"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Friday, August 18, 2017

If you don't invest in yourself, who will?

I am in the midst of writing two books (possibly three), marketing my latest mystery, agent-shopping for the one book I've completed, and preparing to teach three workshops at September's Southern California Writers Conference. 

As you can tell, my mind is in a complete whirl and the more I try to focus my attention on one thing I could get done, I feel compelled to click on that article about the Best Examples of Payback on some clickbait site.

This is why, instead of completing the form for the latest contest for my book, I clicked on "Why You Should Do Your Yoga Teacher Training at a Yoga Retreat." 

I'm not interested in yoga teacher training. I don't know why I clicked on it, other than work-avoidance. But I do know I'm glad I did. 

I know all the technical reasons to attend the Southern California Writers Conference. There are writing skills to be gained, business savvy to be learned, agents to be approached. 

But the yoga article gave me four new and excellent reasons to attend the SCWC, beyond the physical, to address why you go to any kind of "retreat" for yourself. 

1. You'll connect with like-minded people.

I know you have your writer's group. Or maybe you're an introvert. Maybe you deal with anxiety issues. 

When you attend SCWC, you can't help but meet people and you don't have to be a party animal. One of the nice things about the workshops is that the rooms are all set with tables. You sit around the tables, pull out your notebook (or laptop), and someone is bound to sit across from you and say, "Hi." 

Just say hi back to them, maybe give them a bit of a smile, and continue to write. You are among like-minded people, often people who are introverts with anxiety issues. They understand. 

And if you want to talk about your latest writing, or what you like to read, or what you dream of, we understand that, too. We speak your language.

2. You'll get to fully absorb and immerse yourself into yoga writing.

Think of it--three whole days to do nothing but think, speak, dream of writing. Maybe even three whole days to write. Picture a jacuzzi filled with words. Dip your body in and let them swirl about you. Bathing suits optional.

3. Change old thought patterns and habits.

I hadn't really thought about this one, but it's true. When you are present in the moment, it's easier to recognize when you veer off-road. When you're given permission to focus on your writing, you can see what you do to sabotage yourself (like clicking on random articles).

4. Come back with new, daily rituals.

Well, yes. You've recognized where you're going wrong, and after three days, you will be energized to go out and do it write right. 

*  *  *  *  *

Join us this September in Irvine, or next February in San Diego. 

Immerse yourself. 

Feed your passion. 

Invest in you. 

Here's the link:


September 22-24, 2017. Friday until Sunday. Do it.

I will be teaching three workshops. I hope to see you there! 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Episode 612: Gayle whines

Lordy, I feel bad for being selfish.

I think everyone is, but I still feel the weight of my sin when I realize I'm thinking about me-me-me nonstop. But I'm having a rough week.

On the horse front, I'm shopping for a new show horse. I've had to retire my love, my baby, my Snoopy, due to the fact that he can't be shown or even ridden without the kind of medical intervention that is sometimes called illegal doping. Which I would never do, for the simple reason that numbing a horse's pain can leave him open to further injury. So Snoopy is in a retirement ranch in Temecula, where he is sharing a paddock with two bachelors and is quite happy about not working anymore.

I visit him once a week.

A couple of weeks ago, I tried out a horse. She is everything I want, and does everything I want, EXCEPT...she won't lope to the right for me. As soon as I ask her, her back humps, she throws her head in the air, and we either long-trot, or "boing," which is a short-strided, quick-legged gait, only suitable to Pepe Le Pew when he's in love.

I know this horse has been shown by a darling young woman who suffered a brain injury when she was young and now wears the sturdiest of helmets to ride. No one would put her on an unsafe horse.

So if she could get the mare to lope, why couldn't I?

To compound my problems, there's the little matter of my manuscript. Between April 20 and May 29, I sent out 50 queries. I've gotten 30 responses. 28 were "No." One request for a full is still waiting for a response. One agent seems interested, except that he's only ever emailed me, and we can't seem to make time to talk (he travels to Germany a lot).

I told myself I'd give this querying business until October. I know this is the way it all works. I know of all the manuscripts that were passed on, yet survived to become bestsellers (hello, Harry Potter). I know this. And yet...

