Take Off Your Pants - and other strange stories
Updated: Dec 10, 2021
Baby Brain - It's a Thing
Or is that supposed to be mama brain? Heck, I don't know. I only know that this is the first writing I've done in a couple of weeks and I'm damned proud of it.
We got that magical call a few hours before I was due to go to court in Harrisonville over non-payment of rent. No, not us not paying rent. The renter. Now gone, thank goodness. More on that in a moment.
The voicemail was from our certification worker and I didn't even finish listening to the whole message, I was hitting the Call button so fast. I know how these things go. Newborns are snatched up quick in foster care. Everyone wants them. Sure, they need a lot, but it is a far more familiar thing to most to hold a baby and comfort it. And most gravitate toward that which is familiar.
After court, I stopped for a quick bite to eat before heading straight to the NICU at a local hospital to introduce myself to His Majesty. Today he is three weeks old, and it's been a nonstop parade of sleepless moments.
Actually, that isn't true. As of the last three days, we have the perfect system down. I go to bed at 5-6 p.m. and sleep until midnight while the hubs watches the little tyke and also puts the five-year-old to bed. Then my shift begins. Honestly? I take a couple of cat naps on one of our sofas - one is in the nursery, the other downstairs in the living room - and that gets me another 2+ hours. By 5 a.m. I'm perky, dressed, and ready for the world.
These (mostly) quiet moments have given me plenty of time to think, journal, and read as well, which leads me to...
Take Off Your Pants
While I've been reading, I've also been going through the now familiar "I'm getting close to finishing this book, is it any good, have I written shit, should I just stop now" phase of the writing process. It has happened with every book I've written and disabled me for hours, days, weeks, and even years. The further I progress in my author journey, the shorter these episodes tend to be, but they are disconcerting and bothersome.
And considering that my current work in progress, Winter's Child, is the first thriller I've ever written, it hit with a decent wallop. I could excuse it easily. I spent most of August stressing over getting the non-paying renter out, and half of September cleaning up the disgusting mess he left and prepping for court. (More on that in a moment, I promise.) And the rest of September has been filled a little bundle of joy who won't sleep for more than two hours in a row.
That said, I knew the reality of the problem - and I needed to get over it. I picked up Writing a Killer Thriller by Jodie Renner, but I just could NOT get into it. I couldn't tell you why other than the book simply did not speak to me. Libbie Hawker's book, however, did. I'm not even done with the outline and it has already rocked my world and changed the ending of Winter's Child in what I believe is a beneficial way. It made it far darker than I had even considered, but in the end, I can see how it serves the purpose of the theme to make it so.
Theme, plot, character arcs, et cetera. I've never really sat down and pieced out my stories into definable concepts - I was just... telling stories as they came to me.
And, having written eleven books and parts of at least half a dozen more, I can tell you that is perfectly acceptable. But my reasoning for picking up Take Off Your Pants was to see if, 1) I could get through my short-term miasma and finish Winter's Child. 2) See if outlining using Libbie's system worked better for me. 3) Hopefully improve my books by creating a book people would love to read (whatever the genre). And, 4) If it would help me write books faster (one of her assertions in the book).
That was a lot of reasons, and I'm not even completely through the book! However, I have been testing it out, by going ahead and working on each of the sections of the outline as she presents them both with Winter's Child and also with the book that is next in line, Broken Code, the 3rd in my romance series.
Libbie's insight into character arc, along with identifying every main character's flaw, their antagonist and their ally, somehow really worked for me. Immediately I saw that I needed to go darker with Winter's Child. And I had already thought it was pretty dark! Not just that, but Michael Anderle, of 20Booksto50k fame, had spent five minutes at the table I was sitting at a couple of weeks ago and, hearing me describe the book, had said it sounded like horror while I was calling it a thriller. And it straddles the line, it really does. Working with Take Off Your Pants, though, has me sliding closer to the former rather than the latter. I'll know more once I finish the outline. Who knows, perhaps it will slide back the other way.
I highly recommend Libbie's book, however. She explains it in a truly relatable way!
