Copyright Statement for My Website

United States ConstitutionFrom the moment I click the “publish” button, the posts and pages on this website are protected by copyright law. Which means that limited excerpts of the contents may be quoted by others under the fair use doctrine. But any more extensive reproduction of my words, and any use at all of my photos or drawings, may only occur when my permission is sought and granted.

However, many blog owners put a copyright statement on their websites. It serves as a reminder that the content of the site does belong to the site owner, a fact that is sometimes forgotten online.

The crafting of a copyright statement has been on my to-do list for quite some time. Today, I finally tackled the task.

Many sites have only the most basic of statements.

Copyright © Siteowner.

There were two reasons that would not not work for me.

The most obvious one is that my site contains some content that does not belong to me. I love old paintings and old book illustrations, and many of them are in the public domain. Which means I am permitted to place images of these old works on my website.

I also include images that their creators allow to be used under Creative Commons licenses.

So a blanket statement of copyright would be grossly inaccurate. Most of the contents of my website belong to me, but not all of it.

The other reason I prefer not to use a blanket statement, is that I want to encourage people who like my books to tell others. While one friend talking to another has no need any special permissions, a blogger – writing a blog post about one of my books – who wants to use my cover images or marketing copy, does need permission. A very limited copyright statement might discourage these folks!

With all these parameters to keep in mind, developing my copyright statement took some thought.

Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution

This is what I came up with:

You have my permission and encouragement
to reproduce my book covers and cover copy
for the purpose of telling others about my books.
Please do!

(That purpose only, of course.)
 
Public domain images that appear on this website,
images used under a Creative Commons license,
and excerpts from book reviews
possess links to their sources and credit to their creators.
 
All other content,
images, and text
copyright © 2011-2016
J.M. Ney-Grimm.

The first paragraph lets bloggers, reviewers, and others who want to talk up my books know that it’s fine for them to copy my book cover images and my cover copy on their own websites. I retain my copyright to those things, but I grant permission for them to be used.

The parenthetical remark that follows is probably not necessary, but I wanted to be clear, lest an ill-informed or muddled hobbyist think it would be okay to simply “borrow” one of my book covers to slap onto one of their own books. It wouldn’t! 😀

Next comes the statement about the elements appearing on my site that do not belong to me.

If you hover your cursor over the image of a public domain painting or a photo used under a Creative Commons license, you’ll see a little text box that displays the title its creator gave it (if it has one; not all do), the creator’s name, whether the image is in the public domain or is being used under a Creative Commons license, and the website where I found the image – usually Wikipedia, Wikimedia, or Flickr.

If you click on the image, a new tab will open on the page of the website where the original image rests.

When I quote from a review of one of my books, I include the name of the reviewer, and I link to the website where the review originally appeared.

Excerpt of a review by James J. Parsons of Perilous Chance

The final paragraph of my copyright statement is where I state my ownership. I created this website in early 2012, so you would think that the years specified would include 2012 – 2016. But I published The Troll’s Belt and Troll-magic in December 2011.

The marketing copy for those two books has changed many times, and the covers have been revised, too. However, the old covers and the old copy appear in some of my posts about cover design and copy writing. Therefore, I use the time span of 2011 – 2016. Of course, I’ll have to update that interval every year on January 1.

I placed my statement in both the sidebar and the footer of my site, because I want it easily found. If I put it in the footer only – well, I allow seven posts to appear on my blog page. It’s a l-o-o-o-n-g way down to that footer. Might as well be hidden behind blackout curtains! The statement in the sidebar is much more accessible.

But if you click on an individual post, the sidebar disappears. And the footer at the bottom of that one post (or the bottom of a page lacking a sidebar) is not far away at all.

So I’ve got both bases covered.

I am not a lawyer, so none of the above is legal advice. But I thought my thinking and my process might be of interest to some of you! 😀

For more about blogging:
Why Create a Site Map?
Slow Blogging and Other Variations
SPAM Deluge
New Home Page

 

A Story for My Coloring Book

Three weeks ago, when I asked folks to print out a sample page from my upcoming coloring book and give it a try, one commenter made a remark that really interested me.

I like pure abstract, but fairly soon after I settled in with pencils and coloured sharpies I found myself wanting the image to tell a story. Widdershins

Being a teller of tales, I liked the idea of finding a way to blend story with my drawings. But how could I manage it? The drawings I intend to collect in the coloring book are very much abstracts. I think of them as “modern mandalas.” The pairing I wanted between story and image did not immediately present itself to me.

But there was something tickling at my back brain. If I just let it percolate for an unspecified time…maybe I would get an idea.

Well! That idea arrived yesterday, and I’m really excited about it.

If I weren’t in the middle of writing the intense conclusion to my current novel, I’d be writing the start to a new short story. I love my idea, though, and once I send my novel off to my first reader, I know what I’ll be working on while I await her feedback.

I’ll probably publish the envisioned short as a standalone ebook, as well as in the pages of my coloring book. I took a bunch of notes. It’s hard to wait to start! But I’m not a writer who can concentrate on two stories at the same time. And my novel will be complete soon.

In the meantime, I’ll share another design intended for my coloring book. 😀

coloring book, sample page 2

For more about my upcoming coloring book:
Page for a Coloring Book
Drawing for Fun and Relaxation

 

WIP, Utterly Engrossing

Maple TreeI remember so clearly setting up the progress bar for Tally the Betrayals. I’d already written 4,000 words, and I’d been reporting my word-count-per-day all through those 4,000 words to a writer friend.

Me: “I think I’ve done most of the research and world building I need in order to start writing. I think I’ll start next week!”

Friend: “Start tomorrow!”

Me: “Huh. I suppose I could.”

That was a Wednesday. I did, indeed, start Thursday, and it felt great. I’d been focused on publishing tasks (covers, blurbs, etc.) for many months. Then I went through the medical emergency of a retinal tear. And then I had a troll citadel to design. 😀

It had been 5 months since I’d done any writing. I missed it. But I felt wobbly. What if I’d forgotten how?

I hadn’t forgotten how, of course. I think writing is a bit like bicycle riding. Once you know how, you don’t forget.

But I felt like I needed training wheels! So I reported to my writer friend that first week.

“Only 300 words today, but I started.”

“Better today: 800 words.”

“Now I’m getting into the rhythm: 1,200 words.”

When I reached 4,000 words, I realized that I shouldn’t lean on my friend through the entire 120,000 to 160,000 words that my novel would require. (Tally felt like a longish book to me.)

And, really, I didn’t need that much propping up. But I’d really liked reporting my word count to someone. I found it motivating and encouraging.

Just saying, “I wrote 1,600 words today,” to someone other than myself felt like getting a treat.

So I decided to set up a public progress bar on my website.

I worried that I wouldn’t be able to figure out how to do so. (Google is your friend.)

I worried that I wouldn’t like it once I’d set it up. (“You can always take it down again, J.M.”)

I worried I would disappoint those of my blog readers who watched that progress bar, when there were days that I didn’t make much progress.

