Long time no see/read … and I’m very sorry about that. Like for many people, my life has changed a lot during the pandemic. I was quite productive (I wrote 52 short stories last year) and enjoyed the time as best I could. Of course there were many things that took a lot of adjusting, but I never lost the urge to write.
That changed drastically at the beginning of this year. I began to avoid my novel. Instead I planned another three that are now waiting to be written, and dabbled in short and flash stories. Those are fun but not as satisfying as novels. Then the war in Ukraine started, and I haven’t been able to write more than a few words since then. Not even the writing event Camp NaNo changed that (and I had high hopes).
The flurry of activities, the noise (even though mostly happy), the returning people (or dear, the people, even family and friends) seem to be too much after more than two years of silence. Analyzing my feelings (or temporary lack thereof), I think I have some form of depression or burnout. It’s not that I don’t want to write, I do, I just can’t seem to get myself to actually do it. It’s a pattern I know from both my husband and son. So I decided I won’t allow myself to remain in this state. That only brings about self-pity. From my husband and son, I’ve learned that slow and steady with plenty of downtime gets one back on one’s feet.
So I’m setting myself some small goals. I decided to post each one here to see how it goes. As you know I’m not tremendously good at writing blog posts regularly, but I’ll do my very best. Maybe seeing me making progress and relapsing but never giving up helps you, too, to adjust to the new normal.
My first goal was to update the website, which I did successfully. I added all the short stories that were published over the last two years, and since they didn’t fit into the menu any longer, I put them on a separate page.
I even made a cover for the story “A Twist on Katlani’s Plan” that I’m quite proud of. I sold it in February 2021 and it’s free to read. Check it out if you want and let me know if you like it.
My next goal is to write an interesting Flash Fiction story for the upcoming bloghop. We’ll see how that goes. I’ll do my best and hope you will too.
I missed last month’s blog post and nearly this one as well. I’ll get to the reasons in a minute. But first the release for May: the fourth and finalfairy tale retellings bundle is available on Amazon (even in KU). I will make the others available at the other retailers as soon as the chaos dies down. Here are all four bundles again:
The reasons why I missed the last blog post are manifold. For one, I’ve hit a major low in motivation. I’m currently writing short stories, and I get praise for many of them (e.g. from Writers of the Future judge David Farland and others), but whenever I send them to a paying market, they get declined. I’ve been publishing at least one book per month since March 2020 (so that’s more than a year worth of stories) and there’s no increase in sales.
Also, in December a personal disaster stuck and I’m still not over it. It influences my time management, and the ideas that want to be written tend to grow much darker these days. Many turn into stories I have no interest in writing.
So all in all, I’m questioning my writing career. I’ve written and Indie published non-stop for more years than I care to admit. I’ve seen people have success with their stories (and I do not envy them, they put in just as much heart, blood, and sweat as I do) while mine remain invisible (I know I’m an idiot when it comes to marketing).
I still write, and I still love the writing side, but all drive to get things written and published has left me. I’ve run into a wall and instead of getting up to find a way around it, I’m sitting here, feeling drained and tired and unwilling to go on.
I’d appreciate some motivating words. Have you read one of my books? Shall I keep going or would it be better to concentrate on something else?
I know you’ve been waiting patiently, and I appreciate that. I meant to publish the final volume at the beginning of this year but as you can read if you go to the older posts, that just didn’t work out.
But now, I’m finally able to sit again which means I’m working on the revision. During the time I spent on my belly (roughly from May till now), I translated the chapters I already had using dictation. That went fine, but revision is something that just doesn’t work with dictation. At least not for me.
After I stopped writing the first draft in November last year, I added sentences for the missing scenes so I’d know what needed to be written. Now I’m pretending that I already did write those scenes (7-8 in total) and started on the revision. Naturally I’m using my abbreviated version of How To Revise Your Novel for that since this book is a mess (unwritten scenes, missing clues that are needed for the ending, a superfluous character, and more).
But as my beta readers can attest you, I’m fast when it comes to revision (at least now that I’m more or less healthy again). Therefore I’m aiming for a release in late September. It’s a tight schedule, but I should be able to pull it off IF Murphy doesn’t throw some additional stuff my way (like the broken central heating that needed replacing and that is getting repaired today – grrr). So please don’t get angry should the book get delayed a little more than that. I’m doing my best, working as fast as I can.
