What is giving up?

I sold 91 copies of my most recent novel, Eating Life. 91 copies of a book that took two years to write, countless hours of rewriting, several pass-through revisions with an editor, and, figuratively, a lot of blood and sweat. (The tears were sometimes literal.)

91 copies of what I consider my best work yet.

91 copies of the book that made the most rabid fan of my first novel, Man Enough, the person who read my next two books and said, “Excellent, but no Man Enough,” finally, finally say, “And now I have a new favorite Beth Burnett book.” And it got excellent reviews. Read them for yourself here. And if you have read this book and haven’t reviewed it yet, why not?

91 copies. Enough money to pay the electric bill. For one month.

I know I don’t know how to market. I know I don’t do enough for my books to give them an audience. I know I’m not out there pounding the pavement looking for bookstores that will sponsor readings or repeatedly asking my library to carry my books. I don’t like it, it makes me anxious. I know sitting around hoping someone will set up an event for me and tell me to be there is not going to sell books. I get that.

But I have to admit that I really wish there was someone that did that.

The thing is, I fell in love with Eating Life. I fell in love with the characters. I thought one of them, Ben Stagg, was one of the best characters I have ever invented. So much so that he is going to come back in another book. I love him and the rest and I wanted everyone else to love them, too.

91 copies and I’m finally beginning to wonder if maybe this is not supposed to be my career. I know money isn’t the whole point, but it is part of the point. And it’s a special kind of sadness that comes when my alter ego, who writes short and easy little erotica stories on Amazon, makes more money from those little hour-from-start-to-finish stories than I do on the novels I’ve worked so hard on. Long ago, when I was complaining to a friend about my books not selling as well as I wanted, she said, “Write for yourself, not for an audience.”

Well, if that’s the case, why bother publishing? If the goal is to just write what you love and not let it matter whether or not anyone is reading it, why share it at all?

I’m still writing. I finished an excellent YA fantasy during NaNoWriMo. I have a completed lesbian love story that just needs some revision. And I have a women’s fiction book that is, in my opinion, funnier than much of the bestselling women’s fiction I’ve read.

I still love writing. But I don’t have the heart to deal with everything that comes after. I can’t seem to make myself  research publishers and agents or send out query letters. I think I just need to take a break from it all. Not from writing – from writing for reasons other than to just write.

I’d love to know how other writers deal with this. What do you do when you don’t sell? How do you reconcile marketing versus writing versus deciding to just go get a day job? When do you decide to stop seeing writing as your dream and relegate it back to a hobby?


One Week of Oil Pulling. (Did I just say oil pulling?)

This is what Wikipedia has to say about coconut oil:

Coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the kernel or meat of matured coconuts harvested from the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera). It has various applications in food, medicine, and industry. Because of its high saturated fat content it is slow to oxidize and, thus, resistant torancidification, lasting up to two years without spoiling

ImageWell, I guess I’m slow to the game because apparently, everybody I know has been using coconut oil for everything from natural moisturizer to lubricant to wrinkle cream to deep hair conditioning. Well, I’m not going to speak on the lubricant usage, however, I will address the rest of the alleged benefits. I picked up some cold pressed extra virgin coconut oil a couple of months ago on the advice of a friend who suggested it would make a good moisturizer. In those weeks, I have used it on my lips, where it has gotten rid of all of the chapped lip crap of winter. I put it on my nose, thus alleviating that big ugly patch of dry skin that comes from blowing it all of the time. I rub it on my face, neck, and chest at night and have seen an incredible improvement in the quality of my skin, which has gotten softer, smoother, and more radiant. I even slather it on my hair sometimes about twenty minutes before a shower to deep condition and it works beautifully. So, I was already a fan of coconut oil when my sister posted a link about “Oil pulling.”

Apparently, oil pulling involves putting a spoonful of coconut oil in your mouth and squishing it around for twenty minutes before spitting it out.

NOTE: DO NOT SPIT IT INTO THE SINK. (Says the voice of experience.)

Apparently the health benefits range from curing migraines to regulating blood sugar to whitening teeth to preventing yeast infections. (I think there’s more, but the curing migraines thing is what stopped me in my tracks.)

You know, I hate taking pills and I am a big opponent of big Pharm and I’ll try just about anything I read on the internet that doesn’t involve anal insertion, so I thought, why not? I’ll give it seven days and see what happens.

The first thing to note is that coconut oil isn’t in a particularly oily state… it’s pretty solid. So it Imagefeels a little strange when I first put it in my mouth. It’s almost kind of gummy… but I just started kind of moving around in my mouth and after a minute or so, it started to melt. When it melts, it doesn’t feel slimy, like I expected oil to feel. It feels just kind of thicker water, I guess, and it doesn’t have much of a taste at all.

The first day I made it about thirteen minutes before my mouth got too tired and I had to spit it out. (In the sink…. Again, DO NOT DO THIS!) My sister told me that it will resolidify and clog the drain, so I had to run some boiling water through and hope it all washed down. (It did.) I didn’t really notice anything out of the ordinary, except that my mouth felt really clean. I brushed as usual with my non-fluoride Tom’s toothpaste and went about my day.

The second day, I noticed that a couple of pimples I had around the side of my mouth from being menstrual were almost completely gone overnight.

Day three, I realized that the small sores that I sometimes have in the back of my mouth because I have a tooth back there that is pointy and rubs against the inside of my gum were all gone. My mouth felt fantastic, very healthy.

Day four, I woke up with one of those headaches that have the potential to turn into a migraine. I usually try to stop these by eating a small breakfast, taking a couple of Tylenol, and drinking a cup of coffee. Of course, if it DOES turn into a migraine, all of that will come back up, so it’s not the best plan in the world. At any rate, on that day, I did my oil pulling and by the end of the fifteen minutes, my headache was gone. It stayed gone for the rest of the day, even at work where the glare of the fluorescent lights on the computer sometimes activates a headache in me.

Today was day seven and I can say that I feel the experiment has been a success. I haven’t had any headaches and my mouth feels healthy and clean. I can’t really say whether or not it is making my teeth whiter, but since that wasn’t one of the things that I cared about in the first place, it doesn’t really matter. My experiment did get my sister doing it, too, and she is very prone to migraines and stomach issues. She is not only oil pulling, but putting a small spoonful in her hot tea every night. She has had no stomach issues or headaches since she started.

As a side note, I sometimes get anxiety, and I have noticed that my fifteen minutes of pulling in the morning is kind of a meditation. I try not to do anything else during this time. I just sit back in my chair, put my feet up, sometimes pet the dog, and swish my oil. It has kind of a zen effect of me.

So, I guess the conclusion of the week is that I will keep going with the oil pulling as long as it still feels good and healthy to me… that is, until someone comes out with a study that shows I’ve been giving myself brain cancer with it or something.

Going Vegan – Some simple tips

I really don’t like to cook. I mean, I really have no interest in gourmet meals. Spending hours chopping vegetables and sauteing stuff is not fun for me. I have far better things to do with my life. Part of the appeal of the PRE-vegan life is that if I wanted something to eat, I could just grab something and eat it. Never mind that it wasn’t healthy, or whatever, the fact remains that it was extremely easy to open the fridge and grab a piece of cheese or a slice of turkey, slap it on some bread and call it a sandwich.

I don’t have that option anymore. The closest I can come to is slicing an apple and eating it with some almond butter.

To keep things kind of simple, I like to go to the salad bar at work and just get a container full of pre-cut fruits. That way, if I have cereal with almond milk for breakfast, I can throw a handful of different fruits on it. Instant healthy breakfast. I usually try to make a huge salad and eat off it for a few days. Soups are my friend. Start with a good low-sodium veggie broth and then add whatever vegetables are left in the kitchen. Today, I have squash, cabbage, a tomato, and some cut up portabello mushroom. I always put in a bit of brown rice and some kind of bean, as well…. make sure you cook it long enough that your beans and rice get soft. Some combinations work well, others… not so much. But I have found that you really can’t go far wrong with veggie broth and vegetables, regardless of the veggie.

The recipe for black bean burgers in the Engine 2 Diet makes several… enough to last me through a bunch of meals. I can eat them on a whole wheat bun with lettuce, onion, etc or put one on top of some brown rice. They are good just eaten alone, as well.

I think the key to becoming vegan is to just jump in and do it. I researched vegetarianism for a long time before I decided to do it, and even then, if someone asked me what vegans eat, I would have been hard pressed to come up with a lot of options. But hunger is a strong motivator and as soon as I decided that from this point on, I no longer consume animal products, I started getting pretty creative in crafting meals for myself. And I find that I don’t miss meat or butter or mayonaise at all.

I have to admit, though, that I do miss the ease of picking up a Heinen’s cheese pizza after my shift at the grocery store.

Going Vegan – This will help.

So I went to the library the other day and got several books on veganism and vegan cooking. My favorite to date is not even a cookbook. It’s Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell B Esselstyn, Jr. He gives a lot of great reasons to go vegan, and outlines the health benefits and the patients of his who have reversed their heart disease, including large blockages simply by switching to his plan. (Which, incidentally is the one I am following… no meat or animal products, no sugar, no white flour, no oil.) I have already done a ton of research, including reading Caldwell’s son Rip Esselstyn’s book (which I linked in another blog) and Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live, so I pretty much skimmed through the first half of the book. If you aren’t yet convinced about becoming vegan, or going completely plant based, read the first half and get the medical facts.

In the meantime, I found myself in the section written by Esselstyn’s wife and this was where I stuck gold. It was very matter of fact and very simple. She outlined a lot of ways to put together quick and easy healthy meals without getting all crazy about it or buying a million different kinds of weird foods from health stores. She listed tons of simple, easy ways to eat plant based without spending hours at a time in the kitchen. I liked her ideas about black beans over brown rice, with bowls of various cut up veggies to put on top. Add some salsa, and you are set. She stressed repeatedly how important it is to read the labels. For example, I am eating what is labelled “sprouted grain” bread, from a health food company, expensive, etc… well, I had skimmed the label when I bought it, but somehow I missed that it has yogurt in it. So, that bread is going to the squirrels and I got a new bread that is oil and animal product free.

My trip to the grocery store this morning took a lot longer than last week, but I stocked up on veggies and then read the labels for everything else. Did you know that some vegetable broths have oil in them? Neither did I… got a Heinen’s brand organic for a good price. (I love my grocery store.) Got some beans, some balsamic vinegar and a couple of cans of artichoke hearts. (The jars tend to be marinated in oil.) So, after getting home from the grocery store, I made myself some 100 percent whole wheat pasta (read the ingredients here, too… not all whole wheat pastas are only whole wheat.) For a sauce, I am simmering some Brussels sprouts, artichoke hearts, and black bean and corn salsa with a little veggie broth. After the sauce is done, I will throw some green onions on top. I could also nuke a potato and use a little salsa, green onion, finely diced peppers. etc.

It has been just over a week since I went fully vegan, and only a couple of days since I decided to go oil free as well, but I feel better today than I have in a long, long time. I am not getting dizzy anymore, I have a ton of energy, and the usual menstrual pimples that I get once a month didn’t show up this month. (Surprise bonus!) Also, I restarted P90X at the beginning of this week and have had plenty of energy for that, as well.

Going Vegan – Navigating the holidays.

People want to help. I mean, in general, unless your friends and family are really unsupportive assholes, people do applaud your actions when it comes to trying to be healthier in life. They may not agree with what you are doing, but if they are cool people, they will support it. Case in point, my stepmother’s barbecue yesterday. When she sent out the email saying that there was going to be a party there, I agreed to go, while secretly thinking I would just stick to whatever side dishes and figure it out on my own. I didn’t want to be a problem, you know?

