6 Methods of Self Care for Writers

Take Time Off Main Projects

Bicycle clock

If there’s anything that can help a writer, it’s taking a break from your WIP. You may want to wait until you finish a first or second draft to do this. Another great time to pause your writing is when you’re facing major roadblocks in the plot department.

Tuck your writing away. Save it for when you’re itching with excitement to write again. In the meantime, read a book. Watch a movie. Don’t think about your main project.

It might also be helpful to take some time to write something else. This can be a great time to explore a different idea or genre. Writing daily writing prompts can be a great way to keep writing while also taking a break from your main work. Be sure to check out my post for reasons why writing prompts are super helpful for writers.

Share Your Writing Wisely

Hand holding flower

When your writing is in its beginning stages, you may feel like you want to share it with the whole world to make sure you’re on the right track. DON’T. While your writing may be fully realized in your mind’s eye, what people are seeing is a newborn child.

That’s why it may not be wise to share your first draft. You might have written a masterpiece, but chances are, you’re writing still has a far way to go. And that’s okay! Sharing your writing too early can be discouraging and can prevent you from moving forward on your project. If you do share it with someone, make sure you specify what you’re looking for regarding feedback.

Explore Non-Writing Hobbies

Painting supplies

Although it may seem like a good idea to just branch out in just the genre that you’re writing, it’s also helpful to try new activities besides writing. Going on walks, drawing, playing video games, role playing, sewing or knitting — all of these different activities can help you relax an over-worked writer’s mind. You might even find that previously convoluted or messy ideas untangle themselves when you’re in the middle of one of these hobbies.

Hobbies are great stress relievers. But they also help you relax your mind. Like breathing a breath of fresh air in the mountains after being surrounded by city pollution.

For me, sketching, yoga, and playing guitar are super helpful when writing has become stressful.

What hobbies help you relax?

Find a Supportive Writing Community

Group of girls

For a long time, I viewed other writers as an almost threatening presence. The artistic community can often turn so competitive that we turn against each other. Who gets published first? Who “succumbs” to self-publishing? Who gets represented by an agent?

Does it matter? Not really.

On Twitter, there’s a giant community of writers who all use the hashtag #writingcommunity and #amwriting. They show support by following, they repost other writer’s tweets, and they’re incredibly encouraging. I’m sure like any social media, this group might have it’s negatives, but there are plenty of other online platforms for writers to gather, as well as physical groups for writers.

When I think of writer’s groups, I think of the old group that Tolkien and Lewis belonged to called the Inklings. They used to meet for a drink and work on writing together. Maybe you just have a small group of friend writers who can help you process your writing. Maybe you meet over video chat.

The next time you see the chance to join a writer’s group, give it a chance. As writers, we need to support each other and lift each other up. If one of us succeeds, we all succeed.

Be Kind to Yourself Daily

Person in field with mirror

The writing world can be tough at any level. Whether you’ve received your first bad review or just can’t figure out a character’s motivation for taking her next step, YOU as a writer need to take a moment to be kind to yourself.

Tell yourself 5 things you love about your writing abilities. That’s right — compliment your own writing. Get as big-headed as you want.

Next tell yourself 5 things you love about yourself besides writing. This might be harder, and that’s okay. But it’s also important to remind yourself that you are more than a writer. You have a set of unique characteristics.

What do you love about yourself or your writing?

Spend Time with Your Critiques

Person at riverside

After you’ve pepped yourself up a bit, you’re ready to face those reviews, those edits, those comments. Spend time reading critiques from your fellow readers or writers. Take time to mull them over. Keep the comments that will help your writing and chuck out the rest — and that includes all personal attacks.

Only you can choose how you receive and process your critiques. Not every review will be true, but they can also be helpful. Take your time with them and be gentle with yourself and your writing. You’ve worked hard. Now it’s time to work harder.

Pin-able reminder of self care for writers!

5 Tips for Beginner Freelance Writers

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.

1. Take Opportunities You Find

Person leaping across the floor
Image by Andy Beales

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:

  • Blog, blog, blog. It only gives you writing samples and builds a network.
  • Look for chances to submit short pieces as a contribution post.
  • Keep applying to places.
  • Study websites and other company blogs.
  • Listen. Sometimes people talk about needing a writer before they even realize they actually do.

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.

2. Not Every Opportunity Is Legit

People discussing a project
Image by Thomas Drouault

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.

3. Know That Not Every Gig Will Pay Big

Person fanning money
Image by Alexander Mils

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.

4. But Also Know Your Writing Is Worth Something

Person writing in cafe
Image by Kat Stokes

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.

5. Make Time for Yourself

Person reading a book
Image by Nathan Dumlao

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!

Resources to Help Freelancers

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

How To Have an Easy Vegan Thanksgiving

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, i’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.

The Vegan Dinner

Vegan Green Bean Casserole

Vegan cream of mushroom soup

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.

  • 1 packet of cream of mushroom soup mix prepared
  • 3/4 cup of plant-based milk
  • 2 cans of green beans
  • 1 can of bean sprouts
  • 1 1/3 cup of Crispy Fried onions (most are vegan!)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

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.

Vegan Dinner Rolls

Vegan dinner rolls

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.

Vegan Thanksgiving Roast

Vegan holiday roast

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.

Vegan Pies!

Vegan pie crust

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.

Vegan Mac and Cheese

Vegan Mac and cheese

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!

Vegan Mashed Potatoes

Vegan mashed potatoes

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.

Vegan Mushroom Gravy

Vegan mushroom gravy

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!

Vegan stuffing

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!

Vegan Corn Casserole

Vegan cornbread mix

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

  • 1 box of VEGETARIAN Jiffy cornbread mix (it’s vegan, don’t worry)
  • 1 can of creamed corn (it’s non-dairy)
  • 1 can of plain corn
  • 1 cup of vegan sour cream or yogurt (like Toffuti)
  • 1/2 cup of applesauce or vegan butter

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.

The Thanksgiving Experience

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.

  • Try bringing one or more dishes to gatherings
  • Don’t make a big deal about them eating your food or their food
  • Try not to get offended by their comments
  • Be prepared to answer questions
  • Be thankful for your family — even if they’re not vegan!

More Vegan Blog Posts

How To Go And Stay Vegan

11 of the Best Vegan Junk Foods

Fiction Friday #6: Write the Prompt with Me!

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.

The Prompt

https://promptuarium.wordpress.com

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!

The Writing

Ghostly figures holding hands
Image by JR Korpa

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.

“Caylen!”

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?”

More Fiction Fridays…

Fiction Friday #5: A curse of constantly dying terrorizes two young lovers

Fiction Friday #4: Witchy quest for Necromancy spell

Friday #3: Vampire Noir mystery action in a fancy restaurant

Fiction Friday #2: Mutated human wolf creatures

Fiction Friday #1: Giant battle with a human killing machine

Blood Fae

Blood Fae

Blood Fae
— Read on darkleigh.com/2019/11/06/blood-fae/

Hey everyone,

I recently had a fantasy short story published on darkleigh.com. If you like fantasy, fae people, and murder mysteries, you should definitely check it out.

