travel

If I Went to Puerto Rico, This is What I Would Want

Image from Pixabay

I’ve been to Puerto Rico when I was 12 during a school break. I had a good time. I also considered going back there in 2017… until they experienced a hurricane.

Of course, now that we’re living in a pandemic, I won’t plan any trips as of now. I probably won’t even go to New York City, which is about an hour away from where I live, until we’re back to typical life. 

But this is just a game of make-believe (sort of). Maybe I will think about visiting Puerto Rico again when it’s safe. For now, though, I will just list the things I would want to do if I traveled there. I’m basically just using my imagination.

Let’s get brainstorming!

Duration: a week

How to get there? Obviously, I would take a plane to Puerto Rico. I would likely want a flight in the morning on the way there and an afternoon one on the way back to New York. I would want a comfortable seat and a plane where they serve food. Sadly, many flights have removed food service, but some brought them back in recent years.

Where would I stay? in a hotel! Hands down. I would never consider a hostel or even a motel in Puerto Rico. One, I am a little bit spoiled with places to stay. Two, cleanliness and quality may make the place safer. 

That being said, I would not mind an apartment-like suite or even an Airbnb. As long as they have enough amenities, are comfortable, and clean, I would be happy.

What would I do? Go to the beach, kayak, hike, zip-line, snorkel, swim, ride horses, watch wildlife, maybe raft (if it’s an option there), and visit a cave (if they exist there). 

I know that when you are older, trips shouldn’t necessarily be all about fun. I understand that. However, I wouldn’t go on any educational tours in Puerto Rico. I would save that for places in Europe or Asia. Plus, I strongly prefer active vacations more.

Where would I eat? If I stayed at an all-inclusive resort, probably the restaurants within the place. Otherwise, I would go to different places, depending on what I craved. I might not necessarily pick somewhere fancy, though, unless I was with others.

How would I get around? Walking or car service. I wouldn’t feel comfortable renting a car. I would also stay somewhere where I could walk around easily and safely. I like to go out a lot.

What would I pack? Summer clothes, of course. Puerto Rico usually does not get hotter than 80’s, though, due to their winds. Maybe I would also pack cardigans and long pants, like if it gets cold at night or if I go to a fancy restaurant for dinner.

So, that is my ideal plan for if I went to Puerto Rico.

fiction

Interview with Author, Tara Gilboy

As someone who enjoyed her book, “Unwritten,” I am interviewing the author, Tara Gilboy. See the questions and answers below and enjoy!

What do you find the most enjoyable about writing?

I think for me, brainstorming and coming up with new story ideas is always the best part of writing. I love looking at the world as a potential source of story ideas, and I love doing research on them. Of course, after that, the hard work sets in, as I then have to develop the plot and characters in those ideas. But I am always happiest when I am imagining new worlds and possibilities.

What genres do you like to read in now?

I am a very wide reader: I read in pretty much every genre! Right now, since it’s fall and getting to be Halloween time, I have been reading a lot of scary stories, but I also am a huge fan of historical fiction, fantasy, mystery, nonfiction, you name it. I do tend to read a lot of middle grade and young adult books more so than adult novels, partly because that is what I like to write, and partly because I love the way they focus on good, old-fashioned storytelling.

Who is your favorite character in your book?

It is so hard to pick just one! Gracie, my protagonist, is of course my special favorite, but I loved writing Cassandra because she is just so complicated and evil! And Gertrude Winters and I have a lot in common, so I have a special place for her too. And then Walter, of course…. I love them all!

Who is your favorite fictional character in general?

I think if I had to pick just one, I would say Hermione Granger from Harry Potter. When I was a kid, I was always happiest reading, so I think I am drawn to her because she reminds me of myself when I was younger.

Where do you get your ideas?

I wish I knew the answer to this! Ideas come to me all the time. Sometimes I’ll get an idea from something I read or from people I know. If I am searching for ideas, I will often visit a place like a museum or art gallery, because I always leave feeling inspired. The trouble for me is not finding ideas; it is selecting the right idea, the one I am excited enough about that I am willing to commit to it long-term. I often start stories and then put them aside halfway through because I lose interest in them. But I would say that my number one source for ideas is reading. Reading other books by writers I love always inspires me and makes me want to write. 

What other genres would you ever want to write in?

I have always wanted to write historical fiction, and in fact, I have probably started and stopped nearly a dozen historical fiction projects in the last few years alone. I love to read historical fiction and so have always wanted to write it, but somehow I always find myself either stalling or getting bogged down in the research. I feel confident, though, that I will finish one of these historical projects eventually! I also have an idea for a true crime story that I would like to work on, so I have been doing research on writing true crime narratives lately as well.

What was your favorite book as a child?

It is tough to pick just one! I was obsessed with both Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess

What types of scenes do you enjoy writing most?

