Deadly Ever After

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

Archive for the tag “the wind between worlds”

The Joy of Not Playing Well With Others by Julie

TODAY’S BREW: End of April Vacation Quadruple Shots

By Julie

It’s been a very long time since I gave attention here, and I’m not sorry.

What I am is pleased with myself, overwhelmed and afraid in the best way, and focused, and that means eliminating things that draw my attentions away from THE THING. And THE THING is all-encompassing, my path has a solid plan that relies on pretty much all ME. What I didn’t expect is that taking control of my publishing career by myself with the extreme helping and guidance of Kristen, is LESS overwhelming than publishing traditionally. Sure, there’s lots to do–but I control it, I choose who helps me, who I outsource, the direction we all take.

It lets me be the leader I am while being the artist I am, and it brings a calm that no amount of THINGS TO DO can undermine.

I separated from Books of the Dead Press in January, taking back my rights to RUNNING HOME and RUNNING AWAY. Another publisher tried harder than hard to buy out those contracts, but Books of the Dead wasn’t having it. Now that I’ve taken them on my own, I find that I don’t want to go through a publisher with them–I want to do it myself. I wouldn’t finish the trilogy because of my displeasure with my contract, and now? I can. CRAWLING BACK will be coming out the end of the summer. I’m making it happen. And that doesn’t have to be the end of that world, I can do whatever the hell I want with it.

WAIT I CAN DO WHATEVER THE HELL I WANT PERIOD THE END OH MY GOD.

And that was when I decided that I was going to stop shopping around for agents with my YA, THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS, which had a lot of success as far as querying goes, being requested in full by a lot of agents that made me go EEEEEEEEEEE, but it was never quite right for them. I harbor ZERO resentment for that, by the way–I have long since said, since the start of writing, that getting an agent, publishing, is a business. Whether or not an agent feels the connection with me, with my books, is crucial to their ability to sell it. If they can’t sell it, what the hell is the point?

Confession: I hated from day one pandering to agents. The minutia of knowing their likes and dislikes personally, the confines of it all…it’s doesn’t sell books for me to know how many cats the agent has. These are representative of some of the reasons I left retail. It reminds me of regional manager visits: HURRY THE HELL UP, THE STORE LOOKS GOOD FOR ME BUT THE REGIONAL MANAGER LIKES A DIFFERENT SCENT CLEANER AND ALL THE BRA STRAPS TO FACE LEFT I KNOW THE LAST ONE LIKED THIS SCENT BUT THAT SCENT IS DEAD TO YOU NOW YOU HEAR ME MINIMUM WAGE WORKER THIS REGIONAL MANAGER LIKES LEMON GODDAMMIT AND THE COMPANY WILL FAIL IF WE DON’T DO WHAT SHE LIKES.

I don’t like that. I do not.

Aaaaaanyway, the fact of the matter was, even with agents still reading THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS, I started planning on releasing it myself. It will be out on Halloween of this year–the birthdays of the five witches that this book is about, and I cannot wait for you all to love them. Not to toot my own horn, but my early readers like this book a lot. Like, a lot. (side note: if reviews roll in when I publish saying THIS BOOK IS THE WORST THING, THESE CHARACTERS ARE EVERYTHING I HATE IN LIFE AND I HATE EVERYTHING, I will still stand by it being a damn good book. It’s the way I want it. This is why reviews and rejections have never bothered me. I only put out the book as I want it. The end.)

I’m sick of goddamn waiting. I don’t write to play by someone else’s rules, I write for readers. I write for me. I write to connect with that person who needs my special brand of soap-box-standing, I do not write for an agent’s cat or an editor’s preferred scent of cleaning materials. You know what I mean.

I say this still having a book with a publisher. (You all may remember mention of a book I couldn’t get enough of writing, THE HARPY? Yeah, it’s still not out.) Have I mentioned that I’m tired of waiting? HINT HINT TO ANYONE WHO MAY BE READING.

