Are You Sensitive to Your Food?

By Cammi Woodall

Most patterns in life are good, right? Knowing the UPS carrier will bring your package around 4:00, the toaster takes exactly 1 minute 14 seconds to achieve perfect toastiness, or you can go 27 more miles once your car dings “I’m empty!” The food you eat can trigger patterns as well. Some good, some bad.

Chocolate can give you a sugar rush and satisfy that creamy, sweet-tooth craving. But for some people, indulging in this delectable treat will guarantee pain, nausea, fatigue, and intestinal problems. Oh, sweet chocolate! How can you deceive us so?

Six years ago, I noticed I had a pattern in my life but it wasn’t a good one. Every month I had to take sick days due to headaches and an upset stomach. It was not uncommon for me to have headaches. No big deal – take a Motrin and go on about my day. But a migraine episode was different. Migraine pain is unique and personal to each person. When I get a migraine headache, I basically fall apart. The top of my head clenches so hard I feel like it is cramping. I can’t open my eyes all the way because the light hurts so badly, plus the muscles in my eyelids hurt. Sounds are magnified. Simple typing on a keyboard sounds like a machine gun, and people talking in normal voices feel like they are shouting through a bullhorn at me. My bones and joints hurt. Any move I make sets off a reaction in my stomach and… it is bad. I won’t go into details about that. Just nausea and sickness. So much sickness. And during all these symptoms, the top of my head is still cramping, my face feels like it is going to implode, and I am dizzy. After the initial pain, my headaches for days and the top of my head feels bruised for a week.

My medical tests were okay – gall bladder and thyroid checked out fine, blood pressure good. Medical professionals had the same basic diagnosis – exercise and lose weight. Who hasn’t heard this before? My sister and my mother urged me to start a diary, keeping track of what I ate, where I ate, stress levels, and how I felt afterward. That is when my pattern emerged.

So what was common about my sick times? Certain foods appeared each time – processed meats like bacon and sausage, highly processed food, and ranch dressing. (I will also admit I had a slight addiction to Doritos. I would keep a bag open on my kitchen cabinet and go by several times a day, grabbing or two to munch on.)

I realized I have a food intolerance or food sensitivity. I am sensitive to two things –

1.      Nitrates/nitrites – a chemical in processed meats that are used to keep meat fresh and gives it that nice pink color. If sensitive, they trigger migraine pain by expanding the blood vessels in your brain.

2.      Monosodium glutamate or MSG – this is the chemical that makes food taste good. Almost all boxed foods on the grocery store shelf have some form of MSG. The chemical makes you crave more of what you just ate. If you suspect MSG sensitivity, check the ingredients lists for monosodium glutamate, the word hydrolyzed, the word autolyzed, yeast extract, or carrageenan. There are others, so do some research into the ways MSG can be hidden in your food.

Both sensitivities come with controversy. With nitrates, many companies are following a new food trend of ‘uncured’ or ‘no nitrates added.’ Some companies have completely stopped using synthetic sodium nitrate and used powders derived from celery root or cherries. Doubters say that these vegetable compounds have the same amounts of nitrates as the manufactured chemicals. They probably do. But I know how my body reacts when I eat a turkey sandwich made from the different ingredients. I do not get headaches if I eat the turkey or chicken or roast beef cured with vegetable powders. I do if eat luncheon meat cured with synthetic nitrates.

MSG is even more hot topic! Glutamates occur naturally in food, so naysayers to MSG sensitivity say any pain is nonexistent. Again, I can only go by what my body has experienced. I can eat a portion of food with MSG and I get migraines. So I study labels. I now avoid Doritos (weeping in the distance), most canned soups, flavored rice, seasoning blends, and most salad dressings. I look at labels whenever I go shopping.

There are no definitive studies that show scientific proof linking MSG and migraine pain. That does not stop my pain.

I would like to say now that I am not a doctor and there is a difference between a food allergy and food intolerance. The two share many of the same symptoms of headaches, such as nausea, lightheadedness, and head pain. But food allergies can be deadly. They are your immune system’s response to a foreign material your body considers harmful. Symptoms occur immediately upon eating the food and include hives and face/tongue swelling. You can go into anaphylactic shock. So please consult a doctor for any possible food allergy.

