Vote Early, Vote Daily

One of the more popular print pinup magazines is having a photo contest, and the prize is a four-page spread in their magazine. We’re in the hunt but a bit back from the front-runners, so a last-minute burst of voting would be awesome!

The contest is through Facebook and there are some pictures that are pretty obviously doing well because of better networking rather than actual quality of the photos. So it’s time for Harlean and me to beat the bushes and get ourselves past the obvious duds and up to the front!

Here’s the link:

Vote now! (Note: the picture is definitely pin-uppy, but all the pics in the contest meet Facebook’s guidelines.)

Note that you can vote once per day, so don’t think you’re done stuffing the ballot box after one visit. It costs you nothing and takes just a few seconds.

And, as always, thanks.

Pinup Lifestyle Contest Entry

The theme for this month’s contest is “Red, White, and Blue.” Harlean (who is a fiction) and I didn’t have a chance to do a shoot specifically for the contest, but she went back into the archives and found a shot from the days of yore and gussied it up for this contest.

If you’d like to vote for us, we’d really appreciate it! The deadline is tonight, but just what time that means is anybody’s guess. Don’t wait another minute!

While you’re there, you have four other votes to spend, and there are some worthy entries. If you insist on voting only for ones that are on theme (olive drab is now part of red, white and blue it seems), that limits your options quite a bit, however, and if disrespecting the flag while trying to appear patriotic bothers you, then options are limited yet more. Even so, there are a few nice pics, so quit wasting you time here and go waste your time over there.

Cyberspace Open: My Feedback

Although the organizers never sent me my final score and feedback, I was able to go hunt it down on their Web site.

First reaction: My score is higher this time! Hooray!
Second reaction: The average score is higher this time, too. Awww…

Still, I think I moved up in comparison to the average, so that’s nice. The prompt this time was to write dialog with subtext – the characters seem to be talking about one thing, but actually they were discussing something else altogether. My entry is here.

This is the feedback I got:

Very interesting take on the scene prompt. Tons of energy, strong tension level. Good job of putting us on edge and keeping us there. Dialogue could have used a little more punch though, as it really seemed to be the characters talking about the wrong things more so than talking about the right things through subtext. But still, a pretty solid bit of work with great energy.

Overall, I’ll take that. I can see ways to improve the scene now; Mrs. Simms should be there yammering into Helen’s ear about Scooter’s sins just to make her even more frazzled, and to get the conversation onto Scooter’s behavior more naturally. I considered and discarded a couple of lines intended solely to leave absolutely no doubt that it was not Scooter’s behavior that angered Helen, but in the end I thought it was pretty obvious. Reading back now, maybe a line about Scooter running off and getting in trouble would have tied things together nicely without being too overt. Something like “How do I know he won’t be off chasing rabbits when I need him?” after which Jake struggles to apologize for his own misdeeds while keeping the conversation about Scooter. It could have anchored the subtext, and might even have been funny.

Overall, then, I think the criticism is fair, and “Tons of engery” is the kind of phrase I can live with.

The prompt for round two is already out but I’ve only glanced at it. Not getting my score for round one kind of pushed the whole event onto the back burner, and this has been a crazy-busy weekend already. I’ll still take a shot at it, probably pulling characters from Quest for the Important Thing to Defeat the Evil Guy to get it done with less time devoted to character development.

Quick! Vote for Harlean and Me!

Pinup Lifestyle is a Web community devoted to, well, the pinup lifestyle. Every month they have a contest in which pros and amateurs alike compete for fabulous prizes. Harlean Carpenter (who is a fiction) and I make a habit of entering, and while we haven’t won we certainly separate ourselves from the amateur crowd. As I master the new lights, perhaps we’ll even threaten the pro bunch. We’ll see.

Director's Cut

Director's Cut - Harlean Carpenter photographed by Jerry Seeger

One thing that distinguishes the pictures Harlean (who is a fiction) and I make is that they are not simple glam shots. (Fixed typo: clam). We always try to tell a story with the setting and the makeup and the pose and all of that. I’ve discovered recently that it’s quite possible to have a technically excellent photo that does not say a thousand words. We try not to fall into that trap. Perhaps it’s not for me to judge whether we succeed, but I think out photos stand out that way.

So head on over and vote for us! (The Wildfire site is currently not Safari-friendly, unfortunately.) There are a ton of entries this time, so hang out and find worthy recipients for you other four votes as well. There’s some pretty good work over there. Almost as good as ours!

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Cyberspace Open Winner List is In!

And… once more I’m on the outside looking in.

I do recognize at least one name on the list of winners, however: Congratulations, fuego! 96 points! Not too shabby at all. Later I’ll be scanning the list more carefully for other names I might recognize from the comments here.

When I get my individual feedback I’ll share it here, of course, and I’ll still write to the round two prompt on Road Trip Day.

Congratulations to all the finalists!

And the winner is…

Were it not for a recent comment, I would have forgotten that today is the deadline for the organizers of the Cyberspace Open to announce the entrants who proved with grace and skill that they deserve to move on to the second round.

So when an email from them arrived today, I was excited. There are certainly things to improve about my entry, but overall I think it’s pretty solid (I felt that way before, too, so grains of salt are called for). I looked forward to getting some feedback, even if it was just a rushed paragraph. I opened the email and found… advertising. They wanted me to subscribe to their magazine. Note to Creative Screenwriting: That’s not how you win friends.

Once more the contestants, who hit their deadline or were disqualified, wait for the organizers, who have had a hell of a time returning the favor. You know what would be a total win-win? Creative Screenwriting should outsource the contest to people who could give it the attention it deserves.

Whether or not the judges say I have earned round two, I’ll be writing to the prompt. Theoretically, round two is the first weekend in April. I hope it is; I have a good feeling about writing a scene on Road Trip Day.

Cyberspace Open Spring 2011: Scooter’s Balls

As usual, I’m posting the work I entered in this iteration of the Cyberspace Open. This time around my process was a little different — not by design, but by sloth. In the past I’ve tried to spend the first day playing with several ideas that touch on the prompt in very different ways, then take my favorite rough draft and polish it on Sunday.

This year I mulled things over quite a bit on Saturday, but didn’t start typing until Sunday afternoon. I only ever came up with one idea, which my home consulting service improved dramatically.

I tried to follow my own advice and keep the scene dynamic and flowing; hopefully it’s not too confused. I thought over ways to sneak a little more of the broader story context into the scene, but in the end I just managed to work a few clues in. After that the as-you-know-Bobishness started to grate on me.

Anyway, without further ado, I bring you: Scooter’s Balls.

INT. LIVING ROOM – DAY

HELEN (28, pretty, several locks of hair escaping from her pony tail) jumps when the phone rings. She scans the disrupted living room and locates the phone on the couch.

SCOOTER (dog, big, a mix of Labrador Retriever, Rottweiler, and god knows what else) takes the play position and barks with excitement. Crossing to the couch Helen steps on a squeaky toy, which just excites him more.

HELEN

Hello?

JAKE (OVER PHONE)

(loud, agitated)

Helen?

HELEN

Jake! Where are you?

Scooter perks up at the mention of Jake’s name and watches the phone intently.

INTERCUT PHONE CONVERSATION

EXT. LAS VEGAS BACK STREET – DAY

JAKE (30, wiry, disheveled) is in his car, the convertible top down and obviously damaged. The windshield has a spider web of cracks centered in front of the passenger seat, where it appears someone’s forehead hit the glass very hard.

JAKE

I… better not say.

HELEN

Jake, what the hell is going on? The FBI was here, for Christ’s sake.

JAKE

Is Scooter there with you?

HELEN

Of course he’s —

JAKE

(shouting into the phone)

Hey! Scooter! How’s my buddy?

Jake whistles over the phone, low, high, then medium pitch. A prostitute leaning against a lamp post nearby looks up.

Scooter hears the whistle over the phone and goes ballistic, simultaneously running in circles and jumping into the air, barking madly. He slams into a coffee table but Helen drops the phone and catches the lamp before it hits the floor, then dives to recover the phone before Scooter can grab it. She puts it to her ear to hear Jake laughing.

JAKE (CONT’D)

That’s my boy!

HELEN

Jake, Mrs. Simms came by. Scooter’s been peeing on her stupid lawn gnomes again.

JAKE

He’s just marking his territory. That’s what dogs do.

The prostitute approaches Jake’s car, her cheap blonde wig askew. Twenty years of meth have taken their toll. Jake looks at the hooker, then back at the traffic light.

