Beyond Romance Class

8 Feb

 Passion unleashed, fully fledged authors spread their wings and begin their journey beyond the romance class and into the unknown.

Erica Jong said, “ We all have talent, what is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads. “ 

The #romanceclass or Yes, I’m Writing a Contemporary Romance Novella group is having its first anniversary bash on February 8,2014 , coinciding with the launch of a group effort called Luna East Academy, an anthology of short stories for the younger set or what is called young adults . The party will be held at the Ayala Museum lobby.

What does it take to write a romance novel? If this is a question that lingers in your mind, there’s a word that can answer it. Passion. Not interest, not pastime, but something stronger to the point of obsession.

Writing is a very private endeavor. But if you are planning to publish, it’s best to find a group like #romanceclass for support and group effort on marketing strategy. Yes, marketing. Unlike traditional publishing where you just submit your manuscript to an editor of a traditional publishing company and then wait to be accepted (or rejected whatever the case). They market your book and print it and distribute it to bookstores. In indie publishing, you market your own work.

In indie or independent publishing, you write the book, create your cover, upload it on an online platform like Smashwords (who in turn distribute it to Kobo,Sony, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Amazon, etc.) where readers buy it and download it on their computers, tablets, cell phones and other devices. You can also opt to have it printed which is more expensive to do.

The #romanceclass mentored by bestselling romance novelist Mina V. Esguerra has accomplished a successful project which has spawned other projects, which as of this time are under wraps. But to be sure, they’re getting hotter by the minute. Knowingly or unknowingly, Ms. Esguerra not only set off an industry but a sisterhood of the literary kind.

 More than fifteen people were able to finish their novels, and ten have so far published online and in print.  The writers do the work themselves like finding editors, printers (if they want it in printed book form), and marketing it through social media, television and newspapers. The question remains, who decides who goes or stays? Not the traditional publishers anymore, but the readers themselves.

To quote Mark Coker, Ceo and Founder of Smashwords, the best books market themselves on the wing of word of mouth. Write a good book, give it great editing, great cover, and a fair price and then get to work on the next book.

This new breed of independent romance writers hugging the Philippine literary scene are here to stay. There is a void inside Filipino readers’ hearts and bookshelves. And I personally believe, like what Ms. Jong  said, where there is emptiness, there is fullness somewhere.

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Awaken Your Creative Genius

15 Dec

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How to begin again. Well don’t wait for snow if you’re in the Pacific rim, or a typhoon if you’re in New York. Chances are, you’ll wait forever.

In whatever we do, be it painting, designing, weaving, dancing, singing, there is a natural force that compels us to share. Behind each of these is a story.

But alas, we can be easily buried with the reality of everyday living. And guess what, we can just as easily blame other people, our husband or wife (he needed his dinner on time, she wanted me to fix the garage door), or worse your children (the children need a nanny), I have to clean the house, it won’t wait! And a gazillion more excuses, why, if you can find time to write about it, you would be able to make a pastiche on “Reasons Why I Can’t Write that Book”.

If you can find a way to wake up every day to do your daily routine of eating, taking a bath, cleaning the house or going to work, there must be a way to wake up to do something that you are  passionate about. Something in this world, a space to rearrange, a pattern all our own so that we can say “I was here.”

What is surprising is the thing that you love most, something which you have found gratifying remains, in the wing. Take heart. All is not lost because at whatever age, there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t begin again.

  1. Take responsibility to do it. No more excuses, no more telling yourself tomorrow it will come. It will never come tomorrow. It is today that matters. “I’m too old. I’m forty.” Maybe you’re too old for boxing (as a profession), but as a writer, you are in the perfect age. Because you can write about anything in the world. You have experience. The greater number of successful people became successful at the age of fifty and above.
  2. Do creative writing that does not demand perfection, just expression. Writing a blog, a diary, letters, can help jumpstart an otherwise flagging desire.
  3. Read quotes that have been handed down by people who have been there, done that. The creative community is never stingy, always sharing a vast number of wisdom. Take a cue. Be inspired by other people. Read on biographies of people who made a difference in their lives and others.
  4. Do not be scared of mistakes, they remind us that perfection is sometimes made beautiful by flaws. I myself am more of a fan of originality. I like the quirkiness more than the faultlessness of mechanics.
  5. The cycle of life is actually a series of cycles, small beginnings and endings. When you have finished that first book, what matters is beginning again, thus the journey begins again. It is this beginning that gives one that tingle at the hair roots.
  6. The work you do is just a child of the creative process. It is not you. You should not be defined by this work or that work; otherwise you would be a victim to its presumed success or failure. The truth is, if you have begun to write it, and hopefully rode it to its completion, that itself is a success.
  7. If you are not good at deadlines, no prob. When you have time to fill, just do it. Be happy with what you have done. But many people require deadlines, and that is good. The adrenaline will work in whatever system, giving you a kick in the butt.
  8. Writing is a solitary endeavor, but it doesn’t mean you cannot work with other people. In a workshop with a beautiful and Zen surrounding, you can take part in a shared silence, where the only thing you hear is the scratching of pen on paper and the wind chimes that sway to breeze.
  9. When your work is done, you close that laptop, rest those tired fingers, and wait for that glorious sunlight to sneak up on you again.

