Back to the Grind

I returned to the Evil Day Job today and wasn’t as buried as I feared.  I do have some testing feedbacks I need to resolve quickly, and a TON of “light” (said with a snort – the book is over 800 pages long) reading on the engrossing topic of Java, but not too bad after having over a week off.

I’m also getting back on the diet and exercise horse.  I only gained 1.4 pounds last week at RT.  Given my food choices, I don’t think I did too badly at all.  I was supposed to get back to Power 90 today, but I had to use my lunch to mail my taxes.  Ouch.  So tomorrow’s the day, assuming I don’t have any meetings in the way of my normal lunch.

I’ve created ARCs of YOURS TO TAKE for any interested reviewers.  Just drop me a note (joelysueburkhart AT gmail DOT com) with your desired eformat.  May isn’t far away!

Why Power 90?

I was talking to my boss at the Evil Day Job the other day and she sounded surprised that I was doing Power 90.  She said something like, “Isn’t that for men?”

Tony has both a woman and a man (young – he calls them “the kids”!) behind him for the Power 90 routine and she looks darned good.  Firm and toned, yes, but not muscular like a Russian weightlifter or something.  None of them are bulky that way.  Even Tony doesn’t look like a massive weightlifter.  These are not exercises to bulk up.

But it got me to thinking about WHY I choose to do Power 90 and why I like it so much, so I thought, hey, another blog post.  :lol:

When you diet, you inevitably lose muscle along with fat (unless you’re exercising to counteract it).  When you cut the calories significantly, your body will attack muscle first and hoard the fat cells.  When you crash diet a lot without exercise…and then gain it back…this is bad, obviously.

Everything you gain is fat.

I’ve been doing this for years and years and YEARS.  So my number one priority is to regain some muscle — which will improve my overall health as well as my metabolism, which has slowed to a snail’s pace.

I’m over 40 now.  Losing weight is harder than ever.  My metabolism is only going to slow down even more if I do nothing about it.  My flexibility and strength are going to deteriorate.  With That Man’s problems (hip and back plus he’s diabetic), he can barely get around most days even with weekly chiropractor visits and medication, and he’s not even 50 yet.

I don’t want to join him there in pain and constant doctor trips.  I want to be able to play basketball with the girls or horse around with Middle (even if she kicks me in the knee!).

I don’t want to have to go to a gym and use equipment.  While I do LIKE lifting on fancy machines, it’s much more likely that I won’t go if I have to find time to leave the house.  I can do Power 90 at home over my lunch or after dinner each day with minimal equipment.

I simply like lifting weights and always have.  I was a charter member of my high school’s strength club about a hundred years ago.  I even got up early to be at school by 6:30 3 times a week to lift weights before class, even though we’d lift more in PE during the day.  It got hard to find an exercise I hadn’t already done when it came time to lift in class.  These were free weights too — just bars and weights locked on the ends.  I could out-squat most of the boys in my class, easily squatting more than my body weight.

But when you lift that much…and then stop…where does all that muscle go?  Sigh.

So an exercise routine that involves strength training is perfect for me.  I used to hate to work out – especially cardio.  So I didn’t want that to be the ONLY thing I was doing, for fear I wouldn’t stick with it.

Plus, I just like how I feel doing Power 90.  I feel STRONG and dammit I need to feel strong in my life.  In my workout, I can punch and kick and pretend like I’ve got one badass right cross and left upper hook.  (In reality I’d probably suck in a real fight but while I’m working out, it feels great!)  I’d probably love a boxing or taebo class but I don’t know of any around here.

There is a deep tiredness I get from the strength days that’s hard to explain.  I always wonder if I’m going to be able to finish.  I’m lifting to the point of muscle failure, and that’s not always a comfortable feeling.  But it’s also exhilarating in a way.  To push myself that hard and work out until my arms are shaky and my knees don’t want to carry me up the stairs.  For someone who’s been so overweight most of my life, it makes me feel GOOD to do something I know I couldn’t do before, and conquer it.  Every single day.  I need that too.

I need it bad.

I need to feel strong and invincible at least for awhile.  That’s what Power 90 does for me.

I can only imagine how P90X would make me feel.  Maybe I’ll tackle it later in 2012.

As Tony says, “Do your best and forget the rest.”

Power 90 Update: Day 60

(Power 90 Update: 30 Days)
I can’t believe I’ve made it 60 days!  I’ve never EVER worked out so consistently in my entire adult life.  If you check out my calendar in the picture, I only missed two days in February (Sat is usually my rest day).  One I made up by walking almost 3 miles on a Sat.  The other I took off because I was afraid I’d hurt my knee.  Otherwise, I earned all my stars!

(sorry, some of them are wobbly because my arms were shaky!)



I’m stunned at how far I’ve come.  When I started Power 90, I:

  • couldn’t do a plank from my toes.
  • couldn’t do more than 4 pushups (on my knees) for each set.
  • couldn’t do the jumping jacks or any of the high impact moves.
  • couldn’t do dips.
  • couldn’t do 10 full reps of most of the ab exercises.
  • could only lift 5 lbs.
  • couldn’t do the quad stretch (grabbing ankle behind me)
  • couldn’t wear my “drawer” jeans.

After 60 days, I’m now:

  • Able to do all the power yoga from my toes. The only move I still need to cheat on a little is the downward dog to runner’s move, but I don’t have to go down to the floor or my knees to make it.
  • Able to do 10 pushups for the first 2 sets (still on my knees but I’m getting there). This week I was able to do the “7-7-7” reps of wide, close, and regular pushups for the first time ever.
  • I’ve started doing some of the jumping jacks (I’ve had 3 kids, if you know what I mean!).
  • I’ve moved up to 10 lb dumbbells for most of the exercises except over the head (e.g. military press) and tricep extensions.
  • When I do the sets with lunges (the first two), I hold the 5 lb dumbbells on my shoulders.
  • Started doing the “easy” version of dips (with my legs under me to help, instead of stretched out straight in front of me).
  • Started wearing those drawer jeans!
  • Added additional leg exercises for toning.
  • Added additional walking sessions of 30 mins at least 2-3 times a week.
  • I can do 10+ reps for all the ab moves except the full-body crunch, but I’m very close there!
  • I can grab my ankle easily for the quad stretch.
  • My oldest daughter didn’t recognize me as I walked across the street the other night. (That Man and I were in separate cars on kid pick-up duty and we met up at Subway for a quick dinner before Upward awards.)
  • I’ve ordered dresses in sizes smaller than I’ve worn in about 15 years — and returned one because it was too big!
  • I’m wearing sizes smaller now than I did at my all-time low weight, even though I’m about 4 pounds away…

In February, I lost  6.6 pounds, bringing my total since Jan 2011 to 69.4.  Still on Weight Watchers, the most significant food change I made this past month was eating more.  I eat anywhere from 3-7 points over most days and still lose.  I also lost the following inches (totals since Jan 2012):

  • Waist:  -1 (-3)
  • Bust:  -1 (-3)
  • Hips:  -2 (-4)
  • Arms:  0 (-.5 each)
  • Thighs: 1 (-3 each)

Today I’ve decided to move up to Level 3/4 for the rest of my 90 days+ (I’m going to continue doing Power 90 up until I leave for RT in April).  I hope it doesn’t kill me!  I have no idea how much harder it is – I’ve never even watched the routine.  Wish me luck!

Revision Xibalba: Theading the Plot

First the good news:  I finished the revisions to The Bloodgate Warrior and shipped them off to Alissa this morning.  Even BETTER news – she likes what she’s read so far!  Woot!  That’s always such a relief.  Did I interpret her revision letter correctly, thoroughly, and then most importantly, did I carry those revisions through the ms in a logical way?

