Chicago | The Star of Fire

I first visited Chicago in 2001. It was December, and it was cold. I was working for an event planning group and we had a show the early part of that month. I was also 5 months pregnant.

If you don’t know, McCormick Place is huge! Our show was there and it was tiny in comparison to some of the major shows that McCormick hosts. We did a lot of walking (and running) and the show went pretty well – but that’s a story for … uhhhh … never. I will say this: Chicago was the first and last place I ever got yelled at for putting a hook on a grid wall. Apparently, there’s a picture hanging union in Chicago and I had overstepped. I apologized and all was forgiven, but man, it was eye-opening for me, coming from a place where unions aren’t as big a part of life.

I digress. After the show, I stayed in town for a couple of days with my work friend and we were able to see the sights. We’d had an event at the Field Museum (in the atrium, and Sue was right there!), so I’d gotten to see that and we’d had another event at the Adler Planetarium, so I’d been there, but what we really wanted to see was the van Gogh exhibit at the Art Institute.

We got up bright and early to get to the Institute and worked our way through the exhibit, which culminated in a tiny room where The Starry Night was the only item on display (I think). We got in the room along with what felt like 200 of our closest friends and suddenly the temperature felt like it had climbed to about a million degrees. I worked my way to the back of the room trying to find cooler air (remember – 5 months pregnant) and suddenly my vision started to go dark. I think I may have called out my friends name, but it gets a little fuzzy. The next thing I really remember is sitting on a bench in one of the main exhibits with my head between my knees.

I joke now that The Starry Night was so amazing it made me pass out. Interesting sidenote: the child I was pregnant with is now almost 16 and my most artistic child. Coincidence?

The point is that I fell in love with Chicago on this trip. The history, the art, the architecture, the vibrancy of the city. I am a self-professed country girl, but Chicago is the one city that I would visit over and over. I put Chicago over New York. Every time.

I was really captured, like I think so many people are, by the mystery and tragedy of the Great Chicago Fire. It wasn’t until a decade and a half later and multiple visits to Chicago, that I decided to make that event the backdrop to book two of The Star of Time Series – The Star of Fire.

Recent Reads

I am over on Goodreads where I’ve set a goal to read at least 20 books this year (not including my own which I read to edit and make notes on).

I’ve finished two so far this year.

I try not to overdo it because I have the unfortunate inability to “just read a couple of chapters at bedtime.” I start reading and 6 hours later, as I finish the book, tell myself that 2 hours of sleep is plenty for the average book-loving human.

But, I enjoyed these books and thought you might too.

For Romance readers (affiliate link):

This was a sweet little Christmas romance. Admittedly, you may not be in the mood for a few months, but you can always add it to the “Want To Read” Shelf. ( Note: While the main characters do not have on-the-page sex, things do get to a mildly steamy level, so be aware. I wouldn’t categorize this as straight “sweet/clean” romance.)

For Historical Fiction readers (affiliate link):

This one is a little bit of a generational saga and a little bit of “finding yourself,” I think. It started slow, but once I was into it I had to finish, which is what we all want, right? If you’re interested in the time frame/location, it covers from just before the turn of the 20th century to 1950. There’s some back and forth in timelines, and deals with both World Wars.


You can click on the book images to go to Amazon and purchase if you’re interested. They’re affiliate links, so I’ll earn a few pennies if you do. Do know this, I bought these books (or found them free through BookBub or other advertising sources) and the authors don’t know me and nobody asked me to read or recommend these books. If I ever do read and recommend an ARC or author friend’s book, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Self-Editing for Dummier Dummies (like me)

Every writer generally falls into a process that works for them. But if there’s one thing I know to be true, it’s this: Every writer is always looking out for a process that is better than the one they have. Maybe deep down we all hope that a tweak in the process will result in the next bestseller?

Anyway, I’m no different. My process has generally been this –

  • sketch out a plot (using Tick-Tock Plot*)
  • Move the beats into Scrivener notecards so I always know what’s coming next
  • Start writing at the beginning and power through to the end
  • Let the manuscript rest while wandering aimlessly about the house
  • Think, “I should probably write another book”
  • Procrastinate on Kboards
  • Worry that Amazon is plotting ways to wring more money from indie authors (pro tip: they are. Quit worrying about it.)
  • After a month, re-read the old manuscript. Cringe in places. Nod along in others.
  • Extensive re-write.
  • Re-read again.
  • Tell husband that I’m going to trash the whole thing and go work for Amazon
  • Get talked off the ledge and spend some time moping – maybe take a nap.
  • Start work on another book
  • Send the previous book to editor and hope for the best

Unfortunately, as “writerly” as this process is, complete with despair and ennui, it’s not going to work anymore now that I want to treat this like a business.

I made it a goal in 2018 to write 1200 words a day, 365 days this year. When I sat down to update my personal writing tracker (pick yours here. I use Loki.) I did the math real quick (on a calculator because I am a writer and math makes my writing brain hurt) and realized that if I stuck to the goal that I would be producing 438,000 words this year.

Uhhhhh….. that’s a lot.

