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

Archive for the tag “Julie Hutchings”

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.


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.


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 and follow her on Twitter @SummerWier.

ConFusion, Here Comes Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Eggnog, filled with boozeahol.

By Julie

I should go to conventions. I don’t know how the rest of you folks know about all these magnificent gatherings of writerly folks from all over, what secret society you formed that you somehow think will be better without me, but I want to be the fucking treasurer of it, and I don’t want to do any math.

I LOVE CONVENTION-LIKE SETTINGS. When I became a manager for Victoria’s Secret, it was pretty much so I could go to the annual convention about all the Christmas stuff.I love it all, the milling of people, and the mingling, and the noise and the stuff. And if I don’t have to wear a suit, even better.

So, when I was asked along for the ride to ConFusion ( in January, I pretty instantly started with the “what will I wear” squealing and jumping up and down to talk about RUNNING HOME and be among grownups that will find me delightful. Or even these grownups.

NO. Kristen won’t be coming with me, I’m traveling by my lonesome, but meeting friends there. IF YOU’RE GOING TO BE THERE, PLEASE DO SAY SO. I WOULD LOVE TO LET YOU BUY ME SIX DRINKS.

Here’s how I get people I don’t know to buy me drinks:
*sidles up to bar*
“Oooooh, what are you drinking there? It looks good.” (Imply that it is actually the drinker that looks good if the odds are not in your favor.)
“Oh, I’m having a Willowisp Party Knocker. Can I get you one?”
*smiles charmingly* “That would be so nice.”

Use this foolproof formula as you wish. Be warned: If you don’t smile and touch the drinker’s arm, it may not work.

Anyhoo, ConFusion promises to be amazing. I greatly look forward to meeting other authors, seeing all their stuff, making a general menace of myself, and hopefully making some connections with which to ensure a lovely future for myself. This can happen in a number of ways, to small and large scale.

Though I am an animal, and the life of any party-like situation, I plan to work this crowd like a headhunter. I want to meet people, all kinds of people. I want your business cards and stuff. I want to make connections. This is showbiz, folks, and I want my name up in lights.

Flash Fiction Friday: Excerpt from RUNNING AWAY, the RUNNING HOME sequel

TODAY’S BREW: Egg nog coffee! For all the best things in life.

By Julie

I’m trying to breathe here, but it isn’t really working.

I promised you all an excerpt from the Bethlem Royal Hospital scene in the sequel to RUNNING HOME, and here she is! I didn’t give you alllll of it, but hopefully enough to whet your appetite and not feel spoiled. You very briefly meet a new character who I’m inappropriately obsessed with, and see something monumental for Eliza, right when she needs it. I hope you all feel it like I do. Thanks so much for reading.

Excerpt from RUNNING AWAY

*work in progress*

“You’re a Stephen King book waiting to be written, woman,” he said out of the corner of his mouth, nodding at a matronly nurse who looked like she could use a little mental help herself. “But I have to say, I’m impressed with how you’re holding yourself together.”

I tore my eyes away from the doors at the end of the hall, suddenly curious about him. “What was it like for you the first time you fed?”

The scent of old smoke from him. I wondered if it was consuming him or giving him strength.

“Angry. Sad. I didn’t want to do it, but I had to, of course. And the man I killed wasn’t ready. He didn’t want to die.” He was quiet, but the fire in him blazed so much I thought it might singe me next to him. I couldn’t believe the expressionless people around us didn’t feel it.

We went through the set of double doors at the end of the hallway, and I saw the sign for the kitchen. It was all I could do not to run there, leaving every questioning staff member and Kieran behind. I wanted her more than anything in the world.

“You knew the man,” I said before I realized I’d said it. I was transfixed on the kitchen doors, my fangs impossible to retract.

“I did. But how did you know that?” Kieran said from next to me.

“I don’t know. I’m sorry you had to do that to your friend. It should never happen that way.”

The kitchen loomed ever closer.

“You’re creeping me out, Eliza Morgan,” he said, but I couldn’t look at him to see how much he was kidding.

We’d arrived at the kitchen doors. They were as foreboding as all the others we’d passed with droning buzz that opened them.

“Do you want me to go in there with you?” he whispered.

Clara was whistling from the other side of the dingy white doors. I put my hand on the door, and wanted to cry.

“Yes, please.”

I pushed open the door, Kieran at my side.

