Writer’s Tool: Props


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One of the best tools for character building, world-building, tension building, and creating beats and foreshadowing. When used with purpose, it smooths over that drop into the dream and helps keep us there.

My favorite use is to replace dialogue tags and build character. Showing a character rub the hem of their shirt so much they rip a hole in the bottom creates an image, indicates nerves, and suggests a repeating habit. It shows their true feelings. This type of prop, when used with specific intent, can signal a certain emotion that relates scenes and build foreshadowing.

The more unusual the prop, the greater impression the character has on the reader, like a green, shoe-shaped stone that links a protagonist and her recurring savior. Or a metal tuning cuff around a boy’s ear, almost hidden beneath his hair, that he uses to hone his alchemy skills.

An equally important and better used prop will remind the reader of the world and the rules present. A silver charm with the dirt from a grave serves a twin purpose of pulling an old vampire myth to showcase genre and what type of rules govern these creatures. As a secondary element, it functions to remind readers of werewolves’ aversion to silver, especially if used in a fight.

A particularly tense scene might use a prop to build tension. A ring in a young man’s pocket, might feel like such a weighty object—one he brushes to ensure is still there, when he might have the confidence to ask the question, avoids when his conviction plummets; a prop can signify a defining moment.

Here’s a great example of real-life drama using props. A woman takes a pregnancy test and tricks her husband into finding it. The test stays front and center for most of the exchange as he tries to uncover her trickery until, finally, he comes to terms with the positive result. The test itself signals a wide variety of tension—shock, pain, denial, acceptance, humor, and ultimately the new addition to their loving family. The scene would not be the same without it.


Also, one can create foreshadowing in several ways, but foreshadowing with props is essentially using Chekhov’s Gun. This technique signals the significance of an object early on by the amount of attention it’s given. The rule is that it must be utilized by the end of Act II within the three-act structure and play an important role in the plot. Like a character finding a pendant in an old box of her mother’s things, which she recognizes in her mentor’s office and knows to use it help save a dozen kidnapped children.

I love props and how versatile they are for adding depth to a story. How do you use them in your writing? Tell me in the comments below.







#SoCS: Vampire Politics


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#SoCS Prompt: “movie title.” Take the title of the last movie you watched (just the title, not the premise of the movie), and base your post on that title.


“The Hunger Games”

I’m cheating this week, but this reminded me of vampire politics, and well, I have the perfect excerpt for that, so here it is—Chapter Thirty-Five:


“Secrets. As exciting as yours are, I grow tired of how much effort it takes to unearth them and how loyal my people are to keeping yours from me.”

I blinked at Phea, too tired to generate the energy needed to sass her. Probably for the better.

My dry throat cracked my first words. I cleared away the rocks. “What did you learn this time?”

“Your question implies that you have more than one sizeable secret.”

“Depends on what you mean by sizeable.” Okay, maybe I maintained a little bit of sass.

Phea’s jaw worked, dark eyes narrowing like the barrel of a gun. “I suggest care and tact, renegade. Or what I decide to do with you and your baby will be affected by your attitude.”

Gaze unfocused, white blurred in an attempt to consume her dark shape. I’d been waiting for this. I knew Christopher would tell them. He needed to. I didn’t have the strength to offer it up myself.

“We tested your blood to confirm. I’m surprised by you. That you would put your child in such extreme peril to keep him to yourself. How long has it been since you’ve fed?”

Although they’d been keeping me in a room deprived of the sun or sky, Christopher had come to see me at least ten times already.

“Well, we cannot have that, so you will be receiving rations again. Of blood and food because I’m promised we can understand how this happened far better with a healthy baby than without him.” Her chilly hand found my forehead, smoothing away my bangs. “You must know, however, that this means new and improved forms of punishment. Feel free to save yourself the harshest of them by telling me everything right now.”

I wanted to tell her that she’d never get her hands on my baby.

I wanted it to be true.

But I could handle anything that didn’t harm him. Besides, I doubt she’d keep that promise if she knew one of them meant I’d killed her demented little knight. I’d held onto everything else for as long as possible. The extra powers were piddly to this.

