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Monday, December 31, 2012

Writing Prod - Where Reality and Fantas Collide 2

            As incredible as it seems we have arrived at the end of another year. For me and my family 2012 was an excellent time for us. It is all but gone and I am left wondering what I can expect from 2013. Maybe this will finally be the year that one of my novels is picked up for publishing.

            Today’s writing prompt will include the theme of new beginnings out of respect for the holiday and my love for speculation. The prod itself is something I call . . . Where Reality and Fantasy Collide. You can either take a real person and introduce them into a fantasy setting or take a character out of fiction and place them into a real world scenario.


            Another Year Gone

            Out with the old – in with the new. Just like that 2009 was history. Sure, they threw him a grand retirement party, but that upstart 2010 managed to make himself the center of attention. Now he was expected to sit back with all of the previous years and enjoy immortality. Ahead of him lay endless arguments about which year had left behind the greatest legacy. No thank you.

            When all was said and done, 2009 had left the world pretty much in the same condition he had found it. The problem with that is he was supposed to have been the year that it all changed. Determined to shake things up a bit he leaves the retirement home and soon stumbles across a plot to destroy time. Maybe 2009 will be a year to remember after all.


Friday, December 28, 2012

High School - Scene Seven

          “Why am I not surprised?” Amanda rose from the ground and brushed bits of grass and leaves from the thin swath of fabric she used as a skirt. The yard debris clung to the clothing and resisted Amanda’s efforts to dislodge it.

            Amanda had long legs like a model, perfect blonde hair, and a dazzling set of teeth that Jackie suspected could blind a person if she smiled. Good thing that Amanda seldom smiled.

            “I didn’t expect anyone to be waiting outside my door,” said Jackie.

            Amanda looked up at Jackie with a look that was one-quarter surprise and three-quarters wrathful retribution. Her hands stopped picking at her clothes for a moment; no doubt intended for dramatic effect.

            “Is that your version of an apology? You run someone over on your front steps and then act as if it’s their fault. No wonder you have trouble making friends in school.”

            “I have friends.” Jackie bent over and gathered up the books that Amanda had dropped on the porch.

            “Do you mean that loser, Daniel? That’s actually worse than having no friends at all. The way he walks around, peering out from under that hideous carpet of hair, is just plain creepy. You really need to start hanging out with a better caliber of people.”

            “Can we skip all of that and get to the reason you’re here?” Jackie held her breath and counted to ten. As much as she’d like to unload on her pompous neighbor, their parents were close friends and the sort of explosion of grief she wanted to rain down on Amanda would seriously disrupt the harmony of both homes.

            “Well, Yesss! I guess it was too much to expect an apology from you anyway.” Then Amanda stood there, arms crossed over her books, a disapproving glare glued to her face.

            “Alright,” said Jackie. “I’m sorry I knocked you down.”

            “See.” Amanda slapped a fake smile on her face. “There is always time for good manners.”

            “Please, get to the point. What do you want?”

            “Tsk, tsk, tsk,” Amanda clucked out. “Someone got up on the grumpy side of the bed today. Don’t worry though; I won’t let that get me down. I have good news for you.”

            Jackie waited but, Amanda apparently wasn’t going to continue until she had been properly prodded along. “What is the good news you have for me, Amanda?”

            “It is simply delightful.” The smile on her face took on a semblance of sincerity. Not the full blown honest smile that most people gave, but the closest to that, that Amanda ever achieved. “Your parents were talking to my parents about how concerned they were that you didn’t socialize enough. My parents agreed that it would be wonderful if something could be done about that. And then I had an idea. A really great idea!”

            A sick feeling dropped into the depths of Jackie’s stomach. It felt like a punch to the gut that you knew was going to start hurting like crazy any second and you just wished there was a way to avoid it. 

            Jackie didn’t want to say it. She wanted to cover her ears and run screaming down the street rather than hear what Amanda was about to say. This was one of those perverse moments in life. If she didn’t speak the horrible feeling of dreadful expectation would be prolonged and the longer she waited the worse it felt.

            “What idea is that?” Jacked asked.

            “My cousin, Arnold is coming to town on Friday and the two of you are going to double on a date with me and Tyler Dunhurst.”





Monday, December 24, 2012

Writing Prod - Mouth of Babes 2

            Merry Christmas to one and all.  

            For today’s writing prompt I am going to throw a little holiday cheer into the mix. The actual prod is something I call . . . Mouth of Babes. If you have young children, ask them for a story idea and then run with it. If you don’t have any young children see if you can borrow some.
            My youngest son told me to write a story about a dragon. Then once I added a Christmas setting to that idea I had the following story.


