Thursday, December 29, 2016

Death of a Princess

2016 has witnessed the deaths of a long list of famous people, especially entertainers. David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, John Glenn, Kenny Baker (R2D2), George Michael... everyone's seen the list. And I have to be honest, while some of them make me sad, the thing about celebrities is that they've had at least the time it takes to become a celebrity. Which is more than many people get.

But I understand that for some of us, some names are special. For me, that was certainly true of Terry Pratchett, and now, it's true of Carrie Fisher - Princess Leia. She was a shining light in the Star Wars saga. Back in 1977 in the first movie, A New Hope, Princess Leia was so different to the princess in distress we'd seen in Disney. A prince comes and rescues her, they get married and live Happily Ever After. How refreshing to have a girl in white who is more than happy to rescue herself. I loved the scenes where she put Luke and Han into their respective places, and took over control. It was Leia who recognised the Millenium Falcon had been allowed to escape. She always had her eye on the bigger picture.

The messy love affair between Han and Leia in The Empire Strikes Back was a joy to watch, from the bickering in the ice tunnels of Hoth, to the bridge of the Falcon ("would it help if I got out and pushed?") to the declaration of love when Han is encased in carbonite.

Then we move on to the metal bikini in Return of the Jedi, and the wonderful scene where Leia sends Jabba on his way with the chain he'd used to harness her to him. And so it went. In the end the princess wins the heart of a scoundrel, and the Emperor is defeated.

In a way, the notion that Han and Leia would have a son that turned to the dark side was an obvious plot device. Not so obvious, but absolutely fitting, was that this turbulent relationship didn't last. But it was great to see Leia in her role as General Organa in The Force Awakens. It's been said by other people, but it rings so true. She'd lost her parents, her adoptive parents, her husband, her brother (who had effectively left her to it), and her son. Yet she kept on going, kept believing in the cause. And it seems that was true in her real life, too, fighting addiction and mental illness with honesty and openness.

Yes, a little part of me passed away with her. At least she will live on in the movies and the Star Wars galaxy. We'll get to see her one more time in SW8, and maybe again in CGI in SW9.

Vale, Carrie. Thank you for the magic. And I'll leave you with this - Best Han and Leia moments.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

2016 - Looking Back

It's that time of year when I look back at what I've achieved (or haven't - and this year there's a whole lot of haven't!). Overall, I think it's been a bad year worldwide for one reason or another. Maybe it's social media highlighting so many celebrity deaths. Maybe it's the shock result of Brexit and the US election. Whatever, I'm glad to see the back of 2016 even though there were positives over the past 12 months. Let's hope 2017 is an improvement, huh?

I'm actually away from social media right now, enjoying Christmas with my family but I doubt much will have happened in the past week that means altering this post. ;)

2016 was the year:
I became a fully indie author when the rights to Gethyon returned to me in June. It also got a revamp including a stunning new cover from RavenFire Media, and an extra 11K of material (including The Bones of the Sea added at the back as a bonus story and to get that into print).

Gethyon
A Scifi Adventure Novel
B&N | Kobo | iBooks
I finish the year with eighteen titles listed on Goodreads (though two are yet to be released, one having been delayed since May already).
Failed to hit a release date (see previous sentence). Reunion at Kasha-Asor is still awaiting edits at my end.

Went cosplay crazy, creating four Star Wars costumes, including one for a friend.


Got to go to Star Wars Celebration and at least be in the same room as my childhood crush, Luke Skywalker.

Met my name twinsie Pippa DaCosta and had my photo taken with Andrew Lee Potts at London ComicCon.

Got my 50th review for my debut novel Keir.
A Science Fiction Romance Novel
Goodreads | Webpage
Available from...
iBooks | Nook | Kobo
Amazon | ARe | Smashwords
Print available from...
CreateSpace | B&N | Amazon
The Book Depository
Got my eldest into cosplaying, and she won the BristolCon cosplay contest as Rey.

