If you’d like to read my spoiler review section, keep reading through to the section titled “Into the Fire.”
So many YA books start before the revolution, but this one takes place several years into a new dictatorship/oligarchy that replaces the monarchy. It’s a concept that has been seen so many times throughout history, and I think it’s great to show the consequences of a rebellion in a fantasy setting. I’ll tell you this, it’s not all rainbows and sunshine when the original government gets overthrown — even if they were tyrannical.
The story follows the split-perspective of Annie and Lee, both orphaned from the revolution but in very different ways. They have grown up, dealing with the harsh realities of their new world. Now they’re part of the elite guard of dragon riders. But as the revolution becomes more complicated and other conflicts arise, the two must decide if they will continue to fight for this new government or lose themselves in the similarities between both regimes.
In order for me to give a book five stars, it has to be a fantastic story, but it also has to contain something that transcends the pages. This book did a great job of making a fantasy world still comparable to our society. There were just too many little story things that took it down a star for me. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy and reading about class struggle or the consequences of revolutions. Also, can I just say how refreshing it is to read a YA book with a decent Lexicon?
There were so many things I liked about this book: a realistic descent into chaos after a revolution, vulnerable male characters, people talking through their psychological trauma, and so much more. But there was also a handful of details that I didn’t think worked well. Let’s talk about those first.
Although I loved the split perspective of Annie and Lee at times, there are some points where this structure worked as a plot crutch. Usually, this would happen when Lee or Annie encounters huge emotional events like when Annie and Rock “have to” burn a villager. We’re in Lee’s perspective when she first tells him what happens, and then we get to see a scene from her perspective. But this whip-lash of going forward and backward in time (while still being in present tense) was a little jarring at times. Not a huge deal. Just bein’ a picky reader.
Speaking of burning that villager though, this seemed so out of character for Annie that I was immediately thrown out of my reading immersion. Are you telling me that just because the villagers aren’t giving them enough of their food supply, that in an instant without any other warnings, Annie just decides that they should burn people? After everything that she’s gone through with people getting burned to death? I know this moment was supposed to make them question whether or not they were just as bad as the monarchy, but at the same time, it was unbelievable for Annie to do this. It would have been entirely different if she had witnessed Rock’s dragon burn someone and then voiced her anger at him.
Rock’s eyes meet mine in a silent question. I nod once to show I’ll do it. Though, I suppose, I have to. Rock’s dragon hasn’t sparked yet. He could cause injuries, but for the full effect of this demonstration, we require flames.Pg. 328
A similar but more effective time the gang questions whether or not they’re just as bad as the previous rulers is when they’re making plans for the food distribution. Here they discuss the iron working class getting less food than the elite gold class. Lee and Annie have a reasonable and diffcult discussion about why this has to be this way, but that still doesn’t change the fact that their pal Cor will have to give his sister scraps. It was emotional. It was realistic. And it wasn’t preachy. It’s a real problem people in history have had to navigate before.
Scenes went really fast in this book, often jumping over travel time within single sentences. I got used to this flow, but it made fight scenes go super fast. Even the last major dragon battle between Lee and his cousin Julia was so quick and inconsequential that it ended up feeling pretty rushed. But Lee got a great speech out of it afterward so…
Let the blood on my hands be my offering; let the spoils of my battle stand as proof of my loyalty.Pg. 422
One last major critique I have about the book is the dragons. The writing style was very non-descriptive, which I can deal with. You only get physical descriptions every now and then, and they come across very naturally. But if someone asked me what the dragons were like: how big, what color, what details do they have — I wouldn’t be able to tell you. Which is kind of disappointing? I love dragons. And the connection that the riders had with the dragons, which I would describe as similar to how Eragon sees through Saphira’s eyes, was very emotional and intense. But the dragons don’t have a voice in the rider’s minds, and they seem very robotic. More dragons in book two, please.
I think my favorite aspect of the book was how well the consequences of the revolution were explored. People are uneasy and unsure about their new leaders and guards. When the gang has to take food from people or give speeches, the villagers would often would hate them for being so similar to the monarchy. And it would really pay an emotional toll on the main characters in different ways. For example, Annie, who had grown up in these villages and feared dragon fire, was now spit on and cursed by the people. It was just an incredibly powerful image. There’s a lot to digest with these parts of the book, which makes me excited for future books in the series.
The characters are also pretty well fleshed out. And I could tell they were fleshed out because I actually cared about most of them. Pitting Annie and Lee against each other even though they were best friends, and being able to see the story from each of their unique perspectives, was a super unique reading experience.
My only note in the character category is that it often felt like Annie had more depth than Lee. I think part of this issue was the result of him keeping his princely secret from everyone. But even when we were in his head, he was often pretty bland. Annie had to overcome not only the stigma of her birthplace but also her place as a female dragon rider. Meanwhile, Lee had to overcome…? It was an interesting dynamic that he had to face and report to the man who had killed his entire family. Even more interesting that he eventually agreed that the new ruler was right. But it was only because of the way Annie would describe Lee that I really ended up enjoying his character. I also think Lee reminded me of Zuko from Avatar the Last Airbender, so it was pretty easy to like him when I realized they were so similar.
I was especially impressed by Power, a major antagonist, who breaks several stereotypes when he helps out Annie with her training. He was still a crummy person, but he was realistic because he chose Annie over his hatred of Lee.
I know some people were pissed at Lee for acting like he owns Annie when they were children, but I could write it off as post-traumatic stress from everything he had gone through as a kid. People were waiting on him hand and foot, and suddenly he has the blood of everyone on his body? Yeah, that’s gonna mess a kid up.
Anyways, I really enjoyed this book. It was a dense and impressive read. I’m looking forward to book two!
Check out my review on Wilder Girls, Beautiful Creatures, or The Sun Is Also a Star if you liked this review. And let me know if you’ve read this book and what your thoughts were — especially if they were different.
Happy Fiction Friday everyone! I decided that I should branch out a bit — and basically only a little bit — and go for a Sci-Fi writing prompt this week. I usually don’t write Sci-Fi, but there’s been something in me that’s been calling out to the genre, so I said hey, what the heck. And here we are.
This prompt is from Deep Water Prompts, and they seem to have a lot of great ones. As always, I’m going to write for 30 minutes, and just see where the story goes. If you write along with me, I’d love to see your writing as well. Don’t forget to check out my other writing prompts!
It was only when my hands brushed against the clammy walls that I realized I was asleep. My eyes flicked open as my stomach dropped with a sudden overwhelming amount of dread. It was dark in the hallway, with the only light source coming from the faint green glow of wall lanterns.
Then came the whispers. They reverberated from wall to wall, hitting me with their muffled voices. I thought I could hear my name, but then again, isn’t that what everyone hears?
Squinting into the darkness ahead of me, I realized that with that many voices, surely I should have seen someone up ahead, walking towards me.
I glanced behind me, but there was no one. There wouldn’t be. Not this late. The lab got to work so early in the morning, and with everyone forced to stay on base for this experiment, there wasn’t any reason to stay up this late.
It’s just my head. Still half asleep. I should turn back. I should go to my room.
Every corridor in this base looked the same. The only indication of what hallway I was in was the number painted over every door. But I was so far into this hallway that I didn’t even see a door.
I decided to listen to my instinct and walk towards the way my back had been turned. The likelihood that I had been doing multiple turnarounds was not that great, but then again, I had never sleep-walked either. At least as far as I knew.
There was a soft buzz radiating from the wall lanterns, and as I passed underneath them, I couldn’t help but feel like something was watching me just from the darkest parts of the hallway. But my feet kept moving, even with this fear rising in my tingling fingers and dry mouth.
When the double door leading to the next hallway come into view, I stopped walking. My whole body went numb as I stared at the number. 43. 43. 43. 43.
My breathing hitched as my heart rate rose. The sleeping quarters were in number 15. There were only 40 numbers I was told of. It was reasonable to assume that there were more numbers that I wouldn’t have access to, but here I was. In a restricted area. That I had somehow gained access to in my sleep. And I hadn’t been shot yet.
I hesitated to reach out for the door handle. What if these people worked at night, to make sure that no one interfered with their work? What if I was one step away from being caught?
The whispers had gotten closer to me, coming from behind door 43. This time I was sure I could hear the sing-song call of my name.
I should run. I should run out this door. Run as fast as I can back to my station.
I reached for the handle and pushed.
My eyes blinked as they adjusted to the brighter light of this hallway. For some reason the door had been tinted, not showing that this hallway was lit up with the normal fluorescents that were used during the day hours.
There was a long table, but that wasn’t what I was looking at. Sitting on the edge of the table was a girl, maybe close to my age or a few years younger. Her hair was loose and wavy around her neck. Her skin was a creamy brown and exposed through her thin dress.
“You found me,” she said with a soft smile. “Now find me for real.”
My body convulsed and I fell to the floor. But no — I sat up. I was in my bed. It was dark, but I could see the green glow under my bedroom door from the hallway lanterns. My hands were clammy, my breathing absolutely too fast.
A dream. That was all. Just a dream.
I laid back against my pillows, a hand rested against my chest so that I could feel my heart as it slowed down. This wasn’t the first time I had dreamt of wandering the halls past where my clearance let me go. But I had never dreamt of something so specific.
It’s just because you saw those helicopters arrive today, I tell myself. Your head is telling you that something big is going on. But nothing is. Of course, it isn’t.
I go back to sleep, but even as I close my eyes, I can still see the girl. And I wonder if it’s true what they say: that you can’t dream of anyone you haven’t seen before.
As I send my 70th query letter between the two different book series I’m trying to publish, I find myself wondering: why am I still trying to publish this way? The answer is complicated, slightly prideful, but also embedded in the fact that I don’t only want money. I want people to be able to read my book. I want to belong to something.
When I was in high school, I managed to get my book (Spell Bound, Kristen McDonald) published through a legitimate publishing house — Black Rose Writing. Though now that I look back on it, I realize that being on my own to navigate this publishing process was a nightmare. They’re one of the few companies that accept unsolicited query letters (for anyone who doesn’t know, unsolicited means you can send your work without being represented by an agent or someone on the “inside”). Me being the little naive teenager I was, I considered this to be a plus.
But at the end of the day, I had to pay out of pocket for 100 copies, I had to edit the manuscript myself (with a 9th grader’s experience in the English language), and I received little-to-no marketing besides the book being released online through major outlets.
A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with his pants down. If it is a good book nothing can hurt him. If it is a bad book nothing can help him.-Edna St. Vincent Millay
After hearing all of this, you may think that I wouldn’t want to go through a nightmare like that again. Maybe I should just publish through Amazon and skip the trouble. But instead, this experience has made me feel like the only route that will work for me is to get represented. Maybe part of me is just such a purist: I feel that getting published the traditional way feels like the only option for me. But I know it’s more than that.
Also, I can’t edit myself — even as an adult. And I’m not about to shovel out a large sum to have someone else do it for self-publishing either.
