Historical Romances, Apologies and Weekends

Why should romance novels, erotica, historical romances with smutty undertones be deemed as guilty pleasures? As if it is something to be ashamed of. As if there weren’t any well written novels out there. As if E.L. James succeeded in blinding literary snobs that there aren’t anything worth finding in erotica. As if Anne Rice didn’t go there first. As if we should be allergic to happy endings. And as if sex is still something so dirty and best discussed in hushed tones. We’re in 2015, and I refuse to apologize for my reading choices.

 

I’ve long since admitted my obsession with romance novels. Nora Roberts initiated me into the world of adult (hello, may Francine Pascal pa, Sweet Valley High) romance novels . Well, English is my second language, but in the strictest sense, I have been secretly reading Tagalog pocketbooks when my mother wasn’t looking, at the age of 12– Yung Precious Hearts Romances. Wag kayong ano, magaling si Martha Cecilia. At huwag kayong maniwala sa adaptation nun ng Kristine Series, ambabaw.

Nora Roberts came later, when I was 16 and my mum has borrowed several copies at a time from her friend. The first non academic book I may have bought with my allowance was Roberts’ Inner Harbor which was part of the Quinn Brothers Saga. But by that time, I have read close to a hundred Nora Roberts books and when I started working, I felt that the most amazing part of it is being able to buy whatever book I fancy. That freedom translated into discovering other romance writers, even when I always go back to Nora like she’s my lodestone. Maybe she is.

In truth, aside from the steamy sex scenes, Nora’s prose were well written: the world building superb and the character building stellar. If she chooses to write about ballet dancers, you’d wonder if the author was once a prima ballerina, if the protagonist was an archeologist, you start suspecting she regularly participated in digs– that’s how well researched her stories are. At the time though, I barely have anything to compare it by so I took those things for granted. I incorrectly thought that all writers are excellent world builders.

It wasn’t until 2009 that a friend introduced me to historical romances. It was Julie Garwood and The Secret was set in the 12th century. Imagine the delight of a history fan when romance could actually be found in the midst of a seemingly long-standing Scots- English alienation. Prior to that, I did not have any idea that there were highlanders or lowlanders and that most Scottish clans were warrior-farmers. These things haven’t even scratched the surface of the knowledge and opportunities to learn that historical fiction offers. I have since discovered Judith McNaught, Julia Quinn, Philippa Gregory (not so much a romance writer but a historical fiction author), Lisa Kleypas, Stephanie Laurens, Sylvia Day and my all time favorite– Eloisa James. I know more about English aristocracy than I have any use for. And that is okay. I like knowing things. Even when they have no actual application in my life.

I could say I am equal parts pragmatic and romantic. Give me a book and I will zero in on a potential match or any apparent tension between characters. But I am less susceptible to any kind of romantic involvement anywhere else you place me. For years, I felt that reading romance novels isn’t the same as reading classical fiction, Pulitzer Prize winners and business books. I am not alone in imagining that there is a slight bias where people see that HEAs (happily ever afters) were considered inferior to tragedies. (Haha. LIES.)

 

Lol

Lol

 

If you spend an inordinate amount of time, consuming women’s fiction, you’ll soon realize that no matter how hot the scenes were, it shouldn’t in any way debase the prose. Please don’t cite Fifty Shades nor Twilight as an example. Because if you’ve read Anne Rice, or tried RITA winners, you would know that there are writers and then there are excellent ones. In this light, I dare not include Nicholas Sparks books whose formula fiction is something even non readers are familiar with, because of his high handedness that ‘no one can do what he does’ and his love scenes so muted, it gives you the wrong expectations about sex. Sex that can be awkward and messy doesn’t exist in Nick Sparks books; as if perfect, mind-blowing lovemaking is made possible due to a love that great. What bullshit.

