AS a horseracing writer, I’ve written many feature articles and television program scripts on the sport, and with journalism paying the bills, creative writing fell by the wayside after my college days.
I’ve written only one full-length novel so far, Fire and Ice. This was in 1991, when I was pregnant with my eldest daughter Alex, and the manuscript was published by Solar Publishing Corporation in 1993 as the seventh title in their “Hearts of Fire” series of light romances.
It was sold only at National Book Store for P40 a copy, a bit pricey considering the more popular Tagalog romances were selling for P30 or P25. As late as maybe 2001, a few copies were still available, marked down to P16.50. I bought the five remaining copies at the Glorietta branch.
This excerpt is from the first chapter, where the heroine, Corissa, the manager of a lingerie factory, meets her new employer Jaime, who had just bought the company. They had met previously, at a convention, where Jaime embarrassed Corissa with a flippant remark.
Corissa knocked a couple of times and swung the door open. The man seated on the edge of the desk had his back to her; he was looking out the big picture window that made up one wall of the office. He appeared to be admiring the tiny garden outside, an oasis of green in a large, utilitarian factory. Hearing her push the door open, he turned around. In the same instant that she saw his face, Corissa gasped.
He was handsome. Devastatingly handsome. From his perch on the desk several feet away, he radiated a wave of sexual appeal and attraction so strong it left Corissa weak-kneed and breathless. Suddenly she felt the room turn hot – terribly hot. She sucked in a lungful of cool air and tried to regain control. Funny, she though dazedly, the effect he has on me now. The first time she laid eyes on him, she had longed to belt him one for his offensive remark. This time, it was different. Totally different. She had not seen his features very well the first time, being some distance away from his seat. But this close – it was impossible to ignore his attractiveness. He was, she decided, not bad at all. Physically, at least. But would he be able to prove that her previous assessment of his personality was wrong?
Jaime Luzuriaga, her new employer, got up and stood facing her. His dark brown hair, a bit long in the back, was endearingly tousled in front, as if he had brushed it back with his fingers. The piercing dark eyes, aquiline nose, and Castilian features made Corissa compare him to a swashbuckling Spanish knight. She figured he was in his mid-thirties. As he strode closer to Corissa, she found she had to crane her neck up to look into his eyes. He was dressed in a blue-and-white pinstripe shirt, paisley-print burgundy tie, and navy twill slacks, all of the simplest cut but still bearing the unmistakable stamp of elegance and costliness. Corissa noted with approval that he completed his outfit with dress socks and black leather loafers. Her opinion of his dress sense went up as she realized he could have just pushed his sockless feet into a beat-up pair of Topsiders and pulled on jeans and a knit shirt, as far too many working men had a habit of doing nowadays.
He was right in front of her, only a pace or two away.
Slowly, deliberately, he swept his gaze over her, scrutinizing her dainty form from head to toe. Corissa felt slightly uncomfortable, but not from the inspection. It was the sheer masculinity that he exuded, the virility and power that he wore like an aura, that made her body quiver and her heart beat faster. She swallowed nervously, and held her head high, trying not to let her tension show. “I shouldn’t let him affect me like this,” she thought. Corissa could not deny, however, that it was an attraction that she felt for this man – a sudden, swift impulse, strong and magnetic, that drew her to him.
Jaime looked her full in the face, and put his strong hands on his hips. “I don’t believe it,” he said, shaking his head. “You’re that kid from the convention.”
Corissa’s eyes narrowed. Irritation swiftly replaced the attraction that she had initially felt. Her previous low opinion of him, she thought, was entirely justified. “This kid,” she said pointedly, “is general manager of your new company. And let me warn you – it doesn’t pay to underestimate me.”
I cringe now at the insubstantial candy floss spun by my younger, immature self. By preference drawn to science fiction and fantasy, I had to read dozens of Mills & Boon, Harlequin, and Silhouette romances just to psych myself up to write this cliche-studded drivel. Literature it ain’t.
How was it even published? That’s an interesting story.
In 1991, I joined a short-story writing contest sponsored by Woman Today magazine (published by Solar) and Clover Typewriters. (Typewriters were still in common use then. That’s how long ago this was.) I turned in only one story, something I had written for a creative writing course in college.
That story, “The Cups”, was chosen as one of the top four finalists. Some of the other finalists and contestants had sent in more than one entry. I was disappointed not to win the top prize of a typewriter, but I did get an acrylic plaque and an offer to write a novel for Solar’s line of romances in English.
At that time, Tagalog “pocketbooks” were all the rage, and Solar probably wanted to do something similar but differentiated. I think the series went up to nine novels before being discontinued. Readers of English-language fiction, at that time, disdained anything “local” and preferred to purchase the imported romances with which they were more familiar.
Things are better now, with readers becoming more appreciative of efforts by Filipino writers that place stories in this country, stories that tell familiar tales echoing our own culture.
But to be honest, as much as I may tear apart my own work with a mature critical eye, I’m still proud of it. It is after all, a product of my imagination, hacked out in fever heat on an old computer with a paper-white monitor, written straight through without an outline while floating on the euphoria of being married and pregnant, published “as is”, with hardly any edits, far as I can tell.
But time passes and we learn. We change. We mature. I don’t write fiction like this anymore.
I’m not saying I can do better now. What I can do, is different. And sometimes, different is enough of a change.