Publishing traditionally is the dream. It is for every writer, I don’t care who you are. You dream of the phone call with the big contract news, the interviews on talk shows, the movie deal. You do. But for me, my dream changed. I control it now. The thing about self-pubbing that I love, that became the new dream for me, is that it means I believe in my ability to do it. It has RISK. A couple of years ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of putting out money for my own cover, my own editing, my own formatting. What if I didn’t sell a single copy and never made a penny back? Now? I know that just plain isn’t going to happen to me. I believe in my ability, my voice, my potential, my plan, my determination, my vision, my stories, my power. It doesn’t require a backup plan. THAT is my dream.

So now, yes. I undertake all the things that have frightened me in the past about putting out my own work. Formatting? What? Terrifying. Cover artists? There are so many, and what the hell do I know and how do I narrow it down to them? Algorithms? That sounds like math. Mailing lists? I thought people hated that. But now I choose what works for me, I choose the timeline and I give work to freelancers that I want to support. It’s all me, bro.

Of course, because I’m me, I do nothing halfway. I have planners that detail every second of my publishing path (which, by the way, I plan time for to update and mold every month, because nothing goes according to plan), I read every book that I love, every indie author’s advice (which I then pick over accordingly), all while still editing for clients and writing books and being Mom and Scholastic chairperson, and reptile owner. It leaves little time that I want to dedicate to other stuff, and I’m perfectly fine with that.

However, I do miss the following things:

  • haircuts
  • eye exams
  • physical exams
  • the gym
  • meals

(my next post will be on self care and how I try sadly to do it and fail.)

In conclusion, I’ve been absent because I’ve changed my path, and with that comes a change in ways. And I’m so happy about it. But I want to include you, and now I feel like I have enough of a handle on things that it can be done. So thanks for sticking around, because you guys. I have good stuff on the way. My plan? My end result? By the end of the year, I’ll have out a minimum of 5 books.

  1. RUNNING HOME as I wanted it to be. (June 30th)
  2. RUNNING AWAY and you’ll actually be able to hold it in your hands. (July 31st)
  3. CRAWLING BACK which has been withheld from you for so long (August 31st)
  4.  THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS (October 31st)
  5. THE DEPTH OF OUR DARKNESS Book 2, The Wind Between Worlds (November 30th)

And this doesn’t account for THE HARPY which frankly, I have big plans for that may not come to fruition until 2018, as well as a couple of novellas in the RUNNING HOME series that I want for my mailing list folks. When I make a mailing list.

I am not without fault, folks. Mailing lists SCARE ME. (All mailing list advice welcome.)

The cool thing is, this is all going to happen, people. It IS happening. Thanks for supporting me and my books, and I promise not to let you down.

 

Not Giving Up Saves Lives …by Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Are popsicles coffee?

By Julie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOW ABOUT ME. ME ME ME ME ME ME.

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

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

I made all the right choices.

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

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

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

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

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

 

An Ode to Ryan at Register 4

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

By Julie

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

She said she wanted to celebrate my success.

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

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

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

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

My latest hero is Ryan at Target in Hanover.

target receipt

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

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

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

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

And Ryan at register 4? You mean a lot.

 

The Muse Can Suck So Many Eggs by Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Pumpkin spice. Like you had to ask.

By Julie

I’m a huge Chuck Wendig fan, and one of the greatest reasons I love him is because of his JUST FUCKING WRITE policy. Like this one: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2015/09/15/dear-writers-and-creative-types-you-dont-need-motivation/

I make no bones about how much I hate this elusive goddamn muse everyone talks about.

“I can’t write today, my muse is missing.”

“I have no inspiration to write, my muse is being lazy.”

“I could be writing but the muse wants to watch ten episodes of whatever this tv show is.”

This inspiration that has to punch you in the frigging face in order for you to write your book is an illusion. That broad works for you. You call the shots.

This isn’t a post about how you have to write every day or you’re not a writer. This is a post about how I make the muse show up for work and half the time I send her home because I don’t need her.

