Celebrating Loving Day Every Day

On June 12, we commemorate the 50th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, the landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court which invalidated the state laws prohibiting interracial marriage.

washington_post_2006_style_composite

I celebrate because I’m a direct beneficiary of this decision. My husband’s American, I’m Filipino. He’s white, I’m brown. In 2005, we were able to marry legally because we could, because we were allowed. I celebrate not just on June 12, but every day. Thanks to Richard and Mildred Loving. Thanks to the US Supreme Court in 1967.

LovingvVirginiaQuote_0

The Lovings’ story, my own story, and the stories of more than half a million interracial couples are the inspirations for my books. I’m also encouraged by the great multicultural romances I’ve been reading recently. Surely, they too have been inspired by real-life stories of mixed-race pairings. Some of them are: Courtney Milan’s Cyclone series beginning with Trade Me (Chinese-American heroine); Alisha Rai’s upcoming Forbidden Hearts series with its first book Hate to Want You (Japanese-Hawaiian heroine); and Tif Marcelo’s North to You (Filipino-American hero), the first book of her Journey to the Heart series.

trade me hate to want you north to you

All of these books show the love between two people, regardless of race or skin color. All of them prove that love is, indeed, color blind.

 

RWA-June-2017-01

 

Photo credits: Love is Color Blind – quotesgram.com, Loving photos – lovingday.org, book covers – Bing images, and Share the Love – RWA

My Book Boyfriends

When I’m reading a book, especially if it’s a good one, I tend to cast the characters in my head, often using well-known personalities like actors, athletes, and musicians. It helps bring the story to life in my mind. I think many readers do the same, especially romance readers. The tendency, of course, is to choose only the hero and imagine one’s self to be the heroine. Hence, the term Book Boyfriend.

do not disturb

Recently, there have been discussions in a couple of my Facebook reading groups on who we’d cast for specific books if they were ever made into movies.

josh hemsworth

At Sally Thorne’s Flamethrowers, The Hating Game’s fan group, Joshua Templeman is always Liam Hemsworth. Sally herself said he’s her inspiration for the character and who are we to argue with the author? Josh is supposed to be at least six-four, has dark brown hair, ink-blue eyes, strong masculine jawline, and sulky, pretty mouth. Here he is in Wednesday Dove-Gray. Hmm. Looks about right.

 

 

 

clive owen

 

 

At the Old School Romance Book Club, our Book-of-the-Month for June is Lisa Kleypas’s Dreaming of You. The hero is Derek Craven, described as having blunt, strong and even features; “green eyes, the color of grass on a cool spring morning”; and swarthy skin. I suggested a younger Clive Owen, and a lot of the members agree with me.

 

 

 

Whenever I read about a tall, dark-haired, blue-eyed hero in romance novels, I immediately think of Henry Cavill. It doesn’t matter if he’s Irish, British, or American; whether the book is historical or contemporary, the hero will always be Henry. For me he’s Roarke, my ultimate Book Boyfriend, from J.D. Robb’s In Death series.

Henry as Roarke

 

He’s also Blake Ryan in my novel, One Week in Boracay. And since I can’t make myself the heroine, I chose Filipina actress Iza Calzado as inspiration for Blake’s love interest, Krista Lopez.

20170313_050526000_iOS20170313_043329000_iOS

 

I’m so excited to finish writing about these two and their journey to finding love. I hope to share them with everyone soon. Maybe someday, Blake will be someone’s Book Boyfriend, too. One thing’s for sure, he’s mine right now.

 

Bookboyfriend

Note: Photos featured here are not my own and were accessed through public sites.

 

 

 

Eating And Reading Are Two Pleasures That Combine Admirably

I love reading. I love food. I love reading books with food in them. I love it so much that all my books will feature local food from their respective setting (Philippines, Singapore, Thailand). Also, the hero of my third book, Craig, is a chef.

I thought of this quote by CS Lewis because I recently read 20170518_191314402_iOStwo food-centric romance novels – Sherry Thomas’s Delicious and Laura Florand’s The Chocolate Thief. The food descriptions in both novels were so vivid and sumptuous that the first thing I did after reading was go to a French café and buy madeleines and chocolate tartlets and mini-croissants.

I always give high marks to books that make me react – whether it is to cry, laugh, or think. Those that induce me to go out and buy food deserve no less than five stars. It doesn’t hurt that they are fantastic stories told by talented authors. These were my first books by these two writers and they won’t be the last. I already have their backlists on my Overdrive holds. What are a dozen more books to pile onto my TBR mountain? Why, nothing. Nothing at all.

 

RWA-JR-2017-04-02

Mommy, Thank You for Giving Me the Love of Reading

You may have tangible wealth, untold caskets of jewels, and coffers of gold;

Richer than I you can never be, I had a mother who read to me.

~ Strickland Gillilan, The Reading Mother

 

I also have a mother who used to read to me. And on this Mother’s Day, I’d like to honor her and thank her, not only for giving me life, but also for encouraging my literary pursuits. All my life she has always nurtured my love of reading. Seldom was I scolded for bringing a book to the dining table. My poor eyesight was not blamed on reading in the dark or on reading in a moving vehicle. It was TV’s fault, never books. She could not admonish me for reading too much. After all, she was the one who taught me to read. My mom, Marieta Ruaza, was a teacher – to me and my siblings and to thousands of kids in the Philippines for over forty years.

She was also a short story writer. If writing is a hereditary trait, then I must have gotten it from her. I hope my son will get the writing gene, too. If not, I can only be happy to know that he appreciates my reading to him. Maybe, someday he will write a poem about his Reading Mom, too.

 

FullSizeRender

 

Thank you, Mommy. I love you! Happy Mother’s Day!

Looking for Asian/Pacific-American Heroines in Romance Novels

May is officially the Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the US and this month, I’ve decided I’m going to read romance novels featuring heroines of Asian descent. Before today, I’ve only read a few, among them Nalini Singh’s Rock Courtship, Alisha Rai’s Pleasure series, The Bollywood Bride by Sonali Dev, Lora Leigh’s Wicked Pleasure, Jaci Burton’s Midnight Velvet, and Fobolous by my friend Rainne Mendoza.

My Goodreads search proved to be frustrating as there are very few books that answer to the criteria – 190 if you include South Asians. Amazon is not much help either – only 40 are listed and most of the heroines are half something else.

It’s no wonder that 63% of those who answered the Dangerous Books for Girls survey said (they) “…think there is not enough diversity in characters and settings…”. It’s true, there’s not.

DBGi3 diversity

In the same study, it was learned that there were over 9,500 Romance ISBNs in 2013. Very likely, that figure went up in 2016. If I would hazard a guess, the number of those books who have Asian/Pacific Islander heroines would be pitifully small, could only be just a handful. Why? Are people not buying them? The Romance genre is a Billion-dollar industry and there’s no market for novels with my kind of protagonists? That’s sad and I refuse to believe that.

According to the 2010 US Census Bureau Statistics, over 3.3 Million American husbands have Asian wives. If only a small fraction of those wives read romance novels, that’s still a substantial number who may want to see their stories told in books. Toni Morrison said, “If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” So, that’s what I’m doing, I’m writing their story.

I’m writing MY story.

      RWA-June-2017-01

 

Read A Lot, Write A Lot

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”
― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

I have no problem with reading a lot. Last year, I recorded 465 books on Goodreads. It’s the writing a lot that is hard for me. On January 1, I set my Reading Challenge to 120 in order to give myself more time to write. This was based on my experience in November when I wrote most of my first book, One Week in Boracay. I managed to put together 51K words, but only read a dozen books. So far this year, I’ve already read 80 so I had to increase my goal to 180. However, apart from the title Christmas in New York, I haven’t written a word of my second book yet.

Then I saw Katy Regnery’s blog post and my jaw dropped. From September 2013 until April 2017, she published 31 books. She completes one book every five to six weeks. Talk about prolific! I’m awed and envious.

Can I do that? Possibly. I did put the finishing touches on Boracay five weeks after I started it. Will I do it? Maybe someday. When I don’t take three months to edit, or when I have a team to help me with editing, cover design, formatting, etc. But not yet, not for a long while yet. For now, I’ll read a lot first, then maybe I’ll write a lot of the second book, and the third, and the fourth…

Not maybe. I will. Starting now.

 

RWA-JR-2017-04-02

Boracay and Me, Our 20th Anniversary

Twenty years ago today, I went to Boracay for the first time and fell in love…with the island. I experienced that indefinable, magical feeling of coming home even though I wasn’t born there, had never been there until March of 1997. It wasn’t as if I had not seen the beach before then. I grew up with the sea only a few steps away from our house. No, Boracay was different. Special. More.

It was a combination of things – the white, fine sand; clear blue waters; fragrant sea air; sweet, delicious mango shake; and best of all, the company of my best friends. I can only recall the beauty and deep contentment of being there, my friend had to remind me about the masses of people who, like us, were spending their Holy Week in the island and the turbulent waters during our boat tour. I didn’t mind those things. I was happy. I was home.

Boracay Krista Quote

We only stayed three days that first time. They weren’t nearly enough. I had to go back three months later with a different set of friends. From then on until I left the Philippines to migrate to the US, I kept going back to Boracay. It became an annual pilgrimage for me. Even when I was working in Indonesia and Singapore and had gone to the famous beaches in Bali, Phuket, Sydney, and Brisbane, I still wouldn’t miss a trip to Boracay. That’s how much I love that island. I don’t need any travel magazine to tell me it’s the Best Island in the World. I already know. I have known for 20 years now.

So when I decided to write my first novel, there was never any doubt where I was going to set it–yep, you guessed it–Boracay. In my book One Week in Boracay, I created a fictional exclusive resort named Perlas, which is supposed to be located on the Northeast part of the island where Yapak, Punta-Ina, and Ilig-Iligan beaches are. Perlas has its own airstrip (instead of the golf course that’s there now), a dream scenario that may or may not be possible given the topography. The Boracay in my book is my ideal, the one I first fell in love with in 1997 – a clean, quiet, less commercialized place that’s a balm to a person’s soul.  It’s the one I’d like to go back to again and again even if only in my books.

Happy 20th Anniversary to us, Boracay! I will be with you again, soon.