deadlyeverafter

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

Archive for the tag “Julie Hutchings”

How To Be A Mad Scientist

TODAY’S BREW: Cinnamon Pecan Pleasantries. (I added the “Pleasantries.” It sounds better.)

By Julie

I’ve been in the house A LOT. Between editing THE ANIMAL immediately after finishing RUNNING AWAY, and editing for clients the whole time, along with a new schedule around here, I’ve been grounded. Kristen has felt the same way, and with the weather warming up, it makes us both restless on top of it.

With every edit I do, I’ve been getting the itch to write something new, desperate for that clacking of the keys for an extended time, instead of just the occasional line here or there. Being trapped in the house doesn’t exactly lend itself to creativity always, but it doesn’t have to detract from it either. The job of the writer is to make the ordinary into something deliciously new. Make the flatline start beeping again. Kick over the anthill to see what’s inside. (It’s ants.)

The creative person needs to change their world, not wait for their world to change for them. Such is my epic hatred for the “finding of the muse” that so many talk about. You control your creativity, no fucking mythical bitch is going to bring it to you. The creative type is a warrior, fighting for their voice to be heard, not the princess waiting to be saved. You want inspiration? Look for that shit. You don’t have to drive across country to get it, do some life-threatening thing like hangliding or whatever, you can get it by looking at the stuff you look at every day differently.

I’m somewhat of a militant when it comes to writing. My creativity works for me, not in spite of me. I want that spark of inspiration, and so I look for it, actively and with venom in my veins. I scout through Pinterest as a job. Not a hobby, a job. I searched “empty containers” the other day for probably an hour and a half, and from it gleaned an entire storyline that I WANTED. My idea was vague and I researched every aspect of what would go into it in order to make it come to life. That means the dull stuff, too. Because dull stuff made magical is what writing is all about. Be inspired by stupid crap as a choice, not a stroke of luck. Make your art sing for you. Be the composer, not the conductor.

Here’s a little trick that I practice when exercising my brain to write. Because, indeed, you have to work the muscle that is your mind. I like to find an ordinary picture of a thing and another picture of something that really speaks to me, and try to weave them together. Now, you get a little sneak peek. A picture like this:

The Witch of Empty Things. She's a serious motherfucker. Stares at these empty frames for hours, picturing them full. You don't want to know of what.and what it would mean to this person:

Stunning portrait.Now, how could I fit in something like this?

The Witch of Empty Things needs a container to carry. Could our MC give her a new one to keep her good thoughts in, ones like this? "I know you're afraid to look at the sky, so I wanted to bring some of it down to you." 5 Tiny STAR shaped clear glass vials with cork and free eyehooks on Etsy, $5.50What do they have in common? How would she see them working together? How do they challenge her, and what does she do to rise to the challenge? Who’s the person that throws a wrench in her thoughts of them?

Creating is a process, and like any process it needs to be altered, added to, and be reshaped for new purposes all the time. Making a story is like being a mad scientist…putting things together that nobody else thinks of, making explosions and rebuilding, thinking of things that are so far-fetched they make people stare at you with gaping mouths, and then making them see it with as much gusto as you do.

Now, I have a crazy ass book to write, if you’ll excuse me.

 

 

Becoming One With The Animal

TODAY’S BREW: Deviled Eggs. Around the clock.

By Julie

Naturally, on the day of the Resurrection, I worked on the dirtiest book ever written about possession, THE ANIMAL. And guess what?

I FINISHED EDITING THAT BOOK AND NOW IT IS READY FOR YE OLDE AGENTE TO ENJOY.

A) Ye Olde Agente is not actually old. For the record.

B) We pray to defiled Egyptian sex gods that he actually does enjoy it.

C) I miss Trent already.

D) Now I get to write NEW THINGS.

So, today is extremely exciting for MEEEEEEEEEEEE. After a lovely Easter, I get to spend the day today with my family at the zoo, because CELEBRATION TIME and there is no better way to treat me than to bring me to the zoo then let me get a new book.

(Speaking of which, I just finished UNEARTHLY by Cynthia Hand, and you need to read this book. Looks like it would be cliche, I know but it is so good. Go do it.)

When I finished the first draft of THE ANIMAL, what feels like ten years ago, it was hard for me. (See also Breaking Up With Trent: Finishing The Animal http://wp.me/p2x7oj-kK via ). I couldn’t even listen to the song I fell in love with while writing that book because it reminded me too much of Trent.

THIS TIME I FEEL NOTHING BUT JOY.

The book is ready for the world, and I’m ready to start something new. The NEW THING is itching at my brain, and I’m dying to dive into it.

But for now,  CELEBRATION. Here! Listen to the song that makes me think of Trent and now I can listen to it without crying.

 

Also, this is Trent. Right down to the white tee shirt because he won’t wear any other color. Not clean enough.

Keanu Reeves

keanu... There's The Animal himself

Trent on the inside.

 

Anna Christina Speckhart is Ivy, no ifs ands or buts about it.