Thanks!

Sex In YA Fantasy Part Two: How Fantasy Can Change Young Adults

Before reading this, check out Part One of this blog series.

“When I started working as a child abuse and neglect family therapist…one quick conclusion I came to was that until we are willing and able to talk openly about sex in this culture—healthy sex and sexual thought—we will never be capable of talking about sex abuse.”

Chris Crutcher

Relationships Shouldn’t Be Fantasy

Image by iam Se7en

What we read changes us. Changes our minds, our hearts, our viewpoints on the world. What we read as young adults impacts how we view other young adults. After all, this is a published book written by an adult who already went through it. Even if the genre is fiction, there must be some shred of truth in it, right? Some great example to follow?

Sure, we’re not all going to have hot vampire boyfriends, but the kind of relationship that develops between a Bella character and an Edward character is realistic right? We can aspire to have relationships similar to Tobias and Tris?

The answer is, not quite.

If we look at the trends of readers, you’ll see a large disparity between what they’re reading and literature that has examples of healthy relationships.

Fantasy alone accounts for 15% of the 577 Best Books for Young Adults Book list since 2000. Yet out of the fifteen books on YALSA’s list of books dealing with healthy relationships or relationship trauma, only one book could be considered Speculative Fiction.

As I recall reading Allegiant, the third book in the Divergent series, I remember scenes with lines like:

“I was so afraid that we would just keep colliding over and over again if we stayed together, and that eventually the impact would break me…I am too strong to break so easily, and I become better, sharper, every time I touch him.”

Right after fighting and worrying about losing each other — not because of their situation but because of their insecurities — the two have sex. What kind of message was that to me as a middle/high schooler? I can tell you that it didn’t teach me about being honest with my partner or asking if they were comfortable with going further physically.

Why Sexual Elements Can’t Be Fantasy

“Adolescent romance in dystopia—or romance in a divided, plural world—is at the crossroads of adult authoritarianism and teenage emotional growth.”

Mary Hilton
Image by photo-Nic.co.uk

While young adults reading speculative and fantasy books will know that many of the topics are fictional, they’re still emotionally connecting to the aspects that can relate to them.

And boy, do authors take advantage of that.

How many young adults fantasy books are out there right now that DON’T have a single romantic element? I can guarantee there’s not more than 20. And in a sea of bestselling paranormal romance books, it’s easy to imagine those that don’t have romance getting swallowed whole.

But I’m not saying that fantasy should have less elements of romance or sex.

I’m saying it should have better ones.

If young adults are connecting to the only aspect they can in fantasy — the romance — then we as writers better make sure it’s the best representation of sex and romance we can give.

I’m talking about consent, honest conversations, realistic expectations, protection.

In a world of dragons and magic, these elements might feel as awkward as writing a character going to the bathroom.

But they don’t have to be.

“The first characteristic of romance…is that it contains a ‘definition of society always corrupt, that the romance novel will reform.’ To the emotional awakening which the Young Adult novel generically enacts…responds, in perhaps equal measure, a form of political awakening.”

Mary Hilton

If we want to see changes in rape culture and poor middle/high school relationships, we have to examine what messages our YA books are sending. Even if these books do contain emotional manipulation or rape, are we glorifying it? Do we root for it?

This isn’t even about removing those books from our current shelves. For readers and parents of readers, it’s about knowing what’s in the book and talking about it with young adults.

Young adult fantasy novels have the power to change minds. How will they be changed?

What Will Be In Part Three

In the next part of this mini-series, we’ll look at two books that got it right. Ashfall and Lady Midnight.

Have you read these books before?

Have you read any books with terrible or great examples of relationships? Leave a comment below.

And don’t forget to check out Part One of this blog series!

Resources

Cart, Michael. Young Adult Literature from Romance to Realism. The American Library Association, 2016.

Cole, Pam B. Young Adult Literature in the 21st Century. McGraw-Hill, 2009.

Hilton, Mary, and Maria Nikolajeva. Contemporary Adolescent Literature and Culture: The Emergent Adult. Ashgate, 2012.

Roth, Veronica. Allegiant. HarperCollins Publishers 2013.

Wetta, Molly. “Booklist: Dating Violence, Consent, and Healthy Relationships in Young Adult Fiction.” American Library Association, 2016, http://www.yalsa.ala.org/thehub/2016/01/25/boo klist-dating-violence-consent-and-healthy-relationships-in-young-adult-fiction/. Accessed 15 November, 2018.

Fiction Friday #5: Write the Prompt With Me!

The Prompt

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!

The Writing

Image by Fabrizio Verrechia

“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.

“About…?”

“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.

“Go, Jake!”

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?”

For More Writing Prompts, Check out…

Why I Got Married On Halloween: 1st Year Anniversary!

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.

Flynn Rider and Rapunzel Costumes – 2015

1. The First Year Is Full of Mistakes and Butterflies

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.

Scott Pilgrim and Ramona Flowers Costumes – 2016

2. Long Distance Helps You Grow Together and Individually

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.

Me as a Starbucks cat – 2017

3. Sometimes You Have to Be Alone

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.

Our wedding photo – 2018

4. Sticking Through the Hard Stuff Is Worth It

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!

Further Reads

How Traveling Helped Me Heal

23 Things To Know Before You’re 23

Sex In Young Adult Fantasy (Part 1)

An Overview

Oh boy. This is a tricky topic for so many people. Should writers put sex in their books? How should it be portrayed? Are the relationships healthy? Is the sex safe? Is it consensual? Instead of just writing off the conversation as too difficult, let’s start talking about it. As writers, readers, adults, and young adults.

Realistic fiction writers haven’t been too afraid to approach these topics in the last couple decades, but what about fantasy?

Fantasy — you know, where both genders are usually hyper-sexualized and are helplessly pining over their supernatural significant other? Where werewolves and vampires toe the border of consent and stalking.

Maybe this hasn’t been your experience with reading Fantasy. I’ve read a couple great examples that break the mold of typical Fantasy Romance, but the question remains.

Why should writers put sex in their fantasy books?

This is going to be a several part exploration on Young Adult literature and how sex is portrayed and avoided in the texts AND by readers, librarians, and parents.

Ready? Let’s dive in.

How YA Fiction Has Been Changing

For several decades YA Realistic Fiction writers have taken on the topic of sex in their writing. I mean, it’s one of the top things teens deal with in their lives. It’s uncommon (but definitely needed, writers!) to have a high school story without an intense relationship explored. But for the majority, Realistic Fiction has tackled this topic.

Several well-known YA writers who have taken on sex include:

  • Meg Cabot
  • John Green
  • Judy Bloom
  • Laurie Halse Anderson

There’s been a push in this genre particularly to show consensual, protected, “relationship-based” sex over just writing garbage that glorifies rape, sexual assault, and abusive relationships.

Why?

Because writers are beginning to realize that YA literature impacts young adults more than anything else they read (Cart). If we want to push movements like #metoo and #timesup, then the literature has to reflect what we want young adults to know.

Something people don’t think about very often, but needs to be mentioned, is that ADULTS are writing most of these YA books. Adults who are maybe starting to get disconnected from today’s youth, but must put themselves in the minds and settings of today’s young adults.

If we want young adults to learn what healthy relationships are, we have to give them examples through what they engage with.

The Reason YA Fantasy Needs To Change

Science fiction or fantasy, makes tomorrow’s ogres real and preset, within the threatening framework of an imaginative world.  It is within this framework that the writer can challenge readers, through the persona of the protagonist, to find answers…as they identify with the main character, they begin to understand the possibilities, the greatness of being fully human.  They are empowered.

Eiss 81

Growing up as a huge reader — and knowing full well that I was getting most of my knowledge of the real world from books — I stayed far away from Realistic Fiction. I was already living in the real world. Why would I want to read about someone else’s realistic problems?

No, instead my reading list consisted of nothing but Fantasy: Magical Realism, Urban Fantasy, Fairy-tale retelling, and soft Sci-Fi. And I know for a fact that many people read nothing but the same.

Fantasy was able to reach me both emotionally and mentally, in a way that Realistic Fiction didn’t. But that meant that I had to suffer through the dozens of terrible relationships, verbal and emotional abuse, and down-right stalker behavior that permeates so much of YA Fantasy. I’m talking about Linger, Vampire Academy, Fallen, Dead Beautiful — the list goes on. Don’t get me wrong. I loved reading these books for many other reasons. But for examples of healthy relationships, not so much.

YA Fantasy As Positive Examples of Romance

Librarian Donna Freitas states that she has frequently witnessed graduating seniors who openly express their lack of education in sexual topics. Her advice is simple, reading can help. Especially Speculative/Fantasy, where the writing usually opens the door to more engaging romance.

But if all YA Fantasy books are bad examples of sex and relationships, how will those who enjoy only reading this genre get to see positive examples? And don’t give me any of that bull that parents should be teaching kids. Many young adults aren’t going to be learning how teens interact in relationships from their parents. It’s awkward for one. And for another, outside sources are sometimes easier to receive advice from than parental figures.

Lesson For Today

The take-away from part one is just to start thinking about what we read as young adults. What books shaped the way we view relationships? And what can we as readers and writers do to encourage this generation of young adults so that they can both engage with a fantasy world AND learn about healthy romantic relationships?

What are some bad examples of YA Romance books, whether realistic or fantasy?

What are some good examples of YA Romance books, whether realistic or fantasy?

And how can Fantasy actually help young adults? We’ll tackle that in Part 2!

Resources

Cart, Michael. “The Value of Young Adult Literature.” YALSA, 2008. Accessed 18 October 2018.

Eiss, Harry Edwin. Young Adult Literature and Culture. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009.

Freitas, Donna. “Be Still My Heart.” School Library Journal, vol. 55, no. 2, 2009. Accessed 15 September 2018.

Further Reads

Fiction Friday #4: Write the Prompt With Me!

The Prompt

There were no library resources on advanced Necromancy — only beginner.

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.

The Writing

Image by Annelies Geneyn

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.”

For More Writing Prompts, Check Out…

Second Month In LA: Brutally Honest Thoughts

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.

What I’ve Learned About Giving Up Books

Finishing Books Just To Finish Them

Dead end sign
Image by Donald Giannatti

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.

Reading Books You Love Only Makes You Love Reading More

Seeing a book through glasses
Image by Dmitry Ratushny

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.

You Have Too Little Time To Waste It Reading Bad Books

Girl surrounded by books
Image by Annie Spratt

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!

Writing Tips: Why You Should Use Writing Prompts To Improve Your Writing

1. Keeps You Writing Consistently

Ferris Wheel
Image by Matheus Fade

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.

2. Gives Your Mind a Break From Familiar Characters and Worlds

Stopwatch
Image by Veri Ivanova

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.

Sparks Creative Ideas For Now and Later

Reflection of lightbulbs
Image by Dragos Gontariu

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.

A Great Warm-up

Lit Matches
Image by Devin Avery

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).

Improves Imagination and Memory

Plant growing from sidewalk cracks
Image by Stanislav Kondratiev

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.

Teaches You To Write Without Attachments

Chains on a gate
Image by Jose Fontano

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.

Resources

Reedsy Prompts – online database for hundreds of writing prompts.

Squibler – one of my favorite sources for Fantasy writing prompts.

For Further Reads About Writing, Check Out…

YA Fantasy Title Generator

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.

Similar Posts

Fiction Friday #3: Write the Prompt With Me!

The Prompt

Writing prompt

This week’s writing prompt is brought to you by Prompturarium.wordpress.com. They have a lot of great writing prompt ideas on their site that you should definitely check out if you’re interested. I tweaked this one a little (changed 23 years to 10 years).

As always, please comment below with where your ideas take you. Or where you might want my story to go next! Take 30 minutes to write out some scenes based off the prompt below. Who knows what ideas will surface when we brainstorm a new piece?

Alright, let’s write together!

The Writing

Image by Chuttersnap

When I walked into the restaurant, the hostess eyed me up and down before straining to smile.

“I’m sorry, but you’ll have to leave your weapons at the door, ma’am. We like to offer our guests a peaceful experience.”

I nodded as I pulled the strap around my head and dropped the scabbard and backpack down. There were too many tools in it to dump them all out in front of her. Besides, I think I scared her enough without exposing my entire artillery to her. As I piled my belongings on the bench next to her podium, I scanned the restaurant. I should have dressed nicer. The place was a combination of dim lighting, crystal decorations, and spicy aromas. I was more in over my head than I had thought.

“You have someone to watch over this stuff?” I asked, watching her gingerly pick up the pack and sword and place them on a shelf alongside a dozen other miscellaneous weapons and bags.

“Of course,” she said. Her eyes darted to the big guy dressed all in black at the end of the long row of shelves.

I felt a pang ripple through me. I hadn’t even seen him.

“Here,” she said, handing me a tag with a number that matched the one on my stuff’s shelf. “Now, dining for one, or are you waiting for someone?”

“I’m Corsen. Here to meet Mr. Giochi. Has he arrived yet?”

Her smile wavered a moment before she pulled the ends of her lips back up as if by puppet strings.

“Of course, right this way.”

She led me with a menu in her hand to a table in the back. It was in a room by itself, separated by red-tinted glass doors. At the table, sat a man dressed in a combination of black and green snakeskin. His face was clean-shaven and sharp with delicate features. Even in the low lighting, I could see the yellow of his eyes.

“Have a pleasant evening,” the hostess said, already half out of the door.

“Take a seat, Corsen,” Giochi said with a flourish of his hand. His nails were long and pointed. Painted black.

I sat without taking my eyes off him, tucking the sides of my cloak around my lap as I should do with the fancy napkin they provided. I wasn’t sure if I would make it through dinner.

Giochi was a few years older than me, but that wouldn’t be the case forever. Not anymore.

As if he read my thoughts, he asked, “I’ve never helped a vampire before. What brings you to seek this city’s best mage?”

I took a breath and fingered the silver forks lined up so precisely against the red napkin. How many times had I seen silver against a backdrop of red?

