Jilly: Filling the Well

filling-the-wellWhat have you done to recharge your batteries/top up your creative well this week? I’ve spent most of the last three days with my nose in a book (well, pressed against a Kindle.) It’s been wonderful.

I had great plans to read and recharge over the holidays. That didn’t happen, because I used all my spare time to work on my Golden Heart entry. I wrote a new opening scene—it took multiple attempts before I finally found one I liked. I figured out an opening sentence that made promises about the story instead of just plunging into the action. I filled in plot holes. I checked the etymology of every significant word to make sure it was appropriate to my world. I tailored my metaphors. I wrote a new synopsis that reflected Alexis and Kierce’s relationship arc instead of wandering off into the mystery sub-plot. And then—yay!—this week, I uploaded the lot to the RWA website.

I have a lot of work left to do on this story, but I needed a breather so I decided to treat myself to the book binge I didn’t get in December.

I wanted a break from my own story but I didn’t want to immerse myself in modern language, so I decided to stay away from contemporary and futuristic romances. I chose swords-and-horses stories so that my mind would stay with the vocabulary, the clothing, the rhythm of a life before guns and electricity, without being so close to what I’m trying to write that I would be in danger of borrowing.

This week was the perfect time to read Lois McMaster Bujold’s Chalion fantasy books – The Curse of Chalion, Paladin of Souls, and The Hallowed Hunt. I hesitate to talk about LMB here, because we have diehard Bujold aficionadi like Michaeline and Scott who do the job so much better. Suffice it to say that I’d read and enjoyed the three recent Penric novellas (see here for more about Penric and the Shaman, and here for Penric’s Mission) and wanted to know more about the World of the Five Gods. I wasn’t disappointed. The world-building is dizzyingly good, and the writing is intelligent, restrained, clever, funny and sympathetic. I never know where LMB’s going next with the story, but I never feel cross about being in the dark; it always makes perfect sense when I get there. Each story builds inexorably toward a grand confrontation and a satisfying victory with enough romance to content my heart. I couldn’t write fanfic for these books, let alone borrow from them, but I can admire and be inspired by them.

I wanted some romantic fantasy in my readathon, so I mixed up the Bujold with a Grace Draven. I love all her books, especially Radiance. My only complaint is that I wish she’d hurry up and write more 😉 . This week I re-read Master of Crows. Grace Draven’s writing is lyrical and I love the emotional power she brings to her stories. I also love her heroines, who are understated, subtle, smart, strong and brave. Her world of gods and mages is brilliantly drawn, easy to visualize, and never jarring to read. Her words slip into my brain like babel fish. I’d love to be able to do that.

I also read and enjoyed a long short story/short novella by Stephanie Burgis called The Art of Deception, after I read a post about it on Ilona Andrews’ blog (see here for original post). Ilona described it as almost Princess Bride-ish and I can’t do better than that. And a quick aside to Jennifer O’Brien—Jennifer, if you’re reading this post, I think The Art of Deception would be right up your street.

Last but not least, I finally got around to watching Dragon (Wu Xia), the martial arts epic starring Donnie Yen. Fantastic fighting, of course, but also gorgeous rural scenery, surprisingly sympathetic characters and an emotionally powerful plot that was more than just a device for the fight scenes. I especially loved the Sherlock Holmes-y detective. Not recommended for the squeamish, but filled me with good energy.

Today I might change it up with a little historical romance, unless I get any great suggestions in the comments – recommendations would be greatly welcomed.

So—that’s my week of treats. What gave you a creative boost this week?

10 thoughts on “Jilly: Filling the Well

    • Since you were also on the GH treadmill until a few days ago, and you have a day job (which I don’t, any more), I reckon you’re due a treat. Hope you can shoehorn one in some time soon!

  1. I finally, finally had a chance to read Ilona Andrews latest Innkeeper book. It was so excellent, I turned back to the first page and read the whole thing again.

    I also played with sticks. After taking down the small Christmas tree I put in the pot outside my back door, I spent three days staring at the dismal view of the pot that would be empty and sad for months. I was sure there had to be something I could stuff in there that would be more interesting than bare dirt. On the third night we had a delightful Chicago wind storm and branches, leaves, and debris were scattered around the yard. Some of the sticks were kind of… pretty! Bits with lichen and fungus stuck to them, some covered with green, others birch white. I pulled out the lopper and hacked them down to the right sizes and shapes and stuck a dozen or more of them into the pot, plopping a cement fairy statue (natch) into the center of my mini woods. Every time I see my little woods I feel creatively invigorated! Yay sticks!

    • Couldn’t agree more about Innkeeper. I read it as weekly installments and the updated book a couple of weeks ago. I did the exact same thing you did–read it from start to finish, and then went right back to the beginning and started again.

      Yay fairy statue in the woods! That’s filling the well in style 🙂 .

    • (-: I like a good pot of sticks, too. I’m tempted to get on my snowshoes and lop off a few branches from our plum tree — they are great sticks, because after a few weeks, they blossom and fill the foyer with lovely plum smells. Not today, though. Too much snow. Maybe next Saturday!

  2. I went to see LaLa Land, which I thought was boring and too long. I was a little surprised at how quickly and thoroughly I was able to critique what I felt were its flaws. It was one of those times when you think you could have done it better. I went home and wrote 1200 words on the WIP. So—inspiring!

    • Lisa Cron posted the same thing about LaLa Land, Kay. I’m now not inclined to see it in the theater, but might look for it when it goes to the premium cable channels. I’d be interested to do what you (and she) did – critique its flaws and think about ways to do it better. Sometimes what we don’t like in a book or script is more instructive than what we do like!

      • That’s so true! I’ll tell you what I didn’t like about it, and when you see it, I’d be curious to hear what you think.

        1) It’s two hours and fifteen minutes, which in my view, for a musical comedy is about 30 minutes too long. All the great musicals–Singin’ in the Rain, American in Paris, Top Hat, Gay Divorcee–all come in at an hour 45. There’s just not enough plot in these things to go on at epic length. (And despite the length, there’s not enough dancing. I think three numbers.)

        2) You can’t hum any of the songs. None of them is memorable enough.

        3) Too much of the camera work is dizzying.

        4) The ending is LOUSY. There’s an EPILOGUE. And it’s STUPID.

        I’m going to read Lisa Cron’s post right now. I’m mad now all over again, just thinking about it.

        • I’m sorry for your viewing experience, Kay, though if you got 1200 words out of it maybe it wasn’t time wasted. Good news/bad news from my perspective–I really liked the sound of LaLa Land but my husband was strongly agin it and I’d had zero success at persuading him to go. Just as well! I was planning a trip solo and now I won’t bother. Like Nancy, I might pick it up later some time as an exercise in critique. Thank you!

  3. I’m so happy you liked the Bujold! Those three books are quite stand-alone-y, and only the world is interconnected. I need to get a gift for my sister, so the other recs are something I’ll look into!

    (-: I feel like I’ve been doing nothing but topping the creative well lately! I’ve been doing something called morning pages, which isn’t writing for consumption; it’s kind of like vomiting all the random stuff out on the page for three pages, and getting that out of the way so other things can be done. (-: Unfortunately, it feels like I’m doing something, so I haven’t written anything for consumption except for Friday’s writing sprint (which I just got done today).

    I was in Tokyo, and the two big things we went to was the David Bowie Is exhibit, and DisneySea. Both Disney and Bowie have been major influences on popular culture over the past fifty years (or more, in the case of Disney), and it was really interesting to see how they played off of each other. How did Disney trick us into paying double-digits for tickets, only so that we can stand in lines for hours? Sometimes just for the privilege of buying something? I was so disgusted that one daughter wanted to spend two hours in line in order to buy some Duffy goods. Duffy is a Disney character created for DisneySea. He’s some sort of teddy bear, and not even a superior sort of teddy bear, in my opinion. A rather sickly sweet sort of teddy bear. But that’s just my opinion. The people waiting in line obviously didn’t share my opinion! The temps were hovering around 0 degrees C (freezing). Needless to say, the soundtrack in my mind was playing, “Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow.”

    Despite my vinegary musings, I did have some fun. The food was good and reasonably priced for the quality. The bathrooms were clean. And walking around the park at night was brilliant — I do mean that on several levels. Disney does great set design, and the lighting was so magnificent. In particular, the conch-shell lamps of various shapes and designs at Mermaid Lagoon were charming.

    Then the moon came out, and reminded me of a certain simplicity that overwhelms all of our human constructions and art. Oh, I had a lovely time!

    I might be able to get back into creation mode this week; when my time is my own, my schedule goes to hell with all the things I “should” do. But when I’m scheduled with work and various things, it’s easier to fit in an hour or two of writing. We’ll see what happens.

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