Little sister, Ivy. Fearsome thing that she is.

 

 

This is a Candy face right here.

And Candy, who I possibly love as much as Trent.

 

Julie Gets To Be A First Grader: What Your Kids Are Capable Of Learning

TODAY’S BREW: Cinnamon Pecan. Sounds fancy, right? IT IS.

By Julie

I don’t even know where to start with how awesome this is.

Yesterday I spent a half hour talking to my son Bennett’s class about being an author, editing and revising. As if that isn’t cool enough, it wasn’t just like “bring your mom to school day.” This is actually in my first grader’s curriculum right now.

There is so much awesome about this, I can’t handle it. First off, what I love is that my son’s school is in the lowest income neighborhood in Plymouth, arguably and yet they have the most forward thinking curriculum I’ve ever heard of. It’s the most multicultural school in our large town as well. It’s also such a small neighborhood school that there aren’t even any busses that go to it; walking school only. So, all of our families, from different backgrounds, some of which don’t even speak the same language, feel like family. The teachers walk the kids into school in the morning, and dismiss them one at a time in the afternoon. Every teacher, no matter what the grade knows the names of our kids. It’s this intimacy that has helped make this advanced curriculum so successful so far, I think.

Bennett’s first grade teacher, Mrs. Albert, shares my amazement at the complexity of this curriculum. The kids are learning to not only write creatively, but are being taught to edit. The fact that “editing and revising” are words they know just flabberghasts me. They understand the importance of going back over your work to look for places to add more detail and to remove extra words and phrases that don’t contribute to the text. While it excites me to have Ben be even more a part of my writing process in this way, I can see the big picture enough to know that this is a lesson that means more in his life than just about writing. I have to think that this careful attention to detail about the written word is going to help these kids really think about what they say in life in general. To think harder about the quality of person they put out there.

After editing and revising their work for these points, the kids then exchange their work for proofreading. They’re learning that an outside opinion of their creative work and another point of view on something that’s personal to them is valuable. It’s much different than when I was their age and would write to be judged by the teacher on whether or not it was good enough. This gains them the approval of their peers, encourages openness about feelings and opinions, causes them to accept one another’s interests and open their minds to new ideas. When I was a kid I was overprotective of my writing, hid it from view, never shared it and thought for sure I would be openly ridiculed for what I  liked. If I’d had this kind of support from school, I don’t think that would have happened.

All in all, the point of teaching the kids about editing, revising, and getting feedback is so that by the time they go into second, third and fourth grade, they hand in quality work. That they own their creative process enough to not need the correction of simple things. This will translate into every aspect of their lives when it’s supported at home, I feel.

Also, THOSE KIDS THINK I’M AWESOME AND I LOVE THAT.

To be able to field questions about how I come up with my ideas and listen to how they come up with their own fiction was one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done. One little girl told me about how she sometimes pictures dragons with her when she gets ready for school, and she’s writing about it in her diary. I got to tell that kid she just made up an urban fantasy story just like I do. (She then turned to Bennett and said, “We definitely need a playdate. Your mom’s cool.”) Telling them how I edit and revise, how Ben sees me do it at home, and how I’m doing the same thing that they do was so much fun. They’re doing the same thing as me and I write books. Which means they can write books.

I got to tell them about how Kristen and I would pass a notebook back and forth when were not so much older than them, and how we’d write a line of a story one after another, making a whole story together. Now we still do it, and we both write books, and we love to get each other’s feedback. I had no idea it would become such a monumental part of my life now, make me so much me. They asked me if I know a lot of authors, and I had the extreme pleasure of saying, “yes, I do.” They thought that was amazing. I think it’s pretty amazing, too.  

Something that wasn’t even anywhere on my radar at their age was the publishing process. These kids GET IT. Weird as hell. One kid asked me if a company published my first book or if I did it. I got to tell him that  a company published mine, but that anybody that practices what they’re doing right now can self-publish a book, do the whole thing from the ground up. Anyone can be an author. What an amazing thing to be able to tell a bunch of bright eyed kids filled with creativity and love of getting feedback from their peers. I love that not a one of those kids was too shy to talk about what they write about, the things that they find exciting to read. That fear of acceptance was nowhere in the room. I love it more than I can say.

And when one little girl told me how when she’s in karate class, she imagines she’s in a book about karate class, I got to tell her that there was karate in my book, too. EVERY KID GASPED LIKE IT WAS THE COOLEST THING THEY EVER HEARD. So, mostly I feel like a rock star right about now.

It’s important to me to point out that the entire country is irritated by the cutting of programs in schools. I get it. But what we don’t look for often enough is the ability to integrate what we find missing in our school curriculum into the current curriculum. (Yeah, you do have a say in it, folks. It isn’t just about being on the PTA.) Not to mention, never in my life did I imagine that my seven year old would be learning about editing and revising. It’s not something I ever thought was missing from his education, but now that it’s there I see how incredible it will be for his class. Look outside the box, parents, and think of what might be beneficial to your kids that can be implemented in your school. Suggest it. Offer to go in and help out with it. Anyone can do this. When you show your kids that anyone can introduce something new and help, it makes them believe they can do it, too, and it shows them that you care enough to support them in it. It’s a little bit of “quit your bitching and make lemonade” philosophy. Being progressive is about losing some of the old and creating some of the new.

