Friday, June 27, 2014

Dressing for the Heat

Because Hot Like This takes place at a commercial shoot with a tropical resort and casino in the backdrop, we got excited over planning the dresses and outfits that the female characters would wear. Think of it as packing for a trip -- but without having to worry about whether a dress will fit us or not!

When planning our collaborations, Chrissie, Miles, and I usually set up a Google spreadsheet that contains all the info we need. Think of it as our working encyclopedia. It usually contains character info: ages, families, backgrounds. Even when they end up not being used, we usually have details like this stored away. For Hot Like This, we even had pegs for the resort, and more importantly, for the characters' clothes.

We felt clothes were important here because 1) they added detail to a characters' actions and thoughts; 2) they played a crucial role to Elaine's transformationl and 3) we had to work out certain mechanics for certain steamy scenes. So it was very important that all three of us had a clear picture of what we were writing about. We picked the clothes based on what was required of the scene and what felt natural to the character.

The Cover Dress
Our primary requirement is that the back should be striking. A backless dress similar to what Ginny wore in All I Want for Christmas wasn't going to work for Elaine's manang personality, but we tried to push the envelope as much as we could. It also needed to be something that fits the beach scene. We're glad we found this: it keeps Elaine covered up but it's not really that conservative. It's sexy and flirty, perfect for her first date with Luis. Miles did a good job of tweaking the dress (like straightening the hemline and adding more fabric to the bodice.) We loved the color -- it's cool to the eyes and it captures the summer vibe we were going for.

The Maxi Dress
Elaine is a fan of maxi dresses, and if she had her way, these are all she'd wear at the beach! Don't get us wrong; we don't have anything against maxi dresses. :) We ended up picking this floral bohemian dress. It has a nice, fun print that Elaine would go for. We may not have described it fully in the story, but we all had this in our heads.

The Cocktail Dress
For the makeover and casino scene, we picked a dress which Miles found on Pinterest (but one we could never identify). We liked it because it hugged her body in just the right way, something that Elaine's other outfits didn't quite do. We thought it was elegant enough for the finale. Or, as Bern would say, "Joseph Gordon-LoveIt!"

Dia's Bikini
We wanted something sexy but still classic for Dia's commercial shoot. Chrissie and I both worked in advertising before and we've had our fair share of selecting swimsuits for various shoots. Real estate? Check. Alcohol? Check. We knew we wanted something that was sexy and high-end but didn't scream gold-digger. So we ended up with Lanvin! Expensive enough, right?

What do you think of their dresses? Were they similar to what you had in mind while reading the story? Let us know what you think!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Scribbled: Hot Like This

Late last year, when my friends and co-#romanceclass authors Chrissie Peria and Miles Tan and I wrote a holiday short story called All I Want for Christmas, we already knew that we'd be writing a follow-up featuring the other characters. We initially planned a May release for Hot Like This but with scheduling things, we ended up releasing last June 21. Hey, it's still summer in the US and the heat in Manila still hasn't let up! If you've read All I Want, then you're already familiar with our next pair.

Ma•nang |má•naŋ| noun. origin: Filipino

1. older sister
2. conservative woman
3. Elaine Antonio

Self-proclaimed manang Elaine Antonio is restrained, cautious, and used to taking care of people. Gorgeous Brazilian-Japanese model Luis Inoue is laid-back, impulsive, and totally out of her league. But when they're thrown together at the same island resort one summer weekend, things unexpectedly heat up.

Elaine knows that once the vacation is over, they'll be returning to their two very different worlds. Is this destined to be just a summer fling? Or will she finally learn how to take a risk for love?

Hot Like This is longer than our first collaboration, but we still did it in the same style. We each took a character and wrote from that person's perspective, then we went around tightening the narration and dialogue up after we had the basics down. It's exclusive to Kindle for the next three months, but All I Want for Christmas will be free elsewhere. Expect to see it on other sites (even our own blogs) soon!

We couldn't have done Hot Like This without the help and support of Mina E, Tania A, Gail D, Osing B, and Dia P. (Dia, by the way, won a 5x5 Podcast promo run by Tania and Mina, and we ended up naming one of our characters after her!) We're also very grateful to everyone who has liked, shared, retweeted, reblogged, downloaded, and reviewed our short story.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Jenny Han in Manila

I was very excited when I heard that Jenny Han was coming to Manila. National Bookstore has been bringing in a lot of YA authors recently, but this was the first time that I was determined to show up. Loaded down with books, I trooped over to the book signing at National Bookstore Glorietta last Saturday, June 21.

Jenny Han in Manila

The Summer series marks one of the rare moments when my sister's tastes coincided with mine. She made me get all three books and was disappointed when I wouldn't spring for a hardbound. When I found out that Jenny Han was coming here, she was the first person I texted. I promised that I would head there to get a book signed for her and so last Saturday, I was there bright and early (lined up at 8:30 am for the 2:00 pm signing and got number #128).

There was a good crowd at NBS. Fans showed up in book t-shirts. Some showed their devotion by lining up at 11:00 pm the night before (there were free hot drinks for the first 30 people in the line, courtesy of Jenny, I heard). While the crowd may not have been comparable to some of the other book signings held in recent months, it's always good to be in the company of fellow fans and readers. I ran into some old friends and made new ones, and we filled in the waiting time with conversations about our favorite books and our TBR lists.

Waiting for the book signing to start

The afternoon began with a short Q&A. I wasn't able to get all of Jenny's answers' verbatim, but she talked about:

• her mentors, including David Levithan
• her favorite books, like The Time Traveller's Wife and the Hunger Game series
• the Burn for Burn series and writing with her best friend Siobhan Vivian: "I'm the good girl; she's the bad girl."
• the Summer series being optioned for TV
• diversity in literature: "Lara Jean is Asian because it was natural for the character... I believe in diversity in literature. It must reflect what we see in the world (paraphrased)."

One of the best things I heard from Jenny was when she said that '(her) priority is to write an honest and truthful story.' I missed recording the first part of her interview but here's the part that I did manage to catch(not verbatim, but pretty close):

Q: Do you have any advise for aspiring writers in the audience?

Jenny Han: My advise would be to do exactly what you are doing which is reading a lot and hearing other people's voices but trying to figure out what your voice is. I think my advice would also be to have a lot of adventures and to get your heart broken a couple of times because it's very good material for you. All those emotions, you can pour that into your writing.

What is your writing process? How does it work? Do you sit down and write every single day?

JH: No, not when I'm on the road and not when I'm on deadline. When I'm on deadline, I write a lot, a lot. (And right now, I'm on deadline. I'm going to be late! I'm going to blame you guys.)

You're writing P.S. I Still Love You right now. So will the ending still change or do you know who she'll end up with?

JH: It's still very malleable right now. We'll see. We'll see.

Are there any other series or trilogies or stand-alone books that you're dreaming up?

JH: Always. I have a few more books in my head that I've sold recently but it's still all being formed.

Your books have inspired some fanfiction. Do you ever read fanfiction? How do you feel about it?

JH: It always feel a little weird, yeah, because I think that for the writer, you write the story and then you kind of have to say goodbye to it, in a way and let it be what it's going to be. And then people can, you know, write fanfiction, or kind of imagine their own endings to it but I think that once it's in the world, it's no longer just yours so you just have to divorce yourself from that.

Do you read your own book reviews? How do you feel when you hear what people say about your writing?

JH: I think it's almost like the way that life is, when you kind of remember the mean things that people say about you and the nice things, you're like 'Yeah, yeah, yeah,' you don't really believe it. So I try not to read reviews too much. It can be difficult, especially when you're writing a series, to hear outside opinions because you're just trying to finish and do what you want to do. But the temptation is always there to look and see what people are saying. I often succumb to that.

Jenny talking about her books and her writing process

Soon the floor was open to fan questions:

I would just like to ask, of all the characters you've created, who can you say was closest to your heart and why?

JH: Probably of all the characters I've ever created, I'd probably say, it's a book that you guys may or may not have read -- it's for younger kids -- it's called Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream, and it's about a little girl and her grandfather. That book is dedicated to my grandfather who passed away and that's very close to my heart. It's that story and those characters, a little girl and her sister and her grandfather.

Will you ever write a spin-off of Jeremiah for The Summer I Turned Pretty series?

JH: I don't think so, because I felt like Jeremiah, in my mind, is doing fine. He's happy, he's good, and I feel like his story is pretty much closed for me. I have a lot of stories that I want to tell and I want to keep going and doing new things.

But Jeremiah is fine. Don't worry about him. He's living a happy life.

If you were to describe your latest book, To All the Boys I've Loved Before, since there were cookies there, what cookie would you choose to describe your book?

JH: For that book, I might choose to describe that book as a lemon cookie. A little bit sharp, mostly sweet and sunshiny, but I think it's kinda like a warm, sunshiny book.

Your books are all about first love, first heartbreak, first crush, and do you believe that you can get over a first love and if you don't mind, who was your first love?

JH: Oh my gosh! (crowd shrieks in delight) I think that you can get over your first love but I think a part of them will always reside in your heart. But I think it's almost like the dream that you had of them but not the real person. Who they were to you at that moment and who you were at that moment.

My first love was a guy -- I'm not going to say his name because --

(Interviewer recites a list of male characters that Jenny has written: Reeve, Alex, Jeremiah, Conrad? Who's Conrad?)

JH: Yeah, this is like a Conrad-ish guy and once in a while, he will still show up in my dreams to haunt me. And I'm like, 'What are you doing here?' But it will always be the high school version of him, not the person he is now. I think that it's the nostalgia of that.

You mentioned earlier that Ashes to Ashes is coming out this September. Can you tell us a little more about it?

JH: Fire with Fire ends in a sort of fiery place. I'll say that there's another death to come, a beloved character. And I can say that it definitely gets a bit juicier with the romance as well. It gets a little scary and it also gets a little bit steamy.

Before the book signing, Jenny thanked the fans, "It's just so overwhelming. I feel that my heart is just like overflowing with love from you guys, and I'm so grateful and thankful. Thank you so much for the love."

I asked her to dedicate We'll Always Have Summer to my sister CJ

I ended up having four other books signed: my Summer series and a copy of To All the Boys I've Loved Before

With friends, author Mina V. Esguerra and PBBY chair Tarie Sabido

With fellow book blogger Camille

Thank you, Ms Jenny Han!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

One Foot in Front of the Other

I would have loved to say that the reason I haven't been posting regularly is because I've been traveling, but the truth is I've just been preoccupied with a lot of other things. I've been a bad blogger. Still, my year has been dotted with some short trips here and there, proof that I've never really been one to stay put. Finally writing this post has been good for me. It was real. It happened. It feels like a lifetime ago, but it happened.

(Warning: This post is image-heavy)

Singapore (January)
I was on a plane bound for Manila on New Year's Day and I want to think that it set the tone for this year's travel plans. Two days after that, my youngest sister CJ and I headed to Singapore. It was both my graduation present to her (she started college last fall) and a chance for me to visit some dear friends.
No trip is complete without a visit to Clarke Quay. We headed there for a short walk on our first night and then returned a few days after to take the river cruise.

It was my first time at the Botanical Gardens. I would love to bring my mom to this place.

My sister insisted on getting a henna tattoo at Little India. She even brought her own design.

We headed to Chinatown on our last day. I insisted.

Taken at the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. I've been there a few times before but this was the first time I found out its name.

Macau (March)
This was a bittersweet journey for me. At first, I was excited for a very brief shake-up-the-weekend trip with my long-time travel buddy Liv (and new friend Mark).
Casinos everywhere. Of course we had to try one.

We stayed only a few blocks from Senado Square so this was a familiar sight. We passed by the Square whenever we went out or came back to the hotel.

Good morning, sunshine.

Liv took this photo in front of the Macau Tower, showcasing different artists' work celebrating the Year of the Horse. This was one of my favorites.

Ruinas de Sao Paulo, gutted but still standing.

One of my best friends--light of my life, heart-sister--was in the hospital before I left for this trip. Macau was one of the places that we had always talked of visiting but we never really got the chance to start any concrete plans. So I took photos and filed notes away, chronicling my trip for her, thinking of all the things I would tell her when I returned. At about four-thirty AM on the day that I was supposed to return, I woke to missed calls and messages and I knew that she had gone on a different journey without me. I still miss her.

La Union (April)
Every year, I only make one New Year's resolution (I believe in focusing). This year's went to seeing more of the Philippines. When my good friend and neighbor Mac invited me to go to La Union for Visita Iglesia, I jumped at the chance. I was still reeling from many things and I thought this was a good opportunity for me to find a little breathing room. Unfortunately, I didn't bring my camera so my photos ended up being mobile device-grainy.
Little town, it's a quiet village...

At the first church we visited. It had plenty of painted leaves and forests on the walls that it made me feel at peace.

Plenty of these old churches had these steps (or are they buttresses?) built against each side.

I liked the contrast between the dusty-looking brick church and the green that seemed determined to break through. Rally, heart.

Quezon (May)
I checked off something on my bucket list when another old friend (classmate of many years) Camille and I headed to Lucban, Quezon for the Pahiyas Festival. We tease each other about being kaladkarin (literally easy to drag along) and in the past few months we've been hoarding up on cultural experiences. Visiting Lucban was a nice change of pace and I would love to return to Pahiyas (time to befriend a local!) in the coming years.
The Pahiyas is definitely the most colorful festival I've seen.

Like seriously colorful. This is edible decor.

Even our food was colorful.

Pahiyas is a time to be grateful for the bountiful harvest, so it was common to see houses decorated with wheat and vegetables.

I didn't want to leave without taking a photograph of Mt Banahaw. My final opportunity came while we were speeding back to the tour bus on a tricycle. Camille held me while I leaned out to take this shot.

I wonder what sort of adventure the rest of the year has in store for me. Liv and I have another trip planned; Camille and I have been plotting one (it would be the first time we'd fly together) since the beginning of the year. But time is such a curious construct that all these really do feel like they were part of another life, and all the plans that we're making now still seem to be so far away. What I do know is that I wish I can always keep going somewhere, 'one foot in front of the other, through leaves, over bridges.'