Deadly Ever After

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

Archive for the tag “Julie Hutchings”

March Madness Flash Fiction: RED by Jessi Shakarian

TODAY’S BREW: French Vanilla by the Trader of Joes.

By Julie

At the risk of sounding redundant, I love today’s March Madness story. I’m a sucker for vivid imagery and Jessi Shakarian gives me as much as I require in RED. You can find more of Jessi at https://twitter.com/listentomuses on Twitter and her blog http://t.co/GrsMIxbFe9.  Now enjoy RED.

RED

by Jessi Shakarian

Red isn’t a color you see too often in nature. Not compared to the spectrums of greens, blues, yellows, and pinks. Cardinals. Rainbows. Roses. Rubies. Blood.

But in here, in this laboratory, red is hidden. Taken away, like some kind of evil. My lab coat is white, the sheets that cover my patients are white. Even the metal tables reflect the white tiled wall in the sun. Pristine. Untouchable. They beckon me, challenge me to cover them in red. However, that challenge won’t happen right now. I have something more important to tend to.

The body in front of me is cold from the fridge, eyes shut. Her throat is covered with bruises from her death, her chest and stomach in stitches from the coroner’s previous work. Even though the answer seems pretty clear to me, I can respect their thoroughness.

I pick up the scapel off the tray, it shines in the light, and feels like an extension of myself. I am whole. It’s the feeling my father always wanted me to understand, as he did, except I don’t save lives.

This person has a name on her toe, but today she is not the person she was when she was alive. Tonight, I’ll call her Annie. I put my fingers to my lips and place them on her forehead. Don’t you worry, my Annie, I’ll take good care of you, I whisper in her ear. I pet her beautiful straight brown hair tenderly. She doesn’t smile in acknowledgement, but I know she’s heard me.

I make an incision at the base of her neck, through a strangulation bruise, and plug in the tube that connects to the container where all the blood will collect. I watch the start of the red line from her neck, watching the tube turn crimson. A shiver runs down my spine; it’s almost time for the fun to begin.

The first time my father let me shadow him in the operating room, I was thirteen, and my face covered by a mask. He opened up a cadaver, showing me the insides, and explaining a simple technique – removing a perforated appendix, of which the man had died from. Preparing me for the many surgeries I will parttake in once I get into medical school. My eyes crawled over every part of the incision, the organ, his latex gloves, the instruments, eventually his apron, and mine. Everything was covered in red.

But I’m no longer in my father’s laboratory. The red from my memories fade and the white walls still taunt me. I check on the container, halfway done, at half a gallon.

When I was six, I got a paper cut on my homework. My skin sliced open, and the blood poured out, like it had been trying to escape my body. I didn’t wipe it on a tissue, or ask to see a nurse. I stuck the wound in my mouth, and licked up the blood. It tasted metallic, unlike anything my tongue had ever felt.

It was the start of something wonderful.

The tube runs clear. The container of blood sits there, waiting for me. I can hear the calls like an old friend. Or maybe an old lover, whose passion pulls you in like time hasn’t moved forward. I jump out of my chair and check the container. One point two gallons. Not too much, not too little. Very good, dear Annie. I switch out the tube for another one.

Formaldehyde is thicker than blood, and takes more time, so I let Annie sit by herself. She never was good at being solitary, always needed the company of others. It’s what got her into trouble, but she’ll have to learn sometime. I lift up the lid holding the blood. It looks like a pool of colored water, but I can’t see the bottom.

I dip my arms into the container like a surgeon preparing for his experiment. Elbows in first, and I let the drips run down my arm to my hands. They race back down to the container, the safety of home. My fingers are stained, and I feel just as alive as that first time. I suck on my thumb like I got tomato sauce on it. This one is dingy, but euphoria pumps through my veins, like I’m on the purest form of heroin.

I scoop up a pint jar for myself, sealing it tight, and dispose of the rest the way I was taught in medical school. I label the jar “Annie” with the date, and stick in the mini ice box against the wall. There’s only two more jars with Annie’s name on it. This will tide me over for a bit before it’s time find the next Annie.

The back door from the loading dock swings open. “Jesus, Cal, it smells like death in here.” Jack’s back is to me, but his cigarette smoke says hello before he does. The cool late night air pushes it’s way through. “Why don’t you light up?” He turns around to face me, wheeling in my new friend.

I wipe my hands on a towel and go to my desk in the corner. Cigarettes only cover the smell everyone else calls “noxious”, but I call “welcoming”.

“I’m good for now,” I tell him as I pull open my desk drawer, take out a wad of cash, counting it. Red on green.

Jack wheels over the body, lifts up the sheet for me to take a peek. It’s her, the one I saw the other night. The blue and purple bruises on her pale throat stick out. My signatures.

“Thank you,” I said as I hand him the cash. “I’m almost done with her, if you want to wait a few moments.”

