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Posted By Susan Bernhardt
Two weeks ago my first mystery novel The Ginseng Conspiracy was published. I had numerous interviews and small celebrations with family and friends. It was exciting. I remember the first time I looked at my book on Amazon, I got a thrill. I literally felt my heart go into overdrive. I was so excited! And I still am! For the next full week, I concentrated on marketing, on social media, on networking. Because I was an unknown, I believed my book would spread best by word of mouth. During this time, I also finished the second novel in the series and submitted it. I was on my computer all the time.
Now I am back in my routine of writing the third novel in the Kay Driscoll series. Besides writing, I look numerous times for new reviews of The Ginseng Conspiracy to appear and watch my book as Amazon's best sellers rank numbers fluctuate. I also continue to market my book. In an interview by my local newspaper after my book was released, I was asked about the number of books I planned to write in a year. I said my goal was to write one novel a year. I have yet to write a novel in a year. There isn't a formula that I use to write my novels in the Kay Driscoll series. They aren't cookie-cutter books that can be put out every three months. Being asked about the number of books by the reporter made me think about my time spent writing and made me wonder, what would be a healthy ratio for writing to other important life activities. Lately, I had been spending much of the day in front of my laptop. Time management was in order.
I read an article about Janet Evanovich who writes the Stephanie Plum series. Her workday, every weekday is from early morning to 5:00 p.m. writing in her office. First of all, Kay Driscoll is not famous like Stephanie Plum, nor I like Ms. Evanovich to justify this kind of schedule and of course the money isn't there. Plus I would never want to be that solitary. Second, although my social life is much less now than it was before I started writing, I still like and need to be with friends. Third, most of us have a household to deal with and obligations to others (volunteer work.) And fourth, my husband wants more of my time. With no chance for having my cake and eating it too, the time has come to prioritize.
When I first started writing The Ginseng Conspiracy, my writing ratio: to my social life: to family and home upkeep was probably 10:40:50. Then when my goal of publishing a book was within reach, the ratio became more like: 50:10:40. Something had to give. To add to this, since I've started writing, I've changed. I've gotten used to being home more during the week and I'm enjoying it. Is it age or being an author that has caused this change? Is my laptop isolating me? Maybe it's just a stage I'm going through with my new found fame and fortune...lol.
Again, there has to be some give and take for a healthy goal. I've decided to establishing a regular writing time and to use that time creatively. I value my time writing, and must make the committment to myself to keep it. For my needs, I'm going to aim to have the writing to social to home ratio look more like: 30:20:50.
And there are always weekends for any activity lacking during my workweek schedule. Enjoying a dinner out or a visit to an art museum, the theatre. Spending extra time with family and friends, and holiday time for travelling and new adventures!
If you are an author, what does your writing ratio look like? Anyone else like to chime in?
 
Posted By Susan Bernhardt
Today I am interviewing Lorenzo Martinez, a co-editor of my mystery The Ginseng Conspiracy. For those of you who don’t know Lorenzo, he has a fascinating history. Born in Antilla, Cuba, he was part of Operation Pedro Pan (Operación Pedro Pan) a secretive mass exodus from 1960-1962 of 14,000 unaccompanied minors to the United States to escape the Castro regime.
His memoir coming out soon “What Says the Moon” is a fascinating and deeply emotional story of his journey as a young man coming to the US and afterwards. He is an accomplished author, composer, musician, educator, instrumental in the development and marketing of non-profits.
SB: Lorenzo, you have an interesting background. To get started, tell us more about your history.
LM: I'm not sure I can do justice to your question given the space constraints, which is why I wrote What Says the Moon, a memoir that is more than 300 pages long and yet covers only part of my history. In short, let me say I was born in Cuba where I lived until I came to this country in 1962 at the age of 18 with a younger brother. I joined a program that had overseen the secret exodus of Cuban children to this country and was taking responsibility for their care. As you already mentioned, the effort became known as Operación Pedro Pan and more than 14,000 children participated in it. My experience in that program is the focus of my memoir What Says the Moon, which is coming out in the spring.
The Pedro Pan children were entrusted with the task of applying for visas for their parents so their families could be reunited. Unfortunately, because of the Missile Crisis in October of 1962, relations between Cuba and the United States were broken and no one could leave the island. It took five years before my parents were able to join us. We were fortunate, however; some of those children never saw their parents again.
For more on that part of my story, you’ll have to wait until my book comes out. But I can talk about my professional career, which has had three successful iterations. The first one as a musician. For years I lived in New York City, where I taught piano, performed in recitals and composed. I had a book of children's songs, The Circus, published by Clarus Music and had other compositions featured on American Television and at national and international festivals. The second iteration of my career saw me as a fundraiser in charge of development and marketing departments for a number of international non-profit organizations. I will speak about the third iteration next.
SB: Please tell us about your writing background, your books, including your work in progress.
LM: Writing is the third iteration of my professional career. I've been writing ever since I remember, but mostly lyrics for songs or poems. In my professional life as a fundraiser, I wrote proposals and reports and edited other people's writings, but I never considered writing seriously until five years ago. Since then I've taken a couple of online writing courses and wrote my first memoir. Also, I had a picture book published, The Ballerina and the Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich. At present I’m working on a second memoir as well as a mystery for young adults.
Please proceed to Interview with Lorenzo Martinez Part B immediately below.
 
Posted By Susan Bernhardt
SB: What other passions besides writing do you have?
LM: Playing the piano, which I had stopped doing for a while and recently picked up again. My friends are allowed to listen only after at least a glass of wine so their ears are numbed to my mistakes. I have a neighbor who must be aware of my requirement because every time he hears me practice he rings my doorbell with a glass in hand. What he hasn't figured out yet is that letting friends in to listen is "by invitation only." Other passions are cooking, terrible for the waist line, and reading, particularly at night.
SB: What is your favorite genre to read and who are your favorite authors.
LM: I’m a voracious reader. I will read any genre. However, I favor mysteries, memoirs and biographies. While I admire writers I've been reading for a long time, Hemingway, and García Márquez, to name a few, I tend to fall in love with the author I'm reading at the moment. Authors I've recently discovered and fallen in love with include Neil Gaiman and Daniel Silva. I'm in the middle of a fascinating mystery written by the latter that takes place in Rome, mostly inside the Vatican. Besides Silva, mystery writers I enjoy are Alexander McCall Smith and Donna Leon. Perhaps my most favorite writer of all times is Joan Didion. I will read anything she writes. Her prose is so lyrical!
SB: What do you do for rest and relaxation?
LM: I'm not very good at relaxing. I must always be doing something, although in reality playing the piano and reading are activities I can get totally lost in that serve me as a form of meditation.
SB: What important lessons has life taught you?
LM: I came here in search of political freedom and, to use a cliché, to live the American Dream. I’ve been rewarded on both counts. Despite the dysfunctional Congress we have, when I see the ruins Cuba is in and the persecution people who oppose Fidel's regime still suffer, I give thanks for living in a country where public political dissension is allowed and hard work can lead to success.
An important lesson life has taught me is to be flexible, not something I always do with ease, and to keep reinventing yourself.
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Posted By Susan Bernhardt
 
Hooray! Book Launch Day! – January 3, 2014 – The Ginseng 
Conspiracy is out on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and MuseItUp 
Publishing! I am thrilled! Please join me in celebrating and 
please share this with your friends!

You are invited to follow my online progressive dessert party 
where I will be interviewed by four authors. Each interview will 
feature a recipe from Sweet Marissa's Patisserie, the crime 
fighting headquarters of The Ginseng Conspiracy. 

The schedule is as follows:

January 3rd - Lorenzo Martinez - www.lorenzo-martinez.com - Kay's 
Triple Threat: Triple Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Torte.  

January 3rd - Marsha West - www.marsharwest.com - Deirdre's Divine 
Inspiration: Heavenly Mousse au Chocolat.

January 6th - Heather Brainerd and David Fraser - 
drivingblindproductions.wordpress.com - Marissa's Surprise: Plum 
Clafouti.

January 7th - Helena Fairfax - www.helenafairfax.com - Elizabeth's 
Extravaganza: Éclair au Chocolat.

Thank you and see you there! 
Susan Bernhardt author of The Ginseng Conspiracy
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