Hikes, Trains and Prophecy

Monday morning my mom and I went for a very early morning hike, then I went home and wrote for a bit before we tried a new Body Pump class with my aunt. I did not like the class, at all, but I must have gotten a good workout because my thighs hated me (and stairs) for days afterwards.

I spent the afternoon cooking and doing a bit of writing before going to hang out with my grandparents. After supper I hung out with one of my new favorite people for an hour or so, definitely overstaying my welcome, but it made my day/week/year/life.

When I got home I watched American Ninja Warrior with my parents. This show is so inspiring and really reminds me that I need to up my game and start training again.

On Tuesday I did background in a spa, where I spent half the day reading a magazine in a lounge chair and the other half writing books on the floor in the hallway. I don’t need much to be entertained, but I do need to see the words I am writing.

That night we watched Otherhood when I got home and I really enjoyed it. It’s the kind of movie you should watch with your mom on mother’s day if you’re lucky enough to have her. After you’ve remembered to call her and bring something to let her know how much you love and appreciate her of course.

On Wednesday the weather did not cooperate with our hike, so I stayed home and wrote before a little family outing. I spent more time with some of my favorite people, then had lunch with mostly the same group, plus or minus a few people.

Wednesday evening my brother and his fiancée had me and my dad over for supper while my mother went out. It is always good times with them, but I also learned a lot about my father that I did not know. I had bits and pieces, and knew things that would imply others, but never put it all together. I basically discovered that he is amazing, and I am beyond lucky to have him as my dad. To have two parents who love me unconditionally and support me in all of my endeavors…I don’t think I always deserve it but I am eternally grateful.

On Thursday my mom, my aunt, my cousin and I hiked Mont-Tremblant. It took us a little over two hours and I tried to keep up with my cousin who is taller and in way better shape than me, but it was hard. The views were incredible and the company was top-notch, but I think I need to do it more often. It’s a beautiful and fun way to get a workout in 🙂

Once the hike was done, we went to Mucho Burrito for supper. I only mention this because you might be thinking, like me, that they have burritos and rice and refried beans and a bunch of heavy, TexMex food. I didn’t explore the entire menu, though I’m sure they have all that, but they also have delicious bowls. I had half-rice, half-quinoa with beans, chicken, fresh corn, pumpkin seeds, fresh peach salsa…it was fresh and yummy and I would definitely recommend.

I took the train back to Toronto, meeting a man from Poland and getting some writing done, even if I accidentally got a rear-facing seat and slightly got carsick. I have yet to take the bus for my back and forths, but the train was a wonderful way to spend nearly six hours writing instead of listening to podcasts and singing along to the radio.

On Friday I got to have breakfast with the boyfriend after being away forever, then got a bunch of writing and admin stuff done before going to set for 2:30. It was at a studio and a really nice set to be on, but a short DAY shoot turned into working past 2 am. It just goes to show that you never know what to expect. I made new friends, caught up with some old ones, got some writing in and even did some knitting. A very productive day, if I do say so myself.

On Saturday I mostly did writing until a fitting. It’s for background on a short film about Female Air Force Pilots and I am so psyched to be a part of it, in any capacity. We went to open mat at 4 points afterward, where the boyfriend helped me go through all of the moves I was worried I had forgotten during my absence.

We spent the evening with Ali and Gözde from the gym, which is always a wonderful time. We tried Monga Fried Chicken, which was very yummy, with mochi ice cream for dessert. I was first introduced to this delicacy back in August and I definitely approve. The black sesame had a pretty strong taste, but it was very good, and you can never go wrong with vanilla. We were going to watch a movie, but got carried away with the talking, which I’m pretty sure is a good thing.

On Sunday I finished a new First Draft of Prophecy, taking into account all of the changes I have been making to the story. I also did some Brand Ambassador work and had supper with the boyfriend’s family, which I love to do.