As the doctor told me, I'm older. Even if I get the agent now, they have to get the publisher, and they have a year or so to do that. Even if they get the publisher, my books may not get on their production schedule for two years. That's three years, folks. Do you know how old I'll be?

Maybe not quite hella old, but older.

So I'm in this horrible, downward spiral of, "If SHE can lope this horse, why can't I? If THEY can get an agent, why can't I?"


Tomorrow I shall meditate and do my yoga and go about my day, meeting my appointments, and I shall feel better, I'm sure. Because somewhere along this line I shall take up the reins of my own life and do SOMETHING.

Thanks. I feel better.

Friday, July 7, 2017

The livin' may be easy, but the writin' is not

A quick post here to say that I'll be gone for a week, where I hope to get some writing done in between hiking and hanging out with friends (and taking care of our two maniacal canines). BTW, if you're planning to rob me while I'm gone: 1) the house will not be vacant; 2) our neighbors are very nosy, and 3) there's nothing of value to take (I'm a writer who owns horses--you do the math).

In the meantime, here's a summer song (love that Ella).

And another.

One more (what IS it with the mutton chops?)

Okay, ONE more.

In the meantime, keep cool and keep reading!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Bear with me, I've got some sorting out to do

It's 4th of July weekend, so I suppose this post should be all flag-waving and barbecue goodness. In my own way, it is. I want to talk about last week's ALA Annual Conference.

ALA is American Libraries Association, and their annual conference is huge, and by huge I mean I heard participant numbers of 19,000 (I suppose that includes vendors and workshop leaders). This year's conference in Chicago crackled with the energy of thousands of librarians, all fired up to defend the First Amendment and be part of the village that lifts up their patrons.

Now, before I continue with that, let me digress for a moment. Many, many years ago, I attended a seminar on leadership for women (I still have the cassette tapes). In one exercise, the leader asked us, what is the first thing you notice about a person when they enter a room?

We all got stuck on gender. Surely the first thing you notice is whether someone is male or female. (Please be aware here that she was talking about noticing, not judging. Kind of like when you notice a red dress in the shop window. You file it away in your brain as benign data.)

Actually, she said, researchers found that the first thing we notice is race. She was using this to illustrate how women, people of color, and women of color have to establish their credentials quickly, because strangers have already "catalogued" them in terms of race/gender bins.

I've never been afraid of other races, but I began to notice what I noticed about strangers. When someone walked into the room, I began to think, "Okay, *black/asian/whatever* person, different physical traits than mine, that's interesting, file it and move on."

Okay? Let's go back to ALA...

At this year's conference, I encountered a brand new world. There were people at the conference who did not conform to gender norms. While I'm okay with this, I found myself staring a little too long while my brain did the following:

Are they male or female? I need the data to put in the correct bin. No, I don't. They are human. That's the only bin I need. Oh dear, I've been staring. Stop looking at them. Well, don't look away like you've just been caught spying! Be cool, for Pete's sake. 

So, my dear friends who are gender-fluid, please-oh-please accept my apologies while I acclimate my brain to its new data bins. I'm combining everything into "Plant", "Animal", "Human", and "Miscellaneous." It may take me a while to sort it all out. If I stare, just smile and say hi. I can always use more friends.

In the meantime, here's Earth Wind And Fire. Because you are a shining star, no matter who you are.

Have a safe and sane and happy 4th of July.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Remember them well

I know that today is Memorial Day and we honor those men and women who died in service to our country. In November, we will honor the veterans, who served and were lucky enough to come home.

I don't use the word lucky lightly. In each service person's deployment, I believe there is some randomly special combination of circumstances that keep this one alive, and that one not. War is a uniquely random series of events. Napoleon lost at Waterloo because the fields were too muddy. The British lost the Battle of New Orleans due to a lack of ladders. 

Yes, I've simplified the reasons, but in truth, better weather and proper equipment might have resulted in different outcomes. Random.

This is a picture of my uncle, Dale Bennett, and his dad, Harry, my great grandfather. Uncle Dale was my grandmother Myrtle's older brother. He was stationed in the Philippines during WWII.

Harry Bennett (left), Dale Bennett (right)

He was lucky. He came home.