Why am I still trying to go the “traditional” route for publishing? Why do I believe that finding an agent is the route for me? There are several reasons.
While I am continuously sending query letters, I have looked at self-publishing expenses before. I’ve even requested packages and received numerous phone calls from people who try to get me to join their programs. The bottom line is always the same: I don’t have money to self-publish through these companies. So many of these places offer only slightly different packages for you. Some offer a set amount of money to receive a set amount of books. Others help with marketing but you have to pay for everything along the way.
I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all it is cracked up to be. But writing is.-Anne Lamott
But who really has money for this? It’s an investment for sure, but books won’t make you that much money unless you’re selling a ton of copies. But it’s not about the money for me when it comes to books.
Really, as a broke kid with college debt living in LA, my only chance to get published right now is through some kind of book deal with a publishing house. While self-publishing companies claim to push as low as 500-1000 dollars to get published through their system, that price is just not practical in my current situation. I loved this line from firstwriter.com, “Remember, it’s better to have 15% of something than 50% of nothing.” When you publish traditionally, you have such a better chance of your book getting read and purchased.
While I’m sure there are plenty of horror stories about agent-writer relationships, at the end of the day, I need someone to advocate for me. I need to know that I have someone on my team who is trying to market my book as much as I am. Why? Because until I can reasonably support myself with my writing, I’m going to have to work another job. Which leaves very little time to actually market my own books. Not that I wouldn’t push it HARD on every platform that I can. But this means that I’m going to need to get a good marketing deal with a publishing house.
As someone trying to be picked up by the largest publishing house possible, an agent is a necessity. They’re going to be the ones who are able to push my work through what so many people call the “slush pile” and seen by publishing houses.
It’s estimated that about 300,000 books get published every year in the US. And these are the books that are not self-published. So yeah, the odds are not in my favor. Even with a small, published book under my belt. Plus with the trends of genres always changing like the tide, it’s hard to catch the right agent’s attention.
I can’t tell you how many articles and YouTube videos I’ve watched about “How To Get an Agent” or “Why Agents Aren’t Picking Up Your Book.” But at the end of the day, I’ve seen just as many agents tweet things about how it’s just luck. It’s just subjective. It’s just a personal opinion. And you just have to find the right one at the right time.
As a young man just beginning to publish some short fiction in the t&a magazines, I was fairly optimistic about my chances of getting published; I knew that I had some game, as the basketball players say these days, and I also felt that time was on my side; sooner or later the best-selling writers of the sixties and seventies would either die or go senile, making room for newcomers like me.-Stephen King
According to theadventurouswriter.com, agent Janet Reid “gets 100 query letters a week; other agents in her office get 500 queries a week. Reid may request 4 partial manuscripts from those 100 query letters.” I know agents have a hard job. I follow quite a few on twitter, and I see how exhausted they are by writers who just don’t understand what “no” or politeness means.
But that’s easier said than done when it feels like you’re running out of people to send your work to.
Even worse, I’ve seen even agencies not accepting unsolicited query letters. At that point, I wanted to throw in the towel. How can I even hope to be published traditionally when there are all of these hoops to jump through? And yet I persist. Why? It might be because I still believe in this industry and want to be added to the YA shelves of every bookstore across the world. Or maybe I’m just crazy. Who knows?
All I know is that I will continue to write and continue to push my writing out into the world.
My personal journey is to travel the narrow path of traditional publishing, but I know this isn’t everyone’s choice. What are your thoughts and reasons for wanting to self-publish or traditionally publish? I’d love to hear where you are in this process and how this journey has been for you.
Firstly, let’s acknowledge the incredible cover art by Illustrator Aykut Aydogdu. I think this cover art is half the attraction and hype of this book. So good job, marketing team.
Alright let’s get to it. Few-to-no spoilers for this part (when regarding specific plot-points). Just a straight-shot review. If you’d like to see my in-depth analysis, read “Getting Through the Weeds” below.
Wilder Girls by Rory Power has been called a combination of Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies by literally every popular review website. Except, it’s really like a knock-off teen version of the movie Annihilation and a watered-down version of Lord of the Flies without the social commentary undertones. The writing was vague, the plot was thin and often petty. For a book saturated with powerful girls, this book was seriously lacking some girl power.
Wilder Girls is set in a time period most likely close to ours, where a group of students at a boarding school in Maine are attacked by a mysterious island disease that kills males quickly and leaves the females with nature-influenced transformations. With anything from scales to second spines, these girls are fighting for their lives. Meanwhile, the flora around the school continues to morph and a group of scientists search for answers to help them (from a distance). The story is told from split perspective of two best friends Hetty and Byatt, while other girls and teachers are splattered in scenes here and there.
The premise of Wilder Girls is obviously an interesting one, with potential for political commentary, LGBTQ+ romances and conversations (when considering the “biological” response to the disease), and scenes of girls being kick-ass. The author did a great job of making an ailment that might have been humorous actually seem terrifying and even cool at parts. But I came into this book expecting powerful girl romance and great story.
Unfortunately, that didn’t really happen. The romance was forced and weak. The “feminist” aspect of the book was non-existent. The writing was somehow so vague and dream-like that moments felt under-described and blurry. As if the picture wasn’t completely formulated when it was written. All in all, I felt super disappointed by this book. Especially because I felt like it had so much potential. If you’re into girl drama and an interesting setting, then this book might be an okay read for you. But if you were really banking on this book being your next favorite soft Sci-Fi YA, you might be let down too.
Things started out strong. We have a sassy narrator who described their current status, with shocking details of each girls’ mutations. We have some hierarchy shifts with Hetty getting picked to be a supply-runner, which drives some conflict with her loner friend Reese. And then this line:
“She looks almost shy. But Reese doesn’t do shy. Even when she came out to me, it was like a weapon. ‘Queer,’ she said then, as though she was daring me to disagree.”
I don’t know if this passage was just out of place, forced, awkward, or all of the above. Did we have to make it such a clunky statement? This line makes me feel like Reese is obviously going to have a crush on one of the main girls. There’s no tension, no tenderness. It’s just kind of awkward? Maybe I’m crazy.
The relationship between Byatt, Reese, and Hetty gets even more complicated when Reese tells Hetty that she doesn’t want Byatt to be a part of the picture anymore. It’s just cold and toxic, and automatically makes me kind of resent Reese as a person. I want to like the main characters, but they’re all so distant and mean to each other. Constantly bickering over trivial things when they’re all literally dying from a terrible disease. It’s almost like the book is saying girls can’t stop being petty even if their life depends on it.
When Reese kisses Hetty, it was really forced and also inconsequential. They kiss near the beginning and spend most of the rest of the book fighting or running. There’s not much relationship building at all, which was super disappointing. Hetty also seems to have feelings for Byatt, who’s gone for most of the book, but she’s still okay with making out with Reese? Maybe she’s going for a love triangle, but it was pretty lukewarm.
But the trivial conflict of our protagonists is really just the icing over the poorly laid plot. Most of the driving plot points are Hetty sneaking places with little-to-no tension or consequences (at least for her and her BFFs). In a setting of fantastic beasts and creepy mutations, we see very few interactions between our girls and the fauna. The climax of the book isn’t even a major point towards figuring out the diseases. It’s just a bear trying to break into their school. That also somehow gets diluted by the fact that Hetty and Reese escape super easily. Even when the scientists are threatening to blow up their school, because they’ve given up on trying to find a cure, there’s no suspense. I just didn’t care.
It’s definitely a challenge to make readers care about sick characters who are most likely doomed to die a horrible death. But this book didn’t even seem to try to connect characters to readers. Dialogue is pretty shallow and their constant bickering doesn’t help.
Byatt gets separated from Reese and Hetty pretty early on in the book and has her own adventure. Including purposefully giving the disease to a male scientist. I guess he was stupid enough to fall for her sick ass in a couple of minutes and kiss her. Because…feminism?
Speaking of which, feminist literature is supposed to be like a defense or establishment of equal rights of women — whether politically, socially, economically, or otherwise. I don’t think I would ever consider this feminist literature. For one, there’s nothing inherently political about the disease affecting only women. It’s not like The Power, by Naomi Alderman, where this is some sort of revelation of power dynamics. It’s just a hormone reactant. The only feminist power line was this:
“We don’t get to choose what hurts us.”
And yes, true. Preach! But that’s about it in the commentary department. I don’t need a book to be saturated in socioeconomic comments, but just because a book is an all-girl cast doesn’t make it feminist. At least in my opinion.
Byatt was by far the superior character, and I wish the story had been told by her perspective a little earlier on. She had some gorgeous poetry-like paragraphs when she was on drugs with the scientists. But she also had this gut-wrenching self-harm scene that made me tremble with nausea. It was honestly a bit much at times, but I kind of liked that about this book. It was definitely fearless with the horror descriptions. BUT, these clearly written violent details made everything else look even more under described.
There were a couple of logical errors like Hetty breaking open a window with her fist when she had a knife on her to use as a blunt force against the glass. And are you telling me that all they had to do was cut the parasite out of them and they’d be better? No scientist tried that at all before? Instead they just keep trying these drugs and gassing the girls. It’s just a little weird.
I think this book just focuses on the wrong things at the wrong time. The pacing is weird. The characters are just not great people and flat half the time. The concept was definitely interesting, but it just didn’t rock my world.
Change my mind about this book! I want to like it so much more, but right now I feel quite meh about it. What do you think?
I had a reading slump at the beginning of the month. I blame it on my anxious mental breakdowns and the usual — playing Skyrim. However, I finally got back into reading after finding the Booktube community. Mostly binge-watching ReadWithCindy. Anyways, here’s my book recap for the month. Have you read any of these books, or are they on your TBR list? Let me know what you think!
Beautiful Creatures was….meh. You can read my review, but I felt lukewarm-to-not-great about it. It was very bland with bad pacing. That’s about all I have to add to my thoughts on the book.
I actually listened to Becoming on audiobook, which is great because Michelle Obama just won a Grammy for the reading of this book. While I really loved hearing her life story and getting an inside look to what it’s like to be the President’s wife, I felt like she ran out of things to talk about in her early life. She did do a good job reading. I was entertained and engaged for most of the book. I also had an emotional breakdown when she talked about her disabled dad dying. My dad is similarly disabled, and it was like hearing my future before my ears. Needless to say, I was sobbing for most of my car ride home from work.
To Drink Coffee with a Ghost is a poetry book, and I realized a little too late that it’s actually the second part of a poetry collection. Despite this, it was definitely readable as a stand-alone. I connected to a lot of the poems about her mom, but some of them were just a little too obvious. I like poetry that’s pretty heavy in the metaphor department. So if any of you have recommendations, hit me up!
Ah, The Last Wish. This book made me believe in fairytale retellings again. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and read it really fast actually. The only reason I didn’t give it 5 stars was because it was a little disjointed at times (partially because it was a collection of short stories). But there was a lot of names thrown at you, and the “overarching” storyline was really short and non-essential for the most part. But, I’m looking forward to the other books in the series for sure. LASTLY, I think the show did a really great job of connecting these disjointed stories into one giant storyline. And I was still able to enjoy the book’s differences.
