20 September 2017

Time Management for Writers

This week I struggled with my blog post. Not necessarily with the topic (although, there was a bit of that also), but mainly just finding the time to write. As a devoted dog mom of three high-energy pups, I am in the habit of pouring my heart and soul into each of my furry children every day.  Not to mention all my other duties and responsibilities associated with my daytime occupation, volunteer work and of course life in general. I realized long ago that it is not healthy for me if I continually focus all of my time and energy completely on others and their needs. Fact is when we give of ourselves every day, but hardly ever re-energize, we eventually find ourselves completely drained. At this point, we just go through the motions, and may even be ready to give up. 

However, we do need to find a way to recharge and refresh from time to time. We can’t just keep on giving when we have nothing left to give. Everyone around us will eventually catch on when we’re frazzled and running on empty. It is essential that we take some time for ourselves in order to rejuvenate, so that we can keep going. There are countless ways to give ourselves a break from the everyday hum-drum of life. Exercising, painting, cooking and baking, knitting, and many others. And although I have many interests, I have found, that writing is one of the best ways I can refuel. 

Over the past six years, I’ve completed two photographic travel journal and two full-length wartime memoirs, a canine health book, and my debut novel. My next historical fiction novel The Country Girl Empress is almost ready to be released and several other writing projects are in the works. Some of the questions I’m asked the most are, “How do you balance everything? How do you manage to find the time to write AND do all this other work, plus volunteer work?”  I openly admit, it is never easy to juggle the growing demands of a published writer's life, with everything else. As I have mentioned earlier, I am in the midst of a struggle right now. But it helps me to keep in mind that writing plays a big part in my renewal process. Writing is a unique gift, which provides me with an outlet, and a way to connect with others. But how can we find the time to write with all of the other demands on our time? 

Here are some techniques I use to juggle writing along with all my other responsibilities: 

- Schedule your writing time. Pencil it into your daily planner or block it off on your online calendar. I like to block a little bit of time in the early morning hours before everyone else awakens. Everything else is a bonus.

- Prioritize your activities. It's a fact...we simply can’t do everything, no matter how hard we try. When we fill our lives so full with going here and there, we often lose out on the downtime that we hold so dear. It is, after all, the time we can let our creative juices flow. 

- Don’t wait for tomorrow or the perfect moment! Otherwise, we will never get around to writing. Whenever possible, I like to begin my afternoon writing session after everyone has been fed, cleaned and all other responsibilities have been taken care of (or put off until tomorrow?!). Many times that means that my writing time is full of interruptions, but I write anyway...or at least I try. 

- Plan for an uninterrupted writing session for once a week, if at all possible. Due to the less than ideal conditions throughout the week, I make it a point of taking a large block of writing time on the weekends. Sometimes it's just easier to focus when our surroundings are calm.

- Get your family's support. I know, it's not always easy to ask others to help out, and not everyone is blessed with a very supportive husband as I am. But when I take writing seriously, others (including my husband) are more apt to follow suit.  

- Try not to feel guilty for taking the time to write. I sometimes struggle with this, because there are days when I feel I really should be doing something more productive with my time. But then, writing is also a productive activity, and when we can pursue our passions, we at our happiest. Now, who can argue with the pursuit of happiness?

So, what about you? Do you take the time to refresh on a regular basis? Do you ever feel guilty for spending your time writing?

Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added her debut historical fiction novel In the Shadow of Her Majesty to her ever-expanding collection of published writings. When she isn't busy typing away on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebookGoodreads and Google+.

13 September 2017

Essential Record Keeping for Writers

You're a writer, and without a  doubt, you keep a copy of every story you've written. I'm sure you've plenty of files filled with fantastic story ideas, outlines, and descriptions. More than likely you also maintain a collection of great punch lines and unique character names scribbled on sticky notes, along with folders overflowing with printed versions of stories in numerous stages of editing. 

Once you publish your work and even beforehand, you should focus your meticulousness that you pour into your writing and also apply it to your business records. That means you shouldn't toss receipts but keep track of them via balance sheets and income statements - in most cases a simple spreadsheet will do nicely.  

I realize that this sounds horribly boring, but there are several reasons why keeping business records is imperative: 

- In case you didn't know, writing is more than just a hobby - it's a business, and as with every business, it's prudent to keep track of your income and expenditures. Records will allow you to see at a glance if you’re making a profit or loss, identify which of your books or services are selling, and how to make your business more profitable. 

- Come income tax return season or should you decide to apply for a business loan it's good to be able to provide financial statements such as balance sheets which clearly show your profit as well as losses.  

- Identify the source of your expenditure. This information is vital in order to separate business from nonbusiness expenses and taxable from nontaxable income. 

- Keep track of deductible expenses such as printer paper, ink cartridges, book contest entry fees, etc. You might just be able to save some money at tax time. 

Just a few minutes a day should suffice to maintain your business records. I find that recording my income and expenses as they occur is much easier than trying to remember them months down the road or attempt to locate receipts during tax season. Granted this might cut a bit into your daily writing time, but not taking care of such matters promptly more than likely means that you'll have to forego writing for several days come tax time. If you should have any doubts about what's important, please consult a tax professional.

Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added her debut historical fiction novel In the Shadow of Her Majesty to her ever-expanding collection of published writings. When she isn't busy typing away on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebookGoodreads and Google+.

06 September 2017

Top 5 Blog Post for August 2017

Can you believe it? Summer has come and is almost gone, and autumn is less than a month away. But, before I get sidetracked by my fall decorating ideas, it's time to recap last month. And now, without further ado, here's the list of the most popular blog posts for August 2017, chosen by you, the readers:

Thank you for reading my blog! Please feel free to come by often to catch up on my latest endeavours and Happy Writing!

Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added her debut historical fiction novel In the Shadow of Her Majesty to her ever-expanding collection of published writings. When she isn't busy typing away on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebookGoodreads and Google+.

30 August 2017

A Sneak Peek at The Country Girl Empress

As most of my readers know by now, I've been diligently working on my next historical fiction piece for some time, and I can well imagine that many of you wouldn't mind a sneak peek. Well, you won't have to wait any longer. Here it is....enjoy!


PS: Please keep in mind that this is just an excerpt of two separate sections from an unfinished manuscript, and although it has undergone several rounds of vigorous editing already, it's not the polished, final product. Thank you!  =)

Chapter One

                                                                    A Princess is Born                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
It was the year 1837. A dark, cloudy sky hung over the Bavarian capital of Munich. It didn’t snow, but it was bitter cold, and the year was coming to an end. Busy people hurried from here to there through the streets. Men and women were covered in thick coats and pelts; their cheeks had turned red from the ice cold winds. Many of them carried loads of packages, large and small, with which they hoped to surprise their loved ones when they found them under the Christmas tree. Because you see, it was Christmas Eve, and Santa Claus was on his way to bring joy and presents to all children around the world.
At the Wittelsbach Palais in Munich, everyone also awaited another special delivery. There was a nervous coming and going, and from the second story, all the way down into the lower levels of the Palais, the servants tiptoed around.
Just now a carriage stopped in front of the main entrance and a sturdy woman, covered from head to toe in a thick winter coat and several shawls, ascended from within its confines. The doorman, Mr. Pichler, dressed in his livery, stormed forward to help the woman, with her large bag out of the vehicle.
“You have finally arrived, Mrs. Steinmaier”, the doorman greeted her. “They are all going stir crazy in the house! Couldn’t you have a hurried a little?”
“Hurry over on Christmas Eve? I have a husband and four children of my own!” countered Mrs. Steinmaier.
“Well, it’s not as if the Duchess got to pick the day of delivery. One must take it as it comes, and the way nature wants it,” the doorman replied. “Now hurry up the stairs. They are all in desperate need of your assistance!”
“Everybody always seems to require my assistance,” Mrs. Steinmaier chuckled. “But I’ve never been too late. Usually, there’s always plenty of time left. So, don’t get into a tiff, Mr. Pichler. After all, it’s not the first time I’ve been summoned to assist the Duchess.”
Resolutely she took the leather bag by its handle, and Mr. Pichler allowed her to enter the Palais. He didn’t dare voice another one of his opinions, not to mention that Mrs. Steinmaier was right.
The lanterns shined brightly, reflecting their light onto the stairs, and the stone staircase to the left showed many wet footprints from previous visitors. Mrs. Steinmaier hadn’t expected anything different; nevertheless, she sighed. She had, after all, been called to a royal house, where traditions seemed to govern matters, even though common sense would have been more practical.
The two lines of the House of Wittelsbach had been steering the fate of Bavaria these past seven hundred years. The Palace had been built for Crown Prince Maximilian, later King Maximilian II, and now Duke Max in Bavaria resided there with his family.
His wife, the resolute Duchess Ludovika, couldn’t have picked a better day to go into labour. According to Mrs. Steinmaier, she could have easily waited a couple more days. But, as the porter, Mr. Pichler had already pointed out, the Duchess didn’t get much of a choice, and since this little bundle of joy was in such a hurry to make an appearance, it would definitely become a real Christmas surprise.
The midwife stopped at the bottom of the staircase to catch her breath. The bag she carried, which contained all necessary midwifery equipment, was heavy. Fortunately, one of the servants, a chap named Fritz, passed by.
“Fritz, don’t be in such a rush and give me a hand. I can barely breathe!”
“Oh my goodness, Mrs. Steinmaier…wait!” Fritz instantly showed mercy and literally ripped the bag out of the hands of the midwife.
“Come quickly, the doctor is already here. The Duchess is miserable, and the entire highborn family is driving us all insane.”
“No wonder, Fritz,” she said and stomped up the stairs next to him. The banisters had been decorated with pine branches, which emanated a pleasant and festive fragrance.
“I am glad, that I wasn’t born a Duchess. My mother wasn’t forced to birth me in public. Where is the Duke now?”
“He’s downstairs in the servant’s hall, drinking a cup of coffee. Nothing can shake His Royal Highness. I just left him downstairs. The Duchess sent me to ask him if he needs anything. She’s not one to let go of the reins, not even on a day like this.”
“That’s so typical,” the midwife snarled. “He sits in the servant’s hall, drinking coffee, while his poor wife…”
“But what is he supposed to do, Mrs. Steinmaier? He can’t help her, and give birth to the child in her stead,” Fritz defended his master. “The doctor is with her now, and you are on your way! And the entire useless company sits behind the paravent and patiently waits for things to move along. The doctor angrily complains like a little canary, if someone dares to light a cigar!”
They had finally reached the foyer. The mother-to-be had been moved to the Red Salon, which could hold a great number of people. The luxurious bed, which had been specifically moved here from the furniture depot for this particular occasion, stood on the other side of a paravent. The screen provided the laboring mother a touch of privacy because on the other side of it, nearly twenty people had assembled; noble-born relatives as well as members of the Royal Ministry. After all, the expected new arrival could have a claim to the throne. So, this birth was for all intents and purposes an official act as well as a family affair. The royal physician, Doctor Reichenach, sat beside the mother-to-be, who tried with all her might to bear the pain of labour with dignity. As long as it was possible, she bit her tongue, but the contractions returned quicker and became more intense. But, so far, everything had always ended well. The Duchess trusted the skillful hands of the midwife, as well as the doctor and most of all the help of the Holy Mother of God, whom she begged with pressed lips that things may end soon.
The murmurs of the waiting crowd sounded like a faraway buzzing to her, yet she continued to be very much aware of the fact that she was the lady of the house, and as such had obligations to fulfill.
Duchess Ludovika was a practical woman, and conscious of her rank and place in society. Her husband, on the other hand, Duke Max, was quite the opposite. He was a rather dull fellow, who hated nothing more than social snobbery and ceremonies. If the midwife would have taken the back gate, which took you through the courtyard of the Palais, then she would have ended up at the snow-covered circus arena. Such a thing, including rows of wooden benches for an audience, one would normally not expect to find at a royal residence. Duke Max, by contrast, had given the order to build the arena. He would often ride through its confines on one of his fine horses, and perform for a variety of visitors. He knew no higher praise than their applause. Among his friends to fill the rows, you found his pals from the HofbrÀuhaus, and they were definitely not noble born. Even people from the infamous artist colony in Schwabing attended some of these private circus showings. Duke Max openly admitted that he would have rather been a circus director than a Duke if he would have had a choice. 

Can't get enough? The Country Girl Empress is coming soon to a bookshelf near you!

Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added her debut historical fiction novel In the Shadow of Her Majesty to her ever-expanding collection of published writings. When she isn't busy typing away on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebookGoodreads and Google+.