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Songs of our Breakup

Writing Now

Filipino Readers’ Choice Awards 2022 – My Books Are Nominated!

Hey hey my books are nominated for the Filipino Readers’ Choice Awards 2022 (FRCA). FRCA is back after seven years and it’s super cool to have my books and more RomanceClass titles among the nominees.

Here are my nominated books! You can vote here until September 23, 11:59PM Manila time.

Romance in English

More about the books and where to read them in the links.

Fiction Anthology

  • 47 – Summer Crush by Jay E. Tria, Six de los Reyes and Tara Frejas (2017)
  • 103 – Tropetastic Kindness Bundle by Ana Tejano, Angel C. Aquino, Angeli E. Dumatol, Ines Bautista-Yao, Mina V. Esguerra, Bianca Mori, Carla de Guzman, Dawn Lanuza, C. P. Santi, Suzette de Borja, Jay E. Tria, Katt Briones, Georgette S. Gonzales, Celestine Trinidad, Chris Mariano, (Mina V. Esguerra, 2021)
    • You can read my story on Wattpad.

You can find the full list of nominees here. Go go vote for your faves and support Filipino authors!

Reminder that voting is only until September 23, 11:59PM Manila time 🙂

Music Dance and Lyrics Writing Now

RomanceClass Podcast Episode: The Rockstar Trope

RomanceClass Podcast is back with Season 4! Kicked off with the launch of The Tropetastic Kindness Bundle (available until April 14, 2021 here, all proceeds to charity!), and now with Episode 2: The Rockstar Trope. Alternate title: Why Are Rockstars??

Super cool to have been part of this panel because 1) I write about rockstars in romance, and 2) turns out it’s good to sit with the questions of why we are fascinated with these musician people and why and how we enjoy them, specially in our romance content.

Chatted with gig/music/writer friends Dawn Lanuza, Six de los Reyes, and Tara Frejas, with hosting by producer Mina V. Esguerra and direction from producer/the voice of god (lol) Tania Arpa.

The episode is up on RomanceClass Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. A few of my things from the discussion here, plus some stuff that came to me after, which is how the brain works sometimes.

  • Origin story. Seeing friends and classmates picking up instruments, forming bands, and performing in high school and college. Seeing how funny and cool and awkward it could be, kids trying to work together to create synchronized output, mess and art. The band dynamics that come out of the exercise. Picking up a guitar myself, to which when asked if I play, I can only answer as Lizzie Bennet said to Lady Catherine: “a little ma’am, and poorly.” Still fun though, always fascinating.
  • Influences. Sandwich, specially the dynamic of having three guitarists and the live performances. They will always be my favorite local band to see live. Alex Turner, for the words and lyrics. And for the album AM, bless him.
  • Characters inspired by real people who formed bands. Short answer is yes, they exist. Longer answer points to origin story. There is always that one cute boy in high school who got good with the guitar, then with the drums too. And maybe in college there was a cute boy who brought his acoustic guitar around and played and sang for anyone with little prodding.
  • Biggest rockstar moment. Parading into the wedding reception hall as part of the entourage, only to see Ebe Dancel performing live. Romanceclass also met Champ Lui Pio of Hale in a rockstar lecture, that was a teenage dream come true. Local gigs in the likes of Saguijo, Conspiracy, and Route 196 were chill spots for casual rockstar encounters, as were music festivals where musicians roam freely.
  • Hype and zone out songs. Submarine OST album, all songs by Alex Turner. Love Me/ Love Me Not by HONNE, on Spotify.
  • Recs for rockstars in media. Sunset Curve and Julie and the Phantoms in Julie and the Phantoms. Mido and Falasol in Hospital Playlist, on Netflix.
  • How do we like our rockstars. Six segued to our Summer Crush tagline, PEACE LOVE AND ROCK AND ROLL, which says it best. We fall for the charisma, the stage presence. Skill on instruments and with words is hot. But we want to see these things on good people having healthy relationships, which is what romance should be about

In summation, rockstars are cool, we like them a lot. Music is awesome. And I really, really, really miss live music. There’s something magical about being in a space with friends and strangers who’ve come together to soak up notes, rhythm, and words together, to receive energy and give it back. It’s a giving circuit. It’s potent joy. And even with the reach of technology, for me live streams don’t quite cut it.

I wish the pandemic is over and we are all safe and healthy and can go to gigs again. Until then, we have our rockstars in romance.

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Writing Now

Something Meeting by Six de los Reyes

Written for #RCReadathon2020 Prompt and Pairing, Please! Challenge. Sort of. Jill is a character from the Playlist series, starting with Songs of Our Breakup. Rhys is a character from Six de los Reyes‘ book Just For the Record and also appears in anthology Summer Crush.

Prompt: No one asked for this but follows this first meeting and we suppose this is now canon.

 

***

They handed over the payment at the same time.

To which the lady behind the fresh juice bar looked at them odd as they each tried to one-up each other and pay for the other’s fruit shake. But Ate Fruit Shake was having none of the shenanigans and left them both to deal with whatever this was, momentarily moving on to the next customer and letting them decide instead whose money she should take. 

Rhys’s eyes flashed for a second of eye contact. 

In response Jill clicked her tongue. “You’re ruining the moment.”

“You,” Rhys muttered under breath, “are ruining the moment.”

“I’m just trying to pay for our drinks.”

Not pancakes tonight because it didn’t have to be pancakes. Instead they met at some street food fair and it was a little bit of kwek-kwek here, some barbecue there, a piece or two or four of fishballs and squidballs and what have you. And then fruit shake after. Mango for Jill. No sugar. No milk. Just mango. Rhys’s avocado shake, with the milk and the sugar and all the good stuff was waiting, and arguing meant more talking and less fruit shake-ing, so Rhys curled her lip and accepted temporary defeat. The war was far from over, and sometimes it was wise to lose a battle. Strategy. It works. 

Besides, they’ve been outside long enough, and there were too many people out, and it was time to go find somewhere quiet to sit. Find some calm. Make sure the rest of the band boys—Jill’s Trainboys and her own whatever—wouldn’t find them before it was time. Tonight they were playing at this open air stage thing, one after the other as they usually did. Trainman and then Arabella, and then Rhys. Earlier, Jill had sent her a message, “They have fruit shake here.” Easy.

Now they sat together on the curb some walking distance away from the venue. Walking was nice. The outside air could be nice, too.

“I don’t understand,” Jill said, showing Rhys her screen. “Or maybe I do and maybe that’s worse.”

Rhys seemed to have a bad habit of picking up excess baggage along the way to wherever she was going, and this was nothing new. On Jill’s phone screen was a series of photos, one after the other storyboard style although the narrative remained to be seen.

Baggage A, Michael Brian admiring himself and his muscles in the mirror.

Baggage B, Son admiring Michael Brian admiring himself and his muscles in the mirror.

And Baggage C, Steven admiring his screenshot of Son admiring Michael Brian admiring himself and his muscles in the mirror.

At the very end of it was a link to another single they seemingly dropped out of nowhere. Just because they can. Because Mikhail Learns to Brian has a brand, apparently. That brand is chaos and energy. And dragging unsuspecting band boys to supervise and offer input. At least the new song was good. Not that Rhys was ever worried. It was bright and effervescent, with a backbone of kicks and snares like a moshpit stomping on the sand and a guitar riff like a color wheel against the cloudless sky. 

“Adequate,” Rhys said, answering Jill’s silent question. “The song. Traindude helped, didn’t he? I told him not to.”

“Miki had no choice. He said it was, and I quote, not a democracy. Your boy helped, too. Kenny. ”

“That’s because the intern is a fan of Bread Cheeks.”

Jill tilted her head in thought. “Your intern is a fan of Steven?”

Rhys grunted to confirm. “And I don’t have boys.” 

“Gotcha.” Jill swiped through the photos and chuckled under her breath. She flipped her phone again to show Rhys her screen. “Of course. Only a matter of time.”

The latest update was a photo of the Shinta standee, beaten and bruised but never defeated, endorsing the latest release. “Your boy is aware of this?” Because that would be a massive headache, more than the usual because Shinta Mori did not come cheap.

Jill shrugged. “He consents to it. You, as the company, do not need to worry about that.”

Rhys grunted and bit into her sugarcane straw. In the distance, she heard Michael Brian and Son calling out for Adrian and Kim. “That can’t be good.”

Jill’s smile burst into a laugh. “But interesting for sure. Here is safe enough distance, I think. We are past the point of intervention.”

Rhys’s teeth clamped harder on her straw. Then after a moment she pulled out her phone and found about a dozen or so messages in various stages of panic and disbelief. “Thanks for the avocado shake.”

“Sure,” Jill answered. “This was nice. You going?”

Rhys tilted her chin up for another flicker of eye contact. “No. I don’t have to go.”

“Cool. And the song is more than adequate.” 

Rhys smirked. “Wait ‘til you hear the next one. I will be in touch.”

 

End

 

#RCReadathon2020 Prompt and Pairing, Please! Challenge thread this way for more ficlets of your Romanceclass faves.

 

Writing Now

30th

Written for #RCReadathon2020 Prompt and Pairing, Please! Challenge. Jill and Shinta are characters from the Playlist series, starting with Songs of Our Breakup and also in Songs to Make You Stay.

Prompt:  Shinta plans Jill’s 30th birthday party

 

***

Shinta Mori took birthdays seriously. Specially the landmark ones, like the 30th, which was turn-of-the-decade important.

Since he’d made Manila his home base, he had been hearing it referred to as the advent of the tito-slash-tita stage of life, where one would get excited about purchasing rice cookers and tea. Fascinating, really.

When he turned 30 he already had an interest in household machines and errands, having moved out to his own place early on. And tea, while it was not sake or beer, was always nice.

Anyway, this wasn’t about him. This was another person traversing into an exciting new decade, and this person was important.

This person also nursed a firm dislike of birthday parties.

Tricky.

His palm fell on Jill’s thigh, squeezing. “Do you want to go to Sapporo?”

One eyebrow rose. “Randomly?”

“Not right now.”

“Yeah, cos I’m supposed to be up there in 5 minutes.” Her mouth curved to his favorite smirk. She tilted her head towards Commute Bar’s floor where Nino was testing a beat on his drums.

“I actually can’t go on a trip next month,” Shinta muttered, gaze dropping on the sticky table.

Why did he have filming schedule around this important birthday? It was an extra challenge but he was up to it.

Jill was looking at him with narrowed eyes, which meant she was figuring him out, which meant she would get there soon, with the way she knew him.

He needed a distraction.

He leaned over and captured her lips, her face in both his hands, thumbs tracing her cheekbones. His kisses ran deep, bordering on inappropriate in public despite the dim lights of the bar.

He felt her smile against his moving mouth, palm smacking his chest.

“Fine, be that way.” She broke away from him and she stood up, aiming for her bandmates, fingers through his hair as she went. “I’m going to pretend I don’t know what this is.”

***

“She hates parties.” Miki’s tone was as flat and no-nonsense as Shinta imagined his expression would be.

“It’s not a party,” he said to his phone. “It’s an intimate congregation.”

“Also hates surprises.”

“I am walking a tightrope, I know.”

Shinta flopped face down on the sofa, his feet dangling from the edge. He raised his head to peek at his door in case Jill was coming in, but he had only imagined the faint jangling of keys.

Birthday planning was fun but he was making this year’s extra stressful for himself, with how much he wanted it to be perfect. Also with how he was involving more people. It was usually a trip or a quiet day of just the two of them, how she preferred it.

But really, one did not turn 30 every year.

“What do you have?” Miki’s voice called him back.

“Sushi, guitars, Tokyo, Trainman, girl squad, me. A list of things she likes.”

