Conquering Back Pain

For most of my life I’ve dealt with back pain—upper and lower.

Over the years, I’ve discovered ways to lessen the pain: yoga, strengthening specific core muscles, putting a latex topper on my mattress, etc. All of these, especially in concert, helped a great deal. But when my sister-in-law shared her positive experience with The Miracle Ball Method by Elaine Petrone, I listened.

And I put the Miracle Ball Deluxe Kit on my wish list for Christmas 2017.

My dear father choose to give me the kit as one of his gifts, and I’ve been using it ever since.

I’ve been delighted with the results. I rarely experience low back pain these days. And the doctor who I see for my joint issues said that the scoliosis of my lower spine (sideways curvature) was entirely gone!

My upper back continues to challenge me, but it is much better than it used to be. And some extra time on my Miracle Balls always resolves the worst of the pain.

I learned recently that the Miracle Ball Method is really a form of myofascial release. I’d been using the method because it worked, without really worrying about why it worked. But my new qigong practice began creating pain in my hips. In pursuit of a solution for that, I encountered…a bunch of new information.

What is myofascial release?

John F. Barnes (at describes it as “a hands-on technique that involves applying gentle sustained pressure into the fascial connective tissue restrictions to eliminate pain and restore motion.”

And what is the fascia?

Wikipedia’s definition…

A band or sheet of connective tissue, primarily collagen, beneath the skin that attaches, stabilizes, encloses, and separates muscles and other internal organs.

A video from the Life 360 Summit gives an excellent view of what the fascia looks like and how fascia can cause serious pain and range-of-motion problems when the fascia is tight or restricted.

Minute 6 is when Fascia-man first arrives. And 15 seconds later we get a good close-up of him, if you want to skip ahead.

The way the Miracle Balls work is that you lie on them, and your own body weight applies the sustained pressure that releases the fascial restrictions. The more you are able to relax, the better they work.

In the diagram at right, you can see how I “walk” a single ball up my spine from the tail bone. At each location, I pause the ball for 2 or 3 minutes, until I feel the restriction release.

Across the shoulders, I use the balls in a pair, one placed on each side of the spine.

The whole process does take roughly 40 minutes, but it is so worth it to be pain-free. 😀

The kit I received included the Miracle Balls themselves, a how-to book, a how-to CD (which I haven’t used), a hand pump, and a plastic nozzle for the hand pump. The plastic nozzle did not work for filling the balls, but we had a steel needle for a bicycle pump that fit the hand pump perfectly.

My son tried my Miracle Balls this week after his weight workout and liked them so well that he requested some of his own. I purchased him a smaller kit that included only the balls and the how-to book. (We don’t need 2 hand pumps in the house—he can use mine.)

I meant to tell you all about my adventure with Miracle Balls after I’d used them for a few months. I figured I’d test them well before reporting back. The problem with that plan is that I tend to be most excited when something is new. That’s when I shout about it from the rooftops. Once several months pass…it’s old hat.

I kept saying, “Next week I’ll blog about it.”

But now that I’m using my Miracle Balls on hip pain, they are new and fresh again, so here I am shouting. 😉

So what about my hip pain, which set off this new learning odyssey? I’ll tell you about it—and how I’m fixing it—next week!

For your convenience, here are some of the links from all of the above:
Miracle Ball Deluxe Kit on Amazon
Pump Needles on Amazon
Miracle Ball Basic Kit on Amazon
Fascia-man Video on YouTube

Here’s more about my own experiences with myofascial release:
Tackling Hip Pain

Important Disclaimer: I am not a medical person in any way. I’m just sharing my journey with the idea that it may point you toward some good questions, if you too suffer from back pain. Good questions can lead to good answers; coming up with the right question is often the hardest part of solving a problem, in my experience. Just remember that what worked for me may not work for you. Seek out the right experts for help, if you need treatment!



The Tally Master, Chapter 7 (scene 33)

The short and rather scrawny privy scullion came panting up, protesting innocence. “It wasn’t my fault! Really!”

Well, she’d heard that before from just about every boy who ever messed up, but she was curious what Jemer’s excuse would be.

“The castellanum stopped me on the stairs”—Jemer’s eyes went wide—“and said he had questions for me.”

Keir frowned. This was very peculiar. It was unlikely the boy was lying, because the truth of his assertion could be checked so easily. And he must know that Keir would check. But why would the castellanum detain one of the scullions personally? Especially this castellanum, who disdained the lowly.

“What did he ask you?” she said.

“What I did, if I was good at it, when the work at the forge started and stopped. Everything!” Jemer shook his head. “I don’t know why he wanted to know all that stuff, but I couldn’t hardly tell him to shove it, could I? I mean, he’s the castellanum.” The boy snorted. “I wanted to, though. He went on and on. Prying and scolding. I thought I’d never get away from him!”

