Tuesday, June 30, 2015

2015 Projects

Spoiler Alert: This post is NOT exciting!

Project updates are where I usually tell you about my latest project or hobby, something like building a boat, restoring a classic car, or blacksmithing. Sorry, no pics this time because this summer is boring. No canoes, muscle cars, or even a real vacation. This year, I'm focusing on my house.

When my wife and I bought this place back in '03, it was perfect for us. Perhaps a little small at 1200 square feet, but it had potential. It was relatively new, and compared to some of the homes on the market at that time (fast approaching the pre-recession peak) it was a steal. Our payment was low enough that we knew we should be able to hang on even if one of us lost a job. And that potential I mentioned? The design of the house left room for numerous improvements and expansion projects. Like the second-story deck off the master bedroom that I built right away, followed by the recording studio in the garage.

After those projects, I left things alone for a few years to enjoy the fruits of my labor. In the meantime, we had our third child. Then, the economy went south. I lost my job of 10 years without any warning whatsoever, and we ended up almost losing our home. That's another story, but in the end we're still here and I've finally been able to turn my attention back to some of the projects I had originally planned all those years ago.

This summer, I've been working on building a loft. My living room has a huge vaulted ceiling, and I always wanted to do something with that space, so I'm turning it into a second-story office. I drew up the plans this spring, and applied for and received my construction permit in the beginning of June. Since then, I have built the loft with some help from my sons, installed the electrical wiring and half-walls, and I'm working towards the finishing touches (an inspector must sign off on the project before I sheetrock and paint, so he can verify that I did everything correctly).When it's all done, this space will be my new office. I also plan on tearing down the recording studio in the garage and moving all of that gear upstairs to make room for another project.

When the loft is finally ready, I'm considering recording audio versions of some of my books, probably starting with the Hank Mossberg series. Don't expect that right away. I still have three rough drafts to revise and publish by the end of the year. I'd like to write at least two more books in that time, which leaves little room for side projects.

Meanwhile, I'm also working on my porch. A few years ago, I had to rebuild it because the shoddy original construction was rotting and the roof was in danger of collapsing. Rather, we were in danger of the roof collapsing. I had to tear it down for a complete rebuild, so I expanded it at the same time. I really like the way it came out, with one exception. I have a narrow driveway, and the stairs at the side of the porch are only accessible by skirting the edge of the driveway and the wet, muddy lawn. I've always felt that setup was a recipe for disaster, not to mention the simple inconvenience to guests and delivery drivers.

So now I'm building another set of stairs: a nice wide staircase facing the lawn, where my wife and I will install pavers down the sidewalk. It's not a huge project -in fact, it's almost done already- but it's a lot of work,. and not very fun in the current heatwave we've been experiencing. I've already given myself a scorching sunburn and I still have some construction left to finish. On the bright side, besides improving the appeal and value of my home, these projects should make working on my writing a much more pleasurable experience.

For some writers, a little bit of suffering gives them the motivation to keep working. Grisham, for example. I once read in an interview that he does his writing in the winter time in his covered porch. He literally has to wear a coat while he's working, and has to warm his hands up occasionally so he can keep typing. To me, that's crazy. I work best when I don't have these material distractions. I like a comfortable space with a nice view, some fog or rain to get my imagination running, and a cup of coffee. To each his own, I suppose. Right now, I'm just hoping this sunburn will be gone by the time I've finished these projects so I can get back to writing.