Jack counts the money, and nods. Pocketing it, he takes a drag of his cigarette. “Do what you have to do, doc. The morgue attendant won’t be back until the sun comes up.”

March Madness Flash Fiction: All the Monuments You Broke by Ian Cann

TODAY’S BREW: Fancee Coffee.

By Julie

I look forward to these flash fiction stories maybe too much, but they’re FUN. And one of the most fun folks, Ian Cann, wrote today’s haunting and lovely piece. The first thing he’s written in some time, if I’m correct, and he managed the whole thing pun-free. This is a stretch for him. Follow my buddy on Twitter  https://twitter.com/thebeercolonel and his blog, http://t.co/BWwrfGCuUG.

All The Monuments You Broke

by Ian Cann

In the cold quiet moment the darkness spoke in riddles, and the man knew it as something new, wondrous and terrifying, creeping in the spaces between his dreams, wrapping creeping tendrils around his mind and settling there. “What are you?” he cried, flashes of light and creatures dancing before his eyes, but answer came there none, just a sense of endings and beginnings, scenes stripped of meaning and time.

This then is where you came in, hearing the screams and the scratches, knowing that something was amiss, that tonight there was something out of kilter with the balance of this mind and thus with your world, lit up like neon lights across a desert sky. The night ran on in double quick time, darkness turning into light as the sun rose, waking you from a cold sweaty dread.

Upstairs, the man woke, he thought, from a deep dreamless sleep. Like nothing had happened to disturb him, no memories except for a nagging sense of dread nibbling just behind his left ear. You knocked carefully and entered asking if he is alight, only for him to look at you askance asking why wouldn’t he be, as the doubts raced through your mind at five hundred miles an hour.

The flying monkeys of panic span round as you doubted yourself, what you heard and sensed, whether you just dreamt it, as the rain fell outside, piano notes in tooth and claw. You looked to the man, and he to you, a sense of confusion drifted in the glances, alienating you from each other as a nagging sense called you to step outside into the world.

Outside the people all seemed to stare at you and mutter to themselves as you walked past. They didn’t really, but you could hear the darkness telling you this, whispering in your ear that only it understood you, only it knew your real worth, comforted you like a cute puppy, told you that no one else could understand. The man walked with you, slightly puzzled by your sideways glances, still slightly perplexed by the little nagging questions in his head about last night, feeling them slip out as the darkness moved itself into your head. At the lights you thought that the walk/don’t walk sign was taunting you, the darkness manipulating your sense of value as it drew you along, the man being drawn off away from you, your emanating sense of menace scaring him to a distance.

Rain began to fall as you made a dash for the store, the drops made the man’s pace pick up, as he danced between them , the wetness shaking his thoughts, unnerving him as memories crept back into his head, merging with his present. The sense that the darkness had touched him, but at the same time not touched him, haunted his waking dreams as he fled back to the house, to the safety of the known and the warmed safe haven that the indoors offered his faltering senses.

You were left only able to watch him from a distance, helpless in the face of his disintegration, wishing you could break yourself to fix him. Or perhaps you already had, as if somehow trying to absorb the darkness from him, as if some strange form of mental osmosis could have served to drive you deeper into the darkness, whilst lifting him up closer to the light in which your friendship had once basked. This though had proved to be little better than a cruel joke on you both, taunting you as it only served to push you further apart. His demons whispering teasingly in his ear that your efforts merely acted to belittle his own suffering, that you thought him less than what he was.

Finally, this little tableaux of angst disintegrated like a kicked sandcastle, conversation dried up as the darkness dragged the man away from you and your knowing of him, turning him in on himself down the rabbit hole. Soon it was if you had never known him at all, merely the suggestion of a memory of what once might have been if the darkness had never visited. Where there should have been anger, sadness and frustration, there was only resignation and emptiness.

As the days passed, you questioned whether the darkness was ever really there at all, had some cruel trick been played on your time and senses. You thought that maybe you had constructed this deception to ease yourself out of isolation into the world at large. Then the whispering returned, somehow seeming to come from within the very walls of the house. The darkness tormented you, your inability to help the man being used as a weapon against you.

Then a few days later you found that the man was gone. No trace was ever found, as if he had just been erased from existence, claimed completely by the darkness. No one else seemed to miss him, or notice the space where once he had been. It sent your mood spiralling downward and inward as you reached into the space for comfort but came away with nothing. Time rolled out before you like an unfurled carpet into infinity and you saw the chance to dismantle and rebuild all that had come before, an identity de-constructed in fire and ice. You took the new blank slate over the horizon and left the darkness there muttering sadly to itself, alone in the hole if called home a home of the saddest violins, as you sought out the new spaces away from this.

Then and Now: The Evolution of the Synopsis

Today’s Brew: Iced Honey Vanilla Tea. The obsession continues.

by Kristen

For some reason, this blog post always gets a ton of hits. We get a lot of searches for “the hardest paragraph to write.” The hardest paragraph to write is actually the one I’ve been dicking around all day instead of really concentrating on what I’m supposed to be doing, but whatever. This particular post is about writing a synopsis.