That was decidedly odd. Keir’s frown deepened while she pulled ingots from the copper vault. Maybe she’d best accompany the boy on his descent to the smithy, rather than permitting him to go ahead.

Despite his small size, Jemer was wiry and strong. Even after Keir had loaded his carry sack with twenty-seven ingots of copper, four ingots of tin, the failed scissors and ladle, and a four-ounce nugget of remnant bronze—more than thirty pounds of metal—the privy scullion seemed prepared to scamper, eager to make up for his tardiness.

“Wait,” said Keir. “I’m coming with you.”

The boy bit his lip and bounced on his toes, impatient to be off. But he obeyed.

She finished recording the items disbursed to him from the bronze vault, then padlocked the vault door behind her.

It was hard to keep up with the privy scullion. Jemer had perfected the stride needed to allow him to positively run down the stairs, and he was gifted at dodging around anyone slower, which was most of the trolls in Belzetarn. Keir was relieved when the boy ducked into the servery for the regenen’s kitchen.

She’d intended to lean in the doorway, letting her presence urge Jemer to be quick, although the boy seemed scarcely to require such urging. But Gael was there, standing before the hatch talking with his friend, Barris the cook.

Gael looked weary, his olive skin paler than usual, the lines showing more prominently on his face, and his shoulders slumped. He’d clipped his shoulder-length hair back with a silver fibula, and the metal seemed to highlight the gray streaks among the dark strands. He must have been up late, hard on the track of his two mysteries.

The cook’s relative youth and good health made Gael look even more worn. The contrast . . .

Keir pushed down a sense of hurt, compressing her lips.

Barris’ short brown hair possessed no gray. His brown eyes shone with energetic enthusiasm. And his movements were sure and light: turning to toss an order to an underling, reaching to steady a platter of fruit leather on the edge of a work table, stepping away to stir one of the many pots on the massive hearth, and then returning to the hatch to continue his conversation with Gael.

Keir threaded her way amongst the kitchen scullions who were already bearing salt saucers and wooden trenchers from the storeroom toward the great halls for the morning meal. Jemer preceded her, shrugging out of his carry sack and thumping it down on the counter of the servery hatch, while greeting Barris.

“Hungry, young ’un?” The cook smiled at the boy, nodded to Keir, winked at Gael, and then bent to pull a tray of smoked fish tidbits from the shelves below the hatch counter.

“All well?” murmured Gael to Keir.

She nodded. “I have some . . . anomalies . . . to report to you.”

Gael’s face lightened. “Good.”

Keir’s brows tightened. Why would Gael regard things gone wrong as good?

Gael lifted an eyebrow, his eyes warm, and then Keir felt foolish. Anything unusual could be a lead on their thief.

Barris rested his tray atop Jemer’s carry sack, one hand steadying its rim, the other hand below it. The boy stuffed two tidbits of the smoked fish into his mouth and started chewing while he snatched two more.

The cook tilted his head to one side. “Gael? Keir? This batch is especially flavorful.”

Keir could tell. An appetizing aroma rose from the glimmering golden skin that topped each neat square of the smoked fish. She allowed herself to be persuaded. The skin crunched under her teeth, giving way to the velvety smooth flesh beneath and a burst of smoky richness on her tongue.

Barris smiled at her—relieved?—and she smiled back. Had he actually worried that she might not like the delicacy? She supposed that cooks did worry about things like that, but this was delicious.

“Another?” he suggested.

Keir took two more, noticing that Gael also accepted seconds, while Jemer went for fourths.

*     *     *

Next scene:
The Tally Master, Chapter 7 (scene 34)

Previous scene:
The Tally Master, Chapter 7 (scene 32)

Need the beginning?
The Tally Master, Chapter 1 (scene 1)



Released! Mythic Tales Boxed Set

I had so much fun creating a boxed set in December that I’ve created another. 😀

Caught in Amber, Blood Silver, and Fate’s Door are now available in a Mythic Tales boxed set. The set costs $4 less than buying the books separately, so it’s a good deal, too.

Fantasy mixed with history—bright, ancient, and vivid. Three novels.

Caught in Amber

When young Fae awakens in a locked and deserted castle, she remembers nothing. Who she is, where she comes from, none of it.

A mythic tale of family and betrayal told with all the twists and moments of sheer joy that J.M. Ney-Grimm brings to epic fantasy.

Blood Silver

In a mythical Ireland that never was, mortal villages perch all unknowing beside enchanted knolls. Beneath them dwell the cruel and capricious faie folk.

Tahaern, a faie warrior by birth but not in spirit, eschews his vicious origins. Loving the bright world, he serves a mortal village as healer.

