Sunday, December 29, 2013

My Favorite Reads of 2013

Recently, I was asked (along with other bloggers) to contribute my favorite books published in 2013. Check out the list here but I thought I'd share my other choices that didn't make the final list, in no particular order:

The Golem and the Jinni (Helene Wecker)
A rich, multi-cultural narrative that blends the immigrant story with Old World beliefs and legends. A golem and a jinni take separate paths but find themselves together in America, straining against the dictates of their natures and discovering themselves in the process. I was really immersed in the different histories of the characters, imagining deserts and dance halls as I turned each page.

Tell the Wolves I'm Home (Carol Rifka Brunt)
I have a rather biased review here, but in a nutshell, it tells how June is coming to terms with the death of her uncle Finn. They have a special bond, and she is devastated when he dies. But Finn has another life that he has kept from June. After his death, June meets Toby, and forms a delicate relationship with another soul who had loved and cherished her uncle. In my review, I admit that 'the prose can get bogged down by over-articulation,' but it was a story that really touched me deeply.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Neil Gaiman)
This will probably be included in a lot of year-end lists this so I'll be brief: it's a poignant and bittersweet coming-of-age.

Icon of the Indecisive (Mina V. Esguerra)
Mina's popular YA series ends on a high note. She takes elements from Filipino mythology and dresses them in familiar things: contemporary setting, love triangles, popular teens. But she also makes sure that Hannah's journey remains solid and relatable. It's great to read Pinoy YA -- popular Pinoy YA -- and discover that it has more to offer beyond the usual paranormal romance.

The Dream Thieves (Maggie Stiefvater)
I love Maggie Stiefvater's language and her fully-realized worlds. She peoples them with complex characters and The Dream Thieves is no exception. Here, she focuses the limelight on Ronan Lynch, a rich prep school boy whose titular capabilities hastens the Raven Boys along their quest for legend and power. I was looking forward to this book's release because I couldn't enough of the Aglionby boys Gansey, Ronan, Adam, and Noah. Ms Stiefvater's writing is very visual and poetic, keeping this series on my must-read list.

Project 17 (Eliza Victoria)
Ms Victoria crafts a world of high-stakes security and medical advancement against the backdrop of a futuristic Manila. Lillian is hired as the babysitter of Paul Dolores' brother Caleb, a smart and introverted man with schizoaffective disorder. Her job was supposed to be easy but her curiosity lands her in a more than what she bargained for. Great tension and action, plus I thought the characters are very engaging. I finished this in one sitting because it moved at a great pace.

Fangirl (Rainbow Rowell)
Fangirl chronicles a college experience that isn't quite like what we encounter here in Manila, but the insecurities, doubts, and struggles remain on point. It's a great look at college, writing, family, sisterhood, friendship, love; it tackles all these and makes them place nice with each other. It's the kind of book I wish I had read when I was younger. It's richly-layered despite a simple-sounding plot.

The Rosie Project (Graeme Simsion)
I loved the protagonist Don Tillman, a genetics professor with a mild case of Asperger's Syndrome. He has decided to embark on a Wife Project, which makes him cross paths with Rosie, his opposite in a lot of ways. Mr Simsion did a great job of capturing Don's voice and making his character come alive. He never breaks character. It's the kind of book I'd recommend to anyone who says they're tired of the same old romance tropes -- or to anyone looking for a romance that can easily be translated into a romcom flick.

What were your favorite books of 2013 (whether released this year or not)? Share your thoughts -- I'd love to know!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Scribbled: All I Want for Christmas

My good friends and fellow #romanceclass authors Chrissie Peria and Miles Tan joined me in writing a short holiday story called All I Want for Christmas. It's free for a limited time as a thank you to our readers, mentors, fellow authors, and friends -- anyone and everyone who's helped us on our writing journey. It's also a way for us to end the year on a high note. Even if it's quite short (around 7,000-8,000 words), we still hope that you will like it.

This holiday season, Ginny wants nothing less than hot model du jour Luis Inoue. That's why when her best friend Issa invites both of them to a small sit-down dinner, she jumps at the chance to show Luis she can be naughty and nice. Will everything go according to plan? Or will Issa's brother Marco's interference keep her single all the way?

It was crazy trying to write round-robin (more on that on later blog posts), but it's still something I'd do again. I really enjoyed writing this story and sharing the experience with my friends. There were many things that I learned from the experience. I really appreciated seeing things from different perspectives; often there would be an incident that the three of us would approach differently, and then we'd all end up talking about what would be the best course to take. It also gave the three of us a first-hand view of the KDP Select system.

We didn't get to mention our specific thank you's on the e-book, so please indulge me as I include my shout-outs here:
• to Chrissie and Miles for sharing this journey with me;
• to Mina for inspiring us and helping us with #romanceclass (and no, I won't tire of saying this);
• to our #romanceclass classmates Dia, Ron, Anne, Stella, Agay, Kesh, Kristel, Tina, Jayen, to name a few, who really made 2013 a great year to be a Pinoy romance writer;
• to book bloggers like Chachic, Tina, Lynai, Monique, Cassandra, Sol, Freine... there are so many that I can't remember all of you at the moment but please know that your support means so much to us;
• to Reev, for the self-publishing help, whether print or digital; and
• to our readers (my special TY to Cassandra, Jin, and Grelyn), for the heart-warming support. You took a chance on me especially -- your bravery must be commended! :) Whenever I feel that all this is unreal, I just look at your reviews and tweets and messages of encouragement. I am very blessed that I can do this, thanks to readers like you.
Maraming salamat sa inyong lahat.
So there you are, dear reader. I hope that you can download a copy of All I Want for Christmas now while it's still free -- and that it makes you smile at the end of your day. Happy holidays to you!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Notes on the 3rd Filipino ReaderCon

Last December 7, readers, writers, teachers, publishers, librarians, bloggers, and book clubs gathered to celebrate the 3rd Filipino ReaderCon at the Rizal Library of Ateneo de Manila University. I was there with three hats on: first, as a speaker for The Digital Reader panel; second, as a writer since the #romanceclass chipped in to get a table and sell our work; and last (and more importantly), as a Filipino reader.

