Friday, February 29, 2008

Kids These Days...

Okay. Guilty. I've lamented about what "kids these days" don't know, can't do, don't care about. One of the things I've bitched about is the short attention span. How quickly "they" lose interest if something isn't on video or has exposition or whatever.

But I'll also plead guilty (or maybe I should just plead the Fifth!) to preferring books that grab me early on. I want a character and/ or story to get me from the first couple pages. I want to be drawn into the story, wondering what's going to happen or wanting to know more about the character. Don't bog down in backstory and musings and reflections. I prefer my prose zippy and snappy-- put the backstory in snippets along the way, maybe at points where I can catch my literary breath between explosions and startling revelations and shootouts.

So, I've found a little empathy for my students who complain that Mary Shelley spends a lot of time in "Frankenstein" blabbering about the title character's childhood and Washington Irving's "Sleepy Hollow" makes for a crappy ghost story with all that stuff about food and harvest. I kind of agree-- some of those so-called classics would not be published in today's market.

I wouldn't buy it. I'd buy something with snappy prose and snippets of backstory and strong, misanthropic female characters who can use their brains, their fists and their bodies… gee that sounds like a good book. =)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

This is Neat!

Came across Daily Lit, a site that delivers books to you via email or RSS in 5 minute chunks. They're clearly mining public domain works, which are free, but also have "contemporary" titles you can purchase as well.

What a neat idea-- after all, we *all* seem to have plenty of time to read our email. Even if we don't have time to read a novel.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Favorite Lines

"Miss Fromsett gave me a sweet sad smile and I gave it back to her in the form of an obscene leer. I ate another cigarette and more time staggered by." --Lady in the Lake, Raymond Chandler.

I think the unusual verbs are the best part. As a word-nerd, that sort of word play gets me everytime. I think the word choices are seriously part of what makes crime noir what it is.
  • Last story finished: Summer Highs
  • Reason for not writing: working far too many hours
  • Current song: Schism, by Tool

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Muse is Hibernating

It's been damn cold here in my Mitten-shaped state. Too cold for me. And apparently also too cold for my muse. I think my muse has gone into hibernating. I've barely found any words in my keyboard.

But I have done some thinking. Mainly as I drive halfway across the county, and back, from my temporary exile to work.

Many of Bo's stories, and most importantly, The Novel, are set in "current day" Michigan. The economy around her sucks like a Dyson, without the manuverability of those special wheels. Would people still hire a private investigator? Would Bo be likely to fall on more difficult times, financially? Or is she just hot enough and smart enough to keep it up? Or am I just doing what writers do best-- obsess over stupid, trivial things?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


I'm adding some links to my page-- places I've been surfing and lurking. And now it's time to put up links.

1. Patti Abbot's Page-- a fellow writer, and fellow Michigander
2. Graveyard Shift-- an amazingly informative page by Lee Lofland, former cop. Wow!
3. Hey, There's a Dead Guy in the Living Room-- a mystery publishing blog

Ah, the internet. Where Procrastinators go when they should be doing something else... It's either that or do laundry.

Hello, Google!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Love Hardboiled

Patti Abbot commented on my Valentine's Story (Cupid's Bullet) that she thought the guy had a box of candy behind his back. After I stopped laughing, it I realized, "Oh yeah. People do that sometimes!" They hide candy, or jewelry, to surprise their sweetheart. Writing that Valentine's story, it never even occurred to me to write something happy or lovey-dovey. It was about crime, love gone wrong, maybe seduction.

That's the sort of love I recall from the hardboiled and noir stories I've enjoyed. It's as hard and dark as the detectives, the dames, and the world they live in. No happy, sappy endings, no flowers and wedding gowns. No happily ever after.

Most of the hardboiled detectives continue to be loners, book after book, even after meeting some speical someone for a hundred or so pages in the last book. Less-hardboiled detectives seem inclined to meet and get sweet on someone along the way.

