If I wasn't a fan of avocado before, I definitely am now. I loved the city's chill vibe, I loved the food and I definitely loved the coffee. There's just something about how they managed to bring together the city life and the quiet loveliness of different plants that makes Sydney feel like my happy place.
Let it be said that uploading books to Amazon is not easy, and not good for panick-y people like me! After announcing on Twitter that Chasing Mindy is coming out on April 15, after a series of hijinks, it's now out on April 1. No pre-orders, no April fools jokes.
It'll just be there, out in the world.
Now before I bury myself in my covers and weep at my own silliness, I thought I would send you guys the full cover, and the blurb for this little Paris book that I've written, re-written and flipped over.
See you on April 1!
Mindy and Javier are not friends, okay.
Despite their mothers’ matchmaking, they’ve managed to stay out of each other’s way. Until Mindy goes to Paris for a week, and her mother insists she meet up with Javier. He’s in Paris to study, really looking forward to see you, she says. Watch over each other.
No thanks. Javier is taciturn and boring, Mindy is dramatic and has a tendency to yell at things when her eight siblings are brought up. It’s not a great combination.
But things start to look a little different under the Paris lights, and what felt like hate feels a lot closer to love.
I hope you guys get a chance to read it, because my tech blunders aside, I really enjoyed the entire process behind this book. It follows If The Dress Fits as Book 2 of the City Love series, but this can certainly be read as a standalone!
This is a snippet from a series of shorts that I wrote documenting Max and Martha's trip to Europe. Newsletter subscribers get the whole ebook for free, so I've included a sign up link at the end of this short story so you can get it too! Happy Valentines Day!
You know what people don’t tell you about going on vacation in Europe? How hard eating is going to be.
I’m a rice and ulam kind of girl, plus soup if I was feeling extra hungry. But here, in this beautiful, old continent, rice wasn’t exactly standard fare.
We arrived in Vienna exhausted and hungry. After a quick Google search and directions from the front desk, we found ourselves at Rathausplatz, a park that was just adjacent to the city hall. It looked like no city hall I had ever visited.
From where I was standing, Rathaus was a gothic dream come true, with tall spires that reached up to the sky, each detail carved delicately into the building. It looked like a castle, and in the darkness of the night, the purple lights from the music festival against the sepia stones made it look like a princess’ castle with a clock face. A huge screen was set up facing the plaza, with rafters and proper seats for the film viewing.
Where we were standing, we were standing in a food park. Now this was familiar territory. Seats and tables filled the central area, surrounded by big, colorful booths advertising their food—Aperol spritzes, ice cream, sliders, Chinese food, steak, kebabs, hotdogs, and other food I didn’t quite recognize. I was focused, letting my nose dictate my steps, feeling a little disoriented with the new smells and sights.
“Why is everybody advertising Weiners?” Max suddenly asked, unable to hide his childish laugh at the term.
“It’s German for Viennese, you perv,” I elbowed him, thankful nobody could understand us as we continued talking in Filipino. It was like a superpower, one that we both took advantage of.
“Alright,” Max announced, clapping his hands together. “Let’s imagine we’re on our first date.”
“What?” I asked, momentarily distracted by a Chinese food stall…oh my god, they had fried rice. I missed fried rice!
“Martha, focus,” He said, pulling my shoulders and kissing my forehead, which was pretty effective. “Let’s pretend that you and I are hanging out in any old food park, getting to know each other romantically for the first time. What would we do?”
“Well, first of all, we would be holding hands,” I said, holding my hand out for his, which he slid easily into mine. This still didn’t come naturally to us, but I wasn’t worried. “And maybe we would go around the booths twice, debating our choices.”
“Sounds like a plan,” he said, swinging my hand as we walked towards a bight green stall that advertised ‘authentic german spatzle’. The cheese sauce against the potato pasta was practically calling my name.
“God, I’m going to get so fat on this trip,” I grumbled, almost salivating at where the chef was preparing the food. Cheese and potatoes, was there a more classic combination than that?
But the amount of cheese and potatoes on the plate suddenly made me think of all the croissants and cheese I ate in Paris. I thought of the sinful little strawberry frasiers I’d eaten. The way my pants were actually getting tighter.
Then I thought about Cafe Demel, which the Internet bragged had the best hot chocolate in the world. I could skip that, couldn’t I?
“So am I,” Max said, tugging my hand a little. His brows were furrowed with concern.
“Martha,” he laughed. “You once told me that if you’re going to get fat, you might as well get fat on really good food. So are we having spatzle for dinner?”
