Thursday, December 31, 2009

Transitions

I'm not very good at writing transitions in my stories. Lucky for me, life tends to push onwards, whether or not the transition is any good.

But, it's the end of 2009. I've been in the New House for a year now. We call it "The Money Pit." (I'd like that movie better if that shrill chick wasn't playing opposite Tom Hanks. But I still like the story. And story trumps all.)

Owning a house has certainly cut into my writing time. I'm rather embarrassed to admit that I have done little writing this fall. It's been a busy couple of months. As always, I plan and hope and wish to write more.

Unfortunately, 2009 was not the year I landed an agent. It was a year of many things, though, including completion of Grad School (which freed up time and money that was then spent on the house... hm. Dang.) I'm still hoping for 2010 as the year I land an agent.

I never feel anything new or different as one year turns into the next. The most I ever feel is that frustration over writing the wrong damn year on the checks for about six weeks. Perhaps the calendar is turning over a new page, but my life will continue on, one day after the next, same as before.

No wonder there's no symbolism in my writing... I don't buy into symbolism in my life. For those of you that make something special of the changing of the years, enjoy.

May we all see more of Bo in the new year. (Not like that... well, maybe. ;-)

Monday, December 7, 2009

My Response to Harlequin's "Reprinting" the Pulps

Harlequin is reprinting some of the old pulps-- you know, those old books with plenty of sex and violence-- the sort of story where Bo Fexler would fit right in.

Except they're "editing" them to make them more politically correct. Apparently, Harlequin never even read the Wikipedia article on pulp fiction books... like where it says that pulps were "perhaps best remembered for their lurid and exploitative stories."

So apparently in Harlequin's reprints, instead of walking down these mean streets, the detective will walk down mildly disgruntled streets.

My Town Monday: Hiatus


I debated long and hard today, but I decided to take an official hiatus from MTM until the new year. I'll be working on some new material though, in part because next semester I'm teaching a Michigan & Local History class to my lovely students (assuming I can get enough of them interested in it!)

I'm hoping to have a few posts along the way, but it's entirely possible that the lights will dim on this blog over the next few weeks. I've got a lot on my plate both personally and professionally at the moment (the price of working too many jobs, methinks.) And that doesn't even include this writing hobby of mine. Though I have a few rants and musings that may or may not be subjected on those other than my poor Hubby.

I'll still be collecting links over at the My Town Monday site. And hopefully making progress on the novel-in-progress.

If you ask me, the new year is a great time to start up My Town Monday posts... so if you've been thinking about it, consider joining me in the new year.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

My Town Monday: Dark Alleys and Streets

The alleys in movies look nothing like the alleys that we have around here. In fact, the alleys in Livingston County, what few we have, are hardly ominous.
















In movies, alleys are always dark, narrow, and secluded. Around here, though, our alleys are short both in length and the height of the buildings (seeing as how are tallest building is 4 stories, with most being about 3).









Our alleys are also wide, well-lit, and fairly clean. Some of them are kind of charming.














So, as a writer, it does leave me without any real dark alleys for final showdowns or something. Especially since our little towns have this dreadful problem with illuminating a radius eight miles larger than the town itself (more or less) in all directions with the abundance of street lights. Street lights on otherwise empty, dark streets.








Now, I'll admit that I don't much see the point of most street lights. Downtown, sure. Though our local towns could turn off half their street lights and still have enough light to illuminated any person who happens to be out. Especially about three in the morning when there are NO shops open and about 1 or 2 cars driving within the entire city limits.

Once outside the city, what do we need lights for? Certainly not pedestrians as there aren't sidewalks much past the last building in town. My car comes equipped with headlights, and I believe this is standard. So why are there so many street lights here and there throughout Livingston County? They're blocking my view of the stars! And they screw up my night vision when I pass through the cone of yellow-blue light and back into darkness again.

I've got no dark alleys and lights on what should be dark streets. I suppose that's why I fit in here-- I'm as quirky as my county.

Join us for My Town Monday-- read others or tell us about your own post!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My Town Monday: Invasion


The Soviets came to my little town. In fact, they were just around the corner. More or less. Near Mt. Brighton (which I can see out my bedroom window), a scene for the upcoming remake of Red Dawn was filmed. It included scorching a stand of trees along the front of the parking lot.

There's still evidence of the charred trees last time I drove by Mt. Brighton. Most of it had been bulldozed into a pile for clean up.

There have been quite a few movies and scenes that are being filmed in Michigan, part of the tax breaks for filmmakers. The idea is that it will bring business and dollars to Michigan to be spent, thus helping our staggering economy. (Except the economy isn't staggering. It's comatose.)

This is actually the second movie that was right near me... and I didn't find out until after the fact. (What's that saying-- if I didn't have bad luck, I wouldn't have any luck at all?) The other movie was some small film that included a high school. It was filmed last summer at the local high school-- where I was teaching summer school. One of the teacher's took her class down to spy on the filming at the lake behind the school. Or so I heard the next day when the crew was gone.

