Thoughts on Star Wars: The Last Jedi

What a disappointment.

I was going to avoid spoilers, but now that I’ve had some time to reflect, man oh man I’m just gonna vent about everything. Because there is so much wrong with this movie, and so many things that could have been awesome but instead turned into missed opportunities. So this post is full of spoilers. Consider yourselves warned.

First, taken entirely on its own, the story is just broken. I’m undecided whether the writers and/or director were too clever or too stupid for their own good. Half the plot of the movie turned out to be a red herring, which made Finn, Rose, and to a certain extent Poe Dameron completely unnecessary characters. It seemed like the writers were trying to play with tropes and plot conventions in an unexpected way, but it ended up completely breaking the story. The Dark Knight did something similar and pulled it off masterfully, but The Last Jedi is no Dark Knight.

The purple-haired feminazi who replaced Princess Leia for half the movie deserves a special measure of my wrath. How a woman with all the charisma of a dead fish became one of the chief leaders of the rebellion lite, aka the resistance, I don’t know. There wasn’t a single scene with her where I wasn’t screwing my face up and cringing. And her command decisions were just completely awful. If you know that you’re going to lose most of your starships anyways, why not ram the super star destroyer at light speed with the first damn one to fall?

I think my biggest problem with the new Star Wars movies is that, with the notable exception of Rogue One, they introduce a bunch of new characters and assume that you’re going to admire them simply because they show up. We’re told that Snoke is the new big bad, but we know nothing about who he is, how he rose to power, what his capabilities are, etc. So when he dies, the only thing going through my head was “well, that was interesting,” whereas when Emperor Palpatine dies, it was this big emotional moment.

We’re never made to admire the new characters, we’re simply told why we should admire them. Goggle eyes orange face is supposed to be this super well-connected smuggler type, but we never learn anything about her other than that Han Solo apparently admires her, and she ends up shooting things a lot. Who is she? Where does she come from? What’s her history? Who is she connected with, and how? Show don’t tell, dammit. Give us something to make us care.

The fridge logic really ruins this movie. Why did Luke tell Rey to go away, when he obviously left a map for them to find him? If ramming starships at light speed is a thing, why hasn’t anyone ever done it before now? If Kylo Ren truly wants to wipe out the past and start over, why is he still fighting the Resistance?

Which brings me to the greatest missed opportunity of the movie. When Rey and Kylo Ren team up, that was truly awesome. Great fight scene, great turning point. For a moment, you think that you’re going to see something new in the Star Wars universe. The whole movie has been building up to it. Luke Skywalker has already established that the Jedi deserve to die out because they’re really a bunch of zealous fanatics, and Kylo Ren has already refused to give himself to the dark side fully. He reaches out his hand to Rey, offering her the chance to join forces and create something new, something that transcends both the light and the dark sides of the force. And then they go right back to fighting each other as if none of this had ever happened, because this is Star Wars, where apparently nothing ever changes.

It’s not so much that Kylo Ren was the most interesting character in the movie, so much as that he was the only interesting character. At this point, he’s the only one I’m still rooting for. Rey is an idiot. Finn and Rose are useless baggage and dead weight, respectively. Princess Leia is apparently still around, but without Carrie Fisher playing the part I really do not care about her. Chewbacca is still alive, I guess. So are R2D2 and C-3PO. But they’re the last original Star Wars characters, and I really don’t think they can carry a story. Poe Dameron is cool, but perpetually hamstrung by the idiots running the Resistance, and that gets old real fast.

As someone who grew up with Star Wars—who ranks Empire Strikes Back as his favorite movie of all time—I hate to say this, but I’m not going to watch the next Star Wars movie to come out. Not unless it gets overwhelmingly positive reviews and all my geek friends can’t stop raving about it. Rogue One was good, but The Last Jedi? It’s crap.

Here’s my ranking of Star Wars movies from best to worst:

  1. The Empire Strikes Back
  2. A New Hope
  3. Rogue One
  4. Return of the Jedi
  5. The Force Awakens
  6. Revenge of the Sith
  7. The Last Jedi
  8. Attack of the Clones
  9. The Phantom Menace

At this point, I don’t think anything below Return of the Jedi is worth rewatching.

Late September update

I am not a pleasant person to be around when I’m struggling to finish a difficult book.

Me: There’s just not enough time in the day.

Dad: I know how you feel, son.

