Deadly Ever After

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

Not Giving Up Saves Lives …by Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Are popsicles coffee?

By Julie

I’m not quite sure how to start this, even though I wrote an outline, because I FEEL it so much. I feel all of the obstacles lying flat beneath my feet, the signs all pointing the way I led everyone to go, and this is what not giving up is about.

Sammy has made so much progress recently it’s unbelievable. Truly unbelievable. A few things have gotten us here: the right diagnosis, the right medication, the right commitment, the right amount of help and the right kind, and a child that lets nothing put him down. All over the past month or so, Sam has gone from NEVER using the potty, to ALWAYS using the potty. He’s learning to separate himself when he feels angry and asking for quiet moments with me reading when he’s ready. He’s speaking really, really smoothly, with zero to minimal jabber, or “word salad.” His attention span is spectacular. This child is a miracle, and he made himself that way.

I hear an awful lot that most mothers would not go this far to support their child. I’ve suffered a lot–but we have suffered a lot. And I cannot let my child suffer. I don’t have the ability. I don’t have the ability to quit some things. Growing, helping, loving, teaching my children is one of them.

Because if I teach my kids that there’s a time to quit, they’ll see nothing but the limits to reach.

If I teach them that their happiness is negotiable, what chance do they have of pushing limits to find it?

If I teach them to stop the harder it gets, I’ve taught them that what they’ve pushed through was unnecessary.

If I teach them to give up, have I taught them anything at all? I’ve only taken from them. Taken their light at the end of their own personal tunnels, taken the depth of their feelings and made light of them, taken their ability to ask “what if” and think of all the other boxes to think outside of and break through. I’ve taken their ability to stop at nothing because I’ve shown them that something can stop me.

We’ve been watching a lot of America’s Got Talent, and I love these people that will stop at nothing, no matter how unconventional their dream. For some people, the dream is just to be happy. But this one made me cry harder than the rest.

I saw this when Sam was just sitting beside me, playing a building game on my tablet, something that would have been too dangerous (yes, dangerous), he wouldn’t have had the ability to sit and do anyway. Pato, because of his OCD, was unable to leave the house, couldn’t ask for help, resorted to begging for money to support himself. To make it where he has is incredible, but all I could think was, my Sammy will never have to experience that because we fought to combat OCD. First.

It’s easy to yell at a child who dictates who goes in what order up the stairs when you’re carrying armfuls of groceries and he’s been making your life hell all day. But seeing what the alternative does to him makes it non-negotiable for me. Imagine that such a trivial thing could throw a child into a wild-eyed sobbing episode for an hour, that he’d remember this moment for days. Imagine facing that every day, having to fight not only himself, his own brain, but to fight for understanding, too. When he can’t understand it himself. Can barely tell us what he wants.

How do you not help that child? How do you not put his needs first?

Because we did this, because I knew what Bipolar Disorder looked like when I brought him to the pediatrician at barely four, because we treated what we could then–OCD and Hyperactivity Disorder–and we were “on watch” for a mood disorder, because we knew what was happening when that mood disorder became real, because we didn’t stop, Sam has every chance of not going through the hell that so many other people have. We got this. That is what not giving up is.

NOW ABOUT ME. ME ME ME ME ME ME.

This summer so far was not about me and my needs, and I knew that going in. I had a strict timeline of what I wanted for Sam, what I needed from professionals, what I needed to see in changes due to behavior therapy and medication, and I needed to see what I could do having him home during such immense changes. July 15th was my deadline for a lot of things. I also was doing editing for clients and trying to have FUN with the kids, because I refuse not to have fun. (We have had so much fun.)

Now is the time for me to focus on my work. What *I* need. So as not to stretch myself too far, I had to suspend working on my own writing because I don’t want to hurt myself (think nervous breakdown, ulcerative colitis, debilitating panic attacks), and I refused to do my best I could do without it being my best.

I made all the right choices.

I have a new list of agents to pitch THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS TO….a book whose query is now a shining thing of magnificence that begs for reading, and a book that I am now finally able to finish the sequel to! I’m halfway through the sequel, and have a good start on the prequel and had to stop in May to concentrate on other things. My time has come.

