Monthly Archives: June 2014

Living and Writing your Passion

Welcome to Sparkle Abbey, two of my favorite people and a couple of mighty fine authors, to boot! I’ve seen them at several mystery conferences over the past year, and needless to say, I was thrilled to learn that they both also practice yoga.  We even practiced a little in the back of the room at Left Coast Crime.  To find them online, check out  Take it away, ladies!

Thanks so much for allowing us to be guests today, Tracy!

First off, here’s a little bit about us. Sparkle Abbey is actually a pen name because there are two of us. We are Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter and we co-write the Pampered Pets mystery series for Bell Bridge Books. Because we co-write the books, our publisher asked us to use a single pen name and we chose to use Sparkle Abbey on this series because we liked the idea of combining the names of their two rescue pets – Sparkle (ML’s cat) and Abbey (Anita’s dog).

Our series focuses on the wacky world of precious pedigrees, pampered pooches, and secrets in posh Laguna Beach, California. The main characters and amateur sleuths are Texas cousins, Carolina Lamont, a pet therapist, and Melinda Langston, a pet boutique owner. The two would join forces and work together if they were speaking, but well…they’re not. Midwest Book Review calls the series “A sassy and fun mystery!” We were excited about that description because that’s exactly what we were trying to achieve.

We met Tracy at the Malice Domestic mystery conference a year or so ago and we love her Downward Dog yoga-themed mystery series. And the books involve a wonderful German Shepherd dog, so even better! For Tracy, yoga is much more than a hobby. It’s a vocation and a calling. She is passionate about it and it shows!

Here’s our experience with yoga… Writers spend a lot of time at the computer. A lot. We sit at the keyboard to create our stories, we’re there to edit and polish, and then we’re also often online meeting readers and networking with other authors. That’s a lot of desk time!

So the two of us decided we needed some enforced activity and we signed up for a yoga class through our local Community Education program. It seemed like an easy way to get moving and de-stress, plus it was held at the local elementary in our neighborhood so was close by.

The first class was great and we loved the relaxation time at the end of class. (One of us even fell asleep during one class, but Tracy tells us that happens all the time.) However, after a knee injury for ML and foot surgery for Anita, we were struggling with many of the yoga postures. Soon we stopped going. However, we continued to talk about how much we liked it and how we’d like to get involved again.

At Left Coast Crime, we talked with Tracy about some of the problems we’d had and she was quick to ask questions and offer some advice. Advice which has made all the difference. (She even stopped in the middle of the welcome reception and demonstrated for us what we needed to do. We should have taken pictures.)

You see when you’re passionate about something, it becomes a part of who you are. We feel that way about animals and especially rescues. We try to partner with rescue organizations whenever we can on benefit events and educational efforts. We try to share our love of animals through our books and through the things we’re able to be involved in as authors.

Whether it’s cooking or quilting or antiques or stained glass, we think you’ll find many mystery authors (especially cozy authors) combine something they’re passionate about with their love of storytelling.

So what about you? What things are you passionate about?

Check out Sparkle Abbey’s newest book Fifty Shades of Greyhound!

Thriving after Trauma

This past week I participated in an interesting discussion on the Sisters in Crime Guppies Yahoo group.  The thread coincidentally began while I was preparing to lead the next Yoga Sutra discussion for Whole Life Yoga’s advanced yoga teacher training.

For those of you who don’t know, Sisters in Crime is an organization that supports crime writers, like yours truly. “Guppies” stands for the “great unpublished,” of which I’m gratefully no longer a member. Many of us continue to hang out together even after we’re published because, frankly, we’re heck of a lot of fun.

This particular discussion centered around current backlogs of DNA evidence and how such backlogs might be incorporated into our future crime novels.

The confluence of these two conversations got me thinking, and when I get thinking I inevitably get myself into trouble. This time, I considered this age old question:

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Many spiritual teachings, including the Yoga Sutras, have an answer.

For their own growth.

Many of you know, either from the Guppy thread or from past conversations, that I survived something almost two decades ago that was, to put it mildly, painful. Some of you know the specifics, some of you don’t. Honestly, they don’t even matter. There isn’t a person alive over eighteen who hasn’t known trauma in one form or another. At least no one I’ve met.

The question is, when we experience said trauma, how do we deal with it?

