Friday, June 29, 2018

It’s All Happening

Sort of.

Here’s the thing, it can be so easy to get discouraged in this writing life. There are millions of books available, so many amazing writers out there, and being an indie is a definite double edged blade.

And I’ll be the first to admit, both edges are usually serrated.

Discouragement can come at any given moment though. Truly, how many of you can say you show up for your job every day, all day, and leave at the end of the day knowing you did great work you didn’t get paid for (yet, if ever)?

I can imagine most, if not all of you, would laugh until you cry then walk away to make a paycheck. Most days, weeks, months, I don’t make a lot. And generally speaking that’s because I started this thing all wrong.

In recent months, weeks, days, I’ve learned from some of the most amazing, successful, indie authors out there about how to better position myself, advertise, release books. How to market. How to really connect with people who want fiction.

But still, this is a slow-slow-fast kind of industry. Overnight success that only took 30 years to accomplish!

So, sometimes it’s difficult to quantify that moment. That one moment where you start seeing things happen. Actual progress and growth in your career. Steady growth. Steady increase in sales.

For someone like me, however, skating by with only a few downloads a month, to see that number spike overnight into double digits will bring on a tinge of giddiness.

Okay, a surge of giddiness!

Giddiness warranting the titling of a blog post ‘It’s All Happening’ I guess.

That day, the double digit spike day, was today. At least, I saw it today. As a gal who hasn’t released a book since last November when Makeup Your Mind dropped, I got out of the habit of checking my KDP reports daily.

I know, I know, don’t set me on fire with scathing comments, please.

Again, let me reiterate how discouraging it can be to do ALL THE THINGS on a daily basis, especially when the monetary results for all that effort are niet 99.9% of the time.

It’s hard to work for free. To create entire worlds and format and promote and about 2,700 other things I do with a book to make it a professionally produced indie publication. Every time.

But I totally chose this life and I wouldn’t change it. I LOVE writing as a career. It just finally hit me recently that I walk around saying ‘I write books for a living’ when in reality the ‘for-a-living’ part is a myth.

That shit is all about to change.

I’m finally learning how to use the system over at the ‘Zon to my advantage. Finally reading the right information, joining the right groups full of writers who aren’t just passionate about putting words down but about the dolla dolla bills, yo.

Because, again, most people don’t work for free. Most people don’t pursue a career with zero salary attached. Those people are called volunteers. And I have no problem with people who want to do that with their lives, I commend them in fact. But that’s not my intention.

This week’s post was fortunate on timing, there happened to be 5 Fridays in the month and I had this bonus week to fill. I’m so super glad I got to fill it with a happy update on the ‘for-a-living’ front.

As I spend my days from now until the end of the year stockpiling fully fleshed out novels/novellas/short stories, all with the intent of publishing on an algorithm-capturing schedule, I’ll be excited to look back on posts like this.

Something to motivate me to KEEP GOING no matter what because, when I do, good things happen.

Because I’ll still be working the rest of 2018 “for free” but at least I know 2019 will shake out to be a banner income year.

Bring. It. On!

• • • • • • • • • • •
In addition to this drivel I also write books, both fiction and non-fiction.
Learn more on my author page.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Take a Deep Breath

Before every performance, I placed bets with Chris, my boss, as to how many patrons would end up crying by the end of my rendition of “Leaving on a Jet Plane”. The last strum of my guitar produced exactly zero tragedy and total comedy as a group of people, not even listening to me, burst into laughter. I owed Chris ten bucks.

Most of the regulars were here today including Mister Jones with his service dog. His hand-carved cane draped casually on the back of the faded, peach toned, hand painted chair. His left leg shaking as he rapidly tapped the heel of his foot on the wide-plank pine floor. I knew he wasn't listening to my set either. Jones usually turned off his hearing aid the minute he walked through the door at Abacus Coffee House.

I got things together for my next song and glanced at the clock. It wasn't that I didn't appreciate Chris letting me sing during my break but I belted out my heart to a total of about five people on any given day. I mean, who goes for coffee at 4:00 in the afternoon? Medical pros and contractors made up our mini 3:00 rush but this was our slowest hour. It's why he gave me the time but obviously that’s a double edged sword.

