Saturday, September 22, 2018

Ancestry updates

So, random Ancestry update here:

I received an email that one of my uncles and my cousin, I think, took an Ancestry test. (Well, Ancestry actually said, "Hey, you have close relatives on this thing now!") At the same time, Ancestry DNA said it had an update for me based on their tests becoming more refined:

Guys, they updated the Asian side!

And I guess I'm not part Finnish or Iberian or it's a really trace amount.

Still waiting on the 23andme results!

To read part one of this series, check it out here: Ancestry and WeGene

Saturday, September 15, 2018

My Fave Broadway Moments

My friends and I went to see Pretty Woman: The Musical on Friday night, which isn't the point of this post because just twenty-four hours later, I've forgotten the vast majority of the music--still, the performances were amazing. Orfeh nearly sang the roof off. Andy Karl was charming, though my friends and I missed his cheekiness from Groundhog Day last year. And Samantha Barks, in her Broadway debut, was definitely a star.

Having said that, seeing the show--my first since seeing Moulin Rouge! in July--got me back to thinking of my Broadway romance series idea. And it made me recall a lot of special theater moments I've been lucky to experience:

-that time I won a lottery ticket for Rent, during the time Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal--the original Mark and Roger--were back in the show for a limited run--and my friend and I got to sit front row center
-Watching Audra McDonald tap dance in Shuffle Along while she was very pregnant
-Bandstand, the end of "Right This Way." Corey Cott taking a breath and singing the very end of the song even higher (and he'd been pretty high already)
-All of Groundhog Day, but especially Andy Karl's facial expressions
-Sebastian Stan's abs in Picnic
-Aaron Tveit's "Roxanne" growl
-Corey Cott, again, singing the "This Is Life" reprise to Laura Osnes
-Once On This Island: Lea Salonga was just down the aisle from me, singing.
- How gorgeous "Falling Slowly" was in Once
-Hamilton. That is all.
-David Cook in Kinky Boots. I geeked out on this in this post. 

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Ancestry and WeGene

Several years ago, in a fit of insomnia, I bought an DNA test.

I appointed myself the family historian a decade ago and I've done a decent job for a hobbyist of tracing my Irish roots back to County Mayo (the Japanese side is a bit more elusive). But a couple of years ago, I'd hit a wall in my family research. DNA testing for ethnic origins was the new thing, so I decided to give it a shot. I knew that it was new and still-developing and that those sorts of tests were reputedly not accurate and/or not remotely helpful for races other than white. Plus, of course, the way they compare my DNA to people who currently live in the countries isn't totally reflective of human migration and mating.

The results:

These are my primary ethnicity estimates, which are correct as far as I know: my mother is Japanese, my dad is Irish-American. Three of my dad's grandparents were born in Ireland and immigrated to America; one of his grandmothers was born in New Jersey to Irish immigrant parents. 

I'd figured with Irish history being what it was that my Irish side was likely quite mixed in a northern European kinda way. 

But my God, seriously--50% East Asian? That's still all Ancestry can give me in terms of that side of my family, by the way. Do you know how big East Asia is?! 

East Asia, from Wikipedia.
The Connacht, Ireland/North Connacht subheadings--which, yes, is the Irish region my family comes from--was added a couple of years after I'd turned in my original DNA test. It's a very specific region to highlight from DNA, I think, when they can't even differentiate between various ethnicities on the world's largest continent. 

These are my "low confidence regions"--places my DNA might trace to, but in small amounts:

So, there are parts of this that make sense and parts I have questions about. The Iberian peninsula--Spain and Portgual-- kind of makes sense; there was some Spanish migration to Ireland, but equally, the Basque region is Celtic, which Ireland also is I part Spanish or just part Celtic? How was that 7% determined?

Finland? How....? Britain and Scandinavia make sense in a colonization and Vikings-in-Ireland kind of way. I don't even know about that Asia South thing. I guess it's on my white side, but how, I have no idea.

I'm not totally sure how recently or distantly Ancestry tests your DNA for--is it eight generations? Ten generations? What branches of the family tree are these trace regions showing up in? I have no idea. What the test did do was connect me on Ancestry to a bunch of people ranging from second cousins (and in fact, I've been able to find out through my family tree research how I'm related to second and third cousins) all the way out to 4th-6th cousins, where I have no idea who the common ancestor is because Irish Catholic records don't go that far back.

This Ancestry test remained a point of bemusement for the whole family for several years. It's not like being supposedly 1% of something has affected the way I identify myself, after all.

Since I've done the Ancestry test, a number of other DNA testing companies have sprung up. 23andme is the other big company offering DNA ancestry tests. Having already done one--and having become more aware of the way these companies make money off your DNA and other issues--I didn't want to take another one, especially if the company wasn't offering a decent reference population for Asians. But my mom's friend's daughter--also half Japanese, half European--took a 23andme test and got interesting (and accurately Asian) results. 

Then I started watching YouTube videos of people taking the 23andme test and not only learning their ethnic origins, but also being able to trace their haplogroups and getting a timeline of when these various ethnicities came into their family gene pool, so to speak. 

