Y is for Yoga

YogaSome of the benefits of Yoga are:

  • Increased flexibility.
  • Increased muscle strength and tone.
  • Improved respiration, energy and vitality.
  • Maintaining balance.
  • Weight reduction.
  • Cardio and circulatory health.
  • Improved athletic performance.
  • Protection from injury

While I love Yoga…I really do, in this instance I’m using it as a metaphor for writing. Now how can you apply these wonderful benefits to your writing.

Increased Flexibility – Whether you are trying to finish a book or trying to find a home for a manuscript.  Its important to be flexible.  Life interrupts the writing process.  Sometimes your dream publisher doesn’t accept your manuscript.  It is important to be flexible, remember the important thing is to try again, to be stronger and not break.

Increased Muscle, strength and tone – Have you heard the phrase “Use it or Lose it”?  Writing frequently, dare I say daily, increases your muscles.  If you type on a keyboard, you will type faster due to muscle memory.  If your write daily in a journal, or on a manuscript, poetry, etc., your process is strengthened,  and the tone of your work improved.

Improved Respiration, energy and vitality – Just Breathe.  When you are blocked or your just not feeling it, take a break; A breath if you will, and work on another creative project.  Often times when I “scrapbook” or when I’m cooking, I get ideas for my story.  Writing without other creative outlets can drain your energy.  You need to fill your creative mind.  This will give you vitality, and passion for all your creative works.

Maintaining Balance – As with all things in life, writing is also a balancing act.  When you are an Aspiring Writer, you are balancing work, writing, and whatever life throws at  you.  These same things apply when your are published as well, and then you get to add in promotions, book signings, blog tours, etc.  It’s important to try and balance to the best of your abilities, and what is important to you.  I still work full time so my priorities are Family, Work, Writing.  I know, writing is in there last, but it is where it fits today in my life and I still manage to find balance.

Weight Reduction – Okay writing won’t make you thinner.   But you may need to think about making your book thinner before sending off for publication. 🙂  Basically, “Cut the Fat”.  You want your book to be a lean, mean, selling machine.   Not to say you should write short stories, but make sure your 155,000 word novel doesn’t have redundancies in it.  Be sure you are using strong vs. passive language, and it is the very best it can be before you publish.

Cardio and circulatory health – Go with the flow.  When life throws you an obstacle, handle it and then get back on track.  In my opinion – not all writers can deal with life crisis and write.   I’m one of those writers…life’s challenges often derail my writing.  However, some authors excel at it – Using their writing as a tool to deal with life’s issues, or utlizing it as a means of escape.  Whatever writer you are – Go with the flow.  There is no right or wrong answer to how, or when you write.

Improved athletic performance – Over time all writers seems to innately learn things about craft, genre, editing, publishing, and other business items.   Not all writers will be good at all things, and some writers can zero in on one thing.   We learn to spot passive voice, or what genre a book falls into.  We can craft perfect prose, or create a list of potential publishers with ease.  What we don’t know, we learn from others.  The point is…we improve over time and not just at putting words on a page. We become literary athletes and excel in our performance of specific tasks.

Protection from Injury – Remember that rejection letter, horrible review or jealous writer who made it personal?    Writing doesn’t protect you from these initial injuries,  but writing groups and fellow authors often support those who fall down.  I belong to three groups, and all are very supportive.  RWA – Romance Writer’s of America Online Chapter, F-M Word Weavers – A local writing group and this group Writer Zen Garden.  For any of my rejection letters, bad reviews or other slight I may have felt, there was a support group for me.  They helped heal my wounds, cherish my soul and free my creative spirit to move past the hurt.

Yep, I love Yoga, I think I’ll go do some poses to get some of the benefits.