“I don’t consider this ‘seeking’ as you’re the one who wrote to me first,” I answered.

“It isn’t every day you hear of a vampire killing their own. And in such a meticulous manner. The stories I’ve been hearing are as alarming as they are impressive. I thought offering my services would only be the proper thing to do.” His was face blank as he spoke. He pressed a closed fist to his chin, pushing back some of his well-maintained, black curls.

“Mr. Giochi—”

“Please, call me Danny,”

“Danny.” The name sounded too informal on my tongue, but I continued anyway. “How much do you know about me?” And how did you find it out?

“People talk, Corson,” Danny said. “They talk about a young woman who rose from her family’s grave plots after a storm of first-generation vampires took out her whole town. Bit of a slip-up, don’t you think? To leave one behind to turn?”

I hid my hands in my lap to prevent them from shaking. As he spoke, I could smell the fire. Feel the warmth of my best friend’s hands as she pressed her claws into the skin of my neck and dug her fangs into me. I could taste the metallic of her blood mixed with mine.

“That’s the general idea,” I said. I cleared my throat. “People make mistakes, after all.”

He eyed me over, though what he was seeing I could only guess. 

“I see,” he said. His gaze flashed upward, and he straightened.

A man wearing a black apron slipped through the glass door with a wine bottle in his hands.

“Our house’s best, courtesy of your services, Mr. Giochi,” the waiter said. He poured Danny a glass and left the bottle on the table before disappearing from the room.

“Do you drink?” Danny asked, raising his wine glass.

“No,” I answered.

There was a clatter of dishes hitting the floor from behind the door, but we both ignored it. My ears were attentive though, and I could smell danger rising in the atmosphere like the beads of sweat on Danny’s brow and upper lip.

“Are you afraid of me?” I asked.

“I would be an idiot not to be afraid of you, Corson,” Danny answered. He still hadn’t taken a sip of the wine. Only swirled it around in a whirlpool of thoughtfulness. “It also isn’t every day I meet with a vampire. Period.”

“I’m not only a vampire,” I said. I wanted to see how far I could push him to see past the violet of my eyes. The translucency of my dark skin.

“True, and that’s why I agreed to meet.”

Another crashing noise came from behind us, and this time I stood up and turned towards the rest of the restaurant. Across the room, the weapon’s guard was holding our waiter in a headlock, his head bent in towards his neck.

I threw open the glass doors and sprinted towards the man.

“Hey!” I shouted.

Even as my feet flew across the room, I could see how everyone seemed to be frozen in time. The guests’ faces were twisted in slow-motion horror as they realized what was happening.

By the time I had made it to the big man, our waiter was looking pale and dazed. Before the vampire could even look up, I shoved my palm upward. His nose exploded with vibrant purple blood. The grip he had on the waiter released. The kid crashed to the floor in an unconscious heap. Unconscious. I could tell because I could still hear the thudding of his very alive heart.

Focus. Don’t smell. Focus.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I snarled. “I thought this was supposed to be a peaceful dining experience?”

The man wiped his face with the back of his hand and stood up to his full height, almost two heads taller than me. I took a step back but held my head up to face him.

“Well?” I demanded.

But I was beginning to see the tell-tale signs of a newbie who had been fighting back the change’s demands. His jaw was slack, and strings of blood and spit were dripping down his chin. The look in his eyes was vacant and veined. He had no idea who he even was.

“I—I,” he stammered.

As he staggered towards me like a falling tree, I pulled out a black rod, hidden against the folds of my tunic. With the press of a switch, two silver blades extended from either end. I plunged one end into his shoulder.

The vampire cried out in pain and fell to his knees. The stunning powers of silver working twice as hard against his human-blood-filled body.

Two people burst through the front door. Both of them wore matching black uniforms with sleek black trenchcoats that went to their ankles and squat black hats with a shiny silver emblem.

I took one look at them, pulled my blade out of the man, and took a step back. My hands raised in alarm.

Both pointed silver embossed guns at me.

“Step away from the man, now,” the woman officer said.

“Easy, officers,” Danny’s voice came behind me before he stepped in front of me. “He’s the one you want.”

He gestured down at the man who was clutching his injured shoulder and panting. A puddle of his blood mixed with the waiter’s told the officers all they needed to know.

After handcuffing the man and taking him through the entrance, Danny turned to me.

“Well that was quite the show,” he said. “I see I’ve found the right girl.”

“The right girl for what?” I asked, lip curling and revealing what I knew would be my fangs.

“The right girl to help me with my own vampire problems,” he said. “Follow me.”

Without looking back to see if I would follow, he walked out of the restaurant.

For More Writing Prompts…

Writing Tips: Overusing Figurative Language In Fantasy Writing

I’ve been trudging through the book The Crystilleries of Echoland by Dew Pellucid, a Fantasy children’s chapter book. So far it’s about a kid named Will who lives in a world where a lot of people, including his twin sister, are being kidnapped without explaination. It turns out that there’s this whole other world that Will has to enter and save in order to help both worlds. The world is a combination of futuristic science and woodland fantasy. So it’s got several interesting things going for it. What’s been driving me crazy about this book is the way the author uses figurative language.

This got me thinking, what are the dangers of overusing figurative language in writing, especially in fantasy?

Confusing Similes With the Fantasy World

I don’t want to poo-poo on the book too much, because I can tell that someone spent a lot of time trying to create something really nice. My personal opinions aside, let’s explore the opening paragraph and how it uses figurative language to build its world.

Will Cleary walked into his father’s dusty library. At the center, a huge book was spread open on a pedestal like a bird with papery wings; and like a bird, the book was trapped in a cage of glass that reflected Will’s face back at him. The twelve-year-old boy looked like a scarecrow with big sad eyes.

The Crystilleries of Echoland, pg. 1, Dew Pellucid

So several things about this passage stood out to me while I was reading it for the first time.

Using Overused Or Common Comparisons

The issue with using common comparisons like “birds in a cage” can be dangerous, as some readers will skip by this description without it really making an impact. It’s become such an idiom, a daily interaction with the reader, that it loses any true comparison power.

Confusing Figurative Language For Physical (In World)

The most confusing aspect of this paragraph is what we’re supposed to picture. I’m aware this is a fantasy book, so I’m expecting elements of magic or maybe objects that have magical properties.

Let’s explore a different passage for a moment.

The forest seemed to sprint toward them, trying to run them down as if the trees were bewitched.

The Crystilleries of Echoland, pg. 25, Dew Pellucid

In this scene, Will is running through the forest. However, because of the use of Personification, the trees are the ones running as if they were magical. The trees might actually be magical. This might explain why they seemed to move while Will was running.

However I don’t think that’s what the author was going for. I think the author was trying to describe the feeling of the trees moving by as Will runs through the forest.

Using too much figurative language in Fantasy can make your readers believe aspects of the world that aren’t true.

In Fantasy, there will be events and objects that don’t exist in our world. That’s why as writers, we have to walk a fine line between using words that help the readers picture and help the readers imagine.

All of these considerations are especially important in children’s literature where young readers might not be able to easily grasp the concept of figurative language and be able to separate it from what’s actually going on.

