The Book-Body Connection:
How One Author Integrated Body and Story
I wrote Cat in the Flock, the first book in the Dreamslippers Series, around an incredibly demanding full-time job as a game writer, with twelve-hour days spent sitting at a computer, either playing through or writing and editing games. To counteract all that chair time, I kept up a yoga practice. And that practice crept into the story I wrote in Cat in the Flock.
The plot centers on Cat McCormick, a recent college grad with a unique psychic ability: to slip into other people’s dreams. Her grandmother shares the ability and has used it as a private investigator. Cat enters into an apprenticeship with Grandmother Grace, but this means more than honing her dreamslipping skill; Grace is a lifetime practitioner of yoga, meditation, and other disciplines as well and uses them in tandem with her psychic ability.
At age 77 when the series opens, “Granny” Grace is a master on the mat:
Cat followed her grandmother in a series of sun salutations: downward dog, a lunge forward with one leg, and a standing salute to the sun. Then Granny Grace moved into crow pose, crouching forward till her knees touched her upper arms and then lifting her legs so her whole body was balanced on her arms. Cat couldn’t do that pose yet, so she sat in a wide-legged squat, watching her grandmother with admiration.
If you think this is pure fiction, think again. The inspiration for Grace came from the real-life examples I’ve read about and witnessed in my own life of women who’ve chosen movement practices that give them impressive longevity and vitality.
Grace draws upon the moving meditation of yoga when seeking insight into their criminal cases as well. In Framed and Burning, the second book in the series, she experiences a foreboding vision while practicing yoga on the beach in Miami:
And there, holding that pose, it was as if an energy whispered to her. She closed her eyes to hear it better, tuning it in. The energy was dark and red, vibrating to some frequency that wasn’t positive. She thought she heard the sound of large wings beating. Her eyes flew open. Breathing hard, losing her ujaiyi breath, she carefully extracted herself from the pose and took a resting pose on her knees, her hands in her lap. The place where her heart chakra should be ached.
Spiritfire came over to her and whispered, “Are you okay?”
Grace nodded. “I need a minute.”
“Ustrasana, camel pose, can reveal so much,” he said. “And it’s not always pleasant.”
She nodded again, rubbing the space that ached. It was an emotional ache, not a physical one. And it had to do with whoever set that first fire. The energy there was intensely negative, not accidental.
I loved writing about yoga in this way as much as I enjoyed the practice itself. But by the time I began to write the third novel in the series, I’d suffered a yoga heartbreak.
After a lifetime battle with scoliosis that often brought me pain both on and off the mat, I had to stop practicing yoga. Because yoga so often relies on arm-balance poses based on the classic downward dog and more advanced poses, I found it tough to modify around severe pain in my left shoulder. Since writing takes such a toll on the body, I felt bereft, not having a practice I could count on to undo the damage of sitting, typing, and using the mouse for long stretches at a time.
The experience forced me to acknowledge limitations, as well as the need to heal. While we all want to be Granny Grace showing up the twentysomethings at age 77, the fact is that conditions like scoliosis present challenges that can lead to frustration and chronic pain if pushed, or ignored.
I decided to try a different movement practice, one that promised to focus on self-healing and the joy of movement. Nia is a barefoot, non-impact dance that can be done by anyone at any level of fitness or with virtually any condition. The healing was slow and utterly worth it. Which is not to say that my spine miraculously straightened or I can do backflips, but I have better strength, flexibility, and mobility, as well as a growing awareness of what my body really needs.
With this experience as my inspiration, I challenged myself to confront the body’s limitations and ways of healing in my writing, within the “Amazing” Grace storyline.
So in book three, Bound to the Truth, our master yogi suffers an injury.
It’s one that would be considered “debilitating” by most. But like me, Grace discovers the healing aspects of dance. In the end, it becomes life-changing for her, in the most positive ways imaginable, bringing her a new movement practice that will carry her through the rest of her life as well as a love unlike any she’s ever experienced before, over a lifetime of fleeting romances.
Lisa was born in Santa Rosa, California, but that was only home for a year. A so-called “military brat,” she lived in nine different houses and attended nine different schools by the time she was 14. Through all of the moves, her one constant was books. She read everything, from the entire Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mystery series to her mother’s books by Daphne DuMaurier and Taylor Caldwell.
A widely published author, game writer, and journalist, Lisa has interviewed homeless women, the designer of the Batmobile, and a sex expert, to name just a few colorful characters. This experience, not to mention her own large, quirky family, led her to create some truly memorable characters in her Dreamslippers Series and other works, whether books or games.
Always a vivid dreamer, not to mention a wannabe psychic, Lisa feels perfectly at home slipping into suspects’ dreams, at least in her imagination. Her husband isn’t so sure she can’t pick up his dreams in real life, though.
