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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.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Not Fragile Announcement

                        All writers need to do a little self-promotion now and then if they hope to have their stories read by the masses. Or even by the select-group-of-enthusiasts. It just so happens that the time has come for me to do exactly that. I have something to show you.



            I sold my story Not Fragile to Penumbra magazine. Not only that, but I am the Rising Talent for the November issue and have been asked to submit an article for their blog. When it finally posts you can read it on the Penumbra Home Page.

            For those of my fellow authors who have had books published this may seem like small potatoes. However, for me it is a wonderful moment. With this, my first purchased story, I go from “Author In Training” to Author. Not only that, but my name appears all nice and large on the front cover. Woo-hoo!!!!

            Actually, I sold a second story last month as well. Matches will be coming out in the Once Upon An Apocalypse anthology being published by Chaosium early next year. When that happens I’ll do another happy dance and post an image of the cover (if I have it) and let everyone know where they can buy it. The same thing for my story Bloody Hektor which will be appearing in the second City of the Gods anthology.

            As you can see, I’ve been busy getting my toe in the publishing door.



Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Captcha Craptcha Day

     Is this it? Is this the exciting announcement you promised yesterday?


     I still have that planned for tomorrow. This is something completely different and unexpected. The awesome Shelly Brown asked me to co-host (doesn't that sound fabulous, and glamorous) the Captcha Craptcha Day event. And of course I said yes.

     If you are familiar with Captcha then you may already have some opinions on it. Suffice to say at this point that it can make your blogging experience a bit more challenging. And if you like a challenge then there isn't a problem. However, if you like your morning/evening blog hikes without any speed bumps along the way then check back on November 12th when I will be posting about it.

    Until then, here is the exciting animated GIF that promotes the event:


     And here is the nifty Linky Tool to sign up:

Monday, October 29, 2012

Writing Prod - Headlines 2

            I have something exciting to reveal on Wednesday. If you are a regular reader of my blog you will probably want to check back later in the week and find out what. It will be really cool – I promise.
            Now that you’ve been tempted, let’s get on with the Writing Prod for the week. The prompt I’ll be working with today tends to work best with serious stories. I call it . . . Headlines. Grab a newspaper and look over the headings for all the big news items. Find one that stands out to you. Then come up with the story behind the story. The one that no one knows about – Yet. 
            Because news writers try to be clever with their headlines when they can, the result can be quite wacky if taken literally. This is good if you want to write a piece of fiction that is more on the comedic side.
            Headlines can also be taken from popular magazines. This is helpful if you want a story for a specific market. A story taken from the news items in People magazine is going to be radically different than one culled from the pages of Boy’s Life. And if no newspapers or magazines are available you can always tune in to one of the news stations on television and watch for the headlines there.
            For my example, I grabbed yesterday’s edition of the local newspaper and spotted this headline: “City schools combating drug use among students.” I decided on a story that took a conspiratorial look at the War on Drugs.


            “High” School  

            Jackie, the head writer for the high school newspaper, was thrilled when she heard that the city council had declared their very own “War on Drugs.” Washington High was infested with everything from pot to the latest designer drugs and all of them impacted the quality of education the students were receiving. But then within the space of a week her best friend, Joshua, is identified as a major Meth dealer on campus and then dies in a freak accident. The only problem is that Jackie knows Joshua too well. There is no way that he was taking drugs, much less dealing them. Just as she cinches up her reporter instincts to find out the truth she receives a mysterious message in her locker. “Collateral damage happens. Make sure you stay clear of the combat zone.”


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Movie Review - Looper

Looper  $$  

119 Minutes
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, and Jeff Daniels.
Director: Rian Johnson. 

            The ads for this film really grabbed my interest, but I avoid most “R” rated films. It is my opinion that the material that goes into a movie that earns it an “R” rating lessens the story. That comes from my point of view as an author. My personal take on the excessive violence, gore and crude language is that I don’t like it. In the end, it was the frantic urgings of my friend that convinced me to see this film.
            I wouldn’t quite consider it a mistake, but it sure wasn’t the best decision I made last week.  

            Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a looper. As Joe explains during the opening scene of the movie, time travel hasn’t been invented yet, but it has thirty years in the future. The mobs use the technology to get rid of someone. Loopers are assassins that wait in the past and when the victim arrives they shoot them with a funky looking shotgun. The victims are tied up, kneeling, and have a bag over their head so there isn’t much of a challenge to it. All a person apparently needs is a lack of a conscience.
            When the future mob decides it no longer wants to employ a looper they send back the assassin’s future self. The looper then kills the older version of themselves and is given a big payout to live the next thirty years in relative ease. At which time they will be nabbed and sent back to be killed. They call this “closing the loop.” As it turns out, the number of closed loops has been increasing. It looks as is if someone wants all of the loopers eliminated.
            Eventually, Joe is sent out to terminate himself. However, Older Joe (Bruce Willis) shows up late and without a bag over his head. He is able to over power Younger Joe and then heads into the city.  

            The concept behind this story is interesting, but some of the scenes in the film seemed borrowed. I can imagine the pitch that the writer gave went something like this: “It’s 12 Monkeys” (which also starred Bruce Willis) meets The Terminator.” Which admittedly sounds pretty cool.
            Unfortunately, the movie does a poor job of making us care about the protagonist. He is a hedonistic, drug-addicted, cold-blooded killer. Neither New Joe nor Old Joe are characters we can root for. And that is the death of this movie. In fact, it’s tough to find anyone to like in this film. Jeff Daniels puts in a good performance as the mob boss sent back from the future to run the looper organization. He does manage to exude charm while threatening death and torture to anyone who defies him. Sara (Emily Blunt) garners some sympathy as the only character in the movie that is motivated by a noble cause, but failed to be very likeable. Jesse (Garret Dillahunt) is a gunman with a sense of propriety and apparently without a desire to cause needless death and suffering. Too bad he had such a small role in the film.  
            There were numerous other flaws with the film that stood out to me that non-authors may not notice. Like the guns that were used, or what the deal was with Kid Blue (Noah Segan), or was the Terminator scene at the looper facility really necessary?            

            The acting was reasonable. Let’s face it, Bruce Willis is a paragon in the acting community and have a great deal of respect for Joseph Gordon-Levitt. No need to say any more about the script. The filmography was good. Although, the scenes around the cornfield felt out of place with the rest of the movie.
            This film earned two movie bucks from me, but I expect that non-writers and people who routinely see “R” rated movies will enjoy it more than that. Nothing in the film really screams for it to be seen at the theater. You can most likely get as much out of it as a rental as you will by going out to see 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.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Writing Prod - Mix and Mesh 2

            What a beautiful morning it is here in Arizona. It one of those days that you expect the people walking along the street to break out into song just like they do in the movies. Lively little jigs would accompany a song about how beautiful a day it is and at just the right moment, I would join in.
            Don’t worry. I won’t. I learned my lesson about singing in public. But that won’t stop me from turning today’s writing prod into a musical.
            Before I start on that, let me get your opinion on something. Would you be interested in my posting a serialized story once a week? And maybe end it with a poll on how you would like to see it progress from there? Something like, Should Johnny: A) Open the door; B) Call the police’ or C) Shout “Tag – you’re it.” I feel that at some point it might be best to move the focus of my blog from connecting with my fellow authors to connecting with those that are primarily interested in my fiction. All comments on the subject would be welcome.  

            Now on with the Prod . . . Mix and Mesh. It seems that Hollywood does a lot of this when they pitch ideas. “My script is a cross between The Brady Bunch and Night of the Living Dead. I call it The Dead Bunch.” The idea for this prompt is to pick two separate stories and combine them in a way that gives you a completely new story.
            You can use any combination of novels, short stories, movies, and even the odd bit you overheard from the person in line, ahead of you, at the grocery store. Put them in the blender and hit the mix button. Boom. Instant story.   
            For my example, I randomly selected a novel from the book case in my office and then went into my living room and did the same with the musicals we have stored there. I came up with The Stainless Steel Rat Get’s Drafted (yes that is a real book) and Grease.

(Here is Vinny and the boys doing the Moon Walk.)
            Space Grease

            Vinny and the boys don’t fit in anymore. Ever since they found the stack of old video discs in the abandoned archives they have embraced the religion that is Grease. After all, Grease is the word.
            But then they are drafted into the military and sent off for space cadet training. Commandant Crunk is decidedly not in harmony with the message they bring to training camp and sets his mind to degreasing the lot of them. This is a musical battle-royale that answers the age old question: To grease, or not to grease.



Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Rainbow Chasers

            What do you think this blog needs?
            Did you say, “More fiction”? Well, if you did then the two of us are on the same page. If you actually said something altogether different, then maybe you can change your mind and we’ll be on the same page anyways.
            I am participating in one of the writing prompts over at Chasing Revery. Carrie K Sorensen does a good job putting up some interesting pictures from which to craft a story. I was especially happy with this one. Hopefully, you’ll be especially happy with the story I came up with. Let’s find out.


             Off to my left, the rainbow mocked me. 
            Most of them did. After eleven years of rainbow chasing, you more or less got used to it. As far as I was concerned it made the prospect of catching one all the sweeter.
            This one was a beaut; the full spectrum of color, a solid eight on the Charley McFeeney rainbow intensity scale, and the clearest example of Leprechaun sign that I had seen in years.
            The best part of it was that this chromatic temptress had made the mistake of allowing us a good view of where it went to ground. Already, my partner was checking his maps to pinpoint the location.
            “Five miles, directly south-east,” said Mickey. “There’s an old farming road that will take us to within a quarter-mile of the spot. Then we need to move fast to secure the portal before that little green devil closes it.”
            I pulled off on the next exit and then turned left. The pavement gave out a few yards past the highway and we were on a dirt road. That meant we were leaving a dust trail that would alert the leprechaun to our approach. It took all of my restraint to keep the car moving forward at a leisurely clip. Too fast and he would know for sure that we were on to him, but a mite slower and he could mistake the dust cloud as the just the passage of one of the local farmers.
            With less than a mile to go and the rainbow stayed in place. Not that it had to in order for us to catch it. Once it started phasing the rainbow disappeared from view, but the actual portal took a little longer to shrink into non-existence. As close as we were now, there was no doubt that we were going to catch ourselves a rainbow today.
            The dusty road led to an old red farm house, complete with dilapidated barn and a copse of apple trees behind it. Somewhere in the middle of those trees was the anchoring point for the rainbow.
            Mickey was out of the car before I could slide to a stop, camera in hand, a huge victorious smile on his face. He left the door open and sprinted towards the trees.
            “Wait,” I called after him. “Do you have your lucky charms?”
            But he didn’t. The bracelet with the silver symbols that would keep him safe from leprechaun magic lay on the car floor. He was running headlong into danger.
            Snatching up the bracelet, I ran after him, not daring to shout his name for fear of alerting the rainbow keeper to our presence. The rainbow still remained bright and vivid. How could the leprechaun have failed to notice us by now?
            My feet pounded against the ground in a mad attempt to catch Mickey before he encountered the leprechaun. He made it to the center of the copse before me. In fact, he had made it to the center of the portal; brilliant colored light shone all around him. And he didn’t move.
            “Thanks, be to you and your friend,” a shrill voice sounded from behind Mickey. Out from the rainbow strode a leprechaun. Then another. And another. In total, a dozen of the legendary creatures strode forth.
            “It’s been you two that have been given us such a difficult time over these last few years. We decided to do a little chasing of our own.”
            “I don’t think so,” I said as I held up the charms in my hand and then pointed to the ones secured around my wrist. “I have these.”
            “Oh, and are they lovely, but the truth is they only work on cartoon fairies and then only to keep your cereal safe.” He laughed and then the rest of them joined in. The copse echoed with their tiny outbursts of mirth.
            “You probably believe that malarkey about a pot gold as well,” the lead leprechaun continued. “I came up with that one myself. What better way to get fools to bring us what we really crave – SILVER.”
            His smile disappeared.
I turned to run. My feet wouldn’t move and instead I crashed to the ground. With my arms, I pulled myself forward. Slowly. Too slowly.
The pack of green bandits closed in.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Writing Prod - Music Muse 2

