Thursday, April 30, 2009

Translating Ideas into Prose

Like many writers, I have an abundance of ideas. New ones, old ones, good ones, dubious ones, elaborate ones, and one-liners that may or may not make sense. Some are collected in a little box. Yeah, that one there. Plus I have a hefty folder on my computer.

But those ideas are in one language. The language of a laughing muse, who sprinkles ideas like fairy dust then flees off into the mist. And that laugh no longer seems fun. Some of those ideas don't seem to translate into the language of narratives.

I've got more than a few stories that I've started writing only to find that every single attempt is clunky, awkward, silly, or dull. Even if I know what to do with that idea, how to spin the yarn out into a sweater (or a straight-jacket. Though, I admit, the idea of a knitted straight-jacket amuses me. Anyway.) Even if I know what to do with the idea, how to make it a story, it just doesn't work.

I don't know if it's me-- if my execution is where the idea fails-- or if it's just that the great idea isn't so great actually. I admit to abandoning many ideas because I don't know how to care for them and help them grow up into full-grown stories. They wait, like unhatched eggs, for me to come back. Every now and again, I dust one of those old ideas off and find that, with a complete make over and some trimming, cutting, reworking, and reimagining, that it can be story. But then, is it really the same idea? Does it matter?

Some days, it seems so silly that I can't turn a certain idea into a story. Or that I'm just not working hard enough at it. Other days, that same idea seems silly and hardly worth time, let alone a couple hundred (or couple thousand) words.

And other times I spend more time thinking about how I write than actually writing. Um. Yeah. Anyway, with the aforementioned story 'Bosom Buddies' complete, I'm in the process of shifting gears and WIPs. I've got two stories in progress, a third idea that is just begging me to figure out how to put it into prose, and a sudden increase in free time. I'm like a polygamist trying to decide between pleaseing the angry spouse, enjoying the happy spouse, and making a move on the new love interest.

I'm done stalling. And out of analogies. ;-)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Surprise!

Besides a body, what other nasty surprise could be lurking inside this house?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pushing On Anyway

I don't believe in writer's block. I've never suffered from writer's block. I have, however, anguished with indecision, gotten bored with what I was writing, and even gotten stuck because I was forcing characters or plots the wrong way. These I can fix-- writer's block is a nebulous idea with no real solution. (To fix the problem, treat the cause, not the symptoms.)

My solution to these writerly problems is to keep working on the story. Sometimes, I'm not sure what exactly the problem is with the story. But I press on regardless. I may plot, scratching out new ideas, new plot points on scrap paper or at the end of the document. I may keep writing, churning out words and scenes that, hopefully, will be right for the story. Often in this, as I explore the characters and situations, I get a flash of insight into where the story needs to go. But I keep at it.


Why not?

The story ain't gonna finish itself. There are no story fairies that'll come in the night. (No Dish Fairies either, dammit.) Some people swear by letting an idea ferment. Maybe that works for them... I rarely get ideas for how to fix/ finish a story UNLESS I'm thinking about it with some sort of regularity or intensity. Just waiting doesn't solve problems for me, be they in fiction or elsewhere.

And on this note, I am happy to say that finally, I wrote the end of 'Bosom Buddies.' Again. Fourteen scrapped versions. Today alone saw the deletion of more than 1200 words, written only last night. As soon as I stopped writing last night, I knew in my little writer heart that what I had written needed to be excicesd. That came this morning, replaced with a new idea and 830 new words.

This damned story has vexed me for the better part of a year. I wrote it, but didn't like the climax. It was forced and put Bo in a position that I didn't like her in. So, I poked at it, rewrote it, edited it, restarted it, added, deleted, put it away, took it out, swore at it, swore about, and kept at it. Never once did I even entertain the thought of not finishing this story. I hate unfinished projects more than I hate giggly, vapid girls.

I spent most of the afternoon utterly delirious with delight at finishing the story. There's still a nagging worry that I've not pulled it off, likely because I've spent so long being frustrated over this story, that has tainted my perception of it. As soon as I'm up to it, I'll reread the story, then begin the process of preparing and seeking publication for this piece of work.

