Friday, July 22, 2016

Announcing: The Crushingly Close Blog Tour!



I am happy to announce the stops for the Crushingly Close Blog Tour, starting on July 25 and ending on July 31. Here are the stops for the tour: 

Monday, July 25: Excerpt - The Perfictionist
Monday, July 25: Excerpt - WiP [Work in Progress]
Thursday, July 28: Author Interview - The Cinderella Stories
Friday, July 29: Review - The Perfictionist
Friday, July 29: Review - Citizen Judie
Friday, July 29: Excerpt - For Readers  
Saturday, July 30: Review - Ample Proportions
Sunday, July 31: Cover Design Feature - The Kapre Dialogues 

Be sure to visit these blogs to find out more about Crushingly Close and read what people have to say about the book! 

Crushingly Close is still available on Amazon for $2.99. More retailers to follow. 

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Crushingly Close: Now Available for Preorder!


Crushingly Close is now available for pre-order on Amazon! Get it now for the special pre-order price of 99 cents before it goes up to $2.99 on release day.

Working out details with other retailers as we speak, but more than likely it will be on Smashwords on release day with distribution to other retailers TBA. News about distribution on Buqo will follow.

Happy one-clicking!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

COVER REVEAL: Crushingly Close

And it's (almost) here!


*cue "Hold On, We're Going Home" by Drake*

Look at that cover! It's so glorious!

The cover was designed by the lovely Gail Villanueva, who helped me out with the stock photos and typography to make sure that everything stood out in the final product. She's also a writer, so she understood how to hit the sweet spot for the NA/Contemporary vibe that we were going for here.

And in case you missed the reveal at Will Read For Feels, here's the blurb for the book:
At twenty-four years old, Agnes Escueta has risen from the ranks to become a producer for Sports Tonight. No one can touch her, it seems—not even crush-worthy anchorman Daniel Ferrer, who she gets to work with every single day. When a road trip to Indonesia throws Agnes and Daniel together, they find themselves working in close quarters. It doesn’t take long before Agnes finds herself being charmed by Daniel, and her defenses start to melt with his touch. With deadlines looming and a big game coming, Agnes must figure out how to let Daniel into her life without risking her professional reputation—and without breaking her own heart.
Buy links are forthcoming, but look for this story to hit your e-readers before the end of the month. In the meantime, why not get an early start by adding this to your Goodreads shelf now? It'll be a great read, I promise you.

See you soon!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Steal Like a Romance Writer

But first, a note...

Yeah, I know, it's June, and not only have I not updated in more than a month, but I also haven't released Crushingly Close yet. Well, the bad news is that the book release date has been pushed to July due to extenuating circumstances that I won't get into much detail here, so I would like to apologize in advance to those of you who have been eagerly waiting for its release. Believe me, no one wants to see this book push through any more than I do, but trust me when I say that when it comes out, it will be spectacular.

And that's where the good news comes in: A promotional blitz for Crushingly Close is in the works. Plans are hush-hush, but you will hear a lot more about the book the closer we get to the release date--and there will be a concrete release date, which I will post on the Goodreads page for the book. Stay tuned!

###

You might be wondering about the title of this blog entry, which might have set off a few alarm bells in your head: Oh no, Stella, please don't tell me that you're a plagiarist! Before I go any further, let me assure you that this entry is not about plagiarism, which I abhor as an artist and a graduate student. (I study at the University of the Philippines, where you can be shunned like a leper and never be forgiven for acts of plagiarism. That explains a lot.) My title comes from the book Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon, which has taught me a lot about the writing process and the kind of art that I want to create as an author. 

Allow me to explain.

When I first started Crushingly Close, my main love interest was meant to be an alpha male--dominant, masculine, and a bit (okay, more than a bit) of a dirty talker in bed. I was aiming for something steamy with a capital S, and I wanted to channel the heroes of the books that I had been reading during the writing process--and by "books" I mean a lot of Tessa Bailey, which is where most of my romance-writing friends got their start. 

As the story progressed from short story to midlength novella, however, I found that my alpha hero didn't seem to hit the right notes with me. Sure, he was dominant and masculine, and he said all the right things in bed, but something was missing from the way I was writing him--something that would connect with me as a reader. As it turned out, my beta readers found the same problem with him: he was too much of an a-hole to be sexy, and they couldn't understand why my otherwise appealing heroine would be attracted to him. 

So I went back to the drawing board and asked myself: What did everybody else's alpha heroes have that mine didn't?

That's where Austin Kleon comes in. 
"The reason you copy your heroes and their style is so that you might somehow get a glimpse into their minds. That's what you really want--to internalize their way of looking at the world. If you just mimic the surface of somebody's work without understanding where they are coming from, your work will never be anything more than a knockoff."
Suddenly I realized that I was stealing the wrong things from Tessa Bailey, just as I was also stealing the wrong things from Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen and Melanie Harlow and all the other authors whose books I had been reading for inspiration. What I should've been copying was not the words, but the thinking behind the words. And the thinking was that these guys were essentially good at heart. Any writer could write a "bad boy" with a hot bod and a filthy mouth. Not everyone could imbue them with a sense of humanity.

As it goes, the world didn't need me to write another dirty-talking alpha male to stuff the bookshelves on Goodreads. What I needed to write was a well-developed hero who was more than just his masculine self, who had a good heart beating under his muscular chest.

Gradually, I learned that "alpha" didn't have to mean saying all the filthy things in bed while acting like an overprotective caveman over his lady love. A hero can have the swagger and confidence of an alpha male and still speak like a well-bred gentleman. Add a touch of vulnerability, a pinch of soul, a ton of charisma and voila--a hero worthy of a Stella Torres book.

And with a good hero came a good heroine, a worthy partner for all of his admirable qualities. I made an effort to develop them equally to strengthen the endgame and make them complementary in every way. Wouldn't want to go into so much effort to develop the book boyfriend and give him a girl nobody likes, right?

Because, in the end, there was only so much I could do within the parameters of romance. I wasn't going to reinvent the wheel; I knew going in that my leads would "meet cute," fall in love, and have a happy ending, despite the many circumstances and obstacles that I throw at them. I still love Tessa and the other authors--and if you look closely at the final product (which you will!), there are still a few things that I have "stolen" from them which show up from time to time. What I could do, however, was to game the formula so that the end product would be as close to my authentic vision as possible. And it worked, because I did end up writing the book that I wanted to read.

"In the end," Austin Kleon writes, "merely imitating your heroes is not flattering them. Transforming their work into something of your own is how you flatter them. Adding something to the world that only you can add."

And that, my dear friends, is how I write.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

My Life In Tweets

Right now my Twitter feed is a mess of political posts (it is an election year in the Philippines, after all) but I've managed to sneak in a few peeks into my life in the meantime. Here are some highlights:

Yes, the book is coming. Yes, the title is Crushingly Close. And yes, there is a cover:
Right now I'm still editing, so there are no pre-order links so far. But I'm planning on promoting this thing like a mofo, so watch out.

In the meantime...
You'll find out more about Book 4 in November. And I am planning to join this November, by hook or by crook, because the only alternative is to sit on my hands and wait for the results of my comprehensive exam. And that won't do, I'm afraid.

Then there's this...


Leave this blue neighbourhood
Never knew loving could hurt this good
And it drives me wild
'Cause when you look like that
I've never ever wanted to be so bad
And it drives me wild 

Sounds like falling in love to me.

Finally--not a Tweet, but a sweet Instagram post that encapsulates all of my #AprilFeelsDay feels:

A photo posted by Stella Torres (@stella_meimei) on

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Writing What Matters

I've been beta-reading some manuscripts on my down time between writing and studying, and I've found myself giving the same pieces of advice to these writers regarding their stories. One of the things that I've found myself commenting on a lot involve scenes, and the writing of scenes in particular; from what I've seen in the early drafts that have been given to me, these writers seem to have written scenes that seem to be nice in theory, until they are taken within the context of the greater narrative where they turn out to be disjointed and clunky.

One piece of advice that I seem to have given repeatedly comes from Rachel Aaron's 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love, in which plotting scenes are part of making the writing process more productive and less painful. Basically, Rachel states that her scenes need to do three things in order for them to be included in her novels:

  • Advance the story
  • Reveal new information
  • Pull the reader forward
While I didn't employ this during the writing process for my second book (coming soon!), I found myself thinking about this a lot during the editing process, when the phrase "kill your darlings" applies to most writers. I drew up a list of scenes that I had just written for the book, then I looked at those scenes and thought closely about the purpose that each scene served in the story. My beta readers (and later, my editor) agreed that, while I was good at writing subplots involving work and family, the main point of the story--the romance itself--suffered from a lot of weak spots. In order for me to diagnose these problems, I put the romance first and foremost in my mind, and went about the business of embedding the romance even in the most mundane parts of the story. (Needless to say, a lot of intimate touching made its way into the story.) And as I was doing this, I thought about how I could've saved myself the trouble of doing this if I'd intercepted this earlier while I was writing, or even during the pre-beta editing. So I've decided that I'm going to start writing my romances this way.

Another thing that has helped me move forward with my writing was to write my scenes out of order. This is easy for me to do now that I have Scrivener, but even when I didn't have it I found myself writing my out-of-order scenes on paper with a note reminding me to insert the scene later.  I found myself doing this recently for the manuscript of my third book, when I decided to write some of the most emotional scenes just to get them out of the way before I filled in the rest of the blanks with the narrative. 

The most important piece of advice that I gave for these writers was to go back and examine their priorities in writing their stories. Like I mentioned earlier, this is especially important for romance writers, especially when working with contemporary fiction. We want our romances to be down to earth, but ultimately we want our romances to be romances--and if the romance is the main point of the story, then it stands that the romance should be front and center. This could mean anything from more scenes between the main character and love interest, or making those scenes even more intimate and emotional without being heavy or overt. It took me years of trial and error to come to this point, but once I made it through the hoops I found myself enjoying my writing a little more than usual.

Of course, your mileage may vary when it comes to this advice, but I just wanted to share with you what works for me, and what has resonated with me throughout this writing journey. I hope that this has been helpful for you too.  


Friday, February 12, 2016

BLOG TOUR + REVIEW (Plus Giveaway!): The Hometown Hazard by Dawn Lanuza

Welcome to another book feature brought to you by Bookish Diaries Blog Tours



We here at The Great Big Jump would like to welcome back Dawn Lanuza, who first appeared on our blog with a feature on her debut novel The Boyfriend Backtrack. Now she's back with a brand new book featuring a prodigal daughter, an adorable younger man, and the dark secrets of a seaside town. 



SUMMARY

Jules Coronado has been away from her hometown for almost a decade but when an intruder breaks in to her childhood home, she finds herself coming back. Changes evidently took place in her small town, including her childhood best friend’s younger brother, Kip – now tall, slightly scruffed, all grown up and caught climbing into their garden wall.

Kip Villamor has a mission and despite Jules’ doubts, they team up: going on fieldtrips, tackling unsuspecting men, and trespassing offices to dig up dirt. But Jules has secrets of her own, one that might be exposed – unless she keeps her walls up. But climbing walls are Kip’s forte, remember?


Will her secrets keep her on his side, or will it force her to disappear again?



Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Available on Buqo!


REVIEW

Those of us who have read The Boyfriend Backtrack may remember aspiring lawyer Jules, who served as the sensible friend and voice of reason to the neurotic Regina. Now, in The Hometown Hazard, she gets her own book, with her own chance at a happily ever after. That's not to say that her journey is anywhere near easy; this time, Dawn Lanuza takes Jules through a risky path full of dark secrets, miles away from the lighthearted existentialism of the previous book. 

It all starts with an invasion of privacy: Jules gets a phone call from her mother telling her about somebody breaking into her childhood bedroom--nothing important has been stolen, but the disturbance is so great that Jules is compelled to go home to San Juan and see what the matter is all about. She plans on staying for a short time, but then she sees her neighbor Kip scaling the wall between their houses, and immediately deduces that Kip has something to do with the break-in. After a series of close encounters, Jules encounters Kip's hidden agenda: a paper trail following a series of mysterious payments made through her father's organization. Kip convinces Jules that they are on the same side as they try to follow the missing money, and it doesn't take long before an undeniable bond forms between them. But Jules didn't promise to stay too long in town, and the questions still remain: Where is the money? What does it have to do with Jules and Kip's parents? And what happened to Jules that was so bad that she didn't come back to their hometown for a whole decade? 

As I mentioned earlier, The Hometown Hazard is a dark book--it's almost Gothic in the twists and turns that the plot takes as Jules uncovers the secrets behind the missing money. But a darker tone doesn't necessarily make for a depressing story; on the contrary, the author makes sure that there are moments of levity sprinkled between the suspense. There's the scene where Jules and Kip pretend to be a frisky couple to justify breaking into a doctor's office at a hospital, which gets built up into a comedy of errors. And there are the romantic moments courtesy of Kip, who at one point takes Jules to the seaside: 
"I haven't been here in so long," I said, my eyes squinting at the glistening water. 
"Figured you should stop by before you leave again," he answered. "Might take you another decade to come back." 
Kip may be two years younger than Jules, but compared to the parade of boyfriend wannabes in Backtrack he is stable and confident, even as he convinces Jules to push aside her reservations and live a more spontaneous life. You could tell from every page that Kip has always admired Jules--even from afar--and it is his devotion to her that draws her out of her shell, in spite of the secrets that could tear them apart once they come to light. It's no wonder that Jules keeps on putting off her departure from their town; the more time she spends with him, the more she realizes about herself and the decisions that she has to make in her life.

It's a testament to the author's skill that the romantic and suspenseful elements are balanced by equally compelling subplots. Jules' friendship with Regina and Leslie (from Backtrack) is wonderfully portrayed here as a counterbalance to the intrigue that surrounds her return. Then there's the relationship that Jules has with her own family, who by no means have been affected by her ten-year disappearing act to live in the city and pursue a law degree. These relationships are so integral to Jules' development as a character that I wish there had been more of these moments to balance out the dark tones of the main plot and build up the mystery behind Jules' departure. In fact, I found the revelation of what had happened to Jules before she left town to be too abrupt, and the ramifications would have had a greater impact if there had been more room for Jules to think about why she left.

I won't spoil the rest of the story for you, but I will say that if you're familiar with the plot for Backtrack, you'll be able to put the timeline of events for Hazard in perspective. The author ends the story with a "happy for now" ending, but it's an ending that makes you optimistic about Jules and Kip's chances of making it as a couple. A great sequel from an author to watch.

Final Grade: B 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Dawn Lanuza started writing stories when she was just a kid (they weren’t good or even finished). She works for the music industry by day and writes meet cutes and snappy comebacks by night. The Boyfriend Backtrack is her first book. She currently lives with her family and an adopted dog.

Links: Amazon | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook 


GIVEAWAY

Time for a Rafflecopter giveaway! Get a chance to win an e-book copy of The Hometown Hazard. Open internationally!

a Rafflecopter giveaway