I Love My Book Club – OSRBC Rocks!

The first rule of Book Club: You do not talk about Book Club. The second rule of Book Club: You do not talk about Book Club.

“What happens in the book club, stays in the book club.”

 

Ha! I’m going to break these alleged rules and blab about the Old School Romance Book Club. So there!

OSRBC is a Facebook group created by Best-selling author Sarah MacLean in July 2014.

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Description

We choose one romance novel (published pre-2000, the crazier the plot, the better!) at the beginning of every month to read and discuss, but we talk all kinds of romance all the time.

I joined in August 2014 while I was in Bangkok, one of the first 50 to do so. Three years later, the group has 5,300+ members from all over the world. In the club are some of my favorite romance writers: Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan, Kerrigan Byrne, Lorraine Heath, and Cathy Maxwell. Many of my co-members have become my personal friends, not just on Facebook, but in real life as well. Mostly women, we are military spouses, doctors, lawyers, teachers, librarians, nurses, full-time housewives and mothers, artists, students, writers. All of us are readers.

This group is my tribe. They speak my language, they understand me. There is no book-shaming, everyone’s opinions are respected. The group members are respectful, fun, and funny. They reinforced my love for my old school loves: Judith McNaught, Julie Garwood, Nora Roberts, Linda Howard, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Lisa Kleypas, Sandra Brown. They introduced new-to-me authors who have become instant favorites. Aside from the ones I already named as members of the club, I also discovered Tessa Dare, Eloisa James, Julia Quinn, Courtney Milan, Kate Meader, Sherry Thomas, and Laura Florand.

More than enabling my book addiction and thereby causing my to-be-read pile to become a mountain, OSRBC is the reason I became a writer. This group put the idea in my head that I can turn one paragraph into a whole novel. This book club encouraged me and cheered me on as I pantsed my way around NaNoWriMo in November and Camp NaNo in July.  They believed I can do it. Because of their confidence, I too, believed and completed my first novel.

This week, I’ll be doing final self-editing before I send Boracay Vows to a professional editor (a co-member at OSRBC, naturally). After that will be securing an ISBN, engaging a cover artist, more revisions and proofreading. Then, my book baby will be born.

One thing I will always remember is that it was conceived with the help of the Old School Romance Book Club. And that is why I love my book club. OSRBC Rocks!

 

Photo credits: I Love My Book Club -cafepress.com, Rules of Book Club – Tumblr.com, What happens… – Zazzle.com, OSRBC logo – Facebook.com

 

Camp NaNo Winner 2017

Winner again!

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I wrote and completed the first draft of my debut novel in November 2016 during NaNoWriMo. I started without an outline, without a plot. Nothing but one page of a scene I wrote in 2003 and never finished. I only knew two things that first day of NaNo: 1) I will set it in Boracay 2) It will be a multicultural romance. Yes, I was a Pantser. One month, two titles, three name changes, and 54,000+ words later, I had a complete book. Not finished, only completed. It had a Beginning, a Middle, and an End.

Naturally, first drafts are the worst. It went through four more revisions with Beta readers chiming in and editors turning it down. The verdict is clear: they want more conflict. Fine, I said. This July, I joined CampNaNo and with the support of my Old School Romance Book Club cabin mates, I wrote, rewrote, retitled, and edited my first book. As a result, I now have a 58,000-word sixth draft with a little more drama, a lot more love.

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On to more beta reading, more editing, more polishing, and hopefully soon, on to Publishing.

Carpe Diem!

 

Note: Photo credit to Chippy Ledesma. Location: Boracay Island, Philippines.

Adopt, Adapt

Adopt a positive attitude. Adapt to changes.

These are truisms we try to keep in mind whenever we travel. Heaven knows we needed every bit of flexibility and patience we could muster during our trip to and from Scotland and Ireland. Again, it wasn’t the being there that was the problem, it was the getting there and back here to the US that were stressful.

We had a wonderful time in both countries. All of us enjoyed the rich history, the breathtaking scenery, the refreshing weather, and the fascinating attractions in all the places we visited. The hotels we stayed in–Doubletree in Edinburgh and Fitzwilliam in Belfast–provided our needs well and were conveniently located. We hope to go back someday, especially to the Highlands, which we didn’t see during this visit. I just wish we could just teleport there and won’t have to go through London’s horrible Heathrow or Chicago’s O’Hell, I mean O’Hare.

It started well enough with the flight from Belfast actually leaving on time. Terminal 5 at Heathrow was so poorly constructed, it was a mad dash again to get to our gate for our flight to Chicago. We didn’t have time to get our tax refund at all. And, naturally we arrived late in the States, thereby missing our connection to San Antonio. It is virtually impossible to go through the immigration and security processes for entering the US within two hours, much less the lone hour we had.

Thanks to British Airways, we had an unplanned extended vacation in Chicago. They sponsored our hotel and meals for the night we had to stay until our morning make-up flight to Texas. We actually appreciated the night’s rest for we were simply exhausted. In hindsight, arriving home at daytime instead of midnight turned out to be a better choice for us.

So, if there are lessons I’d always remember from this adventure, they are:

  1. Have a sense of humor. Murphy’s Laws are forever at work, there’s no use flipping out when things go wrong.
  2. It is okay to over-pack. Always keep a fresh set of clothes, especially underwear, in your carry-on bag. Flights will get delayed, luggage will get lost or left behind.
  3. Carry an extra tote/sack in your bag in case you go over the weight limit. Remember: dirty clothes are heavy.
  4. Buy an adapter.

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Last, smile. And the world will smile with you. Truth.

