Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Get Healthy Bloghop--Making Weight Watchers Work for You

Today I'm participating in Alex J. Cavanaugh's Get Healthy Bloghop to share my story.

I've been overweight (or is it just undertall?) for most of my adult life. My weight fluctuated up and down, but for the most part I looked like this (I'm the one in front in red, second from the right):

However, I'm middle-aged, and the warranty on my body is long expired with no chance at renewal. After watching some of my friends deal with health issues, I became more motivated to lose weight. So last year, my husband and I joined Weight Watchers (WW). I'm proud to say I've lost over 30 pounds. See below for a photo taken earlier this month. Despite the trench coat, I think you can see a difference.

Even more importantly, after going past my goal weight last summer, I reached a healthy weight that's fairly stable. I'm not quite at my lowest weight, but I'm within five pounds of it and well within the recommended weight range for my height. My clothing size is lower than what I wore in high school--and I'm still amazed by that. Physically, I feel great--except for the utter exhaustion at times from having to do too much on too little sleep.
I followed the Weight Watchers Maintenance program for a few months before letting my membership lapse. I don't track my intake anymore (which could explain the few pounds I've regained), but I keep what I've learned in mind.

So, what made Weight Watchers so successful for me, and how can you make it work? Here are a few principles that I think were key for me:

1. Having your significant other as a partner--My husband and I made the joint decision not just to lose weight, but to follow the same program. That made it easier to plan our meals, encourage each other, and track our intake/activity. Granted, at times it was frustrating because my husband started off with nearly twice as many points as I did. (Instead of counting calories with WW, you count points. Fresh fruits and veggies are 0 points, while other foods have points calculated based on their nutritional information.) However, we weren't sabotaging each other by choosing unhealthy food either.

2. Cooking at home--Cooking may seem like a hassle when you're pressed for time, but it's so much easier to make nutritious food at home than finding low-point value food at a restaurant. At home, you can control how you cook your food, so it's not fried or loaded with salt and fat. The WW website has lots of great recipes to try. I have a board on Pinterest with over 150 recipes; it's my most popular board.

3. Eating more fruits and veggies--They have 0 points raw, so you can fill yourself up without cutting into your points. Even when cooked, they're a healthy use of your points. I try to make at least one vegetarian meal a week. The strange thing is that after a while of eating more produce and less pastries, I find myself craving quinoa/rice carrot fritters or vegetarian shepherd's pie.

4. Portion Control--Weight Watchers allows you to eat whatever you want as long as you account for it. So I could still work fudge into my food allowance, but at a much smaller size than before. Even today, I still measure out my cereal and milk, chips, and rice/pasta to make sure I'm eating the correct amount.

5. Exercising--Exercising allows you to earn more points. In fact, all kinds of activities (even housework) count. The key is finding something you can stick with and a time you can manage. Since I'm cursed to wake up early no matter how tired I am or when I go to bed, I get up and exercise on the treadmill for a half hour or so every day. What makes this enjoyable for me is reading, so I go at a pace where I can still do that. Of course, running upstairs and downstairs doing chores and taking care of my family helps too.

6. Cutting yourself some slack--If you're on a diet and slip up, you may feel it's hopeless to continue and let yourself stop the program. However, Weight Watchers recognizes people aren't perfect. In addition to your daily points, you're given extra points you can use if you eat too much one day or want to have an extra-special meal. Also, as I said before, you don't have to give up your favorite foods completely, but you may have to reduce how much you eat. I allow myself a mid-afternoon snack at work (sometimes fruit, sometimes a serving of trail mix or a small treat) and a low-cal dessert after dinner. This way, I don't feel deprived and am less likely to go overboard on the chocolate.

Do you have questions about Weight Watchers, or do you want to share your own success story? Please share them in the comments.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

WisCon Part Two

Instead of attending panels Sunday morning, I helped out at the Broad Universe table for a couple of hours and chatted with other members. My family and I had lunch with friends. I decided to skip the first afternoon panel to visit my favorite store on State Street, The Soap Opera. I had time afterwards to briefly walk through the art show before the next panel, about Fear and Masculinity. Unfortunately, my laptop's battery ran low during the panel, and I lost my notes. After that panel, I attended one on caregivers and how they're affected by their sex and race. We had dinner with a friend from college. By the time we put our son to bed, the guest of honor speeches were finishing up. I did make it to a late-night panel on Choice Feminism, about choices women make that aren't always feminist. It was an interesting panel, but even after checking out the parties I was in the room by midnight.

