Tag Archive | Nia

Poor pitiful me–I hate marketing my books

Why should people buy my books? And why do I feel such overwhelming anger when they don’t? The answer no doubt lies deeply buried in the most basic infantile needs for unconditional love and acceptance. In my new book on maximizing creativity, I plan to delve into the research surrounding these issues, but today I simply feel the urge to vent.

julie-at-fuusa-crfts-fair-12-4-16

Last Sunday, following the service, my church held a fund-raising crafts fair, and I had a full table to show and sell my books. The early December timing was ideal, I figured. People would be in the throes of holiday shopping, and I’d priced my books to sell: $10 for a single book, with deeper discounts for more than one. Ten per cent of sales would go to FUUSA, the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany, thus providing an added incentive for people to feel proud of their generosity, or so I naively imagined.

The results were underwhelming. True, I sold a few books, so my efforts were moderately worthwhile, and I would have been there for coffee hour anyway. But I spent half my haul on infinity neck warmers and ginger cookies from other vendors. The annual event is a good place to pick up on stocking stuffers. Books would fall nicely into this category, you’d think, but apparently not. There was a brisk sale in homemade $13 pies and soups. People love stuffing their faces, but reading? Not so much.

I’ve blogged about this problem before. People tell me it comes with the territory and that I should get over it, and I’ve seen a similar phenomenon at conferences like ThrillerFest and Bouchercon, where people queue up in long lines for a few well-known authors while the majority sit forlornly ignored, doing their best to put on friendly, welcoming expressions as they hand out book marks, post cards and candy. I’m as guilty as anyone in passing them by—I already own far too many books, and I can’t afford to buy many more.

Those are excuses I frequently hear from people bypassing my table, and they’re valid ones. I’m especially sympathetic to those who plead poverty, and I admire them for their candor, especially at a place like FUUSA, where the majority of congregants are comfortably well-heeled. It’s the ones who are loaded who bug me—people whom I’ve known for years, who can afford to jet around the world to exotic vacation spots yet never consider supporting a struggling local author.

I first self-published Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders a decade ago, and Eldercide a couple of years later. My vampire soap opera thriller, Hope Dawns Eternal, came out last year. This year I reissued my first two in new editions, so the three books make a nice matched set. Over the years, quite a few FUUSAns have bought my books, but the vast majority haven’t. On Sunday I asked a friend if she’d ever bought any of my books, and she admitted she hadn’t. “I never read novels,” she said. Fair enough, so I suggested if she might consider buying any as presents for friends or family who might feel differently. She gave a noncommittal shrug and turned away.

Yesterday some friends from my Nia class at the YMCA met at Panera’s for lunch. I was ranting rather profanely to Richele Corbo, our wonderful instructor, about my marketing problems. She’s not fond of marketing either, but she’s more objective about it. She’s passionate about Nia, which combines nine forms of dance, martial arts and body work, and she talks it up to people who might be interested, but many refuse. Some feel it’s too strenuous, others that it’s not strenuous enough, or too esoteric. One woman told her “Sorry, but it’s a little too ‘kumbaya’ for me.” She doesn’t take the rejections personally, accepting that Nia’s just not for everybody, and she encouraged me to adopt the same attitude.

But Richele didn’t invent Nia,* so it’s easier for her to be objective. My novels, on the other hand, are deeply personal, and although they’re not autobiographical, the first two draw on life experiences that affected me profoundly, so it’s hard not to feel the pain of rejection. I used to feel the same about my paintings, but I’m no longer so personally invested in them, since they’re now a part of my past.

On Sunday I brought two small oils—one a vase of tulips, the other a view of Lake George—to fill out my table display.** I didn’t expect to sell them, since they’re priced at over $300, but lots of people admired them. Strangely, many said they hadn’t realized I was a painter, even though I’ve shown those paintings at FUUSA in a solo show and a couple of group exhibitions. Apparently they had never bothered to look at the walls.

But enough kvetching. If you’ve read this far, you’re probably in agreement with those who tell me to “get over it.” But I’ve got a lot more to say in future posts—including thoughts about a local reporter who was writing up until his death at 84, and about what L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, had to say about the importance of admiration.

Please share this post, subscribe, and leave comments so I’ll know you’re out there. Even more importantly, please buy my books! You can’t possibly be finished with Christmas shopping yet. You can order them from Amazon, or I can inscribe them personally and mail or deliver them to you in time for the holidays. To discuss these options, contact me at julielomoe@gmail.com.

