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Mantra

I’ve been practicing yoga off and on since college (let’s just call that ‘a long time’ for now). My most recent stint is the second longest period of consistent attendance to one class. Each class is different and out of the classes I’ve taken, I’ve gained the most from this one, including a really great, attentive, invested teacher. One of the things we do at the beginning of class is set an intent or a focus for the practice we’re about to begin. Vitally important, this provides a focal point for a chatty mind in the middle of the purgatory that is Utktasana (chair) or Hell 1 and Hell 2 (aka Warrior 1 and Warrior 2). Don’t get me wrong, these positions are effective at building muscle and toning said muscle once it does exist, and I’ll even admit that they do all suck infinitesimally less over time, but when your quads are on strike and your arches are anatomically hypothetical, “suck” is the only word I can honestly use to describe them. Hence, the creation of an intent to get through the “suck” until it becomes “sucks-less” and then, eventually, “do-able.”

An intent can become a mantra when you’re trying to find peace in a mind that has begun to babble something along the lines of “oh my god is this ever gonna end, I’ve done my cycle for one minute of breathing and I’m gonna die if it doesn’t end soon, or worse – I’m gonna fall over!” (Yes, I know, and yes, that really is the mental flow of the worst-case-scenario when you’re standing with your butt pushed back, toes lifted to make sure they’re not attacking the mat with a death grip and that your glutes haven’t decided to let the calves pick up the work load, arms gracefully reaching overhead while your thighs burn and you wonder if your yoga teacher is EVER going to get done re-aligning the new student and say “and fall forward…”) Oh. And don’t forget to breathe. Breathing is important, but that’s easy to forget when your Type A personality kicks in. Like I said…the intent becomes vitally important and generally becomes a mantra.

You bring your rebellious little brain back to the intent to help you focus, to give your busy-body western brain something to chew on  so your body can do what it knows to do – when it’s left alone to do it. The zen-like meditative state comes with the breath once the brain’s preoccupied with the simplicity of the mantra your intent creates. Was your intent compassion? Then don’t try so hard to keep the pose; come in and out of it as you need to. Was it patience? Don’t expect perfection from yourself; do what you can and know that the rest will come with time and diligent practice.

Lately, for me, mine has become a repetition of three ideas that seem to flow well into other aspects of my life. Strength, Dedication, and Self-Discipline. These are the things I think about when I’m staring at the round little speaker on the floor, teetering on one not-quite-stable ankle, toes digging into the 1/8 inch thick mat, one sole pressed against my other leg and hoping (praying) that the wiggling of someone’s shadow doesn’t cross my line of sight and send me over on my ass. Sometimes it works and I find a place of strength in the pose. Sometimes, I renew my intent to keep trying until I get it right. Sometimes, I have to remember that I need to constantly practice – breathe, repeat the intent, try again and keep trying to keep improving. Not only does this mantra work for Garurasana (Eagle pose – think Chair meets Tree), but it also works for writing. To take constructive criticism and rejections takes strength. To continue learning, challenging yourself and improving in the craft takes dedication. To get your butt in the chair to get the work done when it’s the last thing you want to do that day takes a LOT of self-discipline.

I’m no expert, but I keep practicing. One of these days, I’ll get ’em all down.

“The Unbidden” now available on Amazon!

June 20, 2011 2 comments

I love writing that title. I could write it over and over! But that would be a waste of blog space. My horror novella “The Unbidden” is now available for Kindle through Amazon.com.

Check it out!

A tornado rips through a quiet town, destroying resources, knocking out power, cutting off communications with the surrounding area and unearthing ancient tunnels long relegated to children’s boogeyman stories. Lucy Wickersham finds herself uprooted from her childhood home, relocated for her “protection,” and installed as the town historian to chronicle the rebuilding by the self-appointed head of the reconstruction, Aaron Plummer. If the forced relocation by the idealistic Plummer wasn’t strange enough, the children of the town are disappearing, and the sudden appearance of Mio, a young child who speaks only Spanish, forces Lucy into the role of guardian and protector. Mio seems to have answers he can’t articulate about the menace in the dark and may be the answer to saving the rest of the children. Can Lucy save herself from Plummer’s designs, protect Mio and uncover the secrets that will put The Unbidden to rest once again?

When you’ve finished reading it, if you can spare the time, please leave a review. When you are writing your review, remember – if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. You can send those comments to me. 😉

An Exciting Announcement

June 18, 2011 7 comments

A lifelong journey begins with one step. The lifelong career of a writer begins when a child first holds a crayon and draws a clumsy letter for the first time.

I am absolutely THRILLED to share with everyone this milestone in my journey and career. My first published piece of fiction, a horror novella entitled “The Unbidden,” has been released as an e-book by Post Mortem Press. Here’s the cover art:

Coming Soon to your favorite e-reader!

