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Life and Lemons

Life and Lemons Writing Now

My #romanceclass Origins Story

#romanceclass head of PR and Marketing Chachic (lol but true) is doing this really fun thing on her blog she calls romanceclass Originswhere people from the community get to share how they found this safe and encouraging creative space. She was so kind to think of me and feature my story. See how I came out of nowhere apparently 😀


1. How did you discover #romanceclass?

I had a book and no idea what to do with it. I’ve tried querying international agents and had a couple of polite rejections and a lot of ignored emails. The more I read and the deeper I went into figuring out how to get published, the more I felt that maybe this would be a hard path for a Filipino author to take. I felt like I had to look for someone–an agent, a publishing house–who was looking for an author who lived where I lived and who wrote the things I did, and it felt like such a specific task. A good-as-impossible scenario. So while in that state, researching on how Filipino authors get published, I came across several magic, life-changing words: self-publishing, Mina V. Esguerra, and #romanceclass. I found Mina’s blog Publishing in Pajamas, read almost all of her posts and bookmarked this one post about how she did it–wrote and published her book. I read it so many times like an adobo recipe I was determined not to fail. I clung onto that for strength to continue wanting and working to be published. I learned about her company Bronze Age Media and sent her an email asking if they accept manuscripts for publication. (Mina, if you’re reading this, please don’t go back and reread that email because all the cringing my goodness. I am so sorry /cries) Two years later (yes, it took me this long), I gathered up all I had and called her while on lunch break at the office to ask about getting an editor. She was very nice and very patient. I had a lot of questions. A lot. I remember the call getting cut and my anxiety at having to call again. But I did. I called again and asked more questions. I was instructed to send my manuscript and wait. I sent and waited. This was Blossom Among Flowers. While that’s happening, I went through old drafts and found one I’ve been working on and off for a few years. I finished it. By the time Layla Tanjutco emailed me, the first draft was done so I sent it to her. This was Songs of Our Breakup. While that’s happening I also joined #StrangeLit and yay, yes finished an urban fantasy. This was Majesty. I released Blossom Among Flowers first, and then Songs of Our Breakup before that workshop was done, with about a month in between. I remember Mina retweeting my SOOB tweet and saying I was a #StrangeLit participant. I remember her using the #romanceclass tag when she finished reading the book and said she liked it. ‘Lovely book,’ she said. The memory still gives me unicorn wings. I joined the Facebook group and made a warm nest of the community, its people. This was late 2015. I remember crying a little inside and thinking hey, look at that, I got to publish my book. Books. It’s not impossible after all.


Read the rest of my answers here! Thank you Chachic <3

Life and Lemons Writing Now

2017 Gratitude: In Books

As of end-of-year 2017, I have written and published the following books (in chronological order, so no book gets hurt because of course books have feelings):

Blossom Among Flowers (YA romance) – July 18, 2015. Japanese high school kids. Popular, seemingly cold boy genius grudgingly tutors headstrong yet head-in-the-clouds manga fangirl. Jdorama feels. I wrote it because I loveloveloved Hana Yori Dango and couldn’t get over how Rui didn’t get Makino when they’re obviously soulmates.



Songs of Our Breakup (New Adult romance/Playlist #1) – August 22, 2015. First book set in the Philippines, with Filipino characters. Band boy breaks up with band girl. Band girl’s Japanese celebrity friend flies in, sets himself up as her perfect distraction, and for so much more. I wrote it because I’m a Pinoy music scene fan and Oguri Shun fan and why can’t I have it all in one universe? Oguri Shun is my Shinta, but the easy rule is you choose your own.


Majesty (Urban Fantasy/ Young Adult/#StrangeLit) – October 2015 on Buqo/ March 17, 2016 on Amazon. Welcome haunting of a beautiful ghost, friendship you find in hopeless places, and friendship and love that endure even death. I wrote it for Bronze Age Media and Buqo‘s StrangeLit workshop. And also because it’s a story that’s been living with me for years and although painful it needed to be written.



Songs to Get Over You (New Adult romance/ Playlist #2) – February 29, 2016. Band boy pines for band girl but does nothing. Accountant girl pushes him to move, and towards a new direction. I wrote it because Miki needed to learn things. I love him that way. You’ll understand once you’ve met him.


Songs to Make You Stay (New Adult romance/ Playlist #3) – October 9, 2016. Japanese celebrity boy gets band girl, but the struggle doesn’t end there, does it? Living the life you know versus living the life you choose, and finding out where exactly love fits in. I wrote it because Shinta is extra and won’t quiet down and leave me alone.



Make My Wish Come True (#romanceclass Christmas anthology) – December 2016 on Gumroad/November 15, 2017 on Amazon. My short story is Christmas Chicken Dance. Japanese celebrity boy flies to Manila to surprise his mother for Christmas + an ulterior motive to get the girl. I wrote it because again, Shinta. Extra.



