I’m reading the Harry Potter books with my daughter and so magic and muggles come up regularly in conversation. This is my fourth time through the series, and it’s amazing to me how seeing the stories through a set of fresh eyes changes it for me. The last time I read it, I was more concerned about how my son would handle the emotional situations (he’s very sensitive). This time through, I’m marveling at how Rowling crafted her adventures and enjoying the heck out of watching my daughter make the inferences that Rowling clearly intended her to make. It’s fun reading books as a writer.
My muggle concerns today include more work toward getting the new house setup, finishing up edits on a short story so I can submit before April 30 and starting my new manuscript. I attended a book launch today (that’s where the murder comes in – congratulations to Becky Clark on her book baby!). I’m going to head into my office first thing tomorrow morning (that’s Monday while we’re on the M thread) and start putting all the pieces together. It’s always an exciting (and something manic time), starting a new manuscript., so here’s to some ccreativity and endurance.
Hope you all have a wonderful weekend! The #AtoZChallenge is on the downward slope to the finish. Glad you’re here with me
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.
Today, I went shopping for party supplies with my friend Crissy and her sister Jill. Crissy tells me that Jill is a favorite at her school because she is a ball of sunshine, and I agree. Jill is silly and sweet and a fun girl to visit the craft store with. Now, my friend Crissy is an artist and she may have a teeny addiction to art/craft supplies (and honestly, she knows what to do with them so more power to her). What I learned today is that Jill can give Crissy a run for her money anyday. Jill loves to paint and one of her projects while visiting with her parents is to do stencil designs outside the art studio Crissy is working on. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with.
Spending the afternoon with Crissy and Jill was a nice reminder to look for the joy in everyday life. Jill’s spirit is so bright and shiny, it’s impossible to hang out with her and not feel happy. It was fun to watch her shop—to see what she found interesting and hear her opinions on the things we found. It reminds me a little bit of watching a movie you’ve already seen with someone who hasn’t. I don’t know about you but I LOVE doing that! I will happily watch the same movie over and over if I get to see your reaction to it. At the end of our shopping trip, I was rewarded with a big bear hug from my sweet new friend.
As I look back over my day, I can make you a long list of all the things I accomplished. And that’s awesome! Yay! But my favorite part of the day was my outing with Jill. And by some twist of fate, today is J day so this post is for you Jill!
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 has been such an interesting and exciting year, especially here on the blog. We'll have new authors telling us their stories starting next week, but today I'd like to take this chance to thank all the amazing authors who've shared their experiences with us. We've been so fortunate to have aspiring and emerging authors, self-published and traditionally published authors, just starting out authors and New York Times Bestsellers, and everyone in between. Thanks for the stories. And thank you readers for taking an interest in all these wonderful authors! Below you'll find the links to all the authors who've participated in #WhatsYourStory to date. Check them out, add their books to your to-be-read lists and share them with your friends and family. Happy Thanksgiving!
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.