Thursday, December 29, 2016

One Less Rogue in Rogue One Please

Beware! This post is chock full of spoilers and contains some unpopular opinions. If you haven't seen it yet or don't want your love diminished, stop reading now.







This is your last chance to change your mind.








Alright, first off I want to say that I did like the film. I didn't love it. I wanted to love it. When I saw Wil Wheaton's tweet that the last time he loved a Star Wars movie that much, it was 1977 I was really excited. While there were parts and characters I loved, it wasn't enough to compensate for the film's many flaws.

First off, the parts I loved.

Like everyone, I loved Chirrut and K-2SO. Few things would make me happier than an origin film for Chirrut and Baze, and a ringtone of K-2 saying "you have a phone call. The captain said I had to tell you." Chirrut, while still being the stereotypical sage-like blind monk that kicks ass, has a lot of heart thanks to Donnie Yen's brilliant performance. It's hard (both mentally as well as requiring a lot of skill) to take a role that's clearly a stereotype and turn it into something genuine. Some day I hope I get to talk to him one on one when there aren't any cameras or PR people around so I can ask him about his process for that character.

K-2SO has some of the best one-liners in the film. To be honest it was hard at times to believe that this was a robot. How can a robot understand humor? But then he'd say something funny or snarky and I'd be amused enough to forget that question until the next lull in the plot. This should have bothered me more than it did. But I have to admit that the jokes were really well timed and it does take skill to place them just so...even if the placement is to distract from the proverbial man behind the curtain. I wasn't really surprised when K-2 died. I mean, of course he did. All of Alan Tudyk's best characters die at the end of the film. It's his curse.

Jyn Erso is a character I wish we'd spent more time with. While it was fascinating seeing her as a child and then jumping to her as an adult, I wanted to know more about her journey. How did she deal with the trauma of witnessing her mother's murder? How many times did she have to run from agents of the Empire who were hunting her? How did she become the crafty bad ass that we see for most of the film? Why was she okay with not having any agency in the events that transpired? Most importantly, was she really that bad of a character that she needed to be redeemed? More on that in a bit.

The little geeky inside jokes were awesome. "Pig Nose" and "Scott" from the cantina? I loved seeing them together, as usual, and grumpy, as usual. The storm troopers talking about the T-15 being marked obsolete? That made me laugh. Seeing Vader's bachelor pad/temple on Mustafar? It was like watching an episode of Lifestyles of the Sith and Famous.

The last part I loved was the last five minutes when everyone is doing a relay race with the transmitted plans. That was the only part of the film where I was on the edge of my seat, squeezing my mother's arm, squealing because what it WAS SO COOL!!!!! That was some quality plotting. It  lived up to my expectations of the film. 👏👏👏

Now the parts that I had serious problems with:

(Cue Imperial March)

The opening. Where's the fanfare and the scrolling prologue?! Seriously, Disney should have done their research. Starting a Star Wars movie with anything other than fanfare and scrolling prologue is the kiss of death. Why? Three reasons: The Ewok movies and Life Day. I don't care if this was a between-the-episodes film. I want to feel the goosebumps on my arms when the brass section plays that first note. That moment alone is worth the ticket price! Don't steal that moment from me!

The writers need to apologize to Forrest Whitaker for the awful job they did on Saw Gerrera. We were shown so many conflicting accounts of his character that it was impossible to know what kind of person he was. Was he the monster the torture of the defector led us to believe? Was he the extremist that Mon Mothma labeled him as? Was he the kind surrogate father that Rey claimed him to be? There are too many conflicting accounts that I have no idea which to believe. So when he accepts his fate during the destruction of Jedda City I have no idea if it's true to his character or a redeeming moment. Instead it just felt like a wasted moment for a wasted character. On that note...

I feel that the subtitle to this movie shouldn't have been "A Star Wars Story" it should have been "Redeem all the peoples!!!" Who thought it was a good idea to try to redeem the entire cast in a single film? It's ludicrous! I found it hard to believe that a bunch of misfits would all suddenly decide to do the right thing. Especially Jyn. She had no reason to take matters into her own hands. The rebellion treated her as badly as the Empire had. Why not enact vengeance on the organizations that were each responsible for the death of her parents? Why save the rebellion from themselves? Then there's Cassian. Why couldn't he continue being the rebellion's morally ambiguous agent of chaos? None of it made sense and they didn't bother to take the time to explain it. They just plowed on with the action hoping that we'd be so distracted we wouldn't notice. Well I noticed.

While I do want a Baze and Chirrut origin film, it's not for the reason you think. Well, okay. Yes, I want to see more Chirrut. Babe however I want to see more of in order to get to know what kind of character he was. On screen he wasn't anything more than a jar head with a big gun. Yes, it was a really cool gun but it may as well have been held by an ambulatory cactus. We know absolutely nothing about him except that Chirrut is his buddy and because of that I want to know more. I'm really sad that they didn't give him more of an identity. If they had his death would have had the impact they were going for. Instead it was just meh.

The Death Star design flaw is something that has bothered me for thirty years. How is it that no one noticed this glaring error? Why did no one just put a steel plate over the exterior port? With that many people involved in the project and with Krennic breathing down their necks, how were any of them, Galen most of all, able to hide that? It made no sense then and it makes less sense now.

So...my overall feeling? It was an okay movie. I liked it but mostly because of the good jokes, the digitally inserted found footage from episode 4, and the stellar ending. Was it up to par with the good Star Wars films? No. Was it better than the prequels? Yes, but that's not saying much. The visuals were great and the ending AMAZING but the rest was an entertaining hot mess.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Updates!

Hello all!

A few things that were in the works have settled enough that I can announce them. I have two more short stories coming in issues of Fiction River! I don't know the exact release dates yet but one will be released in the winter of 2017 and one in the spring. They're doing a really cool subscription drive right now. Check it out here. There's two weeks left. They've already unlocked the second stretch goal! Trust me, you want to be a subscriber. The coming issues have amazing stories in them!

Another piece of good news is that the table of contents for the Monster Hunter Anthology, edited by Larry Correia and Bryan Thomas Schmidt, was announced:

Larry Correia, Jim Butcher, Mike Kupari, Jessica Day George, John C. Wright, Maurice Broaddus, Brad Torgersen, Faith Hunter, Jody Lynn Nye, Quincy J Allen, Alex Shvartsman, Kim May, Steve Diamond, John Ringo, Bryan Thomas Schmidt and Julie Frost, Sarah A. Hoyt, and Jonathan Maberry.

Yep. That's me in there! I'm really excited about this one! I don't know the release date for this one either but fall of 2017 is what they're estimating right now.

There will probably be more releases from me next year in addition to these. There are two other things that are still in the works that I'm not ready to announce yet. When I know more about all of these I'll announce it here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A World Turned Upside Down

At the suggestion of a friend, I've adopted a diet that is sans tomatoes and alliums (onions, garlic, leeks, etc). It's helped reduce my pain and inflammation which is great! Two months ago I was taking 8-11 pills a day to manage my pain. Now I can get by on 6. The drawback is that I have to spend a lot of my day preparing meals since everything has to be made from scratch. If I want a turkey sandwich I have to cook the turkey myself because everything at the deli is seasoned with onion and garlic.

All of this does cut down my writing time but I'm hoping it's only temporary. Right now I'm finishing a sic-fi short story that I had to set aside last year in order to write the Eclipse Phase story. After I finish it I'm going to switch to dictation. I've already purchased a headset and Dragon Naturally Speaking. My hope is that once I've trained my dragon and re-trained my brain to write this way my productivity will return to what it was before the arthritis manifested. I'll keep everyone updated on how the integration goes.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Sparks is out and Eclipse Phase to be in print soon!

Back in January I mentioned that I have a story in the Eclipse Phase: After the Fall anthology, edited by Jaym Gates. Well that e-book is finally being put into print and it's available for pre-order. You can order your copy here. My bookstore will have it as well. I'll make an announcement when they have it in stock.



I'm pretty proud of this story. I feel I really grew as an author with this one. It's the first time I've written tie-in fiction. It was also my first time writing from a gender neutral point of view. The research and process taught me a lot.

The other piece of exciting news is that Fiction River: Sparks, edited by Rebecca Moesta, is finally out! My story, Moonshine, is in this volume and it's near and dear to my heart because I wrote it in honor of my favorite Grandmother. She ran moonshine during the depression in order to feed her family. The newly orphaned teens in this story have to do the same in order to keep the family together.



You can get the e-book on Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/fiction-river-sparks

Amazon has it in ebook:http://www.amazon.com/Fiction-River-Original-…/…/ref=sr_1_3…

and in print: http://www.amazon.com/Fiction-Rive…/…/1561467553/ref=sr_1_2…

And of course my store will have it as well. The shipment is still in transit but we expect it to arrive soon.


Happy reading!

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Up and Coming anthology

I'm at a writing workshop right now so I'm going to keep this short. Bad Menagerie released an anthology of works by the 2016 Campbell award eligible authors -- including me! I have two stories in it. The Void Around the Sword's Edge is a fast paced sci-fi story about a woman who is the only person who can stop a band of genocidal monks from killing every human on the space station. Blood Moon Carnival is the moving story of a phoenix who is imprisoned by an evil alchemist and forced to perform in a carnival menagerie. Both of these stories are also eligible for the best short story Hugo award.

It's available for download here and it's free through the end of March.



Happy reading!

Monday, February 29, 2016

Booksellers Are a Vanishing Breed

As I've mentioned in previous posts I work at Reader's Guide, one of the oldest bookstores in Salem, Oregon. When I was hired in '98, we were one of nine bookstores in town. A year ago there were five still operating. Now my store is one of the three remaining. In addition to that one of the stores still in operation closed their secondary location.

For the past two years I've read articles online about how the book business is rebounding from the economic slump. Some say that more stores are opening then ever and the future of independent bookstores has never been brighter. I'm not going to say they're wrong. However, I'm witnessing store after store go out of business which seems to refute their statements. Is this merely a localized problem? I don't believe so. I think it's something else.

Yes, a lot of bookstores have closed because the rent rose too much, or they couldn't survive the economic slump, or Amazon stole too many customers, or minimum wage increases bankrupted them. But most of the stores I've seen close in the last two years haven't been for any of those reasons. They've closed because the owners were well into their sixties and seventies and wanted to retire but couldn't find anyone interested in taking over their successful business. As for stores opening, most of the stores I know of that have opened in the last five years are either part of a national chain (or corporation in the case of Amazon's store in Seattle). Not all of them are and I'll get to that part shortly.

There isn't a shortage of book lovers who dream of owning their own store, just as there isn't a shortage of book lovers who love shopping at independent bookstores. We have a lot of regular customers who have said and are professing their desire to own their own bookstore. If that's the case then why aren't they taking advantage of these great opportunities? They could have purchased an existing store with a proven sales record and established customer base. That's as close to a sure thing as there is in retail. Yet they didn't. I can understand the desire to create a store that reflects them -- their personality, tastes, and expertise -- but the start-up money it takes to do that, advertise, and operate while establishing a customer base doesn't put the odds in their favor. The numbers I listed at the beginning of this post didn't reflect the two stores that have opened during my tenure. Both closed within five years. It's that difficult.

That still leaves us with the mystery as to why no one is taking on successful businesses.

I've thought about this a lot and I've come to the conclusion that there is indeed something that journalists, economists, and other book business insiders may have missed -- or perhaps are not willing to talk about. For the lack of a better term I'm calling it the Millennial Effect.

Before you start screaming at me let me explain. I'm not blaming them. If anything they've helped the industry take advantage of new technologies and sales avenues by proving that e-books aren't a passing fad and that the Internet is a viable marketplace. However, I believe that this had an unforeseen side effect. Online stores are far cheaper to maintain than a brick and mortar store. Plus it doesn't involve the repetitive labors such as alphabetizing or require the vast knowledge base that hand selling requires. Because it's so much easier to sell books online I believe that while there are those who are still in love with the romance of the idea of owning a bookstore, few want to put in the work and financial investment. I think that there are more and more people who, when they speak of opening a store of their own, mean an online store.

Fortunately there are still people who want to invest in brick and mortar stores...but instead of readers being at the forefront, I'm seeing more authors stepping into that role.

Remember earlier when I said that there are other stores I've seen open that weren't part of a chain or conglomerate? That's right. They're owned (or co-owned) by authors. After Borders closed their doors Ann Patchett and a friend of hers opened Parnassus Books in Nashville so there would be a local store where her fans could buy her books and get them signed. Similarly, Nora Roberts' husband owns Turn the Page bookstore (which happens to be across the street from her B&B) in Boonsboro. Gulf Coast Bookstore in Florida is owned by a pair of independent authors and their store sells only independently published books. Now in most of these the authors don't spend a great deal of time at their store. They still spend the majority of their time at home, writing their next masterpiece -- which is as it should be. But I'll admit that the possibility that they might pop in while you're browsing has a considerable amount of pull.

I've only seen a handful of stores like this open and most of them are too new for me to say whether or not this is a passing trend or the new face of independent bookstores. But being an author, and an independent bookseller, I think it may be the new normal. Only time can tell for sure.


Monday, February 8, 2016

Yes, you can nominate my stories!

Since I'm a newly published writer my name doesn't immediately pop into people's minds when considering what and whom to nominate for awards like the Nebula and Hugo. That's why I'm going to come right out and say it. Yes, I have eligible works and yes, you can put them on your ballot if you think they're worthy.


My eligible works are:
Short Stories:
"The Void Around the Sword's Edge" -- Fiction River: Pulse Pounders, Kobo Special Edition

"Blood Moon Carnival" -- Fiction River: Alchemy and Steam


Related Work:
The Complete Newbie's Guide to Book Signings Parts 1 and 2 -- Ninja Keyboard Blog

And even though I don't have a snowball's chance of winning, I am eligible for the Campbell Award (not a Hugo).


If you haven't read any of these I highly recommend that you do so before putting any of these on your ballot(s). I don't want anyone to put me on their ballot(s) if they don't believe that I belong there.

Since we're talking about nomination worthy works, here's some other things that I read last year that I loved and are eligible.

Novels (and a short story collection):
The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson
Blue Yonders, Grateful Pies and Other Fanciful Feasts by Ken Scholes

Short Stories:
"Pennies for Portent" by Diana Benedict -- Fiction River: Alchemy and Steam
"Rites of Zosimos" by Angela Penrose -- Fiction River: Alchemy and Steam