               Dragon Bells 

            Pencho lives in the land of dragons. It is a dangerous place and the inhabitants battle with one another constantly. But Pencho finds his normal routine disrupted when he stumbles across a strange human from a far off place that talks about a wondrous thing called Christmas. Little does Pencho know that his quest will end with him pulling Santa’s slay on Christmas Eve.




Friday, December 21, 2012

High School - Scene Six

            “Duckies,” Daniel shouted.

            Jackie was taken back by his tone. Daniel never raised his voice. She had counted on his easy-going personality to make the reaction of her betrayal less traumatic. Or was that – dramatic?

            “You wrote that I have duckies on my underwear.”

            “Actually,” said Jackie. “I told them your boxers had ducks.”

            “And how does that make a difference? People still think I have ducks on my underwear.”

            “There’s nothing wrong with ducks,” said Jackie. “I like ducks.”

            “Well then, that changes everything. Doesn’t it? You told the entire school that my blue boxers have cute yellow ducks on them.”

            “If you’re going to put it that way, of course it’s going to sound bad.”

            “What other way is there to put it?”

            “Come on, Daniel. Work with me here. I had to come up with something to tell the jocks or they were going to find out I knew about the drugs. Ducks were just the first thing that came to mind. Get over it.”

            Daniel crossed his arms and glared at her. At least he wasn’t yelling any more.

            “Be mad at me later,” said Jackie. “We have to follow up on this while we still have the chance. Now that we know Tyler is involved we just have to find out who he sells his drugs to on campus. But in order to do that I need to get past his sports goons.”

            “No problem there,” snarked Daniel. “I can distract them with my duckie underwear.”

            “Don’t be silly. You don’t have any duck underwear.”

            Daniel threw his arms up in the air and screamed, “Now you tell the truth. When no one is around to hear it. For the rest of the time I’m still in school everyone is going to call me Duck Boy, or Duckie, or maybe even Quackers. In one fell swoop you have ruined what remains of my high school experience.”

            “Don’t you think you are over reacting just a little bit?”

            Daniel answered clear and loud. “No!”

            “You watch and see. By next week no one will even remember this.” Jackie waved her hands to dismiss the matter. “Let’s get back to MY problem.”

            “Which one would that be? The stabbing your friends in the back problem? Or maybe the totally self-absorbed problem that prevents ninety percent of the school from liking you?”

            “Please, stop. I’m talking about how I need to find a way to crack open this drug ring in school and write a column that will accepted into the Journalism curriculum at ASU.”

            “Yea. The whole self-absorbed thing just went right over your head, didn’t it?”

            “Daniel.” Jackie grabbed her friend by both shoulders and shook him. “Focus!”

            “Why don’t you just join the Tyler Dunhurst fan club and then you can follow him around all you like. Then you can share your self-absorption with the snobs on the cheer squad.”

            “Yes. That – is – it.”

            “You’re going to become a cheerleader?”

            “No. I’m going to write a series of columns about them” Jackie grabbed a pen and her steno-pad from out of her purse.

            Daniel reached out and laid a hand on her shoulder. “I can see that you’ve gone over to the darkside. Vanity pieces. Fad fashion reviews. Who knows what will come after that.”

            “Get real,” said Jackie. “Tyler is surrounded by cheerleaders every minute of the day. I don’t need to find a way to follow him, I just need to figure out how I can get the information I want from those jumping, bleached bunnies.”

            “Hmm. That might work.”

            Then Jackie was out the door, leaving Daniel alone in her bedroom. She sped down the stairs. Like a gust of wind she tore through the living room. Faster than Speedy-Gonzales, she bolted out the front door and ran smack into Amanda Groat.

            Both of them tumbled to the ground.

            What a lousy time to encounter her arch rival.





Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Movie Review - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Adventure

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey  $$$$  


169 Minutes
Starring: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, and Andy Serkis.
Director: Peter Jackson. 

My inner nerd has patiently been waiting for the release of this film. As well as my outer nerd, my in-bewteen nerd, and all other forms of nerdness that I posses. Peter Jackson did such an excellent job with the Lord of the Rings trilogy that the expectations for this movie has been especially high.
Nor were my easily bruised expectations disappointed.  

            For those of you unfamiliar with The Hobbit, the story deals with the loss of the ancestral home of the dwarves from “Lonely Mountain.” Once rich and powerful they are displaced by the dragon Smaug. Those who were not killed by the dragon fled their home and wandered Middle-Earth.
            Thorin (Richard Armitage), now the king of the dwarven kingdom of Erebor has decided the time has come to reclaim their home – and gold. Gandalf (Ian McKellen) has joined the dwarves in their noble quest and suggested that they need the aid of a burglar. To that end they have come to the Shire to enlist Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman).
            Bilbo is reluctant to join the quest, not only is he not a burglar, he is most definitely not the sort to tromp around the countryside looking for adventure. He tells them that he will remain warm and comfy in his hobbit-hole and wishes them luck. But before they are out of view he finds that he has joined them. There is a part of him that longs to tromp around the countryside after all.
            Then adventure ensues. 