By contrast, food intolerance occurs anywhere from one hour to 48 hours after you eat your suspected food. It may not even occur every time you eat that particular item, or only if you eat a large amount. Food intolerance may be painful, but it is not life-threatening. 

Like I said earlier, each circumstance is personal to each person. I hope I helped you to know that certain foods can drastically affect how you feel. If you think you might be sensitive to a food, try eliminating it for several days and see how you feel.

And if you find a tasty replacement for MSG-laden Doritos, please let me know!

Prompt: I knew I shouldn’t have eaten the whole thing!

A Taxing Situation: Tax 101 for Authors

Let’s talk taxes. Come on, wake up!

I know this is a dry topic but it is one that is crucial to writers, artists, and other people with similar jobs. We like to concentrate on the creative aspects of our jobs and tend to lock the mundane tasks away in a dark cabinet. I would much rather describe the glint of sunlight on a mountain pond than try to figure out what percentage of my recapture on the depreciable property I can claim on my Schedule C or 8829!

I will say right here that I’m not an expert. While writing this article, I had much more technical details and jargon, but I stopped myself. I am not an accountant! I was confusing myself and I know I would confuse all of you. The best thing you can do is consult your tax professional. I don’t know how my air conditioner or car or computer work (other than press ‘On’ or turn the key), so I rely on experts to help me. It is the same with our taxes. Talk to your accountant and make sure you are taking all the steps necessary to protect yourself.

For tax purposes, you need to think of yourself as your own employee. Open a separate bank account from your own personal funds. Find the best organization method for you, whether it is file folders with paper copies of everything you do or a digital system. No one wants to be audited but if you are, you will save yourself the stress and worry by being prepared and having easy access to your information.

The downside to being self-employed – you are responsible for paying all taxes out of your income. With a steady employer, they pay part of your Social Security and Medicare taxes. (Remember the old joke – Who is FICA and why did he take all my money?) As a self-employed worker, you get pay as the boss and the employee! Yeah! This can throw you into higher tax brackets which means paying more money.

There is good news though. Deductions, deductions, deductions! They are a writer’s best friend. By keeping track of certain items, you can reduce the amount you owe Uncle Sam. So what is deductible?

  • One glory of the home office is writing in your pajamas. Another is you might be able to declare the office portion of your home as a deduction. Be honest. If you have a dedicated desk where you work for hours on your craft, you could deduct that. Even a small corner with a desk and chair can count. If you write an occasional article on your laptop sitting on the couch, the deck, or at the kitchen table, you probably cannot use the home office deduction. If you qualify, you can even deduct a portion of your utilities and mortgage payments.
  • Writing a piece on the Corn Cob Festival of Moulton, Alabama? (There is no such festival, but I am going to start a petition to get one!) Travel for research, including mileage, lodging, meals, gratuities, and tickets may be deducted. Keep track of all your receipts! Make notes if necessary. Today you’ll remember this lunch receipt is for an interview you did with an interesting artist or historian for research, but will you remember in three years if you are audited?
  • You will appreciate depreciation. We all have our trusted computers, laptops, phones, and printers. And they all cost us plenty. You can offset the cost of these items by ‘depreciating’ their value. If you buy an expensive new laptop, you can deduct portions of the cost over a period of years and not have to claim the whole expense in one year.
  • Remember I said you were responsible for paying all of your taxes out of your earnings? Here’s a little good news – you can claim 50% of that amount as an income tax deduction. You don’t even have to itemize to take this deduction. It goes on Form 1040 as an adjustment to income. This can save you a nice amount by reducing your taxable income.
  • Health insurance is a must. As a self-employed person, you are responsible for the costs of your own health care, vision care, and dental care. Luckily, health insurance is tax deductible if you are a self-employed worker. If the policy is in your name, these deductions could extend to your family members. This is a wonderful deduction – it could save you thousands of dollars.
  • Are you a member of a writing-related organization or group? Most genres have national organizations for writers, such as Romance Writers of America, The Author’s Guild, or the National Association of Writers. Membership dues and fees are deductible.
  • Do you host a website or use word processing programs or send emails? Silly question, right? As writers, we can deduct the cost and expense of software programs we use to run our business. You can even deduct cell phone usage, as long as it is for legitimate business purposes.

