Sunday, February 26, 2012

Writer's Butt - Part 1 (Plus Smashwords Discount Code)

Do you have Writer’s Butt?

Sitting too long on a regular basis creates more than completed manuscripts. 

Doing yoga never got me that mythical "yoga butt," but "writer’s butt" definably crept up on me. During the time I was writing Relaxing the Writer I dealt with a sore hip and researched several therapies and therapists and tried a few “props” and techniques.

The "Writer’s Butt” series will first look at the problem and then ways to
make the problem smaller.

Writer's Butt - Part 1

Setting the Scene

Before the internet, writing included a lot more physical tasks. Writers walked to a stationery shop for paper and ink or a few blocks to a library, drove or took a bus or subway to a large research library, or traveled to a distant city to peruse specialized collections and conduct interviews.

In libraries the writer pulled open card catalog drawers and flexed fingers through the cards, hiked through miles of stacks, stretched up or squatted down, then lifted and carried twenty-pound tomes to a carrel.

Some writers still do old-fashioned tasks, but many more turn on computers to find research materials in London or Tokyo. Others use Wikipedia as their all-night convenience store.

Sitting is Scary

The scariest fact I found in my research was a 2010 study by the American Cancer Society which lumped writers with obsessive TV watchers in the field of “inactivity studies” concerned with health, longevity, and obesity. The study found that sitting time was independently associated with mortality, regardless of physical activity.

Todd Sinett, author of The Truth About Back Pain, says sitting not only lessens blood flow to the discs that cushion your spine (wearing them out and stressing your back), but puts 30% more pressure on the spine than standing or walking. 80% of Americans suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. If you don’t already have issues, you need preventative measures.

If that’s not enough, a 2011 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology reported that people who spent a decade or more doing sedentary work were almost twice as likely to develop cancer of the lower colon compared to those with physically active jobs, regardless of all recreational physical activities. Inactivity also may encourage tumor growth due to inflammation.

What’s a writer to do when hours at a gym or track cannot make up for time spent sitting at a desk?

Basic tips:

Take breaks
Stand up frequently 

Move around

Excerpt from Relaxing the Writer

Chapter 2 The Ergonomic Writer

Recent Articles:
"To Decrease Cancer Risk, Stand Up" by Sophie Quinton in the National Journal (November 3, 2011)
James Levine, M.D. PhD, Endocrinology Mayo Clinic in Mayo Clinic Medical Edge Newspaper (November 4, 2011)

February Discount 29%
Relaxing the Writer: 
Guidebook to the Writer's High
 Use this Smashwords code:
through February 29th
Rather have the print edition
Or read on your Kindle
Relaxing the Writer 
the perfect gift for 
your favorite writer 
or yourself

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Love, Serendipity, and Chocolate

Love, Serendipity, and Chocolate
by Amber Polo

Indulge me as a republish my annual Valentines Day post.           

Once upon a time in1994. I was the marketing manager for a Boston conference taping company and my boss’s Polish wife decided to throw a party. Registered for a weekend regional Mensa conference at a hotel west of Boston, I was more interested in getting away from my co-workers than socializing with them. But, when your boss has a party, you go, even if the weather is awful and you know traffic to the west suburbs will be hell.

            So I ate Jolanta’s thick potato soup and dark bread and waited for the earliest polite moment to leave. At last, blocking the door, she told me I must take sweet treats with me. I opened my briefcase and she dropped in a handful of candy. I smiled and ran down the steps to head into Friday rush hour traffic.

            At the hotel Regional Gathering on Friday evening I met old friends. On Saturday morning I had my first ever tarot card reading. Still trying to make sense of the intricate cards, I walked into the Clear Thinking Workshop. I was not particularly interested in thinking; Thinking meant questions and I wanted answers. What did the future hold for me, my career, my fortune, and, most of all, my love life? Was it too much to hope to meet the love of my life? And soon?

            Sitting next to me, with obviously a more serious interest in clear thinking, was Vince Polo, an attractive, age-appropriate man from Maryland with a big smile. Vince and I left the workshop and over the next six hours drank a lot of coffee, discussed our lives, and shared personal stories and feelings. Vince’s intelligence, sense of humor, good looks, honesty, and his intense interest in me were irresistible. He stayed for the evening banquet, returned for sessions on Sunday and decided to stay in Boston for another day so we could have dinner on Monday evening.

