Elle Martins is a gifted musician ready to start her first year at College. She is not alone. Elle has the security of her best friends and boyfriend nearby, attending the same University. Everything seems new and exciting, but the moment she joins a rock group, her life changes. The band becomes a favorite among the college crowd. Their performances are a hit thanks to Elle’s musical genius, and the band garners recognition from a major record label.
Throughout the school year, Elle struggles over music, decisions, insecurities, and most of all, love. She is grateful for many amazing opportunities, yet the chance of a lifetime is within her grasp. Can she choose the ultimate dream or leave the people she loves behind?
10 things you didn’t know about Consonance
1. The book is heavily influenced by music and some personal experiences. I use music terminology for the titles and section headings. The original titles for part one and part two of the novel were Tune and Tone respectively. Both terms are related to music, but they couldn’t accurately reflect the mood of the story. So I chose Major for part one, and Minor for part two.
Major is one of the two modes in the tonal system. The music system of keys (notes or tones) and the tone (pitch) it gives, using notes of a scale (successive notes of a key). A major key delivers a positive and supporting mood. Minor is the other mode. This key is the opposite of a major key in that it relays a poignant and melancholic mood to a musical composition.
For part one of Consonance, the attitude of the protagonist (Elle) is more happy and upbeat during the formation of the rock band. In part two, Elle’s attitude gradually shifts to a somber mood. I hint at this notion when she plays Chopin’s Nocturne in C sharp minor.
2. The full name of the main character was derived from my daughter’s name, Lisette. When you switch around the letters, the other name that comes out is Elise. My daughter’s middle name belongs to her grandmother. Elle’s middle name is part of my grandmother’s. As for her last name, I had to think about that one. My daughter is an even mix of Filipino (me) and Dominican (father). I wanted my protagonist to have a mixed ethnicity also. So I had the origins of Elle’s father from Brazil, and her mother’s heritage from the Philippines. I still wanted the Latin American roots, and I decided on Brazil because of the surname Martins. It’s tempting to pronounce the name with an American accent, but Martins should be enunciated with a Latin inflection.
The name of James Roberts was originally Paul. There is nothing wrong with it, but I couldn’t picture a prince charming with that name. Aaron was the name of the high school sweetheart. There’s nothing wrong with that name either. I just wanted a more common name for a boy who grew up in the 1970s. So I changed the name to Sean.
3. Since I’m on the subject of names, MRE is the record label that offers the band (Dia-Matic Keys) a recording contract. The fictional record company is located in New York City. MRE is simply Elle’s initials spelled backwards: Elise Rosa Martins.
4. One of my primary music influences is from the classical period. That is the main reason for Elle’s classical training on the piano. I highlight a few of my favorite classical composers in the story.
Elle’s song selections for the music school recital as a young girl were that of my friend’s (Memory and Minuet in G major). I was around the same age as Elle (10 years old) for my piano recital, but I chose to write about my friend’s music pieces because I was impressed by her. She had more training in piano than me.
5. I mentioned that the book is influenced by some of my personal experiences. The bickering that occurs between Elle and Kevin (the drummer) is based on my relationship with my husband, neither one of us wants to lose to the other. Similarly, the friendship between Drew (the lead guitarist) and Elle is inspired by the bond with my husband. My hubby is my best friend. Imagine the type of silly competitions, playful games, jokes, the “land the last hit” annoyance that my husband and I engage in. Then we endure the arguments, debates, sarcasm, and passion, but in the end we are “still together.” The words in quotations are lines in the book.
The scene with Elle and the girls in her dorm was influenced by my college years studying nursing. My clinical rotation observing the delivery of a baby and a dressing change is described by the minor characters: Carla and Simone. I reflected on that memory to put a little humor in the dialogue between Elle and the girls.
6. Elle writes a total of five songs: Crave, Still Us, My Protector, Green Field Blue Sky, and My Own Sun. For me to instill sincerity into the writing, I actually wrote the lyrics to those songs. Now I’m not going to expose the songs because they are a work in progress. Since I don’t have the music to go with the lyrics, the songs are in limbo until I hear the right music arrangement to finalize the rock songs and ballads intended for my titles.
