Deadly Ever After

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FearNet reviews RUNNING HOME! Holy Hell!

By Julie
I’m a confusing sonofabitch. Known well enough for my horror flash fiction, and running with a lot of horror writers, not to mention being published by horror publisher, Books of the Dead Press, horror readers open up Running Home, and get…….not horror.
So when Fear Net, yeah THAT Fear Net reviewed Running Home, I died a little inside, but was overjoyed to see the reaction considering it is absolutely not the reviewer’s cup of tea. Excellent points, great insight into the themes of the book, and a wonderful compliment to me. I am ever grateful.

Book Review: ‘Running Home’ by Julie Hutchings

Tuesday, September 24, 2013 – 8:00pm
Full disclosure, right off the bat: I am so not the target audience for this book.
I like a lot of grit in my stories. Anything that’s too smooth, too polished – whether it’s the subject matter or the prose itself – tends to shut me down. I don’t want to read something that feels like it was written – I want to read something that feels like it was survived. 
I’m not big on vampires, I don’t read romance novels, and when I worked at a bookstore I leafed through a few pages of the then-all-the-rage series Twilight and quickly gathered that it was not for me.
Julie Hutchings’ Running Home is a polished piece of prose, a re-imagining of the vampire mythos with a heaping helping of romance thrown in. In other words, it’s everything I do not look for in a book. Kudos, then, to author Julie Hutchings, who was able to make me put aside my prejudices and finish a book I normally never would have picked up.
If that sounds like I’m damning the book with faint praise, that’s not my intent. For the right reader, Running Home is going to be a very good experience. It’s well-written, has interesting characters and an intriguing premise. Hutchings has a lot of new ideas about vampires, and it’s always refreshing to see someone take an old genre staple and push it in new directions. Her vampires need blood, yes, but there’s more at work than simple hunger; fate is the main theme running through the book, and it has as much to do with the victims as the vampires themselves.
Hutchings reveals her vampire rules slowly and deliberately, and I’m not going to steal her thunder here. What I can say is that you have a man, Nicholas, and a woman, Eliza, and it’s clear from the start that their futures are irrevocably entangled. What’s not immediately clear is the type of relationship they’re heading for: is it vampire and victim? Eternal lovers? Mortal enemies? Hutchings takes great delight in keeping readers guessing.
As I said from the top, this type of book is not normally in my wheelhouse, but the choices I perceive to be flaws may be welcome by other readers. I’m sure others will be fine with the overall slick, glossy feel to the book – it’s just a little too clean and tame for my taste. I’m sure there are readers who will enjoy the romantic overtones, and the seemingly endless references to Nicholas’s eyes (which are described at various points as being like caramel and/or mocha) and his scent (vanilla, cinnamon, and caramel again). These are mostly matters of taste and not technical issues (although maybe a couple of references to the mocha and caramel eyes could have been edited out), and as such won’t get a lot of criticism from me.
One thing I will be a bit critical of, however, is the pace of the book. There are big reveals, events and consequences discussed in this book, and discussed often. This is a book of many conversations, often held in the cozy confines of Nicholas’ cabin, which is bathed in warm light from within and dusted with gently falling snow outside. It’s a cozy book that keeps hinting at horror, but never quite gets there. The big events the book leads up to are all crammed into the final couple of chapters, giving that portion of the book a rushed feel. If Hutchings can work on her pace a bit, space out those dramatic moments and maybe ease off the cozy just a tiny bit, the result will be tighter stories in the future.
So, to recap: this is not my thing, but for younger readers looking for an entry into horror, or readers caught in that inexplicable Twilight spell, Running Home might be the perfect book. Hutchings is a solid writer with a bright future, an author with real raw talent, and I look forward to watching that talent take shape in the years to come.
Blu Gilliand is a freelance writer of fiction and nonfiction. He covers horror fiction at his blog, October Country, and contributes interviews to the Horror World website. Follow him on Twitter at @BluGilliand
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Chynna Blue Scott’s Twilight Initiation

TODAY’S BREW: Chocolate cappu-waiting for pumpkin spice.

By Julie

For Vampire Week, the honorary third member of the Undead Duo, Chynna-Blue Scott, has given us a kick ass post, and I love her for it. What I love the most  is that she’s one of us who doesn’t just say like what you want to like and screw you if you have a problem with it, she actually sticks to her guns.

Read. Then follow her at @chynnablueink and read her killer blog, which includes the masterful Zombie Project, SHE IS MY BRITISH LITTLE SISTER, SO DO IT.

My Twilight Initiation

I’m listening to Thnks Fr Th Mmrs by Fall Out Boy whilst writing this. I thought it was appropriate.

And I’m going to start this post by saying something really, painfully cliché.

Which is that when I was a little girl, I never wanted to be a princess.

Yeah, I know that’s the ‘said’ thing nowadays. And I also know the title of this blog post made your arm hair stand on end and your back teeth grind like someone just ran their nails down a chalkboard. But bear with me. You wanna see where I’m going with this.

So, returning to my original point – and thank you for sidetracking me, by the way – I want to clarify that I wasn’t a tomboy. No way in hell. Glitter, dresses, I loved that shit. But the sweetness and light? That never appealed to me. It wasn’t that I shied away from ‘girl’ things – it was that I didn’t want to be that kind of girl. In my head, I was strong, dark and pale. I’d go for red lipstick and a black dress before you’d find me in a pink fluffy tiara.

And I never really had anyone – or anything – to identify with. Not like today, with the Monster High Dolls, the boom in the supernatural trickling down until it permeated the world of little girl toys. That’s something we can really thank Twilight for, much as some might hate to admit it. Twilight is pretty much responsible for the sudden surge in paranormal and urban fantasy YA, and the diversification of kids toys and TV programmes that are a product of it.

I’m going to admit something here.  Although I’d always run to the red tartan and black turtlenecks, though I watched Charmed and Buffy, I still wasn’t really sure what my passion was, where I fit. I was into witches, but it was all a little too Mother Earth for me. And the vampires on Buffy – apart from Spike, of course – didn’t call to me. Maybe it was the fang face. I don’t know. It was all a little too ‘The Blob is Alive!’ for me.

And then I found Twilight.

To paraphrase Heathcliff, you may look cynical, if you please! I know, I know they aren’t your traditional vampires. I get it. And since my initiation into the world of vampires, I’ve found other books with vampires who fulfil the more traditional role, vamps I’ve fallen in love with. Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series, for one. But what Stephenie Meyer had given me was an outlet for that need. Did I want to be eternally young, to sparkle in the sunlight, to have the ability to stop cars with my hand? Hell yeah. Do I still? You’d better fucking believe it. I wanted the gentleman vampire to fall in love with me. I wanted a world that where life and death was real, where being dark and different and weird was an attractive thing to be. A world where being popular and typical made you one of the herd. She introduced me to what I’d been searching for.

Vampires. That night world of beautiful darkness and blood called to me from the beginning. Nowadays, anyone who knows me knows I love them. In whatever form I can get them. The diversity in literary vampires is delicious. The supernatural boom has given us a plethora of undead, and shot life into the subculture already brewing in the wake of Anne Rice and Stephen King.

I’ve broadened my horizons, moved on to darker and more dangerous pastures, but I’ll always be thankful to Twilight for my initiation into that world. Like a soft gateway drug, it pulled me down the rabbit hole. And though now when I look back, I can see the writing isn’t the best it could be, and there are definite issues with it, I still love that damn book.

Yeah, I’m a sucker for Edward. So sue me.

Everybody Wants to Know What I Think of Breaking Dawn 2

TODAY’S BREW: Eggnognut.  The last scoop of Hazelnut + Eggnog Coffee

I need my coffee today, because of course, Kristen and I went to see Breaking Dawn 2 last night, keeping us both up until the wee hours.  Kristen was not as drunk as I expected…I thought she would be yelling at the screen and cursing.  She had popcorn, I had Cookie Dough Bites, these are the things we always get.  I used my good shampoo in case Rob could see me through the screen.  This is the last time we will get to see a Twilight movie at midnight!  So sad, the end of an era.  Until Beautiful Creatures comes out.  You know how you think about a movie after you leave, and then is when you really decide if you liked it or not?  I really liked this movie!  A lot! It was a good ending to the era of midnight movies.

First things first, everybody looked great.  Well, except Carlisle and Emmett, who just looked weird.  Jasper’s hair, which you may or may not realize is a source of distress for me, was finally good!  Finally, he is as hot as he can be.  Kristen disagrees, and says it’s all me.  Jacob was at an all-time high.  Truly supreme looking.  Edward, well, it doesn’t get a whole lot better than that.  Yeah, the girls looked gorgeous, too.

