Thoughts on Star Wars

In 1977 I was the ripe old age of 4 years old and Star Wars changed my life. It might be true but wow there are thousands of these stories all over the Interwebs. I will fill in a few tiny details just to establish myself as a long term fan and then get to the meat. My mom took me to see the movie in the summer of ’77 and from that moment on my childhood was filled with Star Wars. I am not just talking about the toys, I had a beautiful collection that was played with nearly every day, or sheets, cups, plates, pjs, Halloween costumes, t-shirts, sneakers or anything else that was stamp with Star Wars. Before I could write on my own I would dictate stories about Luke, Han and Leia to my mother. She would fill up spiral notebooks with my adventures that involved freeze rays, shrinking rays, super invisible ships, cross overs with Star Blazers and G-Force. I used to wrap myself up in my Star Wars bathrobe and sneak into my grandparent’s laundry room, pretend to crawl through the drier (it was a portal to a Galaxy Far Far Away) and my trusty inflatable blade lightsaber and I would defeat the evil empire. Luke’s lightsaber was yellow in my world too. I saw the first Star Wars movie 10 times in the theater, once more than my best childhood friend Todd Boykin.

The visual spectacle that was Star Wars lit a fire in my imagination and has kept it fueled.

So, there is my official Star Wars Geek card. Are there other fans that have more heartwarming stories about how Star Wars changed their lives, sure there are but this is my story and not theirs. They can write about it on their blogs (and most have).

The Original Trilogy (Star Wars – it wasn’t called A New Hope yet), Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) were the framework of my childhood and like many things from our youth that have strong emotional ties my memories and feelings for those films are jaded. That is not a bad thing, those memories and emotional attachments are the building blocks of who I am. The adult me still has a very warm place in his heart for the original movies. To be honest I actually enjoyed the much maligned Prequel Trilogy (Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith) as I bonified Star Wars geek I am aware that statement will have many readers dismissing the rest of this blog post or maybe even having a Kylo Ren. Many years of reading books and comics from the Extended Universe prepared me, managed my expectations for the Prequels. Jar Jar was not an abomination to me, I actually found him kinda funny. I will explain as I run through the movies in release order.

 

Episode IV: A New Hope

ep4

The one that changed everything. In the years since it has been torn apart by every aspiring student of film as a modern example of the hero journey done right. All the right notes were hit, the whole thing was put together to pull on the strings of our collective mythologies. George Lucas studied Joseph Campbell’s writings and it shows. We have to remember too that George was/is a huge fan of the Saturday matinee adventure cliffhanger stories, these were little films with cheap sets and big ideas filled with so much cheese it is hard to watch these days without become embarrassed for both watching and for the actors that worked so hard to star in them.

A New Hope capture both of George’s loves so very completely and showed the world how amazing a space movie could really be. ** special note on special editions … I never once thought about whether or not Han Shot first until I saw the T-Shirt and even then it didn’t matter to me. Han Solo was a scoundrel and shooting first or second does not change his character enough for me to lose sleep over the change. I actually liked how some of the FX shots were cleaned up and it was nice having a scene with Jabba to feel the threat to Solo.

 

Episode V: Empire Strikes Back

ep5In any three act play the middle act is where things go bad for the heroes. Empire delivers so well that it is almost universally considered the best of all the canon films. Again Lucas taps into our collective mythologies, hits us with a surprise or two (OMG Vader is Luke’s DAD!!). A greatest wise man in film, Yoda, is introduced and the whole world gets to speak in extreme passive voice. We get a better connection with far far away by learning that there is a bigger baddie than Vader (was that even possible) and that Luke still had a long way to go in his hero’s journey. Let’s also be honest with ourselves, Luke was really whinny in the first movie and only slightly less whinny in the second, he’s growing up right?

The characters are put through the ringer and in the end the bad guys look to be getting the upper hand. Perfect second act.

