Thursday, January 31, 2019

Star Wars 9 – the end of the Skywalker saga

I've been having a look at what we know about Star Wars 9, due for release in December 2019. I will admit I often catch myself murmuring 'please don't suck please don't suck'. And I have every reason to do so. For a start, it's directed by JJ Abrams. He directed The Force Awakens which earned a giant raspberry from me. It was a remake of A New Hope, complete with orphan in desert, cute personal droid, and giant super weapon.

Maybe Abrams has learned his lesson. An interview states "Abrams said he wants to "go beyond, and do better than we did in 7" – which hopefully means that Episode 9 won't be a clone of Return of the Jedi in the way his Force Awakens duplicated the plot of A New Hope." 

Although I thought a little more highly of The Last Jedi (eventually directed by Ron Howard) I wouldn't say it was wonderful. Once again, we had storylines reminiscent of The Empire Strikes Back with a few shots from Return of The Jedi. The vast First Order fleet pursues a rag tag of rebels to force a final confrontation. I could have done without the rather silly casino sub-plot – although I suppose it made the point that lots of people profit from wars. Then we had the throne room scene (reminiscent of ROTJ) where Snoke presides over Kylo Ren and Rey in a battle. I didn't mind Luke Skywalker's arc. It made lots of sense to me. But again, shades of Empire with Rey going off to find a Jedi Master who has chosen solitude.

So… at the end of The Last Jedi, what do we have left?

We know nothing at all about Snoke and how he fits into the story line. How did he become Supreme Leader (aka Emperor)? Or maybe he was the Token Villain? Princess Leia will appear in her last movie. There is much talk on the rumour mill that Darth Vader and/or his castle will be seen. Luke is dead but he can be a Force ghost – as could Darth/Anakin. Oh, and in more resurrections, it seems Billy Dee Williams will be included as an older, wiser Lando Calrissian. The mad hatter, General Hux, will rejoin the crew, as will Rey. And I have to wonder what will happen to young Ben Solo?


It's all starting to sound a lot like Hogwarts, with lots of ghosts floating around in a castle with moving staircases. All we need is for Han to appear as a ghost. Oh wait. I've seen suggestions that he'll appear in flashbacks. Added to that, Carrie Fisher, who played Leia Organa, is REALLY dead. Apparently, there is enough left over footage from episodes 7 and 8 to sustain her vital role in Episode 9. It will be interesting to see how Disney removes her character. Will she die a heroic death, or retire to a nice planet somewhere, or move to a retirement home, or become an instructor in matters Jedi?

One thing the rumour mill is pretty much agreed on – Disney will not air a trailer at the Super Bowl.
Meanwhile, I'll keep murmuring, soto voce, 'please don't suck please don't suck'.

Tell you what, I'm over the Skywalker family. Disney, write something new and good, like Rogue One. Or (better still) make a movie with Grand Admiral Thrawn. Or come up with something new and different, a bit like the original Star Wars from 1977.

Lordy, what a radical thought.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Seven Years A-bloggin'

Yesterday marked my seventh anniversary as a member of the Spacefreighters Lounge crew, so I couldn't let it pass without at least a brief hurrah. Here's to another seven!

Monday, January 28, 2019

Grey Area Characters: Good Guys or Borderline Villains?

Before I launch into my "character assassination" blog this week (no worries--it's one of my fictional characters!), first a bit of news:

The SFR Galaxy Awards are Coming!

This is the week!

This Thursday, January 31st, will be the Seventh Anniversary of this unique, SFR-only recognition(s) of excellence in the science fiction romance genre--otherwise known as the 2018 SFR Galaxy Awards!

Please join us on the awards site to catch all seven rounds of the unveilings and "surprisings," where the authors never know they've won--or that they're even in the running--until it's announced, so the "surprise!" is definitely part of the fun.


I'm also asking that if you're a member of the Science Fiction Romance community as either a writer or a reader, that you help support the awards by tuning in, commenting, sharing on social media and congratulating the winners.

We want to ensure these awards continue on into the future, and they need a lot more support to make that possible.

Thank you.

Now on to my regularly scheduled blog!

Grey Area Characters in Fiction: Good Guys or Borderline Villains?

I've been thinking a lot lately about the subject of non-compromise, and how it paints characters in fiction a shadowy shade of grey.

As human beings, our very nature requires us to work out compromises in difficult situations. Let's face it, we don't all see eye-to-eye. We're a species with as many opinions and ideas about how-things-should-be as there probably are individuals on this planet. No two think exactly alike. No two dream alike. And certainly no two imagine a "perfect world" in quite the same way.

But somewhere between the polarized light side and dark side, there has to be a shaded area where both opposing groups can at least come to some sort of agreement that's a win-win, or at least a semi okay-semi okay, for both. It's very frustrating when it doesn't happen, indicating that someone is planting their feet, crossing their arms, and refusing to see any outcome that's not 100% "their way."

I have a character in Inherit the Stars who frequently exhibits these traits. He's authoritative, strong-willed, unbending, and at times, malevolently manipulative. He only sees things from one side--his side. And during the course of the story, he vacillates between being a great military leader and a hard-nosed ass.

He does this because he's striving for one particular outcome...and anyone not seeing things his way be damned. That "anyone" can include his subordinates, his peers, the people he loves, and other figures who are supposed to be his superiors. The nickname he acquires in the novel is one that suits him well--The Immovable Object.

(His love interest acquires the equally descriptive tag of  "The Unstoppable Force." I think you can see where that relationship is going--they're on course to burn each other up in the friction they generate.)

But the title he's saddled with isn't one of respect. People who refuse to bend--whether it's a matter of principle or personal philosophy--usually end up living with one of two outcomes. They are proven marginally right, or they are proven unequivocally, irredeemably wrong.

Admiral Ry Mennelsohn is often the "good guy" in my novel that readers love to hate. He's the brother of the heroine, Drea Mennelsohn, and he is, by all accounts, a hardliner.

He's been plugged into a role that, in essence, is a resistance leader. As the son of the late, great Zaviar Mennelsohn, he's stepped up to take the reins of a rising insurrection and complete his father's vision.

But he doesn't have the charisma, the good will, or the knack of negotiating that his father possessed, so he compensates for his shortcomings by refusing to compromise with his opponents, no matter the cost. Admiral Mennelsohn is definitely a "my way or the highway" kinda guy.

That's not leadership. It's belligerence.

His unyielding will sets up some powerful moral dilemmas for readers to ponder. Is what he did right? Wrong? Reasonable? Crossing the line? And ultimately, do the ends justify the means?

Eventually, the good admiral faces a reckoning for his behavior, and for once, shows a bit of compassion in acquiescing--though begrudgingly--while rationalizing that he was only trying to do the right thing.

Sadly, history is littered with individuals who try to "do the right thing" in entirely the wrong way. It always seems to catch up with them...especially when they wear their justification like a big, old pair of horse blinders.

I think Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient and social philosopher Eric Hoffer once summed it up best:

"The uncompromising attitude is more indicative 
of an inner uncertainty than a deep conviction."

I have to confess Ry has been a fun character to write because of his obstinance, but he's probably caused as much anguish for readers as the true villains. Let me share, as the author, that he's on a direct course to future retribution in this saga--both militarily and personally.

Will he be redeemed? Stay tuned.

Want to read more on the subject? I recommend this excellent article:
ProWriting Aid: Why You Should Start Writing Morally Grey Characters

Have a great week.

Friday, January 25, 2019


Superhero, villain, mastermind: all connected in GLASS

The villainous mastermind of M. Night Shyamalan’s horror/thriller/fantasy trilogy that ends with the film GLASS (in theaters now) has a theory about superheroes and their evil counterparts. 

Elijah Price, aka Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson), believes the supernatural heroes and villains of comic book fame are real, created by extraordinary events or challenges in people’s lives. He has made it his life’s work to prove this theory, even if it means he must manipulate the lives of others as part of his Grand Experiment. Just how far he’s been willing to go in his experimentation becomes chillingly clear in this last film of Shyamalan’s cinematic triptych.

The SIXTH SENSE director began this journey with UNBREAKABLE (2000), the story of reluctant superhero David Dunn, able to sense evil in others with a touch and invulnerable to every weakness except water. Dunn, you see, acquired his superpowers by surviving a drowning by bullies as a child. He only begins to understand who and what he is after he finds himself the sole survivor of a train wreck years later. He meets Price, a comic book collector who suffers from a congenital defect called osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bone disease. 

The two men are, in effect, “broken” vs. “unbreakable,” and Price believes they are destined to be arch-enemies, struggling for the soul of the world. Dunn wins their first film encounter, and we, the audience, are supposed to believe that’s that.

The second film in the series, SPLIT (2016), stars James McAvoy in an acting tour-de-force as a serial killer with multiple personality disorder. One of Kevin Wendell Crumb’s 24 personalities is Hedwig, a nine-year-old boy, the age when, not uncoincidentally, Kevin’s disturbed mother started abusing him as a child. Another is The Beast, the supernaturally strong creature that actually does the killing, aided by certain other members of what Kevin refers to as The Horde of personalities.

One of the teenage girls The Horde kidnaps in SPLIT forms a tenuous connection with the gentler “Kevin” persona and is allowed to live. Casey is eventually rescued, though The Horde escapes, and a final scene in the film refers us back to both David Dunn and Elijah Price from UNBREAKABLE.

Which brings us to the final chapter in GLASS. Dunn is still cruising the streets to identify evil-doers and bring them to justice, though he is trying to maintain a low profile. No bright cape, no tights, and certainly no headlines for this guy, just an old rain poncho (water is his Kryptonite, remember?). His son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark from UNBREAKABLE) is grown now and pushing him to do more. Price is confined to a mental hospital, heavily sedated for everyone’s good.

The Horde, however, is up to its old tricks, kidnapping young girls and chaining them to pipes in an abandoned factory in Philly. Dunn finds them and rescues them, but things take a turn when both The Beast and our superhero are trapped by police mid-fight outside the factory and hauled off to the same asylum where Price is imprisoned. Seems there is an impassioned young psychiatrist (Sarah Paulson) with new technology and new methodology who is out to convince villains and superheroes alike there are no such thing as superpowers.

She almost convinces us, too. But, then, we know the Elijah Price (that’s “first name Mr., last name Glass”) who’s slumped drooling in that wheelchair is hiding something, don’t we? Turns out his machinations have deeper implications that anyone could have predicted, for everyone involved.

There are more twists and turns in this plot than a North Carolina scenic byway, so the ending of GLASS doesn’t disappoint. I can only hope it doesn’t take Shyamalan another three years (much less the16 years between UNBREAKABLE AND SPLIT) to take up the storyline from where he left it. Because, as Elijah explains to his long-suffering mother, “No, Mama! This wasn’t a showdown! It was an origin story all along!”

(GLASS is definitely a GO, even if you missed the earlier two films. It’s not gory or nightmare-inducing, but it will make you think. Well worth it just to see Samuel L. Jackson and James McAvoy chew the scenery, though Bruce Willis could have been given more to do.)

Cheers, Donna

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Misfits 3 is taking shape

Writing is slowly continuing on my work in progress. Anybody who tells you that "writing is easy" has either never actually tried it, or has an alter ego sitting over there in an alternative universe whispering words at them. I don't have one of those. Sometimes I wish I did.

This is the third Morgan's Misfits book. In a way, writing a series is easier than a stand-alone book. The characters are (mainly) already created so you, the author, already know a lot about them. The tech's created, too, so you know what ships, weapons, nifty tools and things your characters have and what they haven't. The interesting thing is that the DIS-advantage of writing a series is all the same things. You have to be careful not to change the details about your characters – eye colour, height, background. Changes to mindset have to be a progression. You can’t introduce a brand-new piece of tech without an explanation, or new aliens. It's a balancing act.

I should explain that this series is a set of stand-alone stories, a bit like a detective series or the Famous Five (ha). You'll meet a core of the same characters, but each story is about a new situation not related to the previous books. The core characters -  Toreni, Jirra, and Chet - change and grow in each book.Crossmar and Shar Burk, two massive, populated space stations, once again appear in this story. And you'll get to visit the Manesai Union's capital, Mahanadi. Morgan Selwood and Admiral Ravindra will both make appearances, and there's a brand new love story developing.

I haven't finished writing a blurb yet, but this will give you an idea of where this story will take you.

Marisa, last mistress of Governor Soldar, manages to escape alive, if battered and bruised, from an attempt to kill her. What did she overhear to earn a death sentence?

Here's a snippet.

"You said you were getting worried when Habid took you to a different apartment. Was that just because it was out of routine?" Chet asked. "Was Soldar any different? Did anything happen before that might have led to your removal? Any sign of another woman in his sights?"

Marisa shoved away Habid's assault and thought about the question. "I wasn't aware of anyone else. We had sex the night before, as normal as I'd come to expect from him." She concentrated. "Then somebody came. He left me asleep, or so he thought. Went out in a robe. I heard voices, so I got up to snoop. He caught me. He wasn't happy." He'd been angry, his eyes narrowed to slits. "I told him I heard voices, I was curious. He told me not to be curious, but he seemed to accept I'd heard and seen nothing. He fucked me hard, made it painful, making sure I knew my place."

Chet's nostrils flared. "He hurt you?"

"Sure. Not much more than usual. He was putting me in my place, issuing a warning, I think." She bit her lip. "I didn't pick it as time to go." She'd always thought she'd know when her time was up, when she'd have to run. She'd been wrong.

"Did you hear anything?"

"Not much. Soldar was very happy about something. I caught a few words. 'Success', 'ship'. Maybe it was about the ship you're looking for?" She looked at the faces. They exchanged glances.

"Anything else? Did you know who he was talking to? Did he mention names? Places?"

Marisa ran the encounter back through her mind. Muffled words, laughter from Soldar, the clink of glasses. "I didn't recognize the voice of the man he talked to. So, I'd say he wasn't one of the regular staff. I didn't recognize any place names. He was really pleased at that point. I know he shared a drink with whoever it was. I think he did say 'Dasilva' and something like 'tell someone'.  Dasilva's a Vesha Hai Sur. President of Indinara, a planet not too far from Shar Burk. In fact, he's pretty much a neighbor."

"He's not a nice man, by all accounts," Jirra said. "He and Soldar ought to get along. But maybe they're too much alike."

Marisa shrugged. "Soldar controls the media on Shar Burk. Any reports on Dasilva are always negative."

Meanwhile, work goes on. It'll be a few weeks yet. You'll be among the first to know when it's done.