Are you ready to rock?
For the prod this week we are revisiting . . . Music Muse. This is probably my favorite writing prompt because song lyrics tend to be so wacky to begin with that they can lead to incredibly interesting plots. The first step is to select a song. This can be a favorite song that you know by heart, or a random one that you hear on the radio. You can also select a song for the occasion, such as Halloween if you are wanting to write a holiday specific tale. The lyrics can be taken literally to create the plot, or you can work with them in a figurative manner, possibly leading to a more fanciful tale.
            For my example, I turned on the radio and used the first song that I heard. Then I traveled to a website that had the lyrics and read them. (Okay, it was actually the second song, because I didn’t want to write a love story.)

         China Grove (by The Doobie Brothers)
When the sun comes up on a sleepy little town
Down around San Antone
And the folks are risin' for another day
'round about their homes.
The people of the town are strange
And they're proud of where they came.

Well, the preacher and the teacher,
Lord, they're a caution, they are the talk of the town.
When the gossip gets to flyin' and they ain't lyin';
When the sun goes fallin' down.
They say that the father's insane
And dear Missus Perkin's a game.

But ev'ryday there's a new thing comin',
The ways of an oriental view.
The sheriff and his buddies
With their samurai swords,
You can even hear the music at night.
And though it's part of the Lone Star State
People don't seem to care,
They just keep on lookin' to the East.

                        Samurai Sheriff 

Helen breaks down in the little town of Grove, Texas. Right away, she can tell that this is no ordinary place. The people all have a strange accent and are led by a Samurai sword-wielding Sheriff called Chow-Lin McGhee. Worse yet, the town doesn’t have an auto mechanic, or any automobiles, or even any phones so that she can call for help. All she can do is wait for the next stagecoach out of town and hope it takes here someplace familiar.
But while she’s waiting, one of the townsfolk is murdered. Could it have been done by the crazy preacher? Or the spirited school-marm? Until the stagecoach arrives, Helen is on the case and plans to find out not only who done it, but why the town is the way it is.


Because Halloween is fast approaching, I have included a bonus example. This is a matter of going more with the spirit of the song rather than launching from the exact lyrics. It is based on one of my childhood favorites – The Monster Mash. Without further ado, here it is:

Spook Dance 

Frankie is no different from all the other monsters. He has a creepy family, a bunch of ghoulish friends, and a sinister job. But he also had a dream. Frankie wanted to dance. He could feel the beat coursing through his body; all the way from Bernard P. Wilson’s head down to Thelma Billing’s big toe. The problem was that having been put together with parts from so many different people that he had no rhythm. Or maybe it was a matter of having too many rhythms and not being able to get all of them to agree on when he should move. Determined to be Transylvania’s premiere entertainer, he set out to Vegas to find his groove.









Friday, October 12, 2012

Movie Review - Hotel Transylvania

Hotel Transylvania  $$$   


91 Minutes
Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Andy Samberg, and Selena Gomez.
Director: Genndy Tartakovsky.

            I took my crew with me to see this movie and we enjoyed it. The children probably more than me, but it was a good time none-the-less.
            In order to protect his daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), from the evil humans, Dracula (Adam Sandler) has built a hotel for monsters. It is hidden away from the rest of the world with safeguards that guarantee that no human will find it.
            It works marvelously for over a hundred years. And then Jonathan (Andy Samberg) arrives. Paradoxically enough, he is led to the hotel when Dracula attempts to trick Mavis into staying at home rather than going out to see the world. The presence of a human in this monster sanctuary threatens to ruin Dracula’s hard work to protect his daughter.
            Dracula dresses Jonathan up as a monster and then hilarity ensues.
            Adam Sandler puts in a rare, restrained performance in this film. I didn’t realize it was him until the credits rolled at the end. The voice talent as a whole was great. I particularly liked Kevin James as Frankenstein and my children continue to quote the gremlin with “I didn’t do that.”
            The animation is good. While the plot is not very original, I believe you can’t go wrong with a classic coming of age storyline. That is, as long as it’s done correctly and this film was done correctly.
            Animated films like this should be seen on the big-screen first with all of the theater quality sound that goes with it. However, it certainly doesn’t need to be seen at a premium price. I recommend catching this as a matinee or other discounted showing. While I thoroughly enjoyed sitting through the film it failed to really stick with me afterwards. I wouldn’t resist seeing it again – nor would I put any effort to arrange a second viewing.


            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, October 10, 2012

Movie Review - Dredd

Dredd  $$  

95 Minutes
Starring: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, and Lena Headey.
Director: Pete Travis.

            All of you who read the original Judge Dredd comic raise your hand.
            Aw come on, there has to be someone besides me who is familiar with this hilarious series. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?
            For those of you who never read the comic, let alone have a pile of them stashed in your bedroom closet, let me give you a brief setup. In the future, the majority of humanity lives in one of the mega-cities that cover the area of several states. Dredd operates out of Mega City One, which runs along the eastern seaboard of the United States.
            It is densely-packed and dotted with mammoth building that each can house the population of a small city. With all of these people jammed together crime has rocketed. Judges have been instituted as a means of stemming the flood of chaos that plagues Mega-City. They are the legal system; police officer, judge, jury, and executioner all rolled into one mean package. And the most legendary of these judges is Dredd.
            The film begins with a crime in process. We are able to see Judge Dredd (Keith Urban) in action. He efficiently deals with the three psychopaths who have left a trail of bodies in the wake of their crime. Dredd efficiently deals with all of them while doing his best to protect civilians from further harm. And he does it without once cracking a smile – or anything else resembling an emotion.
            This sets up the gritty nature of the film as we see a typical day in the life of one of Mega-City’s finest. Perhaps this a good time to warn you that the “R” rating on this film is no accident. It is extremely violent and gruesome. Obviously, a stylistic choice by the director, but this could have been just as effective of a film if it had been made without the gratuitous gruesomeness. It also contains several disturbing sexual images that many will prefer to avoid.
            Back at the Hall of Justice, Dredd is given the assignment to evaluate a rookie judge. Anderson (Olivia Thurlby) is a mutant with psychic abilities that the Department of Justice think will be useful in rooting out perps.
            Meanwhile, over at the Peachtrees block (block being the term they use for one of the mega-structures where people live) the crime lord Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) makes an example of two members of a rival gang. She has them tossed from the top of the 75 story building as an example to anyone else in Peachtrees who is thinking of competing with her. She has developed a new drug called Slo-Mo that makes the brain experience reality at a much slower pace and is getting ready to expand her crime empire across the city.
            Dredd and Anderson are called in to investigate the double homicide and soon find themselves locked in the building with the Ma-Ma gang. Two judges with limited ammunition are pitted against an extremely well-armed crime syndicate. Let the shooting begin.

            Dredd was entertaining. The basic story line is solid, that of a rookie judge during her first day on the job. Those elements of the story work wonderfully and I truly enjoyed that. Other than the gruesome content, this was a good adaptation of the comic. It definitely felt like Judge Dredd.
            The acting was good. Although, to be fair Judge Dredd is very dead pan and doesn’t require a master thespian to play the part. Thurlby and Headey both do good jobs in their roles and the performance of the supporting cast was seamless.
            Special effects were good. There were plentiful amounts of explosions to satisfy the demolitionist in all of us. The technical aspects of the film were reasonable – no shaky camera style that makes the action hard to follow. As previously mentioned, the writing was good. Overall, it is a competently made movie. I just wish they hadn’t felt the need to include copious amounts of gore.
            This movie earned two movie bucks from me. If you don’t mind disturbing images in your movie going experience, then add another movie buck to that score. I enjoyed watching the movie, but it was just to gruesome for me to recommend it to everyone.

            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, October 8, 2012

Writing Prod - Gibberish Times Five

            Another Monday and another Writing Prod. My hopes are that at least reading through these will give my fellow authors the creative boost they need to start the week off with a bang.
            This week we are revisiting the prompt that I call . . . Gibberish Times Five. Actually, this is a pretty common prompt. Many of the blogs that offer writing prompts offer a variant of this.
            All you need to do is take five random words and come up with a story, or a story idea, that makes use of all of them. To select the words you can flip through a book or magazine and insert your finger, using the closest noun or verb to where your finger lands. Alternatively, you can switch television/radio stations and jot down the five words that stood out.
As usual, my example will be a story pitch for a novel. I decided to combine the methods and randomly selected words out of the T.V. Guide. Here they are: Symptoms, Walking, Stash, Spooky, and Survive. Seeing as Halloween is quickly approaching and I amazingly put my finger on “Spooky” it seems only right that I put a bewitching spin to my story pitch.



            Mummy Apocalypse

            Charles claimed that it was the greatest archeological find of the century, but for Jason it was just spooky hole in the ground. He’d seen enough movies to know that one of these mummies would rise from the dead and walk among the living. And it did! No sooner had they found the secret stash of urns, sarcophagi, and gold then people started turning up all mummified . . . and dead.
            Except, they didn’t stay dead! They moved about with purpose, serving a hidden master for some secret purpose. Then it got worse – Charles showed the symptoms of becoming one of the mummy-zombies. That left Jason less than twenty-four hours to find a cure and stop an evil plan to control the world.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Writing Prod - Fairytale Cocktail 2

            It is time to start over with the prompts. It would probably be easiest to present them in the same order that I did the first time around. Anyone have a different suggestion?
            The first of the twenty-four prods that I presented was . . . Fairytale Cocktail. It has some similarity to several of the other prompts in that in mixes plot elements from different stories or just recasts them in a different setting.
            Although any story line will do, I suggest taking a fairy tale and adapt it to form your story. Forgive me if I mentioned Frankenstein during my first round of prods, but this is a great story to use; the protagonist creates something that takes on a life of its own and wreaks havoc. That could be a little league coach that creates a drive in his team that grows past the accepted sportsmanship of the game to a self-help guru that starts a trend that ultimately ends up hurting people more than it helps them.
            The purpose of all these prods is to start you thinking about a story line and then allow your creativity to come in and make it yours.
            Hopefully, my example isn’t the same one I used the first time I wrote about this particular prompt. I purposely stuck close to the Frankenstein idea to demonstrate how this technique can produce stories that have a vague similarity, but are still totally unique.

            The Monster Kit
            Pseudo-life had such great promise as a new technology. Being able to create customized life forms out of a handful of chemicals and various other odds and ends would have changed the world. But the process was unstable, the creatures dissolved into pools of slime after only a couple of hours.
            Nora Johnston had found a perfect use for the failed technology: Monster Kits. The basic elements were relatively cheap. Put them into a box and sell them to children in order for them to create their very own pet monsters. A big Halloween push had been enormously successful and now thousands of the kits were in the hands of teenagers.
            Then Nora’s first monster came back to life. It was missing a few parts and had gained some that she hadn’t included, but it was the same mini-frankenstein that she put together in her garage over a year ago. Except that Frankie wasn’t adorable and obedient anymore. It wanted to kill her.