If you’d like a full review on any of these besides Beautiful Creatures (which I already did), let me know!
I’ve been reading Dracula for a while, and it will probably be another month before I finish. I mostly read it when I have nothing else to read. Or if I only have my iPad with me (because I’m reading it via Apple Books).
I’m also giving the second book of the Castor series a try. *Sighs for eternity.* I’m just trying to figure out why it’s so popular.
Lastly, I’ll be writing a full review of Wilder Girls when I’m finished, which should be in the beginning of the month of February. I’ve got a lot to say about it so far.
What books have you read this month? Do you agree with my ratings? Leave a comment below if you’d like to share your lovely thoughts.
I couldn’t find the actual website this prompt used to belong to. It took me instead to a Game of Thrones online game… Well that’s alright. Anyways, let’s get to the prompt.
As always, 30 minutes and enjoy your writing everyone! Don’t forget to leave a comment about what you think of my version, or where you’d want your own prompt to go.
If you have any prompts you want to see on this website, be sure to leave them in the comments section.
And for even more prompts, check out my Pinterest board just for writing prompts!
*WARNING THIS PROMPT CONTAINS VIOLENT IMAGERY*
I inhaled as the creature rounded Tommy once more. Not today, I begged. Please, just not today.
The monster was a milky pink with layers of skin folding over its body like an obese worm. No eyes, only two small slits where eyes and nose should be. And his mouth was ripped open to his ears, filled with several rows of razor teeth.
Of course, my friend couldn’t see the thing licking his ear. He probably couldn’t even feel it.
But I could.
My eyes snapped to meet his.
His eyes narrowed and then rolled to the side. “Never mind. I’ll see you later, okay? I have to get home before my dad does.”
He adjusted the strap of his backpack on his shoulder and walked away from me. I took a breath as the creature vanished in a single blink of my eyes. Like its existence had popped out like a bubble. As long as it was gone, I didn’t care.
As I waiting for Tommy to turn the corner and start on my own way home, I noticed a rustling in the leaves.
I walked towards it, numb in my fingers and face. Just thinking about all that I was yet to see today. They had started to show up when I was seven. My aunt had been arguing with my mom when my dad came home. Then they all got into it. The next thing I know, some freaking ugly-ass creature blinks into existence, slices mom and dad’s throats and leaves my aunt to go to jail for the crime. Now I live with my grandma. If you can call “living with” a situation where I don’t even usually see her. I don’t know if she leaves the house or is just hiding in one of the massive rooms so I can never find her. Either way, I’m on my own.
I realized that I was now standing in front of the bushes. Two black-pit eyes were staring back at me through the shrub and several feet below my eye-level. The eyes swayed from side to side until I made out its gaping mouth in the darkness. Filled with row after row of yellow teeth.
I took a step back.
The creature beckoned me forward, pushing its frail hand — from which long black nails jutted out — through the branches of the bush.
I can’t tell you why I moved forward. There’s no reason why I should have. But I did.
I entered the shrub as I started to hear shouting from across the street. A group of kids — two girls and one boy — crossed the street and raced towards where I had been standing. I stepped farther back into the bushes, knowing full well that the creature still stood beside me, gawking. Not really moving, just staring at me and the scene that was unraveling before my eyes.
“Claa-ire,” the shortest girl called out in a song-like tone.
“I swear I saw her,” the other girl said.
“Yeah, I definitely did too.” the boy said. He had something he held in his hand that was sharp on the end. It caught the glint of the street lamp like some sort of glass dagger.
I recognized them all as my classmates, with varying degrees of feelings towards each. The boy was Jake, the basketball center and often too quiet to make assumptions about. The other girl I had seen before but only knew her name as Trisha. The short girl was Hailey, the only one in most of my classes and someone I had personally tried to avoid since we had met.
“Shut up,” Hailey said, brushing her cropped curls behind an ear and raising a hand to silence them. “Maybe we can hear her.”
I knew the art of silent breathing. When I was in bed at night I was often “greeted” by these strange beings. If I hid under the sheets without making any sudden movement or noise, they would often just stand there until morning. One time I accidentally coughed and the loudest moan echoed off the creature’s lips. I had run out of the room and searched through the house for my grandma all night. And I still didn’t find her.
“She’s definitely not here,” Trisha said.
That’s when Hailey and Jake turned in towards her.
“You tipped her off, didn’t you?” Hailey demanded, grabbing the sharp tool from Jake’s hand.
Trisha took a step back with her hands raised at her chest. “Um, no — why would I do that? I told you, I thought she was weird. I wanted to go through with this.”
Hailey’s chin lifted up so she could make eye contact with Jake, and he nodded.
Then two things happened. A shadow appeared behind Hailey and latched itself onto her back like some sort of felt fabric sewn to her skin. Only the shadow’s hand wrapped around her hand and dragged it forward as she pushed the dagger into Trisha’s body.
Jake grabbed Trisha’s arms and pulled them behind her back as the Hailey-shadow combination plunged the knife in two more times.
“That should have been Claire,” Hailey said, wiping her dagger off on Trisha’s shirt. On the only spot she could find that wasn’t drenched with blood.
Trisha was still gasping for air. But only for a few minutes. Then she was gone.
And so was the shadow.
In my paralyzed fear, I realized that the creature in the bushes was still beside me, breathing faintly. As I noticed it again, its hand reached out at me. I flinched, but not before one of its claws brushed against my skin. It scratched the surface, but not in a normal way. Instead, it left a symbol, almost like a rose but with thorns built inside of the petals.
And somehow I knew at that moment: these creatures might be more complicated than I had first thought.
So in my quest for finding work in LA, I began to look into freelance writing and ghostwriting. Writing has always been a passion of mine, and though I love fiction writing, any writing feels “right” to me. Like many accountants love balancing checkbooks, or mathematicians love solving equations, I love completing a well-rounded article.
That’s also why writing for the blog has been quite the challenge. I’ve been working a 7 hour job — editing photos, taking photos, and content creating for a fashion company — and then I come home and work on articles for separate companies.
There’s a couple things I’ve learned in my short time in the freelance writing world, so I thought I’d share for all you writers out there.
When I first started looking for gigs to freelance write, I was overwhelmed by the number of other writers doing the same thing. Not only were there so many freelancers, but there was also so many businesses who were hiring freelancers for different reasons. But I couldn’t seem to find a job that fit for me. I applied to several companies and heard nothing back.
But as I continued to study my options, I came across several opportunities to write. Here are just a few things that helped me get started:
After I started blogging, I also contributed a short story. I picked up a freelance writing gig for a SEO company that was just starting out and needed someone with a background in excellent proofreading and content writing. I also got the opportunity to write for LA Elements and go on the red carpet to interview actors and crew members about the new movie Agent Emerson.
The point is, opportunities are out there. You just have to be persistent.
After I submitted my short story as a contribution post, I received and email saying they loved my piece so much that they wanted me to be a paid author on their site. I was so thrilled (obviously!). But when I sent an email in response, I got back silence. Nothing. For over two weeks.
When I sent another email, I got back a short reply that they actually had meant to send that email to someone else. *Sigh.* Back to square one.
While this situation is pretty particular, there are going to be tons of scams out there. Be sure to look up where your writing will be posted if you contribute writing. Make sure you’ve established good communication with whoever you write for. Make contracts ahead of time. Meet up face-to-face if possible. People want writers to work for free. Don’t let that happen.
There are also tons of people who are “professional freelancers” who just want to sell you their $500 freelancer kit. If you really trust one of these people’s programs and have the money to spend, sure. Go for it. But personally, I’ve found I can learn just as much about anything through YouTube and Google. I’ve left some resources at the end of the blog if you’re interested in SEO and content writing.
The internet will tell you that freelancers are paid anywhere between $.03 to $.10 per word. Some crazy ones even say $1 per word. In reality, you’re more likely to get paid $.02 per word or a set payment for a project. For example, I’ve gotten paid $60 for a 600 word article. And I’m currently getting that rate of $.02 for my SEO writing. It does add up, and it can still make you a good amount of side change. But you won’t be able to live off these rates at first.
Don’t be discouraged. If anything, a paid gig is still better than just contribution posts or working for free. You can add it to your resume. Also, keep track of your assignments so you can send them to future clients as examples.
Dig into the grind of getting paid little for work that deserves much more. Prove to your employers that you’re worth more than the rate they actually pay you. Eventually you might be able to negotiate higher rates.
Above all, remember that your writing is a craft that not a lot of other people are capable of. Whether it’s fiction, poetry, self-help, SEO, brand writing, etc. You are a word artist. And just like any other legitimate job and craft, you deserve to get paid.
It’s fine to do a couple jobs pro bono, especially if it’s for a cause you love, contests, or contribution posts to major blogs. But don’t let anyone tell you that your writing is an easy thing to do and doesn’t deserve to be paid. If it was so easy, then all of these companies and websites would just do it themselves.
The world needs great writers. And they need to pay them too. Stick with your guns. You’re a great writer, and you deserve to get paid for it.
As much as I love content creating for other people, it’s important to still take time for yourself. You’re a writer for a reason, and there were probably projects you were working on for yourself before you started working for others.
If you started writing that book, keep writing. If you love poetry, keep working on your poems. Just because you aren’t getting paid for those projects now, doesn’t mean they aren’t worth your time. Your passions are important. They bring you life. They’re the reason you’re a writer. And someday, those projects will come to life before your eyes.
So make time for your craft. It’ll be hard. You might have to start with a small amount or one day a week. But make time for your own writing. And make time to relax too!
What are some lessons you’ve learned as a writer? Comment below!
Canva – helps you create easy graphics for your writing
Grammarly – is great for picking up little grammar mistakes
Hemingway Writing Ap – useful for correcting sentence structure and length
All Freelance Writing Jobs – a website that shows great and diverse writing jobs
Last year was my first vegan Thanksgiving. And fortunately, my mom was so wonderful enough to go all-out for me, Mitchell, and my vegetarian sister Bri. She made us a full spread of vegan goodies.
This year, it’s unlikely we’ll be able to make it home for Thanksgiving. And we won’t necessarily want to make everything from scratch if we make a dinner of our own.
Maybe your family doesn’t know how to make their traditional meals veganized. Or maybe you just want to bring a few dishes to your meat-eating relative’s party.
Here’s a compiled list of amazing products and recipes to make your vegan Thanksgiving easy and delicious.
There’s plenty of recipes out there that use coconut milk for the cream of mushroom soup, but if you’re lazy like me and don’t want to make it completely from scratch, here’s a great cream of mushroom soup mix that’s completely dairy free. This recipe is based off the casserole from Mccormick.com.
All you have to do is mix everything except the crispy onions and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Then add the crispy onions on top and bake for five more minutes.
I don’t know about you, but yeast dinner rolls are one of my favorite parts about Thanksgiving. Luckily, there are quite a few of the frozen brands that are vegan.
