All posts by Rin

Pint-sized Category 5 Kaiju. Writes books.

Meet BookYArd member, Rin Chupeco!

2014 is set to be an amazing ear for most of us BookYArd authors. There’s a first of everything set to happen this year – first book being published, first experiences with interacting with readers, first steps toward fulfilling our dreams of becoming writers.

With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of 14 firsts I’d like to share. With my first book, The Girl from the Well, due out in August, most of these are going to be – yup – rather ghost-centric.

First Book: The Ghost in the Cupboard

This was the first book I remember reading, and might have probably also influenced my love for horror books later on. Surprisingly, this wasn’t scary at all – it was about a young ghost who was living in a cupboard and decided one day to leave and explore the world, and who couldn’t understand why people were so frightened of him. (And now that I think about it, this book had more influence on the book I would eventually write than I first thought, because of my protagonist’s perception of herself as more than just a frightening ghost, though she looks the part.)

First Favorite Novel: Pet Sematary, by Stephen King

My first foray into the world of horror novels started out completely as an accident. I was six years old who’d been reading for a couple of years by then, but I was slowly growing tired of all the “kiddie-ish” books I’d been given so far. I was addicted to fairy tales at that stage however, and I suspected that the books lining the bookshelves in my parents’ room was my Mecca for all things potion-y and draconic.

In the end, I singled out a book with the picture of an odd-looking cat on the cover. The graveyard shown behind said cat had no impact on me – I figured it would be a nice story about a pet cat, because I recognized what ‘Pet’ meant, but not what ‘Sematary’ meant.

I’m not going to say I understood everything I read then, but I knew enough to recognize that this was a ghost story, and I was thrilled. Ghost Stories were still a grey area in the list of reading material I was allowed access to, and my childish mind delighted at reading what was to my way of thinking, a ‘banned book’. As I grew older, and learned to appreciate more of King’s nuances, I began reading more and more and more: Cujo, Carrie, The Stand, It, Christie. I was hooked.


First Favorite Horror Movie: Monster Squad

I will be completely honest here: I didn’t have as much experience with true horror movies back in my childhood the way I had with books. Asian horror wasn’t something that anyone had been able to introduce me to back then, since there was no one I knew then who loved it the way I loved horror books. As a result , I was treated to a lot of American-based horror movies, which I enjoyed but found lacking in some way: Jaws, Gremlins, Evil Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hellraiser, It and almost every movie based on a Stephen King book, for obvious reasons. They had a lot of the gore, but not much on the scare.

Nevertheless, I came across this gem of a movie:

It isn’t exactly a true horror movie. In fact, it’s listed as a horror / comedy though I didn’t know it then. But I LOVED it. It was about a group of kids ganging up to defeat Dracula, the Werewolf, and a host of other undead to save the world. How can this not appeal to kids like me then, the ones who’d read so many books and watched so many things and wanted to be a heroine of her own? I must have watched this about fifty times.


First Favorite Actual Horror Movie: Ju-On

In 2002, this movie came out, and I fell in love.

Sure, Ringu had been making the rounds before it, but I wasn’t impressed. There were some good scenes, but nothing made me jump out of my seat – not even the climactic climb-out-of-the-television scene could assuage the borefest that came before it.

But Ju-On. Oh, lordy – Ju-On! You think she can’t get you while you’re hiding under your covers? You’re wrong. Think you’ll be safe by staying with a crowd? NOPE. Maybe they’re just a figment of your imagination? Half the time the characters don’t even see the ghost when they appear, but Kayako sure as hell makes sure the viewers do. Ju-On takes all the standard this-will-make-you-feel-safe tropes and tricks and then crap all over it. And the kicker? There is no cure for her. There is no hero to come save the day, no final girl. She will come at you until you die, and that is it. Here, my love for Asian horror began.


Favorite Ghost Story Book: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

I love these books so much as a kid, and they’re still the treasures of my collection – and have you seen the illustrations? If it’s scary enough that someone’s tried to ban it countless times, you know it’s a good book.


Favorite Ghost Story Legend: The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall

I think it appealed to me as a kid because the alleged photo of the Brown Lady is the first documented picture I know where no one has been able to prove that it was a forgery. This idea was such a compelling one – I don’t do ghost hunting myself, but I do enjoy shows featuring them and I like the idea of superstitious beliefs meeting technology that attempts to explain them (I am guilty of watching Ghost Adventures, Ghost Hunters, Haunted Encounters, among many others).

