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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.



Monday, November 19, 2012

Writing Prod - Extreme Holiday 2

            All month long I have been posting each day about those things for which I am grateful. One of them happens to be Mondays and the Writing Prods that I work on for this blog. For me it is a celebration of creativity where my mind runs wild with possibilities before the logical me has to trim it all down to make a good and reasonable story.
            Since this is a holiday week (in the U. S.) I decided to use an appropriate prompt that I call . . . Holiday Extreme. Select a holiday and then take the celebrations surrounding it to an extreme. Now think of a story about how it got that way and what the hero needs to do to change things back to the way they were.
            Then again, if you like your holidays on the extreme side then the protagonist can work on making it even more extreme or even just surviving it. How extreme the holiday becomes in your story is up to you. Jingle All the Way falls into this category with a story that isn’t too extreme – as long as you don’t consider Arnie fighting a warehouse full of crooked Santas too outside the norm.
            Since Thanksgiving has seized control of my thoughts, this week’s example will be wrapped in turkey goodness and surrounded by mounds of mashed potatoes and gravy. Sorry, my mind sort of drifted there. Without further ado I give you:


            Thanks a Lot

            At its best, Marci hated Thanksgiving. People invited relatives they didn’t talk to the rest of the year to come over and stuff their mouths with turkey and stuffing all the while they fought over events that happened years before she was born. What made it bearable was that it only lasted a couple of hours. The joyous declarations of thanks were another matter altogether. Marci’s family bombarded her with greeting card sentiments all month long.
            And then it happened. Mom announced that the family had been selected to participate in Thanks A Lot; the holiday reality show that pitted families together to prove which of them were truly the most thankful family in the nation. Not only would the family take the normally shallow sentiments to new levels of sickening sweetness, but the entire nation would be tuned-in to see it.
            Marci had to find a way to survive a whole month of holiday madness and keep herself looking cool in front of the national audience.



Friday, November 16, 2012

High School - Scene Two


            School lunches must have been initially designed as a method of torturing prisoners of war. The mashed potatoes were really lumpy paste with ever so slight a hint of potato taste and crusty edges. They were nasty tasting and hung heavily in your stomach like a mouthful of sand. And they were the best item on the menu. Jackie prodded her scoop of potato-like substance and considered how they resembled the way her day had gone so far.

            “C’mon, Jackie-Jacks,” Daniel said as he took a seat across from her. “You can’t let the potatoes scare you like that. If you show them fear, the lunch battle is over and they have won.”

            A smile, ever so slight, escaped from amid her foul broodings. She quickly slapped her frown back into place and hoped Daniel hadn’t noticed. Sometimes a person just wanted to stay in the basement with all the darkness. If Daniel thought he had cracked her mood he would keep on making jokes until her perfectly good brooding had fled for cloudier days.

            “I can see that you need help facing this formidable culinary opponent.” Daniel flipped his head so that his curly mop of hair momentarily gave view to his big brown eyes. Then the curls fell back into place and covered the upper half of his face.

            “The trick is to ensure you have brought the right weapon to the fight.” He pulled out a spoon from under a napkin and held it like a street brawler wielding a switchblade. His face displayed a look that might have been meant as a close approximation of a sneer, but on Daniel it just came out as smirk.

            Jackie slid the plate with the potatoes across the table. “Have at it and may the highest link on the food chain win.”

            After tossing his spoon from hand to hand a couple of times, Daniel dug into the lumpy mound of starched mush. He popped a spoonful in his mouth and made a show of chewing it. “No contest. Bring on the next competitor.”

            She folded her arms and watched as Daniel continued his comedy routine. The clatter of trays, clinking of silverware, and thunderous buzz of a hundred conversations all provided a surreal soundtrack to his performance.

            “Alright,” Daniel said, as he put down his spoon. “What’s the matter?”

            “I got kicked off the school newspaper.”

            An expression of shock registered on Daniel’s face. “Really? Mr. Lee took you off the reporting team? Why?”

            “Not Mr. Lee. It was Principal Skinner. And he did it because he didn’t want me to continue with the story about the rampant drug use here on campus. He wanted me to pursue cutsie, fluff pieces.”

            “Well, you are cute.”

            “Stop right there.” Jackie held up a hand. “If you tell me that I’m fluffy, I’m going to shove those potatoes in your face.”

            “Fluffy.” Daniel rested his chin in his hand and stared off at a point in the distance, looking like someone deep in thought. “I hadn’t really considered that, but now that you mention it . . .”

            Jackie reached for the plate with the potatoes. Before she could grab it, Daniel had snatched it away, laughing as he did.

            “Okay, okay. You are not in any way FLUFFY.”

            A chuckle, followed by a smile, escaped from Jackie. It was impossible to stay in a bad mood when Daniel was around. The boy had no appreciation for the benefits of a good sulk.

            “Principal Skinner doesn’t have the authority to remove you from the newspaper staff,” Daniel continued. “That decision has to come from Mr. Lee. Why don’t you just talk it over with him?”

            “What good will that do? Principal Skinner will just order him to let me go.”

            “Not exactly. Principal Skinner can make suggestions about how the paper is staffed, but it is Mr. Lee who has the final word on the matter. Even if Skinner has declared some sort of ultimatum, Mr. Lee may have a way to work around it.”

            “Why didn’t I think of that?” Jackie placed her empty milk container on the tray next to the half-eaten plate of potatoes and then stood up.

            “Lunch isn’t over.”

            “It is for me. I have to find Mr. Lee and convince him to keep me on as reporter.”

            Daniel’s smile dropped off his face like it’d been knocked off with a sledgehammer. His gaze moved from Jackie to the table top.

            “Is there a problem?” Jackie asked.

            “You’ll have to wait until after school to talk to Mr. Lee. I saw him head off campus with Principal Skinner. They normally have lunch together over at Soup-a-Bunga.”

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Movie Review - Skyfall

Skyfall  $$$ 1/2  

143 Minutes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris, Judi Dench and Ralph Fiennes.
Director: Sam Mendes.  

            I admit that when they did a reboot of the Bond franchise I was less than thrilled with the results. The cheesy format of slick gadgets, beautiful women, exotic locations, head-spinning chase scenes and suave one-liners worked for me. The grittier take on the world’s most famous spy altered one of my favorite light and fluffy entertainments and made it dark. My feeling was that there were already plenty of serious looks at the seedy underbelly of espionage, but only one Bond series that gave a playful wink at the genre and let us wholly suspend our disbelief for a couple of hours.
            Even though I still think they made a mistake in changing the fundamental nature of the Bond films, I ended up thoroughly enjoying Skyfall. Maybe part of that is because it didn't come across to me as dark as Casino Royale. Or it could be because they incorporated a bit more of the Bond elements that I am used to seeing. Either way, I plan to go back to being a fan of MI6’s number one hit man.  

            Bond (Daniel Craig) and fellow agent Eve (Naomie Harris) start the film hot on the trail of a man who has stolen a computer file that has the names of all the NATO agents who have been inserted into terrorist organizations along with their current cover identities. During the pursuit, Bond is shot. His body is not recovered and he is presumed dead.
            Meanwhile, a bomb explodes in the heart of MI6 headquarters. This new villain is taking the fight straight to M (Judi Dench) and her cadre of agents. Bond shows up not quite as dead as everyone believed. Despite not having fully recovered from his bullet wound, M sends him out to deal with this latest threat.  

            While not in the running for my favorite film this year, Skyfall was indeed a good movie. It dealt with a couple of interesting themes in an excellent manner; one of which is an aging Bond. Has 007 lost his edge? The other theme runs parallel with the first and basically addresses how the spy game has changed since the days of the Cold War. How can a man with a gun compete with an expert computer hacker? Has the world of espionage moved out of the shadows and into the internet? This is one of the better story lines I’ve seen attached to the Bond franchise. So good, in fact, that I would put Skyfall as my third all time favorite Bond film.

            Even though I find Daniel Craig a little too deadpan for the role of James Bond it worked for this particular story. Judi Dench, once again, delivered an admirable performance. And the new Q (Ben Whishaw) really established himself as the next generation Quartermaster for MI6. As much as I miss Desmond LLewelyn in the role of Q, I found Whishaw to be an excellent replacement.  
            Special effects, filmography, and the soundtrack were all seamless. Nothing wow’ed me, but neither did they detract from the story telling that was at the heart of this film. Skyfall earned three-and-a-half movie bucks from me. I happened to catch it as a matinee, but would have not felt ripped-off if I had paid full price to see it. The only reason I didn’t give it a full four movie bucks is because I felt it wasn’t quite as good as some of the top movies that have been put out this year.  

            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, November 12, 2012

Welcome to the Revolution



            The wonderful Small Town Shelly Brown has dubbed this Captcha Craptcha Day. And who am I too argue with Shelly about matters such as this? As part of the blogfest all of the participants were asked to write something related to the subject.
            Undoubtedly, all of you are familiar with Captcha even if you don’t know its name. This is the bit of software that asks you to identify a couple of words, or words and numbers, before you can participate on a website. The words are squiggly and the numbers a bit blurry (at least, they are to me) in order to confuse automated systems. But the problem is that they can confuse us non-automated systems as well. Unless you have a doctorate in squiggle text it can be difficult to decipher the code words.
            If you have a blog you may want to change the settings so that readers can add comments without the added stress of battling with blog security. To do this, go into your SETTINGS and on the bottom of the left side bar you will see several choices. The second choice is POSTS AND COMMENTS. Select that. Towards the bottom of that page will be an option for SHOW WORD VERIFICATION.  Make sure that says “NO” and you will have turned off the Captcha feature for your blog.
            That’s it. You have joined the revolution and freed your readers from the cyber restraints that are Captcha. Give yourself a revolutionary medal for your actions on the virtual battlefield today. And most importantly – spread the word: Captcha Craptcha.

            Next week Writing Prod Monday will return with a brand new batch of crazy ideas generated straight from the creative morass that is my mind.



Friday, November 9, 2012

High School - Scene One


            Today is Friday and not just any old end of the work week day, but the one that I promised to launch my serialized story. That’s right, this is the premiere edition of Fiction Friday.
            There was a tie in voting. One for “High” School and another vote for Swim Day. Even though the post-apocalyptic story of Swim Day is normal fare for me I decided to go with the YA tale of a spunky teenager caught in the middle of the war on drugs. I haven’t tried to do YA before so please feel free to point out to me when I make a mistake.
            Hope you enjoy the fiction and if you do – Please tell your friends. 





            “When is the school going to get serious about the war on drugs?” Jackie leaned back and watched Principal Skinner respond to the question. A notepad sat in her lap and she held a mechanical pencil in her hand, ready to jot down whatever he said during the interview.
            “The school is serious about student involvement with drugs.” Skinner clasped his hands together as if performing for an audience. Either that or it was one of those well practiced responses that he threw out when required. “We have always taken the war on drugs seriously. All you have to do is look at the programs we offer to combat the threat to the younger generation.”
            Jackie scribbled his reply along with a comment about him giving a canned response. She could already tell that this was going to be her best piece yet. Hard hitting. Investigative. Relevant. She was so focused on the success of the article that she barely heard Principal Skinner interject his own line of inquiry.
            “Now, Jackie. Is it really necessary to pursue this topic with such vigor? After all, it’s only a high school newspaper. I can tell you all about the band we have lined up for the Spring Blowout. Or how about the new cheerleader uniforms that are on order?”
            “That’s kid stuff. Teenagers are the future leaders of the world. We need to take an interest in the problems that surround us or how else can we be expected to solve them?”
            “Fair enough,” said Skinner. He offered a smile, but it looked forced. “Go ahead and ask your next question.”
            Jackie sat up straighter and looked Principal Skinner square in the eyes, just as she had seen her favorite movie character do. Lena Holmes would have been proud of how she delivered the brow-buster question. At least, she would have if she really existed.
           “How can you account for your failure to curb drug abuse on campus?”
Principal Skinner’s face grew tight – and red. With measured moves he stood up and straightened his suit jacket. Only after a considerable pause, while the color returned to his face, did he speak.
“How familiar is Mr. Lee with your journalistic efforts?”
“I talk to him about it every day. Why?”
“Perhaps it’s time for the school paper to make a few changes and let some of the other students try their hand at reporting. It would be a shame for anyone to miss out on the opportunity to see for themselves if this is a career they would like to pursue once they graduate.”
            Adults over-reacted all the time, but this seemed ridiculous even for Principal Skinner. Besides, he was probably just hoping to distract her with the threat so she’d give up on the current line of investigation. It was about time that he learned that Jackie Romano played hard ball.
            “You haven’t answered my last question yet.” Jackie stood as well.
            Principal Skinner paused before the door and turned just enough show a wicked smile on his face. “Oh, no! I believe that your last question as a reporter is - What will I do next?”




Monday, November 5, 2012

Writing Prod - Title Teasers 2

            Last week I revealed a cover of Penumbra magazine that prominently showed off my name and the title of the story they had bought. By some strange coincidence the next Writing Prod on my list happened to be the same one I used to generate that story. (Really, I didn’t fudge the list at all.) That gives me a chance to flash the cover again as part of my article.
            This prompt I call . . . Title Teasers. It is perhaps the easiest writing prompt in my bag of tricks – and it obviously works. Just look over some movie titles or song names and create a plot from what you think they could be about. Not Fragile was based on a song title by BTO. Other than the title the story shares no similarity to the song.


             For my example this week, I’m going to pick another BTO title and hope I can generate a story that I can also sell to the Sci-Fi market. In order to give you a glimpse of what goes on inside my head (as scary as that might be) during this process, I’m going to list the titles that grabbed my attention:  

            Hold Back the Water 

            Down and Out Man 

            Thank You for the Feeling 


            I Don’t Have to Hide 

            Second Hand 

            She’s Keeping Time 

            Slave to the Rhythm 

            A Long Time for a Little While 

            All of these titles whisper ideas to me. Since I am looking to write some new short stories for submission maybe I’ll eventually use them all. For today I’ve decided to stick with just two. Although, A Long Time for a Little While screams at me for attention. 


