Baran’s the Man (well, not really)

Bailey with the letter BMy handy-dandy agenda tells me today is Movie Monday where I talk about a lesser-known Netflix Watch Instantly movie.  I’m always impressed with how well their recommendation algorithm predicts my movie preferences, but I still gave it the side-eye when it repeatedly recommended Baran.  Although I love reading, and I love movies, I don’t really love reading my movies, so I tend to avoid those with subtitles.  But after I read the description, I was sold:

When 17-year-old Latif (Hossein Abedini) loses his job at a Tehran, Iran, construction site to the illegally hired Afghan Rahmat (Zahra Bahrami), he begins playing cruel pranks on Rahmat. Soon, however, Latif discovers that Rahmat is actually a girl named Baran, and he begins helping shoulder her burden at the construction site. When officials demand that all illegal workers be fired, Latif must choose between safety and social standing, and his young love.

The sappy romantic in me really likes movies where the girl pretends to be a guy and the love interest falls in love with her anyway: Just One of the Guys, Mulan, Yentl, even that silly Amanda Bynes movie She’s the Man.  I think it’s because if a guy who identifies as straight falls in love with you even though he thinks you’re a dude, then he must REALLY love you – at that point it’s not about looks or other superficial things, it’s about truly loving who you are as a person.  Since Baran was available on Watch Instantly and I wouldn’t be “wasting” a DVD on it, I decided to watch.

*mild spoilers in this paragraph* The movie was set and filmed in Iran, so it gave me a window into a world I am woefully ignorant about.  While the conditions were heartbreaking, the cinematography was incredible and showed the beauty present in that harsh land.  The character of Baran never spoke a single word in the film, which helped protect her secret, but was also symbolic of the oppression of 

Baranwomen in that region.  The protagonist Latif starts as a brash, yet fearful boy, and by the end is on his way to becoming a brave and selfless man.  Since it’s not a Hollywood movie, there’s no Hollywood ending, which I admit was very unsatisfying to that previously mentioned romantic who lurks inside me, but it made the movie feel more real.  

Not everything worked – the pace was slow, and some of the acting was problematic – but it was an interesting way to spend an hour and a half.  It’s tough to say whether I’d recommend it or not – I’m glad I watched it, but I know it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.  I appreciated the exposure to a different culture and unimaginable way of life; and as a writer, it was helpful to see storytelling very different from what I usually watch.  So thank you to Netflix for once again steering me in the direction of a movie I never would have picked on my own.

Have you seen Baran?  If so, what did you think?  What movies has Netflix recommended that you enjoyed but never would have picked on your own?  How Beautiful is Bailey with her letter B?

A to Z Agenda

A is for Agenda.
 
Wow, that’s a super exciting way to start my Blogging from A to Z Challenge adventures.  I’m sure it will bring new visitors zipping back to my blog each day absolutely drooling in anticipation.  Okay, how about this instead?
 
A is for Awesome Agenda Allowing Amazing Adventures!1!1!1!
 
Yep, that’s obviously much better.  I know this because it has rainbow colors. 
 
This boring start is no April Fools’ joke; it’s because April 1st is the odd man out – the only Sunday in the bunch – so it doesn’t follow my planned agenda.  But since agenda actually starts with A, it made sense to use this random Sunday to outline my plan of attack.
 
For the past month, I dithered back and forth about whether to go with a theme or not (just one of my many patented procrastination methods).  I was worried about losing focus without a theme, but I worried about getting burned out or bored if I did have one.  So as a compromise, I’ve decided to go with themed days of the week, which will give me both structure and variety.  And since I always love alliteration, I used it to  guide my theme picks.
 
Here’s the plan for the rest of the month:
 
Movie Monday – I’ll talk about the lesser-known movies I've found on Netflix Watch Instantly because of their spookily accurate recommendation ratings.  
 
Tips Tuesday – I’ll share some tips about grammar and writing.
 
Willy-nilly Wednesday – This is my random day to have fun with whatever inspires me.
 
Television Thursday – I’ll wax poetic about television shows I’ve enjoyed.
 
Film Friday – I’ll present a few short films.  And since I’m usually so focused on words, these will be animated films that don’t use a single word of dialog to tell their stories.
 
Short Story Saturday – I’ll write a piece of flash fiction where the genre and other items in the story fit the letter of the day.
 
Now if you saw my ABCDogs video for the A to Z video challenge, you might be wondering how this plan fits with my promise of a daily dose of adorable doggies. Well, the five Rish family dogs graciously agreed (after being bribed with tons of treats) to pose with each letter of the day.  So even if a post ends up being boring (I’m looking at you, A for Agenda), then you’ll still have a cute canine to add a smile to your day.  
 
