A Touch of Reality

By John Gilstrap

Full disclosure: Expect to learn nothing about writing from this blog post.

I’ve mentioned before that the lovely bride and I are building our dream home in the wilds of West Virginia. Our original plan was to stay put in our current house until the new one was completed sometime in early 2022, then move in, clean up our current abode, and then put it on the market. Easy-peasy.

Except, the market is so hot right now that we think it would be short-sighted on our part to wait. Thus, the plan changed to: Sell the house, move into an apartment for six months, then move into the new house when it’s ready for us. That adds a bit of . . . confusion to the mix. Now, the plan has evolved into a logistical challenge.

As you read this, I will be enduring what’s called a “staging move”, which translates roughly to taking anything that’s interesting or colorful out of our home so that HGTV-trained tire-kickers can walk through the upcoming open house without fear of seeing anything that is remotely related to family, love, or any other trinket that might make the house feel actually lived-in. We’re talking dining room chairs, sofas, love seats, lamps, pictures, clothes and books. (Says the staging expert (yes, such a person exists): “There are too many books in your library.” And no, I’m not making that up.)

The goal, of course, is to highlight the house (not the stuff), thereby triggering a buying frenzy among a swarm of potential purchasers during the open house. Before the open house, however, comes the 3D scan and still photography, but only after the repainting, carpet cleaning and lightbulb replacing. If the strategy works, we’ll sell our house for tens of thousands of dollars more than asking price. If it doesn’t, we’ll have pre-moved stuff that we were going to move anyway.

Leading up to all of this is the part that might possibly have some relevance to the subject of the Killzone Blog: Dozens (and dozens) of hours of culling, tossing, recycling, yard-saling and donating hundreds of bits of stuff left me without a truly relevant item to post today.

Next time for sure . . .


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About John Gilstrap

John Gilstrap is the New York Times bestselling author of Lethal Game, Blue Fire, Stealth Attack, Crimson Phoenix, Hellfire, Total Mayhem, Scorpion Strike, Final Target, Friendly Fire, Nick of Time, Against All Enemies, End Game, Soft Targets, High Treason, Damage Control, Threat Warning, Hostage Zero, No Mercy, Nathan’s Run, At All Costs, Even Steven, Scott Free and Six Minutes to Freedom. Four of his books have been purchased or optioned for the Big Screen. In addition, John has written four screenplays for Hollywood, adapting the works of Nelson DeMille, Norman McLean and Thomas Harris. A frequent speaker at literary events, John also teaches seminars on suspense writing techniques at a wide variety of venues, from local libraries to The Smithsonian Institution. Outside of his writing life, John is a renowned safety expert with extensive knowledge of explosives, weapons systems, hazardous materials, and fire behavior. John lives in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.

20 thoughts on “A Touch of Reality

  1. John, I’m going to disrespectfully disagree with you with respect to your conclusion that one can learn nothing about writing from your post this morning. It is an instructive metaphor for the publishing process as it exists today.

    I won’t wish you luck with regard to selling your home because you will not need it. The prospective buyers are undoubtedly circling even as I type this. I will wish you the best with respect at long last completing your dream home and moving in.

    Thanks for sharing this morning, John!

  2. I agree with Joe. And even though there’s nothing pointed about writing in your post. there’s a great deal about life, staging a home, etc. All story fodder.

  3. I feel your pain, John. I’ve been there (am still there) and it’s no picnic.

    Five to six years ago, my wife and I began moving out of a large home where we had raised five children. We were given the same advice by the “staging experts.” We stripped the wallpaper out of the whole house and repainted with light brown “tones.” I called the colors emesis and feces. We had solid (expensive) brass fixtures and hardware. No, buyers wanted cheap, shiny, s___. We replaced the hardware and all fixtures. We redid everything, but since we lived out in the boonies, it still took a year to sell.

    And now, I’m moving out of an office building that I own, and getting it ready to sell. It’s taken three months of an archeological dig to remove over forty years of charts and records. Having retired and working on the moving everyday, I don’t even know what day of the week it is.

    About learning from this: If you can continue your writing during this pain, you can write through anything. And about the blog. It’s a good place for catharsis. Spill your pain. We’ll try to do therapy.

    Good luck with the move and selling your house!

  4. We went through this when we moved from Florida to Colorado. People asked where, and all we could say was Colorado. “You don’t have a house?” Nope. The market sucked at the time, and we did major culling–since we didn’t know where we’d be living, or what kind of a house it would be, we planned to move the bare minimum, and very little of that was furniture. We also enjoyed our natural Florida growth outside the house, but our privacy meant no curb appeal. A LOT of staging went on. As for books. We culled, but shipped most of them to our daughter who was living in Colorado Springs to store for us. (I don’t think she realized how many boxes it would be when she said yes.)
    As for this being a non-writing post … balderdash. In fact, (without meaning to step on your toes, Mr. Gilbert), I did a slew of them comparing moving to all facets of the writing process. Here’s one for anyone interested.

  5. “There are too many books in your library.”

    How can you be in the same room with that person? 😎 😎 😎

    I would say have fun but…. Too bad we’re on opposite sides of the country. I have a great moving company I’d recommend but that would do you little good on the east coast.

    Hope the transition is as hassle free as possible.

  6. As Joe pointed out, culling items from a house does relate to writing. More specifically, editing, when we kill our darlings. Good luck, John! Try to focus on the outcome rather than the back-breaking work involved to show the property. This too shall pass…

  7. I’ve been in this boat five times. Did it once with my parents in high school. Did a staggered move for an internship. Left for the Middle East for a few years. Also built a home with my wife ten years ago.

    The last staggered move was when a company transfer my butt to head office. Was angry with that one.

    It’s hard. But the stressful thing is when you pack something away you’ll never find. You feel lost without that item until you get over it.

    Related to writing – that’s why I save multiple drafts of everything. Sometimes I know I wrote something that might not be in my current WIP. But I keep good notes.

  8. Been there. Done that. No fun.

    Real estate agents can make you feel the home you decorated and lived in with love, and cherished with memories is nothing but a hovel and will never sell without their expertise.

    I wish you much luck with the house you’re selling and the house you will be moving into. (And I hope the experience isn’t too much like Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House.)

  9. I also want to say that during one of those moves I found an article I cut from Writer’s Digest about a young John Gilstrap and his first book, NATHAN’S RUN. But of course I can’t find it now because I moved again.

  10. I can identify. When my husband and I retired, we decided to sell our large home. Since neither of us is from this area, we thought we might want to retire to another part of the country. So we sold the house (and went through the hilarious “staging” process) and moved into an apartment for several years while we traveled and made up our minds.

    A couple of things stood out to me:
    1. We sold or donated at least 2/3 of what we owned – mostly furniture. We kept what really mattered. It was liberating.
    2. Stories sometimes take a turn we don’t expect. Although we visited beautiful places around the country, we never did find that perfect spot to retire to, so we ended up staying in Memphis where we had our church, many friends, and (oh, yes) doctors. We bought a smaller home (which we love) and have found a real community of friends in our neighborhood like we’ve never had before. A perfect end to the story.

  11. My mother moved out of the house I grew up in. When I looked at the pictures in the listing, I barely recognized my own bedroom. Real estate photography is a real deception. That might be useful in someone’s book.

    I know a stager. She gets good money for taking books off of bookshelves.

    Enjoy your new home.

  12. The hot market is a double-edged sword. Finding somewhere to land is a lot harder than selling the home. Places like Charlotte which are hubs to major corporations also have a fun part of the equation. The corporations are buying every nice house in sight as temporary housing for execs. Fun times.

    Another things I’ve learned since my best friend has moved to be closer to her son is there’s a new type of conceirge mover, mainly aimed at seniors. They move you, they sell off the furnishings you leave behind because you are downsizing, make the place nice for the people looking to buy it, and they do almost everything but hang the towels in the bathroom to get you settled into your new home. Fun times.

  13. But, John! We love to hear about authors’ real lives, right?

    This is as real as real gets…best of luck in your new Reality Show and Tell.

    The man and I have determined that our 5.5 acres of mostly weeds is where we will make our last stand. After 35 years in the same place, we have nowhere else to go, nor do we want to. (I know there might be a Plan B out there somewhere…probably developed by the offspring, but I don’t want to think about that…)

    • One of the “joys” of the current market is getting cold calls from real estate agents and cheap house buyers. Some woman with a strong Indian accent wanted to buy my home so I told her my family would only make me leave my home when my body was cold, and I sure as heck would not sell it to her and leave me alone. With the strong accent, she must be part of a foreign scam trying to buy homes from seniors for next to nothing.

      • Garry, that’s what I told my Gypsy minded husband when we moved into our current home. We’ve moved on average every three years since we’ve been married, and not just across town. These involved thousands of miles to different states and cities. I’ve caught him looking at homes in a different state. He can look all he wants, but if he chooses to move again, (We’ve only been in this house for 3 1/2 years), he’s moving without me. I’m done. And yes, we’ve sold, bought, and rented. No more. I’m staying until my kids carry me out of this one.

  14. I’ve moved 32 times at last count, military and chasing work in the oil business. I found it gets less painful with practice (just as much as repeatedly whacking your thumb with a claw hammer does.)

    Met a great girl (was okay to call them that 50 years ago) who was up for an adventure. Don’t think she realized what a nomad she would become, no two children born in the same state.

    Seen great markets and horrible ones from the Atlantic Coast to the Pacific Coast, Gulf Coast to the Canadian border and many places in between. Lived in hotel rooms for months, fun for a week or so. After that ugh.

    Lived in a series of temporary rentals for 4 years and finally decided to put down roots, only to have my place of employment moved halfway across the country. Now retired, my wife and I find ourselves back in the same house we bought and loved 42 years ago. (Cue “Circle of Life” theme song.)

    Currently building an addition, have an excavation 30 ft long, 10 feet wide and 9 feet deep next to the house. Already have 12 yards of concrete foundation poured, sub-floor and 3 walls framed. Just waiting until I work up the nerve to tear into the existing roof so I can tie it all together.

    Luckily we held on to the house and rented it out while being nomads, otherwise we might not have been able to afford it after 42 years of appreciation.

    • Wow! 32 moves, and I thought my husband was bad. Then, you moved for work, while he wanted to move because the grass looked greener somewhere else. We’ve done all this moving since he retired. Ugh. Before that, I lived in my home for 26 years. I like to travel, but I prefer to have a steady home base. I went along with the moves until this last one. I’m done. I’m staying. Period.

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