Tag: Writing Process

An Affair of Sorts


Something Different This Way Comes

Two weeks ago started off like any other week. Off to work on Monday after a relaxing weekend that included checking out a vacant old farmhouse we’d noticed a few weeks earlier while out driving around country roads. There was information on one of the windows designating the home as a Fannie Mae property and gave contact information which I jotted down and followed up on once we got home. We made arrangements to see the home and property on Wednesday.

Although I saw the home and property as having potential for the cheap price, my wife was seeing the amount of work it would take to get the place up to code. She was right and we abandoned further thought on the house. That house anyway. We wondered what type of other homes were available in the county so we jumped online and started looking.

It’s not that we aren’t happy with our own place. We live out in the country along a mildly traveled county road about six miles out of town. We have a few neighbors nearby, almost an acre of land, and we have beautiful woods all around us. Sounds wonderful to most people and it really is. Our house just needs some minor upgrades and a little TLC on the normal wear and tear a house goes through. The lazy part of us thought there might be something better available. Something with more land and less things wrong.

We found a property online that was a similar distance out of town but on the northeast side. Not much different landscape than where we are now, which is mainly wooded hills, country roads and hollows, but the property had more land. A lot more land. My wife was off work on Friday so I took a half day off and we made arrangements with the same realtor from Wednesday night to view the property at 1:45.

That’s when our adventure began.

Almost Off the Grid

Fifty plus acres with a cabin and a pond the listing said. Not only a great hunting camp but a place to take the family for a getaway the listing said. Living room, kitchen, two bedrooms, sleeping loft, wired for a generator, and a wood burning stove the listing said. A covered front porch with a wonderful view of the pond and hills the listing said. Paradise.


We met the real estate agent at the bottom of a dirt road that would lead us up a hill. We followed her up the road through very thick woods. There were two small clearings along the rough dirt road, both with homes on them. The first one looked like squatters lived there and  the second, somewhat nicer, was near near the gate to the property we were going to see. The gate was guarded by a dog that must have belonged to the owners of the that house.The realtor got out, unlocked the gate, and we all drove through avoiding the dog that was still barking too loudly and acting as though he wanted to bite the tires. We drove forward about two hundred or so yards then hung a left and drove down a grass road canopied by trees to the cul-de-sac that might be ours someday. Actually, scratch that. Cul-de-sac is not a country property term.


Let’s take a closer look.

Cabin 2

We gathered in front of the cabin and soaked in the surrounding area.  There was a pond directly in front of the cabin and I already had purchased a comfy chair in my mind for the front porch. Or maybe it was a porch swing. We noticed three deer peeking through some cover in the woods beyond the pond.  We continued our three hundred and sixty degree view from in front of the cabin. There were two small shed looking buildings about thirty yards away and an outdoor grill similar to what you might find at a park.


The realtor had moved on to unlock the cabin door after we all stepped onto the porch. We walked into the cabin first and instantly fell in love. There were wooden walls everywhere and stained beams overhead. There was a small kitchen to the right with a breakfast bar. A living room to the left with a large wood burning stove in the corner. There were two very small bedrooms, and a ladder to a sleeping loft above the two bedrooms. Six hundred square feet. I’ve lived in apartments larger than that in my younger years. But, size didn’t matter here. Our current home is about eighteen hundred square feet and our bedroom is four hundred square feet with a covered porch off the back. And a deck. None of that mattered at the moment.  We had already built on additional footage in our minds and added another bedroom. We were now looking at this cabin like we were going to move into it. As in permanently. My wife and I were absolutely sold on the cabin as a home.

Well, almost.

We then started noticing little things.  There was no refrigerator. There was a stove, run off a propane tank outside of the cabin.  And the sink had no running water. That was because the barrel outside that collected rain water and runoff from the gutter happened to be empty and that is what supplied water to the cabin. No running water. Wait a minute. No running water. And where is the bathroom? Or refrigerator?

The two sheds outside? Yes, one was an outhouse. The other a shed was for wood and a generator. The generator was not a secondary option for power. It was the option. There was no septic system, no electricity, and no running water. Maybe not sold now.

We walked back outside and down passe our SUV and stared at the pond. A beautiful pond that had been stocked with fish.


We walked back up to the porch and took it all in. My focus again back to the pond and the surrounding woods and the hills beyond that. And then the realtor spoke and mentioned something about envisioning a writer sitting here on the porch working on his or her next story. Wait, what? A writer? I’m a writer, and yes, I see it too and thankfully, or so I thought, so did my wife. Back to sold. We might even be able to enjoy the seventeen year cicada invasion from this porch.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”  – Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Oh how I wish.

What happened next is somewhat of a blur, but I’ll do my best.

A Ride, Dinner, Home Depot, and More Wandering

We took some paperwork from the realtor, thanked her again, and with visions of our potential new home clouding our normal 20/20 vision, we got in our vehicle and slowly turned around glancing quickly to the pond on our right and quickly back over to our left to look at our cabin one last time. Our potential new home.

No septic system, no water, and no electricity. No problem.

We estimated the distance from the cabin down the grass road before we hung a right to head back down hill. Two hundred yards I guessed. Then another two hundred yards to the gate and the still barking dog and a pole with power I now noticed. So four hundred yards post to non-existing post near cabin and another fifty to get power to house. Four hundred fifty yards.

We had’t even made it down the dirt road to the county road when words started flying between my wife and I.  It was 2:45 and we had been at the property for an hour. We were discussing downsizing. All our stuff would not fit in a small cabin. We’d have to store some of it and get rid of some of it. Mental note to get a price on a storage unit. After our tires came into contact with pavement, my wife suggested a trip to Home Depot. To dream. Get prices. Why not I thought. We had no obligations the rest of the day with our youngest  at orchestra camp. Not band camp, orchestra camp. As for our eldest, he was at home reading and can fend for himself, you know, being a college boy and all.

We decided to head to a Home Depot in a small city about thirty miles away.

During the first few miles we decided we could live with a generator short term. We could do laundry in town at the laundromat. We could get by with an outhouse during the summer. And we could fill that large drum with water. This could work. We could even put up an outdoor shower. Who would see us anyway?

A septic system, water, and electricity. Alright, maybe a problem but workable. At least through summer and most of fall.

We’d have to build a bathroom and have room for a refrigerator. The bedroom adjacent to the kitchen could be a bathroom. The boys could just sleep in the loft. Our oldest is only here during the summer and breaks anyway right? We’d get a small refrigerator to start. A dorm style one. My wife added that to our list for Home Depot.

During the drive, she started searching for prices on her phone. First, was a septic system. She found prices varied from $2,500 to $7,500. She also searched for prices on putting in a well.  The realtor mentioned a couple of natural springs on the property, not that I would know how to tap water from there. But, there is a pond so there must be water. Well prices could be around $10,000. We also have friends who have had this done so it can’t be rocket science but we could assume the worst of course. You know, for budgetary purposes. We’ll figure $20,000 to be safe for septic and water.

We weren’t fifteen miles into our drive and we had tentatively solved two problems, or at least had an idea of a plan. Septic system and water would be the most important. Electric could wait provided we got a generator. We decided to have dinner first and I would get online and come up with an estimate for power. Both a short term plan and long term plan.

During the remainder of the drive we added on a larger bedroom and expanded the kitchen. We also changed the bathroom to a laundry room and added on a bathroom to that. This would expand the back of the cabin and the left side where there was already a deck. It’s only money right?

We reached Applebees, ordered our meals and drinks, and started looking into the long term plan for power. I found out quickly it’s done by feet and not yards so my four hundred fifty yards now became one thousand three hundred fifty feet. It also became anywhere between $10,000 and $20,000 depending which site I wanted to believe. I wanted it to be the cheaper site of course.

Maybe power from the grid would have to wait until year two. 57a5f094-d358-46df-9266-6d33da0c0f69_1000After dinner, we went to Home Depot. We started on the far left side of the store that conveniently had generators. Perfect. I grabbed a worksheet that helped calculate how much generator we would need, started a new note on my phone, and entered a model, size, and price. We then found a mini frig somewhere between a dorm frig and a normal frig and entered a price. We continued this exercise on each aisle looking and writing down prices for: vanity combos, vanity mirrors, faucets, shower heads, shower stalls and tub, toilet, and an electric water heater. As we progressed along each aisle, I also noticed our tone was changing. We were not only pricing these items for the cabin but making comments regarding how nice our current bathroom would look with a new vanity combo and mirror, or how nice it would be to add a storm door with a slide down window revealing a screen to the door on our porch.

By the time we got through the doors, storm doors, building supplies, and deck material, we were now pricing things for current projects we have talked about doing to our home.  Quick math said the additional money we would have to spend to do all these things for a new property would be foolish. Fun but foolish, and not part of my ten plus years to retirement plan. I won’t even get to the discussion on how we only have two vehicles out of four that could have made it up the hill to the cabin. We’d have to get rid of the Fusion and small truck and get another 4WD. More money, more money.

Our ride home from home depot had a different tone than the ride there. What were we thinking? We talked about it and brought up the idea of looking at houses in town. Close to people. Real neighbors. After an orchestra performance for my youngest on Saturday, we spent the remainder of the day looking at houses. For this, we included the kids. We did the same thing on Sunday. There were some beautiful houses within walking distance to my youngest son’s school and downtown. Some nicer than ours and some about the same. But with each house, we were finding we’d have to add a deck, or a fence for our dogs, or this or that. Still, this exploring was both fun and emotionally draining at the same time.

Not surprisingly, by Sunday evening we ended up right back where we started: our home, with all her faults and beauty and familiarity. I think we’ll put some effort into her this summer. I still have a supply list and prices on my phone.

image1 [62634]

Our Home

 Photos courtesy of me, Pixabay, and Home Depot





If We Were Having Coffee #12 – The Write Place

image (3)

If we were having coffee, I would have a number of choices to offer you today. We have a breakfast blend, a donut shop blend, a dark roast, and a Kona blend. Since many of you don’t drink coffee, I also have tea. What kind of tea you ask? The kind you drop into a cup and pour steaming hot water over. I need to learn more about tea. As for me, I’ll have a dark roast with pumpkin spice creamer since it feels more like an October morning than it does a September morning.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that we got to see my son last week for his birthday. We traveled to see him at his college, took him shopping, and then went out to dinner. We brought him home for the weekend since we had a three day weekend. Coming home with us was a last minute decision on his part but he wanted to get back to school on Sunday afternoon versus Monday so he’d have a day and a half to study. We also took his girlfriend with us. When he first got home and went upstairs to his bedroom, he came down and complained that his room was a mess. My wife reminded him that he left it that way but she still felt bad.

He got to spend a little time with us, time with his girlfriend, and time with some of his friends. We took him back Sunday afternoon, along with a few supplies he needed and got to see what his dorm room looked like after a few weeks on his own. His desk area looked academic, as did his dorm mate’s. The rest of the room was organized with the exception of their beds. Apparently college students don’t make beds. I helped unpack the few supplies we got him and my wife made his bed. He walked us downstairs and we played a quick game of pool, hugged goodbye and my wife and I were home by 5:30. I think that is the first time I have ever played pool with my son. I enjoyed it.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that last Monday was a lazy day for me. I wrote a post then read a book the remainder of the day. Not so for my wife. She also had Tuesday and Wednesday off and had decided she was going to clean upstairs. We have two bedrooms upstairs, one being my son’s and the other being used as my wife’s “woman cave” for scrap-booking and crafts. There is also a small landing outside the two bedroom doors that has been filled with junk for years it seems. I seldom go up there. Her mom came over to help and I graciously stayed out of their way (hid is more like it).

Although my youngest has hinted that he wanted to move upstairs, we want to leave things the way they are. I think it’s important that my oldest has his room to come home to on breaks and summers. He’s dealing with enough change.

When I got home from work Tuesday evening, my wife was very excited to show me upstairs. My son’s room was immaculate, her scrap-booking/craft room was organized, and the landing was clear with one exception – it had my son’s desk. Really it’s my desk that I gave him a few years ago to give him an area to do homework in his room. The right place. It helped him develop good study habits.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that my family has been very supportive of my writing. I haven’t had a designated writing place or an office like I’ve had in other homes we’ve had over the years. I’ve been writing while sitting in a recliner, sitting at the kitchen table, sitting at the dining room table, or sitting outside on our deck.

My wife’s gift to me Tuesday evening was a spot to write. The right place. The write place.

I freaking love it!


My Desk

Weekend Coffee Share is hosted each week by Part Time Monster

Fact, Fiction, or Both?



“There’s an awful temptation to just keep on researching. There comes a point where you just have to stop, and start writing.”  –  David McCullough

I’ve ventured down that black hole we call research.  Although I’m not much of a betting man, I would bet that both new and established writers find themselves making the same journey.  Who can blame us? Many of us are perfectionists, many of us have set the bar too high based on our own perceived view of good writing, and many of us simply enjoy research.  Yes, yes, and yes. Regardless of the reason, and there are many, research can be just as much of a time suck as social media can be. But it’s so much fun.

So why am I lost in research? Maybe it’s because I work in a world of technical exacts. Deviations from those exacts can mean the difference between failure and success.  Design changes to current products or the introduction of new products go through rigorous evaluations and testing to ensure they meet the designed intent.  I could write with a level of authority when it comes to engineering or manufacturing and comfortably blend fact and fiction. Maybe I will at some point.

Maybe it’s because I am so impressed with authors I read, and the level of factual detail they present in their writing. More importantly, the level of factual detail they include that I know was researched.  The works of James Rollins might be a good example to use here with his Sigma Force series. Rollins was a veterinarian yet writes adventure/thriller novels blending historical mysteries and cutting edge science into fictional works. He writes with such authority. Maybe it’s his fault.

Maybe it’s simply because I’m writing a mystery/thriller and I want the law enforcement procedural parts of it to be accurate. I’ve had family members, now both deceased, who were in law enforcement. I could use their help now but all I have are personal memories involving stories they would tell and our family feelings about those stories. I can still use that but it doesn’t help with the procedural aspects. For that, I’ve enlisted the help of a friend of mine who is a detective with the State Police and another friend who is a local cop. I’ve also bought a few books on homicide investigation and have explored a number of websites that offer an overwhelming amount of information. All helpful and now I’ve become too detail oriented.  Maybe it is my fault.

The reality of it all is the procedural part of what I’m writing will probably amount to a small percentage of the whole. At some point, my research needs to be enough. I think I’ve done enough research and reached the point where I can now blend both fact and fiction harmoniously, and where there is doubt, I have enough resources available that I can improvise.  Just write…

For now, that’ll do.


I Have Stood Up And Lived

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” – Henry David Thoreau

I remember reading this quote as a child, most likely a result of some required reading in high school. I can’t really say with any degree of accuracy what it meant to me then but I will make a guess that the meaning was explained to me by a teacher with the best of intentions.  I am older now, and my interpretation of any reading or quote is based on my knowledge of the subject matter, what I might or might not know about the author, and my own life experiences. This particular quote by Thoreau happens to be one of my favorites.

As I embark on this journey we call writing, this quote has new meaning to me due to how I define living at this point of my life. It doesn’t translate that I must venture down a path on some spiritualistic quest in order to write with conviction. Nor do I interpret this quote in a literal manner.  I do however; feel there is a continual element of self-reflection involved regarding my life that allows me to write.

I have lived. I have lived through hundreds of books that I have read over my lifetime. I have lived through life experiences. I have lived through imagery, both real and imagined. I have lived through other senses: tasting, smelling, touching, and hearing.  I’ve lived through both physical and gut wrenching emotional pain. I’ve lived through loving and having been loved. I’ve lived through life’s lows and euphoric highs. And so have you.  Toss vanity aside,  we have something to write about.

As for what I haven’t lived?  We have technological tools today, that combined with imagination and life experiences, allow us to write about almost anything, regardless of age, demographics, or any other self-imposed barrier we tend to use as an excuse .  I have been fortunate enough over my life to travel to many places both domestic and abroad, yet I feel I could write about a place I have never been to.  For example, I have traveled most of the United States with the exception of the Pacific Northwest, New England, and the South. Could I write a scene or story based in Oregon? Absolutely.  I’ve read others who have written about the area. I’ve watched movies and documentaries set in the area. I have friends who have lived there. I could get on the internet and ‘walk’ along a street, seeing what the storefronts or homes look like or browse photographs of a trail and walk it in my mind.  I’ve enjoyed a rainy day served with dark clouds, hold the sunshine, and can imagine what multiple days of that entrée would be like in a city such as Astoria, Oregon. And yes, I have watched Goonies at least twenty times over the years. At some point, I am living it. And so are you.

With all due respect, I am not diminishing the artistic value or skill levels of those who have mastered the craft of writing. Nor am I demeaning a quote that resonates with me on a very personal level. I am simply stating, and a bit cliché: everyone brings something to the table.

The amazing thing about my writing journey is that I am still a student and will be for some time.  I welcome that because lifelong learning is a mantra I subscribe to. There are, however, a few things I do know: I’m not vain, I have stories to tell, and I have stood up and lived. I will write knowing that.

Happy writing!


KISS, Tacos, and Beer

“Un buen escritor expresa grandes cosas con pequeñas palabras; a la inversa del mal escritor, que dice cosas insignificantes con palabras grandiosas.” –  Ernesto Sabato

I find myself struggling with trying to balance showing versus telling in keeping my writing simple and fluid, all while allowing my own style and voice to develop. I won’t be one of those writers who writes three pages to describe something that could have easily been shown in a paragraph.  Number one, I don’t have the literary tool-set to do that and number two, I wouldn’t want to even if I did. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with those who can dazzle us with prose that showcases their mastery of words and ability to crank out intricate sentence structures. There is a time and place for complexity and for me personally, I don’t care to see it  over an entire novel. Poetry and short stories; yes, but not for ninety thousand plus words. Often, it leaves a reader confused and doesn’t move the plot. OK, it leaves me confused, like I might leave many of you confused rambling on about finite element analysis, proof load testing, and stress failures.  I don’t want to be that kind of writer.

My advice to writers as both a reader and a writer: balance. Use words that challenge, inspire thought, or paint pictures but don’t do it in a way that has the average reader wondering if he or she should have continued education beyond grad school just to understand your work. Remember that the reader is the customer. If you don’t care about that then by all means, impress yourself and a few others but don’t complain about lack of sales or interest in your work.The old adage “Keep it Simple Stupid” plays a part in writing and there is plenty of advice out there on the subject. One can still have creativity and depth in simplicity.  I’m a firm believer that reading the work of authors who master this helps make me a better writer.

The translation for the above quote by Ernesto Sabato?

“A good writer expresses great thoughts with simple words, whereas the bad writer says insignificant things with grandiloquence.”

So by now you are wondering what the heck KISS, Tacos, and Beer has to do with any of this right?  It’s just how my mind works.

Last month, we went on a vacation to Arizona to see my family.  This included a three day side trip to Las Vegas with my entire Arizona family so that my brother could finally marry his fiancé.  I hadn’t been to Vegas in years and my wife and kids had never been so we were excited about it.  Las Vegas is both beautiful and exhilarating but designed for one thing: to dazzle your senses in a manner that lessens the realization of how fast money is leaving your wallet.  I quickly became frustrated at how expensive meals were in the resort: one hundred plus dollars each time for a family of four.

I could write an entire short story about our experiences in Vegas but in keeping with the theme of this post, I will keep things moving and simple.  Getting off the the main strip, we drove down a side road en route to the KISS Wedding Chapel. Yes, this is where my brother and now wife wanted to be married, and by a friend of mine who plays in a Vegas KISS tribute band called Sin City KISS.  Along the route, I was determined to find an alternate place to eat after the wedding so my wife and kids were rattling off names of restaurants they were seeing on the way to the wedding, names that told me nothing with the exception of one. As we pulled into the chapel, I saw the huge KISS sign and it hit me, knowing immediately where we were going to eat after the wedding. Keep it simple stupid.



10406535_10204205807215609_7306885139903349421_n       10488201_901786946501795_8554805102309133482_n (1)

My Writing Process: A Blog Tour

A writer friend of mine, the very interesting and genuine E.L Wicker, invited me to participate in ‘My Writing Process: A Blog Tour.’ Emma is an English writer working on a series of YA books about vampires, with some twists and rule changes best described here on Emma’s site: E.L. WICKER A Writers Journey

Each person who is tagged or asked to participate in this blog tour answers four questions about their work and writing process, then introduce three other writers. This gives readers and writers a chance to meet and get to know writers they might not have otherwise known about.

With only three blogs under my belt and my WIP far from being complete, this should be interesting.

What am I working on?

I write fiction and am presently working on a novel. It is my first and will be a mystery that is leaning towards somewhat of a thriller. My original intent was to write a series around a NY State Police Detective and somewhere in the process another character was crying out to build the series around him. I went with it and had to do a bit of rewriting but am very pleased with the detour I took. It is about a serial killer who is targeting women in the medical field and my somewhat dark, reluctant protagonist’s involvement with it all.

How does my book differ from others in its genre?

This question was the hardest for me to answer because I’m not sure it will differ in some aspects. Basic recipes for this type of genre can be modified in a number of ways.  I read somewhere that many authors tend to have characters in law enforcement stereotyped with marital problems, alcohol problems, tendencies to break rules in order to get the bad guy, etc.  I wanted to break away from that and have a character in law enforcement that doesn’t fall into those stereotypes. The problem it presented to me was in the process of making my main character a poster child for law enforcement, a secondary character became more interesting and subsequently became the main character.  My hope is that I can maintain the basic ingredients for a novel within this genre, yet mix it up enough by adding elements of humor, clever character development and growth, tangents exploring the killer’s POV, and situations and people the average reader can both relate to and become engaged with.

Why do I write what I write?

I could come up with something very profound here but I am going to borrow something from another author I have made friends with: S.S. Lange, who describes herself on her website as a  “writer of stuff I’d read.” Although I have read books in many genres, my favorites will always be mysteries and thrillers.  I am writing what I want to read. Simple as that. I’m also lucky enough to have plenty of life experiences to draw from, friends and family in law enforcement, and friends and family in other fields relevant to the stories I plan to write making it a very easy genre for me to write in.

How does my writing process work?

I am fairly new to writing in the manner that I am writing now (see my ‘about’ page), so I have a lot of flexibility and am finding my writing process is in a constant state of change.  I recently wrote a short story, followed a very detailed outline and in the end it worked out perfectly.  In regards to writing a novel, my process is evolving.  I started out with an idea, a very detailed character breakdown with sheets on each, a detailed outline, detailed sheets on scene locations, and much of my research already complete.  Definite plotter.  Then things started happening, characters started talking to me, I changed my protagonist, ventured down paths and subplots that were not outlined, researched on the fly, and I am enjoying that freedom immensely.  Panster.  I believe long term; I will balance between the two, all subject to change of course.  I’ve also played around with writing on paper lately which brings about a sense of intimacy with my work. I have no intentions of writing a complete novel that way but it is a nice break from fingers pounding away at a keyboard and a different mechanism to get through tough writing sessions.

Since I work full time, I balance reading and writing throughout the week then focus on heavy writing in the wee hours of the morning over the weekend.  I love the quiet house, morning coffee, and refreshed mind that this time of day brings.  I don’t set unrealistic goals and am happy with any word count as long as I am making progress and pleased with what I’ve wrote. An intangible in my writing process and very worthy of note here: support and encouragement from both my family and from a handful of writers I have had the pleasure of getting to know over the last few months.

So, that is me at this stage of my writing. I will be curious as to how I will answer the question regarding my writing process a year from now.


Now to tag three others… coming soon.


Writer #1 – Meet Dena Rogers, a writer friend I have gotten to know over the last few months. We made an immediate connection beyond writing with small town living and Whataburger.  She is a talented and recently published author, yet has taken time to provide support and encouragement to a beginning writer like myself.  Please find Dena’s addition to the “My Writing Process: A Blog Tour’ HERE

Dena’s Bio:



A day job that often deals with the negative side of relationships, Dena turned to writing romance as a way to ensure that each day was filled with a little “Happily Ever After.”   She is a wife, mother, government worker, part-time cake decorator and moonlight writer.

Originally from Texas, she lives in the foothills of Kentucky with her husband and two sons.  She’s a lover of music, Kentucky Basketball, and can often be found watching her husband race at one of the local dirt-tracks or planning her family’s next road trip.  When not doing one of those things, she’ll have her nose in a book (and two or three in her purse.)  Her debut novel, Drive Me Sane, published by Crimson Romance is now available.

© 2022 W.C. Cunningham

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers:

%d bloggers like this: