Friday, May 29, 2015

Can We Demo Already?

We met with the builder yesterday to go over all the line item costs to build our new house. Can anyone say "sticker shock"? But it's going to be gorgeous. Now if we could just get started.

Demolition of the existing house on the lot could begin as early as this weekend. Yippee - I can't wait to see the lot vacant except for the handful of large trees. It will be much easier for me to imagine what our finished house will look like as I stand in the street and squint. I'm sure my future neighbors who've already seen me do this are quite nervous about my mental capacity.

At the meeting yesterday, we also talked about exterior materials - the stucco, cast stone, doors and windows. Those elements and colors will be the next round of decisions I have to make. I can't bring myself to think of all the remaining issues and decisions to tackle. I'll think about those later.

In the meantime, I'm going to practice visualization. I'm imagining myself in my new abode when it's complete in all its splendor. All the decisions will have been made, the innumerable problems that are sure to crop up during construction will have been taken care of, the family has moved in and everyone just loves all the decisions I've made. Harmony will reign.

Here's how I'm seeing myself, all cool and serene. (Yes, I know I'm not Cindy Crawford - but work with me.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Yes, that's floods, plural.

Saturday night around 11:30, we were at the lake house in Seguin when the high water sirens sounded. That means there's high water upstream headed our way, and we've got about an hour to an hour and a half to get ready. This gave us just enough time to secure the boat and jet skis, and move a couple chairs we had left on the dock to higher ground.

We got lucky. The water rose through the night, but it never made it over the dock and into the yard. Whew - our first close call since we bought the lake house a year ago. Unfortunately, the people of Wimberly and San Marcos weren't as lucky.

So then we head home Monday after the holiday weekend (much of it spent watching the rain), and what happened Monday night in Houston? Yep, it started raining. It rained a lot. After about an hour, it was obvious this was going to be more than just a typical spring downpour.

Parts of Houston got eleven inches of rain. It's been reported that hundreds of houses were damaged, and over a thousand cars were flooded and abandoned along Houston roads and freeways.

We got lucky. Again. I stayed up and watched our street for rising water, much like I had stayed up Saturday night watching the lake. Although we got somewhere between six and seven inches in our neighborhood, we were spared the brunt of the storm. Buffalo Bayou bordering our neighborhood did swell from it's banks, but no houses were damaged in our area.

The next morning, I took a picture of Youngest chunking rocks into the bayou and tweeted it to one of the local television stations which featured it on the news several times that day. That was kind of exciting.

Here's a screen shot. The large lake-looking body of water is normally a giant grassy field. The bayou is actually down below the trees in the far background.

Friday, May 15, 2015

An Architectural Style

I've had several people ask what "style" of architecture our new house will be. That's a good question. I did some research, and here's what I've come up with.

Our house will be a contemporary adaptation of the Italian Renaissance Revival style in the Palladio tradition. Sounds pretty pedantic.

More simply (if that's possible), it's a Mediterranean inspired style more indicative of Italian palazzos of the 16th Century than the more masculine, free-flowing styles of Mediterranean seaside villas.

The "Mediterranean" style has become a sort of catchall moniker for styles ranging from Donald Trump's fabulous Mar-a-Lago estate (now private club) in Palm Beach, Florida, to your local neighborhood Taco Bell. But there are actually numerous variations of the Mediterranean technique.

Characteristics of the Italian Renaissance style include classical symmetry, often square or rectangular in shape with low-pitched hipped roofs. Italian Renaissance architecture often includes arched windows, particularly on the ground floor, with a more simple window pattern above. Eaves are often deep with large brackets. My "contemporary" adaptation includes more shallow, unadorned eaves.

Probably the most influential Italian Renaissance architect was Andrea Palladio. Palladio emphasized proportion and geometry, as well as classical symmetry.

So that's my house in a nutshell, a contemporary Italian Renaissance style in the Palladio tradition. Or, if you prefer...Mediterranean.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Casual Occurence, 29 Years Later

Next Monday Superman and I celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary, and 29 years together. It's hard for me to believe that much time has gone by.

We were both only 17 when we met our first summer at A&M. He had been recruited to play football, and football players usually went to summer school. I was there because I had just graduated from high school and couldn't wait to begin the next chapter in my life.

Looking back, boy, am I glad I went to summer school. Superman and I probably wouldn't have met. We were introduced by the first friend I met after moving into my dorm. She's still a good friend today, and feels at least somewhat responsible for the resulting three children that Superman and I brought into the world.

It's funny how small things, even the most casual occurences, can completely change the trajectory of life.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Writing the Blockbuster Novel

In a 2013 interview with The New York Times, Dan Brown was asked: "What's the best book you've ever received as a gift?"

I was surprised by the humble answer given by the mega-bestselling superstar.
Not long ago, I had an amusing experience meeting the author of a book I received as a gift nearly two decades ago — a book that in many ways changed my life. Almost 20 years ago, I was halfway through writing my first novel, “Digital Fortress,” when I was given a copy of “Writing the Blockbuster Novel,” by the legendary agent Albert Zuckerman. His book helped me complete my manuscript and get it published. Two months ago, by chance, I met Mr. Zuckerman for the first time. I gratefully told him that he had helped me write “Digital Fortress.” He jokingly replied that he planned to tell everyone that he had helped me write “The Da Vinci Code.”
As an aspiring author, I constantly mine articles and interviews for nuggets of information revealing an author's secret to success. I read Zuckerman's Writing the Blockbuster Novel years ago when I first toyed with the idea of writing a novel, but after stumbling across this interview with Dan Brown, I'm pulling it from my shelves and reading it again.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

I'll miss my old home

There are a lot of things I'm going to miss about my wonderful old house. Everywhere I turn there are certain nooks and corners that hold special meaning or poignant memories.

There's the fireplace mantle where I photographed the kids every Halloween before trick-or-treating, the curved staircase in the foyer where I photographed them at Christmas, the pool in the back yard where we spent hours swimming and just hanging out together when they were young and I ran out of ideas to keep them entertained. 

There's my library, the wonderful little room in the front of the house with a large bay window. I spent countless precious hours in the library reading to the kids before they were old enough to read on their own. Now it's the room I hang out in with the dogs in the morning after the kids leave for school, and in the evenings when I curl up with a good book.

Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled with being able to design my dream home to my exact specifications. It just feels a bit like I'm abandoning an old friend.

This picture is looking from the living room into the foyer, a spot I think is particularly pretty. I'll miss this spot, too.

building new house

Friday, May 8, 2015

Favorite Author

How did you discover your favorite author? That was the subject of a blog post by Susan Wiggs that I read this morning. I don't usually comment on blogs, but I love trivial questions like that, so I stopped to think of an answer.

John Jakes is probably my favorite author.  Jakes manages to weave brilliant stories that blend all the things I love in a novel: romance, suspense and history. I've read dozens of his books.

I remember years ago being intrigued by a interview with Jakes in a magazine, so I read The Bastard, Jakes's first novel of a very long series. I remember turning the book over in public to hide the title - I'm such a prude. But what a great book. It was my first Jakes novel and I was hooked.

Many Jakes books later, my favorites are the three novels in his North and South series. I commented on Wiggs's blog that I fell in love with the characters in this series and cried when I finished the last book.

It's funny that characters in a novel can affect us that way. I love it when I read books like that.

favorite author john jakes

Monday, May 4, 2015

Finally Plotting

I started plotting my novel today and found it both exhilarating in it's freedom, and yet frustrating in it's execution. It's a liberating feeling knowing I can write about whatever I want, create any characters I want, place them in any choice of setting, facing any number of conflicts, and all of it will be resolved in the way I choose. To be cliche, plotting is an open book.

But plotting is harder than I expected. All these great ideas for fabulous characters and intriguing storylines that have been swirling around in my head for several weeks have now got to be organized and expanded upon with brilliant artistry. Nothing short of a masterful creation chock full of tantalizing intrigue and riveting suspense will do - oh, and phenomenal sex scenes. (I'm determined not to put too much pressure on myself.)

To prepare for my novel, I've spent a couple years reading different genres and authors, trying to determine what I want to write. I first toyed with the idea of writing westerns. I love a great Elmer Kelton or Louis L'Amour novel. L'Amour's Flint is an all-time favorite that I've read multiple times. And being an eighth generation Texan, westerns are practically in my blood, right?

But about a year ago I decided to write a romantic suspense, so this past year I have read dozens of romantic suspense novels. Books by Sandra Brown and Nora Roberts have been among my favorites. I love the fast pace plotting of a good suspense novel (think Dan Brown), coupled with the gripping sexual tension of a hot romance (think Fifty Shades...well maybe not that hot).

So after months of reading, researching and psyching myself up for the task, I put pen to paper today and started plotting my own novel.

So far, I've got a girl. And a guy. And a murder. In Charleston. Or maybe Savannah.

I'm going to work on it some more tomorrow. It's going to be great, I just know it.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Remodeling is the pits

The lake remodel was supposed to take three weeks. We're now in our fifth week and still don't have a single working bathroom. Heck, we don't even have cabinets, or tile, or even all the new windows in the right place yet.

And now the weather is beautiful, perfect for spending a weekend at the lake and taking the new boat out for a spin, which makes waiting on the contractor even more unbearable.

I keep reminding myself how fabulous it will all look when it's finished, and how we're going to love having new bathrooms and a completely remodeled exterior this summer.

But in the meantime, the forecast calls for 81 degrees and sun in Seguin this weekend, but I'll be stuck in Houston.

bathroom remodel