Thursday, July 31, 2008

What Makes A Car Noticable?

One of the rules for being a private investigator is to blend in. Sorry, Magnum, that flashy red Ferrari stands out like Arnold Shwarzenneger in a Kindergaten classroom.

There are certain cars I notice on the roads as I'm driving. And cars I notice in the lot/drive of the condo where I live in exile. The two are certainly different categories.

On the road, I notice the jackass drivers more than anything. Usually sports cars or BIG trucks/ SUVs. They threaten to mount my car if I'm going anything under 120 (yeah, like MY car can do anything over 80!) They dart in and out of traffic, usually ending up just a car or two ahead until traffic clears the way. They often have trouble staying in a lane, riding along or over the lines. I notice them. I remember them for a day or two. Sometimes I see them again. Sometimes I'm not sure because I'm too busy trying not to die to check license plates or anything.

In the drive/lot where I live, it's a different matter. For those neighbors who live near me, I notice what cars are there a lot. Right next to me, the neighbors have a little SUV. I know they also have a big truck and a small car, which usually park out at the end of the lot, but sometimes they park in front of the garage instead of the SUV. I notice when a new car shows up, and sometimes try to guess who they're visiting by where they are parked. But if a car is there for a couple days, it becomes part of the scenery. I muse then move on.

(In spite of what this may seem like, I don't actually spend much time looking out the windows. These observations are merely from my many trips to my own car, parked off in the distance.)

Most cars don't stand out unless they have some sort of adornment-- the occaisional bumper or window sticker. Custom something or others. I also notice if a car is particularly old and/or rusty, if it is an unusual color, or if it is dented/scractched/broken.

For me, older sports cars in 'eh' condition blend in to the surrondings, too. I don't particularly take note of, say, a ten year old Camaro. Like the one I have Bo Fexler drive, once in awhile.

(Okay, I admit it. Part of the reason I gave Bo a Camaro is because it reminds me of my first car.)

Would you notice a ten year old blue Camaro poking around? Which cars do you notice and which ones don't even register?

TOMORROW: is Friday's Forgotten Books, started by the fantabulous, amazing, Patti Abbot! I'll be partaking in this grand project tomorrow, as well. Come by. Make sure to visit Patti, and the rest of the Forgotten Friday writers.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

You Gotta Read This!

Go on over to Travis Erwin's site and read his recipe for writing. It's true and funny!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Stake Through the Heart Would Have Hurt Less

One of my summer school students finished her coursework early this summer. She puttered on the internet, but got bored of it.

I suggested that she could read-- I have a handful of novels that go with the English courses.

She scoffed, saying, "Who reads for fun?" I'm not sure if it was a serious comment, but it sure seemed like it.

Who does read for fun?

I love to read for fun. I read both fiction and non-fiction for fun. I've read articles on the internet and websites on poison ivy. I know I'm not alone.

But as a writer and an English teacher, it's always hard to find the students who don't consider reading to *be* fun. Though, I think a large part of the problem is that many of these kids have never really read anything that they enjoy. I mean, really enjoy. They've been forced to trudge through books in high school, and the idea of reading more like the ones they don't like can surely be a daunting task.

My Oldest Bother admits to having similar problems with finding fiction he wants to read.

Walk into a bookstore or library and while delightful to a bibliophile, it can be daunting nonetheless. I don't want to read bad books. No one does. But how hard is it to find what you want if you have particular preferences. Oldest Bother likes thrillers, action, something to keep him turning pages. I like hard female characters, preferrably in mysteries, and preferably without much romance. I do a lot of research to narrow down my list of potential books to a few at a time taht seem most closely matched to my requirements. Oldest Bother reads when it strikes him, and doesn't think about research.

And my student... she had already written of reading. In favor of anti-socail sites like My Space.

Hubby says I picked the wrong profession. High school kids aren't generally known for bright decisions. Hubby says I made it worse by picking an alternative high school where the percent of non-scholarly students is higher than the average high school.

I think I'm just a glutton for punishment. I am, afterall, a writer, too. Nothing says maschocist like pouring ones blood, sweat and tears into a manuscript or three, then sending it out for possible and likely rejection.

And maybe, just maybe, I can introduce the kids to Raymond Chandler or Elmore Leoanrd or James Cain and maybe, just maybe, they'll realize that it is possible to find interesting books.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Confusing Fiction with Fact Again

My husband would say "shut up and enjoy the book."

