My Next Novel: An Exploration of Being Told “You Can’t”

Words are powerful.

There will always be those who deny this. There’s a whole rhyme about it: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The Inspiration

For a while, I let what people thought about me define who I was. When you’re a teenager, you’re on this epic quest to find who you are, and often others’ opinions about you help inform that.

One baking incident in the kitchen permanently barred me from the kitchen. I began to believe I wasn’t capable of cooking or baking.

Being an artist barred me from being “smart.” “Artists are ditzy.” “Artists can’t be good at math.”

Some of the strongest lies are the ones we tell ourselves ABOUT ourselves. After I ended my soccer career, I let go of the title of “athlete” and told myself I wasn’t athletic anymore. That really hurt how I saw myself.

I also began to believe I wasn’t responsible enough. I could never live on my own and be trusted to pay rent on time or buy car insurance. I wasn’t trustworthy. I was incapable.

I began to fear failure. It’s so public, so icky. I wanted a clean image—yet this crippled me in doing some of the things I most wanted to do.

Side note, I’m very very grateful for my mom because she always encouraged me in all my creative pursuits. She was and is my biggest fan, and that’s gotten me to where I am today—metaphorically and literally!

The Exploration

In the world of my book, there are two classes of people.

The lesser class repeats a mantra every day about how they can’t accomplish anything beyond what they’ve been assigned by the government. The idea of trying doesn’t even exist to them. They are told who they are and what they do, and that is enough to keep them stunted for life.

I am incapable. I cannot, so I do not try. I have not been programmed to succeed at anything outside of my means.

If I try, I will fail every time. So I must not try.

— What Has Delphine Done, WIP by Amanda Brown

The higher class is told that they can accomplish anything; they have access to Talents, kept in jars and sold at extravagant prices.

The lesser class can never achieve anything because they don’t believe they can, and because they don’t believe they can they will never step outside of their means and learn to do the real moneymaking jobs, thus gaining enough money to buy Talents.

The Application

Dear one, what lies are you telling yourself? What lies have people told you about yourself that you’ve taken on as a false identity? At the end of the day, we are responsible for ourselves. Yes, people may fill our heads with lies…but it is within our power to refuse to believe them.

You can pivot your life at any point. You can decide you CAN cook or you CAN be a wedding planner or you CAN start dating again.

Personal Challenge

When I moved to LA two years ago, I challenged myself to do things I wasn’t good at. After all, I was in a totally new state; no one knew I “couldn’t” bake or “couldn’t” dance. I could totally reinvent myself and my capabilities!

You don’t need a crazy cross-country move to change, thankfully.

With this book in mind, I’m still actively choosing to be bold and do things I think I might fail at. Here’s a small list of the things I’ve tried over the past two years.

  • Swing dancing
  • Baking
  • Cooking
  • Hiking
  • Working out
  • Photography
  • Leading at work
  • Podcasting

If you knew you wouldn’t fail, what is something you’d start today? Thinking of that thing?

Well, dear . . . today has come. Go for it!

celebrating 2 years in LA with a FREE e-book

I celebrated two years in LA last month, which is really no big deal EXCEPT the whole story of how I moved here is so innately tied to my faith.

I thought that to celebrate (and also to do some design work because I miss doing book/magazine layout), I’d create a nice coffee-table type book collection of all my letters. You can sit down and read them all together, or read one every now and then when you need something to chuckle at or a reminder of God’s purpose in each of our lives.

If you enjoyed this free book, you may want to subscribe to my newsletter! I send monthly-ish email updates with essays on what I’m learning and what it’s like to be a southerner in LA. You’ll also get cool bonus content from my book The Memory Jumper (starting with a handbook that expands on the universe), plus future projects.

a jungle of exceeding decibels

I hail from the gentle suburbs of Greenville, South Carolina. Tucked into the Bible belt, I lived life in a bubble and honestly it was a beautiful thing.

Now that I’m here in LA, I see and hear and even smell (ick) a lot of things that are different from my roots. I’ve gained a lot of new experiences, many of which are much like panning for gold and yield great nuggets of colorful settings, people, and ideas.

A couple weeks ago, I went to a party in downtown LA for an hour or two. The party scene is not for me—I’m a gentle creature made of lace and small smiles and a teacup or two—but I found it fascinating regardless.

Not everyone likes what I like. Not everyone dislikes what I dislike. And that’s what makes life so fascinating. You could live a thousand years and still not have done everything, gone everywhere, met everyone.

So, here’s a quiet, homeschooled girl’s take on a party in downtown LA.

//

Behind the giant doors, a heartbeat thrums and red lights pulse like blood, like a secret well kept. The doors are opened and I’m escorted into a room that wants to swallow me up. Everything swoops upward, tall ceilings complimenting layers of box seats that long ago must have held rich spectators. 

A man exhales a puff of smoke which catches the blue light and becomes a cumulonimbus of nicotine. Everyone bobs together, blood cells in transit. People come here to lose themselves after the pressure of work, you can see it by the way their faces hold no tension. 

I am a rare species in this jungle, and I’m very much aware of it. I melt into the floorboards and study the intricate patterns melded into the ceiling. Black chandeliers contrast with the antique wood paneling and modern square-shaped screens. We search for water, but everyone else needs something more to get them through the night. 

The beat finds its way into my core, shaking through me at a decibel I’ve never experienced. It’s an alcohol of its own; it can carry you to whatever you need. Energy, joy, consistency, even just nothingness. 

//

lol this is my face upon walking into ANY party, crazy or not ^^^ much disconcerted

I love these small little tidbits of experiences I’m gaining here. Next, I’d like to write a short paragraph or two on my experience going to a fashion show (yup, you read that right!).

Until then, enjoy whatever piece of the world you call home . . . and dare to find yourself outside of your comfort zone in the near future.

blue robe

Living in LA, I see a lot of *interesting* people wandering the streets. While driving to work the other day, I saw a rough-looking woman (probably in her 60s) walking with a man who was slowly riding a bike. She looked worn and weary, and I wondered what her story was. My heart went out to her.

I try to give these unknown, unloved people places in the worlds I create in my head.

//

Woman of the street,

Teal eyeshadow, teal robe,

Eyes empty yet hungering for more—

What has life done to you?

You wander these streets,

The ones that promised

Fame and fortune 

But all you have

Is a hollow feeling

That itself

Is famous

Amongst the stars. 

i did a photo series inspired by my debut novel

Photography is a sweet solace for me, if not a bit chaotic. When I get an idea, I pull out my camera and begin snapping. I live by myself so I have to rely on my camera’s self-timer, which can be frustrating.

I wouldn’t have it any other way, though. That frustration—that marriage between idea and execution—is such a fun challenge and adds to the artistic process.

I knew I wanted to do a series featuring a silver butterfly hairclip (just like the one in The Memory Jumper that my main character, Adelaide, has). To be honest, I wish the hairclip were more prominent but I was having problems getting it to be visible.

I explored several themes, each represented by an item in the photo.

PLANTS

growth

WINDOWS

Being trapped yet dreaming of more

MIRRORS

Self Reflection / Facing Ourselves / we’re our own worst enemies

What has my shadow done?

Some beautiful things

Some terrible things

I am reminded of a letter

I wrote a friend—

Beautiful.

I am reminded of

denying myself food, happiness,

Of turning the mirror around

So I wouldn’t have to see the stranger there—

Terrible.

We are all layers of shadows.

How many times have we died?

How many times have we been reborn?

Would all my shadows get along?

About this creative item’s inspiration

The Memory Jumper

To keep her mind-altering powers a secret, Adelaide lives in an underground safe house with her narcissistic mother Fawn. Together they sell her illegal Memory Jumping abilities for profit—but when Adelaide decides to break, Fawn’s grip on her life only tightens.

Learn more

my latest moody poems

NO 1. PROMPT: “old times”

Maybe new times

Are just old times

in disguise

NO 2. PROMPT: “feelings”

How deep

is the well

of my feelings

take a bucket

and drain me dry

don’t worry

how i collapse into dust

NO 3. PROMPT: “tragedy”

Life took me

one tragedy at a time

until i was

a collage of

almosts,

nevers,

and foolish somedays

NO. 4 NO PROMPT

again she was left—

left behind,

left over.

left for reasons unknown,

left to her own sorrows.

she was just

thoroughly

unceremoniously

unapologetically

left waiting for what would finally be right.

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING // moody marshes, grits, & zoology

I do not like doing popular things until they are UNPOPULAR. So, when I saw that Where the Crawdads Sing was being read by everyone and their grandmother, I immediately said “Ew no.”

However

I have fallen

I am sorry to disappoint

Here’s what happened: I literally saw a billboard for the movie based on this book while driving to work, and somehow it captured my attention. And sometimes I like to pretend I’m the type of person that won’t watch a movie until they’ve read the book, so . . . thus my saga began.

It’s been two weeks since I read the book, and I haven’t written a review because I’m honestly still reeling from the novel. Usually my book reviews are witty and funny, but this novel was HEAVY. Let’s chat.

An entertaining one-sentence summary

A little girl raises herself in the marshes of North Carolina, learning about the world and life from observing nature around her but then she grows up and, like the best of us, likes a *bad boy* and then oh no he’s murdered and everyone thinks it was her bc she’s just a bitter ex.

MORE ENTERTAINING SHORT SUMMARIES

Speedboat chases

MURDERRRRR

Deep south

Burnt grits

Illustrated books about nature

Lots of cool nerdy info about animals of the marsh

This book just literally makes me want to go lie in a grassy field for the rest of my life and make friends with all the birds of the world and drink only the dew of the earth

INITIAL THOUGHTS

First off, a little disclaimer: this book does have a couple parts I personally didn’t feel comfortable reading (about four), but it’s pretty obvious when they’re coming up so they’re easily skippable without taking away from the plot.

This book was GORGEOUS. The writing made me so appreciative of nature. It made me want to get rid of my phone, of my Instagram, of everything digital and live in the woods. We are losing the art of slow living; people are too glued to their technology to see the beauty of the world around them.

I’m still a little confused about what the message was, to be honest. The author believes in evolution, and refers to women in the backmatter of the novel as “mammals.” The main character talks about how in nature the males compete for the attention of the females, and there are some males that aren’t as high quality as other options but they get the females because they show off in deceitful ways.

The book seems to make this point as well: Kya’s first love truly seems to care for her, but he leaves her because of his own immaturity and fears. She uses her second love interest (Chase) only as a bandaid to her deep-rooted desire for love and community, even though she doesn’t connect with him on a mental level as she did with her childhood love. Therefore, she’s just like the female mammals: she chooses the “bad boy” because he has a nice speedboat and is just there.

*SPOILER ALERT, SKIP TO THE RATING PART IF YOU HAVEN’T READ YET*

A murder is woven throughout the whole book: Kya has been accused of killing Chase. Everyone assumes she was just jealous of his bride. You grow to care about Kya throughout the book . . . only to find out in the end that she DID kill Chase!!

In the novel, Kya watches female insects rip male insects’ heads off. It seems to be a dark comparison that she learned from nature that she has to protect herself by literally killing her ex. I’m still wondering if the author meant for Kya to be a hero or a sad villain, misunderstood and scared to the point of believing murder is the only option.

This book is very sad. You can feel Kya’s isolation, and I think we can all understood how she feels misunderstood. Growing up, I definitely felt misunderstood and judged by my peers. Also, it deals with rape which always gets me super upset. Thankfully, Kya escapes before she’s hurt.

WHAT I DID LIKE

  • The setting and description made me so nostalgic for the Carolinas.
  • I did NOT see the end coming!! I was shook. Also, loved how it was revealed.
  • The poetry throughout the book.
  • The writing style was STUNNING. Delia had to write from the POV of a young child, then a young woman. It felt so realistic to the way a child would think.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

  • The author seemed to compare human relationships to just animalistic instinct. That lowers love to just a fact of science.
  • Not sure if I liked the end itself. Mixed feelings…

MY RATING

Four stars!!!

THE CARTOGRAPHERS // maps, mysteries, & multiple povs

Me at the beginning of 2022: i shall read one book every week of 2022

Me at the beginning of 2022: *gets a FREAKING PUBLISHING DEAL*

Me: whoopsie

The events relayed to you above are 100% true, 0% fictional. I had a great plan to read 52 books but . . . I had to go and publish a book instead. So, I think I’ve read a grand total of . . . THREE BOOKS (?) *immense clapping ensues*.

I know, I know—I’m a shameful excuse for a reader.

But hey! Hey hey! I’m back, kinda sorta. I literally just finished The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd, a novel sent to me by Book of the Month. I chose it for two reasons:

  1. The cover is BOMBBBBBB
  2. It’s a thriller, and I need more thrill in my life
  3. The cover is PURTY (oh whoops did I say this already)

So, let’s dive into a review shall we?

AN ENTERTAINING ONE-SENTENCE SUMMARY

Nell is obsessed with making maps but after she became a disgrace in the map-making community she now makes knock-off maps but then her father is MURDERED and people start popping up in Nell’s life claiming that they were involved in a mysterious group with her parents called THE CARTOGRAPHERS and this person is tracking down a map that broke the Cartographers group up and there’s just a whole lotta drama surrounding this map oh also some magic maybe????

MORE ENTERTAINING SHORT SUMMARIES

Maps and mappy terms

MURDERRRRRR

Secret towns!!!!

A fire

People obsessed with maps and cartography

Maybe a little magic????

INITIAL THOUGHTS

This book was super fun!! I really enjoyed learning about cartography—I (of course) knew very little about mapmaking before I read this book, but now I’ve realized it’s a whole art. I loved how into the details the book got; I love coming out of a book feeling like I learned something. And while I’m not about to quit my job to go draw maps, I definitely appreciate them now more.

If anything, the concept itself was a little confusing. Halfway through the book, magic is introduced and I found it very jarring because until then I’d thought we were in a real-world situation. Then, a lot of explanation begins and I found myself skimming over it just so I could figure out who the bad guy was.

HOWEVER!! I must say, I was super caught off-guard by the revelation of the baddie. I pride myself in always being able to guess whodunnit . . . but I actually NEVER can lol.

Me during Murder on the Nile: OH YUS I TOTALLY KNOW WHO IT IS *GUESSES TOTALLY RANDOMLY*

Also me: 100% WRONG

Regardless, I was still glad I was wrong because that means the author successfully turned me away from suspicion.

I had a hard time finishing the book, because I started losing interest due to how heavy it was getting with explanation. But I DID finish it. And overall, I’d have to say I liked it!

Also, can I just give a shoutout to Peng for writing a successful, beautiful novel WITHOUT lacing cuss words throughout the novel? YES. IT IS POSSIBLE TO WRITE A GOOD BOOK WITHOUT CUSSING EVERY COUPLE SENTENCES. (I’m looking at YOU, Lucy Foley, author of “The Guest List”). 👀

OVERALL SUMMARY

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

QUOTABLE QUOTE

“Maps are love letters written to times and places their makers had explored.” 

i got a peek at my debut novel’s book cover.

I always love getting emails from Mel, founder of Lost Island Press (my publisher!!). It always means there’s exciting news, and we’re one step closer to publication day!

This past email was probably my most favorite yet, though. Because I finally got to see my book’s cover.

I’ve fiddled around with covers for this book so many times. In 2017, I created a cover for The Memory Jumper for a contest, and even before then I’d slapped something together from Pinterest, imagining the day I would have a REAL cover.

I was given two choices, and I could hardly contain my excitement. I kept flipping back and forth between the options, shook at how REAL they looked. And I couldn’t help but be so glad I’d waited. Waited to printed my book, waited to get it REALLY published. So many times I wanted to just hop on Lulu and print a copy for myself. I was convinced it would just never see the light of day, so I might as well see it in print once.

But NOW.

Now, it’s actually happening.

I, of course, can’t reveal anything about the cover yet. But we’ll be revealing it sometime in June, which I’m sure will come quickly! So stay excited. ❤ I know I am!