Distracting Readers From Real Messages

In my first example paragraph there’s four different figurative statements being made.

  • Book to bird
  • Book’s glass case to bird cage
  • Bird being trapped in cage
  • Will to scarecrow

Three of these are connected, but also confusingly arranged so that they aren’t linear. Then the last (Will to scarecrow) is completely separate from the main comparison of the paragraph. Which is that there’s a book with wing-like pages trapped behind a glass container that reminds Will of a caged bird.

While this entire comparison is very interesting, the tacked on scarecrow comparison detracts from the strength of the main Simile. Instead of focusing on the book comparison, the readers end the paragraph thinking of how Will can look like a sad scarecrow.

Likewise in the second example, several things are happening to describe one feeling. The trees are running towards Will, but they’re also bewitched. They’re also trying to run him down. I’m assuming that Will is dodging between trees in the forest. But because there are three different statements about one action, I lose the impact of the figure of speech.

Stick with one solid comparison or metaphor per paragraph (or less) to ensure readers don’t get focused on the wrong things.

Comparing Using Objects That Are Too Broad

While we all want to use unique metaphorical language in our writing, sometimes we run the risk of being to abstract and therefore confusing readers. This is especially the danger for Fantasy, where people can have animal-like features or special abilities.

The problem with comparing Will’s face to a scarecrow to show that he looks sad, is that there are many aspects of a scarecrow that don’t conjure up an image of a sad boy. We think of fields, crows, straw, scary faces. Then we apply these subconscious thoughts to the way Will looks. Maybe Will is actually a boy made out of straw in this world — who really knows? Nope. Nope, he’s not. And he’s not scary or doll-like either.

The point is, we must be original AND accurate.

Be considerate of what other readers might think of with your comparison. Make sure that the emotion or image you’re trying to conjure up in their minds will match the figurative language.

Final Thoughts

Whew, thanks for getting through that with me. I’m going to keep reading this book, because I’ve heard great things. Right now it’s not a recommended read, but we’re all works in progress.

Writing is difficult, especially for children. Let’s work hard to become stronger writers together.

If You Want More Writing Tips, Check Out

Scary Stories In LA (No. 1): What’s It Really Like to Live In Los Angeles?

Noises In the Night

Image by Thong Vo

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.

Letter a Few Days After

Image by Pawel Czerwinski

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.

A Story Shared With a Friend

Image by Erik Witsoe

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.

What I Learned

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.

For More Like This Check Out…

First Month In LA: Finding Jobs and Staying Alive

Recipe Review: Ceara’s Kitchen Vegan Banana Oat Bread

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!

Making the Recipe

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.

Recipe Results

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.

Review Rating: 3 Out of 5 Stars

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!

6 Amazing Hiking Spots in Los Angeles

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.

1. Griffith Park (The Hollywood Sign)

Hiking the Hollywood Sign
Image by Roberto Nickson

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.

Features of the Hike

  • Take pictures with the Hollywood sign
  • Visit the Observatory
  • Uphill climb and downhill on the way back
  • Option to do more or less miles
View from Hollywood sign
Image by Richard James

2. Angeles National Forest

View from Angeles National Forest
View from Angeles National Forest

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.

Features of the Hike

  • High elevation views
  • Hike Part of the PCT
  • Interesting wildlife
  • Easy-hard hikes available.
View from Angeles National Forest
Hike view from Angeles National Forest

3. Elysian Park (The Secret Swing)

Hiking trail for Elysian Park

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.

View from Elysian Park

Features of the Hike

  • Plenty of different sights and landscapes
  • Several different types of hikes for all levels
  • The swing!
The secret swing featuring Mitchell

4. Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park

View at Vasquez Rocks

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.

The boys climbing to the top of the rocks

Features of the Hike

  • Great rocks to climb
  • An open space to explore
  • Sight seeing where many movies and shows were filmed!

6. Vista Hermosa Natural Park

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!

Features of the Hike

  • Easy trails to walk
  • Great for people in the city to get away
  • Relaxing area to spend the afternoon

Final Thoughts

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!

Fiction Friday #2: Flash Fiction Writing Prompt

The Prompt

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.

The Writing

The Forrest // Johannes Plenio

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.

Final Thoughts

If you liked this post, be sure to check out my post Fiction Friday #1.

Where did your imagination take you? Comment below!

Writing Tips: Why You Should Write Down Your Dreams

After a night of crazy dreams, I wrote them in my journal and thought, Wow, this would be a really great story. This isn’t the first time I’ve had this thought, and it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve used my dreams and nightmares to make stories.

Dreams can be incredibly helpful for writers. They expose us to strange scenarios. They take us on wild rides. But how they can they help our writing?

Dreams Are Great Sources of Writing Inspiration

Image by Ava Sol

You may have heard the story that J.K. Rowling first dreamt about the orphan boy with a lightning scar while she was on a train. A lot of other famous writers have dreamt about their books.

  • Charlotte Bronte
  • Stephen King
  • Mary Shelly
  • Stephanie Meyer

Inspiration can come from real life, but our dreams have the ability to take us to places we’ve never been before. Our dreams are an extension of our imagination. Sometimes they reach ideas we might never have gotten to during our waking hours. Why not use this to your advantage and use dreams as inspiration for your writing?

Dreams Help You Understand Your Life

Image by Robert Ruggiero

I’ve heard it said before that everything we dream is pieces of things we’ve seen or done before. According to the scientific research gathered by Caifang Zhu, “dreams are most often reasonable simulations of waking life that contain occasional unusual features in terms of settings, characters, or activities.”

Writing can complicate our lives and push our minds to the limits. And life is just kind of crazy! Dreams are a great way to sort out what we’re really worried about. By writing down your dreams, you’re dumping all of the scrambled events of your waking life down for you to examine.

While there might also be some great writing material, you’ll also be opening yourself up for writing beyond your own life. This is especially helpful for writers who create entire worlds and extensive characters.

Dreams Are Wild and Unpredictable — Perfect For Writer’s Block

Image by Rodion Kutsaev

It happens to us all. A certain plot point just won’t connect to the rest of the story. One of the best things you can do is let the text rest and go to sleep. Dreams have a way of unraveling complicated events in our life. If your writing consumes your thoughts, chances are you’ll end up dreaming something about it.

You can also look back on dreams you’ve written down. Sometimes they may spark an idea or even contain exactly what you’ve been looking for. Dreams are unpredictable and not linear. They leave room for you to plug in whatever your writing already contains, while also providing unexpected twists!

By starting to write your dreams out now, you’ll gain a larger collection of ideas to choose from.

What if I don’t dream much? you might ask.

Everyone dreams, but not everyone remembers what they dream about. The best thing you can do to help encourage your dream memory is to try to remember them right when you wake up and to write them down.

Dreams Can Open Up New Writing Doors

Image by Jan Tinneberg

As a fantasy writer, I’m constantly looking for new ideas to put into my books. I’m not naturally a horror writer, but I do have a lot of wild nightmares. Dreams are the inspiration for many scenes from my books, as well as my current project of stories based entirely on nightmares.

