Are We All Fixer-Uppers? (Plus Contest)

A High-End Finish by Kate CarlisleWith my new series set to start in November, I’ve been thinking a lot about the term “fixer-upper.” (My new series is the Fixer-Upper Mysteries. Book 1, A HIGH-END FINISH, will be out on November 4.) We’re all fixer-uppers, aren’t we? I certainly am. A work in progress. Never “done.”

How boring would that be, to think of yourself as done? Nothing left to learn, no improvements left to make.

Yep, I’m a fixer-upper all right, and I take great joy in the process of fine-tuning myself. Overall, I’m quite content. I’m a loyal friend, a caring daughter, a loving wife. But there are improvements I’d like to make, things I’d like to do better.

1. Kate Carlisle and friendsI’d like to reach out to my friends more often. Sometimes life gets so hectic that I lose touch with my friends. Temporarily, of course, and they understand. Their lives are hectic, too. We all have family obligations and work obligations that steal our time away. Before we realize what has happened, it’s been a couple of months since we’ve spoken to each other. The friendship remains strong, but a richness is lost—or muted, at the very least—when we don’t chat about the minutia of our daily lives. When we go two or three months between conversations, we hit the highlights and the lowlights, but we miss out on all those delicious little absurdities that make us laugh. And it was a shared sense of humor that brought us together in the first place.

2. I’d like to finish writing a book before the deadline, not on the deadline. I try to trick myself by setting a deadline two weeks ahead of the actual deadline, but it never works. scrabbleMy brain is too smart for that, I guess. It doesn’t allow shenanigans. It knows the Deadline-with-a-capital-D day, and it withholds the burst of writing energy and ideas until a week or less before D Day. Which means with every book, I’m scrambling right up to the last possible moment before clicking Send to get the manuscript off to my editor.

3. I want to come up with more seven-letter words in Scrabble. There is no natural high that is quite the same as getting a Bingo in Scrabble. And ooooooh, if you can get your word to land on two triple-word scores… I’m shivering here! Ba-BAM! Nine times the score, plus 50 points.

What about you? Are you a fixer-upper, too? In what way? Name three things that you would like to do better.

CONTEST: Four fellow mystery writers and I have put together two fabulous prize packages filled with lots of books and fun mystery swag. Click here to enter: BACK TO SCHOOL GIVEAWAY

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  • Jane says:

    Hello Kate,
    I’m with you about getting in touch with friends more often. One of my best friends moved a few years ago and I’ve only seen her once since then, but even with all the ways to communicate I haven’t spoken to her in months. I also want to either take a language or cooking class.

    • Take a French cooking class and get two goals for the price of one!!! Just don’t use the word “fricassee” in front of Le Golden One. He goes crazy when he hears that word. 😉

  • flchen1 says:

    Oh, we’re definitely all fixer-uppers 😉 I do want to spend less time piddling around on the computer and more time DOING things 😉 We’ll see how well that goes!

    • That is a surprisingly challenging goal. Before you realize what has happened, you’ve been on the computer for two hours without accomplishing anything.

  • Annie West says:

    Hi Kate,

    I love the idea of a fixer-upper series. There’s something about house makeovers that are so appealing – especially when someone else is doing them!

    Naming just 3 things I’d like to do better? Only 3?
    1. Carving out time to do a range of things I keep telling myself I should do or that I really want to do for myself but never do. I always seemed squeezed by competing deadlines (including the wip). So better time management.
    2. Like you – reaching out to friends. Sometimes it shocks me how long it is between contact with dear friends.
    3. Becoming more of a fixer-upper around the house. I tend to help but not do as much as I used to when it comes to repair work. I need to brush up my skills and get back into it.

    Love the sound of the prize pack, too!

    • Thanks, Annie! I’m very excited about my new series. It’s going to be a lot of fun to alternate between the Fixer-Upper books and the Bibliophile books.

      I’m impressed that you’re good with repair work! It’s such a great skill to have. I think it must start with a lack of fear, or a determination at least to not let fear stop you from trying. Plus, you can find answers to every question these days on YouTube.

  • Helen says:


    I do agree with you I am always trying to get things done on time make more time to spend with friends and organize myself LOL I don’t often succeed though.
    Three things I would like to fix up
    Find more time for friends
    Get myself organized with things that really need doing around the house
    Organize my books in some soret of order

    Have Fun

    • Organizing books will be a fun project once you get started! Maybe you can even listen to an audiobook while you do it, so you’re getting the joy of a story along with the joy of organizing your other stories.

