A LITTLE OFF TOPIC: Eating Plans…do they work?

Hey, all! As some of you may already know, I am on a journey to better health. Now, there have been bumps on that road, but I, like many of you I am guessing, have tried out some eating plans out there with mixed success. I am at the stage in my life where I am looking for a plan that will revolutionize the way I eat from here on out, not just give me a “diet” per say that will last until I lose weight and then send me off on my own to get right back into the same food struggles I had before. Is anyone out there feeling me?

So, I have been on some of these really good and well regarded eating plans with mixed success and wanted to talk through them, some of the pros and cons, ups and downs. I am in no way endorsing or meaning to criticize any of these plans. All of the ones I am speaking on today are GOOD plans. They are sound and well-researched. I am simply sharing my experience.

21 Day Fix

This is a fabulous plan. The plan involves containers color-coded for each type of food group (protein, fruit, veggies, etc). You calculate (very easy, the book has the formula) how many of each container you get per day and what types of (for example, proteins) go in that container. It can train you what kinds of foods are good for you to eat as well as teaches you portion control. And what actual portion sizes should look like. Never before did I realize how many vegetables I should be eating! What a learning curve! I did well on this plan. I lost weight and, more importantly, I lost inches while on this plan.

There is a set of exercise DVDs with the program and they are different each of the 7 day week. Which I love…not the same video over and over again. But I will admit, I wasn’t totally consistent after that first week. I tried, I really did. But it was difficult to motivate myself and I was on restrictions from my doctor about exercising (I had some medical issues at the time). I was a part of a Facebook Group that did a great job of keeping each other accountable and encouraging each other, but still, something wasn’t quite right.

When I did exercise (the workouts are great for all levels – there is a “modifier” to help those who aren’t as hard core as others), I felt bad for 2-3 days after. Not sore, just bad…there’s no other way to describe it. No one else in my group had this experience, my doctor became curious about this issue. Was I working out too hard? I insisted this wasn’t possible…I wasn’t huffing and puffing, I was not sore afterward, I wasn’t even sure I worked hard enough to raise my heart rate (as I was under strict orders to stick with the modifier).

Still, something wasn’t right and, in the end, I struggled to stick with the plan. But I admit that was all me, not the plan’s fault. As I said, I did lose weight and inches…even with the exercising deficiencies.

Trim Healthy Mama

I’ll be honest, I thought this was the plan that I would make it on. It is all about food freedom. The plan is based on the research that your body burns most effectively when you eat either fat or (healthy) carb at a sitting, but not both at the same time. So, you anchor your meal with a protein, eat either a fat or carb, and fill out your meal with veggies, etc. It sounds a lot harder than it is in practice. Trust me. Once I got going, I really enjoyed it. The cookbooks are full of easy, yummy recipes…including chocolate cake! And you eat plenty.

Then the THM sisters (who do all that wonderful research) came out with a “Work-in” video series. 5-15 minute workout sessions. Who can’t get on board with that? Well, my doctor had determined that I my body was overstressed and under-recovered (which he believed was the bulk of my exercise-then-feel-bad-for-2-3-days-problem). So, I got the exercise program, but was unable to use it. The most exercise I am permitted by my doctor is restorative/relaxing yoga.

When I first started on THM, I lost about 10lbs…my husband lost like 40. Bitterness, party of one? Yeah. But overtime, I felt less motivated, life stuff happened, and I lost my focus on the plan. I’m still really fatigued all day, no matter how much sleep I get and I’m having a myriad of problems…abdominal pain that no one can track down or eliminate and other random ailments. Then, as I’m coming around, learning to cope with these pains, things are falling back into a routine, and I’m ready to get back on plan, my doctor does a thorough blood panel on me. And decides I need something radical.

The Elimination Diet

So, my doctor sees in my blood work that I’ve got sensitivities in my body to certain food groups. And a raised white cell count. Which, I had been running a slight fever (unexplainable) for a couple of months. Now, we are starting to find the answer. He believes now that I have what is termed “leaky gut”…where certain things are seeping into and inflaming my small intestine. So, we need to eliminate the culprits and start from square one. He also notes that I am having an allergic reaction to something I’m eating. Likely one of these foods. So, we need to eliminate all of these things, and then slowly reintroduce them and find out what it is.