As a thank you for your patience, I’m already showing you the cover and hope you like it as much as I do.
Sometimes, life just explodes, and that happened to me in November. In a rapid succession, my kids moved (one even twice), and I was so busy with the paperwork and the actual moving that all my writing plans were blown to smithereens until April.
Then, in May, my doctor found an issue with my digestive system that required a tiny operation. Really, the cut couldn’t have been more than 10mm (a little more than 1/4 inch), but I’ve been flat out ever since. I’m sleeping, swallowing pain meds and sleeping again. It took me by surprise, but seems to be the norm. When I complained, the doc told me, it’ll take roughly six weeks. Thanks for the advance warning. 😀
Well, I did the best I could. Today way my first day of getting back into the swing of things. I lay on my bed and dictated the translation of “High School Dragons: Crowned by Fire”, the final volume of the trilogy. Yes, it’s close to completion. All I need to write is the showdown. Since I need to read the whole story again to get in the right mood, I’m translating at the same time. That saves me time and nerves and makes a late summer/early autumn release likely.
An interesting fact I only discovered recently was that the data I collected with my sensors will not be stored on my PC even when I download them from the hand held gadget. Naturally that makes it quite impossible to do any long term analytics. There also is no way to store the Freestyle Libre data in a format that would allow me to use an analytical program. The only thing I can do is compare the ready made analysis from one day or month with another. I find that rather annoying, so I called support. They told me that only the cloud system they’ve got will store data long term.
And I hate cloud based systems. I do not want my data, regardless which data, to be anywhere but on my own PC if at all. That might be old-fashioned but I do not trust the security, no matter how often anyone assures me that their security is the best. Imho there’s no better security than a PC that’s not online. That way, no sensitive data (and health related data is considered extremely sensitive) will ever get out of my sight. So in my eyes, not having an option to store data long term on my own PC is a huge drawback of the software.
Since I didn’t know this beforehand, I wasn’t able to compare the latest with earlier data or to spot a trend. Of course some things with my blood sugar were pretty straightforward: higher blood sugar levels over Christmas and New Year and whenever the cold showed up again (and it raised its ugly head several times already this year). Also, I had several really low blood sugar drops. Measurements went as far down as 70-75mg/dl which isn’t critical yet (Hypoglycemia starts at 50mg/dl) but the gadget still warned me of low sugar levels.
I found that they show up more often when I had eaten a lot of “junk” food (like white flour rolls, cookies, cake, and the like). That’s a sign that my body produces a lot of insulin to cope with the influx of sugar, but because it’s a sugar variant that’s easily digested, it vanishes out of the blood stream so fast. Then, the remaining insulin calls for MORE carbohydrates. It’s a vicious cycle because if one really follows that craving one naturally gains weight. Its best to ignore the tiny piranhas gnawing at your intestines. I drink some water and sit it out (or go for a walk).
Since most of the time my blood sugar is too high, not too low, I drink a glass of grapefruit juice daily. I get a small but short lived spike shortly after drinking, but the dropdown later makes up for it. Grapefruit juice takes the blood sugar down better than my medicine. I highly recommend grapefruit juice (try to get some that has been freshly pressed, it’s tastier) for diabetics like me. It generally helps to get a grip on your blood sugar.
I had my diabetes completely under control until early November. With a weekly average around 118-120mg/dL (which converts to 6,5-6,6%), my blood sugar levels resembled that of a healthy human. However, my skin is still thinner than usual and the nail of my left thumb easily rips (from the tip of the nail downward into the flesh which hurts like hell). I blame these symptoms on my diabetes since I’ve never had them before the diagnosis.
Then, Stress (yes, capitalized) hit me hard. My eldest, her best friend, and my youngest decided to move, and I had to fight myself through a mountain of paperwork, battle off an unreasonable landlord, help carry furniture and clothes six floors down and four flours up.
During that time I still managed to eat only twice a day, and I’m proud to say that despite the Stress, I did not gain weight again (something I’m prone to do when stressed). I also managed to eat reasonably well during Christmas. Only the Chinese food we had on the 25th was a disaster for my diabetes, but I’d already anticipated that. Still, my blood sugar levels worsened from early November on until past x-mas. Then, I got a cold (seems obligatory for me between the years) and my sugar levels exploded. Some days they didn’t even go below 160mg/dL no matter how much exercise I got or how little I ate.
Some research revealed that my own liver was at fault. Due to the fact that my body was battling the cold, it had decided we’d need more energy to get that done. So it freed sugar from its fatty deposits. Unfortunately my cells weren’t responsive enough (yet) to funnel the high amount of sugar out of the blood stream fast enough.
Now that the cold and the Stress are mostly over, blood sugar levels are getting more normal again. I’ll keep monitoring them and will keep you posted on my progress. I’ll also return to a one-carbohydrate-free-meal-a-day strategy as soon as it gets a little warmer. After all, I want to lose some more weight this year.
To get my weight down and become free from diabetes, I decided to start a second round of strict application of Dr. Fung’s recommendations. Since I love science (after all I’ve got a PhD in science), I decided to document my journey.
Therefore, I got my husband to wear one of my Freestyle Libre pads for a week as a first step. He is slim and non-diabetic, so I got a baseline I could aim for. In the picture on the left, you see the data for two typical days for me (and that’s already spectacular for a diabetic). On the right is a picture of the data of two typical days of my husband (the baseline I’m aiming for). You can increase the sze of the pictures by clicking on them (they’ll open in a new tab).
You can see that his measurements (the blue line) are nearly always (99%) inside the grey area that indicates good blood sugar levels. Also, his spikes are much more pointy, which means that even when his blood sugar spikes, it comes down fast. My blood sugar spikes are much more rounded which means it takes my body a lot longer to get it transported out of the blood stream. Also, on average, my blue line is higher than his and more of my spikes leave the grey area.
For better comparison, I accumulated data for one week for both of us (an option of my analytical program) into a graph of daily averages (see the next two graphs, mine is on the left, hubbys on the right).
Not only is my Median (that’s a special kind of average; if you’re into math, you can find an explanation here) much higher than his, the spread is much wider (meaning that there are more data points with much higher or lower values than the Median than in my husband’s data pool) and the nightly dips aren’t as pronounced.
So my goal is to get my weekly accumulated Median as close to his as possible over the next months. I’d be happy if you’d share my journey. If you decide to play along, please let me know if Dr. Fung’s advice works for you. Next week I’ll tell you more about my journey (mostly how I felt, how successful I was at keeping to Dr. Fung’s recommendations, and the changes to my weight and diabetic data).
In a nutshell, Dr. Fung recommends to eat more fat and less carbohydrates (because those are responsible for high insulin levels that trigger weight gain and diabetes) and condense the times you eat into as small a time window as you can stand. The minimum time between the last meal of the day and the first meal of the next day should be 16 hours or more. That is called intermittent fasting.
The first time I followed Dr. Fung’s method, I ate once a day from Monday to Friday and kept carbohydrates (see picture on the left) to a minimum. On Saturday or Sunday, I allowed myself to eat bread (the one craving I had) and ate three times a day (late breakfast, normal lunch, early dinner; keep in mind that Germans usually eat a cooked lunch and bread for dinner). I did not touch any alcohol.
What surprised me most was that I did not feel tired and that I did not crave food all the time. My energy levels were up, I was alert and felt well rested even if I slept too little. My blood pressure and heart rate went down too (I kept measuring those because I also have high blood pressure). At the end of my first time (taken out of context that phrase suggests something completely different, grin), I’d lost 10kg/22lbs without a struggle and all of the health parameters I’m controlling improved.
But why? Well, the reason is insulin.
With the constant availability of food, sweetened drinks, and alcohol, people started eating more than 3 times a day and increased the average intake of sweet drinks and alcohol. That forced the body to produce insulin 24/7. The bad thing about insulin is that as long as it’s there, the body cells will get less and less receptive to it. An insulin resistance develops = Diabetes II!
Also, insulin is responsible for the storage of energy. The more insulin a body produces and the longer it’s in the blood, the more energy will get stored in your fat cells: weight gain!
