Renowrites blog!

Author of YA novel "Enlightenment" available March 2019!

Enlightenment on Kindle

The Kindle version of my novel Enlightenment is now available on Amazon! Purchase the novel for your Kindle by clicking over to Amazon!

(Yes two Amazon links above)

The paperback will be available 01/02/2019!

The paperback has added value with footnotes on non-English terms included in the novel.

This is a Filipino American History Month I won’t forget!

Advertisements

Filed under: Filipino American, Writing

The Crossroads

I caught an actor acquaintance’s online post about possibly moving out of California. It made me reminisce about my crossroads when I decided to leave my entertainment jobs (of course I had to have multiple gigs to make ends meet) for a stable career.

My crossroads came in the year 2000, when I got married with a baby on the way! And why do I hear Conan O’Brien in the background in the “In The Year 2000” bit?

Anyway…

In 1997, I moved from my home state of Michigan and deferred on a job offer from a firm in New York City. The job paid peanuts, but it had a starting salary enough to pay rent in a studio, provided benefits and damn it…I would live in New York City!

But I chose another opportunity on the West Coast.

From 1997 to 2000, I worked at Classified Records, an independent label out of the San Francisco Bay Area that released music by recording artists of various genres. I also deejayed in the Bay Area nightclub scene and auditioned for bit roles between SF and LA.

I had an intense connection with Classified pushing Filipino American talent, as the majority of the roster shared my Filipino ethnicity. Jocelyn Enriquez. Pinay. Julie Plug. Drop n Harmony. Officially, my job title entailed working retail and radio promotions. Off the record, I was the sometimes soundman for artist performances. I dropped off CDs (yes CDs) to retail stores around the Bay. I represented the label at various Filipino American events nationwide. Even more Filipino talent came out of the woodwork. Kai. One Vo1ce. Premiere. Devotion. Simple. Do any of these groups sound familiar to anyone now (they better LOL!).

I threw myself into work with 16 hour days, leaving the office only for label events, deejaying gigs or auditions (no one knew I auditioned because I didn’t land any roles, but I loved auditioning)!

I made just enough to pay Bay Area rent. Everything else I charged on my credit cards. As in everything. Gas. Food (but not groceries, because I ate out almost every day).  I even had a car loan for this awesome Geo Tracker that didn’t have air-conditioning or power steering. I had to roll my windows down manually!

I had chased a dream of bringing Filipino talent to the forefront of American consciousness. For this dream, I sacrificed financial stability. I was digging myself into major debt. My earning potential with my B.A. degree was 3x-4x the amount I earned in entertainment. By the year 2000 (Conan O’Brien reference again anyone?), I had a lot of financial making up to do.

2000 was a major pivot year for me – a crossroads. Do I keep pursuing my dream full-time? Or start a new career in a stable field? I agonized over this. Day and night. I was a failure if I chose stability. So I went down the middle.

But when we knew we would be parents, I made a commitment not to fail in providing for my family. So I got a full-time job and started an online store and record label of my own called Rhythm Drive Records. We hit some Bay Area notoriety with Malyssa and Alvendia. These side-hustles weren’t sustainable however.

As I settled into life outside the entertainment industry, some pretty amazing things happened. As in American Idol. Reality TV and social media!

Talent of all walks of life received exposure, and this included Filipino American talent. Artists like Jasmine Trias. Camille. Thia Megia. Jessica Sanchez. Sway Penala (from Sixth Day and Drop n Harmony). Then the Jabbawockeez became American icons! Then Vanessa Hudgens became an overnight star in Disney’s High School Musical series! Then Melissa De la Cruz became a star author! Comedians like Rex Navarrete, Joey Guila and JoKoy! Black Eyed Peas I Gotta Feeling! Bruno Mars! More recently, Angelica Hale! WHAT!

In my world, it was OMG! The dream I was chasing was happening in front of my eyes! What was this dream? Let me italicize it again for dramatic impact. I had chased a dream of bringing Filipino talent to the forefront of American consciousness.

By 2006, I started auditioning again. I flew to Utah for a high school musical audition (yeah, I didn’t get it, but I had so much fun). I auditioned for roles in the Bay Area acting scene. I even got signed to a talent agency. I landed auditions, my most memorable playing a chef in an ESL series (This…is…how…you…cut…to…may…toes).

The dream that drove me in entertainment became a reality! But disappointments persisted. Where aren’t there more Filipino American stories? Besides the Debut and Lumpia, why weren’t there any Filipino American movies? So I made a commitment to write.

And write.

And write.

And write.

And throughout these 18 years, I have written stories that the general public hasn’t been exposed to. But I keep writing.

I realize that failure is a perception people have of others. It is not how I should perceive myself. I say “should” because I have days of doubt, no doubt (two doubts for comedic relief). These days are the toughest, but will be the days I remember if the masses approve of my art. I think back to my crossroads. the day I thought I left the industry is the day it really all began.

Today, I stand stronger. Filipino Americans are out there in the arts. Singers. Actors. Broadway.

Now I invite Fil-Ams to tell their stories, and not just through Facebook posts or Instagram stories! Get your stories published. Stories that can stand the test of time.

“Enlightenment”, the first novel in the Bathala Proverbs, is available Filipino American month. It’s a story I can’t hold back any longer. It’s time for this story to be heard.

img_4620-1

Filed under: Filipino American, Writing, , ,

Tell your story

I’ve learned it’s okay to tell your story. Although this seems like a simple concept, it never was for me. I had to be silent most of my life in order to fit in to the environment I was surrounded by. I felt no one would understand how important it was to me to be both Filipino and American.

I was never quite American enough. Or Filipino enough. I was in between. Midwest Americans didn’t see me as a Midwesterner. Filipinos silently disapproved I didn’t speak Tagalog.

I’m still in between, but more creative types are coming out of the woodwork who have experienced this “feeling.” I can tell by their art. I attended my first Fil Am Creative Event on Friday 11/10/2017 and saw short films with Filipino American perspectives.

I was laughing, crying and covering my eyes during the screenings. Mostly, I sighed in relief for the first time since I was on set of “The Debut” film years ago, a film that focused on 1st generation vs. 2nd generational conflict. To see a slew of short films from all these talented Filipino American filmmakers and actors who are expressing themselves through art is what should have happened years ago. What happened after the Debut? Everyone has an opinion, but now…finally…there is a valid literary and theatrical Filipino American movement.

This year, the novel by Melissa De La Cruz “Somewhere in Between” gives credence to identifying as both Filipino and American. More Filipino American novels are being released by Arkipelago Books in SF. And my novel “Enlightenment” is being released in 2018.

“Enlightenment is a Filipino American novel tied to the history of our people prior to the Spanish arrival in the Philippines. This is a story I was afraid of while I was writing it. I was afraid of people’s reactions to the novel’s inclusion of both Christian and Islamic historical ties to the islands. I was afraid my Filipino American writing perspective would be considered invalid.

But now all these years after first penning this novel and literally burning the midnight oil while working a full time job, starting and running a 501c3 youth basketball program and raising a family, the novel is at its final edits. And hopefully, this is the first of many stories I’m no longer afraid to tell.

Thank you to all the Filipino American writers, directors, actors and organizers who are telling their stories.

You inspire me.

Filed under: Filipino American, Writing, , , ,

Humabon vs. Lapu Lapu

On our most recent trip to the Philippines, we visited Magellan’s cross in Cebu City. That’s my beautiful mother and daughters in front of the cross.

The Philippines is the only Christian majority country in SE Asia. The Spanish expedition led by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan landed in Cebu in 1521. He successfully converted King Humabon to Christianity, but was killed by Lapu Lapu’s tribe who refused to convert. But convert from what? Buddhism? Islam?

Upon visits and research, I believe Lapu Lapu was Muslim. Why? The Philippines wasn’t called the Philippines prior to the Spanish. Islam kingdoms in Brunei and China had trade with these islands later called the Philippines. Safe to say, history prior to the Spanish is hard to decipher.

My series The Bathala Series is a fictional series predicated on the history of the Philippines prior to Spanish colonization. The first book “Enlightenment” is told from the perspective of Dorothy and Adrian in modern-day Las Vegas. We start with the modern-day Filipino American and work back in time as Dorothy backtracks through Filipino history to answer questions about Adrian and her family.

“Enlightenment” to be released in 2018. #nohistorynoself #knowhistoryknowself #filipinoamericanmonth

Filed under: Filipino American, Writing

Enlightenment

I ask this question to any debut novelist: Is traditional publishing worth it if you are not a celebrity or established writer?  My experience has proven having stories built around Filipino American protagonists is not supported by the Big 5 publishers and not compelling for the majority of literary agents. I understand agents approach any new author with skepticism, yet sometimes I wonder if the ancestry of my characters plays a role. Perhaps it’s my writing…duh! But then I wonder if there’s something else.

There are exceptions such as “Somewhere In Between” by Melissa de la Cruz, yet I wonder if this title is considered a big seller compared to the Descendent books? There are other Filipino writers published by traditional publishers; Mia Alvar. Jessica Hagedorn. Tess Uriza Holthe. I admire them beyond imagination!

Perhaps I don’t see the full landscape. I’m a minnow swimming in the dark seas of the world of publishing, but I notice anytime I state my characters are Filipino American, the agents and fellow writers I talk to seem uncomfortable. As in the excitement dissipates and I’m left wondering  if I should follow the numerous suggestions by the literary “professionals” to change my characters to white, black or Hispanic.

Yet I refuse because being Filipino American is my voice, my being, the only perspective I know. Yes, I want to sell to a mainstream audience, but I’m hoping my stories themes are universal enough to attract readers of all backgrounds.

I guess I’ll find out shortly. My debut novel “Enlightenment” will be released at the start of 2018.  The book’s cover is complete and will debut on my Instagram renowrites during Filipino American month.

Keeping my fingers crossed.

 

 

 

Filed under: Filipino American, Writing, ,

Filipino Americans – still the forgotten Asian Americans?

Love this 2016 blog post from Edwin A. Santos of Fil Am Creative. This has been a topic of discussion since the 1990's. Still a burning issue in the community.

Filed under: Filipino American,

In the Country

I'm in the middle of reading Mia Alvar's "In the Country", a collection of nine short stories with a distinct Filipino perspective. One story is of a Filipino teacher in an Arab country. Another is of a white girl living in Manila. So far, I've found each story holding on to an unwritten fundamental authenticity that readers of all backgrounds would enjoy reading.

I applaud books like these. We need more storytellers, more writers to highlight the Filipino hues that make up the world's colors. Too many times, many Filipino writers and filmmakers have unintentional flaws in their storytelling. Some make the Filipino viewpoint an afterthought for the sake of satisfying a mainstream audience. Others make their stories have too many Filipino inside jokes and forget the important non-Filipino readers. It wasn't until I read Melissa De la Cruz's "Something In Between" did I finally read a novel that showcased the credible balance of a Fil-Am protagonist making their way n the world. Now with In The Country, I find another author working on this balance.

This gives me hope that Filipino American storytelling is evolving and morphing into a credible genre. We need to support books like these to prove to publishers there is an interested audience. I sure hope there is an interested audience. We need more successful Filipino writers, more impactful stories with Filipino protagonists.

Which has me biting my tongue about my writing. If all goes well, an announcement soon. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Filed under: Filipino American, Writing, , , , , ,