We usually put two in one muffin tin so they look like butt rolls. But they’re perfect to split apart and slather with some vegan butter.
Most vegans have come to the consensus that the Gardein Holiday Roast is the best alternative to turkey for Thanksgiving. I’ve tried a couple from Field Roast, but this one was definitely my favorite. It reminded me of a Thanksgiving-themed frozen Cordon Bleu, which used to be one of my favorite things in the world.
There are tons of pie crusts that are ready-to-bake and also vegan. All you have to do is fill it with canned pie filling of your choice. Of course, there’s also recipes to make vegan pumpkin pie out there. But if you’re lazy like me, this is as good as it gets.
My mom’s pie crust actually uses Crisco which is vegetable shortening, so all of her pies are vegan already which is amazing. I haven’t mastered the art of the pie making yet, so I think I’ll stick to pre-made.
This mac and cheese is great baked, and it’s super creamy. If you want to make something from scratch, all you have to do is make a rue from vegan butter and flour, add cooked macaroni noodles and your shredded vegan cheese of choice. Then you can bake it at 350 degrees with some breadcrumbs on top.
Check out this recipe and swap out the ingredients for vegan ones for a fantastic baked mac and cheese!
Sure you can boil potatoes and mash them yourself, but why not make it easier? All you have to do is add your plant-based milk and butter of choice and boom. Mashed potato paradise.
You can’t have mashed potatoes without gravy! Last year we made some vegan gravy from some fancy mushrooms, but it did take quite a while. To save time, there’s plenty of vegan gravy options. But you can also make this simple recipe below. It was inspired by Cookingwithcurls.com.
Instructions: melt the butter over low heat, add flour and whisk, simmer for 2 minutes, add stock and seasoning, continue stirring until thickened. Make sure not to boil!
A lot of stuffing mixes have hidden milk or egg ingredients or just a lot of garbage. I really like this one in particular because it has a lot of interesting fun ingredients that are both healthy and vegan. Just bake and eat!
You may have already thought corn casserole was vegan (someone at one of our Thanksgivings definitely did). But just because it has a vegetable in the name doesn’t mean it’s vegan. But don’t worry! Making vegan corn casserole is one of the easiest ones out there. And it only has 5 ingredients. This receipt was inspired by the non-vegan recipe found at tastesoflizzyt.com
All you have to do is mix all those ingredients, put it in a 8×8 pan, and bake at 350 degrees for around 45 minutes.
Of course, one of the most difficult parts of Thanksgiving can be family. While my parents were cool with a vegan Thanksgiving (even though they still ate turkey), when we went to other Thanksgiving dinners, it was usually a little more awkward or meat-oriented. Of course, right? That’s pretty much the norm.
But here are a few tips for vegans at Thanksgiving.
Happy Fiction Friday everyone! Can you believe it’s already #6? If any of you has great prompts you think I should write, be sure to leave them in the comments section. I’d love to know what you all are writing out there too! Whether it be these prompts or just your personal projects.
This week’s prompt is from promptuarium.wordpress.com. I have a huge obsession with Celtic mythology. While I’ve never heard of this particular lore, I think a lot of creative ideas can come from it.
Is the fugitive innocent or guilt?
What kind of spirits would follow him out?
Does he believe in ghosts at all?
As always, spend 30 minutes writing today. And don’t forget to check out the links at the bottom of the page to previous Fiction Fridays!
As I ran through the darkness, my thoughts ran loose in my mind, like a roll of paper dropped on the ground. How did I get here? How did it come to this? When did I get that stain on my only good shirt?
Blinded by my spinning mind, I tripped over a root poking up from the ground. My world flipped as my feet lifted into the air. My head angled downward. And cracked right into the glowing gravestone in front of me.
I reached for my head, wanting to feel if there was any blood. My fingers touched a warm liquid that proceeded to drip down my forward. I thrust my hands out — trying to find any kind of surface to help me stand.
Even in my haze, even between the many trees in the graveyard, I was starting to see a flicker of a flashlight. I could hear the dogs barking.
My hands took a hold of the gravestone, and I felt the blood transfer from my hands to the rough surface.
“Stupid, stupid stupid,” I hissed, kicking the stone with each word. I was going to get caught this night. That much was certain.
At the pressure from my kicks, the stone buckled as if it was made of chalk. The entire top half of the rounded stone made a large cracking noise and fell to a dozen pieces to the tangled grass.
“Caylen!” a barking voice called out from too close. “Come out now, or we’ll make it even worse when we find you!”
“Not a chance,” I muttered. And I kept moving.
I stayed crouched this time, my eyes trained on the ground to look for more roots. But every few seconds I had to blink the dizziness away and wipe the blood from dripping into my eyes. I had only just gotten out of range from the flashlight wielding police officer when a stubby gravestone caught my foot.
I flew forward, hitting the ground on my elbows this time, but getting a mouthful of grass and dirt. So much for just one stain on this shirt. I’d be lucky to get to wear it again at all. My wardrobe was the least of my problems. My knee had hit another gravestone that was only a square polished stone poking up from the ground. When I hit it, the entire stone had been pulled away from it’s original spot.
Who makes these gravestones so flimsy? Come on, Caylen, keep moving.
I stood and hobbled my way forward as fast as I could manage. Which wasn’t as fast as I preferred. I could see the iron gate ahead. I could jump it, no problem. But I would definitely be seen if the cop got too close behind me.
A crow sounded over my head as I passed under the last couple trees. My hands grasped the rusty iron gate at last. For a moment I hesitated, looking over my shoulder into the quiet night. No sign of flashlight.
I started climbing.
The voice had gotten much closer. I didn’t dare look over my shoulders. I just kept climbing. When I reached the top, I narrowly avoided the pointy bits and jumped to the ground below. My knee screamed out in burning pain, and I gasped as my hand reached towards it.
A flashlight lit up my face.
“Gotcha,” Officer Paula said. “Don’t move, kid. I’m coming over.”
I started to back away from the gate as she started climbing. But it wasn’t out of fear that she was coming after me. It was the vapor white figures materializing behind her. It was…it was like a ghost.
I opened my mouth, but I found that my breath had been stolen from me. The figures became clearer: one woman, one man. They floated into the air next to Officer Paula. For a moment they only rose higher as she climbed.
They each took hold of one of her shoulders. And pulled her to the ground hard. I heard the crack of her body hit the gravestone. She moved a little. Alive. For now.
The figures still hovered above the grass. But I was already turning to run. My heart pumped adrenaline through my injured body. I had to get out of here. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, but worse — maybe worse — was that I knew I would get blamed for Paula’s injuries. Just another thing to add to the list.
The ground under my feet changed from grass to assault. I was on a road. Not great, but better. It was still quiet. A country road at the dead of night wasn’t going to get many visitors.
A chill spread along my bruised arms. I let the shivers come for a moment but paused as I started to see my breath.
“Is Caylen your name?”
I swirled around and there were the two figures — pale and white like inverted shadows — staring at me. Their feet touched the ground now, and they were fully detailed. Both were close to my age and I could tell by their similar features that they probably were related. Their clothes were older than mine by a few centuries at least, though both of them wore trousers. Though they had just pulled Paula off the gate and injured her possibly fatally, their faces were calm and examined me.
I couldn’t find my voice. My throat was dry and as cold as the iron gate.
“Caylen?” the woman asked again. She put out a thin hand towards me, expecting me to take it. “I’m Lucy. I believe you just knocked my gravestone over?”
Today’s prompt is from TheFakeRedHead.com. I was really intrigued by this prompt, because it kind of reminded me of Happy Death Day. Let’s see where we go with this one!
As always, 30 minutes, free-write.
Write with me! It’s so great for writers to use writing prompts to improve their writing.
Let’s do this!
“I’ve lost count of how many times you’ve died in front of me,” I said.
She rolled up her sleeves and buttoned them down before glancing up at me.
“So far twenty, but I’m sure it’ll be more before we figure this out.” She didn’t say this as if it was annoying to her that she lived a life of constant death. She only stated it.
“Come on, let’s go,” I said. “The car’s parked by that streetlight.”
We started walking, and the warmth of her body next to mine was a comfort. She was alive. She was flesh and blood. And yet she was something else entirely. Though I’d seen her break both her legs in a fall, smash her head on concrete, get in accidents, and burst into flames, she was fine for the moment. Her skin was unmarked. Even her clothes were clean. But that was because I’d brought her some.
“You know you don’t have to do this,” she said. She stared straight ahead as the shape of the car came more into view.
I didn’t respond until we both had gotten in and closed the door. I started the engine. Or tried to when it turned over a couple times and puttered out.
I sighed and laid my head on the steering wheel.
“I know I don’t have to do this,” I said. “But I want to. I’ve never…I’ve never met anyone like you. And I’m not just talking about the death thing. You’re special. And I can’t just leave you to face this by yourself.”
Cami was picking at her nails, the only place with evidence that she’d been buried alive under a pile of rubble.
I turned the key again, and this time it sputtered to life. We were rolling.
“It’s not just me,” she said after we had been driving for several minutes. Her head was turned away so I could only see her curls as they brushed her shoulder.
“Wait, there’s more of you?”
“What?” she turned then, eyebrows turned up in confusion. “No, I meant it’s not just me who’s in danger. People die around me. They get sucked into this. You shouldn’t have to deal with this in your life. It’s bad enough that I do.”
At her warning, my hands gripped the wheel tighter and my eyes shifted from side to side as if I expected a semi to run a red light right into us. Even though the roads were empty at this hour, my heart was still beating fast. What if she was right? What if she was like some sort of magnet for bad luck that couldn’t be unmagnetized?
“Jake?” she said. “Can you say something please?”
“I don’t really care,” I said.
“My life has always been bad luck. But since I met you, it’s gotten so much better. Good things are happening to me for the first time. I can’t just leave because I’m scared.”
“It’s more than that,” she mumbled.
“It’s not,” I assured her. “I’m scared, but there has to be something I can do.”
“Tell that to the last three doctors who tried to hold me hostage and peel my skin off to examine the cell growth.”
We stopped at a red light even though there wasn’t any cross traffic. I debated running through it, but I could see the camera hanging from the metal pole. If people were still after her, I couldn’t risk it.
As I was thinking this, a black Sedan pulled up to the street adjacent to us. Even though he had a green light, he slowed to a stop. His window was too tinted to see into. He flashed his brights at us.
Cami squinted into the darkness.
“Go,” she said.
“Wh-what?” I was still trying to see into the window. I could just barely make out gloved hands.
“Go!” Cami shouted and slapped my arm with the palm of her hand.
I gunned the gas, and we sped through the red light. The camera didn’t even flash. As we drove through, the black Sedan pulled out behind us. I was already going over the speed limit, but I pressed down harder and swerved into a side street.
Cami’s body was twisted as she looked through the back window towards the car. It had missed the turn I made and was having to back up before following me.
“I know what I’m doing,” I said, clenching my jaw. My knuckles were white with strain. I didn’t trust myself to be one of those crazy car-chasing maniacs I’ve watched in movies. But I knew every street in this city. I knew how to lose him.
My small car squeezed down an alleyway. I circled back towards the way we had come from. I made wild turns that didn’t make sense. I never went down the same road twice. My eyes never flashed up to check if I could see the Sedan in my rearview mirror. It wouldn’t matter. I was doing everything I could to lose him.
I stopped behind an apartment surrounded by human-planted trees that made a canopy around us and the car. There was an entrance to the highway just to our left if we had to make a quick getaway. But the night was quiet for once. Both of us were breathing hard. I blinked several times to get rid of the black spots in my vision.
“Any clue who that could be?” I asked.
Cami bit her lip. “There might be more.”
“More?” I asked, with a shaky laugh. “Like more to your story, or more to your curse?”
“Both,” she whispered.
I opened my mouth to respond when our car was rammed into from the side so hard that the car flipped and started to roll. I clenched everything, letting out a yell that I knew I would regret later. When the car rattled and stopped moving, we were upside-down.
“Cami?” I said, my voice a raspy mess.
A cloud of dust surrounded us as the airbags went off in delayed reaction. They hit my lungs so hard that for a moment I couldn’t breathe. A wheezing gasp escaped my lips. As I waved my hands to clear the air, I saw that Cami’s neck was bent at an odd angle. Blood lined her forehead. Her airbag hadn’t just gone off—it had exploded. Hunks of the car had caved in between us. I could see her, but I couldn’t pull her body through the gap.
“Cami!” I yelled.
I wrestled with my seatbelt, which came undone easily. In surprise, I caught myself just in time before crumpling to the roof of my car head-first. I examined my hands and my ripped jeans. No scratch? Not even a mark? My body vibrated with energy as my ears rang in cycles of annoying tones. My door had been ripped open and hung by a slim piece of metal.
“Cami, I’m coming,” I said, crawling on all fours to the other side of the car. “Ah man.”
The entire right side of the car was smashed in so deep I could see some of the underside. I reached for her door’s handle, but there wasn’t a handle. Only compressed metal molded into a solid form.
“No, no, no,” I said. If I couldn’t get her out, that meant I had to call someone. And if I had to call someone, they would see her lifeless body. Hospitals. Doctors. Tests.
“Hey man!” a voice called out behind me. “Hey man, are you okay?”
A big man in a white t-shirt came into the light.
As he examined my non-bloodstained body, he breathed audibly. “I’m so sorry. I was driving my truck and couldn’t brake down that hill. I saw this parking lot and thought I could use it to stop. I didn’t even see your—oh gosh is there someone still inside?”
“Crowbar,” I said. “You got one?”
When I tell people that our anniversary date is on October 31, people kind of cock their heads at me and give me a strange look. “Why in the world would you want to do that?” they seem to ask.
What they don’t realize is that Halloween has brought me and and Michell closer together when we were working, during our long-distance period, and when we finally finished college.
This was our first Halloween as a couple and of course we had to dress up as one of our favorites! At the time we were both working at our church as worship leaders. It was also the only year of college that we were together. This year was full of learning moments of time management, getting healthy, and learning how to be in a relationship.
In 2016 I drove to Bloomington for the weekend to go to a Halloween party. We dressed up as Scott Pilgrim and Ramona Flowers. Props to you if you know the movie! Anyways, this Halloween was the first fall that we weren’t living in the same area. We had just started going to different colleges, and it was definitely really hard. Being able to celebrate Halloween together was just really meaningful.
In 2017 I had to work at Starbucks for Halloween. It was still pretty fun because the kids would come in dressed so cute, and we’d give them candy. But as you can see, I wasn’t exactly a happy cat! This year was the hardest year for me. Mitchell and I were so busy and later this year he went to Los Angeles for his internship. There was a lot of learning how to manage my emotions and anxiety. We made it through, just like always.
Finally made it! This is our wedding day a year ago. It’s crazy how much we’ve changed and grown as people. We went vegan, we finished college, we traveled to Taiwan and Los Angeles, we got MARRIED!
What I’ve learned is that holidays can mean something different than you would expect. Halloween has always been important and special to me as a child, and I’m so glad that Mitchell has become a part of this tradition with me.
We also learned that struggling through these years made us stronger as people. We’ve been through so much, and Halloween was just one of those great things that kept us going.
What does Halloween mean for you? What traditions do you have on Halloween? I’d love to hear about them. Comment below!
Today’s prompt is from Deep Water Prompts. I liked this one just because it was simple and intrigued me. What kind of person would be looking for necromancy books, especially advanced? And where would they be looking? This one got a little spooky for Halloween!
Spend 30 minutes today and write! It might not be this prompt. Check out some of my older prompts if you’d like to use another idea.
Jess’ eyes scanned the bookshelves for the fifteenth time.
“It’s not there,” Kye said. He folded his arms over his purple hair and put his cheek down on the wooden table. “I told you, they wouldn’t just keep that kind of thing out for public use.”
“Well I didn’t think there would be that many people looking,” Jess said. She folded the creases of her pleated skirt before collapsing into the chair beside Kye. “It’s not like the whole village comes here looking for zombie spells.”
Kye blinked at her. “What would I know? I don’t know how those crazy village people think.”
“What are we going to do?” she asked. “Pedro said that if we don’t find the spell by tomorrow, he’s going to kill her.”
“Well if it takes longer than tomorrow, at least we’ll know how to bring her back,” Kye mumbled into his sleeve.
Jess tapped her fingers on the table. “It’s not funny, you know.”
“I know.” Kye sat up again. His disheveled hair was sticking up in odd angles. The collar of his wrinkled button-down was askew. “I know, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t make fun of this.”
“I didn’t even like her. And now I have to try to save her before All Hallow’s Eve?”
Kye stood up and started pacing the length of the table. Jess watched him, arm leaning against the back of the chair.
“What are you thinking?” she asked.
“The professors are bound to have private collections. And you know that Jaxby would be the one to have something like this.”
Jess touched the cover of the only book they they had found on the subject of Necromancy. They were both surprised that the cover and pages were worn with use. The binding nearly crumbled as they opened it. But it was just beginner’s prattle. Mostly warnings and starter chants. Not anything like what Pedro had asked them for.
“So how do we get to his stash then?” Jess asked.
“We take the book to him. Ask him if he’s seen anything more in-depth. If he starts to act worried, we definitely know he does.”
“Yes,” Jess said. “I think that would work. But then what, we break into his office? He’d know who took it for sure.”
“We just need the spell,” Kye said. A smile was spreading across his lips. “Just a spell. Not the whole book.”
Jess stuffed her belongings back into her shoulder bag and Kye followed to do the same with his things.
“We can still catch him tonight,” Jess said. “He stays late. Mites, he never leaves this place.”
Jess nodded. “Okay, let’s hurry then.”
The two raced down the hallway, paying no mind to the students who balked at them to calm down. They both knew they were acting strange, but it wasn’t anything new. Especially when they were together. The halls were covered in decorations for the holiday. Moving charmed bats hung on strings from the ceiling rafters. Shadows of ghosts walked beside them when they passed by glass windows.
After crossing through the courtyard, where dozens of pumpkins were lit up in perpetual illumination, they came to Jaxby’s office.
Kye looked to Jess. “Go on, you knock.”
Jess rolled her eyes as she pulled the beginner’s Necromancy book from her bag and knocked on the door.
“Professor?” Jess called.
No answer. Jess knocked again. Silence.
She sent an exasperated look to Kye, who reached for the doorknob. Jess swatted his hand away.
“Are we just going to go in?” she hissed.
But Kye was already going for the doorknob again and pushed the door open. The room was dark except for two blue candles — not real fire but the closest thing they had to electricity at the school.
“Be quiet,” Kye whispered and slipped through the door.
“What if he’s in the back or something?” Jess asked, but she followed him anyway.
The room was colder than the chilly October courtyard, which confused Jess until she spotted the open window at the far end of the room. Kye was already making his way to the bookcase pressed against the wall of the office. It took up nearly half the wall, and a thick sheet of glass separated them from the books inside.
“There’s no handle,” Kye said.
“It’s a spell, stupid,” Jess said. “Do you think that a Professor would just trust his private collection with a normal cabinet?”
Kye shrugged. “Well, do you know the spell?”
But Jess’s eyes were focused on Jaxby’s desk where a book was closed and covered in scattered essay papers. Surely it couldn’t be that easy. But maybe hiding something valuable in plain sight was Jaxby’s style.
A grandfather clock went off, striking eleven booming drones before resuming its ticking nose.
“Jeez that made me jump out of my socks,” Kye said, pressing a hand to his chest. “Jess, do you know the spell — what are you doing?”
Jess was pushing the paperwork carefully aside, taking note which order the papers were stacked. Beneath the papers was a green-tinged tome, thicker than the beginner’s guide. An energy rose from this book as if it was breathing.
She reached down to touch the cover. The runes embossing the front in a square border kept swimming in her mind’s eye when she tried to translate it.
“I think this is our book,” she said softly.
Kye came beside her and looked down. “This book?”
Jess pulled back the cover with unusual effort, as if the tome didn’t want to reveal its secrets to her. At first the runes that covered the pages shifted as the cover had, but then they settled and formed tight scrawling handwriting.
She began ripping through the contents. “It’s here. It has to be here. Jaxby’s so sensitive to events that he must have gotten some sort of feeling this book was in danger.”
Kye watched her as she searched the pages with vicious eyes until her finger stopped at the top of a page.
“This one,” she said.
Kye stared at her finger. “Are you sure?”
Jess nodded and held the page with her hand as she flipped to the end of the spell.
“Holy mites,” Kye breathed. “It’s like twenty pages long.”
With a single flourish, Jess ripped out the entire section. She was quick enough that it left minimal damage to the spin. Slamming the cover closed, she heard rustling in the courtyard.
Kye’s eyes widened as she stuffed the spell pages into her jacket and had just enough time to push the papers back over the tome as Jaxby walked through his office door. His eyebrows rose into his fluffy gray hair as he noticed them standing by his desk.
“Kye. Jess,” he said with confusion radiating from behind his spectacles. “What are you doing here so late? And without me?”
Kye stammered as Jess answered, “We were looking for you. We thought you were here when the door was open.”
“It’s only been a moment,” Kye said then added, “Sir.”
“Right,” Jaxby said neutrally. “Well, what is it that you so desperately wanted to see me for?”
“We—” Jess said, feeling like she was trapped. They couldn’t ask him about the beginner’s guide now. If he saw the spell was missing, he would know it was them. He would probably know it was them anyways.
“I was wondering if you did private tutoring?” Kye asked.
Jess bit her lip in surprise at Kye’s quick thinking.
“Ah, a bit behind are we?” Jaxby said, wiping his glasses. “I can’t say I’m surprised. You seem to spend more time on your hair than your homework, Kye.”
Kye stifled his indignation with trembling closed lips.