Another awesome thing that happened this week and I almost forgot is the options for my cover! I received 3 possible covers for Prophecy and am currently going through them to figure out which version, or combination of them I want to use for my book. I know the expression is “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, but we’re also aware that it’s how most people decide if they want to read a book, or at least the back of it. Here’s to more books with awesome covers!

 

“It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.”

-Hugh Laurie

First Week as a Published Author

Shards of Glass has been out for a week! I couldn’t be more touched and amazed by all of the wonderful comments and support I have been receiving. I was terrified to put the book out there because only my mom had read it before I decided to go on this publishing journey. Now I have sold way more than the 5 copies I was expecting, and people are actually reading it.

That was the part that scared me the most, because I knew I had family who would get my first book to support me, but I wanted them to like it. I wanted people I didn’t know to get the book and enjoy it, not because I wrote it, but because it’s a good book. I have teared up several times this past week over the beautiful reader responses. Thank you so much to everyone who has reviewed it on amazon and goodreads!

I drove back to Toronto from Montreal and was on set doing background the following days. I also worked on my next book, the first in The Owens Chronicles. It’s a paranormal/fantasy series, and Emily is a few years older than Rachel, but I’m sure you’ll love her too. Research and plotting has been so much fun, but I am excited to be in the actual writing part now, as well as getting cover ideas whenever I need to procrastinate.

 

That pretty much covers my week. What about yours?

 

If you have a copy of Shards of Glass, post a picture of yourself with the book or your tablet. I would love to share them. It’s incredible to think that this book started out as an idea in my head. Now it’s something tangible that you can hold…Crazy!

 

“Follow your dreams. If you have a goal, and you want to achieve it, then work hard and do everything you can to get there, and one day it will come true.”

-Lindsey Vonn

I PUBLISHED A BOOK!!!

I Published a Book!

At long last, after first having the idea back in 2003, Shards of Glass is available in paperback as well as ebook. I am so excited to share it with you!

I would love it if you could get a copy, read it and let me know what you think. If you liked it, leave a review on amazon, goodreads or both 😉 If you didn’t, feel free to leave the review as well, but also reach out to me. This is my first novel and I would love to know what I can work on to be better.

 

Thank you so much for all of your support. It constantly warms my heart and reminds me just how lucky I am. I hope you enjoy the book 🙂

Have a wonderful weekend and Happy Reading!

Amanda

xoxo

Hike. Write. Repeat.

I started writing this post with the intention of publishing it a few weeks ago, but something happened on the morning I was going to finish it that made me reluctant to post it at all. Writing it the way it was planned felt like I was being dishonest, while editing it to include my new circumstance felt like I was looking for attention. But this is where I share my story and get held accountable, so here it goes.

June was a very fun and productive month. I got booked through a stunt coordinator for 2 days of SSE (Special Skills Extra) on a movie. I got to wear a really cool costume while making sure the stunt performer didn’t land on anyone in the crowd. Definitely something I would love to do again.

A problem I was pretty excited to have was that I booked so much work that I had to cut my trip to Montreal short. I spent a day in Quebec with my mom for the Premiere of Deep Web on the 9th, had a fake Father’s Day on the 10th, then drove back to Toronto after little more than 24 hours.

What was supposed to be a couple of days turned into a full week of background work as a high school student. It was long days with a lot of downtime, since they were mostly filming by section, but I was in heaven. I brought my laptop with me and got to finish my 5th Draft of Shards of Glass while we were in holding. There was an entire day where I was only used for 30 minutes, so I was basically paid to write. Whenever we were called to set, I brought some loose pages with me and plotted out a 17 book series. I am so excited for all of the things I will someday get to write! This was probably my most productive week ever.

On the 15th, we had a production meeting for Touched, where we got to explore our filming location. We were incredibly lucky that Hubert’s friend had his house for sale, so we got to film in a multi-million dollar home. Once the Touched meeting was done, I had a coffee date with Steph, our 1st AD. She was also the 1st AD for get-together, but this was my first time sitting down and actually getting to know her. All I can say is that I wish I had done it so much sooner, and can’t wait to spend a lot more time with her.