            Sunday night, as I was unpacking my weekend luggage, I up-ended my bag and out fell two “Prince Polo Krunche wafel z kremem Kakawym oblewane naturalna Czekolada” candy bars in gold foil wrappers.

Had I found my prince?

Here's a photo from our Arizona wedding!

            A Polish deli near Sedona’s Well Red Coyote bookstore stocks Prince Polo chocolate-covered wafer candy bars. And like all the Polish people I've questioned, the deli owners agree the candy bars have been around forever and the name has no significance.

Relaxing the Writer
Guidebook to the Writer's High
February Discount 29%
Relaxing the Writer: 
Guidebook to the Writer's High
 Use this Smashwords code:
through February 29th
Rather have the print edition
Or read on your Kindle
Relaxing the Writer 
the perfect gift for your favorite writer or yourself

Friday, February 3, 2012

Mike Bove, Mystery Writer and Golfer!

Welcome Mike Bove, mystery writer and golfer!
Amber: What keeps you a relaxed creative writer? Or brings you back when stress takes over? 

Mike: In order to really get into a writing session I need to have my head clear.  To keep my mind from wandering, impending chores or responsibilities must be taken care of first.  I am most relaxed in  the morning.  I am ready to write after a shower, coffee, and the newspaper.  Later in the day I am most likely to have a good session after fifteen minutes in the hot-tub, especially if a round of golf or yard work preceded it.  That fifteen minutes usually includes breathing exercises and thoughts of what's next in the manuscript.  I don't think I get overly stressed about most situations.  Take it as it comes, do what you are able, move on.      

Amber: How does golf relax you? Using the categories in "Relaxing the Writer" would you call golf meditative, active, or sensual/artistic for you?

Mike: If you ask me questions like this about golf, you might get a new book from me.  Golf can be relaxing and it can be very stressful.  The whole point to playing golf is twofold.  One, relax and have fun.  Two, the stressful part, it's a competition (against yourself or someone else) so you are trying to achieve the best score.  Without one, two is impossible.  I have learned over many years in the game that relaxing, physically and mentally is vital to scoring well.  How?  Be positive, never entertain negative thoughts. 

Sometimes (many times) a shot doesn't happen as I pictured it.  I try to go right on to planning the next shot after a bad one.  A French word may be uttered, but that's it, it's over.   

I'm in a beautiful place out in the fresh air, feeling the sun and breeze, playing a game with friends.  I see and smell acres of manicured green grass, there are lots of trees, a pond, birds and rabbits.  So I relax, it's easy. Thoughts seldom wander to health, finances, writing, or the broken water pipe at home.  Maybe I play golf because it is relaxing.  

For me, I think golf would fit into all of the categories in Relaxing The Writer. I will do brief breathing exercises at certain times to help focus on a shot.  It is certainly both a physical activity requiring some skill, and and an exercise for the mind in choosing the correct club and action for each shot.  

Amber: How has golf influenced your writing?

Mike: style, came naturally, I think, from being immersed for so long in the golf culture.   Conversations, settings, activity, and people on and around the course all provide ideas in developing characters and a story.  I am really comfortable when in the whole golf atmosphere.  I am much more outgoing there than in most other social situations.  I guess I am very relaxed there. And, as you surely know, being relaxed can help a great deal when writing.

Amber: Since fiction (even cozy mysteries) is filled with conflict, what do your characters do to release stress? 

Mike: Some do the normal things like yelling, joking, smoking weed.  In the next book Bruce uses the hot-tub a lot.  He will bake some bread or walk his dog, or go out to eat. 

