Indulge Your Various Creativities

Right now, I’m editing a manuscript that took me about five years to write. I don’t think another book will ever, ever take me that long. This was a book that, if I hadn’t believed in it as much as I do, and loved the characters as much as I do, I would have probably given up on it long ago. I know it’s a possibility. I’ve given up on other stories, left them to dwindle in files on my computer, some of which I forget exist 95% of the time.

But this story would not let me go. Even when I finished it and I knew, and I mean KNEW that it wasn’t ready. That it was NOT in a place that I could send it out to the world and give it the chance it needed. But I also didn’t know, at the time, what it needed. So I wrote some other stuff and tore my hair out a bit and worked and relaxed and didn’t look at it much. Finally with gentle nudging from my CP and not-so-gentle nudging from my husband (let’s face it, I needed it at that point!) I started working in earnest on the rewrite. I sort of knew what needed to happen, but it started slow.

So I did the thing I like to do to keep my creativity fresh… I made things. Other things. Things that have very little to do with words and writing (though not nothing, all the time).

Here are a few examples of some things I’ve been making/indulging in the last few weeks:

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This is, clockwise:

1) yarn for a new yarnie project—I’m going to be making this Abalone vest, all goes well… I usually knit shawls and hats, so….,

2) I wrapped a new pair of headphones with embroidery floss on account of I thought it would be pretty and I often break my headphones at work and am sort of hoping this will provide extra protection, though I don’t really know that it will. Mostly, I thought it would be pretty.

3) Really  all this is is a rub-on decal that I put on my book journal—where I write notes to myself about whatever I’m reading while I’m reading. It’s not much, but it made me love the simple plain old thing much more. I’ve had the journal for years and finally used it for this because I was never interested in using it for actual journaling purposes. Oh what a difference a little bit of pretty makes! I prettied the title page a bit, too… Oh I just had a lot of fun with it. :)

4) A year or two ago I bought a bag of floof scraps (read: roving, AKA fiber AKA what yarn is made up of) and I’ve decided to lay it out in somewhat of a gradient and just spin it all up into one long yarn that may or may not all make sense together. We’ll see.

And as I was doing all of this… along with another top secret project for my mom and one or two other things… I’ve kind of solved my stump over what needs to happen to make my manuscript sale-able. Sellable? WORTHY OF SALES.

Something worth buying, anyhow. Something cinematic and poignant and full of grim justice to go along with the pretty, pretty I had before.

Even The Mr agrees that my new ending idea has a lot of potential. And that’s big.

So excuse me if I’m busy the next couple of months. This baby is finally getting ready to see the world.*

*You know… eventually. Or at least a few dozen (?) agents’ eyes.

Use Your Microcosms

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Photo by Lisa Moreira

The company where I work is huge to a point that I cannot fully comprehend, because of the fact that when I am there, the building is mostly empty except for my floor—I work graves. And while the graves world is a very strange one—especially in a medical lab on the outskirts of a not-large city that is overwhelmed with both very religiously conservative and simultaneously very liberal views—but it is a funny little microcosm of Salt Lake society, and Utah as a whole.

The better part is this, though—it is a microcosm of humanity as a whole. Now, maybe not a very evenly represented one, of course (this is Utah, after all!) but still a more mixed view than I’ve seen anywhere else in the state in my time here. My company is a tapestry of the cultures existing in Utah—Thai, Polynesian, Arabic of more than a few shades, some African American, and of course a lot of variations white. The Mr and I contribute to some of this diversity ourselves, though we are more of a mixed variety than some.

But more to the point, there are characters of all shapes and sizes (not to mention fuzziness vs. spiky ratios and again, religious/political extremes) and it is a constant reminder to me of how very complex people can be, and how very different from each other, and this is important in writing because in fiction people should be complex and different from each other, also. Yes, there are archetypes and you can use them freely—but remember that without specificity, things are forgettable (read: boring).

I’ve been thinking about this because of a girl I work with. She likes bears. Well, likes is a mild term. She loves bears. She admires bears, and is mildly jealous she does not get to sleep through winter the way that bears do. I showed her a link the other day with a lot of different kinds of animals being really adorable (because hey… that’s what people do these days)… and she responded with: “Bears!”

