Sunday, August 30, 2009

My Town Monday: Name Game

Livingston County, Michigan is what is knows as a cabinet county. It is one of 10 counties in Michigan named for then- President Andrew Jackson and members of his cabinet. There is a Jackson county.

Livingston County includes a town named Brighton. Many settlers to Michigan in the early 1830s were from New York, searching for new farm land. There is a Brighton, New York. Most likely Brighton, Michigan was named after Brighton, New York, as settlers often named their new towns after some aspect of their former residence. When I google anything for Brighton, I type Brighton mi to ensure I'm reading about the right town.

To the east of Livingston County, there is a city named Novi. There's a cute story behind this name. Apparently, on the Grand River Trail between Detroit and Lansing, Novi was Stagecoach Stop Number 6. That was the only name this place had. It would get written using the shorthand for Number, which is No. and the Roman numerals VI. Get some one with sloppy handwritting, leave out a period and No.VI becomes... Novi.

In the southern part of Livingston County is a little hamlet named Hell. Yep. I live just north of Hell, Michigan. There's several stories about how this town got it's name, but the most common is that the guy who first settled there was approached by state officials asking what the name of the town was. Allegedly, the curmudgeonly old feller replied, "You can call it hell for all I care."

Michigan also boasts such fun town names as Climax, Christmas, Paradise, Parshalville.

What fun town names do you have?

Visit the My Town Monday Blog for more links and to share your own town!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Long and Short

While stalling on my novel, which is in a bit of overhaul at the moment, I went through my shorts, looking for unpublished, near-finished, and reviewing submissions status. To my surprise, I only have three stories left right now, in a close to finish or finished status. I submitted one. I have to re-query on another. And a third is just kind of an oddball that I don't know whether to revise or submit elsewhere as is.

It has been a very, very long time since I had this few short stories bouncing around my computer, waiting for homes.

Truthfully, I kind of miss the shorts. I miss the form and the instant gratification that comes with the completion. Right now, I don't have any short ideas, oddly. I do, however, have the novel on the forefront of my brain. Thinking and rethinking my pacing and plotting and tension and conflict.

Writing shorts is a whole different mindset than long stories. In many ways, shorts are different structure. It's a much carefuller focus and many ideas just won't fit in the short form. A problem that's compounded by the many zines who are looking for 2500 words and other small amounts. It's like stuffing a fluffy down comforter into milk crate. It just isn't going to fit. A pillow, on the other hand, stuffs quite nicely.

With the novel, I think a lot about the entire thing, the next scene, the last couple scenes, the set up, the pacing, and so on. It makes it harder to juggle between ideas unless I'm already sure of the next part(s) and it's merely a matter of writing them. Those are fun writing days.

Though the current overhaul has been trying. It's trying to piece together where I'm going while cutting out what didn't work, but also keeping the pacing from being too quick through the plot. And to that some screwing formatting issues that are making things harder than they should, and it's just been easier to go watch HGTV with Hubby all evening than work on the revisions.

Man... this was supposed to be a short post. I can't even write short blog posts or emails at the moment.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Writing Something Else

Sometimes I wish I didn't write the way I do. Maybe if I wrote sparkly vampires or happy characters or something I would have an easier time getting publisher (or agented.)

Sometimes, I also wish I was taller. At 5'6.75 inches, I'm a little shorter than I would like to be. And, technically, I'm not quite "tall" in women's clothing-- the magic number we're looking for is 5'7". Too short to be "tall," too tall to be average. (But we'll stay away from that bane of my existence: clothes shopping.)

Neither one is likely to change. For better or for worse.

Aside from the fact that I like writing Bo Fexler stories, I realize that I'm just not that talented of a writer. I can't change voices. I write first person for a character-- Bo-- who is akin to me and my thinking in many ways. Much of her thinking is mine, only exaggerated or bent or such. But she does get to say all the cool lines that I only think of ten minutes after the opportunity has passed. And she's sexy and confident. It's fun.

But I have enough trouble getting into the heads of my minor characters just to portray them well in opposition to Bo. I have to think long and hard about their motivation. Even writing a character who I know is lying to Bo is hard, because I have to keep reminding myself of the character's motivation even for lying.

Now, it's either my writing in general, my storytelling, or my character (who isn't as much fun in PG format), but I'm not cracking into the top, most prestigious mystery fiction markets. Sometimes, I'd like to know why-- when I'm insulating myself, I'll maintain that it's because of Bo's sexy and smart ass female character. But there's always that niggling doubt that I'm just a hack. Hell, I can't even break into the erotica market... which I thought might have been easy with one oft-rejected story.

I haven't given up on Bo. And someone'll be prying my cold dead hands off my keyboard before I stop writing in general. Someday, maybe I'll be a better writer and be able to write a character that's not Bo Fexler. So far, it hasn't happened. Even my attempts last NaNoWriMo to write a new character ended up still feeling like a version of Bo.

Some days, it would be nice to be able to write something that could hit the big time. Some days, I'd really like that sort of validation of my writing ability.

Until then, at least I enjoy what I do.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

My Town Monday: Dairy Queen

There are four Dairy Queen locations in Livingston County.

I grew up about 5 minutes from the one in Hamburg. Unfortunately, since it was on a busy road and this was in the days before the Lakeland trail, so I wasn't allowed to walk or bike there. Curses. This location has always been a Brazier, meaning they sell burgers, chicken, and other things along with their ice cream. (Well, one of my friends maintains that that it's not "ice cream," it's "soft serve." Anyway.)

In downtown Brighton, there's a Dairy Queen near the Mill Pond. When they put in the Tridge and the walkway along the edge of the Mill Pond, they wisely connected the Dairy Queen to the path. This seriously cut down on young folks hopping the cemetery fence to reach the sweet treats. This Dairy Queen has room for about 10 cars in it's parking lot and a drive-through with room for about half that before it starts backing up on Grand River. In the summer, it's best to park by the Mill Pond and walk. And it'll burn off those Blizzard calories.

Hartland has a DQ as well, on the main drag. This is the only local DQ that I have not been to.
Hartland's kind of off on it's own, but that's a separate post.

But, overall, the best Dairy Queen ever is the Howell location. This Dairy Queen is located in an old building on the corner, beside the county Courthouse. The building was constructed in 1889 and may have been a druggists shop. Then later it was a jewelers. Then a druggist again. Then a shoe shop. Some where along the way, it became a Dairy Queen.

Inside is small with just a couple tables. And sitting there, you look out on the lovely streetscape of a historic town. Across the street was Howell's hotel.

As I mentioned last week, the county Courthouse lawn is often home to concerts and other events. Howell's farmer's market is nearby. It's right in the downtown, where the shops, the Howell movie theatre, the opera house, and only a few blocks from the library. It's a popular place.

<< Howell Hotel

But my favorite part is the architecture. In fact, I love the architecture in down town Howell. I mean, look at the sloping ground... I love how the building kind of shifts at ground level to step down the hill! They don't make 'em like that anymore.

Check out the My Town Monday site for more links. And feel free to joins us-- share your town!

Saturday, August 22, 2009


New Bo Fexler short story, Hit Women, up today at Beat to a Pulp. The story starts with Bo getting her ass kicked-- so what's she do about it? Check it out.

I wouldn't want to get on her bad side.

And I have to admit, I love the idea of a hit man being a woman...
(Yes, I love the Kill Bill movies.)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Words, words, words

During the last several weeks while I was finishing grad school, I spent a lot of time reading research reports and studies. They included a lot of graphs, tables, and charts. I realized that I actually hate graphs, tables, and charts. I would find myself searching for that information to be given in my preferred form: words. Just words.

I already knew that I am very, very much a visual learner. If you just say something to me, there's a really, really, high chance that it won't even register. The hardest classes I ever took were ones heavy on lecture. I would have to force myself not to just mentally wander off. Auditory stimuli is easy for me to ignore. Still, it surprised me to realize just how much I prefer reading words to charts. (With a few exceptions, of course.)

Okay, fine.

But then I realized, I dream words. And daydream words. I don't dream pictures-- rarely do I get the "movie-in-your-head" dreams. Nope, I dream words. I think them in my dreams-- not read or hear, just think. Like a narrator, sort of. I might have scenery backdrop to these dreamed words. And in my dreams, I reorder the words to be more aesthetically pleasing, rewriting even my dreams.

In some ways, this is nice. I think it makes it easier to 'translate' the story in my head to the page. I'm already thinking the words. It's just a matter of sending them down to the ends of my fingers, into a keyboard, onto the page. We can debate the quality of said stories another time.

And I'm curious-- what about you? How do you dream? If you're a writer, how do your stories... come to you?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: I Have A Cool Stove...

The problem is that my stove knows it's cool.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


I guess I've lucked out in this regard. From reading posts and comments by other writers, apparently, it's fairly common to cycle between happy with one's writing and unhappy with it. Or more aptly put, to cycle between thinking one is amazing and one should just burn all the pencils and paper in the house to prevent ever putting words to paper again. And delete Word from the computer. And bandage one's hands together so not even the blood from a finger tip could be used to scrawl out a few written words.

I usually like what I write, thus, I'm happy with it.

If I 'm not, I fix it. But I'm no longer as averse to editing as I once was, so if I've written dreck-- perhaps mind-scrapings at the end of a long day just so that I can say I've written something-- I know that I can clean it up later. Usually, there's something that can be salvaged, even in dreck. Except that one story... which will never be spoke of again. What story?

You know, some people go watch those cheesy "horror" movies that have turned the definition of horror from shocking to gore-fest. And people enjoy it. I'm guessing either the makers are complete sellouts, or, more likely, they actually like what they've created and think it's worth watching.

Not everything I write is laugh-out loud/ stare in wonder goodness. But overall, when I completely finish a story (all revised, etc.) then I am happy with it. I think it's good. I like what I have created.

The problem, however, lies in aligning what I like with what publishers are looking for. My husband tells me rather frequently that I'm not like other people. (He says it's why he picked me. I say he better say that or that $100k bounty life insurance policy will be looking mighty nice!) I mean, I liked Pepsi Crystal when it was out!

Maybe this is a problem. Maybe because I like what I've written, I don't see where it's failing. Of course, it doesn't help that there is so little out there-- in books and movies-- that I do actually write. I have particularly tastes. Writing the book I want to read means writing something that I have not yet found anywhere in books or movies. I still like what I've written. Even if it doesn't fit with what others-- what publishers-- want.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My Town Monday: The County Courthouse

It used to be called Livingston Centre. Now, the city is called Howell. It's small, for a city, but still the largest town in the county. Howell is halfway between Michigan's largest city-- Detroit-- and the state capital in Lansing.

It is also the county seat. In the vicinity of Howell is the Livingston County Sheriff's Department, the Livingston County Jail (LCJ for the wiggers who think they're tough after spending a few hours or days in there) and the county courthouse.

The courthouse was originally constructed in 1847. Before that, court was held at the Eagle Tavern, which also housed a bar (obviously), the post office, a grocery store, and the other important county functions. Legend has it, the drunks would be ecorted out in the morning to make way for court session.

The first court house constructed was a wooden building. When constructed, it was not only the courthouse, but housed the jail and sheriff's residence on the main floor. Also, it served as a religous buildings for, as it says in the Howell Bicentenniel, "all but the Presbyterians who had their own building." County and jury rooms were on the second floor. It was replaced several times.

In 1889, the wooden courthouse was deemed unsound. A proposal was submitted to build a new courthouse, at the cost of $30,000. By this point a new jail and sheriff's residence had already been constructed. The new building was constructed on the same land as the old, sitting one block east of the center of downtown Howell (formerly Division and Grand River, now Michigan Ave and Grand River. Howell doesn't have a "Main Street.")

The county courthouse is a grand and imposing building. Those doors really are ginormous. I'm thinking 10 feet tall, maybe.

<< Back view of the courthouse. The cars are parked right next to the building.

The courthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was restored in 1979, with a narrow majority voting to keep the old building instead of tear it down for a new and "better" building, which was the trend at the time.

Beside the courthouse is an open air amphitheater. More county offices are houses int he building next door, as the 1890 structure isn't quite sufficient in size. Though, you can't quite compare with the grandeur of walking into the County Courthouse.

The courthouse lawn is often used for outdoor concerts and other events. And right on the corner is a Dairy Queen.

<< Courthouse on the right. View of Grand River, Howell, 1908. The trees were smaller then.

I've only been in the courthouse once. That was to get my marriage license. I could have spent all day nosing around that building, which is as spectatular inside as it is outside. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of the inside. It is still used today and hopefully will continue to be used in the future.

They just don't build them like this anymore.

Click here for more My Town Monday posts!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

New Toy

As my consolation prize for finishing grad school, I got myself a new phone. It's been quite a few years since I got a cell phone-- never did buy into that "upgrade your phone" every two years bullshit. The old phone was at least 6 years old and was a very basic phone.

I decided to "splurge" on a new phone. This time, I decided to go with a fancy one. Actually, I decided to go with one that had MS Word on it. Yeah, I know. I barted my principals for the chance to poke a few sentences out on a short story while sitting at the doctor's office. But what are princiapals for, if not for bartering?

No, I did not get an iPhone. I'm a PC, not a Mac. I have more than enough trouble with my two computer nemesis-- QuickTime and iTunes. We do not get along, these programs and me. Funny that the two programs I have the most trouble with on my computer just happen to be the two Apple products. Maybe they sense that I only have the programs in protest.

So, my new phone is a "smartphone" that runs Windows. It's not that smart... it still only does what it thinks I'm telling it to do. If it was really smart, it would know what I want without me telling it. ;-) (Insert your own "husband/wife" joke there-- as a writer, I make DAMN sure my husband really, clearly and without mistake knows what I am communicating. As a writer, it's my responsibility to convey my ideas.)

Back to the phone... thought I bought one of them fancy phones, I cheaped out in every other way. I bought the refurbished LG Incite and skipped the data plan. In fact, I got one of the only smartphones that does NOT require the purcahse of that pure-profit-for-the-phone-companies $30/mo data plans. I can use the internet I already pay for at home, thanks.

So far, I like my little phone. It's pertty. And I already have a thousand words poked out on a new short story. One sentence at a time. I'm gonna like having the ability to type wherever I go. Especially now that I'm done with grad school, I'll have my life and my time back. Time to get back on writing short stories and littering them across the internet like watermelon seeds on the backporch after a summer bar-b-q.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Social Networking Quandry

I do many different things with my time in a desperate attempt to make a few dollars. Amongst the long list is teaching alternative high school kids. Though if you ask the little darlings, they think they're all grown up. They also think I'm old, even though I'm not quite 30.

Anyway, a slight dilemma has come up of late and I'm still mulling over what to do about it. As the title suggests-- "suggests" like a pair of furry handcuffs "suggests" night time entertainment-- the issue is related to social networking. It does happen, on occasion, that I make a connection with one or more students in my class. And one of them will ask if I'm on myspace (or, less frequently, on Facebook.) While I'm not currently on myspace, I have considered putting up a page as a marketing/ networking tool. Facebook is not as bad as I thought it would be. Let's just not talk about those damn games on Facebook...

I'm not opposed to "friending" my students. Thinking about it, I've tentatively decided that I would wait until the student was no longer in my class. Avoid the appearance of impropriety. Okay, fine, fine.

But my social networking includes quite a bit of overlap from my writing life. For example, my Facebook profile has my blog posts set up in a feed, which does allow readers who visit Facebook but not this blog to still read my writings. Great.

But-- another but-- not all my writing is... "school appropriate." Now, if I wait until the students are graduated, 18+, etc, then technically, there's nothing inappropriate. But something just seems a little weird about that. While the public scandal and controversy would likely do well for getting my name out there, an eternal challenge for new writers, it could, however, seriously jeopardize my high school teaching career.

Though, I think I gotta be doing something write if kids who "hate school" want to friend their teacher on a social networking site. I just don't know how to handle it. Right now, I'm going with the indecision as a decision making technique-- do nothing and hope I can figure it out later.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

It's Not Personal

All writers get rejected. There are several publications that I have never, and perhaps will never crack. At least not while I'm writing Bo Fexler stories as I currently do. I have some theories, some that are more salve than based on any facts, since I know nothing about the rejections other than the ubiquitous 'not right for us.'

I don't mind. I wholly accept that what I write and how I write it will not be to everyone's liking. The fact that I *do* get published-- and sometimes even paid-- are signs to me that I'm doing something write.

It surprises me, then, when I encounter other writers who take rejection very personally.

It's as if they think everyone should eat coconut and wear capris-- (two things that I loathe with a passion matched only by my love of writing).

I admit, I used to take rejection personally. But it was always that plaintive cry-- that desperate longing to know what was I doing wrong. If it wasn't good enough, then it must be me. Sometimes it is me-- sometimes the story doesn't quite work.

Sometimes, though, it must be you. Not that you're wrong. You have every right to hate my story as much as I hate [Insert current bubble-gum pop star with pseudo-serious lyrics.] You're not wrong, and I'm not right. Just different.

The world already has too much homogeony in flavor, I think. Too many Wal-mart-attired people going to McDonald's for their grease-flavored meal. Too many people who watch the same shows because that's what everyone is talking about or that one book that's So GREAT! Too many sheeple.

So, anyway, if we think for ourselves and develop our own tastes, everyone will have slightly different flavors. I'm not a standard flavor. There are plenty of people who don't care for my acerbic commentary and cynicism towards the wasteland of thoughtlessness that pervades too many in American culture. That's fine. If I see your sunshine and rainbows, I'm going to play Emperor Palpatine with the Force Lightning.

A well written story can suck if it's not interesting to the reader. I read Lord of the Rings. The books were very well written. It took me over a year to slog through them. I just didn't get into the story. And it's me. My taste, my preferences that were the "problem."

I mean, some people don't like Star Wars. Okay, well, them I can't forgive. That's just wrong and we should exile them to someplace, like downtown Detroit.

But for everything else-- it's not you, it's not me. It's taste. It's us being different. Which means at least one of us doesn't require regular sheering... the jury's still out on you. ;-)

Monday, August 3, 2009

It's Been Awhile

Things got rather quiet around here. Not just here, but also in my head. Second time in a year-- the only two times in my life-- I unable to even think about thinking about fiction. Last time was because of my allergies. This time was Attack of the Giant Grad School Course.

This course has consumed me with readings and writings, none of which are fictional and few of which are nearly as much fun as writing a snarky, innuendo-laced scene with my favorite fictional female. Luckily, the end is in site. The hurricane is moving off shore. And, hopefully, within the next week, I hope to return to the fiction that got tossed aside like storm debris.

I have a novel waiting for the climatic ending. And a couple short stories in the works.

The hard part will be trying to pick off where I left off. I'm not so concerned about trying too hard to remember what I had originally been planning to do. However, I do want the story to make sense and not take some silly turn in the middle because I don't remember what I was setting up later.

Also, in the coming weeks, we should see the publication of brand new Bo Fexler short story. If I can finish the novel, I'll call this a successful summer.