Recently, I realized that some of my most memorable moments have centered around coffee (coffee, that is, in one of its many forms…i.e. black, w/cream, espresso, cappuccino, latte, and even instant). It’s been more than thirty years, but I can still imagine the smooth rich creamy flavor of the cups of coffee with cream that I enjoyed while studying abroad in Austria. To this day, Austrian coffee remains the gold standard by which I judge all other cups of coffee.
In that same study abroad period I visited Germany, and am proud to recall ordering coffee (not beer) at the Hofbräuhaus in Münch. (I also remember dancing on tables and a few other decisions that had little to do with coffee.)
Perhaps one of my fondest memories occurred while traveling from Naples to Rome, when a young and (obviously) handsome Italian boy produced an espresso maker from his backpack and proceeded to make me a steaming cup of espresso right there on the train. (I was so impressed that he carried an espresso maker in his backpack!)
The pinnacle of my coffee experience was in Rome where, if memory serves, after touring the Colosseum I was delighted to find an espresso stand tucked away in one of its antiquated nooks. I don’t remember the taste of the espresso, but the view of the Colosseum while holding a demitasse full of espresso will be forever seared in my memory.
My next adventure with coffee occurred approximately a decade later while visiting Sydney, Australia with family and friends. This was in the years before cappuccino became a regular item on every McDonald’s menu, so I was surprised, intrigued—and considering my dislike of fast food in general—appalled to see cappuccino and latte on the McDonald’s menu in the heart of Sydney. I will admit, however, despite the unappealing smell of coffee and fries, I did try one. (My first and last McDonald’s cappuccino.)
Another coffee experience, and one I’m not terribly proud of, involved a frozen latte which I purchased from a Starbucks located right in the center of the Forbidden City in Beijing. I know, I know…it is the height of commercialism to put a Starbucks in the Forbidden City, but if you only knew how hot it was and how HUGE the Forbidden City is and how difficult it is to get a good cup of coffee in China…I really did enjoy that latte. (If makes you feel better, I believe Starbucks is now “forbidden” in the Forbidden City.)
Asian palm civet
Then there was the single cup of Kopi Luwak coffee my husband and I shared while on vacation in Big Sur California. Why one cup, you ask? Well, because Kopi Luwak coffee is supposedly the world’s best coffee, but more important, it costs $50 a cup! According to Wikipedia: “Kopi luwak or civet coffee, refers to the beans of coffee berries once they have been eaten and digested by the Asian palm civet.” Yep, we drank coffee made from beans pooped out of an Asian Palm Civet (a creature that looks like something between a cat and a monkey). I have to admit, it was wonderful!
My final coffee moment (though surely not my last coffee experience in this lifetime) is the memory I’ll take with me from my current trip to Thailand, where on a rafting trip in Khao Lak, my husband and I enjoyed a steaming cup of instant coffee served in a bamboo mug. What’s more, I have a video to remind me of it. Cheers!
Imagination is fine, but it needs fuel to survive, to grow–to really set it on fire. What is that fuel? Life–the big LIFE–yes, really experiencing it. And to do that, sometimes you’ve just got to Step Away From Your Computer.
Whether it’s a visit to your local coffee shop to catch up on world news via some of your not so always neutral minded chums. Or, whether you hop on a plane and travel half way around the world to visit a temple or two, and then find yourself lost in the back alleys of a foreign city. Think of it this way…a fairy is only a plain old Disney fairy until you jump on a train, travel down to the city and start imagining what that same fairy would be like living among skyscrapers and taxis.
Anyway, as I enter what I consider the second part of my novel, I’ve been lucky to do just that–hop on a plane and end up half way around the world in Thailand. While I won’t be spending much time writing, there will be plenty of adventures and lots of living refueling going on. Below are some pictures from Day 2 in Bangkok.
So, I haven’t posted in a while. As it’s already February, however, I believe it’s about time to take down the Christmas decorations (or post, in this case) and redecorate.
The trouble is, my mind just isn’t on blogging. Lately, it’s all about the novel. Its world, its characters, their lives—not mine. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and I couldn’t care less—unless it affects my characters. (Hummm…nope, not in their YA dystopian fantasy world. No Hallmark moments there.) So, that leaves only one thing for me to share, my novel. Happy Valentines Day (early), I’m opening up my imagination and my heart to you and sharing what, these days, is most dearest…a bit, a corner, a chapter of my novel, The Book of Qi.