I was like, "That'd be cool to know my maternal haplogroup. And ooh, timeline! I might find out where that Finnish DNA freaking came from! Or, you know, anything about the Asian side."

23andme was having a sale, so I bought one, spit in a tube, and sent it off. 

And while I was waiting for the 23andme test to get to me, I found out about a Chinese site called WeGene where you can upload your info from Ancestry or 23andme and if you're Asian, WeGene can help break down those admixture tests by various Chinese and other Asian ethnic and regional groups, which is super cool.

Their reference population for Europeans must be tiny or non-existent because all the DNA that I know is Irish is showing up as French on WeGene. This is the WeGene breakdown of my Ancestry test:

I guess out of that 50% East Asian per Ancestry, I'm 44% Japanese! And I'm a tiny bit Chinese (not surprising), a tiny bit Cambodian (ooh, is that why my great-grandmother was supposedly tanned with wavy hair?), a wee bit Uzbek, and Sindhi, an ethnic group native to present day Pakistan. I mean, who knows if this is remotely true or not--except the 44% Japanese, of course, that's totes correct--but it's a lot more interesting than "50% East Asian."

But because it's based on my Ancestry results, I'm still not sure of a timeline or how long ago some of this DNA was--and if Irish is coming up as French on WeGene, who knows what else might be something different from the breakdown they're giving me?

Currently waiting on my 23andme results. I'll definitely post when I get those!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

IWSG: September + House Of Falling Embers Cover Reveal!

It is the first Wednesday of September--also the first day of school here in New York City--and it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group! We post our writerly insecurities out to the world every first Wednesday!

Today's co-hosts are:  Toi Thomas, T. Powell Coltrin, M.J. Fifield, and Tara Tyler!

And the IWSG question of the month is:

What publishing path are you considering/did you take, and why? 

So, as soon as I began to learn more about self- and indie-publishing and saw some writing friends go in that direction, I was intrigued. I used to intern at a literary agency. I know how much literary agents have to wade through in terms of the slush pile everyday. I even did a cursory querying process on a manuscript just to have a small experience of querying under my belt. I knew the ms wasn't publication-ready though.

But when the first thing I had an urge to publish turned out to be a novella, I thought self publishing was the route to take. It didn't seem worth the time and energy to query agents in the trad lane for a 100-page novella. And I'll self-pub again, as soon as I have something ready to do so. 

But I like the idea of being a hybrid author, too. "Haunted Lake" was trad pubbed by a small publisher in an anthology and I enjoyed the experience. 

And now for my friend Krystal Jane Ruin's cover reveal!!

House of Falling Embers
Krystal Jane Ruin
Publication date: October 1st 2018
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Retelling
Once upon a time there was a witch. She was a kind witch, but that didn’t matter. The people were afraid, and fear often turns to hatred.
When Artemis was thirteen, her best friend Aris was swallowed by the crumbling house they found in the woods. Like a coward, she abandoned him to the horror within.
She moved away. She tried to forget. But when she finds herself back in her old neighborhood after college, the ghosts—and her guilt—are waiting. A charred figure stalks her dreams, and someone, or something, haunts her from the trees.
Going back into the woods might be the only way to save her sanity.
Because nine years later, the house is still there. Still waiting. Still restless.

Author Bio:
Krystal is the author of supernatural and paranormal fiction, living in the Tennessee Valley with a collection of swords and daggers. When she's not hoarding stuffed pandas, hourglasses, and Hello Kitty replicas, she can be found in a YouTube hole or blogging about books, writing, and random things at


Friday, August 24, 2018

The Tenement Museum New York City

97 Orchard Street on the Lower East Side is a tenement building. It's a five-floor walk up with two ground level commercial spaces. It was built in 1863 and before its apartments were shuttered and sealed in 1941, 97 Orchard Street was home to 15,000 people over the decades, immigrants coming from Eastern Europe, Italy, Ireland, and other countries, who settled on the Lower East Side.

I'd been taken to the Tenement Museum once as a child, but hadn't been back since, but I went with some friends on one of the Tenement Museum's tours recently. If you're ever in New York City, I highly recommend going on one of their tours of 97 Orchard Street. The tours run about an hour.

It's one thing to learn about the waves of immigrants that have come through Ellis Island--perhaps, like me, you have ancestors who came through Ellis Island--and to know that yeah, New York City is a city of immigrants. And maybe you learned about how the Lower East Side was an extremely densely populated neighborhood in the late nineteenth century. Or maybe you learned about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

97 Orchard Street is where some of those immigrants lived after arriving in America. With the anti-immigration rhetoric we've had to hear since the last presidential election, it's important to remember and acknowledge this country's immigrant roots.

You can't take pictures inside the building, so let me set the scene:

First of all, there are five floors with four apartments per floor. And these apartments are the size of my bedroom--there's a large window or two in the wall facing the front or back of the building. Each apartment has three rooms--a living room, kitchen, and a tiny bedroom. There are windows in the walls between each room and windows facing out to the hallway. Nowadays, New York City apartments have to legally have windows facing outside, but not back then.

