The Stories of Michelle Rodriguez

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Sing Like You Think No One's Listening

Posted by [email protected] on October 24, 2011 at 4:15 PM Comments comments (4)

I’m a singer.  I don’t know where it came from.  As a child, I was known for putting together little shows with the cousins for family Christmas parties and singing Madonna on tables with my light-up microphone in bangle bracelets. But most kids do that; it’s pretty ordinary.  It was fun, but not something I would have expected would be my future passion.

 

At 14, I found my voice.  Most would think it would be wonderful to figure out that you’re talented at something you enjoy doing.  What no one prepares you for is the reaction you get afterward.  Everyone assumes it is so easy to open one’s mouth and sing. They think because YOU are your instrument, you can just sing on command if they want to hear you.  Family is the worst when it comes to that sort of thinking.

 

“They’re probably going to ask you to sing…”  That was my mother’s line usually as we would be getting ready to attend any and every family function as if it were sufficient warning.  That was typically followed by a “This could be (insert family relation)’s last (insert holiday).”  Ah, yes, the guilt!  As a teenager, that always ended up working, and I’d sit through whatever family function just waiting for the call.  It would always come near the end, way after I’d warmed up and after a big meal or dessert, or something you definitely don’t want to be singing on.  And then I’d be expected to get up and put on a one-girl show, singing something (preferably in English so everybody could understand it!) and act like it was OK despite the fact that I didn’t want to be singing.  I was not the same outgoing child ready to sing on tables; I was shy about my talent and hated the attention I got from my family for it.  I tell you from experience that it is so much easier to sing for a room full of strangers!  When it’s family, it’s like a punishment!  There’s too much “I wish (again insert family relation) was here to hear you sing like that”, “she got her voice from MY side of the family”, “I can hardly wait to see you on the big opera stage”.

 

The best at being over-proud was my grandfather.  I love the man and miss him so much since he died a few years ago, but he was exceptionally good at telling everyone he met (including perfect strangers) that his granddaughter was an opera singer.  Oh, I do mean everyone!  The man could make conversation with the sales clerk, the waiter, the random person walking out of a store, ANYONE!  It’s a talent I wish I had! 

 

When I was in college, I spent my spring breaks flying down to Florida to stay with him and my grandma.  Because this was usually mid-term time, I needed to keep my voice in shape, so my grandfather got the managers of the country club to let me use their piano and their big room to practice in the mornings.  It was embarrassing enough because golfers would wander in and out, and I’d continuously have to stop and glare until they moved on.  But then he’d insist we go to dinner at the club and ask the waiters and people at random nearby tables if they’d heard his granddaughter sing.  Ducked head, red cheeks.  I could barely mutter a reply!

 

And the one that takes the cake.  I went out to dinner with my grandparents and a table full of their friends.  Imagine it: me at 19 years old and a table full of elderly people who were polishing off one wine bottle after another.  We were at Macaroni’s Grill on a crowded Friday night, and then it started again with the waiter.  “Did you know my granddaughter’s an opera singer? You should hear her sing.”  Ducked head, red cheeks, and then came the part that had me ready to run out the door.  “Why don’t you sing something for us?”  A restaurant full of almost 100 people, loud with chatter, and he wanted me to sing?  And then all of the others at our table started with the subtle coercion. “We’ve never heard you sing before”.  “We might not see you again for a long time”.  “Come on, just one song”.  And I had to sing!  In a restaurant full of people, who all silenced with the first few notes and stared!  And it wasn’t fun at all!  I am not good at being a prima donna; I never have been.  I get too easily intimidated, and at college age, I still was having a hard time getting up my nerve to audition for solos let alone sing in full restaurants!

 

There is a scene in my phantom story “Untouchable” where Erik coerces Christine to sing in a café full of people even though she doesn’t want to.  Ever wonder where the idea from that scene came from?  That was as real as it gets!  But Christine had more guts than I ever could.  She sang purposely mediocre at first just to spite him and then proceeded to show off and be the diva.  In my situation, I just wanted it over with as quickly aspossible!

