Archive for Musings

First Christmas-itis…

It’s December 23rd, and like most years, I’m a little nervous, and running a little late.  See, I like to make my Christmas presents—usually a necessity, considering I don’t have a lot of money and usually have a lot of yarn.  Or at least, yarn.  The problem with this is that I never start early enough, and I invariably forget someone extremely important to me.  I swear sometimes there are holes in my brain.  I’m sadly very, very good at missing the obvious sometimes.

So here I am, two days before Christmas… none of my Christmas cards are sent out, none of my gifties are done, and a couple of them are not yet even started. Gifts for my family also have not been sent. They’re sitting around the room, wrapped, but still definitely here in my apartment in Utah, rather than flying to their various locations elsewhere.

I don’t even have the gift I’m knitting for my husband done yet, and this stresses me out like none other.  Especially as I was particularly meaning for this to be a good Christmas for him, since it’s probably his first real Christmas in years, and he’s so very excited for it. (I am too, don’t get me wrong!)

So, excuse me if I run out of here and go work like mad to finish my presents up. I’m afraid that’s about all I’m going to get accomplished today, other than probably catching up on Vampire Diaries, because hey, at least I can do that while I knit.

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Reading as a Profession.

Girl reading by Charles Edward Perugini

Girl reading by Charles Edward Perugini

Like most avid readers, I’ve had a dream since I was young to be able to read for a living.  Of course, anyone who really does read for a living knows it doesn’t quite look like the fantasy—which is lying around on a comfy chaise of some sort in the middle of a vast library of leather-bound books (or hot bestsellers, take your pick).  What it generally looks like, especially in today’s climate, is sitting in front of your computer a lot and skimming word files, and unless you’re lucky enough to be a book reviewer, those word files are probably only submissions, meaning that the quality of the work is not guaranteed.

I’ve known this for a while now.  In college I edited on a poetry magazine called Into the Teeth of the Wind.  The magazine is known for having a quirky, transitive sort of audience, so the poetry that came in to us really ranged from brilliant to outright drivel (or outright weird).  In fact, if anything has taught me to appreciate conciseness and good poetry, it would have to be the masses of extremely poor poetry that I read in my four years of college.  Reading bad poetry (along with some very good poetry, of course) really turned me into a better poet myself.

Reading submissions for other things is no more likely to mean particularly good reads.  Submissions for an online publishing house (or any publishing house, I would imagine) are just as likely to attract questionable writing as a small print-run college lit mag.  Does this mean reading a LOT of bad starts? Yes… it certainly does, but it also makes you appreciate the writing that is good, where the author has clearly honed their craft and done all they can to make the story the best it can be.  This is a great learning experience for me, too… because just as reading a lot of bad poetry made me a better poet, reading questionable writing can make me a better writer, because I can see in other people’s work the mistakes I might be making myself, and that’s a golden lesson if ever there was one.

So, reading as a profession isn’t quite the fantasy that it was for me as a kid… but as I’m starting out in this new journey, it’s certainly a fun and exciting thing for me.

Not that I plan on giving up on the massive TBR list I have stacked up, of course… To share a quote by a brilliant man…

“Read for pleasure. Never forget to read for pleasure.” – W.S. Merwin

~Lisa, who can’t wait until she’s a professional author and can write book purchases off of her taxes.  What?  You know that’s a sizable perk…

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Talking about beauty, body image, and underground self-esteem movements

I have a post up at The Hollow Tree today that I really encourage you to go and read.  I stumbled over an event on Facebook this morning that really touched me, a high school senior inviting the whole world to tell the women and girls (and men and boys, too, why not?) that they’re beautiful—even and maybe especially if they don’t fit the world’s definition of beauty.   It’s called Tell Her She’s Beautiful, and it’s the latest in a string of things I’ve seen promoting self-esteem and positive body image… coming from a teenage boy.  I think that’s one of the most beautiful things about it.

My post is here, and I do hope you’ll read it, and pass it and the Facebook link on to others who might need to hear the message once in a while, because none of us can hear it often enough.

