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Judge Not Thine Authors

Sunday, August 31, 2008

This blog entry isn't about dieting and exercise at all. Regardless, I would love any input on this topic. Thank you.

I blog little, and I rant less. In general, I prefer to live by a "what they do is their business and I don't have time for that" kind of attitude. However, my mind has been ranting all day and now my fingers are translating it all into text.

Though I haven't yet read Stephanie Meyer's books, I have taken a recent interest in her career because 1) she's a female author 2) she's a fantasy fiction author 3) she's LDS. I completely intend to read her work, especially after speaking with at least four friends who are fans of hers and who attest to her skill. However, today while working out with one of my best friends, who is also LDS, we discussed books that she could read with her 12-year-old daughter. I mentioned the recent buzz about Stephanie Meyer, and how I had recently heard that she was LDS and puts moral principles in her book. My friend replied (to the LDS reference,) "Yeah, there's a big controversy about that."

*ahem* Excuse me?

This is not the first time this dilemma has caught my attention. As an LDS writer who is trying to finish a set of fantasy fiction novels for publication, I have wondered whether or not to pick a nome de plume for my work. Read on for my justification.

This is a quote by Stephanie Meyer from a website called A Motley Vision: "Some Mormons, especially those who know me, are surprised by my choice of topics. “Vampires?” they say, with a critical lilt to their voices. Then they add self-righteously, “I don’t read those kinds of books.” (Not all Mormons say that, some are really enthusiastic). I hasten to explain to them that it’s not like that. Unconsciously, I put a lot of my basic beliefs into the story. Free agency is a big theme, as is sacrifice. One very kind fan wrote to me and said, “instead of gore and horror there was lyrical beauty.” (Okay, so she was probably too kind). Even after I explain all that, I still have LDS friends (and extended family) who look at me funny."

Tracy Hickman dealt with the same thing. As co-author beside Margaret Weis of the Dragonlance series, Hickman developed a world called Krynn that is very similar to Tolkien's world, with many of the same mythological peoples. One facet of the world is that it is ruled by multiple gods, and these warring gods play a crucial part in the Dragonlance saga. Of course, as Hickman proudly proclaims his LDS faith, he was criticized for writing about polytheistic fantasy worlds. He defends his work here:

Basically, the short justification is thus: It's fantasy. Make a distinction and either read the book or leave it on the shelf.

Orson Scott Card writes both science fiction works and pieces for the Church, his most popular work being a sci-fi story called "Ender's Game." He is very renowned for his writing, and the book he wrote on characters and viewpoint for Writer's Digest Books is my favorite and most influential piece on writing instruction yet. How much criticism has he undergone for writing about fantastic worlds and situations?

So why am I considering a pen name for my work?

I'm not at all ashamed of my work, and I love putting real situations and real characters into my stories. But if Stephanie Meyer comes under fire for writing about VAMPIRES (*gasp*) but does not put sex into her books, I feel I will be ostracized by not only some members in my ward but also certain members of the LDS community for the elements I put into my fiction. Do I care about what others think about me as a person based on my work? No, I already deal with a bit of ostracism for being a bit more eccentric than the mainstream cultural Mormon. But if people read Meyer/Hickman/Card and expect them to produce work of the same genre as Gerald Lund just because they are LDS, they are living in a separate kind of fantasy world. Because an author claims a strong LDS faith, are they disallowed an imagination, of adding specific imagery to their work, and basically thinking outside the box? How long will it be before I get an message in my Hotmail box urging me to ban the Twilight Series because it supports those fantastical elements, in the tradition of Harry Potter and The Golden Compass?