Came the closest I've ever come to completely quitting. As it is, this past year has proved I can't make this a paying career for myself so 2017 will be the year I go back to work as something else because I've seen my sales plummet and die. The stress of promoting and the constant need to do it (plus costs) have killed my love for the actual writing. I can't do it any more. Writing will have to go back to being a hobby that I might earn the odd few cents from, because I certainly haven't been able to make it pay a living wage.

Spent four months trying to get Kobo to pay me royalties due, resulting in me pulling my books from their site and putting them back through Draft2Digital who will ensure I get paid monthly. Not going through all that again!

Went to NorCon for the first time.
Turned 45, two years older than my mum made it to.
Saw my son get taller than me so the threat of 'I'm bigger than you so do as you told' became invalid.

I failed in most of my aspirations for 2016. Of the seven titles I planned to release, only the re-release of Gethyon went to plan. The SFR short story I submitted to an anthology didn't make it because the project was cancelled due to insufficient entries. However, having already gotten it edited I went ahead and published that myself.
A Space Opera Short Story
Goodreads | Webpage
Amazon | ARe | 
Smashwords
iBooks | Kobo | B&N
I wrote 60K new words, though mostly as part of edits, but 7K was my first ever Christmas scifi romance story (at last!). Editing was just under 300K words. Better than I thought considering I spent nearly four months unable to write and not giving a damn about it.

So I have mixed feelings going into 2017. I've achieved some great things this year, though mostly not in the publishing side. I feel like I'm putting being an author behind me as I move forward. I'm sad, but the stress has made it untenable for me. I will go back to writing for pleasure, and if I have the money, maybe I'll publish it. We shall see...

Monday, December 26, 2016

A Different Christmas Poem

Happy Day After! Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas or holiday, and are looking forward to the New Year with great hope and anticipation.

A friend sent me this poem and although you may have seen it before, I wanted to share it again as a reminder that not everyone is able to be home with family and friends for the holidays. It made me think of all those who are serving our country, whether a soldier in a foreign land or a law enforcement officer or first responder who is out in the winter weather protecting their community.

I'm forever grateful to these men and women who are forgoing their holidays so we can enjoy ours.

A Different Christmas Poem

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
transforming the yard to a winter delight.


The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve

My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love, I would sleep,
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.


The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know,

Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near


Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood his face weary and tight.
A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.


"What are you doing?" I asked without fear,
"Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
Put down your pack; brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"
For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts,

To the window that danced with a warm fire's light.
Then he sighed and he said "Its really all right,
I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night."

"It's my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.

No one had to ask or beg or implore,
I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before.
My Gramps died at Pearl on a day in December."
Then he sighed, "That's a Christmas Gram always remembers."

"My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ' Nam ',
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.

I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures; he's sure got her smile."
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue... an American flag.

"I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home

I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life for my sister or brother,
Who stand at the front against any and all
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall."


"So go back inside," he said, "Harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."
"But isn't there something I can do, at the least?
Give you money," I asked, "Or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
for being away from your wife and your son."

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
"Just tell us you love us, and never forget
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
that we mattered to you as you mattered to us."
 

The author was listed as anonymous, so I did a little research about the poem's origins, and this is what I found:
Copies of "A Different Christmas Poem" circulated on the internet are often attributed to Lt. Commander Jeff Giles SC, USN which he wrote while stationed in Al Taqqadum, Iraq, but which some sources also attribute to Michael Marks. There is possibly some confusion since "A Soldier's Christmas" is another poem which the International War Veterans' Poetry Archive (IWVPA) lists as a December 2000 effort authored by Michael Marks. It includes the following note from Marks about its origins:
"A Soldier's Christmas" was the first in this series of patriotic writings, drafted on Pearl Harbor Day 2000 when our nation saw the right of US Armed Forces personnel openly questioned and debated. I felt it unconscionable that at the onset of the Christmas season, those serving to defend our nation would hear anything but our love and support. It is our challenge to stand for their rights at home while they stand for our lives and safety overseas. This poem went out and quickly spread around the world in emails, letters, magazines. I received letters from Marines in Bosnia, soldiers in Okinawa, from a submariner who xeroxed a copy for everyone on his sub. Moms wrote, dads, brothers and sisters. I have saved and cherish every letter and set out to continue writing throughout the year.
~*~*~*~   Enjoy your Holidays!   ~*~*~*~
 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Rogue One: To See or Not to See by S.E. Smith

Today we are very pleased to welcome award-winning, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author S.E. Smith with our final installment of Spacefreighters Lounge Goes Rogue Week.