Twelve books later, it still sucks. Twelve books! You guys. Anyway, I know there are a bunch of contests going on, and constant querying and book readying, so I thought you may enjoy a comparison of what our synopses were in 2012 for our first books and what they became.

JULIE::RUNNING HOME
Then–
Ellie Morgan is used to losing everything. She thought she was comfortable with her life as an advertising executive, until she and her best friend both became captivated with newcomers to their secluded New Hampshire town. When fate connects her to Nicholas French, she is enthralled by his supernatural allure and his belief that she is meant for so much more. Ellie struggles to reconcile falling in love with the vampire who gives her the home she longs for, while being forced to make impossible choices, and sacrifice the unthinkable.

Now–
Death hovers around Ellie Morgan like the friend nobody wants. She doesn’t belong in snow-swept Ossipee, New Hampshire, at a black tie party––but that is where she is, and where he is: Nicholas French, the man who mystifies her with a feeling of home she’s been missing, and the impossible knowledge of her troubled soul.

Nicholas followed an abomination that is one of his own, but finds that fate has driven him to New Hampshire. He is a being of the Shinigami, a heroic vampire order that save their victims from more tragic ends. And he knows why Ellie is human repellent… why physical agony grips them when apart.

KRISTEN::BECAUSE THE NIGHT
Then–(it was called Immortal Dilemma)
College freshman Callie can’t wait to leave the confines of her sheltered life on Martha’s Vineyard to reconnect with her first love, Tristan.  Finding him is easy–he is the face of the explosive Vegas vampire rock scene and the star of his own reality show.  Getting close to this larger than life rockstar is more of a challenge.  Callie must weave her way through a constant stream of insatiable groupies, security guards, paparazzi, and all the other complexitites of Tristan’s fame to try to save him from himself.  She finds herself drawn to him by some inexplicable force, and finds what she’s looking for where she least expects it.  What is she willing to do for her happily ever after?

Now–
Sex, Blood And Rock n’ Roll

Immortal Dilemma is the hottest band in the Las Vegas vampire rock scene. They draw insatiable fans from around the globe, thanks to a supernatural attraction called Bloodlust. Tristan craved such an opportunity to fill his empty mortal life, and now he has eternity to earn his place along the legends of rock n roll debauchery.

Callie always feared that Tristan’s excesses would get him into trouble, but she never thought they’d lead him to immortality. To reconnect with him, she must weave her way through a world not only she had no idea existed, but does not welcome her.

Blade turned down a spot in Immortal Dilemma after learning what he must sacrifice for that lifestyle. He finds Callie a refreshing change from the girls in the vampire rock scene. When Callie drags Blade back into the world of Immortal Dilemma, his resistance drives her into the waiting arms of Tristan, who shows her the true meaning of Bloodlust.

But the very things that Callie fights so hard to save are the very things that fight to destroy her.

March Madness Flash Fiction Series #1: EIGHT WORDS by Kennedy Thompson!

TODAY’S BREW: Trader Joe’s made it.

By Julie

I’ve mentioned that what I LOVE about this flash fiction series is that every participant is scared. They’re all feeling not good enough. They all took it super seriously and doubted themselves, and with every private message, email, text I got about how awful their stories were, I smiled, because I knew how these blog series work on Deadly Ever After. We support each other, we applaud each other’s bravery, and we kick some amazing talents out into the world in this very safe environment. Many of these writers haven’t even had their work go public before. Listen to me when I say…..

  • YOU ARE NOT THE FIRST TO PUT THEIR FIRST WORK UP HERE.
  • YOU ARE BETTER THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE.
  • YOU’VE DONE SOMETHING MOST PEOPLE WILL NEVER DO IN THEIR ENTIRE LIVES.

Today I’m unbelievably, ridiculously, gushingly proud of Kennedy Thompson. This girl…yes, girl, merely 17 years old… is an amazing talent, and the most caring young woman I have ever met. I could go on all day about her, but let me tell you that my youngest calls her “his fairy,” and she makes him feel better when he needs it. I’m proud to have her put her first public piece out in the world right here, today. And it’s gorgeous. SO MAKE HER FEEL WELCOME OR ELSE.

IT BEGINS……..

EIGHT WORDS

by Kennedy Thompson

My eyes were burning and my head ached, but the book just started to get good. I rarely go to bed without finishing a book, which generally means sleep doesn’t come easy. “Hello Sarah, I’ve missed you.” I gasped, not because those five words were what I was waiting for these last seven chapters, but because “hello” was highlighted. I kept opening and closing the book and couldn’t stop blinking. The page remained highlighted. Defacing books, whether it be writing in them, folding over the pages, or even tearing the pages out, is like sinning to me. Or worse. Definitely worse than sinning.

One word couldn’t mean any harm.

