Why I Decided to Live in a Tiny House

Tiny house 3It has been suggested to me that I blog about my experience living in a tiny house. I’m going to do that, not only because I’m having a lot of fun figuring out how to live this way, but also because I need to shift the focus of my blog for a while.

I currently live in an 11 x 14 cabin that I renovated myself, along with a 6 x 6 bathroom addition that I built mostly out of reclaimed wood. I live very cheaply, growing and preserving most of my own food. I’m not yet making perfect use of my space or my situation, but I enjoy the (constant) work in progress, and I’m having a lot of fun living this way.

This first blog post is going to detail how I came to live in a tiny house. My future blog posts will get into the nitty-gritty of my daily life: how I arrange and utilize my space; how I grow, process, and cook my food (this is mostly an excuse to take pictures of my beautiful canned goods and share my recipes); how I budget; and probably a bunch of other random stuff and off-topic tirades.

This isn’t the first time I’ve lived in a little house; in fact, it isn’t the first time I’ve lived in THIS house. Tiny house living is something I can honestly say I did before it was cool.

The year was 1998. I was finishing up my bachelor’s at The Evergreen State College in Olympia Washington, which is some sort of weirdo clown college where you can “design your own education”. This means you can write a “independent study” proposal saying you want to explore the possibility of cat telepathy. The college will undoubtedly approve this proposal, so then you can spend the whole quarter lying in bed staring at your cat, write a report on the experience, and the college will give you 16 credits as long as you pay your tuition. They don’t have to pay a professor, and you don’t have to listen to one. It’s a win-win.

So, anyway, I spent the last two quarters of my senior year doing one of those independent study contracts. I moved back to my hometown in Eastern Washington State and helped my mom start a small organic farming business.

My parents live on a beautiful ten-acre fruit orchard, which is where I grew up. It’s also where my dad grew up—my grandparents owned 40 acres back then, but sold off 30 of it. It’s been a working farm for way over a hundred years, so whenever you dig in the dirt or explore the rafters of the old outbuildings you find some pretty bomb-ass stuff, like those glass beads white people used to trade to the Native Americans; and boxes of 1950s porno, which is mostly just boobs.

One of the old outbuildings is a little eleven-by-fourteen cabin built in the ‘30’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, which was one of the Depression-era programs started by FDR. When I moved back home for the farming gig, I decided I’d restore it and live there.

It was a cute cabin, made of indestructible redwood, but it had been used over the years as a chicken coop and skeevy teenager hangout and a bunch of other things that involved a lot of grodyness that I had to scrape out. It also had one of those old wood-burning stoves—the kind people used to actually cook and bake—which was awesome, but it was all rusted out and no longer fire-friendly, so I had to haul that heavy metal bitch out of there and into one of the outbuildings. Then, because there is EVERY THING IMAGINABLE somewhere on my parents’ property, I found another wood stove—a cast-iron potbelly—and hauled THAT heavy metal bitch INTO the cabin.

After that, though I’d never done anything of the sort before, I reroofed it, put in insulation, drywall, plumbing (a sink with cold water only), a skylight, etc. etc. My boyfriend’s dad built me a bed that sat about four feet off the ground and had a built-in dresser and storage underneath. It was really cool.

I lived there for a couple of years. It was peaceful and beautiful, and I loved it.

A bunch of yadda-yadda happens here. I moved out, started working as a paralegal (a job I hated desperately) got married about sixty billion times, and had a kid. I lived a lot of places, and owned a couple of houses that I really liked, but I always missed my cabin. Whenever I went back to my parents’ house to visit, I’d walk by there…but I’d never open the door. I hate moving, so when I moved out, I left it a wreck, with food still on the shelves and clothes and weird shit you don’t want to know about all over the place. The fact that I’d left my peaceful little house in that state really bugged me. In fact, I had frequently-recurring dreams about having to clean it out, except it always had more rooms than I’d remembered, and a labyrinthine basement full of mummies and evil rodents and rotten sandwiches, but I knew if I could just get it all cleaned up and in order my whole life would fall into place and be peaceful and beautiful like it had been before. (Though, let’s be honest, it never truly had been…but my cabin had been a safe place that made me feel it was.)