Yeah, I learned that from editing and revising.

Editing For The Big Thing

TODAY’S BREW: Coconut Red Velvet. I made it myself.

By Julie

I’m an editing machine. You may know this. Generally, I’m always editing two books; one of my own and one for a client.

My specialty is developmental editing, and by that I mean ensuring the book has real substance. That the characters are multidimensional, the plot is multidimensional, that there’s themes and language that is singularly the author’s. Whether it’s my book or someone else’s, it’s a needle in a haystack search often to see what exactly is the Big Thing that needs All the Attention, and identifying this is what I find makes for a successful edit or not. Figuring out this thing may help you, too, in all your editing adventures. Because like anything in writing, have a loose plan is critical.

Here’s how I break down what the editing needs to consist of:

IS THERE A CRAP TON OF WORDS TO CUT, OR ARE WE LOOKING TO ADD WORD COUNT?

Some writers typically underwrite, get their barest thoughts on paper without much embellishment, and that requires beefing up of the text. This does not mean adding a bunch of fluff words, describing things that don’t goddamn matter, or giving us a bunch of conversations that just don’t need to exist. When adding to text, look to add dimension, not filler. Look for the Big Thing you want to expand on and devote the additional text to it.

Other writers have a crap ton of words and need to lose 20,000 of them. That usually means there is already the description of things that don’t goddamn matter, a bunch of conversations that don’t need to exist, and a bunch of fluff words. What I seek to do now is lose unsophisticated wording to cut words while digging for what  the Big Thing is we need to surface and expand on. It’s not about cutting words to make it shorter, it’s about using the right words and spending them wisely on things that matter.

 

DETERMINE WHAT THE HELL THE BIG THING IS.

There’s never just one thing that needs to be focused on while editing, but there is a Big Thing which you then surround with Little Things that make it that much Bigger of a Thing. When you don’t know what the hell it is your book needs, think of this stuff:

  • What is the thing I’ve done that is balls-out awesome and needs to be exploited? You may have a character that is so intensely original in its philosophy that the whole book rightfully revolves around him or her. But right now you have too many fucking words to really allow that. It may be that your humor is a real page turner, and you need to make it really mean something to the characters, the story. You might be awesome at action scenes, and need to make the characters as exciting as your action scenes. Figure out the thing that you LOVE about your book and make it bigger.
  • What is the book missing? It just doesn’t have that book-hangover-potential, even though you poured your heart into it. It doesn’t quite make the reader feel like they just don’t have the emotional energy to get out of the book’s world, and you want that. You want your reader to not be able to pick up another book for a day or two minimally. You may be missing one of these things:  A) Characters that feels intensely real.  B) themes that make your reader think and feel like there’s more happening than just what’s happening.  C) Intensity. Scenes that reek of tension.  Now, refer back to the thing you do well. How can you use THAT to make the thing you didn’t do well rock the fucking socks off the reader? Leverage your strength to improve your weakness.

START FROM THE BEGINNING.

Hopefully you’ve determined the things you want to change, expand on, and cut. Which one is the Big Thing? (Hint: It’s pretty much always revolving around your main character.) The Big Thing is your non-negotiable, this has to come across clearly and hit-you-in-the-fucking-facely item of business. For instantce, in THE ANIMALthe Big Thing I need to edit for is making certain that the reader knows Trent’s singular predicament is very definitely ripping his already messy life to tinier shreds. All of the edits I do henceforth have to work toward that big goal. And I mean EVERY EDIT. Every line has to evoke the feeling of it. My Smaller Things are that I want the theme of ancient Egypt to be strong, and I want Trent to be complex and contradictory. So, my Egyptian imagery should be calm and serene when Trent is at his most frantic. All birds, one stone. The theme is there, and it’s stark contrast should show that Trent is an emotional mess. It will turn out to be a series of very small changes that will make a huge impact on the overall feeling of the book.

I personally find that when I use this excuse for an editing formula, I don’t ever have to make enormous, drasitc changes to books, whether they be my own or a client’s. A series of well-planned tweaks will make your manuscript feel less like a pieced together bit of pretty roadkill and more like a work of systematic art.

What do you guys do while editing? What works for you? Give me your answers, people!

Painfully And Unapologetically Yourself: How To Do It Without Being A Jerk

TODAY’S BREW: Tastes like coffee. I think it’s coffee. It’s hot and I need it. That’s what she said.

