Month: July 2019

Find Me at Gen Con

This weekend I’ll be at Gen Con. Most of my time will be at booth 1749 in the dealer’s hall, so that is likely the best place to find me. I do have a few other scheduled events:

10 am Word Choice Matters Ballroom 2 of the Gen Con Writer’s Symposium

3 pm The Many Forms of the First Draft: How Do You Get It on the Page? Austin/Boston in the Gen Con Writer’s Symposium

6 pm Worldbuilder’s Party Grand Ballroom 9-10 in the JW Marriott. Come play games with Howard and I for charity.

1 pm Maintaining a Reader’s Sense of Wonder Ballroom 1 of the Gen Con Writer’s Symposium.

If you’re at the event, please take time to stop by and say hello!


After months of saying he didn’t want to take classes, my son called me yesterday to say that he does want to take a college class after all. We had five days to get his application submitted and approved before the registration deadline. (This school has open enrollment.) Suddenly he is talking about taking more than one class, getting a job on campus, and maybe even moving into student housing. All things he has rejected in the past.


My other college kid (same school) did their registration early, but they discovered that one class they wanted was full. We found an alternate and then realized it took place in Heber instead of locally. Then we had weeks where I nudged them and said “you really should find a different class.” That finally happened yesterday. Additionally we took a trip on city buses so that they could learn the route to campus and back. This is how the school commute is expected to go for the semester. Student ID was acquired, classrooms were found. Then we returned home tired but triumphant.


The office walls have sheet rock and are sanded into smoothness. Thus far we’ve put in over thirty hours of work. Tomorrow I plan to spray texture on the walls. After that dries, we’re ready for paint. Flooring will arrive while I’m at Gen Con. I get to have adventures in floor installation once I return.


Gen Con is next week. I hope that I’ve adequately prepared everything. This year I didn’t have a last minute scramble, which either means I prepared well earlier, or that I’ve been negligent and wasted time I could have been using getting things done. I’ll find out when I get there I guess. To be honest, I’ve been too muddled up with all the other things to focus on any individual thing very much.


My son, who usually spends the vast majority of his time attached to screens, has decided to run a D&D campaign for his friends. More than that, he’s creating it from scratch. So I’ve watched him spending hours pacing back and forth, thinking, reading manuals, and doing research. It is so good to see him engaged in an activity that stretches his brain and creativity. His friends seem to be on board with playing, so the game will happen sometime in the next couple of weeks.


Work progresses on preparing the next Schlock book for print. We need to pack for Gen Con. I’ve got a bathroom vanity sitting in the middle of my family room. There is a storage pod taking up half of my driveway. The only place we have to sit and eat is the kitchen counter. Howard and I are still trying out experiments with medicine to see if we can find a better mix for his good health. Everything feels cluttered and insufficiently clean. My daughter has a boyfriend and I’m learning to adapt to that. But at least I finally folded laundry yesterday.

Everything is happening all at once. It feels like half of the things which are happening are things I’ve been hoping for for years. The other half are things I would not have picked if I had the choice, and I certainly wouldn’t have picked them all at the same time. And yet this muddle of household and personal renovation will eventually settle out and then things will be new. In the new space I will be able to pause, breathe, then look around and figure out what comes next.

Becoming a General Contractor… Sort Of

On Monday the recovery company came to claim their industrial fans and to declare that their job with our house was complete. They’d come, removed affected materials, washed everything, and then dried it all out. The result was two rooms stripped down to concrete floor with flood cuts in the dry wall, a third room with flooring partially removed, and a large room in need of carpet removal and replacement. In order to return our house to normal we would have to work with a different department of the company, hire our own contractor, or do the work ourselves.

Without the roar of fans and the disruption of people traipsing into and out of our house we finally had time to assess what needs done. The bathroom was the source of our woes, on the left is what it looked like before, the right is how it looks now.

Then there is the studio which houses Howard’s workspace:

And also Keliana’s workspace:

At the moment we have Howard set up to work in our front room and Keliana set up in the kitchen. The kitchen table is banished to a storage pod, so everyone has to eat either at the counter or holding their plates in their laps. No one wants this arrangement to last long. That was one of the first challenges we noticed. Working with the recovery company or a contractor would introduce delays. We’d be waiting on them and their schedules. The process could take months. On top of that was the expense. Our insurance company has given us money to cover the repairs, but they also depreciate for the age of the flooring, and they pull out their deductible. Our adjuster was very nice about getting us as much money as he could without being dishonest. Yet I knew there was likely to be a gap between the amount of money offered by the insurance company and the amount of money a contractor would need in order to get the job done.

