What Is Curtain Fic?

I’d never heard of the term “curtain fic” until this Monday, when I encountered it in a tweet from M.C.A. Hogarth.

She was giving her fans a head’s up about the first book in her Dreamhealers series. Mindtouch was on sale for 99 cents for the rest of the week, and then it was going back up to its regular price.

In her tweet, she said: “People call it curtainfic with space elves and centaurs.”

I was intrigued. What in heaven was “curtainfic”?

I googled, wondering if I would discover anything at all. Maybe it was so obscure that if you didn’t already know, you wouldn’t be able to find out.

But I was in luck. Google delivered many pages of results, and the first link on the list told me what I wanted to know. Fanlore.org defined the word as describing “fan fiction that focuses on ordinary domestic situations (such as the characters in a romantic pairing shopping for curtains).”

Since fan fiction involves fan writers playing in someone else’s world, strict curtain fic would be something like the story of how Edmund Bertram and Fanny Price, of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, made renovations and improvements to their first home at Thornton Lacey.

Or how Allan a Dale and his Fair Ellen – from The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood – visited the shops of Nottingham to procure the needle and thread that would allow Fair Ellen to keep her husband’s minstrel’s garb in good repair.

But clearly one need not borrow another writer’s world and characters in order to “focus on ordinary domestic situations.” In fact, the instant I read the definition of curtain fic, I realized that all my favorite authors include at least some elements of curtain fic in their stories.

When Bren Cameron settles in with Jago at his country estate of Najida (C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series), we hear about the beautiful stained glass window that graces the new wing.

At the end of the fourth Sharing Knife book by Lois McMaster Bujold, we get an entire long epilogue in which a few loose ends are tied off and during which we come to understand the domestic arrangements of Fawn and Dag quite thoroughly. (I love this epilogue!)

In Dorothy Sayers’ Busman’s Honeymoon, we learn every last detail of the wedding preparations, as well as of the ceremony itself.

One of my favorite chapters in Bujold’s The Curse of Chalion is the end-of-summer interlude in which Cazaril teaches Iselle and Betriz how to swim.

It’s always a little startling when I discover something about myself – in this case, my reading tastes – that is fundamental and yet has gone unsuspected by me for years. But the illumination shed by learning the term curtain fic shone further than the books I read.

Because my first thought upon perusing the definition was: “Ah, ha! So this is a thing! People like stories with this quiet, mundane focus. Which means that my longing to write a story with a quiet, non-epic scale is not just a strange oddity possessed only by me. I could gratify my wish to write in this way. And there might even be a few people who would read it and enjoy it. Wow!”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I like stories about life-and-death situations. I love stories in which everything of importance lies at risk of being lost, where all is on the line. Both as a reader and as a writer. But my tastes are quite broad. And I’d believed (falsely) that I was only allowed to write about big and sweeping events. Sometimes those momentous happenings are tightly focused on my protagonist. Sometimes they intertwine with the fate of a nation or a people. But the big-and-sweeping-and-momentous must be present.

No doubt I’ll continue to write stories of that character. But I’m also going to allow myself to explore this concept of curtain fic.

Which is fortunate, since I’m realizing that my current work-in-progress has a decidedly domestic slant. Of course, for the protagonist, it’s all pretty momentous. But it’s an interesting mix of the quiet, the internal, and the domestic blended with a change that will turn my protagonist’s life upside down.

In any case…thank you, M.C.A. Hogarth for opening my eyes to a whole new genre. My writing life just got more spacious, and I am grateful.

Speaking of Hogarth…what about her books?

I’d read her Spots the Space Marine and really loved it. Then I read her Blood Ladders trilogy, and enjoyed that as well. Although, the latter starts off with a group of college friends meeting in a coffee shop, and I realized as I read that I’d really wanted the story to be a college story – and it totally wasn’t. It was good, just not what I was in the mood for at the time.

So, when I understood that Mindtouch was about grad students (alien grad students), I was ready to click the buy button for that alone.

As it chances, I did click the buy button, and I’ve been happily reading Mindtouch for the last two evenings. It really is curtain fic. But I can also see the story building, slowly showing me exactly how these two unlikely friends came to be friends, and setting the foundation for how they came to accomplish something amazing within the healing disciplines of their civilization. (At least, I’m guessing that’s where it’s going.)

I’m not sure how much longer Mindtouch is on sale, but if you think you might like curtain fic, I urge you to pick up a copy and give it a try. 😀

 

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Courage, Kindness, Youthful Awkwardness & Compassion

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a book recommendation. Four years! (I just checked.)

My previous recs were all old favorites, books that I’ve read and re-read, books that I know I’ll re-read yet again in the future.

Today’s rec is a new favorite: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison.

I read it first in December 2015, but I’ve already re-read it at least three times in the eighteen months that have passed since. It’s truly wonderful.

Here’s a little bit about it:

Maia awakens in the middle of the night to learn that his father, the emperor of the Elf-lands, is dead in an airship accident, along with all three of Maia’s half-brothers. Now Maia – a half-goblin who grew up in exile, poverty, and neglect – must grapple with governing the vastly complex elvish Ethuveraz.

His father’s chancellor hates him almost as much as his father did. His father’s dowager empress hates him more. And all too many of his father’s courtiers hate him, too. Maia toys with the idea of running away to obscurity, somewhere, somehow.

The Elf-lands have not been kind to the boy-emperors of the past, claiming their lives more often than not. Maia is not a child – he’s eighteen – but he’s nearly as inexperienced as those numerous dead boys whose tombs line the sacred hall in the imperial palace. Failure to grapple with the Ethuveraz – whether through ineptitude or through flight – leads only to another tomb like theirs.

* * *

The world building, characterization, and storytelling in The Goblin Emperor are all superb. And its protagonist, Maia Drazhar, beguiles me afresh each time I re-read the book with his unique blend of courage and kindness, and his struggles to overcome both youthful awkwardness and his (understandable) resentment toward his former guardian.

Here’s a brief excerpt – the very beginning of the story – to introduce you to Maia and The Goblin Emperor.
 
 

Maia woke with his cousin’s cold fingers digging into his shoulder.

“Cousin? What…” He sat up, rubbing his eyes with one hand. “What time is it?”

“Get up!” Setheris snarled. “Hurry!”

Obediently, Maia crawled out of bed, clumsy and sleep-sodden. “What’s toward? Is there a fire?”

