Welcome To My Blog

Ever wonder what it's like to be in that moment between struggling artist and published author? Read on and find out.

Friday, March 30, 2012


            The last few months have been extremely busy for me. As much as I’ve wanted to reach out to other members of the writing community I just haven’t been able to do that lately. That changes now. Expect to see more posts on my part and maybe even a regular posting schedule.

            Do you find it difficult to come up with topics to post about? I do. When I first started blogging it wasn’t a problem for me; I had just returned from a writing conference and had access to a host of wonderful authors who had taught classes and were willing to be interviewed. I still enjoy doing interviews, but it seems like the pool of topics has run a little on the dry side. (Although, if you want to be interviewed or have someone else you would like me to interview I am willing to take requests.)
            It appears to me that the way around this posting dilemma is to develop a regular feature that fits within the format of your blog. My blog has primarily been about the experiences of an unpublished author and directing my fellow upcoming authors to information that can help them on their journey.
            With that in mind, I have decided to do a weekly report on my fellow bloggers. Not the bloggers themselves so much, but what they’ve done on their blog that worked especially well. I certainly could use some help getting my blog running at an optimum level – maybe you can too.

            The featured blog for this week is Susanna Leonard Hill. Susanna has several great features, but I’m going to pace myself and discuss just one of them today. You can expect me to come back to her blog and comment on some of her other regular features at some point in the future.
             Phyllis is a groundhog. She appears in two of Susanna’s books. To promote April Fool, Phyllis Susanna sent the book on a world tour. She does this by getting Phyllis fans to send in pictures of them with the book. Most of the pictures include some landmark that helps identify the town where they live.
            With this clever presentation Susanna has brought an element of the fantastic into the real world? It’s entertaining to picture Phyllis visiting the town where I live and seeing some of the sights. For anyone living in the locations she visits during the tour this builds a sense of connection with the character and the book.
            This approach also allows Susanna to market the book without being in-our-face about it. Admit it, we write to be read and part of getting people to pickup our books is to talk about them. Putting Phyllis on world tour allows Susanna to continuously mention the book without sounding like a series of shameless plugs. Take a good look at how Susanna has turned marketing into entertainment and spend some time thinking about how you can do the same with your book.
            As a groundhog, Phyllis has a connection to the weather. Susanna has tapped into this and included a weather report for each of the stops on the tour. Not only is this a fun way to introduce a little bit of education to the book’s younger audience, but it adds an extra dimension to the character and the tour.
            The most ingenious part of this feature is that it involves the readers. Susanna has gotten her customers to pitch in with promoting the book. Children will thrill at the opportunity to be part of the world tour. It’s almost as good as being in the book itself. When parents send in pictures of smiling, happy people gathered around a copy of the book – well, that makes for some highly effective advertising.
            Finally, Susanna presents her blog with an authorial voice that is perfect for her readership. You’ll need to decide for yourself if this is a detail that will benefit your blog. It reminds me of watching late night horror movies and having Elvira appear between segments and adding to the experience with a few campy lines. The voice and content of your blog can do the same thing for your published works.
            Stop by and visit Susanna’s blog if you get the chance. There is a lot you can learn from what she’s done there.

            Hopefully, you liked this column and will look forward to me doing it again. If you know of a blog that really has their act together, let me know about it and I’ll check it out. Next week I’ll be discussing the blog run by Shelly and Chad.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Movie Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games  $$$ 1/2

142 Minutes

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, and Woody Harrelson. 
Director: Gary Ross


            That is the word that kept coming to mind while I watched Hunger Games. I haven’t read the books (yet), but I can tell you that someone sure knows how to tell a story. Based on the comments from those who have read the books my bet is that Suzanne Collins, the author of the novels, is the one responsible for putting together such a gripping tale. 