Ack, I shouldn’t. I should look for something healthy, like a salad. I was going to be in Europe for a while still, I wasn’t going to run out of encounters with german and wiener food!
“Yes please. But let’s add a tomato or a lettuce leaf or something on the side so we don’t die too early.”
“You’re an easy date to please,” he grinned, kissing my forehead again as we stepped in line to order our food. I scanned the plaza again, and saw that there was a gorgeous circular structure across the street, creating a perfect backdrop against the food park. It looked like a theater. It looked like a dream.
“This is the best first date I’ve ever been on,” I said, wrapping my arms around Max’s waist, because everyone else around us seemed to be doing the same thing.
Back home I would have pouted at couples doing this in public, but here, thousands of miles away and without any prying eyes, it felt just right. I think we needed this, him and I just needing some time to be Max and Martha. Learning how to hold hands when we walked, to hug each other and kiss each other’s forehead when we felt like it.
“So tell me about yourself,” Max said, reciprocating my hug. “Brothers? Sisters?”
“One sister,” I said, looking at him slyly as I played along. “Too many titas.”
“Isn’t that always the way?” He asked, and we both laughed, a sound that was familiar and new at the same time.
We started to talk about all the things we enjoyed—he talked about the book he was currently reading about the provenance of art pieces (‘I picked it up in Paris’, he said proudly, even if I was there when he bought it from Shakespeare and Co), and I told him about the movie I watched on the plane on the way to France, even if he’d seen it too.
We looked like any other couple on a date in just any other city, and that was a comforting thought.
Armed with our cheese and caramelized onion spatzle and two glasses of Aperol spritz, we settled into the seats in front of the Rathaus, spending our first night in Vienna watching a compelling ballet about war, leaning against each other and falling into comfortable companionship.
It stuck me that I’d never had this with anyone before, and here I was now, having it with Max. I was happy, full and just a little tipsy from the Aperol. Suddenly the carbohydrate content of our dinner didn’t matter so much.
“Let’s get fat together,” I told him. The f-word sounded weird on my tongue, I’d associated it with negative things for so long, and saying it now in this context was…nice. New.
Even in the dark of the evening, the light that glowed from Max’s face could have powered the entire MuseumsQuartier. I gave in to the urge to kiss him.
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Happy 2018 everyone! The Christmas/New Year/Birthday season is always my favorite time of the year, only because there are so many things going on, and so many things to be grateful for--this trip included. Shanghai isn't new to me, but something pulled me toward it when we were choosing our yearly family trip. Maybe it was the cold, more likely it was Shanghai Disneyland. But in the end, it was a great way to spend time as a complete family, and to discover new corners of the city.
And YES you will see Shanghai in a future book! I have really really specific plans for specific characters in this city, you'll see!
Experiences you can't miss:
- Jostling with the crowds on The Bund after a few happy hour drinks at The Long Bar at the famous Waldorf Astoria
- Buying cute little tin cans of floral or fruit teas from Tianzifang while chomping down on candied kiatkiat then visiting the basement shops at the SML Center next door to buy the cutest insulated tumbler ever.
- Having a cup of coffee at the 5th floor cafe of the 1933 Slaughterhouse. Don't let the name fool you--it's now a gorgeous brutalist art space, and the cafe has an actual garden, I was dying.
- Spending an entire day at the 'No. 1 Water Village'. Venice has nothing on the extremely well-preserved Zhouzhuang. Plus the whole place has a creepiness factor that just makes it more worth the trip.
- Taking a picture with Kylo Ren at Shanghai Disneyland. Riding the Tron Light Cycle at Disneyland. Dropping your jaw at the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Shanghai Disneyland. Just. Shanghai Disneyland in general.
Hello and welcome to 2018! It's been one HELL of a year in more ways than one, but I wanted to sort of end it on a happy note.
I joined this group of writers who joined the #WriteAway retreat last October, and everyone's been all over the group talking about their 'word' for 2018--something like a theme for them to look forward to. I've never been that introspective (except now, obviously), but I realized that 2017 was a test in patience. Patience for things that I know will happen to me, for things that haven't happened yet. Maybe things I waited for this year will happen next year, maybe they won't. But I'm glad I have something to show for it at least.
And I made it in collage form.
Things I'm Grateful For 2017:
- Publishing the Queen's Game. A Filipino royalty romance has long been running around my mind, but it wasn't until we went to Batanes that it fully formed. This book went through so much, it almost became something else completely. But I'm glad I made it the way I did, and on my own terms. Now it's being live read (again!) very, very soon.
- Playing with watercolors. Last year I was wondering why I should bother with this particular skill if it wasn't going to make me money, but I realized it doesn't have to be. I can paint because I want to, whatever I want. Last year I was terrified of painting landscapes, but with a little bravery and practice, I enjoy it a lot now.
- #romanceclass--my happy place, my safe space. This group changes lives, makes everything better.
- Writing more books! This year I wrote Making A Scene (which will be part of the #romanceclass Flair imprint), The Queen's Game, Baking Me Crazy, a book about London with lots of food in it, Chasing Mindy, a book about a two crazy kids visiting Paris together and maybe, maybe, a single parent romance. It's been a prolific year for someone who only published one book, but you see what I mean by patience?
- Travelling. I mentioned somewhere before that at the start of 2017 I felt so grounded. There were days where I would feel the routine settling into my skin like dust, and some days it made me want to scream. But it made actually going on the trip all the more sweet.
- Launching a book--in bookstores! Was something I almost forgot, and ironically, it's been a goal for so long. I'm not going to talk about how that makes me feel. But It's good to know that goals change.
This morning, I was tagged by the lovely Suzette de Borja (who writes some of my favorite royal romance books, just saying) to post a few lines from my WIP. I figured this was a nice opportunity to update the blog with this unedited(!) excerpt from a book that I’m currently working on called Chasing Mindy. It was a book borne out of a very timely prompt by Mina V Esguerra (this one, o) and a lovely trip to Paris.
Oh, and this part of the story happens on this exact street corner!
“Ugh, damn it,” Mindy cursed, shaking her head sixteen hours later. “Damn. It.”
She was standing on the corner Rue Du Depart and Boulevard Montparnasse, and she was having the hardest time trying to wrap her head around the fact that she was here. In Paris.
It looked real enough—the buildings around the rotunda she was facing had the distinct yellow walls and blue rooftops she’d only remembered in dreams. Every nook and cranny of the street disappeared into a secret, unknown place, inviting her to walk in and see what was there. Behind her was a corner cafe, one of the many in Paris, where the wicker chairs and tiny round tables faced out and the waiters wore big black smocks and fanny packs full of change. The sounds of the street were muted, and the cool air was wrapped up in mystery and romance.
Damn Paris. Three times here now, and she still couldn’t get over how otherworldly it was.
Mindy took a deep breath and released a calm, collected sigh. It felt so freeing, finally being able to do this. She felt weightless and unencumbered, with no work looming over her head, no family waiting for her. For a rare and beautiful moment, she was just Jasmine Capras.
“J’taime,” she said, throwing kisses at the Metro sign, the Galleries Lafayette across the street, the ‘American style’ restaurant behind her. She was just so over-the-moon, break-into-song happy. ”J’taime! J’taime!”
“What are you doing?” An amused voice interrupted her happy reverie behind her. Her good mood evaporated like air from a deflating balloon. “According to the travel details my mom sent, you should have been at your hotel an hour ago. I thought something happened to you.”
Mindy turned so slowly that the earth could have turned completely on its axis if she wanted it to. She glared at Javier wishing that a portal could just appear at his feet and teleport him far, far away. Paris may be magical, but unfortunately, it wasn’t what kind of magical.
“Is that my jacket?” He asked.
She looked down at the oversized varsity jacket that she’d grown accustomed to, felt around the pocket for her used boarding passes, pulled it close and breathed in the coffee scent that managed to linger despite the plane smell. She slowly raised her eyes at Javier, as if daring him to take it from her.
Javier looked confused for a second, like his robot brain was still trying to process what he was watching, then shook his head.
“You didn’t have to come,” she said. “I could have lied enough for both of us.”
“I know you would,” he shrugged. ”But I had to do something in between classes and work. Contrary to what everyone says, you do get sick of museums sometimes. And side streets. And cafés.”
“Excuze moi?” A waiter behind them asked, making Javier apologize quickly and move out of his way. Mindy noticed that most, if not all the café’s customers were staring at them, their seats angled slightly toward them in a bid to see better. This scene with Javier was the kind of thing Mindy wanted to see while sitting cafe-side, instead of being a part of the scene itself.
“You work?” She asked. “I would love to see you in a fanny pack of money. I bet you write down everyone’s orders so slowly.”
“I work in a bookshop.”
That took Mindy aback, because she could picture it. Him in a warm knitted sweater over a collared shirt, poring over a thick volume on analytics while customers around him explored a dark, moggy old bookshop. She could imagine him pushing a pair of thin-rimmed glasses up his nose, ignoring customers who asked stupid questions like ‘have you got the latest John Grisham?’ and him having to explain that no, this was a travel bookshop and they only sold travel books and—nope. Javier was not Hugh Grant in Notting Hill.
“Oh,” she said instead. “Why do you need to work? You live in Ayala Alabang. You moved there from Hillside Estates.”
For the first time since meeting in Paris, Javier actually looked uncomfortable, sticking his hands into his pockets and studying his shoes. Mindy wondered if she’d offended him, and bit back an apology. She could almost hear her sister Daisy’s voice in her head, reprimanding her for bad behavior. Since when was Daisy the voice of her conscience?
”My father is rich,” Javier corrected her. “It’s a family thing, I don’t want to get into it.”
He didn’t have to get into it, really, because Mindy already knew everything. The true core of her family’s relationship was a circle of trust between the siblings, where anything that anyone knew was shared and analyzed over and over again. The Tiangco family and their problems were no exception. Daisy, as the Minister of Information finally told the story when they stopped over for dinner on the way home from the Tiangco’s house in Alabang, with her parents adding or taking out details from what sounded like the plotline of a local teleserye.
To cut the long story short, Francis Tiangco had built a land development empire by playing fast and loose with other local businessmen. Much to her mother’s disappointment, Tito Francis developed all the classic hallmarks of a sleazebag business tycoon—shady government dealings, binge drinking to seal deals and no less than seven women on the side, all with their own house and drivers. Javier’s mother filed for legal separation and demanded alimony when it became clear that Tito Francis’ interests were veering away from his family. Divorce law was almost nonexistent in the Philippines, and this was the best she could get. Tito Francis made things difficult by letting everything pass exclusively through Javier, which meant Javier controlled how much his mother got, what she got and when she got it. It was enough to screw up any guy, that was for sure.
Mindy could understand why he felt the need to study in Paris. She also felt a little bit bad for everything she’d said and thought about him so far. But only a little bit.
“Your room isn’t ready yet,” he informed her. “Leave your bags at the reception desk and we can eat.”
Mindy blinked at him.
“You like burgers, right,” he says, and yes, she does. “I know just the place.”
Have you heard, have you heard? One month from now, we'll be flailing in feelings for #FeelsFest2017! To be held on October 14, 2017 at Commune Cafe, it's going to be an afternoon of books, live readings and lots and lots of giggling. Very obviously, I can't wait. Not just because of the readings and seeing the community again (we're getting nametags this year and THANK YOU), but also because it's going to be the first time that The Queen's Game will be sold at the event! It's a little launch party for Princess Nina and Prince Felipe too.
To mark the occasion, I decided to design a little sticker for anyone getting a print copy of the book. I love designing book covers and freebies almost as much as I love writing the books, so I thought I would walk you through my design process and help you get a bit of inspiration to try it out yourself!
Step One: Gather Inspiration
This is usually where a Pinterest board comes in handy. Look at your reference material (in this case, the book itself) and from there try to gather pictures that you can use as inspiration for your design. I was looking at the pretty chocolate packaging from Demel (a chocolaterie from Vienna that's been around since the 1800s and kept the original packaging!) and a couple of other things that have been floating around my radar. Plus Van Gogh's Sunflowers, because, well. Sunflowers.
Step Two: Start Sketching!
From the inspiration board, i knew I wanted to try making a round sticker. I knew I wanted to use flowers, for Felipe too. So from there, and using the ideas from the inspiration photos, I made a few sketches. Experiment with different styles, explore what kind of text or look you want for your sticker. No need to be super detailed here yet, just try to narrow it down to what you really want.
Step Three: Final Drawing
Look at your sketches and see which one you're most comfortable working with. Some artists try to redraw their favorites into bigger pieces of paper to really plan out how it's going to look, and you're free to do that too, of course! But since this is a 'quick' version of my usual process, and I was limited by the place I was in (hospital rooms do not make you productive!), I settled with a pen an ink drawing on the notebook I had on hand.
Step Four: Painting
You can color or paint your sticker design any way you like, of course, but for this one, I played around on the Procreate App. It's really the best drawing software on the iPad that I've tried, and even the best artists out there use it too! It's definitely worth a try.
Check out the video below to see how I did it! (note how I had to use a picture of a circle to make a circle in the app hahaha).
Step Five: Import to Photoshop, clean up
Procreate has a PSD export option, which saves me a lot of time and heartache. If you did this manually, scan your art into Photoshop, and make some final adjustments. Make sure you delete the background layer and save to PNG!
And that's pretty much it! I'm still deciding if I should go through a printer or just print them on my handy dandy printer here at home, but I'm really happy with how it turned out. People who purchase a copy of the Queen's Game will find this freebie stuck inside!
Got any questions about my process? Leave a comment below. :)
I thought that I already knew everything about this city. But I'm almost happy to find out that it's not quite true. I also told myself that I would one day write a story set in Paris, but that has yet to pass. We'll see if I can make it work.
But until then, these are just some of my favorite photos from Paris. I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I loved taking them.
Experiences you can't miss:
- Cafe-side sideway glances at Parisians and tourists alike from Saint Germain.
- Be a cliched tourist and wait for the Eiffel Tower to sparkle from the Trocadero Gardens.
- Pay proper homage to Manet's Olympia at the Musee D' Orsay and find out why I love her so much.
- Walk through the Opera Garnier and wonder that it's like to perform there with all the gold.
- Gasp at the sight of the Saint Chapelle
- Sit on the green chairs at the gardens and chill for at least an hour. Preferably with a Brioche Doree pastry and a coffee in hand.
- Get foot blisters from walking.
Here we go! I am soooo excited to share with you the cover and blurb for my new book--The Queen's Game! This is a case of things just coming together perfectly. I've been looking for an excuse to write contemporary royal romance. Then things happened, and my original idea was shelved. It was sad. But then, Carina Press had a call for contemporary royal romance, and I thought why not? After an inspirational trip to Batanes, I was so ready to write this story.
But when I read through it again, I thought, why not publish it myself? I've been antsy to get back into the game and publish something new, something experimental while I'm waiting for my other books. After I decided to do that, my friend Maronne Cruz posted her photo, which later on became my book cover, and then one of our live readers basically wrote a love letter for #romanceclass, I knew. I knew I had done the right thing.
Things fell perfectly into place for Nina and Felipe. I hope you guys enjoy this book as much as I have had writing this.
ANYWAY. Ignore me, and read on! The Queen's Game will be available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited from August 1, 2017.
Print editions are now available for pre-order here!
There are only two reasons why Nina would come back home to Cincamarre--one, if Auntie Delia promises to stop butting into her business, two, if her father died and she was made to ascend the throne to be queen.
Unfortunately for her, it was the second thing that brought her home.
As a princess who's sunk a yacht and been caught kissing popstars, it's easy for her aunt, the regent, to think she's ill prepared for the throne. But Nina doesn't think that having to fake date Felipe, the handsome, squeaky clean Prince of Concordia was the best solution for that.
Nina's ready to learn the ropes of her new role and make it hers, and reconnecting with Felipe only makes her want to be a better queen. But is the monarchy ready for a queen like Nina?
Need some more convincing? Read these glowing reviews!
"This book was a beautiful thing to read. Since the very beginning, Carla de Guzman enchanted me with her writing and her flower-y metas that she uses for some stuff."
- Sil, @thebookvoyagers
"In just a few chapters, Carla de Guzman was able to lay out a great and believable world building and transported me to Cincamarre. If it’s still not obvious…yes, I enjoyed The Queen’s Game a lot and would highly recommend for you to check it out once it goes live on Amazon. It’s a royal contemporary story that you can easily breeze through."
- Amanda, @fandomlybookish
" I feel like Carla’s writing have grown-up with this book, too, what with the rich and vivid descriptions of Cincamarre and Concordia, and the way her characters dealt with their issues."
- Bentham Hurtado, author
"All in all, I loved this book. I loved the ending! Rebel till the end, no amount of royal protocol, strict rules and stuffy customs hindered them from pursuing their happiness. But done in the name of love, breaking protocol can certainly be forgivable. "
- Mayumi Cruz
Who would have thought that writing would require so much visual research?
But for the last few works in progress, Pinterest has been a huge help to me in coming up with a clear 'image' that I want to convey for the books I write. It's so much fun researching looks, places and little things, and it's helpful to me to make sure that the book has a unified feel to it.
Or maybe I just like looking up couple pictures and location shots.
But seriously, it's a huge help when you're stuck with a WIP! Especially to a writer who relies so much on location.
I have to admit, I nicked this idea from Mina V. Esguerra, who started posting Pinterest boards of her projects as they were happening. Until then I was using Pinterest just for fashion posts and lettering inspiration.
Check out the Pinterest boards of my works in progress, in no particular order!
Making A Scene
part of the upcoming #romanceclass Flair imprint
Baking Me Crazy
The Queen's Crown