Eight Other Things About Me, In the Hopes You Won’t Think I’m Just a Creepy Horror-loving Kid:

1. The first career I really wanted to have was as an archeologist. I LOVE dinosaurs. I could pronounce Tyrannosaurus Rex and Archaeopteryx at four years old, but it took me years to learn to say ‘parrot’ and ‘barbell’ correctly. I wanted to have a velociraptor for a pet back before it was cool to say you wanted a velociraptor for a pet.

I still love them, years later. Jurassic Park has and always will be my favorite movie – even if technically, some of the dinosaurs featured didn’t live during the Jurassic period.

2. On a similar note, I had an odd lisp as a kid, and couldn’t say my rr’s correctly. (I still have difficulty rolling the rr’s). It doesn’t help that my full name is Erin, which meant I constantly referred to myself as “Eween” without meaning to. (On the plus side, ‘Eween’ eventually became my user handle during my college Counterstrike FPS-playing days.)

3. Also related to the Counterstrike mention: I’m a self-professed girl gamer. I have played so many RPGs (the only reason I didn’t play Warcraft was because I couldn’t afford the subscription fees) and I have done Ultima Online, Ragnarok, Eve, Diablo, Guild Wars, and so many other things most of you have probably never heard of. Small anecdote: I was playing God of War during a Sony marketing event once, and a crowd had gathered to watch. I failed to notice a group of kids up front watching me play until I had…. violently beheaded (read: ripped the head off the body of) the sun god, Helios. The teachers were NOT happy with me, but everyone else thought it was hilarious. You can say I am not much of an Angry Birds fan.

I also love survival horror (Silent Hill, Fatal Frame) which can be pretty good inspirations for the squick.

waaah NOP

Also: comic book geek, specializing in Marvel.

4. I have been mistaken as a ghost several times, all through no fault of my own. My younger sister refuses to sleep in the same room as me because she claimed I literally slept (looking) like the dead, and I have scared a lot of people working in old office buildings where I also am at, especially because I pulled in a lot of overtimes and usually left after most of the lights were out. (I earned the nickname ‘Sadako’ this way.)

5. Unlike what some people might think, especially given the first half of this post, I actually don’t believe in ghosts. I was also never a goth kind of girl, although I’m pretty sure I looked the part. I acknowledge that ghosts could exist, but until enough evidence presents itself I’m not convinced. I like the idea of ghosts as a means we can use to explain the inexplicable, but I also understand human perception of their environment can sometimes play tricks on our brains. (People like Carl Sagan and Neil DeGrasse Tyson are some of my personal heroes, which could explain a few things).

6. I identify myself as Chinese-Filipino (Chinese by ethnicity, and Filipino by birth and citizenship) but it’s actually a lot more complicated than that. I have some Spanish on my paternal grandmother’s side, some Thai and/or Malay on my maternal grandmother’s, but I’ve never really known the true ratio. My grandfather left China for the Philippines to escape the Cultural Revolution, and my paternal grandparents were never actually married. (My grandfather was actually married to someone else, and my grandmother was his mistress / concubine. I never really knew about the rest of his family, because he’d broken off all contact) My family history had always been murky (and reads like a convoluted Chinese period soap opera), though I’d always hoped to one day find out more about it.

7. I am also a big crime junkie. I love CSI shows (even when they’re not entirely accurate) and documentaries like Forensic Files, and almost everything in Crime and Investigation channel. I have books about murders and serial killers and criminal forensics – I think it’s mostly because I want to know how the criminal mind works, and I was very interested for a long time with criminal profiling. I think the idea of reading about these killers and learning about all the steps that led to capturing them and bringing them to justice had the most appeal to me. (I love Agatha Christie – I have all her 80 books – and Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe books too, so this might be another influence)

8. I was born and have spent pretty much all my life in the Philippines. It’s not as violent and as scary a place to live in as you might think, although I have been witness to a bus bombing and a couple of mall explosions. Driving is still a major cause of injury here, mostly because everyone treats the (sometimes contradicting) traffic laws as suggestions rather than actual rules. Manila is probably one of the ugliest, traffic-congested cities in Asia, but many other places outside of the city are so astonishingly beautiful – OUR BEACHES, GUYS.

Alona Beach, Bohol, Philippines

(image originally from here)

Panglao Island, Philippines

(image originally from here)

And my personal favorite: White Beach, BoracayIsland, Philippines during the off-season.



How to Write a Pitch for your Novel

This is probably the second thing most writers hate to do, right after a novel synopsis. Like it or not though, a lot of agents are going to want to hear what your pitch is – after all, they go through a billion query letters a day, and they want the meat of your novel in just a couple of sentences or three so they’d have the time to do other things. Like, you know, eat or sleep or breathe.

But that’s impossible! How could my awesomely complex, masterfully layered novel be distilled down to just a few flippant sentences. How can I convey nuances of character? The stunning execution of plot? The vivid descriptions of my hot anti-hero brimming with the wit and the snarkiness and the abs and the arms and things?

Like it or not, you will have to. Pitches can also be a way that agents assess how well you know your own book, and how well you are able to summarize, pick out the important elements of your novel and convey it in the simplest, easiest, and in the most comprehensible way possible. If you can’t do this, then they may have doubts regarding just how succinct or organized the rest of your novel is – because if you can’t even explain the plot of your novel in a few short sentences, how is the rest of your novel going to sound like?

the worst reaction agents can get while reading your novel

the second worst thing

If you’re new to pitches, or just pretty stumped, here’s a handy dandy formula to remember:

Character + Obstacle + Possible Solution to overcome Obstacle + Surprise Twist Hindering Them even More from Accomplishing said Obstacle = Pitch

I’ll use a sample pitch of my book for reference:

Character = female ghost and a boy with tattoos
Obstacle = an evil spirit wants to harm the boy
Solution to Overcome Obstacle = dolls and a possible exorcism can rid them of this
Surprise Twist = the strange presence appears to come from inside the boy

Detailed Pitch : A female ghost meets a boy with strange tattoos haunted by the presence of a masked woman in black. Together, their search will take them from dolls and exorcisms to remote valleys in Aomori, Japan where they will make a terrible discovery: there is something inside the boy, and it would absolutely kill to get out.

But! The number one thing most people forget when it comes to writing pitches is that the agents don’t need to know everything about the book yet. You need to figure out the essential parts of your novel that makes it unique or compelling, then disregard the rest for now.

The Getting-there Pitch: A dead girl who kills child murderers discovers that a new boy in her neighborhood with strange tattoos harbors a strange secret inside him- one that would absolutely kill to get out.

Still too wordy? Preen it down more!

Final Pitch = A vengeful spirit who kills child murderers discovers that when a boy with strange tattoos moves into the neighborhood, so had something else.

Take note of some of the things I decided weren’t actually necessary to the pitch. I decided to forgo some of the elements, such as the Possible Solution to Overcome Obstacle because my novel is horror / suspense in nature, which means a solution isn’t necessarily what an agent might want to know upfront. It’s a really good way of breaking down the important bits, if only to find out which parts are important and which parts aren’t technically necessary, and then summarizing where you can.

How do you know when you’re done? Try reading the pitch aloud to yourself. Does it sound awkward or overlong? Are there too many details that lessens the impact of the surprise twist at the end? Does it make sense?

Then congratulations, you’ve got a pitch!

Plot twist: Hot Fuzz’s ‘Yarp’ = GoT’s the Hound.


It’s Pet Owners’ Independence Day!

April 17 is Pet Owners Independence Day! To celebrate, here’s a look at some of the BookYArd writers’ beloved little pets!

Mary Crockett:

Mr. Smokey Paws (shown here in a babydoll tutu) is a reluctant participant in our many dress-up extravaganzas.

Daisy (in a babushka headscarf and my garden shoes) is all around a better sport.

Our other cat, Sweetie Pie, is far too neurotic to partake in dress-up, or even sit still long enough to have her picture taken.

Stefanie Gaither:

Name: Shakespeare (aka Shakey)
Breed: Shih-Tzu/Lhasa Apso mix
Quirky Trait: He likes to climb things and stretch out along the tops of chairs and couches…. And he likes to snuggle between my husband and me in our bed and lay his head on the pillow because he thinks he’s people.

My faithful writing buddy

He climbs things like a cat.

Must…jump…into…your lap…

Rin Chupeco

Name: Princess
Breed: chow-chow pedigree
Quirky Trait: has no real function other than to exist as an unwanted fur rug. Also fond of sneezing, then rubbing her nose against you like she’s being affectionate instead of using you as her portable napkin.

Name: Cookie
Breed: spitz / golden retriever mix
Quirky Trait: fierce little guard dog when strangers are around, yet has a habit of running away and hiding when the little chihuahua down the block comes a-barking.

Understanding Insta-Love: Tips and Tricks

It’s a dreaded aspect for many readers of many YA novels , I’m sure.  Some like it,  some are indifferent – and a heckuva lot of people hate it.  Insta-love has been around long before the term “Young Adult fiction” ever came to be, from doomed Arthurian romances like Guinevere and Lancelot; to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet; to the Wagner opera, Tristan and Isolde (although a love potion was a decided catalyst here).

I can’t say I’m someone who likes reading about insta-love. I don’t doubt that insta-love does exist, but the term I would much rather use (and, I think, explains this phenomenon better) is insta-attraction, or even insta-lust, which I do like reading about. I have known people who have fallen in love at first sight and make a successful relationship of it – but I’ve also seen people crash and burn because they didn’t know how to make it work past the physical attraction. But my problem with insta-love is not so much the fact that it’s used at all, but rather that it is used far too often as a shortcut to tell readers that a couple is in love, rather than as a segue to further character development.

Now, most authors tend to argue in favor of insta-love for a lot of good reasons, so allow me to play the devil’s advocate for this article.

The best five minute love story I know.

This is an attempt to analyze insta-love down to its bare basics, particularly on why people might dislike it, and what else might be needed to build it into a more believable romance – and WHY we as authors need to make that additional effort to.

How Insta-Love Can Fail

1. Let’s frame this in a perspective more people might understand: you’ve just met this amazing person. And s/he’s gorgeous. Physically, s/he’s exactly your type, and you already know you’ll make beautiful babies together.  Knowing only this about them, do you:

– give up your family / close friends if they ask you to?

– take a bullet / knife / anything that may potentially result in your painful death for them?

– risk your career / job / schooling for them?

The problem with characters who say “yes” to all or most of the above, is that this shows symptoms of what could lead to a very unhealthy relationship / obsession, and most readers realize this. Is this really the type of character you want to read more about? Even more alarming – if you’re rooting for a character to do exactly this because you yourself think the love interest is hot, then what might this say about you?

Insta-attraction is more easily understood. And there’s a big difference between thinking about the person all the time, and doing things like jumping off buildings for each other or covering up each other’s murders, or something. For love.

And all because s/he’s hot.

(A note: while a lot of authors who write about insta-love do not immediately put their characters in these kinds of situations, it’s reasonable enough to argue that enough writers do this to make this an issue.)

2. One can argue that writing about teens means that teenagers should be written like teenagers, in that they can at times be naive and idiotic when it comes to making certain life decisions. But protagonists are, by default, special – not because their writer-creators say they are, but because they should be by default. Because that suggests there is something about these teenagers that makes them rise beyond the stereotype – there has to be something there that makes them worth reading about.

Let’s face it – we have known friends or teenagers who have acted this way. I, for one, was that friend who constantly groaned and rolled her eyes whenever one of my friends started waxing about that cute guy she just met in History class like it was going to be the greatest romance I was ever going to hear, and I’m  can you just shut up already so we can eat at Burger King cause I need something in my stomach besides all this swill? (I’m not always a considerate friend.)  A lot of times, people who think insta-love is the best thing ever are often  the ones in the throes of it, who have experienced or are experiencing it for themselves.  Most readers are going to be people like me, rolling their eyes at them and groaning because they would much rather eat a Whopper.

I love my friend, but I definitely do not want to read a book about a character like her when she is in this phase. (Her irl romance fizzled out about two weeks after they started dating.)

And this is where the bulk of the complaints about insta-love comes in. Many readers won’t understand the effects of insta-love because they’re not the ones living in that bubble of happiness and rainbows. Readers who do buy into it are usually those who also find themselves attracted to the MC/s in question.

Think about a fictional character you love absolutely. Then think about a friend of yours who’s not into that fandom. Think about their reactions when you gush about how much you love this character.

Now think about the reverse: your friend being in love with a fictional character you care nothing for, but won’t shut up about.

Yup.  It’s a lot like that.

3. Another issue with insta-love is that it happens almost all the time in a lot of YA novels, especially those with romantic elements. In real life, some insta-loves succeed, and some insta-loves fail – but when present in YA, they almost always triumph. Reading one book where insta-love happens is fine. Reading two is alright. Reading two dozen in a row no longer feels quite as believable.

One of my role models, Esme Weatherwax, head witch of Bad Ass village and current Discworld resident, defines it best:

[In stories] million-to-one chances crop up nine times out of ten.

You might not want to hear this, but you will eventually get  sick of chocolate if you eat too much of it. Likewise, if you read a succession of novels with insta-love screaming through their pages, you will  eventually get sick of it. The whole purpose of writing a book is to have it stand out, and using the same trope so many other writers have done without adding a very unique spin to it will not make it so.

But, hark! All is not lost. Here are some few suggestions that (I think) works, to ensure characters can still have their “insta-attraction”, and still bring some level of credibility to their romance:

1. Ensuring Believability

When it comes to writing romance, I always like to reference this formula:

Length of time knowing love interest should be directly proportional to the protagonist’s willingness to die for him/her.

Exception #1: If the protagonists are heroic by nature, then saving  potential love interests from a speeding car / a villain they happen to be fighting would still be keeping in character – not because they would die without him/her, but because it’s already in their character to be heroic, and would still do the same thing even if the rescuee was a pot-bellied man in a sailor outfit.

Contrary to how he looks, he’s actually a pretty nice guy. (image from

Exception #2: This is some sort of satire, and you’re writing this deliberately.

Exception #3: Anything involving Tom Hiddleston does not apply here. It’s worth noting though, that many people also love him for his personality, and not just from his obvious attractiveness.

Shake that personality, Tom!

2. Build character

Throw your couple in some life-threatening situations / major obstacles BEFORE having them declare their undying love for one another. (Having them cuddle up / make out beforehand is fine, though. That’s what insta-attraction is all about.) One purpose for this is to show readers that there is something about the characters that makes them worthy of each other’s love beyond just their beauty. Robert Downey, Jr. is gorgeous, but who do you really love – him, or your significant other? (I don’t know about RDJ, but he’s never tried to be an awkward human raincoat for me during a particularly bad Category 4 typhoon, the way my husband did once.)

3. There is a difference between a romance that happens immediately but genuinely, and a romance that happens in a rather superficial way. It’s up to the author to determine how to place their romances into the former category without falling into the latter, and it’s up to them to convince the readers of the realness of that romance. It takes more than just “because he’s hot” to sell the relationship, and “show, not tell” always works for me.

There’s a difference between being easily attracted early on, and then falling into a deeper and more profound love at a later date. Romances can have both, but the second is more difficult to write about than the first – but it’s always something writers should learn to do. Train yourself to avoid shortcuts.

This is one of the few things writers can’t write about based on experience. Everyone has a different perspective on how love is supposed to feel, and experiences will vary. To argue that insta-love is justified because you’ve felt it yourself or have  seen it in others will not sway readers’ minds to your side of the debate if readers can’t find a worthy quality past the character’s aesthetics.

And that’s where knowing how to portray this realistically comes in. Even people who fell violently in insta-love with each other would never have stayed together if none of them had more redeemable traits to their character.

4. I’ve done everything!

You did your homework, added in all your nuances, and readers / critics are still calling you out? No worries. Relax.

You owe it to your readers – and even more importantly, yourself – to write your book in the best way that you possibly can. Unfortunately, literature is subjective, and sometimes context can be unintentionally (and even deliberately) misunderstood. This is never going to be your fault. Do the best you can, but don’t take it to heart – it doesn’t just happen to the best or the worst of writers; it happens, and will always happen, to every one of us. And that is okay.

To summarize:

Insta-attraction = (physical attraction x 2)

(physical attraction x2) + (redeeming character traits / character-defining flaws) + time = love


Love AND character development.

The Anatomy of a Book Cover – dissecting THE GIRL FROM THE WELL

January 2014 is a big thing for a lot of us here at the BookYArds – what better way to start out the year with a sudden influx of happy, pretty, sparkly book covers for our debuts? But what most people don’t know are the things that goes on behind the scenes. How are book covers born? What kind of planning is involved, from initial conception down to the final reveal?

I can’t speak for every author who’s had a book out, but here’s been my experience so far with my debut, THE GIRL FROM THE WELL.

I’ve been very happy to have the awesome people over at Sourcebooks helming my book – I’ve never seen an ugly Sourcebooks cover, and their final treatment of mine was practically perfect, in my opinion.  Here’s the step-by-step process:

1. I knew early on that I won’t have as much say on the book cover at the start, though I was definitely invited to offer my own input if I didn’t like how it looked, or offer suggestions that would be taken into account, but would have no real guarantee  on the final product. This is pretty normal, as most authors signed onto traditional publishing would tell you.

However, if a book cover makes you feel like you want to go out and punch a tree, then you can be very vocal about your dislike, and they will listen.  I’ve known writers who’d been violently opposed to their book covers because of a lot of misleading information it depicts (wrong model for their MC, supporting characters emphasized over MCs, just plain horrible graphics, and more)

2. This is the first book cover treatment I’d ever received for my debut:


Pros: That background! Those birds!

Cons: I wasn’t feeling that font, and not liking the font made the cover look off somehow – like it’s getting there, but there’s something   completely incomplete about the whole look. I was told at this stage that they weren’t satisfied with how my name was featured in, as well.

I’d told my editor and agent at this point that something felt odd about the cover. I was hoping for more subtlety, and I was very thrilled that the designer didn’t choose to go for the girl-looking-mysterious-or-beautifully-dead route, because there were a lot of those  kinds of covers already out on the market that didn’t actually have dead girls in their novels, and I was worried it would no longer stand out. (Also: my protagonist is dead, but not beautifully so.)

3. The second treatment for my cover:


As soon as I saw that beautiful typeface, I knew this was it. See what a difference the right kind of font makes? I was thrilled, my agent was thrilled, and everyone was thrilled that we were thrilled.

4. The final cover:


Some very minor tweaks, and here’s the result!

I think I’ve been lucky in a lot of ways. A lot of other authors have to go through a lot more revisions with their respective publishers before settling on the one they really like, but I was rather pleased with mine!

The Writer’s Lair

Jane Austen wrote at a pedestal table not much larger than a pizza pan.

Charles Dickens and Victor Hugo–both hugely prolific–wrote at standing desks.

Rudyard Kipling wrote in a sunlit room, surrounded by floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Roald Dahl, in an overstuffed armchair with a lapdesk. George Bernard Shaw, in a whitewashed outdoor shack.

Virginia Woolf (she of the “room of one’s own”) wrote at a simple wooden desk in a simple wooden chair, looking out upon a field of green. (For images of these and more, check out Mary’s Writers’ Rooms Pinterest page.)

We at the BookYArd may not be Dickens or Woolf, but we have our own spaces for our own words.

Christina Farley, author of Gilded
The desk of Christina Farley, author of Gilded.
Sarah Bromley, author of A Murder of Magpies
The writing nook of Sarah Bromley. Note the little dog (Bella) in the chair. Sarah rescued Bella from Animal Control and on the way home found that her agent had sold A Murder of Magpies.
Lindsay Currie, coauthor of Creed
The desk of Lindsay Currie, coauthor of Creed.
Mary Crockett, coauthor of Dream Boy, is a migratory writer. Any available space is fair game. When her husband set up a tent in her family room for the amusement of the kids, Mary moved in. (Note the laptop behind the two-year-old.)
Mary Crockett, coauthor of Dream Boy, is a migratory writer. Any available space is fair game. When her husband set up a tent in her family room for the amusement of the kids, Mary moved in. (Note the laptop behind the two-year-old.)
Office space of Monica Ropal, author of The Body of Cooper McCay, surrounded by inspiration of the Harry Potter kind. Also note the tiny Lego creations, evidence of the pleasant and creative interruptions by the children kind.
The Girl from the Well author Rin Chupeco’s writing station varies from season to season (read: unspeakably rainy to unbearably hot days), but beds always figure in somehow. A decided bonus: sheep.