Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Murder in the Men's Room


Honestly, is there anyone who can see something like at the local JCPenny's and NOT think that?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Professional v. Profanity


I'm starting to fear that being professional is a lost art to some kids these days. And some grown ups. Particularly in the age of insta-communication-- emails and texts written without forethought or afterthought.

My students usually smile when I tell them during the first day song and dance that I understand that profanity becomes habit. They smile and nod to each other. Then they get all flummoxed when I tell them taht I can out-swear the best of them. And I could. I can string profanity and vulgarities together in a way to make even the most bad ass high school wigger stop and stare. But I also know when not to use it.

When I'm heavy into writing, I notice that my speech pattern is altered a bit. I use more big words, even in the classroom than otherwise. I'm also more prone to being vulgar and shocking. Though you'd think my Hubby would be used to the things that come out of my mouth... even writing the words makes those speech patterns seep into my speech.

I don't have any real problem cleaning up my foul mouth for teaching (good thing!) though the occasional snarky line does sneak out. Luckily, each time it was with students that found it more amusing to hear such a thing from their teacher than offensive to hear it in school.

Nor do I have any problem writing polite, professional emails. In fact, I have a hard time being ME in email. I'm usually in something similar to "teacher-mode" that's nice, polite, and proofreads twenty-seven times to make sure that what I've written has a very high likelihood of coming across as intended.

I do, however, have trouble cleaning up my fiction for those markets that request things that way. I don't write clean by nature. To clean up, I usually go back in edits. And when I'm done, I always feel like the color has been bleached out of the story. Sometimes I think taht should I release a collection of Bo Fexler stories someday, that I'd go back and re-write the profanity and vulgarities back where they 'belong.'

Of course, the funniest part of all this, is I only swear at top strength around Hubby and a few other select people who I know don't find it offensive in anyway. I respect their right to not heard my creative use of bad words. But, man, they are missing out on some great lines...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

My Town Monday: Backroads

In Livingston County, there's usually more than one good route to get from one town to the next. Some rural areas have only a few routes between areas, but much of Livingston County is connected by paved (more or less) two- lane (ish) roads.

The older and more curmudgeonly I get, the less I like the main roads of Livingston County. I don't like driving on Grand River for long stretches between Brighton and Howell. Too many idiots in their fancy cars with their fancy phones distracting them from the overspending they've just done at one of the too many retail centers in the area. I've checked my car and it doesn't appear invisible to my eyes...

So, I'm learning more of the "Back roads." Growing up, I knew there were at least three ways to get into Brighton from points south--Brighton Rd, Brighton Lake Rd, and Rickett Road. Rickett's the most fun since it's completely straight. It's also a deer magnet. And the site of the my impact with said quadraped.

<-Rickett Road



On the back roads, I can relax. I don't have to worry as much about being run over by someone who fails to notice the little car in front of them. I can listen to my music, talk to myself out dialogue for the next story, and just enjoy the drive. There's no rush. I can look at old architecture on the houses and take in the scenery.


And yet, given the opportunity (and excluding peak traffic times) I'd just as soon get on the expressway than wind through most the major roads of the county. I also don't care for dirt roads-- too much sliding of the car.

I don't like spending too much time in the car. But if I'm going to be there, I may as well enjoy the drive, one way or another. Preferrably with some good tunes playing and no other drivers trying to play Monster Truck Rally with me.

How do you like to get about your town?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Teasing


I know my own ethics... but it's been interesting exploring Bo's. What is she willing to do, how far is she willing to go-- both professionally (if one could call seducing people for profit 'professional') and personally.

Even when I set Bo off to seduce one or more men, like a story I'm currently working on, there's still the question of just what that seduction entails. Do clothes stay on? Is petting and kissing enough? Do clothes start to come off? Which clothes-- and whose?

There's also the issue of what would really happen. I get some women complaining that men don't just make out with a hot women. And it's true that many men won't-- though most men I've talked to about it admit that they might play for awhile, entertaining the idea (and themselves). Can't really blame anyone for that. Hell, if a hot woman tried seducing me, I might play along for a while, too... what?