PLEASE NOTE: Some of Ms. Smith's review contains spoilers, so if you haven't yet seen the movie please stop at the "Spoiler alert" message below. Unless, of course, you want to know some of the details before viewing the movie. (But you've been warned. : ) )
_____________________________________________________

Well, if you are reading this you probably have seen the newest edition to the Star Wars collection. I remember the first time I saw Star Wars. I’m talking about the original three with Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and the rest of the amazing cast that brought a movie unlike anything we had seen before to the movie screens. I think I saw the first movie at least sixteen times in the theater and fell in love with it more each time I saw it.

I will admit the next set of movies didn’t wow me, but they were still a visual masterpiece. Each movie since the original three has been darker which in many ways is to be expected since the film makers gave you the ending before they gave you the beginning. In a way, watching the Star Wars movies is like reading the end of a book and knowing how it ends then going back and reading the first part of the story. Personally, I always do that with a book. I have to know if it is going to have a good ending so I know whether or not to invest my time in reading the rest of the story.

Rogue One isn’t much different. It is one of those movies you’ll either love, hate, or find it somewhere in between. I found it to be the in between. On a scale of 0-5 with 5 being the highest, I would give it a 2. Now, I know everyone has an opinion and I was asked to give mine, so be prepared to accept it is only one person’s opinion. If you have not seen the movie and plan to go, stop reading here as there will be spoilers.

Spoiler alert!! Do not proceed.

I’m approaching this as both a Star Wars fan and as a Scifi writer. I love my scifi movies, but I also know that I’m an HEA (happily ever after) or HFN (happy for now) type of gal. Maybe that is what appealed to me so much about the first three. You could still feel the hope. In the latest round of movies, you couldn’t. Now, understanding this, I will do my best to remain unemotional in my review of the movie.

The beginning: Let’s just say my head was spinning the first ten minutes because I was watching the scenes randomly jump from point A to point B to point C to point Z to point… Well, you get my meaning. It felt disconnected and out of place. I never had enough time to understand why each scene was connected before they bounced to the next one. When they finally got to the good-guy-who-played-bad-guy and he was talking to the other guy… Again, no real connection because the dialogue wasn’t very engaging and neither was the scene. It was meant to build suspense and tension, but came with a predictable this guy is about to die which basically continues throughout the movie.

The next scene was actually pretty good – until they blew it. No explanation as to how they found Galen Erso, but I could deal with that. What I couldn’t deal with is having his wife abandon their daughter so she could be TSTL (Too Stupid To Live). Yes, let’s walk up on a bunch of bad guys and wave a blaster around, say they can’t take the man you love after he tells them you are dead, just so you can get killed? Really? No suspense there – or common sense! What parent would abandon a child to hide by herself in a desolate place after they had made careful plans if such an event were to occur so she could get herself killed or captured instead? Come on, writers! Think!

I could go through the movie and point out gaps, or should I say holes, a mile wide in the script, but I’ll keep it to a few that really pulled me out of the movie.

• Jyn Erso trying to be tough and uncaring; then suddenly the only one wanting to fight.

• Darth Vader walking like he is on a Catwalk. I was afraid he was going to dislocate a hip with the way he was swaying them.

• Saw Gerrera’s character rescuing Jyn only to abandon her and go off on his own cause – which is very unsuccessful.

• The rebellion suddenly too afraid to fight or work out a way to get the information.

• The suddenly complete Death Star working when I could have sworn it was only partially built and tested for the first time on Alderaan.

• The Death Star suddenly appearing in the last scene. Hard to believe something that large can move through space that fast and none of the rebel fighters knowing.

• The robot was funny, cute, but way too human. It was a case of a great character taken just a little too far.

• The jerky motion of the ships suddenly appearing like they were Photoshopped.