The hospital kitchen was a jail cell in itself. Water-stained walls brought shadows of metal pipes to life, industrial puppets clanking and banging from within. Cracks littered every ceramic tile on the walls over the sink and stove, discolored and rusty like the slop basins and trash barrels around them. The cabinets would never be white again, the window never quite clear. One wall was cement, blackened in spots with age and damage. Every corner underneath the rusty metal work surfaces was brown with leakage and dirt that could never be hidden. Nobody may be looking there, but the grunge seeped onto the floor, as old as the horror that lived here. It was vacant of scent, not like any kitchen should be; there was no soup boiling, or cooking meat wafting through the air, or even cleaning fluid. Empty. The huge window over the sink housed a sadly spinning fan at the top, high enough that an inmate couldn’t reach it to escape.

And under that streaked window that looked out to nowhere, a gleaming thing in the yellowing disease of this place. Clara stood with her back to us, humming sweetly as her body gently shook with the scrubbing of dishes. Stacks more waited for the same. Stacks had already been done. And still, she hummed, despite the relentless filth here.

“Clara,” I said, not with a whisper. There was nothing to hide from her.

She spun on us, the whites of her eyes the brightest thing I’d seen in London.

“Oh,” she said, her fear spreading to a welcoming smile. She dried her hands as she walked towards us, her shapeless skirt swishing around her, and wiped a tendril of orange-ish frizz out of her eye. “I wasn’t expecting any visitors.” She positively glowed with simple happiness that was too good for the hospital, and yet so desperately necessary.

I hated what I was going to do, and wanted it even still.

“We aren’t really here to visit, Clara,” I said, looking as hard into her eyes as I could while her heart still beat.

Her eyes slid between me and Kieran. Panic set in, making her back away. God only knew the kind of danger she’d found herself in this place. But I would be the last danger she faced.

“What do you want? I don’t have anything,” she pleaded. Kieran was shuffling his feet in my peripheral vision, rubbing his fingers together, wishing he had a cigarette I was sure.

“Don’t be afraid,” he said, not knowing what else to say. She laughed at him. She may be sweet, but she wasn’t stupid.

But within a beat of her heart, her shoulders relaxed, and she stopped backing away. She looked at me, confused, but becoming less afraid, until there was no fear there at all. I made to walk slowly to her, but realized that was a human thing to do, a human thing that would frighten her again, make her think I was trying to diffuse the situation.

So I pictured myself next to her, and I was. She gasped, but her eyes remained unafraid as she met mine.

“That smell—“ she muttered.

“What do you smell?” I said. So, this was my first thrall. Designed especially for my victim.

She breathed in deep. “Peonies.”

I went cold at the mention of Kat’s favorite scent, the one she wore no matter what the season or event. Clara reminded me of her; the decided obliviousness to the cruelties around them. That light in them that created happiness wherever they went. Tears sprung to my eyes, and I touched Clara’s hair, remembering Kat’s red locks, and thought Clara’s might be that beautiful if she had the mind to bother with it.

“Clara, I’m so sorry for what I’m about to do.”

Her eyes welled with tears, and something in me responded.

“My mother had peony perfume,” she said quietly. It was hard to say who was more mesmerized, her or me. She gasped suddenly, a tiny noise. “And when she smelled just like that,” she said, pointing her finger at me, “a mix of lemon pie and peonies, I knew she had something bad to tell me. It didn’t happen often, but when it did, she put on a squirt of her perfume, and made me a lemon pie. She hated that pie, said it wasn’t sweet enough. I told her I had all the sweet I needed when I smelled her perfume and saw her smile. We were alone, you see. Always alone, and she was so sick. I loved her more than anything. Even when she had to tell me bad things.”

My throat was thick with tears I couldn’t bear to shed for her. I wanted to hold her, and kill her.

“You have bad things to tell me right now, don’t you?” she asked, entranced.

I closed my eyes ever so briefly, and hoped she had wonderful love in life. I hoped she wouldn’t remember how awful I was in her last breath. I wished it wasn’t all my fault. Kat, I wish it wasn’t all my fault.

“I forgive you,” she said.

And with a roar that deafened only me, I plunged my fangs into her neck.


Why I Love the Christmas Stuff You Hate

TODAY’S BREW: Chocolate Cappuccino and Christmas cookies because breakfast.