Me: ………and others

Her: But I like bears.

And that was how that conversation went. On the one hand, I was mildly frustrated. But there are so many other animals in the glorious animal kingdom! I wanted to argue, even though bears are certainly very nice. I just personally cannot devote so much love and adoration to a single species, when there are creatures such as turtles and owls and foxes and wolves and mountain lions and—!!!

Okay, so I get worked up about a lot of kinds of animals.

ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL PEOPLE!

But this friend of mine…. she likes bears.

And that’s okay. Because on the one hand there’s me, who likes lots of animals and finds them all delightful and wondrous…. and then there’s my friend, who likes bears. Specific. Something tangible and describable and… characteristic.

Not to say that I don’t have a character, but let’s face it, I’m an introvert/writer/person-watcher whose superpower is typing 85 wpm. I take a lot of getting to know.

Which isn’t bad in a fictional character, either. I’m not trying to say it is.

But neither is liking bears. Some people just really, really like bears.

In Which Spring is a Thing

Geese at Liberty Park

Photo by Lisa Moreira

And by Spring, of course I mean Summer (almost) but here in Utah the two seem to disappear into each other quickly.

In any case, the last I noticed cognitively, it was mid-December. The last I blogged it was latter-February. So, something has gone wrong here.

And that thing is: shame.

Oh, Lisa, you have tried so hard not to let this thing get to you, but then here you see it has been lurking in the corners for the past few months, without so much as letting you know.

It has been nearly a month since I opened my WIP. My second-draft, bringing-it-so-much-closer-to-awesome-this-time-around WIP. And the thing that has keeping it shut on my computer, more than my busy schedule or my attempting to spend down time with my husband…. is shame.

I had not realized it while it was happening, but shame was slowly overtaking me, creeping into my mind and heart ever-so-slowly that I didn’t realize it was there.

Because. Well, I’ve been in this game for a long time. And while I know that most first novels are ‘put it in a drawer and try again’ awful…. this isn’t really my first novel, and it is (as claimed by others, not just me!) NOT unsalvageably awful. I even have a plan to get it done and make it really good—or at least good enough to get a yes, so far as I can imagine, and that will have to do. I can get to the point where I admit that it is good ENOUGH.

So why the shame? Largely, I admit, it is because of the casual naysayers. I don’t tell most people in my life that I’m working on a novel, or that I have a completed draft, largely because this novel is SO much more complex than all of the other stories that I’ve worked on, and yet I want THIS one to be my debut, so I’ve put others on hold, and because of this, when I do say that I have a completed first draft of a novel, people assume that I’m close to getting it published.

Pssh. As if this is a thing you can just go and do. (Okay, if you’re going the Indie Route, sure, you can… but that has never been my particular dream).

So when people at work casually tease me with “So when can I buy your novel?” or “So when are you doing to publish that book?” I bristle and freeze.

And it makes me not want to work on the book. I’ve been reading, but not blogging, and ultimately, not writing. I’ve been letting other people’s dismissal of my dreams get to me. Which is utterly shameful.

So instead I take pictures of geese and ducks and their babies. Not a bad venture, by half, but…. not my dream. (Disclaimer: this is not actually a full-time venture)

And I’m not ready to let this dream go. So I’m hoping to rouse my spirits and get my focus back on. Yes, I’m busy, but I can’t ever get any writing done if I don’t make time for it. I can’t bring this fantastic adventure to life and into the minds and hearts of readers without finishing, finishing, finishing.

And in the meanwhile… perhaps a Tales From the Hollow Tree story. I have been desperately wanting to get back to writing shorts. Definitely, definitely no more hiding from my blog or WIP, though.

And if you have any tips for channeling a baddie when you are really a very nice person (you know, depending on who’s asking)… please send them along!

In Which Lisa Spouts Excitement Over Mundane Things (And One Not Mundane At All Thing)

Well, not truly mundane things, but not directly writing-related things, either.

I have been away from this blog for a little while now, and there are a couple of reasons for this. Mainly, my laptop was on the verge of death. Teetering at the edge of the dark chasmy abyss, as it were.

And well, the past couple of weeks have been BUSY.

First there was Books are for Lovers on Valentine’s Day, and this was The Mr and my haul:

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Jasper Fforde, Brandon Sanderson, and some bookplates, because one can never have too many bookplates. True fact.

And then after doing two days of overtime at work (that’s 9 days of graveyards in a row, folks!) The Mr and I ran around spending our tax return on a new laptop (YAY!) and just as if not even more exciting: a washer and dryer.

Now. I know that doesn’t SEEM more exciting, especially as they are used and when all is said and done, the laundry still has to be done, but at least it doesn’t have to be done at a laundromat a city over anymore! (Yes, really) Oh the glory of just throwing in a load of wash when you need to. It is a wonderful thing.

guardiansfallThe really exciting thing about the last week, though, is that I finished editing The Guardian’s Fall, the third and final installment of The Guardian Circle Series by Isabelle Santiago. YOU GUYS. I am SO EXCITED about this book! It wraps the series up just beautifully and I can’t tell you how much I love it. I’m super proud of my girl Isabelle, too, because she had to push herself really hard to get this book where it was (and I was not going to let it go out not fully formed!), but she did such a fabulous job.

If you haven’t yet had the delight of looking into The Guardian Circle Series yet, I am officially inviting you. Book one, The Guardian’s Mark is available for a limited time for $0.99!

What you’ll find here:

- Fantastic world-building, including a faceted, multi-cultural world centered on one (questionably balanced) religion

- Elemental magic, which is my favorite kind!

- Mesmerizing forbidden romance

- Underdogs and moral dilemmas

- Friendships that cross lifetimes

- Did I mention great world-building?

Pick up a copy of Guardian’s Mark today. Book 2 is also available, and Book 3 is just around the corner!

Books Are for Lovers – Just the Facts

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What it is:

On February 14th, buy a book from your local brick-and-mortar store. If all you have near you is a Barnes and Noble or a Hastings? That’s just fine. If you have an independent bookstore to support? Do it!

When it is:

On Valentine’s Day, of course! Because Books are for Lovers!

Why it is:

Bookstores are an important part of books existing as a whole. Unless we support them, we just might lose them. So share the love!

What it isn’t:

This isn’t about trying to get you to support any one specific store, chain, book, or author. This is about YOU buying YOURSELF (or maybe someone you love) a book that you want.

 

Books Read in 2013(ish) & My 2014 Reading Goal

Books read in 2013

Graphic by me & Goodreads :)

Last year was a good reading year. I had a lovely pile of 63 books read, which is maybe a record for me. Here’s a glance at some of the things I read.

I started off my year with War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, which delighted me with how well-researched it was and how logical, along with the realization that it took place only fifty years after the Charles Dickens book I was reading at the time… that was a surprising little realization. I then took a short trip back to the Godspeed for Beth Revis’ enovella “As They Slip Away,” and finished  the first of the Beyonders books by Brandon Mull. My husband and I were left conflicted as everyone else as we finished Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, and I listened to some old stuff—The Return of Tarzan, Chronicles of Avonlea, and The Beasts of Tarzan. A friend bought me a cute kid’s book called Froggy’s First Kiss by Jonathan London for Books are for Lovers on Valentine’s Day.

And then the first out-of-the-ballpark love of a book. I finally read The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. I loved this book so much that I listened to the audio over again six months later. Not even kidding. While I am definitely a book rereader, this is usually not true within a year.

Then I steamed through Slam by Nick Hornby, Odd and the Frost Giant which was a delicious find from Neil Gaiman, and The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan, which was nice and Amy Tan-y, if you know what I mean.

And then I started my voyage into the Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan. If you like MG and you haven’t read this series… you really, really should. I am not quite finished with it since I was trading off between that and lots of other things, but I am enjoying it so, so, much. There’s sword-fighting, archery, light romance and intrigue galore. I’ve gone through seven of the ten books so far and I love them!

In the Spring I read One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde, which was a fantastic addition to the Thursday Next series which is so close to my heart. I also listened to a string of just-for-fun audio books, highlighted by  The Help by Kathryn Stockett (just as good as the movie), that book clubiest of books, Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, (good enough that I might pick up a secondhand copy), Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (a little on the older side of YA, but a great guy’s read).

And then. And then, and then, and then.

