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Today is my dad’s birthday. It feels like the final milestone. He did not die until the 22nd, so I haven’t experienced the official one-year milestone yet, but his birthday was the last time I talked to him on the phone (other than texting and then FaceTime while he was on a ventilator). I didn’t call again because I was trying to let him rest and focus on breathing. It took so much effort for him to talk for just a minute or two. We still had some hope on his birthday, because the hospital staff said he was doing a little bit better.

The past year has gone more quickly than I thought it would. At the one-month mark I couldn’t fathom how it would feel not to have talked to my dad for a whole year, and yet here I am. Here are some things I have learned/been reminded of this past year:

  1. Our time on earth is short. Sometimes it might feel like it will be a long time until we get to see our loved ones in heaven, but time on earth is such a small blip compared to eternity. My dad’s death has also reinforced how much I want ALL PEOPLE to choose relationships with God so that I can see them in heaven someday. I so appreciate that my dad had a relationship with Christ and that I will see him again.
  2. Since our time on earth is so short (it’s short even if we live to be 100+ years old), we need to be conscious of distractions. We need to focus on God and what He wants us to do while we’re here.
  3. Spend time getting to know God better every day, even if it’s only for five or ten minutes.
  4. Chip away at goals consistently so you don’t get to the end of a year feeling like once again you didn’t accomplish anything because, as stated earlier, our time on earth is SO SHORT.

I’m not sure if I will post again before Christmas, so if I don’t, Merry Christmas! I know this time of year is difficult for many people. You are in my prayers.

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***Long time, no post! I’m excited to be back and hope to start posting more regularly again. My son started preschool this fall, so I am blocking out those few hours a week for writing. I plan to bring you more than just blog posts soon, but this is a great starting point for me to ease back into things after a few years of almost no writing.***

For a long time, I assumed sunflower oil was healthy. It seems like it is included in the ingredients of nearly every processed organic food, so that must mean it’s a healthier option than canola oil or maybe some other oils, right? It can be so easy to trust “organic” labels on foods and conclude that you are putting something healthy into your body. I think of sunflower seeds as healthy, so why wouldn’t sunflower oil be healthy? Then I started seeing snippets of things online about sunflower oil being carcinogenic, so I wanted to do more research on it and whether it was actually healthy like I had previously assumed.

To start, here are a few key details about sunflower oil:

There are four types of sunflower oil: high-linoleic, high-oleic, mid-oleic, and high-stearic with high-oleic.

It has a smoke point of somewhere between 440-450 degrees. My sources differed on the exact number.

Sunflower oil is high in vitamin E.

Sunflower oil used in food can be either refined or unrefined.

Let’s look a little closer at what the above details mean.

If you’re trying to figure out if the sunflower oil included in your food is beneficial for your body, it is important to know which of the types of sunflower oil you are consuming. Sunflower oil is healthiest when it has the highest amount of oleic acid in it. Unfortunately, foods often contain mid-oleic sunflower oil, and its omega-6 content from linoleic acid may cause inflammation in some people. In animals, omega-6 appears to contribute to gaining weight. Consuming enough omega-3 can help to balance out omega-6 levels in the body.

Sunflower oil’s smoke point appears to be great at first glance because it has a higher smoke point than olive oil (so the natural assumption is that it would be better to cook with than olive oil is), and many times sunflower oil is getting fried when it is in processed foods. Various sources state that typical deep frying temperature is anywhere from 320-375 degrees. Unfortunately, that high smoke point doesn’t mean much when sunflower oil is getting reheated multiple times at 356 degrees because it generates aldehydes in the cooking fumes. Aldehydes can harm your cells and DNA and can be factors in health problems like Alzheimer’s Disease. So, although it has a high smoke point, sunflower oil is not stable when heated to high temperatures. If heating sunflower oil to a high temperature is unavoidable, it is considered healthiest to use a high-oleic form of the oil.

