Saturday, June 13, 2015

Adventures in Building

I suppose I should've made the title to this post:

 "How to Spend as Much Money on a Small Deck as The Canvas Gazebo You Bought On Sale." 

Although this title may be more fitting, it would probably not fit in the space provided by blogger for a title.

Yes, I finally finished my little backyard project and now have a strong foundation for our poolside gazebo. When the winds come through the South in late Summer and Fall, my little deck will surely remain intact. As for the metal and canvas gazebo? I'm not so sure. It is true in construction as well as writing that a strong foundation is the most important thing to accomplish before the rest of the structure can be strong.

As requested, here's my report, along with pictures!

I started by marking out the area in which I wanted to build the little ground-level deck.

I gathered up materials from the local home store. I found that since the gazebo was ten foot by twelve foot, and I wanted a few inches around the outside of the supports, I had to buy oversized lumber. So, instead of simply buying a bunch of twelve foot decking boards, I had to buy the fourteen-footers. It was an additional cost I had not previously considered.

Then, I dug holes using a post hole digger, placing 4x4 inch posts in the holes. I watch numerous youtube videos to help decide just how to build a good strong structure and they all said to dig extra-wide post holes so that the frame of the structure could be moved around and squared later. I found what I believe to be a better solution for this project after-the-fact. It would have been so much easier to build the frame along with the posts, then place those posts on the ground and square everything up. After this, I could've just marked exactly where to dig my holes and it would have been square to begin with. Instead, I found that my holes were slightly off and I had to dig even bigger holes in order to square everything up. The larger holes forced me to use much more cement. In the end, everything worked out but, in my true fashion, I just had to make it harder.

This is where the hard part began. I had to dig trenches to fit the floor joists into the structure. Since I wanted this to be ground-level and the floor to be supported by the ground (didn't want bouncy floors) I had to feed the weed-blocker/underlayment under each joist before back-filling the area with gravel. Strange, I didn't get pictures of this as this was a time of much anger, sweat, exhaustion, despair and gnashing of teeth. After that work was finished though, I did manage to get all the decking boards laid out. Laura helped me put them in a pleasing order.

Once this was complete, I merely had to drill in about a thousand decking screws before cutting the ends to size and 'dry' fitting the gazebo frame.

I wanted this to be super-sturdy so, instead of using the cheap tentpeg-looking things provide with the gazebo kit, I used big honkin' lag-type bolts. So, even if the winds tear the fabric from the structure and mangle the supports, they will remain firmly affixed to wooden posts that are buried and cemented into the ground. That's how I roll!

 Here's what the finished project looks like.

Yes, it is nice. We immediately moved furniture in and are now able to enjoy a relaxing time, relatively bug-free, next to our pool.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Two Steps Back

Yes, one might think that things always work out this way-two steps back for every one step forward.

But, in this case, I think a couple steps back is just what I needed. I recently posted an excerpt of a story I'm working on. It was an idea really, in draft form. It was my attempt to add some depth to a character in a story.

Well, a big thank you goes out to Donna Hole, the only person responding to the post and having the cajones grandes to set me straight with some real solid honest feedback. Of course, I must also thank my wife who, after reading the excerpt and Donna's statement, agreed with everything she said.

I must admit, the feedback from my wife broke my heart, but that's a good thing. Sometimes a broken heart is an open heart. It took this to get through my pride and make me step back and see this more as a reader than the writer; the creator.

So, what am I doing with this now? After some evaluation, I realized that everything was wrong with this character. Where's his vulnerability? Where's his badass personality and actions? You see, I was trying to create a character fit for the story at hand, and I was trying to force the story arc in a direction of romance. If I have two very strong, independent personalities working with, and sometimes, against each other, are they just going to fall in love?

I'm falling in love with the story again. Not the story I wrote but the story still in my head-the story that is being re-written. Joseph Johnson is cocooned in my head right now reforming; becoming stronger, badder, colder, more vulnerable. And when he emerges, even his new name will support his character.

You see, sometimes, in writing, the author must take a step back and allow for some real growth and changes. I find so often that writers I know (myself included) respond with argument to honest feedback-even when they ask for comments or feedback. One cannot expect to learn and grow if one does not open their ears, eyes, mind, and heart to the possibility.

The wait may be just a little longer for this story to re-emerge but I hope readers will find it all worth it when it does. For those of you that already read this story in its previous form (Summer Ellis) I only hope you approve of the reincarnation.

If this post were to amount to some advice to be dispensed among my author friends, it would be this: ninety percent of what we write is going to be crap, that's okay. Give yourself permission to write it, judge it, and then lock it away. Just don't throw it away because you never know when some spark my bring it back to life.
There is a relatively success author by the name of Stephen King that once told an audience about a book he first imagined back when he was in high school or college. He wrote a chapter or two before putting it away because he just couldn't seem to make it work. Years later, he reopened his work and realized that he just didn't have the ability in his younger years to write the story. He realized that, in his youth, the story was too big. Armed with all the tools of a well-seasoned author he finished the story. It was called "Under the Dome" and was even picked up as a television series.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Last Post

Just wanted to announce that this post represents my last. In fact, this may be the last time any of you see or hear from me.

Twenty minutes ago, I received the results of today's Florida lottery drawing. After a short discussion with my new lawyer, I've decided, along with my wife, to pull up stakes and will be moving to an undisclosed island somewhere in the carribean.

Of course, I will still write but will likely do so under an assumed name. It has been a pleasure but all good things must come to an end. In my case, I am leaving the good for something even greater.

To all my followers, friends, and family - Fare ye well.