The 16th was the boyfriend’s birthday, so we did whatever he wanted to do, which included open mat. Not sure if I’ve explained this before, but Open Mat is where a bunch of people practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu from different gyms come together and roll with each other. You get to try out your technique on people who weren’t trained exactly like you, learn new things and in my case, roll with people my own size.

On the 17th we met with our business rep at ACTRA and I applied for my permit, which gives me my 2nd of the 3 credits I need to be a full ACTRA member. I spent the next 3 days working as a Brand Ambassador, which was stressful with all of the pre-production stuff going on with Touched. In the future, I would try my best to not book work up to the day before we go to camera on something I am acting in and producing.

I’ll make a separate post all about our 2 days of Touched, but suffice it to say it was an awesome experience that I hope to be repeating soon, and often.

The day after Touched was a day of rest, and to celebrate a year with the boyfriend <3

I did my last day of background on a show I was doing continuity on, had our last TAWC meeting before the summer break, then drove to Montreal.

Once there, I established a routine of Hike, Write, Repeat. I would wake up around 6 in the morning, go for a hike on Mont St-Hilaire with my mom, then spend the day writing/reading my latest draft out loud with my mom to make sure it all sounded good. I can’t thank her enough for the countless hours she spent helping me edit Shards of Glass.

Of course, I also did things like hang out with my grandparents, have a book meeting with JF and watch my niece play soccer, but Hike, Write, Repeat was the routine. I was all set to continue this routine on Friday. I brushed my teeth, got dressed, sort of slipped/mostly caught myself going down the stairs, walked it off, then woke up with my mom trying to shake me awake while crying on the phone with 911.

This wasn’t my first time fainting. It happened like that in May 2012, and I passed out one of my first days as a reader, but that time I woke up as soon as I hit the floor. This time, I had no recollection of crossing the room to where I passed out against the couch, then apparently flung myself backward, slamming the back of my head against the side of a table before convulsing on the ground. Which is how I woke up. All I knew was that I did not like seeing my mom cry like that, so I sat up as best I could, ignored the pain in my head and tried to assure her I was fine and she didn’t have to worry. She ignored me and called an ambulance, who brought me to the hospital. They drew lots of blood, monitored my heart and I totally bombed the neuro exam, but they didn’t seem concerned. Whereas last time this happened, I wasn’t allowed to drive for 2 months while they made sure I wasn’t epileptic, this time I was given the okay to drive 6 hours to Toronto the following day. Not because I was fine, but because they couldn’t figure out a cause. They labeled it a vasovagal syncope, with no actual trigger. They told me it could happen more often now, or never again, they had no idea, but they could mostly guarantee it wouldn’t happen while I was driving. Let’s just say I wasn’t reassured.

My mom would re-enact my episode a lot over the next few days, partially as a distraction from the heartbreaking funeral we were a part of on Saturday, but also to convince herself it wasn’t that big of a deal. Still, she would occasionally look at me and start crying, and she avoided being alone with me again.       

On Sunday I convinced her and my dad to go on a hike with me, because I knew that if I didn’t go, they would be nervous and maybe never let me go again. We got caught in a torrential downpour as soon as we reached the top, which I felt really bad for, but it also shows that I have the best parents in the world.

I drove back to Toronto, with a friend who did most of the driving, and had a game plan in case I fainted during the tiny bit at the beginning where I was the driver. So overall, a pretty awesome month, but not all of the excitement was welcome.

I could have made this post and left out the fainting episode, but it happened. I have been taking it easy and am seeing a doctor in Toronto to try and get to the root of the problem, so no one should worry, I am fine. If anything, now you know that random fainting episodes do happen, not just in the movies, and please, if ever something happens to you or someone you love, don’t just put it off or assume you’re fine. Listen to your body. Take care of yourself. You need to stand up for yourself like you would your best friend or little sibling. As L’Oreal says, You’re Worth it.

 

“Don’t like someone. Love someone. Don’t stand up for yourself. Fight for yourself. Don’t be strong. Be indestructible.”

WRAMPS

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of work opportunities, family and writing. There were ups and downs, but overall I am so excited for what I hope is to come.

I have a list of priorities, that I tried to find an acronym for. I eventually ended up with WRAMPS, so that is how I am going to break down this Blog Post.

Writing

As you may have read in my last post, I’m in the thick of the 4th draft of a book I started in 2003. I realized it was partially written by a 13-year-old and I was trying too hard to stay true to that story. So I decided to rewrite it. Instead of starting with a blank word document (which I would have copied and pasted most of the original draft into), I started with a blank notebook. This way I have to rewrite everything and think about my words instead of settling for what was there. I am on my second notebook, and I think the story is definitely getting better as I go along. And I am catching so many bad writing habits that I have, words I like to use way too often.

I am hoping to publish in August, which is possibly overly ambitious (my friend was very convincing when he suggested 6 months, but I’m a little hard-headed). Either way, please sign up for my newsletter. I am aiming to put out one a month or so, and I’ll try to make them interesting 😉

Writing isn’t first because it’s my top priority, this is just how the letters scrambled into a word. However, I make lists and goals and schedule things all the time, and I’m always excited at the possibilities. This is the first time that one of these plans, my writing plan, has given me purpose, and felt 100% achievable.

Relationships

This includes the romantic variety (like date nights, hand-holding and John Wick watching), but also family, which means a busy trip back to Montreal. I went hiking with my mom, hung out with my parents, spent some time with my grandparents, ran around with my nieces, had brunch with my cousin and got a ton of writing & publishing advice for my friend, who happens to be a published author.

 

Acting

This is where I had most of the ups and downs. Basically one down and a lot of ups.

My agent removed me from her roster. I can defend myself against some of her reasons, but it was a valid decision. She raised some good points about my priorities and efforts lately. I have been doing a lot of things to try and move my career forward…but they weren’t the things that my agent needed me to be doing. I submitted a self-tape knowing it wasn’t my best work. Not how I would want a casting director to remember me. I told myself I wouldn’t get the part anyway, so I sent something okay, but nowhere near what I could have done.

The whole thing made me take a good hard look at my priorities and what I am working for. Right now I am so busy in writing and pre-production mode that I wouldn’t be good on a new roster. So I am going to clear my plate, do some research and build up my team.

The ups for acting are obviously a lot more fun. I went to some TAWC meetings. I’m figuring out which amazing writer to bring in for our workshop this month. We had our Nell Shipman Award Gala, which was wonderful and inspiring and magical and everything I hoped it would be. Sherry White is amazing and should give Ted Talks. I tip my hat to my fellow TAWC members, who are so dedicated and supportive and inspiring. They are go-getters who don’t sit around and wait for things to come to them, they make things happen. I am so proud to be one of them.

Monies

Right now, I make my money from Background, Standardized Patient and Brand Ambassador work. I enjoy all 3, for many different reasons. One gives me the opportunity to be on set, one lets me hone my acting skills and all 3 give me the flexibility to be available for big opportunities.  Lately, I really enjoy getting paid to write. There’s a lot of downtime with these jobs, and I have been using it wisely. Being paid to write usually means a book advance or someone paying you to write something, but I still think this qualifies.

Producing

I hope to produce a project at the end of August, but for now, my Producer-brain’s focused on TOUCHED. We went to our meeting with ACTRA, have most of our crew and are missing one location. We even held auditions to cast our leads, which was so interesting. Not because our actresses screamed bloody murder and aroused the attention of the receptionist. Actors need to see what it’s like on the other side of the casting table. The decisions are hard. So many actors brought it and a lot of them made me cry. So many factors make a person right for a part. Most of it is out of the actor’s control. It’s even out of my control, and I was sort of the casting director. I am happy with our choices, and can’t wait to see how it all comes together in a few weeks.

 

(Being in) Shape

This one is mostly jiu-jitsu, which I have been missing out on lately because of work. I can’t complain, but I hope to get back into the groove and work on my moves 🙂

 

“The path to our destination is not always a straight one. We go down the wrong road, we get lost, we turn back. Maybe it doesn’t matter which road we embark on. Maybe what matters is that we embark.”

-Barbara Hall

An Exciting Month

We’re secure! By that, I mean that there is a little lock icon beside the website url because I fixed the security issue and people should be able to find the blog again. Amanda 1, Technology 0, right?

This past month has been pretty consistent as far as working for the gym and doing Jiu-Jitsu classes, doing background as a high school student and living a multitude of lives as a standardized patient. There’s also some new/exciting things happening.

For starters, I turned 29 and celebrated and had a wonderful time. Then I realized I only have one year left to accomplish my 30 by 30, and slightly panicked. But I’m okay with hustling.

I filmed a little short with a friend of mine, where I got to be sassy and get yelled at. You can see the full clip here.

I took an acting class at Armstrong Acting Studios. It has been ages since I was in a consistent acting class and it makes me miss Suzanna‘s so much. I loved continuously having scripts to work on, characters to live and friends to see!

I competed in the Ontario Open. I fought hard and was proud of myself, but tapped out to an armbar I probably should have fought harder against. Still, I left with a Bronze medal, that makes me want to work harder to deserve it next time.

We had our monthly TAWC meeting, a meeting to prep for the Gala next week, and we had the Post-Production and Film Festival Strategy Content Development Session that I put together. There weren’t that many people this time, but everyone there was really interested and asked good questions. I definitely learnt a whole lot. Filmmaking is a million tiny pieces coming together, and although it sometimes seems so daunting and scary, it is also so exciting and I can’t wait to do more of it.

I celebrated Easter with my boyfriend’s family, which included egg fights. Not in the sense that you throw eggs at each other, like I misunderstood, but in a very civil manner, you have a one on one egg smashing competition. It’s nice to have that family vibe here in Toronto when mine is all in Montreal.

I did some Brand Ambassador work at the Blue Jay’s Games, though you wouldn’t recognize me if you saw me. I’ve been a giraffe and a turtle so far, with an amazing view of the games during my breaks.

I went to Montreal for less than 24 hours to celebrate my badass cousin, Rikki, getting her MBA. I also managed to hang out with my nieces and spend time with my family, so the visit was 100% worth it.

The two most exciting things on my docket right now are Touched and Shards of Glass. Touched is a short film I am co-producing and acting in, which we will be filming in late June. For now, there are all kinds of production meetings and research and paperwork and getting it all together so we can start preparing for the next one. It’s the kind of project I am so excited to be a part of that I keep thinking it can’t really be happening. But so far it is 🙂

Shards of Glass is a book that I started writing in 2003. Then I chose it for Camp Nanowrimo in July 2015. Since then I have been half-heartedly editing it, cutting my darlings, building up the courage to eventually share it with someone who isn’t my mother…and now it will be the first book that I will publish. August 15th if all goes well. I will definitely keep you all posted 🙂

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

-Nelson Mandela

Meisner, Meetings and Maggie

I have to admit that last weekend was pretty awesome. Work on Friday consisted of a really fun scenario at McGill (fun to play, because it involves acting on your toes and Improv and an awesome scene partner, but not-so-fun subject matter). Then I got to sing my heart out at a family karaoke night. Traditionally, one person would choose a song and sing it while everyone else listened and applauded at the end, sometimes singing along under their breath. Lately, it has turned into a much less formal, much more free-for-all setting, where people choose a song, which gets them one of the microphones, then everyone else who knows the song or just wants to sing crowds around and goes for it. By the end of the night, our voices were getting raspy, but I’m pretty sure every single person had an amazing time.

file-2017-03-03-1-22-51-pm

On Saturday, I headed out to a Meisner class, for the first time in my life. I had heard of it before (something about boring repetition, right?), but wasn’t necessarily planning on studying it until my awesome acting teacher, Suzanna LeNir, told me about some drop-in classes she was organizing. I knew almost all the other students in the class, but not the teacher, who turned out to be really nice (both before and during class) and pretty interesting. He gave us a bit of a back story on Meisner, before getting right into it. Full disclosure, I have no clue what I am doing. It’s like I think I get the concept, but I have no idea how to make it happen. When I thought I did it wrong, I didn’t get a note, but when I felt like I nailed it, I apparently hadn’t. Sometimes I had a reason for it, which either redeemed me or was an excuse, but I am determined to figure this out. I have borrowed a copy of Sanford Meisner on Acting and am getting to work!

Also, this being something totally new and me being a really shy, timid person at first leads to me being incredibly nervous, which sometimes brings even more nerve-wracking, blushing moments.  It took me until just now when I was sitting here and writing the blog post to understand that one factor holding me back might be my desire to be a good student, do what I’m told and do it right. Like Debbie told me back in London, I should be less concerned with getting it right, and more attuned to what is going on and how it affects me. For one, just BEING instead of trying to achieve something will make it a lot easier to be in the moment rather than in my head.

file-2017-03-03-1-23-39-pm

After the Meisner class, I went to a production meeting for a project that I was recently asked to be a part of. There is no script yet, but over the course of the afternoon, I went from being interested in to being really excited about the project. I know it’s terrible, but the last time I was at one of these meetings, I felt like it wasn’t really my place to hijack someone’s idea, so I kind of just sat back and listened, never speaking up when I had a suggestion or when something wasn’t working. I mostly just answered if they asked me something, and I was very much a ‘yes man’. This time, I actually wanted to be a part of it, so I spoke up, asked questions and it became such a collaborative experience. I left, not only anticipating this project, but with a really great location for future projects, some new friends, and a role in a really cool short the writer was working on.

On Sunday, the Oscars were…well, interesting to say the least. Even though I saw all of the best picture nominees, as well as the majority of the nominated performances, I was still terrible at predicting who would win. I was torn between who I thought should win, who I thought would win, and who I simply wanted to win. As always, there were some great speeches and incredible brandprov opportunities; especially when you ask yourself what you would have done if you were Warren Beatty faced with the wrong envelope. I think it is such a shame that Moonlight’s moment went to the mixup rather than the fact that a movie with such a small budget, that so few people have seen, about such an emotionally and politically charged subject matter won Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

On Monday, I spent the afternoon editing Shards of Glass, before going to Suzanna’s. The last class is always spent on auditions, and we had some newcomers this month, so Suzanna went over some auditioning tips and had me go up first to demonstrate how to slate. I chose the Maggie’s Plan scene for my audition, since I wanted to work on personalizing the need to be a mother by any means necessary. Suzanna kept mentioning how my face lit up when I saw her son over the weekend, so she knew I could relate. The first take I imagined Jake’s responses to replace my reader’s, who wasn’t familiar with the scene and was mostly reading it. Suzanna suggested I use what she gives me instead, so I can be frustrated when I don’t get the reaction I am looking for, or try harder to get her to see my side. It definitely brought a lot more layers to the scene, and it is always more fun to be playing off someone rather than my imagination.

For my commercial, I gave a testimonial about a hair product, which I find I am so terrible at. It involves being you and not playing a character, while also playing a character, because most people aren’t naturally that excited about their hair products. After my last take (and there were many to get the speed but not the rush, the proper emphasizing and so on) I said I wasn’t sure about commercials, but everyone argued and told me I was great because I look happy and very natural on camera. So I guess I should increase my commercial submissions!

file-2017-03-03-1-21-39-pm

“Tarell and I are Chiron. We are that boy. And when you watch Moonlight, you don’t assume a boy who grew up how and where we did would grow up and make a piece of art that wins an Academy Award. I’ve said that a lot, and what I’ve had to admit is that I placed those limitations on myself, I denied myself that dream. Not you, not anyone else – me. And so, to anyone watching this who sees themselves in us, let this be a symbol, a reflection that leads you to love yourself. Because doing so may be the difference between dreaming at all and, somehow through the academy’s grace, realizing dreams you never allowed yourself to have. Much love.”

-Barry Jenkins

My First Writing Post

Okay, not my first post in this category, but the first time that I am sharing my writing with you. It’s from a story I still refer to as Prologue, because of a habit I used to have of saving things under the first few words instead of actually finding a title. I finished it for the July NANOWRIMO, and am currently editing it for possible, eventual publication. This actually really terrifies me, putting it here for the world to see, but here it is, my first piece of fictional writing on the blog 🙂

Prologue

I watched the raindrops hitting the windshield, listening as the rain pounded on the roof of the van as we all waited. It was easier to concentrate on that than to think about what had just happened, or to try and look while our imaginations ran wild. Everything was quiet other than the rain, remarkable since we were five of us just sitting there, but no one dared to put their thoughts into words. I could tell that even though no one was saying anything, they were all just as terrified as I was. When mom had run into the building, I had been the one who had grabbed onto my brother’s hand, but Kyle was holding on pretty tight now too, and not just to make me feel better. He was looking for the same comfort I was. We were the only ones in the complete back of the van, and while we usually sat on opposite sides, with the empty seat between us, I had moved closer once we parked.

I had my eyes on Billy, who was sitting in the passenger’s seat. He had one hand running through his curly dark hair, while the other was keeping him propped up on the armrest. I could see that he was biting his thumb nail, something he had stopped doing long before I was even born. As the oldest sibling, he was the one who was supposed to have everything figured out, to know that everything would be okay, but seeing him just as worried as I was…it didn’t inspire much confidence.

I was biting on my bottom lip to try and keep from crying, because crying would mean I thought something bad had happened, when Katie, my six year old niece, broke the silence. “When is nana coming back?” she asked, playing with her little yellow soccer ball. The fact that she had lasted that long meant this was serious, because that kid never stopped talking unless she was sleeping or eating.

Billy looked at his daughter like she was speaking a foreign language, and Donnie wasn’t much better. I was the second youngest in the car, so I felt justified in just quietly ignoring what was going on, but Donnie was the second oldest. He had taken Katie out of her car seat a few minutes after mom left, but other than keeping her in his lap and holding her close, he didn’t really know what to say.

“She’ll be back in a few minutes sweetie, don’t worry.” Kyle, who was usually the funny one, assured her. He was smiling to support his words, but it was the kind of smile you would use to make someone feel better, not the genuine smile that portends the truth. Still, Katie nodded and accepted it, because we had never given her a reason not to trust us before.

Kyle looked at me when Katie turned away, the fear in his brown eyes telling me that he was just as worried as I was. My niece was still young enough to think the loud noises were thunder, even though there was no lightning. As for me, I flinched every single time we heard a gunshot. The silence was unnerving, but the sounds that ripped through the rain and chilled my bones were so much worse.

“Is she going to be okay?” Katie asked after another series of gunshots. She was used to noise, because our house was normally bursting with all kinds of arguments, telephone conversations, loud music, video games, the TV as well as some occasional singing. This noise was different though, and the silence wasn’t helping.

I couldn’t tell how long it had been since my mom went into my high school, but it felt like hours. I knew it was probably less than 10 minutes, because I still didn’t hear sirens and we had called the cops as soon as we knew there was a reason to. Katie had continued asking us questions every minute or so, whenever she got the courage to disturb the silence, and we took it in turns to tell her everything would be okay, that she didn’t have to worry or be afraid.

“Is nana ever coming back?” she asked when the rain and gunshots stopped. This time, none of us spoke. It wasn’t that we didn’t know what to say. We just knew, or rather felt, that our assurances wouldn’t be true. It was like we knew that nothing would ever be the same again. I couldn’t tell you the exact moment that it happened, or which gunshot did it, but we all knew that at some point between the last reassurance and Katie’s final inquiry, our world had fallen apart.