The door opened and a stocky guy in a heather gray suit entered as I started up my final song. A cover of Jewel's “You were Meant for Me”. Right in my wheelhouse. Also, perfect for the coffee house crowd ignoring my every move. It was one of those songs that could really take your breath away from melancholy if you listened to the lyrics. Or, it could just as easily fade into the background if you were in the middle of formatting a spreadsheet in the corner of a brightly lit coffee shop. Not when Jewel sings it, of course, but for me that was the usual way of things.

I wrapped up with a ‘thank you so much’ and two people actually clapped, a cursory quadruple clap. Hey, I'd take it. I went to stow my guitar and grab my apron from the office. As my foot crossed the threshold into the tiny room, hardly big enough for the desk, chair, and my guitar case, let alone another person, a hand tapped my shoulder. I spun around to face Mister Fancy Gray Suit. A to-go cup in a cardboard hand protector in one hand, laptop case slung across his chest like he was a bike messenger.

He didn't say a word just winked and handed me a business card. Before I had a chance to look at the card he spun around and took a quick clip to the exit. I was confused but looked down at the card in my hand. White cardstock, a photo of him on one side and a shooting star wrapped around the words Talent Agency. As the words sunk in, I noticed an address, name, phone number, and email address. Wait, what?

My knees almost gave out so I sunk into the chair, still holding my guitar. I stared at the card for what felt like twenty minutes. Lincoln Forrest. Talent agent. And he handed this 2x3 opportunity to me. He saw something in my performance. The one song the guy heard was enough to elicit a card. He wanted me to call him. I could have an agent. I could finally be on track to do what I'd dreamed about doing for the last 15 years.

Just then, Chris popped his head back and asked if I was planning to finish my shift. He disappeared before I could answer. Before my mouth found the ability to again form simple words. My eyes filled with emotion as I realized, this shift could finally be one of my last.

Written above, Take a Deep Breath, inspired by this roll of Rory’s Story Cubes.
If you enjoyed this story, in my new flash fiction series, please share the link, leave me a comment, and don’t forget to come back next month for the next story! You can sign up to get my blogs in email so you don’t miss anything.

I post every Friday, flash fiction stories on the 4th Friday of every month.

Thanks for reading!

• • • • • • • • • • •
In addition to this drivel I also write books, both fiction and non-fiction.
Learn more on my author page.

Friday, June 15, 2018

It’s Entirely Too Hot For This Now

You saw the title and know what that means…another yard update!

Before we get to that though, if you’re new here feel free to catch up on our improvement debacle, er, journey (in order of completion):

With that out of the way…

The yard.

The pictures.

The fucking Arizona sun and our extreme lack of ability to finish this project before summer.

Now, I know a lot of you reside in places where summer doesn’t come until August, but in the central valley of Phoenix we’ve been flirting with summer since March this year. Seriously, it was 88 degrees on March 22. Better known as spring in these parts.

We lucked out for many of those linked posts above (because the weather seemed to not want to kill us for a minute) and we managed to get some not too hot weather to rake, till, power wash, move thousands of pounds of stone, and everything else we’ve done so far.

That was, until the end of May.

As we neared the end of the redesign. And the end of my effort for this project. However, the gravel and pavers just arrived last weekend.

As usual, pictures will tell the story better than I can. Especially considering I’m still trying to figure out a way to establish a permanent residence in my freezer.

So, yeah.
We started both days getting up at 6, and wrapped work by noon.

Matt started and completed the edging and weedblock
over the past few weekends.

It might look small but the patio will come in around 10' x 10'.

A short fifteen minutes up the road to our gravel yard.

The beachiest gravel we can get our hands on in the desert.
We placed the order date.
They charge day of delivery.
Just that easy.

As promised, they backed in at 7:30AM.
And, that doesn't look like too much, we got this!

Oh, wait a second. Wasn't I the one saying last night:
"No way the pile will take up the WHOLE driveway."
Technically I was right but that only counts if we drive a two wheeled vehicle.

First scoop! (of about 350 wheelbarrows full)

I told Matt nobody will believe this is him
since he isn't wearing his "work outfit" teeheehee

At least I know how to dress for the part.
The long sleeves lasted about 10 minutes, quickly replaced by
short sleeves and 50spf.

Piling begins!
And then we got to work,
neglecting photos in favor of finishing without dying.

Many, many, MANY raked out piles later and we stopped at noon.
Side note, basically everything is covered but...

How does it look like we haven't touched this pile yet?
Looks like we might need to be creative during Sunday placement.

