In honor of Valentine’s day, I thought it would be fun to create a fake dating profile for Daphne. This ended up being way more involved than I originally imagined and I might go back and edit this at a later date (it’d be awesome if I could somehow get artwork for a profile pic at some point) but for now, enjoy!
One of my biggest goals since moving to Tennessee has been to seek out the best Mexican food Music City has to offer, a task that, as a California girl, I set upon with equal parts enthusiasm and trepidation (Pros: finding new places to eat is always fun. Cons: no offense to any Southerners reading this but I didn’t know what to expect from whatever passed for tacos in Nashville). I haven’t tried nearly as many places as I would like—I pretty much have to save my Mexican food adventures for whenever it’s just Mom and I—but I feel like I’ve gotten a pretty good sample size thus far.
Yelp has quickly become my best friend on this journey to find all the best restaurants my new home has to offer and when it comes to Mexican food I rely pretty much exclusively on the app to tell me which places are worth trying. When I came across Fogatas while scrolling through Yelp, I was quickly swayed by its four-star rating and almost-exclusively-good reviews that raved about the place. So Mom and I excitedly went to lunch… and were seriously disappointed. I ordered a lunch combo of a chicken enchilada and a chicken taco (don’t ask me to tell you what Mom had, I barely remember what I had for breakfast this morning—or for lunch a couple of months ago as the case may be—let alone what someone else had) and it was fine, I guess, it certainly wasn’t bad anyway but I don’t know it just kind of lacked flavor and considering I had just read these raving reviews it just didn’t live up to the hype. Now, this was at their newer location about a week or two after they had opened and many of the reviews referred to their original location so it’s possible that it was just a case of a new restaurant working out the kinks. Still, with so many places left on the never-ending list to try, it didn’t inspire any desire to try again any time soon.
Las Brisas was not a Yelp find but a place that we found while driving and impulsively decided to try. Overall, it was a better experience than Fogatas, the chips and salsa were good and I ordered a combo of a chicken enchilada and a carne asada taco. Flavor-wise it was pretty good—better than Fogatas though not nearly as good as other places I’ve tried either in California or here in Nashville—however, the ridiculously small portion sizes ruined it for me. While it’s true that sometimes Mexican food—particularly sit-down (as opposed to fast/counter order) which is what Las Brisas is—can be almost too much food at times with large portion sizes of heavy carb-loaded food plus rice and beans plus the chips and salsa before the meal, but a single street taco and one tiny enchilada that was barely bigger than the street taco is just not enough food when you’re paying the same price you’d pay for a huge meal at another restaurant.
When I visited Nashville a few months before I moved here, I found a small counter-order taco place called Bajo Sexto in downtown Nashville that looked and smelled amazing. Unfortunately, when I found it, it was five minutes before closing so I had to leave empty-handed. mouth-watering thoughts of street tacos plagued me for months before I finally had the opportunity to try Bajo Sexto. In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have hyped the place up so much for myself. The pork in the carnitas street taco was completely unseasoned which was unfortunate but the chicken one had really good flavor and the chips and salsa were great. I’d definitely eat there again but I think if I’m looking for tacos in downtown Nashville I’d rather just go a couple blocks up the street to Bakersfield instead.
Pueblo Real, at least the location I went to, is one of those places that unless someone personally recommends it or it has really good yelp reviews you would probably never set foot in it. From the outside it looks like this tiny little hole-in-the-wall place located in one of the sketchier parts of town. Inside, however, the place is plenty clean and when I was there many of the booths were filled. Of the mid-range sit-down Mexican restaurants I’ve tried since being here, Pueblo Real is definitely my favorite. I had my usual first-visit order of a chicken enchilada and beef taco combo. The meat was well seasoned and the sauce on the enchilada was delicious. I haven’t had a chance to go back there yet—or tried their sister restaurant Tito’s—but I definitely plan to.
