That Delicate Balance


Yin Yang symbolWhen you work full time, and have a family, you learn how to balance the needs of your kids and husband with your need to earn a living.  Sometimes you’re really good at it, and sometimes not so good at it.  If you have hobbies, like gardening or quilting or book clubs, you have to find time for that, as well.  And if you have what you hope will be a second career, say, as a writer, then you have to figure out how to work that in, as well.

In this day and age, it is almost impossible to rely on only one income to support a family, so if you are a working mother, and trying to be a writer, it gets even more difficult.  In my case, I am the main breadwinner for the family, and I do it with a job that is somewhat high-stress, and very very busy.  While I don’t work more than 50 hours a week most of the time, I do work hard, and come home tired to a house that still needs my care, and a family that needs to be fed.  I have a garden to tend to in the summer, and I have social activities I like to participate in.  How do I find time to write?

Somehow, I do.  But I carve that time out for myself, and make it a priority.  I have to, to feel balanced in my life.  Over the years, I’ve trained myself to take my commute time as a transition between work and home.  I don’t think about work at night or on the weekends.  They don’t pay me enough for that.  So I don’t think about work until I leave for work in the morning.  I have about a 35 minute commute.  On the way to work, I’m thinking about to-do lists and getting geared up for the day.  On my way home, I am turning off the work thought and turning on the home thought.  What do I have to do tonight?  Is it a writing night (Wednesday)?  Is it a chat night with my fellow authors (Tuesday)?  Is it a night I need to work in the garden (Monday or Thursday)?  Are there any events that might interfere with what is already on the established calendar, like a school concert for my daughter?  There is also the preparations needed for dinner, the laundry that has to be done, the watering of the lawn, grocery shopping, bill paying…

At at some point, I need to get some sleep. 🙂

It really does matter how we choose our priorities in life.  Self-care is just as important as all the “chores” of living.  My self-care includes bi-weekly manicures, and a monthly visit to my massage therapist.  I also usually schedule a day in the mountains one day a month as well, which is the best form of therapy I can get.  Building that balance between the must-haves, the self-care, and the “other” takes maturity, thoughtfulness, and a good dose of organization.  But finding it can make all the difference between overall success and not-so-much success.  And I prefer the success side, don’t you?

For me, writing happens every Saturday and Sunday morning, when I get up early (I get up early every day anyway so I can get things done) and go to the coffee shop for a two-hour writing stint.  I catch up on getting blog posts written for the future, work on my novel in progress, do some editing, whatever is on my to-do list.  That structured non-negotiable time has helped me to be productive.  Wednesday nights I also tell myself I will be writing, for at least an hour.  The rest of the time, I fit writing in when I can.  There is gardening, housecleaning, kid-home-work-helping, self care, and being there for the hubby that need to happen.  In a more perfect world, my “job” would be my writing, but I don’t live in that world, and I know many of my fellow writers do not either.  So I do what I can, and try not to beat myself up too much about what doesn’t get done.  Everything will work out as it should, as long as I put my best efforts into it.  And I feel like I do that.

How do you balance work/life?  What self-care is important to you, and what are your non-negotiables? Answer in the comments!

Fairest of the Faire – available now!

Fairest of the Faire book coverBlurb:

Schoolteacher Connie Meyers is suddenly a young widow, her husband killed in a horrific car accident. Heartbroken to find out he had gambled away everything they had, she moves to her sister-in-law’s Midwest home to rebuild her life. A trip to the local Renaissance Faire with her nieces leads to a summer job as a costumed storyteller.

Avowed bad boy and fair performer Gage Youngblood is infatuated with Connie at first sight. Despite his deliberately commitment-free life, and Connie’s don’t-touch-me attitude, he soon has her in his arms, realizing quickly she is also in his heart.

When she is threatened by her late husband’s bookie, he steps into the role of protector, his fate forever sealed with hers.

Available NOW!

Buy at Wild Rose Press:  (eBook and paperback)

Buy at Amazon (Kindle and paperback)

Buy at Barnes and Noble (Nook)

We Might Be Old


I’ve been writing since I was a young teen.  It’s hard to believe I’m about to hit my mid-50’s, and have just published my first book through a traditional publisher, The Wild Rose Press.  I have a ton of fellow authors that I follow or interact with through my publisher.  And one thing seems to stick out – we are all old.

Now, don’t get all offended.  When I was in my 20’s, I could never imagine myself in my 50’s.  I’m sure that’s true for a lot of us.  We never think we’re going to get old in the first place.  Anyone older than us is “old.”  Right now, I don’t like to think of myself as old, because there are people older than me.  Heck, one of the authors I interact with frequently is 84 years old.  She just published her first book!

Goes to show you it’s never too late, right?

National Novel Writing MonthAlmost fifteen years ago, I discovered National Novel Writing Month, a rather nifty way to approach writing a novel.  For the month of November, 30 days, you are supposed to begin and complete writing a 50,000 word novel.  Sounds daunting, doesn’t it?  It is, but it’s also an inspired way to write.  The deadline is set for you, there is plenty of support through forums, pep-talk emails, and group write-ins at local coffee shops.  That first year, I started late (9th of November) and still wrote a 96,000-word completed novel by November 30th.  I didn’t know I had it in me!  Since then, I’ve written every year for NaNoWriMo, and “won” every time.

The last two years, I’ve volunteered as a “Municipal Liaison” for the Boulder County, Colorado, region.  This means I send out pep talks to aspiring “Wrimos” as we call ourselves, and plan local writing events.  We have a kick off party and a wrap-up party, and a half-way-there party.  One thing I’ve noticed about the Wrimos – they are predominately young.  High school, college age, up until they get married and have kids, they are doing this Wrimo thing.  There are few over-50’s at our events, and just a smattering of over-40’s.  Maybe a few in their 30’s. Of course, I am proud of the young ‘uns for taking on the challenge.  Their enthusiasm makes up for a lack of life experience.  But I am surprised there are not that many writers at my age level in NaNoWriMo.  Yes, we all have different responsibilities, including maybe families to raise, full time jobs to maintain, and other social activities that have nothing to do with writing.  That balance in having enough time to write and still live the kind of life we need to live can be difficult, even impossible.

I feel like I wasted so much of my life before I really took writing seriously.  And I wonder if it is the same for other writers of my age bracket and older.  Were we waiting for our kids to be grown and gone (I still have one at home who is just now in middle school)?  Were we waiting until financial security had set in, so we could afford to take the time to write?  What kept us from writing when we were young?  I was writing, of course, but not really doing anything with that writing.  For whatever reason, I didn’t start taking the idea of working hard toward getting published until I was 50.  I do regret that I didn’t start sooner.

But then, being a mature writer means I have some experience to write with.  Yes, I’m writing about much younger women than myself.  But I also know that the most voracious readers of romance novels are over 40.  I still read romance novels.  Romance novels sell, and sell well.  I shouldn’t be surprised that the writers are “old” like me.

In fact, I’d have to say “we rock!”

Fairest of the Faire – available now!

Fairest of the Faire book coverBlurb:

Schoolteacher Connie Meyers is suddenly a young widow, her husband killed in a horrific car accident. Heartbroken to find out he had gambled away everything they had, she moves to her sister-in-law’s Midwest home to rebuild her life. A trip to the local Renaissance Faire with her nieces leads to a summer job as a costumed storyteller.

Avowed bad boy and fair performer Gage Youngblood is infatuated with Connie at first sight. Despite his deliberately commitment-free life, and Connie’s don’t-touch-me attitude, he soon has her in his arms, realizing quickly she is also in his heart.

When she is threatened by her late husband’s bookie, he steps into the role of protector, his fate forever sealed with hers.

Available NOW!

