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NY Comic Con 2017 – Star Wars/The Last Jedi Edition   Leave a comment

Why We Go To Comic Cons…

So yeah, I braced the crowds and the stifling heat of the Jacob Javitz Center in NYC to witness one of the greatest events of our lifetime, the Star Wars/The Last Jedi exhibition. I did lots of other things too, but I’ll get to those in a later post.

And sure, I can tell you all about the neat stuff I saw in there, but why bother? I’ll just show you. Here’s what I stood in a very long but moving well line on Saturday.  This is a selection from the exhibit. All pictures and copy are from the Star Wars/The Last Jedi exhibition, sponsored by Verizon.

Here’s a preview of one of the movie posters for The Last Jedi. I felt it especially poignant since the woman depicted has departed our plane for other galaxies far, far away.

It says, “First Order Tie Fighter Pilot Uniform” Exhibit 1 – Tie fighter pilots were one of the key pieces of the first order’s overwhelmingly powerful military apparatus. Potential pilots were selected from the ranks as children and vigorously trained for years to shape their reflexes, visual acuity, and tactical instincts to extraordinary levels. Successful Tie Fighter pilots would go on to hunt enemy craft, protect bases, patrol sensitive territory and escort larger craft throughout the galaxy.”

There is glare on the photo but what I can make out says, “First Order Stormtrooper Blaster Rifle -Exhibit C – This…blaster rifle is the standard-issue weapon for…order stormtroopers. Here shown with attached butt stock a potent…weapon. The…is…durable and reliable, enabling stormtroopers to act as relentless enforcers of the First Order’s will.” (sorry if there are errors in my copy – difficult to read).

These are Kylo’s Tie Fighter (left) and Resistance Bomber (middle).

“Kylo’s Tie Fighter – Exhibit A-1- Kylo Res has inherited amazing piloting skills from his father, though he uses these abilities to pursue the First Order’s enemies.”

“Resistance Bomber – Exhibit A-2- Now reinforced with new combat craft, the resistance fleet dispatches hardy bombers into battle with the First Order fleet, escorted by swift star fighters, the munitions-laden carrier ships drop powerful proton bombs onto their capital ship targets.”

(As read from the copy)

“First Order Flame Trooper Helmet – Exhibit D-1 – Resistance fighters coined the terms “roasters,” “Hotheads” or “Burnouts” to describe this specialized class of stormtrooper. Flametroopers, equipped with flamethrowers and fireproof armor, are feared for their ability to lay waste to the battlefield and flush out resistance entrenchments.”

“First Order Stormtrooper Helmet – Exhibit D-2 – The most dangerous fighting force in the galaxy, First Order stormtroopers are trained from birth to ruthlessly enforce the will of the First Order. ‘A real stormtrooper has no room for sympathy. A real stormtrooper is the extension of the First Order, of Supreme Leader Snsoke’s will, nothing less.’ – Captain Phasma”

“Elite Praetorian Guard Helmet – Exhibit D-3 – The mysterious and fearsome figures known as the Praetorian Guard serve as Supreme Leader Snoke’s personal protectors. Eight in total, their features are completely hidden behind striking red armor meant to evoke memories of the Emperor’s Royal Guard.”

“Kylo Ren’s Lightsaber Hilt – Exhibit D-4 – This lightsaber hilt belonged to Master of the Knights of Ren, Kylo Ren. The distinctive cross guard design, which results in two additional red plasma blades emerging from either side of the hilt, was engineered by Kylo Ren himself.”

“Kylo Ren’s Helmet – Exhibit d-5 – Kylo Ren is the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa, protege of Luke Skywalker, and eventual master of the Knights of Ren. He is known as the “Jedi Killer” among the rank and file of the First Order. His helmet was crafted to mask his visage and voice, concealing his identity as he delves further into the power of the Dark Side of the Force

“Poe Dameron’s Resistance X-Wing Pilot Uniform – Exhibit H – Hailed as the very best pilot in the Resistance, the brash but resolute Poe Dameron quickly rose through the Resistance ranks and became one of Leia Organa’s most trusted operatives. Dameron commands both Red and Blue Starfighter squadrons and flies under the call sign Black Leader, based on his customized, dark-hulled X-wing, Black One. ‘I can fly anything.’ – Poe Dameron.”

Coming next post: more New York Comic Con 2017!

Line Editing A-Go-Go   Leave a comment

How odd the screen looks when you take a picture of it with an iPhone…

It’s come down to this: either I buck up and face the monumental editing task that awaits me, or give up being a writer.