Oscars Tacos has two locations near me: one bigger, newer-looking location that at least every time I’ve been there has been mostly empty and a smaller one that’s a lot farther out-of-the-way that is usually full of people. The farther one is significantly better than the bigger one, strange for a chain restaurant to be so different store-to-store but having eaten at the closer location twice I can say with absolute certainty that the longer drive and larger crowd is worth braving if you’re looking for quality tacos. Oscars Tacos is a fast-casual counter order restaurant that boasts “California-style” Mexican food. I haven’t had a chance to try any other counter order taco places other than Bajo Sexto in order to compare Oscars to other local options but on its own, Oscars is pretty good. I’ve had the carne asada and carnitas street tacos as well as the shredded beef crispy taco. I prefer the carne asada and beef tacos but the carnitas are good too. They’ve also got two different house-made hot sauces that go really well with the tacos. My biggest complaint is that they have Pepsi products—usually a deal-breaker in my book so it’s a good thing they’ve got fast, cheap, and tasty tacos.
Uncle Julios, on the fancier side of Mexican sit-down restaurants, was a birthday meal for my mom. The waitress told us that they were famous for their fajitas so rather than my usual enchilada/taco order I went with the “Carnitas Azteca” fajitas which were described as “savory braised pork with honey chipotle glaze, lima crema, and fresh cilantro.” While they weren’t necessarily the most Mexican tasting fajitas, they were fantastic. The combination of sweet and spicy is one of my favorite flavor combinations and these fajitas really delivered. Uncle Julio’s is also known for their chocolate piñata dessert, which we didn’t end up ordering but we did see it being served at several other tables. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like: a hollow ball of chocolate filled with fresh fruit and homemade churro pieces hanging from a little metal stand like a bunch of bananas that you break open with what looked like a wooden rolling-pin. Probably the most fun looking dessert I’ve ever seen at a restaurant.
In downtown Nashville, a few blocks up from Bajo Sexto, Bakersfield is a small taco place that looks more like a nice bar than a restaurant. They serve street-style tacos a la carte on a metal pan and stand like you’d see at a pizza place. Easily the best tacos I’ve had since coming to Nashville. I ordered the “pollo rojo”, “al pastor”, and “cochinta pibil” tacos all of which had great flavor and quality meat and left me genuinely disappointed when I had finished and realized there weren’t any left. Both of their salsa options—a mild green citrus-y one and a medium heat smoky red one were fantastic as well. I wish Bakersfield weren’t so far from where I live; I’ve been craving it since almost the minute I left, although I supposed it’s a good thing for my wallet and my self-control that they aren’t super close by.
Overall, I feel like my search for quality Mexican food in Nashville has been surprisingly successful and I can’t wait to taste what else Music City has to offer.
I thought it might be fun to post a short random quote from what I’ve written of the novel so far with zero context. I determined this quote using a random number generator to decide what page and paragraph to pick from. I’d like to say I got this on the first try but I had to go through a lot of “he nodded” and “she shrugged” and long rambling possibly spoiler-y paragraphs before I found one that was short and worked well enough out of context. If I decide to do this again later I’ll have to figure out a better system. But for now, from page 28 paragraph/line 4:
“Do I get mauled to death by a werewolf or something?” Hannah joked.
When I was younger, I had a superpower. It’s a power that I believe most kids have, though based on how often I got complimented on it–even by people the same age as me–maybe it’s not so common. From grade school up through high school and even a bit into college, I had the ability to create time out of nothing. No matter how hectic my life got or how much stress school poured on I always had time to do the things I loved.
Like most writers I was (and perhaps to a lesser extent still am) a major bookworm, my average reading speed used to be about a book per week, sometimes a little longer for bigger books and sometimes less than a week when I really got into a book (I started and finished Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince a nearly 700 page book in a single day) and whenever people asked me how I found time to read as much as I did between school, homework, and other every day responsibilities I just told them that I made the time to sit down and read. Simple as that. Because to me it was that simple; if you love doing something and you really want to do it you make the time to do it no matter how crazy life gets. And yet, somewhere along the way I seemed to have lost that gift. Life becomes busier when you’re an adult, but even just two years ago I had time enough to keep up with my college courses and homework and still have time to read (although admittedly less than I used to) and keep up with my favorite shows, and just six months or so ago I made time to get out of my house and go for a walk every day in the midst of searching for a job. Now, I almost feel guilty any time I do take the time to do anything relaxing and I almost never go out for a walk anymore except on weekends.
