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!!
THE DREAMSLIPPERS SERIES
“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