Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Great Outdoors Giveaway: Week 3

This eco-lit giveaway is now in its third week.

Here are quotes describing some of the books:

The Long, The Short, and the Tall: Life with Rescue Dogs: "Happy Stories, Funny Stories, Sad Stories - But Always True Stories about Life with Rescue Dogs."

The Awe of Nature: Why We Should Seek It Out: "The Awe of Nature is a thoughtful narrative that takes readers on an extraordinary journey from the wonders of the Amazon rainforest to the terror of forest fires in northern Saskatchewan."

Unicorn Magic: "Feyland: a new computer game that allows Scottish teenager Corinne MacArthur to escape the sadness haunting her everyday life after losing a loved one. It's a game where legends come to life, the lines between reality and fantasy become blurred, and the impossible becomes—probable?"

I intend to download many of these free books, and I hope you will, too. To see them, please go to the giveaway page.

Friday, August 11, 2017

A Sampling of Free Books from the Great Outdoors Giveaway

This eco-lit giveaway, which is taking place from August 1 to August 31, is well underway. Because I believe in promoting books that help to support our ecological awareness, I am part of it.

Here are some quotes describing some of the books:

Junction, Utah: "A nomadic river guide discovers what there is to love and lose in an undiscovered corner of the West." I read and reviewed this book and highly recommend it.

Wildly Simple: "Written by an experienced integral coach, Wildly Simple: Free Your Happiness through the Power of Nature offers you tried-and-true nature connection practices you can start today, no matter what you’re struggling with in your life. All you need is dash of willingness and an organized guide at the ready. Here’s your guide...now are you willing?"

Riding Out the Devil: "Jack is only interested in helping horses. Period. Human owners irritate him.

He’s working with an anxious gelding when a mystery woman calls his cell phone. As she does once each year, she makes the same short statement before hanging up.

Already rattled, that evening he receives bad news which sends him back to his native England for the first time in 17 years."

I intend to download many of these free books, and I hope you will, too. To see them, please go to the giveaway page.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

In June I had the great pleasure of participating in a giveaway of eco-lit fiction and nonfiction. I feel strongly about promoting books that help to support our ecological awareness.

I intend to download many of these free books, and I hope you will, too. To see them, please go to BookFunnel.

The giveaway will be from August 1 to August 31.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Fixers

I'm thinking today about the idea of "self-improvement." So many courses are available that promise to improve your self-esteem, your ability to market, to clear out issues from the past, and many other tempting possibilities.

In many (not all) of these offerings lurks the suggestion that something in you is broken and that if you take this course, you'll get fixed. All you have to do is buy the "Inner Mechanic's Guide."

This approach resembles the basic concept of Western medicine: that the body is a machine in need of repair. In contrast, holistic approaches to health propose a system of mind-body integration.

Because I, like many of you, grew up going to Western medicine doctors, I've been trained in the mechanical approach to the body and have translated it to the emotions and mind. I often find myself thinking I have to fix something about myself. Today, when I caught myself thinking that, I suddenly heard a very definite "No." And it felt good.

I don't need to be fixed. And neither do you. Everyone has areas in their lives—thoughts, beliefs, and habits—that may keep them from living the lives they want to experience, but that doesn't mean we're broken. We developed the thoughts and behaviors that now seem to be malfunctioning because we thought we needed them to be happy and/or safe.

Once we realize this, we don't have to blame ourselves for having them. When we discover that we no longer need them, we can thank them for doing their best, thank ourselves for doing our best for ourselves, and move on.

This is much easier to do when we know that we're not broken.

I'm not.

Neither are you.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

20 Free Books About the Natural World: Part 2

Last week I wrote about the group giveaway in which I’m involved. It means a lot to me to be able to promote positive environmental ideals with other politically and spiritually committed authors. You can download as many as you want.

The giveaway is from June 1 to June 15. Go to http://wildpolitics.co/20authors for more information and to download.

Here are some examples:

Wild Roots: Coming Alive in the French Amazon/Donna Mulvenna

This memoir will make you want to reclaim your life and live out your wildest dreams.

Against the Grain: Phil M. Williams

A tyrannical high school principal. A young anarchist with nothing left to lose. One way or another, this place is goin’ down.