Holly TreeBut I wanted to do it. So I did!

And you know what? It worked beautifully for me.

I did figure out how to create a progress bar. I plan to blog about that process soon.

And I love updating my progress bar each day. “See, I did write 1,200 words today! Really!”

I’ve also enjoyed seeing the darker blue color that indicates words written slide farther and farther to the right. It was a very tangible marker, more so – for me – than seeing the page count grow in my manuscript file.

Now, as I look at the 113,000+ word count and the 94% slider bar visual, I feel amazed that I am almost finished.

“How can this be? It feels like just yesterday that I was putting up that progress bar with 4,000 words!”

But I am close to the finish. And, as is usual for me, I’m finding my story to be intense, engrossing, and hard-to-put-down. If only my brain didn’t become soggy with fatigue, I’d write far into the night, saying, “Just one more page,” the way a reader does when reading a good book.

But my brain ceases to hold the necessary edge around 5 PM or so. Sometimes I’m so beguiled by the events in my story that I push until 7 PM, but that’s rare. Better to get a good evening’s rest and a good night’s sleep, and start fresh in the morning.

Deck View

As I write this blog post, it is 7:15 AM, and I am sitting out on my back deck – as I do each morning to keep my circadian rhythm in sync with the sun. But now it’s been half an hour.

I’m going to go in, eat breakfast, and get started writing Tally for the day!

I can’t wait! Gael – accountant to the “dark lord” in my “dark tower” – is going to make a crushing discovery in this scene! 😀

(No, Tally does not really have a “dark lord.” It has someone much more interesting!)

The links from this post:
5 New Books!
My Torn Retina
Gael’s Tally Chamber in Belzetarn
How I Rehabilitated My Sleep

 

Why Create a Site Map?

Just 5 years ago, I’d occasionally stumble upon websites possessing a page called “site map” or “sitemap.” That page presented a long list of the entire contents of the site. I found such lists very useful. I could skim them quickly to locate exactly what I hoped to find. Or to determine that the information I wanted was not present. Often I’d discover hidden gems I hadn’t been seeking, but that I was glad to acquire.

I liked site maps. I wished that every website possessed one.

angled metal tracks on an electronic circuit board

Unfortunately the trend was moving away from my preference. Somehow it was decided that the sole purpose of a site map was to ensure that Google’s crawlers – and those of other search engines – could locate each web page efficiently, so that the page could be listed by the search company in their search results.

Now, I like relevant search. Very much. When I google something, I want the best result to appear on the first page. And perhaps site maps were always geared to ensure that this happens. Perhaps they were never intended to help human visitors. But these days, the site maps are all actively hidden from human browsers, tucked away where only crawler bots can see them. I think that’s a shame.

I’ve tried using the search boxes available on most websites. I’ve tried clicking on the by-the-month archive links. And the category links. But not only do these methods often fail to deliver what I seek, but they have little chance of turning up the hidden gems that I don’t know are present.

It’s a shame. Totally a shame.

However, there’s no reason my own site must participate in this great omission. I’ve had creating a site map on my to-do list for a long time.

It didn’t seem urgent at first, because my site didn’t have much content. In the summer of 2012, I had only 3 books published – each of which possessed its own web page – and I’d written a mere dozen or so blog posts. No doubt most visitors absorbed it all in under 10 minutes and then moved on, unimpressed. “Huh. There wasn’t much to that.”

Today it’s a very different site! This is my 238th post. I have 19 books published – each with its own web page. I’ve created 15 “lore” pages for readers who want to know more about the North-lands and the other worlds in which my stories take place. Plus there are the miscellaneous pages such as my bio, a sign-up for my newsletter, a landing page, and so on.

There’s a lot of content present. And since I don’t tend to write many ephemeral newsy posts, the material retains its interest for quite a long time.

But if no one can find my post on the limits of obtaining vitamin D from sunlight or my explanation of how magic works in my North-lands, then the posts may as well not exist.

I decided this week that it was time to tackle my site map. One intended for humans!

Multitasking, photo by Jenn Vargas

The task took longer than I thought it would. I suspect that is often the case with such projects. There is software to automate the process. But it seemed likely that it would take me just as long to learn the software as it would to create my site map by hand. And I believe the software tends to generate the proverbial wall of text.

Admittedly, all the site maps I’ve ever seen were walls of text. They were useful in that format, and I could have settled for such a basic list.

But I knew that if I grouped the list into related categories, it would be a lot more accessible and thus a lot more useful.

So I’ve done just that. Check it out! 😀

Site Map

I’ll lay you a wager that you’ll find something I wrote back in 2012 or 2013 or 2014 that tickles your fancy. Am I right? Tell me what post or page it was in the comments! 😀

For more about blogging:
Copyright Statement for My Website
Slow Blogging and Other Variations
SPAM Deluge
New Home Page

 

Page for a Coloring Book

I’ve been drawing in the evening and enjoying it. I find it relaxing, engaging, and satisfying. Plus I think the results are cool! 😀

coloring book patterns used

Some of the pattern combinations I’ve drawn won’t work in the coloring book I intend to create, and that’s okay. I draw primarily for my own pleasure. But many of my pen-and-ink designs look perfect to me as candidates for a page in my coloring book.

I’m hoping that a few of you who visit my blog enjoy coloring. If you do, would you consider doing me a favor?

Click on the image below, and the link should take you to the original image file, which is a little larger than the image appearing in this post.

Print out the design. And try coloring it!

Then report back on your experience. (Either in the comments or via email.)

Was it fun? Was there a part of the design that you particularly liked? Was there a part that you wished were different? I’d love to know, so that I can tailor future pages for maximum enjoyment.

coloring book, sample page 1

Thank you!

For more about the origin of my proposed coloring book:
Drawing for Fun and Relaxation

 

Revising Light’s Blurb

A goddess of ancient times, under a volcanic sunAs many of you probably know, I consider myself blurb-challenged. Marketing copy simply does not come naturally to me – or unnaturally either. 😀

I believe I continue to improve – thank goodness! – but improvement comes slowly, and requires lots of help.

Last week I received wonderful help from someone who writes excellent blurbs. He read my blurb for Devouring Light and remarked that it was full of plot, more plot, and nothing but plot. This is bad! To quote Dean Wesley Smith, “Remember, readers want to read your nifty plot, not be told about it.” Exactly.

The really odd thing? Until the feedback on my blurb for Light, I honestly didn’t perceive that it was congested with plot. The instant I read the feedback, it was clear as day. I don’t know why I have such trouble staying out of the plot in my blurbs, or perceiving it when I stray into plot, but I do.

Anyway… once I saw the problem with Light’s blurb, I set to work fixing it.

And now I’m going to share what I did!

Light quote 1

This was the problem child:

Can one small good deed offset ultimate destruction?

Mercurio stands watch over the first planet, guiding it through the perils of the void. Part messenger, part prankster, he cocks an eye for danger, but not from afar. Close to home lurks the real risk that his festival for Sol’s 25th anniversary will be a bust.

