Believe it or not, today’s topics don’t go together (although they could, but since I’m looking at buying new furniture, I’d rather not think about forensics during that particular process). When my husband heard my topics, he said “sounds like bloody carpet.” Um, no. Just no.
If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll see Friday Forensic Fun Facts posts. These posts came about for two reasons: 1) I’m studying forensic criminology and I think it’s fun so I decided to share, and 2) I read a lot of mysteries and thrillers so forensics come up pretty often both in my reading and in my writing. I got my first glimpse at forensics as an undergrad in a physical anthropology class where we got to examine skulls and bone fragments to determine gender and estimate age. Then, as a graduate student, I took a forensic science class that was AMAZING! Recently, I was reading Jeffrey Deaver’s book The Bone Collector and couldn’t help but fall in love a little bit with Lincoln Rhyme and his love of trace evidence.
So, if you’re interested in forensics, you might appreciate the Friday fun facts.
If you think about forensics too much when shopping for furniture, you might never want to bring new items into your home. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. That being said, my husband and I spent an hour in a new furniture story yesterday looking at tables and cabinets and things for the new house. While most of the furnishings are staying, there are a few specific pieces we’re looking for. A cabinet for the entry and one for behind the living room couch. A round table for the entry (or maybe a square one - still on the fence). A bed frame for the master suite that has both a bookcase headboard AND underbed storage - at the foot of the bed, not the side. How’s that for specific!
I love furniture shopping. I can really appreciate the craftsmanship, especially in wood furniture. The house I live in is so modern, and when we were furnishing it, our focus was completely different than it is with the new house. It’s a lot of fun to walk through the store, run my hands over the fabric and finishes (probably leaving fingerprints and trace evidence all over the place….ugh), and daydream about where a piece would go and how it would/could be used. It’s easy to dismiss pieces that are just completely not my style or the house’s, but other pieces require more consideration. Here are a few of the things I found during our shopping trip (these are just ideas…we’re not ready to buy anything yet).
In my estimation, emotion can alter our expectations. OK, I admit it. I just really wanted to say that.
Just spent a few hours working on the new house, including a walk-through with our contractor to get estimates for some of the remodeling work. I felt excited (another E word) but was also a little sad for the previous owners who are starting to say goodbye to their home of 15 years. While this project is a fun adventure for me, both my parents and the previous owners of our new house are embarking on major life changes. As a result, I’m trying to keep by excitement in check with consideration to the bittersweetness of the situation for those around me.
In good news, our contractor said the words “that’s going to make it easy” more than once, and easy is a really really REALLY good E word to hear when you’re getting ready to remodel a house, especially a 100 year old house. Phew! Lots of work to do but it looks like many of the things we want to do are feasible.
Oh, and I got 100% on my final exam! Yay for E day!
In terms of expectations, I continue to work on keeping mine realistic. In every part of my life, there are a lot of people whose wants and needs are intertwined with my own. So rather than spend too much time with expectations, I try to keep close company with hope. I hope all our plans for the house are possible. I hope I can get my next novel drafted by June. And I hope that I find a literary agent who will join me on this fantastic, completely un-ordinary writing journey. I expect that if I stay positive, keep working hard, and take care of myself and the people I love, that no matter what happens, I’ll find myself surrounded with love and hope and possibilities.
We’ll start with some academic details. Just finished my exam! After a final pass to make sure all the details were where they needed to be, I pushed the submit button and now it’s a waiting game. Two things about me: 1) I am NOT the most patient person (though I try) and 2) I am a serious and sometimes ridiculous overachiever when it comes to school SO wish me luck J Next class starts May 21, so I’ll be turning my focus over the next few weeks to the new house and drafting a new novel.
In terms of the house, we’re meeting with the contractor tomorrow and the first order of business has to do with doggie details – namely, the fence. This house comes with a spacious and beautiful backyard. My parents, who will be moving in in less than two months, come with a sweet little adorable doggie pal who we’ll all want to keep safe and sound in said backyard. So, we’re looking at the fence. We’ll be putting in a new gate and dig-proofing the entire fence. I found some cool spikey things that keep critters from digging their way through. Has anyone ever used these before?
This pup isn’t much of a digger really, at least not around fences, but she’s small enough that she could slip pretty easily under a few areas where the fence doesn’t quite reach the ground. This seems a lot easier than – say – replacing the whole fence, right? My pooch is an indoor dog only so we haven’t had to deal with this particular issue at our house. I always love a new challenge!
After the fence, we’ll be looking at doggie doors and other canine contraptions that will make the new house a great new home for my mom’s furry friend.
AND THEN….on to the new novel. I’ve spent the last two months researching degenerative eye diseases and I’m ready to start delving into the world of my new protagonist (and her sidekick), as well as a brand new villain who already gives me the creeps. Yay! Hoping to have a first draft done by June. Fingers crossed!