“How do you come up with your ideas?” We get this one a lot, right writers? Few of us have an answer. Our brains are built that way, we think in stories. I fuel the brain to make the stories. If you have a tough time finding inspiration, try this stuff. Because getting the inspiration is great—that blast of dream sequence brilliance that suddenly turns into a book? Love it. It’s fun. But writing is my job. So I work for it. I earn that inspiration by searching for it. Here’s some stuff I do to keep the ball rolling:

  • I get a scrapbook. One of my favorite places to get a really beautiful one that begs to be touched is https://www.etsy.com/transaction/1029658438. I fell on the Halloween one pictured and it took my breath away—how perfectly it fit THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS. Now I have a spot to put all the little things that remind me of my characters, and build upon. THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS started with one picture in a magazine. Then I built upon them by asking questions. What’s the relationship between these six girls? What’s different about them? What do they DO? Who’s the strongest, meanest, funniest, etc…? And I gathered things that spoke to me about each of them and putting them together in a scrapbook helped me keep them all distinctly different, but with an overall tone, a feeling that united them.
  • Coincidentally, I didn’t FIND stuff to put in the scrapbook–I SEARCHED for stuff. Celeste is the Witch of Stars. Suddenly I was looking everywhere I was for stars to put in the scrapbook. Then it became that I was looking for the colors associated with her—silver, purple, blue. I’d bribe the kids to let me dig through the clearance bins at the craft store, I’d look through things I’d saved over the years that could fit in. I search eBay, Etsy, Amazon, Pinterest of course….. Things that struck me I’d ask myself why they did, and how it related to the book. Sure, maybe I’d fall for a dinosaur soup ladle and that had nothing to do with anything. But a lot of times I’d come across something I knew would be in Celeste’s bedroom, a lipstick shade I knew one of the Witches would wear, a map, a piece of jewelry, all kinds of things that would be in their world. And the scrapbook filled up. More importantly, I was ALWAYS looking for things to put in it. Every place I went provided an opportunity to add ideas, to thicken the soup. Oh, maybe the ladle had something to add after all.
  • I think about words. No, I’m not kidding. Words that sound good together, pretty poetry, gross words mixed with beautiful words, and I write them down. And I build around them. I heard once that you buy a piece of art and build the room around it. I do this with words. The line, “I swallowed a Hell splinter,” spawned THE HARPY. THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS was a phrase that showed up in my head after seeing the magazine picture that gave me the idea, and I wrote around it. Write all the words down, whether they mean something or not. Then MAKE THEM MEAN SOMETHING IF YOU LOVE THEM.
  • I read magazines LOOKING for something to spark interest. Good interest, bad interest. A phrase, a look in the eye, colors that do or don’t go together, a picture I HATE and ask myself why, then make a character that would hate it too, etc…. But I never read a magazine just to read it. I’m LOOKING.
  • When I can’t think anymore and I do Buzzfeed quizzes? I take them from my characters’ points of view. You’d be shocked at what this does for me.

I have tons of this crap that I do. I won’t go into all of it here, but what I want you to get from it is that if you WANT to write, everything you do, see, think, don’t think, is story fodder. It’s all in the pot. Store shelves, movie theaters, commercials, tourist traps, museums, zoos, the post office, they all offer something. Because I want them to. No minute is wasted, but it doesn’t feel like work even though it is. I want to do it too damn badly. The muse can take notes.

I CAN WRITE THREE BOOKS AT ONCE OR MAYBE NOT by Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Pumpkin anything.

By Julie

SUMMER IS OVER. Also known as The Dark Night of the Writing Soul, at least for me. Our summer was awesome. My little boys were happy most of the time just being home. So wonderful and weird. Last year we had a difficult summer—okay, it was an absolutely torturous summer—and this year it was twice as easy. But tiring. My days were a tumult of park visits, querying THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS, endless games of chess, Uno, Rummy, doctor visits and therapy appointments, playdates, editing for clients, readying for THE HARPY release, maintaining a sort of working household….. so many things.

And also plotting books.

Every summer I say, “By the end of the summer I’ll have X Book’s first draft finished!” I never do. Then I put this wild deadline on myself to finish the project in the first month of the school year. Too hard. So this summer I gave myself a break and didn’t pressure myself to write 1000 words a day. Instead I planned. I planned a lot.

