Goals

We all have goals.

Weight goals (of one kind or another), workout goals, life goals, work goals, etc.

The point is that you have to shoot for something. Without a destination in mind, we are aimlessly driving to nowhere.

With this in mind, I have set some goals for myself, or more accurately, for my first book. In case, you haven’t been paying attention, read further on my novel aspirations HERE. Anyhow, my goals are:

  1. I want to complete 5 chapters a week on my first draft.
  2. I want my first draft to be done by October 1st.
  3. I want to have critiques and edits done by November 1st.
  4. By April, I want my final draft off to a editor/proofreader
  5. Roughly one year from now, I want my book to be hitting bookshelves.

Those are my goals. They may come to be, and they may not, but now I have something to shoot for. As for goal #1, I have 3 chapters done in 3 days, so I’m doing alright thus far. I figure it will take me roughly 10-12 weeks to do my first draft at this pace, which I am fine with, since I have a full time job and a family. That will put me well within range of goal #2. Then begins the race for the rest of my goals.

Also, big news, I have reached a verbal agreement with the Davis Publishing Company to be my publisher. The co-owner, Josh Davis, has been a great help and mentor, and I am looking forward to working with his growing company. I hope that we can help each other by bringing both of our respective brands success!

So the moral here is to have goals. I have a few other goals that I’ll keep to myself for now, but when the time comes, I hope they will be instrumental in building towards a life that is fulfilling for both myself and for my family.

That’s all I have for now, folks. Keep checking in for updates on the progress of my novel. I will be sure to post milestones as they are reached. Sometime soon, I will release a story synopsis, so keep your eyes peeled for that!

The Battle Has Begun…

Earlier this year, I began crafting an idea for a book. For years, I banged half formed notions and thoughts around my head, trying to get something to stick. I was unable to give the ideas the attention they needed to grow, and they would always fade away. I was almost to the point where I was going to let writing fade in to the background of my life. Luckily, inspiration came along and turned things around.

My wife chasing her dreams kicked my writing habit back in to gear. I knew if I rested on my laurels any longer, I wouldn’t ever get started. 6 months later, I had a plot summary with 51 pages and 34,000 words. I pushed myself to make progress, and the ideas flowed like water.

I created a plot that I felt a personal sense of pride in. I built a story idea that I believed in, and that I knew could be the basis for a series of books. The only thing I was worried about was the opinion of others.

I sent my work out to a few people, so they could check the plot summary for the content it contained. I wanted to know if they felt it was a good story, and if it was worth moving forward with. The response I got back was favorable, and I was told that I was on the right track. I knew that I had something substantial to work on.

What I have is a fantasy tale. I won’t go in to details, because I’m not ready to share that with the world. I will say that it’s not overly fantastical or wild. I love the fantasy realm for the ability to build my own world, make my own rules, and not be bound by our reality. So here I am, with my plot summary and a path forward.

Now the battle begins. I have started the work on the actual story, and it will be a long and twisting path to the completion of the book. I’ve done a lot of research and read a lot of books, blogs, articles, and works on how to go about writing a book. I’ve tried to prepare myself and figure out how to go about attacking this, but I have realized that nobody will be able to tell me how to best write my book. Only I will know how I can accomplish that. I found that out when I began my summary. I followed the steps of others, but my success came when I followed what came natural to me. Obviously, the advice and experience of others did give me some guidance, but when the ink went on the paper, I had to chart my own path. I feel like writing the book will be the same. I will have the mentors and guides to consult, but my hands will write the book, and I have to figure out the best way to do it. The process will be slow at first, but I know I will find my way. I can see the story in my head, but now I just have to figure out how to get it on to the page.

I feel like every day will be a learning experience, and some days will be incredibly frustrating. I will want to give up, and I will want to walk away. I will wonder why I ever decided to make writing a part of my life. After that, I will sit back down, and lay siege to the story and not quit until it is finished. I want it too bad, and I want to write for a living. If I can pass this test, then I can make it my life.

So, today I announce that my story, currently titled Mage’s Fire, is in work. I am proud of the fact that I can say this, and that I can actually share it. I’m hoping to have it done within a year. Josh, hold me to that. In fact, everyone hold me to that, so I can set myself a real deadline.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me in this venture. Also, thank you to the people who have always supported my writing habit. Without the guidance and kicks in the ass, I would not be this far along. Keep guiding and kicking.

Now I am off to put more words in to my story. I hope that it will be as good in your eyes as it looks in mine.

Author Q&A Series: KM Weiland

Today, I am pleased to continue my Author Q&A Series with an amazing writer and mentor, KM Weiland.

K.M. Weiland

K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel, as well as Jane Eyre: The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

KM has been a heavy influence on my return to writing, and her role as mentor has helped my abilities as an aspiring author blossom. Getting the chance to interview her was truly a blessing, and I am excited to share it with you.

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  1. When did you begin writing professionally? What guided you to that career choice?

I started writing when I was twelve and published a small newsletter throughout high school. I independently published my first novel, the western A Man Called Outlaw when I was twenty. But I didn’t really take it seriously as a business until my next book, the medieval historical Behold the Dawn, came out three years later.

Stories are like breathing. Life without a story in my head is one-dimensional, stagnant, vapid. I love the life God has given me, but I think I love it better because I’m able to live out so many other lives on the page. I’m more content to be who I am because I’m not trapped in that identity. When I sit down at my computer and put my fingers on the keys, I can be anyone or anything, at any time in history. I write because it’s freedom.

  1. Which authors or works were inspirational to your growth as a writer?

As a novelist, I am inspired by countless excellent authors and filmmakers. Specifically, Brent Weeks’s epicness, Margaret Atwood’s prose, and Patrick O’Brian’s sheer genius speak to me and urge me on. As a blogger, I’m inspired by the professionalism and creativity of people such as Joanna Penn, Porter Anderson, and Jody Hedlund.

  1. What drew you to the genres you write in? 

First answer is: blood and thunder stories. I’m kind of all over the board on genres (although everything I write does stay confined under the giant umbrellas of either historical or fantasy), but all of my stories are what I like to call “blood and thunder.” They’re usually action-packed, a little bit on the adventurous side, but also gritty.

  1. How and where did you learn your vast repertoire or knowledge on writing? 

Writing books, magazines, blogs—and lots and lots of study and practice of real stories!

  1. How did you get involved in helping other writers?

It was all an accident, believe me! I stumbled into blogging about writing because, hey, every writer needs a blog, right? And you’re supposed to blog about what you’re interested in, and that would be…writing. Then one day I woke up, and the blog had just sort of taken off!

Really, I think the site has been as much of a blessing to me as it has been to anyone. Other than the marvelous writer folk I’ve gotten to meet, I’ve also learned so much by writing about writing.

  1. You have published 6 writing craft books, you have a podcast with more than 300 episodes, and your website has a wealth of resources and information. How has sharing this with others helped you grow as a mentor and a writer?

I’m learning right along with everyone I teach. My blog and my books are just an outgrowth of my own writing journey. Forcing myself to put my own thoughts and discoveries into a teachable format has been invaluable to me in strengthening my own conscious knowledge of writing.

  1. When you are mentoring someone, what are some of the most common mistakes you see when they are learning the craft? 

#1: Fail to properly structure the story.

#2: Fail to create an engaging character with an engaging voice.

#3: Fail to show more than is told.

  1. As a writer, what has been the most difficult thing for you to overcome? What about as a mentor?

Every book is its own adventure. Something that’s easy in one book can end up being surprisingly difficult in another. Major rewrites, when they’re necessary, are probably my least favorite part—but they offer their own rewards too. Honestly, I enjoy aspects of every part of the process.

  1. We know that imagination cannot be taught, but what do you think is the single most important thing to writing a successful novel?

Proper structure is vital in creating powerful and memorable fiction. Story structure is instinctual to most people. It’s embedded deep in the human psyche. It’s certainly not an arbitrary set of guidelines, and it’s also not something exclusive to our era. We find the classic three-act structure across centuries and continents.

That being so, we have to ask ourselves, Why? The answer, of course, is that structure creates stories that not only balance the rise and fall of action, but also time the important turning points, so that they have the best chance of impacting and resonating with readers.

What writer doesn’t want to do that? A conscious understanding of structure allows us to understanding the theory behind story, which then allows us to discover why certain stories work and others don’t—and how to make sure our stories land in the former group.

  1. What can your fans and apprentices expect to see from you in the near future?

Within just a few weeks, I have an online writing course coming out called How to Write Amazing Character Arcs That Sell Novels. Before the year is out, I also hope to put out a book and workbook on character arcs. I’m also in the process of editing my latest novel—a historical superhero adventure called Wayfarer.

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A big thank you goes to KM for taking the time to be a part of the Author Q&A Series. I hope that any aspiring authors or writers found some good advice in her answers. Don’t forget that you can find so much more of her incredible insight on her website Helping Writers Become Authors and in her books.

A special thanks also goes out to the Wordplayers. Thank you for the feedback and input for the series.

Thanks for reading!

Author Q&A Series: Deborah Chester

As an aspiring author, I have sought out insight and guidance from as many sources and people as I could find. What I have discovered is a wealth of knowledge in books, blogs, and websites designed to give burgeoning writers the direction that they seek. I wanted to soak up as much knowledge as I could, but I felt like my questions weren’t being answered.

My solution was to begin a series of Q&A interviews with authors, which I would then share here on Town’s End Tribune. My goal is to get answers to the questions that are eating at me, while also sharing them with other striving authors who seek advice from established writing veterans.

My first interview is with Deborah Chester, professor of Professional Writing at the University of Oklahoma, and author of over 40 books. Deborah recently published The Fantasy Fiction Formula, a writing craft book that helps guide a writer through the process of creating a book in the fantasy genre. Deborah’s teaching influenced the writing of Jim Butcher, author of the best-selling urban fantasy series the Dresden Files.

 “Listen carefully to what Debbie has to say about telling stories, aspiring writer. She knows exactly what she’s talking about.”
— Jim Butcher

 Deborah’s role as an educator and mentor made her a top priority on my list of people to interview, and I am so glad she agreed to be a part of this series. She has so much knowledge to share, and I am elated to share the Q&A interview of Deborah Chester with you.

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 1. When did you begin writing professionally? What guided you to that career choice?

I began writing professionally in 1978, when I acquired a literary agent and sold my first book manuscript. The book was subsequently published in 1980.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was nine. There was no other career choice as appealing to me.

 2. Which authors or works were inspirational to your growth as a writer?

Andre Norton and Robert Heinlein were inspirational, but C.S. Forester and Georgette Heyer were hugely influential.

 3. What made you interested in becoming an educator?

I was seeking a day job less intrusive into my writing time than the usual 8-to-5 job. While I was working on two master’s degrees, a vacancy in professional writing here at the University of Oklahoma unexpectedly appeared and I was hired as a replacement. I had to drop my studies in Latin, but I completed my M.A. in Professional Writing and held onto the job. Later it became a full-time position, and then I achieved tenure and moved up the ladder.

 4. You recently published your first book on writing, The Fantasy Fiction Formula. What inspired you to create this work?

Many of my students over the years have urged me to write a book on writing, so I’ve long had it in the back of my mind that someday I would get around to it. Then I was contacted by Manchester University Press in England about doing one. The editor is a huge Jim Butcher fan, and she had located my blog on writing, “Chronicles of the Scribe,” and she offered me a contract.

 5. How did you get drawn to the Science Fiction/Fantasy genre? 

I’ve been a science fiction fan since my childhood. Star Trek’s original series was my favorite television show, and I always loved the notion that someday we would reach the stars. I love world-building, adventure, and history so eventually I migrated over into the fantasy camp.

 6. What are some of the pitfalls you have found working in that particular genre? What about advantages?

I’ve seen science fiction change from a genre largely aimed at adolescent boys to one that now embraces a female audience and where women authors no longer have to hide their identity behind pseudonyms.  I’ve seen fantasy rise into an enormously popular genre, pulling away from science fiction and leaving in the dust. I find it interesting that fantasy is considered cool to read by a vast spectrum of people, but science fiction still struggles against literary prejudice.

The biggest pitfall in writing fantasy comes from how threadbare its tropes are. How do you create a fresh, original story that will still appeal to readers who have read so much? And if you do create something fresh and original, will readers embrace it if it lacks those threadbare tropes they love?

The advantages are that you can create the story world any way you want. Your setting is yours to command, and science fiction is wide open to experimentation.

 7. What are some of the biggest mistakes aspiring authors make?

Two of the biggest mistakes I see are weak plotting and information dumps. Newbies are often drawn to writing because they’ve envisioned a magical world and want to live in it. They’re so entranced by this world that they pour all their creative energy into its creation, and they forget that they must also write a good story. Many beginners tend to plot the same way a video game goes, which is not how a book is constructed. If they aren’t voracious readers, they can’t develop their story sense well enough to have reliable plotting instincts.

As for information dumps, they are the bane of the genre. Writers have to find a way to explain, describe, and show the story world and its props so that readers can understand them, but without halting the story to lecture for several pages at a time.

 8. What is the best advice you would give to an aspiring author?

My advice for aspiring writers is to read, read, read, read, read. Among your favorite authors, examine why you like their stories so much. Is it their settings? Their character design? Their snarky dialogue? Their pacing and plot twists? All of the above? Do they reach your emotions?

Figure out how and why these authors touch you. Figure out why other stories bore you. Then emulate what works and avoid what doesn’t.

It’s been said that a good way to self-train is to take your favorite novel and type it. Just prop it next to your computer and type the entire thing. It will take you weeks to do, but by the end of this task you should have a pretty good idea of how dialogue flows, how scenes and chapters are constructed, where to set hooks, and how to introduce characters. Of course you won’t steal that author’s story. It’s just a training exercise. And if this exercise sounds too brutal, get over it. Writing is wonderful, but it’s tremendously hard work.

 9. Now that you have published a book on writing, do you have any plans for pursuing other educational avenues outside of teaching in a classroom?

In the past, I’ve done workshops and worked as a paid writing consultant for manuscripts, but I don’t have plans to pursue such things at the moment. When I’m not in the classroom here at OU, I keep my spare time cleared for writing fiction.

However, who knows? I’ve got a six-part series of podcasts going on the Manchester University Press Web site, where I’ve been interviewed regarding The Fantasy Fiction Formula. Perhaps I’ll consider doing more podcasts in the future. It all depends because my writing has to come first.

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For more information on Deborah or her works, visit her Website or Blog.

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I hope you enjoyed this first entry in to the Author Q&A Series. My next interview will be with KM Weiland early next month. Thanks for reading!

Open Literary Universes

Has anyone noticed the recent trend of remakes, sequels, prequels, and anthologies flooding the market? How often have you sat and thought something up, and then realized someone already beat you to it? It seems like there is no original thought these days. Creativity can be stifled, because people feel like they can’t be innovative. We are trapped because we get told no, or know someone will say no. Every day, you can find a story of someone or some company claiming that someone else stole his or her idea. Sometimes, they are absolutely right, however, there are times when people just have the same great idea and are a bit slower on the draw.

Now, I’m not here to talk about all the instances of this. I am here to talk about the world of fiction, and an idea I have that really isn’t a new one. In fact, this idea has been around for quite a while. Comic books began the idea of a universe in which many storytellers could weave the tales of different characters. This allowed the creativity of different people to shine in their own way, and could tell different stories. They could be explained as alternate realities, and to this day, comic books are the largest example of fictional literary universes. The stories have branched in to radio, books, TV shows, movies, and games. The possibilities for the universes they created are endless because it is an open field. Larry Niven allowed his Known Space universe to be utilized by other authors, but he began the process of building a strict timeline. As each book was written, it had to be in line with the previous novels. Star Wars mostly followed this pattern as well, but there were some issues that arose with the creation of the prequels and now with the sequels. There is some question as to how the universe will be handled now, but as it stands, there is the pre-Disney universe and the Disney universe. Star Trek follows more of the comic book approach of having an open playing field. Many popular TV shows have serial novels written, which has created an alternate literary universe to fill the gaps from the shows. There are several more examples I could use, but you can see that a literary universe is an outlet for someone to express themselves within an existing story, but with their own twist.