Even more yadda-yadda happens now, which I won’t rant about here, since I’ve spent about 906 blog posts rehashing it already. Long story short, my marriage fell apart in a blaze of glory. We had moved to California for his job, so when he served me divorce papers, I was in this weird place with like ZERO emotional resources to call upon. I mean that literally. I’m bipolar, and I was stressed out enough that I was not taking care of myself whatsoever. I was drinking almost every day, having psychotic episodes, and attempting suicide.

I didn’t know what to do with myself and my kid. All I knew is that I wanted to keep writing books. It was something I loved to do more than anything else, and something that helped me emotionally and psychologically. Plus, my husband had told me I wasn’t capable of making a living at it, and that I was wrong to want to write in the first place: that I was selfish and immature to have that dream.

I wouldn’t allow his spirit to rise up from the grave of our marriage and force me into a bitter, hopeless life working a job I hated and that I was ill-suited for. I didn’t want him to win. I wanted to be my own woman, on my own terms.

Of course, life never works out that neatly. I wasn’t able to spring triumphant from the ashes of my old life, valiant and stable and perfect. By the time my husband served me divorce papers, I had one book published, and a contract on two more, but I wasn’t making any sort of royalties. I had editing skills and was capable of setting up a freelance business to bring in some cash, but in order to make ends meet that way (at least at first) I’d have to live cheaply. Really cheaply.

I’m lucky enough to have extremely supportive parents with a beautiful 10-acre farm, and they were hinting pretty strongly that my psychotic, suicidal, rock-bottom ass needed to come back home like six months ago, along with their beautiful granddaughter.

I love my parents, and I love the farm, but I knew I couldn’t live long-term in their house. I’m a person who very much needs to have her own space. So, it was time to finally open the door of my old cabin and start mucking out the mummies and evil rodents and rotten sandwiches. It was time to finally get my life together.

Mental Illness is Not Weakness

mentalA few days ago while addressing a group of veterans, Donald Trump said that strong people can handle trauma without getting PTSD. In effect, he was stating that only the weak are susceptible to mental health issues after they experience trauma.

I myself suffer* from PTSD. My case arises not from wartime trauma, but from physical, mental, and sexual abuse. The idea that people with PTSD—and really, people with any mental health issue—are somehow too weak to deal with the fact that life sucks sometimes, and that we need to buck up, get over ourselves, and move on, is prevalent in society. In my case, it’s a belief that hinders my recovery.

I was diagnosed with PTSD about a decade back. At the time, I didn’t really know what the diagnosis meant. I thought PTSD was something ONLY combat veterans had, and thus I thought my doctor was joking. I’d never had to experience the horrors of dodging bombs and watching my buddies get blown apart. What kind of whiney bitch did my doctor think I was, that I would be as traumatized by my own experiences as a combat veteran would be by theirs?

I dismissed the diagnosis and refused treatment of any kind. I didn’t even investigate what PTSD was, or how it might affect my actions. I even went so far as to have that—and my other diagnosis of bipolar—removed from my medical records. I didn’t want to suffer the stigma. I didn’t want people to think I was weak or attention-seeking.

Then, a few years ago, I went through a period of very high stress in my life. The stress coincided with, or perhaps triggered, a severe manic episode, and I started writing obsessively and behaving a little oddly. My husband at the time became pretty snide about it. His behavior triggered something in me that sent me over the edge, I guess because it in some ways mirrored the behavior of a person from my past. He started to smell like this person, and sound like him. Whenever he would say something unkind to me, my emotions became uncontrollable: I’d get really, really angry, or hurt, or hysterical. I began avoiding him, disappearing for weeks on road trips.

The situation became a sort of feedback loop: the more emotional and erratic I became, the more critical my husband became of me. He told me I was an immature loser and that he was done with me, and kicked me out of the house on a couple occasions. For my part, I was drinking heavily and, eventually, cheating on him.

I wanted to either act “right”, or leave, but I literally couldn’t bring myself to do either. I was terrified to be alone, yet incapable of pulling myself together the way my husband wanted me to. I would watch myself do incredibly self-destructive things and be absolutely powerless to stop.

It’s hard for me to say that: absolutely powerless to stop. After all, lack of self-control is the ultimate weakness. I told myself, day in and day out, that my marriage and my life were in shambles because I was too weak to fix them. If I’d had any control over my emotions and behavior, I would have been able to make my husband love me again.
I was already in a severe depressive episode when my husband finally served me with divorce papers, on the day after Valentine’s Day. I had a suicide attempt (a fairly halfhearted one, since the means at hand were poor), and finally ended up in a mental health crisis center where they said, no really, you have PTSD and bipolar disorder, and we’re going to help you with them.
I’d never been able to stay on medication before. I thought the whole point of pills was to dull your brain and render you inert, so you wouldn’t cause problems for yourself or those around you. I thought they’d kill my creativity and prevent me from going manic; that I’d never have fun or feel any real feelings anymore. After all, pills couldn’t fix what was wrong with me, because they couldn’t cure weakness or repair personality flaws.
But I stuck with treatment this time, because I was tired of my life being unstable, and I had a kid to stay alive for. I didn’t know what else to do. I had to try something.
After trying a lot of different horrible meds, I was finally put on a combination that didn’t make me feel like a disjointed, sleepy puppet from the dream dimensions. It actually made me feel better.
The first time I realized they were working correctly was when I got into a very stressful situation. I’d been in the same situation before, when I was unmedicated, and I’d reacted very badly. My anxiety, self-loathing, and other distress had swelled up in me until I couldn’t see; the only thing left in me were those feelings, and so they were all I had that could inform my actions. When you feel like that, you can’t behave in healthy ways. You want to destroy yourself so that you don’t feel like that anymore.
However, with the medication, I was in control, and not my emotions. I was still upset, yes, but my feelings didn’t send me skidding into the walls off-kilter.
That’s when I realized I’d never actually lacked self-control. My brain just worked differently than most people’s, and pretty much anyone would have acted the same way if they’d felt like I had when I’d done those self-destructive things. This was probably the most amazing self-realization of my life.
Some people might still think I’m weak—Donald Trump maybe would think he’d be able to go through what I’ve gone through, and still be his pompous, egotistical self. And maybe I am more susceptible to PTSD than others, because of my bipolar or for some other reason. I don’t know.
I was in the supermarket once and saw a young woman with no arms, using her bare feet to grab cups of yogurt from the cooler and put them in her cart. I tried not to stare, but it was pretty amazing to me. I’m sure it wasn’t amazing to her, though: it was just what she had to do, because she had no arms. No one with any scrap of insight would call that woman weak. I would even make the claim that nothing was wrong with her whatsoever. If she broke her ankle, it would probably affect her life more than it would someone who had arms, but that still doesn’t mean she’s weak. She’d just have to cope in different ways.
Those of us with neurodiversity and mental illness are not weak. We just have to learn to cope differently than other people. I actually think that my experiences have given me more self-knowledge, depth of character, compassion, and insight into the human condition than someone like Donald Trump will ever have. And that isn’t a disability: it’s a beautiful thing.

*I use the word “suffer” intentionally here. I would not use this word with any other sort of neurodiversity (and whether PTSD is truly a neurodiversity, I will leave others to argue, because I think each individual can choose for themselves how they want to identify). However, PTSD is unlike bipolar, ASD, schizophrenia, and other diagnoses that are an organic part of the brain. PTSD is caused by trauma, is preventable and, unlike those other diagnoses, has no component to it that I would call desirable (and yes, I think that neurodiversity can be a good thing, though there are some struggles that definitely go along with it).

Elizabeth Roderick is an author. Many of her books deal with neurodiversity and abuse issues.

Nightmare on Query Street

NoQS 2016I’m finally dropping by again to mention I’m going to be a mentor in the awesome Nightmare on Query Street contest. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a great way to get your query and first 250 words polished and in front of a slew of great agents. It’s for a wide range of genres: the only things not accepted are picture books and erotica. Check it out!


Son of a Pitch: How I Made My Decision

soap-FINALWell, I’ve finally made my choices in this contest. It was NOT easy.