“Get they clothes on.” Setheris shoved yesterday’s clothes at him. Maia dropped them, fumbling with the strings of his nightshirt, and Setheris hissed with exasperation as he bent to pick them up. “A messenger from the court. That’s what’s toward.”

“A message from my father?”

“Is’t not what I said? Merciful goddesses, boy, canst do nothing for thyself? Here!” He jerked the nightshirt off, caring neither for the knotted strings nor for Maia’s ears, and shoved his clothes at him again. Maia struggled into drawers, trousers, shirt, and jacket, aware that they were wrinkled and sweat-stained, but unwilling to try Setheris’s ill temper by saying so. Setheris watched grimly by the single candle’s light, his ears flat against his head. Maia could not find his stockings, nor would Setheris give him time to search. “Come along!” he said as soon as Maia had his jacket fastened, and Maia followed him barefoot out of the room, noticing in the stronger light that while Setheris was still properly and fully attired, his face was flushed. So he had not been wakened from sleep by the emperor’s messenger, but only because he had not yet been to bed. Maia hoped uneasily that Setheris had not drunk enough metheglin to mar the glossy perfection of his formal court manners.

Maia ran his hands through his hair, his fingers catching on knots in his heavy curls. It would not be the first time one of his father’s messengers had witnessed him as unkempt as a half-witted ragpickers child, but that did not help with the miserable midnight imaginings: So tell us, how looked our son? He reminded himself it was unlikely his father ever asked after him in the first place and tried to keep his chin and ears up as he followed Setheris into the lodge’s small and shabby receiving room.

* * *

The Goblin Emperor is available in many bookstores. A few links:
Amazon I Apple I B&N I Book Depository I Google Play I Kobo

For more of my book recommendations, see:
The Bastard, Belinda, Blood, & Bewitchery
Gods & Guilt, Scandals & Skeptics
Courtship and Conspiracy, Mayhem and Magic
Mistakes, Missteps, Shady Dealing, & Synchronicity
Duplicity, Diplomacy, Secrets & Ciphers
Beauty, Charm, Cyril & Montmorency

 

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Why Calcium Isn’t Enough to Build Strong Bones (and What You Can Do About It)

Several months ago, when I wrote about my experience of gaining weight while drinking milk, and losing weight while eschewing milk, I promised I’d blog about how to keep your bones strong without the dairy products.

This is that post. 😀

Conventional wisdom – and lots of advertising – tells us that milk is the foundation of healthy bones. But like so many other bits of conventional advice about nutrition, it turns out to be wrong.

Here’s why.

1 • Calcium alone cannot give you strong bones.

Sure, calcium is an important building block for strong bones. You do need it. But you also need all the other building blocks: vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin K, phosphorus, magnesium, and trace amounts of chromium, silica, zinc, manganese, copper, boron, and potassium.

Taking a calcium pill – or drinking extra milk – won’t ensure that you’re getting all the substances that go into strong bones. It might even harm you, since too much calcium can lead to impaired kidney function, kidney stones, high blood pressure, and possibly even an increased risk of heart attack.

Additionally, if you ingest too much calcium, then your body must adjust its stores of other vitamins and minerals in order to process the excess calcium.

2 • Calcium intake is irrelevant, IF your body is not absorbing it and building with it.

People living in the United States ingest far more calcium than those living elsewhere, and yet US residents also suffer more osteoporosis.

What gives?

In addition to having all the building blocks on hand, the environment must also be right for actual building to occur.

Imagine trying to build a house in the midst of a snow storm. You might have all the materials on hand – bricks, mortar, wood framing, nails, etc. – but I doubt you’d get much building done.

Your hormones and your inflammatory status play large roles in determining whether conditions in your body favor the building of strong bones. Or not. High blood sugar and chronic inflammation both speed up the breakdown of bone and slow down the creation of new bone cells.

The foods you eat also influence the building conditions in your body.

Grains possess a lot of phytates (to protect the seed), and legumes possess both phytates and oxalates. Phytates and oxalates chemically bind to the calcium present, both in the grains and legumes themselves, and in other foods present in the digestive tract, carrying the calcium out of the body entirely.

Soaking and sprouting grains and legumes helps to reduce the volume of phytates, but cannot reduce it sufficiently to where its presence ceases to leech calcium (and other minerals) from your body. Additionally, from my previous post on insulin, we know that grains yield high blood sugar for a significant interval after you eat them.

If you don’t eat enough protein, you’ll get the same accelerated bone loss that high blood sugar and inflammation produce.

And if you don’t eat enough healthy fats, you won’t be able to assimilate vitamins D and K, because they are both fat soluble.

Bottom line: in addition to having all the building blocks on hand, conditions within your body must also favor the building and maintenance of strong bones.

3 • There are better sources of calcium than milk.

I remember seeing lists of calcium rich foods several years ago and being skeptical that anything could be better than milk. I was a big milk proponent. Sure, 8 ounces of kale might have 180 milligrams of calcium, but 8 ounces of milk has 300. And I can easily drink 3 glasses of milk every day, but I sure won’t be eating 3 cups of kale every day!

Ah, but!

The key is not how much calcium is present. The key is how much your body assimilates. The reason our RDA for calcium is so inflated is that most of the calcium from milk and pills goes right through. But the calcium from vegetables like kale and mustard greens and others gets absorbed and used. It is more bioavailable.

I went looking for some of the recent studies on calcium from plants versus calcium from milk and landed on the Harvard School of Public Health site with an interesting paragraph that I will quote below, since it occurs in the middle of a hugely long web page.

In particular, these studies suggest that high calcium intake doesn’t actually appear to lower a person’s risk for osteoporosis. For example, in the large Harvard studies of male health professionals and female nurses, individuals who drank one glass of milk (or less) per week were at no greater risk of breaking a hip or forearm than were those who drank two or more glasses per week. When researchers combined the data from the Harvard studies with other large prospective studies, they still found no association between calcium intake and fracture risk. Also, the combined results of randomized trials that compared calcium supplements with a placebo showed that calcium supplements did not protect against fractures of the hip or other bones. Moreover, there was some suggestion that calcium supplements taken without vitamin D might even increase the risk of hip fractures. A 2014 study also showed that higher milk consumption during teenage years was not associated with a lower risk of hip fracture in older adults.

So…if slugging down gallons of milk or dozens of calcium pills is not the answer – and it isn’t – how do we build and maintain strong bones?