By Julie

I wear a shit ton of hats. They don’t all always work together. Sometime preschool teacher’s aid at my son’s preschool, former Panty Peddler In Chief and corporate propaganda monkey, PTA member and writer of vampire books, lover of offensive horror and smut and punk rock and fishnets and leather and I also read to first graders. I’m watching Bubble Guppies while writing scenes about threesomes with strangers. I looked like a pretty, pretty princess in my wedding dress and my bridesmaids were covered in tattoos, my guests consisting of former bosses and pro BMX riders and elderly aunts and a dude wh0 makes his own leather body armor that he never removes. I drink like a fish sometimes, but I’m the most responsible person you know.

Talking with The Undead Intern Sara and Kristen about how much of yourself do you let leak into public, I’m a little extreme. Twitter, for example. I talk regularly with everyone from my friend’s little sister who’s obsessed with Nikki Minaj or whoever the hell she is to one of the most successful literary agents in the UK to gamer geeks to kids to old dudes and renowned authors to dominants and submissives and everything in between. I like who I like. Everyone has something to offer, and I connect with a lot of different people. Because I have a lot of different conflicting qualities in myself.

One thing that never ceases to make me say “hmmmmm” is that THE ANIMAL is pretty dirty. THE HARPY is edgy, racy, offensive at times. I’m sure I’ll write something else that makes the world shudder. That’s sort of my thing. I don’t plan to ever use a pen name because my brand is that I keep you guessing, that I give you what you wouldn’t expect, that I make you think and be uncomfortable, and find comfort in places you wouldn’t dream of.

What do you think my kids will think of that when their friends are old enough to know what I think about and write about for a living? I never want to HURT anyone, least of all my children. I never want to cause them embarassment or make them uncomfortable. I still haven’t worked out what exactly that will mean when my kids are in middle school. But I try to keep in mind that I shouldn’t underestimate the ability of people to handle what you give them. If I raise my kids to know anything, I want them to know that they should like what they like and make no apologies for it. They should pursue what makes them happy, no matter who disapproves. That appropriate is a state of mind, and handled intelligently and conscientiously, is both honest and accepting. That being who you want to be doesn’t always mean you’ll have to defend yourself.

I’ve gained more acceptance from people I would never expect by being unapologetically honest in what I say and do. I don’t hold back, but I don’t offend. I think before I act, but I don’t restrict myself. I make sure that what I say and do matters, and that I don’t just release the inner idiocy for the sake of FUCK YOU, I DO WHAT I WANT. There’s a difference between being offensive, inappropriate, and a leader. A leader has reasons. A leader has a greater vision and a duty to themselves. and wants you to come along for the ride. A leader accepts the faults in themselves, the chinks in the chain, and revels in yours, sees your oddities as assets, as beautiful. Your weirdness intoxicates the right people, inspires them. Be the person that sees the inner freak and says, “I like it. Keep it coming.” You, yourself are a work of art before you create one. Own your eccentricities and remember that the person you’re looking at, talking to? The middle grade kid, the IRS agent, the dog walker, the cashier, the CEO, your own kid…..they all have a thing that makes them wince to reveal. Be the person they want to reveal it to. Be that leader by doing it first and smiling when they show you theirs.

I’ve learned that putting every aspect of myself in the open for all to see shows me a lot about others. I don’t ever want to be the saleslady that says “I’m not showing you this, it’s out of your price range” to the grungy kid in jeans. That grungy kid in jeans might have a pocketful of cash from their super rich mom. You don’t know anything about the person you’re looking at until you open yourself up to it. By underestimating the people you interact with, you limit yourself. Don’t be an asshole. Know that the world is full of complexitites, and every single person in it has warring identities inside them, looking to come to a peace agreement. Get to know every one of them. There was a time when if some well-to-do sophisticate asked me what my book was about, I’d find any way I could not to say “vampires.” How the hell do I know that the suit doesn’t have a secret love of classic horror? I DO NOT. So, I don’t cringe anymore based on what I think will be the reaction. Because if I do that, the other guy will do the same thing about the thing he’s self-conscious about, and it’s one more nail in the coffin of being honest and confident in who you are.

I may have answered some of my own concerns in writing this. When I inevitably go to the parent-teacher meeting where my stuffy neighbor says “What filth have you written this time, Juie?” I’ll probably say, “the kind of filth you and a lot of people want to read.” It doesn’t mean that I even have interest in doing the things I write about. I don’t want to have a threesome with strangers in a restaurant bathroom. But I do want to write about the darkest corners of my characters’ minds, push them and make them utterly real in that they do things they’re ashamed of, do things that they regret.  I’ll apologize for hurting someone, but I will not apologize for who I am and what my interests are, and where my imagination takes me. I hope that translates well when some kid shows up with a copy of THE ANIMAL in Bennett’s high school classroom.

How To Get Your Crap Done And Not Hate The World

TODAY’S BREW: Red Velvet Coconut, AKA The Bottoms Of Two Coffees

By Julie

I’ve been asked a thousand times how I multi-task to get the number of things done that I do. If you’re not a multi-tasker by nature, and more someone who has to focus on one thing until it’s done, then move on to the next, having a fistful of crap to do seems really daunting. I’m a little of both of these, so I need to compromise in my life a lot to get what I want out of it.

