Journal Entry: October 16, 2006

What incredible friends! I mean really!

Friday, we went to Tulsa to work on the house. I think I mentioned before that that was the plan. Basically, everyone I know offered their help, and/or expressed their frustration that they wouldn’t be able to come help us work on the house. I can tell you this: if you’d been completely available, I would have had to make you stay home anyway. We easily did as much as we could do, without having a big bundle of cash to fix the place up. And we certainly don’t have that.

So that takes care of the friends who couldn’t help. Those that could: Trish’s dad let us use his truck for the trip. He was driving down to OKC anyway, with Trish’s brother-in-law John, to catch a flight to California for an air show. (They got back yesterday evening, and by all accounts had a great time.) He was kind enough to drive the truck down, giving us the opportunity to do a lot more than we otherwise could have.

Kris and Nicki went with us. All of us but Kris had Friday afternoon off anyway, and Kris was nice enough to take a day of vacation. We moved a spare refrigerator back to Tulsa (it had been sitting in our garage since we moved down), and took along a bunch of cleaning supplies, and lawn machines. That is, I brought a lawn mower, and Kris brought a whole assortment of torture devices designed to make a yard talk. Oh, and I brought hedge trimmers.

We got in about 2:30, and headed to dinner four hours later. I was thinking we had about two hours of work to do. Even with Josh, and Vicki and her husband all coming to help out, we were fully busy for four hours, and we left at least another hour’s worth of work for Josh to do.

Let me tell you about Josh. We were best friends in elementary school. Not actually in school — he went to school in Claremore (outside Tulsa) and I went to school in Foyil (outside Claremore). We saw each other at church, and hung out most weekends. When I moved to Wichita (summer after sixth grade), I missed Josh most of my friends from there. He’s the only one I’m still in touch with. We lived together for some small amount of time. We were in each other’s weddings.

A lot of life has happened since then, and we haven’t spoken nearly as much as we should’ve, I’m sure. I was kind of scared of seeing him, spending time with him, just because I felt like I hadn’t done nearly enough to stay in touch. I didn’t know how much we’d each changed, or how well we would get along.

Friday, seeing Josh, it was like being six again. I love that guy so much. It was good to get to talk, to stand on the porch of my old house and hear him say how much fun his kids would have in the back yard. At dinner, his dad offered him tickets to the OU game Saturday, and he invited me and the Austins to come along. It was an incredible day.

Sunday, I stayed home. I got to spend the whole day on the couch (which is the way I like it). OU won on Saturday, the Cowboys won on Sunday. What more can you ask for?

We still don’t have a definite answer on the house in Tulsa. Every time I visit, I realize how much more work really needs to be done on it. It could easily have been a frustrating weekend, loaded with the stresses and distractions that that house represents in my life, but instead it was a lot of fun. It was a reminder, at every turn, of the incredible friends and supportive family I’ve got. I smiled a lot, and I laughed a lot. Thank you, Josh. Thank you, Austins. Thank you, Trish’s Dad. And everybody else. Mom and Dad, Dan, Toby et alia, Julie, Bruce, everybody who was so ready to do anything they could to help us out.

You did. Thank you.

Journal Entry: September 26, 2006


Trish just called. (No, that’s not why!)

Right, well, as you all know, we lost our renters in Tulsa a long time ago (however long it’s been since the last time I posted — so, ages). Actually, we lost them a month before that, but it took a month for our rental manager to let us know.

Here’s how rental managers work: They take the first month’s rent to pay for their advertising, cleaning, repairs costs associated with getting the house rented in the first place. They do all that, tidy the house up, show it to people, and they track down people to rent the place.

Then, when they have renters, they handle any problems that come up. They generally have a few handymen on-call who can do small repairs, and anything beyond that the manager takes care of tracking down repair guys to fix. Now, mind, they don’t pay for any of this. And the renters don’t pay for any of this. It all comes out of the owner’s check. Every month, the renter pays his rent to the manager, the manager takes out 10% to cover his answering phone calls and arranging for repairs, then he takes out any money that went to repairs or whatnot, and if there’s anything left over, he sends that to the owner. Bear in mind that, no matter how much the manager sends, the owner has to pay the full mortgage.

When we were unable to sell our Tulsa house, after moving to OKC, we got a rental manager who came highly recommended. It took him about two months to get the house rented out (which is the same as saying we had to pay three months’ mortgage (remember he gets the first rent check) with nothing coming back to us. That hurt us financially, but I was getting contract work from Lowrance that cushioned the blow. Around March, when we got our first rent check, I also stopped getting work from Lowrance.

