Monday, December 30, 2013

Working on a Cover Image

According to Mark Coker's Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, a good cover image can be the difference between a successful book and a so-so book.

The Smashwords Blog made an interview of R.L Mathewson (RLM) back in July 12, 2012 and they talked about her experiences with writing and selling romance books. One of her books, Playing for Keeps, came out in February 2012. For more than four months her sales were only a few copies per day (personally, if that happened to me, I'd be ecstatic). Around the end of May, she changed her book cover and just over a week later, her sales began to increase. About a month later, her sales skyrocketed.

Image copied with permission from the Smashwords blog entry

Like RLM, I'm thinking of making my own covers. Not because I can but because I can't afford the price of having someone make one for me. If I can find someone to make my cover for a song (I can sing but I'm no Josh Groban), I'd have it done. RLM said she did it by taking several images and using Photoshop—or some other image editing software—to mash them all together.

So, why am I not doing the same? Why not just lift photos from the internet and edit them to come up with a cover? For free? I'm almost sure there are people who do it that way. The problem with doing it is that I might be committing copyright infringement.

A lot of photos on the internet are free for the taking and a lot are owned by people who don't want you to use them...or expect you to pay for using them. My problem is: 1.) I can't tell if it's free or not. 2.) If it's not free, I can't afford to pay for it. Then again, there are people who don't want you using their pictures, period.

For Legend of the Moon, I've been looking for two particular pictures that I want to edit and put together. One is a large moon, and the other is the silhouette of a knight who would be standing in front of the moon. His pose had to be simple but suggestive of a strong and confident man who had gone through trials and triumphed.

I found them but they're not free and they're on two different image-selling websites. I checked out the sites and discovered they don't sell images per piece. You sign up for a year's membership and you can download a fixed number of pictures. Since the pictures are on two separate websites, I'm going to be purchasing about a dozen images, of which I only need two. And the membership is not cheap (at least for me).

So, what am I going to do?

For the moon, I don't expect much difficulty in finding a free photo. The knight is going to be a bit more problematic. I had a particular pose in mind and finding the image I need has been a challenge.

I came up with the idea of buying an action figure, modify, and dress him up to look like a knight. If I can find a knight action figure, that would be better. I saw one of Ironman and was trying to decide if he might be good enough when my wife found another figure that seemed better. It was Anakin Skywalker.

When I first saw him, he looked perfect. The pose was correct, his head could turn left or right, and his long hair seemed suggestive of a knight. His light saber was extended, which seemed easy to modify to make it look like a regular sword. When I opened up the box, however, I noticed something.

He had a glove on his right hand but not on his left. I watched the movie but don't remember noticing his fashion statement. He also seemed too thin. I'm not putting sheet armor on him, just make him look like he's wearing chain mail and a sword. He needs to look bulkier and wearing large gloves. I couldn't find anything more suitable, however, so I took him home. I need your body, Anakin. (",)

How to fix him up? It's a technique that a lot of people have done at least once in their lives, maybe during their school days. Unfortunately, I am not one of them. It's called papier-mache and it seems simple enough.

Since I need a silhouette, I'm going to paint him completely black. That means the finished product doesn't need to be perfect. Just good enough to take a picture of. I'm trying to decide if I need to trim his left arm sleeve so that I could mold a glove onto it.

Once the figure is completed and painted, I'm going to put him in front of a white background and take his picture. I might need to do a little editing work later but it should be easy since it's black and white.

When I finish changing Anakin Skywalker into Sir John, I'll make another post along with pictures. 'Wish me luck. (",)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Working on the Legend of the Moon

I'm taking a little time off on editing Legend of the Moon to make an entry in my blog. 'Don't want to neglect this blog like I did with the last one.

I have a lot of respect for editors, mostly because I do my own editing and I find that it's hard work. That's probably because I'm not a professional editor. My grammar is quite good but not exactly up to par with real editors. I also have problems with punctuation and that's probably because I didn't pay too much attention to my English teachers. Most of what I learned, I learned from reading.

How does one edit a book?

I usually start with a quick pass through the book, looking for misspellings, repeated words, and awkward sentences. Then I do another quick pass...and another...and another. When does it end? Until I find none or when I get tired of doing it. After you've gone through the story five or ten times, fatigue sets in and you need to rest. When you go back to it, you will usually find more errors and you'll have to go back several more times.