The Heart of a Mouse Mandy Pang With themes of friendship, and family, this woodland adventure story encourages readers to work through their fears, and find the courage within themselves to follow their dreams.

All Things Breathe Alike: A Wildlife Anthology

Donna Mulvenna, Jessica Groenendijk, and Margi Prideaux Some believe the natural world is our real home. Could the eternal pull we feel toward the golden warmth of a rising sun, the tumbling waves of the ocean, or the soothing sound of birdsong, be nature’s way of calling us back? One wildlife anthology. Three passionate nature writers. Nine evocative stories.

Junction, Utah: Rebecca Lawton

This WILLA award-winning novel is “A fresh female voice and a bold take on environmental awareness–great read!”

In the coming days, I will list other books.

The giveaway is from June 1 to June 15. Go to http://wildpolitics.co/20authors for more information.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Love Your Planet: 20 Environmental Authors Explore the Natural World

Dear reader, I’m not what you’d call an ace promoter. I barely know how to tweet, and the idea of self-promotion makes me want to crawl beneath my desk.

That’s why I was so excited about the idea of joining a group promotion with authors of fiction and nonfiction who explore our relationship with the natural world. Political events of this year are teaching us that defending the natural world means defending ourselves and future generations of all species. To be involved in a group promoting writing that supports these values inspires me.

After visiting the Florida Everglades and falling in love with it, I decided to write about a water dragon who lived in a swamp whose existence was endangered. That’s how The Dragon Who Didn’t Fly, the first book of A Dragon’s Guide to Destiny, began.

All of the books represented in the giveaway are free, and you can download as many as you want.

The giveaway is from June 1 to June 15. Go to http://wildpolitics.co/20authors for more information.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

60-second Meditation

We have to start somewhere. And on those days when focusing on anything for as long as 60 seconds seems challenging, this very mini-meditation may help you shift gears.

Even if you meditate regularly and for much longer periods of time, sometimes derailing a runaway train of negative thoughts is the best thing you can do in the moment.

And a moment may or may not be 60 seconds long.

I found that after after doing this meditation, I felt more focused, and in fact I wrote this blog with more ease than usually happens.

So why not visit the url below? It'll only take 60 seconds.

60-second Meditation

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Lambs Do It

The other morning I saw a flock of sheep and lambs. The lambs ranged in age from recently born ones who followed their mothers on very shaky legs to some slightly older ones.

The older lambs were learning that legs were perfect for leaping and bouncing and frolicking through the meadow. They expressed their joy at being alive in bodies with every careless kick of their heels.

Later on, when I was thinking about what I’d seen, I thought, “The magic is that they are whole and perfect. They don’t doubt themselves or lack self-esteem. They don’t hear voices telling them they should be cleaning or writing worrying about the future. They will never know guilt.”

And I wondered why I couldn’t be like that. That question turned out to have its own magic because it sliced away the layers of guilt and “should” and self-doubt and the long list of things I should change about myself. At my core, I’m as whole and as perfect as the lambs—but most of the time, I forget that.

What’s the difference between me—and you—and the dancing lamb or the fawns who raced through my former back yard or the bright-eyed curiosity of baby raccoons? It could be those big brains that humans take pride in. Anyone who has ever upgraded their operating systems knows that each new upgrade creates many chances for error.

Imagination, for example, is a great human gift, and I count it as a priceless upgrade, but it doesn’t discriminate between imagining the best and imagining the worst.

Maybe the biggest problem is that the initial user’s manual we get to go with our big brains is the long set of instructions we get from our parents. Animal parents also instruct their children but mostly about real dangers—like humans. Our parents teach us about dangers that may or may not ever come to pass.

This leads to the unique human mental/emotional state called anxiety. It’s difficult to kick up your heels when you’re worried about what might happen in thirty years.

If I want to experience that I’m perfect, I need to live less in the past, where I learned all the things I should worry about and all the things for which I should judge myself. I also need to stop taking all those worries and judgments and expecting more of them in the future.

That’s called living in the present. That’s what lambs do. We can do it, too. Photo credit: Keven Law, Los Angeles, USA

Friday, May 12, 2017

Songs That Inspire Me

As a writer, I often find myself in awe at the gift of poets and songwriters to say in a few words what may take me pages.