I didn't attend any panels Monday morning, but I was part of the SignOut. By the time that was done, we needed to leave Madison. Our drive back was much more leisurely. My husband and I agreed we need to visit Madison again this summer when it's not WisCon so we have more time to go around the city and see friends. Still, when the weather is nice, it's hard to beat Memorial Day in Madison.

Monday, May 27, 2013

WisCon Part One

Although we arrived in Madison Friday evening, I didn't do much at WisCon that day. I picked up my badge and talked with a few people we knew, but then I went out for dinner and dessert with my family.

Saturday morning, my family and I went to the Farmer's Market before the first panel. I chose to attend Being Female While Aging, which looked at portrayals, both good and bad, of older women in literature. There were three panels after lunch. I went to Editing for Writers, which probably wasn't my best fit. It was stuff I already knew and geared toward traditional publishing. (Several people asked about self-publishing at the end; not surprisingly, the panelists weren't encouraging.) Next, I went to Is Every Kickass Female Character a Mary Sue? The premise there is that Mary Sue is used as a pejorative (though the panelists thought Mary Sues aren't necessarily bad) and that it's come out of fandom to be used as a way to insult all female characters and women authors. This was an interesting panel, especially since one of the panelists was interested in the Beatles.

The final panel before dinner was Food In Spaaace! I was one of the panelists. We had a crowd of about 20-30 people, and we had a lot of interaction with the audience. I think it went well.

After dinner and a soak in the whirlpool, I was part of the Broad Universe Rapid-Fire Reading. The original moderator couldn't make it to WisCon, and since I volunteered to be the next Reading and Event Co-ordinator for Broad Universe, I was asked to take over. (The original moderator is named Sandra, so I introduced myself as the Emergency Backup Sandra. We're not easy to find!) It was my job to introduce and time the readers; so I had to do it with my laptop and cell phone. The reading went well, and we managed to fit everyone in. Then I went to a couple of parties and talked to a few people before calling it a night.

Tune in tomorrow for more details about Sunday and Monday.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Science of the Week--5/24/13

It's the first day of WisCon today, and I can hardly wait to get up there. Since I don't think we have a BRoP interview scheduled for the 24th, I should be able to report on the con then. In the meantime, here's my weekly science news roundup:

Team successfully converts human skin cells into embryonic stem cells (Technically, this one should have been posted last week.)

Carbon storage in Arctic tundra shows ecosystem resiliency

New method proposed for detecting gravitational waves from the ends of the universe

"Brainstorm" device could wirelessly detect brain bleeding

Robots learn to take a proper handoff by following digitized human examples

Do salamanders hold the solution to regeneration?

U.S. equipped to grow serious amounts of pond scum for fuel

Engineered microbes glow in the dark

Bacteria use hydrogen, CO2 to produce electricity

And from CNN:

3-D printer helps save dying baby

Enjoy the holiday weekend, everyone! I may tweet about WisCon when I have a chance; my user name is @ulbrichalmazan if you want to follow me. Otherwise, I'll try to have a summary of the con up either Monday or Tuesday.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Cover Reveal: Ruby's Fire

As promised, today I get to share with you the cover for Ruby's Fire, written by BroadUniverse member Catherine Stine.


Ruby's Fire
Catherine Stine
Series: Fireseed, #2 (however, can be read as a stand-alone)
Publication date:  June 26, 2013
Genre: YA Sci-Fi

If everything about you changes, what remains?
Seventeen year-old Ruby, long-pledged to the much older Stiles from the Fireseed desert cult, escapes with only a change of clothes, a pouch of Oblivion Powder and her mute little brother, Thorn. Arriving at The Greening, a boarding school for orphaned teens, she can finally stop running. Or can she? The Greening is not what it seems. Students are rampaging out of control and as she cares for the secret Fireseed crop, she experiences frightening physical changes. She’s ashamed of her attraction to burly, hard-talking Blane, the resident bodyguard, and wonders why she can’t be happy with the gentler Armonk. She’s long considered her great beauty a liability, a thing she’s misused in order to survive. And how is she to stop her dependence on Oblivion to find a real beauty within, using her talent as a maker of salves, when she has nightmares of Stiles without it?

