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

Archive for the tag “Julie Hutchings”

Sin Is The Writer’s Element

TODAY’S BREW: The blood of Juan Valdez

By Julie


–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.

Immersion vs. Obsession

TODAY’S BREW: More coffee than you can even believe exists considering I have to deal with this dinosaur laptop.

By Julie

Since finishing the edits on RUNNING AWAY, a book that took me 6 months to write, all in all, I’ve been able to look up from the laptop and really enjoy the world around me without those characters fighting for my attention in my mind. It’s been great to read a book without all but timing myself to make sure I don’t waste too much editing time, to go to the park with the kids and Tim and not feel like I was taking an unauthorized work break, to watch movies and play games and enjoy the simplicity of my life outside of my head.

Hacking away at the jungle that was RUNNING AWAY was incredibly involved and time consuming. I’m not accustomed to having to dig through so much information without just starting from scratch, which is so much easier. I was a missing person on Twitter, have not checked Facebook for weeks, missed working out at the gym a few times, haven’t returned phone calls, and haven’t been what you’d call Susie Homemaker around the house. I pored over every sentence in that book, careful to make sure nothing seemed transitory, a means to an end, or superflous. I committed myself until I felt like I might need to be committed, if you know what I mean.

I entirely own that my editing and writing process borders on obsession. Such is the way of life when you live inside your own imagination.

“Bordering” on obsession for me means that I do and can stop myself, eventually from letting the process consume me. I read for an extensive time to my boys every night, I make sure to eat meals and not snack like a fiend, to work out pretty regularly. I take time all day long to hug my kids, talk to them about what they’re doing, to cuddle with Tim, and be part of this family. I make sure that while my family knows I’m entrenched in my work, that it’s making me better, not deteriorating me. That’s the difference between being immersed in your work and obsessing with it; does it improve you and and itself, or does it tear you apart?

Now that I’m working on THE ANIMAL again, it feels like spring is all around me. The timing has been perfect. RUNNING AWAY begged for me to be trapped inside with snow piling up against the windows, delving deep inside my head. This book is streamlined, and only asks me to tell the reader more, show the inner workings more, not weed through a tangle to pull out what’s necessary. Writing Trent Dixon feels like a release, for both him and I. He’s a character with more inside him that needs expulsion than just the god that’s possessed him. He suffers from OCD, deeply rooted in his painful past, and being along for the ride that he brings us on is intense. Trying to free Trent’s obsessions is the best way to immerse myself in my work without letting my work pull me apart.

I’m happy that my work isn’t something I just HAVE to do, it’s something I WANT to do. The need to write these books and perfect them is only seconded by my desire to do it. It doesn’t run away with me, I’m the one in control. I can be obsessed with immersing myself in them, and never have to tell the two apart, and I ache to do it for the rest of my life. Healthy or not, it’s a passion I can’t live without, and one I don’t intend to.


Hard and Fast Ahead

TODAY’S BREW: Coconute Creme Cheap Stuff that tastes like caffeinated rainbows.

By Julie


PEOPLE. The editing on RUNNING AWAY is oooovvveeeeer.

This book took way longer than I expected. I came to terms with the fact that it was going to take as long as it needed to. I made sure not to slack on it, I worked on it every day with the occasional necessary break. It was a long-hauler, but I think the product of it was worth it. I worked hard at expanding the Japanese mythology without letting it run away needlessly on me. I introduced new characters with real precision and purpose, some of which you’ll love, some you’ll hate, and some you’ll wish you didn’t love quite so much. And I think I’ve set up some trails to follow into the final book of the trilogy.

Of course, the debilitating fear that I’ve written ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY 120,000 times is on high frequency.


Don’t look at me like that, I don’t ever stop.

RUNNING AWAY is being read by a few folks who I desperately seek the opinion of. You know who you are. While I throw up hourly awaiting their reactions, I’m busting out ye olde manuscript, THE ANIMAL, and fine tuning that dirty thing to send to my illustrious agent, Eric Ruben, Esquire. Then, I shall throw up again, awaiting to see what he thinks of it.

For those of you unfamiliar with THE ANIMAL, it’s a little different from RUNNING HOME. A little bit. *clears throat* *checks for mother’s whereabouts on internet*

THE ANIMAL is about Trent Dixon, a womanizing Boston banker with OCD, who becomes possessed by a defiled Egyptian fertility god. Filth ensues.

Filth is part of the story, but it is not THE story. And I think you’ll fall in love with Trent the way I did, and suffer from PTSD….Post Trent Stress Disorder…when you finish with him.

If you want to meet The Animal, you can be offended here:

Getting down and dirty with Trent requires a little bit of a gear switch, so I’m giving myself a day to recuperate from Eliza and Nicholas and all our new buddies in RUNNING AWAY, and then I’m diving into the dirt. Prepare yourselves, Trent brings you for many bumpy…rides.

My fear of what The People will think of both of these books is trumped by my excitement over having written them. A firm believer in WRITE THE BOOK YOU HAVE TO WRITE OR EVERYTHING BREAKS, I have to think that anything I feel so passionately about will find an audience. That my intensity over these projects will show through. I get only more intense about my work the longer I do it, so to give you THE ANIMAL, and then to start by the end of the month work on my first attempt at Young Adult is really exciting for me, and I hope it will exite you all, too. Not in a sexual way. Not all the time. Sometimes in a sexual way.

All The Undead News You Can Use!

Today’s Brew: Blueberry. I bought 2 boxes yesterday

by Kristen

Things have been busy around here, and it’s the good kind!  Julie is wrapping up edits on Running Away. My Night Moves will be out in less than a month.

But that’s not all we have to tell you about!

  • Running Home and Because the Night are now available at The Book Shack in The Independence Mall, Kingston, MA! If you’re in the area, please stop by and visit our books! We’re working on distribution in additional indie bookstores as well, but you always remember your first.
  • We have an intern!! We’ve known Sara forever, but it had been a while since we’d seen her. Now she’s back in our lives, and she’s a little bit Kristen, and a little bit Julie. Just like the Donny and Marie song but clearly so much cooler. Not only is she going to be helping us out with The Things, but she is writing as well! Her ideas are unique, well developed, and they will blow you away as much as they did to me and Julie. The coolest thing about when we asked her to share her stuff with us was she wasn’t the least bit shy about it. It took Julie and I a long time to get to that point.  I know you don’t believe it, but it’s true.

Without further ado, meet our intern, Sara!

Tell us about yourself. I’m a TV and media producer and costume designer, and sometimes a bellydancer, and now a writer.

What are you writing? Fantasy/sci fi, strong female characters in worlds that are fantastical and familiar.

 Fave food: I’m a total foodie, but Japanese food is my favorite.

 Fave movies: Chick flick: Fools Rush In. I’m Salma Hayek obsessed.  Under the cherry moon with Prince, and he talks in it. And best movie ever made is Malena. It’s Italian. Just watch it, don’t read the back or the reviews.

Fave band: Can I pick 5? Doro Pesch,System of a Down, Rage Against the Machine, Incubus, Pat Benatar. If you ask me tomorrow it will be slightly different. I feel single right now, not having one favorite band!

Describe your perfect day:  One when you  wake up naturally with sunshine, lots of sleep, see cool people, have cool conversations, go to the beach, and have an inventive meal.

I told you she was awesome! Stay tuned to see what Sara’s got up her sleeve!

And Julie will have more news to share tomorrow!

Branding Vs. Bite Me, I Write What I Want


By Julie

Edits on RUNNING AWAY will be finished by March first, and while my beta readers dig in, I move on to the next project.

And with that, comes the initial worry of, “Well, shit. My readers aren’t ready for this.”

RUNNING AWAY feels very cohesive in character to RUNNING HOME to me, as well it should. The few people who have read THE HARPY, which is currently on submission to publishers, got an eyeful of Charity Blake, who, shall we say, has quite a bit more edge than Ellie Morgan. Charity would as soon give you the finger as make out with you in public.

March’s project is final edits on a book that I’ve let sit for a while, waiting for me. And it’s as different from THE HARPY as that book is from RUNNING HOME. There has been an excerpt or two on Deadly Ever After of THE ANIMAL, and it’s certainly not going to be for everyone. Erotic, aggressive, and in some parts probably offensive, it very well may not appeal to the same readers as RUNNING HOME. I have to wonder if I’m broadening my horizons or upsetting my readers by giving them Trent and Min, and all the debauchery the two are capable of.

The best part? Today’s plan is plotting my newest book, and man alive have I struggled with whether or not I should write this. Because naturally, the progression from Japanese vampires to a bitter, vengeful, punk Harpy, to an obsessive compulsive man possessed by a defiled sex god is straight to young adult. Naturally.

Yeah, that’s right. The adventures of an Egyptian sex god and the beginning of a young adult novel, all in the same month. Right after that, I might be making INSCRIPTION, my short horror story series that never seems to go away into a full length novel. And THAT features a teenage boy. So YA horror.

My mantra is to write the book you have to write. Don’t listen to what the trends are, don’t worry about what the Joneses are writing. Write the book that itches at your soul like a wound that won’t quite heal, and there will be an audience for it. Anything that ignites that much passion in you is going bleed onto the page, and that kind of power gets heard. I firmly believe it.

But then you’ve got the other side of life, which is branding. Am I making myself unpredictable? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Am I right in relying on my voice and unique style to carry me through these wild ideas I have and make them have mass appeal based on that alone? Am I right in thinking that if the author connects with readers now more than ever, then my readers will expect me to write something unexpected, wild, often brash and always strong? Is it me selling the story, or the story running off without me?

What are your thoughts on sticking to the straight and narrow as opposed to giving all your work the attention you think it deserves? HELP ME, PEOPLE, I’M DYING.



Julie Tells JC Lillis Dirty Penguin Jokes And About Her Books

TODAY’S BREW: Friggity French Toast blend, baby. Kristen gets the good stuff for me.

By Julie 

I got to do this interview with one of the most refreshingly hilarious and talented people on Twitter, Jen Lillis. Now that RUNNING AWAY inches ever closer to your dirty little hands, here’s a bunch of random stuff about me, including a dirty joke.


Okay, full disclosure: Julie Hutchings is one of my favorite writer-types on Twitter. Whenever she tweets I’m all like

so when I interviewed her I was afraid I’d be all like

“Remember that time you were in the Beatles?”

I briefly considered conducting the entire interview as Ali G. since Julie and I recently discussed our mutual obsession with that one episode where he calls farms “rubbish zoos,” but then I’d have to ask all sorts of rude and oblivious questions about her awesome book, Running Home, which totally deserves better. So I asked her 17 questions as my regular self, and much like Bon Jovi in “Wanted Dead Or Alive,” she ROCKED THEM ALL. (And, unsurprisingly, told a spectacular dirty penguin joke.)

Here’s the interview, followed by my review of Running Home!


Julie Hutchings

Hey Julie—thanks for joining me. Let’s start with some questions about Running Home and the writing life:
Q. Can we talk about Eliza first? SHE’S SO GREAT. Refreshingly low-key, funny, antisocial in a relatable way. So much of her character hinges on this feeling that no matter where she is, she doesn’t quite fit in. Does that come from personal experience, or did you have to stretch to put yourself in her shoes?

A. Ahhh, thank you! I had plenty of time being the odd girl out, the one with the huge boobs and weird hair. It was after I accepted that I wasn’t like anybody else that I found my strength and knew I had somethingelse. Still not sure what it is, but it’s in there. A lot like Eliza, yeah.

Q. I loved the female friendship in Running Home and I kinnnnnda want to write Kat/Eliza femslash, just a little. Since the book is from Eliza’s POV, I’m curious: what did their friendship mean to Kat, and how did she really view Eliza’s whirlwind relationship with Nicholas?

A. Kat always felt a little like a pinup poster and Eliza was the first person to really see Kat for the witty, trusting, generous woman she was. For that, Kat loved her and even though Eliza was a little of everything she wasn’t—self reliant, resourceful, never needing anybody, not wantinganybody—Kat was never jealous. She only wanted Eliza to feel the openness that she felt all the time. So when Nicholas showed up, Kat really wanted Eliza to let herself feel, no matter what feelings he brought on.

Q. This is a vampire book with a difference—you draw on Japanese Shinigami mythology, so your vampires are bound by fate to lead certain people to predestined deaths. What’s the hardest part about writing a romantic lead who’s fated to kill?

A. You know, I never want my characters to be all likeable. Nobody is all likeable all the time. So even though fate picks these victims for him, Nicholas still enjoys the kill. He may have mixed feelings about it, but at the end of the day he’s resolved to stand behind who he is. Insecure, but strong. I think knowing when to turn off the sarcasm with him and turn on the emotion was the hardest thing. His first response is snark all the time. Letting Eliza in to his feelings when he didn’t expect it was tough.

Q. Smell is such a vivid part of Running Home—totally agree with the reviewer who said it should be scratch & sniff. Why did you choose to focus so intensely on smell, and how did you pick the special scents associated with Nicholas and his awesome cabin?

A. Scent is the sense that’s strongest with people. One whiff of something and it can transport you to another time, someone you wish you were, someplace you wish you never left, a moment of longing and happiness all at once. This, to me, is what vampires should stand for, all of these dichotomies and intensity. The smells of home were what I wanted for Eliza, warm things—peppermint brownies, hot chocolate, cloves, all the things that make you want to crawl under a blanket and smile that you’re there. Because she doesn’t get that feeling any other time.

Q. Eliza’s bond with Nicholas gets really intense, really fast (and later in the book it’s obvious why). Do you believe fate has a hand in real-life relationships, or was that just a theme that meshed well with the Shinigami myth?

A. I think there are soul mates, absolutely. People that are meant to be in our lives. I think if I didn’t believe it, I wouldn’t be able to write it convincingly. Having someone fated for you isn’t all roses. Sometimes it feels suffocating. Sometimes you can’t get enough of them no matter how hard you try. And no matter how you feel on the surface, you never feel RIGHT unless they’re next to you. And yes, I speak from experience. J

Q. What piece of writing advice has helped you/influenced your work the most?

A. “Write the book you have to write or everything breaks.” (A.M. Homes)  Don’t worry about whether it will sell, or if it makes sense, or what genre it fits into. If it’s so powerful that you have to get it out of your soul, it will feel that way regardless of any of these things. Write the book because you’re a writer, not because of what anybody else thinks. Write it if it hurts, or if it takes 12 years.

Q. I love that advice. I need you to cross-stitch that for me, okay?

So I gotta ask, because none of us actually want our books to take 12 years: When you hit a wall and don’t want to write, tell me what happens in your brain to get you past that. How do you talk yourself out of a motivation dead zone?

A. I am such a militant bitch. First, I drink like a sonofabitch. Then I sit my ass down and I force myself to write something, no matter what it is. The only reason I’m not motivated is if I don’t try. It’s a vicious circle. Forcing myself to write just one damn sentence, literally with zero idea of what was going to come out was how I wrote the first line of THE ANIMAL, the book I pray my agent will like after editing.

Q. Forcing it is so hard, but you’re right – sometimes it jumpstarts some great ideas you never would’ve had otherwise.

One more writing question. As a fellow mom, I gotta ask: how on earth do you balance the writing life with motherhood? Any tips for the inept jugglers among us?

A. Oh holy Jesus. Sometimes I suck at being a mom. I just don’t want to play Legos. I just don’t want to do crafts that we’ll all be bored of in 5 minutes. And sometimes all I want to do is play with the kids or screw around outside with them. But I remind myself every day what the two most important things in my life are: My babies and writing. (The husband is in there, I couldn’t do any of it without him.) It may mean that I write in 15 minute intervals, or a sentence here and there as I run around the house, and it often means I get my ass out of bed at 5 to have those 3 solid hours to myself to write. And I’m always tired. But it’s a happy tired. There are days of such overwhelm I can’t breathe, and I take anxiety meds every day, but this is the life I want, and I try to remember that when the kids are climbing on me as I edit. I also schedule like a bastard. I give myself a quota, not a goal, of what I want written, and I don’t let myself slack. End of story. It’s non-negotiable.

Q. YES. Writing moms are superheroes. I’m convinced.

Okay – so since you love answering “weird shit,” I have some rapid-fire oddball questions before we go:

Describe your favorite pair of shoes.

A. Oooooh, I love these patent leather nude stilettos that I just want to lick.

Q. Tell me a dirty joke.

A. It’s long, so get ready. (That’s not the joke.) A penguin’s car breaks down, so he walks to a garage. The walrus mechanic says, “this is gonna take a while, why don’t you go to the diner across the street and come back in an hour?” The penguin is starved, so he orders a huge bowl of ice cream, but penguins don’t have hands, so he flips into his mouth like crazy, getting ice cream everywhere. An hour passes, and he goes back to the garage, still wiping ice cream off his penguin face. The walrus says, “well, it looks like you blew a seal.” The penguin says, “no, it’s just some ice cream.” J

Q. What movie makes you angry?

A. Eraserhead. It makes me dizzy, which makes me angry.

Q. What book makes you cry?

A. THE INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison. Ugh. *kicks feelings*

Q. If you had to write a short story inspired by a song, which one would you pick?

A. UGH AGAIN. Waiting for the Miracle by Leonard Cohen.

Q. What do you think about at night when you’re trying to fall asleep?

A. The coffee I shall drink in a mere 8 hours.

Q. When you meet someone new, what’s the first thing you notice about him/her?

A. Their laugh. Then their hands.

Q. What do you think Oscar the Grouch does on trash day?

A. Eats a shitload of cake.

Q. As a fellow Ali G fan, I must know: Does you believe in mahogany?

A. I DO believe in mahogany because of all the fairy tales and things about it.


Thanks, Julie, for stopping by and painting this blog with amazing. Here’s my review of Running Home:


First things first: is Running Home a good vampire novel? Does it bring something different to the table? Yes, and here’s why. It was an incredibly smart decision to spice up the Original Recipe vampire tale with elements of Japanese Shinigami mythology. It adds depth and shading to what’s usually a pretty straightforward obstacle to romance. In this universe, a vamp who wants to sidestep a human kill has to fight more than just hunger and base instinct – he has to fight fate itself. It’s a powerful, agonizing dilemma that really bears fruit in the second half of the novel, when [SORT-OF SPOILER ALERT] romantic lead Nicholas learns he’s fated to kill someone close to Eliza, the girl he loves.

That brings me to Running Home’s secret weapon—the thing that sets it apart and makes it a hugely appealing read even if you’re not into vampires. Eliza is a great narrator with a specific voice that resists cliché or easy categorization. She can be sullen and withdrawn, but she’s also capable of great tenderness and vulnerability. She’s wry and smart (how can you not love a character who warns her best friend not to dress her “like a human cupcake”?), but she never comes across as a cookie-cutter snarky heroine. She has a quiet strength, but Nicholas is her weakness, and Running Home has the guts to fully explore all the beauty and ugliness of a first love that starts to snowball into obsession. There’s a very good reason Eliza and Nicholas fall for each other so hard and fast (which I won’t reveal here), but even if you take out the vampire element, there’s so much to relate to here: the insecurity and maddening uncertainty of a relationship’s early stages, the almost palpable joys of discovering someone who really gets you. Those relatable parts really anchor the story and keep us on Eliza’s side, even as we facepalm at some of her decisions (hooray for heroines with realistic flaws!).

The deliberate pace of the book’s first half is somewhat surprising, but I actually found it refreshing, especially since the writing is so strong and vivid. I liked that the character development wasn’t perfunctory; we spend a nice stretch of time really getting to know Eliza and her best friend Kat (great female friendship, by the way) and seeing her relationship with Nicholas develop before the plot amps up in the second half. If I didn’t know Eliza so well before the plot started twisting and turning, those twists and turns might have been much less affecting. Plus Hutchings seeds the first half with just enough mystery and small-scale horror, so it’s still a page-turner that builds smoothly to later events.

Also: the end. There’s a development in the final chapters that made me gasp and put my Kindle down for about five minutes. I hated that it happened, but I knew exactly WHY it had to happen, and I respect an author who follows a plot thread to its logical end, even if it devastates the reader. What happens at the end raises a ton of fascinating questions, and I can’t wait to see how it all plays out in the sequel, Running Away. (I hope we don’t have long to wait!)

To sum up: recommended for fans of paranormal horror-romance, unusual heroines, love affairs with equal parts passion and nuance, and richly evocative writing. It’s got a five-star average on Amazon and costs less than a latte. RUN AND GET IT.

And also, follow Julie on Twitter (@HutchingsJulie). You won’t regret it.

Lego Movie Life Lessons or How to Create an Awesome Shit Show

TODAY’S BREW: Little o’ this, little o’ that.

By Julie

For Bennett’s birthday we brought him to see THE LEGO MOVIE. Now, Tim had his reservations about it because the toys make no sense. There’s like a flying ice cream truck, and weird dream land with a cat/unicorn, and the Old West and construction sites, and Batman? My response was that they make all these intricate, gorgeous Lego sets that we bust our asses to buy, and Ben rips them apart in a week to make some shit that doesn’t make sense anyway. Kids don’t make sense, that’s how they roll. Coincidentally, we all bitch that kids can’t make a toy out of 2 rocks and a handful of bottlecaps like we did as kids. Maybe it’s because we fucking hand them toys with intricate instructions that they have to try to insert their imaginations into, right after WE spend 10 hours building it for them.

The other thing is that the characters aren’t even remotely close to being in the same realm of possibility. It’s like that nightmare I have about having Barbie play with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and G.I. Joe battle Go-Bots, and Tonka Trucks can rescue the Weebles from Grayskull. THIS SHIT DOES NOT GO TOGETHER.

I mean, look at this shit show.

As a child, I refused to mix toys as such. Thank God this didn’t make me a racist. I refuse to teach my kids that there’s some people you just don’t play with, some toys that you just aren’t allowed to like, and interests that can’t coincide with other interests. (I am beaming proudly because my kids are pretty awesome about getting all this stuff right.)

Kristen came with us to the movies, of course, and she was a little worried in the beginning that “everything is awesome” when it’s built according to exact instructions and everyone works together all the time and never uses their imaginations. (I was okay with “everything is awesome” because the only other motivational phrase in toy-related media I can think of lately is the “anything is possible” motto that goes along with fucking Dog Poop Barbie. Literally, it’s a Barbie with a dog that actually poops, and Barbie gets to pick it up with a pooper scooper. THE FUCKING MOTTO IS “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.” Go for the gold, Barbie!) ‘ll try not to spoil the movie for you, but suffice it to say that the message is clear to think outside the box and use your imagination. And it sure as hell changed my mind about Legos.

Because I spend so much goddamn time building magnificent Lego contraptions, I get irritated when the kids want to take them apart. Obviously. And I spent all this money on this particular set because he NEEEEEDED it, only to destroy it into unrecognizable pieces a day later. I tried to tell myself that the joy was in building it together with my kid, but that gets to be stressful, too. and sometimes takes on the feeling of Forced Fun that say, cruise ship party nights would do.

You’d think in a creative family, with Tim being an amazing artist and me with the book stuff, we’d encourage making shit up more. What the Lego Movie showed me was that we all still have boxes to break out of. (I know, deep shit, for a kid’s movie, but you know what, grown ups are always learning, too or else you suck at life.) Besides, it’s not all that adulty to realize that there are always more rules to break and re-mold into something better. And better by YOUR standards, not according to what has been decided is better. (For fuck’s sake, this post is not about editing, but in my head it is now.) The point is, even if you think you don’t put yourself in a box, you do without knowing it sometimes. You have to go back to the most basic elements and build from the ground up, rule-free, and with childlike enthusiasm. Everything that was ever built was just an idea someone had, and you have ideas, too.

Now, go wreck some awesome thing and make it even awesomer.



Building The Poop Robot

TODAY’S BREW: Mocha Mint S’mores because I mixed them together. AS I AM A GENIUS.

By Julie

You may or may not have heard, but I’M EDITING FOREVER AND EVER AND EVER. The sequel to RUNNING HOME is a lengthy summabitch, and extremely involved, because I’m so deep and stuff. This leads me to sit for 12 hours at a time in front of my laptop, messing with it in a series of highlighting and scribbling and swearing processes that absolutely delight me.

Writers complain about editing all the time, and I get it. You can’t believe this word puke came from your previously-believed-to-be-at-least-averagely-intelligent brain. You have things to FIX. Stuff that should have worked, doesn’t, so now you have to change all this other stuff, and make sure it all works together like a bunch of gears you found at the junkyard. At first you just make this half-robot-half-poop thing that you throw your hands up and say “TA DA!!” at, then you realize that it’s going to fall apart any second, so you have to build it again. And again. All while convincing yourself that a Poop Robot is absolutely necessary and a good idea.

I’m here to tell you that even if your work is the suckiest thing on Suck Mountain, working on it IS a good idea. You thought it was a good idea to write it, (though this can apply to whatever artsy fartsy or non-artsy fartsy thing you do), so stand behind it. Don’t give up on it until the horse is so dead, kicking it hurts your foot more than anything.


Remember that. Every idea was something that some dude thought up, just like you. There is no wrong way to perfect your art, whether that art is coal mining, writing, chicken training or parenting. The one thing YOU can do for your art is do it your way, and stand behind what your way is.

Until your way doesn’t work. Then, try a new way.

The point is, enjoy the learning process. Even if you SUCK at it, you’re still learning. You need to try to learn. Every mistake you make, every thing you do that isn’t quite right, is all part of growing. Enjoy it. The moment you stop enjoying it, is the moment you either think you know fucking everything, or the moment when you realize you’re doing the wrong thing after all. But don’t give up because you think you can’t do it. STOP if you think you don’t want to do it. That’s all part of trying, too.

Of course, in the next blog post I’ll probably tell you to stop trying and just fucking DO IT, like the militant bitch that I am. :) Prepare.

Be My Valentine!

Today’s Brew: Caramel Hot Cocoa. Because it’s a special day. Hallmark SAYS SO.

by Kristen

I was at work, bored out of my mind listening to people rave about a new platform to sell investment banking, and I came up with a brilliant idea.  See? Good stuff can come out of sitting in a cubicle.

I decided to ask some of my author friends what their main couples would get each other for Valentine’s Day.

