Stillness and Silence by Amber Foxx

Greetings from the ultimate holiday minimalist.

In my work as a writer, I aim to create conflict and tension. In my other occupation, I do the opposite.

I’m teaching my regular Thursday evening yoga class on Thanksgiving, as I’ve been doing for the past few years. Not many people come on the holiday, but a few do. I’m grateful for being alive in my body, capable of movement, awareness, breath, and glimpses of quiet inner space. Grateful for the teachers who’ve passed down this tradition of wisdom and well-being. Grateful to my students who allow me to share it.

I’ve attended a few retreats during which meals were fully silent or silent for the first ten minutes. It made me aware not only of the taste, texture, and aroma of the food, but also of the companionship of others, the deep quality of their presence.

A yoga class always ends with silence and stillness. I guide the relaxation process, and then I stop talking. It’s wonderful when some other fortuitous silence comes with that moment—a lull in traffic outside the studio, or the heating system ceasing its noisy efforts. The mind can follow, dropping its noisy efforts as well.

Thank you for reading. May your day be peaceful.

Namaste,

Amber

What we are Thankful for.

Several of the Ladies of Mystery authors sent paragraphs about what they are thankful for to be put on this 5th Thursday of the month post.

~Marilyn Meredith~

Me at Caruthers Library 2

My family is at the top of the list. I have so many grands, great-grands and after Christmas, it’ll be 4 great-great grands, that I’ve quit trying to count them all.

They truly give me great joy—those I don’t get to see all the time keep in touch by email or Facebook. Three live in our home with us. They make us smile and laugh a lot.

Of course I’m thankful for having a comfortable home and living in America. And I’m thankful for the pleasure that being an author has given me.

Marilyn Meredith aka F.M. Meredith

Latest books:

A Cold Death, a Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery

Tangled Webs, a Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery

Visit me at http://fictionforyou.com/

Blog: https://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com/

~Amber Foxx~

standing twist better

I am grateful for New Mexico, for its open spaces and unique culture. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be. I have good friends in a community that thrives on art, eccentricity, diversity, and creativity. I’m in excellent health, for which I am more and more grateful as I get older. My network of supportive fellow writers and my readers who appreciate my unusual take on the mystery genre are reasons to give thanks. Also, I’m grateful to the authors of every book I’ve ever enjoyed, but especially Born to Run, which changed my running life dramatically for the better as well as being a true story well told. And I’m grateful to the teachers who taught me how to teach yoga and who still teach and inspire me, and to the students who honor me by taking my classes. The more I list, the longer the list wants to become. I’m grateful for my fingers as they type and for the invention of word-processing software. Grateful for this moment. For this breath. For you, the person reading this. Namaste.

Latest book: Mae Martin Mysteries Box Set Books 1-3 

Visit me at: https://amberfoxxmysteries.com

~Paty Jager~

20170514_145537

I am thankful for a husband who early in our marriage understood my need to write. Children and family who also take my writing as seriously as I do. I am also grateful to be able to live in a rural area and still be connected to my writer friends and readers through social media even though it gives me fits quite often.  I enjoy our simple life, writing, reading, being with family and friends and sharing my imagination with others.

Latest book: Dangerous Dance: A Shandra Higheagle Mystery

Visit me at: http://www.patyjager.net

Blog: http://www.patyjager. blogspot.com 

 

Writing as a Gratitude Practice

 

Every day is a story. We usually wake up in the world of our status quo from the day before and set goals, and then challenges show up on the way to those goals. We face them, and whether we overcome them, change course, or defer completion, by night we close a chapter. Unlike a chapter in a book, though, that day’s chapter ideally doesn’t have a hook that keeps us awake and wondering what happens next.

To get closure on those daily endings, I keep a journal, following a structure I learned in yoga teacher training as a method for developing self-awareness and which I’ve taught in many stress management workshops. First thing in the morning, I record my dreams, if I remember them, and reflect on their unique and personal meanings (Recommended reading: Mindful Dreaming by David Gordon). In the evening, I record the emotions I experienced in all their complexity and variety. I consider this detailed awareness of feelings to be a mindfulness practice, but it’s also a valuable skill for writing. The next part of the journal covers the day’s events. Some are mundane, and I can skim them in bad handwriting, while others call for exploration, discerning how they related to the emotional landscape of the day.

The final line in each journal entry is something positive. It may be small and subtle or enormous and worth celebrating. It can also be an intention for the night’s fiction writing hours (I’m nocturnal and do the journal before I settle into my work). I never want to wrap up a day feeling negative or pessimistic. The human mind is naturally drawn to what’s wrong in case it requires attention. If my whole body feels great except for a twinge in my left ankle, my mind will go to my left ankle even if the twinge is trivial. Attention to the big picture and its positive aspects is a conscious choice. On a day in which difficult or painful events dominated, this space for hope and healing is even more important than on the more ordinary days when it’s easy to find some light.

With this journal, I train my mind not only to the story line and emotional depth of each day, but to gratitude. Daily.

*****

You can read more of my essays on mindfulness in the collection Small Awakenings: Reflections on Mindful Living.

Thank You for Not Enjoying My Book

Since my turn on this blog comes around on the fourth Thursday of the month, every year I get to explore a new facet of gratitude on Thanksgiving. This year, I asked myself, what’s the most unusual thing I’m grateful for? How about thanking someone who didn’t like one of my books?

As a member of Sisters in Crime, I’ve stayed in the Guppies subgroup, short for “great Unpublished,” long after moving out of unpublished territory. Like many authors, I find the group’s benefits too valuable to leave behind. One benefit is the opportunity to do a manuscript swap with another author and give each other feedback. In addition to getting input from my regular critique partners, I always seek out at least one new critique partner or beta reader per book, someone who is not familiar with my series.

This time, I did a swap with an author who turned out not to like my work, and I didn’t like hers. It was great. Since neither of us was wrapped up in plot and character, we saw all the technical problems each other needed to address. She noticed some things the other six people who gave me feedback didn’t. They were following the story, turning the page, emotionally involved, and wondering what would happen next; she was disengaged. Though I continually get better at weeding out my crutch words and my over-used habitual phrases, certain ones are so natural to me they become invisible. But they were visible to her, and likewise her habits were visible to me. She also noticed where I needed clearer time transitions at the beginnings of chapters, where the background was unclear, and where a long chapter should break in two. I thank her for not enjoying my book. She helped make it better.

This was the second time in writing my six-book series that I’ve had this experience. Years ago, I swapped an early draft of a book that later evolved into The Calling with a woman who didn’t even finish it. Her assessment was harsh, not as tactful as the Guppy guidelines suggest we should be. My prior swap partner on that manuscript liked my characters so much, the plot and pacing weaknesses didn’t register with her. This ruthless second critique motivated me to study plot and structure and then revise from the ground up. After that, I reworked the book chapter by chapter with a critique group. The final product has been well-reviewed, and bears little resemblance to the version that my swap partner so disliked. I am grateful to her for tearing it apart.

Of course, I’m equally grateful to critique partners who did like my books. It’s useful to get insights and suggestions from someone who enjoys the work in progress, noticing where it could improve but also telling me what they find effective. When my critique partner who didn’t like the book still said that the end of Death Omen made her cry, I was sure I’d done something right.

Death Omen

The sixth Mae Martin Psychic Mystery

 Trouble at a psychic healing seminar proves knowing real from fraud can mean the difference between life and death.

At an energy healing workshop in Santa Fe, Mae Martin encounters Sierra, a woman who claims she can see past lives—and warns Mae’s boyfriend he could die if he doesn’t face his karma and join her self-healing circle. Concerned for the man she loves, Mae digs into the mystery behind Sierra’s strange beliefs. Will she uncover proof of a miracle worker, or of a trickster who destroys her followers’ lives?

The Mae Martin Series

No murder, just mystery. Every life hides a secret, and love is the deepest mystery of all.

Buy links and preview

Book one in the Mae Martin Series, The Calling, is currently free on all major e-book retail sites.