Failed negotiations with constellations and his fellow guardians send him to the brink of complete frustration…when a beautiful celestial wanderer fetches up at his domicile, seeking refuge.

Her form beguiles. Her mystery intrigues. And Mercurio’s fascination with his visitor poses yet another threat to Sol’s celebration.

Will Mercurio recognize his role as cat’s paw soon enough? Or will a looming menace – more lethal than any of the guardians imagine – threaten the solar system’s very existence?

This is, indeed, much too much plot.

And while the way in which constellations and planetary guardians appear as characters is clear in the book, it won’t be to someone browsing a bookshelf or a web page. When a browsing reader is confused, he clicks away to another page or sets the book down to pick up another. Not what I want!

Light quote 2

So I tossed the whole thing and started afresh, writing out my thoughts in my journal.

Focus the Devouring Light blurb on the moment when Mercurio arrives home:

• all of his records indicate that something is wrong
• but Vigilem, his clockwork cat, won’t say what (even though he knows)

It’s been a bad day – Mercurio’s planning a circus show for Sol’s birthday, and none of his fellow planetary guardians (or anyone else) wants to help. It looks like he’s going to have to ask Haden, and Haden is no safe power to approach.

But now he’s got problems on the home front as well.

• bad day
• no one will help with the circus
• and now this: problems at home
• little does he know that both sets of problems will meet
  in a much larger one!

Light quote 3

Writing out my thoughts always moves me forward much more effectively than merely thinking them. Once I’d jotted down all of the above, I had an idea for the start of the blurb.

Mercurio guards the planet Mercury, his sacred charge. He loves his the oddball chunk of rock – with its retrograde out-of-sync spin orbit and spin, its apparent illusion of retrograde motion – almost as much as he loves playing pranks.

But when Earth’s guardian Gaia charges him to organize a gala celebration circus act for Sol’s birthday, the joke’s on him. Nobody wants to

After a day of “no, no, and no!” from Saturn’s clowns, flying lions winged bulls, and acrobats, he returns home to learn that something a speck of cosmic debris menaces his planet

• orbit transcript
• rotation transcript
• planetary magnetosphere
• coronal disturbances & solar flares
• Vigilem coy

…to see an anomaly on all the transcripts recording Mercury’s the events in Mercury’s sphere. Something is wrong with his planet. But what?

No obvious answer…

To quote those clowns of Saturn: “No, no, and no!”

I’m down in the plot again. The first paragraph was on the right track, but after that it all went south. Grrr! Try again!

Light quote 4

Mercurio – the guardian of Mercury – loves the oddball chunk of rock, his sacred charge, with its out-of-sync orbit and spin, its illusion of retrograde motion. Almost as much as he loves playing pranks.

But when Earth’s guardian Gaia charges him Mercurio to organize a circus act for Sol’s birthday, the joke’s on him!

After a journey filled with no, no, and no! Mercurio returns home to learn that his beloved planet…

something out of order with his beloved planet

• a meteor
• a comet
• a wanderer, a hobo, a vagabond

which means a one-of-a-kind celestial body, something Vigilem is not familiar with

Aagh! There I am down in the plot again. Okay. Start on a fresh page. One. More. Time.

Light quote 5

Mercurio guards the planet Mercury, his sacred charge. He loves the oddball chunk of rock, with its illusion of retrograde motion and its out-of-sync orbit and spin.

Almost as much as he loves playing pranks.

But when Earth’s guardian Gaia charges him Mercurio to organize a circus act for Sol’s birthday, the joke’s on him.

A joke with lethal consequences in this clockwork universe where the simple “no, no, and no!” of Mercurio’s friends and neighbors prospective circus performers

What kind of story is this? It starts with Mercurio designing a circus performance and ends with [spoiler removed]. It’s a story in which the stakes keep getting raised. It’s a save-the-world story. A save-the-solar-system story.

A joke with lethal consequences as the stakes rise ever higher.

Hmmm. The first three paragraphs of my blurb are good, but I need a good closer, like the closer for Caught in Amber.

Amber quote

A tale of multiple rising stakes

A tale of rising stakes told with all the subtlety and deception word play J.M. Ney-Grimm brings to science fantasy.

J.M. Ney-Grimm tells a tale of steeply rising stakes with the delightful subtlety, misdirection, and playful teasing wordplay inherent in displayed by typical of Mercurio himself.

As you can see, I started to descend into the plot again when I touched on those “lethal consequences.” This time I pulled myself up, realizing that I needed to go directly to the closer. I tinkered with various possibilities for that closer, but I could feel my brain getting soggy. I’d lost my sharpness. I was nibbling close to what I wanted, but I was just going to get farther away from it, if I continued without a break.

I set the blurb aside and got a good night’s sleep.

Light morning

(Yes, the photo above is the view from my back deck.)

The next morning, it felt like the whole thing needed to sit another day. In fact, I gave it two days, and awoke on the third knowing the right final paragraph was waiting in my back brain. All I needed to do was sit down and start writing. It would come.

Courier for the gods Divine and mMischievous Mercurio guards the planet Mercury – his sacred charge – with quirky devotion. He loves the oddball chunk of rock, with its illusion of retrograde motion and its out-of-sync orbit and spin.

Almost as much as he loves playing pranks.

But when Earth’s guardian Gaia bids Mercurio to organize a circus act for Sol’s birthday celebration, the joke’s on him.

The next paragraph or line needs to be something other than what happens next.

While Mercurio plots to wangle his way around the “No, no, and no!” from his would-be stilt-walkers and clowns, the guardian of Pluto plots a much darker spectacle a spectacle much darker than a circus.

In a clockwork solar system of the mythical celestial spheres, Devouring Light

Light quote 7a

Gah! I need some way of including “clockwork solar system” in this blurb. But it’s now really time to hit the closing paragraph!

While Mercurio wangles his way around the “No, no, and no!” delivered by his would-be stilt-walkers and clowns, the somber guardian of Pluto plots a much darker scheme.

A tale of steeply rising stakes in a clockwork solar system governed propelled ruled by the gods of ancient Greece and Rome told with the subtle delight, clever misdirection, and teasing wordplay that Mercurio himself enjoys.

stubborn, ornery, testy, exasperated, impatient, irritable, captious, irascible

With the subtle delight, clever misdirection, and teasing wordplay enjoyed by Mercurio himself, J.M. Ney-Grimm tells a tale of steeply rising stakes in a clockwork solar system ruled by the gods of ancient Rome.

Yeah! Nailed it! Time to get the computer out!

(Yes, I was writing longhand. It works better than typing for me when I’m really struggling.)

At this point, I knew I had the basic structure of the new blurb. It would need small adjustments, but the heart was there. And while longhand is better for when I’m laboring, the computer is much easier when I’m making adjustments.

Light quote 8

Here’s the blurb in its (current) final form:

Mischievous Mercurio guards the planet Mercury – his sacred charge – with quirky devotion. He loves the oddball chunk of rock, with its illusion of retrograde motion and its out-of-sync orbit and spin.