I listened to Daughter of Smoke & Bones and Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor (interrupted by The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex, brilliant MG that can’t go without mentioning). Taylor’s books were so delicious, and such big, sweeping things that I couldn’t help but love them. I am really looking forward to the third one, which is due out sometime this year (April?).

My string of luck continued as I listened to The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. This was one of my top reads of 2013. Fantasy, magic, beauty… and that age-old desire to run away with the circus.

I fell in love with Nora Ephron after having loved bits of her work all my life, by listening to her I Remember Nothing and I Feel Bad About My Neck. Got to celebrate literature with Pat Conroy’s My Reading Life and Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart, along with its importance in Fahrenheit 451I also enjoyed another Thursday Next book, The Woman Who Died A Lot, which was delectable and odd, just as Jasper’s work should be.

And as the year ended, I was working my way through The Wheel of Time series (for better or for worse! but The Mr swears the end is amazing) and The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, which is a lot of fun. If you want to see a complete list of my 2013 reads, you can find it on Goodreads, here.

This year, I am cutting my reading goal down to 35 books. Why? Because I have some research reading to do. Big, fat books about fairy tales and mystical places and creatures and monsters and fairies.

Of course, I’m also smack-dab in the middle of The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (oh yes, I read The Raven Boys, too and loved it enough to share it with The Mr). I’m pretty excited for my reading this year.

Why “The Day of the Doctor” made me forgive Steven Moffat for everything I didn’t like about his version of Doctor Who. Or: Good storytelling and how it can sneak up on you.

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(Spoilery, but not by much.)

So first things first: while I had no history of watching the classic Doctor Who as a young British child (yes, I’m well aware I never was quite such a British child) I flop-hearted nonsensical in love with Russell T. Davies’ reinterpretation of it. I watched it sporadically at first, more eavesdropping on my sister’s viewings than being willing to trust my heart to some wonky British show with latex and silicon aliens.

I guess you could say what I fell in love with, at first, was not the Doctor, but that young, fragile companion of his, Rose Tyler. She

rose

was fresh-faced and eager, wholeheartedly willing to experience everything and yet tumbling with the knowledge that the universe was so much more than she ever would have imagined.

I loved her.

And of course, the Doctor was wonderful. Funny. Madcap. Full of yearning, but not for anything nameable. And always, always impressive. I thought I would never love another Doctor the way I loved Nine. And then came Ten. And everything expanded and got better and hurt more and made me love it more. As much as I loved Rose Tyler? I wanted to BE Donna Noble. When they were both taken away from me (and of course by me, I mean the Doctor), I was heartsick, heartsick, heartsick. Satisfied in their storylines and loving the show for hurting me that much, but heartsick all the same.

endoftimeBut not as heartsick as when I heard that both David Tennant and Russell T. Davies would be leaving the show. That seemed like too much to bear. In fact, I put off watching Tennant’s last specials for a full year, totally unwilling to move on to Moffat and Matt Smith. I thought that that would be enough time to prepare myself, but I was wrong. Tennant’s last episode destroyed me.

And then there was Matt Smith. And… no one knew what Daleks were? Or any of the media-hey-day bits that Ten had gotten into? No one knew who the Doctor was?

I was thrust into confusion, and then skepticism, and then dislike. But I was a year behind by then, and I was assured by some that Smith would “grow on me.” He did not grow on me. Every episode I watched, rubbed me just a little wrong. Amy and Rory were fun,

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sure, but I felt distant from them. And where oh where was my Doctor?

Naturally, I blamed Steven Moffat, new helm of the show, for everything. I felt as if he wanted to distance himself from Davies’ Doctor Who as much as possible. I could understand that, in a way, but as a fan I also felt kicked in the gut. So, so much of what I’d loved in the show was gone, and Moffat seemed to refuse to even acknowledge Davies’ reign, though  he did reference the classic show what seemed to me a lot more (again, speaking as someone unfamiliar with the classic show, other than a viewing of The Curse of Fatal Death, which doesn’t really count). I saw this distance from the previous season as a slight betrayal to the fans of the more recent incarnation of the show, and as a big mistake on Moffat’s account.

Eleven’s first season of Doctor Who was darker and creepier than I wanted to see, to be frank about it. While I’d been deliciously chilled by Don’t Blink just like everyone, I did not watch Doctor Who to be creeped out. I watched it to feel wonder, celebration of humanity, and hope in the face of everything. Still, I don’t give up on shows easily, and there was just enough of a glimmer of the Doctor I was familiar with to make me wait it out.

karen-gillan-amy-pond-matt-smith-doctor-who-new-costume1Eventually, I’m not sure when or how, Matt Smith did grow on me a little bit. And bit by bit, it seemed like Moffat was willing to embrace the more recent history of Doctor Who. Rose Tyler’s name was even dropped out of the blue. It was great. The last couple of seasons, I admit, have been a lot of fun, and much more like what I fell in love with the show for. It seemed as if Moffat had learned from his earlier mistakes of distancing himself and was finally willing to embrace the feel of the show the way I had always hoped would happen. It didn’t quite make up for things in my heart, but I was happy to look  forward to the future.

And then, “The Day of the Doctor.” And all of my frustration and grievances against Moffat were swept away with two lines of dialogue that turned all of Moffat’s mistakes (or clever, long-held plans? I’m still going to go with mistakes) and swept away everything I hadn’t liked about the Eleventh Doctor.  Those two lines, both spoken by John Hurt’s “lost” Doctor, were these:

“You’re children, both of you” (okay, can’t remember the precise wording on that one)

and

“The one who regrets and the one who forgets.”

That sound you’re hearing? Is my brain bursting with applause. Because with two lines, Moffat justified everything that I had disliked about his first taking on as the head hauncho behind Doctor Who.

Oh, Doctor.

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I’d already been leaning towards this thinking myself, after reading a fan posting I wish I could find right now, about how Ten was so, so human that it hurt him immeasurably, and in response, Eleven more or less drew away from everything about that life and forced it into a drawer to collect dust.

But Moffat went further than that. If Christopher Eccleston had been involved in this special (though it would have had to have gone quite differently) I think that second line may have been “The one who rages, the one who regrets, and the one who forgets.”

Let me explain why I love this so, so much. We understand from this that John Hurt is the “Doctor” (though he doesn’t call himself Doctor) in between Eight and Nine. The one who destroyed Gallifrey. The one the Doctor does not want to remember being. He is the one that becomes Nine—the one Ten alludes to as having been “born of blood and anger and revenge.” As I said, the one who rages. Nine had a tendency towards anger, and was often fed up with humans (“stupid apes”) even though he would defend them to his last breath. If you look at this from the Doctor’s personal timeline, it’s likely he was angry at his own humanity—his ability to be at fault, or rather his inability to save his people in a way he could accept.

But then there was Rose. This young girl who trusted him openly and was fallible and imperfect but was willing to offer mercy when even the Doctor could not. And that humanity the Doctor had been suppressing? All came flooding back in with his new regeneration. Ten was impossibly human. Formed attachments even when he thought he was protecting himself. And was always so, so sorry.

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I had been so mad at Moffat for forgetting about all those people Ten loved, but then Ten lost more people than it was prudent to remember. A love, a best friend, a pseudo-family, a possible wife, even a daughter (though I’m still hoping Genny will show up again). Even his greatest enemy! The weight of all the people Ten lost is astounding. And even after all that, he was afraid of letting it go and changing.

So as Eleven, he forgot. Forgot his deeds on Gallifrey. Forgot Rose Tyler and Jackie Tyler and Martha Jones and Donna Noble and Mickey Smith and Captain Jack and every single person he could. Even forgot his current companions for long stretches of time. Ran further away than he ever had, only to run smack into himself.

And now with Peter Capaldi coming in, it seems as if the Doctor is willing to admit that he IS an adult. That he’s done running away and hiding from everything, done regressing.

Basically, storytelling genius. I won’t even go into how fantastic the uses of Billie Piper and Tom Baker were in the special, or how beautifully the story was resolved and set a new course for the show. That’s been said elsewhere, I’m sure. I still think Moffat made some mistakes when he first took on the show as Executive Producer, but like any really good storyteller, he’s taken those mistakes and put some sense to them, hiding that they were ever mistakes in the first place. There’s a lot to learn there, and I take my hat off to Moffat. I could not have been more pleased or impressed.