A Little Knitting Progress, a Little Hope

Stay Safe Cowl by EasyKnitter.co.uk

I have been knitting away on this little cowl for weeks now. It’s been a learning experience, both in double-knitting (those vertical grey stripes on the bottom half) and in fair-isle stranded knitting (the colorwork on top). This is actually a double-sided cowl, so when I’m done with the pattern the striped bit will flip up and be the inside of the cowl. It’s merino stranded with mohair and I am v. v. excited about wearing it, so while I am a very slow stranded knitter, I’m hoping to get this finished while it’s still cool enough to wear it.

And there’s that word, hope.

Really, this cowl represents so much of my current feelings. A wish for myself and others to stay safe. Looking for bright in the darkness. And, so much hope.

Wednesday was… a lot. I was working from home that day so I was able to listen to (not so much watch) the Inaugural proceedings, and while I don’t feel like we’re out of the woods yet (obviously there is still so much work to do! – I mean I work in healthcare, I. Know. This.) I have so much hope that we can kick hatred back into the smallest of shadows and bring on a brighter and better tomorrow. I know I am not the only one to say this, but Amanda Gorman’s reading said this better than I ever could.

Amanda Gorman delivering “The Hill We Climb”

This young lady. When I was 22 I was invited by a professor and former Santa Barbara city Poet Laureate to read at a poetry night at a museum and I thought THAT was big (it was for me, and Barry Spacks believing in me was huge). (I promise I’ll keep writing poems, Barry.) But Amanda Gorman is on another plane altogether, and honestly it thrills me to see such a vibrant, talented young woman be called the nation’s first Youth Poet Laureate.

Someone on MSNBC said that it felt as if it’s been a battle between Old America and New America and that Amanda’s reading was like a declaration that a new, more inclusive America had won. I hope so. I am hoping that Biden’s long experience, bipartisan respect, and reliance on experts (experts, everywhere!) can bring us forward to where the U.S. really ought to be in terms of innovation, equalilty, and infrastructure. Not to mention finally dealing with the pandemic (epidemic, as it should rightly be called now) in a responsible way.

I have hope. I have hope.

2020 Reads

2020 was a hard reading year for many people. For me, though, the only thing keeping me sane was audiobooks. I devoured audiobooks this year. Many, I’ll admit, rereads of things I knew felt like magic to me, like Maggie Steifvater’s Raven Cycle, or Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. I also returned to other forms of comfort, like Percy Jackson and a reread of The Hunger Games as narrated by the incredibly talented Tatiana Maslany.

2020 was also the year I finally finished The Wheel of Time. It isn’t and never will be a favorite of mine, but Brandon Sanderson ended it well, and that’s what I was hoping for. My favorite new reads of the year were the first book I finished, The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis, Darius the Great is Not Okay/Deserves Better by Adib Khorram, which both made me sob like a baby, and the hilarious, insane trip that is Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. It was also the first time I read Jurassic Park and The Lost World, or any Crichton at all, to be honest.

This was a really great year for reading for me, but I’m grateful I’m a person who can listen to audiobooks, because while this is the most books I managed in a year almost ever (53), it also would have been utterly impossible without audiobooks, as the only one I managed all the way through in book-form was Maggie Stiefvater’s Call Down the Hawk, and even that took me ages.

Knitting Through the Mess

Slipstravaganza by Stephen West

One of the things that has been keeping me sane through the pandemic has been keeping my hands busy, and a lot of that has been knitting.

This particular piece is part of a mystery knit-along that has been over for more than a month now, but I’m slow so I keep moving along. It’s helpful for me to have a tangible thing I’m working on while I’m writing, something to keep me focused and keep my brain quiet so I can untangle story plots.

Have you been working on anything creative during the pandemic?

Embracing 2017

So 2016 was a hard year on me, both on a global and a personal level. Because of that, I didn’t get a lot of writing done, didn’t accomplish many of the goals I set out for myself. I pretty much hunkered down and practiced a lot of self-care and cuddled pets and friends’ babies and did everything I could to keep my heart open and beating and soft.

But 2017 has started, for me, with clearer and stronger intent than any year before. I have a lot of work ahead of me, but for the first time in a long time I feel energized and ready to do it. More than that, I can’t wait do do it.

I’m not expecting this year to be an easy one, by any means, but I’m going to make it a joyful one. I’m going to spend it being more of what I want to be and less of what I don’t want to be. I’m going to get off my phone, go back to using the internet as a tool rather than as a numbing device, and finally stop making excuses for my writing.

It’s taken me a lot of growth to get to this point, to go from wanting to being ready and willing to be genuinely myself and take hold of my power. To decide to be accountable for each and every day. That’s what I want this year to be. That’s how it is going to be.

I feel like last year was the recoil before the pitch. There’s going to be a lot of forward-movement from here on out.

Hiding Under the Editing Rock

I’ve been busy, busy editing, trying to get my manuscript ready to query staring mid-October or early November, so I haven’t had much time to dither on the blog. If you want to keep up with me, I can usually be found on Tumblr, Twitter, or Pinterest (though be warned, I post a lot of bookmaking stuff on Pinterest… book writing/reading stuff, too, but actual bookbinding and art journaling inspiration). 

I thought I would take a quick moment here, though, to post a couple of the songs that have been fueling this editing session. 

Rhodes – Breathe

Tinderbox – Broken Trees

There are other songs that I’ve been listening to, but these are two especially strong ones. They are just the perfect mood for my WIP and everything I want to capture in my story. 

What have you been listening to lately?

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:

craftiness

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:

bafl3

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

Booksareforloversbanner

 

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.