TODAY’S BREW: Chocolate something or other by New England Coffee
Truthfully I’ll be drinking as much coffee as humanly possible today without floating away, seeing as I jumped up from an unintended nap exclaiming, “The kids went to school but I didn’t! What did I do?!”
Aaaaand so begins my battle/race to wake up once a week or so, where I wonder all day did I drink enough water? did I drink not enough coffee? what have I eaten? is this hormones? until I eventually just go to bed and start over.
ANYYYYHOOO, what I’m writing this post about today is the joke, “hahahaha I was just being lazy.”
Fuck this joke.
This post means a lot to me because it’s a realization that I’ve never ever ever had before in any sense. I dive into everything with 110% of my being. I can’t do anything halfway and I never know when to quit. It’s not always an endearing feature. I will beat a dead horse until I am dead and horses all wish they were dead too. The entire equine community will fear my name. And I’ll cry in my grave for not having stripped and eaten the horse because it left some shred of opportunity that I didn’t take advantage of.
So when I dove into indie publishing, it was hard and fast. I tried to do everything right off the bat even when I didn’t entirely understand the market, didn’t understand what success would look like… There is SO MUCH involved, it’s wild. So many intricacies, so much knowledge that only experience can bring, organizing of typographer/cover artist/proofreader/formatter team, constant speed requirements that frankly, I couldn’t fulfill.
Even now, it pains me to say that I couldn’t do it.
Will I be able to do it? Sure. But I couldn’t then.
I was not capable of putting out 5 books last year like I planned, while writing short stories monthly to post on Instafreebie (LOVE Instafreebie), edit for clients, promote my books, search out venues to promote the books, blog, emails… Just learning how to physically do all that, building all that stuff is a challenge for me. I am not good at tech things. I may love robots, but I am not one. I can barely live without Cortana and I’m proud that I know what Cortana is. Then throw in all my life stuff.
Everyone has life stuff. I have more life stuff than anyone. THERE, I SAID IT. I WILL NOT DOWNPLAY HOW MUCH I DO. Here’s a brief, and I mean basic list of stuff I’ve done in the past couple of months.
- had a hysterectomy. recovered FAST.
- ran a weekly writing workshop at the elementary school starting 4 days later.
- launched THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS 2 weeks later
- OWNED Halloween, complete with costume, trick or treating twice in one day, ending with a party. Two weeks after surgery.
- edited 5 books for clients
- OWNED Christmas like nobody ever has.
- immediately planned the world’s largest birthday celebration for Bennett.
- worked at the holiday shop at school
- mommed a child with multiple disorders, who has excelled in school and grown exponentially in an emotional sense while struggling with BPD.
- mommed a child who gets multiple awards at all times and had a piece in the Plymouth Center for the Arts show last month and is generally amazing.
- attempted wifery. It is as much as an achievement as it is a crime the way I do it.
- renovated my entire kitchen. MYSELF.
- planned, staffed, worked 40+ hours of a week-long book fair that produced thousands for underprivileged kids. So, there’s that.
- lost my 16yo puppy
- continued to do all the shopping, quality time, cleaning, Ambassador of Fun in my House projects and outings, constant presence at school, reptile caring, family stuff, multiple therapy and doctor’s appointments for Sam and I, and then just basic life stuff.
This is the past few months.
Is it a big surprise that I didn’t have the passion to write? That even though I felt physically better than ever after my surgery that I just didn’t feel like writing? That it didn’t have the feeling of fulfillment it once did? And of course, the longer I went without doing it, the harder it became to do.
And you know, after surgery it felt AMAZING to physically be up to doing the things my brain and heart always used to be able to handle. And I enjoyed just being me without hurting and being tired. It’s wonderful to enjoy my life, my family, my home. And my kitchen, which I renovated in A MONTH, by myself (oh yeah, that gets its own post), is such a hub for the family now that I am enjoying just doing dishes, and sweeping, and doing kitchen stuff. Goddamn, it feels good to have a clean home, a thing that suffers when doing everything in the world also.
It feels good to just live life. Without expectations of ACHIEVING EVERYTHING.
So the other day, I started coming to terms with it. I’m not failing by not writing consistently right now. It occurred to me that burnout doesn’t just happen after a marathon of doing stuff then you need a day to recupe… That is called a DAY OFF. Not the same thing. Burnout can mean doing too much forever and then just stopping.