Today’s task: getting an estimate from one of our favorite contractors for at least half a dozen improvements to the new house. One of those projects is building a carport. We’re going to compare a custom built structure that would more closely match the look of the house vs. a pre-fab structure that will likely be the more economical option. The new house is not listed on the National Historic Register but the neighborhood itself is a Historic District and many of the neighboring houses have been listed as official historic sites. We’re hoping to make improvements keeping with the style and historic aesthetic of the neighborhood.
Collaboration is the name of the game. Finding professionals who will help us realize our vision while working within our budget is just one part of the process. If you know me, you know I tend to think really big. So having collaborators (including my brilliant and interminably patient husband) who will rein me in when necessary is high on the list of priorities.
My husband and I certainly collaborate on many things in life, but I prefer to think of him as my co-conspirator. For some inexplicable reason (could it be love?), he likes my big ideas, my passion projects, my leaps of faith. I have a strong work ethic, so he knows that I’ll work my tail off to make things happen, but I suspect I also amuse him. He supports all of my endeavors, providing reality checks and some necessary grounding as we go along.
So, what does all this have to do with writing? As much as we’d love to shut ourselves into a room and produce masterpieces that make us wealthy without having to interact with anyone, having a writing career requires collaboration. Whether we’re freelancing or writing novels, we’re likely to work with agents, editors, publishers, marketers and all sorts of other people who help get our work in front of readers. We also work together, in writing groups, to improve our craft and broaden our horizons (and sometimes just to vent over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine). All of these pieces are necessary parts of seeing our projects to completion (oh look, another C word!).
Anyone have any thoughts on collaboration? Or, if you prefer, custom built vs. pre-fab carports? I’m all ears. (here's a picture of the driveway).
I live in an ultramodern house in Boulder County. Our new house is the opposite…sort of. It’s an American foursquare style house cozily situated in the heart of a historic district. Built in the early 1900’s, but restored and updated to reflect modern sensibilities, the house is a mix of old and new. For instance, many of the original windows are still in place, but fixtures and appliances have been updated. The previous owner is an interior designer, and the house reflects her aesthetics. Walking in the first time was like entering a dream home, and lucky for us, much of the décor and furnishings are staying put.
However, to fit our repurposing project, there are a few big fixes and renovations to be done. In terms of priority, the basement and bathroom are on the top of the list. The basement has a lot of usable space and we’re going to work on turning it into the new laundry room so that we can convert the current laundry room into a fourth bathroom. It’s going to be quite a task! And in terms of style, I’m on the fence. I want the bathroom to feel luxurious, but not overly modern. This is definitely not my area of expertise and it’s at least a mile outside my comfort zone. Thankfully, the Internet never lets me down when it comes to idea generation. You can help too. Below you'll find a photo of the current laundry room. Once a covered porch, it’s a small but sunny room and I’m dying to put a nice soaking tub in there.
Of course, as we speed along on this project (and this week is also finals week for me, so I’ve got some tall studying to do), I have to remember to take a moment to breathe. Yesterday, I developed tunnel vision and made a few unfortunate mistakes. Today, I’m reminding myself that working hard is important, but working smart….even more so. My tendency to jump into things has led to some amazing adventures in my life, but it also tends to land me in hot water from time to time. I’m constantly telling friends “Breathe!” when they feel overwhelmed. Guess it’s time to take my own advice.
Speaking of hot water….I’m ready to look at tubs!
I know today is April Fool's Day - an easy A choice, yes? But my theme this year has to do with lessons on life and writing learned during a home improvement project, so today's post is about assemblage.
Assemblage: a collection or gathering of things or people. My family is about to embark on a new adventure. My parents are moving to a nearby town and we're going to start a new business. This business involves the purchase and renovation of a beautiful century old house. And, as you might guess, it's going to take a whole lot of planning. We'll be gathering together all the things we need to make our project a success. Assemblage.
This process is the same in many areas of life. As a writer, I spend an enormous amount of time collecting facts and details. Sometimes this involves research into real places, people, and events. In some cases, I'm making things up as I go. I will spend months with my characters, their conflicts, and the details of their lives before I ever sit down and start typing a story. The end product is an assemblage of pieces of information that will build the story, creating suspense and giving readers characters that they can relate to.
Today, my work involved creating business documents and applying for licenses and identification numbers that will lead to more tangible tasks in the future. And since it's Easter, I'll be keeping this post brief so I can spend time with my loved ones. But I hope you'll follow along during the month of April. These posts will be packed with hints, updates, and reveals as we get this home project going and I simultaneously draft my next novel with the goal of completing both projects by June.
It’s April 30th! Hooray! This exploration of feelings has been strange. I’ve been looking through lists of feelings online to get ideas, and I’m not so convinced of some of the choices. For instance, can you “feel zombie?” Maybe I’m just doing it wrong?
