I promised doodles

In the description of this blog, it says, “For readers and writers who occasionally doodle.” Up until now I have addressed the first two parts of that maxim.

But now I have doodles to show off!

Some of these (the ones on lined paper) happened during French class. I drew the rest (on white printer paper) either today or yesterday in a moment of boredom.

Some are song quotes:

Some Code Name Verity quotes (read this book):

Random book/TV quotes:

And some random inspirational (ish) quotes:


You can click on the galleries to make the pictures bigger and see the full captions.

Enjoy! Sorry the picture quality is so bad. Next time I’ll try to fix that.

Book Review: The Wrap-Up List by Steven Arnston

I would like to preface this by saying: I never do this.

Except that I did.

I stopped reading The Wrap-Up List thirty pages in.

Usually, even if I don’t like a book, I try to tough it out. There have been some books that got really good halfway through and I try to honor that.

But I couldn’t this time.

I didn’t buy the book for myself. I probably wouldn’t have, but it was a gift, so I decided to read it. And then all of this happened:

The world Arnston built was at first interesting but became unrealistic. It wasn’t quite dystopian, but there was a world war around the corner, and the year was implied as to be a few decades into the future. But normal life seemed almost outdated, sort of 2005. COMMIT TO A GENRE, or blend genres well.

Then there was the concept of Deaths and their Nobel Weaknesses. Deaths were creatures that sent a letter to you if you were going to Depart (read: die), and then would let you have a certain amount of time to wrap up your life. You sent them a wrap-up list of things you wanted to accomplish and they would supernaturally help them happen. On the list, you could ask for a Pardon, which would give you a hint to how you could get out of departing–the death’s Nobel Weakness.

At first, this concept was intriguing. However, as I learned more about the Nobel Weaknesses, I started to get annoyed. Each Death’s Nobel Weakness was a form of generosity; the Pardon gave you a clue as to what act of generosity you had to preform and if you figured it out and did it wholeheartedly (or promised to) you wouldn’t depart.

This really bugged me. Sometimes I feel like authors sacrifice their (awsome) plots to TELL YOUNG PEOPLE A THING. There are themes descretely woven into novels, and then there are these books, where the reader is hit over the head with A MESSAGE about life. In this case, it was generosity. But really? You have death deities walking around that could have personalities and good/evil conflicts and a complex riddle for a Pardon that would inspire more good/evil life/death conflicts in the protagonist and you choose–generosity? Seriously? It just didn’t make sense to me and I really got tired of the feeling of an author using their book to shout criticisms at my character (being a “teenage girl” because we all NEED TO BE TOLD WHY WE SUCK). If you don’t mind that (it would probably help if you are an adult) maybe you could have finished the book.

But the biggest issue for me was the voice. I love voice. It is what makes me fall in love with a story, remember a story, recommend a story, reread a story–everything. A good plot without voice is next to useless for me. But this protagonist’s voice confused me. It didn’t feel like a teenage girl who just realized she’s going to die. It felt like a poor attempt to capture that voice. There was no strife. There was practically no emotion. Her actions seemed out of character. Her one girly personality point (a crush on the school hottie) was overdone and heavy-handed and ended up coming off flat and boring. Again, it felt like an adult putting words in a young character’s mouth. She was (in my personal opinion) weirdly patriotic/militarily minded for a teen, Catholic in a tell-young-people-about-God way (as opposed to it actually driving the plot), and otherwise…empty. The only things she ever really said were about the military or about religion, which doesn’t make sense for a teenage girl voice. I’m not saying authors should use the cliche (and horrible) oh-my-god-I-broke-a-nail-ooh-look-a-hot-guy voice for teenage girls. They don’t have to. Other authors hvae figured out how to craft deep, strong, complex female characters that still read as teenage girls (e.g.  Libba Bray, Maggie Steifvater, Rachel Hawkins, Ally Carter, and so many more). But this voice didn’t do anything. She didn’t really have any emotion. A lot of her actions were out of character for a girl her age. And one more thing–I never felt the friendship. This is a book whose plot centers around one girl using her last wishes to help her friends. But in the few scenes her friends showed up–there was nothing. They felt like strangers, or people who had just met. There was none of that addictive, incredible friendship that makes so many other books amazing. This only made the main character seem emptier. From my point of view, her character was a male author’s first attempt at using a female voice, but an author who used the voice to talk about generosity, the military, and religion instead of telling a story.

It could have been done better.

So I stopped reading. Which left me feeling weird. The last time I did that was at least six months ago. I really don’t like doing it.

But (as you can hopefully tell) I didn’t enjoy the book.

(Maybe it got good farther in, but it annoyed me too much before then to get me to it, so I don’t really care.)

So there. Maybe you’ve read this book? Maybe you liked it? Please comment. 🙂

I started reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay in it’s place. I like it so far but it is REALLY LONG and I have a little thing called school on my plate right now. So apologies–no review for a while. I’ll probably come in and review series I’ve already read to keep posts coming.

Book Review: Every You, Every Me by David Levithan

Wow….this book is…sort of crazy.