There's also an airshaft in the building for ventilation and the apartments facing the shaft have windows there, facing each other.

Privacy was not a thing in tenement buildings.

Oh, and the bathroom? At first, there were outhouses in the back. There was a German saloon downstairs, by the way, and those outhouses were for the patrons of the saloon and the building's residents. Later, bathrooms were added in the hallways, so you shared the bathroom with your neighbors.

We took the Sweatshop tour, which focused on two of the families who lived on the third floor of 97 Orchard: the Levines and the Rogoshevskis. They were both involved in the garment trade.

The Levines, Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, moved into the building in 1892 with two children. Harris Levine ran a dressmaking factory from the living room, running the sewing machine himself and employing three people. Running a small garment workshop from your apartment was not unusual in that neighborhood. There were a high number of factories being run up and down that block from other immigrants also working in their apartments.

The only part of the building we're allowed to touch is the stair banister--wooden and original from 1863. That's almost an everyday item, right? A mother holding onto the banister as she gets her kids up and down the stairs to get to the outhouse. An adolescent coming home exhausted from their factory job, holding onto the banister to walk up to their apartment.

Also, the apartments had layers of wallpaper and paint on the walls--as new families moved in, they used precious money to make the place their own for a little while.

For more information, go to: Tenement Museum NYC 

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Crazy Rich Asians: Representation Matters

I went to see Crazy Rich Asians on Sunday. No matter what, I was going to actually put the effort in to get off my butt, put on pants, leave my house, ride the stuffy subway on a humid August day, buy a damn movie ticket, and go see this movie, even if I was a bit "meh" on the novel on which it is based.

I missed Allegiance when it was on Broadway and Miss Saigon (which, I mean, yay Asians on Broadway but anything based on Madame Butterfly ain't happening with me, yo). But let's be real, a studio-made popcorn summer film has a FAR bigger reach and implications than a Broadway show. So I fucking made the effort.

Crazy Rich Asians is the first Hollywood studio film starring an all-Asian cast in twenty-five years. TWENTY FIVE YEARS. I was seven years old when The Joy Luck Club came out. Or course, a lot's been made about Crazy Rich Asians being a big deal in terms of representation for Asian-Americans--and Asian-Americans and other Asians living outside of Asia specifically, because obvi, Asians living in Asia are like, "What representation problem?"

Then there's also been criticism that Crazy Rich Asians isn't representative enough of Asians because it doesn't show the diversity of Singapore (the setting) or the diversity of Asian cultures.

Of course it doesn't. Asia is a large continent and region, with so many ethnic groups and languages and cultures. One movie or TV show is not going to cover all of Asia, no matter what American restaurants think with their "Asian style salad."

(Seriously. What's an "Asian style" salad? And why does it have mandarin oranges in it?)

But having a Hollywood-made, all-Asian cast rom com showing Asians who:
-can speak perfect English
-aren't fleeing a war
-aren't samurais, geishas, prostitutes, gurus, or martial artists
-aren't math geniuses, tech geniuses, or science geeks

...but a movie with an Asian cast playing characters who are of all shades--funny, conniving, smart, snobby--just living, loving, marrying, living regular--if very heightened and wealthy--modern lives is a big deal. And it should be supported and Crazy Rich Asians is a needed icebreaker so more Asian-acted, Asian-written, Asian-directed, and Asian-produced movies can be made and released here in the western hemisphere.

Plus, Crazy Rich Asians was funnnn. I teared up twice during the movie and it almost made me believe in real life romance and love again. (I never lose belief in fictional romance and love, but real life...)

I've always wanted more diversity in movies, TV, and books--because for a dreamy quiet kid, those mediums helped shape my imagination, my knowledge of the world around me, my unconscious biases. And I've never really seen myself reflected in media--but luckily, I've grown up in a biracial family in a super diverse city with a diversity of friends and co-workers.

I've also been able to see plenty of Asian representation in the Japanese dramas my mom likes to watch--Long Vacation was a big one, because she watched that a lot when I was about 11 or 12--where it was a modern day love story between two Japanese people, in Japanese, in Japan. And not long ago, when Netflix expanded to Japan, Mom and I glommed through Atelier, a drama about a lingerie designer.

But there's something different about watching a miniseries filmed in Japan with a Japanese cast speaking Japanese meant for a Japanese audience and watching something starring Asian-Americans speaking English (and whatever Asian language they may or may not speak) in a movie or TV show meant for an American audience. Because I'm American and my primary language is English and I suck at math and I've been asked "where I'm from" and "do you speak English?" plenty of times in my life and apparently replying "Queens" in my undeniably perfect American English is not an adequate answer for some people.

Representation matters.

All of this adds up to needing more Asians in movies, books, and TV.

Oh, and in case you haven't heard: Jenny Han's YA romance To All the Boys I've Loved Before has been made into a Netflix film! I watched it last night and it was adorable. Thank you to Netflix for casting actual Asians to play the half-Korean Covey sisters!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Mapparium and the Christian Science Center

I meant to write about my quick Boston trip, but I wasn't totally sure what to do write about--I'm hardly a stranger to Boston, so I felt weird doing travel posts for a city I've spent a lot of time in.

But the Mapparium really stuck out, since I'd never even heard of it until this trip. Thanks to my friend Nali, who found out about it somewhere, because the Mapparium was really interesting.

The Mapparium is a three-story tall convex world map made of colorful panels. It's housed in the Mary Eddy Baker Library at the Christian Science Center in Boston. The giant globe was created in 1935, reflecting the political boundaries and names of countries in 1935. It's never been updated, so it serves as a really interesting look into what the world was like back then.

You are ushered into the room where the map is and everyone stands on a gallery which is at about equator level, I guess. Look down and Anarctica is all the way down. Look all the way up and there's Canada. There are no pictures allowed of the Mapparium itself, but if you want to see some pictures, here's a Google Image link!

And there's also the Irish Free State, the Soviet Union, British India, the Empire of Japan (with Korea and Taiwan annexed and therefore, also part of the Empire of Japan). Hawaii is a U.S. territory. Most of Africa is still divided up among the Dutch, British, French, and Italians.

And to think about what erupted with WWII not long after.

The funny thing about the Mapparium is that you can hear the softest whisper from the other end of the gallery so clearly.

Church of Christ, Scientist extension

We also were able to take advantage of a free tour of the Mother Church of Christian Science just after the Mapparium. The annex, built in 1906, is bigger than the original church, which was built in 1894--I think the annex can hold about five thousand people and it has this beautiful dome and a huge pipe organ. We also asked to be taken to see the old church, which was much tinier and tighter.

There was a lot of construction going on when we visited, but we thought the construction signs were clever.

For more about the Mapparium.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Goodreads Tag!

Oh, hi.

What? Another post, the second in a week? Indeed! Because my writing friend Krystal Jane Ruin did a fun Goodreads Tag video on her BookTube this week:

My Goodreads page is here.

1. What was the last book you marked as ‘read’? 

The last book I marked as read is Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan.

2. What are you currently reading? 

Right now, I have two books going: The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien and Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal. They're very different books, different genres, different tones, so I'm kind of switching between them at will.
3. What was the last book you marked as TBR? 

The last book I marked as to-be-read was And Aleksey Lived: An Alternate History by Ursula Hartlein. I got into the tragic story of the Romanovs as a pre-teen and I did wonder what would've happened if someone in the family survived, so it'll be interesting to read the author's take on that.
4. What book do you plan to read next? 
Rejected Princesses by Jason Porath, based on the website, which has stories of mythic and real-life women--and pictures!--who are far too badass to ever be made into Disney princesses.

5. Do you use the star rating system? 
YES! The Goodreads star system goes from 1 "I fucking hated it" to 5 "I fucking loved it." I don't rate books one star, so two stars for me means that I really did not like the book. 3 stars is where my personal rating range can vary, because 3 stars can mean I was a bit "meh" about the book or that I liked it well enough but it has some problems. 4 stars means I liked a lot, 5 stars means I REALLY liked it.
6. Are you doing a 2018 Reading Challenge? 

Yep! 35 books is the goal. I'm at 24 right now.
7. Do you have a wishlist? 
I have a to be read list which never gets below 60 books no matter how much I read, but not a wish list per se.
8. What book do you plan to buy next? 

Also not something I really plan. I read mostly on my Kindle and I have a bit of a backlog on it this year because Goodreads now sends me a daily "this is what's on sale" email which is fantastic but dangerous. 
But I've been able to grab a lot of books on TBR list this year because of those emails, so I can't complain too much. 
9. Do you have any favorite quotes? Share a few. 

How much time you got?

10. Who are your favorite authors? 

This is an utterly unfair question.

Jane Austen, Elizabeth Chadwick, Courtney Milan, JRR Tolkien, Alyssa Cole... I tend not to read based on authors but on books I'm interested in for whatever reason, so.
11. Have you joined any groups?

I'm in three Goodreads groups, but I don't post in them and I don't read the threads very much. There is Blogger Lift, Support for Indie Authors, and Goodreads Authors/Readers.

12. How many shelves do you have?

Other than the basic shelves, I have shelves for each year I've done a reading challenge--so four now--and one for research books.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Writing Muscles

A few weeks ago, I was listening to Smart Bitches, Trashy Podcast and Sarah Wendell mentioned something about "writing muscles"--how her nonfiction writing muscles are strong because she runs and writes on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, which is a romance novel review blog.

And I find that it is sort of true, in a way--that certain types of writing come more easily to me than others or that some types of writing feel like more like a struggle if I haven't done it in awhile.

And that got me thinking about my writing muscles and where they're at these days. My fiction writing muscles are slow but still strong--I'm outlining one thing and writing something else fictional. But then I was like, "Yeah, well, maybe my nonfiction muscles are stronger."