I hopped off my bed and fell on the floor. As quick as possible I started throwing the books out from underneath my bed. Each of them I’d read within the last week. Searching for more highlighter, knowing I’d seen it before recently, thinking it was just a figment of my imagination. Hoping it was, at least. No one ever came in my room, I was very adamant about keeping everyone out. Just as I was unshakeable about damaging books. I was always in my own head, in my own world, not welcoming outsiders, not letting anyone past the surface. Therefore, no one would’ve had access to my personal library, no one would’ve been near my bed.

I hoped.

It felt like years went by. My long blonde hair was like a bird’s nest on top of my head, my face stained with make-up and tears. My giant purple sweatshirt weighed me down but I didn’t have enough strength or motivation to take it off. I rocked back and forth, staring at the mess in front of me. Every book was just a front and back cover with its pages strewn about, if they didn’t have anything highlighted, I crumpled it and threw it across the room. The pile was taller and wider than me. Half of the books had no letters highlighted. Others had one or two. The entire book was destroyed, I had no mercy, no patience, no sanity.

I grabbed permanent markers and began scribbling my unscrambled letters on the wall. “Hello, we’re all mad here.” I smiled sadly. Just like Alice in Wonderland. The freak out was for nothing. I flopped onto my bed and closed my eyes. I laughed at myself, and cried too. I loved Alice in Wonderland. Though nothing explained how everything got highlighted in the first place. My feet aimlessly traced my sheets, then I felt it. Another book. My heart stopped as I sat up.

Fourteen letters, but wait, there’s more.

I feverishly turned the pages, scanned them, and tore them out. I found “you” “will” “are” “that” “fix” “we” all highlighted. Six highlighted words. That was the most in one book. I slung the hardcover at the wall.

Fourteen letters, seven words, one last thing to do.

The back of my hand was red and tender after scratching it incessantly. Anxious. I added it all to the sentence. I sunk to my knees, reluctant to read the finished product. “Hello. We are all mad you are here. We will fix that.” “No, no, no, no, no. There has to be more books.” I whispered shakily. I scurried around my room for a pathetic fifteen seconds, knowing the rest were locked in my wardrobe. I stopped and stared at my wall. I kicked it and then collapsed. “What does that even mean?” My body shook so hard it was vibrating. “Hello. We are all mad you are here. We will fix that.” My voice grew quieter, the further I got. “I don’t unders–” The lights flickered and went out. The door slammed. I screamed at the top of my lungs.

Bright light spilled through my eyelids, burning my eyes. I struggled to open them. “Carrie, Carrie? Are you even paying attention?” My head shot up. I nodded. “Well, will you read your highlighted words on page 452?” “I… I don’t highlight words in books. That’s worse than sinning.” I replied with more sass than I meant to. My history teacher shot me a dirty look. I turned to page 452 anyway. To my surprise, one word was highlighted. “Goodbye.” I whispered. “Pardon me, Miss Marks?” The lights flickered out. My heart was in my stomach and I stopped breathing. The door slammed. Screaming filled the air, but this time, it wasn’t just mine.

Fourteen letters, eight words, there’s nothing else I can do.

March Madness Feelings Time!

TODAY’S BREW: All of it.

By Julie

The start of the March Madness flash fiction series is approaching quickly! If you don’t know what I’m talking about, HERE. https://deadlyeverafter.com/tag/march-madness/

I was excited to offer our blog as a forum for people who matter to me to post their words. We’ve done this before and it fills me with such happiness to help other writers that this is really more for me than it is them.

But I never anticipated how much good this blog series would do for so many. So many writers that haven’t posted here before. So many that have never let their work out before AT ALL. (You know who you are, girly. And your writing is spectacular. I had no idea I was the only one who got to see it.) Writers that haven’t been able to write for months or more, that finally found inspiration in this project.

Goddammit, if you people make me cry, you will all pay.

Writers that have been down on their luck with submission processes, writers that suffer depression among a myriad of other health issues…. I couldn’t be more proud of every one of you, more honored that you’d share your work and your feelings with me and our readers.

What I really wanted to say here today is that EVERY SINGLE PERSON participating in the March Madness blog series has reached out to me about how nervous they are, that they’re stuck, that they’re excited but maybe they shouldn’t do it….. and all of you have found it in you to do it anyway.

While I’ve been proud to host writers in all stages of their careers here, this one is special to me because all of you feel vulnerable about your work in some way. I’m overjoyed that you’ve come out of your shells, found faith in yourself to do this. I can’t wait to share your work and see the support you all give each other.

To put him on the spot, our good friend Beau Barnett posted his first piece on our blog two years ago. He was the most nervous of everyone I think, it really shook him, and since then Beau has been published, submits work regularly, writes all the time and cheers on so many other writers, he’s been an invaluable asset to the writing community. Make A Wish still gets searched and read on our blog, two years later. Here it is: https://deadlyeverafter.com/2013/02/11/make-a-wish-by-beau-barnett/

And I urge you to reach out to Beau on Twitter to ask him how he felt submitting this story, because nobody tells it like he can. You can find him at https://twitter.com/INukeYou. (@INukeYou)

There’s still time to join in with March Madness! (And if you miss the deadline and still want to be a part, I’ll never turn you away.)

