Thursday, October 23, 2014

Get Cursed at the Haunted Mansions of Central FL

My first cover story for Creative Loafing Tampa!
I love haunted houses. 

Maybe it’s because I basically grew up at Walt Disney World’s The Haunted Mansion attraction, where this year Disney is releasing Haunted Mansion Authentic, a large assortment of merchandise sold in a new store at the Magic Kingdom, featuring everything from dinner plates, bookends, and towels (sadly, no doom buggies), which means I can finally live in my own version of it (ghosts not included.)  I’ve also enjoyed visiting real haunted houses across the country with my favorites being the famous Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, The Whaley House in Old Town San Diego, The Jerome Grand Hotel in Arizona, and The Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta, Canada.

But what is it about haunted houses that make some of us excited to be scared?  How is fear actually defined? 

According to Dr. Machiel Kennedy, a licensed medical doctor and longtime leader in wellness and healthy living, “The acronym for FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real.  When you are scared, you are turning on a part of the midbrain (the location for emotions and memory) that is fight or flight.  It shoots adrenaline through your body and you feel nervous, your heart begins to race, your pupils dilate so you can focus, you have acute hearing, your stomach and GI track turn off because you don’t need to be digesting, and finally your blood is sent to your muscles so you can either run or fight.” 

He also says that people like haunted houses because of the adrenaline rush they get, while knowing they are in a safe environment.  And no, you can’t die from being scared unless of course you already have a previous medical condition.  Which was good to know because I was about to visit seventeen different haunted houses in one week.

***Click here for more of my story about HHN24 & Howl-O-Scream in Creative Loafing Tampa.

Halloween Horror Nights 24 at Universal Orlando


Video interview with HHN24 Creative Director Mike Aiello.

Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Tampa:


Video of Dead Fall haunted house at Howl-O-Scream.

The Radley House in St. Petersburg:

Not to be overshadowed by the theme parks, St. Petersburg native Cody Meacham is the brilliance behind Radley House, a haunted house he started over eight years ago when he was still a student at Northeast High School.  Cut to 2014, and Meacham’s haunt this year is Dr. Radley’s Nightmare Machine, featuring a captivating story about a sleep therapist desperately searching for the answers to why nightmares happen, where visitors are invited to be patients.  Throughout the ten intricately themed scenes, patients can expect to encounter a creature and machine Dr. Radley developed for therapy treatments, amid an original score, captivating special effects, and handcrafted environments.  The Radley Haunted House is like no other Halloween experience in Central Florida.  It is also the cheapest.  A five-dollar donation is encouraged.

***Click here for my story on Cody Meacham in Creative Loafing Tampa.

With Cody Meacham.
With the Creative Team at The Radley House.
If You Dare To Go:
Halloween Horror Nights 24 at Universal Orlando runs on select nights thru Nov 1st, starting at 6:30 p.m. ($95.99, discounts available for Florida residents and annual pass holders, add-ons include front-of-the-line access or Frequent Fear Pass). For more information, visit: www.halloweenhorrornights.com/orlando/

Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Tampa runs Thurs – Sat nights thru Nov 1st, 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. ($89, discounts available for annual pass holders and at Publix & AAA locations, add-ons include front-of-the-line fear passes, VIP tours, Fright Feast.) For more information, visit: www.HowlOScream.com

Radley House runs Thurs – Sun nights thru Nov 2nd, 7:30 – 11 p.m. ($5 donation), 3900 19th Street North, St. Petersburg. For more information, visit: www.RadleyHaunt.com

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Book Finished, Flapping My Wings

I did it.  I finally wrote my book!  After 8 years of talking about it, I wrote the whole thing in just 7 weeks.  This is not bragging, but an example of focus, discipline, and following through.  Three things I struggle with daily.  Like a lot of people, I always try to do too much and as a result, I rarely move forward on any of them.  It took quitting a job, turning down several other opportunities, and isolating myself from the world to finally do it.  

It wasn't easy at first.  The voices in my head would say, Nobody cares about this.  You are wasting your time.  Leave this stuff in the past.  The eight storage crates full of reminders of the many places I have been and numerous times I failed or faced challenges that tested my strength and determination.  I would open journals and read my thoughts from 2008, knowing how naive I was, or in the case of 2011, how sad and scared I was when nothing seemed to go right no matter how hard I tried.  But regardless of what time I was reliving, I would force myself to put on the same blue sweatpants and t-shirt that said 'Dream more, complain less' and sit in my desk chair in front of my computer with a cup of coffee by 7 a.m. and write.  Most of the time till 5 p.m. or if I was on a roll, till 8 p.m.  Every single day.  This time, I would see it through.  No matter what.  

And I did it.  Thanks to determination and the birds outside my window.  

The birds.  The parents had built a nest in a bush outside my window and the babies were born in the first week I started writing.  I would take breaks to sit outside and watch the parents go back and forth feeding them bugs and worms.  Then the babies realized it was time to leave the nest and flew off.  I would watch one bird struggle, unable to fly so easily like his brother and sister.  He made it out of the nest, but now would sit on a low branch and chirp loudly for his mom to come feed him.  For weeks.  Until one day I saw him hop off the branch, flap his wings, and hop across the street.  There he would grow lean and strong.  One day he was gone.  The following week I heard his chirp and ran across the street and he was at the highest point of the tallest tree.  He had finally done it.  It had taken him a while, maybe longer than everybody else, but in his own time, he had found the strength.  After just a few moments for me to get a photo, he spread his wings and flew away from me forever.
We are all capable of anything as long as we are patient with ourselves.  Not everybody can get out of that nest on the first try.  Like that bird, it has taken me a long time to finally be ready to write this book.  I've struggled for years writing a few stories here and there, but not really wanting to dig deep or do the real work that was necessary.  In choosing to stay on that low branch, I was safe.  Technically, I was out of the nest so nobody could judge me or reject me, but I was also holding myself back from truly soaring.

My dream was never to be a comedian or a librarian.  It was to be a "Solid Gold" dancer.  And when that show was canceled, I focused on being a writer instead.  Writing for the school paper, yearbook, skits, plays, and later press releases, jokes and parody songs.  But the one thing I wanted more than anything was to be an author.  I wrote a book in 2004 and that completed manuscript sits next to me unpublished.  I gave up when a few people didn't want it.  I would sit on that low branch for the next 10 years until 7 weeks ago, I decided to hop off of it.

Of course, there is still a lot of work ahead, including revising the 537 pages down to 300, finding an agent again, then a publisher, and whatever comes after that.  But thanks to my little bird, I know that tall tree is absolutely within my reach as long as I continue to flap my wings and try. 



Saturday, July 19, 2014

My Summer of Writing

I hope everybody is having a wonderful summer!

I have been sitting at my desk as I take some time to finally finish writing my memoir.  While I love performing, planning literary events, and sewing new products for Stand-Up Librarian Designs, it is completing this book that has been at the top of my To Do List for most of the past last three years. Thanks to solitude - and this incredibly hot weather that nobody in their right mind would want to be in - I am making writing a priority this summer.

While I take this time away from here, my social media accounts, (and even my friends and family), I encourage you to do the same.  There is something about summer that allows us to slow down a bit to look back at what we have accomplished, where we went wrong, how we tried to make it right, and where we want to go from here.  I am so grateful that each time I relive a painful moment in my past through my writing, I get to remind myself that I made it through okay (not to mention laugh at all of those times when I thought something was important when in fact it really wasn't.)

Thanks to everybody who has made my life interesting and exciting - especially the ones who were idiots (and yes, I include myself in that group.)  Being perfect does not make interesting reading, but being a complete jackass?  Absolutely.



Thursday, July 3, 2014

Harry Potter & the Opening of Diagon Alley

My birthday is not until October but it obviously came early this year when I was invited to attend the Media Preview Week of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley and cover it for Creative Loafing Tampa.  
 
