Laura Patterson is chasing her sweet dream. And it's made of this: rock stardom. She is all-in on the pursuit of a career as a recording artist.

A 2003 graduate of Monte Vista High School in Danville, Laura, 27, told me that she's always loved music, particularly Broadway musicals and Disney shows. When she was 19, she began taking private voice lessons in Los Angeles, followed by acting and choreography lessons.

"I needed lessons to help me open up and let me show my real self on stage. Acting is still very scary to me, but I can sing on stage. I've learned how to relax and not be so self-conscious," Laura said.

She has the blessing and support of her mom, Theresa Patterson, a longtime Blackhawk resident, and her hard work is gradually paying off. In 2009, she auditioned musicians and formed a five-piece band that rehearses with her three times a week, and she's writing and cowriting her own songs, as well as recording her first album this month.

"I'd never written a song in my life; the thought really scared me. But now writing is like therapy. I'm recording 18 or 19 songs and then we'll pick 10 or 12 for the album, and one for a free download.

"You have to have a presence on the Internet, that's just the way it is," Laura said. "And we play a lot of gigs out here -- the Viper Room, the Mint, Whiskey-a-Go-Go, the El Rey."

When I talked to Laura last week, she had just finished cowriting a song, "The Lady," with Penny Framstead, who she said has placed numerous songs in radio and TV shows. It's one of the songs she'll include on her album.

Laura also shot a music video in April to be released as her first single at the end of August.

She co-wrote the song, "Chuck Norris," with Jan McGorman. "It's about how you're not as bad-ass in real life as you are in your head, how you're always thinking later what you should have said."

She remembers watching Norris in "Walker, Texas Ranger," with her dad, Jim, who passed away when she was 15.

"Dad and I were very, very close. He loved it when I sang to him. He had a heart transplant when I was 2 and we always understood that he might not be with us very long."

Laura has several performances on YouTube, including a mash-up of the "True Blood" theme song, "Bad Things," with the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams," and a cover of "Jar of Hearts" by Christina Perri. To see them, go to www.youtube.com and input lauramichellemusic26.

Best wishes to Laura, and congratulations to Joyce Farrell, a Blackhawk resident who celebrated her 80th birthday with family members during a recent weekend in Napa. The highlight of the trip? A hot-air balloon ride.

"The challenging part was climbing into the basket, which is something you do not do gracefully when you are 80 (or 92 years old for Herb Jorgensen, her friend and companion)," Joyce said in an email to me. "Luckily we had the help of my strong grandsons who helped hoist us up.

"The view is breathtaking as you glide ever so slowly over beautiful terrain, and it is very quiet and serene except when the pilot fires up the propane, and then it gets hot and noisy for a few minutes. Our ride lasted about an hour. We were all braced for landing, and we smacked down once real hard and then bounced a few times before we stopped and then the basket started tilting!

"Everyone groaned and I thought, 'We are going to tip over and fall out.' However, it righted itself just in time and we were down safely."

Joyce said it was the trip of a lifetime, with all her family together doing something that was fun, unique and memorable.

Contact Georgia Lambert at arounddanville@yahoo.com.