If it were just things like television and video games or even reading that were falling by the wayside, I probably wouldn’t be making this post, but right now, the responsibilities in my life have a hierarchy with job searching being my highest priority, daily chores and/or errands next on the list followed by this blog, and finally my novel way at the bottom where it hardly ever gets the attention I want to devote to it. In the spirit of the old me, I have carved out time every Wednesday afternoon to go to a local coffee shop for some much-needed alone time in order to sit down and do nothing but write the novel. Still, it’s not nearly enough. True, I could spend time on the weekends but sue me, after a week spent cooped up inside staring at a computer screen, all I want to do on the weekend is get out of the house. So now I find myself looking back on the old me, trying to remember the secret to creating time out of thin air. If I figure it out I’ll be sure to let you know.
Snow in Nashville meant one thing: I finally got to cross “throw Rascal into a snow bank” off of my bucket list. Well, actually, we didn’t get enough snow to make a bank so I had to make do with “gently place cats on snow-covered grass.” Cats plural because I have three and Rascal isn’t the only one who got to experience the magic of snow this week.
Rascal is my nine-year-old Siamese-Tabby mix. He is a big ol’ love bug, except when you scold him, then he back talks with more sass than a moody teenager. He’s pretty and he knows it, which is good because he’s not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed.
Hobbies include: lizard hunting, stealing people’s seats when they get up, watching people shower, seeing how far he can carry a Dixie cup full of water out of the bathroom before he spills it, and eating cookies (what we call cat treats).
Likes: cookies, back scratches, belly rubs, being told he’s pretty
Dislikes: Harley invading his room (AKA my room), people touching his tail, snow.
Snow: I’ve wanted to throw Rascal into a big pile of snow ever since I realized that his gorgeous fluffy white coat and huge paws with their extra-long toe hairs make him perfectly built to romp around in it. Unfortunately, my big dumb snow cat hates the snow. He squirmed and clung to me when I tried to put him down in it and when I finally did succeed in setting him down he immediately wanted to get back to the snow-less safety of the house. He is currently holding a major grudge toward us for subjecting him to the trauma of it to the point of looking seriously offended if we so much as ask him if he wants to go outside. Drama queen.
Harley is the baby of the family at seven years old. If you’re a person he’s a total sweetheart. If you’re a cat, he’s an asshole who likes to pick fights and steal your food. He’s the reason our cats’ food bowls look like something out of a science fiction movie.
Hobbies include: eating, bird watching, cuddling, sleeping by the fireplace, eating, playing with string, burrowing under blankets, and did I mention eating?
Likes: food, string, fireplaces, being picked up
Dislikes: children, car rides, not being fed promptly at 6 (am or pm)
Snow: Harley minded snow the least of the three. In fact, if he can still eat the grass underneath it, it might as well not even be there.
At 15 years old, Shadow is a grouchy old man. To anyone who isn’t familiar with him, the noises he makes whenever anyone picks him up sound like he’s being tortured and mistreated. Truth is, he’ll scream and growl and errf till he’s blue in the face but he’d never hurt a fly and as soon as you put him down he might even be rubbing against your leg asking to be scratched. He’s just letting you know he’d rather be loved while his feet are firmly on the ground.
Hobbies include: sleeping, playing with toy mice, screaming till he gets what he wants, howling in the middle of the night.
Likes: face scratches, cookies, chicken, being brushed, water from the faucet
Dislikes: being picked up, closed doors, his cat carrier
Snow: Shadow had no interest in the snow. He wasn’t as freaked out by it as Rascal but he also really didn’t want anything to do with it or with going outside in this weather.
It’s snowing in Nashville today! So I thought I’d get in the winter spirit and write a short snow scene between Daphne and her partner Hannah for this week’s Town Line Tuesday. This takes place a few years after Daphne’s exile from New Salem and long before the events of The Demon of New Salem. It’s canon-compliant but will probably never be brought up in canon. Also I’m posting this from my phone because my internet went out right as I went to post this so if anything is wonky with the formatting that’s why.
“Hurry up would you,” Hannah called over her shoulder, “the sooner we find the Winter Court the sooner we can go back to drinking hot chocolate by the fire.”
Daphne pulled her eyes away from the animal tracks she had been studying—canine if she remembered Adam’s tracking lessons correctly—and grinned at her friend. “What’s the matter? Cold?”
“No” she said, wrapping her arms around her middle to retain body warmth. “I’ll just be happier when we can get out of this damn snow.”
