Sunday, December 25, 2016

Nemesis release and a correction

I want to say Merry Christmas to my readers...or whatever holiday you wish to observe. In any case, I was able to get Nemesis available at least in Amazon for the Christmas holiday. It will be available everywhere else on January 3, 2017.

At last, Nemesis is finished, and I am finished with Starfire Angels. This story wraps up the lives of all the major characters and I am very satisfied with how it concluded. I hope you will enjoy it.

Description (updated):

Since stealing Raea from Valdas and her team of Shirukan, Leksel was never on good terms with the Shirukan general. He sliced her face in the fight to take back the Crystal Keeper. She destroyed his wing in retribution. When circumstances bring them face-to-face through an unlikely source, a truce is tenuous at best. Leksel needs Valdas to guide him to the Keeper that set her free from the du’kir brood ship and to retrieve the Starfire shard on the infamous Annihilator, and Valdas needs Leksel to help her destroy those who betrayed her. Two former Shirukan working together to cut out the heart of the Shirat Empire might be a powerful alliance, if they can overcome their loathing for one another. 


On a side note, I wish to say that I corrected my review of Rogue One after my husband corrected me. I had thought that Tarkin was played by Wayne Pygram, and sometimes it sounded very much like him, but apparently, I should have looked closer. I have made the correction, but I sure could swear that it was Scorpius. Scary that those actors could have such similar voices and bone structure.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Movie Review: Rogue One, A Star Wars Story

Today, my husband and I had a movie day, sans kids. (Yay! They're old enough to stay home. Too bad they didn't get their chores done--we checked in on our home security system.)

We had the movie without the typical commentary from our oldest child, which made for a more pleasant experience. She loves to chat through the whole movie. Unfortunately, she probably gets that from me as I see a face I know and have to ask my husband who it is--he typically can identify the actors since we both tend to watch the same shows (science fiction and fantasy).

In the case of Rogue One, I heard the voice of Scorpius (Farscape villain) from Governor Tarkin, although it didn't quit look like him. My husband confirmed that, while Wayne Pygram played Tarkin in a small scene at the end of one of the prequels, this was Guy Henry, who was a minor character in the Harry Potter movies. The only problem I had was the bad CGI trying to alter the actor's face to make him look like Peter Cushing. I am not fond of the computer animation of real faces. It came off much better for Michael Douglas in Ant-Man, but there they just made him look younger. In this case, they were trying to put on a similar face and it looked too animated and not real, especially with all the other actors around him being live.

Other than that, I enjoyed the show. It felt more like it was meant to be an Easter-egg than a full-on Star Wars movie, something to appease the full-on fans like my husband. Don't be mistaken, I like Star Wars, but I don't need to know every little detail of every character or ship or planet or whatever. My husband role-plays and miniature games in the SW universe, so he's totally absorbed. I don't need that degree of immersion. That said, it had the feel of a fun side story, which, if I'm not mistaken, is what it was intended to be, something to fill in the gaps from the main canon.

The plot could have come from a YA/NA or animated series crossed with a SW Rebels story. In fact, there are references to the animated series in this--a call for Syndulla over an intercom and several shots of the Ghost. And one of the characters helping Jyn bore a striking resemblance to Kanan while another character was blind like Kanan but could as well have had eyes for his fighting skills (like Kanan). The supporting characters overall were largely caricatures of themselves, VERY distinctive traits perhaps exaggerated too much to make up for lacking real depth.

I will give kudos to the ending. It wasn't what I was expecting in some ways but how it played out for the main characters was the only way to explain their absence in A New Hope et al. I was pleased with it breaking from the typical Star Wars story. The events made the ending feel like it truly fit with the rest, and that brought me a sense of satisfaction; but others may not feel the same.


Saturday, November 26, 2016

The final Starfire Angels book is coming soon!

It's almost done!

Editing on Nemesis is nearly complete. The major changes have mostly be done and only minor corrections are left. I hate putting it down each time I sit with it. I've really been enjoying re-reading the manuscript that took two years to write.

But this will be the final story with the characters you've come to know. I've said that before. And I've said this before too--this story will tie up a lot of loose ends and bring some surprises. I hope all those who have been patiently waiting are satisfied with this.

In Nemesis, you'll finally learn what happened to Korali as well as the Starfire shard of Elis's father, Naolis. You'll even meet a new Crystal Keeper.

With luck, I will have this out for Christmas. If not, soon after.

Since stealing Raea from Valdas and her team of Shirukan, Leksel and the Shirukan general were never on good terms. When circumstances bring them face-to-face, a truce is tenuous at best. Will they work together to defeat the parasites of the Shirat Empire or will they kill each other before achieving their goals?

(This description will likely change before publication.)

Thursday, November 3, 2016


I dodged a bullet when the Lyme testing came back definitively negative. (This was the Igenex testing, which is more sensitive than other tests.)

However, that leaves the problem of what truly is causing my problems. We've ruled out just about everything but one.

The root of it all is my immune system. Yes, the same immune system that set off Hashimoto's thyroid disease. Lucky me.

Along with the Lyme testing, the doctor also did an organic acids test. This revealed several problems in the Krebs Cycle. I won't go into detail about that, because it's too complicated for me to understand fully, much less explain it. Besides, you can find better descriptions online than what I could ever provide here. Let's just say that several steps in the process have been disrupted and I have started supplementing to fix them.

I also have in infection, but it wasn't what I expected, although I did suspect something...Probiotics. Specifically, an overgrowth of L. acidophilus. I didn't think this possible, but I was seeing worse symptoms after taking probiotics or trying to eat fermented foods--one bite of yogurt would steal my breath for two days. Other fermented/dried foods have done the same to a lesser degree. I took them for nine months before quitting this past February. I started to slowly improve but never truly healed. One possible explanation is that acidophilus produces D-Lactate, which has the same effect as lactic acid in the body...which can cause a lot of the symptoms I've had.

There is some good news. I found online that stevia (whole stevia leaf, not extracts or sweeteners), has some bactericidal qualities. It had some possible applications to Lyme Disease and, before I knew that I did NOT have LD, I decided to have stevia added to my tea. After a couple of days of two mugs a day of my favorite tea steeped with stevia, I did start to see improvements. It's been a week and I've been doing much better. From what I understand, stevia has some effect on biofilms in bacterial colonies, including on acidophilus. I hope this is the tipping point to finally overcoming the issues I've had. One little root cause would be SO much easier to deal with than complicated metabolic processes to correct.

There are some other results from the O.A.T. that I've yet to start suggested supplementation for, but I'm taking this doctor's advice--I'm taking things slow. I'm just relieved that I found a doctor who is giving me a direction to healing rather than saying "It's all in your head; take a xanax [and quit bothering me]."

It's been a year and a half, but the worst started just over a year ago. I'm hoping that this is the beginning of the end of that suffering. I really want to end my need for sleeping medicines to get 5-6 hours of sleep a night (maximum of 1 hour unmedicated, when I follow a strict routine).

Ah! Sleep, wherefore art thou?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Been busy but trying to get back to the swing of things

It's been a while.

I've been battling severe insomnia for almost a year, and with it, a terrible feeling of not being able to get enough air, a feeling usually described as air hunger. I've been through a lot of ups and downs and finally feel up to being online again, at least in some limited extent.

I've joined instagram as melanienilles_author to share pictures from my life there instead of on Facebook, but I feel that the time has finally come to deactivate my FB account. I've noticed that my personal profile is not much more than a stressor in my life, but I can't have that without the author page. It's too hard to be able to separate seeing one from the other. With a chronic illness, one of the first steps to feeling better is reducing stress. I have enough in my life without feeling left out.

This type of illness makes one feel alone and FB really creates even more of a vacuum, despite the friends who might gather there. I've tried, but I feel outcast and the best way to feel better is to eliminate that altogether. I'm sorry to those friends who only gather on FB and nowhere else. I hope you stop by other online places.

It's also hard being sick for so long because you feel like others think you're a hypochondriac. That's not the case at all, but I've even wondered about myself sometimes. However, I've now found a local, holistic MD (besides the NP I have been seeing at another independent clinic) who has been able to confirm with laboratory testing that I'm not going out of my mind and that this is all a real medical ordeal. I had hoped he would have a different perspective than other doctors and I have so far not been disappointed.

Since this began almost a year and a half ago, I finally am feeling vindicated in my suffering. While we still don't have a complete answer, this new doctor, and his associates that work with him, (like the NP I've been seeing) acknowledge the issues of Hashimoto's and the complexities of MTHFR that I've been dealing with; and he has taken it a step further, by suggesting there may be an underlying infection behind all this. Hallelujah! I feel that I might finally find an answer to the question of "What the h*** is happening to me?!"