And I tried to force myself to write, and it burned me to have to try so hard. It gave me so many FEELINGS that I wasn’t ready to handle. I don’t know if I’ll ever handle the feelings well, but hey, that’s what makes a good writer. I learned that the world wouldn’t end if I took not just a day to never look at my planner, but if I took MONTHS and disappeared. The amount of work to build everything back up is pretty monumental, but hey. Any months-long vacation will produce that. Doesn’t make the vacation not worth it.
Now that I started to feel better, to feel ready, I’ve been saying, “Yeah, I’ve stopped being lazy.”
I HAVE NEVER BEEN LAZY. Taking a break for as long as I need is not laziness.
Also? And I hadn’t intended on exploring this here, but hey, that’s how a story goes, my entire EVERYTHING doesn’t work the way the rest of the world works. I have absolute panic over keeping a schedule. The idea of having to work at a certain time for a certain amount of time, of fitting into that slot literally gives me continual nightmares. My stomach is clenched right now thinking of that lack of flexibility. It terrifies me. Debilitatingly so. I regularly talk with my therapist about the absolute terror I feel at the prospect of ever working a job where I have to check in and be there when the rest of my life is happening around me. Christ, I’m choking up. THIS PART OF THE POST IS NOW OVER.
But laziness is not taking a break. Laziness is saying it’s easier not to.
I looked at my planner going back a year, and I swear, it made me dizzy. That’s not living, that’s overcompensating for a fear of being lazy. I never want to not contribute, and the thought of sitting on my ass while my husband busts his kills me. But laziness is not the same as taking a break. Resting is not the same as screwing off. Enjoying life and not just being determined to live it are not the same things. Achievement and surviving are different.
And so, I dive back in. I do it without constant goals and without setting myself up to fail and without letting what everyone else thinks define my success. That new kitchen? Success. Writing books that make me dozens of dollars instead of thousands right away but that MATTER to people? Success. Being here for my family when they need it in every way, when I need it? Success.
What I haven’t needed was writing books. Not right now.
That doesn’t make me not a writer.
And it sure as hell doesn’t make me lazy.
One thing that isn’t easier to not do, is live. Be spontaneous, stop and smell the roses, say no, say yes, do all the stuff that I like, that enriches me. Which is what writing once was for me, and will be again. Does that make me a hobbyist? Maybe. For now. But I don’t have to be only one thing. And I sure as hell don’t have to be everything at once.
TODAY’S BREW: Target Brand Hazelnut For Fancee Folks
It’s been hard, but even though I’m busy busy busy, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little afraid of writing this book, CRAWLING BACK, the last of the Shinigami vampire trilogy. So I’ve been putting it off. There’s no other excuse. I’ve been hiding from it.
The trouble with hiding from your own words is they’re in your head, and unless you have a lobotomy, the suckers gotta come out. Not to mention I get constant questions about where the hell this book is, and I owe my readers that. I owe it to myself. Time to face the reaper.
This book actually got an OUTLINE. Unprecedented. I never outline my books. I’ve tried, and then it just fizzles away, like so many coffee grounds down the sink. (Don’t tell my landlord.) But this series isn’t just close to my heart, it’s right in there, right in the veins, the first characters I ever really wrote, and they’re me in so many respects… Trying to tie up my own story in a sense is scary as a mutha. And like all hard things, sometimes you just sorta pretend they’ll happen all on their own and then you can take credit for them.
No, I’m finding out.
And now the words are flowing, I’m working through the scary parts inside where I’m supposed to, and I have clear direction so I cover all of the bits and pieces that want to flay me alive. It’s got me deep, this book. It reminds me of when I first began writing RUNNING HOME, when I was post-partum and exhausted and crazed and in love and overjoyed and terrified and feeling things I never knew I could. I was alone and never alone, those first 8 weeks after having my first baby, and raw in all the best ways. And Eliza and Nicholas and Roman and the rest of them came to life out of that surreal time, and they never went away. They didn’t go away after working all day, or when the baby and Tim went to sleep. I wrote in every spare second, all by hand, no end in sight, just getting it all out and reveling in it.
CRAWLING BACK is like that but more honed, scarier because I know what’s at stake, fighting to come out and stay inside all at once. I feel like the book is attached to me, a conjoined twin. I’m not sure which of us is the ugly one at this point.
I love this feeling. It’s morbid in every way, but I do, I love it. It’s a poetic state to be in, and along with that there FEELINGS and leftover words that don’t fit anywhere, but want to be heard. I can blog here, and it is intimate and friendly and safe…but that isn’t what I need. I can’t be safe with this story or the residue it leaves behind. Then I discovered Tiny Letters, and it felt perfect for those of you who like to be along for the ride with my craziness and want to get closer. For those of you who’ve lost yourselves in RUNNING HOME, and don’t quite want to get away from it. Tiny Letters is where I’ll be putting the more intimate thoughts and emotions that have no other place, and I really hope it feels like you’re right next to me writing this book, screaming and crying with me. It’s where I’ll be dropping the sunny bright Julie you see on Twitter or the funny Julie you get on Facebook, and the thoughtful Julie you get here. Tiny Letters will be the falling apart Julie, and the consumed Julie. Those letters will be the kind I wince before sending. The very first one I’ve composed scares me. It’s more stream of consciousness and vulnerable than anything I’ve put out publicly. It’s what I need to do.
Tiny Letters is where I see myself going for release.
If this doesn’t feel entirely self-absorbed and pretentious, which I assure you, it is, subscribe to it. I’ll make a fool of myself probably, and I want my die-hards there with me, to get this inside scoop. I want the ones who read these letters to be the people that hug me without a word when we meet. So, before I delete this draft right here and delete Tiny Letters from my world before it ever begins, I’m pressing publish, and hoping this endears me to you more than deters you. But hell, I’ve never been for everyone.
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TODAY’S BREW: As much as I can get my hands on. I’m remodeling the kitchen.
This post is not about me remodeling the kitchen.
This is about sexual misconduct and my damn opinions.
Everyone has opinions on the big ones: Weinstein, Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, for starters. This is my opinion on James Franco and Scarlett Johanssen, both of whom I like very much. Long story short, James Franco claims to be a proponent of #TimesUp, and yet he himself is accused of sexual misconduct by 5 women. Scarlett has spoken very clearly against Franco’s hypocritical behavior.
And it is hypocritical.
When asked about Woody Allen’s sexual abuse of his adopted daughter, “It would be ridiculous for me to make any kind of assumption one way or the other,” Johansson said. She’s worked on 3 of Allen’s films, and said this in 2014, the same year Allen was accused by Dylan Farrow. Fellow co-star, Rebecca Hall, was offended by Johanssen’s attitude, and she gave her own wage to Time’s Up after working with Allen. She was not alone in Hollywood in condemning Johanssen’s view.
This post isn’t about accusing anyone, whether it be Franco for his clearly inappropriate behavior (and let’s be honest, I like Franco a lot, but even I get the sense he’d be looking down my shirt if I talked to him), or Scarlett for not being supportive of accusations and then being a champion for the cause.
We are all hypocrites, people. All of us.
We have all looked back and said, “something was wrong,” in one way or another. We have all slut-shamed or been slut-shamed and gone to sleep that night and continued life the next day. We’ve all had a friend or knew of a friend that had trouble at home. We’ve all loved movies like Teen Wolf, when re-watched now, shows homophobia really clearly. We’ve all said bitch, we’ve all heard jokes about strippers and prostitutes, we’ve all watched Pretty Woman. We’ve all seen women get stared at, we’ve all heard “locker room talk,” we’ve all seen sexist commercials and not written to authorities. We’ve all not taken action when we could have. We’ve all judged. WE HAVE ALL JUDGED SOMEONE, OR TURNED THE OTHER WAY.
We’ve all not listened.
It’s not okay, it’s wrong.
More wrong? (wronger? most wrongly?) is condemning people for trying to become better.
Was James Franco a dirtbag? Probably. How about Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, and did anyone else see the clip of Jason Momoa saying it was great that he “got to rape beautiful women” on Game of Thrones? YEAH, YOU ALL LOVE THAT SHOW. I’VE HEARD YOU TALK ABOUT IT. AND EVERY DIPSHIT IN THAT BIG CONFERENCE ROOM LAUGHED HYSTERICALLY. I DIDN’T HEAR OF ANY APOLOGIES FROM THOSE JACKASSES.
How many people still saw Justice League after that?
Franco is attempting to be better, if you ask me (and by reading this, you have asked me.) Momoa later apologizing for saying something so nonchalantly when you know he doesn’t feel sorry is not the same thing. Johanssen feeling unable to give an opinion in support of a victim then later having the balls to speak out against Franco (whether you infer “having the balls” as a good or bad thing, I think it’s both), what bullshit.
We’re all hypocrites.
I’ve said things I look back on and cringe at. I’ve also been the woman that feels eyes from both men and women, been catcalled, and been assaulted. I’ve said, “I should have known.” Do I consistently work harder? Do I apologize? Do I teach my children to be better than the world was, than the things I lived and learned growing up? Do I speak out and speak up? I do. Did I always? I didn’t.
If you claim to be enlightened, you had to have been part of the dark at one time.
If you don’t admit to having room to grow, you won’t.
If you aren’t willing to change, you’re blind.
So that’s all the stuff I want to say right now, okay bye, and women, LGBTQ community, victims, supporters, I am with you.
TODAY’S BREW: Dunkins Peppermint Mocha made in my warm kitchen
We’ve had a couple of (fantastic) snow days, during the bomb cyclone, or cyclone bomb, or “Cyclone Bob” as I typo’d one day. THIS IS MY ANNOUNCEMENT OF MY LATEST NOVEL IN PROGRESS, CYCLONE BOB DOES PLYMOUTH.
No, no, what this is really about is how I’m doing what I learned I wanted to do this year. I’m writing that third vampire book I’ve long since promised everyone, (despite having yet to get the second one on shelves, but hey, this stuff costs money), and I’m doing it the way I want to.
By enjoying it.
It’s only been a couple of days, but I’ve slowed down, not striving for a specific word count daily yet, not killing myself over deadlines, but taking time to–now, hear me out–PLAN.
Despite it being the end of many stories I’ve written in the Shinigami world, I’m doing writing activities to prepare for it properly that are for first novels. (currently using Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass.) Because you know what? Every novel is a launch novel. Every one is a breakthrough. And this ending of the trilogy will not be “the wind-down,” or the gentle easing off the mountaintop. I want it to be the fall off the mountaintop that we all fear.
I won’t lose fear in this book, just because I’m used to the world, or because it’s the end. I want my readers to be afraid, not necessarily just in the classical sense, but I want them to be afraid of what the hell will they do now? How the hell does she redeem herself now? What in holy Christ is happening, this is supposed to be our happy ending! That’s the element I want. Pretty goddamn sure I’m getting it, too.
Where every other minute of my life I’ve always strived to maximize my efficiency and getting the words out. I even had myself a 1000 Word a Day Diet that I stuck to super-closely. If I wrote 1000 words a day I’d get a book in two months and I wouldn’t get annoyed or burnt out with the story daily.
Well, I want more than not burnt out. I want to thrive on writing, like I’ve always dreamed. So that’s what we’re doing.
This doesn’t mean you’ll all be waiting while I smell the flowers or push up daisies or what have you, writing a sentence here and there and patting myself on the back with accomplishment prizes or anything. Once planning is complete, or as close to not-pantsing as I’ll ever get in writing, I’m on double-time. I will immerse myself in this book like I did when I first started writing this series, in a notebook on break, or at midnight after a long day of panty peddling. I want to spend my time waiting for the next time I can add to it. That’s what you deserve as my readers. That’s what I deserve as someone who’s realized their dream.
So, take it easy, folks. Enjoy your snow days. Let the deep freeze settle into your bones until you’re near extinction, then drag yourself out for another cup of coffee in the slightly colder kitchen, and remember that life is about enjoyment, and all your hard work has to come to a series of I made it moments, where you get to smile and chill out, and know that this is what you were meant to do.
No? Just me then?
Of course, Credit Karma may not agree that I’ve reached a sweet spot yet, though they did take the time to wish me a happy new year and point out that my credit is poor. Thanks, guys! But sometimes? Um, screw it. I’m working on it, and I have a philosophy, and a lack of a five year plan, and I’m giving my family a fantastic life and a fantastic vision that doesn’t always depend on working as hard and fast as you can to make a buck. And that too, will one day reach the I made it moment. Success is a journey, not a destination, and I plan to enjoy every moment of it in 2018.
TODAY’S BREW: “Regifted Brew,” which is an actual thing I got at Big Lots.
(the biggest of lots, the greatest of lots, the lots that’s gots more than any other lots gots)
HI. I fall off the planet all the time, and like all bloggers and writers and people, it seems, I always apologize for it, like I have to SHOW UP TO LIFE or something. Even now I want to give a reason why I don’t blog on a regular schedule, or make excuses about why my social media presence has been spotty at best, or even why I’m not writing consistently.
But I don’t have to do that.
You don’t owe someone your presence. Presence by its very nature requires that you ignore all the other things considered a constant presence. Like Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr and blogging and emailing (non-urgent), and all that garbage that does indeed serve a purpose, but makes us servants to it.
Presence is living your life, the thing that fulfills you so that those other “presences” are not a responsibility or time owed.
There’s a term, “shadow of a leader.” Means that the culture is that of the leader. Means when that the team (in this case, my readers and followers and friends, people I affect), feel the leader’s influence even when the leader is looking the other way. A sort of “what would Julie do” overall feeling.
Now, I am an egotistical bastard, but even I know the world doesn’t usually think “what would Julie do,” but I work at being an inspiration, a motivator, through my words, my books, my actions. So yeah, it matters to me that people look to me as a guide. That’s what a leader is–someone who cares how their people live. And you guys are my people. And I am a leader.
A good leader isn’t always on A game. Because people aren’t always on A game. (or else A game would just be “the game” and LIFE ISN’T A FUCKING GAME, PEOPLE.) A good leader reflects the team just as much as the team is influenced by the leader. They learn from each other. They take care of each other. A family. A human goddamn family.
So in this last period of falling off the planet, it wasn’t because of anything, as much as I feel like I should explain myself. There was nothing wrong–in fact, everything is great. Christmas was the best one yet for our kids. Truly magical. I feel FANTASTIC. That surgery has made me whole by taking things out. My family is happy, my home is cozy, and I’m enjoying the hell out of it. It’s not always about doing things. For someone who is always doing things, this is a little odd sometimes. Because I did stop doing things. I haven’t written, haven’t done much in the way of promotion, my book schedule is totally off…
And looking for the first time in too long at my book sales, I found that yeah, they obviously suffered, but you know what? Nobody died.
I stopped doing stuff and nobody died. The planet still turns. The birds keep chirping, the air keeps…airing. Then my buddy on Twitter did THIS.
I said at one point that I’m not failing–I’m learning what I can do. The state of the universe doesn’t rely on “launch day.” Life is a launch.
It’s fabulous to feel like all the doing of things eventually means like I don’t always have to be doing things. That the doing has led to done.
Oh, I’ll never be done with promo and writing and editing and writing more and the world of the indie author is stuffed to bursting with the things that can be done. But I can do it at my own pace, and eventually it will lead to the resting period where I’m enjoying the journey as much as I’m working to trespass it.
There’s a difference between being lazy and taking a break, I’ve always said. I’ve taken a much needed break. But instead of getting back to the grind until I’m falling over myself to take a break again, now I can do my business at a pace where I’m okay to work myself to the bone, let myself fall into the wonderfully taxing writing where I can’t think or breathe anything but that book, and then take a day or a week off to do all the other stuff. The world won’t end if I’m not doing all of it at once. On the contrary, the world of the Shinigami vampires has, in effect ended, because I was juggling too many balls to give the last book all of the obsessive, filthy-haired, pajama-wearing, crap-eating attention it craves. I crave. A day where I just write. I haven’t had that in….I can’t remember the last time. Where there was no time limit or word count limit so I could move on to something else. I don’t want to give my world 50%. I can’t and expect it to be a world of limitless proportions.
I’m so frigging excited to CREATE Crawling Back now, and I haven’t been. I confess, I haven’t been. But this time of refusing direction has put me in the spot again where I’m begging to write a damn good book.
So for 2018, which I, like everyone on Earth, have longed for, my resolution is to be. Be present in whatever I’m doing, stop self-induced juggling. Take the long, steady road instead of building a mountain and trying to climb it at all costs, fighting to face a demon of my own creation on the other side.
My new year isn’t about changing. It’s about being, and being better at being.
And I want that for all of you, too. I want that to be the shadow I cast this year. Be the beast you can at being. Be good–not just okay–with not pushing. Be happy at succeeding, in all its stages–not just at being a success. Treat yourself like an adventurer, not a slave.
God, that’s really good, isn’t it. I write stuff, obviously.
OH, if you like that little motivational reminder, I put one like it on a coffee mug. A quote from my dark fantasy, THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS.
Let this be your reminder in 2018 to be exactly who and what you want to be, even if–especially if–you’re that person already.
(if you’re so inclined, and do be, because reading is how you get better at every damn thing, here’s a link for THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS: The Wind Between Worlds by Julie Hutchings https://www.amazon.com/dp/B076PXGHQT/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_U_x_5qPsAbBW81N59 )
2018 is a year where we fight back. A year where being who we are matters. A year where change is made by staying constant. A year where we become who we are, and stand behind it.
Be who you are.
TODAY’S BREW: Peppermint Mocha made at home so Not That Good Peppermint Mocha
I WANT TO MAKE A LIST OF THINGS I WISH I COULD GIVE TO EVERYONE SO HERE WE GO. Granted, I could make 100 of these lists, but these are the ones I can think of right now, so go. Because you have gifts to get, and the majority of this stuff will be totally cheap because I am cheap. Not like that. Creeps.
Click on anything in bold to connect to the site.
- Star Wars Galactic Dice. This game is small, so you can keep it next to you to play spontaneously for quality time when your kids look at you and say they have nothing to do. It’s totally fun, there’s math so learning, and if you’re awesome you can get the R2D2 tin. Best thing ever.
- Thirty-One Double Duty Caddy. I have approximately 749 different Thirty-One bags around my house because they are endlessly useful, super cute, and really sturdy. They hold all my things. Files, books, severed heads, art supplies, animal supplies, animal art supplies, school supplies, small toys with nowhere else to go, big toys with nowhere else to go, socks, makeup and stuff… They’re a good spot for throwing all your stuff at the end of the day, like keys, pocket pickins’, your phone, gloves, all that stuff.
- Folger’s Simply Gourmet Coffee. Folger’s is not just your elderly great-aunt’s coffee anymore! As one who is endlessly seeking the just-standard-enough coffee to be delicious but not fancy pants, for everyday use, I was totally blown away by the Folger’s gourmet line. Even the bags are pretty. It’s insane. Sorry, there is no Chock Full o’ Nuts coffee I can recommend still. That’s still your chain-smoking uncle’s coffee.
- Burt’s Bees Lip Crayons. Oh my god, I’m so pretty in this it’s ridiculous. These things have great color, they’re hydrating, and I can’t live without Redwood Forest. They’re the perfect lipstick/balm.
- Brave Soldier Anything Ever. But particularly the antiseptic healing ointment. We are constantly hurting ourselves or having surgery or something, and this stuff heals you instantly basically and takes away all your pain, except the emotional damage. Nothing helps that, not even time.
- St. Ives Coconut & Coffee Scrub. This shit saves my life daily. I cannot explain what it does, but there’s magic involved. A friend told me it literally takes a layer of skin off your face, but my argument is that this was a used layer of skin anyway. Do yourself a favor, man, woman or beast, use this stuff.
- THE LANGUAGE OF THORNS by Leigh Bardugo. If you read anything from fairy tales to cereal boxes, you’re getting this book for Christmas. If you go to a Barnes & Noble store, you can probably score yourself a signed copy. It’s the most stunning collection of short stories/original fairy tales that I’ve ever seen or read. Reading them out loud to my oldest son every night now. And it smells so good. And don’t try to touch my copy.
- Woot.com Nutcracker Crapvent. I adore Woot.com because of these things: A) Daily Tees. $8-11 t-shirts that are awesome. B) The Derby. They host a themed t-shirt contest a couple of times a month or so, and artists submit art for tees. You can vote for as many as you want, and hopefully they’ll get made and sold for the Daily Tee. C) Daily Deals. On all kinds of weird crap. (see also the Nutcracker Crapvent.)
- The Raskog. This 3 tier rolling cart is not just a charming Swedish product–it is a way of life. I don’t know how I evened before the Raskog. I sing it songs. “Julieeee does like it/ build the Raskog/ build the Raskog.” My entire workstation is now mobile. It is covered in magnets, and bins and hanging folders, all kinds of clever little ways to dress the sucker up so that you never have to find anything again. I have two now. I want 5.
- Piece of Cake cupcakes. This place doesn’t get the attention it deserves because the delightful Cupcake Charlie’s is basically across the street. But while the selection and the cute-itude of Cupcake Charlie’s is fantastic, I like the actual cupcakes at Piece of Cake far more. Not to mention that it’s a little delicate sort of tea shop and just soothing and charming.
- Cupcake Charlie’s. So, this place. It has incredible cupcakes with frosting that might make your teeth fall out? But so what. And the shop has a Willy Wonka-ness about it that’s just so much fun, and we love hanging out there at the little outdoor tables.
- Konditor Meister Since this whole thing is about cake now, this is the only cake shop I would actually travel to just to get a damn cake. We’re talking the awful exit where you have to cross three lanes of traffic in .5 seconds and will most certainly sit in traffic on the way home for 45 minutes. But this place. This cake.
- Artsonia Kids Art Gift Shop. FINALLY, kids’ art products made cool. You can get your kid’s artwork made into jewelry that has interchangeable snaps to feature whatever artwork you want. You can become fans of specific kids’ artwork, so it gives them great encouragement and 20% of sales go to the child’s school art program. I love this place.
OKAY, I think that’s enough for now. We can resume with all the stuff I love another time, but until then order from these places and be happy.
My top 5 villains from Buffy the Vampire Slayer are:
TODAY’S BREW: Dunkins’ Hazelnut made at home, which is not surprisingly better
If you needed further proof of my insanity, I actually look fondly back at retail management on Black Friday. YOU HEARD ME. The excellent thing about being a manager on This Most Unholy of Days was that I could make a difference by just being myself. You can do this, too, as just like, a person.
Here’s what I did to make Black Friday fun at my stores:
- TINY SANDWICHES AND COOKIES. All the product will be on the salesfloor for This Most Unholy of Days, so there’s SPACE in the stockroom to hide. I’d put up a long table, and we made a buffet. Tiny sandwiches, cookies forever, Aunt Marge’s leftover unnamed casserole, soda, water, soda water, hot chocolate with marshmallows, pasta salad, all the things, right? And let them sneak it in their pockets on the salesfloor if they have to. Everyone loves a pocket full of tuna.
- ACKNOWLEDGE THAT EVERYONE NEEDS A BUNCH OF FUCKING BREAKS. In my constant rushing around the store, I’d stop for 3 minutes and send a girl out back for food and just QUIET. They appreciate this.
- PLAY CHRISTMAS MOVIES. A constant stream of Christmas movies playing by the buffet. Sit down, watch a movie snippet and forget that the world is run by money-mongering.
- GIFTS ARE NICE. Buy a box of ornaments, glitter glue their names on that shit. Put in basket. GIFTS.
- DON’T THROW THEM TO THE WOLVES. Prepare the poor things. Make sure they know what the hell they’re doing. When they walk in, give them a thank you card for their time, and slip in an index card with a couple of reminders: when their long break is, specials running, that you love them, one good/bad joke, and how to address a bunch of people at once.
- CHALLENGES. Yeah, give them YET MORE CHALLENGES, right? I’d fill up a tote bag with little things, tell them to sell it all and give them a prize when they emptied it. Candy, $5 coffee gift cards, get to leave 5 minutes early pass, that kind of stuff.
- OH YEAH, ACTUALLY LAUGH AND SMILE. I always said that if my life ran as smoothly as Black Friday, I’d be the happiest person alive. I prepped for that day for weeks, and it always went off without a hitch. Are you gonna run out of stuff? Yeah. It’s Black Friday, people are used to it. Laugh, tell them the monsters were out early, and show them something just like it in a different color, for fuck’s sake. Laugh, smile, it’s only retail. And if you make it feel like home for your customers and your employees, they’ll treat it and you like home. It is the beginning of Christmas, after all.
I know, not everyone is in this position, and it’s tiring to be in this position to begin with, but it’s pretty amazing how energizing it is to treat people well when nobody expects to be treated well.
THIS GOES FOR SHOPPERS, TOO. Be nice to employees even if they aren’t nice to you. You don’t know what they went through a minute before you got there. You can be the person who turns their day around by just smiling at them, making eye contact, thanking them. Hell, if you feel really nice, in your maniacal spending of every dime you own on overpriced shit, pick up a couple of $5 gift cards and give them to someone who helped you, who had a smile for you, or who just looks like they need a little kindness after being bullied by a thousand nightmare shoppers. Think of how it feels when a stranger does something kind for you. Ever have a guy in the drive-thru buy your coffee for you? Makes your day. BE THAT GUY. I mean, don’t be a frigging creep about it, but you know, be nice.
OKAY, THAT’S MY RANT. Have some fun out there, and be the kind of person that people like.
OH, YOU CAN BE SUPER NICE AND BUY SOMEONE MY BOOK, HI, IT’S ME, GIFT SOMEONE MY BOOKS. Watch this, watch.
“Long day, huh? I bet you can’t wait to be *wink at camera* RUNNING HOME this afternoon?” *show them picture of your favorite author, Julie Hutchings.
“Wow, I bet you wish you could take a quick break. Perhaps if you were the Witch of Stars from the young adult dark fantasy THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS, you could wish for everyone to take a break, right?”
No, you don’t really have to do this, but I won’t stop you. I won’t. You COULD send someone the nice gift of an e-book for $2.99 though, couldn’t you?! You could do that. WHY WOULDN’T YOU DO THAT? I mean, I’m not telling you what book to send, but I am though. I am.
OH HEY, YOU KNOW WHAT? IF YOU SEND SOMEONE THE GIFT OF ONE OF MY BOOKS THIS HOLIDAY SEASON, EMAIL ME AT JULESHUTCH(AT)OUTLOOK.COM OR TWEET ME AT @HUTCHINGSJULIE! I’ll give you a prize. Because that makes ME feel good. So go on now, happy holiday it, and remember to be awesome.
TODAY’S BREW: Not quite peppermint mocha time yet
Let’s talk books. Because the world is terrible maybe, and let’s just talk books, okay? Okay! Here are some of my recent favorites that you guys should read. Click on the titles to get them on Amazon.
- HOUSE OF ASH by Hope Cook. This is just a good old fashioned haunted house story, but it’s more than that. In dual points of view, present day and Victorian, with two characters that you really understand and root for, it’s got some great family dynamics (that are actually pretty horrible for them, but great reading), and a lot of eerie tonality that I appreciate.
- DEAD GIRLS OF HYSTERIA HALL by Katie Alender. A really unique ghost story, with a super unique point of view (I won’t give it away), and cool ghosts. Along with mystery and even a ghostly love interest, which I was on board for.
- BAD GIRLS DON’T DIE also by Katie Alender. I read this first and immediately bought DEAD GIRLS, I was so in love with the story. A haunted house and haunted girls and haunted relationship and haunted history…. And the characters, just like in DEAD GIRLS, are dynamic. These books aren’t just fluffy scary stories with a teen twist. They have great depth. You can bet I’ll be reading everything Katie writes.
- NEVERNIGHT by Jay Kristoff. My favorite book of the year. Gruesome, heart-wrenching, mysterious, enticing, disgusting, horrifying, indulgent and sexy. This book has it all. Mia is a force to be reckoned with on the page, and the characters she surrounds herself with, the circumstances she puts herself in, are all so riveting and multi-tiered, I couldn’t stop turning pages. I got the limited edition sequel on release day–it was written in my planner–and I’m waiting to read it for exactly the right moment. Like, I don’t want anything to touch this experience for me. Go read The Nevernight Chronicles. Then tell Jay Kristoff to be my friend. I don’t understand why he isn’t my friend. I need him.
- DEATH TROOPERS by Joe Schreiber. I’m picky as hell about books in the Star Wars universe. Can’t tell you how many I haven’t finished. I need my Star Wars books to read like the movies. This is why I love Chuck Wendig’s AFTERMATH. Not only because I’m mentioned in the acknowledgements, basically making me a sith, but because it reads in short, candid sections, just like you’re watching the movies, where you pan out to another point of view, leaving you thinking about the former, but anxious to learn more. So get the Wendig’s Star Wars books. But DEATH TROOPERS is different. Still reads quickly, as I want it to, but this is a mix of Star Wars universe and zombies. I don’t need to say more than that, you just go get it now.
- HUNGRY GHOSTS by Stephen Blackmoore. I love the Eric Carter series, because necromancy, and he’s so sharp, and I need that, but this is my favorite one so far. Blackmoore treats Santa Muerte in a way I’ve never seen before, and the Aztec King of the Dead is badass. But Eric is the best badass of all. I love an antihero, and Carter is class act in this sense–noble purpose, destroying his sister’s murderers, but man alive, does Eric Carter do some dirty deeds along the way. HUNGRY GHOSTS has a couple of my favorite scenes in this series in it, and I anticipate reading it again. Reminiscent of Simon R. Green (who some would say is reminiscent of Jim Butcher, but Simon R. Green is BETTER, JUST BETTER, FIGHT ME), the Eric Carter books do antiheroes RIGHT.
- THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS by Claire Legrand. I read this with my 10 year old, who loves Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events deeply, and never found anything quite that creepy with quite that much depth since. This book did it. I found myself thinking of CORALINE quite a few times too, that sinister side of middle grade that I find alluring. I’m a huge Legrand fan, and can never get enough of WINTERSPELL, which you should also read.
Okay! I think I’ve rattled on enough and I beg you to go read and review one or more of these books. COME TO THINK OF IT….
READ AND REVIEW ONE OR MORE OF THESE BOOKS, LINK IT TO ME, AND I WILL GIVE AWAY KINDLE VERSIONS OF THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS TO THE FIRST 5 OF YOU. OKAY GO.