I’ve been shopping around this novel series a bit when, not surprisingly, I’ve been turned down. Yeah, yeah, rejection is inevitable. I ain’t crying about that. It’s part of it. Busting your cherry in the publishing world. One can’t call themselves a writer if they’ve never been rejected at least a hundred times, right?

But after I’ve been subjected to line editing…well, I’m a bit awed that my grasp of the English language seems tenuous at best.

See, for years I’ve been a copywriter. I’ve created pamphlets with the best of them. Wrote web content. Magazine articles. Radio scripts. Flyers. Really, anything that needed describing for a demographic, I did it. Always kept strict adherence to my grammar. Rarely use an Oxford comma or dangling participle. It was this ability to write, coupled with my vivid imagination, that goaded me into writing. And yeah, the story I came up with’s brilliant.

The way I tell it…let’s say it’s a work in progress.

Everyone needs a good editor to make work shine. Hey, diamonds aren’t anything to brag about when you yank them from the earth. Takes a lot of refinement before someone at the local chain store decides it’s the one for the hon. And sometimes a writer gets too close to his or her work. Can’t see errors. I bet if you pressed your face right up to the Mona Lisa, all you’d see is a glob (or the hand of the armed security guards ready to haul you off). You’ve read your work so many times even your characters are sick of invading their turf.

I asked a seasoned, published writer (in this case, my sister Gwen) if she wouldn’t mind reading my book. Since she has an MFA in creative writing and is a college professor, I figured why not. 2,454 comments later, she provided me with all of the details of what makes my book not exactly the novel it can be. While she agreed the story was compelling, the massive instances of head-hopping, substituting internal dialogue for first person singular, thin descriptions of locations or purpose of plot, amongst other things, she pretty much said I needed to go back to the drawing board, but this time with guidelines.

That’s a lot to absorb. Many writers would find all those comments intimidating or insulting. Not me. If I ever want my book to see the light of day, I’m getting to work.

Right after I come home from New York Comic Con this Saturday. I promise!

 

 

 

Fall Back   Leave a comment

Feel the chill in the air?

How can one tell it’s the changing of the season? Just look at all the Christmas decorations filling the shelves at your favorite department store. Yes, it’s that time of year when we start picking out what’s going to twinkle twinkle on our boughs of poly. After all, who wouldn’t want to squeeze out the waning days of summer any other way?

Wait…what’s that you say? We have several other intervening holidays? Like Three Day Weekend in October, Overpriced Candy & Costume Day and the Day Before Black Friday? Oh, them.

As for me, well, it’s autumn when the sun crosses the celestial equator, known as the ecliptic, and enters the constellation Virgo on or about September 21-22 each year. As I labor at my job tomorrow, oh, let’s say around 20:02 UTC, the season will officially change. Day and night won’t exactly be equal, but they’ll be close enough.

Looking for some interesting ways to celebrate the season? Here’s a random list of suggestions:

  • Hold your own MST3K party and dig out the film “Barb Wire.”  Shot in 1995 and set in 2017, it stars Pamela Anderson in the lead role (she tacked on her married last name “Lee” in this film), it’s an utterly unwatchable film wherein our leading lady won a Golden Raspberry award for the worst new actress of 1995. Crack open something cold, chow down on Chinese and let those comments rip!
  • For a much better nightmare, why not check out John Carpenter’s “Halloween.”  Filmed on a minuscule budget and panned by critics, it marked the debut of a vastly talented actress, Jamie Lee Curtis and went on to launch a highly successful franchise. It’s considered a classic these days.
  • If you’re passing through the Hudson Valley of New York, check out Sleepy Hollow, formerly known until 1996 as North Tarrytown. It’s the legendary home of Washington Irving and his headless horseman. Visit his grave and say hi to his fellow cemetery mates Andrew Carnegie, Brooke Astor, Walter P. Chrysler, Elizabeth Arden and more. Fun facts: Adam Savage of “Mythbusters” is a native son. Caityn (“Bruce”) Jenner went to high school here. It’s also the setting for many a film and TV series, notably “House ofDark Shadows,” “Curse of the Cat People” and an episode of “Property Brothers.”
  • Can’t make the drive? Go gaming! Sleepy Hollow is also the location of 2014 game Assassin’s Creed Rogue.  Why not explore its dystopian milieu?
  • How about looking upward on a dark clear night? Spectacular meteor showers await. On October 21, the Orionids peak after midnight. And if the weather cooperates, this’ll be a grand night for viewing – it’s a new moon and unless you’re near a city or other bright lights, it doesn’t get better than this. For other meteor shower activity, visit Sky and Telescope’s web article.
  • Dress up on Halloween, no matter how old you are, just for fun. Throw on your taco costume with a unicorn head and freak out kids coming to your door for treats and trick them, instead. Then give them a pile of processed packaged sugar products.
  • Instead of cheating Thanksgiving out of the respect it deserves, gather your friends and family together, cook up your best free grocery-store bonus turkey and pig out. If holding dinner parties isn’t your thing, go volunteer. Share some kindness. Be a pal and visit an old friend or family member you haven’t seen in ages, or better still, invite them to share a plate at your dinner table. Don’t worry about catching bargains at War-Mart and standing out in the cold to be the first to get a 55″ LED screen for $199. Memories aren’t made of that. Sharing your time and opening your heart will do the trick much better.