Almost as much as he loves playing pranks.

But when Earth’s guardian Gaia bids Mercurio to organize a circus act for Sol’s birthday celebration, the joke’s on him.

While Mercurio wangles his way around the captious refusals of his would-be stilt-walkers and clowns – “No, no, and no!” – the somber guardian of Pluto plots a darker scheme.

With the subtle delight, clever misdirection, and teasing wordplay that Mercurio himself enjoys, J.M. Ney-Grimm tells a tale of steeply rising stakes in a clockwork solar system ruled by the gods of ancient Rome.

For more about writing sales copy for fiction:
How I Wrote and RE-WROTE Cover Copy for Troll-magic
Cover Copy Primer
What Happens After the Manuscript is Complete?
Eyes Glaze Over? Never!

 

Quiche sans Crust

Swedish apronI’ve always loved quiche, but it’s been decades since I’ve made any in my kitchen. I’m not sure why I dropped it from my repertoire. Honestly, I’m not sure it was ever in my repertoire. A shame.

But last week, my daughter who hates eggs announced that she’d been served quiche at a friend’s house and really liked it. I leapt on my opportunity to get some luscious, farm-fresh eggs into my beloved child. 😉

Since it has been many months since I’ve posted a recipe, I’m leaping on the chance to do that as well.

It’s been years since the food researchers conceded that they were wrong about the cholesterol in eggs. It’s not harmful, never has been harmful, and you can eat as many eggs as you want. Actually, they conceded that the cholesterol in eggs is not harmful and has never been harmful, but they wussed out of reversing their recommendation to limit eggs. It just looks so bad. Heaven help their reputations!

So what’s good about the nutrition in eggs?

Just about everything. They are rich in vitamins, especially the important fat-soluble A and D.

(Vitamin A is necessary for healthy skin, healthy mucous membranes, proper immune system function, healthy eyes, and good vision. Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones and teeth, the proper functioning of the immune system and the brain and nervous system, regulating insulin levels, support of the lungs and cardiovascular system, and preventing cancer.)

Eggs contain ample high-quality protein. They are an excellent source of EPA and DHA – long-chain fatty acids that are vital to the development of the nervous system in young children and to the preservation of mental acuity in adults. Eggs are truly a complete nutritional package, provided they come from chickens raised on pasture, where they scratch for bugs and worms.

quiche eggsChickens sitting in vast warehouses produce eggs that lack some of the superlative benefits of pasture-raised birds. Their omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is 20:1 instead of the optimum 1:1. And you can see from simply looking at the egg yolks – pale lemon yellow versus rich orange – that warehoused chickens produce eggs with less beta-carotene. They also have 28% less vitamin A.

But enough of weighing the pros and cons of eggs. What about my quiche?

quiche milkWhen I made it for my family, I made two, one crustless and one with a crust. That way I can eat low-carb, while my kids and husband get the kind of taste sensation they prefer. The recipe below is for one crustless quiche. You can double it, if you want to make a pair like I did. Or you can pour it into a crust, if you prefer your quiche with wheat. 😀

Ingredients

quiche cheesedab of butter
2 cups milk
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
4 slices of deli ham
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
dash of white pepper
dash of nutmeg
1 teaspoon minced fresh chives

Directions

1 • Make sure you have a rack in the middle of the oven, and either remove the second one or place it below the middle one. Pre-heat the oven to 375F.

quiche spices2 • Smear the butter all over the interior of a 9-inch glass pie dish.

3 • Heat the milk in a saucepan, stirring constantly, until a few tendrils of steam start to rise from its surface. Then set it aside, off the heat.

4 • Grate the cheddar cheese, if you have not already done so. (I do my grating after heating the milk, to give the milk a chance to cool a little.)

quiche ham5 • Cut the deli ham in strips, roughly half an inch wide and 2 inches long.

6 • Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk them thoroughly.

7 • Add the salt, white pepper, nutmeg, and chives to the eggs and mix well.

8 • Lay the ham strips all over the bottom of the pie dish.

quiche ham and cheese9 • Cover the ham with the grated cheese.

10 • Pour the egg mixture into the milk and mix thoroughly.

11 • Gently pour the egg-milk mixture over the cheese and ham.

quiche uncooked12 • Getting that full pie dish into the oven without spilling it is tricky! Take it slow and use pot lifters, so that all your attention can be on the liquid level and not on your vulnerable fingers.

13 • Let the quiche bake for 45 – 50 minutes.

quiche cooked14 • Test for doneness by inserting a butter knife into the edge of the quiche custard. The rubric says that if it comes out clean, the quiche is done. I say: know your oven! The knife came out clean from last week’s quiche at 40 minutes, but it could have used another 5 minutes. This week’s quiche generated a knife that never came out clean. After 55 minutes, I took it out of the oven anyway. I should have taken it out 5 minutes earlier. Both week’s quiches were good, but not at the ultimate sweet spot.

quiche slice15 • Let the quiche cool to lukewarm – about 15 minutes – and serve. Cut the quiche to create 6 pieces.

More recipes:
Butternut Soup
Baked Apples
Coconut Chocolates

 

Do Goodreads Giveaways Work?

Goodreads is essentially a social media website for readers. Its stated mission? “To help people find and share books they love.” This April, Goodreads announced that 50 million reviews of books had been posted by users on the site. There’s no doubt that many, many readers frequent Goodreads and that many authors hope to catch the attention of some of those readers.

Goodreads landing page

One of the aids to discoverability offered by Goodreads is its giveaway program.

The author or editor or publisher of a book lists the title in the GR giveaway program, specifying the dates during which the book will be offered, the number of copies to be given away, and which nationalities are eligible to participate. Goodreads chooses the winners. Then the author (or editor or publisher) mails the paperback books.

I first tried the program in 2013 with my novel Troll-magic.

I followed the GR recommendation that I give away 10 copies and that I let the giveaway run for a month, from March 1 to April 1 in this instance. I limited the countries to the US, the UK, and Canada, because I was concerned about shipping costs.

As it turned out, US shipping averaged $4 per book, the UK $5 per book, and Canada $7 per book. I sent each copy directly from CreateSpace. International shipping from the US has become more expensive now than it was back in 2013, so how you get the books to the giveaway winners is even more important. I suspect CreateSpace mails each book from the plant nearest to the specified address and thus gets the cheapest shipping rate possible.

Just last month, when I attempted to mail a brand new copy of Quantum Zoo sitting on my shelf at home to a reader in the UK, I was shocked to learn it would cost me $24 or more! I quickly reverted to sending the book directly from CreateSpace.

thumbnail imageSo how did my first giveaway turn out?

Troll-magic
March 1 – April 1, 2013
Sign-ups: 580
# put on GR to-read list: 239
Reviews: 2
Money spent: ~$112

I wasn’t impressed.

At the time, Troll-magic had been out for 14 months. When it first released, about ten of my family and friends bought and read it. After that it sold one or two copies a month. It seemed fairly clear that the book was largely invisible, readers who might like it stumbling upon it by sheer chance.

What I wanted to do was advertise Troll-magic in one of the newsletters then available, such as Pixel of Ink or Ereader News Today. But in order to be accepted by such advertisers, my book needed reviews. Most readers do not write reviews. I’ve heard rates ranging from one reader out of a hundred to one reader out of a thousand who will do so. But no matter where the truth might lie, my book was not selling enough copies to garner reviews.

The Goodreads giveaway guidelines state that the average giveaway book receives six reviews for every ten copies given away. They caution that this is an average. Each title will perform differently.

Troll-magic received only two, and their substance was not in the least helpful. One winner’s review was merely a note explaining that she was too busy to read at that moment, but that she planned to bring Troll-magic on her next vacation and maybe read it then. The other winner said that Troll-magic had too many point-of-view characters for her taste. (It has five.)

I did notice that the book sold 5 copies in April, instead of its usual 1 or 2. But I was not convinced the increase was due to the giveaway. I’d tinkered with the book’s keywords. The increase could well be due to that change. I’d also joined a writers’ group that focused on marketing. There were five of us in the group, and the other members were reading Troll-magic in April. I figured 4 of the 5 sales were my fellow writers buying their copy to read.

However, the GR guidelines were talking about averages. With reason. The tire is always going to meet the road in the specific readers who win. And the readers who enter a giveaway will not be as choosy as they might be, if they were spending their own money to buy a book. Some of the readers signing up would be people whose reading tastes are such that they will never like any of my work. Some of the winners could be readers who will never like my work. If I’m really unlucky, all of the winners might be such people!

I decided I would try another giveaway with a different book.

Sarvet cover image, 150 pxSarvet’s Wanderyar
August 31 – September 30, 2013
Sign-ups: 384
TBR list: 149
Reviews: 6
Money spent: ~$70

These were better results! Six reviews, and all of them positive: one 3-star rating (I liked it!) and five 4-star ratings (I liked it a lot!).

The substance was better too.

“I loved this book and recommend it to everyone…” a cup of coffee and a fairytale  â€¢  “Short and sweet and easy to read.” Nadhirrah  â€¢  “I enjoyed the author’s style, and how she successfully wove together a brief story that did not sacrifice depth and detail.” Tyler  â€¢  “Wonderful tale of coming to age…” Jay  â€¢  “…quite engaging. Sarvet’s Wanderyar is a bildungsroman that depicts a girl’s transformation from an innocent and fearful child to a wide-eyed and open woman.” Shelby Rollenhagen

I’m not sure I noticed that in the month following the giveaway, Sarvet’s Wanderyar sold 5 copies instead of its usual 1 or 2. Since I spent $70 to purchase and mail 10 copies to giveaway winners, and those 5 copies sold (at $2.99 each, with Amazon keeping its 30%) netted me only $10.46, the giveaway was not a cost-effective way to advertise. But I note the increase now. At the time, I remained focused on gathering honest reviews.

Because the results of the Sarvet and the Troll-magic giveaways were so different, it seemed clear that one could not depend on any one giveaway. The sensible thing to do would be running a series of them. I decided to run giveaways for each of the novels and novellas that I had published.
Navarys cover 150 px

Skies of Navarys
November 25 – December 20, 2013
Sign-ups: 509
TBR list: 187
Reviews: 2
Money spent: ~$70
2014 sales rate: ~1 per month
JAN sales: 0

“The characters are realistic thirteen years old with all their curiosity, doubts, amiability and daring in the face of adversity.” Wendy  â€¢   “The plot of this novel was more action driven than character driven.” Lyle Appleyard  (Note the opposite reader reactions!)

thumbnail image of cover
The Troll’s Belt
January 13 – February 8, 2014
Sign-ups: 597
TBR list: 207
Reviews: 6
Money spent: ~$70
2014 sales rate: ~1 every 2 months
FEB sales: 3

“Different take on an old classic. Enjoyed thoroughly.” Shelia  â€¢  “Wow… It was a really good read.” Emilia  â€¢  “There were a lot of loose ends left.” Bob Stuhlsatz  â€¢   “The part of the story I enjoyed the most was…about finding courage to get yourself out of a situation that seems hopeless.” Deanna Lenz  â€¢  “…a good book that I’ll be holding on to to read to/give to my son when he’s older.” Bel

Livli's Gift, 150 px cover
Livli’s Gift
February 17 – March 22, 2014
Sign-ups: 848
TBR list: 332
Reviews: 4
Money spent: ~$90
2014 sales rate: ~3 every 2 months
APR sales: 3

“…the novel was beautifully written.” Eva  â€¢   “It was truly a trip reading Livil’s Gift. Especially when the character goes into trance…” Jay  â€¢  “…a good story.” Sabrina Bradley  â€¢  “I cannot believe how lucky I am to have received this incredible treasure of a novel for free…” Joe

A medieval lady stands in an ancient stone hall
A Knot of Trolls (anthology)
April 14 – May 10, 2014
Sign-ups: 789
TBR list: 295
Reviews: 1
Money spent: ~$95
2014 sales rate: ~1 per month
MAY sales: 2

“I don’t read a ton of high fantasy so I was a little apprehensive to start reading this book. However, I found these stories to be a fun and interesting read. Ney-Grimm has created a fascinating new world rich with details and memorable characters. Very well written, Ney-Grimm paints a vivid world full of magic.” Alisha

A goddess of ancient times under a volcanic sunDevouring Light
June 30 – July 26, 2014
Sign-ups: 599
TBR list: 238
Reviews: 1
Money spent: ~$85
2014 sales rate: ~3 every 4 months
AUG sales: 2

“Pretty accurate understanding of astrology… Hades: I have a real problem with people always portraying him in an ‘evil’ light; as far as gods go he was actually pretty nice.” Jodi

(Okay… the reader is always right about her experience. Yes. But this is my blog, so… my novella Devouring Light has nothing to do with astrology; it is inspired by mythology and the ancient Greek cosmological model of the celestial spheres. I portray Hades as a complex character, not an evil one. Just sayin’.) 😀
thumbnail cover image
Perilous Chance
August 18 – September 19, 2014
Sign-ups: 859
TBR list: 351
Reviews: 2
Money spent: ~$75
2014 sales rate: ~3 every 2 months
SEPT sales: 4

“…lovely fantasies …quite enjoyable …great characters… Thank you.” Vykki  â€¢  “It was almost poetry-like. That threw me off a little bit and caused me to not enjoy it that much.” Tyler Knight  (Ah. Not fond of lyrical prose!) 😉

At this point I’d run 8 giveaways, spent ~$665, and had seen only 1 or 2 reviews for the last 4 giveaways. It was time to assess my overall results.

My first thought? Goodreads giveaways are awfully expensive for the results they generate! I can’t afford to carry on in this way!

Looking at the average numbers… $84 spent per giveaway, 645 sign-ups per, 250 TBR, 3 reviews generated per, I decided I was done with giveaways.

There the matter lay for nearly a year and a half. “But, but, but…” as Ian Fleming writes in the delightful book (not movie) Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang.

QZ spine photo 600 px

I had 8 lovely, brand new copies of Quantum Zoo sitting on my bookshelves, because I’d wanted to see a pile of them all in one place and I’d been convinced I would give many copies as gifts the previous Christmas. (I gave two of the ten I’d ordered. Ha!) 😀

And then I heard several indie authors say that the optimum number of copies for a GR giveaway was one or two, not ten.

What if I tried a 2-copy giveaway for Quantum Zoo? I’d already paid for the books. Even if both winners lived in Canada, I’d need to spend only $14 to learn how a 2-copy giveaway performed.

I set it up. And then, in a burst of enthusiasm, I set up 2-copy giveaways for Hunting Wild and Caught in Amber as well.

So, how did they go?

First, let me say that I was ill-informed about international postal rates here in the US. The last time I’d mailed a gift to a friend who lived across the Atlantic, the shipping rates were reasonable. Apparently that changed sometime in 2015. As it chanced, one QZ winner lived in Canada, the other in Britain. I would need to spend $24 each in order to get the books to the winners, for a total of nearly $50. No way! I quickly reverted to my old standby of sending them direct from CreateSpace, but it meant I spent ~$24 (for books and postage) instead of the $14 I’d estimated.

Quantum Zoo thumbnail size coverBut what about sign-ups and TBR lists and sales?

Quantum Zoo
May 18 – June 17, 2016
Sign-ups: 1205
TBR list: 294 +292 = 586
Reviews: 1
Money spent: ~$24
2016 average sales rank: ~#300,000
JUNE sales rank: #112,624

“5 stars… an interesting collection of stories… through the weird and the wonderful…” Michael

(Quantum Zoo is on my fellow editor’s KDP desktop, not mine, so I don’t have immediate access to sales figures.)
Hunting Wild cover image, 150 px
Hunting Wild
May 17 – June 17, 2016
Sign-ups: 811
TBR list: 315
Reviews: 0
Money spent: $15.47
2016 sales rate: 1 per month
JUNE sales: 1

“This is really well done. I only meant to read a few pages, and looked up a couple hours later when I finished.” Amazon review

Amber cover 150Caught in Amber
May 12 – June 17, 2016
Sign-ups: 1069
TBR list: 428
Reviews: 0 (one 4-star rating)
Money spent: $20.71
2016 sales rate: 3 per month
JUNE sales: 3

“The writer gave herself a difficult challenge with the setup, as for most of the book there is just one character, trying to survive and figure things out. It works. The writing is atmospheric and lyrical…” Amazon review

Obviously the proponents of the 2-copy (or less) giveaway were correct in asserting that it made no difference to the number of sign-ups. The most I’d ever received for a 10-copy giveaway was ~800. Yet both Quantum Zoo and Caught in Amber broke the 1000 mark. Hunting Wild is a novella. It received 811 sign-ups, compared to the ~500 that my other novellas received.

Nor did the fewer copies offered seem to negatively affect the number added to TBR lists, each in the 300 – 400 range.

For making readers aware that a book exists, 2-copy giveaways seem just as effective as 10-copy giveaways.

What about reviews?

Honestly, I’m no longer pursuing reviews. Sure I like receiving them, especially the glowing ones! If a reader were to ask me my preference, I’d say, “Please! Do leave a review! Yes!” But I’ve had the chance to try some of those newsletter ads that have review thresholds, and none were effective.

Glory review image

Most require that the book advertised be on sale for 99¢, which means I’ll make 35¢ for each sale. The ads cost between $15 and $40 (or more). So I’d have to sell from 43 to 115 copies in order to break even. I don’t. So far, the best a newsletter ad has done for me is 8 copies sold – nowhere near good enough.

I’ve come to the conclusion that most of my audience are not finding their next good book from such places. I’m not myself.

Oh, I tried the newsletters as a reader for several months. And I regretted buying (and reading) the few books that caught my attention. Maybe that makes me a cranky old cow, but I don’t think so. I suspect that not many writers are writing the type of book I enjoy, and those that are do not advertise on Ereader News Today, etc.

Furthermore, I’m guessing that readers of J.M. Ney-Grimm books are also not able to find a lot in the newsletters that appeal to them.

Now that I have the ability to buy spots in the newsletters, I’m no longer very interested in doing so. Wouldn’t you know! 😀

However, I’m reconsidering the proper purpose of GR giveaways and whether they might be useful for overall discoverability. As I prepared to write this post, I did a little digging online (again) for what other authors had to say about giveaways, and I found a very interesting post by Catherine Ryan Howard. She agrees with two of the conclusions I’ve come to: 1) don’t use GR giveaways to get reviews, and 2) don’t give away 10 copies at a time.

I wish I’d encountered her advice before I did all my expensive experimenting! Although she wrote it just as I was starting my last 10-copy giveaway, so… too little, too late? 😀

But I’m wondering if a 1-copy giveaway might have a place in my launch strategy for new books. Reviewing the effect that giveaways had on my sales, looking at the long term, not the short term, was very interesting.

Up until May 2013, I sold very few books. With each new release, the four friends who’d decided they actually enjoyed reading my fiction would make their purchases. Another handful of strangers would buy their copies. And then the book would settle down to selling very sporadically.

Business for Breakfast, cover imageI was in what Leah Cutter, author of Business for Breakfast, calls the “drips stage.”

You write a novel and publish it.

Somebody buys it. Great! This is a drip. You make another sale that month. Maybe you don’t sell anything the following month. Then you have another sale. … A sale here, a sale there.

She described my experience well.

But in May 2013, something changed for me. I reached what Cutter labels the “trickle stage.” (Cutter calls books “properties” in the quote below, as in “intellectual properties.”)

Everyone who has read your stuff loves it. You continue to write and publish. But your work hasn’t found its audience yet. Drips continue. Then, at some point… you notice a change. A single property may still only have a sale every other month or so. However, this other property is also selling a copy every other month. … Not a single property is selling consistently or well. However, all your properties sell one or two here or there. Suddenly you have a trickle.

That was it exactly.

From the time my first book released in December 2011 through April 2013, I sold in drips. Most months I sold 1 copy of one of my titles. Some months I sold 4 or even 8 copies. Some I sold 0. Once I sold 14 copies! That was exciting! But I never knew what to expect. I hated the “drip stage”!

I won’t claim that “everyone” who read my work loved it; the reviews that appeared were by-and-large positive and one reader who kept a blog posted several glowing reviews on his site. I was encouraged, but eager to reach more readers.

Wanderyar review image

Then, in May 2013, I sold 20 books. From that month onward, my sales stabilized. I averaged 12 sales per month, with a low of 6 and and a high of 33, most often hitting the 9 – 15 range. I had reached Cutter’s trickles stage. And – looking back – I suspect it may have been the Goodreads giveaways that did it.

