NaNoWriMo Prep Week

On publication of this post, we will have a little more than two days before the start of NaNoWriMo. You know what that means! Time to prep for real!

Meals

If you need meal ideas I have some suggestions here and here. This year I have another suggestion – EMeals.

I used EMeals back in the day when I was working and had two little kids. The pre-planned meals and ready to go shopping list were lifesavers. When I quit working to stay at home this was one of the things that got cut. Then Pinterest happened. And I did meal planning on my own.

But, y’all, I am overwhelmed by the same meals on Pinterest 476 different ways. Did you even know that there could be 476 tortilla soup recipes? Me either. I would scroll and scroll and everything was either unappetizing, unhealthy, a variation of the same recipe I saw 30 seconds ago, or an all-day affair. I don’t want to cook all day. Thanks.

Last week I went back to EMeals to get out of our dinnertime rut. And you know what? It’s even better!

I pick the meals from any of their meal plans – clean eating, gluten free, budget, paleo. The list goes on and on. Then, I can send the shopping list to Kroger Clicklist and once I load up my shopping cart I just drive over and pick up my groceries. At mealtime, I go into chef mode and the recipe is on my screen, step-by-step. As a bonus, most meals take 30 minutes or less. The food’s good and healthy and the family has been raving.

But you’re here for the time savings right?

The time savings here is incredible. I planned our week’s meals and did my grocery shopping in less than 30 minutes. It was another 30 minutes to drive to the store where an employee came out and loaded my groceries into the car, then to drive home. Considering that a shopping trip would usually take me upwards of 2 hours plus time to make the list and find the meals? That’s 90 minutes just off the shopping plus probably another 2 hours off the planning and list making.

So I think I saved about 4 hours out of my week and I have a plan for dinners for the week and they cook fast.

Yeah, I’m ready to win NaNo.

 

Write the book you want to read.

Is that the most dangerous advice ever?

It’s what I’m doing with the Christmas romance experiment, but I’ll be honest, I’m worried. It seems like most romances I read are dual-perspective, told from both parties viewpoints. It’s a style I tolerate. I don’t love it and sometimes it flat annoys me.

So, the romance I want to read is from one perspective. But that kind of flies in the face of the genre norm* which is a dangerous place for a writer to play if they want to make any money.

The Star of Time (affiliate) Series are books I want to read, but they’re hard to categorize and that makes them hard to sell.

Maybe that’s my brand? Genre fluid books that I’m literally one of 10 readers for? Can you tell I’m catching up on Joanna Penn’s podcast?

*Is it though? Or is it just the norm of what I’ve been picking up? I seem to remember (though I’ll admit to being fuzzy on this) that I’ve read romances told only from the female heroine’s perspective. Am I misremembering? Is this a newer trend?

Of Interest

Here are a few things I found while looking around the interwebs:

Free Time Management course from Dean Wesley Smith This’ll be my first DWS course and I’m excited to listen. I’m kind of a time management addict though worse at implementing the steps. It’s aspirational, I think. Anyway, this course usually goes for $50 so jump on this deal while you can.

How to move your books from CreateSpace to KDP Print In case you’ve been under a rock, CreateSpace is closing. You need to transfer your CreateSpace print books to KDP print and thankfully David Gaughran figured out the process. I have to move one book over, Star of Time was already with KDP print.

Working-class kid becomes a writer My Mom’s a teacher. Has been since before I was born. I understand what they, give, sacrifice, and do for their students. God bless Mr. Cheatham and all public school teachers out there fighting the good fight.

 

Current Events, The Catholic Church, and My Books

TRIGGER WARNING: This post will reference child abuse, sexual abuse, and the Catholic Church. Nothing too graphic on this page, but the link is graphic. Please use caution.

Last week I was scrolling through my Twitter feed when I scrolled past this article. I kept scrolling. Current events are a struggle for me. I want to keep up but the constant barrage of what feels like raw sewage from a fire hose pointed at my face gets exhausting. News had just broken regarding the Catholic Church and Child Abuses. Again. I thought it was just another article. But something made me scroll back. Did I read that headline correctly?

We Saw Nuns Kill Children: The Ghosts of St. Joseph’s Orphanage

This was new. Anyone even remotely aware would know that previous allegations were limited to male priests so anything against the nuns would be ground-breaking.

I clicked the link.

