deadlyeverafter

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

Archive for the tag “Julie Hutchings”

Fighting For Unsuckitude: Editing

TODAY’S BREW: Mocha mint and probably beer.

By Julie

Editing RUNNING AWAY looks like this:

That’s me, in the middle, with the glasses.

I LOVE THIS PART. Right now I’m in the phase where I dig through my Terrifying Binder for bits that didn’t make it into the first draft that I think still have relevance. Before that I went through my notes from hearing Donald Maass speak with Kristen at Backspace Writer’s Convention during Hurricane Sandy last year. And I found this:

NICHOLAS LURES ELLIE IN. FIND 3 MORE WAYS HE CAN DO IT

When I first started to write RUNNING HOME, Nicholas was fated to be Eliza’s creator, her Shugotenshi. That was the extent of their bond. I wanted it to have an intimacy, but not be just your happy go lucky love story. So I darkened it up, and I made their story as complex and questionable as it should be. Think about what he’s telling her, what his appearance in her life means to who she is and what’s happened in her life. (Trying not to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read. But it’s happening.) So, I did this:

WAYS NICHOLAS LURES ELLIE IN

  1. Shinigami have scents that tailor especially to the victim or person they’re trying to lure in. Nicholas’s becomes a scent of comfort, home, being with people who love you. Appeals to the thing she wants most and never has.
  2. Ellie is never sure if Nicholas really cares for her, or if he just has a duty to her.
  3. The Shinigami have their classic vampire thrall that even they don’t realize they’re using, and Ellie may just be a victim of it and not be in love with Nicholas at all. She questions it.

After making this list, I found myself questioning things about how Nicholas felt, too. Naturally, he would wonder if Eliza was actually in love with him, or if she was just under a sort of spell that he himself placed on her unwittingly. He’d wonder if he was feeling love for her, or if he was just feeling the draw between vampire and their fated offspring, their unmei fumetsu. There should be as much insecurity on his behalf as on hers, no matter how much of an egotistical thing he can be.

Apparently I'm volatile, self-obsessed, don't play well with others.

Apparently I’m volatile, self-obsessed, don’t play well with others.

The great thing about editing for character development is seeing the domino effect of what one little change can make. (It’s how I realized I wanted to start Editing For Cash, also known as Undeaditing.) How would the feelings of both the characters affect what happens next? What will these feelings make them do? (Remember, characters make the action happen, the action doesn’t happen to the characters.) And the most fun; how can I make it worse?

So, for those of you in Editing Land, give this a try, and for the love of Jesus, read one of Donald Maass’s books. First, read all of Chuck Wendig’s blog at http://www.terribleminds.com. THEN read the Maass book. Prepare for this edit like you’re going into battle. Fight for the Unsuckitude of your book. Believe in it with unconditional love. Give it the A at the start of the class, and make it earn the A. Delve into all the aspects of your plot and characters and think of 3 more ways you can make it more intense.

Or I’LL DO IT GODDAMMIT.

Cutting The Crap: How to Make the Most of Your Time

TODAY’S BREW: Mocha mint something or other that smells like a goddamn Thin Mint and makes me cry with joy.

By Julie

For 10 years I was a panty peddler. One of my jobs as Upper Tier Panty Peddler was my weekly office day. Monday. And holy Christ, you cannot imagine how much there is to do behind the scenes of panty peddling. My office day started at 8 and ended around 6 or 7 with nary a meal or break to be seen, and work still to be done. What it makes me do is assess my time in a very clinical manner. Let me tell you how, because anybody can do this for whatever your form of panty peddling is. These days, it’s going to work for my writing, blogging, and doing developmental editing for cash.

(YEAH, BY THE WAY, THAT’S A THING. I NOW WILL EDIT YOUR BOOK FOR YOU. YEP. UNDEADITING. Details to come.)

What I did to get my office days under control was this. Open up the notebook. Write down every goddamn thing you do all day. Better yet, get index cards, title them with the the stuff you spend your time on. TWITTER, WRITING NEW WORDS, EDITING, WATCHING TV, PLAYING WITH KIDS, READING, PLAYING GAMES, TEXTING, etc…. and you’ll see quickly which cards fill up the fastest and which are left completely blank.

As Chief Panty Peddler, my notebook would look something like this:

8:00-8:15 supposed to be management meeting but is actually me watching co-workers wake up.

8:15-9:30 management meeting which is actually me talking for sooooooo looooooooong

9:30 starts the schedule! I OPENED THE SCHEDULE!

9:45 takes first phone call from another manager who hates office days

10:00 makes sure doors are open even though I’m in sweatpants and it’s not my job today and the only way I can make sure it’s not my job that day is by wearing inappropriate sweatpants but I do it anyway.

10:10 still on salesfloor dicking around with numbers

10:15 needs the coffee

10:20 YEAH, OPENS THE SCHEDULE! WOOOHOOOO!

10:22 takes phone call

10:30 tells all the incoming employees how happy I am to see them. Listens to sob stories forever.

10:45 OPENS THE SCHEDULE

11:15 Is proud of self for a half an hour of work that I’m supposed to do. Answers shipment door. DEALS WITH SHIPMENT FOREVER.

12:00 MOTHERFUCKING CONFERENCE CALL.

12:05 does 10 incline pushups in tiny office to stay awake during conference call

12:30 speaks on conference  call like I haven’t been texting another manager about how bad this conference call is.

1:00 says “fuck this” and opens schedule again

1:15 gets phone call from another manager about how bad that conference call was

1:20 gets phone call from boss asking how bad that conference call was.

1:30 seethes.

You get the idea. It was actually a lot more in depth than this, and I realized how scattered my days were, how much time I really spent in bits and pieces doing things that didn’t work toward my goal, and I realized that some things had to go entirely.

These days, it’s going to look a lot more like how many minutes I actually spend on Twitter. Right down to the minute. Who I’m talking to. How many minutes I spend making meals, getting snacks, getting drinks for growing boys. How much writing I’m doing as opposed to re-reading. How many times I check e-mail, text, take phone calls. What time I stop writing my book and start Editing For Cash. How much time I spend planning side projects, doing interviews, writing guest posts.

Because working at home, man alive do your days get away from you. It’s noon and showering is nowhere on the horizon. You have not worn actual pants in several days. You have made 6 meals but not eaten one. You’ve given probably 2 hours worth of unpaid for advice while taking away from the work you’re doing. You may be answering one line emails all day, but when you record the minutes that you do so, what that does to your concentration, and how many times you say after, “now’s a good time to make a cup of coffee” I bet you’ll find that those emails add up to about 4 hours in a day, and your book is getting only 2 strong hours of attention. And by you, I mean me. But you’ll have something like this, too. You may find that you’re spending 4 hours on email and Twitter, and 3 hours playing with your kids. Or no hours playing with your kids.

So, I tell you guys. Give this plan a try. I haven’t done it since I eneded my career as Panty Peddler, and look forward to getting a grasp of my day doing it now, so I can give all the attention to the things that matter most. This is where being militant works out. Because in a week when you do this little time log again, you’ll be able to see the changes you made, how much more focused you are, and how much YOU GET DONE.

Inspirational/militant speech over. Now get to work.

 

BECAUSE THE NIGHT and NEWS for the rest of THE NIGHT SONGS COLLECTION!

Today’s brew: Blueberry awesomesauce

by Kristen

It’s been a great week for The Undead Duo! Julie finished RUNNING AWAY, and RUNNING HOME  is finding new fans with it’s 99 cent sale.

I’ve been waiting about as long as it look Julie to write Running Away for BECAUSE THE NIGHT paperbacks to be available.

You know, about this long.

And on Thursday, they came to be!!  You have several options. You can order your very own copy on Amazon. Or, if you fill out the form below, I will send you an autographed copy. Same deal for Julie. $15 each including shipping, US only. I love you outside the US people, but dude, it’s like pay my rent or pay shipping.

BTNweb

But wait! There’s more!  Julie and I tend to start and end things at the same time, and I typed THE END on the latest installment of The Night Songs Collection, a little ditty called SILENT NIGHT. It’s sort of a Christmas Story. It’s new vampires in the same world that you all know and love from Because the Night. I’m billing it as Pretty Woman meets Dracula at Midnight Mass. It’s still far away from seeing the light of day, but as we all know, you can’t edit nothing.

And even more!!  NIGHT MOVES, the next book in The Night Songs Collection, is coming SOON!  I don’t have the exact release date yet, but SOON!  The cover reveal is March 11, and if you’d like to participate in the party, click here to sign up.

Phew! I’m tired just telling you about all of this! I’m taking a sort of break before I start the next project, which is something totally new for me. And I have a gigantic pile of edits patiently waiting for me. Oh, who am I kidding. You all know I never take a break.

RUNNING HOME and RUNNING AWAY News!

TODAY’S BREW: Mint chocolate coffee and  BOOZE.

By Julie

I started writing the sequel to RUNNING HOME around this time:

AND NOW. IT IS COMPLETE. Like my organs and brain development. I’ve come a long way since the above photo.

Now I shall embark upon the journey of editing and wondering if this thing is worth a goddamn or not, but I think it is. I do. But I’ll still wonder if the last 6 months were really just a lot of ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY.

Me, maybe.

While you wait for the this sequel that features a boiling hot Irish rebel, a defiled saint, a god of creation, my friend Chynna Blue Scott, and all of our old friends that are now experiencing the dark night of the soul,

YOU CAN GET RUNNING HOME FOR ONLY  99 CENTS!

That’s right! For the price of a cup of coffee, and not even Dunkin Donuts coffee, but that sub-par Cumberland Farms gas station coffee, you can own the fruits of my first labor! (Sidenote: I quite enjoy Cumberland Farms coffee & all of its glorious creamer options.)  (Second Sidenote: “The fruits of my first labor” refers to my book, not my child.)

 

http://deadlyeverafter.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/857a2-runninghome-cover.jpg?w=425&h=649

BUY ME, LOOK AT HOW PRETTY I AM. http://t.co/QOJxBFmimo

“Running Home has a dark beauty which entwines the mundane and the magical.”
~ J.C. Michael, author of Discoredia

“I can’t remember a time I’ve enjoyed a vampire novel so much. The blend of self-aware characters and unique, fresh mythology made for an engaging, addictive read. I believe I have found my new favorite urban vampire story.”
~ Frances Button, Opening Line Literary ‘Zine

IF YOU ALREADY OWN A COPY OF RUNNING HOME, THANK YOU!!!! Thank you for buying it, reading it, hopefully leaving a review on it (hint hint), and for believing in me. Writing is the thing that makes me me. You make it worthwhile for me. You help me show my kids and other writers that there’s value in this storytelling thing. You make it true that the greatest investment you can make is in yourself.

Now, I have some celebrating to do. Thank you all! Happy reading!

(P.S. If you want a signed copy of RUNNING HOME, leave me a comment, tweet me or email me.)

 

 

Taking Your Time Takes Time

TODAY’S BREW: S’more to Love. Seethe with your jealousy. Embrace it.

By Julie

Giving myself time is something I am just plain not accustomed to doing. I do everything on a minute to minute schedule because I work at home and because I’m a stay at home mom. These things make me feel like even though I’m doing the most difficult things I have ever done every day, that I’m still not doing anything because I’m in my pajamas. This is ridiculous.

I read a study once that said when you wear comfortable clothes you take something insane like 350 more steps in a day. And yet, if you work a sit-down job, you gain an average of 10 pounds per year even if your diet and excercise routine are strong. So, if you’re running around with kids but sit on your butt a lot in front of a computer and go to the gym on the regs, YOUR HEAD WILL EXPLODE FROM TRYING TO FIGURE THAT EQUATION OUT.

Also, when I don’t go to 100 places per day, or bring in an hourly wage, I feel like I don’t get to ever take a break. This is dumb. Working in jobs where time is money, you don’t ever fully recover from that. And when you entirely adore everything you’re doing, it doesn’t feel like work, no matter how important it may be. Making lunch for your kids is important. Making up wild stories to share with the world is important. Playing Chutes and Ladders is important. Helping people hone their art through editing is important. Working out is important. Reading like a writer and an editor is important. And taking a break is important.