Wait, weirdo, you’re writing a sequel and a prequel to a book that isn’t even being published yet?

YES I AM BECAUSE I DON’T STOP AND THIS BOOK WILL NOT GO UNNOTICED.

I don’t write because of what anyone else wants. I write for what I need. And every moment of my life is teaching something to these two amazing kids. They will see that my passion is what drives me and I drive it right back. That I give all I have to get more, and what I want is dependent on nobody but myself. There is no magic number of rejections, no “almosts” in my world. There’s always another way. There’s always more roads to travel. I’ll dig relentlessly making my own if that’s what it takes. And because this is who I am, it is now showing my kids who they are. What they can do and what won’t stop them on their way to it. It’s why Sam remembers little things I say like, “You like what you like. If you like the Alice in Wonderland tea set and you want to offer tea to everyone while doing ninja moves, then hey. You like what you like. Nobody can stop you.”

Be you, everyone. Stop at nothing to be who you want to be. Define your own happiness. Make your own rules–they’re just ideas anyway. Rules about publishing, rules about how young a child can be to show a certain illness, rules about what to say and who to say it to, rules about gender, rules about love, rules that we make for ourselves…. Reshape your world to be what you need. That’s what not giving up is about.

 

Kelly Charron Shares Your Querying Feels

TODAY’S BREW: The Julie Jam, 8 O’clock Coffee, Hazelnut in a hazelnut colored mug.

By Julie

Author Kelly Charron, in her own words “loves to write about murder, mayhem and magic.” Her amazing list of works is enough to make me ache to hold all the paperbacks ever in my hand. (Look here: http://kellycharron.com/?page_id=12) But she also has been through the querying wringer, and she knows all too well how it feels. This is a reminder, from Kelly’s mouth to my blog to your face, that we all do this together. Art doesn’t have to be solitary. Now I’ll let Kelly tell her story and I’ll shut up.

Querying is exciting and nerve wracking. A part of me is hopeful and basks in the magic that each time I hit send could mean an agent will fall in love with my book and then me. I will sign my glorious contract, she or he will sell my all my books to the Big Five publishers and I will wait, luxuriating in a field of flowers as the cheques come rolling in.

 

This is not what happened. (At least so far- but I’m still hoping.)

 

Always an eager student, I wanted to absorb everything I could before I even started the process. All the do’s and don’ts. All the agent likes and dislikes. I wanted to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes that could thwart my success. I learned to always research the agent, tailor the query to the agent (never using generalizations such as Dear Agent or Dear Sir or Madam), and to actually write a decent query. I had many beta readers and author friends read the various reiterations, eventually giving me the coveted thumbs up. I learned that it was good practice to send out five to ten queries at a time so I could apply any valuable feedback to the manuscript before sending more out and possibly ruining a chance. And so I did this.

 

I was ready! Soon they’d be calling!

 

This is not what happened. (At least so far- have I mentioned I’m still hoping?)

 

I waited and waited and waited some more and soon the rejections came trickling in. That’s okay, I told myself. Everyone gets rejections. I’ll have a great story later of having 30 or 40 rebuffs before I found my agent.

 

Soon it became cleat that five to ten queries every two to three months could take a very long time so I began to query a bit more widely. The trickle of rejections began to pile up. That’s okay. It’s only my first book, I told myself. Many authors don’t get agented on their first book. It’s my learning manuscript. Time to write book number two!

 

And off I went completing the first draft in six weeks. I loved this book. My writing critique group, beta readers, indie and Big Five published friends loved this book––“way more than your first book” they cried in unison. “This is the book! This is the one to get you an agent!” they all told me.

 

I wanted to believe them.

 

It has not been the book. (At least not yet- have I mentioned I always have hope?)

 

I received ten full requests and an additional seven or eight partials and was told that my writing was “really good,” “you clearly know your craft,” “I love this concept, but it’s going to be a hard sell,” and “great idea, but not for us. Please send us your next manuscript.”

