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Beware of Pyramid Schemes in Disguise

I'll tell you a story, but first, the familiar questions: Do you want to be financially secure? Do you want to be your own boss? Do you ...

Saturday, December 1, 2018

What The Judges Had To Say

Honest feedback is a gift to any writer who wants to improve. I advocate for reviews and feedback because sometimes what I hear back from my readers about my work are eye-opening. It is through feedback that I discover hidden facets to a character or a different interpretation of a scenario. Not all feedback is positive, but sometimes they give me an idea of the reader's reasoning behind their decision.

Discussions with friends and strangers have often led me to ponder on the idea of re-visiting my work. No, not to change the plot but to make it clearer and richer in content. It's also good to know that things I had excluded before publishing it, might have been better if had included it. It is the feedback that tells me all of these and I'm grateful for them.

I might end up deciding to leave the books be but I have to edit them again. There are typos that have sneaked past the watchful eyes of skillful editors. There are areas that I would love to improve the grammar. So, I have created a big project for myself. I will slow down on working on my fifth book and focus on cleaning up the ones you already have. This will be a huge, time-consuming task, but it is necessary and will be rewarding.

Why now? I have thought about this for a while but the time wasn't right. I had to work on my skill and learn more. I had to make sure I had the right resources available. And lastly, I needed to get great feedback that pointed at the sore spots that needed work and I did. I got a helpful feedback from judges of the 2018 Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards. Some authors won't want to make their result public if they don't win, but I have decided to do it. It isn't a bad result. I left the commentary part just because there were lots of spoilers and it would do a disservice to those who haven't read the book yet. Just know that the commentary was very entertaining for me as the writer. In fact, I liked the mind of the person who wrote it because he or she came up with many conspiracies that made laugh. A follow-up book was requested and I have to say that I am thinking about it.

I'm all ears for advice, feedback, and suggestions if you've read any of my books. Please leave a comment below and thank you in advance.

Judge, 25th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards

Entry Title: Notice Me
Author: Emem Uko
Judge Number: 55
Entry Category: Mainstream/Literary Fiction

 A few quick notes~

  • Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding”.
  • The 1-5 scale is strictly to provide a point of reference; the scores are meant only to be a gauge, and are not a cumulative score, nor are they tallied or used in ranking. 
  • A "0" is not a negative score. Our online review system only recognizes numerals during this portion of logging evaluations.As a result, we've substituted a “0” in place of “N/A” when the particular portion of the evaluation simply does not apply to the particular entry, based on the entry genre. For example, a book of poetry, a cookbook, or a travel guide would not necessarily have a “Plot and Story Appeal, and may therefore receive a “0” - indicating that the rating was not applicable.
  • If you wish to reference this review on your website, we ask that you cite it as such: “Judge, 25th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards.” You may cite portions of your review, if you wish, but please make sure that the passage you select is appropriate, and reflective of the review as a whole.

Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 4

Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 3

Production Quality and Cover Design: 5

Plot and Story Appeal: 4

Character Appeal and Development: 5

Voice and Writing Style: 4

Judge’s Commentary*:

It’s a super-cool idea. In the world Emem Uko has created, teenage talents are discovered and whisked away by a giant corporate agency to their headquarters in a faraway country. Teams of experts costume, groom, and train them to make audiences happy — and control every aspect of their lives...

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Is There Really A Right Way to Write Anything?

It depends on a reader's 'tastes.' I'll come back to that in a moment. But hey, there are right words and grammars. Some people have unique ways of conversing and getting their points across. Some people write differently from how they speak. There is correct English writing and then there is jargon. The question isn't about what grammarphobes and typo-pickers look for. The question is if there is a right method that one must follow to write the right way. In my opinion, one mustn't follow a structure in order to write well. But a structure helps in order to understand what good writing is. Recently I was reminded of something I learned in college. It is a common writing structure, which I do not follow. You will notice this if you've read anything I've written.

I write as though I'm talking or arguing with someone or an audience. Some of my posts, short or long, are tales of interesting things that I noticed or something that happened to me. Even what I'm writing right now doesn't follow the well-known writing structure.

I've had the opportunity to work with an amazing group of writers who contribute to popular blogs. It became obvious that we couldn't collaborate on the same work with multiple people typing. While our goals were the same, we happened to tell the same stories differently. We had to come up with ways to execute our work and combine them. We didn't want it sounding like a story told by someone with different personalities. I enjoyed hearing our "writing sounds," which were specific to us. For example, I might choose to use the word, "ecstatic" and my co-contributor might prefer the word, "happy" in the same sentence.

Also, we know that the language we use for a romance novel isn't the same for a dissertation. But there are many ways to write romance and dissertations. The best way is relative to the reader. That's why it boils down to the reader's taste. What one reader finds appealing may be atrocious to another. What one professor finds informative may be lacking to another. So, is there really a right way to write?

One person told me once that I should make my blog readable by using the structure below. This will clearly not work with the way I tell stories but I'll share it with you if you want to try it.

The Opening

     Thesis and Introduction

The Body

     Topic sentences with (proofs and supports)

     Transitional conclusion (restate thesis)

The Final Conclusion

I write for the reader's enjoyment and I stay in the moment. I want my writing to flow naturally. I don't want it to be clipped and too polished. But I do pay attention to using the right verbiage, syntax, and transitions. One should feel free to write the way they're comfortable writing. I'll be happy to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Confessions of a Slim Foodie

I read an article about a blogger who felt judged for being skinny. She called for people to “Try being skinny for a year and they’ll understand how hard it is.” She complained that skinny people do not have it easy. While she is grateful to be able to eat whatever she wants, she said, “Being called ‘anorexic,’ people telling you that ‘you need to eat more cause you need meat on your bones,’ ‘do your parents feed you?’ ‘you look hungry,’ people CONSTANTLY measuring your wrist with their hand calling you skinny like you don’t know it already, people asking you where is your butt or where is the rest of your chest” is not okay.

Now, this is what a bigger girl had to say. “Try being at a weight where people automatically think you are lazy, smell bad, dumb, unworthy, or a punchline. The world caters to slim people. Seats on planes, buses, and even movie theaters are made for a specific size and weight. You don’t get a ‘special’ section at stores because you fit into a regular size. You don’t get judged when ordering food. The things you take for granted every single day are nightmares to overweight people. Movements for fat acceptance is ridiculed, and people who are attracted to bigger men and women are called fetishists. You tell me to try to be skinny for a year? I challenge to be fat for a week.”

I may only understand one side to this argument and may be tempted to side with the larger girl because the most annoying comment I’ve heard about my slim stature is, “You're too slim. Are you eating?” But the slim girl is clearly not happy about the constant criticism she gets about her size. I can’t imagine having to constantly endure people looking at me and thinking of me unpleasantly. But at the end of the day, we shouldn’t be focusing on what side has it the hardest. We should respect all sizes and remember that we don’t know the whole story.

We don’t know what makes a person the person. I remember making that statement and someone asked me, “but what if you’re close to the person and you know their lifestyle isn’t great, shouldn’t you say something to them?” Good question. What are your thoughts?

Quotes from Yahoo Lifestyle

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

My Fun Book Event

It took place at the East Boston branch of Boston Public Library on a warm Saturday afternoon. I arrived with my little minions, who were to be in charge of book sales and giveaways. My first guest came in before it was time to begin and I started chatting with her about my books.  A few more people came in and while a couple of them checked out the table where my books were stacked, the others went to help themselves with refreshments. The atmosphere was nice and I couldn't wait to begin.

I greeted everyone and introduced myself. I started out by telling them what was planned for the event. I was going to talk about how and why I started writing, talk about the two books I'd picked out for the event (Notice Me and Hers to Tell), read chapters from both books, talk some more, answer questions and sign some books.

Everything worked as planned. I navigated between reading and giving some tidbits to the audience about each book. I showed them the book card that had been designed for the event. The card had a drawing of the main character of Hers to Tell, Cara Ella Smith. I spoke a bit about her and pointed to the back of the room, where the copies were available for sale.

When I finished reading, I talked a bit about the importance of libraries and the resources available to everyone. I mentioned how I still use physical copy dictionaries to find vocabularies and compare their meanings to how words are being used today. I urged everyone to write anything, just as a way to keep their minds engaged. Then I took questions.

I thanked everyone for coming and also thanked the staff of the library for setting up the event. I proceeded to the back of the room where people were purchasing books. I also autographed them. I took photographs with people and chatted a bit more. I couldn't stop smiling because I was happy to be in the midst of book lovers.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Author Talk and Book Signing Event

Author Talk and Book Signing with Emem Uko
Where: East Boston Public Library: 365 Bremen St, Boston, MA 02128
When: June 2, 2018
Time: 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM

"Hear the author read her books, purchase a copy and have it signed and learn about the creative process that gets such magnificent stories told." There will be giveaways!