 

I have a recital this upcoming Saturday.  To those of you who know me, you know that I am not that same scared teenager, nervous to be put on the spot and forced to share her talent.  I get anxious, of course; that’s natural, but I love to perform on MY terms.  Warmed up, on a stage, with an accompanist to at least give me the key and a pitch!  Being onstage is an exhilaration.  I love every single moment and try to savor it for what it is.  But it was those impromptu performances at family parties and restaurants that made me strong, that made me come out of my shell and be unafraid to leave it all on the stage.  I love to let the music take me away and make something beautiful.  I love high notes and the challenge in coloratura phrases.  I love not singing it perfectly in rehearsals and having that bit of fear that keeps me on my toes during the real show.  I love seeing the audience and knowing that I have them in the palm of my hand from the moment I open my mouth.  I have a lot of pressure on me all the time, mostly from myself, but I let it go when I’m onstage.  Of course, I know my mistakes, but I try to outshine them and make them inconsequential in the end.

 

There have been a few instances in my life due to health reasons that I’ve had to step away from singing.  Every time I gave it up, it felt like I wasn’t myself anymore, like I was missing something crucial inside.  I’ve put myself and my voice back together countless times now, and I spend so much time working on my technique and my art every single day.  I don’t regret a  second of it.  I wouldn’t be me if I weren’t singing.  I AM the little opera singer my grandfather was always so proud of.

 

I don’t remember the last time my grandfather heard me sing before he died.  It was probably Sunday mass or another family wedding, but I know that he heard me afterward.  The hardest thing I ever had to do was sing his funeral, but I knew he’d want me to.  The proud grandfather.  I heard time and time again that “no one sang better” than me.  Of course, he was partial, but I like knowing he truly believed that.  To this day, before I step out onto the stage, I blow two kisses up into the air: one is for my Nonno Louis who died when I was a child and one is for my grandfather.  I like to believe they listen to me sing even from heaven.

 

Being a performer, I’ve learned that family members are both your biggest fans and the biggest pains in the neck, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I’ve learned that music is a blessing never to be taken for granted.  Once it’s in your blood, it doesn’t come out again; it IS you.  And I’ve learned that if you have a gift, it’s your right to share it. If you don’t, it’s like you don’t have a gift at all and it goes wasted.  Singing is one of my gifts, and I hope to always be able to share it with the world.

 



My sisters and I, always the little performers; of course, I am the one at the mike!


Jamming with Dad!

 


My Creative Process: Some Tips to Share!

Posted by [email protected] on October 10, 2011 at 6:55 PM Comments comments (5)

In the same way that singing does not come simply from opening one’s mouth, writing a novel does not come simply by picking up a pencil (or typing on a computer screen, although I prefer the scribble of lead and paper over clicked keys.) Singing requires practice, a lot of mediocre performances in one’s kitchen where the neighborhood overhears every missed high note, and finally, a performance where one gives her all and hopes to shine.  Writing is a parallel; one needs practice, which for me is a basic outline, then a first draft with possible missed “high notes”, and then finally, a finished novel with heart and soul poured into every word.

 

Many people have asked me the details of my creative process, and until I started to truly contemplate it, I realized I’d never considered it a process at all. It’s just what I do.  I was not formally trained to write; I’ve never even taken a Creative Writing class because I didn’t want rules.  I’ve always just gone by what I’ve felt, but I’ve learned lessons along the way and my own methods for how I do things. This is my attempt to list some of my tips for writing, and maybe something here will seem helpful or a new way of doing things.

 

1.  Find inspiration.  The most important element to every story is that moment of inspiration. One must have an idea and fall so in love with it that it doesn’t feel like a job to compose an entire story about it.  My main source of inspiration is music.  Whenever I need an idea or have writer’s block, music is my key.  I like to fall into a piece or a song and let my mind go and spin me where it will.  Pictures come with the melodies, sometimes whole scenes, sometimes basic ideas.  I’ve written whole novels based on one scene because it has spoken to me so much that it reveals layers and a story beneath it.  It becomes like a movie playing out just for me, and as the songs evolve, the stories follow suit.

 

2.  Notes.  I am not talking about composing an entire beginning to end outline of a story before you write it.  How much pressure would that be!  I cannot imagine writing an entire synopsis, let alone sticking to it! I take notes, scribble down words or ideas from my inspiration and the pictures in my head, minor details, and then I let those words pull me to my next ideas.  Sometimes one idea begets another.  I often write a point and then a “…maybe (another idea)”; no idea is rejected in a planning stage, even if I don’t use half of them. It’s like there is a story hidden in the middle, and I must find the right route to uncover it.  I know a story could take any turn and direction it wants, but to me, it feels like there is one set path, and I have to find it.  I never write an ending before I’ve written a story.  I usually will plan out 2 to 3 scenes ahead and keep an idea what main points need to be hit, but that’s all.  No endings!  I think it is too limiting to have a final destination in mind when characters grow and develop during the time they’re worked with.  Which leads me to my next point.

 

3.  Let the characters be the guide.  My characters speak in my mind.  I know some writers will say they talk to their characters and understand them through conversation.  My characters don’t talk to me, per se; they talk to each other …a lot!  When I’m working on a book, I compare it to having clouds in my head, and I get continuously sucked beneath their blanket into daydreams where my characters are working a scene or two ahead of me.  I see it happen, and I go with it.  They pull me where they want, and they run the show.  I occasionally play mediator if certain points need to be hit or discussed, but for the most part, they are in charge.  One makes a comment, and the other reacts to it just like real life, and I get the joy and challenge of putting it into words.  My characters become extensions of myself, even though they are their own people.  How many times have I felt like I lost myself somewhere in their drama?  I have a hard time disassociating ME from THEM, and as such, will be in a bad mood when they are fighting with each other or be overly exuberant when they’ve just admitted they love each other.  I can’t say how often I’ve snapped at my poor husband because of some asinine way my hero acted in the last scene I wrote just before I came downstairs in the morning.  It’s like being possessed until the story is finished, the clouds clear, and they are out of my head again!

 

4.  Write something everyday!  This is a big deal and directly affects the ability to stay in the characters’ heads.  Taking time away from a story makes me detach from it in the same way that working on more than one story at once ruins both.  I understand that some people can have 5 novels going at once and be reading a book at the same time!  I cannot.  I put full focus on one story and one character set.  If I’m short story writing, then that’s all I’m doing and novels wait.  If I’m in the midst of a novel, my phantom stories sit by the way side till I’m done.  I feel like the instant I break into something new, I lose my characters’ way.  I can’t leap in and out of personalities or stories, or I feel like my characters won’t fully grow.  In the same way, I write everyday, even if it’s only a page or 2 because inspiration is being cut by stress.  It’s important to keep moving forward and get out of a rut rather than set it aside and hope to go back to it.  I think that makes writing a chore rather than a joy.  Writer’s block is going to come and go, and there will be days when it’s normal to not feel very creative, but I think the worst thing to do is stop writing because of it.  I make small goals, maybe just a few paragraphs, maybe just getting out of one scene, and then I return to point one and hunt for my inspiration again.  Those are the nights I go to bed early, put on my headphones, and fall back into my head. I let the pictures take me away and remind me why I fell in love with the story idea to begin with.

 

5.  There is ALWAYS a way to get from Point A to Point B.  This is about trusting yourself and your creativity.  There are times when I’m writing a novel, and I’ll have a scene I definitely want to include or a culmination that has to come before the next part, and for some reason, it seems impossible to work.  What I’ve learned as a writer is to trust myself, and that there is always an answer.  There is never a dead-end.  It may seem that way at the time, but I take a step back and truly feel out what my characters are after; what are their motives and why?  An answer is always there; one just has to look and find it.