When George Axiom, wealthy mogul of Vegas-by-the-Sea offers a huge cash prize for the winner of a student contest, Ruby is hopeful she might collect the prize to rescue her family and friends from what she now knows is a dangerous cult. But when Stiles comes to reclaim her, and Thorn sickens after creating the most astonishing contest project of all, the world Ruby knows is changed forever. This romantic fantasy set in 2099 on earth has a crafty heroine in Ruby, and a swoonworthy cast, which will surely appeal to the YA and new adult audience.

If you'd like to sign up for the book blog tour in late July/August, you can do so here.

Catherine Stine writes YA, New Adult and middle grade fiction. Her YA futuristic thriller, Fireseed One, illustrated by the author was granted a Bronze Wishing Shelf Book Award and an Indie Reader Approved notable stamp. Her YA Refugees, earned a New York Public Library Best Book. Middle grade novels include A Girl’s Best Friend. More and more, she’s enjoying writing speculative tales. She teaches literature at the School of Visual Arts and creative writing at the Philadelphia Writing Conference and in her own ongoing NYC writing workshop. Catherine earned a double focus MFA in Creative Writing at the New School.
Visit her at and at

Author Links:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Back on the Blog Chain: What is Success?

Cole has a philosophical question for us this round:

How do you define success? Is it getting published, making the New York Times list, or just finishing a novel?

These are all possible ways to define success, but the meaning of success is going to differ from writer to writer, depending on their goals and motivation for writing.

For me, I originally started writing as a way to connect with others and share the things that matter most to me, like my love of science and my enjoyment of stories with ensemble casts. But I've been conditioned to reach for the top honors during my years in school, so at the same time I also daydreamed of winning the highest awards in my genre, like a Nebula or a Hugo. It took me a long time to hone my craft, and there's always something new to learn. In the meantime, I learned more about writing and publishing, and the world of publishing changed. With it changed my definition of success.

While I still celebrate finishing a first draft or indie-publishing a story, I consider it more satisfying than successful, like knocking something off your to-do list at work but knowing you have more projects to work on. It feels more like success to me to make a sale or to get a good review from a reader.

Success also depends on what goals you've set for yourself. I have a daily quota for new words, a publishing goal for this year, and a long-term goal (making a living from my writing) several years away. It's a challenge meeting all of those goals on top of everything else I do, but being successful at each small goal gets me closer to my long-term one.

As for the Hugo, I'm not holding my breath, but I have a feeling we'll eventually see indie-published work being nominated for major awards.

To follow the chain, visit Kate for the first post. Christine normally posts after me, but according to her blog, she may be on a short hiatus. Katrina would then be the next up.

I'm taking the day off from blogging on Wednesday (I have a lot of preparation to do for WisCon and my son's upcoming birthday party, plus I have to finish reviewing the audio version of Twinned Universes), but I'm participating in a cover reveal Thursday and will have the usual science links on Friday.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Blog Ring of Power Interview--Sarah-Jane Lehoux

Today Sarah-Jane Lehoux starts her interview with the Blog Ring of Power.  Let's learn a little more about her:

When and why did you begin writing?

As a natural introvert, I’ve always had difficulty relating to other people, difficulty expressing my wants and needs. Writing gave me an outlet for exploring the world. And as I am a survivor of childhood abuse, this grew more important as time went on. Writing was a safe way to vent frustration and work through difficult experiences. It’s been the best therapy and my closest confidante. I doubt I would have made it through childhood if not for my love of reading and writing.

Tell us about your early works—what was the first thing you ever wrote?

I think the first story I wrote was a story about tiny little people called “No Gos.” I must have been only 4 or 5. I still have it; two full scape sheets of yellowed paper taped together. The story follows the youngest No Go, who gets lost, meets a lady bug, and then returns home. I remember bringing the story in to my Brownie leader, so proud of myself. She had the nerve to correct my spelling mistakes. After that, I would only ever read my stories aloud; no one was allowed to touch them.

When did you first consider yourself a professional writer?

I first considered myself a professional writer when I was paid for a story. A whole five dollars for a piece of flash fiction when I was in my mid-twenties.

What genre do you write?

My genre of choice is fantasy. I love to use extreme worlds, characters and situations to bring home whatever point I’m trying to make. Hyperbole is the best way to elicit emotion, and emotions are what linger with a reader long after they’ve put down the book.

What is your favorite theme/genre to write about?
No matter what genre I’m writing in, I always try to examine the human condition, and usually the dark side of humanity. I’m really interested in the idea of duality—that everyone has both good and bad sides to themselves—and I’m interesting in exploring situations that draw out one side or the other. In my stories, the protagonists and antagonists are not quite so clear cut.