So now here we are. As you know, our renters bugged out sometime in July. We never got an August rent check. We heard from our manager early-August, around the time we were expecting a check, that we wouldn’t be getting one, then or for the foreseeable future. He did tell us that the renters had left the house in pretty good shape (thank goodness), and that he’d be getting to work finding us new renters.

Three weeks passed, and when Trish called he said that he’d had a few people interested, but that we would need to put carpet in two rooms to make the house more attractive to renters. He estimated $400. Bear in mind, we’re already significantly negative, and he’s asking for more money. Trish and I talked about it, came up with a couple workarounds. She knew she’d be going to Tulsa soon, so she decided she’d maybe pick up some carpet scraps (room-size) on the cheap, and we could just lay them in the rooms. Something like that.

Well, it took her longer to get to Tulsa than she expected. Finally happened today, and while she was there, she went by the house. Then she called me.

Apparently, the manager lied to us. The house is a wreck. There’s crappy old furniture in some of the rooms, and in the garage. They’d asked permission to paint some of the walls (and we gave them a significant discount on one month’s rent to do it themselves) — Trish says that they only half-finished the painting. They stole the very nice fan from the living room. They left, just, trash all over the floor. Apparently there’s old milk cartons in the middle of the living room floor. And, because of the trash, there’s roaches all over the place.

Okay, all of that is kind of expected. That’s how renters leave a house when they leave, really. But, well, it was expected to be that way when they left, two months ago! Our manager’s job is to clean up exactly that sort of stuff. He lied to us, told us it was clean when they left, and then he did nothing for two months to fix it. In the meantime, he’s supposed to be showing the house to potential renters, which means he’s either failed to do that entirely, or he’s been showing it in the state it’s in.

That’s infuriating.

And I mentioned the bugs, right? The ones that are there because of all the trash left out? That is entirely his fault. That’s probably a $150-$200 fumigation bill, that is entirely his fault. And at least two months without rent because he failed to do his job.

Bah. I know, it’s whining. I’m sorry for that. I try not to use my blog to complain, unless it’s in a philosophical-sounding essay, but this one is just…argh. I’m angry at this guy. He has, personally, deliberately, caused a significant amount of grief to me and to Trish.

Bah! Beh. Angry. Furious. Anyway, we’re firing him. That much, of course, that’s obvious. Beyond that, I don’t know what we can do. We’re stuck, once again, in a position where it would be really hard to sell the house (we’re already past the end of the season). We can go find another manager, but, y’know, this one came highly recommended. How do we find someone better? Even if we do, or if we try to manage it ourselves, we’re still months away from seeing an actual rent check. And it’s probably going to cost us (and some subsection of our friends and family, godblessem) a weekend between now and then, whatever “then” is, to get the place fixed up.

Since we hired that rental manager last October, we’ve had to pay about $7,700 in mortgage. After subtracting his fees (and, remember, first month’s rent), we received about $2,600 in rent. If you know us, you know that’s not the sort of loss we can just absorb, y’know? And we’re looking at it getting worse before it gets better.

Yeah, I’m praying about it. And I’m confident it will work out. God’s never let us down, financially, but he doesn’t mind letting it get scary, I guess. My parents have never let us down, either. Nor my friends. I’ve got a great support network, I just hate being a burden on them. On you, basically. Anyway, keep us in your prayers. That’s the long and the short of it.

Journal Entry: July 17, 2006

1,000 words a day is taxing.

Hmm…that doesn’t quite say it strongly enough. I could just add profanity to spice things up, but instead I’ll go into a boring level of detail. I am a true protestant.

See, okay, if I sit down and write a 1,000 word story (or essay), then I’d guess that, if I have a general idea ahead of time, it’s going to take about four hours. I can compose and type up 1,000 words in about forty minutes. I’ve found that to be a pretty solid estimate over the course of the last several weeks.

But it takes time to create. It takes time to build the story pieces, and lay them out in order, and fill in the background, and (my method, at least), I put all those pieces together before I sit down to write.

Now, when it comes to Sleeping Kings, I’d say I spend about eight hours per 1,000 word story. Y’know when you’re talking to me on the phone, or in-game, or even in person, and you tell me something really interesting, and I say, “Yeah. Hey, what did you think about Josh stabbing the Queen Mum?” or something like that. That’s not precisely because I think your story is boring.

It’s that I’m obsessing over Sleeping Kings. I’d feel bad about it, but everyone who’s actually reading it is pretty excited about it, so I don’t.

Hmm, none of that is really new info. Something that is, though: I’ve posted a story daily now since May 25th. That’s 1,000 words (production) every day for fifty-four days. Yeah, Saturday’s was only on Saturday by about five minutes. That’s actually what got me thinking about this.