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*To learn more about Nia, visit www.nianow.com. Here you can also find a registry of Nia teachers in your area, including Richele.

**The colors in my oil paintings are much more vibrant than they appear in this photo. I also did the illustrations for the original covers of Mood Swing and Eldercide, which are visible behind the new editions with their wonderful covers by Kim Killion. I still have a few copies of the original editions, although they’re no longer available on line. My stylistic influences include Munch, Van Gogh, the Fauves and the German Expressionists.

The Slippery Slope to Senior Sloth

Henri Matisse

Watching six straight hours of Project Runway reruns? Lounging in bed reading a mystery until two in the afternoon? Why the hell not? Now, in the dawn of my eighth decade of life, haven’t I earned the right to kick back and be as lazy as I like? Maybe, but if so, why do I feel so guilty about it?

Yes, ashamed as I am to admit it, I’ve indulged in these wretched excesses in the past few days. Even worse, I still haven’t kicked my Spider solitaire addiction. And today I managed to get to my Nia class at the YMCA, but I copped out of doing the weight machines. After Nia, I generally take a snack break in the Y’s lobby perusing magazines others have donated that I normally wouldn’t buy, like Vogue and Entertainment Weekly, before heading for the weight circuit, but today I simply stashed the magazines back in their rack and split for home.

The Y used to have a  computerized Fit Linx system that tracked exactly how much weight I lifted during each session as well as my cumulative total, which added up to several million pounds over the past few years. But they took away the Fit Linx. Now it’s as if Big Brother has abandoned me, and there’s nothing and no one to track whether I do the machines or not. So why bother?

In part, I’d persisted with the weight machines to condition my body for skiing, but I’ve become a slacker in that department too. Back in December, when cold winds began sweeping down from the north, I thought how much more frozen I’d feel skidding down a windswept mountain and decided that maybe it was time to give up skiing, at least the downhill variety. For now, this weirdly warm and snowless winter has made that a moot point, but even if Lady Gaia favors us with tons of white powder, I suspect I’ll stay cozily hunkered down in my recliner rather than hitting the slopes.

I could regale you with other fascinating details of my descent into senior sloth – the crossword puzzles and movie matinees, for example, not to mention my favorite soap opera. Since One Life to Live was cancelled last month, I’ve gone cold turkey on that one, but Michael Easton, my favorite soap star, will be bringing his Detective John McBain character to General Hospital next month, so alas, I’ll probably relapse.

One problem with writing about all these mundane details of daily life is that they’re boring. But even worse, they’re sins of omission rather than commission, of passivity rather than active engagement in life. According to the experts, staying mentally and physically active while aging probably lengthens longevity, but by how much? And in the long run, does it really matter?

Henri Matisse 1923

When I engage in these “What’s it all about?” ruminations, my husband frequently reminds me that the universe doesn’t give one whit what we do with our lives. So should we follow Joseph Campbell’s advice and just follow our bliss? And can bliss lie lurking within such ordinary slothful pleasures? For me, probably not in the long run. My most blissful moments come from creativity.

But for others, who’s to say? And who am I to pass judgment?

Should I be ashamed of my tendencies toward senior sloth, or is it OK to silence my inner critic and indulge in periods of vegging out? Any thoughts on the subject? I’d love to hear from you.

Entropy Part II – the lure of laziness

Nia class with Lisa Geddings

It’s high noon, and my Nia* class at the YMCA is just ending. Over a dozen women sit cross-legged on the floor as Richele says a prayer of gratitude. Unfortunately, I’m not there – I’m just getting out of bed.

No, I’m not sick. I’m just lazy. When 10:30 rolled around, time to don my workout clothes and leave for class, I made the conscious decision to stay tucked in bed under a down comforter, sipping coffee and reading the paper. This is by no means the first time I’ve made this choice. My goal is to hit the Y three times a week for Nia class followed by a weight-lifting session on the Fit-Linx circuit. I love the Nia class, and I always feel better afterwards – happier and more energized.

I’m not crazy about the workout on the weight machines, but I like the feedback from the people following me who are amazed at the amount of weight I lift, and I enjoy ogling the men working their muscles with the free weights.