“Oh, for me, Professor,” Jess interjected. “Kye was asking for me.”
So it’s mid October. I’ve been working as an intern, getting paid 200 a month for doing work most graphic designers would get paid 200 a day for. I took this job because I believed in the company. It was exactly what I wanted to do. Content writing, graphic designing, good company with good values. There was also a promise of commission and a full-time job at the end of two months (which will be November 18th for me).
The bad news is that we thought this would work because Mitchell would have a job by now. He’s had a couple good interviews this week after applying to over fifty places and not hearing a peep out of anything. Nothing solid yet.
We have this month’s rent and some change, but next month is about to kick us hard. We’re struggling. It’s not fun, it’s not easy.
Some people may look at this situation and say, “Well, why did you move out here in the first place?” My answer, to be honest, was that I trusted that God would provide for us.
Mitchell and I both put our trust to go into the wilderness, working hard, and praying that God would provide the necessities. We don’t expect things to just fall into our laps. We don’t believe in prosperity gospel. We just believe that God takes care of us.
But it’s been hard to believe this lately. I mean, I have no idea what will happen tomorrow. The company I work for might close down. They might let me go before they hire me on full time (or what’s actually looking to be part time now) because they can’t afford me.
The good news is we found a nice community to be a part of. We joined a church and have started serving on their worship team. A song we’re singing this week has the lines, “I’m going to see a victory.”
But I don’t know if I actually will.
Maybe I was stupid for wanting to follow my dreams. You might think so. But I believe that I was meant for something. I trusted that this is what I was supposed to do. I didn’t expect the road to be paved. But I thought there might at least be a machete to hack through the weeds.
I’ve started applying to other part time jobs: donut shops and coffeehouses, because if we don’t have enough money to pay our student loans and rent, God only knows what’s going to happen to us.
If you resonate with these struggles, I encourage you to share your story in the comment section below. If you’ve ever come through the other side after going through hard times, let me know. I need some inspiration and encouragement. I need to know that there are people out there who have gone through the same thing and made it.
Also, if you’re able, please check out my donation page, which you can find here. It would really help us out.
All of my younger life I felt like I could never EVER give up a book. Even if I hated it. Even if the writing was terrible. Even if I didn’t enjoy a thing about it.
I remember reading The Boggart by Susan Cooper. It was so dry and lacked the whimsical magic I had hoped it would have. But my mom helped me make a reading plan to finish the book in about a week.
When I had finished, I remember her asking, “Was that so bad?”
While my answer at the time was no, the book hadn’t really gotten better. I basically only learned that if you power through books, thy’ll eventually end.
But this isn’t helpful. While sometimes it’s good to challenge yourself to read books that are out of your comfort zone, reading too many books you don’t enjoy will only make you resent reading entirely.
We shouldn’t force ourselves to read books just to be satisfied to finish them. Part of the joy of books is in the journey of actual reading.
Recently my husband (finally) started to enjoy reading. His mother is an English teacher and has always encouraged her kids to read, but Mitchell has never really enjoyed it.
Until he picked up The Wheel of Time. I saw him read that book faster than he’s read anything in his life. What made the difference? He found books that he actually loved and realized that it wasn’t the reading he disliked. It was just the books he had been trying to read.
This brought me back to my Elementary days, when I was a terrible reader. My teachers must have seen something in me, because they kept giving me harder books than the rest of the class. But I hated the books they gave me (The Indian In the Cupboard, The Mouse and the Motorcycle to name a few).
That’s when I found Harry Potter. Oh, the librarian, my parents, and my teaches all looked at me like I was crazy. I was in first grade and was going to read a book that most sixth graders couldn’t handle.
But I read it. And read all the others. I realized I loved reading. That I loved writing. That I had been missing this piece in my life — all because I had found the right book.
In my senior year of college, I remember the head of the English department saying, “It’s okay to stop reading a book you really don’t like. There’s too little time to waste it reading bad books.”
This was not something I expected to hear from an English Professor, especially the head of an English Department. But these words have stuck with me over the last couple years — and I have given up several books in this time.
I give up reading books when I find myself avoiding reading. When I feel like slogging through the rest of the book is more of a chore than something I look forward to. I’ve read books that I can’t put down. And I’ve read books I can’t put down enough.
But my professor is right. I have so many options of books to read. And so little time to read them. What we choose to spend our time on matters. Why waste it?
Have you ever given up a book? What made you decide it was time to quit? Leave a comment below!
You may be at the beginning stages of a novel or in the editing phase. The great thing about writing prompts is they keep you writing, no matter what stage you’re at.
All writers must practice their craft in order to get better. But sometimes we’re in a weird stage where we’re looking for agents or finished with our manuscript and don’t want to touch it anymore.
Writing prompts are great tools to keep your writing consistent.
I first started getting into writing prompts again during the intense editing phase of my 264,000 word book. My mind was saturated with the character arcs and the world mechanics. I was beginning to forget how to even write certain characters because it was all running together in my head.
When I started doing morning writing prompts, I discovered that the prompts allowed me to take a break from familiar characters and explore new kinds of people. It’s like taking a vacation from your family to explore a new world.
The benefits went both ways too. Not only did I enjoy “hanging out” with new people, but I also felt refreshed when I went back to my main work in progress. I could write their dialogue more clearly and could visualize originally stale scenes with much more ease.
As I was finishing my very large book, I did a writing prompt that turned into its own book. It started out as a simple prompt about magical coins, but I could feel that under the surface, there was a whole world to unearth. But if I hadn’t been doing writing prompts, I wouldn’t have thought of this story at all!
I also keep all of my writing prompts in a journal so if I ever want to revisit them or use parts of them for another piece, I still have them. You might be surprised at how good some of your writing prompts will turn out. Sometimes they take you places you never thought you would go, and that might be exactly what you need for your next big project.
Like drawing quick, gestural sketches before diving into the 2-hour portrait session, writing prompts can get our writing minds awake and moving. Not a lot of people consider the fact that just like most muscles, your brain needs to wake up and loosen up before it can deliver the goods.
Sometimes it’s daunting to move straight into your giant manuscript and pick up right where you left off. When you take twenty minutes to warm up with a writing prompt, your mind will be more relaxed and engaged with your writing by the end. I usually shoot for about three handwritten pages (a guide I got from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron).
Writing prompts have often challenged me to write in perspectives and genres that I’ve never tried before. For example, last Friday, I wrote the beginning of a vampire Horror Noir. I’ve never written about vampires, and I’ve definitely never written a Noir. But it was a ton of fun!
Along with stretching my imagination, I’ve also found that writing prompts cause memories to surface that I hadn’t thought about in years. Sometimes I’ll be writing a scene when a certain smell or feeling creeps up on me, and I think, Wow I totally forgot about that. That would be an awesome story.
Writing prompts are great if you feel blocked and stuck in a rut as a writer. There are tons of great resources online. And I also have a Pinterest board you can follow.
I don’t know how many times I’ve started a writing prompt and wanted to keep writing it into a full story when I’m done. As many times as I’ve done that, I’ve also had times when I never want to see that writing prompt again.
I don’t know about you, but for me, I tend to latch onto projects and have a hard time letting go unless I finish them completely. The great thing about writing prompts is that they teache me to start without needing to finish. I have the ability to go back and add more when I want to, but I’m not chained to this project. It’s just an exercise.
If you feel like me and want to just be able to enjoy a short time of writing without feeling pressured to create a masterpiece, I encourage you to try writing prompts.
Reedsy Prompts – online database for hundreds of writing prompts.
Squibler – one of my favorite sources for Fantasy writing prompts.
I’ve been noticing a trend with YA books. Especially Fantasy YA books. Titles commonly consist of this formula: “NOUN Of NOUN And NOUN.” Examples: Court Of Thorns And Roses, Children Of Blood And Bone, House Of Salt And Sorrows — the list goes on.
So I thought it would be fun to make a name generator for people to come up with their own wild titles. Let’s have a little fun, shall we?
Feel free to actually use these as titles if you find one you really like! Or to adjust the plural/singular so it suits your nouns properly.
Leave a comment about the title your name/birthday generates. Mine is Cats Of Light and Steam.
We often sleep with our windows open to save money, and the noises of the city can actually be a nice white noise machine. Loud noises have become a familiar and almost comforting way for me to fall asleep.
Except when those noises become shouts in the night.
Only last week I woke up to hear someone shouting. In my half-sleep daze, I could have sworn I heard the man’s voice coming from within the halls of the apartment. I also could have sworn he was shouting, “The Jonas Brothers are here!” Repetitively.
In my efforts to hear what was going on, I could tell the voice was moving. Soon it sounded as if the voice was coming from outside. Then banging noises filled the air, and more voices joined his in argument.
Suddenly I could hear sirens start up and heard more voices join the chorus. I laid back down as the voices quieted. The night was silent once more.
I thought that maybe this night interruption was a part of my dreams, mixed with the noises of the night. But a few days after this event, we got a letter directly delivered to our apartment. Slipped under the door.
In the letter, we learned that someone had hopped the fence to the apartment complex and broken into one of the tenant’s apartments. Somehow no one was injured, and the situation was resolved quickly.
Their response? They were hiring a new security guard and installing barb wire to the top of our current fences.
As I explained this story to a friend, he told me of his own experiences with an empty apartment that he kept hearing noises come from. He had lived in that room previously, so he still had an extra key.
When he opened the door one day after getting tired of hearing noises and not knowing what was going on, he saw a large group of people. They had started to secretly use the room as a drug den.
Though these people were removed from the room, more people came. The landlord put bars on the windows and changed the locks. Nothing really worked. Eventually, his landlord just gave him a discount on his rent.
It’s easy to say that I learned that the area might not be as safe as it seems. Though it’s almost as if the night attracts more dangerous situations, because people can hide in a blanket of darkness.
The good news is, the police station is only a block away, and no one got hurt. But what did I personally learn?
Firstly, I’m glad I live on the third floor. But that doesn’t mean I’m safe necessarily. It’s good to stay alert and recognize when sounds aren’t the usual noises of the night.
It’s also a good idea to get to know your neighbors on the floor. It’s not helpful to anyone to be suspicious of people who are where they’re supposed to be. But it is helpful to be able to recognize when strangers are walking around.
Lastly, I think it’s safe to say that it’s okay to not feel super safe. I live right next to Downtown, and there are a lot of people out at night. Even though I live in a nice area with schools and nice families, crazy things can happen.
Has anything crazy happened to you in your neighborhood? Do you have any tips for living in the city? Leave a comment below to share your story.
Because we had a billion bananas hanging out in our freezer, I decided that it would be a good time to try out one of the banana bread recipes pinned to my Pinterest board.
This is a review of Ceara’s Kitchen’s Vegan Banana Oat Bread. This has been a popular pin from my boards, and I thought it was time to check it out for myself!
The ingredients were fairly simple. Sugar, flour, oats, bananas (a lot of bananas, five to be exact). I had everything I needed already in stock in my kitchen. The oddest ingredient would probably be the ground flaxseed, but this is a common ingredient to find in stores.