Getting the Inspiration to Write

14 Dec

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Get Inspired…Now
If you’re a writer or someone who knows that you can write but has a classic bout of procrastination every time you turn on your laptop, here are some ways you can boost your creativity. There’s nothing better than actually sitting down and writing, you know, using the keyboard, tapping the keys and chaining thoughts on the monitor. Here are doable and practical things that helped me, yes me.
1. Join a writing workshop. In writing workshops, there’s usually a task that you need to finish. It’s a challenge that you can do which can actually rev up your system; write a vignette, a villanelle, a novella, an essay. After I joined a romance class, I was able to push myself to finish a 30,000 word novella. And was able to self publish it to Smashwords.com. Now it’s on Barnes and Noble, Sony, Kobo, Apple(Mac)and other distributors.
2. Challenge yourself to write 500 words a day. Novellas are longer to do but after you’re done with your outline, you can set yourself a few words a day, which is really easier than what you think. You would be amazed at the work you can do after a month of doing this.
3. Challenge yourself to write an essay (for a magazine contest) and send it. It’s easy to fall prey into a writing hibernation after settling down or having a dead end job. The way to start again is find a challenge. Join a contest. When a friend told me about a contest he was joining, I joined too. We won and we became contributors to a national newspaper.
4. Turn off everything that will distract you from your creative endeavors. The TV is a friend that one must turn off. Because with all the things that the TV tells us, it’s easy to get lost into the world’s concerns. Listen to your inner self.
5. Write down everything that you think you can use as soon as possible. The ideas you have may come to you while you were walking, doing a household chore or while browsing a new book. You think you will remember it but you won’t. Write it down.
6. Think positive. Anything you write down may come in handy in the future. That certain phrase, statement or loveable quote might just be the motto of the year, who knows?
7. Find the people who share your thoughts, maybe other writers or artists. Talking about something you like is the best way to express yourself and share with other people.
8. Get back to nature. Do some soul searching in the forest, look up at the sunlight that will shine down on you, feel the bark of a tree and the spirit of life, lie on a field and sink in the vastness of the sky, be part of the universe.
9. The opportunities are endless. The sky is the mark.
10. Now is the time to realize what you have just dreamed about.

Keeping in Shape While Writing

20 Sep

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(Photo courtesy of thaikrit at Freedigitalphotos.net)

Writers spend hours, days and nights hunched at a computer table, forgetting that much needed break and physical exertion that the body needs to be healthy. The stomach becomes frail, the back bent, the muscles weak and non-existent. These can lead to worse physical condition since the body has to expel toxins through the skin which would only be possible by exercise. So how does a writer stay fit?

1. Choose a regimen that fits your style. Each of us has our own preference as to what we want to do to, especially when it comes to work outs. Some people prefer to run. I walk 20 minutes every day around Fort Bonifacio. That’s because I walk to my morning job which is teaching English in an International School. I also jog around Serendra, Makati park, or a jogging path near my home. I add variety to an otherwise boring regimen by changing the setting once in a while.

One of my writer friends do 20 laps in the pool religiously every Saturday. The key word here is religiously and regimen. When I say that, it means you need to make it a part of your lifestyle, something that is as basic as eating and taking a rest.

2.Have a regular massage to get the circulation going. The touch of expert hands can do wonders to a tired soul. It can revive your inner force and renew your floundering enthusiasm. If done once in a while, it will diversify your fitness program.

3. Dance to the music. There’s zumba,rhumba,salsa,chacha, belly dancing and what have you. The thing here is to move your body at least 15-20 minutes a day.

4. Stand up and stretch your limbs. Did you know that the backbone is one of the most important parts of your body that’s neglected? The backbone needs nutrients as much as the organs of the body. If the backbone is misaligned or crunched, the nutrients cannot get into the backbone.  Stretching exercises can keep it straightened and healthy.

5.Inhaling and exhaling exercises can provide the body with sufficient oxygen to make the blood healthier. Breathing exercises can make you more alert and your brain replete with much needed oxygen.

COMPLETE BREATH EXERCISES

1. Sit up straight. Exhale.

2. Inhale and, at the same time, relax the belly muscles. Feel as though the belly is filling with air.

3. After filling the belly, keep inhaling. Fill up the middle of your chest. Feel your chest and rib cage expand.

4. Hold the breath in for a moment, then begin to exhale as slowly as possible.

5.  As the air is slowly let out, relax your chest and rib cage. Begin to pull your belly in to force out the remaining breath.