A person once close to me described me as someone who loves to drag people into court. "It's her bread and butter."
Um, no. Which tells me that person either knew nothing about me or was busy creating their own reality. Likely the latter.
Court is the LAST place I want to be. I'm not a lawyer and I hate the idea of some guy (or gal) sitting up in robes and making decisions that affect my life, decisions I have no choice but to live with. I kind of despise their attitudes too, judges are, at least the ones I've met, self-aggrandizing jerks. They are used to being treated with respect and deference (mainly because I'm not the only one scared shitless about having my life turned upside down by them) and they now expect it as a matter of course. Being around them is a lot like having someone who "knows" they are better than you in the room. Uncomfortable and irritating.
Sorry, by the way, if YOU are a judge. I'm just telling you how it feels.
In any case, after dealing with a tenant who paid rent late seven out of the nine months he lived there, and not paying rent at all in the 10th, I had little choice but to file eviction paperwork, and that meant going to court.
Throw in that last minute call for a foster baby, and I was in a whirlwind of chaos. I had managed to get the renter out on the 31st, and change the locks, but we still had the court date and frankly, after the mess that renter left, I wasn't just going to walk away and be satisfied that he was out. His dog tried to eat the molding, the walls all needed to be washed down, and despite having painted just a year before, paint was missing off of molding, doors and even walls. It had taken two solid weeks of work to get it cleaned up and ready for the new renters, and they had signed the paperwork the day before and begun moving in. I was out two weeks worth of rent due to the disaster he had left.
There are some pretty basic do's and don'ts when it comes to court. And you don't have to be a lawyer to figure them out.
Don't spit (go read The War on Drugs for more info on this little gem of advice).
If you are going to lie under oath, you had better make the lies consistent
The last one? Yeah, the renter was anything but consistent. I realized afterward that I really didn't have to say as much as I did, he kind of hung himself on his own lies. I had asked the judge for around $3,500 in damages (cleaning costs, repairs, unpaid rent, etc) after subtracting his security deposit, this came to $2,050.
This renter had made such a complete disaster of his testimony, changing gears, accusing me of renting him a house in deplorable condition (he said he had to clean it himself which nearly made me laugh out loud and point out to the judge that I ran a cleaning business and successful Airbnb's, things HAVE to be clean), and basically digging his own grave with baseless accusations. The judge raised his eyebrows when he learned that the renter had turned my husband away at the door when he arrived with a brand new water heater in its box claiming that the hot water was no longer a problem (after stating it wasn't working at all - it works fine, we tested it extensively).
In the end, the judge ruled in my favor AND awarded an extra $673 in damages in addition to the $2,000 I had requested, plus court costs. And that would have been that, except then the renter, who had already been freshly smacked for his behavior, decided to play more games. He texted me "So where should I send your $673?" - trying once again to claim that I somehow had $2,000 in deposits. Poor guy, math is apparently very, very hard.
So guess what I learned how to do? Wage garnishment. It's getting filed today.
Lesson of the day? If you are going to be stupid, avoid being really stupid. Don't further piss off someone who has already tired of your b.s. enough to go to court, one of my least favorite places.
Bits and Bobs of Improvements
I had quite a list planned until we got the call for our little foster baby. That really upended everything, but in a wonderfully nice way!
I had planned extensive painting outside, but a chunk of it might have to wait until spring. The deck for the Hedy Lamarr, though, well, that got a nice dose of red...
I know, I know, it is very RED right now. But that will be tempered, if I can manage to find time, with a lovely cream stencil over the top. I think it will look fantastic and I hope to have time this week to start on it. The stenciled design will cover the entirety of the deck and soften the red. As you can see, I also painted the support beams red.
Next spring, I look forward to contracting with someone to build a roof over the Airstream and the deck, making it a space that can be used even when it rains. Actually? The idea of sitting out there during a rainstorm sounds rather fabulous!
That's all I've got for now, folks. Baby snuggles, writing, and home projects should keep me busy for the next little while. Stay well!
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