I hate missing SYW posts but somehow I got so busy with an author rebranding and major writing that I missed a week because these questions are for Week 28.
But I’m on time for Week 28 though, so here goes…
What is your earliest memory?
Watching a caterpillar outside in the yard while my mother and her friends played mahjong inside the house. I was probably about four or five then. I also remember being in a hospital as a patient and thinking it was so cool that the bed was so high I couldn’t jump down.
What was the last photo you took with your phone?
Can you believe it? I finally read The Lorax by Dr. Seuss for the first time??? Yep, my little guy went to the library to get his very own library card last week and came home with two books, Arthur Meets the President by Marc Brown, and The Lorax. And I got to read it out loud to him. Wow, but the book is deep, and so true and so profound I had to snap a picture of that last page.
It felt like a cliffhanger…
Have you ever danced in the rain?
When I was much younger and living in the monsoon belt, yes, I danced in the rain. And given that this is all I can say about it, it must not have been as exciting as I initially thought…
What is the longest you have gone without sleep?
Probably 24 hours, when I had to work at a top secret video game event 60 miles away, and it started at 11 pm at night all the way until morning. Why I didn’t think of sleeping before I went to work, I have no idea, but the adrenaline from being there and watching all the gamers sit and play for hours – and coffee – fuelled me through the whole gig. I don’t know about you, but I love my bed too much to go without sleep any longer than 18 hours now.
Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?
My ongoing Wattpad novel, In Love With A Young Man, got featured on Cosmopolitan last week and while there’s not much fanfare there, I didn’t realize just how much of a big deal it was to me still, like #screaminginternally kinda big deal. The last time my stories got any attention was this time last year when RT Book Reviews picked Collateral as one of the best romances for July.
I’m looking forward to going through a seamless author name/platform transition from Liz Madrid to Liz Durano while finishing up my current novel. Rebranding can be such a pain but now that I can see what a pain it can be, I should have just gone with some crazy-sounding pseudonym instead of a real name, in this case, my maiden name. Eh, but it is what it is.
But wait! I could have just changed it to Morrighan Muse!
Goodness gracious! I was just going to post summer pictures because I’m in Southern California but I’m supposed to post something that depicts my “own” season, as well. And since I’m no spring chicken, this was the best I could do from the depths of my iphone photo library!
When I was working in physical therapy, I remember how this one Physical Therapist in his late 20’s was pushing this middle-aged man to do certain exercises, and the patient said something that’s stayed with me since then.
“Twenty don’t know nothing about fifty.”
The PT laughed but to me, the older man was asking for respect for his own limitations based on his age. A 20-year old body will not have any idea what a 50-year old body will feel like, though that 50-year old will surely remember what it feels like to be 20. And now that I’m getting up there, those words always come back to me especially when I go to the gym and all the young guys and girls want to get me in tip top shape even after I finally told them that my doctor has put me on hypertension meds and I need to take it easy. I’ll still work out but don’t let me do freaking 20 sit-ups just because they can, and definitely not on my first day at the gym.
So, yeah, twenty don’t know nothin’ about fifty. Who knows, maybe the seaons are like that, too. How can summer know what winter feels like?
My favorite foods are no more, and that’s because as of eight weeks ago, I stopped eating meat. These days, if I find myself yearning for food for the soul, instead of reaching for chicharon dipped in vinegar and garlic, I look for a few ears of sweet corn and remember my late cousin, Randy.
Randy used to come over to the house after school with a huge bag of freshly harvested sweet corn purchased along Banilad Road, and while he and the other cousins and my brothers sat outside on the stoop trading stories, or by the kitchen table in my small two-bedroom apartment, I boiled the corn and then afterwards, we’d sit and shoot the breeze. Sweet corn always brings back my memories of Randy, who died shortly after he passed the bar with honors, his dreams of becoming a city mayor like our grandfather, gone in a blink of an eye when a decorative boulder along a resort waterfall topped over him while he was on vacation. A freak accident, sure, but it’s one that I still find so difficult to believe over 15 years later.
But with every bite of sweet corn, his memory always returns. I see him. I hear him. And he’ll always be there.
It’s been a year since you died,
since a distant cousin posted a video of your body
being pushed into the furnace – on Facebook, no less –
out of goodwill because none of us could be there for you,
only because your last request of us
was not to.
It’s been a year since I learned about yet
another indiscretion of yours –
another woman to get away from the other woman you fled to
when you ran away from our mother
I often wonder and ask myself if you left her
because you felt smothered.
But this time you bought this other-other woman
a house, paid for in cash
so even in death, in the midst of the craziness
and the mess you left behind
No one could take it away from her,
how could we be so blind?
You loved with a love that was without end
but only as long as that love prevailed, I guess
you loved to show that love to anyone
there who could see it
But now I wonder, if it was really you
who needed most of it.
Since you’ve been gone, I’ve realized that I never knew you
the man I wrote poems for as I was growing up
the man who got away, who could do no wrong
But that was before I learned of the pretense
and the multitude of lies
to keep up with the farce of being rich, happy, and wise
So now I find myself wondering
if my love for you is shallow, and only skin deep.
I’m such terrible daughter, you know,
for when you left, I did not even weep
How could I allow those things that you did towards the end
erase all the good deeds that you did before then?
