This comes a bit late in the #HeistClub New Blood anthology (The Secrets That We Keep) blog tour—in fact, the tour is over—but as they say, better late than never! I cannot really do a review of the stories because Georgette Gonzales and I reviewed, compiled and edited all the stories that made up this anthology.
My comments per story (and author) will be from an editorial perspective. Let me focus on the New Blood first, because this was the main objective of the anthology: to discover and mentor new crime fiction authors.
Liam began telling stories in fifth grade by drawing crude stick-figure comics on the back of his school notebooks. Now in his late twenties, he’s still weaving characters and worlds together through writing. Some of his inspirations include Frank Herbert, Michael Crichton, James Rollins, and Steve Berry.
Contact Liam at https://www.facebook.com/lbluntwrites/
When the authors sent us their concepts, I was already intrigued with this story by Liam Blunt. The title wasn’t WEB yet, but the premise of the story was already outlined. The dark web, the secret transactions, the anonymity, the sense of danger. All of these already appealed to me. I was hoping the manuscript submission would not disappoint me. And it didn’t. There was a bleakness to the story that caught me unaware. The conversation between mother and son on video touched my heart, and it took all of my self-control to not throttle the mother’s throat. Then there was the reverse, the mother who wants to do good by her son after her good-for-nothing baby daddy leaves them. There was a realness in the way their story was written that again struck a chord in me. From the significance of a fastfood chicken meal, to the reality of having someone take care of the son before the mom gets home, and the keeping of time by the show that was showing on TV.
Amae Dechavez was born in Quezon City, Philippines to a mother from Baguio and father from Quezon Province. She works as a V.A. and social media marketing associate-slash-SEO content writer by day, and currently resides with her dog within the suburbs of Metro Manila.
For orders: bit.ly/amaebooks
I knew Amae as a romance writer, so it was a surprise when she joined the workshop. To be honest, both Gette and I had intense “discussions” with Amae on her story, her characters, etc. Compromises were reached, but the bottom line was that her characters are teenagers, and we can’t expect them to act like adults. And much as we liked them too, the core of the story was their youngness and impulsiveness and well . . . blatant disregard for the adult constructs that ruled their lives. Amae had a vision for her story series, and our role was to help her achieve it without changing it too much that it doesn’t ring true to her anymore. Amae’s late father was a policeman, and her main character Zanjo’s father was modelled after him. So there is a lot of “personal” experience in that story since Amae grew up in Zanjo’s world.
The end result was, I believe, a story that Amae still could call her own, and we as editors could stand behind.
Ivan is an avid reader and a daydreamer. Writing is his way of putting both to good use.
Contact I.P. Lanz at https://ivansnotebook.wordpress.com
During the concept submission, the murders of neighborhood nuisances intrigued me. That it was so “normal,” meaning no complex plot, no outlandish murder weapons, etc., also resonated with me. That it was the killings of people with loud motorcycle mufflers was also relatable, as I live in a subdivision where these nuisances abound!
Sniper was another story where Gette and I needed to gain more understanding of the main plot and the way the characters thought. There were discussions about what the character should be doing/thinking, but then when I.P. clarified that the character was thinking as a male would in his situation, then whatever Gette and I thought became a bit lame, considering we were not male. Haha. Although we will provided our comments and notes and guided I.P. through the writing process. We may not be male, but we read and write male characters ourselves so we had some opinions that he should also take note. I.P. was working full time while also revising his manuscript so it was always a case of him cramming during a weekend to do revisions. This was probably true for most of the writers, and this was why it took us longer to finalize and release the anthology.
Buñag Manlapaz spends most of his time trying to attain immortality. And through writing, he found the key. AMONG US is the first of many crime fiction stories he intends to release, where he weaves together the fabric of criminality [villainy] and justice.
Among Us was probably the most complex of all the stories, with its complicated plot points and multitudes of characters and timelines. To be honest, it took a while before we understood where Buñag really wanted to take the story. As with anything complex, we needed to break it down into manageable pieces before we started putting it together again. But once we understood it and knew where it needed to go, the hard work of building the story up again commenced. Buñag was very patient and understanding, to say the least. He was probably the one with the most comments and revisions, but he welcomed everything with openness and even good cheer, that it helped everyone through the process.
The story was about the consequences of bullying. Buñag had been open during the launch that he was a victim of bullying and I understood him more–his insistence at telling the story and even the complexity of it–it was because he lived the horrors of the situation which shaped the killer. Buñag had also said, it was better to have all of his revenge scenarios play out in his head and in his writing, than for them to be real. There is actual pain in this story and I now understood that the pain was real.
His story, based on the blog tour result, was polarizing. Some loved it, some couldn’t comprehend it. And I believe it was meant to be that way. It is either a story you love, or you won’t get.
Celestine Trinidad is a physician by profession, particularly, a pathologist. In her spare time, she writes fiction of several genres, including romance, speculative fiction, crime fiction, and children’s stories. Her stories have been published in other print and online venues, such as Philippines Free Press, Philippines Graphic, The Digest of Philippine Genre Stories, Philippine Speculative Fiction, and Insignia.
When I first read Missing Bodies, I already knew we had a winner. I knew Celestine as a very good writer for different genres, and her foray to crime fiction was no exception. The fact that it was also very timely and very political made my heart hammer with excitement. I mean the missing bodies were of drug addicts/pushers, and we have a main character whose Mom, a former senator was framed and sent to jail for really being sympathetic to the human rights of drug addicts. Then we have a reluctant partner (and potential love interest!) who was promoted for gunning down addicts (on orders from his superior) in a bust—and he is having a crisis of conscience. How much real can we get here, people?
Now, let me tackle the short stories by the Old Bloods!
J. Guibone has an appetite for crime and horror fiction even though she’s a real-life scaredy-cat. Anything mysterious and creepy intrigues her, and she’ll gladly fork out a few bills for an almanac of strange phenomena (but will forget to replace her ancient sneakers).
She juggles working as a freelance writer, penning fiction, and entertaining her dogs. When not typing away at her laptop, she can usually be found with her nose buried in a book—either reading or sniffing it.
You can connect with J. Guibone through her blog at www.jguibonewrites.com
On first reading, I loved The Children of Truth, maybe because I didn’t expect the story. That the main character was in his twilight years also hooked me in, and okay, it’s about a cult. I also loved the wry humor of the younger cop who was deemed too handsome (due to his genes and periodic facials) to be a believable infiltrator of the cult. I also have this thing about hypocritical Catholic priests (don’t ask me why), so this story had me hooked. And I was glad Gette and I decided to ask the Old Bloods to contribute short stories for the anthology too, to support the New Blood.
Side note: I am a Stephen King fan and I loved The Children of the Corn, so I had such SK vibes while reading this story by J. Guibone.
He is doing his best to make time for his manuscripts and poems while resuming his career in journalism. His next project, aside from the “Sampaguita” series, supposedly involves romance (or maybe not).
Throughout his exile (read: hiatus), he developed an appetite for mapo tofu, and he now also craves the beef and beer chili bowl at the Oarhouse Pub of Manila. He is also currently rewatching his old anime.
Follow Mark on:
I HATE MARK MANALANG! This story had me all emotionally invested and then he did what he did in the end! But that’s what makes this story so powerfully beautiful. Mark knows gritty Manila crime scenes and scenarios and the way he set this up just had me careening over a cliff at high speed. I have also just been involved in an anthology where we celebrated the happy endings of a community that Mark’s story showed the painful, dark reality of people who are still not as accepting. It was such a turn-around for me that I was just reeling.
Irene Recio is a ninja masquerading as a stay-at-home mom with a double degree in BS Applied Economics and Business Management. She found her happiness teaching pre-nursery children and was taking her Masters in Education when she had to put her career on pause to focus on her amazing daughter. Just recently, she received the greatest (and cutest!) surprise of her life – a bouncing (literally) baby girl! Her children are the heart and her husband is the soul of her happiness. Together they inspire her to be better and to do better always.
She used to do freelance writing for a parenting website and various magazines. She has always been fascinated with mystery and crime fiction, and her love for the genre started with Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys.
When not writing crime, she is writing new adult novellas and children’s books.
Find her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/irene.nicolasrecio and on Twitter and Instagram: @inrecio
Irene’s story SNATCHED was about the best friend of the main character in her first HeistClub novel. At first, Irene just wanted to contribute since she was not yet done with her Book 2, and although it was not a crime story per se, there is enough darkness and angst in it that COULD make it one . . .
That Irene just gave birth and was focusing on her family, and SNATCHED is about a mother’s love for a child she may not have physically given birth to, but she loved as her own anyway, and the biological mother who just MIGHT threaten that relationship.
Gette and I worked with Irene to make it a bit darker and more #HeistClub, but even in the first draft, we can already see the signs. It was just a matter of scratching these signs raw, to surface the wounds.
Yeyet Soriano is a multi-genre author who writes speculative fiction, crime fiction and contemporary romance.Based in Manila, Philippines, her day job is that of an Asia-Pacific regional senior IT manager for a multinational corporation. She is married to a man who has never read of any of her works (he only reads to fall asleep), and they have three wonderful kids—a teen-aged daughter who just entered college and who is pursuing her passion for street dance, a sweet daughter in fourth grade who is a budding poet and writer in her own right, and a son in first grade who hasn’t taken up reading for fun yet, but is unbelievably smart and charming.
Author Website and Blog: www.yeyetsoriano.com
My story contribution was already written a year ago—and this was because I was focusing on the release of my Book 2 aside from the anthology. Kate’s Retreat is a cross-over story between my romance novel Kate, Finally and my first #HeistClub novel The Retreat. Granted that the impact would be more felt if people had read both, I still loved the idea of a decision that could change one’s life. In this story Kate had a decision to make, whether to join the Writer’s Retreat (in The Retreat) or to be available so she could see the potential love of her life Layne Sto. Domingo again (in Kate, Finally). She chose the latter, and so she lived a contemporary romance story. Had she chosen to join the writers’ retreat, her whole life would have changed.
And maybe, I will write that alternate story also. Soon.