Deadly Ever After

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

Archive for the month “July, 2015”

How to Have Infinite Patience/ Unlimited Coffee with Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Cinnamon Hazelnut. Because it’s always autumn in my cup.

By Julie

I asked Twitter what to blog about and my lovely friend Roselle Kaes (go find her here http://t.co/ZJ1jxwH1IK) said she admires my infinite patience and wants to know how coffee contributes. Because coffee is the thing I cannot live without, and it is THE thing that grounds me. (Get it, grounds me? Coffee grounds.)

Let’s be up front. I am addicted to coffee. No question. I have no problem with it.

I am patient. I’m quick to tell the kids “baby, I love you but if you don’t quiet down I will decapitate you,” but I do it in such a way that they laugh and generally do as I ask. When they don’t I remind them that I support the things they need to do, and they should do the same for me. (Just had this conversation this very moment.) When they still don’t listen I yell really quick and sometimes cry. This is okay. We all have feelings.

Coffee is the way I mentally get started, several different ways. I don’t like writing without a cup. I CAN write without a cup, don’t like it. If the kids and I or life and I have a bad roundabout, I start over with a new cup of coffee. Then it’s over. Time to reboot.

Coffee is also meditative for me. I learned this little meditation trick at a spa in Arizona when I was a fancy Victoria’s Secret employee–not everyone has time for or responds to sitting down with a bunch of incense and meditating. But if you can find something that you do several times a day, or even an hour–back then it was every time I used my manager’s keys–take a deep breath (in through your nose, out through your mouth), close your eyes and say a word that makes you calm in your head. I don’t always say the word, but I do the other stuff. It helps every time. When I’m writing and need a second to regroup, when I feel myself getting tense, when I just need a moment to myself no matter what’s going on around me.

My house is where I do 99% of my writing and everything else, and it’s also small, with 2 wild kids, a needy dog, a tv in front of me most of the time. I can work under these distractions but I remind myself not to be part of the tornado by insisting I have that cup of coffee uninterrupted. Doesn’t always happen. Usually doesn’t happen. But the fact that I say “I just want this one quiet cup of coffee” reminds me that I have this thing I WILL have. I insist upon it. It’s not life or death–for the most part, except for that one guy– but it says “this is my comfort spot and I will not give it up.” That puts me in a mindset where I’m not running in the hamster wheel, I’m stopping it and building a new one.

Also, everything good happens over coffee. A million memories flood to mind when I think of it. And even though I can literally fall asleep with a cup in my hand now, I feel invigorated when I have it. All good things require patience and patience requires effort. Effort requires energy. ENERGY COMES IN A CUP AND MAKES ME A SUPERHERO.

batman coffee

The moral of the story is patience requires a lot of giving, and you need to fill the well. Take something, too. Even if it’s just a cup of coffee.

Fairy Tale Confessions Cover Reveal

I’m super excited about this anthology and all the fun stuff that comes with it!  My story is Sleeping Beauty. Try and guess what I’m going to do with it.

(maniacal laugh)

BOOK INFO:
Fairy Tale Confessions Collection
Published by: Amber Leaf Publishing
Publication date: October 1st 2015
Genres: Fairy Tales
Synopsis:

Fourteen bestselling authors twist up your favorite tales. Will your favorite have a happily-ever-after?

Get ready to meet some sexy, not-so-valiant princes, punk-rock princesses, villains turned heroes, and truly vile monsters, causing  havoc within our favorite happily-ever-afters.

Read about Dancing Princesses getting their groove on in a disco club, a seriously sexy Rumpelstiltskin, and one alluring Puss-in-Boots, plus many, many more captivating characters in these fourteen all new short-stories.