Reaching the end of this year’s challenge is leaving me feeling very zen. It’s always a little daunting to take on a month long challenge. And so many things have happened in April, I’m a little surprised I made it. Of course, I was late a few times and I’m sure some of my posts were a little lightweight, but I hope you enjoyed them. I tend to use this blog as a place to lend some insight into my personality and my life. As a reader, I’m always curious about the lives and loves and antics of the authors I like to read. I like that think, knowing a little more about how my brain works (or doesn’t), will help give context to my writing. (I am ALL about context).
So before I skip off onto other projects, I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who read my blogs this month. I hope you’ll continue following me here or on Facebook (I’m an addict so that’s a great place to find me). For those of you who have read or are planning on reading my book Wallflower Blooming, it was just picked up by a publisher and will be re-released in June. Yippee! And you can get the Kindle version free all next week!
Many exciting things coming to the blog so stay tuned.
And a big welcome to May! More sunny days, less chance of snow and lots of outdoor recreation. Woo hoo!
Well, the list of “Y” feelings is disappointingly short. I am feeling neither yucky nor yielding. And though I am definitely not feeling young, I would say that I’ve been feeling rather youthful lately. Several recent experiences have taken me back to my younger days: glasses of wine, flirty boys and high school antics. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I believe that saying, “you’re only as old as you feel” and I don’t ever want to feel old. When I’m 90, I still want to be vital and flirty and silly and all the things I feel now at 38. And when I’m determined, there’s no stopping me! Who’s with me?
On another “Y” related note, my critique group took me out last weekend to celebrate my upcoming wedding. It was the day after our writing conference so we all had things to celebrate. We saw a production of Lost in Yonkers. It was so so fabulous! The cast was exceptional. The young boy who played Arty was brilliant. He had so many lines and his facial expressions were priceless. The woman who played Aunt Bella was just beyond words (though clearly I’m going to take a stab at it anyway). The amount of emotion she was able to convey…just so so good. I laughed. I cried. I ate a huge hot fudge sundae. It was a splendid day with a group of people I just love to death.
Here’s me and Aunt Bella.
Xenophobic: intense or irrational fear or dislike of people from other countries.
Do you remember “freedom fries?” In 2003, when France openly opposed the war with Iraq, our government (who get paid a whole lot more than I do, btw) decided to change the name of French Fries served in the Congressional cafeteria to “Freedom Fries!” We’ll show you! Though this maneuver was obviously a highly intelligent act of protest (*sigh*), the dislike or fear of foreigners has been ever present throughout history (and is perpetuated by antics like the Freedom Fries incident).
Xenophobia is a toxic feeling and is used to justify all sorts of atrocities. Why is it that we (humans) fear the unfamiliar? Why do we fear our neighbors? Foreigners represent “the other.” Something other than ourselves; strange, different, alien. We fear the loss of our cultural identity. We see skin color as somehow defining our character and the mixing of races somehow contaminates that. OK, so it’s true that we (big WE) have done some hard work on overcoming these feelings. But there’s a long way to go (as evidenced by our ongoing need to identify one group as “the other” and try to oppress them).
How many people still see someone of Middle Eastern descent and feel uneasy? My family is Hispanic and my mother is often stopped for extra screening at the airport because she looks Middle Eastern. She’s not. But what if she were? My mother is a pacifist. She’s the person least likely to be a threat, especially on planes, which make her nervous. Of course, you can’t tell that by her complexion or the shape of her nose. But we’ve created a security system built around racial profiling. Here’s the problem. The people who actually want to hurt us are paying attention. If we create our system around the concept of “the other,” the logical step for someone who wants to beat the system is to make sure the next evildoers are “us.” (P.S. using the word evildoers here made me cringe, but I’m going with it anyway).
It’s a vicious circle. What do you think? Am I way off base here? Chime in. Your thoughts on this topic are very welcome (but please keep it constructive).
My daughter and I are reading Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. Now, anything by Roald Dahl is likely to be a little on the strange side, but I can’t help thinking that Willy Wonka is maybe the weirdest character ever. I’m partial to the Gene Wilder version of the infamous Mr. Wonka; playful, whimsical, but still an adult at the end of the day. The Johnny Depp version might be closer to Roald Dahl’s vision, but it’s never been my favorite. Re-reading these books with me has given me some insight into why. Willa Wonka is weird.
That I find Willa Wonka’s weirdness a little worrisome is saying a lot. After all, I am weird. Some of the stuff that comes out of my mouth even surprises me. But there’s something disconcerting about Wonka’s weirdness. And I don’t think I ever noticed it as a kid so I think this re-evaluation is happening through my adult / mom filter. I can’t help but wonder what happened to Willy Wonka. The Johnny Depp movie has that strange dentist backstory which I actually found too creepy. Johnny Depp played creepy Willa Wonka like nobody’s business.
I really do like the whimsical Gene Wilder portrayal best. I am of the opinion that that adaptation of the book combined all the best moments of both Chocolate Factory and Great Glass Elevator. And despite the more recent remake, the Gene Wilder version is timeless. My kids love to watch it and I do too.
Which is your favorite version? Have your kids read the books? Share your stories of weirdness and whimsy!
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.
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