Her hand waved beside the bed, not to me, and shuffling and scraping entered the room.

Feet slid around, and the acute scent of a human filled the space.

A middle-aged, black woman struggled to stand under Vincent’s grip. Sweat poured over her forehead and gathered under her cheeks.

“Your meal.” Phea presented her with a small flourish.

Vincent dumped the woman against the wall, bowed to Phea, and left.

The queen took the chair Christopher normally sat in, crossed a leg over the other and waited for me to feed—a stubborn mother watching over her insolent child.

“Who is she?”

“Does it matter?”

Of course it does. I’d said the same to James when he brought me my first meal. And it hadn’t mattered then. I was too hungry, too new to regulating myself that I drained him dry in seconds.

The woman smelled of cocoa butter, and she was half aware like this might all be some silly nightmare. How easily I could have lured her to me, but I went to her. Cold prickled into my toes.

She balanced against the wall on her own, and she nearly fell over when I touched her shoulder.

Calm. I pushed the idea into her. Her wobbling ceased, hands splayed against the white paint behind her.

This won’t hurt. Fingers braced against her neck, I tilted her throat to my throbbing fangs.

Her blood tasted of sweet cream, spreading through my cells the moment it touched my tongue. My body didn’t rage over it like when the Assetato kept me captive, but my throat and stomach rejoiced as I took my first swallow.

The dull, dead hum in the back of my brain faded, and my wits returned.

Nowhere near sated, I released the woman and let her slide to the concrete floor with a gentle euphoria. I’d heard my bite drugged my prey—worse than a normal vampire’s because of my imprint and tendency to glamour others with it.

“Saving the rest for later? I’ve given my word that you will receive regular feedings, you can finish your meal without fear that I will withhold more from you.” Phea gestured toward the woman, offering a freedom that she knew I didn’t want.

I crawled into bed and curled myself back where I’d started.

“I am far too aware of your high-road morality, as skewed and misguided as it is, but you cannot have another until you’ve finished your first. I suggest you not prolong it.” Phea stood, straightening her business skirt with a sly shimmy and left me to my newest torture.

Once the door closed, the woman on the floor slept with small, soft snores. I took the chance to get some genuine sleep, too, before none was offered to me.




The prompt source: https://lindaghill.com/2020/01/17/the-friday-reminder-for-socs-jusjojan-2020-daily-prompt-jan-18th/

Did You Know…About the Icelandic Mound?


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Iceland has a rich history of believing in the hidden people—invisible elves hidden amongst their landscapes.


In fact, environmentalists camped on volcanic rock to protect the paranormal creature dwelling inside of the volcanic debris. The surrounding lands hold an important elf church, and thousands populate the area. Locals fear that if holy relics are destroyed unnecessarily, the elves will retaliate.

This sounds like a radical belief, but a 1998 survey reported more than half of Icelanders said that they believed in fairies. Paring this with an academic paper, “The Elves’ Point of View” by Valdimar Hafstein in 2000, the folklorist professor said, “If this was just one crazy lady talking about invisible friends, it’s really east to laugh about that. But to have people through hundreds of years talking about the same things, it’s beyond one or two crazy ladies. It is part of the nation.” In 2007, the University of Iceland conducted a study that estimated 62% of the country believed elves were more than fairy tales.


The reason for the high rate of believers is that their versions of hidden people is because they look and behave similarly to humans but live parallel to us. In Faroese folklore, the fae are large, wear gray clothes, and have black hair. They dwell in mounds.

Another justification for so many believers is that Iceland has four holidays that feature the fae. On New Year’s Eve, elves moved to new locations and Icelanders provided candles to pave their paths. On the Thirteenth Night, January 6th, elf bonfires are a common part of the festivities. The people clean their houses and leave food out on Christmas so that elves who invade their farmhouses can hold wild parties. Finally, Midsummer Night provides an opportunity to seduce elves by laying food and gifts at crossroads.



Now, my Icelandic mound is one of the last independent mounds left in the Broken World. My giant leprechaun, Boden, is from the Icelandic mound and returns there in his own short story. There, he remembers an important bit of the monarchy’s history—one that threatens the safety of his home in book four.