This week I'm sharing two songs that have recently inspired me.

The first many of you will know: "Dear Prudence," by the Beatles (from the White Album). The song was inspired by Mia Farrow's sister, Prudence, who was with the Beatles in India at the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's weeks-long retreat in Rishikesh, India. Prudence was intent on learning Transcendental Meditation well enough to teach it and stayed in her room most of the time. The Beatles were worried about her and tried to draw her out. Though they didn't succeed, they wrote the song. (For more detailed information, see this article.

For me, the song is a hymn to being in the present moment. You can listen to it here.

The second song, "You'll Never Be the Sun," was written by Irish songwriter Donagh Long. This version is sung by Irish singer Delores Keane and American singer Emmylou Harris. Many other versions are around, but this is my favorite. "Life is tough, but you'll get through it" has rarely been expressed so poetically. You can listen to it here.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Shedding Season: What We Can Learn from Cats

It's the season when cats take off their winter coats—all over the place. Being the humble slave of two black cats, I have particular reasons to notice the results of the shedding process.

I notice two things about shedding. The first is that it's messy for me. The second is that the cats, once having shed their fur, ignore it. They have truly shed it, and it no longer belongs to them.

We humans don't have the same ease with our own shedding of beliefs and habits. If you've ever tried to release a habit, you will have noticed that it doesn't fall away as readily as cats' fur. It seems to have a stickiness about it.

Cats know that when the weather gets warmer, they need to get rid of excess fur so that they’ll feel comfortable. Humans, however, even though they may intellectually know that the release of a negative physical, mental, or emotional habit will ultimately make their lives for comfortable, emotionally feel that they need the comfort they’ve come to associate with that repeated pattern.

We can also make the shedding process more difficult when we blame ourselves for not being able to do it. You'll notice that cats never blame themselves for anything (even when we think they should). Remember, they're thinking about how great it will be to get rid of that fur. If we can shift our thoughts and feelings to the reward of feeling better, we can more easily shed.

This reluctance to shed can take many forms. I am currently in the process of revising a novel I initially wrote a number of years ago. I know it needs some major—and drastic—changes, but I read so many words that I really like. I hate to push the delete button, but I must if I ultimately want to write a better book.

So, up until now, the process of revising and editing has been emotionally messy. I’ve resisted it and tried countless ways to change it and still hold onto the words I like. It hasn’t worked and let me to a massive writer’s block yesterday.

Instead, I cleaned the house, going after those clumps of fur. Today I have decided to write like a cat. I will look at those words, appreciate them, and know that there are a lot more where they came from. I will shed.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Is Blogging Harmful to the Brain?

Note: Since many people are subscribed to my blog here, I'm continuing to post here. This post is also on my site at http://www.cmbarrett.com

I was at an event with friends last night. One said that too much immersion in social media lowers intelligence. Judging by some of the posts that come onto my Facebook feed, I would say the damage has been done.

Here, though, is the irony for a writer. Long gone are the days when you could submit your book to an agent or publishing house and sit back and let them do all the publicity work. (It is quite possible that those days never were.) Even traditionally published authors are now expected to put on their big-girl or big-boy pants and engage with social media.

Some of this engagement is downright soul-sucking, for example decoding Amazon algorithms. What, you might ask, is an algorithm? In its simplest terms, it's the secret formula that enables readers to find your book among the millions of books on Amazon. For me, though, the word "algorithm" conjures up memories of struggling with math, and that makes me want to curl up into a ball and read the nice book I found at the library.

I have no doubt that trying to master algorithms harms the brain, but I will conquer them. Maybe.

Other forms of social media are somewhat less frightening in the math department but still challenge me. One must always avoid saying "Buy my book" in either a shout or a whimper. One must think of entertaining things to say. This is difficult to do on demand—which brings me back to blogging.

I abandoned this blog in November, 2016, around when I first stepped into algorithmic territory. Having finally figured out how to link my blog to my site, I have returned. I don't know how often I'll post here, but I'm aiming for once a week. My aim is not that good.

Still, I'm excited to be writing my first Word Press blog entry, so for me that's a win.