Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Crime & Suspense Spring & Summer

The latest issue of Crime and Suspense is now available and it includes the Bo Fexler short story "Summer Highs." The theme of the issue was Spring Break and Summer.

It's a subscription site, though I think it's worth it.

It's nice to read some summery stories and think warm throughts. It hasn't reach fifty around here all week. And there was rumor of snow flurries, but that rumor was dispelled by temperatures that at least stayed up over the freezing mark. I'm not complaining. My optimum operating temperature is a much high range, but this is spring in Michigan. Usually it's "Sweater-weather", warm enough to leave the old winter coat in the closet. The sun is nice and warm. The grass is starting to turn green.

Everything looks good from the view out my office window. *Go* outside? Not likely. My computer is inside. Where it's nice and warm. With my supply of Diet Pepsi and my tunes.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Inching Along into the Endgame

So, I've been doing some work on THE NOVEL. (Damn thing is still untitled, but that's another, less troubling issue.) I've inched back up past the 50k mark. After many long weeks where 2k forward meant 3k back. All for the good of the story, but it's a little hard not to notice that my word count doesn't move forward.

Afterall, in noveling, what else does one have to mark "progress" by but an increasing number of words, lines, pages, and chapters? Anything else is as tangible as hope.

I think I've set all my pieces into place. I think the vast majority of plot is in place and ready for execution. My pawn is staring down the line to certain checkmate in five moves. I am moving into Endgame.

Without a doubt, this is the hardest part of writing for me. Beginning stories is easy for me. Everything sparks an idea, a possible story. I sit town and tap them out on Old Trusty, my 12 year old keyboard. (A goal of mine is to type this keyboard to death, but it's a resilient thing! I can't say the same for the mice I've gone through. Like the one that I spun all the scroll from the scroll wheel.)

Once I get into Endgame, those ideas have to take shape. Great ideas don't always play out in the final stages. Some get wiped out like most of my side of the board when I play chess against anyone who is not my 7 year old nephew. Others work out beautifully. But not without pain, tears, blood, and swearing. Lots of swearing.

I know what I want to do with the story. It's like the stakes have suddenly jumped to impossible heights now. I don't want to put the wrong words too-- this is too important. As if I'm not typing on a computer where Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V are at the ready for an idea that doesn't quite work out to tie the loose ends together. I totally could not have been a writer in a pre-computer era. I would stab someone with my quill pen. And probably burned at the stake.

As I move into the Endgame, it's like the words in my fingers dry up. The flit off to be other stories. Or blog posts. Ah. Hm. Anyway.

From where I sit, I've got about twenty thousand words to finish off this novel. The final show down. Bo's set up to get there. So is the other guy(s). But once I get them there... it's got to be fantastic. Intense! Perfect!

No pressure.

Monday, April 28, 2008

My Town Monday: Today's Letters are M-DOT

Since last summer, the major thoroughfare that I use everday to and from work started it's metamorphosis. They started by cutting down all the threes all the way down the road. At the end I don't use, they completed a massive contruction project. Now, the construction had dominated the portion of the road I use.

Watching the new bridge be built from the ground up was pretty cool. The cranes in that picture are working on the bridge. It is being built along side the current bridge over the TSBY rail road tracks.
But there was one thing that nagged at me. The bridge was not wide enough. The word was always that M-59 was widening. In an earlier post, I explained that M-59 (as shown here) is primarily a 2 or 3 lane road.

They've torn up the land along M-59, changed the traffic lights at the major intersection and begun serious work. Now, I've heard the jokes and seen the many road projects where the orange barrels seem to be doing the bulk of the work. Not true with this project. These photos were taken about quarter after eight on a Monday Morning. Already, the crews are in full swing, backing up traffic, moving dirt around. And they were working Saturday, too! It's like Road Crew from the Twilight Zone.

But what are they doing? All I had was a few bulletins that politely informed me that my route was going to be jacked something dreadful. Sadly, there is no good route to avoid this mess without heading several miles out of the way via dirt roads. Or going through town, if traffic isn't backed up in the intersection over M-59. But I don't much like going through town-- it's quite a bit slower than my normal route, even if I don't get stopped by the traffic lights or the train. (ha! wishful thinking!)

Well, a little research on the Michigan Department of Transportation (M-DOT) website and I'm pretty certain that the stretch of M-59 that I use every day is being widened into a 4 lane boulevard. Four lanes= good. Boulevard= divided highway= Michigan Left= bad.

Ah, the Michigan Left. What is it?

Okay, well, not that bad. (Comic from The Michigan Left is a specially designed roadway where in order to make evil Left-hand turns, a driver must drive past their road (hey wait! I was supposed to turn there!) Then, the driver will make a U-turn in the Mediam (only at specially designated areas). Then the driver cuts off-- I mean, enters traffic and crosses lanes until they reach the right hand turn that takes them where they would have made a left onto at a normal, not screwed up intersection.

I borrowed this image from the Michigan Highways website. The Michigan Left allows the state to avoid those Evil Left Turns. And everyone knows that Left Turns are the 8th Deadly Sin. Seriously, though, I understand that left turns are the most dangerous thing one can do on the road way and road planners are trying to make for better driving. Given the increased traffic on this stretch of M-59, it seems ineveitable that they would create a divided highway.

As a divided highway, all the residential developments along with traffic from Howell High School would be able to make much safter left turns, particularly duing busy times of the day. Like from 8am until 7pm. With something of a lull just before and just after lunch.

My biggest problem with the Michigan Left is that I try to be an effecient driver. I don't like driving out of my way to get where I'm going. Some stretches of divided highway I've been on (like the East side of Hartland where M-59 again becomes a divided highway, there are some looooong stretches without a mediam turn around.

I'd actually rather have a roundabout, myself. Not that most drivers around here are ready to learn how to use the several we have just yet.

The Michigan Left is much, much more common was one enters areas that are, well, closer to Detroit. As a happy habitant of Cow-Town and Little Cow-Town, I don't think we need them stincking Michigan Lefts. All M-59 needs is a turn lane all the way down it. Traffic isn't that bad that it warrants a Michigan Left.

But, like the five lane bridge that was built and used for three lanes, I'm sure this part of a plan for the future. The local government surely thinks that, in spite of the increasing numbers of foreclosures, vacant homes, and empty storefronts throughout town, that someday, Howell will someday grow again. This downward economic spiral can't last forever.

The orange barrels are out in full bloom around here. And in MY way.

How are you enjoying Road Construction Season?
(Does anyone else have trouble with blogger funking up their post once they add any pictures? Oh my word!)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Forgotten Book Friday

This is Patti Abbot's idea. She's a clever one.

The idea is to review a book that's not the current top book that everyone has read or heard about.

My pick: The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler.

This book weaves a tale through multiple characters and settings. The oppessive heat and hustle of the city contrasts with the quiet, peacefulness of the lake cabin. But it's Chandler, so there's plenty of people out to do bad and cover up what they and others have done wrong.

One of the best parts about this book, I think, is how well Chandler brings all the strands together at the end. The two missing ladies-- one rich, one poor. One very clever. A guy that every woman wants. A cop trying too hard to be tough. Some changed names and bad manners.

Unlike the Big Sleep, which has the guy who went of the pier... all the ends in Lady in the Lake get wrapped up, rather cleverly at the end.

I actually use this book in my Mystery English class. Now, I teach alternative high school kids-- but they like it anyway. Not a single complaint and these kids *will* complain. They outright told me that the movie version (from 1946) was horrible. They're right. Don't watch the movie. Unless you have a good group of people to play Mystery Science Theatre 3000 with during the show.

I have to say, I think "The Lady in the Lake" is my favorite book. Ever. Every time I read it, I enjoy it. Even though I know how it ends.

All right, the last thing I'm supposed to do here is tag someone else to join in the fun. I choose Mystery Dawg (aka Aldo).

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Police Blotter

I love the police blotter in my local paper. Granted, there's not a lot of crime in a two-cow town like where I am. But the police blotter is a great catalyst-- it's vinegar on my baking soda brain. Things start fizzing.

Sometimes it's just amusing. Who the hell steals a giant inflatble turkey from a display?

Sometimes it's foolishness. Look, folks, don't leave your laptop, cell phone, GPS, CD collection, DVD player and DVD collection, checkbook, purse, and cash in your unlocked car, even if it is parked in your driveway. It will get stolen. Every other day there's a report of things stolen from unlocked cars in the paper.

Often, it starts me thinking about characters and scenarios. Why did someone steal all those little pumpkins around the county? What did they use them for? I start coming up with answers to the questions.

What if someone reported their things stolen from the car becuase they wanted insurance money? Why did they want the money? And the big question-- how does Bo get brought into this.

That's where the fun begins, really. Because, in order for Bo to be part of it, the investigation has to warrant someone hiring her. I have to make it big enough or serious enough for someone to hire her. So I start spinning. Sometimes the yarn turns into a sweater. Sometimes it turns into a lopsided trapezoid.

What if? And Why?

Oh, I really got to give Patti Abbot credit here, because she had a post asking where people get ideas. I got the idea for this post from her. Thanks, Patti. =)

She's also got a book review blog event coming up.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Okay, I'll play along, but I've never been very good at playing with others...

1. Pick up the nearest book: Baby Shark's Beaumont Blues which *just* came in the mail yesterday. (It was just a hair closer than Lee Lofland's book "Police Procedure and Investigation.")
2. Turn to page 123. What? I haven't even read the damn book? And now I'm supposed to turn to page 123? Errr.
3. Find the fifth sentence
4. Post the next five sentences:
"'Though you spent more time than I would have on the underwear, I love it.'
Sherry's reaction fo my shopping was more gracious than I expected, which said as much about me as about her.
'Thanks,' I said and we were past it.
Otis didn't waste time. He asked her how she ended up in the Cambridge Court Sanitarium."

Now, some times, I'm a little dense, but what the hack does this show, anyway? Do other folks enjoy reading these snippets from the middle of books?

I'm not trying to dis the activitiy, honest, I just don't get it. I don't get thong panties, either. And a whole host of other things.

I'm supposed to tag five other people, preferrably folks who haven't been tagged. And *fumble*!

Patti Abbott sent this to me. And I don't know anyone who hasn't had this thing in the last few days. So, like chain letters and other things, I'm gonna have to let this one die in my hands. Better than killing kittens or students.

Monday, April 21, 2008

My Town Monday: Carnegie Library

Of course, libraries are awesome just because they are libraries. But we have an extra-special library in Livingston County. We have a Carnegie Library.

Taken from the Michigan Historical Marker for the Howell Carnegie Library:

The Howell library association originated as the Ladies Library Association in 1875. That year, ladies began offering books for lending. The need for for spacious, permanent quarters grew, and in 1902, for three hundred dollars and railroad travel expenses, Detroit architect Elijah E. Meyers, designer of the Michigan State Capitol, agreed to provide plans for a new library. The township board hired local builder A.G. Kuehnle for the project. Throughout the county, farmers gathered fieldstones used to build the Neoclassical library. The structure stands on land donated by the four sons of Howell pioneer William Mc Pherson. An addition to the library was completed in 1991.

"If the city of Howell will pledge itself to support a free library and provide a suitable site, Mr. Carnegie will be glad to furnish ten thousand dollars for a free public library building." In 1902, in reponse to a request for funds, steel entrepreneur Andrew Carnegie's secretary sent this message to Howell Township Supervisor W.H.S. Wood. Carnegie funded over 2,500 free public libraries throughout the English-speaking world. The philanthropist's gift to Howell eventually amounted to $15,000. In return, the township pledged annual support of no less than 10 percent of Carnegie's donation. The library opened on November 19, 1906.

Now, if that's not cool enough, the building looks awesome. The stonework is incredible. Apparently, there was some ugly remodeling done during the 60s (did everyone do drugs then?) but it was fixed later, restoring the library to it's glory.

When they added on, the addition juts out the back. There are two hallways leading to the rear addition, but the inside walls of the hallways are the original rear of the building. How cool is that?
I was going to just poach some pictures from the library's website, but instead, I'll directed interested parties to the virtual tour. And they did a nice job on that, too!

There's something truly wonderful about going to the Howell Library. From the neat old architecture when you walk in to the 1875 plat map hanging in the rear, and, least we forget, the books.

Like any smart library who wants to make sure they can keep their funding, the Howell Library has some computers and movies alongside the regular books and the audiobooks.

And there are teenagers who hang out on the front lawn day after day hour after hour. Wish they went inside, but at least if they're hanging out in the middle of downtown Howell, they can't get into much trouble. Too many witnesses. Not that they really cause trouble-- though some folks are afraid of those rabid-looking teenagers.

But the library is still a nice place to go. I think, of all the libraries I've been in, the Howell Carnegie library is still my favorite.

My Town Monday started by Travis Erwin. Visit him for more My Town Mondays.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

An ugly turn from fun and easy to fun and grueling

I love writing. I have been writing stories since I was seven. I'm a total word nerd and word play can reduce me to giggles. And I'm not a giggler.

But this past week that I've been working on my novel has been grueling. I'm not thinking about the word count (much-- though I am inching back up towards 50k). I'm not worrying about all those red and green squigglies (much-- thank you MSWord for another way to distract me from writing.)

The first 50 thousand words of this novel were easy. They came readily from my fingertips, sometimes faster than I could tap them out on the keys. The next 20 thousand words has been a lot more difficult as I try beat the story into shape. I'm not ready to conclude that the method of writing this novel was flawed... but it sure does elicit a few curses these days. No, I didn't outline a damn thing. And I spent months not even having an idea of an answer to the key question... probably not the wisest.

Writing was easy when I didn't know what I was doing. Back in my younger days. And when I didn't worry about what was happening in the novel, just spewed words like a colorful spray of red pop from a punctured Faygo bottle. Writing is hard. It's work. Fun work. I'm still enjoying the fruits of my labor, and it's so nice to see this twisted hunk of plot hammer into something nice and smooth and slightly shiny. Anyone who's ever tried to hammer a bent piece of metal smooth again knows how fun and easy that is...

Writing is really easy when it's just fun. Once things get serious, say, for publication, then the fun becomes work. Again, not bad work, but it is a lot more work than just stringing together fun sentences about fun people doing fun things. (Or whatever variation of fun stroytelling.)

It's a good thing I love writing or this past week of hacking, slashing, mangling and banging on my novel would have easily discouraged me. Instead, I think, somewhere beyond the thick foliage, I might see a light at the end of the novel.

Or maybe just a freight train coming my way.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Sharp Tongues and Sharp Minds

I've been reading some Sherlock Holmes lately (using where they send me 5 minutes worth in my email each day.) I'm kind of surprised by Sherlock Holmes' lack of social niceties. He's not as rude or crude as Phillip Marlowe or Bo Fexler, but he's certainly a bit short and impatient with people.

But everyone seems to overlook his demeanor because they are so enraptured by his intellect.

I'm a bit guilty myself of letting a good, crisp joke overshadow what should be otherwise considered rude behavior. I enjoy the wit of Phillip Marlowe. I've been known to make a few off-color jokes myself, both in person and in writing.

Don't pretty boys and girls can get away with things that plainer folk can't? Can't the contrite-seeming can pull things that a belligerent seeming person can't? Do we forgive the intellectual of poor social skills because of their brain power-- or ability to turn a phrase nicely?

Or am I just nuts for thinking that Sherlock Holmes is terse and sometimes condescending?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


First off, I have to say that 'Baby Shark', by Robert Fate, was an incredible book. I read it in less than 24 hours. In fact, I was sneaking chapters while I was at school-- the kids were working on their chapters and I was working on mine. 'Baby Shark' was *that* good.

It has the a tough, ass-kicking female lead. It's got well written, snappy prose-- no fluff. There's no detour into Romance Land, though there is a nice guy that shows up for awhile, giving Kristin some feminity. There was a great cast of characters, from Henry to Otis. I wish there had been some more of Kristin playing as the pool shark, but other than that, it was fantastic. I have not read a book this engaging in quite some time. I'm afraid to read anything else for fear that it won't be as good as 'Baby Shark'.

Kristin, aka Baby Shark, could give Bo Fexler a run for her money. =)

Now, along those lines is something I've been mulling over. Name dropping. I use a few select product references in my stories. Some just for effect-- such as the mental image of Bo driving her Camaro. Some because they're my prefrence-- note that Bo prefers Diet Pepsi. In the latter category, I've been toying with the idea of doing some name dropping in Bo's reading.

Every now and again, Bo picks up a book. I've been thinking about referencing some of the good books I've read as Bo's reading material. Such as having her get engrossed in, say, 'Baby Shark'. Or have her reading 'Under a Raging Moon'. Of course, being the sort of person I am, anything mentioned specifically would be portrayed positively-- boring books will be just generic boring books.

Would readers notice? Perhaps a few. But to many it would likely be as innocuous as mentioning that Bo was grooving to Tool's "Schism" while crusing down the e-way. A pop culture reference that passes unknown. But it means something to me, and I might just share it with the world.


Monday, April 14, 2008

My Town Monday: The Little City that Never Sleeps

It's 1:41AM. What are you doing?

You could be shopping for groceries or new shoes or lawn furniture. You could be eating out at one of several fast food joints or even a sit down restaurant. You mail a package or even go to the gym. At least you could in the Brighton/Howell area.

We pretty much run 24/7 around here. I'm so used to it, that I don't even consider that the rest of the world... doesn't. I realized this most sharply after a little weekend trip to Shipshewana, Indian for the Regional Pokemon Trading Card Game Tournament.

What do you mean places CLOSE on Sundays? Not in my area. Most places are open. There are few things you can't do on Sunday. Or at 2 in the morning.

I do my grocery shopping at 10pm at night, though I must admit that 5am is better since by then the shelves are stocked. I have my pick of stores, too-- 2 Meijer Stores, 2 VG's, 2 Kroger's and 2 Wal-Marts (if you count the new one out in Fowlerville.) Plust the assortment of drugstores, but I don't go to them. For those who aren't familiar with Meijer, they have the distinction of being the first 24 super-center, long before Wal-Mart did either. So, as long as I've lived in this county, one could go to Meijer at all hours for a can of paint, a pair of windsheild wiper blades, a gallon of milk and a bunch of bananas... at 3am.

I've mailed packages in the middle of the night using the automated postal machine. Of course, with the proliferation of ATM's, I can do my banking in the middle of the night. Then I can go get something to eat.

I'm going to list the ones off the top of my head. I haven't been on the midnight shift in a while, so I might be off. But for one's dining choices, we have Little Chef (local sit-down restaurant), 2 McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and Taco Bell. The last two I think are open until 1 or 2am. We had a 24 hour Subway for awhile, but I don't know if they ever got anyone for the midnight shift. There are probably other places, and much of the town is open until 10 or 11 anyway.

I've never gone to the 24 hour gym. Yeah. I get enough exercise pushing my luck. And doesn't typing burn calories...
It's dreadfully jarring when I go into these strange lands where things aren't open 24/7. Where restaurants are closed on Sunday. Where people sleep at night instead of shop or eat (or work.) I spent some 5 years working midnights in retail and I still love the middle of the night. One of the best parts is that the world is quiet-- but I can still do most everything I need to. Even if I rarely go out at 2 am for a little shopping or dining, it's always nice to know that I could. I am, after all, very used to and rather comfortable with this always on city.
I always figured that if little cities like Brighton and Howell ran 24/7, then surely most of the world did.

Does your town stay open 24/7? If not, how on earth do you stand it?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Now Bo's in the Back Alley

The third volume of The Back Alley Webzine is out today and includes the Bo Fexler short story "Missing, but Not Missed."

Don't forget to read the other stories while you're over there. Bo always travels in good company.

  • Current Story in Progress: Bo Novel #1
  • Reason for not writing: Finished reading "Baby Shark" by Robert Fate (more on that later)
  • Current Song: Missing by Evanesence

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Who am I to argue?

Check out this review of Out of the Gutter #4 by Rod Lott at Bookgasm. The guy seems to have pretty good taste.

As for an anthology of Bo Fexler shorts-- someday. I've got over 50k in published shorts so far. That doesn't include the four shorts that are currently pending publication. First, I'd like to get the novel done. I've heard that it's rather unlikely for an 'unkown' author to get their own anthology published. But when Bo's first novel takes the nation by storm, I'll have that anthology ready in the wings to fill in the gap between novels. Not that I've spent any time thinking about this.

But first I have to finish that novel. It's still untitled, and I just took a very painful chunk out of it. 10k words sliced off the tail end. I think I whimpered. (Not that I hit delete. I cut the sections out and pasted them into a "cut scenes" doc since there may be some peices I can still salvage.) The good news, however, is that I have a much better sense of where I'm going now. I know where the missing guy has gone-- minor point in a novel about a missing guy-- and I know who was behind it and why. More trivial details, but the clarification of such should, in theory, barring any unforseen scheduling complications, allow me to make serious progress.

Unless I leave my flash drive at school again...

  • Last Story Completed: Par for the Course
  • Story in Progress: Bo Novel #1
  • Reason for not writing: playing Pokemon CCG with hubby
  • Current Song: Stiff Kittens by Blaqk Audio

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Motivator Inspections

"Uncle Owen, this R2 unit has a bad motivator!" Luke Skywalker, Star Wars: A New Hope

One of the things that I spend a lot of time on in writing leaves no words on a page. I consider motivation. I ask myself "Why did they do that? Why didn't they do this?"

For example, when Bo beats the stuffing out of the someone, why doesn't the victim report it? I come up with different reasons, but I have to admit my students have provided me with many reasons I might not have considered on my own. Everything from hating police because they wear blue to fear of being a "narc" to worry that the police busting them for something. And here I thought I was the teacher in that classroom.

For my novel, in my little "Novel Notebook" with the nifty collage on the cover, I have pages and pages of notes and scribblings on why everyone in the story has done what they have done. I'd like to think this helps my writing. Though there's still the issue of how much to put in.

Since the stories are told from Bo's point of view, there are limits on how much she can know. She's clever, but not omniscient. And I don't really like the idea of a detective "speculating" on everything or drawing such sure conclusions. Maybe it worked for Sherlock Holmes (though I still don't care for it in his works, either.) Even if we think we know someone's motivations, we're not always right. I've been married long enough to know that... ;-)

The most important question in anything I'm writing is 'Why?' I've had stories stumble then come to a crashing halt because I could not answer "WHY?" A great idea is not so great when I can't figure out what the driving force is. Such as "Why would this person even HIRE Bo?" (That's usually followed with 'aw shit.')

The biggest 'Why' in my writing always comes back to "Why wouldn't this crime be reported?" But that's just me.

What's the biggest "Why" you ponder-- in writing or otherwise? And how much do you worry about character motivation?

Monday, April 7, 2008

Swiss-Army Story

Why write short stories?

I believe that many-- perhaps even most-- writers write short stories to build a "name" that will, hopefully, help them get that novel they've been working on for the past three years published. They (we) want the publishing credits to show that someone besides Mom likes their (our) writing. They (we) might even make a few bucks at it and learn that, hey, it is possible to get something published.

Who stars in those shorts? I write almost all of my short stories with Bo Fexler as the protagonist. She is the main character of the novel I'm working on. How many writers use the same character(s) in their shorts as they use in their novel? I haven't seen very many recurring characters. A few, but not many.

There are some advantages, I think, to writing shorts with the novel characters. One of the big ones would be character development. Not every scene or scenario that tests the protagonist is appropriate for a novel. But those scenes can be tried out in a short story. The more short stories, the more the writer will know about how the protagonist acts, reacts, thinks and feels. With Bo, I know her inside and out. I am comfortable enough that I can leave details out and do not have to explain Bo's actions. Her actions are consistant in the novel with what they are in the short stories.

I'm not going to discredit short stories written just because an idea fluttered in like a Monarch on a summer breeze. There is always a place for random short stories with characters never seen again. I'm just going to advocate using the short story to give the characters in the novel more depth, history, and layers.

And while your at it, you might just get some fans for your character. Or so I've found.

Now, one last thing on this. I think I would have a much harder time writing short stories if I didn't write them with Bo Fexler. I would probably write far less stories, too. Since I'm using Bo, I know who she is, how she acts, who she knows, and where she's at. The biggest decisions regarding these basics is when the story is set (before or after her move to Michigan.) Then it's a matter of writing the case. In the case, I don't have to worry much about the background of any of the characters since they're fleeting and usually two-dimensional. I've got a large chunk of work done before I even set fingers to keyboard.

So, what do you get out of your short stories?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

My Town Monday: First Impression

About the center of Livingston County is the city of Howell. Howell lies about halfway between Lansing and Detroit and that's no coicidence. It was a stop along the Grand River Trail before there was even a road. Originally, the town was called "Livingston Center" a fitting name, if not one that's entirely uninspired.

The Livingston County Seat is located in Howell. You can tell by the map I poached from Google Maps that there's still plenty of green in the Howell Area. A couple lakes. Not too crowded (though getting there...;-) It's a rather pleasant little city.

So, to get to Downtown Howell, perhaps for one of our few attractions-- which include the Festival of Lights, the Melon Fest and the Michigan Challenge Balloonfest or perhaps to visit the Carnegie Library or the County Courthouse or ride the Santa Train-- one would travel down I-96. The best way to get to the downtown area is to get off at D-19. And one of the first sights to greet you is this:

A pair of abandoned houses. One boarded up and looking rather forlorn. The other melting with decay. Especially if you get off Westbound 96, you'll wait at the traffic light staring straight at these two properties. Welcome to Howell.

We have a quaint historic district, lots of cool old architecture, but the first thing we want to show you are these two old negelcted properties.

Occaisionally, rumors buzz about a new road that would bypass the downtown, a route for semi-trucks to keep them out of hte historic downtown area. The construction of the loop road would take care of these two old houses. But in the meantime, we sure know how to put our best face forward.

Now, I'll admit that one of the things that always astounds me is how hard it seems to be for a city to knock down a derelict building that's on the verge of falling down itself. Though, these old houses are often rather tenacious, holding on and standing long enough to be trashed by vandals and punks and drug addicts. I think it would be better to have a pile of rubble than a house that some squatter or kid could get into. Most people aren't drawn to piles of rubble.

There's plans to "beautify" D-19 (or Michigan Ave as it's called coming into town). Plans to put in some roundabouts and traffic lights and flowers and such. But these plans never address the sorry first impression that one gets. There is only ever one first impression. And Howell's first impression is akin to walking into someone's house and finding dirty undies on the dining room table.

And it's not like these houses were recently abandoned. There's no excuse for this.

So, if you happen out to Howell, try to ignore the way we great you. The downtown's much nicer.

(I was too busy to get out and take my own pix, so I poached these. =)
We've got some great history and some neat things in this town. Not eaxactly a hopping tourist attraction, but it's still a pleasant town. If you're not scared off before you get here.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Back in the Gutter

My copy of Out of the Gutter 4 arrived yesterday. Maybe I should call it my contributer's copy. My short story "Bad Dream" was plucked off Muzzle Flash and stuck into Out of the Gutter #4. Along side some other really great stories. Assuming one likes dirty, vile stories that are well written.

Such as the pieces by Anthony Neil Smith, Miracle Jones and Heather Waters. So far. I mean, I just got it yesterday. It's nice to be in such fine company.

  • Story in Progress: Hit Woman
  • Last Story Completed: Untitled Gangster Porn
  • Reason for Not Writing: Chatting it up with my friend Mark Franchi
  • Current Song: Bring me to Life by Evanescense

Thursday, April 3, 2008


Every now and again, the suggestion comes about that perhaps I should try writing something besides Bo Fexler stories. Some people perhaps like my storytelling, but not the vehicle. Some perhaps see me as a one trick pony.

Which, I should point out that in Euchre games, I am called "One-trick Clair" because I will always get one trick, no matter who else called it up. So I may be one-trick pony, but I'm good at it.

I probably could write other stories featuring characters that are not Bo Fexler. But, I'm quite certain that it would just be another form of sharp, bitter, and likely misanthropic character. I think that my writing voice is sharp, bitter, and cynical more than anything else. It works well for Bo Fexler stories because that's how she is. (Funny coincidence, that.) I could write stories with other characters, and I have from time to time tried on other characters. The reason that those stories do not hang out on the internet for reading pleasure is because the stories are either Bo Fexler in another form or they are flat, undeveloped characters.

If I worked on it, perhaps I could further develop these other characters. I've been doing some work, not story writing but background exploration, for some of my secondary characters that I plan to include in the novel(s). I want the secondary characters to be as real and as fun as Bo Fexler, but in their own ways. It's been a challenge to try to see the world through eyes that are not shaded with darkness or tainted with bitter. This work though, I think is best spent on making my novel better, rather than putting out a few short stories.

Besides, I'm having a ball writing what I do. I'm not worried about what some people think about my writing, so long as there at least a few people who like it. I will keep writing Bo Fexler short stories and so long as there are publishers who like her too, there will be stories Bo Fexler shorts to read.

(BTW, little internet birds tell me there are more short stories coming out.)