By Julie

I’m sooooo annoying. All those things people get irritated with at Christmas time, I LOVE THAT SHIT. I try and I guess I see why people get annoyed with the holidays, but honestly, I can’t get annoyed with them. We miss people at the holidays, of course. I wish my Dad (who I lost the week before Christmas at 16) was here to celebrate with us. He would have loved our family, and my kids would have been obsessed with him. There are plenty of people I miss dearly, but I’ve trained myself this way; those family members would be pissed off beyond words if I boo-hoo’ed about Christmas when they can’t be here to enjoy it themselves. They’d want me to appreciate everything I have, which is so much.


These are the things that piss you off and make me giggle with glee. Glee giggling, if you will. I will tell you why.

  1. CROWDED MALLS. Appreciate that everyone at the mall is there for the exact same reason as you. For once, everyone is in this together. Have a sense of fucking community! Smile at the angry shoppers. They smile back, I swear to God. At a store the other day, where my kids ran around like jackasses, I had no fewer than 6 people tell me how nice it was to see us enjoying our kids, and one old woman said how nice it was to see someone happy. THIS SHOULD BE THE HAPPIEST FUCKING TIME OF YEAR. LOOSEN UP.
  2. ALL THE NOISE, NOISE, NOISE, NOISE! I have a crippling anxiety when surrounded with all things hot, bright and loud. And yet, Christmas parties at Tim’s Aunt Terri’s house, where you get all 3 in spades are one of my favorite things. I know what I’m getting with this Hutchings Family Event, so I have time to mentally prepare and remind myself that the weirdness and hilarity that will ensue is worth any amount of anxiety I could suffer. THIS IS ALL OF DECEMBER, FOLKS. Mentally prepare for it. And remember what you love about it, why you celebrate it at all.
  3. DEBT. Fuck it, it’s only money. You’ll make more.
  4. SO MUCH CHRISTMAS MUSIC, ALL DAY, EVERYWHERE YOU GO. People, singing “Santa Baby” is getting as old as the sexy cat costume at Halloween parties as far as Reasons To Be Slutty go, but screw it! Drink a shit ton of spiked cocoa and sing that whore song everywhere you go. Did I mention I drink before Christmas shopping? Me and the husband both do, and I do it with any friend I get to go with me, too. Hit the bar before you hit the mall, and every Christmas song hits you right in the heart as you buy those socks and underwear for Uncle Mike.
  5. TRAVEL. Hate holiday traveling? Don’t fucking go anywhere. Whether that be to your sister’s house down the street or on a bona fide plane trip, don’t go if you don’t want to. How hard was that? Oh, you have to? Go in your pajamas. I haven’t gone out on Christmas in Real Pants since Christmas was invented.
  6. WRAPPING PRESENTS UNTIL THE WEE HOURS. Get over yourself. Put on The Grinch, spike the coffee, spread your shit out all over the floor, eat all the chocolate, make a couple of prank phone calls, wrap like a fool, and then maybe have some kind of sexual encounter on the wrapping paper scraps. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem so bad with that prospect.
  7. DECORATING THE CHRISTMAS TREE. A) Make mimosas. B) Do it as you watch The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. C) Throw away ugly ornaments. D) Wear long sleeves so the branches don’t stab your arms off.
  8. MAILING CHRISTMAS CARDS.  It’s expensive, and time consuming, and so I don’t do it, generally. Does this make me suck? No one has ever told me so, therefore I assume I am okay and will still go to Heaven.
  9. IT’S COOOOOLD. Put a fucking sweater on. You knew all along it was going to get cold, Scroogey Motherfucker. Snow and cold are how you know it’s Christmas. Shut up about it. You complain when it’s hot, too. OH MY GOD, THERE’S WEATHER OUTSIDE. Yeah, don’t go out then. See how easy that was?
  10. IT’S ALL SO COMMERCIAL. This one is my favorite. Christmas is commercial. I LIKE IT. There’s a commercial for peppermint scented Angry Birds volleyball nets, and your kid HAS to have it, and he gets all giddy every time the commercial comes on. SO FUCKING GET IT, PAY AN EXORBITANT AMOUNT OF MONEY FOR IT, WATCH HIM ENJOY IT LONG ENOUGH FOR YOU TO TAKE THE PICTURE, LET HIM STEP ON IT TO GET TO THE NEXT PRESENT, PLAY WITH IT ONCE THAT YEAR, AND THEN DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN NEXT YEAR. Not everything has to have a fucking purpose and be used to its fullest extent. Sometimes it’s okay for your kids to get the thing that doesn’t matter just because they really want it and it’s your kid. CHRISTMAS IS THAT TIME. Make his half-assed wish come true. No kids? Buy that incredibly stupid thing that costs too much money for that friend who won’t get it for themselves. Buy them that thing YOU want, then keep it. IT’S OKAY, IT’S CHRISTMAS. Drink it off, fools! Commercialism is fun at Christmas. It’s part of the package. Enjoy the damn package. Stop overthinking it. Sure, the true meaning of Christmas isn’t about buying a cashmere sweater for your boss so she won’t fire you. But the meaning of Christmas isn’t about obsessing over the shit that you don’t like, either. Get over it. Embrace commercialism.

