Sunday, March 30, 2008

My Town Monday: Cross Roads

Livingston County is along three major crossroads in Southeast Lower Michigan. (For those not aquainted with the Mitten-shaped state, we here do tend to use 'lower' Michigan to differentiate from the Upper Pennisula.)

Don't mind my map. I "borrowed" it from the Livingston County webpage and made some alterations and labels and stuff.
I-96 runs from diagonal across the county. To the west it heads to state capital, Lansing. To the east, it goes to Detroit. Mostly, I-96 is three lanes. I don't like when my travels along I-96 take me beyond M-59 or US-23. Between those points, 96 is a pretty decent drive. You won't usually get run off the road or find your little car ready to be mounted by some massive and over-eager vehicle coming up from behind.

I-96 has several distinctions. It is the only two digit InTRAstate interstate. It only exists in Michigan. I-96 from Brighton to Farmington was part of the first "freewayization" and was built in 1957. This stretch was one of the first limited access freeways in the area, when such things were new and fangled. (source: )

(Picture: I-96 opens in 1962. Photo "borrowed" from Howell Bicentennial while it was checked out of the library. Hey, I'm totally not old enough to have been there!)

Before I-96, Grand River was the major East-West route between Lansing and Detroit. Once the limited access highways went in, Grand River became just the major local road. It runs through the centers of Brighton, Howell, and Fowlerville. Grand River has it's own neat history, but that's for another post.

US-23 runs North-South through the east side of the county. This major thoroughfare is a mere two lanes. To the south, it goes to Ann Arbor. Last I heard, US-23 south between Brighton and Ann Arbor was "at capacity" during rush hour. Which apparently means traffic slows to a twenty mile per hour crawl... on the good days. To the north, US-23 eventually goes to Flint. 23 North is a better drive, I think because it's a longer drive to get anywhere so folks just settle in for the trip.

Running parallel to US-23 is "Old 23". Occiasionally, there are signs marking this as "Whitmore Lake Road", but it's really just Old 23. This was pretty much the route of US-23 before US-23 was shifted and turned into a limited access freeway. The surface road remains (mostly) and is called "Old 23." I think the signs actually say "Old US-23."

Next is M-59. Through most of the county M-59 is a 2 to 5 lane road. As it leaves Livingston County, it becomes a divided highway. Somewhere later, it becomes an expressway (or limited access highway). And I think it ultimately leads to Detroit. I swear, all E/W expressways in this part of the state lead to Detroit. I think it has something to do with the Metro Detroit area having a huge portion of the population or some such silly reason... ;-) M-59 is also labeled as Highland Road. Which, gets confusing, especially at certain intersections, like the one at M-59/ Highland Road and Michigan Ave by Howell. As far as I can tell, at M-59, Michigan Ave changes names to become Oak Grove Road. So the road sign at the corner has four road names for two roads!

Oh, yeah, almost forgot M-36. This little mostly 2-lane road meanders across the southern part of the county. It sees a fair amount of traffic since it's one the primary routes to take folks from Pinckney and Hamburg out to US-23, which they then take to 96, 94, or other routes to their work desinations.

A last route I'll mention is D-19. It's not on the map above, but if your drew a more-or-less straight line south from Howell to Pinckney, that would be D-19. It's another winding 2-lane road. In Pinckney, travelers can pick up Dexter-Pinckney Road and travel onwards to Ann Arbor, but since these are winding, two-lane roads, they are not the primary choices. Talk has been had over the years of making a major North-South thoroughfare through the western side of the county to help develop it. I think that part of the county is just fine the way it is.

Aside from these major roads, there are, of course, plenty of ways to get around. Many of the roadways in Livingston County are dirt... or, do to lack of proper maintenance in these, ah, lean times, some of the paved roads are reverting to dirt. It's like when you place SimCity, but don't fund the transportation department well enough, your roads disintegrate into rubble. Many times paving of dirt roads is voted down because the residents want to maintain a "country" feel. But they sure do want to get excited about the CVS going up on the corner next to the Walgreens in front of Wal-Mart and Meijer... as a lifetime local-yokel, I would rather drive ten minutes-- or even twenty minutes!-- to get to a grocery store or pharmacy than have even one one every damned corner.

