Monday, November 28, 2011

Researching Relaxation

Today I welcome guest-blogger Amber Polo. In her fictional life, Amber writes fun, quirky romances and fantasies, such as FLYING FREE and ROMANCING REBECCA, but her latest publication is a welcome nonfiction book, RELAXING THE WRITER: GUIDEBOOK TO THE WRITER’S HIGH, and CD and MP3, RELAXING THE WRITER RELAXATION CD: A POWERFUL 20 MINUTE RELAXATION METHOD, which provides specialized, much-needed relaxation techniques for writers. 

Sounds relaxing? Well yes and no.

About 5 years ago, I self-published a relaxation CD, Relaxation One Breathe at a Time, a how-to-do-it with a track guaranteed to put you to sleep. I had only a few copies left and the packaging company was out of business. I decided to re-record and make a few changes. And, by the way, why not write a book about relaxation for writers. I imagined a book that would be useful for anyone, but with special stuff for writers who spend a lot time reading and writing.

Six months later I have a beautiful self-pubbed book, a POD, CD and MP3 download, plus a 10-minute MP3 download of a hand meditation that helps you focus and relax without leaving your computer.

Full disclosure. I am a librarian and a yoga teacher. I love research and I’m good at teaching people to relax. I’ve read widely and studied under many teachers, so plunging into research sounded like a wonderful break from writing romance and fantasy. (It did work. I’m now so ready to step back into my fantasy worlds.)

I decided to include over twenty major areas and hundreds of suggestions. I checked each topic for new material and narrowed the best ideas down to the most useful suggestions for writers. I kept it short and light, and hopefully fun to read.

The hardest section was what I first called “Drugs.” I thought it was a cute title to write about the legal “drugs” found in your neighborhood health food store, that manipulate moods would be fun. My editor really didn’t like that, even with comments like “do your research” and “every body is different.” I then interviewed an expert in herbal remedies and alternative practices to be sure I wasn’t going to get anyone one in trouble and changed the chapter title to “Teas and Tonics.”

Two of My Most Interesting Research Topics –

The Writer’s Fork: Since the hand was one of the book’s themes. I read up on palmistry and found references in two books to a “writer’s fork.” I included what little I learned to the book and later found an expert to interview for more information.

Shaking: The practice of shaking has become one of the most popular chapters. (Remember the Sufi’s – one of which was named Rumi and wrote a lot of good poetry still read today) Shaking can be both meditative and also a nice joint loosening exercise to free tension after lots of sitting and hunching over a computer. Anyone can shake without special equipment, cute outfits, or joining a club.

I added an appendix of teachers and their books and videos that I found especially helpful, some who work primarily with writers and other creatives. I even reviewed some iPhone and iPad apps that might be useful in relaxing a writer.

Over all, the project was perfect for remembering good advice and new research. It made me rethink practices I teach in order to present them simply and safely in print. The downside was that with every relaxation technique I studied, I felt I should be doing more to relax MYSELF. I found myself saying, “Writing a book on relaxing is really stressful.”

Relaxing the Writer: Guidebook to the Writer’s High and the audios aren’t just for writers, but stressed readers and writers will especially enjoy the tidbits and quotes from authors. Great gifts for your favorite writer, too. Check them out here: and here:


Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Magical Time!

Magical Alienation, the second title in my Magical Mystery series has just debuted, and I couldn’t be happier!

The publication of a new book is always an exciting and rewarding time, the culmination of loads of work and the realization of a vision that has sustained the writer for some time.

But every book in a series is special for different reasons. In the first book in a series, a writer breathes life into characters that have existed as mere sketches in her mind, and they often grow in ways that even the author hadn’t anticipated. Relationships are forged. A voice the writer only heard in her own mind, booms out into the world.

For the most part, the voice booming from the first book in my series, High Crime on the Magical Plane, belonged to Samantha Brennan, a funny, boisterous fake psychic with a highly eccentric wardrobe. In the relentless pursuit of her goal of being a popular celebrity spiritual advisor, Samantha dealt herself in on an FBI case, the kidnapping of a movie star, apparently by a set of stalkers. Samantha never expected that during the course that case her entire world would be turned upside-down. Never would she have expected to discover that the agent assigned to the case, Special Agent Annabelle Haggerty, was also a modern Celtic goddess, descended from the gods and goddesses depicted in the mythology books. And never did Annabelle expect to be paired with precisely the kind of flaky, fun mortal that she deplored. Samantha and Annabelle sure made a mismatched pair.

But there were compensations. Samantha did succeed in turning the ancient, but immortal and ever-hot, god of youth and love and laughter, Angus, into her own personal love-slave. The stakes couldn’t have been higher, though. As the case took one bizarre twist after another, Samantha thought that if Annabelle and her family of deities couldn’t stop Armageddon from coming down on them, what chance did a poor little fake have of surviving.

The first novel in a series is in essence a setup, a launch pad for the entire series. A second book is different. Second books sometimes bring surprising new themes.

In Magical Alienation that means exposing the U.S. Government’s most closely-guarded secret of the last sixty years: the truth about what seems to have been an alien invasion that occurred in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947, and what exactly has been going on at the mysterious Area 51.

Second books in a series allow the writer to test the relationships forged in the first. Initially, in Magical Alienation, Samantha and Annabelle find themselves on opposite sides this time around. Annabelle is assigned to the security detail of Arizona’s junior senator, Kenny Campbell, the target of a militia terrorist assault. While Samantha, through her employer, rocker Rand Riker, actually works on behalf of the most reviled man in the country, militia guru Normal Frankly, who to most observers isn’t quite normal, accused of mounting a terrorist campaign against Senator Campbell.

We get to meet new characters, including Senator Campbell, with his fuzzy definition of Family Values, and his oh-so correct political wife, Kelly. And Rand Riker, Samantha’s new boss, the Aussie, aging bad boy of rock ’n’ roll, who will do anything to achieve eternal youth.

We meet new gods and goddesses, including Fiona, Annabelle’s beautiful mother, who’s not quite as adept at hiding her secrets as a goddess should be. Was she the woman Samantha heard canoodling in Rand Riker’s luxury suite, or did Fiona harbor another secret? As well as Lugh and Taliesin, trickster gods involved in crop circles and who once beached an iceberg in the tropics, who just can’t get enough fun, as long as it’s at the expense of mortal Earthlings. And Gwydion, god of enchantment and illusion, whose trick stuns the world.

Second books allow us to visit new places. Magical Alienation takes Samantha and Annabelle to Sedona, Arizona, the Vatican City of the New Age, at a time when a monstrous harmonic convergence brings extraordinary power to Sedona’s famed energy centers.

Mostly, with second books, authors get to introduce shocking, unheard of action. While the mysterious rock people twist the very surface of the earth and Sedona heads into the darkest night the planet has ever seen, Samantha wonders which, if any of them, will survive it.

But when Celtic gods are involved, she should know, nothing is ever as it appears.

The best part of a second book? It’s that it invariably leads to the third book in the series. I can’t wait to discover what that will hold.