Mashed Up Musings

Rambling Thoughts on Genre Mashups

Puzzling.jpgYesterday over at The Write Practice, the subject was genre mashups, something I’d never hear of before — at least not by that name. The concept of taking a story and retelling it in another genre is familiar. For example, telling the story of Cinderella as a news report.

In this Write Practice post “The Magic Violinist” is suggesting mixing genres like fairy tale + sci-fi, romance + thriller, classic + contemporary. Oliver Twist meets his Mafia Godfather. That type of thing.

I read a book recently where one of the main characters is an author and in her novel Jane Austen is captured by space aliens. The title of the book will give a clue as to how successful she was at getting it launched. The Rejected Writers Book Club (Southlea Bay) by Suzanne Kelman is a funny, though none-too-believable, tale with a mixture of zany and normal characters. I found it delightful.

Mixing genres is an intriguing thought. Even in straight fiction, there are some tales I think would benefit from a dash of something else thrown in. For example, Wuthering Heights — one book I disliked extremely. I read the thing all the way through, hoping poor Heathcliff would get a grip, but there was just no improvement.

It’s billed as a romance — but I saw no actual love anywhere in its pages. Jealousy, greed, snobbery, obsession, fury, cruelty, revenge, yes. Love, no. I think Healthcliff might have benefited immensely by a visit from those three Spirits of Christmas who brought Ebenezer Scrooge to his senses in A Christmas Carol.

I think a lot of mashups of the old classics have already been done a zillion times. There are many contemporary, sci-fi, fantasy, and western versions of Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Pride + Prejudice, Romeo & Juliet, and Hamlet floating around.

Just for the fun of it, here are a few mashups I came up with:

Lord Peter Wimsey is sent to investigate the assassination of the King of Scotland and the murder of Banquo. He deduces from various clues that MacBeth is the guilty party…
or
Miss Marple, a good friend of Banquo’s widow, does some snooping and uncovers Lady Macbeth’s duplicity in the assassination of the king.

The Three Musketeers could be three university roommates who join together to prove their favorite professor, accused of being a spy, is innocent.

I’ve never read The Great Gatsby, and the synopsis doesn’t at all inspire me to start. However, one of the three male characters could meet up with the three spirits of Christmas and come to see the error of his ways, improving the sad outcome of that story.

On the humorous side, Bertie Wooster could meet up with Ebenezer Scrooge’s three Christmas ghosts and resolve to atone for his former self-indulgent lifestyle. He tries in his inept way to donate time + talent to some worthy cause, but Jeeves has to sort things out when they go awry.

Notes:

Cinderella, an old fairy tale, was recorded by French writer Charles Perrault
Oliver Twist is a classic novel by Charles Dickens
The Little Mermaid was a Hans Christian Anderson tale
Wuthering Heights was Emily Bronte’s only novel
Ebeneezer Scrooge is Charles Dicken’s notorious curmudgeon and tightwad
Pride & Prejudice was penned by Jane Austen
Romeo + Juliet, Hamlet and MacBeth were written by William Shakespeare
Lord Peter Wimsey was Dorothy Sayers’ famous detective
Miss Marple was Agatha Christie’s very successful sleuth
The Three Musketeers was written by Alexandre Dumas
The Great Gatsby was an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel
Bertie Wooster + his valet, Jeeves, were created by P. G. Wodehouse

A Fragile New World

Large Soap bubbleWith engines humming at warp speed and maximum forward thrust, the alien creature piloting the craft approached the strange planet. Cautiously the creature circled several times before hovering motionless above one section of the orb. He scrutinized the surface of this new world that recently popped up on his screen before making his decision to land.

The blue streaks on its surface likely indicated the presence of water — hopefully similar to the H2O of his home planet. And the green would normally indicate large areas of vegetation, perhaps even forests. Was there life on this planet? Was it hostile or friendly? Things to be considered before any attempt to explore.

And what were those pink swirls all about? Unusually coloured foliage, like the orange of autumn leaves on Earth? Poisonous gasses? Had some noxious substance under the surface leached into the atmosphere? Was this new world another like Planet Earth, where the inhabitants routinely produced weird colours of clouds over its surface?

Actually, the planet seemed to have no atmosphere — unless its air was crystal clear. Te creature saw no sign of habitation to alarm him. Time to touch down and explore the place. Wings extended, landing gear lowered, he brought his craft down for a graceful landing.

The moment the weight of his craft came to rest on the surface, which seemed to be composed of some unique substance, there was this huge

Pop bubble + word

The force of the explosion sent the tiny craft tumbling back into space. It took serious effort on the creature’s part to right his craft and steer it into a level course again. Having more than satisfied his curiosity — and there being nothing left of the strange planet to explore — the creature continued his journey into space.

He made this note in his mental logbook:
Important data for future reference: mosquitoes unable to land on soap bubbles.
😉

I can’t resist squeezing in a haiku to complete my tale:

silver-blue flash
and a planet appears
child’s play

Soap planet

Writing prompts that inspired my tale:

Fandango’s one-word challenge: SUBSTANCE
Ragtag daily prompt word: BLUE
Word of the Day Photo challenge: CLOSE UP

Finish the Story: Part 2

Another Wordsmith has handed me the challenge of writing Part 2 of the story she’s started. Read Part 1 HERE. So I took up my pen this morning and will post both parts.

With this disclaimer:
I like a writing challenge and accepted for that reason, but in truth I know little about this subject. Most of what I know about actress-wannabes comes from the song, “Do You Know the Way to San Jose? This song is sung from the perspective of a woman who has come to her senses and is heading home, leaving the broken dreams of Hollywood behind.

I’m tagging fellow blogger & fiction writer, Linda, to write Part Three of this possibly sad or possibly route-to-fame tale.

Here are the RULES —

  1. Copy the story below as it appears when you receive it (and the rules please)
  2. Add somehow to the story in which ever style and length you choose
  3. Tag only 1 person
  4. If you choose to not participate or finish the story, please comment/tag this post so that I know.

And here’s the STORY —

Casey Ann wanted to be an actress from the first time she saw Elizabeth Taylor, Vivian Leigh, and Greta Garbo on the big screen. Every Saturday was spent at the kiddie show with Rin Tin Tin and the Lone Ranger, then she would hide in a little closet in the back of the theater until the adult shows began.

Her parents never asked where she was for hours on end. Their motto was, “Children were better when they were invisible.” So, she learned how to be invisible. She secretly put on plays in the woods behind her house and practiced facial expressions in the mirror as often as she could.

The day she turned eighteen, she bought a one-way ticket to Hollywood. As soon as she stepped off the Trailways…

PART TWO:
…she looked around the bustling terminal and wondered, “What do I go now?” Followed by, “What am I doing here, anyway?” And, “Where will I live?” The questions stunned her for a moment.

She took a deep breath and headed for the café she saw across the street. She still had enough money for a few lunches and one night in a cheap motel room, but she needed to see about getting a job. Everything would fall into place as soon as she signed a contract.

Casey slid onto a stool at the counter and a waitress about her mother’s age came to take her order. She asked for a pop for starters. When the waitress brought her drink, Casey asked, “How do I get to the MGM studio from here?”

The waitress rolled her eyes and nudged another waitress rushing by. “Hey, Jean. Another one.” She turned back to Casey. “I hope you’ve bought a return ticket, dear. This is a tough place to get started. Every day dozens of sweet young things get off those buses, dreaming of fame and fortune. The sharks soon chew them up, spit them out and leave them bleeding.”

Casey gasped. Jean, passing again, saw how shocked Casey looked and stopped. “I was one of them, too,” she told the young girl. But I’ve survived.” She winked, then grabbed several bottles of pop from the cooler.

Casey looked around the busy restaurant, the waitresses run off their feet. Survival, yes, but… she wanted so much more from life than this. Jean leaned toward her and whispered, “I still haven’t lost my dream. Listen, why don’t you…

 

Linda has written Part Three here.

Parker’s Book Report

Parker drummed on the notepad with the tip of his pen. Mr Oswald told them he wanted to see “an honest book review mentioning at least three positive points.”

“Guess I can say it’s well written — as far as the actual writing goes.” Parker mumbled, and scribbled the words on his pad. The story flowed naturally, no glaring faults, no plot holes. Now, what else?

He tapped the book with his pen and wondered if “Nice colors on the front cover” would pass for one positive point. He sat up in his chair and stretched his arms above him. The screen on his cell phone showed 10:00 and this crummy book report was due for Lit class in twelve hours. On teacher’s desk, neatly typed, no spelling errors.

Was it interesting? Maybe — in a stretch. Okay, the story was interesting enough to keep a reader hooked. Worthwhile reading? Two thumbs down. What were people supposed to get out of reading this garbage, anyway? The impression that cops were brutal, corrupt — murderers even? Great take-away.

Parker’s Dad was a cop. His older brother was in police college. Every day cops like his dad put their lives on the line to keep the peace, catch the bad guys and lock them up. To try and prevent gang wars and pick up the pieces after. His dad had a couple of serious scars from knife-wielding toughs. He knew that many a night when some big operation was afoot Mom walked the floor until she heard the garage door open and knew Dad was home.

He read the author’s name on the cover and scowled. If someone breaks into this guy’s house, who’s he going to call for help? If some scammer empties his bank account, or some drunk driver plows into him on the way home from work, who’s supposed to deal with it? But he makes big bucks writing this story where the main character’s a violent ex-cop, police joke about beating up suspects in detention, and in the end the murderer turns out to be a greedy cop trying to get his hands on the bankroll he thinks the victim stole.

Parker felt like snapping his pen in half. Instead, he set it down and wandered to the kitchen, where he pulled a can of pop out of the fridge.

With all the books out there, why did Mr Oswald assign this one? He’d sounded so pumped about it. “Great example of a flawed hero,” he’d told them. “You gotta like this guy, warts and all.”

Oh, no, you didn’t. Did Oswald think they needed to get more of an attitude toward cops than most kids have now? Or maybe it was on the curriculum and Oswald was just getting paid to rave about it.

His dad walked into the kitchen right then and threw an arm over his shoulder. “Up late, buddy?”

“Got a book report to write for tomorrow’s Lit class. Can’t get into it.” He pulled the tab off his pop can and took a drink.

“Like the book? Was it worth reading?”

Parker shrugged and turned his free thumb down. “A book about a bad ex-cop. Had to retire because he couldn’t control his temper. Fantasizes about smashing peoples’ faces when they make him mad. You know what they say nowadays. ‘We need to see heroes with faults’ and all that.”

His father grimaced. “Well, I’ll admit it’s tempting to give some petty crooks with an attitude one good punch. You catch them robbing a store and they start wailing that a criminal record will mess up their life. It’ll be all your fault if they can’t get a job now.” He rolled his eyes. “Like, couldn’t you figure this out before you got caught?”

Then he gave Parker a light slap on the back. “But, like we say to the perps we haul in, ‘Why don’t you just tell the truth.’ The good Lord didn’t make you to be a herd animal. Be respectful, point out the positives where you can, but if you think the book is trash, say so. And say why.”

“Even if I get, like 20%, for this review because I don’t ‘get’ the hero?”

“Even if you get 20%. But get it done by the deadline. That you can do.”

Parker grinned and headed back to his room. Okay. Here goes. He picked up his pen to scribble a few ideas — and suddenly his words were flowing. He nodded in satisfaction. I’m gonna make this!

.
Fandango’s one-word challenge: DEADLINE
This prompt has led me into quite a tale today! I won’t tell you which book Parker was writing a  review on. As you can probably tell, I can’t recommend reading it. 😉

Well Written, Intriguing Characters, A Dash of Zany — and FREE

BOOK REVIEW:
CRANBERRY BLUFF,
A Tale of Scones and Scoundrels

© 2014 by Deborah Garner
Cranberry Cove Press

Molly Elliott lived a comfortable life and for three years had a stable career in Tallahassee, FL, until one day someone took advantage of her regular routine. She was making the company deposit at the bank when it was robbed. The female thief was dressed about like Molly, hair styled the same, and standing at the next wicket when she pulled a gun on the teller. This led to some question as to which woman was actually the robber.

The police, after viewing the bank’s video tapes, were satisfied Molly wasn’t involved. Someone else believed she’d somehow been involved and gotten away with the loot. Molly started getting notes like, “We know you have it and we’re going to find it.” The police called the notes “just a prank” but when Molly came home one day and found her house ransacked she knew this was deadly serious. It was impossible to feel safe; she started to fear everyone, every situation.

Then her Aunt in Northern California passed away and left Molly her home, currently operating as Cranberry Cottage, an eight-room Bed & Breakfast. Molly jumped at the chance, left her life in FL behind, and found respite from the constant fear in her new location.

The story opens on a Sept day where Molly, comfortably settled into the role of innkeeper, prepares to welcome the five guests who’ve booked rooms at Cranberry Cottage. A honeymooning couple, a sixty-something woman who loves to shop, a strange little salesman who doesn’t mingle, and a very handsome, sociable fellow who shows up very late that first night. Later identifies himself as a novelist.

Little does Molly know that her guests are not the people they present themselves as — and at least one of them is convinced Molly still has the bank heist stashed away somewhere on the property. This guest wants to search and find that money. As the story unfolds we see the other guests have their own agendas and reasons for being at Cranberry Bluff.

I seldom give a book five stars, but this one I did. The story is well written and believable, the characters well developed, if a tad off-beat. As we get to know them better the tale gets zany, not totally realistic but definitely believable and interesting. The first time I read the book I couldn’t put it down. When I received notice from Book Bub that it’s free right now through both Amazon and Kobo, I decided to do a review and tell you about it. So I read it again yesterday and found it just as entertaining the second time around.

A romance begins in this book, but the two involved like each other and help each other. No violence, no bad language, no screaming matches. Just a nice light read.

Added Bonus:
A number of Cranberry recipes at the back of the book.

Click here for Amazon
Click here for Kobo

 

Rethinking the Woodpile

Firewood pile

Fandango’s challenge for today: ACCOMPLICE
Ragtag Community Daily prompt: GROOVE

Which brings to mind a short tale I once read, one that goes back to the days when every rural home had a wood stove in the kitchen, a tree stump that served as a chopping block for splitting logs, and a pile of firewood near the house for easy access in winter.

The Seventh-grade boys put their heads together at recess one afternoon. They were feeling kind of bored and wanted to think of something fun and different they could do sometime. Several ideas were advanced and vetoed.

Then someone offered the suggestion: “Why don’t we get together after dark some night over at old man Haskell’s place and play some trick on him.” This suggestion piqued the interest of the others.

‘Old man Haskell’ was their community’s equivalent of Oscar-the-Grouch. Living just out of town, gruff, abrupt, and somewhat crippled, he didn’t have a lot of patience for young boys. He grumbled when they cut through his yard to go fishing and if he saw them hanging around town he’d scold them for being idle. They should be working hard like he always had to, and so on.

At school the boys sometimes mimicked his mannerisms. Grabbing a stick for a cane, hunching over and hobbling along, they’d turn and scowl at the other boys just like old man Haskell would. They never let teacher catch them at this, though. Teachers were pretty strict about respecting your elders.

“But what trick could we play on old man Haskell? Upset his outhouse?”

“Nah,  that’s old hat. But I have an idea,” said Len. “Let’s un-stack his woodpile.”

The others looked at him curiously. “We can scatter his firewood all over his old yard,” Len explained. ” I think that would be a great trick to play on him. He’d have to pick it all up. That’d keep him busy for awhile and he wouldn’t have time to gripe at us.”

One of the other conspirators beamed. “Yeah, let’s! Wouldn’t that be fun – and serve him right for being such a grouch.”

The fourth conspirator, Rudy, scuffed his toe in the dirt. He didn’t really see the fun in tossing wood for hours, but did see possible consequences. “What if we get caught,” he asked. Much as he wanted to be part of the gang, it niggled at him how his dad would react if he heard this? Rudy had been taught to respect older folks and other folks’ property.

“It’ll be dark,” Len retorted. “Old man Haskell will never see us. And for sure he’ll never catch us — you know how slow he moves. What do you think, guys? Let’s meet in front of his place at nine tonight and have some real fun.”

That evening four boys crept away from their respective homes. Just after nine o’clock Len and his three accomplices slipped into Haskell’s yard and began tossing firewood off the pile. It became a game to see how far they could throw it. Still, there was an undercurrent of tension. They worked quietly, glancing often toward Haskell’s shack to see if the curtain moved or the door opened, though they knew he was hard of hearing.

With four pairs of hands working, the woodpile was soon scattered all over the yard. When they were done, Len rubbed his hands on his pants. “Okay. Let’s beat it, guys.”

“Won’t it be a joke when old man Haskell gets up in the morning and sees this mess? Wish I could be here to see his face. Ha ha!”

Rudy had been quiet most of the evening, his conscience stirring uneasily. He made his way home again, hoping he could slip in without his parents hearing him? But could he face his Dad in the morning? His dad was pretty sharp.

He tried to not make a sound but his father heard him come in and questioned why he’d been out so late on a school night? Rudy was evasive, but finally revealed the prank. “But old m…I mean Mr Haskell is such a grouch. We thought he deserved it.”

“Yes, Mr Haskell does seem cranky, but you boys don’t know what he’s been through in life and what he’s suffering now with his health issues. It’s going to be extremely painful for him to gather up all that wood and put that pile back together.”

Dad looked at him quietly for a few minutes and Rudy blushed under his silent disapproval. Suddenly Dad stood up. “So let’s us play a good prank now — and a joke on your school mates at the same time. Come on. Let’s get your brothers up.”

Dad called Rudy’s two brothers and he and his three accomplices went back to old man Haskell’s place. Working in the light of the moon for several hours, they not only put his woodpile back together, but stacked all the wood much closer to the house so he wouldn’t have so far to go to fetch his firewood come winter. They were enthused about the task and made good time once they got in the groove. When the job was done, they surveyed the neat yard and exchanged satisfied smiles. Near as they could tell, Mr Haskell never heard a thing.