So, what are you waiting for? Go out and celebrate! After all, nature’s tossing all of its leafy confetti just for you. Run under its shower with flailing arms and live!

Rough Passages   Leave a comment

I’ve lost track the amount of times I’ve rewritten passages in my manuscript. I slave, I toil, I backspace…only to create something that’s not quite there, yet. It’s as if I’m skipping through daisies, only to fall in a wet, steaming pile of cow plop.

Ugh. I know.

Beta readers all love my story. An actual librarian thought it was terrific. So did an editor. Even someone working in a related industry praised my work. Talk about confidence building. Surely my words are all that…

…or not.

For a great perspective, compare sending out your manuscript to dating. There’s this terrific person, filled with depth and action, with a healthy splattering of romance tucked inside, seeking to meet that perfect partner. After meticulous grooming, advice from friends and lively rehearsals in front of the bathroom mirror, it’s time to face the scene. Step out and seek. Shake a few hands, make introductions, even sip cocktails. Hearts beat faster, breath quickens, a few beads of sweat pearl up around the hairline. A card is passed along, hopeful wishes and tempered optimism dare blossom in one’s heart.

Days pass.

Nothing occurs, not even a text.

Your worst fears are realized, in the form of rejection. It might be that your hopes drowned in a vast pit of slush piles, or forgotten email attachments, or ignored – ghosted – and forgotten. It’s as if that spiffy new dress or snappy hairstyle did nothing to convince Mr./Ms./Mx. Prospect you’re perfect. Great, even.

So what was it you did? What did I say? Or not say? Or do? In the dark of the night, as you ponder for the billionth time, nerves fray and frustration builds. Your abilities feel as if they’ve drifted out to space.

Some might even give up altogether.

Well, look. No one’s perfect. Not even geniuses get it right on the first try.

Sometimes a writer gets too close to the manuscript and perspective skews. Or too many people have said too many contrasting things and you, the writer, can’t figure out what to do any more. The story’s muddled, the characters are unlikable, the plot’s unrealistic, the dialogue’s way too formal.

So here’s a suggestion: seek professional advice.

I’m not saying go out and find a book doctor. Sure, they might help put your story back on track, but they’re expensive and offer no guarantees.

Instead, seek out an honest-to-goodness writer’s group. There are many, but not all have professional writers with published works at major houses (and before you say anything, self-publishing doesn’t always count). Attend workshops they hold. There, you’ll be shown how to strengthen your skills on a variety of topics, from developing compelling characters, shoring up a sagging middle or crafting a dynamic opening line. See if they have a critiquing group where your work can get an honest evaluation. Maybe even a member might be willing to give your manuscript a thorough review. Tell you all about the rough passages and plot lines.

Writer’s groups often meet at libraries, book stores or other public places. Next time you venture into one of these places, don’t hesitate to ask.

Search the web for writers’ conferences. There are many, but legitimate writer’s conferences don’t charge thousands of dollars and promise that your book will be published. A typical writer’s conference will be held in a hotel, with representatives from industry leaders, such as literary agencies and publishers. There’s a roster of known authors attending who’ll give workshops on skill development.

Here’s a great place to start: Publishing and Other Forms of Insanity.  It’s a terrific blog filled with all sorts of links, contacts, industry news and conferences. Bookmark it. Check it often.

And most important of all, have faith. After slogging through all those rough passages, you might just discover how to sail through smooth seas. Besides, you never know…you might meet a great date!

