This Healthy Writer

Okay, attempted healthy writer.

Health is a subject that gets more and more air time between me and Mr. Quinn as we age. We’re both in our early 40s and it’s getting easier to see the wear and tear on our older friends and Facebook follows. The grumping about drug prices and knee replacements and hip replacements, etc. It fills my feed.

Things got a little more urgent for me over the summer. Less so for him. He does Ironman distance races for fun and so has a resting heart rate in the 40s. Hmph.

I went for my yearly doctor visit and we talked all things middle age – perimenopause, gray hair, cholesterol, blood pressure, the list goes on and on. Add doctor anxiety and generalized anxiety and well…

The nurse had taken my blood pressure and asked if I was nervous. I was. And it showed in my numbers. And it freaked me out.

As a writer, I am (obviously) pretty sedentary, spending long hours in front of books and computers researching and writing. That, uh, wasn’t helping my situation. I decided to make a change and kind of mustered myself into a walking habit, but it was on again, off again and sometimes more off than on and no clear goal. In other words, I’m not sure it was doing me any good.

I mentioned it to Mr. Quinn knowing that I was stumbling into shark-infested waters. Health and fitness is a favorite subject of his. In the past, his answer has always been, “You should start running.”

I hate running.

But this time? This time he had a different answer. This time he suggested I start heart rate training. Then he sat down and an hour later I had a plan. Bonus! It didn’t involve running.

It works like this. I wear my Garmin watch (a hand-me-down from him) and a heart rate monitor. I walk. I keep my heart rate in a specific range. That’s it.

And it really is that simple.

I walk six days a week. Mondays are my rest day. Tuesdays and Thursdays are ‘endurance’ workouts. The goal is to keep my heart rate in my Zone 1 range. These are usually less than an hour. Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday are ‘recovery’ workouts. Heart rate in the recovery zone, moving the legs, getting the blood pumping. Usually half an hour or less (right now they last about 20 minutes – but they’ve been gradually getting longer).

Saturday long walks. Ten minutes of warm-up and a longer time in Zone 1. This past weekend the whole thing was 54 minutes. Eventually, I’ll be out for 2+ hours. But I’m working up to that.

When Mr. Quinn asked why I wanted to do this, was I training for a race? I had to admit no, I’m not. I don’t enjoy racing. Not even a little bit. But I do enjoy being alive and not being on long-term medications to keep me that way.

I’ve taken my health for granted for a very long time and the reality is that I shouldn’t. This wasn’t a New Years’ weight loss resolution. This is me wanting to get and stay healthy so I can keep writing and doing all of the other things that I love.

I’ve been at this now for three weeks. I just checked the data and the first real progress has been noted. My resting heart rate has dropped by 7 points on average. That’s huge.

In other notes, I feel better, I’ve been sleeping better (also proven by data), I feel less anxious*.

Gonna do my best to keep at this and see where it goes. I’ve got a great coach and an achievable plan, so I am hopeful. Planning on checking in here once a month or so with updates.

I would love to hear your get healthy stories too! It’s motivating!

*I feel less anxious. A lot of my anxiety was over the numbers I got from the doctor. Driven by guilt from bad choices I’ve made and hating my body. It wasn’t and hasn’t been an anxiety disorder. I am in no way advocating for treating true anxiety disorders with only exercise. Please, if you struggle with anxiety or depression, reach out. There are people that can help.

Looking Forward

In all of the soul-searching last year I did finally discover a kind of pattern. I went back and forth between “But I love blogging,” and “But this writing makes no money,” and “But I can’t really write what I want to on my blog!”

Only one of those statements is true. I really do love blogging. I process through writing. It’s like talking with friends I can’t see. (That sounds really crazy as I read it back. Oh, well.)

The blog here may not actually directly make me any money (meaning it’s not monetized) and may not have yet sent someone searching for my books, but that’s not to say it will never happen, which brings me to the final point …

I’ve tried to really stay away from anything most would consider too polarizing on the blog here. Politics. Religion. Money. Sex. You know the drill. I followed the advice that talking about those things might lose me readers and as a baby author that wasn’t something I was willing to risk. I had barely found my feet and was really worried about offending people.