With a hefty list of awards and publications to her name, Lisa now lives in a small town in Washington State, but who knows how long that will last…
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Lisa will be back on March 29nd….Don’t miss the 5th, and final, installment for Author Of The Month and get a sneak peek for what’s next!!
Check out my Review of CAT IN THE FLOCK here.
THE DREAMSLIPPERS SERIES
Click on titles below for synopsis via GR:
CAT IN THE FLOCK (Dreamslippers #1) Check out my review here.
FRAMED AND BURNING (Dreamslippers #2)
BOUND TO THE TRUTH(Dreamslippers #3)
“A fascinating tale of mystery, romance, and what one woman’s dreams are made of. Brunette will keep you awake far into the night.” — Mary Daheim, bestselling author of the Bed-and-Breakfast and Emma Lord/Alpine mysteries
“Already hooked, this reader intends further sojourns in Cat’s dreamslipping world. Highly recommended.” — Frances Carden, Readers Lane
“Gripping, sexy and profound, CAT IN THE FLOCK is an excellent first novel. Lisa Brunette is an author to enjoy now and watch for the future.” — Jon Talton, author of the David Mapstone Mysteries, the Cincinnati Casebooks and the thriller Deadline Man
“A little Sue Grafton and a dose of Janet Evanovich… is just the right recipe for a promising new series.” — Rev. Eric O’del
“The launch of an intriguing female detective series… A mystery with an unusual twist and quirky settings; an enjoyable surprise for fans of the genre.” — Kirkus Reviews
AUTHOR OF THE MONTH ~ GIVEAWAY EXTRAVAGANZA
Entry link is located on the sidebar.
Read an excerpt:
Sherrie marched into her daughter’s bedroom and dragged a child-sized roller bag suitcase out of the closet. The girl stood in the middle of the room, still in her pajamas. Milk from breakfast had dried around the edges of her lips.
“Ruthie,” the mother said. “I need you to get dressed. We’re going to take a…trip.” Sherrie tried to make her voice sound cheery, but the desperation she felt came through in her tone.
“What’s wrong, Mommy?”
Sherrie set the suitcase on the bed. The bubble- gum pink had once seemed innocent but now looked fleshy and indecent. She glanced at the clock over the bed. He’d been golfing for a good fifteen minutes by now, long enough for her to make sure he didn’t come back for a favorite club or the right gloves. She wanted to be on that morning flight by the time he got home and discovered them gone.
She flung open the chest of drawers and grabbed all of the girl’s socks and underwear, a pair of corduroy pants, black cotton tights, a sweater the color of a Midwestern sky. Nothing pink. Only warm things. Seattle in her memory was cold and wet. It was a grey city; grey clouds over grey buildings. Even the water was grey.
One doll would fit. Made of cloth, it could be folded in on itself and slid down the backside of the suitcase.
“Can I bring the ballerina skirt?”
Any other day, she would have corrected her daughter, who needed to learn the precise names of things. Tutu. There it was in the closet, hanging because it took up too much room in the drawer. She yanked it free, sending the hanger to the floor. Ordinarily, she would pick that up; her house was so clean it hurt her eyes with its spareness—as if theirs were a showroom house, not lived in. She left the hanger there, aware of the thrill this fraction of disobedience gave her. She shoved everything into the little pink case, but with the fluffy tulle taking up so much space, the zipper would not close. The choice was clear. The doll would be a comfort to Ruthie in Seattle, but the tutu would not.
“We’ll come back for this later,” she said, tossing the tutu onto the bed. The zipper closed, the sound of it satisfying.
“No, Mommy!” Ruthie stomped her foot. “I want it now!”
“Then you’re going to have to wear it. Now get dressed while I pack my clothes.” But she felt a pang of guilt for her reprimanding tone, and for having to leave the tutu. Bending down, she used her thumb to wipe some of the milk crust from her daughter’s face. “I’ll let you wear anything you want on this trip, okay, sweetheart? And clean your face with the cloth in the bathroom, like Mommy showed you.”
The girl nodded, as if sensing this was not the time for a tantrum.
Sherrie’s own packing, she did with even less consideration. Under things, shirts. A fleece hoodie. Warm socks. She remembered she needed layers in Seattle. Sometimes it could seem warm even though it rained and the sun had not come out for weeks. Her keepsakes in their tiny, locked chest would not fit. They were the only things she had to remind herself of her life before this, but she would have to leave them behind.
Sherrie kept watch on the clock and glanced out the window twice to make sure his car wasn’t out front even though she knew he wouldn’t be home for another hour. The sun had risen blood-red over the cornfields in the distance, lighting them as if on fire. She’d miss that. And she thought of thunderstorms, which seemed never to occur in Seattle. She’d miss those, too.
Ruthie appeared in the doorway. Her face was clean, but none of her clothes matched. She was wearing pink high-tops that seemed wrong for the city they were going to, the situation, and everything else, but she had apparently decided not to wear the tutu.
“Time to leave.” She took the girl’s hand, promising to herself she’d never let go.
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