Tyrion, Cersei, Jaime Lannister

Tyrion, Cersei, Jaime Lannister

I’ve always been a geek, but I think Game of Thrones was the first role-playing strategy board game I’ve ever played — and I’d only played it once, last year. Yeah, terrible, I know. My friends had been bugging me to get into board games for the longest time, but the idea of sitting around throwing dice and moving tiny plastic pieces on a board for 6 hours did not appeal to me.

 

Game of Thrones board gameHowever, apparently if I’m really into a TV show, I can be made to try anything related to it. So I gave it a shot. It took six hours to finish the one game. My friend who was game master said it usually takes even longer with experienced players. Ow. Anyway, I played House Stark. It’s not something I would recommend to anyone — your territory is so far away from the other kingdoms, and your supply line is the crappiest. But I chose it anyway because of loyalty to Sean B– Ned Stark and his family. Three seasons into the HBO series, and I’m still rooting for House Stark. Even if they’re clearly not the smartest bunch in the Seven Kingdoms. [READ MORE]

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Anyone who’s ever liked a book wants to be a writer. It’s natural — you’re moved by words on a page, you think, “Hey, I wonder if I can do that?” You start a journal. You attempt to write your own version of Sweet Valley High/Nancy Drew. You make up characters in your head.

Once you’ve written a couple of stories, you begin to think, “Maybe I can be a published author one day.” You start picturing your name on the covers of books on the shelves of National Bookstore, right next to, say, Nick Joaquin or Stephen King. You imagine couples naming their babies after characters you’ve created. You daydream of getting mobbed by journalists at the premiere of the movie based on your bestselling trilogy (right after they finish interviewing the star, maybe Angelina Jolie or Judy Ann Santos). You practice your speech for your first Hugo award (“Thank you, World Science Fiction Society. This means more to me than even my Academy Award for best original screenplay.”)

You find yourself a lot of the time, after reading a book, thinking, I can totally write better than this.

And then that’s it.

For most people, that’s where it stops.

How do you think authors — published, famous authors — got to where they are today? They wrote novels. They wrote stories. Most of them wrote pretty awful stories, but they wrote more stories and they got better. Then they submitted these stories and novels to magazines and publishing houses. They got rejections. They rewrote their stories and novels, maybe attended some writing workshops. Then they submitted some more stories, and got more rejections. (J.K. Rowling reportedly received 12 rejections for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.) They persevered. They got published. They achieved what most of us dream of having — a writing career. Some of them are famous, some of them are rich. Some of them are enjoying fulfilling writing careers doing what they love and making money.

Now between casting actors for the film adaptation of your as yet unwritten masterpiece of a novel and getting annoyed that some author who can’t seem to be able to put together a coherent paragraph has now sold millions of copies of her books, have you ever asked yourself: “Am I doing what it takes to become a published author?”

No, you say. But no one in the Philippines makes a good enough living just being a writer. Most of them have day jobs and businesses.

You will be right. Maybe no one does. Not yet.

You know what the secret is? Getting a bigger audience for your books. If the Philippine market isn’t big enough to sustain a lucrative career, why not the world? How about writing books and selling them to people in the United States? France? Japan?

[Read the rest here.]

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Author (also friend and business partner) Mina V. Esguerra just released the third book in her Interim Goddess of Love series. It’s titled Icon of the Indecisive and it’s now out on Amazon.com as an eBook (the print version will be available soon). Hope y’all like the cover I made for it. Just like in the covers of the two previous books, this one features photography by style blogger Rhea Bue (who’s also the girl in the photos).

If you’re interested in knowing a bit about how those covers came to be, and my, uh, design process, there’s an interview of me on Mina’s blog.

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How do you come up with your cover concepts? 
After I read the book, I try to figure out the theme of the story. Then I’ll remember scenes that are significant and try to picture each of them as a book cover. I also think of the protagonist and think of a photo of her that best illustrates her state of mind of her emotional state during some point in the story. I try to work from all of these.