But I keep getting distracted when the book I'm currently reading makes some agregious error that 20 seconds on Google could have corrected.

Maybe I should send this author a copy of "Idiot's Guide to Private Investigating." Or send him to Lee Lofland's book/ site. Because obviously, this author needs to go back and learn a few basic things about the private eye business.

Couple cases in point:
--Private investigators are issued a license by a state licensing board. The local police cannot "pull a licnse" (*twitch*) of a private investigator any more than they could revoke the license of a real estate agent. They could recommend to the board the the license be revoked, but a police officer (even a homicide detective) CANNOT do so.

-- Carrying a weapon in a purse is a stupid and dangerous thing to do. Being jostled in a purse has the possibility of jarring the safety. Further more, it would get fuzz and gunk in a gun, making it more likely to jam. Get a holster, honey. Take your gun seriously.

-- The DMV can't give out records to anyone who calls. And while I can almost buy the "friend who works there," that friend is facing possibly charges if they do. I would imagine most DMV workers wouldn't risk their job that way. Especially for information that any investigator would know how to access (in fact, most people can access the same information if they know how to look.) See next point.

-- Rather than use credit header or other database information that every private investigator knows how to use, this private eye has to call her buddies at the police station. (*twitch*) Beyond that, the police aren't supposed to give out random names and addresses either. But, it's her friend. Gah. This woman couldn't do her job if she didn't have so many friends willing to break the law for her.

How little research did this guy do? I know most people won't notice because most people don't have a clue how real private investigation works. I won't pretend I *know* that much, either, but I've certainly done alot of reading. Including looking up the laws for my state on private investigators-- in actual legalese on the state website.

I guess I'm just supposed to take it all as a fun fictional ride. And for the most part, it's been like eating Pixie Stix. Tasty, but little substance. And nothing remotely real.

I tried so hard not to be disappointed. But when she called her police buddy instead of looking up the information in a database, that was the last straw.

I'll finish the book, but this was just so disappointing. I may try another of this author's books, in hopes that the story is good enough to keep me going. This current book would be a rare 3 star book, but the CLEAR lack of ANY research beyong TV brings it fast to a 2 star book. Sigh.

The character is good though. She's all right. She just got trapped in the hands of an author who didn't do any research. Too bad really.

Friday, July 25, 2008

By Golly, I Think I Get It!

The whole twenty-seven pairs of black shoes thing!

I've mulled over the tweny-seven black shoes thing for quite some time. I don't like when there are things I don't understand. This one has long elluded me-- as a strong pragmatist, I had trouble grasping why more than one of a particular color, of even style, is necessary. I own five pairs of shoes, myself. A nice pair that are big, chunky and black, a navy blue pair because black doesn't go with everything (or so I learned on What Not to Wear), a black and white striped summer pair (when the big chunky black ones are too hot), a pair of beat-up walking-around-in-retail shoes, and my Wave-Zone Velcro-on sandals (not suitable for dress-up).

But, on the other hand, I own hundreds of pens. I have tons of black pens, blue pens, green pens, and other odd colors-- including hot pink, brown, orange, and yellow. I do now understand why my teachers cringed when I handed them papers written in yellow... I have ballpoint pens (the ones that have not escaped off to live a ball-point pen styled life...), gel pens, felt tip pens, extra fine tip pens, retractable/ clickie pens, glitter pens, "extra smooth" pens, and so on. Hundreds of them. No-- this is not an exaggeration. And I don't like to share with Hubby, either. These are MY pens. =)

Why so many pens? Especially when the bulk of my writing is done on the computer now? It's all about mood for me. What I *feel* like writing with. Each type of pen has a different feeling when the ink is transfered to paper. And this feeling dictates which pen I use. Whether it's the grocery list, writting down a phone message, or making notes on who knows what and when in my novel.

I think this is part of same thing that goes into the twenty-seven black shoes thing. There are different finishes (matte vs. glossy vs. textured), different styles from flats to heels. Different weights-- some are thin and delicate while others are chunky. I don't know if most women really need, say, twenty-seven pairs of shoes... probably no more than I need to buy the set of pens that has the turqoise, purple, and lime AND the one that has red, blue, black. Yeah, I need them.

This is making me want to buy more pens.

What sort of similar-seeming thing do YOU collect?

  • Currently Reading: Police Procedure and Investigation by Lee Lofland (amazing book)
  • Current Song: Stiff Kittens by Blaq Audio

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Public Service Announcement: Back Up Your Work

How long has it been since you last backed up your work?