JAKE (CONT’D)

(under his breath)

Hurry up, hurry up…

HELEN

Yeah, well, she doesn’t like it.

JAKE

She should be glad. That means he’ll protect her yard too.

PROSTITUTE

Hi, honey. You want to have a little fun?

Jake looks back at the light. Still red. He shakes his head quickly and returns the phone to his ear.

HELEN

Oh, yeah, I’m sure she sleeps better at night knowing her urine-stained statuary is protected by Scooter’s unwavering vigilance.

The prostitute leans over Jake’s car door, showing withered cleavage.

PROSTITUTE

You know what you need? A blowjob.

The light has changed, but the car in front of him is not moving. Jake honks his horn.

HELEN

Listen, Jake — I made an appointment with the vet.

JAKE

What? Why?

HELEN

You know why. Maybe if he’s neutered he won’t be so much of a… problem.

JAKE

He’s not a problem, he’s a dog!

HELEN

We’re supposed to be a family now. How can we be a family if I can’t trust him?

JAKE

You can trust him, honey! Scooter would die for you!

The prostitute leans in even closer.

PROSTITUTE

Blow. Job.

HELEN

Who is that? Did someone say blowjob? Where are you?

Finally the car in front moves and Jake lurches forward in the convertible — about ten feet. The car in front of him stalls again.

JAKE

It’s no one! Jesus!

HELEN

What about when we have children? What’s he going to do then?

JAKE

Scooter loves kids!

HELEN

That doesn’t mean he should have any of his own.

The prostitute is back, standing by the car with a bony hip cocked, smiling with yellow teeth. Jake honks his horn. He puts his hand over the phone.

JAKE

Go away!

PROSTITUTE

(cackling)

Blow job!

HELEN

I heard that! Who’s there?

JAKE

I don’t know. Some crazy lady.

He takes the phone from his ear but doesn’t cover it.

JAKE (CONT’D)

Go away! Please!

(into phone)

Honey, that’s just how Scooter is.

HELEN

Well, that’s not good enough. He’s going to have to shape up if we’re going to have a family.

JAKE

He’ll be better. I swear. Give him a chance before you chop his balls off.

Scooter is up on the sofa now, pushing his head through the blinds, barking madly, coating the glass with slobber.

HELEN

I don’t — You hear that? I can’t take any more of this.

JAKE

Why’s he barking?

HELEN

Why is he ever barking? I don’t know.

She looks out the window.

HELEN (CONT’D)

Huh.

JAKE

What?

HELEN

It’s your friend with the limp. It looks like his nose is broken.

JAKE

Shit! Helen! Get out of the house! Go out the back RIGHT NOW. Take Scooter with you. Do it!

Helen is still looking out the window.

HELEN

Holy shit they have guns!

She turns and runs toward the back of the house.

HELEN (CONT’D)

Scooter! Come!

Scooter gallops after her, tongue flopping in the wind.

JAKE

Helen!

HELEN

What?! What else have you done? Set the house on fire?

JAKE

I love you.

She hesitates a moment.

HELEN

I love you too. And… I have something to tell you, so get home safe, OK?

Helen throws down the phone and dashes out the back door.

Jake flips his phone closed. A horn honks. He’s blocking traffic. He hits the gas but just then the light turns red. He pounds his head on the steering wheel.

PROSTITUTE

So they gonna chop his balls off or not?

4

Cyberspace Open 2011 Under Way!

Here we go, writing a pivotal scene over the weekend! My history in the contest isn’t great but I keep doing it for two reasons: first, it’s good practice for the crucial moments in a story, and second, because it’s damn fun. This is a habit I enjoy.

As always, I encourage everyone to play along, even if they’re not formally registered. It’s good practice dealing with the moments that the audience will always remember. In previous contests I’ve given more advance warning, but this time, there were so many “This is the deadline for registering! We really mean it!” followed by “Deadline extended! But this time it’s the absolute last deadline!” that I wasn’t really confident the contest would actually happen even at the revised time.

But it has. It’s on, baby!

For those who aren’t paid participants, there’s nothing stopping you from using this as a writing exercise. As usual, the prompt is for one of those key moments in a drama that will make a story float in the starry heavens of genius or wash up on the shore of mediocrity, where it will be used as kindling by natives. The natives on the island of mediocrity have no shortage of fuel.

So, here’s the prompt:

Your PROTAGONIST and his or her LOVE INTEREST are at odds. One of the protagonist’s schemes has gone terribly awry, and the love interest has had it. Write a scene in which they have it out – but in an unconventional way. Their words seem measured and reasonable; but the subtext says another thing entirely. You may use additional characters other than the ones specified.

The prompt also comes with this note:

This is going to take some crafty, non-on the nose writing here. For example, they can talk about boiling water, but it’s clear they’re really talking about something else. Use sarcasm or body language or timing or other means to convey your true meaning.

If past history is any guide, I’d not get too caught up in the note. What they say they want and what wins are not the same thing. What wins is a scene that kicks ass. If you can kick ass and achieve the secondary challenge, great. But it is better to never have been crafty at all, than to be crafty and not kick ass.

So, go forth, nascent screenwriters, and kick ass! I shall endeavor to do the same. As always, I will post my effort here. As always, I will write to the round 2 prompt even if I’m not officially a contender any longer. This whole exercise is about recognizing the key turning points in a story and rendering them well. You can’t practice that too often.

Vote Early, Vote Often

Harlean Carpenter (who is a fiction) and I have entered photos in a couple of contests this month. One is based on popular votes, while the other… might be, but it’s hard to tell.

First, the Photobucket contest. It’s a Valentine’s sort of thing, featuring happy couples. It’s hard to tell who that shaggy guy is that’s with her, but they sure do make a cute couple. We’ve moved up smartly to 263rd place as of this writing. VOTE NOW! Voting ends tomorrow… unless it doesn’t.

Next, the Pinup Lifestyle contest. The theme this month is “on the phone” and the contest has more entries than ever — some are good, others not-so, but there’s only so many permutations of the same damn pose you can do. I’m happy to say that in this cluttered field my shot of Harlean shines like a beacon of creativity and humor in an otherwise homogeneous field.

You can vote for up to five images in that contest, and there are some others that are pretty good, if variations on the same theme. Depending on where you work, you might want to wait until you get home to look through the entries.

From an execution standpoint, our primitive lights made things particularly challenging for the technicians in the lab on this shoot. Our intrepid editor did an excellent job pulling the photo from the noise, as it were, but soon all this will be changing. Yep, we’re buying gear. Just tonight I got the shipping confirmation on a pair of pretty darn good studio strobes, stands, and those crazy umbrella-things. Light boxes will be following shortly.

I’ve been looking at a lot of professional photography lately, and an amazing amount of it seems pretty damn boring. That’s the great thing about a model like Harlean. As a fiction created to create fiction, she knows the value of a good story. I hope I can master the new equipment and harness it to help her tell her tales.

One thing for sure, I won’t be able to blame the lights anymore.

Cyberspace Winter 2011 Early Registration Deadline Tonight

This is just a reminder to those out there who enjoy the Cyberspace Open that registration closes tonight. It’s a fun contest, and a good way to spend a weekend. In a nutshell, you are given a prompt and you have a weekend to write a scene that would fit in a a feature-length screenplay that fits the prompt.

CORRECTION: Originally in this episode I said tonight was the deadline for entering. It turns out tonight is the deadline for early entry, which is cheaper. You can still register after today.

Even if you don’t pay to participate officially, I encourage the writerly types out there to play along. Just because you won’t be judged doesn’t mean you can’t have fun writing to the prompt.

As usual, I’ll be posting my round-one entry here. Even if I don’t make it to round two, I’ll write to that prompt as well, and post that here for the amusement of all.

See you in the winners’ circle!

Winners Announced

Congratulations to Dries Coomans for taking top honors in this spring’s Cyberspace Open. His piece bent the rules a smidge, but was a powerful bit of writing. Personally I preferred the second-place entry by Lisa Scott, but it was a tough call.

With luck maybe we’ll be seeing those names again, on the big screen!

Cyberspace Open Finalists

I was wondering whatever happened in the Cyberspace Open – the organizers seemed happy to find any excuse to email contestants earlier but I hadn’t heard anything in a while. I went over to check things out and found that the finalists have been selected, but so far no mention of the YouTube voting for the big winner.

You can read the top three here, if you want to see what a winning entry looks like. The prompt for this round was to write a scene in which one character has been betrayed by a confidant, and confronts the betrayer.

