Grateful Like This

I finished writing book 2 of A Love Like This on Wattpad early this morning. The last two chapters gave me a lot of trouble because there were still so many things I wanted to add but it wasn’t something that the book needed. So I had to rewrite the chapters over and over. But finally, book 2 is done after three years that passed by like it was nothing. When I checked my tracker to see when I started it, I was surprised to see that I started writing it in August 2015. It doesn’t feel like three years. But then you see messages from people who tell you that they were still in high school/college when they started reading and they’re now in college/working, then you realize that that much time had passed between the first word and the last. Because in Ash and Mere’s world, they’ve only been together for seven months.

When I first started writing FFTB, I wanted a hero who was going to be a little harder to like… at least, based on the standards of my heroes. I wanted someone who was chipped, maybe a little broken, but not bitter, someone you really wouldn’t like unless he was your friend because he was a little too self-centered and arrogant, mahangin at guwapong-guwapo sa sarili. I’m pretty sure it worked with some people, but it didn’t for a lot of you because you loved him anyway. You loved him and Mere enough that you’ve stuck with them for the last four years since I first started writing FFTB. For that I will always be grateful. I will always be honored that you gave us the opportunity to entertain you for years! MARAMING SALAMAT PO.

If you follow me on Twitter, then you know that Ash and Mere is also my way of dealing with my mental health. Writing Ash has been my therapy for the last four years and it has helped me a lot with coping with my anxiety and my still undiagnosed depression. And that is the reason why I can’t, and won’t, let them go. A lot of you have been asking for book 3. To be clear, yes, I’m planning on continuing their story. Because I need to. Whether anyone will read it or not, I will write it… because I need to. For myself. Pero di pa muna ngayon. I also need to write other stories because my characters have piled up again so I need to write other stories, too. But yes, I’m going to write a story telling Ash and Mere’s married life, that part I’m sure about. BUT! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘ I don’t know when. It might be next week, or next month or three years from now… probably not that long because I need the tiny bites of happiness it brings, parang M&M’s or Kisses. So maybe I’d start it sooner… But don’t about that yet. Just know that I’m going to write book 3.

Which brings us to the next FAQ, sino pong susunod? I don’t want to give an answer because I’m not sure either. I want to write ALL of them all at the same time. I will find that out when I start editing ALLT. Depende po kung sino ang unang magpa-cute.

Habang nagsusulat, nao-overwhelm na naman ako ng realisasyon na apat na taon na ninyong sinusuportahan at minamahal sina Ash at Mere. I can’t explain what they mean to me, or how much they mean to me. I wrote them for me, to help me cope with my stress and anxiety, so for people to tell me how much Ash and Mere helped them as well, iba ‘yung impact n’un eh. Iba ‘yung ibig sabihin n’un sa ‘kin as a writer and, generally, as a human being whose story she’s writing to help herself is also helping someone else.

Again, THANK YOU very much for supporting the story for the last four years. I hope that four years from now, you would still read the stories set in Ash and Mere’s world when I write them.

Writing these books has been an amazing experience and it had been an amazing journey that I’m hoping doesn’t stop here. Sabi nga ni Daddy Eman, this is just the ending to a happy chapter in the story of Ash and Mere’s life. And in mine as well. Samahan n’yo pa kami ah.

I really have no other words to express how I feel and I can only say thank you. THANK YOU. From the bottom of heart, thank you.

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Paying It Forward

I’ve been thinking a lot about this tweet from one of my favorite pet vloggers on YouTube, Emzotic.

She followed it up by saying I’ve also helped with that because I watch her videos and help her earn. It made me think about something I’ve also done.

I believe that I don’t owe anyone anything when it comes to writing. I write what I want to write without thinking how people will react to it, if it’s boring or entertaining or whatever. If a reader likes a story or not, it’s okay with me. Because at the end of the day, I only need to entertain myself when I write. And if I’ve entertained myself, then I’m happy with it. I have a hard drive full of stories I’ve written that I will never publish, but I was happy writing those stories down. So no, whether you read my work or not, I will always be a writer.

