Vacation

The Beautiful Ohio River. To the Left, the Monangahela, to the right, the Allegheny. This spot is in what is now known as Point State Park, Pennsylvania.
The Beautiful Ohio River. To the Left, the Monongahela, to the right, the Allegheny. This spot is in what is now known as Point State Park, Pennsylvania.

I have now seen the headwaters or source of three great rivers. The Mississippi, at Lake Itasca, where I stepped across the mighty river on stones, and had a drink of the water straight from the stream. (I like to live dangerously at times.) The Colorado, the source of which is away up in Rocky Mountain National Park, in a series of streams and rivulets that empty into Grand Lake. And  now the Ohio, born of the confluence of the Monongahela  and Allegheny rivers in Pittsburgh. Strictly in terms of water, the Ohio is the most impressive, but Rocky Mountain National Park, well, wow!

I took time last week to attend my 50th High School Class reunion in Tiffin, Ohio. I didn’t write anything, so in keeping with that general theme, this post is not about writing. Everybody needs a little time off, right?

Amongst other things, I took a tour of my old high school, which is still there, and still in excellent condition. It opened in 1960, I first attended in 1964. Amazingly, it looks just as good now as it did then. One thing I did not appreciate at the time is that the building is a mid-century masterpiece. Here’s a look at the main hallway.

The main hallway at Columbian High School. Could have been taken in 1964, was taken August 11, 2017. The blue walls with the orange stripes are the restrooms, which were remodeled and improved, but decorated with matching tiles.
The main hallway at Columbian High School. Could have been taken in 1964, was taken August 11, 2017. The blue walls with the orange stripes are the restrooms, which were remodeled and improved, but decorated with matching tiles.

The auditorium (not shown) is exactly as it was, which is both amazing and, frankly, sort of sad. My real sadness, though, is that the planetarium died, and was converted into a teacher’s lounge.* Not that teachers don’t need a lounge. Oh, mercy, they do! But, I dearly loved that planetarium.

And, a mystery was solved. Study Hall was, and is, in room 201. Every time I’ve encountered a room 201, something has nagged at the back of my mind, as if 201 is a significant number. (Don’t know that it is, objectively.) But when I saw the old room, and the number 201, the mystery was solved! I spent many hours, mostly happy ones believe it or not, in 201. No wonder I like that number, huh?

Of course, we didn’t have water vending machines. (In the teachers’ lounge you can get the usual sweet stuff, but none for the students.) But other than that, it looks about exactly the same.

Which, of course, it isn’t. The Principal told us that they have an aviation program from which one graduates not just with a diploma, but with a pilot’s license. Some students (the brightest ones, I’m guessing) attend college while enrolled. They have several programs to intervene with at risk students to help them graduate, which actually succeed. Nice stuff. If you’re thinking that the state of education is bad, you’d have to think again if you toured Columbian.

Oh, yeah, there was a dinner, too, and I got to meet with some of the guys I used to hang with. Nice, that.

You can check out my old school on Facebook here, or at their website here.

*A classmate told me that he installed the hanging ceiling in that lounge, and that it wasn’t easy. I believe him.

Thriller, Anyone?

Paris, Las Vegas, taken in 2013.
Paris, Las Vegas, taken in 2013.

I believe I mentioned some time ago that I was working on a thriller type novel, featuring an FBI agent and a cast of characters to support/impede her in her investigations. I’m not saying more than that, because projects come and projects go, but here are a few things I’ve learned so far about writing this type of story.

It can’t stop moving! They don’t call them “action” films for nothing, do they? Every chapter has to have something in it that involves a threat, a chase, some real danger, an amazing development, something that gives a sense of moving. Forward, sideways, or backwards, that’s up to where the plot is going at this point, but it has to keep moving.

Act one is going to miss a lot of stuff in the first draft. I have a string of notes to myself reminding me to be sure to put in character or development or background or all three in the first part of the book. I’m somewhere in act II, but I don’t expect this to stop happening. I don’t think I can adequately draft the thing until I’ve gotten to “The End” for the first time. I hope that my experiences with previous projects will cut down the total number of revisions somewhat, but there will be plenty, that’s for sure.

Characterization is presented in a lot of little ways. Does she like sushi? Does she hate Game of Thrones? (Example only. GOT does not exist in the world I’m creating.) How does she react in a given situation? How is she with dogs, cats, birds, zoo animals, other drivers, her boss, her co-workers? There is no room in this sort of story for more than minimal descriptions, and even then it has to be through the character’s prejudices. Cool, huh?

As I learn more about this new for me genre, I’ll post more about it. I, for one, am looking forward to reading this book!