Enough of that.  You probably have heard about this surprise ending, and let me tell you, it did not disappoint.  I won’t give it away, but I will tell you that it was action packed enough even for a guy to enjoy, and only gave me a moment of “Oh, Jesus Christ, really?!”

Renesmee, who Kristen just loathes, was not as obnoxious as even I thought she might be.  The child who played her brought her to life quite a bit.  She was sweet and endearing and mature, but not in that little kid who gets way too much positive reinforcement way.  I enjoyed her.  More new additions to this movie, are the vampires from around the world that each bring a special gift or story to the table.  This was done very well, though I would like to have seen a little more of what a few of them could do, particularly in the battle scene.  Benjamin, if you have read the novel, is spot on.  Very cool power that is shown well by a thoughtful actor.  I would have liked to see more Zafrina, who had great potential in the movie.  The actress was awesome that played her, bringing a real creep factor and intensity.  Garrett kicked ass.  We both like him a lot.  The Volturi get a lot more character in this movie that I wished they had had all along!  You really disliked them by the end of it, and they all had personality.  I mean, you didn’t like them, but at least they showed a little something more than ugliness.

What I think I liked best was Bella as a vampire!  This was done really well, you truly believe she is strong and different than the human Bella.  Kristen Stewart is unbelievably beautiful in this movie, and carries herself with as much force as the rest of the Cullens.  Even in the way she stands when projecting her shield is animalistic, primal.  Very cool.  Her hunting scene is kick ass…this was my favorite scene in the movie, and it’s early on, so I was interested to see more of what she could do.  I was impressed with the amount of energy she put into making Bella the vampire different from the human Bella.

All in all, I want to see this movie again!  I will have to bring a different friend, but I am totally into it.  Go see Breaking Dawn 2 and tell them Julie sent you.  Well, you don’t have to, they won’t have any idea who I am.

Let’s Get Ready to Randoooommmm!: Julie’s Ramblings on Breaking Dawn

TODAY’S BREW: Hazelnut, then pumpkin, then hazelnut, then beer.

I am especially psyched out of my mind for my midnight adventure with Kristen to go see Breaking Dawn 2.  We have been to all of the Twilight movies together at midnight, with all the teenage girls and their boyfriends, and the housewives and the occasional dad.  This time, Kristen will be drunk, though.  That last movie put her right over the edge.

So, I have heard several people’s thoughts on both Breaking Dawn the movie, and the novel.  I will not recount them for you here, so don’t change the channel.  This is just about me and Kristen, like all good things.  As far as the novel, goes, I loved it as much as Twilight, though for different reasons.  I enjoyed the gruesomeness of Bella’s pregnancy.  I also thought this was done really well in the movie, I mean she looked wretched.  And that scene where her back breaks?  Good stuff.  I loved meeting all of the other vampires, and learning about their individual stories and powers.  The mythology is original and I thought the relationships between the vampires was interesting.  I thought it gave credibility to the bigger picture of the Volturi, and took you out of Bella and Edward’s relationship just enough to be refreshing.  I mean, after that honeymoon, I needed a break.

Kristen hates all of that.  She doesn’t care.  Fair enough.

When it came to the movie, I was personally offended by the werewolves speaking to each other like people, mouths moving and all.  Kristen did not mind this.  I find this fascinating, as Kristen is annoyed by the idea of werewolves in general, and this is the cherry on top for me.  (Side note: If you don’t hate werewolves, go read Jason Starr’s The Pack.  It is super fantastic.)  Other things that gave me issue:  Apparently, in one day it is possible to travel from Washington to Brazil.  Impressive.  And do I have to mention that everyone except Bella gets uglier in every movie?  Jesus Christ, leave their hair alone.  Except Jasper–just fix it.  Make it normal.  I have high hopes for his hair in the last movie.  They have tried everything else, please get it right this time.  Esme, the poor thing, started out gorgeous in underfunded Twilightand they just destroy her more in every film.  Not nice.