7. The club or lounge mentioned in Consonance is loosely based on a local rock bar located in New Brunswick, NJ. This setting is an important part of the college and music scene of Rutgers University where the band members attend school. The Court Tavern has been closed for nearly a year, but I’m happy to hear that it’s reopen. The “dive bar” is rich with history. Many local bands got their start there, or other known bands passing through have played there.
The restaurant Elle and Drew visit a lot is Stuff Yer Face located at the main campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Their Stromboli sandwiches are delicious. The grease truck that James and Elle had lunch one afternoon is R U Hungry? They are known for their yummy “fat sandwiches.”
8. The original name of the band was Chromatic. I could not use that word because many musicians, song writers, and other artists took that music term or some derivative of Chromatic. I actually define the word in the book and explain how the band came up with Dia-Matic Keys. I still wanted the series to have a connection to music, so I created a scene to include how I invented the band name. Incidentally, the other fictional band titles mentioned in the book were also taken by other people. I needed to come up with another set of titles to keep the scene humorous. I can’t remember what the other names were, but I was surprised about how many times I crossed out a name because it was being used.
9. My instruments are dear to me. Even though I never finished my training on the piano, I still occasionally play. Some of my favorite classical composers are Beethoven, Mozart, and Chopin. Except for the drum set, the other instruments exist in my house; acoustic and electric guitar, electric bass guitar, an electric piano in addition to the upright piano. I even have a violin, and my daughter plays the clarinet. My husband played the bass for a while and his father plays the congas. None of the other instruments are being utilized, so I wanted to bring them to life by creating a rock band to play them. Now I am writing a series for Dia-Matic Keys.
10. Depression is a sensitive topic to discuss. A lot of my emotions transfer into writing the narrative of Consonance to give a sense of authenticity and relatedness to the story. I suffer from depression. It’s more manageable now than it was years ago, thanks to therapy and using music, reading, and writing as an outlet to cope with the everyday of life. Towards the end of the book, I described my ordeal with depression through the main character. Elle became irrational, anxious, irritable, and sad out of fear and losing a person she loves. The feeling of hopelessness is compared to a cold monster or an icy beast chasing after me. The desperation was numbing, suffocating, and blinding that it affected my logic. This psychiatric disorder can be debilitating when the disease continues untreated. It took a profound moment in my life to force me to seek professional help. If anyone can get something out of this bit of trivia, I hope it’s the importance of family, friendships, and using a creative hobby or interest as a healthy outlet in life.
Similar to all things in life, we have a beginning, as well as an end. Of course, life has its share of joy and struggle. There are many delightful events to cherish, and even more painful obstacles to overcome. Yet I endured a period of life just to arrive to where I’m standing now. The travelled path was a long and difficult one. I encountered some bumps, potholes, steep hills, smooth throughways, a few wrong turns and roadblocks along the way. It felt like a lifetime ago but for me, the journey started with a dream, and a song…
A Monday afternoon, and the sun is brightly shining. Summer continues even though the vacation ends today. The car radio is booming Prince “1999” while my head bobs up and down, singing to the upbeat song.
Listening to the chorus, I wonder about the year nineteen ninety nine, a distant future. Questions regarding career, marriage, parenthood and status arise. Am I married, do I have children, will I become a music teacher, songwriter, or rock star? For now, those particular inquiries are to remain unanswered because the present time is September nineteen ninety, and I am starting my first semester of college.
As I fog the window to write my name, nervous energy permeates me. The suburban avenues soon turn into an urban scene with shops and large buildings lining the streets. People of all shapes and sizes stroll leisurely on the pathway. Traffic lights are numerous, and with each red light, I marvel at the diversity of this area.
A short interval passes before the greenery of another setting appears. Several tree-lined streets are a welcome sight again. Many students are walking around and some wear T-shirts displaying the title, Rutgers University or just plain Rutgers.
Mom turns her head back to me. “Are you excited? We’re almost there.”
Her eyes glisten with pride and hope. Though my stomach is in knots, I’m enthusiastic and anxious to move into the dorm.
“Yeah, I’m psyched! I can’t wait to see Tiff and meet the other girls.”
Dad expresses, “I’m glad Tiffany is your roommate. It’s best to live with someone you know well. Besides, James and Andrew will be around too. You’ll be in good company.”
Mom is cheerful, “You may be away from us, but at least the boys are near.”
When thinking of the brothers, Andrew and James, I sigh in content. We have been best friends since middle school. James is older than me by a year, whereas, Andrew and I are equal in age. We grew up in the same neighborhood comprised of uniform colonial, four bedrooms, and two-car garage homes.
