A Day in the Life of...H. L. Burke!

on Monday, April 11, 2016
    It's Monday, again! Know what that means? It's time for another guest post! This week's guest is *drumroll* H. L. Burke!

Hello, I am H. L. Burke and I'm a military spouse, mother of two superhero princesses, guardian of a ginger cat and a German Shepherd … oh and I write. A lot. 

I wrote all time from middle school onward but sort of quit when my first daughter was born.

It took four years for me to find my creative voice again after motherhood, not because I felt stagnant but because being a mom was so fulfilling that it kind of consumed my thoughts … and also because I was still finding my feet as a mother, a wife, a constant mover, and even an adult.

I started writing Dragon's Curse, the first book I self-published, when my second girl was a baby, as a NaNoWriMo project, to prove to myself I could make time in what was admittedly a hectic schedule.

I haven't really stopped since. 

I'm extremely caffeinated, easily distracted, and live in a consistent state of happy chaos. Because of that my routine often changes or is neglected or tweaked. I live dangerously! Still, most days go something like …

6:30ish—I'm vaguely aware of when my husband gets up to go to work. If I'm in “good wife” mode, I'll start coffee for him before slipping back to bed. Sometimes the girls wake up about now, but they are supposed to pay quietly until at least 7 (supposed to). Other times the girls sleep in until 8ish.

Vaguely between 7 and 8—Depending on many factors (has Caen, the ever vigilant German Shepherd, found something new and exciting to bark his head off at? Does Claire, the four-year-old, want a breakfast item she can't reach for herself? Do the kids decide to demolish the house?) I get up somewhere in this range. By get up I mean I roll over and grab the devotional I'm reading or my phone and do a short session of reading and praying then start my often interrupted routine of dressing, teeth-brushing, dog feeding, and seeing if Bruce Wayne has had his breakfast … Bruce Wayne is my cat. He's BATCAT! Officially, Coryn, my eight-year-old, is responsible for Bruce's meals. She usually needs to be reminded.

A photo posted by H.L. Burke (@burkesdragons) on

This morning, around 7:30, Claire came and scratched at my bedroom door meowing (yes, Claire, not Bruce. The four-year-old human, not the cat.) until I let her in, then she hung out while I got ready talking my ear off about how Coryn was still sleeping and she wanted an egg sandwich (kind of a mini-omelet on toast).

A photo posted by H.L. Burke (@burkesdragons) on

I also generally watch Good Mythical Morning on my phone while I make breakfast.

A photo posted by H.L. Burke (@burkesdragons) on

8 to 9am—depending how the morning has gone, I spend this hour or so catching up on the email that has accumulated over the night. I usually wake up to about 70 items in my inbox of varying levels of importance from “delete on sight” to “Oh gosh, I actually have to form an intelligent response to this.” I pour myself a cup of coffee and go through this backlog.

I also usually check my sales on Amazon, look for new reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads (because I can't help it. I NEED to see what people think about my books!), my blog for fresh comments, and my various social media for any interactions that need reacted to. I also try to find something interesting to share on my author Facebook page (usually a dragon picture #DailyDragon) or go through my accumulated pictures of Theodore the Dragon (#TheodoretheDragon) to share on Instagram … maybe even compose a few tweets because “marketing.” I can usually get this done in an hour. I better because …

A photo posted by H.L. Burke (@burkesdragons) on

At 9am, come Heck or High-water, Coryn NEEDS to be in front of her computer for school. We move around a lot (due to the military) and our last move cut right in the middle of the school year. Rather than try to get Coryn acclimated at a new school midway through, I signed her up for an online charter school we can take with us no matter what gets thrown at us.

A photo posted by H.L. Burke (@burkesdragons) on

While Coryn's school is officially from 9am to 1pm (we move it around as needed because we can … sometimes she'll do some school after dinner or on weekends to get ahead.), I bounce back and forth during this period from overseeing her school to taking care of little sister (who generally plays by herself well, but sometimes needs help) to doing household chores.

If Coryn is doing worksheets, tests, or watching instructional videos, I slip away to do household stuff. Other times I'm right over her shoulder administering spelling tests … and fielding mischief.

Coryn has an odd sense of humor. For instance, when tasked to write a paragraph on her ideal pet, she wrote it was a lion because it could “eat her enemies.” Why my eight-year-old has enemies, I do not know.

A photo posted by H.L. Burke (@burkesdragons) on

She also once switched out the words “ancient sailors” for “intergalactic warriors” when she was reading her social studies textbook to me, just to see if I'd notice, I think. Seriously, it would've been a much better story with intergalactic warriors.

Today she was watching a video about the difficulties of life on the Oregon Trail and when they were talking about the dangers of a river crossing she sort of snorted and said, “There's not even crocodiles in that river.”

I don't know where she gets it.

I have household chores, of course, but they aren't all that interesting. I really wish I could hire a maid. If you work for nearly nothing and live in my area, give me a call. I am not a clean freak by any means, but I manage to keep this place fairly presentable (just don't look under the couch. DON'T.).

After lunch, I order the girls to pick up the house, then I vacuum, make sure I have something I can cook for dinner, and start a load of laundry.

Around 2pm, I either order the girls to play nicely together or bribe them with some screen time (Coryn is a casual gamer. She has a couple of Hobbits she's leveling in Lord of the Rings Online. My husband has this plan to train her early so she can be his healer in arena teams for whatever game is popular when she's a teenager. Claire likes to play ABC Bubble Pop on the tablet.).

A photo posted by H.L. Burke (@burkesdragons) on

I'll pour a cup of coffee (sometimes cold. I like iced coffee.) slip back to my laptop, do a little more “social media” promotion then at least an hour of something writing related.

