FAMILY AND WRITING: HOW TO JUGGLE EVERYTHING?
Who better to answer the question of “How do you manage to get it all done?” than a mother/author/publisher with five young boys. And the answer is, don’t expect too much, always carry a notebook, and learn to be very flexible.
Oh, I try to schedule my writing into my day. The truth of the matter is – it doesn’t work for me. I don’t have a quiet office to lock myself in. I have kids. I don’t have alone time, I have kids. I’m not wealthy with just my writing (yet), so I have a job – and kids. .This doesn’t detour me in anyway. The day I was asked, “and what do you do, “ and I replied, “I write books,” it was official. I was an author and as such, I needed to take my writing as seriously as I took my paying job.
First things first, get mobile. Big tower computers are almost a thing of the past. Almost everyone has a laptop, or some kind of technology, which is accessible to them at all time. If you own one of these items, utilize it. Check your email. Keep up with your social networking/ publicity. Research by taking pictures or looking up information you might need later. By taking care of these tasks along the way, a minute here a minute there, you will be free and clear of emails, etc, when the time comes to sit down and write.
Again, I’m a big advocate for writing on a laptop. And the reason for that is, it’s mobile. As parents we find ourselves doing a lot of waiting. Sure we ran around like a crazy person making sure the karate bag had their uniform in it or the dance shoes made it to the dance school, but now what do we do? We wait. Sometimes we wait hours, whether at a sporting event, doctor appointment, or even in the pickup line at school. We wait.
What do authors do? We write.
I once wrote a book in the pickup line at school, with a preschooler, two toddlers, and an infant in my car. I did it all on a palm pilot with a wireless keyboard. Sure, that might sound extreme, but it worked. I had a moment and I took it. My laptop went with me to numerous hockey practices and playgrounds. My kids were fully aware that I was an author, and as such, I wrote when I could.
Now you might not have a portable computer, but they still sell pens and spiral notebooks. I have boxes of them filled with idea for stories, miscellaneous character traits, locations, and clippings from magazines. Again, all of this is productive to a writer.
As with any job, when you said you were a writer, you had to decide to take that seriously. The next step is to make sure the family knows that you’re serious. Sure, you can write at the kitchen table while mini supermans and batmans jump off the couch, but the truth is, at some point you’re going to have to finish that manuscript and you’re going to need some time. So make time.
Up till now you’ve been lenient about where you were, getting the story down. You’ve written on the back of a receipt and plugged the idea in at midnight on your computer when you had a moment. But now you need to get the manuscript polished and out to editors, agents, and publishers. You need office hours.
If you have the kind of family to respects that you’re laying down the law and you will be shutting yourself in the bedroom for the next three hours and you don’t want to be disturbed, then make that call. Tell them what you expect while you’re off at work. Let them know how important your job is to you. After all, they understand when you put on your power suit for a business presentation, in time they will understand this.
If however, you don’t have the family that will leave you to work for hours alone, make a plan to find a place away from home. This is where coffee houses thrive, park benches are occupied, and the local library can become your best friend.
Share your household duties with others. Perhaps it’s the cooking that takes you away from two great writing hours every day. Someone might take up that duty for you, if you present it as a job distraction. Carpooling could buy you up to a couple hours a week, all you have to do is ask and arrange.
Lastly, remember that you have to accept change, and lots of it. Flexibility is key. My office hours change on a daily and project basis. The moment I think I’ll get up at 4am and get writing done, I have a long sleepless night and I never make it up. And when I think I’ll have four hours alone and everyone will be at school, someone is sent home sick. There will always been the soccer practice you forgot about or the six dozen cupcakes that need to be backed before tomorrow that you learned about when you sat down to writing, in your “Office time,” so adjust. Rearrange your schedule a little to fit in twenty minutes of writing in the car or in the garage if you have to. Spontaneous in-law visits are going to happen and writing is going to have to wait.
Again, change is going to be something you grow very accustom to as a writer. Editors, agents, and publishers like change. They want you to do it all the time. So what do they care if you change the manuscript in the car or on the bleachers? Do they really worry that you wrote the most amazing scene at midnight, or that while the heroine passionately kissed the hero your children were shooting rubber bands at each other? No, they just want the best product you can give them. And as long as you believe you can deliver that, and you have stated the fact that you are a writer and you’ve shared that with your family, you will get it all done. And though you’re going to feel like you’re being stretched from limb to limb, just remember… you’re flexible.
Now let’s learn a little more about Bernadette as an author…
Do you have cheerleaders supporting you as a writer?
I am one of the most blessed writers! Not only does my husband cheer the loudest he completely understands those hours of editing my manuscripts and ignoring dishes and laundry is part of my job. I also have 5 sons who stand around me waiting for me to open my boxes of books so they can touch them first.
(Starla) It is always wonderful to have a family that supports you and understands the craziness of being a writer.
What are your hobbies or other interests that get you away from the stress of writing?
I am a martial artist studying Tang Soo Do. I am currently testing for my next step, which will take me to the half way mark toward my second-degree black belt.
How long have you been writing? What is your main writing genre?
I have been writing since I was twelve. My main genre is Contemporary.
What do you love about writing? Hate about it?
I love getting into the heads of new characters. When their world becomes real to me, I know other people will enjoy them too.
I’m not a fan of the process of getting published! The waiting. The writing synopsis. Queries! Yes… that’s the only part I can say I didn’t like.
What do you want your readers to take from your books?
When I think back to books I loved, I sometimes can’t remember the names of the characters, but there are poignant parts that stick with me. Sometimes it’s the humor or the meaning behind a significant part of the story. Sometimes that part changes your life. I want them to come away thinking some part of their life will never be the same.
Where do you find inspiration for your stories?
I’m very lucky! Everything I see is inspiration for me. I have books written from just one sentence from a song. Small towns inspire me to create my own towns. And, the inspiration that keeps me going is my readers who always finish my books and say, “now that other character is going to get their own book now too, right?”
(Starla) Yes, I love hearing from my fans that they want a follow-up book about one of the side characters. Sometimes I hadn’t thought about doing one, but I get my head back into that character and work it out.
Is there a general theme or message in your books?
The classic Happily Ever After.
What is your favorite part about building a story world?
I love to give characters their background. I have met so many different people in my life and each one of them help me build personalities in my characters. My favorite stories are the ones where the characters have always known each other and are embedded in the towns where they grew up (and apart.)
Describe your working environment.
My working environment is wherever I am. I have 5 kids. There is no peace and quiet in my house. Even my office often is crowded with kids, toys, games, TV, and so much more. I’m trained to work through it. (Luckily)
Do you write a story clear to the end before doing more than simple editing? Or do you stop after each chapter and completely edit it before moving on?
I’m HUGE on puke it out and then go back! With that said, I do get to the last two chapters and have to go back, reread, and do some soft editing to make sure I’m on track as I steer the story to the finish line.
How do you get beyond writer’s block?
By walking away. Giving it some time, completely occupying my mind with anything else, that’s what works for me.
What do you come up with first in starting a story: Title? Characters? Plot? Setting? Conflict?
I can only answer this with yes. I have stories, which have started with all of these items. Sequels are of course usually start with the characters. However, I can write a story with just a word given to me.
How do you deal with rejection?
I take it as a learning experience. Yes there were rejections that I felt were unwarranted. However, if they gave any reasoning for why they rejected me I took that to heart and looked at it. Everything is a chance to learn, even bad situations.
Do you have a writing schedule? How do you juggle writing, family, work, and life’s surprises?
I don’t have a schedule, though I am always trying to get one! I write when I can write. I try to get up at 4am and start with edits given to me by my editor. From there, it’s time to make magic with my stories. (I write in the car and on bleachers at sporting events.)
How do you promote your books and yourself as an author?
The internet has been invaluable. I can’t imagine trying to promote yourself without it. I Facebook and Twitter. I’m on Goodreads, Authors Den, and anywhere people look for books and authors. I’m a RWA and CRW member, and this is also a valuable tool for authors both published and pre-published. I run contests often on my social networking sites and I try to schedule book signings in obscure places like restaurants and house parties, in addition to book stores.
Now let’s learn about The Executive’s Decision from 5 Prince Publishing…
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: 5 Prince Publishing
Buy Link: 5 Prince Publishing
Did you have a favorite scene?
My favorite scenes are those when the entire Keller family is together. As a blended family, it’s fun to build the dynamics between them all.
Did you have a scne that was particularly hard to write?
There is an attack scene in the book. One thing as a martial artist I wanted it to be as real as possible. However, it was hard to write because I had to put myself in the shoes of a woman who wasn’t a black belt and think of how she would react.
Will there be any sequels to this book?
This book is book one in what will be a series of at least 5 book following the Keller family.
Regan Keller fell in love with a wealthy and powerful man once. He was her boss. When that turbulent relationship ended, she swore she’d never again date someone she worked with. That was before she literally fell into her new boss’s lap.
Zachary Benson is a successful man running an empire and used to getting what he wants in the boardroom and outside of it. He is determined to convince Regan that even though he is her boss they can share a life together.
However, when Regan’s past threatens Zach’s business he will have to make an executive decision whether to choose his business or fight for the woman he loves.
hunder rippled through the gray clouds that loomed overhead. Regan Keller raised her eyes to the sky. Please, please don’t rain. As she sent up the silent prayer, she felt the first drop hither forehead.
The nervous flutter in her stomach quickened as she looked down at her watch. Surely her day couldn’t get any worse. But the sky opened up, and those around her crowded together in the bus stop shelter. Her hair, tied in a tail at the base of her neck, dripped rain down her back as she hunched in her coat. How could she have forgotten her umbrella? Had her car been running, she’d have the one tucked safely away in the glove compartment because spring in Tennessee often meant sudden storms. She should carry one in her bag but had suffered a lapse in memory, having opted for the sunny beaches of Hawaii for the past two years.
As the bus arrived, those under the shelter huddled onto it ahead of her, claiming every seat. Soaking wet, Regan wedged herself between two people and held onto the handrail above her head. She looked out the window at the commuters driving themselves to work in the pouring rain. That should have been her.
A bitter-faced old woman sat below her, her oversized bag occupying the next seat. Regan bent to ask her to move it, but the woman glared up at her and gave a grunt that sounded like a dog’s bark. Regan flinched and tried to look away. But she was compelled to keep an eye on the woman.
The man to the other side of the vacant seat snickered. Regan looked down at him in his long black overcoat and perfect hair. Hemmed in between the old lady’s bag and an overweight man in a jogging suit, he was as pinned in his seat as she was to the people around her. She would have given him a piece of her mind for laughing at her had the bus not jolted to a sudden stop. It lurched forward then back and tossed Regan onto the man’s lap.
“I would have offered you my seat,” he said with a bright grin as the bus lurched again.
“Why, you…” She struggled to free herself, but the crowd moved in tightly around them as the bus bounced down the street. The pace of her heart kicked into gear and she could feel the sweat bead on her brow.
She hadn’t been this close to a man in over a year, and the panic of having him actually hold her on his lap was making her more than uncomfortable. “I need to stand up.”
“You might as well sit.” He wrapped his arms around her. “Doesn’t look like you’ll be standing again anytime soon.”
Regan took a few deep and cleansing breaths. She forced down the panic that was filling her body and tried to push it away. Alexander Hamilton thought she was dead. There should be no danger in sitting on the lap of a nice-looking man. She should find it within her to enjoy the experience and focus on something else.
He didn’t have an accent native to Tennessee like hers. Perhaps the rain had caught him off guard as well. If she didn’t relax, she’d have a heart attack, and this nice gentleman who wasn’t from Nashville would probably be blamed for her death on the bus on his way to work.
Accepting her predicament at face value would be a prime opportunity to let go of bitter feelings for the opposite gender, though after what she’d been through, she wasn’t sure she could. The thought of ever loving another man or letting one touch her made her palms sweat and her stomach clench.
The man smiled at her, and a dimple formed in his cheek. “This is your first time on this bus, isn’t it?” He pushed back a wet wisp of hair from her forehead, and she flinched away. “It’s always crowded, but I know I would have seen you.”
“My car wouldn’t start this morning.” She pressed her hand to her jittery stomach and willed it to settle. “I start a new job today. Car trouble couldn’t have come at a worse time.”
“New job? Congratulations. So what is this new job?”
God, he was handsome, and wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy the ride? But she wasn’t. “Executive assistant.” The words shook as she spoke.
“You think it’s just some glorified secretary, don’t you?” She clenched her teeth and her fists. Why wouldn’t she be angry? The last man she’d worked for had interpreted the title executive assistant as a license to run her life and to ruin it.