Like any writer, I sometimes worry about disappointing my readers-- they expect more than Bo gives, maybe she stops before she's (or he's) done. But in the end, the story dictates. The story needs what it needs.

The current short I'm working on-- while trying to find my way back into the novel I had to temporarily abandon-- is giving me trouble. I know it's going to be sexy, but I'm not sure how low Bo's going to go. Or how to resolve the conflict-- after all, there's more to the story than just sex. There's a conflict, a reason for Bo to pull out her sex appeal, a case to be solved.

But I am SO glad that my mind is occupied with story lines and plot problems instead of all the things that previously took over. I miss writing and am glad to be back at it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: We have a budding Pyromaniac



Oh, pertty fire...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

My Town Monday: Hamburg Elementary

This post is a little ranty...

Now, economically, things have been rough in Michigan for quite some time. We lead the way into recession years ago.

One of the casualties of the failing economy in Livingston County is the schools. The number of students has been dropping in all the local schools. This compounds another problem, which is that the Livingston County schools get the bare minimum of state funding, in spite of increases in student body and tax-base. It's a political thing... and it's hard on the local schools. We're suburban these days, but the we don't get funded like a suburban school. We get funded like small-town two-cow rural schools. We're totally four-cow towns, at least.

So, the school districts look for places to cut. One of the places was a little elementary school in Hamburg. Hamburg is a tiny town anyway, and the elementary school had about 300 students. That's it. It was the smallest school in the Pinckney school district, but it was also the most cherished. Logically, it made the most sense to close this one elementary and shuffle the students into the other area schools. It's regrettable, because, honestly, this is how an elementary (hell, any school!) should be. The staff knew all the students, there's was an incredible sense of community, and it was an integral part of the community around it.

Now, forgive a little more political ranting, but if Pinckney was a smarter school district, instead of boarding up Hambrug Elementary, they'd have that building making them money. How? Well, they'd open up their own alternative/ adult education program. Pinckney schools hemmorages high school students, most of them heading to another alternative ed program in the county. These students are non-traditional and most of them hate the way that Pinckney High School is run. (I should know... I was one of the students that couldn't fucking leave Pinckney fast enough. I made it 2.5 years of high school.) In other districts, a well run alternative high school program is AT LEAST self- supporting. At best, it can actually make the district money, as, allegedly, the program in Brighton does.

The size of Hamburg Elementary is about perfect for a small alternative school-- or even half the building would suffice. It would put the building to use instead of leaving it boarded up. So far, there's no vandalism, but it's really only a matter of time. Someone will have "fun" trashing the place and then it'll end up like the closed schools in Detroit-- too much money to repair.

Now I'll admit my biases. I think Pinckney schools has a dreadfully mismanaged high school, still. (I think it's an identity thing-- they still act like a small cow-town rural school when they are not. They are a suburban school.) I also work for an alternative high school that is run well and is financially solvent. I also hate to see this wasted opportunity. There are far too many places boarded up in Livingston County, too many casualties of money and poor planning.

I love my county. Really. But it's hard these days. Maybe my students who think that the Great Depression has to do with needing Prozac aren't so far off the mark...

Visit the My Town Monday site for links to other, probably more cheerful and less ranty posts.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Honest Scrap Award

Jamie Debree has chosen me to as a recipient of the Honest Scraps award. She nominated me in part because I write what I love. Cool.

The rules for receiving the award are simple:
- pass the award on to seven worthy blogs
- list ten honest things about yourself.

Picking other blogs is always the part I hate. I'm not good at choosing. And I always feel bad for leaving people out. But the top blogs that come to mind are:

Travis Erwin-- he's got a skill for telling his stories.


Sara who talks about her life and writing, and bravely wrote about her wardrobe makeover.

Keith Rawson-- another crime writer with a sense of humor I enjoy.

Patti Abbott-- my favorite softie who writes crime fiction


And, yeah, that's only four. Some days it feels like I read a whole ton of blogs, spying on other people's lives. Some days it feels like I'm not even scratching the surface and can't possibly keep up with the people that interest me.