Keep in mind, Chapter one first draft will probably look nothing like Chapter one final draft. I may even change to the title. The Book of Qi is still very much a work in progress. ONE more thing… I wanted to try something new—something DANGEROUS—so went ahead and taped myself reading chapter one. I’m not a voiceover artist, but I won’t apologize. After all, it’s from my heart, and it’s just for fun. Click the arrow and then read along. Enjoy!
One of the visuals used to inspire my planet
Every morning it is the same. I pretend to be asleep, hoping that by pretending it will become real and I will return to the safe, silent reaches of sleep. It is a hope my grandmother does not share.
Today, however, Grandma Tully does not scold, nor pretend to let me sleep, only to do something sneaky like placing an uzza beetle on the tip of my nose. Today, I feel the breath of her sigh and warmth of her fingers, so thick and crooked, and…so gentle as she brushes them through my hair.
This is nice, I think, as a tear slides down my cheek. More tears threaten to escape, but I squeeze my eyes tight. I fight to hold on to this moment as long as possible.
“Child,” Grandma Tully whispers, “my child,” and I know she does not want this moment to end either.
Tully brushes away my tears, and I open my eyes to her round wrinkled face hovering over me. Her thin, pale lips tilt into a small, reassuring smile, but her crescent-shaped eyes, pitch-black at the center, are shiny with unshed tears.
“I am not a child,” I murmur, even as I long to throw myself into her arms and beg her to save me.
At the sweet scent of twig tea and the sound of someone entering our room, Grandma Tully brushes my hair one last time and steps aside.
Something tickles my ear. I reach over and wrap my fingers around it. A long furry body stretches and squirms, making itself thinner beneath my hand, fighting to be free. “What are you doing?” I whisper. My pet wiggum has never slept beside my head. I stretch my toes expecting—hoping—to feel a small, soft lump beneath them, but he is not there. No…
Halo is saying goodbye.
I grab Halo’s body tighter, but not too tight. I don’t want to hurt him. But I don’t want to let go. Wiggums are jealous, needy creatures, content to serve only one master. I have tried not to think about it: as soon as I marry, Halo will leave.
Halo’s tiny wiggum nose nuzzles my neck. Even though the soft puff of his breath tickles, I do not move. I do not breathe. If these are our last moments together, I want to remember them.
“Breakfast is almost ready.” Grandma Tully’s tone is unusually gentle. A reminder my life has already begun to change.
I sigh and begin to pull Halo away. As if he cannot bear to leave my side, he twists and jerks, surprisingly strong—and oddly determined. With one last valiant effort, Halo thrusts his cold, wet nose against my ear and I hear, “Starzzzz, starzzzzz,” sounds that are almost human—almost words—uttered from his tiny wiggum mouth. I am so surprised I barely notice when Halo slips through my fingers and escapes through a hole in my hammock.
Rubbing my eyes, I swing my legs over the edge and sit up. Halo has slithered over by Grandma Tully and wrapped himself around her ankle. His sweet, stupid face peers up at me; a perfect mirror of how I feel. My wiggum speaks. Of course, he speaks! Why not? I almost laugh. And tomorrow I will not have to marry Alagar. Prince Alagar, I remind myself, trying to push the image of him from my mind. And a year from now I will not be expected to bear his—
A sick, queasy sensation fills my stomach. I close my eyes and will it to subside. Alagar is not unpleasant to look at. He is spoiled, but he is not mean. I hope he is not mean. He is my future, however, and I do not wish to think of him today.
Not my last free day.
Grandma Tully has crouched down and is petting Halo. I look at them and make a wish. I wish Halo would not leave. I wish he would stay with Grandma Tully, and then neither would be alone. Tully looks up and gives one of her brief, crooked smiles. I wish…today would never end.
A king’s guard stands just inside our room, here to make sure I don’t slip away again, no doubt. I wonder if he has been here all nightfall. As if in answer, he twists his neck and back, stretching his arms and shoulders, and I feel a twinge of guilt—but only a twinge. I agreed to the marriage. I did not agree to all the days before.