It’s amazing, first of all. Incredibly unique. It is a photographic novel–basically there are actual photographs worked into the story and printed in the novel. I don’t know if other people have done this before but this one (a collaboration between David Levithan, the author, and Jonathan Farmer, the photographer) is breathtaking. I’m not sure what the genre name is but I’d say psychological contemporary–not sure if that exists. It’s real life with a slightly-mentally-unstable narrator dealing with the traumatizing and mysterious absence of his best friend.

The writing is perfect. It captures the mental state of the narrator, dragging you into the scattered, damaged psyche. The novel is powerful and insightful and really well done. Dark and fast-paced. Also, short–I read it in a couple of hours. I literally did not put in down until I finished it.

The book is dark. In dragging you into the mind of the narrator it takes over your own mind. The plot is downright creepy. If you have read Susan Vaught’s Freaks Like Us (which is also amazing), it’s like that. If you’ve read Truly, Madly, Deadly by Hannah Jayne, it’s like that, but better. Just, be warned. But if you like that sort of thing–read it.

P.S. David Levithan’s other book, Every Day, is amazing as well. Less creepy. Just as intense. SOOO worth reading.


Hell and Styx #4: Being Replaced

Voila! The fourth installment of the story of Hell and Styx. Remember that these stories go out of order (the joy of lazy writers!!!). This one lands between #3 Dragons in Shining Armor and #1 The Funeral, with Hell age 17, attending her father’s funeral. If you’re new to this story, visit the page (in the upper right hand corner, also). To best understand this story, you should probably have read #2 Hell’s Childhood.

As always, this is a quick write. Tremendous apologies for typos or sentences that don’t make sense. The goal of this project is to haphazardly create a story by basically breaking every rule of let-your-story-sit-and-then-edit-it-5-million-times-and-then-maybe-find-one-beta-reader. This is my project. My rules.


Hell and Styx #4: Being Replaced

When Hell left purgatory, it wasn’t for a vacation.

Styx did everything he could to lift her spirits. He made them take a detour getting there and made sure they used their involuntary invisibility to the most humorous of advantages (making funny faces, jumping up and down in front of people like idiots) but he couldn’t do anything to make her feel better when they got there.

“I’ll wait outside?” he asked, hesitating on the doorstep.

Hell nodded, only half there, watching her Aunt Paige walk straight past them, never once noticing their presence, even when her purse slammed into—through—Hell’s shoulder. That was what being invisible meant. No sound. No visual—duh. Barely any physical presence. The bag felt a tiny bit of resistance before Hell’s body gave way for it.

She was no longer of this world, and no one of this world could see her.

“You can go,” Hell said, staring at the door. She hadn’t even heard his question enough to process the words.

Styx watched her, hating the deadness in her eyes, the defeated curl of her shoulders, the flat way her hair drooped around her face. Hell was supposed to be angry. She was so completely that emotion that Styx had forgotten she could be anything but the hard, strong, take-no-shit bitch he lived with.

But today, she was broken. And he didn’t know how to fix her.

“I’ll be close,” he promised, backing up awkwardly. Hell didn’t move, just staring at the door like it was the gate into her own personal hell. Styx leaned forward and touched her elbow.

She jerked away. “Go away,” she snarled, but there was none of her trademark fire behind the words. She could still make her face into a black glare but it was a mask.

Styx obliged, hating himself for abandoning her, half-heartedly comforting himself with that last glare. Maybe she was still in there. Maybe this hadn’t killed her.

Hell listened for Styx’s footsteps’ retreat, louder than even the nearby sounds. That was how this worked. Hell and Styx were on a different radio frequency, and even if they brought themselves to this world, they couldn’t fully join it.

When Styx was gone, Hell squared her shoulders, walked through the door and into her childhood home to attend her father’s funeral.

He hadn’t been a good man, but he hadn’t been a bad man. He was a coward, but he wasn’t cruel. He was weak, but that wasn’t a horrible trait in a single father. He was Styx’s trouble. Hell wasn’t here for his soul. She was here as his daughter, to say goodbye to the last thing connecting her to who she used to be.

Hell disappeared when she was six, taken away by Styx to silence the voices in her head and fulfill her destiny as the gatekeeper of hell. That day, she left this world for purgatory, and she hadn’t been back to this house until today.

Hell assumed her father would have remembered her. He wouldn’t have put up a big fight to find her, that wasn’t his nature, but surely he would remember the daughter of a failed affair, the daughter he raised for six years?

Hell was not often wrong. But nobody’s perfect.

A woman stood sobbing in the middle of the room, the guests crowding around her, soft voices mourning for her loss—like it wasn’t Hell’s. And a little girl, maybe nine, maybe ten, stood next to her, shell-shocked and hollow. Hell saw her own pain in the girl’s unmoving figure—the pain of a daughter trying to understand that her father was simply gone.

A sense of wrongness washed over Hell like a premonition. Her brain was too scattered, too broken to process the information in front of her.

Hell turned to the wall, where pictures always hung, looking for some proof that she had existed here for six years, that she had disappeared from the world but not the world’s heart.

There were pictures. Her father had been a creature of habit, safe in his routine.

But Hell didn’t see herself.

She saw the little girl, smiling, waving, posing. Climbing the tree in the backyard Hell had never been tall enough to conquer. Holding hands with the strange woman and Hell’s father. Standing in front of Hell’s school with a backpack and a wary smile.