A hearty congratulations is in order for all three. They made something that sparkled and shone in the eyes of their peers. Not bad for a day’s work.

I considered whether to put my own thoughts on the top three here, but the contest is still going, and I don’t want to come off as a sour-grapes kind of guy, picking at the flaws of writers who scored better than I did in the previous round. I’ll just say that I think one of these scripts is substantially better than the other two, while another had nice moments but seemed fundamentally flawed.

It was a good exercise for me to read them, because there were several places where I could tell that the writer was not getting everything out of their head and onto the page (writing time was very limited, after all). In the future I will try to identify those places in my own writing, before I leave my audience flat.

Edited to add:
If this page is any indication, they have decided to go back to the old format (a ninety-minute period for the finalists to craft a third scene) for the next iteration of the contest. (In fact, that is the same page as last year, just with the dates changed.) This is either to make the contest work better in conjunction with the Screenwriting Expo or it’s an indication that the current format isn’t working out. Or maybe both.

I hope they get the kinks worked out — it’s a cool contest (despite my frustrations). As you will see in the comments, I wasn’t the only one wondering what was going on over there.

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This Month in Pinup Lifestyle

This month’s photo contest at Pinup Lifestyle includes an entry shot by yours truly once again.

Infinite photographers!


The theme this month is “In the Bathtub”, and we did a location shoot where there is a bathroom large enough to maneuver in. Happily, the bathroom was also very bright, giving me more latitude with shots than I’m used to having, without incurring ridiculous exposure times. Plentiful mirrors improved the light even more, but provided all sorts of challenges when it came to avoiding inadvertent self-portraits. Here’s one of my favorites from the shoot:

That is not the one entered in the contest, however! You’ll have to go visit the contest to see that one. Oh, and hey, while you’re there, go ahead and toss us a vote, why don’t you? There are lots of good entries, so take some time to look around and spend your other four votes. It seems like month-to-month the quality of the entries is steadily rising. I think the quality of my shots is steadily improving, too. Hooray!

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This Might Be Fun

I’ve written quite a bit about my participation in the Cyberspace Open, and Long ago fuego and I were winners at the Duke City Shootout. Here’s a contest that combines the two: The 48-Hour film Project. You are given prompt, a prop, and a couple of other constraints, and in the next 48 hours you write, produce, and edit your entry.

I think I have the right group of friends to do this. It’s a bit pricey to enter, but the biggest problem would be getting us all to the right place at the right time. San Jose’s in August. Anyone want to come play?

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Round Two: My Fake Entry

As I thought about this prompt, I thought of the scene in the the classic movie Get Crazy, when Reggie Wanker emerges from a dressing room filled with naked women only to discover that the girlfriend he’s been ignoring (and who saw him in the room filled with naked women) is now with another guy. Said Reggie: “Betrayed! Turn your back for half a second and they stick a knife in it right up t’hilt.” As he goes back on stage (this has all occurred during a drum solo) he says. “I’ve finally found the meaning of the bleedin’ blues. Ol’ Reggie can take the pain… but can they?

Classic stuff. Malcolm McDowell makes a great Mick Jagger.

Anyway, I pondered for a while about what to do for my scene, but because I didn’t want to work too hard at it, I borrowed characters from a story I’ve already been fiddling with, called The Quest for the Important Thing to Defeat the Evil Guy. Tatra is a new addition, and hey, what high fantasy story can’t be improved with a smart-mouth goth chick? Once again I’m heavy on dialog without much physical action.

EXT. FOREST - NIGHT
Tatra (17, Goth - black hair and nails, black dress with metallic accessories) is staring into the campfire flames. She has a blanket wrapped over her shoulders. Nearby she can hear Bixby snoring gently. The rest of the party are arrayed on the ground, all asleep.
Kitty jumps up into Tatra's lap, purring softly.
TATRA
Hello, Kitty.
Kitty settles into her lap, and Tatra strokes her fur gently. Kitty's purring intensifies.
TATRA (CONT'D)
So pretty...
Tatra's fingers stop at the base of Kitty's skull.
TATRA (CONT'D)
I could snap your neck in half a heartbeat.
The purring stops. Kitty looks up at Tatra in surprise.
TATRA (CONT'D)
Can you talk like that?
Kitty shakes her head but doesn't try to escape.
TATRA (CONT'D)
I should probably just kill you.
Kitty tenses, and Tatra tightens her grip. They freeze that way for a few heartbeats, then Tatra relaxes slightly.
TATRA (CONT'D)
If I let you go, will you kill me?
Kitty shakes her head no.
TATRA (CONT'D)
Can I trust you?
Kitty shakes her head no again. Tatra smiles. She releases Kitty's neck. Kitty jumps down from her lap. Space distorts and standing before Tatra is a woman, slender and lithe, with long black hair poorly protecting her modesty.
They both look around nervously to make sure the others are sleeping.
KITTY
Crap it's cold.
TATRA
Where the hell are your clothes?
KITTY
Which do you think looks better on a cat, an evening gown or a tutu? Of course I'm naked.
Tatra tosses her the blanket.
TATRA
Put this on. You're grossing me out.
Kitty takes the blanket but hesitates before putting it on, posing, smiling at Tatra's jealousy-fueled discomfort.
KITTY
There's still time for you. You might still develop a body like this one.
TATRA
Oh, goody. Then I can be a slut, too.
Kitty wraps the blanket around herself and stares down at Tatra.
KITTY
Be careful, Tatra.
TATRA
If I was careful I would have killed you already.
Kitty hesitates, then sits on the log next to Tatra.
KITTY
I guess I deserved that. So, what is it you want?
TATRA
What's your real name?
KITTY
Dacia.
TATRA
Who do you work for?
KITTY
What do you mean?
TATRA
What the hell do you think I mean? Who do you work for?
KITTY
I work... for The Master.
Tatra stifles a laugh.
TATRA
Who?
KITTY
The Master. Surely you've heard...
Tatra's face is blank.
KITTY (CONT'D)
How can you be here, now, with us, and never have heard of The Master?
TATRA
The Master? That's the best he could come up with? Oooo... The Maaaaaaster! Scary!
Kitty looks around in alarm.
KITTY
Quiet! You'll wake someone up.
TATRA
Or what? You'll tell the master on me? Oh, no!
She makes her eyes round with mock alarm and puts her hands to her cheeks, then starts to laugh - but quietly.
TATRA (CONT'D)
What are you doing here?
KITTY
The Master—
Tatra snorts.
KITTY (CONT'D)
My people have a great interest in the outcome of your quest. There are prophecies.
That gets Tatra's interest.
TATRA
No kidding? Like what?
KITTY
For instance, in the great tome "Insane Ravings of Hu'upman and other Vague Pronouncements", it says that if the elf marries John the Smith, then The — my master's designs will be thwarted.
Tatra looks stricken. She speaks past a lump in her throat.
TATRA
Lada and John...?
KITTY
IF, my dear. I would prefer that not to happen.
Tatra stares at the ground.
TATRA
I would prefer that not to happen, too.
Kitty sighs and pats Tatra's knee.
KITTY
You like him.
TATRA
He doesn't even know I exist.
Kitty begins to say one thing, stops, then says another.
KITTY
No, I don't think he's capable of seeing anyone not of royal birth.
TATRA
Like Princess big-boobie bitch-face? Ugh! I just want to strangle her sometimes.
Tatra looks around now, alarmed by her own outburst. Kitty smiles and moves closer to Tatra on the log. She puts her arm around the girl.
KITTY
I agree. What would you say if Princess Skoda ended up with your friend Bixby instead?
Tatra puts her hands around her throat and makes a gagging noise.
KITTY (CONT'D)
He might become prince...
TATRA
He'd be better off with Elf-Lady.
Kitty smiles. Her teeth are white and even, her eyes gleam in the firelight.
KITTY
Then we are in complete agreement. Lada must not mate with John the Smith.
TATRA
Ewww. Thanks for that image.
KITTY
Tell me, why did you not kill me?
TATRA
Because... because I think you want Bixby to live. And I thought maybe you could help me. You know, with magic.
KITTY
Help you what?
Tatra turns away, suddenly shy.
TATRA
You know.
KITTY
Will you help me in return? When we find the Important Thing?
TATRA
Sure.
KITTY
"Sure?" That's all? You're OK with allowing The Master to plunge the world into darkness and despair?
TATRA
Pf. Welcome to my world, cat-lady.

1