First, I made a list of all the entries that had intriguing concepts and great writing. That narrowed it down to 52.

Then I chose the ones that really spoke to me on a personal level. That narrowed it down to 17.

From there, I parsed out the entries that I believed were most ready to query, and that brought my list down to nine.

I closely examined the queries and 250s of those nine, thought about it really hard, and chose that five that, right now, at this moment, I’d be most likely to pick up to read and not be able to put down. I know this doesn’t make it easier for anyone, but if I were asked to vote next month, I’d probably choose different entries because my mood would be different.

Image result for ursula gifsThese are the ones I chose:






Congratulations to those authors, and to you all, because you’re ALL doing great work.

Son of a Pitch Team Ursula Entry 10: THE DOLL TRAIN


Category and Genre: Contemp YA 
Word Count: 60,000


Despite his dark skin color, high school junior Marc Amazi just wants to blend in. It’s been years since an accident, one he caused, killed his younger cousin. And the hushed voices and judgmental stares have yet to go away. He just needs to make it to graduation and then he’ll be on the next train out of town. That is, until he befriends Anna Mason. Arguably the most stunning creature in the universe. Captain of the varsity basketball team. And the only one who doesn’t fault him for his past.

 Marc’s almost out of the dreaded friend zone. Almost. But then Oct. 17 happens. Anna shows up at Marc’s house disoriented and confused, only to die in his arms. Immediately Marc is targeted as a suspect. And when her death is ruled an overdose and pills are found planted at the scene, he’s the one who goes down for delivering the narcotics that killed Anna.

 As the justice system brands Marc by the color of his skin, the town doesn’t just label him a friend in mourning. They label him a murderer. A social media group is created to attack Marc. He’s all but ready to give up and join Anna on a journey to the stars. But in the midst of Marc’s trial, Anna’s younger sister goes missing. Marc might have a real shot at finding her, but to do so he will have to battle the demons of Anna’s death and a childhood trauma he thought he buried long ago.

First 250 Words:

Oct. 17

The night Anna died

My mother was full of bullshit from the minute she exploded into this world until she abruptly left. She built her life on absurd lies and silly fantasies. She used to say love, not oxygenated blood, is what fueled her heart. That this love was strong enough to drive her to the other end of the world and back.

 It used to sound nice, but I never understand what it all meant. But I’m older now. I’ve put enough time into AP biology to know that she believed in fairy tales too good to be true. It’s not possible to give one person every beat of your heart, every drop of your blood, every joule of energy. To attempt something so foolish as that is suicide.

Yet, for Anna, I’d do anything.

Come back to me, I silently plead. Come back.

Her body is stretched out on the gravel pavement. I attempt to pull her up from the ground. Shake her until she wakes up or until I find a way to give her my heart. But all 5 feet and 9 inches of her is dead weight. She slips back to the ground, her arms and legs nothing but gelatin.

Only seconds ago she was seizing. Her body possessed, dancing in shapes I never knew existed. My head collapses onto her chest, searching desperately for a heartbeat. And then I hear it. Erratic and panicked throbs ricochet between us. But she is still.

Son of a Pitch Team Ursula Entry 9: KISS OF DEATH

soap-FINALTitle: Kiss of Death

Age and Genre: YA Speculative Fiction

Word Count: 53,000



Sixteen-year-old skeptical, Nathaniel, doesn’t want to believe the haunted tales told about his hometown of Shadowlyn. Believing the myths and fables about Lilith stealing your soul are nothing but juvenile stories, until his best friend, Claire, has her soul stolen by Lilith the night before Halloween. While the townspeople remain clueless, Nathaniel takes it upon himself to find Claire and bring her back to the world of the living despite his parent’s warnings. But Lilith has other plans for her—ones that include Claire taking her place as the Ruler of Lost Souls while she enjoys a life that was once taken away from her.


If he can’t find a way to bring Claire back before the last stroke of the clock on Day of the Dead, she will remain stuck in the land where those who can’t move on reside. Worse, the only way for her to come back is for her to either kiss Lilith, or a new innocent soul, condemning them to death like she had to endure.

First 250 Words:

The smell of death hangs in the air.

Almost like a cemetery filled with decaying bodies all around.

The atmosphere is stale, the unpleasant stench is nothing new. In the town of Shadowlyn, you become accustom to it. It is, after all, known as the town of Death.

Scrunching my nose at the odor, I continue to wait for my best friend, Claire, outside my house. From the corner of my eye, I can see my mom throwing holy water on the house and saying a prayer under her breath.

“Mom, is all this really necessary?”

She finishes her prayer and turns to me. “Of course it is. Tomorrow is Halloween, and you know what that means. The dead are walking among us, Nathaniel. And you know who will be out and about tonight.”

I roll my eyes at her belief in the silly myths that surround this town. “Mom, Lilith is not going to be out tonight. The idea of a young woman going around and stealing souls through kisses is ridiculous.”

“We do not speak her name. You know this.”

“You’re being silly.” I smile, ready to test her patience. Before I can say anything else that might freak her out, I see Claire in the distance. Her long dark hair bounces with each step she takes.

“Gotta go mom,” I say stepping towards the gate.

She tugs on my hood, pulling me back to her.

Son of a Pitch Team Ursula Entry 8: QUEEN FOR ALL SEASONS


Category and Genre: YA/NA 

Word Count: 76,000


After insulting her older sister’s suitors at a banquet, High Princess Tarakanova’s father decrees that she must marry the first beggar who comes to the door. High spirited and haughty, she refuses to apologize, and finds herself married, against her will, to Atrejo, a lowborn musician. Although she insists it’s a mistake, their clandestine marriage is binding and she must journey with him across the distant mountains to his village in the far away kingdom of Epicha.

When Tarakanova learns that the village is near the palace of one of her father’s allies, she formulates a plan to have Atrejo hung for kidnapping her. While serving as a palace kitchen maid she is recognized by her older sister, who is the king’s honored guest. The new queenly qualities Tarakanova developed are tested as she must decide whether to rid herself of Atrejo in order to be restored to her former high status. Can she condemn an innocent man to death in order to get her life back?

 First 250 Words:

Like countless young women, Tarakanova used to dream of her perfect wedding day. It would take place in late spring when flowers were plentiful and the roads leading to the imperial city of Tarsecor were easiest to travel. The exquisite bridal gown would take months to be custom-made by the best dressmakers in the land. The guest list would include the highest noble families and luminaries of the seven kingdoms. The ceremony would be short, but the feasting and revelries that followed would continue for days with fireworks, music, and dancing into the wee hours of morning.

Her father’s subjects would commemorate by waving flags and cheering as she and her groom – no doubt the most eligible and handsome of princes, rode through the streets in an open carriage surrounded by dozens of uniformed guards. The dazzling sight would be spoken of for years to come and if she were truly fortunate, it would eclipse the wedding of High Princess Kilmeny, her older sister.

Tarakanova spent little time fantasizing about her future life-long companion. What need was there when her father would choose only the finest candidate with the best pedigree, impressive qualifications, and excellent prospects to be her spouse?

In reality, though her marriage had taken place in spring and while the ceremony was astonishingly short, alas, there was no finely-worked gown of silk or white veil in Tarakanova’s silver hair. Nor had High Princess Tarakanova envisioned a husband anything like the one she now found herself in possession of; coarse and lowborn.

Son of a Pitch Team Ursula Entry 7: THE MORTAL COIL – REVELATION

soap-FINALTitle: The Mortal Coil – Revelation

Age and Genre: YA Paranormal

Word Count: 73,000



Seventeen-year-old Aiden Milligan never knew “normal” – not since the night his family fell apart. Staring down a detective and an angel at the same time, he realizes how not-normal life has become.

 Drifting through an uncaring foster system gave Aiden Milligan tough choices, and he often made the wrong ones. When his exceptional grades open the door to the distinguished Covington Academy, Aiden sees a way out of his hellhole and doesn’t look back – until his past catches up. Members of the basketball team end up comatose a day after an altercation with Aiden, and he finds himself a detective’s prime suspect.

 Aiden is determined to clear his name, even if it means teaming up with fellow student Jessie Rivas, a wannabe journalist whose theories are as outlandish as her wardrobe. When comas start plaguing the city, and bizarre symbols are found at the scene of the incidents, Jessie’s occult conspiracies start sounding more plausible than the police reports.

As Aiden begins to receive visions that tie him and the incidents to something larger, he realizes he may be more involved with the case than he thought. With police ready to lock him up, an angel cutting down anything in her way, and the incidents showing no signs of stopping, Aiden may not be able to save the victims or his reputation – or even his life.

 First 250 Words:

Aiden Milligan was no stranger to the hot seat at Covington Academy. It wouldn’t shock him to see his name plate on it one day soon. He usually gave his best efforts to remaining as detached from most people as possible. Despite this stance, or perhaps because of it, he’d become well-acquainted with Covington Academy’s principal during the two years he’d attended – in all the worst ways. Most of the students and faculty just avoided him like the plague, but not Principal Hadley. In his seventeen years, Aiden had never met anyone else who could match his own bull-headed resolve. The man was bound and determined to churn out the model youths and future world changers for which Covington Academy was renowned.

Aiden begrudgingly admired that on some level. He’d appreciate it more if it weren’t being directed at him.

“Well, Aiden, thank you for coming,” Hadley said as he dropped into the all-too familiar wooden chair with a resigned grunt.

Aiden looked up at the dirty-blonde, slightly balding man sitting behind the impenetrable oak desk and raised an eyebrow. They both knew good and well that he wouldn’t be here if he had the choice. But Hadley always had been a stickler for formalities.

Hadley seemed to be waiting for an answer that wasn’t coming. This was his show; Aiden participated as an unwilling audience.

“Yes, well,” Hadley continued, moistening his thin lips. “To business.”

He folded his hands on his desk, his eyes narrowing.

“This morning, there was an incident.”


Son of a Pitch Team Ursula Entry 6: NASCENT


Age and Genre: YA Paranormal

Word Count: 109,000



The love of seventeen-year-old Tori’s life went missing six months ago. In the months since, Tori has managed to spend time in a mental institution, stab her brother, and have full-blown conversations with imaginary people. The doctors say, ‘hallucinations,’ Tori says, ‘crazy,’ but her best friend says ‘ghosts.’ If only ghosts existed, maybe Tori could find Terrance. As it is, finding her sanity seems impossible enough.

Then a questionable traveler accosts Tori at a pop-up carnival and claims all is not lost for Terrance. That is, if Tori is willing to buy into a world of magic and death. On one hand, she could save not only Terrance, but her own crumbling psyche. On the other, there’s the small matter of a would-be necromancer who happens to be controlled by wraith bent on human sacrifice.

Saving Terrance will require digging into the depths of what reality and humanity truly mean. Not to mention her family’s past, where she will unearth secrets her parents would prefer to forget. With time running out, Tori must quickly decide whether to trust what only she can see. If she can’t put that same faith in herself soon, she could lose her love, her family and friends, and ultimately her own life.

 First 250 Words:

Clara isn’t the first person to try forcing me out of the house, but she may be the first to succeed. Not because boozing it up with her and her new bestie, Kelli, is my idea of a good time, but because she’s so dang whiny about it.

“Come on, Tori. My mom won’t be home. The house will be all ours, and I know where she keeps the stash.” 

It’s not like Sherri’s stash is hard to find. Most of it is under her bed, in the back bedroom she thinks we never enter. In the back bedroom, where she thinks she can go to drink and mourn and not affect anyone else. But grief doesn’t work that way. Especially not when the son she’s mourning was one of my closest friends. Not to mention Clara’s brother.

“Tonight’s not a great night.” 

Which isn’t saying much. I’d have to go back a year to reach my last decent night. Back before I spent some of those nights in a mental hospital my fellow crazies and I lovingly termed Hotel Briarwood. Before the incident with my brother that landed me there. I’d have to shoot right past six months ago, when Terrance went missing in the Everglades. I’d have to go all the way back to before the hallucinations and the soundless buzzing frequencies in my head. Thinking about how far back I’d have to go just to feel normal exhausts me. 


Author of gritty fiction|Freelance Editor