It couldn’t have been the writers’ group I joined (as I surmised in the immediate wake of the Troll-magic giveaway). There were only five of us, and when the other members read Troll-magic for the purpose of giving me marketing suggestions, only two of them purchased the book. The other two sideloaded it to their ereaders from a file I emailed to them. And after they’d read it, three of the four said, “I don’t usually read this type of fiction, but I liked it anyway.” I seriously doubt they converted to Ney-Grimm fandom. 😀

Sales stats May - June 2013So, where did the sudden and sustained increase in sales come from?

It could have been the keyword changes I made, but I doubt it. Their main use is to determine which categories Amazon places your book in, and which “bestseller” list it will appear on when sufficient copies are sold.

Some writers get a lot of sales when their book appears on a bestseller list, due to the increased visibility. My sales have always worked exactly opposite to this. Some unknown factor will prompt a spurt of sales and pop Troll-magic onto the Norse bestseller list. But once the book is there, the extra visibility does not result in more sales. Instead, the book slowly slides down the rankings and eventually off the list. Until the next time a spurt of sales pops it back onto the list.

That behavior fits with what I suspect about my audience. They don’t get their reading recs from bestseller lists, any more than they do from newsletters.

Which means… that the greater visibility for my books that suddenly arrived May 2013 was caused either by the Goodreads giveaways or by some other unknown factor. There’s no way to know for sure, of course.

But my next step will be trying a 1-copy giveaway. Will it receive as many sign-ups as a 2-copy giveaway? What about additions to TBR lists?

I currently average 20 books sold per month. Would a series of 1-copy giveaways with short, 7-day durations as recommended by Catherine Ryan Howard boost my visibility to the next level (Leah Cutter’s “streams”) the way the first giveaways boosted me from “drips” to “trickles”?

I still have more questions than answers, but I’ve got some new questions. 😀

 

Osteoporosis, Be Gone!

Osteoporosis_LocationsFive years ago, I was diagnosed with osteopenia. The literal translation is “bone deficiency,” and the diagnosis meant that my bones had lost mineral density, making them weaker and more prone to breakage than optimally mineralized bones.

This was not a good development, but few doctors prescribe medicines to prevent further bone loss at this stage of things. Instead, they instruct the patient to get plenty of weight-bearing exercise and to be tested again in 2 to 5 years. The hope is that the osteopenia will not worsen to become osteoporosis.

When my bone density was assessed a year ago, that hope was not realized. My bones had lost more density, arriving at the threshold (just barely) that marks true osteoporosis, literally “porous bones.” My doctor prescribed Fosamax, instructing me that I would need to remain vertical for 2 hours after I ingested the medicine in order to prevent heartburn.

I filled the prescription and only then realized I had a problem. I was dealing with a chronic pain issue that kept me lying down the majority of the time. I was going to find it tough to find 2 hours when I would be upright continuously.

In fact, I never did find them. I beat my chronic pain last December, only temporarily, alas. It crept back during my battle with my retinal tear. Not nearly as severely as before. I am able to be active now. I swim 400 meters three times a week. I could take the Fosmax. But the thing is that I want to build bone density, not merely slow further bone loss. The Fosamax won’t do that. But there is one thing that will:

Weight-bearing exercise.

But not mild weight-bearing exercise. I needed strenuous weight-bearing exercise. And preferably exercise that utilizes the whole body, rather than working muscles in isolation. Which meant I needed bodyweight training.

Bodyweight training would improve my coordination and balance by engaging groups of large muscles all at once, together with small stabilizing muscles. Plus it would work my heart muscle, because engaging many muscles requires much more aerobic support than engaging just a few.

I liked the idea that if I were to trip and fall, not only would my bones be stronger and less likely to break, but also that my muscles would be stronger and more capabale of catching me before I hit the ground, and my coordination would be better, giving me a chance to prevent the fall altogether.

Body by YouSo I went looking for guidance in books. Quite a few praise bodyweight training, but give only the most cursory descriptions of how to do specific exercises. I wanted detailed instructions. I found what I was looking for – and more – in Body by You by Mark Lauren. Lauren is an expert, who has trained thousands to good effect. His book provides the detailed instructions I sought, as well as step-by-step progressions for moving from the beginner versions to more challenging exercises and on to the most challenging of all.

I’ve just started, a mere 19 days ago, and I’m very de-conditioned from all the medical issues that have derailed me over the past few years. So I’m starting with the absolute easiest beginner exercises. But I can already feel a difference, so I’m hopeful that I will improve steadily, if slowly.

Lauren categorizes his exercises into five different types: pulling, in-line pushing (parallel to your spine), perpendicular pushing (perpendicular to your spine), squatting, and bending.

The easiest pulling exercise in the book is called a “let me in.” It works the muscles of the back (lats, spinal erectors, rhomboids), arms and shoulders (biceps, forearms, rear deltoids), and the core. Laren demonstrates the “let me in” in the video below using a door, but I would recommend against a door as your prop. Most doors are not made for this kind of abuse. Over time, you’ll destroy your door and be hurt when it fails altogether.

I use one of the metal support pillars in my basement, sunk into concrete at its base and bolted into a major floor joist at its top.

My husband cautions that not all such support pillars are fastened at their tops, and he has seen them slip. If you try this, check your support pillar to be sure it is secured, not just held in place by the weight of the house.

The easiest in-line pushing exercise is the military press with hands elevated to hip height. It targets your shoulders, triceps, and core. I use the chest freezer in my basement. It’s currently full of frozen meat and really heavy. It’s not going anywhere, even when I lean hard on it. 😀

The easiest perpendicular pushing exercise is the classic wall push-up. It works the chest, triceps, shoulders, and the core, especially the abdominals. The key for me is to find a stretch of wall clear of bookshelves and wide enough that my elbows don’t bump into anything. 😀

Lauren structures his workout so that you alternate between in-line pushing and perpendicular pushing. So, today being a Friday, I’ll shortly be doing “pull me ins,” wall push-ups, “good morning” bends, and squats. But on Monday, I’ll do “pull me ins,” military presses, “good morning” bends, and squats.

Bending exercises work the legs, glutes, back, core, and – depending on the specific exercise – the shoulder and triceps too. The easiest bending exercise is called the “good morning.” It is almost too easy for me, so I suspect I’ll be moving up to the version with the hands held straight overhead soon.

Squats exercise the glutes, quads, hamstrings, lower back, core, and calves. The very easiest squat is the “therapy sumo squat,” done with the toes and knees turned outward at a 45º angle. That doesn’t work for me, because it trashes my hip joints. So I am doing a basic squat with my toes and knees facing forward. I’ve not yet advanced to the hands overhead version shown below!

I’m pleased with how the bodyweight training feels so far. I’m making progress, and I haven’t yet injured myself! Always a concern. 😀

As I advance – crossing my fingers that I will – I’ll look for videos of the modified exercises to share with you.

Time to go exercise now! (I spent most of today writing the current scene of Tally and composing this blog post!)

 

The Secret Behind Midnight Snacks

It’s a classic, isn’t it?

You’re reading a fantastic book, and you keep saying to yourself, “Just one more page!” Or your best friend forever is visiting from out of town, and you talk late into the night, heart to heart.