 

Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

ep6Final Act baby! Again George’s scholarship pays off. We have a great closing chapter to the hero’s journey that Luke has been on. We see him come into his own, allow himself to be a Jedi and come to terms with his father being the guy that cut his hand off. Not sure if Luke really deals with the whole kissing his sister thing. I almost image that awkward moment when Leia is all like “I love you like a brother and Han is really the guy for me.” Then Luke is like, “No problem, sure love ya like a sister too. By the way, those couple of kisses, can we like totally forget about them, I mean nothing personal but I really need to forget those. By the way, the little green guy that has been teaching me how to use the force told me that we are actually brother and sister, crazy right, and that Vader is like our dad. I know bummer but hey, that’s how it shakes sometimes.”

The attack on Jabba was great and the right way to start the movie. Then we get another Death Star, I guess the Empire goes with what works right, cover up the exhaust port, throw a shield around the project and make sure the laser is online first. It would have worked too if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids and their little droid.

A word on Ewoks… their cute and while it does take a taxing amount of suspension of disbelief to accept them defeating stormtroopers with rocks and spears, we are at the end of the day talking about a movie that has people flying into space slugs, getting out and walking around in the thing’s stomach.

This one has always been special to me because we saw a son get past the evil and through to the good within his father. We learn that there was good still in him.

 

The EU Years

After the credits rolled in 1983 we were left wanting. There were rumors about the prequels and then sequels. But Lucas had moved on with lame little remarks about technology and stories. The guy was just interest in making other movies and writing a couple of books with Chris Claremount. The comics died out and eventually my figures got packed away and Star Wars lived on only in my heart, a dusty collection of spiral notebooks and a pile of VHS tapes.

eu1That was until 1991 when Timothy Zahn’s book Heir to the Empire was published. I found the book on a shadowy lower display at the local Waldenbooks. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Instantly, I thought that this had to be a sign that a new movie was right around the corner. I bought it and read it in a day. I loved it, it was great and had all of the Star Wars magic that I had been craving. Then the bookstores were flooded with new novels and series that continued the lives of Luke, Han and Leia. Computer and Console games came out and gave me a fix for the Star Wars habit.

I mentioned that the EU prepared me for what we got with the prequels. It is true that not all of the books or game were all that good. There were some real stinkers and the sad part was that they told stories that were important to me. Courtship of Princess Leia, the whole Luke tries to find his mother story line and I have to admit the Yuuzhan Vong books felt a little too drawn out and I had a hard time with the Solo kids, there was something that just wasn’t rooted correctly, I liked Ben Skywalker but the twins I never connected to.

When word at long last came that a new Star Wars movie was in the works, a prequel I was excited, giddy with anticipation. I also did not fill my head with preconceived notions of what it would be like. I knew that it would be about Anakin Skywalker and that was about it.

 

Episode I: The Phantom Menace

ep1I was sitting with my fiancé during the opening midnight showing. I cried when the 20th Century Fox fan fare sounded and the opening crawl set shivers down my spine. I greatly enjoyed watching the movie and was set to watch it again by the time the credits faded to black. Jar Jar was silly, Darth Maul did not have enough screen time, Obiwan was a bit of a jerk and Anakin was a little kid with a crush on an older girl. The mythology was touched on in much the same way as A New Hope, the set up for the next two movies was in place, just like A New Hope.

When ranking the movies I usually stick A New Hope and Phantom Menace together.

Episode II: Attack of the Clones

ep2To me this is the weak link of all of the movies. I know why it is needed and seeing Yoda go all Jedi Warrior was thrilling but the detective and romance movies didn’t have enough room to spawn a good second act. Look at it this way, Captain America: The Winter Solider was an old fashion Cold War Spy Movie, George Lucas really wanted to capture the detective noir vibe with part of Attack of the Clones; he also wanted to make sure the audience bought into the whole romance between Anakin and Padme. Do I hate the movie? Nope, it just isn’t one of my favorites. I get the story that George was trying to tell but it wasn’t a best effort and elements would have been better as off screen filled in by a tie-in novel or even a tv show (what an idea, right?).