In keeping with its theme 'What Do Readers Want?', ReaderCon provided con-goers an opportunity to share their thoughts by placing huge boards on-site. I was excited to read what people had to say and how I could use this to gauge my own place in the industry.

Everyone had an opinion. Great way for writers and publishers to hear it.

So good to see people asking for more stories from outside Manila

One of the things that delighted me was seeing these posts asking for books set in other regions. My novella Cover (Story) Girl is set in Aklan, so this was good news for me. Don't get me wrong; I love romances set in Manila! It's the heart of all the action. It's crazy and cosmopolitan but it can also be quirky and quaint. But there's always room for romances set elsewhere. I believe it's a sign of a healthy publishing environment when we can offer reader diverse choices. And not just in romance, of course.

I'm trying to make one of these happen ;)

One of the suggestions here actually touches on one of my upcoming projects. :) I wish I could claim it so that I know I won't back out of it! But I've got so many things lined up that it's better for me to take it one day at a time -- I get writing ADHD. Even if I don't end up writing it, I will be very happy if someone else will.

'More YA' and 'more spec-fic' were common, but readers also asked for ethnic stories and poetry!

Another interesting aspect about browsing through the replies is that you really get a range of responses. You'll have people clamoring for one thing, and then see someone ask for something totally different. More evidence that the Filipino audience is eager for more. The challenge is up to writers to answer these demands as quickly and as substantially as possible.

Diverse tastes: Not everyone was a fan of romance...

...or of science fiction, either

Then you find the most unexpected requests. What else can I say? To each his own!

This was the clear winner of all the suggestions. 'Seriously.'

Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren's How to Read a Book has this advice to dispense to readers: Your first judgment will naturally be one of taste. You will say not only that you like or dislike a book, but also why [...] The better you can reflectively discern the causes of your pleasure in reading fiction or poetry, the nearer you will come to knowing the artistic values in the literary work itself. I think that ReaderCon constantly reminds Filipino readers to speak up and be heard, to voice their opinions, to identify what works for them and what doesn't, and to allow them a forum where they can interact with authors and publishers. It's another way to aid all of us discover the artistic values within the works we read and demand whatever our reading needs require.

Congratulations to the organizers of Filipino ReaderCon and to all Filipino readers, because really, this is all about you. Us. See you again next year!

BONUS: One of the other boards asked who your favorite author was.

Someone wrote down EL James of Fifty Shades of Grey fame. Someone else couldn't resist adding, 'Tigang ka daw po ba?' (Tigang means dry or barren soil, but is also used to refer to someone who hasn't had sex in a while). No judgment, but it definitely made me smile.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Real Score Blog Tour + Giveaway

This could just about be the last blog tour that #romanceclass will have this year, and the honor goes to Kesh Tanglao's The Real Score. At first I thought that I might not be able to relate to the novella, but I was wrong. Ms Tanglao writes with a careful hand, managing the fine line between wish-fulfillment and reality, and knowing how to elicit the right emotions from her readers at just the right time. It's a lovely story that is already winning a lot of fans.

About the Book:
Caitlin's friendship with Marcus, the de facto frontman of the world's biggest boy band Gezellig, has long been an object of scrutiny by almost everyone--their friends and families, the media, and his fans--ever since they "went public" a couple of years back. Who wouldn't be interested? She was a nobody, catapulted into the limelight of his fame when he struck an unusual friendship with her.

To both Caitlin and Marcus, what they have is a "perfect little thing." But then something comes along and threatens it.

In a no-holds-barred interview, will they finally be forced to settle the score?

You can purchase the book through any of the following links:
• Paperback: Order here

Just as Caitlin and Marcus were persuaded to participate in an interview, so too has author Kesh Tanglao. The questions she has to answer are easier than her characters' though!

Q: Have you been to London?
A: No, I haven't, but it's one of the places that I want to go to (along with Paris, Italy, and Amsterdam)!

Q: What kind of research did you have to do to make the place come alive?
A:Working around how to make places you haven't been to in stories is a bit tough, so as much as possible I tried not mentioning specific areas. For research, I watched movies / TV series based in London, and there's Google and Buzzfeed UK (weird source, but their lists are fun!).

Q:Was it difficult to write a male character who wasn't Filipino?
A:Yes, it was. I think we were cautioned about this in class before, since Brits have different cultures than Filipinos, and there are different language nuances too. Some research helped, although I wished I had talked to someone British (or well-versed in UK culture) to make sure it was genuine.

Q:Did you set out to give Marcus any characteristics that might not be typically Filipino?
A:On Marcus' characteristics, not specifically, but I do made him out as someone more mature for his age.


I think that Marcus' maturity was definitely evident in the novella. He was shown to be very patient and understanding. The little dance he's had with Caitlin over the nature of their relationship was depicted quite well. With a different lead, with a different author, it may have gone a different direction, but in The Real Score, his devotion really hit all the right notes. So show Caitlin and Marcus some love and get your own copy of this book!

About the Author:

Kesh Tanglao is a full-time market researcher. When she’s not crunching numbers, she spends most of her free time watching TV shows, listening to music, and reading. Also a self-proclaimed fangirl, she likes cheering for her favorite sports teams and supporting her favorite artists. The Real Score is her first published novella.

Contact Info:

• Facebook:
• Twitter: @sparksfire
• 8Tracks:
• Email:

Giveaway time! Get the chance to win one swag bag that contains the following items: a paperback and bookmarks of The Real Score, Marcus and Caitlin's mini-care package, and a charm bracelet.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

In Over Her Head Blog Tour + Giveaway

It's almost the end of the year and still, Mina V. Esguerra's #romanceclass is going strong. Ever since the class ended in early June, there have been eight contemporary romance novellas out in the market. Making a book tour stop on Ficsation is one that I devoured in one sitting, Anne Plaza's In Over Her Head.

About the Book:
All she wants is to get even...

Erika Apostol's quiet and unassuming life gets disrupted when she learns that Richard Javier, the very same person who broke her heart many years ago, is now back in the country. Her world is turned upside down as old feelings she thought were buried resurface to haunt her once more.