 

So I won’t apologize if my weekends are filled with romance novels. What I read doesn’t define me as person. Do not peg me as some diddly-eyed romantic just because bulk of what I consume in fiction are happy endings. I do not see the world in rose-colored lenses– George R.R. Martin disabused me of that notion years ago. I do not want to come off as indignant because I am not mad if we aren’t on the same page. I just won’t apologize for my preference. But only for the times that I thought that I won’t learn anything new from it or that Romance as a genre is any less promising than any other branch of fiction. In all honesty, only fiction can render such a wide range of emotion from me more than reality does. So much so that my prerequisite for rating a book 5 stars is only when it moved me. Making me cry is easy. But moving me to actually do something or influence a decision must be something worth sharing to friends. Like the world is forever changed when you read the story and you cannot live in it when the people around you do not know of your discovery.

 

Don't judge it by its cover. It's steamier than it looks. Ha

Don’t judge it by its cover. It’s steamier than it looks. Ha

 

Ask me what I did over the weekend and I might just give you titles I’ve finished. Or you can also ask me what the difference is between a viscount and a marquess; how a cavalry and infantry aren’t the same thing; compare between a battle and a war. Either way, there isn’t enough discouragement in the world to stop me from reading romances. Except of course–walang forever, pakshet.

 

 

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My longest relationship is with WordPress

My blog turned five today!

I celebrated it by writing on my TinyLetter. Ha. Because that’s what you do when you wanted to share your thoughts but limit your audience. At least it can’t easily be Googled.

Two years ago, I read Niffenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry. Martin’s wife Marijke, left for Amsterdam. There were reasons why she had to leave Martin to his own devices but I’m not gonna discuss that here. What struck me was how Marijke didn’t have an online presence and even when Martin Googled her, no result turned up.

If you think about it, having an online presence is like having a horcrux. Or several of it while splitting your existence into different social networks.

Marijke fascinated me in a way that I wondered what it was like to not be involved in this invisible tether that connects you and I.

I discovered the internet when I was 10. It was the dawn of the millennia and the internet is this huge realm where I could be whoever I project to be. Social networks have sprung everywhere and I signed up when I could. There was this misguided notion, that the world needed to know me and not just within the sheltered circle that I was on the verge of escaping.

Friendster, MySpace, Multiply, Hi5, Plurk, Wayn, Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, Blogger, Tumblr–name it, and I would have given you leave to add me. If I Google my name, several of these social networks will offer up a shittone of results of those early projections of myself. A decade after I created my Friendster account, I only managed to maintain Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and WordPress. I did end up deleting Friendster and my Multiply (where I started blogging) had to go when the site had to shut down permanently.

Last year, when I quit my job, I deactivated my Facebook because I didn’t want my ex boss and my office mates to know what I was up to. A bit extreme because I could always opt not to post anything or customize my filter. Yet deactivating it gave me the illusion that I was hidden from view.

When I got hired for my new job, my new office friends were asking why I didn’t have Facebook. By then, I already have other reasons why I deactivated it.

“I did not want my validation to come from social media.”

“Scrolling thru my news feed depresses me.”

“If my friends need me or wanted to see me, they’ll seek me out instead of commenting on my Facebook posts.”

Facebook gives the impression that we are closer to people on our friends list than we really are.”

My Facebook is active for days at a time–when the whim strikes. Since 2014 though, the number of times that my Facebook is active might only be equivalent to three months. I’ve come to realize that everyone doesn’t need to know who I am or who I pose to be. I don’t have to be an open book and most of the time, people couldn’t care any less. I am not touching lives that way. A few months ago, I finally deleted some of those old social networks I signed up for as a teenager, my Facebook is still inactive, I have Twitter, Instagram and WordPress but I’d like to think I’ve reduced my online presence to half of what it was before. I’m aiming to cut it by a quarter but there is still a part of me that could not shut up. I still wanted to be heard and connect to people with what I write but not because I wanted to be perceived a certain way.

This irresistible avenue to connect to you is something I may not be able to quit after all.

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My longest relationship to date. Haha.

My longest relationship to date. Haha.