Well, I may still be a baby author (I have one book out at the moment and the second ready to launch soon!), but I. Am. Tired. 

Tired of not having a place to put all of my thoughts and journey.

Tired of not speaking up.

Tired of treading on eggshells around some seriously WTF stuff.

So here’s what’s up:

  1. I’m not going to shy away from posting anything I please. All I ask from you is that you respect this as my space. I will not suffer ad hominem attacks. Discussion is good, even welcome. But this is my space and I will be sharing my journey for better or worse.
  2. I will tag my entries. If it’s a subject that might rile you up and you can’t even, then feel free to walk away. I am not doing this to start a fight or bring stress to other people’s lives. I’ll try to post content warnings as applicable and please speak up if I miss something.
  3. The goal is to post once a week or so. No set schedule, but weekly.

Cool?

Cool.

See you on the flip side.

Quinn

(I used to sign off as ‘Q’ but then discovered that there’s a conspiracy around that letter, rolled my eyes, and decided to use the full name. Because I definitely do not want those people hanging out here.)

Failure to Plan

There’s an ongoing debate in the writer world about whether or not blogs actually do anything for you. Some say yes, it’s a great place to interact with readers. Others say no, it’s a waste of time that could be spent on other words.

I’m mixed about it. I don’t fool myself into believing that I’d spend this time on my fiction. I don’t get a lot of interaction here. So neither seem to really apply.

And truthfully, since my last post in August, I’ve been considering what I want to do with this space. How much of my life do I want to share? What do I want to share? When? Should this just be all book news?

After a LOT of thought, I decided to keep going with it. If nothing else, it is a home base for anyone looking for me to come to find out what they want to know. It also is a great repository of my writing journey history.

With that being said, I’ll be doing a wrap-up of 2019 and laying out some goals for 2020 and covering what I hope to be a fairly loose blog schedule.

Happy New Year everyone! Let’s make the 20s something we can be proud of!

Second Run Through Complete!

That’s the big news from this last week. I finished the second run-through on The Star of Fire. That was the major re-write pass. Today I started the third run-through. This is to address any last notes from the last pass and look for any errors. Then it’s on to editing. Squeeee! Progress!

In other news I’ve started the planning on a new series that I’m super excited about. I know I say that every time, but this time I really think I’ve nailed it. I’m excited to see how it plays out. I wrote the first scene this morning and I kinda love it.

Non-writing life update!

School starts next week! AHHHHHHH!

First, where do the summer go?

Second, I am so ready.

<record scratch>

Yeah, I know. I’ve been homeschooling since forever (or so it feels) and I don’t think I’ve ever said that, but this year, I really am.

I discovered Trello and managed to get 22 weeks of assignments loaded for each of the two still at home. Since they do their work online it is actually the best of both worlds and should make it much easier to manage their progress and assignments.

Somebody point me back to this post when I’m here crying this winter.

We’ve also reached peak summer weather here (just in time for school when you don’t want to go outside anyway…) and the point that I hope for the grass to die so I can quit mowing. Have I mentioned that a lawn crew is my first purchase when I start making solid monthly money from my books? That and a cleaning lady.

Anyway, back to binging Reign and Miss Fisher and also watching Below Deck Med.

Quinn

Pear Butter and Other Fall Prep

I’m making pear butter today.

We had a super wet spring and the pears were multitude. Are multitude. I still have some ripening, and the Asian pears are still on the tree. But the first batch was ripe for ten minutes so I hurried it into the pot to cook.

We’re not preppers by any stretch of the imagination and we probably should be, if I’m honest. But that’s a lot of work and I’m tired.

So I make pear butter because we have three pear trees that got exuberant this year. I would maybe have done something with a few peaches too if the squirrels hadn’t beat me to them. And a handful of apples seem to be thriving, so I may get to pick and eat a fresh apple this year, who knows. Texas is weird man.

Other fall prep is basically getting the kids school stuff present and accounted for while binge watching stuff on TV.

Current obsessions:

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

Good Omens (finished yesterday and OMG SO GOOD)

Vikings

Using Trello to get all the kids assignments trackable. It’s tedious to set up, but I am hoping leads to better ahem, compliance than in the past. (IOW, I could do without all the I FORGOTs and YOU DIDN’T REMIND MEs). I’m working on week nine’s assignments and that puts us square in the middle of October and that blows my mind a little that we’re hovering on the back half of 2019 rolling hard and heavy toward 2020, a year number which seems impossible even though it’s RIGHT HERE.

So, anyway, that’s what I’m doing and will probably be doing for the remainder of July while also finishing up the last round of edits on Star of Fire which may actually get a release next month! Because yeah, why not?

Hoping your summer is swimming along as well!

-Q

On Invisible Labor and a Landscaping Mini Rant

The edits on The Star of Fire are nearly done. I’ve reached the point that requires the most heavy rewriting and while I agree with the feedback I am also dreading the work. My beta just pulled a couple of threads out of the story and now I have to reweave a new thread in there. It’s tiring work, but I also love it? IDK, I’m weird.

In non-writing news: Mr. Quinn is signed up and training for another Ironman distance race next year (May 2020) which means his trainer is coming back around again. I went out to say hi and ask about his new baby last time he was here. (Brief aside: The trainer is a couple of years older than us and has a child who is in college from his first marriage – so, yeah, starting over). Trainer gave me the standard baby update including milestones, etc. but then went on to explain that he’s taken on a new role as a Stay At Home Dad this go round. He works his schedule around his wife’s and stays with the baby during the day (“Man, I had no idea how exhausting that is!”)

“Yeah, baby’s wear you out!” I laughed.

“Okay, so right. She’s great, but man it’s a lot of work and I am so tired. Like, I reached out to my ex!” He paused to give the next set.

“Your ex?”

“Yeah, so last time I was young and so I wasn’t around so much and like I was working and stuff. I had no idea how much she was really doing to balance all of this.”

“Invisible labor’s a bitch, amirite?”

He laughed. “Is that what you call it?”

And yeah, that’s what it’s called. Nobody sees it, it just gets done. Thankfully Mr. Quinn isn’t so oblivious (he still misses things), but I also resolved recently to start asking for praise. Like when I manage the yard work. I explained what it would cost to have a yard crew come out and do the work and told him that if I continued to not feel the glow of appreciation for my contribution that I would be forced to pay someone else to do it.

Reader, I get taken out for lunch every time I mow the lawn because it’s far, far cheaper for him to treat me to lunch than to pay a crew to do my job. I also get at least 24 hours worth of praise for a job well done.

On that note, I will launch into a mini-rant on landscaping. When we put out pool in several years ago was the one and only time we hired a landscaper to do anything in our yard. It may also be the last.

We asked for pet-friendly (read: not poisonous to animals) plants that were also drought tolerant (we live in Texas) and for thought to be given to arrangement when plants were mature.

We got pet friendly (no poisonings yet).

We got drought tolerant (mostly).

But I can no longer get to my backyard spigot because the plants there have grown so thick that I need a machete to even find it. So much for thought to the mature plant size. I have to cut back the plants along the stepping stones to the workshop (that the landscaper installed! He knew we would have to walk there!) 5 or 6 times every summer just so we can see the path.

Sure the beds looked good from the start but the mature size of some of these plants is killing me! Also, I feel as though a big landscaping overhaul may be in my future and I don’t like it.

Anyway, that’s my world in a blog post.

Later Days,

Q

P.S. Does anyone remember the cartoon where the character said “Later Days” at the end of every episode. I vaguely recall watching it with my older kids. And it was about some gang of kids that skateboarded I think? IDK, but I always loved that sign-off.

Work Spring

May and June. Busy in their own rite, busier this year.

We wrapped up our school year in May – I’ll have a college Sophomore/Junior next year, a Senior in high school and a 6th grader next school year. How in the world did I get this old?!

That was a flurry of activity in itself. Then there was the beach trip (logistics on me) then a quick turn-around to life and then, then!

We left for two weeks in Scandinavia/Europe.

It was fun and educational and worth every bit of the time lost to planning and stress.

In the intervening weeks (days, hours, minutes, seconds) I was writing and editing.

Oh, also, my parents moved out and then we rearranged the whole house and also cleaned out the storage room, garage, and laundry room, and also finished two big projects in the shop.

It’s been a jam packed two months and I am ready to have some semblance of normalcy and schedule.

But not quite yet!

Tomorrow is my birthday and also the last weekend of June. I’ll be celebrating and assisting with tri workouts this weekend, but Monday?

Monday is for work and normalcy and schedule.

That Motivation-less Villian

I think we are all painfully familiar with the motivation-less villian. I’m not talking about the ones with weak motivation. I mean the cardboard cut-out that exists to make the hero look heroic. The mustache twirling cardboard cut-out.

The first draft of The Star of Time was plagued with this. He showed up when it was convenient and caused trouble. The heroine overcame his dastardly plan (and looked heroic) and then he ran away only to show up later and try again. It was empty and flat.

It took awhile, but I eventually did round him out.

I tell you that because since that personal experience I now pay a LOT more attention to the villains in the books I read. Especially the ones I loathe.

And I just read a really good one – Mistress of Rome, by Kate Quinn.

A Brief Aside – It was a tantalizing breath of fresh air to find a historical fiction book set in something other than World War 2.

Anyway! If you haven’t read it – THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD, TURN AWAY

Mistress of Rome is a multiple POV book that covers the rule of Emperor Domitian from start to finish.

The main players are Thea (a slave girl/woman), Arius (a gladiator), and Lepida Pollia (the villain and also a member of the middle-upper class). There are other great characters, but these three are the POVs.

Lepida Pollia

Ah, Lepida. Poor Lepida.

Now, you need to know that my favorite thing to do after finishing a book I enjoyed is to go read the one-star reviews on GoodReads. Often, these are the reviews that make me think critically about what I just read. Doing this has opened my eyes to problematic tropes, institutional racism, and a bunch of other problems that show up in fiction. It doesn’t affect my feelings towards the book itself, but it has helped me become a more critical reader. (And all our favorites are problematic)

It was the one-star reviews of this book that drove me to write this, not as a rebuttal, but more of a character exercise. See, a lot of criticism was directed at Lepida for being a motivation less villian, and I didn’t read her that way.

SPOILERS AHEAD – YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

We start the book with Thea and Lepida and build out from there. Thea is a slave in Rome, and serves Lepida. They are the same age – 15. Emperor Domitian has just ascended. We learn early on that Lepida has a bit of a sadistic streak – she loves figuring out what will make people squirm and then weaponizing that. And she hates Thea, because she can’t find that pain point in her own slave. Thea isn’t scared of Lepida.

Lepida needs to feel superior in every room she occupies and anytime Thea is around she feels inferior. Thea speaks multiple languages and is literate. Lepida is darn near illiterate, and Thea takes several opportunities to tweak her master about this.

But sadism isn’t Lepida’s motivation. It’s a tool she uses to achieve her real aim – social climbing.

Raised by a social climber, Lepida follows closely in her Father’s footsteps. Meaning she won’t move unless it’s to climb another rung. And in true well-rounded villian fashion, she is the hero in her own head and can never understand why she loses (always to Thea). Her deep-seated need to feel superior is at the heart of every decision Lepida makes.

Why? Why is she so driven? I would ask, do we really need to know? Is that truly a question that can be answered?

Listen. I’ve known plenty of Lepida’s in my life. They’re horrid people. And quite frankly, very little of their back story would make them sympathetic. But, if you really want to know what I think the answer is here – it’s her father.

See, Daddy Pollia uses Thea as a sexual outlet. The book isn’t necessarily explicit (def not Game of Thrones anyway) so you don’t get a rapey play-by-play, but you know Thea doesn’t consent and she can’t anyway. She’s a slave.

But still. It’s the first time we see Thea chosen over Lepida. Now, Lepida doesn’t come out and say that she wishes her father would choose her in that way over Thea, but she does spend time wondering what anyone sees in Thea – Lepida is far more beautiful. From there we see a rivalry blossom and Lepida constantly frustrated that Thea is chosen over her at nearly every turn.

Lepida wants to win. She wants to best everyone and be better than everyone. She weaponizes her sexuality. She manipulates everyone around her. Nobody in Lepida’s world is anymore than a rung on the ladder to climb to the heights of power.

And that is what makes her fall from the heights so spectacular and such a payoff.

Not every villian needs a McGuffin to seek and compete with the hero. Sometimes the motivation really is just hatred and personality faults.

On the other hand, it’s hard to not feel a little sorry for Lepida, too. Because as her female foils show, even in a society that devalues women to a substantial degree, youthful sexuality isn’t the only way to get what you want.

Lepida’s no cardboard cutout. She’s visceral and looms large even as Thea diminishes her.

Disagree? Please tell me about it in the comments. There’s a LOT to learn here (for me anyway!).

Because Now It Must Be Said *SIGH*

If you buy a book with my name on, I promise I WROTE EVERY WORD OF IT.

I feel like I talk about my writing enough here that most people that see this will know this, but after the #copypastecris scandal of late …

Anyway, the words are mine. Good, bad, ugly, indifferent. They’re all mine.

P.S. If you need to catch up you can see Courtney Milan’s original post here.

P.P.S. Nora Roberts is a QUEEN and I love her and she also terrifies me a little, but like, in a way that makes me want to have a cup of tea with her but also use my very best manners. Read her thoughts on this disaster here.

P.P.P.S. This was my favorite quote from Queen Nora:

Because the culture that fosters this ugly behavior has to be pulled out into the light and burned to cinders. Then we’re going to salt the freaking earth.

Yes, she’s talking about the scam trolls in KU. Yes, she acknowledges in way that I have not seen many trad-pubbed authors do that legitimate self-pubbed authors are being damaged by scam trolls. I love her. My little self-pubbed heart loves her so much.

Quinning | February 2019

When last we heard from our conquering hero …

In my last update I told you about how I worked so terrifically hard to catch up to my production calendar and everything was awesome?

It’s even better now.

This never happens, so I’m writing it all down for later this year when (possibly) everything has gone off the rails and I wonder why I ever thought this was a good idea.

I finished Star of Storms. I even finished it three days early.

Long story short, I had one glorious day in a hotel room by myself and I powered through to the last scene. Then I binge watched Surviving R. Kelley and the first part of season one of The Good Doctor (because I needed to remind myself that there is good and hope and wonderful-ness in the world).

Side note: The overwhelming message I have been receiving for 2019 has been that if you are a man and either have a lot of money or make a lot of money for other me you can basically do whatever the heck you want and get away with it. My hope is that the tide is shifting on this, albeit slower than it feels it should. IMO, Surviving R. Kelley should be required viewing for all Americans because where have any of us been in this? I can make excuses all day long, but let’s be honest – he would not have made it past the first offense if any of his victims had been white. Don’t @ me.

Moving on.

I finished SoS on Tuesday, took Wednesday off, and woke up Thursday ready to write. Like, the schedule demanded words and I was all, “well, I could go back to rewrites on SoF, or … ?”

And then I remembered that I had written a skeleton plot on another try at the ding-dang-dadgum romance novel that I’ve been banging my head against for over a year now. I “finished” it before, at the end of 2018, but as I read back through it, I just … it wasn’t hitting the right notes. I set it aside. AGAIN.

This time though, I know it’s working. I went back to the drawing board and reread some of my favorite contemporary romances. (Look. I KNOW that’s what all the advice said, but I’m basically a teenager in publishing years and YOU’RE NOT MY REAL MOM!) I paid close attention to when and what was happening. I took notes. And I sketched out a plot between Christmas and New Year’s. I scheduled time to work on the book – after SoS was complete, but booked February 18 through March 1 to work on plotting. ONLY plotting. Any word count would come from that.

Only, when I re-read through the plot I loved it so much that I just jumped right in and the magic started happening right away.

It’s been a week and I’ve written over 12,000 words. I mean, don’t get me wrong. It’s still a first draft, and yeah, I had to go back and rework a couple of things that weren’t conflicty (*not a real word, but it’s mine now if Webster’s comes knocking) enough. But that’s a landmark in production for me. I have it penciled in at around 50,000 words. But according to my production calendar I’m not supposed to be here, where I already am, until (checks notes) sometime in the middle of March.

All that to say, I am going to keep working on this one. I may finish way earlier than predicted and then I will probably move to editing as I’ll have three completed first drafts that will need it. I’m not holding my breath or anything, but y’all. This is exciting!