Liz Durano

Musings

Tonight, I got a notification from Goodreads that someone liked one of my reviews. I had to think for a moment because I stopped leaving reviews on Goodreads after I became a verified Goodreads author in 2014.

So I clicked on the notification and it led me to this review:

I wrote that review in 2012, three years before I wrote my novel Everything She Ever Wanted and whose hero’s mother named him after a character from her favorite novel called, you guessed it, The Adventurers.

Which kinda makes me like his mother in a way, doesn’t it? Michelle Jo Quinn was right when she said that to me a few years ago and I went, nah… Only she was right.

Anyway, I’m just rambling really, doing my best to coast through this week as we celebrate Thanksgiving here in the US. I haven’t had much to write about in the last few months since my MIL had a stroke and passed away on October 2. I was in the middle of my burnout then and was just struggling to come out of it and although I did write a now-deleted lament over the whole process, current family in-law drama told me to stay quiet.

It sucks but it is what it is.

So in the absence of writing about current events in my neck of the wood (we’re all still in the middle of a pandemic, right? And some areas have gone back into Lockdown as well), this blog will be quiet except for gems like the one above. I am writing – just not the books I’m supposed to write – but I am writing. Ever since coming out of my burnout, I’ve decided to be kind to myself and not force things like I used to. I still don’t know if I want to simply shelve Liz Durano for good (even though I’d love to write all the stories of the side characters still) but I figured until that decision comes, I need to be kind to myself.

I’m not out of the woods (of Burnout) yet, it seems, but I’m working on it.

So I hope you are doing well this week. I’d like to wish you all in the US a Happy Thanksgiving and I hope that however you celebrate it, please stay safe and healthy. To all of you who still read this blog, thank you.

Thank you for being here, for reading my books, reading my blog, checking up on me.

Just… thank you.

Yep that would be ME!

And with the arrival of my Freewrite Traveler I no longer have any excuses at all either… well, barring writer burnout, family dramas, and life in general.

What should I name him?

If you’re not familiar with NaNoWriMo, it’s short for National Novel Writing Month that happens every November, sending writers to their keyboards to bang out 50,000 words in 30 days. It’s a 501c.3 organization that supports literary fluency and education in classrooms across the country. People from all walks of life can join without ever having written a novel before and you never know, by November’s end, you could be a novelist! Or at least someone who’s written 50,000 words for a novel.

I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo since 2012 although I didn’t hit my goal until 2013 with Finding Sam (which clocked at 125k words total). I’ve only sat out 2018, judging from my dashboard, and although this year, I told myself I should just focus on my writing on my own, it’s nice to have writing buddies to cheer you on and help you be accountable. You can find me on the NaNoWriMo website here and if you’d want to be buddies, let’s connect and encourage each other!

So my goal this year is to write 50,000 words and as of yesterday, I’ve hit 768 words for the manuscript. Sure, I’ve written more words than that but they were story outlines and brainstorming and I’m not counting those words. I just need to listen to my characters more and focus focus focus.

Speaking of focus, that’s one of the main things I’m struggling with. I can no longer rely on having five hour blocks of alone time to craft my stories. At best, with online schooling in full swing and being with the LilDude 24/7, I’ve only been able to get between 15 to 25 minutes here and there.

Last week, I thought I could just wear my earphones and play music to help me write and the moment I did, what I thought was 25 minutes of bliss was also the same amount of time LilDude decided to be disrespectful to his teacher and his class aide on the other side of the wall. I only found out about it when the aide asked to speak to me after class was over.

So yes it’s been tough to find focus but I have to find it. Writing is passion. It’s my livelihood. It’s my escape*.

So NaNoWriMo it will have to be. After all, it’s more fun doing it with others. So I hope you can join me!

*Here’s my other escape. One you can enjoy on your own. Earphones in.

I probably have about five versions of this blog post in my dashboard right now, each one varying in themes depending on the day. Today, I’m writing this and posting it because it will be my way of getting back to work.

I basically took time off for about two months, maybe three. It started with me stepping away from social media, not posting or scheduling any more memes or sayings and whatnot. Maybe it’s career suicide (my readers will forget me!) or maybe it’s not (oh, don’t be so dramatic, life goes on). But whatever the reason, life seemed less stressful with every step I took away from social media.

It didn’t help that my MIL had a stroke in August and with it, the emotional toll of mounting family drama surrounding her hopeful recovery and the state of her estate that finally rose to the surface after her death this month after spending three weeks in hospice. It’s easy to lose yourself in the fallout that follows.

There’s only one problem: there’s still work to be done and whatever happens, life goes on. And whether or not I like it, social media is part of our lives. It’s part of an author’s life as well.

So after losing myself in the company of (non-romance author) creators* who showed me that in the end, it’s still the work that matters, I’m back to writing the next book. And the next. And the next. I’m finally creating again.

I’m back at work.

*Hank Miller is one of the creators I’ve been lucky to discover during my two month break. If you’ve ever wondered what the heck erotic audio (and comfort audio and roleplays) is, let him show you.

October is many things: pumpkin spice, Inktober, Halloween…

It’s also Filipino-American History Month. According to the Filipino-American National Historical Society (FANHS):

“…the celebration of Filipino American History Month in October commemorates the first recorded presence of Filipinos in the continental United States, which occurred on October 18, 1587, when “Luzones Indios” came ashore from the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Esperanza and landed at what is now Morro Bay, California. In 2009, U.S. Congress recognized October as Filipino American History Month in the United States.”

– About Filipino American National History Month, FANHS

I wanted to share a few classic novels and autobiographies, among them a semi-autobiography by essayist, poet, and writer Carlos Bulosan, but I will do that on another day. Today, I’d like to focus on romance books written by Filipino-Americans like myself.

On Facebook and Twitter, fellow Filipino author Maida Malby tagged me in a post that does just that and I’d like to share her post here. She included my book Her Lucky Charm (featuring an old cover) on the list as well.

October is Filipino-American History Month. 🇵🇭🇺🇸 One of the ways I celebrate is by reading and promoting books by Fil-Am authors. 📚 Here are some of them: (as pictured)

My books, of course: Boracay Vows, New York Engagement, Singapore Fling, and 19th Hole Fiesta. Find them here: https://maidamalby.com/

Thirsty and Trashed by Mia Hopkins’s Books https://www.miahopkinsauthor.com/

East in Paradise, The Key to Happily Ever After, and Once Upon a Sunset by Tif Marcelo – Authorhttp://www.tifmarcelo.com/

Faker, Simmer Down, and If You Never Come Back by Author Sarah Smithhttps://www.sarahsmithbooks.com/

Fobolous by Rainne Mendozahttps://www.fobolous.com/

Disarm by June Grayhttps://www.authorjunegray.com/

Healing Hannah’s Heart by Preslaysa Williams, Authorhttp://www.preslaysa.com/

Her Lucky Charm by Liz Durano Bookshttps://lizdurano.com/

I’d Give Anything by Marisa de los Santos, Writerhttps://www.harpercollins.com/…/books-by-marisa-de-los-sant…

And, The Rosales House by new US resident Mignon Bravo-Dutt https://penguin.sg/book/the-rosales-house/

Hope y’all check them out. 📚

#filam
#filamauthors
#fahm
#FilipinoAmericanHistoryMonth

Know other Filipino American romance authors that are not on the list?

After I broke the layout of the website while tweaking something, I figured it was time for a new look instead of constantly tinkering to see what I did wrong. And so this is the new look and I couldn’t be happier.

That’s change for you. Sometimes it’s not as painful as you think it’s going to be, especially when you take the time to read the directions.

I also made a few changes in my life overall, one of which was limiting my time on social media channels like Facebook and Instagram. It’s meant not posting things just to be relevant whether it be memes or “engagement” questions. It works for others but not for me. I like discourse. I like connection. What I don’t like is posting and then leaving. Or worrying about what to post at all hours of the day just to please the algorithm.

Such activities only served to take my focus off my true work: storytelling.

Speaking of storytellers, one of my favorite storytellers is currently in the middle of the fight for his life, colon cancer that’s metastasized to other parts of his body. Yeah, fuck cancer. I met Robert on Wattpad and was (and still am) enthralled by his quick and dry wit and charm. He wrote The Body, a personal account of his and his partner’s search for a missing woman and later, her killer. He’s also written essays about life in general, and his keen observations about the people around him always make me stop and think, and smile.

I can tell you a whole lot more about Robert but I’d rather keep it short. He’s one of the best people I know and right now, he needs our help. His daughter has set up a GoFundMe to help pay for the expenses related to his treatments. You can read more here and please donate if you can. If you can’t, send him good thoughts and a prayer.

I hope you have a wonderful day and week ahead. My plan this week is to rewrite the Salvation Society crossover novel I’ve been attempting to write since April. Somehow I never could connect with the first two heroines I wrote about and neither could the hero from the Salvation Society world. Poor guy. It felt like I was auditioning heroines for him forever and they just weren’t his type…

Yes, in case you’re wondering, I let my characters tell me their story even though I’d like to believe I plot their arcs out. I can plot all I want but in the end, they call the shots and all I end up doing is following them along with a notepad in my hand trying to catch the juicy details.

But third time’s the charm and this time, the heroine is the right one for the cross-over novel. I just never considered her before because I didn’t really understand cross-overs as much as I thought I did. And my goal today is to write 2,000 words and that’s exactly what I’m going to do as soon as I hit Publish on this baby.

Anyway, that’s the latest update from me (there’s a lot more in the personal front but it’s too depressing and mind-boggling to write). How are you? Anything interesting going on in your neck of the woods? Let’s reconnect again on this blog and don’t be shy. Say hi and let’s chat.

 

 

Hope I don’t jinx myself but I’m finally writing again!

Like, really writing.

Yesterday I wrote about 3500 words and as long as I don’t start doubting myself after my coffee, I’m aiming to write 3k more words today, continuing with the same goal every day until I get the book done.

I’ve also begun using a cool writing app called OmmWriter Gaia. I bought this when it first came out years ago as OmmWriter Dana and loved it! But something happened – either it stopped working on my old MacBook and other apps filled the gap it left behind. But after my Ulysses app gave me this same message about not being able to save my current work for whatever reason, I copied the whole chapter intending to keep it somewhere safe (in case Ulysses really couldn’t save the initial 1,000 words) and opened OmmWriter.

And I sure am glad I did. OmmWriter has everything in one app that I normally would have to assemble from two or three other apps.

 

  1. Pleasant writing background – there are at least 6 or 7 to choose from
  2. Distraction free – Once you open the app, all the other apps disappear.
  3. Focus Music or Ambient Sounds – I normally would have either Calm, Portal, or myNoise apps playing in the background for this.
  4. Keyboard sounds – From keyboard taps to little boops, my favorite is the keyboard one.
  5. Save function – Save as txt or pdf. I’ve only ever used the .omm or .txt files though since I also write in Markdown which OmmWriter is perfect for.

Overall relaxing feel that encourages creativity to bloom – Maybe it’s me missing the music I used to play during my massage sessions, but I miss the overall calm that writing gave me. In my head even while writing, I worry about deadlines, advertising, marketing, writing mistakes, did I use dialogue tags so much? Is my hero alpha enough and am I hitting all the beats?

I’m not saying that OmmWriter Gaia is the answer to all my questions about craft and sales and life’s angst, but it sure helps get the job of writing done while leaving me relaxed and feeling accomplished.

If you’ve never tried OmmWriter, definitely check out their website where you can give the app a spin right there on the website. It doesn’t have the bells and whistles of apps like Ulysses and Scrivener but maybe that’s my problem.

It’s not all the bells and whistles, writing and social media apps, advertising courses from so-called gurus that I need.

All I really need is to write.

The first time we grew sunflowers in our yard, the squirrel got to every single one of them before I could take pictures. He’d jump on the roof and launch himself on the sunflower and eat all the seeds. While I didn’t mind it (too much), it bummed me out that I never got to take pictures of them first.

So this year, we decided to plant the sunflowers in the front yard away from the pine tree he calls home. I’m sure the squirrel in residence is no longer the same guy but probably one of his kids but we weren’t taking any chances.

The sunflowers have been blooming all week but it’s been HOT (in the 90s some days) and by the time I’d go out there, it was just too bright to take my pictures.

But I lucked out this morning and managed to snap a few pictures before the sun got too hot and so these pictures don’t need a filter. There were two other sunflowers opposite these two large ones but the background (cars) wasn’t as pretty as the fence separating our house from the apartment next door.

Considering how my deadlines are all whizzing past me, I really should be writing but it’s nice to take time out to enjoy the roses and sunflowers now and then, harvest cherry and beefsteak tomatoes, and eggplants I don’t know what to do with, and try to keep busy at home. I’ve been tempted to take the kid to the beach but hubby isn’t too thrilled at the idea with infection rates reportedly on the rise again especially here in California.

To further procrastinate from writing, I have been reading, and even watching a few TV shows like CBS Seal Team and early episodes of Hoarders which I’d never watched before. Have you guys watched Hoarders? Most of the time, my jaw just hangs open whenever I watch an episode and then I end up on a de-cluttering spree afterward. It’s just mind-boggling sometimes… actually, every time.

What about you? How’s summer treating you?

 

 

Movie Review: Family Romance, LLC

Last week, I watched Family Romance, LLC, a Japanese-language film that premiered on Mubi, written and directed by Werner Herzog who I think is also the movie’s cameraman and cinematographer. You get to see him at the beginning of the film where he introduces you to the movie and the inspiration behind it and at the end of the film, in a Q&A.

The film opens at a park where a man in a suit waits for someone. When a young woman walks past him for the fourth or fifth time, each time trying to sneak a peek at him, he calls her name and approaches. Her name is Mahiro and he is Yuichi Ishii, her father. It’s an awkward meeting with Mahiro constantly sneaking glances at him as he tries to keep the meeting lively while looking at the cherry blossoms or watching a group of re-enactors play out a fight scene and then later, a hara-kiri.

During this meeting, he tells her that he and her mother met and fell in love, but when Mahiro was a baby, he left and now he has another family of his own. Mahiro doesn’t quite react to this. It’s all still awkward, this initial meeting between a daughter and the father she never knew.

“At Family Romance, we are not allowed to love or be loved.”

Only Ichii isn’t her father at all. When he visits Mahiro’s mother at her home, he tells her how the meeting went and she pays him for his services. Ichii, it turns out, owns Family Romance LLC, a company were relationships is a business.

Need someone to stand in place of your alcoholic father at your wedding? Family Romance, LLC has the man for you. Need to look important as you walk along a busy street with paparazzi trailing and taking pictures of you as if you’re famous? Family Romance, LLC will make your social media go viral.

Unfortunately for Ichii, a father simply doesn’t “meet” his daughter one time. He’s hired to meet with Mahiro again and again until – you guessed it – the young woman gets attached to him and soon, we find him asking a funeral director if a live man can fit inside the casket comfortably for a short time.

It’s a brilliant premise, this comfort for hire business model, and one that Herzog covers because it’s based on a real business model in Japan. While some viewers may find that scenes meander a bit too long, it still works because even though Herzog gave the actors the important elements or dialogue required for a scene, he also gave them free rein to go about it, and even an unplanned interruption makes it into the final cut.

The movie certainly made me think and here I am, a week later, writing my review because I like films that make me think and wonder what happens next in the lives of the characters after the movie ends. I hope you’ll check it out.

Family Romance, LLC is now playing on Mubi.

Below is a review and a more in-depth study of the film:

Family-Romance-llc-werner-herzog-750x400

Pucker Up! #NationalKissingDay

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A little birdie told me that today is National Kissing Day! As if we need a special day just for kissing, eh? But considering this whole pandemic going on, it’s nice to have a little distraction. If anything, maybe we’ll learn something new about kissing!

  • Kissing moves as many as 34 muscles in the face and 112 postural muscles!
  • A passionate kiss burns 6.4 calories per minute
  • The longest kiss clocked at 58 hours, 35 minutes and 58 seconds in 2013
  • According to neuroscientist Onur Güntürkün who people-watched people kissing for two-and-a-half years, he determined that twice as many people turn their head to the right than to the left when they kiss
  • An average kiss lasts more than 12 seconds
  • With the exchange of saliva during kissing, there go exchange of bacteria – which can help strengthen the immune system!
  • Speaking of exchanging spit – men’s saliva contains the sex hormone testosterone which triggers libido!
  • In ancient Rome, a public kiss pretty much sealed the legal contract between couples during the marriage ceremony
  • Kissing is practiced in 90% of the world population

Pretty interesting, huh?

Before I go and hit my daily goal of writing 1500 words today, here’s one of my favorite kissing scenes from one of my favorite movies!

 

A Saturday Update #authorlife

I’ve lost count of how long it’s been since we started lockdown. The vegetables we planted when this all began are now ready to be harvested, like the tomatoes I used for this morning’s breakfast omelet. I still have to figure out when to harvest the Japanese eggplant because I have no clue. Looks like they’re ready. Looks like they’re not.

This is why I am a writer and not a gardener.

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Our second sunflower. The squirrel got the first one the moment it opened up and ate half of it.

Speaking of writing, I need to hunker down and write 60,000 words in the next four weeks for one book. And then the next book after that. After all this time, I should have had a book done but nope, I have outlines instead. Outline after outline after outline, all because I can’t quite get the beginning right. And for me, the beginning of a story is whaat counts. If I don’t get my footing right from the start, I won’t be able to sustain the conflict. And this morning, I think I finally got it. It only took six tries, six scenarios, and I finally have the beginning I want.

Between my kid’s online schooling and writing on my laptop for hours (those outlines don’t write themselves, ya know!), computer glare finally got to me. Last night, I switched off my laptops before 9pm and wrote on my Freewrite. I did the same today as well and it now has its spot on my desk.

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My roses bloomed at the same time and so I had to commemorate the event with a photo shoot together with my Astrohaus Freewrite.

Many people have asked me whether it’s a good investment (it costs about $400 – $500) considering it’s basically a WiFi-connected typewriter. Here’s what I think: It is a good investment IF you use it. If you write with it and are getting the words in, it is worth its weight in gold. If not, then it’s a hell of an expensive paperweight or a good Instagram-worthy picture.

It’s great for writing your first drafts, the kind where you just type and go. Then you click a button and have the file emailed to you or to your Google Drive or Dropbox. I do this for every chapter or section I write because I then transfer it to my Ulysses app for further writing and editing.

Speaking of editing, I have moved on from Hemingway, Grammarly, and ProWritingAid to Autocrit. These four are computer-based editing programs that help your writing before you send your manuscript to an editor. I actually don’t send all my work to an editor, just the long ones. The shorter ones (between 5k – 30k) are all edited with these online editors. EDITED TO ADD: I do have a proofreader for all my works, long and short!

I held out on Autocrit forever but three weeks ago, I finally bit the bullet and bought a lifetime license and proceeded to edit a few of my already-published books. You see, I have this bad habit of adding new stuff after I get my manuscript from the editor. And then I don’t submit the updated chapters to her for another pass. Instead, I hit publish and readers end up finding the mistakes.

Another author tool I just purchased recently is BookBrush. It’s an online graphic editing website for authors and after I get the hang of its many features (mockups, box set creator, and even a cover creator), I’ll be able to stop my subscription to Photoshop. I’ve been holding off on Bookbrush for the last year because I already have lifetime licenses to similar apps like Stencil and Promorepublic which can create social media images and post them for me, as well as a monthly subscription to Canva. But Bookbrush does everything I need in one app like my social media ads and headers (minus the actual posting to social media) and I like that, even box sets with different color spine that you create right in the app!

 

 

But I haven’t just been writing those outlines! I’ve also been watching SEAL Team on CBS. Love that show and love that over a hundred military personnel have worked on the series. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a drama starring David Boreanaz, Max Theriot, and AJ Jackson. I like the family stuff they include in the show, the private struggles Navy SEALs go through once their gear is off and they return to regular life.

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How about you? How’s your weekend/month/year going?

What happens if you fall in love with a writer?

While going through my Tumblr feed today, I found this and so many other jewels about writers and writing. It made me realize (again and again) how the men who made such an impact in my life are all found in my books.

Ashe Hunter most especially who to this day does not have a “face” inside my head even though I’ve had to translate his features for book covers. As a writer, the best ones never do.

Have a wonderful weekend! Stay safe out there!

Elvis Has Left the Building

Today, I surrendered my key to my massage room and said good-bye to a career that has spanned a total of 23 years. Located in a major thoroughfare in Manhattan Beach, it’s one of the best locations I’ve ever set up a practice and it was sad to let it go. There was nothing to take pictures of this time for the couch was gone and so were the armchairs and the side tables. Even the foyer table where we had a bowl of candy mints and flowers was gone. The Keurig machine and water dispenser would have to go, too, because there can no longer be common-use equipment on site.

It was bittersweet knowing that my roommate/landlady had just renewed the three-year lease a few months ago and even re-tiled the countertops of the bathrooms at the beginning of the lockdown when it looked like we’d be back open in no time. Of course, that’s not what happened. Instead, with California opening up in phases, massage therapy services are included in Phase 3 which may be around mid June or July. But with the new protocols for practice that will include having the therapist change clothes after every client besides wiping everything down including the chairs and tables in the waiting area, it no longer looks feasible to continue. And since I normally take the summer off to be with my son, there was no point for me to keep my room.

So I surrendered my key and picked up whatever I had left in the office. In this case, a set of sheets, an herbal eye pillow, and a statue of Kuan Yin that two clients (a married couple) gave me as their parting present when they retired out of state about three to four years ago. As I looked at the bag, it hit me that it pretty much represented the end of 23 years of massage therapy.

And while I felt a sense of loss, I also felt a sense of relief. It was my official retirement party sans the balloons and cake. But it’s okay. I had a good run and in life, we have to keep moving. I’ll have cake and balloons tomorrow for my birthday.

I also have books to write!