Every place I've ever lived has been designed for that "average American family," with lots of bedrooms, living room, dining room, family room, etc. The problem was that I was a single person, not an average family. I needed space, but for hobbies, not people. And because I'm over 6'2", bending over to use sinks designed for children was a constant frustration. Over the years, I collected a list of things I would change if I could have my dream house. As I approached retirement, I realized time was running out for that house; it was now or never.

Dreams are not always perfect, however. I could never afford my dream house, a spacious Southern California home overlooking the Pacific Ocean. But I could afford a modest ranch house, with a 20-mile drive to the beach. It was a very long way from perfect, but it had potential.

This blog documents the process of turning that small average house into something that matches my lifestyle. It will be as close to my dream house as I can make it. I'm doing all the work myself to stretch my resources. By not hiring contractors, I can afford high quality materials, and I'll know the job is always done right. The remodeling will be my primary avocation for a few years, even as I try to fit in my writing and other hobbies.

It promises to be an interesting journey, and a challenging one!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Writing Update

Before starting to catch up on posting on my many remodeling projects, I had some things to say about writing progress (or lack thereof, depending on my frame of mind).

After the move to California, I did spend quite a bit of time completing two books that needed to be done.  The first was a non-fiction work chronicling the four years I spent taking care of my elderly parents during the last years of their lives:  Pushing Twilight: My Personal Adventure in Geriatric Home Care.  Not a fun task, and because of that, I needed to get it behind me (or it would never get done).

The other writing project was more enjoyable: Ripley's World:  A Samsara Prequel.  A too-short draft had been languishing for a few years, needing some filling out.  The lengthening made it a more complete story, and changed one character completely—a substantial improvement.

Which brought story development for Daughtry's World to the forefront.  Kevin Daughtry was a minor character—a detective—in Kenshi's World, but was interesting enough to merit his own book.  There was just some depth and complexity about him that said I should dig into his story.  Very often characters just show up, like real people.  That surprised me the first time it happened.  I had thought I would have to create every character, bit by bit.  It happens both ways; I can't explain it.

In any case, Daughtry had a pretty intense past, a past that incites his present (although the link is not immediately obvious).  In Daughtry's World, the events surrounding the missile attack on the Mars Helios colony again figure into the central spine of the story.  Readers of the Samsara series will be familiar with this pivotal tragedy; as with the other books in the series, Daughtry's World offers a wholly different perspective.

Daughtry's World is a murder mystery.  Developing the story follows a similar process to solving a crime.  It's like putting together a picture puzzle, except that you do not start with a box full of pieces.  You have to go out and look for the individual pieces, gather them up (write them all down), try to find connections, and then go out and look for more pieces (or clues).  After awhile, when you have enough pieces, you discover that many of the pieces do not belong to the puzzle you are trying to solve; they no longer fit with the newer, better pieces.  So you throw those bad pieces (plot elements/characters) away.

Eventually, it seems you have all the pieces to the story, and along the way, some old characters have suggested they have roles, and you have discovered some new essential characters.  They all have relationships that develop or are hidden, that will determine the path the story follows.  But even when you have the pieces, it remains to put them together in a structure that will tell a complete and compelling story, unpredictable but inevitable, suspenseful, and satisfying in its conclusion.

That's where I am now.  I know the characters, who's good, who's tragic, the pawns, the victims, who's the sociopathic villain, who will live, who will die, who will be changed forever.  What it means for the Committee, and what it means for the Resistance.

I'm looking forward to sorting it all out.  But first I have to sort out my priorities.  I still don't have a real kitchen (bits and pieces of kitchen things all over the house, but no oven, and no cooktop), after almost a year here.  My new master bathroom is a gutted empty room with a hole in the concrete slab exposing ABS drain pipes.

All I need is a little more house progress, and I can start to spend a little more time writing.  Sigh.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

My Writing Blog Becomes Mostly a House Remodeling Blog

I moved to Southern California from the East Coast almost a year ago, buying a small house (about 1400 square feet) on a third of an acre north of San Diego.  It's not on the coast; it's a 20-mile drive to get to the ocean.  I guess about the same distance heading east to get into the mountains.

The house was a foreclosure, but bought after the period when such houses could be had for pennies on the dollar.  Banks decided they could flip their real estate as easily as anyone else, so they spruced up this house and advertised at market value.  Even though the repairs were lipstick on a pig, demand drove the price up, but I persisted.  Why?  Great potential.  The house was in a decent neighborhood and had a decent size lot; closer to the ocean, lots are barely bigger than the house.  It also had what I called "big sky," on high ground in a town that was about 900 feet above sea level.  After living in well-treed East Coast neighborhoods where you could only see blue looking straight up, the atmospheric views here were amazing to behold.  The dry crystal-clear air gives you blue right down to the horizon; I can't see the Pacific, but I can see puffy clouds that are out over the ocean.

The house was a mess, but I could fix it, change it, make it my own.  But oh my goodness, it's going to take years!

When I moved in, I had my ideas about what I needed/wanted to do.  But most all of that has changed.  The longer I lived in the house, the more my ideas evolved.  The design progressed and changed, for the better.  I plan to live here for the rest of my life, so I'm not trying to make it marketable for the average home buyer.

Here are a couple of floor plans to finish out this post—a before and an after (I will explain in future posts).  Haven't gotten to the after quite yet, but working on it.  That's what this blog will be about henceforth (as well as progress on my novels).  Thanks for coming along for the ride!