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!


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.


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!

Follow the Playbook!

It’s taken me five years to get a book to the point where it even felt close to publishable. Along the way I learned a lot about story and writing and novels and marketing… the list goes on. I learned all of that by reading non-fiction books dedicated to the subject. Other writers, successful writers wrote their playbook. I bought it, read it, and learned from it. I would hesitate to say my books are formulaic, though they follow a basic story structure, I followed the playbook put out by other writers who have found what works.

We went to the movies last weekend for Mr. Quinn’s birthday. He and I both love a good comic book movie. I love Marvel. Like, we don’t miss opening weekend when a Marvel movie comes out. I own them all and we regularly rewatch them, and I don’t like to rewatch movies. Admittedly, not all of the movies are home runs, but most of them are good and the way they all tie together is my favorite thing.

If you’ve been paying attention, no Marvel movies came out this month. We’ve already seen Thor: Ragnarok (twice). So, what superhero comic book movie did we go see?

Justice League.

I hate walking into a movie silently thinking pleasedon’tsuckpleasedon’tsuckpleasedon’tsuck.

But that’s what I do every time we watch a DC Comics movie. And usually, they’re stinkers.

This one was too.

I’m not going to review it. You can google and find better reviews than I could write. I agreed with most that I read about the problems that the movie had.


Seriously, the spoilers are mild. But if you haven’t seen Justice League and don’t want any spoilers, please stop now.

What I want to throw out is this: Marvel wrote the playbook here. They’ve been so very successful. They make money hand over fist every time they put a movie out. All DC had to do was follow the playbook. Allow me to lay it out like I think it should have been done:

  1. A new Batman movie. In Justice League, there’s a little scene where Batman is really feeling his age. It was a minor theme in the Dark Knight trilogy as well. Reboot it, but skip the origin story. Do a movie where Batman struggles with getting older. Maybe he retires and focuses on training Robin and Batgirl. But then they face a foe so powerful that they all three have to work together and he realizes the pain is worth it to help his friends and save Gotham…
  2. Keep Wonder Woman exactly how it was. One nitpick (and I could be off-base here I don’t remember if it was in there or not): hint at the existence of the Motherbox – something powerful being protected and hidden by the Amazons. Just a hint.
  3. Aquaman Movie: Jason Momoa could carry a movie. Fight me if you disagree. Anyway, cover the history of the Atlanteans. Again, there was an intriguing discussion about his parents and childhood in Justice League, but I need/want to know the story! Give me the story! Also, hint about another Motherbox.
  4. Superman – kill him or whatever. IDC.
  5. Cyborg movie: Perfect for current affairs and the rise of AI. He struggles with letting the AI make decisions and control him, almost gives in, but learns that humanity must have a say! Here, we learn a lot more about the capabilities of the Motherbox and see it in use – also alerting Steppenwolf.
  6. NOW! Do a Justice League movie. We know the characters, know what they’re capable of. We love them because we’ve seen them struggle individually. Now they have to come together to fight the big bad! Yay!

I would watch the heck out of those movies…

If you’re curious – I’ll talk a little next week about how this applies to writers.

Of Marathons + Men

It’s been a big weekend. Mr. Quinn ran a marathon yesterday. It’s the second one he’s done and I’m super proud of him.

We’ve spent so much time training this fall it’s not even funny. And when I say we, I mean it. He runs, of course, but I drive support, meeting him along his route to hand off water and nutrition.

To have it culminate in race day is exciting for both of us!

In other (writing) news:

  • I am at the halfway point for my new book. Struggling with this one as a romance. Maybe it’s more women’s fiction. At any rate, I think I’ll do a little more research and finesse this one into a romance if needed. I know some will say “write what you want to read,” and I would so read the heck out of this book, but I also need to give fair time to “write what you want to sell!”
  • Been working on 2018 goals and plans. I’m legitimately excited in a way that I haven’t been in a long time about my plans. 2017 was a big/great year. I’ve completed 2 books and roughed out a third, and am writing the fourth book. That’s huge. I’ve got an editor. I have a cover. I have an actual plan to make this a business.
  • I put down in my weekly tasks that I needed to spend some time on certain tasks. Then I didn’t block those tasks on my calendar. Whoops! Guess what’s getting shifted to next week cause I got caught up doing other things?
  • I’ve written something every day this December. Even on Friday when I was so busy and mostly out of the house. I did a 5-minute sprint that netted 141 words. Not much, but farther than I would have been. I’m aiming for at least a chapter a day. Not always hitting the mark, but progress and all that.

In other non-writing news:

  • It’s purging time around here. Got lots of outgrown toys <sniff! when did my baby grow up?> packed up and ready for the attic.
  • Putting the finishing touches on Christmas gifts this week. I have a weighted blanket to sew!
  • I started my 2018 bullet journal and I am so pleased with it!

Have a great week y’all!


NaNoWriMo Meal Plan

I woke up this morning and stretched. The dogs didn’t wake me up to go out, so it was a good, full night’s sleep.

Then I realized it was Halloween.

October 31.

NaNoEve! Holy CRAP!

I need a plan…

Last year, I posted a few easy meals for NaNo, you can find them here.

Adding to that this week – bonus! There’s still time for you to run to the store tonight and grab the ingredients here to make a fabulous week’s worth of dinners!

Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken and Vegetables – Crockpot. Veggies cook along with the meat. Morning prep. Don’t think about it again ’til dinner. Win!

Taco Tuesday – Use the taco recipe I posted last year. Make meat in the crockpot. Everyone assembles their own tacos.

Jambalaya – Crockpot again. It gets a work out in November.

Spaghetti – Mine’s easy. Brown ground turkey. Dump in a jar of your fave sauce. This week I am using a couple of spaghetti squash (cooked like this) and serving these roasted veggies. Because roasted veggies are easy, but make you look like an over-achiever in the kitchen.

Pizza Night! We have DiGiornio’s. It’s Friday and I’m tired.

That’s leaves you on your own for the weekend. Remind yourself that you need to eat leftovers, or make a sandwich.

Also, I don’t care what anyone says, kids will not be harmed by eating cereal for dinner.

Summer Vacation 2016

Another summer is winding down.

My last update in May held a schedule for writing and releasing a trilogy of books in early 2017. While I am off schedule I think it’s still doable to release as planned. We’ll see how editing book one goes. I’ll post an updated goal schedule later this week.

As for summer vacation, it was similar to last year. Similarly AWESOME!

I still spent quite a bit of time in the car but for different reasons this year. The oldest can drive now, so that helps, but she also attended camps in Central Texas and Arkansas this year, and who drove her to said camps? Yeah.

Middle and little are still busy, and with oldest driving herself to work and such, she’s not always available for taxi duty. This too shall pass and one day I will be wishing I had this time with them back.

The writing took a back seat until last week. I eased back into a daily writing habit with no goals. Made some definite progress, but it’s hard getting back in the habit of being okay with the pile of crap that is the first draft.

Before I started writing, I came back and re-read the last third of the book to get back into the world. You know what? It wasn’t terrible! It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t garbage… So, there’s that.

What was funny was that the read-through introduced a new problem – unclear goals and motivations for just about everything and everyone.

I kept writing, Gotta finish the first draft before I can finesse it, but if knowing is half the battle, I feel like I’m almost there. I have been puzzling out the whole tangled knot of GMC for each character and I think I have a good plan in place for when I go fixing everything.

Still, a couple of things coming before summer closes up shop for the year, but I’m mostly back in business.

Here’s hoping your summer was awesome too!