  • Shannon says:

    1. Clean house more often and more thoroughly.
    2. Get back to exercising. I loved my walks at one time, but now I have the energy of a slug. It’s one of those things that if I do it, I have more get-up-and-go.
    3. Find a new place with lots of light.

    • Oh, I love going for walks! I miss them… I seem to be on one deadline after another, so I feel guilty taking the time to go for a walk. The truth is, though, it would probably help. Sunshine=endorphins=more ideas and more energy! Let’s both make a pact to take more walks, Shannon.

  • Debbie Oxier says:

    I would like to stop procrastinating. I am horrible about putting things off. I would like to spend more time with my girls. They are both married and working so I don’t see them as much as I’ d like. I would like to be more skillful in everything I do whether it’s cooking, writing, volunteering at my church, just anything I do I would like to be able to do it better. They say practice makes better but a few tips don’t hurt either. Lol!

    • Debbie, That’s interesting, that you want to do everything better. I feel the same way sometimes! It can feel overwhelming. I don’t know about you, but I have to take it in bite-size pieces. I have to focus on one specific thing at a time. Otherwise, I’m like the proverbial duck, legs paddling like mad underwater while I look calm on the surface.

  • sandyg265 says:

    I’d like to have more patience, stop procrastinating about weeding my garden, and to get through my TBR pile.

  • Laney4 says:

    1) Get my mending pile caught up (as I’m too cheap to buy new if it’s just a torn seam).
    2) Get my scrapbooking current (as this is a great opportunity to throw away thousands of photos from back in the day when you developed rolls of film in order to get “the shot”, but still kept all the others).
    3) My health could use a fixer-upper, so I’m working on that….

    • >>I’m too cheap to buy new if it’s just a torn seam

      Whereas I am too lazy to sew a torn seam!

      Hm… perhaps that’s another thing I should work on.

  • Sara Grotz says:

    1. I would like to keep up on laundry, lol. I wash it, fold it, I just cannot like actually putting it away.
    2. Plant a winter garden. I know there are things you can grow year round. I have container plants, but want an actual garden sooner than later.
    3. Keep to some sort of a work out schedule. I try, but a book and snack always sound better, lol.

  • gina says:

    Hello Kate,
    #1 I would love to get motivated to clean out my closets.
    #2 I wish I had the will to stick to a diet/exercise program
    #3 Try not to let my emotions over take me

    • Those sound like wonderful goals, Gina. My closet could do with a good clean-out, too. I know there’s stuff in there that I haven’t worn in a couple years. If I’d get rid of them, I’d have hanger space to be able to do some shopping. (If I could find the time!)

  • Sue C says:

    I would like to get motivated to exercise more
    Organize/clean my house
    Spend more time training my puppy

  • Debbie says:

    Only 3? LOL
    1. Get my house under control and more organized.
    2. Cook more
    3. Finish one of the many craft projects that I have started or want to start.

  • Jeanne Adams says:

    Oh, I’m with Debbie! And yes, Kate, as well you know, my life is ALWAYS a work in progress/fixer upper. Snork! I love my life, but there are surely things I’d love to do better on.

    1. Staying organized. I can GET organized, I just can’t seem to STAY organized. Sigh.

    2. Stop buying/subscribing to magazines. I love them. All the glossy pictures! All the great recipes! Yum! But they stack up and I don’t read them, look at the glossy pics or try the recipes. Urg. Must. Stop. Subscribing!

    3. Walk the dogs, every day. I walk them a lot, just not every day. There are three of them and one of me, after all. Ha! But I’d love to TRY to get each of them out every day. :>

    And I can’t WAIT for the new book!!! Nov. 4 is too long! Give us an exceprt!!

    • An excerpt, you say? I can do that! Just click here:

      Oh, magazines, how I love thee!!! I’ve had to cut way back on those, too, for just the reason you said. They are relentless. They keep coming and coming and coming whether I have time for them or not. I’ve decided that it’s better to pay full price at the store when I want one, rather than getting tons of issues I don’t have time to read.

  • marylouh says:

    I’m going to update my craft room – take a closet and make it all shelves and remove the doors. #2 is to keep the room more organized after I get the remodel done – no bringing in things and dropping them to put away later #3 I teach some stamping classes and always wait until the last minute to decide what I’m going to teach. I do seem to work best under pressure so that one might not be obtainable.

    • Oh my gosh! That sounds like my dream closet!!!! I love it, Marylou! Be sure to take before and after pictures. I’d love for you to post one on my Facebook page when you’re done. I’d really love to see it! (

  • Robin Shafer says:

    Definitely a “fixer-upper”. I recently when back to school & graduated with as a Certified Medical Office Specialist. Also, am trying to walk more for my health.

  • Hellion says:

    1.) Finish writing books (i.e. I don’t have “real” deadlines so maybe that’s the problem, but I don’t think that’s a great way to write either. *LOL*)

    2.) Exercise more–and love it! And what I’d really love to do is more yoga again, but I’ve been put off by the instructor at the gym I belong to and am too poor to go to a “real” yoga studio–AND I’m better with group/social yoga than at home yoga. Sad, but true. When I had a great teacher, I went like clockwork; I was awesome. Now left to my own devices, I practice very seldomly.

    3.) Fear less. (I.e. be more confident, bold, resolute, and know that it will all work out.) The more I fear, the more I sabotage myself–which vicious cycles into a depression that causes more fear that causes more sabotage (nothing changes) and voila, more depression…

    • To finish anything creative is definitely the hardest part. With any creative endeavor, the act of creating makes the product (book, painting, whatever) “less than” the ideal we had in our heads before we started. We can never achieve the ideal, which gets frustrating. That’s when we have to power through and finish it anyway. I wish you the best with it!

  • Hi Kate!

    I’m so with you on the deadline dilemma. I keep telling myself I have to write faster or smarter or something, but I never fail to be driving myself nuts to get the darn thing finished. That’s my first wish 🙂

    I’d like to find time to paint again and do some cross-stitch more than a week or two at Christmas – I’ve been working on a tree skirt forever! I think finishing that skirt will seriously be the last thing I ever complete. Painting puts me in the zone, but then I feel guilty that I’m not writing. My skills are probably rusty by now.

    Congrats on the new series! Can’t wait to read.

    • Oh wow, a cross stitched tree skirt would be amazing! I’ll bet it’s so beautiful! I’m in awe of the amount of time those must take. True works of art. I hope you squeeze in more time for it, Donna! And share a picture when you’re done!!

  • catslady says:

    1.I wish I didn’t have a fear of driving – I can do local but no highways or places out of the way.
    2. Wish I wasn’t a pack rat and could throw more things away.
    3. Wish I didn’t sit behind this computer as much as I do!

  • Barbara Lohr says:

    Hi Kate,

    Good luck on your new series! “Fixer Upper” is one of our favorite TV shows. Almost makes me want to move to Texas! It’s a great niche, since most people have renovation on their mind.

    Like many of the others, I wish I had more time to connect with friends. Sadly, I am not a phone person. I continually pray for patience..mostly with myself. WIsh I had more time for all the interests I’ve developed. Too much life and not enough time to travel all those roads!

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Excellent and thought-provoking topic, Kate. I’m certainly a fixer-upper and the older I get the more fixed up I need to be LOL.

    I’d like to work on enthusiasm. I’m naturally a perky person, but I find it’s taking me longer to get frisky in the morning than it used to. I’m blaming it on my mattress. Why can’t one try out a mattress for about 6 months before committing to buying it?

    • And they can be SOOOOOO expensive!!!!! Do you know anyone who abides by that so-called rule “If it’s over 8, it’s time to replace”? I can’t imagine what that would do to our landfills, if everyone replaced their mattresses every 8 years!

  • bn100 says:

    read more, travel more, find more time to bake

    • I don’t know about the third one, but reading more and traveling more could go together for sure! I read a lot more when I’m traveling, as long as I’m not the one doing the driving. Such a luxury, having nothing to do but read!

  • Sue Farrell says:

    I’d like to learn how to just let snide comments go and not fret over them.
    I’d like to keep my house cleaner.
    I’d like to be able to keep my mouth shut more often.

    • >>I’d like to learn how to just let snide comments go and not fret over them.

      Ooooh, that’s a good one, Sue! It’s hard not to let people hurt your feelings. I read a quote today that really resonated with me: Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. — DON MIGUEL RUIZ

  • Kate, what a fun post! I’m looking forward to your new series.

    I think about fixing up more than I actually do it. I’d like to be better with plants, seeing as how I tend to kill them. And keep a tidier house. And maybe not be so irritated by mosquitoes. Though I kinda think that’s on them as much as it is on me.

  • Amy Conley says:

    I am most definitely a fixer-upper. I have to fix everything.From my kids, who happen to be 37,37,&33 years old, btw, to plumbing and painting, to taking care (read ‘fixing’), my siblings and their lives. Me? I am nowht on the list.

  • I’d like to be on time more often, go to sleep and wake up at a set time, and learn how to make dinner and surprise my boyfriend.