My feels from the Feels for Sale

I went to the MIBF on the first day, my only free day to go the event, for a few hours in the morning. I had to leave right away after lunch because Quezon City felt like a separate province from Pasay, and I didn't want to contend with the late afternoon traffic.

In the few hours I spent there, I was again reminded why I write, and why I have chosen to continue to write.

photo by Mina

We care about each other.

The first stall that greeted me when I entered the venue was the huge NBS setup, and right beside it was (surprise, surprise) . . . the #romanceclass booth manned by Six (A Beginner's Guide: Love and Other Chemical Reactions) and Pach (The Bye-Bye Bouquet). Six welcomed me with a hug and Pach immediately offered me her seat, and I just thought how nice it was to be part of writing community made up of nice people. These two writers have landed book deals with one of the country's biggest publishing companies, and I'm so very proud of them for doing what they do.

Later on, I saw Tara (Paper Planes Back Home), ever smiling and supportive of other authors. I watched her in action as she patiently explained the plot of another author's book (Jay's Songs of Our Breakup) to a customer, who eventually bought said book. Tara's own book was sold out on the first day, and I think that this has a lot to do, not only with her writing skills, but also her positive aura. It makes people want to read her stories because if they're as likeable as the author, then they're must-buys!

photo by Gette's friend

Gette (Classified) was also there from Dumaguete to make chika to customers and write out the receipts. Later on, she was interviewed by a news program, and I think she put it best when she said that what makes romance sell is the desire for a "happy ever after." April (binibini.net), book blogger extraordinaire and #romanceclass' all-around PR person was also there to cheer everyone on. I bumped into Chrissie (The Kitchen When It Sizzles), one of my first ever friends in #romanceclass, who was with her family.

All these people created an atmosphere of fun, passion and positivity that made people want to linger in the booth.

People actually read our books!
I do wonder sometimes if people actually read my work since my books' Amazon pages aren't exactly overflowing with ratings. But there is a silent force out there, moving stealthily among bookstore aisles, tweets, blogs, and FB posts, looking for the next kilig read. And they care that you're working on your next book. They care about the characters you've created. They care about supporting indie writers. These people matter, even if we don't know them, even if they don't make themselves known.

photo by Mina

For every book you create, there's a market out there that's just waiting to be tapped. When someone from the UP Diliman faculty approached us, wanting to buy ALL the titles (one of each) in the #romanceclass catalogue, our jaws dropped. Someone wanted our books in the UP Library! And that person was pleasantly surprised to find out that #romanceclass didn't just sell romance--we also offered fantasy, mystery, crime, and YA fare that will be read soon by college students of our country's premier university!

We're all in this together.
Personally, I write to escape. If I just went through the routines of being a mother, employee, wife, daughter, sister, and other roles that I play, life would still be pretty much okay. But there's always that elusive something we long for--that extra spice, that extra kick to keep us going day after day. And I'm blessed to discover that my poison of choice is writing.

The readers who pick up our books, I'm sure, are also doing so to make their lives richer, more exciting. We all need our own private sanctuaries to retreat into. A happy, sacred place that no one else can touch. It's almost a spiritual thing, to give yourself wholly (in moments) to something outside yourself. To immerse in something that feeds your soul and makes it easier to go through life's not-so-smooth patches.

In all corners of the MIBF, I felt that sense of magic of being with kindred spirits. We were all paying tribute to the wonders of the written word, unabashedly waxing poetic over hoarded books that speak of love, life, death and everything in between. It's a world we can't fully understand, but are all very grateful for.

So to everyone who's with us on this journey, and to Mina, who sparked the whole thing and continues to spark other things, THANK YOU. THANK YOU VERY MUCH. Thank you for teaching us to make room for joy in our lives.

photo by Mina


Giving Love a Second Chance

One the most generous writers I know, C.P. Santi, has a new romance book out!

Maybe This Time: Stories of Love and Second Chances  contains three heart-warming stories of love and second chances. 