But when the faie declare war upon their neighbors, Tahaern must again take up his sword…

Fate’s Door

Secrets, like troubles, come in threes. Nerine, a sea nymph of the ancient world, knows too much about both.

When the dawns visions in the Well of Destiny show Nerine’s lover—shipwrecked and drowning—all her renounced yearning for him rises anew.

Somehow—this day, this morning, this time—Nerine must subvert destiny or lose the companion of her heart forever.

Love and coming of age in a mythic Mediterranean where the gods and goddesses of old shape history.

Amazon I Apple I B&N I Kobo I Smashwords I GlobalLink



The Tally Master, Chapter 7 (scene 32)

Chapter 7

Keir stood just inside the copper vault, enjoying the flow of cool morning air and the way the clear dawn light poured through the casement she’d opened. This narrow, claustrophobic hollow within the tower’s thick wall was infinitely more bearable when freshened by breeze and sun. Why had she always followed Gael’s lead so precisely in every detail before? He wouldn’t have minded if she’d opened the casement during the checking out of the metals. Not in summer. But because he’d always left the casement shut, so had she.

She double-checked the stacks of copper ingots resting on the ledge by the door. There were the nine for the blade smithy, shiny in the flood of light. And there, the twenty-seven requisitioned by the privy smithy—three stacks of nine—including the ingot retrieved by Gael last night.

She thought again of the note he’d left for her under the three recovered ingots—one copper and two bronze.

Keir, Some of our missing metals have come home. I have not tallied their return yet. As you’ll see from the tally sheets, I have marked the disbursal of one ingot of tin for a special project. Gael.

She’d been up early—determined to fulfill her duties perfectly—and had time to rule and label the sheets for the evening checking in. She’d tallied the two bronze and the one copper ingot in, along with a written comment on the irregularity, wondering all the while how Gael had found them. She hoped he would tell her. She wanted to know.

No, she needed to know.

A footstep in the hall heralded the arrival of the blade scullion, a young troll with ruddy hair and a very upturned nose. Keir quelled an involuntary shudder at the strong evidence of his troll-disease. He grinned at her. “While the lynx lounges, the hare plays,” he teased.

Keir sniffed. “You wish,” she said, lifting an eyebrow. “The secretarius is more forbearing than I, and even he is not tolerant of much regarding his metals.”

The scullion shrugged, and slipped the strap of his carry sack off his shoulder to open it. Keir hefted the nine ingots going to his smithy from their ledge—nine pounds weren’t precisely heavy, but neither were they a feather weight—and lowered them into the embrace of the soft suede. She marked the tallies on the waiting tally sheet and paused a moment to see if the privy scullion would appear.

“You always going to issue the ingots now?” asked the blade scullion.

“No,” she answered shortly. It wasn’t really his business. “Perhaps a deichtain or two.”

“Why doesn’t the secretarius give it to you permanent? I heard he was moving up to the posh suite next to the regenen’s and would leave all his work to you.”

Now it was definitely time to snub the boy. “Then you heard wrong.”

“If he did, you could get a boy to work under you. You could ask for me! And when Gael retired, you could be secretarius, and I could get a boy who did what I said.”

That wasn’t worth answering. “It doesn’t work that way in Belzetarn,” she said.

“I’d ruther be the tally master than the bladesmith,” explained the boy.

No doubt, but he would become neither. And the privy scullion was late again. Keir hustled the blade scullion out and padlocked the vault door behind her. The corridor was very dark with the sunlight from the copper vault blocked, only a few glimmers of daylight from the stairwells at each end filtering through.

After she unlocked the tin vault and swung the door open, the latch clanging against the stone wall, light flooded into the corridor again. Just inside on the ledge, the tin ingots and her tally sheet awaited, readied by her earlier when she’d opened the vault’s casement. She gave the blade scullion his one ingot of tin, tallied it, and relocked the vault. No point in delaying for that late privy scullion.

The armor scullion arrived as she opened the bronze vault. She handed him his four bronze ingots, and he departed as swiftly as he’d come.

Keir wished the blade scullion would go, but he needed to collect a trio of nicked swords resting in the safe repository. That was next, and then she could get rid of him.

“Wouldn’t you like to be regenen one day?” the boy asked. “Tell everybody what to do!”

“No, I wouldn’t,” she answered coolly. “And you shouldn’t say things like that. It will get you in trouble sooner or later. More likely sooner.”

“Why?” he said.

A whole mob of scullions erupted from the Regenen Stair, jostling one another and kidding. Keir winced. Groups of trolls still bothered her, but maybe the blade scullion would shut his mouth now.