More importantly, how much have you written/ edited/ done since you last backed up your work?

How much would you cry if you lost it?

Yes, I lost something. So far, I've been pretty damn lucky in the lost-data department. Even though last year included two dead hard drives. Largely because I back up at least every semester and have multiple copies of works in progress.

But yesterday, the possessed computer at school got me. Again! This computer has been giving me technological fits for the past two and half weeks now. It started rather innocently-- don't all evil possessions start that way? The stupid thing wouldn't recognize my flash drive. Grr. But I had another flash drive that seemed to play well with this ill-intentioned computer.

Until yesterday. I got to school, the kiddies are working (I'm overseeing the independent study class). I plug in my flash drive. I double click on Bo Novel 2.

The first real sign of demon infestion was that Microsoft Word opened, but my file was taking really, really long to open. Hmm. It's Microsoft. There are rotting logs that are less bug infested. (But I've still been asimilated into the Microsoft Collective. Resistance in Futile.) Shut Word down, try again. Still nothing. Crap.

Rush home at the end of the day. Can't talk, Hubby, must check file! Once I got my computer up and running, the full extent of the problem becomes clear.

My file is corrupted. Maybe from the sex scenes. ;-)

I tried to repair the file. But my pretty words have been turned into a delightful collection of weird symbols in no discernable pattern.

The last back up version is a week old. Luckily, I've been sluggy on the novel and only lost about 2000 words. That's 2000 words eaten by this devil-spawned computer. No other file on my drive was harmed. Not the 5 paragraph essay model or the short story I haven't worked on for months. JUST my novel.

Of course.

I lost 2000 words and a huge chunk of motivation. How much would you lose if your computer got hunger and started munching on your files?

Don't make excuses-- just go back up your work.

  • Novel #2 progress: 15k
  • Currently Reading: Police Procedure and Investigation by Lee Lofland
  • Current Song: Walking with the Ghost by Tegan and Sara

Monday, July 21, 2008

My Town Monday: Old Brighton High School

The title's not quite right, really, but it's the best I can come up with for the building. Currently it's called the BECC building (for Brighton Education and Community Center.) That's what I'm going to refer to as because that's what it is to me. =)

Situtated at the top of the hill just east of town, at the corners of Main Street and Church Street is the building that once was Brighton's High School.

Originally built in 1928, the BECC building replaced the Union School. The Union School was the first brick (and thereby "permanent" school built in the Brighton area.) Previously, classes had been held in houses rented or frame buildings, which seemed to have a problem with burning down.
The BECC building cost $140,000 to build. The first graduating class had eight students. In 1966, 133 students graduated from the school.

The school opened to 341 students in the fall of 1928. The school was hailed as being "thoroughly modern" and "exemplery in design and curriculum."
You can see from these old pictures (poached from Brighton Area Centenniel and Old Brighton Village books, both produced in the mid-1970s for the, well, the Brighton Centenniel) that the original building consisted of the one section as contained in the first picture.

Including the tall smoke stack.

In 1953, classes for the high school started at 8:30am (which is my kind of start time!) Lunch was between 12:20 and 1:19. The school day endd at 3:12pm. The school year that fall staretd on September 11 and got out June 4. Students had to purchase their text books, but could get credit for turning in the books from the previous year. Easter was a TWO DAY recess.
In the modern pictures, you can see some things have changed. The front steps and flag pole seem to be missing, for starters. And the trees are bit bigger these days. Even in the middle of Februrary when it's bitter cold.

In 1950-1, a wing was added to the North end of school to house a shop.

The gym was tacked onto the South end the same year.

In 1954 and 1957, a Junior High was added to the school. From what I can tell, the high school and junior high were housed in the same building for several years.

In the mid-sixties, Brighton began building a new High School down the road. The old High School first turned into a middle school, then later when a new middle school was built, the BECC building got it's current purpose. The New High School, which is still the current Brighton High School opened in 1966. The school has spread out over the years, addding on several times to it's current (and in my never humble opinon, bloated) size of 2200+ students.

Crrently, the BECC building houses administrative offices, a preschool/daycare program and the alternative/ adult high school. Though the last item is the least known of all part of the Brighton Area Schools. Many people have lived in the area their entire lives without knowing that there is a successful alternative high school program in the area.

While doing some research on the BECC building, I came across two articles.
The first reported the results from a survey of Brighton elementary shcool students. This study found that the students were lacking basic skills and didn't like school.