How long did it take you to come up with the covers? 
It took me either weeks or hours, depending on how you look at it. I start conceptualizing after reading the book, then when the photos come in, I visualize what I can do with them. The work on Photoshop takes an hour or two. I play around with fonts, photos, layout. I look at each design draft and ask myself questions like “Is this an honest portrayal of the story?” “Will this cover appeal to someone who will enjoy the book?” “Will this look good both on a paperback and as a thumbnail when it shows up on an amazon search?” Stuff like that.

Read the rest!

[Buy the ebook]

  1. Your book cover isn’t an art thing. It’s a marketing thing. A pretty book cover is good, but what’s important is that it be able to sell the book it’s on the cover of.
  2. Do not make your own book covers. Unless you actually do make book covers — meaning, people hire you to do them.
  3. Not all amazing artists can design a decent book cover. (In the same way not all book cover designers can paint a decent portrait in watercolor, or design a corporate logo.)
  4. If a cover looks good for your print book, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for the ebook version. You can have different covers for each, or you could just make sure your cover works for both print and digital versions.
  5. If your book cover is pretty or interesting, people will talk about it. This is a good thing.
  6. Don’t underestimate the power of a great tag line. It’s the first words your potential readers will see, apart from your book title, when they look at your book cover. Try to make it interesting (maybe even clever and/or funny) and short.

Tomorrow, 20 April 2013, we’re holding a free indie publishing/writing workshop for high school students, called Author At Once – High School Edition. It’s part of our Author At Once series of workshops, but for writers in their teens. Participants will learn the basics of getting their work published, both independently and through traditional means. My friend Mina V. Esguerra, who’s both an indie and traditionally published author, will be the main resource speaker/mentor. Prose fiction and comic book author Michael A. R. Co will also be speaking. We’ll talk about publishing and book-buying trends, and how to leverage social media to reach out to your (potential) reading audience. I’ll be talking about book covers and social media marketing.

We encourage participants to submit their works after the workshop — selected pieces will be published in an anthology slated to come out this year.

Author At Once High School Edition - Indie Publishing Workshop

Author At Once – High School Edition will be held at iAcademy on Ayala Ave., Makati City on 20 April 2013, from 1.30 to 5.30 pm. It’s supported by Books on Demand and iAcademy. Sign up here!

Leche flan is one of my favorite things to eat (and cook). Anyone serious about surviving the apocalypse should know how to make it. Because when electricity becomes hard, if not impossible, to come by, you’ll need something to do with all the damn eggs before they go bad.

The good news is that leche flan is ridiculously easy to make. All you need are four ingredients — one of which is water. I use my mom’s recipe, but occasionally I change up the proportions a bit depending on how rich or sweet I want it.

My mom is a great cook, but she didn’t actually teach me how to cook. I was really interested in baking, and she did the best thing to inspire me to learn — kicked me and my sisters out of the kitchen every time she baked. I like to think she thought we were smart enough to figure it out on our own. I loved all the good things that came out of her oven, so I always took it for granted I’d learn to do it when I grew up. She did send me to a summer baking class for kids when I was about 11 years old. We made super simple recipes like Cornflake Kisses (meringue but with crushed cornflakes mixed in with the egg whites, baked in the shape of large Hershey Kisses), Pinwheel Cookies (basic cookie recipe, but made with a chocolate and vanilla swirl pattern), Coconut Fingers (sliced bread dipped in condensed milk and coconut, and baked). I don’t make those anymore, but I learned then that baking could be fun.

Leche flan isn’t traditionally baked, though. But it was one of the things my mom made that I loved. And even though leche flan is supposed to be steamed, you can actually use an oven to cook it. Which is what I did yesterday because I was too lazy to borrow the steamer from the housekeeper. I did have to find my ceramic ramekins in the storage and scrub them clean because they’d gathered so much dust since I last used them, which was more than a year ago. (Leche flan is traditionally cooked in thin metal molds calledllanera but all my molds tend to rust or get bent out of shape, so I prefer to use ramekins.)

So, yes, oven-cooked leche flan. I half-filled a 3-inch-high baking pan with water, popped it in the oven, and put the ramekins with the leche flan in them inside the pan. Steaming is a better way of cooking flan, but this will work in a pinch.

