Progress report on Operation Laundry Room Spruce

So a few weeks ago, I got the idea (more like the sudden desire) to spruce up the house one room at a time. I wanted to start with the laundry room because I’ve never actually painted anything before and if I made a mistake…well, nobody would notice unless I directed them to the laundry room and showed them. Here’s a before picture:

 

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It’s a standard laundry room, white walls, white doors, white baseboards, access to the garage on the left, door into our house on the right.

My vision for this room was to add some color to that back wall, the one with the shelf. I considered different shades of teal and turquoise until I found the right shade (not too bright, not too dark) for a windowless room. The other three walls of this room would be painted an off white, creamier and more subtle than the white that’s already on there. Then, along the white walls, I wanted to do some stenciling in the turquoise color. I picked out the stencil at Michael’s; it was a pattern of simple swirls that I thought would look cute.

With my husband’s help, I found everything I needed at Lowe’s and then got to work. Cleaning was obnoxious. I never realized how dirty my laundry room could get! But the taping took the longest. I wanted it to be perfect so I was constantly pulling the tape off and reapplying it, checking and rechecking my lines to be sure they were all even. Once that was done, all I had to do was paint. That was fairly simple; time-consuming, but simple. This is what it looks like now:

 

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The first picture came out a lot darker than I wanted it to. (Stupid camera phone…) In reality, the turquoise is closer to the second picture in darkness.

Onto the stenciling I went, not wanting to lose momentum. I followed the directions and still didn’t get the desired pattern. Every time I pulled the stencil away, one half would look smudged. Still, I kept trying, applying the paint more sparingly and then more liberally with each roll, hoping I’d get at least one right. None of them looked even remotely like the sample picture did, much to my dismay. To salvage all the work I’d done, I simply taped off the squares and made a checkered pattern on the wall instead. This is what it looks like now:

 

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Can you tell I ran out of the one kind of tape and had to send my husband out to buy me some more? He’s been such a good sport through this process.

And that’s exactly what this is: a process. When I first started thinking about what I wanted to do with this room, I naively believed it was a project I could do over the weekend. While I did get most of the work done in one weekend, the job isn’t finished. I took all the tape off the other day and removed some paint in the process. The corners of the walls where the white meets the turquoise peeled, ruining the straight lines I worked so hard to create. I was upset about it at first, but my husband assured me that I could fix the problem with a small, flat brush. Guess what my next task is going to be? Touch ups. Hooray! (I’ll post a picture of the finished look once I’m done. Promise.)

It didn’t turn out quite like I envisioned but isn’t that just like life? Better to roll with the punches and make the best of it than complain about what could have been. Considering this is my first painting project, I’d say it turned out all right. It could’ve turned out a lot worse, I’m sure. I feel that I’ll have more realistic expectations when I start thinking about how I can spruce up the guest bathroom. For that, I’m thankful. As for now, I’m still recovering from all the standing, squatting, and climbing! I need to work out more.

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Another excerpt from “The Andromeda’s Ghost”

Pain came first, bursting into being and spreading across his body like fire. Taren gritted his teeth and opened his eyes. His surroundings were veiled and distorted. Even after blinking multiple times, it was hard to see. The pulse of his brain beating against the inner lining of his cranium might have had something to do with that. Messages from his rattled mind were sent to the rest of his body and his limbs sluggishly began to move. He unclipped his seatbelt and fell against the control panel of his ship with a grunt. The monitors were off, but the lights under several buttons were flickering. There was still some power. Large metal slabs were embedded into the dash. Taren turned away, looking for Kylee.

His copilot was still strapped to her seat, head sagged against her chest, long hair covering her face. She didn’t appear to be breathing. Fear gave him the strength to push off the control panel and get to her.

“Kylee?” He lifted her face and brushed the strands of dark hair away from her eyes. Those glassy, almond-shaped orbs stared back at him. He freed her from the restraints and she fell heavily against him. The back of her white dress was sticky with blood. A sharp piece of metal protruded from the back of her seat, the end of which was stained red. Taren’s breath hissed in through his teeth as he fought to control his panic. He slipped a hand under her bent knees and hoisted her up. Her cold body leaned into him as he began the angled climb out of the cockpit.

 

“If I’d known you’d be this much trouble, I never would’ve gotten involved,” he said as he braced himself against the control panel.

The monitors flashed the “Eminent Collision” message and that danger siren screeched across the cockpit as the planet’s gravitational pull yanked their burning ship out of the sky. And Taren was making jokes.