Dreams can also be a helpful nudge to try out a new genre. Even if you use them as writing prompts, you might be surprised where they take you.

If You’re Interested In Learning More About My Dream Stories

My stories based off dreams are available on Amazon Kindle for anyone to enjoy. Or you can check out the articles below to find out more about them.

“Bottlenecked” By Kristen Kois

“Red” By Kristen Kois

Final Thoughts

What about you? Do you use your dreams as inspiration? Have you ever considered writing them down? Share below!

Reviewing Restaurants In LA: Brasil Kiss Coffeebar

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.

History of Brasil Kiss Coffeebar

Outside of Brasil Kiss Coffeebar

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.

Experiencing Brasil Kiss Coffeebar

Sitting area at Brasil Kiss
The sitting area at Brasil Kiss

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.

View of the cafe at Brasil Kiss
View of the cafe at Brasil Kiss

Evaluation of Brasil Kiss Coffeebar

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.

Americano and Lattee
Latte (left) and Americano (right)
  • Design 5 out of 5
  • Ambience 4 out of 5
  • Tidiness 4 out of 5
  • Value for Money 4 out of 5
  • Service 5 out of 5
  • Variety 5 out of 5
  • Quality 3 out of 5

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!

Final Thoughts

If You’d Like to Learn About More Food In LA, Check Out…

More Brasil Kiss Coffeebar Information

Mural at Brasil Kiss Coffeebar

You can check out their menu website here.

Store Location

1010 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90017

Store Hours

Mon-Fri: 7 am – 7 pm

Sat/Sun: 8 am – 5 pm

Writing Tips: 5 Tips For Writing a First Draft

1. Keep Moving Forward (Don’t Edit Prematurely)

The number one reason I hear when people talk about why they can’t write is, “I just can’t finish because I keep going back to edit what I’ve written.”

Editing your book before finishing a full draft is the worst idea for your writing process. Even if you have an outline, it’s unlikely you know everything that’s going to happen in the story. When you edit your first draft, it’s not a first draft anymore. But anything you write after the revision WILL be a first draft. It won’t seem to stand up to what you’ve revised. You’re trying to put fancy clothes on a skeleton and thinking you can pass it off as a person!

Over-editing is discouraging. It’s distracting. And it ruins most people’s writing processes.

At the beginning stage of your writing, you must KEEP WRITING. Don’t look back except to remember names and keep track of the plot.

Think Of Your First Draft As a Skeleton

Model of a skeleton
Image by Nhia Moua

Your first draft is the skeleton of your writing. Bare bones of plot, basic characters, bland action scenes. But they’re all there, written down.

Draft two will be your flesh and blood. You’ll add details, you’ll fix plot holes. You’ll bloat your writing until it’s fat and beautiful. Then draft three can be your trimming, grammar revisions, etc. You might have many more drafts than this. But draft one should always be your skeleton. Even if it has a ton of details, it will end up looking a lot different in the final draft.

Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Just keep writing!

2. Write By Hand

Writing things down in a notebook
Image by Alejandro Escamilla

I know. I know. This one will be hard for some people. The first reason I encourage people to write their first draft out by hand is so it’s harder to go back and edit.

The second reason is that for most people, your brain thinks faster than you can hand write, but it thinks slower than you can type. While this may seem like a reason to type instead, typing your first draft can lead to some serious writer’s block.

If you feel like typing your first draft has been difficult, try writing by hand. Taking time to mull your words over can actually lead to some pretty decent writing.

3. Work On Characters On the Side

In my first draft, I let my characters run wild. They say and do things they would never actually say and do if I knew them better. But I’m just starting to get to know them. Instead of fighting over every word they say, I just keep writing everything that comes to mind.

Remember, corrections are for the next draft.

On the other hand, I don’t want to start the second draft without getting to know my characters on a deeper level. Sure, by the end of my first draft I’ve gotten to know them within the realm of the story. But what about their past? Their likes and dislikes?

Here is a starting list for character building. You can find details on this list by checking out the article “Writing Tips: 23 Questions For Character Building.”

23 Questions For Character Building

You can write each character’s miniature biography in a separate notebook or a word document. It’s great to work on this on the side of your actual writing (especially when you need a break), because it helps you get to know your characters as they’re developing on the page.

Also retconning is totally acceptable in your second draft.

4. Keep a Special Notepad Or Document For Ideas

Write your extra ideas down separately
Image by AbsolutVision

During the process of writing your first draft, you’ll have many ideas come to you. Ideas for this book. For possible other books. For the next scene. I have a tendency to write them in the margins of my notebook, but these get easily lost.

The best thing to do is to start a Word document, or you can use your character notebook. Make a special section for ideas, people, and places in your story. This way you’ll have an easy reference guide if you forget something. Or you won’t forget what the next chapter is about!

5. Share Ideas Not Writing

Talking about ideas with a group of people
Image by Priscilla Du Preez

Your first draft is going to be one of your most vulnerable pieces of writing. That’s why it’s important to share ideas not the actual writing. The ideas are the most important aspect during the first draft. The actual written words are not. Talk with friends, share it with a family member, teacher, or mentor. Collaborate with other writers online. Ask questions. But keep writing too!

Research After You Write

Don’t worry too much about doing research for draft one. At this point you’re just trying to drag characters along for a wild ride. Sharing ideas with people you trust can help work out basic kinks. Plus they might know about some topics you’re unsure about.

Collaborating ideas can get you more excited to write. If you find the right people, it can be an amazing experience to gain new insight into your writing. I’ve come up with some crazy ideas by talking about my books with writers and readers I trust.

Final Thoughts

What are your struggles when writing a first draft? What habits have you formed to get a first draft complete? Comment below!

For More Writing Articles Check Out…

Writing Tips: 23 Questions For Character Building

Character building is more than just appearances. Here are a list of 23 questions to ask for every character you’re writing — for any genre. As well as some examples to help get your thought process flowing.

1. What Is Their Earliest Memory?

  • with family
  • with friends
  • with pets
  • with favorite toys

2. What Are Their Greatest Fears?

  • dying
  • failure
  • losing loved ones
  • spiders
  • helicopters

3. What Nervous Ticks Do They Have?

  • runs hand through hair
  • picks skin around nails
  • stutters
  • blinks too much

4. What Was Their Homelife Like?

  • divorced parents
  • no parents
  • parents were good
  • lived with someone else
  • lived with friends
  • good homelife or bad homelife

5. What Do They Smell Like?

  • perfume/cologne
  • outdoors
  • stinky
  • baked goods
  • campfire
  • spices

6. What Do They Keep In Their Pocket/Bags And Why?

  • family heirlooms
  • trinket
  • trash
  • receipts
  • writing utensil
  • small pet

7. What Kind Of Clothes Do They Wear?

  • latest fashion
  • rugged, torn, worn
  • second hand from family member
  • hipster
  • minimalist
  • color palette (earth tones, black, rainbow)
  • Patterns (stripes, plain, plaid, polka dots)

8. What Was Their Childhood Like?

  • good/bad in school
  • friends/friendless
  • explorer/homebody
  • deaths in family
  • always getting into trouble