My favorite kinds of scenes are ones that make me laugh. Sometimes the scene itself isn’t even funny, but I find myself laughing because I am so taken aback by what a character just said or did. I like writing scenes where the characters surprise me and go in a direction I hadn’t expected when I first sat down to write. Those are usually scenes with a lot of emotional intensity.

What did you struggle most with when writing your book?

I think in my first book, Unwritten, I struggled most with making the “rules” of my magical world clear. The concept I had undertaken, writing of a girl who is a character in a story, ended up being a lot more complex (and potentially confusing to readers) than I had anticipated when I started. I was really lucky to have a great workshop group and critique partners who helped me along the way. I also always really struggle with plot and structure. I find that plotting gets easier, though, once I have my character’s main goal or drive figured out. Until I know what my main character wants, I don’t really have a story.

What character can you relate to most?

I think I relate to Gertrude Winters the most, perhaps because we both share a love of writing. And in Rewritten, Gertrude is struggling with a nasty case of writer’s block, something I can definitely relate to!

Are there unique details you pick up on in fiction, either visual or written?

It depends on what and why I am reading. Reading is my absolute favorite thing in the world, and so I try to just let myself sink into the story. I don’t want to always be looking “behind the scenes” at the way a story is constructed. That said, after I’ve read a book I love once or twice, I will often go back to it and look at what specifically makes it work so well. And when I am struggling with something in my own writing, I often look at books or scenes that are similar to mine to see what strategies the author used to handle various issues that came up. For example, when I needed to write a scene about a fire, I read a lot of different books with fire scenes (for example, the fire scene in Jane Eyre, where Jane puts out a fire in Mr. Rochester’s bedroom) to see how other authors had handled it.

Do you ever notice elements in fiction that others don’t?

I think so, but then again, many of my students and friends notice things in fiction that I don’t too. I tend to look a lot at plot and structure when I am reading, and I have some wonderful friends who are always reminding me of the beauty of language and lyrical prose. I think we all look at slightly different things as readers and writers, and so we always learn from each other.

What is your writing pet peeve?

My biggest writing pet peeve is writers who show off at the expense of the story. It is something I used to struggle with when I first started writing, and I had to train myself not to do it. The plot and characters come first and foremost: writers can’t be afraid to cut paragraphs and scenes, even if they love the language, if they don’t contribute to the overall story. Also for some odd reason I dislike the word “myriad.” I’m not sure why, but it’s always been a pet peeve of mine.

Thank you so much for having me!

Writing

Behold…Some Useful Tips for Worldbuilding in Writing

Image from Pixabay

Do you currently write or want to write speculative fiction stories? Yes to either? Then let’s get rolling.

But before that, if you don’t know what speculative fiction is, it’s science-fiction, fantasy, and horror. For you, horror fans out there, unfortunately, I am not fond of it. Therefore, I don’t know much about creating horror fiction. However, these worldbuilding tips I am about to provide can apply to all speculative fiction genres. So, without further ado, here are some helpful tips for worldbuilding.

1: Be original as much as possible, but also incorporate believability

The second part of that tip is, perhaps, the most important. If you write any genre of fiction, everything should be believable. Of course, you can still have unrealistic elements, like magic, if you’re writing fantasy. But even then, there has to be limits on what things can and can’t do. And your characters should handle the situations the way real people would.

As for originality, it should sound like it comes from you. It’s still okay to use existing elements, like aliens, elves, and so on, depending on your story and intentions. However, a good number of people are tired of certain types of characters, archetypes, and tropes. That is when they’re considered cliches. When I developed the fantastical elements in my books, I actually made up pretty much all the enchanted creatures. The only types I used that were already existing were wizards and a skeleton. Obviously, all the characters are my own creations. But I think you should get the idea at this point.

2: Have limits on unrealistic elements

If you’re writing fantasy, for example, have limits on what wizardry can and cannot do. If you can’t fit them all or even any in a section of your work, then say, at the very least, that there are limits. Otherwise, readers will make their own assumptions about the magic laws in your story, including that there are few to no limits. This actually happened to me with a couple of editors. One thought the only limits in my book’s world were the ones I mentioned. Another thought that there were none at all and obsessed over it during several pages of when I introduced magic laws into my first book, just because the possibilities happened to be relevant. But that is not true at all. I even told that editor that there were lots of limits. They just were not relevant at that point. Then they said that I didn’t need to mention the limits up front, and they thanked me.

It is pretty annoying for readers to make their own assumptions over things not specified, especially since they don’t own the stories. In fact, I think it’s kind of dishonest. I don’t think they should do that at all. Sadly, people do things they shouldn’t do, and very often. But no one’s perfect. So, when you develop your speculative fiction world, remember to state that there are limits.

