Deadly Ever After

Archive for the tag “books”

Reading Into Reading: Reading With Purpose as an Author with Julie

TODAY’S BREW: It’s the last day of school vacation. ALL OF THE BREW.

By Julie

My book-buying habit is worthy of intervention, but it’s BOOKS. B O O K S. I justified to a friend online with her own book habit (this could be like, two thousand people on Twitter alone) that I only buy books that coincide with what I’m writing at the time.

BUT WHAT DO YOU MEAN? she asked.

While writing THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS, I’ve read a lot of books for a lot of different reasons, all of which contribute directly to my writing. Here’s a few and what they’ve helped with:

  • THE FAIRYLAND SERIES by Catherynne Valente. September is a young female character with incredible self-awareness and backbone. I want that for a couple of the Witches in this book so I read to take note of how her strength was portrayed in such a direct and yet subtle way. Also the worldbuilding is unparalleled.
  • THE HUNGER GAMES TRILOGY by Suzanne Collins. I’ve already written a whole post on why I give a crap about Katniss Everdeen. For chrissakes, archery has become huge because she was such an influence on young readers. I want my main character to be like Katniss in that I want girls to want not to be her, but be as strong as her, and as themselves as they should be.
  • 1984 by George Orwell. My favorite book of all time, so I was happy to read it again. This book changed my view of the world, of how deep I should dig to understand it. The world is so incredibly convincing because of the possibility of it, but more importantly because of the way it’s shaped the characters. They know no other way, much the same as in THE HUNGER GAMES. So the worldbuilding is so thoroughly portrayed that it feels real to the reader. I needed this for THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS.
  • ELIZABETH: THE LIFE OF ELIZABETH TAYLOR by Alexander Walker. I’m not a huge biography reader but I adore Elizabeth Taylor and what I love most about her is that she was absolutely aware of her flaws and embraced them so well that the world loved her for it, worshiped her for it. She of course was scrutinized terribly, but she was so determined to live life the way she wanted that it didn’t ruin her through all of her difficulty in life. I wanted to read her life story because I want my main character to be that fearless about creating the life she wants despite all possible failures.
  • ROYGBIV: AN EXCEEDINGLY SURPRISING BOOK ABOUT COLOR by Jude Stewart. My Witch of Shades has a magic centered entirely on color, and this book gives every association with color, weird stories about it, cultural references, religious symbolisms, quotations, artistic importance…. I was well-prepared for the Witch of Shades to commandeer all of the colors and their emotional impact on humanity.
  • THE ARCANA CHRONICLES by Kresley Cole. While this is a Young Adult series, the treatment of the love triangle is extremely mature. Much less first kiss stuff than it was this could be our last kiss so let’s keep going. Life and death choices and rivalries, and some seriously innovative characters that really break the mold. I want something as groundbreaking as this was in my eyes.
  • THE RAVEN CYCLE and SINNER by Maggie Stiefvater. One of my favorite authors, Maggie has a singular ability to write characters that make you feel for them deeply, that entertain you wildly, and all done with a poetry of language that has you re-reading whole paragraphs at a time. I want that kind of connection with my characters for you guys and I want that beauty in the wording that makes you love me.
  • HOUSE OF IVY AND SORROW by Natalie Whipple. A debut novel about young witches with a lot of mixed reviews. I wanted to read it to see what I thought of it myself, and to see why there were so many differentiating opinions. I wanted to see how the magic was handled, if it was classically Wiccan, or some hybrid or something entirely other. I wanted to see what didn’t ring true to me as being believable enough. And I wanted to see if I enjoyed it.
  • STARDUST by Neil Gaiman. I needed to read a book with a close relationship to stars for my main character, and one with Gaiman’s mastery and worldbuilding and fairy tale quality to see what makes it utterly standalone as everything Gaiman does. I want that, too.
  • DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth. What made this such a worldwide phenomenon? How can I do that? Is it the writing, the characters, the world, the circumstances that make it resonate? I needed to know.
  • THE MATCHED TRILOGY AND ATLANTIA by Ally Condie. Because I need to know what the kids are all reading these days, and see if I think kids are worthy of better or if they’re getting books as complex as they deserve.
  • THE DARKEST MINDS by Alexandra Bracken. Same as above, but also because this is remarkably not all that different in premise from a lot of other YA’s and with X-Men or other superhero qualities, so what the hell made THIS book show up on Target shelves rather than say, some other new author’s dystopian YA? Is it the remarkable similarity to what we know that made it a sure shot or is it that it’s just a little different? What would I have done differently?