I examined the insurance claim in detail and noticed that there is a dollar amount for “General Contractor Overhead” and for “General Contractor Profit” The adjuster said that if we acted as our own general contractors, those dollar amounts would come to us. Then I looked at the bid from the restoration company, and the vast majority of the expense was labor rather than materials.

The thing is, we’ve done this sort of work before. I’ve hung dry wall. I’ve painted. And the new vinyl plank flooring is super easy to lay down. If we do the work ourselves, we can put the insurance money toward paying for some of the mitigation expenses that weren’t covered by insurance. On top of that, we’ll probably get the work done faster because we’ll prioritize getting it done.

The thought was daunting. It’ll be a lot of physical labor over the next weeks. I’ll be drafting my teenagers and paying them an hourly wage.

Yet, I’ve already replaced the flooring in my office. It took half a day and now my office just needs its contents returned to it. I’ve got all the mudding and taping supplies. The sheets of drywall will arrive tonight and odds are good that I’ll have them in place by the end of the day tomorrow. The goal is to have the walls ready to go by the time we leave for Gen Con. The flooring will arrive while we’re at Gen Con and will be collected by the adults keeping track of the house. Then I can lay floor as soon as I get home.

My head is full of calculations for square footage, workflow, and time management. For the next few weeks I’ll be acting as a general contractor while I get our house back to normal.

Sunday Morning Baking

8am on Sunday morning and I’m baking cookies. This is the only way we can get home baked cookies in July because turning on the oven when the outside temperature is three digits makes everyone miserable for the rest of the day (air conditioner can’t keep up.) I figured since I was already awake and since making cookies sounded nice, I might as well do it. Then we’ll have a good hour for the AC to restore comfortable temperatures before the world outside is too hot.

While I was baking cookies, I also cleaned up the kitchen. It feels good to make a small corner of our lives neat and orderly when so much of the house is jumbled. In fact I think the cooking area of the kitchen is the only public space in the house which doesn’t have extra furniture or stacked boxes in it. Even the bedrooms are somewhat impacted. All of this despite the fact that we have a rented storage pod out in our driveway to contain some of the clutter. It is going to take time to put the house to rights, but I can do the dishes and wipe the counter. It helps.

Yesterday Howard and I went to look at flooring. We have to make decisions about how to replace the flooring that was torn out. It was anxiety inducing to look at our options and try to pick something that we’ll have to live with for the next fifteen to twenty years. What if we choose wrong? What if we spend the money and then regret for a long time? Spinning on those thoughts leads to a mental paralysis. Then I’m reminded of a conversation I had with my teenage son earlier in the week. He was having an anxiety attack because he had twenty dollars to spend on a new game and was afraid of choosing wrong. I told him “go ahead and get it wrong.”
“but what if I get it wrong?” he repeated.
“What if you get choosing wrong… wrong? Wouldn’t that mean you accidentally chose … right?”
I saw the edge of a smile on his face, so I continued, “It would be so terrible to be accidentally right when you meant to be wrong.”
He managed to make a game selection, and judging from the fact that he’s been playing it non-stop for several days, I don’t think he got it wrong. Whether that means he succeeded or failed at what he attempted, doesn’t really matter since he has no regrets.

We chose flooring. Whether it will be right or wrong once it is installed, we have yet to see. Some day in the coming week I’ll have to place an order for the flooring. And I’ll have to make a dozen other decisions which will have long-term repercussions for our living spaces. Hopefully at the end of it all, we’ll like the new look of the spaces. For now, I have fresh baked cookies and a clean kitchen. It is enough.

Bits and Pieces

My house is filled with the roar of fans. It is about as relaxing as standing inside an inadequately sound-proofed jet plane. Damaged flooring and drywall has been removed. contamination is scoured out. Theoretically next week I can begin the process of putting things back together instead of tearing them apart further.


I’m thinking about what a joy it is to watch two people who both felt broken find each other and realize that the other one values them for exactly the things they felt were broken. It is beautiful when people heal each other and become whole.


As a mother of children with mental health issues, The Nightcore cover of Alex Benjamin’s song “My Mother’s Eyes” breaks my heart. Or rather shows me the ways that my children’s struggles already broke me. Because my children (and their friends) are amazing and so often they can’t see it.
You can listen here:
Written lyrics here:


Sad songs aside, my children are thriving more this year than they have in the prior three years combined. I’ll take it.


I only have three weeks to Gen Con and a long list of things I’m supposed to have done before then. Eep!


I submitted a short story to a market for the first time in a decade. It was rejected, but at least I did a writer thing.


It is 9am and I need to figure out how to make good use of today.