Welcome to Envy Park is a nominee in the Romance in English category in the 2014 Filipino Readers' Choice Awards.
Queen of the Clueless and Icon of the Indecisive were nominated in the Young Adult category too!
FRCA is chosen by Filipino readers. Nominees are now part of the voting phase, and the top 3 books in each category move on to be judged by a panel -- also composed of Filipino readers. Vote for your favorite Filipino books here!
So here's the thing: all stories featured in Sola Musica: Love Notes from a Festival happen on pretty much the same weekend, on a beach in Batangas. Authors Ines, Marla, Chinggay and I decided on the location, the event details, a bit of the program...and then we all went off to write our stories.
The resulting book is a snapshot of how a small group of people experience the same day. And how four writers take the same event and put their own spin on it. I decided to go back to my chick lit roots on this one and put together something sweeter than my recent work. Here's an excerpt!
Ken and I have to talk.
He knows this, but he’s being typical Ken,
and he’s not saying anything. Because he’s like that. He’s thinking though,
incredibly snarky, complex, and detailed thoughts, I’m sure. It shows in his
face, in that glint in those dark brown eyes, the personality in his brow, that
hint of a dimple in his right cheek.
“Spit it out,” I’d say, and sometimes he
would. Rarely. Most times he’d flatly deny it. (“What? My mind is currently blank.”)
Blank, my ass. He has a million and one
thoughts on littering, and monolingual people, and Game of Thrones. Of course he will have at least one thought on the topic of him and me. Me and him. He just isn’t
keen on sharing.
It’s probably because of that one time,
when he actually almost said something, and it didn’t turn out so well.
But whatever. I won’t let him mope
forever. He’s going to be in an isolated place with me for a weekend. For work,
so he can’t just run out on this—and me—even if he desperately wants to. The
next time that cheek twitches and the half-dimple appears, I’m going to be
right there, pulling words out.
We are both not really what we are, on
this trip. Ken and I are freelancers, moonlighters. Usually Ken and I cover
travel stories, sent together or separately to some hotel, some island, some
mountain retreat. He takes photos, and I think of new ways to say “cozy” and
“luxurious.” But this trip is not exactly a travel assignment. It’s an
entertainment job, covering a music festival that just happens to be located on
a beach cove in Batangas.
It’s almost a joke, because Ken and I are
not “entertainment people.” In fact, this friendship (if that’s what we’re
calling it) started because on our first trip together, we were riding a van
with an Entertainment Person who was loudly making everyone aware that he was
talking to some celebrity on his phone, and we kind of locked eyes, him near
the front and me at the back row, and laughed silently.
“You’re reading again,” Ken says, and
it’s actually the first thing he’s said to me all morning. He could have said
something when he picked me up at the ungodly hour of seven AM, but it was all
a series of grunts and head motions. A nod, when he first saw me. A thumbs-up
sign, when I tried the passenger door to find it locked, and he unlocked it to
let me in. A nod again, when I said good morning, what the hell am I doing up
at this hour.
He is very much against reading in
vehicles. It’s his own weakness, something that gives him instant headaches and
motion sickness, and he is mistakenly trying to save everyone from it. I happen
to be checking my phone because of a work-related thing, it’s always a work-related thing, so I keep
“Looking at the band list,” I explain. “I
don’t know all of them. Do you know anyone? I’m so wrong for this.”
“I know a few of the acts,” he says.
“Friends with some of the musicians.”
“Are they any good?”
And then, silence, again, for the rest of
a long stretch of highway.
“So we should probably do this like La
Union then,” I say, right after he pays the toll, and can’t use the highway
driving or counting money as an excuse to ignore me anymore. “Because I don’t
think I can cover everything, and I don’t know them that much anyway.”
We are on pause, idling right at the
exit, and he still doesn’t look at me.
“Sure,” he finally says.
“Like La Union” means if he could kindly
share his thoughts on the subject matter, because it’s probably something I
don’t know much about. Which was precisely the case on our first trip to La
Union together, because he had actually surfed before and I had never. I was a
newbie on that trip, a bit naive, and while my more seasoned colleagues
listened to briefings and enjoyed the sun, I actually insisted on going out
there to surf.
Because I felt I couldn’t write about it
if I hadn’t done it.
Ken was skeptical, not just of my wanting
to surf, but my point of view in general. He was himself a “seasoned colleague”
and he was on the water because he wanted to do it, while I seemed totally
unprepared. He agreed to tell me what he knew about surfing, where he liked to
do it, why this beach and this resort was great for it, but me trying it for
“You’re not wearing a rash guard,” he
I couldn’t breathe in those things. I was
wearing a black exercise tank top over a red bikini. “I don’t need it. You’re not wearing a rash guard.”
And then I wished I hadn’t said that,
because I just looked at and pointed
to his chest, all muscular and wet from having gone in the water. There was a
necklace of beads around his neck that wasn’t there earlier, and I tried to
look at that instead.
“If you fall wrong, you’ll lose your
“I’m not going to lose my top.”
He laughed. “I didn’t say that to scare
you. It’s going to happen.”
going to lose my top.”
“Okay, but just wait here while I go get
After a quick tutorial from Kuya Gerry,
who spoke about the resort and the surf spots in the province, I went out into
And promptly fell wrong, and lost my top.
Falling “wrong” is not new to me, by the
way. I spoke so defiantly to Ken because I’m used to the not-so-graceful exit,
and wasn’t expecting the water to hit me like a wall. A wall with arms, hands,
and fingers, that not just pushed me up and down, but also got into my tank
top, pulled it off my torso, and then loosened my bikini knot and liberated it
from my body, all in a matter of seconds.
“I’m on it, don’t worry,” I heard him say
as soon as I surfaced, arm covering certain parts of me.
He had retrieved the tank top, and I
slipped the soaked item of clothing back on. The red bikini was sadly lost to
“Did you get a good photo at least?” I
told him, as I tried to catch my breath.
Ken shook his head, but then tapped his
temple. “It’s in here. Where it counts.”
Pre-order Sola Musica: Love Notes from a Festival (Kindle edition): bit.ly/solamusica
Sometimes I get requests from students to answer questions or give comments, usually for a paper or a report they're doing. This is a recent Q&A I did with Hannah of DLSU, for her thesis. Sharing my answers here!
-How is the demand for the genre (chick lit and modern fiction) here in the Philippines at present?
There is a great demand for contemporary romance (teen romance, new adult, adult) and probably in unprecedented numbers. The chick lit category however, if you're to define it as the books about twenty-something women living in the city, is not the top genre right now, and is probably taking a backseat to broader romance stories.
-What is it about modern fiction that makes it really popular nowadays?
For lack of a better term, "the feels." The most popular stories right now are the ones that people readily gush about, emotionally. (From The Fault in Our Stars to She's Dating the Gangster.)
-Do you think modern fiction/popular fiction has other value aside from being an escapist read or for entertainment? What is the value of modern fiction?
It's probably something that won't be appreciated until much later, but I see popular or modern fiction as snapshots of our time. If a story is at all authentic, and it becomes well-loved, it's probably going to be a good indicator of how we felt that year, how mature our thoughts were, what we liked and loved. As an author I try to sneak in more than the usual in my books, even though they're meant to be light reads. I've introduced psych concepts, myths, career advice even. But it's all in context and it should all still be fun.
-How different is the modern fiction from the West to its local counterpart?
When the characters are teens, "Western" stories are a bit out of reach. They usually involve driving, going to prom, having sex, various situations that seem very adult to teens here. However as the characters get older, there are more similarities. College, first-job, "new adult" stories tend to be more relatable now.
-How many imprints/genres do you currently have in your line-up?
I've written young adult (teen audience) and new adult (18 and older). However I've decided to focus on the older readers, and tell more stories that feature them.
-Would you entertain the idea of having a “Bro Lit” (“Dick Lit”- guy centered texts) counterpart for Chick Lit? What kinds of stories do you think this hybrid-genre will contain?
I guess the authors and publishers behind this would have to know who they're writing for. Is it "guy lit" for girls to read? So girls can get a peek into their thoughts? Is it guy lit written for guys, with the intention of getting them in touch with their feelings? What makes it different from guys just writing in general? This hybrid could work if it knows what its goals are.
-What is your view on the influx of modern fiction now and the evolution of Wattpad where everyone and anyone can be an author?
There are criticisms of it that I've heard before, but they've also been said about self-publishing, commercial romance, chick lit... It's essentially people looking down at the new kid on the block. I think people should be encouraged by it. Encouraged to read, and write, and publish. What this proves is that the population of readers wasn't as small as we thought.
One thing about commitment. (Not what you think, or maybe it is.)
My classes that have been free:
#romanceclass - Free, web-based, open to anyone in the world, 6 months long. 101 participants. 16 finishers. (16%)
#buqosteamyreads - Sponsored, web-based + face-to-face, open to 18 and above, 5 weeks long. 63 participants. 16 finishers. (25%)
#flirtsteamyreads Sponsored, web-based, open to 18 and above, 2 months long. 42 participants. 11 finishers. (26%)
Some of you have attended seminars where I've spoken, and spent P500, P1000, or underwent training and paid a little more.
The chances of you "succeeding" (accomplishing what you set out to do be it publishing or finishing a book) go up when you COMMIT.
It's totally up to you what that means to you -- is it committing your money? (I can tell you that EVERY single person who paid for the training is published now. 100%)
Is it time? #buqosteamyreads came with 3 face-to-face classes which I think helped push people to finish. Most of the finishers were also face-to-face class attendees.
Is it reward? #flirtsteamyreads comes with a potentially very lucrative worldwide digital distribution deal, and more than one author shared with me that this was why they were so motivated/compelled to finish a book.
I've stopped the long-running, free #romanceclass because while I learned a LOT, I can't keep putting in that much time only to have 16% of the students accomplish something. But you don't need me for this anyway, if you just want to "see if this is for you" -- I've printed the textbook, and you can message me here if you have any questions. No classes necessary. :) Let's call it fair trade -- if the student can only spare a few minutes a day to do this, then can I also spend the same number of minutes teaching?
In the meantime, let's experiment with the workshop system that demands 3 uninterrupted hours of our time per day, where you feel that you deserve that time because you committed to it. Let's see what the success rate will be for that. :)
FREE to read for Amazon Prime and Kindle Unlimited members
Sweet, contemporary romance by Filipino authors. Enjoy three new adult/chick lit novellas in one bundle!
IN OVER HER HEAD BY ANNE PLAZA
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?
JUST A LITTLE RAIN BY JAYEN SAN DIEGO
Samantha Soriano can make a love song come alive when she sings it, but all her true feelings are trapped inside. Jared's one of the cutest guys in school and when he befriends her anyway -- despite her being such a nobody -- she falls hard, but was content with keeping it a secret. When she decides to finally tell him, he surprises her with a request: He wants to date Claudette, her friend from childhood, and now the most beautiful girl either of them have ever seen. Would she help him? Should she?
SAVE THE CAKE BY STELLA TORRES
Eloisa Carreon, a 28 year old cake artist, works at her family bakery. She yearns for the independence she had while living abroad, but her cautious parents and over-protective brother monitor her every move. When she is tasked to create a masterpiece for a high society wedding, Eloisa meets handsome videographer Sean Alvarez, a cousin of the bride. They discover a shared worldly outlook on life and a mutual desire to escape the excesses of the nuptials. The attraction between them is undeniable, yet Eloisa is weighed down by family expectations and emotional baggage from the past. She must decide whether to take the risk and open her heart, or seek shelter in the bakery that binds her family together.