“Ouch!” Tully’s smile changes into a startled, slightly comical expression as she stares at the tip of her finger. My own fingers and toes have experienced similar attacks. Halo is simply reminding Tully it is he, not me, she should be paying attention too. I would laugh but I am still thinking about my grandmother’s face.
I have never thought of my grandmother as old, yet overnight, it seems, she is ancient. My guilt swells from a mere twinge to a full-blown revelation. Not because of the guard’s discomfort, but because of Tully who, I realize, must have endured the King’s wrath each time they sent for me and I was not here. Grandma Tully, who has endured so much for me already, yet loves me…despite all my failings.
I hang my head and stare at the thin, bare feet swinging beneath me. My toenails, cracked and brown, are not a pretty sight, and my heart grows heavy as I remember I promised Tully I would allow one of the servants to clean them before the wedding. A promise I could have kept yesterday, had I not chosen to spend one last day roaming free.
When I look up, Tully is still petting my wayward wiggum. I take a deep breath, hold it and make this silent vow: I will honor my promise, marry Prince Alagar and produce a new deathseer. If only for you, Tully, I will. And I will name her after my mother—after your daughter—for both of us.
An oot servant enters carrying a tray filled with berries and manna. My stomach growls and I’m grateful for the food, but also for the interruption.
Though I have lived among oots all my life, I have given them little thought. After major rifts, when new growth forces us to find new homes, oots are often called upon to eat away old growth—their favorite and, as far as I know, only source of food. Tully and I have never had an oot servant. Now, as I watch this one—its thin twig-like face tilted in concentration, its stick-like arms stirring the tea then pouring the tea—it feels as though I am watching a part of Qi that has risen up, no longer content to be simply a planet, and decided to become human. Well, as human as a stick creature can be.
The oot sets the tray on a small table and begins arranging our morning meal. In addition to servants and guards, my new life will include things like tables and stools, and smooth surfaces for walking and sitting; items that must be carried to the surface during a rift or built anew each time. Things only someone who has enough servants to build and carry them would have. The King has many human servants, and many more, as I have come to learn, that are oot.
Grandma Tully looks like herself again, strong and smiling; only her eyes give her away. She wipes them and I take one more swipe at mine, even though I know the guard will not look at me. Like all the others, he believes if he looks into my eyes I will see his future, or rather, his death.
I have heard the rumors.
Suddenly, my heart begins to beat faster, harder, pulsing against my chest, and I want the oot servant and the guard to leave. I want this day and all its moments alone with my grandmother. I stare at the guard, willing him to look back.
As if drawn, his head begins to turn. Quickly, I look away, ashamed. Though the rumors are false—death comes no swifter to those whose eyes I look upon—there is no reason to cause an ignorant, overworked guard to lose more sleep.
How has it come to this? I wonder, sinking back into my hammock. My mother was the greatest deathseer Qi has ever known. Why have my own visions betrayed me? A deathseer who can see death, but not when and where it will happen, is useless. I am tired, I think. Tired of being useless. Tired of being feared. “Tired,” I whisper, “of seeing people die.”
For me, the holidays are a time for visiting with family and friends, baking (in my case) LOTS of cardamom bread, and decorating the house. My hubby and I are really enjoying our new/old little house. While the weather in Indiana might be rainy and gray, inside we’re toasty and warm enjoying the bling of the holidays:twinkling lights, Santa, reindeers, angels & elves. So, before I begin trying to fit in a few solid hours of writing time, I wanted to share some of that warmth with you and wish you a very, very happy holiday season and a prosperous new year! See you in 2014!
(By the way, some of you have been asking me for the recipe for cardamom bread. Click HERE!)
This might surprise some of you (or not…probably not), but I was pretty much a nerd in middle school and high school (as opposed to the super cool person I am now). A few years ago, I showed my daughter, who was then in 8th grade, a page from my 8th grade diary. Written in 19—never mind the year—my diary entry for Feb. 27th began thus:
“If I could have any wish I wanted it would be to go to the land of Narnia. Some days I sit and think of ways I could get there. Now if I were to read this 10 years later I would think to myself what is this land of Narnia?”
Needless to say, I had an aversion to commas. And, truthfully, my future self can still picture Narnia perfectly in her much older head. Anyway…
My daughter’s reaction was not to laugh, but rather to look at me seriously, and with a fair amount of pity say, “Oh, mom, you wouldn’t last a day in my school.” (Honestly, had it not been for the safe haven of the drama department, I wouldn’t have lasted a day in my high school.)