Sarah-Jane's Social Links:

Facebook page:
Goodreadsauthor page
Is your book in print, ebook or both? The Sevy Series (Thief, Shades of War and Masquerade) will be available in both print and ebook starting May 20th.

I'll be posting an excerpt from Thief on June 5. (I have the eBook but haven't had a chance to read it yet.) In the meantime, Sarah-Jane's interview continues at the following blogs:

Part 2 @ Dean - May 21st
Part 3 @ Terri - May 22nd
Part 4 @ Teresa - May 23rd
Part 5 @ Emily - May 24th

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Food in Spaaaaaaace!

First, since it's the 15th, I have a post up at the Scene 13 group blog. Our theme this month is "Mayday! Mayday! Overcoming challenges and obstacles." I chose to focus on the first part of the theme: Mayday, a call for help. What motivates protagonists to ask for help? To find out more, click here.

It's hard to believe WisCon is next week. I'll be participating in a panel on food in space, reading from Twinned Universes, and participating in the Sign-Out on Monday. I'll also help out at the Broad Universe table at some point, though I don't know when yet.  Trying to prepare for WisCon and my son's upcoming birthday party while keeping up with writing and work is always a challenge. I have a couple of books I'd like to use for examples of food on a spaceship, but I could always use more. Does anyone have any that they'd like to recommend? If so, please add them to the comment section. Thanks!

Monday, May 13, 2013

What I'm Working On

We were supposed to interview author Michelle Hauck today, but she asked us to postpone her interview until her book is out. The Blog Ring of Power will return next week with a different author; Michelle's interview will probably run next month. In the meantime, I thought it would be a good idea to let everyone know what I'm working on and what I have planned.

My current and most important project is drafting the next main stories in the SF Catalyst Chronicles series, Catalyst in the Crucible and A Challenge of Catalysts. Whereas there's a break between Books One and Two and then Two and Three, the events in these two books occur right after the other, so I'm going to write them all at once. I have an idea where I want to break the story, but I need to make sure each installment has a complete story arc. I also need to go back and work some more on Julia's (minor character from Twinned Universes) story, which takes place between Twinned Universes and Catalyst in the Crucible. This will be a shorter story, probably a novella. My original title was "Brave New Girl," a play on "Brave New World." However, since Julia is one-quarter Navajo, I'm not sure if this title is still appropriate. Thoughts, anyone?

In addition to my SF series, I want to start getting my fantasy series going. The original title for the series was The Season Lords, a group of magicians who are reincarnated over and over to serve the Four Gods and Goddesses of their country, Challen. Since the current group is all female, I'm not sure if I still want to call them Lords. (Being automatically ennobled, no matter what class they're born into, is a privilege of being one of these magicians.) I plan to start this series with a short story collection that will show the origins of the Chaos Season and the Season Lords. I plan to call this collection Six from the Season Lords, though I may change this title. Next will be Scattered Seasons, the first book in the Season Lords Quartet. This is written but needs to be revised before being sent to my editor. I have some material written for the next books in the series (tentatively titled Chaos Season, Fifth Season, and Summon the Season Lords). However, what I've previously written will have to be revised and edited, and it's going to take a couple of years at my present rate to get that done.

I originally planned to publish six works this year, one novel and five shorter works. Three are already available, while three aren't quite ready yet. I want to publish "Brave New Girl," Six from the Season Lords, and a fantasy novelette called "The Fighting Roses of Sharon." In addition, I've started another fantasy short story with the working title of "Plant Manager." Plus, I have another project in process, but it's not SF or fantasy. I sure keep myself busy, don't I?

Anyway, I hope some of the works I've mentioned above sound appealing to you, though I'm not ready to announce more publication dates yet. In the meantime, any thoughts on the titles would be appreciated.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Science of the Week, 5/10/13

Here are some of the most interesting science articles I've read this week:

Researchers discover world's most extreme hearing animal

"Bacteria-eaters" can prevent infections on medical implants

Human brain cells developed in lab, grow in mice

Geologists study mystery of "eternal flames"

How to harvest electricity directly from plants

Serendipitous scientific discovery holds potential in destroying drug-resistant bacteria

Device can extract human DNA with full genetic data in minutes

Do-it-yourself invisibility with  3-D printing

Microwave oven cooks up solar cell material

Mouse epilepsy cure holds hope for humans

Hope you enjoy the articles? Are there any here that you particularly like? Maybe I could start highlighting audience favorites.