• The ending – had me shaking my head. Really? You steal a supply ship, are able to sneak into the enemy base, get uniforms and into the building, then set off explosives to let everyone know you are there? Hello! NO! You don’t set off explosives to announce you are there! You continue with your mission as quietly as possible and get the hell out before they know what is going on! You don’t have the rebel forces show up so they close the shields. You have them waiting for you when you sneak out right under the bad guy’s nose.

• Then, to wow the audience, make sure you kill off all the good guys in a dramatic display so that they really rush for the exit when the movie is over.

Yes, that is what happened. I’ve never been in a nearly full movie theater where there was a mad rush for the exit when it was over. The movie didn’t leave you excited or hopeful. It left me, my hubby, and many others depressed and unsatisfied. As one movie goer said, it was a filler movie.

Would I recommend you go see it? That is entirely up to you. Many people enjoyed the movie. It was visually nice, the acting was pretty good, the plot so-so, and if you are a diehard Star Wars fan, then yes. Would I go see it again? No. Will I buy the movie? No. Will I see another Star Wars movie? Only if it is the original first three movies being re-released. I hate to say this, but I’m probably done with Star Wars (sniff-sniff).

About the Author

S.E. Smith is a New York Times, USA TODAY, International, and Award-Winning Bestselling author of science fiction, romance, fantasy, paranormal, and contemporary works for adults, young adults, and children. She enjoys writing a wide variety of genres that pull her readers into worlds that take them away. Readers can follow her at http://sesmithfl.com or her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/se.smith.5

Thursday, December 22, 2016

I actually went to the cinema

Yes, folks, I went to the cinema to see Rogue One. I have avoided going to a cinema for years because I hate crowds, yahoos, and popcorn. But I was persuaded it would not be crowded, so I inveigled my wonderful husband to come with me. As an aside, I suppose these days the block buster movies make their money from sales of toys and what have you, and of course the DVDs, so the movie theaters are not quite as popular. There were about a dozen people in the theater - although it was the 11:30am 3D showing, specifically picked to avoid crowds. I was very disappointed in the 3D effects - but I expect they will be better when I watch them at home with glasses paired with a TV. If you're thinking of spending the extra for 3D tickets, my advice is don't bother.

Well - on to the movie. First I'll tell you that I have read Catalyst, James Luceno's Rogue One prequel novel. I'll post the review for that next week. It did give me, I think, a bit of background knowledge about Galen Erso and his daughter, Jyn, and Director Krennic, and that provided me with extra depth for those characters, and for the Death Star project itself.

The story starts off with Jyn as a child, being separated from her parents, then moves on to her as a young adult. As a result the action is a bit fragmented to begin with, jumping from place to place, and time. That didn't bother me so much (maybe because I'd read Catalyst) but my husband found it a bit difficult. After that, though, we settled into an action-packed war movie. Because that's what it is. A gritty, brutal, in your face war movie. It pulls no punches.

The most compelling aspect of the story - what I took away - was that a rebellion is made of many different people with very different causes. It's never homogeneous, and it isn't necessarily nice. There's courage and sacrifice and varying degrees of commitment. Similarly, Imperial agents have their own agendas. The animosity between Director Krennic (he of the white cloak) and Grand Moff Tarkin was well done, and I was delighted to see everybody's favorite villain, Darth Vader, make his appearance as more than just a token. Unlike Pippa, I liked that there were no Jedi in this film (Darth, of course, is Sith, not Jedi). These were ordinary people with their own reasons for fighting against the Empire. It made the rebellion much more... understandable. Certainly watching the Death Star do its stuff gave so much more depth and gravitas for Star Wars: A New Hope.

This... this... is what Rogue One is all about.

It is a period of civil war.
Rebel spaceships, striking
from a hidden base, have won
their first victory against
the evil Galactic Empire.

During the battle, Rebel
spies managed to steal secret
plans to the Empire's
ultimate weapon, the DEATH
STAR, an armored space
station with enough power
to destroy an entire planet.

Pursued by the Empire's
sinister agents, Princess
Leia races home aboard her
starship, custodian of the
stolen plans that can save her
people and restore
freedom to the galaxy....

