Rachel R. Smith–Author, scientist, lover of books, video games, roses, minerals, and all things shiny. Home of the Records of the Ohanzee epic fantasy series. Welcome to my imaginary and not-so-imaginary worlds!
I’ve seen lots of posts on social media over the years where readers put together their “dream cast” of actors and actresses to play characters from their favorite series–those they think most resemble the way they picture the characters in their heads. I’ve never been the type to do this (partially because I don’t watch enough live action TV and movies to know many actors anyway), but it was recently brought to my attention that there is a dead ringer out there for one of the characters from my books. Which character is it? Why, it’s Kuma!
For those of you who haven’t read the series, or just need a refresher, here’s the first introduction of Kuma from Reflection: Harbinger of the Phoenix, Chapter 19:
“Welcome to Rhea,” Alden called out heartily from the porch. Nerissa was startled to see a bear cub sitting at his feet. Or at least, she thought it was a bear cub until it echoed Alden’s greeting with a cheerful “arf.” He reached down and scooped up the dog, whose tail wagged so vigorously that its whole back end swished side to side.
Guys, this cutie is even named Kuma! What are the odds? (Ok, well, realistically, the odds are pretty high, considering Kuma is the Japanese word for bear.) But seriously could there be a better match for Alden’s adorable sidekick?
It’s time for another free e-book promo day! Hop on over to Amazon before midnight tonight (2/15/17 11:59PM PST) to get the e-book version of of Reflection: The Stranger in the Mirror for free. https://www.amazon.com/dp/b00xgyo2c4
I’ve been hard at work writing and revising Dragon’s Bane, making the final push to get the finished manuscript completed for release in March. So for today’s post, I thought it would be fun to pair a sneak peek into the story with one of the real life objects that inspired it. But before I post the sneak peek (spoiler free!), let me add this disclaimer: my editor/proofreader has not gone over this section of the story yet. Please forgive any typos and grammatical errors! (I have a feeling I’ll be getting a phone call from her about five minutes after I post this though…haha)
The central square of Maze was flooded with vendors and festival-goers, its lines of stalls and kiosks overflowing into the adjoining streets like the sprawling arms of a giant octopus. Every path was bathed in the flickering candlelight of multi-colored paper lanterns that were suspended in neat rows between street posts, which cast the area in a rainbow of hues. Beneath those lights, the merry citizens of Maze passed from one patch of color to the next in a seemingly unbroken flow as they gradually made their way toward the towering bonfire that served as the centerpiece of the Festival of Flames.
Some of the revelers cradled bags of newly discovered baubles, while some had their hands full of delicious treats, but every one carried with them a folding fan. The fans—traditional gifts exchanged during the Festival of Fans in the springtime—were to be thrown into the bonfire as a symbol of the end of warm weather and the onset of winter.
And somewhere amidst the waving fans and laughter was Nerissa, standing and gaping in open-mouthed wonderment at the array of peculiar glass columns on display in front of her. The columns were filled with a clear liquid, and a dozen spherical bulbs floated at various levels within—each half-filled with brightly colored liquids as well.
Rian leaned around the display and made a face at her through one of the cylinders, his features comically enlarged by the curvature of the glass. At the sight of him, Nerissa clapped one hand over her mouth and looked away as she stifled a giggle.
“What are you laughing at?” he demanded, rounding the table to rejoin her with an impish grin on his face.
“I’m not laughing! As a matter of fact I’m trying very hard not to laugh,” she replied. Her cheeks twitched under the strain of maintaining a neutral expression. “Would you prefer I say instead that I find myself feeling impressed once again by your ‘stunning’ good looks.”
Rian let out a huff of feigned indignation and playfully jabbed her with his elbow. As he did so, the table holding the columns shook ever so slightly, evoking a gentle rattle from the tiny, floating bulbs.
The sound was minute, particularly in comparison to the din of the crowd, yet it summoned the vendor’s attention as surely as if they had struck a gong. She hastened over to them, wringing her apron between her hands as she spoke. “Be careful! Termometro lentos are very delicate!”
How the woman had heard such a faint sound over the crowd was a mystery to Nerissa, but a flush of shame colored her cheeks anyway. She bowed her head apologetically, and beside her Rian did the same. “We should have been more cautious. Please accept our apologies. What exactly is a termometro lento? I’ve never seen such things before.”
“You must be foreigners.” The woman lifted her chin in a show of pride, and if Nerissa weren’t mistaken, her Marisianne accent suddenly became even more pronounced.