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2009 in Review

2009 had more ups and downs than I knew what to do with, and that’s the truth.  I spent the end of 2008 through June of this year almost constantly on the move, and when I did settle down, it wasn’t in my  beloved California, but instead somewhere up in the Rocky Mountains, which… wasn’t entirely by choice, let’s leave it at that.

That being said, this has been a really good past six months for me—despite a few minor technological revolts and a couple of serious family trials since moving up here.  Suffice it to say that 2009 tore me to shreds and made confetti out of me—which hopefully means that 2010 will be celebration-worthy.

So, with a glass of sparkling cider raised to the new year, here’s a quick look back at 2009…

Really, this has been a very defining year for me.  This is the year that I took the initiative and learned how to bind books (a la the University of Youtube), which lead to a none-too-shabby Etsy shop (CinderLisaDesign) which has kept me afloat for most of my utterly jobless year.  I was already a devout crafter—I’ve been hooked on knitting and crochet since my freshman year of college—but as a writer, learning how to make books out of paper, fabric and string has been a profound experience for me.  My love for books in the printed format couldn’t help but spill over to my love for handsewn books.  I still have a lot to learn in the bookbinding arena, but even with my extreme lack of knowledge, I can say proudly that I am a bookbinder, and part of a slow revival of a dying art.  I’ve found the bookbinding community (yes, there is one) to be a fantastic group of people, also.  Like most crafters, they have been welcome and encouraging to even the most blunder of attempts to learn their arts.

Moving to Utah has been quite an eye-opener, also.  The town I live in is very small and very simple, and while it’s busy for a tiny town, it’s a far cry from Southern California.  And being a member of the LDS Church, I have to admit that I had a very clear idea in my head in what I might expect from “Utah Mormons”—of which the less said the better.  The members here have been fab people, though, and come through for me in a number of ways that I can’t even begin to list.

2009 was also the first year I hit my 50-books-in-a-year challenge—I even hit (and exceeded! Okay by one, but still!) a 52 books in 52 weeks challenge.  Considering that there were moments this year when I didn’t think I’d pass 3o books, that’s quite something.

This year my good friend Isabelle Santiago and I also started Tales From the Hollow Tree, a review blog for all things Young Adult fantasy, and while getting a post up every single week day just between the two of us has been a challenge at times, it’s also been a blast!  I’ve read a lot of great books, along with some less-great books, and learned a lot from our Thursday Myths & Legends 101 posts.

In more personal news, I can just say honestly that despite the insanity that’s circled around me this year (and I seem to draw it like a moth to the flame sometimes) I’ve been really happy this year.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s been a good year, but I’ve been happy in it, which is the most I could have asked for this year, I guess.

Honestly looking forward to 2010.  It has to be better than 2009, and I have high hopes, personally.


Have fun and be safe out there!

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1000 Words a Day Initiative!


I’ve decided I’m doing NaNoWriMo.  (That’s National Novel Writing Month, in case you don’t know).  50,000 words in one month.  Really the idea is to write a 50K novel in one month, from beginning to end, but I never quite play by those rules.  Instead, I use it as a means of boosting my daily output and holding myself accountable.  The problem is, NaNoWriMo starts November 1st, and that’s a whole two weeks away.  Meanwhile, for the first time in some time, I have a little bit of the freedom required to really start tying myself to a daily word count, and I wanted to take advantage of that.  By chance, just as I was starting to hear the first rumblings of NaNo chatter online (I would have forgotten it entirely until October 28th or something, if it weren’t for Twitter) I also re-stumbled across the 1000 Words a Day Challenge, presented byInkygirl of, an online comic/blog about writing.

This, as it so happens, was exactly what I was looking for.

I know what you’re thinking.  I do.  “Gee, Lisa… why couldn’t you just decide to write 1000 words a day on your own?”

Well, I already sort of had.  Is the badge really going to hold me accountable to this?  Maybe not as much as I’d like.  But that’s why I’m writing this post, a manifesto if you will.  Now that my life is (somewhat) reasonable, I hereby declare that I will do all that I can to write a bare minimum of 1000 words per day.

