cooking

The Most Delicious Homemade Brownies Ever…it’s a Miracle!

Homemade cooking involves less preservatives and more control from you. And with the coronavirus forcing people to be in their homes pretty much all the time, I have to do most of my own cooking. I do love going out, and I will admit that prior to the covid-19 crisis, I barely cooked and spent more time eating out, and a lot.

However, now that dining out is no longer an option (only takeout and delivery are available in New York), and I’ve been cooking at home, I’ve noticed that I feel more energetic and am losing weight again.

Okay, this is not a health post. But all of that is true. Anyway, let me talk about the brownies I made.

They taste kind of like the ones made from boxed mixes. I’m not kidding. The only difference is that their textures at the top aren’t flaky, and most importantly, I know what went in them.

My guess of why they are fudgy and not cakelike is that the flour ratio is sort of smaller than the rest of the ingredients. Not once have I seen that in any other homemade brownie recipe. So, bravo to the creator of this one.

I can’t find the recipe again through my Google search. But I do find that the other recipes have similar formulas, by using less flour. So, if you try one of those recipes, you may be satisfied.

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

When Should You Describe Voices in Your Writing?

Image from Pixabay

Every character should have a unique voice. And by that, I don’t just mean speech patterns, words, attitudes, and so on, I also mean physical voices. For instance, are they high, low, nasal, etc.?

I used to describe what my characters’ voices sounded like in my earlier writing days. And in my book, “The Frights of Fiji,” I do say what a few characters’ voices sound like. Two of them are described with deep voices and one is said to have a high voice. However, those were mainly done for comedic purposes. I originally published “The Frights of Fiji” in 2013 as “From Frights to Flaws.” I now refrain from explaining how my characters’ voices sound, unless it’s important to the stories.

Even my main character’s voice noise isn’t revealed. In the sequel, there is a scene where she sings a certain song. Although I state that she takes chorus at school, I don’t specify if she is an alto or soprano. That is because I want readers to use their envisions to what her voice sounds like.

Many people dislike when characters’ physical appearances are described unless they’re important, otherwise, the readers should get to picture them their ways. I happen to be the opposite with that. I am an advocate for authors to describe their characters with whatever traits they want, as long as it’s not too many (since that can bog down the narrative and be too much to remember), or offensive. I not only believe that writers deserve the right to physically describe their characters, but I also cannot picture characters clearly unless the narrators say what they look like.

That being said, it’s the reverse for voices. Since I first wrote Book 1 of my “Magical Missions” series, I learned more about the writing craft, and chose to give up with explaining how characters’ voices sound, except when it’s crucial. I would recommend that to all aspiring writers. A few voice sounds revealed here and there probably won’t matter. Just be sure not to overdo it, or else, it might overwhelm your readers.

Writing

Coming Up with a Terrific Title

Image from Pixabay

Ah, titles, you’ve got to love them—or dislike them. Titles matter a lot for a book to sell, whether it’s commercially or self-published.

In traditional publishing, the publisher comes up with the titles for books. But in self-publishing, the author is responsible for his or her book title. And that can be a big challenge.

If you don’t know, authors who take the commercial route have to give up control (if they even get accepted, which is super-difficult) for their manuscript. The publishing house decides everything. But if a writer chooses to self-publish, he or she gets to retain full control.

That being said, he or she needs to do homework and research on what would work for getting his or her book to sell. While self-publishing is receiving a better reputation that before, unfortunately, it still has a kind-of weak one. Too many indie authors don’t take careful consideration for their products and will decide on ideas that just appeal to them.

That was an issue with me when I first published the beginning installment of my “Magical Missions” series in 2013. I wanted to use alliteration, so I titled the story, “From Frights to Flaws.” Little did I know that it was a weak title and people said that it hadn’t made sense. When I revised and re-published the new version in 2018, I kept the original title, but added 2nd edition to it. Sales improved, but not to my satisfaction. Once again, I was told that my title made no sense.

So, I did a poll somewhere and came up with an alternate title, “The Frights of Fiji”. The new title pleased people more and got the most votes. I then changed the title, as well as made a few minor updates to the cover, blurb, opening chapter, and even got to have the story be perma-free.