This isn't necessarily writing/writing. Sometimes I'll do some editing. Sometimes I'll log onto Scribophile.com to critique somebody else's writing, but if I'm seriously working on a particular project (I'm not today, having just finished one. Today this “day in the life” thing is my writing related thing, for instance), I'll put on headphones, pick out some music (I like videogame music, World of Warcraft especially) or ambient sound mixes, then use my secret weapon for efficient writing, the ten minute timer (If you pop “ten minute timer” into Google, it mysteriously provides).

I write down my work in progress's current word count, set the timer for ten minutes, write write write write write, timer goes off, check my word count, note the new number, then rinse and repeat. My daily writing goal is 1000 words. I find if I can get around 300 words per ten minute mini-session. That means that even with a few short interruptions, I can usually get my goal done in well under an hour.

Which is good because by 3pm, Coryn's friends who go to “Real school” are out and about at the playground across the street.

We live in a tiny on-base community, and I'd honestly be comfortable with Coryn going to the across-the-street playground alone, but Claire isn't quite ready yet, so I have to accompany them. I usually bring a notepad or a book or both … ideally I get some more reading and writing done while they play with their friends. Occasionally though there are other mothers there and I feel the need to interact. I usually consider myself an extrovert, but I hate small talk, so I'm not exactly good at the “park chat.”

I wish people carried around some sort of portfolio of things they are interested in or have knowledge about so I could like pick it up and order an interesting conversation.

“Oh, I see you like classic literature. What sort? You're into scifi television? Do you watch Star Trek? Oh you paint, that's awesome …” but mostly it's all stuff our kids have done and complaining about our husband's work schedules. I get really bored and just want to return to my work.

I try to put out feelers about the cool things I like, but we've only been here a couple of months, and I still haven't run into any kindred geek spirits.

A photo posted by H.L. Burke (@burkesdragons) on

We usually stay at the park for a couple hours, either way. Then I tell the girls I need to make dinner and herd them home about
5pm …

And I'm serious about dinner. We actually do have to eat around here. I kind of like cooking. I see it as another creative outlet … which has led to some ill-conceived attempts at new dishes or altering old dishes … but for the most part, I've struck a good balance in the kitchen between experimenting and actually making something edible. I also bring my laptop into the kitchen and watch/listen to TV when I cook. Something I don't have to concentrate on too carefully … maybe a crime solving thing like NCIS.

A photo posted by H.L. Burke (@burkesdragons) on

Matt (husband/Marine-man) is usually home by now, but Matt is an extreme introvert with a gaming and reading addiction, so after some quick “how was your day” exchanges, he becomes like a really nice statue in the corner, called “Man with a Kindle” or “Study of a Gamer” or something.

In between 6 and 8, we all sort of settle into our various entertainment methods. Sometimes the girls watch a movie. Sometimes they play. Usually I slip in some more work on the computer, maybe setting up promos for my existing work, editing or actually writing.

8pm begins the bedtime routines. Baths, stories, making sure they've had one last snack because my girls are ALWAYS hungry …

Then at 9pm girls go to bed, I make myself a cup of licorice tea or pour myself a glass of red wine (depending on my mood and whether my heartburn has been acting up lately … it's probably the coffee.) and write for a little more. Around 10pm I'll switch focus from work to winding down. I might play a low stakes computer game (like a match three or a hidden object game) but I'll usually do it while listening to ASMR videos on my headphones.

A photo posted by H.L. Burke (@burkesdragons) on

I got really into ASMR when I was pregnant with Claire and had a hard time sleeping. I've always been sensitive, but didn't realize it was a “thing” for other people until I stumbled onto the Whisper Crystal channel on youtube. Now I listen to all sorts of relaxation ASMR videos.

We turn in fairly early, because of Matt's work schedule. Sometimes I may read a chapter or two before bed … but mostly winding down time is when Matt and I connect … and yeah, sometimes that, but not always that or even mostly that. It's really when we talk. So sometimes around 11pm we work our way to sleep after some talking and teasing.

So that's me. There are alternate schedules like library day or days when I take Theodore the Dragon on an adventure.

So some weird habits:

  • I am extremely flexible with my writing habits. I don't just expect chaos, I sometimes actively create it. If we get stuck in our ways too much, I'll arrange something to disrupt the schedule. 
  • I can write just as easily on a computer as with pen and paper. I tried writing on my phone once. Didn't get very far. I think it would be a useful skill, though. 
  • I do like to have a beverage while I write. It's often coffee, but I also like a lot of different teas and sometimes wine. 

There's really not a lot of time in the day. If things start to get cramped, exercising is the first thing to go … followed by reading … then cleaning … I'm currently at stage one of letting things go in that I haven't exercised intentionally in over a month. Still reading and cleaning though!

You can find me online at www.hlburkeauthor.com or active on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

    Thanks, H. L., for sharing your schedule. Sounds like you have some creative kids on your hands! If only we could all have dragons to whisper story ideas to us. 
    Check out the other "A Day in the Life of..." posts here! And if you want to participate, comment here, or find me on Facebook or Twitter! Thanks for reading!


Anonymous said...

Thanks Allie and HL, I enjoy reading these "a day in the life" posts a lot! I'm surprised HL has just one cat at the moment. I imagined you might have at least a couple. :) Btw, I loved Beggar Magic, and intend to read more of your books. -Sylvia

Heather Hayden said...

Oh my gosh is that a screenshot of the next Elementals book? *squees*

Loved hearing about your day, HL! Your kids are adorable and that cat's just too cute. Same goes for the dragon. I want a dragon that follows me around whispering stories in my ear!

Elise Edmonds said...

That thing were people carry around a portfolio of their interests should totally be a thing. It would eliminate so much pointless-yet-socially-acceptable small talk!

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