Friday, November 21, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

It’s less than a week to Thanksgiving. The days are short and though it doesn’t seem so here, winter seems to have made an early appearance in a lot of the country.

Thanksgiving is always an interesting holiday for my family since I am a vegetarian and they aren’t. To keep everyone happy we go out to dinner. For the past few years it has become our tradition to go to a restaurant at the beach. They have a buffet with turkey, fish and prime rib to please the rest of my family and rice, potatoes, vegetables, and salad for me.

It is less about the food anyway. Us being together and gazing out at the Pacific at sunset is more the point. It isn’t that we don’t spend time together. Right now we are all working together. Not my writing, that I do alone. We are in the midst of a new venture with all the tension that goes with the beginnings of something.

On the upside, I am learning how to use new software. I am learning to make friends with Word, even though I still use WordPerfect for my manuscripts. It is a whole new world out there. No more getting copies made - now it’s printing from a digital file. And just because I have Word and Staples has Word, doesn’t mean that a file will appear the same. Finally I get the point of PDF.

I like the idea of doing something new. It’s all about growing, learning, and becoming instead of status quo and being. I like watching how at first something new is awkward and feels strange and then gradually it becomes familiar and then almost automatic.

I like rising to the occasion. Stepping out of my comfort zone. It is all a big adventure.

So what am I thankful for? Well, really so much. First and foremost is my family – that includes both humans and cats. I am grateful for all the people in my life now. I am thrilled that I wake up feeling good, wide awake and looking forward to the day ahead. I will never stop being grateful for my book deal with Berkley. Being able to write mysteries with yarn craft in them is like a super dream come true.

Personally, I don’t see the point of having only one day year to think about being thankful. Right along with celebrating, it belongs being an every day occurrence.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Fitness, Yoga Style

Students often ask me if yoga is sufficient to develop overall fitness. Put more directly, if I practice yoga, can I cancel my gym membership?  I always cringe a little before answering. As a yoga studio owner, the answer that would benefit me most is an enthusiastic, unqualified yes.

Unfortunately, the true answer is probably not. Yoga is a valuable tool. It builds muscular strength, flexibility, and emotional wellness. It also develops an important component of fitness often overlooked in the West: respiratory fitness.

That seems like a lot, and it is. All of the above are necessary. But they are not the complete fitness picture. Western forms of exercise provide an important and missing piece: cardiovascular--also known as aerobic--fitness, which is an essential component of heart health.

Cardiovascular Fitness versus Respiratory Fitness

The cardiovascular and respiratory systems are separate yet closely related.

Respiratory Fitness (Pranayama, Asana, Respiratory Therapy)
  • Increases the respiratory system’s ability to oxygenate cells
  • Improves respiration rate, profusion rate and oxygen utilization at a cellular level
Asana and pranayama are excellent tools for impacting this--much better than Western aerobic exercises.

Cardiovascular Fitness (Jogging, Cycling, Zumba)
  • Raises the pulse rate
  • Strengthens the heart muscle and increases circulation
Yoga tools, including asana and pranayama, are not as well suited for this type of fitness as Western aerobic exercises.

Students often seem disappointed to learn this.  After all, the ancient yogis used yoga (almost exclusively) to develop health and mental wellbeing.  But those yogis lived in a different time, with completely different lifestyles. They lived very physical lives, practiced yoga, pranayama, and chant daily, and ate whole foods that were much less likely to cause heart disease than the overly-processed foods we consume now.

The typical American yogi, on the other hand is likely to work eight or more hours at her desk job, park as close as possible to yoga class, then go home to binge on potato chips while watching someone else chant on American Idol.  Heart disease is epidemic in our culture. Frankly, we’d be delusional to compare our lifestyles to those of yogis thousands of years ago.

All that said, yoga is an important part of mental and physical wellness.  I’d be the last one to minimize its benefits.  Just ask my grandmother who died of emphysema, my friends with asthma, or my clients with anxiety and depression.  Breathing is as important as life itself. In fact, breath is the essence of life.

Nonetheless, I still ride an exercise bike three times a week, and I wouldn't consider giving it up, in spite of my yoga practice.  I’ve never claimed that yoga is a panacea able to cure all ills—but it can do a lot.  Not just for the body, but also for the mind. I hope you’ll make it part of your wellness routine.


Tracy Weber

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about her  yoga and dog-related mystery series, the Downward Dog Mysteries.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Bye, Bye, Bouchercon

In my blog last week I said I was back.  That was partly true.  I also mentioned that I was off to Bouchercon next.  So was I gone again?  Yes... and no. 

Again, as I mentioned, it was sort of in my backyard--Long Beach, California.  I did in fact take the L.A. Metro there but only once, the first day I attended.  That worked out fine, but since I had to change trains and they both were locals, it took 1-1/2 hours to get to Long Beach and another 1-1/2 hours to return that evening.  That was fine on Thursday since L.A. traffic would have taken me as long as that or even longer.  But I stayed overnight in a nearby hotel on Friday since I had a couple of parties to attend on Friday night and my panel on Saturday morning was at 8:30 AM.  Commuting didn't sound very feasible.   

I also decided to drive on Sunday, when traffic tends to be light.  It did in fact take me about half of the 1-1/2 hour commute time each way to get to and from Long Beach.  The conference panels started at 8:30 AM again so I didn't have to leave quite as early as if I'd taken the Metro, and I returned home sooner to start writing again after my second hiatus in a couple of weeks.   

My recap?  Loved it!  Got to see lots of writing and fan friends I seldom see as well as some locals.  My panel Must Love Dogs and Cats was tremendous fun, and we had a good turnout despite the early hour.   Got to sign lots of my books afterward, too. 

I also met with editors from my two mystery publishing houses, Midnight Ink and Berkley Prime Crime, as well as the Midnight Ink publicist.  I got to sign and give away galleys of my first upcoming Barkery and Biscuits Mystery BITE THE BISCUIT, which will be a May 2015 release.  Parties?  Yes!   And I even got to see my dogs during a couple of the event's evenings, when I didn't stay in Long Beach.  Oh, yes, I saw my younger son, too, upon my return one night.  He'd stayed with the dogs the prior night when I wasn't there. 

The panels I attended were fun, but I unfortunately missed one program that I'd been really hoping to see: the cadaver dog demo.  Sigh.  A friend sent me some photos, though, and I'll buy the narrative CD. 

Did I enjoy it?  Absolutely!  Will I go to next year's Bouchercon?  Unfortunately, probably not.  It's in Raleigh, North Carolina, on the opposite coast from me.  And since I'm already signed up for at least three conferences next year I suspect I'll be pretty much conferenced out by then. 

But maybe another one sometime in the future.  I'd look forward to it! 

How about you--do you attend conferences about books?  Which ones?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Deer Abbey

A slightly less felicitous Burma Shave rhyme:

Shaving brush
All wet
And hairy
I’ve passed you up
For sanitary
Burma Shave

Good news and bad news on the MRI:  There is nothing wrong with my brain, except I’m getting old.  And old isn’t fixable.  So halleluia – and durn.

Yesterday afternoon I went out to the Old Log Theater to watch a rehearsal of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” and had a brief interview with the new owner of the place about the mechanics of auditions.  This was all in aid of the novel I’m preparing to write.  Funny - and great - how "I'm writing a novel" opens many doors!  It was interesting to watch, they fuss about things I would never have thought of, such as how to get off a crowded stage without brushing against a fellow thespian, and how others in a scene can encourage the audience to follow an actor’s movement or mood or action or speech.  This was a dress rehearsal, the play opens tonight.  After, they all sat down on the stage and brought out notebooks and the director went over every single scene, reading comments he had written down – amazingly picky comments, including lots of positive feedback and some suggestions to improve a speech or movement.  I was surprised at how much emphasis is placed on movement.  It has to seem spontaneous, but can’t be clumsy or confusing - or obviously calculated.  I learned a lot I can use in the book.

I have rejoined the Society for Creative Anachronism after many years.  It’s mostly because there is a plan getting underway by a local company to make a movie of my first published novel, Murder at the War – they’re going to use the title it was changed to when it came out in paperback: Knight Fall.  The novel is set at the SCA’s biggest annual event, The Great Pennsic War.  We want to film most of it at an actual War – but maybe not the Big One, but a smaller one that takes place in Wisconsin.  Pennsic (which takes place in Pennsylvania) has doubled in size since I wrote the book and the logistics could be very complex and difficult.  Meanwhile, I'm back to being Mistress Margaret of Shaftesbury, Abbess of Deer Abbey.  Nice!