Keir opened the safe repository, settling into the rhythm of her work. Eight swords went to the two scullions of the grinding smithy and were tallied. She handed ten swords to the scullions of the annealing smithy. And tallied them. The hilt smithy received its swords, the armorers’ lodge received their scales and wire, the fletchers’ lodge accepted forty-nine arrowheads, and the spearmakers took their thirty-four spearheads.

The blade scullion stacked the three notched blades carelessly atop his ingots in the carry sack and left with the mob.

And still the privy scullion remained absent.

Keir locked the safe repository and entered the Regenen Stair in the wake of the departing scullions. They were headed all the way down to the smithies, but she turned off at the next level, encountering the scullions from the copper and tin smelteries as she did so. They were older than the boys in the other smithies, nearly as capable as their opteons, and serious about getting the partially refined metals from the mines to the peak of perfection required for Belzetarn’s forges.

Keir bypassed the doors to the vestries for the armor and weapons reserved for the legions’ elite.

The pebble vault lay behind the third door. She’d already weighed the irregular clumps of tin allotted to the tin smeltery and recorded the nine pounds and three ounces on her tally sheet. As she tilted the scoop into the smeltery scullion’s carry sack, the scullion—a dark fellow with a downcurving nose like Gael’s—muttered, “You’re overseeing the privy smithy this morning?”

Keir frowned. Not at all surprising that he knew of the arrangement; the scullions talked to one another. But why would a tin scullion concern himself with the privy smithy? What was his name? Ravin? Yes, Ravin.

“I will descend with the privy scullion after I issue his ingots,” she said.

Ravin sniffed. “The boys grow unruly while waiting on their smith,” he said. “Arnoll sorted them out yesterday, but their mischief will increase if it goes unchecked.”

Keir followed him out of the pebble vault, securing the door behind her. The two copper scullions were standing at the far end of the dim corridor near the oxhide vault. She stopped the tin scullion as he made to leave. “You did not mention this yesterday when I interviewed you.”

He shrugged. “It slipped my mind until now, when I realized we’d be treated to the same, unless someone kept those boys in order.” He took a step toward the Lake Stair and the copper scullions. “I suppose Arnoll will do it, even if you don’t. He’s responsible that way. Yesterday he noticed that the privy boys had collected one ingot too many of tin and took it from them. To return it to the vaults, no doubt.”

Wait. What?

Keir thought back to yesterday evening’s check-in. She didn’t remember the armor smithy turning in anything save the bags of scales they’d fashioned that day. She would have noticed—with ingots missing from the tally—if an extra ingot had turned up.

And Gael had recovered copper and bronze, not tin.

There’s something wrong here, she thought, and I don’t have time now to delve into it.

“Ravin, I want to hear more about Arnoll and the boys. Will you speak with me after I finish in the privy smithy?”

The scullion tipped his head to one side, considering. “Aye, that’ll do. The tin’ll still be heating. My opteon can spare me.” He paused. “Unless you need to hear me elsewhere. That’ud take too long.”

“No, I’ll just draw you aside,” she reassured him.

He nodded and continued toward the stairwell, clapping one of the copper scullions on the shoulder as he passed. “Think you’ll drop it today?” he gibed.

All three of them—copper and tin together—laughed.

The oxhide ingots were large and heavy, weighing eighty pounds each and shaped like animal hides, with a leg protruding at each corner to provide a good gripping point. During the trip from the mines to the tower, they were tied to the pack harnesses of two mules, one beast to each side. If four trolls instead of two could transport an ingot from the vaults to the smithies, it might be easy. But the stairwells—generous though the main ones were—were yet too narrow for that.

Instead, one troll gripped a front leg and heaved, while another troll gripped a back leg and heaved. The ingot, held at hip level, hung to below their knees.

As the two copper scullions eased their oxhide ingot through the vault doorway, Keir heard a shrill voice calling her name. “Keir! Where are you? I’m sorry I’m late! Keir?”

The privy scullion. Finally.

Keir locked the oxhide vault and hurried back toward the Regenen Stair. The boy would need copper ingots, tin ingots, and the failed scissors and ladle from the bronze vault. Three doors to unlock—again. Three doors to re-lock—again. What had kept the boy?

*     *     *

Next scene:
The Tally Master, Chapter 7 (scene 33)

Previous scene:
The Tally Master, Chapter 6 (scene 31)

Need the beginning?
The Tally Master, Chapter 1 (scene 1)



Artemis Avenger

I’m in the midst of writing a short story about the vengeance Artemis is determined to pursue for the deaths of four nymphs at Hades’ hands.

Gotta say…she’s really furious. How dare the lord of the underworld harm her handmaidens and companions of the hunt!

I’m so involved with the story that I’ve not written the blog post I intended for today. But I’m hoping you’ll enjoy these paintings from the past of the classical goddess of the hunt.

“Artemis” by Arthur Bowen Davies (above) depicts her in her guise as a lover of nature and the wild creatures inhabiting the fields and forests.

