Thursday, December 31, 2015

Cycles - and for a short time only...

It hasn't been a great year for me from a writing point of view. I guess that happens. Life is made up of cycles, isn't it? The cycle of the seasons from spring to winter. The cycle of life from birth to death. The cycle of climate from drought to flood, from global warming to the depths of an ice age. Today is the last day of another year - yet another cycle as the Earth starts a new journey around the sun.

I suppose I'd have to say 2015 was a year of drought. But droughts always give way to the rain, so perhaps 2016 will lead to a flood of new work. I have three WIPs , one for each of my universes. You never know!

To celebrate the New Year, for a short time only I've put out an omnibus of my Ptorix Empire novels - all four full stories in one volume. It won't be available for long - and I really mean that. And it will only be out on Amazon. The cover was done by the incomparable Rebecca Poole of Dreams2Media. Nice, isn't it?

All four Ptorix Empire stories in one massive volume.

The Iron Admiral: Conspiracy
Thrust together in a race against time, ex-Admiral Chaka Saahren and Systems Engineer Allysha Marten, must resolve their differences to solve the political crisis which has brought the Galaxy to the brink of inter-species war.

The Iron Admiral: Deception
Despite Grand Admiral Saahren's best attempts to keep the woman he loves safe, Allysha is a pawn in a growing power struggle, one where she will need all her skills and cunning to outwit a heinous plot that could result in the loss of billions of human lives.

Somebody's trading with the alien Ptorix – and offering them a large enough prize to induce them to part with their beloved starhearts, the jewels they call the windows of the soul. Slightly shady freighter captain Jess Sondijk and Confederacy Admiral Ulric Hudson both have very different stakes in a deadly game.

Crisis at Validor
When the queen is assassinated in a terrorist attack, the lady Tarlyn’s life is thrown into turmoil when she, too, becomes a target. The last person she expects to rescue her is her childhood sweetheart, Brett Butcher. Everyone has stakes in this conflict – the Ptorix, the Confederacy and the different factions of the ruling class.

Pick it up at Amazon while you can.

Here's to everybody. Have a safe and fun New Year's eve celebration. I hope you'll join all of us here at Spacefreighters in 2016.

Monday, December 28, 2015

We Survived Winter Storm Goliath!

Although Spacefreighters will be dark this week while the crew celebrates the holidays, I thought I'd pop on to post photos from the last few days as Winter Storm Goliath wrecked havoc on eastern and southern New Mexico.

In 25 years on the rancho, we've only weathered (excuse the pun) one winter storm more severe than this one. We didn't have a White Christmas, but Mother Nature made up for it in a very big way.

Saturday, December 26, Early PM
Trying to get home from Albuquerque. 
Dry roads at 10AM, MAJOR BLIZZARD by 1PM.

Phew! We made it back to Edgewood. Ten more miles to go!

Post Office parking lot, Edgewood NM.

Interstate 40 underpass in Edgewood.

White-out conditions. Five more miles to go!

Whew! We made it home. *big sigh of relief*

Sunday Morning, December 27th

It snowed off and on for most of the night. 
We now have 18-20" of fresh powder.
And it's still snowing!

Gray skies, flurries and snowdrifts.

Our patio table under mounds of snow. 
(Sorry, had to shoot this through a screen.)

Sunday evening, December 27th

It finally stopped snowing...24-26 inches later!

There's a patio under there somewhere. The various lumps and domes 
are pots and planters, a chiminea (outdoor stove) and big cooler.

Just starting to dig out. This is going to be a big job!

The barns and part of the compound. Acres of undisturbed snow.

Poor Monstro, looking pretty forelorn. "Let me out! I'm 4WD!"

Monstro and a half-buried Impala police unit.

The front gate and first pass at clearing a very long, very snowy driveway.

Wishing all the best to those in states to the east of us 
as this monster continues its trek across the US. 
Stay warm, dry and safe!

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year 
and a great start to 2016!
See you next year. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Christmas Week Movie Review: PERFECT SENSE

During the week of Christmas, I always find myself in a brain fog by the end of the day. Combination of too much sugar and trying to keep up with too many to-do lists. This year, in addition, we're in the process of closing on a house ... and I have a book deadline looming and a big work project just wrapping up. No pressure! 

So by evening I'm ready to give my brain a couple hours off. Last night I started out with Doctor Who episodes, but found I wasn't in the mood for quirky sci-fi mayhem and needed something quieter. Browsing through romances on Netflix, I stumbled on PERFECT SENSE, a sci-fi romance from 2011 that I had somehow missed. 

I'm going to try to avoid spoilers, but will say one thing to properly set up romance-reader expectations. [Now's a good time to SKIP TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH if you don't want to know!] This film DOES follow the classic romantic story arc, but by the end, the external circumstances are quite grim. The film leaves you free to envision the couple's future as you like, but it would take a pretty positive person to imagine everything turns out rosy. 

This film stars Eva Green, who plays an epidemiologist (Susan), and Ewan McGregor, who plays the chef (Michael) who works next door to her flat. Like any good romance, the film opens with glimpses into our hero and heroine's baggage. Michael has classic intimacy issues. Susan is just coming out of a depression triggered by the end of a relationship. One of my nits about the film is this setup. Susan, presented as a bright, competent, self-sufficient doctor, is looking for the right man. The handsome and talented Michael is looking for sex with no attachments. These two end up being rather complicated individuals, and this classic setup felt a little tired. What saves it is the fact their roles reverse later. 

Once we have a snapshot of the couple, the sci-fi worldbuilding commences. A colleague wants to consult Susan about a strange case — a man was brought to the hospital by his wife after suffering a sudden, acute, and uncharacteristic bout of sadness. The episode was brief, but at the end of it he found he had lost his sense of smell. The colleague tells Susan there are cases of this popping up all over the country. 

This is the framework for the sci-fi half of the tale. A brief, acute psychological episode, followed by loss of another sense. No one is spared, but everyone is on a different timetable based on when they were exposed. I say "exposed," but the story's doctors can't find any evidence it's actually a virus. My only other real nit about the film is that the doctors in this story remain pretty much helpless throughout. There are theories, but we never truly see them hard at work making discoveries, trying to get to the bottom of it. 

With that said, these circumstances create a rich and fascinating backdrop for the development of a romance. Michael meets Susan when, going out for a smoke on the street below her flat, he calls up to her window to bum a cigarette. He's cheeky and charming, but she's having none of it — at first. It's when she does finally agree to go out with him that her own symptoms begin to manifest. She bursts into tears at the restaurant, and Michael very gallantly takes her under his wing and gets her home. They end up in bed together, but fully clothed. It's all about comforting her, until the moment he too succumbs to acute grief, and she comforts him. In the morning they wake up to coffee they can't smell, and an uncertain sort of bond. What do they mean to each other after this? Do they have any future? Do they want one? 

I found watching the development of this romance under such odd circumstances fascinating. NPR's review of this film said, "Perfect Sense shines best outside of the bedroom, in sequences that show the human race adjusting to tragedy after tragedy." I agree that the film's portrayal of humanity responding to a slowly unfolding disaster was very well done. (I especially enjoyed watching Michael's restaurant adapt to the fact people were losing senses that are critical to the enjoyment of food.) But frankly, I find this dismissal of the romance element to be very similar to sci-fi romance reviews that are clearly written by readers who disapprove of romantic story arcs.   

Because the romance between Michael and Susan is compelling, tender, and ... let me just say if you happen to be away from your significant other this holiday season as I have been the last few days, you may experience a profound sense of longing. And not just the physical kind. There is fantastic emotional and sexual chemistry between these two actors, intensified by the fact the story is constantly nudging you to cherish the people you love while you can. 

While I enjoyed the performance of both of these actors, I was particularly struck by McGregor as a romantic hero. I enjoy McGregor's films (especially the LONG WAY ROUND series about an epic motorbike trip), and though I do have an obsession with gingers, I never really thought of him as ... well, hot. He's charming in a sweet, kid-brother sort of way. (And in fact he was born the same year as my kid brother.) 

But in PERFECT SENSE, one glimpse of the heroine and he's transformed from a cold-hearted womanizer to charming rogue. There are numerous, lengthy love scenes. They never become particularly graphic — tasteful nudity and lots of tenderness and sensuality — but this is some of the hottest snogging I've ever seen. Besides that I'm an arms gal, and Michael's are gorgeous. 

In short, despite a couple of nits about the early character development and the story, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I'd meant to watch half an hour and go to bed, but stayed up until 12:30 AM to finish it. And I've been thinking about it ever since. 

PERFECT SENSE is available to stream on Netflix and Amazon. Here's a trailer. (If you decide to watch the film, note that the woman in bed with McGregor in his opening scene is NOT the heroine. This confused me for a bit, and the reviewer at the New York Times was apparently confused too and never figured it out. As you watch the film and piece together their backstory, it becomes obvious.)

Monday, December 21, 2015

There's Been an Awakening (Spoiler Free Thoughts on SW:TFA)

The pre-release litany of the myriad of fans went something like this, "Please don't suck. Please don't suck. Please don't suck!"

Rest assured. Star Wars: The Force Awakens didn't suck. It delivered on the pre-release hype with cheering audiences and box office smashing records we might not see again. For those who feared too much had been revealed by the trailers, trust me, you ain't seen nuthin' yet. They were very cleverly crafted so that they barely scratched the surface of the tale, which is a fast-paced, eye-popping adventure delivered in classic Star Wars style.

And all the details were meticulously done. The sets, the ships, the costuming!! Mwah! Absolute perfection.

But that's not to say the film didn't throw some huge curves that fans are going to find difficult to accept. You know what? Great sagas do that. Because in epic sagas, not everyone can have a HEA.

The newest film in the franchise provided the same winning blend of gaffaw-worthy humor and dark (make that soul-crushing) drama, with a delightful reintroduction of some old favorites (all of which drew a huge audience ovation at our viewing) and some dynamic new characters.

It also brought back a wonderful, nostalgic experience that harkened back to the glory days of A New Hope--a strength that totters precariously close to being a weakness, because the result is that the experience may be a little TOO close to the original. Everything that's old is new again, indeed!

And then there's the Black Moment. (OMG!)

I have to admit, upon walking out of the theater only a few minutes after the end of the film, I was still in major shell shock. I had no idea how to critique the movie. I wasn't even sure I wanted to see any more Star Wars movies. I didn't even know where to start in summarizing my feelings.

Fortunately, we sponsored a Star Wars chat event where I was able to work through my emotions with many others who'd viewed the film, giving me a chance to come to terms with my state of woe. (If you've seen the film, you can request an invitation to the chat via the Science Fiction Romance or SFR Brigade FB groups. The chat event will be open until New Years Eve.)

I think I understand now why the story took some of the turns it did, and the speculation on the whys and wherefores is fascinating stuff that only served to deepen the lore. I'm at peace now. And I will definitely be back to see the balance of the series. In fact, I now plan to view The Force Awakens at least one more time.

Since everyone is well acquainted with the old guard--Han, Leia, Luke, R2D2, C3PO, and the Millennium Falcon, all who return in TFA--let's take a closer look at the new characters.

Oh my, my! What a dynamite female role model for a new generation of new SW fans, as well as a breath of fresh air for old devotees. She isn't happy to step back and let the men handle the conflicts, she's a tough, competent, and oh so likable.  Not that Leia and Padme didn't do their fair share of fighting, but Rey is no pampered princess or queen. She's a hard-scrabble survivor left to fend for herself under circumstances that were only hinted at in this first installment of this new trilogy. And she's a natural. In the same way that The Natural was a natural at baseball. That's part of the mystery. Enough said. No spoilers. (I hope Pippa will chime in more later on the awesomeness that is Rey.)

A disaffected Stormtrooper turncoat who doesn't even know his own birth name, Finn is a bit of an anti-hero who is swept up in something much bigger and badder than he reckoned on. Merely by circumstance, Finn is forced to join a desperate struggle for survival alongside forgotten legends and impassioned new recruits. Except we all know that, in this universe, nothing happens by circumstance. Destiny will find you. It's obvious Finn has a connected backstory too, and it will come to light in the continuing story.

He's the Wedge Antilles of this new era, but with a bigger role and a stronger voice. Poe is a confident crack pilot with powerful instincts and unshakable, but not infallible, dedication. He's the face of The Resistance, which is the reincarnation of The Rebellion. Every generation has a story, and every generation needs its dose of swagger and bravado. Poe fills that gap. I hope to see a lot more of his character later.

The adorable, little beach ball drone sidekick, property of Poe who is acquired by Rey due to a twist. (I'm sorry, does that sound vaguely familiar to you?) BB8 is being hunted by the powers-that-be. (Ooops. Hmmm. Where have we seen that before?) Although I thought BB8 is great, he's no R2D2. R2 has a certain dignity and bearing that the little rolypoly fellow just can't emote. What he is, is a very cute little addition to a pair of much-loved drones. What's that saying about three being a crowd?

Maz left me a little puzzled. Her role is...odd. And her contribution felt strangely truncated. I'm not sure how she is supposed to fit into this elaborate jigsaw, and I suspect her part might have been cut down from the original script. Some of her wondrous lines in the trailers were never uttered in the film. This left me with a lot of questions. Why is she there and what made her such a trusted archivist? Maybe her place in this universe will be more fully fleshed out in future films.

So that's it. That's all you get. I would rate this film somewhere between four and five stars--a brilliant, shining, if somewhat flawed, jewel in the crown of the mighty, mighty Star Wars epic.

Go see it, you must!

Have a great week, a very Merry Christmas and/or a wonderful holiday!

Friday, December 18, 2015


Surprise! I’m NOT going to talk about STAR WARS today! I’ll leave that to True Fan Laurie on Monday, when I’m sure she will be eager to share her impressions of the new film.

Instead I have a few mini-reviews of some excellent film fare that is other-than-STAR WARS. Perhaps as a side benefit of SW mania, The Syfy Channel is on fire right now with a galaxy full of hot new suns being born every few months or so.

I mentioned the three-night mini-series CHILDHOOD’S END last week. Arthur C. Clarke’s apocalyptic tale fared well under the direction of Nick Hurran and screenwriter Matthew Graham. At least they did the story justice, despite a few minor tweaks, and stuck with the main premise of the book, as I remember it. In other words **SPOILER ALERT** no happy ending for humanity as we know it.The Big Reveal was great, with the aliens' horns, hoofs and tail in splendid display against a gape-mouthed human audience.  Despite a failure to do much with an important secondary character (a religious woman who struggles with the aliens’ presence) and a major slowdown in the second episode, I’d count this as a success.

But, oh, boy, the show that followed it? Wow! THE EXPANSE is gritty near-future SF noir at its best. Earth is unified and prosperous under UN control. Mars is colonized and powerful under military rule. Earth and Mars are on the brink of war. “Belters,” unorganized and scrambling for every credit, mine the asteroid belt for ice and minerals. They’re caught in the middle. Water and air are resources worth killing for and conflict is inevitable. Add a rich, rebellious Earth girl who disappears under strange circumstances, a down-on-his-luck Belter detective hired to find her, what’s left of a Belter ice crew snatched up by a Martian cruiser and OOOH, YUMMY! Even if the effects, acting and writing weren’t so good, I’d be in. But they are! If you missed the show’s premiere, you can binge-watch the first four episodes on Syfy OnDemand.

My final mini-review is not about science fiction at all. It’s not about romance either. But it is about the writing process, in a way. And also Chris Hemsworth.

In 1820, the whaling ship Essex out of Nantucket, Rhode Island, was stove by a whale in the literal middle of the Pacific Ocean and sank, leaving its captain, first mate and several crewmen stranded in three small boats. The phrase “stove by a whale” means not much to us in this day and age. No whale has yet tried to attack any of the little boats that cruise along observing them off the Pacific coast or in Hawaii. But this whale, said to be from 85 to 100 feet long, made a run at a wooden ship of roughly the same length and knocked a hole in the hull, then came around, got up to speed and did it again, smashing the timbers to pieces. The ship’s crew had just enough time to salvage a few essentials—sails, water casks, hard tack—before the Essex went under.

At the time of the attack, the whalers of the Essex were hunting in a pod of whales—females and their calves, males circling the outside. Was this the alpha male protecting the pod? (Not that whales are known to have alphas.) Or, as these God-fearing men thought, was it the wrath of God himself, vengeance for some wrong they had done?

IN THE HEART OF THE SEA, in theaters now, directed by Ron Howard and starring Chris Hemsworth as a heroic—and thoughtful—first mate Owen Chase, tells the story of the Essex, with a little dramatic embellishment. But not as much as the original dramatic license taken by one Herman Melville, who adapted the tale in 1851 for his novel Moby Dick, or the White Whale. What makes Melville’s adaptation an epic literary masterpiece, rather than a fascinating story of survival against nature, is how he translated the experience of these particular men into something universal about humanity.

I’ve read part of the book that IN THE HEART OF THE SEA is based on (I’d like to finish it, too!) and it’s intriguing as history. But Melville’s novel is transcendent. The beginning—“Call me Ishmael.” The ending—“Only I am left to tell the tale.” The characters—Ahab (who will forever look like Gregory Peck to me), Starbuck, Queequeg, Pip. The description of the whale—white as the snow, with a notch in his tail and a wrinkle over his brow, crisscrossed with scars and the remnants of harpoons where he’d been struck before by lost whalers, and he corkscrewed as he breached. (All of this is noted in the new film, too, by the way—a nice touch.) And the theme, drummed into generations of high schoolers—man vs. God and the results of that defiance. 

Ron Howard’s device in his film is to have Melville pull the story of the Essex out of the youngest survivor of the disaster, now grown old in Nantucket. He’s heard the story and become obsessed with writing it. But by the end of the old man’s tale, Melville has seen the elements that will make his novel what Nathaniel Hawthorne later called “the American epic.” The irony is that the book sold poorly in Melville’s lifetime, a critical success, but a commercial failure. The white whale sank him, too.

So, enjoy your weekend at the movies, STAR WARS fans! If you can’t get into the show, you can always go next door and see IN THE HEART OF THE SEA or stay home and binge-watch THE EXPANSE. 

The next two Fridays bring us Christmas and New Year’s Day, so I won’t be posting again until January 8, 2016. Enjoy the holidays, everyone!

Cheers, Donna

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Looking Back 2015 #amwriting

At this time of year rather than making New Year resolutions, I tend to look back over my achievements of the past year, then do a post of aspirations and plans for the next. This year I'm doing my look back a bit early as I plan to be off the internet for the whole of the school holidays (19th Dec-4th January).

At the start of this year, my plans were: to spend January reading and researching marketing, updating social media, editing Keir, and taking a step back from the work I did for the SFR Brigade. That last is the hardest. I love the Brigade and enjoyed being so active in it, but I'd started to feel perhaps I was devoting a bit too much time to it at the expense of my writing...and what little sanity I had left. Over the last few months I'd experienced the same sort of burn out I normally only get with NaNoWriMo, although some of that is blog post and book tour burn out too.

I also planned to try clearing the rather frightening backlist of reading on my Kindle (340+ books). February and March I had print books of former eBooks releasing (Restless In Peaceville and Tethered), and Zombie Girl (a post apocalyptic short) was due for release in April. Spacefreighters was looking forward to Laurie's debut release in January and the reveal of Keir's shiny new cover on my third anniversary here at the Lounge, plus a triple shot of Spacefreighter releases in February including Donna's debut, the start of Laurie's SFR series, and the release of Sharon's Echo 8. Keir was due for re-release on what would have been his third book anniversary - 7th May, 2015.

With new releases, print releases, and a re-release due, I wasn't expecting much time to write (though I had planned to do all three NaNoWriMos). The two Camp versions (April and July) would be for part two and three of Zombie Girl, with part one due out in April. I thought I'd be touring the first half of the year. Oh, how that changed!

So, what actually happened this year? Well, this year mostly turned out to be the year of re-releases, overdue sequels, and a focus on real life over publishing life. It saw my decision to finally go totally self published after the third of my four publishers in two years closed, saw very few new words, but a few new shiny things. But for detail:

When Dark Falls was a Top Ten Finisher in Steampunk at the Preditors and Editors Readers' Favorite poll. It also came 3rd in the RWA JABBIC cover contest in the SF/F/PNR category.

Restless In Peaceville, my weird little zombie novella, got an Honourable Mention for Best YA/NA in the LRC awards.
My main publishers (Breathless Press and Lycaon Press) closed on the 1st of May. I'd officially been with them just 14 months and released three novellas and two short stories with them (the most work I'd ever had with a single publisher). I've now re-released four of those works myself.
In May, I re-released my debut novel Keir, along with my four former BP/LP titles, meaning I put five works out in the space of a month (slightly more than one a week). Never again! Keir went on to outsell what it had done while with my publisher, and is still my best seller, though it's no longer hitting the top 100 bestselling Time Travel titles at Amazon as it did several times during May and June.
I spent the majority of the summer holidays (seven weeks) OFFLINE! I managed to read over 20 titles languishing on my Kindle, and wrote reviews for them and several other books that I'd read but not reviewed previously. I also closed my blog and gave it an overhaul, including consolidating my 'branding' with new banners for my social media.
I turned 44, a year older than my mum who passed away age 43. The same week my eldest officially became a teenager.
I took the big decision to step down from captaincy of the SFR Brigade after failing to scale down the time I spent doing stuff there. It was heartbreaking, but personal events later in the year proved to me it had been the right thing to do in the circumstances.
My novella length SciFi romance (working title Revived and my second story in the shared Venus Ascendant universe) became a finalist in the LERA 2015 Rebecca contest, finishing in second place. My third time of entering and my first final.

I had two of my covers place as finalists in the EPIC 2016 Ariana eBook Cover contest (Keir by Danielle Fine in Fantasy/Paranormal, and When Dark Falls by Victoria Miller in the Scifi/Futuristic category).

I edited words and wrote new words, though the majority of that was in the form of new short stories and new material during edits. That totaled 60K, but my edits hit 246K (not including the fact most required three rounds minimum, making that 738000 words of editing).
I released just one new novel this year (late!), while re-releasing one novel (Keir), three novellas (When Dark Falls, Tethered, and Restless in Peaceville), and one short (No Angel). I'm waiting to hear if one of my new shorts has been accepted into an anthology. Keir also released in print in June, with When Dark Falls releasing in print in September.
I finally - FINALLY - released Keir's Fall, the overdue sequel to Keir, on the 7th December - one month later than planned. But it's done, it's out, and after I clear a few shorter projects I'll be moving onto book three of the series (psst, the opening to book three is featured in the back of book two).

A Science Fiction Romance Novel
Goodreads | Webpage
Available from...
Amazon | All Romance eBooks
Kobo | iTunes | B&N 
All in all it was a very different year than expected. Despite the seemingly huge disaster of losing yet another and my main publisher, I picked back up and moved on. Before the summer it all caught up with me, and as well as reading I spent the summer debating my publishing 'career' and what I'd do next. Personal issues dictated the writing might need to take a lesser role in my life. However, my plans to go back to a full time job that isn't writing (and that pays a living wage) have now temporarily gone on hold. I have twelve titles live, and I will carry on writing. Publishing may not necessarily follow, but there are things coming. Check out my next post on the 5th of January 2016 for news.


Today fellow Brit Tim Peake launches to visit the International Space Station. Woot! I'll be watching it live (and with fingers crossed that all goes well). Read more about it here -

I'm off to see The Force Awakens on the 17th!! Eeep! I'm excited as much as petrified bearing in mind various theories that have arisen over Luke's absence in the film poster. Is he Kylo Ren? Is he Ren's Sith master? I really hope not. There's an eight year old me who still has starry eyes over and a crush on Luke Skywalker, and her heart will be broken if he's gone to the Dark Side. We shall see... I'll be doing a spoiler free post at my own blog as part of my last post for the year.

Keir will only be 99 cents/Euros/pence for a few more days (until the end of December).

A Science Fiction Romance Novel
Goodreads | Available from...
Amazon | All Romance eBooks
Kobo | iTunes |
Print available from... 
Amazon | B&N | CreateSpace
The Book Depository

There's also a Goodreads giveaway for a print edition open until the 7th January (so that all the Christmas post is cleared before I try sending it out to the winner!).

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Keir by Pippa Jay


by Pippa Jay

Giveaway ends January 07, 2016.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway
This is Pippa Jay signing off. Merry Christmas, May the Force be with you, and have an excellent New Year. Be awesome to one another.

Monday, December 14, 2015

It's All About Star Wars!

The time is finally here! We're all holding our collective breaths until we hear the first notes of that familiar theme and see the new installment unveiled.

So...Star Wars. It's back. Will it be bigger and better than ever...or will it be a bust?

We're all praying for the first and fearing for the last, but...well, we'll just have to wait and see. Won't be long now. I do hope I'm jumping up and down and squeeing in about four days though, don't you? (Yes, for me it's four days instead of five, because I have advance tickets. Woohoo!)

So it's been nearly 40 years since this cinematic monster was unleashed on an unsuspecting world back in 1977. I remember it well. Star Wars was a summer sleeper that no one expected to be the huge gangbuster breakout blockbuster it turned out to be. Hardly anyone knew who George Lucas was back in the day. But when they first started airing those slick trailers of epic space battles, mysterious white-armor clad soldiers, rogue pilots and a wizard-like hermit who could scare off a pack of Jawas with a sound (although we didn't even know yet they were called Jawas), a whole generation got stars in their eyes. They ran out to buy tickets in droves to see this crazy new SciFi movie. And then they did it all over again, and again, and again...and AGAIN.

I remember the topic of conversation at parties was often, "So how many times have you seen Star Wars?" Ah, my answer to that was seven times. In the theatre. It's been 27 times now, overall.

I also remember the long wait of agony until Star Wars II--which later became Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back released. And driving 50 miles to a theater that was showing it on opening weekend. And the thunderous applause and whistles when the audience heard those first strains of the familiar, epic score.

Will I hear that again on Thursday, I wonder? After all, we'd only waited a couple of years for that film to come out, and some of us have waited decades for this one. We should make some noise--loud, long, rousing noise!

Like many Stars Wars fans--a YouTuber dubbed us WarFans, and I kind of like that tag--the movie franchise has had a lasting impression over these many long years.

I have a huge Star Wars poster hanging in my office that I'll be talking about a little more in an upcoming peer's blog.

I also have a miniature figure of Luke Skywalker with lightsabre in hand standing guard on my desk.

A lifesize cut-out of R2D2 and C3PO will eventually occupy a corner of my office, though right now they're still encased in, in the shipping box.

I have a 2015 filly this year whose sire we selected in part because he carries a very special bloodline. He's descended from a horse named Relaunch and Relaunch sired the famous racehorse Skywalker, who won one of the first Breeder's Cup Classics. I couldn't pass up on the chance to capture that bloodline in our breeding program.

And then there's my car, who I've dubbed Stormtrooper. The nick totally fits. I wanted to share some photos on this blog, but I wasn't able to take them due to a flu bug. (Maybe I can save that for a future post.)

One of my newest acquisitions is a Darth Vader jumpsuit which I just acquired in the last month. It's actually very warm and cuddly, unlike the real Sith Lord. It'll be the perfect thing for sitting down at my computer to write on chilly winter mornings.

So, yes, Star Wars has been a long time influence in my life. How about you? What Star Wars memorabilia have you acquired? Do you keep it on display or is it packed away in a box somewhere?Anybody do a Star Wars tree this year? What are you plans for the seeing The Force Awakens?

Have a great week and HAPPY RETURN OF STAR WARS!

Friday, December 11, 2015


Of course the SF world is all atwitter with the upcoming release of the new STAR WARS movie on December 18, but The Syfy Channel has something to keep fans distracted while they wait for the Big Day. Starting Monday, December 14 at 8:00 p.m. EST and running for three consecutive nights, the network adapts Arthur C. Clarke’s classic SF novel Childhood’s End for the small screen. 

Take a look at the trailer HERE:
This tale of “beneficial” aliens who create a Golden Age of peace and prosperity on Earth, only to exact a terrible price, was Clarke’s first successful novel, published in 1953. It has been the inspiration for numerous other stories, teleplays and movies, including CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED in 1960, and Clarke’s own 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY in 1968. (Some might include any film showing massive motherships hovering over the cities of the world, or any episode of STAR TREK that kept populations somnambulant under a computer in that count.) It has become a solid pillar of the genre, a must-read for any science fiction newbie.

I first read the book as part of a course taught by my SF mentor and philosophy professor, Dr. Scott Crom, at Beloit College. I remember gasping, then laughing in delight, when I got to the Big Reveal of the novel. (No spoilers here. If you haven’t done so, you’ll have to read it for yourself, or watch the mini-series!) Suffice it to say, Clarke—like my favorite, Rod Serling, and others of his day—only served to encourage my basically suspicious nature. Be careful what you wish for, they said, and trust no one!

Clarke’s idea has been reworked so many times it is no longer new. Perhaps it wasn’t even new in 1953. But his expression of it was shiny enough to earn him a Retro Hugo Award for Best Novel nomination in 2004.

The novel has long been considered impossible to film, largely because of its ending, I imagine. And The Syfy Channel may not be the best venue for an adaptation. The network’s creative efforts are uneven, at best. Still, I am excited to see what they will do with this favorite of my early SF reading years. And, besides, what else is there to do while we wait for December 18?

Cheers, Donna