The Sutras say that we have no true control over what happens to us or around us. The only thing we can control is how we react to it. An easy enough concept, if sometimes seemingly impossible to put into action. But the teachings go on later in Chapter 2 to hint that anything that happens to us has a purpose. The bold font and words in brackets have been added by me

Sutra 2.18:

“The seeable [our experiences, good and bad] has the characteristics of brightness, activity, and inertia. It is embodied in the elements and experienced by the senses. It exists so that the seer [you and me] may experience it and then become free.

About a year after my personal trauma, I met with a counselor. I told her that I knew there was a purpose for what had happened to me, but I hadn’t found it yet.

She looked at me, deadpan, and asked a question.

“What if there isn’t?”

My answer came from a place so deep inside of me that, until that moment, I didn’t even know it existed.

“Then I’ll have to create one. The alternative is too awful.”

That was the day I began to heal.

Who knows why bad things happen to good people? I sure as hell don’t. But can we find growth, perhaps even peace, in spite of it? The sutras say yes. I’m inclined to agree with them. I wouldn’t trade my life for any other on earth, in spite of the traumas (and like all of you, I’ve had more than one) I’ve experienced along the way.

I’ll leave you all with one final comment, also from the Sutras. This is for those of you who are now feeling cranky with me. The translation is my own.

“Individual results may vary.”

May your life’s experiences—good, bad, beautiful, and challenging—serve as a springboard for your growth.

And ultimately, may you find peace.


Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT is available for preorder now from Whole Life Yoga. MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  and book sellers everywhere! 

Yoga Nidra

julie_and_bikeThis week’s blog entry was written by guest author Julie Miller. Julie is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 200 hour yoga teacher training program and a teacher at Whole Life Yoga. She can be contacted at

As you may imagine, in a meditation class conducted in a comfortable, dark room, with soft music playing and a gentle voice guiding practitioners through visualizations that are often quite peaceful, it can be a challenge to stay awake. Still when a student recently asked me why I phrase my request that students “do not fall asleep” in the negative instead of saying simply “you will stay awake”, it caused me to reflect on the purpose behind that particular statement.

The ideal nidra state is neither awake nor asleep. The unconscious mind is tapped in to through what might best be described as a lucid dreaming type of other state. Through a series of guided meditations designed to peel back the onion of self-awareness, a practice typically explores sensations of the physical body and then down through the more subtle layers of breath, emotions, and energy to reach the ego-less self. This path of exploration can allow one to become aware of conditioned responses and provides the opportunity to break patterns that no longer serve, or were perhaps never beneficial. These habits or patterns are referred to as Samskaras, and it is thought that we must break through or purify these in order to open the door to our true nature. To use that controversial label, yoga nidra is a form of tantric yoga. As defined by well-known yoga teacher Rod Stryker, tantra means to weave, and yoga nidra allows us to weave and reweave the fabric of our consciousness so that we can begin “to see the seer”.

That is all very abstract and no doubt a bit heavy sounding, but the class itself is very relaxing. We begin with breath awareness exercises, a guided body scan, and then move into mental exercises that ask the yogi to engage all of their senses such as imagining fully being in a physical location and all of the sights, smells, sounds, and tastes associated with that place. An exploration of each person’s unique association with symbolism and imagery is usually included as well as mental exercises guiding the yogi through emotions and qualities of being (e.g. compassion, gratitude, joy). These lead to more complex exercises asking the practitioner to attempt to hold conflicting thoughts or sensations simultaneously, thus finding release from conditioned thinking.

The medical benefits of yoga nidra can be found in studies in peer reviewed journals showing its ability to aid with depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, and PMS, and new studies state it may be helpful for regulating blood sugar levels in individuals with diabetes. If that isn’t enough to convince you to give it a try, I have often heard students say that they feel more creative after a nidra practice, sometimes experiencing a burst of inspiration during the session, others report having more vivid dreams, and many find they are more in touch with their intuition and subtle sensations of energy in the world around them.


Join Julie’s Yoga Nidra class at Whole Life Yoga and experience the peace, creativity, and relaxation that is part of this deep, wakeful sleep.

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT is available for preorder now from Whole Life Yoga. The first book in the series,  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  and book sellers everywhere!

An Ode to Turning Fifty

Today’s article will be a short one. No book news, no personal insights, no great yoga tips. I’m giving myself the day off. Last Thursday was my—gasp—50th birthday. I spent the day in bed with a nasty head cold, cuddled up on the floor with my dog, who was suffering from a nasty 24 – hour intestinal bug.