Recently I skipped two full weeks, for the most part with the flimsiest of excuses – for example, the fact that this summer’s purple polish had flaked raggedly off my toenails. I couldn’t find the polish remover, and I was afraid the other women would look at my toes and judge them scruffy (we dance barefoot in class.) Finally back at the Y Monday, I found the class much more strenuously aerobic than it seemed before, and I couldn’t do as many reps on the weight machines as I usually do.

It’s scary how falling out of shape comes so quickly and easily when I cocoon myself in bed instead of making the healthy choice and hauling my tush off that comfy mattress. It reminds me of the description of entropy from my last post: “a measure of the unavailability of energy in a closed system.” Yielding to the lure of lassitude gives entropy a greater hold on our bodies, and there’s strong evidence it shortens our lives.

There’s a saying that Zen monks recite at the close of each day:

Let me respectfully remind you – Life and death are of supreme importance. Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost. This moment is an opportunity to awaken. Take heed. Do not squander this moment.*

Biologically, as we age, our bodies yield to entropy. Inevitably, if we live long enough, things begin to break down. Our sight and hearing become less acute, our arteries begin to clog and our cells to break down. By making healthy choices, we can forestall the process to some extent, but in the end, our aging bodies fail us. But do succumbing to inertia and squandering the moment speed the journey toward death? There’s evidence they do. So do genetics, poor choices in diet, and lack of a social support network.

I’m getting a tad gloomy here. That’s one reason I took such a prolonged break from blogging – I didn’t want to play Debbie Downer and depress people with my negative thoughts. But I’ve finally found a way to channel my shadow side: my next novel will feature a character who magnifies the worst features of my depressive side. She’ll wallow in clutter, eat and drink too much and spend most of her waking hours in her Lazy-Boy recliner watching TV – when she’s not playing computer solitaire, that is. On the plus side, she’ll have a wicked sense of humor. I look forward to meeting her when I begin the NaNoWriMo novel-writing challenge next week.

How often do you succumb to lassitude and entropy? Do you have any remedies? I’d love to hear from you.

* Nia’s a movement practice that combines dance, martial arts and healing disciplines. For more information, visit www.nianow.com. In New York’s Albany area, Richele Corbo and Laura Bulatao are the Nia teachers who’ve inspired me over the years. The photo is of a class in Bethesda, led by Lisa Geddings.

**I’m indebted to Reverend Sam Trumbore, minister for the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany, for this quote. It’s from a sermon he gave in 2004 titled “Praising Percipiency.” You can find it by going to the FUUSA website and clicking on “sermons,” which are archived by date.

Writing as Everyday Spiritual Practice

Can writing be an everyday spiritual practice? It all depends on how you approach it. Scott W. Alexander defines everyday spiritual practice as “any activity or attitude in which you can regularly and intentionally engage, and which significantly deepens the quality of your relationship with the miracle of life both within and beyond you.”

Scott’s collection of essays by Unitarian Universalist ministers and lay leaders describes a wide range of practices that qualify, from meditation through charitable giving, working with a spiritual director, even recycling, to art. What makes an everyday spiritual practice is “intentionality, regularity and depth . . . your commitment to making the activity a regular and significant part of your life.”

So writing certainly qualifies, doesn’t it? For me, it meets the above criteria, but something’s often missing. On a good day, when I’m in the zone and the words are flowing, I might tap into that sense of the “miracle of life,” but the feeling is fleeting. A common thread in the practices these authors describe is their potential to bring us into present time, to function fully in the now. Past and future fall away, and the present moment is everything. But is this even possible with writing? It’s an inherently linear, temporal medium, and every word is inextricably linked to before and after.

Part of the problem is that pesky inner critic, the one who keeps saying “Forget about it – you’ve got nothing to say, and no one will want to read it anyway.”  She tells me I’m fresh out of ideas and that my best writing days are behind me, and of course that blanket condemnation carries the strong stench of self-fulfilling prophecy. Then there’s the problem of writing with an audience in mind, which is antithetical to the idea of spiritual practice.

Sometimes switching genres helps. For me, poetry sometimes works – if I don’t get too hung up on the notion of reading my latest creation at an open mike. Haiku’s a good discipline, with its five-seven-five constraints:

            Lush green maple leaves

            Summer’s come far too early

            Lone mourning dove calls

Not great maybe (there’s that nasty critic again) but I had an Aha! moment when I got the syllables to come out right. There were images and themes I’d have liked to include – the dead tree among the maples, the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf – but those can keep for another poem.

