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.

Quinning | March 2018

Time to wrap up February and lay out the battle plan for March.

February 2018

  • Finish edit of Star of Fire – I finished my edit notes months ago (color me embarrassed) but still have to go through and make the actual edits. I also have to write at least three new scenes and add an entire secondary plot. So, no biggie. 😮 I’ve already booked a spot with the editor for March and I’d love to have this to him by 3/1. Head down and get to work time I suppose.

Done. Didn’t finish by 3/1, but that was a self-imposed goal. Instead, I wrapped it up on 3/2 and sent it off for beta reading. Hoping for those notes back on Monday and then time to make changes and send it out for edits. Still on track for an April release.

  • In the course of scrapping my sweet Christmas romance, I had a brainstorm for a different book. I can’t help it! So I went ahead and started it. It’s a secondary project now and only gets work when/if I have time after working on SOF. Thankfully it avoids all the pitfalls I discovered with the first book and seems to be holding up better. If nothing else, it’s good practice for writing out of my home genre!

Sad story. Editing and writing don’t mix well for me. If I progressed in one I stalled on the other. So, the romance got shoved firmly to the back burner. I am crossing my fingers that I can work on it and The Star of Storms at the same time, maybe one in the morning and one in the evening, but the reality is that Storms takes priority. 

  • Sketch plot for book three – The Star of Storms. That’s right – that’s the title! I have the major plot points in my head, I just need to get them down on paper and start filling in the little twists and turns and figure out the motivations for the not-so-tiny cast of characters. Very exciting stuff! If all goes to plan (which it won’t, just sayin’) I should start drafting this book on 3/1. Fingers crossed!

I have a sketched-in plot, but not much more. I prefer to work with a beefier plot outline, so I am taking a few days to build that up, then I’ll be jumping into the story with both feet. 

Not writing related, but still goals for February:

  • My parents are going to be moving in temporarily. They’re building a tiny house, but aren’t quite ready to retire and my Dad was laid off work. So they’re in this weird holding pattern and don’t want to make a house payment on one salary. We’re returning the favor – we lived with them for a year while we built our house. Anyway, all that to say, I need to declutter and make some space. It’s amazing the debris that can build up in just 5 years.

Filled the recycle bin and trash can and took two loads to the charity resale shop. Still chipping away at this, hitting the clutter zones mostly on weekends when I feel okay taking time away from writing and schooling the little people. 

  • Get tax stuff together for the accountant. I stopped doing our taxes years ago (actually, I put my foot down and told Mr. Quinn that it was getting too complicated and I didn’t want to be responsible for a major mistake). I just need to make sure all the papers are present and accounted for so I can drop them off. My writing won’t affect our taxes for 2017, so there’s that. 2018 will be a different story!

This is D.O.N.E. Dropped off the paperwork last week! Yay!


 

March 2018

March is all about writing.

Screen Shot 2018-02-28 at 3.15.08 PM

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

That’s it! Like I said, all about the writing this month!

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.