Check out the story blurbs:

In Sweeter by the Second, when paintings conservator Rina David arrives for the Arts Festival in the heritage town of Jimenez, she’s reunited with Tony, the guy she once loved and lost. Now vice-mayor of Jimenez, Tony wants Rina back in his life and will do everything he can to convince her that they belong together.

Pamela Quiroz hatches a plot to get her parents back together in Exorcising my Ex. But will a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner succeed in reconciling Geno and Viv? After all, it’s been more than fifteen years since they first got together and they aren’t the hormone-driven teenagers they once were. Will wine and cheese balls still do the trick?

Torch, meet hand. Arne Weichmann has been waiting twenty-one years for Bea. Is it finally the right time to make his move and convince her that they are Meant to Be? He hopes so. Because he doesn't think he’ll survive losing the one person who brought warmth and sunshine to his life. 

To know more about the book and the author herself, C.P. answered a few of my questions:

What made you decide to write an anthology this time?
It all started when I wrote Sweeter by the Second, a short story for #TalesFromTheMetro. The 5k word restriction was both a challenge and a blessing. I didn't think I'd be able to do it---I'm often overly verbose---so to have finished a story within a couple of weeks gave me a real rush. The story got good reviews and that inspired me to write more. When Ines Bautista-Yao published a collection of shorts, I thought it was a great idea, and so I emulated (read: copied) her example :-) Plus, it seemed a great idea to (finally) do something about some of the plot bunnies hopping in my head.

Among the three stories, which one did you find the most challenging to write? Why?
That would be Exorcising my Ex, because it featured an unconventional (albeit very real) situation. In the story, Viv and Geno---both on the cusp of adulthood---have a baby together. I examine their choices----how they cope with the responsibility of caring for their daughter and how they go about achieving their dreams. From the onset, I didn't want to assign right/wrong or good/bad roles. The gray area in between was a bit hard to figure out, but it was fun. I explored how a young couple could drift apart, and how, as adults, they try to recover what they lost. And in the end, I think that was what made Viv and Geno(and sPammy)'s ending really satisfying for me.  :-)

How do you find the time to write?
I usually sneak in a couple of paragraphs when my kids are napping / watching Frozen or Lion King or while I'm cooking in the kitchen. I perch my laptop on my breadmaker so it's easily accessible (and unreachable by my kids). Sometimes I write or dictate conversations or ideas on my phone. At least, that was how I wrote the first two stories. The last story was written---almost entirely in longhand---in less than a week, while I was waiting for my son at summer school. That was my most productive period ever. Can't wait for school to start again. Hahaha!

If your writing style is a color, what would it be? Why?
Wooow! I love this question! I think it'd be yellow, which incidentally is also my favorite color :-) Yellow (at least to me) is bright, sunshiny, and happy. It can be loud and quirky, but it can also have mellow undertones. Basically, I love reading fluffy, funny, happy romances with a dash of weird thrown in, and so I try to write more of the same.

Any other books in the pipeline?
I just finished the first draft of Dare To Love Dangerously, a contemporary novella about a single mom who finds love again :-) Gia, the main character, is an architect involved in the conservation and restoration of cultural properties (a topic very close to my heart). It also features a hot, inked anthropology professor, a couple of cool priests, a lot of travel (Laguna, Ilocos, and Bohol), and a wacky, drunken, open-yourself-to-love crystal healing session. I hope to release it in October, just in time for the anniversary of the Bohol earthquake (which sort of features in the story). 

To give you a taste of her book, here's an excerpt from the story she found most challenging to write:

Exorcising my Ex
I glanced at my watch just to make sure—my efficient, punctual daughter was officially ten minutes late. Smirking, I thought of all the mileage I’d get from teasing her about it. Pam got riled almost as easily as her mother did.
Just as if I had conjured her from thin air, a tall brunette appeared in the doorway. Her long hair was perfectly styled, and her sleeveless shift fit lovingly over her trim curves. Large eyes, framed by the longest eyelashes I’d ever seen, slowly scanned the room. The moment they met mine, they flared in surprise before narrowing.
I rose to greet her. “Viv. This is a surprise.” I bussed her cheek, lingering a moment longer than necessary.
She drew back, but not before I heard her sharp intake of breath. Glancing around, she asked, “Where’s Pam?”
“On her way, I suppose.” I helped her into a seat. “Didn't know you’d be here today, Viv.”
“I didn't know you’d be here either.”
“Hmm. I wonder if—” I broke off as both our phones vibrated.
Sure enough, it was a lengthy message from Pam:

Pam: Hi, Mom and Dad!
Yes, I’m with Tita Joy and I’ll be sleeping over at their place with her and Kesha tonight.
Yes, this is a setup. Happy anniversary! :-) Yeah, I know you never married, but when you were together, this was your anniversary (it was in mom’s scrapbook). This was also probably the day I was conceived fourteen years ago, so Happy Conception Day to me, too *\(ˆoˆ)⁄*
Anyway, I just thought that now Mom is back in town again it would be nice if you could catch up with each other.
I already paid for dinner. This took quite a chunk out of my med school nest egg, so you guys better sit and enjoy it.
I love you both!
P.S. I really, really don’t want to be grounded forever. I love you!

I shook my head. My girl was devious. Just like her Dad.

Pre-order this book on Amazon and rate in on Goodreads.

About C.P. Santi
C. P. Santi is a Filipina author based in Tokyo, Japan. She is a wife to an engineer / indie songwriter and a full-time mom to two energetic boys. She loves cooking and baking, and enjoys feeding people, gorging on chocolate, watching J-doramas, belting it out in the karaoke box, and running around the house playing tickle tag. She also loves dreaming up stories about the people she meets.

In another life, she is also an architect and academic.

Social Media links:
Blog: http://thejapayukichronicles.blogspot.jp
Twitter: https://twitter.com/arkiCpsanti
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CPsantiauthor?ref=hl
Wattpad: https://www.wattpad.com/user/cpsanti
Instagram: https://instagram.com/arkicpsanti/



Someone (Mina) commented that it had been a great year for me, and it was only then I realized that Yes, you're right. Sometimes I get caught up in the requirements of day-to-day living, and I forget to pause and take stock of recent events--and forget to be grateful for them.

So, this year, I'd like to give a shout-out to the universe, and announce that I'm grateful for the following writerly things:

Releasing two novellas this year. I have to confess; writing This Side of Sunny felt like I was pulling teeth most of the time. But I really wanted to be done with it, and release it to the world ASAP. Never mind if it wasn't the best work that I've done--especially after so many people told me how much they liked my previous thing (Choco Chip Hips). But like Liz Gilbert said in Big Magic, SO WHAT? The world is not holding its breath for my next release. The world won't stop turning if I create something that people won't rave about. What matters is that I continue to write because I enjoy doing it.

Being traditionally published. Someone once said (I can't remember who) that the worst and best thing that can happen to a writer is being published. I get why it's great. It's always been my dream to be picked up by a publisher, to see my book in all NBS nationwide, and attend book signings. Also, I've gained readers, who are more into print books than the e-books that I usually release. But I must remind myself that though this is a constant goal (I'd love for all my books to be picked up by publishers), it is not my end goal. And for this, I am forever grateful for self-publication because people will still be able to read my work even if the trad way doesn't happen.

Gaining bookish friends. When you're writing in your own little cave, and barely go out of the house to socialize (like me), being part of a community of writers, readers and bloggers is a great way to de-stress. A simple retweet, FB msg, review or post like can go a long way in giving you that writing boost that you need. Also, since I'm foremost a reader, reading my fellow writers' work inspires me and pushes me to do better. But the best part about this is being read by people who care about the same things that I do.

So, thank you, dudes and dudettes (apologies for the 90s reference--I seem to have gotten stuck in that era) for making this year an awesome one. On to the next year (and works-in-progress)!


Just a Little Bit of Love

My first Ines Bautista-Yao read was One Crazy Summer, which I thoroughly enjoyed. So after that, I was quick to pick up her other novella, Only a Kiss, which was a finalist at the recently-concluded 2014 Filipino Conference Reader's Choice Awards for the Best Romance in English category.

