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.

 

 

My October Fun Times List!

TODAY’S BREW: it should be pumpkin, but I’m going with the underrated cinnamon

By Julie

HOLY MARY MOTHER OF GOD, IT’S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR

*builds a cabinet of curiosities, drinks pumpkin beer out of a black cat’s severed head*

Like any creep of a writer, I goddamn adore October. Orange is my favorite color. Pumpkin is my favorite flavor. Sweatpant weather is my favorite weather. I could keep going, but you know the autumn drill.

READ MY NEW BOOK, THE AUTUMN DRILL. No, I joke.

Here’s what I’m looking forward to this October, and you should too because I will bully you into it.

  • HALLOWEEN WARS on the Food Network. My youngest boy is obsessed with this show, and as a child with OCD, the first season he saw it, I had to record every one so he could watch them daily until the following October. But I like it too.
  • MY ACTUAL CABINET OF CURIOSITIES. Realized I basically live in a cabinet of curiosities because I love weird plants, creepy old books, a heap of old stuff, skeletons, scary animals, oddities of the medical variety, and other Gothic and emo stuff. I embrace it. So I really went all out and just made one. I’ll take pictures.
  • THE PUMPKIN SPOOKTACULAR AT ROGER WILLIAMS PARK ZOO WHICH IS NO LONGER CALLED THE PUMPKIN SPOOKTACULAR BUT THAT’S WHAT I WILL CONTINUE TO CALL IT. https://youtu.be/W2PYfNIeRuQ We go as a family every year, and it’s chilly and eerie and there’s pumpkin beer with cinnamon on top and hot chocolate and popcorn and it’s what Halloween was meant for.
  • THERE IS A NEW PUMPKIN SPOOKTACULAR THAT ISN’T ACTUALLY CALLED THAT WHICH I WILL GO TO because it’s at the Odd Pet Vet/New England Wildlife Center and I love it there, and they take care of animals that need it.. http://www.newildlife.org/2017/09/newc-night-of-a-thousand-faces-2017/
  • HEDGE ACADEMY. I started running a course for our elementary school that I call “Writing Outside the Box,” and it is just so inspiring to watch a group of young kids with crazy talent and drive write whatever they want, and be so eager to share it. It amazes me the amount of writing and illustrating talent comes from them, and I love having a part in it.
  • THE GIFTED. I love X-Men. I fell in love with the comics as a teenager and LOVE digging in to the mythos and storylines like falling down a rabbit hole. So to see this tv show after having loved Legion, and looking so forward to getting into The Inhumans, because Black Bolt and Medusa, I’m ready to geek out hard.
  • WHILE WE’RE ON IT, AMERICAN HORROR STORY FOREVER. FOREVERRRRRR. I’ve been obsessed since season 1. I know you guys are too. Tell me which season was your favorite, it was Coven, I know it was. Though I loved Asylum and Hotel.
  • GOTHAM. I so love this show. Penguin is my boo.
  • HALLOWEEN JUNK JOURNAL SUPPLIES. This will be a post or two all to itself. When I was writing THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS, I stumbled upon this junk journaling thing with this incredible spellbook/scrapbook on Etsy. It was everything my book was, and it’s become an incredible inspiration to me in my writing since. To collect all the things that make me think of my book, jot down ideas, my favorite quotes, and make it into this sort of grimoire is uplifting.
  • OH YEAH, THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS. This was my first venture into YA, though I personally find RUNNING HOME to be waaaayyyyy less racy than this book. Want the blurb? I give you the blurb:

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.

Obviously, she gets released on Halloween, all fingers crossed. I’ll give you everything you need to know this month.

  • TRICK OR TREATING. We get a group upwards of ten kids sometimes to go trick or treating, and we generally end up at the PTA co-presidents’ house, which is the most Halloweeny of any house, complete with smoking cocktails and gourmet creepy treats and all our kids play in the pitch black backyard. I love our neighborhood so much.
  • MY HYSTERECTOMY. Didn’t see that coming, did you? After YEARS upon YEARS of being beaten by fibroid tumors the size of the super size oranges, I’ve had enough. Naturally, I schedule this surgery on Friday the 13th. Hashtag Halloween Hysterectomy.
  • OH, OF COURSE, HUNDREDS OF HORROR MOVIES. Looking forward to multiple viewings of The Ring, Thirteen Ghosts, House on Haunted Hill, Silent Hill, all the hills, Lost Boys, Nightmare on Elm Street, and any others I can jam in there.
  • HALLOWEEN COMIC FEST.  https://www.halloweencomicfest.com/ Any questions? (I do so look forward to all the David S. Pumpkins things.)

Okay, I’ll stop now, but I could keep going because I didn’t even venture into pumpkin picking, farm stands, and blood.

But this month I’m overjoyed to release THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS, for you all to become familiar with the book that I’ve had in my dirty clutches for too long. The Poisons birthdays are all on Halloween, naturally, and Celeste, my Witch of Stars is in love with autumn just like I am. I may or may not have bought an army issue messenger bag with pumpkins handpainted on it because I knew she would have one. OH, if you want to explore the world a bit, the book and its sequel and prequel have about a hundred boards on my Pinterest. The Witch of Sweets, the Witch of Empty Things, The Demon Prince, they all get one. https://www.pinterest.com/hutchingsjulie/

Okay, okay, I have to stop now, but enjoy your October, everyone! And PLEASE. DO TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS WHAT YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT OCTOBER AND HALLOWEEN. I always need new suggestions!!!