Starting with this.
Gravel was compressed over here by about two inches.
Not anymore!

Also, here.
We haven't known what this concrete thing is since the day we moved in.
So, let's cover it up!

When the Lowes delivery guy showed up with a pallet full
of bags of base sand, patio pavers, and polymeric sand we
asked if he could get it in the garage. His response?
"Sure, Saturday is for off-roading right?"
My new BFF.

See ya red gravel mixed with ten years of decomposing leaf goo!

Like that weird concrete circle never even happened.

We filled in all of this too,
all the way up the mound in the far distance and to the front door.
Buh-bye cracked and destroyed flagstone!
I forgot to get after pics and it's dark as I type this so you'll
just have to trust it looks killer now.

The last remnants of gravel were swept up and dumped in the front yard.
Work completed by 12:00 Sunday afternoon.
We promptly came inside and watched a Naked and Afraid
marathon for the next 9 hours while we cooled off and recharged.
AKA: napped.
Yup. Even me.

Can someone please pass the sunscreen? And a refreshing, fruity drink? It’s time to finally get in the pool and enjoy all this hard work.

Just as soon as we lay the pavers next weekend…

• • • • • • • • • • •
In addition to this drivel I also write books, both fiction and non-fiction.
Learn more on my author page.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Top 11 Memoir Titles

Lately I’ve been restructuring my entire life as a writer, publisher. And I’ve tried to restructure my brain so I accept that some things are meant to be let go of when they don’t produce desired results.

Regardless of how tight I tried to hold onto them.

First and foremost on that list, books that aren’t flowing.

If you’ve been reading me over here for a while you know I’m a big believer in the whiteboard wall in my office. I schedule within an inch of my time and until a couple months ago that schedule kept me fully on track. Fully in line and enjoying the whole publishing life.

Then I started writing a new book, then another new book, then a re-write, all due to drop this year.

Luckily, I’m not with a traditional publisher because they would have dropped me from a punt off the rooftop of some forty-story Manhattan skyscraper weeks ago.

Because, a few weeks ago I took my eraser and wiped out every single thing on my whiteboard. You can read about why I was told to stop writing (and subsequently took that advice) here.

And since the day I took the eraser to the overwhelming list of shit I had to do to keep moving my stalled career in no real direction, I’ve never felt so clear about what I should be writing.

The funny thing about that? I’m not writing anything much different now. But more on that in an upcoming post because I’m not trying to be click-baity around here. Suffice to say, I’m working on three books at once and have zero plans to release them until they’re done.

My whiteboard remains mostly empty and it’s kinda liberating to be honest.

All this reworking of my work-life to get that ever elusive balance back on track had me considering just what I was after all along.

I figured, what better way to work out all of this shit than to write about it, right?

Ah, the life of a writer. When you have nothing to write about, write about it!

We all operate from this place of hypocrisy or irony or whatever the hell you feel like labeling it. Because none of us know how to do this any other way.

I decided to wipe out everything I’d worked on since November of last year. Line up my darlings against the wall and put the proverbial bullet in the backs of their heads. Because none of them deserved to live.

None of them were worthy of the time and energy I tried to devote to make them into something worth my time and energy.

I told you, hypocrisy.

But you know I have a snarky side and all that shooting made me thirsty to share my true inner thoughts on my flailing career. Possible memoir titles to define this ridiculous point in my life, if you will. Personally, I think they’re all pretty great.

1. Striving for Mediocrity
2. Writing a Book is a Giant Waste of Time
3. Indie Author Making a Living: Yeah, good luck with that
4. But Doing Laundry is Working (and other lies writers spew)
5. Let’s find out if Money Changes Me
6. How to Make a Living with Hard Work and 30 Years of Dedication: A Satire
7. Stretching out Your Arms and Swiping off the Desk (this is not a metaphor)
8. Giving Up: A guide to a better life by abandoning talent for cash
9. English Degrees are Useless: And other motivations from my high school guidance counselor
10. Only Rich People Say Money Isn’t Everything
11. You Got This, Maybe

Great titles, huh? Sadly, I have zero desire to write any of these stories for real. None of them could actually support a full-length memoir. So, you know what that means, right?

Hello possible new blog topics!



