Working while on vacation

My husband owns his own law firm. It is a small group – him, another attorney, two paralegals, a part-time law clerk and a secretary. And while I know that he needs to work (and bill clients) to make a living, I want him to be able to take a break. After all everyone needs a break now and then.

But vacations seem to stress him out. There is the getting everything in order and done before you go, finding someone to cover your work, and then of course trusting that they can handle everything without you.

I’ve come to understand that my husband will never be able to do that last one. He has never been able to go on vacation and NOT check in. He did this when he worked for another law firm and of course it has only gotten worse since he became his own boss.

When he first started out on his own, it was just him and his paralegal. And even though he had an attorney friend who agreed to help out with any emergencies, my husband still wanted to be available for his clients. So when we went on a cruise two years ago, he called in when we were at port and tried to stay in contact using the ship’s slow internet connection.

This week we are on a trip to Houston. It has been in the works for years as we kept postponing it to go on a cruise or to Disney. But four or five months ago we picked our dates. (We always have to do this early as my husband is required to file vacation notices with the courts so they don’t schedule anything during those times.)

It has been on his calendar for months and now he seems shocked that it is here. And of course, he is busy. He is always busy. Working to take time off takes work and he doesn’t seem to appreciate it. Truth be told, I know he would rather not go on vacation.

The fact is he will always be busy. There will always be motions and hearings and deadlines. It is like people who say they will wait until they have money before they have kids. It isn’t going to happen. You just need to do it.

And I think he needs time away from the office. And while I know that a trip with the kids isn’t his cup of tea, I planned a short Las Vegas getaway for just the two of us earlier this year. But it is always the same complaint that he has to work so hard to prepare for even a short trip that he isn’t sure it is worth it. And then, he does not disconnect from work if he is working while “vacationing.”

I worry that working all the time will lead to burnout. And I wish that he would put aside work and truly disconnect. It would do wonders for him to enjoy himself and destress. But he isn’t going to do that. So I have told him that if he needs to, he can work in the afternoons while we are in Houston while the kids and I are at the pool. But I know the kids would be happier if he was out there with him instead of in the room. But hey, we will take what time with him that we can get.

Today’s Featured Author – Susan Leigh Noble

Today, I am featuring myself as my featured author. I have done this in the past when I have had an author flake out and not turn in their author interview or book excerpt. This time that isn’t the case. I just failed to fill this spot, but don’t worry, I have the rest of July filled up. August isn’t so lucky so if you are an author (self published or traditionally published, any genre) and would like to be featured on my blog in August or beyond, I urge you to contact me.

Typically when I have been the Featured Author, I have done book excerpts but today I have decided to answer some of my author interview questions. If you would like to take a look at my books, click here to find links to book excerpts from all four of my full-length novels and my short story.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I wear many hats. I am a blogger on this website where I post four times a week. I am a fantasy author with four full-length novel and a short story published. I am currently working on another fantasy full-length novel due out in 2018.

I am a mother to two children – Lexie and Jase. I am an officer on the Parent-Teacher Associations for both their schools. I am also a wife and animal wrangler (we have 3 cats and 2 dogs). My husband and I have been married for twenty-two years. I do the bookkeeping for his small law firm. I am sure I am forgetting something else that I do but as you can see, I am one busy lady!

Where were you born and where do you call home?

I was born in Maine. My dad was in the Air Force so we moved around quite a bit until I was twelve when we settled in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I attended high school and college in New Mexico before marrying my husband and moving to Texas. We have lived in Lubbock, Brownsville and finally now San Antonio where we have lived for the past fifteen years. I feel pretty confident that we will be calling San Antonio home for many, many more years.

Do you write full-time? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

As you can see from above, I certainly am not a full-time author. I am busy so I have to squeeze in writing when I can. That might mean I spend an hour (or just a few minutes) here or there. It means sometimes I am writing at home and sometimes I am using my iPad while I am taking the kids to their activities.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

I typically do what is called headlight outlining. That is where you plan out a few moves ahead at a time. This allows for greater flexibility than outlining the whole novel but doesn’t leave me directionless. It saves me from staring at a blank page and also cuts down on rewriting in subsequent drafts which can happen if you write without planning.

Why did you choose to write fantasy novels?

I love magic and dragons so it just seemed natural to pick a genre that incorporates those two elements.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

Yes, I have just completed the first draft of my next book Blood Bond. It is a story about a man (Soren) whose life changes drastically when he meets a dragon (Dex) and becomes “linked” to him. I came up with the idea for the book because I like dragons. In fact, all of my books so far have contained a dragon. The dragons were really a big part of The Elemental trilogy, and I wanted to write another book where dragons played a crucial part of the story. In this one, man and dragon have broken off all communication until an approaching army threatens both which forces them to work together again.

Please tell us about your current release.