To serve leche flan, you’re supposed to loosen the flan from the mold/ramekin, place the serving plate upside-down over the opening, and turn the whole thing over and let the flan slide out of the mold and onto the plate. This one, however, I ate right out of the ramekin.

Leche Flan

This is one I put on a plate. Well, half of one.

Leche flan

I tend to use too much sugar for the caramel sauce. Before pouring the milk-and-egg mixture into the mold, you melt sugar in the mold and allow it to harden. It melts while you’re cooking the flan, and turns into a yummy caramel sauce. The hardened sugar was too thick, so most of it didn’t melt and stayed stuck in the ramekins.

Leche Flan

Mommy’s Leche Flan

Ingredients:

  • 5 eggs
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 2 cans condensed milk (I use Liberty)
  • 1 1/2 condensed milk cans of water (which means, use one of the cans of the condensed milk to measure out the water, after you’ve poured out the milk)
  • white sugar

Directions are at A Girl’s Guide to the Apocalypse.

Exciting news!

My friend Mina V. Esguerra just published a new book, the sequel to her new adult romance fantasy novella “Interim Goddess of Love“. Book 2 is titled “Queen of the Clueless“. They’re new adult stories with lots of romance and humor, and a bit of Filipino mythology thrown in, but in a modern setting.

But wait, there’s more.

A few months ago Mina asked me to design the cover for “Queen” and a new cover for the first book “Goddess“. “Goddess” already had a pretty nice cover, as it was released in January in 2012. But she wanted a new cover that would be in the same theme as the cover for “Queen”.

So here we are. This is the new cover for “Interim Goddess of Love“:

Interim Goddess of LoveCollege sophomore Hannah Maquiling doesn’t know why everyone tells her their love problems. She’s never even had a boyfriend, but that doesn’t stop people from spilling their guts to her, and asking for advice. So maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise when the cutest guy in school tells her that she’s going to have to take on this responsibility — but for all humanity.

The Goddess of Love has gone AWOL. It’s a problem, because her job is to keep in check this world’s obsession with love (and lack of it). The God of the Sun, for now an impossibly handsome senior at an exclusive college just outside of Metro Manila, thinks Hannah has what it takes to (temporarily) do the job.

While she’s learning to do this goddess thing, she practices on the love troubles of shy Kathy, who’s got a secret admirer on campus. Hannah’s mission, should she choose to accept it, is to make sure that he’s not a creepy stalker and they find their happily ever after — or at least something that’ll last until next semester. (As if she could refuse! The Sun God asked so nicely. And he’s so, well, hot.)

And this is the cover for book two, “Queen of the Clueless“:

Queen of the CluelessIf you’ve been feeling neglected by the Goddess of Love lately, don’t worry — Hannah Maquiling, college sophomore, is in training to take over. The Original Goddess is missing, but Hannah is Interim Goddess now, and she should figure out how to solve humanity’s love problems soon. Quin (God of the Sun) is still her mentor, still really hot, but apparently isn’t as honest about his other earthly relationships as she thought. It’s frustrating, and enough to make her check out possibilities with Diego (God of the Sea) and Robbie (Cute Human).

In the meantime, she’s decided to spend some of her precious training time helping to break up a relationship, instead of putting one together. Why? Because the girl in question happens to be her best friend Sol, whose boyfriend is stealing not just from her, but from other people on campus. Sol didn’t exactly summon the Goddess, but this is what power over Love is for, right? Surely it’s not just about matchmaking, but ending doomed relationships too. (Even when it’s not what people want.)

We love the photos by and featuring the fabulous style blogger Rhea Bue. They’re from her portfolio of photos featuring her talents as a stylist and model. They were taken in Rhea‘s and my hometown Zamboanga City.

{Read the full blog post here.)

Minami Shineyo - You're Beautiful

Cute boy index rating: 3 out of 4
Apocalypse index rating: 1 out of 4

So this is my favorite Korean drama* of all time. Minami Shineyo (“He’s Beautiful”), a.k.a. “You’re Beautiful”, is a story about an orphan girl named Go Mi Nam (“mi nam” means “handsome”, and obviously the title is a play on her name) who’s a novice nun who gets called to impersonate her twin brother as the newest member of a pop band. Hijinks ensue, of course, and her three bandmates end up falling for her.

(This was actually the first Korean tv show I’d ever finished watching. The honor was initially going to “Iris“, but somewhere after the first couple of episodes, I checked out You’re Beautiful, and couldn’t watch anything else until I’d finish it. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t do anything until I’d finished it — work, sleep, go out. Korean dramas are made to be addictive, so consider this a warning to anyone who’d attempting to watch one for the first time.)

Yes, this is a comedy. The plot is ridiculous, but the script and the characters were so well-written, the show was so much fun to watch. It also featured some fine performances from everyone from the leads Jang Geun Suk (Hwang Tae Kyung), Park Shin Hye (Go Mi Nam), Jung Yong Hwa (Kang Shin Woo) of the kpop band C.N. Blue and Lee Hong Ki (Jeremy) of kpop band F.T. Island, to the supporting cast, particularly Uee of kpop idol group After School who plays Mi Nam’s romantic rival Yoo He Yi.

{Read the full blog post on A Girl’s Guide to the Apocalypse.}

“One thing this job has taught me over the years: Don’t eat the f*cking candy.”
— Hansel (Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters)

Sometime before he shot the then-hotly-anticipated Bourne Legacy and future blockbuster Avengers, Jeremy Renner did Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. It’s coming out later this month. And it looks terrible.

HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS

“I signed on to this because it was my first chance to be the lead of a big Hollywood movie. But I think I just realized this script is stupid. Is there any way I can get out of this contract?”
“Hmmm. No.”

Sadly, I may have to watch it. Or do I? Yes, I cannot resist JRen in black leather. And his pretty blue eyes almost — ALMOST — distracted me from cringing while I watched the trailers. However, as my friend Sheila says, by watching our favorite actors’ bad movies, we are only enabling them to make bad career choices.

And almost as though Hollywood wants to mock me even harder, Famke Janssen shows up.

(I hate you, Hollywood.)

Look, it’s already been established that all those “witches” people had been hunting down and burning for centuries were really just women who lived alone, and were maybe a little odd. Some of them may have even just shunned society because of its prevailing mandate that women should live to serve their husbands. Or just didn’t feel like going to Church together with the rest of the community. Hipsters, in other words.

{Read the full post at A Girl’s Guide to the Apocalypse.}

Rurouni Kenshin Deluxe DVD

It’s here!!!

It was a blast watching the live-action Rurouni Kenshin (“Samurai X”) movie in the cinemas, but then the Metro Manila Filmfest came, so all foreign films had to stop screening in the theaters. But I’d pre-ordered the DVD which was going to be released the day after Christmas, and it just arrived yesterday.

This was my first time to order anything from Yesasia.com. I love them now. The price of the RK deluxe dvd was just about the same as the retail price marked on the box, and I got free shipping. I’m ordering the Rurouni Kenshin OST next!

Rurouni Kenshin Deluxe DVD

Love the cover.

Rurouni Kenshin Deluxe DVD

This is the deluxe DVD region 2 version. I didn’t get the blu-ray because I didn’t have a blu-ray player (yet), but I figured I could always get the BR Deluxe when it comes out with English subtitles. Yes, the Japanese first editions have no subtitles of any language. However, since I’d seen it nine times in the cinema, I’ve pretty much memorized the dialogue.

Rurouni Kenshin Deluxe DVD

The DVD comes with a 2nd disc with the director Ōtomo Keishi, star Satoh Takeru, and a couple of other guys I’m assuming are producers doing commentary on the film. The 1st disc has the movie, plus all promotional trailers and videos (TV, etc.), interiews of each main cast member, and videos of the different movie premieres attended by the cast. The videos of the premieres were fun. Of course these had no subtitles either, so I just stare at Take-chan’s pretty face.

{Read the full article on A Girl’s Guide to the Apocalypse.}

Rurouni Kenshin x 8

Just got back from my 8th screening of Rurouni Kenshin. See, folks, this is why I can’t get my laundry done.

(I like The Podium and all but it is the worst place to see RK. The subtitles are blocked by the heads of the people sitting in front of you.)

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