There’s plenty more, but these were just the ones I remember now, and I have plenty more on my list. I desperately read everything I think can help me write a better book. While I read to enjoy, I make sure to note things that stood out to me and why. I read with determination to get a single thing from the book at minimum, and hope for a lot more. With every page I pay attention to what was done wonderfully, what I would have done differently, how I would put a spin on it, why it’s a success.

For the next few weeks we’ll be featuring posts from other writers on what they read and why as they write. Then maybe I’ll do one on what snacks I eat. And what sweatpants I wear. What my pet peeves are while I’m writing. Then I’ll just do a YouTube vid of the entire book writing process. Then….


What’s on Our Nightstands for National Readathon Day!

TODAY’S BREW: French Vanilla because it’s coffee meant for staying in bed.

By Julie

IT’S NATIONAL READATHON DAY! Coincidentally, I’m on bed rest to help recover from stupid surgery, so I’ve been reading and will be reading for-ev-errrr.

So when the avid readers over at Casper asked Kristen and I what books were taking up our nightstands, I was on it. Then they told me their mattress comes delivered the size of a mini fridge, and I thought that was awesome. Look.

Casper Box

And then I thought about how much time I’d be in bed, and I really wanted one AND a mini fridge so I could just lay on my bed and eat and read. Anyway, we all need new mattresses it turns out. Go see why at They’re also hilarious tweeters which is funny, because MATTRESSES.

As I was crybabying over, I just had surgery this week, so BOOKS.

  1. I needed a book that was both familiar but new enough to make me forget what was just taken out of my body. I went for THE HUNGER GAMES, and as a real jerk about heroines, I was totally into Katniss. She’s powerful. No other word for it.
  2. ATLANTIA by Ally Condie. I loved the MATCHED trilogy, and so was amped for this which is a dystopian Atlantis novel? Sold. Also I have a signed copy, so take that.
  3. THE CORMORANT by Chuck Wendig, about one of my favorite antiheroines ever, Miriam Black.
  4. ISLA’S INHERITANCE by Cassandra Page, a very cool coming of age Fey novel set in Australia.
  5. (ahem) RUNNING AWAY by Julie Hutchings because now is the time for me to refamiliarize myself with the sequel to my first book, RUNNING HOME so that I can get smacking on the end of the trilogy.

Kristen is not bed-bound but is always looking for a nice book boyfriend to lull her to sleep, and I know for a fact that right now she’s reading:

  1. DEAD OF WINTER by Kresley Cole, which I am staring at her over so I can read next. This series is in both of our top tens of 2014.
  2. RUIN AND RISING by Leigh Bardugo (also a favorite of mine), an incredibly lush Russian inspired beauty.
  3. And this is all me talking, but you very much need to have on YOUR nightstand, my favorite of Kristen’s books which is the perfect winter bedtime book, SILENT NIGHT

Well, I hope you’ve had fun imagining our bedsides, and all the books that are piled up there, and all the cookie crumbs all over them. Tell us what’s on your nightstands, too!

The Education of Intern Sara: Self Reflection Maya Angelou & Rereading Old Favorites

I feel fortunate to have experienced many of life’s joys and privileges and yet I still want more. Enter reading. Reading is that gift that the world has offered us that allows us to fill in those gaps and allows us to experience things that we wouldn’t experience otherwise. We are able to see places, learn things, and react to moments that weren’t meant for us. Maya Angelou’s life was exceptional, beyond what most of us will ever experience, and although I’m glad that I haven’t experienced her pain, there’s something to be said for being able to take that journey with her.


I read Maya Angelou’s first book, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” in my late teens and was completely captivated by her words and her story. Decades later, I can still see many of the images she painted in my mind as if they were my own. Some of her memories are full of heart and charm while others are haunting and painful, but all are vivid and will forever live alongside my own memories.


I was heartbroken, last month when I heard that she had passed away. I also felt a little guilty. Before I ever finished her reading her first book, I knew I wanted to read it again. I felt that way about all of her books and had promised myself I would at the very least reread “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and “Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry like Christmas” because they were my favorites. At several points every year, I tell myself I will do it. I used to own all of Maya’s autobiographies and in my desire to share her words with others, I lent them out never to see them again. I wondered if I should repurchase them or borrow them from the library. Should I get paperback or hardcover? Should it be a hard-copy or digital?” Decades had passed and I was still asking myself those questions. I had yet to reread either book.


Within days of Maya Angelou’s passing, I decided I just needed to go to the library and get them. “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” was waiting for me on the shelf. The library gods had decided that I should start at the beginning and as soon as I got home, I started rereading.