“The Nymph Arethusa” by Charles Alexandre Crauk (below) shows Artemis in her role as protector of maidens. The river god Alpheus pursues the nymph Arethusa after she bathes unknowingly in his waters. His lustful attentions are unwelcome to her, and she begs Artemis’ help and protection.



The Tally Master, Chapter 6 (scene 31)

Lying on his sleeping couch in his chambers, Gael found sleep eluding him. In his weariness, he’d forgotten to swing the shutters closed, and the moonlight shone brightly on the leather hangings, the scattered small tables and backless chairs. But it was not the light alone that kept his eyes open.

Every inch of him ached, his feet and legs from all the stair climbing of the day, his shoulders and neck from tension, and his head from his repellent discoveries.

Were it not so late, he would have visited the saunas in the yard to sweat the soreness from his body and the churning images from his thoughts: Martell aggrieved that any suspicion rested on him, the simple sweep grabbing for a drop of molten tin, the bullied lunch boy calmed by Keir, and—worst of all—Arnoll holding a stolen ingot.

Gael turned toward the wall, bright in the moonlight, and then got up to close the shutters. His legs protested, and returning to the soft sheepskins cushioning his couch felt good. But still he could not sleep. Even with the greater dimness.

Very well. If sleep refused him, he would think. What did he know?

When the theft of his tin first came to his attention during the tallying, he’d assumed an error had been made. That had proved incorrect. He’d suspected petty pilfering next. Perhaps a miserable scullion, hoping to barter it for better treatment, had impulsively swiped an ingot. Perhaps a simpleton had been attracted by the metal’s glossy sheen.

In retrospect, his suspicions seemed ludicrous. The metals flowing through Belzetarn were far too well monitored—by himself—for a lowly scullion to succeed with thievery. Only someone with more reach, more resources, and more ambition would or could arrange the intricate plans necessary.

And . . . tin was not shiny right out of the mold. It required careful polishing.

No, he was right to bend his scrutiny to the powerful.

And, yet, he’d been wrong in assessing the march as the one troll in the entire citadel who would never steal from his lord. Dreas had stolen tin. And he’d stolen it through Arnoll, the one friend Gael was certain possessed an unbreakable integrity.

Gael turned over yet again, unable to find a comfortable position.

He’d told Arnoll that he trusted him still. He wanted to trust him. But, in truth, his trust was shaken. He understood Arnoll. He suspected he would do the same as Arnoll in a like situation. But . . . he was not sure he could admit Arnoll to his deepest confidence in the immediate future.

Gael adjusted the pillow beneath his head. A stray moonbeam penetrated a chink in the shutters, illuminating a pattern of triangles stamped into one of the leather hangings.

Another unwelcome thought crossed Gael’s mind.

If the march could use Arnoll to steal tin, then surely the magus or the castellanum might also use another’s hands to reach into the smithies. Hells. The regenen himself could do so, although Gael still could not take that possibility seriously. The regenen would not stoop to steal from his secretarius—and thus from himself.

The castellanum seemed the most likely thief. Barris, in the kitchens, had mentioned that the castellanum was inviting many more underlings to the honor of dining in one of the three great halls. Gael himself had noted one of them. Could one of the castellanum’s guests be stealing for him?

The stray moonbeam vanished.

Gael wriggled a heavy fold of blanket off his toes.

What about the magus?

He remembered the rumors that had leaked from Pirbrant before the last battle on the plain between the rivers. Rumors that had subsequently proven true. How Heiroc’s brother Erastys had fallen in love with a very proper lady who spurned him. How the lady had possessed one of the talismans of ancient Navellys. How Erastys and Nathiar together had plotted to obtain what they wanted from the lady: Erastys, the lady’s passion; Nathiar, the lady’s artifact.

Her artifact was not one of the lodestones. Those were long lost, all five of them. The lady held one of the originally more numerous amulets, still very rare in this day and age.

Nathiar had cast the glamor that would steal both the lady’s virtue and the lady’s treasure as one.

But Nathiar’s magery had failed him, bringing the truldemagar upon him.

Nathiar had stolen honor and dignity and innocence before in the court of Hadorgol. Gael had witnessed it. Would he also steal metal, here in Belzetarn? Gael had no evidence to indicate that it was so.

He didn’t truly know much of anything. Suspicions and possibilities were not the same as real knowledge. It didn’t help that two competing concerns pressed him. He absolutely needed to get to the bottom of this thievery, but he also must resolve the dangers posed by the cursed gong brought in by the scouts of the Third Cohort.

As things stood, Gael had given neither problem sufficient attention.

Worse . . . the mere presence of the evil gong seemed to exert an insidious effect upon him. And he was all too aware that it lay close, with merely two doors between it and him.