My major everyday spiritual practice is my Nia exercise class at the Y, which I attend with near-religious regularity at least twice a week. Lost in the rhythm of the music, the jazz dance and martial arts moves, I tap into a mind-body-spirit connection that grounds me deeply in the here and now for all of a minute or two. Then I glance at myself in the mirror and the spell is broken – I start comparing my weight to my fellow dancers, critiquing my range of motion. But I take a deep breath, blow off my inner critic and return to the dance.

 Come to think of it, blogging’s a lot like Nia, and perhaps it qualifies as a genuine spiritual practice too.  I blog semi-religiously, two or three times a week. Does it deepen my relationship to the miracle of life beyond me? Certainly the notion that my words are flowing out to the universe via the World Wide Web inspires awe and wonder, as does the fact that I’m getting over 400 visits a day, though whether I’m actually connecting with that many real people remains a mystery. 

Intention to practice regularly is all-important. I recently took a week off from blogging for the first time in over a year, and the decline in my sense of wellbeing was all too apparent. So I hereby recommit to this everyday spiritual practice of sending my message out into the ether in hopes someone’s there to receive it. And even if they don’t, I’ll try to avoid getting hung up on looking into the mirror.

Do you view writing as an everyday spiritual practice? I’d love to read your comments.

Time to jettison my paperwork past

“You’ll probably inherit this house someday,” I told my daughter a couple of years ago. Her first response: “I hope you clean out all the paper first.”

Since then, she’s bought a house of her own, and she doesn’t need mine. Nor does she need all my papers, and neither do I. Or so I’m trying to convince myself, but the process of divesting myself of years of accumulation is wrenching. Yesterday I threw out four years of my life in the form of Franklin-Covey day planners. They were four years I’d just as soon forget – 1998 to 2001.

I’d shut down my home health care agency, ElderSource, Inc., on Halloween of 2007, and I hadn’t begun writing my mystery novels. Those years were ones of flux and uncertainty, pulling up stakes in New Paltz and trying to adjust to the Capital Region where I knew no one. My mood swings veered toward the depressive end of my bipolar spectrum. Yet I kept those day planners compulsively – two facing pages per day, one for my (nonexistent) appointments, the other for my goals and accomplishments. They’d made sense when I was running an agency, less sense during my long stints of idleness punctuated by the potholes of various low-level temp jobs

I didn’t want to reread those planners, and I recycled them properly, separating the papers from the fake brown leather binders. “Are you sure you should have thrown those out?” my husband asked later when I was crowing about my accomplishment. No, I’m not sure, but downsizing is essential, since our house is half the size of our old one. For too many years it’s been choked with plastic bins and cardboard cartons of papers and memorabilia, and we need to open it up to the possibilities of the next phase of our lives. Renting a storage locker for over $1,000 seems like a cop-out, bleeding money while it lets us postpone the inevitable confrontation with clutter.

Besides, my husband wants the pink room for his office. That’s where much of my stuff is stored – an upstairs bedroom painted Pepto Bismol pink, where the papers jostle with old art and jewelry-making supplies. My own office already occupies the adjoining bedroom, and he deserves a room of his own instead of the sunroom that’s destined to become a dining and garden room if we can ever get our act together.

What’s so unnerving about jettisoning big chunks of my past? It has to do with posterity, the notion that someday someone will want to read all my meanderings – the journals and morning pages full of kvetching, the first drafts of my novels. Consigning them to the recycling bin means surrendering to the knowledge that no one really cares.

Things came to a head yesterday when Richele Corbo, our Nia teacher, asked us to bring photographs of ourselves as young children, so we could dance to our inner child during a beautiful routine with music by Christine Aguilera. To my chagrin, I couldn’t find a single one, though I know I’ve got a few stashed away somewhere in those cartons. (Interestingly, none of the other women brought photos either – they couldn’t find them or “forgot,” or as one woman, a therapist said, “My inner child’s too shy to show herself.” We’ve got photos of our children and grandchildren, though.)

When my mother died in 1970, I was too shattered to return home to Milwaukee and sort through family memorabilia, so I left the task to my father and brother. Equally devastated, they weeded out and destroyed practically everything – the home movies, the high school yearbooks and family photos. To this day I blame myself for lacking the courage to go back and salvage more of those tangible memories.