The refined version of sunflower oil is used for cooking, and the unrefined oil can be used for raw foods like salad dressing. Unfortunately, many refining processes for sunflower oil turn part of its components into trans fat. As you have probably heard in the past, trans fats are bad for your cholesterol and your heart. They can raise the chances that you might have a stroke or develop type 2 diabetes. Interestingly, sunflower oil is one of the oils the American Heart Association recommends choosing to reduce your intake of trans fat, even though refined sunflower oil contains trans fat. Besides the trans fat aspect, refining sunflower oil also reduces the overall health component of it.

So, back to the question that first made me interested in looking up information about sunflower oil…is it a carcinogen, as so many things seem to be these days?

As far as I can gather, eating an unrefined (and therefore uncooked) form of high-oleic sunflower oil in food is healthy and has no obvious downsides for the average person. Refined (and therefore cooked) sunflower oil is where the problem can be. The aldehydes mentioned earlier may contribute to an increased chance of cancer. Studies also indicate that eating too much linoleic acid (such as in sunflower oil) could raise the risk of breast cancer, because women with breast cancer tend to have more omega-6 fat in their breast tissue versus women who do not have breast cancer. I also found this information to be interesting:

“While animal studies regarding sunflower oil are uncommon, numerous studies have been performed with diets high in corn oil (another high-linoleic acid oil) or arachidonic acid in mice or rats bearing either carcinogen-induced tumors or transplanted mammary tumors. Such diets were found to stimulate the formation and growth of breast tumors in the animals.

Daughter mice of female mice fed a high linoleic acid diet were also more prone to develop mammary tumors in one experiment.” https://foodforbreastcancer.com/foods/sunflower-oil

Sunflower seeds also contain cadmium and copper, both of which contribute to breast cancer when a person consumes too much of them, so obviously sunflower oil would contain those elements as well. I think the overall message I take away from all of this information is that if you’re going to eat sunflower oil, pick the high-oleic form when possible. Try not to heat it to high temperatures. Don’t consume it regularly in large amounts. If you already have cancer, pay special attention to how much omega-6 you are getting in your diet, including from sunflower oil sources.

**I am not a doctor. If you have medical questions pertaining to the above post, please consult your health care practitioner.**

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunflower_oil

https://www.cooksillustrated.com/how_tos/6520-deep-frying-101-treating-your-oil-right

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/trans-fat

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/is-sunflower-oil-healthy#benefits

https://www.organicag.org/composition-organic-vs-conventional-sunflower-seed-oil

https://www.webmd.com/diet/sunflower-oil-good-for-you

https://foodforbreastcancer.com/foods/sunflower-oil

https://davissciencesays.ucdavis.edu/blog/what-does-science-really-say-about-vegetable-oils-and-cancer

https://maverikoils.com/13-benefits-of-organic-sunflower-oil/

I have been holding off on updating you about sales of my short story because I was hoping to have something more exciting to report. It’s been long enough, though, that I decided I had better go ahead and post, even if it’s boring. It has been approximately five months since I published “Waiting for the Baby,” and the last time I sold copies of it was in April. Initially after publishing my short story, I saw a rise in sales of my novel The Anorexic Experiment, but those sales numbers have since normalized. I have not seen any change in the sales of my novel Illegally Innocent.

As mentioned in a previous post, I am planning to release a second short story to see if that impacts sales of the first one and will share those findings here when I do. So far, though, it definitely appears that novels sell better than short stories (at least for me).

Three-Week Sales Update: I officially released my YA short story, “Waiting for the Baby,” on Monday, April 27, so its first three published weeks ran from April 27-May 17. Since release day, I have sold a total of four copies. I have not paid for any marketing, but I have spent a bit of time on some free marketing techniques. These include:

*Posting about the story on both my personal Facebook page and my business Facebook page

*Posting about the story on my Twitter feed

*Sending out an e-newsletter announcing the story to my email subscribers

*Blogging about the story in this Kindle Short Reads series

*Changing the banner on my business Facebook page to announce the short story (Mike did that for me)

*Updating my author bio on a few different sites to include my short story as one of my listed works

Have the sales of my other works, The Anorexic Experiment and Illegally Innocent, increased since the release of my short story? I have seen a 37% increase in sales in The Anorexic Experiment during April 27-May 17 when compared with the three weeks prior to release day for “Waiting for the Baby” (April 6-26). My sales of Illegally Innocent have not been impacted.