I mean, I have the blog and the other project I'm tinkering around with is mostly nonfiction. And my favorite writing class in college was Creative Nonfiction. I can trace a direct line between the eternal monologue in my mind to my diary to  Creative Nonfiction class to "my blog writing voice."

So, what do you think are your stronger writing muscles? What kind of writing muscles do you think you have?

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

IWSG August 2018

It's time for the Insecure Writers Support Group post for August 2018. The IWSG is a wonderful network of writers who blog their writerly insecurities out into the world the first Wednesday of every month. Check out the group here.

The August question is: What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?

So, I'm not a new writer, but I am new to publication--so far I've had four short things published, two of them on my own, two of them by others. I've not really gone down the trad publishing route--that is, I've queried a manuscript for a limited time, but everything else I've managed to finish after that is short in length. And I like publishing on my own, actually. 

So first, I'd say, see how you want to be published. There are many platforms out there for writers these days to get their work out there. See what works for you. Do your research on any editors, publications, or companies that offer to publish you. Don't pay to be read or published. Be sure any contract you sign is legitimate, that there is a way to get your rights back if need be. 

But most of all: keep writing. Nothing gets published if you don't write. Ideas are all well and good, but only getting the words down on the page and polishing them leads to publication. 

Also, a quick note: Blogger has stopped sending me emails when anyone comments on my posts,which is annoying. So sorry if I'm not responding promptly here! 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Moulin Rouge! The Musical at the Emerson Colonial Theatre

Last time, I wrote about how fandoms converge and how weird that is. It almost feels serendipitous. I have a lot to say overall about my weekend in Boston--because Boston when it's summer and sunny and you are over drinking age with a credit card is very different from trudging through Boston in two feet of snow in the biting cold in college.

But though Boston and I have changed in the eight years since I was last up there, I have to say that my on-foot knowledge of downtown Boston has served me in good stead--I'll cover more of what my friends and I did and saw in Boston in subsequent posts.

But first! Moulin Rouge. We were greeted with it from the second we got off Amtrak at South Station and we kept seeing ads for it all over Boston, which was exciting.

Although the Colonial Theatre was smack in the middle of my college "campus," I never went inside or had classes in the building. I remember sitting in the Tufte Performance and Production Center, which goes behind the Colonial Theatre and has big windows and seeing the touring cast of Spamalot wave because we could see them running up and down the stairs to get to their dressing rooms one night.

Emerson College, my alma mater, bought the Colonial and there were rumors for a while that the College was going to tear the theatre down or make it into another dorm (like a lot of smaller urban colleges, Emerson's dorm space is tight). But instead, they renovated it and like the Cutler Majestic and the Paramount Theaters, there are professional productions up at each place. Moulin Rouge is the first production up at the Colonial since its renovation and reopening.

You can learn more about the Emerson Colonial Theatre here.

It's gorgeous in the theater, by the way. "They're going for a Versailles thing, huh?" I said to my friend Nali at one point as we were waiting for the auditorium doors to open.

Ceiling shot

"Especially with all the mirrors," she replied.

Then we went up to the mezzanine to our seats and we were stunned at the set.

Look at that set.

The windmill moved, guys. There's an elephant sticking out of the balcony. We had to take pictures of it from our perches in the back mezz. As other audience members walked by to be seated, we could hear them react to the set as well.

There was also some VIP seating at the very foot of the stage with tables. We wondered if they would keep that when the show transfers to New York.

The movie came out in 2001 and it's based on archetypal operatic tragic love stories--the musical hews closely to the movie's plot. The characters are pretty much the same and all of that translates well to the stage. It has that musical plot already from the film and it absolutely works.

The music is different though. They've added pop songs that were not in the movie to the stage version. Moulin Rouge is kind of the ultimate jukebox musical, right? I mean, the movie was that and the audience would know to expect that style. Some of the song choices were unexpected. My friend Nali and I were punching each other whenever a song we'd liked was sung on stage. For the most part, the songs worked in moving the story along and expressing character and feelings'n'shit. They were just...unexpected in some places and in some choices.

After we were all back at our hotel, I was like, "Did I just see a musical or was I just at a concert?"

This being the first out-of-town tryout any of us have ever attended, we're not sure how much the show will change between their Boston run and their upcoming-sometime-in-the-next-season Broadway run. We're looking forward to seeing it at home and to see what, if anything, the production tweaks. We doubt the music will change very much though because of music rights and licensing and whatnot. But the presentation may change.

The two big numbers from the movie, in my mind, are "Come What May" and "Roxanne."(Or am I just saying that because those are the songs Virtue and Moir used in their free dance?) "Come What May" was glorious. The combination of Karen Olivo's powerful belt and Aaron Tveit's earnest and strong vocals gave me goosebumps. They sound amazing together, holy shit.

And "Roxanne." Woo. "Roxanne" is a Dark Moment song in the plot so there's angst and jealousy and anger. And no shit, but Aaron Tveit was fucking growling "Roxxxx-annnnnneee." It took me a second to realize that he was the one singing it and singing it that way, which is so different to his usual vocal style. I think I turned to my friends during that number and I know Jess was as open-mouthed as I was.