Why?  Because forcing yourself to write is one half of the battle sometimes.  Because the more you do write, the easier it is to write, even though as writers, this pertinent fact seems to slip through our fingers like sand the minute our back is turned. I’ve already seen proof of this.  I started this challenge on Thursday (the 15th), and subsequently started a folder titled “The Experiment,” wherein I will keep a document of the words I write every day.  My first day wasn’t so good—I only managed 566 words.  I’m not too upset with myself for this—my grandmother was in the hospital and I was trying to straighten the house up for her coming home.  The second day, almost as busy, though, I ended up with almost double that number of words.  It may have taken until one in the morning, but it got done.

Today it’s half-past six and I already have well over 800 words.  Of course I’m including this post in that number (I reserve that right!) but by the end of the night, I probably won’t have needed to.

It’s a simple, almost silly thing, but it’s gotten me done with one chapter in my novel, and well on my way through another, unsticking me when the only real reason I was stuck was because I was letting myself be.  The truth is, if I’m ever going to make it as a writer, I can’t afford to let myself be.  And it’s about time I got that through my stubborn little head.

Besides.  I’ll be writing over a thousand words in November anyhow, right?  That’s the objective, at least.  This is just gearing up for it.

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Cut and Paste time!


No, I’m not indulging in my craftier side—though I am a crafter at heart, but that’s a whole other story.  No, dear readers, I am sitting here looking at a printed out copy of my YA fantasy manuscript, the one I seem to have hit a brick wall on, and I’m getting creative.

You see, I’m what a friend of mine once called a “chronologically sporadic” writer.  Some writers are very talented and know how to craft a story step by step, starting at the beginning and working their way in a straight and steady line to the end.  I have never been that kind of writer.  Generally, I write the prologue or first chapter, even up to the first several chapters, all in one go.  It’s not that I putter out after that (though that happens occasionally) but really rather that I get distracted by other scenes I know are going to happen down the line.

You know how they tell you that a story should have rising action, falling action, and major and minor climaxes throughout?  Picture that diagram that they show you in your mind, the one that looks a bit like a mountain range of ups and downs.  You know what I’m talking about.  The beginning of a story has to start with something happening, some incentive to get the story going and get the reader interested.  That’s the first slope leading up the first mountain, right?  If you were a chronologically-minded writer, you would probably follow going up that first incline by going down the next side, and so on and so forth.

Me?  It’s like every time I get to the top of that mountain, the fog rolls in down below, and then all I can see are the very tip tops of the summits (or climactic scenes) as they stretch before me.  The valleys, those imperative valleys, are covered up for the time being.  Now, with determination and work, I can clear that fog away and see how to get from one summit to the other, it just takes work, and a lot of paying attention to what my characters are trying to tell me.  But in the meantime, I can see those summits in perfect detail, so I write them down, get them taken care of.

What does this have to do with cutting and pasting?  Well, the problem with writing things in this “chronologically sporadic” way, is that sometimes, so far as actual documents go, the scenes get all mixed up and out of order.  I think that’s the major block I’ve had with this story lately, I just don’t know exactly which parts I’ve written, where.  I have whole bits of writing, from a few lines to a handful of pages, that I need to reorganize.  I know where they belong in the story, but in the document themself, they’ve gotten lost.  So I’m going to spend the next few hours—or days? (hopefully not!)—cutting this manuscript up and putting it in the order it’s supposed to be in, so that I can gather my wits and see what parts really do need to be filled in.  Wish me luck!

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Readerly Updates


Apologies for the lack of updates.  Things have been interesting.  I’ve had quite a few family commitments that have made internet time almost non-existent.  In fact, it’s taken an early night on a business trip for me to even get a chance to poke my head in here, but while I haven’t been online much, I’ve definitely been reading.

I’m really starting to wonder if I’m a little ADD when it comes to reading, because I haven’t been finishing books very quickly, and I’m on a trend of reading at least four books at a time – three novels and a book of poetry – that I don’t know when it will end.