A tornado rips through a quiet town, destroying resources, knocking out power, cutting off communications with the surrounding area and unearthing ancient tunnels long relegated to children’s boogeyman stories. Lucy Wickersham finds herself uprooted from her childhood home, relocated for her “protection,” and installed as the town historian to chronicle the rebuilding by the self-appointed head of the reconstruction, Aaron Plummer. If the forced relocation by the idealistic Plummer wasn’t strange enough, the children of the town are disappearing, and the sudden appearance of Mio, a young child who speaks only Spanish, forces Lucy into the role of guardian and protector. Mio seems to have answers he can’t articulate about the menace in the dark and may be the answer to saving the rest of the children. Can Lucy save herself from Plummer’s designs, protect Mio and uncover the secrets that will put The Unbidden to rest once again?

“The Unbidden” is already available on Smashwords and will be available on Amazon.com early next week. It will be available through other platforms including Nook, iBookstore, Kobo and Diesel in the near future.

Thank you to everyone who put up with my long periods of silence while I scribbled my heart out, who slogged through rough copies to provide feedback, line edits and spelling corrections, and for those who benevolently kicked my ass with encouragement when I got frustrated. I’m very excited about my partnership with Post Mortem Press and getting this story out there to the world, and I’ll admit that I squealed and danced in my chair like a kid on the last day of school when the cover art was posted to my Facebook page. I think I’ve passed the hyperventilation stage and am enjoying staring at my own name in digital ink on my Kindle!  What an awesome weekend!

Fear

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

-The Litany Against Fear

I was cleaning out an old email box a couple of days ago, and found an excerpt from the litany against fear from a friend. It (again) resonated with me and I felt the need to share it.

So many things in our lives bring out the chest-tightening, stomach-clenching, vein-freezing paroxysm of sheer terror, and the ones that cause the biggest reaction are the most important, most meaningful opportunities in our lives. We know that ignoring them is not an option, yet facing them can reduce us to a quivering mass of primordial ooze in a skin envelope. Steeling our own guts against the knee-weakening watery feeling is one of the greatest challenges, and yet, it’s only when we manage to acknowledge the fear and work with or around it do we allow ourselves the freedom to succeed.

Fear’s nemesis isn’t courage, but belief. Wide-eyed, childlike belief in the impossible, in the improbable and never giving up the hope that if you believe hard enough and reach far enough, you’ll be able to touch a star in its natural habitat. Challenges like this always make me  remember the scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Indy is standing at the doorway with lion’s mouth, looking out across a chasm. Chills ricochet through me as he lifts one foot and prepares to step out and fall into the bottomless abyss…

 

 

His belief in the impossible, the unlikely, the one in a million brings him through and he finds himself on the path that will take him safely across the chasm. He held his faith, believed himself worthy – and he was.

Never give up on that hope, that faith, or the naiveté that drives you to keep reaching over and beyond obstacles that others consider insurmountable. Never give up on your belief in yourself, and when it dwindles down to a flickering flame, tend it and love it until it blazes again. Don’t let something like fear get in your way.

Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in…

– Winston Churchill

Back to Reality

Since Tuesday afternoon, I’ve been enjoying the company of someone who is impossibly dear to me. It was a little more than a day and a half of delightful (if, at times, painful and cathartic) conversation, amazing food, wine, bread and cheeses and the best damned brownies ever known to humanity, of tarot, astrology and conversations transcending spiritual and religious boundaries, of music, books, writing and everything and anything that happened to cross our minds at the time. We’ve always been an eclectic pair, only compounded by where our interests overlap and minutely diverge and the passage of time has not changed this. If anything, it’s amplified by our vastly different experiences since we last spent time together.

This morning, I brought her back to the airport and I’m floundering trying to find my bearings in reality.

It’s hard to describe the relationship we have without sounding like some schoolgirl with Bieber fever…but she is my best friend in the entire world. She is the sister that the universe put in my path because we had things to do before we could actually be sisters in that way.

So now, I’m going through withdrawal and trying to find equilibrium again. The longer the afternoon drags on, the more I find myself choked up and blinking away a distinct blurriness in my eyes. I’m so grateful for the time we got to spend together and the selfish part of me is having a little temper tantrum and demanding her back RIGHT NOW!

It will pass and the accustomed absence will eventually numb up again, but right now it’s hard not to pack up my stuff, go home, crawl into bed and just cry until I fall asleep.