            Thank You for the Feeling 

            Laura was on the cusp of discovering a method of controlling aberrant behavior by filtering out violent emotions. Until an accident in the laboratory turned her into a mental parasite feeding off the feelings of others. But the feasting brings out irresistible aggression and leaves the victim emotionally crippled for life. The worst of it is that with each feeding she loses a portion of her rational mind and slides ever closer to an unthinking beast that acts on pure, malevolent instinct. 

            Slave to the Rhythm 

            Plug into the groove and tune out the world. It sounded good to Brent who would much rather be anywhere other than work. When his employers not only allowed them to listen to music as they worked, but supplied the new headsets it seemed like the dawning of a new era. Clock in at 9:00, plug in the headphones at 9:01, and then next thing you knew it was time to go home. They even made overtime a piece of cake.
            Until Brent wakes up at home and doesn’t remember clocking out. When he checks his voice-mail he finds five days worth of messages that includes a notice that he has been fired from his job. Then the police knock on his door and arrest him for the murder of his best friend.
            But when the police plug-in for the drive to the precinct the situation changes. They remove his cuffs and draw their guns. Brent has seconds to act.

* Just a reminder to vote on which story idea you would like to see me turn into a Serial on this blog.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Fiction Friday

            Hereby, let the end of the week be known on my blog as – Fiction Friday.  

            So much for the official announcement, now on with setting up the ground rules. What I intend to do is serialize a story and post the latest installment every Friday. The actual writing shouldn’t be too bad, but I expect that ending each one with a cliff-hanger, like they did with the old-time Serials, will be challenging. At the very least it should be an interesting endeavor.  
            Then the second part of this grand adventure will be introducing points where you, the audience, will get a chance to determine where the story goes. I plan to do this by using a poll to ask my readers what they think the hero will do next. That probably won’t happen every week; otherwise, it will look like I have a protagonist that couldn’t tie his/her shoes without help. And it might really mess with the pace of the story. Still, there will be posts that will include a poll where you can choose the direction the story goes from there.
            Now all we need is a story to be told. And what better way to start off my version of Fiction Friday than with a poll that will decide which story I will write. Looking through the Writing Prod examples I’ve done so far, I came up with the following candidates. You can vote for one of them or you can offer an alternative. The poll will stay open for a week and then I will start the Serial.

            The wonderful Susanna Leonard Hill suggested my first nomination.            

            “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.” 

            My brother happened to read this prompt and now whenever we get together he nudges me to actually write it.  


            Touted as the ultimate team sport they just call it Ball. Some think of it as a mangled version of volleyball, soccer, and dodge ball. Allen just considers it awesome. He is on the fast track to becoming the first Ball player drafted out of high-school. The big teams are wooing him to sign when he is contacted by a government rep to play for the National team. But when he signs with the Nationals he finds out that it isn’t a game at all. The government is using the sport to influence the minds of the country’s citizens. Now Allen has to choose between playing along and becoming the greatest Ball player of all time or destroying the very game he loves. 

            This next story idea I liked because it’s quirky, but still has possibilities for great dramatic tension as well.  

                        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. 

            For those of you who think I should write something comedic, this would be the choice. It would probably work best as a YA story.       

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. 

            If I went with this story I would have to change the title, but this would make a good choice for those of you who would like me to write in the genre that I am most familiar with – Speculative Fiction.  

            Swim Day  

            No one considered what would happen to the inmates of Harbor Island Correctional Facility if the world stopped functioning as it always had. Now, ten years after the cataclysm, the survivors are desperate to find a way off the island. The first day of every month is Swim Day. The lucky winner of the Swim Day lottery gets a day to live as a cell block celebrity and then is cast into the waters and forced to attempt a trip to the mainland. If any have made the trip they haven’t come back to help the others.
            Stitch is drawn to make the swim. He’d been counting down until the day of his execution when everything went bad. Dying during the swim doesn’t bother him, but leaving behind the only person who ever treated him humanely does. He must do more than just survive the watery ordeal, he has to find a way to return and save his brother, the prison guard. 

            I couldn’t resist throwing in one more option. This is adult Sci-Fi with a liberal dose of humor thrown in.  

            Space Junk  

Roy Spunkmeyer wanted to be a space merchant since he was old enough to observe the stars in the sky. When an old friend of the family announces that he is ready to retire Roy jumps at the chance to buy the “slightly used” ship that Bill had been using over the last sixty years. Only after Roy spends the last of his savings, exhausted all sources of credit available to him, and convinced his parents to take out a mortgage on their home does he find out he has not only bought Bill’s business, but all of the problems that go with it. How will he, and the crusty old alien that comes with the ship, solve a cargo full of problems that were forty years in the making and do it in less than a month?

That's it. Just post a comment with your vote for the story you want me to write.