I want action points! 😉

First of all, don’t look to bone density drugs such as Fosamax® and Boniva®. These deposit long-lasting compounds (alendronate and ibandronic acid, respectively) within the bone matrix, which give the illusion of greater bone density. But they do not form the normal matrix that actually makes bone strong. In fact, taking biophosphonates leads to bones that are more brittle and more likely to fracture! Talk about irony!

Okay, what does work?

1 • Avoid the foods that result in chronic inflammation, elevated blood sugar, and that remove nutrients from your body.

Highly processed foods and sugar-laden foods are especially bad. Grains and legumes become more and more problematic as we get older.

I hate to start with a “don’t,” but it’s a pretty important don’t. If your bones are currently strong, if your weight is normal, and your health is good, then you might be able to get away with skipping this #1 and leaning hard on #2, #3, and #4.

But I’ve got osteoporosis, I’m still carrying some extra pounds (even after the 23+ that I’ve lost), and I don’t have quite as much pep in my stride as I want. Action point #1 is critically important for me!

2 • Eat meat, seafood, and eggs, cooked with clarified butter, coconut oil, lard, or tallow to get adequate protein and adequate fats.

These are nutrient-dense foods containing many vitamins and minerals, in addition to the protein and fat. They help keep your blood sugar levels within the optimum range. They do not promote inflammation.

3 • Eat kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, collard greens, broccoli rabe, cooked spinach (many of the nutrients are not bioavailable in raw spinach), sea vegetables, bone broth, sardines, anchovies, shrimp, oysters, and canned salmon.

More nutrient dense foods that are high in calcium and the other building blocks for strong bones. You’ll get what you need without having to worry about balancing calcium with magnesium and potassium and all the others, the way you would if you were trying to get it right using pills. Plus the phytonutrients that may be a part of why calcium in plants is more bioavailable than from other sources are present.

4 • Lift weights.

Or do heavy yard work regularly. Or do yoga poses, many of which build strength as much as they increase flexibility. Engage in physical activity that is weight-bearing.

The compression of working against gravity stresses our bones in a healthy way, triggering them to build more of the structural matrix that can support the load.

I’m a swimmer, which is not weight-bearing. It has all kinds of other benefits, but strengthening my bones is not one of them, alas. So I lift weights in additional to swimming.

And there you have it.

Eat meat, seafood, and eggs.
Eat green, leafy vegetables.
Do weight-bearing physical activity.
And avoid foods that produce high blood sugar and inflammation.

I’ve been trying a lot of new-to-me recipes over the last few months, and I plan on sharing them with you as I continue to blog. I’ve also got a few more health hacks to write about. Stay tuned! 😀

For more about health and nutrition, see:
Test first, then conclude!
Let’s Talk Insulin
Milk Is Highly Insulinogenic
Thinner and Healthier
Butter and Cream and Coconut, Oh My!
Why Seed Oils Are Dangerous

 

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Let’s Talk Insulin

Back in March, I mentioned that I’d been doing some new things on the cooking and nutrition front. I imagined telling you all about it when I finished my revisions on The Tally Master and published the novel.

Well…the digital edition of The Tally Master released April 26, and the paperback roughly a month later in May. In fact, I’m now well started on my next book, with over 10,000 words and counting in the manuscript.

I must plead guilty to dragging my heels on blogging about food.

Why?

Because the biology of nutrition is amazingly complex and, at this point, I’ve read so much about it that when I discover new-to-me information, I’m connecting that information to large matrix of facts forming a landscape detailed and variegated enough that it’s challenging to communicate about it clearly and succinctly.

The overall picture has come into better and better focus for me. I really understand what I’m seeing, and it’s very consistent. But conveying what I see is harder than when I saw less, and the picture seemed simpler.

Yet it’s important stuff. Nutrition is one of the foundational elements determining whether a person merely survives…or thrives. So I’m going to make an effort to share the latest things I’ve been learning.

Today I want to talk about insulin.

Insulin is a hormone.

Hormones are the biochemical messengers of the body. Typically they are secreted by one set of cells, then transported in the bloodstream (or, sometimes, the lymphatic system) to another part of the body, where they bond to specific receptors there.

In the case of insulin, it is secreted by the beta cells of the pancreas, moves through the bloodstream, and affects nearly every cell in the body. Insulin is a master hormone. (Many other hormones possess a narrower window of effect.)

Insulin controls:
• energy storage
• cell growth
• cell repair
• reproduction
• and blood sugar levels

It is the last item on that list – blood sugar levels, technically blood glucose levels – that I’m going to focus on.

Let’s see how it works.

When you eat a carbohydrate – bread, pasta, cookies – your digestion breaks the large molecules down into glucose, which transfers through the lining of your small intestine into your bloodstream.

Your blood sugar rises.

If you ate the cookies – or the cake – which has lots of sucrose and which doesn’t require much digesting to be broken into its component parts of fructose and glucose, your blood sugar spikes. Something like this:

If you ate whole grain rye bread instead, your blood sugar rises more gradually, because all the fiber in the rye bread slows down the rate at which the carbohydrate molecules are broken down into glucose. But – and this is key – your blood sugar does rise. Something like this:

Your body is designed to operate within a very narrow range regarding blood sugar level.

Too little, and some critical operations that depend on glucose for their energy source won’t get enough of it.

This would be very bad.

But there are two important things to keep in mind regarding the potential scenario of low blood sugar.

1 • Foods are rarely pure concentrations of the three macro-nutrients: protein, fat, and carbohydrate.

All foods are made of a combination of these macro-nutrients, each in varying ratios. Butter is mostly fat, but every tablespoon has approximately .1 gram of protein and .01 gram of carbohydrate in it.

Meats are almost entirely protein and fat, but a 6-ounce serving of liver has 8 grams of carbohydrates. Not much, but some. Of course, vegetables and fruits are composed mostly of carbohydrates, all contained in a hefty fiber matrix along with huge packets of vitamins and minerals. But there’s no need to eat bread and pasta to prevent low blood sugar. You’ll get plenty of glucose without them!

2 • Your body can and will make glucose from certain amino acids.

This is why there is no minimum dietary requirement for carbohydrates, unlike – for example – the dietary requirement for protein or that for the essential fatty acids, linoleic and alpha-linolenic.

(Your body can make many, even most, of the amino acids that are the building blocks of protein. But it cannot make them all. There are 9 amino acids that you must get from food. The same is true for the fatty acids: most can be synthesized by your body, but not the two I named above, which must also be obtained from food.)