The queen is revealed to be as ruthless as the other queens present in the series, but the princess, Asdis, turns out to be a helpful and insightful person and leader. She also has some interesting connections to my protagonist, Ria.

This mound holds the last remnants of the old fae union and the great magickal council that governed the research, the laws, and the justice for the coalition. They also maintain the traditions of apprenticeships within their society, which has been lost to the majority of the fae that had to flee their mounds and, therefore, their customs. The underground mounds, although independent, have a watered-down version of these practices, they don’t have the capabilities of maintaining the rigid control that Iceland holds.


In fact, the Icelandic mound was built for that purpose. They were the strategic mound to fend off invasions and preserve the fae’s history and knowledge.

I’m pretty excited about some of the connections to come from this mound in the last treks of the story. Most thrilling is exploration of how the fae are more similar to gods than they are to paranormal creatures, which are formed from the primordial Greek gods and Atlantean pantheon. I wonder what will happen when they mix…


Do you know anything about faerie mounds, politics, or lore? Tell me about them in the comments below!








#SoCS Two Days Until School Starts Again…


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#SoSC – The first three words from the nearest book:

“There’s these two…” days until school starts again, and my mind is messing with me like it usually does. Teacher nightmares make me wake up in a panic, and it’s always the same. I’m not prepared for class.

I shuffle in fifteen minutes late to forty-eight new eyeballs, waiting for me to be the same old English teacher they’ve always had. And I turn into her, unable to settle my class and make them listen. When they do, I can’t seem to talk straight. All of my handouts are missing, and I have to run to the printer to get them, but that takes another ten minutes out of class time.

Now, I’ve forgotten their homework assignment, and the next class is already pouring in to use the room.  I can’t seem to pack my things without spilling them on the floor.

Sigh. This is my eighth year teaching at my university. You’d think I’d be over the nerves by now, but I’m sweaty and shaking and my fingers don’t work on that first day of class. Shit, the first two weeks of class, until we’ve all met one-on-one over their first drafts. We both become people to each other at that point, and most of them who show up scared, leave laughing.

Man, even with all of the nerves and frustrations in grading, I really love my job. I’m going to miss it a great deal. If everything works out, I might get to keep a class while I explore ways to actually make a livable wage with my MFA.

I’m nervous about that, too. So many things to worry about, it’s a wonder I get anything done sometimes.

Ah well, it’s that worry that drives me to keep doing, keep checking, keep improving. If only I can keep reminding myself that it’s not the end of the world until it’s the end of the world.

I can make it through anything else.

And breathe. This semester is going to rock. I’m ready for it. The funny thing is, my students are not prepared for me.

Go on and insert that evil cackle here because why not?




the prompt source: https://lindaghill.com/2020/01/10/the-friday-reminder-for-socs-jusjojan-2020-daily-prompt-jan-11th/

Varying Heroines in the BLOOD PHOENIX Saga


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I love creating strong female characters—if not already evident by the way I typically describe my protagonists. Ria is a semi-typical kick-ass personality. She’s learning to balance the evils of her vampirism with her morality, which means she gets beaten up and beaten down on quite a regular basis.

But she’s not the only heroine in the series, even if she’s put out front.

What I’d like to do instead is highlight some of my other strong females in the series to explore the depth and variance of what makes a character “strong.”

It’s hard to start anywhere other than with Ari, Ria’s long-time bestie. She’s mentally tough and able to surf through chaos since it’s unavoidable given her childhood friend. Her ability to navigate people is her best asset, dissecting and diffusing a situation before it escalates.

Her weakness is her boredom—with the several jobs, with the cycle of men, with the struggle to stay afloat. Yet, Ari comes into her own when she arrives at the training facility, traversing an entirely new world without the veil of safety.

Is she a kick-ass-and-take-names heroine? No, but most of us aren’t. She is the kind who steps up when she can, and she makes a difference. That’s something to celebrate.


Next would be Tahe. Although she can fight well and came to help Ria save her seven-foot-tall leprechaun, her ability to embody femininity and eschew traditional depictions of it gives her a different kind of strength.

