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.

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.

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!

Write What Scares You.

Photo credit: iconriot on livejournalThis is old advice. It’s stuff I’ve been hearing and wanting to follow for years.

I say wanting, because… well, I can’t say that I’ve ever been particularly good at it.

It’s not that I avoid the stuff that scares me, exactly, just that it doesn’t come to me naturally. My main characters and their backgrounds and their personal demons—that’s cake.

But, bad guys.

Bad guys are not my forte. It’s not that I’m afraid of them, exactly, it’s more that I don’t know how to handle them very well, so I avoid it as best as I can.

Except you can’t exactly write a lot of genre without having to deal with one or two bad guys.

I admit, this is a reason why it has taken me so long to get where I’m going. Because I knew that this story needed a better bad guy. But. But I did not know how to do this thing.

A friend of mine ended up giving me a very basic bit of advice just from hearing the background of what my story was about—not to put too fine a point on it, she basically gave the advice that instead of inventing a wholly character-driven tale for my villain (note that I said wholly character-driven), I should use elements of the bigger themes in my story—in this case, namely, magic.

And as soon as that little suggestion was made to me, a lot of what needed to happen involving my bad guy suddenly made a lot more sense. I knew how and why magic was a part of what made him bad, or why and how he was involved with magic, anyhow. And the way things do in stories when you’ve found the right idea—things sort of fell together with what I already had.

But I was still a little afraid to actually get to the writing of it. This new angle involved not only interspersing scenes throughout the novel from the villain’s POV, but also inventing and introducing at least two whole new characters (I was going to do three, but now I think I’m good with two) and altogether altering a lot of my book.

Still, this is what I need to do to get it to where it needs to be—which is great. (I know not every book has to be great, but can you blame me for wanting my books to be?)

This post is meandering a little bit, but I won’t apologize for it. I’m also getting away from my posting schedule, but I thought a non-post-day post was better than no post. I’m still a long way from my goal of having my first round of edits done by the end of the year, but we’ll see. I have a new fire under my feet now, and that’s always a good thing.

On the Terrifying Notion of Change

summerdreams3bybleedforyou1

Sorry for the lack of updates lately. I’d say I’ve been busy (because I really, really have) but I’ve also been a little bit overwhelmed by something that I am just starting to really wrap my head around.

I recently returned home from a writer’s conference with a buzzing sense of clarity on how to fix my novel. My novel that is 80,000 words and “completed” but just not done. Not ready.

I was already going to have to rewrite it to pretty it up, but I’d been putting that off until I figured out what I needed to do to strengthen it into what I really needed it to be. Now I feel as if I have a good strong idea as to how to make this book as good as I can truly make it on my own, but And here’s the kicker: I would have to change all of it.

Okay, not all of it. My story really in its basic form is almost exactly the same. But I am working to rewrite it with more conflict, higher stakes, and stronger motivations.

And while it was a little bit terrifying, when I got home from that conference, I ignored my 80,000 word document and opened up a new, utterly blank one.

I’m not going to lie, I don’t think this will be easy. I don’t know how long it will take. But I’m thankful that I knew what I was doing well enough to know that I wasn’t doing it well in the first place. If that makes sense.

Right now I have some 1600 words in my new document. It is… nothing. So far I’m working from my head and my heart and rewriting things word for word. Soon I’ll get to patches that I can more or less transcribe, but right now it’s a whole new terrifying ballgame. I feel a bit like I’m freefalling. Which isn’t new for me on this project.

But you know what else? For the first time since I finished the first draft? I’m thrilled to be working on this project. For he first time, the freefalling is actually fun. Is another project still distracting me a little bit? Yes, I have to admit that it is. But I’m not too worried about that.

This is a big change for what Isabelle Santiago calls my “heart story,” but if it takes it closer to becoming something that will last in the hearts of others, I’m all for it.

Have you ever had to start something over completely before? Where did it take you?

Why I’ve been MIA

broken-screen

This is not what my laptop looks like, but at the moment it might as well… it has decided to stop reading its battery, and as I do not have a proper desk at the moment, it’s hard to situate myself in a place where I can work on my laptop and not be wobbly…. which holds dangers of the wire coming loose.

It’s a drag, to say the least, and funds being what they are, it might be this way for a little while. Which means working on paper for me for a while! It’s not a bad thing, really… just something I have to get used to for a little bit.

In the meantime, this weekend is the LDS Storymakers Conference, so I’ll be furiously taking notes and making fun connections and learning. Hopefully I’ll have some seeds of wisdom to share with you!

For now, though, I’m going to share a picture of tulips from Temple Square in Salt Lake City. Went there with The Mr last week. So pretty! I loved it.

CAM00675

 

Finally looks like Spring!

April is Poetry Month!

bleedys-icons-teaandbooksAnd in celebration, this month I’m going to share some poems with you. The first is Emily Dickinson (#704), because she is one of my absolute favorites, and always a treasure. If you only ever want to read through the life’s work of one poet, I recommend Dickinson a hundred times over.

No matter—now—Sweet—
But when I’m Earl—
Won’t you wish you’d spoken
To that dull Girl?

Trivial a Word—just—
Trivial—a Smile—
But won’t you wish you’d spared one
When I’m Earl?

I shan’t need it—then—
Crests—will do—
Eagles on my Buckles—
On my Belt—too—

Ermine—my familiar Gown—
Say—Sweet—then
Won’t you wish you’d smiled—just—
Me upon?

I love everything about this poem. The sass. It is a perfect example of how sassy Dickinson could be. And, I’ll admit, a poem dear to my own heart. Because I’m still working my way up to Earl, too. Aren’t we all?

My Year of Favorite Authors

bleedys-icons-dockjpgI have a terrible habit.

I’m not talking about anything dark or sinister… just something that is self-frustrating. On the surface, it doesn’t even sound so bad, really. It is this: I like to save the best for last.

This is something I learned at a young age, as a dessert loving foodie. If you save the best bit until last, you don’t have the memory of that taste marred by something lesser.

Unfortunately, though, I don’t always leave this philosophy to food, and it makes much less sense in most other forms. For example: books. Every book lover knows that as readers, we work on a sort of hierarchy  and that hierarchy looks more or less something like the following:

  • Books I have to read right now
  • Books I want to read
  • Books I should want to read
  • Books I want to want to read (You know what I’m talking about. “Why don’t I want to read this?”)
  • Books I have to read (Okay, maybe this is just in school)
  • Books I don’t particularly care to read but that everyone else are reading that I don’t want to be behind on

You all have a hierarchy something like that, yes? Is that just me?

Anyhow. I have, many times, kept books from my favorite series or by my favorite authors in reserve after books of a lower order, as a sort of “treat.” In fact, this started out in school when I had to read books. I would read a “fun” book alongside it and allow myself the pleasure of something I wanted out of the fiction world after reading a chapter or two of what I was supposed to be reading. Somewhere along the path, it morphed into me reading something I sort of wanted to read alongside the book that I really wanted to read, so that I got both books done.

And then it flipped into something I can’t really explain… me keeping books by beloved authors beholden in some sort of guilty way, because I had so many other books that I hadn’t read yet, so I felt as if I didn’t deserve to read the newer books that I really wanted to read. Yes, I became a reader weighed down by her (unspeakably huge) to be read shelf. I was getting to the point where I was barely reading anything. The last handful of years I have read fewer books than ever before in a year, just passing twenty last year.

Just recently I decided this sort of practice was, in a word, ridiculous. It has led to me both being behind the times on books and authors I care about, and has dragged down the enjoyment of reading anything less than stellar. Not even that. Anything that had less than a stellar expectation point for me. Meaning I was stopping myself from discovering new book and author loves that really were stellar.

Last year, my goal was to read something more challenging. I picked up Bleak House by Charles Dickens, but I am a faithless lover when it comes to books, so I also picked up Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Suzanne Clarke, and The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky… and I overwhelmed myself. I’m pressing pause on two of the three, because I am still, yes STILL in the middle of all three of them. I’m some three-fifths done with Bleak House and honestly enjoying it, I just cannot read Dickens fast and enjoy it.

So this year I am going through my books and I am reading first and foremost the unread books I have by authors that I love, like Maggie Stiefvater and Jasper Fforde and series that I really enjoyed the beginning of like Colleen Houck’s Tiger’s Curse, and anything else that I’ve been eyeing. I will still keep Dickens by my side for glances when I feel like it, but I’m not pressuring myself when it comes to reading things I don’t particularly care to this year. Maybe next year I will feel differently, but that is to remain to be seen. For now, I’ve finished one book I’d been dying to read for an age (The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, more on that later), and am looking forward to more.

Do your reading habits change? Do you ever find yourself resenting the book you’re reading, because you want to be reading something else?

Tarzan of the Apes, or Why my Mother and I Like Different Books – And also, a winner!

tarzan-of-the-apes-tpThe past few weeks, I’ve been listening to Librivox audiobooks of the Tarzan books. Partially because I’ve always meant to, and partially because they go down easy at work, and heavier stuff, not so much.

And I have a confession: besides being fairly sexist and a bit more than fairly racist (it was just how thought processes were in the day), I actually have been really enjoying these books.

In case you haven’t read them, let’s get one thing straight: the “Me Tarzan, you Jane” version of Tarzan from the movies is not from the books. Tarzan is the son of an English Lord, who teaches himself to read with the books left in a cabin built by his dead father. He wins himself the kingship over the Bull Apes (not gorillas, these are a fictional species Burroughs thought up that were smarter than gorillas, though not as smart as man).

He manages all of this due to his “higher-than-average intellect.” And of course he is faster and stronger and has better hearing and vision than any normal man, because of his upbringing with the apes. In fact, they use the words “super man” to describe him more than once.*

Now… this is once in a while seems a little contrived, sure. This might have been a problem, if not for his higher-than-average intellect. Okay, this might be a bit of an exaggeration, but that is how most problems in the first two books are solved. I can forgive this, though because usually there is a good explanation. For example, he doesn’t just automatically teach himself to read. He spends staring at “little insects” on the page (letters) and starts to figure out that they make names for things because of an illustrated dictionary. And he doesn’t go from learning how to read English words to knowing how to say them. In fact, he learns French first. Of course.

But there is a lot of action, there is a lot of Escapism (um, hello, dark African jungle full of dangerous animals?), and the hero takes action. I know I’m using the word action twice, but it is relevant. There is fighting AND decision making! And all of the above makes the books very fun to enjoy.

And while reading through the first book, I had a realization. This was a book my mom read when she was a kid. She read a lot of the Tarzan books, actually. There are two dozen of them, after all. But my point is, this is the type of hero she grew up with. The strongest, smartest, bravest guy around who goes out and gets things done, and who always knows more or less what to do.

This is not the type of hero I grew up with. Most of the books I read when I was young were about fairly normal people, facing huge obstacles. They were usually not the strongest or bravest, and while probably a lot of them were pretty smart, some of them weren’t even that. They didn’t always immediately know what to do, or if they did, they didn’t always choose the right thing first.

And let’s be honest, in my moonier times, I read and loved a lot of books where nothing earth-shaking happens on a big scale, they were all about character – losing friends, and what not. Judy Blume books.

So it’s not too much of a surprise that my mother and I don’t really enjoy the same books. It’s not much of a surprise that she reads action- and plot-driven stories, and that I lean more towards character-driven novels. We learned what made a good story in vastly different circumstances. By the time my mom was the age I was when I started reading feels-y young adult novels, she was reading adult stuff—because young adult novels didn’t exist.

It’s interesting, though, because at the moment she and I are somewhat reaching out towards each others’ reading habits. I’ve been reading Tarzan, and she’s been reading Les Mis (which I haven’t read, but I’m sort of considered the Classics reader in the family). And surprise, surprise, we’re both enjoying each other’s worlds.

*Interesting fact, Tarzan of the Apes was published in 1914 while Superman was introduced in 1932).

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In other news, I have to send out a late THANK YOU to everyone who participated in Books are for Lovers and bought a book on Valentine’s Day. I bought A Tiger’s Destiny by Colleen Houck, and The Mr bought Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, which we’d been looking for in hardcover for a long time.

And last but not least, we have a winner for the Books are for Lovers giveaway thanks to random.org, and that is SHELLY BROWN! Congrats, Shelly! 🙂