So, I’m on the strictest plan I’ve ever been on. And following it the most faithfully. Because now my health is on the line. Before, it was all about “becoming healthier” or “I’d like to lose a few pounds”. Now, it’s different. I am working to eliminate this pain I’m in. I’m working to improve some of these numbers he showed me in my bloodwork that we had never looked at before.

So, I am (have have been for a week now), and will be for a total of 30 days, dairy free, gluten free, sugar (and sweetener) free, grain free, carb free, (and I know you’re thinking “taste free”, right?). I have a regiment of how many servings of protein, veggies, fruits, nuts, fats, and dairy alternatives I am supposed to eat each day and I am supposed to eat all of those servings (one of my problems on all of these plans has been eating enough). And I have lists of what is “allowed” in each of these categories.

I’m not gonna lie, it was intimidating. I did not look forward to it. And I needed every ounce of encouragement I could get. But I’m going to say that it has not been as difficult as I thought. Sure, I have my moments when I crave a caramel latte or ice cream or cheese. But those moments are fleeting.

But in 7 days, I have lost 10lbs. My abdominal pain is gone. Gone. A couple of my other problems have vanished completely as well. And I have more energy that ever and don’t struggle with fatigue.

Now, as I say that, I would not recommend a diet like this for more than 30 days. Nor do I intend to be on this plan more than is absolutely necessary. But I am enjoying the benefits and am eager to see what my plan transitions to next. Perhaps my doctor will transition me to THM or 21 Day Fix. I feel I am in a much better mindset now to follow one of those plans.

Rewarding Yourself

I believe in non-food rewards. The healing and weight loss is a reward, yes. But the non-food rewards help me get through those tough craving moments. I have several non-food rewards I can choose from at the end of every day in which I don’t cheat. And every week without a cheat, I have a larger non-food reward. Then I have a grand prize planned for making the 30 days with no cheats.

And that, my friends, is what I know…

BOOK REVIEW: Hannah Conway’s “Up in Smoke”

Hey! I’m here to share my thoughts on Hannah Conway’s “Up in Smoke”. I have spent more time this summer reading than I thought I would. Strange, as I have had less free time than I thought I would. Where is this reading time coming from? Oh well. Before I get to the review, let me first remind you about the book…

Up in Smoke

Life heats up for Leanna Wilson when an accident claims her parent’s lives. Her dreams of a high profile law career are reduced to rubble when she returns home to assume custody of her sister, Brie. Without the financial means to take legal custody of her sister—or a binding will to place her safely in her arms—Leanna’s future becomes more uncertain than ever. Already prepared for a blazing custody battle, with less than capable relatives, Leanna’s world is set ablaze when her ex-fiancé complicates matters in an attempt to destroy her future and her faith.

US Army, SSG Garrison Burke has spent the last few years alone—balancing flag and fatherhood since the tragic death of his wife. Facing deployment, Garrison is desperate to find a safe caretaker for his son, Ezra—preferably anywhere but the abusive home he grew up in. So, when Leanna Wilson walks unexpectedly back into his life, he’s not sure if she’s a blessing or a curse. More importantly, Garrison cannot seem to forget how he betrayed Leanna many years ago. Yet, as Leanna and Garrison begin to run out of time, they start to see that the solution to their problems might lie within each other, but will they forget the past and allow their broken hearts to mend? As sparks begin to fly and their love is rekindled, a marriage of convenience will either make their wildest dreams come true or cause their best-laid plans to go up in smoke.

My Thoughts

Hannah R. Conway hits this third book out of the park. It is a home run. There are so many good things to say about this book.

Leanna’s story is relatable and heart-wrenching. We feel with her, we struggle with her…and, in the end, we believe in her growth as a character. Garrison, too, pulls at the reader’s heart as we follow his arc, through the worst of his story and the best of it.

As far as the story itself, the pacing was good. The twists and turns were well-placed and kept me hooked. I just kept turning pages and never once wanted to put the book down!

All in all, Conway has brought a story that nearly anyone can relate to and the reader can close at the end with a warm heart and a contented sigh. Well done.

The Verdict – 5 STARS!!!

SPOTLIGHT: Hannah R. Conway’s “Up in Smoke”

Hello, all! I have some very exciting news for you. Some of you may be aware that there are a few authors that I absolutely adore. Of those authors, there are a few that I have connected with through conferences and whatnot. Of those, there are a few that I would call “friend”. Well, I happen to have the privilege of calling Mrs. Hannah R. Conway a close friend and mentor. She has taught me so much about writing, the ups and downs of this career, and continues to pour her knowledge into me.

All that said, I would like to bring to you a spotlight on her upcoming new release, Up in Smoke, coming next Tuesday (August 8th)! So, without further ado, let’s get to it…

UP IN SMOKE

 

Where there’s smoke…dreams may be going up in flames… or rising from the ashes.

Life heats up for Leanna (Lee) Wilson when an accident claims her parents’ lives. Her dreams of a high profile law career burn to ashes when she returns home to assume custody of her sister, Brie. Yet, without the financial means, and a binding will that places Brie in the hands of unwanted relatives, Leanna is left preparing for a blazing battle, especially when her ex-fiancé sets out make her life more difficult.  Leanna must learn to have faith–something she hasn’t had in  years.

US Army, SSG Garrison Burke has faced flames balancing flag and fatherhood alone since the tragic death of his wife. With an upcoming deployment, he is desperate to find a safe place for his son, Ezra; anywhere but the abusive home he grew up in, but with Leanna, the woman he betrayed so long ago? He must mend their broken relationship, but first he must heal the wounds of his past.

A marriage of convenience only worsened their problems, and threatens to ruin their lives. But there’s always hope. Can Leanna learn to embrace a new dream before incinerating Garrison’s, or will the sparks that fly between them send both their dreams up in smoke?

More about Hannah R. Conway

Hannah is an Army wife of more than a decade, mother of two, writer and speaker. Her novels are a deployment experience of their own, threaded with faith, and filled with twists and turns that are sure to thrill, and encourage. Though she is a Kentucky native, Hannah and her family now live in Tennessee. She holds a BA in History from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.She is the author of The Wounded Warrior’s Wife and Wedding a Warrior from Olivia Kimbrell Press. Hannah is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and My Book Therapy (MBT).

Interact with Hannah and her books at

https://hannahrconway.com/

 

Join me on TUESDAY for my honest review of the book – I promise, I won’t pull any punches!

 

A LITTLE OFF TOPIC: I love my kids AND I’m excited for school to start

Yes, contrary to (apparently) popular believe, I can love my kids, love spending time with them, and be excited for school to start. No? You don’t think so? Well, maybe it’s my perspective on the return to school.

School is NOT…

I do not see returning to school as an opportunity to “get rid” of my kids for a few hours a day. Or to “dump them” somewhere. Not by any means. I think this is too harsh a criticism on moms that put their kids in school or look forward to the return of the school year. Are there some parents that look at it this way? I’m sure there are. Not anyone that I would look up to or model my life/attitude after. These folks have missed the boat completely.

School IS…

I welcome the return to school because I embrace routine. For myself as well as for my kiddos. As you may already know I have a child who is ADHD, one who is autistic and ADHD, and one who is lovingly nicknamed “Destructo” (and he earns it). I enjoy their sweet antics and never-ending energy. The middle of the day laughs, playtimes, and cuddles are priceless. But they all need the kind of routine (and actually thrive in it) that school offers. Try as I might, I cannot stick to a routine at home during the summer. So, a more laid back home environment and more structured school scene works for them.

School also offers them other things I cannot provide – a mix of personalities. Don’t get me wrong, we do many many playdates. But these are mostly other children that they get along with (for the most part). The lessons they learn from being in a class with children they have to LEARN to get along with are valuable and necessary. Who gets to choose their coworkers? Ever had one you had to get along with but didn’t quite mesh with? It’s a learned skill.

I also want my kids to be little lights in this world. To be salt. Does salt have more affect on it’s environment in the salt shaker (with the rest of the salt) or sprinkled elsewhere (preserving food, flavoring food, etc)? Salt is meant to leave the salt shaker and change the world around it.

In closing…

I am thrilled and a little nervous about sending my kiddos back to school. I know they will have tons of fun, some challenges to overcome (which will also be a learning experience), and lots of questions to ask about what they see and hear (things I cannot shield them from forever, but I would rather them still be under my roof where I can help them find truth rather than be floating out there on their own). So, while I am prayerfully and cautiously sending them into their respective schools, you might catch a little bit of this at my house:

 

WRITING WOES: Critique or Criticism

I have written before about reviews and how I handle them…and some tips for others. But, today, I want to dig a little deeper and discuss the difference between CRITIQUE and CRITICISM. I have received both in my life and in my writing career. Once upon a time, I was an Educator for the Disney Company (teaching animal science at Disney’s Animal Kingdom), and it was a “high feedback location”. Meaning…we gave each other a lot of advice, pointing out strengths and “opportunities for growth” among our peers. Don’t get me wrong, I came to enjoy it. That kind of feedback only makes you stronger and better at what you do. But what about when it’s not so helpful? Is it then criticism? Or not?

CRITIQUE

What does Webster say about “critique”?

CRITIQUE: (noun) a detailed analysis and assessment of something, especially a literary, philosophical, or political theory; (verb) evaluate (a theory or practice) in a detailed and analytical way.

I like to thing of critiques as an honest, unbiased view of someone’s work. The intent is to help someone improve the work or their craft. The language used in a critique is overly positive and helpful, while still pointing out opportunities for improvement. The receiver of the critique may not alway like it (as the critique giver may point out flaws and errors), but it is not intended to be antagonistic or hurtful.

CRITICISM

Let’s check out Webster’s thoughts here…

CRITICISM: the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes; the analysis and judgment of the merits and faults of a literary or artistic work.

Criticism, by definition (as you can see) is expressing disapproval. The language is generally overly negative. And the intent is not always to help the artist. I’m gonna say it…sometimes it is just as your mother said…someone making themselves feel better by pushing another down. There will be a complete lack of positives in a review that falls into the “criticism” category.

So what?

How does this help you? Understanding and identifying the difference will help you handle the feedback. Critiques should be taken at face value. There will most likely be some valuable insight for you to mull over at the very least. Criticisms, on the other hand, may not have anything helpful and you may just need to dismiss them out of hand. It is art, it is subjective…if the feedback is not going to better you or your work, let it fall by the wayside.

Feedback and reviews are inherently a nothing more than a meter stick for you. How is your work being received? Even if the answer is “not well”, don’t let that discourage you. It is YOUR art. Take what you can from the critiques, banish the criticisms from mind, and move forward.

Happy Writing!

AUTHOR MARKETING: Newsletters

While I’m on this marketing kick, I thought we should talk about the newsletter. It is one of the most important tools a writer/author has for marketing. There is a lot we can do on Facebook and Twitter as far as posting and tweeting and getting information out there. But the truth of the matter is that we don’t own those platforms. As unlikely as it is, we could wake up tomorrow and it would all be shut down. But the e-mails you accumulate through your website and speaking engagements are yours.

How do I get those e-mails?

There are several ways to grow your e-mail list. One is simply by having a blog or website where people can engage with you and sign up if they like your content. Offer them more of a glimpse into your life through the newsletter. More exclusives, freebies…something.

One of the things I have done (which is not my original idea) is to write a novella that is available for free (on ebook) to anyone and everyone who signs up for my newsletter. That adds value.

Recruiting people to your newsletter through contests and the like can help grow your list. Sign up for my newsletter and I will draw a name to win a free (blank). Be wise, though, you cannot attach the prize to something they must purchase in any way, shape, or form.

What do I do now that I have an e-mail list?

Start a newsletter! I use a newsletter service called MailChimp. I used to send out a newsletter every 3-4 months, but now I am trying to get one out at least every other month. But the key to the newsletter is that you need to provide something of value to the recipient. A recipe, news of free book downloads, a sneak peek…something. And let them see into your writing life a bit. Give them a peek behind the curtain, so to speak.

And be consistent about sending out the newsletter and providing valuable content. Keep your audience wanting more.

Happy writing!

The Importance of Scheduling Rest

I am weary. Anyone else? This summer has been busy. And I don’t mean “we’ve been doing a lot”. I mean “it’s been crazy, no weekends free, running around all the time” busy. So I am drained. Do you ever find yourself this way? Overtired, overstressed, and under-recovered? That’s me right now.

How did it get to this point? Is it just because of the busyness? Or could it be more than this? Perhaps I should have taken better care to rest.

The Cadence of Life

There are 24 hours in a day. But it is not meant for all of those hours to be spent in action. No less than 6-8 of those hours are designated for rest (if you’re lucky).

There are 7 days in a week. But, for most of us, our work schedules allow for days off that there might be rest. Even God ordained that we take a day for rest.

There are many Psalms that include the word “Selah”. It is my understanding that there is some debate as to the exact meaning of this word. But what is agreed upon is that it indicates a break, a pause in the music. So, just as with life, there should be a pause in activity, a chance for a breath, for silence.

When we go against the rhythm…

As we see, it is not intended that we go without ceasing. Our bodies demand daily rest and we were created for weekly rest. So, why do we often not honor this? We as a society, I fear, have become so caught up in the busyness, the doing, that we fail to recognize our own need for rest. We put if off until later. As if that makes any sense. Yet we do…I do.

We can only violate this rhythm for so long. Then our very bodies will rebel. It is true. How many of you have gotten so worn out that sickness claims you. Then you are forced to rest. When your body is not well rested, it can no longer operate at its optimum level, leaving us vulnerable to things that our immune system would otherwise fight with little trouble.

So, what’s the answer?

Obviously, we have to choose. Choose rest. But that’s not all there is to it. If it were, that would be easy.

We must choose what fills our days and our lives. And we must accept that we cannot “do it all”. There must be priorities and we must decide that our life will reflect them.

It’s one thing to say that “my family comes first”. It’s quite another to turn off Facebook and listen to my daughter’s drawn out story of her hour chasing a bug because it’s important to her. That’s a choice.

Shutting off the laptop at night to allow your body the sleep it requires is a choice.

Taking that only weekend of the summer you have free and setting it aside for you is a choice.

Your choices may require others to sacrifice for you, too. My husband will need to keep up with the kiddos while I take that one weekend to regroup and rest. But my wellbeing is important to me. To him. To our family. A worn out mommy and wife does none of us any good.

Choices.

Decide what is in your life, what you delegate to others (you will have to), and what you pass on altogether.

Choose.

Prioritize.

But, above all, make time for rest.

Author Marketing: Facebook Groups

Hello, all! I hope this post finds you well and enjoying summer. Read anything good lately? I am in editing and marketing mode myself. Even working through my vacation. But I have a writing/relaxing weekend coming up later in July and I canNOT wait!

So, like many of you, I don’t have all the time in the world to market my books. Nor do I have tons of drive/patience for it either. As some of you may already know, according to the Myers-Briggs personality assessment, Author and Promoter personality types are on the opposite spectrum from each other. No more wondering why we find marketing so difficult and “out of our comfort zones”, eh?

Well, how are we going to make the most of our time and efforts? By choosing. We can’t do it all. Especially if writing is not your full time job. Especially if you also have children who are small and need a lot of attention. Especially if…[insert what calls for you time here].

One of the ways I make the most of my time is Facebook. It is a great tool. Not necessarily the most important tool (newsletters and your e-mail list may ultimately be the most important, but that’s for another blog post), but a great tool nonetheless.

What are Facebook Groups?

We are all familiar, I hope, with the concept that we can (and should) post on our Facebook page and Facebook Author/Writer page about what’s happening in our writing lives, in our “normal” life, etc. And maybe some of you are even aware of Facebook Groups for buying and selling things like clothing (LuLaRoe, here I come!).

There are Facebook Groups for books. Specified by genre and subgenre and whatnot. The idea is that readers of Historical Romance, for example, join the page to discuss books in that genre and find new reads. Authors of that genre will also join the page and put forth their books, alerting that market of their existence. So, authors and readers of like genres can connect.

Sign me up! How do I get set up?

There is a search box on your Facebook page. Type in your genre “Historical Fiction”, “Christian Books”, “Suspense”, etc. Then join GROUPS that pop up that look interesting to you. Make sure to read their specifications. What they allow authors to post and even if they allow you to promote on that page (some do not).

Once you have a list of groups going, you need to keep track of when you can post where. I only belong to groups that allow posting on any day at any time. I don’t want to have to keep that much information in my head or in my binder. I need it to be easy, not more difficult. I keep a list of the groups in a table with columns where I can mark the date I post in that group. Most groups only allow you to post once a day.

How often should I post then?

I generally post once a week in all the groups. And I’ll pick a book to post for each week. I could post a different book each day, but, again, I want this to work for me. I also don’t want the members in these groups to get tired of seeing my name. That might have the opposite effect of what I’m wanting…over-saturation…wearing them out.

What do I post?

I make memes to post in the groups. Visually, they are more appealing and they generally get more interaction. Just posting your title, buy link, and cover gets old real quick. Here is an example of what I would post:

Amanda needed the stability of marriage and the long-term
support for her son. But she didn’t expect to care so much
about the ranch. Or the rancher. Read more about “A
Convenient Risk” at: http://saraturnquist.com/convenient-risk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you need more information about making memes, check out my blog post here.

So, you’ll need memes containing either a review quote or 65-word-or-less pull quote from the book. Then a tweet-length intriguing statement to post above the meme with a link to your website page or where the reader can buy the book.

And that, my friends, is pretty much all there is to Facebook groups. I cannot stress enough that you follow their guidelines. And keep it respectable.

Happy Marketing!

Writers Conference: A View From the Front

I have just returned from the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference in Elizabethtown, KY. It was a blast! But it was also a tiring venture. Aren’t all conferences? You leave with a ton of business cards from your networking efforts, more friends, greater knowledge and understanding of aspects of the craft, and renewed inspiration. This year, however, I had another level to my exhaustion…I was a workshop facilitator.

And I realized how much I took for granted how nice it is to show up to the conference with naught but your pitch prepared and one sheets, synopsis, and business cards in hand. Not only did I have a couple of weeks of preparation under my belt, I had props, sign up sheets, books to sell, handouts, and a myriad of other things along for the ride (including chocolate).

So, I facilitated four workshops: “Preparing for Liftoff: Launching Your Book”, “Writing a Proposal/Querying” (with my husband), “Basic Characterology”, and “Marketing with Memes”.

It was great to share what knowledge I do possess and encourage other writers at different places in their journeys. There’s nothing like it. And I will look forward to doing so again at (hopefully) this conference next year and others.

I will be honest and say that the thing I enjoyed the LEAST was the panel. Whoa! It was not being put on the spot. It was not the questions…it was being up there with some of the authors I admire and respect the most (and my publisher, to say the least), and trusting my tongue to put forth good answers.

By and large, I encourage all authors and writers to go to conferences, as many as you can (make sure they are reputable, of course). And take that knowledge back to the writers that are newer in the craft than you. And, as the time comes and you have grown in your experience and technique, put yourself out there to teach.

Until next time, Happy Reading! Oh, and Happy Writing!

The Blog Tour has begun!

Here are the stops for “A Convenient Risk” Blog Tour.

*Note: The post for the tour will not be live until the date posted.

June 19: The Reading Addict
June 19: Romance Novel Giveaways
June 19: Reader’s Handbook
June 20: Christine Young
June 21: Buried Under Romance
June 21: Beyond Romance
June 22: Fabulous and Brunette
June 23: Hearts and Scribbles
June 23: Books, Dreams,Life
June 23: Notes From a Romantic’s Heart – review
June 26: Queen of All She Reads
June 27: Edgar’s Books
June 27: LibriAmoriMiei – review
June 28: Book Lover Promo
June 28: Kissing Bandits
June 29: EskieMama and Dragon Lady Reads
June 30: Journey of a Bookseller – review
July 10: A Writer’s Life
July 10: BooksChatter
July 11: Mixed Book Bag
July 12: Unabridged Andra
July 12: Tina Donahue Books – Heat with Heart
July 13: Booklove – review
July 13: charline’s blog and more…
July 14: Wendi Zwaduk ~ Romance To Make Your Heart Race
July 14: Independent Authors
July 17: Readeropolis
July 18: Simpliread – review
July 18: Lorana Hoopes
July 19: Hope. Dreams. Life… Love
July 19: Nesie’s Place
July 19: Mello and June, It’s a Book Thang!
July 19: Two Ends of the Pen
July 20: Straight From the Library
July 21: Long and Short Reviews

There is a $50 Amazon/BN giftcard giveaway for participation in the tour. Details can be found on the tour stops.