Sunday, January 30, 2011

Francis Ford Coppola: On Risk, Money, Craft & Collaboration

My thanks to PGS contributor Chiles Samaniego for this: Francis Ford Coppola: On Risk, Money, Craft & Collaboration. An excerpt:

I once found a little excerpt from Balzac. He speaks about a young writer who stole some of his prose. The thing that almost made me weep, he said, "I was so happy when this young person took from me." Because that's what we want. We want you to take from us. We want you, at first, to steal from us, because you can't steal. You will take what we give you and you will put it in your own voice and that's how you will find your voice.

And that's how you begin. And then one day someone will steal from you. And Balzac said that in his book: It makes me so happy because it makes me immortal because I know that 200 years from now there will be people doing things that somehow I am part of. So the answer to your question is: Don't worry about whether it's appropriate to borrow or to take or do something like someone you admire because that's only the first step and you have to take the first step...

You have to remember that it's only a few hundred years, if that much, that artists are working with money. Artists never got money. Artists had a patron, either the leader of the state or the duke of Weimar or somewhere, or the church, the pope. Or they had another job. I have another job. I make films. No one tells me what to do. But I make the money in the wine industry. You work another job and get up at five in the morning and write your script.

This idea of Metallica or some rock n' roll singer being rich, that's not necessarily going to happen anymore. Because, as we enter into a new age, maybe art will be free. Maybe the students are right. They should be able to download music and movies. I'm going to be shot for saying this. But who said art has to cost money? And therefore, who says artists have to make money

Five Things We Learned At Clarion

My thanks to PGS contributor Erica Gonzales for sharing with me these links: Five Things We Learned At Clarion, Part 1 and Part 2. Here are what some authors shared:

From Jim Kelly:
1) It’s never too soon to start foreshadowing.
2) Adverbs are the enemy.
3) If possible, pick a life partner with money.
4) Rejectomancy is a waste of writing time.
5) You have less than a page to grab your reader — and your editor.

From Ken Schneyer:
  1. Skip the boring parts.
  2. Titles should relate to endings.
  3. If there’s no reason for the character to care about the outcome, then there’s no reason for the reader to do so.
  4. If a sentence is doing only one thing for the story, it isn’t working hard enough.
  5. When I character says “I can’t remember,” that’s just the writer being lazy.
From Stefani Nellen:
  1. You can produce much more than you thought you could.
  2. When in doubt, write more stuff.
  3. Clarion is only the beginning. Be patient.
  4. The writers and editors you admire? They are actually really supportive of new writers. They want you to be one of them. It’s a scary thought, I know.
  5. There’s nothing to be afraid of.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

"On Rescuing Nuns at the Height of the Christmas Shopping Season" by Raymond G. Falgui

Congratulations to PGS contributor Raymond Falgui who has a story out in the January 31, 2011 issue of the Philippines Graphic. His story is entitled "On Rescuing Nuns at the Height of the Christmas Shopping Season".

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Suspense, Mystery, and Crime: A Whodunit Reading Challenge January-June 2011

As seen at Gathering Books via the Facebook page of the Filipino Book Bloggers: Suspense, Mystery, And Crime: A Whodunit Reading Challenge January-June 2011. An excerpt:

We are very excited to host our very own Reading Challenge for the first half of the year. And to start 2011, we embrace books that are shrouded in secrecy, suspense, and mystery (and crime too) – a Whodunit Reading Challenge for 2011. Here are our Guidelines for the very first Challenge that we are hosting in the Blogosphere:

  1. The Reading Challenge would run from this month until June 30, 2011. We are celebrating books that have a theme of spine-tingling suspense, mystery, and crime – essentially a whodunit feel to it.
  2. We only have 4 levels of participation: Level 1 (1-2 books)Novice Profiler; Level 2 (3-5 books)Crime Detective; Level 3 (6-8 Books) Mythic Crime Buster; Level 4 (over 9 books) Criminal Genius/Mastermind
Click here for the complete guidelines.

Writing Workshops At The Filipinas Heritage Library

Received this in the email inbox:

Writing Workshops At The Filipinas Heritage Library


February 9 and 11, 2011

5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

A minor grammatical error can stain even the most excellent composition. Learn how to avoid grammatical pitfalls and improve the quality of your business correspondences through this refresher course on grammar. Improve your grasp of the English language and create flawless written pieces.