 

6.  Don’t be afraid to play God.  I always feel like God in my little writing world, and there is nothing wrong with that.  In the end, as the writer, I get the final say on how things go.  I like to torture my characters!  I freely admit to it!  I sometimes sit and think what is the worst possible thing I can do to my characters, what would hurt them the most, how can I break them apart.  These are the moments when characters grow.  It’s how they take my challenge and step up to defeat it.  This goes back to the point about letting the characters be the guide.  Playing God means I throw horrendous, life-altering situations their way. How they take it and what they learn from it is up to them.

 

7.  Write what you know, but don’t be afraid if you don’t know everything.  Yes, research is important, especially when writing a character way out of one’s field.  Both “Opera Macabre” and my phantom stories deal with opera and singing, so I get to use my musical knowledge.  However, I don’t only write about musically inclined individuals, and there are plenty of details outside of my knowledge.  An example: In “Untouchable”, I was adamant about giving Erik a back story. It was a little from here, a little from there, and a whole lot of imagination.  I don’t know the mechanics of torture chambers or architecture, nor did I have the desire to learn, but I took what I knew and wrote the rest convincingly enough.  I feel like you don’t need precise nuances to everything to be able to include it in writing.  I take liberties and believe 100% in what I’m doing.  If I can talk about it and believe in it without a doubt, then the audience should be able to as well without questioning whether I’ve seen a real torture chamber to know for certain what each little part would be capable of doing.

 

8.  When it’s time for an ending, don’t be afraid to let the characters go.  It’s so easy to get attached to the imaginary people in one’s head, but there is a starting point and an ending point for everything.  A novel is giving a glimpse into a set timeline of the characters’ lives.  Happily ever after is assumed at the end, and although it’s hard to trust the characters to keep it going on their own, as a writer, one must know when to let the little birds test their wings and fly without the ever present observation.  It is like any good TV show.  At some point, the cameras need to turn off and go away, and though we don’t get another window into the characters’ lives, we assume the best and move on.  Same thing for novel writing.  If one over-details the ending, you don’t give the audience the chance to make their assumptions, the chance to dream for your characters and feel their bliss for what is to come.

 

So I know everyone is different, and the things that work for me may mean nothing to someone else. But I hope that I’ve given you something to think about.  Comments and questions are welcome and appreciated.  Happy writing, and I wish you all the creativity in the world! :)

 

 


Happy October!!

Posted by [email protected] on October 3, 2011 at 11:15 AM Comments comments (3)

October started this weekend, and it is my absolute favorite month of the year!  Yes, there is the obvious reason that my birthday is near its end, but it's more than that.  It's the trees, the fall, the pumpkins, the "orange glow" (as my mother calls it).  Everything feels refreshed in the fall.  We're starting to see the trees change their colors here, and everyday, I point the leaves out to my kids just because I'm so excited to see the reds and oranges.  If they are as excited remains to be seen, but I'm hoping I'm instilling the memory and the feeling in them already.


Since pumpkin anything seems magical to me, today I am sharing a recipe.  I love to bake more than I love to cook, and this recipe for pumpkin cookies has been my family's fall staple since I was a child.  It came from Libby's , and my mother found it in a magazine.  She literally still has the crumpled, overused, flour dusted magazine page crammed with all her recipes somewhere.  There are variations of this recipe on websites, but here is the original, from the 80s version!  My mother would make the cookies and send them as treats for my birthday back when you could bring homemade baked goods to school.  My classmates came to expect them every year.  Of course, my mother took the time to decorate them with frosting pumpkin faces, and I don't have the time or the ambition to do that part of it!  But they're still delicious, and if you make them, please decorate at will!


As I type, my last batch is in the oven, my house smells like fresh baked pumpkin, and it feels like fall!  Lucky me! :)


 

"Great Pumpkin" Cookies  (No joke, that's what they're called!!)


 

2 cups flour

1 cup quick or old-fashioned oats, uncooked

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup Libby's pumpkin

1 cup chocolate chips

icing and candies to decorate

 


Preheat oven to 350. 

Grease cookie sheets.  (This year I used nonstick aluminum foil, and it worked!!  So if you use that, greasing is unnecessary!) 

