The Upside of Addiction for Writers

upside addiction writers
When we think addiction, our first thoughts are likely to be drugs and/or alcohol, possibly nicotine—i.e., substance abuse. These addictions are defined by the psychological and physical inability to stop consuming a chemical, drug, or substance, even though it is causing psychological and physical harm. These addictions provide almost limitless possibilities for tension, conflict, and drama—and they are well documented.

 

upside addiction writers

But wait! There’s more! Some addictions also involve an inability to stop partaking in activities, such as gambling, eating, or working. In these circumstances, a person has a behavioral addiction.

Addicts cannot control how they use a substance or partake in an activity, and they become dependent on it to cope with daily life. As writers, think of addictions as a path to comfort for your characters. As such, any comforting activity or substance could become an addiction.
 
shopping therapy
[Source: Pinterest]
Usually, people start using a drug or engaging in an activity voluntarily. But addiction reduces self-control. There have been many cartoons and jokes about shopping therapy. Consider the implications of a shopping addiction.

Symptoms

  • Uncontrollably seeking drugs or uncontrollably engaging in harmful levels of the addictive behavior, e.g., the shopper spends so much money that it endangers the family finances.
  • Neglecting or losing interest in activities that do not involve the harmful substance or behavior, e.g., dropping out of exercise classes, bridge, etc., in favor of eBay.
  • Relationship difficulties, which often involve lashing out at people who point out the dependency. In the shopping example, arguments with one’s significant other are obvious!
  • An inability to stop using a drug, though it may be causing health problems or personal problems, such as issues with employment or relationships. So, maybe the shopping addict is shopping online during work hours.
  • Hiding substances or behaviors and otherwise exercising secrecy, for example, by refusing to explain injuries that occurred while under the influence. In the case of the shopping addict, maybe shredding credit card statements so family members won’t see the dozens of PayPal charges.
  • Profound changes in appearance, including a noticeable abandonment of hygiene. For the shopping addict, noticeable changes might include a sudden increase in fashionable accessories, new golf clubs, etc.
  • Increased risk-taking, both to access the substance or activity and while using it or engaging in it. You fill in the examples! Maybe the money runs out and theft results.

 

Withdrawal

depression addiction symptom

Stopping the use of a drug can lead to anxiety.

These symptoms include:

  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • tremors and shaking
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fatigue
  • a loss of appetite

Some of these symptoms are more typical of substance abuse than of behavioral addiction, but all could work for a character. On the other hand, if a person has regularly used alcohol or benzodiazepines, and stop suddenly or without medical supervision, withdrawal can be fatal

In Summary

Addiction is a serious, chronic dependence on a substance or activity.

A person with an addiction is unable to stop taking a substance or engaging in a behavior, though it has harmful effects on daily living.

Misuse is different from addiction. Substance misuse does not always lead to addiction, while addiction involves regular misuse of substances or engagement in harmful behavior.

BOTTOM LINE: Nearly any comforting activity—be it eating in general or chocolate, drugs or gambling—can become an addictionSymptoms of addiction often include declining physical health, irritation, fatigue, and an inability to cease using a substance or engaging in a behavior. Addiction can lead to behavior that strains relationships and inhibits daily activities. Ceasing to use the substance or engage in the behavior often leads to withdrawal symptoms, as listed above.

bookaholic
The last word: A book addiction is relatively benign, although it seriously endangers your ignorance!

Focus on Fiona Quinn

fiona quinn

Fiona Quinn is an incredibly productive and wide-ranging writer, and I was eager to know more—so I asked!

VL: Since 2014, you have published 3 shorter works in anthologies and collections, 17 novels, and 7 coauthored books, been on the USA Today Bestseller’s List 4 times. How do you do all that?

FQ: Writing is my full-time job. My work day involves research, training, writing, and business/marketing. Though, I have found that being an author is a lifestyle more than a job. I enjoy it immensely, even when things become frustrating. There are lots of puzzles to be solved with each of my tasks. I crave the experience of growing and learning.

fiona quinn books

VL: Clearly, all that you are doing works for you! I’ve now read all of your books except Ours—which is on my list, of course, and found the variations fascinating. How would you characterize each of your series? And why did you go in each of these very different directions?