The second article was imploring high school students who had enjoyed working their summer jobs to come back to high school in the fall, rather than dropping out to continue working.

Can you guess the dates of these two articles? Heck, I'll narrow it down-- pick one of the following decades for each article.
1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s
(Answer in the comments)

The more things change, the more they stay the same...

My Town Monday is the brain-child of Travis Erwin.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

I'm Actually A Square

Hey, it's hip to be a square!

Sometimes, it's amusing to me when I look at the stories I write-- with all the sex, violence, crime, and everyday evils-- because in real life, I am about as square as they come.

Hubby's square, too. We figure when we have kids, they'll be cubes.

I don't even drive over the speed limit. Though, I have been pulled over twice. And BOTH times, someone I knew drove by. Of course.

The first time, I think I was pulled over because I was a bulglary suspect. I had just left my parents' now-gone office sometimes after midnight. I didn't see it when I left, but one of the other units had been broken into. Cue the red-blue lights behind me. And me with a computer in the back seat... and a parking brake that doesn't work, only when I tried to tell the office that he first heard that I didn't have KEYS (for the car.) But, it ended well.

The second time-- I saw it coming. I had just left a staff meeting. I was making my left and noticed some guy cutting through a business parking lot (jackass--oh wait, he has extra lights...) to make his left. Then, once he got behind me, the lights came on, and my heart stopped. Yes, I knew I had a burnt out headlight. In fact, it was the third time it had burned out in four weeks. I was contrite, and I think that helped me get off with just a reminder to fix it. I stopped at the store on the way home to get the bulb and changed it in the parking lot. Getting pulled over is hard on the adernal glands of this square.

And yet, I write about characters who have regular dealings with the law. I don't know any of this through experience. But I know it through everyone else, from my students to actual police officers (though I need more the latter.) To me, that's all that 'write what you know' is about. It's about making sure you know what you're talking about, somehow.

Good thing-- because I kind of like being a square.

Though, that does explain why I don't fit in round holes very well... ;-)

So, what shape are you? Round, square, octogon, rhombus?

  • Currently Working on: Novel #2, now at 14k
  • Current Song: I'm Not Okay by My Chemical Romance

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Writing in Invisble Ink

Or the computer ate my file.

I *KNOW* it! I just know it!

I had this great idea for what happens next in my novel. I know I started it, but when I was sitting at school yesterday, the file I had with me didn't end where it should have. The old version of events was still there.

I figured, I must have just been working on the version that's saved on my computer, rather than the one on my flash drive. That must be it.

So I got home, opened the version on my computer. No dice. That copy is missing the tail end of what the flash drive version has. Hmm. Maybe I erased the tail end and prepared to write the new version.

Then I really started thinking about it. The biggest reason I needed the copy that I *know* I typed is that I didn't fully remember what I had come up with. Days had passed, several of them harried and busy. But I thought about it some more.

And I really started to wonder if I had actually typed up what I'd thought. I pulled out my Novel Notebook and checked to see, maybe I had written some notes down on what I wanted to do. Yep. There it was. My scrawl, stating what I wanted to do next.

I don't actually remember writing that down. And I really don't remember writing the scene (or typing it.) (If my memory is this good now, I'm afraid to think what I'll be like in another 30 years...)

With all the evidence before me, I have to conclude that I only *thought* I wrote the scene. I should have written it. Maybe I even dreamed writing it. Sometimes I do dream about typing or checking my email or other things.

Then, with that situation resolved, I made a mistake. I told Hubby about my "lost" scene. He didn't find it very amusing. Apparently he has never thought he's done something then realized that he had only thought it, not done it. I wouldn't say it happens to me regularly, but every now and again. Maybe it's wishful thinking? But now Hubby's worried that I'm losing it.

But, Hubby, there's nothing left to lose: I'm a teacher and a writer. And I'm married. I *know* I'm crazy.

Who's crazier-- the crazy writer or the guy who marries her? XD

Anyone else have a brain that imagines stories... I mean, not stories one can write down. Or am I my own special kind of crazy? =)

  • Novel and Query status: still stagnated
  • Reading: Idiot's Guide to Private Investigating (and getting lots of new ideas for Bo!)
  • Current Song: Janie's Got a Gun by Aerosmith

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Summer and Shorts

Been dabbling in Novel #2 on and off for a couple weeks here. Kind of stalled on it for a variety of reasons, the biggest one being-- holy hell why don't I have any time any more?!?

Summer school started last week, and it's going rather smoothly. I'm overseeing the independent study courses (the kids get their material in books or on-line and have to sit in class to get the requisite number of hours. It allows us to offer more variety with less teachers in a small setting. Anyway.) It's been kind of freaky, like I stepped into the Twilight Zone last Monday. Complete with strange illness. The kids are... working. Really well. That doesn't happen often. These kids aren't in summer school because they're highly motivated, hard-working scholars. Generally.

The only "problem" I've been having is that kid who's taking Algebra 2 on the computer. It's been a long time since I did any Algebra 2. Dammit, Jim, I'm an English teacher, not a math teacher! He's only in my room because there are only two kids in Algebra 2 and the math teacher has the many, many Algebra 1 and Geometry kids. And pre-algebra kids. So, I'm relearning Algebra 2. But even that isn't so bad. Exercise the synapses.

And the schedule's decent. Aside from the whole getting up at 630 in the morning thing. I'm out by 230 get paid for 8 hours (best part). And I get to sit at a computer when I'm not circling the room like a hungry Great White looking for a prey.

So why the hell can't I get any writing done? The only thing I've really made any progress on is a short story I wrote. Took a couple days, but it was nice and short and easy to work on in between circling and breaks and learning/teaching Algebra.

Either I'm bullshitting myself-- which does happen-- or it's easier to hop in and out of a short story than a novel. There's less to recall about what's going on or what needs to happen. Less to scroll through. And it takes less time, overall, from start to finish. I don't know about the rest of you, but that finish line is a great enticement.

I should really get my writing in now... I know that the next five months will not be kind in the free-time department. Someone should really talk to management about working too many hours. But I don't want to get me in trouble.

  • Currently Reading: Idiot's Guide to Private Investigators
  • Novel and Query Status: both have stagnated and will soon start breeding mosquitoes
  • Current Song: Superman by Bush

Don't forget to check out the links to my stories-- I've added a new page to organize and display my shorts. And hopefully my novel(s).

Monday, July 14, 2008

My Town Monday: Kensington

There is no Kensington, Michigan. Not anymore.

Especially not since I-96 was put in through what did remain of the village of Kensington.

But there used to be a little village along the banks of the Huron River, just north of South Lyon and west of New Hudson.

The name survives with the Kensington Metro Park that's off I-96. And in Kent Lake. Apparently Kent is a shortening of Kensington since Kensington was too long for local people to say in everyday conversation. They used the longer word in print, and the shorter word in speech. The shorter version was attached to one of the local lakes. (And you thought laziness was a new phenomenon!)

In the 1840s, Kensington rivaled the other local towns like Milford and New Hudson, and had a hotel, a sawmill, the standard stores, a bank, and a Baptist Church (pic below).

It was the bank that put Kensington on the national map. Or so it's told in the Brighton Bicentenniel (published 1976.) The promoters of the Kensington Bank issued a lot of unbacked currency and unloaded it for land and merchandise around Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Then two officials took off with the remaining assests.

On top of that, merchants in Kensington became known for not paying their bills. In Eastern wholesale circles, the town became proverbial. When a wholesaler had an uncollectable account, he said: "The good have gone to Kent." (There's that Kent again, rather than Kensington! I don't get it... Kensington's not that hard to say. Anyway, back to history...)

Below is the Kent Bank. It was made of red brick, which was really popular during the 1830s and 40s when much of Livingston County (and surrounding areas) were sprouting. The Bank stood until about 1920 or so.

Unfortunately, the tales of Kent Bank have been lost with time. Many people don't even realize that there's nothing left of the town. Or that there was a town called Kensington. Or some of the other little towns that doted the landscape, about a day's trip in between.

When you look at an old map, like one of Livingston County, there were little towns at a lot of the major road intersections. These towns were usually far enough apart from each other that folks could walk or ride a horse on a day excursion into town for the things they needed. As travel became easier, most of the tiny settlements disappeared, with just a few of the bigger towns becoming the place that people went.

Kensington was on the Grand River Trail (now called Grand River Ave) between Brighton and New Hudson. But, long before the railroads went in and far before cars, and even before the Civil War, Kensington was already dying as a town. Most of the structures were gone before the start of the Civil War. Maybe it was because of the bank?

Old Kent Bank (now 5/3 aka the Borg Bank) does not appear to have any relation to the defunct Kent Bank. There is a Kent County on the western side of Michigan, and Old Kent Bank began in that area. Or so they say... ;-)

My Town Monday is a blog event started by Travis Erwin. Since he's off galavanting and gambling, Barrie Summy is hosting the Links.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Writing About Now in Fiction

Admittedly, I don't spend much time thinking about the issues at large-- things like the never-ending war, the presidential campaign bombardment, or even the recession-- with Michigan leading the way. (Oh wait, that's not a good thing for Michigan to be first in! Damn.) Honestly, gas prices barely register on my radar anymore. I'm lucky enough that these are more background noise than immediate impact on me.

I'm fortunate to have enough money that I just stick the credit card in and fill up, though, I do admit to going to the station where use of their special magic card gets me 10 whole cents off each gallon this summer. Woo. Save up honey, at the end of the summer we can buy a Squishee! But we'll have to share.

But overall, my life continues whether or not these things happen. I'm not trying to dismiss their importance. I know there are a great many people who's lives have been turned upside down with current events-- like the floodings and fires in non-mitten shaped states. I've been fortunate.

As a member of this current time, I do occaisionally wonder if my writing should reflect the current culture. Maybe times are tough for Bo, trying to eke out a few dollars in Michigan's delightful economic conditions. But there are places that are doing okay. Belts a little tighter as happens when businesses are folding and packing up everyday, but many places soldier on. Many workers still have jobs. Lots of people have not lost their homes. And it doesn't seem like it'd be much fun to write a story where Bo can't get a case...

I don't see much reason to insert the current conditions into my writing. At least not at this point. Part to keep from pinning the stories to any exact years. Who knows when Bo Fexler will finally make her novel debut? Why set the stories in, say 2008, when she might not see print until 2010 or later-- even if she did get picked up by some suave agent tomorrow? I like amiguity.

I've read about writers who were accused of being afraid to mention the Vietnam war in their writing. But did they need to mention it? Does it matter if the detective mentions that their's a war going on. Chandler didn't spend much time talking about the war-- for example, in the Lady in the Lake, there is one line about 'the war' and another about the Bay City police 'conserving rubber'. His case of missing wives has nothing to do with war or any other current condition. People will lie, steal, cheat, screw and kill whether or not we're in the War Without End or if gas is $10 bucks a gallon.

I'm not afraid to mention any of the current issues in my writing. I chose not to. I'm not opposed to writing that does reference current events. It's just not part of the stories I'm trying to tell.

Oh, and if you get a chance, check out the link to "Past Bo Fexler Sightings." I've moved all the short story links to a new home. They're settling in quite nicely, I think.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Birth of a Snark

One of the issues that's I've mulled over from time to time is Bo's snarkiness. Obviously, as a snarky person, I'm not going to do well writing any other way. I mean, with my talent of finding a dark lining to every cloud, I may as well use it. But then there's the question of WHY Bo is snarky?

The people with the biggest barbs or the thickest shells are, most often, the ones who are the most sensitive. (Um, yeah... no comment.) It's a defense. It's usually honed by the people around the spiky one, whether those people realize it or not. Like Hubby-- he just encourages me by laughing at my snarky jokes. =) And the public school system. Yeah, that does wonders for a snarky attitude.

Some people turn inwards. Some turn outwards. Some do both-- keeping quiet at times and at times snarking out with sharp words. I'm kind of the latter, in that I usually prefer to have a receptive audience for my snarkiness. Or what's the point?

Thinking over Bo's character, I figured that she'd have been shaped by her speech impairment. (Raise your hand if you remember that she has an impairment.) Public schools tend to be unkind to those who are different. As a bookwork who 'talks funny', Bo would not have been looked kindly upon. But she's would have figured out that she could turn a phrase and deflect some of the insults. Just like she would have eventually figured out that she could use her body to... encourage the behavior she wanted.

In any sort of life event, there is more than one response to a situation. I see it a lot with my students-- some insist on being victims while others say fuck it and move on. While some people with a speech impairment would become withdrawn others would not.

I can't imagine an intelligent, ambitious person shrinking away from what they want to do just because they have been teased. I never did. And believe me, kids in public school were not kind to the curve-ruiner and teacher's pet. (Hey, I knew which side my bread is buttered on.) Okay, maybe some would, but how smart can they be if they let other people influence them so much?

Do you ever think about the things that shaped you? Or the things that shaped your characters?

  • Currently reading: Neon Noir
  • Currently writing: Blow to the Head (short story)
  • Query Status: holding steady at 2 partials, 4 rejections
  • Current Song: Tear you apart by She wants revenge

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Writing Locally

It always seemed appropriate to set Bo in my own hometown(s). I can't really explain why other than that it fits who I am as an author.

Livingston County is part rural, part suburban. The cities around here hardly seem large enough to be called cities. Especially when compared to a place like Ann Arbor or Detroit.

I never felt like creating a new setting. I knew it would really just end up being a form of Livingston County. Though, there is the issue of writing about a real place, especially a small town sort of place. Do I name the local places or not?

On the one hand, using local references give it a different flavor.

On the other hand, I don't get out much. Seriously.

So far, I've been using a hybrid. I mention some of the places I know, particularly ones that I enjoy. The rest, I make up. Makes it easy in some ways as I can create it the way I want. Why wouldn't I want to create a whole new setting-- that just seems like a lot of work. I prefer effeciency.

It's working for me on the input side. I wonder if it would affect readers on the output side? Or maybe they wouldn't notice unless they happened through Livingston County.

  • Currently Reading: Neon Noir, nonfiction by Woody Haut
  • Query Status: 2 partials, 4 rejections
  • Current Song: Everything Zen by Bush

Sunday, July 6, 2008

My Town Monday: Early Days

Livingston County, Michigan saw settlement starting in the early 1830s. There were two big factor's contributing to the settlement of Southeast Lower Michigan (yes, we really call it that, to differentiate between the Lower and Upper Penninsulas. It's a Michigan thing.)

One factor was the Erie Canal. With the opening of the Erie Canal, there was a faster, safer route between New York and the Midwest, particularly Michigan. At the time, Michigan Territory was part of the old Northwest Territory. Ohio and Indiana Territories had been carved away and began their bids for statehood before Michigan.

The Erie Canal opened in 1825. Michigan was not the first destination of choice for folks heading West. Some idiot surveyors had declared that Michigan was all swampy and unsuitable for farming. So, for some reason, the farmers avoided the state, settling instead across Ohio, Indiana and into Illinios.

Finally, someone got a clue and re-surveyed Michigan. The state was not all swamp.

Why so many heading West? Free land. After the War of 1812, the Federal Government was giving away 160 acres of free land to the veterns. By the time Michigan was resurveyed and discovered to be good land, the folks running Michigan territory didn't want to *give* the land away anymore. So they sold it. But people still came in droves to Michigan.

People got off the ferries at Detroit. They settled the areas around there (like where Patti Abbot lives) before heading further west. Livingston County was entered from the south, as people came from the town of Ann Arbor north to the uncharted wilderness of Livingston County. There were no bridges in Livingston County in the 1830s.

The early settlers recorded in the 1880 History of Livingston County that they had to clear a lot of trees in order to plant their farms. That's one thing that hasnt' changed in this county-- people still think that trees are in the way. =(

The only major thoroughfare at the time in Livingston County was the Grand River Trail, which connected Detroit with the capital-to-be Lansing. When Michigan became a state, the capital was made in Lansing. This immediately boosted Livingston County's population and business as Howell, the center of the county, is the half-way point on the Grand River Trail between Lansing and Detroit.

Funny story about Lansing. When the first folks to buy land in Lansing showed up, they learned something about the land they had bought sight-unseen. The land was a floodplain. Most of the the land was actually underwater. They'd been swindled. The city of Lansing started as a con. And, since it is the state capital, the cons have only continued.

My Town Monday brought to you by the letters "TRAVIS ERWIN". From links on his page, you can travel the world without leaving your computer. No TSA hassles, no airplane food, and no crowds. My kind of travel. =)

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Apparently, I Don't Know How to Take Time Off

This is summer vacation. I've had more time than I've ever had. I even finished the first Bo Fexler Novel, polished the sucker up, dressed it provocatively, and sent it off to some agents. Then, I figured, I'd just relax, take somet time to work on some short stories, old and new. Maybe read some more.

I did read. I've read quite a bit.

I've also puttered on the internet with hours logging into the Insane Category. I never should have joined Aboslute Write Water Cooler. Bad Clair.

But, the thing that really gets me is that I started Novel #2. Not just a little dabbling as I figured. I had some ideas, decided to jot them down, then maybe the first scene. Now I'm up to chapter 8 with 13k words. How the hell did this happen?

Now, it's not a bad thing, by any stretch of even my overactive imagination. It just surprised me. When I was done with 'Sex and Violence', I didn't feel like doing much of anything that required large amounts of brain power. Especially not starting another novel.

The point after I finished 'Sex and Violence' reminds me a lot of a trip to the Sleeping Bear Dunes. We did the Dune Climb. I'm not completely out of shape-- I spend a lot of time pushing my luck. And my eye-rolling muscles are in fantastic shape. But it was exhausting. We walked a little further until I finally, really convinced Hubby that it's four miles to the shore. Then, we went to go back down. I didn't want to. I would have been quite content sitting on my tailfeathers on the top of the Dune Climb until the cows came to carry me home. It wasn't quite as bad as I thought, but it was still taxing on exhaustion-weak legs.

I don't feel any pressure to work on Novel #2. I'm just enjoying it as one scene leads to another. The pieces fall together. I'm not enjoying it any more or any less than writing Novel #1, it's just there's less pressure. No sense of MUST WRITE NOW.

Makes me think that I could do this for a living.

  • Query Status: 2 partials, 3 rejections
  • Novel #2: 13k
  • Currently Reading: Nothing, actually. I'm between books.
  • Current Song: Mouth (Stingray Mix) by Bush

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Quirky... books?

I'm pretty comfortable saying that I know what "quirky" means. I'd better, since I use it all the time. I'm pretty quirky.

Everyone has their quirks.

Like being unable to put a drink down on a bare surface because it will leave condensation rings. I MUST have a folded paper towel (or similarly absorbant item) underneath. If, for some reason I don't, I can become rather fixated on the condensation rings formed.

Or refusing to purchase clothing with obvious logos-- with a few exceptions for particular, favored brands. Hubby has finally learned that it doesn't matter to me how 'nice' a garment is, if it has a logo for a company not on the short list, it will not even considered. I will wear shirts with witty sayings, but not not logos.

Or setting the alarm to go off a half-hour earlier than necessary just to be able to hit the 'snooze' and get some stolen sleep. I love stolen sleep. It's the best sleep ever.

I am quirky. I understand what quirky means in regular usage.

But I do not have a clue what a "quirky" or "offbeat" book would be. Came across these descriptors in the ol' Agent search. Maybe I've just never read a quirky or off-beat book. I don't know.

I'm pretty sure that my novel would not be considered quirky. It's more along the lines of erotica disguised as a mystery. ;-)

But what is a quirky book? Any ideas?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Ever have one of those Scrabble benches that makes you feel like singing 'Old MacDonald Had a Farm?'

Yeah. Played a couple rounds of Scrabble with Hubby the last few days. (Taking a break from Pokemon. No, seriously.) These were not pretty games.

Every now and again, were all prone to getting the Scrabble Bench from Hell. Either the Old MacDonald Bench or the Polish surname Bench. Particularly amusing if it does include the Z. But, you muddle through, play a Scrabble Junior word (like "Cool" or "Jab") and grab a few points, meanwhile hoping that you get something worthwhile from your new letters.

Last night, though, it got ugly. Six turns in a row. Six turns. I had the Polish Surname bench. And four of those turns I had NO vowels. Not a one.

It gets funnier. Hubby had ONLY vowels. He had a 'Y' for a while, but that's sometimes a vowel too. The came had started so promising with words like "Pasty" and "Valid" (which was sadly made invalid in a desperate move). Elixir even showed up. But when one player has only vowels and the other only cononants and for some reason niether of us is willing to dump the bench and try again (something about stubbornness that is sometimes mistaken for perserverance) the game board quickly devolved into a sad, sad, jumble of three and four letter words that pretty well prevented anything from being added to the current words.

And then Hubby won.

I don't begrudge him his victory. He did get Elixir. But that game just sucked more than a brand new Hoover. I demand a rematch. The letters won that game.

Though, the fluidity of language makes for interesting Scrabble questions. I write eway as one word, same as I write email. But I think eway is still hypenated in "regular" usage. Either way, I denied Hubby using it last night. Since I'm the English major and the writer, he doesn't argue. Though he might spear me with one of my pet peeves, like 'task' used as a verb. *twitch*

I love words. The good, the bad, and the abused. On paper and in games. Scrabble is one of my favorite word games. Just below Fucking with Hubby*, I think. =)

  • Query Status: 2 rejections, 2 partials (if I was a baseball player, I'd be the best All-Star ever! XD)
  • Novel #2: 5k
  • Current Song: I Kissed a Girl by Katy Perry

* Hubby's a good sport. <3