Kylee just laughed. “Yeah, you would’ve.”

He grinned.

 

Taren blinked rapidly to get rid of the stinging. It didn’t help. His grip around Kylee tightened. He ambled through the metallic hallway, hoping there would be something to help her in sick bay. There was a giant hole at the end of the hall, where the ship’s infirmary should have been. Taren looked over his shoulder. Through the archway, he could see clear into the cockpit. The placement of the metal pieces in the control panel and copilot’s seat suddenly made sense. There was one more piece stuck in the controls above the pilot’s chair. It must’ve missed Taren’s head by inches.

Rage built up around his throat and made his scalp tingle. Why couldn’t I have died with her?

The distant sound of a landing ship caught Taren’s ear. It had to be the men that had chased them to this unknown planet. Taren took a moment to think, drumming his fingers against Kylee’s leg. He made a snap decision and set her down over the inclined floor of the hallway before clamoring up the stairs. The lights flickered in the kitchen but it was enough for Taren to see by. He loped around the table, past the supplies littered across the floor, and to the cabinets aligning the west wall. After punching the code into the screen, the cabinet door slid open. There was an emergency backpack waiting for him. Once the pack was slung over his shoulder, Taren took one more moment to grab an extra canteen of water before he made his way back to Kylee.

His journey down the stairs became much harder with the added weight of his survival pack. He hobbled through the dark lower level of the ship with Kylee in his arms, to the ramp that would lead him outside. He jammed his thumb into the button several times before the airlock opened. The ramp lowered to reveal a flat landscape. Two moons hung in the sky, casting their ghostly glow over the earth. A dry wind swept over Taren as he walked out.

He collapsed against the side of his smoking ship, taking deep breaths, arms and shoulders burning. Exhausted as he was, he had to keep moving. He had to get away. He cast his eyes across the horizon, ignoring the pain in his head and looking for any sign of life. The red and yellow landing lights of an unfamiliar ship flashed over the hill to the west. If he strained his ears, he could hear the hiss of the cooling systems. There was a river-like coil of lights in the east. There was no way Taren could make it there on foot. There was nothing but darkness to the north, and yet he could pick out darker shadows against the sky that blotted out the stars. Trees perhaps? He pushed off the ship and started walking.

           

Thrusters coughing across the sky sent Taren running for the giant burrow in the ground. From the size of its entryway, it would be big enough to offer him some shelter. It didn’t matter if it was the home of some monstrous creature. He had to hide. Now.

Every muscle quivered in exhaustion. His feet seemed to be palpitating within his boots, screaming for release. Still, he pushed himself to run across the salt flat of a dead lake between decaying vegetation to get to the burrow. He tripped and fell inside with a surprised grunt. He curved his body over Kylee’s as the momentum of his fall rolled him down into the cave. His body fell against the rocks toward the bottom of the decline, cutting off his cry of pain and surprise. The sound echoed off the dew-covered walls. He rose with a groan and shuffled further into the cave, where darkness was beginning to gather. He carefully lowered Kylee onto the ground, shrugged out of his pack, and began to dig through it. His fingers found something that crinkled. He pulled out the thermal blanket and unrolled it quickly. Using it and some of the rocks that had broken his fall, Taren constructed a crude tent. He grabbed Kylee by the armpits and dragged her into the tent. Then he crouched beside her and waited, hoping beyond hope that the dark blanket would blend into the semi darkness around him.

At first, all he could hear was the howl of the dry wind ripping across the land. He strained his ears for further sounds of the enemy ship or a landing crew. There was nothing. Taren relaxed but only just. He retrieved a pack of dehydrated fruit and broke it open. He almost choked on his food when he heard footsteps approaching the entrance of the burrow.

“I’m telling you something popped up on the radar,” a voice said.

“And I’m telling you it was nothing,” a second voice growled. “The wind and the heat are screwing up the readings.”

The beeping of some hand-held machinery traveled down to meet Taren.

“There, see? It’s picking up some form of heat signature,” the first voice said.

“Is it ninety-eight degrees?”

“No, but…”

“Then it’s not human. It’s probably some desert beast. We’re wasting time here.”

“There wasn’t anyone on the ship,” the first voice snapped. “They must be in the desert somewhere. If we don’t check every heat signature thoroughly, they’re going to slip past us and Churab is going to kill us.”

Taren’s brow furrowed. Churab?