While I’m on the subject of what the human body can synthesize versus what it must receive from food, I want to touch on an obscure limitation possessed by people with Scandinavian, Innuit, Northern European, or sea coast ancestry. It has personal interest to me, since I’m half Swedish, and the other half comes from Scotland and England.

People with these northern roots often lack the enzymes that convert alpha-linolenic acid into EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), two omega-3 fatty acids required for the proper functioning of the immune and nervous systems. The reason behind this lack is that their ancestors ate large amounts of cold-water fish, which supplied all the requisite EPA and DHA. Over time and across generations, the bodies of the northerners simply ceased to manufacture the enzymes that do the conversion.

EPA is found only in animal foods. DHA is present in some algae, but in very low amounts, too low to supply enough.

This explains to me why I became more and more chronically fatigued, and caught colds the instant I was exposed them, when I was in my early thirties and following a vegetarian diet. I was eating whole grains and legumes with a vengeance, but my health got worse and worse, until I added meat back into my repertoire.

However, to get back to my topic here: carbohydrates are not like the nine essential amino acids or the two essential fatty acids. Or even like EPA and DHA for northerners. Your body can make glucose, when it needs it. You don’t need to eat it.

Let’s now consider high blood sugar.

High blood sugar levels are nearly as bad for you as low.

High blood sugar acts essentially as a wrecking crew in your body, damaging your liver, your pancreas, your kidneys, your blood vessels, your brain, and your peripheral nerves. Just like a wrecking ball taking down a rickety tenement.

It’s critically important that your blood sugar level stay in the Goldilocks zone: not too low, not too high, but just right.

(Yes, I know that the Goldilocks zone typically refers to a donut of space around a star in which planets can possess water that is liquid. But the term fits here, too.)

I presented a graph representing your blood sugar level after eating dessert. And I presented another representing your blood sugar level after eating some “healthy” whole grain bread. (For the record, white bread made from refined flour spikes your blood sugar just like cake. Beware those crusty loaves of delicious French bread. Just sayin’.)

Let’s consider another scenario: your blood sugar after eating baked carrots drizzled with clarified butter or, perhaps, roasted eggplant drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with some sea salt and freshly grated black pepper. That would look something like this:

Now let’s think about these three eating scenarios.

The first – eating a sugar-laden dessert – yields a sky high level of blood glucose, much like the big kapow of a wrecking ball slamming into a brick building, indeed. Lots of damage. Which your body then repairs. Usually qute well when you are young. Less well, and more slowly, when you are in your forties or older.

The second scenario – eating whole grain bread – also yields blood sugar levels that are quite high, but not quite as high as eating cakes, candy, or soda sweetened with high-fructose con syrup. It’s more like the men in a wrecking crew who are busily dissassembling the framing in a house: unbolting the beams that support the floor, pulling nails in the 2x4s of the thewalls, working hard to take the thing apart.

Again, your body repairs the damage. Almost without a hitch, if you are young. Less easily, when you are older.

In the third scenario – eating a vegetable – your blood sugar barely rises out of the “just right” Goldilocks zone at all. The damage done is minimal, the equivalent of a hinge loosened on a door or a roof tile blown off in the wind. Your body repairs the damage, and need not use much in the way of resources to do so. Your body can support this kind of repair for a long, long time.

So far, I’ve been talking more about blood sugar (which insulin is designed to regulate) than I have about insulin itself.

So let’s move on to insulin.

When you eat a food that causes your blood sugar to rise, those beta cells in your pancreas secrete insulin into your bloodstream. The insulin signals the cells in your body to pull the glucose out of your bloodstream and pack it away into storage.

Where is this storage?

The first storage spots are located in the liver and in the muscles. In both, the glucose is converted into a complex carbohydrate called glycogen.

Glycogen in the liver can easily be converted back into glucose and released back intot the bloodstream to correct low blood sugar when needed.

Glycogen in your muscles stays there to be used by your muscles when they do work. This muscular glygogen cannot be released back into your bloodstream. It stays in storage until your muscles use it up.

But, here’s the thing: your body has limited room for storing glycogen. Between your liver and your muscles, you store enough to allow you to work out hard for about 90 minutes.

What happens if you don’t work out? What if you mostly sit at your desk? And just putter around your house at the end of the day?

Well, some of the glycogen in your liver is probably used up to keep your blood sugar stable between meals. But the glycogen in your muscles simply stays there. Which means that when you eat your next piece of rye toast – or that leftover slice of birthday cake – most of your storage space is already full.

So where does the glucose go, when there’s no room at the inn?

It must not stay in the bloodstream. That would kill you fairly quickly. The muscles are full – they won’t take any more. The liver might have room for a little bit. But what happens to the rest?

Your liver converts the extra glucose into a saturated fat called palmitic acid. Some of the palmitic acid is then bundled together in groups of three to form triglycerides.

The triglycerides and fatty acids are then released into your bloodstream to be taken up by your fat cells. Your fat cells also have a limit to their storage capacity, but they are capable of taking in more than they are designed to hold. Your body doesn’t make more fat cells when you’ve got excess fatty acids and triglycerides to store. (The number of your fat cells is set during childhood and adolescence.) It just packs more into each of the existing fat cells.

Each fat cell stretches to accommodate the overpacking, and it becomes inflamed.

Eventually, the overpacked fat cell simply cannot take anymore. Bloated and inflamed, it puts up a “no vacancy” sign, and the excess triglycerides and fatty acids circulate in your bloodstream. Not good! (High levels of triglycerides in the blood are a known marker for cardiovascular disease.)

I’m going to return to my three scenarios – eating dessert, eating bread, eating vegetables – in a moment, putting insulin in the picture. But before I do that, let me say a few words about inflammation.

Inflammation in our bodies is regulated by the immune system. It is part of the repair cycle that follows an acute injury (a broken bone, a bruising blow, a burn or a cut) or an infection (by bacteria, a virus, or a parasite).

The immune system ramps up to fight and then to repair the damage. When the repair work is complete, the inflammation passes, and the immune system stands down. It’s ready, sure, for the next time. But in between fights, it’s idling. And while it’s idling, it’s doing low-level routine maintenance.

To use analogy: it’s tightening up that loose hinge, driving in an extra nail to that squeaking floorboard, stocking the freezer with chicken soup, painting the shutters and cleaning the windows, washing the dishes.