6. Close your eyes, and concentrate on your breathing.

7.  Relax your face and mind.

8.  Let everything go.

9.  Practice about 5 minutes.

(from UMCK)

6.The neck is another victim to long hours of typing. It holds a very heavy object which is the head. It should be exercised carefully, making sure that it gets stretched and exercised. The wrist should also be considered.

7.Eating a well balanced diet which is based on fruits and vegetables will likely give you, the writer, a fit and healthy body.

8. Have enough sleep and rest. It will give you the stamina to perform better. Discipline with fun is a good way to start a lifestyle that can last a lifetime.

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(Photo courtesy of stockimages at Freedigitalphotos.net)

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Time and again …

18 Sep

Time and again I have an affair with books, waking up mornings with sunlight streaming from the window and specks of sun dust in my hair, my arms straddled on the bed with a book that just that night was a stranger to me.
-Unspoken, Ami Granada

Discover a Book by its Cover

4 Sep

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My inspiration for my book cover is the selfie which is what Georgina uses as HER inspiration. The backdrop is Paris, a place that has been considered the center of gravity for artists, poets and writers. Since the book centers on the changing life of a yuppie, I put greater emphasis on her face…They say that a face can launch a thousand ships…

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Unspoken : My Big Reveal

29 Aug

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Unspoken: A Contemporary Romance Novella

Free spirited travel writer Georgina has set her mind on Paris. In fact, she has a selfie back-dropped by the Eiffel Tower to prove it. Of course it’s only photo-shopped.  But as fate would have it, Ian, the man she loved and ruined at the same time has come back. And he wants revenge. He grabs her dream job, now he’s using her to make another woman jealous. Can love conquer a past too painful that even friendship would not be possible?

Watch out for it!
Continue reading

Books I Love

29 Aug

      I have a dilemma. I would soon be moving to a two bedroom condo unit that boasts economy of space, meaning most of the things that accumulated all my life has got to go.As I peruse my room it seems that the thing that had built up most in twenty years are … my books.                                                                                                                                                                     

      Everywhere I look books – in the shelves, on the table, on the bed, even crawling on the floor. What will happen to the tons of books that are a part of me as my memories are?There is no one book that touched my life. To say so would be telling a lie, for there were hundreds of them that kept me awake for so many a night. The second that my toddler eyes engaged with the words of Doctor Seuss, words like cat, hat, box, fox, I was hooked.                                        

     There were no sacred grounds for me. I read in my room, I read in the bathroom, I read on the sofa, I even read in the closet. My yaya kept her Tagalog classics in there next to the blankets, and discovering them was one of the best things that happened to my young life. I started with Mars Ravelo’s Darna and ended up with Vincent Benjamin Kuah’s Cecilia’s Lullaby.                                                                                                                                                                                                

     I remember my old school’s library. It was filled with musty odor, dank and mystifying. Rows and rows of books lined up like hoarded antiquity. As I walked down the narrow spaces between the shelves, the sunrays brought millions of tiny floating specks casually landing on the book covers. They were like fireflies in the afternoon.Was I Nancy Drew, whipping up her magnifying glass to hunt for clues? Titles were like an array of cryptic messages, asking to be unearthed and brought to light.

     A book is a puzzle, an enigma to be solved.There were secrets untold and there were secrets that waited for me to unfold. In high school, spotting an Agatha Christie paperback would be enough to give me goosebumps. It was the utmost pleasure to outthink the author by getting ahead of the story. It was even utter bliss to be completely wrong! Hercule Poirot tickled me pink for the most horrendous self aggrandizement in the annals of mystery novels. He is horribly arrogant but dreadfully funny. His repartees with his partner Hastings will delight even hardcore Sherlock Holmes fans.

      A book is a nanny, a teacher, and a mother.It had opened its pages and welcomed me with open arms. There were times that reality seemed too bitter to swallow that I found solace in a corner with a book in my arms, safe in the knowledge that although the world may not be right, there was Atticus, Scout, Huck, Levin, Silas and all the other unforgettable imperfect characters who gave me strength and wisdom and restored my belief in humanity.My favorite book “Sightings” by Susan Trott introduced me to Buster. Trott said of Buster, “the good hearted ones are always the strongest, the most courageous, the most intelligent, i.e. clear thinking, because they’re unfettered by ambition, greed, fear, and other crummy needs humans are heir to that drag us down and make us craven or base”.

         This book took me to a place where reality and myth touched intimately. Imagine the crystalline sea and characters as insouciant and blithe as the weather.A book holds its meaning until you are ready to realize its wisdom. It gives meaning when meanings do not exist. I found the meanings that I looked for in the pages of “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. At a time when I was surrounded by people who took drugs for amusement, who thought that freedom entitled them to drink alcohol and throw the nights away in bars and parties, I found eternal values in the chronicles of bygone strangers.Now I have to choose. Which one should I let go? Is it the crusty “Silas Marner” who has held that darling girl and protected her with his life? Or is it this coffee stained copy of “Anna Karenina”?                                                                                                                                                                             

       Oh, my dear old quixotic friend, how I adore your misadventures! But off you go. Slowly and painfully, I select a title, touch its jacket and perhaps feel if it has a message for me, still.The story that haunted me by its beauty is Henry James’ “Beast in the Jungle”. This is the story of a man who thought something terrible was about to happen to him, that the “beast” would spring upon him.  And so he waited, not knowing that the woman who waited with him, waited who “knows with what passion”, was the only escape from the nothingness that was about to happen to him. Then she died and left him all alone. He travelled around the world only to find out that the thing that mattered to him the most was to be beside that tiny slab of grass that was her tomb.

      A book is a journey.To have traversed the Mississippi River with Huck Finn was a rite of passage for me. In reading his books, you never really know when the laughter ends and the recognition of truth begins. Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer are characters Filipinos would relate to. We find humor in everything, we grit our teeth during hard times, and we forgive like hell.And so I pack my books in boxes, like children off to school, or to some other place in another country. I have this terrible ache in my guts.This box goes to my son in Macau, this box to my niece, this box to a colleague, this one to a friend.I have some books left, the ones I cannot let go.I have learned through bouts with our weather the importance of knowing what to value and what to discard .The possibility that I would read them again or that one of my children will keeps me holding on. I read them once sometimes twice. But the pages turn rust and brown. Perhaps it is time to let go.

     A book is a tree that grows in our minds.It is rooted deeply, connecting us to all that we hold dear in life.It is a comfort to know that wherever the books end up, they will not die but keep on growing.Do you see that last page where it says “The End” ?

 Well, it doesn’t. And holding that thought, I smile.

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Reading a Book is a Walk in the Park

28 Aug

One of my friends said that books are passé. Now that computers have virtually dominated our milieu, books will become a relic of the past according to her. I begged to disagree with her. I tried reading on the computer for a few hours and I got an eye strain. Well, assuming that iPads and Kindle have gone viral and infected just about everybody in cyberspace, books still have the greatest impact on some of the most celebrated leaders of our time.
I’m not exactly a techie, but I have moves of my own when it comes to the keyboards. And I love my computer. But it doesn’t give me the relaxation that a good book can.
Alas! With all the techno craze going on in the virtual sphere, our children are all spaced out. And they are actually enjoying the time of their lives.
But why books? Are we not now in the future as what Isaac Asimov predicted?
A book is like a walk in the park. It gives you time to reflect without the temptations of facebook, google, messages, or whatever. It’s the grass under your feet, the clouds floating idly by.
Here are some courses of action you can do to save your child from the clutches of his cyber attachment and lead him to discover the beauty of the pages.
1. Be sneaky. Buy the latest craze in the market like the Hunger Games or the Harry Potter series. Make sure the books lie around where the kids can find it. Read some fascinating parts or mystery and tell them about it during dinner. Use the cool words in the book like quidditch or something unpronounceable and have a fun time tongue twisting. Talk about the characters like Katniss and Peeta.
2. Create a game where in the children have to guess the characters in a book. It can also be a story game. This will stimulate interest in the characters. What magical powers do they have? Who is Harry Potter’s love interest? Where is Panem? What do you mean by “hunger games”?
3. Go to the bookstore with the kids and browse. It’s free to browse. The smell of the pages, the illustrations, the touch of the book jacket, they all come together as an experience in itself. The library was a magic kingdom to me when I was small.
4. Buy books that have familiar characters like Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys. Tell them that the movies were actually made based on the novels not the other way around.
5. When you go to the beach, have a picnic or travel to another country, buy a book in that place. Make the book a part of your travel.
6. Always scout for great buys in second hand stores. I found most of my classics in bargain bins.
7. Make them choose whatever topic they like. I have hundreds of classics in my shelves but my kids prefer Libba Bray and J.K. Rowling.
8. Be firm when it comes to playing computer games. Put a password in the computer.
9. Tell them reading is cool. It makes one a more interesting person.
10. Read. Perhaps that is the best way to do it. When a child sees you reading, he will be curious. Make this curiosity work for you by taking him into your world.
11. And when you take a walk in the park, don’t forget to carry one. It’s the one friend that will always be there.

Published in the Manila Bulletin.Image

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When I saw him…

22 Aug

 When I saw him… I felt the world was yanked from underneath my feet and that I was walking on the moon’s terrain, weightless, and could be thrown into space anytime.

-Ami Granada in Unspoken