• • • • • • • • • • •
In addition to this drivel I also write books, both fiction and non-fiction.
Learn more on my author page.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Book Reviews and what to do with a Famous Author who Sucks

I have a serious question to ask:

What should I do when I read a book, written by a somewhat popular/famous indie author, but I hate it because the pacing is sporadic, the word count is obviously padded, and the characters are so flat they all read like the same people?

I’m not being snarky here, by the way. This is an honest question I’ve been grappling with lately.

Here’s why.

A few weeks ago I came across a permafree book by a somewhat well-known indie author (based on number of overall reviews, social following, shares of the book’s free status – all stuff I looked up for research but not something I normally consider when downloading a new book, more on that later). I wanted to read it because I enjoy the genre.

Side note – I didn’t read a single review, just saw there were many and mostly favorable star ratings.

So, I read the book. And I hated it.

I actually had to force myself to finish it. I really wanted to tell this author she needed a serious class in dialogue (free tip: not just words on a page, dialogue should always move the story/characters forward) and the book should have been about 150 less pages.

But, and here’s the real crux of my issue, who the hell am I to tell her how to write when she’s a best-selling indie author?

How can I say those things to someone so obviously doing all the career parts “right”? Someone who has a healthy following of rabid super fans?

Could her other books be better? I mean, she’s got a huge following. Then why make the first in her series free if it isn’t giving her very best work to the reading community?

Too many questions. My head is spinning.

Experts who make 100% of their income from book sales tend to suggest:

- Series is the way to sell
- First book permafree
- Another (unique title) free with sign up to newsletter
- All others $4.99 and under
- Have about 20-50 titles and drop them at the right time for max engagement

Many indie authors aren’t living on their book sales. Probably most. But I’d wager a guess that most of them would love to be.

So how do they do that?

Get more Amazon visibility of course.

So how do they do that?

Nobody seems to know how that works on Amazon other than garnering attraction to a page.

- Following their author page
- Rating their books
- Reviewing their books
- Liking reviews/marking as helpful
- Pre-ordering a book
- Reading all the pages of their Kindle Unlimited book
- Encouraging others to check them out

And probably a bunch of other stuff I haven’t even considered. But here’s the rub where that list is concerned…

Where does an author find that segment of the people? The super fans, people who will do all of that stuff and more? Generally, that’s on social media these days. Or from advertising. But where do we even go to run an ad? Why, social media or Amazon, of course.

And the circle goes round.

Because, with the onslaught of indie publications hitting the market every day, it seems to me that the authors who excel at marketing and promotion are the ones who seem to sell more books. Attract more fans.

These marketing skills are unfortunately independent of good writing the vast majority of the time.

So, knowing all of that, I’ll repeat my question (ish).

As an indie author who wants a larger segment of readers to find and support my work, I desire reviews and all the other stuff in that list up there. Obviously. And I feel that whole reap what you sow mentality.

If I want reviews I need to give reviews. Right?

But if I read a terrible book (flat, lifeless characters, tell and no show, repetition from narrative to dialogue just to pad word count etc.) written by a bigger named indie, the last thing I want to do is review it.

Again, who am I to tell them how to write when their numbers are so obviously better than mine.

Because reviews (AKA: opinions) are subjective. Maybe I didn’t feel anything but someone else did (I’m trying to be open minded here because I don’t imagine everyone reading my work feels like the stories are amazing either).

And then I feel awful for even considering giving a 2 star review because I know how much work went into producing a book. Even a crappy one took time and effort.

But then I feel like it’s my duty to the rest of the reading community to share my honest opinion.

But why?

Because I want people to do the same for my work? Maybe.

Which of course begs the question, does anyone other than an Amazon algorithm care about reviews?

Is it really just about getting them and letting them sit there as another passive (ish) selling tool, or do people honestly read all 247 reviews of a book before deciding to buy?

My money’s on the former.

When I’m going to read a new author or book series, I generally base my desire to read the book on a few factors: the blurb, genre, and the cover.

Sorry for the ‘don’t judge a book’ people but that’s a romantic notion. Everyone bases a book on a cover – be it the front cover art or the back cover copy – that’s how we first learn what might be inside the pages of said book. And, with so many books to choose from, who wants to read something they don’t want to read?

I get drawn in by the awesome marketing and end up in this conundrum when the writing sucks.

So what’s an indie author /reader to do?

Support a fellow indie by rating/reviewing higher than I should, hit a fellow indie by rating/reviewing to what I feel is fair, or simply click away without doing anything?