Emem Uko is the author of four books, including fast-selling novel, Notice Me, a tale of the pressure a young artist faces from the public when steps into the limelight. 

She has captivated the attention of readers, as well as aspiring writers, with her young adult books. She holds both Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Business Administration and is well known for her art skills. She resides in Massachusetts and works as a development associate at Chestnut Hill Benevolent Association. "It's all thanks to the richness in diversity in Massachusetts that I continue to find inspiration to write. Rides on buses or trains usually do the trick." Keep up with updates of Emem's current writing projects on her websiteAmazon page, and Facebook page.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Oscars 2018 Red Carpet Looks

There got to a time when the Oscars red carpet started to lose its fashion fun and creativity. Not this year. 2018 was impressive. Here are some of my favorite picks in no particular order.

Gina Rodriguez

Lupita Nyong'o

Jennifer Garner

Eliza Gonzalez

Octavia Spencer

Allison Janney

Chadwick Boseman

Jennifer Lawrence

Sandra Bullock

Danai Gurira

Jane Fonda

Nicole Kidman

Taraji Hensen

*I do not own the images

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Naming the Characters of Notice Me

Coming up with character names is one of the best parts of writing a book in my opinion. I put so much thought into the names that thinking back, it seems ridiculous and like a waste of time and energy. But that's not the case. I find that questions about the character names arise when readers notice the oddity of the name or feel like there is a meaning behind my reason for choosing a certain name. It so happens that Notice Me, my latest book, is filled with names that are 'interesting.'

Let's start with the main character, Anders. Anders' name was very easy to come up with because I had spoken with a stranger and he said his name was Anderson, but he pronounced it as Ander - son (like son, daughter). It stuck. I didn't want a long name for my main character and I wanted a name with no particular meaning behind it because he was going to have a complex-no-ethnicity-in particular-background. I randomly called him Anders and deleted the last two letters.

Now, his parents' names took a lot of thinking on my part. The Quigleys. You think they're English, right? Feng Quigley is Anders' father's name. What do you think now? Exactly. I have mixed ethnicity with his name but my description of him makes him even more colorful and there's a reason for that.Feng is an Asian name and I was leaning toward the Chinese meaning. Quigley is “very British” like it has been described to me. Yes, I picked that for origin and sound-sake. Feng Quigley, put together, gives a light and heavy feel. Feng, like the wind, is light and smooth. Quigley, added to it, makes it seem heavy, but Anders’ father, a slightly big man, is formed around his name. He is a baker after all.

Everest Quigley is Anders' mother's name. I wanted a name for a slim, regular, but larger-than-life woman. It seemed perfect to me when I thought of the mountain.

These names were created to add to the ambiguity of the characters' ethnicity because that is not my main focus in the book. But you can tell that the Quigley household embraces multiculturalism. My aim is to make the reader input wherever they want Anders to be from and whatever country they think he moved to. I made it vague on purpose and I think you'll enjoy it immensely.

This name game didn't end with the main character and his family. Here are the others. The band members - Trance, Twine, and Alphonso. I discovered that Trance was actually a real name for boys, but I named him this just because you'll see in the book how his behavior makes people react. No, he doesn't put people in a trance. The reason for the name, Twine, doesn't have to do with strength so much as it has to do with the appearance of the character. His muscly self can tie down the attention of swooning fans. Alphonso, a popular name in real life, was chosen for origin sake. I wanted to add a different flavor to the band members and this Italian/ Spanish name was my best choice.

The girls - Reva and Mabel-Agatha (don't laugh at the second name because it does grow on you). The meaning of Reva in Latin is to regain strength and there's another meaning in Hindu. But I chose this name for the Hebrew meaning, "to tie." Mabel means "lovable" and Agatha means "good." Now, do you understand why I said, "don't laugh?" The names together may sound ridiculous, but their meanings make them awesome!