 

These are all amazing rejections! They liked my writing. They thought I had a decent story. They saw potential and wanted to see my next book. These are all wonderful things to hear, especially from very busy agents who took time out of their hectic schedule to write me specific feedback and I am grateful.

 

But I discovered something I wasn’t fully prepared for during this process.

 

“Getting closer” is not necessarily easier. It can be more heartbreaking. If you run a race and you come in last, your expectations wouldn’t likely be high. You know where you stand in the competition. You might think, wow that was fun. If you come in third or second all you can ruminate on is how close you came. You have worked hard for this. You can taste it, you can feel it, you’re almost there and then you don’t quite make it.

 

It can be disappointing. I’ve lost hope from time to time. I’ve allowed myself to pout and whine (temporarily of course) until I gain perspective because I believe that it could be the next book, or the one after that. There is no one way to get published. No magic formula or series of TEN EASY STEPS! for getting an agent or book deal.

 

I’ve spent a lot of time asking agented and published writers what the secret to their success is and their answer is always the same: they kept going. Kept writing and querying new books. For some, book number two was the lucky one, others needed five, some found success at number seven or eight.

 

I don’t know what the future has in store, but I am happy we live in a time where traditional and indie publishing co-exist. I have been writing for ten years. I have written four novels. I continue to work on my craft. I have 140 odd rejections, but I know that if I keep going, one way or another, my time will come. YES!!

kelly charron

 

Kelly Charron is the author of horror, psychological thrillers and urban fantasy novels. All with gritty, murderous inclinations and some moderate amounts of humor. She spends far too much time consuming true crime television (and chocolate) while trying to decide if yes, it was the husband, with the wrench, in the library.

Follow Kelly on Twitter https://twitter.com/KellyMCharron

 

 

Red, White and BOO! FREE BOOK.

TODAY’S BREW: mucho coffeo

By Julie

HAPPY HOT, BRIGHT AND LOUD HOLIDAY, EVERYONE!

As a reminder of when we can once again pumpkin spice the very blood in our veins, the anthology I was a part of for Halloween, (ahem, currently ranked #8 in horror anthologies on Amazon, cough cough), HALLOWEEN NIGHT: TRICK OR TREAT is FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE FOR YOU AND MEEEEEEEEEE!

Red, white, and boo!

So go grab yourself a copy and shudder through the works of some amazing authors, including LIL’ OL’ ME. Get it right here: https://www.amazon.com/Halloween-Night-Trick-Amy-Giuffrida-ebook/dp/B017E0Z27O/ref=pd_sim_351_3?ie=UTF8&dpID=510kfeF7eGL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_UX300_PJku-sticker-v3%2CTopRight%2C0%2C-44_OU01_AC_UL320_SR200%2C320_&psc=1&refRID=E8SFAXYSH63TNFWTEQ7X

Enjoy! And tell your friends! READ A BOOK, SAVE AN AUTHOR.

 

 

An Ode to Ryan at Register 4

TODAY’S BREW: Water. My skin is like lava.

By Julie

I don’t get out much these days, and I’m good that way, but last night an old friend and colleague and a woman I admire more than I can say took me to dinner.

She said she wanted to celebrate my success.

What the hell did I do? I thought. My first book is 3 years old, my THE HARPY is behind schedule with my new publisher, THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS has yet to be picked up…. I don’t do things. What the hell success is she talking about?

Well, it wasn’t what I did that makes me a success for her, it’s what I do. My fight for Sam, finally diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, while still editing for clients consistently, continuously writing and revising, being involved in the school and being the mother I work to be for my boys and the wife I try to be…. it’s success. Every day it’s success because it’s exactly what I want to be doing, and it isn’t easy but I will damn well do all of it.

It made me remember that everyone is a hero to someone. Accomplishments don’t make a hero, actions do. It’s not always the big things you’re a hero for, and everyone’s visions of what the big things are is different.

You mean something. You aren’t just anything–you’re important. Someone remembers you for something you did, said, stood for. Chances are it’s for something you’ve forgotten entirely.

My latest hero is Ryan at Target in Hanover.

target receipt

You all know my family has been contending with our baby’s mood disorder. We’re doing wonders with it, but there’s always going to be bad moments, triggers that can’t always be avoided, new ones that come. Well, on June 12th Sam had a serious episode in the Hanover, MA Target. We weren’t there long, we didn’t need a lot, and everything was going fine, and then SNAP. He started crying, hiding, didn’t want anyone near him as we were checking out. I gave him his space, we made it to the doorway and he crumpled. Sobbing, begging me to leave him there, that he couldn’t be near people, that he couldn’t even stand up to leave because someone would see him and he shouldn’t be near people. So me and Ben and Sam sat in the corner in front of the big glass doors, for as long as it took, as loud as he needed to be, as much of a spectacle as we had to be, to make Sammy okay. A number of people stopped on their way out and said things like, “you’re doing awesome,” “can I do anything to help?” and “my child has x disorder and I know what you’re going through.”

It was the young man that cashed us out, Ryan, who had seen Sammy breaking down before we made it to the door, who told me he understood and why, who was so thoughtful and connected that particularly made me feel supported. All of the folks who stopped were amazing, one coming to tears with me, but this cashier didn’t just stop at getting me out of his line. He went to the Starbuck’s and got me a glass of ice water, and brought it to me as I sat on the floor with my kids, with Sam howling aand Ben just doing anything he could to help. I heard the lady at the Starbuck’s counter say, “That was so nice, Ryan,” and I haven’t forgotten.

Eventually we were able to comfortably get Sammy out of the store and he was fine within an hour of the episode’s start. We work hard as a family to ensure that he is okay. Nothing is more important. And Ryan at register four was a part of making it okay. He made a difference. He helped us get through another five minutes when–well, when I needed it. We all suffer with Sam, and let me tell you, I cry in public like it’s my job. It’s part of the reason why I can fight as hard as I do, why I can endure the unpredictability and be strong. I don’t hide from anyone, because I’m human, and because I want my boys to know that it’s okay to be human. It’s okay to freak out, and yeah, it’s okay to cry if you need to. Whenever it happens.

But it can be very isolating, even amidst all of these wonderful people that were at Target that day, I needed that ice water hug. Ryan saw that and he helped. He wasn’t just a cashier that day, and he isn’t ever just a cashier to me. I keep that Target receipt, and I called the store to ensure he was recognized, because he was a hero to me. And he reminded me that there are heroes all over the place, suffering and saving and hurting and helping. Being there for each other, even/especially strangers, makes you mean something.

And Ryan at register 4? You mean a lot.

 

Welcome to the Shadow World of the Blood Courtesans!

Meet Corynne and Nash!

I was so excited when Michelle Fox asked me to be a part of this multi-author project. We wrote in her world, but came up with our own characters and scenarios. Each story is a standalone, and the series can be enjoyed in any order.

My story is Wanted.

Wanted Blood Courtesans Kristen Strassel

Welcome to the shadow world of Blood Courtesans…where vampires are real and blood is a financial asset. This is the world I live in.
I don’t care about the money I’ll make as a blood courtesan. I need the vampires to protect me from other humans. And more than that, from myself. Any time I think about getting revenge against the bullies who’ve tortured me, the thing I imagine happens. I have no way to control it. And the latest incident has put me in the middle of a murder investigation. I have to convince them to turn me into a vampire. I can’t be tried for murder if I’m already dead. Or…undead.

In the vampire world, blood is money and sex is everything. But when my power catches the attention of the oldest, most powerful vampire in the coven, he’ll do anything to make me his.

Nash doesn’t have to look me in the eye to cast a spell over me. And I don’t even have to look at him to know he wants me.

I’ll either be Nash’s secret weapon–or the downfall of his coven.

Available on Amazon and as part of Kindle Unlimited.

Wanted Blood Courtesans Kristen Strassel

Don’t miss the rest of the books in the Blood Courtesans series!

Reborn Michelle Fox
Marked Gwen Knight
Bitten Kim Faulks
Ensnared Rebecca Rivard
Needed Ever Coming
Hooked Selena Kitt

Defeating the Dunk Tank with Julie

TODAY’S BREW: A reasonable amount of coffee, it was perfectly reasonable.

By Julie

For many weeks now, I’ve felt GOOD.

It’s been a long time. A long time since I was the woman who could take on the world with a smile on her face. A long time since I wasn’t exhausted by the thought of leaving the house. But suddenly, everything fell into place. First and foremost, my INSANE HORMONES are under control, and have been consistently for about two months. This is the lynchpin in everything else being manageable, because my hormones? They’re monstrosities that could guarantee I would be questioning my will to live–seriously–for a couple of days every few weeks. My doctor’s last ditch effort to get them under control was the 1977 Dear God, It’s Me, Margaret, rainbows and tube socks and wood paneling version of the birth control pill. Three months later, I’M FIXED.

I’ve been fairly up front about what I go through with my baby, Sam, and how normalizing life for him is a constant activity. He’s been diagnosed with hyperactivity disorder and OCD. After a LUNATIC CRAZY VIOLENT PUBLIC DISPLAY OF WILD HATRED from him two Fridays ago, I did some research and uncovered Oppositional Defiant Disorder. After nearly two years of therapy and much longer of COPING, I’d found the thing that described Sammy better than anything. And we talked about it, and I put a reward system in place that I just knew was going to work like nothing else has consistently. And it DOES. We’ve had the longest period of peace in the house in five years, and more progress in understanding and lasting behavioral changes than I’ve ever seen with my boy.

Suddenly the sun shines a little brighter. Again.

Things have been getting better for some time now, and all the time it seems to be improving. I’m HAPPY. More than that, I’m me. I’m my old self again, and feel like I can conquer anything.

It was no light decision to write this blog. It meant that I was giving in to the idea that this is really happening. That things are good, that I’m healthy, that life is being fair to me as it should be for someone who works so goddamn hard to do it right.

I compare my life since the start of 2014 to a carnival dunk tank. I went from being the clown that volunteered to sit at the target, laughing, to this dirty, sad clown swimming at the bottom of the dunk tank, trying to get to the top. Every morning instead of starting in the seat and wondering if I’d fall in, certain that I’d just climb out again feeling refreshed, I started out at the bottom. I swam for the surface, I floundered from the second I opened my eyes. I fought for air and the balls kept getting thrown at that target.

I was never the clown that lost a bet and ended up in the dunk tank seat. I volunteered for it. I put myself in the risky spot, I put my money where my clown nose was before anybody, and I went to bed at night in fresh clown pajamas feeling pleasantly tired after a lot of swimming, and climbing and laughing.

Being the dunk tank bottom feeder doesn’t suit me. And I’m not that person anymore. I’m the ringleader again, and the sideshow is me, burning a clown suit and exploding a dunk tank with about a thousand pounds of explosives that all smell like my power source, strong coffee and kickass books and the ability to take on anything. The world is once again, my dunk tank.

Not the one I just exploded, but a different one. One maybe filled with ice cream.

Twitter for Authors

I hear authors say it all the time.

I have no idea what to do with Twitter.

But still, they’re there, because everyone else is. And as a result, they share mostly promo posts.

This is not how to Twitter.

Would you operate heavy machinery without reading the instructions? No. I hear you—Kristen, stop being dramatic. Twitter is not heavy machinery. I disagree. If it’s so important to your author platform that you simply must be there, that sounds pretty heavy to me.

In order to make Twitter an effective tool in your platform, treat it as the social network it’s meant to be.

Think about Twitter like the cocktail party that your friend invited you to. She’s the only one there that you know. Since she’s the host, she’s busy. You’re left standing by your onesies at the hors d’ oeuvres table shoveling cheese in your mouth like it’s the last supper. And you’re probably drinking way too much wine. I see you. *clinks your glass*

Awkward as, right? You have two choices—you can sneak out and hope no one notices, and salvage the night once you get home binge watching Outlander with your cat, or you can make the most of it and talk to people.

You already put the effort into showing up. Make the most of it.

awkward

First, you need to talk to people you don’t know. At the twitter cocktail party, the easiest way to do this is by following people that not only look interesting, but will probably answer and follow you back. For me, that meant other authors. You can find people by using hashtags. #amwriting is the biggie. You can narrow that down even further, to #amwritingromance or whatever your genre is. #amediting will also lead you to writer folk. Pay attention to what they have to say. If you have something to add, tweet at them. If you want your whole twitter universe to see your reply, put a “.” Before their name.

As you start to gain followers, you want them to get to know you. We’re back to the party. If you were making small talk with someone who migrated over to the snack table, would you spend the whole conversation hitting them over the head with a sales pitch? Hell no. They’d excuse themselves and get as far away from you as they humanly could. No amount of snacks is worth listening to that all night. Instead, you’d make small talk—about the party, what you have in common, you know the drill. I don’t have to teach you how to make friends.

elaine dancing

I think of Twitter as the Seinfeld of social media. Small, in the moment observations are gold. After all, you only have 140 characters to express yourself. Want to make friends on Twitter? Talk about coffee. Seriously, coffee is the lifeblood of Twitter. Talk about the little things that happen in your everyday life.

Like….

how to use twitter for book promotion

how to use twitter for book promotion

I didn’t mean for these to both contain F bombs, but whatever.

 

 

Don’t overload these with hashtags. I used a couple, but it was more for humor than anything else. Hashtag abusers look like that guy who has to give this business card to everyone in the room. They’re best used tastefully.

Now, look around the room at my imaginary party. Say the friend who invited you to this soiree is a writer. Who else is there? Probably a lot of other writers. Maybe a few industry people. In my experience, that’s who hangs out on Twitter. Not a lot of readers. I hear you again—Kristen, if there aren’t any readers at this big Twitter party you’re making me go to, why the hell am I bothering with this?

Simple. The same reason you go to any work event. You’re networking. I’ve met some of my best writing friends on Twitter. Twitter is a great place to talk about craft and the writing process, find people to sprint with you, read blogs about writing and the business of writing, and keep up with trends in the industry. There’s #writeclub, which is writing sprints all day Friday, facilitated by people all over the world. #1linewed, hosted by @rwakissofdeath, where they give a word and you post a line from your work in progress that includes that word. Looking for an agent or a publisher? Follow @brendadrake. She runs query contests and builds some pretty great writer communities.

Twitter is awesome for current events. If I need to know what’s going on with a news story RFN, I go to Twitter before I’d ever check CNN. The Oscars? The Superbowl? Sharknado? The live tweeting of these events is nothing short of epic. Follow the hashtag, join in the conversation, and laugh your ass off all night long.

And like a cocktail party, it’s okay to get tipsy on Twitter. A little drunk tweeting never hurt anyone.

Okay—so now this Twitter party is fun. You know everyone here, and you’re beyond making small talk. It’s easy to add people to your conversation and network, because they’re friends of friends. You’re sharing funny, interesting stuff. It’s not so painful anymore. You might not make excuses about why you can’t go next time. You might even start liking it.

Now you can do some promo.

Yeah

Why now? Because now people will care. You won’t just be one of those guys who stands out in front of the apartment complex with the sign—buy now! Deals here! Blah Blah! Or even worse, one of those sales people who puts you into a near-hostage situation when you’re walking through the mall, minding your own business…that’s if you actually still go to the mall. Now you’re someone cool, smart, and funny—dare I say—a friend who has this really amazing book coming out. Now people will click on the links to check it out and share it, and maybe, maybe even buy it.

They’re not buying just a book. They’re buying you. As corny as it sounds, it’s true. Twitter isn’t as static as Facebook or some other platforms, and things move and disappear fast. It’s easy to be forgettable there unless you make people remember you.

People who hang out on Twitter are very particular about what they want to see in their timeline. You can’t treat it like Facebook. Hardcore Twitterazzi throw holy water at Facebook. They make proclamations like those X amount of days since a workplace accident signs about how long they’ve avoided Facebook. And they loathe drive-by promo posts. They will mute the fuck out of you. Or worse, unfollow you. Then you’re just talking to yourself. Which is worse than not being there at all.

So go forth and tweet. But like at any good party, tweet responsibly.

 

 

For the Love of Donuts by Julie

TODAY’S BREW: I call it Hatred Hazelnut because I accidentally bought beans instead of ground coffee.

By Julie

The hours of 3:30 to approximately 5:30 Monday through Friday are a little like having a bald eagle rip out your eyes around here. It would be painful as hell, but I’d be sort of honored because it was a bald eagle, right? I’m so glad I get to pick up my kids from school every day because for so long I couldn’t. And that after-school time is a wild stampede.

Today was NUTS. I give you the breakdown:

3:00 “Sam, wake up, we have to pick up Ben soon.” (at 3:20)

3:45 OH MY  GOD I FELL ASLEEP (on my laptop), fly to school where Ben stands on the stairs and yells “YOU FORGOT ME” then laughs, thank Christ.

3:50 “Sure, we can go to the park.” Sam proceeds to freak out within 10 minutes because none of the kids are playing with him. (literally ALL OF THE KIDS ARE PLAYING WITH HIM).

4:00 I have given Sam enough alone time to scream at us from the dirty tree that he has his freakouts under. I deliver the blanket. We do nothing without the blanket.

4:05 Sam is walking around the playground, screaming at no one. Bennett yells from across the playground at friend “I DON’T WANT TO PLAY YOUR PEE PEE GAME YOU WEIRDO.”

4:07 Am discussing with fellow mom that I have no energy to sugar-coat this, that her kid child has to stop peeing in the woods and chasing Bennett saying he has pee pee hands. Neither of us can have this talk with a straight face.

4:10 Sam has ordered us all to stop goddamn playing because we are LEAVING.

4:12 Am calming Sam down as he sobs saying nobody even loves him and threatening to kill himself. (Yes, we see not one, but two therapists. It’s being handled.)

4:15 I ran over a bird on my street on the way home. What the hell bird doesn’t FLY AWAY?

4:16 Sobbing Sam refuses to get out of the car. Ben is yelling at me from the doorway that we got a package and can he open it. Sam is streaked in dirt. I’m late taking my meds.

4:20 Sam asks me to go up the stairs first. (OCD requires that we do this exactly as he asks). Proceeds to cry that I left him behind.

4:25 Ben is still going on about the package. I’m reading a book to Sam who is calming down. Ben approaches, a look of horror on his face and breaks to me with agonizing slowness that our elderly dog peed on the floor. (She does this literally 5 times a day, this is not newsworthy.)

4:30 I forgot to take dinner out of the freezer.

5:00 Laundry has to happen. Ben has finally been given permission to open the box. It is a replacement Lego that the company was kind enough to send us after Boba Fett mysteriously disappeared.

5:05 Legos are all over my couch, I’m making sandwiches, and excuse myself upon delivery. “I’m going to cry for three minutes, and I’ll be back. There will be no more excitement today. I’m all excited out.”

Then you know what? I cried for a couple of minutes, but I didn’t think any of these things:

  • THE WORLD WILL END IF I DON’T CLEAN THIS HOUSE WHAT KIND OF A PERSON LIVES IN THIS MANY LEGOS
  • I am the worst mother
  • I can’t live like this one more minute
  • Everything is horrible and then it’s soaked in pee and why bother please let me go to bed now.

I DID think these things:

  • Ben is 9 and I’ve never missed picking him up at school because I fell asleep. Which is a pretty damn good accomplishment if you knew what I did in a day.
  • I still brought the kids to the park even though I knew Sam might have a tantrum and it was late.
  • This is just a couple of hours that are rough every day almost, and then it will be good
  • What kind of bird doesn’t just fly away??
  • I got to revise my book today and am halfway done with editing and that’s pretty cool
  • I feel not one ounce bad for eating 2 mini packs of cookies.

See, this lifestyle is why I love donuts. Donuts GET ME around this time every day. I don’t eat a donut every day, but I probably would if they were here. And if I eat a salad for lunch, like today, I have extra rights. The fact that I’m smiling now, and not freaking out shows me what headway I’ve made mentally, emotionally and hormonally in the past month alone. It’s a damn good feeling. I can handle some chaos. I maybe even like it a little. I like it just fine when I have donuts.

