First, a funny tale from last night’s sleepover. My son, who is a huge introvert, has become quite the socialite lately. So yesterday, he had a playdate and then a sleepover with two different kids in one night. I was exhausted. This morning, I go to wake up the boys. I say, “I’m going to take a shower and then I can make you breakfast.” His friend says, “Can you lock the door when you take a shower?” I raise my eyebrows and say, “Why? Are you planning on walking in?” And he says, “No, just lock it please.” Umm…
I’ve convinced myself that this request is the result of school discussions about privacy. Otherwise, I don’t want to know.
On a house note, we found a great sectional for the new house. I was really concerned about how we were going to manage to get a couch up to the 3rd floor suite in our 100+ year old home without damaging something. Luckily, my friend just got a new sectional and she mentioned that it came in about 15 boxes and I thought “Hmm…something that breaks down into tiny pieces would be really really good.” She bought the couch at Lovesac. I didn’t even know they sold couches. Yesterday, my husband and I went into their mall shop to do some information gathering and we came away with a sectional that is going to be amazing in that space. Plus, we got to play with wooden blocks. Score!
As I work on my next book, I’m also querying agents with a completed thriller based in North Georgia. I just started the process a few months ago, and when it comes to querying, it’s hard to predict how long it might take. But I would guess I’ll be at it for a while. The good news is that I’ve had several full and partial requests, so keeping my fingers crossed. Well, actually they’re uncrossed, because I have a new book to write and I can’t type with them crossed. So maybe cross your fingers for me, yes?
My family has been watching the Netflix production of A Series of Unfortunate Events. I loved those books and this version is so good. So so much better than the Jim Carrey attempt of yesteryear. Anyway, we just watched the episodes where we meet the Quagmire triplets. Needless to say, the word keeps coming up in the conversation. And since I’m writing about writing and querying and home improvement projects, I think quagmire is an effective visual for how some days can be. A soft boggy area of land that gives way underfoot?…OR, a sagging piece of floorboard in a new kitchen. An awkward, complex, or hazardous situation?...OR sending your book baby out to persons unknown and awaiting feedback with bated breath. Hey writers! Do you ever feel stuck in the bog? Me too, sometimes. But the feeling fades and then I move on with a smile on my face.
And finally, the Questionable Quotes archive on Snopes. Because it’s just a fun read J https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/category/quotes/
Doing the AtoZ Challenge this year has been a stretch, given my already hectic schedule, but I always enjoy the way it forces me to sit down and just write. The end project may be a little bit insane and choppy, but I appreciate you reading and hope you’ll stick with me to the end.
See you tomorrow for R day!
It’s crunch time. My parents will be here in a month and a half and there is so much to do. I setup a phone number for the new house yesterday. That was actually pretty easy. Then, after reading the new draft planning & zoning regulations, I spent the morning reading forms and doing research and setting up accounts and generally doing the legwork required to get everything up and running. This will be my life for a while. I’m seeing double already. *another BIG sigh*
On a planning note, in addition to planning this project with my parents, I’m outlining my new book. That’s right, this pantser is doing some experimental outlining to see how I like it. Eep! With so many things swirling around in my head, I think I need the added structure if I want to get this first draft down on paper by June. Fingers crossed.
I spent a fair amount of time pontificating this morning once the panic subsided. I am not comfortable with uncertainty. Thankfully, my husband knows this about me so when I go a little panicky, he steps in with a calm and level head. That being said, I think that local government (and really any governmental body) has a really tough job trying to appease the masses and the special interests and those in positions of power without going completely loony. I’m curious to see what kind of response the draft planning & zoning regs get. The area I’m interested in seems like it would be difficult to enforce, so I’m struggling to understand how the City expects code enforcement to stay on top of things. BUT, I got most of the exasperation out of my system this morning and am ready to move on to more pleasant things.
And more planning.
And less panic.
And maybe some pancakes.
Logo design can be a soul-sucking process. Often the cost is high, and there is a necessary back and forth between the client and the designer, which can lead to frustration on both ends. When I was running a marketing company over a decade ago, I remember having a serious falling-out over a logo. Of course, my partner and I were about as stubborn as two human beings can get!
Luckily, the multimedia company I worked with on the logo for Melissa Leigh, LLC is the best! Leona St. Louis (wasn’t it lucky that today is L day!) is creative and patient and pays attention to detail. The finished logo arrived today via email. So, I’m going to show you the logo and do a little backstory on the company.
Let’s start with the backstory.