Which brings me to today’s revision topic.  It’s something I’ve been thinking about the last few days and decided I should blog about it in case it might help anyone else working through a rough patch of revisions.

As I told Raelyn earlier this week, I was so deep into the forest that it was hard to see the trees.  All the threads (changes) I was juggling began to get muddled and tangled, and I was starting to lose my grip on what to pull forward when.

What am I talking about?  It’s that chaos theory I’ve joked about before:  A butterfly flaps its wings on page one and you suddenly find yourself revising every single chapter until it’s an entirely different book.

This is why revisions are hard.

I’m not talking about minor line-edit type revisions, but something more challenging.  For instance, Alissa wrote that she’d like to see more of a contrast between Cassie’s driven focus for her job and what happens when Tecun climbs into her bed.  *winks*  I already had some bits of character traits that I really liked for her — her static trait involves her nightly ritual before getting into bed, for instance — but I didn’t go far enough.  (In fact, I realized as I got into the revisions for this element, that I’d gotten a few things terribly wrong that didn’t jive with her character at all.)

Now you might think this was an easy change.  I’ll just throw in a new trait – like maybe she’s OCD about her schedule and has every minute of this “vacation” mapped out down to the minute.  Easy peasy right?

Wrong.  Because if you’re going to ADD something to a finished manuscript, it has to have impact.  If the butterfly flaps its wings, there’s wind, no matter how faint, that must spread and ripple throughout the story.  Otherwise why even bother with the change in the first place?

So if I’m going to add a character trait, I have to SHOW it again and again.  It has to affect the plot in some way, no matter how small, or it’s just noise.  Like a random hair color or scar that I mention without ever explaining where the scar came from or how it changed the character’s life.  Why even bother if it’s not important and crucial to the story?  I couldn’t just mention this trait once and let it drop – that would be doing a lazy injustice to my character.

Everything has to matter.  It has to have impact.  WHY is she doing this?  HOW can I show it?  WHEN does this affect the plot?

And that, my friends, is where the real bite of Revision Xibalba comes into play.  Once you start affecting plot, um… news alert… your plot changes.  Scenes change.  Actions mean something else entirely.  If you change one turning point, then all the others are affected too.

See that trickle down effect?  More than shit begins to roll down hill at this point.  And oh, all those pesky trees.  I had several items I was changing at the same time, not just this one character trait, each one like a colored thread that had to be pulled all the way through to the end in a logical manner.

For example, Alissa mentioned in passing that she liked the idea of the family journal that Cassie brought with her to Guatemala and wondered if there was any way to make that more important.  Well sure.  I could — and did — write several thousand words of journal entries, which became a cool way for me to resolve several items in the revision letter at once.

But which events should the entries cover (I ended up spanning over 500 years!!)?  It couldn’t just be backstory or it’d slow the plot too much.  It couldn’t be all emo whining or moaning about the past.  They had to have real, measurable impact.  Things had to change because of these entries.

What clues could I drop in the journal that would make the reader go OOOOOOOHHHHHH when I finally laid out the live-action scene before them?

Notice that if I’m changing the plot or character…that’s more than just copying and pasting a new journal entry into place.  That means I’m changing significant elements of the plot itself.  Alllllll the way through the ms.

So then it becomes a balancing act requiring a delicate touch and a sharp eye.  If I’m going to drop in this little tidbit here, and make it really really matter, then I have to do it again over here.  I can’t drop a bunch of bright red paint in chapter two and never ever paint with red again.  I also have to remember the green and blue I’m adding and balance that with what’s already there and the new red.  It has to be consistent from start to finish.  All of these new colors are important now so I have to drop some over here, and again here, and then yeah, it’d better become crucial and important before the ending again, or…

Again, why bother?

Threading the plot — carrying these changes through in meaningful and consistent ways — building momentum page after page, THIS is the difference between making your editor happy when she opens up your revised document and making her groan and pull out her red pen again.  I truly believe this is where you can really learn to shine as a hardworking professional.