After seven years of eschewing the manipulation of energea, he’d used his powers thrice today. First to ease the simpleton’s pain. Next to clear the disguised copper ingot of its tin mask. Thirdly to set a trap to catch his thief. Or one of his thieves. And . . . had either the retrieved bronze or the tin honestly given to Arnoll proved to be tainted like that disguised copper ingot, Gael would have cleansed it without a thought.

Was Carbraes correct in his belief that any use of energea worsened a troll’s affliction? Or was it merely the dangerous energea—the searing orange—that did so?

Gael thumped his pillow, irritated with himself. He had to get some sleep, or neither of his problems would receive even so much as the inadequate focus as he’d funneled into them today.

*     *     *

Next scene:
The Tally Master, Chapter 7 (scene 32)

Previous scene:
The Tally Master, Chapter 6 (scene 30)

Need the beginning?
The Tally Master, Chapter 1 (scene 1)



Exercise in the Time of Coronavirus

My exercise routine has centered on the gym for many years.

I love my gym. The natural wood and stone of its foyer soothes my senses. The numerous large windows on the exercise floor and at the poolside let in floods of uplifting sunlight. I feel happy and content when I am there.

Nice as the environment is, it’s what I do there that keeps me healthy.

Sunday afternoon and Tuesday evening, I lift weights with my son.

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I water walk, if I’m recovering from injury. If my joints are healthy, I swim.

Of course, right now my gym is closed.

I’d stopped going a week before it shut its doors, because I want to protect my husband, who is in three of the high risk categories for coronavirus.

I’ll confess that I didn’t immediately figure out what I would do to replace my gym attendance. I wasn’t yet thinking that far ahead and hadn’t envisioned being homebound for months and months.

But now that I’ve been inactive for too long, I’m determined to find a way to exercise safely.

My husband and daughter—lucky them!—can go on long walks. I wish I could go on walks, long or short. But I can’t. I love walking, and every time I try it in the amounts necessary for exercise, it trashes my right hip joint.

But never mind that. Aside from a bit of envy, I wasn’t considering walking. Instead, I had another idea.

Just before I stopped going to the gym, I attended a qigong class. I was hoping it would teach the qigong form that I learned (and subsequently forgot) roughly 12 years ago. I loved that form! Why did I ever stop doing it? Was I crazy? Who knows.

But I wanted to relearn it.

So I went to the class.

And was disappointed.

The class focused on a different form, one I didn’t like nearly as well, and one that was problematic for my body and its particular constellation of weak points.

However, I spoke with the teacher after class, and he was able to suggest which form I might be seeking. (I’d forgotten its name, as well as its content.)

Then along came coronavirus, and my attention went entirely elsewhere.

This week I’ve returned to pursuing physical fitness.

I googled the Eight Brocades of qigong, and—what do you know!—that’s the one.

So I am relearning it at home.

As I write this post, I’ve learned Supporting the Heavens, which is already doing wonders for my shoulders.

I’ve also learned Separating Heaven from Earth. I’m not seeing any immediate benefits from that one, but that’s not really the point for me. I’ll be delighted by any physical healing that comes my way, but I’m doing this as a way to exercise safely.

Well that, and because I enjoy it.

I am seeing that doing a qigong brocade as a break from writing works much better for me than just getting up to walk around the house. Strolling the house is dull, so I tend to put it off. Which means I sit for too long.

“I’ll just do one more paragraph. And one more. And just one more. Then I’ll get up.”

But I look forward to qigong, so when it is time to get up and move, I do.

Those of you who do not practice qigong yourselves might wonder what exactly are Supporting the Heavens and Separating Heaven from Earth.

Here’s the video I’m watching to relearn all this stuff:

Mimi Kuo-Deemer is very clear and has an enthusiastic and inviting demeanor, so I’m enjoying learning from her.

I remember the first time I learned the Eight Brocades, I formed a false impression from the first two brocades. “This is easy,” I thought.

Since I wasn’t then aiming for fitness with it, I wasn’t perturbed. I was learning the form simply because the teacher strongly recommended it as a pre-requisite for tai chi. That’s what I had set my sights on; I wanted to learn tai chi.

No doubt that played a role in why I dropped qigong when I discovered that my chronic hip injury would prevent me from trying tai chi for the foreseeable future.

(Okay, I was nuts. So what if I couldn’t do tai chi? Didn’t I realize I’d come to love the Eight Brocades for their own sake? Apparently not.)

But I’m digressing. Back to my point.

Supporting the Heavens is easy. But when you perform it 9 times, it grows harder. And when you perform it 24 times (I never have), I suspect it becomes quite challenging. Some qigong masters do indeed recommend 24 repetitions for each of the Eight Brocades. Start at 8 repetitions and then increase as you are able.