Should the hardboiled detective stay single, I wonder? Does falling in love make one, at least appear, softboiled?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Cupid's Bullet: A Valentine's Day Story

(This story is part of a blog event initiated by Patti Abbot. Visit her site, Powderburn Flash, or Gerald So's site for links and/ or other Valentine's themed stories by other writers. And look, if you're here looking for warm fuzzy lovey-dovey, you're in the wrong place. If you like a hard edge to everything, even Valentines, or you like Bo Fexler, then enjoy!)

A Bo Fexler Story
by Clair Dickson

"So." I leaned in. "How would you compare me to your ex-girlfriend?"

"She was dark haired and much shorter than you are. But still very pretty." Todd reached over and took my hand.

"Her name was Gwen, right? How long were you with her?"

"About two years. It was this time last year that we… broke up. Just before Valentine's Day."

"That's rough."

"I don't wan to talk about my ex. I want to talk about… us." He smiled.

I fought the urge to recoil. I'd been dating this man for only a record-breaking three months. One of my longest relationships. The server saved me, asking if we wanted desert.

I declined.

"So, I was thinking, Bo, that after this, we'd go for a walk and see the stars."

I swallowed the bitter comment and smiled. Apparently not being me is the secret to longevity in a relationship. "I'm guessing you have a spot you'd like to take me to?"


"You go there with Gwen?"

"Sometimes. It's one of my favorite spots. It's just a great place to go. I'd like to take you there. I swear, you ask a lot of questions about her. I told you, she's gone. She's not a part of my life in the slightest."

"You were with her for two years. You have to know something about what she's been up to and where she's gone! From mutual friends—I know the type! The ones who feel it's their duty to tell you all about your ex's now-wonderful life. I just don't buy that you don't know anything about what's happened to her since you two broke up."

"I don't know what to tell you, Bo, but I don't know."

"Bo? Some short form of Bonnie? Uh, no," I countered. "I'm quite happy with my name." I smiled sweetly.

He nodded, a smile pressed to his mouth. A smile that was as slimy as a newt. I was instantly twice as cautious as before.

Todd insisted on taking his truck across the county to his favorite spot. He turned into a small driveway and illuminated the headstones with his headlights.

"A cemetery?"

"Just through those trees, there's a clearing. We can lay there and look up at the stars. It'll be really nice." He came to a stop at the top of the hill, shut of the lights, then the motor. He turned to me. One hand was behind him, as if reaching into a pocket or holding something out of sight.

A moment passed. "You first."

He brought his arm out. "No. You." He held a gun. A small one. Didn't look like it was much bigger than my little .22 caliber, carried in my ankle holster.

"Okay, you know I'm not a romantic, but the way to my heart isn't violence either."


I didn't. Maybe it's the blonde. "This what you did with Gwen? She broke up with you, started seeing someone else, so you killed her?"

"I know who you are. Bo Fexler, the private investigator. Who will do anything for a case."

"I figured you had when you called me Bo at dinner. She's buried up here, isn't she?"

He didn't answer, but his eyes glanced off.

"You didn't mean to kill her, did you?"

He shook his head. I brought my knee up in front of me, getting comfortable, or so it appeared. "Why did you then?"

"I couldn't stand the way Jim made her so unhappy."

"The love letters she was emailing him from work didn't seem to come from an unhappy woman."

"He wasn't good enough for her!"

"Who did you shoot first, anyway?"

He waved the gun at me.

"You're already going to kill me. We both know that. What am I going to do to stop you?"

He considered. "I shot him. And she was mad at me. So, I shot her. For hurting me. I didn't want to. I loved her."

I slid my hand up my shin. Then, in one quick motion, I leveled the gun and fired. The bullet hit his left arm-- I missed his heart. I used his distraction to grab his gun away from him. He put his hands up. And started to weep. "I loved her. I couldn't lose her!"

I didn't get it. Maybe that's why none of my relationships have lasted that long. That and the hard heart that allowed me to shoot a man.

<3> --{-----@

Happy Valentine's Day. And read some of the other stories. We've all been working hard. When not bombarded by adds for jewelry...

Patti Abbot's site.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Sometimes, in spite of all the work one does, there's little to show for it. That's been my story of late. I've worked on a few stories-- and just got one accepted. I have a handful of other stories of varying ages that are out schmoozing with editors. At least I *hope* the stories are schmoozing. That's that their instructions are! But alas, still no new stories to published in a while.

Speaking of schmoozing and behind the scenes work, it seems to me that reality and fiction collide in regards to investigations. In fiction, the reader expects excitement and every clue leading somewhere. Everything moves the story forward towards the solution to the mystery. Obviously, real life is going to be far more boring. But some of the "boring" stuff such as paperwork and survillance are the most reliable methods for getting information. Then I have to conclude that one has to write carefully-- include the "boring" stuff along the way, but focus on and play up the exciting stuff, like the sexual favors and threats and casual conversations.

Or am I wrong, and a private eye novel should leave the boring stuff to the real world?

  • Story in Progress: Bo Novel #1, currently hovering at 53k, +/-2k
  • Reason for Not Writing: Homework
  • Current Song: Ding Dong Song by Gunther ;-)

Friday, February 8, 2008


I'm a long-time user of Microsoft Word. As long as I've been writing. But there was something new I recently learned that I want to pass on to all my fellow-writers who write novels with Word. The Document Map. It is one of the most delightful features of Word. Aside from the cat.

The Document Map uses Styles. So, start by putting your cursor next to the text you want to apply a Style to, such as the title "Chapter 2". Find the Styles button (circled in purple in the picture here.) You can select a Style, such as Heading, from the list.

To Modify a Style you can click the Style button (the little AA looking button). This will bring up the Styles. You can modify the Styles to be whatever font you'd like, you can make it centered, you can even set it to start a new page with that Style.

Now, the best part. Go to View-->Document Map. A new pane will appear on the edge of your screen. It will have everything with a Style (and sometimes some other things... but that's Microsoft.=) When you click on the text in the Document Map, you will automatically jump to that location in the document. It's like links on a webpage. Talk about easy navigation!
This has a been a public service announcement from one writer others.
  • Last story Completed: Bitter End
  • Story Currently In Progress: Just the Novel
  • Reason for Not Writing: Taking Microsoft Word Certification Exam... I "failed" with an 89%!

Friday, February 1, 2008

A Little Slanted

I have my biases. Especially in reading. I've read stories that I just didn't get into. Just finished a book, which I will not name, that I had a really hard time getting into. I spent a lot of time-- usually while I was zipping back and forth across the county to school and back-- musing over what in the book was not sitting well with me. I think I figured it out. The story, I thought, played out pretty well. The end was a bit lumpy, but I can accept it as "okay."

If I was an editor, I would have to think hard about the story before accepting or rejecting it. I would have to make sure that I wasn't rejecting the story based on bias, but rather on something else. But that's how *I* would be as an editor.

I don't think all editors are that aware of their biases. Or able to make decisions without letting their bias trump all.

I was going to liken editorial bias with teacher bias, and point out that teachers have to put their biases aside in the classroom. But that analogy falls quickly apart when one actually looks at teachers. Many teachers are not able to put aside their bias. They're prone to deciding the skater kid is a druggie, or that the pretty girl is dumb, or that the kid in button-down shirts and glasses is college-bound-- and they may act accordingly.

Maybe we're all a little slanted.

Everyone doesn't have to like Bo Fexler. I just wish that wouldn't affect the decision to accept a story. But bias is what it is. It is a predisposition, and it does affect how one reacts to something.

Story In Progress: Bo Novel #1
Last Story Completed: Par for the Course
Reason for Not Writing: first week of the new semester
Current Song: How to Save a Life by The Fray