And now for the moment you’ve probably not all been waiting for…WHAT DO THE UNDEAD DUO THINK OF RENEESME? Or Renesme, or however it is spelled.  Kristen is mortally wounded by the entire thing.  She wants nothing to do with the little creep.  She hates the name, she hates the power the kid has, she hates that she is the offspring of Edward, who she has avid dislike for, and mousy Bella.  I like the weirdness of the whole thing.  I love weird.  I like the creepy kid.  Talking infants that can make you see shit?  Fun.  If this were a horror novel/movie, that could be killer.  Case in point, it is not, so it is just creepy, which is good enough for me.  Four books just about Bella and Edward would be dull as hell.  The whole imprinting thing with the baby and Jacob can’t be anything but weird.  It is a baby.  Come on.  But I find it to be an absolutely brilliant solution to all of the conflicts in the series, from why Bella and Jacob can’t be together, to why the wolves have to have a truce with the vampires, and why the baby can’t be killed.  That’s some mastery and complexity to aspire to.  (I do aspire to this in Running Home, as well as the rest of the trilogy in the works.  I like complex.  Kristen prefers the Keep It Simple, Stupid approach in the Immortal Dilemma series.)

(Kristen’s note:  my approach simply refers to me preferring to stick to one mythology, i.e. vampires.  I do not believe that just because you have vampires you need to have werewolves and brownies and fae.  Pick one and make it as rich as possible.)

I will let you know in no less random format what we think of the movie on Friday.  I will have to write it because Kristen will still be nursing a hangover.  Let us know your thoughts on Breaking Dawn, the first one, the second one, the movie or all three.  We love this crap.

The Rise of Twilight Fan Fiction: Should We Really Be Surprised?

Today’s Brew:  Hot Cocoa.  This weekly Nor’Easter thing needs to stop.

Imitation is the highest form of flattery.  On the eve of the release of Breaking Dawn Part Two, once again Twilight is pushed back to the media forefront.  If you’re one of the millions that adore this trilogy, you’re getting excited to see how the movie saga will wrap up.  You’re making your movie plans.  (Julie and I always go at midnight. I’m getting drunk this time).  You might be rewatching your Twilight DVDs or rereading the books.

But what when that is not enough?  What happens when a story sticks with you so much that it won’t leave you alone?

You may feel the urge to create your own stories based on these characters and these scenarios.  Fan fiction.

Fan fiction is nothing new.  There’s been retelling of popular stories as long as there’s been pop culture.  People even use their favorite celebrities to embroil in whatever scenarios that excite them.  Honestly, fan fiction creeps me out a bit, so I haven’t read much of it, but what I have read usually puts our heroes in sexual situations.  These are the people who star in the public’s fantasies.  Some people just write their fantasies and share it with the rest of us.

If you follow publishing at all, you know that Fifty Shades of Grey started life as a Twilight fan fiction story originally titled Master of The Universe.  In publishing news today, a story called The Office that was born in Twilight fan fiction is being published in February 2013 as a revamped telling of the story now called Beautiful Bastard.  Do you think this will encourage people to polish their fanfics and shop them around, or do you think it will cause a backlash against this and make it harder for this sort of story to get published?

I have a special interest in this trend.  All through the writing of Immortal Dilemma, I was well aware I treaded deep in Twilight territory.  The core of my story is a love triangle involving a vampire.  As I’ve reread Twilight, I’ve noticed other similarities.  I did my damnedest to not retell Stephenie Meyer’s story at every turn.  As the story continues into a sequel, I think it gets further and further away from her model.  I’ve asked my beta readers if they found Immortal Dilemma similar to any other book, to let them tell me themselves.  Not one said Twilight.  But what will this mean for Immortal Dilemma as the project evolves?  I know the public is not tired of vampires, or paranormal, and especially romance.

Hollywood has been doing this for years.  Even Red Dawn has been remade recently.  Was that necessary?  Is the cold war relevant anymore?  There is so much money on the line for movie production studios as well as publishing houses. If a formula is proven to make money, it’s a safe bet.  As much as we’re all told to be original, original scares the pocket books of these decision makers.

All ideas are versions of earlier ideas.  We all owe homage to some influence over our story telling.  Every experience we have shapes our story.  If Twilight had enough of an effect on these writers they were compelled enough to write stories that in some way resonated with their readers enough to build huge followings, is that any different any thing else that influenced these authors to put pen to paper?

What Twilight Means To Me: Sappiness With Julie

TODAY’S BREW:  Hazelnut. It’s snowing, so there will be a lot.