The special effects are, as you'd expect, fantastic, and the movement from this film into A New Hope is pretty much seamless. You might even recognise some of the fighter pilots who fight in both battles.

The movie has a number of side references to some of the other movies which someone like me would notice and someone like my husband would not. Most of them could have hit the cutting room floor without making much difference. In fact, I'd be rather inclined to believe the director was asked to add them to make the movie more part of the Star Wars family. The musical score was mostly new - but with overtones of the old which worked very well for me.

Do I think it was better than The Empire Strikes Back? No. But back then I was younger and more easily impressed. Back then Taun Tauns were done with stop-motion photography, the Imperial Fleet was a bunch of models on strings,  and Yoda was a puppet - but I didn't notice. And I recall being so sucked into the story that I didn't notice the bit about being able to travel between systems without a working hyperdrive until somebody else pointed it out to me. I saw the movie 4 times in the first week of its release, and I've lost count of how many times since then, in picture theaters , on video tape, and on CD and DVD. In contrast, although I enjoyed Rogue One, I wasn't totally engaged. Maybe that just means I'm older and more cynical.

I'll certainly watch Rogue One again. It is much better than the prequels (SW1-3) and light years ahead of The Force Awakens, which I felt was a wonderful opportunity wasted.On the list of Star Wars movies so far, I'd put it at #2, after Empire.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Pippa Jay Goes Rogue! #RogueOne No-Spoilers #Review

"...Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon..."
And so begins Rogue One, from that one line in the opening intro to A New Hope...

After all the hype, the waiting, the anticipation, I finally got to see Rogue One on release day. And what did I think of it?
First up, I was more excited for Rogue One than The Force Awakens. Why? Well, I was more nervous about TFA. After all, it was Disney's first attempt after the frankly depressing prequels by George. We had no idea what it would be like, and I was personally fretting over Luke. In the end it proved to be unfounded fears. It might have played to nostalgia but they took some risks with diversity and kept the Star Wars mythos intact.
Secondly, having been to the Rogue One panel at Star Wars Celebration Europe, I had an advantage. Several. I'd heard Gareth Edwards' huge enthusiasm and love for Star Wars and how thrilled he was about actually directing one. It got the seal of approval from George Lucas (although, I'm not sure that made me feel better but was clearly a huge relief to Gareth). I'd met the cast for real, seen the props and costumes close up, and seen an exclusive sizzle. The trailers showed carefully reconstructed sets and scenes from the original films. The attention to detail was spot on.
In some ways that made it worse because I went in with very high expectations. Disney had proved they could make a good Star Wars film. Now they had to impress me by topping that...

The Opening...
As per The Force Awakens, no pretty Disney castle and fireworks for the opening. The classic tagline pops up and then...
No story scroll. Rogue One breaks the mould by NOT having the traditional scrolling intro because Rogue One IS the scrolling intro. THIS is the film that leads into A New Hope so it doesn't need it. Kind of a shock but a logical choice I think.

The music...
Except for a very small snippet late in the film (for a very specific reason) and the end credits, there is NO music from the original films at all. Despite being a prequel to A New Hope, this has its own identity and its own music to match, and doesn't rely on using the music to stir up any nostalgia. This is not The Force Awakens trying to worm into the affections of hardcore SW fans. RO aims to be itself, take it or leave it. Some of it was good. Some of it...not so much. I can't say it really stirred my emotions in the way the originals did, or TFA, but it was unique to the film.

Come to the Dark Side, we have Rogue One...
Okay, so no one thought this was going to be a fluffy bunny of a Star Wars movie, right? Right?! I personally expected it to be darker, even hoped that it would be. Someone posted an article about Disney trying to keep their brand of fluffiness over the Star Wars brand and that whole, horrible 'war' thing *imagines Disney top brass shuddering*. Rogue One does not try to soften the concept. Take lots of tissues because the original Star Wars film was named A New Hope with damn good reason. Rogue One doesn't hold back, and IMO should have been rated more than the 12A it was given here--the same rating as The Force Awakens. I thought TFA more graphic in its violence than the previous films, and RO has gone further. Unlike TFA, I'm unlikely to make a further visit to the cinema to watch it again. Not because it's a bad film but because it left me feeling raw.

I have a bad feeling about this...
Yes, the same classic key phrases scattered through all the films make an appearance in this one too. It's like a quiz for geeks - how many can you spot?

Welcome to the Star Wars Rogues Gallery...
You may know that Darth Vader, Princess Leia and Mon Mothma make appearances, but again it's like a geek's spotter guide, almost to the point that made me groan a little because a couple seemed so contrived and forced that I rolled my eyes. One in particularly was a rather creepy addition, for reasons that will become apparent when you see it. But it does help contribute to that continuity line, linking it ever more tightly to A New Hope. The same with the settings - Yavin 4 is beautifully recreated, as are the Death Star graphics, the ships etc. It also blends perfectly into the opening of A New Hope...
As for the settings - a whole bunch of lush, wonderful new worlds, and also those suffering more deeply under the Empire's reign. There was a definite Bladerunner/Stargate slum/Hunger Games feel. If you thought Mos Eisley was a hive of scum and villainy, it was kindergarten compared to these new worlds...

The characters...
Cassian - oh, boy. We find out pretty quick that this guy will do whatever is necessary for the cause, however unpleasant. This put me off him at first and also hits home that this is a serious, gritty film that's not going to skirt around how unpleasant war actually is, and that when it comes down to it, the 'good' guys can be just as ruthless as the bad guys, and sides become blurred.
Jyn - she's an interesting contrast to Rey in that both have had a similar start in life: essentially orphaned and left to fend for themselves. They've taken slightly different paths, but again we learn what Jyn's really like in her first fight on Jedah. Although we do see a major shift, all her motivation fits with what we learn about her, although space.com disagrees (it's about the only point I don't agree with that review on, other than I won't be putting Rogue One at #1 either).
Chirrut - his constant chanting was a bit annoying, but a disabled character makes a refreshing change.
Baze - I kept confusing him with Saw Gerrara... >.<
Bodhi - we really didn't get to know him. I feel that's kind of sad, because he played such an important role...
K2SO - I keep trying to add a 4 to this (chemists will get it) and my 12yo's favourite character. His deadpan sarcasm provides what little humour there is in the film - a perfect match.
Director Krennic - quietly chilling and ruthless in such a soft, elegant way that it's far more scary than standard villains. This is a man who really knows how to use people and you don't even notice until there's blood on the floor and planets exploding. *shudders*
Saw Gerrera - I can't say much without giving spoilers but I really expected more...
Darth Vader - I get why he was in there but really didn't see the point beyond the end sequence. Felt like they'd crowbarred him in. But that end sequence? Wow. I think that was pretty much my favourite. Telling you the others will sadly be spoilers.

The main problem I had with all the characters was we never really seemed to get to know them, and we came out of the cinema with my two boys barely able to name anyone other than Jyn and K2SO. It wasn't that they didn't get any screen time or that we didn't learn their backgrounds. I can't quite pin down the issue...

Random thoughts...
The Imperial cargo carrier looks like a baby turtle. It was easy to spot the section filmed in a tube station in London that I know pretty well and just a few stops down from the ExCel centre when it was home to the Star Wars Celebration Europe in July. This was youngest's favourite film for the sheer number and types of Stormtroopers (he's obsessed!) but neither me or my boys are putting this at number one (though 12yo puts it among his favourites). One thing I'm really going to complain about is a big deal was made of Jedah and the kyber crystal temple re Jedi, but we saw/learned bugger all about it in the film. Did it get cut? A change of plan? Jyn even wears one and yet it doesn't really play a significant part. I feel like something was missed (but maybe it's just my Jedi obsession. I did miss them in this film).