That's it for the name-game from my book, Notice Me. Feel free to ask me questions about how I came up with other names you discover in the book.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Notice Me Chapters 1 - 3

Prologue (Accept)

It all started with a message alert on my phone. When I clicked on it and realized that I didn’t recognize the sender, I almost deleted it and only stopped short when I saw a glimpse of the message. It was a compliment about one of my books. It said something like, “‘Said book’ is a page-turner that…” I had to accept the sender’s “request” to read the whole message. In excitement, I accepted it. I got the chance to read the message, but by the time it ended, I was hot with temper and had already called him a dozen awful names. Who did he think he was?
        His message had actually started out with great compliments. He’d really understood the nuances of the characters in my book and mentioned how much he’d enjoyed the reality of the story. But then, just like that, the compliments disappeared, and it seemed to become critiques unfolding into distasteful words toward the protagonist. I was mad. Yes, the protagonist is not the likable sort, but he had no right to distort the character as to how he understood her. His understanding of the protagonist was lacking, and I sensed him to be an “egotistical nonentity” of a person. I wrote that phrase as a response to his message.
For the sake of privacy, and the fact that this book is based on true events, I will not reveal his first message to me. Just know that my response was fiery and insulting as well, an action that I might have regretted, if it hadn’t formed into a friendship that I cherish so much even to this moment.
When I responded to his message with insults of my own, I became remorseful because I wasn’t the kind of person to fall for cheap shots like that. I knew that publishing my work would come with admiration and criticisms, and I was supposed to be ready. This person was clearly a troll, who had read my book, no doubt. He seemed to have thought deeply about it though. I should have been happy about that. I guess I wasn’t in a mood to tolerate someone who cheapened the actions of a character who temporarily forgot her life plans for love. He bashed her every move, even going as far as mentioning chapters and paragraphs. He called her names that were so disrespectful that I clenched my teeth to keep myself from screaming. I justified my reaction, but I should have known better. I fell right into his trap.
In hindsight, we’re both glad I did.

Chapter 1 (An Unlikely Friendship)

The “you’ve got a message” icon was lit. He’d responded to my lengthy insults, and I couldn’t have anticipated his response for the life of me. It started out with multiple smiley faces, a few sentences replying to my earlier response, and then another comment about another book of mine.
            I’m not exactly sure if I can explain the mix of emotions that swirled in my head, but I can say that seeing his reaction convinced me that I was chatting with a mad person. But I was curious, so I made myself a cup of coffee first, then opened the message he’d sent me and read everything word for word. This time, I was in control of my emotions. Although his second message was less harsh, I believe it was because he genuinely enjoyed the second book.
            After the smiley faces, his message expressed enjoyment for being scolded for the first time in a long time. He dropped a hint that in real life, no one had the guts to do that anymore, and he usually received hate messages from trolls on his social media. But he’d never gotten a response like this, because he never responded to his social media comments or messages. All he did was post things that his fans liked, and those who weren’t fans let him know what hateful thoughts they harbored toward him. I was the first person he’d ever written to on a social media page he’d just created for this purpose. He thought about this for over three weeks, because he wanted to let me know that I have a talent for writing and room for growth, but that I shouldn’t waver from my unique style. I shouldn’t follow trends, and I should keep my voice alive. And yet, he wouldn’t take back what he’d said about the other book. It was after this explanation that he’d critiqued the next book.
               My mind raced beyond any speed limit. Who is he?
            My response to his second message started out with an apology for my previous message to him. Then I thanked him for what he’d written about the second book, and I asked who he was. I didn’t get a reply to this until after a month; yes, you read that correctly. But I continued to check his profile, which was active but set to “private.” It had one follower, me, and also followed one person, me. The name used was a generic male’s first and last name and that was all there was to it.
            The third message I finally received after a month said, “Well done. I like how she’s developed.” That meant he’d read my newest book, which had just been released a couple of weeks before. I was happy that I’d gotten a fan in such an avid reader, but I was uneasy about who he might be.
            “Yay, welcome back,” I said sarcastically. “You didn’t have to disappear just because you didn’t want to tell me who you were. You should have just written, ‘no comment.’”
            “Missed me?” he replied.
            “Don’t flatter yourself. It just made me wonder about the weirdo I was chatting with.”
            “I’m glad you wondered. Weirdo, I am. A handsome one, too.”
            “Sheesh, there’s no proof.”
            “It’s better that way.”
            “For you, maybe. This is weird for me. I don’t feel comfortable chatting with someone I don’t know. No face, no followers, too weird.”
            “I’m not a creep.”
            “Can’t prove that either. Anyway, I’m grateful that you took the time to read my books. That’s every writer’s dream. Thank you so much.”
            “I liked your writing style when I read your book for the first time, even if I absolutely couldn’t stand that character.”
            “Hey, can you stop now? Anyway, thanks again. Gotta go.”
            “Hold on.”
            I saw the message before I closed my page. Another message came in.
            “Do you want a story? I’ll tell you who I am eventually.”
            My hair started to itch with a mix of curiosity and excitement. My fingers started tapping the table in a fast tempo just as fast as my mind was racing. I wanted to know who he was. I didn’t have to write the story if I didn’t like it. I wouldn’t tell him this, of course.
            I typed, “I’m in.”

Chapter 2 (Who Am I?)

“I just wanted to tell someone because if I continued to keep it in, I knew I’d burst. I don’t know you, but I like what I’ve learned about you from your social media accounts. You strike me as an honest person and I feel like I can trust you. It doesn’t hurt that you have a friendly face, too.”
            “Lol, friendly face? I’m told I have a death stare that actually makes people pee their pants.”
            “Really? That’s funny. I guess I can’t see that through your photos.”
            “Nope, my photos are usually cute and smiley. Real life is different. I’m super tall, too, so imagine how imposing I’d look.”
            “That’s quite hard to imagine. I just see a tall doll-like person with so much hair.”
            “Lol. So I guess my approachable face made you choose me to be your ghost writer?”
         “Actually, my original intent was not to write a book. I was just bored and thought you’d be a nice person to chat with.”
            “Ah, gullible me.”
    “Haha. Well, I didn’t think you were going to respond to my message. When I tell you my story, you can do whatever you want with it. It doesn’t matter to me, as long as I can stay anonymous. I just think you might want to write it, because you’re obviously a good writer. Plus, it would be too good to pass up.”
            “That’s my middle name.”
            “*Rolling eyes emoji*”
            “Haha. But I’m really glad you responded.”
            “That makes one of us.”
            “You don’t mean that *sad face emoji*”
            “Not a hundred percent. I’m still wondering what I’ve gotten myself into, considering that I have no clue who I’m chatting with, and the person is claiming to be someone that no one would dare talk to disrespectfully in real life. That’s what you wrote earlier. Are you some kind of dictator?”
            “Hahaha, are you scared? Just think the opposite.”
            “Okay, a chubby-faced underage girl?”
          “Funny. Tell me something? I’m guessing you’re very popular since you said you get hate messages from internet trolls and you don’t respond to comments.”
            “Gold star!”
            “Stop it. Anybody can guess as much. I just want to know what you do.”
            “That’s easy. Music.”
           At this, I couldn’t stop myself from imagining who he could be. Possibilities from ballad to rock singers flashed across my mind. But I couldn’t imagine which one would get hold of my books, read them, and write to me about them. Which popular singer had that kind of time? Which popular singer could find books that weren’t on display on the shelves of Barnes & Noble?
            But I reasoned that I followed a lot of musicians online, and I usually commented on their pages when they posted interesting photos. It was possible that one of them had seen my comment and curiously clicked on my page. Maybe that’s how he’d gotten to know that I was a writer. Or, I could just ask him.
            “Musician? Wow! But that doesn’t help me because I follow many musicians online.”
            “You don’t follow me.”
            “Wait, what? Then how did you find my books?”
            “*Smiley face emoji*”
            “No, seriously, I’m curious. How did you know that I was a writer?”
            “Through a blog.”
            “Which blog?”
            “Sorry, can’t remember. I just recall seeing the book cover and ordering the ebook.”
            “You celebs order things online by yourselves?”
            “Haha, very funny.”
            “Okay, and then you read the book and decided to be mean about it.”
            “Not exactly. I read the book and searched for the author, and learned about her other book, purchased it and read it. Then ‘watched out’ for more of her works, since her website advised keeping up with her on social media.”
            I rolled my eyes involuntarily. “Cool. So one day you decided to write to that author?”
           Who is he? “Are you going to give me another clue as to who you are? If I don’t follow you, then there’s no starting point for finding you.”
            “That’s actually preferable.”
            “Well, I need to know who you are.”
            “You will, in due time.”
  I exhaled impatiently. “I have to be honest with you. I don’t feel comfortable chatting with you.”
“That is harsh.”
“It’s the truth. You’re a popular musician that I don’t follow online. It means that I have no interest in your music.”
“You don’t follow every musician that you listen to, do you?”
“But I know that you enjoy my music.”
“How is that?”
“You’ve mentioned us somewhere.”
“Really? ‘Us?’”
“My band.”
“You’re in a band? Hmm, I guess we’re getting somewhere.”
“Yes, we are. It’s a four-man band and that’s where I’m going to stop for today. Like I said, you will know more in due time.”
“Four-man band. That’s like every band. Oh well, thanks for giving me some clues. I just hope you’re not a weirdo, because, like I said earlier, I don’t feel comfortable chatting with you.”
“I understand that, but try not to be too concerned about me. I’m not going to jump out of the screen and bite.”
“Sure, if you say so.”
“I say so. Anyway, something just came up. I have to stop now, but I’ll be sure to chat with you tomorrow.”
“Sure. Have fun.”
“I’ll try. I can’t wait for you to hear my story.”
“Can’t wait either.