It took me two days to read the full article. First, because it’s long, and second because … it made me sick and I had to step away. I’m a fast reader. Always have been. But this? It turned my stomach to the point that I had to keep stepping away.

I went back to Twitter when I finished, desperate to not feel alone after having read about the full-on depravity detailed in the article.

I’ve mulled it over for days.

Like most people, I think the question I’m left with is this: How could a group of adults, who should ostensibly know better, conspire in such a way as to damage and hurt children left to their care?

Please don’t read that and think that I doubt, even for a minute, the testimony of the victims. I don’t. Some details may be wrong or missing and everyone’s perception may be different. But that kind of trauma leaves marks and these victims were traumatized. By adults. Representing an institution that put itself in a position to be trusted.

And the harrowing thing is that I’ll probably never get an answer to my question other than the tired refrain when similar things like this happen:

In order to inflict their actions on their victims, the perpetrators had to see the victims as less than human and deserving of their treatment. 

I found it telling that nobody reported the abusers telling them that any of the treatment was atonement or penitence. They told those kids they deserved what they were getting because they were “bad.”

It breaks my heart.

But it also caused a different kind of chill to run down my spine.

In The Star of Fire, Phoebe travels to 1871 Chicago. And she stays with the nuns that are running the newly opened St. Patrick’s Girls School. I used the nuns real names. I’ve looked all over, but there’s just very little to be found about them. They arrive from St. Louis, pay witness to one of the biggest disasters on record, aid in the recovery for a bit, and disappear into the sunset, reassigned to a new location and a new area of service.

Their thoughts, feelings, opinions, dreams, hopes, and in this case, treatment of their charges is left to history*. I chose to write them positively, primarily because I saw no reason not to. There are no classroom scenes, so no reason to talk about rulers across palms or knuckles. The story isn’t centered on the nuns. They’re secondary characters.

And then, in a crazy turn, when I started researching and writing The Star of Storms, I found at the very center of that disaster yet another set of Sisters, serving in the St. Mary’s Orphan Asylum. These nuns didn’t fare so well. They get even less of a role that the Chicago Sisters did.

But what about the article? How does that even apply?

The fact remains that the article states that the treatment of children in orphanages was pretty terrible across the board. That would have to include Galveston.

Was the treatment in schools any better? Did those kids fare better because they had actively engaged (as much as they could) parents?

Was St. Joseph’s an anomaly? Or was Galveston just as bad? How do I portray it without evidence either way? It’s such a bit player in this book, does it even bear mentioning at all?

There were 94 children at St. Mary’s the day the storm rolled in and 10 nuns. That’s an insane child to adult ratio anyway but add to it the emotional baggage the kids would have from being orphaned or given up or removed from their parents care and you’d see a lot of acting out. And the women left in charge were from another country, young, and untrained – in child-rearing and in dealing with childhood psychological trauma. Add to that the possibility of being overseen by a priest who himself was using the church to gain access to children (as was the case at St. Joseph’s) and you have a recipe for disaster.

How could it have hoped to be any different?

It’s certainly an angle that I hadn’t considered before, and an angle that I have to consider now.

How I spent my summer vacation

When I wasn’t driving I was madly trying to get some work done. Also, I was reading. But mostly driving.

Star of Storms is at about the halfway point with just over 46,000 words. It will be the longest of the books so far, I think. Also the darkest. Because I couldn’t find a way for it to not be. It’s a sad, sad, sad story.

I went back to the little book I was writing in January. It got put aside because the story got super-boring. When I revisited it after letting it rest I found that the opening wasn’t bad at all and with a little reworking I think it will work. Revamped the plot and have been working on that for a possible fall release. It takes place at Christmas, so it felt right to release it as part of the season.

We visited our Little Free Library. Our town is so small we don’t have a real library, so this is a lifesaver. It’s right next to the playground and we visit regularly to pick up and drop off books. I got First Women and The Road We Travelled. Both really great books.

Also started to really dig into my TBR pile. Read Confessions of a Queen B* and The Sekhmet Bed. Can I just be Libbie Hawker when I grow up? Seriously … she’s one of the reasons I sometimes think that history should be taught using historical fiction. Making historical figures feel real instead of just names and dates on a list? I am all over that!

Went to Arkansas twice. Went to Colorado once. Both lovely in their own ways but really home is where it’s at.