I have started writing a second short story and am curious how sales of the first story might be affected when I release the second one…stay tuned for more updates on this experiment!

Sales Update: On release day yesterday, I sold three copies of “Waiting for the Baby.” I still have not spent any money on marketing and tentatively am not going to until I have sold at least 80 copies. Since we spent around $40 producing the book (see details in Part One here), I would like to make that money back before I start considering any paid marketing for “Waiting for the Baby.” Releasing a short story did not increase my sales average on The Anorexic Experiment yesterday. Since my reports for Illegally Innocent are through a different self-publishing company and do not get updated as frequently as my published works on KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), I don’t know yet if it impacted Illegally Innocent sales.

In Part One of this series, I said I would share information about what “publishing” includes. Some of the details you will encounter if you choose to publish a short story (or any kind of book) through KDP are the following:

*Book description–You are writing the “back cover” of your book, even if your book is only an ebook and does not have a back cover. You are trying to write a teaser/summary to draw the reader in. With both of my self-published novels, my description was longer than what I wrote for my short story’s description. With a short story, the material is already so compact that I figured the description should be compact as well.

*Genres–KDP will give you a list of genres and sub-genres in which to place your book to help readers find the types of books they enjoy reading. You can pick up to two of these categories. Sometimes you may be thinking of a genre that exists (and you know it exists because you’ve seen other authors’ books in that category), but it is not offered as an option for you to choose. For example, even though my short story is considered to be a “Short Read,” I could not pick “Short Read.” You basically have to wait for Amazon to classify it after some copies have sold. And even when you pick a genre, sometimes it still will not show up on the actual sales page in the genre(s) that you chose. One of the sub-genres I chose was “Siblings” because a big theme in my story is interaction between two siblings. However, even though I chose “Siblings,” it is not currently showing up on my short story’s sales page as of the time of this writing. The three current genres my short story is showing up under are Teen & Young Adult Short Stories; 45-Minute Teen & Young Adult Short Reads; and Short Stories in Teen & Young Adult Literature. So it did get classified as a “Short Read” after all, like I wanted, even though I did not get to select that option. Interestingly enough, although I only sold three copies the first day, my story is ranked as #12 in one of its sub-genres at the moment. Amazon updates ranks each hour. That’s one of the nice things about Kindle Short Reads–since not as many people write Short Reads compared to longer books, it is easier to get to a “bestseller” status in your genre.

*Price–Amazon will suggest a price based on the length and type of book that it is. For “Waiting for the Baby,” a 30-page short story, Amazon suggested a price of $2.69. I opted to mark it as $1.49. Both of my published novels are currently listed at $2.99, so it didn’t make a lot of sense to me to mark this short story, which is roughly one-eighth the size of my novel The Anorexic Experiment, only 30 cents cheaper than my novels. I was originally going to price my short story as 99 cents, but this way I can run a sale from time to time if I so choose and mark it down to 99 cents for the sale. Also, Amazon gives you a choice of a 70% royalty rate or a 35% royalty rate. If you choose the 70% rate, you are not allowed to mark the regular price of the book lower than $2.99. As stated earlier, I wanted to keep my regular price low, so that was one of my contributing factors in choosing the 35% rate. By selling my story for $1.49, I am supposed to receive 52 cents per copy sold.

*DRM–DRM stands for Digital Rights Management. It had been almost three years since I last published anything, so I had to check out a video to refresh me on what DRM entails and whether I wanted to say yes or no to it. Here is a video you may want to watch to help you decide if you want to enable DRM on your story or not: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4k8o1lNa-Ko.

I hope this information is at least a little bit helpful as you explore publishing on KDP!