            Peter Jackson did an excellent job with this film. I liked it better than any of the movies in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Mainly because it spent less time making the orcs and goblins as hideous as possible. This should make it a better film for children to see.
            The acting was seamless. Although I didn’t think that any of the performances really stood out, neither did any of the actors draw attention to themselves with a poor showing. That being the case I found myself focused on the story and the special effects. Both are excellent. The sets were beautiful and my eyes constantly feasted on them. And the story is one of the best fantasy tales of all time. Jackson did an admirable job of following the events of the novel. Be warned though – this is only the first of three movies based on the book. It takes the story just past the point where Bilbo encounters Gollum (Andy Serkis). Then you will have to wait for the rest of the story.
            I rated this film a full four movie bucks, mainly because I think you should rush out and see it right away. See it big and bold in the theater. Go. Now.

            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, December 17, 2012

Writing Prod - For Starters 2

            December 21 will roll around before my next column. That makes this a perfect time to include an end of the world theme into my weekly prod. Since I will be combining that with whatever writing prompt is next on the list that will make it kind of a unique prompt of its own.
            This one I call . . . For Starters. Not as challenging as I would have wanted for my last column before the world ends, but it will do. Start your story with a specific sentence. It could be the last line of your favorite novel (modified a bit if you want), it could be a memorable line that your father once said.
            For my example I used a well known internet search engine and typed in Mayan – because I wanted a handy link to them for my story. I came up with this: “The Maya peoples never disappeared . . .”



            Mayan Mountain

Opening line: “The Maya people never disappeared, they just faded into insignificance.”

            For Tim, the Mayan civilization was a great puzzle. They had advanced studies in art, mathematics, architecture, and even a written language. Then it all faded away. The most predominant culture in Yucatan Peninsula region collapsed without any known explanation. Their descendants remain, married into other cultures, distanced from the wonders of what they once were.
            Then Tim discovers an artifact that may hold the key to the rapid decline of this magnificent civilization. It tells a story of visitors from the sky and an exodus of the best and brightest of the Mayan people into the heart of a mystic mountain. With the help of college friend, who finances an expedition to the Yucatan, they search for Mayan Mountain.



Friday, December 14, 2012

High School - Scene Five

            Hayden looked down at Jackie. At six-four he towered over her. His arms were crossed, enhancing the bulge of his already large biceps. And his normally vacant stare had been replaced with a nasty sneer.

            “Hey,” Jackie squeaked. She looked over at Brent Wodzinski, who looked just as intimidating. Matching angry-jock bookends – that couldn’t be good. “Wow, last week’s game was amazing. You really impressed me with how you . . . ran around on the field.”

            Mentally, she slapped herself on the forehead. She had a father and three brothers that watched football almost every day of their lives and the best she could do was compliment them on running around on the field.

            “What are you doing over here?” Hayden asked. “This is an athlete only area.”

            “S’right,” Brent spoke up. He flashed a mouth full of crooked teeth. “Jockville. No losers allowed.”

            A loud, braying guffaw followed his comment. Apparently, Brent cracked himself up. Then he turned back to the emotionless flesh-gargoyle that he’d been a moment ago. At least in that mode his teeth remained hidden.

            “Do I know you,” Brent asked. His eyes squinted as he looked her over, a crease forming on his forehead. “Got it. You’re that girl that writes for the school newspaper.”

            “That’s me.” Jackie giggled. Not one of those giggles that results from an extended shopping trip with the powder-puff gang, but one that slips out when you’re in a tough situation and don’t know what to do.

            “What are you doing following Tyler?” A threatening tone filled Hayden’s voice. He tilted his head from one side to the other, causing his neck bones to pop. Then he rotated his shoulders. His sudden activity looked like part of a pre-game warm-up.

            A game of pound the reporter.

            “Where else am I going to get an interview about Jockville?” Jackie looked over at Brent and smiled. “I mean, that’s where all the cool people hang out. Right?”

            “You don’t write about sports,” said Hayden. “You write serious stuff. You write about the drug problem at school.”

            “Not any more.” Jackie interjected. “They moved me over to the Society desk. Now I write about who’s popular and how everyone else can be like them. Maybe I can interview the two of you.”

            Brent unleashed the teeth again and nodded his head.