Like, that’s almost 4 Lindsay Buroker books. Or, if I’m closer to The Star of Time length, nearly 6 full-length books.

I quickly realized that just bumbling through 2018 wasn’t going to work.

In a delightful fit of kismet, I stumbled into a thread on Kboards (yeah, I was procrastinating, leave me alone!) started by Wayne Stinnett, a writer that I admire quite a bit for many reasons, but mostly because he’s super generous.

Anyway, as people were discussing writing 5,000 words a week someone linked to a blog post he did about his process and I clicked over because that many successful books can’t be an accident.

If you aren’t going to read it, and I think you should, I’ll wait …

It works like this:

Write to your daily word goal. For Wayne, that’s 1000 words. For me, 1200. Sometimes I go over and that’s okay.

He uses Word, so he creates a chapter heading with the word count and moves on with his day. I just write in one scene card in Scrivener then title the scene and add the date in the Notebook, like so:

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When I get ready to start the next day, I go back and read and edit the previous two days writing. Since doing this, I’ve fixed typos and generally added about 200 words to the daily count. I think the flow has improved and I find it’s easier to edit since I’m already neck deep in the story. It’s also easy to pick out little places where some more detail or finessing of the words is needed.

The goal here is to end with a fairly clean draft that won’t need the rest and re-read. This would significantly speed up my process and, taking that into account, along with my goal word count, I sat down and figured out that I could write and release potentially five books and a novella this year!

I also shamelessly copied Wayne’s production schedule. It was a huge find for me (and again, duh!) because even though I’ve read and heard writers talking about planning out releases for the coming year, I’ve never stumbled across it laid out in a way that clicks with my brain.

The x-factor here, of course, is can I get 1200 words a day? So far it hasn’t been hard. A challenge some days, finding a block of time to sit and write, but I can knock out 1200 words in an hour to an hour and a half. Several days I’ve topped 1500 words and have built up a little buffer for the inevitable sick day. I also planned in scheduled vacations and time off.

I am so grateful for writers like Wayne that put their process into detail and freely share it because it really helped me see more of the big picture for 2018.

I feel like I can relax a little and enjoy the journey because I have a map now – I know what I’m working on every day through October 5. I didn’t schedule anything after that in case I need to move or shift things around to accommodate a lightning strike idea. If I arrive in September and am on track I’ll probably figure out the rest of the year at that point and go ahead and plan 2019 as well.

I really hope that someday I can be as big a help to someone as Wayne has been for me.

*Again, an affiliate link. Thanks for the support, though.

The Star of Fire | Progress Report

I booked a spot with the editor for The Star of Fire in March. It’s about half ready to go now, I think. That gives me the month of February to complete my edit and then I’ll send it over to him so he can rip it to shreds.

I did a read through in October, I think, so it’s been a while since I’ve touched it, which isn’t ideal, but no choice but to press onward. Got a tentative release date at the end of March, and will update here as we get closer.

 

Quick & Easy Meals for the Busy Writer

It’s been a perfect storm, this new year.

I set a personal goal to write 1,200 words every day. I am primarily only counting new words written in my fiction works.

An aside, So far, so good. I am working on the start of a new series, a contemporary romance set in the fictional town of Deerlake, Colorado. That one won’t release until September because it’s a Christmas novel and I think that most people are probably D.O.N.E. with Christmas at the moment. This one is scheduled to be done by the end of the month and I am on track to reach that goal, then it will rest for awhile.

Mr. Quinn also upped his game and has multiple triathlons coming up this year. It’s very exciting, but he wants to follow a paleo diet. In case you don’t know, a paleo diet consists mostly of lean meats and vegetables. No bread, no dairy. And no processed foods. So, there goes every quick and easy meal in my repertoire.

Not so fast! I’ve found a few new meals that I can get to the table pretty easily and can even have them going while I work. I thought I would round them up here for all of us:

Spaghetti squash spaghetti – This one is a favorite for all of us! I cover the spaghetti squash strands with spaghetti sauce. Cook a pound or 2 of ground meat (I use turkey) and add sauce of choice. I’ve used canned tomatoes and spices to make my own but sometimes just used a canned sauce with the lowest amount of sugar I can find.

Southern fried sausage and cabbage – tried this for the first time a couple of nights ago. There were no leftovers despite nearly everyone in my house professing hatred for cabbage.

Pot Roast – there’s something about throwing some stuff in a crockpot in the morning and eating dinner later that night without any further thought. This recipe uses onion soup mix, but I just closed my eyes and used it, figuring it was a small enough addition that the diet wasn’t blown. I set this up and then spend the day writing!

Quinning! | January 2018

I was scrolling back through old blog posts and smiling at how far I’ve come. When I started blogging it was as an unpublished writer. Now I am a full-blown published author. It’s an amazing feeling.

Anyway, I thought I’d wrap up December’s goals and share January’s now that the month is half over (whoops). I got caught up in release day excitement that I forgot all about it!