Determined to give Richard a dose of his own medicine, Erika finds herself involved in an outrageous plan devised by her friends. They enlist the help of Jerome Gonzales, an attractive and charismatic DJ (with a playboy reputation), to pose as her significant other.

As the plan goes in full swing, Erika discovers Richard's jealous side, and that there's something more to Jerome than meets the eye. Will this grand charade work out the way it should, or will she be left with nothing in the end?

You can purchase the book through any of the following links:
• Paperback: Order here

One of the things I enjoyed about In Over Her Head is the Richard-Erika deal. Any child of the 80's will appreciate that! So I asked Ms Plaza more about her naming conventions and how she chose names and personalities for her characters. Did she know that she was going to name her leads over this iconic anime pair? Or did that come after?

Aside from forming a cohesive plot for a story, I take great pleasure in naming my characters. For me it's like a make or break thing that would either push me to finish writing or just get me stuck in a limbo of no return. Here are two main reasons why I personally give importance in naming their characters:

• A character's name is essential for me to be able to think of their personalities and visual pegs. Names that sound and feel right is something akin to inspiration—they usually hit me during the most unusual times (i.e., when I'm about to fall asleep, or when I'm taking a bath). And just like having that spark of an idea, I have to write it down; otherwise, I'd forget it.

• Thinking of appropriate character names for my stories is an exercise to show how characters come alive in the writing process—they evolve into distinct individuals with different personalities and quirks.

I never really thought to name my lead characters after the very famous anime couple, but when I was still just talking about the plot with my cousin, the idea was already there. I didn't have names at that time, and thought it would be great to go for it. I mean, who could ever forget Richard Hartford and Princess Erika? I was a sucker for romantic plots in the shows I watched when I was a kid, and Daimos takes the cake.

When it comes to fleshing out the characters, I try to come up with a visual peg (VP). When I outlined In Over Her Head for #romanceclass, I already had a mental picture of what my characters looked like. VPs help me describe the characters a lot more in detail, from their physical appearance down to their mannerisms and personalities.

For instance, my initial VP for Erika was Michelle Monaghan from the movie Made of Honor. Michelle's character in the movie was a go-getter, a person who takes things seriously career-wise, independent, and a hopeless romantic. On the other hand, my basis for Richard was Won Bin in the movie Friends (with Kyoko Fukada). In that film, his character was hardworking, youthful, and persevering. I imbued these characteristics in my leads, albeit with a few tinkering on the physical appearance.

I was also asked who I would cast for the role of Erika, Richard, and Jerome if the book was to be adapted into a movie. As much as I'd like to handpick the artists I earlier mentioned, I already have an idea which actors would be perfect for the part.
But names and characters are just one part of the equation. Beyond these, the novella really moved me by the way the romance was handled. It took a familiar story (getting back at the Ex) and deftly infused it with rom-com elements and tropes (a love triangle, a player, schemes and lies) to up the ante. I think Ms Plaza really dealt with this excellently. It was so easy for me to fall into the story and its premise without question. At its core, it was still anchored around a very realistic situation, one that tugged at my heartstrings. I liked how the leads danced around each other -- just slightly beyond reach -- so that we can have something to root for in the end.

About the Author:
Anne Plaza has a degree in Psychology, but has actively pursued a career in writing in her previous work as a reporter and online editor. She currently works in the field of marketing communications and spends most of her time writing fiction (while not on the lookout for the nearest cupcake and cronut store). Aside from writing, she loves to read contemporary romance, young adult, fantasy, and historical fiction. She also collects stamps and postcards, and loves everything about cats. Anne is based in Quezon City, Philippines. In Over Her Head is her first published work in English.

Contact Info:

• Facebook:
• Twitter: @anneplaza
• Blog:
• Email:

Giveaway time! Get the chance to win one swag bag including the following: In Over Her Head postcard and bookmark, floral memo pad, A7 memo pad, and sticky notes, Idea Dream Think Memory Draw Japanese Wallpaper Planner, Jouets Origami Pure Diamond necklace (note: it’s not a real diamond. Haha!)

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Tuesday, December 03, 2013

What I've Been Reading

In the past few months, I've been blogging less about book reviews and more about local authors. It's a conscious decision, especially since I started publishing independently. To be honest, I have a lot of hesitations about what being an indie writer can mean to my book-blogging self. Can someone be both writer and critic -- especially someone who does not have the pedigree or the cajones to lay claim to either label yet?

While the choice might have been easy to some -- I grew up wanting to be a writer and not a book blogger anyway -- it still puts me in murky territory. I love discussing books. I like talking about the writing process. So please be patient with me while I still try to figure out what to do with my little space on the internet here. In the meantime, here are the books that I've managed to finish recently:

Welcome to Envy Park (Mina V. Esguerra) - A contemporary Filipino romance about Moira, who's back in Manila just biding her time before she heads off to another Asian country for her next job. I liked the tone and the dialogue in this one. Among Ms Esguerra's other heroines, I could also relate to Moira best. She speaks and thinks with candor and her voice felt very genuine. Her romance with Ethan was quite well-developed to me, so organic and natural and extremely kilig. Their interplay was engaging without being heavy-handed. Robbie and Dante are still my favorite male characters, but when couples are involved, Ethan and Moira appeal to me the most. I finished the paperback but I still went back to my ebook version just so I could mark my favorite lines and situations.

Love Story (Jennifer Echols) - This was my first Jennifer Echols book. Erin had a interesting poor-little-rich-girl story, and I thought the novel's writing class backdrop made it a bit more self-aware of the tropes that the story employs. Some comments from minor characters felt meta to me, which made me smile. One of my major reservations about it was that I don't understand how the class also seemed to be in the same residence hall (and they're all from different majors too), which I thought was pretty convenient.

Project 17 (Eliza Victoria) - I love reading science-fiction set in the Philippines. Ms Victoria crafts a world of high-stakes security and medical advancement against the backdrop of a futuristic Manila. Lillian is hired as the babysitter of Paul Dolores' brother Caleb, a smart and introverted man with schizoaffective disorder. Her job was supposed to be easy, but her curiosity lands her in a more than what she bargained for. Great tension and action, plus I thought the characters are very engaging. Finished this in one sitting.