            Hayden seemed to be thinking it over. Jackie needed something more to convince him that she wasn’t a threat.

            “You can ask Principle Skinner if you like. Or you can read my Dear Lippy column in tomorrow’s paper. I dish out the dirt on Daniel Sutton and his horrid lack of fashion sense.”

The words had escaped from her mouth before she could try to cage them. How could she embarrass her best friend in the school paper? Not only that, but what did she know about fashion other than Daniel dressed worse than her?

Then she noticed that the snarl had faded from Hayden’s face.

“You dished on Sutton?” Hayden asked.

“Oh yea. Big time.” Not again. Didn’t her mouth have some sort of controlling mechanism to prevent her from blurting out this stuff? Daniel wasn’t going to like this at all, but it was better than getting beat down by the glum club here.

“Alright,” said Hayden. “I’ll make sure to read it. Now get lost.”

“Maybe we can do the interview next time.”

The snarl returned.

Jackie walked away. She tried to maintain a normal pace; no need to let them know she was in a hurry to get out of there. Hopefully they didn’t notice her trip and nearly fall down.

She was sure they didn’t see that.  

Once she was around the corner she blew out a sigh of relief. Mission accomplished; she had found out which of the jocks had been in the parking lot. That was her first solid lead to unraveling the school drug ring.

On the down side, now she had to write a totally fictitious column making fun of her best friend. She’d embarrass him in front of the entire school. Oh, what was she going to tell Daniel?




Monday, December 10, 2012

Penumbra Blog



            Today, I am guest blogging over at Penumbra. Hop on over there and check out my article on writing prompts. I called it Mining Creativity.  

            On a similar topic, a few weeks ago I announced that I was working on a short story with the title of A Long Time for a Little While. I used the same writing prompt for it that I did for Not Fragile. Anyway, I wanted to offer the chance to any of you to do a beta read on it. That will give you the opportunity to see what I can really do with a prompt when I’m serious about the story.
            If you are interested either drop a comment here, or email me.



Friday, December 7, 2012

High School - Scene Four

            Thoughts buzzed around the inside of Jackie’s mind like a swarm of angry bees. It was chaotic, excited, and a little bit threatening all at once. She had wanted to pursue a story on the drug war being waged at school and here was the best opportunity she would ever have to do just that.

            When the two suspects went their separate ways, Jackie decided to follow the student in the varsity jacket. He would be the easiest to find later on. At least he would if she could get a good enough look to identify him.

            She slung her backpack over her shoulders and snugged the straps to keep it in place. Then with one last glance at the adult headed towards the parking lot, she followed the jock. She was pretty sure she could identify the adult if she saw again. And that might be important to busting this investigation wide open.

            Just using that phrase in her head created a sort of daydream-euphoria. She said it to herself again: busting this investigation wide open. It was like one of those dramatic movies where the hard-nosed investigator went toe-to-toe against a powerful corporation – or even an organized crime family. Except this was real.

            Then she noticed that the jock was getting away. She could daydream later, right now she needed to switch to stealth mode and follow the suspect.

            Suspect. It made her giggle inside.

            Jackie ran as quietly as she could to the end of the bleachers. Then she used the concession stand as cover and sprinted to it. She listened for the clippity-clip of the jock’s running shoes to fade somewhat in the distance before she dared a peek around the edge of the stand.

            He didn’t have a clue that she was following him.

            Once he turned the corner on the Science building, she ran to the spot where she last saw him and listened of the annoying sound of his cleats on the sidewalk.


            That was odd. She didn’t doubt that any of the jocks on campus could outdistance her if they wanted to, but this one had only been walking, not even aware of her presence. All she could do was peek around the corner and hope to spot him before he got too far away.

            Slowly. Carefully. Jackie poked her head around the corner of the building.

            Two jocks stood there. Not three feet away. Looking directly at her.

            “What’s up, Romano?”


Thursday, December 6, 2012



            I’m late. I’m late. For a very important . . . For my normally scheduled Wednesday posting. The honey-do list ate up my morning so I am just the tinniest (if you call four hours tiny) bit late.
            Last week I was nominated for the Addictive Blogging Award by Carrie Sorensen over at Chasing Revery. And even though she was the one who nominated me, I mentioned her blog anyway because I love her picture prompt.
            For this week the challenge is to take the picture below and come up with a story, under 500 words, and that incorporates: Needle, Wisdom, Planet, Beach, and Scandal.
            Wow. Those five words just don’t seem to fit the picture at all. I guess that’s where the challenge comes in. And below is my attempt to scramble a story together.  


            Al patted Ol’ Feller on the back. He didn’t know if either one of them could make the trip to Pine Valley. Rescue work was something better left to young folks. Al and Feller were just a pair of ornery cusses that liked their solitude. But they were the only ones close enough to reach the lost campers in time. 
             A quick check of the supplies before he strapped them to pack Feller carried, and then they were out in the snow. Al figured it’d take most of the day to cross Parker Ridge and get down to where the campers were trapped.
            Everything was covered in white. The road, his cabin, even the trees had snow packed atop the branches, hiding the green needles beneath it. He didn’t understand why someone would want to camp in the snow. The dangers of being buried under an icy blanket by a blizzard aside, it seemed a greater wisdom this time of year to spread out a blanket on some beach in the tropics.
            On occasion it seemed like city folk might be from some alien planet for all the strange thinking that they did. Not that he was rightly smarter than any of them, but he felt that he had a decent enough amount of horse sense. And Ol’ Feller had even more than him.
            The trip took most of the day. By time he spotted the bright orange material of their tent the sun had already reached the top of the western peaks of Pine Valley. Al and Feller called out to the campers when they got closer. No use spooking them. No use getting shot by some nervous tourists either.
            “Anyone about?”
            Rustling sounds came from inside the tent. No doubt they had heard him. Al politely waited a discreet distance from the tent for them. After another minute, or so, the zipper on the tent flap went – ZZZZZZTTT. A man poked his head out.
            “Who are you?”
            “The name’s Al.” He tipped his hat. “A message came in over the radio that you were trap and needed help. Feller and me brought you some supplies and when you are ready we can walk you back to my cabin.”
            “Excellent,” said the man. He pulled his head back into the tent. “We’re rescued man. Let’s get out of here.”
            More rustling sounds emanated from the tent. Then stopped. “No way,” said another voice in the tent. Deep. Male. “Imagine the scandal back home if the rest of the guys find out we had to be rescued. We’ll never hear the end of it. We’re staying.”
            “Well, can we at least take the supplies he brought?”
            A moment later the man poked his head back out of the tent. “Thank you very much for your assistance, but we’ll be fine.”
            “Alright.” Al shook his head and smiled. It took all kinds. He turned to head back home and noticed the man waving his hand to get his attention. The man mouthed the words – “Please come back tomorrow.”


Monday, December 3, 2012

Writing Prod - Conspiracy Club 2

            Not only is it Monday, but it is December too. Where did the year go? Where will all of us go when we reach the end of the Mayan calendar later in the month?
            The writing prod for this week I call . . . Conspiracy Club. It provides good plots for serious as well as comedic stories, adult as well as young adult. All you need to do with it is take a real organization, company, or group and imagine what it would be like if they were just a front for an evil empire.
            Think of all the possibilities: boy scouts, the PTA, MADD (why even the letters of that group spells evil conspiracy), the plumbers union, or even PBS. Even though all my suggested groups are more appropriate for a humorous take on the conspiracy theme, this works well for serious novels.


            Tech Revolution 

            Ted had a hard time programming his VCR let alone operating a computer well enough to cruise the internet super-highway. That was alright, he could do without both of the modern devices to which the American public was enslaved.
            Retirement afforded him enough time to engage in his favorite form of relaxation. Walking the neighborhood and enjoying the day. Until, he noticed an invasion by the Club Tech boys. At first it was odd that so many of his neighbors had simultaneously jumped on the latest technology bandwagon. Then it became alarming. After each visit by the techs he noticed a dramatic change in how his friends acted.
            Something was wrong, but he didn’t the first thing about technology. He had to get down to the bottom of this conspiracy and do that he needed an ally. Then along came little Jimmy Rogers from next door. He needed to perform some neighborly deeds in order to earn back his computer privileges. And Ted had the perfect work for him; teach an old man some new technology tricks.




Friday, November 30, 2012

High School - Scene Three

            Mr. Lee was an Asian-American with a Texan drawl. The first time he spoke with Jackie she thought he was putting on an act for the newly recruited newsie. It hadn’t helped that, as usual, he tried to relate to the students in their own language. She still hadn’t figured out how a person devoted to one of the fields of communication could epically fail in the use of teen slang.
            “I don’t want you to think of this as a heroic loss,” said Mr Lee, placing a hand on Jackie’s shoulder.
            “Or even an epic failure,” Jackie responded automatically.
            “Exactly! After three years as a school reporter you are no nub.”
            She guessed he meant noob, but didn’t feel like correcting him again. Besides, it might have just been a matter of his accent getting in the way. Sometimes you couldn’t tell with Mr. Lee.
            “Principal Skinner has asked me to confiscate your press badge, so to speak. I don’t exactly know what it is you said to him that’s got his undies in a bunch, but I doubt that it requires such drastic measures.”
            “Whew,” Jackie blew out her relief. “I’m glad to hear that.”
            “However, -”
            Uh-oh. There it was. The dreaded However. It warned you that something crappy was about to happen. Then you had to wait for the bad news. And Mr. Lee tended to give you plenty of time to ponder what was coming.
            With a frown, he announced, “I can’t let you finish the story you were working on. You’ll have to drop the whole war on drugs thing. Until you can come up with a different topic to write about you can take over the Dear Lippy column.”
            “Ashlee Rodgers writes that!”
            “She decided that she needed a break from journalism for awhile.”
            “That wouldn’t have anything to do with her calling Ramona Cruz a “hormone-driven bleacher predator” would it?”
            “Sorry.” Mr. Lee stopped for a moment as he tried to suppress a chuckle. “I’m not at liberty to divulge any information on that subject. Although, I think that the recent breakage of her nose might have something to do with it.”
            “Couldn’t you get someone else do Dear Lippy?”
            “Probably. I’m sure a couple of the writers would sink their teeth into an opportunity like this. They could let slip the embarrassing moments of their fellow students and claim that it was news-worthy. I know you wouldn’t use your position as a reporter to settle a personal score. I can trust you.”
            Trust! Mr. Lee was really dropping the power words today. Adults talked about trust whenever they wanted to guilt kids into doing something. Parents used it all the time. The worst was when the teachers you liked employed it. Then it really had power.
            “Alright.” Jackie heard herself say the words, but had a hard time committing herself to actually doing it. Dear Lippy was junk reporting. No self-respecting news hound would admit to ever having written the near-gossip column.
            “What about the real news?” she asked. “Will I still be able to contribute some news items?”
            “Sure.” Mr. Lee patted her on the shoulder and then returned to desk. “You can be Lippy until Principal Skinner has forgotten about the interview and then I can move you back to a news desk.”
            “How long will that take?”
            “I couldn’t tell you for sure. It’ll be awhile, I suspect.”
            “A month? Longer?”
            Mr. Lee stood up and guided her toward the exit. “Stay out of trouble for now and I’ll get you back into the journalist chair as soon as I can. Do not pursue the story about the drug war on campus. You can practice your reporting skills on something else, but leave that one alone.”
            The door shut, leaving Jackie alone in the corridor.
            That wasn’t exactly how she thought the meeting would go. She probably should be happy that she was still a reporter. Well, sort of anyways. But it continued to bother her that Principal Skinner had used influence to remove her from the position she had worked so hard to obtain. Weren’t there rules against inhibiting the press?
            Jackie took a deep breath and accepted her demotion to Dear Lippy. She headed over to the computer lab with the intent of finding Ashlee and collecting any notes she had for the column.
            Not wanting to talk to anyone right at that moment, she took an indirect path to the lab; one that went around the football field and through the bleachers. She had just crossed the field and was about to enter the bleachers on the far side when she spotted two men behind the sports shed. Her reporting instincts tingled at the sight of them.
            Jackie ducked behind the bleachers and peered out from the gap between the benches. It wasn’t two men; it was a man and a teen. The student had on a Varsity sweater, but his back was turned so she couldn’t tell who it was. On the other hand, she had a very clear view of the man.
            She pulled out her trusty notepad and jotted down a detailed description of the adult. Short. Medium build. Dark hair with the beginning of a bald spot on top. He wore tan slacks and a blue, long-sleeved dress shirt. No tie.
            Her sketching skills were reasonably poor, but she decided that as long as they were going to stand their and pose that she might as well give it a try. She had barely started the sketch when the man held out a black sports bag. The teen took the bag and opened it. After a couple of seconds he nodded and then pulled out a stack of cash. At least, that’s what it looked like from where Jackie stood. 
            A drug deal.
            Jackie’s mind swirled with all the possibilities of what she had seen. This could be the first real evidence of an organized drug distribution ring at the school. The jocks could be the ones pedaling the garbage to the other students. Since she already knew the location of their hand-offs it would be easy to follow up with more evidence. And most importantly – this would prove how right she had been to pursue the war on drugs story in the first place.
            . . . But she was supposed to leave it alone. What should she do?

            This is the first decision tree for the readers. Should Jackie . . .  

A) Report her findings to Principal Skinner.  

B) Tell Daniel and get his advice.  

C) Write a Dear Lippy column that exposes the drug ring.  

D) Follow the student and see who else is involved.  

E) Follow the man and get more information.

 (Leave a comment on which choice you think Jackie should make.)


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Addictive Blogging Award



            The wonderful Carrie Sorensen nominated me for the Addictive Blogging Award. Does that mean my blog is an illegal substance and that I’m some sort of pusher? Hey, that would make a great story: a struggling writer who suddenly finds that people are horribly addicted to his blog. Imagine the possibilities with a story like that.
            Anyway, thank you Carrie for considering my blog addictive. Maybe I can look into offering a weekly online meeting to twelve-step my readers. But seriously, isn’t this the award that all of us writers want to receive? Don’t we want our stories, or blogs, or poems to not only be read and enjoyed, but enthusiastically followed? It is a true joy for me to have connected with the great people who read my blog on a regular basis. Thanks to Carrie and thanks to all of you who check out my blog each week.
            The rules for the Addictive Blogging Award indicates that I share something about why I blog and how the journey started. Then pass it along to ten other writers.
            I started my blog shortly after attending a writing conference. An editor had taken an interest in the story I pitched to him and asked for a full manuscript. I wanted to be in position to support my published books with a blog and so I got started right away.
            That was almost two years ago. I’m still looking to get my manuscript published, but have managed to get a few short stories into print. Fortunately, blogging has turned out to be more than just connecting with fans who have read your book. It has provided me the opportunity to meet some truly amazing people. They have given me great advice on my writing and specifically on my blogging, but even better than that have been an immense delight to befriend.
            Who are these awesome people? I’m glad you asked. These are the blogs that I find addictive. 

Chasing Revery – Even though Carrie nominated me for this award, I wanted to mention her again. I love the weekly snapshot prompt she does. Participate and you have a chance to be featured on her blog for an entire month. Also, take a look at her picture. How do I get my picture to look that cool?  

Angela Brown – Some blogs are addictive because they have a regular feature that I have to read every week. And then there are those authors who are just plain fun to read when they blog. For me, Angela falls into this second category. She does offer some great writing advice, but I’m addicted because Angela is awesome.  

Deana Barnhart – Flat out, Deana offers some of the best writing advice. And she frequently has information on some amazing contests. Currently you can read about Pitch Wars. Here’s a chance for writers to get teamed up with an agented writer and an intern to help them polish up their pitch. If you are still looking to get published, this is a great opportunity. 

Life 101 – Rick Watson offers up an interesting slice of life blog that I like to kick back and enjoy the bits of his life that he shares with all of us. Don’t let the brevity of my comments lure you into thinking you should pass on this blog. Stop by and say hi to Rick.   

Moody Writing – This is another great blog for writing advice. Mooderino offers up a steady diet of articles on how to improve your writing skills. These are great posts and I find them very helpful.  

Nathan Bransford, Author – Nathan has worked in publishing and in addition to some top notch writing advice he also delivers industry news. This makes him my favorite blog for writing tips.  

Robin Weeks – Robin works with Dave Wolverton and has some great insight into the industry. Her blog has a special segment that she calls “How Not To Write A Query” that can help you get your story pitches into shape.  

Susanna Leonard Hill – This is my first stop when I’m blog hopping. I feel like I stopped in to visit my favorite relative. She even offers treats to her visitors. In addition to the cozy format of her blog, she offers writing advice, contests, and a feature that she calls “Would You Read It Wednesday”. (Not that you would read it on Wednesday, that’s just when she asks if you’d read it.) If you write for children, this should be a regular stop for you during the week.  

The Warrior Muse - Shannon Lawrence has a blog that I make sure to catch every week. Primarily, that is because she Mostly Wordless Wednesdays where she lists current market opportunities. Thanks to her I submitted to Penumbra and Chaosium and earned my first two professional sales. She also offers good writing advice. 

            That’s it. If you are on this list, consider yourself nominated for the Addictive Blogging Award. If you’re not, then you should check out the blogs I mentioned.



Monday, November 26, 2012

Writing Prod - Dream Guide 2


            First off, let me apologize for not posting the next installment of “High” School on Friday. I should have warned you that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and there is always a distinct possibility that I would get distracted by it. And I did.
            Now back to business as usual and that means I have a Writing Prod to share with you. The next on my list is one that I call . . . Dream Guide. If you keep a dream journal this will be easy. Write down the details of a dream you had and then turn it into a story.
            You probably wouldn’t guess it, but this is a prompt that gives me significant trouble. Yeah, weird huh? I’m the Story Man and I can turn just about anything into a story – except my dreams. That’s because my dreams are too fragmented to generate a reasonable plot from them. Besides, who wants a story about a protagonist organizing objects in preparation for a move. Hmmm . . . or do you?


            Charlie’s Charm Closet           

            Last week everything was fine. Charlie had friends, he had the run of the neighborhood, and he had baseball. Then his parents suddenly announced that they were moving and all of that went away.
            They moved to a small, creepy town with few children and no baseball team. Charlie protested the move by boycotting the family, but that only earned him extra chores. His parents assigned him the job of cleaning out the junk-filled closet under the stairs. Then everything changes when Charlie realizes that this is a magical closet filled with wondrous items. The relics disappear when taken out of the closet and are replaced with something new.
            Every day becomes a new adventure for Charlie, until a mysterious real-estate agent shows up at the house and explains that there has been a mistake and the family will have to move. Charlie has seen this person before; she is on the cover of a book in the closet. This is no real estate agent – this is the Dust Queen who will use the relics to enslave the people of Earth.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Movie Review - Rise of the Guardians

Rise of the Guardians  $$$   


97 Minutes
Starring: Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, and Jude Law.
Director: Peter Ramsey. 

            Imagine Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy all working together as a legendary team of heroes. That’s what attracted me to this movie when I saw the first trailer for it a few months back. And that is exactly what it delivers.
            The story opens with Jack Frost (Chris Pine) awakening to his beginning as a legendary entity. We see him quickly jump into his role as the bringer of cold winter fun. As much as he enjoys the gig he wonders who he really is and the purpose of his magical existence now.
            Meanwhile, the Guardians have received instruction from the Man in the Moon to draft Jack into their ranks. Their current membership includes North (Alec Baldwin), Bunny (Hugh Jackman), Tooth (Isla Fisher), and Sandy. They are going to need Jack in order to battle against the fiendish Pitch (Jude Law). The lord of nightmares has returned to carpet the world once more in fear.            

            Production values for this movie are quite high. The animation is beautiful and the voice talent is excellent. As for concept, that is what initially drew me to this film. They do an amazing job of presenting some of the classic fairy tale legends in a new way. North is sort of a Russian Rambo version of Santa. Bunny has a decided Croc Dundee take on the Easter Bunny. Tooth and Sandy are delightful, even if not truly revolutionary in their presentation.
            During the first half of the movie gave me plenty of reasons to laugh. The dialogue is witty and fun. It made me want to see more of the original four Guardians – perhaps in their first confrontation with Pitch. Unfortunately, the last portion of the movie left me wanting. I did not feel that it had a satisfying ending. Let me state that I expect a lot of people will disagree with me on this last bit, but I felt as if they forced the resolution. When I walked out of the theater on my way home there was no prompting to hoot and holler about what a fantastic movie it had been. Good yes, but the end just clunked.
            Despite the ending this film still earned a rating of three movie bucks from me. You will definitely want to see it on the big screen with full theater sound to go with it. Catch it as a matinee if you can. If you have a different view about the ending I would really be interested in hearing what you have to say about it.

            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, November 21, 2012

Movie Review - Wreck It-Ralph

Wreck-It Ralph  $$$    


101 Minutes
Starring: John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, and Sarah Silverman.
Director: Rich Moore.

            Movies that dip into the reality of games or the dimension of the silver screen have a special place in heart. Mainly because I’m strange, but it appeals to the creative portion of me that asks what all of these characters are doing when the game isn’t being played or the movie isn’t being viewed. Tron, The Last Action Hero, and even Toy Story fall into this magical category that tells what happens behind the scenes.  
            In this case, the story is about Wreck-It Ralph (John. C. Reilly). He is the villain for video game. His job is to destroy an apartment building while the hero, Fix-It Felix Jr. (Jack McBrayar) fixes it. As you can imagine, Ralph is not very popular with the other characters in his game and he decides to show them that he can be the good guy if just given a chance. In order to do that he has to travel to some of the other games and earn a medal to prove that he is a hero.
            Along the way he runs into Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), who everyone calls Glitch. She convinces Ralph to help her win the candy-coated race in the game “Sugar Rush.” That will prove to the rest of that game’s inhabitants that she is a real racer and not just an annoying glitch. 
            Meanwhile, Felix is looking for Ralph. Without him the game won’t work. And if the game doesn’t work then they will all be sent to the graveyard of broken games. (Okay, they don’t call it the graveyard of broken games; I made it up because I thought it sounded cool.) He tags along with Calhoun (Jane Lynch) who is also looking for Ralph. In her case it’s because he has let a dangerous alien-insect to jump games. If they don’t find the bug-eyed menace it could spread throughout the arcade and destroy all of the games.  

            This was a fun movie. The voice acting was good. The story line, although completely predictable, was cute. The animation was good. Probably the high mark for this film would be the plunge into the game universe that it takes. There are plenty of nods to the video games that were popular when arcades filled the American landscape.
            All of this earned it a rating of three movie bucks. Catch it as a matinee if you can; especially if you have children. This is a film that I will probably buy when it comes out on disc and add to my movie library. If you enjoy family films this is definitely one you should 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.