I have never written daily. Never. I’ve heard that all writers write daily. I got pretty close in college, taking Creative Writing every semester, and making time in my time-rich schedule to write. But even then I didn’t do weekends, and only very rarely was a day’s writing actually production. Most of the time it was notes, or test material, or even just daydreaming, composing, without any words on paper.

One of my goals, back then, was 1,000 words on paper, every weekday. I know for a fact I never hit it, even for two weeks at a time. Closest I came was when I was rewriting Taming Fire, and I’d get on a tear and do four or five chapters at once. But I wouldn’t even count that. That’s rewrite, not original production.

Of course, as most of you know, I got worse, not better. The whole time I was in Tulsa, I never wrote anything close to a schedule. I’d get the fever for one project or another, and work on that project (and rarely finish), but I never wrote to the calendar.

I’m there, now. Want to know something sad? I think it’s sad, anyway. I can’t begin to explain why I’m there now. I could name a couple things, little things, but I won’t. One day I dusted off the scrawny handful of pages that were the three-year-old introduction to Sleeping Kings, and I posted them on a website, and I just kept going.

It’s not easy to write every day. I would encourage all of you to do it, writers or not. Writing is a good discipline. It teaches you to be a better person (I’ve said that before). It teaches you to be in your world, and to be aware of your world. Even if you’re just blogging, journaling, emailing Mom. Whatever it is, write every day.

That’s most of my Me. It sounds like something else, but that’s my journal for the last week or so, everything I haven’t said about what’s going on in my life. What’s going on, is 1,000 words a day. You’d be amazed how much of my life is wrapped up in that right now. Well, unless you know me, in which case you already know.

Here are some things that have happened, that I should have been paying more attention to:

Brad wrote me, again, after three months of silence following the last email he wrote me. He found my blogs, and he wrote me, and I took forever to respond. I finally did, though. He wants to come visit. I can’t say how excited I am at the idea. Yay!

(I continue to have not written Bruce, and my shame piles up. Yea, verily, I am scum.)

Daniel’s back from Europe. Hoo-ah! I believe I’ve already been insulted and flipped off, so life is back to normal. Yay!

We’re hosting Trish’s two nephews, Tweedle Owen and Tweedle Sloan. Thirteen and eleven, give or take. They’re good kids. I kinda dreaded the idea at first, but it’s been good. I’m glad Trish has had this opportunity, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know them better, too. I just hope they’re not sick of me shushing them.

One of my secret projects draws near to a close (or at least a functional Release Version, with GUI updates to follow), and I am beginning to urge my evil cohorts to begin on another secret project, with which I am almost as obsessed as I am with Sleeping Kings. Which makes sense, as the two are rather related. Alas, no details yet, as it would be boring without illustrations, and the illustrations are, themselves, the result of the secret project. I’ll keep you posted, once it’s interesting.

I suppose that’s all. I have something I want to tell you, about Archetypes and Social Construction, but that will be a post of its own. Good day. Smile, if you’ve got anything to smile for.

Journal Entry: July 4, 2006

Happy Independence Day!

I woke up this morning to a cat with an impressive set of lungs on it. Hmm…okay, some of the more literal ones among you are going to be thinking unpleasant things, so I should be entirely clear: it was yowling for some breakfast. At 6 AM. While I’m on vacation. I woke up, and it showed me where they keep the food, so I fed it.

That’s my morning routine back home, anyway.

Then I didn’t go back to bed, even though I wanted to (also part of my morning routine). I opened up Trish’s laptop, and posted today’s story on Sleeping Kings, and checked my email. I had a really kind email from Bruce.

(I mean to write a post on here sometime telling the story of how I met Bruce, how he became my king, and how he moved all over the world like the police van in a game of Carmen Sandiego.)

I am on vacation, by the way. Did everyone know that? I ended up getting four days for the weekend (by way of using a day’s vacation on Monday), and Heather and Graham had invited everyone to their new home in St. Louis for the Fourth, and we, as a family, have been doing a pretty serious (as in, I can’t get out of it) family reunion sort of a holiday on the Fourth for the last several years so, all of those independent clauses combined, Trish and I drove up to St. Louis Friday night. And here we are.

I have to be back at work tomorrow morning, so we’re actually missing all the Fourth of July stuff. We’re heading home right after lunch today. But, yeah, I’ve been away for the last three days, in case anyone has missed me.

I have this to say: children are noisy things. They are active things. I am neither of those things. Big sigh.

I’ll see you tomorrow. Read Sleeping Kings.