Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ha ha, very funny.

The universe has a very strange sense of humor. Now that I'm mostly recovered from the last "joke," I have a response for the universe: .|..

What's the joke? Well, see, I have quite a lot of allergies. Many of these are airborne, including dust and mold. So, often times, I take a daily anti-allergy medicine. One of those 24 hour ones.

Only, the universe thought it would be funny if I developed an allergy to the anti-allergy medication.

Really fucking funny.

I made it through, but by the time I started my recovery, I noticed something... the voices in my head were gone. It was... quiet. It was like I imagine normal people are like. I don't want to be normal! I'm a writer.

Good news is, the voices have come back. Bo came back with a new story for me to work on and everything.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

My Town Monday: The Pink Hotel

Next to the railroad tracks in Brighton, stands a slightly out-of-proportion brick building. It's three stories, but not as tall as a three story building should be.

The building went up in 1873. Behind it was the train depot. It was on the western side of town and served as a hotel for many years.

This historic photo ("borrowed" from the Livingston County Memories book.) is looking east, over the tracks. Before Main Street was paved.

Tallest building around at the time! And a bustling hotel.

Here's a similar angle, but much more recent.

Now, this building is causing some issues. Because the ceilings are not as tall as they should be for modern codes, updating the building is problematic to say the least. Last I knew it was being used as a sort of rooming house with offices on the first floor. Which, in modern day Michigan, there aren't too many rooming houses-- usually just apartments.

There was an offer to buy the place. The community got a bit upset over this piece of history being torn down (as was the potential-developer's plans.) It's a nice piece of real estate, near the down town area. We'll ignore the fact that half of the down town is empty. This building is one of four Brighton buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. So, for whatever reason, the developer backed off and this quirky piece of Brighton history still stands.

One of the things I always thought was awesome was the spiral staircase in the rear.

So... the title says "Pink Hotel" and here I've been talking about this lovely old brick building.

Well, somewhere along the way, some crazy deluded fool person thought it would be a good idea to put PINK SIDING on this building.

No, I'm not making that up. I wish I could find a picture of it. I'm too young to recall seeing it in pink siding... if it was still wearing the siding by the time I was in the area.

Luckily, the pink siding is gone. It's still known as the Pink Hotel. And still a pretty building.

Travis Erwin rounds up all the My Town Mondayers. Check em out.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Buddy, can you spare a buck?

Fellow writer, Julie, needs some bucks to keep the lights on for her family, including 5 kids. Not because of anything she did... except trust some relatives who really (in my never humble opinion) should never have been trusted. Like leaving the cat on the table with an open can of tuna!

If you've got a buck or two to send her way, every bit adds up.

Read here for the unfortunate story... one of those that makes me appreciate my own defective delightful family. At least they wouldn't jack me like this.

(Would it be wrong if I said this introduced me to a plot bunny?)

That Awkward Age

Perhaps my perception is off, but it seems to me that mystery writers tend to be older than younger. Seems to me that most of the folks in the mystery circles are... well, at least a decade or so older than me. Often more so.

There's nothing inherently wrong with this. It does sometimes leave me feeling a bit like an outsider. I've not the years of experience or the years within which to have read thousands of books or watched thousands of movies. (An exposure issue compounded by my busy work schedule.) I have no recollection of how things used to be.

But at the same time, I have no attachment towards my own peer group. I don't understand text messaging, Twitter, or social networking. My cell phone doesn't even take pictures. And I write mystery, not fantasy. ;-) I actually know few people my own age. Most of my friends and all my colleagues are older than me.

Then, we'll compound this by my choice of being married for years but without any kids. People my age who are married are supposed to have kids. Or they're single. Different worlds and different languages.

And we'll top it off with my delightful lack of small talk skills. (I keep trying but I'm still no good at it.)

I keep hoping I'll grow out of this awkward stage. Maybe when I'm thirty.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Narrative and Voice

I use a certain voice when writing Bo Fexler's stories. Perhaps one could call it Bo's voice since she's the one narrating. It's extra snarky and full of bitter commentary.

I'm not quite as snarky as Bo, or as regularly so. Mine ebbs and flows and sometimes comes in bursts that Hubby calls cynicism storms. In fact, it's actually quite dangerous if I get extra-snarky... I say things at school that I maybe shouldn't. o.O

Thus, when I am writing, I have an extra component. I have characters, setting, plot, narrative, and voice. Now that I'm becoming far less averse to rewriting, I'm finding it easier to keep moving on the plot and narrative even if I know that the voice is completely wrong.