But they did,
and no matter how hard I try now,
I can’t remember the man that I always thought you were
You’re just a palimpsest of what you used to be
and I fear each day that what you became
is what will become of me.
One night, three months ago now, while driving one hour each way to one of my gigs, I heard a song on the radio that made me drop everything else I was writing. I wouldn’t know its title, nor hear it again till two months later (which I announced on Twitter because I’d been looking for it forever), but it stuck with me, seeping through my pores against my will.
At that time, I was in the midst of writing this historical fiction novel. My heroine, Luna, was in deep, deep trouble, and the hero, Dev, was — well, it doesn’t matter what he was doing now because the entire story got steamrolled to the side all because I heard this one song that changed everything.
In a matter of days, maybe less than a week, I wrote my first 15K words. The heroine was forming slowly – and begrudgingly, we were getting to know each other. And the hero, well, he had the guise of one Michael Fassbender, and the way his character, Erik, wriggled his way into my writing was slow but sure. And just like the song, I may not have known its title or its singer then, but I knew, or rather felt, its message.
The night Finding Sam was born was April 28 and months later, I’m getting to the finish line, when I ready myself to say good-bye to Sam and Erik and let them live their lives without my meddling (for a while – because there is a Book 2). But there is one character in the story that propelled Sam and Erik’s stories forward, and that is the character of Rosie, whose name appears in the novel’s opening line (and one that I probably will keep there, even for publication).
Readers who stumble upon Finding Sam have written about how the story makes them cry, and I’ve seen how people read Chapter One in the morning, and eight or ten hours later, they’re voting for Chapter 40 (it’s not done yet). It’s a marathon read, but one that’s made me realize just how far I’ve come after hearing a song one night, and at first wondering, do men really think that way about love or is it just a way to sell records? to asking myself why the hell am I writing something as vulnerable as this? Who am I writing this for?
And it made me realize, really realize, that the real muse for Finding Sam isn’t its main character, artist and vulnerable Sam. Nor is it the patient and stalwart Erik.
It was Rosie, Sam’s friend who starts the novel, well, dying.
Rosie is my friend, Pam. I met her on my first day in massage school 17 years ago and we became good friends long after massage school was over. Each month, we got together and exchanged massages (newsflash: most massage therapists don’t get regular massages) at my office, then spent 2 more hours having burgers, or Thai food and lots of coffee.
It was to Pam with whom I shared my secret passion for writing. Up to that point, friends I spent more time with knew me only as the party-loving, always laughing (probably because she was drunk) girl who couldn’t spike a volleyball – but never knowing that I preferred writing more than playing.
It was to Pam to whom I told my wish to write a story set in 1895 Philippines, complete with a brief summary of my characters and little tidbits about my home country. Not even my family knew about it. Pam had this knack for listening to you that made you just want to spill your life story. She was the best – hands down – massage therapist I’d ever allowed to touch my body, because she touched hearts just by being there with you.
My last conversation with Pam was over three years ago, when she called me just as I was getting ready to leave to see clients. Though Pam was always the one on time all the time, she was also someone worth being late for.
It was during this conversation that she asked me how my novel was shaping up – over ten years since I told her about it, and had actually NOT written a word. Pam wanted to learn what happened to Luna, my heroine, and whether her story would continue because she would certainly love to read it when I finished writing it, and when I’d publish it.
But Pam would never get to read my story.
She died a week later — I think, from a pulmonary embolism, for her radiation and chemotherapy treatments had left her with two blood clots just biding their time. Her final wish was not to have a memorial held for her, and I remember how perplexed and angry I was then as to why, for I needed the closure. I needed to talk about her, and all the good she had done for me by being my friend.
Most of all, I just needed her.
It’s been three years since Pam’s been gone. She would have been 55 or so and probably giving massages still, her waiting list probably longer than the three months’ wait that it had been before her cancer diagnosis. Since she’s been gone, I’ve distracted myself with other things, like spinning wool into yarn and gushing over an actor — yet always feeling an emptiness that I knew only one thing could fill. This time, there seems to be no escaping Pam’s memory, and her desire to one day read my stories.
Which means, now I write.
And now Pam’s in this story that came out of nowhere, all because I heard a song that touched my heart and my soul – and maybe through this song, she finally got through to me. And though her character in my story is dead, she’s not forgotten.
Instead, she propels the story forward. And not just this story, but every story that I’ve written ever since I remembered exactly who it was I was writing for.
It was never for the actors, the so-called muses. It wasn’t to inject myself as the heroine, as some people scoff is what writers really do (and even if we did, they’re just jealous we can plant ourselves into our worlds). It’s not even for money since I haven’t made a dime .
I write for me – and because of Pam, the real muse.
Is the sky much bluer over there
than it is here?
Will the wind still whisper its secrets
in my ear?
Do their smiles ring truer
than the ones I’ve always known?
Is the world really so different
now that I am grown?
Is the view more beautiful
from above than it is below?
Does the sea smell as glorious
as you keep telling me so?
I wish I could bottle it all up,
take it back home with me,
treasure it, remember it
carve it in memory
For as the years have gone by,
I seem to have forgotten
all the beauty life once showed me.
How could memory be so wanton?
So show me those places again,
take me there with you
I wish to see it all again –
the world I once knew.