I always knew him as a self-important, larger-than-life character. He managed a cemetery, compliments of the Republican Party who was in power in our hometown at the time. There was a huge brouhaha when my grandmother married my grandfather, whose family members were all Democrat, including cousin Adlai Stevenson. 

Uncle Dale was gruff, direct, coarse-spoken. He had at least one wife, possibly more. I'm sorry to say, I've lost that part of the family history. All I have now is this photo of him and his dad, and some of the letters he wrote home to my grandmother.

The letters show him a little differently. Yes, he was still gruff and direct. But he was self aware. In one letter, he's asking Sis (my grandmother) what she did for his girlfriend Inez, because Inez can't stop talking about how wonderful his Sis is. 

"I'm glad she likes you for any body that don't like you or any of the Family has got trouble with me," he writes. "As for myself I guess I can't get along with anyone, not even the damn J*ps." (sorry for the slur--it was as written.)

The other thing I learned is that he loved to write poetry. I always assumed it was just my grandmother who liked to write poems and make up stories, etc. Turns out, it ran deeper in my family than that.

Here's a poem Uncle Dale sent her. Technically, my uncle was a veteran, but he has long since passed. I think I can honor him today. 

(That Postponed Letter)

I ought to write a letter,
But I can't get in the groove;
If I could write some certain things
You'd see my pencil move.

I'd like to tell what town I'm in,
And just what things I do,
But must be content to wait until
These wartime days are through.

I ought to write a letter
And repeat the things you know,
The things they would not censor out
Like how I love you so.

--Cpl. Dale H. Bennett

I look at these letters and can't help thinking of all the men and women writing letters that turn out to be their last communication with loved ones. I think of the families reading their words while a different letter is on its way, one that says there will be no more. 

I pray for their safety, and will always respect their memory.

Monday, May 22, 2017

An even dozen queries

"How's the querying going?"

No one's saying that to my face, but I'm thinking it constantly. Since my last post, I bit a pretty hard bullet and subscribed to Publishers Marketplace. It is possibly the ugliest website in the western world, but it has a lot of information to give you--for a price. 

I got a big fat list of agents who said they represent fantasy, then culled the list down to those who SERIOUSLY represent fantasy, and ended up with about 50-60 names. I've been attempting to query at least three names a day, except for weekends and last week when I was on vacation.

In addition to the three I started with, I've now queried a dozen agents. Two said no. One requested a full. I'm heartened by the "full" request, but I have concerns. 

One is that I am tempted to run through as many of these agents as quickly as possible, because the faster I get rejected, the faster I can self-publish this book and get it all out to you. I want you to read it.


The second concern is that I'm not hungry for the traditional contract (as you can tell from Concern #1). What if I get a delightful agent who works their tushie off and gets me a deal that they believe is spectacular, and my reaction is, "Yeah, but what about the publicity?" Am I labeled an ingrate who has burned her traditionally-published bridges?

I'm giving it all a deadline of November before I start the self-pub production cycle. That should give me enough time to get everyone queried and get responses back. 

In the meantime, here's a teaser of what awaits. (Note to my readers: this is an R-rated book, unless I get an agent who makes me take all the sex out. Just think you should know.)


When I was six years old, a dragon killed my uncle. My parents told me it had been an intruder, an assassin who snuck into our castle in the darkness of the waning moon. Dragons don’t exist, they said, except in bad dreams.
But I was there. After killing my uncle, the dragon came to me. I tried to scream and run, to at least squeeze my eyes shut, but I couldn’t. He was terrifying—and mesmerizing.
The size of a horse, he was crimson and black, with a line of golden spikes down his back to his tail, which he whipped about like an annoyed cat. His coat looked feathered and silky. If I hadn’t been so frightened I would have reached out to stroke it.
His body was a curious mixture: stocky, yet lithe, with enormous lion-paws in the rear. His thick front legs ended in something like hands, bony as bird legs, but covered with feathers like fancy gloves. At the end of each “finger” was a long, curved talon. I could see the lines of his wings, attached to his wide shoulders and tucked against his body.
His head was almost delicate in structure, with the large liquid eyes and wide nostrils of a high-bred horse. The ridge above his eyes drew a line to the two arched horns between his perked ears.
As he sniffed me, the crescent-shaped pupils of his eyes glowed silver. His breath smelled of ashes. He brought one of his oversized “hands” to my chest, pressing me against the wall. Tremendous talons wrapped around my head and shoulders, their tips threatening to pierce me.
I can still feel the cool hardness of claw on my cheek, and the bony pad of his hand on my breast. My heart pounded so violently his hand pulsed to the beat. Tears streamed down my face, but I lifted my chin and glared at him with all the anger and haughtiness of a six-year-old daughter of nobility.
After some moments of what I can only describe as a combination of terror and excitement, he backed away. I stood in awe as he unfolded his enormous wings and revealed his terrifying beauty. He turned and flew, with a cry expressing both anguish and victory. Even if I could have forgotten the smell of his breath, the feel of his talons against my skin, I could never forget that scream.

