The Nautical Town of Witty Remarks

In the beginning of July, my family and I ventured hundreds of miles away last minute to visit a small town tucked away in the mountain side. It's been a goal of our family's to travel throughout parts of the state we haven't been to since my brother and I were kids. The last recalled memory from my childhood was stopping by the city to go and use the restroom as my parents chatted with several employees of a large ship setting sail, as well as sitting on top of a giant ice worm couch and staring out into the roaring sea.

The weather falling along the day oscillated-- the forecast initially indicated a sunny, beach mode, but as we traveled the road, clouds rumbled in, blocking out all instances of sunlight streaming through. My headphones blared with writing podcasts and Jimmy Eat World. The chip bag lounging in the middle seat crackled as my brother snacked fervently, leaving only the broken pieces down for the rest of my family. We passed by many rest stops out looking to the large body of water on the right side. Snow cascaded the mountaintops, while water trickled down the rocks. I can almost imagine people taking out their sticker-covered Nalgene bottles and Hydroflasks to collect the liquid and drink.

 A ton of paragliders in the waters!

 Wait a minute, snow is treading the mountainside?

"Here comes the..." 
Tunnel! Not sun, sorry-- it was raining. 

There is only one way to get into the small town: the long one-way tunnel running down for a couple of miles, switching off entering and exiting in fifteen-minute intervals. We paid a small fee to enter inside, while also receiving a complementary map etching out the landscape of the city. Our car drove out to wait in the first lane (out of seven total). While waiting, we took a ton of photos, including of the numerous flies and ants swarming the yellow light pillar base. It was so hot in the tunnel, and despite only being there for around five minutes, I came out in a complete sweat.

 Trying to take this shot was super hard!

 Shoe contrast.

 Waiting to go through the tunnel... as it only heads one way for fifteen minutes at a time!

Full on foliage!

The fog gave a relaxed but kind of eery feel! 

 This little book trade shelf was the first thing we saw, and it's so cute!

 When its nice in town, one of the popular things to do is kayaking!

Little shops and fishing businesses line the edge!

 Found the harbor!

 The air reeked of fish!

 Watching for oncoming boats...

A little nautical community.

"Wow, this looks like a Pokemon town," said my brother, and to some degree, it carried a huge semblance to one, as we kept making witty comparison marks. The moment we emerged from the other side, we were greeted by a torrential downpour and a light breeze. The fog settled closer towards the ground, and numerous tourists picketed the streets, going out to eat doughnuts or trying out some fudge, cramming to get to difficult angles to take photos of large boats. 

We walked the boardwalk and glanced down to boaters, and I kid you not, these kids who couldn't have been older than twelve walked along the side of the boat while it was moving fast and knotted the ropes. Several fisherman returned and cut their catch along the docks, discarding the heads and keeping the bodies. Inside the car, we ate some burgers and Filipino pastries.

 Numerous visitors also trekked the small quaint town.

 A view of the harbor while taking photos on the edge (probably not the safest idea).

 A little cabin for a small fishing business.

I believe this is seaweed that's growing on this road divider!

 The river flows down to the ocean, eventually... but not at this point of the bank!

 Mountain ridges.

Visiting the visitor's center.

Before driving back home, our family embarked to the visitor center, decorated with a bench in the front seated no other than Smokey the Bear. We peeked through telescopes and looked at the scaled model of mountain ranges in the area. On the outside, a small bay with mountains cloaked in the thickest patches of snow, thicker than the ones trailing on the side of the road to the town. The clouds dispersed, and some areas hidden by the mist uncovered on the ride home.

 Gazing through the window to look at mountains!

 Note: the wind was blowing around forty miles an hour in this photo.

 When a person ventures to another aspect of town and go further out, sticks line the ground.

Almost time to go.

The sky cleared up on the way home.

 These trees don't sprout any leaves or pines during any part of the year.

Driving back home!

I'm not entirely sure what this rock is made out of...

What was your favorite photo? Do you know of any tucked away towns where you live? Are there any weird natural formations in your area?

P.S. (Two) Big surprise on August 1st or 2nd? Maybe?

Karaoke Night: WIP Edition! (Ft. Awesome World Songs)

Karaoke is fun to do when you're with friends, but pinning your characters together for karaoke night is even better! That's right, Sunset from The Sunset Sky tagged me for the Character Karaoke tag! I'm taking a break from an unnamed steampunk novel I've been outlining to edit last year's novel, Hidden in the Shadows, so I can potentially draft the third draft of the sequel with more solid groundwork. Whoo! The rules are pretty simple: thank the person who nominated you, answer the questions, and pass the tag on.

Without any more announcements, let's go!
// We Only Have Forever (Quiet) by Lights and Motion. Okay, story time!* I encourage you to listen to this when you begin the second full paragraph of this question.

The quartet meet up because two of them are getting married and the other duo tagged along for moral support. Jack and Daniella are pretty ambivalent for their first dance song choice as their relationship to music is neutral at best. This doesn't go well with Christina, being the most imaginative of the four, and insists on finding a song for the two "perfectly capturing their relationship because it's just wrong to have a generic song," as long as it's okay between the two of them. Sam teases her for riling over their only aspect, which she rebuffs and reveals his secret enjoyment over wedding planning, although he denies this and claims, "I'm here for the two... and cake tasting."

Fast forward to wedding day. Jack intertwines his right hand with this partner's and feels her breath hitch as he stationed his other hand on her back. A slight bit of hesitancy twiddles behind her eyes. They took dance lessons to the first dance without the music (yes, because counting steps and timing it with music is the proper way of going about things), and all their trust relied their redheaded friend. More importantly, the entire crowd watched them with open eyes, unsure of what to expect. He gave a reassuring smile and shook his right hand– it will be okay–before leading them on the floor in first steps of the dance.

Christina made a wonderful choice. Their future laid in Daniella's eyes: laughter as they chased each other around the newly bought house with a slick of fresh paint. Laying on the floor, twitterpatted at some random joke. Bickering at everything and nothing. The gentle breathing of Daniella laying beside him, completely exhausted from the day and kissing between the area where her eyebrows knotted along a spectrum of emotions. The tears– oh, the tears, when they grieve and trials they endure. Rocking slowly, holding each other close and soothing both of their sobs, the ache. Slow dancing to vinyl in the living room on a rainy day.

In her eyes, he sees what was, what is, and what could be.

The dance ends. A more upbeat song, something cheesy like "(I've Had) The Time of My Life," plays. They both watch their friends dance along the floor eclectically. Daniella laughs at some moves on the dance floor when he takes her hand and squeezes. She returns in same, and both smile.

*While I do imagine my OTP getting together, I'm not sure if that's going to be the official concrete thing that will happen in the novels. People may break up or die. Who knows?
With the protagonists, not really. Perhaps one of them does receive an instrument that cannot be returned while hiding under an identity, but other than that, music doesn't really resonate with any of the protagonists fighting the evil forces. Sam is quiet great at playing the kazoo, but singing vocally, he's almost tone-deaf. I also see the two boys too busy trying to learn how to yodel in their free time but being mediocre.

Despite the characters not into music, parts of the world is heavily built on song. There is one group of people where I've created a musical system they use to communicate without sending messengers in times of turmoil (it helps save people and energy) while for another group, singing is synonymous to emotion and cultural songs are sung, with this kind of openness and rawness in their melodies.

The song I was referring to above (cultural song) is called "Ndikhokhele," and the first five seconds when the choir swells to sing together after the solo, it is SO GOOD. There was a studio version but I like this one better, partially because their voices sound good without the need for equipment.
Song choosing is a difficult process because the songs need to fit the characters, and not the other way around. The two songs shown today will be for my female leads, depicting their character arc transitions.

// Christina – "Between Oceans" by Nick Murray. Her moods ebb. On the outside, she is always smiling, but on the inside, she faces some serious battles. Whether it be a mental road block or another one her insecurities chewing away, this song portrays a strength and sorrow, present in the unified orchestra as it crescendos. Most importantly, it displays the power healing can have.

// Daniella – "Õhtul." Maybe I did sing this in my choir class and it appears like cheating, but the minute the introduction of the song happened, my mind screamed, "This is perfect for Daniella." The lyrics (roughly translated from Estonian) sing about a bird in the night, gently paddling away. It's a simply song tied to a character with intricacies, with its power come from the change in dynamic. Perhaps letting something go and taking in another is bittersweet...

There isn't just one song that encompasses all of these emotions, so is it okay if I choose an album? If someone had asked me the same question four years ago, my answer to this would not have changed. The How to Train Your Dragon soundtrack is by far one of the best musical scores to ever be made. 
Thank goodness for John Powell for making listeners feel like they're flying, fighting against epic forces, or bonding with one of the cutest animated characters ever to have been created. It's seldom I listen to music while writing, but if I'm in a need to get motivated, this is my one go-to album because it ranges almost everything. But, the songs from Ori and the Blind Forest (especially the first one of the soundtrack) come in a close second.
+ you!

What was your favorite song out of all the ones presented? Do you like using folk or traditional songs to inspire worldbuilding? Sometimes, do you go to events just for food (or CAKE)? How do you find songs for your novels? Expect beta reading for this novel soon, perhaps?

Ooh-La-La! How to Write & Spot Good YA Romance Ft. May

Hello, everyone! I'm taking a quick break from NaNoWriMo to share another bookish and writer-ish collaborative I've been super pumped about featuring my friend May from Forever and Everly! If you're struggling with writing romance scenes for your novel, you've come to the right place. The two of us are super avid readers and we got thinking: how are romances in YA novels crafted? What are some of the typical stereotypes stumbled upon that need to be broke, and what kinds of aspects define a good, healthy relationship? After a month brainstorming, we each decided to take three points and discuss them. If you want to see the first part, head over to May's blog and check it out! I will warn there are some slight spoilers from several varying novels. 

Without further ado.
If all males came out dark and brooding with hawk-like eyes (like Batman!) and all females came out plain yet don't think they're beautiful until a guy comes up into their life, then the numerous representation we have of these types of characters in YA novels would hold perfect. Here's the problem: not everyone is like this. 

People hone different personalities. 

Almost none of my guy friends classify as the brooding type— the sullen types who are hard to crack open are rare. The guy friends in my life consist of runners winning state championships who talk about cars and weird theories, thespians who also rock at debate with an obsession over science YouTube videos, or ROTC members pondering excessively about the importance of the Elvish language in Lord of the Rings while walking their dog. More than likely, this display of different personalities may be the case for the readers out there. One of my favorite characters from a recent book I read, The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli, is Reid Weirtham, who is Tolkien-crazed with an obsession over Easter mini eggs and plays a grocery game involving early 2000s music, like, "The one with the girl playing the piano singing about if she could fall into the sky." But there is no hint of Batman likeness in him.

Sorry, Reid.

The same goes with the girls. Some of us write online but are reserved meeting other people, are pretty good with weaponry, or run with little care in the world. This is a bit off-tangent, but it irks me so much to read YA books where girls don't consider they're beautiful until a guy tells her this. I understand in romantic relationships the two individuals help bring out the best in each other and love one another despite some faults. It's okay to tell someone they're beautiful. What's NOT okay is the girl hanging on the perception to be beautiful, they need to have a boyfriend and base their perception solely on that purpose. It sometimes sends out a negative message. Self-love is an important and powerful thing to hone, and I admire honestly admire female characters who can understand this.

"Well, of course you don't need [a boyfriend]," Nadine says. "But it's okay to want one." 
The Upside of Unrequited
There are many ways romance can spark between two characters with different personalities-- like all relationships, a common ground needs establishment and from there, a basis of a relationship grows. That's all there is for it to start. It gets tedious to read about the same types of characters falling in love. For now, push those default cookie-cutters aside. Break the stereotypes of these pairings. Take out two new ones, and watch them grow.