She is a lipstick lesbian, who loves to tinker with cars, learned to harvest a field with a scythe, worked with an old-school magician, had tea with Nikola Tesla, and has a trend of back-sassing authority. Tahe’s got a hell of a complex backstory to showcase how she uses others’ natural tendency to underestimate her to her advantage.

Tahe represents the long-term fight to be a woman any way we want to be. Something I have struggled with for decades.


Finally, I want to showcase Ria’s mom. Writing more about her in the last few stories I’ve explored has revealed a lot of what I think about motherhood and what I know about Ria. Tatiana is excited to be a mom; scared, too. She has to shift from the new adult freedom to a real adult so quickly. Then, she has to come to terms with her mortality and the knowledge that she’s going to die from childbirth.

It takes a hell of a strong woman to give her life for her child. Complete selflessness. Honestly, I don’t think I could do it, but I’ve also never been put in that situation. Regardless, that type of decision makes Tatiana all the more heroic to me.

Three very different types of strong females, and there are plenty more worth exploring, like Julia sacrificing herself instead of taking down her lover, like Deanne’s unwillingness to give up on escape even when it’s hopeless, like several other characters who use their motherly instincts and life experience to help themselves and others in bad situations. What I’m getting at is that muscles and fighting skills aren’t the only way to make a character strong.


Do you have a favorite strong female lead (whether someone else’s or your own)? Tell me about her in the comments below!

#SoCS: Marshmallow


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I’ve seen one of my author friends working with these stream of consciousness posts every Saturday, and I’m finally ready to give this a try. So, through the first quarter of 2020, I’ll be writing and posting my responses to these prompts.

Shout out to Linda G. Hill for the inspiration.


#SoCS – A word with “ow” in it.

Chosen word: Marshmallow.


His mouth tasted of marshmallows, soft and sweet but firm. A little bit of fire and char mixed with the whiskey of his breath, reminding me of the campfires I’d seen in the movies and merely mimicked in the safety of my backyard, the old washing bin catching most of the embers.

A few flew into the dark blue, dancing for its freedom before their short lives blinked out in the grass. Trees hovered to protect us from the south as the moon blessed us with an easy path to the backdoor but didn’t penetrate the tent.

Bugs, bumps, and a bag of marshmallows. None of them mattered when it was time for bed.

A blister and a bag of ice. The tears from my first burn carried me to my mother’s bed.



Re-Evaluating My Writing Process with Fun Templates


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For every new project, I seem to check my system, tweak it, revise it, see if I can’t improve my writing process. Well, let’s take a fresh look at it, shall we?



I have a couple stages for my pre-writing process, and it really depends on the length of the piece as well as if the characters are completely new to me or not.

If the world is new, I like to do some character and world building first, and I’ve created a document based on Rachael Stephen’s videos on brainstorming. Download the free .pdf here if you’d like to add it to your pre-writing process.

Here’s what my first page looks like, filled out:

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For a world that I’m already familiar with, I do incorporate some of those elements in to my pre-planning. Yes, I pre-plan before I plan, and maybe even pre-pre-plan. Is that a thing? Is it all just planning? If it is, don’t burst my bubble. Okay?


Here’s what my first pass at plotting looks like. I use another template. The left has two long boxes for me to note the conflicts and tension, the big themes and threads and scenes. Aka, the shit I know already. This is where I may also use a shortened version of the brainstorming template, simply listing their main motives, what they avoid, what’s at stake, and their main conflicts. It helps focus what thread is there for what reason.


In the next four columns, I split the three-act structure up the same way Sarra Cannon from Heart Breathings does—separating act two into two columns. She focuses on the main beats in each act, like so:


This is the finalized version in my project booklet. Ignore some of the fuzz, but I haven’t written the book yet, and I don’t want to reveal who done it.

One last step before I dive into my drafting process. Plotting out the chapters. Can you guess it? That’s right. I use a template. This one in fact:


Four pages, one for each column from the three-act structure. The left column is for the main themes, the scenes I need to hit, some that I may not know where they go yet. The fifteen boxes are for chapters. I try to put the points in order for each chapter.

I transfer this into a booklet with six chapters to a page because I like the clean look of it.