3: Be creative

As a writer, you should have a creative mindset. Yes, there will be times when you experience writer’s block. But when you don’t, you can use as much as your imagination as possible as long as you consider the above tips. Also, think about your own passions and if you can incorporate them into your work.

For example, I love fantasy, but I also love modern technology and life. So, I combined both elements in my books, where wizards use enchanted technology. Of course, I make it believable and give it limits.

So, there you have it. If you’re a novice or beginner in these genres or writing, give yourself some time. These tips will take years for you to execute well. But you will get there as long as you practice as frequently as possible.

If you’ve been writing great content for years, then you might already know these. But it wouldn’t hurt to expand your horizon.

Writing

Developing Protagonists and How I Did it

Every writer develops his or her protagonist his or her own way. Some are inspired by real people, which is how I think Lewis Carroll developed the character, Alice, for “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. According to a magazine, His heroine shared the same name with a real girl, also called Alice.

While many of us know that J.K. Rowling came up with the basic idea of “Harry Potter” on a delayed train, she used some of her own life experiences to build Harry.

As for my protagonist, Alyssa McCarthy, the development of her goes back further than anyone could imagine. In fact, the inspiration for the character dates back to when I was in 2nd grade, and it came from a source that nobody would have expected: An early reader book.

That was “Morris Goes to School”. After reading it, I got inspired to do my own version of that story, but with an upright polar bear named Spike. I evolved Spike into a child polar bear who went to school with human children. One of those extras was a girl with long blonde hair, who got her own spinoff in my mind, where she lived in a house in a jungle and had animal friends. The girl could talk to those creatures, too. I envisioned that creation from maybe third grade and all through fourth grade, but abandoned the idea in fifth grade. Like my MC today, her name was also Alyssa.

For the next several years, I lost interest in creative writing since everything I thought of sounded no good after. However, that changed in early eleventh grade.

While in the shower, the same idea of what I daydreamed about in fourth grade of a girl called Alyssa with long blonde hair who had a supernatural ability hit my mind. After that, I brainstormed ideas and wrote a story similar to my childhood imagination. Sadly, no one else liked it.

Fast forward to my freshman year of college and I scrapped the original idea and turned it into something more appealing. It took a while to create another tale of a girl named Alyssa with long blonde tresses, but with better ideas from me.

While she does have a few similarities to me, such as her sense of style and some food tastes, Alyssa, my current protagonist, is also quite different from me. I developed her personality with a combination of some of the Disney princesses. I also got a ton of inspiration from the “Harry Potter” series for Alyssa’s life and the events that happened to her as well as what goes on in the stories. In fact, readers have constantly compared my “Magical Missions” series to the “Harry Potter” franchise since they share a lot of similarities, but not enough to be exact.

That is the true history of how I developed my main character.

art, cooking

It’s Fun to Draw Cakes

Although it’s unlikely typical for people to want to draw designs for their cakes, no matter the reasons, I enjoyed it in my youth and still do now.

As a creative and artistic person, I’ve constantly come up with various ideas and specific envisions for just about anything.  With cakes, I’ve drawn how I wanted them to look. Sometimes I’ve had my own drawings scanned onto them. During that time, I also discovered that copyrighted images could not be scanned onto cakes. So, I had to stick with my own ideas.

I would also illustrate a few different ideas of one cake. I did that for my sweet 16 cake, and used every possible point-of-view (except the bottom, obviously). The bakery used one of the designs and that pleased me.

Recent years, though, I’ve designed cake appearances for me to bake from scratch. One of my college friends is allergic to peanuts, and unfortunately, there aren’t many commercial options near me that are 100 percent safe for those with nut allergies. It sounds strange, especially since I live close to New York City. But even there, I had trouble finding a place I could trust to be fully nut-free. There are some, but they’re also dairy-free, gluten-free, and so on.

Even though I’ve been cooking since I was 12, some of the cake designs I’ve envisioned were a little too advanced for me, like the ones below.

The gradient technique is called an ombre. It looks beautiful, but I’m not sure if I know how to do it properly (in spite of researching it). And some of the flowers are probably best for elite and highly talented bakers. Here’s another cake image I drew that I felt was too hard to actually do in real life.

It most likely would be easier than the one with the ombre and detailed flowers. However, this would have involved a lot of work.

So, at times, less can be more with designing and decorating cakes, especially if it’s a casual party at your house with a group of friends. I learned that cake appearances can still look dazzling, even with few decorations. That is what I did for my 26th birthday November 2019.

Okay, maybe me looking away from the camera might be kind of distracting. But if you look carefully at the cake I’m cutting, you see only two colors, one type of decorative design, and the writing on a white chocolate bar in the center. That was good enough for me, especially with all the cooking and other preparations I had to do.

So, there you have it.

Writing

Want to Revive Your Childhood Imagination? If so, Be Careful

Image from Pixabay

Many young children love to play make believe and use their imaginations. Some like to be more creative. A handful might like to make up concepts in their minds. I was definitely like that.