When your immune system is ramped up and fighting a fire – healing an acute injury or repelling an invader – it does not perform routine maintenance. These small jobs go undone until the next lull.

Chronic inflammation – which is part and parcel of overstretched fat cells – means your immune system is diverting some of its resources to fight a fire. Resources which are needed for routine maintenance. Necessary chores are being left undone as your immune system sends help to the inflamed fat cells.

Chronic inflammation – inflammaton that persists and has no end – is never a good thing. And when we are overweight, we are dealing with chronic inflammation. The more avoirdupois, the higher the level of inflammation.

One more note on inflammation: insulin itself is inflammatory. The longer it hangs out in your bloodstream to clean up glucose, the more it contributes to inflammation.

Okay, now let’s get back my three eating scenarios.

What happens with insulin after you eat cake?

The answer to this question is highly influenced by how insulin resistent your cells are. Typically, when you are young and haven’t been consuming sugar and grains for decades, your cells are not resistant. Which means your pancreas secretes a moderate amount of insulin, your liver and muscles take up glucose in the form of glycogen, and your blood sugar level returns to normal. That would look somoething like this:

That’s a pretty good scenario. Blood sugar isn’t elevated for long, which means the damage done is limited. Insulin didn’t stay in your bloodstream for long, so it didn’t contribute much toward creating inflammation. Your liver and muscles had room for all the glycogen. And then, because were a kid, you went outside and played tag with your friends, emptying much of the glycogen from your muscles and making room for more. Plus, since there was no insulin in your blood, some of the fat in your fat cells was emptied out and converted for energy as well, making room for storage there and ensuring that the cell didn’t become overpacked.

But when you’re 45…or 55…or 65, it doesn’t look like that.

It’s more like this:

Your cells are insulin-resistent from decades of eating sugar and grains, which means it takes more insulin and more time to pack away all that glucose. Your blood sugar is elevated for longer, damaging your body for the entire interval. Your insulin levels are elevated for longer, contributing to inflammation for the entire time. And while your bloodstream is brimming with insulin, your body is unable to withdraw fat from fat cells. (See Test first, then conclude! for more about the one-way door that insulin creates.)

On top of that, you had a stressful day at the office, and when you arrived home you were too exhausted to go to the gym to work out. So there’s not much room in your muscles for any glycogen. Your liver converts it to fatty acids and triglycerides, which are packed away into your fat cells. And these stretched fat cells are, by definition, inflamed fat cells. Which is why the tendonitis in your shoulder (or whatever chronic problem you’re fighting) refuses to heal.

The scenario with whole grain bread or brown rice isn’t much better:

Sure, your blood sugar does not spike as high, but it is still elevated for a long time, doing damage the whole while. Your pancreas must still secrete a lot of insulin, which contributes to inflammation. And while the insulin is present, your cells are forced to run on glucose (glycogen) for energy. No fat can be withdrawn from your fat cells to be processed into ketone bodies, the preferred food of the brain.

Now let’s consider the scenario in which you eat vegetables.

Because your blood sugar barely rises above the optimum level and does not stay there for long, not much damage is done. Furthermore, it does not take much insulin to bring it back down. Which means the insulin has little opportunity to cause inflammation. And, since insulin is not present for long, your body is soon free to withdraw fat from your fat cells and use it for energy.

Withdrawing fat from the fat cells means they get smaller. As they shrink in size, their degree of inflammation reduces. Eventually, if you keep allowing your body to use fat for fuel, the inflammation goes away entirely. Your immune system devotes more and more of its resources to normal repair and maintenance. Your spare tire shrinks. Your knees stop aching.

Let’s consider one more scenario.

Instead of eating just baked carrots drizzled in clarified butter, you also eat seared chicken breasts with a few olives as garnish.

The protein in the chicken and the oil in the olives (plus the fat in the clarified butter and the fiber in the carrots) will cause the carbohydrates in the carrots to be broken down and assimilated even more gradually, so that your blood sugar might never leave the Goldilocks zone at all. Check it out!

I want to visit one more tangent before I conclude: nutrient density.

What does the term mean?

The proportion of nutrients present in a food in comparison to the calories it provides. The nutrients of primary interest are vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and the nine essential amino acids. The more nutrient-dense a food is, the more it supports optimal functioning and health.

At one end of the scale are sugar and white flour. They provide no vitamins, no minerals, and no amino acids at all. They are truly empty calories. Sugar is merely glucose plus fructose, and both of these substances rapidly unhook from one another under digestion, the glucose yielding all the damage I’ve been discussing above.

White flour, when digested, also yields glucose, resulting in damage nearly identical to that produced by sugar, and providing no nutrients.

But whole grains are not much better.

Let’s take a look at the structure of a grain kernel.

The germ and the bran are where you find vitamins, minerals, and fiber. The endosperm provides energy – calories – that allows the seedling plant to grow. (The plant’s nutrients will come from from the soil through its roots or be synthesized by the plant from sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water.)

White flour is made from the endosperm. The bran and the germ are discarded.

Whole grain flour keeps the bran and the germ, but here’s the catch: the bulk of even whole grain flour is provided by the nutrient-free endosperm, and most of the nutrients present in the bran and the germ are not bio-available. That is, they are chemically bound so tightly that digestion cannot unhook them to pass them through the lining of the small intestine and into our bodies where they can be used.

Even worse, the phytates in the bran (present to protect the seed) bind calcium and other minerals from other foods present in the digestive tract and carry these valuable substances out of the body altogether.

Grains are not nutrient-dense.

And every vitamin or mineral that is present in whole grains is present in far larger amounts and with greater bio-availability in vegetables, fruits, eggs, seafood, and meat.

Vegetables, fruits, eggs, seafood, and meat are nutrient dense.

I’ll be posting more of my latest revelations about food and nutrition over the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, if you’d like to delve deeper on your own, I can recommend two books.

It Starts with Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig is an excellent resource with solid information presented in a lighthearted, friendly way.

It’s an easy introduction to some key principles, including much of the information I’ve discussed in this post, plus a lot more.

 
The Paleo Approach by Sarah Ballantyne is a dense tome written by a scientist, chronicling in exquisite detail the complex workings of the human gut and how it interfaces with food and nearly every other system in the body.

The information is rock solid, and if you are dealing with any complex and recalcitrant health issues, you may well need the specifics that Ballantyne provides.

The book is written for the layperson, but it is not an easy read. Explanations are comprehensive and extensive and detailed. The author covers every last tiny interaction that takes place in the intricate chain that permits molecules from food to pass through the intestinal membrane, and exactly how certain foods muck up the works for many people, especially the immune system.