I baked the bread in a square pan (similar to the one she has pictured on her site) for a total of 40 minutes. Though the edges, top, and bottom of the cake were solid, the middle of each piece remains a little mushy and sticky.
As someone who likes underdone desserts, this softer texture isn’t too big of an issue. Though for some, it might not be appealing if you were going for a more “bready” texture. It reminds me more of a bread pudding to be honest.
There’s something about the taste that’s a little off, and it might be the flaxseed. I’ve found that sometimes in desserts, flaxseed can take over in the taste department. But despite this, it tastes subtly sweet and banana-y.
All in all, I would rate this recipe 3 out of 5 stars. It satisfies a sweet tooth and uses up my bananas to make a nice treat. But the texture wasn’t the closed-texture of normal banana bread. It just didn’t seem to cook very well. Maybe next time I’ll cook it longer than the recipe suggests to see what happens.
As far as vegan bread recipes go, I’m kind of torn on this one. What’s your favorite banana bread recipes? Link them below and I’ll give them a try!
If you’re anything like me, hiking would not be the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of LA. But there are actually some amazing spots that double as famous landmarks as well.
If you’re into seeing some gorgeous mountains and spending a few hours outside, these spots are for you.
You’ve probably seen the sign a thousand times, but did you know you had to hike to get there? There are several paths to take, each varying in different lengths and difficulty. The most common is about 4 miles total on a dusty path.
The one I’ve taken is about 8 miles and leads you through a smaller path up some serious inclines and through shrubbery. Was it even a path? Maybe.
Also don’t be too disappointed when you end up behind the Hollywood sign. There’s a spot to take fun pictures just about a mile before you reach the top of the hills.
You also get amazing views of downtown, not too far away. If you’d like to learn more about this hiking spot, visit their official website.
For gorgeous mountain views, this is the place for you. The path up the mountain was very straight forward (8 miles). There are many paths you can take, and some great sights along the way,
Angeles National Forest covers over 700,000 acres of land. The elevations range from 1,000-10,000 feet! You can hike part of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), or you can just enjoy trekking over their 557 trail miles.
Be warned, the elevation can affect some people’s breathing. To learn more about the hiking spot, check out their official website.
There’s a couple trails to choose from at this park, all of which are varying degrees of elevation and difficulty. You also get to see plenty of palm tree-filled parks and the city skyline.
There’s also the secret swing at the top of the hill. Swing right over the freeway and take cute pictures. Be careful if you take the hike up, because it’s super sandy and slippery. Make sure you wear good traction shoes or you’ll end up on your butt like me! If you want more information about this park, check out their official website.
Vasquez rocks is a great desert hike for people who don’t mind getting lost. The trails are not very well marked, but there are tons of fun rocks to climb. Just be sure to keep track of where you are.
An extra fun feature about this location is that many movies and films have been filmed here. Check out their film showcase board at the entrance to see how many you know! If you’d like to know more about this park, check out their official website.
This park is a nice walking spot for the inner-city dwellers. For those not into rock climbing or not wanting to leave the city, this would be the hike for you.
Explore the pathways, take pictures of the fountain area, or have a picnic with Downtown as your backdrop!
What are some of your favorite hiking spots in your area? If you have any more hiking recommendations to hit up in LA, let me know so I can check them out!
The prompt this week comes from author Tomi Adeyemi, who wrote Children of Blood and Bone. Fantastic book by the way. Definitely check it out if you haven’t.
Part of the fun is writing a piece for yourself too! Challenge yourself to spend 30 minutes writing a story from the prompt below.
I sucked in my breath as he passed me. It was the third time he had completed a full pace of the length of the room. Each time my nose was assaulted with his stench. I glanced down at my hands. They were bandaged completely. The pain radiated off them like they had tiny burning heartbeats in each finger.
Can’t be happening. Too soon.
“And lastly, we’ll need you to do the night shift,” he said. He ran a hand over the top of his undercut hair. Mine probably matched his. “We’ll give you the rundown when you come tomorrow night. Is that understood, Key?”
All of the words he had spoken before these last two orders were completely lost on me. My mind shuddered with fear.
I wasn’t supposed to be here.
“Yes,” I answered automatically. The sound of confidence in my voice surprised me. But I had said it a hundred times before. This time was no different.
“Good,” he said. “Report here tomorrow night at dusk. Captain Zah will show you to the training area tonight.”
The girl leaning against the wall with her arms crossed painfully tight against her chest perked to attention. “Sir, are you sure it’s wise to start training today? Key just start—”
The man’s expression was hidden from me as he turned to look at Zah, but I could tell it was something severe.
“Right away, sir,” Zah said.
I followed her lead as we headed out into the woods. The sky was dark, but even through the dim lanterns on the trees, I could sense the life moving in the city nearby. I could hear the horse carriages clomping over the cobblestone. Smell the fresh bread for tomorrow’s sales. Somewhere in there was my home. A sense of dread filled my lungs as I breathed in shakily. Flashes of memories crossed in front of my eyes, and I paused in our walk. Hunched over, I started to dry heave. Then full-on vomit.
“You must be nervous,” Zah said without looking back at me. She stopped walking and put her hands on her hips. “Memory deletion can do that. Don’t worry. The artificial memories will start to kick in soon.”
Artificial? I thought. Was that what I’m seeing?
No. This was something else. Artificial memories weren’t meant to be this detailed. Not when they were trying to prepare me to be a hunter. Something had gone wrong. Something—
“Quiet, eh?” Zah said. “That won’t last long. Once they train you to be a hunter you tend not to shut up. It’s been our biggest problem with new recruits.”
My body quaked as I straightened. My clothes weren’t familiar. Leather and stiff, probably new. The first new clothes I’d ever worn.
“Do you…have any water?” I asked.
Zah cocked her head sympathetically at me. “Sorry. No water for the first twenty-four hours. Don’t want to jeopardize everything we’ve worked on.”
Dear gods, I thought and nearly threw up again. What have I become?
“Come along now, Key. We don’t want you to miss your first night of training.”
I hurried to catch up with Zah as she started walking again. Her long black ponytail swung at her waist as she moved like a reed in the wind. I stumbled along behind her. Each step in the new boots was filled with a combination of fear and dread.
We came to a clearing in the woods where twenty other people were already at work. They were all barefoot, exposing the sharp unnatural claws on their feet. Their hands had matching, dagger-like nails. Their eyes were ringed with black around the pupils. Signifying them for what they were. For what I was now. The hunters. Protectors of the city.
“This is where I leave you, Key. I will see you at dusk tomorrow night,” Zah said blankly and turned to leave.
Not Key, I thought. My name is Kericho. But I wasn’t supposed to remember my name. Or my family. Or anything other than a life of duty and war. But I remembered. I remembered everything.
If you liked this post, be sure to check out my post Fiction Friday #1.
Where did your imagination take you? Comment below!
In the never-ending quest to find our favorite coffee shop in LA, we decided Brasil Kiss Coffeebar would be next on our list. Located at the west outskirts of Downtown, we took a short walk to our latest coffee adventure.
Brasil Kiss Coffeebar was first established in 2012 by Luciano of Sao Paulo as a mobile coffee shop. His shop revolves around the word “Ginga” which means absolutely bliss and happiness. To take life not too seriously. In DTLA they have a stationary store (where we went) which features tons of Brazilian coffees, teas, snacks, and desserts.
Brasil Kiss was full of poppy colors and fun pictures (as you can see with the pictures of dogs on the pillar). The high windows also let in a lot of nice natural light. The music playing was a little loud, but it was also ambient. Perfectly conducive for a work environment. We were greeted with friendly baristas, and our coffee came out in less than three minutes.
I got a Latte with oat milk, and Mitchell got an Americano with almond milk. If you’re a frequent coffee getter, you might know that Americanos are made with espresso and water, leaving a little room for cream/milk at the top. Lattes are espresso and milk, making the color of the coffee much lighter as the ratio of milk to espresso is greater.
But as you can see in the pictures below, my latte was almost the same color as the Americano. It definitely tasted smoother, but I added more milk to it when we left. Still, it was delicious and pungent. I’ve never had Brazilian coffee before, so this was definitely a treat!
Prices weren’t too bad either. Plant milks are usually an upgrade. And though we got smalls, these would be larger than Grandes at Starbucks. All in all, it cost just over $10 for both of us.
Though I’m being a bit picky on the coffee, I did enjoy my experience here. They have ton of fun treats and aren’t too expensive. I will definitely be back for an afternoon to work!
You can check out their menu website here.
1010 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90017
Mon-Fri: 7 am – 7 pm
Sat/Sun: 8 am – 5 pm
Back in Indiana, there’s a restaurant called Chicory Cafe, which served New-Orleans style eats. Not only did Mitchell and I miss their fun food but also the little things like their cucumber water and atmosphere of hanging out and playing games.
Little did we know that we would visit the Los Angeles equivalent when we took a visit to Krimsey’s Cajun Kitchen.
Krimsey’s motto is “Cajun tradition and explosive flavor.” Serving up options for folks who are vegan, gluten-free, or sensitive to onions, this might be one of the only Cajun restaurants in the world that puts aside expectations to better suit the community around them.
From Louisiana to Los Angeles, Krimsey’s brings the power of Cajun cooking to the west coast. This completely woman-owned business prides itself on having strong values from supporting animal rights to supporting foundations such as The Trevor Project.
Located in North Hollywood, Krimsey’s surprised me with its rustic, cozy interior. I loved the mismatched, wooden tables and knick-knacks hanging from the walls. Easy listening 60s and 70s music radiates from the speakers.
In the corner is a stack of board games a table can borrow to enhance the dining experience. At the bar, where you order your food, they offer a phone babysitting service. So you could hang out phone-free with your party. The atmosphere is thoroughly thought out and organized. The servers are very kind and helpful, joking with you as you ordered your food and tried to pronounce “jambalaya” the right way. Even their menu has some sass.
We started our meal with some Southern Hushpuppies, which are balls of corn and onion bread. They came with a side of Cajun Ranch dipping sauce, which was tangy and complimented the moist but dense texture of the bread balls.
For our first entree we had the Trinity Red Beans & Rice + Sausage. With a combination of slow-cooked red beans, onion, celery, and green peppers, all surrounding a pile of fluffy rice, this dish was a beauty to see served. The veggie sausage had great, realistic texture. But the rice and beans were a bit bland for my taste. You could certainly spice it up with some hot sauce, but I wasn’t really getting much actual spice from the dish. Presentation was gorgeous though.
We also shared the Rainbow Pride Poboy, which was a combination of golden fried pieces of heart of palm, rich house sauce, spinach, carrots, mayo, and tomato all (barely) stuffed inside a white toasted roll. You might be wondering, where is the sandwich? It took us several minutes to get a hold on this baby, but no complaints for having too much filling! The best part of this dish is that they donate 10% of the proceeds to The Trevor Project, which supports LGBTQ+ teenagers.