“Now, boys,” Dad said, “Isn’t a prank like this a lot more fun than just making trouble for an old man? When Mr Haskell gets up in the morning and looks out, instead of seeing a huge mess he has to clean up, he’ll see his woodpile has moved twenty yards closer to his door.”

“Oh, yeah. Wish I could see his face when he gets a gander! That’ll be a neat joke,” Rudy’s younger brother said as they turned toward home again.

Rudy’s older brother nodded. “One he’ll appreciate right well, I reckon.”

Rudy grinned as he thought of Len’s reaction. “Len’s eyes are going to bulge right out of his head when he hears about this.”

“Let’s not tell anyone we did it though,” Dad cautioned. “Let them keep guessing who came here after they did.”

“That’ll be the best joke of all.” Rudy imagined the shock the other un-stackers would get when news got around. He knew Mr Haskell would never keep quiet about his walking woodpile.

Obedience Lessons

Caesar and the Sub

As usual, George didn’t bother with the buzzer at the main entrance, but walked around the corner of the apartment building to knock at the patio door of his grandson’s ground-floor suite. When he arrived he saw a huge dog staring at him through the glass. The great-whatever-it-was immediately announced his presence with resounding woofs.

Damien rushed to unlock the door. “Hey, Grandpa! Good to see you. Quiet, Caesar. This is a friend. FRIEND,” he repeated.

“I sure wouldn’t want to be a burglar trying to get in here with that brute waiting to devour me!” George stepped through the window into the living room area. “So this is your new hound?”

“Yeah, this is Caesar.” Damien ruffled the fur on the dog’s head. “Had him two weeks now and so far we’re getting along great. Really, his bark is worse than his bite.”

George chuckled. “I wouldn’t want to put that to the test. I won’t ever try sneaking in to surprise you.” He cautiously held out his hand to the dog and let Caesar sniff it. “Who sold you this beast?”

“A breeder south of town. His Great Dane had a litter, but some of the pups weren’t the purebreds he was expecting. Some other genetics got added to the mix at some point. He was rather dismayed about that, but gave me a good deal on this pup.”

“Yeah, I can see this isn’t a purebred anything.”

“I don’t care. I can tell already Caesar is going to be a faithful friend. When I take him for a walk, nobody’s going to hassle me. Anyway, Grandpa, sit down.”

George took a seat on the sofa and Caesar, with a happy grin, sat on the floor beside him. George reached out and gave the dog a cautious pat on the head. “So you’re going to trust me, are you, fella?”

Damien walked into the kitchen area and came back with a plate overflowing with a humongous submarine sandwich. “I was feeling hungry after our run through the park, so I was just fixing myself a sub. Do you want me to fix you one, too?”

“Sure,” George replied. “But make mine half that size. I don’t run through the park — or anywhere else — anymore.”

Damien grinned as he set his plate on the end table beside the recliner. “Yeah, I guess this would be pretty big for a lot of people. Ham, turkey, or both?” he asked as he headed back to the counter.

“Just turkey, thanks.” George watched Caesar walk over and sit beside the end table, his eyes focused on the sub. “You’d better hurry, Damien, or you won’t have a sandwich to come back to.”

Damien turned and saw Caesar sniffing toward the sandwich. “Oh, don’t worry about him. He’s well trained.” He quickly slapped together his grandfather’s sandwich, then opened the fridge door. “Do you want a drink with this, Grandpa? Cola or ginger ale, or iced tea?”

“Ginger ale would be fine.”

“Caesar and I have been going to obedience classes. We’re learning to communicate.”

“Obedience classes? Sounds like a great idea.”

“Yeah, we’ve had four lessons already. One thing he’s learned is not to touch any food until I say, ‘Nosh, Caesar.’ Then he knows it’s for him.” Damien grabbed pulled a can of pop from the fridge and shut the door.

George, who had his eyes on the dog, was amazed how fast Caesar devoured that sandwich once he heard the magic words.

“Uh, Damien… There was a little miscommunication here. I hope you still have enough fixings for another sandwich?”

Damien whirled around and saw his empty plate. He smacked his forehead with his hand. Caesar was looking up at him with eyes full of gratitude, his tail thump thumping on the floor. “Guess I can hardly blame him. I did give the command.”

George laughed. “It looks like he learned his lesson well. And now you have, too.”

“Yeah, I’ll remember this one,” Damien said ruefully as he reached for another sub bun.

🙂

Fandango’s one-word challenge for today: LESSON