I tend to use the index to research specific topics. I read paragraphs, even whole segments within chapters. But I rarely read an entire chapter at once, and I haven’t yet read the entire book from cover to cover.

It’s a great resource, but… 😉

For more from my blog on this topic, see:
Thinner and Healthier
Milk Is Highly Insulinogenic
Butter and Cream and Coconut, Oh My!
Why Seed Oils Are Dangerous
Why Calcium Isn’t Enough

 

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Belzetarn’s Battlements

In The Tally Master, the elite of the citadel possess quarters in the uppermost levels of the tower. Its warlord, Regenen Carbraes, inhabits chambers with an internal stair connecting several lower spaces with others on the upper floor.

Gael, the protagonist of the novel, chooses not to use the official apartments that go with his position of Secretarius, but he pays an unplanned and fateful visit to his empty rooms one evening.

Another turning point in the story occurs on the terrace ringed by the quarters of the elite. Carbraes and the general who commands his legions (the March) are enjoying a rare moment of conversation and leisure under the summer sun, when Gael brings them startling news.

For more about the world of The Tally Master, see:
Belzetarn’s Great Halls
Belzetarn’s Treasures
Belzetarn’s Formidable Entrance Gate
Belzetarn’s Smithies and Cellars
The Dark Tower
The Fortress of Belzetarn
Map of the North-lands in the Bronze Age
What Does the Tally Master Tally?
Mapping Ancient Rome onto Belzetarn
Gael’s Tally Chamber

 

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DIY Shampoo

Seven years ago, I learned that many of the substances used in conventional toiletries were harmful. I’ll admit that I was shocked and surprised. I’d believed that modern scientific knowledge, together with regulation, guaranteed greater safety in our shampoos, soaps, and toothpastes.

It was a jolt to discover that this was not so.

I was particularly interested in the fact that sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate are profoundly irritating to the skin. These two chemicals were in nearly every cleansing product on the shelf and inescapable in shampoo.

The reason for my interest was that my scalp had been chronically irritated for most of my adult life. The only shampoo that kept the irritation down to a manageable level was Selsun Blue. And even that was not 100% effective. There was always a small patch somewhere – behind one ear, behind the other ear, right at the crown, or wherever – that was itchy and scaling.

With my new knowledge, I suspected that SLS was causing the irritation. Which meant that most shampoos would be problematic for me, and explained why Selsun Blue was less than ideal. The active ingredient, selenium sulfide, soothed my irritated scalp, but the SLS inflamed it.

My search for an alternative was arduous.

Many of the alternatives had substances in their ingredient lists that were just as harmful as those in conventional products. And those that did not proved to be even more irritating to my scalp.

I blogged about my search in 2012, hoping that my experiences might save someone else all the trial and error. Finding a safe and effective shampoo was much more difficult than finding a good lip balm, a good hand lotion, or a good soap.

SLS was the main ingredient used to provide the slipperiness that removes dirt from hair.

Then I stumbled upon Terressentials hair wash. It’s not a soap or a shampoo at all. Bentonite clay, formed from the weathering of volcanic ash, serves as the basis of its cleansing power.

The hair wash worked for me, and for the first time ever, my scalp healed fully and stayed healed. I was delighted.

There was just one hitch: the consistency of the hair wash was very thick, which made it difficult to work through my below-the-shoulder length hair.

The Terresentials instructions said not to add water to the bottle. I suspect the reason for this was that if the hair wash were stored for a long time, the added water would provide a medium in which bacteria could grow, since there were no preservatives in the ingredients list.

The liquid proportion of the hair wash seemed to be provided by aloe vera juice.

So I purchased a bottle of aloe vera juice, figuring that I could add it to the hair wash myself for greater liquidity.

It didn’t work at all. Oh, it made the hair wash more liquid. But it also left a strange residue on my hair, yielding a slightly tacky feel.

I abandoned the addition of aloe vera juice and learned instead to apply the hair wash immediately after ducking my head under the shower, so that my hair was sopping wet. This allowed me to work the hair wash all the way through my tresses.

It was somewhat cumbersome, but worth it for the fantastic results. I loved having a fully healthy scalp.

I eventually learned that I used the hair wash quickly enough that I could add water to the bottle without any bacterial growth occurring.

I was set!

Until Terressentials changed their recipe.

They never announced any change, no doubt because the ingredients in their hair wash did not change. But the proportions changed. The hair wash gradually became more liquid, and it started to leave that slightly tacky residue on my hair that I’d noticed when I myself added aloe vera juice.

This made me very unhappy.

I continued to use the hair wash, because my hair was clean. It still looked good, and my scalp stayed healthy. The tackiness on each strand was very slight. Still, I didn’t like it.

I started scrutinizing the ingredient lists of alternative shampoos again. None were the least bit promising.

Then I remembered a book on my shelves that I’d purchased long before my Great Soap Quest of 2010. I believe I’d obtained the book just for the sheer fun of experimenting with mixing up my own beauty potions, but I can’t really recall much. 😉

I’d used one recipe to give my mother an at-home “spa” experience, when she complained that her hair was as dry as straw. Not only was that fun, but it worked wonderfully well.

Her hair really was as dry as straw. After I’d applied the Refried Bean Hair Masque (a combination of avocado, refried beans, and various oils), it was entirely restored.

Perhaps there would be a shampoo recipe in that book that would work equally well for me.

There was, but only one.

Out of the 14 shampoo recipes in the chapter on hair, 13 used a base of commercial baby shampoo to which other pantry ingredients were added. (Banana, apple juice, beer, et cetera.)

The recipe without commercial shampoo had the following ingredients:
• 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
• 1 tablespoon lemon extract
• 3 egg yolks
• 1/2 cup lukewarm water

I whisked up a batch and tried it.

I could tell almost as soon as I rubbed it into my hair that it would not work. My scalp hurt!

But I was also sure I knew what the offending ingredients were: the apple cider vinegar and the lemon extract. What if I simply used lemon juice instead? I’d been using a homemade lemon rinse for months (made with lemon juice, not extract) and found it very soothing.

So I made adjustments to the recipe:
• 2 tablespoons lemon juice
• 3 egg yolks
• 1/2 cup lukewarm water

And it worked!

My hair was shiny and clean and with no tacky residue. My scalp was calm.

However, over the course of three of four hair washings, I found my hair became ever so slightly oily. Not badly so, but still.

At that point, with the DIY bit firmly between my teeth, I remembered something I’d read while researching my lemon hair rinse. The author of the Kanelstrand blog had developed a hair wash based on rye flour. What about that?

I returned to her site and read up.

The nice thing about a rye flour slurry is that it possesses the properly acidic pH, just like the lemon hair rinse does. But would it really work to clean my hair?

It took me a while to acquire rye flour. Would you believe it: my ordinary supermarket no longer carries it!

Back when I still ate bread, I used to bake my grandmother’s Swedish rye bread several times a year. Was I the last woman baking rye bread in my locality or something? When I stopped baking, did the market then stop acquiring rye flour? Probably not! 😉

But I had to make a special trip to the health food store to get some.

The Kanelstrand blogger didn’t specify measurements, merely explaining that she added water to a portion of rye flour until she achieved a thick slurry similar in consistency to most shampoos: liquid enough to pour, not so thin that it would seep through the fingers of your cupped hand.

This worked out to be a one-to-one ratio when I tried it for myself.

I make 3/8 cup at a time, right before I’m going to wash my hair:
• 3 tablespoons water
• 3 tablespoons rye flour

I use all of it. There’s no soapy, slippery ingredient that will allow a small amount to spread easily through a large mass of hair (which I have). So I need a large amount.

But it works!

My hair is shiny and clean, and the slight oiliness from the egg-based shampoo is gone.

I suspect, however, that I might be most happy if I use both DIY shampoos in some pattern of alternation, because as I type this my hair feels a little dry.

Perhaps every third washing should be done with the egg shampoo. Or the reverse. I’ll be experimenting with what works best.

I’ll leave you with some notes on the storage needs of these DIY shampoos. They really cannot be stored on the edge of the tub or in the bathroom cabinet, because they are food. They’ll spoil at room temperature.

The egg shampoo is much slipperier than the rye shampoo, so I get two hair washings from one batch. Therefore, I divide the batch in two, using one portion immediately, and freezing the other.

When I was using only the egg shampoo, it lasted fine in the refrigerator. But now that I plan to alternate between egg and rye, the interval is likely to be too long for refrigerator storage to work. Thus, the freezer. It’s very easy to quick thaw by immersing the ziplock bag in warm tap water.

I use the full batch of the rye shampoo, but it also lasts several days in the refrigerator, as I discovered when I made my initial (and larger) batch.

If I were traveling, I would simply bring the bag of rye flour, which does not require refrigeration, because I could mix it with water when I needed it. No doubt I’ll see how that works in practice when I next go up to my parents’ home for an extended visit. 😀

For more about alternative toiletries, see:
Great Soap & Etcetera Quest
Great “Soap” Eureka!
Why To Add a Lemon Rinse to Your Hair Care Routine

 

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Belzetarn’s Great Halls

The tower of Belzetarn possesses three great halls. Too many trolls dwell in the citadel for one hall to hold them all, and even so, many of the craftsmen and craftsmasters dine in the mess halls of their lodges, located in the artisans’ yard or the bailey.

The topmost hall (level nine) serves as the official hall of the regenen, the warlord who rules the citadel. But Carbraes’ practical instincts push him to dine in company with more than the elite, and thus he randomly takes some of his meals in the middle great hall (level six) and the lower one (level five).

When Gael goes seeking the castellanum one evening (the castellanum manages the domestic concerns of the citadel), he starts by checking the topmost great hall, but comes up empty. The middle great hall is equally bereft of the highest officers. Carbraes dined in the lowest great hall that night, and the castellanum, perforce, dined there with him.

For more about the world of The Tally Master, see:
Belzetarn’s Treasures
Belzetarn’s Formidable Entrance Gate
Belzetarn’s Smithies and Cellars
The Dark Tower
The Fortress of Belzetarn
Map of the North-lands in the Bronze Age
What Does the Tally Master Tally?
Mapping Ancient Rome onto Belzetarn
Gael’s Tally Chamber

 

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Books2Read and “Universal” Links

I’ve blogged about global or “universal” links twice before: here and here.

Now I’m visiting the subject again. What prompted me? My new use of Draft2Digital.

Draft2Digital distributes ebooks to 8 e-tailers who feature ebooks among their offerings: Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Inktera, Scribd, Tolino, 24 Symbols, and the newly added Playster. Draft2Digital provides a smooth interface for the authors they serve, along with some excellent online tools.

Amongst those tools is access to their sister site Books2Read.

Books2Read creates and sustains a “universal” link for each book distributed through Draft2Digital, allowing authors, reviewers, fans, – or, really, anyone who wants to talk about that great book she just read – to share one URL for the book that connects to nearly every store where that book is sold.

I’ve really liked having one Amazon link that directs each reader to the Amazon store serving his area, and one Kobo link that does the same for the Kobo store fronts.

But the Books2Read link will direct the prospective ebook purchaser to the right Amazon store, the right Kobo store, the right B&N store, or even to stores that I’ve never heard of (but that do carry my books!).

How It Works

Now, the first time a reader clicks on a Books2Read link, she will need to choose her preferred store from an array of icons. But ever after, any Books2Read link will take her directly to the book on her preferred e-tailer site.

Try it for yourself.

No, really! Click on the cover of Caught in Amber. The window will open in a new tab, and you can see exactly what any first-time clicker will see when he clicks a universal Books2Read link.

(Unless you’ve already selected your preferred store for Books2Read. Then clicking will take you to Amber at that store.)

Do it now. I’ll wait! 😉

Before those of you who don’t distribute through D2D – but who do have books on offer with more than one e-tailer, skip this post…catch this!

Universal Links for Everyone

Books2Read will create and sustain universal links even for books that are not distributed through Draft2Digital. All you have to do is create an account with Books2Read, and you can start creating universal links for your books. Cool, don’t you think?

Now, Books2Read links aren’t truly universal. They may be universal for ebooks (I have no way of testing that – too many e-tailers for me to know about them all), but they don’t include stores that carry only paperbacks and hardbacks. I wish they did. That would be…incredible! But Books2Read does have 38 e-tailers (plus several subscription services) on their roster, many that I’ve never even heard of.

They divide their roster into “fully supported” stores and “partially supported” stores.

An Automated Search
(plus add-ons)

The fully supported stores are accessed by the author creating universal links automatically. That is, when the author pastes the link to one store into the box on the Books2Read site, an automatic search finds that book on the sites of 10 e-tailers and includes them in the book’s universal link.