When I drafted the first book in this series, THE GIRL WITH THE GLOWING HAIR, it was the first time I planned each chapter in such detail. Last time, I had to wrangle a few extra chapters in the middle for the pantsing ideas, but I stuck pretty solid to that outline. The first time I used my current templates with INFERNO, I combined a few chapters instead.

Because I’m basically a pantser. Yes, with all of this planning, I still feel like a pantser. My bare notes are enough to provide me with an idea, but I still have to hammer out a lot of details in draft. I just have fewer links to make.

Once I’ve begun the drafting phrase, I pretty much put butt in seat and write. I have a set amount I want to write a day, and I stay at it until I’ve hit my word count.

Sometimes, this is really easy. It got easier by building a habit: 250 for two months, 500 for three months, then July’s Camp NaNoWriMo pushes me to finish what I have left. Last year, my goal was 2 hours a day. It worked, and 500 a day would have been so much easier. But I enjoyed the torment, too. You know, in retrospect.

Also, I’m one of those writers who HAS to write everything in chronological order. Some people jump around, but I won’t even let myself flesh out a scene stuck in my head. I mean, I do jot notes down sometimes. I phrase or two. An image. But only on paper.

I find that I can’t move forward until I uncover the details of difficult scene. If I don’t, what I write from there is too up in the air for me. Too much could change. Although this takes me longer because I can get stuck, the revision process goes so much more smoothly.


Revision, Editing, & Publication

I’ve written about my revision and editing process before. Here, in fact. And not much has changed in this regard. Publishing changes per project. I’m still finding my way around marketing and launching books.

I do always write blog posts, create book trailers, send out newsletters, and work through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo for distribution.

The rest is up in the air, depending on time and resources. When I sell hundreds of thousands of copies, I’ll tell you how I did it. Until then, I’ll keep playing around.


Welp, that’s it. My writing process. It took a lot of books and stories to find something that worked for me more than once. One of my favorite things about talking writing processes, is that every write does it different. So, what’s yours look like? Tell me in the comments. Write a blog post and tag me.

Did You Know…About Pirate Earrings?


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Pop culture shows pirates, especially older ones, as wearing gold hoops in their ears amongst their otherwise flamboyant dress. They weren’t simply for fashion. They served useful purposes.


Sea-faring folk often sported earrings as tokens from their travels or voyages, like young sailors to celebrate their first crossing across treacherous waters or a trek over the equator, etc.


They were also worn for superstitious reasons, such as believing they improved or cured bad eyesight since precious metals possessed magical powers to heal. They also assumed pierced ears would prevent seasickness or that the gold protected them from drowning.

In reality, silver and gold were worth the cost of a funeral and transportation of their body after death. And these precious metals are acceptable forms of payment across the world. Pirates also generally engraved their home ports on the inside of their earrings so that they could be sent home. Plus, it’s stuck through their flesh, so it won’t be washed off of them in the sea.


Pirates also drilled holes in coins to drape around their necks and wrists so that no one could steal their purse. The myth of burying their treasure is false; instead, they carried it with them, disguised as jewelry. What better way to protect their valuables?

Another reason for hoop earrings were also used to carry wax for gunners and cannons during close combat to plug their ears.


However, as the stories depict, fashion did play a role in what pirates wore. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the European ruling class made laws to regulate what common people wore to legally separate themselves. Pirates and thieves stole and purchased clothes to taunt the town, and the earring was another way of flouting these laws.


Author of Pirate: The Golden Age, Angus Konstam, said that most historians are not convinced that the iconic garb was what pirates really wore. Instead, an American artist, Howard Pyle, crafted the stereotypical pirate after Spanish peasants and bandits in the late nineteenth century for children’s books.

Either way, the bold statement of the gold earring makes the pirate all the more alluring as characters.


Featured Artwork by BobKehl @ DeviantArt




Did You Know…About the Pixies?


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The mythological pixie has many of the same base attributes as the others in the fae kingdom. Traditionally, pixies are seen as benign, mischievous, and childlike, which their small stature helps perpetuate. They’re also often described as having pointed ears and wearing green outfits with a pointed hat and shoes, although some stories dress them in rags that they merrily discard for new clothes. Legends also describe pixies as disguising themselves in rags to lure children to play.


