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Archive for the ‘Creative Writing’ Category

It seems like Hollywood has abandoned all pretense of producing an original story, or movie, that doesn’t push their ‘hidden agenda’.

Hubby and I recently went to our local movie theater, hoping that “Guardians of the Galaxy II” would be as entertaining as its predecessor.  We sat with buttered popcorn and blue-raspberry slushies at the ready, patiently waiting for the movie to start while the half hour of previews for this summer’s lineup played out before us.

What a disappointment!  One movie preview after another promised nothing but a regurgitation of the old; cleverly reworked to include the Liberal Left’s desired image for modern society.

Every heroine was of indiscriminate race, brown skinned, dark haired, possessed superior strength that could defeat any man, and was most likely gay – excuse me LGBT.  We did see one bleached-blond heroine in a trailer for  “Atomic Blond” whose character portrays a British super-spy that can fistfight like Rocky Balboa, dress like she just walked out of an underground sex club, and fornicate with both genders.

Now before you go all ballistic and start calling me a hater and a racist, hear me out.

Hollywood has an obsession with race, gender identity, and sexuality.

It’s Hollywood who has been overrun by haters and racists.  They hate everything that is traditionally American and they disparage the Caucasian race – particularly white “straight” men.  In their ideal view of the world – we should all be LGBT, non-Caucasian, and ruled by women who, incidentally, are all-knowing and morally superior to any man.

Personally, I have nothing against leading lady roles that characterize a “tough chick” persona.  But in every movie?  How boring!  The same goes for LGBT.  Why does every movie, and television sitcom, host at least one character or couple that are gay?  And all women as super smart, competent, and strong – but white men as the polar opposite?  I’ll tell you why.

Hollywood is sending us a political message – not entertainment.

It’s like they want to eradicate our past history, traditional American values, and the nuclear family.

Increasingly it’s bad to be “whitey” and cool to be “black”.  This strikes me as a move similar to the Liberals attack on our American South, when groups of loud-mouthed activists dubbed the southern flag as a banner for racism, demanding that age-old monuments and tributes to historic white people be removed because it’s “offensive” to modern-day thought, and be replaced or renamed for historic black people.

It’s like they want to erase the facts; that the American Civil War was not about slavery, that it was the Democratic Party who wanted segregation, and a Republican president who freed the slaves only to be later assassinated by a Democrat.  Yup, I can see why today’s Liberals a/k/a Democrats want to rewrite their history.

As we saw in “Guardians of the Galaxy II”, the nuclear family is again obsolete.  It’s your friends – your gang – that counts.  It is they alone who will always have your back when the chips are down.  See?  You CAN choose your family.  Because blood relatives are just broken, messy people who abuse, abandon, or otherwise torment you.

If all that isn’t bad enough, Hollywood is remaking old movies in today’s sub-cultural view.  All of them.  So not only do we suffer from a summer of regurgitation (is there truly nothing new under the sun?), but more proselytization.

Take a look at this year’s new release of “Wonderwoman”.  An iconic story that began life in a comic book.  Except that, now she is gay.

“Comic books [going] further left-wing has become a recurring headline. Comics from The Archies to Wonder Woman are pushing liberal ideas of flexible gender and sexuality,” … “This is just one more area that is no longer entertainment and has become propaganda.”

I have been slow to come to this realization, because propaganda is insidious.  It slowly permeates every corner of modern life with an incessant mission to overtake common ideas of what’s normal and acceptable for the mass majority of current culture.  In other words, they want sub-culture to become mainstream.

At first I saw Hollywood’s persistent effort to remake old iconic movies as tiresome, lacking in original thought, and prisoner to incompetent script-writers.

As a writer myself, I know how hard it is to bring something new to every story I write lest I fall into the trap of cliche or worse – the same old story, already told a hundred times over.

Yes – all writers use the same basic plots, but the successful ones find unique ways to tell the story.

For example, have you ever heard about the “lifeboat” scenario?  This is a classic story that places one or more people in a survival situation where they are stranded and placed in great jeopardy; think “The Walking Dead”, “Cabin in the Woods”, “Life of Pi”.  Each of these are vastly different stories, but they all follow the same basic plot.

Movies are no different.  They follow the same tenets of story-telling.  But remakes?  They aren’t new stories, just a twist on someone else’s previous work.  It’s an illusion of something new.  Classic story retold with modern film stars and new CGI…or is it only that?

Can you imagine the Harry Potter movies in a remake where Harry’s character is re-written as a gay girl, of unknown racial origin (but clearly NOT Caucasian), and Ron’s character as the strong, black male that Hollywood loves to extol (because we all know white males are really weaklings that need their wives to tie their shoes in the morning)?

Look at “Ghostbusters” as another example.  A classic of my children’s generation, remade into the image of “woman” as protagonists instead of men.  And if that isn’t enough of a twist for you, the writer made sure to include – within that group of heroines – a black woman (I refuse to be PC and say African-American) and another who is LGBT.  And let’s not forget the role of “Kevin”, a white male playing the role of ‘ditzy secretary’ which has been likened to “a Ken doll with the insides scooped out.”

Let me be clear.  Movies using LGBT, people of color, etc. in and of itself are all well and good.  It’s the hidden agenda that I have a problem with.

I’ve come to the conclusion that Hollywood doesn’t care about making good movies anymore.  They only care about propagating their political view of the world, one of which bears a striking resemblance to the Progressive Liberals insane narrative.

And to be frank, I’m tired of having their ideals forced on me with no respect for any differing viewpoint.  These liberals love to scream “free speech” but yet, strive to silence – or drown out – all opposing speech.

But I’m an adult who has the benefit of experience and can think for myself.  I can simply turn off the television and boycott Hollywood until sanity – or at the very least moderation – returns to the screen.  It’s the young who are being robbed, and they don’t even know it.  Our innocent youth are being victimized.

They are consistently brainwashed and battered by the Liberal agenda – for the entirety of their lives.  An extreme example of this phenomenon is in its similarity to the Hitler Youth during WWII, children who were systemically raised into a twisted belief system promulgated as true and moral, or Muslims raised from infant-hood to believe that genital mutilation is a necessity for young women.

I feel sorry for the generations of American youths who are not aware they are being barraged with subtle cues by those who wish to influence, and control, their perceived truths.  They go to these movies, glory in the wiz-bang CGI effects, and are oblivious to the hidden cultural messages that Hollywood is so entertainingly shoving down their throats.

All I can say is, “Buyer beware”.

Meanwhile, I’ll hold out for the return of true story-telling and real entertainment.

 

 

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I love writing prompts.

It’s just one – of many ways – to get the creative juices flowing but more so, they are an excellent tool to use when you have no current project in the works.

If you are like me, then writing prompts may serve you as well.

For I – way too often – neglect to “write” until I have a pretty good idea of its shape, tone, plot, etc. already fixed in my head.  I don’t necessarily have to have it fully formed; there’s plenty that works its way out once the actual writing begins, but still – I need it rooted.  Until that happens, I find that I read a whole lot of books and journal aplenty, waiting for that moment of magic when inspiration strikes.

It’s pretty silly, I know.  And unproductive.  This I know too.

So writing prompts are a sort of bridge.  And if I’m very lucky?  I can sometimes find the seed for a longer story — bonus!

Types of Writing Prompts

The simplest form of writing prompt requires no forethought – just a quick sentence or two to place atop the blank page sitting before you.  This type of writing prompt is more of an adventure than an exercise, because you as the writer have no idea where the story will take you, until it does.

Here are some examples:

  • You, a grown adult, are afraid of the dark.  Explain why this is a legitimate concern, so friends won’t laugh at you.
  • Rewrite the Gettysburg Address for today’s audience.
  • A soldier is about to embark upon a mission that she knows will kill her.

These prompts came from the book:  “642 Things to Write About” by The San Francisco Writers’ Grotto.  However, there are many other books and resources from which to choose.  A simple Internet search should net you plenty.

The next type of writing prompt is more of an exercise since it targets specific areas of the actual craft of writing in which to practice.

For example:  Scene.  Pull all elements of fiction into the event of a scene – POV, dialogue, character, setting, plot.

“Write a persecution scene.  Is your character being followed?  Keep suspense building.  Use scary images if character is scared.  Work a basic nightmare that most readers can relate to.”

This prompt came from a creative writing workshop.  At the end of each class, we would be given a writing prompt and about 15 minutes to write.  It didn’t take long for my initial fear of the empty page to quickly disappear.

Sometimes, you can get lucky too.  In one such class we were instructed to write a scene using a cemetery as its setting.  I ended up turning the results of that exercise into a ghost story.

I wrote about a widowed woman, clinging so tightly to the memory of her beloved that his spirit was bound, haunting her, until she ultimately found the strength to say goodbye.

Lastly, this type of writing prompt is best illustrated by Sarah Addison Allen.

Although I’m partial since #1 – magical realism is my favorite genre, and #2 – I love all her works, especially Sarah’s “Garden Spells”, which remains at the top of my list.

Every Sunday, Sarah posts a Facebook writing prompt and encourages folks to continue the tale in the comment section of her posts.  She calls it “Short Short Story Sunday”.

Each post is also accompanied by a picture, which in and of itself can be a writing prompt too.  Sometimes her prompt is so wonderful, I wish she would turn it into another book herself, like the one she posted on March 19th:

“The Help Wanted sign in the window of The Imaginary Gift Shoppe read: “Apply within if you remember the name of your first imaginary playmate.”

All of Brinley’s friends had gotten jobs at clothing stores in the mall that summer — at Abercrombie & Fitch and J.Crew and American Eagle. Well, all except Leo, who was working at Cinnabon. He was going to smell like vanilla icing constantly now, which he rather liked, though his girlfriend Reagan had sneered and said bees were going to chase him all summer.

The gift shoppe was an unassuming storefront in an otherwise abandoned Art Deco building across from the downtown library. Brinley would eye it curiously every week she checked out books, sometimes twice a week if she’d hit a good reading stride. If she could get this job, her parents would get off her back about doing something constructive this summer, plus she would be near the sanctuary of the library, which wasn’t taking applications (she’d asked).

She walked into the gift shoppe, which smelled like strawberry licorice and incense, and had carved shelves piled high with pottery face jugs, crystals, retro toys and colorful gossamer scarves tied to every available hook. There was solid wooden door behind the desk with a gold plaque that read: Tea Room Courtyard. Membership Required.

The woman behind the desk had hair so stiff and blond it looked like pulled sugar artwork on top of a cake. Her gooseberry eyes were keen and blue, surrounded by a roadmap of fine wrinkles.

“I’m here about the job,” Brinley said, hugging her library books to her chest.

The woman looked her over carefully. “And the name of your first imaginary playmate?” She asked, like she was asking for a reference.

Brinley felt a little foolish bringing him up. Truth be told, she hadn’t even liked him that much. “His name was Limp-Along Louie.”

“I’ll be right back,” the woman said. She opened the door to the courtyard and Brinley could have sworn she saw cups and teapots and plates of cookies floating in the air above dark Moroccon tables before the door closed. Brinley frowned and looked around the shop more carefully, wondering exactly what this place was.

“Good news!” The woman appeared behind the desk again. “He remembers you. Can you start today?”

Brinley suddenly wondered what she’d gotten herself into.

#SAAShortShortStorySunday

Some Sundays I post a short, short story about a random photo. Feel free to continue the tale in the comments!

I don’t know about you, but this short-short story simply whets my appetite to know more!

Happy writing, my friends.

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dr-seussAccording to Dr. Seuss – love is defined when one person’s weirdness is compatible with that of another’s.

That’s one way of putting it…but how do we define weirdness?

Is Aunt Tilly’s predilection for hosting tea parties with garden gnomes as guests – weird?  Maybe so.

But Uncle Walter doesn’t care one way or the other.  He only sees that it makes Aunt Tilly happy, and so, works extra hard to make their garden a beautiful spot for her to enjoy her tea.

I would argue it’s more about matching someone’s perception of reality.

My perception of someone else’s weirdness is colored through the lense of my own experience, thoughts, feelings in the same way that ten different witnesses to the same crime can report conflicting observations.   Our perceptions, the things we “see”, are unique to each of us.

This fact is further complicated by those folks who fool themselves into creating a reality that doesn’t really exist – refusing to see anything other than what they want to see.

It is no small wonder why the human race is at such odds with one another.  So many opinions…and each thinks the other is wrong – haters hate, lovers love – blinded by a perceived reality of their own design.

299621-john-donne-quote-no-man-is-an-island-unto-himself

Maybe we should take a page out of some 17th century wisdom.

In 1623, John Donne wrote Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (Meditation XVII) in which he is famous for two quotes:

 

“For whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee…No man is an island, entire of itself”

But what do these phrases actually mean and how does it apply to us today?

John Donne is referring to the human condition.

For whom the bell tolls – signifies an individual’s death.

News flash – we all die, every single one us.  But Donne tells us that each death offers valuable lessons, if only we can properly understand, if we have eyes that can “see”.   He speaks about hardships as blessings.  Because it is mostly through tribulation that people grow as individuals, expanding their consciousness, learning and gaining new insight.  According to Donne, these are the things in life that are more valuable than gold.

No man is an island – refers to the fact that each of us are pieces to the whole of mankind.  Thus every death holds meaning because we all share the human condition.  In other words, whatever happens to our neighbor – can happen to us too.  Does the bell toll for you?  Or for someone else?

Take a moment and endeavor to see reality through someone else’s eyes.  Who knows?  Maybe, just maybe, your perception will expand and possibly change.

And if not?  No matter.  You will, at the very least, have gained insight into another’s definition of “weird”.

 

 

 

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Humphrey Bogart…  What can I say?  He makes me want to swoon.

Humphrey Bogart - Casablanca, 1942

Humphrey Bogart – Casablanca, 1942

As such, I’m a big fan of 1940’s movies, particularly those labelled (after the fact) “Film Noir”, described on Google as:

“a style or genre of cinematographic film marked by a mood of pessimism, fatalism, and menace. The term was originally applied (by a group of French critics) to American thriller or detective films made in the period 1944–54 and to the work of directors such as Orson Welles, Fritz Lang, and Billy Wilder.”

The past can always be romanticized, and for me – the 1940’s films exemplify a bygone era of style and class, when men wore fedoras and women silk stockings.  It was a time when polite society dictated manners, grace, and etiquette.  There were no computers or cell phones.  Detectives had to call for back up from pay phones and information gathering was done the old-fashioned way – questioning people face to face.

However, lest anyone misunderstand my ‘wistful’ tone, I wouldn’t want to actually live in the 1940’s – no more than I would the 1840’s.  To enjoy ‘historical’ fiction, one must temporarily put aside the reality of the times (like social injustice) in the spirit of entertainment — just like we do when attending a Renaissance Festival (let’s face it, the reality of medieval Europe was no picnic, but it sure is fun to dress up as a wench or knight, drink mead, eat turkey legs, and watch ye ‘ole jousting tournament).

It was while watching TCM movies one day… ok, gorging myself on a marathon of 1940 black & white oldies, when inspiration struck.

Months earlier, I had been invited to participate in a new writing project, in collaboration with a group of fellow writers, to write a book with “short-story” chapters that shared a common theme and set of circumstances.  YET — maddeningly — my creative muse had fled the building and remained missing in action.  I had only a general idea for my story, missing key details like plot line, point of view, tone, and voice.

But thanks to Humphrey Bogart, my germ of an idea sparked into flame, and within a few short days, I had a completed story.  My muse had returned in full glory…

The book is about to enter its editing phase next month, so the following is subject to change.  Here’s the opening scene to my “chapter”:

Evelyn Smythe

          Retired detective Sean Malone absently sipped the seltzer brought to him by Nurse Flechette and watched the stormy procession of Ravenwood’s newest inductee from his perch beside the parlor room windows.  The boorish tittering of the old ladies having their afternoon tea faded as his attention was drawn to the tallish woman marching up the Manor’s stone walkway.  He maneuvered his wheel chair for a closer view, feigning nonchalance lest he betray his interest to the resident gossips, and took note of the woman’s clenched teeth, tilted chin, and stiff back.  She was accompanied on one side by a long-haired woman whose pinched face looked as if she was sucking on lemons and on the other by a well-dressed man scurrying to keep pace and talking non-stop like a lawyer arguing a case.

As the troupe drew closer, Sean’s pulse quickened.  This was no common resident.  She wore a tailored suit that accentuated a trim figure, in the same tawny shade of her loose, shoulder length hair.  The woman moved with such grace that it was like watching a gazelle in stride.  But it was the sharp intelligence in her honey brown eyes that captivated him.  This was a lady that could rule kingdoms.  What on earth did she need an old folks home for, he wondered.  True, Ravenwood was as classy a place as they came, a marvel that he found himself spending his last days in such a place, but still, she seemed much too young.  In fact, she didn’t look a day over fifty.  And given her vigorous parade up the flagstone steps, she looked to be in the peak of health.

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine…”.  Humphrey Bogart’s voice echoed in Sean’s memory.  A warning perhaps?  Or was something awakening.  He felt the dull shroud of medicine bottles, patronizing nurses, and murky sunshine begin to lift, it was like a brisk autumn wind stirring layers of dust from his dormant senses.  Call it professional intuition if you will, or the by-product of experience gained from a life-long career, but the street-smarts he thought long since dead were making a grand return entrance.  He couldn’t deny his immediate gut response to this striking, self-possessed woman approaching the house.  Sean’s lips absently sought the ghost of his time-honored cigar.

More to follow once the book is published.  Suffice it to say for now, I borrowed on the Film Noir genre’s “mood of pessimism, fatalism, and menace” to tell a very modern story.

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Abuse of power, abuse of privilege, destroyer of dreams…  It’s hard to believe, but in this case?

I’m referring to Hollywood.

Joss Whedon is one such example, representative of an artist who abuses their vast media presence to broadcast personal – and inflammatory – political opinion.

Yes, this is nothing new.  And a growing trend for many years.  However, it seems like this practice has become less about personal opinion and more like a Liberal Left political tactic – as can be evidenced by Obama’s consistent use of Hollywood “stars” to promote his agenda, and most recently, their attempt to win Hillary a presidential election.

But here’s the rub.

Don’t these people, the writers-performers-producers, care that this type behavior destroys half of their own fan base?

I thought Whedon’s use of actors, that played Marvel Comics’ iconic characters in The Avengers, to create a television commercial that campaigned for his choice of presidential candidate a blatant disregard for fans with opposing opinion.

See Joss Whedon’s All-Star Hillary Clinton-Supporting Ad

Avengers director Joss Whedon has assembled an all-star team of Hillary Clinton supporters – including his superhero-portraying brethren like Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo and Don Cheadle – for a series of comedy videos encouraging similarly liberal-leaning groups to vote for Clinton on Election Day.”

But Clinton lost the election, and obviously Whedon – along with many others – are unhappy.  That’s no excuse for bad behavior or violent, disrespectful, personal attack.

Director Joss Whedon Calls Ivanka Trump a Dog

Regardless of whether Whedon was talking about our newly elected President Trump or his daughter – I find his statements intolerable and disgusting.  The article goes on to report:

“Shortly after Trump’s victory in November, Whedon said Trump cannot “cannot be allowed a term in office.”

“It’s not about 2018. It’s about RIGHT NOW,” he wrote.

The writer-producer has also used social media to attack other members of the Republican party.

Earlier this month, Whedon wrote on Twitter that he hoped House Speak Paul Ryan would be killed in a gruesome way…”

There are many other examples of ‘Hollywood gone wrong’, but I find Whedon’s behavior the most disheartening only because I have been such a long time fan of his work.  From Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Firefly to The Avengers – his stories have created characters that took on lives, all their own.  But now?

The illusion has been shattered.  I can no longer enjoy these stories, for Whedon’s reality has tainted the dream.

Fiction writers, producers, artists of all kinds, weave their tapestries using threads of imagination and illumination.  They build worlds and breathe life into characters that do wondrous things – sometimes terrible, yes, but wondrous.  Yet all of it boils down to the same thing.  Creating stories (products) that entertain consumers of their work.

So, speaking now from a writer’s viewpoint – don’t we have a responsibility to ALL of our fans?

Perhaps in Joss’s case, he forgets that the same public that purchases his fiction – does not necessarily subscribe to the same “leftist” politics that he seems so intent in blasting out into the ether of public opinion.  I’m guessing he just doesn’t care, maybe due to an ego that has grown to match size with his bank account.

I, for one, refuse to spend one more red cent on anything he has produced – past or present – and now count him as a member of my personal list of *banned* former favorites, which is unfortunately growing in number.

This can serve as a message to all artists, everywhere, and especially to those of you working hard to cross the proverbial desert, hoping to dip even one toe into that vast ocean of stardom.  Don’t alienate your fans.

And to those who have grown ‘too big for their britches’?  Your inflated ego will only sustain you for a finite time.  Be prepared.  The fall from your golden pedestal is sure to be a doozy.

 

 

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I love words.

A well-crafted sentence is like music to my ears.  Literally.  When I write fiction, I will often sound out my sentences.  I listen for the cadence – and spend untold time massaging strident notes until the words flow smooth, mixing and matching, rising and falling, like harmonious chords dancing across a page of well rehearsed sheet music.

I also keep a journal by my side, for the express purpose of capturing words.

I am an ardent reader.  And when I run across a new word, or a sentence that is so beautifully stated, I must write it down in my journal, always notating the book’s title, author, and page number of the quote.

“Ponytail spoke eagerly, his words racing out like children released for recess.” p. 18, Deja Dead, by Kathy Reichs.

“Sleep is a malevolent force.  It lurks around the edges of my bed like a sick dog, its bad breath hanging on the night air.” p. 68, The Well, by Catherine Chanter.

asseverate = “uh-sev-uh-reyt, verb, to declare earnestly or solemnly; affirm positively.”  The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James.

I am reminded of a college class I took as an undergrad, half a lifetime ago.  It was called, Origin of Words.  We spent the semester analyzing modern English words by breaking them into pieces, identifying traces of Latin or Greek roots, discovering ancient definitions and how they changed or metamorphosed through time. After all these years, I still find this a fascinating subject.

And I am glad to note that I’m not alone.

In celebration of our beautiful language, here’s a gift from the Internet ether.  Its author is unknown but – I must assume – is a fellow logophile (lover of words).

Enjoy!

beautiful-words

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Bill of Frights Library ReadingGet ready for Halloween with a good scare!

Join us this Sunday, at the Beatley Central Library in Alexandria, VA, for an afternoon of spine-tingling tales of horror.

The League of Eclectic Authors will share several readings from our book, “Bill of Frights”, an anthology of fourteen short-stories set in and around the Nation’s Capital.  From ghostly apparitions and mortal fears to witches and diabolical demons – there’s something for everyone.

I’ll be reading my story, “Of Winter’s Curse”, which is about a woman with a secret – who risks all to break a familial curse that threatens the life of the man she loves.  So come on out and enjoy the fun!

Date: 10/18/2015
Time: 2:00 – 4:00 PM
Location: Beatley Central Library, 5005 Duke Street, Alexandria, VA

 

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