Deadly Ever After

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

Archive for the month “February, 2016”

NOT TODAY: The Benefits of My Nervous Breakdown by Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Crème Brulee. It may taste nothing like crème brulee, I would not know

By Julie

I had a nervous breakdown.

In retrospect, it had been coming for a while. I slowed down editing, writing was getting harder, and I was surviving tragedy after minor tragedy left and right in addition to the eighty million things I manage to fit into my days. I couldn’t even blog and claimed it was a “holiday vacation” when it was really that I was burnt, but still burning. I knew I should have seen it coming because I’d been waiting every time I went out in public for the time I would be alone so I could cry for no real reason. I’d been reaching out to crisis lines, unable to enjoy anything I normally did.

One day the week before school vacation, it just hit me. I couldn’t handle any noise whatsoever. I was holed up in my bedroom’s silence; a bird flew by outside, and cawed. It sent me into a convulsive jump and I couldn’t stop shaking for hours. Doing ANYTHING made me cry–getting a glass of juice for the kids, the steps to get in and out of the car, listening to the dog whine for scraps…. I had nightmares that wouldn’t quit. My panic attacks immobilized me but for the need to stay in one place and bounce my leg or rock back and forth. I’d shake for hours afterwards. I woke up shaking and wouldn’t be able to even hold a drink without spilling it until after 5 at night. I bit my cuticles until they were bloody, a really lovely complement to the bleeding psoriasis that cropped up all over my palms. I was gritting my teeth so consistently that my jaw ached.

And I had to STOP. Everything. I sat on the couch and watched Shark Tank because it required zero emotional investment. I read in short spurts. I got off all social media. I couldn’t let the kids watch cartoons while I was in the room. I stopped everything.  And I admitted to my doctor and to a therapist’s office that I was indeed having a nervous breakdown and needed immediate help. I didn’t minimize it, saying I was having a rough patch. I said what I knew in my heart was happening.

What followed was a sense of peace that I hadn’t felt for a long time.

Finally, I hit my limit. It was freeing to finally say, “Well. That’s that. I finally found my limit.” And then I had to stop. I had to let the machine rest and clear the smoke.

I’ve always been told YOU CAN DO IT, JULIE.

The trouble with that is that I KNOW. I won’t stop until the thing I want to accomplish is achieved. I won’t say no to someone who needs my help. I multitask to a fault, and boy are those days over. I always could do it.

Nobody was telling me I didn’t have to. I need that, so much.

When the breakdown hit, there was no denying that I was out of commission. My husband was absolutely incredible, just letting me be, confirming that I didn’t have to do everything, that I needed to be first. Not just first, but only. Just for a while.

It’s now been a couple of weeks, and I am back to editing at a less grueling pace. I’m taking control of my environment in that when I say I CAN’T HANDLE THIS, I don’t. I DON’T. If I can’t handle the noise or brightness, I leave. If I can’t handle any more thinking, I stop. I don’t force myself through it. I had my panic meds increased, am getting therapy, and I’m cutting back on social media a lot. I read more, I’m writing longhand the way I did when writing RUNNING HOME. I’m meditating and going back to my roots. I even put a sticky note on the back of my phone that says NOT TODAY: meaning no social media, primarily, but also extending to not adding to my manageable to-do list. It doesn’t all have to be done today. I use that post it note a couple of times a week.

Having a panic disorder is rough. Not giving myself the space I need to cope with that and dealing with the number of responsibilities and pressures and need for taking charge that I have is a disaster waiting to happen. Well, the disaster happened, and now I can move forward. And I’m really okay. I really am. More than I have been in quite some time.

What I’ve learned overall is that I CAN do it, but I don’t HAVE to do it unless I WANT to. No matter what I tell myself, apart from the fires that I put out being the parent of children that require a lot of investment from me, there is not a goddamn thing that I HAVE to do. It’s all choice. And I’m smiling as I say that having choices is something I LIKE again.

Thank you all for your support. And speaking of support, if YOU have anything, anything at all weighing on your mind, there’s an amazing text support that I go to, and they are so helpful. Text SUPPORT to 741-741 and a trained counselor will listen.

Take care of yourselves, readers. Take care of each other.

In Which You Learn About ALL SMOKE RISES by Mark Matthews and He Gushes About Me But I Didn’t Ask Him To.

TODAY’S BREW: Blizzard Brew by New England Coffee and it is STRONG.

By Julie

As an editor, I get to play with books before anyone else, and sometimes I feel like I’m finding treasure. ALL SMOKE RISES by Mark Matthews, a long-time friend published alongside me at Books of the Dead Press, is one of those glinting jewels. Visceral, beautiful, horrible, speaking of the human condition and of what it could be for both good and bad, frightening and hopeful and destitute. In this post that I SWEAR he asked me to put up, I didn’t as HIM to put up, he raves until I’m in tears about how awesome I am as an editor, but let me tell you that Matthews has a style and unique perspective on his subject matter and in his craft that gleams like a shiny apple. Not to mention that I got to spend time with him at a convention once and it was awesome. He’s just the most genuine, thoughtful and hilarious guy, and it shows in this book.

 

 

All Smoke Rises releases this week, a follow up to my last novella, Milk-Blood. While it takes place just weeks after Milk-Blood ends, it also serves as a stand-alone read. *Hi, this is Julie. It totally stands alone. It will beg you to read MILK-BLOOD, though.* The book tackles drug addiction, urban decay, mental illness, and a host of other real-life horrors.

 

Even though it’s a story, it doesn’t mean it’s not true. The material is not fiction. It’s happening, right now. Addicts are roaming the streets, craving heroin the way a vampire craves blood. Children are living in urban squalor, with poverty so deep their best meals of the day come when they go to school. As Kealan Patrick Burke so generously wrote in the introduction, “All Smoke Rises perfectly encapsulates horror as a reflection of real life.”

 

The inspiration for writing All Smoke Rises came from my own work as a substance abuse therapist. For nearly 20 years, I’ve worked with hundreds of addicts from the Detroit area, many of them indigent. Before this time, I spent years in my own addiction. I woke up each day and my daily efforts were how to get high and get by. I now have 23 years clean and sober, and will never forget the immense power addiction has over the human soul.

 

All Smoke Rises is a book I’m damn proud of, but certainly did not create it on my own. I’ve got a long list of beta-readers and an incredible editor. Julie Hutchings. The most demure woman in the twitterverse. *It’s true, I am.*

I should point out, before I go on, that it was my idea, not hers, to guest blog and thank her for what a great job she did in editing my manuscript.

 

Readers would thank her, too, if they could, for the book they would have read would have been a much lesser piece had not Ms. Hutchings poured her own heart into the story.

 

Nuts and bolts were tightened. Extra parts were thrown away as needed. Paragraphs were reshaped, certain sentences were turned into stand-alone paragraphs, others were ended on a different note to keep the plot flowing. Overused phrases and words were smashed over my head until I saw stars. Rewording these descriptors made me work harder as a writer and created a better product.

 

If you’ve ever had a word document edited, you’ve come to know those little comment bubbles on the side. Well, Julie’s comments were different. They came alive. They spoke to me, made me laugh, or reached out from the screen and gave me nugies. If a nugie wasn’t enough, they grabbed me by the neck and squeezed until I heard my own esophagus crack. All of this to challenge me to be the best version of myself, and I responded in kind best as I could.

 

I’m so incredibly excited for this book. The producer of Monkey Knuckle Films is reading it now, and I hope some of the plot-line will be included into the movie adaptation of Milk-Blood. John F.D. Taff said, “All Smoke Rises makes Milk-Blood look like a freshman writing assignment.” Kealan Patrick Burke agreed to do the introduction after giving it a read, and seeing what he wrote was a highlight of my writing career.

 

But I did not write it alone, so thank you, Julie, for your invaluable contributions. Worth adding that, if you are only a digital friend of Julie, she is exactly as you would think in real life. I spent just a few hours hanging with Hutchings at a convention, and it was like swimming in a pool full of her tweets. She’s genuine good people, with genuine editing skills that I’d recommend to anyone who listens.

 

 

 

ALL SMOKE RISES

Ten year old Lilly is the victim of a terrible house fire and a wretched family. Her father is an addict with mental illness, her mother was murdered and then buried across the street, and her uncle got her addicted to heroin. Lilly’s tragic story has been told in the book ALL SMOKE RISES, and it may be true, for the author has broken into your house, and placed Lilly’s body on your kitchen counter. He demands you read the manuscript, before cutting his own wrists and bleeding out on your floor. Now you have decisions to make, for Lilly’s body may not be dead, and her family is coming for her.

 

“Make no mistake, when it comes to citations of true horror, you will be hard pressed to find a deeper and more challenging example than you will here. Matthews knows the heartbreak and tragedy of his subject. By the time you are done reading this, you will too.” ~KEALAN PATRICK BURKE, Bram Stoker Award winning author of KIN and Sour Candy

******

 

ADVANCE PRAISE “Heartbreakingly sad, overwhelmingly disturbing, creepy, violent and poignant. Highly recommended.” ~JOHN FD TAFF Bram Stoker Finalist “Filled with such dread and depravity that even the most desensitized among us will feel the pain. Matthews’s prose vividly shows the viciousness and hopelessness of drug addiction, and the beautifully horrifying images will stay with you long after the final page is digested.” ~JON BASSOFF, author of Corrosion, winner of the Darkfuse Reader’s Choice Award “True reality horror, with supernatural elements that only serve to make it more believable.” ~MICHAEL BRADFORD, Executive Producer, Monkey Knuckle Films.

 

Check out ALL SMOKE RISES on Amazon. Just $2.99 for kindle

Happy Book Birthday, Complete Me!

I’ve had a lot of release days, but I think this is a first. We’re having a hurricane/blizzard. It sounds like the roof is going to blow right off this building, and there’s no way we’re keeping power. So I got up in the middle of the night to make sure I could post this. 🙂

X has found his mate, and the Sawtooth Shifters series is complete.

This series became so much more than I expected for me. Every character I write becomes real. I write in first person, as you know, so it’s like they’re telling me their story just like they tell it to you. I’ve never written a seven book series before, and it was only supposed to be four books. Just the Channings and the Forever Home girls. But once I met the Lowes, they refused to be silent. Even though the characters are far from perfect, the characters found the people who loved them just the way they were. It was never about having to ‘fix’ each other, but each character realizing they were good enough just as they are. That there was so much more right than wrong. In Sawtooth Forest, I created a place I’d like to call home.

It’s been hard to let these characters go. I cried when I typed the end.

Keep reading for an excerpt of Complete Me!  And thank you for reading this series and loving these characters just as much as I do! xx

CompM_05 (1)Xavier Lowe wants peace.
A rogue attack kept him trapped in his wolf form, and he’s had enough of the endless war on Sawtooth Forest. His brothers want to play by the rules, but not X. If they don’t take care of this threat, there will be no future to fight for.
Chandra wants to belong.
Her parents left Sawtooth Forest before she was born. They didn’t want her to be sold, instead they gave her a chance to find her true mate. Now she’s in the place she wants to call home, but she never expected her pack to reject her.
Except for one. X knows that Chandra isn’t just any wolf, she’s his mate. And he’ll show her why Sawtooth Forest is worth fighting for.

Excerpt:
X came over to me. Determination and something that made my insides throb uncontrollably swirled in those incredible eyes. He pulled me into his body roughly and his lips crashed against mine in a kiss.
I was too stunned to move. This gorgeous, naked man kissed me in a room full the people who, whether they wanted me or not, had become my whole world in such a short amount of time. I imagined this is what it felt like to be stuck in a snow globe, frozen in time with everything raining down around me. Like the decorative orb, it was magical.
X didn’t give up. His lips moved against mine, coaxing them open. Just like those candy-colored eyes, he tasted salty, sweet, and a little bit forbidden. He’d been starving for this for much longer than the month I’d cared for him, and so had I. I hadn’t exactly been holding out for my true mate, but the way X touched me, his hand cupping the back of my head protectively, his thumb massaging my nape in time with the kiss, I felt like I’d never done this before.
Thank God he held on to me. X probably thought I’d run, but this kiss had turned my knees to junk.
“Come upstairs with me,” he whispered against my cheek.
“X, I…uh…” I had no idea what to say. I forced myself to look away from him, to the rest of the room. They were probably aware of what we were doing, but they didn’t care. There were several similar reunions happening all around us. It was funny, this passion I’d craved all my life scared the hell out of me when I held it in my hands. “We should probably…”
“Talk?” He grinned. “Believe me, there’s a lot of things I’ve been fantasizing about doing with you in my bedroom. How do you think I got through this month? I want to know everything about you.”
I laughed, falling against him in relief. “Talking sounds amazing.”

 

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