And now, her followers are in for a treat because she recently published an anthology of short stories set in the world of Only a Kiss.

Just a Little Bit of Love has three short stories about three young girls: Anita, Ina, and Carla. Each one finding their lives disrupted by a boy. Maybe it’s because he wanders into the coffee shop where she works after school every Tuesday. Maybe it’s because he won’t leave her alone even if she has made it clear that she is crushing on his football teammate. Or maybe it’s because she’s spent one unforgettable afternoon with him—despite being oh-so-forgetful. Three small doses of love that serve up a whole lot of feels. 

Ines was gracious enough to answer a few questions I had about her writing style:

1. How do you make your characters authentic?
I try to get to know my characters as well as I can. I wish I could say I followed the rules and wrote down stuff like backgrounds, maybe even have them fill out a little slam book type questionnaire but I don't. What I do takes place in my head -- and I guess you could say where my emotions live inside me. Is that my heart? Hypothalamus? Haha!

I try my darnedest to feel what my characters are feeling. If someone is nervous about approaching a boy she likes for the first time, I put myself in her shoes, feel the acid in my tummy swish around, feel my palms dampen, and feel my breath come in uneven spurts. It can drive you a bit crazy. I also talk to people who have experienced things I haven't so I can get an even better handle on it.

When it comes to taking a boy's point of view, I feel like I go into a trance because I make myself think and feel like a boy. But afterwards, I ask my husband if I got the boy's thoughts and actions right. Authenticity is very important to me because that's what I look for when I read too. I just hope it comes across in my writing.

2. If your writing style is a color, what would it be and why?
This is the hardest question I've had so far! At first, I wanted to say pink but that's just because my covers have that color in common and it's girly and romantic. But the question is about my writing style, not what I like to write about :) And after studying the colors in the Crayola box, I know what color my writing style is. It's orange.

My writing style is a mix of both simple yet bold where I go straight to the point, straight to the feels - which is red. But it also will always have a positive undercurrent, which is represented by yellow. This light, fun color symbolizes the general happy and easy feel of my writing. Mix them together and you get a bright, eye-catching color that's easy to pair with anything you've got going on in your life (or your closet!).

3. Any books in the pipeline?
Yes! I'm working on the love story between Katie's cousin Regina and her fiancé Ben. They come out in the first chapter of Only A Kiss. I've been writing this story since last year but so many other things get in the way. I hope to finally finish it!

The rest of my WIPs are short stories because that seems to be all my insane mommy-duty-filled life can handle right now!

Thanks, Ines! Go grab a copy of Just a Little Bit of Love on Amazon for only$0.99!

Ines Bautista-Yao is the author of One Crazy Summer, What’s in your Heart, and Only a Kiss. She has also written two short stories, “Flashbacks and Echoes,” which is part of a compilation called All This Wanting and “A Captured Dream,” one of the four short stories in Sola Musica: Love Notes from a Festival.

She is the former editor-in-chief of Candy and K-Zone magazines and a former high school and college English and Literature teacher. She is also a wife and mom and blogs about the many challenges and joys of motherhood at theeverydayprojectblog.com. The Author Project, a section in her current blog, is devoted to the stories in her head.

Where to find Ines:
Twitter and Instagram: @inesbyao
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/inesbautistayao/
Website: http://theeverydayprojectblog.com/inesbyao-author-project/


Out in December!

For the first time since I started this novella-writing thing, I am releasing two e-books this year. The second one will be out in December because I really, really want to make this two-novellas-a-year a regular goal (fingers crossed).

I already started this book a year ago, but I had to put it on hold because I went through some stuff. And by the time I bounced back from said stuff, I started a new one instead--the YA book, Choco Chip Hips, which reflected where I was at that point in my life.

But after releasing CCH, I wanted to finish the other one as well, because I knew that if I dilly-dallied too long, I might not have the discipline to finish it AT ALL. So I did. And now it is in the hands of beta-readers, an editor, and the cover artist (Gerry Isaac), who sent me this work-in-progress.