The reason I bring this up is that a month ago I agreed to write a post for Sci-fi month that addressed my fascination with alien languages. (No, not the ones they speak across the border; rather, the ones spoken on the other side of the universe. i.e. Klingon.) A fascination that began post Narnia, but was initiated by its very same author, C.S. Lewis, in his science fiction trilogy known as the Ransom or Cosmic Trilogy series. Long before I realized Klingon was a language (decades before I attended my first production of The Klingon Christmas Carol) I discovered the Malacandrian Language spoken by the Hross in Out of the Silent Planet, the first book of Lewis’ science fiction series. For whatever reason (Who knows what was going on in my 16-year-old mind) I was so fascinated by this made up language, I painstakingly made my own glossary and taped it inside the book.
I love that I wrote, “These are words used in this book.”
When I look back and try to analyze my fascination, I realize it has little to do with the language. Rather, when I read a science fiction book in which humans end up communicating with alien creatures, my imaginative, yet highly organized and (though some might argue against this) rational mind needs to understand two things. One, how do creatures from other planets understand each other (i.e. the universal translators of Star Trek) and two, what words, or ideas would not be translatable—and therefore require the use of an alien word?
I also wonder about the bathrooms. Think of it—different planets, different body parts—would human space travelers even be able to use alien bathrooms?
Fast forward several years, and I have now written my own science fiction novel. Much like C.S. Lewis, I am not a linguist, but I have included a glossary because, well, honestly, there were some Circanthian (and Tsendi) words, which to my reasoning, defied translation.
I also included a toilet scene. I couldn’t help myself.
In the electronic edition of WHEELS, the first time each alien word is used, you can simply click on it and link straight to the glossary (and from the glossary back to the page). The paperback edition also includes the glossary, but sad to say, the glossary did not make it into the audible edition. Never fear, however, nerd that I am (I mean, was) I’m prepared to help you with this. Simply click on Kirk and his tribbles to download your own PDF copy of the glossary, free of charge.
Two awesome and unexpected things happened to me recently. One, WHEELS was chosen by Amazon’s ACX audible division to be made into an audio book and Two, Ara from the blog, My Book and My Coffeegave WHEELS a 5 Star review.
“Christmas came early for me this year – Wheels is an incredible sci-fi adventure novel! And I enjoyed reading it. A lot! It’s just so amazing! Well done, Lorijo. :)”
So, even though it’s Sci-fi Month, and I already had my blog posts planned, I’m adding a giveaway into the mix to celebrate my good fortune.
In other words, my good fortune could be yours!
To enter, all you have to do is go to my Contact page (or Click Here), enter your email and in the comment section tell me the name of your favorite science fiction or fantasy book. (And don’t forget to click Submit) Do this by midnight (EST) on November 30th and you’ll be entered in the giveaway. I’ll choose four winners (using random.org) and here’s what they’ll get:
1st place: An audible, an ebook (mobi or epub) and a signed paperback edition of WHEELS
2nd & 3rd place: An audible and an ebook (mobi or epub) edition of WHEELS
As some of you know, I like science fiction. (Maybe my twitter name gave it away?) Anyway, I’m not a scientist, nor did I grow up with geeks. In fact, I grew up in an artsy-fartsy family full of musicians, photographers and—drama! While I spent plenty of hours watching the Robinson family while they were Lost in Space, I spent many more hours dancing around the house to Johann Strauss’ Blue Danube waltz or singing along with songs composed by the likes of Rogers and Hammerstein
Why, then, do all my fictitious ramblings involve aliens? My first picture, Floridius Bloom
Narrated by Bryan Kennedy
and the Planet of Gloom, takes place on another planet (The planet of Gloom, Obviously… although it’s really a lovely little planet populated with starshines and wigglyfluffs). My first novel, WHEELS, involves H.G. Wells and, well, another planet. And, while the novel I’m currently writing takes place on Earth… it’s not exactly this Earth, but rather Urth and, well…it’s complicated.
The truth is, I like both science fiction and fantasy, though science fiction that is not too hardcore and fantasy that is not too full of fairies—especially fairy princesses.
