Friday, November 30, 2007

M/V Doulos

The floating bookstore has docked at the South Harbor in Manila and will be here till near the end of December. The ship, M/V Doulos, carries more than half-a-million books for sale on a wide range of subjects and is open to the public. This will be the ship's last visit to Manila. This is an early heads-up so that those who are interested can go to the South Harbor early. More details here.

Andre Michael P. Medina

I received a distressing letter from Ma. Aileen M. Ramon this morning:

To the dearest friends of Andre Michael P. Medina,

I am writing on behalf of the Medina family to humbly request your sincerest support and participation in this depressing time of need that has befall on us.

On the night of November 26, 2007, Andre was in a vehicular accident causing widespread injuries to his body and most unfortunately to his head resulting him to be in a comatose state. It was only the following day that we learned of the accident when the local county hospital contacted us. According to the police, Andre was on his way to Mentor, OH when the trailer truck in front of his car started to skid and eventually fell over. It was lucky to some extent that the container itself had only trampled the passenger side of the vehicle. If not, Andre would not have been able to survive.

In this, we ask that you join us in praying for Andre's return to normal health and if there are those who wish to partake any special message to him, please do send it to this address,
mmedinaramon (at) aol (dot) com, and we would gladly read it to him. As those who are familiar with Andre, he has always valued and to some extent been more attuned towards his friends and acquaintances so know that he would greatly appreciate hearing from all of you.

Thank you so much in advance and we all hope for the best for everyone.

Yours Sincerely,

Ma. Aileen M. Ramon

Andre, and his partner, Jenny Peñas, were the two behind the cover design of PGS for issues 1 to 3. They left for abroad earlier this year, Jenny to pursue her career options, Andre to attend a relative's wedding. They were supposed to return mid-2008, taking a hiatus from designing the PGS cover in the meantime. I think you'll agree with me that they've done great work on the PGS cover. I hope Ma. Aileen M. Roman doesn't mind me posting her letter on the PGS blog, but Andre has made friends among PGS readers and contributors, so I'd like to let them know about his situation. Please share your prayers and best wishes for him and his family.

Andre, hope you get well soon.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Two events for December 1, 2007:

The National Book Award winner for "Banyaga: A Song of War", Charlson Ong, will be talking about novel writing at Powerbooks Trinoma in Quezon City from 2 to 4 p.m., courtesy of Read Or Die's Write Or Die project.

The last Litcritters Open Session for 2007 will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. at A Different Bookstore Serendra.

On a different note, I swear, if not for the Pinoy affinity for humor, this country would be in even worse shape than it is. Thank heavens for the Pinoy's lightness of heart, which helps us cope with even the most trying, difficult, and ridiculous of situations.

Said my sister-in-law's husband to the rest of us this afternoon as we watched this unfold on TV:

"Aba, siyempre! Kailangan nang lumabas sa hotel si Trillanes. May bakante na sa Pinoy Big Brother. Papasok na siya sa bahay ni kuya."

And when we found out that the bride at the wedding reception that was to be held tonight at The Peninsula Manila was the daughter of a general, a member of a forum I frequent wrote:

"Perfect! The tank they drove into the lobby would make the perfect centerpiece!"

Sigh, and a final announcement: folks, there's a curfew tonight from 12 a.m. to 5 a.m. because of the imbecilic events of the day. Shades of martial law. I'm old enough to remember my family rushing home from dinners just to make curfew and avoid getting stopped by the Metrocom. Get home early and safely people.

In the meantime, I'm keeping my eyes and ears open for more jokes about this. Everything else is beyond our control, but a hearty laugh is still within our reach.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Charles In Charge

Throughout 2007, Charles Tan has been recording on his Creative Zen Vision: M any event he happens to be attending, uploading the files to the web for all to download and listen to, and then diligently transcribing each recording. That is why there are links on his blog to events like the NWA5 Writers' Forum, each Litcritters get-together at Serendra, various radio interviews, and most recently the 2nd Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards. I'm sure he'll do the same on December 8, 2007, when Philippine Speculative Fiction III is launched. I'm also sure a lot of people are benefiting from what he's doing, so this post is just a small "thank you" to him for all his work. Head on over to his blog, Bibliophile Stalker, to see all the links and transcripts. Thank you, Charles!

Monday, November 26, 2007

On Novel Writing, from Sir Butch

Butch Dalisay's latest blog entry: "Why We Don't Write More Novels (But Should)"

What he says is true. Filipinos don't have trouble churning out poems and short stories, but longer tales are a different matter. I wrote in a past PGS editorial that there are people who believe that the short story in this country has been "done to death". Frankly, I don't mind. There are many short stories written by Pinoys that are wonderful reads. But Sir Butch makes a good point in his post. Here's hoping that the novel-form will also capture the interest of more Pinoy writers.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


If I was pleased before, I am even happier now. PGS contributors Joseph Nacino and Yvette Tan placed 1st and 2nd at the 2nd Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards; and Ian Casocot, last year's co-winner (he has also promised me a story for a future PGS issue), placed 2nd with Yvette. Third place went to Erin Chupeco (if you're reading this, Erin, I wouldn't mind it if you and the other writers who were short-listed would send in a story to PGS).

The judges were Dean Francis Alfar, Peque Gallaga, and Tony Perez.

Andrew Drilon, another PGS contributor, placed 2nd in the comics category (there was no first place winner).

The other two PGS contributors who were short-listed are Sharmaine Galve and Celestine Trinidad, who were seated beside each other during the event, but didn't know who each one was till they were called to the stage. The other PGS friend short-listed was Luis Katigbak, who, like Ian, may just send something in PGS's way in the future.

And I'm sure a lot of people will be thrilled to know that it was announced that there will be a 3rd Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards next year.

I am so happy for these PGS contributors and friends. Kudos to all of you, and to everyone who was short-listed!

Keep on reading and writing, folks! (that goes for everyone, not just those I've mentioned).

PGS3 Review (Complete This Time)

The incomplete review I mentioned here is now complete. Thank you very much to "To the Tale, and Other Such Concerns..." for sparing the time in reviewing each PGS issue that's come out. Much appreciated!

