Musings Over Morning Coffee: We’re Storytellers. We Don’t Quit.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a love affair with books. One of my first favorite books was one about crystals and how they’re formed. Another one was Hans Christian Andersen’s original version of the Little Mermaid–you know, the one where the mermaid actually becomes the foam in the ocean, i.e. she didn’t get her Prince Charming. It was a picture book that, like the one about crystals and geodes, I’d peruse every day, cover to cover.

I also loved telling stories, at first masking them as dreams I’d tell my friends in fourth grade until one of them, Carla, said, “Wait a minute! This isn’t a dream! It’s a story, isn’t it?”

That was the end of my storytelling days with Carla, but it was good while it lasted.

I started to write my stories then. Thank goodness there was no shortage of legal-sized reams of paper from my grandfather who was a retired judge. I guess they used legal-sized paper for all their briefs and correspondence so I inherited them all. I’d fold them in half and make booklets of my stories complete with hand=drawn images of the characters. This would continue until high school although this time, I inherited a typewriter for Christmas and I’d type at all hours of the night until the neighbors would yell for me to go to bed from their windows.

My books and stories became a solace for me. It was where I retreated when the world was too much–and I also got grounded a lot so it didn’t faze me if I couldn’t watch TV or talk to my friends over the phone. There were always books and since my mom was an avid collector, she couldn’t very well empty out my bedroom where she’d stored some of them. So I read. I read the books that she read, so at 12, I’d already gobbled up Harold Robbins, Colleen McCullough, James Clavell, James A. Michener, Pearl S. Buck, Herman Hesse and much more.

This is the only one I remember borrowing at that time because I couldn’t let my grandfather see it or he’d rip it in half and I’d have to hunt high and low to replace it.

I didn’t get introduced to romances until I was 14 when my classmates passed them around: Harlequin, Mills & Boon, and Sweet Dreams. Unfortunately, my grandfather considered them trash and would rip them in half if he caught me with them (he lived next door) and so I read them during recess.

Yep, I dated myself there, but that’s okay.

Still, I’d continue reading as long as there were libraries to go to and books to borrow and buy. I majored in Journalism and was picked as Editor-in=Chief of the college paper even though I preferred being the Features Editor. I moved houses a lot and wherever I went, my books went with me. When I moved away from home, I sought solace in libraries and bookstores. When Borders was still around, it was almost like my second home. I met with fellow writers on Sunday afternoons, got to see James Elroy cuss and talk about his books, and just sit and browse and buy. I never left that store without a book or two. This time, the books weren’t just fiction; they were non-fiction, too. Most of them were on graphic and web design like Photoshop, Illustrator, Javascript, Dreamweaver, and Frontpage because, by this time, I was also designing websites for clients. I was self-taught, thanks to my love of books.

But I also kept writing. This time I wrote fan fiction and poetry. I figured fan fiction stories had an instant audience which would allow me to hone my craft using their feedback while poetry would get me through tough times. And boy, were there a lot of tough times like broken hearts and general disappointments, typical fodder for most of my poetry then.

I stopped writing around 2004, and sad to say, but it was over a broken heart. I wouldn’t write again until 2012, two years after my best friend, Pam, told me two weeks before she died that she hoped I’d keep on writing and that she looked forward to holding my book in her hands.

By 2012, I was back at writing again and two years later, I published Finding Sam on November 17, 2014. On June 18, 2015, I published Loving Ashe and on December 15, 2015, A Collateral Attraction. Self-doubt hit me hard for the first part of 2016 and I wouldn’t publish the fourth book, Everything She Ever Wanted, until October 12, 2016.

Self-doubt would return in 2017 and almost take down the next book, but thanks to readers who never stopped believing in me and my passion for my stories whether others like it or not, Loving Riley, the paperback version, was published yesterday on Amazon. The digital version is scheduled for April 26.

Why am I rambling like this? Because the last two days, I’ve been seeing authors on Facebook talk about giving up. One of them said he’d been doing this for two years, had written three books and he was just a failure. So why continue? Therefore he was giving up and moving on to other things.

Two years.

It made me think of how long I’ve been at this writing thing and it’s been more than two years, or even four or six. I’d say decades in my case because even though I may have let go of the wheel at times (personal issues, family, motherhood, career), I never gave up on the destination.

It’s not to say that I’d never thought of giving up, but my passion for telling my stories has always been greater than the desire to move on and do other things. There simply were “no other things” for me. It’s just me and my stories.

So if you’re a writer and wondering why you’re not getting any sales and that maybe your stories are shite and you should just give up, don’t. Look around, ask for help and guidance. If you’re a romance writer and you’re not on Facebook, get thee to Facebook. That’s where your readers are. I didn’t believe it two years ago but I’m such a believer now. Friend me on there and I’ll show you which groups you can check out. Same goes for fantasy, urban and sci-fi. The wealth of information to be had in Facebook groups is priceless. It got me from clueless to having a clue about what I was missing in this ever-evolving business called indie publishing. It got me feeling comfortable wearing the business hat and not just the creative writer hat. It got me from feeling depressed about where I was in my author career to confident knowing that I wasn’t alone in the struggle. It got me from feeling envious of other authors’ success to rejoicing with them because, hey, we’re all in the same boat. We’re in this together. We’re storytellers. We tell our stories.

We also don’t give up that easily.

Winning entry for my Instagram contest for a Loving Riley paperback

Cezanne Got It Right

I’m sure many writers feel like this about our art. We write from an emotion, a feeling… something that we can’t exactly put a name to, not when 50,000 words will do a much better job at painting the picture we want to show the world.

It could be romance, dystopian fiction, sci-fi fantasy, horror, or a children’s story. Whatever it is, if it starts from an emotion, I’d like to call it art. It’s an interpretation of something inside us.

The reason I’m saying this is twofold: 1) Tate Gallery’s addition of Cezanne’s quote is just what I needed to hear this morning because I’ve come to the conclusion that I cannot for the life of me write to market, and 2) there are so many rip-off artists out there.

I tried giving myself a deadline early this year with a goal to write X number of books (I can’t remember now, to be honest), including those under a pen name that would tackle erotic romance and make tons of money. Yeah, right. Every time I’d start, I always dove right into deep POV and character (who is the heroine? Who is the hero? What are their motivations?) and totally messed up the whole theory behind K.I.S.S. or Keep It Simple Stupid.

Why can’t I keep it simple? Why can’t I just write a simple story and go right into the action? Why does it feel like pulling teeth?

Because I feel like a fraud doing it, that’s why.

The other day, I finally broke down and bought a PC laptop for the hubby who needs to master Excel for his job. He can’t do that on my Macbook because my Macbook and Microsoft Office just don’t gel; I also don’t use Office unless I really have to and even that feels like pulling teeth. So I set up the PC laptop and while perusing their App Store, was pleasantly surprised to see Ulysses, the markdown writing app I use to write on all my IOS devices.

$14.99 instead of $44.99? Definitely! I’m in, baby! Maybe having a PC isn’t so bad after all…

Then I tweeted the guys who developed Ulysses and told them I’m happy to see them have a version for the Microsoft store.

No wonder some of the shortcuts wouldn’t work on the Microsoft version. It’s a damn rip-off! I should have paid attention to the logo alone, which was different from what I see all the time when I open my MacBook and iPhone apps.

So I contacted Customer Services and requested a refund. They asked me if I was having any issues and I told them that I’d just found out it was a rip-off of the original app. The customer service rep told me the Microsoft store does not sell rip-offs.

Yes, you do, I told them. The makers themselves told me it’s a rip-off.

She said she’d send it to the higher-ups though I doubt anything will be done.

So what does this have to do with writing and emotion and art? I have no idea, but when I was chatting with the rep, I realized just how important it is to tap into the source of your writing. The guys that created the original (and in my opinion, the best) Ulysses app have a passion for creating the best writing product, hands down. The rip-off wanna be’s? Money. Just pure money.

It made me think of the story I was writing on that rip-off program, too. An erotic romance that had no heart and I just felt myself dragging with each word I wrote. I just wasn’t feeling it even though I told myself it’s writing to market; you got this, girl! When I got to 400 words, I stopped.

This is not why I write.

I write because I love it and it’s my passion and my art. It’s how I express myself best. It’s how I heal from invisible wounds that serve as the perfect foundation for my stories. Maybe one day I’ll learn how to write to market and make tons of money (ha!) but for now, I’ll stick to writing from emotion. It’s my art.

I’m also sticking to my Macbook.

Musings Over Morning Coffee: Saving Our Libraries

I’ve been meaning to write about National Library Week which, I think, ends today or tomorrow; and with the proposed federal cuts to the arts, including libraries, I think it’s important now more than ever to do whatever we can to keep libraries going. My 7-year-old loves going to the library and currently, his favorite books include Marc Brown’s Arthur series and the Berenstein Bears.

His choice of the Berenstein Bears took me by surprise. I remember reading about the Bear family when I was much younger, and for a while there, I thought their values were considered outdated by the new generation. But my son loves them just as much as he loves Dr. Seuss’s books and often reads them out loud to me. He just inherited his older cousin’s books and we have to empty my bookshelf of massage-related reference books to make room for his growing collection. He even includes my books in his collection, something that warms my cold heart every time I see them amongst his favorites, although he just declared that as much as he loves my books, “chapters” are too long for his taste.

The library has always been my solace, my sanctuary. I spent a lot of time between the stacks, whether it was at the school library and the USCIS library in Cebu, the Los Angeles Public Library with its underground levels here in L.A. and the New York Public Library whenever I visited my mother. Libraries provided me with everything I needed to learn beyond the home and the classroom; it revealed whole new worlds to me, of historical times and the future, of creatures so different from me and not so different.

To imagine a world without libraries is something I cannot fathom. It will be a world of ignorance and of darkness.

I only hope that people in power recognize the importance of libraries in the local communities and that even though they may have their own personal libraries in their grand homes, their townhomes and offices, people like my son needs libraries to go to as well. Libraries are not just a place for books but of community and inclusion. Refusing to see their importance and cutting federal funding baffles me to no end except for the sad realization that the future that awaits my son and his generation is not turning out to be a kind one.

What Is So Bad About Romance Novels?

I guess when I screenshot this last night, everyone at the offices of Bon Appetit were still tucked in bed, unaware that they’d managed to offend a pretty big (and vocal) group of people.

Needless to say, they received quite a number of responses to their tweet and Facebook post, and by morning, the tweet was gone and they issued an apology at the end their article. It’s so small I almost missed it.

Still, it made me wonder. Really? Are romance novels really that bad? Is this why I used to lower my voice when someone would ask me, “So what do you write?” and I’d answer (in that lowered voice), “Romance.”

But three years since hitting that Publish button, I’ve changed. I’ve seen some amazing things, like how my stories have changed people’s lives and made it easier for them to go through tough times. I’ve seen more than a million words written on my Ulysses app to the point that the middle row of my Macbook keyboard is useless. I’ve seen myself go from overwhelm mode while learning all about marketing as an author to being able to manage it and see a profit each month from practicing the things I’ve learned. I’ve gone from, OMG I got a 2-star review and they called my hero effeminate–are they blind?! to eh, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion and that’s theirs.

I also started to believe in myself.

I trusted without any doubt that what I do is an honorable thing and not something to be ashamed of. It’s a life that I wouldn’t trade for anything else. It’s knowing that if I were to do this all over again, I’d write my heart out and not worry too much about family or friends watching and judging. They’re going to judge anyway and all I can do is adjust the way I deal with whatever judgment they come up with… and that in the grand scheme of things, what they think about my books doesn’t matter.

Still, seeing that tweet last night made me realize that while not much may change when it comes to the way people see romance authors (and by extension, their readers), what matters is how you see yourself.

And the way I see myself is this: I’m an author and a self-published romance author at that. And no way am I hiding my pulpy romance novels with someone else’s book covers, thank you very much.

 

His Next Role (Book Teaser)

Can I just say that I love making teasers? For this, I use Ripl which is available for IOS and Google Play.

Want to get caught up with Ashe and Riley?

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Things Just Got Real

Today I received a package from Amazon and thinking it was a book I must have ordered – maybe one I forgot – I set it aside. By afternoon, in the middle of doing chores, I finally opened it and discovered it’s not an Amazon order but a Createspace order.

The first paperback version of Loving Riley.

Wow! I guess you could say that s**t just got real, excuse my French. There are 16 more days before release day and while I’ve managed to set any of my excitement on the back burner because I’m writing the prequel for Loving Ashe while also debating whether to shift my attention on my other series (Different Kind of Love), it’s finally dawning on me that the book that’s given me so much grief for the past year and a half is here. I even have the paperback copy to prove it.

It doesn’t even matter that this is the “wrong” version of the digital file that was uploaded for the cover. The “correct” version is much, much darker than this and now I have five copies of those coming. This version, the wrong one, actually looks good. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll have to wait until the other version comes in and do the tweaks then.

In the meantime, it sure feels good holding the final version of Loving Riley in my hands. And to think that after all that agonizing last year, it actually doesn’t feel bad at all…

The Act of Writing

I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all that it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do — the actual act of writing — turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.

Source: Anne Lamott on Writing and Why Perfectionism Kills Creativity – Brain Pickings

I met Annie Lamott in Sun Valley, Idaho, in 1999. We missed the shuttle going to an author’s talk and so we sat on the back seat of the resort’s trolley. It was the Sun Valley Writers Conference and it was an illuminating experience. Before the days of smartphone selfies, you had to contend with your camera and the rest, maybe your diary. I have pictures with Frank McCourt, Mitch Albom, Poet Laureate W.S. Merwyn, and had so many books autographed–only to lose them when hubby mistakenly took the box they were stored in to the library for end-of-year donation.

The only book that survived that unfortunate (for me) trip was Annie’s book, Bird by Bird and I have it next to my laptop to this day. Like Stephen King’s On Writing, it’s a treasure trove of advice for any writer.

What’s your favorite writing book?

Book Review: The Disappearance of Ray Delgado by J.C. Cauthon

I follow J.C. Cauthon‘s blog and downloaded The Disappearance of Ray Delgado when she first announced its release a few weeks ago. I had no idea what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised to find it an interesting and fast-paced mystery with a touch of sci-fi.

The story starts with Jake recounting the disappearance of his good friend Ray Delgado from a logging site. They’d driven in together in dense fog and only Jake emerges when the job’s done. But when he does report the disappearance, he’s told that Ray’s been gone ten days. No one seems to remember that Jake and Ray had been seen around town just the day before or that the officer taking the report played poker with Jake and Ray five days earlier. Nope, Ray’s been missing ten days…

But Jake is determined to get to the bottom of his best friend’s disappearance and find him even if it means putting his own life in danger. Will he succeed?

This is more a short story/novella and if you’re on Kindle Unlimited, it’s free to read.

Here’s the book’s description:

Eventually, the past catches up with you…

Jake always wondered about Ray’s past, but he knew better than to bring it up. Ray seemed haunted by it.

But when Ray mysteriously disappears from a logging site in what appears to be a Black Ops-style abduction, Jake knows that Ray’s past has finally caught up with him. With two special agents breathing down his neck and a lot of evidence negating what he saw with his own eyes, Jake is forced to find out what really happened to Ray.

But is he ready to learn the truth about his best friend’s identity?

You can purchase The Disappearance of Ray Delgado here or read free with Kindle  Unlimited.

 

His World (Loving Riley Excerpt)

By 6:20 the car was already parked downstairs, its engine idling as Ashe carefully navigated through the snow piled on the sidewalk. As soon as he slipped into the warm leather interior, Lance was telling him how his day was shaping up—phone interviews between rehearsals, signing glossies to send out to fans requesting an autographed picture, and phone calls with Betty, his publicist. Ashe knew it was show time again.

He was back to being Ashe Hunter, the actor, around whom the world revolved, while his world lay sleeping upstairs in a warm bed that he wished he’d never left.

Loving Riley, Book 2 of the Celebrity Series

Preorder Loving Riley
Release Date: April 26

It’s Gonna Be An Amazing Weekend!

I woke up today to notifications that Stuart Reardon (my cover model for Loving Riley and former pro-rugby player) posted my latest book on his social media accounts.

Add my weekly walk with friends, it sure is shaping up to be an amazing weekend! Hope you have a good one!