Now, on the eve of my 18th year, I am a grown woman, preparing to be a bride, and leaving my childhood behind. Still, there is a corner of my heart always keeping watch, both fearing and hoping to see another great beast of fire and claw.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Let the querying begin.

Just as I got a little traction in both of my manuscripts, the editing came back on my fantasy. Isn't it frustrating to absolutely KNOW for a FACT how to stack your priorities, and have each one take a long time to check as complete?

The fantasy manuscript is edited. I am happy with it. I may be sick of it. Nevertheless (oh-how-I-love-that-word), I have already let it set sail to three different ports. One is an agent I've met, one is an agent I was recommended to, and one is a stranger in a dark alley. Wish me luck. Here is my normal synopsis:

* * * * *
Young noblewoman Lisette de Lille is duty-bound to marry on her 18th birthday, and solidify Frances hold over their small Caribbean island. What good would it do to dream of finding love, or experiencing freedom?

She does dream about something she saw as a child. A red dragon. No one believed her, but it was terrifying and mesmerizing, and she searches the skies daily, hoping to see it again.

Lisettes life of obligation is upended when her fiancé and his Spanish mistress sell her to the pirate Rocco. She is drawn to the ruthless and seductive pirate and his secret to an ancient curse involving dragons, even as she seeks revenge against her betrayers. Her buried desires, for love, freedom, and even dragons, may be within her reach, if she can convince Rocco to help her.

First, she must convince him not to kill her.

* * * * *

Agent I've Met requested a full synopsis, ending and spoilers included. I won't be sharing that one with you.

BTW, in case you're wondering, this is my idea of Tristan de Rocco, pirate of the Caribbean.

Sweet dreams.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

And now, the Amazing GeeCarl will attempt the impossible!

I write one book at a time, which is hard enough sometimes, since I also write a 600-word column every week, but when I'm writing a book, I'm inhabiting that world. You might call me obsessive about it. It's hard for me to relax and have "down" time, because my head is constantly in Manuscript Land. Every attempt to watch TV, read a book, even a trip in the car makes me look out the window and wonder, "Could I drop a body by that strip mall? How much oleander does it take to kill someone? Wait--in chapter 2, I said the corpse was two weeks old, but the neighbor saw her walking down the street yesterday."


This was fine when I was writing my mystery series. One story, one book, one place to shine the writing headlight. I took time off of the mystery for the Snoopy memoir, and then again to write the romantic-suspense. 

And then I wrote the fantasy.


It would have been okay, if the fantasy was a standalone, one-and-done. But it's not. It's at least three books, possibly more. I really need to write the other two before I know how many more.

But I also need to write the fifth Peri book. A lovely lady paid good money at a silent auction to have her husband's name put in the story. I can't make them wait too long for it.

But the fantasy series...I'm querying that, and should I get a nibble from an agent and/or publisher (from this blog to God's ears), they will be asking for the rest of the story. I need to have something to show them.

So for the first time, ever, I am going to attempt to write two books at the same time. There will be thrills! Chills! You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll be beside yourself with awe and wonder!


If you see me at any time during this process, hand me a cup of coffee and a box of Kleenex. I plan to be exhausted and weeping for most of it.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Oh, no, please don't offer me free books

...said no one ever.

This weekend, I'm celebrating April Fool's Day with humor. Humor is a broad topic, and very subjective. What makes me laugh may not even make you smile. It might even make you scratch your head and say, "I don't get it." And that's the worst part about humor. If something doesn't make you laugh, do you say, "Well, that kind of humor doesn't appeal to me"?