However, I also believe that I do owe you, the readers, for helping me become, and keep on being, published. I don’t think that my publisher would take this much risk on me, or have enough confidence in me, to approve all my 80+ submitted manuscripts if they didn’t believe that you would buy my books… (except that my publisher is really nice so they might actually be feeling sorry for me so they approve anything I write O_O Kidding! But… O_O)

Anyway…

This is how I see it. Ako lang naman ‘to so if you look at it differently, then this isn’t how you’re going to see it. Publishing is a business. Every published book is a small risk. Publishers have to ask will this sell? Will this writer’s next book sell? Will we lose money here? You see when I started, we didn’t have Wattpad so I submitted my first book without a built-in Wattpad audience that a lot of first-time published authors nowadays have. So my publisher really took a risk on me, a new, unnamed, unknown writer who made my first editor dizzy with all the head hopping and the bad spelling and grammar. (Thank you, editor! I know I still make you dizzy with my unedited manuscripts up to now and I’m sorry. I love you to the moon and back!)

But you bought my first book! Thank you! And my next, and my 20th, and my 32nd, and my 45th, so the publisher had enough confidence in me to keep taking that risk, to keep buying my books and to keep publishing them. For that I owe you, and for that, I will always be grateful, and I thank you with all of my heart.

So what does my dramatic proclamation have to do with the tweet I shared? Simple. Emzotic’s viewers help her earn by watching her videos. My readers help me get published over and over again by buying my books. Em made me feel special by saying I help her pay it forward. I want you to feel the same way about reading my books. So I’m going to tell you a little secret.

For most of my books (full disclosure, not for all of them), you’ve helped me donate a small (again, small lang kasi poor lang ako) amount of money to different organizations depending on the plot, story, character I liked or social issue I tackled in the book. For every Sentinel book, you’ve helped me donate to the Hero Foundation, an organization that help the families of fallen soldiers and send their orphans to school. For the Alpha Squad series, you’ve helped me donate call cards to US soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. You’ve helped me donate to the Philippine Red Cross, to Bantay Bata, and to Unicefย among others. For 25th Floor Balcony, you’ve helped me donate to a fundraiser that will benefit a mental health facility. Now that I think about it, I should have donated to PAWS when my manuscripts with pets get approved. Di bale, next time.

I’m not posting this because I want you to think I’m generous or that I’m a good person. Maramot po ako talaga at may masama rin po akong ugali pramis! Kaya huwag po n’yong isipin na mabait ako. Hindi po ‘yun ang dahilan ko kung ba’t ako nagkuwento. But I also hope that you’re not thinking “kailangan mo ba talaga ‘tong i-post? Mayabang lang?” kasi hindi rin naman po ako nagyayabang. I’m posting this because Em’s post made me feel really good about supporting her, and that’s how I want you to feel about supporting my books. Hindi n’yo lang ako pinapakain at hindi lang kayo ang nagbabayad ng bills ko, nakakatulong din naman po kayo sa ibang tao na hindi lang ako dahil sinusuportahan n’yo ang mga gawa ko. Di lang naman loko-loko si Ash, akala n’yo! Mabait din ‘yan! You’ve helped him donate a lot of those Project Aral kits from National Bookstore! Tuwing bibili kasi ako ng ball pen, magpapabili din ng Project Aral kit si Ash (“‘Yung may tsinelas!”) sabay pangalan niya ang isusulat sa “Donated by”.

So there. I just really want to make you feel the way I did when I read that supporting Em’s videos meant more than learning about exotic animals and their care. Buying my books is a little bit more than having a copy. By buying my books, you tell my publisher that you like me, and that they should buy my next one. And when they buy my book, I can 1. eat, and 2. pay it forward.

I will never get tired of saying this. THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for all your support. I will always be grateful that you help allow me to do what I love and be a better person than I probably would have been have I not been an author. So thank you.ย  Thank you.

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์ข…ํ˜„์—๊ฒŒ

(aka The One Where I Explain My New Obsession with SHINee)

I wrote a private entry for Jonghyun’s birthday but I thought I should write something public too. In his last letter, Jonghyun asked that people say that he did well. And he did in more ways than the amazing job he already did with his music.

I think it will also explain to those who are surprised that I actually, and suddenly, became a fan of Kpop… or at least a Shawol.

I “met” (i.e. found out who) Kim Jong-hyun was on December 18, 2017, on the day he passed away. I read Ayie’s and Alie’s tweets about him and sent them this tweet.

That was the first time I ever mentioned him. Then I clicked on his name on the trending hashtags list. I don’t usually do that. I wasn’t into Koren dramas so I don’t really check the hashtags when a Korean name trends. But I did with Jonghyun, and I read about his death. And it… resonated with me. I’ve read a lot of news articles about celebrities taking their own lives but Jonghyun’s was like an arrow straight to the heart.

