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

Monday, June 25, 2012

Writing Prod - Fantasy and Reality Collision

            Just a quick announcement before I move on to this week’s writing prod – I am headed off to the cool, green mountains of Colorado. And that means no posts from me until next Friday. Sorry.

            Did you know that this is my twelfth writing prod? Well, you do now because I just mentioned it. I can hardly believe that I’ve already done that many posts for this feature. Fortunately, I still have quite a few ideas on how to generate story ideas.
            I do make an effort to come up with catchy names for the prompts, but naming is not one of my authorial strong points. What I came up with for today’s prompt is: Fantasy and Reality Collision. Yeah, it’s lame. Feel free to suggest a better name for it.
            To do this you take a real person and introduce them into a fantasy setting or take a fictional character and place them into a real world scenario. It doesn’t have to be fantasy, any of the genre fiction categories will work. I picked fantasy because it clashes the most with reality and the strength and draw for this type of story is based on that incompatibility.
            As a matter of fact, they just released a movie that uses this principle:

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. I mean, really? Honest Abe. President by day and vampire hunter by night. (Or so I’m guessing by the title.) Doesn’t that catch your attention? Aren’t you interested in seeing how they put those two extremely different components together in a single, cohesive story?

Okay, here’s another one:

            Enchanted. A fairy-tale princess is transported to the real world and falls in love. This is a great movie that plays on the clash between what’s real and what isn’t. Not only that, but it has Amy Adams in it.
            The first example takes a real person and plops them into a fantastic setting. And the second example takes fantasy characters and sets them in the real world. They also work opposite sides of the entertainment spectrum with Abraham Lincoln covering the horror genre and Enchanted belting out some humorous, family, musical fun.  So the components that you mix will have a major impact on what sort of story you tell.
            Since I’ve already given two examples of actual entertainment properties I’m going to pass this week on creating one of my own. (Unless I get a lot of comments asking me to come up with some wacky story line using this prompt.)

Friday, June 22, 2012

This Week In The Blogverse

            Over the past nine weeks I have been focusing on a single blog that I felt could be helpful to my fellow authors. Today’s post will be different. There are some tremendous authors out there who offer great insights on the craft of writing or the writing industry. They don’t necessarily have a specific feature that they post every week that stands out on its own. Rather than spending the next several weeks finding different ways of saying that the authors offer gems of writing wisdom on a regular basis I’ve decided to put several of them together in this post.

            I put Nathan Bransford on the top of the list because he has his fingers on the pulse of the industry. With over six thousand followers he certainly doesn’t need me promoting his blog, but if you’re not familiar with his site then you are missing out. Nathan is a writer, a former literary agent for Curtis Brown Ltd. and  is now working as the social media guy over at CNET. His recent topics include: Are Non-Interactive Books Going to be the Black and White Movies of the Future, Should Agents be Worried, and The Randomness of Best Sellers. His posts are very insightful and he keeps his messages short that leaves you with an appealing knowledge per time spent ratio.

            Moody Writing with Mooderino has been on my follow list since I started blogging. Every week he has some great advice on writing; however, if you happen to be in a quandary about what to do with your blog then check out this post - Writer's Websites I'd Like to See. Recent topics include: Writing Great Characters, Waiting for a Good Story to Get Started, and Can You be Trusted to Tell a Good Story? In addition to some great writing his blog looks cool too.

            Writer's Do Laundry, Too with Linda Jackson is a blog that is not only informative, but has a cozy feel to it. I really enjoy her writing style. Recent topics include: Once Upon a Time When We Were Blissful Readers, It’s Just Not a Good Fit for Me, and Why I Buy Books. And Linda is super friendly.

            Three great sites should be enough for this week. (Not to mention my kids need to be fed lunch.) Take a couple of minutes to check out these blogs and see what they have to offer. And if you know of any blogs that you think should be on everyone’s must see list, please let me know about them.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

First 500

Aimee Salter has started a new feature on her blog. She critiques the first 500 words of an author’s novel. This week she is taking a look at my current WIP. Are you curious how my story held up? Or do you want a peek at what I will be shopping around to agents in a couple of months? Consider this an extra (and shorter) installment of This Week In The Blogverse and check it out.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Writing Prod - For Starters

            Another week stands before us and with it another opportunity to forge a heroic path through the wilds of creativity and literature. That sounds much more exciting than just saying that it’s Monday again.
            Today’s writing prompt I call – For Starters. You take a specific sentence and start your story with it. This could be a line of conversation you overheard at the store. You could also modify the last line of your favorite novel. Basically, you can grab a sentence from anywhere and use it to open your story.
            Obviously, this is meant as an exercise to help you generate story ideas. If this turned into a full-blown novel or short story that you wanted to submit to an agent you would want to revamp the first line to be a real attention grabber.