“I can understand scouring through a monster-infested burrow for a heat signature that’s close to a human’s average body temperature but…Let me see that,” the second voice grumbled, no doubt swiping the hand-held heat seeker from his partner. “This is a single signature in the eighties. It’s not them.” He threw the machine back at his partner with a thump. “Come on. Let’s get out of here before we wake whatever creepy-crawly lives here.”

They argued for a few minutes more before the first was finally convinced. Then they left. Taren exhaled and leaned back against the rocks. So these mercenaries were being led by someone named Churab, someone who wouldn’t take kindly to failure.

Good for Maju; sucks for me.

Taren yanked his pack open wider and began to look through his supplies. He had enough dried food, canned goods, and food supplement bars to keep him alive for about a week, and that was if he had a source of water nearby to refill his canteens. While walking, he’d kept an eye out for a well or a lake, and had found neither. It seemed everything around these parts had dried up. If he rationed the water he had, he could survive in that burrow for approximately three days, but then he wouldn’t have any water left for the return journey to the crash site.

The mercs should have finished scouring through the marsh in a day or two. It’ll be safe to walk back to the ship then.

Taren’s eyes flickered to the dead bride lying beside him. The gown wasn’t something Kylee would have chosen. It was gaudy and extravagant, with glittery patches of silver, a ridiculously poofy skirt, and a plunging neckline. No doubt it had been selected for her by Queen Miyako.

God, I hate that woman. She never cared about what Kylee wanted.

The grief, fear, and despair washed over the walls of numbness that had constructed themselves around his mind. Suddenly, he was sobbing. He couldn’t control the sounds of agony forcing their way up his throat or the tears pouring from his eyes. So he hugged his knees to his chest and let it come. Then the numbness returned. With shaking hands, Taren pulled his lover into his arms and pressed his face into her soft hair.

“I’m so sorry,” he whispered. “I failed you.”

Using the knife in his pack and his bare hands, he dug a shallow grave deeper in the cave and buried her. Then he curled up in his thermal tent and tried to sleep.

 

“Hey.”

Taren woke with a start to find that he was lying on his side. The shoulder pressed up against the earth was numb and his neck prickled uncomfortably. He slowly sat up and rubbed his shoulder. He locked eyes with Kylee, who sat across the cave, munching on some dried fruit. He skittered back against the rocks with a curse.

Kylee’s eyes widened. “What is it? What’s wrong?”

“How are you here? You were dead!”

Kylee cocked her head to the side. “Really.”

Taren looked down at himself. “I know I’m not dead. My heart’s still beating and I still feel like crap. I must’ve hit my head or knocked something loose when we crashed.” He glanced back at Kylee, disappointed. “You’re just a hallucination.”

Kylee shrugged and peered into the bag of dried fruit she was snacking from. “Well, imagine some better-tasting food. This stuff is gross.” She shoved the bag aside before standing. She wore black leather pants, combat boots that ended mid-calf, and a speeder jacket with gold stripes down the arms. Her hair was in a loose ponytail with a few free strands hanging by her ears. This was the girl he’d fallen in love with, the racer born a princess. He had been trained to protect her and had despised her right up until the day he caught her sneaking out of the palace to race speeders with low-life thugs. It was hard to believe she was nothing but a memory now.

Taren swallowed past the dry spot in his throat. “I’m sorry.”

Kylee blew a raspberry and rolled her eyes. “People die all the time, Terry.”

“I should’ve—”

Kylee held up a hand to stop him. “This was their fault, not yours. Let the matter be.”

Taren nodded and cleared his throat. “Yeah. Okay.”

Kylee shoved her hands in her pockets before glancing about the cave. “Maju is going to be pissed when he finds out the mercs killed me. Maybe he’ll have them executed.”

“Nah,” Taren muttered, crawling out from his tent. “Your prince charming will wait until they find me and bring me to him. Then he’ll have the mercs executed.”

Kylee wrinkled her slightly upturned nose at me. “He was never my prince and you know it. What are you going to do now?”

Taren sighed. “I have to get back to the ship. If it’s fixable, it can get me off this miserable rock. If not, I’ll have to get out of here by other means.”

“You never did name the ship,” Kylee said.

Taren gave her an exasperated look. “It already has a name and a captain. I stole it, remember?”

“Yeah, but you’re not giving it back so that makes it yours.” Kylee adopted a thoughtful look as she rocked on the balls of her feet. “How about…The Andromeda?”

Taren wrinkled his nose at her. “The what?”