Me: I don’t think that you do. You’ve never been self-employed.

Later…

Me: I need to quit my job.

Dad: But Joe, what about the benefits?

Me: Screw the benefits! I don’t want to be dependent on anyone for “benefits.” Besides, there’s a public pension crisis looming over this country, and in ten years your teacher’s pensions are all going to dry up. You can thank a decade of 0% interest rates for those “benefits.”

Like I said, not very pleasant.

So I had to push the deadline back another week for A Queen in Hiding. Really hate to do that. Problem is, the only writing time I can carve out of my schedule comes in short 1-2 hour chunks, and a single interruption can throw off everything. Like when a truck shows up during my lunch break. Or like when I’m playing catch-up and sleep in past my alarm.

It doesn’t help that every chapter, I run up against a wall that forces me to go back two or three chapters and completely change the direction of the story. This is definitely one of the weirdest books I’ve ever written. It’ll come together eventually, but it’s definitely taking more effort than it’s worth. Should lead the series in an interesting direction, though, and tie into the Gaia Nova series much further down the road. If I ever write any more of those books.

Anyway, so that’s coming along slowly. On the marketing end, I’m trying out a bunch of new things and/or working harder at things I’ve been doing for a while. All of my free and 99¢ book deals are scheduled through August 2018—now I just need to figure out how I’m going to promote them.

Not much is happening on the publishing front, other than The Sword Keeper which comes out this weekend. I’ve got a release schedule that runs through August 2018, which is part of the reason why I’m so stressed about getting Sons of the Starfarers finished. That series WILL be complete before the end of 2018, hopefully before July 2018. Four more books, of which 1.5 are currently written.

So that’s what I’ve been up to. Time to get back to writing.

Beginning of September Update

It’s September, my favorite month of the year! Maybe I’ll revisit that post in a blast from the past or something. So many reasons why September is awesome.

Things are going well on the writing front. I’ve switched up my daily routine to make more writing time, and it’s working well so far. My alarm goes off at 5:45 am (just after oh-dark-thirty) and I write for about an hour before heading off to my part time job. I’ve found that I tend to write a lot more when I start first thing in the day, so the earlier I can start, the better.

I won’t bore you with the rest of my routine, unless you want me to write a post about it. There’s a bunch of interesting lifestyle tweaks I’ve been trying out, like reading a couple chapters from one of the books I’m reading as soon as I get back from work in the afternoon, in order to refill the creative well and not get caught in a Youtube / general internet trap. Stuff like that.

My current WIP is A Queen in Hiding (Sons of the Starfarers, Book 7) which is proving to be a surprisingly difficult book. It’s definitely one of the weirdest things I’ve ever written, and that’s saying a lot. In Captives in Obscurity, Reva and Isaac get assimilated into a hive mind, and things only get crazier from there.

Sometimes, stories come really easy, almost like they spring fully formed from the mind. Other times, I’ve found I have to throw out almost the entire first draft before I discover the story.

The weird thing is that it has nothing to do with actual book length. Stars of Blood and Glory and Outworlder are totally different lengths, but they both came out almost perfect in the first draft. However, almost all of the Star Wanderers novellas took multiple drafts filled with stuff that had to be cut. Heart of the Nebula took years to finish, and I had to throw out multiple characters and subplots. I struggled for a long time with Genesis Earth, until I decided to throw the whole thing out and start with a blank page. The book was finished less than four weeks later.

The holy grail, of course, is to write a perfect book in four to six weeks (or less!) every time I set off to start a new one. But as awesome as it would be to barf rainbows and poop gold, all of those things sadly remain out of reach.

My goal at this point is to publish the last four Sons of the Starfarers books in 2018, two months apart from each other. Ideally, I’d like to have the next one up for preorder in time for the previous one’s release. It’s going to take some coordination, but I already have all the covers, which leaves just the writing and editing (metadata and formatting doesn’t take more than a day).

Unfortunately, that isn’t going to happen unless I can get A Queen in Hiding ready to go by December. So that’s what I’m trying to do.

Gunslinger to the Galaxy is on hold for now, though so far it’s coming along very nicely. I should be able to pick it up and finish without too much trouble. Edenfall is also on hold, for how much longer I really don’t know. Before the end of 2018, I’d like to publish either the one or the other, but publishing them both is probably a bit of a stretch.

Also, I haven’t even started The Sword Bearer yet (second book in the Twelfth Sword Trilogy), though I have lots of great ideas for it. Since The Sword Keeper is coming out in just a couple weeks, I should probably get on that.

On the publishing side, I dropped the ball a bit in August. It took so much energy to get The Sword Keeper ready for publication that I totally spaced publishing anything. I do have a bunch of shorts that are nearing the end of the submissions gauntlet, and some bundles that can go up too.

I don’t sell many print books, but I want to get print versions of all of my books up, including short stories. That’s going to be an ongoing project for a while. I also want to put up audiobook versions eventually, but it’s going to take some time to get that ball rolling. However, it has moved up the priority list.

That’s pretty much it. So much stuff I want to do, so little time to do it. Time, money, or youth: you can only pick two (and one of them isn’t your choice).

Take care, and thanks for reading!

Mid-August update

It’s already mid-August? Where in the heck did the last eight months go? Feels like the election drama from last year never really died down.

Don’t worry, this post isn’t about politics. Not enough time in the day to follow the latest circus sideshow in the Emerald City of Oz. Time has been on my mind, though: specifically, how to write 10k words a week (minimum) while catching up on the massive list of publishing tasks. I think I’ve found the answer.

I already get up every day around 7am to get ready for my part-time day job. Recently, I started getting up at 6am to put in an hour of writing first thing in the morning. The goal isn’t to pound out words so much as to get the mental gears turning, so that later in the day (such as lunch break) I can pick up very rapidly where I left off.

So far, it seems to be working. Plus, it’s a whole lot easier to sit down and write at the end of the day when you know you’ve already got more than a thousand words under your belt and can hit that daily word count goal with just another few hundred. My writing productivity is improving significantly, and as I continue to work out the kinks, I believe it will continue to improve.

On the writing front, I’ve put A Queen in Hiding on the back burner for the moment, and have instead moved on to Gunslinger to the Galaxy. This one is from Jane’s point of view, and so far, it’s a blast. Should be finished with that WIP by the end of September.

On the publishing side, there’s all sorts of stuff going on. I’ve got a cover artist for The Sword Keeper, and the preliminary sketches look really amazing! Also going through the edits and getting the metadata worked out. I’ll probably write the author’s note over the weekend. By the end of next week, it should be up for preorder with a release date of September 23.

My goal is to get to the point where I’ve always got a novel on preorder. Another goal is to have print books and audiobooks for every title more than 15k words, but that’s going to take some time.

This would all be so much simpler if I didn’t spend 30 hours a week at a day job. Time, money, or youth: you can only pick two of the three, and if you’re under 40 one of them has to be youth.

That’s what I’m up to these days. Expect to see some exciting stuff in the weeks ahead!

Sick, sick, sick

So Thursday morning, I came back from the gym after running 2.5 miles on the treadmill and promptly fell asleep for half an hour. Later that evening, I went for a walk and found myself out of breath after climbing a flight of stairs. For some reason, I was having difficulty getting air into my lungs. No other symptoms, though, so I chalked it up to the inversion and took an alka seltzer to clear things up.

Friday, I woke up with a complete lack of desire to go anywhere or to do anything. The day was mostly a wash, though I did get up to Salt Lake to see my sister who was attending Rootstech 2017. On the way, I started coming down with a mild headache. Also, minor congestion.

Saturday was when the plague finally struck me.

Congestion, massive headache, unbelievable chills—the whole works. I spent most of the day in bed, with a blanket, a quilt, and a down comforter all piled on top of me, and I still didn’t feel warm enough. Drank lots of water and took a bunch of medicine, but I was still in a pretty bad way through most of Sunday.

As things stand right now, I’ve still got a headache and I’m coughing up all kinds of nastiness, but it seems that the worst has passed. Still popping vitamin Cs and drinking piss-tons of water, which isn’t fun, but at least I’m getting better.

No idea how that’s going to impact things this week. Hopefully, I’m back on my feet and writing again relatively soon, but that may or may not be the case.

Either way, there’s still a lot of prewriting to do before I can start my next WIP, Edenfall. I need to reread Genesis Earth and really immerse myself in that universe. I also plan to look over the reviews and spend a day or two picking over tvtropes like a menu. If I can line everything up the way I want to, I should be able to write a really clean first draft and publish it before the end of the year.

No promises, though. I’m still not sure when this sickness is going to go away. Hopefully soon.