All in all, the day could have been…

A whole heck of a lot worse.

Any day I get to spend in my beautiful home with that gorgeous creature, knowing that my hubby will soon be home from work to harass us, is a good day indeed.

My 50th birthday wasn’t the most pleasant day ever, but I wouldn’t trade my life for any other on earth.

Enjoy the life you’re given.

That is all for today.


Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT is available for preorder now from Whole Life Yoga. MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  and book sellers everywhere! 

A Yoga Teacher by Any Other Name….

Long before the first book in my Downward Dog Mystery series arrived at your local bookstore, my mother received a personal laser-printed copy of Murder Strikes a Pose. Of course she told me she liked it.  What self-respecting mother wouldn’t? One of her comments caught me off guard, however.

“I’m not very far into the book yet. I just reached the part where you found the body.”

“Mom,” I replied, a little concerned about her sudden decline in mental health. “You do know this is fiction, right?”

Let me assure you, I have never found a body near Whole Life Yoga—or anywhere else for that matter. And although a part of me exists in every character, my books aren’t autobiographical. Still, people often tell me that they see me in my yoga teacher sleuth, Kate Davidson. So, for the record, here are some ways Kate and I are similar—and different.


1.      We both own yoga studios in Seattle.

Kate and I both teach yoga in the Viniyoga tradition, and we both prefer it to other, more strenuous, types of yoga. Although we both own small neighborhood yoga studios, mine (Whole Life Yoga) is dedicated to the Viniyoga lineage. Kate’s (Serenity Yoga) offers a mixture of yoga classes and styles.

2.      Kate and I both have body image issues.

Kate and I are both short, and we both have “normal” body types (whatever that means). But when we look in the mirror, we see the “before” image in a Jenny Craig commercial. We’re working on that.

3.      Kate and I both live with a horse-sized German shepherd.

Kate fosters Bella, the German shepherd in the series; I am owned by a German shepherd named Tasha. Both of our dogs have Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency, will weigh over 100 pounds when full grown, and have, shall we say, “quirky” personalities. But in spite of their issues, Kate and I would be lost without them.

4.      Neither Kate nor I are perfect yogis, but we keep trying.

Occasionally a reader tells me that Kate isn’t believable as a yoga teacher. She’s not thin enough, emotionally well-balanced enough, or flexible enough. I’m not a typical yoga teacher, either. Kate can’t do advanced yoga poses; neither can I. Kate wants to live according to yoga philosophy but often fails. So do I. If Kate’s not a realistic yoga teacher, then I’m not either. Hopefully my yoga students won’t figure that out any time soon.

Here’s Where We’re Different:

1.      I’m not afraid of commitment.

Kate has what she terms “relationship ADD,” meaning she can’t stick with a relationship for more than a date or two.  I, on the other hand, seek commitment. Just ask my husband. I pestered and goaded and hounded him for three years before he finally gave in and asked me to marry him. (Frankly, I think he proposed just so I’d shut up about it.)

2.      Kate and I had different childhoods.

Kate was raised as the only child of a single-parent Seattle cop. I grew up with both of my parents on a dairy farm in Billings, Montana. Kate’s a city girl through and through. I’m a farm girl who has taken root in the city.

3.      My neuroses are different than Kate’s.

I’m as neurotic is the next yoga teacher, but I’m neutral to facial hair. Kate has a very real phobia called pogonophobia. Being near a man with a beard makes her feel anxious, itchy, and subtly nauseated, which really sucks for her since she has a crush on Michael, the bearded owner of Pete’s Pets, the pet store near her studio.

4.      I adore dogs to a fault.

Kate likes animals, but she never wanted one of her own. I, on the other hand, yearned and planned and plotted for over ten years before my husband gave in and agreed to adopt our German shepherd. And unlike Kate, I knew that cute little fur ball would be the love of my life the moment I laid eyes on her.

To be honest, personality-wise, I’m think I’m closer to Rene, Kate’s best friend: a plotter, a jokester, a prankster, a conniver. Unlike Kate, I don’t throw coffee mugs at the heads of little old ladies, and it’s pretty rare for me to yell at anyone.

I’m too busy plotting murder.

Tracy Weber

A Killer RetreatCome visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT is available for preorder now from Whole Life Yoga. MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  and book sellers everywhere!