“Andromeda was one of Earth’s mythological princesses who was put in a life-threatening situation because of her mother’s pride. She ended up being rescued by Perseus, a young Pegasus-riding warrior who swooped in just in time.” She shrugged. “I thought it was fitting.”

Taren grew somber. “You’re right. It’s perfect.” He reached out to touch her face, amazed at his mind’s ability to create such a real apparition.

Kylee smiled, just a slight curling of the lips. “You should get yourself checked. You might have brain damage.”

“Maybe later,” Taren said, letting his hand drop.

A hiss came from the back of the cave, where the darkness was deepest. He dove into his tent and wrenched the knife away from his pack before turning to face whatever creature awaited him. He was about to tell Kylee to find some cover when he realized he was alone. He did a double take, staring at the spot she’d been standing just moments earlier. Then the creature emerged.

It had the same build of a dog but was the size of a bear. Instead of skin or fur, it was covered in silver reptilian scales. Its snout was long; its forked tongue flicked from its open mouth. Its milky white eyes had no pupils. Oh, and it could breathe fire. When it barked, a gust of flames burst from its lips. Taren swore and dove out of the way before he could be incinerated. He rolled onto his feet and brandished his pitiful weapon. The beast charged, whipping out a spiked tail to bash Taren in the face. He leapt back with a curse and swiped his knife across the beast’s tail. The alien monster snarled, but its scaly skin remained unharmed.

“Great,” Taren muttered.

He dodged another jet of fire, feeling the heat kiss his side. He continued to dance just out of the creature’s range until it became angry enough to charge a second time. Taren skidded to the side and jabbed at the monster’s eyes, but it cost him. The creature racked its claws across Taren’s abdomen. He let out a scream of rage and pain before he tackled the beast. They rolled over the damp earth, kicking up clumps of mud and wrestling for the upper hand. Spurts of fire flew past Taren’s face, singeing his ears and his hair. Somehow when they stopped, Taren was on top and his knife was embedded in the creature’s soft underbelly. The dog-bear-reptile thing let out a whine and a puff of smoke before going limp.

Taren released his hold on the knife and fell over onto his side. The front of his shirt and cargo pants was soaked in blood. The smell of burned flesh and hair made his nose twitch. His stomach…Taren groaned and began crawling to his tent. Somehow he made it to his pack and found the med kit. Somehow he found the sealing spray and coated his stomach with it. Somehow he managed to swallow the pain killers and apply the burn ointment to his face. Then he lay on his back in a pool of his own sweat and blood, and caught his breath. He stared up at the ceiling of his little tent, fighting back tears.

Kylee’s head appeared within his line of vision, dark hair swinging. She whistled. “You don’t look so good, Terry.”

“I can’t do this,” he said through his teeth. “I need more than what I’ve got to survive in this hell-hole.”

Her smile was soft. “You’re just saying that because you’re in pain. From where I’m standing, it looks like you’re doing pretty good.”

Taren slammed his fists into the ground beneath him. “How can you say that? Look at me! I’m a freakin’ mess.”

“But you’re alive.”

Guilt stole away his retort. He sat up and twisted around to face her. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean—”

Kylee nodded. “I know you didn’t.”

Taren sniffled and wiped his face with the back of his blood-stained hand. His eyes fell on the monster he’d just killed. “There might be more of them. I should look for another place to hide.”

“Or there might not be,” Kylee said. “You’re hurt. You need to rest.”

Taren leaned back against the rocks, too tired to argue with her. “Yes, ma’am.” As his eyelids drooped, he could almost feel her touch on his cheek.

“Don’t worry,” she whispered. “I’ll watch over you.”

Sprucing up the house

There’s nothing like going to a friend’s house to make you realize how simple your home is.

Don’t get me wrong, I love our house. The living, sitting , kitchen, and dining rooms are open and spacious, perfect for hosting large groups of people. The bedrooms are larger than average. I love my master bedroom. The house was half furnished when we moved in and the rest of our furniture was given to us by friends who were moving at that time or by our parents. When we first decided to move out of our one-bedroom apartment and into a four bedroom house, I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to furnish it. But we were so blessed, so blown away by everybody’s generosity. I’m still amazed at God’s provision. That’s not what I mean by simple.

We’ve been living in our house for a year and two months, and our walls are still pretty bare. The primary reason for this is because the house isn’t ours. It’s a rental and we want to respect our grandparents by refraining from putting a bunch of holes in the walls. But, if I’m honest, I think that’s just an excuse for not trying harder. We haven’t given the house any fresh coats of paint or sanded down the cabinets and given them a nice varnish or gotten new curtains or anything. I don’t feel as if we’ve truly made this house our space. Our only attempts at personalization have been a few wedding photos and the Geek Mantle of Geekiness (featured below.)

