Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tracking Submissions

Inevitably the joy and agony of writing a story comes to an end and something must be done with it. Seeking publication is almost a job in and of itself. Luckily I tend to read the same zines that I submit to, so that part of the research is done. (Though it does get awful hard to keep up with the turnover rate of zines!)

Usually, I have several stories in various states of completion (done, done and edited, and submission ready.) It is imperative to keep track of where these stories are submitted and when.

Surprisingly, I'm still old school on my short story submissions. I'm not sure why, but I just haven't moved to keeping track of them on the computer.

I created a table in Word with title of publication on the left, date submitted in the center column, and response on the right. There's room at the top for the title of the story and I usually write the word count on the bottom (for easy reference.)

I print these sheets out a couple at a time, keeping spares on hand. They're in a folder with those little prongs in the middle. I jot the information in where appropriate. Some stories are accepted early and easy. Others take a couple rejections. I've had a couple that filled the whole page. Once the story is accepted, I wait until publication. Upon publication, I move the tracking sheet to "The Binder" (insert trumpet fanfare) and print the story off in hardcopy.

As for novel submissions, it's all electronic. I have an Excel spreadsheet with the agent name, agency, any notes on preference, how to query (I admit liking equeries. As much as anyone can like queries at all!) and expected wait time for responses, especially for those that say "No response in 6 weeks means no." Then, I enter the date queried. I use a different color for each batch because I'm a little odd that way. I've been querying in batches of 5 or 6. Then, I log the response. (22 rejections out of 25 queries so far.)

And, looking back through these recrods, I see that it was early 2006 that I really started writing and attempting to publish short stories. It seems so long ago, and yet so short.

(Today's Demotivators are brought to you by 101reasonstostopwriting. =)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: I Got Away!

And I won't go back...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mundane Details v. Character Traits

What a character eats for breakfast says something about them. As does what they wear. I expect a character in tight leather pants to act differently than I do a character in a suit. And a character who eats leftover whatever for breakfast is different than one who has a carefully measured bowl of Extra Fiber-Os with organic orange juice.

But there's a line between showing character traits and just giving mundane details. If you've already introduced the character as being Queen of the Microwave, I don't need to know that on Monday she microwaved a Lean Cuisine Entree, on Tuesday it was a Stoufer's Entree, on Wednesday it one of those meal-in-a-bags and on Thursday it was Campbell's Soup (in the conveninent cook-eat-toss cup.) By Thrusday, I'm skimming the dinner passage thinking "blah blah dinner, what's next?" Esp. since by Thursday, we should be into the heart of the book were GOOD stuff is happening.

If the reader is diddling with me by stopping for dinner as way to prolong the story (and kidding everyone by calling it "character development") I'm going to start to get Cranky. By the middle of the book, the character is either developed, or the writer has flunked out of Noveling 201. So, leave out the dinner details and get back to the plot.

So, what do I propose the writer does for Thursday's dinner? Worst case, just breezily mention, "Character threw dinner in the microwave." Better-- skip past dinner-making. Skip past dinner and cut to the next scene.

Instead of...
"I scanned the shelves and finally selected a can of Campel''s Chunky Chicken Noodle Soup. I pulled the pop-top, poured it into a microwavable safe bowl, and put dinner in the microwave. While it was cooking, I gathered a drink, some potatoe chips, a spoon and a napking and set those things on the table. Just after I did so, the microwave chirped. As I sat down to eat, my phone rang. It was Officer Smith calling about the injured girl from earlier. She didn't make it."

That was hard to write. My inner-editor-- who is vulgar and vocal-- kept berating me for writing it even as I told her that it was just an example. She finally blew me a raspberry and shut up.

So, the better version.
"As I sat down to eat another microwaved dinner, my phone rang. It was Officer Smith calling about the injured girl from earlier. She didn't make it."

If I want to read about mundane details of people's lives, there's always facebook and twitter for that. Or certain blogs. If I'm reading a book, I'm there for the not-mundane. I'm there for the story. Develop the character in the early chapters with only the necessisties, then, dear author, get the hell out of the way and let the story play out. Please.

The same goes for describing the character's clothes every time they get dressed, descriptions of the character, the character's house, and backstory that has already been explained. The last must be done carefully because, in my opinion, little reminders are helpful for busy readers who may not remember everything from the beginning when the end arrives. Though, a sense of the character, I'll already have without another description of the character's car, purse, or predicament.

Not surprisingly, I'm very careful and sometimes sparse in my own storytelling and details. Write what you enjoy, they say.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

My Town Monday: Outlet Mall

Like much of Livingston County, it was once farm field. Then the buildings sprouted... add water and a mall appears.

Originally dubbed the Kensington Valley Outlet Mall, it is part of the Tanger Outlet chain. It's one of those 'open air' malls-- with the stores forming a ring around the parking lot-- which doesn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense in Michigan. It get's awful cold and snowy in a Michigan winter. But that seems to be the trend in new malls... I think it's catering to those who'd rather drive to the other end of the mall than walk. And it irritates someone who'd rather walk. Anyway...

The Outlet Mall is at the junction between M-59 and I-96. M-59 terminates at I-96 and there's one of the uglier intersections in the county as the entrance/exit ramps for I-96 East must be crossed to get to Burkhardt road to the south. (So you take the "entrance ramp" and turn off, or coming the other way, cross the entrance ramp to get on the "exit ramp.") The whole intersection was redone to better serve the mall traffic.

Sadly, because the Outlet Mall is so far away from downtown Howell (about 4 miles of nothing between the two) I can't imagine it does much for the city itself. There's a McD's and a few other restaurants nearby. So, I'm guessing most visitors to the mall don't veture downtown.

Another interesting feature of the Outlet Mall is that, well, not all the stores are acutally factory outlets... some are just regular stores. So you may not be getting a "Great Outlet Deal!!" But, hey, it's the thought that counts. And as long as people think they're getting a deal, they tend to buy as if they are.

But there are some great deals to be found there. A nice variety of stores, including a few that appeal to this picky shopper.

There's a great food court in the center of the mall area (inside the ring) and nearby there's a hotel for out-of-towners.

Visit Travis Erwin for more My Town Monday posts.

Friday, May 22, 2009

How We Talk and What We Say

I love the versatility of words. I love playing with expected meanings and interpretations. Usually I play with them on paper because I don't think too quick on my feet in that regard. With the exception of making sexual innuendo, but I usually reserve that for my Hubby since not every appreciates good sexual innuendo.

One thing that is interesting to talk about is how I finished high school. There is great differences in connotation if I say that I dropped out versus if I say that I finished early. There's even a difference if I simple state that I finished early or if I say that I took my GED. The end results were the same-- I left a situation that bored the stuffing out of me and went on to be a successful college student and, if I may be so bold as to even say I'm a good teacher.

Of course what I choose to say also reflects something on me. I admit that in settings where it's not expected, I do like the shock value of telling people that the reasonably articulate, published author beside them dropped out of high school. Heh.

This sort of thing plays out in writing, as well. Not only do I look at what the character did, including motivation, but how do they talk about it? Bo is the best for pure ambiguity. She doesn't reveal much of anything to anyone (except maybe Axel) and the things she does say can often be taken to mean something else.

But other characters are fun to explore too. I like taking on different personas (in a miniature form) as I write characters and pick their words. From the self-righteous woman who very openly condemns the choices of others to the metrosexual guy who finds away to talk about himself in every sentences.

Now, the only problem is that I spend a dreadful lot of time on fairly minor characters. These characters show up for a conversation, maybe a second round later, but they're only a passing part of the story as Bo conducts her investigation. But yet, I'll work out the most trivial details related to their personality and choices. Down to the coffee ordered... and I don't even DRINK coffee. I prefer my caffeine in the form of Diet Pepsi.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


No, not a post on how hard it is to find markets. This one is on how hard it is to pick markets, sometimes.

Every now and again, I finish a story and have to pick who to send it to. Sometimes I could pare the list down by word count, but even then, I may still have to choose between several good markets.

For example-- do I send it to Powder Burn? Or Flash Fiction Offensive? Or maybe to Chris Pimental's Bad Things? Or I could submit it to Twist of Noir. Or, depending on the story, maybe Pulp Pusher, Beat to a Punch, or Yellow Mama. And there are others.

So I try to weigh the options-- exposure, layout, linkage, other authors. But really, I may as well just throw darts. Most of the publications are comparable in so many ways. Not a bad thing, as it's nice to have variety. It just makes it hard to choose.

Right now, with so many new zines, one of my top criteria has been that I have not had a Bo Fexler story appear in that publication. I figured that I would see if I can spread my name around some more. Break into markets that I've not been in.

There are worse problems to have, I suppose. It wasn't that long ago that it seemed like no publications wanted hardboiled crime. The main publications wanted no sex or violence. Now, the numbers are skewed the other way.

Finally, I'm not struggling to find places for Bo Fexler stories. Too bad I'm not writing as many of them as I did last year. (Mainly because I'm *trying* to get book series rolling!)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Creepy Crawly!

I'm not easily creeped out by things. I'm the designated household spider killer... Hubby's a complete arachnophobe. And he's not too fond of other things with spindly legs.

Unless it's crawling on me, I'm not usually too bothered. Oh, I'll kill any creepy crawly that confuses my habitat with one where crawlies are welcome. But they don't give me the willies.

Except this guy. Oh man, I had that crawly sensation on my arms and legs half the night after spotting him in the bathroom. I had never seen one of these in my not-quite-thirty years in Michigan.

And when I tried to squish him, half his legs came off, but he bolted. The legs that came off wiggled on the ground. I found where the rest of him went to and squished him again. And his kept writhing. (Heebie jeebies!)

I could barely sit at my comptuer (feeling phantom crawlies on me) to try and research the thing. I didn't even know where to start. What WAS it?

Well, I found it (love google). It's a House Centipede. Apparently it's very common. Really? Nearly thirty-years of Michigan living, yet I've never seen one of these. I've seen just about every other type of creepy crawly-- from Harverstmen to all sizes of ants to roly polies.

Also on my short list of things that just creep me right the hell out are lobster heads (with beady little eyes) and crawling in the attic with my mice and bats. I have to spend weeks psyching myself up to get into the attic, and no sooner than I reach the top of the ladder, and my legs are already shaking something awful. And that was before I knew my house has House Centipedes.

So far, Bo's not creeped out by anything. She does have one nasty phobia of her own, but nothing like getting the heebie jeebies from a stupid bug. She's too cool for that. ;-) Or maybe she just keeps better hold of rational thoughts in regards to small, creepy, and squishable.

What creeps you out?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

My Town Monday: Ore Creek

Ore Creek runs through downtown Brighton. It was on this little waterway that the first mill-- the start of the town-- was built. The mill included a dam, creating the Mill Pond.

The Mill Pond in the 1970s. Brighton's Bicentennial.

The Mill Pond still exists, but the mill is long gone. But at the end of the Mill Pond, along Main Street, the water leaves the Mill Pond.

But where does it go? Beyond Main Street there is only shops and restaurants, a parking lot...

The Mill Pond drains under Main Street and for twenty-some years that's all I knew. I always wondered...

Well, one of the advantages to being an independent adult (the jury's still out on "grown up") is that I drive myself there and try to answer these questions. So, I parked in downtown Brighton and started my exploration. It didn't take long to find where the water came out.

Ore Creek's current path is under one of the downtown parking lots. Under the shops and restaurants.

The tall building peak in the center of the photo is the old Town Hall, which sits on the banks of the Mill Pond. This photo is taken from North Street, about a block South of the Mill Pond.

This is where the creek emerges on the other side into a normal stream bed. It winds through trees and grasses and wetlands. I don't think it's more than a foot or so deep at it's deepest, less at some points.

Once upon a time, the parking lot was the 'mill race'. It was open, running water with only a bridge and the mill. (Th tallest building, in the center, is the Yum Yum Tree, next door to the Old Town Hall, which didn't make it into this pic.)

After leaving the parking lot, Ore Creek curves around and sneaks under the CSX (formerly C&O) railroad.

The area is wooded and kind of desolate. I had to hike down the railroad tracks (all the while thinking of the scene from the movie Friend Green Tomatoes where Buddy gets it.)

I climbed down the really, really steep embankment, envisioning myself sliding to a painful crumpled heap at the bottom.

There were signs of other humans having made their way into the brush, so now I was imagining ambush by some homeless person or some rowdy delinquent youth. In reality, nothing happened. I took some photos and climbed back up. See why I became a writer... it's so I can do something productive with all these scenarios that pop into my head.

Quite a difference in the way the CSX bridge over Ore Creek looks today compared with what it was some hundred years ago. Smaller trees. One of those rare instances where today is MORE treed than back then.

Ore Creek meanders it's way into Brighton Lake and onwards, eventually joining up with the Huron River.

And now I know what happens to the water from the Mill Pond.

Sometimes I think it would be cool to take a boat and flashlight through the tunnel...

Visit Travis Erwin for more My Town Monday posts.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

I'm on Facebook

It was really only a matter of time, especially since my cousin and best friend (who had to move to stupid Washington D.C.... grumble ;-) has been pestering me to join up for quite some time. So, with school ending, my schedule has been freeing up, and I joined up.

After puttering around an adding a few friends, I'm now more or less ready to publicly announce that I'm there.

One of the things that is interesting about the site is seeing the photos of the people I went to high school with, none of whom I've seen in the last ten years. Since we're all nearing thirty years old, most of us no longer look like high school students. (Though I have been mistaken, by my boss, as a student in my own classroom...)

My cousin and my sister-in-law both tell me that Facebook is addicting and will suck hours from one's life. So far, I've browsed a few photos, gotten frustrated because sometimes it's really hard to confirm which [insert name] is the one I used to know, and taken a few quizzes.

I'm quite sure I'm missing something. Maybe I need more friends? Nothing like a social network to reaffirm my own antisocial tendencies...

So, I'm over there as Clair Nofs Dickson. (No idea what the link will do... ;-)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wait for it...

I'm making great progress on a new Bo Fexler novel. Already 10k into it in seven days. Cool.

The plot is chugging along nicely, with the pieces falling into place faster than I can write them at the moment. This is much nicer than those stories where plotting comes slow, hard, and painful.

But there's a problem. Not a huge problem, per se. Part of it can be easily remedied in revisions. See, Bo's investigating this case, but she's not really THERE. As in, the snark is missing, as is her commentary. Easy to fix on revision, but it's a little bothersome to be writing a story where the star character isn't really engaged in the story. Though, to be fair, she's just had her apartment burned down, taking with it nearly everything she owned. She's a little rattled and understandably so.

The other part of the problem is a noticable lack of sex or violence. I'm 10k in and there's nary a boob in sight and no one's gotten punched, kicked, or shoved. It's kind of strange. I look back over what I've written and the way the story has played out so far, there's really not much I can to do add those two characteristics. Maybe a little bit, here or there, but not much. Not without distorting or destroying what I happen to think is a solid storyline.

Now, I have every intention of including sex and violence as the book progresses, but it just isn't showing up early.

I wonder how fans of Bo Fexler will feel about that. How long can I hold you in suspense, waiting for a blow of either type? I don't mean to tease... well, not really. Not this time. Will you forgive me the wait if I make sure it's good?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Down in the Swamp

Of course there's a body in the swamp. What are swamps for? Anyway, today's question is how the killer found this swamp. It's on a barely traveled road far from everyone, far even from the killer's normal paths of travel. So, how did he come across it, and how did he know it was a good place for the corpse?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A New Bo Fexler Story

The short story "Least Favorite Son" is up at Darkest Before the Dawn this morning. A missing tree stand, a neighborhood feud, and, as the title suggests, a Least-Favorite Son.

This story has a piece of character development that is of great, recurring interest to me. I'm fascinated by who a person becomes-- because of, or in spite of, their past. Does the Least-Favorite Son try, still, desperately to gain affection? Or does he pretend he doesn't care? Or, a third option, does he try to return the favor of years of hurt?

Oh, one last note on this story-- it was inspired by a true case in my local paper. I ripped this story out of the police blotter some time ago. All the police blotter had was the bit about the missing tree stand. Without any witnesses or leads, the case was closed. That didn't seem right to me, so, fictionally, I reopened the case and solved it. ;-)

Anyway, enjoy the story. I've got a few others out on submission, so there is hope for new Bo Fexler short stories in the coming weeks and months.

Queenpin-- my kind of gals

I loved the premise from the start and heard good thing about Megan Abbott's female characters in Queenpin. Even the title looked great.

Overall, this book is a win. A couple of dames that I can enjoy. Tough, focused, professional. The kind of dames I love to see in fiction, though they are so rare.

Though, I admit I had trouble in the middle of the book when the narrator got wrapped up with Vic. I don't care for women who get all tangled in relationships-- which is without a doubt a personal preference and should not be held at all against Megan Abbott. (To give the narrator credit, she seemed to be thinking more with her pants than her heart, but I still prefer if she had been thinking with her head...)

But the book redeemed itself and I'm glad that I kept reading past the parts where the narrator was bemoaning how she was screwing herself. I'd actually like to see what happens with the narrator next-- I liked her that much.

Fans of Bo Fexler may well enjoy Queenpin.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Gender Roles

Came across this link to the pages from an old book called "I'm Glad I'm a Boy, I'm Glad I'm a Girl." It's a children's book that listed what girls and what boys do.

Of course, I find gender stereotyping amusing. Especially since in my life, the gender roles are fluid... and in some cases reversed. Like this weekend where I mowed the lawn and did the weed whipping while Hubby cleaned the house.

Now, when I write Bo Fexler, I don't think about gender very often. There are only a few situations where the fact that Bo is a woman really matter. And some situations where being a woman is decidedly an advantage.

I wouldn't want to be one of the men that Bo Fexler sets her sights on... though, one could hardly argue that any man under Bo's spell can really complain too much. ;-)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

My Town Monday: Electrifying Brighton

Brighton was a small town for a long time. Before there were suburbs, Brighton was just another town in the middle of nowhere.

And like many small towns, modern conveniences came slowly to Brighton. What did a bunch of farmers (and the shopkeepers who served the farmers) care for new fangled gadgets?

In 1902, CC Conrad constructed an electric-lighting plant along the Mill Pond in Brighton. In October of that year, he announced that he would run his plant from five o'clock until daylight every morning for a week. If it could be made to pay, he would continue all winter. (The building with the smoke stack was, from what I can tell, the power plant.)

(Now, I read this as meaning that he would turn on the lights at 5am until the sun came up. Electricity had finally reached Brighton... but only for a few hours a day. What an interesting idea-- to offer the service for only a few hours. I don't think this sort of thing could possibly happen today.)

Apparently, this arrangement proved to be profitable. By 1913, Eastern Michigan Edison (likely a company related to the now-massive Detroit Edison electric company) took over Conrad's plant. Meters were installed in every place using current.

In 1915, Brighton got all-night-electric service. About sixty lights were distributed throughout the village and were on all night, every night, all year.

I guess at the time, the idea of a lighted down town was new and exciting. Now, I wish they would turn the damn lights off. Especially those on the expressways. I have headlights on my car... what do I need street lights for? Esp. since these same lights are blocking out the stars. I like stars.

Anyway, electricity came to Brighton in 1915. In 1916, there was a curfew enacted. The bell on the townhall would ring at 8pm and all kids under 16 were to be off the streets. Wonder if the two were related... maybe with the lights on, folks could actually see the kids hanging out?

The electric plant is gone now. In it's place is the Imagination Station playground.

Visit Travis Erwin for more My Town Monday posts.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Rules for Housework

I'm not completely crazy. I may have voices in my head that tell me to write stories, but I'm no fan of housework, chores, etc. Except this one little part-- a long established rule that goes back to when I was doing chores when I was growing up.

When I'm doing chores, all parties interested in staying safe, will stay away from the quilly one. Do not come near unless it is an announcement that cannot wait until I have finished and re-emerge. Something concerning bloody dismemberment or hospital stays. And, if you value life and limb, do not ever even consider attempting conversation with me.

See, I'm not here. I've shut out the real world and entered my own. I am plotting, creating characters, and, occasionally, working out dialogue. (Which, yes, does often result in me speaking... out loud... to myself. You know, like a crazy person. ;-)

I know about how long it will take me to do said task, whether it is dishes, mopping, or yardwork. I have a brain-ticket with a departure time for when I begin the task, and will return me when I am done. Do not bug me. Especially since most household tasks include the use of a weapon or weapon-like object. (Dishes has knives, though forks will work in a pinch. Mopping and brooming have lovely wooden handles. And yardwork has a delightful array of sharp and dangerous items. I warned you.)

I am fairly indifferent about chores. They have to be done. And I found my way to enjoy them. Oh, yeah, there's also a period immediate after completion of a chore where it's possible that any attempts at social activity will be met with a snarl as I scurry to record that Great Idea! that came to me while working. Just back away slowly, let me get to a pen and paper, and you'll keep all fingers.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Acquisition of New Books to Feed On

Thanks to the internet, I am increasing the number of books I read. Through the internet, and the people on it, I have been directed to authors and characters that are most likely the sorts that I enjoy reading most.

Because I have particular tastes and limited reading time, I've always had trouble selecting books, both from the library and the bookstore.

But, now I have a nice list of books and authors to read next.

The problem then becomes how to actually get those dead trees into my hands. (I'm still a dead-tree reader-- partly because I don't have enough of those special green strips of paper.) While the library is lovely, and cost efficient, it does have an unfortunate shortage of books by smaller presses and lesser known authors.

So, with those precious and wonderful books by small presses and lesser-known authors have to be purchased with the few dollars I have. Unfortunately, those same books are often more expensive than their large press counterparts. (Curses!)

I used to order them from Amazon. There's something delightful about a box of books arriving on the doorstep. And I admit falling prey many, many times to the oh, just one more book so I get free shipping! Yeah...

But, now that I'm back in town, returned from my exile, I'm only a mere five minutes to Borders. A baby Borders, not a full grown one, but still a BOOKSTORE and a Michigan-based company, for now. I learned something nice about ordering books through a store like Borders. You don't have to buy them until you try to take them out of the store. This is even better than books in a box, because I have the opportunity to learn more about the book. More than Amazon's random pages.

Plus it gives me an excuse (like I needed one!) to pay a visit to Borders and breath in that lovely scent of books. Am I the only one who finds the scent of bookstores euphoric? All those books... just waiting to be taken home. (Libraries are pretty good, but some of their books are musty.)

(Oh, the local bookstore we used to have on the shore of the mill pond, sadly, closed down when Borders moved in. Which is a tragedy really.)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Little Irritations

It doesn't FIT!
But it's a character trait.

What are some other little character traits? What do they reveal about the character?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

One of the Bookless

Over at Bookspot, I'm the bookless in today's Interview with the Bookless.

Complete with a short excerpt from the first Bo Fexler novel, "Sex and Violence."

Keeping up with Myself

I started a new novel this week. Starring Bo Fexler, of course. I've burned down her apartment and left her standing in the parking lot without any pants on.

Not only is this novel off to a good start, it's moving quickly, with little pieces of the plot falling into place so nicely.

The only problem is that I can't keep up with myself. I can't churn out prose fast enough to fill in those plot points that have floated serenely to me through the last few days. I just don't have the time to push through that many words in a day.

Gotta go. I have a story that can't wait to be written. With a half-naked protagonist.

Monday, May 4, 2009

My Town Monday: Michigan State Sanitorium

Michigan State Sanitorium was a tuberculosis hospital built near Howell, Michigan. It was one of the first buildings constructed for the (ever hopeful) purpose of treating tuberculosis. And it was built in my little old county.

I'm cheating (just a little) for today's My Town Monday. I am posting a link to a PowerPoint slide show on the Michigan State Sanitorium that I used in my Michigan History class this semester.

(If you do not have PowerPoint on your computer, you may download a PowerPoint view here.)

Click the link below and the PowerPoint file will be downloaded. (Since blogger doesn't include media storage, I have the file on the site I use for school.)

Michigan State Sanitorium

Note: While information was rather abundant on the beginning of the MSS, after a while, there's almost no information. It was a bear just trying to get dates and information on the name changes! I need to move into the room where they keep the mircofilm.

Visit Travis Erwin for other My Town Monday links.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Music to My Ears

So, I finally broke down and bought it. No, I haven't replaced my 8 year old cell phone. Or replaced my 15 year old car either.

But I did buy an mp3 player. I decided to get one to use while completing yard work. I'm an indoor cat and yard work just doesn't thrill me. Sunlight burns. (No, really. I went on a trip last weekend and the mere two hours driving left me with a burnt shoulder.)

It was kind of a sudden decision. If I'm going to be puttering around outside, digging in dirt and picking up sticks and mowing the lawn, I'd like to have some music. Work is better with music. But it's gotta be music you can groove too-- nothing sad and slow.

I zipped off to my local retail store and browsed the selections. There's no way I'm spending a hundred bucks on a music player. I balked at spending $30 for the cheap ones. And none of those really inspired confidence-- just had that 'cheap plastic' look, ya know. Too cheap for even $30. I picked one out though, and kind of sulked off around the corner to look for batteries.

Then, I spotted them. The clearance players. I knew they had to have been some where, but hadn't found them in the normal locations. (I used to work at the store.) The clearance selection had a nice little player. And a lovely price: $12. It was once a $30 player. Whatever. $12 is my sort of price. Shoot, I spent more money on the rechargeable batteries for the device than I did the player itself.

So far, the player does everything I asked for and more. It plays music. It has a lock that keeps me from changing songs when I kneel to work on the flower beds. It won't take long for me to get $12 worth of use from this little thing. (Though I did dig out the cheap headphones we got from Northwest Airlines years ago on a trip and used those instead of the dreadful earbuds. Bleh.)

I'm hoping that the $12 mp3 player will be a prized purchase like my $13 scanner. I do love my cheap gadgets. =)

The only problem with all this... the yardwork part. I'd rather be writing. Oh well.