Aside from meeting Barrie Summy last week, this is as close to fame as I tend to get. ;-)

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

My Town Monday: Livingston County v. Ann Arbor

The little country mouse left her country home and ventured into the city this weekend. I went to see Barrie Summy at Aunt Agatha's bookstore in Ann Arbor. Meeting and chatting with Barrie and the others was great. Driving into Ann Arbor, not so much.

See, where I come from, the tallest building is 3 stories high. And that's only in the one or two blocks of the downtown in Howell and Fowlerville. Most of the rest of the buildings are single or maybe two stories tall. No towers blocking out the sunlight.

Where I come from, we have spaces between most buildings. Occasionally there's a stretch or a strip mall where buildings are pressed up against each other. But usually, there's a space, a parking lot, or even grass. Not masses of buildings all squished together, block after block.

Where I come from, nearly every establishment has a parking lot. And they're free. Not so in a city like Ann Arbor. I only park in parking structures. And the parking structures in Ann Arbor are taller than our tallest building in Livingston County. Though, I did, for the first time in my life get my parking validated. The country mouse can learn new tricks.

Sadly, where I come from, we don't have very many bookstores. And we certainly don't have a bookstore as awesome as Aunt Agatha's with it's overwhelming collection of used and new mystery, detective, and crime books. Yes, I was drooling.

Where I come from, there's less traffic, less people, and fewer businesses to overwhelm the senses of a simple country mouse. As much as I enjoyed my visit to Aunt Agatha's for Barrie's signing, I was SO glad to get out of the city and back where I belong. Now, if only Aunt Agatha's wasn't in Ann Arbor...

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sunday, November 1, 2009

My Town Monday: Something Fun to Do

One of the common complaints from Livingston County Youth is that there's nothing to do. I think they're just not trying hard enough. There's lots to do.

Livingston County is home to several parks, including Kensington Metro Park, which boasts a water park along with beaches, dic golf, nature center and trails for walking, biking, and skating. There's also the Hudson Mills Park which has disc golf along with trails beside the Huron River. And the Lakeland Trail, which is a linear state park. Plus there are several beaches.

Hartland Consolidated Schools has a fancy new pool with water slides, lazy river and other things since, when building the new high school and it's accompanying facility, the community was in favor of making it a community center. Non-residents are welcome, for a small fee of course. Most local schools have open swim for a nominal fee.

There's a couple miniature (or putt putt) golf courses in the area, including one in Howell and one in Hartland. I believe Golf-o-Rama, the indoor putt putt golf moved into Great Escape, which is a one acre indoor attraction featuring putt putt golf, bumper cars, go carts and more. And it's all indoors, so even in Michigan's lovely winter months, there's a place to go play. We can't forget Rollerama, the indoor rollerskating rink that's about as old as I am. More recently, for the extreme sports folks, a skate park was constructed behind Meijer in Brighton.

There are two movies theaters in Livingston County (well, more or less...) the large MJR theatre with 20 screens and movie tickets that cost more than the hourly minimum wage. There's also a small historic, two screen theater in Howell that is currently supposed to reopen, likely showing dollar movies. Oh, and not far away, South Lyon's historic theatre also shows the older flicks for a dollar. (That's a price I can deal with!)

For the younger kids, there's the Imgaination Station and Castaway Cafe. The former is a massive castle and play structure on the Mill Pond in Brighton. The latter is a large indoor play-place-- like the McDonald's play place, but on steriods and away from the intoxicating scent of McD's food.

For the more extreme, there's Hell's Survivor's Paintball Park. I never saw the appeal in amassing bruises, but I'm told it's great fun. There's also skiing and snowboarding in the winter months at our own Mt. Brighton. Plus summer includes rolling a giant hamster ball down that same hill.

One of the state parks in Livingston County is a riding stable, where you can 'rent' a horse. (That doesn't seem like the right term!) There's hour long trail rides and if you're like me, you learn that the hours can tell you're a pansy...

There's also the usual assortment of fairs and festivals... honestly, I think there's something about every two weeks in one town or another in this county. Hamburg's Railroad days or the Balloon Fest or the Melon Fest or the Summer Fest or Fowelerville's Fair or something or other going on.

Fall includes the Terrified Forest in Pickney and a slew of corn mazes, haunted or otherwise.

Most of the attractions are fairly inexpensive. If you can't find something to entertain yourself in Livingston County, you're not trying hard enough. Besides, it's less than an hour drive to Lansing, Ann Arbor, and Flint, all of which boast their own set of attractions. We've kind of got the best of both worlds here-- small town charm and close proximity to the attractions of the city.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

National Novel Writing Month

I'm not doing it. I've done it for the last four years. Won three of those. And never did another thing with the stories. It's just too much work for me to feel like going back through those stories and editing them into something actually worth reading.

It wasn't a total loss. I learned a lot over time about plotting, about adding words regularly, about how I can push myself to work on my stories.

I'm going to be writing throughout November, anyway. Except, rather than the breakneck pace of 1,667 words per day that NaNoWriMo demands (for victory at least), I'm going to set my minimum word count for 500 words. Each and every day. I'm even going to start before November does. I'm not going to leave crappy scenes or misdirections in my text just for the sake of wordcount.

I really don't care for editing. I prefer to get the story pretty well the first time through. This often includes backing up, ripping whole chunks and chapters out of the story, and redoing the same section more than once (or twice.) It takes me longer to get there, but since editing to me often means ripping out chunks of story and going a completely different direction in this one scene and now the rest of the story is wrong and has to be ripped out too, it's not really worth writing to the 'end' or writing a large chunk if I'm not sure this one scene is right. (This strategy only works if you CAN make it to the end, rather than endlessly revising.)

I admire the people who find editing to be less daunting and can tear apart a finished story. I usually can't salvage much of a previous version. Some peices, but because scene A is changed, this exchanged in scene B doesn't make sense... and so on and so on.

I think NaNoWriMo can be a great learning tool for some people. Teaching them that they CAN *make* time to write, if they really want it, for example. And depending on the person, there are other lessons. But, after several years, I'm finding that it just doesn't accomplish what I'm looking for.

Good luck to any one participating in the frenzy of writing that is NaNoWriMo. May you learn much about yourself and your writing.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My Town Monday: Metro Detroit... and beyond


Most of the population of Michigan is the area known as "Metro Detroit." It consists of Detroit and the areas surrounding it, until one gets about to Novi... or 20 some miles East of me. (Okay, technically, Livingston County is part of Metro Detroit, but really, it's so far out that the designation is, in my opinion worthless... see the red circle on the map?)

Now, believe me, I'm happy not to live in "Metro Detroit" because I'm NOT a city girl. But there are some problems that comes with not being part of that congolmerate of urban life.

My TV commercials are all geared towards those who dwell in Metro Detroit-- or at least have little aversion to making an hour plus trek out of the sticks and into the concrete covered land. Time and time again, there are advertisements for stores and restaurants that are miles and miles from where I live.

Take for instance my recent trek to find and purchase a new winter coat. Being a picky bugger and not into this years "hip" coat fashions, there was discussion about how and where to find one. My husband was also looking for a jacket and suggests going to Burlington Coat Factory. Supposed to be great selection and good prices-- according to the commercials.

Okay... google google. Oh. The nearest locations is... an hour away. And pretty much all the locations are in places that are foreign and terrifying. We finally picked a location-- one at the gigantic mall Great Lakes Crossing. This was selected because most of the journey is on roads I'm now familiar with. And, I know the mall is RIGHT off the e-way. (We were successful procuring a new winter coat for me. And then we missed our entrance ramp and ended up taking a different route home, but it was all good, because, like I said, I knew the roads.)

Most of the chains have never made it out to the sticks. And in recent years, oddly enough, several chains that had spread out this way actually retreated back into Metro Detroit. We lost our Dunkin' Donuts and our Little Ceaser's locations in Livingston County, for example.

We're not Metro Detroit, but we're not small enough to be a small town. We're kind of a strange in-between. If the folks here weren't so keen on driving miles and miles to get to the chain stores, we might just have better luck nurturing more home grown stores. But, being so 'close' to Metro Detroit (and Ann Arbor) we've got a bit of a problem with being a bedroom community.

It's good... and bad. It's those people moving OUT of Metro Detroit and trying to bring the live they left with them out here that ruins it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It'll Be Just Like Starting Over

I knew I was having trouble with the opening of the current Novel-in-Progress. Some time back, my Beta Reader confirmed it. Then, life intervened and things were seriously derailed.

Now, I'm returning and basically starting over. I think the overarching plot idea is still solid, but I've completely changed the intro. Hopefully it will be a better-- or at least more publishable-- version.

Having written one full novel and 50k of a second (plus several NaNoWriMo novels) in the past few years, I have a renewed appreciate for the amount of time and work that goes into writing a novel. I knew it took a long time and a lot of work, but just the sheer scale of starting with word one and knowing how long this one story will dominate my waking thoughts. Well, most of my waking thoughts. I do have a husband and a tendency for story-ADD (look, new shiny story idea!)

Things have been extra busy this year (Side note: I'm tired of homeownership. I want to be a renter again...) And I keep getting distracted from the story. It's harder to chug along on a large piece of writing with regular interupptions-- and I'm not even talking about a day or two without writing, but rather a week where things are so nuts I can't even remember the names of the characters in my story. Sucks.

I'm going to keep on. My goal at this point is 500 words a day. Like putting pennies in a jar. I'd love to have more words each day, like adding silver coins to that penny jar, but it seems unlikely with the current situation. (Fear not, nothing bad, just busy.) But little at a time, I will write this novel. I refuse to wait until I have "time" to just sit and write. I'll never have "enough time" for that. Instead, like the Colorado River, I will carve a Grand Canyon... and write the next best selling detective series.

Hey, if I'm going to have a fantasy ending, dammit, I'm going all the way. What's the point otherwise? =)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Indentification


Apparently, I'm the odd one out.

Again.

Apparently, most readers want to follow a character who they can identify with. One who shares flaws or fears with them. One who is like them in some ways.

I don't. When I read, I want to escape. If I wanted to be reminded of my own shit, I wouldn't be reading. I'd be pretending to deal with my own shit. The only trait I like to share with the characters is that of self-sufficiency or competence.

I read to escape. For a little voyeurism. To get into someone else's life, skin, and flaws. To get away from my own.