I believe it started with C.S. Lewis and Narnia; which, though fantasy, led me to read his Perelandra series—definitely science fiction. Next, came the Hobbit. I know, I know…once again it’s fantasy; but, while I was making my way through Middle Earth, my father and brothers were watching the original Star Trek series on TV. The men in my family may have moved on from Star Trek, but I managed to become a fan of every Star Trek incarnation since.
For me, the genres of science fiction and fantasy aren’t about aliens or dwarves, they’re about imagination and escape. My best friend’s favorite book involves a depressed boy setting himself on fire. I’d rather escape the pain of everyday and read a story about a boy who can control fire! Sure, science fiction and fantasy are often dark, but at least that darkness is far, far away in another galaxy.
Most important—the spaceships (or wizards) that take you there are really cool!
So anyway, mark you calendar: November is Sci-fi Month. Then, check back next Tuesday for an interview with science fiction author and blogger, John Guy Collick. We’ll be discussing his new novel Thumb, one of the most imaginative pieces of world building I’ve read in a light year.
In the meantime, if you love Science Fiction and want more ways to celebrate, check out following list of bloggers participating in Sci-fi Month:
The audio book industry is booming. Audible.com, the largest audio book retailer on the Internet, owned by what could arguably be the largest retailer in the world, Amazon.com, has over 150,000+ books available for sale—with their list growing every day. As the demand for audio books increases, so does the need for talented narrators.
Think you have what it takes to narrate an audio book—maybe even your own book? Let’s hear what actress and professional voiceover artist Lauren Baldwin has to say. (By the way, Lauren just recently wrapped up the audio production of my novel, WHEELS!)
Hi Lauren. First, I want to thank you for doing such an awesome job narrating WHEELS. I’ve acted in several plays and honestly thought I might one day narrate WHEELS myself. However, as an avid audiobook listener, I can attest that when it comes to audiobooks, the quality of the narration will make or break a book every bit as much as the writing. While I do have some voice training, in the end I decided that managing 16 difference characters throughout an entire novel was, well—WAY beyond my reach! With that in mind, can you tell my readers in what way narrating a book is different (more or less difficult) from acting in a movie or a play?
Well, unless you’re Eddie Murphy, it’s rare that you get to play all the characters in a story. That alone is a thrilling experience! It can be difficult on a technical level, remembering which characters had which accent, tone etc., as well as making sure that they are distinctive enough that when it comes down to a solid conversation between characters with little narrative, the audience still knows who is saying what. As with acting in a play or movie, a lot of research and development goes into each character. I think the main difference though is the creative freedom that comes with narrating an audiobook that you don’t get on stage or screen. Had this been a movie, I wouldn’t get to play the roles of Principal Provost or James Wu, but hidden behind a microphone I get to play everyone!
When recording for a company like Amazon’s ACX, what technical skills (i.e. recording equipment or programs) do you need?
I have a professional microphone and stand, a Kindle to read the book on, and a free recording and editing software program called Audacity. With these key pieces in place, it really comes down to the production skills I have after that. Recording is fairly straightforward, but the editing takes the most time. The producer has to be careful to get the timing correct throughout and must also eliminate breaths and other unwanted noises without clipping words short or making them sound unnatural.
The audition script I created for WHEELS included three different scenes. One featured the main character, because that “voice” was the most important to me. Another featured several characters, because I wanted to see how well the auditioning artist could switch between multiple characters. Finally, one featured a diary entry, because it specifically required a British accent. I think it was smart of me to include the three difference scenes in my audition script. (Imagine me patting myself on the back here.) What other skills and/or talents would you recommend someone look for when auditioning voiceover talent?
Yes, it was a fantastic idea to include all of those characters. It’s always a shock when an author gives you an audition piece, then makes you an offer, then you read the book and find there are several difficult accents required throughout! Especially if you can’t do them! So, I would advise authors to always include sections with difficult accents or voices. Or at least make a note somewhere in the description that they are in there. I think the main thing to look for is that central voice, the heart of the book. As you said, capturing McKenzie was key to this book’s narrative as she is the protagonist.
Now that WHEELS is wrapped up and ready to go (i.e. ACX says it’s heading to retail, which means it will available for sale on iTunes, Amazon and Audible.com soon!) what’s on your plate? More audiobooks? More plays? A movie starring Lauren Baldwin and Colin Firth? (No romance, please, he’s too old for you!) In short, what’s next for Lauren Baldwin?
