Rants

Author Chat Part II – Ranking Star Wars Movies – Russ & Mary Fan

In Part I of this Star Wars chat, Mary Fan and I discussed and debated Rogue One. Here, we rank the Star Wars movies in descending order. Think we’re gonna agree? Uh … not likely!

Russ: OK, Mary. So … with eight Star Wars movies under our belts so far … rank them in terms of how much you enjoyed them and would want to watch again most. Include at least some commentary next to each choice.
Go!

Mary’s Star Wars movie countdown:

8 ) Revenge of the Sith – There’s plenty to enjoy about the movie in terms of sets and costume and creature design, but really, how can anyone take Anakin’s fall seriously? Sith had the burden of bridging the gap between the arrogant 20-year-old we met in Ep 2 and Darth freakin’ Vader, and it failed. Does Anakin really think turning to the Dark Side and killing children will save Padme? And how did he get there after, literally minutes before, declaring that he was going to ‘stop’ the Dark Side?? The whole thing was so abrupt. Not to mention, I can’t forgive what they did to Padme. She goes from a kickass heroine to barefoot and pregnant, weeping all the time and needing a big strong man to tell her what to do. And then she dies of a broken heart. WTF??? WORST. MOVIE.

7) The Phantom Menace Another unpopular opinion — yay! I have lots of those about the prequels haha. For some background, I actually watched Phantom before the originals… as a pre-teen in 1999. I thought baby
Anakin was adorable, and you know what? Jar Jar was actually kinda funny. Of course, he’s ridiculous to me now that I’m no longer 11. Just like the Ewoks. Also, that final confrontation with Darth Maul is the best lightsaber fight in the whole series.

6-5) – Oof, this one’s hard. I’m going to cheat and call it a tie between Rogue One and (unpopular opinion time!) Attack of the Clones. Rogue One was a really well made film, yes, but I don’t know how often I’d want to rewatch it (there’s only so much tragedy I can take!). Attack of the Clones was not a fantastic movie, but definitely the best prequel. And I really enjoyed watching it. Forget terrible lines about sand… Did you see that fight between Jango Fett and Obi-Wan? How about that high-speed chase through Coruscant? And the introduction to the clonetroopers was chilling because you know what they’ll become… it’s a fantastic prequel in how it teases the originals. The costume and set design are amazing. Of course, it felt like a different world from the originals, but I didn’t mind that. …. The Rebellion exists on the fringes of the galaxy, which is why we get all the grungy tech in the originals. The prequels are about the Republic at its height… of course it’s going to look very different. Just as Chicago looks very different from, say, Camden.

4) The Force Awakens Fantastic movie. Yes, it was essentially a remake of A New Hope, but A New Hope is just every monomyth ever in space. And yes, Snoke was kind of awful, but Rey and Finn are two of my favorite characters ever. Finn’s actually pretty original… we haven’t seen really seen a turncoat in the film canon before. It was also a thrill catching up with our original trio, even if it was brief and rather tragic. I think that connection to the originals is what really sparked my fan obsession. And I’m so curious to see what they’ll do with Kylo Ren’s character! I actually wonder if Carrie Fisher’s death (May the Force be with her) will change his fate, since Leia’s role is being rewritten for Ep 9.

3) Return of the Jedi The least of the originals because those Ewoks get more ridiculous every time I watch the movie (even though I thought they were adorable as a kid). The Force Awakens nearly unseated it, but I love that final confrontation with Luke, Vader, and Palpatine too much.

2) A New Hope Gotta love the original, with its mix of fairytale idealism and grungy, almost dystopian tech. Also, it has the best ending, with the way it treats you to little victories that lead to bigger setbacks (like
rescuing Leia only to lead the Empire to the Rebel base)… all to build up the tension and make that final moment of victory fantastic.

1) The Empire Strikes Back I mean, it’s EMPIRE!! Need I say more?

Your turn!

Russ: Interesting rankings! For the most part, we definitely don’t see eye to eye here (although we agree on at least our favorite). Ha-ha! Here’s me:

Russ’s Star Wars movie countdown:

8 – The Phantom Menace – Darth Maul was incredible to watch aaaand … that’s about it. I won’t even go into Jar Jar. This could have been a much better movie had the classic Star Wars mysticism been a core underpinning of the narrative, but, aside from Darth Maul, for me, a big, unwatchable dud.

7 – Return of the Jedi – This is kind of weird one for me. The interplay between Luke, Vader, and the Emperor was pretty awesome, and some of my favorite scenes in the entire franchise. But — and I know I’m gonna get nerd hated on this one — I was never a fan of the Joba the Hutt rescue sequence, and the Ewoks are just too silly. I wanted to love Jedi, especially after Empire, and I saw the original in the theaters as a kid, so they’re forever a part of my ongoing childhood, but Jedi falls mostly flat for me.

6 – Attack of the Clones – Yes, the relationship between Padme and Anakin is ridiculous, but I liked the nourish feel to the first half, the sequence with Obi Wan and Jengo Fett on the clone water base was very cool, and, aside from the arena sequence, the last 45 minutes is thrilling. I know it’s not a ‘great’ movie, but I love watching it.