Categories: Life in General

Once Upon a Con…

I spent last weekend at the 2011 ConCarolinas and I had a blast! A few years ago, when I attended my first one, I went because I was interested in the gaming. I wanted to spend a whole weekend immersed in gaming of many flavors – RPG’s, board games, CCG’s, etc. I knew there were panels and writers and artists there, but honestly, I didn’t pay them much attention; the gaming was too shiny and new, and I was still (more or less) on writing hiatus. Last year, I had just started writing seriously again, and during a break between games, a couple of panels caught my eye and I made a point of attending. Suffice to say, I was hooked. There’s a certain amount of validation in attending the panels. I didn’t feel so crazy for wanting to immerse myself in this challenge to get my words out there, and there was a hefty dose of reality that drove the point home – this really is work, but it’s totally worth doing.

When I was getting ready for the con this year, the first thing I looked at was the panel schedule. I circled every one I wanted to attend and I scheduled my gaming around those events. I did miss a couple of games that piqued my curiosity, but what I took away was more than worth the price of admission for the weekend and I think it was the best decision. Not only did I learn a lot, I had the pleasure of hearing from some truly insightful people, specifically, the minds behind www.magicalwords.net.

I’d been introduced to the Magical Words blog quite some time ago, but I have an affliction lovingly dubbed “internet ADD.” It never fails that when I log on to my computer, the bright, shiny, even somewhat seductive Firefox logo lures me into the wicked web and I end up losing hours falling in wiki-holes or circling the Facebook time suck. I never accomplish anything of real merit when my iADD kicks in (with the exception of soaking up some little factoid or bizarre thread that later becomes fiction fodder) but I can’t seem to resist its siren song. I’ve looked at programs to restrict my internet access, or gizmos to completely lock me out for a specific period of time, but right now, I’m too rebellious to actually install it. When the iADD kicks in, even though I sit down with the intent to ONLY visit specific writing-related sites before getting back to the business of putting words on the page, I always seems to forget that intention and hours pass before I realize my hands are covered in the blood of wasted time.

I am much better at reading when it’s unplugged, or at least closely mimics being unplugged, so I picked up How to Write Magical Words a few months ago and added it to my imposing to-be-read pile. Looking over the program, I recognized some of the names on many of the panels, and I remembered my initial impression of perusing the site and flipping through the book – “these are sensible people who seem to know what they’re talking about.” I started circling the panels I wanted to attend choosing those I had interest in, and others that featured familiar names. This method of choosing where I was going to be seemed to be one of the smartest moves I made all weekend (right up there with bringing snacks to keep in the room and picking up the bottle of Three Olives cherry vodka I almost decided against). Two of the panels I chose this way left a significant impression and granted me the opportunity to familiarize myself with some of the members of the Magical Words crew. First was “The Future of the Printed Word” with Nathan P. Butler, Faith Hunter, Stuart Jaffe, David B. Coe, Nicole Givens Kurtz and Rob R. Shelsky. Just listening made me realize that I wanted to know more about what they thought, to hear what they had to say because what they were sharing in a small space of time made SENSE. It sounded SANE, and damnit, they had a following and a stack of books to validate their experiences. While I realize that this is not always a mark of quality, it’s certainly something that should make you take notice and dig a little deeper. So I did. Wandering through the halls and perusing the writer’s tables, I chatted up Edmund R. Schubert, who invited me to lunch with them the next day. Being somewhat shy, I wasn’t sure I’d have the guts to go, but I said I’d try to attend.

The next panel that struck me was the “Learning to Write” panel with Theresa Bane, A.J. Hartley, Faith Hunter, David B. Coe, Harry Turtledove and Wendy S. Delmater. The only reason I chose a panel at 9am on a Saturday morning was because of those familiar names, and I’m so glad I hauled my butt out of bed and made it downstairs on time. I learned a lot, and while much of what they had to say was common sense, or things you’d figure out on your own with a little practice, it never hurts to hear it from the voices of authority…the ones sitting in front of you with a wall or stack of their own words in print to drive those points home. From that point on, I was ready to hear more. And I was ready to write more. In fact, I left that panel, went upstairs and wrote for 45 minutes, until my next activity – a writing workshop with Allan Wold focused on plotting and developing your story before you start writing. I think it was kismet, because this is something I know I need. Here, however, my genre preference and my twisted little mind felt a little out of place. The other attendees were coming up with wild SF/F plot lines and characters and I was digging around in my dark little brain brewing up a horror story a la the Little Fears RPG. I persevered though. I’ll probably still write the story I outlined once I finish the one I’m working on now. When I finished with the writing workshop, I knew I had to conquer the squirmy feeling in my gut and just go to the luncheon.

And what an awesome time I had there.

I got to talk to writers about writing, and about books and about beta-readers and audience and to hear from them what it’s really like to hang your whole life on the hook of a dream and live it out…even the ugly parts. Our table stretched halfway across the restaurant and there were so many people, they handed out numbered coasters just to keep track of everyone. I’d heard Kalayna Price speak the year before, and earlier in the day, but I really enjoyed talking to her (not to mention envying her corset), Stuart Jaffe and everyone else over lunch.

I’m not entirely ashamed to admit that I stalked them all across the panels for the remainder of the con and even managed to get them all to sign my brand-spankin’-new copy of their book. (SQUEE!)

How to Write Magical Words - Signed

After listening to them all morning and after lunch, I collected author and editor signatures....and then went and listened to them for another day and a half!

Since I got home, I’ve also gotten my new Magical Words username and password set up because my intent (*ahem* notice I said “intent” there…) is to be a more regular visitor, commenter and participator. I’m going to make yet another stab at conquering my iADD. I’m looking forward to reading more of what they have to say, and as soon as I get to their books in my TBR pile, I’ll try to get up a Something Like a Review along the way.

I’m glad I went. I’m already looking forward to next year, and hoping they’ll be there again…and maybe I’ll even have something of my own to share by then too. 🙂

Something Like a Review: Julie & Julia by Julie Powell

June 1, 2011 1 comment

There are parallels between the way I feel about the movie this book became compared to the book and the way the narrator felt about the real Julia Childs and the Julia in her head. Normally, I’m a purist and I’m sputtering and griping about the way Hollywood rapes an author’s work and makes it into something that only has the barest resemblances between the original work and the flickering images in theaters and available on DVD.

Normally.

I’m feeling a little off balance when I say this, but the movie was exponentially better than the book. I’m glad it only took me a few days to read it, because if it took more than that away from The List, then I would be woefully disappointed.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m something of a book snob and as a result, I’m generally not a huge fan of books that make a huge splash in the media. Eat, Pray, Love is a good example, and Julie & Julia seems to be among the progenitors of the mass-appeal genre of self-discovery.

I have not seen the movie “Eat, Pray, Love,” but I’m not drawn to it the way I was drawn to “Julie & Julia” when it was released. In a word, I was enthralled by the movie. My SO and I bought it as soon as it was available on DVD and I’ve probably seen it half a dozen times. There’s an innocence to Julie (played by Amy Adams) and her little histrionic breakdowns are actually kind of charming because they’re balanced against the portrayal of her as a good person and a vivid, if brief, portrayal of the things she deals with in her job. The book, I’m sorry to say, is high on the histrionic breakdowns and very low on any kind of balancing factor. There is still discussion about what happens in her day to day, but it’s very expository, and lacks the impact of the scenes in the movie. I’m sure that the real Julie’s hissy fits are endearing to those who love her, but in the course of the book, there aren’t enough other characteristics or balancing vignettes of her softer, more rational side to endear the reader to the point where her cooking-frustration-inspired rages at her milquetoast husband are cute. Or even palatable.

If you understand the premise of the story before you pick up the book, then you know that there’s a certain amount of self-centeredness and self-importance to be expected with this story. It’s about blogging a personal challenge and the adventure of self-discovery the writer embarks on as a result. However, when reading a particular diatriabe of Julie’s on the matter of her self-centered behavior, I came across a telling and compelling comment “One thing about blogging is it gives you a blank check for whining.”

Yes, I get it; I’m not being unreasonable and my expectations aren’t unrealistic. Blogging, in some respects, is all about me-me-me-me-me. It’s a place to broadcast successes, to minimize, rage against (or outright ignore) defeats, and to hop up on your happy little soapbox and scream out anything you ever wanted to say to the world with the hope or expectation that someone out there is listening and agrees with you. (Let’s not get to the dissenters, after all, as their comments can be edited right out of such a little utopia.) Anyone, myself included, putting their words out here into the bloggosphere is in it at least partly for the self-aggrandizement inherent in the medium. The question is, if you don’t step outside the thick little shell of your skull, who’s going to keep coming back to read?

The book was bogged down with self-importance and what seemed to be the assumption that if her real life friends and family loved her dramatics, then those of us who don’t see the rest of her will love her too. If this unflattering portrayal is a form of brutal honesty, I commend Julie Powell for writing without censure and resisting the urge to cast herself in the best light, however, in the sense of “character” and “character development” with respect to her portrayal of herself, it was flat and I couldn’t seem to find any empathy for her. Personally, I got bored with her antics and about half way through the book, I was chasing the end. I wanted to know how it differed from the movie, where (and how) the path diverged and how the hell the movie I loved came from the book in my hand.

I’ve you’ve seen the movie and loved it, be happy with that and don’t pursue it any further. In your mind’s eye, picture Amy Adams as Julie and enjoy the ride through her life and her story. If you haven’t seen the movie because of your experience with the book, take a couple of hours and sit down to watch the movie. Julie’s character is more endearing in the film version, and maybe find a great fun foodie flick. This is one story Hollywood has done justice to, and maybe saved from nihilistic self-importance.

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