Friday, June 28, 2013

How Romantic! + Winners

I am just full of kilig feelings right now. Thank you to everyone who joined! You are responsible for the hundred-plus definitions of romance in my inbox, all of which I read through and feel REALLY conflicted now over. I had to choose just five!

(If you are not among the winners, don't worry, I may still have something for you!)

Here are the winners of the signed Summit chick lit books! Will be sending you messages this weekend with details about your prize. Email me at if you have any questions. :)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Asian NA - What is that? + Let me sponsor your next group read! (US only, for now)

I love that New Adult came about, and that we're talking about it.

I live in Metro Manila, in the Philippines, and I write contemporary novels. They're called Chick Lit by publishers but the way I write them, they're actually New Adult.

This is what being a young adult and new adult (18 to 25) in my country is like. It's about being told that:
At 14-17, you can't go out on dates until you're eighteen. And that you're a problem, if you do anyway.
At 18-20, you can't go out with guys unless you're with your friends, his friends, and at least one other parent, preferably people who "share your values." You should stay home and not be like (insert teen mom's name here) who never got to finish college and now has a child to raise. And guess how teen moms are judged.
At 20-23, you should not go out at all, and focus on graduating with good grades, so you can find a good job. You "shouldn't be so serious" with your boyfriend, because your priority should be getting a good job so you can help out with your family. It's selfish to spend your money on things like coffee and gadgets and Boracay beach trips.
At 24-25, "Why are you still single? Maybe it's your personality. You're wasting your youth and beauty. I'll set you up with my friend's son now before you become a spinster." And if you're fine with just dating, seeing people, without planning your wedding just yet? No, don't admit it, they've got more to say about that. 
So yeah. It's about spending most of this wonderful time as a "new adult" being told to be chaste and responsible and career-oriented, only to call us spinsters if we follow the advice. It's also, sadly, about making us feel horrible if we stumble during this time, using us as cautionary tales to scare the younger girls, and the times when we recover gracefully and make awesome lives for ourselves can't (shouldn't) be acknowledged, because it's just not the norm.

So what is Asian NA? It's about independence first, I think. And romance. And career. And sex (sure). And money. And real friendships. Everything you start to discover once you're free to discover them.

I wrote this because I notice that some people say "NA" when they're looking for explicit stuff, and might be disappointed with books like mine, which are more sweet than steamy, but are about people of the NA age range. I guess I wanted to explain the cultural context of why "sweet" can be realistic for a twenty-four-year-old. And I wanted to find the people and readers who think this is realistic for them.*

Do you want to read Asian NA? 

1. Sign up here to get a (hopefully monthly) email update of Asian books you might be interested in.
2. Here's my Amazon page: Most of my books are NA contemporary romance.
3. If you're based in the US and would like to do a group read of one of my books, I can sponsor your group by offering:

  • A special discount up to 20% off the paperback edition for your group
  • Discussion questions and notes for your book club
  • An Amazon gift card to raffle off during the discussion

Sign up here:

(*I'm not ruling out steamy, of course. I totally think I live among people living unapologetically steamy lives. I just wish they'd write about it!)

Friday, June 14, 2013

#romanceclass finishers Batch 2!

It's not over yet!

The book descriptions featured here are from the seven other novels that were completed during the official #romanceclass course period. If you'd like to see any of these stories become actual books, available for everyone to read, you can help by offering:

  • Editing services
  • Cover design services
  • A book deal!
  • To promote these books (when they are published) through your blog or book club by signing up here:
A round of applause and confetti for our authors and stories!

