In just a month from now, my fifth book–The Black Ship–will be released. Coincidentally, this is the same day we will elect a new president. I’m not sure this is auspicious timing or not. I think more worrisome is that no one may be able to afford actually buying my book, much less buying gas to get to the polls. Sigh. Well, there’s no help for it. I cannot permit myself to stew about things I cannot change. I can turn off the TV commercials and I can try to ignore that grating, crunching sound as my 401K cracks apart.

Whew. That is just depressing, isn’t it? I mean, not exactly what I planned to write about when I started. Perhaps I should get to that, eh? In all honesty, I actually planned to write about revising the current manuscript, but what’s really on my mind is my kitchen. So I’m going to talk about that.

My house is a 1917 bungalow. It has a formal dining room and much of the downstairs is trimmed in gum wood (which is incredibly bizarre, given that I live in Montana. Tropical wood isn’t exactly common here, and where they got it in 1917, well, I’m very curious). So anyhow, my kitchen was last remodeled in 1951. We think. We found a newspaper in the wall that had that date.

So in 1951, they lowered the ceiling, hiding up inside it all the old cupboards that they could. Then they boarded up the old cookstove chimney, leaving this rather odd growth on one wall. They put down scrambled-eggs colored linoleum and matching formica, and put in this bizarre peninsula that blocks off the use of fully a third of the kitchen space. (underneath that peninsula was where the original sink was–there are holes in the floor for the plumbing). They covered up a door, and put in another one. They left tangles of wires every which way, and they left this odd pipe that went up through the roof and drained onto a beam. No attempt to block it off or use it. Then they added this fiberboard to the walls and a vinyl covered sheet rock. Oh, and then at some point someone painted the whole room gray.

Next week we begin the remodel in earnest. But before then, we have been tearing out lathe and plaster and all the layers of previous lives lived in this house before us. It has been fascinating. As a writer, I imagine what it must have been like to live there and why they made changes. Oh, and behind the molding of one door, we found a very old valentine’s dinner invitation. It definitely looks pre-1950s. Possibly it comes from when the house was first built. I am going to ask around the neighborhood to see if anyone recognizes a name.

Interestingly, while standing knee-deep in this mess, I can visualize the final product. Ironically, this is much harder to do when I’m writing and revising, which I’m doing now, and hope to be done by November 4th. I don’t think the kitchen will be done by then, but it won’t be too long after, all things being equal and the creek don’t rise. Yeah, mixing my cliches–let me be. I also have a cold. Anyhow, I find it much more difficult to envision a finished product on a book when I’m dismantling, tearing apart and rebuilding. Nor can I envision how this country will be once we’re done melting down in the financial market and once we have a new prez.

Which brings me on a meandering path back to my title. I am hoping all this change bodes for an auspicious future–that the kitchen is put back together and I’m pleased with it; that we get a new president who can lead this country; and that we stabilize as an economy. We’ve been living in interesting times, but there’s something to be said for a little dose of staid times.  Maybe we’ll get some of those for a little while.

Here’s what I do believe. I believe the bones of this house are strong and sound and I believe the same of our country and the book I’m revising. I believe that with courage, strength, discipline and fortitude, there’s nothing that can’t get done with all three.  So now I shall close out and head back to my kitchen and my manuscript and start pounding away. More reports will no doubt follow.I shall also add my own layer to this kitchen, writing notes or messages on the interior of the sheet rock–time capsule messages for the future.

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  1. 1. Phiala

    I could use some positive change myself.

    About the gum: unless you know more than you said, it’s probably one of the North American gums, sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) or black gum (Nyssa sylvatica) – and don’t they both have lovely names? I’d guess sweet gum, as it’s supposed to have very nice walnut-like wood. Neither species makes it into Montana according to but it’s a much shorter haul than trying to get a tropical wood.

    (I’m a botanist, not a wood-worker.)

  2. 2. Diana Pharaoh Francis

    Hi Phiala~

    You’re marvelous! I’m guessing sweet gum too, since this is a lovely amber color. It’s all through the house, which is amazing, and more amazing, no one painted over it, which was a trend at some point in these houses and in this neighborhood.

Author Information

Diana Pharaoh Francis

Diana Pharaoh Francis has written the fantasy novel trilogy that includes Path of Fate, Path of Honor and Path of Blood. Path of Fate was nominated for the Mary Roberts Rinehart Award. Recently released was The Turning Tide, third in her Crosspointe Chronicles series (look also for The Cipher and The Black Ship). In October 2009, look for Bitter Night, a contemporary fantasy. Diana teaches in the English Department at the University of Montana Western, and is an avid lover of all things chocolate. Visit site.



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