What I want to give you today is not a life plan of how to multi-task forever, but things you can do now to help you. Because coming up with a new life plan to get your shit done is a task in itself. Here’s some stuff I do that helps me:

  • KNOW WHAT PART OF YOUR DAY IS THE BLACK HOLE. I’m going to get reeeallly tired around 3:30 and need a break. Don’t try to work through it, you’re just going to make yourself more tired and pissed off. Take the break. Take a 15 minute nap so you can work faster when you’re conscious again. Drink the coffee. People may say take a walk, but if I do that, I probably will never start my stuff again. I suggest doing 10 arm circles forward and 10 backward which is proven to increase creative thinking. Do that shit. But know you can’t do All The Shit if you try to muscle over the part of your day that never works out. Also known as: The Time Of Day Sam Freaks Out. Give in to it. You ain’t accomplishing nuthin’.
  • DON’T DEMAND PERFECT CONDITIONS. We all have our perfect working conditions in mind. I’ll never get those. But I can arrange for my non-negotiables and let the rest slide. I need to have a cleared up workspace. Would I like to work in a house that is clean top to bottom? Yes. Can I? Never, not even once. If I try to make it that way before I get moving, I’ll never get work done. Clean your area, and get your shit done. That’s your oasis, your corner of the world, don’t let anyone defile it.
  • FIGURE OUT IF YOU’RE A “GET THE SHIT DONE AND RELAX” PERSON OR A “DO THE SHIT AT YOUR OWN PACE AND RELAX IN BETWEEN” PERSON. Again, you may have a little of both like me. Editing jobs are a “get the shit down at your own pace” kind of work. So to make up for the time I might lose doing that, I pick a couple of other things I’ll do until they get done, fast and furious, so they don’t all loom ahead of me. This could be a blog post, the laundry, the gym, whatever. I’ll say “I’m going to get all this shit done in an hour,” and then I race myself basically. Voila, shit done. Now you can slow down a little. A little.
  • INSTEAD OF COMPLAINING THAT YOU HAVE TO GET YOUR SHIT DONE SO YOU CAN’T PLAY CONNECT FOUR RIGHT NOW, JUST PLAY CONNECT FOUR. I feel better after doing the kid thing instead of pawning it off to muscle through my work. Sure, I’ll sometimes end up doing way too much kid stuff and not enough work and vice versa. I don’t say yes to every kid game, but I’ll give myself 10 minutes an hour or somesuch to do it. Then I don’t feel like a jerk, and I’m more productive, too.
  • EAT YOUR DAMN MEALS OR AT LEAST SNACK NORMALLY. Don’t starve yourself because you don’t have time to eat. Eat the meal. You’ll feel better and maybe won’t eat that entire package of cookies. Or maybe you will. I don’t know.
  • KNOW WHAT KIND OF EMAILER/TWITTERER/FACEBOOKER YOU ARE. I do best answering my emails as they show up, tweeting as I see fit, facebooking never. I don’t save it all up and do it in one fell swoop. You might do better giving yourself 10 minutes an hour to do this stuff. Or an hour at the end of a day, or whatever. But know what makes you happiest to do, and do that. If you’re happy and comfortable, you’ll work better.
  • SHOWER WHEN YOU GET OUT OF BED. Don’t do all the other crap first, except make the coffee. Always do that first.
  • WRITE IT ALL DOWN. You guys make lists of your shit to do, right? You have to do that. Even if your shit is the same shit every day, you’ll feel a lot better crossing some of that stuff off. If you have GIANT things to do, break it into smaller segments. EDIT BOOK is not a do-able task. COMPLETE 5 PAGES written 6 times though on the list gets you 30 pages done, and look, you get to cross stuff off. BOOM.
  • TAKE 2 MINUTES AND READ A BOOK. Like, a few times a day. Feel better about life. Recommence work.
  • SHUT THE TV OFF AND PUT MUSIC ON. They both affect mood. TV makes your mood relaxed and sedentery. Music pumps you up, even slow music. Do that thing, then. NO TV.
  • SMILE AND LAUGH. It’s a fact that even if you fake smile and/or fake laugh, you’re happier. If you’re happier, you work better. I do this all day. If your day sucks out loud, laugh about it or it will suck forever.
  • TELL SOMEONE HOW MUCH YOU LIKE/LOVE/ADMIRE THEM. A friend on the phone, on Twitter, in your face right now. Tell them what awesome thing they do or say or whatever that makes you happy, and they half the time will say something you do that makes them happy, and suddenly your day isn’t so out of control. Suddenly, you feel pretty awesome, and you made someone else feel awesome too.
  • FREAK OUT IF YOU HAVE TO. I freak out all the time. Take the time to freak out. As much time as you need. Then get your shit done. If you give yourself what you need, you’ll get what you need to done. Sometimes I need to freak out over all the stuff I have to do. So I vegg out for a few minutes, cry if I have to, play a video game and then get my shit done.
  • WHEN YOUR LIFE IS TOO MANIACAL TO EVEN BELIEVE, PRETEND IT’S A SITCOM. You think I don’t do this? I do. I pretend there’s a camera somewhere with some audience on the other side thinking this whole thing is pretty goddamn funny, and then I do, too. Then I get my shit done.

What I’ve come to realize writing this is that the things that make me a good multi-tasker are not the nuts and bolts of getting it done, but the mindset I do it in. The mental capacity needed to do a crap ton of different things in one day is enormous. So I try to take care of myself mentally all day long, rather than burn myself out and reignite after I’ve done what I need to do. Don’t put a Band-aid on your mental injury from doing too much. Create an environment in your head that supports you in what you need to get done. Know what makes you happy, whether it be endless coffee, lots of laughter, unicorns, wearing sweatpants with great panties underneath, or whatever, and make sure that it sets the pace for the day for you, doesn’t become another thing to do. Be good to yourself, and your day will be good to you. Super-Confuciusy, I know.

Senora McBrag Gets Bragadocious about Bennett

TODAY’S BREW: All Of It.

By Julie

I have this kid, Bennett. He’s 7, and the most perfect child that ever was. This week is his Star Student Week at school. Every kid in his class gets a week dedicated to them with an activity that centers around them every day. A big poster we made to show all the things that are important to him, I get to go read to his class one day, the class puts together a scrapbook of things they love about Bennett, stuff like that. Today I get to write a letter to him that gets read aloud to the class by his teacher, telling him all the things I love about him. SO HARD. Because the Amazing just rolls off this kid like rain off a windshield that’s had that Rain-X stuff put on it recently.

I SHALL LIST SEVERAL THINGS THAT ARE INCREDIBLE ABOUT THIS KID IN A HALF-LIST, HALF-RANT THING POST HASTE.

1) Every night at bedtime the kid says he’s thankful for me, “Dada,” his dog and his brother, even if his brother has been absolutely awful to him all day.

2) The child is exceptional in EVERYTHING on his report card. EVERYTHING. He’s gifted with graphs, understands social studies at an advanced level, reads like a voracious dinosaur eats humans, writes and revises at 7. AT SEVEN. He has exceptional team playing abilities in gym. He has above average understanding of science and how it applies to his world. He has great computer skills. He’s a pleasure to have in class as a role model. That’s my kid.

3) The boy has no trouble telling me he does not want to go to school functions or do extracurricular stuff. He does so without whining. He tells me like an adult would tell you that’s just not their bag, baby.

4) He’s a leader in school, stands up for his friends, and is loved by every kid in his class.

5) The child is obsessed with Lemony Snicket. He doesn’t want to read this Magic TreeHouse bullshit, which we both found dull. The kid likes books with strife, complexity, not always the happy ending, and smart, multi-dimensional characters. Little mastermind.

6) THIS IS IMPORTANT. The child has said the word “asshole” once. This is the context in which he did, at age 5:

“Why did the dog kick the turkey?”

“Why?”

“Because he was an asshole.”

Tell me that’s not the best joke you’ve heard all day and you’re lying to yourself.

7) The child will hug and kiss everyone in the family so much that it’s overwhelming.

8) He shares like a summabitch.

9) He’s so sensitive he’ll actually turn off the TV and entertain his brother so that “Mama can have some peace and quiet,” WHEN I DON’T EVEN ASK FOR IT.

10) He curls up under a blanket in fuzzy pajamas with me whenever he can.

11) He threatened the life of a child about twice his size at the Pump N’ Jump for calling his baby brother a jerk.

12) He’s obsessed with As Seen On TV products. His latest obsession is the Chillow.

13) He does these crazy awkward dances because he knows they make people uncomfortable, and he laughs about it.

14) The child will go to the toy store just for fun and never ask for a toy. Now his brother does the same thing.

15) He loves pizza as much as I do.

16) He looks like the lost Kennedy and makes girls twice his age blush with his beauty.

17) He goes to bed every single night without a fight.

18) He’d rather be home. Whatever the thing there is to do, he’d rather be home with his family, watching movies or playing Legos.

19) He works like an animal on his homework to make it perfect.

20) He calls marshmallows “smarshmallows” still.

21) He’s an amazing artist. Another place he’s been called “gifted.”

22) He cuddles with his brother constantly, and kisses him and hugs him every chance he gets.

23) He’ll tell you all day that whatever you’re eating smells great, but he’ll never try new foods. This fascinates me.

24) He makes the right decisions at the right times. He saves his wrong decisions for crap like making the most annoying noise ever when we’ve asked him not to 78 times.

25) He’s unbelievably, beautifully, wholeheartedly his very own person and is determined to be just that.

Bennett and I are ridiculously attached to each other, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. There’s no better person on earth to be attached to, and he’s only getting better.

Ten Things That Made My Goddamn Day

TODAY’S BREW: Coconut Cream made right in Boston.