As a little kid, I would imagine fan fiction of my favorite movies and TV shows and dream of seeing them—unaware of copyright law then. I also imagined my own ideas of TV shows.

When I was around 7 years old, I read a book called “Morris Goes to School”, which was about an upright moose who went to school with children. It was cute for a small child.

That had inspired me to write my own version, but about an upright polar bear named Spike.

Later I evolved Spike into a child polar bear who also went to school with children. Not long after, I did a spinoff of one character and imagined a series about her living in a house in a jungle with talking animals as her friends.

At about 10, I abandoned the idea of that imaginary series. However, fast forward 6 years and the idea came back into my mind. I was so excited that I wrote it into a novel. Sadly, no one, except those I knew personally, found it appealing. So, once I was 18, I removed it from the market.

No matter how much you love and value something, it isn’t always going to please people, especially if you do little to no research on that idea. Few adults and older kids are interested in reviving their childhood imaginations. Fewer want to hear or know about it.

As you get older, you realize certain ideas make little to no sense or aren’t as good as you thought when you were younger. Hey, that’s growing up.

So, while other writers tell you to write down any idea you have for a story (which I totally agree with), unless you’re writing it just for yourself or maybe friends and family, be careful with trying to market that idea. You may have to do a lot of research. You’ll also have to study the writing craft if you haven’t started already. And the progress can take several years. I’m not exaggerating—it took me 7 years to develop my writing voice and be able to write great books. Not just good. Believe me, it’s not nearly as satisfying as it sounds. After a while, I took the less-than-great books off the market.

fiction

If Chicks Hatched in a Refrigerator: A Flash Fiction Piece

Image from Pixabay

Grocery stores usually sell un-fertilized eggs, although some do sell fertilized ones. We all know where eggs come from. So, when I was little, I used to imagine what would happen if we bought fertilized eggs.

            While this would never happen, and probably wouldn’t be funny one bit, I had once considered it humorous if chicks hatched in my family’s refrigerator. My mom would probably scream and jump. The chicks would also make messes all over the house. And who would take care of them?

            My parents never wanted pets, though they let me have a fish until it died, about a month after buying it. But there is no way they’d want to raise chickens. We also don’t know any farmers nearby.

            Nevertheless, chicks hatching inside the fridge is something that’ll never happen. Even if the eggs are fertilized, I am pretty sure there is something that keeps the embryos from developing.

            Therefore, that idea is complete fantasy. While I never had a pet, except for the fish, I must admit it’s still peaceful in my house. No mess to clean up, no animals needed to be fed—I get more free time.

            Soon, I’ll be graduating from high school. Then I’ll be off to college hours away from home. I only have a couple months left with my family. At the end of August, they’ll be saying, “Goodbye, Esme, and good luck with your studies.”

fiction

The Spelling Assignment: A Flash Fiction Piece

I stood in the classroom and observed the second graders as they presented different stories. It was my first time student-teaching. I was a college sophomore, which is the youngest you can observe classrooms in schools.

A familiar little girl stood up and presented her story. I looked at her as her bangs covered her eyes and her thick bobbed hair covered her cheeks. She reminded me of someone I’d babysat from four years ago. It couldn’t be Emma Da Silva, who used to play with a stuffed polar bear she’d called Spike.

The child faced the class and read the story. “For our spelling homework, I wrote about a polar bear named Spike.”

I gazed at her.

“Once upon a time, there was a polar bear named Spike. Spike wanted to play with the otters and the elephant seal on the glacier. There was a rainbow in the sky, which made Spike happy. But the other animals said no when he asked if he could play. Spike was sad and cried. His mommy came and gave him company. She walked with him back to the other animals and made them say sorry. Spike ran toward them and they accepted him. They lived happily ever after. The end.”

The class applauded. Mrs. Jackson, the teacher, stood up. “Wait to go, Emma. But you missed some of the spelling words.”

“No, I didn’t,” Emma said.

“You missed the words, bitterness, community, social, alligator, and cooperate,” said Mrs. Jackson.

“Aw,” said Emma.

“Sit back down,” said Mrs. Jackson. “We’re going to move on to something else.”

I approached Emma as she returned to her desk.

“What is it, Miss. Whitney?” Emma asked me.

I hesitated. “That was an interesting story you wrote.”

“But I’m going to get a zero,” said Emma.

“Well, I remember a little girl who also had a stuffed polar bear named Spike,” I said.

Emma tilted her head. “Are you talking about me?”

I flushed.

“You used to babysit me?” asked Emma.

“Is your last name Da Silva?” I asked.

Emma nodded.

“I… I did babysit you.”

Emma brightened her eyes.

“Jaylin, get back here,” said Mrs. Jackson.

I returned to the chalkboard but continued to gaze at Emma. That story made me smile.