Now, while I’m still sound in mind and body, I have the chance to do things differently, so that my daughter and granddaughters aren’t faced with those overwhelming choices. Can I distill the essence of those countless cartons into three or four carefully culled archival boxes? Maybe so, if I make believe I’m moving to – heaven forbid – an apartment in a community residence.

What about you? Do you have trouble divesting yourself of your paperwork past? Any stories or helpful hints to share?

Death on a two-lane road

Death on Ridge Road by Grant Wood

Driving to the Y this morning, I made my usual stop at the end of  Geiser Road before turning left onto Route 43. All clear, I thought. I glanced again – an enormous truck was barreling down the hill, hauling two trailers piled with gigantic logs. If I’d made that turn, I’d have been history.

I was on my way to Nia class. Late in that class last week, we were winding down with floor work when the instructor said “Strike a sexy pose and remember Harmony, who passed away recently.”

A shock wave swept over me. That Harmony? The one with the azure eyes, the dazzling smile, the drop-dead figure she liked to show off in skin-tight clothes? Yes, that Harmony. After class, I learned from the instructor Laura Bulatao that Harmony had been driving back from a workshop in Saratoga, when her car inexplicably swerved into the opposite lane and smashed into a pickup truck. Her given name was Elizabeth Martin. She’d been the author of a bestselling book, Over 30 6 Week All Natural Beauty Plan, and she was just one year younger than me.

At the end of the Nia class, as I settled into Savasana, the corpse pose, I thought about Harmony and how fragile we are. In mystery fiction, there’s usually a reason for death, no matter how warped or evil that reason may be. In real life, sometimes there’s no reason at all. 

The painting above is Death on Ridge Road by Grant Wood, who’s best known for American Gothic. Painted in 1935, it’s in the Williams College Museum of Art, a gift from Cole Porter, a Williams grad with exquisite taste. The museum makes an excellent day trip from Albany’s Capital District, and it’s free. And while you’re in western Massachusetts, check out the Clark Art Institute (fabulous impressionist and Winslow Homer collections) and/or MASS MoCA (avant garde art in an enormous old factory complex). The latter two are not free, but are well worth the visit. Seeing all three in a day is a bit much, but two out of three ain’t bad. 

Art work in progress – my online persona

Last night I got a message on Facebook: “Are you the Julie Lomoe with an MFA from Columbia? If so, I own one of your paintings, and I adore it.”

I didn’t recognize her name, but that doesn’t mean I never met her. I was active in the SoHo art scene in the late Sixties and early Seventies, and much of that time passed in a tumultuous blur. I wrote her back, of course, adding a “friend” request and asking her to tell me who she is and which painting she owns.

I’m increasingly amazed at the connections the internet stirs up. Sometimes they’re weird or even fictional. A couple of years ago, when Googling myself, I came across a post by someone in England describing “a painting by Julie Lomoe”. As I recall, the title was something like “Soldier in Winter.” The only problem was that I’d never done a painting even remotely like that, and I have no idea how or where the guy came up with my name. But I guess that’s the way legends are created.

Now I’m creating a new online persona, and I’m finding the process is more complex and multilayered than any static work of art I’ve ever created with paint on canvas or words on paper. In my Nia* class at the YMCA** today, and later on the weight machines, I was inundated by thoughts of blogging – possible topics, new categories and pages, people to contact or check out online. The ideas swirling through my head were so engrossing, I was practically oblivious to the influx of half a dozen unfamiliar but hunky young men in the weight room (the college semester’s obviously over!)

Now what was I saying? Oh yes, about blogging. After the Y, I dropped by Staples to pick up a spiffy new bound journal, a small one that’ll fit easily in my handbag so I can jot down all those ephemeral ideas before they evaporate. And I’ve vowed to stop beating myself up about “not writing” – I’m writing every day online, and I’ll be back into visual art as well once I have time to delve more deeply into the intricacies of web design.

For those other writers out there who may be guilt-tripping about the time they’re spending online – my unsolicited advice is to get over it. This strange new world is every bit as creative as writing a novel.

*If you want a marvellous workout that’s spiritually and musically engrossing, check out the Nia website. There may be a class near you. It’s the only exercise form I’ve ever been able to stick with for more than a couple of weeks.

**Speaking of the YMCA, for those of you in the Albany area, the Village People will be playing an Alive at Five concert at the park beside the Hudson River on July 2nd. All together now, hands in the air – Y M C A!