Combine flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Cream butter, gradually add sugars, beating until light and fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla, mix well.  Alternate additions of dry ingredients and pumpkin, mixing well after each addition.  Stir in chocolate chips.

The next part is to shape the pumpkins.  What I do is drop a tablespoon of dough onto the greased cookie sheet and use a butter knife to make a circle and add a stem.

Bake 20-25 mins.


And to entice you!  Here are some pics of mine!!  Beware that in my family, we eat our baked goods undercooked and half-raw!  Please do not do this if you are not accustomed and don't want to get sick!  My dad always asks why we cook them at all if we want them to be mush, but I insist that they need their shape.  Nevermind that they're pudidng in the middle!








 

 


My True Love

Posted by [email protected] on September 23, 2011 at 4:00 PM Comments comments (5)

Phantom of the Opera is my obsession.  I know all my phantom fans and friends can totally relate and understand how a man in a mask can make the pulse race.  People who don’t develop that odd appreciation for disfigured, misunderstood souls will never understand just how deeply it can affect a person.  It gets into your blood until all you want is an Erik of your very own.  This is my story of how I was first afflicted with the phantom bug!

 

It started for me in high school.  I was a freshman in my first real chorus class and like most high school age kids, I heard the words “Phantom of the Opera” and thought opera.  At that time, I had no taste for opera.  I thought of rather large ladies with horns and breastplates, the same as most first impressions of opera.  But then I heard the music…  And that was it; I was obsessed.  When phantom came into my life, it was a time when I was figuring out who I was.  I was in choir because I loved to sing and knew I had a decent voice, but evidently, it was more than that.  My teacher was impressed and pushed me into private lessons.  Up until that point, I had never envisioned myself in the world of opera, never considered pursuing music, never knew singing as more than an enjoyment.  So coming across the phantom story at the same time made me feel like it was MY story.  Of course, I was a very daydreamy, fairytale oriented girl,and every phantom fan has their own connection to the story and their own wish for it to be real.  But I am not ashamed to admit that at high school age, I truly believed it was going to happen someday to me!  Yes, that is ridiculous!  But what can I say?  Ridiculous isn’t always a bad thing.

 

My first impression of phantom was the ALW musical.  I would act out the songs in my bedroom in front of my vanity mirror and imagine every detail brought to life.  I sang “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” in a long, black cloak that I had to have from a Halloween shop.  I acted out the unmasking scene and “unmasked” an invisible Erik.  Allright, it’s a little embarrassing to admit to those things, but the point is that for me, it was a deep love, something greater than the real world could give me.  It was another story to live within, a better world than the one I lived in.

 

Erik was my first true love.  I always say writing him taught me how to write believable male characters, and it’s true.  He is the embodiment of passion and love, of aggression and violence, of a figure one must pity as much as love and fear as much as want.  Phans love Erik because he wants love, because he is tortured and the perfect love seems the very key to fixing him.  A man denied every God-given right a human being has, a man shunned because of things he can’t change, a man who loves so fiercely and so passionately that he kills to keep it.  In real life, such truths would make our gut reaction speak up and insist to stay away.  But in the world of stories, we don’t have to consider fear and can simply love Erik back.

 

As I’ve told people who’ve asked, I never performed from ALW’s Phantom, not for anyone other than my stuffed animals and dolls, but I did sing from Yeston’s “Phantom”. I got the honor of being Christine in those beautiful pieces.  As a sophomore in high school, I performed “My True Love” with a lace cloak over my dress that my mother made out of her wedding veil.  I walked through the theatre aisle during the introduction to start singing on the stairs that led up to the stage and truly seem like I was searching for my Erik.  I was young and naïve, and to me, that was one of my favorite performances because for a few minutes, I got to live my dreams.

 

So I’m going to discuss Phantom in a few separate posts because I have so much to say on the topic and every version that has influenced my portraits of Erik and Christine.  But for now, this is my introduction, and as an added detail, as promised, here are my dolls dressed as Erik and Christine.  They came out so lovely!  I had the dress custom made by a wonderful designer of doll clothing, Terrie Nielsen.  She does absolutely amazing work!  This is her webpage:

http://www.alldolledup-dollclothes.com/


I hope you enjoy my mini Erik and Christine!!






