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More adventures in meditation: Grapes in Jello

In addition to adding new, positive habits, I am working to revise or replace some that…aren’t so good. One of my detrimental habits is perseveration, the tendency to mentally rehash things again and again and again. (And again.) Like any other habit, perseveration has triggers–environmental or emotion cues that set the process in motion. For me, one of those cues is guided meditation.

There are many forms of guided meditation; for example, a leader guides participants through a scenario that’s meant to help them relax and focus. My first acquaintance with this method was way back in college, when I was a music education major focusing on vocal and choral music. Getting rid of physical tension is an important part of vocal technique, so my voice teacher at the time, Alexander Stephenson, would have a bunch of us lie down in the lucky-jellostudio while we focused on relaxing from head to toe, one body part at a time. After a few of these sessions, he had the students take turns leading the meditation.  When my turn came, I was fine until I got to the kneecaps. At a loss for words to describe the feeling of relaxed suspension, I suggested envisioning them as floating like…like… grapes in Jello.

I still cringe when I remember this. Just typing the words is painful. “Grapes in jello” is not only a  dreadful metaphor, it’s also appalling from a culinary standpoint.  And every time I try to do a guided meditation, a sadistic little Greek chorus in the back of my mind starts chanting “Grapes in Jello.”

Trigger activated…

…and suddenly I’m flooded with memories of the stupid things I’ve done and said over the past few decades.  And as it happens, I have an excellent memory, having started an a very early age to develop it by memorizing poetry, song lyrics, corny jokes, vast swaths of Biblical verses, and just about every stupid thing I’ve ever done and said.

This, as you might well expect, is not conducive to meditation.

So guided meditation is straight out for me.  I’m still experimenting with various approaches. Next up:  Chakra Meditation!

Lupine Lunes

Every year since 2009, editor and poet Lester Smith has put together a Halloween anthology of poetry and short fiction. This year’s offering will be out shortly, available as an ebook or paperback.
lupine-lunesI have three poems in this collection:  two limericks, and a longer poem that tells a story in 13 stanzas, each of which is in haiku format. It’s a ghost story, and it occurs on the first night of Obon, the Japanese festival of the dead.

I’ll post links when the book is online.

Adventures in meditation

I’m engaged in the on-going process of building a Habit System–a collection of habits designed to improve and change my life in several important areas. Some habits are building blocks for more than one area. Meditation, for example, addresses 1) focus and productivity and 2) blood pressure management, and 3) stress management.  Unlike most of my habits, however, this one is not going well.

This isn’t the first time I’ve tried meditation. I know it’s a healthy and beneficial practice, something that can be truly transformative, but…  Okay, let’s cut to the chase here:  I just don’t like doing it.  My brain is too busy, and it fights like a honey badger when I try to shut it down or reign it in.

But!  This time I am determined.  I’ve scheduled a few minutes (a VERY few minutes, at this point…) every morning before work for a simple meditation of following the breath and letting thoughts pass without engaging in them.  This is a lot harder than it sounds.  Here’s an approximate transcripts of one of last week’s sessions:

Focus on the breath:  In 2 3 4….  

Hard to do when you have squirrel brain.  Out 2 3 4….

::image pops into mind of a wire cage in the middle of a field, filled with frenetic cartoon squirrels::   in 2 3 4…

Let the thought go. Open the door, let the squirrels out…2 3 4… 

Okay, THAT was a mistake. Now I know there are a half dozen hyper-caffeinated squirrels out there.  How am I supposed to concentrate when there are squirrels lurking in my peripheral vision?  In 2 3 4…

hammy::Sudden mental image of one of the squirrels yanking up my eyelid, peering into my eye, then scampering off, giggling maniacally….  Out 2 3 4… 

Banish the squirrels. Envision pure light filling the open cage.  In 2 3 4….

Okay, now it’s raining. That’s not a bad thing, I guess–it’ll wash the squirrel poop out 2 3 4…

Huh.  Don’t think I’ve ever seen squirrel poop. Wonder what it looks like. Acorns, probably. In 2 3 4…

frank-the-flying-squirrelTHAT could be problematic, seeing that squirrels are jerks.  There’s got to be one squirrel in every crowd that packs poop into empty acorn caps and hides the fake acorns in another squirrel’s stash. Out 2 3 4…

::image of two cartoon squirrels pops into mind::
“Ack!”  ::phooey::  “What the–  Oh, man, I am gonna KILL that Dave…”
“Dude, this is the THIRD TIME THIS WEEK you’ve fallen for the poop acorn.  Focus!”

Oh, right.  FOCUS.  In 2 3 4…

::The alarm on my iPhone ripples gently. I end the meditation and rise to face the day, refreshed and enlightened. Only not really.::

But I will keep at it, because meditation is also on my list of habits that foster grit and persistence.



Update: KILLING IT SOFTLY release moved to October 12

killing-it-softly-coverJust in time for Halloween, a collection of dark fantasy tales by women writers. The official release is October 12 for both ebook and trade paperback. The ebook will be on sale for $.99 through November 1, which is a better treat than a full-sized candy bar.

My story, “Ravens” is a reprint tale, a ghost story set in a little New England town.  It’s one of my favorite stories, and I’m delighted that it has found its way into a new collection.

Here’s a link to the book’s page on the publisher website.

Press release for upcoming anthology HATH NO FURY

Ragnarok Publications is pleased to announce the latest in their anthology lineup, Hath No Fury, is coming to Kickstarter this summer!

Hath No Fury will be an epic collection of fantasy, science fiction, and urban fantasy stories by some of the strongest proponents of strong female characters in the industry. These stories feature strong and fearless female leads inspired by women from literature, history, and film—exciting and intriguing characters in the vein of Ellen Ripley, Lara Croft, Joan of Arc, Marvel’s Black Widow, La Femme Nikita, Katniss Everdeen, Hermione Granger, and Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road.

This anthology will contain around twenty stories from the movers and shakers of the industry, whose characters defy the stereotypes with which the genre is rife. A few male authors are also included in the contents, specifically chosen because of their works involving realistic and inspiring female characters. With that said, expect to find super-smart, purpose-driven, ultra-confident heroines behind the wheels of all of these tales. Whether they are strong warriors, the silent but powerful type, or the timid who muster up the bravery needed to face down evil to protect the ones they love, the female leads in Hath No Fury will make their indelible marks on readers.

Authors included in this anthology are:
Seanan McGuire,
Lian Hearn,
Elaine Cunningham,
Carol Berg,
Gail Z. Martin,
William C. Dietz,
Nisi Shawl,
Dana Cameron,
Django Wexler,
Delilah S. Dawson,
Philippa Ballantine,
Anton Strout,
Bradley P. Beaulieu,
M.L. Brennan,
Michael R. Underwood,
Erin M. Evans,
Eloise J. Knapp,
S.R. Cambridge,

Other authors as stretch goals.

There will also be stretch goals for essays by influencers within the industry.

The introduction for Hath No Fury will be written by none other than the great Margaret Weis, who has influenced more than her fair share of female authors and has done great work for women in the publishing and gaming worlds.

Hath No Fury will be co-edited by J.M. Martin (editor of the best-selling, award-winning Blackguards: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues, owner and Creative Manager of Ragnarok Publications) and Melanie R. Meadors (fantasy author, blogger at The Once and Future Podcast, and Publicity/Marketing Director for Ragnarok Publications and Mechanical Muse). Both have extensive experience working in fiction and publishing, and have worked on many successful fiction Kickstarters, including Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters, Blackguards: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues, Genius Loci, and MECH: Age of Steel.

Hath No Fury will be on Kickstarter this summer, and readers will not want to miss this collection of glass-ceiling shattering, ground-breaking tales from a publisher who has mastered the art of delivering awesome anthologies to readers around the world.

Champions of Aetaltis

Champions_Aetaltis-Cover900pxThis anthology–a hefty tome with 470 pages– is now out in the wild.  Copies are going out to Kickstarter supporters now and the drop date for the general populace is April 12.  Here’s the pre-order page on Amazon.com.  It woill be available as a trade paperback and ebook.

I’m very enthusiastic about the world of Aetaltis. It’s a fun, old-school fantasy setting, and I think fans of Thieves World, Greyhawk, and Forgotten Realms (2nd ed) will feel right at home here. If you’re considering the anthology but aren’t yet sold on the idea, check out the table of contents. Some of these names are bound to be familiar.


Table of Contents 

  • Mother of Catastrophes by Erin M. Evans
  • My Doom May Come Soon by Ed Greenwood
  • The Bridge by Larry Correia
  • Ashes of Victory by Elizabeth A. Vaughan
  • Tower of the Golden God by Steven S. Long
  • Bellar’s Thorn by Jean Rabe
  • The Warlady’s Daughter by Lucy A. Snyder
  • Upon Reflection by Aaron Rosenberg
  • A Whole Hearted Halfling by Melanie Meadors
  • Vendetta by Richard Lee Byers
  • True Monsters by John Helfers
  • Books Are No Good by Cat Rambo
  • The Secret of the Holy Crystal by Marc Tassin
  • The Undercity Job by Dave Gross
  • A Deeper Darkness by David Farland
  • Never a Moon So Bright by Elaine Cunningham
  • The Wailing Temple by Mel Odom

Here’s the first page of my story.  The last sentence, which is cut off by the page break, finishes with “…and they’ll make a lot more sense to you.”  This insight, which gets to the heart of my depiction of elves, came to me several years ago when I was watching a frustrated Siamese attempt to play my harp. “Damn these paws!  In ages past, my kind had slender, dexterous fingers and opposable thumbs…”

Hope you enjoy these tales!