The Writing Life: Taking Stock

In December, my wife and I bought a new home, an apartment in the Florida town just nine miles south of where we have lived for the past fourteen years.  It is only the second time we have purchased a home, and it was a big and long-awaited transition.  We sold our first home two years ago, after having it on the market for three years.

When we bought our first home, I never thought selling it would be a cause for celebration, or that we would accept an offer for half our original asking price – and then count ourselves fortunate.  Welcome to real estate in Florida.

Yes, we know it is a hurricane zone, and yes, we know there are risks involved.  But we love it here.  It is home.  And so we bought a unit that we think is extremely well built, and we feel much more comfortable about leaving this for extended periods of time in England.

The problem is, I don’t want to go.  Since our arrival, the time here has been one non-stop hurricane of events.  The purchase of our new home is a great example.  My wife and I watched them build four identical buildings in a little park-like setting, and we realized they would be perfect for us.

But they were soooo expensive.  But like so many developments these days, the prices fell and fell and fell some more, and then on the second day after our return from England, the twenty-first of December, one of the units dropped thirty percent in price overnight.

We thought, we hoped, the builders might want to get out before the end of the year, and we were right.  We countered and offered to close by December thirty-first.  They accepted, but only if we bought it before year’s end.  We had eight days to close.  For anyone who has ever bought a home, these words should send shivers down your spine: we had eight days to close.

With Christmas in the mix.

A whirlwind of writing, rewriting, editing, filming, and moving!

Our lives have pretty much stayed at that incredible pace ever since. I have been pushing on two projects simultaneously.  This rarely happens.

But one of my new book projects is a totally new concept, and I wanted to get a third of the way into it and share it with the publishers.  It is a huge new direction, something I’ve never tried before, where the publishers came to me with an idea, one they have been thinking about for ten years.

It was both an honor and a major challenge to be approached by a publisher.   As soon as I reached my goal for the new concept, I left for the film set.

What an amazing statement to make: I left for the film set.  We closed on a house in eight days in December.  I left for the film set in March.  (See my blog post, “Learning at the feet of actors,” for what the set was like).  Since my return, I have been pushing hard on the novel based upon my screenplay, Unlimited.

Of course, added into this has been the ongoing work on my three books being released this year (Rare Earth, Hidden in Dreams, and Prayers of a Stranger. Each book, once it has been accepted for publication, goes through four back-and-forth transitions between author and publisher.

Rare Earth by Davis Bunn  Hidden in Dreams by Davis Bunn  Prayers of a Stranger

First there are the major edits, which have to do with smoothing out the plot-line and making what can be substantial changes along the way.  Then there are the minor edits, or line edits, which deal with everything from a character’s hair color to dialogue to all the myriad of small issues that make the book whole and polished.

Then there are what in the industry are called the final passes, the galleys and the page proofs.  These are the final opportunities to correct all the small issues before the book goes to print.  And there are always issues.  At this point, my wife calls them ‘eekos’, which is the sound she makes when she finds one.  Eeeek-o!

So I had three books going through edits and galleys, and two new book projects, and a film.

So what’s the fun of moving?

And let’s not forget the move.  For those of you in the know, let me add that we are moving from a house to an apartment.  And my wife does not like to throw anything away.  Nooooooo.

Actually, the move turned out to be fun.  I know, that’s not possible.  But it was.  Isabella has been as busy as me, and perhaps at times even busier.  I will not talk about her life here, I’d need another ten pages, and it’s two in the morning, and I have a book I’ll be working on at dawn.

Most of my blogs are done in the wee hours, when a transition is coming up and I find myself stunned by all that’s happened.  Like now.  It helps me sort through the whirlwind, these quiet moments in a dark house.

Back to the move.

As I’ve mentioned before, the people who bought our home couldn’t move in because their company needed the husband to stay on and not retire.  We didn’t know where we were going, if we were staying in Florida because of Isabella’s work, so we rented it back.  And we insisted on a three-month opt-out, because we didn’t want them telling us we had to leave when we were in England, and giving us thirty days to get out.

The problem was, we closed in eight days.  We didn’t need three months.

But we had it anyway.

Amazingly, our new apartment was the same deal as our old home.  The previous folks had bought it as a retirement place, but never retired.  So it’s four years old and never lived in.

Last month we took the tags off the dishwasher.  It needed painting and carpeting and other stuff.  And we had ninety days.  Ninety days!  The painter and his entire crew came down with the flu and had to put off our job for two weeks.  We said, okay, no sweat.

Moving can be utterly horrid.  But if you take out the pressure of having to get it done, and you factor in all the stress we had in our professional lives, hauling boxes down to a new place became a, well, hobby.  It was our downtime.  We filled up our little SUV and we carried our boxes in and walked around the place, anticipating the day we could call it home.

When the movers finally came for the big stuff in mid-March, we were ready.  So ready.  And so calm about leaving the first home we had ever bought, the place we had thought we would never leave.  Back before we endured four hurricanes and burst pipes and blown-out windows and a new roof and four new a/c units.

But that was the home where my study was in a cubby at the top of the stairs on the third floor, with seven sides and seven windows and water to the east and the west, and all the world was green and blue.  That was the home where I wrote a dozen novels, and dreamed big, and loved my wife and our home and my life.

But it was time to move on.  I went back by the house today to check on mail, and realized it’s not mine any more.  There was an official ‘vacant’ notice in the mailbox and the drive was empty of all but sunlight and memories, most of them very good indeed.  We have moved.

Time to embrace change

The problem is, I don’t feel like I’ve had a chance to settle.  I’m not ready to go back to England.   It’s really bothered me.  We moved in three weeks ago.  Immediately after I go teach in Colorado and Tampa we’re supposed to make the change to England.

Next week I need to go to Nashville to meet my new publishers, and then six days later we leave.  I’m not ready to go.  I want to sit on my new veranda and drink my coffee and watch the green world out back of our new home.  We have bunnies and osprey and so many different kinds of birds and some very nice neighbors.

Then today two things happened.

First, I got my teaching schedule from Oxford.  And that, folks, is another sentence I never in a thousand years thought I would ever write.  But it’s come.  I am a lecturer in Oxford’s new creative writing program.  The pay is laughable for part-time lecturers in England, set by the state at a level so low a secretary here would fall out of her chair.  No kidding.

But hey, this is Oxford, and I am loving it.  So I got my schedule, and I’m doing tutorials, which are the crown jewel of Oxford’s teaching program.  All six of my tutorial students were in my class in the autumn, and I am really looking forward to seeing how much they have progressed with their writing.

And then tonight I got up and couldn’t sleep and was walking around our new home, padding from room to room in the dark, and came into my office, and turned on my computer, and drew up photos I took of a favorite bike ride I took last autumn through Alesbury, a village rimmed by prehistoric planted stones, like Stonehenge but not in a neat tidy circle.

Forty miles.  Eight mile-plus climbs.  From there I had climbed the Ridgeway, up to a Neolithic road that was old when the Romans arrived.  I then descend into a hidden valley, with one road that runs straight and true for nineteen miles.  And in that entire run I might have passed two cars.

In my mind, I’m already overseas and it is green as only England can be, and the wind is my dear friend.  I then mentally climb back up to the Ridgeway, and over the peak, and then swoop down a three-mile descent to the plains of Wiltshire and my car and home.  Because that is what awaits me.

Our other home.

7 Responses to “The Writing Life: Taking Stock”

  1. Dorothy Cowling says:

    Such an interesting blog, Davis! You should think about being an author…!! :)

    Your descriptions are so vivid it makes me want to drop in and sit on that porch with you.

    England…Oxford…spring…..books ready to publish….can it get any better??
    I hope that you have a very enjoyable few months. You will let us know when the new titles are ready to buy, won’t you?

  2. Pat Walker Barta says:

    Even your blogs are good to read! I am so looking forward to reading each of your new books when they come out! You are my favorite author! Please keep us posted on what is happening in your lives.

  3. Candi Hall says:

    Congrats to you and Aunt Isa! If you are ever in the Tallahassee area look me up. My son, Connor is five and my daughter is almost 7 months and they are AMAZING:-) We would love to see you both.

    Love,
    Candi

  4. Shari Bradley says:

    Pat is absolutely correct! Even your blog is fun to read. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and perspectives. Can’t wait to share this blog with my husband, son, and daughter, all of whom love to write. I simply gobble up every book you write and eagerly await the arrival of each new one. Best to you and your Isabella – hope you both enjoy every moment both here and abroad. God bless you!

  5. Karen Sullivan says:

    I agree with the ones above…Even your blog was great to read….We are living in our home of 22 1/2 yrs…We promised our children that when we get a little older we will move closer to them..which is about 85mi. My husband has many tools and i have crafty and kitchen tools, so it will be a challenge…but the Lord will go with us when it comes the time, as He obviously has done for you….Thanks for sharing and do let us know when you have the books out and ready for reading. Karen
    PS …The Pacific NW is a beautiful Green place also with views of glorious mountains and lakes, the puget sound and ocean…

  6. Laura says:

    A charmed life, Davis. A charmed life, indeed. Or shall we say a blessed one? Enjoy your time across the pond.

  7. tracey says:

    Congrats for handling all that pressure! THEN I read you have another TWO books on the back burner?! Sounds like you’re in what I call “fifth gear” and not able to shift back a few gears and relax:)

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