I think Mr. Jacob Farrish would whisk Lady Eleanore Barnaby off for a few days to Bath or Cornwall, to spend time alone. He’s a busy barrister! ;) She would most likely give him a set of new law books, and a more…um, PRIVATE present later.
–Olivia Kelly, The Heart of a Duke

Corbin would get Mara a new bow and Mara would get Corbin a silver shield. Lol.  Not as fun in the middle ages.
–Tammy Farrell, The Darkness of Light

Beau would get Jack something sarcastic. A slogan tee with ‘If I were chocolate, I’d eat myself‘ written across the front. Or maybe, ‘James Bond 2.0‘  Jack would get Beau a limited edition Yoda doll to replace the one that was broken during the chaos. Or, all things considered, he may get her one of those squidgy stress balls with his face printed on it…
–Louise D. Gornall, In Stone
For their first Valentine’s Day together (if they make it that far, because you’ve got to remember a. They got together two months before graduation and we all know how that usually works out, and b. Tash is kind of an emotional land mine), Grant would most-likely spend weeks stressing over what to get Tash and then eventually ask his mom for guidance. She would tell Grant to get Tash a sweater or something, and Tash would hate it. Tash, on the other hand, would probably be so uncomfortable about the mere thought of taking part in Valentine’s Day that she’d attempt to lighten the mood with some kind of gag gift, and Grant would be horrified because he’d wonder if deep down Tash secretly believes that he would be caught dead wearing a “Female Body Inspector” T-shirt. After a few moments of extremely creative cursing (on Tash’s part) and painful politeness while inwardly violent self-kicking (on Grant’s part), they’d both admit how socially awkward they are and have a good laugh about it together. And then they would make out. The end.
–Isobel Irons, Promiscuous

Abel will give Brandon a customized heart-shaped guitar pick stamped with I PICK YOU, plus a hoodie with the Castaway Planet logo. His valentine card will be very large and festooned with smooching robots, and it will play a tinny “Let’s Get It On” when opened. Brandon will give Abel a limited-edition Captain James P. Cadmus action figure and a giant tin of cinnamon jelly beans, because cinnamon jelly beans will remind him of their road trip always and forever. Also, his construction-paper valentine will look handmade by a monkey with extra thumbs, but Abel will put it under his pillow anyway.
–J.C. Lillis, How to Repair a Mechanical Heart

Tavis would create a special corner in the hedge maze at the Imperial Palace for Faylanna, one with some of her favorite plants from the Gardensia Exotica planted there. It would be secluded, so she could have time to herself if she wanted, or with just Faylanna, Tavis, and their daughter.  Faylanna would secretly arrange with Tavis’ steward to clear several days of commitments and tell him to spend the time any way he wanted, so long as it had nothing to do with being the Crown Prince. They’d end up leaving the city, taking no one but themselves for the week.
–J. Elizabeth Hill, The Nine
 Cerise would give William a doctor costume and he’d go rent a wing of some hospital.
Torren has always loved literature and spent a lot of his free time reading, so as a romantic gift, Lilly would get Torren something book-related, such as an autographed first edition of a book he adores or a new book he hasn’t read yet but which she knows he’ll love. Torren’s romantic gesture for Lilly, on the other hand, would lean toward the experiential rather than the material. He would plan a romantic date and not tell her where they were going. Something super special like showing her a spectacular view she’s never seen before or taking her to a production of Turandot, which was the opera they saw on their first date together and which captivated her and stirred her emotions.
–Jeanie Grey, Awakening 2
Eliza would get Nicholas something ridiculous and so wrong it was right like a plant stand. Nicholas would get Eliza a crazy amount of food, not fancy especially but a lot. Like lobster and stuff. And an onyx necklance. He’d say it was pretty and deathy like her.
–Julie Hutchings, Running Home
Tristan would get Callie an antique sewing machine and some really pretty fabrics, like crushed velvet with a funky dye to it, because she’s been sad she hasn’t been able to make anything since she’s been in Vegas.  Callie would get Tristan a journal, a leather one with a cool cutout pattern for his songs. Then one of them would say something to ruin the whole thing, but they’d make up and have a great night.
–Kristen Strassel, Because the Night

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:


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:


  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 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.


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