My mother often mentioned the idea of renting out the back room of her house in New Mexico as a bed and breakfast. Last fall, I stayed at a B&B in Georgia that had me daydreaming too. And like most amazing things in my life, I was struck by a crazy and wonderful idea. Why not start a bed and breakfast in Colorado? Mom and dad could move closer and we’d have a project that would bring us all together—one that my mother and I had both been daydreaming about.
There have been about a million decisions, lots of plans, and a few compromises between that fateful day when my parents agreed to my scheme and today. But the result is Melissa Leigh, LLC and our upcoming short-term rental project. We bought a gorgeous house in a neighboring town—a place where my parents will be comfortable and connected to the community. We’ve been working tirelessly on setting up the business end of things, but also on helping my parents make a big BIG move.
At the foundation of Melissa Leigh, LLC is family. I come from an extremely close-knit family and living apart from them has been an unfortunate, but sometimes necessary part of life. I’m thrilled that in a few short months, my mom and I will be able to get together for coffee and it won’t involve plane tickets and hours in the car. My dad and I will be able to do work together again (something that he says he enjoys—making me a little teary-eyed). And I’m thankful to be in a place in my life where I can dream big and live those dreams.
Here’s the new logo. Keep an eye out for more information and updates about Melissa Leigh’s, including the continuing saga as chronicled here for the #AtoZChallenge.
My first purchase for the new house was an easy choice: a Keurig. Because if I’m going to work, there needs to be easy access to coffee. I’ve been on a strict elimination diet for the past 9 weeks and I’m fairly particular about my coffee. I have to make it myself and it has to be just so. I’m especially fond of the almond milk I have at home (coffee shop almond milk isn’t my favorite), so making my own coffee is key. AND, I don’t drink a lot of coffee—usually just one cup a day—so the Keurig is ideal for me.
For the purposes of the new house, I ordered a fancy new Keurig that does single cups and carafes. That’s a clue, by the way.
I’m a high-maintenance coffee drinker on the best of days. I like a little bit of coffee with my milk and sweetener. In college, my friend Becca and I used to have mocha Tuesdays. If it’s swimming in cream and chocolate and there’s just a hint of a coffee flavor, I’m there. When I gave up dairy, I settled on almond milk as the best alternative. When I had to give up Splenda, I settled on Sugar in the Raw as my favorite sweetener (I tried Monkfruit but it was a fail and I can’t stand Stevia). As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to take my coffee slightly less creamy and sugary, but not much. And an after lunch coffee is my favorite afternoon treat, especially when I’m writing.
When I’m in the middle of writing a book, my coffee consumption goes way up. I try to stick with decaf after my first cup of fully caffeinated coffee, and I try to keep total number of cups below 3 so I’m not a jittery mess all night. BUT, when I’m in the middle of a project, I get absorbed. When I finish off a cup, I often get up to make another as an excuse to stretch. But my brain is so wrapped up in what I’m working on that I don’t always keep track of how many “stretch” breaks I take in one day. My body reminds me later when I can’t get to sleep.
So, coffee is both an essential part of my creative process, and a crutch. My Keurig is my best friend and my dealer, depending on the day. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. When I start spending more time in the new house in May, my cup of coffee will be ready for me.
There is a business component to our home improvement project. In addition to bringing my parents closer to us, the project will involve a business venture that will mean a shift in career path for my mother and a management and marketing challenge for me. I’ve been thinking a lot about business plans, contingency plans, and diversification.
Part of my overall plan has led be down a path I hadn’t considered before. About a year ago, I signed up to be a consultant for Perfectly Posh, a direct sale line of pampering products. My entire motivation for signing up was to receive a percentage off of products I was already buying (I was using some off-the-shelf lotions until one of them turned my daughter into a lobster and I decided to shift to more natural products…but that’s a whole different story). I never planned to sell the products myself since my plate is already overloaded and I’m not in a position to go out and do parties.
Then, this new project with my parents came about and I realized that if I sold Posh on the side, it could help support the new business. So, today is H and H is for hosting parties. This Saturday I’m hosting a Posh party at my house. I’m not a hardcore saleswoman, but I do love the products, so we’ll see how this goes. One thing I do like about Posh as a business is that it doesn’t require any inventory, so it’s not a bad choice for people looking for an easy added income. This may very well be the one and only non-virtual party I host.
And because I’m working on building this business, here’s the website: https://amyrivers.po.sh.
Anyway, throwing this party gave me an excellent excuse to hit one of my favorite home décor stores and do a little shopping. I purchased a few items that I can use this weekend and then save for the new house and all the exciting events that may be taking place there in the future.
I realize that I’m being vague about the new business and I apologize, but it is intentional. I promise I’ll have more details for you over the course of the next few weeks but for now I’m taking things slow.
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'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.