Chapter 3 (Stunned At First Meet)

I’ve had sleepless nights in my life, but this time it was due to an overactive imagination that just wouldn’t stop cooking up ideas and scenarios. The fact that I could possibly be talking to a famous person, who had something juicy to share with me, sounded like a far-fetched dream. In fact, I found myself looking at my phone multiple times a day just to make sure that I hadn’t made up the online encounter in my head.
        It became a habit to just mutter, “who is he?” and then I would regain my composure and smile apologetically to people who thought I was asking them the question.
            Sometimes I would find myself giddy with excitement, as I wondered why this mystery musician chose me to be his chat-buddy.
            But as days went by, I started to regain my usual sense of normalcy and told myself that it was just a new wave of scam. The scam artist knew that there’d be some sad individual out there who would respond to unbelievable tales just to feel good about themselves. Pathetic. I shook my head.
            And then out of the blue, another message. “Hi.”
   “The thing that came up actually took you seventeen days?”
   “Oooo, someone missed Mr. Weirdo.”
   “I’m just saying. Your last message said we were going to chat the next day and then that didn’t happen. Not even the day after, or the day after…”
            “You should have sent me a message if you missed me that much.”
            “Well, I just figured you were busy being a musician.”
            “I was. We had a ‘fan-meet’ in Europe with my band.”
            “Fan-meet? So, you really are a popular musician?”
            “You’re still skeptical, I see.”
            “I’ll continue to be until I know who you are.”
            “You will. Nice dress by the way. It’s a good color for you.”
            “What are you talking about?” I asked as my eyes widened in confusion.
            “The picture you posted yesterday.”
            “Oh, that, thanks.”
            “Hahaha. What did you think I meant?”
            “Nothing! Are you going to start your story or what?”
            “Are you mad at me?”
            “Nope. I just think you’re dragging this out. I’d like to get something before you disappear again.”
            “Aww, don’t be mad. I won’t disappear again, I promise. Even if I’m busy, I’ll say hi.”
            “Whatever. Waiting for the story.”
            “*Sad face emoji* I feel like you’re just friends with me because of my story.”
            “It took you awhile to realize that. The story, please.”
            “*Shocked face emoji*”
            “Fine. I’m leaving.”
        “Wait. I’m just thinking of the best way to narrate it. Texting will be too tedious. I’ll use voice messaging.”
            My excitement ramped up so high that I feared it would burst from my head. Would I get to hear his voice or would he use those robotic voice things? Sheesh, I rolled my eyes.
“Okay,” I responded.
            I saw the prompt that showed me that a message was being recorded. I waited patiently, watching my phone and breathing quietly, as though any sound would impact his recording. I get to hear how he sounds, I mused. This is actually real. This is actually happening.
          After about three minutes and a few seconds, I got the voice message. Then an accompanying text message that said,
            “There you go. Let’s begin from the first time I saw her.”
            My eyes popped wider. “Her.” Ooooh, this is going to be good.
            I clicked and listened.
            He had an accent…


It was loud. There were flashes from all corners, phone cameras, and real cameras. He was concentrating on the photos and memorabilia that were placed in front of him for his autograph. His band would be playing at the Arena in the evening, but first, the fan-meet. They greeted the fans. He crooned a verse from one of their popular songs, She’s mine, which was currently number two in the country’s top-fifty music charts. The fans went wild with excitement, and he blessed them with his signature wink and lip bite.
           Then came agenda number two, autograph time. They finished signing for the VIPs. This time was for the ticket holders of the second most expensive tickets. He’d mastered the art of autographing despite the noise and blinding flashes. He knew that it would be rude to put on earphones or plugs, because he needed to give his fans his attention. He was very good at drowning out sounds. He also had a rule of keeping eye contact. He focused on the faces of his fans, and not on their phones or cameras, which tended to produce lightning sparks in the form of flashes at a hundred miles per hour.
            But on this day, he was a bit nervous. He fumbled twice on the lyrics during rehearsals. He knew there was nothing to be nervous about, because he wrote those verses, but the Arena had given him quite a shock, since it was the largest venue they’d ever performed in. It wasn’t his first time here, but it was the first after a major reconstruction made the venue even bigger.  So as he signed autographs, he realized that he had to remind himself to smile, make eye contact, and listen intently in order to answer questions his fans asked him during their turn. But when the next person in the line came forward, a photo was placed in front of him without a word. His eyes were focused on the thighs of the pair of jeans now facing him. Smiling at the red dyed patch in the shape of a heart, he looked up.
            It was when he got stamped on his foot by his bandmate sitting on his right side, that he realized that he’d been looking at her face all along.
   Paralyzed was how you could describe him in that moment. It was the unusual shades of brown in her full, neck length hair. It was her large almond-shaped eyes that held the largest and darkest irises he’d ever seen. It was the oval-shaped face with a tiny nose that rose up as though she’d just argued with someone. It was those bare lips that looked too full for a face so angelic and innocent. Her long neck held a black choker with an “R” pendant. He’d just been looking at her clavicle when he felt the thud on his foot. She stared back at him, straight-faced and emotionless.
            He cleared his throat, “What’s your name?” He asked as he readied his pen to sign the photo. And this photo, he noticed excitedly, was one of just him. Most fans brought one of the photos from their latest magazine shoot. A version of that group photo was being sold outside the Arena.
            But she’d brought a photo of him – one of his favorites, he might add – that was taken during a solo performance a couple of years ago in Thailand. He liked that haircut, and that was a very good year for him and his band.
            “Make it to Mabel-Agatha.”
            His widened eyes weren’t caused by the interesting nature of both names together. It was her voice. It was the deep hoarseness of it. It didn’t fit the immaculate vision standing in front of him, dressed in an Elmo t-shirt underneath a denim jacket that was a shade darker from her pants. This girl was unusual, and he was whipped.
            He cleared his throat again. “Nice names.”
            She shrugged. “I don’t think they go well with each other, but I love my roommate so I can’t tell her that to her face.”
            He was smiling sheepishly at a face that wasn’t smiling back, while trying so hard to look at what he was signing at the same time. He had to think twice before spelling “Agatha” and then he unknowingly started composing a poem.
            When one of the security men came to push the line ahead, he noticed that he’d caused quite a holdup. He reluctantly gave her back the photo, and then watched her move to his bandmate. That was when she smiled, and his heart gave a lurch of awe and extreme disappointment at the same time.
            She didn’t look his way. She only had eyes for Twine, the band’s muscular drummer.
            He knew he had to concentrate on the autographs for the other fans, but it was difficult. Then she smiled again, so widely this time that he thought he was going to die because he couldn’t breathe. Twine lingered when he gave her the photo. That made him a bit furious, but he tried his best to hold it in.
            It was when she disappeared into the line that he replayed their conversation in his head. “Mabel-Agatha wasn’t her name, but her roommate’s. Why didn’t she ask for him to sign a photo for her? A thought brewed in his head, but he quickly dismissed it. Even if she liked only Twine from the group, it didn’t make sense to just ask for only his autograph, did it?
            She didn’t attend agenda three, photo ops. He searched the crowd frantically, looking for a girl with height at approximately five feet six inches and so many shades of brown in her hair, an Elmo t-shirt, a dark denim jacket and a gray backpack.
            She wasn’t anywhere.
            “Hey T, what was the name of the girl that looked like a doll with a cracked voice?”
            “What girl?”
            “The one you signed for who had really full lips and was very, very happy to see you.”
            Twine raised an eyebrow. “Uh, they were all very, very happy to see me.”
            “Ass,” he muttered in anger and walked away.

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