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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, January 28, 2013

Writing Prod - Celebration 2

            During this second pass through the writing prompts I have been combining them with whatever events that happen to be going on and have had great success with that. Today’s event will be the rain. We get so little of it here in the desert it becomes a reason to celebrate whenever it shows up.

            Oddly enough, the actual prompt is called . . . Celebration. The idea is to make a story around an unusual holiday. I previously suggested taking a random noun, or verb, and turning it into a major event. Which makes RAIN the word for the day.


            Rain Day

            Once, long ago, water fell from the skies. They called it “rain.” That was before missiles scorched the atmosphere – and the people. Now the gathered remnants of humanity hold on to the vanishing reservoirs of water as best they can. When one of the underground pools dries up there is war. More of the people die.

            When Toge is assigned the duty of finding another water source for his community to invade he sets out intent of finding a way to return the water to the skies and stop humanity from destroying itself one dried up water hole at a time.  




Friday, January 25, 2013

Dancing For Vincente

            Unfortunately, “High” School has been a disappointment. I understand that it takes some time to build an audience, but my Friday Fiction segment has the least amount of traffic and virtually no responses to it. I am discontinuing the story and will replace it, for the time being, with offerings for the Snapshot Prompt over at Chasing Revery.

            The prompt used the picture below and needed to include the following words: Flamenco, Spotlight, Mud, Runway, and Tragedy. Whether poem, story, or just a segment of a story the bit should be less than 500 words; however, I like the challenge of putting out a complete story in that short amount of space.


            Mom and Dad wanted to see the great Vincente Montoya perform the Flamenco at the Druid’s Retreat. They kept talking about how it was “a rare opportunity that few had the fortune to attend.” That usually meant boring.

            When the lights went out and the spotlight followed the dancer as he marched down the runway it looked as if this outing might not be too boring. Vincente swung his hands to his side and stomped his feet, making more noise than an entire room of kindergarteners. This would definitely be the guy to get if you had a bug problem at your house.

            Then it was over. Watching the Flamenco hadn’t been boring at all. Dad wanted to wait in the foyer and meet Vincente. Let him. There were better uses of time than standing around for the rest of the day hoping that Mr. Stomps would come out so that his fans could gush all over him. Yeech.

            A trip to the bathroom turned into a stroll through the building and then outside where there was plenty of tempting mud. Straying off the path could only end in “tragedy” and there was really no need since a stone path led out to a strange hedge in the back.

            The path ended in a green door that was set in the middle of the brush. It opened easily and revealed a beautiful garden inside. This was a perfect place to spend an hour, or so, while the parents sought an audience with the King of Dance.

            All of the trees, flowers, and chirping birds belonged alongside elves and pixies. Those thought in turn led to images of fantastic creatures dancing in the middle of this green heaven.

            Tap. Tap. Tippity-tap.

            Unheard music inspired an impromptu dance.

            Tap. Rappa-tap. Tippity-tap-tap.

            Of all the ideas Mom and Dad had come up with, this one turned out to be the best.

            The internal music stopped.

            “Bravo.” The voice of a man came from the entrance of the garden. It was deep and friendly. More importantly though, it was Vincente Montoya.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Writing Prod - Ph-ph-phrases 2


            Not only is today Martin Luther King Jr. day, but it’s also time for my regularly scheduled Writing Prod. So let’s just go ahead and combine the two and see how that turns out.
            This particular prompt is called  . . . Ph-ph-phrases! The idea is to talk an old saying of some sort and turn it into a story. Out of deference to Mr. King, I will take one of his memorable statements and go from there.
            “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”


            The Dream 

            If ever there was a thing more destructive to men’s souls than a civil war, Aubrey couldn’t think of what it would be. Countrymen fighting against their neighbors and even family fighting against one another. In the end, the result was an oppressive system put into place to insure that there would not be another war. A dark, hateful set of rules enforced by emotionless robots that had turned everyone in the country into slaves for the government.
            Then the dreams began. Aubrey walked the streets of the city, lighting up the neighborhoods as she passed through them. They grew more numerous and stronger in their intensity until she realized that they were more than mere dreams. They were a call for her to take to the streets of the nation and dispel the darkness one hopeful act at a time. No bloody revolution would work against the steel keepers they had made for themselves. She would have to start a war of love and light.


Friday, January 18, 2013

High School - Scene Nine


            After the first interview, getting the every day details about her fellow cheer squad members and the A-list football players was a snap. Especially Tyler. The more Brittany could place herself at the quarterbacks side the higher her social credit rose. She even hinted that the continued attention might increase her odds of becoming the top cheerleader next season.
            By the time her third Dear Lippy column came out she had most of the cheer squad and a few from the general student body approaching her with tidbits that they thought belonged in the social news. Very little of it helped directly with the investigation, but it gave her an excuse for being all over campus talking to all sorts of people. It gave her a solid cover.
            Who knew that trafficking gossip would be the key to uncovering the details about a high school drug ring? Crazy! Right?
            There was sooooo much of it too. Not that she cared that Bobby Seton was dating both of the Parks sisters at the same time and neither of them knew about it. Or that Julia Thomson had a mysterious morning sickness. The problem was deciding which of the rumors to include in the column. Up to this point she’d been using just the three most interesting bits, but it was getting harder to decide which ones those were.
            Mr. Lee had actually done Jackie a huge favor. In addition to still having a position on the writing staff, she’d been handed a veritable gold mine of information. The possibilities were huge. For instance, she had found out Tyler’s schedule. There had been no repeat of the parking lot encounter. Sooner or later they would have to meet again, but until then Jackie would have to pursue other leads in the investigation.
            Now that everyone expected her to be snooping around on campus for the latest gossip to use in her column, Jackie could easily follow Tyler and catch him selling drugs. Then once she had a list of clients she could follow them, perhaps even interview them as Dear Lippy and see what secrets might slip out.
            Jackie’s mind was so wrapped up in day-dreaming about her investigation that she nearly missed Tyler walking past her. He stopped at the drinking fountain for a quick drink and then was off again. His gorgeous hair and confident stride momentarily distracted her.
            A quick shake of the head tossed any thoughts of a non-investigative nature aside. She took half a dozen steps after him when somebody stepped in front of her, blocking any further progress.
            Hayden Riley stood before her. Arms bigger than her thighs. Breath worse than death. He offered a gap-toothed smile. “Well, if it isn’t Dear Lippy.”
            “Yes.” Jackie’s mind raced for something to say that would throw Tyler’s body guard off balance. “Did you want to be interviewed?”
            A confused look crossed Hayden’s face. He took a step back and folded his arms. “No!”
            Jackie gave a moment to see if there was anything else forthcoming. There wasn’t. She took a step to the side and walked around him without further impediment.
            All had not been lost; she could still see Tyler ahead. A few quickened steps and she could catch up with him. 
            “I have a something you are going to want to put in your column,” said a girl with braided blonde hair, braces, and thick glasses.
            Jackie tried to remember the girl’s name, but could only recall that she was part of the nerd herd that hosted book parties whenever the latest Zombie Love movie was released. Last year the girl and her friends had dressed up as zombie groupies and had to be sent home to put on some school appropriate clothing.
            “The coolest party of the year is going to be at my house Friday.”
            “Great.” Jackie tried to sound enthused.
            “Aren’t you going to write it down?” asked the zombie queen.
            Jackie strained her neck to keep Tyler in sight. “No need. I’ll remember it. Cool party. Friday night. Come and get your zombie on.”
            “Won’t you need my address?”
            “I got it already.”
            “Wow! Thanks.”
            A quick scan failed to locate Tyler. Jackie switched into swift pursuit mode and made for the last corner where she had seen him. She rounded the edge of the building and ran smack into the Evil Trinity of Cheer.
            “Watch where you’re going,” snarled Stephanie Canton.
            “Sorry,” Jackie offered, anxious to be on her way, but Stephanie pointed a finger at her face.

            “You!” Her tone held more than a little contempt. “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll stay away from Tyler. He’s mine.”

Time for another reader choice. Should Jackie . . .
A) Confront Tyler directly

B) Start following one of his accomplices

C) Focus on finding the supplier

D) End the story – have Jackie join the cheer squad and live happily ever after.



Monday, January 14, 2013

Writing Prod - Heroic Rebirth 2

            Due to my battling a health issue, there will be no fanfare accompanying today’s posting. We are once again looking at . . . Heroic Rebirth. That is a writing prompt where you take someone you admire greatly and place them into a fantastic setting. Then ask yourself how they would resolve the problems they faced there. Basically, you are creating a fictional story that runs along the lines of a true story.

            The first idea that popped into my mind was how would Abraham Lincoln solve the current deficit issue the United States is currently facing? However, I’m pretty sure I went to Old Abe last time around so instead I present: 

           The Last Days Of Adam 

            Adam lived in a simpler time. No taxes. No lawyers. No rush hour traffic. Of course there was a lot of responsibility that went with the First Man position he occupied. As the father of the human race it was up to him to start the ball rolling so that humanity would flourish and thrive displaying bountiful amounts of good intent. At least, that had been the plan.

            Somewhere along the way, everything has gone horribly awry and Adam has been sent down to Earth to try and straighten it all out. The problem is that he is going to have to do that as a regular mortal. Okay, mostly regular mortal.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Movie Review - Jack Reacher

Jack Reacher  $$ 1/2   

130 Minutes
Starring: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, and Robert Duvall.
Director: Christopher McQuarrie.

            Here is another Tom Cruise action film. If that statement made you jump up and down with giddy excitement, then stop wasting your time reading this review and run out to see it. However, those who like a good story with their seasonal dose of Hollywood hunk should probably read on.  

            The story opens with a sniper murdering five people on a city street. Evidence quickly leads investigators to an ex-army sniper named Barr (Joseph Sikora). Instead of confessing to the crime he asks for the police to get Jack Reacher.
            Reacher (Tom Cruise) is a man of mystery who at one point solved murders for the military. No one knows where he is now or even how to get in touch with him. Then he shows his impeccable timing by showing up immediately after his introduction. Unfortunately, by the time he arrives Barr has been beaten into a coma by his fellow inmates.
            Reacher is hired by Barr’s lawyer, Helen (Rosamund Pike), to investigate the murders and prove his innocence. Reacher accepts so that he can conclusively prove that Barr is guilty. Along the way, Reacher discovers that there is more going on here than a simple multiple homicide.  

            I found the early portions of the movie enjoyable. Cruise does a good job with the character and I especially liked the scene where several of the local thugs have been hired to beat him up. The story leaves us some tantalizing hints of a major conspiracy in the works and that Reacher is the person to get to the bottom of it all.
            The character of Helen is also a bit of a mystery, but from a completely different direction.  It is not clear why the daughter of the District Attorney volunteers to defend an obviously guilty suspect. You would hope that a mature character would be above petty motivations such as that. The other mystery surrounding Helen is why a character that contributes so little to the story line receives anything more than minor screen time in the movie. There is no romantic tension between her and Reacher. The potentially great conflict between her and the never-lost-a-case father could have really added depth to the story if it had been developed. Instead we have an uninteresting lawyer who contributes little to the investigation.
            On a positive note, Werner Herzog plays an effectively creepy villain. A few more scenes with him could have elevated the story. Robert Duvall does a fine job with his minor role in the film. Then again, what else would you expect from him?

            I only gave this film two-and-a-half movie bucks because it was forgettable. Sure, I had fun watching it, but a couple days later, I had a hard time remembering what movie I needed to review for my blog. That is not a good sign. My actual recommendation is to wait and rent this film. It translates well to the small screen and you may be less disappointed with the ending as a rental.

            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.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Writing Prod - Advertising A-No-No - 2

            Do you know what today is?  

            That’s right; it’s back to school day. Let’s shout out a big hooray. After two weeks of holiday madness and children with too much energy from too little activity outside the house I am finally free. Well, mostly free. They monsters are coming back home eventually.
            Today is also the first full week of the New Year. I’m not going to call it a resolution, but I have been mentally preparing myself to get some serious writing done this year. Not that 2012 was a horrible year for writing; I finished a rewrite of a novel, submitted it twice and had it rejected just as often, and sold three stories. The trouble is that I could have done so much more. This year I plan to do more. Expect me to work on my novel Exit Stage Left and submit it before the year is out. 
            In a few months, I will be attending my fourth LDStoryMakers conference. These are great and you don’t have to be LDS to attend. It will also be my third time for entering the First Chapter contest they hold each year. One of the entries I plan to submit is based on a Writing Prod idea I generated on the blog a few months ago. I mention that only to demonstrate how effective writing prompts can be to a writer – even a writer as full of ideas as I am. (Not to toot my own horn.) 

            On with today’s prompt . . . Advertising A-No-No. This is one of the sillier prompts that I have listed. The idea is to take an ad from radio, television, or magazines and develop a story based on a world that is really the way they show it in the ad. Then from there you turn that into a story.
            Or else, you can develop a sinister ad campaign of your own and then write the story behind it. There has to be some item, or personal quirk, that you think should be widely available to the masses. Just thinking about it gave me an idea for a story.   



          Canned Goods           

            While attempting to invent “Ready to inhale” dinners that a person merely breathes in to consume, Todd Frinkle stumbles upon a method of packaging good behavior. Just pop the top off a can of Consideration and breath deep and you will be amazingly gracious all day long. Fame, fortune and dreams of a Nobel Peace Prize all fade away when Todd discovers a group that plans to reverse engineer the technology so they can create a line of products that will turn people into remorseless killers. Even if he can find a way to stop them it turns out that the short cut to good behavior leads to a prolonged inability to tell right from wrong. But how can a crack-pot inventor, a couple of neighborhood kids, and a nearly blind dog going to prevent it?




Friday, January 4, 2013

"High" School - Scene Eight

           Since Jackie didn’t have any classes with Brittany Lancaster, she decided to approach her at lunch. Catching her alone would have been ideal, but none of the cheerleaders were ever alone. They ran in packs.

            As usual, they occupied the center table in the lunch room. A spot where everyone had equal opportunity to gaze upon the collective beauty that was the cheer squad. Even though there were only eight of them their voices could be heard above the dull roar of competing conversations; punctuated occasionally with a shrill laugh that sounded like the cry of exotic bird.

            Pink seemed to be the color theme for the day. Pink and white. Pink and yellow. Pink and more pink. All of them together strengthened the fashion-infused flock imagery that had already formed in Jackie’s head. 

            Taking the direct approach could only result in disaster. Sitting together, in their micro social kingdom, they hid behind an invisible wall that prevented undesirables from piercing their click. Anyone outside the circle of coolness that they had erected would be rebuffed immediately.

            Jackie picked at her bagged lunch until the cheer squad got up to leave. She timed it so that she arrived at the waste can at the same time that Brittany was tossing the uneaten fragments of lunch. In the pecking order of the cheer squad, Brittany ranked dead last and must by the unwritten bylaws always bring up the rear as befitted her station.

            “Hello, Brittany.” Jackie put as much enthusiasm into the greeting as she could muster. She gave a quick glance at the rest of the squad to make sure they had continued out the nearby exit. They had.

            “Oh. Hi.” Brittany had a high-pitched, nasal voice; a combination that formed an especially unpleasant series of sounds whenever she talked.

            “How do you like being on the cheer squad?” Jackie asked.

            Brittany twirled a long lock of perfect hair around her finger. She seemed to be having difficulty forming words.

            “Cheer is life,” Brittany said at last.

            “I’ll bet it is.” Jackie tried to keep the level of sarcasm in her voice to a minimum. “What I mean is that I think everyone would love to hear more about that. Can I interview you about the whole cheerleading lifestyle?”

            “Well . . .” Her voice trailed off. The moment stretched until it left Jackie wondering if Brittany might have forgotten the question.

            “. . . I’m not sure.”

            “The whole school would be able to find out the reason you are so popular. Wouldn’t you like that?”

            “Maybe.” Brittany looked in the direction that the rest of the squad had gone. Her face had a deer-in-the-headlights quality to it. “What reason is that?”

            “Because you are a cheer leader.” Jackie said it with her best game show host voice. “The interview will show everyone just how awesome it is to be you.”

            Brittany stood there – obviously not used to having to make her own decisions.

            “I plan to put out a series of articles based on our interview and by time I’m done you will be the best known cheerleader in the school. Maybe even in the city.”

            Her eyes sparked at the comment.

            “You really think so?” Brittany asked in hushed tones, glancing once again at her missing companions.

            “Absolutely! I have the most popular column in the school paper.” Jackie emphasized the word popular when she said it, hoping that it would strike a deep resonance.

            “Okay.” Brittany nodded.

            The cafeteria door opened and Stephanie, the cheer squad captain poked her head inside. “Brittany!”

            That was it. The powerful spell of summoning sent Brittany scrambling to join the rest of the squad. Stephanie cast a single disapproving look towards Jackie as the door closed. Then they were gone.

            Jackie gave a silent victory shout. She had her inside source in place. Now on to the next phase of the plan. Whatever that might be.