This post relates to a choice I made that prompted me to write my novel, THE BLUEBIRD HOUSE.  Future posts will reveal other choices, and how there’s a fine line between bravery and foolishness–but also how “bad” choices can result in “good” books.

“So, do you make bad choices so you’ll have something to write about?” a new acquaintance once asked.

It was an honest question, one that set me to thinking about my life.  I had made some bonehead decisions.  When any sane person would “just say no,” I’ve often said, “Oh, why not? What the hell.” Maybe it’s because I grew up in rural northern Idaho in the 1950s, where there were no fences, and very few boundaries. Besides, how do you know what works or doesn’t work for you unless you don’t try new things?  It’s a good way to evolve.
In the 1990s I worked in Helena, MT, for the U.S. Forest Service. During this time, I made several choices that would come to haunt me.  Or, as a former boss would say, “We’d better watch out what we do here, or this is gonna rise up and bite us in the future.”
One choice that turned out to have real teeth was this:  For the price of a used car I bought a collection of derelict buildings in an old mining camp about sixteen miles southwest of Helena. You can see ramshackle buildings like these all over Montana, slowly returning to nature. My two log cabins and one-story timber frame structure sat without foundations on the banks of Ten Mile Creek. It was May, 1992, when I first saw the place. The sun was shining and the birds were singing.
I scratched my head and said, “Oh, why not? What the hell.”
Soon after signing the papers, I learned that the two-story building had been one of the seventeen brothels in the Rimini Mining District. I found a newspaper article in the walls, How to Turn a Hotel into a Brothel and Break All Ten Comandments in One Night.  Oh, the novelty.  And the old girl needed me. If she didn’t get a new roof before winter, the whole shitteree would fall to the ground in a pile of kindling.
A new boyfriend said, “What this place needs is a can of gasoline and a match.”
I stopped dating him.
I found a local carpenter, one with vision.  He entered the building, stepped carefully over the rotten floor boards, looked around and announced, “First you’ll need all new rafters to support a new roof.  But see here? The walls are wowed-out half a foot on each side. Before we can do anything, I’ll have to use winches, chains and pulleys to see if we can square the building.”
It worked.  Then after the roof, complete with skylights, was installed, he said, “Now you need a foundation to support the weight of the roof.”
“Oh, why not?  What the hell,” I said.
But I learned you can’t get a home improvement loan on a pile of boards. I’d have to pay cash for all materials and labor.  As I poked around my old building, pondering my dilemma, thoughts of Darwin and his theory of evolution kept entering the picture.  I found another article in a tattered magazine, stuffed in the wall:
“If I had to live my life again I would make a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week, for the loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect and more probably to the moral character by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.”
That sealed the deal.  However, in order to afford my project, I had to give up my nice apartment in town and move into the brothel.  Friends helped me move my bed upstairs under the skylights. I brought my stereo system, an antique rocking chair, and my two cats.  Winter was coming on, so I had a wood stove installed and bought firewood. Only a few amenities were lacking–indoor plumbing and running water.
Soon after moving in, the spook factor kicked in.
This tale of choices I’ve made that resulted in three different books will continue.

For more info on THE BLUEBIRD HOUSE at Amazon:  http://tinyurl.com/7yansvo
For print edition see:  http://createspace.com/3772762

What choice have you made that some might call “bad,” but turned out to be good, or at least prompted you to write a book?



  1. What a wonderful story! Your “Oh why not? What the hell” attitude has led to a fascinating life and stories for us to enjoy. I can’t wait to see what you do next and read your next book. Your renovation story was causing flashbacks about removing a faucet in my 1906 house, which turned into removing the water pipe, which turned into removing the wallboard from the wall, which turned out to be completely packed with skeletons of dead starlings. Oh, the surprises hidden in these ancient dwellings!

  2. But you’ve made a intriguing story out of your choices.

    Bad choices have inspired some lines of poetry on my part, such as “crows are reincarnated hype men
    selling a line I’ve bought more than once in my life.”

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