“No better place to start.”

Shinta sighed. “Hai.”

He reached for his laptop, open on the side table. He had been searching for inspiration, for a hint of something that would be the perfect not-quite-a-surprise, not-big-enough-to-be-a-party idea.

He had been searching for weeks, thinking about this for months. He’d thought of a lot but nothing was sticking. He swiped his finger on the trackpad and typed some more, going back to his usual website haunts for possible clues.

He was scanning on social media when he saw the announcement. He and Jill had been waiting for this. And for it to fall on this date.

His face stretched into a grin.

“Yatta.” He shifted his cheek to speak to his phone where Miki was holding his end of the call. “I think I got it.”

***

“Perfect seats.”

Jill released a low whistle as they dropped on the cushioned seats, eyes scanning the arena’s many floors, the rows filling up with fans bearing light sticks and banners. She turned to the stage, to the flashing lights around them, then to his face. He thought her eyes sparkled the most then.

He nodded, proud of himself. He’d fought an intense online battle with fellow warrior fans to secure these tickets. The show was sold out in less than three hours and he was one of the lucky ones.

It was a special birthday gift. He was blessed.

“Not in the VIP, because that means standing in the mosh pit with energetic teenagers for 3 hours and that’s not fun for the lower back,” he said, slipping his fingers through hers. “Not too far that you have to rely on the big screen to see the band’s faces. They charged extra for the faces. This is—”

“Perfect. Just right.”

Jill planted a kiss on his lips and he knew it was meant to be sweet but no wait—his palm cupped her nape and pulled her back to him, making the kiss last. When her palm came between them, it cradled the curve of his neck.

“Happy 30th birthday in 3 more hours,” he whispered.

She wrinkled her nose at ‘30’ but was laughing when she wrapped an arm around his shoulder.

“Thank you. You don’t have a surprise party waiting after this, do you?”

“Only an intimate congregation with your favorite people.”

“There’s cake?”

“Of course. I made everyone promise not to sing the birthday song. They can just whisper or text greetings to you.”

“Okay.”

The lights had dimmed, spotlights bursting, dancing, then zooming in on the stage. The crowd rose, a single collective yelling, screaming their hearts out, light sticks waving in the air.

Jill and Shinta stood with everyone else, but her smile was on him.

He lifted their linked hands to nudge her chin. “Tomorrow I can help you look for the best rice cooker.”

“Perfect.”

When she laughed and kissed him again he knew she meant tonight, this birthday, his plans, the chaos and the music around them, and the two of them together, always. Perfect.

 

End

 

Note: Jill and Shinta were 21 and 24 in SOOB and STMYS lol so this was fun to write and also made my head spin cos a lot would have happened in the years in between. But for sure there were constants–like music and friends and Shinta.

Special thanks to Day6 World Tour 2019: Gravity in Manila and rice cookers.

#RCReadathon2020 Prompt and Pairing, Please! Challenge thread this way for more ficlets of your Romanceclass faves.

No one asked for it but I wrote a Jill-Rhys fic here.

Writing Now

JxR: First Meeting

Written for #RCReadathon2020 Prompt and Pairing, Please! Challenge. Sort of. Jill is a character from the Playlist series, starting with Songs of Our Breakup. Rhys is a character from Six de los Reyes‘ book Just For the Record and also appears in anthology Summer Crush

***

 

This was nice.

Silence. Calm. Being surrounded by band boys most hours of her waking life guaranteed noise, chaos, and fun too, sure. Music and hijinks abound. Son and Nino ganging up on Kim while Miki mediated. In the midst of that, productivity and songs happened somehow. It worked out.

Music could be quiet too.

From the corner of her eye she saw Rhys nudge her fork, spearing a piece of pancake. Jill mirrored the motion, taking a cut of bacon on her next bite.

She didn’t know what led to this exactly, a midnight pancake run with Rhys, DJ unicorn extraordinaire. Miki had said working with Rhys had been the strangest yet most efficient experience, a volley of files attached to emails. Abrupt, to-the-point emails. That worked out too, the Summer Crush theme song turned out nice.