“No. I was serious. It’s a very important position.” He looked sincere. “So where is this new job?”
“Benson, Benson and Hart.”
“Real estate development.”
“Yes.” Her breath was becoming harder to push through her lungs. “I should get off your lap.”
“You’d ruin my day.” He laughed easily, so she tried to relax. “So whose executive assistant will you be?”
“Zachary Benson’s.” She looked around for a space to stand.
“CEO? He must have been very impressed with you.”
“I’ve never met him. His current assistant is having a baby and leaving the company. He was out of town when she interviewed me.” She thought about Mary Ellen, his current assistant. The interview had had a motherly quality to it. She wasn’t sure whether it was because Mary Ellen was pregnant or that worried for her boss. “I think she takes good care of him. It’ll be a hard pair of shoes to fill.” And if that hadn’t had her stomach tied in knots, here she was having a conversation about it with a man she didn’t know while sitting on his lap. Had she completely forgotten the last man she’d gotten this close to tried to kill her?
“I’m sure he’ll be pleased with her choice.”
“Thank you.” She wanted to wiggle away from the hard muscles she could feel in his chest, from his arms that held her tight against him, and from the legs of a man who obviously kept in shape. She couldn’t, so she kept talking. “I hope he likes me. I can’t imagine him not wanting to meet me first.”
“Maybe he’s ugly.”
Finally a laugh rolled from her throat. “That’s not what Mary Ellen said.” She tucked in her lips. “She says he’s a hottie.”
“Hottie?” His voice lit with humor. “Well, you’ll enjoy your job then.”
“Strictly business here. I don’t get involved with the boss,” she said sternly. Not anymore. This was, after all, her chance to take back her life after making such a mistake.
The bus stopped, and the old woman stood and grabbed her bag.
“Move!” She shoved her way through the people who climbed on and made her way out the door. Before Regan could stand and claim a seat, the crowd around her pushed her closer against the stranger, whose arms wrapped tightly around her as others dropped down beside them.
“Your stop is the next one,” he offered, and she nodded. “So what’s your name?”
“You’re native to Tennessee, aren’t you? Your accent gives you away.”
“I was born in Memphis. I spent most of my life in Nashville though. I did a stint in Los Angeles and then lived in Maui for the last two years. I missed home though.” The more she tried to suppress her nerves, the more she talked.
“Los Angeles? Tried your hand at Hollywood?”
“No.” She shook her head. “I worked for a prominent lawyer who had some big-name clients. But I wasn’t seeking fame and fortune.”
“Well, Ms. Executive Assistant, I’m glad you came home or this would have been a very boring ride this morning.” The bus stopped, and most of the people began to move to the door. “This is your stop.”
She finally stood and turned to exit with the crowd without looking back.
The man caught her hand and held it. Her very core shook, and her first instinct was to rip her hand away. But she needed to move on and not be so damn afraid of every man that gave her attention.
“Would you have lunch with me?” he asked.
“What?” She looked back at people climbing on. If she didn’t exit the bus now, she’d miss her stop. “Oh, I don’t think so.”
“Meet me at the hot dog stand at noon just on the north corner of your building,” he said with a wink and a nod.
She couldn’t think to speak. She nodded as she hurried off the bus.
The rain had subsided for the time being. Regan had almost dried off as she sat on the handsome man’s lap. The smell of his cologne lingered on her coat. She closed her eyes and breathed in the scent of him.
She stopped as she neared the door and turned to see the bus drive away. He was watching her from the window, and he waved. It occurred to her she didn’t even know his name.
She looked down at her hands. They were shaking.
Get over it. Move on. Not everyone wanted to hurt her. Not every man was evil with ulterior motives. No, some were just nice men who wanted to take you to lunch.
Well, it wasn’t like he’d asked her to stay at a hotel. He’d offered to buy her a hot dog. Really, it was harmless. And he’d assume she was too busy with her new job if she just didn’t show up.
But she wanted to.
Well, there was no better time to move on with her life, and no better way to get to know the man on whose lap you’d ridden to work than over a hot dog.
A tingle of hope shot through her. She needed to start taking back her life the way she wanted it. No more mistakes. No more regrets. It was her life now, and she was going to enjoy it.
AUTHOR CONTACT INFO
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