No, I don’t mean you have to blindly accept every change proposed by your editor.  But when you dig in and begin to make those changes, carry them through.  Don’t just plop a few things in and send it back.  Really think and dig.  Yes, it’s more work.  Yes, it’s painfully hard to come up with new ideas once the story’s already done.  Trust me, I know.  I added over 5K to this story (net – I added way more new words but deleted other passages that didn’t work any longer), and wrote another couple of thousand words of journal entries that I didn’t end up using at all.

But you know what?  I loved Tecun and Cassie before I sent The Bloodgate Warrior to Alissa (or I wouldn’t have submitted it, obviously).  But now?

Well.  I always say this but I think with her help, it’s become the next best thing I’ve written.

Thank You, Weight Watchers

One year ago today I made a commitment to myself.  I decided I was done playing around.  Done feeling miserable.  Done trying every crazy restricted diet.  I signed up for Weight Watchers Online – again.

Yes, it wasn’t the first time.  My first exposure to WW was as a kid.  I remember Granny (my mom) gagging down the weekly requirement of liver and fish.  *shudders*  After Princess Monster was born (today’s her bday, by the way!  Our first teenager!), I did an At-Work stint and lost my 10%.

We moved to MO shortly after.  I had two more kids.  And yeah, this time I had to lose quite a bit more to get the 10% award.

That’s how it is with “diets.”  Any diet will work.  For awhile.  But then I get tired of eating all meat and eggs but no bread or fruit.  Or all grains and fruit and no meat and eggs.  Or no salt. No sugar.  Or no fat…  And inevitably, I fall off the plan.  No matter how much I’ve lost, it sure is easy to gain it all back again.  And then some.

No more.  I decided I was going to choose a plan I could live with.  If we go out to eat, I won’t have a panic attack that someone put salt on my veggies and I’ll be up ten pounds tomorrow.  I won’t have to eat salad only.  If I want a steak, fine.  If I want dessert, great.

Within reason, anything is possible on Weight Watchers.

I wanted to be a good role model for the monsters.  Instead of being OCD about what I can and can’t eat, I just try to make the healthiest choices I can.  We’ve talked a lot about “points” and healthy guidelines.  For fun, they’ve all taken turns figuring out how many points they’ve eaten.  It’s eye opening, and has helped us cut back on seconds and poor-choice snacks more than once.

I can live on this plan.  Really live.  I’m already doing things I never thought possible.

  • Lost 61.4 pounds and still counting.
  • Stuck with a plan for an entire year.
  • Jogged at the track – a whole quarter mile! – and didn’t die.
  • Did an exercise tape I’d never even cracked open before – and it wasn’t impossible.
  • Started wearing JEANS!  And I’ve gone down three times in sizes!
  • Bought some high-heeled boots to wear with those jeans.
  • Shopped a lot – something I used to dread.  Nothing worse than going into a store and realizing that absolutely nothing will even come close to fitting.
  • Bought my first XL – non plus size! – shirt.
  • Had my picture taken with the family for Christmas – something I’ve avoided for YEARS.  I hate to have my picture taken!  But I’m so glad we did it this year.

In 2012, I’m continuing my healthy eating habits, and I’m also working harder at exercise.  So far, I’ve made it every day this month/year.  Granted, we’re not even a week in yet but that’s an incredible start with my track record.

I’m feeling so good right now, not just physically, but about myself as a person.  I’m taking care of myself, something that can be remarkably hard to do.

Thank you, Weight Watchers, for helping me LIVE.

NaNoWriMo2011 Day 21

I haven’t given up on hitting 50K but wallowed in the glow of finishing ZCR a bit too long.  It’s hard to switch gears without much down time, especially this time of year.  I’ve been a shopping, cleaning fool the past two weeks preparing for Thanksgiving.  I’ve got two fridges absolutely stuffed with all the fixings.  Cooking will start Tuesday night this week, Wednesday is prep day when I’ll bake the pies, make at least 10 batches of egg noodles, and mash 20 pounds of potatoes.  (We like our carbs…)  Then of course the turkey needs to go into the oven by 8 AM Thursday and we’ll have a house full of guests until late Thursday night.

Writing?  In all of that?

Yes.  I’m trying.  I did some plotting and brainstorming for Lord Regret’s Price.  I also decided to see if I could expand the free prequel, Lady Wyre’s Regret.  IF I can get to RT next April, I want to have something to hand out and sign (since Lady Doctor Wyre is an ebook).  I’m thinking about printing up a chapbook of the prequel and a nice excerpt.  But of course I want it to be the absolute best I have to offer, and there’s a lot more to how Lady Wyre and Regret meet than I’ve given you so far.

NaNoWriMo count:  40,450 words

Snippet:  this is continuing the free read prequel, Lady Wyre’s Regret.  First draft only, etc. etc.  I love the little line tying into the next book….  What exactly is Lord Regret’s price?

Waving regally, Charlotte paused on the front steps of Wyreton and awaited her public assassination.  Her heartbeat ramped to supersonic speeds, but she managed to smile for the millions of Britannians watching the Solstice Eclipse festivities.  Cameras flashed, broadcasting her departure for the royal ball.

As the Duchess of Wyre, she’d be fashionably late. Eternally
late, if Lord Regret manages to pull off this charade.

She heard the shocked whispers and gasps before she felt the assassin’s blade digging into her neck.  This time he didn’t spare any pressure, deliberately drawing enough blood to leave DNA evidence on her spotless white marble.

It must look real and authentic.

Drawing in a deep breath, she let a shrill scream echo across the plaza.  She clawed at his arm locked about her throat so tightly she couldn’t breathe.  Combined with the rigid corset, she was afraid she might actually pass out.

Pain burned across her throat and she screamed again.  She hadn’t counted on being so terrified.  Her orders had been
explicit.  He must rough her up enough to make it look real.  He must draw her blood, obviously wounding her severely enough that the general public would believe her dead.

Yet she couldn’t help that niggling doubt.  What if Majel had gotten to him?  What if someone had upped her price, making the amount on her head too attractive for the famous assassin to resist?  Every man has a price.  What is Lord Regret’s?


NaNoWriMo2011 Day 14

As you can probably tell from my lack of posts over the weekend, NaNoWriMo was a bit of a bust.

We host for Thanksgiving, so we had a ton of preparation we needed to do this past weekend to ensure the house was fit to open up for guests.  The basement was a pit of toys and junk, but we couldn’t clean it until we cleaned the garage and the unfinished storage area (so we’d have a place to take all this junk).  We’ve been in this house just over a year now, and last Thanksgiving I cut us some slack because we had just moved.  However, there’s no excuse this year.  Some of those buckets and tubs hadn’t been touched in a year, and they were taking up much needed space.

So we worked almost all day Sat.  We donated several bags of clothes, toys, and coats.  Plus I found some things I’d totally forgotten we even had (because they’ve been packed up for over a year).  I didn’t find everything, like my leather coat I bought in Texas many a moon ago, but overall I’m pretty pleased.  We still have to hang some artwork, but the general organization is much better.

In the middle of all this, Middle Monster decided she would really really like to have her own room…in the basement.  Right now, she’s sharing a room with Littlest, and the only thing downstairs is my office and the kids’ play area/family room.  We don’t have another bedroom and I can’t give up my office (I telecommute for the Evil Day Job), but she was happy with just having a bedroom set up in the corner.

So on top of all the cleaning Sat, on Sunday we put together a platform bed in the basement (involved a trip to Lowe’s to replace the plywood base that had cracked) and moved a bunch of her stuff into the basement.  She hung pictures.  She set up shelves.  She made her bed.