Yes, I’m excited to start promoting Wheels! It’s an incredible story and I’m tremendously proud to be a part of it. Other than frequent trips back to England to see Colin (Sorry, there’s no age limit when it comes to Mr. Darcy!), I will be mostly working on a new feature film; a thriller from director/producer Mark Pirro called Rage of Innocence. When that wraps up, I will be heading into pilot season and hopefully pick up a few more TV roles. I would love to do another audiobook before then and I’m currently auditioning for a several on ACX.
(I love this commercial starring Lauren!)
One final question (this one’s for me!): What was your favorite scene, character or moment to narrate in WHEELS? Where there any scenes or characters that you believe stretched your skill as a narrator?
Oh my goodness, Professor Revolvos for sure! I loved performing his voice; I imagined it to be a little like Alan Rickman. I also had a lot of fun with the minor characters such as Ms. Chantos, Grandma Mir and Rooney. The Tsendi were a challenge, as I wanted them to sound completely different to the soft-spoken Circanthians. The gruffness I gave them was a new experience for me as a narrator.
My favorite scenes were any that involved Revolvos and Provost bickering. They were so well written and a joy to perform.
I did find the final scenes difficult to narrate. The emotions came easy to me in the characters of McKenzie and James but going from the heavily emotional speech back to neutral narration was a challenge. I wanted to just sob my way through the entire ending! (In a good way!!)
That wraps up my interview with Lauren Baldwin. With WHEELS coming out on audio, I’m looking for bloggers or readers who would be interested in listening to and posting a review on iTunes, Audible and Amazon. I will have a limited number of free copies for review. If you are interested, please contact me at: coffeewriter at me dot com.
In 2011 when I began my blog, I called it Searching4Meaning. I chose that title because, honestly, I wasn’t sure what I was going to write, but exploring certain ideas I’d been thinking about, or ideas I would eventually think of, at least gave me something to blog about. And, I really wanted to start a blog.
My original blog header
Here I am in 2013 and the name of my blog may have changed, but all my old Searching4Meaning posts are still here. And, today I wanted to share a short, but Searching4Meaning-like thought with you. It has to do with Creativity and Happiness.
Have you ever noticed how it’s impossible to be unhappy when you’re in the midst of creating something you love!
For example, if you love to bake, baking a batch of super delicious cookies makes you happy. For a writer, like me, putting pen to paper (well, fingers to keyboard) might involve some frustrating moments…but the joy I feel at the completion of a new chapter, or even a stunning paragraph, can make even the gloomiest day shine! It’s true.
Sidewalk art – new until it rains!
My husband called me from the road yesterday. (He travels a lot for work) He asked how my day was. I told him it was great. I’d written a couple of posts for November and finished another chapter in my novel. I’d also exercised. I was feeling awesome. Then I remembered—the dentist’s office.
How could I have forgotten?
I’d spent the early part of the day in the dentist’s office. Bad enough—right? However, just before I’d gone there, I’d received some bad news about a family member and, as a result, arrived at the dentist’s office in a foul mood. A majorly foul mood. You know those straws that suck the spit out when you’re lying back with your mouth wide open listening to the soothing sounds of the dentist’s drill against your tooth…well, my mood was so foul I was like one of those straws, except instead of spit, I was sucking all the happiness out of the dentist’s office.
Hummm, happiness in a dentist’s office? I guess shouldn’t feel so guilty.
Anyway, by the time my husband called, I’d totally forgotten about my horrible morning, for I’d come home and spent the rest of the day writing—creating something new!
I’ve noticed this phenomenon before, but for some reason—maybe because I’m in new environment, a new home—it’s finally starting to sink in. If you’re a creative person, as I am, being creative is one of the best ways to be happy. But not just being creative, being productively creative—creating something new. I still have to spend time editing and marketing my work. I still have to deal with the everyday stuff and the real life problems. But, just a little creativity: a new paragraph, a new page or even a blog post—like the sun bursting through the clouds on a rainy day—can make all the difference.
As Oprah would say, that’s my “Ah Ha” moment. What makes you happy?
Hmmm so I am the Hungry Reader. The one who reads. The one who is constantly reading or wanting to read constantly. This blog is all about the books I have read, the ones that I am reading and gems that I plan to read in the future or whenever it arrives.