 

Otherworldly Saturn   Leave a comment

Few places capture our imagination like Saturn. With its myriad of rings and moons, it shines above us in the night sky as it travels along the ecliptic.  It’s always been inspiration for sci-fi fans too. Anyone who’s ever glanced at pulp sci-fi fiction covers might have noticed ringed planets hovering in the background as a elongated oval-shaped finned spaceship rocketed past.

action127_22

“Tommy Tomorrow,” created by Jack Schiff, George Kashdan, Bernie Breslauer, Virgil Finlay, and Howard Sherman, DC Comics

Take, for example, our friend Tommy Tomorrow. Created in 1947, he roamed the heavens in his futuristic 1988 space jet, zipping past a rather featureless Saturn-like planet, as illustrated above, while another Saturn-ish red planet with gold rings spins in the distance.

Systema Saturn

Early drawings of Saturn. From the Systema Saturnium (Fig. 67)

Early astronomers struggled to draw what they’d seen through primitive telescopes. While they seemed to understand that its appearance changed in relation to its orbit around the sun and the earth, they couldn’t always account for its rings. A quick glance tells the viewer that something’s going on with Saturn, but just exactly what, they couldn’t be sure.

As telescopes grew more sophisticated, astronomers were able to recreate more accurate  images of Saturn.

Antique Saturn

19th century Illustration of Saturn

 

And photographers capabilities grew, so did their ability to capture Saturn.

1879 Jupiter and 1885 Saturn

A composite photo of  Jupiter (1879) and Saturn (1885)

In 1973, NASA launched Pioneer 11. Its mission included photographing Saturn. While previous photos of this planet taken from the Earth resulted in blurry, yellowish images, Pioneer 11’s photos revealed tantalizing clues about its nature, as well as its moons.

Saturn Pioneer 11

NASA image, Saturn and Titan as seen by Pioneer 11

None, though, can compare to the 20-year mission of Cassini. Launched in 1997, the Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative partnership between NASA and ESA to conduct an exhaustive exploration of the ringed jewel of the solar system. The images sent back are like none other.

2802_rings-690w3

NASA, Cassini-Huygens mission image of Saturn

On September 15, 2017, the Cassini mission will come to a fiery end, as it crashes into the atmosphere of Saturn, ending a glorious 13-year run. It’s been an amazing journey, and without a doubt, its legacy will continue to fascinate astronomers and ordinary folk like me. You’ve done well, Cassini!

 

 

My Return from Oblivion with THREE Original Geek Vids!   Leave a comment

Well, it’s been a long and dreary summer, folks. Much too much to go into right now, but let’s say life’s been unloading a bunch of unwanted detritus onto my lap. I could tell you what that all means, but who wants to complain about how bad things have been when fresh images of Harvey flood the internet? No, my life’s not that bad, and I pray for those whose lives hang in the balance.

I promise a grand return to writing my official blog here, but in the meantime, as a way of getting started, I’m posting three videos my fellow geek D.A. Cruz has created. He’s very much the up-and-coming game and vid reviewer, so please check these out:

Snap Sci-Fi: Rejuvenation   3 comments

Credit: 1st edition of John Jakes’ novel The Asylum World (1969)

If ever there were a time for rejuvenation, this was it.

Philippa gazed at herself in the mirror. Twelve years on and she still managed to cling to the hope that her youth was endless. The evidence, reflected before her, proved otherwise.

But something deep within her began to change. She struggled to make sense of it.

A boring ex-wife, doomed to a midlife divorce and a minimum wage job. No hopes, no dreams, no anything. Each day she arose confirming this self-inventory, and every night she struggled to sleep, haunted by her personal truths.

But today, she noticed something not visible: her memory. She recognized the face in the mirror, but not its purpose. Philippa’s hands traced the contours of her cheeks, her neck, even pinching the flesh to examine its authenticity. Nothing. She turned away and walked the interior of her home seeking clues, feeling reassured that her mother’s artwork hung from the walls, last night’s leftovers expected to become today’s lunch, and Sunday’s crossword needed a few more clues to be solved.

What changed?

She opened a small drawer in her nightstand. Crumpled behind the junk that naturally accumulates within it hid a piece of paper. She unfolded it and read it out:

My Testimony

Be it said by me, Philippa Jrzowski, that no longer shall I exist. Instead, my soul will be inhabited by unknowns. My thoughts shall be those of indeterminate usefulness. I shall wrest whatever I can from what ever I become, if for no other reason than to live. And I mean, LIVE.

Enough, thought Philippa, enough. She smoothed out the paper and lay it on the comforter.

She returned to the mirror, gazing hard at the image before her. This time, however, a woman appeared more fierce than before. Philippa reached towards it and clutched its edges, bringing it closer, blurring her focus. She smiled.

“Exactly,” said Philippa. “And now, I mean to do just that.”

 

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