Turns out I planned three books, all of which have equal space in my head. I’ve been trying to figure out which one to write first: the final Shinigami vampire book, the prequel to THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS, or the sequel to THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS. (We need not mention the post-apocalyptic badass character that keeps popping up in my head.)

I tried, and tried to figure out which to write first. They all have a good argument. So guess what?

I’M WRITING ALL THREE AT ONCE.

Yeah, you heard me. A lot of it will probably be on paper, and one will emerge victorious in the race, but right now I’m feeling all three books.

NEVER SLEEP AGAIN.

DON’T YELL AT ME, I HAVE REASONS. HERE:

  • My writing routine changes with every damn book anyway. Why not make MASSIVE CHANGE? I make the damn rules around here.
  • For the first time ever I will have 2 hours five days a week to myself, now that both Sam and Ben will be going to the same school—five minutes from home. This is a luxury for me.
  • Editing business is strong. I’m busy. And the more I edit, the better writer I become. Also, as nuts as it is, the more I have to DO, the more regimented I become. The less likely I am to let free time slide.
  • With three books to work on, my 1000 Word A Day Diet will be easy to achieve. It will probably become 2000 words or more on some occasions. This keeps my mind healthy, and keeps me IN the books. And finally….
  • If it doesn’t work, IT’S OKAY. I will let it be okay. There are no mistakes in creativity. And if I find out there are, well, I’ll make better mistakes tomorrow. And trust me, I know mistakes. I could write a fourth book on HOW TO MAKE PUBLISHING MISTAKES. But there is one indisputable fact: I couldn’t fail unless I try.

On Apologizing For Writing by Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Chocolate Milk Shake. Thank you, Target.

By Julie

“Remember, this is only a first draft.”

“I should have gone over it one more time before giving it to anyone.”

“I can’t believe I wrote that.”

“Reading my first book is so embarrassing.”

These are just a few of the things I hear writers say every single day. I’m guilty, too, but then I shut my damn face because every once in a while something like this happens:

“I followed you on Twitter because you remind me of the character I just wrote in my book, THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS.”

“You wrote a book??? That’s awesome!”

She didn’t say:

  • “WHO IS YOUR AGENT?”
  • “WHAT PUBLISHING HOUSE PICKED YOU UP?”
  • “IS IT A NY TIMES BEST SELLER?”
  • “IS THERE EVEN ONE TYPO IN IT?”
  • “ARE YOUR CHARACTERS ONE DIMENSIONAL?”
  • “WELL, DOES ANYONE ELSE LIKE IT?”

None of these things came up. She just said “you wrote a book? That’s awesome!”

You know what? The book could be about frigging cats that sell hot dogs to the Taliban, and if I wrote it from beginning to end, if I committed to completing it and stuck to that idea enough to make it real, even if it was just for my own eyes, THAT IS AWESOME.

*slaps you* GODDAMMIT YOU LISTEN TO ME.

DO NOT APOLOGIZE FOR THE THING YOU CREATED.

YOU BROUGHT A THING TO LIFE.

A THING THAT DIDN’T EXIST EVEN IN THEORY BEFORE YOU DID IT.

DO NOT APOLOGIZE FOR MAKING THINGS.

DO NOT APOLOGIZE FOR NOT BEING BETTER.

YOU’RE A CREATOR. FEEL AWESOME ABOUT IT.

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.

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….

Julie Takes the Gloves Off For 2015

TODAY’S BREW: Trader Joe’s Winter Blend. I love this stuff.

By Julie

You guys know me pretty well. What you see is what you get here, so if you think you don’t know me, then you haven’t seen anything. In any case here are some solid truths about me that are important these days:

I’m a determined, will-do sonofabitch. Nothing stops me, I don’t make excuses and I make damn sure that I turn every slip-up, every “failure” or rejection into a building block. I make plans, I change them, and I trust my gut. I’m true to me, I believe in myself and I make my own luck. Even when I lose, I win. And I have a helluva time doing it.