Friday, November 23, 2007


I'm happy, proud, and pleased that, to my knowledge so far, there are four PGS contributors short-listed for the prose category in the 2nd Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards (to be held on Nov. 25, 2007, at Fully Booked Serendra). I believe that, just like last year, the number of stories in the short list did not reach the teens. One contributor, Andrew Drilon, is also short-listed for the comics category (Andrew is one of those gifted people who can both write and draw). It always feels great to hear that PGS contributors are getting recognized or published elsewhere, just like earlier this year, or here, and here.

In addition to the four, there are two more that I know of who are also short-listed and who have expressed interest in contributing to PGS in the (hopefully not too distant) future.

I hesitate though to mention their names and the titles of their stories until there's a formal announcement from the contest organizers, though some of them have already mentioned it publicly or have been outed by their friends. (I only mentioned Andrew because, well, I already have, a few days ago).

Good luck, guys!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Reading On E-Paper

Amazon is pushing a new device they call the Kindle. It's wireless, can hold more than 200 titles, is smaller than a hardcover, is as tall as a fresh pencil, and promises a slew of other features that previous electronic-book-readers never carried. Sounds like a good thing to bring with you while traveling (but then you'll probably also be lugging your laptop, your cellphone, your mp3 player, your camera, your vidcam, really, it's another thing to carry, if you think about it; but better than carrying around 200 pocketbooks). I think the important thing is that the screen reads like the words are printed on paper. Otherwise, the glare of a back-lit screen can only hurt the eyes.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Over at Serendipity, K. Osias, author of "The 101st Michael" from PGS2, has a story published, "The River Stone Heart Of Maria Dela Rosa". It's her first piece to be published outside the RP.

Crystal Gail Shangkuan Koo, author of "The Scent Of Spice" also from PGS2, has been busy as well. She has a piece, "The Importance Of Being Useless", printed in the Inquirer. What's more, her poem, "Corridor", which won first prize in the postgraduate poetry category of the University of New South Wales's student literary journal, was made into a short film clip.

Congratulations K. Osias and Crystal!

This has been a pretty good year for Pinoys getting their stuff printed abroad. Kristin Mandigma, K. Osias, Crystal Koo,...even I got lucky. And wait! We shouldn't forget that Nikki Alfar's piece is coming out in Fantasy Magazine before the end of the year! She also has a story, "Beacon", in PGS2. I'll make the announcement here once her story is up.

Here's hoping for even more of the same come 2008!

update: Andrew Drilon blogs that his short comic, "Lines and Spaces", was short-listed for the 2nd Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards. Congrats, Andrew!

comment: one of my friends--who has this rude penchant for reading over my shoulder, whether I'm at the computer, holding a book, or leafing through a magazine--pointed out just now that the five of us mentioned above all have the letter "K" figuring prominently in our names (Koo, Kristin, Kate, Kenneth); and though Nikki might not have it in capitals, she has two of them, and not just one. He insists I should mention it here, that maybe it's the year of the "K".

(My friend, you're lame, but since I'm nice, and it seems you won't go away till I do it, I'll do as you say. Talk about seeing patterns where there are none. Now please stop reading over my shoulder.)

Monday, November 19, 2007

PGS3 Review

Well, sort of. Just check back regularly as the reviewer fills up the missing parts.

A Famed Detective Reaches The End

The article here.

I must admit not having read any of the novels. I have two Walter Mosley's, gifts from a friend, on my shelves somewhere. I have heard of Easy Rawlins, however. I wonder where those books are? I must read them during the coming holiday season, maybe even look for the movie that was based on one of the books.

A couple of interesting quotes from the article:

"It is the job of a novelist to tell a story that engages somebody, about a world that is different, at least in perspective," he says. "A lot of times novelists, literary people will say that reading should be challenging. But a writer should never say that. The writer should say, 'I'm making this as accessible as possible.' "

"Mosley is mostly known for his crime books -- a fact that he blames on marketing. And he's doing his best to avoid being pigeonholed, although he sort of dresses like a private eye in a black suit, long black coat and hat.

"If you look at the history of writing, most people write all kinds of different things. It's only recently that people concentrate, and that's because it's how writers can be sold," he says."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Book Sale Announcement

Got a text from a relative:

"Scholastic book warehouse sale till Sunday. Take Ortigas to Rosario. 1st Shell station on your right, turn right. That's C. Raymundo St. You'll see a big sign on a blue gate to your left. Buy 50 paperbacks at P20. If <50=P50. Hardbound 30 pcs P50. If <30=P80. Other books buy 1 get 1 for less 20%"

I think she means Sunday, tomorrow, is the last day, so there's still time to scoot over if you can.

An Essay On Science Fiction

A PGS reader directed me to this, an essay on science fiction in adoloscent literature. It's a very short essay, but it does talk about the allure the genre has on many readers, even delving briefly into contemporary scifi's origins. The author summarizes that good scifi will:

1. Make us consider the emotional, psychological, and physical effects of futuristic ideas, conflicts, change.
2. Encourage us to keep an open mind to consider unlimited possibilities.
3. Provoke questions regarding other forms of life, thereby bringing our own into perspective.
4. Stimulate curiosity and the capacity for invention.
5. Present the reader with moral and ethical dilemmas that to some degree correspond to the real world.

I read that to mean the same as what all good fiction (no matter the genre and its tropes) should do: reflect some aspect of the human condition back to the reader through the story.

Reminder For Writing Contest #3

The post just below this one reminded me that this contest is still open: Image Inspiration #3. Click on the link to see the image and to see where to send your work in. Thanks!

Flash Fiction From High Schoolers

Thanks to Vin Simbulan, who asked the students in his two classes at Xavier to try their hand at writing a short story about this image by Andrew Drilon (from PGS2's Image Inspiration), I have two pieces of flash fiction here. Vin held a mini-contest in his class, and after judging, these two pieces won. The writers of these two pieces got a free copy of PGS for their efforts (the second and third placers got copies, too). Hope you enjoy reading their work!

Gone Cuckoo
by Benjamin Ilagan (3rd year high school)


Swing. Swing. Swing.

"Hey, you."

Swing. Swing. Swing.

"Wake up."

Swing. Swing. Swi-"WAKE UP."

I opened my eyes. Closed them again. No was this was real. Nooo way. Not happe-"OPEN YOUR EYES."

Slowly, reluctantly, I opened my eyes. The impossibility was still there: tarnished gold bars and a crap-stained floor. Trays full of birdseed and water completed the scene. It was my bird, Eunice's, cage. Any other time, this would have been normal, but two things convinced me this was a dream.

First, I was inside the cage. Immediately, there was something wrong. There was no way I could have fit in there. Sure, I was small for my age, but Eunice was a parakeet. Im. Po. Si. Bull.

As if that weren't bad enough, another anomaly was staring me in the face. Literally.

Yellow feathers, a white beak and a pair of beady black eyes looked at me. Holy crap.

"Figured out where you are yet?" my parakeet asked me.

Yeah, I had a pretty good idea of where I was; crouching on the piece of wood that swung from the top of my cage. But there was no way it could be real.

Eunice hit the side of the cage with her wing, rattling it. "Well?" she said.

I gulped and opened my mouth, but no words came out. Instead, I started to sing.

Doomed as a Pet
by Vito Borromeo (2nd year high school)

She was a pet.

In a place filled with black figures and other blurry statutes, she sat alongside its other plaything, a beloved white bird, a flerret. Only she had a duty of her own; she was to take care of the bird, lest she be devoured slowly like the others. How she found out of this duty was not a pretty sight. At front sight, the massive figure simply shook the cage, signaling her to do something. She tried to entertain it, but it did not respond coolly. Thankfully, the bird had made a sound, somehow telling her what needed to be done. She figured the rest on her own. A good thing too; the monster nearly ran out of patience.

Strangely, she had already forgotten her name. ‘J..Jane, was it?’ She was not sure anymore, for she did not know whether it was daybreak or nightfall. Everything was simply black and quiet. The monster would appear occasionally, the creek of the seemingly humongous doorway soft and eerie. It moved quickly, considering its structure. It did not speak, it never really did. It simply stared, the dark crimson eyes seeing to it that its bird was still happy with its current caretaker. For some reason still unknown to her, it made a routine of taking out a large parchment and a quill and just writing something. She had tried to see what the monster had written down many a time; the closest thing she could see was marks used for counting. She did not even want to think of what that could be for. Just as quickly as the monster would come, it would disappear into the apparent nighttime, its eyes still meeting hers until it finally vanishes.

She was just another girl in her twenties, an innocent young lady who had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was during one of those moonless nights, when the monster had appeared to her, whilst she slept. By the time she woke up, she had found herself in a cage, with a bird and ink bottle in sight. Now, even her dreams abandoned her, and she could barely sleep, not while the bird was not taken care of yet. She would stroke its feathers and feed it whatever she could find. And even if the bird was already sleeping, she still feared that it may come back at any second, ready to crush her skull with its bare hands, seeing her as a lazy caretaker. She longed for someone to save her, but realized that only she could save herself. The real question was not who was to save who; the real question was how was she to save herself. The odds were obviously stacked against her; she had no easy escape, if any at all.

She decided to search her surroundings. The cage bars itself was as hard as diamond, at least to her weak body. She checked the bottom of the cage. On the floor of the cage, she saw a message, barely visible to her much distorted vision. The message had been in dark red, something like old blood. It read messily,


Up upon this very message was a small opening through the bars, not enough for her to get through, but bigger than all other spaces. The bars themselves seemed crooked, as if something had happened at this very spot. Why was the message there when the gap between the nearby bars were still too thin for even her, who was figuring an anorexic body by this time?

And then it hit her, ‘Someone must have been found by the monster! A previous caretaker who had hoped to get out alive..’ The monster must have seen the opening and closed it back with its bare hands. Even she, already suffering a fate she couldn’t have ever dreamed of, could not imagine what had happened to that poor soul. It seemed as if there really was no way to get out of this horrid place. Maybe she was really just relying on false hope. Maybe she was destined to die. In the midst of these melancholy thoughts, she had heard a voice,

I can help you..

The last voice she had heard was her own weeping, the night the monster had snatched her life away, seemingly decades ago. No one else was in the room. She searched with her eyes everything from the bottom of the cage to the outside paintings, yet she could not see anything. Suddenly, seemingly by extinct, she turns beside her, and sees once more this pure, white flerret...

A Review...

...from The Fix. No use hiding since it's on the web. Not exactly a glowing endorsement for "House 1.0", but I can only learn from it, and I respect the reviewer's reading of the story. I'm more worried and disappointed with how this could reflect on The Town Drunk, that the story might've let them down or not stand well with their other submissions, but Editor-in-Chief Brit Marschalk assures me not to sweat it, and I'm glad she stands by the tale. She's told me--and I've also received my share of emails saying the same--that the story worked for a number of readers.

What did Exie Abola say back here? You want "honest" critique, no mincing of words, and I think I got that, with the reasons for the reviewer's comments stated firmly. So I think Exie got it right with regard to the proper attitude to take. Here's hoping "House 1.0" won't be my last sale.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Jacket Weather

Dang, it's cold where I am today. Is it cold where you are? Even during the earlier storms and rainy days of 2007, it never felt this cold. Understand, of course, that cold is relative. Being used to the tropical temperature of the Philippines, anything below 23 degrees celsius is cold for me. Right now it feels like we're in the teens.

Many years ago I was at Niagara, the U.S. side, on a trip with the family. It was March, spring for North America, but I was bundled up in a heavy jacket and several shirts on an overcast day. Even the air felt cold and wet. Two dudes, natives for sure, walked by in shorts, sandals, and sleeveless shirts.

"Brisk today, isn't it?" one said to the other.

How do you react to something like that? I didn't. Just watched them continue walking on their way, my hands in my pockets, my shoulders hunched, waiting for one of my relatives to bring the car with the blessed heater over.

My first experience of relativity, as when the temperature is being considered.

A more recent experience: about four years ago I was with my in-laws waiting in line with the other cars for our turn to get on the ferry that would take us back to Vancouver from Victoria Island. It was dusk, and as the sun set the mercury dropped to the floor faster than a pornstar's panties. From inside the minivan we were riding, poor, hapless me felt the sudden chilling call of nature. The nearest loo was about a hundred meters away, at the station that doubled as a convenience store.

When you gotta' go, you gotta' go.

I made my excuses, left the van--slamming the door behind me--and ran for the store. When I reached my place of temporary privacy, I pissed ice cubes (but in great relief), then ran back, teeth chattering all the way, but congratulating myself for exposing myself to the cold only for as long as needed.

Wouldn't you know it, the van door stuck, and wouldn't open.

They don't allow dark tint in Canada, so through the very clear window, and even with the dimming light, I could see my mother-in-law laughing at me as I froze myself into a popsicle while doing my best to unlatch the door.

When the horn from the ferry blew calling for boarding, and as all the engines around me started to rev up, let me tell you, the cold became the least of my worries.

Well, we were in the middle of the line, and with time to spare the van door showed some mercy and came unstuck, allowing me to clamber in. My mother-in-law's laughter sounded all the clearer to my ears now that I was inside the vehicle.

I'm happy I made you happy, Mom.

Dang, it's cold today.

Is The Net Good For Writers?

Here's a link, care of Andrew Drilon, that talks about writing and the web. Thanks, Andrew!

Interview with Fantasists

Taken from Fantasy Magazine:

"For a long time, the fantasy genre was dominated by European folktales, culture, and settings with a few other “exotic” locations thrown in for spice. But a surge of non-European fantasies written by non-European writers is set to change the face of the genre by exploring new cultures, myths, and viewpoints without tragically misusing them. Two of the newest belles to the ball are Carole McDonnell and Alaya Dawn Johnson, authors of Wind Follower and Racing the Dark.

Both writers love fantasy but find it lacking. From magic that comes too easy to monocultures to badly realized religions, Alaya and Carole found themselves dissatisfied with the norm and inspired to write something better."

Here's the interview itself. They make interesting points about religion in their stories, and also talk about their cultural backgrounds. Carole and Alaya also make provocative quotes about elves (the former saying "..elves I have nothing to do with", while the latter concurs with "The world does not ever, ever need to see another damn elf"). Both writers write fantasy stories that affirm who they are and where they came from. I'm sure you'll find echoes of what they talked about during their interview with the recent online discussion.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"30" For Two More

First it was Norman Mailer. And now, Ira Levin. They've written "30" to their final manuscripts. I know that "30" is used more often in journalism, but its inherent meaning, "end of story", seems so appropriate a way to refer to the end of a storyteller. Earlier this year, it was Madeleine L'Engle's turn. Sigh. I think I should brace myself. A lot of the writers I've read over the years are getting on.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Be Careful

Lots of uncertainty and fear going around because of this. Check out this post from tybalt1701, and a comment on the same post down below from celdc48.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Dean Francis Alfar On Novel Writing

In the first of the Write Or Die workshops organized by Read Or Die and the UP Institute of Creative Writing, Dean Francis Alfar gave a two-hour talk on writing the novel at Powerbooks, SM Megamall. It was a well-attended event, and though I was almost an hour late (and embarrassed myself when I arrived by greeting Nikki Alfar and Kate Aton-Osias, contributors for PGS2, in too loud a voice while Dean was speaking), it really was all right (I redeemed myself by announcing, "My name is Elbert Or!"--don't worry, El, only Nikki and Kate heard me). Others I saw in the crowd were members from NanoWriMo Philippines, PGS1 contributors Alex Osias and Vin Simbulan, F.H. Batacan (author of "Smaller and Smaller Circles"), PGS3 contributor Charles Tan, and Michael Co (co-winner of last year's 1st Philippine Graphic Fiction Awards sponsored by Fully Booked). Dean has written about the talk here, and Charles has put up a post here, and both of them have uploaded photos, as well as links to the audio file (recorded once more by Charles), and a transcript.

The Source Of Time-Travel

More than a hundred years after he proposed it, Albert Einstein's theory of relativity and time dilation still holds. Almost all science fiction tales which have time-travel in them can be traced to his treatise.

Congratulations, Sir Butch!

Though Butch Dalisay's Soledad's Sister was not chosen for the top prize (which went to Jiang Rong's "The Wolf Totem"), its being short-listed at the 2007 Man Asian Literary Prize was still a great accomplishment.

"According to the judges, Dalisay’s entry, 'Soledad’s Sister,' was 'full of narrative surprise, artfully put together and richly observed. It offers an unillusioned, compassionate portrayal of contemporary society from a Philippines perspective, and is utterly compelling. The characters engage us in the epic, yet very local nature of their quest for dignity and justice. A work of warmth, humanity and confidence.'"

Congratulations, Sir Butch!

Seven Missing Wonders

Checked the news today and this caught my eye: Hunt For Seven Missing Wonders. Some of the wonders have obvious monetary value, others a more historical or informational one. All are mysterious, and that's probably why it caught my eye, 'coz I love mysteries! The facts surrounding the disapperances of these wonders may never be known, and that's why so many theories (some of which have become real stories in themselves) abound about them. Even the hunt for the truth are exciting stories in themselves.

Read the link above, and do try out the interactive map too. This kind of story brings out the excited kid in me, the same way that Raiders of the Lost Ark made my eyes widen back in the 80's. It's the same look I saw in some of my nephews when they watched National Treasure. The difference is that these seven missing wonders did exist, once upon a time. Should the Yamashita Treasure be somewhere in there too? Or maybe it doesn't count anymore 'coz some people say the mystery of its loss has been solved already. Other similar stories that come to mind are King Solomon's Mines (which crosses into another convention, the "Lost World"), Romancing the Stone, and practically every pirate tale around. The "treasure hunt" is another convention that's not going away soon, is another form of the "fantasy-quest", and can still fascinate readers today.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A Review Of Clarkesworld Magazine #13

Thursday, November 08, 2007

On Manuscript Preparation

At first glance, it seems needlessly strict. It's certainly not as attractive to look at as a typeset page (though oldies like me can still appreciate the look of a typewritten page--I still have a working manual typewriter, you know). Maybe it even feels archaic. But there's a reason why editors and publishers prefer the standard international manuscript format: it's easier to read, and it's also easier for the production people, for the guys who do the layout, who cut and strip the film and prepare the pre-press materials that will allow for the book or magazine's mass production.

It's easier to read because double-spacing allows the editor to write notes down without having to resort to writing small. True, in this day of fancy word processors with comment and editing features, it seems unnecessary, but trust me, it doesn't stop there. Double-spacing is also easier on the eyes. And if an editor has to go through X number of pages a day, you don't want him or her to suddenly pick up a manuscript of single-space text, grimace, and chuck the whole thing into the rubbish bin without even giving it a try.

The standard manuscript format also allows an editor or printer to approximate word count per page. The number count isn't exact, but an approximation is enough. Roughly, a manuscript that follows the format has 250-280 words per page. An editor or printer who knows how much each page of his magazine or book will take up can then approximate how many pages will be consumed, and then adjust accordingly to allow for page-count, extra features, fillers, artwork, etc. This is why it's important to use standard 12 points for font size, and to use a nonproportional font, that is, a font where a wide letter like a capital "M" takes up as much space as a thin, lower case "i". Proportional fonts, like Times New Roman or Arial, can affect word count per page. Nonproportional fonts, like Courier, don't.

And all that information at the top of the first page, never to be put in the back, in the middle, or on a separate page? That's standard. The editor knows exactly where to look if he wants to find out how to contact the author. You don't want him sifting through all the pages just to find your contact info. You don't want him thinking, "Ah, hell. I want to publish this story, but where did this writer put his email address? Gah. Forget it." Hello, rubbish bin.

And underlining instead of italicizing? That's to make it easier to spot for the typesetter, the guy who's going to fix the look of the publication's pages. It's easier to find a dark, straight line on a page, than a word already italicized, which can get lost. And justifying? Don't do that. Leave the right margin ragged. Justifying adds extra spaces between words when you use a nonproportional font, making it harder to typeset. You don't want the typesetter to hate you. He might sneak in a few choice words in your work (or take some out) just to spite "this fellow who's making my job harder".

There are other reasons which are better explained here and here. These two links will take you to pages that describe the how's and why's of standard manuscript preparation. These pages will delve into what to do, what not to do, how to paginate, how to approximate word count, how to hyphenate, how to use em-dashes, how large the margins should be, and a whole host of other details that will prevent the editor from thinking, "I don't want to slog through this! The format's all wrong!" You want your manuscript to look professional so as to make it easier for anyone to read.

PGS is not as strict as has been described above, and allows for some leeway. It's easy enough to shift to something fairly close to standard with a few clicks of the mouse, but it is encouraging, and a small but otherwise pleasant surprise, to receive submissions that are close or that exactly follows the proper format. I received my first perfectly formatted manuscript from a contributor in the middle of this year, and let me tell you, it was a wonderful surprise. And yes, I liked the story enough to publish it--you know who you are, I thanked you and congratulated you for it, I still remember opening and then printing your file with fondness, with a silly smile on my face, and I know that I'll be getting the same from you in the future if you do submit again, which is a plus point.

Very shallow, I know, but we printers can get that way.

But like I said, PGS is not that strict. An improperly formatted manuscript won't stop me from reading your story. All stories will get a chance no matter how they're set-up (just give me time, please, because the backlog is large). A good story is a good story no matter how you format it or what font you use (and I can always change it to Courier, anyway).

But not all publications allow for this, especially those in other countries. They prefer the standard format for the reasons stated above. And with the volume of submissions they receive, they wouldn't think twice of disregarding your submission if it's in the wrong format. Saves them time, and clears up space quite quickly. It would be a pity if a really good story wasn't even given a chance because it was single-spaced, or used a font like Haettenschweiler.

So, in addition to following the publication's submission guidelines, remember proper manuscript format. I'd love to see more stories by Pinoys published abroad, and the chances can only increase by submitting your work in the right format. I've requested on PGS's submission guidelines page that you submit your stories in this format so that you can practice this "professional look" on the Digest, so that if and when you decide to send your stuff to other markets, you'll be ready, and you'll know what to do, and you'll have those other editors swooning over your beautifully prepared manuscript.

"Wow! This writer can really type up a good-looking manuscript! I think I want to read this! Lovely! Beautiful! Exquisite!"

What they say after they read your work is another matter altogether.

Useful Information on RP Copyright, ISSN, and ISBN

Here's a link to Hxero's Dreamscape on how to get your work copyrighted at the National Library, and how to get either an ISSN or an ISBN number. And with a flowchart, too!

"Coming Soon"

There's a call for submissions for an anthology of erotica called "Coming Soon".

More details here, care of Rej Layug.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Write Or Die

Read Or Die's Write Or Die: Writers Write In Powerbooks series of lecture-workshops kicks off with its first one this November 10, 2007, Saturday, at Powerbooks Megamall, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., featuring Salamanca author, Dean Francis Alfar. Admission is free and open to the public.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

An Online Forum For PGS!

Okay! I've just been given permission by the moderators to make the announcement here on the PGS blog.

Like I mentioned here, the online PGS forum moderated by Charles Tan and Paolo Chikiamco is up! Thank you Paolo and Charles for doing this, for taking this on. I hope it's a success, and that a lot of people will join and get involved.

The current link to the forum,, is rather hard to remember, so thanks to Dominique Cimafranca, you can use the more memorable link Yes, that's "kom" with a "k", not a "c".

I have to point out though that the forum is independent from PGS the Digest, me as publisher, or the company behind the actual physical production of PGS. The forum is a wholly separate entity set-up and moderated by Paolo and Charles. They're the power and bosses behind it. I'm just going to be a regular member, like anyone else who joins. If the forum reaches a high level of participation, I'm sure Paolo and Charles will scour the members list and ask for more volunteers to moderate.

Go to the site now, bookmark it, register, and participate! Thank you again, Paolo and Charles!

Harper Lee Honored

"To Kill A Mockingbird" author Harper Lee was honored with the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award a U.S. civilian can receive from the American government. You can read about it here.

"To Kill A Mockingbird" was not on the required reading list back when I was in high school, but it was on a short list of "Suggested Readings". The title caught my eye, so I borrowed a copy from the school library and was brought into the world of the American Deep South just after the Great Depression, into a world of racial prejudice and great tragedy. But there was heroism, courage, and growing up too, in the book. I have a copy of my own now, have had it since my college years, and I still like leafing through it every so often. Harper Lee hasn't published any other book since then--just a handful of essays--but I think the example of her book shows how a story can have great impact on the world. Hers is not the only tale that resonates through the years, or that can influence things for the good. There are many, and we are lucky to have them, "To Kill A Mockingbird" certainly not the least of them.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Inquirer Features Andrew Drilon

Andrew Drilon, author of "Thriller" from PGS1, has a write-up (by Ruel de Vera) in the Inquirer. It talks about his love for comics and his web-posts on The Chemistry Set, as was mentioned before here. Congratulations, Andrew!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

A Story Is A Story Is A Story

The Language of Defeat, an essay of common sense by Jeff Vandermeer, is up at Clarkesworld Magazine. Here's a quote:

"I would like to see all writers make a better effort to see the work of their fellows with eyes unfettered by received ideas as conveyed through whatever label has been slapped on a particular book or author. If we wrote fiction the way we talk about genre and mainstream most of the time, we would all be hacks, our prose full of the most crass and belabored cliches. Yet we persist in outdated, dangerous generalizations, and allow them to color our perceptions of reality. We refuse to engage with the individual in front of us, to communicate, and instead create badly-made fictions about them."

Leave the labels to the publishers and booksellers, in other words. We need those labels so that we can organize our wares in some semblance of order, albeit an imperfect one, so as to make things easier to find. But when you write fiction, worry about the story. When you read fiction, involve yourself in the story. Quiet your mind when it insists on labeling the story and thus, prejudicing what you expect of it. Be open, and chances are, it'll be a more rewarding experience for you.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Meeting Writers

Standing: Charles Tan, Paolo Chikiamco, Blue Soon, Miggy Escaño, John Philip Corpuz; Seated: Sharmaine Galve, Erica Gonzales, Elyss Punsalan

I met up with some writers yesterday morning, some I met earlier this year, others I just met then. What they all have in common is they are all writers and PGS readers.

I've posted about Elyss, Charles, and Miggy here, where their stories were critiqued by the Manila Litcritters. The others I met today were Sharmaine Galve, author of "Y"; Paolo Chikiamco, author of "Homer's Child"; John Philip Corpuz, author of "Muse", which is the winning Image Inspiration entry printed in PGS3; and Erica Gonzales and Blue Soon, whose entries to the same contest came in 2nd and 3rd and were published online here.

We got together at Starbucks, Shangrila Mall in Pasig, and talked writing, books, fiction, TV shows, movies, cartoons, anime, fanfic, what we did for a living, and in general we had a good time getting to know each other. I asked them for suggestions and comments on how to improve PGS, how to spread the word, and they gave some interesting ideas. I'm unsure yet as to which of their suggestions to act on (I'd like to give it some more thought, but they were all good ideas), but of the ones they shared with this old-fogey-who's-never-been-in-a-chatroom-and-can't-understand-flame-wars, I can publicly announce that their suggestion of a PGS forum seems to be the easiest to do. And it's free too! The magic word is free! I mentioned that I don't have the time to moderate it, and I also expressed my concern that two bad things could happen: no one might join or participate, or a lot of people would and it would degenerate into one of those 24-hour fights/free-for-alls where said incomprehensible flame wars erupt left and right. Neither scenario appeals to me. But two of the writers volunteered to moderate and handle everything, so I'm seriously considering giving it a try. I'll be in touch with those two volunteers, and we'll see if we can launch this forum sometime soon. What do you guys think? I'd like to know what you think of such a PGS forum.

In fact, I'm always open to any suggestions and comments from anyone as to how to improve PGS, in distribution, look, packaging, any aspect of it. I can't promise that I'll be able to implement them all, as there are serious limitations to being a small press, but I do promise to give each of the suggestions full consideration.

I enjoyed getting together yesterday with the eight people pictured above. It's a real blessing to meet young readers and writers like these. Fun, too! And yes, I may have been the oldest among them, and by more than just a handful of years, but it was Blue who voiced his worry that the camera's flash might reflect too much shine and glare around his face! Just kidding, Blue! Till the next time we can get-together, guys!

The Writers' Forum at New Worlds 5

Tobie, me, and Joseph Nacino

A partial shot of the crowd, Chiles Samaniego and Charles Tan in front.

Left: Joseph Nacino, Tobie Abad, Mr. Abad
Right: Mrs. Abad, Prof. Emil Flores, Charles Tan

Tobie's Mom and Prof. Emil Flores

Tobie Abad and his Dad

Stardate: October 27, 2007. The Glorietta Activity Center in Makati City. An important gathering of emissaries from across various regions in the nearby system have gathered for a convention on this date to discuss...

...naah...I'd better stop. I don't think I can pull off a "Star Trek" like entry.

The New Worlds Alliance held their fifth Science-fiction and Fantasy convention last October 27, 2007 at the Glorietta Activity Center. It was the first time for me to attend such an event, whether here in the Philippines or anywhere else in the world. I had a chance to attend a similar convention once, many years ago, in the U.S. My family was passing through the area as tourists, and being curious about all the people dressed up as fictional book, movie, and TV characters, I wanted to walk in and see what it was all about. Sadly, the farthest I got was about twenty feet inside the area; there were just too many people. But that short experience did prepare me for what such a convention must be like.

Despite the events of the previous week (my condolences to the injured and to the families of those who lost loved ones) the show went on; whether the blast was intended or an accident, the New Worlds people decided to stay positive and push through in spreading their brand of fun and enjoyment. I had been invited some weeks before by Tobie Abad and Rej Layug, two of the organizers, to sit in the panel for the Writers' Forum as PGS publisher. Come the day of the event, I found myself sitting beside Joseph Nacino, author of "Insomnia" from PGS1, and later on, Professor Emil Flores from the University of the Philippines. It was good to see both of them again, Joseph from the last time we saw each other in Libis months ago, and Prof. Flores from here. Also present in the crowd of about thirty-plus were Chiles Samaniego, author of The Saint of Elsewhere from PGS2 and who flew in from Singapore (not for the forum specifically, but it was a case of good timing), Charles Tan, author of The Devils Is In The Details from PGS3, Rebecca Arcega of The Philippine Speculative Fiction website, and writer and PGS contributor Mia Tijam, whose submission is due out in a forthcoming issue.

Rebecca, or Bhex, which is her online handle, has posted her thoughts on the forum here; Chiles, too; Charles also has an entry about it on his blog, and, as has become his habit (a welcome one), he recorded and posted the whole thing here (the sound quality isn't too good; the sound system wasn't the best, and the mall was quite noisy).

Tobie had chosen us so as to have a set of varied representatives from the writing world (Joey), publishing (me), and the academe (Emil). The topic was science-fiction and whether it was relevant in such a country as the Philippines. It was great to get everyone's thoughts, and the topic of fiction, writing, publishing, etc. almost always draws me out of being just a quiet spectator and into sharing my thoughts. In fact, after the forum, I think many of those who attended were just like me! We passed the microphone along to people who I believe were quiet individuals who normally mind their own business, but who stepped up and had their say. Despite the differing opinions, everyone shared their ideas. This forum was neither a one-way street with just us panelists talking, nor a quiet gathering where no one participated. I was very pleased to hear everyone share their ideas, to forego their shyness, take that mike, and make their musings known. Terrific! No, no fights broke out, but there never was a danger, I think. Everyone just wanted in on the discussion. The topic was of such interest to everyone. At the end of it, and though the topic never strayed far from science-ficiton, I felt very encouraged that there are more than a few like-minded people in this country who value literacy.

The forum lasted for about ninety minutes, after which Tobie and his parents graciously treated us panelists to a small snack at Pancake House on the second floor of the mall.
Charles was there too, and posted about our small gathering. In general, we talked about how other countries like Korea, Japan, Thailand, and others, have a growing artistic presence in the world, be it through literature, music, art, film, etc. We lamented the fact that the Pinoy presence has lagged behind these other countries, but I say that we cannot stop trying. If we keep on producing and keep on sending out, whether we have institutional help (like these other richer countries) or not, we're bound to find an audience and eventually share our stories with others.

Thank you very much to Rej and Tobie of the New Worlds Alliance, to Tobie's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Abad (Tobie's very lucky to have understanding, positive, and supportive parents--please thank them again for us, Tobie!), to Joseph, Emil, Charles, Chiles, Bhex, Mia, and all the others who attended the forum! I hope the forum was worth everyone's while.

Booktopia (on PGS3)

Rowena Dimaguila of Booktopia, a PGS distributor, had previously written about PGS1 and PGS2 on her website. She continues by talking about PGS3 in this post. Thanks, Rowena, and sorry for linking up so late. Thanks, too, to Celestine Trinidad, author of "Beneath the Acacia", for emailing me about Rowena's post.

The Manila Litcritters Dissect PGS3

From left to right: Charles Tan, Zarah Gagatiga, Dean Francis Alfar, Alexander Osias, Elbert Or, Miggy Escaño, Elyss Punsalan, Vincent Simbulan, Nikki Alfar

From left to right: Charles Tan, Zarah Gagatiga, Dean Francis Alfar, Alexander Osias, Elbert Or, Miggy Escaño, Elyss Punsalan, Vincent Simbulan, Andrew Drilon, Nikki Alfar

The "Before" pic: Charles Tan, Miggy Escaño, Elyss Punsalan. I decided not to put up the "After" pic.

Vin is pensive; Nikki, thoughtful.

Alex expounds on something while Elbert listens.

Though a ton of things needed attending to at work that day, I just had to make time for this: the Manila Litcritters critiqued three stories from PGS3 last October 20, 2007 at A Different Bookstore, Serendra during one of their Open Sessions (Open Seasons?). I arrived first, about an hour early (was I that excited?), and whiled away the time re-reading the stories. By the time everyone arrived I was more than ready, and by the looks of it, so was everyone else, even the writers (I think).

In order of, were Elyss Punsalan's "Twinspeak", Miggy Escaño's "Tuko", and Charles Tan's "The Devil Is In The Details." There was a lot of good-natured ribbing beforehand, and I remembered the expression "preparing the lambs for the slaughter" with a smile. But once things started in earnest there was nothing but good intentions and honesty in all that was said. There was nothing personal in the critiques, and I'm glad that everyone kept to issues and to text.

Some of the things that were discussed (without going into whose story was being studied, though anyone who has read the stories will know which comment goes where):

1. Writing from the point-of-view of a character who is of the opposite gender of the author can be challenging, and needs that extra effort and awareness to pull it off well. Otherwise, that character might end up weaker than others in the story. But in writing from the point-of-view of a character one knows well, same gender or not, can result in a particularly believable and memorable one.

2. There is such a thing as too much detail, too much research. It's always good to know everything about one's subject matter, or if not, at least as much as anyone can know. But putting all the details in might burden the story with unnecessary minutia. Research well, then choose wisely which points can best serve the story and move it forward. Having said that, detail can enhance a tale's texture.

3. Old conventions can be reworked and given a fresh look, a makeover if you will, through execution. But you'd better pull it off at least at a better than competent level or the story will hardly compare to those that have already been written. Adding little twists and clever, up-to-date tricks and references can help a writer succeed.

Two of the writers themselves have blogged about their experiences here, here, and here, and one of those who attended, Zarah Gagatiga, Xavier School teacher, blogged about it as the session was ongoing: 1, 2, 3, 4. Charles Tan also uploaded an mp3 file of the session here, having saved the whole thing on his digital recorder.

It was a bit awkward being caught in the middle as PGS publisher/editor, having to defend my selection of the stories from the other critics' slings and arrows, and at the same time acknowledging the valid counterpoints they made. But the juggling act was nothing new to me, and the whole session was made light with interspersed jokes and side comments ("Dick Peck"-- really, Zarah!). And I'd like to think that everyone learned a thing or two to help their own writing and critical reading.

Thank you very much to the Manila Litcritters for critiquing three PGS stories! Hopefully, we can all do it again! This time with another batch of victims, um, writers!

Friday, November 02, 2007

A Visit to Ateneo High School (Part 4)

Miggy, Exie, and Elbert share one thing in common: they are all teachers at the Ateneo de Manila University's English department, which probably explains why they felt comfortable during their talks, getting up in front and addressing students in a classroom setting. It was a wonderful thing they did sharing their time, experience, and thoughts with younger Pinoys, and I'm also very grateful to them for plugging PGS to those they spoke to, and for letting me sit-in.

Above are a couple more photos taken in the faculty room with some of the teachers of Ateneo High, and other guest speakers that were invited.

I'd also like to thank talented artist Alex Sandoval who manned the table for PGS for the day while I attended the talks. Thanks, Alex! And again, thank you too to teachers Karen Ong and Honeylein de Peralta for having me over.

Overall, a successful day, I think, and I hope the importance of reading and writing catches hold with the Ateneo High students

A Visit to Ateneo High School (Part 3)

The last talk I attended for the day was Elbert Or's. Elbert is the layout editor and art director for PGS, and is a National Book Award winner to boot.

Elbert's situation is different as compared to Miggy's or Exie's. Where Miggy and Exie write prose, Elbert can both write and draw, and his specialty lies in comics.

"I can write okay, I think," Elbert told his batch of students. "And I can draw okay, too. I'm just all right. But when I put them together, you know, I think it ends up even better than they do separately. I think the sum ends up greater than the parts."

He spoke of how he discovered the power of words at an early age when he realized that just by using the right set at the right time, he could influence people to various emotions. For example, he recounted the time he was able to use just the right words to shift the blame of some family wrongdoing from him to his sibling. "Oh, I've got power!" he thought then. He also discovered early his talent for drawing, that he could bring images to life on paper. Of course, he now uses his talents for better purposes than framing his family members.

Elbert also prepared a Powerpoint presentation and showed the students samples of his work. He's illustrated and done comics for many Philippine publishers, and his style has become quite distinctive. His talents are very much in demand, and it is a fact that many Pinoy youth are admirers of Elbert's work. PGS is lucky to have him helping out, and I'm very grateful to him for being generous in sharing his thoughts, ideas, and opinions. If you like the way PGS's pages now look, as compared to the plain vanilla of PGS1 (before he came on board), you have him to thank.

A Visit to Ateneo High School (Part 2)

The second talk I went to, held about an hour later, was that of Palanca winner and Philippine Star columnist Exie Abola's.

Exie talked to his class about the life of a writer in the Philippines, its pitfalls, its issues, its rewards. Many of the students' questions for him were quite intriguing. Some examples:

"Have you ever told anyone that they just couldn't write?" (Answer: "Yes. Went through one semester with this one student and his work just wasn't...ah well. Come the second sem there was little improvement, and I had to say it: you can't write. Better to let it happen early and let that student hate me while there's time for him to change course, than let him have a career and then let his boss/editor/publisher tell him in the future when more of his years get wasted").

"Can you make money writing in the Philippines?" (Answer: "No. Not in the way you're thinking. Maybe in the west you could, especially if you're very lucky and become a bestselling author. But given the Philippine'll need a day-job, that's for sure.")

"What about inspiration?" (Answer: "Unreliable and overrated. How often does that strike? And how long does it last? When it's there, grab it, but don't use the lack of it as an excuse to not get the words down. Writing is work. I treat it like work. Like actual labor. Getting the words out is hard work. That's the proper way for anyone to treat writing.")

"When did you know you were a writer?" (Answer: "Back when I was your age, I'd submit my work to my English teacher, who would choose the works she likes to read to the class. I'd rarely get chosen, but whenever she read stuff out I'd tell myself, "I could do as well as these guys. Maybe better. I know I can. In fact, I think after hearing their work read out, I think I did.")

"How do you know if what you've written is good?" (Answer: "I value my friends who are honest and tell me exactly what they think of what I've written. If you have a friend who doesn't baby you, who tells you honestly if he or she thinks its crap and isn't afraid to say it to your face, you're lucky. Value that person forever.")

Exie laid out the realities of being a writer in this country quite clearly, and from what I could see in the faces of the students, they heard every word. But I could see in those who asked questions that despite these difficulties, they look ready to put themselves into writing no matter what professions they end up taking.

A Visit to Ateneo High School (Part 1)

(Delayed post, this. And a number of the next ones too. Just taking advantage of the long break to write about it. I apologize for not posting sooner.)

October 18, 2007, was the day I visited Ateneo High School along Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City to attend the Real People Write event that the English Department set-up for the students. It's part of their Communications Month, and under Karen Ong and Honeylein de Peralta, the goal of the event is to encourage more young Pinoys to get into reading and writing.

The first talk I attended was that of Miggy Escaño's, author of Tuko from PGS3. Addressing a rather large class of about fifty, Miggy talked about his penchant for writing horror and why he's drawn to such tales. Miggy mentioned how, in his childhood, he would spent long, quiet nights in the province where he would have little to think about except what could be out there, in the dark. He presented a Powerpoint slideshow that showed descriptions and images of various creatures of the night, including those with a Pinoy flavor. He divulged to the students just how much he's read and researched on the subject, especially on bangungot (which is what Tuko revolves around), as well as on the other aspects and monsters of Philippine mythology. He talked about the value of knowing our monsters, and how they are really the dark reflections of our humanity. For him, Philippine monsters are ours, and particularly reflective of the dark side of the Pinoy. The students were excited with the various monsters and were rowdy in identifying which is which. Can you identify the Pinoy creature shown in the second picture above? I couldn't. And neither could the students. If you want to find out, you'll have to email him. Miggy certainly knows his lower Philippine mythology.

The Town Drunk

I'm very grateful that The Town Drunk, a "monthly webzine devoted to lighthearted, quality speculative fiction", has given "House 1.0" a home. Thank you very much to all the Editors, especially Editor-in-Chief Brit Marschalk, for being so accommodating and generous with their help and guidance. There's a downloadable pdf file on the upper-right-hand-corner of the above link for those who want to read offline. I'm also thankful to those who've encouraged me to push through with both my own personal attempts at writing and with publishing PGS.

Two of my favorites from the webzine are "Crow" by Stephanie Burgis and "The Great Deeds of Payven Larum" by Rod M. Santos. The former was amusing and also gave me food-for-thought, the latter made me remember what it was like to laugh like a high-schooler again. I hope "House 1.0" can, at the very least, stand alongside the other stories on The Town Drunk.

Jpeg captures, just in case :D :

House 1.0 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15