Even though this story has been damned hard to write, I am so very glad I kept with it. It makes the success (of merely finishing) that much greater.

Now, onto the next project.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

My Town Monday: McCourtie Park (Field Trip!)

We're taking a field trip today, out of Livingston County. We'll leave the county on US-23, heading south. Somewhere south of Ann Arbor, we'll get off the e-way and get on US-12. This old road used to be THE route from Detroit to Chicago. Now, most folks take I-94 and bypass this two lane winding road. So, most of the towns and tourist attractions on this road are kind of like that town in the movie Cars, kind of sad. There's no good route to any major city and most of the buildings are in increasing states of disrepair.

But, along this road, in a little place called Somerset Township, there is a place called McCourtie Park. This little park used to be the estate of Cement Tycoon William H.L. McCourtie. In the early 1930s, after amassing his fortune, he turned his 42-acre estate, once called Laiden or Aiden Lair into a one-of-a-kind showcase.

He had two spring-fed pools/ponds. One was for swimming and the other was stocked with trout.

He also built an 'apartment rathskeller' into the side of the hill to entertain friends. It had a paneled bar, a poker room, and six once-heated garages. A rathskeller is a below-ground bar or tavern.

This area is rumored to be haunted. My batteries died when I tried to take a second picture... evidence of paranormal activity...? More likely, it's just my stupid rechargeable batteries acting up. They have a long history of dying shortly after arrival at the photo-taking location.

The only part of the apartments visible from the road are the two chimney's he had constructed to look like trees. He wanted the chimneys to blend into the estate's natural landscaping. And, oh yeah, they're sculpted from concrete. Complete with detailing.

But the best part of the park are the bridges. Impressed by the sculptures he saw elsewhere, Mr. McCourtie commissioned two men, George Cardosa and Ralph Carona to make the bridges in the style of el trabeio rustico, the Mexican folk tradition of sculpting concrete into faux wood. There are seventeen bridges across the stream. Each is painstakingly carved from cement to look like logs, planks, even rope.

Another bridge.

This is just amazing.

All cement!

Below is a slideshow of all 17 bridges. Click here to visit the Picasa Web Album (same photos as the slide show.)

Lastly, there are two bird mansions-- well, these things are huge!-- one holds 192 birds and one holds 288. Sadly, like the rest of this once-magnificent location, the bird houses are in need of repair.

The park changed hands repeatedly after McCourtie's death and was in disrepair when the Somerset Township Recreational Authority got it's hands on it in 1987. They mowed it and cleared the area, put in picnic tables and fenced the ponds. At one time the land was home to a herd of buffalo!

Now the bridges are being painstakingly repaired by Melinda LaPresto and the little park gets a handful of visitors that have traveled down old US-12.

It seems almost a shame to me that so few people even know about this-- and other lovely little places tucked away on those old pre-expressway roads. [Insert appropriate profound commnet regarding speed, life, or travel.]

Check out Travis Erwin's blog for more My Town Monday posts.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Ruined Plans

I had a pretty good list of things I wanted to accomplish this Friday evening. But, I got none of them done. Not a one.

I blame Tess Gerritsen.

See, after an afternoon nap, I sat down to read a bit of Ms. Gerritsen's book, The Surgeon. A bit turned into a big bit. And another chapter. And just a little more. And then, by that point, I might as well just finish.

Aside from breif interruptions to take care of nature and snap at Hubby for disturbing me, that was my afternoon and evening.

Not a wasted evening, by any means. I enjoyed the book a great deal.

But I do think that Gerritsen's books should come with a warning label. "Do Not Start Without Time to Finish" or something. Maybe her name on the cover is the warning? At least for the Jane Rizzoli/ Maura Isles series. I had a similar problem with The Sinner. At least I know that I shouldn't start the next book (The Apprentice) without adequate time to finish it.

Which, it's a good thing I don't have any other of her books yet. I wouldn't get anything done the next couple days! =)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Fave Females

I've never really thought about who my favorite females are. I always just kind of knew, and never really thought about who all meets my definition for the preferred female form.

Until Travis Erwin asked about it in comments on Tuesday.

So, I started thinking. It's not much of a list, because, as I've previously complained, there seems to be a shortage. (Maybe I'm just not finding them-- but I do look into every female character offered my way for potential additions to The List)

So, here's my list.
1. Beatrix Kiddo from the Kill Bill movies. Determined, skilled, and just a bit of femininity. Not overdone, and I can accept her motivating forces, both for revenge and for her kid. She doesn't get too mushy, and still finishes the job even after meeting up with her former lover and her kid.

2. Kristen Van Dijk aka Baby Shark from the Baby Shark books by Robert Fate. Love this woman. She does some fine ass kicking in the books, doesn't let her femaleness (or relationships) get in the way, and the stories focus on the cases, not her love life. You know, like a book with a male protagonist would do.

3. Lara Croft. She can run, jump, climb, and shoot and looks damn good doing it. (Okay, so the boobs in the video game defy gravity, and, I'm sorry, that'd just be uncomfortable!) Didn't care for the former-lover problems in the movies, but I do like seeing a chick in action.

4. Jessica Rabbit from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. "I'm not a bad girl, I'm just drawn that way." Sex appeal and dangerous. She's the femme fatale character, andI gotta admit I like the femme fatale.

5. Mary Embrey-- the woman in the movie Hancock (movie, not so good, but this woman was fun.) She was powerful and didn't take any shit.

6. Jane Rizzoli from Tess Gerritsen's books. (I've only read a few so far, but enjoyed both Jane and Maura Isles.) These are competent, professional women. I wish the books would stay fartehr away from lovers and past lovers, but that's only a personal preference. I know most women prefer to read about love and other mushy stuff. (I try to skim those parts. ;-)

7. Trinity from the Matrix-- another women who looks good kicking ass. I like the added depth in her faith in The One as well as her no bullshit attitude. She's cool under pressure and willing to fight for what she believes.

While these are my favorite characters, I wish more of them combined sex appeal with physical (and mental) ability. I'd especially love to see more sexy, young, successful female characters in the mystery genre.

I want to see the femme fatale play the role of the detective.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wordless Wednesay: Who's There?

Who's there? Should they be there?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Kick Ass Heroines

They seem to be lacking a bit in the mystery genre. There's a few, sure, but not very many and even the toughest in the mystery genre tend to get their panties in a bunch in ways that Phillip Marlowe and Sam Spade (and countless other men) never did.

I found where all the kick ass women are hanging out though. They're over in the urban fantasy book shelves. Maybe shelved in horror (which of course overlaps urban fantasy.) And the kick ass women don't all have superpowers, etc.

Why is it that the mystery genre hasn't embraced the uber-tough, ultra-cool female heroine? (I'll skip my usual rants on why most of the mystery females do not meet my definition.)

Sometimes I wonder if it's an age thing. Seems to me that the young kids are writing the urban fantasy. Of course, over here in Mystery Land, *I'm* still just a kid! Some one find me a mystery author younger than me.

But youngters aren't really getting into the mystery genre. There's some sort of stigma. Maybe lack of good movies? Maybe too populated by older characters? Maybe there's just not enough sex appeal?

Mystery book shelves are dominated by long running series' by people who are old enough to be my mother. And, to a large extent, I think that affects the things they write. Nothing wrong with that. I'd just love to see some more younger writers, younger protagonists. And maybe a few women who could compete with those urban fantasy babes.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

My Town Monday: Yum Yum Tree

Nestled in downtown Brighton, there's a little restaurant called the Yum Yum Tree. It's easy to spot, being painted red brick and having a bright, cheery red and white awning out front.

The Yum Yum Tree is conveniently located right near the Mill Pond. This building stands next to the old Brighton Town Hall.

From what I can tell in my research, the building was built in 1871. Like many things in history, there's no straight line. Especially for a not-particularly important building. According to the 1895 Plat Map of Brighton, this spot was where The Bank was. It's only marked as Bank. In the 1880 History of Livingston County, it states that there was one bank, owned by B.H. Lawson in Brighton. Other historical records show that G.J. Baetcke purchased the bank from Mr. Lawson in 1891. My historical research was severely hampered as the library is only open for a few hours on Sundays. And they won't let me move in and live in the local history room... maybe it's the way I drool when they unlock the door.

To enter the Yum Yum Tree, go around to the side. There's a nice sloped entrance there, replacing the front entrance, which has steps... as it seems was common on old buildings. Inside the Yum Yum Tree, the original wood floor is there, looking worn but nicely so. There's also a neat trap door that I don't have anything but wild speculation for. (A bank... with a trap door in the floor... hmm. Anyway.)

The Yum Yum tree has been around for over 20 years, a staple in Livingston County. They have a full menu, but some people honestly never get past the ice cream counter inside the entrance. Especially since this building is right off the Mill Pond, which, if you recall is home to the Imagination Station playground. There's some other fantastic deserts there, such as the Mount Brighton, named after the local ski hill and the Turtle Sunday (which I recommend. Yum.) They've been voted the Best Desert in Livingston County for 20 years.

The full menu includes some fabulous food, though it's hard to pay attention to food, even if they are delicious Belgian waffles with whipped cream and strawberries. There's two big distractions awaiting patrons as they sit in the old booths.

The first distraction is all the stuff on the walls. My favorite are the historic photos of down town Brighton. It's so cool to see what things used to be like. There's also vintage decorations and warm-fuzzy wood plaques and old advertisements.

The other distraction is the coolest thing I've ever seen in a restaurant in all my days. The train. Near the ceiling, there's a small train that circles the dining area.

It chugs along past little wooden buildings... hey, wait a minute... those look like... yup.

The little wooden buildings even include downtown Brighton. You can see the red building that's the Yum Yum Tree and the Town Hall next to it. Okay, that's too cool for words.

But that's not all. The train goes through a tunnel over the cash register.

There's six trains that are changed out during the year. The little train goes about 3.4 mph as it travels the 140ft of track around the dining area. The train has little whistle. Whoowhoo!

If you happen along in the Brighton area, you have to stop at the Yum Yum Tree.

Visit Travis Erwin for more My Town Monday posts

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Goals and Limitations

By the time you read this, I will be in Indiana for the Pokemon Trading Card Game Regional Tournament. Don't congratulate me-- they let everyone into the regionals. Only top cut matters and the rest of us just play for fun. My first tournament last year was at Regionals.

After about a year, I'm pretty comfortable in my position as a Pokemon card game player. I'm at the "less competitive" end of the tables.

I'm a fairly busy person and devoting more time to Pokemon than I do just isn't going to happen. So, I accept my fate. Though, to be honest, I'm not sure I mind being in the "Loser Bracket." It's a lot less stressful, meaning I'll have more fun. I'm not very good playing under pressure and tend to forget what I'm doing. Unlike many of the top players, who I have nervewrackingly played against, I don't have most of the current cards memorized. Since I don't, I'm not likely to be able to predict what will happen next. Or sometimes, even remember what a certain card that's in play continues to do.

I accept my limitations as a part-time hobbyist, non-competitive player. I go mainly (entirely!) because Hubby likes to go. If it wasn't for him, I'd spend more Saturdays at home. I enjoy the game and I enjoy traveling with him. I'm just not real crazy about competing.

Though, I do still have goals for my day. I'd like to win more games than I lose. The bigger the tournament, the more rounds that are played. If I win more than I lose, then I consider it a good day. (If I win a door prize, it's automatically a good day, regardless of win/loss ratio ;-) If I do okay in my wins, then I've built a decent Pokemon deck and I've played it well. Though, there's something to be said for luck, but a string of bad luck can be any day rough, whether it's Pokemon or something else.

It's important to know one's limitations. It'd be foolish for me to think that, as a hobbyist, I have much chance of beating the top players. Especially since they seem to have a lot better luck than I do (as evidence by them never starting with the worst damn cards in the whole deck! Forfeit!) But just because I'll never be a top player, doesn't mean I can't still strive to be the best player I can.

Same, of course, goes for writing and all other things in life. I doubt I'll ever be considered one of Great Writers of Our Time or something high and migthy like that. But I'll be happy if I write some good stories that people enjoy.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cell Phones and Plot Devices

This New York Times Article about literature being cell phone free was interesting and amusing. And it got me thinking.

While cell phones certainly have changed the way that people communicate and there are quite a few plot devices that are rendered improbable by the common usage of cell phones, there are still ways to use some of those plot devices.

People don't always contact someone in the event of changing plans. Some do. Some don't. Just as some people out there don't have cell phones. Or maybe someone doesn't answer the phone.

Or perhaps the wrong number is texted to. (There's an infamous story of a girl who texted her "friend" about losing her virginity, but instead she'd highlighted "Dad" in her cell contacts. Yeah. Dad was thrilled.)

Misunderstandings are still common. In fact, in my opinion, because people are communicating more often, they're usually doing so with less information and sometimes less clarity.

Some work arounds with cell phones are going to seem convenient no matter what. It's that little problem where coincidences are frowned upon in stories. I've had my cell phone mysteriously shut off. I don't notice it for hours since no one calls and I don't have any calls to make. Or a battery dies. Or we had a roaming voice mail the other day-- I left it on Hubby's phone on a Thursday about 3pm. Friday evening, his phone chimed with the incoming voice mail. Write that in a story, and prepare for the Pitchfork Brigade.

Cell phones and technology are changing story-writing. Maybe that's why some people like to write their stories set in those "simpler" times. I think it's just a new challenge. If the technology is available, how do you fuddle plans for your character? Think harder.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Worldless Wednesday: Stupid Cat

What's my cat, Marlowe, (aka World's Most Disappointing Cat) thinking, as he scurries to stuff himself in places he may not even fit into?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I'm Not the Only One Who Noticed...

There's not much sex going on in mystery books. Or at least, if it's there, it's behind closed doors. (Boring!)

Over at the Kill Zone, Eric Stone talks about one handed reading. Good reading. (The comments are interesting too.)

And I agree with him. Sex is part of a character, whether with a partner or alone.

Beyond characterization, I totally think the mystery section needs some sexing up. I think I know just the dame to do so. Blond. Five foot ten. Green eyes. With just the right sort of curves.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

My Town Monday: The Local Scene

Yes, that really is what you think it is. An abandoned McDonald's restaurant. The building has been empty for about six, seven years. It's on the edge of Howell, just past the railroad viaduct. Beyond that, the town of Howell sags under the weight of the recession.

It's pretty obvious what happened here.

Michigan, as some of you may know, has suffered an economic decline that's lasted longer and hit harder than many other places in the U.S. I think it was around early 2001 when the first rounds of layoffs at the automakers began making regular headlines.

Wave after wave of lay-off came rippling through the state of Michigan, affecting everyone.

Both downtown Howell and downtown Brighton have an overabundance of space for sale or lease. Restaurants are closing down left and right, mostly small locally owned places. Things seem pretty bleak. And this building could be a testament to just how bad things are in Michigan.

But, the McDonald's was not a victim of the economy.

Nope. McDonald's moved. Howell has for years been spreading outwards along Grand River, heading east and west, but then something changed. A little intersection in between Brighton and Howell, where Latson Road meets with Grand River, development sprang up.

First, there was just a few things-- a plain Wal-Mart, a lingerie shop, Art Van Furniture and a few assorted other places.

Then, like most places that suddenly sprout, all of the sudden, the intersection came to boast three chain restaurants, a Super Wal-Mart, a Meijer (Wal-mart competitor), Lowe's, Staples, and... McDonald's. This is only a few miles from the now-empty building. So, they moved. The Laston Road McDonald's is that new swanky "Not McDonald's" look with the flat screen TVs and everything. And it's in a much higher traffic area.

In fact, the old building is gone now, too. It's been replaced by an Aldi's.

Things may be rough in Livingston County, but life goes on.

Sometimes things are not always as they may appear. And thus, is fuel for my overactive imagination. It's also good fodder for playing with the camera.

Visit Travis Erwin for more My Town Monday Posts.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Linky Love and Other Housekeeping

I finally got a chance to go through and update my links. It was one of those tasks where my own negligence was bothering me, but it was awful far down on the priorities list.

I've taken the links off the sidebar (getting to be too many for that anyway) and moved them to the "second part" of this site. I'm still too cheap to have my own host and all that, but Wordpress does a damn fine job of holding everything that this blog can't, such as my links all neatly organized. And I have descriptions!

I collect links. And I collect all sorts of random tidbits. Always for later. Some I come back to. Others just get lost in the piles of "important stuff." I'm not very good at coming up with categories for organizing things. I'm not sure exactly why, but it's become one of my new projects. Not so much the organizing, but understanding why it's so damn hard for me to stay organized. Especially since I do hate my desk all cluttered and being unable to find things. (Sadly, I'm not one of those people who can keep track of what pile that important note on the half sheet of scrap paper is in. I'm lucky if I know what room it's in.)

After cleaning up the links on my website, I moved on to the links in my Favorites Menu. (Also known as bookmarks.) Then I moved around a few folders on my computer to better organize those.

Then, because some how it always happens this way-- I get into "Cleaning Mode"-- I tackled my desk. I removed most of the sticky notes from my monitor, cleaned up and filed a bunch of things on my desk, and moved around the remaining "important things." It was a fairly productive day, all and all. I still need to figure out how to be better organized. Some day. Maybe when I'm not working quite so many hours and have fewer insanely busy weeks where it's easier to justify not putting things away properly.

Anyway, the most important thing is that I've finally updated my links to better reflect my current internet lurkings. Check it out.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Friday's Forgotten Fiction: Short Stories

I read short fiction on a regular basis. In books, but mainly on line. It's even harder to pick a short story to review than it is a book. So, I picked a couple.

The first story that pops into my head is "Quitters, Inc." by Stephen King. This is a haunting tale that is just superb writing. Everything from setting to the intensity of the plot to that little zing at the end. Seems to me that most people know Stephen King for his longer works, but this story should not be overlooked. (I found it in my anthology of the Best American Mystery Stories of the Century.)

Another short story that really stuck with me is "Death by Scrabble" over at East of the Web. It wasn't a place I normally venture, but I came across this story and loved it. It's got some nice double-meanings (aka my Kryptonite) and an amusing ending. One of those endings that you expect, but don't expect. Yeah, I know, that statement almost makes sense. It's not a surprise ending, but not wholly predictable. Fun nonetheless. And it has Scrabble in it.

I can't mention short stories I like without including one by Al Tucher featuring tough dame (and prostitute) Diana Andrews. One of my favorites is titled "Enlarge your Penis" and is now housed at Twist of Noir, but formerly appeared at Muzzle Flash. I do enjoy Diana Andrews-- she's tough and smart and willing to use what she knows (and what she has). I'd like to see a few more dames with the testicular fortitude that Diana Andrews has.

Those are my picks for short stories. There's something fun about a short story. It's like a little snack. One of the best things about short stories, espeically concerning tough characters-- no one stops the story to explain or excuse the behavior. It just is. No past tragedy like so many hardboiled novels get wrapped up in. Just now, this scene, this event.

Now, I'm also a writer a short stories, of course. I probably read more shorts than the average reader, just because I'm constantly puttering around the internet, reading stories in zines. I think the key to short stories is length-- some stories really do better in the shorter format. Some for the reasons I've mentioned above. I also like the streamlined storytelling-- not a lot of fluff.

As for twist endings-- I'm not so big a fan of those. But I do like that little bit at the end that makes the ending just a little more wow. Maybe it makes a previous detail more shocking or clarifies something or just some sort of zinger. Those leave the best impression on me, though they can be the hardest to pull off. With a short story, I think it's even harder to be remembered-- less time invested in the story overall-- so something *really* has to stand out from the crowd. The stories I've picked above are ones that, to me, are something different.

Make sure you visit Patti Abbott, the Official Forgotten Book Friday Wrangler.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Insert Clever Title

Usually, I start with a premise. One of those what-if's that writers hold on to like a stubborn Labrador. I'll shake it around, see if it's any fun.

But, sometimes, I start with a title. The title may have the hints of a premise in it, but barely so. It's a rough starting point, but because I'm an idiot crazy stubborn, I may latch onto that title, determined to write a story with it, dammit.

Sometimes it works-- such as the previously published stories Sex Act (previously at MuzzleFlash,)
Private Eyes and Ears (Crime and Suspense) and Missing but not Missed (BackAlley Webzine) and Mighty Maids Mystery (Yellow Mama.)

Sometimes, these story titles nag at me, progressing from "Oh, neat!" to something that should be printed off just so it can be burned. Right now, I have a couple titles that are just a pain in my stubborn side. Included on the list are: Bosom Buddies, Man of the Month, and
Hit Woman. I think I finally got Hit Woman moving onto the completed list, but it's been a long time coming.

Of course, the irony is that more often than not, the title is the last thing I come up with. I can usually gauge if the story is "done" by whether or not I'm happy with the title. This is actually the problem with the aforementioned story "Hit Woman." I like the story, but I'm not sure that Hit Woman is an appropriate title anymore. Unfortunate since I do like the title.

However, because I need something to use as a file name, my stories have to have SOME title from the start. "Short story #37" just doesn't work when I'm looking for it. Without some description, some title, the story doesn't stick in my mind, thus making the file hard to keep track of. So, I end up with some stupid, lame title that bothers me every single time I double-click the little icon with the blue W. "Untitled Revenge Story" or "Poker" or "Skeleton Story." Or maybe it's the name of the case "Raskin Case" (which became "Failing Mark" and published at Long Story Short) or "Francis Thayer Whitaker" (which was later titled "Family Affairs of Adult Children" and published at Mysterical-E). Using the name of the case doesn't bother me quite as much, but it's still a reminder that I haven't come up with a clever title.

And then there's this little niggly problem with some of these too-clever titles that are just so apt for Bo Fexler stories. Or rather a problem that comes with working several jobs and being on several other computers. The file name stays in the recent file directory. I don't think having "Jailbait" or "Sex and Violence" show up on a public computer is a very good idea. Especially the school computers... where I teach and oversee the independent study classes.

Just one more thing for a crazy writer to muse about.

What do you do about stories and file names?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Not My Idea of Spring!

This photo is from my front yard on Monday morning. Monday April 6th.

So, what could an intrepid writer do with a sudden return to winter like this? How could you use this in a story?

I'll be back later to add my own.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Believability and Truth

Writers don't always write about what we know. We all know that too. I write about a female character who performs sexual favors for information, gets into fist fights and works as a detective. I've never done either of those. (Interpret as you will ;-)

But I can research and imagine pretty well. The links in my favorites folder are very incriminating. Especially since I have a 100k life insurance policy on my Hubby. (He's save as long as I love him more than I love $100k ;-)

One of the things that I know rather well is my setting-- Livingston County Michigan. The novels and many of the short stories are set in this little county on the edge of suburbia and sandwiched between several important Michigan cities. Big enough to have it's own hospital, jail, and airport, but small enough that it has less people in the entire county than there are in the whole city of Ann Arbor. And an interesting collection of small cities, suburbs, and countryside.

From my not-always-law-abiding students, I've learned a lot about groups of young people in this county. Where they hang out, where they shoplift from, who they know. They don't always stratify as is "expected." We have rich kids who are expected to attend college going to the parties at the trailer park.

Do I write Livingston County as one setting, or do I use it's rich and varied settings-- sending Bo from a vacant field on the west side of the county, then an hour later at a crowded warehouse or a million-plus-dollar mansion overlook an exclusive golf course? Do I have poor white trash teens at parties with rich white trash kids as happens with my students? Do I write the Sheriff's Deputy on road patrol and handing out citations-- which they do here, but not all Sheriff's depts. do?

(Yes, pic #2 is an abandoned fast food restaurant from a very popular chain. There's a story there... but for another day.)

Do I write what I know, or acquiesce what people expect?

I also grapple with that question of 'believability'. To me, it's all believable. It's what I've grown up with, what I've lived for years.

Monday, April 6, 2009

My Town Monday: Low Flying Planes

Not only does little Livingston County have an airport-- we have TWO! Yep.

The "big" one is the Livingston County Airport out in Howell.

It's over on the West side of Howell. Between Howell (the county seat and biggest city) and Fowlerville. Fowlerville has... well, not much. It's got the Bloated Goat bar and the Fowlerville Fair.

<-- This photo shows the landing strip (the half-strip of ashphalt on the left.) The road on the right is Grand River Avenue. The road crossing the photo along the top is M-59. (This is an old photo--doesn't even have the 7-11 on the corner, let alone the newly constructed divided highway.) Originally, it was much closer to the downtown area. An elementary school was built on the land in the 1940s , at which point the airport moved to it's current location. It's called the Spencer J. Hardy International Airport.

It was a big deal in the 1970s when the airport finally got a paved runway. This meant that the air strip would no longer have to close due to mud.

Yep, that's small town for ya.

The airport mainly serves small planes, one and two propellers and small jets.

It also, as of recently, is home to the Survival Flight helicopters which are used to whisk the injured off to either University of Michigan hospital (or it's nearby neighbor St. Joseph Mercy Hospital) in Ann Arbor or possibly to Sparrow Hospital, near Lansing.

Livingston County has it's own hospital, but--well, that's a different post.

The other airport in Livingston County is over by Brighton. It's a small airport nestled onto a back road not far from town. You'd never know it was an airport since it looks just like a grassy field from the road.

In fact, until I found this aerial shot, I didn't realize that it was a full functioning airport. In my research, I found that it's fully owned and operated by the pilots without government intervention.

And over on the Livingston County Airports webpage with airport history... I found this amazing photo. This happened a few years ago. If you look closely, you'll see that it's a double rainbow. It showed up after a fantastic thunderstorm. I was at work with Hubby, but we went outside and wished we had a camera. Someone at the Livingston County airport had a camera-- and a truly unobstructed view of this amazing double rainbow. Click the link for a larger picture.

Sometimes I fine neat history, sometimes I just find neat things. Now... if only everything was on the internet.

Unfortnately, some of my readers don't believe the things I've written into stories set in Livingston County. Who's going to believe that a tiny county on the edge of suburbia will have TWO airports? The more I think about it, the more I realize that Livingston County is an place.

Travis Erwin is the man responsible for My Town Monday.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

It'll be just like starting over...

I hate scrapping a story and starting over. It just feels like a waste. I usually try to rewrite, saving what I can. Somehow, rewriting many scenes doesn't seem as bad as opening a new Word doc and starting again.

Of course, today, when I finally bit the bullet and realized that there was no way to salvage the remnants of the shredded tale I was working on, I opened Word and it's "Document #14." This is what happens when you leave Word running on a computer that stays on for days at a time and you create many new documents in that time. But, today, that reminder of yet another start on this particular story is a bit of unfortunate irony. There are THIRTEEN scrapped starts to this story.

This story has been vexing me fore quite some time, clearly. I keep revising, trying to make the scenes and the resolution work out. I had it written through to the end, kind of happy with it. But not really. So, I poked, fiddled, cut, rewrote, revised, moved, changed, pondered, and fussed. To no avail. The story ended up in shreds as I tried to fix it.

I've got a new angle to try, one that I think will work out. Of course, I thought all the other attempts would work.

So, Document #14, attempt number 14 on this particular story is now underway.

And I may even be able to poach some lines and paragraphs from the previous document. A consolation prize, but missing the generic blue ribbon.

But that only takes the edge off the sting of this sort of set back. Anyway, time to go turn attempt number fourteen into, hopefully, the last attempt.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Little Men

What's the secret mission, boss?

I'll be back to share mine later.