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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.