FQ: Because of the way that I like to read, I developed my books to be read in various ways. All of the books written in my Iniquus World can be read as a standalone, part of the series, or as part of a world. The Iniquus World is a place of tactical suspense.

My only series where it’s best to read books 1-4 (Book 5 out in May, 2019) is the Lynx Series. This is a series that has to do with the growth arc of my character Lexi Sobado and her psychic abilities. These abilities are both helpful and devastating as they put a bullseye on her back.

Strike Force – is the name of the team that Lexi works on. In this series, each book focuses on one of the ex-special forces operators and their love interest. These books are tactical military romantic suspense, heavy on the suspense. The women are strong, resourceful, and intelligent. Their capabilities are part of the solutions.

Uncommon Enemies are the books I wrote to focus on science. These books are tactical military romantic suspense. The women are PhDs in their fields. Their brilliant minds get them into trouble. Luckily, in each book they meet the man who is their compliment, intelligent, valorous, and capable, arriving on the scene with his own sets of expertise.

Kate Hamilton Mysteries are straight-up mystery novellas. Kate is a CSI high school teacher and very good at what she does. She is married to Reaper Hamilton and is having issues at home along with the mysteries she is solving. Mine is available on Amazon. Yours is available in a charity boxed set called Summer Snoops. Money earned through this set goes to support no-kill shelters. Ours will be available in the summer. But as this is part of the Iniquus World, characters from Iniquus are involved and soon her husband, an ex-SEAL, will be working with Iniquus, too. (That’s for a series that starts this fall.)

The FBI Joint Task Force – In this series, we see the other side of the Iniquus contract. What is going on behind the scenes at the FBI and why they are hiring Iniquus special operatives to intervene. These are also tactical military romantic suspense novels.

fiona quinn kay

Aside from my World of Iniquus I write If You See Kay (Badge Bunny Booze Mystery Collection) along with my dear friend Tina Glasneck. It started out as a joke, but we have learned a lot by writing these short books. They are serious mysteries hidden behind some bad puns and jokes. It’s an interesting puzzle to write something that will make someone snort their drink laughing and at the same time have a good mystery running. Tina and I have our seventh book all mapped out and ready for writing as soon as I’m done with Gulf Lynx. It’s great to break away from my individual writing to collaborate and get different sounds and voices in my head. I think this exercise helps me to keep all of my writing fresh and interesting.

The Elemental Witch Series – This series was a writing challenge I took on to help grow my skills. A friend invited me to write a dystopian urban fantasy as part of a project she was developing. My characters focus on the strengths of women and have a similar vibe to my Iniquus World but set in a future dystopia and using witchcraft for survival.

resistance elemental witch series

VL: Do you have a favorite series? Why is that your favorite? If you don’t have a favorite, why not?

FQ: The books I’ve written are the books I’d like to read. I love all my books like they’re my children. I think my favorite series to write has been Uncommon Enemies. All my books are fact based. These books allowed me to research scientific information and politics and marry the two in interesting ways. Though, that’s true for each of my books… Hmm, well… Actually, I think my favorite book is the one I’ve just finished writing.

VL: I can identify with that! Different, but love them every one. Many of your plots involve pretty esoteric knowledge or skills—which I love! How do you come up with those ideas? And how do you research them?

FQ: The spark for my novels comes from different places. It could be an article I just read, a person I just met, or in the instances of my FBI novel COLD RED, a swamp that I just fell into.

My first choice in getting the writing right is to try something—or as close of a something as I can. I write about my research and training on my blog ThrillWriting. My second choice is to find someone who has performed that action as part of their job. For example, I’ve just made friends with a CIA analyst who worked in the USSR, and then the Middle East. We eat lunch together, and he talks about his experiences. I get to ask lots of questions. My third way to learn is to read autobiographies and lots of non-fiction. I gather all of the data, I knead it together, and out comes my plot.

VL: In my opinion, your work as a whole carries several meta-messages—things the reader take away from the story without it being explicitly stated. For example, your major women characters are all smart and capable, even the ones who are rescued by Iniquus, and active in meeting the plot challenges/solving the mystery. Virtually all of your primary characters are physically attractive and fit. All the hero(in)es are loyal, honorable, dependable, helpful, and as non-violent as the situation allows. Did you do that on purpose? Are there message you try to convey?

FQ: Yes, actually. I wanted to write about men and women that I would respect, and those traits that you’ve listed are the traits I look for in those I surround myself with, and the traits I tried to engender in my children.

Physically fit to get the job done, build health, and develop dedication/discipline. Morally strong. Generous and kind with one’s talents. Multi-dimensional with a breadth of knowledge as well as a depth of specialized knowledge. Grace in the challenges presented. I think people who have these traits are inherently attractive.

My characters all have to use their capabilities to survive. If someone says, “you do it,” then the task cannot be accomplished. All characters have something important to contribute and without their specific contributions, the solution would never be found.

I’d add to your list an ability to work with a team, setting ego aside.

VL: Hmmm, yes, good addition. Your plots are pretty convoluted and at the end, I say to myself, “Yeah, I can see that!” Do you know the ending when you start writing? Would you say you are a plotter or a pantser?

FQ: I call myself a planter, a combination of plotter and pantser. I know my story. I know how it ends. The journey often takes me in directions I hadn’t conceived. As the characters reveal themselves, as the tasks they are undertaking get thwarted, I enjoy the discovery. But there is a strong skeleton that I am fleshing out when I sit down to write.

VL: And what skeleton are you going to be fleshing out next?

FQ: I am finishing up book 5 of the Lynx series, Gulf Lynx. This year I plan to finish the Kate Hamilton trilogy and her husband is joining Iniquus, so I will get to know a new Iniquus team with the first book of a new series. I have another FBI book that wants to be written. Tina and I have some Badge Bunny books we want to get done. It’s a busy writing year! I give each book the time and space it needs, so we’ll see how far I get with my list.

VL: What about your personal life? From your FB posts, I know you have a “hubby” and more than one child. But do you have pets, hobbies, outside activities?

FQ: I have a husband, four children, one grandchild. I have a dog, Little Bear, who was on the team that developed the protocol for training diabetes alert dogs. He’s a very special dog, who has kept Kid #4 seizure-free for over ten years.

fiona quinn author

I am active in my community by volunteering with the Search and Rescue team, Community Emergency Response Team, and Medical Reserve Corps. Right now, I am training to take the HAM radio certification test. I’m about to take off for four days to learn about tactical K-9 field medical care. I read and do art. I enjoy my friendships. I travel and try new things. I just got back from Florida where I did indoor skydiving since I am too chicken to jump out of a plane.  So, I stay busy.

VL: I’d call that the perfect example of understatement! But then, you’ve always struck me as a very energetic person. When I think of you at writing-related events, the image that comes to mind is bright red dress and lipstick, a flamboyant delivery. Is that the real you? How would you describe your personality?

FQ: I am multifaceted. I really enjoy putting on a red dress and my bright red lipstick and telling stories that engage people. I feel wonderful when I can make people laugh, or gasp. I also enjoy dressing in yoga pants and curling up on a friend’s couch for a quiet talk with a cup of tea. I’m also a nerdy introvert who likes to hide in my office thinking, thinking, thinking. And I find I’m my best when I mix up the three. My default, though, is the nerdy introvert. It’s a choice to get out there and extrovert (as a verb).

VL: Last but far from least, how can people get in touch with you and follow your writing life?

FQ: The easiest place to find everything you need—from a sign up for my newsletter, to my social media, to my news—is all on my website www.fionaquinnbooks.com. I hope you’ll visit!

fiona quinn author

VL: You are a fascinating and appealing writer. Thank you for sharing with my readers!

Start Celebrating National Poetry Month!

April is National Poetry Month, and it might be the goal of many people to begin reading more poetry. But that can be intimidating, so I’ve put together a list of resources you can use to dip your toes into the vast pond of poetry.

Poets.org

The Academy of American Poets is a phenomenal organization. They have thousands of poems to choose from, but if that’s too overwhelming, consider signing up for their “Poem a Day” emails. You’ll receive one poem in your inbox every morning—a great way to start your day.

poetry foundation
[Source: Poetry Foundation]

Poetry Foundation

Similar to Poets.org is Poetry Foundation. In addition to an archive that rivals Poets.org, the Foundation publishes POETRY, a monthly literary magazine. Some big names (and soon-to-be big names!) are published through POETRY.

The Poetry Society of Virginia

Not everyone lives in Virginia, but for those who do, the PSV is a wonderful resource. In addition to several events and their annual Poetry Festival, the PSV holds two annual contests: one for adults and one for students. If you don’t live in Virginia, consider researching what poetry societies are around you.

lingering margins river city poets anthology
[Source: Chop Suey Books]

River City Poets

Even more local are the River City Poets, a fantastic organization in Richmond, Virginia. They hold regular readings, workshops, and lessons, and have just released their first anthology, Lingering in the Margins. If you find yourself in Richmond, their events are a must-see.

There you have it: April is a great month for diving in to something new: poetry. Use these resources to develop your newfound obsession!

Mysteries, Thrillers, etc., etc., etc.

mystery thriller week goodreads
This is Mystery and Thriller Week on Goodreads, so it seemed like a good idea to blog about that. I enjoy both mysteries and thrillers, and started with enthusiasm. Starting with what separates the two seemed reasonable and easy.

 

Mysteries are brain books: Some crime has been committed and the point of the book is to solve the puzzle and determine who done it. Mary Burton is a local example of a typical mystery writer.
Thrillers are action books: Typically fast-paced, with lots of physical threat and daring-do, often the point of the action is to keep something dreadful from happening—i.e., stop the bad guys before they do whatever. Fiona Quinn is a local example of a thrill writer. In fact, she writes a blog called Thrill Writing.

 

wasp fiona quinn
That’s a simplification, of course. But when I started to try to refine it, I became mired in exceptions and subcategories. Police procedurals, for example, could be either a cozy mystery or action packed, depending on how the author presents the basic defining characteristic—i.e., how the police operate, collect, analyze, and collate the evidence.
So then I considered citing best sellers in each category—but whose? Goodreads? Amazon? USA Today? NY Times? To list them all would be pages and pages, with lots of overlap.

 

penguin random house thrillers
Then I considered cutting it another way. I searched online for Richmond, Virginia mysteries and thrillers. What I found was that Richmond authors were camouflaged among broader lists of “books written by authors in, from, or about Virginia.” I decided the culling wasn’t worth it.

 

And so I’ve thrown in the towel. Find your own mysteries and/or thrillers, from whatever sources you rely on, and define those as you will. In such matters, the reader is always right!
reading

Risk Taking for Fun and Profit

My mantra has long been that whether I end up in heaven or in hell, I want it to be for things I did rather than things I didn’t do. Until I started developing today’s blog, I didn’t actually consider whether I am a risk taker or not.

 

Yes, I’ve long recognized that I am willing to give all sorts of fun things a try: water skiing for the first time on a Florida river with alligators sunning on the banks, parasailing in the Bahamas, white-water rafting on the Colorado River, zip-lining in Costa Rica, downhill skiing for the first time at night on a lighted intermediate slope, handling an anaconda and fishing for piranha along the Amazon River, riding out a storm on the Chesapeake Bay in a small sailboat, and other fun things I’m not going into.

 

What about money? I’m invested in the stock market, which some consider to be risky for women. But I’ve never invested in some hot new option, gambled for more than quarters, or bought more than one lottery ticket.

 

Health risks? I stopped smoking more than twenty years ago. I drive fast. I drink alcohol. But I never drink and drive. I get all the recommended vaccines and health checks. I exercise 5-6 times a week. And I eat vegan almost exclusively.

 

Professionally? Within limits. Yes, I resigned a tenured full professorship to pursue association management, eventually returned to college administration, and in the process embarked on an eleven-year commuter marriage. But I never totally changed fields, or launched into entrepreneurship or any other career in which my Ph.D. was irrelevant.

 

So why all this self-disclosure? Because I’m a “real people” and the best characters feel to the reader like real people. Protagonists often take risks and they should take them realistically. By that I mean, someone’s risk-taking is often complicated.

 

I’m here to help, so HERE ARE THE HIGHLIGHTS OF WHAT RESEARCH HAS TO SAY ABOUT RISK-TAKING!

Apparently there is a risk gap between the risky behavior we engage in personally and what we recommend to others. For example, virtually no one would recommend texting while driving, impaired driving, not wearing a seatbelt, smoking, etc., and yet many people actually do those things. In the case of texting while driving, 80% of people say they do so at least occasionally. Does your character say one thing and do another?

 

When it comes to personal risk involving health and safety, we are greatly influenced by knowing that others are engaging in that same risky behavior. For example, this is particularly true of smoking, drug use, alcohol abuse, juvenile delinquency, premarital or extramarital sex, or similar behavior. This might explain dangerous health fads and copycat suicides. Knowing “everyone’s doing it” doesn’t much affect our advice to others. Often our protagonists resist such social influences, but what about other characters?
Recreational risk or financial risk is less likely to lead to a copycat effect. I’m surprised by this, actually. However we advise those we love, what we do has a stronger effect than what we say.
 
In risk taking, there are gender gaps. Men take more recreational and financial risks. Women take more social risks than men—more likely to change careers later in life or express unpopular opinions in meeting. There’s lots of advice out there to the effect that taking professional risks is a good thing, especially for women. The reasons risk taking is good include the following:

 

  • great, otherwise unforeseen opportunities emerge
  • shows confidence and helps you stand out
  • lessons learned may lead us on a new path
  • success must be pursued
  • you don’t achieve dreams by playing it safe
  • embracing risk-taking helps you overcome fear of failure
  • researched and prepared for risk-taking pays off
So, consider whether your character epitomizes or defies the gender expectations.

 

People take fewer risks as they age and as they settle into stable relationships. But even with age, a change in relationship status (death or divorce) can lead to a spike in risk-taking. What does your character do after a change in relationship status?
Domains of daring; as implied above, people are a complicated blend of risk-taking and risk-averse. This domain-specific likelihood of risk taking includes five domains:

 

  • financial
  • health/safety
  • recreational
  • ethical
  • social
In general, a person’s likelihood of risk-taking in each category is stable over time, but says little about his/her risk-taking in other categories.

Some psychologists claim that risk-taking is a result of a personality known as sensation seeking—pursuit of novel, intense, and complex sensations and experiences, and the willingness to take risks in pursuing novelty, change, and excitement. Subcategories of sensation seeking:

  • thrill- and adventure-seeking
  • disinhibition (deviant lifestyles, pursuit of change to stave off boredom)
  • a means of expressing aggressiveness and hostility
  • generalized need for activity itself
  • part of sociability, another personality trait
Overall, for both women and men, high risk-takers score high on three of the five basic personality traits: impulsive sensation seeking, aggression-hostility, and sociability. Heavy drinking is associated with all three of these personality traits.
Risk-taking is a product of both genes and experience. Studies of identical and fraternal twins, whether raised in the same families or apart, indicate that sensation-seeking is about 60% genetic, which is a high degree of heritability for a personality trait. Genes also influence aggression, agreeableness, and sociability/extroversion. So for your sensation-seeking character, what are the similarities/differences among family members?
BOTTOM LINE: Chances are your protagonist will take risks of some sorts, sometimes. Consider the why and extent of risk taking.