My last release, The Heir to Alexandria, begins with Alista, a young woman searching for her parents who abandoned her at birth. She is a bit naive and trusting but also harbors magic that she has kept secret. It is this magic that leads her to be chosen to be tested as the possible heir to the powerful Alexandria family who was murdered many years ago. There is a rumor that the youngest daughter survived and it is her descendants that the Kings are searching for. While the Kings believe the heir will restore peace to their troubled kingdoms, there are others who will do anything to stop the testing and possible return of the heir to Alexandria.

Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?

I do most of my writing in my office. Sometime if I want a change of pace, I bring out my laptop and write either on my bed or the couch. With my busy life, I can write anywhere.

Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

I have a black belt in Aikido.

Book Blurb

Believed the descendants of the Gods themselves,
The Alexandria line ensured peace,
Until they were brutally murdered.
But rumor spread a maid escaped with the youngest daughter.

Now as the world rushes toward a period of unrest, the nations’ Kings continue their 200-year-long-search for the Heir to Alexandria – the one person who can bring peace and stability through divine power.

Alista has her own search – for the parents who abandoned her as a baby years ago. When her only lead proves to be a dead end, she heads to the capital with a reluctant escort. Grayson is just following his aunt’s order, but he would rather be on one of his solitary scouting missions for the Landra Guard. However, when Alista unintentionally curses a guard in front of the King’s court, everything changes for both of them.

Now forced to travel to Covington for testing, danger lurks at every turn as a secret society strives to prevent the return of the Alexandria line. Are Alista’s visions of the future enough to save herself and those traveling with her?

About the Author 

Susan  Leigh Noble has always loved dragons and magic so it is no wonder that she became an author of fantasy novels. As a cat lover, she also had to throw in a telepathic cat to the mix in her The Elemental trilogy as her short story, The Search, which features Tosh, one of the main characters from the trilogy. She published a stand-alone novel, The Heir to Alexandria, 2015, and just finished the first draft of her latest book, Blood Bond.

In addition to writing, Susan spends her days taking care of her two children, three cats, two dogs and husband in San Antonio, Texas.

You can purchase her books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and anywhere e-books are sold.

Tips for a well-written book description

Your book is done. You have your eye-catching cover and a great title. But your job is not over. It is time to write what is probably the most important words – the book description.

The book description appears on the back cover of paperback or on the inside flap for hardback books. For selling online at places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, the book description is located right under the list of available book formats.

No matter where it is located, this is the one thing all potential readers turn to when they are trying to decide if they want to buy your book. And that is why it is so important that you get your words just right. But first you need to know what a book description is not supposed to be and what it should be.

What it is not

Your book description is NOT a synopsis of the book. You should not be summarizing the plot. Readers don’t want to know too much or what would be the point of buying the book.

What it is

The description is an ad. In a few short sentences, you need to hook the reader. Your goal is to intrigue, entice and convince customers that they simply must know more.

It can be a time-consuming activity, but it is well worth the effort. If done correctly, a reader will purchase your book. If done wrong, nothing can save you (except a recommendation from the right source.)

Tips for Writing your Book Description

  • Great First Line – You need to grab readers with the first sentence. If the reader doesn’t go past this, it won’t matter how well-written the rest is. People are looking for a reason to move on to the next thing. Don’t give it to them. Make the first sentence something that entices them to read the rest of the description. Also remember that only the first few sentences show up on Amazon’s description. Readers must click ‘read more’ to read the rest so make the first lines count!

 

  • End with a Question – It often works well to end a description with a question or point of tension – something that will hook the reader on the character’s dilemma. “Will Alista’s visions be enough to save her?”
  • Keep it short – There is no word limit but you want to keep it sweet, short and focused. Aim for two to three paragraphs of around 150 to 200 words total. Basically, cover what is the book about and why the reader will be interested.
  • Write in Third Person, Present Tense – Even though your book is probably written in past tense, your book description will be written in present tense as if you are sitting face-to-face with the reader and telling them about the book. And even if your book is written in first person point of view, your description will be told from third person POV.
  • Focus on Main Character & their Goal – You need to be able to name and describe your main character in one sentence. You don’t need to include other secondary characters. Your focus should be on the main character’s goal. You don’t need to include any subplots.
  • Use Emotional Power Words – Your book description should evoke emotions. To convey those feelings, you need emotional power words such as devastated, torn, passion, terrifying, etc. (You can Google ‘Power Words’ for a list of hundreds of words.) Just be careful not to use too many.
  • To Compare or Not to Compare – I’ve seen advice to compare your books to other similar books and then I have seen the opposite advice. Some authors think it will help readers decide to buy the book while other authors feel it can make the book look inferior and that if you compare it to a book the reader hates, you could lose the sale. So the choice is yours.
  • Awards & Excerpts of Reviews – Whether you should mention any awards or accolades in your description brings the same dilemma as mentioning other books. Some authors are for it but unless it is an impressive, known award, it might be best to leave it out. Many readers simply won’t care. I know it won’t sway me to buy a book. The same holds true for including quotes from reviews. Unless it is a review from someone influential or impressive, you don’t need to include review quotes. If you do decide to add it then do so after the description.