 

Photo credits: Confucius quote – quotesvalley.com, universal adapter – Bing search

 

I’m An Advanced Reader

This year, I’ve taken fangirling to the max and made friends with my favorite romance writers on Facebook. I’ve also subscribed to their newsletters and joined their reading groups. Thus, I’m one of Sally Thorne’s Flamethrowers, Kate Meader’s Kittens, Sophie Jordan‘s Sirens, and Katy Regnery‘s Ladies. I’m also a member of Bella Andre’s Street Team, Eloisa James’ Book Club, and–the one that started it all for me–Sarah MacLean’s Old School Romance Book Club. One of the privileges is getting a bead on their upcoming books, months or weeks before they go on sale in the form of Advance Reading Copy. This week, I’m putting three of these ARCs on top of my To-Be-Read pile.

 

forever nightsOne more easy job, life coach and empath Jamie Donovan promises herself. Then she’ll take a well-earned break from her booming business to properly grieve the loss of her mother and pull herself together. When that job turns out to be an ambush intervention for Las Vegas heiress Layla DeGrasso, all bets are off. But Layla isn’t Jamie’s biggest problem on her new job. That honor goes to her client’s hot as hell bodyguard, Axel. Damn those abs.

Axel Frasier is finally free from the Army and is trying to make a name for his fledgling network security firm. When he lands a promising contract at Lush, Victor DeGrasso’s crown jewel on the Vegas strip, a few quiet weeks of system analysis beckon. But a twist of events force him back into the role of bodyguard, one he swore he’d never play again. It wouldn’t be so bad if he could only keep his head on straight around his clients’ distracting life coach.

Jamie needs to move past the baggage her mother has saddled her with, while keeping Layla on track. Axel can’t afford to be distracted by lust and doesn’t trust the lure of more. Neither is ready for true love, but the nights in Las Vegas are long and lonely…

Forever Nights will go on sale on June 27, 2017.

 

director and don juan

Heiress Alice Story left her father’s company three years ago in a blaze of glory, inviting all of his employees to jump ship and join her, but only one accepted her offer: mail room clerk, Carlos Vega.

While Alice spent the next three years getting her own company off the ground, Carlos became her indispensable right-hand man — executive assistant and office manager, loyal counsel and trusted co-worker.

And all the while, they were quietly falling in love with each other.

When Alice is offered a lucrative business deal in Puerto Rico, island-born Carlos is the perfect person to accompany her on her trip as translator. But as they travel together from Philadelphia to Santo Domingo to Ponce, two unlikely co-workers will discover that their feelings for each other have grown far deeper than they ever could have guessed.

And though business-minded, proper Alice will try her very best to ignore the longings of her heart, scorching hot, insanely sexy Boricua, Carlos, has no intention of letting her go.

The Director and Don Juan is available on June 30, 2017.

 

sophie jordan the scandal of it all

It takes two to make a scandal…

What kind of woman ventures into London’s most notorious pleasure club? An outsider like Graciela, the Duchess of Autenberry, snubbed time and time again by society because of her Spanish roots. Ela longs to take a lover for a single, wild night, and within the walls of Sodom there are gentlemen to suit every forbidden taste. If only she were not so drawn to the smoldering Lord Strickland…a dangerous man who sees beyond her mask, and could ruin her reputation with a mere whisper.

Lord Strickland never permitted himself to fantasize about the sultry, off-limits lady, but then he never expected to find Ela in a place so wicked, looking for what he’s more than too happy to give. She may not be to the ton’s taste, but she suits him perfectly. First, however, he must convince her to trust in this dangerous desire—and in the promise of forever unleashed by one wild, scandalous night.

The Scandal of It All will be published on July 25, 2017.

 

From these blurbs, I can already tell I’m going to love these books. I’ll be posting my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Happy Reading to me!

 

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Photo Credits: ARC – CreativIndieCovers.com; Cover photos and blurbs – Amazon.com

 

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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

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Love at The Masters, a Romance Novel in the Making

The hero–a 37-year-old Spanish golf-wunderkind who finally fulfilled his potential after 19 years of disappointments in majors.

The heroine–a beautiful American from a sporting family, whose love and support for our hero propelled him to previously-unreached heights.

The setting–Augusta National, The Masters Tournament.

After 73 attempts, Sergio Garcia finally shed the title Best-Player-Without-a-Major by winning the sudden-death playoff over his friend, the Englishman Justin Rose, and putting on the coveted Green Jacket. Everyone calls it a story of redemption, a new and mature Sergio overcoming his demons and at last breaking through in what is probably the greatest golf tournament in the world.

Me, I’m fascinated with the love story of Sergio Garcia and Angela Akins. I agree with several publications like The Washington Post and Mirror that she’s the it-factor, the secret behind his newfound success. In previous years, I never rooted for Sergio. He was a whiny brat–petulant, had a persecution complex, rude to American fans, and was tactless in his speech about his competitors like Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington. But over the past couple of years, since he and Angela started their relationship, he had mellowed, softened, grown up. I admired his self-deprecating demeanor during the Ryder Cup and his fight to equal Phil Mickelson point for point, resulting in one of the best matches in the competition’s history.

On Thursday, the first day of the Masters, I had him as one of my Top Five picks to win alongside Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson, and Fred Couples. After my American choices fell down the leaderboard, I continued to cheer Sergio on and rejoiced when he sank that birdie on the 73rd hole. Finally, Sergio Garcia is a major champion. All because he is at peace, happy, and in love.

So, if in the future you’ll read a romance novel written by me about a professional golfer with an abrasive personality who has never won the big one until he met the love of his life, you can say that it might have been inspired by Sergio and Angela.

 

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Photo credit: AP/David Goldman