I’ve been busting my ass on the sequel to RUNNING HOME. Today, I put the finishing touches on it, and then IT IS FINISHED. I took some time away from my writing schedule to do developmental editing for some incredible authors, and working this into my schedule means that not only do I have less time to write, but it means I’m working harder. So that means I need to rest sometimes.

REST? WHAT THE HELL DO YOU MEAN, REST? I’VE BEEN IN MY PAJAMAS FOR 16 DAYS!

Yes, rest. Because doing a lot of things you love is hard because you put all of your energy into them every minute of the day. And it isn’t until I say, “Jeeez, my legs feel like if I stood up right now, I may fall down,” that I realize it is okay to take a day off to screw around playing video games and watching TV. EVEN IF EVERYTHING ISN’T DONE.

I write first drafts in 3 months. That’s what I do. Until I don’t. RUNNING AWAY is going on 6 months! P.S.   I AM WRITING THE FINAL CHAPTER TODAY. I let it sit for one day so every word will be absolutely perfect. Also, not as planned, this book is the longest thing ever written since THE BIBLE. 

But everything unfolds with purpose, in the proper amount of time without being overindulgent and without being rushed. Every word is carefully plotted. And if it took one hundred thousand words before editing, then that’s how long it took. And if it takes the same amount after editing, that’s how many it takes.

I guess taking time applies to more than just the clock.

Time is something we need to use to our advantage, not just something we need to use. Take a break before you break.

 

 

This Ain’t Your Momma’s Pinterest

TODAY’S BREW: A lot.

By Julie

I love Pinterest.

But how can that be, Julie? you say. You can’t cook worth shit, and you don’t crochet, and you’re possibly the most inept crafter in existence.

Well, THANK YOU VERY MUCH, and maybe you’re right, but if you’re looking for inspiration, let me tell you, Pinterest never fails me. Just before I wrote this blog I texted Kristen “What am I gonna blog about? I’m so boring.” She didn’t answer me, so point taken, Kristen. WHAT THE HELL EVER. So, I popped on Pinterest and found THIS the second I opened it up:

Byronic by Boris Pelcer

And I said, “OOOOOOOHH!” And I pinned it to my RUNNING HOME board, because OH MY GOD, IT’S ALMOST PERFECT FOR NICHOLAS’S HOMECOMING SCENE, AND IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT PLEASE BUY MY BOOK. And immediately I was pumped to write. (Sidenote: For those of you wondering, the RUNNING HOME sequel will be finished in the next 2 days. EEEEEEEEEE!)

But anyway, Pinterest kindles a spark in me for a lot of reasons. I’ll share with you some of my favorite pins in posts from now on. Today, I give you  a smattering, things that stick in my mind and light my imagination up. Go play on Pinterest, you might be shocked what you find there.

Perfection.

.

Imagine waking up to that landing on you.

LOVE. Jessica Harrison, "Karen" (2013), Found ceramic, epoxy resin putty, enamel paint

I don’t know what else to say except I want one.

Cottage in the Woods

I want to live here forever.

metamorphosis by Natalie Shau 08

Black Swan meets vampires meets creep.

Icicle cave at Misotsuchi, Saitama, Japan (三十槌の氷柱)!

Actual place in Japan. Did you know this was real? I didn’t know this was real.

Cryptic

Imagine what happens in that city above. Who tht girl is, where the animal came from. Why they’re below the city. It just makes me swim with plot lines.

watercolor by darcy

What a love story here.

Okay, that’s enough of me being a creep for now. This is so not even a one hundreth of what I have pinned to refer to. I saved you from the creepiest stuff, because I know my mom looks at this. But what I think the moral of the story is, don’t rule something out that you think won’t give you inspiration. I’m proven wrong time and again when I think “there’s nothing for me there” or in doing this, that or the other thing. Find inspiration wherever you go. Don’t just stumble upon it, seek it out. It keeps your mind alive.

That being said, go spend the next four hours staring at Pinterest recipes.

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.

 

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