In association with RT 2016 come meet the twisted fairy tale girls: M. Clarke, Amy Daws, L.P. Dover, Elizabeth Montgomery, Shannon Morton, Brynn Myers, Wendy Owens, Sarah J. Pepper, Cameo Renae, Kellie Sheridan, Jessica Sorensen, Kristen Strassel, Tish Thawer, and K.R. Wilburn. If you’ll be in Vegas for RT 2016, join hosts, Sarah J. Pepper and Tish Thawer at the Fairy Tale Costume Party where you could see a traditional Snow-White, or a completely gothed-out Belle roaming the scene, win dinner with Prince Charming, and snag gift baskets from all the participating authors.

FairyTaleConfessions
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Relishing Rejection with Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Target brand anything. It’s my favorite morning coffee.

By Julie

This week begins the dreaded querying. This is the process by which a writer boils down the book they’ve poured their heart into for a bunch of months into a letter that is one part storytelling, one part ass kissing, one part making yourself sound like you somehow enjoy writing query letters.

Yet, this is not what writers seem to overall hate about querying. That actual letter, that is the thing that makes me cringe. For most others, it’s the inevitable wait of six to eight weeks as you watch a thousand other books be born, all to be told nine times out of ten (or more appropriately 59 times out of 60) that:

  • while your storytelling is unique, I didn’t quite connect with the character
  • the story seems too much like XYZ book
  • in a crowded genre, the story and character would not stand out enough
  • it sounds wonderful but isn’t the right fit for me at this time
  • I wish you the best of luck

Rejection is the reason why writers generally hate querying. It’s disheartening to say the least. It’s not only a matter of “I didn’t like your book,” it feels like, “I don’t like YOU.”

I feel like a jerk saying that rejection doesn’t bother me. It really doesn’t and it never has since I began querying RUNNING HOME years ago. I’m not bragging. I hope to give you some of the same outlook for when you get that sonofabitching email in your box. This is my mindset:

I expect it. Rejection is part of the game. Just is. It’s low-level hazing. But know this as the rejections continuously roll in…..it only takes one agent to love it.

I wrote the strongest possible book I could write. This is more helpful when it comes to getting reviews. I just got a one star review a week ago. I harbor zero resentment. It wasn’t that reader’s cup of tea, but it is mine. If I wasn’t confident in my book, I’d hurt over every bad word said against it, but I love the book, know that it was the best book I could have put out then, and that’s why I write. Not to please everybody else. (Sorry, everybody else.) Now, when it comes to querying to agents, you really want them to love the book. Not just any ol’ reader but this specific person who you’re trusting with your life’s work. With that in mind, I submit the strongest book I can, and I listen to alllllll the feedback I can get. I take what works for me and I apply it. And what I don’t find useful for me, I discard. This isn’t a yes/no test. You won’t ever just GET IT RIGHT. There’s always something that can be tweaked in a concept, the delivery, the writing style….it’s evolution for every writer. But in the end, same rule applies…..the book is YOURS. Make it to suit you, nobody else. Be confident in what you’ve done and that means knowing when to listen to how it could be better as well.

Querying is a process of elimination. This is the most important element for me. This is the one thing I remember above all else, to the point now that I don’t have to remember it, it just IS.

MY BOOKS ARE COMING OUT. ONE WAY OR ANOTHER. REJECTIONS JUST MEAN THAT IT ISN’T THAT WAY WITH THAT AGENT OR PUBLISHER.

The agent is round one. If I don’t pick up an agent, or if I don’t find the right one for me, I go to small press. If I don’t find a small press (highly unlikely, as I love small presses and one in particular WINK WINK), I will self-publish. The book is coming out. All of the books.

BE DETERMINED TO GET YOUR BOOKS OUT WHEN THEY’RE UP TO YOUR STANDARD, AND REJECTION BECOMES PART OF THE PATH, NOT THE END OF IT.