The workshop fee is Php 3,500 and includes handouts, materials, snacks, and a certificate. A non-refundable down payment of Php 1,000 is required to reserve a slot. The deadline for reservations is February 4, 2011. A 5 percent discount will be given to those who pay in full on or before January 31, 2011. Payments are non-refundable.

Acentives members are entitled to an additional 5 percent discount.

Payments can be given in cash, check, or through credit card.

*Discount does not apply to credit card transactions

For inquiries, please call Joy at 892-1801 local 27, send an SMS to 0917-561-2413, email, or visit


Dates: February 16 and 17, 2011

Time: 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM

Business writing must be clear and concise. It needs to be both organized and compelling to catch your audience's attention. Polish your writing skills and learn how to compose effective memos, e-mails, letters, and reports through this business writing workshop.

The workshop fee is Php 3,500 and includes handouts, materials, snacks, and a certificate. A non-refundable down payment of Php 1,000 is required to reserve a slot. The deadline for reservations is February 11, 2011. A 5 percent discount will be given to those who pay in full on or before February 7, 2011. Payments are non-refundable.

Acentives members are entitled to an additional 5 percent discount.

Payments can be given in cash, check, or through credit card.

*Discount does not apply to credit card transactions

For inquiries, please call Joy at 892-1801 local 27, send an SMS to 0917-561-2413, email, or visit


February 19 and 26, 2011

2:00pm to 5:00pm

Take the challenge and explore the different avenues of writing about art with renowned artist, Yason Banal. The Art and Writing Workshop are open to writers and art lovers who wish to learn the basics of writing about art, whether for purposes of artistic expression and cultural enrichment or as a career path.

The workshop fee is Php 3,500 and includes handouts, materials, snacks, and a certificate. A non-refundable down payment of Php 1,000 is required to reserve a slot. The deadline for reservations is February 14, 2011. A 5 percent discount will be given to those who pay in full on or before February 11, 2011. Payments are non-refundable.

Acentives members are entitled to an additional 5 percent discount.

Payments can be given in cash, check, or through credit card.

*Discount does not apply to credit card transactions

For inquiries, please call Joy at 892-1801 local 27, send an SMS to 0917-561-2413, email, or visit

Reading Personality Quiz

I saw this reading personality quiz via an entry on Chachic's Book Nook. She got "Involved Reader"; I got "Eclectic Reader". My result:

You read for entertainment but also to expand your mind. You're open to new ideas and new writers, and are not wedded to a particular genre or limited range of authors.

Give the quiz a try! And whatever comes out, keep on reading!

The e-Reader Was Foreseen In 1911

The e-Reader was foreseen in 1911, 100 years ago, and of course, it was Thomas Edison who saw it (think of him as a pre-WWI Steve Jobs). Of books, he said:

Books of the coming century will all be printed leaves of nickel, so light to hold that the reader can enjoy a small library in a single volume. A book two inches thick will contain forty thousand pages, the equivalent of a hundred volumes; six inches in aggregate thickness, it would suffice for all the contents of the Encyclopedia Britannica. And each volume would weigh less than a pound.

Already Mr. Edison can produce a pound weight of these nickel leaves, more flexible than paper and ten times as durable, at a cost of five shillings. In a hundred years' time the cost will probably be reduced to a tenth.

Not exactly accurate, as e-readers are less than an inch thick and not two, and can contain more than forty thousand pages; but nevertheless, his prediction's quite close!

Click here to read the article I saw this in.

Another Blog Entry On The Meet-Up Of Readers

After yesterday's link, here's another blog entry, this time from Coffeespoons, on last weekend's meet-up of readers. An excerpt:

Nevertheless, the meeting was a blast all the same. Because of the large number of participants this time around (more than 35, if I'm not mistaken), we had to resort to giving each person 1 minute each to give a brief spiel about his or her best and worst read. Gege, mother Flipper and FFP founder, organized and coordinated everything. In spite of some teasing about lots of red tape (we asked people to write down their best read on yellow paper and worst read on pink paper, then post it on the wall), I'd say things went pretty smoothly. Everyone got to have their say, in more or less one minute. Then there was time left over for a more freewheeling discussion. Some questions were thrown about the books mentioned and a few reading recommendations were given.