“Everyone in the Twin Cities knows about my termometro lentos. To describe them in the most simplistic of terms, they are thermometers.”
So a fun bit of personal trivia: the very first thing I bought with my first-ever paycheck (from working part time at a science and nature store at the mall) was a termometro lento (termo for short), specifically the tall one on the right in the photo below. I had my eye on it for well over a year and it took months of working to save up enough money to buy it. The scene in the sneak peek was inspired in part by events that took place on the day I finally bought mine.
“My termo” was the last one at the store–the teal color had been discontinued and our store happened to be the last in Ohio that had it. It was on display with several other termos of varying heights and colors, as it had been ever since the day I first laid eyes on it. Everyone working knew I was finally planning to buy my precious termo that night.
And then, about an hour before closing time, there came a great and terrible crash of breaking glass. Not the tiny tinkle described in the paragraphs above, but the jaw-clenching, chill-inducing horror of multiple fragile things falling like dominoes. Everyone in the store froze, someone gasped. A chemical aroma filled the air. I turned, already knowing and fearing what I would see. A woman had bumped the display with her purse, sending the termos tumbling down, one after another. Every single one on the display was broken.
Every single one except for mine, which had been miraculously spared from a shattered end.
It was taken from the display and secured in the backroom until the end of the night, and has been treated with an abundance of care for almost 20 years since. It currently enjoys a place of prominence next to a smaller and more recently acquired termo on the fireplace mantel.
And what exactly are these termometro lentos? You may also have heard them referred to by another name: “Galileo thermometer” or “Galilean thermometer.”
The termometro lento (latin for “slow thermometer”) operates based on the principle of fluid buoyancy. This is the principle that states that the density of a fluid changes in proportion to its temperature. In general, as liquids warm, their density decreases, and as they cool, their density increases. The clear liquid used in termos is not water. It’s usually ethanol, although other organic liquids can be used as well.
So in the case of the termometro lento, the orbs floating inside the glass column will rise or sink based on the changing density of the surrounding liquid, which is in turn influenced by the ambient temperature of whatever room the termo is in. The small bulbs have been calibrated and tagged to indicate what temperature they will move at. That means you can tell what temperature it is in the room by looking at the tag on the lowest bulb that is still floating. In the picture below, you can see that my living room is currently 72F. Just like the thermostat says it’s supposed to be.
If you’re wondering what is the point of having termos of varying heights, the answer is that taller termos can hold more floating spheres, which in turn means that they can measure the temperature in small degree increments. The orbs in my tall termo measure in 2 degree increments, while the orbs in my small termo measure in 5 degree increments. Basically, more orbs = more accuracy.
So, are termometro lentos any more accurate than our more modern thermometers? Nope. But let’s be realistic–is there any more beautiful way to tell the temperature? Nope. Not at all!
Happy National Reading day everyone! The celebration is meant as a time to encourage reading in younger children, but we’re all children at heart, right? I hope that you’ll take a few minutes tonight to read to your little ones, or just spend some quality time with a good book on your own! ^_-
Time to chase off the midwinter blues with a Goodreads giveaway! Or at least, I had planned the timing of this giveaway to coincide with the onset of midwinter blues here in Ohio, but our weather has been oddly warm (read: hovering around 50-60F and rainy), meaning that the doldrums haven’t quite had a chance to set in yet.
Still, time waits for no man–or Mother Nature, apparently–so on to the giveaway details! I’m giving away one copy each of the paperback versions of Reflection: The Stranger in the Mirror, Reflection: Harbinger of the Phoenix, and Reflection: Thorn of the White Rose. The entry deadline for a chance to win is midnight (PST) on January 22. (Limited to those with US postal addresses only.)
Goodreads members: You can enter by logging into your account and clicking on the cover images below to go to the giveaway entry page. Since only one book can be listed at a time, I had to create a separate giveaway for each volume, so make sure to visit all three links if you want to enter for each of the books! Good luck!
As I mentioned in last week’s post, the free e-book download days have come! From today through tomorrow (1/9 through 1/10/17 at midnight PST), the e-book version of Reflection: The Stranger in the Mirror (Records of the Ohanzee Book 1) will be available for free exclusively through Amazon. Click here to go to Amazon to get your copy!