            In the future, after a devastating war, a strong government has emerged that keeps the population under control through a brutal contest known as The Hunger Games. A boy and a girl are selected from each district to participate in the games. They are loosed in an outdoor setting where they fight to the death until only one remains. To the winner goes fame and fortune and the rest received the honor of having died to represent their district.
            Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers for the games when her twelve-year old sister is selected during the lottery. Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is drawn as the boy from district twelve that will participate in the games. They are taken to the Capitol and prepared for the event.
            I want to recognize the performance by Woody Harrelson who plays Haymitch Abernathy. He does a great job as the trainer who must train Katniss and Peeta to survive the game, knowing that the best he can hope for is only one of them to return.
            This story is filled with wonderful dramatic tension. Peeta has previously been kind to Katniss. There is also a young girl whose participation in the game draws a parallel to Katniss’ sister. How can Katniss bring herself to kill either of these other children.
            The cinematography complimented the story being told. At times it was bleak to emphasize the poverty of the people in District 12. In other places it was brilliant and vibrant to display the decadence of the rich citizens of the Capitol.
            There is a drawback to this story. It is brutal. I don’t mean that they have fountains of blood painting the landscape with red gore. The scenes of children killing children were a bit much for me. The film editors did a wonderful job of splicing some choppy action scenes that really brought out the viciousness of the battle at the start of the game.
            I gave The Hunger Games a three-and-a-half rating, but I think that deserves further explanation. I have a very hard time watching scenes of children being hurt. The mental and physical anguish of children is at the very heart of this story. I understand that this is meant to be a precautionary tale and it does not glorify the violence. For those who are less squeamish than me consider this a full four cinema bucks film. It is a powerful story that I encourage people to see. Just be warned that you can expect some heart-wrenching scenes of children dying.

            Randy’s Rating System

$$$$   = Full Price    See this movie right away and pay full price, it’s worth it.
$$$     = Matinee      Catch this as a matinee or other discounted showing.
$$        = Discount     Wait until this movie reaches a discount theater near you.
$          = Rental         Wait until this movie reaches your local video rental outlet.
0          = No Sale       Don’t see this movie at any price.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Movie Review: John Carter of Mars

John Carter of Mars  $$$ ½

132 Minutes
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe
Director: Andrew Stanton

            You probably wouldn’t classify me as a fan-boy. If I read a novel or watch a movie and enjoy it I’ll go back for seconds. I’m not much for endless repeats of a story or to consume any and all related goods.
            That was not the case for the John Carter series when I was a youth. My love for the books went beyond just reading them multiple times and then dreaming of being Randy Lindsay of Mars. I had a huge four foot by six foot poster of Barsoom hanging on my wall. It was the only decoration in my room until I hit the black-light phase in my later teens. I collected comics and anything else that I came across that dealt with the series. My obsession drove me to construct a Barsoomian chess game out of a cardboard box and decorated with color markers. (I still have the game.)
            Last week, several of my friends invited me to watch the movie with them. We talked about it afterwards and I discovered that I was not alone in my love for this story. (Although, I definitely had collected a few items that no one else had been able to find.) Edgar Rice Burroughs created a wonderful setting and it is way past time for someone to turn it into a decent movie.

            John Carter’s (Taylor Kitsch) story takes place in the later part of the 1800’s. It begins with a stranger following John through the city streets. John sends a telegram to his nephew Edgar “Ned” Burroughs and then mysteriously dies. When Edgar arrives he finds that he is the heir to his uncle’s fortune, a bizarre set of instructions as to the disposition of his corpse, and a journal that for Ned’s eyes only.
            The journal describes John’s travels in the previous years. After the Civil War, he heads out west to mine for gold. While fleeing a band of hostile Indians he takes refuge in a cave and is mystically transported to Mars. Due to the heavier gravity on Earth he is able to leap incredible distances and kill foes with a single mighty blow from his fists.
            Soon after arriving on Mars, John encounters the fierce fifteen-foot tall, four-armed, green Martians led by Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe). Tars is impressed with John’s jumping ability and brings him into the tribe.
            John learns the Barsoomian language and then meets Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) when he tries to rescue her during an airship battle. Dejah quickly shows him that she can take care of herself. When the action slows down a bit we find out that Mars is a dying planet and that Dejah has discovered technology that will allow her to save the planet.  Dejah tries to recruit John to her cause, but he is reluctant to play the role of sword for hire.
            This is one of my all time favorite properties and everyone in the group agreed that Disney did a pretty good job with it. Even so, I didn’t feel that it deserved a rating of four movie bucks. This is definitely a big screen film. However, for anyone who isn’t a mega-fan of the series it can wait for a matinee showing. Besides, all the big John Carter fans have already gone to see it. I had planned to take my children to see it, or my wife, or anyone just so I have an excuse to see it a second time.
            The story line deviates from the novels. Which is nothing new, few films stay true to the original story. What did surprise me was that we were more than okay with the changes.  It felt like John Carter material that we hadn’t seen/read before rather than an alteration to the original story. Well, except for John Carter himself. In order to have a rewarding character arc John is a little more of a rogue than he is in the novels.
            Overall, I thought it was an excellent movie experience.

            Randy’s Rating System

$$$$   = Full Price    See this movie right away and pay full price, it’s worth it.
$$$     = Matinee      Catch this as a matinee or other discounted showing.
$$        = Discount     Wait until this movie reaches a discount theater near you.
$          = Rental         Wait until this movie reaches your local video rental outlet.
0          = No Sale       Don’t see this movie at any price.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tagged By Claire

            I’ve been tagged by California Claire. Which is good, because I’m still trying to unpack after my move. (Love this new house.) Expect a review of John Carter of Mars on Saturday. Until then, here are my answers to Claire’s questions.

Q1: What is your earliest childhood memory?

A: It’s a traumatic one. We lived along the railroad tracks. I remember being scared out of my mind and running for all I was worth to get away from the tracks and the loud approaching train.

Q2: Tell us about a funny/embarrassing incident that happened to you?

A: I’m shy enough as it is so I won’t be sharing any embarrassing stories with the world at large. How about I tell my favorite story about my youngest daughter?

When Lucy was born I had just gotten a job in the computer industry. They were working me 12-14 hours during the week and then a mere 8 hours on Saturday. I didn’t get home until fairly late at night. When I did I quietly walked over to my wife, gave her a kiss, and whispered hello. Lucy would be sound asleep on the couch and as soon as I said something her head would jerk up and she would cry until I picked her up. Then she fell right back to sleep. Needless to say, Lucy is a daddy’s girl.

Q3: What was the name of your first girlfriend?

A: Can this count as my embarrassing experience. I didn’t have a girlfriend until the summer between my sophomore and junior year. Then I had four at the same time and don’t remember any of their names. My first girlfriend once I returned home was Jennifer. Both of us played trumpet in band. 

Q4: What is the name of your current WIP, and what is it about?

A: I am finishing up a novel that is currently named “End Times.” It is about the events leading up to the Second Coming from an LDS perspective.

Q5: Who is your funniest book character?

A: That would be Dave from my Sherlock Jones series. The first book is titled: Exit Stage Left. Dave is an ex-surfer turned used car salesman that helps his best friend since high school to solve mysteries in Hollywood.

Q6: Which heroine would you most like to go on a date with and why?

A: Considering I just saw the movie last night; Dejah Thoris. She kicks butt and has the most beautiful eyes.

Q7: Would you rather have your book win the Booker Prize but not sell many copies, or top the NY Times best-seller list and make you millions?

A: The key to answering this, for me, is the number of copies that get read. I want people to enjoy the stories I write. Money and prestige is second to that. If more people would read my books because I was on the NY Times list, then that is my goal.

Q8: How often do you blog and why?

A: I want to blog twice a week, but lately it has been only once a week due to time constraints. The reason I blog is to network with my fellow authors. I have learned a lot from them already, I expect to learn more in the future, and often a person’s success in any field is based on who they know.

