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

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!

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!

Quinning the Internets | November 2017

Just checking in with a little update about the last few months.

  • I just sent my manuscript off to a real-life editor. It’s both terrifying and exciting. Like, seriously, my palms are sweaty thinking about it.
  • Christmas season is in full swing around here. My oldest texted me while we were in California and asked to put up the Christmas tree. That was three weeks ago.
  • I ran a half-marathon! That’s why we were in California. I ran the Disneyland Super Heroes Half-Marathon. Y’all, it was SO FUN! We ran the first 4 miles in the park and the rest through the city of Anaheim. There were cheerleaders and marching bands and radio DJs all along the route. Best part? My husband ran the whole thing with me and with his help I finished in 3:14 – which was 15 minutes faster than I had ever done!
  • Thanks to that epic trip to Disneyland I got way behind on NaNoWriMo. That’s okay. I’ll still have more words at the end of the month than if I wasn’t writing.
  • We had a fun Thanksgiving holiday – managed to visit with all the family and enjoy the three new babies that have joined our family this year.
  • Oh, and since I haven’t updated in that long, Halloween was really great too. I took my youngest trick or treating and he wound up with two full buckets of candy. He later demolished the candy in like, three days. So that wasn’t great, but you know…
  • Watching Kimmy Schmidt. Get a Netflix subscription and watch it already.

I’ll be back with an update soon-ish. Hopefully, I can document this little editing adventure I’m on now!