Several LDS friends have read my work, and I have always warned them, "It's PG-13," especially when some have suggested that I submit my work to LDS publishers. I know the LDS publisher's wont accept my work. I don't write sex scenes. There is violence (it's fantasy fiction!) but it's not graphic. And every bad decision and every antihero is rivaled by the consequences of those decisions. Let's see... in Heroes of Edurne, Eian is a duty-bound man who abstains from sexual encounters because he's unwed and isn't the kind of man who will leave bastard children along the countryside. But his best friend, Lucian, is not only openly gay but is the man who swoops in and provides Eian the aid he needs when Eian's own brother betrays the entire town. In the sequil, Werian Legacy, Aillhea is an impetuous girl who makes the decision to lie to the hero, Aeric, and engages in premarital sex because of some misguided ideals about love. When she gets pregnant and has to deal with the fact that Aeric's brother has a psychotic obsession about family, she realizes that her actions marked both her and her unborn child for death. The sex is not detailed... it happens between chapters, and there is no description of actions. As for the protagonists, even the antiheroes have valiant intentions and try to act for the greater good. I love my religion and I won't ever deny it. I know that my friends and fans will love my work and either not care what religion I am or will support my faith. But do I really want the critics to read my work and judge the Church, and maybe even say that I advocate homosexuality and premarital sex when I'm instead trying to portray that everybody has something to offer and that people can recover from their bad decisions?

This is the kind of blog that I'm not writing for my own personal catharsis. I would like responses. Advocate, disagree, whatever. Let's get a discussion going. How do you feel about this subject?

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

JENNYCHERIE 9/3/2008 6:26AM

    Marissa, you make great points. I have actually read the first two books by Stephenie Meyer. I loved the first one. It was beautifully written with a lot of great themes, particularly about overcoming one's natural desires (when they lead to sin). I didn't like the second one quite as much, simply because of the over-emphasis and glorification of teen love and because the main character whined a LOT and it got old. But it was still written well and had no objectionable content that I noticed.

That being said, great literature is literature that spurs discussion, in my opinion. I don't think it is necessary for us to read (or write!) books that only espouse our own viewpoints and values, as long as the books are free from profanity and graphic sex. I love it when a book can clearly show consequences for sin, even if it is not enunciated in exactly that way.

As far as using a pen name, my personal feeling is that you should use a pen name if you would like to maintain your privacy and keep your personal life and professional life separate. Of course, for that to work, you will also need to avoid having your picture on the book jacket as well! I expect that the criticism will come, regardless of your use of a pen name. You will be critiqued because "good Mormon girls don't write about that" or you will be critiqued for any of 100 other reasons. It is part and parcel of being a writer. So, which criticism would you find the easiest to deal with?

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DOTSLADY 9/2/2008 12:00AM

    I think you answered your own question:

"what they do is their business and I don't have time for that"
Do what's in your emoticon and be ready for the consequences whatever you decide!

I'm not LDS, but play one on tv (really, my LDS friends say I'm a closet Mormon - lol) ... I lived in Utah for years and understand much of the culture. I grew up Catholic, married Catholic - my SIL is VERY Catholic (she should be a strict nun ;0) ... and wouldn't read Harry Potter. Our whole family loved Harry Potter. I know people who wouldn't read them based on the subject, but they missed out, didn't they?

As for being judged ... if you put yourself out there, that's what it's all about! Let the judging begin and enjoy the ride!

P.S. I "JUST" heard about this author/book from a friend in Utah who is getting ready to read it ... she's a 60-yr old Catholic and doesn't care the author is LDS :). LDS does have an image to live up to - and it sounds like you're a realist with your fantasy which might be very engaging for your intended audience (and teach something besides). Please do not correct this essay!

Write ON under your own name I say!

Comment edited on: 9/1/2008 11:59:43 PM

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AJHONDRNGAL 9/1/2008 1:08AM

    Sometimes I think people just take things way too seriously. I prefer to laugh at myself a bit.

I prefer books that have good morals in them. It doesn't matter if they are written by LDS members or not. I also don't mind the fact that LDS members are writing fantasy books (my sister included). I am a science fiction watcher, and I think it's really cool when I see evidence of our beliefs coming through on the screen. Why can't that be the same in a book?