Save The Cake by Stella Torres
After years of living abroad, Eloisa Carreon is back home and working at Reyna Bakery, where she is expected to carry on the family tradition of creating the best cakes in Manila. But it's a return to drama: Her over-protective brother supervises her every move; her parents wory about her growing independence; and her friends won’t stop setting her up with guys who never turn out as advertised. So when she is asked to design the cake for a big wedding – staged to cover up a couple’s elopement – Eloisa takes on the duties with an understandable dose of cynicism. 
What starts out as an obligation takes a turn when Eloisa meets her match in Sean Alvarez, the wedding's handsome videographer. The attraction between them is undeniable, but Eloisa's got a dramatic, meddling family and her own emotional baggage to deal with. She must decide if she should take the risk and follow her heart, before she loses her mind. And when better to do it than during the year's biggest wedding?
Finding X by Miles Tan
Is there a science to falling in love? 
Carlisle Santiago is through with men. After the devastating end of a seven-year relationship, she's trying to put her life back together. What she doesn't know is that she is the subject of the patient and methodical observations of blue-haired scientist Matteo Villegas, who just wants to find love himself. She must decide whether she's ready to give love another shot or if this is doomed to be one failed experiment.
Cover (Story) Girl by Chris Mariano
1) She has amnesia.
2) She’s on the run from her father’s creditors.
3) She’s enjoying her last days on earth. 
Ever since Jang Min Hee walked into Gio’s small museum, she’s given him one excuse after another on why she’s vacationing at scenic Boracay Island. Rarely has Gio’s carefully catalogued world been shaken like this. Soon he finds himself scrambling over rocks, hiding in dressing rooms, and dragging her out of bars. But what is true and what is a lie? Their worlds are getting unraveled -- one story at a time.
Painted Love by Jonnalyn Cabigting
Julie is determined to be the best -- and most adored -- artist in her school, and everywhere. Jun, an actual art prodigy, seems to want to avoid attention at all costs. When they meet because his talent makes her question hers, she goes all out in competing with her new rival. Will her ego get in the way of the her first real love?
Blast From Two Pasts by Kristel Villar
Fate's been playing tricks on Cara Nicolas lately. She agrees to go on a blind date with her best friend's fiance's cousin, only to discover that the guy is her first love from elementary school, Lucas Lobregat. Now that would have been a charming story, except that the date turns out to be one of the worst ever. And they can't even pretend it never happened, because they're both suddenly part of the wedding preparations. 
Just as she is starting to get to know more about the boy she used to love, Oliver Sta. Maria, an old flame who owes her some closure, surprisingly shows up. With two pasts resurfacing, which will Cara choose to rekindle? Or will she ever choose at all?
Pursuing Perfection by Alyssa Ashley Lucas
College student Snow Montelo knows what kind of guy she's looking for. She even has a list of qualities ready (the usual -- gorgeous, caring, smells good, etc), to guide her just in case. When she meets Connor Madrid, who's got his own list, they agree to work together to find each other's perfect person. Will they find Mr. and Ms. Right? 
The Real Score by Kessica Tanglao
Caitlin's friendship with Marcus (the de facto frontman of the world's biggest boyband 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 "what you see what you get." To everybody else, there is something more. And then comes a deal the pair couldn't refuse: a magazine offers a huge amount to be donated to their charities of choice in exchange for a no-holds-barred interview. Will they finally settle the score? Or will they stick to the status quo?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

#romanceclass finishers! (Batch 1)

This post makes me giddy.

The writers who participated in #romanceclass were part of an online community, sure, but by design the course had them do most of the work on their own. So sure, I set deadlines, and gave assignments, and handed over a big secret (my outline), but they came up with everything else. I only came in again at the end and helped some write book descriptions and suggested titles.

How can you help make a writer even happier? You could offer:
  • Editing services
  • Cover design services
  • A book deal!
  • To promote these books (when they are published) through your blog or book club by signing up here:
Fourteen novellas were completed (and submitted to me) by the official deadline of June 9. The others have sworn not to give up the fight, and I will continue to help them out. But let's give this first batch of finishers (presented in no particular order) a round of applause. And a big yay!