Just so you know: I’m currently doing 3 repetitions of each brocade as I learn it. My body tends to get injured far too easily. I plan to increase slowly and carefully.

Increasing the repetitions increases the exertion, but there’s more.

Drawing the Bow and Big Bear Turns to Side require horse stance! Some practitioners do Clenching Fists with a Fierce Gaze in horse stance as well. Horse stance is a killer! When I was 23, I could manage it for many minutes on end. Now? Not so much.

Right near the end of my earlier qigong career (before the kidney infection that drove the final wedge between me and qigong), my teacher guided her class through a complete Eight Brocades in which we performed 5 repetitions of each brocade. Believe you me, it was a workout!

So qigong builds.

It starts out easy and just gets more challenging as you become stronger.

Gotta say, I am excited about this. I hope that qigong will become a beloved part of my day, just like my morning daylight (when I sit on the porch and journal, or write scenes from the current short story) is a cherished part of my day.

Okay, I’ve been sitting for a good hour as I write this. Time to go do some qigong!

Before I leave you, let me share another video with you. I find the previous video (above) especially useful as a learning tool. But the video below, the Eight Brocades led by a master of Shaolin Temple Europe, inspires me.

Wow! That just blows me away. I wish I had the power, control, presence, and grace that he does!

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Here’s the links to the videos, if you want to view them directly on You Tube:
8 Brocades of Qigong Practice
Ba Duan Jin from Shaolin Temple Europe

And here is a list of all 8 brocades:
Supporting the Heavens
Separating Heaven and Earth
Drawing the Bow
Wise Owl Gazes Back
Big Bear Turns to Side
Touch the Bubbling Spring
Clenching the Fists with a Fierce Gaze
Bounce the Heels

For more on health, see:
How I Rehabilitated My Sleep
Sunlight as a Source of Vitamin D



The Tally Master, Chapter 6 (scene 30)

Arnoll’s tallow dip flickered on the deep golden hue of the bronze ingots upheld by Gael and on the pale copper of the ingot in Arnoll’s other hand.

“Cayim’s nine hells,” swore the smith softly.

Gael was past swearing. Tonight he’d learned that his most trusted friend—Arnoll—had stolen from him. He’d discovered that someone was using forbidden energea to tamper with his ingots. And now he’d retrieved two bronze ingots, when only one should be missing, according to Keir’s latest tally of the bronze vault. How many more anomalies within his tally chamber and the smithies would he encounter? At this point, no unpleasantness seemed impossible.

Setting the ingots on the floor, Gael inhaled and then wished he hadn’t. His nose was no more accustomed to the stench in the latrine than when he’d first pulled its door open.

So. Had tonight’s fugitive hidden the bronze in the bucket niche? Or was it someone else? But that was not the important question. Who had hidden those ingots? Gael needed to know, preferably without alerting the thief. Which meant he couldn’t wake a scullion and assign him the duty of guarding the privy door and reporting every troll who approached it. The whole tower would soon know of Gael’s inexplicable concern with a clogged latrine, if he did that.

Fortunately—or unfortunately—he possessed another option.

Disciplining himself to defy the foul odor, he inhaled slowly and steadily. On an equally slow out-breath, he let his inner sight open. The lattice of energea humming within the stones of the bucket niche featured a slow, cold vibration of silver so dim it seemed a ghost of metal.

Gael reached inside himself, pulling on his heart node and guiding the resultant stream of power along his arcs, bright and sparkling. As the tiny stars leapt from his fingertips, he directed them to lattice intersections within the stone’s energea. Only when a hundred or more small lights winked and blinked in these new locations did he stop, sighing with weariness.

“Did you just do what I think you did?” asked Arnoll.

“My energea will cling to the hand of the next troll to reach inside this hidey-hole,” said Gael. “I doubt the thief will leave his plunder here indefinitely. Once he checks on it or attempts to move it . . .”

“He’ll be marked,” concluded Arnoll.

“Unless he leaves Belzetarn altogether, I’ll find him,” said Gael.

“You clever devil,” murmured Arnoll.

Gael stifled a snort. Grabbing up his bronze ingots, he replaced the loose stone in the sidewall of the bucket niche and pushed to his feet. His ankle protested, and he almost didn’t make it, his legs wobbled so. He replaced the bucket in the niche, retrieved the saucer of the guttered tallow dip from the floor, and stepped out into the stairwell. Arnoll closed the door behind them.

“What next?” said the smith.

Gael shook his head. “These go in my tally room for now. Then we’ll get you that tin ingot for Dreas. And then—I’m for bed. I’m not going to solve this tangle tonight.”

Arnoll grunted.