I personally don't care for fantasy books as much, but that's just a personal preference. I have to read fantasy in small doses, including CS Lewis and the Narnia series! I never understood the problem with Harry Potter or others. Our neighbor (a Catholic) won't let her granddaughter read the Harry Potter books, but all my kids have, and I did, too. I read "Twilight" and thought it was a decent book, but unless it's picked for my reading club I probably won't read any of the others. Just personal preference, not because I disagree with stories about vampires. I think Stephanie Meyers is a very good writer. I'd give your books a try when you publish, too.

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    Here are my two cents: I believe that sometimes, members of the Church get caught up in the "they're LDS, therefore they're good" mentality to the exclusion of all else. There is definitely a faction (if you will) that refuse to patronize an author, musician, or artist because they are not LDS. I do not belong to that group and believe wholeheartedly in endorsing a work based on its merit, not its creator. I never understood the controversy surrounding Harry Potter or Twilight. Sure they deal with themes that are outside "normal." So does life.

I hate the "THOSE kind of books" attitude. Sheesh. I had a roommate who told me I was going to hell because the books I was reading weren't by an LDS author...I asked her if she'd be meeting me there for being judgmental...

You go right ahead and write your books...and then let me know when they're published, because I'd LOVE to read them!

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The Superhero Diet: Restructuring the Brain

Friday, August 01, 2008

When I was 27 years old, I coined the term "The Superhero Diet" while trying out for the police force. I also call it the GOYA Diet... "Get Off Your Assets," and it's all about mindset.

Really, that's the key to it all. Yes, exercise matters... a lot. Yes, diet matters... a lot. Then you have those supplements and that meditation and how you change your cooking techniques to be just a bit healthier. But, overall, it's how you change your thinking, switching from the person who would rather sit on the couch and eat creamy desserts to the person who takes great joy in moving her body and great satisfaction in knowing that, yet again, she chose her body over that doughnut. Becoming the person who wants to be able to do anything, at any time, and never have to say, "I can't."

I hear overweight people say all the time, "At least I'll die happy." Is that happiness? Creamy desserts? If you switch your mindset, can you also find happiness in being active and being able to keep up with your children, and knowing you have the self-discipline to pass up temptation? I remember when I was in the "die happy" mindset. It wasn't that long ago. Say... a couple of months ago. But, though I took satisfaction in the feel of that dessert on my tongue and the subsequent sugar rush, that was about all I took satisfaction in. Each bite was coupled with guilt, because I knew I should do better. Then it was shame, because I didn't have the self-discipline to turn that dessert down. And how about my levels of dopamine and seratonin? If you want to get technical, there's the connection to happiness. By eating that fatty dessert, I was lowering my epinephrine and norepinephrine levels, and even my cortisone levels, but I really wasn't doing much to raise my feel-good hormones. Fatty desserts only do it for a short time, and then the sympathetic nervous system rushes back in full force. Exercise keeps the endocrine system going all day and keeps those hormones at the right levels. Exercise is happiness.

When you're in the right mindset, you find every opportunity to make yourself better. Recently, I went to a discount sporting goods store and found a set of "walk yourself fit" weights for $20. I don't often use the hand weights, since doing so while giving massages would guarantee no repeat clients, but I wear the leg weights daily. Each weight is one pound and straps around my ankle with velcro. Just a pound. But it feels like I'm walking through sand, and each step I take requires twice the effort. The first day I wore them, I took them off at the end of the day and crawled into bed. Exhausted. Now that my body has adjusted to them, I take additional opportunities to exercise. While I'm standing in the line at the grocery store, I raise one leg just above the ground. With the weights on, I'm then working the quadriceps and adductors of the raised leg and the abductors of my weight-bearing leg, primarily my gluteus medius. And though I've burned just a couple more calories, it's that... a couple more calories. When nobody is watching, I'll do a few side kicks, very very slowly. Lift knee laterally, pause. Extend leg, pause. Flex knee, pause. Lower leg, pause. Rinse and repeat. Twenty seconds equals ten side kicks, and... a few more calories burned.

Then there are the food choices. This is a tough one for me, considering I have admitted to an addiction to simple carbohydrates and the blood sugar rush that comes along with them. It's easiest to avoid these foods when I follow the Superhero Diet.

Ok, back to that part about trying out for the police force. I was the only girl that tried out, and five guys were disqualified before I was. When it got to the vertical jump, I failed by two inches. Dang. While walking back to my car, I decided that I would try again, but I would be even better. I formulated the "Superhero Diet," which basically means that every food choice must give me the maximum amount of nutrition possible for the cost/amount. What good is a doughnut going to do me? It costs the same as an entire bag of carrots and has absolutely no nutrients. You can't even count it as a grain group when it does your body more harm than good.

Did I ever make it onto the police force? No. By reorganizing my thinking to the Superhero Diet, I considered the priorities to my family and decided that I needed to be a mother foremost, and police work was not the right choice for me. But whenever I follow the Superhero Diet and try to get the most out of every single choice I make, both my body and my mind thank me. I'm in charge. I can do anything.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

WHISKGIRL 8/1/2008 9:06PM

  You're right, changing our mindset is probably the biggest hurdle to losing weight, and kudos to you for doing it!

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MARISSAAMES 8/1/2008 2:28PM

    RENA1965, that's an AMAZING weight loss ratio! Good job!

Pounds are so relative... I read about women who want to lose two pounds, ten pounds... and you can't always tell fitness levels by numbers. I'm a 6' tall woman, and I'm 40 pounds overweight... and two pants sizes larger. If I my 5'3" sister gained 40 pounds, she would be well within obesity.

We both have physical jobs, but we're both trying additional tactics to keep in shape. I'm thankful that I have the additional calorie burn in my career to boost me along. Awesome work! Keep it up!

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RENA1965 8/1/2008 2:20PM

    Yeah agree with the restructuring the brain. Against all odds I have kicked the junk food hell and can now have a little in moderation without going totally wacky.
I have been 306lbs and am now 129.9. I eat 20 oz of vegetables as part of my stable food daily and now do 14kms when my back allows me and heavy supersets strength training twice a week. The exercise at the gym plus my running/power walking is all extra exercise as I have a daily route of 15,000+ steps on the job + use my body to help people get out of bed, be washed and do their cleaning jobs..
I have kept my weight stable within 4lbs +/- over a year now and hope to return to another interview with the danish womens weekly to tell readers what it is like to be on maintenance efter 5 years and still be at it.... I also had a extreme tummy tuck, but the health system went on strike, so I have used the time to develope my AB's muscles.. The plastic surgeon will get the before and efter photos of his work he has always dreamed of to show his friends at lectures lol..

Comment edited on: 8/1/2008 2:20:10 PM

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Calorie Deficit and Blood Sugar Control

Friday, January 04, 2008

I started my New Year's Resolution the day after Christmas: to gain control over EVERYTHING I put into my body! At only 31 years old, I've acquired a handful of health conditions that pretty much disappear if I diet and exercise right, but will put me in the hospital if I don't. I have low blood sugar, gluten intolerance, and the valves in my right saphenous vein no longer work. If I eat a lot of sugar and gluten, I bloat, and for a 6' tall woman, that can be a lot of poundage in one bloat. If I get more than 10 pounds overweight and don't work out at least twice a week, I start to collect blood clots and live in frequent pain. Luckily, I can control all of this myself if I live right. No drugs, no hospitals.

First, I went on a detox. I went low-carb. Ok, now, before you condemn me for doing this, I know what I'm doing and I know about folic acid and why we need our grains. But on Christmas Day I was 200 pounds and just days from entering the hospital if I didn't drop a few! So I researched Atkins, with a few modifications: though it says to eat liberally of all meats and hard cheeses, that much fat and cholesterol makes me feel horrible, so I'm substituting a lot of that with soy milk and tofu, and counting the few little carbs I get from there. The other allowable carbs are coming from TONS of green vegetables, like broccoli and zucchini. So that's fairly healthy. When I'm only 10 pounds overweight, I will add back in the starchy fruits/vegetables, while still omitting ALL the processed sugar and refined carbs.