Countless times I have heard how this or that person read Twilight and said, “I can write better than that.”  And so, they tried, and hundreds of vampire books were born.  And for as many people who think they can write better than Stephanie Meyer, there are half as many who want to write the same exact book as she did.

It was February 2007 when I read Twilight.  It was days after I had my first baby, and I was wandering Walmart with my family, sleep-deprived and wildly happy.  Near the checkout counter, I realized I had nothing to read and grabbed a copy with a picture of Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson on the cover.   I was almost disgusted with myself that I was about to do something everyone did.  Read this novel that couldn’t possibly be good.

That February was very snowy, perfect for holing up with my new baby, both in our pajamas,  me drinking countless cups of decaf tea that did nothing for me.  And it was perfect for me to read that novel, with its overcast gloominess, discovery of so many new things, sparks of love that had never existed before. It was fresh, and made the ordinary extraordinary.  I still remember reading it, this baby that I was hopelessly attached to before I even technically knew I was pregnant sleeping in my arms, warm and cozy, bursting with happiness.  I remember driving him around to get him to nap, and pulling that novel out in random parking lots to read while he slept.  I remember it sitting on the table next to my husband and I in the middle of the night, when he would get up with me so I wouldn’t be exhausted alone.

Having my baby gave me a depth of emotion that I never knew was possible.  Reading Twilight when I was still in the thick of so much new emotion helped me love it, see it as a security blanket in this new world I lived in.  It comforted me with its simplicity when I was afraid, which happened often in those first few weeks.  I read all of the novels in succession, and couldn’t get enough.

It was for this reason, that I said, “I can do this.  I can create something both ordinary and extraordinary, exciting but everyday.  This is new territory that I want to stamp my feet on.”  I was floored by the power of creation, and ready to put feelings out in the open that I would never have allowed before.  It was the first time I had experienced really missing someone…that first night in the hospital when my baby had to be brought to Boston because he had been breach, and had trouble breathing.  To be so far from him, when I needed him so much was devastating.  Thank God he was brought back when I didn’t know if I could take it anymore.  This is a kind of loneliness that I had never experienced, and later was able to portray through Ellie’s agonizing departure from Nicholas that leaves her writhing in pain in her abandoned apartment.  I felt that every second.  The numbing fear that accompanies having children, and not being able to control every aspect of their safety, it helped fuel the love Ellie, Nicholas, Roman and Kat had for each other.  The otherworldly connection that Ellie has with Nicholas that doesn’t allow them to be apart is an extension of the arguably weird connection I have with my baby.  Reading Twilight at this time made me realize that I can open the door with these new emotions to create the novel I always wanted to write.  It would not have been possible before then.  I wasn’t strong enough.

I think I have read Twilight five times.  I read it when I am scared, when I am overwhelmed, and when I need something that I can’t put my finger on.  And I am brought back to this amazing time five years ago when I became a new person, and created a new person, and created Running Home.  Whether the timing was just right or not, reading that book gave me the idea of fate, perfect timing, all things happening to create a bigger picture, and for that I thank Stephenie Meyer endlessly.

Julie’s Token Twilight Day

TODAY’S BREW: Dunkin’s baby. This one’s all Julie.

You know you wanted it, and I wanted to give it to you. Put away grownup stuff for a moment. Enjoy reminiscing about staying up way past your bedtime and demolishing any chance of a productive Friday post midnight-movie-premiere.

Here, I share gratuitous photos of my favorite scenes in each Twilight movie…

Twilight: Edward leaning over Bella in the woods, between the rock walls. “And so the lion fell in love with the lamb.”

New Moon: Edward stepping into the sun.

Eclipse: The Jacob kiss before the fight scene on the mountain top.

Breaking Dawn, part 1: The first view of the wedding outside.

You’re welcome.

(Kristen’s take on Twilight…I read the books because my mall reading girls gushed about them. They thought I was crazy that I couldn’t stand Edward and routed for Jacob. Of course, this was pre movie and pre Taylor Lautner. Now they see my side of the story. I’ve read the books once and seen all the movies once, at midnight, with Julie. When she was working like a crazy person and had two super little ones, it was one of my only chances for Julie time. So I took what I could get! Now it’s our tradition. And even though I don’t get what you girls all see in Edward, Robert Pattinson, if you are looking for a new Kristen…call me.)

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