Do you care about reviews or star ratings when picking up a new book? How do you hear about new books? Would a one or two star rating turn you off to the book, or would you give it a try because the cover and jacket copy drew you in?

So many questions…

• • • • • • • • • • •
In addition to this drivel I also write books, both fiction and non-fiction.
Learn more on my author page.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Three Hours in Suburbia

We only left the house an hour ago but it feels like we’ve been driving for a week. Another job out of town. Why can’t these rich people live closer into the city? Closer to my house? Maybe someday I’d know what it was like to live the life of the wealthy suburbanite. Know what it’s like to afford someone like me. I’d be one step closer by the end of today’s job.

My driver caught the song drifting from the door speakers and leaned over to turn up the radio station. “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. My face fell. It felt like a slap. Too kind. Too close a metaphor for my life. I leaned in to turn it back down and, out of habit, glanced at the clock.

The digital clock on the console stopped working at least a year ago. Something else broken in my strange life. I looked down at my watch. Fifteen minutes shy of five o clock. Just a few minutes out now. I ran a mental check of my list of tools in the trunk, trying to remember if I’d packed everything I’d need to successfully pull this thing off. The flashlight. Magnifying glass. Air pump. Everything accounted for.

With a sigh I reached into the backseat and retrieved my shoes. I leaned forward to put the shoes on my bare feet. I hated wearing such heavy shoes in the car but we were running late and I had no choice. I checked my appearance in the visor mirror. Honestly I had no idea why I even checked, things never changed. With a shrug I pushed the visor against the roof. But I still felt antsy. Unsettled.

Though I'd done jobs like this at least a thousand times, today I felt extra fidgety. I pulled the compass out of my pocket and ran a thumb across the warmed brass. Nana's compass. The only piece of equipment she had to get her out of there during the war. Now it was mine. And I never went anywhere without her good luck charm. The arrow pointed Northeast.

My driver leaned over to turn the radio back up and she started singing along with the chorus of some pop song I’d never even heard before. I sighed, rolled my eyes, and pulled out my cell phone to check on things for the final stage.

"Are we cleared for the escape route?"

I received a return text message of just 2 words - "all good" – in less than a minute. The time was near. The getaway was set. We entered the neighborhood. Another swath of beautiful land fallen victim to suburban sprawl. Plant a seed, sprout a house.

As we traversed the streets, I looked intently at each of the homes. Large. Varying shades of tan. Predictable for a developer’s neighborhood. No more than 3 floor plans. Some facades had an inset front door, others displayed a rounded front entrance. Built to look like a castle turret. Cookie cutter. Lame. Every house the same, every neighbor the same, every day the same. But not today. Today was sure to cause some excitement by the end of things.

We pulled over diagonally across the street from my target. A house built on the outskirts of the neighborhood. In the larger plots. It had a turret and at least an acre surrounded the property. Almost isolated. Neighbors would never even hear the screams.

As I got out of the passenger side I spotted the hot air balloon. Splayed out, ready for filling. About ready to carry me out of here. The operator and I nodded at each other as if to solidify the text messages we’d sent just five minutes before. My driver didn't get out but popped the trunk. I pulled out my duffle bag and made my way back around to the window on the driver’s side.

“Three hours. Max. See you at the meet point.”

My driver nodded and sped away leaving me alone in the street with only the hot air balloon to get me out. Everything planned to perfection. I nodded my resolve.

Walking to the front door proved a challenge in my large shoes but I made it, took a deep breath, adjusted my wig and nose then rang the bell. I plastered on my huge, makeup enhanced smile just as the door swung open.

Assaulted by a sea of wealthy nine-year-olds all I could ask was, "Okay, where's the birthday girl?!"

Written above, Three Hours in Suburbia, inspired by this roll of Rory's Story Cubes.

If you enjoyed this story, the first in my new flash fiction series, please share the link, leave me a comment, and don’t forget to come back in June for the next story! You can sign up to get my blogs in email so you don’t miss anything.

I post every Friday, flash fiction stories on the 4th Friday of every month.

Thanks for reading!

• • • • • • • • • • •
In addition to this drivel I also write books, both fiction and non-fiction.
Learn more on my author page.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Missing Miles Releasing the Deadline Demons

If you know me then you’ve likely heard how much I’ve struggled to get the next book in my Shaw McLeary Mystery Series down on paper. It all started after finishing Reckless Mind. Two years ago this August.

Yes, we really have to go back that far.

Because, after finishing and releasing that book, I had a great idea for a story and I thought maybe Shaw could fit into the plotline. I worked on other books and prepared to write Shaw into that story in 2017.

Now, many, many months later, I know how silly of an idea that really was.

I can’t fit an already existing character into a plotline not specifically written for her. That’s like trying to live someone else’s life. Sure, maybe it’s fun for a couple days but eventually you’re going to get to the hard stuff. Stuff that doesn’t fit the character.

But, I threw caution to the wayside and decided to finally start work on Missing Miles.

Writing that fatal plot started back in November last year. I not only took on the NaNoWriMo challenge, I actually won with that steaming pile of goo. Maybe someday in the future I’ll revisit that scene and idea and see what shakes out. Who shakes out. That day is not today.

Unfortunately, all that writing in the wrong direction for Shaw left me cold and empty.

After November, Shaw took a place on the shelf and I tried to write something else. Anything else. No dice. She just kept trying to tell me things weren’t over. Though, she wasn’t as clear on what that meant.

Stupid characters.

I hemmed and hawed over the book for a couple months. Knowing it wasn’t right. Stressing over what to write if that wasn’t a winner.

I watched a lot of TV. Read a lot of bad books. Tried to write other stories. Got back into blogging. Anything to keep my fingers moving.

Then like usual, one random day, probably when I wasn’t even thinking about it, an idea for the opening came to me. So I wrote it. And there was something about how it was all sifting into place. Like, I finally had the right place, right time.

There was something that felt like it could breed great tension, intrigue, personal-struggle character development. There was something right about the plot. The story as a whole.

Then we had a bunch of company, started our next phase of home improvement, and I promptly lost most of my mojo on the book.

Not on the story, I lost the desire to write. Thankfully, that only lasted for a minute.

When my dad left, that was our last scheduled houseguest for a while, plus we took a staycation to get a healthy level of stuff done in the backyard. Since all that? I finally put my fingers back on the keyboard over the past few weeks and to be honest I'm still struggling to write this book.

I literally can't get the story out. Not in a writer's block kind of way. Just in a "this isn't what you should be working on right now" way.

After sharing my struggles out loud (for the first time) with one of the writer's groups I belong to I finally realized all those brilliant people are right.

Stop writing.

Not forever, and not everything. Stop writing this book. Because I'm not enjoying the process. I'm not feeling the book right now. And I totally know why.

It's because this isn't what my business needs to focus on right now.

Like I said, the business nothing else.

This writing thing can be a real struggle but I finally just understood my issues. I put the stupid cart before the horse. I tried to sell my books, garner fans, find readers before I knew how to really run this business.

Well, it is high time I go back to the start and do a lot of learning. Because, in this industry, things move fast and furious at their snail's pace.

That might make no sense if you aren't a self-publishing writer and I apologize but it is the absolute truth. Technologies, companies, issues are all based on the current climate of need-it-yesterday but building a brand, a name, can take a very long time.

I have the books written, ten of them in fact, and that (as I've explained to some family and friends) makes me feel like a professional.

But I'm a professional flailer because nobody is reading other than those family and friends. And, let's face facts here, I didn't establish a publishing house and throw all my time and money at this thing to reach the people I already know. I desire, require, a broader audience.

In the spirit of that, I'll be working on a lot of changes to my general business  model over the next couple months, joining organizations, and doing shit-tons of research about how to run a successful writing business.

Because, the creativity is a great thing to have but if I only wanted to write for "myself" I'd still fill countless journals with scribbles and words, not publish professionally produced books.

So, I apologize to anyone who looked forward to Missing Miles because as of now that book is on hold. I have a strong belief that Shaw might return after I know how to really share her story.

Or not.

Either way, I'll never stop writing. But for now my total focus is shifting to reading, research, connections.

Time to revisit the old marketing and business plan gathering dust in a folder somewhere. They're both in need of a ten-ton shot of reality.

• • • • • • • • • • •
In addition to this drivel I also write books, both fiction and non-fiction.
Learn more on my author page.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Adventures in Home Improvement Day 9,452,761

Or at least it feels that way. Thing is though, I’m not actually complaining about doing all of this stuff. We brought it on ourselves on purpose. Maybe we didn’t anticipate the scope within each phase, but the number of projects, yeah, we wanted this life.

There are benefits to spending so much time and money personalizing our spaces, like keeping a few middle-aged pounds at bay and being able to make our home a personal reflection of who we are as people.

As a girl who briefly spent a lot of money on a degree she never got in Interior Design, I appreciate the beauty in a personally functional space. It works for us, how we live, what we enjoy, and I love that. I spend a lot of time in this place.

Life and work happen here.

Conversely, I’m not kidding when I say the end (of projects) is almost upon us and my instant reaction:


Only a couple things to finish inside the house, and the yard is getting closer to the final phase. For now. Because, of course we have more plans for the yard. But this phase gets us our one newly remodeled space and a little more organized everywhere else.

And we are so close to finished with this I can’t even stand it! Like I did with the last couple updates, I’m telling the story with photos.

But before we get there, speaking of past updates…

If you’re new here and haven’t read about our yard adventures you can start here: Our Journey to a Sparkling Clean Pool, or the first part of the yard re-do: Backyard Landscaping like a Boss.

Or, keep reading to see where we are now.

All brick moved by yours truly.
This is about half what we have stacked all over the yard in brick, retaining blocks, and rocks.
You'll see...

Matt moved the stack of retaining bricks in the background,
then I had a great idea: create a riverbed out of all the large
stones strewn around the yard.
Okay, to be fair we thought of that together but it was my
brilliant idea to do it now. Like we don't already have enough to do.

This isn't even the final tally of brick and blocks we moved.
Also, note the gravel because that gets raked and moved later...

We're trying to eliminate lawn in all but the 2 locations on the other side of the yard.
Matt tilled over here then I got to digging/turning/raking.

Oh look, more huge rocks! AKA: places for weeds to hide.
And ground bees. Matt moved all on the nearside due to that,
I moved all on the far side into our new dry creek bed.

We raked back gravel where we planned to put rocks, then worked around
the existing pile of rocks until it freed gravel.
Which we raked out as well. And filled with more rocks.

Full disclosure, this isn't even finalized, we just needed something
"good enough for now" because the other side is the priority.
When finalized we're adding a water feature and weed block.

I finished raking out gravel, digging out rocks (yes MORE large rocks) and
grass. Next step: add dirt to level out the spot and tamp into place with a 12 lb tamper.
Again, no weed block yet. Frankly, there may never be block here.

It rained earlier in the day (well, hail and rain but we'll get to that)
and I didn't want to track that around the house. Improvise.

After two full days of moving dirt and rocks and grass I think she
looks freaking incredible (if I do say so myself, pat-pat-pat)!

Finally finished brick removal over here as well.
Now Matt can get his half of this project done.

Once again, the before picture.

His second round with the tiller helped get even more grass out.

Tilled, loosened, raked, and ready for plants!

It looks like a tropical jungle, with Matt hiding out in the back.

After returning home on day 1 with the load of plants we realized things were sparse.
Also, unbalanced. So back we went for more.
Day 2:
We added other species that will bring color and all are on the same water schedule.
As we checked out and loaded up the plants in the back of the car I noticed the sky getting darker...

Traditionally, Phoenix's dry months are May and June.
Of course, we planned to landscape on the one weekend where temps
weren't supposed to climb out of the mid 70s so obviously
Mother nature decided to give us Phoenicians "spring" for an hour.
Deluge. (Not complaining though, the backyard flooded just enough so I
knew where we were light on dirt and gravel and it made my job much easier.
Plus it all ended as we pulled into the garage! Perfect timing!)

If you look really close, yes that's hail outside and on the floor at Harbor Freight.

First plant in the ground!

Matt watering the first planted plant!
A little out of order here, this is actually end of day on day 1.
Plants placed so we could see what gaps to fill in on day 2.

Action shot!
Yes, this is day 2. Yes, that is Matt's favorite landscaping outfit.
It makes an appearance in just about every post about our yard re-do.

All plants in the ground and irrigation lines run.
All that's left now is weed block, sand, gravel, patio pavers, and a fire pit.
The weather likely won't cooperate like this again now that summer has arrived.
Slow and steady is the name of this game now. We have until September.
But it's time to get out of here because tired is an understatement...

Thankfully, I pre-schedule posts so Matt and I are already gone to (and back from) a four-day weekend in California. We earned that mofo. And it was awesome.

• • • • • • • • • • •
In addition to this drivel I also write books, both fiction and non-fiction.
Learn more on my author page.