By Julie

TEN THINGS THAT MADE MY GODDAMN DAY

It’s 11 in the morning, and it might be an ordinary day, but I’m a happy bastard most days, and today here’s why I have a smile on my face that might annoy other people without one.

  1. I woke up to the people that make me happiest.
  2. Bennett being excited about watching The Lorax and Frozen like a little kid, when sometimes he already seems so grown up.
  3. I made muffins because Sammy kept asking for them. For muffins that I specifically make. We all know I can’t cook.
  4. An old song found new meaning and a new song makes my belly tingle.
  5. The IKEA catalog
  6. Someone posted my first tweet ever which was “If writing a book was as hard as writing a pitch for said book, I would still be selling panties,” in September of 2012. A) Someone cared enough to do this thing.  B) Look what I’ve done since then.
  7. Warm, fuzzy pants.
  8. Light rain, cold breeze in the window and warm blankets.
  9. My plants are still alive.
  10. All the hugs I’ve already had.

If you can’t do this by 11 AM, make some changes, folks, but I’m thinking you probably have even more things to be happy about than this if you really think. If you don’t GO MAKE SOME REASONS TO BE HAPPY.

The Most Exciting Thing You Can Do Sitting Down or A Day With Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Rainforest Crunch. This is a delightful Green Mountain flavor that my mother in law has made all nostalgic for me.

By Julie

Things in Julie Town have been EXCITING. Sitting on your bum in sweatpants, making stuff up and yet still being a part of this humongous, ever-changing literary world all day is intense. Here’s what’s happening in a frantic monologue indicative of my mind right now:

HEY WORLD, I FINISHED THE SEQUEL TO RUNNING HOME (now available for the price of a Cumberland Farms cup of coffee) AFTER 6 GODDAMN MONTHS OF TIRELESS WORK! HEY, HERE’S MY 6 MONTHS OF WORK FOR YOU 10 PEOPLE, PLEASE TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK BUT BE NICE BUT NOT TOO NICE BECAUSE I WOULDN’T WANT ALL THAT WORK TO SUCK! I’LL BE OVER HERE, EDITING THIS OTHER BOOK ABOUT SEX GODS AND OCD WHILE YOU READ! WHAT? YOU’RE ALREADY DONE? OH, YOU LIKED IT? LIKE, A LOT? LIKE MORE THAN RUNNING HOME? THAT’S FUCKING WONDERFUL! (Jumps for joy, hurts self several times). I HAVE TO SIT DOWN FROM THE INJURY AND I HAVE THESE BLOG POSTS TO DO. WAIT, WHAT, SOME REJECTIONS HAPPENED ON THAT OTHER BOOK, YOU SAY? THAT’S COOL, PAR FOR THE COURSE BUT WHAT IF I SUCK? NOPE, NONE OF THAT, NO SUCKING. BUSINESS, BABY. SHHHH NOW I HAVE TO EDIT MY OTHER OTHER BOOK AND THIS OTHER BOOK FOR THIS AWESOME WRITER WHO’S AWESOME. WAIT I’M DESPERATE TO READ THIS OTHER BOOK BY CHUCK WENDIG WHICH COUNTS NOT ONLY AS FUN BUT AS RESEARCH BUT NOW THAT I GOT FEEDBACK ON RUNNING AWAY I HAVE IDEAS FOR THE THIRD BOOK IN THE RUNNING HOME TRILOGY BUT WAIT SHUT UP BECAUSE THAT’S NOT THE NEXT BOOK I WRITE, THE NEXT BOOK I WRITE IS THIS YOUNG ADULT WITCH AND DEMON BOOK THAT I’M DYING TO PUT OUT. BUT WHAT IF I DON’T BECAUSE THE NEXT BOOK COULD TOTALLY BE THIS YOUNG ADULT HORROR I’VE ALREADY STARTED THAT PEOPLE LIKE! WAIT, THOUGH I HAVE TO EDIT THIS SEX GOD BOOK, STILL, SHUT UP! I WANT IT DONE BY THE END OF THE MONTH! BUT, BUT, BUT…..

Aaaaaand repeat a bunch of times. My points are these:

A) When treated like a job, writing and publishing becomes your job, not just your passion and hobby.

2) Rave reviews, rejections, glimmering pride and disgusting self-doubt happen all at once. Continue to see through the creative to the business end of what your creativity is worth, and the ups and downs won’t drag you into a depression; they’ll make you feel like every minute gets more exciting.

Next) Through the overwhelm, both good and not-so-good, moving forward is progress. Keep going. Move forward. Don’t allow yourself to be anything less than what you want to be. My advice to a friend today was FIND WHAT MAKES YOU SPECIAL AND EXPLOIT THE MOTHERFUCK OUT OF IT.

Next Things Last) Don’t forget what you’ve already done. I’ve got a long way to go, but I’ve written all these books, and I got the agent, and I got the one published, and it’s done really well, and I got reviewd by FEARNET.com for Chrissakes, and I made all these amazing friends and I love it. BUILD ON WHAT YOU’VE DONE.

Second Things Next) I wrote the books I had to write, no matter what happens next.

End Note First) RUNNING HOME IS CHEAP AS HELL RIGHT NOW! If I don’t sell you on it, let this review on The Bookie Monster do it. http://t.co/5BIhfZEYvN. And THEN go buy RUNNING HOME before the sequel comes out and you have to catch up, because guys. I hear that through my mania I wrote a pretty cool book. http://t.co/wXBPE87nMX.

Running Home by Julie Hutchings

http://t.co/wXBPE87nMX.
“I wanted to high five the author after reading the last line,” makes me happy, happy. (Mark Matthews, author ON THE LIPS OF CHILDREN).

Sin Is The Writer’s Element

TODAY’S BREW: The blood of Juan Valdez

By Julie

SIN IS THE WRITER’S ELEMENT

–Francois Mauriac

I love sin. That undeniable darkness of the heart that makes a good person turn to their worst selves and indulge them. These are the best characters, and often the best people. The kind who understand that there’s no straight line in the world, only lines that get you to your endgame faster.

Probably too often, I’ve said how “nice” people don’t generally do anything for me. Anyone can be nice. I want real. I want every imperfection of the people/characters I care about laid out to me. It’s that kind of exposure of the inner demon that makes me trust people, makes me a better person for seeing their honesty with their flaws and the struggle to accept them.

Loving sinners is why I’m a writer, in part. I want to see the dark and dirty of everyone, and when I can’t get it, or need to put my own out there in not so many words, I create that persona. I do my best to make a sinner that’s just like you, in one way or another.

I’m doing a deeper round of research on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for Trent, the main character in THE ANIMAL. My initial research gave me all the facts I needed to make sure that his disorder was realistic, and respectful of those who suffer from it. This round, though…..I’ve been reading OCD forums online, hearing the horrors that some of those who are afflicted with OCD suffer. Their bravery in the face of their own irrational thoughts of violence is more painful than I can wrap my head around. My heart was ripped in half plenty of times as I observed these conversations, making me tear up even now. People who get stuck on a terrible image of some awful act they would never probably do, and the guilt that literally keeps them awake at night. Living with thoughts of murder, pedophilia, bestiality….more unimaginable things than you could conceive of….it makes me think harder about the nature of OCD. In every one of these forum chats, the people who suffer these thoughts despise them. They have often just as many obsessive thoughts that cause them to check in constantly with loved ones to be sure they haven’t been hurt. It’s the difference between the people that commit these crimes and those who suffer the thoughts of them. There is no temptation to actually commit them. The sufferers are revolted by the images that overtake their minds, like they’ve been forced to watch the most disturbing part of a movie about themselves over and over and over. Naturally, this leads to extreme guilt and the questions of am I a pedophile if this vision pops in my head over and over? Am I a murderer if it’s all I can think of doing? 

The other symptoms of OCD, the ones we all know of like compulsive hand-washing, for instance, provide only the most momentary relief from the obsessive thought. Committing the crime wouldn only make the afflicted feel worse. Most sufferers of OCD work hard at keeping their obsessions and compulsions a secret, lending to it worsening over time. The folks that I’ve read in the forum chats were desperate to tell someone about their thoughts in hopes it would help expel them, some even asking if they could turn themselves in to the police for crimes they haven’t, and would more often never, commit.

Their heart-wrenching stories have helped me see deeper into Trent’s obsessions and compulsions, and exposed his heart to me even further. I already loved him for his duality, his reserved depth, his fears and memories, and learning more about the disorder has made me wildly protective and closer to him. (Not to mention making me cry uncontrollably for the sufferers of OCD more times than I can say.) Knowing the sins in Trent’s heart, and more so how he wants to triumph over them, makes him a hero to me in his fictional life that’s not quite fictional in my mind.

Sin has a different meaning to everyone, but for all of us it holds a trepidation of what one could do, what we may be capable of. The writer’s job is to explore the worst case scenario of sin. Sure, we need to commit plenty of sins, too. (SIDENOTE: I HAVE NOT AND WILL NOT COMMIT ANY OF THE SINS/CRIMES IN THE ANIMAL.) Being all good all the time is A) zero fun  B) the worst kind of dishonesty with yourself  C) inhibiting and painful. So, yeah, a little debauchery is perfectly fine with me. Doing the wrong thing sometimes, yep, totally cool. But what if it went further? What if it became a monster in your own heart? This is the fear that the writer examines, and what makes for a character that we feel for.

Giving into the sinful side and being oppressed by thoughts of committing sins that disgust you are two different things. One is choice, and one is illness. It’s where these two things intersect that have helped me create THE ANIMAL. But there are plenty of sins out there to see, and writers, don’t turn your back on them.

If you need to talk about obsessive thoughts and compulsions, contact  1-800-950-NAMI (6264), the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Or search OCD forums to talk to others who can help you.

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