They took the stairs slowly this time, climbing past the place of arms where their fugitive had escaped and then onward to the lowest of the great halls. Moonlight glimmered through the tall embrasures on the southern curve of the circular space, shedding silver light across the cleared floor and casting an ominous shadow from the massive central pillar wrapped in its twining stair.

The Regenen Stair and its landing with the door into Gael’s tally room lay exactly opposite the Cliff Stair. Gael led the way across, his soft shoes noiseless on the stone, Arnoll’s boots thunking beside him.

Wordlessly, Gael unlocked the padlock on the tally room door and ushered Arnoll inside.

The moonlight was stronger within, flooding through the casements which Keir had unshuttered, illuminating the pigeonhole cabinets lining the walls, but casting the two desks—surrounded as they were by cabinetry—into deep shadow.

Gael lit two fresh tallow dips from Arnoll’s, which was nearly out.

Keir had left the parchments for the morning’s tally neatly stacked and properly ruled—ready—on his own desk. Gael marked one tin ingot (for Dreas) checked out on the sheet for the tin vault, placed the three recovered ingots—one copper and two bronze—atop the parchments, and wrote a brief note of explanation. That would do for now.

“Come,” he said to Arnoll.

The climb to the vaults was equal to that from the smithies to the tally room. Going slower with each twist of the stair around the newel post, they passed the passage to the first balcony and one to the second balcony, then the one to the great hall where Gael had dined that evening. The vaults lay above it.

Unlocking the tin vault and one of the coffers within it was a simple matter.

Arnoll turned the tin ingot in his hands while Gael locked up behind himself. This ingot possessed the right thickness and the right energea. Gael had checked.

“Come to me when you need another,” he said.

Arnoll looked at him ruefully. “I regret this.”

“But you would do it all again, if necessary.”

Arnoll’s expression firmed, but he did not answer.

Gael clapped him on the shoulder. “I’ll keep the march’s secret.”

Arnoll looked down.

“Surely you knew I would,” Gael pursued.

Arnoll looked up. “Of course. But it was not my secret to tell.”

Well, Gael understood that. Hard as it was to accept that Arnoll had betrayed Gael with his theft, in another way Arnoll had proved his faithfulness thoroughly. The smith would not betray an older friend for a newer one. Gael could hold to that, must hold to that, even when a more thorough loyalty to himself might feel more welcome.

“Arnoll. I trust you.”

Arnoll placed his hand over Gael’s, still resting on his shoulder. “And I trust you,” he replied.

As they moved toward the stairs, Arnoll stopped again. “What did you want to consult me about?” he asked.

“Come to my chambers tomorrow evening,” said Gael, “and I’ll show you.”

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Next scene:
The Tally Master, Chapter 6 (scene 31)

Previous scene:
The Tally Master, Chapter 6 (scene 29)

Need the beginning?
The Tally Master, Chapter 1 (scene 1)



Free on Smashwords

The hatches are battened down here at Casa Ney-Grimm, and so far we are healthy and safe.

Since my husband sits squarely in 3 risk categories, hunkering down is a high priority for us!

Of course, the entire country and much of the world are sheltering in place just like we are. Which means we all need new books to help mitigate the cabin fever. 😀

So I’m participating in the sitewide sale on Smashwords especially to provide some reads for lovers of the fantasy genre.

Note: The sale ends April 20.

All of my short works and one novel—The Tally Master—are free.


Most of my novels and novellas are 60% off.

Curl up with a good book and read!



Now Solo! Tales of Old Giralliya

Tales of Old Giralliya is a small collection of fairy tales from my North-lands.

I released it first in the book bundle Might Have Been, with a promise that I’d make the collection available solo in a few months.

I’m delighted to announce that I’m now able to redeem that promise.

Tales of Old Giralliya is here as its own ebook and as a paperback. Its cover art is by John William Waterhouse, an artist strongly influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites. (I love the works of the Pre-Raphaelites!) 😀

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A troll-mage rains death upon the land from his citadel in the sky. Who—if anyone—can defeat him? Despite the oracle’s prophecy, few believe the beggar’s son might be the people’s champion.

A magical plague infests the villages, the cities, and the lonely manors. Will the realm descend into ruin before a cure is found? Or could wizened, old Eliya convince the stricken that something improbable might save them all?

Three ducal brothers fight for the rule of their duchy, crushing fields and hamlets under their chariot wheels. Can young Andraia, kidnapped from her village, bring the destructive struggle to an end?

Instead of Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, or the Pied Piper of Hamelin, the Giralliyan Empire has Ravessa’s Ride, the Thricely Odd Troll, the Kite Climber, and more. Tales of Old Giralliya presents six of these fresh, new fairy tales for your enjoyment.

Adventure and magic in the tradition of The Red Fairy Book and the Tales of the Brothers Grimm.

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