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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.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas In Oz

Have you ever had one of those writing experiences where you had an idea and when you had the idea it was great, then the more time you had to think about it the less spectacular it seemed?


Yeah, me neither.

While I was working on the Christmas writing prompts, one of them really grabbed my attention. I thought it would be hilarious to put together a story by mixing traditional Christmas elements with the Wizard of Oz. Another one of the prompts I thought of, but didn't include, was what whould happen if someone kidnapped Santa? I combined the two and this is what I came up with – in a condensed script format:

Scene 1 – Santa is preparing for his big night. Mrs. Claus gives her jolly hubby a warm send off and tells him to be safe.

Scene 2 – While flying through air, Santa encounters the Wicked Witch. They narrowly avoid a mid-air collision and the two of them share several choice words with one another. Santa insists that he had the right-of-way and the Witch responds by zapping him.

Scene 3 – The Witch flies off, cackling happily, while the reindeer take the sleigh down for a landing on a golden air strip. When they stop they find out that the only thing left of Santa is his suit.

Scene 4 – Before long, the Oz gang (Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion) come along and discover Santa’s sleigh and his empty suit in the driver’s seat. They realize that without Santa there might not be a Christmas. Scarecrow offers to try and fly the sled himself. Maybe if they return the sleigh to the North Pole someone there will know what to do.

Scene 5 – The Scarecrow puts on Santa’s suit and attempts to fly the sleigh with comical results; comical for the audience, not so funny for the Oz gang or the reindeer.

Scene 6 – After gathering up the far flung bits of straw and putting Scarecrow back together, the Tin Man gets to work fixing the now broken sleigh. He believes that his familiarity with machines will allow him to operate the sleigh. But the reindeer won’t fly for him.

Scene 7 – Cowardly Lion discovers that whenever he roars the reindeer move away from him. By staying behind the sleigh, he can herd the reindeer in the direction he wants them to go. The only drawback is that they still won’t fly.

Scene 8 – The Oz folks discuss the situation and decide to go see the Wizard for a solution on how to save Christmas. Scarecrow and Tin Man climb into the sleigh and Cowardly Lion growls them all the way to the Emerald City.

Scene 9 – Before long the group arrives at the Emerald City. They are ushered into the Wizard’s grand chamber and find themselves face-to-face with the Witch. It seems that Emerald City is under new management. Our three heroes are thrown into the dungeon by the Emerald Guards.

Scene 10 – Scarecrow, Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion are tossed into a cell with – ta da daaaa – the Wizard. This is not the wise, benevolent ruler that came back after dropping Dorothy off in the mythical land of reality. The Wizard has given up hope and wants to be left alone. Here is the chance for the Oz Trio to return the goodness bestowed upon them by the Wizard. They all share the many great tasks they have been able to accomplish since he has instilled hope within themselves. Soon the Wizard’s spirit is rejuvenated and they plan their next move.

Scene 11 – Scarecrow puts his brain to work and calls on his previous experience with wicked witches. Having been torn apart by the flying monkeys gives him an idea; by moving around the straw in his body he is able to squeeze himself through the window in the dungeon door and unlock it.

Scene 12 – The Oz folks barely makes it down a dungeon hallway when a massive contingent of guards charge after them. Tin Man gives a rousing speech to give heart to his companions and then offers to bar the way while the others escape. After all, “He once spent months not moving and can do it again.”

Scene 13 – The rest of the gang navigates through the secret passages of the castle, led by the Wizard, and eventually pop out from behind the Emerald throne. They face off against the Wicked Witch. She zaps them and they all freeze in place. What starts as a growl, deep within the Cowardly Lion, grows into a fierce roar that shakes the building and dislodges a large chunk of the ceiling. The Wicked Witch is crushed beneath the great stone and everyone is freed from her magic.

Scene 14 – The Wizard puts on the Witch’s Emerald Slippers, clicks his heels three times, and un-zaps Santa’s suit. The suit fills out with Santa in it. But what about Christmas? With the night half over it would take a miracle for Santa to complete is mission of good will.

Scene 15 – Flying monkeys and the Witch’s guards all flood into the Emerald throne room swearing allegiance to the Wizard. That gives him an idea. Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion all load into the sleigh with Santa and take off. Santa just won’t stop during his trip. The Flying Monkeys will take the gifts, in mid-flight, and deliver them to the intended homes. Christmas is saved. YEAH!!!!

(Sorry if this wasn't as polished as normal, this has been an extra, EXTRA, busy week.)

            I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and here’s wishing you the best in the coming New Year. Thanks for stopping by and being a part of my blog.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tis The Season For . . .

            Last month I bemoaned the lack of Thanksgiving stories in the entertainment industry. In order to promote a creative outburst in that direction I came up with a list of story prompts and a challenge for all of you to write the next Thanksgiving classic. And considering what’s currently out there for my favorite holiday it leaves the field pretty wide open for the title.

            Christmas, on the other hand, suffers from exactly the opposite problem. There are more movies, songs, novels, and what-have-you that can be easily counted, much less enjoyed. While I thought about that very fact I found myself oddly challenged. With so many stories already written about the biggest commercial season of the year is it possible to come up with something new?


            You go ahead and watch ABC Family’s “25 Days of Christmas.” Feel free to study Lifetime’s “50 Movies and 50 Reasons to Love the Holiday Season.” Check out Hallmark’s “Countdown to Christmas.”

            Go ahead. I’m guessing you won’t find a single one of my ideas in the batch.

  • What if Santa was a Communist?
Oops – I already did that one. You can check it out here:

            http://randylindsay.net/  Red Christmas

  • What if someone stole Santa’s sleigh?

  • What would happen if the Tooth Fairy took over for Santa?

  • What would it be like if Scrooge came back as a Christmas ghost?

  • How would Christmas be different if Santa were a fitness guru instead of a toy maker?

  • What would happen if Santa’s toy shop were moved to the South Pacific?

  • How crazy would Christmas be if Lady Gaga took over for Santa?

  • What would happen if all the holiday legends had to fire one of their own due to budget costs?

  • What would happen if the elves unionized?

  • How would everyone react if Santa billed them one year?

  • What would happen if Santa had to get a second job?

  • What if Santa were really a secret agent?

  • What if Santa went broke and had to hold a telethon?

  • What would a pre-historic Christmas be like?

  • What would happen if Santa switched careers and started a dating service?

  • Is there a mirror-opposite Santa in another dimension (Anti-Claus)?

  • How would things be different if Mrs. Claus made the rules?

  • What if “Reindeer Games” were really military exercises against “The League of Extraordinary Snowmen”? And whose side would the “Elf Suffrage Coalition” be on?

  • What new Christmas tradition can you introduce into a story?

  • What if Santa only brought presents for adults?

  • What if people exchanged gifts of service to one another?

  • What kind of quest might a reindeer have to undergo in order to be a member of Santa’s sleigh team?

  • How “Far Out” would Christmas be if Santa were an alien from space?

  • How would Christmas be different if Santa planned adventure parties instead of giving away toys?

  • What would Christmas be like if Santa gave everyone what they really deserved?

  • What would Christmas be like if Santa were a pirate?

  • What would happen to Santa if he hit a wormhole and was transported to another dimension? What would happen to that dimension? What would happen to us?

  • What would happen if Santa took bad boys and girls away and turned them into elves for his North Pole sweat shop?

  • If all of the key figures from the holidays held a Battle Royale – who would win and who would get smeared?

  • What kind of story would you write if Santa farmed out his duties and made you the Santa for your block?

  • What would Christmas be like if we celebrated it in summer?

  • What kind of story would you write if Santa was kidnapped?

  • What if Santa’s sleigh crash landed on a deserted island and he had to rely on his McGuyver like ability to make toys out of anything to survive and escape?

  • Considering that Santa is immortal and can travel all over the world in one night – what kind of story would you write about Santa being a Time Lord?

  • What if Santa needed a war wagon instead of a sleigh?

  • What kind of celebration would we have if we combined some of the current Christmas traditions with the story line from Wizard of Oz?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Movie Review: The Muppets

The Muppets   $$$

103 Minutes
Starring: Amy Adams, Jason Segel, Chris Cooper
Director: James Bobin

            Gary (Jason Segel) and Walter are brothers. They do all the typical things that brothers do together – except grow up. At least, Walter doesn’t because he’s a muppet. Despite this unexplained oddity in their relationship the two of them are extremely close. Perhaps too close for Mary’s (Amy Adams) liking. Gary and Mary have been dating for the last ten years and she’s ready for a commitment.

            The three of them travel to Hollywood for Gary and Mary’s tenth dating anniversary and during a tour of Muppet Studios Walter uncovers a sinister plot by Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) to buy the studio so that he can get at the oil reserves that are beneath it.

            Obviously, that just won’t do. Gary and Mary, led by Walter seek out Kermit The Frog and warn him of Richman’s evil plot. Together they hit the road hoping to put the band back together. Once assembled, they plan to hold a telethon and raise enough money to buy the studio themselves and save the wonder that is muppetdom.    

            It seems to me that lately Hollywood relies on recycling old stories, old shows, even old games in order to come up with their next batch of films. I groaned when I heard that they were redoing Footloose. I thought I had slipped into an episode of the Twilight Zone when I saw the trailer for Battleship. But while I sat watching The Muppets I thought, “If were going to have more of something, then it should be this.”

            I’m a long time fan of the muppets and this was my favorite so far.

            Amy Adams is one of the reasons that I liked this film so much. (Just one.) She has a presence that lifted the scenes that she appeared in. Her “Me Party” solo was the highlight of the movie for me.

            Even without Amy this is one the muppets finest moments. I feel that they successfully hit the appropriate emotional chords in this film that were overly cheesy in their previous efforts. Are they has-beens? How do you define success? How do you define happiness?

            Maybe I’m just too big a fan of cheese to know better, but I liked the messages they presented here. I laughed and I felt better about myself after seeing the movie. How can you beat that?
            I thought The Muppets was a solid 3. The material is good. I’m split on the acting; Amy was awesome, Jason Segel did a reasonable job, Chris Cooper makes a great bad guy, and the muppets – well, they’re the muppets. As far as messages go, I’d be happy to let my children watch this a couple of hundred times and learn that they only need to be a success in the eyes of their loved ones.

            Nothing in the film screams out to be seen first run, or at the biggest screen in town, but it definitely should be seen in a theater. Seeing it at a matinee seems about right for this movie. If you’re taking the kids (I didn’t) then a discount theater may be the way to go – not because it isn’t good, but because it will give them a chance to see it big and loud at a reasonable hit to their parent’s pocketbook.

            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, December 7, 2011

Interview with Me - Part II

The interview continues . . .

Randy: What went through your head when you won the First Chapter contest?

Randy: The whole thing had a very surreal feel to it. Even as it happened it struck me that it reminded me of a scene out of a movie, or a novel.

When they started announcing the winners I thought I had a reasonable chance to be among the top three entries, especially when they revealed that there was a three way tie for third place. Surely, I would be one of them.

As each name was called up my heart sank a little bit. Still, second place remained as yet unclaimed.

Then my hopes pretty much vanished when I failed to be called as the second place winner. There was no way that I was going to win first place. And yet held on to an anemic hope that it could happen.

When they announced that first place had been awarded to Last Dispensation Space, my mind stopped working. I thought “Gee, that title sounds familiar. Didn’t I write a story by that name?” (Yeah, I know. That bit of the story doesn’t really paint me in a very bright light.)

It occurred to me that it might actually be my story, but I waited to hear the name of the author before I could be certain. They did. They announced my name. I numbly looked around the table and said, “That’s my story.” (Thank heavens I write better dialogue than I speak.)

The walk from the back of the room to the front went by entirely too quickly. I spent too much time wondering if I were dreaming rather than enjoying the moment. I had won a contest. I couldn’t wait to tell my wife. I couldn’t wait to tell my friends.

I went back to my table and sat down, answered a few questions, but mostly remained quiet; staring in disbelief at the piece of paper with my name and the title of my story.

Randy: What was the best part of winning the contest?

Randy: The validation of my efforts as an author. Having someone who knows the industry indicate that my writing has merit gives me hope that I will one day be published and that I’m not just wasting my time.

Randy: What was the worst part of winning the contest?

Randy: Worst part? Are you kidding? There is no down-side to something like this. It’s all good. Although, I wish I hadn’t been so deeply in dreamy-dream land during my walk to the pulpit.

Randy: How has winning the contest changed things for you?

Randy: It has given me confidence. For me, that translates into more writing getting done. One of the prizes was a “Get Out Of The Slush Pile Free” card that will guarantee that my finished story will be read by the publisher I send it to. That motivates me.

Randy: Do you plan to enter the contest this year?

Randy: Yes. That same wonderful wife of mine that suggested the winning chapter insisted that we fit the writing conference into our budget next year. I will be there and plan to enter two chapters.

* (Yes, I asked this question in Part I of the interview, but the answer has since changed.)

Randy: What stories will those chapters be from?

Randy: Don’t have the foggiest idea. I’ll have to look at my list of story ideas and see what I’d like to write next. Next meaning, after I finish the next three projects I’ve already promised myself I’d write.

Randy: What did you learn from this experience?

Randy: Besides that I should always listen to my wife? Jump into the story and make the readers wonder what is going to happen next – and do it quickly.

I also learned that the story you, as an author, think everyone will love is not necessarily the one they actually like. Rather than be discouraged when your “Best” story is rejected, be prepared for them to accept a different one altogether. In other words, keep plugging away because you never know which story is going to really resonate with the audience.

Randy: What tips can you give other authors entering the contest?

Randy: Keep in mind what the entries are judged on:

            The Hook – What about your story is going to make people read more?

            Conflict – What’s at stake and what, or who, is opposing the hero?

            Character – Why will readers care about this character?

            Setting and Mood – How will readers feel like they are IN the story?

            Pace and Style – Do your words get in the way of the story?

            Resolution/Prompts – What in the story makes readers want to continue?

            Mechanics – Is your grammar going to stop people from enjoying the story?

Randy: Do screaming fans fight over your autograph now?

Randy: Only when it’s signed on a check.

Randy: What’s next in your author quest for publication?

Randy: Finish the novel I am currently working on and start the next one. 

I am sorry to announce that I need to really focus on finishing my novel this month. In order to help that goal along I will be cutting back on my posting until it’s done. For the rest of December I will only be posting once a week. I’ll go back to my normal Tuesday and Friday posts in January.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Interview with Me - Part I

            Feedback on what I should do with my blog has been wonderful and truly appreciated. Based on the comments I received I believe that the interviews are probably the best liked feature. Since I couldn’t really get one with a real person in time for this weeks post I decided to interview - ME. (I’m definitely, pretty sure, that this might not qualify as talking to myself.)

            The only event that I feel fits with my author-in-training theme is having won the speculative fiction category of the LDStoryMakers 2011, First Chapter contest. I apologize to anyone who is tired of hearing about the accomplishment, but I did feel that in addition to the silliness I plan to contribute to the interview, there may be a few comments that might prove worthwhile.

Randy: Is this the first writing competition that you’ve won?
Randy: Yes.

Randy: Did you bribe the judges?

Randy: I’m shocked that you would even ask me such a question. Besides, I didn’t know the identity of any of them. Or what sort of bribe they’d be susceptible to.

Randy: As I understand it, you submitted three entries. Is this the chapter you thought would win?

Randy: No. In fact, I felt that Last Dispensation Space had the least chance to win. I felt that the first chapters of the two novels I’d been working on would win – if any of them did.

There’s an interesting story behind all of this. The first novel that I wrote was Hellathon. I think the premise is unique and that I will eventually clean it up properly and find a publisher for it. I have an elevator pitch all prepared and ready to deliver at a moments notice and have put together a synopsis, query letter, and everything else I can think that it needs. So, I felt it had a strong chance of doing well in the contest.

Then I also included the first chapter for the novel I was actively working on at the time. This too had a preliminary pitch ready and a very shaky synopsis. I felt Exit Stage Left had a strong story and really wanted to see if grabbed anyone’s attention.

I had two chapters ready to submit, but had wanted to send in three. My wife (a very intelligent lady) said to go ahead and write the first chapter of a novel I had talked about doing next. She felt my “Mormons in space” story was a good choice for my next novel. I took her advice and spent about a week writing and editing the first chapter and sent it in.

It won. And it taught me to pay greater heed to my wife’s input about such things.

Randy: Do you plan to enter the contest this year?

Randy: I really want to. The opportunity to select three of my most promising stories, put together a first chapter, and have them evaluated is an amazing boost to my quest for publication. Unfortunately, I don’t think I will be able to make it to the conference this next year.

. . . To be continued.