Thank you love you

Last Saturday was FeelsFest2019. Anyone who knows me knows that I will always gush about days like this, block out entire days for days like this.

But FeelsFest 2019 was a little different—new readers, which is always fun (GOOD LORD BOO IS SO SOFT AND LET’S NOT EVEN TALK ABOUT RAP OKAY I CAN’T EVEN LOOK AT HIM RIGHT NOW), new books to celebrate (I see you Flicker girls, and I want mooore) new anthologies to announce (hello Alta girls!) and….other news.

The other news being that Carina Press is publishing my book! I know it feels like I write so much that everyone gets confused as to what I’m working on at the moment and what I’m submitting where, but this is the Christmas one, the one with the barista and the baker boy in Lipa City. (that one, we’ll talk about some other time, maybe when I’m in the throes of editing and wonder why I put myself through this)

And part of FeelsFest2019 will always be special to me because the news was ‘announced’ there first—to the people who helped me make sense of my own kilig, the people who never made me feel bad or shameful for finding someone sexy and attractive, and never judged me for uh…the things that I write.

You know, even when the live readers are reading the words out loud and I’m literally ROLLING ON THE FLOOR wondering WHY. I made it a personal goal years ago to get the OGs to read one of my books together and I got it in the form of a sex scene, and it just feels like poetic justice???? And Graie and Migs read a sexy bit of Chasing Mindy and made it even steamier than I remembered, because I distinctly remember wanting that scene to be cute and light and a little funny, and they did both except make it HOTTER???

Yes, I’m dead, hello, goodbye.

I also got to talk to some researchers about what this community has meant to me, what it means to me still. I told them about how I never would have imagined having a writing career like this, or a writing career, like…at all, if it wasn’t for the community. The Publisher’s Weekly announcement for the book had a mention of me being a #romanceclass author, and I feel that it’s fitting. It’s perfect.

Anyway. Happy Feels Fest, guys. Tita Carla loves you all.

I can never be your (French) woman

Confession. I am obsessed with the effortless French aesthetic. Notice as I attempt today to be completely conversational in this post and not give two cares in the world about things like punctuation and spelling ha haha hahe aha haaaaaaa

It’s just. So. Effortless.

Everyone has perfectly messy hair!!!!!!


Everyone looks so cool!!!!! Is wearing gorgeous red lipstick!!!!!!

Who needs foundation when you have perfect skin???

And nobody has boobs!

For a kid who had always had very little guidance on clothing (I was 100% that bitch in college that wore maxi skirts and red lipstick, whatever the weather), I saw this aesthetic, clung on and fell headlong in love. I (still) hoard books by Garance Doré, Caroline de Magiret and Ines de La Fressange. I embraced red lipstick and still wear nothing but plains and stripes. My sister purchased YSL’s Touche Eclat (our family’s first super fancy makeup purchase!) because Camilla Morton’s How To Walk In High Heels told her so.

It’s taken a while (a long while, really), but I’m starting to accept that I will never be that French woman.

I can’t subscribe to their philosophy of “buying the best, most long lasting thing and wearing it forever”, because there are no forever options like that for a girl of my size. Even my bras can’t have that forever feeling, because according to the shops in my country, that bra size doesn’t exist (I am a unicorn, apparently). Don’t even get me started on pants.

I can’t be the girl who wears jeans and blazers, not in the heat of this country.

I can’t be the girl who throws on her boyfriend’s discarded button down because…boobs. Arms. Belly.

I can’t be the girl who goes out of the house without a little bit more coverage, because acne is real, and I can’t spend what they do on skincare.


I’m one of the lucky ones—I can afford to have things made for my size, I can buy things that look good on me, even if they don’t last. But that makes me Not A French Girl, because apparently she buys that one pair of jeans from Dries Van Noten and is set for life. She gets a blazer from a vintage store, and gasp! it’s actually a Chanel! Hahaha, oh look, that Ralph Lauren shirt she purloined from an ex boyfriend makes her look so gorgeous.


But despite all of that, I still love their vibe. I’m the completely wrong body type for it, but I try my best. Put me in a plain shirt + gorgeous skirt + loafer shoes and I’m a happy camper.

But even to get to that point took me a very long time, and years of trial and error and several books that tell me that I’m buying and wearing things wrong.

IN CONCLUSION. If you’re still reading. There’s nothing wrong with reading the books, and subscribing to their philosophies. But there’s equally nothing wrong with getting a giggle out of them, and finding what works for you.

I still follow Violette from Estee Lauder on YouTube, because I LOVE HER and her looks. I still drool over Matilda’s simple, but hyper expensive makeup collection, because it’s just so cool. I’m grateful for girls like Geneva Vanderzeil (of A Pair and A Spare!) and Jasmine Dowling who subscribe to the same philosophies, but adapt it to their own style, and taught me to pick and choose the part of things that I like (and that it’s totally fine!). And I’ve also recently fallen in love with Alexa Chung. Go figure.

And not that this matters, but if you’re ever going to buy a book from these French icons, I highly recommend Garance Doré’s Love x Style x Life. Not the how to book you expect, and her writing style is so caszh I feel like i’m reading a cool aunt’s diary, but I love the life lessons you pick up along the way, and for me is the most approachable of the ones I’ve read.

I can’t be a French woman.

But I can still be me. And…that’s just as good.


Book Covers as Makeup Looks!

Last month, the wonderful Sil (@thebookvoyagers) posted this REALLY COOL thread of makeup looks that looked a lot like romance book covers, and as a baby makeup enthusiast, I thought it was awesome! The colors almost perfectly match all of the book covers, and of course, she gave credit where credit was due.

So in the same vein, I decided to come up with a few makeup looks based on some of my favorite #romanceclass covers! I had a lot of fun creating these looks, and of course you can’t really see the eyeshadow because argh, hooded eyes, but you get it, right??

Clicking on the book titles leads to the Amazon page where you can purchase them. You can also click on the right side of the photo to see a second photo (and a better look at the eyeshadow huhu)

Like Nobody’s Watching - Tara Frejas

One of my favorite #romanceclass heroes and books, Pio Alvez and Audrey Alonzo engage in a fake dating arrangement when Audrey’s ex brings a new girl to a company party. Of course there are feelings involved. I love the blues and teals and that now signature look on Pio’s face, and I thought I would bring it to my inner corners so it wasn’t too overwhelming. And I’m using my favorite lip gloss—ELF Plumping Gloss in Mocha Twist, so I’m really happy with this. I can even see myself wearing it out, maybe?

I also made a video of this look!

One Night: Compilation - Bianca Mori

Bianca Mori writes about the lush rich world of the de La Reds, and I broke out my fancy Fenty lipgloss in Fussy for this look! Consuelo wears a gorgeous emerald green dress for the evening’s festivities, and I used that as inspiration for my look!

How She Likes It - Carla de Guzman

Hello magnetic lashes! I had to go all out for the book cover look for How She Likes It, just because Isabel is the CEO of a cosmetics company, and you can’t go all out without false lashes and a deep red lip.

Designing the Cover for Stealing Luna

When I set out to design the cover of my book, Stealing Luna, I was terribly excited by the prospect. The book has a lot of visual cues to take from —it’s set in Barcelona! There’s a painting! It’s a romance! all of which I can kind of pull from. I was also redesigning the cover for The Queen’s Game, so they needed to match.

Crack open any book by a famous lettering artist (I highly recommend Jessica Hische’s In Progess) and they’ll talk you through their process for designing any piece of major lettering work. I’m a lazy person by nature, so I might have skipped a few things and went straight to my design program, but it still helped.

The first step is to list down a word cloud relevant to the work you’re doing. For Stealing Luna, it was the following:

  • Barcelona

  • Juan Luna

  • Romance

  • Burnt Sienna (it’s the color of Barcelona in my mind)

Then I considered to my usual personal style, and the current style of the Queen’s Game which was:

  • Personal photos in the background

  • #romanceclass covers photo

  • Specialized lettering title

  • Bold color!

  • The Queen’s Game had roses on the cover (which I know, weird, should have been sunflowers, but roses and red felt more royal to me)

So I had a very vague idea of what I wanted to do from there. I had an illustration of gardenia flowers in my Procreate app that had no particular purpose, so I thought it would be nice to incorporate that to the cover, so it could be somewhat similar to The Queen’s Game cover.

The second step in the process is to sketch things out before you lay them out on your digital app, but I decided to skip all of that and did all of my testing on Photoshop instead. Ah the fun of working for yourself, haha.

The Background

Here’s the little inspiration mood board I had for the cover, which I turned into a postcard for those buying future print copies of Stealing Luna.

Taking that, and color inspiration from the Juan Luna painting that the characters were going to steal, I chose the blues from the seas of A Do Va La Nave for the background, and the pink/orange tones from my Barcelona photos for the title. The background photos of the street and Park Guell that you see in the cover are from my personal travel photos, which I always enjoy taking and using on my covers.


Then it was just a matter of editing the photo I purchased from the #romanceclass covers catalog. Gio’s shirt was too light so I needed to recolor it to match the background a bit, and I closed the distance between him and Rachel. Then there was making sure their hair still looked like hair (so hard to crop, honestly), that everything looked properly spaced and the shading didn’t look weird.

I decided to go with using a real person photograph instead of going full on illustration for this cover because at it’s core, Stealing Luna is a romance book, and I wanted to highlight that by the way Gio and Rachel were looking at each other. So intense, and sexy as well!

The Title

When I was doing my research for Stealing Luna, I looked up a lot of Juan Luna’s paintings and found myself staring at the signature. Luna used to sign his name on his paintings a very particular way—he would sign with Baybayin symbols “bu la”, which translates to ‘moon’ in his native Ilokano, and of course, his last name. Then he would write the ‘u’ in his name with a ‘V’, which I found particularly interesting.

Matching that with Art Deco-esque designs I saw while looking though Louise Fili’s Grafica del Calle (a book full of shop signs from Spain), I came up with a few sketches for the lettering.


The original plan was to make the letters white, to match The Queen’s Game, but I wasn’t too big of a a fan when I started doing the cover on my iPad. I had a little timelapse video of me doing the lettering, you can see me going through the stages of considering each of the designs I sketched on the laid out cover. Let me tell you, it was a STRUGGLE.

I ended up ditching the LVNA idea for the sake of readability, but maintained the impression of how he did his signature—in all caps serif.

And, I think that’s it? Among all the covers I’ve done, Stealing Luna is one of my favorites, and the response has been phenomenal! Let me know if you have questions about my design process (wow), or if you need a cover designed, I’m game for that too.

Just…I really like using real people on my covers, and I’m working to make sure that my one last illustrated cover straggler (ahem, If the Dress Fits) gets with the program. I’m really excited to get started on that cover as well!

What I Know For Sure About Love

Hello, yes, I’m still here! I’ve been a little pre-occupied with YouTube lately (which you can follow here!) . If you want to hear the sound of my voice, you can go there.

Last month, Aurora Suarez, Life Coach and founder of Write Away PH (an amazing writing retreat!) , asked me to write a quick little essay about love for February. I thought I would share it here, just because. :) Aside from me, letters from Mina V. Esguerra, Bianca Mori and Brij Bautista were featured, too.

Aueeie sends lovely, heartfelt messages like these to her subscribers, so if you’re into that, sign up to receive a joyful little note here.


What I Know For Sure About Love

Love to me is cinematic. 

I grew up with a box set of Audrey Hepburn DVDs and I always remember Willam Holden walking Audrey Hepburn through every important moment in the romance. Everything from the quirky meet up to that moment where "two enormous, highly-paid heads come together for that ultimately inevitable moment, the final, earth-moving, studio rent-paying, theater-filling, popcorn-selling kiss."

Movies taught me that love can be magical, it can lift you up from the ground and make your foot pop up behind you. After writing my own books on love, I still think it’s true. It’s why I love reading about grand gestures, I love reading happy endings.

But what I didn’t learn about love until recently, despite never really having been in a relationship myself, was that I deserved it. I didn’t have to be a glossy actress with sultry eyes, I didn’t have to have porcelain skin or a tiny body to get love. It can happen to anyone, certainly to me.

And I learned that from reading romance. Kissing books. Bodice rippers. Books that have made me laugh out loud and cry, books that have made me question everything I know about how I live my own life. Here I learned that love can be funny and full of passion. Love will always have a happy ending when you were willing to give it a shot. 

So really, I know nothing about love. Nothing that anyone would consider "real." But I believe in it, with all this big body can afford, and I believe I deserve it.