No, you say, "That wasn't funny (because I didn't laugh)."

So let me define my "humor"--if you like situational comedy, full of gentle wit, centering around a woman with a family, a home, a car, and other things that like to foil her daily plans to be doing anything else, then have I got a deal for you.

This weekend (March 31st thru April 4th), I'm offering ALL FIVE of my humor books for FREE on Kindle. Yes, ALL FIVE. 

I know what you're thinking. Gayle, I can only read one book at a time, and my TBR pile is enormous. Even my Kindle App is sagging from the load. 

Here's the great thing about a book (or books) of essays: you don't have to read the whole book. Got some time, waiting at the doctor's office? At the curb, waiting for the kiddo to get out of school? You know if you start reading a whole novel or biography or whatever, you'll just get into it when--BAM!--"The doctor will see you now."

But you could read an essay. They say the average person reads 200 words per minute. I don't know who "they" are, but the essays in my books are around 600 words apiece. That's three minutes. In most doctors' offices, you might read four essays before you're called in. Three minutes at a time, for a complete story.

Here are the links to the books (you can also visit my brand new PROMOTION page on the website for the latest deals):






Pick 'em up before April 4th--you won't be disappointed!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Of pirate girls and dragon wings

The good news about being an author-entrepreneur is that I can write whatever I want. The bad news is, I can write whatever I want. This can be a dangerous thing if your mind tends to wander, as mine does. Do people know me as a mystery author, or a humor author? Where does the Snoopy book fit into all that?

And then there came the day when I was in the shower and I thought, there's not enough books about girl pirates. As usual, I thought I'd write a little diddy, perhaps a novella or a short story, about a girl pirate and be done with it. But we know that's not what happened. Not with my little lets-go-down-the-rabbit-hole, whats-behind-this-door brain.

A full-blown fantasy novel was born, a la The Count of Monte Cristo meets Pirates of the Caribbean. There was a strong-willed young noblewoman and a sexy, dangerous pirate. It was great fun, and yet...

There came a day when I was in the shower and I thought, if I'm writing fantasy, I should have a dragon. I never get to have a dragon and I've always wanted one.

Showers are dangerous.

Just when I was about to toss a dragon into the middle of things, my buddy Jeff Michaels showed up (talk about the winds of Fate!) and reminded me to make the dragon mean something to the story. As lovely as they are, dragons can't just pop into our stories, helter-skelter.

What I ended up with was the first book of a trilogy. Now what?

Now what is that I've been convinced by several pals to query this book to agents. Will I find representation? IDK. Will I find a publisher who will give me at least some of what I want from a publisher (knowing what I know from years of self-pubbing)? IDK. Will "at least some" be enough for me to take the deal? Triple-IDK.

What I will take away from the experience, even if I end up self-pubbing, is an idea of what the traditional world thinks of my work and what they're willing to offer me to get it. Sometimes you want that opinion, that yardstick to measure you. 

I'm getting my manuscript back from my editor in about a week (yes, I still paid a professional editor to polish my words), and I'll start the querying process. We'll see how it goes. Here's my query so far:

Lisette de Lille is not excited to be marrying a local nobleman, but she is shocked when he and his Spanish mistress sell her to the pirate Rocco instead. Rocco is ruthless and seductive, and holds the secret to an ancient curse involving dragons. Lisette will do anything to avenge her kidnapping, even if it means becoming as ruthless and as seductive as her captor. But will she pay the ultimate price, of becoming a dragon herself, to bring judgment to her betrayers, or will her love for Rocco turn her heart from revenge?

In the meantime, if you want to see some of my ideas for characters, dragons, ships and whatnot, I have a Pinterest board that might interest you. https://www.pinterest.com/gaylecarline/pirate-fantasy-novel-ideas/

Monday, March 6, 2017

Let your mind alone!

The title of this year's Beauty of a Woman Blogfest entry is taken from a book of the same name by James Thurber. He is a humorist, whom I admire for about a billion reasons, and it is his quote that I use as the name of my blog. If your sense of humor is like mine, look him up. 

This post is part of the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest VI! To read more entries, and potentially win a fun prize, visit the fest page on August’s McLaughlin’s site between today and 11pm PST March 11th.
As always, I want to thank August for the opportunity to contribute to her tour, and do encourage you to read the other entries!

