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binge-watching

Binge-Watching: Was It Me Time or Lost Time?

It’s been almost three weeks since I’ve written my last blog. Three weeks and I haven’t written a single blog since then. I’m shaking my head here. For a writer, that is something pathetic, I admit.

What happened to me? Where did the last three weeks go?

Okay, I’m going to make a confession. I’m giving a heavy sigh and say, I’ve been binge-watching on NetflixiFlix and YouTube.

But first, what is binge-watching? It is also called marathon viewing, a practice of watching a series of movies or TV shows for a span of time.

My first experience of marathon viewing (I’m going to use this term rather than binge-watching because that was the accepted term back then.) was back in 1982 during the annual Metro Manila Film Festival. My cousins and I watched “Himala“, “Ang Panday, Ikatlong Yugto“, and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” in that particular order (if my memory serves me right).

My cousins complained of headache while going home after watching three movies in a single day and I told them I didn’t have any headache at all. In fact, I enjoyed it and was looking forward to watch “Haplos” (of course, I lost the battle there, so off we went home).

But my viewing experience changed when we got a Betamax video player in the house during the ’80s.

You see, I seldom go to a movie theater to watch a film. Thanks to the old Betamax, I was able to appreciate videos. What attracted me to watching videos is the fact that I could watch it on my own time, have the ability to rewind or move it fast forward, and can watch it alone without those talkative house mates beside you.

We used to go to a video rental shop (there was no Video City then) and even requested the attendant to advice us of new releases or reserve these tapes for us when we return. Since then, most of the films I’ve watched were on videos.

Technology and time have changed. Betamax became VHS during the ’90s. It was then that I graduated college and my mom bought me a TV set as one of her gifts.

I started working and got myself my own VCR Player a few years later. I got membership on Video City and my video marathon viewing continued. Although I still find myself going to the movies or watch TV series, these activities became lesser as I enjoy videos more and more. Not only I could select the titles I want to watch, I can decide what time to watch it — it was a choice between weeknights or weekends.

A Video City attendant even took notice of the VHS tapes I rented one Friday evening: six Julia Roberts films.

Then came the VCD and DVD formats. That was the time I started wishing to watch even just the first season of the TV shows I’ve missed. So I started collecting Season 1 of almost all TV shows I wanted to watch (from Friends to Two and a Half Men to How I Met Your Mother with some Grey’s Anatomy, Heroes, Nikita, and Burn Notice in between and many more).

Then, YouTube came and video sharing and streaming sites followed. Video on the Internet has changed the way people see and utilize videos.

Then, Netflix defined on demand viewing and people started to love the idea. Not only that, downloading sites have paved way to acquire these videos easily. Thanks for my friend’s 1TB disk space and a lot of TV series and movies could be stored in an external drive, I was able to binge-watch How to Get Away With Murder Season 1.

Now back to my question, what happened during the past three weeks? Well, I’ve been watching videos on YouTube, Netflix, and iFlix. I couldn’t help but follow through the updates on talk shows I couldn’t watch on cable TV. I don’t watch TV anymore because I know I could select the bits and snippets of them on YouTube from the TV networks’ YouTube channel.

I was able to follow the journey of 4th Impact on the X Factor UK, followed the journey of La Porsha Renae on American Idol Season 15, and I’m excited to know who will win Asia’s Next Top Model Cycle 4. And in between those updates, I get to know what issues were tackled on The View, on Today, on Good Morning America, on Ellen, on Wendy Williams Show, and on Steve Harvey shows. And also, I got to see cute kids on The Little Big Shots. And once in a while I get to view documentaries, top tens, and other videos thrown in between.

I could watch old films and TV shows on Netflix and iFlix, too. And I’m enjoying it.

And I must admit, it took a big chunk of my time watching those videos that I was not writing anymore. Now, that’s serious. I was just looking for videos related to the novel I’m writing that I got hooked on watching other related videos. Then another video, then another one… until I collected more than 5 short crime documentaries. I’d reason out that was research. But the other part of my brain say, nope. That’s how my recent binge-watching started.