            For my example I chose the last line from one of my favorite novels. From Damnation Alley, by Roger Zelazny is the line: “But coming upon the Common, the winds still break about him, and the heavens still throw garbage.”
            I am going to break from my normal routine and in addition to the pitch for the basic story idea I am also going to include the first paragraph so I can show how I modified the original line.

            Down and Out on Earth

Once upon a time, Sam was an angel in heaven. And not just any angel, but the leader of the crack legion of Avenging Angels. For millennia he served faithfully. Then a week ago, he discovered a flaw in heaven’s charter and was cast down to Earth. Now mortal and without his angelic powers he must find a way to stop the inevitable spiritual war before it destroys mankind.

“The winds broke around him as if they feared to touch him and the heavens threw garbage. They served as constant reminders of his current status with God. Even the humans took part of this grand snubbing and crossed to the far side of the street as he approached them.”

Friday, June 15, 2012

This Week In The Blogverse - Michelle Teacress


          It’s Friday. And we all know what that means. The problem is that while each of us individually knows what it means, collectively we have about a thousand different answers to the question. In Randy-land, it means I have the opportunity to share some blogging goodness with all of you.

            Michelle Teacress happens to be one of the first people to start following my blog. So, that makes her especially special. It’s also worth noting the she has a very solid following and is awesomely nice person.

            Michelle offers an author spotlight on Wednesdays. If you are an aspiring author this gives you an opportunity to expand your writing network. Gaining a strong connection to established authors will help you immensely once you are published. Not to mention, the experience they have in the industry can be a great help to you now.

            If you happen to be a published author then this feature could help spread the word about you and what you write. I couldn’t find any guidelines for how Michelle chooses the subject of her spotlights, but I imagine you could contact her and find out.

            Finally, this is a great feature for you as reader. With an expenditure of just a few minutes of your time and you might discover a new favorite author. 

            Please swing by Michelle’s blog and tell her I said – “Hi.”

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Kids On Writing

            Combine an author who has recently learned how to podcast with four young children and a page full of questions and what do you get? My blog offering for the day.
            I sat down with Merlin, Lucy, Nick and Rick and asked them what they thought about authors and the writer’s life. In conjunction with Monday’s Writing Prod, this also includes their responses as to what they think would make a good plotline in my next novel.
            Please leave a comment on whether you liked it or not; that will help me determine if I should attempt any future podcasts.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Writing Prod - Mouth of Babes

            Here we are at the start of another week. To help get those creative juices flowing I have another writing prompt for you. Feel free to create a flash fiction piece out of it or even pitch for a longer work of fiction and share it with the rest of us. I will, of course, be including an example of my own.
            I call this one Mouth of Babes. Kids say the most interesting things. That’s the premise for this prompt. Ask one of your young children to come up with an idea for a story. If you don’t have any young children of your own go ahead and borrow one. Then see what you can do with their idea.
            Of course, putting a child on the spot may not be the best method of mining minors for story plots. If you have an opportunity to be around children on a regular basis you can listen in on their playtime discussions. Sooner or later they’ll drop a gem of an idea.

            I asked my seven year old what he thought I should write for my next story. He told me that it should be about a dragon that chased people around because he wanted to be friends with them.
            This would make an excellent picture book or YA story just as it is presented by my son. However, for my example I turned this into a serious adult offering. And this is what I did with it:


            Roaring Dragon
Ben is hired to travel to the backwaters of the bayou in order to study the body of a supposed dragon. He discovers that the remains are not from any species known on Earth and begins a search of the area for a living specimen. Deep in the swamps the hunting party becomes the hunted when a live dragon charges into their camp. Ben flees and becomes hopelessly lost in the swamp. He is eventually tracked down by the dragon and returned to civilization. During their trek the truth of the situation comes out: the dragon is an emissary to Earth from another dimension. She and her companion were here to offer peace, but if neither returns home the warriors of their race will invade Earth and destroy it. Ben must find a way to get the dragon safely past the party of swamp folk that are even now hunting for her and to the portal that will take her home.  

Friday, June 8, 2012

This Week In The Blogverse - Beta Match

            I know that I included Rachael Harrie in a recent installment of This Week In The Blogverse, but she has an incredible feature that is going on right now and I just had to point it out to everyone.

            Rachael does a quarterly Beta Match.  She gives the opportunity for authors who are looking for critique partners and beta readers to meet one another and try to fill that specific need. I recently moved and have had difficulties finding a new critique group in my new area; so, the timing for this event was perfect for me.

            For those of you who don’t live in a large metropolitan area an online group may be your only option if you want to get peer critique of your work before you send it to an editor or agent. Or maybe you’d feel more comfortable with a group of authors who write at a level closer to your skill level. Whatever the reason, if you need someone to read over your work you should check out this event.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Movie Review: Men In Black III

Men In Black III  $$$ 1/2

106 Minutes
Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Josh Brolin, and Jemaine Clement.
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld

            Seldom is a sequel as good as the original unless you’re talking about a franchise like the Bond movies. Even rarer is the situation where the sequel is better than the original. My wife and I both agreed that we liked the third installment of the Men In Black series the best.

            As the movie begins we find Agents K (Tommy Lee Jones) and J (Will Smith) going about MIB business. Agent K’s surly factor is way into the “red” zone – even for him.
            Meanwhile, at the secret lunar maximum security alien prison (Yep, we have one, but it’s not secret anymore because I just told you about it) Boris the Animal escapes. Boris (Jemaine Clement) makes it back to Earth and is able to travel back in time where he kills a younger Agent K and thereby changing the time line.
            Only Agent J is aware of the change and he has to travel back in time to stop Boris from killing a younger version of his partner. Along the way he gets help from an alien from the fifth dimension, Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg).
            The rest you’ll have to find out on your own.

            The acting is excellent, although Tommy Lee Jones looked like he might be slowing down a bit. Jemaine Clement was excellent as the villain and I am a firm believer that a strong story requires a strong character in the role of the villain. Josh Brolin did an amazing job as the younger Agent K.
            Visually, this was an effective movie. The special effects that bring the aliens to life were great; especially Boris and his creepy hand pet. The quality of the technical aspects of the film was what you would expect from a top property like MIB.
            And the writing? That is what made this the best movie in the series.  After seeing this in the theater, my wife and I watched the original at home. I was interested in finding out why we liked this one better. The original had a much higher yuck factor, but that isn’t what made the difference. This latest MIB connected with the audience on a more personal level. Sure, the original had Agent K in an unresolved love story and that reached a satisfying conclusion. In this one the personal drama is much more up front and a part of the main plot. We may have laughed with the characters in the original movie, but in this film we grow closer to them. And that makes a difference.
            You’ll want to see this movie on one of the first-run screens to get all the benefits of the special effects they packed into it. As much as I enjoyed it, I think you can wait for a matinee to see it. Then again, maybe not. I didn’t.

            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.

Contest Winner

As promised, I am going to announce the winner of my prod contest. Thank you to The Watcher, Small Town Shelly Brown and Angela Brown for entering. And the winner is . . .

Angela Brown.

Go ahead and e-mail me the address you want the book sent to and I will get it sent out sometime during this next week.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Writing Prod - Conspiracy Club

            This is the last day I am accepting entries for my Writing Prod contest. Just as a reminder, I am giving away a copy of City of the Gods: Mythic Tales, Volume 1. If you want, I’ll even autograph it for you. Just write a short story, poem, or pitch that involves a holiday taken to an extreme. The winner will be announced this Wednesday.
            Now on to today’s writing prod. This one is called (by me) Conspiracy Club. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you. Or something like that. The idea for this writing prompt is that you take a real organization and imagine what it would be like if they were a front for an evil empire.
            Obviously, the more innocent and noble the organization is in the real world, the more effective the story becomes if you can make the evil-ization (Yes, I made up that word) seem plausible. This prompt lends itself best to thrillers, horror, and dystopian stories, but I’m going to put my example out there as a comedy.

            Junior Man Scouts

Anyone who thinks the battle of the sexes is merely a phrase has already lost the war. Cole finds out what it really means to “Be Prepared” when he joins the Boy Scouts. Thoughts of pleasant weekend campouts and wilderness survival training all fade from his mind when he is recruited to an organization bent on proving that boys rule and girls drool.

Friday, June 1, 2012

This Week In The Blogverse

            Today I am going to introduce you to Aimee Salter who has a blog called Seeking the Write Life. She has been on regular stops each week for quite some time. This is not a feature of the week blog, but one that puts out a consistent flow of information helpful to writers. Here are some examples of her posts.

            Draft Query Help should be a regular feature, in my opinion, but was presented as a series of posts that helped her readers with their query letters. Obviously, this helped the writers who had their queries discussed, but it also provided a wonderful workshop atmosphere on query writing. Being able to post suggestions as a comment allows the readers to hone their skill in this difficult aspect of the writing life.

            Character Currency made some great points on getting your character motivations right. Week after week, Aimee offers insightful posts like this one.
            Stop by and read through a few of her most recent posts and see what bits of writing wisdom you pick up.