Yearly Challenge: NaNoWriMo

October has just started but writers all across the world are now gearing up for the yearly NaNoWriMo challenge: Write a complete novel of 50,000 words or more in 30 days (or less).

Last year, I had the good fortune of winning the damn thing, and by winning, I mean that I reached the 50,000 word count. Let’s not talk about whether or not the story finished. :p

Because of that win, I was declared Newbie of the Year by the MLs of NaNoWriMo Philippines. It was a big suprise even though I had been doing NaNo for 10 years.

Below is a screenshot of the message that was sent out to our local mailing list. Here’s hoping that it will provide inspiration to those who want to give NaNoWriMo a try, or have tried and never finished, or have finished many times before.

NaNoWriMo Pep Talk

My pep talk for NaNoWriMo Philippines after winning it last year.

And I guess I’m a sucker for punishment because I’m going to give this another go. See you at the finish line.

The #BuqoYA Experience: Writing Under Pressure

I have a soft spot for YA books. It was what really got me into reading. My shelves were crammed with books like Sweet Valley Twins, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Enid Blyton, to name a few. These days, YA has expanded to include so many other genres. I’m not even sure if I’m classifying it correctly.

I was still high from my NaNoWriMo win so I decided to sign up for an online writing class with Mina V. Esguerra. Mina’s been making waves in the local romance writing and publishing industry, as she’s been promoting books and encouraging authors. Call it an advocacy, and it has been paying off. It’s my second class with Mina, the first being #flirtsteamyreads wherein I failed miserably. This class is about young adult romance fiction, and it was sponsored by digital distributor, Buqo.

The reward, other than the satisfaction that you have finished a story, is a possible distribution contract with Buqo. How’s that for amazing?

Because of my schedule, I couldn’t attend the face-to-face meetings. I tried to keep up with the classes through email, Facebook, and Twitter. Social media certainly has changed the trend of writing. It used to be solitary, and writers suffer through challenges on their own. Now, if I’m stuck, or if I need inspiration, a quick status update with the hashtag buqoYA would net me responses of encouragement, suggestions, and silly stuff that would make me laugh.

While I consider one’s drive and desire to finish the story as one of the biggest factors in finishing a story (aside from having a story to write of course), having a community also helps. It makes you feel less alone, and in a way, it makes you competitive. When you see others improving or accelerating, you want to do it too. And because you’re with people who have the same interest, you’re not so shy anymore when it comes to telling the world what you are writing.

The workshop ran from January 19 to February 28. Stories follow certain guides as set by Mina, and should be a finished story of at least 5,000 words long. Personally, I think the deadlines helped because it forced me to write. And not just put down words, but also to make sure it’s coherent and well written. While writing with a deadline doesn’t appeal to everyone, in some cases it works. I became more conscious about the passing time, and I managed my time so I can finish my tasks AND be able to write my story. It hasn’t improved my style or my writing habit drastically, but I know better now. It has also helped me become more familiar with how I write, and what I want to write.

I would definitely recommend joining a class hosted by Mina. Not only will get your work done, you can also pick up tips and ways on getting your work out there. You’ll meet new friends, and hey, you will most likely end up with a few new stories to read.

If you’re interested, there’s another workshop coming this April. Contemporary New Adult (NA) romance, and those who finish may get a publishing contract with Anvil’s Spark Books. Sign up, sign up for the SparkNA workshop!

Eating in Kota Kinabalu (Part 2)

Continued from Eating in Kota Kinabalu (Part 1): Cultures Crashing

One of the things I loved about Kota Kinabalu is that the food was very affordable. On the average, the meals we ordred cost us around RM 8 each, and that’s with drinks. We splurged a bit at Kedai Kopi Lotus and Upperstar, but it was still well within a reasonable range. The servings are also good, so we didn’t feel shortchanged. We forgo eating at fast foods, the only time we did was when i ordered a Zinger from KFC to get rid of the quesy stomach I had after drinking teh tarik one time. In my opinion, skip the fast food and go eat local.

Kedai Kopi Lotus
I was beginning to think that most food places around Kota Kinabalu are called “kedai kopi”, so long as they have coffee and tea to go with the other stuff.

This place was outside of the KK City Center. I wouldn’t have gone if our friends didn’t bring us here. It’s a restaurant, but stalls owned by other cooks are stationed outside. One offers dumplings, another sells grilled seafood and chicken wings. Order food from any of them, and once it’s delivered, you pay on the spot. It’s a popular place for the people who live nearby, and many of them drop by to buy food rather than cook.

I never got the name of the dishes we ate. We had an almond pudding, a noodle dish with some chicken and veggies, dimsum, chicken wings, and grilled fish with shrimp paste and kang kong.

2014-12-06 19.01.13 2014-12-06 19.06.10

2014-12-06 19.13.54 2014-12-06 19.16.09

We also had dinner at a similar place a day later. It had a fascinating story, because it was located in a place in KK where the houses were on stilts.

More noodles
We had a free day, so we decided to strike out on our own for lunch. We decided to try Kedai Kopi Yee Fung along Gaya Street. Luckily, it wasn’t crowded. I wanted to try the claypot chicken, but it was out of stock so I decided to try their yee fung ngau chap. Had a glass of kitchai ping go to along with it. The noodle serving was smaller than Nountoun’s, but the drink was in a tall glass and I was happy.


Continue reading

Booking Through Thursday: Cold Weather Reading

This week’s question on Booking Through Thursday is weather appropriate.

When the weather is cold and blustery, would you rather read something is equally wintery? Or something to take you as far away from the snow as possible?

The Philippines, while a tropical country, still experiences bouts of cold weather around November to February. I used to live up in the mountains, and when it hits 15C that’s pretty cold for me. Doesn’t seem like much for folks who actually experience winter, but for us, that’s close to freezing. :)

My choice of books isn’t affected by the weather at all. I don’t quite care what I’m reading so long as it’s good read. Although of course, it stands that many of the books I would purchase around this time usually has a Christmas or winter theme, which is probably a marketing strategy by publishers.

Bottomline, good book + cold weather = good times.

Eating in Kota Kinabalu (Part 1): Cultures Crashing

The food of Kota Kinabalu has elements of the familiar mixed in with the novelty of new flavors. Perhaps this is so because our similar roots, and that the climate and topography is also quite like ours, their ingredients are quite like the ones we use ourselves.

Kota Kinabalu has a strong Chinese community, with many restaurants carrying Chinese dishes alongside the Malay and Indian ones. They have European influences too, particularly British, as the Malaysia was a colony of the United Kingdom for a long time.

Food was not something Shabby and I planned for on this trip (then again, not a lot of it was really planned). Like our activities, where and what we eat was done on the fly, and was mostly based on the recommendations of our hosts. We went to places that the locals particularly liked, and more often than not, it was almost always packed.

Day 1
Our first meal in Kota Kinabalu was at this small kedai kopi (which I believe translates to “coffee shop”) place near our hotel. It was open 24 hours, so it was a good spot for us to grab something to eat when hunger pangs striked. The food was laid out carinderia style, but you can always order rice meals off the menu on the wall.

First meal in KK

I don’t remember the names of the dishes that we ate. We had noodles, hainanese chicken, some cold cuts, and a dish of pork innards that went really well with the noodles. For drinks, we immediately got teh tarik, the famous pulled tea that Malaysian food is well known for. Over ice, it was refreshing.

First meal in KK

Of course, no one really told us that the area we were stayingin had a somewhat seedy reputation, which was probably why some people looked at us funny when we went there for a midnight snack. Anyway…

Tanjung Aru Beach
According to our friend and erstwhile guide, Tanjung Aru Beach is the to-go place for everyone who grew up in KK. Think of it as that resort everyone has to go to at least once in their lives. We went there to complete a mission for Ingress, but as it began to rain we decided to hang out for a while and let it pass.

Tanjung Aru Beach 1

Continue reading

Finally: NaNoWriMo win

Note: This was supposed to be for November 2014, but there were a lot of things that needed to be prioritized, hence the delay.

After ten years and countless beginnings, drafts, heartbreak and frustration, I’ve done it.

I finished writing 50,000 words in 30 days and finally have that purple bar on my NaNoWriMo profile proclaiming me a winner.

A photo posted by Kat Sales (@saberkite) on

Continue reading

Kota Kinabalu: A Lesson in Hospitality

I’m coming clean. When Shabby broached the idea of going to Kota Kinabalu last April, my first thought was, “What’s there?” Sure, there’s the nature part of the place, where you can climb Mt. Kinabalu and enjoy Sabah’s natural beauty. Other than that, I knew nothing.

Terrible, I know.

We purchased the tickets anyway, and did sporadic research about the place in the succeeding months. I felt I wasn’t giving the place and the trip much attention, as I didn’t even save much for expenses. The total money I had at that time was P8,000.

One thing I never expected when we got to Kota Kinabalu was the extent of the generosity and kindness of the people. Shabby plays this game called Ingress, a location based strategy game that has millions of players all over the world. When the KK players found out that she was coming, the volunteered to pick us up from the airport and lend us a pocket WiFi device.

That for us was generous enough, but it went beyond that. Chua, a photographer and a member of KK’s conservation board, acted as our guide the whole time. Through him, I learned a lot about KK’s history, development, politics, even their music and art scene. We got to visit local hangouts and taste specialties that were probably out of the way for most tourists. He also told us about the events that KK will be hosting in the future, including festivals and holidays.

We also hung out with some other Ingress players. Mostly it was just to farm and run some strategy. Sometimes they’d ask about the Philippines, but in relation to the game. I also ended up signing on for the game, and I managed to reach level 3 before we left the country. I also finished my first mission.

I was amused when they made us eat all sorts of delicacies, but then I’d realize that it was just a version of a Chinese dish we have at home. They were surprised that I knew what matchang, siomai, and kiamoy are, that my grandma cooked chicken feet the traditional way, and so on.

In so many ways, neither culture knew much about the other. And the exchange of ideas was pretty fun.


I learned so much from our new friends. Kota Kinabalu may be small, but they value and respect it, and take pride in their culture. The know that they have power over their government, and they can fight for their rights and get a positive response. They take pride in their heritage, and they welcome visitors to their humble place.

It is not perfect, however. It had its own foibles, much as I’ve learned from the stories and from what I saw with my own eyes. But Kota Kinabalu has so much to offer its visitors. Take the usual tourist spots, but if you can spend time to do as the locals do, you will find yourself enriched.

Getting stuck in Kota Kinabalu because of typhoon Ruby brought many repercussions. However, the experience I had with these people, and the kindness they showed us is something I would not trade for anything. I look forward to extending to them the same generosity when they visit Metro Manila, and I hope they have a favorable experience as well.

The Hassle of Cancelled Flights and Messy Airlines

Being a chance passenger on a bus is not as nerve-wracking as being a chance passenger on a plane.

Because of Typhoon Ruby (international name Hagupit), our flight back to Manila on December 8 was cancelled. The storm had slowed down by then, but Air Asia took the precaution of canceling all flights from December 7 to 9. We had no choice but to extend our stay for two more days.

The stay itself wasn’t so bad, as the hotel was able to accommodate us for two extra nights. The problem was that my friend and I had only taken vacation leaves for two days (one day for our departure and the other for our return). We were able to inform our respective workplaces, but we were worried about the repercussions of the other days.

Another problem was that we were already beyond our budget. I had asked my family to send me money, but I hoped I didn’t have to use it.

The main concern was how were we going to go back. We tried contacting Air Asia through it’s various portals (call, social media, satellite office, etc) but we kept getting mixed responses.

My main contact was through the Twitter of Air Asia Philippines. I saw that they were accommodating rebookings for other passengers (though probably for different flights), so I took the chance. After providing the flight number and the booking number, I was told I have to go to their website to file for a rebooking. This was Sunday night.

I tried again the next day, this time through a direct message. I was then told that the only flight available was for December 15. I replied that it was not acceptable, and asked if they can facilitate a multi-city transfer, like Kota Kinabalu to Kuala Lumpur to Manila. I was informed that they cannot accommodate the multi-city option, and that since my flight was cancelled I had the option to rebook the flight and gave me specific dates.

I responded in Tagalog, telling them that neither options are acceptable as we needed to go home ASAP. We were on vacation only, and we had jobs and responsibilities to go home to. Plus the fact that we were running low on funds.

I asked of there was any compensation for the inconvenience, such as a refund or repayment of expenses. I was told to fill up an online form, and that was it.

On Tuesday, we went to the airport to ask what were our options. We were told nearly the same thing as to the availability of the flight. The attendant placed our name on a list, and said that those were the names of the people who were also trying to get a seat. I saw that we were number 6 on the list, and we were advised to be at the airport two hours or so before the flight.

We went back to the city, and listed our other option, which was to look for flights to KL or Singapore then get a connecting flight to Manila. Our goal was to get home on December 10, with the least cost possible.

We were at the airport by 8 AM. Again we were told that we were on the list, but I was surprised to see that we were number 9! That got me worried. But since we couldn’t do anything we went off to have a second round of breakfast.



Back at the airport, we joined a few people who were all waiting for a chance to get on the flight. We talked to the staff again, and to opt for the multi-city we had to get a full refund for this trip and rebook a flight. They said can’t switch flights since it wasn’t the same track (or something like that). That seemed like such a hassle so we thought we’d play it by ear.
Continue reading

November 2014 Summary

I’ve got a horrific backlog of posts for this November. Work and school kept me busy, and they have their own backlog too. Quick summary of what’s happened so far, starting with the latest.

NaNoWriMo Winner!
50,312 words in 30 days. Validated my words on November 3o, 2014 10:30 PM (GMT +8). About 20k of those words were written in 14 hours of Nov. 30. I do not recommend it. Story’s not done, but I’m putting it aside until after my finals on the 13th.


Canva Creatives Conference
I feel lucky that I was able to attend and I got to meet the people behind this online tool. I love the site, and it has been an invaluable tool for me at work. A proper post with photos to follow.

#CanvaConference kit. Had an awesome time.

A photo posted by Kat Sales (@saberkite) on

Filipino Reader Con
My second year to volunteer! Got great books, met awesome people and had a really amazing time. Post and photos to follow as well.

#FilReaderCon volunteers. Had a wonderful time. Next year ulit! Photo from @fantaghiro23

A photo posted by Kat Sales (@saberkite) on

There’s still a lot in between, but that’s it for now.

Oh my, it’s December already!