Titles can be difficult to brainstorm. So, now I come up with a few ideas and have people vote for which they think is the strongest. This can be a good idea for when you need to title your book(s).

cooking

It Starts Bitter…Then it’s Sweet…Healthy Pudding

It was not until recently that I cleaned up my diet and lost my sweet tooth, which I’ve had forever. And it wasn’t a conscious decision.

Anyway, before that time, a few months ago or so, I experimented with healthier desserts. One was chocolate pudding that had almond milk instead of regular milk. I don’t recall all the ingredients, but I do remember it being a healthier alternative.

Regardless of that, when I first tasted the pudding, it was kind of bitter. I had to keep eating it in order for it to get sweet. Sounds like a treat Willy Wonka could make, huh? Well, the bitter to sweet taste actually happened. I’m not exaggerating.

After some time, though, I think I might have had to throw the pudding away. I may have possibly consumed a little more after, but I don’t remember.

I am pretty sure, however, that the reviews for the pudding recipe were good. My mom taught me to check the overall ratings and reviews before trying the recipes. It makes total sense. Too many times I’ve had to toss my cooked creations without checking the reactions.

I will make pudding and eat sweets on rare occasion. But I will probably not use that specific recipe again.

Writing

It’s All About Revisions

Everyone who writes needs to revise sooner or later. Well, actually—it would be better if he or she waited until the draft was at the end. I even tried finding out ways to rewrite the last draft of my novel as soon as I completed it. I kept getting stuck.

I read pretty much every relevant article and even asked for help on a certain forum online. Everybody who responded to the thread said that I should give myself more time.

And they were right. While I successfully made a list of ideas for my next draft, I couldn’t actually start writing the next draft until recently. So, no writer had exaggerated about that. You do need to give yourself some time away from your WIP. Many writing experts suggest at least a month or two—often times, even more. But I didn’t really have several months.

I was going to submit the WIP to a certain editor, but I had to have that delayed due to just starting a new draft.

All right, maybe that’s enough backstory. I probably revise like most writers, although I often rewrite my stories long before I finish them. I try not to now, but I did before, because I was constantly getting bored with my writing. I started my current project four years ago, but for the first two years, I couldn’t finish a single draft. I would get bored by the tenth or eleventh chapter and give up. It was not until January 2018, that I discovered my actual writing process. That was when I could write an entire draft without quitting before it ended.

Now here’s a fun fact: I sometimes revise individual paragraphs. How? I wait a little, copy and paste that certain paragraph to another word doc, rewrite it there, and then copy and paste it to the main document.

Revision processes differ from person to person. So, you might revise in a way that wouldn’t necessarily work for me.

Writing

Why You Shouldn’t Rush Your Writing

I know—you’re eager to finish your story or whatever else you’re working on ASAP. I get it. Many writers probably dream of having a good story within as little time as possible. It’s been four years since I started working on my current project, and I’m still not done. I wanted to get the story over with as quickly as I could.

However, I ended up rushing the draft of this novel. And I realized how flawed it was. While I could easily distinguish my characters, an editor said that they pretty much sounded all the same, except for the protagonist. I had aimed for at least 40,000 words, but ended up with around 32,000.

I’ve always been inspired easily. When I researched how to write a book faster, I tried the techniques, but they resulted in little to no success. I’ve even envied authors who could write several thousands of words a day as well as those who could work on different writing projects at once, which I am teaching myself to do as I don’t want my book series to take forever. I just turned 26 and my goal is to have all 7 installments published by my 30th birthday (the first two are already out).

Regardless, I realized that it was a mistake to rush my story draft within a few weeks. I am now going to go slower and take my time.

Another reason you shouldn’t hurry your writing is that you get errors and may not notice them until it’s too late, no matter how many times you read your writing. I have spotted typos in things I wrote, whether they were stories or blog posts, a year after I published them. No kidding.

I want to type more slowly. But sadly, the Internet has little to offer about that. So, I’m pretty much on my own with that.