“How can you not like snow?”
“What’s to like? Its cold, its wet, it gets all over everything, its annoying to walk through.” Hannah kicked at the stuff to prove her point. It wasn’t actively snowing but there was still enough on the ground from the night before that their walk through the woods was more of a trudge. Hannah sighed and kept walking. “Let’s just get this over with okay?”
Daphne hurried to catch up. “It is pretty though. Magical even.”
“You sound like someone who never had snow growing up.” Daphne could practically hear the eye-roll in Hannah’s voice.
Daphne shrugged. “We had snow. Not this much, but we had it.” Her lip curled in a half-smile. “My brother and I had some epic snowball fights.”
Hannah was quiet.
“What about you? Don’t tell me you never—” Daphne cut off, eyebrows pinched together in a frown.
Hannah looked back at her, concerned.
Daphne shook her head and nodded for Hannah to keep walking. “Don’t tell me you never had any winter shenanigans.” She slipped her knife out of its sheath. “Snowball fights, sledding, snow angels…” Daphne brushed against a tree, using the tip of the knife to pull a chunk of bark off, “…you can’t tell me you never had any fun in the snow.” She slid the knife back into the sheath and the piece of bark into her pocket.
Hannah’s shoulders tensed up a little, she looked up toward the sky—though not much of it could be seen through the trees. “Of course I did. But I was the only kid in AEGIS so any fun I had I had alone. Most of my experiences with snow were training-related: fighting in snow, tracking, survival, that sort of thing.”
Hannah glanced back at her. “What?”
Daphne laughed. “Nothing. I just can’t believe I actually had a more normal childhood than someone.”
Hannah snorted. “It’s not a competition Pen,” she said, using the nickname for Daphne’s last name she had taken to calling her lately.
“No, I know I just—” Daphne stopped again. “Yeah we’re going in circles.”
Hannah stopped too, turning to face Daphne. “What’re you talking about?”
Daphne nodded at the small canine tracks heading off into the woods on their left. “We’ve passed those tracks before.”
“We’re in a forest full of animals Pen, there’re bound to be multiple sets of tracks.”
Daphne shook her head. “No those are the same tracks. Same direction, same animal, same size, even the same gait.”
“Okay, then maybe we’ve crossed the same animal’s path twice.”
“Yeah, I thought that too. Still, something didn’t feel right.” Daphne ran a gloved finger over a bark-less spot on the tree closest to her. “Which is why I marked this tree. Just in case.”
“Daphne, look around! We’re up to our ankles in snow, if we were walking in circles we would’ve crossed our own tracks again.” Hannah gestured toward the unblemished snow covering the forest floor in front of them.
Daphne ran a hand through her hair, knocking her hood off her head in the process. “Yeah and we’ve been walking in a straight line not following a path. I don’t know what to tell you, I just know we’ve passed this tree at least two times.”
Movement up in the tree behind Hannah caught Daphne’s eye. “Don’t look now but there’s a fox in the tree behind you.” The arctic fox’s intelligent golden eyes, locked unflinchingly with Daphne’s, seemed to be filled with laughter.
Hannah lifted a well-groomed eyebrow. “What?” she laughed. “Do foxes even climb trees?”
The fox stood from its perch on the lowest branch of the tree, snow-colored fur fluffing out and tail curling over its back as it stretched, a wide yawn revealing a wicked grin of sharp silver teeth.
“I don’t know. This one did. No, wait don’t look!”
Too late, Hannah was already turning. As soon as Hannah’s eye caught on the branch, the fox leapt up and away. The force of the jump shook the branch, dislodging the snow gathered there. Which fell straight down onto Hannah’s head.
Hannah let out a startled yell, her green eyes wide with shock.
Daphne snorted, biting her tongue to keep from laughing out loud.
“Don’t you dare.”
Daphne couldn’t help it. She cackled, shoulders shaking with uncontrollable laughter as she hunched over, holding her stomach.
Hannah huffed. “It’s not that funny!” She furiously swiped at her head and clothes to rid herself of the icy wet clumps.
“Y-your face!” Daphne could barely catch her breath enough to get the words out.
Hannah glared. “You think this is funny huh.”
Daphne struggled to breathe. “Hilarious.”
Hannah’s lip twitched. “I was pretty shocked.”
