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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, February 25, 2013

Writing Prod - Tough Luck 2

            Another week and another Writing Prod. Unfortunately, there are no holidays or special events happening to add a little twist to it this time.

            This prompt I call . . . Tough Luck. It uses your personal experiences, or that of someone you know. Take the most difficult decision you have ever had to make and turn it into a fictional story. You can more fully explore the choice you made or go with a more “what if I had done the other instead” route.

            Nor does this have to be set in the everyday world with characters that have relatively typical lives. Imagine if that decision had to be made by the President of the United States or a larger than life action hero.


            Thar She Goes 

            Turgan the Terrible sheathed his energy-cutlass for the last time. For twenty years he had been the most feared scourge among all the seven sectors of space. He was a living legend in the annals of space piracy. But now he had to leave that behind.

            It was time to switch focus from his career to taking care of his most valuable treasure – Brand, his son. Not only did Turgan have to find a way to bond with a child he barely knew, he needed to prepare him to face the daunting challenge that is The Winter Festive Dance.


Friday, February 22, 2013

Last Train Out

            Here is another entry for the Snap Shot Prompt over at Chasing Revery. The challenge is to create a story, or poem, or some creative written item of 500 words or less using the picture below and the following five words: Cosmic, Ghost, Pocket Watch, Vegetable, and Train.

            Henry pulled his pocked watch out from his vest and looked at it. The 3:45 was late. Twelve years late. A train hadn’t passed through their sleepy little town since just after the war started – and ended.

            That was probably for the best; vegetation had long since covered a good portion of the track outside the town. Henry made sure to keep the tracks within the town limits clear and ready to use. Since there were no trains running anymore it was the least he could do as an employee of the Central Pacific.       

            He looked along the northern line. The city was still visible in the distance, like a ghost that reminded them of a long lost friend. Somebody had to be alive there; or anywhere, for that matter. Other than a few people who had wandered in on foot when the bombs disabled their cars, no one had passed through town since the power went off.

            A few of the townsfolk had left. The lure of the big city sitting on the horizon, so close and yet beyond their reach, served as a cosmic slap in the face. They went to find family. They went to find answers. None of them returned.

            Now the town went about its business; growing vegetables, raising cows, and checking everyday for the arrival of the 3:45.



Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Movie Review - A Good Day To Die Hard

A Good Day To Die Hard  $ 1/2   


97 Minutes
Starring: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, and Sebastian Koch.
Director: John Moore.

            Bruce Willis is a tremendous actor. The original Die Hard defined a successful storyline in modern cinema; Under Siege was Die Hard on a boat, Speed was Die Hard on a bus. One might even argue that you can’t be a respectable action film screen-writer without having written a manuscript that pays homage to this iconic storyline. How does Die Hard at a comic convention sound to you? I can call it Geek Hard.
            Fine. Back to the review. Considering the above, this latest installment of the John McClane (Bruce Willis) saga should have been a safe bet for a quip-filled evening of gun battles and explosions. And it was. It just wasn’t entertaining.  

            The movie opens with Jack McClane (Jai Courtney) murdering a Russian mobster in a night club. John immediately flies over to Russia to help his son in this troubling situation. He arrives just in time to witness a group of armed men storm the Russian courthouse. Jack escapes with a fellow prisoner, Komarov (Sebastian Koch) and that marks the beginning of Die Hard in Russia. 
            Most of the plot involves a rehash of previous themes, mainly the estrangement between John and his family because he spends too much time saving large chunks of the population from massively-armed terrorist groups. They may have gone to the well one too many times with this story element if the stale dialogue given to us by the writers is any indication.  

            For those of you who enjoy chase scenes that leave a trail of smashed and broken vehicles in the wake, then you are in for a treat. I’m no expert, but they may have busted up more cars and trucks than any movie I have previously seen. The sheer amount of broken glass, sheared doors, and dented hoods is truly impressive. Not necessary for the story, but a grand display of automotive catastrophe to be sure.
            Bruce Willis did a reasonable job of acting in this film. The problem is that he’s working with some very weak dialogue. In fact, most of the acting was good, but handicapped by the writing.
            As for the plot – I mean, Really? Who thought a New York cop traveling to Russia and shooting up the place was a good idea? Entertainment relies on the suspension of disbelief in order to present incredible tales that we might never have envisioned on our own. Ask the audience to accept too much of the ridiculous and you end up with a story that is silly rather than entertaining.
            There are several story elements that went awry in this movie and I don’t want to spend pages commenting on them all.  Suffice to say, the writing for this film was poor.
            Special effects, sound effects, and all the other aspects of the movie making craft were good. They just aren’t enough to overcome the problems with the story.  

            I considered giving the film just half a movie buck, but Bruce Willis is entertaining enough to warrant adding another full movie buck to the rating. If you tend to ignore flaws in the storyline or the writing, then this will probably be a good movie for you to see.


            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, February 18, 2013

Writing Prod - Almost Perfect 2

            President’s Day!

            On the count of three, I want everyone to launch into a lively, rousing and joyous rendition of Hail to the Chief.

            One . . . Two . . . Three . . .
            What? You don’t know it either? Okay, let’s just skip that part. This week’s Writing Prod is something I call . . . Almost Perfect. Invent the perfect society. What would it be like? Now write a story about it.

            In keeping with a President’s Day theme, I will attempt to create a paradise with George Washington in mind.



            Green Government 

            The whole idea of greening the government sounded good – at first. Advanced technologies had opened up endless possibilities, including the cloning of George Washington to lead the U.S. into a prosperous age of cooperation with nature. And at first, President Washington led the way with advocating a greater reliance on renewable resources for many of the services where that hadn’t been common before: wooden dentures, sawdust packing material and leaf-wrapping for Birthday presents.

            Then Edward discovered the dark side of President Washington. Something that hadn’t been mentioned in any of the history books. In fact, it seemed in dark contrast to the man that had been dubbed the Father of our country. Edward had discovered a plot for George to become King Washington, the leader of the entire world.



Monday, February 11, 2013

Writing Prod - Product Placement 2

            Valentine’s Day is almost upon us, once again. A holiday filled with cupids, red and pink hearts, and announcements of affection to friends, family, and especially that one certain person that has enriched our lives. What a lovely holiday.
            What it means for me is that this week’s Writing Prod will need to include some connection to this the most sickeningly-sweet holiday of them all. That should increase the difficulty of the task by quite a bit – considering that romance is my personal kryptonite.
            The prompt is one that I call . . . Product Placement. Normally, you would pick a product that you can buy in a store, or online, and then turn into an object that symbolizes an important message / theme in your story. It becomes the centerpiece for your story.
            However, in deference to Valentine’s Day I am going to change that a bit and specify that the product be taken from a holiday related commercial and used as a romantic element in your regular story. Or that you take a regular commercial and use it as a centerpiece for a romantic tale.
            This should be quite a challenge for me.



            Princess Blanche loved beer. The finest brewers in the land worked for her father, the king. How then was a simple hops farmer like Samuel Jackson to win the heart of the fairest maiden of the land if he had nothing to offer?
            Then one day he uncovered an ancient book that spoke of a magical brew that existed long ago and heralded by all as the finest drink ever devised. The book even mentioned where the recipe for the perfect ale could be found; in the far away land of Wine, protected by a snobbish and evil people who hated beer.
            Armed with only a drinking mug and a brave heart, Samuel faces a series of sobering challenges in order to win the affections of the Princess.
* Note: This prompt is not intended as an endorsement for alcoholic drinks. It is meant only as an exercise in the realm of the ridiculous.




Friday, February 8, 2013

Hunter's Moon

            Here we go with another snapshot prompt over at Chasing Revery. This week’s photo is shown below. As normal, participants are asked to put together an offering of 500 words or less, using the given photo for inspiration, and using five pre-selected words. The words for this prompt are: Flea, River, Denim, Creeper, and Catastrophe.


            The Hunter’s Moon has risen into the sky. Just a little higher and the event will begin. Traverse the city and cross the river and I’m safe. At least until they capture me again. This is my third hunt since men invaded from Europe.

            The last time they captured me, I had not learned to distrust mankind. Back then they hunted me in buckskins and boots; this time they’ll wear denim and “tennis.”  Back then parasites infested my pelt and now I wear a flea collar under my pressed, white, long-sleeve shirt. At least that’s an improvement in my situation.

            Even in their movies they depict the hunt in fog shrouded locations where the beast – that’d be me – lopes through a forest of creeper choked trees, howling. No one pictures the savage ritual taking place in the middle of New York City.

            But this is the end. I am the last. My instincts tell me that the hunters have become too sophisticated, too well armed with technology, for me to escape again. They will hunt me down and when I am dead the world will see catastrophe as they have never before witnessed. For without the “Old Ones” to speak with the spirit of the Earth, and comfort it, all of nature will fall out of balance.

            The universe must have a sense of humor. Tonight, civilization will finally do away with the last remnants of the old way and when it does nature will pound humanity back into the Stone Age. Perhaps then my kind will be resurrected to rule over them as they once did. Or maybe it is just The End. Who knew?

            The view through the window really was remarkable. The moon is so beautiful nestled between the marvels of modern architecture. The old and the new – together. That is beautiful.



Monday, February 4, 2013

Writing Prod - Sporting Chance 2

            Last night was the big event for football. While the game is the main attraction is it really the best part of the experience? Some are drawn to it for the half-time entertainment. Others look forward to the ultra creative commercials that are aired during the game. Then there are those like me that are drawn to the veritable banquet that is available during the game. And how about those couch gate parties where friends gather over the pretense of a sporting event?

            It seems only appropriate that this week’s prod be . . . Sporting Chance. With this writing prompt you take two sports and combine them to create a whole new one that becomes the centerpiece for your story. Or if you want more of a challenge, make up a whole new sport on your own. Think about the society that would develop such a game. Consider what sort of person would thrive in such a competition as well as who would cheer them on and who would oppose the sport altogether.

            Rollerball and The Hunger Games are both excellent examples of this sort of story. They are not so much about the sport itself, but the people and the culture that have adopted the game. This prompt lends itself most easily to fantasy and science-fiction stories, but could be done as a more traditional sports-themed tale if you prefer.

            My brother loved the pitch I developed the last time I used this prod and urges me all the time to actually write it. Let’s see how he reacts to this one.


            Dragon Pass 

            Monpar is a civilized world. Land disputes between nations are settled with a simple game of Dragon Pass. While the game itself is violent and results in the death of most, if not all of the participants, it is still more civilized than war. Each of the teams attempts to move the ball from the center of a large obstacle course to their safe zone. If the ball touches the ground it is handed over to the other team. It’s really quite easy – except that there is a dragon on the game field and the ball has been painted to look like one of her eggs.

            This is the last year that Dibbons can be drafted for the game. Even though he has lived in the same cottage all of his life, few of the people in his village know him by name. He has made his livelihood alone, in the nearby forest. Now he will have to work with a group of people he has never met and hope to survive the game.




Friday, February 1, 2013

Gray View

            Once again, I am participating in the Snapshot Prompt over at Chasing Revery. This week’s picture proved to be a bit of a stumper for me. Normally, I look at one of the photos and a host of ideas pop into my mind. When you’re dealing with shades of gray and some bare trees there is certainly less to draw on for inspiration. But I like a challenge when it comes to writing so here it goes.

            The five words that need to be included in the story are: Bill, Chisel, Tile, System, and Bicycle.



            Talk about beating the system. John started on his twentieth mile on the exercise bike. Placing it in front of his living room window it was like riding a regular bicycle, but without all the slick, snowy roads and icy wind to bother him. So much for cable. John had no plans to line the pockets of the fat cat entertainment moguls who lived off the wasted lives of the people.

            As far as that went, the electric company could enjoy a heaping bowl of not-out-of-my-pocket-you-don’t. After the bill they sent last month, John turned off the heat during the day and kept the thermostat at its lowest setting at night. A full regimen of exercise kept him warm as well as entertained.

            John pictured, in his mind, how each act of protest was like taking a chisel to one of the gold tiles that covered the mansion floors of the rich and powerful. Yes, indeed. In another month he imagined them on their knees, facing the brink of ruin.

            For the first time in days John smiled as he gazed out on the gray skies and barren landscape that comprised his world.