Unless you have a tight deadline that isn’t flexible, it’s best to take your time with your writing, regardless of the length or topic.

Writing

Why I Can’t Write Without Planning

Image from Pixabay

Ten years ago, I returned to writing fiction after a while of not being interested. However, unlike now, I hadn’t studied the writing craft. I had only studied marketing and how to get published.

Anyway, I wrote my first original novel without planning ahead and before creating it. I also dreamed of having it published, even though many people said it was not good enough. Little did I know that they were right all along. I published it, but received no positive feedback. Once I turned 18, I removed that story from the market and actually studied the writing craft. That was when I could no longer write without having a plan.

It is not just with writing where I need to plan far ahead. I need to plan ahead with pretty much anything, including parties, trips, and much more. Sometimes, especially when I was younger, I would over-plan a lot. Many times, last minute changes would occur and I didn’t want to give up my plans.  I was often described as being inflexible.

However, those times have passed. Yet, the part where I have to plan ideas in advance still remains with me. Regardless of that, I have learned to be more flexible than when I was a child. That even goes for my writing.

While I praise my writing and ideas, I am more willing to listen to feedback than in the past. Sometimes, when an editor suggests I remove something, I find a way to make that unnecessary element more important. One example was a certain character, who was a dog that just barked when the doorbell rang. Instead of removing the dog, I managed to find a way to make him crucial to the story.

Anyhow, I have also tried writing without a plan in recent years, but I’ve failed. So, I am meant to plan before I write.

Writing

Focusing on Foreshadowing

If you’re a writer, or even a student, you should know what foreshadowing is. It is when clues are given in a story, visual or written, that something might happen later. While twists and surprises are important, too, foreshadowing is essential. After all, everything that happens in a story must be crucial to the plot—eventually.

That being said, I have witnessed some stories using too much foreshadowing, such as the Disney-animated movie, “Aladdin”. Don’t worry. “Aladdin” is a great movie and I enjoyed it very much. However, I still think it overdid it on the foreshadowing, and therefore, it was a bit too predictable for me.

That is another thing to watch out for—too much foreshadowing can displease the reader or audience. Notice how in most forms of storytelling, there is a balance of foreshadowing and unexpected plot twists? That is what people want. It makes a story more enjoyable. A little bit of both is what makes a book, movie, TV show, play, or anything else more pleasurable.

I, myself, have used some foreshadowing in my own books. For example, in one of them, the antagonist hears my main character’s dog bark, and then leaves. I won’t spoil anything beyond that. However, I will assure you that the specific moment foreshadows something that is bound to occur later and remains important.

In another novel of mine, there are characters that are introduced through the phone, but don’t appear in person until later. Once again, I won’t spoil anything. In fact, spoiling is another risk you run when you foreshadow too much.

Of course, it is not easy to use foreshadowing properly. But as you learn over time, it can be doable for you.

Writing

Cutting Notebook Paper for Writing…Not!

I am finding that when I handwrite my prose words first, they come out better on the computer. But recently, I have been handwriting what I’d write on my laptop and then dictating the words using Dragon software. Of course, I only do this at home.

One time, though, I tried ripping and cutting out paper from old, small notebooks to write my story on. While it might have worked before when I stapled the pieces together, the last time I tried, it did not work for me. I don’t know why.

So, now I am not going to do it again. What also has not usually worked for me was using full 8.5 X 11-inch paper for writing my words. But now I am writing on it using pens and then dictating the words onto my computer. Then I print out the partial chapters I have produced on Word and continue writing more of those sections by hand. The process cycles on and on. It will probably be like this till I’m done with the draft, which will hopefully be the final one. Ugh—I’ve been working on this story for almost four years. I just want to call it the end of it. Of course, there will be more books to write after this one.

Anyway, I have a lot of old notebooks, excluding those I’ve used for school or college. Sometimes, you’ve got to let those go, especially if you are attempting a process that just won’t work for you. Pushing yourself through doesn’t always succeed, either. Bottom line: do what you know you’ll keep up with, whether it’s your choice or not.