(Hell used to have a version of that photo. The first day of school. No one really smiles on the first day of school.)

There were pictures of the woman, too, of course. Photos that were obviously professionally done, that captured her oh-so-accidental smiles and photogenic poses. One maternity photo with Hell’s dad standing behind her, the light on both of their faces proving to the world that they were as in love as you can be. She was pretty, the kind of person who just looked nice, like anyone could be her friend.

The wrongness settled in Hell’s stomach and started to sour. Hell hated people like her. Happiness should not be so indelibly tied to some, when others had to corner situations in dark alleys and shake out their pockets, trying to dredge up a few scarps of contentment.

Her father was shown of course. Older than Hell had left him. He got glasses. His hair went gray.

Hell didn’t know what was worse: if the grayness was her fault, or if it wasn’t.

The pictures told a clear story: we are a family.

There were no pictures of Hell.

Hell knew she was invisible, but that was when she felt it.

Quick math flitted through Hell’s mind and she cursed the divine force that had gifted her with a brain for numbers.

Hell disappeared when she was six. Hell was now seventeen. That meant eleven years had passed.

Hell looked at the girl, her father’s daughter. She couldn’t be younger than nine.

Two years. It took less than two years for Hell’s father to forget about her and move on and replace her. To take down her pictures and start over.

In a fog, Hell went into the kitchen. The room was in the same place but the furniture was rearranged. A new, fancier fridge. A large, wooden table instead of the flimsy glass one Hell had done her homework on. (When Hell actually did her homework. By the time it was actually an issue, the voices were too loud for her to do much of anything except listen.) A painting hung over the sink. A woman’s touch was everywhere, smudging the familiar cobbled-together world Hell and her father had survived in.

Here was somewhere people lived, not survived. Ironic, that Hell only found this place because of a death.

Perversely curious and in the mood to torture herself, Hell inspected the front of the fridge. It was a collage of memories held in place by quirky magnets. Scribbled drawings gave way to more detailed ones, a testament to the little girl’s life. There were pictures of the girl with friends, on a field trip, at a birthday party. More pictures of the girl riding a horse, winning an award at school, wearing a glittering dress in front of a Christmas tree. A report card displayed a row of A’s.

Of course. Why remember the daughter that couldn’t pass first grade when daughter 2.0 will be valedictorian?

Hell started to shake, with rage, with grief. Her body wasn’t accustomed to emotions and didn’t know what to do with this flood.

A man in a suit strolled in, opened the fridge. The fridge door passed straight through Hell, hanging open with the quart of milk in her abdomen while the man searched for whatever the hell he needed. Oblivious to Hell’s presence, he found a pitcher of lemonade, closed the fridge, and left the room, bringing it into the living room.

Hell searched the entire house, passing through walls, dodging funeral attendees, for any evidence that her father ever thought of her at all.

She never found any.

She learned things she didn’t want to know, like that the woman’s name was Kristen and the little girl’s was Sarah and that Sarah was ten, not even nine, which left one year between Hell and her. As far as she could tell, Sarah didn’t know she had replaced anyone, didn’t know she was her father’s second try at having a child, that this was his second attempt to make a life work.

Congrats for him. He’d finally succeeded.

Hell knew she was being selfish. Sarah just lost her father, and Kristen her husband. Clearly the family wasn’t perfect, wasn’t anything to be longed for.

But dammit, Sarah got ten years with her father, and she had eighty more in front of her without him, and she got to go to school and make friends and ride horses and get good grades and be stressed about homework and someday have boyfriends and worry about college and the future.

Sarah had a future.

You know what Hell had? A little room over purgatory and a life of sending dead people to hell.

Hell hadn’t ever thought about dying, but now she had to wonder if she would ever end.

Well, of course. Hell hadn’t existed forever. Clearly someone had been Hell before Hell was Hell. Clearly someone would come after her.

And replace her.

That, it seemed, was Hell’s fate: to be replaced.

Loneliness crashed through Hell. She thought of Styx but jerked her thoughts away. Not him. Not now. She couldn’t risk thinking about the boy who tore her away from this world in case she ended up hating him.

Hell ran out of the house, rushing through people and objects, no one ever responding, reacting. She started crying, tears mixing with the anger in her stomach and lit a fire. It burned and Hell warmed her hands around it’s familiar warmth.

This. This anger was all there was keeping her whole. This was all Hell ever would be.

She knew where Styx would be and ran the other way, through the middle of the road, running faster and faster until she was flying, the world a blur around her. She lost control of her body and it rushed across the continent, across oceans, and back again, like a mad housecat. This was what happened when you weren’t quite a part of the world—it buckled around you, fluid and illogical.

As her energy withered, Hell slowed, realizing that she had no idea where she was, only that she was in the middle of a crowd, in a place she had never been. Was she still in America? Hell couldn’t tell. Didn’t know how to figure out what state she was in.

The crowd was actually a street, maybe a market, lots of venders selling knickknacks and foods. A farmer’s market, Hell thought. That made sense.

They didn’t see her. The fire spilled out of Hell and she turned violent. The games she’d played with Styx earlier today took on a morbid frustration. She jumped in front of people, yelling obscenities at them. She waved her hands above her head like she was drowning in the middle of an empty ocean. She grabbed at people, always going through them. She stood in the middle of the street and screamed like she was being murdered.

