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.

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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. 

Excerpt: Your First Pancake

So one night in April, some of the #romanceclass writers and I were talking about tropes. You know, how some guys fit certain tropes? We talk about that. We like talking about that. Then discussions turned into ideas, and ideas turned into this little thing that we announced in October.

(And yes the STD says January but no, it’s not January)

One wedding. Six Couples. Different tropes. All fake dating. Let’s see what happens!

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In case you missed it, Mina V. Esguerra posted an excerpt of her story, Thirst Date, on her blog (here!), and now you’re here reading mine! I’m calling this Your First Pancake, and that’s all I’m going to say about it for now.

Your First Pancake (Excerpt)

“Why am I being invited to a strangers’ wedding?”

We’re being invited,” Harry quickly corrected her. “Rachel and Gio are my college blockmates. They’re getting married in Cebu.”

“And they decided to invite your neighbor…just because?”

“I may have told them I was dating you, isn’t that hilarious?” He asked so quickly that there was barely any time for breath between words, laughing nervously as Lily’s expression turned from confusion to annoyance. He realized it was also the same look she gave him the first time they met, when she found him with the last stick of Golden Gaytime six months ago.

“What?”

“What?” his voice was oddly high pitched, and he couldn’t help it, he was just a little bit terrified at Lily’s reaction.

“Harry.”

“Lily?”

“Harry!”

“Fine, fine, I’ll start from the beginning,” he said, taking the invitation from her hands before she tore it into shreds. He’d seen her do that before when she was stressed, and he was sure there was some kind of rule against shredding someone’s wedding invitation. “My college friends are great. Really great, really fun people, I love them to pieces—“

“But?”

“But they’re a little…concerned for my lovelife, or lack thereof. So to get them off my backs, I may have told them that I was dating my neighbor, a fun, slightly scary girl who didn’t mind me asking for help with cooking rice, and stole my ice cream every chance she got. Named Lily Capras. So when the invitations came out, they obviously wanted me to bring you, because they want to meet you.”

It had been the easiest lie he’d ever told, telling his friends that the girl next door was his girlfriend next door. He hadn’t been able to help himself, and beyond the tiny detail of them not actually being in a romantic relationship, nothing else he’d told them was a lie. They spent a lot of time together, for platonic neighbors.

“I suppose you told them you flirted first,” she sighed deeply.

“Uh…”

She tossed a wad of tissue at him. “I will punch you. I will punch you in your pretty face.”

“So you think I’m pretty?”

“HARRY.”

“Come to the wedding with me, Lazy Lily. Please,” he took her hands, placing them together so it looked like she was praying. “I need you to be my fake girlfriend.”

Lily gasped, her eyes wide as they bore into his. Fuck, he was a bastard. He knew the exact words to use to make Lily agree to come with him, and he’d just said them to her. Despite her irritation at her siblings, Harry knew that she loved being an older sister. She would never abandon someone who needed her. She loved being needed, and that was what Harry was shamelessly taking advantage of.

This was exactly why they were just friends.

“I’ve never had a boyfriend,” she announced, untangling their hands and immediately put hers on her lap, hiding them away from the table.

“Oh,” he said, and he didn’t know why he felt so utterly crushed. “So get one.”

“Oh sure, because it’s that easy,” she rolled her eyes. “Harry, I want to help you, I really do. And a free vacation in Cebu—“

“Free?”

“How can I say no? But the second your friends see us, they’ll know this isn’t real, because I’ve never done this before. I’m a twenty nine year old spinster—“

“As you keep reminding me.”

“I wouldn’t know the first thing about being the perfect fake girlfriend, is what I’m saying.”

“I don’t want the perfect fake girlfriend, I want you,” he said immediately, and shook his head. when he saw her jaw drop in surprise. “We can treat this like a fake relationship, both ways. I get to tell everyone that you and I have been dating, you can practice your future girlfriend skills on me.”

“You say that like I’m expecting a man to fall on my lap anytime soon.”

“I don’t doubt it. You’re the most caring and loving person I know, Lily. Anyone who doesn’t realize that is an idiot.”

“Now you’re just buttering me up,” she rolled her eyes.

“How am I doing?”

“A little better,” she conceded, placing her arms back on the table, drumming her fingers on the cheap linoleum as she considered his proposal.

Harry realized that this was the most nerve-wracking thing he’d ever done, waiting for Lily to make her choice. He was used to nail-biting stuff—he’d seen the penalty shootout between Russia and Spain at the World Cup and lived to tell the tale—but this was on a completely different level.

If Lily said no, it would definitely drive a wedge between their friendship, because let’s face it, Harry had crossed a line.

If Lily said yes, this could still end in disaster because, let’s face it, Harry crossed a line.

He was regretting stealing the ice cream from her right about now.


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!