Today’s Brew: Peppermint by Dunkin Donuts (forever DD’s if you’re from Boston)
YOU NEVER THOUGHT YOU’D SEE THE DAY but the Vampires of Fate (the trilogy formerly known as the Shinigami Vampires) is COMPLETE. Completo. Finito. Fin. Over. Overito. I’ll stop.
This series has been through Hell and back. There’s no form of publishing it hasn’t touched, no shortage of editing, no small number of covers, unlimited criticism and praise. RUNNING HOME is the book that made me an author, and for a million reasons it’s wildly close to my heart. Your first book…it bares your soul, man. And yet since then I’ve exposed more and more of myself in everything I’ve written, just in a less raw and literal way. I think the raw and literal is even more compromising. I worked through some stuff writing this series, and I learned that some stuff I’ll probably never work through and that’s just plain okay. It has to be. Pain and fear make the writer.
ANYWHOO, I’d love for you to see where this story led, who Eliza became. Yeah, it’s a scary vampire romance, but it’s about her and always has been. I wanted to do two things when I sat down to create this book in the heat of my first maternity leave, drunk with hormones after reading Twilight. Those things were yes, sleep, but these things too:
Create a world where the extraordinary lies just beneath the ordinary.
Make a grownup heroine with her own identity and fears.
I stayed very true to those expectations over the past 15 years. FIFTEEN YEARS. And I think it holds up.
I’d love for you to share the bittersweet end with me.
Today’s Brew: Eggnog from Dunkins because time is meaningless
OH HI THERE.
Guess what, the other night I got to go out! And I got to go out to a triple book signing and panel with my amazing friends and as amazing authors Chuck Wendig, Delilah Dawson and Kevin Hearne. I mean, I’m not trying to name-drop but seriously. I am. Anyway, this isn’t about measuring coolness, it’s about a couple of things I took away from that panel that I bet you’d like to hear too. SO LISTEN UP.
When asked about their writing processes, the answers were so vastly different and so important, even if you’re not a writer. They’re good guidelines for all kinds of life stuff. Remember this is the first time the three of them have been out in public in two years. Here’s what I got:
Delilah Dawson during the pandemic forced herself to stick to a routine which of course was nearly impossible with kids, everyone being at home suddenly… You know the drill. But she made herself MEDITATE for 15 minutes a day. And only then would she allow herself to write. The best part of this for me is that she hates meditating.
So writing became the reward for sitting through the bad thing for 15 minutes and she’d be so antsy to STOP meditating that she couldn’t wait to write.
THE LESSON BECOMES: TREAT YOUR WRITING LIKE A REWARD, NOT LIKE AN OBLIGATION OR A MOUNTAIN TO CLIMB.
My pretty pretty Princess Chuck Wendig always centers me when it comes to writing advice. This time when asked about his writing process he told a cool story about when he was mentored by a screenwriter. When his mentor told him to make an outline, Chuck laughed, saying oh hell naw, novelists don’t do that. But all his hundreds of books later, maybe he does. Or not. Or halfway of such.
Chuck stays true to one piece of advice which is basically, “You do you.” Make the rules, then break them. Screw up and fix it, don’t take it too seriously until you do. But this night he said DON’T DEFINE YOURSELF BY THE WRITING PROCESS YOU THINK YOU HAVE. Basically, anyway. Don’t pigeonhole yourself into this idea of what your process is. It should be ever-changing. It should grow with you, it should be an experiment, it should never be stagnant. I added that last stuff. But it’s easy to see why I love this guy so much.
Kevin Hearne is a wizard from another dimension. He usually writes one draft and it’s editor-ready. He’s clearly very disciplined and knows his tools. He uses Word docs like the rest of the world until he has a multi-faceted story and world (so everything he does), in which case he uses Scrivener first. What I get is that he boiled it down to a science that works for him without a lot of need to experiment and he does it right the first time.
This isn’t a thing that will work for everyone, but remember, SOMETIMES it might. It won’t always be the same for everyone and for every book. Unless you’re Kevin Hearne and know yourself so well that you’re invincible.
Dahlia is one of those authors I always thought was miles ahead of me, and to hear her say this resonates. In my IT’S NOT JUST YOU, I’d like to contribute that it’s not just you that tries so many different approaches you can’t keep them all straight until you don’t know what you’re doing at all.
Confession: probably my biggest pet peeve on the planet is when people start a question with “Am I the only one who…?” No. You’re not. You’re not the only one who writes that way, reads that way, likes that food, likes that band, thinks Benedict Cumberbatch sounds like a Game of Thrones character or looks like someone squeezed Spongebob and stuck googly eyes on him…you’re just not. But. There’s a different kind of “Is it just me?” feeling, and that’s the stress of when you’re drowning in something and nobody’s talking about it and you feel like everyone’s got it together but you, and so you don’t wanna say a thing, and it all snowballs until you basically wanna curl up and die. I know that feeling. It’s why I wrote this post after splitting with my first agent. So in case you are wondering any of these things, I…
It’s been a minute, because I’ve been BUSY, and one of the things I’ve been busy with is writing a story for this amazing anthology. It’s on the Bram Stoker Award Recommended Reading List! And my story is in it! And everybody says this, how lucky they are to be in the company they’re in with a project, but man alive, do I mean it with this one. Some of these pieces, and the beautiful artwork for them by incredible artists, are just mindblowing to me.
Twenty-five women and non-binary writers from the worlds of Horror Fiction and Illustration form an unholy union and drag the blackened heart of Classic Gothic Horror into modern daylight! In the process, they have sculpted an altogether sleeker, more feral beast.
In the hands of Mary Shelley, Daphne Du Maurier and Shirley Jackson, Gothic Horror explored the bleak shadows of our homes; the darkest corners of the human mind; madness, personal transformation, the occult. IN SOMNIO recasts the legacy of the original Gothmothers in a chilling contemporary light.
Within the walls of an arcane modern art gallery; upon the shores of a hostile but compelling sea; into the blackest burrows of the animal kingdom; tableside at the world’s last restaurant on the eve of the apocalypse; from the deep deep South to a Lovecraftian Steampunk theatre, a cornucopia of disturbing vignettes await you.
Fans of twisted takes on the classics such as Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters; Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House/Bly Manor; moody, secretive novels like Night Film and A House at the Bottom of the Lake; and traditional Gothic Horror and ghost stories will all find something to chill their bones in IN SOMNIO.
This collection features eighteen vibrant, unique stories ranging from deeply intimate one-room settings to sprawling fantasy worlds; from the depths of darkness to comedy and adventure. Each story brings a new perspective to our inherent love of Gothic Horror and what those vital elements of terror still have to say today.
Get the book for no more reason than to see the unbelievable illustration for my story, The Beach, by the incomparable Daniella Batsheva (You can find her here: http://www.daniellabatsheva.com/ ). I was beside myself when I got a look at it.
I’ll leave it there for now, though I could sing this antho praises for years, and will in the future. But I hope you’ll pick it up for some light reading, and I hope you love The Beach, because it truly settled into my bones when I was writing it. I felt actually lucky to have thought it up, like it was given to me. Now go, read!
TODAY’S BREW: International Delight because I know how to enjoy fanciness of the past
This is not about COVID! And yes, it is a story about controversial parking, not a controversial story about parking.
Today I’m in the process of saying goodbye to my car of 15 years, the Kia Rondo, Car of the Future. We called it that because when we bought it nobody had any idea what it was and there was ONE other one in our entire huge town. So we told people we brought it back from the future.
The Rondo came into our family when we started having a family of our own. We found out we were pregnant with our first kiddo and I was driving all the way to Cape Cod for work, so that was when we broke down and got cell phones and a decent car. 15 years later and I’m STILL driving it, but it finally became more to fix it than to keep it.
Possibly my favorite Rondo story is when it was parked in front of Sam’s super tiny elementary school because I was running the book fair inside all day. Now, this car goes back and forth to that school daily, multiple times often, because there is no bus. And I park it right out front for 8 to 10 hours a day for a week, three separate times a year to run the book fair, right? This one Monday, first day of the book fair, a teacher comes in to say the cops are at the Rondo. It’s after school, I’m there to clean up and take care of the stragglers in my little apron, sweaty as all hell from the unairconditioned gym, and lo and behold, there are the cops at my Rondo, the lone car in front of the school.
Now, I don’t debate that my car was illegal. It was. It is. It cannot pass inspection. One door doesn’t open, the air bag light has been on for about six years, the hood doesn’t close all the way…but hey, I’m not rich, and I was far less rich back then even.
“Ma’am, you are in serious trouble,” one of the stern-looking, put-together policemen says to me as I wipe frizzy hair out of my eyes and wish I could go to bed.
“I’m sorry. I am but a lowly housewife running a book fair for underpriveleged children, Officer.”
“We received an extremely urgent call from a very concerned crossing guard, Ms. Hutchings.”
Now, hold up.
The crossing guard called the cops on me?
“He was extremely concerned about your inspection sticker, ma’am.” Then the two of the cops bust out laughing and after we joke back and forth they wave goodbye, calling out, “Bye Mrs. Hutchings!” So it was all okay.
Until I saw the crossing guard the next day. And what happened after I left the school that evening is a whole other story unto itself.
I pull up in the same spot as the day before. Crossing guard: “Hey, how are you doing?” (Because yes, he knows me. I HAVE BEEN CRAZY INVOLVED AT THAT SCHOOL FOR 10 YEARS.)
“Not so good, actually. Know why?”
*goofy smile, blank stare*
“See that car? That I just got out of? You called the cops on me yesterday!”
“Well, the inspection sticker is bad and it was parked there all day. I checked, but there could have been a bomb in it or something, I didn’t know.”
Let’s think this over.
And yes, it’s true. The crossing guard went into my car with a car seat in the back, the same car he sees twice a day at minimum.
“So, you see a beaten up car in front of the school with a car seat and toys in it, one that might be vaguely familiar, and your first instinct is that it harbors bombs?”
“It was suspicious, what was I supposed to do?” he says.
“Oh, I don’t know, maybe walk up THOSE SIX STAIRS twenty feet away, and ask who the car belongs to? I would have heard you, I was RIGHT THERE.”
“Oh yeah, I guess I could have done that.”
*breathe in, out, in, out*
“Maybe you should have parked further down,” the guard says to me.
“So you’re saying to me that if I parked a couple car lengths down that suddenly the question of my being a terrorist would be eliminated because…you couldn’t see the sticker as well?”
“Tell you what. How about you keep your eyes on those there crosswalk lines, and if you want to call the cops on someone today maybe look at one of the people walking under the NO SMOKING sign with a cigarette hanging out of their mouths and turn away from the Rondo while I give books to small children. THANKS.”
Rondo, you were a trooper and I will miss the hell out of you. I’m keeping your outdated inspection sticker.
TODAY’S BREW: Hawaiian Chocolate Nut from Marylou’s News, the best local coffee place you’ll ever meet.
International Women’s Day has become one of my favorite holidays. Real quick, I’ll tell you some of what it means to me:
Nothing Can Stop Me. For instance, when I redid the kitchen in epic Julie vs. Apartment proportions a few years ago ALL BY MYSELF. All of it. Stripping the horsehair walls, taking down and sanding the veneer off the cabinets, climbing on top of the fridge with a flashlight to strip the wallpaper and paint the cabinet fixtures, painting up high, down low, putting tracks in the slapped-together drawers, with my own toolbelt and having done all the supply shopping… And those few cabinets that I “couldn’t get up alone…” Yeah. I got them up all alone. I was the master of the universe.
I don’t have to do anything to celebrate it. No presents to buy, no cuisine to prepare, nobody to please but myself. No change to my “routine” at all–because this is a day to realize that everything we as women do is worth celebration. WE ARE FORCES OF NATURE.
We are burdened with glorious purpose every minute of our lives. And we handle that shit like champs. EVERYTHING we do matters, and not just in the you-are-special-because-you-are-you way. And it’s not just because you’re a mom, if you’re one of those–though for me it’s the first thing that comes to mind. Everything we do matters. We’re big picture promoters. Our choices in how we treat other women in casual interaction matters! The eye contact you make at the grocery store, the way you listen, the way you do or do not judge, the way you hold your head up, all of it matters to the big picture. We aren’t afraid to change everything. We aren’t afraid to grow. We aren’t afraid to be wrong, to make mistakes, to be ourselves when the world tells us from birth that what we are is THIS ONE THING. We are the definition of “big picture.”
We don’t have to be demure, sweet, and/or “beautiful.” WE define our identities. We make the standard and then we tear it down. Beauty is what we think it is. And it is what we celebrate in others. It’s what makes us stronger together. It is also the fact that I feel most beautiful in sweatpants and a tanktop with mascara and lipstick. It’s the fact that I feel beautiful when I’m lifting heavy-as-hell stuff and driving the pallet jack at the Warehouse Job. It’s how I feel when I’m writing and when I’m out on the porch listening to the birds and digging in plant dirt and giving my lizards a bath. Beautiful is what I think of myself when I see the silver hairs and I leave them just like that. The most beautiful thing I can think of is being unique and appreciating what stands out.
Whatever International Women’s Day means to you, I hope it makes you happy today! Be you, be proud, be the master of all things great and small.
TODAY’S BREW: This Christmas coconut thing from Bones Coffee
Well, the reoccurring nightmare of losing all the teeth is coming true in bits and pieces. I know these suckers are supposed to last a lifetime but in my head, their design seems to be all wrong. Today is a good day to play LIST YOUR FEARS!
List Your Fears!
List your fears for no cash or consolation prizes!
In no particular order, here is my purge list of terrors.
Losing all my teeth. I don’t think this is uncommon, but apparently for me, it is also a reality as I keep breaking the bastards just doing regular stuff. Or I wake up with them loose. Because of course. But I did the responsible thing and made a dentist appointment, which also conquers my fears of being judged by the dentist aaaaaand…
Telephones. Nobody likes the phone, but I have a genuine fear of phone calls. I got rid of a landline before it was cool because the sound of the phone ringing terrified me. I will do anything to avoid making a phone call. I very rarely answer the phone. If I have to make more than one phone call in a day, I’m left exhausted and literally need a nap and decompression time.
Hearing my name called in anything but an overly friendly voice. If you’re yelling for me for something, it had better be “Hey, Jules,” or I will internally panic.
Hornets and wasps. It used to be just a general “bees” fear, which encompassed anything of yellow and black coloration that would sting me. In my defense, I have been stung about a million times. However, I did this Batman-type-falling-into-the-cave-full-of-bats thing where I went to a beekeeper’s hive and they were all around me. This was a big deal because I used to have to shut my eyes when that scene in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids came on where they rode the giant bees or whatever they did with them. (Not entirely sure, eyes shut, remember?) Now, I love regular old bees. I even had one that lived in a tiny little birdhouse last summer on my porch! I am fully aware that my life is dependent upon bees, but then again that doesn’t have much to do with fear, now does it? Fear happens no matter what the RATIONALE is. Now I see bees as my totem of strength. A reminder that I can be afraid of something but that doesn’t make it stronger than me. Wasps and hornets can burn in a fire, though.