GONE are the gluten and sugar. I lost 10 lbs in a week. Also, while logging my calories on Sparkpeople, I noticed I EASILY stayed within my calorie range, even while working out and massaging up to 5 clients a day (which burns 300 calories per hour, for someone my size.) Plus, there is no more glucose bounce.

Plus, in school we recently started studying reflexology. Ok, believe what you will, but I've seen the proof in it. And when another student rubs the spots on my foot corresponding to my stomach and pancreas, it really does help out my insulin levels.

Now having control over my blood sugar, I am amazed how far I can go and not get dizzy and shaky. I can massage all day, then still hit the gym AND stay within my calorie range for consumption! This has been my goal for so long!

There is one drawback though: all this week, I've actually ended up in a calorie deficit: 1500 calories consumed, subtract 3 massages (900 calories) and a 1,000-calorie workout leaves a negative 400 calories... plus however many calories my body needs to maintain its normal functions. And everything has been functioning fine, thanks. But yesterday, I hit a wall. I got out of school and had only one client to massage, then busted out a 1,300-calorie workout (1600 calories in all) and ended up staggering out of the dressing room, STILL not feeling at all hungry. My brain was a little foggy, and I realized I had just plain reached empty. I don't think I've ever before done that, without hitting insulin shock. While driving home, I counted the calories I had eaten all day... 800. I wondered at how I was still standing, with my blood sugar intact.

So here is a whole new consideration. I used to use my blood sugar levels as a tool to measure when it was time to stop exercising and start eating. Now that my blood sugar is level, I have to start actually using my brain and reason with myself about what a good workout will be on the calories I've eaten. Last thing I want is to slip into starvation mode and stop burning!


Detoxing without Commercial Gimmicks!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Let's see... what makes me feel absolutely horrible, that I eat anyway?

-added sugar
-fatty foods

And so, starting this morning, my goal is a 7-day detox. All of the above is to be cut out of my diet. I don't eat a lot of it anyway, but each time I slip up, I feel rotten. I'm exhausted but can't sleep. I'm grumpy.

And when the 7 days is over... we'll see how many days we can carry it on!

Breakfast today: Organic Flax Plus Granola and nonfat milk, and an orange
Lunch today: Tamales made at home by coworker Angelina and a green tea
Snack before workout: 2 cups seedless grapes and 20 pecan halves
Dinner: Salad with organic spinach, tomatoes, lean beef tri tip, grapes, cheddar cheese, 5 pecan halves, and Trader Joe's cilantro salad dressing

Total calories: 1800. Calories burnt working out: 1200

Woohoo, one day down! Eating success!

Update on the calorie race: husband is at 2,600/20,000, I'm at 4,100/10,000. I'm way ahead, but I'm coming down with a nasty cough, so it'll be just yoga and walking until the worst of it is over. He'll catch up!


The Great Calorie Race

Monday, September 24, 2007

Our short-term goals have been met! I am now 3 pounds below my goal weight, and my husband's pecs stick out further than his belly does... he's also lost 10 pounds in one month.

It's time for some new goals! So we started a calorie race. On the notepad on our refrigerator, we are tallying the calories burned through extra activity, including all calories burnt at the gym, calories burnt while walking the dog or doing family activities, or doing additional physical work at our jobs (things we normally would not be asked to do.) Since he is 2" taller, 90 lbs heavier, and naturally big-framed and muscular, his goal is 20,000 calories. Mine is 10,000.

Let the race begin! Today, I burned 900 on the elliptical trainer, and he burned 1200. Tomorrow he'll get the advantage because he'll be doing cardio and weights, and I'll be meeting an exercise-neophyte friend for yoga.


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