This information is just the tip of a Titanic-sized iceberg. There are so many resources out there for writers! Knowing what deductions are possible can save you money – hundreds, even thousands. So find yourself an accountant you like, track your expenses, and stay organized! Uncle Sam will appreciate it as much as you do!

Writing prompt – Caroline put her head down on her desk and squeezed her eyes shut. Adding the numbers again would not help. No matter how many times she refigured, the total was the same. How could she tell her boss she had lost $150,000.00?

Click-to-Tweet: The downside to being self-employed – you are responsible for paying all taxes out of your income. A Taxing Situation: Tax 101 for Authors by Cammi Woodall via @InspiredPrompt

The Growing Trend of Audiobooks

By Cammi Woodall

We have come full circle. Humankind’s rich story telling tradition started with nomads huddled around a campfire, listening to the elders spin tales and lore. We graduated to words written on animal skins, papyrus, clay tablets, paper, and even a digital screen. Now, with the popularity of audiobooks, the spoken story is once again skyrocketing in popularity. With sales in 2017 reaching multi-billions of dollars, oral story telling has once again become the norm.

Audiobooks started out as a reading alternative for the visually impaired. In the early 1930’s, the American Foundation for the Blind and the Library of Congress joined to create vinyl records. Now the blind could enjoy works by William Shakespeare, Helen Keller, and Edgar Allen Poe, along with selections from the Bible and the Declaration of Independence. These early recordings were about fifteen minutes long per side. To help with distribution, the United States Postal Service agreed to send ‘talking books’ free of charge through the mail. This allowed people across the nation to benefit and enjoy literature with ease.

From vinyl records, the recordings graduated to cassette tapes. During the 1970s, most audiobooks were abridged books produced for the visually impaired, but companies began to see other opportunities for a wider customer range. Professional voice actors were hired and studios were opened to produce better quality recordings. By the 1980s, new technology allowed twice as much recording on a single cassette. This allowed unabridged versions of classics and best-sellers. Audiobooks became more mainstream and available through such places as Time-Life or the Book-of-the-Month club. Soon CDs became the standard as technology marched forward.

In 1997, Audible.com (pre-Amazon) introduced the ‘Audible Player’, a mass-market digital media player dedicated solely for audiobooks. Retailing for $200, the device held two hours of audio. Up to this time, people were limited by the physicality of cassettes and CDs. You had to go to a library or bookstore to get one, or wait for one to come through the mail. Digital downloads meant you could get a book anywhere and anytime you could get online.

Then Amazon came along and bought Audible. The two companies combined to become the biggest seller of audible downloads. On the chase behind them is Apple iTunes, Google Play, and Japanese-based Rakuten. Healthy competition benefits the readers – I mean, listeners – of audiobooks. More titles are released each year, with publishers pouring over backlogs or asking authors for original works.

So who listens to audiobooks, and where do they listen to them? Simply put, everybody listens everywhere. Approximately 54% of listeners are 18 to 44 years of age. They read or listen to 15 books per year on average, with the most popular categories being suspense/thriller, romance, and science fiction. At home and in the car are the most common places to listen, usually on a Smartphone.

Audiobooks have achieved sales increases in the double digits for the last six years. With advances in technology, these numbers are expected to keep growing over the next few years. So what does this mean for an author? New avenues for your stories. Today’s technology means we no longer have to rely upon traditional brick-and-mortar publishing houses.

Those nomads around the campfire would be overwhelmed by the technology we have to access information and entertainment. I think they would be glad however, that we have returned to the voice, to a tale enriched by the human emotions and nuances that bring a story to life.

 

Prompt – She jumped as she heard the crashing sound behind her. Pulling out her earbuds, she spun around.

So How Do You Find an Editor?

By Cammi Woodall

Our articles this month have told us all about editors. I personally did not realize the different types of editors available. My mental picture was always a hunched figure surrounded by stacks of books, red pencil scribbling and slashing! April’s articles have taught me I have much to learn. So now that we know what an editor does and we know if we need one, how do we find that elusive creature?

