Despite lofty–well intentioned–aspirations made back in February, I’ve been more remiss about posting this year than ever. I do have an excuse, however. I few, rather large, life-changing projects fell into my lap recently, so what time I have to devote to writing has been spent working on my novel.
But today, inspired by something I saw on Pinterest, I’m taking time out to create a quickie post. Below is picture of my office… my sanctuary… my cave. The place where inspiration lives and strikes and finds it’s way, finally, onto paper.
You don’t need to say it. I know—my blog looks different. One day it was all bluish and purpley, lots of stars and planets, and now it’s all pinkish and gray speckles.
Yet the bunnies remain the same. The bunnies will always remain…
So what’s up? Well, as Reed Smoot, a senator from Utah once said:
“I have nothing to say.”
Gotta love that quote! It pretty much sums up my attitude toward blogging for all of 2014. But it’s a new year and a new—okay, not a new me. Which brings me to another quote, from another famous person:
“Don’t reinvent the wheel, just realign it.” –Anthony J. D’Angelo
Exactly what I intend to do. I still don’t have a lot to say…but I intend to find it. To realign—
“to change one’s position or attitude with regard to…”
—rather than totally reinvent myself. Because I realized that since I began blogging back in 2011 (under the blog name, Searching4Meaning) my goal has remained the same: to post on a regular basis. What’s changed, however, is my motivation.
(Searching4Meaning.com) Motivation: Explore thoughts, questions and beliefs about the world around me.
Middle to End of 2012
(ScifiWriterMom.com/LorijoMetz.com) Motivation: Share my writer’s journey. Review YA books
(LjMetz.com) Motivation: Explore thoughts, questions and beliefs
as they concern me, Lj Metz, the writer.
To put it in Dr. Who terms: Same Blogger (same bunnies) only different.
“Legs! I’ve still got legs! Good. Arms. Hands.
Oo! Fingers. Lots of fingers. Ears. Yes. Eyes two. Nose.
And I’ve had worse. Chin. Blimey. Hair. I’m a girl.
No no. I’m not a girl. And still not ginger. Something important!
I’m- I’m- crashing! Ha ha! Geronimo!” —Dr. Who, “The End of Time” (Part Two)
An acquaintance of mine recently took up the challenge to blog every day for the next 100 days. After reading her post announcing this commitment, I have to admit to having rolled my eyes and muttered, “we shall see.”
We shall see…
I imagined her posting regularly for several days, maybe a week, maybe two, and then reality would set in. This is work. This is boring. I have nothing to say. 100 days in a row, good grief, what was I thinking… and the posts would begin to taper off. A post here, a reposting there, and finally, missing entire months at a time.
I have better things to do! I imagined her thinking.
Honestly, who is so interesting as to have something worthwhile to share on a daily basis?
Maxine Attong – You Go Girl!
Yet, it is day 45 and this woman is not only going strong, but her posts have gotten better. More interesting. I open my email each morning wondering what new adventure or personal insight Maxine will share with me today.
The truth is—and of course, I should have realized this—Maxine, like any good writer, is simply building her writing muscles. It’s just like any exercise, do it every day and you can’t help but become better.
Now, at Maxine’s muscled fingertips, even a slow day becomes something interesting to write about. A post curious minds, such as mine, want to read.
So, here’s something to think about. What could you accomplish if you held yourself accountable for doing it 100 days in a row. Imagine, you might…
Finish reading that stack of books on your bedside table
By its cover? Nix that. Now that I read most novels on my iPad, I rarely look at a book’s cover. And now that we’ve gotten that cliché out-of-the-way… I want to know, I really do want to know…
How do you judge a book?
I started thinking about this question last night/early this morning (3 a.m. to be precise). Propped up against my pillows, iPad perched in front of me, I couldn’t stop reading the chick lit novel I had downloaded based on a review in my Yoga Journal. (That’s right, Yoga Journal. Hey, I’ve even gotten some great literary tips from my car mechanic. In addition to oil change coupons, he includes a book review section in his monthly newsletter.) Anyway, I didn’t have one or two chapters left to read, I had more like six or seven. And I finished them. I couldn’t stop turning the pages…
Swiping the pages? The screen. Whatever!
Pre-tablet late night reading
As I was saying, I finished the book. I closed my kindle app, clicked the home button and thought, that definitely wasn’t what I’d call a well-written book. Not even close. You name it… annoying characters, with lots of money and very little common sense. Oh, and everyone had a great body. Give me a break! Plus, there were typos. Yet, I couldn’t put it down. I just couldn’t unplug.
So, was it a success?
As a writer, I would love it if someone told me they’d been up reading my book at 3 a.m. Swipe, swipe… unable to turn off their screen. Yet, also as a writer, it bothers me how compelled I was to keep reading a book that was so far from stellar, so downright provincial, and frankly, tabloidish at best. (Tabloidish: literature that is in many ways comparable to a train wreck. i.e. you can’t look away.)
You might wonder why I bother worrying about this. It was just a book, right? Enjoy!
I worry because of all those other books. Those well-written books…books that have won major awards and high praise for literary critics…the ones that I haven’t been able to finish. The truth is, beautiful prose doesn’t always equal compelling story.
I’m not saying all stories that win awards are boring. Far from it. (Case in point, Neil Gaiman’s Newbury award-winning children’s novel, The Graveyard Book. An awesome read. Or, The Poisonwood Bible, written by Barbara Kingsolver and nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Stellar in every way—except the ending, I didn’t care for that.) Nor am I suggesting that all tabloidish-type stories, such as the one that kept me up last night, should win awards.
Yes, this might be the book I’m talking about.
What am I saying?
Right. Perhaps, all I’m saying is that a well-written story should be defined not simply by the words on the page, but by the intent of the author and how much that translates into the enjoyment or engagement it produces in the reader.
Given that definition, the book that kept me up last night was…good. Not great. But pretty darn good. And if the author’s intent was to entertain, then I’d have to say it was well-written.
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 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. This was in the years before cappuccino had 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 cappuccinos and lattes on the McDonald’s menu in the heart of Sydney. I will admit, however, despite the unappealing smell of coffee and fries, I ordered 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 much I was sweating 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 frozen latte. (If makes you feel better, I believe Starbucks is now “forbidden” in the Forbidden City.)
Asian palm civet
Then there was that 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 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!)
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.