Although I originally had a BRoP interview scheduled for Monday, it's been postponed at the author's request. We'll return on May 20th with another author. In the meantime, any suggestions for a Monday topic? I do have some ideas, but I'd like to know what readers want.

Have a good weekend, and see you Monday!

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

The Indie Life: Postcards and Cover Keepers

Once again, it's time for another round of Indie Life. This month, I'd like to share with you an idea for possible book promotion. We could all use more help with that, right?

Sherry Ficklin, one of the members of the Scene 13 group blog, has started a program that will benefit both readers and writers. It's called Cover Keepers, and it's a way for readers and writers to connect. Basically, writers send in signed postcards of their book covers and blurbs, and readers sign up to receive them. You can learn more about this program here. The first batch of covers is scheduled to go out in June. If that's too soon for you to get cover postcards made, don't worry; covers will be sent out every month. Be sure to read the requirements here first.

In case you were wondering, yes, I'm part of this program. You can get covers for Lyon's Legacy and Twinned Universes through Cover Keepers. Here's a picture of what they look like:

I decided to put QR codes on the back, along with the blurb. The QR code brings up the book on Amazon. If you search, you can find several sites out there that will create a QR code from any link for free. (I think I used QuickQR). Then you can save a copy of the QR code and take it to any site to have your postcards made.

In addition to sending these postcards to the Cover Keepers program, I plan to bring some with me to WisCon and display them on the BroadUniverse table. Maybe I can send these promotional materials to other conventions as well.

Please let me know if you have any questions about the Cover Keepers program or the postcards. If you have any marketing tips you'd like to share with your fellow indies, please do so in the comments.

For more Indie Life, check out the links below:

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Back on the Blog Chain: Stuck on Repeat

Before I dive into this round of the Blog Chain, I have a quick announcement: today PT Dilloway has kindly let me visit his blog to discuss using Shakespeare's work as an inspiration for writing. Please stop on by; since I'm supposed to "class up the joint," I'd hate to be wearing pearls for nothing.

For this round, Christine asks,

What are your "go-to" scenes or phrases? You know, the ones you have to remind yourself NOT to use too frequently? What do you do to keep yourself from being overly reliant on them?

I have what might be an unusual approach to this topic in that I don't worry about my "go-to" words when drafting. In an effort to increase my daily word count, I'm trying to be less critical of what I write as I write so I don't disrupt my flow. This means if qualifying words, repeated phrases, or even dreaded adverbs insert themselves into my sentence, I type them anyway. After all, they do apply to my daily word count. It's important to keep the writing and revising phases of your work separate.

The time to worry about repeating yourself is when you're editing. This is when I go through my work and ask if all my "at least"s, "although"s, "just"s, adverbs, and other commonly used words are earning their keep. Some of them stay; many of them may be escorted none-too-gently to the curb. For example, "After all, they do apply to my daily word count" might become "They apply to my daily word count" after editing. "Do" might stay if I think the emphasis works in context.

Repeated scenes may be harder to catch. Even crit partners can have a hard time spotting them when they review a novel chapter-by-chapter over many months. The best ways to catch duplicate scenes are by reading the entire work in a short time (so you don't forget it), outlining (this works even if you're a panster; you can outline after the first draft is done and see you have too many scenes with your main character arguing with an authority figure), and hiring a really good content editor to find them for you.

For examples of scenes I personally may be using too much, there are several places in my current WIP where new characters enter the story, and my main characters have to explain the situation to them. The summaries will have to be shortened or skipped when I revise. I'm also not sure about the scenes which are mostly dialogue between my protagonist and his love interest. In this case, the scenes will change as their relationship evolves, but it's important to make sure the scenes are doing other things to advance the story as well. Right now, I just need to get the story written so I can revise it later.

Kate started the blog chain yesterday, and Christine will give us her answer to this question tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

A Hero's Journey on Sale for May!

If you like super-heroines, you'll want to check out P.T. Dilloway's A Hero's Journey. It's the story of Dr. Emma Earl, who becomes the Scarlet Knight (actually, the latest in a series of Scarlet Knights) after finding a magic suit of armor. This book is normally $2.99, but it'll be on sale for only $0.99 for the entire month of May. You can find A Hero's Journey on Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords. To find more tales about the Scarlet Knight, click here. I hope you take advantage of this sale and discover another author for your must-read list!

Site Meter