  1. Family and friends – We all do it. We have our finished project and we pass it along to a sibling, parent, or friend with the request, “Tell me if you find any errors!” But how many of us have family and friends who edit and proofread professionally? This is a good first step to editing, but often we need more.
  2. Online platforms like Reedsy, Upwork, Ebook Launch, or New York Book Editors. These and other sites like them are staffed by vetted professionals. Most will look at various genres and offer a range of prices.
  3. Let the editors come to you. Authors can post editing jobs on various sites like the Editorial Freelancers Association, Guru, or Servicescape. A writer can post a job listing the specifics, such as what kind of editing needed, total pages, turnaround time, and payment.
  4. Read articles about your favorite authors, scan their social media pages, and look at their websites. Writers will often thank the management team.

A word of caution: there are scams and con artists in the publishing world. Research any editor or service before you pay to make sure they are legitimate. One popular website I have always heard about is pred-ed.com, known as Predators and Editors.  At the time of this writing, the website is under construction and is moving to a new platform with new staff. Keep an eye out for them.

Another popular service I came across is Writer Beware. This service is sponsored through the Science Fiction Writers of America, the Mystery Writers of America, the Horror Writers Association, and the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Writer Beware has a Facebook page, plus can be accessed through accrispin.blogspot.com. It has been going since 1998 and had posts on the blog as recent as March 29 of this year, so it appears to be going strong. Their goal is to help new, aspiring authors as well as established writers. I found information about company alerts, scams, and legal actions. Their March post was updating information from 2011 and 2012 about a company.

We all know that writing a book is not a solitary venture. While we do toil at our keyboards or notebooks alone, a published book requires a team of dedicated members all working for the same goal – that perfect book. Hopefully our help this month will lead you straight to the perfect editor for your project. Happy writing!

Writing Prompt – She didn’t know if she could carry her burden any farthe.

Working with the Industry: Editor Interview with Karin Beery

This month’s “Working with the Industry” posts are a real eye opener for me. I just love to learn. And when the lesson has anything to do with improving my writing skills, I’m all ears.

All of us need a helping hand every once in a while. Your critique partners and Beta readers may think your story is the next best thing to hit the market. However, once you expose it to someone who is working in the writing industry it may still need work.

For my editor interview, I asked a few questions of my editor friend Karin Beery. I first met Karin while we commiserated in the same critique group for about a year. She is a champion of helping others achieve a quality product they can be proud to present for publication.

Be teachable. If you’re unwilling to take an editor’s advice, there’s no point in hiring an editor.

What is the best advice you can give to an established writer and newbie alike on the writing craft?
Be teachable. Even if you’ve been in the industry for a while, things change. Editors should be aware of those changes. If you’re unwilling to take an editor’s advice, there’s no point in hiring an editor.

What book have you read that you would have loved to edit, and how would you have changed it to your liking?
I don’t necessarily want to name the book because I don’t want to embarrass anyone, but several years ago I read a fantasy book that “everyone” was talking about. It was simultaneously the most interesting and most boring book I’ve ever read! Since then I’ve ready many books with the same three common issues:

  • stereotypical characters
  • spending too much time describing unnecessary details (such as exactly what each character is wearing in every scene) while failing to describe necessary components (like establishing scene setting)
  • not enough conflict.

How does an author know when the time is right to engage an editor before publication?
Ask! Almost every editor I know will provide a free sample edit/review of at least the first few pages. I’ve told several authors that they aren’t ready for editing yet, then offered suggestions for how they can strengthen their writing. If you’re afraid to ask an editor, then find someone in the publishing industry for their honest input (and be ready for honesty!).

What should a writer expect when entering into a contract with an editor?
 Regardless of what kind of an edit a writer needs, there are a few things they should expect from any competent, professional editor:

  • Edits/Comments – if you get a clean manuscript back, that’s not actually a good sign. No one’s perfect (even published books have typos!). If your editor can’t find anything wrong with your story, he/she might not know what to be looking for.
  • Proper Edits/Comments – proofreads are the last step in the editorial process. If your proofread includes rewrites and restructuring, that’s not really a proofread. Make sure you know the difference between the services so you’re getting the right edit.
  • Industry Standards – an editor’s job is to help you clean up your manuscript, not to rewrite it to his/her personal beliefs or preferences.
About Karin Beery

Editor. Teacher. Novelist.

A passionate lover of fiction, Karin doesn’t just write novels, she helps others write their best stories! A certified substantive editor with the Christian Editor Connection, her goal is to help authors to put her out of business by equipping them with the tools they need to become better writers.

Want to know more about Karin?

Connect with her at: KarinBerry.com, FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram.