Working From Home

work to do - small

We never know what change is coming at us.

Two months after my last post, Hurricane Matthew looked like he was going to grind up the entire Florida coast as a Cat 4. I dashed away from my out-of-town gig to rush home and evacuate my parents. Two hours into my five hour drive south I got a call from my boss saying, sorry, but we’re going to have to replace you immediately. We’ll get you back in here ASAP once your family responsibilities are complete. I said, OK, no problem. This is life as a storm adjuster who also lives in a hurricane prone state.

Can’t be everywhere at once.

One hour later – still rushing south – phone rings again. Different company asking me if I am available to lead an in-office storm team – right in my own home town! Oh, yes! How’s that for timing? Maybe God is in control?

That gig didn’t last long but segued into another also in my home town. Whew. Good thing too because by then I needed to attend all parental medical appointments, etc. Working out of town is no longer an option.

Fast forward one year. Hurricane Irma is coming and another out-of-the-blue call – offering me to:

WORK FROM HOME! 

Woot!!! Woot!!! World’s Biggest Woot!

The hours were brutal but completely flexible – allowing me to work as much as 77 hours/week while still getting my parents to appointments and walking their new dog. (Hah, that’s another post).

But, after ten months of that pace, I’d had enough. I took the slower summer season as the chance to change my Day Job. We’d been praying that this opportunity would come and it did. Same industry, different role. Still work from home. Still completely flexible hours – just a lot less of them and less emotionally draining.

I LOVE my Day Job!

And, since work is slow right now, I am still catching up on all sorts of things that were neglected: INCLUDING MY NOVEL! (See my writing blog update HERE.)

FIRST DRAFT = DONE!

 It’s been two+ years of hard work and sudden changes. I am thankful for the grace of God which continues to strengthen me for each step and allows me to face the future with peace – having seen His hand so clearly at work in the past.

2019 is going to be challenging in endless ways but when I can make myself stop and remember His past blessings, I can face the next round of the whirlwind.

Early Bird Efforts

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Mr. Grackle in snow –  Picture by: Lausanne Davis Carpenter

The best remedy for surviving a twelve-hour day in cubicle-land is to spend my early mornings on my own goals. I have posted on LDavisCarpenter about the challenges of writing historical fiction and am starting a Flash Memoir side-project while chipping away at my novel.
 

I am reasonably confident in my non-fiction abilities but creative writing is – whew. I know how long it takes to develop any new skill so I want to use my life experiences as material for word-crafting practice – before I am faced with final edits of my long fiction. Flash Memoir seems like a good choice for distilling memories into words that transport a reader to another’s time, place, thoughts and senses. I also think it will be fun to capture snippets of my own crazy life in this form.

 

Meanwhile, you can see last summer’s mural on the Marsh Hawk Studio blog. I still plan to do a process post showing the steps to creating it but those pictures are on my other laptop which an Office update recently corrupted and can no longer access the internet. (Yes, thank you very much.) I will soon update the Long Ago & Far Away blog with notes on Conn Iggulden’s Genghis Khan series.

 

If I can ever get my blogs up to date AND have a day off – I’ll be back to writing my novel.



***About Mr. Grackle – just a fellow at my feeder on a snowy morning back in VA. Those eyes look like I feel most mornings before tea.

Writing and Responsibility

desk and candle

There’s a certain martyr’s pride we risk when forcing ourselves out of bed in the wee hours to get our writing done.

I’m back to the Day Job – the traffic, the hours (the paycheck! old friends! new friends!) Thankfully, this time I have a shorter commute which is allowing me to find a few minutes in the morning to think about writing. So far I’ve managed to read some research material and scribble a couple of posts on my writing blog.

I could get up even earlier but, working six or seven long days every week, less sleep would reduce my ability to help the people who depend on me at the office. They depend on me for training in order to stay in their assignments as long as possible. But, my sense of responsibility goes beyond their urgent questions. My employer depends on me to keep our people in their roles because that’s the core of our business. Our client depends on our people to serve their customers well, in support of their brand. Those customers depend on our people to be professional and accurate during their time of need and sometimes great stress. And, my people have others in their lives depending on them to bring home a paycheck.

I owe them all seven hours of sleep every night.

Dickens-at-the-Blacking-Warehouse

Work in Progress: Never-ending Renovations:

Work In Progress

Work In Progress

Looking good, eh?

Six months delayed. Cost overruns. Losing buckets of $$$$$ because I quit my day gig too soon. The house was supposed to be ready early March – originally December, but I knew that was laughable – so I stopped working at the beginning of January in order to help my parents pack, move and settle in.

Is the end in sight?

The insulation isn’t even in yet, much less drywall and fixtures. My husband and I will have to DIY the flooring, cabinets and painting to save money.

The good news is: the wait has allowed me to write. Writing is portable while I’m trying to be in two places at once.

Meanwhile, I’m having serious cravings to paint – particularly with encaustic/wax processes. But painting isn’t very portable (not the way I paint anyway, and especially not with the encaustic set-up). So, I write.

Is there any wonder I’d rather just sit here and read?

porch1 medium 11 inches

Time Management and the Disordered Life – Update #1

Reposting this here to keep my general blog up to date. Have other bits of news to add shortly. Stay tuned!

L Davis Carpenter - Writer

Must Keep Writing!

10,000 new words in six days! Whew. Mostly rubbish but something to work with. I’m trying to set short-term goals based on what looks possible within the next chunk of time. Those six days were spent away from home, helping my parents with their move. While I am with them, we have a standing agreement that I spend my mornings working on my writing. I am often able to squeeze additional time (mostly reading, research and social media) into the evenings.

I’d set myself a minimum of 1500 words/day while there – see here – enough pressure to keep me focused but not so much to make failure inevitable. I’m not sure of the exact final count because I often delete chunks of in-line notes along the way. But I definitely averaged above my 1500 word/day goal.

Now I am home again – for about a week…

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Time Management and the Disordered Life

L Davis Carpenter - Writer

Down the Rabbit Hole Down the Rabbit Hole

Day job, family, (laundry, errands, bills, stray cats and trying to move aging parents to new home), news headlines, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, real life relationships – everything conspires against our creative arts. This past week, with 20x more discretionary hours available than usual, I lost focus. I meandered down every possible rabbit hole. A lot of it was good – I’ve learned about marketing, how to use Twitter, found new resources and finished some research – but I didn’t add one word to my manuscript. I floundered.

Today I’m packing to head north again and wishing I’d used this week at home more effectively.

My life goes from 95% externally structured (when on an adjusting gig) to negligible external structure (between gigs). I have been self-employed most of my life so I am adept at self-structure and motivation. But from time to time even I fizzle out.

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Collateral Damage

Here’s a repost from my writing blog: ldaviscarpenter.com (I’m trying to figure out the best way to cross-post my own material from different blogs.)

L Davis Carpenter - Writer

The Shepherd's Song

Ever wonder about those poor peasants who are always raped, pillaged or wholesale deported to foreign lands?

I do.

I love reading historical fiction about movers and shakers; kings and queens whose passions turn the wheels of history. But every time a village is burned and the women and children are dragged off by their hair I think, what about them?

They are the red shirts of history.

Maybe I identify with them. Since childhood, I have read about historical upheavals and wondered, how do the regular folks survive? How did people get on with their lives during the bombing of Britain? What became of the ethnic Koreans deported to the Kazakh SSR? How do you feed your family when Boko Haram is in the neighborhood?

It is hard enough to hold a steady course when my plans are derailed by a sudden car repair..

Kings, queens, statesmen – the…

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What I Did on My Summer Vacay

Front Range Viewed from Greeley, CO

Front Range Viewed from Greeley, CO

Summer is officially over if you consider Memorial Day and Labor Day the boundaries – rather than looking to celestial events. Neither work here in Florida – it feels very much like summer from April through October.

As for what I did: two months of Day Job in hot, dry Colorado. Then one month in hot, humid Tidewater, Virginia troubleshooting various challenges for my parents. I have now been back in my own home for three weeks.YAY! The laundry and housework are caught up, the new storage barn’s rafter tails are primed (note the evidence of oil primer in my hair) and tomorrow morning I start another round of Day Job.

This next assignment is a new role for which I am very thankful. The hours will be brutal, as always. However, I was able to complete a lot of research this summer so I hope to scrounge some minutes before work to convert story ideas in my head to scenes on digital paper.

I missed cross-posting a prior blog entry from Long Ago & Far Away to here so that will follow.

Squeezing in Some Reading Time

Managed to finish reading two historical novels recently. Posted thoughts about them on my Long Ago & Far Away blog. (And I have no idea why this post is insisting on this strange formating but I don’t have time to fiddle with it. I need to be working on my novel – right now. Or, write now.)

Wilber Smith’s River God and The Quest – Some Observations

In my efforts to expand my exposure to Long Ago & Far Away historical fiction, it was past time that I read some Wilbur Smith. His novels of ancient Egypt intrigued me so I picked up River God and ventured in – as always without reading the back cover, reviews, etc.

From the first page I knew that Smith was writing my kind of historical fiction: accent on adventure and mostly fictitious main characters allowing lots of room to play. I am observing that, the more locked to historical figures, the more difficult it is to craft a satisfying story. (Though the likes of Sharon Kay Penman and C. W. Gortner do it with aplomb). Call me low-brow but I like heroes and villains and adventure rooted in some other world than ours – historical fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, etc. For historical fiction I want the context to be accurate but after that, I just want a good story.

So, River God: the most compelling aspect of this work is not so much the story as the voice of the main character. Our first-person hero, Taita, borders on the fantastical – no, is fantastical. He is a Renaissance Man in extreme: playwright, architect, administrator, military strategist, physician, mural painter, jeweler, hydraulic engineer, embalmer, musician – what have I missed? There are chariot battles, damsels in distress and adventures into sub-Saharan Africa. I know so little about the history or geography that, besides the epic exaggerations, I had to largely take Smith at his word on the basic facts. But it’s Taita’s voice that carries this book. His voice will stay with me when the story is forgotten.

Imagine my shock when I opened The Quest and found a third-person narrative, mostly in Taita’s point of view, but also from other characters and even much use of the omniscient. I had skipped two books in the series, so I knew there would be story I’d missed and I expected subtle changes in the author’s style but I grieved the loss of Taita’s voice for 100 pages before I finally let it go.

Also, by the time you reach The Quest, there has been a shift in genre from imaginative historical adventure to what is essentially a fantasy set in ancient Egypt/Africa. Taita is no longer simply skilled at everything. In the interim he has become a mage and a long-liver. Rather than the natural enemy of an invading force (River God) Taita is now pitted against a thousand year old witch.

I read fantasy so it should have been easy to make the transition, but it took me about as long to let the historicity go as it did to relinquish Taita’s voice. I do not want to be the one to pigeon-hole writers into strict genre distinctions but I really struggled with it. I like historical characters to take on as much of their own worldview as I can possibly comprehend, and the people of ancient Egypt would understand the world very differently from me, but that’s not what The Quest is. The Quest is fantasy – best to make that mental switch in your head before you start page one.

It would be interesting to read the interim books and observe when and how Smith makes this transition. I suspect it is gradual and would not have shocked me so if I had read the progression as written. I’d love to hear from folks who have read all four to learn if this is the case or if The Quest was a leap in style and or genre.

And, a warning about The Quest: this story is sexually visceral. For the most part, the sexuality is rooted in the themes of power, identity and transformation that run through both books, but there were bits that seemed gratuitous.

River God: Recommended – here is it’s review page on GoodReads (interesting that the reviews are mostly divided between love it/hate it. Few in between.)

The Quest: Recommended with caution – here’s it’s review page on GoodReads (also very divided opinions). And one from the Historical Novel Society.

 

 

 

 

 

The Day Job Wins

Forty-eight hours after release from Adjusting Gig 1, I received notice of Gig 2 and am making my way across country to the new location. The first 30 days of each assignment means zero days off but I should be well rested by the time I report for duty again.

I am driving west for the first time since 1985 (road trip!) and when I get my Sundays off I will meet up with several dear friends who have migrated that way in the last few decades. I am excited for the continued excellent work opportunity and a bit of adventure. Woo Hoo!!!

But, once again, the constant zig and zag leaves me feeling that large portions of my life have been wasted pouring time and energy (and money) down paths that end in brick walls. I am now 18 months behind on writing my novel (or 20 years!) and again mothballing my painting business that I hadn’t even thought to reopen until it came barrelling at me uninvited last fall.

My recent mural clients want to promote my work. I’ve had several other project inquiries before I’ve even made new business cards. The decorative items in my antiques mall booth sold out while I was in my cubicle these past four months. This all indicates that there is a market for what I do. But now I am not able to produce more products for retail. Although this last office gig was in my own town, the work is long hours, 7 then 6 days/week and exhausting. Add the rest of life’s responsibilities and there was no way to get into the studio and still function on the job. The day job wins – I’m being paid to be sharp and make good decisions, not come in sleep deprived and zombified.

This next gig is out of town – that’s the end of even pretending about 5am studio time. I will not be able to complete the paintings I have started. And why discuss murals that I can’t schedule because of the day job’s unpredictability?

And the novel – it is set in an obscure time and place, meaning I still have stacks of research to do before I can move further with the rough draft. I can’t scribble a sentence without three significant research questions popping up. I am bringing some of the neglected research materials west with me in hopes that if I can’t paint at 5am, I can at least read and make some notes.

So why not quit the day job and go full focus on the painting business? There is evidence that there is a market for it. I’ll tell you why: money. That’s the nasty truth of it. I do believe, given the time to spool up and build a clientele, I could make a go of it in the Jacksonville area. But for now I must go for the bird in the hand – the desk job. We have too many demands for money right now and I cannot take the months/years required to establish my painting business again that this time.

I guess I have to accept that my life goes in circles and hope that the painting phase comes back around before too long. Part of my brain is making plans for that day, getting excited about the possibilities, thinking through a new business plan. The other part is trying to tamp that down and stick with the present: stay focused on the now, work really hard to capitalize on the current opportunites, make good decisions that will put me in the best possible position for when the next zag comes. And try to chip away at that novel.