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From Texas to Shanghai - Sydney Aaliyah Michelle on Tattoos, Multiplex Theaters and Life after Law 

If binge watching movies on iTunes was a sport, Georgetown University graduate Sydney Aaliyah Michelle has an early training advantage over her would-be opponents.

This contemporary romance writer from Texas, who got a tattoo commemorating her first novel “Another New Life,” is on my Mighty Minion Bureau team for the 2015 Blogging from A-to-Z Challenge. I recently promoted her to Special Agent – (the top “Asset” aka “Operative” among my helpers), as its Sydney’s third year assisting me in the April Blog Hop.

You can find this self-employed event coordinator enjoying Lobster Ravioli and Sidecar cocktails.

After learning that Sydney climbed the Great Wall of China, I invited her to give us the scoop on how life has evolved since her days as a lawyer.

The Madlab Post: What advice would you give to single women who are traveling abroad for the first time?

Sydney Aaliyah Michelle: I truly enjoy traveling alone especially to a new place. It allows me to explore on my own agenda and my own timetable. Before I travel someplace alone, I do a lot of research. Read about the place your visiting, have an agenda and follow it.

When I travel alone, I don’t skimp on hotels or transportation late at night. I may walk everywhere during the day, but I don’t take any chances putting myself in situations that could be dangerous. Use common sense and you’ll be fine.

Sydney's tattoo story features her love of lotus flowers and the idea that beauty can emerge from less than ideal situations.Did any stigmas of being tattooed ever have an impact on your relationships or career?

When I got my first tattoo, my parents weren’t thrilled, but I was 21, not much for them to say.  My second one, they helped me design it. They don’t love them, but they’ve accepted them. Men love my tattoos, they are all sexy and feminine, so no issues there.

I paused for a minute before getting my most visible tattoo on my left wrist, and my current boss tried to have an issue with it. My tattoos are a part of me, but don’t effect who I am or my abilities, so if someone fired me or didn’t hire me for having tattoos, I wouldn’t want to work for them anyway. 

What area of law did you practice?

I had always wanted to go to law school, but I like the idea of being a lawyer more than actually being a lawyer. I practiced law for about 9 months working for a huge law firm doing bankruptcy litigation. I sat in a small room with 10 other people 12-14 hours a day, 6 days a week reading documents on a computer. It wasn’t the kind of life I wanted to lead.

If you were a broke, ramen noodle eating artist who needed to relocate immediately, where would you move to get back on your feet? 

I would move to Singapore. I could be a beach bum and still have enough access to modern amenities to live comfortably with not a lot of money. It is an inspiring place as well, so it would feed my creative soul. Great mix of cultures. 

How many foreign languages are you fluent in?

With all of the countries I have visited and lived, I still only speak English fluently. I have some conversational Chinese and a few words slip out when no English word can quite convey what I am trying to say.  These are my three favorite Chinese words:

Hau zho bu jian – Long time, no see.

Bu zhidao – I don’t know.

Bu ming bai – Understand.

Can you tell me about your adult contemporary romance novel "Another New Life"?

Sydney released two novels, 'Hope for Her' and 'Hope for Him,' since the debut of 'Another New Life."

Here's the book blurb...

When Miranda’s talent wins her a piano performance scholarship to the University of Texas, she arrives on campus determined to experience everything college has to offer and to keep her secrets in the past where they belong.

An easy task, until the first guy who catches her eye happens to be someone, she’s known all her life.

Eight years have passed since the last time Miranda and Troy saw each other.

Can Miranda focus on her future with Troy while preventing her past from tearing them apart all over again?

Why is The Joker from "THE DARK KNIGHT" your favorite movie villain?

Heath Ledger’s performance was incredible. If it has to be our lasting image of him, I couldn’t think of a more pivotal role to immortalize his talent.

Plus, the Joker has one of my favorite lines from any movie and he delivered it brilliantly...

 “If you’re good at something, never do it for free.” 

Where do you prefer to watch movies?

I prefer to watch movies at a big, stadium seating, surround sound theater. If it’s a blockbuster, epic, anything with an 'AVENGERS character in it, I have to watch it at the theater first. Day-to-day movie watching comes from iTunes rentals. Even though I have 30 days to watch them, it’s pretty typical for me to watch three movies in a row on the final few days of the rental period.

You’re stranded on a desert island and can only have one movie and one book...what would you request?

This may be cheating a bit, but I would probably request the "LORD OF THE RINGS" Trilogy – that counts as one long movie, right? I find something new every time I watch it.

The book I would request would be “Under the Dome” by Stephen King. I think it’s pretty brilliant writing and I might find some new found kinship with the characters being stuck somewhere. 

Thank you Sydney Aaliyah Michelle for riding with me for three years straight on the alphabet wheel!

Now, for everyone else, tell me...

How many movies could YOU watch in a row?

Which cities or countries have YOU visited more than once?


Monday Movie Meme – The Big Reveal #atozchallenge

This week, the Monday Movie Meme is based on a two-year old tradition created by Blogging from A-to-Z Challenge participant Mina Lobo, encouraging people to roll out their themes together: The Big Reveal.

Share on your blog or in the comments section, movies featuring scenes where revelations impact characters.

It doesn’t matter whether these surprising moments changes a situation for the better, for the worse or even not at all, so long as something is revealed. Here are my two selections for this week’s The Big Reveal theme.

Jumping the Broom

Family secrets disrupt a bride and groom’s wedding plans, in this comedy drama about two families from different sides of the tracks whose conflicts overflow during a weekend at Martha’s Vineyard; starring Angela Bassett, Paula Patton, Laz Alonso and Mike Epps.

The Crying Game

It seems like rude awakenings never cease to exist in this romantic crime drama about an Irish Republican Army volunteer who adopts a new identity and starts dating the lover of a British soldier he kidnapped; starring Stephen Rea and Forest Whitaker. 


Hosted by Hungarian storyteller Zalka Csenge Virág at The Multicolored Diary, the 2015 Theme Reveal Blogfest provides a great opportunity for you to get a jump start on your A-to-Z experience. Here is how it works:

Sign up on the Linky list below, and on March 23rd (Monday) publish a blog post in which you reveal your theme for the A-to-Z Challenge. Tell us why your theme is exciting and what to expect from it! Once your blog post is up, visit all the other blogs on the Linky list to find out hints on themes being announced.

Mark your blogging calendar for March 23rd!

What movies have YOU watched that contained big revelations?

How many people do YOU anticipate will be doing the Blogging from A-to-Z Challenge?


What I Love About the WAMEGO Documentary Series

WAMEGO Film Director Steve Balderson's recent projects include "Farflung Star," "Culture Shock" and "Occupying Ed."Told in a trilogy, Steve Balderson’s WAMEGO documentaries uncover what it takes to make films outside of Hollywood. It showcases the real-life experiences of a film director who found success on his own terms, but not without dealing with various complications, naysayers and downright manipulative, egotistical people who believe that there is only one way to make a splash or be relevant (whatever that means) in show business.

Making his feature debut “Firecracker” -- complete with 35mm film cameras, elaborate set constructions, and tons of personnel -- quickly taught him how expensive and time consuming it is to try and emulate tinseltown’s method of producing, marketing and distributing movies. So when the time came to start new projects, he eventually took a different, simpler route to get his movies made and hasn’t looked back. While WAMEGO STRIKES BACK is my favorite among the three documentaries in this series, I’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons from all of them.

The best part is that viewers don’t have to work in film or be in pursuit of careers in the entertainment industry to enjoy any of these movies. What I love most about WAMEGO documentaries are how they don’t put that glitzy, sugar-coated veil over life as a filmmaker nor do they present the movie industry as a doom and gloom, dog-eat-dog, swimming with sharks image to viewers. Its message encompasses both ends of the spectrum and various areas in between that have you saying “wait a minute…did that just happen?” – Oh, yes it did! Welcome to the independent film and what it’s really like behind the camera!

There is a moment in one of the docs when Balderson arrived at a film festival where organizers didn’t know the name of his movie, despite being on the schedule to screen in front of hundreds of people.

I also remember the time when craft services went AWOL in the middle of production, causing an unexpected change of plans on how (and what) his actors, sound guy and other people working on his film would be fed. Only he can tell you how that compares to the time when he found out the footage of scenes his cast and crew just finished filming was suddenly gone. In addition, there may be nothing like the time when prospective investors bailed on a film he was developing, without a word or so much as a heads up.

When the challenges of independent filmmaking aren’t rearing their ugly head, road trips with his cast and crew are among Balderson's ideas on how to spend your day off. It’s also common to see those who work on his films enjoying beers together, pool parties on set or attempting car repairs for a fellow member of his eclectic brigade. WAMEGO shows how making movies can be fun and productive, with Balderson fostering the kind of workplace environment you would have at a summer day camp for adults.

The events that transpire from one minute to the next in these documentaries can teach you about persistence, self-confidence, overcoming obstacles, speaking up (and standing up) for what matters to you and having the courage to buck trends even when other people are betting on you to fail.

In celebration of the 10-year anniversary of WAMEGO: Making Movies Anywhere, Steve Balderson decided to do a re-release of this award-winning documentary. WAMEGO is available on Vimeo to watch for free as well as WAMEGO STRIKES BACK (Part 2: Watch Here) and WAMEGO: Ultimatum (Part 3: Watch Here).

So, consider this my gift to you this weekend: Three movies I love watching. All Free for you to watch now, thanks to the passion and grit of a man from Kansas who the late Roger Ebert named as the best-kept secret in American independent cinema.”

Happy Valentine’s Day to all, and may YOU enjoy the people, places or things that make you smile this weekend!