deadlyeverafter

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

Archive for the tag “Julie Hutchings”

My Opinion and My Advice and Listen To It: Paranormal and Supernatural Stuff

TODAY’S BREW: Red Velvet Rainforest. (It’s the last of both bags)

By Julie

We’ve all heard how very dead the undead are in literature. Vampires, zombies, there’s not a spin that hasn’t been put on them, no depth of ridiculousness that hasn’t been explored. Then you’ve got your paranormal, supernatural what have yous. I have something that’s never been done before! It’s a hybrid monkey wereselkie dragon that turns cyborg!

I’m not fool enough to deny the constant warnings from agents and publishers that paranormal isn’t selling. We’ve been hearing it for YEARS. I’m not arrogant enough to crow from the rooftops that they’re wrong. THEY AREN’T. Agents are having an impossible time selling paranormal for mass market. Publishers seem to both want something that’s wildly different and stands out from the crowd, and yet when you look at the “shelves” it appears to be more of the same, over and over again.

Monsters are classic. They never go away. From the Grandfather of Soul, Dracula, to the creature from the Black Lagoon, to every obscure werechickenselkiewolf..ahem….harpy to grace the limitless minds of readers who forever want a little monster in their brains and beds. Because they’re classics, icons, everyone wants in on them. Hence, the barrage of supernaturals and angels and all the fancy froo hahahas. Some are fantastic. Some are–not. Imitation and all. Imitations of something beautiful when done over and over and over are bound to have shining stars among them and also a lot of rocks you have to sift through to find the gold. Not everyone is going to write this generation’s Interview With The Vampire or be the next Maggie Stiefvater. That does not mean the entire subject matter is dead, but that those who have to sort through the subject matter are both desensitized to a degree and over the entire thing.

In the meantime, more and more supernatural and paranormal stories burst into the sunshine through all the slush piles of the world.

So, do I think the future of supernatural and paranormal romances and horrors are dead? Absolutely not. Here is what I say to summarize:

  • WRITE THE BOOK YOU HAVE TO WRITE. Don’t let trends sway you. Writing is a mini revolution. If you write the book in your heart, it doesn’t matter what’s going on around it, it’s going to make itself known. A book that is felt strongly by the author will come through as something that needs to be read. Period.
  • PAY ATTENTION. What is the common thread that unites every successful paranormal and supernatural work? Don’t repeat it, but model after it. FINE, I’LL TELL YOU WHAT IT IS.
  • THIS IS WHAT IT IS. Your amazing new take on the supernatural means NOTHING if you don’t have a character that we NEED to know. The “thing” about your book needs to be the character that makes the thing interesting. You know what I mean? Your monster may have the most wildly innovative backstory and premise in the history of such things. It doesn’t matter if that’s all there is. The thing that sells your book is the character that makes it happen. I REPEAT. THE CHARACTER MAKES THE BOOK HAPPEN. Now I make this sweeping general statement:

THE THING A SUPERNATURAL OR PARANORMAL NOVEL NEEDS IS NOT PRIMARILY AN AMAZING PREMISE; IT IS AN AMAZING CHARACTER THAT DRIVES THE PREMISE.

The supernatural and paranormal novels will never die as long as have characters that MAKE the story happen. Think of it this way; name your top three favorite paranormal, supernatural, whatever you want, romances and zombie stories, you know what I means, and describe them or say what your favorite thing is about them.

My favorite thing about Frankenstein isn’t the premise–which I LOVE, obviously–but it is the monster’s character and Dr. Frankenstein, and what they do. My favorite thing about Beautiful Creatures isn’t the love story between a witch and the boyfriend who’s too close to her history,  but Ethan and Lena themselves. What I love about Shiver isn’t the werewolves; it’s Grace and Sam and how in love with THEM that I am.

These are a few instances of novels I love, that couldn’t be more different. But the thing that makes them all so utterly DELICIOUS is that they have very cool stories, but the characters are what make the story extraordinary.

IF YOU HAVE AN AMAZING STORY, DO IT JUSTICE WITH AMAZING CHARACTERS THAT BRING THE STORY TO LIFE. A book that does this well will always prevail, regardless of how saturated the market is. The future of paranormal and supernatural in literature isn’t dying, it’s waiting. Waiting for the next character that gives us something we need, and a story to back it up that gives us something we want.

Write the CHARACTER that haunts you and it will force itself into the world.

How To Not Be Stupid at Conventions

TODAY’S BREW: Red Velvet from Target. God, I do love Target.

By Julie

Penguicon was my first convention for writerly stuff. It seemed like everyone on the frigging planet knew everything there was to know about conventions before I went, and there’s these badges and ribbons and everyone knows their way around, and I’m just sort of a “take a left at the tree” kind of girl.