I am still not sleeping well, but have found that just a couple of supplements can make a difference and help me reduce the dose of sleeping meds I need--I don't like relying on medications. I've healed my gut too well--I get sufficient amounts of most nutrients from my diet. However, I keep dairy out for fear of the wrath of acne; tested negative for intolerances, but I get acne breakouts according to the amount of dairy I consume. It took a while, but I discovered a calcium/magnesium/D3/phosphorous supplement that is sublime for calming my mind and making up for those deficiencies. The others are a low level vitamin E and a low dose of SAM-e. I've tried just about everything else, but I can no longer tolerate B supplements--they're like caffeine in the tiniest amounts and I don't flush them out easily. I don't seem to need much of what I do take, but maybe that's because I am petite and the RDA is based on some "average" that is far above my size. Who knows.

Anyway, I've struggled and been through hell, but I've found some peace and am still learning how to keep peace in my world. I still have insomnia, aches that move around, air hunger, and other issues, but I haven't given up.

In fact, I've been able to improve enough from my lowest point that I have finished writing the first draft of Nemesis. That story has been a lifeline, although a thorny one, through all this. In a way, because it was so difficult to write, feeling like I had to finish is what kept me hanging on and not giving up on at least finding some relief for my symptoms. But recently, after finding those supplements I listed above, the creativity came back and the last part of the story wrote itself better than I ever imagined it could. I'm very happy with it.

I can't wait to share it with you! Because I wasn't sure of how things would go with my health, I had moved the release date back to March of next year. However, if the editing goes well, I'll be able to release it sooner. You've waited long enough, but I really want to make this the cream of the crop. Starfire Angels fans who have stuck it out will be largely fulfilled with this, as it will close up a lot of storylines from the series's more beloved characters.

I don't know what I'll move onto next; but it feels good to wrap up one series, especially in such a satisfying way. My future writing depends on what the new doctor does for me. It would be nice if my creativity would blossom again like it did when I wrote Starfire Angels. My goal in getting better is to find that intense spark again.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Long time no see

Yeah, I know it's been a while. I've been dealing with issues and mostly staying off the computer. It's been great in some ways, but I'm still working at resolving the severe insomnia that requires a VERY strict sleep regimen and medications. It's barely manageable but at least I can usually get 4-5 hours a night. That's better than I was in January.

I've returned to writing, but not as urgently as I used too. In fact, if this experience has taught me anything it's how to slow down and take it easy. I really appreciate each moment and let it linger.

That attitude is helping me immensely. My stress level is much less, despite the responsibilities and health issues in my life.

Buddy, still fuzzy boy (April 2016)
One of the blessings I've been granted is the horse I bought last fall at auction. He's a young large pony. When I bought him, he was tense, sore, had half a face covered in ringworm, flared hooves, and was headshy. He is transformed into a beautiful boy who loves people (I suspect mostly because we bring treats ;) ) and is willing to do whatever I ask and enjoys being touched anywhere (and he's finally letting me give him muzzle kisses). The ringworm was easy to heal with miconazole, then he had his teeth done and sores in the mouth healed and he was more relaxed. He wouldn't let me handle his feet last fall and now he sometimes gives them before I ask! It's all because I was patient and slow, not in a hurry, and appreciating just the moments I had with my own horse again.

After a winter off while I went through the worst sleep and air hunger issues, he relaxed into his new herd and healed from the remaining soreness in his body from the large men who had been on his back. He grew tight new hoof wall with flaring being trimmed every couple months. This spring, he was stepping out more, cantering easily (he almost wouldn't last fall), and had a bit of an attitude (he was showing his real personality, not the cowering one I had seen in the fall and recognized).

This winter, I was at a low point when I saw the story about Amberleigh Snyder and realized that I at least have full function of my body, despite the breathing and sleep difficulties. I pushed myself to get out and work with Buddy, even if just to groom him. That's what I needed, and it's how he got to this point. Lots of patience and taking things slowly.

Buddy learned to longe properly. However, he had his tantrums about the side reins, despite me setting them at a length where he could stretch his head out easily and barely touch them. He liked to turn his head and gawk at everything instead of paying attention, but the side reins force him to stay pretty straight. Now, he's learning to accept the bit (a double-jointed thick snaffle easier than the tom thumb that he was ridden with in the auction) and keep his head in front of his chest to stay balanced. The tantrums have vanished and he's learned to yield to contact rather than fight it. Plus, he's learned voice commands.

And he's not a spirited horse but one of those nice, quiet, slow horses that can move out when necessary. With his foot soreness alleviated, he really has some nice gaits for a large pony of his stocky build. He's much more comfortable than he was last fall.

And today he was doing so well on the longe-line that I decided it was time. I haven't been on a horse in nearly two years and he hasn't had a rider since the sale in early October (7.5 months ago). I've been filling in holes in his training and working to make sure he was confident and trusting enough that I felt we could make it a good experience. He was tense and I was a little apprehensive, but everything came back to me to make it a positive experience for him. He gave me a nice contact, and my hands moved with him so that his tension dissipated. And he learned quickly from only moving off with a tight leg and rub of my heels to a feather touch of my calves; he figured that out himself as I used progressive pressure.

The whole experience could have been much harder, but it wasn't. He went from tensing up a few times when he wanted to resist me (but didn't go that far) to relaxing and trusting me as he realized I was holding firm and simply waiting for him to respond. I couldn't have asked for better, but I'm in the role of good cop (rider) after his time being cowboyed on (ridden without empathy). I'm grateful that he was previously trained, but I'm also grateful that I got him at such a young age that I could easily teach him that it's okay to be himself with humans. He's much more trusting and confident now.

I knew Buddy was a good horse--he's always just had the look in his eye of being kind--but he really needed the right handler to bring out the best of his nature. I didn't know what to expect today, but I knew we'd done a lot of work teaching him to relax on the ground and trust me; he'd been very tense and rushing when I first started ground work last fall, before giving him the winter off, and had been very head shy. He learned to trust my hands, which he's come to expect to bring scratches and massaging and when connected to the reins, are giving and light.

My soul is made up of horses. When they let me into theirs, I feel whole. I feel like Buddy lets me in a little more each time I see him. And that is what I need to heal so that I can live fully.

ps--When I feel good like this, the writing comes more easily too ;) I've written two more chapters on Nemesis in the last month or so, and you can thank Buddy for that.

Friday, February 5, 2016

A new favorite meal

Having Hashimoto's isn't fun, but the people who hang out on forums are great. We all have our own level of suffering.

Being on the AIP diet and further limiting it depending on my level of histamine tolerance can be depressing sometimes. But it works to keep things under control.

Many of us on AIP do so out of necessity, but others sit on the fence or turn up their noses. It is difficult and feels limiting, but you learn to cope. Part of that is finding new recipes and trying new things.

I've learned that I LOVE oven baked sweet potato fries and homemade chips.

I've also learned to appreciate more refined herbal tastes like Rosemary and Basil.

One of my favorite dishes is basil chicken. I'll put a breast in a pan with some coconut oil and maybe some olive oil. I'll then sprinkle Himalayan or sea salt on it, a little pepper, and a lot of basil. Cut up some onion, mushrooms, and green onion and let that cook on the stove top on low and covered until the top turns white, then flip. If the heat was right, it will cook inside and be a light brown on the bottom. After flipping cook for a while longer, until the basil covered side gets light brown on the meat.

After the chicken is cooked, I'll sometimes toss in some zucchini slices or zoodles and/or asparagus for a few minutes, long enough for them to pick up some of the flavor from the chicken, onion, and mushroom juices.

And lately, I've been adding a side of cauliflower mash. It has become my new favorite mashed potato replacement. I can't have dairy, but this doesn't require dairy. I simply steam some cauliflower with a little bit of yellow onion until it's about ready to disintegrate. Carefully drain of excess liquid and then puree with a hand blender and...voila! Looks just like mashed potatoes. Sprinkle on some Himalayan or sea salt and toss in some chopped green onions and it's too die for.

The results of the chicken and cauliflower basics:

(The yellow is the olive oil and chicken juices from cooking the chicken and toppings and is great for dipping the chicken into.)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Basil chicken with zoodles

This is a pretty easy recipe to make, perhaps a little bland for some, but totally Paleo and AIP-friendly.

Because my Hashimoto's has set in full with worsening thyroid function, I can't afford to make elaborate dishes. It takes too much out of me.

However, I do find some taste combinations that I like. One of those is basil and rosemary chicken and lots of onions and olive oil ;)

That led to this little creation for my lunch today:

The thing about hypothyroid is that you gain weight easily. To keep it managed, I eat very little of sugars or starches and lots of protein and veggies. And when you do that, you stay fuller longer on fewer calories. This is one of those filling meals.

The zucchini noodles were made with a spiralizer and cooked for a short period of time in the liquids from the chicken breast after that was fully cooked with a little olive oil, basil, rosemary, and garlic sea salt and sliced yellow onions. Oh, and when cooking zoodles, it can be easy to overcook. You have to watch them closely and stir often until they're just turning a little clear and/or soft.

It was delish!