Maybe it was the timing? I was going through a tough time back then. I was facing my own demons and was just in limbo about what to do. But in all honesty, I think it was some kind of a cosmic thing, fate, magic. Because it can’t possibly be just another random thing that this person’s passing, this total stranger, would impact my life the way it has.

That was my reaction after reading the news, his last note, his fans’ messages, and his Wikipedia page. I grieved for him too, and I didn’t care that some shawols were saying we didn’t even know him so why were we crying for him?

No, I didn’t know him. I didn’t have that nearly ten years of time that you had with him, but my heart knew him. And my heart saw a kindred spirit in him.

A few days later, after several days of grieving, I finally decided to listen to SHINee. I figured I loved boybands so why not give it a try? Besides, I listen to Super Junior‘s Sorry, Sorry and I have 2ne1‘s album in my iTunes.

The very first MV of them that I watched was Hello. The only person I recognized was him, Jonghyun. Then the guy with the black hair (who turned out to be Minho) because of his eyes. I couldn’t distinguish the three remaining members from each other. (Don’t worry, I can now tell them apart even if I can only see the back of their heads.) But the song made me smile at a time that few things made me genuinely smile.

Then I watched Replay and I knew I was going to love them. Then a lyric video for The Reason came up next, and it all fell into place, like that moment you looked at a guy and you realize that he’s the one with whom you want to spend the rest of your life.

It didn’t matter that I couldn’t understand anything other than the word “saranghae” in any of the songs, or that I still couldn’t distinguish Onew from Key from Taemin. I loved them.

I binge-watched their MVs on YouTube and listened to their songs on Spotify and their albums. They made me happy. Their songs made me happy the way cake made me happy, the way a new notebook and pens made me happy. Their music was like a drug that you become addicted to. Parang vetsin. But yeah, it made me happy. Again I didn’t understand a word (again except saranghae) but the beat was uplifting.

It didn’t take long for me to finally know who Taemin is, then Onew and Key. I was told I was supposed to pick a bias so I did. I picked a new one among the five of them every other day. But I was first a Blinger. I will always be first a Blinger, and Jonghyun will always be my first Kpop love.

January 2018 was a sh!tty month. And SHINee‘s music and YouTube videos (MVs, variety and reality shows) were the only things that had helped with my debilitating anxiety. Thinking about Jonghyun and what he had done helped me manage my own demons. And when I actually survived the nineteen days of being trapped in the hell that was my own mind in January, I knew it was because of SHINee and Jonghyun.

At first I thought I was being melodramatic, but then I hear the stories of Kpop fans who have been in the fandom longer than I have and are multifandoms, I realized that it was normal, and that it was okay. And that whoever tells me that listening to Kpop is stupid should put their energy into something else because I don’t see them doing any good the way Kpop has done for so many people.

I still listen to SHINee everyday. I still think about Jonghyun everyday. And today on his birthday, it just felt right to let people know that when he took his own life, he made me live mine with hope.

I’m okay now. I’m not back to normal, I know that. I might get better or I might go back to that dark place I’ve been in January this year, or in November in 2017, or in June in 2016, or in every single September before that since 2007 (which is why I ALWAYS tweet “Wake me up when September ends” every September 1st. I used to always suffer a major depressive episode every September). So long as I’m fighting, I’ve decided to pay forward what Jonghyun had done for me, by helping other people fight.

I’m not a celebrity. But I can write, and I have a Wattpad account with a decent number of followers. So I wrote 25th Floor Balcony. I wanted to tell a story that would show other people suffering from depression that they’re not alone and that someone understands what they’re going through. I also wrote it in the hopes that I can educate those who don’t know what having a mental illness is like. If I’ve helped one person and educated another, then I think I did well enough.

I also did try to do a little better by donating a small amount (small lang kasi di naman ako mayaman) to SHINee World PH‘s Jonghyun Fundraising Project. I wish I could have given a bigger amount but that was also the time I had to pay a long list of bills ehehe but if they do this again next year, I’ll be ready for it.

Thank you, Jonghyun. Thank you for leading me to SHINee. Thank you for your music. Thank you for giving me a lifeline. Thank you for helping me hold back the darkness and silence the demons. Thank you for letting me bask in your light. I may not know you but I will forever be grateful that you have touched my life.

Thank you, Jonghyun. You did well.

jonghyun

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Falling for Ash Montesines

AshMere

If you follow me on social media, you probably already know that that block of lines was the first thing Ash has ever said to me. I heard the pain in his voice and the saw the tears in his eyes when he said that to Meredith. So I knew I was dealing with a complex hero with deep emotions, a touch of insecurity, and a backstory that I was intrigued by. I wasn’t actually expecting to meet Ash Montesines the way he is. I was actually expecting… Lex. Pero nginitian ako ni Ash eh, kinindatan, then he told me his and Meredith’s story, and then, wala na. I couldn’t write him any other way after that hospital scene in the prologue.

I fell in love with Ash then and there but I knew he was one of those characters a reader would either love or hate. Yabang kasi eh. But I thought the most important thing is that *I* love him and that Meredith loves him. Sabi nga niya “‘yun lang ang mahalaga”. So I started writing his story. When I have free time or when I feel like it or when he wakes me up at 3 AM to tell me about his day. And I’m telling you, makulit siya. So I wrote and wrote and wrote some more.

***

Before I started writing Falling for the Billionairess, my editor talked to me about Pink & Purple, a Bookware imprint that they were going to reformat. The books would be longer and the stories could be anything, YA, new adult, paranormal, and it could be written in first person POV. At that moment, I knew I had an imprint for Ash. That was also the time when publishers were going crazy buying up Wattpad stories so I jokingly told my editor that I was going to post my story on Wattpad and if it reaches a million reads, she’d have to publish it, no questions asked. She immediately said “oo naman!”

Joke lang ‘yun, siyempre. Kailangan ko pa ring ipa-evaluate. Mamaya di pala pasado sa Bookware. To be honest, the number of reads a Wattpad story has isn’t really that huge a deal with Bookware. So long as a story fits their standards, they’d publish it. So a story could have 10 million reads or 10,000 or 100, basta pasado sa panlasa ng mga evaluators, tatanggapin nila ‘yun.

So when I first started writing Ash, I was planning on submitting him as soon as I finish the book. If he only had 1,000 reads by the time I was done, I’d still submit FFTB. I was not expecting the story to actually reach a million reads. I was not expecting this level of love from you guys for my baby boy kulit. Every time I read a new comment (yes, even the UD pleases), a new message thanking me for writing it, see new fan art (which lots of people are taking the time and making a lot of effort to create, so THANK YOU), meet a new reader, I still feel overwhelmed and touched. I love Ash and, of course, I want you to love him too, but for a character I was sure people would find arrogant and annoying, a whole LOT of you fell in love with him on Day 4. And it just… feels… like… a HUGE hug to me.

***

When I first started writing on Wattpad, I liked the idea that if and when Bookware publishes the story (because most, if not all, of my Wattpad stories will be submitted to Bookware), I would have to delete it from Wattpad. I don’t want my book to stay up there for a long time. That way only people who already know me (I was thinking 1,000 followers at most, seriously) could read the book then I’d delete it and those who’d want a copy could get one when Bookware finally releases it.

Then I wrote Ash, and suddenly, I felt bad about having to delete FFTB from Wattpad. Gusto kong forever na lang sila d’un. People have messaged me that FFTB helped them through tough times, and I cry because I know exactly what that was like. I think about others that the story could still help if I leave it on Wattpad.

I really wish I could give copies to everyone who’d ask but I can’t. I really can’t. Mahal ‘yun eh. And I’m not Mere. Saka na kapag mayaman na ako. Mamumudmod ako kahit di kayo manghingi.

Some suggested na sana self-pub na lang daw so I can do whatever I want. I could have the book printed in its entirety and I don’t have to take it down from Wattpad.

Maybe.

But the thing is I *promised* FFTB to Bookware. I can’t take it back (and I don’t want to for professional reasons, i.e. my own sense of right and wrong) just because I became more attached to it than I expected.

I *do* want to try self-publishing in the future, but I have to do a lot of planning and research. It’s just not something I’m ready for at the moment.

***

I posted on Twitter that Ash and Mere saved me. That is true.

I mentioned once (on Twitter) that I might be clinically depressed, as in I-need-medication-for-this kind of depressed. I haven’t been to a doctor so I haven’t been diagnosed with anything. And because I haven’t been diagnosed, I don’t take medication. I used to have bad panic attacks pero dinadaan ko lang sa dasal, music, journal-writing, and Ash. Last year had been pretty bad for me because the state of my mental health was just… I have no words to describe it. I was just bad. Really bad. I haven’t really talked about it in depth before because, as I said, I haven’t been to a doctor, so it might be like saying I broke my arm when I actually only strained a muscle. Being sad is different from being clinically depressed, and having mood swings doesn’t automatically make you bipolar. I didn’t want to say I was clinically depressed because I don’t know for sure.

Writing Ash and Mere saved me in ways I still can’t express. They’re not just characters to me. Sila ang therapy ko, ang outlet ko, puso ko, mga pangarap ko… sila ‘yun. And although I love all my characters, special sila Ash sa ‘kin dahil dito. And I love them for that. I love them not only because they’re fun to write, but because they are the first characters that I wrote without being worried about word count or limits, but because they became my lifeline and my source of laughter and light.

Ash and Mere. saved. me.

***

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Photo Credit: Bookware Publishing, Instagram

I went to the publisher’s office last Tuesday and asked when FFTB will be released. Ang sagot ay sa MIBF sa September. I don’t have other details yet like the price or how thick it will be, but I’ll post that as soon as I have them.

But please be reminded that a September release will mean that FFTB will have to be deleted from Wattpad as soon as, or maybe a little after, the ebook version becomes available. If you want to read/re-read it, please do so before September.

The Wattpad story is about 170K words long. The printed version is only about 110K words long. I’m sorry po. Masyado akong natuwa sa pagsulat sa kanila.ย All of the scenes that didn’t make it in the book will remain on Wattpad.

***

I recently announced that I was putting ALLT and THIF on hold until July. I know I don’t have to explain anything but I’m grateful enough that you dedicate time and effort to follow me and wait for my updates, I feel like the decent thing is that I should at least tell you why.

1. I’m waaaay behind my manuscript quota with MSV. And since that’s my actual day job, my manuscripts are my priority.

2. I need an adjustment period because my home life has changed drastically. (This one I won’t explain anymore. Basta may malaking pagbabago at kailangan kong masanay d’un kaya ibig sabihin ay oras, oras, oras.)

3. I also had to dedicate time to taking care of my sick puppy. And then, when he passed, I needed the time to grieve because I loved the little guy. Okay naman na ako but I decided to go on and have a Wattpad break anyway. Para no pressure na rin sa ‘kin while I catch up on other things.

I’m going to go back to Wattpad in July. That’s only a little more than a week away anyway so hopefully you can still be patient with me.

***

And last but not the least, thank YOU for being a part of my, Ash and Mere’s journey. Thank you for reading FFTB, for still reading ALLT kahit lintik sa talaga ang UDs, and thank you for keeping everyone in those books in your heart. I will forever be grateful for the crazy, amazing adventure and for everything with which these stories have blessed me. Sabi nga ni Ash “punung-puno ang puso ko”.

Thank you for falling for Ash Montesines.

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Back to Blogging (Maybe)

I’ve decided to go back to blogging about a month ago but the only thing I managed to do was make a list of topics I want to blog about. So I finally said to heck with it and just write. I’m going to warn you though that sometimes I won’t make much sense. My very first blog was just an online diary and not very interesting at all because I didn’t consider having an actual audience. I haven’t visited that site in years, pretty much like how I haven’t read the journals I kept in college. And, seriously, while I want this site to be helpful with resources for new writers blah, blah, blah, I realized that that’s not what I actually need right now. What I need is to start writing journal entries again.

Why did I stop in the first place? First because of Friendster, then Facebook, then Twitter. It was easier to just post thoughts and ideas as soon as I have them. In short, naging tamad ako ehehe And to be honest, it didn’t really help. I mean, even my daily hand-written journal entries right now are like Tweets! I want to go back to being able to actually write essays for journal entries.

I know people are becoming less and less interested in reading long paragraphs (as evidenced by the popularity of Wattpad’s Tap app) but I kinda like to talk, or write down, my thoughts… at madaldal po ako mag-isip. Obviously. Even my characters are so introspective that I have to remind myself that books need dialogue.

If you’re not interested, don’t worry. Don’t feel like you have to read every entry I post or that I’d be hurt if you don’t. There won’t be a quiz at the end. There won’t be a prize either ehehe and seriously, I’m not THAT interesting. I mostly stay home with my butt stuck on my bed or the sofa while my brain is elsewhere. As with all things, I’m writing for me (and my sanity).

Anyway, that’s that. So I have a lot of things I want to write about. I just wish I can squeeze blogging again in between my household chores, manuscripts and Wattpad.

Anyway, wish me luck!

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