The one thing I have finished is my reread of Stephenie Meyer’s The Host.  I really resisted reading this the first go around, and took every chance to scrutinize it vocally that I could, but by the time it was over I couldn’t deny that I loved the thing.  It’s still a very bizarre book the second time around – bits of it remind me of a Miyazaki film on acid – but rereading it and knowing those parts were going to come in, it was a little easier to swallow.  I still have issues with a few little points where someone along the line (and that of course starts with Ms. Meyer herself) didn’t fact-check things very thoroughly (ask me about the honey issue sometimes… that one really irks me), and I still hate the first ten chapters.  But.  Ian.  O’Shea.  I have to admit, that if it came down to a fight to the death in Meyer characters for my affection… well, Ian is the only one who could give Jacob Black a run for his money.  Well maybe that Garrett fellow from Breaking Dawn—he was pure beauty.

I still get frustrated with various aspects of Meyer’s hackneyed sense of literary justice.  In Twilight, Bella gets her little circle of weirdly immortal friends/family, with no change, ever, and here we get a very strong character made pointedly weak and all but helpless at the very end of the novel.  It’s for that reason, mainly, that I wouldn’t mind it terribly if there aren’t any sequels to this, despite the fact that the ending leaves it very open for continuation.  My one leaning for a sequel, would be so we could learn more about Burns, because I just happen to have a weakness for tall redheads in stories (and in real life, for that matter).


I’ve also been rereading some other things – I guess it’s a trend lately.  I’m indulging in a life-long crush and rereading Anne of Green Gables. I haven’t read this series in years, and never read all of it, actually, and I’d really like to.  Anne Shirley was one of my very first fictional friends, which I guess is true for millions of people.  The love story between Anne and Gilbert Blythe, which I’ve barely touched as of yet in the first novel, is one that’s influenced my taste for fictional pairings all my life—it’s something a half-step beyond “will they or won’t they,” there’s that spark that’s just as likely to explode in your face as it is to combust in a more positive way.  Anne is completely disdainful of Gilbert for years, on account of a percieved insult she recieved from him at their very first meeting, but Gilbert is struck, full victim to Anne’s overenthusiastic, romantic charms despite her temper.  That said, he never moons over his losses, and he doesn’t roll over and play dead, either.  While I wouldn’t say he fights back, really, Gilbert gets his digs in here and there, and his patience runs out at various times (very understandably), which is something I’ve always appreciated.  It makes the pair of them much more real than a saintly ever-lasting patience would.  (And along that line, how does Stephenie Meyer compare Edward and Bella to this?  Really?)

I’m reading Emma, also, to finish out my round of Austen novels, but it’s going surprisingly slowly.  I’ve always enjoyed this novel before, but it just seems to be dragging, which is strange because I know I’m comprehending more of it than I had the first two times I’d read it (Both for classes, and both rushed.  And both years ago).  Maybe I’m just distracted by the fact that the fourth Fablehaven novel comes out March 24th.  I am looking forward to that an awful lot.  Maybe not to Harry Potter proportions, but up there with Jasper Fforde, which is high in my book.

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Form and face

I don’t really tend to think of myself as having a ‘type’ when it comes to men.  Sure I say tall, dark and handsome, but anything is tall next to my five feet.  Besides, blondes aren’t bad all the time, and it’s a matter of fact that I have a lifelong crush on redheads.

Still… there are some basic figures that stick in my head, and I don’t even fully realize it.

Take, for example, Eric Dane:


Mr. Dane is quite possibly the prettiest male speciman on television at the moment.  Ever since we first saw McSteamy on Grey’s, though, he reminded me of someone, and I just couldn’t figure out who.  And no, I don’t mean the other Dr. Mark Sloan, though I have always wondered if Shonda named him after the Dick Van Dyke character.

There was just something in those chiseled features, that sparkle in his eye—oh, the sparkle in his eye—his overall slim but very well taken care of physique.  It all reminded me very much of someone, but I could never put my finger on a name.newmarj1

Until tonight.  I happened to come across Turner Classic Movies‘ presentation of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers tonight, which was one of my absolute favorite films to watch as a kid, and not long after I settled in to watch—there he was.  Benjamin Pontipee.

Benjamin was the second oldest of the Pontipee brothers (of course, if you recall the alphabetic names) and here he is with the breathtakingly beautiful Julie Newmar.  Benjamin about ties with Russ Tamblyn’s Gideon as my favorite, so far as the younger brothers go—Howard Keel, of course, is in a category unto himself.

In reality, he was Jeff Richards, apparently a baseball player before his short-lived acting career.  I’ve never seen him as anything other than Benjamin Pontipee, but he and Julie Newmar certainly made an impression on me so far as physical beauty go.  Eric Dane might not quite look like him, but they have a very similar physique, and way of holding themselves, not to mention that quirk of a smile, and again, something in the eyes.

In any case, I’ve solved the puzzle for myself.  I can’t begin to describe how much I enjoyed watching that old musical.  Back when they hired people who could sing to sing, and people who could dance, to dance.  And what dancing!  The musical is coming back nowadays, albeit a little slowly, but I don’t think we’ll ever see the kind of choreography they used to have.  And that’s okay.  But I’ll never regret having seen the way musicals used to be.

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Simply Dido

One of my Christmas presents this year was Dido’s latest album, Safe Trip Home, and I was happy to receive it.  Listening to it the last couple of weeks, made me want to write up a little bit of a tribute to her, my love story with Dido, I suppose you could call it.

I have a sort of inborn tendency to resist new music.  Or, not resist it so much as to just put off investing in a full album by an artist I’m unfamiliar with.  It’s Nietzsche’s premise that “one can never hear new music well,” or some variation of it.  Also, for me to listen to a new album, I need an uninterrupted sphere of time, so that I can absorb the sound a bit, and that can be hard for me to come by.  So, naturally, I really could have known Dido a bit longer than I have.

My first introduction to her was that her song “Here With Me” from the album No Angel was the theme song for the TV show Roswell, which I was more than addicted to as a teen.  I loved the song itself, but when my older brother—who worked at the now defunct Sam Goody’s at the time—mentioned he had the advance copy of the CD… I treated it as an “oh that’s nice.”  I was still a song-by-song music listener, and I probably couldn’t have named you full album titles of more than a very small handful of artists.

Dido was in fact one of the first to change that.  I finally took my brother up on the offer of borrowing the CD, and being the emo, romantic-tendency-filled teenager that I was… well, it was love, sure and fast.

(Roswell introduced me to a lot of fantastic music, as it happens.  I’d recommend checking out the DVD’s for that single purpose, except for the fact that by a cruel trick of fate tight-fistedness—named Jason Katims—most of the more exceptional music didn’t make it onto the DVD’s.  Do look it up on Hulu or the like, though!)

Ahem.  Dido’s dare I say soulful, ephemeral voice, matched up with songs that were by turn despondent (“Isobel,” “Honestly OK”), self-satisfied (“I’m No Angel,” “Thank You”) and cleverly caustic (“Hunter,” “Don’t Think of Me”), there was always something in the album that drew me back to it, and I was listening to No Angel Advance a good long while—months, if not a whole year—before I got over that “honeymoon phase” with the album of wanting to hear it again and again and again.  It was, in fact, the very first burned CD I ever had.  My brother made a copy for me, and I was delighted.  I would sit listening to the music, reading the liner notes about how she stole a recorder as a kid and finagled her way into music school, wondered at the number of instruments she could play, figured out (back when it was a sort-of-secret) that her last name must be Armstrong because R. had to be her brother, right?  And tried to understand the half-whispered backtracks to some of the songs.  “When I was a child I used to dream about things… my mother had, a house, a family… and… I used to think that dreams would come true…”

And then… came ” Stan.”  A track that I admit I still haven’t heard all the way through.  Eminem does a little sampling and suddenly, kaboom!  Everyone knows who Dido is.  Or at least, they’ve heard “Thank You” so many times on the radio that it’s gotten nauseating.  Sigh.

It was on the downward slope of all this that Life For Rent came out, and then again we had the radio single, “White Flag,” which was fantastic… but again, overplayed.  It put me off the album as a whole for a while.  Admittedly after I had a mini-obsession over the song myself.  What?  I was still a teenager, and like so many I adopted “White Flag” as an anthem towards an obviously dead relationship.  (A sentiment I’m glad to say is long over.)

My sister bought Life For Rent, though, and so I borrowed it.  I wasn’t very enamored with the first three tracks (“White Flag” which of course I’d heard, “Stoned” and the title song) but then… oh, a jewel.  “Mary’s in India.”  A definite story-song with a delicious twist at the end (sort of a softer, more justifiable version of Rilo Kiley’s “Does He Love You?”).  And there were intermittent other jewels as well, “See You When You’re 40,” a definite “I’m done with you” song, and my favorite, “Sand in My Shoes,” which is the complete opposite.   The final song and the hidden track (which my sister, after owning the album for months, had never heard, amazingly) are wonderful, too.

But for a while Dido became sort of synonymous with “whiny British girl singer,” at least here.  Personally I could never pretend indifference for long, though.  The truth was, she was a gateway drug for me to many, many other interesting types of female artists—Emiliana Torrini, Imogen Heap, Regina Spektor, just to name a few.

And in retrospect, I’m glad that it takes the woman so long to record an album, because now that Safe Trip Home is out, she’s almost fallen off of the popular radar.  I’ve heard “Look No Further” on the radio, but not ad nauseum, really only once or twice, and I’ve seen no big hullabaloo made about the album itself, which wasn’t entirely true about Life For Rent.   Not that I’ve been looking for it, either, but still.

The CD as a whole is still fairly new to me, and I don’t have a formed opinion on every song as yet, but it’s a very easy album to listen.  Not as hard as No Angel, but that’s understandable, considering it’s a decade later in her life.  There’s a melancholy to the album, but it’s not a hopeless or extreme one, and the song “The Day Before the Day,” about her father’s death, is very subtle and all the better for it.  This album feels as if Dido, who I’ve loved in her many forms, has come into her own, as weak and cliché as those words might be.  Nothing here is trying to be pop, or trying to be anything, it’s simply Dido, and it’s very good.

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The Tail of Emily Windsnap

Nothing like a good old-fashioned mermaid story to break up the Austen, hm?

I admit, I’ve been eyeing The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler for some time now. Mostly because… well, it’s such a pretty book. It’s middle-grade, and I wasn’t expecting to be wowed by the storyline, but it was an altogether enjoyable book. Partially, again, because it is so very pretty. It’s not just the cover that’s pretty, but there are little black-and-white underwater vignette watercolors all through the book, in between chapters and sections of chapters alike, and it gives the book an all-around motif that’s really enjoyable. While it’s true that the best of stories can be read scrolling through a no-frills .html document, this book is a prime example of how influential packaging really can be.

Not to say that it’s a bad book by its own standards—Emily is a pretty delightful character, and her mermaid friend Shona even more so. The story is a little wackier than I expected, and the kid-parent relationship is a little thin (really, what parent never takes their kid’s view into account, even if it feels that way?) but all in all it was a lot of fun to read, and had a nice ending. There are two more books so far in the Emily Windsnap series, and I’m definitely interested enough to keep reading, and the descriptive parts about undersea life and surroundings were very well done.

This makes book #48 of 2008. I don’t know at this rate that I can finish two more in two and a half days (or rather, I’m 99% sure I can’t) but it easily beats the 31 I managed to read in 2008. In a couple days I’ll post my whole list, slightly annotated. It’s not too impressive, but it’ll do. Despite my failure, I’ve tentatively made a slightly higher goal of 52 books in 52 weeks next year. What can I say, I aim for improvement. 😉

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