The year is 2015. I’m a summer separated from a difficult break-up that would change my life for all the best reasons but still hurt like hell. My pen has been dry for nearly four years; my well of creativity is all but empty.
M-33 is shrouded by pines and oaks and maples. Cars from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and beyond take advantage of the last passing lane to maneuver by an Amish horse and buggy. Roadkill lines the shoulder. Signs displaying heraldry, advertising well-digging services, and declaring State-protected land off-limits by threat of death line the infrequent driveways. Over there, just after the Starkeeper Kennels, is the Coco Cabana’s Nightclub and Restaurant, a strange oasis whispering dreams of urbanity.
Surprises abound around every curve, beyond every dip. A church like a hobbit-hole. A shop selling statues of all kinds—gargoyles, dinosaurs, bears, and a life-sized P-40 Warhawk—crafted entirely from locally sourced trees. What’s left of Rose City. Hundreds of lakes with names like Loon, Happy, and Peach, all nestled within the Huron-Manistee National Forest.
And then, by the time two hours have passed and the scenery has lulled you into a deep, rustic fugue, you arrive suddenly to Mio, Michigan (pronounced MY-OH). Promises of canoe rides, Baptist churches, abundant reality services, and even more endless pines and signs. When you read my book, some of these places will sound familiar. Detrich Reality. Henchman Acres. Loud Creek. Mio Pizza Shoppe. But the places alongside the highway and the places in the story are very different places, fashioned by unique, personal experience. Mine, an outsider looking in. Theirs, a thousand different pictures of home.
Mio, as a whole, is the place where Morning Blood in Mio was born. It is also the place I was reborn, from a lost, lonely waste to a passionate, creative, human being ready to find my next adventure in life. In a way, I owe everything I have in this moment to the little unincorporated community of Mio, Michigan. In a lot, actually. Without it, I can’t say for sure whether I would have found a way to pull myself back up.
Over the coming weeks, I want to take a close look at how multiple visits to Mio helped shape my debut novel. The first word hit the page in the summer of 2015, the last word only recently as I completed my final edit at the steamy cusp of summer 2020. Five years. It took five years. Don’t ever let someone fool you into thinking these things happen overnight. They don’t; they take determination, long nights, early mornings, and—in my case—copious amounts of coffee and frustration. But each trip to Mio revealed a new part of the book. Each brought me closer to something resembling a complete story. One by one, the pieces fell together.
Take the title, for instance. Most of the ideas behind Morning Blood were either on paper or spreading through my mind like wildfire before I came up with something appropriate to call the book. As I mentioned, there are A LOT of small signs in Michigan. One such sign read, “AM Blood,” among a list of other things (family names, businesses, etcetera). I noticed the sign during such a fleeting moment that I’m honestly not sure if it ever existed. I blinked; there it was. I blinked again; it was gone forever. I even went searching for this mythological sign, both alone and in the company of others, in hopes of proving that I wasn’t crazy. Spoiler, I am. But I’m a writer. What did you expect?
Either way, the title stuck: Morning Blood in Mio. The main beats of the story occur in the morning, with the inciting incident taking place the morning after church. And there’s a bit of clever wordplay in there if you consider the community’s collected mourning of the folks they lose throughout. It’s a fine title as far as titles go. I never had a reason to change it, and it literally came to me through a sign.
I look forward to sharing more about the story with you over the next few entries. I’m going to talk about the inspiration behind the places, persons, and things found in the book, as well as some of the personal growth I went through as I wrote the book to completion. In the meantime, thank you for reading. It means the world to me.