I’m a California girl by birth, a New Yorker at heart, a Southwest desert-dweller in essence, and now a happy denizen of the Pacific NorthWest. I’m a little hard to pin down, because I like to be in motion, my life in flux. Astrologically, (not that I really subscribe, but it’s fun to toy with the notion) Sagittarius rules my sun, so I’m independent, like to travel and tend to relocate often. However, my moon in Capricorn and Taurus rising make me domestic – a lover of home and family.
Probably the more likely reason I am the way I am is that my parents, siblings and I are very close, yet we moved around a lot when I was young – hence, my patterns. Before the first six years of my life were complete, we had moved from Southern California to Chicago, then to Tucson. Just as I was growing attached to the Tucson desert, my parents decided to haul us back to California. Soon I fell in love with the California lifestyle though, (this being the latter half of the 60’s). I adored going to the beach and exploring the expanse of avocado groves in which our beautiful home was situated. I was a swimmer and spent hours frolicking in the pool. As an adolescent in the early 70’s, I dug the hippie/cool, left-leaning church I was a part of. The older teens took me under their wing as we “rapped” our way through encounter sessions and retreats, sang folk songs and urged peace and love on everybody and everything. Then, when I was thirteen, my parents wrenched me away from that life to return to Tucson. My dad was a commercial artist, successful, but stressed out and, after suffering a heart attack, was advised to slow down. His hometown of Tucson was more conducive to relaxation than L.A., so we picked up and off we went to start a new life, again.
Being a gregarious sort of person, I quickly found new friends and established a pleasing existence for myself. I did miss the ocean, but I found a substitute in the desert and mountains. My parents built a rambling home for their four children on six lush acres of high desert (where my mom still lives), and I found sanctuary in the solitude and beauty of that land. Often I would sneak off to some hidden spot to think, meditate (in my own way) and write poetry.
It was in high school that I found my calling to be an actress, involved as I was with the exceptional drama department of Sahuaro High School. I never thought about being a writer. I just wrote for pleasure or for school, priding myself on my fine grasp of grammar and the English language. I think I just wasn’t sedentary enough to spend a lot of time sitting and writing. I was a ball of energy and, like my mother, always involved: in church, school, youth groups and volunteer activities. I loved learning Spanish and went off to Mexico City at the age of fifteen to live with a family there for a summer and become immersed in the language and culture. The girls of my age from my Mexican family took turns coming to visit us in Tucson during subsequent summers and we busied ourselves with volunteering at children’s hospitals and summer camp.
I was interested in many things and many ideas, adding Shakespeare to the list when my English teachers introduced me to his work. Once I entered college at the University of Arizona, I also fell in love with the Italian language and went to study in Florence with my best friend for a summer. After a year at the U of A, I realized that I needed a more intensive theater concentration, so I applied to the best college drama programs, got accepted to New York University, and took off for the Big Apple at the age of 20, all alone, about $200.00 in my pocket. Luck was with me in that I quickly found a roommate and a cheap apartment in the East Village, and launched into drama school at the Lee Strasberg Studio, annexed by NYU as my primary training ground. This education unlocked for me the secrets of acting I’d always been looking for. With the tools of “the method” and a little natural talent, I honed myself into a decent actress, but never had much luck landing parts in New York. Four years after my graduation from NYU I got fed up with pounding the pavement, and, with my biological clock ticking, decided to part ways with New York and look for a place where I could work at my craft, but pursue sane relationships and return my life to some semblance of normalcy.
In the Sagittariun spirit, I up and moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, never having been there and without knowing one, single soul. Who could not love that quaint, rustic, cozy little town nestled up against the stunning Sangre de Cristos in the Rocky Mountain range? It felt good to be back in the desert, though Santa Fe is much higher and greener than Tucson. The winters are cold there, and it snows quite a bit. It suited my desire for four seasons, while satisfying my need for the desert. It only took me a month in Santa Fe to meet the man who would become my husband. An unassuming sculptor named Jonathan Wayne Ellis stole my heart and we were married a year after my move from New York. Two years later, his ten-year old daughter, Meng, came to live with us, and two years after that, our son, Joshua, was born. Those first couple of years together as a family were good ones, then we hit some rocky times, but we worked through them. I eventually felt the urge to get back to New York, and really make a go of my acting career. Santa Fe had been good to me: I’d done some major roles in the local Shakespeare festival, as well as some choice parts in other local theater companies, and had even done some film and commercial work, and joined the Screen Actor’s Guild. My sculptor husband, who also had worked as a waiter and appliance repairman in order to make a living, became inspired by my work in the theater and started writing plays. He was a natural, as he is with everything that really interests him, and he began directing as well. We saw how well we worked together as actor and director, and we started writing screenplays together, more for fun than anything else.
We finally sold our house and picked up the cat, the six year old and the eighteen year old and drove cross-country like the Joad family, to make a life in Astoria, NY, just across the river from Manhattan. I jumped back into acting with a ferver, but after just a few years, I fell out of love with acting, and deeply in love with writing. I also began teaching ESL, work which I found very satisfying, and my husband got his Masters Degree in Media Arts and became a professor for an online university (though he's also still a dynamic sculptor and painter). In 2007 I started my first novel, and by the time we were to leave New York in 2015, I had written and published a total of three.
Now, we've moved again, this time to beautiful and vibrant Portland, Oregon, the rain-swept climate and green landscape the perfect environment for a writer. My son remains in New York, a rock-musician leading a successful band called Donner Social, and Meng has a family in Florida.
Though I still enjoy teaching and continue to study languages, I feel that my time travel series is one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. I hope you have fun traveling to all of the fascinating eras Dr. Cassandra Reilly visits in The Time Mistress series, and that you've enjoyed reading about my own travels through this eclectic life that I love.
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