Category Archives: Writing

New Book Release! Aff’s Diary: Blessed Hope


Nestled deep in the forest, all is as it should be in the village of Blessed Hope – and that’s how chief hunter Dari Finbarr likes it. Then one stormy night the embodiment of death for Humans stumbles into their home: a Szari girl.

The Szari! A race of powerful beings who sought the extinction of Humankind, and were only stopped by the Tzaro people in a brutal war that is still whispered about in hushed voices. A sole Szari warrior is capable of wiping out entire Human settlements by themselves.

The strange, silent Szari is nothing like how the tales describe however; and though it risks his life, Dari is given the task of guarding her until the wise Tzaro are brought to decide her fate. Until then many questions arise, but no answers can be found in the girl’s sad green eyes.

Without knowing it, the Humans of Blessed Hope have found themselves on a path that will change the future of all the races on their world…

After much blood, sweat and tears, and delays brought about by multiple truly life-altering circumstances, we have finally – FINALLY! – got Aff’s Diary: Blessed Hope published! Available from Lulu in paperback and ebook (epub). Distribution will have it available through other retailers in a few weeks, and when it happens I’ll write about it!

Despite the preview image on the paperback’s page, the actual cover image on print looks very good – here’s the proof copy:

This series is set before the Seda’s Diary series of books. Blessed Hope is our thickest book to date at 427 pages (plus supplementary content). I hope everyone who reads this book enjoys the story!


BIG thank you to the beta readers who have stuck with us through the hard work in getting this story out!


I’m not sure why this one’s been sticking in my head today, but it has. Perhaps it’s the wind, howling outside with the sun shining down through an unrelenting blue sky, that’s jogging my memory…


Some years ago, Rhys and I faced a dilemma – how to get his job to recognise that he had a family, and was supporting one, as opposed to being a single man with no financial responsibilities. After much research, Rhys found the answer: to be recognised as a de-facto relationship, a legal definition in Australia which is similar to ‘common-law spouse’, I guess. For this to happen, we had to live together, as a household, with shared finances and living arrangements, for more than six months. It just so happened that at the time, Rhys had been assigned a three-bedroom residence in Sydney. It took some time to decide on logistics, but the time period we finally worked out was bad for our eldest to come and stay with us as she was attending school (and she wouldn’t be able to attend school in Australia for that period of time.) So for a short while, I lived in Sydney with Rhys, and our then youngest, Vincent, who was three years old at the time.

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Quick post about LibreOffice – Write

I made my jump from MS Word to LibreOffice the same time I made a pretty huge jump from Windows to Linux (Mint, Debian edition) for security reasons. That was back in 2009, and while I’ve moved into ‘what works best’ mindset, I have to say I’m very happy about having moved to LibreOffice and away from Word.

LibreOffice can be used across most platforms and OS-es; I use a Mac, a Linux Debian box and a Windows box (the latter usually for gaming and entertainment) and they work, from my own personal usage, with no discernible differences for a simple end user like myself. So you do not have to move to a Linux OS just to use LibreOffice.

In fact, I have not used all of LibreOffice – the two which I use the most are LibreOffice Write and Calc, the latter being a spreadsheet program which I keep track of grocery shopping and house budget with.

I’m not here to convince people to make massive jumps away from unfamiliar OS but simply to illustrate that if you do decide to switch from MS Office to LibreOffice, you’ll find that there is very little to worry about in terms of learning curve – especially if you use it primarily for documents and writing – in which case, it’ll be LibreOffice Write you’ll care about the most.

I also use LibreOffice Write for the majority of formatting for both ebook and print books – that is, the formatting of inner book content. As I’ve thus far only made books with only text, as of this post I can probably comment only on that. But for now, this post is concerned with how LibreOffice Write looks and on the very basic, works.

This is a post done mostly in response to some comments in Mad Genius Club’s post¬† “Formatting for Print – Revisited.” I just found it easier to quickly snap off some screenshots and make this post.

Click on the image to see a bigger version. That said, the rest of this post will be behind a jump.

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Old knowledge and Unfamiliar Settings

One of the things I find myself frequently doing is researching for something I want to include in a book. Sometimes I’ll find myself planning it out before the book itself is written, or, because I’ve had a stray thought while writing out a scene, and realising I don’t know how the process goes well enough to include a description of the character engaging in it – no, I don’t mean the character in question suddenly dropping in a ‘how to’ of tanning – unless it’s part of the story. The characters which populate my imagination are busy sorts – they like to keep their hands busy or use up the daylight well. Inevitably, because most of the stories I have are set in a fantasy, a number of the ‘way things are done’ rely heavily on traditional techniques.

Most of what I research does not end up in the book itself. It’s usually kept as -mostly handwritten- author’s notes or little scribbles in my concept notebook. This is part of my personal worldbuilding process, because it allows me to be able to visualise how the setting works – and what I can and cannot do with it. I’ve ended up with a library of DIY, off-grid, self sufficiency stuff because of that, and cookbooks that go along a similar vein; and I hat-tipped that kind of How To book with my bookish dragon, Sparrowind. This kind of book existed in real life as well, usually in the form of a housewife’s cookbook and household-management instructional – most of the book would be recipes, and maybe the last quarter would include things like how to make up household cleaners, furniture polish, and how to run your household efficiently. I’ve a couple of these, dating back to the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s, inherited from my maternal great-grandmother. One of the books has a very basic first aid instructional section, which dealt with things ranging from splinters, to well, treating someone who had been hanged from a nearby tree and isn’t dead yet, while the other has instructions on how to dress a deer.

Why yes, I find it fascinating at how much a woman was expected to know back then, in order to be considered competent, compared to the ‘modern age’, where all too frequently, we have women who are unable to cook themselves a basic meal. I’m grateful my parents didn’t raise us like hothouse flowers and made a point to raise my brothers and I to know how to cook, clean, do the laundry – by hand!-, priortise and budget, shop for groceries, and organise ourselves. I’ve had a number of people praise me for how helpful my children are around the house, because even if it’s a chore as simple as helping me unpack and sort the groceries, they can do it. I then get a story about how that’s so rare amongst children now.

I relate this not to toot my own horn or disparage the modern woman (okay, too much), but to illustrate how differently things were done between my own childhood and my children’s and their peers. My siblings and I were taught how to do laundry by hand; my children were taught how to properly load the washing machine. The difference in what we needed to know lies entirely because in the differences of the settings we grew up in.

Those differences mean a LOT, which we often take for granted. For example, let’s take the availability of water.

When I was in Germany, we had a washing machine and a dryer, but when we returned to the Philippines, the area we ended up living in – and the era – was when we’d only get enough water pressure to the apartment during certain periods of the day – something unimaginable to someone who, until that point, only had to turn a tap and there was clean water. Now we had to make sure there was clean water stored up for cooking, drinking, washing dishes, and bathing in. Oh, and water needed to be boiled before you could drink from it, so when you factored in the cost of buying tanks of LPG gas, water was more expensive than soft drinks and soda; and the boiled water had a rather metallic aftertaste, so we would mix up 2 liter pitchers of Tang or Kool-Aid to mask it.

I left out laundry from that list because that needed to be scheduled – a laundry session typically took about four hours, so we couldn’t wait for the times when the water would be available in the house. The dirtiest clothes were soaked in water mixed with some detergent, while the not-so-dirty clothes were kept in a hamper. During weekends during school-times, and twice a week during school breaks, we’d take all that laundry out, with basins and bars of soap and hauled them to the sidewalk outside our small gated compound. By the wall outside our apartment there was a large spigot, installed by someone, that the neighborhood would use to fetch water from.

Well, we’d use the water once we’d let it run long enough so that it wasn’t rusty colored. We were lucky because further down the street, the spigot there had water that stayed slightly reddish – so sometimes the housewives and menfolk living there would carry their laundry over to our spigot to wash.

Using buckets and large hand-held ladles, we’d pour water into the basins and wash and scrub our clothes until they were clean – denim often scrubbed on a washboard and a plastic net sponge that helped scrub off the sweat, dirt and smell, as we crouched beside the basins, or sat on low wooden stools. My father’s white shirts had to be soaked in soap that had bluing incorporated in it. You had to change the water whenever it got too brown, which meant that you hauled out all the clothes you were cleaning, pile it next to you and pour the water out of a basin that was often more than a meter across, because while you were scrubbing one article of clothing, you’d be soaking some of the ones you were working on next. Then you’d fill the basin from buckets of water filled at that spigot, rinse off the dirt, and get back to cleaning. Each of us worked with our own washing basin, while the dirty clothes inhabited another, and the washed clothes were piled into another large basin. It took typically 2-3 washes (with soapy water and soap) and a rinse to get all the clothes clean, and you had to try wring out as much water as you could so it wouldn’t take ridiculous amounts of time to dry. Then it would be trudge back inside, with wet laundry, to hang them up to dry.

Sound like painful backache-inducing work? It was, and I think that was one of the main reasons why I didn’t need to do a lot of exercise as a teenager. But it was also rather social work, because we’d chat – with a neighbor who timed their laundry sessions with ours, or took advantage of the fact that the water was clean then, as we scrubbed washed and worked.

In my mother’s home village, there were neighbourhoods with communal deep wells with a hand pump – the larger ones took two people to pump. If you lived closer to the river though, you went to the river with your laundry, and then swam to wash your sweat away. I used to see people – usually wives, mothers, sisters and boys who weren’t big enough to work in the fields – wash their laundry there, chatting and laughing and gossiping. It wasn’t uncommon for as many as four households to load up their washing into wooden carts and push them to the river, or hook up a cart to a water buffalo and take the trip to the river and wash clothes, animal and other hard to clean things there, have a picnic lunch at the river then go back home after a quick wash in the river to bring the clothes back to dry.

My grandmother’s house had its own deep well, which they didn’t have to share, which had enough water pressure to allow there to be a sink in the kitchen, and an outdoor bathroom and a flushing toilet – one where you didn’t have to fill a pail of water to flush the toilet with. There was a bathroom at the house too, but it was a later addition. The water from the deep well was also clean, so you didn’t need to boil the water before you drank it. Compared to a lot of other places, it was downright luxurious because of the water. (The kitchen, by the way, was a wood-fire kitchen and the kitchen fire was fed by corn cobs from the family corn field.)

If that sounded hard and awful and primitive, I don’t have any concept of how hard it was when soap wasn’t very common, or when you had to make your own soap. I can’t imagine too well what it’s like for people in a pre-industrial society to do that, especially if they had changing seasons. It’s things like that that shape how local cultures work, how they do things, how they plan things, how their social habits form.

That’s why I read about them. I can’t live those eras, or see them firsthand, but if the people of the societies they’re based notionally off of are going to interact with my characters, they’ll have their own methods and schedules, some of which are inflexible enough that my characters may need to work around them.¬† I won’t have a historian-accurate setting – often times I won’t need it to be accurate down to the way that they made nails – but I do need enough of it in my head at the least, to be able to plonk my characters into that setting and sometimes use those everyday limits of society as roadblocks to my characters.

Some stories turn those everyday things as massive challenges for the characters. A great example of this is found in the light novel series Grimgar of Fantasy And Ash. The story focuses on a bunch of modern-day young people who find themselves in a fantasy world, with no memories other than their names, they are given no choice except to be recruited as members of the Frontier Army’s Reserve Force – which are essentially freelance, or mercenary monster exterminators, who go hunting monsters, and bring back bounty items stolen from the corpses to trade. Hinting that this is somewhat like a Sword Art Online trapped in a video game plot, the newbies are given 10 silver pieces at the start and have to buy their own equipment, guild membership and food. Unlike Sword Art Online, this story follows the difficulties of a group that has problems killing the equivalent version of the level 1-3 monsters in a video game, without even having the benefit of information beyond ‘you need to do this or die.’ It’s so bad that they are forced to avoid excess use of the clothes that they wear under their armour, and something as simple to us as salt is expensive and is used sparingly. Even dying is expensive, as you have to cremate the body to prevent it from rising as a zombie.

Great stories can be found everywhere, if you know how to look.

I mean, if you got this far, you read several paragraphs of me describing how we used to do laundry.




The Worth Of A Fan

This started out originally as part of a comment over in Mad Genius Club which grew into a rant, which the little Rhys-chibi in my head looked at and said “My darling, that soapbox doesn’t go there.” So it has it’s own blogpost where I natter on because I can.

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Between This Essay and The Next

A few days ago, I retweeted something I saw on The Ralph Retort‘s feed and briefly wrote about how I stopped being a feminist in reply to that retweet. A brief discussion followed and I decided it would be best to expand on it. I guess it’s one of those ‘triggering’ things for me because whenever I flash back to that time, it always results in the same towering fury I remember having that pushed me to my feet and had me start shouting back. After all, all the hate they were spewing went against everything we ourselves had been taught about being good strong Catholic women. I decided to break it up into two parts because 1) I had to stop being angry because it really wasn’t doing good things to my heart rate and 2) I had to do stuff away from computer, namely lunch for the family. As it was I had to ask my daughter to handle the rest (just make sure it didn’t burn) because I needed to fall over into bed: I was burning up with flu and everything hurt. I’ve been bedridden since.

Ralph asked if he could feature it and I said yes.

While I was asleep it went up on his site.

I woke up today, fever broken, and went to check on the kids. My eldest boy, Vincent, was up already but Big Sis wasn’t so I sicced him onto her to wake her with cuddles, yelling “INVASION OF THE LITTLE BROTHER” at the top of my voice. Cue “KYAAAAA!!! What are you doing?! Oh, hugs.” The ruckus had Aff come out of his room where he was playing L2. I made coffee and sat down to look at stuff online. That’s when I saw that my account had gone up on The Ralph Retort, and saw retweets talking about a young girl/woman. My still fever-fuzzy brain thought “…I hope they don’t think this is current events.” (I’m still fever-fuzzy.)


That’s my graduating year ID – lucky it was where I remembered it was. I blacked out my ex’s surname – yes, I was married then to someone else; our marriage was on the rocks and we separated before I graduated and eventually divorced – He was American so he could divorce me; the Philippines does not have divorce for anyone who isn’t Muslim and that is a rant for a different day. I visited Australia in 2004 and Rhys and I have been together since. My ex and I still talk on occasion, and we both agree that we’re in better places than we were before and we wish each other happy.

This happened while I was still in college. I went for six years from 1998 to 2004, not because that’s the required time to put in, but rather because as an ‘irregular student’, I didn’t have the per-assigned hours and classes that regular block students did. I started in the second semester, not the first, of the last co-ed school ‘batch’ before Miriam fully reverted to being an all girl’s college. So I had to try grab the empty slots for my required major and minor classes if they were still available, or if they weren’t, I’d take them next year. This caused some issues as …I think it was calculus?… was dropped while I was attending (Miriam did not offer hard science or engineering majors at the time – that may have changed now) so other than Algebra or Statistics, there was no need for it – and it had been on my curriculum list when I entered. So I had the strangest schedule sometimes. The history classes were supposed to be spread across the first three years; I got them all on my second semester. Unfortunately I had a very boring World History teacher – one of those people who focused more on geography and dates and timelines as opposed to bringing the events to life in the classroom. Philippine history and Asian Civilization was fun, especially Philippine History, because that was taught by someone who became one of my favorite teachers ever. A tale for a different day.

I wrote as much as I could remember – this would have happened sometime between 2000-2002 or 2003, so I’m afraid that I don’t remember things like names any more. I’ve always been bad with them, so I’m sorry, I can’t point you to a particular lecturer, I remember only that the two Indian women were the most outspoken of the four or five guests up on that stage. They’re a lot like the typical militant feminist common today, just without the rainbow hair.

I forgot to include the parts where I argued extensively about how could they simply shove aside half the human population and dismiss them as rapists when surely all of us present knew of good men, were related to them, and had good male friends. How were we supposed to become good parents to sons, if we treated them with suspicion simply because they were born the opposite sex? I suppose most of the details have gotten hazy in the back and forth shouting. But I remember that fury, the feel of my sense of restraint breaking one chain at a time with each outrageous thing that the feminist lecturers were verbally heaping on our heads – and trying to crush our spirits with. In a way, they did us a favor by overplaying their hand; that particular batch of students were never feminists of the type that seem so prevalent today.

I have good memories, for the most part, of my college years in Miriam. I liked most of my professors and had problems only with the Statistics teacher and the hard-line socialist who was very upset that I didn’t paint a shining picture of glorious utopia after finding out I’d lived in East Berlin. In fact, I don’t really have bad memories of Women Studies classes either – and I know now I was very lucky in that respect. It was a lot more classical feminist than the fainting couch paternalism-encouraging Third Wave weaklings. The focus was more of being able to improve conditions for women and push for a more egalitarian outlook on a local scale. In some respects that is correct and indeed a good thing to advocate. In some other respects however, I don’t think it really applies to a lot of the Filipino outlook either honestly, but that’s the topic of my next essay, which I’m still in the process of writing.


First though I have to make sure I don’t relapse.


Pondering new projects

I’ve been getting lots of email and feedback in response to my essay, to please write more such essays, as well as to collect my anecdotes of living in a different time of history into a book.

I’ve been thinking about doing so, when I’m not either working on commission art, art in general, or writing the fiction books that I co-author with David / Aff, or am working on my own fiction.

To that end, I’m thinking that perhaps the rough drafts of the chapters will be published here; like a free eARC chapter by chapter, for the history, the fiction work. I’ll try to avoid typos and grammar errors, but as said, I was thinking these would be the rough drafts.

The reason why I was thinking of doing this is because of the way that Stjepan Sejic would originally post the roughs of Sunstone and other comics on his Deviantart accounts, errors and all, then publish them better cleaned up and fixed through Top Cow.

The reason why I haven’t is because of copyright issues and confusion around the issue between working with International copyright, Australian copyright and US copyright laws. It’s all very confusing to me so I’m looking at asking for more feedback and input before I try this. Mind, I’m still going to write these things anyway, the point of this is whether or not putting up chapters and essay roughs on the Net will cause issues later. This is supposedly not the case if there is enough of a difference between the rough on the ‘net and the finished published work but still. Things to consider.

I’m somewhat tempted too to use the Forums for this purpose if I go ahead with this (posting the rough online) because we seem to have far less issues there with regards accounts and comments than I do with WordPress. (Oh and browsing there by proxy or trying to sign up via proxy doesn’t work I’m afraid.) I’ll ask for my own subforum there (if there is enough interest in this and if there are no issues with regards copyright and publishing) and post in sections.

The thing is some of the fiction I’ve been thinking of writing may or may not have illustrations as per the Light Novel format. I wonder about this as a whole, as posting roughs versus nicely cleaned up work would be nice as well.

The whole thing I’m also considering is that this will make me work harder. I used to put out a chapter of Dragon’s Cycle back in it’s heyday, once a month – but in exchange for the long wait time between chapters, I had minimum standards for each chapter released – at least 8 pages, Times New Roman font size 11, 1.5 spacing.

One of the reasons why I’m thinking of shaking up my work like this is because honestly, my grief is downright crippling now. It’s almost 3 months since Brandon died, and it’s really starting to hit me hard. I’ll be working on a piece (mostly art of late) while listening to the mood-inducing music suited for the piece, and wham! out of nowhere, it is like I’m being sliced into shreds from within and tears are running down my face and that’s that for the rest of the day.

I’m aware of my own cycles of grief, and I was much the same way after we lost Damien. The pain REALLY hit me hard months later. I’m strongly aware of the way my body is reacting, the depression, the frequent mental blank-outs, internal thought-static, and the urge to use various forms of escapism to run away from the grief. There’s also the more frequent, vivid nightmares of late – familiar and unwanted dreams of losing everyone around me, my children, my darling Rhys, losing Aff. Rhys has had to wake me more than once already, and it sucks to have such a miserable sleep cycle. (I’m getting better at fixing that!)

And Mom, since I know you’re reading this, you’re not allowed to die, you hear me?! Not for at least another forty or so years! stamp feet (Love you Mommy. ;-P )

Things to think about.



edited to add: These are for future projects; not something that will happen in the near future. My project plate at present is full. ^^;;;