If you would like to see a great breakdown of descriptions from The Hunger Games and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, click here.

Writing good book descriptions is challenging. One of the ways to get better is to read lots of book descriptions. Go to the top sellers in your genre and peruse those descriptions and learn from them. It takes practice but writing a well-written, compelling book description will lead to sales.

Recipe of the Month – Slow Cooker Creamy Beef Stroganoff

This recipe was sent to me by my mother. As a busy mom, I can always use a slow cooker meal. Looking forward to trying this one out.

 

 

Ingredients

2 cans condensed cream of mushroom soup

¼ cup beef broth

3 T. Worcestershire sauce

3 cloves of minced garlic

½ t. black pepper

1-2 t. basil

1-2 t. oregano

2 bay leaves

12 oz. white mushrooms, sliced

1 ½ cups onion, coarsely chopped

2 lbs. boneless beef round steak, cut in thin strips

½ cup sour cream

12 oz. medium egg noodles, cooked and drained

1 T. chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Directions

Stir soup, broth, Worcestershire, garlic and black pepper in a medium bowl.

Place mushrooms and onions into a 6-quart slow cooker. Top with the beef. Pour the soup mixture over the beef. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 hours or until the beef is tender. Remove the bay leaves. Stir in sour cream. Serve over cooked noodles. Sprinkle with parsley, if desired.

Note: Browning the beef in a skillet before adding to the slow cooker will add more color to the dish, but is not necessary. You may cook on HIGH for 4-5 hours. 

Deciding on getting your kid a cellphone

Jase turned twelve in May and just finished elementary school. Some of his classmates already have cellphones. Jase does not.

As an elementary school student who I walk/drive to school most of the time, there was no need for him to have a phone. His extra-curricular activities (soccer and karate) were done with me in attendance. Only when he stayed after school for violin practice or tutoring did he walk by himself (or with his sister). But we are just two blocks from the school. There was no need for a phone.

But next year, Jase enters middle school. And as I understand it, most of the kids there have cellphones. Teachers send messages via the Remind app. Homework requires different apps, and students even can use their phones during class to watch videos or utilize apps as part of a class exercise.

Now cellphones are not a requirement, but they can be an asset. And as Jase hears about friends who will be getting one, he too wants a cellphone. And we are considering getting him one. But all the talk of cellphones and middle school brought up the question….

When is the right time to get your child a cellphone?

It is not really a question of age. (Some experts say 12, others say 14 and a few suggest holding out as long as you can.) It is a question of maturity and responsibility. And in my opinion, it is also a question of need.

Things to consider before getting your child a cellphone

  • Does he/she have the ability to follow home and school rules?
  • Do they show that they are responsible and won’t lose/break the phone?
  • Do they understand data charges and paying for games and other apps? And will they respect any rules you set up regarding buying these apps/games?
  • How savvy is your child about technology? Does he/she truly understand future college admission staff, employers and colleagues could see anything posted now?
  • How well do they do with limits to screen time?
  • Do your kids need to be in touch for safety reasons? (Some people don’t have a home phone or their child travel a lot due to extracurricular activities.

And while you have to make sure your child is ready for a phone, parents also need to be aware of the dangers or possible issues with giving them a phone.

Risks/Disadvantages

  • Additional charge for an extra line, texting and data package
  • There is a higher risk of online bullies. A phone increases the possibility of encountering child predators.
  • As with any device (such as tablet), gaming system (X-Box, etc.) and a computer/laptop, a phone is another attention-sucking device, which can distract from schoolwork. The main difference is that a cellphone goes with a child everywhere, including outside of parental supervision.
  • A phone can interrupt sleep patterns with late-night texting.

If you do decide to get your child a cellphone, make sure they understand your rules and the consequences for breaking them from the beginning.

Your guidelines should be clear. Things you might want to consider…

  • You need to know their passwords
  • Have the ability to limit screen/phone time
  • Set up times the phone can’t be used such as dinnertime or bedtime
  • Determine what will happen if the phone is lost or damaged (Who pays for repairs/replacement)
  •  Make sure they know you will be monitoring their social media sites (this should be done whether they have a phone or not)

If you want an actual contract to outline these agreements, check out this one that can easily be adapted to your needs.

Deciding on getting your child a phone is a decision every parent will face and the decision will be different in each situation. I think Jase shows a great deal of responsibility and know he will follow any rules we establish as he has done so already with his iPad. So come August and school gets ready to start, he will be getting his first cellphone.