The 4 F’s Every Good Romance Needs

Is anyone here a hopelessful romantic? 🙂

You know, the kind of gal (or guy) who prefers to watch sappy, predictable chick flicks, listen to boy bands from the ’90s, and daydream about that special someone with the blue/green/brown eyes that can light up your whole day?

Haha. Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m that person. I’ve always been drawn to love stories and still enjoy a good happily-ever-after. I just don’t get the same thrill from reading (or watching) a story where people point fingers, or things get blown up or are genetically altered—though there is a time and place for mystery, action, and science fiction (because certain folks don’t appreciate “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” as much as “Batman vs. Superman”—ahem, hubby). 😉

Since I love romance so much, I decided to write romance books. (Here’s my first completed series!)

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And through my experiences, I’ve discovered there are 4 things every good romance needs (which all happen to have the letter F in them).

1) Flawed characters. Okay, let’s be honest, the flaws I’m talking about are not physical. The main characters don’t have to be model material, but they do need to have some physical traits that appeal to the reader. But they need to also have something internal—such as a past mistake, a fear or a loss—that makes them relatable and realistic. Because nobody’s perfect, even in a fictional world.

2) The Feels. I once heard that readers read romance because they are buying a “basket of feelings”. They want to experience the spark that comes with an initial attraction, the sweetness of new love, and even the angst of lost love. It sounds like an emotional roller coaster, doesn’t it? But one that we can experience vicariously without any real side effects (ie. drowning your sorrows in a tub of Cherry Garcia ice-cream). A good romance story should let readers into the characters’ minds and hearts enough that they feel for them and want to root for them.

3) The Fallout. As with real life, fictional stories should not always go according to plan. There needs to be some kind of conflict that drives the story. Sometimes the guy you like doesn’t like you, so you swear off all relationships … until you meet the one who’s different from all the rest. Or if he does like you back and everything is fine and dandy, one day you find out something about him that’s hard to swallow. Whatever the scenario is, every love story needs some kind of conflict or fallout. Because a good roller coaster ride takes you in all directions—up, down, over and under—before you arrive at the destination. Likewise, a good romance should keep you guessing and surprised.

4) The Grand Finish. I don’t know about you, but I prefer happy endings to not-so-happy ones. Real life is hard enough, so I’ll take all the happiness I can get, even if it’s fictional. 😉 But even if a love story turns “Nicholas Sparks” on me, I can still appreciate it as long as there’s a grand finish. The ending to a romance story is what a reader turns the pages for. It’s the payoff, the result of all the lovely and angsty emotions you experienced and pushed through to see the conflict(s) resolved. It’s knowing that the characters you fell in love with changed and grew during the course of the book, just as we learn to do in real life. Whatever the ending turns out to be, a good romance should leave you wanting more. To go back to page one and reread the story again, to renew your faith in love, to hug your spouse or child or friend … or maybe even to write a book of your own.

Sigh. 🙂

All this talk of romance has gotten me in the mood to get back to work on my WIP (work-in-progress). Stay tuned for more details about it! My deadline to finish it is July and the publication date is the end of September. I can’t wait to share these new characters with you all. 🙂

In the meantime, enjoy Pentatonix’s beautiful and sweet cover of “Valentine” by Jessie Ware and Sampha.

What is your favorite genre to read or watch? Why?

Adding Conflict to Romance (+ A Sneak Peek at My WIP’s Cover!)

It’s been raining a lot here in California, and with the wetness comes a lot of allergies. I’m not sure what was in the air yesterday, but I was sneezing almost non-stop. By the end of the evening, C said my face looked burnt, and I was ready to crawl into bed and hibernate.

I hoped some sleep would help, but I woke up this morning with another sneezing fit. After I had ah-chooed a big one, I turned to hubby and exclaimed, “What is wrong with me?!”

He grinned and replied (a little too) quickly, “That’s what I’ve been wondering, too, for a long time.”

Hardy har har. 😛

Okay, I admit I totally set the stage for hubby’s punchline, but most of the time he doesn’t need any help from me to mess with my head. 😉 Take the instances when he’s in the shower (and I’m on the porcelain throne) and I wonder why in the world I’m getting rained on … until I notice hubby oh-so innocently throwing water over the glass door in my direction. Argh! 😉 Yup, as I’ve said before, he’s the sand paper to my sharp corners, and I’m the hole in his bubble. The very things we love about each other are also the very things that can drive us craaazy.

But what romance would be complete without some conflict? When I read or watch love stories, I do so to feel the push and pull between characters and to virtually experience the highs and lows they have to go through to find love. It’s much more exciting when you have some kind of obstacle (ie. a comatose brother or a scheming family friend) on the way to happily ever after. Wouldn’t you agree? And as a writer, I want to provide that entertainment in a meaningful and believable way (always with humor of course!).

I think this is why I’ve been struggling so much with the third book in my “Taking Chances” series. I have been working on this WIP (work-in-progress) for nine months now and it’s been, in one word, hard. Like this kind of hard:

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Hahaha!

Ever since I got feedback on my first book that the story lacked conflict, I’ve been trying to make life harder for my characters, which in turn is making life harder for me, too. It got to the point where I vowed to never write another romance book (after I finish this one of course) because people and love can be so complicated. That lasted about a day though because I realized the conflict I’m having with writing conflict is something I can’t escape from. Like my characters, I need to struggle through the trying, heart-wrenching, angsty times in order to earn the right to type “The End” on the last page of a book. Isn’t it ironic, that the one thing I’m forcing my characters to face is the one thing I don’t want to deal with. 😉

So, that’s where I am, struggling to write this book that so far is my favorite one that I’ve written. Now if only I could get it finished and published so you can enjoy it, too. 🙂 But in the meantime, here’s a sneak peek.

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When I showed hubby the cover, he said, “It looks like the girl is upset and kneeing the guy.” Haha! Yup, there’s a lot of conflict in this story. 😉

Alrighty, I’ll end here with a sassy song by Walk The Moon that my sassy main character reminds me of, “Shut Up and Dance”.  🙂

How has conflict made your relationships more interesting?

4 Ways to Console Yourself After Being Dumped (By a Reader)

I ventured out with my sis and 4 girlfriends to my first concert in over a decade. We braved 3 hours of (round trip) traffic and 5 hours on our feet to see Pentatonix live. (Note to self: Even when the tickets have seat numbers, if it says General Admission Standing, it means NO SEATS!) But boy, was it worth it! 🙂

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The only downside was that their part of the concert was way too short because there were three other artists who performed before them. I didn’t mind seeing the other artists since I had heard their songs before and liked most of them. But several of my girlfriends hadn’t, along with many of the other attendees. As soon as the first act came on stage, I heard the gal behind me ask her friend, “Do you know who he is?”

Aw, poor guy. I felt so bad for him, although I probably shouldn’t have considering he’s currently #1 on the charts in the U.K. and, as he gleefully pointed out, ahead of Ed Sheeran (who signed him onto his record label). But here in the U.S., he’s a newbie and still opening for other people. (BTW, his name is Jamie Lawson and you should check out his song, “Wasn’t Expecting That”.)

As a newbie author, I totally understand what it’s like to be in that guy’s shoes, to be unknown. I’m the gal behind the computer screen who desperately wants to get my books into the hands of readers. I love what I do and hope others do, too. But it’s a big humongous ocean we authors are swimming in, and it’s hard to get noticed. The chances of someone discovering your book among the hundreds of thousands on Amazon.com is about as easy as finding the car rental keys your hubby may have dropped in the Pacific while on vacation (#truestory). But with prayer and patience and perseverance, you can witness the miracle of a sale (and find those keys!). 🙂

I am always so thankful when someone buys my books. I’m even more thankful when they leave a nice detailed review. Of course positive reviews are preferred, but I also welcome ones with constructive criticism. What I dread however is the 2 star rating with no explanation of why. Especially when the reviewer just created an account on Goodreads last month and the only book she has listed there is mine. It kinda makes me wonder if she got an account just to diss my book! (How’s that for thinking the world revolves around me, haha!) It’s not my first 2 star rating, but it’s the first one for what I believe is my best work so far. With no explanation of why. 🙁

So, here I am in the aftermath of being dumped by a reader, and learning four ways to console myself. 😉

1. Commiserate and cry. Misery loves company, right? Especially the company of other down and out writers. After getting the review, I immediately went to my Facebook writers group to share my frustrations, and was so encouraged by their comments. I heard from one gal who had the exact same situation (though with a 1 star rating) happen to her. How awesome is that? Not that we were in the same boat, but the fact that I knew I wasn’t alone.

2. Compare (in a good way). One of the group members told me whenever she gets a negative review she’ll go read the negative reviews of her favorite authors. Huh … now why didn’t I think of that?! I admit I got kind of excited that a bestselling, successful author could have something in common with lil ‘ole me. And amazingly enough, one of my favorite authors (Francine Rivers) who has the most poetically beautiful writing style has gotten some 1 and 2 star reviews.

3. Count my blessings. I took a walk around the neighborhood and listened to some soothing instrumental music. Once I got out of my head, I was able to calm down and count my blessings instead. And there are a lot of them, thank God. 🙂 Like the 5 star review I just got yesterday for the same book!

4. Cut loose! Lastly, I just gotta remember that there will always be people who like and dislike my work, and that’s life. So whenever I cross paths with the latter, I’m gonna face it, accept it and move on. As T-Swift says, “The haters gonna hate, hate, hate; Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake; Shake it off!”

And that’s the song we’ll end with today. 🙂

How do you console yourself after a rejection?

Interview with Teen/YA Romance Author Ines Bautista-Yao

Calling all warm-fuzzy romance lovers, have I got a treat for you! 🙂

I’m excited to introduce you to teen/young adult romance author Ines Bautista-Yao. I met Ines through a Facebook writers group, and I’ll admit I was thrilled to meet another Asian author (’cause there aren’t many of us out there – I wonder why, haha). 😉 I got hooked on her sweet and upbeat writing style after winning a copy of her book Only A Kiss (which I loved), and wanted to help her spread the word about her new release Just A Little Bit Of Love (which I also loved!).

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Here’s the blurb:

Three short stories about three young girls: Anita, Ina, and Carla. Each one finding their lives disrupted by a boy. Maybe it’s because he wanders into the coffee shop where she works after school every Tuesday. Maybe it’s because he won’t leave her alone even if she has made it clear that she is crushing on his football teammate. Or maybe it’s because she’s spent one unforgettable afternoon with him—despite being oh-so-forgetful. Three small doses of love that serve up a whole lot of feels.

Don’t you just love the cover? It’s definitely a “what you see is what you get” image that perfectly encapsulates the sweetness and innocence of the stories inside. Even though the three stories are short, they are each complete in their own way, and more importantly, super big on feelings. Ines does a superb job of writing teenage characters. She has a knack for giving the characters realistic and relatable dialogue, thoughts and behaviors that reflect the wonderful awkwardness and earnestness of youth. This book will certainly satisfy any teen reader, as well as the teen inside all of us. 😉

Now that you’ve gotten a preview of this sweet collection of stories, let’s go behind the scenes and get to know its author. So, pull up a bean bag chair, grab some chocolate, and say hello to Ines Bautista-Yao.

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Me: Please introduce yourself and tell us about your background and daily life.

Ines: Hi, Liwen! First of all, thank you for having me on your blog. This is so awesome!

My name is Ines Bautista-Yao. I live in the Philippines and I am a wife and mom of two girls, a shy seven-year-old and a tornado of a two-year-old—polar opposites. I used to teach English but was lured into publishing, so I edited a teen magazine called Candy and a kids’ magazine called K-Zone. It was a really fun stint. I met wonderful friends, I learned a lot, and I got loads of freebies haha! But I wanted to go back to teaching. The problem was, I got pregnant so I stopped teaching (although I did go back for a few months till pregnancy complications made me stop) and I decided to edit and write freelance so I could take care of my family.

It was while my eldest daughter (then an only child) was napping for three hours that I wrote my first book. Now, it’s harder to write because I have two girls, but I try to squeeze it in every chance I get. In fact, the second story I wrote in Just A Little Bit Of Love, I wrote on my smart phone because my toddler pushes the screen of my laptop closed when she sees me writing!

Me: How did you get started as a writer? What genre(s) do you enjoy writing and/or reading?

Ines: I’ve been writing ever since I was small. I had notebooks filled with stories and I would read them out loud to my classmates underneath a huge, leafy tree. I guess it started with a love for reading then a need to come up with my own tales as well. I think it’s that way for almost all writers. I’ve yet to meet a writer who doesn’t love to read.

The genre I love is romance. Sweet, young, with lots of feels. I love writing it and reading it. I also love reading fantasy and mystery but I have yet to write stories like that. I hope to one day.

Me: What was your inspiration for Just A Little Bit Of Love and the characters in the stories?

Ines: Because I wanted the stories to happen simultaneously with events in Only A Kiss, I entered the world I created and thought of scenes or characters I wanted to revisit. These were the stories that came about. I asked myself, who else could have been there when they were in the coffee shop talking about Chris’s love life? Or who else could have been obsessed with Ethan besides Katie? And then there was Carla. I thought she was so adorable, she just had to have a love story of her own.

(Side note: You do not have to have read Only A Kiss to appreciate the stories from Just A Little Bit Of Love, but do yourself a favor and read it, too!)

Me: Is there one character in the book that you relate to the most?

Ines: I think I can relate to all of them a little bit. But the one I can relate to the most at this point in my life is Carla. Ever since I became a mom, all of a sudden, I can’t seem to remember anything! My life is such a mess – I have to write down reminders all over the place: in notebooks, on my phone, on my computer. I don’t have sticky notes tacked everywhere but that’s something I used to do when I was in school and when I was employed. I wish I had a Jacob who had perfect memory—but my husband is just as forgetful as I am! Haha!

Me: What was the most difficult part of writing this book? The easiest?

Ines: It was really easy to write all three stories but I think what was hard for me was writing On the Sidelines in the present tense. I usually write using the past tense, so I wanted to try something new. Using the present tense intrigued and challenged me. I hope I was able to pull it off! The easiest part was writing about when boy meets girl. Maybe because I enjoy it so much.

Me: What theme(s) do you like to include in your love stories? (ie. opposites attract, love at first sight)

Ines: I’ve realized that I like using the best friends/good-friends-to-something-more trope. I’ve used it twice already in two different books. But when I look at all the stories I’ve written, I’ve noticed that my guy characters are usually so smitten with the girls and the girls need to wake up and realize how wonderful these boys are. Maybe my next story should be the other way around. I like to try different things but sometimes, what comes out isn’t what I planned!

Me: What are you working on next?

Ines: Right now, I’m writing a prequel of sorts to Only A Kiss. It’s the love story of Ben and Regina. I’ve been working on it since last year and I need to finish it already! I’m also writing three short stories for three different anthologies (the reason Ben and Regina’s story still isn’t finished!). I seem to have too many ideas but not enough time to write them all down! I just pray the inspiration doesn’t go away!

Me: Thank you Ines for taking the time to visit with us! I can’t wait to read the prequel!

You can connect with Ines and her books at the following links:

Amazon: https://goo.gl/7dEUUh

Instagram: https://instagram.com/inesbyao/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/inesbyao

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/inesbautistayao/

In light of the teenage vibes coming off of this post (haha), I’ll sign off with One Direction’s teeny-bopper tune, “One Thing”. 🙂

What fun, emotional or regrettable memories do you have from your teenage years?

Faking it till You Make It (as an Author)

I saw this image on one of my favorite author’s Facebook page this week and had to smile.

Yeah, baby!

Yeah, baby!

I liked how such a successful author like her (we’re talking about the NY Times and USA Today bestseller status) could relate to the struggles of a way lesser-known, indie author like me.

In the four years since I started pursuing a writing “career” (I added quotes around the word career to show you how seriously I take it, haha), I have learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned how fragile my ego is, how much I base my self-confidence on what other people think, and how I do have what it takes to be an author.

Wait a minute, how did that last comment sneak in there? 😉 More importantly, is it true or is it just a lie I tell myself as I tend to my wounded ego?

The thing is, to be a writer (especially a fiction writer), you constantly need to make things real and believable (things you tell your readers and yourself). You create characters and settings and a plot line out of scratch. You add descriptions and dialogue and drama to give flavor and texture to the story. And you top it all off with a happy-ever-after, or some sort of meaningful ending, so the reader feels satisfied and fulfilled until their next meal, I mean, book. 🙂

If you were to condense my short time as a writer into a novel, it would be one of those “thrill of victory, agony of defeat” type of stories. The kind where the soldier rushes off into war with a youthful spirit and all the best intentions, only to emerge from the fight bruised and scarred and weary. But then, thanks to the pep talks of his loved ones, he goes into battle again with renewed hope and a belief that he can do it(!), and he comes out a winner.

Yep, like that soldier, I’ve been beaten down by rejection emails, gotten stuck in the trenches of writer’s doubt and considered giving up. But through the process, I’ve picked up lots of great tips from other writers, tried new techniques and developed literary muscles. And I’ve had to give myself one pep talk after another, talks that include just enough truth to keep me fighting.

Truth such as: “There was a lot good about this book, especially the life and faith lessons, but there were some problems, too. Head hopping was a major issue, because it went back and forth between different points of view so often. So much time was skipped in places it left the reader feeling as if they were missing out on too much of the story. For the first 60% of my kindle edition, there was a lot of thinking and second-guessing but little to no conflict. The tension picked up between 60% and 75% but then fell off again, and everything was resolved. The last part just tied everything up. I did like the book, but it could have been much better with just a little more work.”

That was a review left by a reader of my first book. When I saw it, I took a deep breath and swallowed the lump in my throat. Then I read it again and found myself nodding … because every criticism she gave was true. And because of her honesty (and those of my critique partners and beta readers), I know how to improve and what it takes to be an author.

The journey to becoming a writer is a bit like faking it till you make it. Faking it not by lying to yourself about how good you are, but by being truthful about the areas that could be better. It’s about showing up each day to do the hard work of a writer because that’s what you are. It’s about believing you have it in you to be a regal, strong and impressive white striped tiger, even when all you feel like is a tiny, clumsy kitty.

So, cheers to all of us kitty cats working on growing into big ‘ole tigers. Believe it, own it, and go for it.

I think the perfect song for this post is Katy Perry’s “Roar”, which I’ve shared before, but this time I’m sharing a cover of it by Olivia, a pint-sized contestant on The Voice Kids Australia (we need a US version!) who has one fierce roar.

What have you tried your hand at “faking it till you make it”? What did you learn from the experience?

 

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