Okay, part 2, which is the 10 honest things about myself:

1. When I started writing, the idea of sexing up my stories never even crossed my mind. I was also a virgin. No, literally. Some time after getting married... things changed in my stories. Probably because I was no longer a virgin anymore.

2. I get bored easily. I don't like waiting or sitting around when I could be doing something, particilarly something like writing.

3. I am a completely different person as a teacher than I am the rest of the of time. I'm postive, forgiving, and tolerant of stupid while inside the classroom. The rest of the time, I'm not.

4. I am so square, I could be cubed. I don't speed, drink, and have never even tried any illegal drugs. I don't even jaywalk (small towns without crosswalks not withstanding.) I don't like to do things that could get me in trouble. It's a little pathetic actually.

5. I find human behavior fascinating. I'm watching you. It seems that the whole world thinks and acts differently than me and it's so curious to me. Take for instant text messaging-- not the act, but the cost! I can't justify the cost, but everyone I know texts all the time, adding money to the phone bill.

6. I never know what to say to people. I'm learning, or at least trying to. But because of this, it does get a little lonely in my land sometimes.

7. I hate nearly all cell phone users. I think cell phones are creating this false sense of importance and urgency, which is damaging to people and those around them. If you call my cell phone, I regard it as an invitation to talk-- I may and will decline that invitation. I do not need constant validation and chances are whatever you are calling about can wait.

8. I married the first man I dated. I have only ever had one sexual partner. And, get this, I waited until my wedding night. Yet, I write semi-erotic fiction with a sexy female lead who seduces and sometimes uses men.

9. Apparently my appearance-- long hair, glasses, nerdy, and quiet (or maybe something else about me!) is misleading. People rarely expect me to be the vulgar, foul-mouthed, sex-talking, naughty-book-writing misanthrope that I am. I'm not sure what to make of that, but the shock-value is kind of fun.

10. Nothing in my life ever works out as I planned. Ever. It doesn't all go badly, but it certainly makes me wonder why I bother trying to plan and prepare for events or things. In the end, I realize that I'm doing pretty well-- a nice house, a nice hubby, money in the bank, and a job that I like most days.

Thanks for playing today. I'm still sorting out my schedule (and dealing with a new boss at school... this could get interesting.) But already I see the light at the end of the tunnel, and in that light is a stack of papers just waiting to be filled with story.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Oh Baby



Some action outside my window...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

My Town Monday: Hamburg Festival and Railroad Days

Apparently, this was the 8th year for the Festival in the little town of Hamburg, Michigan. This is the first year that I went and I admit, I mainly went for the train.

The Steam Railroading Institute brought out one of their steam engines and there were several rides on Saturday. My ma bought tickets for the one hour excursion train.


































The steam engine, Pere Marquette 1225, is the model engine that inspired the train engine used in The Polar Express. It was an impressive piece of machinery, towering above the little people.












The Pere Marquette railway is named for Father Marquette, one of the early Jesuit Missionaries in the Great Lakes area. But, the abbreviation for the Pere Marquette railway was PM, and I actually found in historical records that people used to say that PM (for the railway) stood for 'Poor Management.' The more things change...
















Up the hill, there were craft tents, live band, but really the highlight was the train ride. In what there is of Hamburg-- the town consists of a church, two fire stations, a bar, a barber, a closed-up market (sad), a ecclectic home goods store, and the old-library-turned-new-museum. And a handful of houses-- in this part of town, you could see the smoke from the engine billowing up. The train was at the bottom of the hill, past the now-gone Grand Trunk Western railroad line and sitting on the CSX (formerly Pere Marquette) rail road line.





There's no depot in Hamburg anymore, but the conductors were very friendly and helpful for boarding the train.











The train rain about a half-hour south(ish) out of Hambrug towards Ann Arbor. Then came back. The engine was running backwards on the leg out. It was cool watching for the railroad crossings that I'm used to driving over in the car. Took some thinking sometimes to remember where the next crossing would come out.

I could so totally do all my traveling by train. The cars were not fancy, but they had this air of formality and elegance of upscale travel, and of a by-gone era.










There was a dining car and little bathrooms on each car. I think the bathrooms (which I did not use, thought my young nephew made great use of in a mere hour ride...) were much larger than airplane bathrooms.






























The aisles and seats were much nicer than any airplane I've been on. Even though they were narrow, it didn't feel cramped, even with my long legs. And I sat opposite my dad, who is the genetic source of my own long limbs.















The Steam Railroad Institute is about to take the Pere Marquette 1225 off the tracks. It's due for it's Federal Inspection, where they have dismantle huge parts of this engine for cleaning and inspection. It's a task that costs over $500,000 and can take two years. So this may be the last year that the Pere Marquette runs the rails, which is quite sad. They do have two other trips planned for the end of a the year-- a fall color train that will run up through Northern Lower Michigan when the leaves change into a full display of reds and oranges, and a Santa train that runs to the "North Pole" where Santa is waiting. I'm saving my pennies and hoping to get to go on another train ride this year.

Visit the My Town Monday site for links to other folk's and their towns. And feel free to join us!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Schedules, Routines and Habits

I'm not real good at any of those... Oh sure, I have schedules. In a few more days, my entire week will be regimented into approximately 2 hour blocks. The price of being a teacher.

I can barely remember to take my meds every morning, and I've been on those same meds for years now. So much for that "three months and it's routine" stuff.

But one of the things that I do try to do, with varying degrees of success, depending on which way my life is imploding, is to write every day. Sometimes, it's just a matter of opening the WIP and reading things over, maybe tweaking a little, rearranging this. At least I've done something that day. I hate when that's all I can accomplish, but having just had a week where watching 'House Hunters' was mentally taxing, I'm reconsidering my position on barely-productive writing days.

The goal I like to set is 500 words. It's a nice managable goal, not too much. I don't beat myself up over not reaching, especially when there are other things in life, like, say, maintaining a relationship with one Husband or working on projects for other jobs. And knowing that I'm going to try to get another 500 words keeps my story writing thoughts more focused. I have a goal to work towards and something to work out. As opposed to starting yet another scrap of a new story. Like the three on my phone... =P

I can't schedule the time. I won't listen to me. I can't punish myself for not getting there nor reward myself for doing it. I still don't listen to me. But I know that the only way to eat that elephant is one bite at a time. The over-confident belief that I'm writing stories that are good and different and deserve someday to be published is enough. That's what gets me through the tough days. That and my love of conquering challenges.

But I'm not going to pretend that what works for me is right for anyone. I always hated those writers who insist (INSIST!) that a dedicated writer will get up before work and write a couple hundred words to start the day. I understand the rational, but really... my brain doesn't engage until sometime after 9am. Anything before that is akin to deciphering slug trails, except it's drool on the keyboard.

To me, the most important this is just making time to work on the writing. Add words, work on the story, and make progress. Morning, noon, night, regularly or in spurts. Every writer needs to find their own way, so long as they write, finish, and get better.

Write on!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Spying


Looking through the slats of venetian blinds always makes me feel like a spy.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Writing About Writing


I have no problem blogging about the process of writing. About adding words, deleting scenes, even about getting stuck.

But for some reason, I can't write about the story itself. I just can't write about the great scene I came up with (other than in generic, nondescript words.) And I can't post great lines I came up with.

I've thought about it many times.

But I can never put those words on the blog. Into the public.

What if the story turns out to be a dud? What if the story takes months to finish because it is difficult? What if that 'great line' has to be cut or edited out (as, sadly, happens far more than I would like)?

I think it's like my reticence regarding future plans. I don't like to talk about my plans for fear that they not work out. And then someone might feel the need to remind me of a failed plan, a mistake.

So, I write about writing. About female characters. And a little bit about life.

Still waiting to write about getting my novel published. In the mean time, I have stories to work on. I've got two short stories to edit before I start submitting them. And a novel to finish.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

My Town Monday: McPherson Hospital

Not really a good topic for Labor Day weekend, but having spent a few hours there this weekend, I decided to do my post on it.

Yes, my little county on the edges of suburbia has it's own hospital. Still. Once upon a time, an area like this might have a small, or two. In fact, like airports, Livingston County has two hospitals. Brighton Hospital has no emergency services, which, admittedly, was completely mind boggling to me for many years. The other hospital is a more traditional, if undersized hospital.

McPherson Hospital is in Howell and it's real easy to find-- just follow the blue H signs. (Now, I'd really appreciate if hospitals also had a few signs leading, oh, say BACK to the major road ways...) McPherson hospital was originally started in 1920, operating out of a house donated by the McPherson family. It had 18 beds.

Later, land was donated for the construction of a proper hospital. It is only three stories tall at the tallest. It's small. And, while still a good hospital, it certainly isn't the same caliber as, say University of Michigan Hospital about 30 miles to the South in Ann Arbor. And not far to to east of UofM Hospital is St. Joesph Mercy Hospital, Ann Arbor (aka St. Joe's.) While sometime it's a toss up between which hospital is closest and which is more high tech etc, I'm partial to the cute little one. It's like miniature hospital...

And, as I found out first hand this weekend, they have some good staff there. In fact, my visits there the other day were each shorter than the visit to urgent care the week before. See... the thing is my cat bit me when I tried to catch him to put flea medicine on his flea riddle body. Bit me bad. Hence the visit to urgent care, which included a lot of scary stuff about cat bites and infection and boogey monsters before they could give me a couple drugs a splint for my finger. Except one of those drugs had it out for me. I think it was paid off... maybe someone doesn't want me to finish the novel.

Since it's been about 8 months since I last developed a new allergy, I guess it was time. Unfortunately, by the time the symptoms manifested themselves in enough severity to conclude something was very wrong, it was late Saturday night. So, I made a field trip to McPherson Hospital... okay, techinically, it's now called St. Joseph Mercy Livingston or some such ghastly moniker, but local yokels call it by the right name, McPherson.

Anyway, I'm doing much better now. Almost have use of all ten fingers again. And the offending medication turned poison in being evicted as I write. Though I don't have any good pictures of the building.

Sitting in the hospital room for a couple hours, waiting, I came to the conclusion that hospitals should get local art students or something to paint "Where's Waldo?" style paintings with a selection of little guys (like 10) to hunt out on the walls while waiting. It's about the mental capacity likely available to anyone who happens to be in the ER... and it would be more interesting than unsuccessfully tying to hear what's going on in the hall.

Visit The My Town Monday site for other towns.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wordless Wenesday: Supernatural Phenomenon?

Maybe the sandhill cranes I was trying to photograph used some sort of magic.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I Like 'Em Simple


So, you're reading along and there all these characters and clues, and the detective wonders off and suddenly nabs the bad guy with a few lines, a few references to things you vaguely remember reading.

And the book ends.

Now, maybe you like that. Maybe you like trying match wits with the author/ detective. I don't. It infuriates me. When I'm reading-- and particularly when I'm reading for fun-- I don't keep close track of clues or characters. I'm not working that hard for my fun. So, I like when the author helps me out a bit.

It doesn't have to be a whole 'here's what happened' scene like in Monk. But I do so love it when authors drop me little a reminder. A little clue here and there to trigger that one synapse to fire and help me recall who/what/when/where/why/how. A little line.

But more than that, I don't like my mysteries too convoluted. I like to be able to draw a line from crime to criminal through the book, connecting the dots into a lightbulb. Too many twists and turns, too many attempts to throw off the reader, and like I've been bucked from a mechanical bull, I'm sitting on the side going WTF?

I just don't like to think that hard when I'm reading for fun. I don't want to have to take notes just to understand who killed the woman in the flowerbed. Like watching TV... it's entertainment. If I wanted to work, I'd be writing my own stories, not trying to figure out yours.

Nothing wrong with books that make the reader work. I just don't care for 'em that much. I also don't like coconut, cotton candy or romance.