Saturday, January 31, 2009

Another Bo Fexler Story

Bo Fexler has made her first appearance in the new zine Crooked. You can click here for the PDF of Crooked #2 with my short story "Black and Pink and Blond All Over."

This is a longer one, but I think it's worth it. It's got a car chase, some seduction, and some clever investigation by a woman who's as smart as she is sexy. Another typical Bo Fexler story.

And while you're there, don't forget to check out the other stories. Patti Abbott's got one in this issue of Crooked. And she always writes great shorts.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Quirks and other Character Traits

Sometimes, I think writers forget how much a little detail actually can reveal about a person-- be it a real or fiction one.

Many a writer stops to explain just what that particular quirk means and how the character got it and all that sort of stuff.

Maybe it's because I'm a writer myself, but I'd prefer that the quirk speak for itself. Leave things implicit. Let me apply my own interpretation. To a point. Besides, often, writers explain things that are fairly self-evident. As if they don't think they're reader is nearly clever enough to get the genius.

I used to have a hard time not explaining all the delightful backstory. Then I got over it. Partly because I was writing so much flash fiction-- all those 750 and 1000 word peices that went over to Muzzle Flash (RIP) and Powderburn Flash. I learned to imply, to leave things out. Sometimes I think I'm a little too coy with my subltey.

Hubby would think that's funny since he says I'm never subtle. He forgets sometimes that I know where he sleeps... ;-)

So, if I described a young female character, early twenties, married, has taken her husband's last name, but prefers Ms. to Mrs.-- what things would you conclude about this woman?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

It's Hubby's Fault

I'm finally starting to rearrange my routine after the turmoil of moving. But even as I've planned and allotted chunks of time, I kept feeling like I had no time. In fact, it's been far, far too long since I've opened a Word doc that wasn't a school assignment.

I can blame a lot of moving and turning the new house into a home. Then there's the end of semester grading. Then the beginning of semester preparation.

And, the biggest time chunk of all... goes to Hubby.

I've finally figured out where all my writing time went. I've been spending more time with Hubby than I have in, well, years.

This isn't inherently a bad thing... I am kind of fond of the guy. But I think I'm hiding from my writing. I haven't had much inspiration. Though that's an excuse that only goes about three inches before it runs into trouble. I've forced myself to write plenty of times before, inspiration or now. I've revised, written, plotted and submitted without "inspiration."

Now that many of the tasks for the coming semester are dealt with, my work load in that regard should lighten up. I'm getting used to how job number 4 works out. Most of the projects in the house are done (for now.) It's time to take a little more time for writing.

I have fans waiting. Right? Are you folks still there, waiting for Bo Fexler to saunter on back in something provocative?

Thanks for you, my readers of both my fiction and my blog. I do appreciate you. It's more fun to talk when someone's at least nodding along. (And yet I'm a high school history teacher... ;-)

Now, I'm gonna get a sandwich and play writer for a while.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

AYKB vs. Reminder

This may not seem like a crime fiction post, but it gets there. Hubby and I are watching Babylon 5 (aka the BEST TV SHOW EVER!!!), part of a near-yearly tradition since we got the whole show on DVD. This show was written as a closed arc-- with a plot line that builds in nearly every episode to culminate in the last seasons.

So, the story builds over the series, taking place of the span not just of weeks, but years. There is sometimes considerable time between one event and the next time it is important. Flashbacks are used, but thankfully are done so sparingly.

More often, B5's writer, J. Michael Straczynski, uses dialogue subtlely to remind the audience who or what something is in the world he created. Sometimes it almost seems like an "As You Know Bob" (BTW, the Turkey City Lexicon makes for good reading and good studying. Clicky-clicky.) One example that is an outright AYKB is from early in the show where one character is reporting to another that their colony on "Ragesh three, our agricultural colony, has been attacked." However, both characters should know that it's an agricultural colony.

Others are more subtle. These are the ones I like most. It's a little reminder if you've forgotten who did what, or what that made up word or name means again.

I actually employ such reminders in my own novel. Because of the nature of a detective story (or at least one that's not cozy), there are a lot of names. Many are not imporant in the long run. So, I leave little clues to the reader. A phrase, a comment, to help the reader. Especially if the reader is like me and sometimes has to sneak reading in while waiting for an appointment or while dinner cooks. Plus, my memory's not so great.

It seems a very thin and subtle line that differentiates an AYKB and a reminder. Mainly, I think, execution will be the deciding factor. This is easier in fiction-- particularly first person fiction because Bo can think it to herself. People often recall things to themselves. A TV show like B5 has more limitations.

Some stories I've read use just a few charcaters or are obvious like Columbo (Just one more thing-- oh, that guy did it. ;-) Others seem intent on confusing the reader. Do you like reminders to refresh your memory when there are many pages between you and the last time that character, event, etc. came up? Or maybe you prefer the author just simplify things?

Me, I like complicated stories, but with just a smidge of hand holding. This particular model of Clair didn't come with enough RAM, that's for damn sure.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Happily Ever After... or at least Satisfactorially So

I like dark stories and gritty settings. I like characters who are sharp and ruthless. I like reading characters put under pressure and who must sacrifice their dignity or integrity or some other virtue for success.

But I want a satisfactory ending. The good guy wins. The bad guy loses. I don't need a happy ending, but I need a satisfying one. Endings that are ambiguous or clearly bad leave me feeling like the story is incomplete. Maybe my copy lost a couple pages. (I had a book once that was missing the last few pages. That was awful.)

I don't spend all this time rooting for a character just to see them lose!

I know that life isn't always happy or satisfactory. And I prefer fiction that is realistic. Up until the end. I want things to end well in fiction. If for no other reason than because life can be a bitch.

Though, there are a few exceptions. For example, when watching the movie "Pitch Black" I was so rooting for the creatures to eat everyone!

How do you like your endings? Sunnyside up, hardboiled, or maybe as an omelet with cheese and ham [insert other toppings] that's fully satisfying?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

In Cold Predawn Hours

I get up easily in the morning like a penguin flies. Especially when it's cold outside and warm in my bed with the flannel sheets, two blankets and comforter.

But, Hubby's car is in the shop for a few days. Which means I have to get my ass out of bed at dark o'clock in the morning to drive him to work. I need the car after he's gone to work.

I don't like getting up in the morning. And I really don't like getting up in the middle of the night. If it's dark out, as far as I'm concerned, that's the middle of the night.

But, once we're out on the road, it's not so bad. The roads are empty. Maybe a few cars. The ground is blanketed with a foot or so of snow. The air is crisp and it's so quiet it's almost as sound waves are frozen by the single-digit temperatures.

And at the exit ramp where Hubby gets off there's a single flame in the night. Blue or maybe orange. It's a sight to behold. (Okay, so it's the flame from the landfill... but it's still a pretty sight. And you can't see the actual landfill at night under the snow.)

Downtown, the city sleeps. The streetlamps, shining on empty streets, seem almost forbidding. You're not supposed to be here. It's time for bed.

Even the ducks, on the frozen surface of the Mill Pond, are huddled in their feathers and sleeping in a crowd.

Yesterday morning a train was sleeping right across the major crossings in town...

After my journey out in the predawn, I'm more than ready to climb back into my own pile of feathers and other warm blankets and go back to bed. I don't get up when it's dark.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

My Town Monday: Second Amendment

Second Amendment is the biggest, baddest punkin chunkin gun... and it's part of Livingston County.

The gun was constructed by S & G Erectors in Howell Michigan. The crew is from Howell, Lakeland, Whitmore Lake as well as other places both in and out of Michigan. The gun shoots little hard punkins. Second Amendment won the World Championship in 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006.

I have actually driven by when the Second Amendment was in a local field shooting. Unfortunately, I couldn't stop and stare... I mean, watch.

What is punkin chunkin? The goal is to hurl a little hard pumpkin as far as possible by mechanical means. Those means include slingshots, trebuchets, catapults and pneumatic air cannons like the Second Amendment. The punkins for competition are specially grown and aren't any good for eating.

Travis Erwin is still displaced after a fire took out his entire house, but the My Town Monday torch is being held aloft over at e-Cuneiform scratchings. Check out some other places.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Seasonal Amnesia

When the weather is warm, as in anything above freezing, and the is no sign of snowflakes, I develop seasonal amnesia. While I occasionally think and write about snowfall, it's always the pretty fluffy flaky snow.

It's never the slushy, ugly gray snow or the bitter cold freezing snow/rain/mess. I don't use this clearly noir setting often enough, with characters trudging through or hunched in the cold, freezy precipitation.

I don't have any trouble writing warm spring or summer scenes during winter months. I think I lean towards warm spring rains or summer morning where it's 70 degrees before dawn. (*sigh*)

Sometimes, a story calls for a particular atmosphere, but snowy sleety is not a scene I often set. Perhaps in part because I don't like cold.

Right now, we're nearly buried in a good foot of snow. We're finally above zero in temperature. It's cold and snowy and would make for a nice setting. If a story calls for it.

Some of my stories dictate their setting (particularly weather) while others are more malleable. How do your settings get made?

And what's the weather like where's your at?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Reaching the Climax

I'm not an outliner. Not really. I start with an idea. It bounces around inside my skull like a psychotic butterfly until I have an opening to the story. Sometimes it's one of those great lines that I love from the start. Sometimes... it's just a start.

The more mystery stories I write, the more I realize that my sticking point is always when I don't know something crucial about the plot. If I'm fool enough to start the story before it's ready, the sticking point comes when I try to figure out who Bo's client is and what the case is supposed to be. Sometimes this really plays just a minor role in the story-- it just serves to get Bo in a position where pants are down or fists are out. Or both.

The other sticking point is the climax. How does the problem get solved. I usually work through a couple versions, some written and others just tumbling around in my head like panties in the dryer. (On an unrelated note, I don't know why my dryer needs to have a window. Between that and the timer, I spend way too much time watching my dryer... anyway.) If my schedule is busy and I'm afraid of forgetting the idea, I'll jot it down and hope that I won't lose the paper it's written on. Go ahead and laugh-- I've lived with me long enough to know what I can be like.

Sadly, some of my favorite ideas seem unable to get past foreplay. It's like they get stage fright when shirts come off.

Likely because I'm not an outliner, I spend a fair amount of time revising and rewriting. I don't see it as wasted time. Not really. Partly because when I'm stuck on one story, I can go revise another that's already climaxed.

And most of all, even if the story (or scene) is dreck plotwise, I always enjoy writing Bo Fexler. I love the lines she gets to say... I usually just think those sort of things. And usually, by the time I think of them, it's three days later while I'm cooking dinner, long after the event that inspired said comment.

Fiction writing is my way of enjoying the world. Well, that and making sexual references out of everything. =D

Saturday, January 10, 2009

What Font are You?

I thought it might be fun to find out what font I am.


You’re like an industry standard. Classic. Reliable. Okay, maybe a bit boring. But don’t let the haters get you down—you’ve still got friends who think you’re the best.

Usually I have trouble with these sort of tests because 'none of the above' isn't really a choice. Nonetheless, this was fairly accurate. I am boring. I like it that way.

What font are you?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

16 Things Meme

I haven't been tagged, but I'll play along with this one.

1. I love Diet Pepsi. It's my lifeblood. But, caffeine has no discernible affect on me. I can drink a glass of Diet Pepsi right before bed and sleep just fine. I can also give it up for days and weeks... but I prefer not to. It's my carbonated caramel colored drink of choice.

2. I get bored easily.

3. I'm a serious procrastinator. I work best under pressure. I have been known to cook, bake, even organize the linen closet in an attempt to delay the inevitable.

4. I am allergic/ intolerant/ oversensitve to gluten (wheat) and corn. This includes corn syrup. These dietary restrictions are only a few years old. So I spent twenty-some years eating everything normally...

5. I think Babylon 5 is the best TV show ever. I watch it on DVD almost every year with Hubby.

6. I have never owned a car with less than 100k miles on it. But, sadly, I have only ever rolled one car past 200k miles. The rest have rusted out before that.

7. I was born in Indiana, but I have lived in Michigan since I was 4.

8. I think Michigan is the coolest shaped state, ever. I like getting to use my hand as a map.

9. I actually enjoy troubleshooting computers. And I like helping people make their computer obey.

10. I have had my own computer since I was in middle school. I have always had hand-me-down computers that was replaced by an upgrade.

11. I'm a PC-- I am part of the Microsoft Collective. You will be assimilated.

12. I am both pragmatic and cheap. I have a dreadfully hard time spending money to replace something that works perfectly fine. That's why I still have an old typewriter stand for my nightstand.

13. I hate being cold. There is nothing else I hate more than being cold.

14. I play the Pokemon Trading Card game. So does my Hubby. Because of him, we now travel to local tournaments.

15. I don't carry a purse. Though, by necessity, I sometimes have a mini backpack with my own salad dressing or ketchup for eating out.

16. One of my goals in life is to type my keyboard to death. I have had that keyboard since 1997. It works perfectly! Not a single key has any problems. But I'm still working at it.

If you wanna play, grab a keyboard and join in.

I'm gonna go get my warm fuzzy blanket, close the curtains so I can't see the continually-falling snow, and work on a story. With a glass of Diet Pepsi at my side.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Sex Appeal is Evil?

Watched a movie the other day, and as soon as this one female character walked on screen and spoke a few lines, I knew she was going to be one of the bad guys.

I was so disappointed, really. She was confident, sexy, and intelligent. She was deffered to by the men she spoke to and the implication I came away with at first was that it was because she was smart and took no bullshit.

Alas. She's one of the baddies.

Sex appeal, time and time again, is one of the easiest ways to tell when a female character is good or bad. Particularly, if the woman is aware of and able (willing) to use her sex appeal to her own ends.

Some how, it's okay for the suave stud-muffin male lead to make the ladies swoon. But it's not okay for a sexy woman to turn heads and be pleased with it.

It's a little disappointing because I know this sort of culture is going to make it hard for Bo Fexler to find a publisher for her novels. But it's also empowering because I know I have something different. Something that does have an audience.

In fact, I just got another story accepted. It's nice to know that even after a long drought, I still have the ability to write things that (some) publishers want. The trick, I suppose, is finding the right ones.

What do you tell yourself to keep going?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Year

A new year in a new house. With a new office for this writer/ teacher/ wife.

So much is different at the start of this year. Most of it is tied to the new house. Plus a new part time job. (For those counting, this puts me back up to four jobs.) But the new house is closer to everything, which should save quite a bit of commute time.

There are new zines that seem like places where Bo might make an apperance, preferrably in low-rise jeans and a tight tee shirt. Maybe she'll sidle up to Diana Andrews (Al Tucher's sexy woman) since the two seem like they'd have lots to talk about.

I'm looking forward to 2009. Another year full of days to write and submit.

And maybe 2009 will be the year that Bo Fexler finds an agent who wants her.

Until then, I might just come up with a few short stories to tease those who already like a smart, sexy woman.

Happy New Year.