Coming out day

Everyone was talking about it. That’s why I snuck upstairs and watched Ellen’s coming out episode on the TV in my parents’ bedroom. No other reason.

In 1997, I was 14 and years away from realizing. Sure, I had a poster of Gillian Anderson on my wall and gazed at it daily. I’d filled a stack of notebooks with angsty poems because my church friend didn’t pay enough attention to me. But that didn’t mean anything.

I kept the remote in my hand, poised to flip channels if I heard footsteps. My parents weren’t even homophobic. Uncomfortable with the topic, sure, but they were Democrats. They wouldn’t be mad that I watched Ellen. Yet, for some strange reason, I didn’t want anyone to know I was interested.

“The Puppy Episode” was the first and last episode of Ellen that I watched. I was too cool to like sitcoms — and besides, I wasn’t gay. I preferred to watch lofty dramas like the X-Files, in particular, the pilot episode when Gillian Anderson strips down to her — anyway, I was straight. Somehow, I continued to believe this earnestly for 4 more years.

~ ♥ ~

My first lesbian romance novel (The Love Factor) takes place in 1997, and it opens with Ellen’s coming out scene. One character reacts with joy, while the other feels bitter because she can’t imagine coming out to her own friends and family.

I set the book in the 90s for a lot of reasons. I’ve always been fascinated by the dramatic shift in US public opinion on gay rights, and I wanted to explore how it happened from a social science perspective. (The pitch every romance publisher wants to hear, right?)

Plus, I’ve always been obsessed with 90s politics — in particular, the tragedy of the Clinton administration. I’ll never get sick of reading about it.

But most of all, I wanted to go backwards in time. These days, many queer authors avoid writing about homophobia and the “coming out story.” Which makes total sense, because in many ways, we’re past that.

However, I figured I wouldn’t be motivated unless I wrote what I wanted. So I made a conscious choice that my first book would be about gay rights, being gay, coming out, homophobia, gay gay gay gay gay.

I’m not sure why I wanted to write that story — some historical shit to work out, probably. But I wrote it, and some people liked it. My next two books are set in the present day, and no one is homophobic. I guess I got it out of my system.

Anyway, happy coming out day to all.

The Love Factor on Amazon

Opportunity (Let’s make lots of money)

Dedicated to all the sketchy “social media marketing” companies that have contacted me since the book’s publication.

Re: Your book The Love Factor

Hello, fellow entrepreneur!

Thank you for the opportunity to pay you $100 to post about my book on Twitter.

As you know, it’s stressful to be a debut author. So, I was ecstatic to learn that my book qualifies for your services due to the “quality and plot.” I printed your email and posted it on the refrigerator, pushing my son’s artwork aside, so that our whole family can bask in my achievement.

I was ready to purchase ten tweets promoting The Love Factor. However, I browsed your social media accounts, and I have even better news. Due to the high quality of your book promotions (e.g. “An exciting read!”), you qualify for services that I provide to businesses just like yours!

I offer four packages that may be purchased separately or together:

Brown ($200): I will follow you on Twitter for one year.
I am a real person who logs into Twitter daily, unlike the fake and/or defunct accounts that comprise most of your followers. An authentic human follower bestows credibility that no collection of spambots can match. (Note: I can provide medical records attesting to my status as a live and fully conscious person upon request.)

Silver ($500): I will “like” one tweet per month for twelve months.
Most of your tweets receive only one like which, incidentally, comes from the other account you run. Some have two if the author herself likes the tweet. God, it’s sad. This package will double the engagement on twelve of your tweets. Clients will be delighted, at least until they check their sales.

Gold ($1000): I will retweet one tweet of your choice.
Please note that this package is for one tweet only. Unfortunately, I cannot retweet your posts monthly without compromising my own credibility and losing followers. One retweet can be dismissed as a fluke, but even two would raise serious questions about my judgment. However, when you consider the abysmal engagement your posts receive now, the gold package is a steal.

Diamond ($1,000,000): I will recommend your services to my followers.
My followers include over one hundred aspiring or published authors. My endorsement would be invaluable for a scammy “marketing service” that preys on the dreams of struggling writers.

The price may seem high, but it covers personal expenses associated with the service. Specifically, after endorsing your company, I would have to delete my account, retire my pen name, and start over with a new identity. In addition to this, my wife wants to buy a house.

I’d like to set up a phone call this week to discuss which option is right for your business goals.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Quinn Ivins, LLC.

Protecting my secret identity

Who is Quinn?

Now that my book is published, I receive email from readers.

This makes me very happy. But it also means I switch between my pen name and my real name, and the odds that I will mess up one day are… not in my favor.

I’m not really worried about accidentally telling a reader my real name. I assume I can pay off most of you with a book or some swag. Perhaps a gift card to Jamba Juice.

But what if I accidentally sign a work e-mail with my pen name?? Crap, that would be bad. I’m going to need an explanation, and who knows what I’d write in a flailing panic.

I decided I’d better have a story ready to go, so I came up with a few drafts.

Example Crisis

Hi Leslie,
I’m attaching the report. Looks like we’re down 6% from the previous quarter.
Quinn

Thanks. But who is Quinn???
Leslie

Option 1: Weird Computer

How strange. I typed my own name, so I have no idea why it says “Quinn.” I guess my computer is being weird today.

I’ve heard of computers “being weird” before, primarily from older colleagues who can’t seem to launch Adobe Connect without deleting three folders and enabling sticky keys.

I used to think it was a flimsy excuse for learned incompetence, but now I know better. Those darn machines just act up sometimes. Or maybe I’m getting old?

Option 2: Hacked

Shit. My computer was just hacked. A mysterious group called “Pseudonymous” just called and claimed credit.

I said, “What the fuck? Who is Quinn?”

They told me it’s the name of their accountant’s new baby. The hack was just for fun—they didn’t access any secret information, and they’ll never do it again.

I told them, “That is unacceptable! I’m going to tell IT right now.”

But they said if I involve IT or report this in any way, they’ll hack the CEO’s computer in retaliation!

God, imagine having to explain to the CEO that his computer was compromised, and you could have stopped it just by staying quiet. We’d better keep this to ourselves and be thankful it wasn’t worse.

Option 3: Child Prodigy

Sorry, that email was sent by my 3 year old. He’s going through a stage where he thinks it’s “funny” to run reports and send them out with random names at the bottom. Then he says, “Mommy, I’m being silly!”

I keep telling him not to touch my important work laptop, that the integrity of the quarterly report is sacrosanct. But toddlers have minds of their own.

I remember you telling me your own children are also gifted, so you understand how trying it can be to cope with their precocious antics. I’ll have another talk with him, but I can’t promise it won’t happen again.

What I can promise is that it doesn’t mean anything.

Option 4: Witness Protection

Oh fuck. Oh fuck. Listen, Leslie. I need you to forget that you ever heard that name. Innocent lives are at stake, not to mention truth and justice. Shit. I’ve said too much already.

Please, Leslie. I am appealing to you not as an employee, but as a person. I don’t want to start over again, not when I’ve finally made a life where I rent a cramped suburban townhouse and work in data reporting—my dream job.

Delete this email and pretend you never heard of “Quinn.” Erase the name from your memory like you erase your whiteboard after a team meeting (without writing anything down). And for the love of god, don’t tell anyone.

Those are my best attempts. Please let me know which you would find most convincing, or if you have a better idea.

Rejected newsletter concepts

I recently founded Quinnsights, my author newsletter. Twenty-four hours later, I re-did the banner after some kind colleagues told me that it implied the newsletter would be depressing.

Sometimes, my first instinct is not the best one. In this case, though, I had to discard quite a few ideas. For example:

Newsletter concept 1

My forthcoming novel features a hot statistics professor. You don’t need to know stats to enjoy the book, but I figured many readers would be clamoring for more information about this exciting discipline. Maybe they would even want some equations to solve at home. Unfortunately, my friends told me that the probability of this happening is approximately zero. I needed something more engaging.

Newsletter concept 2

Sample: “WTF AMERICA?? Are you guys watching MSNBC right now? I mean, literally, what is this bullshit?? Also, I wrote a book. I’m too upset to find the link, so just google me or whatever. But seriously, WHAT THE FUCK.”

While heartfelt, I guess it was a bit negative and also unlikely to sell any books. Plus, we all get enough shouty political e-mails from our uncles. Lesfic readers want content they can’t get anywhere else. This led me to my next concept:

Newsletter concept 3

As you know, I am a very chill, low-maintenance author. One of my strategies is to ask myself a few questions before I send an email:

  • Is this really necessary?
  • Could I make the same point in fewer pages?
  • Is it possible that I am neurotically overthinking every little thing and grasping for affirmation to cope with my staggering anxiety?

This leaves me with a lot of content that never sees the light of day. Occasionally I post them on this blog, but in the end that’s not much better. So why not use the emails for my newsletter? Turns out, there are a lot of reasons. I tried again:

Newsletter concept 4

This one went live for a while, but as I mentioned earlier, it turned out to be a bit misguided about what people want from an author newsletter. So I tried another version:

Newsletter concept 5

I thought I fixed it, but apparently this was the newsletter banner version of those signs that are so specific, you just know something happened in the past. Like, “Absolutely NO burping show tunes in the waiting area.” You know what I mean. Anyway, I tried one more time.

Quinnsights
Newsletter concept 6 (current version)

This one is my current banner, and I think it’s here to stay. I know hot pink isn’t everyone’s favorite color, but considering where I started… it’s not too bad, right?

If you’d like to experience this newsletter, which I hope will not be a total train wreck, you can subscribe here. (If you already subscribed, you’re good— it’s the same list with a different banner.)

I’m planning book updates, life updates (Quinn’s Qorner), recipes and artwork. What could go wrong? (subscribe to find out. 😬)

Book countdown: 90 days of 90s

In exactly 90 days, my 1990s lesbian romance novel, The Love Factor, will be published. I thought this day might never come—and to be honest, I can still imagine a number of catastrophic scenarios that could derail the publication, because that’s just how my brain works.

But in the spirit of reckless optimism, I am counting down to this momentous day with 90 days of 90s nostalgia, hashtag #90daysof90s. Here’s what you can expect if you follow me on social media.

Each day, I will post something about the 90s. A song, a fashion item, key legislation—that sort of thing. The posts will be spread across multiple platforms (Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook).

There may or may not be posts every day. Like everyone I’m under a lot of stress right now, and if I happen to be curled up despondent at 11:55 pm, I’m not going to drag myself off the couch to post “remember pogs lol.” I don’t need that kind of pressure.

Anyway, the last post (July 15, 2020) will be a photo from my eighth grade yearbook of me in my “alternative” phase, wearing an iconic Smashing Pumpkins t-shirt that is featured in the book.

IN ADDITION to this lovely photo, other authors and friends will be invited to post photos of themselves in the 1990s on July 15th.* 

* Anyone who posts “I wasn’t born yet” is dead to me. Haha jk. That would be fun.

Zero point zero stars

Therapist: “Are you still feeling anxious about your book release?”

Quinn: “Yeah, I’m really nervous, and the waiting is hard. But I’ve been using my journal.”

Therapist: “That’s great!”

Quinn: “Yep. I’ve been writing one-star reviews of the book, just imagining all of the different things people could hate about it.”

Therapist: “Wait.”

Quinn: “They can’t hurt me more than I’m hurting myself.”

☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️

💕🥴 🧠 Quinn’s Anxiety Journal 🧠 🥴 💕

☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️

Dee rated it ⭐️

**’Writing is like sex. Some people really suck at it.’**

This book started off bad and quickly became intolerable. Clunky writing, annoying characters, incoherent plot. Soon every word felt like an ice pick through the eyes.

Okay, I’m exaggerating. But it was NOT good. 0.1 stars rounded up.

Nina rated it ⭐️

The sex scenes are super weird and cringey. Like, who puts their mouth there?? Why?? This must be exactly how Quinn has sex, and someone needs to tell her it’s not normal. Eww!

Dr. Thomas Crabthorne, PhD, rated it ⭐️

“Quinn” was once a promising grad student and my advisee. While her enthusiasm was often lacking, she had a desperate compulsion to please authority figures that would have served her well in academia.

So you can imagine my dismay when I learned that she is now using her PhD to write crass “romance” novels about academics engaging in lesbian relations. Worse, her book makes a mockery of our exalted profession by portraying tenured faculty as petulant cranks and bigoted buffoons. A profound disappointment. Zero stars.

Charles rated it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This book is so bad, it’s like a win for homophobia.

Ten years later

In honor of the new decade, I was going to write an amusing blog post about my fake resolutions (Quinn sucks at life, ha ha ha). But every time I tried, I got really depressed.

So instead, I thought I would imagine my life at the beginning of the next decade, when I’m a famous and very successful author. Surely I’ll have my shit together by then.

~ Some time in 2030 ~

Terry Gross, probably: “My guest today is Quinn Ivins. She just published her tenth lesbian romance novel, almost exactly ten years after her debut. First, congratulations on the new book.”

Quinn: “Thank you, and thanks for having me. I’m a big fan of NPR.”

Terry: “This isn’t NPR. This is my podcast that I record in my dorm room, Smut Talk with Lezzie del Ray. Anyway, why don’t you tell us about the book?”

Quinn: “Um… the details escape me at the moment, but I assume it’s about a politician or lawyer or something, and the idealistic younger woman who melts her heart.”

Lezzie: “Yep, that’s exactly right. Now, your life has changed a lot over the past decade. For one thing, you’re now a full-time author.”

Quinn: “Because… because my books are so successful?”

Lezzie: “Because you got fired from your day job when they caught you writing a filthy sex scene during a budget meeting.”

Quinn: “Oh. Well, I’m sure that after ten books, I’m making decent money.”

Lezzie: “You sure are! Or at least you would be, if your publisher didn’t keep all of the profits.”

Quinn: “Huh? I thought my contract was pretty fair.”

Lezzie: “Oh sure, but I meant because of the legal settlement.”

Quinn: “The what?”

Lezzie: “In fact, let me pull up the article so that I can remind our listeners. Let’s see… fraudulently presenting yourself as the Ylva Director of Research and Analytics. Brand infringement, from all the unauthorized wolf swag. And of course, harassment.”

Quinn: “Because…”

Lezzie: “Because of all the e-mails.”

Quinn: “Right.”

Lezzie: “So why don’t you tell us what’s next for you? Any plans for the upcoming decade?”

Quinn: “Um, I guess I’ll write ten more books unless… do you think my day job would take me back?”

Lezzie: “I doubt it. Maybe if you had gone quietly.”

Quinn: “Um.”

Lezzie: “I mean, the YouTube video has seven million views. But, hey, at least you’re living your dream.”

Quinn: “Nooooo! Stop! Take me back to 2020. I can change, I swear. Here, I’ll even make some resolutions. Don’t be annoying! No unauthorized wolf swag! PLEASE GIVE ME ANOTHER CHANCE.”

~ Present day ~

Well, that was terrifying. Maybe I should have gone with the “funny” resolutions. Oh well, there’s always next year.

Re: URGENT QUESTION

Dear Quinn,

Thank you for contacting NaNoWriMo.

We especially thank you for contacting us with an “urgent” question on October 30th. As you guessed, we have loads of free time to respond to random inquiries two days before November.

You asked if you can still participate in NaNoWriMo even though:

  1. You already started your novel.
  2. You don’t plan to finish until spring.
  3. You don’t have a word count goal because “goals stress you out” due to parental pressures during childhood.
  4. You don’t want to paste your novel into the validator because you’re concerned that we will “steal” your unfinished, Michael-Cohen-themed (??) romance novel before you can sell it for untold riches.
  5. You’re against randomly drawn prizes because they “undermine the popular understanding of probability” and “normalize playing the lottery” which you oppose on moral and mathematical grounds.

So, with you declining to participate in every other aspect of the event, that leaves:

  • Seeking validation on Twitter for writing literally anything during November.

To answer your question, yes. You may “participate” in NaNoWriMo. We already blocked you on social media, so don’t hold back on our account.

— NaNoWriMo

Life after editing

I finished my content edits!!!!! After five months of obsessive revising, it’s really weird to be done. But now it’s time to attend to a few areas of my life that I neglected while I was consumed with the book. For example:

E-mail: Do I have any new e-mails to read, perhaps from my publisher? No? Well, to be totally fair, she is out of the office, and we submitted the manuscript 20 minutes ago.

Health: I’ve been meaning to find a primary care physician for the past five years, but I’ve been procrastinating because I know they’re going to ask how often I exercise. And unfortunately, I’ve been unable to access the elliptical due to some, uh, stuff in the way.

Now that I’m done editing, I plan to exercise at least three times so I can say, hand on my heart, “I work out three times per (mumble).”

E-mail: Nothing yet, but reading a whole book takes time. I just need to be patient and wait a few hours or perhaps…. days…. oh god.

Parenting: My toddler drew a penis on the wall several months ago, and I just… left it there. Since then, he has added orange, yellow, and blue scribbles—despite my explicit instructions to please draw on the paper. So it’s time to skim a few parenting books to see if I can redirect his artistic inclinations and salvage some portion of our security deposit.

E-mail: Updated 3 minutes ago. What the hell??? I didn’t pay $900 for this slick ass phone so it could snooze for three whole minutes. Do I have to take my displeasure to the Apple Genius Bar or can I get some fucking real-time data? 

Updated Just Now. Oh. Okay.

Day job: What’s going on at work? Does my boss need anything from me? I should probably find out. But first…

E-mail: Still nothing? No worries… it has been nearly an hour, but my anxiety is well under control thanks to all that exercise and meditation that my therapist advised. Besides, it’s time to put writing aside and do all that stuff I said I would do “when I’m done with my book.”

Housework:

Fuck it: I can’t deal with my life at a time like this. If anyone needs me, I’ll be glugging wine and binge-reading lesfic until July.

Frequently asked questions: A guide for my wife

Q. What will the book be called?
A. (heavy breathing)

Q. Sorry, I forgot I’m not supposed to ask about that. Um, how do you say your publisher’s name?
A. Well, I was pronouncing it “yell-vah” but then I learned that it’s actually a special Swedish sound that Americans can’t make. When I try, it comes out… twangy. So I just try not to say it out loud.

Q. Are you going to tell your parents about the book?
A. LOL.

Q. What about our son?
A. I’ll tell him when he’s older. Much older. Like when I’m on my death bed, and I have to explain why his inheritance includes residuals from Mommy-Quinn’s lesbian sex books. Unless I die first — then it’s all you.

Q. Are you ever going to write a book about our romantic life?
A. Huh?

Q. I mean our romantic life before we had a baby.
A. Ah, yes. The story of two married lesbians who are tired from their jobs. Every night, they sit on the couch eating Thai food and watching 90 Day Fiancé. Then one day, they have a baby.

Q. Okay, okay. When does the book come out?
A. Ummm… in like a year, I think? They use the metric system so it’s hard to follow sometimes.

Q. When are we going to Germany to promote it?
A. Yeah, again, the book isn’t just being published “in Germany.” That’s just where my publisher lives, and she doesn’t want me to visit until I calm down about the whole thing. Anyway, we’re not going anywhere to promote it. I have a top secret identity, remember?

Q. Oh right. So how are you going to market it?
A. I have the best plan. First, I’m going to mail promotional scrunchies to every celebrity with long hair. Then, I just need to wait for the scrunchies to pop up on Instagram. Boom, the book goes viral. Everyone who buys a copy will receive a scrunchie or a limited edition snap bracelet, further spreading awareness. Plus, everyone who follows me on Twitter will get a free t-shirt. It’s going to be epic.

Q. Um, that sounds expensive. I thought you said this book was going to make money. Actually, you promised that we would be rich.
A. Right…. see the thing about lesbian publishing…

Q. What?
A. Nothing. We will definitely be rich. I love you!