I know I have to get back to writing. And this blog that you’re reading is already a sign that I’m back.

WordPress

My Love-Hate Affair With WordPress

issabacsa.com home page
Previous home page image

Yes, I’m back to WordPress, the blog site I stumbled upon way back in 2012 and fell in love with, only to leave a year and a month later in favor of another website.

Three years ago, when I started out with a blog I named Bottom Line Chronicles, I couldn’t figure out how I could turn the blog into a website, with portfolio and other writer website elements. My knowledge of WordPress was so limited at that time.

So I scouted around the worldwide web for site builders and found something that includes a blog, too. So instead of maintaining two blog sites, I left WordPress in July 2013.

For two years, I didn’t log in hoping that I would forget my WordPress account eventually.

website 9july2015
my old website from 2013 to mid-2015

However, in early 2015, I had no choice but to deal with WordPress again. I had to create two websites: a student portal and an event website for a school where I worked as Communications and Student Affairs Officer.

Also, my online course obliged us to create a WordPress blog for our online class discussions.

Things have changed after three years. WordPress has more beautiful themes to choose from and creating websites became a lot easier than before. And I fell in love with WordPress again.

my wordpress
my former personal blog on WordPress

So I re-activated my free account, renamed my blog, used a different theme, and made a lot of changes on it. I also created a separate business website for my freelance writing.

But things come so often unexpectedly. Sometime later in 2015, I was hired by my husband’s employer and asked me why not let his company host my website. “I will think about that,” I said. And it took me months to ask back, “How much is the domain and web hosting once again?”

screenshot of 1ngmanunulat.wordpress.com
my former freelance writing business website

Right there and then, he looked for my domain, found it available, took it, and viola! I have my issabacsa.com back. You wouldn’t believe how happy I was when I saw my log in credentials. I was excited to start re-building, like an architect who builds her dream house. I’m happy. And I hope I made the right decision returning to WordPress.

But most of all, thank you, 3w Corner for the web domain and hosting!

Number One Fan deleted prologue

Deleted Prologue: An Exclusive Peek

Here’s the deleted prologue from my novel Number One Fan which you can only read exclusively here on this site.

During NaNoWriMo last November 2012, I wrote a prologue to start my story. I thought it would be a good idea to explain a certain backstory of the main character. There are some novels that used this technique and it worked for them in the past.

At that time, my working title was Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star which I had taken from the nursery rhyme clue in the story. Since I decided to use the first person point of view, I wanted to establish Regine’s character as a journalist and how she came to present the story.

However, times have changed. Authors and editors don’t recommend the use of prologues anymore. So sometime in April 2013, during the revision process, I decided to delete the prologue, went straight to chapter 2, and started the story from there.

The Deleted Prologue

A WORD FROM REGINE STA. MARIA

BEFORE WE TOOK our Christmas break during Grade 4, our English teacher instructed us to keep a diary and start writing on it by New Year.

I excitedly told my mother about our assignment when I got home. I asked her to buy me a diary.

A few days later, my mother was stabbed to death. I didn’t witness the actual crime, but I saw the killer went out of her room carrying a bloody knife that fateful day. I don’t know why the scene was still vivid in my memory except for the killer’s face. I was ten years old then and that memory haunted me only until recently when I came to terms with it.

Christmas morning, my aunt handed me my mother’s last gift. It was a Hello Kitty diary with a small lock and key on the side and a matching ballpoint pen. I couldn’t wait to start writing on it, referring to the diary as “Kitty” just like how Anne Frank called hers.

Writing on it for the first time felt like talking to a friendly cat that silently licked my wounds to heal. I felt Kitty reciprocated my writing with filial devotion and affection every time I poured out my feelings with words. I’m not a pet person, but Kitty the diary became my virtual pet, my form of catharsis, my form of therapy, and my intimate friend.

Mae West once said, “Keep a diary and it’ll keep you.” Right now I have lots of journals stacked in my drawer.