Well, my sister Dolly sent an email back telling Robbie that I am a vegetarian now. (I hadn’t yet gone full vegan then.) She obviously took it to heart, because she not only made several vegetarian side dishes, but got portabello mushrooms to grill, so I could have a “burger” when everyone else had one. How cool is that?

The thing is, nobody made any comments about what I was eating, nobody acted like it was a big pain to make something different… after all, they were grilling several kinds of meats, why not throw a couple of mushrooms in the mix?

The only bad part of the day is that I really over-indulged way more than I should have. I ate until I was stuffed, then went to the movies and ate popcorn *with* butter. (And yeah, I can kid myself that movie butter isn’t real butter, but whatever it is, it is definitely not the non-processed, plant based, whole food diet that I am trying to follow here.)

Still, all in all, it was a good holiday for a newbie. I didn’t crave any of the burgers or brats. And I started fresh this morning with a healthy breakfast, nice salad for lunch and another new soup. Small steps, right?

Going Vegan – I’m not dead yet.

Well, I woke up this morning feeling… less hellish.

That is to say, my headache was gone. I was exhausted. But let’s be fair, I have been exhausted for months, if not a year. Ever since I went back to processed food and not working out after last year’s breast cancer walk, I have been tired all of the time. And fat. And blobbish. And run down and sick. And my pants were getting tighter and tighter. And I can see the flab spilling out around my bra. Enough is enough.

So, I am not giving up. I came home at lunch and ate some of my cabbage, tomato, red and black bean soup. Only problem is that maybe I shouldn’t have eaten a cabbage and bean soup before having to go back to work for another four hours. I spent the first three clenching my butt to keep from having gas. I soaked the beans overnight, so I had kind of hoped that wouldn’t be a problem.

Way too much info, I know, but these are the things you have to be aware of! 🙂

Home from work now, just ate some raw cauliflower and an apple. I am going to steam some zucchini and cauliflower and make a salad of green leaf lettuce, peppers, onions, tomatoes, and carrots and put the steamed veggies over it.

I had a piece of sprouted grain bread with my soup at lunch. I don’t know that I am doing well with the grain situation, as the only grains I am getting are brown rice (in yesterday’s soup) and the bread. Getting some fat and protein from the almond milk and almond butter.

I’m sure a great deal of the exhaustion has to do with giving up coffee and that will pass. I figure I need to give myself at least a full week off of caffeine before I start trying to radically adjust my food. In the meantime, despite still being tired, I was able to come home, walk a couple of miles with my buddy, and then come home and dance with him in the kitchen to “Woodstock” by Crosby, Stills, and Nash. Short work day tomorrow, and then two days off… that will help.

Going Vegan – Veganism for complete idiots.

If anyone can write about veganism for complete idiots, it is me. I am a complete idiot and I have very little idea of what I am doing here. It is one thing to do all of the internet research, ask your friends, study what foods have what nutrients, etc, etc, but when it comes down to that moment where you say, “Okay, from now on, I will no longer eat any animal products,” it is quite another to actually do it.

That said, I do think research is important. First of all, go get Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Furhman and The Engine 2 Diet by Rip Esselstyn. If you don’t have the money to buy them, go to your local library and look for them. I think they are two amazing, non-preachy, but well-researched books about why going plant-based may save your life.

I did a ton of research over the internet, and it was the combination of those two books that finally gave me the determination to just go for it.

That said, it wasn’t as if I went for it very well. I kind of went for it like a klutzy nerd trying to make a move on a girl… that is, poorly and with a lot of drool. Or anguish. Whatever.

I went full on vegetarian at the beginning of this month. That was not extremely hard, as I just stopped eating meat. So, if I was still eating potatoes and macaroni and cheese, hey, it doesn’t matter because I’m not eating meat. Good for me! Good for the environment! Really good for the animals!

Well, after a couple of weeks of that, I realized that just becoming a vegetarian doesn’t mean you’re healthy. So, I make the decision to become a vegan. And not a junk food vegan, who still eats all of those fun vegan foods that are out now, but a plant eating power vegan who avoids coffee, sugar, salt, alcohol, and processed foods. (Caveat. I had already quit drinking several months ago, so that wasn’t a problem.) But the coffee. Oh, coffee. And sugar? But what about those sugar-free ice cream sandwiches? Nope, look at the ingredients of what they have to add to that to make it taste good. Now imagine what those chemicals are doing to your body. They had to go.I almost talked myself into keeping coffee because I actually think there are some major health benefits to coffee, but I can’t drink mine black and artificial sweeteners are on the list of crap to go.

So, May 22, 2012. I ate a cheese pizza for dinner and made a pact that it was the last animal product I would consume. Wednesday, May 23 was hard because I didn’t get paid until Thursday, so I was scraping the bottom of the barrel to eat. I ended up eating lettuce, carrot, and green pepper salad all day, along with a couple of pieces of whole wheat bread.

Thursday, May 24th. I woke up feeling really, really dizzy. I almost broke down and ate some cereal with milk, but I held strong. I was able to pick some strawberries from my little patch out back and ate those along with a piece of bread and the last of my almond butter. Then, I went shopping.

I didn’t really have much of a plan, I just basically bought a lot of fruits and vegetables, along with some brown rice, organic veggie broth, and an organic, non-fat, oil-free, sort of non-processed salad dressing. (Here is my compromise. I haven’t yet found a recipe for a homemade, oil-free salad dressing that looks good to me yet, so I am eating the bottled stuff.) I spent 85 dollars on what I am guessing will be about a week’s worth of food for me. That seems pretty high, but again, I didn’t really know what I was doing. Next week will probably be tweeked a bit.

So, I came home from the store and made a veggie soup. Cabbage, vegetable broth, carrots, spinach, onion, peppers, a few red potatoes, a cupful of brown rice. That went into the crock pot for dinner, so in the meantime, I blended some strawberries, a banana, and a bit of almond milk and had a smoothie. I also ate a banana whole. And a handful of seeds. A couple hours later, I ate a salad with some nuts tossed on the top. By the time the soup was mostly ready, I was so hungry, I ate it even though the rice was still a bit crunchy.

Side note: This was my first day without any coffee, as I had a small cup on Wed… The whole time I was grocery shopping, my eyes were watering. I’m pretty sure one of my co-workers thought I was crying.

Friday, May 25th. I woke up today with such a monster headache that it hurt to move. It felt as if an ice pick was slamming into my head when I lifted it from the pillow. I called in sick to work, stumbled downstairs, almost managed to choke down a piece of sprouted grain bread with almond butter, except every bite I took made me want to puke, so I tossed it outside for the squirrels and ate a handful of grapes. I took three aspirin and went back to bed. When I woke up, I still had a headache, but I could move without wanting to kill myself, so I went back to eating. I drank a full glass of water, then ate a banana. That stimulated my appetite, so I had some leftover soup from last night. (though the rice expanded so it is more like stew than soup now.) I felt marginally better after eating that, though I still had a headache and felt dizzy. I ate an orange and another banana. (Note to self, get more bananas)

I went back to bed again for a couple of hours and now I feel better. I am not as dizzy, my head doesn’t hurt at all, but I am extremely tired. I feel as if I am in a fog. I have a research paper I know I should be working on right now, but every time I start it, my mind wanders to something else.

In the meantime, I put the leftover veggie stoup (stewp?) into a tupperware and started another crock pot soup. This one has kidney beans, black beans, cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes, and onions. For the record, I have enough of both of these soups to eat three meals a day for the next several days, so maybe this will get less expensive for me as I figure things out. I’m also hoping that I will figure out how to get more creative in my vegan cooking so I don’t have to spend the rest of my life eating soup and salad… but in the meantime, at least I am getting nutrients.

Oh, and for the record, I have put P90X on hold, not indefinitely, but until I get a little more balanced in my eating. In the meantime, I am still walking.