Without the snark, a Bo Fexler story is just like any other story. Just a recitation of the details. There's no character.

I wonder how many differen ways I can say the same thing... ;-) Which actually, is part of what my writing voice is all about. There's the regular way, the slightly snarky way, and then there's full fledged Bo Fexler where I laugh at my own writing and feel proud of what I've created.

I wonder if Raymond Chandler ever had trouble keeping up the style of his prose?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


A couple random things:

Sons of Spade editor and webmaster has released a collection of his short stories featuring Noah Milano. Read more about it here.

I wonder if I should release my own short story collection. Got enough Bo Fexler stories.

Wonder what the other Clair Dickson's think when they google themselves.

Why does Swiss cheese taste better melted over ham?

Why is my muse so damned fickle?

But I'm making some good progress plotwise. Don't know how much of the narrative is worth saving, but the plot is playing out nicely in the current WIP.

Monday, February 16, 2009

My Town Monday: It's Bad Road Season!

Livingston County is one of those areas where the main roads are big enough, so long as it's not rush hour. Most of the day, traffic moves just fine.

But it's one of those places, like much of Michigan, that has some pretty abysmal road surfaces. 'Tis the pothole season around here. Most of the roads are damaged by the freeze-thaw cycle. And further affected by the salt that Michiganders *must* have on their roads. Because, you know, just because it's snowing doesn't mean you should have to slow down.

Here's one shot (borrowed from the Livingston County Daily News). You can see the road is just disintegrating.

Reminds me of playing Sim City 2. Sections of road would just turn to rubble.

Here's another. No, you're not seeing that wrong. It's one of those places where folks regularly drive on the other side of the road because their normal lane is in such bad shape.

Luckily, the worst roads are usually quiet enough that it's not too hard to share the one good lane.

You know you're in Michigan when you change lanes to pass potholes, not cars.

But it's not nearly as bad as it used to be. Here's an old photo of downtown Howell with a flock of cars travelling along Grand River Ave to celebrate the paving of this main cross-state thoroughfare.

Interesting thing in this photo-- people would just abandon their car in the road. No special parking. They'd leave it and head to one of the many bars. 13 in four blocks!

Maybe that's why the travelers didn't bother to park? At other times, parking was a bit more orderly, but not much.

And here's how bad dirt roads used to get.

A little perspective as we enter Bad Road Season (what some of the rest of you might just know as "spring.") As the weather gets warmer and the snow melts, the water will get into the cracks in the asphalt. Then, overnight, since temperatures still drop below freezing, the asphalt is further cracked.

And dirt roads become mud soup as the long-frozen moisture is finally freed by the sun.

But then again, I'm never in a rush to get anywhere. And I like to enjoy the scenery. That is, when I bother to venture out of my little office. I mean, that is where my computer is...

Visit Travis Erwin for more My Town Monday Posts.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day

Long ago, I told Hubby that if he wastes any money buying jewelry for me, I'll nail his jewels.

I HATE all the Valentine's commercials-- that some how you can judge a man's love by the amount of money they spend. Of course, if there were commercials that implied that you could tell a woman's love by how... worn out her man was, there'd be uproar.

Love isn't about one day things, besides. It's about how you take care each other the other 364 days of the year. Or 363 if your anniversary is one of those 'must make a special effort to buy your love' days.

It's more telling, I think, whether your partner takes care of you the rest of the time.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Embracing Procrastination

I am a procrastinator. And I have learned how to embrace it. Since I know that I work best under deadlines, I had to learn how to plan and estimate time to completion.

I started to get really good when I was writing 10 page papers in college. I would start planning and gathering my materials once the paper was assigned. Then, the evening before the paper was due, I would begin to type. I would be incredibly focused and punch out an 8-10 page paper in several hours. I'd take a break, then proof it, print it off (praying that the print gods wouldn't mock me) and be done. I had it down to a science.

Creative writing is a different thing all together. One, I don't have any deadlines. I do try to impose deadlines, but that doesn't usually work. My boss is a pushover and agrees to all the delays. Plus, a formal paper is a whole different sytle of writing than the snark required for Bo Fexler stories. Occaisionally, I fall out of snark and then Bo's stories are missing that fun flavor. They become just like any other detective story-- just the facts ma'am.

But writing can be a nice way to procrastinate on other things. This works well with grading or if I don't know how to write the guidelines for a new assignment that will both explain what I want and not be too confusing or lengthy. A tough balance since I do ask a lot of my students.

Many times procrastination is regarded as a bad thing. We should all, apparently, strive to start any task the moment we get it and thus get it out of the way. My biggest problem with that is that the first idea I have is often not the best. Every single time I started something with the first idea, I came up with several better ideas. The last idea was always the best. I continue to mull over something until I come up with the best idea. There's got to be a better way.

Procrastination doesn't have to be a bad thing. So long as you still meet the deadline, I don't see the difference in starting the project and getting it done or waiting and doing it last. For me, I'll actually spend less time working on the project because the final form is one that I've thought over several times. As opposed to revising the first project several times with each newer, better idea.

Though, procrastinators who don't meet deadlines have failed. If you can't meet the deadline, you've procrastinated too far. It's like running up to a cliff edge. If you stop just in time-- it's good (and looks cool to watchers). If you stumble over the edge, that's bad. You have just made a mess on the canyon floor. Don't screw yourself-- or those you're working with.

Learn to guage time and you too can be a successful procrastinator. Now if you'll excuse me, I have something I don't feel like doing. =)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pivotal Books

Patrick Shawn Bagley has a neat post up today. He collected responses from about a dozen writers on what book shaped their writing. Not the one that inspired them to write, but the one that greatly influenced their writing.

Okay, okay, I'll admit the BSP. I'm one of the authors who responded. But the other answers are neat to read, too.

(No, I do not have a LOLcat addiction. Honest. I can stop any time.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I am a procrastinator. I can come up with fantastic ways to avoid or delay doing the things I "should" be doing. I clean house to delay grading. (My word, there is no more tedious and thankless task.) I've surfed idly through the internet to avoid housework.

I work best under pressure and at the last minute.

Good thing I'm nocturnal. I easily stay up late to finish things. Sometimes into the wee hours of the morning. Getting up early doesn't work. As in, even if I drag my tailfeathers out of bed, my brain stays behind on the pillow.

Sometimes, procrastination even affects my writing,which is odd because there's no deadlines and no pressure.

There are writers who work best if they sit themselves down and write regardless of whims. Some work best on a schedule. Some outline. There's a flavor of writer for everyone.

I don't care much for schedules, but I do, from time to time, sit myself at my computer and try to force myself to write. Sometimes it works. I put words to page and make progress. Or at least put words to page that will be later deleted. But sometimes when I feel like I 'have' to write (perhaps because that day will be the only chunk of time in the week that isn't allotted to something else) I protest and procrastinate.

So, I've been working on ways to procrastinate but still get writing done. Sometimes, it's just a matter of writing something, anything, that maybe I can reshape later. As I get older, I'm learning ways to outsmart myself.

Are you a procrastinator? Do you like schedules and outlines?

Thursday, I'll explain how I have embraced my procrastination tendencies.

Monday, February 9, 2009

My Town Monday: WHMI

Believe it or not, little Livingston County has it's own radio station. WHMI, FM 93.5 is located between Howell and Brighton with it's little radio tower. They play hits from the 70s, 80s, and 90s.

Funny thing is, when it was still the 90s, they used to play the hits from the 70s, 80s and "today." They just never moved their line up to include more recent hits.

WHMI's one of the best places to get school closing information for local schools. (Like the one I happen to work for. ;-) WHMI also has a website where they post local news stories, closing weather information, as well as information for the contests they run.

I admit that I don't listen to WHMI much anymore. (Pronounced whimmy by local yokels) Somewhere along the way, my taste in music shifted to things less adult poppy and more alternative rock. But I do go to the website to check for school closings and local news stories. While WHMI doesn't have as many news stories as the local paper, they do have one thing the online version of the local paper doesn't have-- a complete lack of uninformed idiots commenting on the news stories.

Sometimes it seems odd that my little county has it's own radio station. Being where we're at between Lansing and Detroit, we get pretty good radio signals from both those cities. We can also pick up stations from Ann Arbor, and sometimes from Flint as well. Yet, we have our own little radio station, with local news and local ads. Kind of keeps that small town feeling alive.

Travis Erwin is our My Town Monday Man. Visit him for more places.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Before and After the Beginning

Like most short stories there is a lot of information that I need to know that does not need to be in the story. For example, with just about any Bo Fexler mystery, I need to know who her client is, what the investigation entails, and what conflict Bo's going to face. I don't usually know these all at the beginning of the story since I tend to start with a spark of an idea and just hope that the flame spreads to the rest of the pages.

Because I need to figure out the client and the case, I often end up starting at that point. Sometimes it's the client meeting, sometimes it's an info dump early in the story. But, as you my dear readers have clearly seen, these things are not often present in the final draft. I pick a new starting point. Something, hopefully, far more interesting.

I fell out of short story writing for quite a spell there. There were a few pieces, here and there, but mostly I had just been polishing up and finishing older stories. As I started writing again, I recalled that I used to actually write the backstory into the narrative. Which was part of the reason why, once upon a time (believe it or not) I used to be convinced that I could not write short stories. Then I learned how to edit.

For some reason, for a spell here, I've been averse to the idea of having to edit the stuffing out of my stories. I was struggling with trying to just not write the extra fluff. But I think that's just the sort of writer I am. I am not an outliner... every time I outline something, when I actually start writing one or seven characters will go and say something they were never supposed to. (I'm not crazy, I'm a writer. There's a slight difference, honest!) So, now that I realize that I am what I yam, the words come easier. Many of them will be cut and prune, reshaped until the overgrown hedge resembles a dolphin (or a phallus).

But the good news is that I am now learning to accept the type of writer I am. It goes along with my long time acceptance of my procrastination, my ever-messy-office, and the fact that I am nocturnal. These things just are. I may as well accept and embrace them.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Popularity Contests-- Difference between pessimism and realism

I don't enter many contests, be they for my writing or otherwise. When it comes to writing, the more general the contest, the more I'm certain that my writing has no place within a thirty-mile radius of said contest.

I realize that my writing does not have broad appeal. Well, no, truthfully, there are quite a few women that like my writing. Ha ha. But when it comes to popularity contests, my writing isn't going to appeal to a wide enough audience to win.

Or maybe I'm just being a pessimist.

Is there much difference in cases like these between the two?

While it would be nice to win a contest, and surely it would provide some serious validation for my writing skills, I don't enter. I hold on to my money and send to places more likely to accept things dark, bitter, sexy, and sharp. Am I short changing myself or just accepting that as the quiet bookworm with glasses, I'm never going to be prom queen?

And when it comes to writing contests, sometimes I do have a hard time with questioning whether perennial winners are really just that good or if perhaps there's a little bit of nepotism going on. Especially in smaller groups. Makes me wonder if track record or longtime relationships are affecting judging. I

I don't know if it's pessimism or realism.

Neither quite aligns with how I view my own attitude anyway: I'm an cynical optimist. The glass is half full, but some jackass is going to kick it over.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

My Town Monday: Groundhog Day

Everyone knows Punxsutawney Phil, the famous prognosticator from Pennsylvania. But Livingston County is home to a more accurate groundhog: Woody the Woodchuck. Maybe it's because Woody is female. Women do tend to have better instincts than men...

Seriously, though Woody the Woodchuck, a resident at the Howell Nature Center, has been right seven out of nine predictions. And, seriously, it may be because female groundhogs would have a greater need to know if it was too early in the season to bring out their babies. Woody's never had any babies, but she would likely still carry the maternal instinct.

Woody arrived at the Howell Nature Center in 1998 after her mother had been killed. A farmer brought her to the Howell Nature Center, but the critter had already lost her fear of humans. She couldn't go back into the wild. So, she was put to work. At least she works for peanuts.

At 8:15am on February 2nd, Woody will make her way out of her comfy home. If she stays out for more than 30 seconds, then that indicates an early spring.

I'll come back after Woody makes her prediction, though, and let you know what Woody says about the arrival of spring this year.

UPDATE: Woody wouldn't even come out of her paper mache log this morning, which means six more weeks of winter. Punxatawney Phil made the same prediction when he came out and saw his shadow. (Funny that puts it right about the middle of March... when the Vernal Equinox occurs.)

The rest of the year, Woody's part of the Howell Nature Centers educational programs.

But Woody's home is in danger. The Howell Nature Center is in dire straits. They may not be able to afford to continue operating. After 26 years, this may be it.

For those who don't know, Michigan has been suffering economically for far longer than the rest of the nation. Our economy started sliding before 2001. We have yet to hit bottom in the mitten state.

While spring may be around the corner weather wise, Michigan is still locked in the icy grips of an economic winter. I don't think Woody has any predictions on that one.

Travis Erwin has returned to corralling the My Town Monday posters. Stroll on over for more links.