Was this about work?

Jill shrugged, munching on another bit of bacon with some egg. This late, the pancake place was empty, aside from the sleepy crew behind the counter.

Earlier tonight Rhys had sent her a text. Pancakes? I know a place.

Jill had said yes. It wasn’t complicated.

They sat side by side instead of across each other, with enough space for another person between them. Rhys was now slurping down her iced tea. The girl seemed to enjoy sweet things. Jill slid her untouched glass to Rhys’s side of the table, preferring water.

Music was playing through the speakers. It was ‘Iris’ by the Googoo Dolls a minute ago. Now it was ‘Breathless’ by the Corrs. Y2K karaoke hits was the playlist theme maybe. Cool.

“So, your boys,” were Rhys’s words, bringing a quick death to their silence.

“I don’t have boys,” Jill said, surprised. “I have a Shinta?”

Rhys gave a nod and a brief second of eye contact, as if approving.

“One boy. Not your Shinta. The bassist. Curly?”

“What is Son up to now?” Jill groaned.

“What are they up to—is more precise. Curly, Fluffy.” She sighed, pointing a thumb to her chest as if claiming responsibility for the second name, albeit reluctantly.

Jill had to take a moment to try and pinpoint a Fluffy among Rhys’s crew. Curly for Son was self-explanatory, but was Fluffy supposed to be ironic?

“Michael Brian?” She ventured a guess.

Rhys gave a short grunt which Jill took as a yes.

“And Steven,” Jill finished, comprehension dawning. She wondered for a second what could be Rhys’s nickname for Steven but figured that was a question for another midnight.

Mikhail Learns to Brian. The surprise project group that two of their bandmates plus Steven of Korean rock band East Genesis Project fame had cooked up. Right under their stern leaders’ noses, an accomplishment the trio had been giddy about.

Rhys had moved on to sipping Jill’s iced tea. “Does Traindude approve of the name?”

“Traindude…?” Her bandmates were all Traindudes. Trainmen? Oh right. “Who—Miki? He didn’t have a choice. They told him to be grateful.”

“It worries me.”

“Have you heard their samples? They sound good.”

“I’m not worried about the music.”

“I get you.” Jill stuffed her mouth with pancakes, chewing to buy time. She felt herself smirk. “I don’t have energy for an intervention, if that’s where you’re going. Maybe this conversation should have been with Kim?”

“No, not that guy. Grumpy would…do things. And I’m just…”

“Worried. Gotcha.”

Jill really did. Most times the project group thing was funny, because separately, Son, Michael Brian and Steven were hilarious. Together, they were an explosion waiting to go off.

Case in point, dropping a single in the middle of East Genesis Project’s V Live session.

Second case in point, stealing—“borrowing” the poor Shinta Mori standee for their music video shoot.

Chaos. Energy.

Jill pulled out her phone and set it on the table between her and Rhys, finding a song. It was a new one. The boys had coerced Miki to supervise their rehearsal and Miki had recorded it, sending her the track.

It was a fast beat. Clip-clopping. Heavy on the bass and synths. Generous with the hi hats, the drums thumping its own rhythm. Michael Brian was crooning, the sweetness of the sound a surprising contrast to what she knew of his abs and to the energy of the track.

Rhys had closed her eyes. The song looped and neither of them stopped it.

“I will be in touch.”

She sounded so serious. Jill couldn’t help a burst of laughter.

“Is this you or the company speaking?” she asked.

“Me.” Rhys flicked her another look, another second’s eye contact. “The song is nice. I’d like to hear the next one. It doesn’t have to be pancakes next time.”

Jill shrugged, licking butter off her lips as she took another bite. “Pancakes are nice.”

***

That was fun, heh.

#RCReadathon2020 Prompt and Pairing, Please! Challenge thread this way for more ficlets of your Romanceclass faves.  

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