These 10 fully supported stores are: Amazon, Apple, Barnes&Noble, Kobo, Google Play, Scribd, 24 Symbols, Thalia, Inktera, and Smashwords.

For the partially supported stores, the author must paste in the link for each store himself, and then those links are included in the universal link.

There are 28 partially supported stores. I’m not going to list them all. You can see the list on Books2Read, if you want the full roster, here. I’ll name a few to give you some sense of them: Blio, Indigo, Libris, WHSmith, OverDrive. But there are many more.

Universal Links Plus?

So, why, you may be asking, does my own site still include individual links to Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and others?

This is my thinking:

First of all, global links are a new thing. Readers are not accustomed to them. If I weren’t an author, I would not be accustomed to them. In fact, when I first encountered them as a reader on another author’s blog, I felt confused that there was only one link. Where’s the Amazon link? I wondered. And…I did not click on that one link. I worried about where it would take me. I certainly didn’t trust it to take me to Amazon. Instead, I went to Amazon myself and searched on the book title.

Well, I don’t want to risk that an interested reader on my site might avoid clicking on one of the links to my books! What if she didn’t follow up by going to Amazon (or Kobo, or Apple) herself? What if she simply bailed altogether? Not good!

And, secondly, using the universal link does require a second click the first time a reader clicks on it. Each extra click is an invitation to the clicker to bail. My direct links don’t require that second click. They take the reader directly to the store front and my book.

So, for now, I’m keeping the individual links to the most popular e-tailers.

But I am using the universal links.

My Universal Links

“Where?” you ask. “I don’t see them.”

Indeed, right now it’s not obvious, because the universal links are connected to the book cover images in the sidebar of my site. With a little more work, I will have all the book cover images serving as links. Right now, most are static images with no links at all, and that’s a waste. People are accustomed to images that are links, images that lead somewhere when you click on them.

I’ve avoided making my book cover images into links, because I would have had to choose which store to favor. And my readers who prefer Kobo (or Apple, or B&N, etc.) would have been super annoyed to click and find themselves arriving on Amazon instead.

Recently, I did make the sidebar images go to Amazon, because I couldn’t bear the wasted opportunity. But now I don’t have to choose! The images can be universal links. 😀

Your Thoughts?

So…now I have questions for you!

What do you think of all of the above? Do you think I am wise to preserve the individual links for now? Do you think I am mistaken to convert the book cover images into links? Or to have them go anywhere but Amazon? (Most – but not all – of my sales occur at Amazon.) Do you find the links as they are currently configured to be convenient for you?

I’d love to hear about your experiences with links and what you think of the issue.

For more about links, see:
A Question for International Visitors
Kobo Knows How to Do Ebook Links Right!

 

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The Tally Master, Paper Edition

The Tally Master is now out in trade paperback!

I find the book to be beautiful, and for several days after I received my copy, I kept it on the coffee table in the living room, so that I could pick it up and admire it every time I passed nearby. Now it’s on a bookshelf, but I keep taking it down to look it over – gorgeous cover, beautifully framed frontispiece, wonderful map, and so on – wanting to prove to myself all over again that it really does exist. 😉

I’ve enrolled the book in Amazon’s Matchbook program, which means that if you purchase the paperback first, you can then buy the ebook edition at a discount. As a reader myself, I’ve found that for certain books I want the paper edition sitting on my bookshelf, while I tote a convenient digital reading copy on my e-reader when I’m out and about. Perhaps some of you might own to a similar preference.

As I type this, the paperback Tally is available at Amazon, CreateSpace, or Barnes & Noble. Over the next 8 weeks (or so), it will wend its way through the distribution chain to reach bookstores such as the Book Depository and Powell’s.

* * *

Seven years ago, reeling from a curse in the wake of battle, Gael sought sanctuary and found it in a most perilous place.

The citadel of a troll warlord—haunt of the desperate and violent—proves a harsh refuge for a civilized mage. But Gael wields power enough to create an oasis of order amidst the chaos.

Now master of the metals that flow to the citadel’s weapon forges, Gael rules his tally room unchallenged, until he discovers a theft within its vaults.

Gael loves the quiet certainty of black ink tally marks on smooth parchment, but his search for the thief leads to a maze of unexpected answers, putting his hard-won sanctuary—and his life—at risk.

Set in the Bronze Age of J.M. Ney-Grimm’s North-lands, The Tally Master brings mystery and secrets to epic fantasy in a suspenseful tale of betrayal and redemption.

* * *

Order the trade paperback online from Amazon, CreateSpace, or Barnes & Noble.

You may also order it from your local bookstore:
ISBN-10: 1546516530
ISBN-13: 978-1546516538.

Of course, The Tally Master continues to be available as an ebook from Amazon.

 

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Caught in Amber Is Everywhere!

The paperback edition of Caught in Amber has been available in many online stores for over a year. But until a few days ago, the ebook edition was limited to Amazon. Now that has changed, which makes me very happy.

Caught in Amber can be found all over the place! 😀

Amazon I B&N I Inktera I iTunes I Kobo
Overdrive I Playster I Scribd I Smashwords I 24Symbols

* * *

When young Fae awakens in a locked and deserted castle, she remembers nothing. Who she is, where she comes from, none of it.

Amber cover 300Beauty from all the ages graces the castle – medieval towers, renaissance columns, and gothic vaults – but underneath the loveliness a lurking evil stirs.

Fae hates the loneliness and the sense of hidden malice oppressing her. Even more, she hates the feeling that just around some receding corner of lost memory lies the answer to her predicament – an answer just out of reach.

An answer essential to surviving this castle’s dangers – both subtle and not so subtle.

Somewhere in her forgotten past lies the key.

A mythic tale of family and betrayal told with all the twists and moments of sheer joy that J.M. Ney-Grimm brings to epic fantasy.

* * *

Caught in Amber has been the most popular of my titles on Amazon, so if you get ebooks from Barnes & Noble or Kobo or one of the other many online stores, give it a look. Perhaps your new favorite awaits you. 😉

Caught in Amber as an ebook:
Amazon I B&N I Inktera I iTunes I Kobo
Overdrive I Playster I Scribd I Smashwords I 24Symbols

Caught in Amber as a trade paperback:
Amazon I B&N I Book Depository I Fishpond I Mysterious Galaxy Books I Powell’s Books

 

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