An excerpt from Willowtree:

Keely sat at my feet with her hedge hog “baby” in the living room while I tried to line up the facts that I learned from Holton, Ben, and Mrs.R. during the past day and a half.  Actually they didn't mean a lot, just facts, things we knew.  But strung together, these facts all bothered me. Calvin dead, Martin dead, both near the ranch. Bob, or Squeek supposedly weird, Vernon, Doc’s buddy, long gone.  Miggy-Mike.  Maybe all unrelated, maybe not.
To stop the race of Persistent Automatic Thoughts from taking over, I decided to bake the bread. That was one, golf was another, activity that kept PATS away.  I formed the round loaves and placed them on cornmeal sprinkled on pie plates. My invention, at least I never heard of anyone baking bread in pie plates. I reasoned that the heat from the sloping, round walls of the pie plate made the finished loaf perfectly round. They sat, rising, under a clean towel for over an hour while I checked my email. I signed in on the Golf Association website and got my handicap info up to date.
The three dough balls were becoming bread in the hot oven when Genny came into the aroma filled kitchen. She said that it reminded her of the wonderful smell outside the bakery she passed while walking to school.  Genny had a good day at the nursing home. She said she enjoyed working there. It was nice to have her home for a quiet evening.  Genny was another thing that kept PATS away. With her, all of my attention was hers. I loved her so much.  Away from her, many PATS were about her.
We enjoyed a gigantic salad she made with fresh veggies she picked up at a Sedona farmers market on the way home.  Also a whole loaf of warm bread.

  "Willowtree A Bruce DelReno Mystery" is Mike Bove's mystery celebrating his love of golf and the retired life in Arizona.  
Mike grew up in Vermont. He wrote articles and drew cartoons for his college newspaper. Mike was involved as an actor and director in high school, college and community theater. He adapted a Russian folk tale, The Nosebag, for the stage, produced and directed it. He was a public school teacher, track, and soccer coach before moving to Cape Cod. There he became an avid fisherman and golfer. He joined the Postal Service, transferred to Sedona, retiring in 2010.
"Willowtree" Is Mike's first novel in the Bruce DelReno Mystery Series. He lives in Cottonwood, AZ with wife, Jane, and Golden Retriever, Ceile.

Learn more about Mike and Willowtree


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Why I Write Fantasy - James Hutchings

Welcome James Amber: Why do you write fantasy?
I like the fact that you can have a striking idea and have it in the story in its most direct form. You don't have to justify why the trees in the forest actively want to make people get lost, they just do, and the power of it is that other people have had a similar thought and recognize it.

Amber: Why dark fantasy?
James: What I mean by 'dark fantasy' is that I'm trying to break away from the very narrow idea of fantasy that some people have: huge books, probably a series of huge books, set in an imaginary, medieval-like world (maps of which are at the front), in which a humble hero gets caught up in a battle for the fate of that world...all very much based on the template set down by Lord of the Rings, perhaps as interpreted by games like Dungeons and Dragons and World of Warcraft. I like Tolkien, but he's overshadowed a lot of other ways of writing fantasy which I think are just as interesting, and which have influenced "The New Death and others."
Amber:  What are your favorite fantasy novels?
I like short stories a lot more than novels. But probably The Hobbit.

Amber: Why do readers love fantasy?
Why I love fantasy seems to be quite different to why a lot of other people love it.

A lot of fantasy now days seems to be 'fantasy for people that hate fantasy'. For example it seems to me that Twilight would have almost exactly the same story if the Cullens were car thieves instead of vampires (in the movie he's even looks like a sort of 50s hoodlum). So in that case maybe it's a sort of stand-in for the real thing - like a story about going out with a car thief is too confronting, but having it be about vampires makes it just pretend?

Likewise all those stories about court politics and/or romantic entanglements in an imaginary kingdom. If that's what you're interested in, why not read or write historical novels?

Amber: Would you write fantasy even if no one read it?
Definitely not. I write to be published. But having said that, I can't imagine no one reading fantasy. Even if there was no genre of fantasy (and there wasn't until relatively recently), the actual story elements would still be there.

James Hutchings lives in Melbourne, Australia. He fights crime as Poetic Justice, but his day job is acting. You might know him by his stage-name 'Brad Pitt.' He specializes in short fantasy fiction. His work has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, fiction365 and Enchanted Conversation among other markets. His ebook collection The New Death and others, is now available from AmazonSmashwords and Barnes & Noble. He blogs daily at Teleleli.

The New Death and Others
Death gets a roommate...

An electronic Pope faces a difficult theological question...

A wicked vizier makes a terrible bargain...

44 stories. 19 poems. No sparkly vampires. There's a thin line between genius and insanity, and James Hutchings has just crossed it - but from which direction?