Fourth grade year. My mind focused on the sketch I drew with glitter pens and tuned out the constant whining of staying inside for recess due to the cold weather. A Twilight bottle slammed in front of me, followed by a cold stare. The moment came to answer the question forced upon everyone: Team Edward or Team Jacob? "Team Jacob," I squeaked in reply. Even at the height of the saga's popularity, everyone at the age of nine saw the first two movies. Everyone knew Jacob was better. Who liked sparkly vampires, anyway?
Ah, love triangles, another common trope springing with buoyancy on the page of many YA novels. 

No, not THAT kind of love triangle. Although I do love the pun.

They're overdone. The source of problems readers have with the trope their predictability, appearing from one novel to the next. I applaud the Young Adult community lately because they've slowly weaned away and branched out from the formulaic. The same character archetypes accompany the triangle (again, stressing the importance of stepping away from stereotypes) ninety percent of the time. It's dull.

That doesn't mean love triangles should become archaic. One of the things I applaud about well-crafted triangles is they push the main plot along (even if they're a subplot) without taking full siege and depict how love isn't always straightforward. People have crushes. They break up, make up, have fights, and get through the mess of it all.

Unless they're well-written and advance the plot, it's best to keep away.

Don't get me wrong, The Infernal Devices isn't a bad series and it's one of my favorites out of Cassandra Clare's books, but there's a story accompanying this that made it awkward...
The fall of 2013. I had just been inducted to the ranks of teenage old and there I laid, stomach first in bed, reading The Infernal Devices. Why reading about shadow hunters and other paranormal creatures set in the twentieth century at ten in the evening was a good idea sat beyond me. Here a scene came, with Jem and Tessa lip locked and kneeling on the floor. My fingers flipped fast to the next page to get away from the awkwardness, and move forward a week later, with Allegiant newly released. Christina, in the novel, makes a remark towards Tris and Four about "addition" or "multiplication." The innuendo flew over my head until I reread the book. I hadn't taken eighth grade health yet, but I tied all the pieces together. It made sense.
Intimacy sprouts across romance plots in books-- intertwined fingers, sweet kisses, and engaging in other things. Yes, teenagers engage in these things; to argue otherwise is to stand blind against what happens out in the real world. Kissing may be the epitome of YA novels, but sometimes, there are more powerful ways of conveying romance besides the conventional physical actions (and no, I am NOT talking about the nasty). Adding in the slobbery but pertinent details of how a person latches onto one another and glorifying the situation? There is a fine line between sweetness and grotesque within novel details that needs addressing.

Physical actions don't have to majorly dictate a couple's love for one another. There are more powerful ways of expressing love. Maybe there's a character who puts down their barriers when a other character needs support, or maybe one person is panicking over an event and another character has a comedic way to help de-stress.

An example coming to mind is The Princess Bride. In the beginning, Wesley (known as Farm Boy) replies to Buttercup's demands by replying, "As you wish." The repeated phrase is revealed as his way of saying, "I love you," introducing their relationship.

A bit off topic: FINALLY watching this movie tomorrow while doing chores! I'm so excited.

Another example is "Something Old, Something New," in the Lunar Chronicles anthology, Stars Above. Two characters sneak out of a wedding and look up to the stars. Kai remarks he frequently looks at them and wishes Cinder, his significant other, to be there at his side all those times. Even though she replies to him flippantly, she says she does the exact same thing. Isn't that fangirl worthy?

Point being: if writing a romance plot, small moments, such as the aforementioned, should outweigh (in frequency) the intimacy, even when the couple gets together. Go for a slow burn. If this balance is portrayed well, then even brief kissing scenes feel well deserved, more satisfying, and powerful then hammering intimacy in every chapter.

Thank you so much, May, for doing this collaborative with me! I had tons of fun and I'd love to do it again with that one other idea we had in mind. Again, if you want to read her post, read her post here!

What are some important aspects of YA romance you think are important but we didn't mention? What romance tropes urk you? Do you agree with these points (or disagree slightly) with some of these points? Name some noteworthy YA ships that you think are a great portrayal of well-written couples!