Friday, December 3, 2010

FFF 8: Time

I'm a little late this week... partly because I still thought the deadlines for F3 were Friday.  And partly because I really just need the whole week.  =/  I'm gonna keep trying the prompts, when they tickle my muse, but I already know I'm not gonna make any Wednesday deadlines.  ESPECIALLY not Wednesdays!

Anyway, here's my story for F3 #8...

Wasting Time
A Bo Fexler Story

The clock ticked off the seconds, each a piercing reminder that time moved forward.  It was already late on a bitter cold night.  The heat had turned off for the night—and the long holiday weekend—in the office building.  The cold workspaces, extra clean by some managerial mandate, were even more impersonal in the dropping temperature.

My shoulders were tensed, as if doing so would contain what little body heat remained in my body.  My fingers were so numb that I could barely feel the shape of the mouse as I navigated with it. 

Without the intermittent whooshing and humming of the heating system, the office was still, lifeless.  Only the barely perceptible whir of the computer fan, the faint click of the mouse button, and the interminable ticking of a clock on the desk next to the computer broke the still stillness. 

Everyone that normally worked in that office building was off doing holiday related things.  If not enjoying their families for Thanksgiving, they were tolerating them with whatever coping methods or alcohol they could manage, or just plain avoiding them at home or at the bar.  The Wednesday night before Thanksgiving is the biggest bar night of the year.  Few people work that night—besides the standard retail workers, law enforcement and emergency responders, and bartenders.  The occasional private investigator will put in a few hours, checking to make sure that a certain spouse is actually working late, rather than finding unauthorized reasons for giving thanks.  Then they, too, would join one of the normal Thanksgiving activities.  Being a PI, like being a cop, can be hard on personal relationships, though, with the odd hours and spying and trust issues that come with watching everyday people betray the trust of those who care for them. 

Luckily, I had trust issues long before I entered the PI business.  It makes the job easier.

The holidays no longer have any meaning for me beyond the normal ebb and flow of business as people increase or decrease their need to know the truth.  It’s just part of the passing of time.  One month to the next, one year to the next. 

I tucked my hands under my arm pits, trying desperately to restore some feeling to them, while the computer considered my request.  Fittingly, the machine turned a digital hour glass while we waited.  The sand grains didn’t move though.  It was an old machine, running an old operating system.  It made my job both easier and harder.  Security on that old computer was something of a joke.  And the man who used that machine wasn’t very good with computers.  The collection of empty folders named New Folder was amusing. 

The man who worked on that computer was at home with his wife and grown child.  According to the wife when she called me, he was pretty well trashed too.  That was why she'd asked if I was busy—or more importantly, was my time claimed by anyone else that holiday-eve.

 She'd first thought maybe he was staying out late because he was having an affair with some office girl.  But a couple days of surveillqnce showed that the husband was the last to leave his office, and did so well after everyone else.  Sometimes, he'd return to the office after a few hours at home, claiming he had things to do.  He had agreed to stay home the night before Thanksgiving, but promptly got plastered.  That meant she could take his keys—under the guise of keeping him from driving drunk.

So, while he was drunk, and his wife was working on a bottle of wine, I was snooping around the man's computer.  It looked like he had saved everything in the My Documents folder, without even the benefit of sub folders for organization.  Except there was another folder, buried among the system folders.  It was also named 'New Folder' but it wasn't empty.  It was quite full, actually.  Full of movies mainly, with the occaisional picture, too.  Renaming files was not part of his skill set, so I was able to tell the content without actually having to watch any of them.They had titles like Girl Takes Huge Dick and Young Blonde Likes Getting Rammed.  Not even any flicks about anal or threesomes.  As far as porn went, it was tame.    

I rummaged around in the man's internet history.  Nothing much there.  A couple porn sites, some random searches for trivia bits-- the sort of things people talk about in the break room and then Google to find out who was right-- and some searches for local addresses.  I searched for the addresses and found he'd gone looking for a bar, a floor covering outlet, two restaurants, and a sex toy store. 
With his not updated web browser, I was able to access his email, even though he'd logged out.  The session cookie was still available, so hitting the back browser until it activated the session cookie.  Except it wasn't worth the technical know how.

How the hell was I going to write up the report on this case? The man wasn't sleeping around.  He seemed to be avoiding his wife by going to the office after hours and, while there, watched porn.  And probably jerked off.   He had enough videos that he could watch for days.  Plus, given the dates on the files, it appeared that he went hunting for more every three or four days. 

 Hopefully she could accept that her husband was passing his time with porn and masturbation.  More likely, she would claim the investigation was a waste of time. 

For me, though, finding answers, no matter how mundane or disappointing, is never a waste of time.

Besides, I get paid pretty damn well for my time. 


Friday, October 22, 2010

FFF3-Deadly Coincidences

 Joining in with the other fine folks at Flash Fiction Friday.  This week was a themed word list with a suggested genre of suspense or horror.  I got the words, but I'm not so sure on genre.  I do know I'm not feeling the current title.  Here's my piece anyway.

Deadly Coincidences
A Bo Fexler Story
by Clair Dickson

The death of my car battery turned out to be an omen of the disruption death was going to cause in my life the next few days.  I had to cancel a meeting with my client and get a battery delivered from an auto parts place to the grocery store parking lot where I was stranded.  Canceling the next meeting with my client only bothered me in that my client was hiring me to find her missing niece, who she cared about greatly.  

As soon as the delivery hit showed up, it started to rain.  And the rain was predicted to continental for the next several days.  Regardless, I still had work to do, and to do it, I needed my car back from the dead.  I lost my umbrella in the hasty move to the new apartment, so I just stood in the rain while I installed the battery.

A couple people stopped and stared.  It’s rare enough to see a woman working on a car, let alone one who is tall, attractive, and standing in the rain.  To my surprise, the only comment was from a matronly woman who told me that I was going to catch my death of pneumonia out there.  I wondered what Louis Pasteur would think of such an enlightened comment.   

When I went inside, I found a shallow puddle of water on my bed.  It took a moment for the implication of that to set in.  My bed is fairly absorbent, so for there to be a puddle, there would have to have been an unfortunately large quantity of water.  A deluge. 

With a sigh, I went down to the land lord's unit and knocked.  And knocked.  The nosy old lady across the hall poked her head out.  “He's gone,” she snapped.


She glared at me. 

“I'll try later then.  Maybe he’ll be home tonight.  He likes to watch the Late Shows.” 

Her eyes narrowed and nearly disappeared in the wrinkles around them.  “He's gonna be gone all weekend.  Death in the family.”  She slammed the door on my incredulous response.

I debated between spending money on a hotel room or just sleeping on the couch.  The couch-- or rather my spendthrift ways-- won out.  I did flip the mattress up against the wall and put the bedding in the wash.  I was centering a bucket under the continuing drip when my cell phone rang. 

“This is Bo,” I answered. 

“Bo.  It's Raquel.   I'm gonna-- I mean-- I guess I don't need you any more.”

“Okay.  Why not?”

“They-- the police were just here.  They found McKayla.  Her car went off the road into a swamp.  The think it happened two weeks ago.”  She cried as she spoke, her voice wavering every few syllables.

“I'm so sorry for your loss,” I replied, the words automatic because my feelings were still sorting themselves out.

I was fired because the young woman I'd been hired to find was found already, and found dead.

After I hung up the phone, I sat on the couch a moment.  Then I grabbed my coat and went down two blocks.

The church was old, styled in a Gothic sort of way with narrow arches and tall stained glass windows depicting scenes from Jesus's life.  I hadn't been to church since I was a child and I couldn't articulate what I thought my visit would do or get.

But it seemed like a good idea.


Friday, October 8, 2010

FFF: Knowledge of Good and Evil

I'm feeling a little rusty at this fiction thing, but I decided to take a shot with the Flash Fiction Friday folks. 

Knowledge of Good and Evil
A Bo Fexler Story
by Clair Dickson

“Mom said I was going to be something one day.” She smiled as she said it, a big toothy grin that revealed a missing front tooth. She twirled the end of her blond pig tail around her finger.

"And what would you like to be?” I asked. If anyone had bothered to tell me just how much small talk I would do as a private eye before I got licensed, I probably would be in a whole different vocation-- for better or for worse.

She shrugged.

“Is Carrie home?” I asked.

“Nope. Not until 4. She's my sister, you know.”

“I do know,” I answered. I had also been reasonably sure she wasn't home. “Can I come in and talk with you for a little while?”

Jaimie hesitated, chewing on her lower lip. “I dunno.”

“I brought some ice cream that I was hoping you would help me eat.”

She grinned “I love ice cream. Chocolate chip cookie is my favorite.” But she still blocked the doorway.

“Can I come in?”

She nodded, hesitated once more, then finally opened the door to let me in. She led me to the kitchen and got two bowls and two spoons from the dishwasher.

“How long have you been living with Carrie?” I asked scooping a large bowl of ice cream for Jaimie and a more reasonable sized bowl for myself.

“Hmmm... Since March. Sisters are like friends but better, right?”

It was either the statement or the way she said it, but something about that bothered me. “You like living with Carrie?”

She looked around and made thoughtful faces before answering, “Yeah.”

“It's better than living with Aunt Tara?”

More thoughtful faces. “Sometimes.”

“When is it better?”

“When she takes me places or buys me a new movie. I have a TV in my room so I can watch my movies. Aunt Tara never let me have a TV in my room.”

“When do you like not like being at Carrie's?”

“When Jeff comes over.” She frowned.

“What don't you like about Jeff coming over?” I didn't really want to hear the answer. I never do, but my job requires that I ask the questions anyway. Some days, I would gladly trade that for the stupid paperwork or clueless bosses that other people complain about.

“When Jeff comes over to spend the night, I'm supposed to stay in my room. I don't like always being in my room. Carrie said if I lived with her, then we'd do fun things. But we don't do fun things when Jeff comes over. And he comes over a lot.”

“Do you ever get to play with Jeff?”

She shook her head. “No. Carrie says that he’s her friend so they play together.” She shrugged. “I just wish he didn’t come over so much.”

“Does Jeff ever come over when Carrie isn’t here?”

“No. He’s Carrie’s friend, so he wouldn’t come to play with me. He never plays with me.” She finished the last of her ice cream and licked the spoon clean.

“Did Carrie say anything about what the court thought about you living with her?” The main reason I was there. I wasn’t particularly threatening, nor was I part of the justice system. My client and I had both figured that might make it easier to get information out of Carrie.

Jaimie licked her spoon. “Well, she said that since she wasn't married, that the court wouldn't send me checks any more. She helped me get a job so I can still buy things that I want. I'm saving up for a Wii. I got almost a hundred dollars.”

I smiled. We talked—or rather, I let Carrie tell me about herself and her life with Carrie for several minute more. Then I stood up and told her, “You can have the rest of the ice cream.”

“But you're going to miss Carrie.” Her brow furrowed.

“You know what, you did such a good job answering my questions, that I don't need to talk to Carrie.”

Jaimie beamed with pride.

I stopped by my client's house on the way home to give her an update before I finished my report. “So Jaimie thinks she's not getting the checks any more, but she is,” my client said. She was Jaimie's aunt and, until the previous year when Jaimie has turned eighteen, her guardian.
I nodded once in confirmation of the facts.

“I fought the courts. Fought them hard, particularly because I don't trust anyone in that family. She may be nineteen years old, but she has the mind of a child.”

“Seems all Carrie had to offer was that they would do fun things together. Jaimie adores her sister.”

My client shook her head. “How do you stand learning these things about people-- or stand meeting people like Carrie who would con her own developmentally disabled sister? It makes me sick...”

I gazed out the window while I figured out the best response. “Because of people like you that are just the opposite,” I said, even sounding sincere.

Truth was, I also had learned to detach myself, distance myself from a young age. Jaimie, with her simple mind, couldn't imagine anyone deliberately doing harm-- but me, I could hardly bring myself to see anyone doing good.

Comments are welcome, but not required.

Monday, September 13, 2010

My Town Monday: Rough, indeed

Financially, things are a little tight in the state that catered to the Auto Industry for decades.  One of the areas that has suffered is roads.  There just isn't money to maintain them (not counting the millions of mispent money.)  This is also a state that LOVES to salt the roads all winter.  As if the normal freeze-thaw cycle isn't hell enough of roads, adding salt exascerbates the problem.

So we get roads that look like this:

Yes, this section of road is merely a collection of hot patch asphalt.

This is the solution, apparently. 


Sunday, September 5, 2010

My Town Monday: Canadian Quarters

Canadian quarters-- and other coins, but mainly the quarters-- have been a recurring frustration in my life.  Canada is a mere 2 hour drive from my house.  But that's not much consolation when I'm standing at the vending machine with a damned Canadian quarter... effectively 25cents short of what I need because Canadian money isn't accepted in U.S. vending machines.

Back when exchanges rates were far more favorable for the U.S., I'd heard rumors of unscrupulous shop owners crossing the border to get rolls of Canadian quarters.  This ultimately would lead to profits for them on conversion.  I don't doubt that a few vending machine operators employed this tactic too, given the frequency with which change machines and vending machines would spew the same little coins that they refused to accept.

I always figured this was a greater problem in states like Michigan, where the foreign land is so near.  Does it happen much in other states?  And do Canadians have problems getting U.S. quarters?

Though, I do think the dollar and two dollar coins that Canada uses are awesome.  Especially for vending machine use, they totally trump crumpled bills.  I am saddened that the dollar coin, which seemed to start taking hold a few years back with that Sacajawea coin, again faded in favor of the paper dollar.

Monday, August 30, 2010

My Town Monday: Hot and Bothered

Folks in Livingston County get all worked up over anything related to sex.  Like the Intimate Ideas shop that moved into town a few years ago to sell mostly lingerie (per local ordinance) and some adult toys.  You know, the fun stuff that plenty of people use, either married or not, to enjoy themselves sexually.  And, yes, I know about that sort of thing.  (If you're here, than surely you've read a few of my stories!)

But a good number of Livingston County residents got upset about how such a shop didn't represent the interests of the local community. Okay, so, if the local community doesn't want such a horrid, "depraved" shop in their midst, then sales would reflect it.  Oh, well, it's still open.  And... so is the much older store of a similar nature in the next town over.  The one that no one has picketed.  Same concept, but it was the new store that got people upset... for a while.

Seems that lingerie and adult stores do reflect the interests of at least SOME of the community.  Though I prefer to buy my items online.

The latest hoopla to get in the press is the new Hot Spot Coffee shop.  You've probably heard about coffee shops like these.  The young, hot chickadees dress in skimpy attire while serving up hot coffee.  The idea has been very popular in other locations.

The controversy provides lots of free press as first there are articles in the paper.  Then there are the several letters where people must voice their outrage that such a shop does not reflect the interests of the community.  I dunno, I drove over there even though I don't drink coffee.  If I did drink coffee, I'd totally go there for the scenery.  Who doesn't like a nice mountain view?  And so far, business seems to be doing well.  Time will tell if this place-- like the two adult novelty stores-- fits the 'character' of Livingston County.

On an "unrelated" note, after some 30 years, the local Christian Bookstore is closing it's doors...

Monday, August 23, 2010

My Town Monday: Naked Guy On the Move

The Naked Guy is infamous in Brighton.  He's pretty controversial.  And he's been dressed up a good number of times.
Now, he's on the move.  The Powers That Be in Brighton have decided that the Naked Guy statue will be relocated from his present position-- where he flashes drivers on Main Street and visitors to the Mill Pond-- to another, yet to be disclosed location.

Frankly, I'm a little disappointed.  I was enjoying his changing attire-- like the shirt for the local Cancer Run/Walk or the Red Wings Jersey.  Then again, I don't get all hot and bothered by undefined lumps that don't at all resemble genitalia.  (Oh, man, I could so make a comment here about local men lacking balls and dicks, which is why neither the men or women around here know that the Naked Guy isn't showing ANYTHING off.  But I'm not like that.  ;-)  I mean, really, a Ken doll has more definition than the Naked Guy.

But the Naked Guy is going to go on a naked trek somewhere else in Brighton.  A new piece of art will replace it.  I hope it's not some abstract hunk like the big orange THING up the street a ways.

Now this knee-jerk "conservative" town will have to find something new to get upset about.  That new coffee shop seems like a good idea... but more on that next week.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Too Pretty

The latest Bo Fexler story has indeed found a home.  This little flash piece follows Bo as her attempts to seduce a man at the bar don't go as planned.  Being a pretty girl doesn't mean she gets everything she wants... find out what happens in "Too Pretty" over at Twist of Noir.

Fun author's note about this story: it was composed entirely on my cell phone using Mobile Word, and almost completely with T9.  I still hate T9, but it was the only way to write with one hand while I held my son in the other.  Since T9 doesn't have quote marks, I used parentheses in the original draft.  And thus, a shred of my sanity was preserved.

Monday, August 16, 2010

My Town Monday: What's Missing?

Little Ceasar's Pizza
Dunkin Donuts
Mr. Pita
Big Boy Resturant

What do these things have in common?

They each closed locations in Livingston County.  For years, this county had one or more of the above businesses in the local towns (including nearby but actually the edge of Oakland County's town of South Lyon.)  But in the last 10 years, many of the locations have shut down.  Sometime, pulling out of the area completely.  There is no longer a Dunkin Donuts-- though the shop previously known as Dunkin Donuts still makes Donuts, etc. under the name Brighton Donuts.

Little Ceasar's pulled out of most of it's locations, then brought a few back in new spots a few years later.
Mr. Pita lasted a few years in an odd, difficult to get to location before leaving.  Like Brighton Donuts, the shop operated a little longer under a generic name before giving it up all together.

Big Boy-- now this one I know-- was struggling financially as a company and shut some of it's least popular locations.

There are a good many places that have never made an appearance in Livingston County, for reasons I may never understand.  Sure, population is a little light out here, but not that light.  As a suburban area, I would expect to see a few more businesses take the opportunity to bring their wares into an area where they're not represented.  It was only in the last few years that Livingston County got a White Castle.  Still no Sonic or Krispy Kreme.  No California Pizza Kitchen.  I couldn't even list what we're 'missing.'

No Dominoes Pizza, even, which is a shocker since Ann Arbor-- home of the corporate HQ-- is just 20 mins south of here.

Being in the Metro Detroit area, I see a good many commercials for places that just don't exist out here.  It doesn't break my heart any, since I can't eat most places, but it's always struck me as curious how many businesses don't open a location out here.

I can't tell you how excited folks were for the White Castle to open.  I understand there were people camped out iPhone-release-style before the opening.

Tell me your favorite chain location and I'll tell you if we have one nearby.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Out of It... And Getting Back Into It

It's been more than a year since I spent much time on short stories.  And almost as long since I paid much attention to the ever-changing landscape of short mystery/crime fiction markets.

No, this is not a post on why.  This is a post on lamenting how much work it seems like it's going to be to get back up to speed.  I have a new short story that I finished and polished up that is ready for a home.  But I don't even know where to begin looking at markets.  Most of my old-standby's are long gone.

I admit also having some of that new-writer trepidation, afraid that my work isn't going to be good enough.  It has been a good long while since I wrote and submitted anything new.  (And everything I did submit in the past year was soundly rejected.)  

It doesn't help that story in question is one of those hard-to-classify the sub-genre shorts.  It's a Bo Fexler story, of course.  I don't think it's either crime fiction or a mystery.  Just a 550 word short story that's maybe a little noir-- with a hot female detective as the lead character.  

It feels like I'm starting over, but I still have that taste of success from those two years where Bo Fexler was strutting her stuff through so many of the mystery & crime zines. 

Monday, August 2, 2010

My Town Monday: My Town through New Eyes

No, I'm not going to get all mushy and such just because I've procreated... but I have noticed that I'm looking at my world a little different now that I have a young son.  (He's six screaming weeks old now.)

When I look around town, I wonder what will change.  What's going to be there and what will be gone. 

Will I be able to point out the first apartment that I rented (with Hubby)?  Or the retail center where I sold my soul for a few measly bucks an hour for 11 years of my life?

I've come to the conclusion that things change in our towns without us paying it much attention.  It's like the shifting of sands and before we know it, it's a different place. 

I was 9 when the change was made to prohibit left turns from Main Street to Grand River.  In my world, it's always been like that.

Roads change course (including the one that runs in front of my house, but no one I've talked to remembers when that road was realigned.)  Businesses come and go, sometimes without anything even as long lasting as a write up in the little local paper.

I grew up in this town.  But it is not the same town I returned to as an adult.  And it will not be the same town that my son grows up in.

Gratuitous picture of my son

Monday, April 5, 2010

My Town Monday: Field Trip "Up North"

Recently, I took a trip "up north." In Michigan, this usually refers to upper parts of the Lower Peninsula (the fingers) or even to the Upper Peninsula.

My trip was a little of both. Originally, the trip up north included one of the few North/ South routes-- first US 127 or US 23. Today, most people take I-75-- the only limited access freeway heading to points up north.

I took I-75 part of the way, but since it primarily cuts through the center of the state, it's certainly not the scenic drive. So, I got off I-75 and stayed with US-23 which still runs it's old route to and along the coast of Michigan, the shore of Lake Huron. (The pointer finger of the mitten. No, I never get tired of references to my state being mitten-shaped.)

This meant that along the way, starting about Tawas, I got glimpses and full views of the large expanse of blue or gray (depending on the current color of the sky) that is Lake Huron. Luckily, while the weather was overcast most of the morning, by our arrival in Tawas, the sky was clearing. The lake reflected the blue, deepening the color of blue as the sky became less cloudy.

The first stop was in Tawas.

Then we went across the bay to the East Tawas Lighthouse. Unfortunately, the end of March is kind really "off-season" for such places. It wasn't closed, per se. It was "self-service." Yeah. We could walk around and take some pictures of the lighthouse and the point.

I read that the point often washes away during the harsh conditions of winter, only to be rebuilt again the following months.

Later, further up the coast, we stopped at a scenic overlook.

And later still, along the shore of Grand Lake. This lake is shortly inland from Lake Huron. It creates the area known as Presque Isle-- which means "Almost an Island." As you can see from the map, the area is barely connected to the mainland. The big white area on the top and right side of the map is Lake Huron...

Grand Lake

Then, we made our way past the Mackinac Bridge (pronounced Mackinaw) and into the Upper Peninsula.

Do you want to share your town or travel virtually to other towns? Join us over at the My Town Monday blog!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

My Town Monady: Out of Town

I'm off to parts north this Monday-- specifically to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan-- with my best friend (not the Hubby) for one last trip before this summer and my impending doom parenthood.

We'll be heading up the primary and only North/South expressway to the UP, I-75. Over the Mackinac Bridge-- the first longest suspension bridge (there are now others that are longer)-- and up to the freshwater, inland "ocean" that is Lake Superior.

We'll probably stop at random roadside attractions along the way. And ultimately we'll end up at the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Supposed to be really neat-- and neither of us have made our way up there before.

Sometime in the next coming weeks, I'll share the trip. It's not my usual town, but it's part of the state I call home.

Check out the other My Town Monday posts (where Barrie Summy is wrangling links while I go gallivanting off to remote places.)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Bad Girls

It's not uncommon at all for so-called "good girls" to want to save those "bad boys." There's also the interminable, and for many women, undeniable appeal of the bad boy who does what he wants and lives by his own rules. (Hey, don't look at me. I snagged one of the "nice guys.")

But what about bad girls? What about the girl that you might not want to bring home to mother? The one who makes her own rules, especially about (gasp!) sex. I'm not thinking guys have any of the desire to save the bad girl. She is, ultimately, about the fun for now.

Of course, I do think that those bad girls-- or their lesser counterparts, the spunky, feisty, or "independent" women-- have a much harder time finding long term relationships, even as they begin to mellow. Their spunk makes them fun and exciting, different and enjoyable, but like the bad boy, she's not long term relationship appeal.

Now, this is different in fiction. Those bad girls of fiction are always fun. There're few, if any, of the relationship problems that will come up with a strong willed person who does things solely by their own rules. But we don't really want to see these strong women settle down with a nice man (or woman) do we? We certainly wouldn't expect that from a 'bad boy.'

I admit that the whole romance/ settling down thing that always creeps into so many female-lead stories always drives me nuts. I want to continue reading books with butt-kicking bad girls. Not nest-building and babies.

Not that I'm worried about any long-term relationships with Bo at the moment. First I need to get the series launched.  Then, Bo and I are going to have some fun. 

Sunday, March 21, 2010

My Town Monday: Brighton's Four Corners, Part 4

The remaining two corners of Brighton's Main Street/ Grand River Intersection are harder to track the history of.

On the South-east corner, across Main Street from where the Eastern House Hotel stood, there is currently a two story jewelry store. (The building itself looks too expensive for someone like me...) I missed my chances to get the last shots of the former building when it was torn down a few years ago.

Before the jewelry store, for a good many years-- back into the 60s or 70s if I'm not mistaken-- this corner was home to Cap'n Corky's (sp?). It was a liquor store-- probably what we call a Party Store around here. The terminology matches what my students use to define a party: not a party without alcohol. Anyway, with the opening of the CVS, as well as a good many other chain stores in the vicinity, it appears that the Cap'n Corky store couldn't really keep up. Add to that the ever-present problem in the downtown: parking.

The store closed. And-- I wish I'd had time to stop and take pix-- the construction crews gutted the buildings. I believe only the two walls that abut the neighboring buildings were left standing. Then they added the second story, the new front facade, and all the fanciness.

I have to wonder how long the jewelry store will last in this economy... especially since a long time local favorite is about two doors down. Or will locals go for the "brand name" over the locally owned and operated place. (Sadly, I'm voting for people to go with "brand name" over local. It's happening in so many other places. But I wish it wasn't so.)

Going back through history, all I can find is that this corner was home to Brighton's Foundry for a while. Though, there's some indication that the foundry was actually not right on the corner. Other records indicate that some part of the time, this corner was a private residence. It's a little mind boggling for me to think of people living in houses on Grand River... in my life time, Grand River has always been the main business drag through Brighton. Only when you get out WAY past the edge of Brighton's business stretch are there houses.

More My Town Monday!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Guest Post: Stephen D. Rogers

Today, Stephen D. Rogers is treating us to a post about one his stories in his SHOT TO DEATH anthology! I feel like I've entered the big time, having an author like him here... but enough from me

Stephen's Post:
Perini closed the folders on his desk as soon as he saw the shadow on the pebbled glass.
So begins one of the 31 stories contained in SHOT TO DEATH (ISBN 978-0982589908). Within that beginning lurks the ending to the story and everything that happens between the beginning
and the end. Or at least it seems that way to me.

The first action in the story is to close folders, to hide things. What prompts Perini to do so? A shadow, not an image or a silhouette, but a shadow. Pebbled glass? Things are not as they appear.

Pebbled glass in a door makes me think of small offices located on public hallways. I can't stop recalling Richard S.
Prather's Shell Scott who makes a wry comment about legends, or the scene from CHINATOWN where Jake interrupts the man repainting the name on the door.

So Perini is a private investigator, surrounded by secrets and shadows. He's a man of action.

I know he's a man of action because of how that opening sentence is structured. He responds to the stimulus before before we even become aware of the stimulus.

We would see the shadow and close the folder but Perini is that much quicker on the draw. Is he fast enough?
The opening doesn't really answer that question. Most of the words are neutral, the darker "shadow" balanced by the lighter "glass." Perini's office is located off the hallway, which tells me he's a one-person shop, which could be good and could be bad.

The lack of direction is itself a directive. The story should swing back and forth between negative and positive poles, keeping in mind that Perini at least starts ahead of
the game.

All that remains is the writing.

Stephen D. Rogers is the author of SHOT TO DEATH
(ISBN 978-0982589908) and more than six hundred stories and poems. He's the head writer at Crime Scene (where viewers solve interactive mysteries) and a popular writing instructor. For more information, you can visit his website,, where he tries to pull it all together.

SHOT TO DEATH contains thirty-one stories of murder and mayhem.

"Terse tales of cops and robbers, private eyes and bad guys, with an authentic New England setting." - Linda Barnes, Anthony Award winner and author of the Carlotta Carlyle series

"Put yourself in the hands of a master as you travel this world of the dishonest, dysfunctional, and disappeared. Rogers is the real deal--real writer, real story teller, real tour guide to the dark side." - Kate Flora, author of the Edgar-nominated FINDING AMY and the Thea Kozak mysteries

"SHOT TO DEATH provides a riveting reminder that the short story form is the foundation of the mystery/thriller genre. There's something in this assemblage of New England noir to
suit every aficionado. Highly recommended!" - Richard Helms, editor and publisher, The Back Alley Webzine

For a chance to win a signed copy of SHOT TO DEATH, click on over to and submit your completed entry. Then visit the schedule at to see how you can march along. And then come back here to post your comments. Phew.

Monday, March 15, 2010

My Town Monday: Brighton's Four Corners, part 3

The main intersection of Brighton is where Grand River and Main Street meet. Once upon a time, Main Street was called Fitch Street. Then, apparently, someone got the memo that ALL towns must have a Main Street.

In an early era, when traffic was getting too great, a "silent policeman" was installed at the intersection. I'm not entirely sure what the role of this "signal" was since it didn't have electricity or, from what I can tell, any signaling capabilities. Apparently, it was to keep traffic divided... kind of like the dashed lines in multi-lane intersections that keep traffic where it's supposed to be.

In 1989, left turns were prohibited from Westbound Main Street onto Grand River.

And, thankfully, in 2010, the traffic lights were updated to the new blinking yellow arrow for lefts (though still prohibited from westbound Main onto Grand River) to allow cars to sneak through in the rare chance when traffic is clear.

I used to watch the signal for the pedestrian crossing count down because the left light only allowed 2 cars through the light-- the 3rd had to go on the yellow. (Though, many an impatient 4th, 5th, and 6th vehicle thought that they shouldn't have to wait for the light to cycle... but that's a separate rant issue.)

This last shot is the intersection while the new lights were going up. There was, oddly, nothing in the local paper about the new interchange. In fact, there was an odd little situation where it looked like typical "expendable tax payer dollars being misspent" situation.

See, they took down the old poles with traffic lights on them and hung up the wires. Then... within a few weeks, they put up new poles with new lights. (In the pick, you can see the new lights are turned funny.) I honestly believed that it was some flub of the government where they didn't realize that they were replacing recently replaced poles. Wouldn't have surprised me any. Still don't know the whole story on why they took down the old poles, put up wires, then put up new poles.

Side note: I drive through this intersection every day on my way to work. If the light is green, my commute to work is about 3 minutes. If the light goes red, it nearly doubles my commute. Heh.

Map Note: Yes, Google Maps will try to have you make a left at the intersection from Main Street onto Grand River. Though it does tend to default to taking the side streets if the route is long enough. Which isn't much better, IMHO. As a driver in a strange place, I'd prefer to stay on main roads.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

My Town Monday: Brighton's Four Corners, part 2

Across Grand River from the Eastern House Hotel once stood a grocery store.

Some time later, the building was torn down and a new store opened. Eventually it was the Brighton Drugs store. Later, in 1937, had bought the Brighton Drug store with Baldwin. For some time it was Leland and Baldwin Drugs. Then, Leland bought out Baldwin and renamed it Leland Drugs.

Leland had the second floor of the building removed and large shop windows installed. Leland's Drug Store became the first building in Livingston County to boast a Frigid-aire air conditioning unit. I believe this distinction came in the 1930s.

Tracing the history of a rather unremarkable set of businesses on this corner is quite difficult. The next information I have is that during the 1980s and 90s various eating establishments were attempted on that corner. One of the problems with that corner-- at least in this modern era-- is that parking is limited and not terribly convenient. There is a lot across Grand River, a few parallel parking spots, and another lot about a block away. These are not far or difficult, however, this is Livingston County, not Ann Arbor. Here, people don't like to walk any farther than necessary. (See in Ann Arbor, you don't drive. You find a place to park, and walk the several blocks. That's just "How it is.")

But, in the early 1990s, this corner of Brighton opened a new eatery. A place called Lu and Carl's that has thrived. Thrived to the point where, in summer months, they have seating on the sidewalk. Like, right alongside Grand River where one can breathe in the lovely aroma of car exhaust and listen to the rumble of hundreds of cars rolling up to and eventually through the traffic light. (Um, you couldn't pay me to eat on the sidewalk of Grand River, but anyway.) My never-humble theory as to why Lu and Carl's has thrived while other restaurants did not is slightly cynical: Lu and Carl's is the first eatery on that location to have a liquor license.

My Town Monday

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What Retail Taught Me About Writing

I realized that some of the things I learned working in retail for eleven years are applicable to writing.
  1. Some people are truly expendable. They add nothing and often just get in the way.
  2. If, in the process of reassembly, you have extra parts, chances are very good that those parts are unncessary.
  3. There is no such thing as a "minor" change.
  4. You accomplish a great many more things if you do them, rather than if you merely talk about how you do them.
  5. The end results are nearly always better than the process, be it finishing a book or getting paid at the end of the week.
  6. Every "authority" will say something different in response to the same question. The best listerners will hear it all, then sort out what works best for them, knowing that it is impossible to please everyone.
  7. It doesn't pay well.
  8. It's important to do the mundane clean-up tasks, either straightening shelves or copyediting for typos, etc. If you've done it right, the audience will only notice that it looks nice. if you do it wrong, the audience will draw the worst conclusions.
  9. People judge the quality of work based on a tiny sample. A messy endcap means a trashed department-- and a sloppy first chapter means a poorly written book.
  10. Everyone thinks it's easy, but only those who have truly undertaken the job, with the goal of being GOOD at it, understand just how much hard work it requires.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

My Town Monday: Brighton's Four Corners, part 1

Main Street in Brighton intersects Grand River and forms a well-known and ever-changing intersection. This set of posts will look at the every changing buildings.

Today, a CVS sits on the corner, set back from Grand River with the parking lot in front. A Murray's Auto Parts store and a Sushi Zen share the location.

But a hundred and fifty years ago, this location-- on the Northeast corner of the intersection-- was the spot where the Eastern House (or Hotel) sat. The Western House sits by the railroad tracks on the other end of the down town-- all three blocks of downtown. Eastern House sat along the Grand River Trail, where the stagecoaches and wagons traveled, even before there was a railroad.

The hotel was constructed in 1850, the same year that Grand River was made into planked toll road. When built, the hotel was called the Brighton House. It was sold in 1892 and became known as the Eastern House.

Anyway, the Eastern House was more than just a hotel. For many years, it was one of the gathering places in Brighton. It was two stories, plus a basement. A sign out front (hard to make out in the photos) says it's 48 miles to Lansing and 40 to Detroit. Livingston County is the midway between Michigan's biggest city and it's capital.

The hotel building burnt down New Year's Day, 1926.

And something else sprouted in the spot.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

My Town Monday: From Farm to Suburb

Once upon a time, much of South East Lower Michigan was trees. Shortly after that, it was farm fields and small towns. This image shoes the little town of Hamburg. Today, Hamburg itself is still a little town. But it is surrounded by suburbia (or at least a version of suburbia.) Strip malls and subdivisions have replaced nearly all the farm fields in this little area.

This aerial view is from about the 1930s. The number 3 marks the historic church in down town Hamburg. (Still there.) The main street of Hamburg runs along in front of that street (connects #2 and 3). Follow it northerly (to the left side of the photo) through the line of trees and around the corner. The road goes off into farm fields.

By contrast, this image was poached from Google Maps. All developed—well, except the little town of Hamburg. The pink dot is downtown Hamburg.

Interestingly enough, Hamburg was platted to be a much larger town.

But it never really grew, despite having two rail road lines and two train depots. It just never became more than a little farm town.

The Mill Pond (and the Mill) are gone from Hamburg. All that’s left are two streets, and a few houses. Even the little grocery store left (though a new one may be/ have gone in.) Hard for a local little store to compete with one of those big chain stores.

It’s interesting to track the changes over time. Sometimes I wonder what Hamburg was like, once upon a time, before it was just a bedroom community tucked away off the main road.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

My Town Monday: Brighton Mall... including the answer to a riddle

The Brighton Mall is nestled in the corner of Grand River and I-96.  Built in the 1970s, it was, once upon a time, a "real" mall, with the shops opening on the inside and you had to walk from store to store instead of the strip-mall (or "open air" malls) of today where people really and truly do drive from one store to another.  Sorry.  Moving on…


The Brighton Mall was anchored by K-Mart, which had it's own entrance.  It was also home for many years to the Little Professor Bookstore, a locally owned bookstore.  Over time, including by the time I became a resident in the area, there wasn't much to the Brighton Mall.  Eventually, it was redeveloped into a Strip Mall.  It's now got only a couple big-box stores.  The K-Mart is a "Sears Essential' which is kind of neither a K-Mart or a Sears and I've never found it much good for shopping.  (The low number of customers in that stores seems to indicate others share my opinion of this concept.  Especially when it's an hour drive, tops, to a real Sears store out in Novi.)  Distracted again. 


Anyway, other stores include Marshall's, Jo-Ann Fabrics and a sporting goods store.  Two other strip malls have been adding, including one that has Best Buy and PetsMart. 


One of the interesting features of the Brighton Mall, though, is that it's below grade.  To enter the Mall from Grand River, there is a rather significant ramp.  Here's a shot with Panera Bread showing just how high Grand River is over the Mall parking lot.  Curious.  Not something I ever really though much about.  It was just How Things Were.  Until one day, while I was reading through some local history snippets, I found the reason why.


During the 1960s and early 70s when I-96 was being constructed, the road crews came through Brighton.  Since Grand River was (and is) a major thoroughfare, of course the decision was made to build an overpass so I-96 would go over top Grand River.  Well, that's an awful lot of dirt to pile up.  Can you guess where this is going?


Yeah, the man who owned the farm there sold the DIRT to the state for construction of the I-96 overpass.  They dug it out and left something of a hole in the ground.  Well, this hole in the ground did not prevent the soon after sale of the LAND to a company interested in building a mall alongside the new entrance/ exit ramps on I-96. 


These sort of stories are exactly why I LOVE local history. 



Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Sound of Pen on Paper

Or, more accurately, the sound of the keys on my old keyboard.

While there's been a lot of keyboard clicks lately, there have not, however, been words added to any piece of fiction for over 2 months now. I'm kind of embarrassed to admit it, especially since I've always been a big proponent of writing regularly, even if it's only a little bit.

I have reasons and excuses. Some are physical-- such the time-sucking adventure that is known as homeownership. Some are mental-- such as a crippling wave of low self-confidence.

I miss writing. I miss Bo Fexler. I am continually hoping to get more writing in, one way or the other. I know I need to improve my habits, get into a better routine, and make progress, even if it's only little bits. Next semester I have a different schedule, which I'm hoping will afford me just a little more time-- the time needed, I hope, to return to writing as a habit.

I have some new ideas for improving the novel I'm in the middle of. Things that will straighten out a few niggling problems.

But more than hope is needed-- I must make that push, that change and begin to write again. It's the only way that Bo Fexler will see print.

The mystery book section needs some shaking up-- some one modern and appealing to younger readers. Something new and different. Maybe I'm concieted, but I think the mystery book section needs some young, hot women running around. And I've got one just waiting for her chance. As soon as I finish an acceptable first novel.

Novels don't write themselves, though, anymore than dishes wash themselves or clothes hang themselves in the closet.

Monday, January 18, 2010

My Town Monday: Pokemon City Championships in Brighton

Every winter, there are city championships for players of the Pokemon Trading Card Game. (If you don't know what it is, ask your kids. They'll know.) This year, Brighton was able to hold a city championship tournament-- one of 9 in the Michigan/ Indiana area.

As a Pokemon Trading Card Game player, I travel-- with the Hubby-- to as many of the Michigan/ Indiana Tournaments as I can manage. And I have to say, the five minute commute around the "block" to the Brighton City Championships was my favorite commute yet. Beats even the 45 minute drive to Okemos and certainly better than the 2 hour drive to Angola, Indiana (just south of the Indiana/ Michigan border off I-69).

The local paper almost covered the event in a sad little paragraph.

One might notice how crowded the room was. And it was packed. There were about 34 "big kids" as I call us... you know, the kids who are over 16 or so and still play Pokemon. I'm one of those. (I don't even have the excuse of "my kids play" like some of the other players who figured they'd play while the little ones battle it out.) And 16 of the medium sized kids. And about 12 of the little kids. That adds up to 62. We'll kind of overlook the fact that the room capacity was 62-- after all the half-pint kids only count as half a person, right? No? Well... um. Turn out was good at least, meaning there's a good chance there will be another tournament or so held in Brighton.

Oh, how did I fare in the competition? I made Top Cut-- meaning I was in the Top 8 players at the end of battling cards all day. (Though it was some uncanny luck and the fact that another player dropped at the last minute that put me in that spot.)

Yeah, that's me in the black sweater. Nice pic...

Since the library closed, we scooted over to Mancino's Pizza and Grinders. (OMG, Yum!) There, the Top Cut finished battling out. And this is where I lost. Badly. As I expected since I have played my opponent before and nothing changed in our games since the last time this player whooped me.

Brighton Library is a nice place to play, I must admit. Though, apparently, whoever designed the building is a dumbass. The room we are in is connected by ventilation directly to the quiet study carrols. (Yeah-- 62 players in a small space, it's gonna be noisy. Plus, word is one could have yoga in that room and it would seem loud to the other end of the ventilation.) And the hallway outside our room ends in a coupula by the door, which echoes all sounds, such as those spilling from the room and the players who head out in the hall after ending their current round. I'm surprised the lady who organized it isn't banned from the library for life.

Good fun, though. Next tournament-- Michigan State Tournament in Okemos. (And one of the nicethings about the Pokemon game is that you can go to every tournament even if you didn't place or even play at all in the previous one. For some of us, we just go to play for fun, even if we don't do well. (Well, I prefer to win more than I lose, but will take a spot on Team 50/50.)

Pics compliments of Missy (and her husband), one of the Poke-judges and a Poke-mom.

Join us for My Town Monday!

Monday, January 11, 2010

My Town Monday: Mr. B's Rustic Tavern and the Story of the Missing Awning

In Downtown Howell, there is a restaurant called Mr. B's Rustic Tavern. Nice enough place (though rather loud for me-- one of those places that plays music and sports and stuff. And I think I went there on a Friday night, which is usually my restaurant-avoidance-time.)

This restaurant is located in a historic building on the corner of the two main cross roads in town. Mr. B's sits on the Southwest corner of the intersection. A person (or semi-truck) heading to I-96 would make a left turn from westbound Grand River onto Southbound Michigan Ave.

It's important to note that the downtown area is kind of small, and cramped. Michigan Ave is barely three lanes, with no on street parking at the intersection. This is important. This is also part of the reason why semi-trucks are not supposed to travel through the downtown. (I believe the exception is actual deliveries in the downtown.)

There is a green awning above the windows of Mr. B's Rustic Tavern. It goes along Grand River and... huh, it doesn't go around the corner onto Michigan Ave.

Actually, it used to. I never did get a shot of the scene any of times it happened... but the story goes something like this. Repeatedly, the awning would get nailed by, presumably, a large semi-truck and be crinkled up. The street light on the corner also suffered in these cases. I never saw it, but it's hard not to surmise the scenario when one sees a mowed down street light, a crumpled awning, and tire marks on the curb. Plus the fact that it's a dreadful tight corner that would be hard-- if not impossible-- for a semi truck to mange.

You can still see where the awning used to be. Eventually, the street light was no longer replaced and the awning was truncated. I imagine there are still too-big-semi-trucks that think they got the mad skillz to make that corner and still ride over the curve.

Every time I go by, I still curse the fact that I never got a "before" shot of the damage.

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