Therefore insulin is responsible for obesity and diabetes type II. Dr. Fung’s recommendation to eat more fat (which triggers a much lower discharge of insulin) and less often (reducing insulin levels to zero between meals) helps in both cases.
At the end of the summer, after being completely certain that his method is the solution to both of my problems, I decided to go about this a little more scientifically. I’ll tell you all about it next week.
When I kept to the dietary recommendations of the doctors I’d been talking to, I hated every minute of loosing weight (although I was happy with the result). The constant hunger made me think of food all the time, and the added sport ate into my writing time until I began to loathe it. Enter Holly Lisle, writing coach extraordinaire. She’d been battling tongue cancer and beginning diabetes successfully and recommended two books by Dr. Jason Fung, a nephrologist (specialist for kidneys) who had decided it would be better to battle diabetes than handling the fallout (kidney failure with dialyses).
Like all other doctors I’d consulted, he recommends weight loss to battle diabetes. However, he said that reducing fat and carbohydrates was the wrong strategy. And the reason—how surprising—is the body’s reaction to such a diet: the permanent craving of food. His solution is as simple as it is logical.
Reducing fat and carbohydrates forces the body to live on proteins, and they do not provide enough energy. Since carbohydrates are what’s causing the biggest insulin problems (I’ll talk about that next week), the amount of fat in the diet needs to go up.
When I was studying in Scotland (about x years ago), I was always pressed for time. So my main dish was bread with fried cheese and some cress or salad. Naturally the bread dripped with fat. I lost a lot of weight back then, an unforeseen but welcome effect. Unfortunately I drew the wrong conclusions thinking the weight loss a result to the stress at university, especially when it came back after returning to Germany. With Dr. Fung’s finds, I finally got the right perspective.
Dr. Fung also said that the time a person eats has a significant influence on how the body reacts to food (read the books for proof). Since that was exactly what I found when I monitored my diabetes, my initial skepticism melted away and I set out to see if his method truly worked.
Right before the summer holidays, I followed his recommendations for six weeks and lost 10kg/22lbs without feeling hungry once. During the holidays, with the kids at home, it was impossible to keep this up, but I did manage to keep my food intake to two low carbohydrate meals a day. I did not gain a singe gram over the summer (something I normally find very hard to do). Next week I’ll tell you more about the method and why it works.
So, by the end of the first year I’d had about enough, especially of my inability to really tell how the sugar in my blood reacted throughout the day and for the different kinds of food.
Grinding my teeth at the price, I got myself a Freestyle Libre system (which isn’t paid for by German health insurance unless the diabetic is already using insulin) around Christmas 2016. It consists of a reading gadget (or an app for a mobile phone, only the most up to date kind, that they developed recently) and the pads (that’s the expensive part since each pad costs 60€ and has to be replaced every two weeks).
The gadget measures the sugar in the liquid in the subcutis tissue continuously. Setting the pad into my upper arm was easy and hurt me very little. Wearing it is no bother. However, I’ve had to learn to keep the arm on the side I’m wearing it away from door frames and other obstacles at arm height. Bumping into one can result in ripping out the pad. That doesn’t hurt much but empties your wallet pretty fast.
With the first pad put in place and activated, I began to experiment right away. I found a couple of patterns that helped me a lot in adjusting my everyday eating habits. I found that for me, eating a late breakfast (past 9am) led to less pronounced spikes of blood sugar than an early breakfast (6am) even though I ate exactly the same things. My body processes rice better than pasta. And taking Metformin after a meal helped me better than before a meal.
Of course those finds will differ from person to person, so it’s not too helpful for you. Still, it was a big improvement to be able to see how my blood sugar reacted when I ate. With the gadget I managed to keep my long term blood sugar HbA1c between 7.7% and 7.3%, but I did not lose another g/lbs of weight.
Then came chaos and stress (health issues in my whole family) and my blood sugar shot up. I was running around so much at that time that I did not gain weight again, but my long term blood sugar rose to 8.4% and my doctor wanted to put me on insulin.
I refused vehemently. Something had to change. Just monitoring the disease wasn’t enough. That was at the beginning of this year, and a book recommendation of my mentor Holly Lisle changed my life. With the preliminaries out of the way, I’ll tell you more about that next week.