Promdi Heart (anthology of love stories set in Philippine provinces) – March 29, 2017. My short story is One Certain Day, set in Hagonoy, Bulacan. Artsy girl and band boy end up being cemetery neighbors one All Saint’s Day. It becomes a yearly tradition and grows into friendship, and to girl, maybe something more.



Summer Crush (anthology set in a music festival in surftown La Union) – April 7, 2017. My short story is You Only Need Reminding. Accountant girl drops all the balls she’s been juggling for a summer getaway with band boy boyfriend. But what if there really is no such thing as escape? I wrote it because Tara Frejas, Six delos Reyes and I wanted to merge universes. It wasn’t easy but it was awesome and why yes, I’d totally do it again.


You Out of Nowhere (steamy romance/ Flair #1) – November 4, 2017. Train meet cute. Accidental Seoulmates. Older, cookie bar boss lady is so over dating and looking for the One. Younger corporate boy thinks she might just be it. I wrote it for #romanceclass2017 (alternating POV! Filipino characters! Heat level 3++!). It’s the first book from #romanceclassFlair and it makes me feel honored and grateful and pressured all at once.



Nine books in three years. NINE. Six novellas and three anthologies. All love and work. All thanks to the village it took to make the books and to people who read, reviewed and rated and told me they’ve read and enjoyed the books. All thanks, always, to the #romanceclass community.

Like most things worth doing, I’m realizing that the more I write, the more I need to learn, and the more I should improve and it’s a cycle that will never really stop. It’s hard most days (lots of days), and some days I truly believe I suck and should be banned from ever lifting a finger over a keyboard. Days like today and the past few days, for example, when even the thought of starting a sentence and plotting outline makes me shrivel up and die a little inside. But it’s all part of the process. I shall get through this. There are more stories to be written. Until then I am proud and grateful for the stories already out there, and if you find them, I hope they bring you the feels you need too.

Happy New Year! Here have an adorable Joe Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel song!

Life and Lemons Maj Guanzon

March 17, 2017

I’ve always been afraid to forget. I thought of that constantly, when the wounds were fresh and new, and I could still hear your voice, our last conversation, because it’s only been a day after all. Two days, then three, four. A week, a month. A year. I didn’t want to forget, and I’ve kept that thought and thought it often with the passage of time. At first the hours were slow, excruciatingly so. Other days, time would flow in sharp bursts, when grief would give way to moments of joy and relief and triumph. And grief would return, and I would welcome it, because it came with memories of you. It was a blanket, warm and soft, heavy and mine. Sometimes I wonder if it was all real. Your love and the swiftness of our friendship. Sometimes even the pictures are not enough receipts.

This day, I forgot. The calendar, your mother’s sorrow, the birthday greetings reminded me. There came guilt. It settled in and it was familiar. There came memories of you, and pictures, and receipts. And I remembered. I remembered everything.

Cheers to your birthday, hon.

Life and Lemons Writing Now

2016 Gratitude

The tougher the year, the more important it is to look for the good things, because they are all there. In red letter dates and normal dates, in moments and in people. Ines has been reminding me to write down my 2016 gratitude, partly because she knows she’ll be in it, but also because she’s right. Remembering and taking time to be grateful is important, even more so now.

I am grateful for family. For fights over unwashed dishes and barrel-bolted doors, and un-knotted garbage bags and missed curfews. (Curfews! Curfews, still, mother??) Because these mean I have sisters and parents to have the fights with, and we’re never really that angry anyway.

I am grateful for friends and safe spaces. They say it’s harder to find friends as you get older, but maybe not. I think when you grow older it gets easier to spot a kindred spirit, your panic room, someone who will understand even just one small corner of who you are. Maybe it’s that small, dark corner that gets wider, deeper, and hurts more some days, and you’ll find someone who will be ready to pull you out, or stay with you, whatever it is you need. I am grateful I found friends like that this year. Ines, Caryn, Agay, Six, Tara, Dawn. Thank you.

I am grateful for travel, and for Aze, Chuks and Sunny, friends who are willing to get lost and found with me, endure what I turn into when I’m hungry, hot, excited, frustrated, and weary. I am grateful for spring and summer, for long walks and mosh pits. 2016 was Tokyo and Osaka. Cherry blossoms, a stock market field trip, Tsukiji again for mind-bending sushi, takoyaki and okonomiyaki, Summer Sonic with half-naked, half-baked Charlie Puth, wonderful, swaying Matty, Weezer and Panic! and Baby Metal (will stop here, this is a long list).

I am grateful for food. Dear God, thank you for food. I sure ate a lot of pancakes and sushi and cake this past year.

I am grateful for work. For people who make it just a little bit more intense, but still more fun, less like work. For officemates who take time to visit my cubicle and distract me from work, because sometimes I need that. I always promise not to take work too seriously, and I always break it. Maybe serious is okay? Maybe serious means I don’t hate it like I did the old one, and I appreciate it for what it is, and what it allows me to do.