9. What Sleeping Habits Do They Have?

  • never sleeps
  • sleeps in every day
  • has to sleep in a nice bed
  • can’t sleep with pillows
  • snores

10. What Biases Do They Hold Against People/Animals/Government?

  • traumatic experiences
  • prejudices
  • racial thoughts
  • painful memories
  • hateful feelings

11. What Is Their Myers Briggs Acronym?

  • Pretend you’re the character and take the test at this site
  • introvert/extrovert (focusing attention)
  • sensing/intuition (taking in information)
  • thinking/feeling (making decisions)
  • judging/perceiving (dealing with the world)

12. How Do They Feel About Money?

  • giver
  • saver
  • spender
  • stingy

13. What Is Their Biggest Flaw?

  • racist
  • hurtful
  • aggressive
  • aloof
  • forgetful
  • bitter

14. What Are Their Greatest Strengths?

  • courageous
  • helpful
  • dependable
  • special skills (SEE NUMBER 22)

15. What Does Their Body Look Like?

  • hair color, length, texture
  • face shape
  • eye shape, color
  • skin color, texture, ailments
  • height
  • weight
  • build (athletic, scrawny, chubby)

16. What Makes Them Angry?

  • injustice
  • cruelty
  • money
  • love

17. What Makes Them Sad?

  • past relationships
  • death
  • life
  • family
  • weather

18. What Do They Eat?

  • only meat
  • vegetarian
  • omnivore
  • vegan
  • only things from nature
  • only one food group

19. What Are They Worried About?

  • the future
  • the past
  • the present
  • their family
  • their lover
  • their money

20. What Is Their Spirit Animal?

  • birds (hawks, owls, eagles, flamingos, hummingbirds)
  • reptiles (geckos, snakes, turtles, alligators, chameleons)
  • fish (clownfish, bass, catfish, stingrays)
  • mammals (wolves, horses, cows, pigs, dolphins, cats, dogs, platypuses)
  • insects (ladybugs, bees, butterflies, ants)

21. How Do They Feel About Love?

  • distrustful
  • slow to develop feelings
  • quick to fall in love
  • love everyone they see
  • unable to love
  • burned by love

22. What Special Skills Do They Have?

  • painting
  • singing
  • dancing
  • photography
  • skiing
  • running
  • writing poetry
  • playing an instrument
  • gymnastics
  • superpowers

23. What Is Their Greatest Failure?

  • financial
  • family
  • friends
  • work
  • hobbies
  • flunking out of school
  • giving up on someone/something

What are some questions you use to develop characters in your writing? Comment below!

Bonus: If You Liked This Article Check Out…

Reviewing Restaurants In LA: Krimsey’s Cajun Kitchen

Krimsey’s Logo

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.

History of Krimsey’s

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.

Experiencing Krimsey’s

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.

A snip-it from their menu.

Evaluation of Krimsey’s

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.

Trinity Red Beans & Rice +Sausage
Trinity Red Beans & Rice + Sausage

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.

Rainbow Pride Poboy
Rainbow Pride Poboy

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.

French Quarter Beignets
French Quarter Beignets // Image from Kimseys.com
  • Design 4 out of 5
  • Ambience 5 out of 5
  • Tidiness 4 out of 5
  • Value for Money 5 out of 5
  • Service 5 out of 5
  • Variety 4 out of 5
  • Quality 4 out of 5

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!

Bonus: If You Liked This Article, Check Out…

More Krimsey’s Information

You can visit their website here.

Store Location

12900 Victory Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91606

Store Hours

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)

Fiction Friday #1: Flash Fantasy Writing Prompt

I thought it would be interesting to start doing a “fiction” Friday, where I freewrite from a creative prompt for 30 minutes. I’ve posted the prompt below. If you’d like to write one too, by all means do!

Comment below where your imagination took you!

Image by Hasan Almasi

The Prompt

Not a single gun was fired during that battle. Not a single knife was pulled. And yet, it left hundreds dead. (From the writersencyclopedia.com)

The Writing

Josiah knew that once he set one bare foot on the battleground, it would all be over. He glanced at the woman holding out his leather armor.

“Is all that really necessary?” he asked.

She nodded, face blank. “You don’t know what will happen to you before they’re taken out. Someone could let loose an arrow. Do you really want to be in cotton when that happens?”

Josiah pinched his shirt and shook his head. “It doesn’t really matter, does it? When it’s over, they’re going to get rid of me.”

The woman, Kellana, placed his armor on the chair with care. The only thing missing was the boots. She sighed.

“I won’t let that happen Sir Josiah. You know that. We keep each other alive.” Her arm touched the long sleeve of her dress as she said this.

Not forever, Josiah thought. Instead, he walked to the chair and picked up the leather chest piece.

“Looks a bit big,” he said. He ran his hand along the front. It was worn and chipped. Also stained with something dark. He didn’t need an active imagination to guess what it could be.

Kellana frowned. “They said it was the smallest one they had. I can go back and ask — ”

Josiah was already slipping it over his head and fumbling with the strings to tighten it. The straps tangled with his fingers when the armor was halfway over his shoulders.

“Is this what it feels like to wear one of your corsets?” he said with a jagged grin over the top of the head hole.

Kellana’s eyes went colder, but her lips formed a thin smile. “It’s been a while. I hardly remember.”

She reached forward to help him and watched him flinch when her skin made contact with his. It had been seven years, but he still wasn’t used to the feeling of another person’s skin.

Kellana pretended she hadn’t noticed the jerk and twist of his face as she pulled the armor down over his head. Within just a few minutes she had him buckled up. The armor barely looked too big anymore.

“You’re good at this,” he said. There was resignation in his voice mixed with a drop of fear. His curls had been mused from the excitement and sweat beaded against his thick, untamed eyebrows.

Kellana smiled and put a hand against his armored chest. “It was mandatory in my court for any member of the royal family to secure the guards’ armor before battle. Good luck, they said.”

“Who said?” Josiah whispered.

She patted him lightly twice before moving back to the flap of the tent.

“The horn will sound soon,” Josiah sound. Her words and proximity had left him breathless only for a moment. “You should leave.”

She inhaled in a movement to speak. But then she turned and stumbled out of the tent as if she was tripping over her own unspoken words.

Josiah managed the rest of his armor by himself, a much easier process when he could see the straps he was tightening. His heart was beating violently against the skin of his chest. The armor wouldn’t protect him if his body turned against him now.

Just as he slipped off his shoes, a horn sounded in the distance. Did the captain really manage to put holes in all of the soldiers’ boots in the night? Or was he just too impatient to wait another day?

You’ll die one way or another after this. It was a strangely comforting thought. After years of damage, to finally be free…

Josiah pushed the tent flap aside, feeling the earth crinkle under his toes. He eyed the forest behind his tent. The trees were filled with soldiers. All of them were probably staring right back at him through the shelter of their leafy camouflage.

He turned his back on them and started jogging away. The armor weighed his body down, but years of traveling on his own in the wilderness gave him the physical edge needed to keep up a consistent pace.