Watched people on the town Facebook page lost their … ummmm … stuff over a new gas station coming to town. I guess because people in the country are supposed to not look forward to driving less than 40 minutes to get gas?

Beta read an amazing new YA fantasy that’s coming out. Really, really enjoyed it and you will for sure hear about it here when it’s released.

All in all, it was a good summer if not terrifically productive. Still, so glad to be back to a schedule and looking forward to the events of fall and winter (and hopefully some more book releases)!

 

 

Apologies & Salutations

Seems I kind of went dark there for a bit. Sorry about that. Summer ate my lunch.

I have this kind of endless optimism around summer. I believe every year that this will be the year that I get so much done during June, July, and August. And every year, as August winds down, I look up from my summer haze and question my own sanity.

There are camps and parties and meetings and church activities and college sign-ups (new this year) and play dates and park meetings and library visits and vacations and family visits and drive me here and can we go and I need this for that activity and after approximately 32 gajillion hours in the car it’s almost September.

We started our new school year today. Middle is in 11th grade <eek!> and Little started 5th. I’m almost out of the elementary years, y’all! I feel so old. Oldest starts college on Monday. Funny how that’s not what makes me feel old.

Anyway, some sense of schedule and normalcy has returned to Casa Quinn and I expect to be back to regular blogging now. Thanks for not quitting me during my unplanned summer hiatus and I’ve already made a note to post in May 2019 that I’ll probably be gone again.

2018 – The First Third in Review

This last weekend things came to a head for me. Mr. Quinn ran his longest triathlon to date and that took basically all weekend between prep, packing, planning, laundry, driving, volunteering, and so on. I had three zero word days in a row and on Sunday night when I sat down to try and write at 6:47 p.m. after having been up since 4 a.m. I just cried. I opened Scrivener and I cried.

I wanted to make goal so bad. I wanted to write something. Anything. I wanted words to count so I could make the goal for April. I wanted to make the goal for the first time in 2018.

I didn’t. Mr. Quinn, also exhausted beyond words, reached over and gently closed the laptop. He turned on something on TV and told me to go to sleep.

I did. And I slept for 12 hours straight. It was glorious.

On Monday morning I had a meeting with my staff. In case you’re wondering that’s my agent (me), the CFO (me), the CEO (me), the marketing team (me), the cover artist (also me), and my therapists (the dogs). Yeah, I did some hard thinking about whether this plan was working.

I posted before about Wayne Stinett’s process of writing, editing, and planning production. I committed to trying it alongside the 365 writing challenge I was also participating in.

I had intended to step back and evaluate the process and tracking at the end of March (first quarter), but got busy and forgot, so I moved it to the end of April – the first third of the year.

The Stats

As of April 30th:

I have written 105,438 words.

That’s a lot for me! I am really very proud of the amount of writing I’ve done this year. For comparison, I had written 48,290 words by the end of April 2017. I’ve more than doubled my output year over year!

However, you’ll notice (because I’m going to do the math for you) that my average per day isn’t what I had initially planned. I had set a goal of 1,200 words per day and managed to hit about 879 words per day in reality. If I had stayed on goal I would have had 144,000 words.

The biggest obstacle I had to attain that goal is that it’s 365 days, meaning the idea is to write on the weekends and holidays and vacations. Never take a day off.

That hasn’t worked for me, and it likely never will. I am busy on the weekends, volunteering and spending time with my family. I thought I’d be able to tuck writing into little spaces on weekends and keep my goal pace, but it’s just too much. There were a lot of zeros on the weekends.

And those zeros and never making the goal for the month started to wear on me. It’s not a good thing to constantly feel behind and like you just can’t succeed.

Going Forward

It’s May 1st, so we’re starting the second third of 2018. After taking a hard look at my reality I had a decision to make. I could try to meet the weekly goal of 8,400 words per week in 5 days – or 1,680 words per day – or I could lower my overall goal.

After I looked at my average daily output (879 words) I decided that setting a goal of nearly double that five days a week was probably only going to set me up for more failure. Wayne Stinett does 1,000 words a day as his goal and it seems to be working for him. Five thousand words a week is the advice of the pro, so who am I to argue?

Starting today, that’s my goal. It feels achievable and I even went in and reworked my production calendar with the new word counts. Yes, it takes longer to write a book at these lower word counts, but I would rather take a little longer and keep a schedule that leads to feelings of success.

I also want to not feel guilty for taking off weekends or taking a vacation from writing (my job) every now and then.  If for no other reason than my mental health.

I’m looking forward to coming back and reporting on this at the end of August. Thanks for coming along on this adventure with me!

On Business | April 2018

Starting a new (semi) regular column here about the business of writing and publishing. I’m by no means an expert at either, but if anything I stumble across or into is helpful, well, then it’s worth it.

As always, I use affiliate links which sends a few pennies my way if you click and shop on Amazon.

I released The Star of Time into Kindle Unlimited on January 2, 2018.

First Quarter Results

Paperback Sales: 1

KU Reads: 1,524 pages (4 full reads)

Payment: $8.80

Y’all. People read my book. They read it and in most cases read all the way through. In one instance, they stopped about 100 pages in and I know this because it was in the UK store. So, I looked, and that’s where my characters start really talking about liberty and King George and they’re, you know, in favor of liberty for the colonies. I guess the poor person reading figured they weren’t going to win here. Heh.

Anyway, I could get really down about all this, but I’m not. It’s the first time I’ve ever been paid for my writing, and $8 is a start.

Second Quarter Plans

I’ll be releasing The Star of Fire during the second quarter, most likely, also into KU, since that’s where the readers seem to be (for now). Honestly, I’m not sure what’s going on in KU. It’s well-established that the system is broken, but the question remains, what is Amazon’s plan (if any) for fixing it?

Until I have more information there, I will tentatively be staying in KU.

I’m also head-down-working on The Star of Storms. New setting, new time period, new characters. What could go wrong? (Pro tip: everything.)

There’s a solid 20,000+ words written so far and I am well on my way to winning Camp NaNoWriMo this month.

Also, I’m adjusting my master plan. I’ve been mulling over the ending of The Star of Fire and it just hasn’t been sitting right. So, I’m pushing that pub date back so I can get it fixed after I have a sit-down with the Beta feedback. (Speaking of Beta readers – if you’re interested, use the contact link at the top of the page and I’ll add you to the list!)

All in all, things are progressing and I’m really still very happy to be in this game. Now, I’ll be taking my $8 and buying a cup of coffee. 🙂

 

 

Quinning | April 2018

I think I mentioned that March would be light on the blog. I wasn’t kidding. 😉

I know that I’ve heard other writers talk about self-doubt and imposter syndrome. I haven’t heard anyone discuss what I often experience – each book as a different sort of humbling.

I was so proud when I finished my first book. Hitting “publish” and seeing it go live on Amazon? Amazing.

I remember thinking that I finally had a good handle on story and on what it takes to write a book and bring it to press.

Then I sat down to write book two. Humbled.

The story was tight. I plotted it. I followed the character’s lead. I did everything right, but man, I felt like it took longer than it should have.

I finally put a bow on book two. I had a schedule and a plan, my friend. And then Mr. Quinn expressed his displeasure at being left out as an alpha reader and I had to adjust (more on that in a minute).

Last month I sat down to write book three and I was gutted. Humbled again.

See, every book in this series deals with a natural disaster. Book three is especially striking to me because the disaster was natural but the hubris wasn’t. But the initial plot felt like it followed the same formula of book two and that’s not what I want.

I want to be able to tell the story of the disaster with humanity while also keeping the series of events fresh. So there’s a new challenge!

I think I might have it nailed down, and Mr. Quinn is reading book two.

March Goals

  • My production schedule actually calls for this The Star of Storms to be done on May 4th, but we’ve had a couple of conflicts come up that are going to put me away from my computer for several days during that time. It’s going to be a test of my ability to hold a schedule, that’s for sure. There will be some writing ahead and probably some wailing and gnashing of teeth as well. Check back in a month.

Much wailing and gnashing of teeth. I called it. Reworking the plot made the deadline tighter, but still in the realm of achievable. I’ll be putting my head down for the rest of April and may come screaming into a stop on May 4th. Still, I can edit a mass of words in a knot. I can’t edit an empty page.

  • Work on the romance. Back-burner, but hope to get some more words in on this one if I can.

Not at this time. I’ve looked at my production schedule and may get to revisit this over the summer. We’ll see.

April Goals

Finish Book three.

That’s it.

As to publishing book two, I am thinking through some stuff. I’ll be back with a post on that in a couple of days because I think my initial plan won’t work. Stay tuned.