“Should’ve seen your face.”
“Oh yeah? Did it look something like this?”
Frigid wetness hit Daphne square in the face, sobering her instantly.
Hannah giggled. “You’re right. That is hilarious.”
Daphne smirked, bending to pick up a clump of snow, shaping it as she stood. “This means war.” She pulled her arm back to throw, only to be hit in the back of the head by a snowball, startling her into dropping her own.
She whirled around to find the fox sitting on a log, washing its face as if completely oblivious.
Hannah about choked on a laugh. “Did the fox—”
The fox lowered its paw and grinned a very un-foxlike grin.
“I don’t think that’s a fox,” Daphne said, taking a step backward, slowly moving her arms behind her back.
The not-fox’s gold eyes glinted. It jumped, quicker than the eye could follow, hit Daphne straight in the chest knocking her over backward into the snow, her arms instinctively going up to catch her attacker. For a second, Daphne found herself staring up into the grinning face of a young girl underneath the hood of a fox pelt. Then, in the wink of a golden eye, the girl was gone.
“You alright?” Hannah stood over her, holding out a hand.
Daphne clasped Hannah’s glove-covered hand with her own bare one, letting Hannah pull her to her feet. “I think we found the Winter Court,” she said.
“Too bad she got away.”
Daphne shrugged and bent over to pick up the glove she had dropped right before the fey jumped her. She could still feel the eternal cold, slippery playfulness and flickering shadows of trickery prickling under her skin, knew the way home like it actually was her home. “Did she?”
Hannah barked out a laugh. “You got a reading? You sly fox!”
Daphne snorted. “You’re terrible.”
Hannah shoved her. “Please, I’m hilarious.”
Daphne hummed. “You keep telling yourself that.” She pulled her glove back on. “Come on, sooner we find the Winter Court the sooner we’ll be drinking hot chocolate in front of the fire.”
The Demon of New Salem opens on Daphne Pendragon struggling to put her life back together a year after a devastating loss shattered it like glass. When we meet her, Daphne has already had enough adventures to fill a whole series of novels, but it is here, picking up the pieces, trying to rebuild what’s left of her life, making the decision to return to New Salem after ten years of exile, where Daphne’s story really begins. Still, all those untold adventures are a huge part of Daphne and good, bad, or so ugly they need to be buried so deep they’ll never see the light of day, these stories make Daphne who she is and they all (or at least some of them) deserve to be told. And because Daphne keeps her past locked up as tight as she possibly can (not to mention the fact that her telling these stories to another character would be clumsy and impractical from a writing standpoint) the only way these stories will (probably) get told is through flashbacks.
Originally, I was going to insert flashbacks where they were needed and in no particular order. Truth be told, this probably would’ve been easier to write—albeit messier and perhaps even confusing to read. Instead, after much internal debate, I’ve decided to use flashbacks to tell a second, cohesive story that will run parallel to Daphne’s present. This is hardly a new or original idea but it is definitely how I should’ve been using flashbacks from the start. Initially, however, I didn’t want the flashbacks to play such a huge role in the story, I wanted them to slowly reveal some of Daphne’s past in pieces and then move on. In some ways, this might’ve worked better—at least, the original flashbacks I’d already written were put in in response to certain triggers in the main story and in at least one instance I referred back to a flashback in a later unrelated scene and now that the flashbacks are being rewritten certain questions answered in the original flashbacks will have to be left for later books (yes, this is hopefully going to be a series but I refuse to think too hard about that at least until I get book one written) and certain present scenes will probably have to be re-worked to fit the new flashbacks. Sometimes writing is a straight line… and sometimes you get messes like this. Oh well. It’s a good thing I love it.
Then, of course, there’s the problem of needing a cohesive story to tell through flashbacks that works with—and runs parallel to—the main storyline. It took a lot of contemplation and deliberation but, in the end, the answer was actually pretty obvious. If The Demon of New Salem is about Daphne trying to rebuild her life, what better secondary story to tell than the story of how it fell apart? Through flashbacks, you’ll see Daphne’s last AEGIS (secret vigilante organization, possibly more on that in a later post) mission before everything falls apart. It’s a storyline that, though I didn’t plan it, connects with the main story arc in a critical way. Funny how that happens sometimes.