There was also a big Acting Moment for Aaron's character at one point--it's directly from the movie, so everyone there probably knew it was coming, but people gasped and reacted like "Omg, no!" which is a testament to the emotions in the show and to the actors.

I cannot wait for the show to come to Broadway, but it was incredibly special to be able to see it in Boston. My friends and I felt that we leveled up in our mutual theater geekdom by seeing an out-of-town tryout run and a world premiere, to boot.

Friday, July 20, 2018

When Your Worlds Converge: Moulin Rouge!

You know how sometimes you're interested in or are a fan of various seemingly unrelated things? And then somehow, those things converge and it's awesome but kinda weird, too?

1) The movie Moulin Rouge! This bizarre, colorful, dramatic musical with famous pop songs, telling the story of a poor English poet named Christian and his love story with the star of Montmarte's Moulin Rouge club, Satine, came out in 2001. I don't remember when I first saw it, but it was probably in college. I loved it. I was all about the garret-living consumptive Parisian writing lifestyle when I was 18.

2) I like theater. I went to a college with a large theater program. I came out of college and back home to New York City... where Broadway is. Meaning that I've been lucky enough to be in close proximity to some truly amazing shows with amazing performers.

3) An amazing Broadway performer I've not been lucky enough to see in a Broadway show, ironically enough, is Aaron Tveit. The first time I saw him was in the 2013 film version of Les Miserables.

He then got added to my roster of Men I Google-Stalked. My friend Jess and I saw him perform live as part of the one Elsie Fest we've been to. (Jess has seen Aaron on Broadway, several years ago). We also saw him perform in a solo concert on Long Island. To which I reacted, "When is he coming back to Broadway?!"

4) Back to the Moulin Rouge thing: In February, during the Winter Olympic Games, my mom and I were watching figure skating when I heard the distinct notes of what I recognized as the Moulin Rouge version of "Roxanne." It was Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada.

"Roxanne" went into "Come What May" and Virtue and Moir skated the hell out of the routine and I was hooked. I was sooo happy when they won the team gold medal for figure skating and then a gold medal of their own for ice dancing. 

I then re-watched Moulin Rouge for the first time in forever. 

And then I've spent a lot of time shipping Virtue and Moir, but that's another story. 

5) Then I heard that Moulin Rouge was being made into a stage musical and it was being workshopped with Aaron Tveit as Christian. Whatreallywowcool. And just as I'd rewatched the movie for the first time in years and was watching Virtue and Moir's Moulin Rouge routine on YouTube and the soundtrack was fresh again! Funny how that works.

6) Oh, that theater workshop production of Moulin Rouge is going to be staged? Cool. In Boston. Nice. At the Emerson Colonial Theatre? Wait, the theater that was in the middle of that city block that my college existed on? And Aaron Tveit is still attached to the project? Wow, small world. And it's coming to Broadway next season? Yay! 

7) My friend Jess: "I really want to go up to Boston to see Aaron Tveit in Moulin Rouge."

8) So my two besties and I are doing just that this weekend.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Obligatory Downton Abbey movie post

Four days ago, the Downton Abbey Twitter posted this:

You may have seen me squealing about it somewhere on the social media.

Anyway, I didn't think they'd get to a Downton Abbey movie this soon--the show hasn't been off the air that long.

I expect the production to be pretty tight-lipped about plot and whatnot, but:

-The series finale ended on New Year's Day, 1926. So is it picking up from there? Is it skipping time? 
-How many of the cast will be back? It's a huge cast. 
-Seriously, the Dowager Countess is still alive? Isn't she like 140 years old by now?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

On Pseudonyms

I've started writing a creative nonfiction project which I hope can be self-published by the autumn. But I've decided already that I'll be publishing it under a completely different pseudonym, for reasons.

As many of you know, the name I write under--Michelle Athy--isn't my legal name. Michelle is my middle name. Athy is my real last name. I write under that name for a few reasons. I don't like my real first name, it's too distinctive. The name is part of my real name but different enough that it wouldn't cause issues in Real Life.

I know a lot of romance authors use pseudonyms: Courtney Milan, for instance. And some authors use different pen names for different genres.

I'm hardly an established author by any means, but I have written stories in different genres already and they all used my author name--and most of the things I'm working will be published under Author Name, whenever that may be.

But not this particular memoir/creative nonfiction thing. I haven't decided what the name will be, but it is an interesting thing--like, do I have to have an email under that name? What about social media? How do I promote the thing without linking Michelle Athy me--which admittedly is pretty easily connected to Real Me if you know where to look--to the thing?

Frankly, the idea of having yet another email and twitter for a pen name I'll probably only use the once sounds exhausting.

Do you use a pen name? How did you come up with it?

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

IWSG July 3rd!

It's time for the Insecure Writers Support Group post, one day earlier than usual because the first Wednesday this month is the day us Americans eat too much and shoot explode-y things off in the air. 