They lived a couple of houses down from me, and we were constantly at one another’s place. Those boys are like family. Being an only child, I’m grateful they’re in my life. I love them both, each in their own special way.
Finally, we arrive at Douglass Campus. It’s been a few months since I laid eyes on the picturesque grounds, yet the vision of the place is like the first time, once the anxiety and excitement fill me again. The area is crawling with female students and their families helping out on moving day.
The Douglass dormitories are only for women; which pleases my parents and keeps them at ease. Rutgers University consists of many campuses. New Brunswick is the main location encompassing five schools connected by neighboring towns and shuttle buses. Andrew and James are roommates at the College Avenue Campus. Their dorms are coed and a few minutes away by car ride.
I was also accepted to Penn State University to study at their School of Music. My father seemed upset that I chose not to attend the prestigious facility. After numerous arguments desiring to be close-by and lower tuition cost, he relented. The music program is equally reputable at Rutgers, but the truth is I need to be near the boys. Mom is happy, and I suspect Dad is also pleased about the decision.
The hot and humid air is heavy as I gaze and breathe in the view, trying to obtain a sense of familiarity from the surroundings. This is a peaceful environment, composed of old, historic buildings and rural settings. More impressive, the campus is serene, similar to a park with gazebos, picnic tables, benches, ponds, and a bridge connecting to Cook Campus. Those aspects are principal considerations for me living at this location.
Soon, my name is shouted from a distance, “Elle…Elle.” I turn around to behold Tiffany running towards me, and she swoops in for a hug.
“I thought you would never get here. It’s not like you live miles away.”
“That’s why I took so long.” I return the embrace with a huge smile, happy to see her.
She replies “Smartass,” and then swirls around, “Hey Mr. and Mrs. Martins. I’ll help bring Elle’s stuff inside.” Without delay, she and Mom begin chattering about everything and anything.
Tiffany is sociable and outgoing, the complete opposite of my toned down and reserved self. I remember our first meeting when she visited James during the winter break last year. Tiffany is a no-nonsense and up-front type of girl; brutally honest, charismatic, and kind. We bonded in seconds.
I was not close to many females in high school. The girls were fake and catty. Their deceit and spite dismayed me. They pretended to be my friends to date Andrew or James.
Tiffany and I share some things in common. She has two younger brothers while I have two older brother figures. She is James’ girlfriend, and we both love him. They’re great together, and I wish them many years as a couple. I am happy she’s my roommate.
Meanwhile, the ruminations are disrupted by Dad nudging me. “Are you going to stand there or help move your things inside?”
“Sorry Dad. I was lost in my thoughts.”
With a scrutinizing gaze, his gentle hand touches my cheek. “I can tell.” He gestures to the boxes and suitcases. Thereupon, we carry a few to follow Tiffany and Mom.
Despite being an old building, the dormitory is cozy. I’ll be among girls so keeping up appearance for the opposite sex is unnecessary. In truth, I’ve imagined coed dorms full of guys running around half-naked, females with their faces and hair done up, strolling along in either nighties or hip fashions. Here, the women are dressed appropriately, as real college students, all with the same agenda of a good higher education.
After a few hours I have settled in. The bed is covered in a light blue floral design. The desk is organized with pens, pencils, and highlighters arranged in a caddy. Clothes hang in a closet while undergarments, T-shirts, and PJs are folded inside the cabinet. Pictures of family and friends adorn the nightstand and dresser, and my guitar, kept in a case, leans at the corner. In surveying the result, I am satisfied.
Across the room is Tiffany’s side. It is decked in colors opposite my motif: brown and red plaid. A stack of books is resting on the desk with pens and highlighters lying on top, yet still neat. A radio sits atop the dresser. The closet is closed, and a towel is folded over the chair.
Pictures and posters hang on the wall, inferring mine boring in comparison. Tiffany’s contrast in taste and personality are reasons I adore her even more. She is sincere and real, the only female friend I regard.
After smoothing out the comforter, Mom pulls me in for a long embrace and sobs. “I love you, and I’ll miss you so much. You’ve grown into a lovely young woman. I want nothing more than happiness and success for you.”
I quietly fight back the tears. “I love you too, but I’m only twenty-five minutes away.”
She shakes her head, chuckling, “I know baby, but it’s different. What am I supposed to do? It’s just your father and me in the house. He’ll drive me crazy!”
Everyone in the room bursts into laughter. “Please princess, don’t leave me. Your mother will nag me to death now that you won’t be there.” Dad pleads with an unabashed look, mocking Mom.
She swats him on the arm for the taunting reply. Next, Mom kisses me on the cheek and whispers, “You’ll always be my baby.”
I accompany them to the car to finish saying our goodbyes. A silent and tender embrace is shared before Mom settles into the passenger seat. Dad furnishes a giant bear hug.
He jokes, “Don’t go crazy partying. I don’t want to bail you out of jail then have to listen to your mother’s paranoid worrying.”
The way my father can turn a tearful farewell into something humorous is a relief for me. I whisper out, “I’m gonna miss you.”
Straightaway, he winks and mouths the word “good-bye.”
Now reality dawns, my parents are leaving, allowing me to begin the first year of college away from home. Although I’m excited, letting go is hard, and the time to grow up arrives. I observe them drive off until the car disappears from sight.
Minutes pass before I brace myself and slowly walk towards the building. Again, I glance at the scenery and ponder; today is ending, but it’s a new decade, school, and home. Tomorrow is another day, and my life starts now.
Tuesday morning, I wake to the incessant buzz of the alarm clock beside me and hit the snooze button. The sun is shining through the window, brightening the room Tiffany and I share. In scanning over to her side I notice the bed is unoccupied. Tired, I lay there a few minutes longer as a result of collapsing to sleep at ten o’clock last night.
Tiffany insisted we hang out at the dorm’s lounge to meet all the girls and resident adviser. The welcome reception consisted of snacks, drinks, and lively conversation. I was nervous about making a good impression. Unsure of topics to discuss and if the others would think I’m interesting enough to talk to.
Soon, a girl approached me and introduced herself as Carla. I was hesitant to say more than a polite hello, fearful of opening up given my past experiences with other females. This girl was relaxed among the group. She knew mostly everyone at the gathering. I was intimidated by her, scared that she would judge me once I began speaking.
Regardless of my hesitations, there was something in the way Carla kept her gaze on me. She didn’t turn up her nose, roll her eyes, or scan me from head to toe in criticism. She didn’t place a hand on her hip to frown at my choice of clothing or how I styled my hair. She had no ulterior motive and waited patiently for more interaction. Next, Carla touched my curly strands with a grin, and nodded her head in approval as if to convey she won’t belittle me.
Her smile was genuine. I was at ease, making it easy to smile back and introduce myself. I even met her roommate, Simone. Both were friendly, so I finally overcame my shyness and spoke to them. I shared a great deal about myself including my music education major. They were as interested in what I revealed, as I was about them.
I had a delightful evening meeting new people and everybody was welcoming. It is a close-knit unit of women living in this dormitory. All are willing to advise, mentor, offer a shoulder to lean on, or listen to your apprehensions about college. Last night, I reminded myself that I’m not in high school anymore. Most girls are kind and sincere. They weren’t afraid to be comfortable in their own skin, so I shouldn’t be.
The alarm buzzes again alerting me to rise up. I shuffle over to the closet and stare at the contents, trying to decide what to wear. Today will be warm and sunny, so I chose denim shorts, showing off the frays and rips, a blue vintage T-shirt, and black platform sandals. Content with the decision, I gather my caddy of bathroom accessories, towel, and clothes, and stride over to the shower facilities.
The place is crowded and busy with women aligned at the sinks and mirrors doing their hair and makeup. Some are dressed while others are in their towels or bathrobes. All are chatting and preparing for the first day. Most of them wave a good morning to me and I return the greeting with a hello, even wishing them a great first day of the semester.
The shower stalls are occupied, but the wait isn’t long before one opens and out of the steam appears Simone. She beams a pretty smile, “Hey Elle.”
“Hi Simone, guess I gotta late start after last night’s welcome party. I swear the alarm clock rang too soon.” I mention with a giggle.
She laughs in reply. “Oh I know what you mean. I didn’t get enough sleep either. You better hurry and shower, you don’t wanna be late. Talk to you later and have a great day.”
In accordance, I bid her farewell.
