling up, meeting a bunch of hooligans outside, and starting your snow adventures. It felt like we always had a mountain of snow then, to kick around, have snowball fights in, build snowmen, and just plod through to each other’s apartments. Because there were so many of us kids, we had amazing Christmases. First of all you got to see dozens of Christmas trees, so you felt like you were always visiting family for Christmas, even just hanging out at your friends’ after school. And on Christmas day after opening presents we’d all run from one apartment to another, playing with each other’s new goodies and just being together. It was such an incredible feeling, to have a community like that. We all were like family, and our families took care of each other.

Also, we had this hill. It was really 3 hills in one, and it was HIGH. We’d pile a few of us in each sled to make sure we got to the end of it, where there was a boulder that launched us into the air. Catching wind was great until you slammed either into the apartment building in front of you, or into the bushes in front of the bottom floor window. And if it sucked for us, you’d better believe it proably sucked for the residents of said apartment. Note: Kristen once sprained her arm on this hill and kicked in a headlight out of anger.

Behind the apartment complex was basically a cliff. It was probably some 50 feet high, and covered in trees. But we managed to forge a path down it, a thin one that really was treacherous, but served our purpose. Our purpose was this: to take advantage of the ice slick that it became in the shade of the trees every time it got cold, and propel ourselves down it on our asses until we hit the ground next to the street below, or a tree.

I actually preferred this to sledding. I destroyed a crap ton of pants doing this, much to my literally poor parents’ chagrin, but I managed to hide several of these pairs in our cookie cutter closets.

The danger of this mission would be horrifying to a parent today. I will take a picture next time I go that way to show you the insanity of this. I don’t know how we even thought of it, but ye gods did I enjoy it. We always took care of each other, even though we might beat the crap out of one another later, and made sure we got out safely to bombard one of our clan’s homes for cup after cup of hot chocolate.

Memories like this are what turned me into a lover of snow and cozying up with people you love in the graying day to watch MTV, sitcoms and movies and read or write some stories. (ahem. How the Undead Duo began.) Winter to me was always the time I felt the most loved. The time when I felt the most togetherness, and comfort. I’m sure it had something to do with why RUNNING HOME takes place in the winter woods of New England, at Christmas.

I wanted this book to feel like the home I always had, full of extended family that you put together yourself. Holding the book in my hand now, it feels like something that grew up with me, that was always inside. The memories it evokes of baking, hot chocolate, colored lights at dusk, that waiting for Christmas morning that fueled every word out of your mouths for a month, it all poured into this book.

SO Very Pretty !

THAT time of day. When sledding is all over, and you’re headed home.

So while Kristen says let’s celebrate summer this winter, I say let’s celebrate winter this winter. Remember all the things you loved as a kid about that first snow, and feel free to hide inside your layers and gloves and hats. When you’re shoveling, think of that feeling when you sit under a blanket that night with a hot cup of cocoa with a loved one, and a good book. Go to a warm bed and dream of what little bit of danger you can get into the next cold day. I’ll be you can wait for summer to come after that.

HAPPY NEW YEAR

TODAY’S BREW: Do they make champagne flavored coffee? I’ll have that.

By Julie

First off, the HAPPIEST OF ALL HAPPY NEW YEARS TO ALL OF YOU!!!

Not one for New Year’s Resolutions as such, I want to tell you all A NEW YEAR DOES NOT MEAN YOU HAVE TO BE A NEW PERSON.

Do what you want to do, not what you think you have to do.

Be as much YOU as you possibly can. You’ll never regret it.

You don’t need fixing, you need understanding and trying.

Be kind to yourself. Give yourself a break, and the rest of the world will respect you for it.

Don’t make excuses.

Try the things you want, and push yourself to be more, not different.

If it doesn’t work out, that’s cool, too.

Remember what’s important. Don’t lose sight of the path ahead by staring at the pebbles underfoot.

Love and be loved.

Ask for help when you need it.

Give help regularly and without being asked.

Be alive and live.

Happy New Year, everyone! Be wonderful.

Getting My Life Back and Other Things That Might Save The World

TODAY’S BREW: 47 gallons of Chocolate Cappuccino laced with NyQuil.

By Julie

BOOOOOO, CHRISTMAS IS OVER.

I love Christmas, and am never happy to see it go. Ask my husband who will beg me to take the tree down, only to receive visions of me clinging to it, wailing. But I have to admit, today seems a little back-to-normalish in a really good way already.

THIS HAPPENED.

Sam, my three year old, who we also call “Frats” due to his Belushi hours and the inevitability of him wearing a beer hat long before he ever should, FELL ASLEEP BEFORE 9 LAST NIGHT.

This is a godforsaken miracle. I have been up with Frats until well after midnight, sometimes until 3 in the morning EVERY NIGHT for over a month. It happened around the time we introduced the Big Boy Bed. This made bedtime, normally a lovely routine for six year old Bennett and I, become a RAGING HELLFIRE DESTRUCTO DEMON PARTY THAT THREATENS TO CONSUME THE NORMALCY WE ALL KNOW AND LOVE.

So, if Mama is staying up until the wee hours of the fucking morning, that means I’m not waking up until way too late. Which means my day is starting without me, complete with kid breakfasts, dishes, laundry, Things To Do, kids to enrich, not to mention holiday here and theres to handle. So, yeah. NO WRITING A SEQUEL FOR YOU, JULIE.

I’m so close to the end of the sequel to RUNNING HOME, it burns little cigarette holes in my psyche. I long for my 5Am Writer’s Club and starting the day before anyone else knows it showed up. Last night, I hit the wall and lost my shit over the impending idea of spending another night up with Sammy and losing another complete day of writing.

Then, he fell asleep.

So, as fast as I could, I got my ass in bed, set my alarm to the tinkling sound of little chimes for 5 this morning, and I buckled down, showered and caffeinated, to work on RUNNING AWAY. Though I may be ever so slightly behind the schedule of my own making, I am back and invigorated to get this first draft done, and see the return of normalcy in my not so normal life. I’m dying to get this book into the hands of readers, and I want the first draft finished and tucked away by the time I leave for ConFusion in Michigan on January 17th. So, that is fucking happening, and two weeks too late, I may add.

You may recall that I have a ball busting writing regimen, and wonder how I’m handling that it did not go according to plan FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY WRITING HISTORY. Well, I’m actually perfectly cool with it. Sequels are hard, yo. I’m okay with the plan falling to the wayside so that this book gets the attention it deserves. I want to do it right the first time. I don’t want to rip up half a crappy manuscript. So to have my routine screwed with is pretty okay. I’m a writer, rules aren’t really my deal, even if they’re my own.

Rules are, however, Sam’s deal. And that little walking Frat party will have his ass in bed before the sun goes down if that’s what it takes for me to finish this book by January 17th.

Julie Freaks Out About Freaking Out

TODAY’S BREW: I’ve filled a Santa hat with black coffee and I’m going to put it on and let it wash over me, Carrie-blood-style

By Julie

I’ve heard plenty of writers freaking the fuck out that because of the holidays, manic and near tears and dying inside, losing their shit like that girl in The Yellow Wallpaper.

They’re either have already lost traction on their manuscripts or are deathly afraid of doing so. I get it, you guys. I worry, too.

BUT CALM THE HELL DOWN.

I’m a sonofabitch with a self-imposed deadline. I ALWAYS meet them. Every time. And they’re pretty challenging. I never take a total break from either editing or writing fresh material, and always have a plan in the works. I know already what I’m working on for the first half of 2014.

This being said, I know I probably won’t do my duties with the RUNNING HOME sequel daily, and will probably barely touch it for a few days, and it will seem cool right now, but then I’ll come back to it on December 26th like this.

And I’ll scream like a burned-alive banshee, “FIRST I WROTE TOO MANY WORDS AND THEN NO WORDS AND THE WORDS I DID WRITE WERE STUPID AND WHAT IS THIS WHO IS THIS CHARACTER WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT PLOTLINE WHERE THE FUCK AM I OH MY GOD” *hack hack hack* until there’s nothing left but a pile of words that go together like my relatives at a cocktail party and like that party it will feel good for a few drunken moments until around 10 pm when this happens.

Then around New Year’s, I’m figuring, I’ll beat myself up about the stupid sequel I’ve finished on time, despite all the hoopla, and say it isn’t worth jack shit. I will cry at Kristen’s house over a beer or forty, kick her out of her bedroom so I can pass out there, wake up and puke around 4am, then go home and realize the sequel is actually really good. Plans continue as usual, but I will have forgotten that I did this same thing last year and everything worked out fine.

It is this way because as a writer, I don’t like fucking around with RULES all that much. I make my own, break them, get pissed at the results, cry over it, then remember that they were my rules to fuck up to begin with. I remember that there is no WRONG in art. That I can only create to destroy and do it all over again. I remember that a creative mind needs space and room to breathe, and that the two sides of the brain don’t play by each other’s rules.

Then I remember that the holidays are meant for enjoying, refueling, being a kid again, letting your self-imposed regulations go, embracing the world and letting it fill you with fresh new invigorating feelings and ideas. The time of renewal for me is not spring, never has been. Winter and fall, the death of things, the end of the year, this is my time to fall to ashes and rise again.

And those of you out there who suffer from seasonal depression, I feel you. I don’t have seasonal depression in the winter, mine comes in the summer. I loathe hot, bright and loud things, get really panicky with that much sensory overload, and basically spring and summer is my desert of the real. I have to deal with it for months. I understand that winter is the typical time for depression, and know what it feels like. I’m here to tell you that there is another side to the depression. It ends. And when it does, you’ll burst from it like a phoenix, ready to eat those emotions and spit blood all over the page with them. You’ll feel like this dude.

And a lot like this.

This time of year can be hard for many, but for a writer there can be a blackness of the soul that hides in winter, and when it comes out in the written word, it will be a glorious thing.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS, WRITERS!

How Not To Write Meaningless Stuff

TODAY’S BREW: Spiked Eggnog. Basically, I’ve been drinking it for a month

By Julie

I’m lucky enough to be reading THE SHADOW OF LIGHT by Summer Wier, a YA novel that I cannot wait to be published. We’re working on doing something you don’t hear much about—ADDING text, as she’s a sparse writer, something that I can identify with after writing THE HARPY and THE ANIMAL, and something I have to loosen up on in writing the sequel to RUNNING HOME, as that series is written with a bit more flourish.

Summer does a great job of still giving little details that tell you so much about  the characters without hitting you in the face with backstory and a lot of “she was this” and “she likes that.” Here’s the example that made me need to write this post:

“We brought your favorites—black olive and jalapeno pizza and strawberry cake.”  Faye was the only other person I knew who liked jalapenos on pizza.

I winked.  “You know me so well.”

This could have so easily been:

“We brought pizza and cake.” Faye loved pizza, and I didn’t care what I ate as long as it was edible.

“God, I’m starving.”

This is a tidbit that is absolutely meaningless in the long run. They got pizza and cake, whatever. But in Summer’s version, we see that our main character likes strong flavors, implying that she has strong opinions and probably isn’t a quiet onlooker about much of anything. I love the cheeky little wink. You also see that Faye is very close to her, that they know each other well without her having to say so.

In the two liner I wrote, it says nothing specific. It implies nothing, except that maybe this character is passive.

Take the interactions and transitions and seemingly unimportant lines in your work and make them actually say something. Remember the books you’ve read where you breeze over the more humdrum action, the cooking of things, the driving to places, the going to class or work or whatever. How could the author have made that part that probably bored them to write into a bit that has significance to the character?

An English literature major with a creative writing minor, I take this shit a little too seriously. It also means that I look to add depth where there could easily be none.

I do shit like this to keep me thinking. There’s a brown bowl on the table in front of me right now. I could say “I looked at the brown monkey bowl and lacked the initiative to put it in the sink again.” Or I could say, “the only reason I’d bother to put the bowl in the already sky-high sink was because the monkey on it looked at me like I was doing something wrong. Like my entire life revolved around what it thought, and like I should be doing something to wash the brown out of my life in general.”

Sure, not fucking Shakespeare, but I haven’t even had a second cup of coffee. You see what I mean, though? Of course you do, Smarty Pantalones.

Your work as an author is to write something that nobody else would have written. Not just could have written, but would have written. It’s your job to come up with stuff that makes us see inside the character’s minds and their hearts. There’s a level of thinking that you naturally let us in on, but what does the character feel without saying “it felt like I sucked at life.” You get it.

Thank you, Summer, for giving me inspiration again to write with more depth and complexity, and for learning about characters in the most obscure ways.

Here’s an idea. Try this with like, regular people. When you’re cashiering at Stop and Shop, what does the crappy Boba Fett Velcro wallet say about the guy in the suit who’s carrying it? That lady who never smiles no matter how many times you smile at her, what would make her smile? Who took it away from her?

Long story short, be active in your work and interactions. It’s more fun that way.


You can find Summer at http://t.co/MgTqtKYFe6 and follow her on Twitter @SummerWier.

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