Getting on to the July IWSG question: 

What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time?

Well. How haven't my writing goals changed over time? I've referred to myself as a "recovering writing major" a few times because at least at my college, the Writing program was very focused on literary fiction. And while I knew I didn't fit in to that whole thing--there was no way in hell I was MFA-bound--I did still have that weird fog of wanting to write the Great American Novel. 

That's gone now. 

I always wanted to write novels and I was always a bit frustrated in workshop classes because we only ever wrote short stories. Well, I still want to write novels, but I seem to be writing short stories these days and I'm totally cool with that. Short stories come easier to me. Now, I'm a little frustrated that I can't seem to sustain a plot long enough for a full-length book.

Knowing that, I'm taking my time writing a first draft/outline for a full-length book. It's not the Great American Novel--it's a contemporary romance--but I know my weak spots in writing. I know they always have to do with plot and structure.

So my primary goal with this first draft/outline has been to nail the structure and the plot. I want to make sure that the conflicts are strong enough, the stakes feel appropriate, and that the story isn't repetitive. The ultimate goal is to have a book that doesn't fall apart at some point in the middle.

My ultimate writing goals: a book-length plot, novels that entertain and inform, novels that show diversity as natural and a strength no matter the time period they take place in.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Books To Read When the World is a Dumpster Fire

Hey y'all.

It's hot as hell here in New York today. New York has this particularly humid quality during the summer that makes everything sticky.

I keep hearing rumors that in some regions of the country, there's this thing called a dry heat. What does that feel like? I've never experienced a summer with dry heat.

Anyway. The world feels like an increasingly dumpster fire-like place. When the world feels fairly doom-laden, I find it hard to be creative. Also, with limited time at the moment to be creative, the doom-laden parts of current events weigh a bit more because writing is not only a deep hobby and a continual puzzle and pursuit of mine, it's also my major mental, emotional, and creative outlet. So even if I want to unload issues in writing, sometimes I find that I can't because the world sucks or I'm just really tired or really, I only want to watch YouTube and not do anything else.

And that's when reading comes in.

I'm 5 books ahead of where I should be in my Goodreads reading goal.

For me, of course, my solace reading is usually something romance. I've read a lot of contemporary romance this year because a) I'm trying to write a contemporary romance and b) I've been wanting to read more diverse stories and many of the diverse authors and stories I want are contemporary set.

My other solace reading is fanfiction, which is truly when I want to read something but my brain is like, "I want words but I want to shut off."

But I always like to try to explore other genres as part of my annual reading challenge, too. This year, I've read a couple of books I missed reading as a kid because I was never a big fantasy reader as a child: A Wrinkle In Time and The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. They were wonderful.

I've read a couple of travel memoirs. They were different in style and in where the authors traveled, but I loved reading about different cultures, languages, ambiences, and food.

My friend Krystal released a supernatural and fantasy novel earlier in this year--fantasy is a really good escape when the world feels like it's falling apart. I mean, think about The Lord of the Rings, which I was obsessed with in high school and college. Middle-Earth is in peril. Everyone fights to save it from certain destruction.

My favorite book this year is a steampunk novel set in China during the Opium Wars, called Gunpowder Alchemy.

I try to read enough nonfiction in the course of a year because I like learning things. You never know what'll prove useful or inspiring for fiction, for one thing. I tend to read history and generally, when someone takes the time and research to write about something historical, it's because that subject or time period was a true dumpster fire of a time.

So in a way, that's consoling?

What do you do when the world is tilted on the wrong axis? Do you read? What do you read?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

"But this is America--this is not who we are." (Spoiler Alert: It's exactly who we are)

Unless you've been living under a rock in the past week, you've probably seen news stories and Twitter feeds about migrant Central American children coming into the United States with their parents to escape any numbers of dangerous situations seeking asylum, only to be separated--the parents sent to one place, arrested, deported; the children sent to detention centers and not let go to be with their parents.

I've been seeing a lot of "This is wrong, this is immoral"--which it is--but I'm seeing a lot of "This is un-American." Now what exactly does that mean? "This is un-American. This is not who we are as a nation."

I feel like that's either a call to American exceptionalism, an overly optimistic view of the American government and nation, or a lack of knowledge of our history.

I didn't put this list together to diminish anything that's going on today, because yes, I see some unsettling echoes of bad eras of history going on. But honestly, y'all--the United States has done some shitty shit to people in the past and it's doing shitty things to people now. I personally don't know people who approve or want any of this crap to be taking place, but they are. These sorts of things are not new and we need to reckon with the past and solve the present so our future can be full of less crap.

Also, this list is not comprehensive because that would take too long.

When you don't know history, you are bound to repeat it. When you don't know history, you are bound to let your government repeat it.

(And yes, I know, the American people and the American government are not the same entity. But since the government does things "in the interests of American citizens," there you go. This has been our country. This is our country.)

How do we get those kids out of cages and reunited with their parents? How do we grant asylum to people fleeing unstable countries? How do we improve our immigration laws?