 

The Writing Spark and Why Writing Happens All the Time

TODAY’S BREW: 8 o’clock Hazelnut

By Julie

Creating a book takes more than words on paper. It takes watching the world. It takes paying attention to things you normally wouldn’t. It takes breathing and wondering and finding new things to inspire you every single day. It’s the random line that means nothing but creates a context to be fit into.

Writing a book is living life and committing it to paper, fictional or non. Without living your life, you have nothing new to offer. A writer has to sometimes let their brains flow freely, make notes on five different books, cut pictures out of magazines, doodle and re-read old books, take walks or watch tv all day. Writing is something a writer is always doing. Everything beautiful and ugly and powerful is a book in their heads and that can’t all be bolted down into a thousand words a day.

A writer is the deconstruction of goals over and over, the tearing apart of their own rules and limitations. A writer knows that nothing can stop them from creating, no matter what medium they use. Life is their medium.

So, writers, when those moments hit that you lament you didn’t take a free hour to write, remember that you have. Writing starts in the heart, and it makes it to your brain in a hundred different ways. It isn’t always about throwing slobber on the page to weed through later. It’s surviving the ambush of images and sentences that you live with every minute.

Write. Do it your way then make all new ways to do it. Have ten notebooks, write the middle first, spend half a day at the craft store digging through clearance bins. Find the spark. The spark is what writes the book. The spark is what makes you need to create. A writer lives their work, and their work lives because of them. Don’t let anyone tell you that the way you do your art is wrong. There is no wrong way to make art except ignoring the spark in all its various forms.

Captain Coping Mechanism Tries To Emote

TODAY’S BREW: made at home Hazelnut

By Julie

If I’m being honest, I’ve been irritable since I woke up. Still lying in bed, I was annoyed, snapping at the husband, wishing I didn’t have to do All the Things.

Add to this the incessant battle of potty training with a child the physical equivalent of Hulk and the mental equivalent of that boss you once had that HAD to be right.

Add to this that my fertile window ended yesterday, and I know this because I track every step of my Hormonal Trail of Tears to better anticipate what will happen next.

Add to this the death of a family member that I would rather not discuss.

Add to this my physical exhaustion from the book fair I co-ran and the fact that I spent too much time outside yesterday–never a good idea for me.

I didn’t want to admit that I was going to have an anxious day. 15 days of feeling well-balanced and happy despite any little pitfalls was not a title I was willing to give up.

7pm and I have isolated myself emotionally from my loved ones. I reached out with a shaky little pathetic hand that I assume everyone understands is me needing affection when I feel vulnerable, and when it’s not recognized, BOOM! YOU’RE OUT, MOTHERFUCKER!

Then I can’t read, write, edit, move.

Then everyone’s accomplishments become my failures.

Then I see the end of the day as a bigger picture, symbolic of my waning lifetime.

Then I took my emergency anxiety pill and cried a little–not as much as usual by a long shot–and I wrote this. Because I need to get outside myself when the panic disorder rears its stupid fucking head.

It’s silly of me to think that 15 days of feeling fantastic means YAY YOU DON’T HAVE HORMONES OR A PANIC DISORDER ANYMORE! These are things I will probably always have to cope with, and I did cope with them today–albeit, fairly poorly in some respects, but I did something different, and that has to count for something. And I didn’t hide in my bedroom, sobbing and screaming. And I’m not shaking at all. And I do want to go to bed and I can’t say with amazing gusto that I want to wake up tomorrow, but I’m counting on that when I do I’ll feel better.

So today I don’t get a pretty sticker that says I had another excellent day. And that’s okay . Maybe I’ll give myself an ugly sticker. It’s not a goal, and it’s not a failure. I cannot expect absolutes–to always feel wonderful any more than I can expect to always feel stressed. But when my body and mind tell me they need a day to freak the fuck out, I’m just going to admit it.

This is step one.

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