I'm also using this little movie clip, from Desk Set, with Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy:

The reason for this is to show you all that, in anything I write, I associate many things with many things, and I cannot let my mind alone.

I was in the shower one morning and said, "There are not enough girl pirates in books." I quickly decided to write a little riff on The Count of Monte Cristo, using a girl protagonist, and having her become a pirate in order to exact her revenge.

But then my mind began to wander.

Women can be badass...or can they? We can seek adventure, be rough-and-tumble gals, thirst for excitement. We can laugh at death, just like men. Unlike men, however, we have one more primal fear: rape. 

Yes, I know. Men are raped. Unless thousands of you guys tell me differently, however, I'm going to assume you don't walk down dark alleys fearing you'll be raped. Mugged, yes. Murdered, sure. 

But it's us, the females, who have that small muscle in our gut that's always strung tight. It's that fear, That Fear, that keeps us from walking down the dark alley. We may be more afraid of being sexually assaulted than of being chopped into pieces. 

My heroine, Lisette, is sold as a virgin to the pirate Rocco. I wanted her to be a bold, stubborn noblewoman, in a very fictional version of the 16th-century Caribbean. How do I handle THAT FEAR, and make her run toward danger, or at least stroll confidently in its direction?

I began by dismantling my own beliefs, my own fears, my own hangups about a woman's body, about virginity, and about how important physical touch is, in terms of utilizing all of our senses.

Once she is kidnapped, Lisette starts to question her virginity. Why is this such a sacred thing? No one waits for that special moment to say their first word, take their first step, eat their first solid food. You're ready to do it, so you just start. Why is that part of our real estate such hallowed ground, that we protect it and wait for The Right Someone (and in ye olde days, showed the stained sheets as proof on our wedding night)?

She begins to wish she was not a virgin anymore. In her words, "Just get it over with." Unfortunately, Rocco has some secrets of his own. Taking her as a lover is not exactly on his to-do list, at least not that he freely admits.

It doesn't stop her from exploring her sexuality. As she matures, she wonders why sensuality is such forbidden fruit. At one point, she asks, is it such a sin, to crave a man's touch more than, say, to enjoy a delicious meal or hear a pleasant tune?

Even as she questions what she's been taught, and rejects most of what she's learned, she still manages to experience sex on her own terms. As with many stories, she falls in love, it's complicated, and I expect it will have a happy ending--eventually. Did I mention my little riff grew up to be a trilogy?

Perhaps I let her off easy. The story is strewn with the bodies of men who try to rape her and fail. Perhaps I should have let one succeed. It is the reality for many women. As the writer, I would get to examine what kind of steel Lisette has in her backbone if she does not win one of these fights.

But this is a fantasy. My excuse is that I want her to be strong and smart and independent, and fight for what she believes, and win. I want her to embody that warrior in each of us. And a piece of me wants to open that introspective door in other women's minds--what do you really think about touch and sex and your body?

She's a pirate, yes, but in a way, she's also a superhero. All because I can't let my mind alone.

PS. I have completed the first book of the trilogy, a historical fantasy. Or perhaps it's a hysterical one--time will tell. It's currently in that state of Artistic Limbo: in the editor's hands, trying to be a book, while the Author and Editor decide whether to query an agent, look at small presses, self-pub, or toss the whole thing in the nearest bonfire. Wish me luck. Better yet, wish me the strength of a girl pirate.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Feed your head

I've begun starting my day differently for the past couple of weeks. Instead of being forced from my bed by the dogs sometime between 6 and 6:30, stumbling crankily to the kitchen to let them out and feed them, then going back to sleep on the daybed in the office, I've changed things up.

Now I do about 40 minutes of meditation and yoga instead of going back to sleep in the daybed. It dawned on me that my little gray cells, as Poirot called them, are not just a little cluster of creative thoughts and ideas. My brain is a physical entity, an organ, like my lungs and my appendix. (Some days, especially like my appendix--it takes up space in my body and no one knows what it does.) It needs blood flow, just like everything else in my body. 

They say it takes 21 days of repetition to make something a habit, but after only 10 days, I discovered I really can't get through my day without it. I felt immediate results the first day, in my energy level, and my mental clarity.