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(You can’t tell because of the awful quality of this photo, but the horizontal frame is displaying Harry Potter stamps.)

Maybe it’s because we’ve hit the one year mark. Maybe it’s because I recently visited the homes of two very creative ladies who have expertly decorated their homes, with themes and impressive DIY crafts. Or maybe it’s because I’m growing up a little and I want the house we live in to emulate that. Either way, I’m willing to give it a shot. I’ve been on Pinterest for affordable ideas and I’ve found some DIY projects I’d like to try. I know some ladies who are very handy with canvas and wooden signs, and I’m sure I can hire them to make some cool verse/calligraphy wall art. We live right next door to Lowes and Michael’s is just down the street. I have everything I need to get started.

My only problem is I don’t have a theme or a vision for the interior of my house. I know I want to make it more sophisticated, add some more color, and a personal touch in every room. I’d love to play with stripes and patterns, flowers and nick-knacks in the corners, cool accent pieces and conversation starters. But I don’t want it to be random. There has to be a method to the madness or it’ll look messy and unprofessional. (I feel like I’m about to go on a home improvement show on HGTV or something with this grocery list of things I want for my “new look.”) So all that’s really left to do is research, research, research. Find articles with pictures of spaces I might want to try and then build upon that. Talk to my crafty and creative friends and family members. Look into yard and estate sales in the area for diamonds in the rough. With the end of school in sight, it’s the perfect time to start something new. Naturally, I’ll document my journey with all it’s fails and lessons.

It’s going to be a lot of work but it’ll be fun to transform our house. I can’t wait to get my hands dirty!

Pitch Madness

For those of you who don’t know, Pitch Madness (also known as PitMad) is a Twitter event for undiscovered writers, which happens several times a year. It gives writers a chance to pitch their stories (in 140 characters or less) to participating agents from publishing houses all over the country. A writer can pitch as many of their stories as they want, but only three tweets per story. Writers who want to support their peers are allowed to retweet the pitches of others, but only agents can like (or heart) a tweet. Agents can choose to log into their twitter accounts and go to the PitMad page where hundreds of thousands of pitches are on display from 8AM to 8PM. By liking a tweet, that agent has given the writer permission to submit a query letter, synopsis, and sample chapters of that particular story with #PitMad in the subject line. I’ve heard some agents give participating PitMad writers’ submissions priority over unsolicited submissions.

On Thursday, I will be participating in Pitch Madness for the third time. I have mixed feelings about this event. I know it’s a great opportunity. When will I have the attention of so many different agents at once? Being able to add that #PitMad into the subject line of my submission will give me a better chance than if I sent an unsolicited submission. But at the same time, it’s so stressful. The number of pitches on the PitMad page is overwhelming. There are countless other undiscovered authors doing the same thing I am, succeeding in sticking out from the masses, doing a much better job pitching than I ever could.

I struggle with writing pitches. I’m a long-winded summarizer. Always have been. (Anyone who asks me what my stories are about or what book I’m currently reading is immediately sorry they asked). In all the examples I’ve studied and “How to Write a Good Pitch” articles that I’ve read, they say a pitch needs to include three things: the protagonist, the main conflict, and what is at stake. Sound simple, right? Wrong! It has to be intriguing and exciting but not too flowery, all the while engaging the agent emotionally, giving them a reason to care about the main character and his/her journey. Because a good pitch will make an agent request the whole manuscript, while a lame pitch will have them turning away before they even finish it.

With so much weighing upon this 140 character long pitch, can you blame me for stressing out? Can you blame me for looking forward to this event while also dreading it?But I can’t ignore such an obvious opportunity to showcase my work. I’ve tried the unsolicited query route long enough with no success. I got closer to publication during the last PitMad than I ever have. I need to keep pitching, no matter how gut-wrenching the process may be.

The last two PitMads snuck up on me. I did my best to come up with compelling, interesting, and concise pitches on the spot but it was really hard. Since I found out about this PitMad ahead of time, I can prepare. I can read up on new articles about the Dos and Don’ts of pitching. I can brainstorm and work with words to create several different pitches and see which ones sound better. I can ask for advice from beta readers and other writers. I have time to look over the opening chapters of my novels, polish them up even more, make them ready for new eyes. Maybe, just maybe, this PitMad will be different.