 

Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

ep3It seemed to me that too much of Sith was really a second act kind of movie, as far as framing goes. We get the fall of Anakin, the rise of the Empire and the death of the Jedi. Also, Luke and Leia are born. All good things but they are there to set up a final act that doesn’t really come because we already had Episode IV, V and VI.

Just going on the record to say the final battle between Obiwan and Anakin was the best lightsaber battle on film and the ending made me cry because they had been best friends, they were brothers and it was gone now.

The fan rage that follows the prequels around annoys me, my son loves the prequels, my wife enjoys them and my daughter loves them too. In terms of quality of movie, yes there are flaws; however, the originals had flaws too. I think the biggest problem of the Prequels was that their stories were told second. It is hard for some fans to take that step backwards and care about what came before what they already know.

 

Episode VII: The Force Awakens

ep7Now the Mouse driven Star Wars movie is out. When Disney bought Star Wars I was thrilled. My family is a Disney family to start with but seeing what they have been doing with the Marvel property gave me instant comfort that Star Wars was in good hands. I was not wrong.

On December 18th, I have too much responsibility to go to midnight shows right now, when the kids got out of school we all went to see The Force Awakens. I loved it. I was blown away by the quality of the movie, the respect to what went before and the set up for what will come next.

The strongest moment in this movie for me was watching Rey holding the lightsaber out to Luke. I was begging him to say something, anything just one word would have been enough. But the silence that closed the movie was perfect. JJ Abrams and the Mouse did a good job and I cannot wait to see what comes next.

 

Star Wars didn’t really change my life, it has been this constant thread that has woven itself through me and now I get to share with my children in a way I didn’t think I would be able to. I am grateful that Star Wars is getting to live on and that I will be able to go to the movie theaters (best place to see a Star Wars movie in my opinion) and watch far far away with my family and see my children glow with those magical threads that will be woven into their lives.

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New Kingdom Crisis Story (delayed)

As it happens life gets in the way from time to time and this week’s new story was delayed. Why?

Well as it happens I have been wrapped up in the day job mostly; also my daughter is not officially off her training wheels (some practice still needed).

Anyway, this week’s story is another Kingdom Crisis tale inspired by a poem I read in college, The Pearl. It reminds me of faith, fatherhood and loss. In college it was a hit to the gut now that I am a father, I cannot read it without weeping.

Kingdom Crisis: A Father’s Tears is a pale imitation, but it was a fun write for me.

I hope you enjoy it.

– Brian

 

 

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What was she thinking…

I love stories; I always have. In 1977 I was 4 years old and my mother took me to see Star Wars (not referred to as Star Wars: A New Hope) and it was like my imagination had been set on fire. For months my favorite activity was coloring pictures inspired by the movie. My mother tried to get me to draw pictures of “real things” like houses, dogs, cats and airplanes but I was more interested in X-Wings, Tie Fighters and thousands of Jedi stick figures with multi-colored light sabers clashing in imagined conflict.

Before my 5th birthday I handed my mother a spiral notebook and asked her to write a Star Wars story, she told me that she didn’t have one to tell. I further explained to her that I wanted her to write down my story. I sat on the edge of the bed and dictated an adventure story to my mother. My mother filled 4 notebooks with my stories, usually little tales that went with my crayon drawings or the latest adventure my action figures went on.

One could say that those were my very first attempts at writing.

My eagerness to write slipped into the shadows as life became filled with school, friends, the constant moving and well normal (for me) existence. I developed a deep love for books, Roald Dalh’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was the first chapter book I read from cover to cover without assistance, I had just turned 6.

After that I was off to the races and read everything I could get me hands on. I devoured every Roald Dalh book at the library, then moved on to Beverly Cleary, E.B. White, Robert C. O’Brien, Astrid Lindgren and then there were the series Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew (I was an equal opportunity reader). When I was 9 I discovered Madeleine L’Engle, Ursula K. LeGuin and a young boy named Taran who was an Assistant Pig-Keeper. The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander was the the first group of books that I didn’t just read but I reread them over and over again.