As a huge Harry Potter fan, I had a hard time taking it all in at times - the attention to detail was just so amazing on so many levels!  But as a journalist, I tried my best to cover it as a professional...at least until Neville HOTbottom came down the red carpet.  Have you seen that dude lately?  Wow.  Thanks also to Getty Images for including me in their red carpet photos - I felt like an honorary Weasley! Below are the links to my stories, photos, and videos.  The park opens July 8th so check it out, muggles!  

CREATIVE LOAFING TAMPA:

June 17, 2014

July 3, 2014

DIAGON ALLEY VIDEOS (Click the title for link):





PHOTOS:
***For photos, follow me on Facebook and Instagram.


Monday, June 30, 2014

Bloomsday-BYOBook Event a Success!

Bloomsday St. Petersburg - we did it!
Two weeks ago was our BLOOMSDAY - BYOBook event at Wilson's Book World and we had a great turnout to celebrate James Joyce and Ulysses.  I want to thank Jeff Morris at Wilson's Book World and Tiffany Razzano from Wordier Than Thou for partnering with me on this event and helping me promote it.  A huge thanks to our sponsor J.J. Taylor and Guinness for providing refreshments for everyone.  I also want to thank Chuck Vosburgh for the photos, Joe Deal for filming the event, and my brother Randy Myers for assisting with everything else.
With Wilson's owner and
my co-host Jeff Morris.
I've planned many events over the years, but this was one was probably one of the hardest due to my juggling so many aspects of it.  In addition to reading all 786 pages of Ulysses in just three weeks (and tweeting about it daily), I also divided up the 18 episodes into five minute sections and assembled a list of 18 readers, several who dropped out at the last minute due to illness and had to be replaced.  Let me tell you something, getting people to read from Ulysses is not easy!  Finding 18 was near impossible.
John Fleming kicks off the
readings with Episode One.
It was an event I had been wanting to do for a while and it was nice to finally do it surrounded by so many of my friends.  My favorite part of the event was probably our "Best Molly Bloom" contest where the winner received a bottle of burgundy wine and a block of Gorgonzola cheese (in honor of Leopold Bloom!)  The women (and man) who competed offered up a variety of hilarious readings that made the judging that much harder on John Fleming (former performing arts critic for the Tampa Bay Times and my special guest reader.)
"Best Molly Bloom" contestants
Our winner was Jude!
I've edited a video with some of the highlights, which was almost as hard as planning the event as there was over two hours of footage!  Plus there were so many fun moments to share but I couldn't possibly include them all.  Thanks again to everybody that participated or attended the event, and who knows, maybe we will do it again next year!
I had every library copy of
Ulysses in Pinellas County.
Guests enjoying cans of Guinness.
Explaining the purpose of Bloomsday.
Stan Myers introduces us
to Leopold Bloom.
Richard Dipietra reads
Episode Nine. 
Corinne Broskette & Davina Reid
act out Episode 15.
Jeff Morris whipping out his
Finnegans Wake.
And of course, me performing
"JOYCE Around"
Thanks to my fabulous readers that included: John Fleming, Mary Ellen Dipietra, Paul Wilborn, Jude (from the audience), Stan Myers, Allan Smith, Eddie Nunez, Meredith Myers, Christine Page, Richard Dipietra, Jeff Morris, Justin Grant, Cole Bellamy, Lynn Waddell, Davina Reid, Corinne Broskette, Chuck Vosburgh and Pat Vosburgh.

For more photos, please visit my FB page here.

For a direct link to the Bloomsday video, click here.

"I came to get down.  I came to get down.  So get out your books and JOYCE Around..."

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Diagon Alley

Two words.

Diagon Alley.

Harry Potter.

Wizarding World.

Universal Orlando.

Media Preview.

Butterbeer.

I'M GOING!!!!!

The Harry Potter section of my home library.
Two fisting butterbeer & pumpkin juice in Hogsmeade
February 14, 2014.
Check out my piece in Creative Loafing Tampa about being invited to attend Universal Orlando Resort Diagon Alley Media Preview this week! 

Follow me on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram to join me...