I've no interest in a story revolving around a teacher. I've watched some of those feel-good teacher-changes-the-world movies and they just leave me flat. I'm not likely to be changing the world. I will change individual lives and that's the best I hope for. I'll never get my motley crew of students to all ace the ACT (or Michigan Merit Exam) next go-round. Hell, I'm lucky if I can get them to read three whole novels in the course of a semester.

I don't want to read about failed relationships or people who only whine about their failed lives and poor choices. I want to read about action, adventure, mystery, and other people getting by in life. I prefer stories where people are doing at least okay in their lives, not fucking it up.

Now, either I just write it poorly, or what I write just doesn't go over with the average reader. I know that I'm not including these fatal flaws-- though Bo does have some pretty serious flaws-- but I also don't dump them out at the beginning of the book. It's not a massive bitch-fest about how horrible her life has been.

Like me, Bo has a tendency to focus on what she can and will deal with now. She doesn't spend much time lamenting what happened before. She focuses on the her work, current problems, and honestly, tries to avoid spending much time on things she can't deal with-- her past. Maybe this just doesn't (or hasn't) translated to the page well.

But I'm still getting feedback-- occasionally-- that deals with this issue. And I'm not sure how to reconcile it. Do I try to write is as people expect or do I hold fast to my vision of Bo. Do I write for readers or for myself. It's a tough choice. I'm still going to pretend I can do a little from column A and a little from column B.

And it may just mean it takes longer to get published. Good thing I have this cushy teaching job... oh, wait. There's nothing cushy about it. Damn.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Lost the Satellite Signal

(see the gray metal piece... without a dish? And it was only like that for three weeks.)

Monday, October 12, 2009

My Town Monday: Getting Out of This Godforsaken Town

Actually, the title is misleading. Unlike so many of my classmates-- and most of the young people in the county, from what I can tell-- I had no burning desire to get the hell out of the Livingston County area.

I never really minded the area. And growing up in this sort of mostly rural area made me rather averse to cities of any real size.

To this day, I still hate driving in Ann Arbor. Or anywhere that could be considered Metro Detroit. I prefer my roads with two lanes, maybe three.

I never really thought about where I would end up living once I reached adulthood. It all just kind of happened without much consideration beyond "for now." I got my first job at a local retail center... and proceeded to work there for 11 years. I went to college in Ypsilanti (about a 40 min drive to the south). And so, commuting to said college, I stayed put.

With family in the area, I didn't mind staying in the area. (Especially since my oldest bother maintains my car.)

Then, when I got my teaching job, it was in the same county. And so I stayed. We bought a house last year.

I think we've pretty well put down roots. It's kind of odd to think that I'll likely be raising any kids here. It's a nice place to raise a family. Not too busy or bustly. Plenty of shops and a fair amount of recreation opportunities that don't require me driving to places that have too much traffic or roads too complicated.

I don't feel trapped. I feel settled. I still don't want to leave this place. It is the quite, quaint, unexciting sort of place that's perfect for me.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Note to Self


Sticky notes on the monitor.
Notes scrawled on half-sheets of scrap paper.
A spiral memo book of notes.
Notepads of notes.
Text files of notes.

I have notes all over on things that I want to remember or easily be able to find again.


Except I have notes everywhere. I can't keep track of what's where. I've thought about moving my notes to my computer. Not that I think that would help with the proliferation of notes and other information I like to hang onto.

It's a pack rat thing, really. And I hate having to hunt for that neat thing again. Except, I end up hunting through notes. Or forgetting about it until I am rifling through the notes in search of something else or perhaps, even more infrequent, cleaning up.

And I think they breed in the night. Slowly, as they plot word domination. Or at least to take over my office.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Makes Sense



Box elder bugs... on the Box elder tree.

At Least They Know They're Bad At It


Ah, it's grading-time again in this English teacher's classroom. Which means, I spend a whole day preparing myself to read some incredible work.

Many of my students either don't know or don't care about grammar, spelling, and mechanics. Few know how to tell a story. These are high school kids... I'm doing my best, but I can't overcome motivational deficiencies.

But, at least my students generally know they're not good writers. They don't think that their work is of publishable quality. They just want to get their credit and move on. Sadly, few actually want to learn anything while earning the credit.

I can only imagine if I was reading their work in a slush pile. I'm already somewhat disheartened by the lack of quality, time, and attention. (Why, yes, I do worry about the future in these kids' hands.) It would be awful to slog through such poorly written work from people who mistakenly think they are good at it. People who want to see me select their work as the best of all, suitable for publication.

While my collection of writing samples is from a particular, low-standards group, I do, from time to time, get students who think they are good and would love to be published. Students who've never noticed how quotation marks are used, who 'have no idea' where to put periods in their writing, who don't even bother to break their writing in paragraphs (unless required by their teacher who's eyes glaze over with huge chunks of horrible text.)

In writing, as with many things, I've come to the conlusoin, that those who are bad often don't realize that they are bad at it. Bad drivers never see that their close-calls or citations are from their own actions. Bad writers don't think that their poor handling of the craft is reason for rejection. Those with poor social skills may just think the world hates them. And American Idol is a lovely tribute to the people who think they can sing... but shouldn't ever be allowed to, again.

Yes, I'm procrastinating. That's something I know I'm good at...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Does this post make me look fat?


I find self-destructive behavior to be quite interesting.

Things like eating another serving when you know you shouldn't.
Spending money when you know you shouldn't.
And unfair expectations of one's partner.

Now, for some reason, I side with maligned husbands in this category. I despise when a woman-- even on TV-- asks "Does this dress make me look fat?" As it's continually joked about in media, there is no correct way to answer it. Though, I'd go with, "No, sweetheart, it's your ass that makes you look fat," but I can be a bit of an ass myself.

But not so much of an ass that I would ever ask my husband this. Hell, when I gained weight, I mentioned to my husband that I thought that was the case. He agreed. Told me I looked like I had more tailfeathers. GASP! But, he said so without any fear of rebuke.

Of course, I think a lot of husbands get the short end of the stick. They're maligned for not helping around the house, but harshly critized for not "doing it right." They're sneered at for wanting sex-- even though they got a bait-and-switch with sex being freely given in early days of the relationship but withheld after some point (often birth of one or more children.) They're called distant and chastized for not taking care of the wife... but those same wives deny that the husband has needs, too, that are going unmet. And, in too many cases I've seen, the wife withdraws her attention in favor of the kids. The first broken link...

And, on top of all this, it is now 'socially acceptable' to man-bash. Look at all the 'stupid husband's on TV-- you could never have a stupid wife character anymore. (Though, many of my male students are more than happy to accept this lable of being stupid and useless-- less pressure, they say.) My spot in hell will be an ice cold room with a baby shower full of women bitching about their husbands...

You know, I actually like the man I married. Still. I can't imagine doing him the disservice of bitching about his actions publicly.

On an unrelated note, I hate most TV shows, have trouble with most female characters in books, and have learned to never watch anything labeled "romantic comedy" ever again.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Murder in the Men's Room


Honestly, is there anyone who can see something like at the local JCPenny's and NOT think that?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Professional v. Profanity


I'm starting to fear that being professional is a lost art to some kids these days. And some grown ups. Particularly in the age of insta-communication-- emails and texts written without forethought or afterthought.

My students usually smile when I tell them during the first day song and dance that I understand that profanity becomes habit. They smile and nod to each other. Then they get all flummoxed when I tell them taht I can out-swear the best of them. And I could. I can string profanity and vulgarities together in a way to make even the most bad ass high school wigger stop and stare. But I also know when not to use it.

When I'm heavy into writing, I notice that my speech pattern is altered a bit. I use more big words, even in the classroom than otherwise. I'm also more prone to being vulgar and shocking. Though you'd think my Hubby would be used to the things that come out of my mouth... even writing the words makes those speech patterns seep into my speech.

I don't have any real problem cleaning up my foul mouth for teaching (good thing!) though the occasional snarky line does sneak out. Luckily, each time it was with students that found it more amusing to hear such a thing from their teacher than offensive to hear it in school.

Nor do I have any problem writing polite, professional emails. In fact, I have a hard time being ME in email. I'm usually in something similar to "teacher-mode" that's nice, polite, and proofreads twenty-seven times to make sure that what I've written has a very high likelihood of coming across as intended.

I do, however, have trouble cleaning up my fiction for those markets that request things that way. I don't write clean by nature. To clean up, I usually go back in edits. And when I'm done, I always feel like the color has been bleached out of the story. Sometimes I think taht should I release a collection of Bo Fexler stories someday, that I'd go back and re-write the profanity and vulgarities back where they 'belong.'

Of course, the funniest part of all this, is I only swear at top strength around Hubby and a few other select people who I know don't find it offensive in anyway. I respect their right to not heard my creative use of bad words. But, man, they are missing out on some great lines...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

My Town Monday: Backroads

In Livingston County, there's usually more than one good route to get from one town to the next. Some rural areas have only a few routes between areas, but much of Livingston County is connected by paved (more or less) two- lane (ish) roads.

The older and more curmudgeonly I get, the less I like the main roads of Livingston County. I don't like driving on Grand River for long stretches between Brighton and Howell. Too many idiots in their fancy cars with their fancy phones distracting them from the overspending they've just done at one of the too many retail centers in the area. I've checked my car and it doesn't appear invisible to my eyes...

So, I'm learning more of the "Back roads." Growing up, I knew there were at least three ways to get into Brighton from points south--Brighton Rd, Brighton Lake Rd, and Rickett Road. Rickett's the most fun since it's completely straight. It's also a deer magnet. And the site of the my impact with said quadraped.

<-Rickett Road



On the back roads, I can relax. I don't have to worry as much about being run over by someone who fails to notice the little car in front of them. I can listen to my music, talk to myself out dialogue for the next story, and just enjoy the drive. There's no rush. I can look at old architecture on the houses and take in the scenery.


And yet, given the opportunity (and excluding peak traffic times) I'd just as soon get on the expressway than wind through most the major roads of the county. I also don't care for dirt roads-- too much sliding of the car.

I don't like spending too much time in the car. But if I'm going to be there, I may as well enjoy the drive, one way or another. Preferrably with some good tunes playing and no other drivers trying to play Monster Truck Rally with me.

How do you like to get about your town?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Teasing


I know my own ethics... but it's been interesting exploring Bo's. What is she willing to do, how far is she willing to go-- both professionally (if one could call seducing people for profit 'professional') and personally.

Even when I set Bo off to seduce one or more men, like a story I'm currently working on, there's still the question of just what that seduction entails. Do clothes stay on? Is petting and kissing enough? Do clothes start to come off? Which clothes-- and whose?

There's also the issue of what would really happen. I get some women complaining that men don't just make out with a hot women. And it's true that many men won't-- though most men I've talked to about it admit that they might play for awhile, entertaining the idea (and themselves). Can't really blame anyone for that. Hell, if a hot woman tried seducing me, I might play along for a while, too... what?

Like any writer, I sometimes worry about disappointing my readers-- they expect more than Bo gives, maybe she stops before she's (or he's) done. But in the end, the story dictates. The story needs what it needs.

The current short I'm working on-- while trying to find my way back into the novel I had to temporarily abandon-- is giving me trouble. I know it's going to be sexy, but I'm not sure how low Bo's going to go. Or how to resolve the conflict-- after all, there's more to the story than just sex. There's a conflict, a reason for Bo to pull out her sex appeal, a case to be solved.

But I am SO glad that my mind is occupied with story lines and plot problems instead of all the things that previously took over. I miss writing and am glad to be back at it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: We have a budding Pyromaniac



Oh, pertty fire...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

My Town Monday: Hamburg Elementary

This post is a little ranty...

Now, economically, things have been rough in Michigan for quite some time. We lead the way into recession years ago.

One of the casualties of the failing economy in Livingston County is the schools. The number of students has been dropping in all the local schools. This compounds another problem, which is that the Livingston County schools get the bare minimum of state funding, in spite of increases in student body and tax-base. It's a political thing... and it's hard on the local schools. We're suburban these days, but the we don't get funded like a suburban school. We get funded like small-town two-cow rural schools. We're totally four-cow towns, at least.

So, the school districts look for places to cut. One of the places was a little elementary school in Hamburg. Hamburg is a tiny town anyway, and the elementary school had about 300 students. That's it. It was the smallest school in the Pinckney school district, but it was also the most cherished. Logically, it made the most sense to close this one elementary and shuffle the students into the other area schools. It's regrettable, because, honestly, this is how an elementary (hell, any school!) should be. The staff knew all the students, there's was an incredible sense of community, and it was an integral part of the community around it.

Now, forgive a little more political ranting, but if Pinckney was a smarter school district, instead of boarding up Hambrug Elementary, they'd have that building making them money. How? Well, they'd open up their own alternative/ adult education program. Pinckney schools hemmorages high school students, most of them heading to another alternative ed program in the county. These students are non-traditional and most of them hate the way that Pinckney High School is run. (I should know... I was one of the students that couldn't fucking leave Pinckney fast enough. I made it 2.5 years of high school.) In other districts, a well run alternative high school program is AT LEAST self- supporting. At best, it can actually make the district money, as, allegedly, the program in Brighton does.

The size of Hamburg Elementary is about perfect for a small alternative school-- or even half the building would suffice. It would put the building to use instead of leaving it boarded up. So far, there's no vandalism, but it's really only a matter of time. Someone will have "fun" trashing the place and then it'll end up like the closed schools in Detroit-- too much money to repair.

Now I'll admit my biases. I think Pinckney schools has a dreadfully mismanaged high school, still. (I think it's an identity thing-- they still act like a small cow-town rural school when they are not. They are a suburban school.) I also work for an alternative high school that is run well and is financially solvent. I also hate to see this wasted opportunity. There are far too many places boarded up in Livingston County, too many casualties of money and poor planning.

I love my county. Really. But it's hard these days. Maybe my students who think that the Great Depression has to do with needing Prozac aren't so far off the mark...

Visit the My Town Monday site for links to other, probably more cheerful and less ranty posts.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Honest Scrap Award

Jamie Debree has chosen me to as a recipient of the Honest Scraps award. She nominated me in part because I write what I love. Cool.

The rules for receiving the award are simple:
- pass the award on to seven worthy blogs
- list ten honest things about yourself.

Picking other blogs is always the part I hate. I'm not good at choosing. And I always feel bad for leaving people out. But the top blogs that come to mind are:

Travis Erwin-- he's got a skill for telling his stories.


Sara who talks about her life and writing, and bravely wrote about her wardrobe makeover.

Keith Rawson-- another crime writer with a sense of humor I enjoy.

Patti Abbott-- my favorite softie who writes crime fiction


And, yeah, that's only four. Some days it feels like I read a whole ton of blogs, spying on other people's lives. Some days it feels like I'm not even scratching the surface and can't possibly keep up with the people that interest me.

Okay, part 2, which is the 10 honest things about myself:

1. When I started writing, the idea of sexing up my stories never even crossed my mind. I was also a virgin. No, literally. Some time after getting married... things changed in my stories. Probably because I was no longer a virgin anymore.

2. I get bored easily. I don't like waiting or sitting around when I could be doing something, particilarly something like writing.

3. I am a completely different person as a teacher than I am the rest of the of time. I'm postive, forgiving, and tolerant of stupid while inside the classroom. The rest of the time, I'm not.

4. I am so square, I could be cubed. I don't speed, drink, and have never even tried any illegal drugs. I don't even jaywalk (small towns without crosswalks not withstanding.) I don't like to do things that could get me in trouble. It's a little pathetic actually.

5. I find human behavior fascinating. I'm watching you. It seems that the whole world thinks and acts differently than me and it's so curious to me. Take for instant text messaging-- not the act, but the cost! I can't justify the cost, but everyone I know texts all the time, adding money to the phone bill.

6. I never know what to say to people. I'm learning, or at least trying to. But because of this, it does get a little lonely in my land sometimes.

7. I hate nearly all cell phone users. I think cell phones are creating this false sense of importance and urgency, which is damaging to people and those around them. If you call my cell phone, I regard it as an invitation to talk-- I may and will decline that invitation. I do not need constant validation and chances are whatever you are calling about can wait.

8. I married the first man I dated. I have only ever had one sexual partner. And, get this, I waited until my wedding night. Yet, I write semi-erotic fiction with a sexy female lead who seduces and sometimes uses men.

9. Apparently my appearance-- long hair, glasses, nerdy, and quiet (or maybe something else about me!) is misleading. People rarely expect me to be the vulgar, foul-mouthed, sex-talking, naughty-book-writing misanthrope that I am. I'm not sure what to make of that, but the shock-value is kind of fun.

10. Nothing in my life ever works out as I planned. Ever. It doesn't all go badly, but it certainly makes me wonder why I bother trying to plan and prepare for events or things. In the end, I realize that I'm doing pretty well-- a nice house, a nice hubby, money in the bank, and a job that I like most days.

Thanks for playing today. I'm still sorting out my schedule (and dealing with a new boss at school... this could get interesting.) But already I see the light at the end of the tunnel, and in that light is a stack of papers just waiting to be filled with story.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Oh Baby



Some action outside my window...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

My Town Monday: Hamburg Festival and Railroad Days

Apparently, this was the 8th year for the Festival in the little town of Hamburg, Michigan. This is the first year that I went and I admit, I mainly went for the train.

The Steam Railroading Institute brought out one of their steam engines and there were several rides on Saturday. My ma bought tickets for the one hour excursion train.


































The steam engine, Pere Marquette 1225, is the model engine that inspired the train engine used in The Polar Express. It was an impressive piece of machinery, towering above the little people.












The Pere Marquette railway is named for Father Marquette, one of the early Jesuit Missionaries in the Great Lakes area. But, the abbreviation for the Pere Marquette railway was PM, and I actually found in historical records that people used to say that PM (for the railway) stood for 'Poor Management.' The more things change...
















Up the hill, there were craft tents, live band, but really the highlight was the train ride. In what there is of Hamburg-- the town consists of a church, two fire stations, a bar, a barber, a closed-up market (sad), a ecclectic home goods store, and the old-library-turned-new-museum. And a handful of houses-- in this part of town, you could see the smoke from the engine billowing up. The train was at the bottom of the hill, past the now-gone Grand Trunk Western railroad line and sitting on the CSX (formerly Pere Marquette) rail road line.





There's no depot in Hamburg anymore, but the conductors were very friendly and helpful for boarding the train.











The train rain about a half-hour south(ish) out of Hambrug towards Ann Arbor. Then came back. The engine was running backwards on the leg out. It was cool watching for the railroad crossings that I'm used to driving over in the car. Took some thinking sometimes to remember where the next crossing would come out.

I could so totally do all my traveling by train. The cars were not fancy, but they had this air of formality and elegance of upscale travel, and of a by-gone era.










There was a dining car and little bathrooms on each car. I think the bathrooms (which I did not use, thought my young nephew made great use of in a mere hour ride...) were much larger than airplane bathrooms.






























The aisles and seats were much nicer than any airplane I've been on. Even though they were narrow, it didn't feel cramped, even with my long legs. And I sat opposite my dad, who is the genetic source of my own long limbs.















The Steam Railroad Institute is about to take the Pere Marquette 1225 off the tracks. It's due for it's Federal Inspection, where they have dismantle huge parts of this engine for cleaning and inspection. It's a task that costs over $500,000 and can take two years. So this may be the last year that the Pere Marquette runs the rails, which is quite sad. They do have two other trips planned for the end of a the year-- a fall color train that will run up through Northern Lower Michigan when the leaves change into a full display of reds and oranges, and a Santa train that runs to the "North Pole" where Santa is waiting. I'm saving my pennies and hoping to get to go on another train ride this year.

Visit the My Town Monday site for links to other folk's and their towns. And feel free to join us!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Schedules, Routines and Habits

I'm not real good at any of those... Oh sure, I have schedules. In a few more days, my entire week will be regimented into approximately 2 hour blocks. The price of being a teacher.

I can barely remember to take my meds every morning, and I've been on those same meds for years now. So much for that "three months and it's routine" stuff.

But one of the things that I do try to do, with varying degrees of success, depending on which way my life is imploding, is to write every day. Sometimes, it's just a matter of opening the WIP and reading things over, maybe tweaking a little, rearranging this. At least I've done something that day. I hate when that's all I can accomplish, but having just had a week where watching 'House Hunters' was mentally taxing, I'm reconsidering my position on barely-productive writing days.

The goal I like to set is 500 words. It's a nice managable goal, not too much. I don't beat myself up over not reaching, especially when there are other things in life, like, say, maintaining a relationship with one Husband or working on projects for other jobs. And knowing that I'm going to try to get another 500 words keeps my story writing thoughts more focused. I have a goal to work towards and something to work out. As opposed to starting yet another scrap of a new story. Like the three on my phone... =P

I can't schedule the time. I won't listen to me. I can't punish myself for not getting there nor reward myself for doing it. I still don't listen to me. But I know that the only way to eat that elephant is one bite at a time. The over-confident belief that I'm writing stories that are good and different and deserve someday to be published is enough. That's what gets me through the tough days. That and my love of conquering challenges.

But I'm not going to pretend that what works for me is right for anyone. I always hated those writers who insist (INSIST!) that a dedicated writer will get up before work and write a couple hundred words to start the day. I understand the rational, but really... my brain doesn't engage until sometime after 9am. Anything before that is akin to deciphering slug trails, except it's drool on the keyboard.

To me, the most important this is just making time to work on the writing. Add words, work on the story, and make progress. Morning, noon, night, regularly or in spurts. Every writer needs to find their own way, so long as they write, finish, and get better.

Write on!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Spying


Looking through the slats of venetian blinds always makes me feel like a spy.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Writing About Writing


I have no problem blogging about the process of writing. About adding words, deleting scenes, even about getting stuck.

But for some reason, I can't write about the story itself. I just can't write about the great scene I came up with (other than in generic, nondescript words.) And I can't post great lines I came up with.

I've thought about it many times.

But I can never put those words on the blog. Into the public.

What if the story turns out to be a dud? What if the story takes months to finish because it is difficult? What if that 'great line' has to be cut or edited out (as, sadly, happens far more than I would like)?

I think it's like my reticence regarding future plans. I don't like to talk about my plans for fear that they not work out. And then someone might feel the need to remind me of a failed plan, a mistake.

So, I write about writing. About female characters. And a little bit about life.

Still waiting to write about getting my novel published. In the mean time, I have stories to work on. I've got two short stories to edit before I start submitting them. And a novel to finish.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

My Town Monday: McPherson Hospital

Not really a good topic for Labor Day weekend, but having spent a few hours there this weekend, I decided to do my post on it.

Yes, my little county on the edges of suburbia has it's own hospital. Still. Once upon a time, an area like this might have a small, or two. In fact, like airports, Livingston County has two hospitals. Brighton Hospital has no emergency services, which, admittedly, was completely mind boggling to me for many years. The other hospital is a more traditional, if undersized hospital.

McPherson Hospital is in Howell and it's real easy to find-- just follow the blue H signs. (Now, I'd really appreciate if hospitals also had a few signs leading, oh, say BACK to the major road ways...) McPherson hospital was originally started in 1920, operating out of a house donated by the McPherson family. It had 18 beds.

Later, land was donated for the construction of a proper hospital. It is only three stories tall at the tallest. It's small. And, while still a good hospital, it certainly isn't the same caliber as, say University of Michigan Hospital about 30 miles to the South in Ann Arbor. And not far to to east of UofM Hospital is St. Joesph Mercy Hospital, Ann Arbor (aka St. Joe's.) While sometime it's a toss up between which hospital is closest and which is more high tech etc, I'm partial to the cute little one. It's like miniature hospital...

And, as I found out first hand this weekend, they have some good staff there. In fact, my visits there the other day were each shorter than the visit to urgent care the week before. See... the thing is my cat bit me when I tried to catch him to put flea medicine on his flea riddle body. Bit me bad. Hence the visit to urgent care, which included a lot of scary stuff about cat bites and infection and boogey monsters before they could give me a couple drugs a splint for my finger. Except one of those drugs had it out for me. I think it was paid off... maybe someone doesn't want me to finish the novel.

Since it's been about 8 months since I last developed a new allergy, I guess it was time. Unfortunately, by the time the symptoms manifested themselves in enough severity to conclude something was very wrong, it was late Saturday night. So, I made a field trip to McPherson Hospital... okay, techinically, it's now called St. Joseph Mercy Livingston or some such ghastly moniker, but local yokels call it by the right name, McPherson.

Anyway, I'm doing much better now. Almost have use of all ten fingers again. And the offending medication turned poison in being evicted as I write. Though I don't have any good pictures of the building.

Sitting in the hospital room for a couple hours, waiting, I came to the conclusion that hospitals should get local art students or something to paint "Where's Waldo?" style paintings with a selection of little guys (like 10) to hunt out on the walls while waiting. It's about the mental capacity likely available to anyone who happens to be in the ER... and it would be more interesting than unsuccessfully tying to hear what's going on in the hall.

Visit The My Town Monday site for other towns.