My journal writing has evolved into different forms — unsent letters, dialogues, lists, idea maps, doodles, sketches, or a combination of two or more forms. It kept on evolving.

The story you’re about to read was taken mainly from my diary. In fact, it helped me decide what college course and career to take. I took up A.B. Journalism because I wanted to be a newscaster just like my idol, Alma Perez. I wished to be famous like her. But no one warned me to be careful on what I wished for.

Although this story could possibly happen to anyone, I never thought that it would actually happen to me. I took the poetic license to write the story like fiction to include Number One Fan’s side. I could vouch for the authenticity of his story based on the audio file he sent me and some accounts from reliable sources.

To distinguish the difference, I would tell my story in the first person point of view and his in the third person (and written in italics, too).

Let me know what you think. If you haven’t read Number One Fan, please download a copy now.

Tuhog

Tuhog

Tuhog

In Filipino, the word tuhog means to fasten in a skewer. However, in fiction, it means to put and connect things to form a complete whole.

I remember two Filipino films both entitled Tuhog.

One made by Jeffrey Jeturian and stars Ina Raymundo. I had the chance to see this film on a special advanced screening back in 2000 at the UP Film Center.

The other one stars Eugene Domingo which I haven’t seen yet but I will someday… soon. As what I’ve seen in the latter’s trailer, it is about three different and separate stories that are connected in an accident. It follows three different stories running parallel to each other in one single movie.

I remember writing my first screenplay, Sa Likod ng Puting Uniporme. The original concept has three different stories that would run in three days in a hospital. However, our mentor during the FDFPI Screenwriting workshop, Nestor U. Torre, suggested to make it 5 stories and he added two more interesting characters (an OB-Gyne who can’t have a child was one). He challenged me to finish the screenplay as my requirement for graduation and if possible, to enter it in the contest. I obliged and the rest was history.

Writing more than one story running parallel with each other is a challenge.

You have to find a good junction where they would merge into one to make a compelling story. In the case of Tuhog, it was the accident. In the case of Sa Likod ng Puting Uniporme, it was the hospital setting.

And once you have a common link between the different stories, you start to plot and position each event in some particular order to determine how you will tell the three or more stories as one whole.

Incidentally, I used the same method when I wrote The Vixens. The stories of six different women run parallel to each other and the common links are their high school reunion and some episodes of their lives.

I usually create a table where I would list the different plot points in the first column (the trigger, the turning points, the midpoint or the point of no return, the climax, the denouement, and the end). Each column after that would be the different characters or stories (story 1, story 2, etc.). And then I start to plot down the points where these should be. Once I’ve laid out the plan, I start writing scene by scene.

It looks easy at first, but when I came down to writing, it became harder. Somehow, the characters have lives of their own that move the story forward to where I didn’t plan it to be. I just have to trust my gut feel. The ultimate goal is to create a whole story ready for grilling, a secured skewer, in Filipino, tuhog.

How about you? Do you have stories that could be joined by one element like a theme, a place, or an event? Have you tried this technique before? If so, how did you do it?

Reasons Why I Write Crime

The Reasons Why I Write Crime

I started seriously reading books when I was 9 when I got interested borrowing books from our school library. There was something in the word “mystery” in “Nancy Drew in The Spider Sapphire Mystery” that made me borrow it. Since then I was hooked with the series, always looking for those Grosset & Dunlap hardbound books with yellow sides and has numbers on them. I don’t remember how many have I read out of the more than fifty in their list but something made me crave for more.

I was even more fascinated when while browsing inside a bookstore, I found a book that says “The world’s most popular mystery writer of all time…” That description pertained to Agatha Christie, the Queen of Crime. Why was she described as that made me research and found out who she was. I was 10 years old then, but I read my first Christie, Ordeal By Innocence two years later.

I, like everyone else, am curious about unsolved mysteries and whodunnits.

Who isn’t? I love coming up with conspiracy theories about things I thought I know more about. It’s easy for me to jump into conclusions. I love to pry on someone’s secrets. I don’t want things hidden from me. Spies, assassins, and undercover agents fascinate me. The bottom line: I always ask the how and why of things.

There is a feeling of affirmation that the Earth is still a good place to live in and life goes on.

These are some of what crime/mystery thrillers are made of. The story that begins with a crime and keeps me in suspense as I guess who did it every time I turn the page. I anticipate that the villain will get caught in the end. Cathartic in some ways, yet I ask for more; a good form of escapist entertainment.

I want to write something that can cross with other genres

That’s the main reason why I write crime fiction.  I can mix it with romance, drama, historical, comedy, sci-fi, paranormal, etc. It may require me to include police procedures, legal and medical facts, interviews with investigators and forensic experts, which could be a learning experience for me as well. I wish I could meet an actual spy or assassin for an interview.

Mystery/Crime fiction appeals to all genders, therefore it could reach wider audience.

There is something in pulp fiction that it still sells until today. Stories that thrill are most likely to be translated into film, TV, play, or other entertainment forms.

And speaking of translation, my first English novel, Number One Fan, was offered to be translated to Turkish by Altin Bilek Yayinlari for their 2014-2015 book season. However, it never happened. Now, here’s wishing for an offer to have it translated into film or television… 🙂

Writing

The Day I Decided to Become a Writer

 

Someone asked me when did I start writing. It took awhile for me to answer because I couldn’t tell an exact date. Okay, let’s rewind… let’s go back to where I started making up stories… back when I was a kid.

You see, I never thought that my ability to make up stories for role-playing with my dolls and playmates would help me become the writer I am now. And creating stories helped me get along with my classmates when out teachers assigned us to make role plays inside the classroom.

And so was writing poems. During my grade and high school days, writing a poem was easy. I remembered writing a long poem about music for the school newspaper. I also remembered making poems using the letters of my classmates’ names, and they appreciated it. But today, I couldn’t even write a haiku or a sonnet. I figured that I’m now more of a writer of prose than a poet.

Writing for the school paper in high school extended until college. No, I did not pass UST’s The Varsitarian qualifying exam. But I did pass the qualifying exam for The Purple Gazette. There was even a time that my stipend doubled because the printed story I wrote did not carry my byline and was full of typographical errors. But I never thought writing stories and articles would be my profession now.

Before graduation, my Filipino professor asked me to write a short story for a textbook for high school students. That was my first published story outside of writing for a school organ. It was unpaid, it didn’t carry my byline, and I didn’t mind. I never thought I could be ghostwriting for someone else that early.

Fast forward a few years after… I enrolled in a Creative Writing workshop in 1998. I already had in mind a story that would become a novel. I entitled it Caduceus, named after the medical insignia. It was about the life working in a hospital, like those medical dramas on TV. Fast forward a bit to 1999… I resigned from my job and joined screenplay writing workshops and the Caduceus novel I had in mind became Sa Likod ng Puting Uniporme, the screenplay. The rest, I should say, was history. So that was the first time I decided to become a writer.

Related blog: From Caduceus to Silver Linings Playbook

But writing had its ups and downs. I struggled to make both ends meet to support myself. And after giving birth, I stopped.

When my daughter turned one and a half years old, I decided to go back to work, not a writing profession though. Everyone around me said that writing as a profession would not support my family’s needs. So I worked for seven years in the BPO industry. However, something bugged me: a concept I started back in 2002. So I decided to become a writer again, to finish the novel once and for all.

Related blog: Number One Fan

True enough, I did finish Number One Fan and had it published on Foboko and Free-eBooks.net. I started to regain my confidence in writing.

But things turned out differently in 2014 when I accepted a teaching position in an arts and technology school. So I put aside my novel-writing, not totally give up on it since I was able to come up with The Vixens that year. But after a minor operation last June 2015, I decided to take a rest, work at home, and hopefully finish the novel I’m writing.