The heart of palm bits were crispy, rich delicacies, and the house-made chips were perfectly seasoned. Not much could have made this sandwich better. The tastes and textures were right on.
For dessert we had their popular French Quarter Beignets, which are basically airy pillows of fried dough topped with a dusting of powdered sugar. Let’s just say they were gone too fast too take a picture. Below is what they look like. Imagine a square elephant ear that explodes powdered sugar all around your mouth.
They were deliciously warm, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and not too sweet.
We weren’t brave enough this time to try their brownie-stuffed beignet, but boy that looked like a wild ride.
The only disappointing aspect of this experience was that brunch is only served on the weekends. We’ll have to go back sometime and try it out!
You can visit their website here.
12900 Victory Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91606
Monday – Thursday: 11:00 am – 10:00 pm
Friday: 11:00 am – 10:30 pm
Saturday: 8:30 am – 10:30 pm (brunch 8:30 am – 2:00 pm)
Sunday: 8:30 am – 10:00 pm (brunch 8:30 am – 2:00 pm)
What do you expect Los Angeles to be like? Seeing stars on every corner? The streets to be like a film set? I know that my first impression of LA was nothing like I expected. There are small things like how fruit vendors are to LA like hot dog vendors are to New York. But there’s much more to LA than most people realize.
Hiking might not be the first thing you think of in LA, but there are tons of parks and forests where you can explore the desert and mountain areas. It’s also a great break from the inner-city life. From hiking to the Hollywood Sign at Griffith Park to mountain climbing at Angeles National Forest to rock scaling at Vasquez Rocks, there are endless trails to trek.
Exploring the different parts of the city has also been exciting. What I didn’t realize was that there are actual Districts such as Jewelry District, Arts District, Fashion District. Not to mention the sections such as Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Little Mexico, and more. There are so many little worlds to explore that it will take years before I see it all.
Coming from the Midwest, people often told me that other states are rude and unkind. That hasn’t been my experience here. I’ve had great customer service wherever I go, and strangers have also been pretty nice on public transportation and walking Downtown. Sure, some people are just doing their own thing. But it’s nothing like I expected. Maybe it’s the weather?
My first time at Hollywood Boulevard was a nightmare of crowds and pricey gimmicks. Though it was fun to see familiar names of stars on the ground, it was not fun to see all the trash and get attacked by vicious smells. Instead, I’ve enjoyed less congested tourist areas like The Last Bookstore and Donut Friend.
It’s pretty common to look people in the eyes and smile as you pass them in Indiana. In LA, I’ve found that this can attract some pretty interesting and unwarranted attention from people. While averting eye contact could be considered rude in Indiana, it seems like just a part of life in LA. Rather than an unkind gesture, it’s more like giving people their space.
People complain about public transportation all the time, but LA has been pretty consistent. I’ve only had one bus break down so far, and they’re almost always on time. The Metro also has killer promotional videos, which you can check out here or see the video below. Trust me, it’s worth the watch.
People were warning me that the cost of living was terrible out here. Really, it’s terrible everywhere. The rent is expensive, yes, but the groceries cost about the same — sometimes even cheaper if you go to local markets. Gas is expensive, but if you use public transportation and walk, you’ll save a ton of money. If you’re smart about your expenses, you can manage.
Compared to Indiana, the weather here is more consistent and less humid. But as soon as it gets below 75 degrees, you’ll see people in scarves and heavy coats. It took me about a week to realize I was one of around 10 people wearing shorts out in public. The rest were probably tourists.
I was intimidated by the thought of the beautiful people in LA. But really, they’re all just people. Especially in the Downtown area, there’s a mixture of blue collars, tourists, and city-dwellers. Everyone wears what they wear. Not many people look like they came straight off the set of a movie. No movie star sightings yet (fingers cross)!
In just a month, I’ve found a community of people to collaborate and work with. People who care about the arts and helping people in the area. Not only do I work in this building, but I also go to church and random events there as well. It’s quickly become my second home. There’s also ways to join like-minded groups of people on a website called Meetup.com
What are some interesting things you’ve learned about your town over the years? Leave a comment below!
Marianne is an 8-episode show on Netflix about author Emma Larsimon confronting the terrors and trauma of her childhood by returning to her hometown. Only to discover that her evil character might actually be real. During this time, she is reunited with her group of friends and faced with pure evil. With similarities to Stranger Things and It, Marianne is full of jump scares and humor.
What? Yes. Humor too.
Oh, and it’s all in French. But don’t worry. There’s subtitles and an English dub (if you’re into that).
If you’re looking for something to get your Spooky Season started, Marianne is the perfect show to watch.
Firstly, the format of the show is unlike any other in the genre. Throughout the show, you’ll see cut scenes to Emma’s book, which is actually corresponding to what she is going through now. Each episode starts with a quote from books and poems.
The humor is also on point. With a combination of goofy music and over-the-top dramatic actions, you can’t help but let a laugh out. But don’t let these moments fool you. Putting your guard down is exactly what they want you to do. For as often as things get a little silly, there’s twice as many things going terribly wrong.
The makers of this show were not afraid to try new things with camera angles and cuts. It’s refreshing to see horror not take itself too seriously. And the absurdity of some situations only compounds on the horror later.
I never expected to start watching this show and feel like I’m watching Friends by the end, but I grew so attached to the characters. Even angsty Emma herself.
Each friend has a unique story and personality that makes them interact with Emma differently. But they also care about each other.
And if you love Stranger Things, Episode 5 will probably be your favorite.
Besides the friends, there’s also Emma’s parents, her assistant Cammie, the inspector, and a friend’s mom. You might think this is a bit wild for a small town adventure. But really, each piece connects so well. Each character has a conclusive or terrifying ending to their story.
It’s horror. You think you know when something is going to jump out because you’ve seen it all before? Think again. Whenever we thought we knew what was coming, we were instantly proven wrong. Again and again, the show takes you on a journey you never expected. And yet it all makes sense.
The story becomes larger than just a small town horror. But it also stays practical…in a quirky horror-fantasy way. The Baddie was motivated and powerful, but our heroes were also smart and quick on their feet.
Combining dream sequences with prolonged tension, Marianne produces scares unlike a majority of the scary movies out there today. For instance, several of the scariest scenes in the show are in bright and shiny daylight. Knowing full well that things aren’t hiding in the dark, the show still manages major jump scares.
You also care about the characters, unlike most scary shows and movies. Even if they are flawed people, you still don’t want anything to happen to them. With that in mind, you’re constantly on the edge of your seat when your favorite character is face to face with the bad guy (or girl).
As someone who loves the horror/fantasy genre, I was pleasantly surprised with this show. Shout out to Stephen King’s Twitter for the recommendation.
What are some of your favorite scary movies? Post some below, and I’ll be sure to check them out!
I recently finished the book, You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness by Jen Sincero, in which she motivates people to overcome the mindset of “can’t” to manifest the greatness of “I did.” As someone who desperately has been trying to figure out her financial situation, this book offers what seems like an outrageous solution: we can change our reality when we change our mindset.
You might live in a different country where following your dreams and passions isn’t a priority. Even in America, where we’re known for being people like that, to me it’s always been a fight between my dreams and reality. I don’t know how I feel about manifestation and the law of attraction. But I do know that I work hard and believe that stranger things have happened than a young girl from Indiana making it in the whole new world of Los Angeles.
Do we really have the right to follow our dreams?
Can we really overcome our obstacles by changing our thoughts?
College presents problems for many people pursing their dream jobs. I have over 17,000 dollars in student loan debt from going to a private college that didn’t really give me the tools I needed to do my job. But what I haven’t been taught, I’ve been learning on my own.
The class of 2018 (my class) graduated with an average of 29,800 dollars in student loan debt. How can we follow any kind of dream when we are under the crippling weight of paying of loans and we can’t even find jobs? I can already feel the fear bubbling up inside of me.
Our greatest fears are the greatest waste of time.
Jen Sincero, You Are a Badass
Sometimes doubt tells me that it would be selfish to do what I’m passionate about for a career. Who am I to follow my dreams? But I was born with the passion to help people through my writing and art.
This is the starting point. Choosing to believe your talents are worth sharing with the world.
When I told people I was an English and Art major, they looked at me sideways and kind of muttered under their breath, “Good luck living on the streets.”
I always found this kind of odd. There were plenty of authors and illustrators who were doing just fine. Although I know there were probably just as many who were not doing fine at all. What was the difference between these people? Talent? Mindset? Determination?
We are drawn to things we’re naturally good at (which counts more than having a graduate degree in the subject, BTW)
Jen Sincero, You Are a Badass
All my life, I’ve rejected the idea that we can’t make money doing what we love. I’ve watched so many people give up what they consider hobbies to pursue a career in a field they don’t really care about.
I’ve also heard incredible stories about people dropping out of college or not being accepted in their desired field, just to become prolific in the area within a few years. Are these flukes?
We choose to continue following our passions, even when it’s hard.
Motivated by fear of losing a place to live, I applied to more and more jobs that were further from what I actually want to be doing.
There was a small voice in my head saying, “You’ve already applied for the job you’re going to get.” But it was easier and safer to just keep applying. Turns out that little voice was right.
The job I now have is still in the preliminary internship stage. Even though it’s something I love to do (graphic design and writing), I’m not getting enough money to live.
What do we do in tough situations like this? I could easily quit and find another job that pays, but the promise of this job that both pays and is what I want to do… Is that worth struggling for two months? With the weight of my debt hanging over my shoulders, it becomes easier to hide away from opportunities that could change my life.
Look for some opportunity or person to make an appearance that’s not in your usual path of income. You are leaping into a new reality here — it’s not your job to know the how; it’s your job to ask for what you want and wait to discover the how, then take action.
Jen Sincero, You Are a Badass
Pursuing our dreams often becomes overshadowed by our situation and fears.
My family was privileged to have a house in a nice neighborhood and enough money to go out to eat once a week. There are many people who have more money, and a lot more people have less.
Is it possible to overcome our situations by just being the last one standing? Sincero makes the point that people from wealthy families have fallen into poverty, and people from poverty have risen up into wealth. How many people just stay where they are?
If you’re serious about changing your life, you’ll find a way. If you’re not, you’ll find an excuse.
Jen Sincero, You Are a Badass
Money talk can be difficult for people. We have deep-seeded feelings about wealth that I believe can impact how we treat people and use our money.
But really, money is a tool, and just like any other tool, money can be used for evil or for great things.
I want to change the world for the better. I know a lot of other people do too. What if we lived in a world where people could do what they were always meant to do — and they got paid for it too?
You are the only you there is and ever will be. Do not deny the world its one and only chance to bask in your brilliance.
Jen Sincero, You Are a Badass
If anything, this book has helped me change my mindset about myself. I do believe that I was created with a unique purpose. And I believe you were too.
Do you have dreams you want to follow? Do you think it’s possible to achieve greatness in this world?
Check out my book review of You Are a Badass At Making Money.