Best of luck to all of you. Dig deep and have fun!

TAKE BACK YOUR WRITING LIFE or Make a Damn New One with Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Fancy Mistobox blend with green apple and milk chocolate top notes. I KNOW.

By Julie

I used to pride myself on my 1000 word a day diet to get a book done. 1000 words every day no matter what, whether done from 5 in the morning to 7 or done in snippets of a sentence here and there all day, it’s how I got both THE HARPY and THE ANIMAL completed, as well as much of RUNNING HOME. But with RUNNING AWAY that structure didn’t work. And with my current novel, THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS, there was just no way.

I was so proud of putting myself somewhere near the top of the priority list and not letting that 1000 words a day get brushed under the rug that when that structure didn’t work–because hey, things change and different books require different processes– I fell apart. My personal life was falling apart, and my writing life did the same. I’m talking for months on end. My writing was inconsistent, and for someone who knows that I need to write every day that’s baaaaad.

Just as fast as the routine fell apart, my world started to come back together again. I’m healthy (er), all my other things and people are stable. The time came to pick up the book I hadn’t given attention to for so long. The book with no outline, a 5 subject notebook full of research, dropped off at over 50,000 words. In the meantime it feels like everyone I lay eyes on is putting a book out, getting great reviews, writing 5000 words a day and complaining it’s not good enough.

Not daunting at all. Nope.

BAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA BAAAAAAAHAHAHAH(gasp)BAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

I had no excuses. Time to get to work if I wanted to be in league with them again.

Guys. I did it. I’m steadily doing my 1000 words a day again after not having done it for probably a year, and I’ll tell you how.

I changed my thinking.  My rules had been flushed down the toilet, and I made the suckers anyway. Time to let them go. The first thing to go was the rules for my sticker chart. The lovely Victoria Schwab inspired me to have a sticker chart for my writing accomplishments. Small sticker for 350 words (this is the minimum I allowed myself because in the words of my hero, Chuck Wendig, if you can’t do 350 words a day, 5 days a week, you don’t want to be a writer; you don’t GET to be a writer. (Note: I’m not knocking either of these thought processes, they’re the foundation on which I’ve built my writing routine, and like any system, it should evolve to stay relevant.) After looking at months of a sticker here and there, and general failure by my own standards, I decided that writing at all when I haven’t been is an accomplishment. BIG FUCKING STICKER for getting down 150 words when I didn’t think I had one in me. 4 stickers if I damn felt like it for 300 words. Maybe I only want one sticker. FINE.

REWARD THE ACT, NOT THE RESULT.

Remember that your work has value.  I felt irrelevant. I’m sitting on a book that I pulled from my now former agent that I finished over a year ago. Still unpublished. I’m sitting on a book that’s been called “dangerous,” and not right for me right now. My vampire series isn’t new anymore by my own standard. So what the hell good was I in the writing community? Then a couple of things happened.

  • A few readers reached out that had just discovered RUNNING HOME and fell in love with it. Remember, fool. Just because the book has been out for a while doesn’t mean it’s not new to people who don’t know your work.
  • It gave me the courage to ask a couple of folks to read THE HARPY for me, now that it’s back in my own hands seeking publication. I just needed to hear from SOMEONE that it was worth reading.
  • A dear friend has been asking me for almost a year to read THE ANIMAL, at which I always claimed it wasn’t good enough, after it had been shot down by my agent. I finally said screw it, it has to be good enough because I’m not perfect and perfection isn’t real. I gave it to him to read and he loved it. Called it “amazing.”

Just because YOU feel down on your luck with your writing doesn’t mean it loses its value to others. Get excited to mean something to people again.

Screw the getting-to-know-you phase.  How do you just pick up a book you haven’t messed with forever and start writing again, especially if you’re a classic pantster like myself and don’t work with an outline? Of course, you need to re-read what you wrote, go back over your notes, watch all the movies that inspired you, take long walks and go to museums and climb a mountain for inner peace first.

  1. NO YOU DO NOT.

I realized if I took the time to refamiliarize myself with the first 50K of THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS that it would be another month before I started writing and by then I would have built up the pressure so much that I’d stumble and fall in the first paragraph.

YOU CAN DELETE STUFF, YOU GUYS. IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT. BUT IT DOES HAVE TO *BE* THERE.

So I just started writing. A paragraph or two here and there. I didn’t clean the desk first, buy all new pens, demand extreme quiet, none of that. I sat down and just did it. IF I MAKE WRITING AN OCCASION THAT REQUIRES FANFARE EVERY TIME I WILL NEVER GET TO IT. If you want it to be a routine, it has to fit into your life like all your other ones….toothbrushing, making coffee, checking your email. You don’t “get ready” for that stuff, you just do it. JUST DO THE WRITING.