Again, I realize I may be annoying for loving all the things that piss you off, but once again, nobody has ever told me so. That makes me right. Have a wonderful Christmas whether you want to or not.

Eliza and the Bethlem Royal Hospital: Julie Gets Choked Up

TODAY’S BREW: Something from Costa Rica. Or Target.

By Julie


I’m hot and heavy into the sequel to RUNNING HOME, and RUNNING AWAY has become a part of me. Eliza has grown, transformed, and her new life has been forged in a lot of suffering. When writing this book, I needed to pay close attention to keeping the tone and themes of it as dark and complex as Eliza has become, so when I wrote the scene of her first feeding as one of the Shinigami vampires, I needed to make it more than just a bloodfest. Embracing a little darkness when writing a vampire scene isn’t always hard, but keeping it a thing of beauty and depth without any form of eroticism is a bit more difficult. It needed to be significant, symbolic. The first feeding needed to carry a lot of the tone of the book, and so I took my sweet ass time working on it.

I knew where I wanted her first feeding to occur, and there is plenty of reason for it which I won’t be so cruel as to divulge to you now. It had to be a place that had patched-over horror, hidden ugliness in plain sight. It needed to be dank, riddled with ghosts, melancholy and be the variety of dirty that can’t be cleaned. And I wanted a pinnacle of light and glistening freshness in the middle of it that couldn’t escape her fate, no matter how brightly she glowed in its dimness.

Inspiration for my Bethlem Royal Hospital scene. The Kitchen.

I was so disturbed by the research I did on the Bethlem Royal Hospital of London ( ) for our March Madness blog series last year that it never left my thoughts. I wanted to do more to commemorate what had happened there, to show my respect for this terrible piece of history the best way I knew how; to write about it. When the idea hit me to make it the scene of Eliza’s first feeding, it worked itself in so perfectly that I breathed a mental sigh of relief to write it. Now that it’s done, and the end of the book is just a series of falling dominoes, my pride in this scene is a little overwhelming. I mean, I’m kind of a jerk about it in my head. I love this scene and all the subtext to it, the meaning it has for all the characters–I just can’t wait to share it.

This Flash Fiction Friday, I’ll let you see it. I’m desperate to share it, and also entirely horrified about letting go of it. It still feels so much a part of me, entrenched in me. But I promise to loosen the grip, and give you some of this scene come Friday. Unless you don’t want me to. Then say so and I shall cling to it like a tiny life preserver for a while longer.

Not A Thankfulness Blog

TODAY’S BREW: Eggnog. Yeah, I drink eggnog.

By Julie

I don’t read most of those thankfulness posts. I’ll put that right out there. I love Thanksgiving for a lot of reasons, but I am a huge proponent of being thankful every damn day.

Did you know that if you write down one thing you’re thankful for every night before you go to sleep you not only sleep better, but you live longer? I KNOW, RIGHT?

And I think it’s never too early to start asking your kids what they’re thankful for. I do this every night with Bennett, and it’s one of our favorite things to do. Sam, the three year old, is a little more apt to be thankful for say, “I want cheese crackers!” but I like to have the language kicking around, you know?


  1. TURKEY. So much of it. All the dark meat. I will hiss at anyone who comes near the dark meat.
  2. THE MACY’S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE. If you didn’t watch this growing up, you are not ‘Murican.
  4. PAJAMAS. Never gonna stop.
  5. KIDS AND HUSBAND IN PAJAMAS. Because it is best enjoyed together.
  6. PIE.
  9. WATCHING YOUR EXTENDED FAMILY MAKE A MESS. NOT AT YOUR HOUSE. Whatever, if you say, “but Julie, your house is already a mess.” You don’t know me!
  10. LITTLE KID THANKSGIVING PILGRIM AND INDIAN OUTFITS AND HAND TURKEYS. You’re not human if you don’t love that shit.

I look greatly forward, also to another Hutchings Family Event. There are a couple this year, but the one I look forward to most is at Tim’s Uncle Mike’s house. Things that you may see at one of these events include:

  2. BLOOD ON THE SUGAR CONTAINER. None of us knows why.
  5. THE POSSIBLE ABANDONMENT OF ANY HUSBAND BY THEIR WIVES IN THE WEE HOURS. This happens. I have not done it, but we’ve only been married 12 years.

There will also be incredible smells, and great amounts of laughs and kids playing, and hugging and it makes me the happiest ever.


Tell me, folks, tell me not what you are thankful for, but tell me what you’re looking forward to this Thanksgiving. I look forward to my husband having a forced day off. Now, you. GO, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.

The Things That Matter: And Kicking Ass

TODAY’S BREW: Peppermint mocha! Well, that’s what I wish it was.

By Julie

The other day I wrote a post about how I really thought for the first time, my gig was up. This writing thing was the wrong choice, I can’t give my kids a huge fantastical Christmas, possibly, though if I know us, we will anyway, one way or another.

Today, it dawned on me.

The six year old, Bennett, had a half day yesterday and got out at 1:00. Every time he has a half day, I like to do something special with him. This time, as luck would have it, the Budweiser Clydesdales were in town for the Thanksgiving parade this weekend, and we got to go and visit them! (I am not a horse person, but I frigging LOVE Clydesdales. I also only like huge cats and very small dogs. Or totally giant dogs. I like extremes, apparently.) Then we went to play at this really cool toy store we love, and look at the Christmas decorations at the local craft store. Got McDonald’s. Stuff like that. It was great.

And if I still worked retail, I would have been working a 10 hour day and thinking about it the other 14 hours. How can I maximize my Black Friday sales? I have 5 shifts unfilled, what am I going to do? I would have spent hours making floor plans, figuring out what I needed to sell every 15 minutes ( I kid you not), in order to beat my previous year’s numbers. I just plain wouldn’t have been there with my son, even if I was there.

I’ve realized that before. Physically and mentally, I’m more present and just plain MYSELF since I write full time. And I do write full time. I don’t treat it like a hobby, and rarely take a day off. I give it my all every single time I sit down to it, and carry a notebook with me at all times. There are scraps of paper everywhere with ideas written on them, and dialogue, edits….

What was different about this time that I got to spend time with my boy was that it was a little celebration. Earlier this week I got a phone call from his teacher.


No, none of that. She called to tell me that not all kids do, but Bennett works hard at everything he does, all day long. He tries and succeeds at everything he does. And he’s a role model every day.

Of course, I gushed and teared up, and bought prizes and made special lunchbox notes and all that stuff. Because we make sure we support our kids’ efforts. And it’s even better when those efforts pay off.

But another thing she said was,”I’m sure this isn’t a surprise to you.”

And you know what? It wasn’t. Not just because he’s a great kid, but because I help make him a great kid. Not just because we say we support him, we’re there to do it. We pick him up at school, I’m home with him every afternoon. I make his breakfast every day, I read to him every day, I do his homework with him every night, and I let him vegge out for as long as he needs to. I know what he’s eating, I know what friends he plays with, I put him to bed every night and get to ask him what he’s thankful for, and you know what he says?

Me. He’s thankful for me.

Here come the waterworks.

I know that if I spent an hour and  a half every night of the 3 hours I would get to see him bitching to my husband (if we weren’t working opposite shifts) about my goddamn job and how I didn’t even get to pee that day (actual thing that happened to me every day), that Bennett would probably not be as glad to have me. My children know that they are the most important part of our lives. They know because we show them. Tim works his tail off, and manages to spend really special time with them every single day. He picks Ben up at school, and is lucky enough to work a job where he can leave at the drop of a hat and drive the 5 minutes home if we want him. Or if he wants us.

But the other thing that makes me remember that being home with my kids is the most important thing in the world is that Bennett loves to see me writing. He draws pictures of me at his computer, and knows more about writing than a lot of grownups. And just like I said, we celebrate his efforts, and love when they’re successful, it applies to me.

Writing and publishing and making book sales is effort. Sometimes it’s successful. I’ve been very successful in a lot of ways. Not selling as much as I want to is not a failure, it’s a smaller success. The outpouring of reviews and welcoming arms RUNNING HOME has received warms my heart in a way nothing ever has before. The friends who support me, even in just my last blog post and in twitter comments, make me feel like a queen. And no matter what, I FUCKING DID IT. I fucking published the book I started 6 years ago and poured my self-worth into. And people love it. What difference does it make if the money won’t ever support us? It’s only money. We’ll always need more. What’s important is right here, in this house. In our pajamas, with coffee and cartoons, and kisses, and movies, and wedding photos that offer all the promise in the world and deliver it. And what matters is that we know it fucking matters.

Success is never one dimensional, and you know what? If efforts don’t pay off, the effort itself is a success. If it’s true for my kids, it’s true for me. It’s true for our family. Something tells me it’s true for you guys, too.

I love writing, and I love what it’s doing for my family. And I love every goddamn one of you out there who encourages me, and who busts their asses to make their work something that matters. I love you guys for being great parents and siblings and friends, and great inspirations, and for fucking up and for telling us about it. I love you for being flawed, and yourselves, strong, and vulnerable, and imperfectly beautiful. I love you for speaking your mind, and for disagreeing, and agreeing, and trying to understand things. And I love my kids and my husband for a lot of these things, too.

When I didn’t commit myself to writing, these things weren’t always the most important things in my day. Now they are. And I have people like all of you to thank for it. Keep plugging at all of the things that matter to you.

Spitting in the Face of Battle and Kicking Ass in the War

TODAY’S BREW: Water. I’m moving furniture.

By Julie

I shall tell you a short story. I have yet to determine if it is a sad or happy story.

We’re poor as dirt, right? That’s fine, I’m okay with it, my husband’s okay with it. We knew it would happen when I quit my job. We don’t need a lot, we have what we want. But of course, Christmas is around the corner, and this is the first time we won’t be able to just get what we want to get the kids. We have to plan, borrow and beg, make sacrifices, more of them, and hope for the best. We aren’t looking forward to Christmas any less, that’s for sure. Actually, I am super excited for this holiday, more than ever.

This is the part where I wonder when I’ll start seeing money from the sales of RUNNING HOME. Because, writer and reader buds, I don’t know if you know something nobody I know does, but there is no way in Hell to know what you’ve sold until that check shows up. It could be enough to pay for a car, or enough to buy the gas you’re putting in it. You just don’t know. But based on my Amazon rankings, where I rank relatively according to what others have sold, and the reviews, I thought I had a pretty good idea.

Apparently, I was shit wrong.

I never expected to get rich, or do much more than come out of the red, but to find out that I may not have even earned out my advance is like having a steamroller filled with demon blood run over my heart and then suck it out and pour said demon blood inside the aching cavity it left.

I am a positive, do it and do it well kind of person. I’m super easily pleased. I know there’s more I can do to sell books, that it’s a marathon, not a race, that it’s continuous and limitless. I have great faith in what I’ve built, the support I’ve had from the most amazing people on the planet, and I know that this is a stepping stone. Everything is going according to plan.

What troubled me about this figure was how much work I already did put in to promoting the book. The incredible blogs I’ve guested on, the contests, the reviews, the street team that busted their ass for me. Not to mention the revisions, the edits, the 5 plus years of working on my first novel. All that for a couple of hundred bucks?


I’m agonizing over a sequel to a book nobody cared about? My husband works 7 days a week so I can do this? That’s not fair. This is a charade, a fun hobby with a solid pipe dream attached. I had my fun, and now it’s over.

Writing is not the hardest work you’ll ever do, I don’t care who says so. It’s gut wrenching, has thrown me into depressions that last for weeks, has challenged me to find out things about myself I never wanted to. But lifting shelves over my head at 3 in the morning with a bunch of 18 year old girls trying to build a bra display, knowing that your regional manager who fucking hates you is going to say it has a scuff mark on it when she shows up the next day in her bitch scarf and pampered fucking Ann Taylor suit with her $200 hair cut that still looks like shit when you have bags under your eyes, your feet hurt from running in heels to fit old people for bras, and you miss your kids and husband because you’ve only slept for 3 hours is worse. That’s worse. (run-on sentence, anyone?) It’s worse to make phone calls at 8 in the morning to southerners who don’t want to pay their phone bills and call you horrible names is worse. Done that, too. Wondering what you’ve done wrong to make your 3 year old such a raging tyrant is worse. Worrying that you’re not giving your kids enough attention because you’re too worried about keeping your shit job is worse. Having to fire a 7 year veteran whose husband is out of work because she gave a discount to her neighbor is worse. Lifting literally hundreds of 50 pound bags of gravel in and out of a Jeep is worse. Getting sunburned and bitten by mosquitoes weeding someone else’s yard for 8 hours straight is worse. I’ve done all this stuff and then some. Writing is the second easiest job I have ever had.

Pet store manager is the easiest. And the most fun.

I have no right to complain that I’ve worked too hard to have earned hardly anything this early in the game. I realize RUNNING HOME has only been out for a couple of months. I am eternally grateful for every single person who ever picked it up, said “this ain’t half bad,” and am humbled that people connect with it. It’s all I ever dreamed of. I kid you not. It’s all I ever wanted.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t buy Christmas presents. So, I’m sent into the pit of despair where I wonder what the fuck I was thinking when I said this was the best thing I could do for my kids. My kids won’t go without presents, don’t think that. We’ll find a way to get them what they want, and what we want for them. We’ll still adopt a family for Christmas, because no matter how poor we might be at a given moment, there is always someone worse off.


You guys love this book! And you tell me so, to my face, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on Facebook and Twitter!

AND THAT IS WHY I WILL CONTINUE TO WRITE THE SEQUEL. I created something people are connected to, and that’s what my passion is.

So, I’ve done what I should do. I took a few days off writing. I moved all the furniture in the house to make it more Zen-like. I played with my kids, spent time with my husband, and read. And now, I’m ready to win the war, whether I lost a battle or not. Losing is all in the eye of the beholder, and it’s all relative. I’m still living the dream, even if I woke up faster than I wanted to. This is one stone in the path of a long road, and I’m ready to pick my head up and keep walking.

Thank you, everyone who supports me and all the writers out there that kick ass every day and create. I love you all for making it worthwhile.

Julie Gets A Date Night

TODAY’S BREW: Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate! Sounds fancy as shit, right?!

By Julie

The library in my town is a big deal. They host a lot of events, the biggest of which is The Taste of the Town. This is a monster fundraising event for the library featuring all the most shwanky local restaurants, massive excellent auctions, and all the booze you can drink from a thousand different boozeries.

Lucky for me, my husband’s liquor store handles all the booze. So we get in FO FREE. Okay, we sneak in, but still, nobody questions us.

This is as close to a fancy date night as we get. I get to look as femme fatale as I rightfully should, while charming the pants off of countless liquor representatives, politicians and other classy folks. Oh yeah, my husband gets to come, too, which is a nice treat because date night for us includes 2 kids and Walmart clearance deals. But this night, we drink the finest wine, eat sushi and duck and lobster, and all sorts of desserts, and just be us. There’s little library ladies walking around with push carts filled with wrapped books, and for $20 you can buy one, get some surprise book, and many of them have gift certificates tucked inside. (My wonderful husband bought me one of these as a surprise, winning me Brad Thor’s BLACK LIST, and the chance to unwrap a beautifully packaged book like it held gold inside. It did not have a gift certificate, but again, we only go to Walmart.)

Turns out a young lady that I absolutely adore, who used to work for me at Victoria’s Secret, is now in charge of the fundraising for the library, so we got to talk about me doing a speaking event or two, which is basically the coolest thing ever. And I’m excited to donate a paperback of RUNNING HOME to the library, also. To be able to bump into townies and say they can borrow my book from the library is extra cool.

Then the coolest thing happened. A VIP from Budweiser asked me for a signed copy of my book, when I hadn’t even been talking to him! That’s cool, right? I mean, I felt a little famous, sitting at an empty table with literary folks and important townspeople milling around, signing my book. If I hadn’t drank as much as I had, I probably still would have gotten choked up. To have come that far in a year’s time is an incredible feeling. And to bump into my former employee, both of us doing something we love, was the cherry on top. I can’t help but wonder where I’ll be next year in November when this event pops back up.

So, this is pretty much just a happy story from Julie. I’m lucky, thankful, loved and in love, and only see good things on the horizon.




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