So if ever someone asks me when was the time I decided to become a writer, I’ll answer: thrice, back in 1999, 2012, and 2015.

the vixens

The Vixens

The original plan on The Vixens was a 6-part erotica series in the tradition of Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives. It was originally a ghostwriting project for an erotica website in the UK and the instruction was to “make it titillating to women readers (the market).” However, my client and I parted ways in the later part of 2012 and since they’re not going to use my stories, I can keep them.

The series is about six women who call themselves Vixens (female foxes, female bitches); each has a story to tell about love and being a woman (a single mom, a divorcee, a mistress, a widow, a wife, and an old maid). The grand alumnae homecoming becomes the common scene on all six stories.

After writing a few chapters (and a few sex scenes, too), I asked myself, “Where’s the fine line between sexy romance and erotica?” or “How far could you get to write erotic scenes without being tagged as pornographic?”

Related link: On The Edge: The Power of Titillation

However, during the course of writing, the timelines have changed after the client edited the first story. I had to straighten out the timelines while revising the second story and started writing the third. And shortly after that, I said goodbye to my client.

In the 2013 NaNoWriMo, I decided to start from zero, use the idea from these stories to come up with a trilogy.  This erotic novel made me reach the 50,000 word goal for the first time in my second year in NaNoWriMo.

I still don’t have an outline for the last three women although the Vixens should be complete and deserves a sequel. The big question is when.

Grab your FREE copy here or from Free-eBooks.net of my first erotica, The Vixens, and let me know what you think. Feel free to give me suggestions for the last three stories. I’ll be looking forward to it.

number one fan

Number One Fan

In 2002, I planned to write a trilogy about three newscasters, each having a story to tell. Inspired by The Bestseller by Lila Ramsey and The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie, I challenged myself to write a mystery-thriller using the nursery rhyme Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star as a clue.

It is about a newscaster who receives a bouquet of flowers and a phone call from someone who calls himself her Number One Fan. His message was to make him number one or else, someone will die. She dismissed it as a mere prank.

After a week, the police found her journalism professor dead. She then realized that it was not just a joke. With only the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star as her clue, she has to guess who Number One Fan is and who will be the next victim as journalists around her start to die one by one.

I wrote the first part of the Filipino trilogy, The Ratings Game in April 2002. However, while writing the second part, News Scam, writer’s block set in. I was stuck. I felt there was something missing but I could not figure it out. Therefore, I put it aside, hoping to find an answer in the future.

I never thought that “future” would take years. However, the idea still holds in my mind, wanting release. By the way, the third part was supposed to be entitled, Breaking News.

In 2011, while sorting out old files, I found the original manuscript, typewritten from a manual typewriter. Nine years have passed, and typewriters no longer exist. I re-typed the manuscript in my computer hoping to find a new stimulus while retyping and revising just to finish the Filipino novel. However, I felt something was still missing.

In 2012, I decided to join the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the first time. I used the original concept and wrote everything from scratch this time in English. The characters and plot have changed since then. Although short of 50,000 words by the end of November, I continued revising the story after NaNoWriMo. I finished the manuscript with 51,907 words, 40 chapters, and 208 pages on 27 May 2013.

On 6 June 2013, Foboko released Number One Fan, the novel I conceptualized in 2002. I felt relieved that the concept has finally found its way in publishing. Talk about being patient for eleven years. It was a long wait worth it. A few days after that, Free-eBooks.net released Number One Fan on its website. It is available online in .pdf, .txt, ePub, Mobipocket and a variety of formats compatible with Kindle, Sony, iPad, and other readers.

Since then, every November, I join NaNoWriMo to write a novel. Not necessarily the sequel, although I have plans of writing one.

That same year, I entered the novel in a contest. One of the judges in the Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-Book Award said that,

This has a really unusual and interesting setting for a mystery novel. This reader does not recall ever reading a book set in newscasting, or in the Philippines, which lends a really original cast to the whole story. Regine is clearly is a strong and capable woman, and her sense of family and responsibility as well as ambition keep the reader on her side. Overall it is a strong idea for a story and a setting that could support sequels.

This comment inspired me to go on writing. Until now, I am still not giving up on my trilogy.

To celebrate the success of my first NaNoWriMo novel, Number One Fan, you can download it here for FREE.

Is Bullying Disguising as Bad Reviews

Is Bullying Disguising as Bad Reviews?

Recently, while surfing the social media, I chanced upon a post where someone bashed J. K. Rowling and her Harry Potter series. Then somebody replied to that comment saying, “I’d like to see you do a better job! Write an extraordinary novel, sell more books and gather more fans and if you can do it…then say what you feel!”

As a writer and author, I do share the same sentiment. The guy has a point.

Then I received an email update from a group I joined in GoodReads announcing the change of our group’s moderators. The announcement was so intriguing that I decided to check the group’s Facebook page. And there I learned the whole story.

It all started with a bullying incident on a soon-to-be published author, Lauren Pippa. Lauren was about to release her romance novel, Learning to Love. However, when she decided to post her book on GoodReads (probably to announce its release), she was bombarded with negative reviews that already bordered or has gone beyond cyber-bullying.

Our moderators defended Lauren by posting a discussion thread on GoodReads and on the group’s Facebook page. The moderators showed those hateful posts then suddenly they were removed as moderators (that’s how I read and understood the situation).

Lauren conducted herself professionally and responded to the reviews well. I salute her for that. Although she has decided not to release her book anymore, she said “she has moved on, that she’s shutting herself off from this and living her life”. She deleted her blogs after that.

As an independent author, I feel sorry for Lauren. In an entertainment world we have, negative reviews from legitimate critics and so-called reviews can’t be avoided. Everybody has his own opinion.

I do hope Lauren continues to write and release her novel soon. Not because it will get additional publicity after this incident but because many readers, especially those who prefer the romance genre, would be interested to read it in support primarily of the reading interest and secondly of the author.

On the other hand, critics’ attitude should be more professional and objective. As what the guy had commented earlier, these critics should be writing novels, too, to feel the agony authors feel before, during, and after the writing process. Any author would respect a critic’s opinion if the latter has written something good or has established his credibility in literary criticism, rather than receiving a bashing from a “critic” who hasn’t published a single fiction.

What do you think? Is this considered cyber-bullying?

From Caduceus to Silver Linings Playbook

From Caduceus to Silver Linings Playbook

When I was a kid, I dreamed that I would become a doctor someday — wearing a white uniform, a nameplate with a Caduceus insignia, and a stethoscope hanging on my shoulder. But something changed that and shifted my attention to creative writing.

Yes, I was bitten by the writing bug on my graduation year. A classmate couldn’t believe that I was reading On Writing Well by William Zinsser instead of our Notes on Microbiology inside the UST Main Library, Humanities Section. However, it took years before the great paradigm shift happened.

While managing a small clinic in Makati, I attended a Creative Writing workshop. At that time, a story which I temporarily titled Caduceus brewed in my mind. It was a story based on the medical profession, just like the TV series St. Elsewhere, ER, and Chicago Hope. The story just stayed inside my head until a year later when I joined a script writing workshop sponsored by the Film Development Foundation of the Philippines (FDFPI).

To graduate in the workshop, everyone had to write a screenplay. So Caduceus became Sa Likod ng Puting Uniporme. After a few feedback from my mentor, Nestor U. Torre, I decided to enter the script in a screenwriting competition that same year. Fortunately, it became Finalist/Honorable Mention and got to meet the late National Artist and film director Eddie Romero. But Sa Likod ng Puting Uniporme never became a film.

Fast forward to the present. Recently, I received a writing assignment that required me to watch Silver Linings Playbook and to write a movie review cum term paper in Psychiatric Nursing. I was thankful that I have a background on the medical sciences. The information came in handy.

I may not be practicing my professions but I am proud of my classmates and friends who made it there. I just hope that they are also proud of me in my chosen field. The admiration is just mutual.