Why I Wrote If The Dress Fits

It's a hot button issue right now in Romancelandia--someone wrote a fat-shaming, fatphobic and ultimately very hurtful book. People are divided between those who vehemently hate it, and those who raved about it. 

Honestly, I've never felt like an advocate of anything. I follow the Aaron Burr school of thought where I stay quiet and watch. But lately it's been eating at me (ha-ha) of how people view us fat people. So I go back to If The Dress Fits. I usually tell people that this book is me putting my soul on paper. Every feeling I've had about being the way I am is here in the book, with an addition of the perfection that is Max Angeles. 

Because that's all we want, right? We want one guy who sees us, thinks we're pretty amazing, despite.

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When I was writing this book, it was my way of trying to convince myself that fat is okay. Honestly I didn't quite believe it then, which is what some people picked up on in that scene where Martha looks at herself in the mirror. I learned from #romanceclass that writing these books is about giving people the happily evers they deserved and I thought I deserved that, fat or no. So yeah, Martha is the most like me--she loves to eat, she loves her dog. But she's also a lot more brave than I am. She isn't afraid to go after what she wants, and that speech she makes at the wagyu place? I wish I could make that speech! 

And she doesn't lose weight. Doesn't tell herself to stop eating carbs or chocolates, doesn't deprive herself. I have no time to read how someone lost weight and found love because that's a horrible adage that still rings true to me sometimes. I had experiences where someone who cared about me used to tell me 'you got thinner!' every time I saw him to make me feel good. What a lie. 

When I finished writing the book, when I heard it read out loud, when I heard people tell me how they felt about it, my feelings changed. I became more confident in myself, posting photos of my whole body, wearing a bikini (!!!) to the beach. I wanted to write a book that said it was okay not to be confident in your own body 24/7, but I ended up doing just that. 

In the dedication, I wrote, “To every girl who has ever been called the f-word. You are beautiful. Believe it.” I didn't really believe it myself until now. 

So come at me haters. One day I'll write a book with this new perspective, but until then, here you go. 

Also, If The Dress Fits is $0.99 on Amazon from August 12-19, wherever you are. It's not perfect, but it's mine. I hope you like it. 

 

Writing is Hard

So I've had this brilliant story idea in my head. It's been in here so long that it's gone through three drafts, one almost book deal and three location changes. I did all my research--I watched all the Oceans movies, the Thomas Crowne Affair, Entrapment, read about forging paintings and sleight of hand, read similar books (Mina V Esguerra's Young and Scambitious series, Bianca Mori's Peyton Riley series, The Heart of the Steal by Avon Gale). I had no other books on the pipeline, I planned for this. And Ocean's Eight came out, and my little heart soared. My idea was begging to be written, it promised that it was ready. 

So I thought I was ready. 

But writing this draft has so far been like trekking through mud. It's been slooooow, and I'm not used to slow. I realize that in movies, you get away with a lot more things. You don't have to explain certain motivations, don't have to fact check if certain technologies exist, or if certain things are possible (how on earth did Vincent Cassel dance through a laser field, and I'm still annoyed at the Julia Roberts plot twist). But here, you're managing all of that against a love story, a love story that makes itself clearer as the story goes along. 

So we're slow. SO SLOW. I'm actually hesitating over writing steamy scenes (ikr). And I'm easily distracted by other plots, other things. But I am determined to make this work. 

Here's to those difficult plots you just need to write through. We'll get to THE END somehow. 

In the mean time...we write. We wait. We watch more things. 

Te Amo, Barcelona!

WHEW. We're back, people!

It's taking me a little longer than I expected to recover from this whole trip--I'm still sleeping pretty badly, but then again, I may just be a bad sleeper. But Barcelona was a magical city, the sunlight that falls here is just fantastic, giving everything a softer glow. Unfortunately, we were very badly pickpocketed here! It was a dim start to an already wild trip on the way. It changed a lot of our plans, and I like to think we ended up with a better trip than we planned. 

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Experiences you can't miss:

  • Eat a cone full of Manchego cheese and Iberico ham from La Boqueria at the end of La Rambla. But make sure you keep an eye on your bags!
  • Snack on the salted caramel ice cream from my new favorite place to eat--El Nacional on Gracia.
  • Catch a game of football (we watched Spain vs. Morocco!) at a local pub, or have some Crema Catalana, mmmm!
  • Wake up at eat from your local Churreria
  • Pay homage to Picasso at the Picasso Museum in the old Gothic quarter, and check out his famous Les Menines interpretation. 
  • Make a wish at the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's man made forest. 
  • Have some arroz negra from the food court of El Corte Ingles on Playa Catalunya along with a glass of sangria. The view is also pretty fantastic!
  • Check out Barna Paper and Barna Art which has a pretty amazing selection of art materials. Make sure you grab an Escoda brush too, as a special souvenir. At the end of that road is the Casa de les Punxes, a castle in the middle of the city. 
  • Explore the Gracia neighborhood, which includes a stop at Onna Coffee. 
  • Make the journey to Montserrat for amazing, sky high views. Be ready to face your fear of heights!

 

Packing for Europe!

My parents have been married for thirty years. 

Can you believe? Thirty crazy years with ten kids, one (or more) dogs, and more papayas and mangoes than anyone can eat in a lifetime. My parents’ anniversary has always been a huge celebration for us because 1) it always falls on a holiday, 2) it's my Dad's birthday 3) they consider it the day our family was born (awww). 

So when we were deciding what to do for the big 3-0, they only asked us for one thing—a cruise. It's one of their favorite things because my Dad loves to lie in bed and watch the Love Boat, my Mom loves to swim, and of course, the food. The Mediterranean cruise has been on their must do list for awhile now, so this was the perfect excuse!

Of course, we kids saw it as an opportunity to really dress up. We grew up pointing cameras at each other, so of course you gotta look good. 

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If you were wondering why I put up a lot of pictures of myself on my own moodboard, it's because I inspire myself. CHOS. 

It's mostly because the clothes I buy aren't Googleable--you can't trace them to a brand, or the brand has stopped selling it, making a legit blogger-like board impossible. I did however, have my own pictures of myself in these awesome clothes. So there. The bottom left picture is funny because I ordered that earring online thinking I was buying a pair, when it fact they were selling it per piece. Weird. 

The photo on the right is of fabric that my aunt posted, which I then asked if she could turn into a dress. 

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I don't have a picture of my earrings because I haven't decided yet! How do you choose among your favorites? How do you even pack them for a trip to make sure they don't get damaged? It's still a thing I'm figuring out. 

The clothes, in the meantime, came pretty natural to me. I've always lived in dresses, and have been wearing the flowy boho aesthetic since I decided on it in my second year of college. You see the red fabric on the upper left? My aunt turned it into the CUTEST DRESS. I can't wait to wear it. 

I've been on enough cruises to know the importance of a tote bag to put all your things in as you move around the boat. Our resident book printer, JMD Copy Prints, does tote bags now! So I had to bring mine. 

And yes gurl, she's wearing a bikini! First time! God I hope my boobs don't pop out or something huhu. 

I've always been a less is more, mix and match kind of packer. So my bag has (more or less) two formal dresses (with one casual-ready), three regular dresses (including my airport wear), two fun tops, three plain tops, one pair of shorts and one skirt. Hopefully that equals enough clothes for the two week trip? 

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Now for the more important part--the books and the art stuff. So crucial!

The Art Stuff
I got one of those Japanese multi pocket kits from National Bookstore and filled it with everything I need to paint on the go. My Moleskine watercolor book (with a Hulyen sticker!) a mechanical pencil, an eraser (yup that's not a white pencil!), a ruler, an Isabey size 0 travel mop brush and an Escoda Prado Size 4 Travel Brush are my travel weapons of choice. There's also a little glass jar in there for my water. The palette is all ShinHan colors that I filled in for a workshop a couple of years back, but I like that this palette has the essential colors (and then some) and large wells. I carried this kit around in Hong Kong, and it seemed to do just fine. 

The Books
See this is one of the reasons why I never understood the 'Death to the Kindle' crowd. Because can you imagine bringing 100+ books on a single trip? I don't think so! I'm bringing along a couple of print books as well, but it's more because I don't have the digital copy. If I did, I would leave my print ones at home. (oh hey they're all written by women!) 

Obviously I am an overpacker afraid of getting bored at sea, but it's always best to over prepare, don't you think! I CANNOT WAIT to share photos of my trip with you guys, and obviously, these places are going to end up in books, one way or another.

I'm ready. 

*cue panic*

 

 

Sydney Love

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. 

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Chasing Mindy: Cover + blurb!

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!

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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!

Newsletter Exclusive: Max + Martha

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! 

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Vienna

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. 

“But…the carbs.”

“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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Shanghai Calling

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!

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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.