THE FAMILY DISMEMBER

by Julie Hutchings 

Two huge boxes loomed from under the tree.  One as red as glistening blood, the other silver like an ice pick.

Uncle Ebner hung over my shoulder, whiskey pouring off his breath, excitement shaking his words in my ear.  “Which one you want, son?  Which one has your name on it?”

“Ebner, shut the fuck up!  Let Roy pick in peace!”  Ma yelled at him from her armchair.

“You can’t have both, Roy,” little Chrissy whined from a pile of wrapping paper, sucking on a candy cane, red goo smeared on her cheeks and hands.  I frowned at her and she stuck her gooey tongue out at me.

Pa pounded in from the kitchen, taking over the doorway in size and ugliness.   “Roy!  Pick one, now, boy, or I will make you wish you were never born.”  He raised a dirty glass of something to his mouth, wetting his massive beard and dripping it on his flannel shirt sleeve and overalls.  I shook looking at him.  “You are a part of this family, and you will do as we do.”

“I…I don’t know which one.  Maybe you should give them to Cousin Willie or Jenna.”  Even my voice cowered under Pa’s glare as his boots slammed across the room, killing ribbons and wrappings in their path.  He snarled in my face, worse than that coyote that grabbed Chrissy’s arm last summer, eyes glassy.

“You are fifteen.  You have waited long enough.  This is the year you pick one.”  Each word was a death sentence, each syllable punched me with ferocity.  Pa’s eyes got colder with every passing second.

Ebner’s laugh screeched through the room.  “Your time has come, Roy!”  He jumped up from the floor and did a barn dance, arm in arm with Chrissy.  She laughed, dirty, tangled hair trailing behind her.  “Merry Christmas, son, your time has arrived!”

The silver box whimpered.

Pa kicked it hard, ripping the paper in one corner, exposing the cardboard box underneath.  “Shut the fuck up!”  Sobs rolled out of the box, and a moan from the red one.

“Careful, Pa, don’t ruin Roy’s gift, now, it took me days to get them in the house,” Ma nagged, still in her armchair.

My knees buckled, but I caught myself on the edge of the red box.  When I touched it, it screamed.  I smelled sweat from inside it.  My stomach lurched.  “I don’t know which one to pick,” I said so softly, I couldn’t believe anyone heard.

“I don’t know which one to pick,” my brother mocked.  “Just pick one!  It don’t matter, they all look the same in the end!”  He threw a tennis ball at the boxes, hitting the silver one hard, and making it scream.

“You want a hint, boy?”

“I guess, Pa.”

“Straighten up, boy!  Be thankful for what we got you!”  he yelled, shaking the room as much as he shook me.  “The red one you know.  The other one you don’t.”

I felt my eyes widen in fear, and tried to stop them before Pa smelled it on me.  “I….know…one of them?”

“OOOOH, Roy!  That’s right special!” Chrissy said, running to my side.  “I wish I knew mine!”

Pa’s laugh was as terrible as the rest of him.  “Hahahaha!  That’s my little girl!”  Chrissy smiled wide at his approval.

“Stop being a pussy, Roy, pick one.”

“Shut up, John,” I said meekly to my brother.

“Take the red one, it’s prettier!” Chrissy squealed.

“Not for long.”  John loved how afraid I was.  He swaggered over to me, meat on his face and breath.  “Take the one you know, Roy, or I will get it, and I’ll make it stick around longer.”  His grin exposed gristle in his teeth and evil in his soul.

“ENOUGH!  PICK!”  Pa bellowed, making Chrissy cry and me shake.

I reached forward, John giggling wildly next to me, my hands trembling, and touched the red one.  It was as warm as an infection.

“Yes!  Good choice, Roy, good choice!”  Ebner patted me on the back.

“Bring it downstairs,” Pa spat.

I tried to budge the box, but it was too heavy.  “No, no, no,” it cried from inside, fear making the voice unrecognizable.  John’s laugh made it cry more.

“I can’t move it.”

“You’d better get that thing downstairs, boy, or I’ll tan your hide!”

I pushed up the bottom with the toe of my shoe, and wrapped my arms around it as far as I could, jostling it here and there.  It was crying uncontrollably now.  My eyes clouded with tears, and I pushed them back.

I shimmied it across the old rust-brown carpet, unable to pick it up.  The eyes of my family bore into my back.  When I opened the basement door, the stench of blood and rot met me.  I retched.  Pa slapped me in the back of the head.

“Go.”

“I can’t, Pa.”  Tears coursed down my cheeks.

“Disgraceful.”  Pa kicked the box with one mighty foot down the basement stairs, shaking the tools hanging from every inch of wallspace; saws, hammers, picks, machetes, screwdrivers, knives, hacksaws, chains, all rusted with blood.  The box smashed, spilling its contents.

Patty Ann Riley.  She sat next to me in Geography.

She fell in a heap of bruises and broken bones at the bottom of the stairs, crimson box underneath her stained with her blood.  She was soaked in it already.  Her right arm had been hacked off.  Blood streamed from the ragged stump into a puddle of gunk in the wrapping paper.  More bubbled and seeped from countless punctures and cuts all over her.  She groaned through semi-consciousness.

“We gave you a head start, Roy.”

I sighed deeply, my shoulders curling, my back weak.

It was time to start unwrapping.

Exploration of Insanity, i.e. my week

TODAY’S BREW: Cinnamon Hazelnut New England Coffee, courtesy of Walmart.

By Julie 

For retrospective humor and gaping mouths I shall recount my week in bullet points:

TUESDAY

  • am offered two jobs through Freelancer that sounded completely legit, complete with interviews, offer letters, no info requested that I felt uncomfortable with, job duties listed, details of equipment allocation discussed, legitimate websites linked of actual companies with history, zero scams detected through multiple searches, start dates determined, solving all of our money problems to find out that both of them were elaborate scams that I still cannot see the reason for since neither one of them got anything out of me and never even asked for anything. But Freelancer is very grateful that I brought it to their attention. So there’s that.
  • help clean Mom’s basement and the American Pickerness of it brings about these books I had to bring home from my childhood:books from moms
  • husband brings child twenty minutes away for doctor’s appointment that apparently never existed.
  • Husband returns and plays four square with my husband, kids, elementary school kids and another awesome mom for hours. Was delightful. New rules include Spearing: when one person stands on the outside of the square and just throws sharp shit through it.

WEDNESDAY

  • awesome four square mom friend feels bad about my fake jobs. Brings me lemon soap I will not buy for myself as consolation prize as I wait for Sam outside school after play practice. Beautiful thing.

THURSDAY

  • WINDSTORM OUT OF NOWHERE. Lose power. I may or may not have told you that we lost power overnight last month too. We spent half the night sleeping on the porch in a tent because it was so hot in the house–until the rain began. This is another story for another time. See also: cops are called on me by the crossing guard about my inspection sticker. Vicious fever. Week of book fair. THIS TIME it was cold. I carry lizards in all my pockets and against my body for warmth.

FRIDAY

  • Power will apparently be out until SATURDAY NIGHT AT 8:00. I cannot even. Get kids off to school and go to a friend’s house a few streets over. Carrying with me: 1 laptop, 1 Jango Fett costume for Sam later that night for school Halloween Howl which I will be setting up, unshowered and disoriented from lack of routine, 1 chuckwalla lizard, 1 heat lamp.
  • driving to said friend’s house (a fellow Hedge school  mom), my car’s brakes go. I roll up in front of ANOTHER Hedge school mom’s house and text her that my car is there but I am not.
  • THAT Hedge mom comes to the first mom’s house to help determine my next course of action because Hedge moms be like that. I go to her house with her down the street to meet AAA and have them tow the car to my house .3 miles away. (note: as soon as I stepped out the door a moth flew INTO my mouth. Hilarity ensues. Just not for me.)
  • While Pete Davidson the tow truck driver is with me, first mom texts me that Gila has gotten out of his cage:gila at cory's
  • Gila is returned to cage. Displeasure occurs. gila imprisoned at cory's
  • Almost time to pick up all of our kids, and stay at school to set up for the Halloween Howl. Put together a bunch of bags of treats with second mom for bake sale within.
  • Set up tons of decorations with a bunch of kids for this killer party at the school along with a bake sale and craft room and I am still unshowered and disoriented. Get ride home for about 20 minutes to eat cold pizza in impending darkness but SURPRISE! WE HAVE POWER! It was only almost 2 days.
  • Because why stop now, back to Halloween Howl for all the fun ever. Dance party with Jango Fett and a bunch of hilarious children and with pizza and cake. Unfiltered, unshowered proof: howl
  • Get home, cannot find the car key from the tow truck driver. Must call because at one point I said to Pete Davidson in face and demeanor to “leave it in the igniton” and he thought I said “throw it in the ocean” which is literally on the way to my house at the end of my street. True fear. But alas, it was under the seat.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I Can Have As Many Halloween Posts As I Want

TODAY’S BREW: less than I’d like because apparently my blood pressure rises with caffeine. Like the sun does.