My Life as a Writer, Part One

Posted by [email protected] on September 17, 2011 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (3)

While most kids spend their junior high years playing with friends or engrossed in sports, I spent mine with either a book or a pencil in hand.  I wrote a handful of ridiculous tales in those years, all innocent little romances, of course, but when I was in eighth grade, I wrote a mini novel that was the talk of my class.  It’s embarrassing to recall it now; I cringe with the memories.  It would have made a nice script for a Disney Channel movie: shy girl likes popular boy, realizes she can sing, tries to get him to sing with her.  And this was a good decade before High School Musical!  Anyway, I typed the story on an old Apple computer and printed it with one of those printers where the paper had to roll its way through and got jammed every few minutes.  And I handed it out to my class!  No joke!  God knows if anyone kept it, and with the embarrassment factor weighed in, I kind of hope it ended up in the trash aside from my own buried-away copy. But it was my very first attempt at getting people to read my work.

 

High school was another story.  That was after my immersion in the world of real romance novels.  What I count as my first novel I wrote at 14.  It was still bordering on innocent, but it was a full story carried through beginning to end with characters that grew and had situations to overcome and conquer.  It was handwritten in a couple of wide-ruled notebooks, and after it was finished, my group of friends read it.  From then on, whenever I finished a new story, practically from the moment the last words were written, I handed it off to my best friend to read and from there, to a handful of other girls.  How teachers or the nuns didn’t catch us is beyond me!  At the time, that wasn’t even a consideration.  I was just excited to have my stories read.  Imagine my mom and dad being called into the principal’s office (consequently, another nun!) and told their quiet, straight A student daughter was writing romance novels!  To this day, I’m not sure my mother knows what a romance novel really is! It would have been a rude awakening to find out when I was 14!

 

And what did I write about at high school age??  A medieval time travel story with a tragic ending, so tragic in fact that I had to reincarnate the characters and write a sequel due to public demand!  A story about a girl who wanted to be a pirate and hunted for buried treasure against the most ruthless pirates on the seas.  A story about a ghost haunting a castle who fell in love with a mortal girl. Vampires, of course!  And a handful of stories about tragically scarred men who hid faces behind masks, a la Phantom of the Opera without truly using the real characters.


Every single story had my heart and soul poured into it.  I count all of those stories in my tally of novels even if they’re nothing I’d ever consider publishing.  They’re my stepping stones.  Everyone has to start somewhere, and for as ridiculous as they were, those stories scribbled in wide-ruled notebooks were mine.  I still have every one; some graduated to being typed on the computer, some are still only handwritten, but every notebook is packed away.  When I’m old, I can’t wait to go back and open the trunk and try to decipher pencil smears and yellowing pages.

 

If anyone had asked me in high school if I wanted to be a writer, I would have said no. Singing was my forte.  I didn’t even take Creative Writing as a class because I never wanted to be told what to write or how to do it.  I just wanted to have fun and write what I felt.  It was a hobby, and yet it was something I devoted every bit of extra energy to doing.  I would get to class early just to have a couple of minutes to write a few of paragraphs before we started.  I spent all of Study Hall lost in a scene. I daydreamed what would come next when I should have been paying attention in class!  My stories were always in my head!

 

To this day, I still adore the stories I created.  Yes, they were sugarcoated and sappy, and my male characters acted idealized and more like girls if you ask me!  But I’m so happy I still have them.  They were friends to me more than real people.  I sometimes contemplate going back and rewriting some of them, but part of their charm is that they aren’t perfect and are a bit silly.  They’re my childhood on paper, and I wouldn’t want to change a thing about them.

 


Never Forget

Posted by [email protected] on September 9, 2011 at 1:35 PM Comments comments (5)

I wasn't sure I wanted to blog about the September 11th Anniversary.  Thinking about it makes me uncomfortable; talking about it makes me even more uncomfortable yet.  And I have this tendency to avoid situations that make me uncomfortable as a whole.  When my grandfather died, I sang as cantor for his funeral because it gave me an excuse to detach and not make it real.  When our town ends up in a tornado watch, I'm the one who wants to hop in the car and drive like mad a state over or so until it's over (all right, we haven't actually gone through with that one yet, but it's always an offer my husband makes to calm me down!)  Anyway, the point is that I run like crazy from situations that I'd prefer to forget or not acknowledge in their full horror.  September 11th is one such event, so I'm committing to making myself remember what happened and how it touched my life.


I remember the weather being beautiful that day.  The sky was so clear and bright blue, not a single cloud in sight.  My sister and I were both in college, which meant we didn't have to leave early to get to classes with everyone else.  As usual, we were taking our time getting ready to leave.  I was washing my hair when my sister called upstairs that a plane hit the World Trade Center.  At first, I didn't think it was a big deal.  I assumed it was some little two person plane, probably being flown by someone who'd just gotten a pilot's license, sad, of course, but not catastrophic.  I didn't realize the truth until I went to sit in front of the TV with my sister, and we watched in horror as the second plane hit the second tower.  And then shock.  I think everyone walked around like a zombie that day.  My sister and I both had to leave and go to school, and although we did, neither of us had our heads attached.  I don't remember much of driving to school or talking to people.  I just remember the sky.  So blue.  And it was just as blue in New York.  I couldn't look up without seeing the pictures still in my head of what we'd watched.  The world truly changed that day.  Everything was quiet; everything was still.  It was the first time I realized how much we take for granted the constant noise of airplanes in the sky.  You give them no regard until they're suddenly gone and all you have is silence.


My family was lucky.  We didn't know anyone specifically involved in the tragedy, but so many others did.  I had to go into work that night.  At the time, I was the receptionist in my uncle's podiatry office, and the patients coming in could talk of nothing else.  Some knew people around the city or in Washington DC.  I listened to their conversations, but it was hard to fathom.  It felt like a nightmare, something you must awaken from with only bad images to haunt the daylight.  Not real.


Like I said, it's hard for me to remember that day.  I'd rather not.  But what I'd like to remember instead is what happened afterward.  Driving to school and seeing tons of cars decked out with flags, flags in front of every house in our neighborhood.  And people weren't hurting other people in their own cities and states because we were all too busy being one big, united famiy instead.  All Americans, and for the first time, every other distinction we give ourselves didn't matter.  We weren't gay or straight, black or white, rich or poor.  We were American.


So this year on September 11th, everyone is going to remember, and I hope we all come together as that one united family once again.  I hope we feel together and cry together and love together.  I hope we appreciate family and freedom and realize how blessed we are for the sacrifices others have made.  Stay safe, and stay free, America!

When I Fell In Love With Romance

Posted by [email protected] on September 2, 2011 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (3)

Why romance?  It's a question a lot of people wonder.  What is it that draws one to romantic stories?


Every story in my head since I was a little girl has been a romance of some sort.  Perhaps it was too many soap operas at a young age.  I recall spending summers as attached to fictional characters as my mother was.  Even amidst the dramatic storylines, the ultimate goal for every character was love.  Of course, soap opera relationships never tended to last very long, but it was the set up, the falling-in-love part that always reeled me in.  I would imagine ways the characters could be together, make up my own scenes, daydream them to life.  Their love stories changed the way I saw the world.  I was a kid who fully believed in happy endings and that there was one perfect person for everyone.  Love stories were my life.


I have always been an avid reader.  At junior high age, I could hardly wait to get my hands on the newest Babysitter's Club or Sweet Valley High.  I'd drag my mother out to the local Crown Books at least a couple times a week to see if the latest stories were out.  My mother is NOT a reader by any means, so she'd drop me off with $5 (yes, $5 used to buy a book!) and head next door to Venture for a little while, knowing I could easily be lost amongst the bookshelves for an hour at a time.  I was 13 when I first wandered away from the young adult section and set eyes on my first romance novel.  Up until then, I didn't know books like that existed!  I thought only movies and TV, my beloved soap operas, could transport me into a love story fairytale full of ideal happy endings.  I'd never realized language could make such beautiful emotions come to life.  From then on, young adult books weren't enough for me.