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Reading Challenge 2018: 20 Books!

Woohoo! I have finished my twentieth book of 2018, putting me something like 4 books ahead of where Goodreads says I should be, which means I can now take my sweet time with the other books I want to read.

Here's what I've read:

11. A Princess In Theory (Reluctant Royals #1) by Alyssa Cole. Fiction/ Romance/Contemporary Romance. 3 stars.

17. The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction To Asexuality by Julie Sondra Decker. Nonfiction/Human Sexuality/LGBTQIA/Asexuality. 4 stars.

18. Gundpowder Alchemy (The Gunpowder Chronicles #1) by Jeannie Lin. Fiction/ Sci-Fi and Fantasy/Steampunk/Action and Adventure/Romance/Nineteenth Century/China. 5 stars.

19. Clockwork Samurai (The Gunpowder Chronicles #2) by Jeannie Lin. Fiction/Sci-Fi and Fantasy/Steampunk/Action and Adventure/Romance/Nineteenth Century/China/Japan. 4 stars.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

IWSG June: Titles & Names

Welcome to my June IWSG post! The Insecure Writer's Support Group is an online community of writers. We post our writerly insecurities into the world every first Wednesday of the month. Check us out here!

What's harder for you to come up with, titles or character names?

Excuse me while I give a resounding and hearty laugh.


I'm terrible at giving titles to my stories. Pearl is Pearl because that's all I could think of. Last year, when I started planning the quartet of contemporary romance stories I'm still outlining, I decided that "Seeing You" (after a song) would make a good title for the first of the stories. "Hearing You" could work for the second, since there's a musician hero in that one. But then, the titles quickly deteriorated.

But I love character names. The character starts taking shape when I've named them. Sometimes they pop into my head already named--Alexandra and Madeline Keegan from Pearl came that way as did Kimiko and Chris from my short story "Haunted Lake." Sometimes I play around with character names for a bit until I get one I like. I like looking up names on websites like Behind the Name and Nameberry, not necessarily to learn the name's meaning, but maybe to learn its origins or derivations or when the name was popular.

But yes, character names are so much easier than titles.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Pink Nipples, and Other Romancelandia Peculiarities

Every genre has its tropes and quirks, right? Mysteries have murders and murderers. Legal thrillers have complicated cases and courtroom drama. Fantasy and sci-fi have magical creatures or people with amazing abilities or feature the future or technology.

Romance has plenty of tropes--I've mentioned them in a few past posts--depending on the type of romance. And then there are the weird little things that have built themselves into like an almost romance-canon thing. That's not explained well. Sorry.

Okay, you know how in fandoms, whatever the fandom-ee is sort of takes on its own life among the fans? In the Downton Abbey fandom, for example, there was a widely-held belief that Lady Sybil Crawley's middle name was Patricia--because there'd been a photo in one of the Downton Abbey books of her carrying a briefcase with SPC stamped on it. And it just became like an established fact in the fanfiction and everyone wrote that in as her middle name, even though the show never confirmed it and then gave her another middle name in a later season.

Little things like that, which take on a life of their own.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Once... Book Blast!

Damsels in distress, curses, echoes of faery tales and tragic love affairs swirl together in sixteen stories found in a dragon’s lair by a curious half-fae.
Unexpected changes to reality causes more than one damsel to turn into a strong, independent woman who takes charge of her own life.
A collection of short stories about Faerie and the fae that live in the human realm. A few of the stories had won competitions and all of them had enchanted readers.
Learn their secrets and enter the realm of the fae…
ISBN EPUB: 978-0-6399476-2-4
ISBN Paperback: 978-0-6399476-3-1
Publication date: 23 May 2018
Universal Book Links for Afrikaans and English versions of this book:
Also available in Afrikaans as “Eens…”.
Mortals cannot perceive the veil unless they are invited to – or extremely gifted. For centuries, Man and Fae have been kept apart, for nothing good ever comes from them mixing. The collection of The Adventures of Saphira the Faery Dog is proof of this.
Still, there are magical creatures that side neither with Man nor Fae.
Dragons are such creatures. They hold the knowledge of both worlds. Some even collect it in the written word, keeping it safe in their lairs.
An inquisitive half-fae once broke into the lair of a dragon known to hoard books. The knowledge she found was too much to keep to herself…
Here are a few tales, myths and legends from Faerie. Some may sound remarkably similar to legends held by mortals, while others are…  well… as otherworldly as the fae themselves.

Ronel Janse van Vuuren is the author of New Adult, Young Adult and children’s fiction filled with mythology and folklore. Her dark fantasy stories can be read for free on Wattpad and on her blog Ronel the Mythmaker. She won Fiction Writer of the Year 2016 for her Afrikaans stories on INK: Skryf in Afrikaans. Her published works can be viewed on Goodreads.

Ronel can be found tweeting about writing and other things that interest her, arguing with her characters, researching folklore for her newest story or playing with her Rottweilers when she’s not actually writing.

All of her books are available for purchase on Amazon.

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