The Manual of Detection (Jedediah Berry) - Part noir mystery, part dream. The narrative is expansive and many-layered, as it follows a clerk who has to step into the large (empty) shoes of the best detective in the agency. On one hand, it is the story of the clerk Unwin who, like his name, is far from being a force to reckon with. Bland and ordinary, he doesn't understand how he could be promoted to detective position vacated by the investigator for whom he clerks and attempts to find a way back to his old humdrum position. But there's more here than meets the eye. Add to his story the different mysteries that detective Silart has solved, which are also being told and re-told in bits and pieces. Chapter headings echo the headings of a manual that Unwin has received on his first day at the new job -- the so-called Manual of Detection. This was a really engrossing read.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Ngumiti si Andoy Blog Tour + Giveaway

Ngumiti si Andoy
By Xi Zuq
Illustrated by Dominic Agsaway
Published by Adarna House (2013)

About the Book:
Ngumiti si Andoy (Andoy Smiled) is the story of Andrew and his day at Heroes Park, as he is attempting to sketch the statue of the hero Andres Bonifacio. This award-winning book (2013 Philippine Board on Books for Young People-Salanga and Alcala Prize) is published by Adarna House in honor of the 150th birthday of the people's hero, Andres Bonifacio.

About the Author:
Xi Zuq is a teacher, writer, and reader from General Santos City. He is a member of Kuwentista ng mga Tsikiting (KUTING) at Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika, at Anyo (LIRA). You can find out more about him through his website:

About the Illustrator:
Dominic Agsaway is a comic- and children's book-illustrator. He is a member of Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan (Ang InK). He graduated from the University of Santo Tomas (UST) where he would wait at the park for his ride. You can email him at agsaway[at]gmail[dot]com.

Here are some excerpts from the book:

Ngumiti si Andoy is available at the Adarna House showroom and at your nearest bookstore. You can even show your support by joining the giveaway (see details below). You get the chance to win signed of this book and your own Kartilya poster -- definitely a great way to commemorate Andres Bonifacio's birthday!

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Monday, November 11, 2013

LitFest turns folk, pop!

Are you a Trese fanatic who just wishes you could run your own Kambal posse someday? Are you one of those who dissected the gender politics in My Husband's Lover after every episode? Or are you someone who's just plain interested in everything iconic in Pinoy pop culture? Then this event is perfect for you.

[Press Release] Filipino writers will discuss folk and popular literature as shown in komiks, TV, and film as the National Book Development Board (NBDB), Filipinas Heritage Library (FHL), and Ayala Museum hold POPtastik Pinoy! this November.

The event is part of the 4th Philippine International Literary Festival. Titled Text and the City, the LitFest will take place in the major universities in Metro Manila from November 11-14 and culminating at the Ayala Museum on November 15, from 8:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Promotional activities will also be held at the Makati Ayala Malls from November 17 to 24.

The November 15 event is a whole day series of talks which will cover the following topics: “Folklore in Pop Literature (komiks, graphic novels, novels, short stories, and TV);” “Kuwentuhan on Komiks;” and “Writing in Different Genres.” Among the panel discussants and moderators are comic artists Manix Abrera, Noel Pascual, AJ Bernardo, Karen Francisco, and Budjette Tan; novelists Eros Atalia, Luna Sicat Cleto, and Edgar Samar; scriptwriter Suzette Doctolero; fictionists Sarge Lacuesta and Yvette Tan; journalists Ruel de Vera and Kristine Fonacier; and Prof. Patrick Campos.

Celebrated writers Tony Perez and Rolando Tolentino will open the POPtastik Pinoy! program of activities with talks of writing and the city. Korean-American writer Krys Lee will then discuss her short story compilation Drifting House. Lee will be joined by Sarge Lacuesta, Andrea Pasion-Flores, and Kristine Fonacier for a flash fiction writing masterclass, “City Fiction 100,” while other pocket lectures are being held in the Ayala Museum function rooms.

From 5:00 pm, writer and educator Isagani R. Cruz will hold another seminar on “How to write a book” for professional and amateur writers. Garitony Nicolas will also share his experience of publishing his own books with the help of Central Books, the first publisher-on-demand in the Philippines.

The LitFest will stretch to the following week at the Ayala Malls. On November 17, a marathon of GMA films will be held at the New Glorietta Activity Center, along with a mini fair for indie komiks creators and sellers and small or independent publishers. The public can also view GMA 7 telefantasya costumes at Ground Floor Greenbelt 3 from November 18 to 24.

POPtastik Pinoy! is supported by Ayala Malls, GMA Network, Brother Philippines Inc., Intercontinental Hotel, the Book Development Association of the Philippines (BDAP), the Korea Copyright Commission (KCC), Fully Booked, and McDonald’s. For inquiries, contact Verne Ahyong at the Ayala Museum at 759-8288 local 46 or To register, call Marj Villaflores at 759-8288 local 25, or email

The Philippine International Literary Festival is always a great way for us to learn more about our country's literature. What's great about this year's theme is that it approaches literature from a very accessible standpoint. I hope that we can take part in it or, at least, encourage friends and family to give it a try. Hope to see you there!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Plan.

then in winter
when there is no leaf left
invent one
- from Eve Merriam's Reply to the Question: "How can You Become a Poet?"

With all the work that I've been doing, my go-to reads have been the ebooks on my Kindle app. These lovely books have been claiming space on my bed for weeks, some months, touched only for a few pages in the morning or before I go to sleep at night. How to Build a Time Machine is the luckiest one, in a way, as I only have a few chapters left.

Here is the secret, to my heart's immediate desires, to the next few months, to the welcoming of a new year. The scientist's laboratory. The hidden lair.

There are plans, and there are plans.

Friday, October 25, 2013

ReaderCon/Filipino Friday: Pinoy Book Drop

Pinoy Book Drop Details
Book: One Day (David Nicholls)
Place: Noriter, Taft Avenue, Manila
Time: around 4:10 PM

Although my blog (in)activity may not show it, I'm really excited for the upcoming 3rd Filipino ReaderCon. This year it will be on November 9 at the Rizal Library at the Ateneo. As a countdown to the event, we're asked to share our answers on different book-related questions every Friday, and this week, it's all about a brilliant concept called the Pinoy Book Drop.
Printing the bookplates. I had grand plans of leaving three but so far I've only done one.