My idea would be to have more of these literary universes. There are hugely popular fictional worlds out there that people would love to add their own ideas to. I once contacted an author about doing a story set in the world of his book series, but would not be related to his story or his timeline, and I got shut down hard by his agent. I was very put off by this, but I understood that he didn’t want anyone tinkering around in his world or causing any possible copyright issues. If more authors allowed their fictional worlds to be an open, I think they could really add some depth to their creations. If you, as an author, aren’t done with the series, you could limit the interaction by other writers to certain time periods, and ask that certain things be included. You wouldn’t be hamstringing them, and you also wouldn’t be closing yourself off. Personally, I feel like I would love to see another writer’s take on a world I create. I think that it would be a good collaboration.

Now, I know that this idea is a bit of a tough thing to pull off. Each author is different, and some of them are very defensive about their work. I am not saying that every world can be open, but I’m saying that it would be nice if there were more willingness by authors to let others work in their universes. It works for comic books and many others. I think it could give some novice writers the courage they need to start on ideas of their own. Sometimes you need a starting point, and being a part of an existing universe can be a big help. I get stifled sometimes because I feel like I can’t come up with anything new, but if I was allowed to give it a go in the world of some of my favorite authors, I might be able to really get going. You would learn from an experience like that, and it would help you learn the processes of being a new author, and then all you have to do is fill in the blanks the next time you write. More open literary universes could be advantageous to young aspiring authors, and I would love to see it happen. What about you?

Sunday Insights 1-17-2016

I briefly mentioned in my previous post that I am an avid reader, which led to my proclivity for writing. I started reading at a very young age, and I remember having quite a large collection of books. I loved taking trips to the bookstores, and the best places were always the used bookstores. I could spend hours in the stacks of a used bookshop, and some of my favorite books could only be found there. Of course, now you can find anything online, but in the late 90s, the used bookstore was a bibliophile’s hunting ground.

As I began exploring my own tastes in books, I gravitated towards science fiction and fantasy. There is something about those invented worlds always appealed to me. I think the beauty is that these worlds are a place that the author builds, but the reader must create their own interpretation. Sometimes the author can incorporate the real world with science fiction or fantasy, which gives you a distorted view of reality. I have always loved the flexibility, because the possibilities are endless.  I am not saying that other genres are handicapped by limits, but with a completely open universe in which to work, science fiction and fantasy can boldly go where no other genre has gone before (bonus points for those who get the reference).

I have branched out and read from many other genres, and mysteries and thrillers are probably my second favorite genre group. I think that every genre has their strengths, and everyone has their preferences when it comes to what they read. Many people find that they enjoy non-fiction more than anything else. The wonderful things about books are that there is a book out there for everyone. Reading is something that everyone should do, and they should come to enjoy it. I think that many people don’t like reading because they don’t get to read things that they might enjoy. Much of what is provided in public education is not suited for everyone. It is my belief that if guidelines were set in place where each student had to select a book of a certain size and depth that interested them, they would be more encouraged reading. My point isn’t to preach or get off on a tangent, but I do have to say that I think we need to get students engaged in reading. My wife and I are both big readers and we have very opposite tastes, so our daughter (and future offspring) will have an eclectic set of options to read from. Hopefully, they can also develop their own tastes and will enjoy reading as much as we do.

When I decided to start putting all the ideas that had been running around in my head on paper, they mainly fell in the science fiction and fantasy categories (shocking, I know). The problem is that having an idea is only the first step. I started putting things down on paper, and typing things out without any plan or structure, and quickly found myself with nowhere to go. While I was still putting any ideas I had down, they were unorganized, and needed to have some sense of structure. I went in search of guidance.

There is a wealth of knowledge out there for novice writers. I felt like a kid again searching through those bookstores, except I did it from my computer. Amazon has an enormous repository of helpful works on writing, and I recommend checking them out if you have an interest. Another great resource is the knowledge provided on writer’s websites or blogs. I highly recommend http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/ if you have any interest in learning how to become an author. K.M. Weiland offers an absolute ton of insight and other help to anyone who wants to learn. Even if you don’t want to be a novelist, there are resources out there to show you how you could be successful writer in any field. There is no shame in seeking out assistance or insight from others. You are foolish if you don’t use the resources that are freely available to you. After waiting as long as I did to realize that writing was something that could really hold a future for me, I know that the only thing that really can hold you back is you.

If you have the passion to learn and expand your horizons, then dive in to the world of literature. If you have a head full of ideas or an imaginary world you want to share with others, then find a way to get them out there. If you have the love for reading, and the will to pursue writing, then follow your heart. I hope to share my passion for reading and my thoughts and stories with the world. It will be a long and interesting road, but I’m going to enjoy it. I can’t wait to learn and grow from the experiences along the way.

Why I Write

I want to share something with you today. It is something very close to my heart, and it’s very meaningful to me. I’ve had a dream of being a writer, of one kind or another, since I was in the last few years of college. Before then, writing was just something I did. It wasn’t a passion, just a simple hobby that I had a proficiency at. I was such an avid reader that my imagination could not help but be vivid in translation to writing. I wasn’t trained or skilled, and it was often haphazard and always unfinished. I really regret that I didn’t apply myself to writing back then. I would come up with some crazy idea, and then it would float away on the wind, because I didn’t write it down. I can hear those lost ideas as echoes in my memories. They are the empty sounds of thoughts unrealized, and I wish I had written them down. So, let me tell you about how I did come to realize that writing is a part of who I am. There were two instances where I found outlets for my writing, and they really ignited my passion for it.

When I went to college, I really had no idea what to do with myself. I was basically focused on playing football, and making good enough grades to be eligible. I chose criminal justice, because it seemed like the most interesting thing to me. A year and a half later, and I switched to education. I thought that maybe teaching or coaching might be better for me. I stuck with that for a year before they dropped the secondary education program. I had no interest in teaching below high school, so I started looking for another major. Again. At the time, I was in an English class taught by the Journalism advisor, and she was always asking me to join the school newspaper. I was really noncommittal on it, so I didn’t join. Enter Vince Davis, one of my best friends from college. He, as a newly converted journalism major, talked me in to it. I fell in love with writing for the newspaper. I felt at home with it. When my football career ended, writing gave me hope for a future. Vince and I took over that newspaper. Hell, we even talked the local newspaper, The Muskogee Phoenix, into paying us to take a trip to Dallas to cover the college baseball team. It was a great time, and I found something I really enjoyed. I started working part time at the Phoenix as a sports writer/photographer. I had several pieces featured on the front page of the sports section, and I even got to be the official Bacone College correspondent. It wasn’t paying much, but it was an experience. Eventually, reality handed me a check saying I needed to either start working four jobs instead of three, or I needed to swing by the military recruiting stations. Obviously, I chose the latter since I am serving in the Navy nowadays. I will never forget when I discovered that writing is something that makes me feel empowered, and when I realized that eventually I wanted to do it for a living.

Growing up, I didn’t really know my sister, Christel, very well. We shared the same father, but she lived with her mom, and she was nine years my senior (SHE’S 40! SHE’S GOING TO KILL ME WHEN SHE READS THIS!). I saw her a few times in my youth, and while we did have things in common, we didn’t keep in touch very well. I won’t go in to details, but eventually we realized that we needed to get to know each other, and so we did. We would talk more often, and one day, she mentioned this thing called a blog. So I looked in to this mysterious invention, and realize that I needed one. Not only did I realize I needed one, I realized that my sister had the same sort of connection with writing as I did. I came to realize that Townsends can be quite eloquent when we want to be. I started small, and my blogs came and went over time. I don’t think I was really ready to be a dedicated blogger at that point in my life. Things were always transitional, and I never felt very comfortable sharing with the world. I think I felt like I would never live up to the way that Christel was able to blog so confidently, which was stupid, of course. Blogging is not a competition, but it is a personal journey that you choose to share with the world, and if you don’t feel confident, you won’t be able to be consistent. So, ten years after my first attempt at blogging, I am finally ready to be a grown up blogger. I think. Well, I’m ready to give it a shot.

So, why am I blogging again? What has brought me back to writing, and sharing with the world?

I miss it. I miss being able to write and put my ideas out. I feel like I made a lot of excuses along the way to not write, and it is either now or never to get the ball rolling. The past year or so, I have been trying to pull story ideas out of my head for novels. They are mostly of the fantasy fiction genre, but lately, I have been focusing on simply pulling everything out that I can. I get stuck sometimes, but that is where blogging has helped, and I am also going to get in to journaling as well. Sometimes you just need good old-fashioned pen and paper. I want to realize the dream of writing for a living. I don’t want to do the military thing forever, and I don’t want to work in a job where I won’t be happy. I want to pursue something that will give me satisfaction and I will feel accomplished. This is my dream. I want to be a writer, and this blog is where it starts.

So, if you want to help me out, tell your friends to come check out the blog. Leave comments and ideas. I love reaching out to new people, and I love knowing that they are reading my thoughts and stories. I want to keep this blog growing, and I want to stick with it long term. I want to keep writing as much as possible, and to keep building to the point where I can really support my family with it. I want to write novels and stories, and be able to share the incredible ideas I have running around in my head with the world. One person that I really have to thank for inspiration is my wife, Emily. She is currently chasing her dream of being a professional violist, and I’ve taken so much joy in watching her work so hard for that. It made me realize that I needed to find my dream again and pursue it as well. I thank everyone who has helped me along the way, and I hope I have a lot more people to thank in the future.

This is why I write, and this is what is going to keep me going. As long as I am inspired, I am going to keep working, and I will keep putting it out there for the world to see. Thanks for reading. Stop by anytime.

~Ian

My View On Star Wars Episode VII

The Force Awakens (or possibly, now that it is domestically the highest grossing movie in history after on 21 days, Disney’s Golden Vaults Awaken) has finally brought Star Wars back. FINALLY. For every kid who grew up on it as I did, this was a wondrous moment. Love Disney or not, but they granted our wishes. No matter which decade you were a part of, we had our brush with the galaxy far, far away. This is my take on the newest addition to Star Wars. This isn’t just a casual take, either. This is a life long fan’s look at the redemption of a franchise that could have been left to die slowly if not for the Mouse.

As I said, I have a life long history with Star Wars. I was raised on the original trilogy, being a child of 1984. I watched those movies on VHS so many times that we had to buy them multiple times due to the tapes wearing out. To fill the gaps, I would read the books that told the many stories of the extended Star Wars Universe (SWU). As many kids did, I thought that the trilogy was the end for the movies. I thought the mythos of Star Wars would always continue on in books or later in video games. Then came the the remastering of the trilogy. I was in awe of being able to experience the movies in the theater. This, of course, came with the news that George Lucas was going to make the prequels. So we all waited, like kids outside a candy store for them to arrive. When they did, we were in awe. We took them in, and for most of us, we enjoyed them because we were young enough to appreciate them for being of the Star Wars legend. We didn’t pay much mind to the glaring flaws or frighteningly bad acting. We were just enthralled with the fact that Star Wars was again in theaters. As that trilogy ended, the bad aftertaste settled in. We realized that the prequels did not sate our hunger for Star Wars. For some people, it soured them completely. For as grand as Mr. Lucas’s effects were, it did little to hide the truth of his inability to properly manage a storyline. It was widely considered that the two best Star Wars movies were Episodes V and VI, which he did not direct. His love of spectacle and grand sweeping visual effects seemed to sap his attention from the importance of the plot and acting, which is terrible to think about, considering the actors and actresses he had to work with. So those of us who still loved Star Wars, soldiered on, accepting these new additions grudgingly. I continued reading the books, playing the games, and even watched the Clone Wars cartoons. Again, things looked bleak for the return to theaters for the maligned SWU. In rides Disney, fresh off saving Marvel! Mr. Lucas finally relents and sells the rights to the franchise, and the ball begins rolling that leads us to today. Here we are folks. $760 million plus domestically in 21 days and still rolling. So let’s talk about the movie, now that I’ve talked your face off about all the back nonsense.

The Force Awakens was a good movie. I would rank it easily in the top 3, after only seeing it once, and not really being able to truly analyze it with a substantial number of viewings as I have the other six. I went in to the movie knowing more than I wanted to about the storyline because people can’t keep their mouths shut, which really disappoints me. That being said, I will be posting no spoilers here. I tried to avoid everything I could about any major plot lines or spoilers, but people have to ruin things for everyone else. Anyways, I still went in and appreciated the movie for what it was. It was the first time in uncharted territory for a director and having to really work from scratch, besides having a storyline 30 years old to work with. I give major amounts of praise to J.J. Abrams for having the courage to do this, and for being able to pull it off. He could have taken the easy route, or let another director handle it. He chose to do it in a very classic sense with more practical effects, and he did the most with what he could. He had a double edged sword of having to stuff 30 years of storyline in to 2 hours and 19 minutes, and having to try and make is somewhat sensible. He wasn’t going to please everyone. I’ve read some rather scathing reviews, which I find unfair on a ridiculous number of levels. Then again, I will point to the money that this movie has made, and say that far outweighs anything negative that has been said.

Ok, I would like to share some of my personal pros and cons for this movie. This is me just being nitpicky. As a whole, the movie was great, but there are a few things I would like to point out as a little sketchy, and some things I would like to applaud.

I will start with the cons. They could have spent just a little more time telling some back story. While they did get a good amount of back fill in, there are still major MAJOR gaps. I am assuming that those will be filled in as the next Episodes and the one offs come along, but I still feel like people without a decent knowledge of the original six movies would be really lost during this movie. I spent a lot of time explaining things in the SWU to my wife while she got caught up on the movies and the things surrounding the stories. I shudder to think how someone would feel without any prior knowledge would be going in to that movie. The screenwriters also borrowed HEAVILY from from the original trilogy. In an odd sort of way, it was like seeing a weird, shifted remake. I get the need to lean on previous ideas because of Disney’s decision to not use any of the existing stories out in the SWU (now the alternate SWU?), but it was pretty blatant at times, and almost off putting. I also think that J.J. Abrams brought a little goofball humor into the movie, which prior to this, wasn’t really done in such an overt way. It really wasn’t a detraction, but it was unexpected and it felt out of place. Oh and Finn is a little bit Jar Jar to me. I am truly sorry if this ruins your view point of him, but he just has this awkwardness about him that screamed JAR JAR BINKS at me. My last complaint is that because the extreme amount of things that had to be packed in to this movie, so many things had to be truncated. I feel like there were points that didn’t get wrapped up or explained very well within the scope of the movie. I hope that they do an extended version of the movie so that maybe they can rectify that.

So I want to finish up on the good points. I am so happy that they picked a woman to be a true central character in this movie. Let us not get things confused with the six other movies. Leia and Padme played major roles, but they were always second behind the males. This is the first time where I feel like a female is a true lead character, and Daisy Ridley’s Rey is awesome. Yes, they screwed the pooch on the whole Monopoly game mess, but that was just bad planning. I really look forward to seeing how her character grows in the upcoming movies. As I stated before, Disney chose to not use the existing stories already out in the SWU, but I did notice that they did pull some general ideas, which I thought was incredibly smart. I hope that they don’t ignore the existing Young Han Solo Trilogy books if they pursue making any movies based off of a young Han Solo. If Disney has learned anything from their partnership with Marvel, it should be to use the resources that are readily available (Captain America: Civil War for one). The last good point I wish to highlight is the fact that this movie does a fantastic job highlighting the new characters. It does not rely too heavily on the original cast, but uses them to enhance and support the new characters. Some directors and screen writers would have used the old cast to carry the movie because it would have been easier, but the Force Awakens team did a wonderful job taking Star Wars in a new direction which I truly applaud.

All in all, I think The Force Awakens was a great way to bring the Star Wars Thematic Universe back to life. It wasn’t going to please everyone, but it was going to please a hell of a lot more people than it didn’t. For what they had to work with, and the huge time gap, they did a pretty good job giving us a true Star Wars movie. People will grumble, question, rip and tear this movie apart because everyone with an internet connection and social media believes that their opinion is the right one. George Lucas took his own shot at it as well, which I think was a little low brow. Based on the consensus viewpoints of his films, I’d say that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. I liked the movie, and overall I think that most people will too. Judging by the fact that it surpassed $760 million in 21 days, when it took the one other movie (Avatar) two releases and seven months to do so, means that people are more than happy with what they have brought to us. Be a prick and disparage the movie if you like, but you would miss the biggest point that the movie intended to make: Star Wars is back, and Disney is going to ride this X-wing for all it’s worth. I’m going along for that ride. Are you?