All's Fair in Blog and War by Chrissie Peria
Five Cuevas @fivetravels
Three guesses to where I'm going next. Starts with an M. Ends with a U. Has a lechon named after it. #travel

Travel blogger Five thinks she's hit the jackpot when the Macau Tourism Board invites her over for an all-expense-paid blogger tour in exchange for blogging about Macau. But while she happily signs up for the trip, she didn't sign up to be travel buddies with the infuriating Jesse. Will her dream vacation turn into a nightmare junket? Or will falling in love be on the itinerary?
Fall Like Rain by Ana Tejano
24-year old Rain De Castro has been burying herself in her IT work for months for highly personal reasons: her best friend since forever, Mark Velasco, is happy with his own love life while she has been pining over him since college. When she finds out that Mark is single again, she thinks this might be her chance to finally get out of the friend zone and show Mark that he is meant to be with her.

But it's proving to be difficult when Rain's estranged cousin comes into the picture, and sets her eyes on Mark. And it seems like Mark likes her cousin, too. Rain is more than willing to fight for him this time around, but is he willing to fight for her, too? Will she step aside to give way for her best friend's happiness, even if it means losing him to someone else, again?
A Heart Full of Love 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 so clumsy and awkward -- 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 beautiful (not at all clumsy and awkward) foster sister. Would she help him? Should she?
Backstage Pass to Love by Ellaine Dimla
Ashley was all about finding her dream job. At twenty-four, settling for a blah career wasn't even an option. She may have gotten her wish when a series of (fortunate?) events lead her to a new job -- working with The Labyrinth, hottest band in the country, and right alongside with rock demigod Red Rodrigo. How will this regular girl survive the ups and downs of life in the spotlight?
Vintage Love by Agay Llanera
25-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.
In Over Her Head by Anne Plaza
29-year-old Erika Apostol is the picture of success, at least, that's what they all think. Life couldn't be more perfect, until she learns that Richard Javier, the very same person who broke her heart many years ago, is now back in the Philippines. 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 enlists the help of the reluctant Jerome Gonzales. All she wants is to get back at Richard, but there's something more to Jerome than meets the eye. Will Erika's plan work out the way it should, or is she just in for a lot more hurt?
Second Time Around by Danica Cohu
Rianne has lost her memory of the past two years due to an accident, but letters from a mysterious "Sparks" -- found in a pile of unread mail at home -- has been helping her cope. The letters tell her of a couple's love story, and she hopes to find the same unconditional love someday. Rebuilding her life has been a mess though: her guy best friend is claiming to have been her boyfriend that time, but she seems more at ease with a mysterious stranger. Does she trust the past she can't remember, or take a chance with a more uncertain future?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


#romanceclass, the paperback

Much as I enjoyed (and I really really really did) organizing and facilitating my free contemporary romance writing course this year, I won't have time to continue it, or offer it again anytime soon.

So this is the next step for what we've nicknamed #romanceclass. I took all the assignments, my original outline, my main discussion posts, my answers to questions, and compiled it all in this handy little book.

Contemporary romance novellas are fun, light, quick reads. Usually less than 50,000 words, about the many ways that men and women meet, fall in love, and live happily ever after.

Maybe predictable, if you've read enough of them, but for a writer that just means this is a great format to start a career with. This book will help you:
1. Learn a simple plot structure for a romance novella
2. Set a reasonable and practical writing schedule
3. Finish the manuscript and prepare it for publication

This is pretty much everything I handed over to the class in the online forum. At least, everything they needed to complete their books. It's about 60 pages, and is available in paperback for P500.00. If you're one of the 100 people already in the class Facebook group, you will have a special price (less than P500 definitely, if you want it at all haha).

Email if you'd like a copy! Or order from CreateSpace.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Cover muse: Chatting with photographer/style blogger Rhea Bue

In one of those things that I never thought of but makes absolute sense in retrospect, my friend/cover designer Tania Arpa collaborated with style blogger/photographer Rhea Bue for the international covers of the Interim Goddess of Love trilogy.

Rhea is also the model for the covers. I didn't know her prior to working with her on the books, so I didn't write the books with her in mind. But seeing her archive of fashion photos, duh. I'm so glad I work with people who are brilliant.
Did you plan the cover together? How did you collaborate on it? What other ideas did you two come up with that didn't make it to the final?
Yes we did. We met over lunch to talk about the last book cover and how we were going to do it. We had tons of ideas that time like having cute boys surrounding me in a silhouette, an underwater shot and the cliff jumping shot but the most outstanding shot that Tania liked the most was the one where I was laying on top of the mountain. This gives you the feeling that "Hannah" is thinking very deep thoughts about her situation and how to overcome everything about love.
How is your style/fashion photography different from how you shot this cover?
Usually I'd do normal OOTDs (outfit of the day) photos or take a photo of random things I see around me. But for this photo, it has more emotions and a story behind it.
I love your posture and angles in this shot! How else did you shoot it, what other positions did you try?
Thank you! :) I had one where I was just sitting having a nice view from the top and another was the jump shot in back view. :)

Where was this taken?
This photo was taken in Zamboanga during the Holy Week.

I love the outfit -- as usual. Is there a story behind the outfit choice?
Thank you, Mina! :) With this outfit, I just wanted comfy and laid-back. My mom handed down the plaid polo I was wearing in the photo. She kept that polo for years now and since it couldn't fit her anymore, she had the best idea of picking me to keep it for her. Well I think this outfit somehow complimented the scene perfectly. Something from the "country-side" I must say.

Is this your natural hair color?
No. My natural hair color is dark brown. My mom styled my hair to red-blonde ombre. :)

Thank you for sharing your talent and awesomeness, Rhea! Visit her blog:

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Cover girl: Interview with my cover designer Tania Arpa

I asked my friend Tania Arpa, designer of the awesome international covers for the Interim Goddess of Love trilogy, some questions about covers:

Did you and (photographer/model Rhea Bue) plan the cover together? How did you collaborate on it?
We got together for lunch and talked about the book and what I had in mind for the cover photo. We talked about where the photos might be shot, and how.

What other ideas did you two come up with that didn't make it to the final?
For the photos? An underwater shot! And also a photo taken from the top of a cliff overlooking the ocean. They were just too hard to do.

How do you come up with your cover concepts?
After I read the book, I try to figure out the theme of the story. Then I'll remember scenes that are significant and try to picture each of them as a book cover. I also think of the protagonist and think of a photo of her that best illustrates her state of mind of her emotional state during some point in the story. I try to work from all of these.

How long did it take you to come up with the covers?
It took me either weeks or hours, depending on how you look at it. I start conceptualizing after reading the book, then when the photos come in, I visualize what I can do with them. The work on Photoshop takes an hour or two. I play around with fonts, photos, layout. I look at each design draft and ask myself questions like "Is this an honest portrayal of the story?" "Will this cover appeal to someone who will enjoy the book?" "Will this look good both on a paperback and as a thumbnail when it shows up on an amazon search?" Stuff like that.

It took a shorter amount of time to design the cover of Icon because the general layout was pretty much predetermined -- it had to be similar to the covers I made for the first two books. I just needed to tweak it a bit for the photo I was going to use.

How many photos did you have to choose from? How involved are you in how the photos turn out and what you get?
For Icon, Rhea gave me four photos to choose from, all taken from the same shoot. I picked this one because I'd always wanted a cover with Hannah lying on the grass being all contemplative. It seemed like something she would do. She wouldn't care about getting her outfit stained; she'd lie there and think about what in heavens she's gotten herself into. I never mentioned this to Rhea, so it's either serendipity or, more likely, she got that vibe about Hannah too.

Sometimes, like in the case of IGoL and QotC, I get photos that weren't originally intended for the cover. Rhea's photos were perfect for IGoL and QotC because while the photos were meant for her style blog, they had a touch of the surreal, and a bit of humor. So I just picked out the two photos I wanted to use and incorporated them into the design I was working on. I of course just needed to make sure they shared the same layout theme because they were two books of a series.

For Icon, although Rhea and I discussed the story and what I had in mind for the cover, she did the shoot herself and just sent me the photos she thought I'd like. I think it was better that way. I don't like looking over another artist's shoulder while they work, the same way I prefer being given creative breathing space while I work. I'd seen Rhea's portfolio so I was confident she'd come up with something great. And she did!

Tips for how an indie author in the Philippines can score a really cool cover please?
Hire me! And hire Rhea to do the photography. Haha. I think, for an author, the best place to start is to develop an eye for book covers. You don't necessarily have to know how to make one, but you should have an idea of what a good cover is and how book covers relate to the story and how they help sell your book (a while back, I blogged about how book covers are a marketing thing). Once you do, you're more likely to pick a cover designer who is good, and who can give you what you need. Don't choose the best artist you know. There are a lot of artists who are brilliant at painting and graphic design but can't design book covers. Choose an artist who loves and understands books and knows what should go in a book cover. Someone who knows what fonts not to use because you won't be able to read the title when it shows up as a thumbnail on a Google search. Also, it helps if you come up with a great tag line to give to your book designer. Sometimes a tagline will inform the theme of the cover design. However, sometimes the design will give you an idea for a tagline (I think I got the idea for the IGoL tagline while making mockups for that cover). Be open to possibilities.

Thank you, Tania!

Tania ( and I are collaborating on other cover projects. Contact her to plan your awesome cover too. :)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Icon of the Indecisive (Interim Goddess of Love #3)

Available today!

College student Hannah Maquiling, also temporarily working as the Goddess of Love, has had enough of everyone asking for her help when it comes to relationships. It's her turn to find romance! She deserves it, after serving as matchmaker and confidant to everyone else in Ford River College for the past year. She's had a crush on handsome senior (and God of the Sun) Quin forever, but he's destined to fall in love with an extraordinary mortal woman, so she's figured her chances with him have pretty much dropped to zero.

It's not like she doesn't have any options for a classic college romance though. There's Diego, God of the Sea and Quin's best friend/enemy. And regular guy Robbie is stepping up, making sure she knows how he feels about her. How hard can it be for a goddess to find someone to love, and be loved in return?

And when you're done reading the book, you might want to check out the free audio commentary, where I discuss all sorts of IGoL backstory with some book blogger friends.

Every aspect of producing the Interim Goddess of Love trilogy has been amazing. From writing to publishing to designing to reader feedback, seriously, every single thing about doing this series has been such a joy. Thank you so much for the support, encouragement, and love. Hugs, everyone!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Featured Reader: Kristel Satumbaga-Villar

To celebrate the upcoming release of Icon of the Indecisive, I'm posting readers' thoughts on the Interim Goddess of Love series.

Kristel was one of the first five to send in their thoughts, so she's getting a free Kindle copy of Icon of the Indecisive on release day next week!

Reading Interim Goddess of Love was like getting inside a time machine and being transported back in the good old days of college -- and maybe high school. It was a fun and exciting ride, as if I was there as one of the students of Ford River College witnessing the events first hand. 
I grew up reading Sweet Valley, Sweet Dreams and Love Stories books, where every story shows me more about the meaning of friendship, loyalty, and of course, dealing with young love. But it deals with American main characters and love interests, which gives me a different experience than what Interim Goddess of Love gave me. With its Filipino touch and setting, I can totally relate to Hannah in Interim Goddess of Love. I saw her as a former high school/college classmate, the type of batchmate you will always remember because she exudes that aura whenever she passes by the hallways, or gets caught up studying in the library -- someone you adore and wish you could be like her. And Quin, Diego and Robbie could be your typical school heartthrobs, whose names you usually write at the back of your notebook binders. 
Oh, I wish I grew up in a school like Ford River college with these wonderful people on it.