Mixtape Muse?

I’ve had a strange idea in my head for a while now to put my entire music collection on my media player and press shuffle, and then use the first ten or fifteen songs as inspiration to a totally new work.  Basically writing a story around fifteen random songs.  The events in the book have to follow the mood and dictation of the songs—meaning if it ends on a downer song, the story is going to be a tragedy.  I tried doing this, and the first time turned out so bipolar that it wasn’t worth keeping—it also included Altered Images “Happy Birthday,” from the Gilmore Girls soundtrack, which I couldn’t bare the idea of listening to over and over again, and so while I wrote up that playlist, I pretty much ditched it immediately and tried again.

The next list actually turned out kind of interesting… it strays a little bit by the end of the fourteen songs that I let play, and I may not use all fourteen, but I do like the idea of trying to write this story, entirely dictated by music.  Here are the tracks I came up with, along with a few lyrics that caught my attention.

1. The Rasmus – In the Shadows

“No sleep until I’m done with finding the answer”

“They say that I must learn to kill before I can feel faith, but I would rather kill myself than turn into their slave”

2. Jackson Browne – Somebody’s Baby

“She’s got to be somebody’s baby. She must be somebody’s baby.”

3. Relient K – Faking My Own Suicide

“’cause I know you love me, you just haven’t realized.”

“they’ll hold a double funeral, because a part of you will die along with me.”

4. Sondre Lerche – It’s Too Late

“I try to set an example for all the people who try to blame their luck.” “Time won’t wait ’til it’s too late to tell you who you were.”

5. Sarah Slean – The Score

“This time the pleasure’s all mine – I’ve got your number, I know the score.”

6. Lucinda Williams – Blue

“I don’t wanna talk, I just wanna go back to blue.”

“Blue is the color of night, when the red sun disappears from the sky.”

7. The Fray – How to Save a Life

“You say we need to talk – he walks, you say sit down, it’s just a talk. He smiles politely back at you, you stare politely right on through.”

8. Emilian Torrini – Ha Ha

“’cause it’s long gone down, you’re still hanging around, it’s not over ’til it starts again.”

9. The Eagles – I Can’t Tell You Why

“weren’t we the same two people who lived through years in the dark?”

10. Ben Harper – In The Lord’s Arms

“Tonight is in the Lord’s Arms.”

11. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – At my Door

“I’ll never see it ’til it’s at my door, ’til it’s at my door it will be ignored.”

12. Lostprophets -For Sure

“if I could I’d stop the time and ask you for a clever line, just because I know you won’t give it to me.”

13. Switchfoot – Company Car

“Mike was right when he said I put up a fight to be someone, a fight to be me.”

14. Sarah Slean – Mary

“She’s looking up enough to the galaxy. A fateful boattrip ‘cross a northern sea…”

“Oh Daughter, this is how she became”

So it still looks a little fractured, sure, and a bit darker than what I’m used to writing, to be honest… but I kind of like that.  Maybe I’m crazy and this won’t work at all, but that’s not really a bad thing if it doesn’t—it’ll still be a heck of a writing exercise.


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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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Movie Review or Why You Should Watch Elvis & Anabelle

I had the delight of seeing this movie last week.  I admit, I picked it out out of pure curiosity. I had little to no idea what it was about, all I knew was that it had Blake Lively in it and she comes back to life on a mortician’s table.  I had half a dozen reactions to those spare scraps of information alone.  Blake Lively?  I’d only seen her in Gossip Girl and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and I admit while I love the former, I can’t stand her in the latter.

But I couldn’t help but be intrigued.  The names themselves are enough to catch your attention, but they’re not hard to believe as names, they simply hint towards a quirkiness that can’t help but be expanded by the the plot description.

Basically, Anabelle is a beauty contestant, vying for the illustrious title of Texas Rose, pushed towards it incessantly by her I-want-you-to-have-a-better-life mother (the almost-always brilliant Mary Steenberger) and possibly even more by her twelve-kinds-of-icky stepfather.  The constant pressure pays off as Anabelle is indeed crowned Miss Texas Rose—only to die of heart failure moments after being crowned, as a complication of an eating disorder.  She is then taken to the Moreau Funeral Home, reported as the best funeral home in the county, under the direction of Charlie Moreau.

In truth, Charlie hadn’t been embalming for years—the business was secretly kept up by his seventeen-year-old son, Elvis.  Elvis is not your average seventeen-year-old, as could probably be guessed by the work he does, but his life has been more shaped by the suicide of his mother when he was a child, and his father’s resulting decline in competence.  We learn later on in the film that Charlie (played magnificently by Joe Mantegna), who is a hunchback, has lost much of his mental capacity after being hit in the head by bottles thrown by town hooligans.

But back to the story.  Anabelle ends up in Elvis’ all-too-capable hands, and he can’t help but recognize the beauty queen.  Elvis has a habit of taking pictures of his “work,” the people he’s embalmed, but before he can so much as start on Anabelle, he’s captivated by her beauty.  In a moment of weakness that’s much less creepy than it reads here, he kisses her, and as he does he accidentally hits the flash of his set-up camera, which shocks Anabelle out of a deep, coma-like state of cardiac arrest.  Anabelle is then returned to her delighted parents—who don’t change their priorities for the girl, despite what she’s been through.  The media circuit that is a result of Anabelle’s seeming ressurrection (and that her parents are eagerly feeding into) is too much for her, and after a nightmare implying that Anabelle’s death obviously didn’t affect her parents at all, she finds herself running away in the middle of the night, fleeing to the one place no one would expect her to go—back to the funeral home where she came back to life.

Mainly, Anabelle is looking for answers.  She can’t remember—or understand the reason—behind her coming back to life. After Elvis discovers her on their property, he grudgingly lets her stick around for the night, but when she starts questioning Charlie—who the world of course believes was the one to witness her awakening—Elvis gets defensive and brusque with her.  Despite this, Anabelle simply can’t go home, and so she decides to stay at the funeral home, to disappear for a while, as it’s one place no one would ever think to look for her.

The two obviously end up spending time together then, but Elvis is decided early on that because she’s popular and pretty, she must be like the other popular kids in town, like the ones who got their kicks by tormenting his father, for example.  Anabelle is enchanted by the ever-sweet Charlie, though, and fairly irrepressibly cheerful and nice—until she gets ticked off by Elvis’ brooding negativity, and then she calls him out on it, which he can’t help but be impressed (and sort of amused) by.

Anabelle’s parents, meanwhile, have reported her as missing, and when a cop comes by the funeral home asking questions, Elvis agrees to drive her to a friend’s home a few cities away—but there is no friend, really, and the two end up simply roadtripping and enjoying themselves, throwing off all the burdens their parents have inadvertently (and sometimes not so inadvertently) lain on their shoulders, and growing closer as they do so, until something happens which has Anabelle running unhappily back to her parents, and eventually leads them both to the brink of drastic measures—only to be saved by each other in a lovely, serendipitous way.

Like I said, I really didn’t know what to expect going into this movie. I was considering that it might be something like a yuppie, updated, indie version of Harold and Maude, a lot of dark humor interspersed with a few extremely tender moments—and indeed, there’s a nod or two to that cult-classic in this film, which I can’t believe are unintentional.  Where Harold and Maude is a sort of celebration of the Weird, however, Elvis & Anabelle is a tribute to the simple triumphs of the human spirit, even under the worst of conditions.

Any reservations I may have once had about Blake Lively’s ability as an actress are quite honestly swept away, and her opposite, Max Minghella is officially on my to-be-watched list.  To be quite honest, though, the movie is worth watching if only for Joe Mantegna’s portrayal of Charlie.  I’ve been pretty much raised on Mantegna’s work—starting with the charmingly-smarmy contractor from The Money Pit way back when.  He’s always had a soft spot in my heart, and the sweet, childlike Charlie is played with such deft sincerity that I was literally in awe of his work.

This movie quite honestly broke my heart a good half-a-dozen times, but it’s not the dark, almost gothic tale I was expecting.  It has an overwhelming sweetness to it, despite some particularly dark themes, and the story feels very natural, despite some fantastical elements to it.  I really can’t recommend it highly enough.  If you can get your hands on it—and really, that’s a big if—don’t hesitate.

As a bonus, the music is fantastic.

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The reason why it always takes me forever to finish Jane Eyre.

His name is St. John Rivers.  Every. Darn. Time.

I admit, after having read this book four or five times, this shouldn’t surprise me.  The book is in stages.  The childhood stage.  The long and dreary Lowood School years.  Thornfield, Thornfield, wonderful Thornfield, and then…. St. John Rivers.  Sigh.

I understand that he’s a very important foil for Rochester.  He is everything good, and straight, and narrow, but also everything cold, hard and passionateless.  Actually, worse, he has passion, but denies it thoroughly.  St. John Rivers is exactly as unappealing as Charlotte Brontë ever could have wanted, and that’s a fact.  What’s also a fact is that it makes for slow reading.  Trudging, more like.

Don’t get me wrong, this is my favorite book in the history of books (or at least in the history of books I’ve read, which is a decent number for my four-and-score years) but St. John Rivers is a drag.  He just is.  He’s more cringe-worthy than Mr. Collins of Pride and Prejudice, because at least Eliza isn’t listening carefully to every word Mr. Collins says.

I suppose I could always skip over St. John… but I never do.  I just don’t roll that way.  And if I did I might miss his sisters who I do adore.  I honestly want to pluck him from the book sometimes, though.  He’s just so unenjoyable to read.  Though I suppose if he were gone, there’d be no one to save Jane from starving to death, would there?  And we can’t have that, so St. John will have to stay, no matter how much I whine and resist him.  Poor Rosamond Oliver.  He really must have been pretty for her to fall for him like that.

~Lisa, who has six more books to finish (this one included) before hitting her goal of 52 books in 52 weeks.  It may just happen this year!

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YABM – Yet Another Book Meme. ;)


Stole this from a friend – I can never resist a good book meme!

What books are your comfort reading–the ones you slink back to in times of stress?
Books are a bit Turret’s like for me—if I read something kind of awful, my own life seems better by comparison, I guess?  So when I’m really stressed, I like to read books about hard times, like Joanne Greenberg’s I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, or The Joy Luck Club.  That said… I might always lean towards no-brain fun, too.

What was your favorite book as a child, and why?
Mmm… let’s see.  When I was very small it as Who’s a Pest? a book by Crosby Bonsall about a little boy who everyone insists is a pest—even though he says he’s not.  It’s a strange, funny little book, that involves everything from mean sisters to talking animals, and an all-consuming pit.  It’s hard to explain, you’d have to read it.  When I was a little older, though, I was a big fan of Mercer Mayer books, and the Alexander books by Judith Viorst (especially Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday).

What was your favorite book as an adolescent, and why?
Undoubtedly Just as Long as We’re Together by Judy Blume.   That book almost single-handedly got me through the break-up with my first (and second, really) best friend.  Stephanie Hirsch was the first fictional character who I really saw as a reflection of my life—or what my life could be.  She was what Rory Gilmore would be in a few years down the line.  This is also the book that got me serious—at age eleven—about writing young adult books.

What is the most unread category of books gathering dust on your bookshelf–the books you’ve bought but just never get around to reading?
The ones I buy but haven’t read?  Are probably mainly in the non-fiction genre.  There are certain periods of history that I love—love, love, love, like the American Revolution and the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions, and so I have a few books that I own that cover those periods, but I haven’t read any of them.  Also under that list would be anthologies.  I have a few either from classes (writing on music, etc) and gifts from friends, but I just don’t jump into them very often.

What kind of books would you like to say you read, but never do?
There are a few of them.  I tend to get very comfortable either in classics or in young adult or children’s fantasy… so almost anything outside of that is (embarrassingly) kind of a gray area for me.  The ones that I’d really love to say I read are mystery novels—I feel like I’m missing out on a great genre, and the ones I’ve read I’ve enjoyed, but I just don’t go looking for them.  I’d also like to say that I appreciated a good Grisham—because really, everybody is supposed to like Grisham, but all I’ve read was The Pelican Brief, and that was enforced (high school book report).  I’d like to say I’d read Michener, too.  My mother loves his novels, and I love the look and the idea of them… but I’ve never so much as opened one.

What’s the oddest book you’ve ever read?
Does The Host count?  Because I have likened parts of that novel to a Miyazaki film on crack.  Outside of the illustrious Miss Meyer, however… I would have to say… actually, no.  I really think The Host might be the oddest book I’ve read.

What book were you never able to get through,despite the recommendations of people you respect?
I can’t think of one off the top of my head.  Possibly Wicked?  Maybe Eragon as well.

What’s the book it took you a couple of tries to get into, but was as good as promised once you finally made it?
I don’t do this very often.  The only one I can even remember is Jane Eyre.  Which I started for the first time when I was twelve—I hated the childhood section of that book, and so I kept putting it down.  It remains to this day the only book I’ve ever literally thrown across the room (more than once, I believe) in frustration—and my ugly little orange paperback bears the marks as proof.  It took me months to get through Lowood.  Once I got to Thornfield, though, I was hooked, hooked, hooked, and it is almost definitely my favorite book of all time.

What’s your favorite short story–or do you even have one?
I’m not very good at reading short stories, I’ll admit.  There was one in a literature book of mine in high school, though, called “Chasing Summer,” that I really loved, all about a couple who, after a thermo-nuclear war, chase the patches of light that make their way through the nuclear winter sky.  I also really love “There Will Come Soft Rains” by Ray Bradbury… actually, I love his “A Sound of Thunder,” also.  Reason why I’ve always wanted to read more Bradbury (that should go with Grisham and Michener, above).

The desert island. Three books (and collected works don’t count. If you want the Lord of the Rings it’ll cost you all three slots). Go:
1. Jane Eyre… it’s a debate between this and Persuasion, but as yet Jane Eyre continues to have the smallest of edges.
2. Great Expectations—maybe.  Not because it’s one of my favorites (it’s kind of not) but just because I think analyzing it would last me years.  😛
3. Fingerprints: Payback by Melinda Metz.  At least I think I’d pick this one.  One of the last three, at least.  It’d kill me not to have the full series, though.  Mindless fun—well, mostly mindless.  And one of my biggest fiction OTPs.  Yes, I know you’ve never heard of it.

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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 Inkygirl.com, 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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