When I announced this on social media, one of my friends said, "How do you make yourself concentrate? My mind tends not only to wander, but to sprint here and there." 

Here's the thing: At no point did I say I was good at meditating. I just said I did it. Only about 8-10 minutes a day, but I do my best. My mind is like a 4-year-old who is supposed to stay in line with Mom at the store, except there are interesting shiny things and candy over in the displays. She keeps wandering away, and I keep taking her hand and leading her back into line. I work every day at making her stay longer, but I don't know if I'll ever be 100% successful.

I've tried different approaches. First, I tried staring at a fixed point. I have a turquoise bin at eye level that is a perfect blank canvas, but my eyes catch glimpses of the books on the shelves next to it, and I feel ironic when I am trying to claim my inner peace and calm with "Forensics for Dummies" staring back at me.

Then I tried a mantra. I couldn't use a phrase. Phrases are words, which make me think of other words, which make me chatty. I started with the standard "Om" instead. My morning voice is lower than my regular tone, so the "Om" was rather husky. This reminded me of foghorns and ships coming into port and noir movies about ne'er-do-wells trying for their big break.

I gave up on the mantra.

What works best, so far, is to close my eyes, take three large breaths, then focus on the air coming into my nose, then out of my mouth, then in, then out, then repeat. My 4-year-old still wanders, looking at my schedule for the day, remembering something that happened yesterday, trying to remind me to look up the definition of some word, what kundalini yoga entails, sikhism, etc. I continue to take her by the hand and lead her back to my breath. 

After 8-10 minutes, I put on some yoga music I found on Amazon, and stretch everything out. I do whatever feels good in the moment, but there are a few poses I always hit:

1. Downward Dog--one way to get the blood flowing to your head is to be upside down.
2. Warrior--it's a nice stretch and I like the pose's name. Makes me feel invincible.
3. Sun salutations--greet the day, why not? Hello, morning! Again, another chance for my head to be upside down in a forward fold.
4. Tree pose--Balance is important to me, and it surprised me, when I began working with my personal trainer, how much of it I had lost. I don't want to fall, especially as I grow older.

Then I spend about 5 minutes on some little journal entries to give a shape and intention to my day, and voila! My brain has been nudged into consciousness. 

(No need for the pill to make me larger...BTW, what's that little blob laying on the bass?)

What are your rituals for beginning your day?

Friday, February 3, 2017

Guardians of honesty come in all kinds

I know it's been forever since I've posted. I still adore you all, I'm just rushing down that deadline road, and I don't seem to have any brakes. It's hard to be focused on one manuscript's editing, another manuscript's genesis, and have to stop to write a column. Blog? I need more words for the blog?

So I'm pausing briefly to show you two characters in my office. I was going to give these away (I still might), along with the several (50, maybe?) other stuffed critters in my closet, but I decided I would hang on to these fellas for a little bit longer.

I assume you know Jiminy Cricket. I like him because he reminds me to let my conscience be my guide. But who's his friend on the left?

Eugene the Jeep, from Popeye. When I used to watch the old Popeye cartoons, Eugene was in a few, and always causing chaos. I thought he was the perfect yin to Jiminy's yang. Then I read up on Eugene the Jeep. Here's what Professor Brainstine told Popeye in a 1936 comic strip:

"A Jeep is an animal living in a three dimensional world—in this case our world—but really belonging to a fourth dimensional world. Here's what happened. A number of Jeep life cells were somehow forced through the dimensional barrier into our world. They combined at a favorable time with free life cells of the African Hooey Hound. The electrical vibrations of the Hooey Hound cell and the foreign cell were the same. They were kindred cells. In fact, all things are, to some extent, relative, whether they be of this or some other world, now you see. The extremely favorable conditions of germination in Africa caused a fusion of these life cells. So the uniting of kindred cells caused a transmutation. The result, a mysterious strange animal."

Here's what you need to know about him: 1) He can teleport; and 2) He always tells the truth. The chaos he leaves in his wake is because he's always disappearing and reappearing in places, and he cannot lie, not even to save his friends.

So now I have two little guardian plushies, one to tell me to always be good and honest, and the other to remind me that you can be impish with it. A perfect pair.

Do you have any guardian cartoon characters?

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