Freya with the letter A
 
This is my first A to Z challenge, and I’m really excited about this month of insane blogging and meeting new blogger friends.  
 
Do you have a theme or are you going random?  How did you decide?  Any thoughts on my theme days?  How Adorable is Freya with her letter A?   

Tweet Tales Tuesday Week 12

15 Minute Tweet TalesIf you follow the #15tt hashtag on Twitter, you will have noticed I’m not the only one using it now.  Two new Twitter peeps have joined me in this daily writing challenge.  A few Twitter friends have participated in the past when a particular word caught their eye, but Steve (@shyrewode) and Alex (@tomo4242) appear to be making it a habit.  I’m thrilled to have other writers playing along, and their clever tweet tales are fun to read.
 
Here are my 15 Minute Tweet Tales for this past week:
 
3/21 - Mom got that basilisk look on her face, so we scattered to our rooms and prayed Dad got home before she found the belt we’d hidden.
 
3/22 - My dad says I should join the Army to prove my mettle. I think banging his mistress for the past six months substantiates my manhood.
 
3/23 - Her overweening confidence in her looks made guys bypass her for her plainer friends. She ended up a bitter, but beautiful, old maid.
 
3/24 - Mary offered a litany of reasons they were doomed. Jim agreed with every word, but then again when had love ever made a lick of sense? #15tt
 
3/25 – The homely contestant won The Bachelorette’s “heart” in a Garrison finish since the other two men were more interested in each other. #15tt
 
3/26 – He thought he was having a clandestine affair w/ a hot babe. In fact his wife hired the escort so she could watch trashy TV in peace. #15tt
 
3/27 – No one ever paid him any attention, so Stan hired a kid from the high school band to play a tucket as he walked into work on Monday. #15tt
 
Garrison finish was another one of those tough ones because it ate up so many characters, but it’s a fun term I’m happy to add to my vocabulary.
 
Play along and write tweet tales for the above words.  If you’re willing to share, post them on twitter with the hashtag #15tt or add them below in the comments because I’d love to read them.  Any thoughts about this week's tweet tales?

ABNA Excitement

Amazon Breakthrough Novel AwardIt seems that ABNA only likes me on even-numbered years, so thank goodness it’s 2012!  If you’re interested, you can read about my roller-caster ride with the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) in this post.  Suffice it to say, I’ve already passed “third time’s a charm” with this contest.  But it’s a great opportunity for feedback, so I entered again.  

I was especially nervous about the pitch round this year, since I’d modified my old query with some “quirky” changes.  Last month when they announced the writers who were advancing to the next round based on the pitches, I was so relieved and excited to find my name on the list.  It gives me a boost of confidence in the new version of my query.  

Since I’ve been testing out a new “chill” attitude this go round (ha – yeah, right!), I tried not to think about the contest until the next round results were announced.  When the email popped into my inbox on Tuesday saying the results were posted, my stomach danced a fancy little jig despite my determination to stay calm.  So with a trembling hand, I clicked on the list and scrolled down... and there was my name!  Hooray, I’m a quarterfinalist again!  The two reviews from the Vine Reviewers (the judges for this excerpt stage) had some really happy-grin-inducing things to say about my first two chapters.  One even compared it to Christopher Pike, which had me doing backflips.    

Now the wait is on while people from Publishers Weekly read and review the entire novel.  SCARY!  This is where I was cut two years ago, and since I haven’t changed the manuscript, I’m not expecting to progress any further.  But you never know, so I will be biting my fingernails to nubs while I pretend I’m totally calm.  

In the meantime, Amazon has made the excerpts of all the quarterfinalists available for reading, rating, and reviewing.  It’s only the first two chapters of my novel, but if you’ve wanted a sneak peek at what I’m working on, it’s there for you to read.  The ratings and reviews don’t affect the judging or impact the contest in any way, but it’s always nice to hear what people think – what works and what doesn’t work.  

So if you’re interested in reading my excerpt for The Drama Queen Who Cried Wolf (previously known as The Hunt), click here.  ABNA had some ugly formatting issues when they first posted everything.  I think they’ve now fixed everyone’s excerpts, but most of the pitches still have problems (missing paragraph breaks, dashes, and apostrophes), so don’t worry about my Product Description/pitch seeming off – I promise I usually punctuate correctly.  To read the excerpt, you can use a Kindle, or if you don't have one then either use one of the Kindle apps for your computer or phone (which are free downloads) or the Kindle Cloud Reader option which works through you browser.  To download it, click the Buy now with 1-Click button (don’t worry, it’s FREE!)  It will ask which reader option you use, so pick the one you want and start reading.  