By Julie 

HALLOWEEN APPROACHES and I couldn’t very well call myself Pretty Scary Author if I wasn’t totally immersed in it. Obvs it evolved from running short story showcases every October and wanting to celebrate Women In Horror month but never getting around to it to all the kiddo fun–but god I am still such a creep, and I try to PG-13 myself down so I don’t become a total freak in my kids’ eyes. Though, my kids are pretty weird too. LOOK, Samuel as Eleven last year and Benny as Dustin in the Ghostbusters costume!

Halloween 2018

For now I still get to trick or treat and go to all the family Halloween things and pumpkin picking–which I’ll probably always do. LOOK, WE FOUND A CONJOINED TWIN PUMPKIN:

Though I really want to call it a bubble-blowing double baby reminiscent of SpongeBob.

The place I’m super dying to go to for Halloween as a dream date (hope you’re paying attention, Tim), that I just discovered yesterday is Ravenwood Haunted Farm.

Image may contain: 1 person, text

It’s everything my heart desires. It’s worthy of wearing my orange tutu…to.

My scary read right now is the SHADOW HOUSE series by Dan Poblocki. Fun on their own, not to mention with covers that I adore, but the app makes it soooooo worth it. Haunted house plus scary orphans and pictures a la MISS PEREGRINE books, like this:

There’s a sigil on these photos that you link to the app:

See the source image

 

and you get to do a choose-your-own-adventure horror story. SUPER FUN. Buy these books. Shadow House

My favorite Halloween decorations this year:

halloween 2019

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halloween2019Ahalloween2019C

Show me some of your favorite decorations, because I know you guys are dying to. Now if you’ll excuse me I have back to back Halloween baking shows to watch.

My Mind is Alive

TODAY’S BREW: What kind of a middle-aged white woman would I be if I didn’t say Pumpkin Spice?

By Julie 

So, what happened was…

I went away from regular stuff. Not in the locked-up sense, I just sort of ignored everything. Not sort of, I did. I ignored the email list, the blog, the FB page, the Twitter to an extent. I wish I could say all the things that happened in the time I’ve been away; truth is there’s too much to write, and not all stuff like my kids are growing up and I hit the wall and life is too short but also just life day in and out. I guess I blacked out on trying to be someone and just was someone for a while there.

There’s a chance my mentals ain’t stable all the time.

Then I of course get this complex that the world is pissed at me for not blogging like a bitch all the time, and then I get this alternate complex that nobody would even care or read this if I never drew attention to it. Stuff gets sad, stuff gets hard, stuff is easy and happy and free-flowing, and it all happens all the time. So far you guys are getting an amazing picture of where I’ve been all this time. OKAY I’LL SAY REAL THINGS NOW in a faux-interview style.

Hey Julie, do you have anything of value to say to people who think you’re a solid writer or are you just drunk?

I am not JUST drunk, I do have things of value to say! You know, I always have this attitude of keep pushing and shit will turn around for you when it comes to writing. It doesn’t always work out for me. I’ve written a bunch of books, tried every manner of publishing and not and agenting and all the happy horseshit that goes with it. It’s constant, yeah. Then I caught this lucky break not too long ago. I found myself suddenly signing on with David Purse at Inked Entertainment pretty much out of nowhere. Long story short, he reached out to me about co-writing a thing, and next thing I knew he was the guy representing THE HARPY primarily (though it’s become more since).

Hey Julie, it’s not even easy to find your books right now. Are you just drunk or where did they go or what huh?

You’re drunk, and we’ve taken down the books for some rebranding and whatnot. Though THE HARPY is going through some big and small changes on its own. HERE’S THE FUN STUFF.

So I signed on with David, right? And then immediately we got television and film interest on THE HARPY. This has happened before. It never went anywhere, it might not again. But the thing that’s different this time is that it keeps getting better. I signed with Audible for THE HARPY and a series of Harpy books not even written yet! Of course, then Audible like, disappeared in a flurry of legal stuff, and I’m still currently poor. But THEN, in a THIS IS NOT YOUR LIFE moment, I got picked up by WME in Hollywood.

Yeah, you heard me.

I have a couple of Hollywood agents, because that’s what happens when you’re a 40-something wife and mom of two and live in a two-bedroom apartment with like, a dozen lizards.

WME is the kind of agency that doesn’t waste their time. So this is real, right? Right? Here’s more about them, and oh my goodness. The WME Story.

So they want books, and fast, so I’m writing like the wind because YOU CAN’T HAVE A TV SERIES WITHOUT A SERIES, FOLKS.

PS, BEST NEWS: I wrote a HARPY sequel! Currently being edited by the aforementioned David Purse, tentatively named H2: EVOLUTION which I thought was just sorta funny at first but then I was like, wait, that sounds badass.

Let me tell you. That book started out as a 1000 word flash fiction piece about a totally unrelated character from Charity Blake, and then 83,000 words later that character is a powerhouse that I can’t get enough of. I can’t wait for YOU all to meet her. Rose Preston. Child prodigy gone wrong. You’ll love her.

In the meantime, I’m just living my best life which includes dwelling in a pit of despair at times. That time was the last couple of days for me. I ran the book fair last week at the elementary school. (For those of you who don’t know, I’m a book fair freak. I stick around that school for over 40 hours three times a year to make sure every kid in this low income school gets a book). In a No Deed Goes Unpunished scenario, the other things that happened to me last week are as follows:

  • crossing guard calls the cops on me because my inspection sticker is bad. Has seen my car minimally twice a day for seven years, claims he didn’t know it was mine, actually stated that because it was unlocked and the sticker was bad that he “had to check it for bombs.” The story about this just rattles my brain.
  • had a fever that sent me to bed in a complete sweatsuit with socks included, covered in quilts in 80 degree weather
  • went without electricity for a night and slept on the porch in a tent with the kids for fun and fresh air. Which was awesome until it rained.

In any case, my books aren’t up for sale right now really but for the few paperbacks still kicking around on Amazon, and bills are hard to pay. So now I’m facing the reality that something awesome could happen tomorrow but when tomorrow comes I might live in a van down by the river. Yet can’t get a “real” job that works with my kids’ needs too and also I have crippling anxiety. My solution is to look for a crap ton of freelancing editing jobs and to write this blog post. Because you guys know me, you guys like me, and the blog is a rare comfort.

And it means I’m building up to something. That things mean stuff. That I have something to say.

I’m back to blogging consistently, I’m committed to it. This is the one thing that has always worked for me, when email became fucking intolerable and signings come and go and books sell and don’t. So YOU GUYS are the ones I hope still listen. Because I plan on saying stuff.

For now I’d like you to watch this video of Taylor Swift after Lasik surgery, and I’ll be back at you guys soon. Give ’em hell out there, readers.

Jimmy Fallon and Taylor Swift

 

 

 

A String of Unrelated Wonderful Things to Make You Feel Good

TODAY’S BREW: Target Coconut, also the name of my new band

By Julie 

The following is a bunch of unrelated things that make me happy and will do the same for you, just to remind you I’m here. Writing books, being Julie. OKAY GO

  • I penned the editing note today, “Don’t be on the receiving end of your own bad attitude.” Take that.
  • I am not ashamed to have cried openly at the Stranger Things 3 trailer. MY OTHER CHILDREN ARE BACK. Stranger Things 3 is all my life needs
  • The YA novel series, Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon is the Twilight I needed without vampires but with actual dead people. Do it, folks. Don’t hold back.
  • I probably don’t need to tell you to see Captain Marvel (which I saw on #InternationalWomensDay and wished every woman I saw there a happy one), but this is the movie that women deserved. And for anyone who says it’s “in-your-face-feminist,” well, YEAH. I ask you to give ten bucks to a woman or girl to see it that might not otherwise. Imagine, ladies, if you’d had a Captain Marvel movie as a kid.
  • The Scholastic Book Fair is nigh! Setup is Friday night, and I have a collection of the most amazing women on the planet that help me do it every single time–three times a year–no matter what else they have happening in their very full lives. Their commitment to literacy, to each other, to me and these kids is what dreams are made of. Also, this tiny school with more children with English as a second language and more children with special needs than any other school, AND the lowest income community with less access to the books in my huge town had truly remarkable results in English language standardized testing last year. SUPER. HEROES.
  • This sled dog:Boo James Frye
  • I have an amazingly solid plan for The Harpy book I’ve been working on, and I’m about halfway through my first draft. And this book opens up a whole world into the Harpyverse that I intend to explore to its every bloody inch. So look forward to that. And buy The Harpy right now.

OKAY I HAVE TO GO. Tell me things about YOU and YOUR LIFE that are wonderful in the comments! Share your joy and be a badass.

 

 

The Language of Fear: a Women in Horror Guest Post with Harli V. Park

TODAY’S BREW: Mocha something from Target

(this part) by Julie 

A self-described squid, this talent-tentacled force somehow manages to cohesively put her work into the world through so many ways, I don’t even know how I can give her justice. Harli’s blog (click here) gives you plenty to dive into, but follow her on Instagram and where I found her, Twitter because she is a veritable whirlwind of art and subconscious brilliance come to life.

harli

The Language of Fear 

By 

Harli V. Park 

The entirety of fiction is based around the Known.

I’m sure its expected that as a horror writer, you think I meant the unknown and that’s just a type. Nope. The known and how we compartmentalize it is something that has and always will be staple in how we as writers create. The best part of being a writer is translating the known with our imaginations into this unique language that transcends perspective. Some of us accomplish this in the fantastical, some in the thrilling, and some in the language of love. Then there are writers like me; those who speak the language of fear, who transform the known into the unknown.

As horror writer, my dialect of fear is almost exclusively psychological often with tones of the sociological. My current manuscript reflects this in the psyche of a little girl – an avatar who has no autonomy and is forced to become something vile in order to obtain it. That premise alone probably resonated with dozens of internalized fears and sent very real chills up spines. That’s what I love. I who speak the language of fear don’t take what you don’t know and try to frighten you with it because the unknown is only a transcendental fear. While it is no less effective, it’s power lasts for only as long as it takes to understand it.  No, to me, the most horrifying scenarios that speak to us on a deeper and decidedly more tangible level are the monsters we know by heart.

I take an extreme amount of joy in being able to portray those monsters for those who may never once have seen them but recognize their shape, recognize their feel which allows them to understand the perspective of someone else who has seen the monster repeatedly. The monsters are ones we’re all haunted by but believe we’re the only ones who see them when, in reality, they just take on different shapes for different eyes.

So why do I choose monsters? Why do I choose horror? Why do I choose to translate the language of fear for human consumption when there is already enough “negativity” in the world at large? Well, why does anyone creative do anything?

Because I’m fluent in the language.

I am African American. I am female. I am nonbinary. I am pansexual. I live with a mental illness called schizoaffective disorder.

When presented with that profile, I believe many can pick out the reasons why the language of fear may as well be my native tongue. The world itself has never been a safe place for me and it became even more intensely dangerous for me as I grew up and discovered more of the person I am and more about the world around me – about people. It is not an overt fear of violence as, while valid, I’ve come to terms with the risk of it since I occupy this planet with other people. No, the greatest fear I’ve faced is invisibility.

The very idea that what I think, what I say, what I desire, and what I personally experience, not only doesn’t matter, but is actively invalidated by not just by those who are hateful, but by those who want to help. This invisibility is such a monster in my life in that it doesn’t allow for connection with my fellow humans and, thus, doesn’t allow for understanding. This fear doesn’t just encapsulate me, but everyone who feels unseen. It’s being told you’re overreacting, its being told you should consider others more than your own issues, its being told that you are paranoid, that you’re simply misunderstanding. This fear doesn’t just apply to me, but it encapsulates everyone who just for moment has their power taken away by the words “Well you’re just…” It’s not a desire to be special but to simply be considered. Invisibility is a fear known to all and its monster is ever shifting before the eyes of those it clutches, and in effort to be heard, we pretend the monster doesn’t exist. In effect, we slowly become invisible to ourselves.

So being so fluent in the language of fear – my everyday a plethora of subtle shadows in my peripheral – I seek to use it to tell stories that have meaning in a way that touch a much baser level than just allegorical retellings of the now and things that only one group of people can truly understand. I write horror and monsters because we all know them. We all know what they cause. How they shape us… and how they save us.

While being confronted with monsters – with something horrifying, we come to realize that we are not the only ones. That the monsters are real for someone else just like it is to you. In that moment, we who fear are no longer invisible. In my opinion, fear defines what we love and knowing that fear is shared and understood, allows for us to take the risk of sharing what is loved and conquering the monsters together. So I write horror. So, I write monsters. I speak the language of fear and I wait for someone to speak back, so that they know that someone sees them.

Why Being a Woman in Horror is a Triumph

TODAY’S BREW: Butter Rum from Target, one of my favorites. (If you have not had Target coffee, well let me just tell you.)

By Julie 

IT’S FEBRURARY, has been for 16 days, and once again I’m ashamed to do this:

“CRAP, IT’S WOMEN IN HORROR MONTH!”

Every year I want to do a GIANT THING for Women in Horror Month and every year I don’t get to it. And isn’t that just a metaphor for women in horror right there? We may be thought of as horror authors but the feat of being a woman in the horror genre isn’t celebrated widely, and at worst we might be considered kind of a pity pick in the Boys’ Club.

But the reason Women in Horror Month gets neglected by ME of all people every year is because of the same reason why women in horror all over the world are viewed as secondary in the genre:

Because we’re women first.

Women who are mothers with so many hats to wear that are all of equal importance that we need more heads to put them on.

We constantly hear about self-care because women forget all the time to take care of themselves, as busy as we are taking care of everyone else. *cue eyeroll by a bunch of men, YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE* *and even if there is no eyeroll WE FEEL LIKE IT. We feel like we should be able to handle all of it and that we’re just bitching*

The AMAZING thing about women in horror to me is that we switch gears every second of the day. Every day I go from being kick some frigging ass mental health advocate for both my children, one with anxiety and the other with bipolar disorder and OCD, to doing the family’s laundry, taking care of all my lizards, taking care of my mom who’s alone now, doing the food shopping, the Other Stuff shopping, all three meals, picking the youngest up at school every day, running to therapists’ appointments 4 times a week sometimes, doing homework with two kids who have disorders, running the book fair, teacher conferences, going to the park, spending family time (which I feel the need to make A MAJOR EVENT every day), handling the oddly frequent flat tires and other car issues which had me driving my husband to and from work every day for weeks, running the school store, editing for clients…. The list is neverending and gets switched up all damn day.

Then I sit down after being Mom of the Year and LET’S WRITE ABOUT VISCERA AND THE MOST VILE OF HUMANITY AND MONSTERS AND EVIL.

How does a person just get into that headspace after a day like this? Or more often, DURING the day. I’m usually answering math questions (not my forte), and watching over some thing I’m burning in the oven as I write.

Then let’s talk about promoting my work and the utter failure that is because I just plain don’t have time.

EVERY WOMAN IN HORROR HAS A VARIATION OF THIS. EVERY WOMAN HAS A VARIATION OF THIS.

I shame myself a bit right now, because in my head I’m saying, Well, men have things to do too, and Switching gears and being the world’s greatest caretaker then turning around to be the most gruesome and disturbing imagination the horror community has ever seen is like, not that big of a deal. And I think to myself how I’ve never been treated as a girl in the Boys’ Club, and how being a woman in horror is no different than being a man in horror. I tend to undercut that I have difficulties to overcome because of my gender in this profession. But it’s not true. I do have difficulties that I don’t recognize, that I brush over, that I don’t hear about. And as a strong woman, I’m the one who could have a leg sawed off and say, “I was looking for a way to lose weight and THERE IT IS.”

Put-a-Smile-on-Your-Face-While-You-Nurture-the-World-and-Handle-More-Emotional-Burden-Than-Anyone-Ever-Should-and-Be-Pretty-While-You-Do-It-But-We’ll-Still-Call-You-Fragile-Because-Your-Muscles-Aren’t-Visibly-Monstrous is a mantle women have had to hold for, well, ever. To be groomed into this be pretty and shut up vision that we have seems to by nature work against writing horror. Blood, guts, perversion, disturbing and provocative terror that undercuts the most base moral ground doesn’t really coincide with this:

fifties housewife

To think that this woman might ever have say, cannibalism and zombies on the brain seems implausible. But hell, we came from somewhere, didn’t we?

These days you’ll find me just as often helping a PTA bake sale (and still feeling guilty I don’t do more for them) as I am reading something blood-curdling. The interesting thing about it is that–get ready for it–

WOMEN ARE MORE THAN ONE THING.

We’re capable of being powerful and the best at everything we want to do, especially the things society doesn’t think we can do. I think every woman has a rebel streak somewhere that wants to just goddamn show everyone that she’s a war goddess as she shops at Market Basket. It’s that struggle young mothers have where they lose themselves in being just Mommy. It’s the struggle of the woman who wants to be the perfect wife but has a dark side that shames her. It’s the struggle of the woman who doesn’t think the same way as the other parents at the playground. It’s the struggle of the woman who’ll be the trophy wife regardless of her capabilities. We’re fighters, every one of us. The women who write horror take that struggle and smash it onto paper and smile with a mouthful of teeth at any man who dares to question it.

Write what scares you. Be the monster you want to see. Read horror written by women.

The Harpy, by Julie Hutchings

Article 94

Charity Blake survived a nightmare. Now she is one. Punk-rock runaway Charity Blake becomes a Harpy at night—a treacherous mythical monster who preys upon men just like the ones who abused her. Struggling through an endless stream of crappy coffee shop jobs, revolted stares, and self-isolation during the day, Charity longs to turn into the beast at night. Doing the right thing in all the wrong ways suits her. But a Harpy’s life belongs in Hell—the gruesome Wood of Suicides, where the Harpy queen offers Charity just what she’s looking for: a home where she can reign supreme and leave behind the agony of her past. The choice to stay in Hell would be easy, were it not for a rock-and-roll neighbor who loves her for the woman she is—even when he discovers the creature she becomes—and unexpected new friends with their own deranged pasts and desires who see Charity…

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In Which I Make an Exciting Declaration

TODAY’S BREW: Gingerbread because winter is at the tail end it feels but then snow happened and where even am I.

By Julie 

This post is random HARPY happiness because of the books I’ve put into the world, this one brings me nothing but constant joy and positivity and has been received so well that I can’t stop talking in run-on sentences.

The latest happiness is THIS ONE: The Midnight Society’s Great Horror Book Alert

The reviewer, Kathy Palm, will fill your book world and Twitter feed with joy as she does mine.

The mythology of the harpies spans Greek and Roman mythology through the Middle Ages, into present-day anime, and I had to get my hands dirty with it, too. Honestly, one of the best Wikipedia entries ever is on harpies. The thing spans their entire histories, it’s awesome. Go read it and you’ll see my headspace. Harpy Wikipedia

DISJOINTED RANDOM HARPY INSPIRATION, GO!

Yup. That's the new love interest.
Look, it’s Evan Hale!
The Harpy takes a little life into her heart, and buys a pink canary.
Keegan! The canary and birdcage theme…it ran away with me and I loved writing it.
Kesha- Animal+ Cannibal. I LOVE THIS COVER. 2 sides of her, neither one more "good" than the other. THIS is the Harpy to the core.
This Kesha album cover hit home with how I feel about Charity–both sides of her are vicious, and both beautiful. 

In This Moment: Adrenalize. The perfect Charity Blake song.

this artwork feels EXACTLY like the Harpyverse to me. The clear pain, neverending discomfort, the caged bird, the darkness in those eyes and what they’ve seen, and yet a beauty under it all of her experience and uniqueness.
Red Autumn Wonderland 8x10 Photograph by Boshena on Etsy
this image that inspired part of THE HARPY cover art. 
deviantart blood zodiac harpy
by Vasylina, on Deviantart

This amazing artwork you can find on my HARPY Pinterest board worked in my brain with a Harpy battle scene that I won’t spoil but you might figure out if you read the book. The Harpies here don’t look like the ones in that scene, but the beasts in my Harpyverse don’t all look the same, are as varied as their pasts. AND LO AND BEHOLD, THERE YOU HAVE IT.

THERE WILL BE MORE HARPY BOOKS.

A WHOLE GODDAMN HARPYVERSE.

SAY IT WITH ME: HARPYVERSE. HARP.EEE.VUUUURRSSS. 

Got some stuff written already. Some stuff you might see SOON. So keep watching this spot and maybe you’ll get it. In the meantime, grab your copy of THE HARPY and make it your world now.

 

harpy cover
Charity Blake survived a nightmare. Now she is one. 

CLICK HERE to get THE HARPY on Amazon

 

 

 

 

On Being Unavailable

TODAY’S BREW: As much as I can before the cream runs out

By Julie 

My last blog was about resolutions and crap, and this one is also like that but different.

The last blog proclaimed how my focus is all over the place at the beginning of the year. Possibilities everywhere, chasing down opportunities like the rabid dogs they are and wrestling them to the ground until you too are rabid and like an apocalypse zombie all you can think of is this thing you’ve forced yourself to do and now you’re in it so deep there’s no way out but there’s all this other stuff to do too and wait where did life go?

I’ve spent the last 18 days thinking a LOT about this approach I seem to take every year, and I realized it’s not an approach–it’s a FEAR.

Yup. Doing stuff out of fear.

Fear of being judged for not doing enough.

Fear of MISSING SOMETHING like a kid who won’t go to bed before midnight.

Fear of regrets.

That’s not an approach at all. That’s a defense mechanism. An approach is a plan. It’s a defining of priorities. And that means narrowing down all the things one does. That I do.

This is widely interpreted as “saying no.” I can’t be the only one who hears all the time that it’s okay to say no, to not do EVERYTHING. But it’s one of my core values, one of our very few house rules TO HELP PEOPLE THAT NEED HELP. I can help in a lot of ways. I can do a lot of good! I can make a big difference doing small things all day long! It’s easy to take helping too far, clearly. So I coined a new phrase, because saying NO has such a negative connotation in my head, and I’ve worked my tail off eliminating as much negativity in my life as possible. My new plan?

MAKE MYSELF UNAVAILABLE 

man with fireworks
Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Pexels.com

YEAH!

I need, for my mental health and self care and for me to REALLY help when help is needed, to not make myself constantly available. By trying everything, doing as much as I can, working hard at working hard, I’ve not prioritized myself. How do I know this? Not just FEEL this, but KNOW it? Two things:

  1. “Self care” is NOT running from an overwhelming sense of purpose down the craft store aisles. Self care should not be running from anything. That’s the opposite of care, that is escaping. I don’t want to escape the things I commit to doing, whether that be a play date, writing a book, whatever it is that’s got me needing QUIET at the time that I find myself driving to Michael’s. (Where lo and behold I THEN find myself buying stuff that contributes to all the THINGS that I do.)
  2. I–me, who loves and does so many things, that has such INTEREST in the world–could not REALLY claim that I enjoyed a hobby.

That second one was where it hit me.

My definition of a hobby (n): guiltless enjoyment of thing for oneself only. an ongoing love one is invested in for themselves and themselves alone.

I love to read, naturally. Not a hobby. Essential to my life and to my profession.

I love going to Target. Not a hobby. A necessity for STUFF, but also a coping mechanism, i.e. an escape (see above about the craft store).

I love watching movies. Not a hobby. Rarely see one just because I want to see it regardless of whether or not anyone else does. Also necessary for my professional inspiration and one of my favorite family activities–movie night. Which I prepare for…for the family.

Here’s a kick in the pants: I love being with my family. Nine out of ten times, my choice is to hang with my husband and kids.

FAMILY IS NOT A HOBBY.

So in realizing all this stuff, the other day I didn’t fill my two hour window of no obligations with writing, cleaning, editing, doing all the things I can be doing. I bought a movie I’d wanted to see–mother! which turned out to be wildly in-depth and brain-stimulating. I watched it alone without fear of being interrupted and with no judgment. No obligation to do nothing during the duller parts either. When it was slow I researched reptile stuff. Now THAT’S a hobby! I told myself. I love love love reptiles, adore my pets, love making their lives better and keeping them happy. They aren’t necessary in my life, obviously, but I would be miserable without them. And they aren’t for anyone else but me. Researching stuff on them and not guilting myself about needing to do something else felt really good. Fulfilling. Not the same as falling into a Wiki hole. It was good for me.

I’d misunderstood leading a fulfilling and full life with making myself a priority. Or maybe I’ve reached a new phase of living. Because I coined another phrase that I’m especially psyched out of my mind about:

MENTAL HEALTH IS NO LONGER ABOUT STAYING ALIVE.

IT’S ABOUT BREATHING LIFE.

albert_einstein_quotes2

I think I’m in the phase of not just trying to keep myself stable and healthy but wanting to grow that health and enrich and indulge. Hell, try something new if I feel like it–hopefully I’ll feel alive enough to want to try new things, learn something new.

Now I talk a little about priorities.

I have this planner pad that has a section for “today’s priorities.” Now I take offense to it.

A priority isn’t something that changes by the day. It’s a constant value, something important all the time, that drives the To Do and the Why. Important stuff to do every day can change, that’s a thing that has to be altered all the time. But the priority, the driving force? No.

The other night my 11 year old had a three hour long panic attack. A real live panic attack. Everything else in the world stopped, and I spent yesterday contacting everyone in the mental health profession I could find to ensure I got him an appointment to see about medication. (Discussed in-depth with his therapist, of course.) All the other things that I HAD to do got put down without question. Because those other things might be important, but Bennett is the priority.

The priority gets top billing. The priority gets as much time as it requires. The priority is the driving force and sometimes it needs be in the passenger seat and let someone else drive.

Things to do are not as important as the priority. Nothing else matters without that priority.

It wasn’t just about changing a schedule, it was eliminating things that will prevent me from giving all the attention to his needs AND give me sufficient time and energy to take care of MYSELF from the agenda. Refusing an editing job takes a lot off my to-do list and gives me more time to allot to the priority. Why spend a lot of time on stuff if it detracts from the priority, the reason? The things I do have to be driven BY that thing. I write because of me, because of my family, because it being a hobby wasn’t enough. I spend all the time with Scholastic that I do because it contributes to my heart and mind and it puts me where the priorities are in a meaningful, outstanding way for them. Those are cohesive priorities–writing and my family and literacy.

The important stuff–editing in this case–is still important, but it’s not crucial right now.

Being unavailable to do things for a person because I want to rest up–not need to, but want to–so that I’m not drained and can take care of my family… helping is important, but it’s not the priority. It’s a value but it’s not the number one thing. Bennett is. If staying home for the four hours I’d spend helping out someone else will help me plan for and be on A game for Bennett in his time of need, recovering from and handling his anxiety flare-up, then it’s a four hour rest that was well worth it.

And at the end of the day, I might just have a little energy for myself.

You can’t take care of everyone. But you can take care of the ones that matter really well, with the ability to give extra for everyone else, by prioritizing. Being unavailable for EVERYTHING so you can do SOME THINGS really well and remind yourself what’s important. What’s MOST important.

I guess that’s what it means when they say you can’t take care of anyone else if you’re not taking care of yourself, right?

So now. Go take care of yourself. Keep one tab open at a time. Shut off your notifications when you’re driving and at bedtime. Those EMERGENCIES we all lay in wait for in the middle of the night or on the drive home are rare. Give yourself the peace of mind to be unavailable to come to everyone’s aid all the time. Be a priority and you’ll feel like one.