December Goals

  • Work towards completing my NaNoWriMo novel. This one is a bit of a departure for me (just like 2016, actually, though I never finished that one). It’s a sweet romance set in a little town in Colorado. I’m almost halfway in and still don’t completely hate it, so I thought I’d finish and see if the thing has legs. In the writing, I’ve found some side characters that would be easy to use as expansions into a series. Early stages yet, but…

I worked on this off and on in December. Made some good forward progress, but it just wasn’t clicking. I knew I wanted it to be a romance, but it was draggy and bloated and had all kind of problems. I made it to about the 50% point before I was ready to throw in the towel. Then, randomly scrolling Facebook, I saw a post in one of my writer’s groups about Romancing the Beat* by Gwyn Hayes and I bought it right away. Changed the whole direction of the story. Plotted the thing back out the week before Christmas and then took my seasonal break (Christmas to New Year). This book is in the January goals. 

  • Tie up loose ends for the launch of Star of Time. These are book-related details. Think licenses for cover elements, working on front-matter, working on back-matter. I’d like to have that settled before the book comes back to me.

Finished this one! Obviously. Since the book is totally available on Amazon now. You know, if you’re interested. 

  • Tie up loose ends on the business side of things. I bought my domain, and I set up a domain email address. I also started a newsletter (link in the sidebar if you’d like to sign up). I want to get a simple auto-responder ready to go.

Did this one too! Got y little newsletter set up. Made a simple autoresponder. Baby steps to finding those 1,000 true fans.

  • Complete my edit of Star of Fire. This is book 2. I’d love to be able to send it to the editor in January/February for a first-quarter 2018 release. Still, a lot depends on what happens with the edit of SoT.

Yeah, no. Didn’t even touch it. Reworked my goals for 2018 and created a release schedule. Now that I know how long editing takes and what to expect and what I can reasonably get done in a day, I think I have a pretty good plan.

  • Plan the launch. Look, I have no illusions about how this is likely to go. I am a literal unknown, I’ll be tossing a book into the roiling waters of Amazon and crossing my fingers for the most part. But, I’ve watched a couple of other first-timers make some headway and I plan to evaluate and adapt their strategies for my book.

Did this! Set up a pretty simple AMS ad just to learn the ropes. Low daily spend. Lower expectations. I’ll mess with advertising and planning promotions and stuff for book tow on. You know, when sell-through becomes a thing.

  • Finish the plot plan for book three. That’s the next writing project. Looking to start that one probably mid-January.

Again, nope. Got that worked into 2018 goals too!

January Goals

  • Finish the sweet romance. I am giving myself to the end of the month to knock out this little book. It won’t get published until late in the year since it is a Christmas-themed book, but I wrote out the beats in December and wanted to finish while it was fresh.
  • Write 1,200 words a day. I joined a writing challenge group to hold me accountable and so far, so good. I haven’t hit goal every day, especially at the beginning of the week when I was rewriting the first quarter of the romance. Once I got into fresh territory the words came faster and the goal was reached more consistently. Public shame is a strong motivator, I guess.

*Affiliate link. I might earn a few pennies if you click through and by Gwyn’s amazing book!

What Phoebe Wore

In the initial drafts of Star of Time I really just ran by what Phoebe wore while she was in 1776. It wasn’t until the last draft that I realized what a role her clothes could play and how they limited her to some effect. Not that she lets much limit her, really.

Anyway, I started doing some hardcore research and consider my eyes opened! So many layers! So much fabric!

After all the under layers (which you can read more about here) you get to put on the pieces of your outer clothing.

I fell down a rabbit hole of information on all of this. The best resources I found were the wonderful women who design, sew, and wear clothing from the period. Bless them! It’s through them that I learned the difference between a Robe à la Française and a Robe à l’Anglaise and the real differences between gowns of different time periods.

The dresses below inspired Phoebe’s clothes. They are period pieces in The Metropolitan Museum of Art collection. You can view more of their beautiful gowns here.

These dresses are so pretty they almost make me want to make and wear my own.

Almost.

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Robe à la Française – This dress fabric was the inspiration for one of Phoebe’s dresses. I changed it to a Robe à l’Anglaise in the book though.

 

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Love the sleeves on this one and the contrasting petticoat. 

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The way the neckerchief lays here would perfectly frame the Star of Time. 

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This one inspired the everyday dress that Phoebe wears. I changed the colors though.

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This masterpiece inspired Phoebe’s party dress. Notice the wide hip effect created by the panniers. She would have looked very elegant – for awhile anyway. 😉

 

The Star of Time | Cover Reveal

covere

When seventeen-year-old Phoebe Harris wakes up in a dark alley she thinks she’s been abandoned and immediately starts trying to figure out how to get home. It’s only after she’s helped by a mysterious man in a tricorne hat that she realizes home may be farther away than she thought.

Trapped in the past, Phoebe learns that the necklace that connects her to her family contains a stone known as the Star of Time. It’s one of seven stones that can control the major elements created by the Greek gods. The Star of Time will allow Phoebe to travel through time if she unites the other six Star stones, but she’s not the only one who wants them. ​

Mistaken for a spy, hunted by a killer who wants the stones for his own gain, and battling her own emotions, can Phoebe survive the 18th century long enough to go home?