I firmly don’t believe in bad days. I’m a resilient motherfucker, and part of that means not getting bogged down by a string of bad moments, but brushing them off and creating the day you want. This also works for week, month, year, life.

If you know me REALLY well, you know that these things weren’t true of me in 2014. This year was a ballbuster. Hardest year of my life. And it beat me down. I’m one that’s quick to say that things can only beat you down if you let them, and more accurately I exemplify it. I’ve had a lot of experiences that change lives, and I’ve made a lot of life changing choices. I NEVER let my circumstances decide my life for me.

Then New Year’s Eve 2013 came. And my husband suddenly didn’t have a job. We already lived pretty goddamn minimally, and were perfectly happy about it. But this? This removed all of our steady income. Not to mention that we’re creatures of routine and habit. We like familiarity around here. Tim had worked at that job down the street from us since we were in high school. Imagine that feeling at 40 and what it does to a person. But as poor as we were, we’d be lying if we said we didn’t love being at home together all the time! The kids, Tim and me? We rarely got irritated by each other, we genuinely enjoyed our time. But it was hard because money and the inevitable depression of unemployment as hard-working people.

Not long after Tim got a new (wonderful for the heart) job, our then 3 year old baby began…. losing himself. WE were losing him. He was always a wild card, earning himself the nickname “Frats” because he was a walking frat party from birth. Without getting too in-depth, his spirit took a turn for violence, debilitating habits that had us walking on eggshells at best, and holding each other sobbing in parking lots at worst. Long, draining story short, we saw (and continue to see) several psychologists, psychiatrists and counselors, finally determining that our boy is not only extremely hyperactive, but has OCD and we need to be on the lookout for bi-polar disorder. Just keeping up with it, the medication, the constant shifting of gears, the effect of changing lots of rules in a house of routine and trying to be fair, nurturing, FUN, and a warrior for my kids’ health while one thrived and grew and the other struggled…. it tore me to shreds. A million times over. The whole time I was virtually isolated due to the new work schedule and my exhaustion. A dark night of the soul indeed.

The hits just kept coming, all year long, one after the other right up until this very week when I found out I have a large fibroid and some other vascular growth to be meddled with.

All of this put my writing and editing jobs into a flummox, and that last of my very own routines was demolished. The thing that was all my own that kept me sane, gone. Sure, RUNNING AWAY came out, and I’m grateful for that, but I wasn’t able to give it the attention it deserves upon publication, and the new book I’m working on has been recently shelved just to give myself a break. (Not for long. I start work again second week of January, so Jolene Haley, don’t freak out. THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS is still very much alive.) In other book news, THE HARPY, which was being pitched to traditional publishers by my agent was determined overall to be too dangerous, too risky, too unorthodox and too “abrasive.” Rejections rolled in. But that is a story for another post.

In any case, this post for as little as it touches on our troubles this year, would have had me shuddering and scream-crying even a couple of weeks ago. Not now.

We were determined to give my boys an amazing Christmas. Sam, with all of the hard work he put in this year as just a baby, to simply be happy with himself deserved everything in the world for all his incredible progress. Doctors are shocked that he is so fantastic in public, so wonderful with other kids, so communicative and incredible in his first year of preschool because it must be exhausting for him. This baby tries so hard, most adults will never know how to control their emotions the way this child does. In the meantime, Bennett at 7 years old, is being asked to bend the rules over and over for his brother. He sacrifices, sees violence that he shouldn’t, and yet is happiest when he’s at home. He won an academic achievement award at school, not to mention countless little good behavior tickets from teachers. He’s sensitive, thoughtful, kind, hilarious, and loves his little brother more than I have ever seen any kid love their sibling. He taught him how to write, for chrissakes.

So these kids get ALL THE CHRISTMAS PRESENTS. Because if there’s one way to reward a kid for a great year, it’s that way. Simple. Fun. The final pat on the back of the year. Not to mention that our family was all together, when work has not permitted it as much, and we were so happy. Best Christmas ever.

I wanted a Christmas that kicked 2014 in the ass and said, “YOU’RE OVER. YOU CAN GO NOW.” It was my favorite Christmas ever, and Christmas vacation is still as amazing as the days leading up to it. We’re so happy. That’s all I want.

2014 knocked me to the ground and kicked me over and over. I was defensive. There was no plan, only reaction. There was little personal victory because I was always just trying to get up on my knees again.

Those days are over. I’m a warrior at heart, always have been. Any warrior worth his armor takes serious beating before their greatest victory.

Watch out, 2015. I’m coming for you.

Book Beatdown: Being Brave in the Battle of the Book

TODAY’S BREW: PUMPKIN SPICE. Oh, it’s happening.

By Julie

The Back to School Book Beatdown has really heated up. We have more writers committed to this than I EVER thought we would!

Side note: Prepare, beta readers ad crit partners. October will be busy for you.

I’m so proud of all of you. I know how hard it is to get the kids to school, sit your butt down and make yourself THINK and FEEL and WORK when you might be able to watch a movie and fall asleep 6 or 7 times through it. Putting the pedal to the metal on your book is goddamn hard. Even when you’re in a flow and totally into it, you’re always questioning yourself, always feeling like you have no business writing. Plugging forward through that feeling is one of the bravest things I think a person can do. I absolutely mean that. To push yourself forward when you have no idea if you’ll finish, if anyone will care, if it will make sense or if you’ll fail your own standards can be soul crushing. And yet writers not only do it every day, they FIGHT to do it every day.

Bravery come in many forms but this one can grab your heart and make you think things of yourself you wished you never did. And then you push to find out just a little more. It’s knowing there will be pain involved, and that you absolutely will not be well received by many, but saying, “I’m doing this thing no matter what.” Goddamn, that is the kind of bravery I want my kids to have.

My buddy Matt White, who will hate me for putting him on the spot this way, I know feels inadequate about his writing. And this week he tweeted out that he read some of his own work and thought to himself that yeah, he’s on to something here, that he can write some damn good stuff. I already knew this because I know Matt, but what I think doesn’t matter when he sits down, feeling crappy and plow through his words to come out on the other side. I’m wildly proud of Matt for this.

Felicia Anderson is a writer who I begged to let me edit for her because her work is that frigging amazing. (she’s @Fifi_the_Ninja on twitter.) This girl browbeat the crap out of her work in progress this week, giving me writing days of over 3000 words sometimes. I MEAN, HOLY CRAP.

Peter Damien, Book Riot contributor and ginger, made some killer progress on the most intriguing haunted house idea I’ve heard since House on Haunted Hill, AND he found an actual haunted mansion he can visit all the time that will fuel his words and keep him focused. So exciting.

There were a lot of writers that reached out to me to tell me how well their work was going. There were some that didn’t quite make it, too. Who ducked when I showed up on Twitter looking for them. You know who you are. Looking at you, Adam Dean. I say your name not to shame you, but because even though you didn’t get done what you wished to do, you still reported in to me. That shows commitment. This isn’t a race–it’s creation. It cannot be timed.

I’m holding myself accountable, too. And I’m not where I want to be on THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS. I had something else to attend to: approving the final edits on RUNNING AWAY, which has been done completely inches from publication. And I have a cover. A COVER. But I’ve been reading THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS, and I’m so happy to have taken the time from it that I did. I’m eager to dive back in. I love it and I’m not afraid to say so. Having the encouragement from my early readers on it, particularly Jolene Haley of Pen and Muse, has kept me rigid in what I demand from this book. I want something utterly different, but familiar feeling, and I wont settle for les than glee when I finish it. It’s also wonderful to have my ever-supportive agent and personal Esquire, Eric Ruben telling me that there’s no pressure and to take care of myself first. He remind me that taking care of myself means finishing this book.

So while some are pushing limits every day word-wise, others are pushing by not letting themselves off the hook and not doing what’s easy. What’s easy is to just not do it. Don’t do things the easy way. Sneak up on your book when it thinks it can get away. Never let it get away.

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