Delilah S. Dawson tweeted the other day, “ONE OF THE HARDEST PARTS OF FIRST DRAFTING=REMEMBERING THAT THE TENSION AND GLITTER HAPPEN IN LATER DRAFTS. SCAFFOLDING IS ALL DULL STEEL.” 

I reintroduced rules when I could reach them.  Once I wrote a couple of chapters over a couple of weeks, I realized I was about 15,000 words from finishing this book! That sure happened fast! And if I DID sit down and do 1000 words a day, I could finish it in two weeks!

Don’t let your own rules hurt you.  When you look at 1000 words and it seems like a million, DON’T LOOK AT THE WORD COUNT. JUST WRITE STUFF. Put a piece of tape over the word count for chrissakes. Just write.

Be a better friend to yourself.  If a friend told you they only got 100 words written that day would you say to them that it sucked? No. You’d tell them “hey! 100 words more than yesterday!” Give yourself the same credit. Give yourself the same pat on the back. Treat yourself like you treat the ones you love. Make yourself a priority. Give yourself that 1000 words a day when you feel ready. It’s your gift to you. You’ll feel better afterward.

Speaking of feeling better….  The cookies I’d eat as a pre-comfort to writing? They made me feel like I was already nursing my wounds after failing at writing. I stress eat. So you know what? I stopped. Yeah, that’s right. I stopped. I EAT, man. I love to eat. But eating the crap I was while I was writing was not setting me up for success. It made me feel crappy, and when you feel crappy you think crappy. Then I’d get crappy results. Do I still eat cookies? Yes. But because I want them, not because I’m stressed out and feeling bad for myself. And when I got up from my laptop I felt good. And I wanted to go back to the laptop and do it again.

There you have it, guys. I hope it helped. Now get to work.

Julie Becomes a Self Help Guru or Something

TODAY’S BREW: Mistobox Colombia Banexport. Coffee that makes me feel as important as the person who gave it to me does.

By Julie 

One month into this year and I’ve already had a boatload on the agenda. Surgery, a million doc appointments, recovery from said surgery which is more mentally draining than physically, a hundred and fifty snow days from school, Ben’s birthday, a lot of emotional (and A LOT of hormonal) trouble.

And yet, though it’s already been an incredibly taxing year, one that I’ve emotionally hit bottom in a little, I feel better still than I did in all of 2014 probably.

But in 2014 I TRIED so hard, I set so many expectations of myself, tried to stay ahead of the curve of all the things that were assaulting me and my family, and I failed. I. Failed.

I’ve refused to let that follow me into 2015. I have intended to make this year as good as last year was difficult.

I’ve grown to realize a lot this week alone. One thing I knew going into 2015 was that perfection is not going to occur. But how I deal with my difficulties and traumas can change. My reactions and my expectations can change. So I’m changing them:

  • I recognized an emotional descent into Hades and I called a hotline. Trying to work it out myself has not done me any good. It may have saved me until the next 5 minutes, but it didn’t HELP me. So I called a hotline that could help me just by acknowledging that I KNOW I’m in trouble. And that alone felt brave and proactive. (I’ll talk a helluva lot more about that in another post.)
  • I listened to doctor’s orders. Had surgery. I feel (physically) GREAT and did literally the day after. But I’m not to exercise, lift anything heavier than 30 pounds (including Sam, which I do by the minute usually), and I’m to get plenty of rest. Though I heal with Wolverine speed, I’m shutting up and listening. I’m not a doctor, and pushing myself is only going to have me working at half-Julie in some capacity again sometime soon.
  • I’m listening to my own self-diminishing thoughts. And purging them.  Having had such a hard time recently, and being one who likes to help people as much as I can, I’ve felt like an absolute life-suck for some time. I’ve tried to convince myself that asking for help and not being the one to help everyone is okay, it’s smart, it’s courageous. But it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like my life is one big emotional handout. I can’t get past it. So I have to start doing what I can do which is LISTEN when people say that I’m important in their lives and try to give back the way I am accustomed to.
  • Purging self-diminishing thoughts, continued: Every time I think something like “I don’t deserve to be sitting here, reading,” “All I do is crybaby and people still talk to me,” “I can’t do anything right (spurned by something as simple as not getting a stain out of a shirt)”, I’ve started writing it down in a pretty pink notebook. I’ve already started looking at those words and seeing how INSANE some of them are. But they’re mine and they’re mine to get rid of.
  • Realizing that because the world sees me as strong that I assume responsibility for every. little. thing.   Just now, Bennett was bored. That’s my fault. Sam has to nap after his meds, my fault. I say the wrong thing, I’ve ruined everything and nobody will want to talk to me again. The wallpaper is peeling, I’m a terrible mother. I spent time alone in my room and felt awful that I was wasting family time. Seriously. I’m crying right now because my kid is seeing me cry and I think it will do some irreparable damage to him. I have to try to realize that every single thing I do does not mean life or death for everyone, and that just because I’m important doesn’t mean the world will end without me.
  • I asked people to read an unpublished work.  It’s being resubmitted now and I don’t need critique on it, but I wanted someone to know the book like I did and be able to say sometimes, “this is good. This is important. You’re not just Ellie Morgan and Nicholas French and that’s it.”
  • Eating what IS better for me, not just what will FEEL better for me.  I’ll push myself until I feel “well fuck this, I deserve to eat an entire cake.” Tastes good, doesn’t feel good. So I’m working hard to make smart food choices which has helped a lot. Lettuce instead of bread. Water and ginger ale (a comfort food I’ve really clung to recently) instead of all coffee all the time. Instead of a cookie every time I walk in the kitchen, a couple of tiny cookies with a cup of coffee. And letting myself have what I want when the time is right because I don’t want to feel like I’m punishing myself for not being as thin as I was 10 years ago.
  • Sitting up straight, taking deep breaths, having mini meditations all day, and wearing lipstick even when I’m home. 
  • Realizing that my own writing deadlines may be doing me more harm than good. 
  • Drinking.  Yes, drinking. I had champagne last night and just picked up my laptop and started writing. I haven’t had a casual drink for a long time. All it’s done is add to my irritation when asked by a doctor if I drink, smoke, do drugs, have any history of x diseases and I say “no” only to find out I have some uber weird physical shit wrong with me anyway. That champagne felt GOOD. And yes, I said some risky stuff on Twitter, and felt guilty about it later, but then I realized IT’S OKAY. When have I EVER been afraid to say what I feel like saying as long as I’m not hurting anyone? So yeah, a drink here and there is on the agenda. Hell, Kristen and I used to drink ourselves silly every Monday night and we got so much writing done it was crazy. I need to loosen up the brain muscles, let myself create instead of letting myself “work.”
  • Helping people.  I feel like a better person when I’m helping people. So as soon as I called that hotline the other day, I contacted someone I knew was having similar issues and told her I was thinking of her, and that I think we should blog together about our experiences. I want to run a short story series again like we did in the good old days on the blog (surprise, Kristen) and help some new writers get their feet wet. I want to give back so I don’t always feel like I’m taking.
  • Surrounding myself with people when I’m at my worst.  I spent 7 hours at a playdate the other day because I knew that being alone would only open me up for more overthinking. And I was right. I played Twister, had pizza with friends, talked to adults, connected outside of my home. And I said out loud, “there is nothing else I can be doing right now. Only this.” And it felt damn good.
  • Finally, recognizing that my harmful thoughts are very much a product of my physical state post surgery and not “just my head.”  And vice versa. Just because it’s triggered by my hormones doesn’t mean it isn’t real. The depression is there no matter what right now, despite its causes, and that’s important. Letting myself accept that I’m a work in progress is a big change.

I’ve always been of the mind that any change is good. Trying anything is a good idea. Not staying stagnant is smart. And so far, I’ve been goddamn right. This isn’t me telling a depressed person to “cheer up” or sending them funny memes of a cat eating celery or something. It’s me saying that you can be part of your own change to get better. Growth should never stop, you owe that to yourself. Remember that you don’t have to have all the answers, but you can try to come up with them. You can make up your own. And for just that one simple thing, you are important.

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 https://casper.com/mattresses. They’re also hilarious tweeters which is funny, because MATTRESSES. https://twitter.com/Casper.

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!

Julie Gets Sorta Medical Up In Your Face

TODAY’S BREW: Candy Cane, because I don’t like candy canes but I like candy cane flavored stuff.

By Julie

When I whine-texted Kristen asking her what I should blog about she said I should blog about what’s on my mind.

Know what’s on my mind? Fibroid tumors.

I’ll do my bestest to not make this too graphic or give you all my nitty-gritties, but as I learn more about this “large fibroid” and “some other vascular growth,” I’ve realized how many irritating issues are a result/symptom of the goddamn things. I thought some of you out there would be happy to hear from someone just now dealing with them some of the things that I’ve been experiencing. Things I had NO IDEA could have to do with the tumor. (BY THE WAY, THESE TUMORS ARE ALMOST ALWAYS BENIGN.)

First of all, you should know that up to three quarters of women between 30 and 40 are estimated to have fibroids. Here is some crap that I’ve dealt with and some that I haven’t that are all indicators of fibroids:

  • Restless Leg Syndrome or leg pains
  • extremely heavy menstrual periods (sorry, gentlemen) attributed to my age
  • abdominal pain
  • urinary or bowel problems
  • pain during sex
  • lower back pain
  • fever
  • fatigue
  • headaches

Not much information is out there saying that fibroids link to depression, anxiety and severe mood swings, but it IS out there. And it makes perfect sense, especially if the fibroids grow large enough to interfere with other organs. (It seems there are not usually many symptoms until they’ve grown enough to contact other organs.) It also makes sense that fibroids are often caused by a hormone imbalance.

I’ve been struggling a LOT with anxiety, and yeah I have a lot to be anxious about, but my panic attacks have been debilitating, astronomical in number, and far worse during my cycle. My moods change drastically from minute to minute and I can FEEL that it’s irrational, that they’re without trigger. I’ve known for a long time that something was off in my body and that it was doing something to my mental state. I am on medications for anxiety which I’m a big fan of and don’t expect the treatment of the fibroids to change that. But I do expect to feel RIGHT again. And just knowing that there’s a physical cause for the extremely tell-tale hormonal surges makes me have more hope than I’ve had in a long time. Hope I didn’t realize I’d lost.

So, I say all this stuff as just a person who’s had this/these tumors for what appears to be a very long time. Everyone tells everyone else to get checked for this, that, and the other thing, all important. What I’m saying is that I’ve had some seriously difficult issues that are due in large part to this at one time minor issue. I just want you to pay attention to your body, don’t brush off its messages to you, and don’t always assume that the seemingly unlinked things are just that. Treat yourself well. You’re needed.

Making Rejection Easy With Your Host, Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Target brand Candy Cane. It was less than $3.

By Julie

Writers put themselves through the ringer. We beat ourselves to hell getting words on paper to give to critique partners and welcome their line by line shredding. Then we do it all over again. And as if finishing the book isn’t enough, now we have to put it out into the world and seemingly beg for rejections. From advanced readers, from agents, from editors and publishers, and eventually readers. This thing that you’ve bled into, and you’ve sent it out to be

REJECTED

I watch writers sob, question their talent, their self-worth, all of their choices over ten or twelve pints of ice cream and booze after those rejections start rolling in. It kills me to watch. I have to say that one thing I am wildly proud of in myself is my ability to handle these rejections. I never let them get me down, and can count on two fingers the number of times I’ve cried over them. This is how:

    • I prepared to be rejected. Rejection is part of the process. Not everyone is going to love your work the way you do, and querying takes practice. You’ll think that your query is perfection and look at it in a month and think what in hell crap is this that I’ve conjured up? Knowing that, I didn’t query my dream agents first. I had practice agents, if you will. So when those rejections showed up, they were part of the plan. I felt in control. Those first queries are the pawns in this game of chess. I viewed that first wave of rejections as Step One, and I checked off that I’d done it. Easy.
    • I don’t give my work ultimatums. I of course have dream agents and dream publishers. But if they don’t like my stuff, or if they do but can’t sell it, I refuse to see it as the end for my book. I stand behind my work unfalteringly, and have had this attitude from day one: My books are coming out, one way or another. So shoot for the stars, the dream agents and publishers, but don’t hit the ground if they don’t catch you. Write what you want and if you believe in it, it will find its way out into the world.
    • Don’t take the rejection as a personal blow. Sure, some of the rejections baffle me. I have publishing houses on Twitter that follow me and rejected my books. But it isn’t ME they don’t connect with, it’s that they don’t think the project is safe enough for them to make money off of. That’s okay. Watch Shark Tank. Those folks like a lot of people and products but know when they can’t do the project justice and pass on it.
    • See the thing that gets you rejected and make it your point of pride. I’ve got a list of these bitches. Vampires. Paranormal. Abrasive female characters. Risky. Too cerebral. “Dangerous.” Well hell yes! All of this sounds like my favorite stuff. So if I do this to the point that it overtakes the tone of the book, then boom, I’ve done exactly what I wanted and you’re scared of it. I’m not. This is the voice I want to see in the world; mine.
    • Have backup plans from the start. This is important part for me, so listen, because I feel like it’s helped me keep my sanity. I’ve known from the first day I started querying that my book was coming out because I’d make it come out. The dream was everyone’s: Get an amazing agent, have said agent sell you to an amazing publisher, become famous. But this was the dream. And dreams can come true, but if they don’t I plan on creating my own reality that looks pretty damn close. I queried a million agents, and I knew that if I never landed one, I’d go to small presses. If small presses wouldn’t have me, I’d self-publish. My safety net was that the book was coming out.
    • Don’t let them tell you anything you don’t already know. I got rejected by all of my dream publishers, even the one that I was really sure would love me. But all of these big press rejections told me something I already knew and I took great pride in it: my work is too different and unsafe to be a sure thing. So when those rejections came, it was just what I needed to show me that indie was probably best for me anyway. If they’d come back saying the writing was poor, I would have been surprised. But I looked at my work from every angle and knew that it might just not be right for traditional publishing as it is right now. They more or less agreed with me. Know your work well enough to not get any surprises.

So this is all my stuff. Rejection is a sure thing in the publishing industry. Know you aren’t above it, and you’ll learn to work around it. But always remember: Write what you have to write, and that will show through in the manuscript. A book like that always finds its way into the world.

Dry those tears and make a path for your work. Look past the trees to see the forest.

Post Navigation