But being brand new to this, I wanted to come away with something from this convention, and I always will. Here a few things I knew for certain that I taught myself, and they might help you out, too. Conventions are an investment, and should be treated as such unless you’re a trust fund baby or a high priced call girl. If you don’t have unlimited cash and want to treat your weekend like a giant party, go for it. If you want it to mean something to your writing career, these are my suggestions:

  • GO WITH THE INTENT OF GETTING SOMETHING OUT OF IT. Sounds basic, but yeah. Make it your mission to go home with more than a hangover, a pile of books, toys and bruises. I wanted to come away having met some people that are important to my writing, and inspired to work on my newest book. Mindset changes everything.
  • MAKE YOURSELF USEFUL. Volunteer to help out. Not only do you meet some folks, but you learn about the con fast and you loosen up really quickly. I worked at Penguicon like an animal. I helped set up the con suite, refilled all the food for the guests, answered questions, all that stuff. Trial by fire. I threw myself into the middle of it, and put my resources to work. It made me feel like I was giving something back.
  • LOOK AT THE DAMN PROGRAM AND MAP, AND STRATEGERIZE THE PANELS. I was psyched to put my two cents in at the Obligatory Undead Panel, talking about whether or not the undead are really a dead topic. A kick ass worldbuilding panel helped me figure out what exactly I need to keep in mind while building the world for my new book, and taught me something I should probably already have known; building convincing worlds for games is a different aspect of complexity than building worlds for novels, and there’s a lot to be learned there. (Now I get to play games for “research.”)
  • INTRODUCE YOURSELF IN THE DEALER ROOM. Those folk working at the tables? YEAH, THEY’RE AWESOME. The tee-shirt guy writes, the comic illustrators and writers are selling their stuff, and probably sitting there a little awkwarded out at the idea of selling shit like a mall kiosk nightmares. Introduce yourself. Talk. Now the comics and other things I got came straight from the hands of the people who created them and I talked shop with those folks. FOR THE WIN.
  • OH YEAH. INTRODUCE YOURSELF IN GENERAL. For real, put yourself out there. My agent, the illustrious Eric Ruben, Esquire, will say all day long that writing is showbiz. People want to connect with the author. YOU’RE THE AUTHOR, ASSHAT. CONNECT. I saw a lovely lady in a super short elevator ride that had the same expression on as me. I mentioned it. We got coffee and hung out and she’s goddamn awesome, and an author of the same stuff as me, and was later on a panel with John Fucking Scalzi and Holy Shit It’s Cory Doctorow. Yeah. Speak up, introvert. These are your people.
  • ALSO MAKE EYE CONTACT AND SMILE. I don’t mean like a politician, but walk with your head up and smile at everybody. These are some of the friendliest, most talented people I would never have met if I didn’t walk around like I owned the place. Not only that, but you have so much to learn from each other, and I learned that I’m not as dumb as I thought about stuff, too.
  • KNOW WHO YOU WANT TO MEET AND MEET THEM. I was fucking determined to meet John Scalzi, so I did. I went up to him after Ask the Author and introduced myself. I looked like an ass, sure. But next year, I won’t have to do it again with as much flourish. I was still too scared to talk to Cory Doctorow, but he tweeted me and I felt like a million bucks
  • PLAN FOR NEXT YEAR OR NEXT CON. I already have put the feelers out to speak on panels at the next Penguicon. I wrote a quick list of do’s and don’ts for next time.

Now that I’m home, I’ve referred to the few notes I’ve taken a million times, and feel re-energized like nobody’s business. This is what I needed, and now I’m full steam ahead. Basically, grab your convention by the balls and run with it.

PENGUICON PENGUICON PENGUICON

TODAY’S BREW: All of It. Don’t mess with me, it’s all mine.

By Julie

THIS IS PENGUICON. http://2014.penguicon.org/about-penguicon/

http://2014.penguicon.org/about-penguicon/

And that looks cool, but THIS YEAR WAS THE BIGGEST ONE YET AND IT WAS TEN TIMES FUCKING AWESOMER THAN THAT AND EVEN THE SIGNS WERE BIGGER AND MORE EXCITING.

Here’s some dream-come-true crap right here. The Head of Hospitality for Penguicon read RUNNING HOME, and fell so in love with it that she asked me to come to the convention and stay in the hospitality suite and just be me, and work in the ConSuite. (For all of you who know me, you know what they were in for.) I realize this was a run-on sentence. MY WHOLE WEEKEND WAS A RUN-ON SENTENCE OF ENTHUSIASM.

I’ll be doing a few posts on Penguicon, because it was that monumental, but today I’ll focus on some of the cooler shit that springs to my fuzzy, exhausted mind. In no particular order:

  • MET JOHN SCALZI. Yeah. I KNOW. Cannot wait for REDSHIRTS, the TV series. I said I was going to find him, and I did.
  • Liquid Nitrogen ice cream made by a dude in a kilt named Phil. APPLE PIE MOONSHINE LIQUID NITROGEN ICE CREAM. It’s as awesome as it sounds.
  • Cory Doctorow tweeted me. That happened.
  • I hung out with, talked shop, handled various meats and cheeses and on occasion slept next to some of my most beloved Twitter people. It’s not as filthy as it comes across.
  • Bump into this lovely lady in the elevator. We just look at each other and know that we need a little more quiet than we’re getting. I ask her if she’s getting coffee before heading where she’s heading, force her to get one with me, and discover she’s awesome Mary Lynne Gibbs, author of the same kind of stuff I write, and soon to be sitting on a panel with John Scalzi, and we exchanged phone numbers and now we’re friends and this happened in like, four seconds flat.
  • I got to serve so many hot dogs in the Con Suite. This is my other calling in life. Bonded over hot dog love for 3 days with author Jim Leach. Best friends now.
  • PANELS. It’s like being in school but for fun, and that guy next to you is dressed like Boba Fett.  One of my favorites was The Obligatory Undead Panel where we got to talk all about the irritation of “X Undead subject is SOOOOO overdone” and why society always needs an undead mascot of sorts. (Also came up with THE BEST FUCKING ZOMBIE BOOK IDEA EVER WITH AUTHOR MARK MATTHEWS WHO WAS SITTING RIGHT NEXT TO ME. No, won’t tell you.) Killer Worldbuilding panel with Kevin Siembieda, creator of—well, Jesus Christ, so much, look at all this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_Siembieda. Figured out a ton of shit that’s going to make this book I’m working on burst into life and could not be more excited about it. (I scribbled notes on the plane that made me look like a lunatic to the dude next to me.)
  • Being thanked by 8 million people every time I moved for feeding them in Con Suite and for all our hard work. So thoughtful and appreciative. (Not to mention the number of volunteers that throw themselves at us staff members, begging to help. Amazing.)
  • THE DEALER ROOM. I all but peed my pants in the Dealer Room where I got to not only walk around with my pseudo little sister from Twitter that I died with excitement about meeting, but THE BOOKS AND THE COMICS AND THE TEE SHIRTS AND THE JEWELRY AND ARTWORK AND THE BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS AND I GOT A 1984 TOTE BAG WITH BIG BROTHER ON IT AND ALSO A HANDFUL OF TINY RUBBER CHICKENS FOR BENNETT AND I COULD HAVE STAYED THERE ALL DAY AND YOU GET TO TALK TO THE CREATORS AND WRITERS AND BAAAAAAAAGH I WANT TO LIVE THERE.
  • I got to work beside some of the most amazingly hard working, good natured people in existence, including Twitter buddies J. Liz Hill, Rhiannon Llewellyn, and the incomparable Lithie Dubois, who is the most determined and dedicated woman in history.

There is so much more, but I can’t still quite feel my brain after this weekend. I’ll be doing posts on how to make a con work for you when you have no idea what to expect, behind the scenes con stuff and some more stuff when I can think again.

THANK YOU TO ALL OF THE UNBELIEVABLE PENGUICON STAFF AND VOLUNTEERS AND THE MOST INCREDIBLE HOTEL STAFF I’VE EVER SEEN, AT THE WESTIN, SOUTHFIELD, MI

How To Be A Mad Scientist

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

By Julie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Becoming One With The Animal

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

By Julie

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

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

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

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

C) I miss Trent already.

D) Now I get to write NEW THINGS.

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

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

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

THIS TIME I FEEL NOTHING BUT JOY.

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

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

 

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

Keanu Reeves

keanu... There's The Animal himself

Trent on the inside.

 

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

Little sister, Ivy. Fearsome thing that she is.

 

 

This is a Candy face right here.

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

 

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

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

By Julie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, I learned that from editing and revising.

Editing For The Big Thing

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

By Julie

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

DETERMINE WHAT THE HELL THE BIG THING IS.

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

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

START FROM THE BEGINNING.

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

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

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

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

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

By Julie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How To Get Your Crap Done And Not Hate The World

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

By Julie

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

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

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

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

Senora McBrag Gets Bragadocious about Bennett

TODAY’S BREW: All Of It.

By Julie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why did the dog kick the turkey?”

“Why?”

“Because he was an asshole.”

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

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

8) He shares like a summabitch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

15) He loves pizza as much as I do.

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

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

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

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

20) He calls marshmallows “smarshmallows” still.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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