It's the romance-heaviest book I've ever written, featuring a fictitious beach, bulalo, and a half-Filipina, half-American MC. I'm excited about it! And that's always a good thing. :-)

See you soon, This Side of Sunny!



Yesterday, I was part of a book launch of new #SparkBooks titles together with awesome authors, Chrissie Peria, Kate Evangelista, and Dawn Lanuza. The other awesome authors, Bianca Mori and Camilla Sisco, weren't able to make it, and I wish they did, because it was an awesome experience.

We were requested to read excerpts from our books after our gracious host, Mina Esguerra, introduced us. I really wasn't comfortable with my public speaking skills, so I tried to keep my excerpt short. I read that part when Val met Jake for the first time.

His name was Jacob Isaac Clementia.
She knew this because she had read the name off the paper as quickly and unobtrusively as she could before tucking those three words in the folds of her memory.
It happened three years ago but she could still remember every detail including what he wore—a red polo shirt that highlighted his fair skin, dark blue jeans that hung low on the waist, and immaculate red and mocha sneakers.
Val looked up at his thin, boyish face—a contrast to his towering height. His hair was in that growing-out stage, a week shy of a trim, with bangs creeping down the forehead and the top shooting out in small spikes. (cut)
“I’m Val,” she squeaked. The baboon was still making its happy dance on her vocal cords.
“Jake,” he said in that deep and gentle voice.
(cut) he turned to her. “Well, I guess I’ll see you around, Val.”
That was the first time that Val realized that eyes could smile. Sure, she had heard and read about the phenomenon often enough to know that it existed. But when Jake said his goodbye, it was the exact description that leapt to her mind.
His eyes had creased at the corners, making tiny lines that reminded her of ripples that gently lapped at your feet. For if there were a word that would always remind her of him, it would be gentleness.

Then there was the Q&A portion, then we raffled off our prizes. It just blew me away that boys read romance, too. Don't you just love the democratizing power of books?

The highlight of the event, at least for me, was meeting new people, and seeing familiar faces among the audience. I was able to finally see bloggers and twitter-friends in the flesh, and we were just all excited to make small and talk and get to know each other.

(my bungisngis self flanked by Kate and Chrissie)

Thanks to everyone who came and made this possible. If you're a reader, I hope you continue reading local books. And if you're a writer, I hope to attend your own book launch someday soon.

Photos by Grace Gatdula. Check out her article on the launch!


Breakup Book

Every breakup has its playlist. 

How do you get over a seven-year relationship? 21-year-old Jill is trying to find out. But moving on is a harder job when Kim, her ex-boyfriend, is the lead guitarist of the band, and Jill is the vocalist. Every song they play together feels like slicing open a barely healed tattoo. 

Jill’s best friend Miki says she will be out of this gloom soon. Breakups have a probation period, he says. Jill is on the last month of hers and Miki is patiently keeping her company. 

But the real silver lining is Shinta. Having a hot Japanese actor friend in times like these is a welcome distraction. This gorgeous celebrity has been defying time zones and distance through the years to be there for Jill. Now he is here, physically present, and together he and Jill go through old lyrics, vivid memories, walks in the rain, and bottles of beer. Together they try to answer the question: what do you do when forever ends?

I love the angst, honesty and rawness of this book. I felt like I was watching a film--the characters' actions, dialogues, even the transitions in between scenes, played out clearly in my head. I can tell that the author put a lot of effort into it, even penning the lyrics of the songs mentioned in the chapters, but I read it effortlessly--which is a benchmark of a good book.

It made me reminisce about my 20s, when I was indie-band follower, and experiencing that elusive high because of a guitar riff, or how the bassline perfectly complemented the melody. And yes, it had me swooning over the non-band member, which, come to think of it, is a trope present in two of my fave books--Attachments and Lola and the Boy Next Door.

I look forward to Tria's future books, and the next installment of her Playlist series, wherein I'll be rooting for the friendzoned character. Go figure.