Far in the distance, he could already see a long line of bodies, marching forwards. Towards him. He twisted his head around, the helmet obscuring part of his vision. Already the ground was rotting where he had stepped. Already the ground ahead of him was starting to yellow. But how far ahead would it travel? How fast?

An arrow shot into the ground next to him. Close enough that he could feel the fwip as it plunged into the earth.

Then he could hear the screaming. He squinted at the lines of soldiers as they crumpled to the ground in pain. As their hands touched the earth, their skin broke out into vicious red hives. They yanked off their helmets and threw them to the ground. Some started tearing off their armor.

It was a natural instinct. One that would quicken the process even more. Several more arrows hit the ground next to Josiah. He had stopped in his tracks, even though he knew he should continue forward. His breath came out in white, opaque puffs. Thick droplets of sweat fell off his chin.

An arrow came down in his blind spot and struck his shoulder. It pierced through the armor. He could feel the point dig into his skin.

Josiah bent to his knee and pulled the wooden stake out with a single yank. The wood rotted in his grasp before he could toss it aside. His vision was started to distort. The colors of the field became saturated with unnatural colors.

Too much. Too many.

There came the sound of a second horn from behind him, but he barely heard it. He only heard the continuous thudding of the enemy’s bodies crumple to the ground like overripe fruit falling from their branches.

Writing Tips: Why You Should Use Ugly Character Descriptions

I recently read the lines, “she bit her cinnamon raisin toast with her large front teeth” from The Magicians by Lev Grossman. How visual! How simple! And yet I could picture the scene as both repulsive and annoying.

This got me thinking. What if more people used ugly, aggressive adjectives in their writing? Is there a reason why we should?

To Get People’s Attention

Dictionary focusing on the word focus

So often I find myself skimming pages in books if the writing is generic. It’s easy to write familiar adjectives. Here are just a few that I came up with.

Her face was red with anger.

He eyed her suspiciously.

The small girl was crying as she held her melted ice cream.

Or imagine that Lev Grossman had actually written, “She ate her toast.”

That wouldn’t have gotten my attention. I would have barely noticed it at all. Sometimes we want details to fade into the background. Other times, we want to create stand-out descriptions that make people think.

If you want people to actually digest what you’re writing, to be engaged with what you’re writing, surprise them. SURPRISE THEM!Give them the opposite of what the expect.

This isn’t to say you have to make characters do what they wouldn’t do. You’re only using more vibrant words to describe what’s happening.

To Describe Personality Better

Image by Houcine Ncib

In Lev Grossman’s simple example, you learn a lot more about the mother than if he had written “she ate her toast.” What are some things we learn?

  • She likes cinnamon raisin toast
  • She has big front teeth
  • She might look like a beaver?
  • The main character finds her eating repulsive
  • The main characters thinks her teeth are too big

Some of these might be a stretch, but they’re also what came to my mind when I was reading. Writing stronger, braver descriptions gives your reader more to think about beyond what you’ve written on the page. They start asking questions. They start wondering about relationships and the reliability of the narrator. All of this is unconscious for the most part, unless you have really curious readers. But pushing the interest of characters pushes the story to the next level.

To Ground Your Writing In the Real World

Person holding nature
Image by Ravi Roshan

I love creating beautiful, nearly perfect characters. It’s just so alluring and captivating. And in YA, it’s almost a must. But after a while, it becomes a little creepy or bland. It also makes these characters so far removed from our world that it becomes hard to relate or empathize with them. A subtle trick that can help is writing descriptions that make the characters’ flaws show.

Nervous ticks, anxious movements, clumsy actions. These all help to ground your characters as real people. Even if they are darn near perfect, or at least perceived as perfect, readers should still see through the cracks once in a while.

For example:

a) He placed the breakfast plate in front of her and grinned with perfect teeth. —>

As he placed the breakfast plate in front of her, his hands trembled. His easy smile of white teeth contrasted against the wild panic in his eyes.

b) She brushed her hair behind her ear and smiled. — >

She brushed her hair behind her ear but several strands stuck up in an odd angle.

It’s endearing when characters you’ve fallen in love with do quirky or embarrassing things. It also gives your other characters something to react to. Will they ask why he’s so nervous? Will they tell her that her hair is sticking up?

To Make Your Writing Stronger

Image by Daniel Schludi

Challenge yourself to be creative, especially in otherwise dull moments in your writing. Eating toast doesn’t have to be like riding a roller coaster, but maybe it feels like that to one of your characters.

Let’s look at those examples from above again.

Her face was red with anger. — >

Her cheeks puffed out while flames of purple blush spread across her skin.

He eyed her suspiciously. — >

He cocked his head as his eyes scanned her like she was a rotting piece of meat.

The small girl was crying as she held her melted ice cream. — >

The smallest girl in the room choked on her hysteric laughter when the ice cream melted over her hands.

Are you more interested? Do you want to know their stories more?

The goal for every writer is to keep their readers reading their work. Let’s push ourselves to create more dynamic — even scary or ugly —descriptions. Life is weird and quirky. Our writing can be too.

I would love to see your own examples of the sentences above. Comment with your creative ideas!

Bonus: If You Liked this Article, Check Out…

Writing Tips: 3 Reasons You Should End Your Book Series

10 Things That Will Surprise You About Los Angeles

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.

1. Hiking Opportunities Are Abundant

Angeles National Forest mountains
Angeles National Forest

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.

2. Each District Is an Entire New World

Alleyway in DTLA
Snapshot view in Downtown LA

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.

3. There Are Some Really Nice People

Mural of two people in DTLA
Mural Downtown LA

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?

4. The Main Tourist Sites Are Not That Great

The Last Bookstore DTLA
The Last Bookstore, Downtown LA

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.

5. Making Eye Contact Is Unusual

Image by Alexandru Zdrobau

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.

6. Public Transportation Is Easy and Reliable

Image by Fabrizio Verrecchia

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.

7. It’s Not Really That Expensive (Besides Rent)

View from our apartment, Downtown LA

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.

8. People Wear Heavy Clothes In Mild Weather

Image by Karen Cantu Q

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.

9. Not Everyone Is Super Fit and Airbrushed

Image by Sandra Gabriel

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)!

10. It Was Easy to Find a Community

Snapshot of my community at Majority Denim

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

Final Thoughts

What are some interesting things you’ve learned about your town over the years? Leave a comment below!

Bonus: If You Liked This Article, Check Out…

Why Marianne Should Be Your Post Stranger Things, Spooky Season Binge on Netflix

(NO SPOILERS)

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.

It’s Quirky and Bold

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.

It’s Full of Interesting Characters

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 Well Written

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.

It’s Actually Terrifying

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).

Final Thoughts

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!

Do You Have the Right to Follow Your Dreams: Contemplating You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero

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?

Loans, Debt, and Fear

Image by Sharon McCutcheon

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.

Making Money Over Following Passions

Image by Thought Catalog

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.

Jobs and Salaries

Image by Kate Sade

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.

Privilege and Cycles of Wealth

Image by Wei Ding

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.

Making the World a Better Place

Image by Sasha Freemind

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?

Bonus: For More On Jen Sincero…

Check out my book review of You Are a Badass At Making Money.