Her words were as beautiful as I remembered but in spite of this, I knew that I wasn’t going to finish reading her book. I only read five chapters and then put it down. I may not remember everything, but I know that a lot of terrible things happened to her as a child and I wasn’t ready to re-experience that. I put the book down and haven’t picked it up since. I’m not sure that I will, at least not for a while.


I guess as much as I love this book, and as much as I’d like to read it again, there is something inside me that knows that I’m not ready yet. It is more powerful than I am and I need to respect that. Maya Angelou and her caged bird will have to wait. Perhaps I will have better luck singin’ and swingin’ with her, only time will tell.


I may not have reread Maya Angelou yet, but I did make good on two other promises. There are four books that I count as my favorites. In addition to Maya Angelou’s autobiographies are Mick Fleetwood’s, “My Life and Adventures in Fleetwood Mac” and Dolly Parton’s, “My Life and Other Unfinished Business.” I made good on my promise and reread them both, one after the other.


Are they still great books? Absolutely. Are they still my favorites? I’m not sure. I experienced them so differently this time. They were wonderful, but there was nothing shocking or new about them. These were stories that I had read before. Perhaps that’s why I was afraid of rereading them and perhaps that’s why it took me over two decades to do so. It’s only new the first time and two decades of life experiences will alter your opinion about things.


Perhaps when I reread Maya, hers will no longer be my favorite books either. Who knows? I just know that I am not ready to find out. Perhaps I’m meant to discover new favorites or perhaps this is my time to just write.


Here’s to making time for writing, making time for reading, and finding new favorites.

Julie’s Bookie Gifty Recommendations

TODAY’S BREW: Pumpkin Spice. Because I will love it forever.

By Julie


Today I shall give you my book recommendations for when you inevitably screech “OH SHIT I NEED TO GET AUNT TRUDIE A PRESENT AND SHE’S SO RACIST AND SO MEAN AND SHE COOKS LIKE SHIT! WHAT DO I GET A PERSON LIKE THAT?!”

You’ll get that bitch what I get everyone on earth, or wish everyone would get for me. BOOKS. I give books that I like. Period. Don’t be afraid to get someone a book they might not get themselves, but that you love. Fucking discovery and shit. It’s science. I shall give you both paperback and eBooks. Commence reading!

These books, in particular:

  1. Oh yeah, it’s happening. RUNNING HOME. Seriously, it has snow, and Christmas, and romance, but weird romance, and betrayal and blood. And more Christmas, and even Christmas ornaments. And it smells like peppermint brownies. And the cover is so pretty!
  2. SHIVER by Maggie Stiefvater. I’ve read this series over and over. Again, beautiful snowy feel to it, but with a dynamic cast of characters and a fantastic, intriguing storyline, written by a true poet. Gorgeous.
  3. THE SHINING, Stephen King. It’s a classic holiday horror, and even if they’ve read it before, fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke. This book is worth reading every year.
  4. SHADOW AND BONE, Leigh Bardugo. This book took me completely by surprise with its stunning imagery, complex relationships, incredibly original plotlines and worldbuilding. One of my favorite books of the year by far.
  5. NEVERWHERE, Neil Gaiman. You can’t go wrong giving someone who’s never read Gaiman this book. If they don’t like it, they don’t get any present next year at all.
  6. BLACKBIRDS, Chuck Wendig. I’m in love with Miriam Black, her story, her mouth, her abilities, and I’m in love with the attention Chuck gives to making sure there is a complexity to this story. Holes Black gets herself into that you pray she can find her way out of. An incredible read with endless possibility.
  7. DISCOREDIA, J.C. Michael. Brand new author who’s been poring over this novel for a long time. I have waited over a year for the paperback of this book to come out to hold in my grubby little mitts, and now I can have it. And it’s set at New Year’s, so winning.
  8. AGENTS OF LIGHT AND DARKNESS, Simon R. Green. I’ve given this book to so many people, I might be on Green’s PR staff now. He’s my favorite author and this is my favorite work of his. I can’t say enough.
  9. HOLIDAYS ON ICE, David Sedaris. I read this book years ago, and it never left me. Perfect for this time of year, and it’s a sure winner with any reader.
  10. DEEP KISS OF WINTER, Kresley Cole and Gena Showalter. I’m reading this right now, and really enjoying it. I wanted something with bite, but light enough to feel like an escape at the end of the day. This is it. It would be a great gift.