Happy New Year everyone! Now seems to be the time to reflect on the past year and make resolutions for the coming one. Maybe its because I’m caught up in the middle of working on Dragon’s Bane, but I’m just not feeling it this year. So my official plan is to just steamroll right into 2017 without pause.
This is in part encouraged by a surprise Christmas gift from Hubby–a new desk and workstation that are perfectly suited for my writing needs. I use the term “new desk,” but really that’s something of a misnomer since the writing location it replaced is better described as “on my laptop on the couch in the living room.” Oddly, I work best with a copious amount of noise in the background (this happens after working for years in an office above a machine shop, among other things), so while working in the living room was not problematic, it was not exactly ideal either.
Now I have a real place to write (throws confetti), complete with an extra-wide monitor (which will be super helpful come editing and formatting time!), a proper keyboard (with customizable rainbow-colored back-lighting and keys that make a satisfying click with every letter typed), and a matching light up mouse pad. ❤ A perfect functional and aesthetic fit! The only place where we have room for the desk is in the (unfinished) basement, but I’ve put down a small area rug (for Sumo’s comfort, of course!) to cover the bare concrete and hung some inexpensive curtains to make my own cozy little nook. So come on 2017, we’ve got books to write. It’s time to finish the first story arc and kick off the second!
As for book-related news: look for another free promo day for Book 1 on January 9/10 and upcoming Goodreads giveaways for paperback copies of Books 1, 2, and 3 starting January 15! I’ll post reminders when the dates get closer. In the meantime, be sure to check out my Instagram feed for daily posts with book reviews/recommendations!
It’s that time again! The year is winding down and the holidays are kicking into full gear! If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen my most recent post about the manga series Kitchen Princess by Natsumi Ando. I chose to post about this series now because the title really does describe what my free time is going to be like for the foreseeable future. Don’t worry, I’m still busy working on Dragon’s Bane too! Eat, sleep, write, bake. That’s me this week. Next week that will change to eat, sleep, eat, write, eat. 😛 And after that, sleep, write, try not to think about eating, write. Such is the cycle of life.
Since this was so popular last year, I thought it would be fun to reshare my Christmas holograms video:
Now is the perfect time to suit up in your own pair of cheesy holiday hologram glasses and go out to enjoy the (enhanced) view (just now if you’re the one driving, of course!). If you want to know how to take videos or photos like the one above, check out my original post and the how-to post here: Christmas Hologram Photos: A How-to
Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Regardless of which holiday you celebrate, I hope that it is one filled with warmth and cheer!
Just a quick update to share that from now until midnight PST tonight (12/14/16), the e-book version of Reflection: The Stranger in the Mirror (Records of the Ohanzee Book 1) will be available for free exclusively through Amazon! Click here to get your copy: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00XGYO2C4
I’ve mentioned here before that I have a fondness for words. I love finding new ones, learning their etymologies, and sneaking unique ones into my books. I suspect its a trait that many authors (and non-authors) share. Some of you may recall a previous post I made about my “pet” word tenebrous. My poor pet is so unique even the spell check dictionary on my computer wasn’t familiar with it initially.
Which brings me to the purpose of today’s post. I wanted to share one of my favorite websites for leaning new words–one I have followed for more than a decade. No, it’s not dictionary.com (although that is my browser’s homepage ^_-). The site is A.Word.A.Day, which offers a new word every day and includes a pronunciation guide, definition, etymology, usage, and a quote of the day. Each week the featured words are chosen based on a theme–for example, this week’s theme is “illustrated words.”
Although none one them can compare to my dear tenebrous, here are a few of my favorite words that were featured this year:
pulchritude – Featured as a word that sounds ugly but isn’t, pulchritude is a synonym for beauty.
defenestration – Did you know there’s actual a term for the act of throwing someone or something out a window? Now you do.
obambulate – Featured as part of the theme “words that appear to be coined after someone–but aren’t,” obambulate is an archaic term meaning to walk around or wander.
torpor – This word both means and sounds exactly like how I feel when waking up on a cold, rainy winter day. If you haven’t figured it out based on context, torpor is a state of lethargy, apathy, and inactivity.
apricity – And this word is what will revive me from my torpor–“the warmth of the sun in winter.” I have a feeling it will require all of my willpower to keep this one from making an appearance in Dragon’s Bane, particularly because I will be longing for it the most right before the book’s release date. 😄
If you also have a fondness for words, you should definitely check out A.Word.A.Day (Wordsmith.org)–bookmark it or sign up to receive their daily newsletter!