B Is For… Book Review – What Dreams May Come

I’ve just finished reading a YA book by author Beth M. Honeycutt. I’m so glad my friend Rochelle Bradley introduced me because the story What Dreams May Come is very, very sweet. And Ms. Honeycutt is a professional editor, which makes this a very polished read.
Ellie Cross, our young protagonist, has a frequent dream companion named Gabe. He visits her regularly, appearing as if on cue to commiserate over deep sorrows or share surprising joys. And she can spill her heart to him utterly since there’s no reason for regret or hesitation simply because Gabe isn’t real.
After all, her mother even paid a therapist to help convince Ellie. So the shy, overlooked girl makes the best of the situation, enjoying this long-lasting companionship as a private sanctuary. If she must keep Gabe’s continued appearance secret from her mother, then so be it. At least someone accepts her without judgment or disappointment.
I feel that Ellie, however bullied at school, could have easily come across as terribly unappreciative of the good in her life. I mean, things could be so much worse as the young lady herself comes to learn. However, Ms. Honeycutt does a lovely job of balancing over-reactive teenage angst with deep human pain.
As for escapism, who wouldn’t want their own private guardian angel? And maybe, just maybe, they can take real human form. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?
You can find various retailers with some very reasonable prices here:

World War Z

We welcome back a long-time member of the Writer’s Retreat, Evey, as a blogger here at the Writer’s Retreat.  Here’s her first of what we hope to be many, many posts!

World War Z

I’ve just finished rereading one of my favorite books, World War Z by Max Brooks. I was struck by its interesting story the first time through and this second reading has given me even more appreciation for how thorough his alternate universe is. I admire his ability to shift from tragedy, horror, satire, and yes, even humor as he retells the story of the WWZ.

Subtitled ‘An Oral History of the Zombie War’, our narrator is tasked with chronicling a war mankind fought not against other men, but against the reanimated dead. The UN Postwar Committee sanctioned his writing, granting him access to soldiers, politicians and others from around the globe but in the end was only interested in the facts, casualty counts and battle strategies. Unable to let the ‘human factor’ go unheard, he wrote this book to keep the memories alive. “Because in the end, isn’t the human factor the only true difference between us and the enemy?”

The book is a series of interviews, beginning with the doctor in rural China who saw the first cases of the zombie disease. From there our narrator moves to Tibet where ‘shetou’, human smugglers, sneak millions of Chinese refugees across the border to supposed safety, unknowingly allowing the disease to spread.

The histories come from across the globe, Antarctica, Finland, India and Israel as we watch each country react in their individualized ways to the crisis, some effectively, others not so much.

There are stories of heroism, as one Indian military officer sacrifices himself by hand detonating a bomb to bring down a bridge to keep zombies from the civilians on the other side. The tone then switches to irony in Cuba, where with its large military presence; the government manages to easily defeat the zombie menace. And when millions of Americans build themselves makeshift boats and float their way to asylum they are placed in internment camps and forced to work menial jobs that regular Cubans don’t want– yard work and maid service.

My favorite interview involves a female pilot whose plane goes down in a ‘white zone’, territory overrun by zombies. She makes radio contact with a ham-radio operator familiar with the area. ‘Metsfan’, as she calls herself, talks the pilot through a difficult three days and guides her to a place she can be seen and rescued. When asked later how she managed to survive alone the pilot pulls out her radio, which is found broken and rusted. And there are no records of a ham-operator with that call sign either…

As the book progresses the world eventually begins to retake the planet, slowly defeating the ‘Zeke’, (one of the many slang terms for zombies). We see how the countries begin to put themselves back together and how they’ve changed; Russia is now a Holy Empire with the Czar as religious leader, China embraces democracy and America struggles to rebuild and understand that they are all part of the problem, and the solution.

There is a movie starring Brad Pitt out now, it includes small details of these multiple interviews in its story, but twists them around a single hero as he helps find a cure for the plague. I prefer the book’s take on the story of millions of heroes who all had a hand in saving mankind.

Darla’s Recommended Read: The Sound of Many Waters

Do you enjoy novels that take you on a mysterious, extraordinary journey?  If so, Sean Bloomfield’s first publication is one you definitely want to pick up.  While written in an intelligent way still easy enough to follow without causing brain freeze, this particular trip takes the reader over land and sea, back and forth in time, and even into the human soul.

I must say it was known to me from the time of download that, unlike many of my Kindle e-books, this plot is not about romance.  Don’t expect to read some simple story about soul mates overcoming all odds to be together.  What you will find in this plot, however, is lots of heart.

“The Sound of Many Waters” follows two stories through amazing twists and turns, ultimately converging in a way virtually impossible to foresee.  If anyone out there guessed the ending, you have my utmost respect.
The two tales are intertwined by Spanish gold – one following a Spanish Conquistador who loses everything but begins reclaiming his humanity and the other tracking a modern day fellow with a good heart and extremely rotten luck.  Whether or not you particularly like these very human men, you cannot help being riveted by their ensuing trials, tribulations, and intermittent triumphs.  And the people they meet along the way are entirely tangible, however fantastic or humble his or her role might be.
I implore you to check out “The Sound of Many Waters”, the first book in many months that I plan to re-read from start to finish.  There is so much delightful symbolism that I want to journey with these characters again, especially knowing what I know now.  And I hope to get friends and family hooked into the tale, with hope of sharing my experience.

To read the author’s own synopsis, learn more about him, and find a link through which to purchase “The Sound of Many Waters,” please go to SeanBloomfield.com – The Sound of Many Watersand poke around.  You’ll be glad you did.  Happy reading!

Keeping the Faith

I recently finished reading an m/m book from the “Heaven Sent” series by Jet Mykles. I really enjoyed “Faith”, the story of Heaven Sent drummer Darien and his burgeoning relationship with the lawyer who finalized his divorce. Attorney Chris Faith is not only every bit as likeable as members of the band, his believable flaws make him very approachable to the reader. My kudos to Ms. Mykles.

For his realism, the character actually inspired this blog post with what I consider an interesting dimension. In short, Ms. Mykles created Mr. Faith as a rather stuffy but consummate lawyer with a passion for acting. The Englishman went so far as to have Shakespearian training! This understandably impresses Darien, who wonders what it would be like to watch his new lover on stage. Alas, he seems to keep this admission to himself.

Meanwhile, the lawyer’s reason for staying out of the limelight as legal counsel to actors and musicians stems from a dislike of auditions. His career puts him in touch with people he admires without the potential risks inherent in artistic performance. That sounds exactly like fear sabotaging Chris Faith’s inner creativity.

In my humble opinion, Chris Faith has lost faith in himself. He needs to follow at least one course in Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way”. I’m even half tempted to contact Jet Mykles to ask that she evolve this character into a man living his artistic potential. Do you think she’d be amused or think I’m crazy? Maybe I should just keep this fan girl notion to myself. What do you think?

“In Your Eyes” by Adelle Laudan

Here’s a description of “In Your Eyes” from Amazon: Lizzy would give it all back just to hear her mother’s voice one more time… the house, the furniture…even the money. Regardless, her heartless stepfather is determined to take what he feels is rightfully his. Handyman Adam Woodward rides into Lizzy’s life and vows to keep her safe, but is it enough to stop the cold, callous determination of Ben Stokes?

Adelle Laudan instantly pulled this reader into her story of innocence endangered. Ms. Laudan’s unique style lets you see through the characters’ eyes while showing them from the outside at the same time. There is never any doubt as to whom you’re seeing among the story’s distinct personalities. I rooted from page one for the sweet heroine. Introduction to her secret admirer gave immediate hope for a happily-ever-after.

Honestly, picking up the title after breakfast one lazy weekend morning, I didn’t put it down until finished! It’s the perfect length for an afternoon beach read or guilty escapism from chores. While you should know not to expect steamy smut, pick up “In Your Eyes” for a taste of tender romance. You won’t regret it.

Essential Ingredients

I had an irresistible urge to re-read The School of Essential Ingedients by Erica Bauermeister today. The story follows several characters who take a cooking class in vivid detail. While each individual character’s story is perhaps too short to be truly satisfying, I can’t help but sink into the world that Bauermeister creates. Every page is a feast for the senses – tastes and sounds and smells and touches so clearly drawn that you cannot help but feel like you’re in the same room as the characters.

Now, I love food. I’m not always very adventurous in terms of what I actually eat, but there is almost nothing I enjoy more than sitting around a table with friends and family and diving into a really great meal, from appetizers through dessert. So of course I love a book that’s all about the ways food can evoke and create memories and really shape our lives.
What drew me to The School of Essential Ingredients today, though, was not so much the food, but the author’s ability to make me taste it and feel it. The language isn’t especially complex, the word choices are plain language rather than literary extravaganzas mined from a thesaurus. But each sentence is carefully crafted and fitted to its place in the story.
Sometimes I need to remember that. That it’s not always about word count or productivity, but about the craft itself, about making the words on the page really count.

Review of “Remastering Jerna” by Ann Somerville

As I begin typing this I have to say that I closed the cover on this book less than five minutes ago. What a bittersweet moment! “Remastering Jerna” is riveting from beginning to end. Even the most difficult passages were written so expertly as to keep me reading. And I don’t call them difficult for some minor heartache – there is rape and torture during the prison scenes that chilled my blood.

Tears came to my eyes once, for certain, so I can’t say it’s a lighthearted beach read. If you can tolerate pages of angst to read about realistically trusting dominance and submission, though, please don’t hesitate to pick up this novel. Erotic power exchange has never been better represented, in my opinion.

As the book wastes no time in gloriously presenting, Jerna’s journey feels so authentic that I could almost imagine him being someone possible to meet in real life. His flaws are believable and forgivable, making him someone I would like to know. Granted, that’s often the case with even books I find mediocre because characterization is my number one passion for reading. This gem, however, offers much more than good characters.

The book moves at a good clip, taking us through a few years of the man’s life. I never felt cheated as Ann Somerville manages to encapsulate months of time by taking a microscope to deeply emotional events. Then she slows things down for the most pivotal plot points with a graceful alteration that never left me feeling disoriented.

Before I tout what is perhaps the greatest treasure of “Remastering Jerna”, though, I have to add more about the population of Jerna’s world. I am really pleased and impressed to say that at no point did I confuse any of the people, even with their fanciful names. That’s saying something when Ms. Somerville includes such an extensive cast. And our hero! I dare anyone to tell me they can’t empathize with Jerna’s periods of pain and hopelessness. And just when you feel utter despair descending, a surprise twist dangles hope in Jerna’s path.

Short of spoiling the book, I have to say that this ending is one of the best I’ve read in a long time. Unlike many authors, Ms. Somerville doesn’t cheat with a smug happily-ever-after or even happy-for-now. She addresses every thread of import in the book and wraps them into a beautiful and satisfying bow. Thank you, Ann Somerville, for sharing your talent with the world.

Review of “Crossing Borders”

I just recently finished Z. A. Maxfield’s book “Crossing Borders”. It’s a devastatingly hot and romantic m/m read. The realism of the story makes for sheer, down-to-earth escapism.

Right from the start I liked the main characters. Tristan is a college student questioning his sexuality. Michael is a public servant surprised and delighted to offer some answers.

Michael has eyed Tristan since the skateboarding youth showed a reckless side worthy of an expensive ticket. The joy of them finding one another is nothing short of wonderful. I urge you to buy this book and follow the couple through their journey toward love.

Additionally, if you like what you’ve read here and want to know more about Ms. Maxfield, please click below to read my interview with her:

Z. A. Maxfield on The Nightlight Blog

Book Review of “Kelland”

Just hours ago I finished the novel “Kelland” by Paul G. Bens, Jr. I’m still sorry it’s over, actually.

I would call the book a drama first, with minor supernatural elements. The biggest of these is, who is Kelland? Man? Woman? Child? Lover? Priest?

Kelland is all these things, depending upon what the interacting character needs for his or her part to play out. I honestly don’t even know what Mr. Bens would say Kelland actually is! Angel? Devil?

All I can say for sure is that I was drawn into the stories of the five main characters from the start. It didn’t matter that the vignettes jumped back and forth through time and from person to person. Never once did I feel at a loss from beginning to end. Rather, this reader loathed putting the title down. At the same time, I could do so and come back to where I left off without confusion setting in.

There is a dark side to each of the story threads, and they culminate into something any reasonable human being will find sadly disturbing and downright infuriating. But rather than being a depressing tale, I found in “Kelland” an exultant scope of hope and redemption. It’s a story of forgiveness.

If you’re looking for pirates, ghosts, or lots of steamy sex scenes, don’t buy this book. If, instead, you want to read compelling drama about believable people in real situations, “Kelland” just might be for you. I appreciated all 250 pages and wanted more when they ended, so I would definitely recommend this for the reader willing to walk down those twisting alleys of the human psyche.