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.

My Most Important Lesson {To Date}

I think all newborn baby writers tap away on their first book with the latent idea that their book is for the masses. Everyone will read and enjoy my masterpiece they think.

Other writers know better.

I know better (now).

The truth is that not every book is for every reader. There is no Everyman in the world who will universally love every book ever.

Never was this lesson driven home for me more than over the last week. I found myself, as I usually do around this time of year, wanting to read some good romance novels. This can be tricky for me, because I enjoy specific kinds of romance and Amazon isn’t the greatest place to actually find what you’re looking for in most romance sub-categories.

I love sweet romance, and while I’ll read steamy from certain authors, those have to be highly recommended (so leave me a list in the comments would you, Mama needs some good romances! Still!).

Anyway, I found a handful of new to me authors with books that looked like they might work and I downloaded them to my Kindle.

And I deleted them almost as quickly.

My first reaction was “Those weren’t good books.”

But, I was wrong.

See, the first book was deleted because it was written in first person present. I discarded that one before I was three sentences in. So, I can’t say it was a bad book based on a stylistic choice.

The second one was not a sweet romance and danced over the light steam line with impunity. Again, a stylistic choice, though I wish Amazon would make romance categorization easier/better/whatever.

Those books weren’t bad books, they just weren’t the books for me!

I don;t like first person present. But other people do. They like to write it and they like to read it. I don’t, but that did not make this book a bad book.

I don’t like erotic romance. But, other people do. They like to read it and they like to write it. I don’t, but that did not make this book a bad book.

And that, I think, is an important idea to keep in mind when reading reviews on your own work. The people that didn’t like your book may say that you wrote a bad book. They may offer constructive criticism. But it may be that their dislike should only be read as “this wasn’t the book for them.”

For the record, I didn’t review either book. Nobody deserves a bad review based on stylistic choices in my opinion. And I did find a great book that fit the bill, so that was a good thing as well.

But all of this was a great lesson for me. Readers are allowed to like what they like and they don’t have to justify that.

Getting a Move On

Every writing book I’ve read in the last few weeks has had one thing in common. Besides talking about writing.

They all have spent a fair amount of words on the importance of moving your body. And I get it. Writing is super sedentary. Literally nothing I do requires me to move. I could work in bed all day if I wanted.

That’s not a good thing. It sounds amazing, but it’s not good.

So, I signed up for a 5k in March. And I fired up the old Couch to 5k app again. It’s not my first time racing, and hopefully it won’t be my last. On a positive note, I didn’t hate running as much as I did before. Of course, I’ve been out exactly one time, so talk to me in a few weeks about how I’m feeling.

This time around I really want to pay attention to whether or not I feel more creative overall. That’s supposed to be a benefit of getting out and moving. I think last time I was so miserable the only creative boost I saw was in writing about food. Ha!

I won’t bore you with training details here, but will let you know how the 5k goes.

Merry Christmas!

The funny thing about writing is that it, well, requires a LOT of writing. And that’s what I’ve been up to.

All that to say, I hope you have a very Merry Holiday season. I have some posts planned for the new year and will see you then!

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.

 

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.

Winding Down February

I got an email newsletter from Elise Blaha-Cripe yesterday. I love her stuff. She has a great eye for color and craft and her attitude of “just get it done” is something I am trying hard to adopt, knowing that you can only edit words that have been written. Anyway, in her email, she mentioned that it felt like January lasted 7 weeks and February zoomed by. And I identified strongly with this. I know at least once in January I woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat fully believing that it was mid-April and I had missed all my deadlines. And now, on the last day of February, I feel like it was just February 4th yesterday. What kind of crazy time-warp is this??

I am winding down the self-edit of The Star of Fire, book two in The Star of Time Series. I have a chapter to go and then I need to drop in some little morsels before I can send this on to beta and editing. Come hell or high water, it will be done by Friday and off to beta.

This is a book that I wish I had written like I laid out in the self-editing post. It really could have benefitted from that kind of writing and I am excited to try it out with the next book scheduled for plotting and writing in March. Will report back.

Completely unrelated, but necessary note: As spring approaches (apologies to anyone who may not see spring for a few more weeks or months – remember this when I complain that it is eleventy million degrees here later this summer) I may be more scarce. We have tractor repairs to do, mowing to start and a bunch of new fruit trees to plant and get situated. We’ve had almost two solid weeks of rain and I shudder to think about what the yard will look like once it is dry enough to mow.

Another, sort of related, yet unnecessary note: In the email referenced above Elise said that she is writing a book on productivity and can I say that I am insanely excited for this book to come out (2019, I think)? She gets more done in a day than I sometimes get done in a week and I’m just … well, I could use the help, I think. Besides that, I love reading about productivity and the fact that she’s got kids and a successful business means a lot. It’s different when you balance those two and a lot of books I’ve come across feel like they’ve been written in a kind of childless vacuum where the only life priority is work. And that doesn’t, well, work for me.