Big Ben Clock FaceSuddenly you realize that it’s midnight and you’re starving.

I never gave the classic midnight snack much thought. I’d heard health experts recommend against it for various reasons: it didn’t give your gut a chance to rest; calories ingested at night got converted to body fat more readily; etc.

I’d also read that the food-to-body-fat superhighway was nonsense: it didn’t matter when you ate, rather that how much you ate overall was the key.

But I never paid more than cursory attention to all the discussion.

When I was younger, I happened to be one of those lucky people who maintain an ideal weight without much attention or effort.

Now that I’m older, my metabolism has slowed – as most people’s do – and I pack on extra pounds much more easily. So the pros and cons of midnight snacking hold more interest for me than heretofore.

But I’ve also learned that the simplistic calories-in-calories-out model (calories expended must match or exceed calories ingested) still touted by much of the medical establishment grossly ignores the action of the hormone insulin on the body.

My blog posts Thinner and Healthier and Test first, then conclude! go into this more extensively, if you’re interested. But the bottom line is that most people become much more sensitive to the effects of insulin in the bloodstream as they get older. The hormone packs fat into the fat cells and, once we’re over 50, makes it more and more difficult for any of that fat to be removed and used for fuel. While starving yourself on super-low-calorie diets merely deprives your body of needed nutrients and lowers your metabolism further. Catch-22!

But I digress! 😀

Sleep SmarterThe reason I bring this up is because of something I learned in Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson.

When you are sleep deprived, the amount of glucose reaching your brain dips.

Brains run on glucose. They must have it. However, there’s no need to eat sugar to fuel your brain. In fact, don’t do it! Your liver can make all the glucose your brain requires, without you ever ingesting any sugar at all.

In a sleep researcher’s lab, where the amount of sleep deprivation induced for the purpose of study is extreme (24 hours), glucose reaching the brain dips by 6%. But suppose you regularly get by on only 6 or 7 hours of sleep. No doubt your glucose dips much less, but it still dips.

Even worse, the reduction of glucose to the brain is not distributed equally. When the reduction is 6% overall, the parietal lobe and the prefrontal cortex lose from 12% to 14% of the glucose they should receive.

Why is that important?

The parietal lobe and the prefrontal cortex are the areas of the brain we use for thinking, for discerning the differences between potential actions, for social interactions, and for knowing right from wrong.

When the parietal lobe and prefrontal are short of their necessary fuel, our decision making suffers.

That’s why you might do something really unwise late at night and then wonder in the morning: “What was I thinking?” In fact, you weren’t thinking, or not very well.

On top of this, your brain late at night – desperately seeking glucose, due to the growing dearth of this necessary fuel as the hour latens – knows perfectly well that a shot of glucose is conveniently at hand in a bag of potato chips or a bowl of Cheerios® or a few scoops of ice cream.

That’s why those foods prove so irresistible at midnight!

I took away several things from all of this.

1 • If I’m asleep before the glucose dip arrives, it will never even happen. Asleep, my body will be in the repair mode that occurs most intensely between 10 PM and 2 AM. (That’s another fact I learned from Sleep Smarter.)

My brain chemistry will be exactly as it is supposed to be, initiating repairs, instead of losing glucose and frantically seeking a resupply by prompting cravings.

(Unless I am chronically sleep deprived; in which case, the glucose dip occurs even in sleep and can actually wake me up!)

2 • It’s not that eating late at night is a problem in itself. It’s that such snacks are usually extra and often composed of sugar or simple carbohydrates. I’ve already ingested all the food I truly need at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Whereas, if I fall asleep somewhere between 10 PM and 11 PM, I’ll never even get hungry at midnight, let alone go seeking extra food.

3 • If I do happen to stay up too late – which will happen at times, because I’m a night owl – I have the perfect hack. I’ve tested it, and it usually works, although not infallibly. The brain in search of fuel is pretty fierce!

Curse of Chalion 300 pxHere’s the scenario: I get to re-reading The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold, one of my absolute favorites, and – whups! it’s midnight!

I realize I’m feeling really hungry, hungry enough that it will keep me awake, even though my eyelids are falling closed with my fatigue.

In the past, I’ve poured a big glass of local, farm-fresh milk and stirred a little stevia and cocoa powder into it.

The problem with that is that I’m getting an awful lot of carbs in the lactose (milk sugar) contained in that milk. On top of that, the sweetness of the stevia will trigger a larger insulin release into my bloodstream than would the lactose alone. And, on top of that, the big glass holds twice the amount of milk that I would normally drink in one go. So I’m getting a huge lactose hit with little else to cushion it.

While I was fighting my sleep schedule in the aftermath of my retinal detachment – before I read Sleep Smarter – I drank that huge glass of milk nearly nightly. And I gained 10 pounds. Not good!

(Chronic sleep deprivation all by itself causes weight gain, without any big glasses of milk, so some of my gain of ten pounds was no doubt due to several months of sleep loss.)

These days I’m usually asleep by 11 PM. Plus I’m finally visiting the gym swimming pool again after a long layoff. So I’m hoping to take those 10 pounds off! (Fingers crossed.)

But on those nights like last night, when I was absorbed in The Curse of Chalion and got hungry, this is what I do:

FIRST, I remind myself that my sensation of hunger, while powerful, is due to the dip in glucose to my brain. This actually does help, although it is not enough without my next step.

SECOND, I eat 2 tablespoons of coconut oil.

coconut oilCoconut oil is made up of largely medium-chain fatty acids that are not normally stored in the body’s fat cells at all. Instead they are quickly converted to energy. Additionally, coconut oil acts as a slight appetite suppressant for many people. It certainly does for me.

Anyway, it’s a much better option than the huge glass of milk. That 2 tablespoons of coconut oil diminishes my craving for food at midnight just enough that I can get to sleep. And it gives me a slight energy boost – not a frenetic boost like caffeine, but a calm can-do feeling – just enough oomph for me to go brush my teeth, spray some magnesium oil on my legs, and turn out the light.

CAUTION: If you decide to try my coconut oil hack and see if it works for you, be a little careful. The short- and medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil don’t require bile for digestion. But coconut oil also contains some long-chain fatty acida, and those do require bile for digestion.

If you’ve been eating a low-fat diet for a while, which many people do these days, your body hasn’t needed much bile for a while and has adjusted by not making much. It won’t suddenly produce more when you abruptly dump 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in! Which means you’ll feel nauseated and maybe even experience diarrhea.

So start with a quarter of a teaspoon and work up slowly to give your pancreas and gallbladder a chance to ramp up.

(I’ve blogged about the benefits of coconut oil in Butter and Coconut and Cream, Oh My!, if you’d like to know more.)

The bottom line? It’s really best to be asleep long before midnight!

But I found the why of the midnight munchies to be fascinating, so – of course! – I had to share it with you. 😀

To read the blog posts I mentioned in passing, see:
How I Rehabilitated My Sleep
Thinner and Healthier
Test first, then conclude!
Butter and Coconut and Cream, Oh My!