All in all, this was a great film that doesn't sugarcoat that whole 'war' thing in the series title and shows a darker side of the rebellion. There's plenty of action, quite grim and gritty, but I'm not sure it's worth the 3D except for the battles (I actually found the 3D rather irritating for the main part). This is a story of sacrifice and hope, of doing what needs doing no matter the cost, tying itself well and truly into the Star Wars universe and A New Hope, and a must see for anyone who likes Star Wars or even just gritty scifi/dystopia. Someone asked me if it was fun, and I would definitely say no unless to you fun=emotional, dark, stark, and action packed. Perhaps even shocking. I cannot say it was entertaining either and I won't be going again unlike TFA, but I will be buying the DVD. This is not a feel good movie. This is a blub fest requiring tissues and possibly chocolate AND icecream. I would also not recommend it for young children or those sensitive - my 8yo was okay but if he hadn't already seen TFA I might have left him at home for RO.
 I'll give it four and a half Death Stars out of five because it's good but upset me, and it's not going to knock The Empire Strikes Back and The Force Awakens off my top Star Wars films list. It does, however, get bonus point for gritty realism and not pussyfooting around the ghastliness of war, as well as sticking to the inevitable outcome however unpopular that might be.

Status Report
I've been reading! Reviews will follow in the New Year (if I enjoyed the book). I've also been working on revisions for Keir's Shadow: Book Three of Redemption though there's a long way to go.

Chook Update
Unfortunately I have sad news this week. With very little warning so at least very little suffering, my poor one-eyed grey girl Chiana died on Saturday night. She was the second oldest of the group after Scoop and along with Kyru. Chickens are not kind to members of the flock who show weakness so the past few months after losing her eye have been a bit hard on her, dropping her down the pecking order though she held her own. Hopefully it isn't down to bird flu (there's currently an epidemic here). While I call all the chooks my girls, Chiana was specifically mine though I still have Fizzgig. 2016 has not been the best year.



Finally...
I'm going offline from Wednesday to spend the Christmas school holidays with my monsters although I will have posts going live here on the 27th of December looking back at 2016, and the 3rd of January looking ahead to 2017. I wish you a very Merry Christmas if you celebrate it, or Happy Holidays if you celebrate something else. May the Force be with us for 2017!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Did Rogue One Live Up to the Hype?

This week Spacefreighters Lounge Goes Rogue. We'll be discussing our thoughts on the latest Star Wars installment while keeping our comments as spoiler-free as possible for those who haven't yet seen the film. I'm kicking it off today with my take on Rogue One, to be followed by Pippa, Sharon and Greta. On Friday, we'll have bestselling Sci-Fi Romance author, S.E. Smith, so be sure to stop back throughout the week.
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Wow. Where do I even begin?

I saw the non-3D RPX version on Friday night. I've been trying to sort out my feelings ever since.

Rogue One was the deepest...darkest...most conflicted Star Wars installment to date. Did it live up to the hype? To quote an old Jedi master: "Difficult to say." It certainly did in many surprising ways, yet it was a very different movie from what I was expecting. Let me try to flesh that out a little without giving away too much about the actual story.

The original Star Wars movie (which later became Episode 3: A New Hope) hinted that obtaining the plans to the Death Star had been a great struggle. This film is the embodiment of that struggle. After seeing it, you'll understand at a soul-deep level what the risks and the stakes were, and it could get very personal for you.





This mission will no longer be just a footnote in the overarching Star Wars saga. It will be real, it will be raw, and it will pack a punch.

Oh, the anticipation! I'd been looking forward seeing this movie with much glee since viewing the very first trailer, almost a year ago. I've watched each subsequent trailer and read all the non-spoiler reviews I could find. Each time I got more visuals on the film, I thought, "Oh, yes. Rogue One is going to be just awesome." I wasn't prepared for what this story really was going to be. And I'm still in shock almost 20 hours after the film ended.

So, yes. Brace yourself.



In fact, maybe it would be best just to tell you what NOT to expect:

-- Don't expect any of the zany, cutesie characters some of the other installments are known for, and although there are many moments of well-timed and often surprising humor and levity--let there be no mistake. It's dark. Is it for kids? That depends on the kid. It may not be suitable for sensitive children under the age of 8-10. Heck, to be honest, it may not be suitable for sensitive viewers of any age.

-- On the timeline, this story takes place just before the start of Luke Skywalker's adventure, so there will be no Rey, Finn, Kylo Ren or Poe Dameron. They won't be born for a decade or two.

-- But that's not to say there will be no returning characters. Prepare to applaud and cheer. Prepare not to.

-- Likewise, there's no Millennium Falcon in this one (or at least, I didn't catch a glimpse of the ship even in the distant background).

-- The story centers on a heroine who's not a queen, a princess, a senator, a Skywalker or a Jedi-to-be. She's a...well...she's a thug. With good reason, but yes. Thug. They broke the mold with Jyn.



-- Don't expect a hero like any in the Star Wars franchise to date. While he may shoot first--or last--Captain Cassian Andor is from a very different universe far, far away than the heroes you've known.

-- There is no black and white. Yin and yang. Light and dark side. There is only do. Or do not.

A few random thoughts on viewing Rogue One:

I found the opening to be a little jarring after the familiar "Long ago in a galaxy far, far away..." statement, but then...bam! The composer definitely wanted the audience to know this is no typical Star Wars tale. The music was in-your-face and a little dissonant. Fitting, that.

One of my favorite characters overall wasn't human. The droid K-2SO is no little comedic sidekick, he's a big, bad, no-nonsense, lethal and decisive hunk of statistic-spouting tech with a healthy slate of one-liners. Voiced by the amazing Alan Tudyk, probably best known as the wisecracking pilot from the Firefly franchise, who lent not only his excellent articulation but true heart to the performance.

Most of the other supporting characters were compelling and relatable, with one notable exception--a sort of "mad monk" type. To be fair, that may be my issue more than the film's shortcoming. Possibly the importance of this character to the plot or emotional development of the story just evaded me. But like I said, I'm still mulling.

This film probably had the most diverse settings--and weather--of any of the films yet. Many different planets, some Mars-like, some tropical, some stormy, some with eye-opening imagery and others with heart-pounding spectacles. Star Wars has always set the bar on space imagery, and this film is no exception.

A couple of the scenes carried an eerie familiarity, almost like I'd been there before, you know? And I couldn't help it. In one of the X-wing battle scenes, I kept expecting to hear a young pilot report: "Red Five, standing by." Heh.




So did Rogue One live up to the hype? Was the Force strong in this one? I don't honestly know how to answer that except to say...

Go see it. Then you decide.



Friday, December 16, 2016

HOLLY JOLLY FACEBOOK PAGE HOP!




Tired of the same, old blather from me every week? Well, how about a chance to meet some new authors and enter to win fantastic prizes at every stop along the way in The Holly Jolly Facebook Page Hop?

This holiday-themed Hop invites readers to hop from page to page, entering to win an awesome prize at each stop from fantastic authors and bloggers, many of them my fellow writers at Inklings Literary Agency. We have over 60 stops scheduled with more than $1000 in prizes, including at least two Kindle eReaders, gift cards galore, jewelry, signed books, and spectacular swag! Fun scavenger hunts with extra prizes (gift cards, Harry Potter Illustrated, etc.) in the Fiction Books Group on Facebook will drive readers to visit all stops on the hop. The GRAND PRIZE Kindle Paperwhite Rafflecopter, hosted on C. M. McCoy’s The Eerie Blog rewards readers for visiting all stops on the hop as well.

You can start your trip around the Hop at any place on the loop (you’ll be directed to the next stop on each page), but why not start with my Donna S. Frelick Author Page? I’m offering a signed copy of my new release, the best-selling SFR anthology Baby It’s Cold in Space. The next stop on the tour is my Interstellar Rescue Page, with an offer of a signed copy of Fools Rush In AND a Rescue tee-shirt! 

Join in and have some fun for the holidays! And thank you, readers, for all your support throughout the year!

Next week all of our posts will be devoted to STAR WARS: ROGUE ONE, including this one. I won’t return until January 6. So I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and a happy and prosperous New Year!


Cheers, Donna


About Spacefreighters Lounge

Hosted by 5 Science Fiction Romance authors with 8 RWA Golden Heart finals and a RITA final between them. We aim to entertain with spirited commentary on the past, present, and future of SFR, hot topics, and our take on Science Fiction and SFR books, television, movies and culture.