Like I mentioned, at this point reviews and ratings don’t help or hurt me, so I’m not launching a campaign begging people to read and review.  I just wanted to let anyone who might be interested know it’s available.  And if you do decide to leave a review – I really appreciate your time and effort!  

Do you have any experience with the ABNA competition?  Do you think you might enter in the future?  Is it okay to look like a silly fool while doing my happy dance?

You are My Sunshine

Sunshine AwardEarlier this week, Kathy Collier passed the Sunshine Award to me.  I met Kathy through the Fourth Writers’ Platform-Building Campaign, and I'm honored and thank her very much (although my family would fall off their chairs laughing thinking of me getting something called the Sunshine Award.  Storm Cloud Award?  Much more likely!).

So here are the official rules: 
• Thank the person who gave you the award and provide a link.
• Write a post about it
• Answer the questions below.
• Pass it on to 10 bloggers who you think really deserve it and let them know
 
And my answers are....
 
Favorite color:  Pretty much anything from the “cool” end of the spectrum – greens, blues, purples.  But if I had to nail it down to one, it’d be Duke blue – Let’s go, Devils!
 
Favorite animal: Another toughie, since I’m a bleeding heart for all animals.  If forced to choose, I’d probably say dolphin; but if you’ve spent time on my blog, you also know I loooooove my dogs.
 
Favorite number:  I really don’t have one, but I’ll say 13 because it’s creepy, and creepy is good.
 
Favorite non-alcoholic drink: Coke – I’ve got to have at least one a day.
 
Facebook or Twitter: I like both for different reasons.
 
My passion:  Stories – reading them, watching them, writing them.
 
Getting or giving presents: I’d much rather give – it’s fun trying to find the perfect gift to light up someone’s face.
 
Favorite pattern: Not sure I understand this one, but I’ll pick polka dots because it’s fun to say.
 
Favorite day of the week: Saturday.  It’s the one day you can sleep late AND stay up late without repercussions.    
 
Favorite flower: The azaleas are going crazy right now turning the town into a colorful canvas, so I’ll go with those.
 
Now comes the time when I’m supposed to tag ten people, but I always go rogue with these things, so I’m not going to pick anyone specific.  But if you’d like to be tagged, then consider yourself an official recipient of the Sunshine Award and leave me a comment with the link where you answered the ten questions so I can learn more about you.
 
And if you’ve already been tagged and answered these, leave me a link in the comments – it’s fun learning these random things about blogging friends.
 

Tweet Tales Tuesday Week 11

15 Minute Tweet TaleThis was a pretty average week in tweet tale land - no outrageously long and/or tough words to complicate things.  Even though I never made it an official challenge, I always planned to use the word ‘green’ in my tweet tale on St. Patrick’s Day.  Luckily the word-a-day for the 17th was skirl (having to do with bagpipe music), so that helped add flavor to the St Paddy’s Day tweet.  Enjoy that Irish-tinged 15 Minute Tweet Tale along with the others from this past week:

3/14 – Tired of her snubs, he draws upon his arcana to create a spell to make her fall in love with him… or possibly turn her into a frog. 
 
3/15 – As the students pecked at their phones instead of chatting, their teacher thought this latest youthquake the most destructive yet.
 
3/16 – To enervate the leading candidate, a dead hooker was placed in his trunk. In these dark times, it just made the people love him more. 
 
3/17 – As the bagpipers skirled, no one in the green crowd heard his wife scream. He smiled at the leprechaun, contemplating his next wish. 
 
3/18 – Who’d drawn on the wall with permanent markers? It was a cognizable offense with Mom in the role of judge, jury, and spank-ecutioner. 
 
3/19 – I eat @ that flyblown diner every day due to the hot waitress. Now my skin’s turned green-hope it’s finally super powers, not disease. 
 
3/20 – They wore crowns woven from withies to symbolize their everlasting love; then jumped from the cliff to prove their love was eternal. 
 
Play along and write tweet tales for the above words.  If you’re willing to share, post them on twitter with the hashtag #15tt or add them below in the comments because I’d love to read them.

Tweet Tales Tue- uh Wednesday Week 10

15 Minute Tweet TalesAs you can tell by the title of today’s post, I messed up yesterday.  I completely forgot to post the Tweet Tales Tuesday roundup.  Whoops!  I’m going to go ahead and blame it on the time change.  Losing that hour made my time sensors go all wonky, and therefore I had no idea what day of the week it was.  Yeah, that’s what happened.

So although they are a day late, here are the 15 Minute Tweet Tales for the past week:

3/7 – Emma earnestly disavowed eating the cookie with the crumbs still on her lips. Her dad started saving money for her law school tuition. 
 
3/8 – Young Neil promised the man in the moon he’d come visit some day. Years later he stepped across the mare that formed the man’s eye. 
 
3/9 – Her charming travel vignettes enchanted him. After they married, he stumbled across a travel blog and realized it was all stolen lies. 
 
3/10 – After she tied up her rapist she realized her conundrum: the knife would be more painful, but the gun less likely to get blood on her. 
 
3/11 – Frank’s an internet firebrand, playing devil’s advocate on forums no matter the topic. Meanwhile his mom still picks his daily outfit. 
 
3/12 – Their prenup was more like a tome than a document, but she found a loophole. Given what she discovered in his bed, he got off cheap. 
 
3/13 – She lionized every word out of her teacher’s mouth, making it easy for him to convince the 14 year old what they were doing was right. 
 
I actually knew most of the words this past week, so that nice surprise made it easier to craft the tales.  
 
Play along and write tweet tales for the above words.  If you’re willing to share, post them on twitter with the hashtag #15tt or add them below in the comments because I’d love to read them.
 

A to Z Video Challenge

When I signed up for the A to Z Challenge, I noticed they were also having an A to Z video challenge to help spread the word about the blogging challenge taking place in April.  The video entries are due tonight, and since I wait until the last minute for everything, I finished mine this evening.  

Regular blog visitors know I’m crazy about my dog, which is a trait I share with the rest of my family; so when I was trying to think of ideas for the A to Z challenges, I knew they had to be dog related.  For the video challenge, I gathered clips from my brother, sister, and parents of their adorable dogs in action.  Some of the footage is not great quality, but I think y’all will agree that the canine cuteness more than makes up for it. 

I now proudly present… ABCDogs
 

I’d like to thank my sister Joanna for creating the doggie version of the ABC song for me.  I’d also like to thank my brother Brian for helping me with the editing.  I sat with him while we edited our two short films, but he always drove Final Cut while I watched, so this was my big chance to try out what I'd learned.  It was fun!  And I was unreasonably proud of what I was able to do on my own.  I only had to get his help with a few of the things.  Thanks again, siblings!
 
I hope you enjoyed my canine commercial for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  If you haven’t sign up for it yet, think about giving it a try.  This will be my first year, and I’m really looking forward to it. 
 
Voting for the video challenge is now open, so if you thought my dogs were cute, you can vote for us here.
 
Are you entering the A to Z Blogging Challenge?  If you participated in the past, any tips for us newbies?  Aren’t the Rish family dogs adorable?

Second Campaigner Challenge - Nursery Nightmares

Surprise, surprise, I'm right up against the deadline for Rachael Harrie’s Second Campaigner Challenge.  Again.  Ahhh, procrastination - how I embrace you. Anyway, Rachael's made it extra tough this time with five different prompts and five different ways to use those prompts.

Prompt 1:

Two people are sitting together under the remains of a concrete bridge. Their backs are against a rusted bridge support. One person’s leg is cut. The other person has wet hair. 

Prompt 2:

(Source)

Prompt 3:

(Source)

Prompt 4:

(Source)

Prompt 5:

(Source)

 

Second Campaigner Challenge

Do one or more of the following:

  1. Write a pitch/logline for a book based on the prompts (less than 100 words)
  2. Write a short story/flash fiction piece of less than 200 words based on the prompts
  3. Write a poem with a twist using the prompts as inspiration (in less than 200 words)
  4. Write a story/poem in five sentences, each sentence based on one of the prompts
  5. Write a poem/flash fiction piece (in less than 200 words) about the water pear *without* using the words “pear”, “spoon”, or “droplet”.

For added difficulty/challenge:

  • Complete at least three of the above activities and tie them all together with a common theme (feel free to either state the theme in your post or leave us to guess what it might be)
  • Write in a genre that is not your own

I completed three of the activities, and I think my title gives away my unifying theme. All three take place in a dystopian world, which is not my usual genre,

Nursery Nightmares

First up is option one - write a book pitch, and I've incorporated items from all five prompts. According to Word, it's exactly 100 words.

In a world where London Bridge still stands, nothing is the same: Red Rover refuses to come over, the Spoon cheats on the Dish with a pear, Jack and Jill’s hill is actually a garbage dump, and instead of twinkling, the Little Star exploded.  But from amongst the chaos, a special girl emerges: songs dance through Mary’s head and narrate how things are supposed to be.  She’s always been quite contrary, so she sets out to put things right.  She’ll need all her courage (plus all the dynamite she can find) because whatever it takes – London Bridge is falling down.
 
 
Next up, I tackled option three - a poem with a twist, which I've based solely on prompt 1.
 
Jack Sprat and his hefty wife,
Were living a life full of strife.
 
They tried their best to keep food on their plate,
But who could guess the last time they’d ate.
 
The apocalypse had come
Without leaving a crumb;
 
So they spent all their days
Trying not to feel crazed, 
 
As they looked far and wide
For something that could be fried.
 
But after miles without finding even an egg,
Mrs. Sprat got a nasty slice on her leg.
 
Her husband did his best to carry her back,
But her solid frame was too much for Jack.
 
He set her down against a crumbling bridge,
While she rambled on about their old fridge.
 
He flopped beside her, his hair dripping with sweat,
“I love you,” he said, his voice full of regret.
 
“I love you too, so accept my last gift.”
And she stabbed herself in a motion quite swift.
 
Jack gasped, screamed, and then finally cried.
“You’ll have plenty to eat,” she said as she died.
 
But he wasted away, ‘cause it wasn’t as simple as that,
For as everyone knows Jack Sprat could eat no fat. 
 
 
And for my third and final piece, I went with option four - write a story with five sentences where each sentence is based on one of the prompts.
 
A star exploded sending radioactive particles to a planet called Earth.  The particles bombarded a mischievous child in red who usually spent all his time in a corner, and they morphed him into a monstrous creature who destroyed cities while shouting, “What a good boy am I,” as he demanded children be sent to him as playmates (and sometimes snacks).  One brave family searched for a magical wooden weapon with the power to liquefy solid objects, since that was the only way to defeat the rampaging beast.  The monster had destroyed the only bridge leading to the weapon, so the family swam across the river; and when the father sliced his leg on a submerged rock, the mom stayed to tend his wound while the two kids hurried toward their goal.  The weapon’s unlikely hiding place was a landfill long abandoned, and the brother and sister searched for hours until they found it; and then they pretended to be the creature's next tributes to gain access to him, aimed the weapon, and the monster dissolved into water that swept across the land, cleansing it of the rubble he'd created.
 
 
Whew, I think I got sillier as I went.  Some of the sentences in that last one are real doozies!  If you thought my entry was worthy, you can go here and 'like' it - it's entry #108.
 
So did you tackle Rachael's prompt-apalooza?  If so, let me know where to find your entry so I can read it.  And let me know what you thought of my efforts in the comments.

Tweet Tales Tuesday Week 9

15 Minute Tweet TalesThis week started with a crisis in tweet tale land – no word of the day!  Since my word-a-day calendar is actually from last year, there was no February 29th to be found.  But since this is the one resolution I’ve managed to maintain, I didn’t want to skip a day even if I didn’t have an official word.  So in honor of leap day, I declared ‘leap’ to be the #15tt word of the day.  

As for the words that did come in the calendar for this week, how awesome is the word slumgullion?  So fun to say!  Unfortunately, since the definition is ‘a meaty stew,’ I don’t think there will be many opportunities to work it into casual conversation.  

And without further ado, here are the 15 Minute Tweet Tales for this week:

2/29 – I watch her leap around in a pink tutu: more comical than graceful, but my wife always wanted 2 B a ballerina & can now afford lessons.
 
3/1 – The acedia crept in turning everything grey - muting smell, muffling sound, dampening emotion - until her life faded away to nothing.
 
3/2 – The love he felt for her burst forth as an impromptu song. The barista had 911 on speed dial to report a restraining order violation.
 
3/3 – “Forget fava beans & chianti, I’ve found slumgullion to be the best way to prepare liver,” he told the regrettably pushy census taker.
 
3/4 –So disgusted by the polemic each side waged against the other, Tara decided to run. Others must have agreed, since she won with no $$.
 
3/5 – After months of bootless begging 4 a car, I squeal when Dad covers my eyes & guides me outside. He points to a bike. I kick his shin.
 
3/6 – I reiterate that my daughter’s not mature enough 4 a car, then point out a bike. My injured leg proves I was right about her maturity.
 
You probably noticed a similarity to the tweet tales from the 5th and the 6th…. When the word reiterate came up today, it really seemed to fit with the bootless begging from yesterday.  So I thought it would be fun to write a companion tweet tale from the dad’s point of view.  Did he really play a mean trick on his daughter by covering her eyes to make her think she was getting a car?  Or was it just a melodramatic teen trying to make her reasonable dad seem like the bad guy?  As with most conflicting accounts, the truth undoubtedly lies somewhere in the middle. 
 
Play along and write tweet tales for the above words.  If you’re willing to share, post them on twitter with the hashtag #15tt or add them below in the comments because I’d love to read them.