I am grateful for art. For art fairs, museums, postcards, movies and theater, so much theater. For music. For borrowed acoustic guitars, for OPM and gigs. For that moment when you’re in the middle of the crowd, swimming in sound, the drumbeat moving inside you, and you’re there, you’re present, so present, but you’re also somewhere else. In that line of the song that talks about your life in abstract, or in minute detail. In that beat when the vocalist’s eyes catch you, and you both smile, because maybe that was his favorite line in the song too. I listened and liked a few new local acts last year, but the standouts remain to be the greats from my high school days. Sandwich, Ely, Ebe, Parokya ni Edgar (with Vinci, please). Rakenrol hanggang umaga.

I am grateful for books. Dawn said there are still so many songs for me to listen to, and I said that’s like telling me there are still so many books to be read. Both are true, and it makes me panic a little sometimes. But it just means we will never run out, doesn’t it? There will always be words that will take us places while we’re reading in bed or in line at the grocery or sneakily in our cubicles when there’s a report to be finished. I am grateful for books I have written, books I am writing, books I still want to write.

I am grateful for #romanceclass, because you are friendship; a safe space. You are work, and you are books. And you are a promise of more things to look forward to. We will never run out.


Life and Lemons

November 9, 2016

The past few days made me feel like I need a long, scalding bath, the kind that strips off skin and exposes brand new flesh yet to be sullied by the pollution and wretchedness stifling the air. I need cake and chocolate and ice cream (together and all in one sitting), and really loud music. That Rebel Girls of Rock playlist I like, or something comforting on loop, like ‘Minsan‘ or ‘As Long As You Love Me,’ or just the jagged, winding, one-word chorus of ‘Maps.’ I want to go out dancing (the awful-looking crazy kind), or go on screaming at the top of my lungs inside the recesses of my head, and then find the doorway to Narnia, or to the now much sought after route to Canada, or to Mars.

But even Narnia had tyrants, and people doomed to forget history, and people doomed to doom themselves. So I will stay here, in this realm we have created and we are now bringing to ruin. I will pray, sing out loud, cry a little. Be silent when my heart needs it and speak out when I must. Talk it out—with real people and not with share-happy, Internet-spun historians and critics trolling social media. I will hold on to hope, because hope is one thing that keeps me human—my pockmarked skin, decaying flesh, frayed sinews, throbbing pulse, and bright slivers of hope.

Life and Lemons Maj Guanzon

October 19, 2016

I’m going to try to remember how it happened.

The night before was spent online. It was still Yahoo Messenger then, so vintage. We talked about icky boys and homework and group reports, well into the morning. I said good night before you, as my usual. Or maybe I fell asleep on you (that was my real usual). I woke up the next day expecting two things from you—a good night message laughing at whatever letter I’ve slept on. Ppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp. And a good morning text sent hours before my brain would be properly awake. I was disappointed on both points.

Strange, I thought. But okay. I texted, good morning. Sorry about the deluge of P’s blahblahblah MRT complaint blahblahblah work’s gonna suck like usual but I hope you have an awesome day. Hours and people and emails passed. The morning passed. Still nothing. That afternoon, a few hours after lunch break, my phone rang, blinking your name. Weird, I thought. We were texters, not callers, unless there was an emergency. Like, ‘our gross classmate thinks you like him, ew’ kind of emergency. Like, ‘our group report is not making sense and it’s due this week. HELP.’ Why only now? was my other thought. I’ve been waiting for your texts since this morning! I picked up the call, let out the words to lovingly berate your tardiness. It was so unusual of you to be late, by the way. You were always prompt. Early, even.

I didn’t hear your voice at the end of the line. There were hiccups instead, and sobs. A low wail that formed my name. This is her mom, said the voice. She’s gone. She died this morning. But what about my birthday? was my first idiotic thought. Because you said we were going to celebrate my birthday as if I were turning 18. With a sleepover and many bottles of alcohol, tasting menu style. After that single flash of memory, it was darkness, and cold. Horrible, gripping, heart-numbing cold. But not enough to numb anything, not really. Not my mangled heart, or my legs that felt useless beneath me, sending me to the floor. Not my arms that felt stiff and heavy and unable to carry the weight of my head as I sobbed and groveled, staring at nothing, tuning out everything. Light, sound, soothing words, consoling hands, all sense and meaning. You were gone. Everything was gone.

Somehow I managed to get up. Wrench myself out of the pain. Finish the day, close up the vault, log out my computer. I managed to reply to texts. Yes, it’s real. She’s gone, I told them all. The wake will be tomorrow. Ask me again tomorrow.

I walked to church. I don’t remember what I did there. I don’t remember what I found. Was it solace? Was it peace from the buzzing of prayers and penance around me? Was it your presence, the tactile memory of your voice, your words in my head, your last hug, lingering on my skin, filling up my chest?

I got up from the pew, wiped my wet cheeks, and stopped by a Zagu cart on my way home. I bought a small cup of pearl shake, flavored crème brulee. Because the night before, amidst the talk of icky boys and pending schoolwork and things we dream of and things that hurt us, you told me how drinking crème brulee shake with extra pearls reminded you of sunlit, carefree days.