But, I'm one of those strange creatures who lives and works in the same county. It's not a bad place to call home.

Shoot, I've even set my stories and novel in this part of the world. There's enough people here, and enough variation, that I could write pretty much whatever I want.

I'd invite you all, but the truth is, I think we got enough people around here. =)

(Thanks go to Travis Erwin for starting My Town Monday).

Friday, March 28, 2008

Ah, Family

Over at the wonderful Powder Burn Flash site, Bo's at it again with the short story "Family Resemblance."

Now, unlike the girl in the story, I look far too much like the folks in my family to have ever thought I was adopted! It's actually kind of spooky how people I've worked with can identify my family members as being related to me... on sight.

But I don't talk much about my family publicly. One of the few traits I share with my misanthropic protagonist. Others include a penchant for Diet Pepsi and a sharp tongue.

I'm keeping the poll open a bit longer for those who haven't voted. Please do. =)
And, barring in any unforseen tragedy, I'll be posting a My Town Monday.

  • Story in Progress: Hit Woman
  • Last Story Finished: Untitled/ Man of the Month variation
  • Reason for not writing: Stuck
  • Current Song: Big Wheel by Tori Amos

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Sex and Violence

Readers have expectations about the authors and characters they read, particularly recurring characters. Unless I miss my guess, readers of Bo Fexler stories expect to see sex, violence, profanity and smarts.

To me, of course, there is more the Bo than sex and violence. I'm most interested in her ability to solve cases, through any means necessary.

But is it ever a disappointment to read a Bo Fexler story that's missing the sex and violence?

What authors or characters have you read that you were disappointed by a deviation from the expected?

Monday, March 24, 2008

My Town Monday

I saw Patti Abbot doing this and thought it was kind of neat. I also found the source, Travis Erwin, a writer from Texas. So, I thought I'd join in.

Coicindentally, my little part of Michigan, happens to be where Bo ends up living. Wow-- imagine that!
Livingston County, Michigan. It's still mostly rurual, with a swathe of so-called civilation (or at least population) running along the middle where I-96 carves it's path between Detroit and Lansing.
According to the last census records, there were more people in the city of Ann Arbor than their are in all of Livingston County.
A lot of people allegedly move here from the Metro Detroit Area. For me, the "Metro Detroit" area is pretty much anwhere east of, say, Novi. But, I'm a local yokel. The hustle and bustle of downtown Brighton or of the Latson Road interchange is more than exciting enough for me.
With the mix of rural life and city life, I get to see pristine Hummers and beat up pick up trucks with mud up to the mirrors and grass stuck in the grill. Which do you think actually went off-road?
Like Michigan's weather with it's range of possibilities, I find that Livingston County serves me pretty well for writing the settings I'm looking for. And if I don't have what I want here, it's a less than hour to get to Flint (north), Lansing (west) and Ann Arbor (south.) Besides, I've lived here my entire life-- it's the type of area that I've experienced living in. If I were to make up a fictional area, it would surely be like Livingston County.
This is my home. I plan to stay. (Crappy weather, potholes, and wretched economy and all.)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Spring has Sprung

Spring in Michigan this year came just before a snow storm. Several inches worth of powdery wet white stuff is not the sort of thing I associate with spring. My mental image is more along the lines of blue skies with puffy white clouds; leaving my winter coat, hat, scarf, and gloves at home; and quiet evenings listening to spring peepers in that brief period before the humm of air conditioners takes over.

But, I don't mind the weather. It just is. Like the road backing up at 5:10 when I need to get on my way to class. Or the certainty that some ijot will try to run me of the expressway before I can merge. Just is.

Eventually, the snow will melt and stay melted. Eventually, the moat in front of the garage will slowly drain away. And spring really will be here.

I've lived in Michigan my whole life. (Okay, that's nto saying much...=) But, I find the variety and the ever-changing nature of Michigan weather to be incredibly conducive to storytelling. As author (aka minor god) I can write whatever weather I want and it's feasible in Michigan. Rain, snow, sleet, bone-chilling cold, blistering heat, vicious thunderstorms, knee-deep snow. I can fit the mood of the story, or provide a contrast-- such as pairing the pleasnt spring day with ugly conversations or discoveries.