When Simone walks away, I reflect on how striking and attractive she is. Her slender and statuesque physique is similar to a model’s figure. She has caramel color skin and long, brown braids falling like a cascade of waterfalls down her back. I seem insignificant standing beside her with my shorter stature, at five feet five inches, although she never infers anything to make me feel small.
After a reviving shower, I return to the room dressed and ready. Tiffany is preparing her book bag for classes. “Hey, you’re finally up.” She tugs on my shorts and says, “You’re looking like a major babe today.”
“Please, you are one to talk. You’re more of a hottie than me. No wonder James drools over you.”
Tiffany is stunning with long, auburn, straight hair and the prettiest eyes which brighten up a room; the same trademark blue of Tiffany & Co. and ironically, she is given the company’s name. Tiffany is taller than me by an inch. She’s dressed in a denim miniskirt and a beige tank top and short-sleeve sweater set.
“By the way, tell James I said ‘wassup’ and to have lunch with me on Friday.”
After a flip of her hair, she bestows a quick hug. “Sure thing babe, are you coming home after classes?”
“I’m meeting Drew for dinner, but I’ll catch you later in time to watch TV.”
“OK, bye.” She grabs her bag and exits the room.
I glance at the mirror again before leaving. I scrutinize the reflection, repeating Tiffany’s earlier comment about me. Quietly, I study myself and deduce nothing remarkable. My dark hair and petite frame are the only traits inherited from Mom. Everything else is from Dad, especially the curly strands and light eye color. The family declares I resemble him, except shorter.
Sean, my boyfriend, believes otherwise and tells me on numerous occasions. His loving compliments make me feel more than ordinary. He also attends Rutgers and lives close to the Livingston Campus where most of his curriculum is held. Though farther away, it’s not enough to keep us apart.
At the thought of Sean, I whisper out “I miss you.” Soon the anticipation of our upcoming reunion sends tingles throughout my body as the hours are counted down until we are together again. Anxious to leave, I snatch the book bag, wrap a black sweater around my waist, and hurry for the shuttle.
The first day moves by quick and easy. Some of the lecture halls are huge and crowded, yet I am able to hear the Professors discuss and teach the subject matter. I’ve already accrued a list of the project and report deadlines, chapter reviews, and scheduled exams. I hope my organization and note taking skills are efficient. Even so, listening is my best asset for learning and retaining information. In other words, I can’t miss any classes this semester.
Some of the courses are at different campuses, which can be disorienting to travel back and forth. Owning a map of all the locations and buildings is handy and may require time to become familiarized. Surely, by the end of next week, it will be a breeze as the routine sets in.
At the shuttle stop, I glance around to reflect on the diversity of people. The various ethnicities in this New Jersey college town are refreshing. Even the lunch trucks aligned on the streets, comprising an allotment of food choices and aromatic smells from Italian to Greek, Mexican to Middle Eastern, American to home-style eatables are enticing.
The bus arrives and moments later, I am at the College Avenue Campus, striding through town. As the heart of Rutgers, this urban setting is lively and bustling. Students and locals stroll along the sidewalks aligned with cafes, shops, restaurants, bars, theaters and art museum.
Before long, I reach the Student Center and spot him waiting outside the entrance. It’s only been a few days, but with the move to a new home and the start of school, it feels like weeks since I last saw him. In his typical baggy jeans, graphic tee and sneakers, he seems different or maybe older. Clearly, a handsome man, similar to his brother, yet confessing this will inflate his ego more.
Unaware of my proximity, I detect the ash brown hair and slightly long bangs swept out of his face. He began an exercise regimen, thus, his chest and muscles are enlarging but he retains a slim and tall frame. Suddenly, those twinkling light brown eyes and that quirky smile catch me.
Of course, he is still the same: my Andrew.
I am a graduate of Rutgers College of Nursing and work as a Professional Registered Nurse in the field of Perinatology. I currently live in the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania with my husband and two children. At the age of six, I discovered piano and classical music. A variety of music genres influenced my life through the years, and I’m passing on a love of the arts to my daughter and son.
Reading fiction is my escape from the chaos and stress of a demanding yet rewarding profession. For me, writing transcends the diversion of a good book. The experience is like commuting on a New York City subway; diverse people enter and exit the scene, sometimes delays and derailment occur during creativity, and a train of thought is missed or passed over on occasion. In the end, an arrival at my destination is what I hope to accomplish, and I invite readers to take that ride with me.
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