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.


Booked and Bushed!

A confession: I haven't attended the Manila International Book Fair since it was pulled out from Megamall. And from the way I panic-bought yesterday, it was probably just as well.

 Before going there, I reminded myself over and over that I was there to sign books; NOT to go crazy buying them. But how could I not? Especially now, that I'm shopping for two. And believe me, there was a lot more that I wanted to buy. But maybe, I should let my wallet recover first.

It was heaven seeing all sorts of books and book-lovers gather in one place. And what made this event more special was that I finally saw two of my novellas in print.

Still, that wasn't the best part. The most winning moment of all was seeing #romanceclass-mates, fellow readers and writers, social media-buddies, and the woman who got me started on this path, come in full force, buying our books and having them signed. If it weren't for these people, and lots of other people silently supporting us local indie writers, I don't think publishing companies would sit up, take notice, and take a chance on our lovingly crafted stories.

THANK YOU, everyone.


World Cup Hook Up

Buy on Amazon for $0.99.

Synopsis: Stacy missed the excitement of the World Cup, but when a certain incognito guest checks into her dad's inn, not even her craziest soccer dreams could have prepared her for this golden goal.

Consisting of only a few chapters, World Cup Hook Up still manages to punch a pack of feels in the ordinary girl-meets-hot celebrity romance department. I think the real strength of this short story lies in the writing--how Atienza describes settings and the tiny details of relationships: between friends, family members, and of course, potential lovers.

And Greece, oh, Greece! One of the stories I'll be sure to tell my grandkids is that I've been to Greece once upon my singlehood--to the ruins in Athens, and the tiered blue and white domes and squares of Santorini overlooking the caldera. Reading this book made me sigh and remember my trip, and I loved how the author captured my experience and memories of the place with her vivid descriptions.

Another thing why this book has a special place in my writer's heart is its unconventional ending. I've always loved movies with this kind of ending (One Million Yen Girl comes to mind), and I've never been brave enough to write it myself. So for this, I give the author a standing ovation.


Rules We Like Breaking

Victoria Bennett is in control and in charge all day every day, but she needs help sometimes.
Organizing a romantic proposal weekend for her client in Mexico (she’s never been) would be that time – and the only person available to help her is Nathan Grant, notorious heartbreaker. She knows his past and shouldn’t want him, shouldn’t fall for guys like him, but that hasn’t prevented her from lusting after him for years. It’s just one weekend on the beach, away from people they know, alone with the guy who could cause her perfectly coordinated world to crumble. Shouldn’t be a problem, right?

Reading this book by Mina V. Esguerra is a breeze. It's so short, sexy (and sweet), and nicely paced, that you'll be done reading it before you know it. And that's a good thing 'cause it meant that there was something in it that kept you flipping the pages effortlessly.

I liked the tension between the characters. I thought Nathan was a real gentleman despite his obvious sexual appeal, which Victoria tried so hard to deflect. I like the romantic build up, and as usual, Mina has a way of crafting dialogues that feel and read natural. She doesn't have to say so many words, and go into so much detail to paint a conversation. She leaves some to the viewers to figure out--and this shows just how smart and skilled she is as a writer.

I actually read this right after one of her earliest novellas, Fairy Tale Fail, and I could see how her writing voice has matured, adopting the right tone for the New Adult genre. It was as if Esguerra grew up with characters themselves.

I liked the cover of this one the best (among her Spotlight series) because it's bright and colorful, shot outdoors, and didn't show the usual guy and girl being touchy-feely. And as the cover suggests, this would be a good beach read: light and kilig while you're lounging by the seaside, hearing the waves washing over the shore.


Senior Moments

Kuwento ni Celestino Cabal.

Kabebertdey niya lang. 

Mayroon siyang natanggap na regalo na ngayo'y unti-unti niyang binubuksan.

Ika nga ng mga matatanda, "Huli man daw at magaling, maihahabol din." 

Reading this graphic novel by Russell Molina and Ian Sta. Maria was a stroll down memory lane. I grew up on my kuyas' Filbar's comic book treasures--my favorites included The 'Nam, Power Man and Iron Fist, The Infinity Gauntlet series, Groo, and of course, Tintin.

But the last time I picked up a comic book was back in high school when I started collecting Asterix and Obelix. Now, reading Sixty Six makes me want to get into the joy of reading this genre again.

The illustrations were very spot-on and cinematic, hitting me at gut-level, while the dialogues were crisp and very Filipino. I laughed out loud so many times, though comedy was just a side dish of this visual feast. It had everything--love, action, comedy, drama, and even, kababalaghan.

My favorite part about Sixty Six is that it chose to have a senior citizen as a main character. There's so much focus in our culture (and commercial literature) on the young, and I thought Mang Tino was a refreshing hero. He reminded me of my dad, of my future self--when it's my turn to hand over that senior citizen ID to get my discount in supermarkets and restos.

It's cool to be old. It's cool to have lived your life the best way you can, and contend with creaking joints and gray hair. And best of all, it's cool to be old and have superpowers.

Now, excuse me while I lend this gem of a book to my 16-year-old nephew, who aspires to make a graphic novel of his own.


The Fabulous Baker Girl

One Crazy Summer by Ines Bautista Yao

1 college junior, fired from summer internship
1 secret crush, the cute and flirty type
1 crush's best bud, with a secret of his own

1. In large bowl, mix together college junior and secret crush.
2. Gradually add in crush's best bud.
3. Stir until best bud's secret is revealed.
4. Let mixture rest in a sleepy provincial town.
5. Bake under the blazing summer sun until golden brown (be careful; batter might burn).

Tania's summer is more than she can handle! Her cooking career comes to a screeching halt before it can even take off. Then, best friends Rob and Mateo enter the picture. Can she figure out her feelings for them AND get the internship credits she needs to make it to senior year?

This book was such a fun, light read. Honestly, I didn't expect to like it as much as I did, but surprise, surprise, I started really getting into it when the main character (MC) left the city and started discovering more about herself.

I liked the MC's voice--it was authentic and honest. Sometimes YA books tend to sound older than their supposed age, but in this case, the author nailed the tone. As the story progressed, I found myself liking the MC more, and gradually, her tone changes. She becomes more observant, more mindful of other people.

There were also a number of times I laughed out loud, especially when MC described the snail's pace of her summer internship in the province. And the most delightful twist of all--how she ended up with the unexpected love interest.

Buy it on Amazon or in bookstores.

Feel-Good Flashback

The Boyfriend Backtrack by Dawn Lanuza

I've been hearing good stuff about this local indie book that I immediately added it to my Kindle. And I'm glad I did. 

The Boyfriend Backtrack was nicely written, even though the story-telling wasn't linear. It involved a series of flashbacks involving the main character and her past brushes with romance. The technique wasn't at all confusing; in fact, it shed light on the character's present dilemma: should she go ahead and marry because she was at the right age? Because her steady boyfriend asked her to? Because it was the next logical step in their relationship?

I loved how the author executed the dialogues. They read so naturally, like I was watching a good rom-com with a little more depth. Another thing I liked about this book was that a love interest's song for the main character was Here comes your Man by the Pixies. Wow, now that's a major flashback. And a really cool one too.

Buy it on Amazon or Smashwords.

Bookish Wish

I'm celebrating National Children's Book Day with a wish!

The question I was asked to answer was: Which Filipino books for kids do you want to get published?

I've always been a big YA (Young Adult) fan even when I stopped being the target reader for the genre.  One of my first jobs was being a segment producer for the now-defunct tween show called 5 and Up. There, I discovered kindred spirits who were just as badly hung up on YA as I was.

My co-producers and I had an informal book club, exchanging our YA books by Jerry Spinelli, S.E. Hinton, E.L. Konigsburg, and Robert Cormier, among others. September was the highlight of our bookish lives; we all hied off to Megamall for the book fair, where we scored discounted YA books. These books were sort of a shared property--we made sure we didn't buy the same book twice (if we didn't have enough cash) since we'd borrow each other's stuff anyway.

MY POINT IS...there weren't enough local YA books at that time. That's why we gorged on those foreign books with characters that were blonde and blue-eyed, stories that mentioned snow, spring break, and other foreign concepts. But the themes were varied, and they kept us coming back for more.

That's why Janus Silang is such a breakthrough--at least in my opinion.

Here's a fresh, new YA book that wasn't thin, with enough words to make it a full-fledged novel. And it was unabashedly Pinoy, its theme revolving around our supernatural culture. The best part about it was that it was written in Tagalog!

I felt that this book changed mindsets. It's cool to read something in Tagalog, in a language that we use to converse with our friends. It involved blood, gore, and gaming addiction--issues that are sometimes side stepped in local books for kids.

Kids want something more sophisticated. Something that won't talk down to them. Something that showed them that they're in this cool stage of their lives, and that being Pinoy is something to be celebrated.

So such is my book wish: please--more local YA reads that tackle a host of subjects that will make us feel that being Pinoy is the coolest thing in the world.


The Children's Book Illustrator I Want to Date

I'm celebrating National Children's Book Day with this somewhat unconventional question:
Which children's book writer or illustrator would you like to date for a day?

Well, I'm going to cheat a bit because the person I would like to spend a day with is a good friend of mine, who happens to be one of the founding members of INK (Ilustrador ng Kabataan).

Presenting (drumroll, please) . . . the supertalented ROBERT ALEJANDRO!

He illustrated "Chief Flower Girl" by Marivi Soliven-Blanco, a children's book released in 1998. I trawled the net but I couldn't find the book cover. But if you're curious about his work, just click on his website or enter any Papemelroti store, which houses his designs, along with his sisters'.

Robert and I bonded when we worked in the children's show, Art is-Kool, which aired on GMA 7 from 2003-2004. It may have been a short-lived show, but it was highly successful. I remember helping organize our free art workshops in the mall, and there would be this DELUGE of participants which we weren't prepared for. We also got a lot of fan mail, and the ratings weren't bad for a morning show.

(me, Kuya Robert, and Aldrin)

Including Robert (and excluding the camera crew), our production team consisted of three. While Robert brainstormed his weekly projects (sometimes, minutes before we filmed), my colleague (first it was Marj then it was Aldrin) and I wrote on-the-spot spiels, directed the shots, edited the episode, and helped the network with marketing (Art is-Kool was produced by Probe Productions, Inc., an independent production company) week after week. It was exhausting work--one that people inevitably bonded over.

Now, Robert is constantly busy, and I would very much like to chat with him again. Aside from being one of the most talented people I know, he is also one of the nicest. I think the reason why Art is-Kool was a success was that Robert genuinely loved kids, and recognized the artist in everyone. He insisted on using recycled materials--none of those fancy-shmancy art materials NOT every kid could afford. From these simple things, he created coin banks, puppets, toy cars and other beautiful objects, which I think, are reflections of his kind heart.

So Robert, if you're reading this, mag-date naman tayo!


My Favorite Pinoy Children's Books

I'm celebrating National Children's Book Day with a post!

I've always loved working for/with children, so I guess it's only natural that even as an adut, I gather inspiration from children's books. And I don't mean just the popular ones from Eric Carle, Dr. Seuss or Sandra Boyton. The local scene is just overflowing with children's books that have touched me in a special way.

Here are some examples (in no particular order)--some of which are my son's favorites as well:

Ang Unang Baboy sa Langit
Author: Rene Villanueva
Illustrator: Ibarra Crisostomo
How can you resist a tongue-in-cheek story about a pig who sacrificed his life by being the first ever lechon? Complete with a reference to Nora Aunor's blockbuster movie, this story is a hit among, not only children, but also adults.

Alamat ng Ampalaya
Author: Augie Rivera
Illustrator: Kora Albano
My son still doesn't like ampalaya, but he loves this book. Through this imaginative tale, we find out how the bitter gourd got its name--and disposition.

Salamat Po!
Author: Russel Molina
Illustrator: Tokwa Peñaflorida
I'm a sucker for children's books that use words sparingly, and this is one of them. I love the authenticity of the young character's voice, and how the story reads like a prayer.

Gusto ko nang lumaki!
Author: Liwliwa Malabed
Illustrator: Domz Agsaway
My son also loves this book; both the illustrations and story were so wacky! I don't think I'll ever get to read the phrase Barbie na nagiging sitaw in another book in this lifetime.

The Girl in a Box
Author: Dang Bagas
Illustrator: Aldy Aguirre
Somber and musical, the tone of the narrative, coupled with the whimsical drawings, packs a punch. No wonder it was chosen as one of 2014's Best Reads at the National Children's Book Awards.

Papel de Liha
Author: Ompong Remigio
Illustrator: Beth Parrocha-Doctolero
Such a simple story with a lot of heart. I read this for the first time when I was an adult, in a bookstore, from cover to cover. After reading it, I bought it, wanting the words to echo within me.


What Helps Me Write

It's hard to get that first (shitty) draft going, and staring at my computer screen while doing that type-delete-pause routine completely drains me. Besides, since my work also involves tapping on my keyboard, I relish the time I spend away from it.

I find that it's easier for me to complete a novella when I first organize my thoughts on paper.

(Sorry for the mirror image--that's what Photobooth coughs out)

I don't edit my thoughts or think about the grammar. I just write and write and write. The day after, I transfer the words on my computer. Sometimes, I don't even have to look at my notes because they're all in my head, and I now have a clearer, more succinct version that flows from my fingertips.

I guess it's because I'd already purged my brain of all unnecessary plot elements that I'm able to get a more accurate feel of what the story is all about.

How about you? What's your technique?


Choco Chip Hips under Construction

Pre-press work is very exciting.

I got my beta-reader's feedback, edits from my grammar girl, and this cover study for the book. :-)


My Writing Corner

I used to have a pretty wooden desk with a swivel chair with all the writing implements within arm's reach--a round canister of freshly sharpened pencils, working pens, notepads and notebooks. Because I write for a living, this was my sanctuary, a place where thoughts flowed freely to the tips of my fingers as I typed on my laptop's keyboard.

Correction: I still have that pretty wooden desk with the swivel chair, but now it's filled with clutter--different colors of clay kneaded together by a toddler's hands so now, they look like one big gray clump, wet wipes, nearly finished tubes of kiddie toothpaste and a wooden spice rack with a glass window, which my son liked to use as an "oven" when he's pretending to bake his gray clay cakes.

Obvs, that ain't my writing corner anymore.

When my son is asleep, that's the only time I can really write. Because when he's awake, he won't leave me alone, grabbing the laptop away from me. So now, my writing corner has become this area.

It's that floor space between the bed (foreground) and the kiddie cabinet (pardon the pants peeping out of the bottom drawer). I usually prop up a pillow against the cabinet so my back won't hurt, then I'd sit on the floor and write. 

When my son would wake up from a daymare (I usually write when he's taking daytime naps 'cause I sleep early like him), I could easily get up and soothe him back to sleep--so I can have more writing time. It isn't a pretty space, but it works, and for now, that's all I need.

*This post is inspired by C.P. Santi's blog post on her writing corner. I couldn't find her post but it's there somewhere in her blog. Check it out!

Reality TV meets Romance

Synopsis: Charlotte Bertram is the star of Marry Me, Charlotte B! A reality show that follows her as she plans the biggest weddings of the year. Together with her assistant, Nellie Canlas and her son, Robert Bertram, see how she handles crazy client requests, bridezillas and more!

Based on the title, I thought the book's main character would be Charlotte, the middle-aged woman who ran the company that planned weddings. But it only took a while for me to get that the book title was also the title of the reality TV show, and that its real star was Charlotte's unassuming, frumpish assistant.

 I work in TV so I was pleasantly surprised that the story opened with terms I was familiar with--Zoom-Ins and Close-Ups and Cut-TOs. I felt like I was really watching a reality show, being introduced to characters in which at first, I wasn't emotionally invested. But scene after scene, I started to care. When was Nellie going to wise up? Did Robert really care--or is he just a really sweet guy?

But I think the clincher for me was how the story was written. The author's a wordsmith. I loved how she described places and scenery, and sweet moments matter-of-factly; no need to go overboard with the racing heartbeats and swoony glances. Everything unfolded in the right time, in the right way. In fact, the plot was so natural, it felt like real life--or a really good reality show.

Get it on Amazon or for free on Smashwords.


Mina Esguerra's best work (IMHO)

My son is taking a nap, and I should be writing the next chapter of my project, but I just finished Mina Esguerra's Greedy and Gullible, the last of her Young and Scambitious series, and I had to take a deep breath, switch on my laptop and write a review.

As soon as I read the first few lines of the first book, i was hooked. It had a different flavor  that distinguished it from all of Mina's past work. I liked the snappy, classy and not-a-word-wasted kind of writing. And because Manila was its main setting, it made me see the capital in a different light--one seeped in intrigue and secrecy.

I liked that I had to think while reading, especially since the books were fast-paced and jumped from one subplot to another, which was good brain exercise. Though I read what the characters were saying out loud, I wasn't privvy to their innermost thoughts and intentions. This technique made me turn page after page, and snap up the next book until everything slowly started to make sense. And despite all the high action, criminal acts and witty exchanges of words, there was still a touch of romance, which I found satisfying until the very end. 

If you want to know what the books are about, do check out the blurbs on Amazon. Better yet, buy the whole series. If you like books that don't waste words and are smart, these are for you.


Fil-Jap Fun

Now that my story is in the hands of able beta readers, I have more time for my other passion, which is reading.  Aside from devouring books from my fave genres--YA, Fantasy, Romance, and Mystery, I also make it a point to read local authors. Here's a recent one I read:

Be Careful What You Wish for - C.P. Santi
I bought this e-book two months ago, and only got to read it a week ago. It was a pleasant surprise of a book, because I absolutely had NO expectations when I bought it. 

A bit of disclaimer though: I know the author because of a common friend. But the last time I saw her was probably around 15 years ago when we bar-hopped in Malate with my friend and her college barkada, which included C.P. Recently, we re-connected in Wattpad (of all places). She added me to her contact list (not knowing who I was; she knew me by another name), and when I read her profile, I thought, hey, I think I know this girl. So we exchanged a few private messages, squeeing over the fact that yeah, we knew each other!

Back to the book--there was a time (when I was still childless) when I'd spend my free time marathoning koreanovelas and j-doramas. So imagine my delight when I discovered that Santi's novella read like a j-dorama from start to finish. But the refreshing twist was its endearing Filipino elements (the MC is a Pinay working in Japan). It was like something straight of my daydreams when I still had the time (and energy) to fantasize about my ultimate Jap actor crushie, Mokomichi Hayami (I wonder what happened to him. MUST google later). I also liked how Santi injected both Pinoy and Japanese expressions in the conversations, and thoughtfully included a glossary of the terms used at the end pages.

Despite the foreign setting, the story reads and feels authentic because the author currently resides in Japan. So aside from the love story itself, you also get to learn some interesting facts about Tokyo, including a peek into its thriving night life.

If you want a fun, kilig read, and you're a bit of a Japanophile, I highly recommend this read. In fact, I hope someone produces it as a TV series in Japan. :-)

Buy it on Smashwords and Amazon.
Author's blog: The Japayuki Chronicles

Will be reviewing more local novellas in the coming days!


Choco Chip Hips

Two more chapters to go and I'm done! Then another wave of work begins--having it beta read, revising, sucking it up and showing the story to a no-holds-barred editor, formatting it into an e-book, etc. But hey, I'm not complaining. It's a privilege to be able to write what I want. I hope that eventually, I will earn from it, but for now, I do this.

Title: Choco Chip Hips
Genre: Young Adult
Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Jessie has everything going against her. She is shy, overweight, and worries too much about what people think. But one summer, a family emergency makes her realize that life is too short to live it on autopilot. Taking her life by the reins, she embarks on a summer-long journey that involves cake, sweat, being friends with a guy she had been secretly crushing on, and lots of awesome street dancing.

You can read the first 18 parts here. :-) Apologies for the rawness. I still have a LOT of fixing up to do.

Sidenote: I didn't plan for this novella to be this long. I originally aimed for 15 chapters, tops. But stories have a way of unfolding at their own pace so I had to respect this particular novella's rhythm. We'll see after it goes through the editing stage.


I am writing again!

It took me a while to get a new thing started, but finally, I'm doing it and feeling good about it.

The new novella is a bit different from the previous two since I've decided to take on the Young Adult genre. It won't be as heavy on the romance and I hope to keep it short this time--not like Once upon a Player, which was almost double the word count of Vintage Love. :-P

Feel free to join me on my writing journey, the progress of which will be posted on Wattpad.

And can I just say, I love Wattpad's new design. So much prettier and more professional!