Are there words that appear too often or appear too close to each other? This is where vocabulary is important. If the word "enemy" appears in two sentences one after the other, you'll need to think of another term for the second word (opponent/antagonist/adversary). A thesaurus is a big help. Otherwise, a rewrite is in order.

Next is content. Is the paragraph understandable? Is it logical (i.e. makes sense)? Does this paragraph belong in the next chapter or in this chapter? Should I cut up this chapter into two or more, or join two or more chapters into one?

In the case of Legend of the Moon, I decided to rearrange parts of the story. In the blog version, I had the protagonist reminisce about the past before going back to the present. That's not really a bad technique but, taking the cue from some readers who had gotten confused, I decided to rearrange it so the events happened in sequence.

Finally, there's the ending. I'm a little ashamed to say that I gave in to the pressure of finishing the story a little too quickly. So, I've been working on it for several days. I've erased and restarted the ending a number of times already. I decided to stop for a while to restore the creative juices and maybe give me a good idea for the conclusion.

Of course, I could always hire a professional editor. Unfortunately, it's a little difficult to find one who will accept a large pizza as payment. (",)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Announcement for "Legend of the Moon"

I'm presently working on rewriting and editing the story and plan on uploading to in about a week. This being the case, I will be deleting the story from my blog either tomorrow or Friday. Doing this will leave a great big gap in my blog posts (June to November) but there's nothing I can do about it.

For those of you who have read it, thank you for your patronage and I hope you enjoyed it. If you're still reading at this time, you're going to have to step it up.

I don't think I'll write another long story in my blog ever again. A blog was never meant to become a venue for novel writing. Maybe if you're retired, with loads of time in your hands, and you can think and type at the speed of light, AND you don't intend to sell the story, it might work.

I'm reminded of an article that mentioned Barbara Cartland, a romance novel writer, wrote over 700 novels in her lifetime. In 1983, she wrote 23 novels and that is still the world record for novels written in one year. She's also one of a rare breed of authors who's first novel became a bestseller.

What brought that on? Ha ha! I don't know. But that's one of the things that I used in writing Legend of the Moon. An idea pops out and I put it on the screen.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Lessons from Legend of the Moon


After 167 days of writing, Legend of the Moon is done. I'm so pumped up, I just have to share my thoughts and feelings about the experience. Just to make it a bit different from a normal post, I'll be doing this like an interview.

Q: What brought on the story?

A: If you read the story from the beginning, you'd know it was inspired by...of course... the moon. I was doing my daily walking exercise just before dark when I saw it, a full moon in a clear sky. It brought back a childhood memory of me riding in Dad's car one night and commenting that the moon seemed to be following us. Like most adults, Dad shook it off as something ordinary (or maybe he was just concentrating on driving) but I gazed at that moon for almost the whole trip. The memory ended and, right there, the story just formed and I began writing it in my head. When I got back home, I opened up my blog and started on it.

Q: Did you intend to make it as long as it did?

A: No, I actually thought it was going to take just one or two posts. It was supposed to be a short story, something like Aesop's fables or the Brothers Grimm folk tales. I was envisioning around 3,000–4,000 words but it turned out to be 80,000+.

Q:What made you decide to lengthen it?

A: I happen to like detail. If the story was going to be just 4,000 words long, detail would have to be sacrificed. If you read the first seven paragraphs, you'll notice there are no names. I didn't plan on putting names on the characters except for the princess, just tell the story and keep the characters unnamed.

Q: So, what was the original plot of the story?

A: It was fairly simple. Guy saves princess and they fall in love. A man, who turns out to be a wizard, gets jealous and attempts to kill the guy. Guy tries to enlist the aid of a fairy but that fairy fails and the guy gets turned into the moon.

Q: You mentioned that the princess was the only one with a name in the story. Why is that?

A: If you stretch your imagination a bit, the moon looks like a giant eye in the sky, right? When the guy was turned into the moon, he kept searching for the princess and calling out her name, Luna. Finally, I planned on putting a funny twist on the ending because the guy eventually loses his voice but the people remember that lonely call...Luna...and start calling the moon, you guessed it, Luna.

Q: Okay, so the story plot changes and it gets longer and longer. How many words were you planning to write?

A: After one post, I decided I'd use the story to practice for the NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month in November. You're supposed to write a 50,000+ word novel in one month from November 1 to 30. It doesn't have to make much sense, doesn't have to be perfect, spell and grammatical errors are acceptable. There's no prize, just the satisfaction of finishing a novel in one month.

Q: But you didn't make it, writing the novel in one month, I mean.

A: Nope, I didn't. I said I liked detail, right? I also happen to like perfection. I'm not saying I'm perfect but if I find a mistake, I just have to go back and fix it. After I finish a post, I usually go back over it, correcting spellings and rewording things to make them clearer or more understandable. Then there were the interruptions, the battle over computer time (there's only one computer in the house) and, sometimes, laziness steps in.

Q: What about writer's block?

A: Yes, that too. There were a few times when I couldn't write anything because I couldn't think of the next scene or situation.

Q: Didn't you have an outline?

A: No, the story was written without a plan or outline. I had an idea of how I wanted the story to end but had no idea how to get there. I just kept typing and inventing as I went along. Occasionally, I would paint myself into a corner when I introduce a scene or situation that made it difficult to proceed.

Q: For example...

A: For example, one of the main characters was a woman named, Iole—later, as Elsie—and she was first introduced as a witch. I figured, the only way that a moon was going to appear was by magic so Iole came in as a witch and she would be the one to create the moon. Then, for some reason, I decided the story was not going to have any magic in it. Everything was going to be scientific, albeit with a fictional slant. I had to think of a way to weave the possibility of a scientific explanation into the story without changing posts that I had already made.

Q: Why not change previous posts?

A: Because people would have already read them. If I changed the flow of the story drastically, you'd wonder how that came to be but you wouldn't think of going back to previous posts to find out why. It would confuse people and I don't think they'd like that.

Q: But you did end up with a magical reason for creating the moon.

A: Yup, coming up with a scientific reason became too much of a burden. Magic, on the other hand, frees you because anything's possible when it comes to magic.

Q: If you would have stayed with science, how would the moon be created?

A: It wouldn't be created in the real sense. I thought of it as a rogue moon—a moon that's wandering through space—which comes too close to the planet and gets captured by its gravitation pull.

Q: So what's wrong with that, why didn't you go with that scenario?

A: Because I have absolutely no idea what happens to a planet when it captures a moon. Would the force of the event result in massive earthquakes and tsunamis? If it does result in such calamities, most, if not all, of mankind would probably die and that would make a lousy story ending. I forgot to mention it earlier but, in addition to detail and perfection but I also like to be as realistic as possible. Of course, there's nothing realistic about magic but I try to be as accurate as I could be. I researched about things like archery, the construction of castles, medieval terms, clothes, battle tactics, and even names and surnames. Unfortunately, I couldn't find anything about what happens on a planet when it acquires a moon that wasn't there before.

Q: You keep referring to it as "planet." The planet in Legend of the Moon isn't Earth?

A: The original story idea was that it would be set on Earth in Medieval England. Then, I got to thinking: Earth has always had a moon. Therefore, this planet cannot be Earth. I decided it would be another planet somewhere in the universe that somehow paralleled Earth during the Middle Ages.

Q: The book mentions that Iole/Elsie/Liona comes from another planet. Was that Earth?

A: Maybe. If it is Earth, it's probably in our future because of the technological advances that she brought with her. I'm not sure.

Q: Not sure? But you created the story!

A: I'd like to think that it created itself. Like I said, the story had no outline. Words just appeared unto the computer screen—like magic—and that was part of the fun of doing it that way. I really enjoyed not knowing what was going to happen next. Or at least, not how it was going to happen. There were times when I'd get an idea while walking or doing something but when I started typing, the whole thing changes. I was always wondering how the story would turn out.

Q: What other aspect of the story was changed, other than the decision to use magic rather than science?

A: There was quite a number of them. One was that Elsie could never return to her home planet and, when she died, Tilly would build a sort of mausoleum for her...the she could be that much closer to her planet than  if she had been buried on the planet surface.

Q: That's awful!

A: That's why I didn't go through with it.

Q: What else?

A: Well, originally, John's planet actually was Earth and Liona—a.k.a. Iole/Elsie—was supposed to be a time traveler.  In her time, she discovered there was no mention of a moon in the history books until the Middle Ages, around the time that John was living in. She goes into the past and instantly changes it, meaning, the Earth will not acquire a moon unless a certain series of events take place.

Q: And?

A: It got too complicated. There's a theory called the temporal, or time travel, paradox. If you watched the movie, Back to the Future, you'll know what I mean. In that movie, Marty McFly accidentally goes back in time and inadvertently causes his future mom to fall in love with him (Marty) instead of his future father. As the movie progresses, Marty starts to disappear. The reason for that is: if his mother doesn't marry his father, he would never have existed and, therefore, could not have returned back in time.

There's another version to that theory that says: even if you can travel back in time, you cannot change the future because history cannot be changed. Anything you do will merely result in history moving in the direction it was destined to do.

Q: That's pretty heavy stuff.

A: I know. It certainly got too heavy for me. I had to find a different approach. Other authors sometimes ignore reality just so the story goes the way they want it to be. It's called literary license. I'll probably have to learn to do that but for now, it's not how I work.

Q: You're planning to turn it into an ebook, right? Why would people want to read an ebook when they can read it in your blog?

A: I'm planning to rewrite the whole story which means the ebook version will be slightly different from the blog version. I don't intend to change the story, just improve it for readability and that includes, spell and grammar corrections. A few sceneries might need to be rearranged or completely reworded to make it more "interesting."

Q: Speaking of interest, how much interest did your story get from readers of your blog?

A: Honestly? Not that much. My biggest fan was my sister Eva. The numbers on the stats don't show that many reads. The earlier posts had higher number of reads than the later posts but that's probably because of fatigue. The story had been cut up into chunks of about 1,200 to 1,700 words and that's probably tiring for people who want to read a story from beginning to end in one sitting. Who wants to take five months to read a book eh? I hope the ebook will do much better.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Legend of the Moon

Dear Readers,

All posts from June 6 to November 19, 2013 have been deleted to make way for their conversion into an ebook of the same title—Legend of the Moon. If you're still reading it, I'm sorry for the inconvenience.

If you still want to read it, head for, look for it, and download it. It will be published by Friday, February 1, 2013 (latest). It will be free for one month. If you do download it, please leave review or comment on the book's page. I will appreciate it.

Eric Marcelo

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Changing Rules of Publishing

'Was talking to the wife about Zach Sobiech, the guy who sang "Clouds" on YouTube and garnered millions of views, tens of thousands of likes, and sold hundreds of thousands of copies of the song on iTunes. The song was not being promoted by any recording studio, he just went up and posted the video and it just took off from there. There's a lesson in that story.
The rules of the game are changing these days. Years back, if you wanted to become a singer, you had to audition and impress somebody enough to take a chance on you. If even one of them liked you, you got a recording contract. If not, you took other options...but not the one you wanted in the first place. Today, you can record a video and post it on YouTube and, if you're really good, you can become a successful singer on your own right. People like Justin Bieber and Alyssa Bernal come to mind.

The rules for authors is changing as well.

In the past, an author would have to type up a manuscript, send it to a publisher or agent, and wait for a message saying his/her manuscript was accepted and could they please come to the office to talk. For most authors, the answer is usually, no. For every author's book you see in a bookstore, there are probably tens, or maybe hundreds, of other authors who have received a rejection letter. Some are brokenhearted and, maybe, never write another book. Others persevere until someone decides to give them a shot. An example would be Kathryn Stockett, who was rejected 60 times before agent Susan Ramer agreed to represent her and her book, The Help. That book became a best seller on The New Times Best Seller List and stayed there for 100 weeks. One wonders how the other agents could have made such a mistake as rejecting her.

But that's only true in print publishing. The internet has been the game changer for the publishing world just as it did for the world of singers. You only need to go to the websites of iTunes, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and others, to find books from thousands of authors who decided to self-publish their books. Ebooks, as they are known, are the electronic versions of print books and you can buy them at a cheaper price than the paper version. If you don't want to spend anything, free ebooks are available too!

So, if today's authors are self-publishing, where does that leave the traditional print publishers? They're still here but I don't know for how long. The feeling of having a paper-type book with your name on it is still one of the reasons why authors go for them. After my own book was rejected, I decided to print it on smaller, book-sized paper, just to get that feeling. It was a waste of paper, however. When I saw my book on Smashword's website, I had the same feeling I got when I held that little book in my hands. It wasn't the feeling of touching the book, but the fact that I had a book out there for people to read.

Ebooks may be cheaper and that's good for the readers. For the authors, self-publishing is providing a way to get better deals out of writing a book. A print publisher will give you between 5 to 15% royalty for each book that is sold. On Smashwords, at least, you get about 45 to 80% royalty.

As with anything, you have to be good at what you do. Good singers make it on YouTube. Good writers make it on the internet's bookstores.

Note: I wish to send my condolences to the family and friends of Zach Sobiech, who died last 20 May 2013. You will be missed.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Childbirths 3

Sometimes God doesn't give you what you ask for. Sometimes he gives you more...

When the wife and I got married, we decided that we wanted two children, a boy and a girl, and that's what we prayed for. After Ericson was born, we now had the requested boy and girl...but God had other plans.

During Loida's pregnancy with Ericson, we told the doctor that we wanted Loida to be ligated in case we needed a Cesarean . If the delivery was normal then the ligation won't be done but, instead, I would have a vasectomy. It was all agreed upon by all parties present.

During Ericson's birth, the need for an emergency cesarean made everyone forget about the ligation and it was not done. The ob-gyn apologized but I said it was alright. Our minds were on different things back then. I would have to get a vasectomy.

I went to the company doctor to ask for referrals and advise but he reacted in horror the instant I said it. "You're too young to have it," he said. I wasn't aware of a lower age limit for this type of operation but he was very adamant. His most telling argument was, "what if something goes wrong with the operation?" I guess he got to me in a way because I hesitated to ask other doctors though the thought was never far from my mind.

In the meantime, the wife and I continued controlling which we seemed to be good at. Her monthly visits came regularly and we began to think a vasectomy was not really needed. For the next four years, things went well...until she missed her period. The pregnancy test was positive. The wife was a little upset. She was afraid of going through the same trauma as the last time. Besides, didn't we ask God for only two kids?

We visited the ob-gyn who predicted that Baby Number Three would be coming in the second or third week of September 2003, five years after Ericson. A few months into the pregnancy, we went for an ultrasound. This time I really saw the baby on the monitor. The doc let us see it for a few minutes before she started doing her measurements. She confirmed the expected date of birth at the second week of September.

All through the examination, Loida was silent, looking at the baby on the screen. I noticed a tear that dripped down the side of her face but she didn't say anything. Later, she admitted that seeing the baby filled her with a yearning for the child. I guess being a mother does that. Even if the baby was unexpected, seeing it for the first time will surely melt any mother's heart.

Then, about a month before the expected birth, I got an offer from the factory manager to go to Switzerland to attend an automation workshop. Thinking about my wife and the coming baby, I refused the trip, saying I couldn't leave my wife right then. When I got home that evening, I told the wife about the offer. She told me to call the factory manager right that minute and say that I was accepting. She would call her sister to stay with her while I was gone. This opportunity might not come again, she said.

So, I was going to Switzerland but I wanted to ask the doctor when the birth might actually happen. We explained the situation and she ordered another ultrasound to assess how much the baby had developed. Looking over the screen, she said that the baby could be delivered about two weeks before the previous estimated date. That meant I could be at the delivery and still go to Switzerland. It was a happy arrangement for all.

On August 26, 2003, Loida and I went to the hospital for the delivery. It wasn't going to be a normal one, though. It was going to be a C-section but, this time, it was planned. Loida would be ligated at the end of it, I reminded the doc. The date was also set to avoid the same problem we had with Ericson. August 27 was the day before the fiesta and the day when the streets would be clogged with parades. So the delivery was set the day before.

The procedure went off without a hitch and there was none of the long waiting like the last time. Loida was in and out of surgery and we were resting in our room in no time. The only problem that remained was what name to give our new daughter. Thinking of our two previous kids, we decided to stay with tradition and give her a name that started with E-R-I. The only name I could think of was Erin so that was the name we put in the certificate. About two weeks later, I was in Switzerland.

Erin arrived when I was almost 42 and Loida was 38. I jokingly tell her to study well but to get married immediately after graduating from college. That way I wouldn't be too old to walk her down the aisle. (",)

Monday, May 6, 2013

Childbirths 2

There was a time when couples were encouraged to space their children at around two year intervals. They said it was healthier for the mother and easier on the pocket. All sorts of information were presented that we were convinced that it was the way to go.

Two years after Erika was born, we decided we were ready for another kid. We stopped controlling and waited for Loida's visits to stop so we could test for pregnancy. Several test kits and false alarms later, we began to think that we'd never have another child. The months turned into years until, finally, four years after Erika was born, the test kit showed positive. Baby number two was on the way.

There are all sorts of stories about looking for signs to tell if the kid's a boy or a girl. In the previous pregnancy, more people predicted a boy but it turned out to be a girl (Erika). This time everyone again said it was going to be a boy. We weren't really concerned with that. Whatever the Lord gave us, we'd accept, but it was an exciting day when we went to the hospital for an ultrasound (things had changed in just four years eh?).

The doctor let me in the ultrasound examination room so I can see what the kid was going to be. Being a technical person, I was just as curious about the ultrasound equipment as well as the procedure. I knew the principle of how it operated but it was still fascinating to see. I watched as the doctor began to move the transducer all over Loida's abdomen and shapes began to appear on the monitor.

I had seen ultrasound pictures before and expected to see a hazy but unmistakable image of a baby on the screen. Try as I might, however, I could not recognize anything on the green monitor. The doctor kept pushing buttons, clicking the mouse, doing whatever it was doctors do with ultrasound equipment but the shapes were formless. Suddenly, the doctor said, "it's a boy!"

I was startled by the doctor's statement. On the screen were two large roundish smudges that looked nothing like a baby. I leaned closer but it was hopeless. I couldn't see any telltale signs that this was a baby boy.

"Ah, doc? How can you tell it's a boy," I asked. She pointed at the two large blobs on the screen.

"Those are his nuts!"

Maybe I should've fainted dead away or something similarly dramatic but I didn't. All I was thinking of was the image that I'd be cradling my son in my arms using his nuts as a pillow.

If my face betrayed anything, the doctor didn't notice because she went back to whatever she was doing. Presently she explained that she was measuring the head or something. It would help her determine how far along the child was. Using this information, she estimated that our son would be born around the third week of August.

During her previous pregnancy, I had sent Loida to Iligan so there would be relatives and friends who could help her when the time came. This time, with the lessons of the previous childbirth in hand, we decided that Loida could stay in CDO. Her sister volunteered to come over to look after Erika when we entered the hospital.

The months flew by and the third week of August came and went. The kid was taking his sweet time. Hoping to accelerate things, Loida and I took a walk around the subdivision which is a hilly place. The exertion seemed to have worked because, that night, Loida woke me up to tell me that the contractions had started.

I almost jumped off the bed, thinking we had to go right that moment. She calmed me down saying it would take a several hours before the baby came and we could go to the hospital in the morning.

"Are you sure," I asked. My greatest fear was that I would have to bring my son into this world with my own hands. I had missed first baby's birth so I was the most inexperienced between us.

"Yes," she said, "go back to sleep."

I slept fitfully that night. Come daybreak, we got up and prepared everything though my movements had a certain amount of urgency in them. I desperately wanted to get Loida to the hospital as quickly as possible and let the hospital staff take charge. We already had a bag prepared so we were good and ready in record time. We called for a taxi to take us to Polymedic General Hospital on Velez St.

The driver didn't drive off immediately. He turned to us and said, "I can't take you there."

"What! But why?"

"There's a parade going on in Velez St. and they're not allowing vehicles to pass through there."

Why was there a parade? August 27 is the day before CDO's fiesta. Different schools and organizations parade through the city's streets during the celebration and Velez is the main thoroughfare going to Divisoria, where the parade usually ends.

I tried to explain that this was an emergency and that we needed to get to the hospital quickly but the driver was not willing to accommodate us. The best he could do was to take us to the City Central School on Yacapin Street which is three blocks away from the hospital. There was no choice for us but to agree.

The driver let us off at the City Central School, as he said, and we started walking toward Velez. The driver was right, the street was filled with parading students and the sidewalks were jammed with people watching the festivities. I lifted the heavy bag to my shoulder and told Loida to follow me.

At a gap in the marching groups, I crossed the street with Loida at my heels. I pushed my way through the throng, saying, "excuse me," every two or three seconds. There were a few angry glances but when they saw Loida, they gave way. I've passed this way several times before and Yacapin Street doesn't usually seem very far from Polymedic. This time, however, I kept looking for the tall building like it was an oasis in the desert. I was breathless by the time we entered the hospital emergency room.

Since Loida still had a ways to go, they put us in the labor room to wait it out. Every now and then, a nurse would come in to check Loida's dilation. When the nurse pronounced that Loida was already at two centimeters, I thought it was much too small. Certainly too small for my son and his nuts.

Several hours later, another pregnant woman came into the labor room. Loida was looking forward to talking to someone in the same predicament but after reading a magazine for a few minutes, the woman got up and left the room. She did not return after about thirty minutes so when the nurse came in to check up on Loida, we asked about the woman who had entered and left. "Oh, she's given birth already!"

Loida and I were stunned. We had been in the labor room for hours while she was in there for only a few minutes and now she was done. It was unfair.

Soon, however, Loida's contractions got stronger and stronger until she was doubling up with pain. The doctor finally decided she was ready and they took her to the operating room. I left the labor room and stood outside the operating room doors, pacing back and forth, sitting down and standing up again. Just a few minutes later, the doctor came out a bit breathlessly and said, "Eric! The baby's heartbeat is getting faint with every contraction. I'm going to need to do a C-section. I need your permission."

In a daze, I nodded my head and said, yes. She disappeared behind the doors and left me standing there with my heart thumping. This was no normal childbirth anymore. It was now emergency surgery. Later, I learned that the baby's umbilical cord had wrapped itself around his neck and each contraction was strangling him.

For the next hour or so (can't remember anymore), I waited and prayed. No one came out to tell me anything, the doors remained obstinately closed. I was alone, there was no one there with whom I could share my fears or who could reassure me. It was the loneliest time of my life.

Suddenly, the door opened and the pediatrician peeped out with a smile on her face. "Eric! Your son is soooo white," she said and then closed the door again. What did that mean? Perhaps she meant he had white skin, like mine. Her smile meant he was alive but I had no news about Loida.

Soon after, Loida's ob-gyn came out looking tired. "Loida and the baby are fine. It was touch and go for a minute there but everything's alright now. They're going to take Loida to recovery. You can stay with her there."

After about an hour in the recovery room, they took Loida to her room. Loida was so weak and the wound from the operation was painful but she finally rested and I took the opportunity to get some shut eye.

Suddenly, I heard something. I woke up to find Loida struggling as if she was unable to breath! I bolted from the bench that I was using for a bed and tried to ask her what was wrong. She was unable to answer and made whimpering sounds in her throat. "I'm calling the nurse," I said but she held my arm, shaking her head.

"Why not? What's wrong?" I was almost crying. Then she answered weakly, "nasamid ako." Her saliva had irritated her throat and she was trying hard not to cough because the stitches on her stomach was very painful.

The feeling of relief was tremendous but it ended abruptly. Suddenly my vision started to swing around and I felt very faint. I had risen from the bench much too fast and the adrenalin rush had pumped me up and now things were settling down but my body was unable to adjust.

I went back to the bench and lay down. Women have to endure the pain of giving birth but men only need to worry. Worrying, however, is nothing to laugh at.

The next day, I went up to the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) to look at my son. I didn't bump heads with the glass window this time. I'd learned my lesson. He was in a bed with a bright light on it. His eyes were covered. I can't remember why but the doctor had told me to expect that so I wasn't too concerned. Looking over my son, I was relieved to see that he had normal-sized nuts. (",)

Choosing a name, however, was not a problem. We already had a name for him.


Monday, April 29, 2013

Childbirths 1

The birth of a child is an exciting, wondrous experience. Sometimes nerve-wracking...

The wife and I were married in March 1993. Prior to our wedding, I read somewhere that staying childless for about a year was advisable because it would give the couple a chance to be alone together for at least that long. Once, the children arrived, the article said, they will become the center of the family's life and the couple will be hard-pressed to find time alone together. We took that to heart and decided to stop controlling around December 1993. In January, the wife's visits stopped coming. We were off. (",)

In February 1994, I got hired by another company and we left Manila for Cagayan de Oro (CDO) in Northern Mindanao, in March. The next months was filled with preparing the house and taking the wife to the doc for her check ups. Around August, we decided that Loida had to go to her family in Iligan (about 85 kms away) because there was just the two of us in CDO. We didn't know what needed to be done, what the signs were, how to tell if we needed to go now or later. So, the wife left and I stayed in CDO to work and wait for the day.

In September 30, I began to have unexplainable feelings of discomfort. I brushed them off but the feeling persisted. The next day, October 1, was a Saturday and my last day of work for the week. I thought of going to Iligan after work, to check up on Loida. I was on the 6 am to 2 pm shift and when I passed the gate around 2:30 pm, the guard told me that someone named Alice had called. Alice? I didn't know the name but something told me to get to Iligan pronto. I can't remember if I passed by the apartment before going to the bus terminal.

On the bus, I kept thinking about what was going on. I imagined myself pacing the floor in the hospital, sitting for a few seconds and standing to pace the floor again. My legs kept twitching on the bus ride.

Finally, I reached Iligan and proceeded to my in-law's house. I was informed that Loida was at the hospital and had already given birth.

The Dr. Uy hospital is only a few blocks away and a fast walking pace got me there in a few minutes. I was pointed to a ward where I found my wife. her tummy magically shrunken, and looking tired. I asked who was Alice and she laughed and said it was Ate Ali, her sister's sister-in-law. She was a trained midwife and she had helped prepare Loida. We talked for a few minutes and she asked if I wanted to see our daughter. Of course I did.

I went up to the second floor where I found a large glass-windowed room full of babies. I tried reading the names on the cribs but they were too small. A nurse came by presently and I waved a piece of paper with my name on it. She took one of the cribs and pulled it up to the window. Yup, there it was, Baby Marcelo.

I had a child. I was basking in the feeling of happiness and fascination. I leaned closer and promptly bumped my head on the glass. It was a loud thump and I backed up, rubbing my forehead and saw the nurse covering her mouth though she was wearing a mask. Her eyes were crinkled into a thin line and her shoulders were moving up and down in unmistakable spasms of laughter. I smiled back and waved goodbye.

Daughter. Ultrasound back then was an option and we had not bothered with it. Her ob-gyn in CDO had predicted a boy and he said he had a very good batting average when it came to predictions. I had already decided that I would call him, Ericson, since he was going to be my son. But we certainly couldn't call her that name. Back in the ward, we discussed names but Loida wanted me to give the name, not bothering to suggest anything. It was up to me.

A few days before, I was talking with a co-employee and he told me of one of his friends who had only one child. I thought, what if we didn't have another child? The name Erika came up. I thought it meant "daughter of Eric" so that's what we chose. I later learned I was mistaken, that Erika actually means, "ever powerful" or "ruler of the people." Maybe she'd be president one of these days. (",)

Friday, March 1, 2013

What to do?

Alone with my son right now. Wife and youngest daughter left for Iligan earlier in the afternoon. My son and I will be leaving early tomorrow to follow them.

I hit a little snag in my latest book. I'm working on a scene and I'm debating with myself about whether I should include it in the story or to take it out. Part of me thinks it's important for the story and part of me thinks I should think of something else to replace it. Just to keep writing, I went ahead and made other scenes that are supposed to occur later in the book. You might say, I'm using a time machine where future events will dictate what happens in the past. Right now the time machine isn't working.

Another thing I'm debating with myself regards this blog. Should I limit it to writing or should I use it for other things? I'm leaning towards the latter option. A new author doesn't have much to say about writing, unfortunately.

In the next posts, I'm going to share other stories I've shared in my Facebook page. I'm hoping it'll get my creative juices going.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Programming vs Writing

It's been a busy three weeks for me. The plant had shutdown on December 17 and restarted on January 2.  For the next days after, I stood guard over the production automation and assisted with several other projects. The plant's running reasonably well and I'm tired. It's going to be a welcome respite for the next two days as I take my restdays.

My job this end of year was to program the automation for one of our processes. I also assisted with the commissioning of several other projects whenever needed. This is something I enjoy doing and it's got me wondering if I should stay in this field or continue taking on writing.

I started programming PLCs (Programmable Logic Controllers) in 1986 when I worked for an instrumentation contractor. When I joined my present company, I learned how to program HMIs (Human Machine Interface) as well. In case you're curious, PLCs are used to control processes (open/close valves, start/stop motors, control temperature/pressure/flow, etc.) while HMI are computers that are connected to PLCs and used by operators to operate the process. In the past, buttons, knobs, and lights were used by operators to control the process but now it's all done with computers.

Programming is a thinking man's job and involves quite a bit of imagination. I don't work with code but it's a specialized programming language called Ladder Programming. In my case, it involves some visualization for me to imagine how things are going to work. Most times I get it right, sometimes I don't. When I don't get what I want to happen, I keep at it until I get it. 'Hope that makes sense to my readers.

Anyway, I've been programming non-stop since December 17 and it's now January 11. Everything's working but I still need to make a few tweaks and add some features to make the programs easy and safe to use. I really enjoy programming because I get a kick out of seeing my creations work, especially when they work well.

Writing, on the other hand, is something new. I can't say I'm good at it though some people's comments have been very encouraging. Sales on my books have been slow but, as Mark Coker ( says, "some books take time to break out." Some may never break out but that's only if you're a terrible writer. A well written book, however, may take months to years before sales pick up.

I guess writing is similar to programming in that it takes imagination and skill. Pour some effort and dedication into doing it and you'll be rewarded. The reward in programming is the satisfaction of seeing the program run error-free. In writing, the reward is seeing the book in print — or in the 'net, as the case may be.