How To Summer by Julie

TODAY’S BREW: still hot coffee despite the heat that even my lizards hate.

By Julie 

The school year is overrrrrr! I do a lot with the school, so this is like quitting a part time job, not to mention that I’m probably over-involved to the point of smothering with my boys so that’s taxing. For me. AHAHAHAHAHA no seriously though.

But this year ended with Bennett getting a presidential award for his academic achievements in elementary school, one of only a handful of kids, and it’s a big deal. I’m sodden with happy mom tears. And Sammy got a Best Effort award at the last ceremony, his first award in two years, and that’s a huge deal too–because the amount of effort he puts in on a daily basis is staggering, and harder to see. I could go on all day about a child with mood disorders and OCD and their struggles, but that is not what I’m here for today.

What I’m here for today is to say SCHOOL IS OUT FOR THE SUMMER.

This for me means…

person holding clear glass ball with flame

…if you look closely enough you can see me screaming in the blaze deep in the little hamster ball.

Nooo, not just heat beyond my wildest imagination, but TIME.

Generally I’m so CAMP MOM-like that writing falls to the side. Coincidentally, during the school year when I’m very involved there, writing falls to the side. Because I am a mom first. A very dedicated mom. But this summer is different. Sam is 8–old enough and stable enough to leave with his 11 year old brother for an hour or two even. They occupy themselves a lot. They understand completely that I have something to do and SUPPORT me in that. They’re proud of my writing, of what I do. So it’s going to be a productive and yet also relaxed summer! ALL MY YEARS OF HARD WORK TO CREATE WORK/LIFE BALANCE MIGHT PAY OFF!

To be able to chill out with the kids after writing, to be able to write after a day out somewhere (we’re huge advocates of a day trip), to be able to say “grab something for a snack, you won’t die, and I’ll make dinner in a half hour” is incredibly freeing.

I most certainly pat myself on the back for these, and the extraordinary amount of other measures I’ve taken, to give my kids and myself some supported freedom.

I’ve also learned that the if only approach is complete bullshit. If only I had help for one more day a week, if only the kids could go outside on their own right now, if only I wasn’t the one in charge of all the household duties, etc… Tough, life doesn’t stop for that stuff, and life isn’t ideal all the time, but I LIKE IT. I’m happy as hell, to be honest. Wishing for more time, more help, more energy, it doesn’t work. Ironically, it saps time and energy until I can’t even ask for said help.

JUST DO IT AND DEAL WITH THE CONSEQUENCES LATER.

It’s like the whole “ask forgiveness, not permission” thing. Except it’s for and from myself. And it’s also ass backwards. I can and will do all the stuff I have to do, I’ll put my head down and actually enjoy it despite its challenges, and I’m okay with not getting to write for a day because there was too much laundry, I wanted to hang out with the kids, I wanted to do something else, anything else!

Accepting all the circumstances of my life and living it is pretty nice.

Striving for better is great. Wishing for better sucks.

Enjoying what I have is awesome. Optimism rules. I’m lucky to be the person that’s always known this.

What I will work on though, is setting boundaries for myself–not goals exactly–boundaries. Saying no sometimes. No to writing, no to cooking (gladly), no to a day trip, no to saying I’m too tired and don’t feel like it. It’s a balance of knowing when I’m slacking and when I’m living and when I’m doing too much.

Will this go super smoothly? Probably not. Will I get a book out in July and another in September? This is the plan.

It is not a plan of WRITE 1000 WORDS A DAY OR SEVER A LIMB, it’s a plan where I take into account that I’m a PERSON, that I don’t fit into a rule-box, even if I’m the one making it, and a plan to put books out my way. They may not make me rich, but they’re exactly as I want them, though not always as fast as I want them. And I’ll do it while loving and living life, though I may not fit into the indie schedule and production life that would make me “successful.” Success is many-layered. I’m okay making the bulk of my income from editing rather than writing. It may not always be that way, but so far? It works. And they’re both part of my same dream WHERE I FALL INTO A BOOK AND IT EATS ME ALIVE.

So folks, give a little. Live a little. Shut up and work a little. Thank yourself sometimes, and kick yourself in the ass sometimes, but not too much of the latter. Be present. Stop. Say no. Do what you want. Be who you are.

And hide in the air conditioning and cry until the heat goes away.

Julie vs. Apartment and Sparking Creativity (and a ghost story)

TODAY’S BREW: smooth as silk Guatemalan good stuff. You can’t have mine but get your own. Ground Roots Coffee Roasting Co.

By Julie 

HI EVERYBODY. You’re like, who the hell is this person, she wrote a book a dozen years ago and now she thinks I have time for her. I’VE BEEN BUSY WITH SO MANY THINGS I COULD DIE, FOLKS. Renovated my kitchen by myself. I’m super goddamn proud of that. Did it from the moving of all the furniture, building the new stuff, retracking drawers, stripping and painting all the walls and cabinets (including having to climb a shelf, step INTO the freezer, and sit on top of the fridge to paint up there), re-hardwaring and hanging all the cabinets, re-doing the entire backsplash…. and I did it in a month. ME. I didn’t do the floor, that was some other guy. My before pics include such things as an actual wall-mounted cream colored Dixie cup holder, wood paneling, and the most unsanitary floor to ever grace an apartment.

This one has my Small Mexican Dog, Penny in it. She has since passed away. I am not ready to discuss.

The work in progress was a thing of nightmares. But my finishing up result was just what I like.

Now that it’s been lived in a while, it’s even better. lived in kitchen

I want to be home all the time.

Until I remember that I’m still working on the bathroom. I’ve provided short videos for your viewing pleasure.

Julie vs. Bathroom 1

Julie vs. Bathroom 2

It’s looking more lived in too! Maybe a little extra lived in today. This is real time, so no judgment. And when school gets out I’m installing a sink and a new floor by my onesies!

What this all tells me–and this isn’t even all the reno I’ve done–is that I needed a creative outlet besides writing. I needed more, and I let myself fall into it completely. It felt great to do this stuff, to pay attention to every little detail and put in stuff that I loved. All of it matters to me, from the spray bottles to the spraypainted insides of $1 store glass bottles. Our apartment is truly ours.

YOU DID THIS ALL IN A RENTAL, JULIE?

I did, and I don’t feel bad about it. This is my home. It’s okay! The joy of the sweating and building and trips to Lowe’s until I had an actual Lowe’s Guy of my own, the stripping of the old to make it mine, it felt so grass roots and really brought out all the resourcefulness I’ve got penned up. I may or may not have obsessed a little. I’ve now moved on to rooms that probably didn’t need reno.

The best part is now that I feel even more at home in my home, my writing bug is back, and so I wrote a weekender short story for you guys! A little ghost story that I thought you might like. You deserve it after being ignored for so long. Have fun, it should take you like, 5 minutes (click title): YOU DON’T GIVE ME FLOWERS

And remember to do something creative today. Make a thing. Do a thing.

 

The Lazy Lie

TODAY’S BREW: Chocolate something or other by New England Coffee

By Julie 

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.

I stopped.

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 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.

 

 

Getting Scary with Love Notes

TODAY’S BREW: Target Brand Hazelnut For Fancee Folks

By Julie 

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.

Click here to subscribe to Scary Little Love Notes.

Sexual Misconduct and My Damn Opinions

TODAY’S BREW: As much as I can get my hands on. I’m remodeling the kitchen.

By Julie 

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.

Slowing Down and Scaring Folks

TODAY’S BREW: Dunkins Peppermint Mocha made in my warm kitchen

By Julie

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.

My Fave Books This Year and a GIVEAWAY

TODAY’S BREW: Not quite peppermint mocha time yet

By Julie 

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. 

#PoemsForSickPeople

TODAY’S BREW: herbal tea. I’M SICK GODDAMMIT.

By Julie

I’ve been so goddamn sick this week, it’s annoyingly inspirational. Taking me out of the game enough that it slowed my readying of the next book to get out, slowed down my editing on the side, all unacceptable. But it is a great feeling to be so pissed about that, you know?

Instead I began a for-profit non-organization called #PoemsForSickPeople. All proceeds go to….me. But you can also just BUY MY BOOKS, THEY’RE GOOD, I SWEAR. Please, do be entertained by my illness.

Did all the laundry

Changed all the sheets

I can no longer breathe

I’m going to sleep

#PoemsForSickPeople

 

JUST WAIT, THEY DON’T GET BETTER.

I drank coffee

Today

I’m stronger than yesterday

*coughs into oblivion, watches more Lifetime movies*

#PoemsForSickPeople

MY PERSONAL FAVORITE….. I call this one “Must I Really? With the Clothes?”

Must I, really?

With the clothes?

While inside, nobody knows

Of the sweatpants worn for days

In my sickly, worn malaise.

Must I? Really? With the clothes?

#PoemsForSickPeople 

 

The cough.
It displeases
Far more than the sneezes

#PoemsForSickPeople

 

Less poetic is how I am finally old enough to take baths in Epsom salt for my aches and pains, and yet not wise enough to NOT throw instant oatmeal into the tub for my skin. Don’t get me wrong, my skin feels fantastic, but I brewed myself in a cup of oatmeal.

Anyhow, that’s the kind of stuff I do, and I thought that you would just LOVE to hear all about it from my nest of blankets and heating pads in the corner of the couch. Stay well, all! And if you want more of this kind of literary ingenuity, do please purchase my latest novel, THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS. Okay, love you guys, byyyyyyyye

CLICK HERE if you want to read about the 5 Poison Witches and their insane mothers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS & Julie’s Loud Mouth

TODAY’S BREW: Cider! It’s Halloween weekend and New England Wildlife Center’s Night of a Thousand Faces.

By Julie 

HI EVERYBODY. I promise I won’t get over-emotional. *bursts into tears, kicks a pumpkin down the street, climbs a tree*

THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS is finally out in the world, and it’s everything I dreamed it would be. LOOK.

Sixteen-year-old Celeste is the Witch of Stars and leader of her coven, the Five Poisons. But Celeste feels her greatest powers are in chewing anxiety pills and stress-eating. Uniting the vicious witches who share nothing but their unique forms of magic and a list of family dysfunctions is fruitless. The Poisons see only weakness in Celeste, for stifling her magic upon her mommy’s request. Using magic drains their mothers, the Elementals, but Celeste is the only one of the Poisons who doesn’t want her mother dead.
When a demon breaks through The Chains, the magical veil into the human world, Celeste tries proving herself to her coven by confronting him on her own. Through his eyes she discovers that the Elementals have been feeding the Poisons lies about demons, magic, their heritage, and the coven’s purpose. Worse yet, the abuse, manipulation and oppression Celeste’s coven has suffered at their mothers’ hands was more than tough love; it was to strengthen the girls’ powers for a Halloween harvest, to weave their souls into The Chains that they serve.
Celeste will do anything to save the Poisons, from traversing the wicked realm of The Gone, following the demon who’s shown her the truth, to waging war upon the Elementals. But to end the grisly cycle the Elementals have created means the Witch of Stars must either show her mother mercy and live in the false world she knows, or sacrifice herself in ways no magic can reverse.

A deadly concoction for readers of Leigh Bardugo and Maggie Stiefvater, with ingredients of American Horror Story: Coven, and The Craft.

This book was my first venture into young adult writing, and it was the most natural thing in the world to me. Funny thing is it’s edgier than RUNNING HOME and the whole Shinigami series. Teenagers get a bad rap for having little depth I think, and it’s simply not true. The Five Poisons live with different varieties of abuse, drugs, drinking, slut-shaming, emotional blackmail, anxiety, stress-eating even…. And yes, they swear, and there’s sex, and guess what? This is real life.

And on Amazon, I listed it as a book suitable for 7th grade and above.

Yes, I’m a dedicated and very involved mother of two young boys, and I protect them and nurture them to possibly an overbearing degree, but it would be foolish of me to assume they don’t see the growing-up coming, even at their tender ages. Angst isn’t the only thing they know. Teenagers and pre-teens should be acknowledged as children capable of making decisions and living their lives under guidance beyond whether their homework gets done on time. We’d be fools to assume they aren’t far more advanced and exposed to and curious about much more than their parents were at their ages. I was an….adventurous…young lady, and I’m pretty scared about what kids these days are in the path of. Technology has made all the rebellion we lived as kids into something far more dangerous. (There’s hardly any technology-based stuff in this book, because of the nature of what it’s really about, which has nothing to do with social interaction in that way.) Do we seriously think swearing is beyond them at say, even age 10? Not to mention that we let them play video games, watch YouTube, see endless violence (in a world full of it, naturally), and yet we change the channel when there’s a sex scene on TV. Who are we really shielding?

This went far more on a tangent than I thought it would. Which should show you how much I FELT this book, this series to come (one of which is finished already), and how important I think it is for kids to read.  While it isn’t an “IMPORTANT” book, immersed in any one of a hundred thousand million causes, it’s important. I stand by that. It puts important feelings, issues, experiences in a book that’s FUN. Because this book is fun, as emotional as I find it to be, and as imaginative as it needs to be.

Reading is as much an expression as writing is. It helps us identify with our own feelings, helps shape us throughout our entire lives. And kids should read what the hell they want.

I say this knowing that more adults read YA than teenagers probably do, and are looked down upon for it.

*stands on soapbox, throws air punches*

READ WHAT THE HELL YOU LIKE. READ BIOGRAPHIES OF CATTLE FARMERS, LORD OF THE RINGS MEETS GODZILLA, FIFTY SHADES OF CRAY CRAY, WHATEVER YOU WANT.

Reading inspires imagination, and without imagination, you cannot do a goddamn thing worthwhile. I don’t give a crap if you’re an accountant–if you can’t think outside the box, and don’t actively do so, your life is not what it could be. And if you’re an adult who reads a lot of young adult novels, I ask the world this:

WHAT IS ADULT LITERATURE LACKING FOR THESE READERS?

For me, imagination. Optimism. Reality. Freshness.

If adults had had more young adult available to them in this more mature strain as kids, rather than pretty exclusively SWEET VALLEY HIGH, what maturity level would we have had? What about those of us who read those books but also read Dracula and VC Andrews, and horror, and Jackie Collins, and Mary Higgins Clark?

Just me then? Oh.

There’s more than one level of emotional need at every age, and we’re capable of holding ALL OF THEM AT ONCE. And we should.

I’m super super super proud that a 10 year old boy at my kids’ school came up to me on the playground a couple of weeks ago. “I read your book, and it was awesome,” he said, about RUNNING HOME, a book about a 26 year old woman. Kids can read above grade level. As a matter of fact, the way they get there is by READING ABOVE GRADE LEVEL. That’s a whole other post.

Anyhoo, I’m incredibly passionate about this book, and I hope one or more of these characters will resonate with readers, and that they all walk away thinking a little differently because of them. So do yourself a favor, buy a book, and make it this one because the Poisons were all born on Halloween and it leads up to Halloween and IT’S HALLOWEEN.

For some visuals, go through the hundred Pinterest boards about the book and the witches and demons in it. Pinterest

Friday the 13th and my Uterus.

TODAY’S BREW: Cinnamon something, just lots of whatever it is.

By Julie 

All the time I get asked to tell my stories of my weird ailments and my struggles with my period and PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder). I speak very openly about it because I refuse to feel YUCKY about my body.

I’ve had horrid trouble with my period my entire life, but after my second child, the mood swings became extraordinarily unbearable. My brain became someone else’s. Someone that would contemplate suicide, that found fault in everything they did, that was so paranoid about her relationships that it undermined them horribly like clockwork. I also struggled with having a high level of prolactin, a hormone associated with breastfeeding and is usually attributed to a benign brain tumor. I had odd, searing, burning pains in my stomach and sides, and my stomach would swell into a hard mass that made me look the same as I did when I was 7 months pregnant. This is a very short synopsis of the worsening conditions that entirely disabled my life increasingly until new pains began about a month or two ago. And the bleeding was incredibly unhealthy, the kind nobody could live through for long.

I’d known I had a couple of big ol’ fibroid tumors, just like almost every woman does, but these ones were now getting out of control. My fantastic doctor had them measured, did all the stuff he needed to, and we opted for a partial hysterectomy because they “couldn’t be allowed to take over,” he said.

YAY, LET’S DO IT ON FRIDAY THE 13TH.

So we did. Turns out my uterus had somehow been pushed up so goddamn far, that it not only dragged my cervix along like an unwilling cat on a leash, but it attached itself to my stomach lining in the front and pushed my bladder into a corner, and put pressure on my diaphragm. My doctor told my husband that surgery was like walking into the kitchen and finding your table glued to the ceiling. It was totally unexpected.

Unfortunately, unexpected medical cases and me are super good friends. See also: aborting fibroid tumor. Or don’t, if you value your last meal.

The point of all this is not to tell you my scary story, but to tell you to PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR BODY.

I go to the doctor regularly. I have a fantastic OBGYN, who finds things that no other doctor does and fixes them. I’m very thorough in tracking my symptoms because *I* need to know what to expect the following month so I can say, “ah yes, this is about the time I called the suicide hotline last month.” I don’t mess with my menstrual cycle because I refuse to be unhappy and I refuse to not help myself.

And all along, I knew all of these crazy symptoms that I suffered were all connected in some way. And I was right.

While I took chaste tree root, magnesium, anxiety meds, a mood stabilizer, and occasional panic pills, as well as birth control to deal with my PMDD, I still knew there was something more. I even took tumor shrinking pills for this possible benign tumor that affects the pituitary gland and the prolactin level, though I did not have the tumor. This was after seeing endocrinologists, and getting MRIs and starting therapy…. I stopped at nothing to fix these problems.

I did do my own research, because of course I did. I read, that’s what I do. But I balanced it with going to all the right specialists so we could come to the right conclusions. The conclusion was that the fibroids (dubbed “the Utermelon,” and “the Ovarian Orange”) caused it all. Fibroid tumors–and again, one fourth of women of reproductive age have them–are in a chicken and egg game with hormones. They multiply when they’re all around each other too much. In my fibroids’ hostile takeover, they spiked my prolactin level, causing me to feel almost like I was pregnant every few months. The fibroids gave me the unhealthy bleeding, the pains in my back, legs, stomach, as well as a fantastic exhaustion that comes with fighting your own body three weeks out of the month. But the worst thing these fibroids did was give PMDD a stage to play on and a standing frigging ovation every time it did.

I’ve met more women that have been diagnosed with PMDD or feel they may have it than I thought possible. PMDD is a sort of Hulkified PMS–and PMS is bad enough. PMDD symptoms show up 10 days prior to the period. It comes with an overwhelming hopelessness that is usually out of character, like mine, but can also link to depressive disorders. This feeling strains relationships, creates conflict where there is none, paranoia, a decrease in self-esteem and exaggerated poor self-image that again, is out of character and just SHOWS THE HELL UP LIKE THAT UNCLE THAT EATS ALL THE PEANUT BUTTER. Mine would often come too with almost a nesting instinct–a need to feel in control of change. And I’d move everything in the house for days, finding myself in tears and unable to stop. Sleep interruption and exhaustion, lack of interest in things you normally do, intense anger and irritation at nothing…. This all occurs with PMS, but with PMDD it is debilitating. It interrupts life. Makes the sufferer have to stop everything because the feelings are in control. I would suffer absolutely terrifying panic attacks that had me screaming like I was being murdered, unable to stop, I’d sleep for an entire day, I’d wake up in the night starving, unable to feel full and then have days of not wanting to eat at all. My most frightening moment with PMDD had me so upset after a failed sledding outing that I felt that it was a metaphor for my entire life and I could just die and everything would be easier. That was the day I called the suicide hotline. Because as entrenched and overcome in the REALITY of those feelings as I was, I also knew that they were invaders. This was not me. This was not how I would have thought days before. It felt like being possessed.

I tell you this because I want you to know that you’re not alone, that your problems are not just yours, and that there’s help. You’re not crazy. This is real.

I worked tirelessly at solving my PMDD problem. I went for therapy, took the supplements that help with hormone health, started a mood stabilizer that worked wonders in tandem with birth control and other anxiety meds. I didn’t miss doctor’s appointments. I didn’t brush it under the rug. I didn’t minimize it as “a period issue” because period issues are actual issues.

I say these things because you don’t have to live with it. I’m still healing from my exorcism of the uterine orchard only 3 days ago, but I have a strong feeling that I won’t have to trap my hormone issues in a prison of pills and therapy anymore. Maintenance will still need to happen, because I only had a partial hysterectomy, so my hormones will still exist, and also because I don’t think anything is ever just SOLVED with me. But I have a really good feeling about this, guys.

What I want you to get from this is a few things:

  • Talk about your stuff. Lady stuff isn’t a bad thing.
  • If you think something is wrong, it is. If it’s “all in your head,” that is still something wrong! Find the doctors that believe you. Ask for the referrals and tell those bitches right to their faces that you want to see someone who takes you seriously.
  • You are not alone. There are resources and you deserve to be happy.
  • Keep track of your symptoms.
  • Put yourself first. Take care of yourself. Do what you need to do, even if you have to say NO to someone else.

There are resources that I have used often for help with PMDD, anxiety, and hormonal issues.

I hope this helps someone, and I hope you hold your head a little higher when your uterus comes at you like Rowdy Roddy Piper, and know that there can be an end to it.