Another depiction of the pixie describes them as a Trooping Fairy with red hair, pale faces, and turned-up noses. They also may tend to take on many guises to hide themselves. Other, less traditional portrayals of the pixie shows them as blue or green creatures with brightly stripped stockings. They can also have beautiful wings like a butterfly or dragonfly. And some can shape shift, commonly into the form of a hedgehog. Most agree that they are near ageless and uncommonly beautiful.


Pixies love to dance and often gather in large numbers outdoors to dance or wrestle. In general, they’re said to be helpful to humans, sometimes helping needy widows and others with their housework. But if they consider a member of the household lazy, the wee fae will nip, chase, and moving objects to scare them. At times, they are known to give misleading directions to travelers. This is often referred to as being “pixy-led,” which can be fixed by turning your coat inside out.

With a preference for bits of finery, pieces of ribbon seem to be highly appreciated by the pixies. A bowl of cream is also an excellent reward for them. They are also drawn to horses, riding them for pleasure and making ringlets in their manes as they explore hidden caves and streams and recesses of land. Although they love to travel, they are particularly connected to their homes, and threatening their homes is one sure way to invoke a pixie’s wrath. They have been known to defend their homes from monks and other fae on numerous occasions.


Although pixies are tiny little creatures, they are rich in magick, often using their powers to bring a smile to the face of a friend. They have an extraordinary ability for casting charms that affect human behavior. In fact, the queen of the Cornish pixies is considered to bring good luck with her pixie dust. Nature is also affected by the pixies’ close proximity: “plants grow more quickly, flowers bloom more brightly, and wild animals are tame when nurtured by pixies.”


The history of the pixie predates Christianity in Britain, but during the Christian expansion, these fae were believed to be the souls of unbaptized children, who would transform after their belongings were placed in clay funeral pots.

Before the mid-1800s, pixies and the other fae were taken seriously in Cornwall and Devon. They were believed to populate the hills of Britain. A group of rocks was named after the pixies because they were said to reside there. Six hundred pixies were once seen dancing and laughing at Trevose Head in Cornwall until one lost his laugh. But as we progressed further into the nineteenth century, the pixies’ contact with humans diminished severely.

Do you have a favorite pixie legend or story? Let me know about them in the comments below!







Hybrid Humanity | Mixing Phoenix and Vampire


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If you’ve read my Did You Know…About the Phoenix post, you’re aware that the phoenix is a symbol for rebirth, renewal, and resurrection. It only makes sense that my Blood Phoenix saga begins with Rebirth and ends with Resurrection (or at least, it will).


Besides, vampires have a similar cycle of death and reanimation (or being born into a new life) and the struggle of immortality. I’m sure plenty think I’m crazy for comparing the two since phoenix are the epitome of light and life and purity, and vampires are the epitome of dark, death, and debauchery.

What happens when you mix them? Well, you get my main character, Ria.

The thing about hybrids that interests me the most is the ability to play with the line of morality. What is good and bad? Where does one transform into the other? Can one do evil things for the purest of goods and great things for the darkest evils?


It’s a powerful philosophy that I haven’t begun to explore, and I doubt I could truly understand it with eons to explore its possibilities, but duality will forever intrigue me.


That’s why I love to play with characters like Ria, and her antagonists. Phea, my big bad and first-ever vampire, was once a sweet and innocent girl that loved a god. She destroyed an evil that plagued her people, but killed hundreds of thousands of them to save her baby.

Wickedness seems to taint those who set out to do well in life. Even Ria feels the affects, learning to take life swiftly as a mercy when hundreds of captured people are tortured in prolonged dramatic sacrifices. But when she runs to save her own baby, she refuses to let Phea murder the innocent people around her to get away. Ria would like to think her humanity makes her empathetic, but it’s her phoenix.

That’s why I like the mix of phoenix and vampire. They balance each other out and make Ria all the more human.


How do you feel about good and evil, hybrids, and using paranormal creatures to reflect on humanity? Let me know in the comments below!