Lacunae

Back in January, my namesake, Joyce, introduced me to TinyLetter. I adored her enough to try almost everything she recommends so I signed up for it weeks later. At the time though, she said, “Mahirap kasi sa WordPress, everyone can see it.” I did not understand it– not right away. I rather thought I was okay with everyone seeing my online blather. It turns out, I’m not.  What I did not realize was that ‘everyone’ also included people I know and I’m more comfortable with virtual strangers glimpsing what messy emotions I share online.

I will occasionally post things here but I’m gearing towards sending letters to people who are willing to read my many emotions on paper.

So this is a way to limit my audience. At least I warned would-be subscribers what they’re signing up for.

Lacunae

ləˈk(y)o͞onə/
noun
plural noun: lacunae
  1. an unfilled space or interval; a gap.
    “the journal has filled a lacuna in Middle Eastern studies”
    • a missing portion in a book or manuscript.
    • Anatomy
      a cavity or depression, especially in bone.

    This was also partly inspired by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Lacuna Inc., was the name of the clinic that offers to erase the memory of a person you don’t want to remember anymore. To stop the grief, the hurt and to seemingly move on without impediments. I am at the point where I am willing to have my memory erased if there is indeed such a thing as Lacuna Inc. in reality. But at the moment, I could only afford to purge memories by writing them down. Or at least the emotions tied to the memories I have yet to replace.

    Maybe by writing them down, I could fill the gaps you left.

    **

Not blind as a bat. But close.

It’s almost the weekend and I’m here sitting in the office, too early for work and yet dreading the whole day because I can barely see. I left my spectacles at home and I could only see these words blurring together– just like my unknown future–hazy. I will probably strain my eyes for the next eight hours, alternately squinting and widening my eyes just to get a clearer view. I have worn glasses on and off since I was nine. But people who have been blessed with better eyesight still do not have a clear grasp of what I see and cannot see.

For the most part, the world is a blur. I’m hopeless with reading and stringing letters together at a great distance. And that’s also because I’m not a fucking owl. I could see people, their shapes, what they’re wearing and their profile. If I have known you for some time, I’ll know it’s you because of your profile but you can’t expect me to see how your face looks like. Your face is a blur and any hope of eye contact from a distance is next to none, because to me, your eyes are hollow black holes. I could have missed your stares from across the room because I won’t ever see your pupils dilating, or your eyes narrowing unless I have my glasses on.

You’d think being nearsighted for most of my life, I’ll be dependent on spectacles for everything. I am– to a certain degree. In moments, like today where I’ll feel handicapped working without one. Other than that, when it comes to human interaction, I tend to be stubborn and used to not donning glasses just to avoid eye contact.

Myopia is so convenient when people ask why I didn’t notice them. You won’t ever know if I purposely ignored you or if I genuinely didn’t see you. There is a certain level of comfort when I don’t see people’s faces as clearly. Or maybe that’s just my self-absorption coming into play. I barely give a fuck about the world around me. You may be falling in love with me from afar and I wouldn’t know. You may be wishing I was dead with murder in your eyes and I would have no clue until you’re significantly closer or in my face. You may be rolling your eyes at the absurdity that I am and I’ll only know if I’m wearing my glasses and happened to look at  you.

A 20/20 vision is sometimes, a burden you know. You’re responsible for a lot of things whereas myopic hoes like me always have an excuse. I really don’t have a point. I just wanted to rant and then go home to get my glasses. I have eight hours and 47 minutes to endure. The computer screen is less than a foot away from my face, today.

Good luck with that.

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The Benefits of Pushing People Away

1. What better way to insulate yourself from getting hurt than walking away first?

2. You get a clearer picture on who would fight to stay and who would let you walk away.

3.  The luxury to practice ambivalence.

4. They’re too good for you and they deserve better than the flighty, blubbering mess that you are– never ready to fully risk it and backing out at the slightest hint of pain.

5. You eliminate the chance of them trampling all over you.

6. It’s only fair because you’re less than deserving of their affection.

7. It is easier to push them away than let them in.

8. You ultimately die alone.

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I Am Not A Writer. I Just Have Internet Connection.

For years, I have been deluding myself that I could actually write something worth reading. Must have stemmed from elementary and high school journalism classes I took. The truth is, I’m a better reader than a writer. But when it comes down to it, I simply enjoy reading without the requisite poetic waxing and over analysis that comes after finishing a book. I could enjoy plots and characters without looking for metaphors or deeper meaning that the author may or may have not directly intended. I have only began analyzing it after reading reviews in Goodreads and I’ll be asked to rate a book I have finished.

Some people would go as far as to tag me as an intellectual when really, I am an escapist who finds solace in books. The habit has been ingrained ever since I could remember. My mother taught me my letters when I was three. Lucky for her, I have fallen in love with reading when I should probably be playing outdoors with other kids. As an avid reader, I have this notion that I could also write. Ah, what conceit. When I was in third grade, I signed up for a journalism class because I thought that’s where all the cool upper classmen were. I was right but I have no clue what I should be writing and a lot of times, I just wished I’d quit and stay home after school. The biggest joke was when I was assigned to be the editor for the fourth graders. The hell do I know about editorials and news-writing at nine? Yeah, yeah, they taught me all I should include when writing in the opinion section. What I failed to articulate was that I am mostly apathetic even at that age and I’d rather write about trivial things like what my class mate, Francesca, the feature writer was free to do. I couldn’t care a fig about current events to voice out an opinion. For the rest of my elementary years that I was stuck in editorials, I envied  Francesca her lot in life.

High school was a reprieve because when they held auditions for the Journalism club, I did not hesitate to apply for the feature writing slot. I got in after impressing some upper classmen on a piece I wrote about Avril Lavigne. Several contests and campus newspapers in, I was high on my imagined success. Though I did not pursue it as a career. Perhaps I have decided I wouldn’t after realizing that writers in this country barely get paid. Coming from a huge family, I could not afford to be a starving artist. I needed a job that would pay the bills and help the family out. Writing? I could do that on my free time while being a white collared professional, right?

College has humbled me enough after rooming with three Communication Arts students. Those girls were required to read wonderful books for classes and write essays and reviews. Even their exams are about in-depth analysis of great novels of Dostoevsky, Kafka, Hugo, name it. Who am I to think that I could write worth shit? Why I bothered three years of studying Human Nutrition was partly due to a misguided notion that I will finish a bachelor of science degree. It’s so lame when I think of it now. I could have switched majors before I flunked all my Chemistry classes.

If I would list down all the wrong turns and decisions I made in life, I’d start with the degree I’ve chosen and failed to finish. That was eight years ago. I shake my fist in the sky but it does me no good.

A month ago, I quit my job. I decided that my sanity was not worth losing over a very good basic salary. It’s one of my many selfish acts for the year as my family have been depending on me for five years now. What’s more selfish was that I did not have a fall back plan nor did I find a new job right after quitting. I did manage to read over 30 books, sleep whenever I want, hang out with friends with what little money I have left and told myself that I would work from home instead. Anything that will allow me to earn without being boxed in an office.

More than a month has passed and I’m still unemployed and too busy reading. It’s  not even the lack of job opportunities that hinder me from being back in the work force. Too lazy to look for a job but not too lazy to finish a book until seven in the morning. Work from home sounds so good to me because of the flexible hours and lack of stress from an office environment. Then I daydream of a job that will allow me to travel, read some more, pay the bills and upend my roots when the whim strikes. A writer can do that, can’t she? So what have I managed to write so far? Essays, sure. Features, hell yes. Poems, yep. Short stories, dipped my toes there.  A novel, not even close. I’m turning a quarter of a century by the end of this year and it’s also when I’m all over the place. It’s not rock bottom but boy, I have gots to get my shit together. And soon.

images

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