And lasted about 10 minutes after bedtime.  😉 Then she was back upstairs with her little sister.  Oh well.  I think she’ll make it eventually, and she loves having her own space.  Once the newness wears off, I think she’ll be able to sleep down there permanently.

NaNoWriMo Count:  23,274.  I’m going to start falling behind if I don’t pick up the pace.

In a discussion with Dmitri, one of Yiorgos’s best friends, Clare says:

My specialty is food and he sampled the best I can offer for Remy’s.  You heard me warn him not to eat another piece of cake but he insisted on another piece not once but twice.  It’s not my fault he’s a pigheaded chocoholic.

Halloween Free Read

Happy Halloween, everyone!  I thought people might enjoy a short, creepy free read today, so I worked on a secret project this weekend.

A word of warning:  I’m not a graphic artist like Dawn, Deena, Silvia, or Soleil.  So while I did purchase stock to make a cover, it’s not “art” or anything unique.  However, with My Beloved Sis’s help, I think I made something simple yet appropriately creepy.

This is my short story, “Broken Angel:  A Zombie Love Story”  previously published in Drollerie Press’s horror anthology, Things That Go Bump in the Night.  We were in a DP chat (back in 2007 or 2008) talking about zombies (like we always did!) and someone ::cough, Deena, cough:: challenged me to write a zombie romance.

I wouldn’t really call this “romance” but it is a love story and it definitely involves zombies.  I hope it makes you shiver delightfully this wonderful Halloween!

Click on the cover to dowload pdf.  I’ve also created epub and mobi for Kindle (although I haven’t tested the Kindle version yet – Littlest Monster ran off with my Kindle).

P.S. I might load this up to Smashwords and Amazon as practice for the Shanhasson books coming soon, so Broken Angel may not be available for free very long!

RBW Week 17

No huge losses to report (which is why I didn’t post last week).  In fact, I’m showing a gain today.  Sigh.  It could be that coconut pie and real Susie Qs I had Sat. night in Joplin…  But I’ve been very good and on plan since.  I actually “felt” thinner today…until I stepped on the scale.

That’s the pitfall of daily weighing.  The scale can change our perception of how we look, even though we feel better, stronger, thinner.  I’m determined not to let that one pound gain affect me.  We had a great time Sat. night and I immediately got back on the horse with my plan.  I didn’t eat ALL my food that night — just until I was comfortable.

I haven’t really tried any new foods lately.  I’ve been trying to keep a meal plan and shopping accordingly.  This time of year we love chili, ham & beans, stew, chicken & noodles, etc. so that’s what I’ve been making.  Of course I choose very lean hamburger when applicable.  I’m also using lots of fresh garlic, onions, and coconut oil to combat fall colds.  I don’t know that it’s helping exactly, but we haven’t had any colds either!  *knocks on wood*

I say this to illustrate why Weight Watchers has worked so well for me.  I’m eating normal food my family eats too, our favorites!  Without guilt.  Sure, there are healthy “diet” foods I choose to eat that they won’t touch with a ten foot pole — like Kashi Go Lean cereal and Fage nonfat Greek yogurt — but in general, we eat the same thing.  I just make more veggies for myself and make sure I don’t eat more than my single serving.

I’ve already started Thanksgiving preparation for next month (we host That Man’s family, my dad, and my beloved sister).  I’ve got 4-6 quarters of frozen homemade chicken broth ready to make stuffing and noodles.  I’ll be watching the circulars over the next few weeks to see when turkeys first go on sale.  I might buy two and freeze one — we all love turkey, but hardly ever eat it.

I’m still failing in the exercise department.  Grrr.  I’m taking the entire week off next week from the Evil Day Job (for NaNoWriMo, if I officially join), but I’m determined to use those days to establish a work out routine that I can stick with once I return to work.

Anyway, a long-winded post to say that I’m still hovering around 55 pounds lost for the year.  One pound away from a new decade on the scale — not counting that pesky one that decided to join me today!