I actually had a hard time picking a book for the drop. By the time I had printed out the bookplates, I still hadn't decided. On one hand, the book drop was a good way to pass on an unwanted book that could be loved by someone else. But on the other, I didn't want to leave something that no one would pick up because it was extremely old and tattered.

The book drop was a great opportunity to spread the love, so another requirement I wanted to meet was to leave a book I fairly liked. I was going through my books and while a lot of them were good candidates for such the drop, I wasn't sure if I could find these editions again. In the end, I went with a book that 1) I could part with but was still in good condition, 2) could be easily replaced, and 3) I liked enough to share. I will not grieve over its absence from my shelves, but I think someone might appreciate it more.
I slipped the bookplate behind the plastic cover.

It was easy to decide where to leave it. A coffee shop seemed like a good location, since there are a lot of people talking and reading and looking for tables. I brought it with me in case I was going to be in the Alabang area. But then I found myself in front of my old university, where there were a lot of cafes and tambayans, so I thought this was a good place as any. I picked Noriter, a little Korean-inspired cafe very near the LRT. Its patrons were students who were studying or writing reports, so I was a bit more confident that someone would pick up One Day.
Noriter! This side is next to the windows so there weren't a lot of people on there.

One thing that I was afraid of was someone coming up to tell me I had left something. I didn't realize it then, but Noriter's colorful tables were a good camouflage for the book. Plus with all the students around (and all their books and papers on the tables), there seemed a little chance of that happening. I just bussed my table so that the servers didn't have to do it for me (and discover my book drop)!
Goodbye, dear book!

I didn't check back on who might have found it, but I'm crossing my fingers that one of the students brought it home to read. Not only would it be a welcome break from studying, but I think it's got a lot to say about friendship and love and growing up that would appeal to people at a turning point in their lives. I really hope my copy finds a good home.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Guardians of Tradition Review

My grandmother is a piña weaver, as was her mother before her, and her mother before her. My aunt also weaves. I have grown up surrounded by the finest pineapple cloth -- plain, embroidered, striped, painted, with the design inlaid. I've seen weavers at work. I can recite the weaving process in a rather factual manner, though I have to confess that it's been years since I've tried my hand at the loom. But this is my heritage and I'm very proud of what my grandmother and relatives do.

That's why I signed up for the Guardians of Tradition Blog Tour. My family has always been big on preserving traditional arts and crafts. Though I am familiar with the NCCA and the work that it does, I am still eager to know more about our Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan awardees. Eleven of them are featured in this book, namely: Uwang Ahadas, Hadja Amina Appi, Ginaw Bilog, Federico Caballero, Lang Dulay, Masino Intaray, Salinta Monon, Eduardo Mutuc, Alonzo Saclag, Darhata Sawabi, and Samaon Sulaiman.

Guardians of Tradition is written by Mae Astrid Tobias, with illustrations by Rommel E. Joson and photographs by Renato S. Rastrollo. It's a non-fiction book that's currently nominated in the Children's Picture Book category of the 2013 Filipino Reader's Choice Awards. It manages to present all these information about our National Living Treasures in a very upbeat and informative way. Ms Tobias' tone is perfect: it's light and friendly as she uses Banog and Kiko to introduce artisans and their crafts.

Mr Joson's art and Mr Rastrollo's photographs complement the text perfectly. The book strikes a great balance between all these elements that it really doesn't matter if a child or an adult is reading it; there is so much to learn from every page (even from every image).

Case in point: cute and colorful illustrations to accompany all the info

But beyond the illustrations and the child-friendly text lies a deeper message that appeals to every Filipino. These artisans have devoted so much of their lives so that these traditional crafts may continue. We shouldn't let these die on our watch. With every page, you come to realize just how rich and diverse our culture is, how talented and creative our countrymen are. Every craft is unique. Every story is moving.

My grandmother and my aunt have actually met some of our National Living Treasures. The late Sumaon Sulaiman, who played the kutyapi, was one of the artisans who went on an expo with them at the Smithsonian back in the nineties. It was good to read about him and pass the information on. Another Living Treasure Iwho caught my interest was Lang Dulay, a dreamweaver from Lake Sebu. Dreamweavers weave t'nalak cloth from designs that come to them in their dreams. This was actually my first time to read about what the t'nalak's colors represent and it's quite inspiring. There is so much poetry in our lives. It's such a shame that we can lose this in the monotony of our worker-drone lives.

One of two t'nalak pieces at our house, taken with a bad camera phone

Ficsation has joined the Guardians of Tradition blog tour, and I hope that you can show your support by doing one of three things:

1) Spreading the word about our traditional arts and our National Living Treasures

2) Purchasing a copy through the following links

For the duration of the Guardians of Tradition Blog Tour, Guardians of Tradition is available at discounted prize at the Adarna showroom in Quezon City. For international readers and Filipinos abroad, an ebook version is coming soon.

Goodreads -
Adarna Order Form -

3) Joining the raffle (this one's easy!)

If you're from the Philippines, you can start showing your support by joining the Guardians of Tradition giveaway! You can win one of the following prizes:

One $25 Amazon Gift Card + signed copy of Guardians of Tradition from Adarna + 1 CD of National Living Treasure Bayan Sumaon Sulaiman from NCCA

3 $10 Amazon Gift Card + signed copy of Guardians of Tradition from Adarna + 1 CD of National Living Treasure Bayan Sumaon Sulaiman from NCCA

6 signed copies of Guardians of Tradition from Adarna + 6 CDs of National Living Treasure Bayan Sumaon Sulaiman from NCCA

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Guardians of Tradition Blog Tour + Giveaway

Guardians of Tradition: The Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan (2012)
By Mae Astrid Tobias
Illustrations by Rommel E. Joson
Photos by Renato S. Rastrollo / National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA)

About the Book:
Who are the indigenous and folk artists of the Philippines? Guardians of Tradition is full of facts about 11 of Philippine master weavers, folk musicians, performing artists, mat weavers, and metal smiths whose talents and skills have earned them the title Manlilikha ng Bayan. Designed to help children recognize native Filipino ingenuity and creativity, the book includes fun activities to promote appreciation for culture and arts. Guardians of Tradition has a fun and colorful design that appeals to young readers.

The Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan was created in 1992 through Republic Act No. 7355 to honor our National Living Treasures. These are men and women who have helped preserve our traditional crafts. Through their artistry and devotion, these talented Filipinos ensure that our culture's traditional arts are not forgotten.

About the Author:
Mae Astrid Tobias (1979-2009) was a Palanca-award winning author of children's books. In addition to Guardians of Tradition, her books include Blue Bananas (Crucible), Bayong ng Kuting (Lampara Books), My Forest Friends (Haribon), Bakawan (Adarna Books) and two books retelling the Ifugao traditional chant, hudhud. These are Halikpon: A Retelling of an Ancient Ifugao Chant and Pumbakhayon: An Origin Myth of the Ifugao Hudhud. Both are finalists for children’s literature and best design in the 2006 National Book Awards of the Manila Critics Circle.

She also spent several years in the field of children’s television. She served as the Manila Bureau Manager of Kabataan News Network, a project of UNICEF and Probe Media Foundation that trains young people nationwide how to produce their own broadcast quality documentaries. She also also wrote episodes for children shows like Sirit!, and ABS-CBN and Eskuwela ng Bayan, as well as worked for Philippine Junior Inquirer and Shell Foundation. She was a member of Kuwentista ng mga Tsikiting (KUTING), an organization of Filipino writers for children.

About the Illustrator:
ROMMEL JOSON is a painter and an illustrator. He graduated magna cum laude and College Valedictorian from the University of Philippines College of Fine Arts. He was also a Merit Scholar and a recipient of the Dean's Awards for Visual Awards from the Ateneo de Manila University, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management. He worked in the advertising industry for several years before devoting his time fully to painting and illustration. He has received awards and citations for painting, illustration, comics, and design from various organizations such as the Philippine Board of Books for Young People (Honorable Mention), the Shell National Art Competition (3rd Place Oil/Acrylic Category), the Neil Gaiman/Fully Booked Graphic Fiction Competition (3rd Place in the Graphic Fiction category), the Adobo Design Awards (Silver) and the Philippine Araw Awards (Silver in Art Direction) and the Metrobank Art and Design Excellence Competition (Semifinalist in Oil). He is currently an active member of Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan (Ang INK).

About the Photographer:
RENATO S. RASTROLLO, is a photographer, graphic artist, book and exhibit designer. He earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts major in Advertising from the Philippine Women’s University. With over 25 years of experience in the field of documentary photography, his works have appeared in national and international publications. Presently, he is a culture and arts officer at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Guardians of Tradition was recently nominated for the 2013 Filipino Readers' Choice Awards, and is the only non-fiction finalist in the Children's Picture Book Category.

For the duration of the Guardians of Tradition Blog Tour, Guardians of Tradition is available at discounted prize at the Adarna showroom in Quezon City. For international readers and Filipinos abroad, an ebook version is coming soon. You can purchase the print copy through the following links:

Goodreads -
Adarna Order Form -

Wouldn't it be awesome if we could get an e-book version of Guardians of Tradition? Maybe this can be our small contribution to preserving tradition. We can spread the word to a new generation of readers, who are likelier to hold a tablet than a gangsa. An e-book can reach Filipino children all over the world and ensure that the book and the knowledge that it hopes to impart never goes out of print.

You can start showing your support by joining the Guardians of Tradition giveaway! You can win one of the following prizes (open to Philippine residents only):

One $25 Amazon Gift Card + signed copy of Guardians of Tradition from Adarna + 1 CD of National Living Treasure Bayan Sumaon Sulaiman from NCCA

3 $10 Amazon Gift Card + signed copy of Guardians of Tradition from Adarna + 1 CD of National Living Treasure Bayan Sumaon Sulaiman from NCCA

6 signed copies of Guardians of Tradition from Adarna + 6 CDs of National Living Treasure Bayan Sumaon Sulaiman from NCCA

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Hello Blog Tour + Giveaway

This will be the last blog tour I'm joining, for this month at least. It's been a crazy month but I'm looking forward to reading Addie Lynn Co's collection of short stories Hello when this is all over.

About the Book:
What if The One actually walks up to you and even says hello, would you greet back or turn your back unknowingly that you have actually met? Would you know when you’ve actually met?

Serendipity is a funny thing that brings a tinge of bittersweet bliss to anyone who is fortunate to experience it. Hello is a trilogy that explores how serendipitous life can sometimes be.

Definitely, Maybe is a story of how fate plays with two people as they meet each decade hoping that maybe this time around, they can finally be together.

Almost Mismatch tells how two people so right for each other be so wrong and no matter how much they try to suppress their feelings, true love will not stop at anything. What is meant to be will be.

Finally, Dinner Date portrays how two people’s search for love could take them to different places and people only to lead them back to where they started.

The world is just like a huge maze that no matter what direction one walks to, there will always be one final destination. There seems to be an invisible string that is handcuffed to two people on each end and unsuspectingly pulls these two people destined for each other back together no matter how long it takes.

You can purchase the book through any of the following links:

Ms Co was also in my #romanceclass, but I only knew a few details about her and this book. I knew she had written Hello before (and was writing something else for the class), so I wanted to ask her about some of the writing tips that she picked up from class that have helped her in writing next book. This was her reply, in her own words:

(Yes,) I wrote the book Hello before #romanceclass with Ms. Mina. It was really a lucky chance I was taking because as I was in the stage of editing it in preparation to self-publishing it, I stumbled upon the #romanceclass that Ms. Mina was offering for free so I didn’t hesitate and just joined the class since it is free and I have always been looking for someone who could mentor me.

I tried incorporating Ms. Mina’s lessons into Hello but something in my heart tells me that I want this book to come out to the world the way I would want it to be read and appreciated by the readers. I wanted to have the freedom to tell it the way I wanted to and not be limited by a formula. Sure, at first, I was a bit skeptical about it because I didn’t want my story to be too formulaic for fear that it might end up being too cliché. But it seems like the formula is what the people bite into so I gave it a try, slightly with Hello but mostly with the contemporary novella I finished in #romanceclass entitled Forget Me Not (formerly introduced by Ms. Mina as Second Time Around) which I might self-publish in the future if the first one would go well. I realized that the formula is not so bad after all as long as you give it a twist to make it your own.

Writing tips that I picked up from #romanceclass:

1. Work on a schedule and keep with it.

Or at least have someone set deadlines for you. This is the best way to keep you motivated and avoid procrastination. I’m really a procrastination queen and I tend to do other stuff and not focus on writing that I end up not finishing stories that I have started. But with the #romanceclass, Ms. Mina was there to constantly remind us of the fast approaching deadlines and just posts words of encouragement to keep us from giving up and leave our stories hanging.

2. Draft a working outline.

I used to write spontaneously meaning I just write whatever comes to mind as I write it. I don’t really plan on it. I just think of what to write scene per scene and hope that the beginning at ending would connect somehow as I finish it. But this is not really a good idea especially if you’re the type who wants everything to be in place and perfect. From my experience with Hello, I kept on editing and editing the manuscript because I felt like it was always lacking things or details of the story to make it more solid and connected as a whole. The editing never seems to end. I kept adding here and there which is very tiring and makes you doubtful of the perfection of your story in the reader’s eyes.

But working with an outline keeps the entirety of the book more solid and figured out even at the beginning of the project/ writing process. It would make you want to write, write, write to reach the ending that you have always pictured in your mind. The thought and continuity of the book would not go off track because you have got it all planned out. You just have to elaborate the scenes and have the characters act it all out for the readers’ imagination. Another good thing about outlines is that you’d be able to cut out the unnecessary scenes that seemed perfect to include before but just seemed blah now. You would not be wasting your time writing it and the readers’ time in reading it.

Now, I always have this outline or mini checklist of the scenes or details I would like to include and arrange it accordingly so that I won’t forget anything that I think should be included in my novella.

3. Keeping the romance while still being realistic and not sickly sweet.

I really think this is an important tip because it is hard to evoke the ‘kilig’ factor without making it ‘gasgas na’ which I really wouldn’t want my book to end up with. I guess keeping it simple is the key here. Ms. Mina advised me not to make it too complicated because the focus of the novella would steer away from the romance which is the point of the novella after all.

4. Letting go and being proud of what you have finally created.

Don’t dwell too much on trying to please everyone. Someone’s always bound not to like it no matter what. But what’s important is that you are satisfied with what you have created and proud to show it to the world.

There are a lot of steps to the first stage of self-publishing. The first would be finishing writing the first draft, then move on to editing it for grammatical/ technical errors while maybe dreaming of how the book cover design will be. Create it yourself or have someone create the art for you while you format the manuscript according to what is needed because from what I learned, Smashwords and Kindle formats are different with each other plus the format for having the book printed on paper. I definitely went crazy with all the different formatting requirements. And when you finally have the book in your hand or the formatted soft copy ready for upload to Smashwords or Amazon Kindle, there’s no going back now. You’ve come the long way now, all that’s left to do is go all the way.

Now that’s just the first half of the journey, the second half is marketing your book but that’s another story to tell. But what’s really important is to have your novella out there to the world. In no time, someone will discover it and take a chance on your novella.

What I’m really trying to say is don’t wait anymore and just let it out there for the people to read. The main goal to begin with really is for you to be able to tell your story. Getting the appreciation it deserves is just a bonus.

About the Author:
Addie grew up reading Sweet Valley High books and Nancy Drew mystery books. She finished a degree in Communication Arts and really wanted to pursue a career in filmmaking but due to high production costs of a film, she opted to tell her stories through her novels. Being the hopeless romantic that she was, she will stop at nothing to share her passion with everyone and hopes that she could infect others with it. She’s a daydreamer by day and an author by night.

Contact Info:

• Facebook:
• Wattpad:
• Blog:
• Email:

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Monday, September 09, 2013

Vintage Love Blog Tour + Giveaway

Full disclosure: Author Agay Llanera is a classmate from Mina V. Esguerra's #romanceclass. But when our online class started, I wouldn't know her from Eve. Since then I've actually learned a bit about her through our email exchanges and chats. I'm really pleased that she's making a book tour stop on Ficsation to share her contemporary romance novella Vintage Love.

About the Book:
26-year-old Crissy Lopez’s life is in dire need of a makeover. Her wardrobe revolves around ratty shirts and beat-up sneaks; her grueling schedule as a TV Executive leaves no room for a social life; and worst of all, she’s still hung up on the Evil Ex who left her five years ago.

When her fashionable grand-aunt passes away and leaves behind a roomful of vintage stuff, the Shy Stylista inside Crissy gradually resurfaces. Soon, she feels like she's making progress -- with a budding lovelife to boot! But the grim ghost of her past catches up with her, threatening to push her back into depression. To finally move on, Crissy learns that walking away is not enough. This time, she needs to take a leap of faith.

You can purchase the book through any of the following links:
• Paperback: Contact the author (links below)

As I mentioned earlier, Ms Llanera and I met through Mina Esguerra's online #romanceclass. While I knew that she had begun her novella even before the class started, I also wanted to find out how the class had helped her.
How I Finished My First Novella

A year before I finished Vintage Love, I attempted to write a Young Adult novella with the"inspiration-will-come-when-it-comes" approach. I had heard about writers talking about how their characters had written themselves, and how they had moved the story forward on their own.

After writing the prologue, I felt pretty good about it. So I moved on to writing Chapter one...and well, that was as far that I had gotten. My characters refused to budge. I didn't know what was going to happen. So after countless attempts to finish the chapter, I just gave up and shelved the story.

The following year found me pregnant with my first child. I felt the need to do something huge, to cross an item off my bucket list before I popped because I knew that being a mother would rob me of the luxury of free time.

I decided to write a chick-lit novella. Determined not to repeat history, I first did a bit of research on the net, on how authors wrote their novels. Then I read about five chick-lit novels just to get me in the groove.

First, I drafted a synopsis--nothing fancy; the important thing was I had an idea of how the story would begin and end. Then I stapled some sheets of paper together (recycled of course) and proceeded to write the synopsis for each chapter by hand. I felt like I was accomplishing more that way instead of staring at the blinking cursor on my laptop screen.

After I had mapped out the entire story, which took about a month, I proceeded to type at white heat, which meant I just wrote whatever came to mind without thinking of grammar or story flow. After finishing a chapter, I'd stop. Then I'd continue working on it the next day; this time, editing it as ruthlessly as I could.

I did this day after day, and after two months, I found myself with a finished novella.

The story didn't end there, what with the beta reading, editing, and publishing done a year later, but the main thing was that I finished it. And now, if you choose to, you can read it.
I'm really glad I picked up a copy of Vintage Love. I was hooked from the first page. Crissy and Vince are two extremely likable characters and their romance develops naturally. I could definitely imagine their story being on a Summit romance! I loved how going through her Nanay Maring's vintage things helped Crissy deal with her own past. But don't take my word for it -- get your copy of Vintage Love and read for yourself!

About the Author:
Agay Llanera is a freelance writer for television and video, and a published writer of children’s books. She is a member of KUTING, a private, non-stock, non-profit organization, which aims to be the Philippines’ foremost writers’ organization for children.

Contact Info:

• Facebook:
• Twitter: @agayskee
• Blog:
• Email:

Giveaway time! Get the chance to win one of three swag bags (including a paperback copy of Vintage Love and vintage-inspired jewelry and bookmark) Agay Llanera, one of three swag bags (including a paperback copy of Hello and trinkets) from Addie Lynn Co, and a grand swag bag from Addie Lynn Co, which includes a paperback copy of Hello.

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Saturday, September 07, 2013

Well Played Blog Tour + Giveaway

What's great about being a blog tour stop is that you can ask author many things about the writing process. Author Katrina Ramos Atienza generously shares her experiences on writing the contemporary romance novella Well Played.

About the Book:
Patrice Reyes is starting her junior year at the University and she's convinced it's going to be the best semester ever. For starters, it looks like this is the year her team will win the regional football (soccer, for you Yanks) championships. Her subjects are looking good, and there's even a chance she might finally get somewhere with her rock star crush. But a new classmate—arrogant, cold Math nerd ( 'nuff said)—is seriously throwing off her groove. Will she ever get rid of him and have the awesome semester she deserves? Or is there truth to never judging (Math) books by their cover?

You can purchase the book through any of the following links:
• Paperback:

This is the first time that I've read a Filipino adaptation of a famous novel so I really wanted to ask Ms Atienza what challenges she encountered. How did she decide which characters needed to stay close to their original versions and who would get big changes in the adaptation?

For me, LB was the perfect fit for Pride & Prejudice. Austen set her story in this small, very insular world; in many ways UPLB is like that, too: a small college town where everyone knows each other and, sometimes, get into each other’s business. From the moment I decided to do the retelling I already knew that I’d have the landladies and tenants of Alta Women’s Dormitory as stand-ins for the Bennets; I knew that Netherfield / Meryton would be U.S.A. (in real life, an apartment complex called White House). For the balls, the different college parties worked great. Once I did the outline I knew I had to streamline some plot points from the original. For example, although Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine are the funnest characters in P&P, adding them into the mix would complicate a story already teeming with plot points (though I did consider doing Lady Catherine as a bitchy dean or something!)

Once the stand-ins were chosen, their traits from the original were pruned or enhanced organically -- meaning I wrote it through. There was a lot of thinking along the lines of “does it feel right for this character to do this? Would ‘Jane’ actually say this, or would she be as passive as her original? Would ‘Mrs. Bennet’ still be as interested in matchmaking?” The answer to the last one, by the way, is yes to a certain extent; you’d be surprised to find a lot of well-meaning old ladies taking a keen interest in your love life in UPLB!

With all the many different characters, I was conscious of making sure I didn’t have one-offs in the story just because they were in the original. I had to ensure that everyone I introduced would have some resonance or contributed to advancing the plot later. I actually had to do a bit of rewriting so that “Caroline” and “Mr. and Mrs. Bennet” had something to do with the resolution.

The real challenge was just the timing of the whole plot. I knew that the Wickham paninira had to happen, but when, exactly? And what would be the fallout from that? There was the temptation to just throw all the plot developments after that, boom boom boom, but in actuality it’s only the middle of the book, so there was still some story-building to be done. It was probably at this point that I got my yearlong writer’s block! It took a lot of rewrites to fix the pacing after that, but I think once I figured it out it flows pretty well. That’s the hope!

One of the things that I enjoyed about Well Played is trying to figure out which character was which and anticipating how my favorite scenes from the original version would be given a new spin. There was really much attention to detail -- not just in the setting but also in the characters themselves. You can tell what a big P&P Ms Atienza is! So if you're a big fan of Austen (or just romance in general), don't forget to pick up this book.

About the Author:
Katrina Ramos Atienza, born and bred in Manila, Philippines, has been writing all her life. She's worked in the fields of PR and corporate communications while blogging, freelancing and writing fiction. Four chick lit novels (Pink Shoes, 2006; The Hagette, 2006; If the Shoe Fits, 2008 and Shoes Off, 2010) are available in paperback in the Philippines, while her earlier short fiction works have been published in Philippine publications and collected in the Growing Up Filipino II anthology. Well Played (2013) is her first independently published novel. She graduated from the University of the Philippines at Los Baños and is married with two kids.

Contact Info:

• Facebook:
• Twitter:
• Blog:
• Email:

Giveaway time! Get the chance to win one of three swag bags (containing 1 medium,gray Well Played shirt + 2 Pride & Prejudice Bookmarks + Think Free Bag Tag) from Katrina Ramos Atienza or one of three swag bags (containing 1 paperback copy of All's Fair in Blog & War, 1 unique trinket, 1 pocket journal, ebook voucher, postcard and bookmarks) from Chrissie Peria.

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