And the day went on around her, oblivious to her presence.

* * *

The priest stood in front of his church, listening to the girl scream. He watched her launch herself at people and fall through them. She waved her hands desperately in front of faces. But it was clear she knew no one could see her.

She was sobbing, but he doubted she even knew it. Anger was battling with grief and it thought it was winning. He wasn’t so sure.

The priest frowned, not sure what to do with the appearance of a girl he could see and no one else could. So he stood still and watched, waiting to see what would happen next.

Book Review: Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

Rebel Belle is the fifth book by Rachel Hawkins I have read and I have to say–I love this author. This one is the beginning of a new series and I NEED THE NEXT BOOK. (Her other series are the Hex Hall series and their spin-off School Spirits. Read them, too.) All of her books are in the same vein: light-hearted sort-of-paranormal-romance with a healthy side of teenage, high school drama. Her command of voice is refreshing and comforting. All of her plots are fast-paced, a little ridiculous, and fun. When I saw this book was being released, I had to buy it.

Rebel Bell is a fun read. It’s quick (it took me two days, even with school) and an easy read, what I like to call a “popcorn” book (because you can burn through them quickly like you’re eating popcorn…I don’t know…I’m weird). The characters are alive and the conflicts between them are at once both hilarious and heart-wrenching. The plot is Buffy the Vampire Slayer if Buffy was a valedictorian. And Southern. The romance is awkward in a perfect way.

Read it. And the rest of Rachel Hawkins books. They are the perfect easy reads to enjoy between long, emotional, dark and depressing ones. Which is good, because I also like to read long-emotional-dark-depressing ones, and books like these keep me from losing my mind. 🙂


Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (series)

These books are awesome.

Seriously, read them.  (The synopses on amazon: Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Days of Blood & Starlight, Dreams of Gods & Monsters)

They are a mix of paranormal and fantasy with a unique feeling that makes them stand out of both genres. The romance is powerful and heart-wrenching. The good-evil conflict is morally confusing in an incredible way. Throughout there are themes of women’s rights in a gorgeously subtle yet moving way. The entire series is consistent and amazing; unlike some books, each book builds off of the others perfectly without changing the major plot lines or the feeling of the book. (Sorry if you have no idea what I mean when I say feeling of a book. I can’t explain it. It’s just a…feeling. Ugh. It’s like the impression a book leaves on you. Sort of. Mixed with its genre. Mixed with how emotional it is and how much you liked it and how well written it was.  Et cetera.)

The books are well written, at times almost feeling like poetry. There are some powerful lines that might show up in some future doodles. Especially in the second and third books, this author does the impossible: managing to have multiple, separate plot lines running at once without it being confusing or boring. She paints vivid characters that you fall in love with (or hate) instantly and that you continue to love (or hate) as the story builds. The series ended with the perfect tie up off all the plot lines and the perfect almost-happy ending (trying not to spoil anything…)

Read them!

Hell and Styx #3: Dragons in Shining Armor

I don’t know about the title for this one…but I think it works.

Anyway, welcome to Hell and Styx #3!!! This one takes place when Hell is about 14 and Styx is about 16, between H+S #1 and H+S #2. Visit their page to see all of their stories, in chronological order. Here we see Hell and Styx in their downtime between dead-people-sorting. Styx is trying to entertain Hell, Hell is trying to annoy Styx.

Hope you enjoy! Feel free to comment. 🙂

Hell and Styx #3: Dragons in Shining Armor

Hell watched Styx build a dragon in the air, painstakingly dragging his aura off his body and sculpting it into the desired shape.

Hell wasn’t about to admit that she was impressed. “You’re an idiot.”

Styx grinned, adding a burst of flames shooting out of his creation’s mouth. “God, I hope so.”

Hell smacked him on the head, causing his hand to slip and dent his dragon’s back. “Well, then. You’re a genius.”

Styx shrugged, fixing the error. “Also undeniable.” He said this in Latin, however, to drive home his point.

Hell, who was attempting to annoy Styx, growled. She could never make herself happy and Styx could never make himself anything but cheerful. It was only with Styx’s help that she could forget her job and smile.

And it was only ever with Hell’s interference that Styx got angry.

Hell rolled away from Styx, onto her back, lying on her bedspread of black sheets. Styx sat on the floor, his back against her bed, knees drawn up to his chest.

“Why the dragon?” Hell asked.

“It reminded me of you,” Styx said. Hell frowned at the ceiling and waited for an explanation. “It’s dangerous and spits fire at everyone, even the kind knights in shining armor trying to be nice to it.”

Hell snorted at the idea of the good guys being easy to distinguish because of especially lustrous clothes. “I’ll take princesses too, if they deserve it,” Hell said.

Styx roared sarcastically and flicked his dragon’s tail into a warning stance.

Hell thought about laughing but didn’t think Styx deserved that reward yet. Hell’s laughter was a rare commodity, even for her one friend (ish) in the world.

“I know Portuguese,” Styx said suddenly.

This was not a weird sentence for the pair of them. Their minds weren’t always their own, permeable to random divine gifts of knowledge. Sometimes it was math formulas or geography facts. Often it was languages. As far as either of them could tell, there was no rhyme or reason to what facts appeared in their minds; they followed no schedule and could be connected to no divine purpose. They simply were, like so much in this world of half-logic.

Hell snorted. “I’d say you have a gift for languages, but we both know it has nothing to do with your intelligence.” She let the insult fester, then asked, “How long?”

“A few days.”


“Who knows. Maybe I’ll take a vacation.”

“And leave me with all your precious souls? Let me ruin them, damn their hides?”

“Who’s been reading the dictionary?” Styx asked, not actually impressed.

Hell knew that, but still used to insult him. “Some of us actually educate ourselves instead of relying on dream enlightenment.”

“I like my way.”

“Of course you do.” She tried to say it with disdain, but it slipped into enjoyment. Styx’s personality was the one thing that made her existence bearable.

“You could come with me.”

Hell laughed, but Styx knew her voice well enough to know she was mocking him. “Yeah, and when we get back, we can spend the rest of eternity trying to catch up sorting those lovely dead souls.”

“I knew there was something going on between you and the boy today,” Styx teased.

“He was a drug dealing scumbag who only died because he was stupid enough to take his own poison. What you saw was me gladly sending his eternal soul to rot in painful torment.”

Styx raised an eyebrow, knowing Hell better than she wanted to admit. “He was hot.”

“Should I have gotten his number for you?” Hell snapped.

Styx shrugged in his own infuriating way, clearly setting aside her comment. “He seemed more of your type.”

“He was disgusting,” Hell said, shuddering at the clammy, hungry feeling of his soul as she shoved it out of purgatory. “I don’t even have a type,” she added, a little too late.

Styx smirked. “I guess you’ll just have to wait for someone who isn’t disgusting,” he said, somehow implying that he met that criteria.

Hell made a guttural no sound and smacked him in the head. He jerked away, laughing.

The dragon burst into mist as Styx’s concentration shattered.

“Was that really necessary?”

“Like marshmallows in hot chocolate, Styx.” Hell finally laughed, her first true laugh of the day. Something inside Styx loosened and he let the rest of his aura slip back into his arm.

“But don’t you ever want to go somewhere just to go?” he asked, in Portuguese, circling back to the topic of vacations.

Je ne comprends pas,” she lazily responded in French.

Dropping the subject for a safer conversation, Styx went back to English and blabbered about buying a new wardrobe—a useless topic because, as with everything else they owned, their clothes were created with thoughts alone. He realized what an idiot he was to suggest a vacation to his counterpart and thanked his lucky stars that, by a freak stroke of good luck, he hadn’t said it in a language she could understand.

Hell relaxed, listening to his voice, laughing easier now, until eventually the knot in her chest unwound.

She didn’t want to think of the outside world, where people were human and you could be seen and have friends and learn things with books and paper and dead people died and never came back.

Don’t you ever want to go somewhere just to go?

Hell never told Styx she had learned Portuguese four months ago. It was better that way.

Book Review: The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory


The Other Boleyn Girl is amazing. However, it is ridiculously long. It doesn’t look it, at least not with the copy I have. But it spans more than fifteen years, and lots of plot occurs and it ends up feeling incredibly long. Not in a bad way, because the plot is amazing. But don’t pick it up as I did, expecting a quick, light read.

It’s historical fiction, incredibly accurate and yet enjoyable to read. The plot is fast-paced and emotionally damaging in perfect balance. The characters are deep and complex. The conflicts are twisted and vivid. The book holds onto your emotions and your mind until you finish it, and long after.

It’s weird, though, because we all know how the story ends. The book follows Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry the VIII, who replaces Katherine of Aragon, and ends up beheaded for adultery. I knew all this going in. (You know the rhyme for remembering Henry’s six wives? Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived.) And yet the plot still surprised me. I haven’t taken any in depth European history classes yet (that’s next year for me), so I didn’t know the details of Katherine’s fall from favor. The entire first third of the book deals with Mary Boleyn having an affair with Henry, something I had no idea happened, and that left me completely confused, knowing that it was her sister that ended up with the throne. I had to keep reading to see how the tides would turn (and boy did they ever). And even as the book ended, I was enthralled, begging for a happy ending for at least some of the characters, even when I knew Anne’s end.

The book isn’t a tragedy, though. It left me…happy. Content. I was panicked throughout the last pages of the book, up until the author’s note at the end, which made me smile and almost cry with joy. Yes, on the surface it is about a deep-seated, violent, and merciless struggle for the ultimate power–the title of the Queen of England. But the book is about so much more. Sibling rivalry. Love and sacrifice. How far one will go for their family. Loyalty. Women’s rights (which are appalling in this era–duh–and left me pissed at most of the male characters in the book). Human rights. Tyranny. At times it is creepy and sick and disgusting. It sways between being sweet and romantic and horrifyingly dirty and inappropriate. It highlights the misguided and unscientific psyche of England in the 1500s. It is a better showcase of a tyrant’s rise to power and the danger of absolute power than any dystopian novel can ever hope to be.

So, yeah. Read it.

Hell and Styx #2 Hell’s Childhood

Voila! The second installment of Hell and Styx’s story, gloriously out of order. This one goes back to Hell’s childhood, describing the moment she first met Styx and learned who she really was. Read their first story here or visit their page.

Hell and Styx #2 Hell’s Childhood:

At age five, Hell started hearing voices.

For the first few months, they were just distant murmurs in the back of her mind, like a static-y radio. When they started to get louder, Hell thought of them like they were an itch that she could only scratch by listening to them. And when she started listening to them, she realized they weren’t talking.

They were screaming.

Some of them moaned. Some of them begged. Some shrieked. Others cried. Some were silent, just heavy breathing, in and out, in and out.

Hell knew what it meant if you heard voices. But she didn’t feel crazy. So she kept them a secret.

She was six and she started school. She tried to ignore the voices, but they were an itch, remember? Ignoring them only made them louder, made them a physical presence in her mind, pushing against her thoughts. She went home crying the second day, but she couldn’t tell her dad why, because she knew he was afraid of things he couldn’t understand, and Hell couldn’t even understand herself.

She went to school the next day, but only had room in her head to listen to the voices. Her teacher complained that Hell never paid attention, that she was always off in her own world.

Hell was a first grader when the boy came up to her. He was a third grader, impossibly old in Hell’s mind. He asked her why she never paid attention.

Hell forced herself away from the cries in her mind and tried to focus on him. Her eye started twitching with the effort and she had to ball her fists to keep from massaging her head. “I can’t,” she said.

He frowned, the way everyone did, but with a hint of curiosity that scared her. “Why not?”

“I don’t know,” she said. It was almost true. One of the voices—a screamer—slammed into Hell’s mind and she winced, giving in to listen to his pleas.

The boy raised an eyebrow. “What are you listening to?”

“Nothing,” Hell lied, but her head hurt too much to make it convincing.

“Do you hear voices?” the boy asked.

Hell glared. “No. Only crazy people hear voices.”

“You’re not crazy,” the boy said soothingly.

“I’m not!” Hell yelled. The boy frowned at her, since she was agreeing with him while arguing.

“But you hear voices, don’t you?”

Hell crossed her arms tight across her chest. “No.”

“Why do they call you Hell?”

“It’s my name.”



“Do you know what Hell is?” the boy asked.

Hell felt tears burn in her eyes. “Of course.”

“I can tell you why you hear the voices.”

“I don’t hear voices.”

“I hear voices,” the boy said plainly.

Hell took a step back. “I don’t hear voices.”

The boy shrugged. “Fine.” For a second, Hell thought she had one. Thought she was safe. But then he said, “Do you hear screams?”

Hell jumped back. “Who are you?”

“I’m Styx,” the boy said, holding out his hand.

Hell didn’t take it. “Why are you talking to me?”

“Because you can see me.”

Hell wondered if this Styx was crazy. “Of course I can see you. You’re here.”

Styx shook his head. “I’m not. Not for other people. You can only see me because we’re the same.”

“I’m not like you.”

“You are. Different, but the same.” He paused. “I can teach you how to deal with the voices.”

“I don’t hear voices.”

“So you don’t want my help?” He moved to leave.

Hell jumped forward, grabbing his hand. “Teach me,” she begged. She knew exactly how to. It was what she had heard for the last year.

“Come with me.” This time, Hell took the hand he offered.

And then Hell disappeared.

* * *

Hell appeared in a circular room, walls white marble with grey veins, columns around the edge, just before the walls.

Styx let go of her hand and paced away, stopping in the middle of the room. “Can you see them?” he asked.

Hell looked around. The room was empty except for Styx. “No.”

“Listen to the voices.”

“They aren’t voices,” Hell muttered, frustrated that he made the agony inside her head sound so simple.

Styx didn’t seem to care. “Listen to them.”

Hell did. Slowly, they grew louder, focusing, taking on different personalities, inflections. A few familiar voices piped up, speaking nonsense as always. Everyone was mad inside Hell’s head.

“What do you hear?” Styx asked, and it was the first question he didn’t seem to know the answer to.

Hell closed her eyes. “Screams. Crying. People begging. Some of them just breathe.”

“How many?”

“I don’t know. Twenty? Fifty? They always change. Only some of them stay with me. Usually they leave after a few days.”

“How long have you been hearing them?”

“A year? Since I was five.”

“My God.”

Hell opened her eyes. “What?”

Styx had his hand on his mouth and something like fear in his eyes. “That’s horrible.”

“I thought you heard them too?” Hell asked, betrayed.

“I do,” Styx said. “I did, at least. But only for a few weeks before I found this place.”

“Where is this?”

Styx shrugged. “Not your world. It’s the place where the voices come from. It’s like—a lot of doors. People come in here, and then I—you too, I guess, now—show them which door they need to go through. But I only take certain people. And you weren’t here, and it’s so crowded—”

Styx broke off, looking around the empty room, panicked. “Can’t you see them?”

“No.” Hell didn’t want to. “How do you know you can’t take all of them?”

“It doesn’t feel right. I tried once—and it hurt. It felt wrong. Like I was breaking really big rules.”

“What are the voices?” Hell asked.

“Dead people. You’re hell, Hell. You have everyone who went to hell in your mind. Your job is…to punish bad people.”

“But it hurts them?”

“It’s hell,” Styx said.

“What about you?”

“I’m the Underworld. My name is Greek, I think. I don’t know how I know these things, I just do. Maybe you will someday. But I’m for people who didn’t do anything. They aren’t good, they aren’t bad. They just lived and died.”

“That’s sad.”

“It is.”

“What about Heaven?”

Styx shrugged. “Some souls disappear. But I’ve never met Heaven. I don’t know if it exists.”

“I hope it does,” Hell said, needing someone to be good if she had to be bad. “How do I make the voices go away?”

“You have to see the souls. Here. This room is full of souls. The voices will fade away when you…accept your job.”

“As Hell?”

“As a sorter. Of souls. Sending people to hell.”

Close enough.

“And if I don’t?”

“The voices get louder. I don’t know, honestly. But this room—needs you. Please. For me. There are so many people—”

Styx’s face was red and afraid, sort of wild. Hell took a step back and felt something cold brush against her arm. She shivered and shuddered. Was that a soul? Her heart pounded, panic rising.

“I’ll do it.”

And like that—she could see.

Hell was short, being only a six-year-old. The room was packed with adults, all taller than her. Some of them looked scary, but most looked—normal. But Hell could feel clouds around them, slick, cold, evil presences. These were bad people, all of them.

And they were her responsibility.

Hell grabbed the nearest man’s hand. His cloud—black and cold—prodded at her skin, reaching out to her own, which showed itself as red. Hell stared at the redness, then got a crazy idea. She asked it a question.

“Where does this one go?” she asked.

The redness twitched, then dragged Hell to the nearest wall. The veins of grey liquefied, melting away, revealing tiny windows into hell, small as a crack under a door. Through it, Hell could see a pulsing redness to match her own, but infinitely larger—an entire world. The voices in Hell’s head shouted in unison, recognizing their master.

Panicked, Hell shoved the man at the wall. As he hit the granite, his body disappeared, leaving only his smoky presence. It trickled into the cracks, and then the cracks closed.

Hell’s own redness receded into her skin.

The voices were silent.

Hell grabbed the next soul, then the next, then the next, until the room was empty.

The voices only ever yelled when she opened the door to hell. And with every soul she added, they got louder. They scraped at Hell’s heart, leaving bruises and painful cuts.

But this time she could escape them.

* * *

Hell grew up, and he gashes in her heart healed, and Styx watched her youth fade and her innocence wilt with every slimy, black soul she touched. A deep rage simmered inside her, close to boiling. A rage at the universe for giving her such a task, and an even deeper rage at the horrible people she had to send to hell, for being so horrible that she was necessary. And as her youth and innocence melted into this rage she started to believe one thing:

They deserved it.

She was invisible to the world now, just as Styx had been when he visited her the first time. In accepting this duty, this place as a gatekeeper in purgatory, she forfeited her place in the physical world. She could still go there, still walk among the people, but she could only see one thing: Death. What had been only a shadow on the horizon when she left was now the common denominator of her existence.

She watched her favorite stores close. She watched people die and survivors mourn. She learned you could take a soul before it even reached the marble room.

She lived in a room above the marble room. There was a staircase between to columns, open and unguarded, safe because the souls never seemed to see it. Her room was whatever she wanted, created by thoughts. She left it simply furnished. She barely ever stayed in it anyway. People did nothing but die.

Styx was sometimes her friend, sometimes her confessor. Sometimes she thought she liked him in that childish way of crushes and cooties. Other times she hated him more than she hated the damned. She hated him for finding her.

Some of Styx’s mysterious wisdom saturated her. It was a strange thing, wondering a thought and then knowing the answer. Waking up understanding something that had been an idle question the night before. She never went to school again but knew numbers and letters, better than most.

There was never an answer to why she existed, or how, or who had come before, or how they had died. She learned that she had been adopted. Styx had as well. But there were no answers in that, only a severing of Hell from the life she had lived, learning it was a lie. As far as Hell knew this was the rest of her life: Styx and purgatory and the dead. Heaven never showed, though the two children romanticized him in the way of fairytales, one last hope to help them sleep at night.

Did she still hear the screams?

Technically, yes. But they no longer bothered her. Sometimes they pleased her. Most of the time, they were what they had been when they first appeared, white noise. And every once in a while, they snaked back into her mind, reminding her of who she used to be: a scared little girl who wouldn’t admit she was going crazy.

Hell and Styx #1 The Funeral

Welcome to the first adventure of Hell and Styx, my delightful underworld personifications. Over the course of this blog I will randomly post more stories with these characters. These stories will go out of order, written based on whatever I feel like writing that day (yay!). You can see them listed chronologically on their page (which can also be found in the top right corner of this blog).

Hell and Styx #1 The Funeral

Hell lingered at the back of the funeral, watching her counterpart, with his head bowed, pretend to pray.

After five minutes of inaction, Hell growled to herself and stalked over to the young man, standing at his shoulder. Styx didn’t move from his spot of supposed reverence.

Hell tapped him on the shoulder. “You know no one can see you.”

Styx dropped his hands and looked up at her, a cocky smile spreading across his face. “You can.”

“Which is my point. You aren’t going to convince me you’ve found religion.”

“Careful,” he teased. “You keep talking like that in here and you’ll go to hell.”

Hell snorted, looking around the church with disdain. “What were you really doing?”

Styx would not admit it. The truth that hovered between them was that their last hope for today was nothing but a fairytale—had been for years. “Waiting for you to arrive.” He stared up at her, still sitting, willing to at least give her the feeling that she had power over him for the moment. “What about you?”

“Paying my respects,” she said, tightlipped against his careless smiles.

“Is that what they’re calling it these days?”

“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re implying,” Hell warned.

Styx smiled. Hell was getting pissed. Good. All his smiles couldn’t cover up the rage simmering in his gut for long.

“Shall we go pay our respects together?” Hell asked, offering her arm.

Styx took it without a word and they walked to the front of the church, invisible among the funeral attendees. A deep loneliness rustled through Hell, for the man who lay dead, who had once looked straight at her instead of through her.

She might not believe in the church, but she believed in faith.

The casket lay on a raised dais, surrounded by flowers, holy symbols, blessings. The man inside was dressed in the robes of a priest, age dragging the skin around his face into deep wrinkles, echoes of smiles past.

Hell dropped Styx’s arm to stand in front of the coffin. Her head drooped against her chest and a calm settled over her. Styx had watched it a thousand times, but still was awed by the transformation of her face without it’s hard lines and unforgiving stare.

She was always beautiful, but this was the only time he felt it.

After a moment of unconscious staring, Styx came back to himself and joined her in front of the casket. They were here for one this: this moment. Styx never did this as willingly as Hell did, but in the heady feeling of standing beside his counterpart, faith and death swirling around him, intoxicating him with their promise, he knew he couldn’t avoid it, now that he was here.

Styx centered himself, closing his eyes, feeling for the priest’s soul. Hell’s presence was a physical thing in this world, hot like fire, and dangerous, and when he brushed up against it he jerked his own presence away, the color red flitting through his mind. He’d never asked Hell what his presence felt like but he could guess. Cold. Apathy. Grey. She burned with emotion, he drifted. It was just the fact of who he was.

The priest’s soul was stronger than most, more solid. Tentatively touching it with his mind, a feeling of calm drifted through Styx. White followed. Styx knew this kind of soul. It was built of faith, unyielding even in death. Styx hovered near it, not taking, not yet, just letting the soul of the best man he had ever known touch his one last time. It was as close to honoring the dead as he could get.

Next to him, the calm of the priest’s soul battled with the fire of Hell’s aura. She hated this part, this invasion of purity, of silence that drowned out all the agony she was built of. It stripped her of her identity, the rage and burning that made her herself.

But it was an escape as well. A glorious, addictive escape. Faith was the only thing that could quiet the shrieks that broke out of Hell’s gates, that slipped into her mind if she wasn’t careful to keep them out. It was the only thing that could numb the burning. It was wonderful.

Hell would never admit to Styx how many of these funerals she attended, just for a few moments of freedom.

They were a strange pair, Hell and Styx. Hell with red hair and a sharply tailored pant suit—neither of which could disguise her youth; she was eighteen but older from having seen to much, but younger too, from barely ever living. Styx with the suit he wore with confidence and the hair perfectly styled into professionalism, all lies of course, but put on for appearance’s sake. Both of them only partially here, part of another world, both touched by the same flaring purity.

And then the priest’s soul disappeared. A gust of wind rushed through the church into the empty expanse where the soul had been, disturbing churchgoers’ hairdos and skirts.

Hell and Styx jerked, as if waking up. Then they spun on each other, all evidence of a holy calm gone.

“How dare you—” Styx began.

“You’re turning this on me?” Hell gasped.

Styx barely heard her words. The rage that had been with him for the entire service—which had been aimed at the universe that gave and took and made Styx watch, sometimes help—focused on Hell, the sun’s ambiguous rays pinpointed by a magnifying glass. “Are you so hungry for souls that you can’t keep your filthy hands off anyone? Is the fact that he died grounds for punishment?”

But if Styx was just now approaching a burning rage, he severely underestimated Hell, who spent every day as a bonfire. His words were nothing but sounds, shouted to a drowning person underwater, garbled into obscurity by the storm of anger that lived inside Hell’s head.

“You think he didn’t do anything with his life? You think you can take his soul? You think he deserves what you give them—an eternity of nothing. Wandering. You think he deserves that? You think you deserve his soul?”

They both froze, the words the other shouted finally worming their way into their consciousnesses.

“You don’t have his soul?” Hell asked Styx, the underworld.

“Of course not. He doesn’t deserve me.” Styx stared. “You didn’t take him?”

Hell had no misgivings about her purpose in the universe. She was a punishment, but the man before her required no punishing. “Why the hell would I take him?”

Styx almost laughed at her choice of words. Her eyes met his, a pained hope burning where rage was supposed to hold court, and he decided against smiling.

“Do you think—” Styx shied away from voicing his hopes.

“He hasn’t been around for years. Why now?” Hell said bitterly.

“If he were to take anyone—”

“He’d take him,” Hell agreed.

Both of them stilled, then turned. At the other end of the church, one of the double doors dragged open, a tall figure slipping out of the funeral. No one else reacted.

But Hell and Styx stood in awe as Heaven left the room.