By 11 I was so hungry for stories that I would pester anyone I saw with a book in their hands to tell me about what they were reading; my mother was usually caught the brunt of this. My mother was a avid reader too and there was always a paperback in her hands. She loved mysteries, Agatha Christie was a constant favorite; but she was also a fan of Frank Herbert and Stephen King. My mother had a ready at hand answer for my “What are you reading? And what is it about?” questions.

She would show me the cover of the book and then say, “If you want to know what it is about you can read it when I am done.”.

Oddly enough I don’t see much of a problem with an 11 year old reading Agatha Christie. But looking back I don’t know what my mother was thinking when she handed a copy of Stephen King’s The Stand to a a kid a month away from his 12th birthday. It was a tough read and I can honestly say at the time I didn’t understand all of it (that was probably a good thing) but I was hooked. Before my 13th birthday I had blazed through ‘Salem’s Lot, Cycle of the Werewolf, Cujo, The Talisman, The Gunslinger and Firestarter… again I will say that I don’t know what my mother was thinking letting me read all of those. I also tried to read Dune, I say tried because that book defeated me 3 times before I was able to read it through and “get it”.

All of these books, authors and questionable parenting brought me to a tiny local bookstore, I rode my bike there at least once a week with my chore dollars, during a warm (it was Texas so let’s call it hot) September day in the year 1986. The owner of the shop had just gotten a delivery and was unboxing these monstrously thick hardcovers. The dust jacket was embossed, I still remember the feel of the slight bumps, and displayed a newspaper boat in a gutter with a clawed three fingered “hand” gripping a sewer grate, in gray bold letters on the top was the author’s name, Stephen King (of course) and the title just below in a red ragged typeface the title, IT.

I had the first copy out of the box and spent every dime I had, including the 5 dollars I kept stuffed in the toe of my left shoe, school had started and I was usually a victim of stolen lunch money so I learned to sock away (sorry but true and funny) a few dollars just in case. I could barely wait to get home to start reading it.

Outside of the Bible it was the longest book I had ever read and boy did I read that book. Every waking moment not committed to school, eating (sometimes), football practice (cause I did live in Texas) and sleep (even that time was co-opted on occasion) I spent laying on my stomach with the book propped on a pillow in front of me. I couldn’t wait to read just a few pages, I thought about it all day, wondering what would happen next.

I also realized that the characters in the book started feeling like friends to me. Perhaps it was the fact that half the book was written about them as children within spitting distance of my own age, maybe because it was just so bloody detailed. Either way it was the first book that when I got to those last few pages I had a hard time reading the words because my eyes were filled with tears. In part because of what was happening in the story but mostly because when it was done it was going to be done. There would be no more Bill, Ed, Ben, Stan, Richie and Bev; we I got to the end it was THE END.

I was sad with the loss but I was also angry at Stephen King for introducing these neat kids to me and then taking them away from me with those ugly two words. I moped around for days then I experienced an epiphany. If Stephen King could think up a bunch of kids, reach out to me (readers) through the page and have the kind that kind of power/control why couldn’t I?

That day I sat down at my Smith Corona typewriter and loaded a sheet of onion skin paper (it was all I had) and hammered out the first 20 pages (single spaced, with next to no margin) of a story called The Dreamers. It was about a group of friends, inspired by people I had been friends with, who were reincarnated heroes from a Middle Earth like world. I would flip and flop between “Real World” chapters and “Fantasy” chapters. That first day 20 pages had just burst out of me and the days that followed added to the pile. I had to buy more paper and learned how to replace the ink ribbons of the typewriter and the purpose of liquid paper. I ignored the world when I was sitting in front of that typewriter.

The Dreamers was the first story, book, novel I ever wrote. It finished up at 322 pages and was a real painful thing to read. But it was mine and I loved it. I loved the process. I loved the way I lost myself in the writing. Since then I have always written stories, sometimes life creeps up and demands attention but I still find joy in plopping down in front of my laptop and hammering out a few hundred words of some story. Every once and again I wonder if someday another reader will come across one of my stories, maybe Ocean House, and say “Hey, I can do that!”

I don’t know what my mother was thinking let me read those books at such a young age. But, I thank her for it.

– Brian

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Introducing Kingdom Crisis

This week I am introducing the Kingdom Crisis Collection. Kingdom Crisis is the title I give a series of fantasy genre stories all in the same setting. Some of the stories are set very close to each other in time and space; some not so much.

The world of Kingdom Crisis is medieval in nature, pre-gun powder European society, I know pretty cliche but sometimes you have to stick with a familiar foundation. There is both divine and arcane magic; in most of the stories both forms of magic are old (myth) and new (rediscovered after a fashion).

The first story is called Duty Calls and came about with the idea of writing a fantasy story that was about a normal everyman, with a normal every day job, with normal every day problems without going the Farm Boy saves the universe route. I wanted to see how something like over sleeping could lead to an eventful day.

The story has been asking for a rewrite and I am thinking that if I hit a block on the novel I might spend a few hours giving it a fresh coat of paint.

Enjoy — Kingdom Crisis: Duty Calls

— Brian

 

 

 

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Defining a First Draft

Writing is a very personal endeavor; there are no short cuts, no apps that will fill in the blanks your imagination runs up against and very few helpful “tricks” to make it easier. Nowhere is it more apparent that in the first draft of a short story, novella or novel. It is also here where a beginning writer runs to the most daunting realization that there are more than 1 draft of their master piece.

Now I am sure folks will point out that many very famous writers claim to get it right the first time. On the whole it is unrealistic to hold yourself to the expectations of a writer that has been practicing their craft for decades. Let you be you when approaching a new piece of fiction (or your first).

A First Draft is a big pile of words that tells a story, it is okay to have grammar mistakes, spelling mistakes, plot holes and rough character development. IT IS OKAY, because remember this is the first draft. During the writing process of that draft you need to allow your story to go where it wants, let it explore and find itself. Be silly with it, let the voice become clear to you. By the time you reach the end you will have decided what kind of story you are writing and the voice should be clear (or becoming clear).

Read through your first draft with a red pen and if you are lucky enough to have a trusted reader someone that is willing to look past the potholes to see the story then have them read it too. I am lucky that my wife is willing to read a first draft and cut through it with a red pen AND add some very constructive notes on the story itself.

After the red pen is set down you are ready to get down to business with the: Second Draft.

 

– Brian

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Welcome

Of course this is where the blogger/author/person on the other end of the keyboard writes a little “Welcome to my corner of the internet” post.

I will try to set the stage for what you will find here, if you are so inclined to visit more than once. I am not much of a blogger, so blog entries will be largely limited to me announcing new content being added or I might blather on about current projects, works in progress or in the event that I receive questions I will try my best to answer them. On the odd day I might wax poetic about being a husband or a father in these modern days.

What kind of content will be found here? I plan on posting first and second draft short stories that I am working on that will live only here (meaning I don’t have the intention of trying to publish them “officially”). Call them little fictional freebees that I hope will entertain.

How often will I add content? Well I have a small stock pile of these first draft children nipping at my heels and I plan on releasing one every other week until they are all posted. After that I will try to keep the content fresh.  After all I can only write so fast and I have a novel that refuses to leave me alone.

Will my novel(s) appear on the site? Maybe, depending on how I am feeling I might post a chapter or two of a Work In Progress (W.I.P) but I do plan on seeking a traditional published author status.

So first up is a relatively new Short Story that I wrote as a warmup for my NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) project. If you haven’t heard of NaNoWriMo please check it out, it is a great way to get a pile of words to sculpt a story out of. Anyway, the Short Story in question is called “Meeting Death” it is a little quirky but then again I was in a very odd mood when I sat down at the keyboard. You can follow the link “Meeting Death” or follow the Short Story menu if you would like to check it out.

– B

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