Buy at Wild Rose Press:  (eBook and paperback)

Buy at Amazon (Kindle and paperback)

Buy at Barnes and Noble (Nook)

Music For Writing


I am one of those people that is rarely without music.  I was raised not in a musical household so much, but my mother was a great lover of music.  By the time I was a pre-teen, I was accompanying my mother to hear the St. Louis Symphony play at least once a month.  She had purchased season tickets, and we’d make the drive from the suburbs to downtown, pay to park, find our seats with the help of nattily-dressed ushers with tiny flashlights, and settle in for the performance.

I enjoyed these trips with my mother, and the love of music just happened alongside it.  I quickly found my favorites – Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Dvorak.  I also quickly found the ones that set my teeth on edge – Stravinsky and Shostakovitch. I loved the formalness of the presentation – the women in long black gowns and the men in tuxedos.  I would zero in on a particular performer – the timpani or the oboes – and obsess about their every move.  At about this age, I started to play flute in grade school, so my love of music was reinforced with daily practice.

The love of music has never left me.  I listen to a wide variety of things, from country, bluegrass, dulcimer, folk, 70’s rock, current rock, some 70’s disco and pop, and of course, classical music.  Generally, this is my go-to when I’m trying to be creative, or calm my nerves.  For writing, there is nothing like the drama in classical music.  If I’m writing a dark scene, I might go for the Rhapsody Pathetique for Violin and Orchestra by Richard Nanes, or Barber’s Adagio for Strings Opus 11aIsle of the Dead by Rachmaninoff is also great for dark writing.  If I need happy, outdoors music, I might listen to Beethoven’s Pastoral (Symphony Number 6), or Symphony No. 63 “Loon Lake” by Hovhaness.  If I need angry or powerful, I look for Dvorak and Tchaikovsky, or as I like to call them, “the angry Russians.”

There is such variety out there, I can find whatever I need to fit my mood, and the mood of my writing.  Classical music, the good stuff, has a way of soothing away my stress, helping to focus my mind on my story and the scene I am writing.  I know for some it is boring, and too quiet.  I would posit that they have just not listened to the right kind of classical music! And there is another bonus about classical music – no words (unless you are listening to chorale or opera, and those are not on my list of things I like to listen to).  Classical pieces are also quite long, twenty minutes to an hour.  Talk about keeping you at it!  Without breaks between songs, or words, it is so much easier to concentrate.

If you haven’t listened to classical music lately, you might want to try it again.  You might find that it does just what you need it to do for you.  And if you want a piece with highs, lows, and all the drama that a good classical piece should have, I’m going to recommend Mussorgsky-Ravel’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.”  Ravel, of course, wrote Bolero, great for writing a fight scene.  Mussorgsky wrote pieces you will easily recognize, most notably “Night on Bald Mountain,” which you will hear played at Halloween to bring on a chill.  But by far my favorite of his is “Pictures.”  It covers all the bases, from sweet and slow to crashing and loud, from sleepy thoughts to angry words, and everything in between.

What do you listen to when you write, if you listen to anything at all?  Share it below in the comments!

 

Fairest of the Faire – available now!

Fairest of the Faire book coverBlurb:

Schoolteacher Connie Meyers is suddenly a young widow, her husband killed in a horrific car accident. Heartbroken to find out he had gambled away everything they had, she moves to her sister-in-law’s Midwest home to rebuild her life. A trip to the local Renaissance Faire with her nieces leads to a summer job as a costumed storyteller.

Avowed bad boy and fair performer Gage Youngblood is infatuated with Connie at first sight. Despite his deliberately commitment-free life, and Connie’s don’t-touch-me attitude, he soon has her in his arms, realizing quickly she is also in his heart.

When she is threatened by her late husband’s bookie, he steps into the role of protector, his fate forever sealed with hers.

Excerpt:

“Who said anything about a relationship?” he said, standing up so he could tower over her again. “I’m just trying to have a little fun. You know, fun?”

If he’d been an animal, she was sure he’d have had hair raised on the back of his neck, he seemed so angry, and it struck her painfully. She hadn’t wanted to anger him or hurt him. She turned away from him and closed her eyes to tamp down the tears she knew would come if she let them. She crossed her arms over her chest, to hold in the pain. Being tired made her much too vulnerable.

“Yes,” she finally said. “I know about fun. Life isn’t always fun, though.”

“Princess.” His voice was soft, tender. “I won’t hurt you. It’s not in my plan.”

Despite herself, she felt the shivers of desire race down from her shoulders, down her arms and legs, and back up to that secret, soft place at her core. She bowed her head and gritted her teeth, hoping for the feeling to go away.

“And what is your plan, Gage?”

“It’s a simple plan. I want you to feel good. I want to feel good, too.”

Available NOW!

Buy at Wild Rose Press:  (eBook and paperback)

Buy at Amazon (Kindle and paperback)

Buy at Barnes and Noble (Nook)

I Before E…


…except when you are running a feisty heist on a weird beige foreign neighbor.

The English language is weird.  Just flat-out weird.  I’ve heard from non-native speakers that it is one of the hardest languages to learn.  It seems there are more exceptions than there are rules.  The “i before e” thing is just one example of that. Yes, field, friend, fiend, niece all follow the rule.  But beige, neighbor, weird, heist, feisty, do not.  And there are others.

When the letter “c” is at the beginning of a word, it is supposed to be a hard “k” sound.  Carouse, carousel, curb, club, cube.  But what about circus and circle?  The “s” should be a ssssss sound like a snake.  But what about does, flows, cause, pause, floods, where it sounds more like a z?

How confusing!

In my day job, I work with students with disabilities at a university.  I work with making their print documents accessible.  One student taking classes this summer is taking a course that talks about working with English Language Learners, particularly those that are Latina/o.  Every article I have to convert for her talks about how children trying to learn English are not just speaking English with an accent, they are substituting sounds they are already familiar with in their native language, because the rules make no sense.  What is the proper pronunciation from one particular letter in English, isn’t proper for the same letter in another word.  Unlike Spanish, French, and even German, there are really no “standard pronunciations” that an English language learner can count on. The only real way to learn the language is by rote.

No wonder teachers have such trouble teaching kids about phonics!

What are your examples of crazy English language rules or exceptions?

Fairest of the Faire – available now!

Fairest of the Faire book coverBlurb:

Schoolteacher Connie Meyers is suddenly a young widow, her husband killed in a horrific car accident. Heartbroken to find out he had gambled away everything they had, she moves to her sister-in-law’s Midwest home to rebuild her life. A trip to the local Renaissance Faire with her nieces leads to a summer job as a costumed storyteller.

Avowed bad boy and fair performer Gage Youngblood is infatuated with Connie at first sight. Despite his deliberately commitment-free life, and Connie’s don’t-touch-me attitude, he soon has her in his arms, realizing quickly she is also in his heart.

When she is threatened by her late husband’s bookie, he steps into the role of protector, his fate forever sealed with hers.

Excerpt:

“Who said anything about a relationship?” he said, standing up so he could tower over her again. “I’m just trying to have a little fun. You know, fun?”

If he’d been an animal, she was sure he’d have had hair raised on the back of his neck, he seemed so angry, and it struck her painfully. She hadn’t wanted to anger him or hurt him. She turned away from him and closed her eyes to tamp down the tears she knew would come if she let them. She crossed her arms over her chest, to hold in the pain. Being tired made her much too vulnerable.

“Yes,” she finally said. “I know about fun. Life isn’t always fun, though.”

“Princess.” His voice was soft, tender. “I won’t hurt you. It’s not in my plan.”

Despite herself, she felt the shivers of desire race down from her shoulders, down her arms and legs, and back up to that secret, soft place at her core. She bowed her head and gritted her teeth, hoping for the feeling to go away.

“And what is your plan, Gage?”

“It’s a simple plan. I want you to feel good. I want to feel good, too.”

Available NOW!

Buy at Wild Rose Press:  (eBook and paperback)

Buy at Amazon (Kindle and paperback)

Buy at Barnes and Noble (Nook)