Q9:  Which is your favorite blog?

A: I’ll take the cowardly route on this and say – Mine! (I always agree with the movie reviews and usually crack myself up with some of my wittier comments.)

Q10:  What is the last music CD/download you bought?

A: It has been a couple of years, but I bought a single by Cake because it was on the soundtrack of Shallow Hal.

Q11: What five things you are grateful for today?

1. My wonderful wife who is beautiful, intelligent, capable, and puts up with me.
2. My children who are loud, active, annoying at times, but loveable all the time.
3. My new house.
4. I’m really thankful that the move is finally over.
5. I’m grateful for the opportunity to express myself through my writing.

            This is the part of the blog where I select a number of my fellow bloggers to answer these same questions. Due to my time shortage (the boys need their bunk beds assembled so they can stop sleeping on a mattress on the floor) I will just extend the challenge to all of my readers. If you read this post consider yourself tagged.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Having A Good Day

     I'm in the middle of moving this week so I don't really have the time to create a decent post about writing or even to throw out some sore of crazy rambling that I am known to offer on occasion. Instead, I'm going to relate an event that happened to me last week.

     After an exhausting struggle with a demonic underwriter, we finally closed on our house. My wife and I decided to take the entire family out to dinner to celebrate. We had a great time enjoying the food and one another's company. A gentleman sat at the table next to us and chucked a few times as we tried to convince the two youngest boys to try a taste of some new foods. Nick firmly advised us, "I might not like it." To which I replied, "And you might love it."

     They were not to be convinced though. We finished our meal, the boys sticking with food that was safe and familiar, and then proceeded to the cashier. To our surprise, the gentleman who had sat next to us had already paid for our meal. Keep in mind that the cost for a family of six to dine at an honest to goodness restaurant is not cheap. He drove out of the parking lot before we could stop him to say thanks.

     At my job, all day long I deal with people who are not very nice. My journey to and from work is filled with crazy, dangerous people who are way too eager to share rude gestures with me and the rest of the drivers who are in their way. This is what most of us deal with on a daily basis.

     The amazing thing to me is that it only took one act of generosity to restore my sagging faith in humanity. That single act was more powerful than the dozens of negative encounters I've had over the last couple of weeks. I would like to thank that gentleman for lifting me up. I wish he knew how much his kindness meant to me.

    This week, or next, I plan to pay that good deed forward. I probably won't be picking up the tab for dinner, but it doesn't have to be a monetary gift that lightens someone's day. What I'd like to do is encourage all of you to do the same. One person can make a difference in the life of another. Be that person.

     By the way, here's a picture of my family when we go out to dinner. (Don't let my wife know I shared the family pictures with everyone.)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Bridge Club

            In writing, I love a good challenge. Set some parameters and then I’ll cut loose the creative synapses of my brain to create a story. It’s a bit like unleashing chaos within a structured setting and I love that notion.
            Rachael Harrie has given the rules for her Second Challenge during her Fourth Campaigner blogfest. She gave five writing prompts and a variety of options of what we were allowed to do with them.
            I decided to use prompts 1, 2, and 4 and write a pitch for a book on these. Then, instead of writing a flash fiction piece, I wrote the opening section of the book with the same word count restriction. Finally, I chose to write out of my genre and make this a Suspense/Thriller story. I invite any of the readers to leave a critique of the story or my writing style.
            And without further ado, here it is:

Title: The Bridge Club


The adults of Riverside gather behind closed doors every week and discuss the latest business over a game of bridge. Unfortunately, when their children form a bridge club of their own they discover a dark secret the town has buried in the river.


            The two of us sat beneath what remained of the bridge. As we rested, backs against the rusted supports, our breathing slowed to something near normal. Blood still oozed from Rita’s leg. The quick patch job – if that’s what you could call a strip of cloth wrapped around her the wound couple of times – had slowed the bleeding. She needed a better level of medical attention than I could give her.
            I peeled the wet hair away from my face and pushed it back into place. The sounds of angry men echoed along the banks of the river and reminded me that we needed to be moving away from here. Away from our bridge.
            Had it really been thirty years since all of us had come together for its unveiling and formed the Bridge Club? We played together on top of the bridge before they opened it to traffic and later gathered together in secret below it.
            Except, our club wasn’t the only thing hidden under the bridge.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

It's Going Around

           No, I’m not talking about Boogie Fever.

Siv Maria tagged me in the latest round of platform challenges. Which is great, because I’ve been waiting for someone to officially ask me to play with the other writers. For anyone unfamiliar with Platform Tag, you are asked a batch of questions by one of your fellow bloggers. You answer the questions and then select a predetermined number of other writers to do the same. That encourages people to hop around the various blogs.

I’ve participated in a couple of these before and answered a few questions. However, Siv Maria had been tagged by two people with separate lists of questions and she provided one of her own. Now, I’m a glutton for punishment and don’t mind answering all those questions, but didn’t want to pass along a novel sized Q&A session for the people I tag.

Here is my reduced list:

Q: What is the first story you remember writing?

A: When I was in 6th grade, I wrote a story about an army of insects that declared war on a neighborhood as the first step in their plans for world domination. It was written from the bug’s perspective. (They lost.)

Q: What was your first car?

A: A beat up 67 Chevy pickup that my dad gave to me when he bought a new one.  (There’s a story to go with it too.)

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

A: Ice cream. Yum. But I’m not supposed to have it anymore.

Q: Do you write by outlining first, or by the seat of your pants?

A: I’m definitely a plotter. I like to work from a basic elevator pitch and then carefully plot it out; and not just once. I make three passes at the rough story line based on the stages of the story outlined in “The Hero’s Journey”, “Save the Cat”, and “The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing.” That gives me enough information to lay out the chapters and scenes that I want in the book.

Q: Do you use foreshadowing to strengthen your plotline?

A: I try. This is an area in my writing that needs improvement.

Q: Who is your favorite author?

A: Growing up it was Edgar Rice Burroughs. He still is one of my favorites. As an adult I gained an appreciation for Keith Laumer through the Retief series of novels.

However, I think I’m going to change this question a bit for the people I tag. Which author do you most resemble in writing style?

The answer to that is Glen Cook.

Q: What genre do you write?

A: I’m intrigued by angels and devils and the conflict between good and evil. Since I write those stories in modern settings I think that falls into the Urban Fantasy genre. However, I have written various Science-Fiction and Fantasy stories, have outlined a western/romance, plan to work on a holiday screen-play suitable family viewing, and my wife forces me to write children’s stories at Christmas time

Q: What is your all-time favorite character?

A: As much as I hate to nominate one of my own characters for this it would be Dave from my novel “Exit Stage Left.” He is an ex-surfer turned used car salesman who works with his high-school friend to solve crimes in Hollywood.

Q: How often do you post on your blog?

A: When I first started my blog I posted 2-3 times a week. Currently, I only post once a week because I don’t have time to post more often and still get any work done on my WIP. I hope to go back to twice a week soon.

Q: How often do you check your stats?

A: More than I need too.  LOL. When I get home from work and then sometimes before I go to bed at night. (Not that they’ve changed that much in a short period of time.)

Q: What influences what you write about?

A: Usually it is whichever project I feel most passionate about when I finish the previous one. Or what my wife tells me to write. (Last year I won the First Chapter contest at LDStorymaker11 and my wife believes I should tackle that story next. And I probably will.)

Q: What is the most important thing that happened to you last year?

A: A lot of things happened; it was a busy year. Still, THE most important of them was the adoption of my sons Nick and Rick.  

            That’s it. Now, this is the list of people I am tagging to answer the questions above, or make up some of their own: