Welcome back! Last week, Blade listened to a log entry from Bo’s ship, looking for answers to explain the deplorable condition of her sick bay. He’s still looking for answers and hoping her shipboard computer will be able to fill in the blanks.
Blade frowned. “That was terse, even for Bo,” he said. “How badly was she hurt?”
The diagnostic screen attached to the side of the gyro table flashed with the timestamp from twenty-seven months ago, followed by a diagram of a female form highlighting a rundown of her condition. A knot twisted in his gut as Sundance scrolled through a lengthy list of injuries that told him far more about what had happened than Bo’s cryptic log entry.
She’d been ambushed and overwhelmed. Defensive wounds showed that after they’d attacked her with energy weapons, she’d fought them in close quarters.
Welcome to Science Fiction/Fantasy Saturday! Ten to fifteen sentences are yours for the clicking. Today’s snippet is from BARRON’S LAST STAND. Five years after HERO’S END, Blade finds himself on Bo’s ship, Sundance. He is surprised to find the ship’s sick bay not as well stocked as he remembered.
“Sundance, when was the last time Bo resupplied the infirmary?”
“It has been twenty-seven months, four days and six hours since we put in to a Redmaster Blue base for supplies and maintenance.”
His brow furrowed. “Why so long?”
“Our last stop on Altair, Commander Barron encountered an independent group of contractors from the Assassin’s Guild.”
“Get me the log entry on that,” he said.
After a moment, Bo’s voice came over the grille. “Thought I’d stop by Altair today,” she said, tightly. “Nice welcoming party waiting for me.” She sucked in a deep breath through her teeth. “Cross Altair off the list of safe ports.” She hissed something unintelligible.
If you’ve stuck with me this far, I thank you, and I wish you a heartfelt Happy New Year.
One of the biggest challenges of being a writer comes in balancing all of my other responsibilities along with those to my readers and to my characters. Unfortunately, in 2015 everyone had to take a back seat to my family’s myriad health crises. The year started with my husband scheduled for shoulder surgery. My eldest son was already banged up with four broken bones from three separate incidents, all within the month of December!! In March, when the last of his slings, casts, and splints came off and we turned our eyes to baseball season, my son followed up a bout of the flu with acute appendicitis that resulted in emergency surgery just a few scant hours after I took him to the hospital.
Once my son was released from the hospital, my doctor recommended a long weekend at the beach to prevent exhaustion. On the way there, I developed severe back pain that landed me in the Emergency Room. That same weekend in March, my eighty-two year-old father revealed he had esophageal cancer and would require surgery and chemotherapy. My daughter also called that weekend from her home in Mississippi to let me know she needed surgery the following week.
Several weeks, countless tests, and three specialists later, my back problems were diagnosed as the result of a spinal cord issue. After much discussion of both surgical and non-surgical options, I opted for physical therapy because I’ve had enough of surgery, thanks. I’m just stubborn enough to make physical therapy work for me.
In May, I did manage to put out a limited release, free short story, THE OSTRA CHILD.
Amid all of this, I was working with my kids’ schools to develop Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for my two autistic children, and keeping up with baseball, gymnastics, viola, playdates, doctor’s appointments, and my own twice-weekly physical therapy.
But not all of the stressors were negative. My two youngest children were baptized, which is a very big deal to me, and each of my three adult daughters became engaged and married in 2015. We spent a lot of time on the road, despite my back issues making it difficult to sit, lie down, or stand for very long. I sewed flower girl dresses and Mother-of-the Bride dresses, and helped with decorating and making candy for the reception.
At the end of September, just as I’d finally managed to get back on my feet, off the pain meds, and out of the recliner, I tripped in the dark and fell over a tree stump at the last of the three weddings. I added the new injuries of a damaged nerve in my elbow, and knee and hip problems. So, it was back into the recliner with pain meds for me for two more months. Somewhere in there, I still managed to sew a Little Red Riding Hood cape for my youngest, and taught her how to make hair bows.
Despite my best efforts, not a lot of writing was accomplished. I am happy to say that my second bout of physical therapy has taken me from recliner to treadmill. I am now not only able to sit at the computer once more and write for hours on end, I am also training for a 5k in April that my fitness coach daughter has promised to run with me. My husband’s shoulder is as strong as ever. My son is healthy and getting ready for baseball. My father’s cancer is in remission and he, just a few moments ago, drove his motor home out of my yard, headed back to his home in Florida.
With my family and me finally healthy, and the Holidays behind me, I have the working file of BARRON’S LAST STAND open in another window on my computer. Bo and Blade are poised to spring into action and wrap up the final installment of THE BLACK WING CHRONICLES. My most wonderful editor, Laurel Kriegler had me send her the manuscript thus far and has been offering her brilliant insight and encouragement. (I think she wanted to make sure I was actually writing it and not just telling people I had.) She and I are coordinating our schedules and working out a timeframe that all depends on my being able to put in actual writing time at the computer. With that in mind, I hope you’ll understand if my blog is a bit neglected and my presence on social media is scarce.
Bo has a lot to accomplish and she and I are both determined to see this through. I can’t tell you much about the book except to say that BARRON’S LAST STAND has more point of view characters, and several characters show up from the BWC extended universe of stories. As for the main characters, after five years apart, Bo and Blade are not the same people they were at the conclusion of HERO’S END. As for the Facebook rumors that have begun circulating about Blade’s death at the end of the book…I can neither confirm nor deny those allegations. You’ll just have to wait and see.
The following is a spoiler-free take on THE FORCE AWAKENS:
In a nutshell, in typical JJ Abrams fashion, Disney’s first outing in the STAR WARS ‘verse is heavy on explosions and visual effects but light on character and plot. Characters are flat, and come and go so quickly from the scene that it’s difficult to find anyone to identify with. Poe Dameron made a promising first impression and would have made a wonderful heroic character, but he never got the chance. Where in the original trilogy, the three main characters spent the entire second act working together towards a common goal as a unified team, in THE FORCE AWAKENS, Poe, Rey, and Finn never quite seemed to find their rhythm and spent more time wandering off doing their own thing than building a heroic team.
I felt adrift and disengaged from the film until Han Solo showed up. At last! Here was someone I had an emotional attachment to. Unfortunately, the old, familiar characters we know and love likewise seemed to wander aimlessly, as though even they were unsure what they were doing in the movie. Solo was in an entirely different story that seemed more interesting than the one the young heroes were pursuing. Yes, there was a unifying goal, but by the second act even the bad guy got bored with it and moved on to something else.
It took a while for me to realize why elements of the movie felt so familiar. Abrams made the movie Lucas had originally intended Star Wars to be. I guess because I avoided all blogs, articles and potential spoilers, I didn’t realize that the inspiration for the story line was Lucas’s first draft of Star Wars in which the Luke/Leia character was a warrior “princess” (Rey) and Han Solo/Obi Wan Kenobi was an older mentor guiding her on her quest. Not only that, the look of THE FORCE AWAKENS was drawn from Ralph McQuarrie’s original concept art from before the first actor was cast or the first set built.
Kudos to Disney for going back to the very beginning. I give that nod to early STAR WARS lore an “A” for effort.
Lucasfilm veteran, Lawrence Kasdan worked on the script and co-produced. Lucas/Spielberg protegee Kathleen Kennedy was one of the producers attached to the project.
In the back of my mind, I knew all that.
Was it good? Did I enjoy it? Did it live up to its hype?
Much of it was predictable, but I enjoyed it. Nothing could quite live up to this level of hype. I cheered when old familiar faces popped up. The story was too fragmented and at times seemed to ramble, while subplot and backstory were much more interesting and should have had more screen time. Some old friends were under utilized (R2D2, Luke Skywalker.) So were some new friends for that matter (Poe Dameron, Captain Phasma.) Some plot points defied logic.
It is the kind of movie you want to see more than once to go back and catch the subtle nuances, now that you know what’s going on and who the players are. I’m hoping to find it tighter and better crafted on second viewing.
Star Wars fans will not be disappointed. Action/adventure fans will not be disappointed. Personally, I didn’t feel the ending satisfied. It felt more like the second book/movie in a trilogy than the first. It was almost like Abrams said, “Hey, we’ve got two hours of material now. Time to wrap. Where can we stop for now?”
In short, Abrams was marginally more respectful of the Star Wars franchise than he was the Star Trek franchise. Dialogue was snappy and sassier than the traditionally stilted Star Wars speech patterns. Character development was minimal and it was hard to get emotionally invested in the new characters. There are too many questions unanswered, leaving fans scratching their heads and trying to play catch up before the end of the first act.
As a die-hard Jed-head, I have a love-hate relationship with THE FORCE AWAKENS. As a writer, I am by turns glad I didn’t have to write it and critical of sections that seemed like the writers had no idea where to go from there and fired off special effects hoping the audience wouldn’t notice the man behind the curtain.
I would still like to see a Joss Whedon interpretation of the Star Wars legend, though I feel JJ Abrams actually considered the fans expectations of the newest Star Wars movie. I can’t help but think Whedon could have done a better job and told a more satisfying story, given his penchant for effectively balancing character development, intrigue, and heart-pounding action, a balancing act Abrams has yet to perfect.
THE FORCE AWAKENS is an action-packed romp, but it lacks the elusive spark found in the other films in the franchise.
In 1999, on the eve of the release of THE PHANTOM MENACE, I consented to an interview with my hometown newspaper, the Tampa Tribune. A few weeks ago, I was tracked down by a stringer for my former paper about doing a follow-up to the previous article. It was a where are they now kind of thing. So again, on the eve of the release of THE FORCE AWAKENS, my hometown paper wanted to know about my relationship with the STAR WARS universe, and whether or not our love had stood the test of time. You can find the full article on TBO.Com. I really recommend you not miss the sixteen year-old pic of me surrounded by my STAR WARS stuff.
In AMBASADORA, author Heidi Ruby Miller created a fascinating, and highly detailed ‘verse peopled with three-dimensional characters going about the business of surviving, falling in love, and navigating the intricacies of a complex and corrupt political overclass. Her second novel set in the same ‘verse, GREENSHIFT, takes a smaller bite of her ‘verse and explores the relationship between Armadan Captain David Anlow and botanist “Mari” Boston Maribu, both introduced in AMBASADORA.
Set prior to the events of AMBASADORA, GREENSHIFT starts with the incident that caused David to take an extremely early retirement from the Armada. We follow him as he adjusts to life as a civilian pilot aboard the “science” ship Bard. Where David is everything military, orderly, methodical, by-the-book, Mari is anything but. She is much like a wild woodland nymph in her own right, all riotous color and free-spirit. Naturally, David falls hard for her and she falls hard for him. I have to admit, I fell for him too.
But as in any good story, the course of true love cannot run smoothly. In Miller’s deft hands, their courtship plays out in a ‘verse so detailed that one can smell the scent bots, but so beautifully described that her world-building flows seamless through the story. One does not simply read Heidi Ruby Miller’s stories. One lives them along with the characters, inhabiting their skin and experiencing the adventure right along with them. And by adventure, I do mean a suspenseful, action-packed adventure. From the starting block, GREENSHIFT is filled with heart-pounding action and fight scenes that will have your adrenaline flowing.
The bad guys are sadistic and brutal, and the author isn’t squeamish about vivid descriptions of either. Miller takes on the seedy underbelly of her ‘verse, mixing vice with a rigid caste system. The results are a spoiled privileged class that exploits its inferiors, dabbling in deviant behaviors that would have made ancient Romans sit up and take notice. With Mari targeted by human traffickers bent on sex slavery, torture, rape, and murder, a dark sub-plot weaves through the story, casting a shadow over the budding romance.
Overall, GREENSHIFT lives up to the promise in AMBASADORA, and is an excellent prequel/followup to the first book. I truly enjoyed the author’s foray into side stories from her ‘verse and I hope GREENSHIFT won’t be the last.
Back again? Yes, it’s Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday. I’ve been serializing my latest short story about Blade Devon’s misspent youth. More specifically, the rather sketchy period of his past between the time he left the Inner Circle and started his holofeature career.
This is not the arrogant, larger-than-life interstellar man of mystery we know from SOVRAN’S PAWN or HERO’S END. This Blade is scrawny, young punk who can’t seem to stay sober, or out of trouble. It’s up to his big brother Chase to pick up the pieces.
Sighing, Chase rolled his eyes and pushed away from the counter. “Come on,” he said. “Let’s get you home so you can finish sobering up.”
“I’m not that drunk,” Blade muttered, falling into step behind him.
In silence, the two men left the detention center through the main doors. Blade glanced back at the gloomy gray building looming behind them. How long before they went through this again? How long since the last time? Maybe he should just cut his losses and disappear. His brother surely didn’t need the aggravation. Chase had worked hard to build a nice life for himself. The last thing he needed was a criminal in the family. Having a brother like Blade around could only drag him down.
It was one thing to ruin his own life. Blade wasn’t comfortable ruining his brother’s, too.
So that’s my meager offering for today. I hope you enjoy and comment. I shall reply as soon as I finish dancing the night away at my exotically beautiful daughter’s wedding to her own handsome soldier.