Death. This is the big one. I’m terrified of people suddenly dying, of not knowing when it will happen, of what to do next, of handling the particulars, of being alone. I’m afraid of my own death, too, like the rest of humanity. I’m not necessarily afraid it will hurt, my tolerance is insanely high. I’m afraid of just being GONE. And I’m afraid that my family won’t know what to do when I’m gone. Clearly, being self-important is not one of my fears. (Shameless plug: In RUNNING HOME, my first book, Eliza is crippled by her fear of death and comes to find out that her reason for existing is to become living death, therefore defeating it in the most romanticized and cool way ever. Hence, I become my own therapist. BUY MY BOOK, IT HAS GREAT REVIEWS. https://www.amazon.com/Running-Home-Shinigami-Vampires-Book-ebook/dp/B074TYXLBB/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=running+home&qid=1612795061&sr=8-3)
I guess this post has become more about how I’ve dealt with fear and that I’m not okay being afraid of things. One might even say I’m afraid of being afraid. I am what one would probably describe as “fearless” by nature–there’s not a lot I won’t try, I’m “brave” to the point of idiocy, and I do stuff other people only think of doing. But in truth, I’m afraid of my own limits. I’m TERRIFIED, actually, of finding out I cannot do a thing. I’ll go off-script (as if any of this post or anything I do has a script), and say for the first time on record something that I have always known and is intrinsically important in my life: In all my martial arts training, in all my competing, I could have done better. I was afraid of failing, and then I failed a lot. I was afraid of finding out I just wasn’t going to be good enough, no matter how hard I worked at it, and if maybe I didn’t do as well as I could have that there would always be a next time.
WHOA. I’ve said too much. My therapist might be out of a job.
Back to the original point which was that I have dealt with my fears in one way or another. Walked into the beehive. Wrote a book about my fear of death (also addressing another fear of mine which is having my personal feelings and thoughts read), I made the dentist appointment–also forcing myself to talk on the phone. Still hate it. But it’s not always about facing fears. I will still run when I see a hornet. I will always avoid the phone if at all possible. I’ll tell people to call me Jules if they have to call for me. Other times I just won’t tell them that and I’ll suffer the shaking that subsequently occurs. I’m still terrified of death. I still think what if this is the left turn that gets me killed? and what if I died tomorrow, what would my family do? and what if everyone else died, what would I do? but I acknowledge it, and live with it. I try to make it better by being a person that does good things and is forgiving and helpful and will leave a mark on this world. I still refuse to die any other way than by T-rex or Great White. I mean, there’s no PROOF I’m not immortal–I haven’t died yet. Maybe I’ll live long enough where I get to choose the method, who knows? Maybe I am the mad scientist who figures that out. What I can say is that fear is part of life and it has no solution. Where one fear stops, another begins. We evolve with it, we make do, we press forward or we lose. I refuse to lose.
TODAY’S BREW: hot dog water, the official coffee of the Trump administration
On Inauguration Day, I was ecstatic, as most, if not all, of my readers and friends were. I was humbled, I was hopeful, and continue to see that hope grow every day since President Biden and Vice President Harris took over the White House.
Then I hit the wall.
It was Friday, the kids had gone off to one of their two days at school, and four years of torture hit me in the face. For four years I was the human shield for my family. I maintained hope, celebrated that we as a family, and we as a country, could not be taken down. I did my best to assure my kids that a pandemic which would define an important year in their lives would come to an end–as I watched a man egotistically withhold the means to do so from us. I dove boldly into all the life-altering complications that pop into mind, from suddenly remote learning, to isolating during a summer while after five days a week, to hybrid learning and doing all I can do to ensure my kids stay engaged with education, to the loss of all the community activities we participate in, to fielding the constant emails about how many kids have the virus, to the sudden lack of face-to-face psychiatry appointments that now were reduced to a phone call… These are the new everyday things that I rose to meet just off the top of my head.
I never stopped soldiering on because this family couldn’t. I had to lead, and lead I did.
Now, it’s OVER. The war was won. The riot at the Capitol and the sucky octopus tendrils of 2020 are still clinging on but that’s all it is–grabbing at anything they can get a hold of. Things will get better.
I can breathe.
The thing I’ve been saying all this time, that we will prevail and that sometimes to make things better, you have to burn it all down, is coming true.
I was rattled for a day. Alone for the first time in days, I cried and I watched tv and let myself understand how much I personally, had sacrificed. I can solidly say that for at least the last year, I never thought of what the presidency was doing to me. There wasn’t room for that. Now I’m for the first time ever, having trouble sleeping. I’m tired all day. I’m the kind of tired I imagine people are after they wake up from a coma. Like they’ve been lying down all that time, why do they need to rest? But they do.
What I hope comes through in all my wordiness is that you aren’t alone. It’s okay to recover. It’s okay to not “practice self-care.” What the fuck does that even mean today? Give myself a pedicure? You don’t have to DO anything to feel better about what you’ve been through. At the same time, I can’t stand not earning the air I breathe, so I write down the stuff I did accomplish. Today: laundry, wrote a couple of paragraphs, read a book for a long time, showered. Yeah, these are things that I DID. Reading is productive. Showering is a THING. I need to remind myself, as I’m sure many of you do, that you’re more than just moving on to the next thing. You’re more than getting through one thing to prove that you, we, everything, is moving forward and there’s something to show for it.
It’s nearly midnight on Inauguration Day, and I’m as cozy and happy as can be with cocoa, an afghan, kiddos that are up too late, and hope for the future. Today we saw many firsts. This one comes to mind:
This is also the first day where we take a breath and prepare for the fight ahead with a song in our hearts. Because we’re fighting to rebuild, to take back the spirit of who we should be. It was an honor to watch another woman bring us many firsts as poet Amanda Gorman recited her piece, The Hill We Climb. But I believe there can be nothing more important to read today than this incredible piece of art and take it to heart as a mission statement. Thank you, Amanda.
The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman
“When day comes we ask ourselves,
where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry,
a sea we must wade
We’ve braved the belly of the beast
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace
And the norms and notions
of what just is
Isn’t always just-ice
And yet the dawn is ours
before we knew it
Somehow we do it
Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn’t broken
but simply unfinished
We the successors of a country and a time
Where a skinny Black girl
descended from slaves and raised by a single mother
can dream of becoming president
only to find herself reciting for one
And yes we are far from polished
far from pristine
but that doesn’t mean we are
striving to form a union that is perfect
We are striving to forge a union with purpose
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man
And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us
but what stands before us
We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,
we must first put our differences aside
We lay down our arms
so we can reach out our arms
to one another
We seek harm to none and harmony for all
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:
That even as we grieved, we grew
That even as we hurt, we hoped
That even as we tired, we tried
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious
Not because we will never again know defeat
but because we will never again sow division
Scripture tells us to envision
that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree
And no one shall make them afraid
If we’re to live up to our own time
Then victory won’t lie in the blade
But in all the bridges we’ve made
That is the promise to glade
The hill we climb
If only we dare
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it’s the past we step into
and how we repair it
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation
rather than share it
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy
And this effort very nearly succeeded
But while democracy can be periodically delayed
it can never be permanently defeated
In this truth
in this faith we trust
For while we have our eyes on the future
history has its eyes on us
This is the era of just redemption
We feared at its inception
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs
of such a terrifying hour
but within it we found the power
to author a new chapter
To offer hope and laughter to ourselves
So while once we asked,
how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?
Now we assert
How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was
but move to what shall be
A country that is bruised but whole,
benevolent but bold,
fierce and free
We will not be turned around
or interrupted by intimidation
because we know our inaction and inertia
will be the inheritance of the next generation
Our blunders become their burdens
But one thing is certain:
If we merge mercy with might,
and might with right,
then love becomes our legacy
and change our children’s birthright
So let us leave behind a country
better than the one we were left with
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest,
we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one
We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the west,
we will rise from the windswept northeast
where our forefathers first realized revolution
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states,