  1. BECAUSE THE NIGHT, by our very own Kristen Strassel will be under everyone’s E-tree this year.
  2. ON THE LIPS OF CHILDREN, by my brother at Books of the Dead Press, Mark Matthews is only 99 cents right now, and wow, what a goddamn read. I love this book so hard.
  3. BOUND, by J. Liz Hill. For Chrissakes, the cover is so goddamn pretty.
  4. SINGULARITY, by Joe Hart. I love the way the man writes, and impatiently await my copy of his new book in the mail.
  5. UNTETHERED, by Katie Hayoz. “Sylvie isn’t comfortable in her own skin.  In fact, there are times she can’t even manage to stay inside it.” That’s all I need to hear.

Reading The Genre You Write

Today’s Brew:  Blueberry Mountain Goodness

by Kristen

Victoria Frances

Artwork by Victoria Frances

I read a lot. I’m not one of those 5 books a week kind of girls, but I devour a few a month. I don’t go anywhere without a book.  And I’m open to trying just about anything, although I tend always leans towards paranormal and a lot of my books come from the YA section of Barnes and Noble, simply because it’s the best merchandised section of the store. Presentation does matter, kids.  I really enjoy biographies and I’m trying to catch up on some of the classics.

Lately I’ve made an effort to read more vampire romances, since my books feature romance with vampires.  As a writer, I look at books now differently than when I read before I cracked open my manuscript.  Much more critically. I’m aware of tropes, character development, and conflict.  I miss just reading without my inner editor pointing her finger at things.

I noticed a few themes emerging.  Tiny, spunky, usually virginal heroines that are master flirts and usually unbearable cockteases.  Big burly vampire kings from Scotland or some other super white place who haven’t had sex since Jesus walked the earth. They are all rich, rich, rich. One doesn’t want the other, but they can’t resist each other.  Once our two heroes finally wind up in bed, somehow our heroine winds up with super powers! She singlehandedly takes down whole army that vampire king has battled unsuccessfully for centuries.

Prologue:  Two years later, She-ra can’t believe that Thor is her actually husband. They look out onto the sunset with their two babes, Baby She-ra and Thor Junior and live happily ever after. Awww.

You guys, this so isn’t my book. My vampires aren’t old,they have sex on the regular, my characters aren’t all white, they aren’t royalty, they try to save the day, but….well, I’ll let you find out what happens.  As publication day looms, I find myself getting nervous about things that shouldn’t matter.  Like, is there a secret formula I’m supposed to follow when I write my book to guarantee people like it? I read like three of these books described above in a row. All by different authors. Do people want to read about characters that are more like them than royalty? Will readers be open to something different?  Will they be mad if they pick up my book, expecting something like that and getting my story instead?

Everyone says they’re looking for something different, yet these are all best selling books, and they’re all very similar. I’m not saying they’re bad AT ALL, I just noticed a very clear theme.

Julie made a great point the other day.  She’s noticed agents are looking for something fresh and new, but publishers want a sure thing.  I think this is where self publishing has the biggest advantage. Books that don’t quite fit in the neat little genre boxes get a chance for the public to know and love them.  Then the public can get what they really want, not what someone else has already chosen for them.

Her Heart’s Secret Wish Release Day!

Juliana is a writer I met in the NA Alley Blog chat.  Her book is being released today!  Join Julie and I in congratulating her!


Book Description: 
With a renowned reputation as a player, she had everything figured out…
Twenty-year-old college student, Natasha is the life of every party and the reason behind many celebrations. The easiest girl on campus has all guys at her feet and more than a few in her bed.
…until he came into the game…
Having entered the academic world by chance, Professor Jason Stone is surprised to find one of his young students a huge temptation. The infamous Natasha has caught his attention. But is there more to her than meets the eye?
…and changed the rules.
As their unexpected friendship grows, so does their attraction to each other. When Jason’s Christmas plans are canceled and he ends up at the same party as Natasha, sparks flare, destroying the safe zone around them. Will they figure out how to break through their self-imposed barriers to be together, or lose one another forever?
About the Author: 
Juliana is a Brazilian girl living in Connecticut.
She would love to be Wonder Woman, Cheetara, Elektra, Buffy, Phoebe, She-ra, Rose, Korra, Cornelia, a blood elf shadow priest, and other various kick-ass female from books, comics, TV series, movies, and games, but she settles for—the less exciting but equally gratifying life—a wife, mother, friend and a writer. Her heroines are like the ones cited above and she also writes about the heroes who drive them crazy—and occasionally hot.
Since her first stories, she wrote about 20-something year old protagonists, and today she’s part of NA Alley, a blog dedicated to New Adult.

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