Having an optimistic outlook doesn’t just mean that you think, “This is the agent that’s going to love me and they’ll land this publisher that I’ve wanted all my life and I’ll get the biggest deal and I’ll be on the red carpet in two years.” That’s the dream, and don’t get me wrong, LOVE THE DREAM. FANTASIZE ABOUT THE DREAM, STRIVE FOR THE DREAM. But I don’t make my dream my measure of success. If it happens, it will be the most lovely thing that I can ever, well, dream of. But success comes in steps and it comes in hard work. It comes with mistakes. It comes with burnt bridges. It comes with trouble and sadness and small victories and excitement and exhaustion. To me, success means I worked for it until I was absolutely satisfied with what I’ve made and I feel as though I’ve grown. Rejection can’t touch that feeling. The best part? You can feel that over and over and over again until you achieve the dream, or the dream changes.

Don’t reject yourself. Looking at that rejection letter, do not take the words “not for me” and make them in your tired little mind into “not for anybody.” Don’t turn “crowded genre” into “not a chance in hell, little person.” Don’t make “characters I couldn’t connect with” become “I couldn’t connect with YOU and nobody ever ever will.” Be honest with yourself IN BOTH DIRECTIONS….if the criticism is that the characters seemed one dimensional, ask yourself if it’s true for you. Do you think they could be deeper, really? If it’s not quite a standout concept, is there something you could do to make it MORE STANDOUT? But also, be honest in your own favor, too. Maybe the characters are deep enough by your standard. Maybe the concept is solid enough, and this just isn’t the right agent or publisher for you. Be a good friend to yourself. Be honest.

The triple bitch. I use this in everything that has to do with a book. IF I HEAR THE SAME CRITICISM THREE TIMES, I WILL FIX THE PROBLEM. If I hear it once, unless it really rings true, I don’t change a thing. I made the mistake before of listening to EVERY opinion and catered to them. It violated my honesty rule: I didn’t honestly think the changes made the book better and so I ended up going back to my original plan. And yeah, the majority can still be wrong, you could still feel absolutely the same about the way you did whatever the thing is that nobody likes. Again, be honest with yourself….would it hurt you to change it to be more appealing to the masses? Maybe. Maybe you want it your way and you’ll defend it. Or maybe it’s a little thing and if you change it, it might mean one less rejection and it didn’t affect the story or the characters for YOU in a bad way. I might be repeating myself here, but THE BOOK IS YOURS. MAKE SURE YOU’RE HAPPY WITH IT OR YOU’LL NEVER BE HAPPY WITH WHAT HAPPENS WITH IT.

Now get out there, writerlies. Be brave. Be ready. Be awesome.

Introducing No Strings Attached!

 

Today’s Brew: Blueberry Bliss

by Kristen

I have a new book coming out!  (insert Snoopy dancing here) Everyone, meet Leah and Jagger!  Their story is No Strings Attached, a steamy adult contemporary romance about a curvy, successful woman who brings a male escort to her twentieth high school reunion.

No Strings Attached will be available August 24!

NSA TEASER 5

Here’s the blurb:

Leah Godfrey has almost everything she could ask for

She’s got an interior design business with an A-list clientele, a weekly spot on a national morning TV show, and a great daughter—but she doesn’t have a date for her twentieth high school reunion. It wouldn’t be a big deal, but her ex-husband was her high school sweetheart, and now he’s married to the slut Leah caught him with in bed. She won’t let the biggest failure of her life overshadow her success.

When her best friend suggests she hire a date, Leah thinks the idea is scandalous. But for one weekend, she wants to forget her mistakes and pretend she has everything her ex took away from her.

Jagger Holiday makes women’s fantasies come true—

But working as a male escort leaves him feeling empty. He turns to photography to fill the void. When Jagger gets a call from a lonely single mom who needs the same thing he does, he wants more. He wants her.

Leah and Jagger have no problem convincing everyone at the reunion they’re together. She should’ve known better than to think there’d be no strings attached.

After all, he’s a professional.

Available for preorder NOW! Special introductory price!
Add NO STRINGS ATTACHED on Goodreads! 

Bloggers, I’d love it if you joined me in celebrating No Strings Attached! The cover reveal is August 13 and the blog tour is August 24-28. Sign up here!  xx

Happy Anniversary!

Today’s Brew: lemon zinger iced tea

by Kristen

A8

Today is the one year anniversary of the day I hit publish on Because the Night and Night Moves. These books had been available before, but I took the rights back to my work and published them on my own.

Night Songs 12

This day will always be special to me, because it’s the day I took complete control of my work. My future in publishing. Before that I was bumbling along, learning all that I could, waiting for other people to make decisions that impacted the course of my career, hoping for some snippets for advice that could take me to the next level. We all know that no means no in traditional publishing and getting a why is a luxury. I was frustrated. I wanted more but I wasn’t sure how to get it. I believed in what I was doing. I kept writing, but I had no idea if I was growing because I wasn’t getting the right eyes on it, or more importantly, the right feedback on what I was producing.

The more I talked to authors who were going on it their own, the more I liked what they had to say. They were putting out beautiful books on their own terms and were totally in control of their own destinies. If you’ve hung around here for a while, you know I like having control over things. I wanted what they had. So I went out and got it.

It was terrifying. I surrounded myself with good, supportive people who were familiar with indie publishing. I made myself a student of the business. And then I jumped in the water.

Making the decision to self-publish means that I’m now able to communicate my vision for my story in the way that I intended to share it.

  • Editing is the thing that elevates a writer’s work, the lessons from one project carrying over to another. If a writer never gets that opportunity, they can’t grow. They’ll be stuck in purgatory forever, wondering where they’re missing the mark.
  • I’m fully involved with my cover designs, and I’ve had the opportunity to work with a team of amazing cover designers and graphic artists. The covers are just as important as what’s happening on the inside, because we truly do judge a book by its cover. As I write that, I think it’s an interesting analogy. Were we so conditioned to terrible book covers that we had to look past that to get to the story inside? Not anymore. Covers are more than images and words. They’re marketing tools that have to instantly convey message, mood, and theme. They’re art.
  • I have the power to market my books in the way that’s best for them, in that moment. I’m not waiting for a publisher to change a price or buy promo. I control the destiny of each book. I can experiment with new marketing, change prices, and get the word out about my stories. If I learned anything in my journey, it’s that no one cares about my books more than I do.
  • If something doesn’t work, I change it. Covers, price, editing. It’s easy. Not a ten step process that I hope someone approves.

Since July 8, 2014, I’ve released ten additional stories. Why did I release so often? I had inventory of stories waiting for someone to finally look at, I wanted to build my brand in a crowded market place, and the best reason of all: because I fucking can. Once I had my team in place, I there was no reason not to share these stories with readers. I took chances on stories that a publisher would never look at and released the Colorado Shifters series, a collection of shifter novellas that are some of my best sellers. I write in more than one genre, sometimes at the same time. I tell the story that’s in my heart. I might write a lot, but I’m absolutely smitten with every character I create. Speed doesn’t change that. It just means I have more kids to love.

Traditional publishing is notorious for moving slowly while indie publishing moves so fast that even I have to stop and catch my breath every so often. I love that. It’s exciting. New things are happening all the time, and I’m happy to take part in it. I talk a lot about right now, but this is a long game. My books are available to discover and enjoy forever. I have a plan, but it’s flexible. I can always choose to do what’s right for my books and my readers, and abandon what’s not working.

I haven’t had a breakout hit, but each release gets better and better. The Fire Dancer hit #1 in its category on its release weekend.  It’s a vampire book that may have never seen the light of day if I had to wait for a publisher to buy it.

Sure, there are drawbacks. My books aren’t in Barnes and Noble, but when was the last time you bought a book from Barnes and Noble?  I have a harder time getting bigger press or the attention of foreign markets or movie makers.  But it’s not impossible. It just means not now, not never.

Going indie was a scary decision. It meant abandoning everything I had been working toward and starting over. I cried a lot and lost sleep, and I still do. I don’t think that will part ever go away, no matter how the stories come out. Going indie was the best decision for my career. I’m in complete control of my destiny, I know what I’m working toward, and I have to stop blogging now because I’m itching to get back to writing the story I’m working on. I’ll share it with all of you soon. (very soon!)

To celebrate, Because the Night is part of the OMGReads Stuff your Kindle sale. Close to 50 titles on sale for 99 cents. There are some sweet box sets in there, too!

The Stories Inside the Stories: Research with Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Anything I can get my hands on

By Julie

BIG NEWS at least for me. I finished editing THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS, the young adult novel I’ve been working on for a long, long time. You guys, I’m so ridiculously proud of and in love with this story, I hope you all are too when it finally sees the light of day. Next step, it goes out to a select few readers, I query it to a few places, and I bounce in my seat until I can’t breathe with excitement.

There’s a theme of morning glories in the book. I had a lot of fun doing research on them, their symbolism, how they grow, stories about them. Here is one story that I fell in love with, that felt a lot like my characters, Celeste, the Witch of Stars, and Lux, the Demon Prince of Lust. I had no real opportunity to use this folklore in the novel, but wanted very much to share it.

The Morning Glory in Chinese Art

The star-shaped morning glory is symbolic of a single day each year in which the Chinese lovers, Chien Niu and Chih Neu, are allowed to meet. According to Chinese lore, Chien Niu was a boy start who was entrusted to take care of water buffalo in the heavenly kingdom. A girl star named Chih Neu was put in charge of seamstress duties. They fell in love, and the romance caused them to neglect their duties. In anger, God forced the young lovers to be separated on both sides of the Silver River and allowed then to meet only once during the whole year.

morning glory black

morningGlories1

Between the morning glory growing in the driest dirt, harshest light, against all odds and the star-crossed lover theme that doesn’t quite work for Celeste, who refuses not to grow, and the silver river and silver is ALL OVER THE PLACE in this book, and the star shaped blooms and the colors of the flowers which symbolize love and reaching for the unreachable, and what Celeste has to do with her coven of Witches whose mothers are doing all they can to prevent them from growing AAAAAHHHHHHH INSPIRATION OVERLOAD.

I luck out a lot and things that I’ve already worked into my novels turn out to have these amazing stories behind them that weave right into my story. It happened a lot with RUNNING AWAY, with the stories of Izanagi and Izanami, the mythological creators of Japan. Izanagi, god of death fit right into my needs in the sequel, as did the “shadowy land of the dead,” Yomi, where the god’s wife was trapped, for which Izanagi was much at fault. The end of their terrible story, where Izanami in her fury promises to take a thousand lives every day and Izanagi promises to create fifteen hundred more, gave me all too much material to create a fresh new vampire story in RUNNING AWAY.

Izanagi

Anyway, it just goes to show you how much I overthink my writing and how every goddamn word has probably too much meaning in my books. Enjoy.

This one will burn your pasties off!

I did an awesome interview with local author JC Stockli. Keep reading, and then go pick up her book, The Nothingness! I know you already want it from that title! Manson or Bust, JC!!

J.C. Stockli

Damn! Is it July already? I was not prepared for that.

Ah well, in the meantime, I’ve been writing and reading like crazy. I managed to finagle fellow New England Chapter Romance Writers of America member, Kristen Strassel, to swing by the blog. She’s recently released this wicked sexy vamp book (THE FIRE DANCER), the first book in the CIRQUE MACABRE series. I was instantly drawn in to the first page, and now she’s by the blog. So, yay!

As noted above, Kristen is a member of NECRWA and writes paranormal and contemporary romance. More than that, she’s also a make-up artist with some fantastic hair. A girl after my own heart, Kristen’s a bit of a music junky. And if you’ve ever checked out her bio, you’d now she has a sparkling smile J  I know, staulkery, right?  But seriously folks, she writes what she knows and loves… and…

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