So what is the draw?  A lot of people watch soap operas and read romances.  Why do I choose to fix my life on romantic stories?  I would tell you that I think with my heart too much.  I always put my heart above my head.  Emotions mean more to me than logic, and I can't say that's a bad thing.  Everyone is different.  Not everyone is willing to fall into the fairytale mindset that I prefer to live my life lost in, but I try to capture it on paper and hope others can take a journey there for a little while.  I like believing that none of us are meant to be alone, and falling in love is the greatest gift in the world.  And whether that came from soap operas or romance novels, I have never lost that side of myself.  I love romances because they mean heart and they mean never being alone.  They mean an ideal world.


So now I encourage you to consider why you are drawn to romance.  Think about what you get out of romance stories.  Maybe it's a never outgrown wanting for a fairytale of your very own; maybe it's a true belief that it will happen.  For me, romantic stories haven't changed my life; they are my life.  I prefer to think that the words "happily ever after" should be attached to every story, and I wish them to everyone who reads this.

Release Day

Posted by [email protected] on August 26, 2011 at 8:50 AM Comments comments (7)

Today is the official release day for “Opera Macabre”, and although I am very excited by the whole thing, I’ve never been more anxious in my life.


Let me just start by saying I am not the type of person who can easily talk about myself or be overly confident in what I do without a lot of support.  Being social in general terrifies me.  I get overwhelmed in social situations and even posting on the internet has been its own frightening experience.  No one would know that for all of the phantom stories I’ve posted over the last year and a half, I freak out over every single one.  Oh, it’s gotten better.  I don’t have the constant knot in my belly from the moment I hit the submit button, but I’m still on edge until I get my first review.  I’m a perfectionist, which is both a blessing and a curse.  It makes me my own worst critic.


Keeping a blog is going to be a huge challenge for me because of all these things.  And that’s why I decided to do it. It’s time to be less afraid. Today my first novel is released, and I’ve spent so much time freaking out about it that I have yet to be excited.  It never sank in that it was happening, and now it has.  My mind has been racing ahead to what next.  I’m hoping keeping this blog will help me to take a step back and find the appreciation that often evades me.  And who knows?  There might be a lot of people like me who want to put themselves out there but are afraid, and maybe reading some of my thoughts can help them, too.


Today I become an author.  It’s different than just saying you’re a writer when you can say that you’ve had something published. Just the idea overwhelms me, but somewhere inside, I’ve always known this is what I’m supposed to do.  There’s that little bit of pride I can find. It says that if my stories really make people happy, then every fear and anxiety, every flip of my heart and stomach, and every freak out in between is worth it.


So anyway, with the release actually being today, I wanted to do something special.  I love commemorating special events with pictures and doing something a little different.  So I dressed a couple of my dolls as the characters of my novel and had a little photo shoot in my backyard yesterday evening.  Yes, to most people that may seem an odd way to mark an event, but to me, it’s practically normal.  I grew up with a mom who not only had dolls, but dressed them for every special occasion and holiday.  When I got married, every doll in the house had on white with little white veils.  Every Halloween, they each have their own costume and add to the decorations.  So odd?  No, it’s practically a tradition!


Here are my little Aiden and Bianca.  They were very photogenic and gave me no problem taking pictures unlike my children who I have to trick to even look at the camera let alone smile.  And you wonder why I prefer to dress and photograph dolls?  At least they stand still!  I hope these pictures are enjoyed and maybe give a little glimpse into my world.


I did not make the clothes; sewing is one of the talents I hope to one day have but have yet to find the time to learn.

The gown was made by Melissa Thompson and was purchased through her etsy store:

http://www.etsy.com/shop/bobbyjosue?ref=pr_shop

And the suit was made by Jenifer Hill-Underwood and was purchased through her etsy store:

http://www.etsy.com/shop/gomunkcreations?ref=pr_shop





 

 



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