In my short stories, one of the things I have to decide pretty early on is the weather. When, during the year, is the story set? What weather will Bo contend with? Is it usual weather? How can I use the weather to show something-- such as her character? Maybe it's a freak winter snow storm and she's swearing at the pile of snow she has to brush off her car even though she was really, really tired of brushing snow off her car about three months ago... oh, wait, that's me. And that is the one part of snow that I tire of really early in the winter.

But I still don't mind Michigan weather, overall. Small price to pay for having such great story-writing opportunities. And for getting to live in a state shaped like a Mitten.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

X, Y, Z

I suppose we're all ex-something. How much does what we used to be define who we are?

Some of the other female detectives out there are ex-secretary, ex-clothing buyer, ex-cop, ex-porn star. In those stories, it seems to matter what they used to do.

Philip Marlowe was always an investigator. He went to college, and claims he can still speak English if there's need for it, (The Big Sleep.) He was never a cop. In fact, there only thing that seems to matter is that he is an investigator.

I'll admit that I'm influenced by Chandler. But also, my own tendency in life is to talk about what I am currently, without much regard to what I used to be. This bleeds into my fiction. Bo is a private investigator. She might have been something else before (bonus points for anyone who knows what!). But, does it really even matter? She's still young and sexy and licensed as a private eye.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Lock and Load

Bo Fexler has a past. I have no intention of sitting down and explaining her past, in the novel or otherwise. She maintains that she doesn't like to talk about it. But I do refer to it in snippets and lines. Things that give glimpses and show a backstory without stopping the current story to extrapolate.

It's like that one line from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Han Solo announces that he's leaving. Leia thought he'd changed his mind. To which, Han replies, "Well, that bounty hunter on Ord Mandel changed my mind." A single line. No further explanation. But yet, the audience gets loads from that one line. They were on Ord Mandel. Han ran into a bounty hunter-- I even conclude that it was an unpleasant and dangerous exchange. And it affected him. So much information is so small of a line.

Loaded lines. Even more potent than loaded words.

  • Story in progress: Hit Woman
  • Current Song: Here Comes the Sun, by the Beatles. (And maybe someday soon the sun will come out here in the Mitten-shaped state!)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Big Instruments at Muzzle Flash

DZ Allen's got my short story "Big Instruments" up at Muzzle Flash today. An amusing little tale with some misunderstanding.

Besides, size matters not. It's how well you play with that instrument.

Oh, it's not a Bo Fexler story. She's been taking it easy while I've been insanely busy.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Favorite Lines

"The grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence. Sometimes it's poison ivy."
--Dear Abby, Feb 24, 2008

  • Story in progress: Slashed
  • Current Song: Tear You Apart by She Wants Revenge
  • Reason for Not Writing: reading archives of the local paper... i love history, espeically local history!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

One Year

Today marks the one year anniversary of this blog. One year ago, I had 13 short stories published. Today, I have almost 40.

Last year, I was still worried that it was a fluke-- or a dream-- that I wasn't really getting short stories accepted. There's still a surreal quality to reading acceptances. I still open each one, steeling myself and thinking "Blah blah not right for us." But those responses don't come as frequently as they used to.

One year. It hardly seems like it's been that long. Maybe by this time next year, I'll have the novel done. Maybe I'll have one hundred short stories scattered across the internet like bread crumbs. Bitter bread crumbs.

It's been a great journey so far. I still love writing-- and I love sharing that writing with the world.

In a moment of temporary sappiness, I want to thank the editors of those publications that have taken my writing and I want to thank the fans who follow Bo through the dark alleys of the web. Writing is great-- sharing it is even better.

We now return to our regularly scheduled bitterness.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Futzing around on the internet

Came across this site: where you can make South Park-looking characters. (I found it while reading the archives at Miss Snark.)

So, of course, I made Bo.


  • Last Story Finished: Summer Highs
  • What I should be Doing: Finishing my grading
  • Current Song: Beauty Queen/ Horses by Tori Amos