Writing

Why I Chose to Write Fantasy

Image from Pixabay

I have always enjoyed fantasy more than most other genres. I read the entire “Harry Potter” series in my early teens. In fact, at that time, it was the only thing I would read for pleasure.

I have always been attracted to magic, fantastical elements, and supernatural ideas, for as long as I can remember. I am a highly imaginative person who likes to create and brainstorm.

The idea of my book’s main character dates back to when I was in elementary school. Then she returned to my mind in my adolescence and I developed everything about her from there.

One thing about fantasy is that you can have more freedom with your stories since there is worldbuilding involved as well as other enchanted elements. Of course, the literary devices should still be believable and make sense.

When I first published the sequel of my “Magical Missions” series in 2016 as “Wizardry Goes Wild,” there were still a lot of flaws, including with credibility. One struggle involved having my characters react to magic in a believable way. 

After pulling the original edition from the market and fixing the issues, I decided on a change. Instead of trying to get the characters to react to extreme situations more credibly, since I still had trouble with it, I made certain situations milder, as long as they didn’t need to be severe. For example, there is a scene with a magical robotic bee. But that was originally a fake shark that functioned like a real one.

Basically, I just love fantasy and being very creative, which is why I like to write in that genre. I probably wouldn’t try horror or science-fiction, though. Horror scares me and science involves more research as well as math. Yet, with fantasy, I have more freedom along with fun.

cooking

The Best Ways to Make Mexican, Latino, or Spanish Food the Ways You Like

Image from Pixabay

Just recently, I discovered some techniques on making Latino, Mexican, or Spanish food to my taste as well as satisfy my dietary needs. Below is a list of dishes in those cuisines:

1: Rice

One recipe said to cook the rice in oil before adding the spices and sauce. I, however, could not use the traditional tomato sauce since I am allergic to tomatoes. So, I pureed jarred peppers and used that instead. Guess what—it still came out delicious.

2: Taco meat

I prepared a seasoning with various spices and stored them while using a little at a time per maybe half a pound of ground meat. It tasted as good, if not, better than the premade seasoning mix.

3: Homemade tortilla chips

Don’t have a bag of tortilla chips? No problem. You can cook actual tortillas by either, frying, baking, or even microwaving them. They still come out good, not to mention that they don’t have the extra ingredients that bagged chips contain.

4: Onions in quesadillas

I used to mix salsa with my cheese in my quesadillas. But thanks to my tomato allergy developed in 2017, I can no longer do that. While just cheese is okay, I discovered that chopped onions make it taste better and even a bit sweeter.

5: Plantains

I just learned that it is better to let plantains blacken before you cook them. Then they’ll be sweet. Cook them too soon and they’re not sweet and taste more like a potato.

I hope you enjoyed this post.

travel

Hotels vs. Airbnb’s – Which Do You Choose?

Image from Pixabay

It might not be a good idea to travel now. But when things return to full normalcy, you can think about overnight trips again, either hours away via car or plane.

For much of my youth, my family has stayed in hotels, often fancy ones. Later, that became rarer. We stayed in cheaper hotels, suites, or once, I stayed in an Airbnb. That is when someone allows you to rent a space for a certain amount of time.

So, let’s weigh the pros and cons of hotels and Airbnb’s.

Hotels

Pros:

Less work to do – there are housekeeping workers who will clean your rooms, usually in the afternoon, as well as chefs to cook your food, and so on. You can be easily pampered or spoiled by it, depending on your lifestyle and preferences.

Nice décor – Whether it’s a cheap chain, like Holiday Inn, or a luxurious one, the décor is always something to admire.

Cons:

Not much control over food quality – If you stay in a hotel, you could get a microwave or kettle, but nothing to really cook in. So, you’re left with commercially-made food. Of course, this is okay on occasion, but don’t let it spoil you. It already did to me. I reversed it and lost a lot of weight from home-cooked meals. A good number of my shirts became big on me in just a few weeks.

Less control in general – Less work to do means there’s little to nothing you can control. Sure, you can watch TV, use your computer, and so forth. But hotel rooms are usually nothing like homes.

Can be expensive – This is certain if you stay at an upscale one. But even lower-key ones, like Holiday Inns, aren’t necessarily affordable for everyone.

Airbnb’s

Pros:

More control – You can stay in a place similar to your home. Sometimes, you can even cook. You also don’t have to leave to make room for housekeepers.

Cheaper – While this varies, Airbnb’s tend to cost less than hotel rooms. But their décors are still acceptable, as they are often part of people’s homes.

Cons:

No one to do your chores – in Airbnb’s, you’re responsible for making your beds, cleaning, and so forth. So, remember to be careful, otherwise, you might need to pay a fine.

No amenities – That means no room service, phone service, or anything a hotel could provide. But that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Of course, everyone’s tastes differ. So, one may favor hotels a lot, while others dream of an affordable Airbnb.

cooking

The Process of My Pumpkin Cheesecake

That above is a pumpkin cheesecake I made from scratch. Why? I’ll tell you.

Reason:

I first had this at the Barnes & Noble café and theirs tasted delicious! But because of the pandemic, I haven’t gone back there. It could be open, but I feel that many places are worthless until we’re back to typical life.

So, I decided that I wanted to make my own. I also had leftover pumpkin for something else I cooked and I had to use it, otherwise it would rot. I finalized with pumpkin cheesecake.

Process:

The process was no easy task. I had to make the crust with graham crackers and butter. Then I had to mix everything else. I cannot remember every ingredient, but it did overwhelm me to the point that I kept putting it off. My mom suggested to break the steps up into little ones at a time.

After the cheesecake finished baking, I had to let it chill for several hours. Then I took it out and decorated it with stabilized whipped cream, but I used cream cheese instead of unflavored gelatin. The recipe called for that. I also chopped pecans and sprinkled them around the interior of the whipped cream.

Result:

It tasted good, but was dense. I could not finish a whole piece. Despite using the amount of sugar that the recipe asked for, the cheesecake did not taste very sweet, unlike the Barnes & Noble one.

Regardless, my family enjoyed it and so did my dad’s staff at work. I also really admired the way I decorated the cheesecake as did everyone else.

Writing

Stories Within Stories: When They Work, and When They Don’t

Image from Pixabay

Have you ever read a book with a story within it? I have. 

A notable example includes “The Tale of Three Brothers” in “Harry Potter.” In cartoons, there is “The Crimson Chin” in “The Fairly OddParents,” and “The Justice Friends” in “Dexter’s Laboratory.”

In a book I read, it started out with a background description as well as a bunch of characters. One was an old lady reading to a group of children. I would have continued that story, but it bored me since after several pages, I couldn’t get to the action. The woman just kept reading.

I agree with many experts that stories should start as close to the inciting incidents as possible. Prologues are also not recommended these days unless done exceptionally well.

Anyway, back to the topic. I don’t think the story in a story idea should be reserved for top authors. However, it should be relevant to the main plot, engaging, and not too long. Otherwise, the reader might give up.

You could do a spinoff as long as it will work and keeps your audience engaged. I have a spinoff of my current book series in mind. I won’t spoil anything, but I will say that it’s not a story within my books. It might be years until I write it, though.

Do you like stories in stories?

Writing

Writers, Should You Hire a Beta Reader?

Image from Pixabay

What is a beta reader? It’s someone who gives you feedback on your story and its literary elements, such as plot, characterization, conflict, etc. They don’t edit your work or rewrite weak sentences.

So, if you are considering hiring a beta reader, here are some aspects you should be aware of.

Pros

Cheaper than traditional editors

Many book editors, especially those who have worked with big-name best-selling authors (like Stephen King), can charge lots of money for their services. They can range from hundreds to even thousands of dollars.

There are people with that kind of money. But unless you are one of them, start off with a beta reader.

Can return work more quickly 

Depending on the editor and the work, it can take at least a week or month to have the project returned to the client. From my experience, though, beta readers may take less time before they give the customers feedback. This can vary, however, depending on the reader and other factors.

Cons

Might not necessarily answer the writer’s specific questions 

With my last beta reader experience, I sent a bunch of questions to the person that concerned specific issues in my manuscript. The beta reader clarified that she was not an editor, so I said that she could answer the questions she felt were relevant. Sadly, she didn’t answer any.

Can be tough

Despite working on my manuscript for nearly 5 years, the beta reader said it needed a ton of work. Other beta readers bashed my projects, too. However, when I showed them to editors, the stories pleased them. For my current WIP, an editor said that it was strong and only needed minor editing.

I don’t know how typical it is for beta readers to be super-tough, but I am giving my manuscript to other beta readers as well as a developmental editor.

Remember to do what you think will work for you.

art

Mini Art Show: A Sketch of a Bird

It’s been a while since I’ve shown a piece of art I did recently. That is because I haven’t been doing much of it these days. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy art. I just have other priorities.

Anyway, I sketched this image based off a tourism pamphlet from my house. My parents went to upstate New York (I’m from Long Island) and brought back a wildlife guidebook.

Since I wanted to vary my drawing subjects, I decided to draw the bird on the front cover. Of course, there are differences, besides the lack of color and the pencil marks. I simplified the plants in the background and even changed some. As for the bird, I started off with simple shapes, a technique I learned in college.

The paper was also not a cream tone. It just came out that way when I photographed it with my phone and adjusted some aspects in order to bring out the image more. Despite that, I decided to keep the background that beige. I feel it adds some sophistication and aesthetic.

Will I color this in? Maybe. After my other priorities are out of the way, I could color or paint it, either with traditional or digital media. But I am not sure, as of now. What do you think of this?

Writing

When it’s Okay to Turn Off Your Inner Editor

As people learn the writing craft, they discover how to word their sentences, what types of words and phrases to avoid, and what sentences engage readers the best.

Because of that, many folks will strive for perfection. That is one of the causes of writer’s block. There are times where you need to worry about producing the best work possible and when you can turn off that inner editor or critic.

I, myself, have been struggling to write while on lockdown for a couple of months. I discussed this issue on a forum, and one person suggested to just write more sloppily and polish it during the editing stage. I tried it and it really worked.

Aside from when you are working on a story and you develop writer’s block, there are other times you shouldn’t let an internal critic stop you. One example is free-writing. By that, I mean writing any thought that comes to your mind, no matter how silly it might seem. It’s a great way to revive your creative juices. For the most part, it has worked for me and I have written more easily after free-writing.

Another technique is to put your work aside and find other hobbies. Unless you are working toward a strict deadline, you can take a break from your story or whatever you’re working on. You are in control of telling your inner critic that you need a break from your writing. As you focus on other activities, the internal editor will be suppressed until you feel ready to return to your work.

In fact, taking occasional breaks from your writing may help you improve your works-in-progress. You come back as if you had a fresh new pair of eyes. Then you can see more room for improvement.

Obviously, the inner critic matters at times, such as when you submit your work for editing or publishing. But if you struggle to write as best as you can, turn off the imaginary editor and write in whatever way feels natural at that moment.

travel

My Top Animal Encounter Moments on Trips

Who doesn’t love animals? I certainly admire them. This list will include moments from both local and exotic trips. It will not be in any favorable order, either.

1: Crabs at a park near me

This happened on a sixth-grade field trip, many years ago. We got to walk on the beach and play with the crabs. I remember naming mine Bob for that moment, Lol.

2: A chameleon in Hawaii

After watching the sunrise, our tour continued. We stopped somewhere for breakfast and outside of the place, our guide let us handle a chameleon. I recall it crawling on my arm, but cursing a bit since I was worried about it falling. This happened when I was 19.

3: An octopus and pufferfish in Costa Rica

While snorkeling, our guide there showed us an octopus and pufferfish. He let us touch them, too. I was too grossed out by the octopus, but was fine with the pufferfish.

4: Feeding fish in the Bahamas

A year before I went to Costa Rica, I went to the Bahamas and stayed at Atlantis. We went snorkeling at a place outside the resort and were given fish food for the fish. I was surprised that they permitted it, but it was because the fish would forget human interactions shortly after. After I dropped the fish food, I thought a fish bit me. But it turned out that the fins scraped my finger. I got a Band-Aid after, though, although not right away.

5: Swimming with dolphins in Cozumel and the Bahamas

The first time I swam with dolphins was when I was 10, in Cozumel. The latter happened when I was 16, one or two days before we snorkeled outside of Atlantis. Their skin felt rubbery and I could easily kiss them, which I could never do with any other creature, especially those with fur.

So, there you have it.

cooking

Why I Am Cooking in Advance Now?

Image from Pixabay

Once upon a time, I learned how to cook and would prepare many meals. That was… until I got my driver’s license and was ready to drive alone. I would eat out more, whether it was takeout, delivery, or dine-in.

Then in March, the world went on lockdown. I could no longer go out to restaurants, except to get takeout. Once the times when restaurants could re-open their dining rooms drew nearer, I started getting takeout a little more. Then when I could finally dine out again, I went crazy. I was so happy that I could finally enjoy my favorite places and commercial foods again.

But then I gained weight and felt kind of sluggish and unwell. My mom even got tired of me eating out so much. It had become a daily routine for me.

Then I discovered that my interests have changed since graduating college. Despite earning a BFA in studio art (big mistake!), I now am more passionate about writing. That being said, I still like doing art—I’d just rather keep it as a hobby.

Anyway, I want to get an online certificate in communications. I promised my mom that I would contribute to part of the tuition. That meant I had to cut down on eating out, not just for my health, but also for money purposes. So, that is when I started cooking more homemade food. For the first time ever, I am planning my meals in advance and cooking them ahead of time.

Guess what—it was a smart choice. Not only did I lose weight, and enough that many of my clothes got big on me within a couple of weeks, but I felt better about myself, too. My thinking and productivity sharpened, as well.

I will continue cooking in advance forever. After all, when I live on my own, I will have to watch my spending habits on unnecessary items, including commercial food.