What I liked about the sharing was that some people loved books that appeared in someone else's "worst" read. There was the usual ribbing, such as "You didn't love [insert book title here]?!" I liked the different viewpoints because it shows the wonderful diversity among readers. Discussing would be boring if we all thought the same way.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Meet-Up Of Readers

A lot of readers met up to talk books and stories last Saturday at Libreria in Cubao X. Chachic's Book Nook talks about it here. An excerpt:

Thank you to the folks of Flips Flipping Pages for inviting the Filipino Book Bloggers to take part in their Best and Worst 2010 Reads event held at Libreria in Cubao X. I won’t be able to name all of the attendees because there were so many of us. The afternoon started off with food, of course, then we all trooped to the bookstore. I was actually surprised that we all fit inside Libreria and that we were able to discuss all of our best and worst reads in a reasonable amount of time. Each person had one minute to say something about the best and worst book that he or she read in 2010. Some of the choices were surprising, some were not but overall, it was interesting to see what appealed to other readers and why.

Philippine Speculative Fiction VI: Lineup Announcement

Philippine Speculative Fiction VI editors Nikki Alfar and Kate Osias have announced the lineup for their anthology. My thanks to them for accepting my story, "The Kiddie Pool"! Congratulations, too, to the other writers whose stories made it!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Bibliophile Stalker Writes About Ebook Piracy In The Philippines

The Bibliophile Stalker shares his thoughts about Ebook Piracy (especially as it exists in the Philippines) in this blog entry. An excerpt:

This past week, the “controversy of the week” happens to be eBook Piracy and Copyright. Troisroyaumes and Jamyee Goh have link round-ups in their corresponding websites.

I’m an author so I do want to get paid for my work, whether it’s print or
electronic. However, I live in a country where right across the street,
vendors are selling pirated DVDs (the fact that Blu-ray never caught on
here--or have yet to--should clue you in as to the living conditions
here) so to be naive about piracy is ludicrous. In an ideal world,
people would compensate everyone justly but the reality is we don’t live
in a fair society, nor is the distribution of wealth equitable. That’s
not to justify piracy, but it’s there to shed light as to how the
current practices and laws can be unfair.

Having said that, when it comes to the Philippines, I find the idea that
authors are complaining about eBook piracy funny. Not because it’s
irrelevant, but because there’s bigger fish to fry when it comes to
infringement on copyright, at least in this country. The entire
university ecosystem subsists on photocopying books and textbooks. Back
when the Ferdinand Marcos was still president of the Philippines, it was
legal to photocopy documents for educational/research purposes. 25
years after Marcos’s presidency, that’s still the practice today
(although not necessarily legal to do so), mainly because there’s no
suitable alternative. (On a side note, here’s an interesting paper on
Copyright Protection for Philippine Publications.)

For example, in college, I had an elective on “10 Books of the Century”
which includes titles like Ulysses by James Joyce and The Stranger by
Albert Camus. Because I wanted to do my readings the legal way, I tried
obtaining these books. Suffice to say, I was only able to find half of
them at local bookstores (and I did tour all three major bookstores at
the time) and it cost me P5,000.00 (around $100.00). To give readers an
idea of income in the Philippines, minimum wage here is around $8.00 a
day, as opposed to an hour in America. The cost of the books I
bought--which is only half that’s required by the class--is easily half a
month’s wage, and that doesn’t yet include tuition (or the bigger
problem that this is just one elective). Photocopying the said books is
still expensive, but better than the alternative.

Click here to read the whole blog entry. The Bibliophile Stalker makes clear the differences in circumstances between the 1st world and the 3rd world when it comes to Ebooks.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Book Saver

I saw this article over at Cnet: Book Saver Device Takes A Page From CD Rippers. An excerpt:

Here's something that could have publishers quaking in their books: gadget makers continue to look for ways to do for books what the CD ripper did for music.

Ion Audio, a company known for helping vinyl-record owners digitize their music, says it will trot out sometime this summer a device called the Book Saver, according to a story on Engadget. Ion said the Book Saver is capable of digitizing a 200-page book in 15 minutes. An owner of a Book Saver, which will likely sell for $150, places a book into the scanning cradle and the device makes color copies in seconds, thanks to two cameras hanging above the book.

"Once converted, the books can quickly be transferred to a computer or e-reader," Ion said on its Web site. "Book Saver is the only device needed to quickly make all your books, comics, magazines, or other documents e-reader compatible."

What the company doesn't mention is that devices such as Book Saver will make it even easier for people to share books online. Ask anyone at the major labels about the rise of file sharing and they typically blame the Internet as well as the inclusion of CD rippers in computers. Ripping music and loading it on to digital music players was a cinch after that.

And like CD rippers, Ion says Book Saver is perfectly legal. The courts have ruled that it's legal for people to make copies of their media for personal use.

Click here to read the whole article and to see a picture of the device.

Frankly, their claim of digitizing a 200-page book in 15 minutes sounds a bit iffy to me. There's no way to manually turn the pages, so to do this in 15 minutes would mean that the one flipping the pages has to have very fast hands. How would this compare to using a regular scanner.

And, as the article says, this does bring up the matter of piracy. The CD ripper made it easy for the regular person to digitize music, which has left music companies with the reality that every year for the last several years, CD sales have been falling. If someone comes up with a gadget that can make it as easy for a person to scan a book as a CD ripper does to copy music, the book publishing industry could face the same problem (if it isn't already, given what seems to be the proliferation of hard-working people willing to spend time scanning their books and converting them to digital formats).

Bloggers' Word Choice Bares Their Personality Traits

As seen via Rocket Kapre: Bloggers' Word Choice Bares Their Personality Traits. An excerpt:

In one of the largest studies on the matter to date, Tal Yarkoni, a and neuroscience postdoctoral fellow at the University of Colorado at Boulder, explores what our written reveal about us.

His work also rebuts the widely held belief that people can maintain distinctly different offline and online personalities. Yarkoni's research was published in the Journal of Research in Personality and was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Several previous studies have identified a nexus between language usage and personality. But prior studies used writing or speech samples that were limited in size and focused on relatively broad dimensions of personality.

By studying language use in a large sample of bloggers, Yarkoni surmounted these obstacles.

For those showing neuroticism, the top five were: "awful," "though," "lazy," "worse" and "depressing."

Among extroverts, the top hits were: "bar," "other," "drinks," "restaurant" and "dancing."

Among those showing openness, the top five were: "folk," "humans," "of," "poet" and "art."

Agreeable personalities most often used these words: "wonderful," "together," "visiting," "morning" and "spring."

And conscientious personalities used these most often: "completed," "adventure," "stupid," "boring" and "adventures."

I wonder where I fall? Is there any way to find out how often I've used these words in my blog?

Click here to read the whole article.

Some January Blessings

A bit past halfway through the first month of 2011 and I've received a handful of encouraging news for my own writing.

First, my story, "Lost For Words", which won Fantasy Magazine's 2009 Halloween Flash Fiction Contest, was accepted by No definite date of going live yet, but I'm so pleased with this development.

Not long afterward, another of my stories, "Spider Hunt", was also accepted as a podcast by Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine. It was originally published over at Aurora Wolf, and will be coming out fairly soon in Aurora Of The Sun, Aurora Wolf's third print anthology. Again, no set date for the podcast yet, but I'm sure when this and "Lost For Words" comes out on Dunesteef and Pseudopod respectively, I'm going to feel as excited as I do now. The editors and publishers of Dunesteef and Pseudopod were also quite kind with their words for my submissions to them.

And then, after these two acceptances, I read two positive reviews for Issue #5 of Innsmouth Free Press, where my story, "The Concierto Of Señor Lorenzo", was first published.

The first review I read was on Rise Reviews, where the reviewer used words like "beautiful piece" and "wonderful imagery" to describe my story. I've never had those words used yet to describe anything I've written, so that was quite a step-up for me!

After I linked up to the first review via my Twitter and Facebook page, a reader sent me a link to the second one, which was on Skull Salad Reviews; the reviewer chose my story as one of his top three from the issue. Both reviews found Issue #5 well worth their reading time, so it feels good to be part of such a strong collection.

The morale boost is quite welcome because, to be honest, I struggle with my own bouts of self-doubt, fear, and lack of confidence with my own writing skill. My saving grace, I suppose, is that when faced with these negative thoughts, I end up throwing my hands in the air, smiling (or even laughing), telling myself, "What the heck!", and despite all evidence against me, continue to set the words down no matter how much I feel like what I'm doing isn't worth it.

As I've gotten older, not taking myself too seriously has saved me from deeper neuroses, let me tell you.

So, this handful of news has encouraged me to keep on.

I hope this isn't the end of the good news yet. January's only half-over, after all!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Is There Such A Thing As The Perfect Writing Tool?

Here's a link I saw via PGS contributor Chiles Samaniego's Facebook: Disillusionment, Clark Nova, The Macbook Air, And The Perfect Writer's Machine. An excerpt:

One quality I think is endemic amongst all would-be (but probably won’t-be) anythings is a passionate belief in gadgets being able to transcend their own lack of talent, intelligence or discipline. At least, that’s certainly been true for me… which is probably why I’m a professional writer more by luck than by resolve.

It’s strange, then, that after fifteen years I’ve finally found the perfect writer’s machine in the new 11.6-inch MacBook Air. It fuses together both the best software and hardware of which a writer could ever dream, while boasting all of the slender and effortless portability of a composition journal. It is a writer’s terminal in the purest sense: with its excellent battery life, ephemeral weight, satisfying keyboard and instant-on capabilities, the new MacBook Air is perfectly suited to be the nexus into the inner chaos of my own thoughts, feelings, hang-ups, pretensions and emotions as a blank page.

So why isn’t writing any easier?

These days, I write a lot. Between this column and the two blogs I work for, I probably write 27,000 words a week, but you know what? Writing’s no easier for me now than it was twenty years ago. The difficulty of knowing exactly what to say or even being able to identify how you feel about something never goes away. Writing isn’t so much like pulling teeth as it is like growing a tooth out of sheer willpower, finding where it rests in your jawline and then bloodily yanking it from the mouth. A good computer can give you some anaesthesia and a good handle on the clamps, but it can’t pull for you. Over the last few years, I’ve become quite good at this, but even so, it’s worth noting that while I have written a couple of encyclopedias worth of content on everything from gadgets to film, from games to consumer affairs over the past few years, I have never found the inner strength to become a novelist… the only thing I ever really wanted to be.

As a computer, my new MacBook Air is everything I could have ever asked for as a writer. Like a bicycle, it’s a perfect machine, imbued with its function to efficiently accelerate thought and motion into speed. In its perfection, though, the new MacBook Air also denounces the way we tend to think about gadgets. Gadgets aren’t extensions of self, they are — at best — an augmentation of self. The difference is important, because the perfect gadget doesn’t make you perfect, and all of the hardware in the world is never going to do the work of making you the person you want to be. In my case, that was to be a writer, but I only became one professionally by accident, and I only became successful at it because otherwise I would have starved. I still don’t write fiction. The MacBook Air might be the perfect device, but it makes me despair that I will always come up short.

I've always been of the opinion that the writing tool is less important than the writer himself. A determined one will find a way to set the words down, whether he's using a laptop, a desktop, an expensive word processing program, an open source one, a typewriter (no matter what its age or condition is), a pen (no matter what kind) or pencil (again, no matter what kind), paper (be it in a spiral notebook, a bound one, small or big, clean paper or the back of a napkin), or even a cellphone (which I had just done for the first time last year).

But yes, I also admit the lure of the nice, sleek, shiny writing tool--whether it's a computer, a typewriter, or a fancy pen and nice paper--is very real. And just like the writer of the article says, maybe it's just a way to make up for one's insecurities as a writer.

Great. Another crutch we writers have to deal with.

And given the way he gushes about the Macbook Air, the article author sounds a bit like writer and Mac fanboy Sir Butch Dalisay, doesn't he? :)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

NBA Players Have To Contend With A Haunted Hotel

This article had me smiling as I read it. It's about how when NBA players on other teams visit the Oklahoma City Thunder, they are usually billeted at The Skirvin Hotel, which is supposedly haunted. The hotel's story:

The Oklahoma showplace became a popular speak-easy during Prohibition. It was during this time that W.B. Skirvin was said to have had an affair with one of the hotel maids. According to legend, the maid soon conceived and in order to prevent a scandal, she was locked in a room on the top floor of the hotel. The desolate girl soon grew depressed and even after the birth of her child; she was still not let out of the room. Half out of her mind, she finally grabbed the infant child and threw herself, along with the baby, out of the window.

The maid’s name remains unknown, but her ghost continues to haunt the Skirvin Hotel and she was nicknamed "Effie” by former employees.

Effie was apparently a woman of loose morals and many men who have stayed in the hotel have often reported being propositioned by a female voice while alone in their rooms. Others have seen the figure of a naked woman with them while taking a shower. One man even claimed he was sexually assaulted by an invisible entity during his stay.

Other strange noises and occurrences were reported by staff and guests including things seemingly being moved around by themselves, such as the maid’s cart being pushed down the hall when no one was there.

Stan Van Gundy, the coach of the Orlando Magic, tried to quell his players' fears by saying that he fears more the Thunder's top player, a real beast of a baller named Kevin Durant. Frankly, they should; Durant dropped 36 points on the Magic and helped his team win by 1.

The Blurb Project

I'd like to promote The Blurb Project, a file with, as far as I see, two PGS contributors in it (Dean Alfar and Mia Tijam). The link above is to a pdf sampler, a free download. To take from the introduction:

The procedure: Ask writers to blurb for a book whose content would solely be the blurbs to be collected from them, a critico-creative exercise in closed-circuit self-reference that could function as a collaborative epic poem of modular components.

Download The Blurb Project sampler to read for yourself.

My thanks to Mia for emailing me about this!

PGS Contributor Alex Paman

Alex Paman holding up his book, Asian Supernatural

Alex Paman and local Hawaiian ghost storyteller Lopaka Kapanui

PGS contributor Alex Paman was busy promoting his book, Asian Supernatural, in the latter part of 2010. Above are some pictures of him doing so in Hawaii, and here is a Youtube video of his TV interview. I asked him some questions about his book:

1. Could you name some of the more intriguing supernatural creatures/stories from the countries you have researched?

Each Asian and Pacific Islander country I researched certainly had its own unique set of characters, distinct and special in their own way. But the few that stood out were the following:

  1. In Korea, the traditional shaman (usually a woman) is elevated to such a high status that it is actually recognized and celebrated in mainstream society and pageantry.

  2. In Burma (Myanmar), people believe in these earth spirits called Nats, who must be placated with daily offerings so as to not invoke their wrath. But these spirits aren’t your usual duwendes or nunos living under an ant mound whose permission you must get before stepping over their homes; the Nats permeate everyday life, ritual, and religion, and are greatly feared.

  3. In old Thailand, the ghost of a pregnant woman and her unborn child was so feared that people used to kidnap these women from the street while still alive and kill them on the grounds of a compound. They believed that their ghosts would make the most loyal and dangerous guardian against intruders and enemies.

  4. In traditional China, Japan, and Korea, the fox consistently played a trickster role in traditional culture, known for seducing priests against their principles, and was considered very dangerous. What’s interesting is that the creature is an actual animal that turns into a human being, not the other way around.

  5. In Vietnam, there is a curse (called noi) that induces a person to drown himself in water. People have literally drowned facedown inside the muddy footprint of a water buffalo.

  6. Filipinos living in Guam are well aware of the Taotaomona (pronounced ta-ta mona). Said to be the ancestral spirits of the indigenous Chamorros, these beings live in the vast forests (particularly around banyan trees), and punish people who trespass around their homes. Everyone who lives on the island is keenly afraid of them.

2. Why do you think you are drawn to or are interested in the supernatural?

I grew up listening to family ghost stories when I was a kid, and our houses in Quezon City and in Naic, Cavite were said to be haunted. I was also a fan of science fiction, fantasy and horror, and already wanted to become a comic book artist early on. It was a natural inclination to want to draw these iconic creatures and collect them for reference.

I enjoy researching the supernatural, because it touches upon an emotion and a state of mind that doesn’t follow logic or common sense. These beings defy what we define as real, and are usually seen when one is alone or mentally distressed. What if there really are worlds and beings that we can’t define or understand? I think Asians and Pacific Islanders are culturally conditioned and wired to believe that they’re real, and the fact that our ancestors thought they existed gives us a remote window to our own past and what we feared in daily life.

3. Explain to us the process you went through to get Asian Supernatural published.

I had been looking for a book that listed all Filipino supernatural creatures when I was in high school. I had never seen one even when I was in the Philippines, and neither had my friends or relatives. When I went to college in the U.S. and took anthropology classes to finish my major, I noticed that our textbooks contained a chapter specifically on native spirit beliefs. I began collecting Asian-specific anthro books and kept them as reference. My collection grew and grew over twenty years, and I ultimately decided to compile all the spirit beliefs in my collection into a single volume. There was so much material that it went beyond just my original Filipino premise. It was a long shot in terms of publishing success, and to be honest, getting it printed became secondary compared to just finishing the book, because I thought it was important to do.

For two-and-a-half years, I sat down and typed-up all the entries of ghosts, goblins, witches, deities, and places that related to death or the supernatural. I had debated whether or not to divide the entries by country, or just sheer alphabetically. I chose the former, and when I was done—when I thought I had exhausted my resources in literally listing EVERYTHING on the subject—I formatted the manuscript, wrote my cover letter with my precis, and put together my synopsis, market comparison, and my sample first chapter. I then went to the bookstore and listed all the companies that published supernatural books that might be interested. I sent them my package and waited. Ethnic publishers, universities, and Manga companies rejected it off the top, some even bothering to respond.

My presupposition that the world was waiting for an Asian supernatural encyclopedia was seemingly erroneous.

Five months had passed, and I thought my project was a publishing failure. However, around December last year, I received a letter in the mailbox. I opened it with a sigh, thinking it was just another rejection letter. If someone was interested in my book, they would’ve just e-mailed or called me. But lo and behold, Mutual Publishing from Hawaii wanted to see drawings for my manuscript. I quickly drew up some monsters, and after Christmas, they accepted my manuscript.

I quickly learned that the hardest part of getting published wasn’t writing the text; it was what happened after the book was accepted. There were so many details that needed to be attended to in its production (artwork, MASSIVE editing, promotion, etc.), and I took a big sigh after it was done. Writing your book is the easiest party, because it’s the only part of the process that you truly have control over.

And once you’re published, you want to maintain your success and keep getting published. It’s a neat thing being an actual book author, but it takes so much work and you really have little time to enjoy the accolade before jumping back to work.

4. Typical question asked of any writer of the supernatural (but I've never heard or read anyone asking you this yet): Have you ever seen a ghost? Or experienced something like it? In fact, do you believe in ghosts and the supernatural, or is the topic just something of interest to you?

When I did that interview in Hawaii, they told me I was to have only 3 minutes to answer the host’s questions, and right before we went on the air, she began going over questions with me that I had to scramble to find answers for. I was also concerned with getting the book signing addresses correct in my head before announcing them at the end of the clip.

She asked me if I had ever seen a ghost, and I said, “No, but my relatives have.” That was actually not true. I was pretty nervous, and she asked the question at such a fast clip that I totally forgot that I did, because the incident only happened once.

In college, my art class went on a field trip to paint tombstones and mausoleums on our canvas at a local historical cemetery. It was unnerving at first, but over the span of two hours, I learned that the cemetery is actually a beautiful and peaceful place. I did some watercolor drawings of where I was sitting, then left for home. I immediately changed clothes and watched TV inside my parents’ bedroom. There was a large dresser with a mirror next to where I was lying down, and when I glanced up at the mirror, I saw a shadow in the shape of a person on it. This wasn’t something that vanished as soon as I turned my head to look; it stood there for a full second before flitting away. I cautiously stood up and searched the room, and there was no one there. I thought someone followed me home from the cemetery, but it never showed itself again.

I do believe that there is something that is just beyond our senses, an experience we cannot explain because we are physical human beings and are not equipped to sense them clearly. I read an author somewhere who explained it this way: when we eat something, our stomach automatically digests the food without us having to think about it. In one sense, digestion is a type of consciousness that exists for that function. That means a process of organized actions takes place that we cannot personally identify with, beyond just explaining it biologically from a distance, and it exists automatically on its own.

Now apply this to an old house where people have died. Just imagine what alignment of processes and energies have taken place inside, within its walls and rooms. This matrix or pattern of organized procedures may turn into a type of consciousness that is beyond our scope of understanding, but it exists and operates on its own, and would be something we would call “supernatural.”

5. What's your reading and writing habit/schedule like? (I'm asking you this hoping that your reading/writing schedule, especially your reading schedule, might be a good example to younger PGS blog readers here in the Philippines to take up reading some more)

Aside from solid writing skills, being a good learner is the most important characteristic a writer can have. You do this by reading everything about the subject matter that interests you. You can read classic works in literature and in your preferred genre, a newspaper, and even a restaurant menu. You can also watch a lot of television and transpose what you’ve learned into your writing.

For me, I have to read something every night right before I go to sleep. This can be a page or a paragraph of a book or magazine I have next to my bed. There is that expression that says, “You are what you do.” That means literally that if you’re a writer, then you obviously write. Whether as an entertainment reporter for a magazine, or writing book-length fiction for a proposal, I wrote during my breaks at work, and late at night at home before going to sleep. I didn’t spend crazy hours doing this daily, considering it takes years to write a book. But I paced myself and gave myself short-term deadlines that would lead to long-term success.

In the genres of science fiction, horror, and fantasy, you have to know what’s already been done. The only way to do that is to read and be aware of the works created by your professional predecessors. If your knowledge base in those three genres spans only the last twenty years and nothing more, then you haven’t read enough at all. The internet gives you so much access to the past that there's really no excuse or barrier to prevent someone from researching the classic works.

Go out there and read as much about the past as you can. This will enable you to become a more rounded and educated person, and will expose you to wonders that will turn you into a better writer.

6. Name some supernatural stories, fiction or otherwise, and their authors if you know them, that have made their mark on you.

I think the earliest sci-fi or fantasy books I read in grade school were Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, Lester Del Rey’s Runaway Robot, and Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. In high school, I read mostly H.G. Wells, Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut, and Samuel R. Delaney, works which were required reading. I was also a fan of Rod Serling, who created and scripted a ton of episodes for his Twilight Zone television show. Thanks to those Ray Harryhausen Sinbad movies, I was also exposed to a lot of Greek and Roman mythology. The only person that I can truly say influenced my style of writing is a comic-book writer named Chris Claremont, who wrote the Uncanny X-men from the mid-70s to the early 80s. He had this fantastic way of incorporating various literary themes, styles, and pathos that I tried to emulate early on, and it really made me a better writer.

In college, a friend of mine also introduced me to the works of Joseph Campbell, who found common threads that ran through all mythological traditions. That expanded my knowledge for those cultures, and made me appreciate even more the timeless stories that they created.

And here is the promo they are using for Alex's next book, Filipino Ghost Stories. Congratulations, Alex!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Pakinggan Pilipinas Episode 7: "Keeping Time"

PGS contributor Elyss Punsalan continues her podcasts on Pakinggan Pilipinas with this latest episode, "Keeping Time" by F.H. Batacan, guest-editor for the coming PGS Crime issue. Congratulations to Elyss and Ichi!

Thousands Of Birds Fall From The Sky, Dead

Strange occurrence. Thousands of birds fell from the sky in Arkansas, dead. It seems they were scared to death by loud noises, presumably fireworks. One wonders then why we don't see the same happen here in the Philippines every New Year's Eve, given how much we like popping our fireworks on that day.

PGS contributor Elyss Punsalan, the one behind Pakinggan Pilipinas, texted me about it:

"Did you catch the news yesterday about five thousand birds that dropped out of the sky? Was on CNN. Thought it was life imitating your fiction. No flooding though."

Elyss is referring to my story, "The Sparrows Of Climaco Avenue", which is about a drowning city and birds falling dead from the sky.

Good thing, hehe, though the news is, er, flooded with reports about rising water levels in Australia; I hope no birds are dropping from the sky over there.