5- The Force Awakens – Lots of cool moments, it looks great, and Rey is an absolute star, but there’s a lot of been there done that here.

4- Revenge of the Sith – For all of its issues (poor Padme, the relationship with Anakin, blech), this is the movie where things go dark and gruesome for our heroes, with Ewan McGregor at his absolute peak as Obi Wan. Flaws aside, it’s kinda badass, and if it’s on, I’m watching it.

3- A New Hope – It’s the original, and the magic is still there. The first 45 minutes feels almost painfully slow by today’s standards, and the light saber duel between Vader and Obi Wan is laughable now, but the characters sing, and the ending is as awesome as ever.

2- Rogue One We discussed Rogue One at length already in Part I of our Star Wars chat, but I’ll say that it kept me riveted all the way through, and makes A New Hope all the more compelling now that we know what leads up to it.

1- The Empire Strikes Back – Hands down the best. Yoda. Lando. Luke and Vader. Han in peril. You know the rest. Pure gold.



Okay, folks! That’s all she wrote for this edition. But Mary and I will be back soon with new chats. Stay tuned!

 

ABOUT MARY FAN
Mary Fan is a sci-fi/fantasy writer hailing from Jersey City, NJ. She is the author of the Jane Colt sci-fi series, which comprises ARTIFICIAL ABSOLUTES (Red Adept Publishing, 2013), SYNTHETIC ILLUSIONS (Red Adept Publishing, 2014), and VIRTUAL SHADOWS. Her works also include several young adult fantasy novellas: THE FIREDRAGON (Glass House Press, 2014), FIREDRAGON RISING (Glass House Press, 2015), TELL ME MY NAME (Glass House Press, 2014), and LET ME FLY FREE (Glass House Press, 2016). These serve as prequels to two full-length series currently under contract with Glass House Press, Flynn Nightsider and Fated Stars.

Find her online at www.maryfan.com, on Twitter as @astralcolt, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mfanwriter.

ABOUT RUSS COLCHAMIRO
He’s a science fiction and comedy author who writes lots of goofy stuff, particularly his Finders Keepers trilogy. But if you want to learn more, you’re visiting his site. Click hereor follow him on Twitter @authorduderuss and Facebook at www.facebook.com/RussColchamiroAuthor

Author Chat – Star Wars Rogue One – Russ & Mary Fan

Mary Fan and I are both science fiction authors and Star Wars nerds, but as we’re 20 years apart in age (Mary the youthful spitfire here – ha!), we thought it would be fun to chat about Rogue One, see where we agreed, where we disagreed, and where this newest Star Wars movie fits on the list of our favorites.


We decided to present this chat — which we did through Facebook Messenger over the course of two days — in two parts. Here is Part I

FAIR WARNING – SPOILERS THROUGHOUT!

Russ: Mary. We’ve both seen Rogue One. What did you think?
Mary: I really liked it!! I loved seeing new parts of the Star Wars universe. And they all fit perfectly into the world of the originals… It was pretty stunning how much Rogue One ‘felt’ like an extension of those movies (unlike the prequels—which I also liked, but whose shininess always clashed with the rundown universe we love). I also really loved the new characters. Chirrut was my favorite, with his blend of dry humor and spiritual idealism. And I loved his interactions with Baze. I also really liked Jyn. She’s an interesting character, and it was great seeing a flawed and amoral woman lead a film. And of course the action was thrilling (I could go on).

That being said, I didn’t LOVE love it as much as I did The Force Awakens, which had more of the Star Wars spirit. Star Wars has always been about hope and idealism (in the fairytale mold). Rogue One talks about hope a lot, but doesn’t offer much at the end. And I’m not a fan of the Rogue One soundtrack… Apparently the composer was only given four weeks to knock off John Williams (and you can tell).

Still, Rogue One is a really well made film (with some awesome acting and cinematography) and a great addition to the Star Wars film canon. What did you think?

Russ: I actually loved it. It has its flaws, but the intensity drew me in all the way to the final frame. But it’s interesting to me that you said it didn’t have hope. Yes, the characters in Rogue One don’t live to fight another day, but they sacrificed themselves for the greater good. Heartbreaking, but I would argue that their sacrifices paved the way for hope. There was a sense of desperation that we haven’t seen since Empire, and parts of Revenge of the Sith.

Now about the music … it was actually my biggest complaint. No matter the reasoning behind it, to me, it’s not a complete Star Wars movie without the classic soundtrack. What the filmmakers offered us was a poor knockoff. There were specific beats in the story that were perfectly queued up for the classic music to kick in, and it was a dud when that music wasn’t there.

But getting back to Jyn. You said she was amoral. How so? I didn’t really see her that way. Disillusioned, yes. But I saw her as waiting to be, pardon the pun, awakened.

Mary: Sorry, I thought we were doing spoiler-free, so I didn’t elaborate. But if we’re talking about the ending… Yes, there ultimately is hope for the rebellion. But not for the characters themselves. Rogue One is ultimately a tragedy, and really, this is the first time Star Wars has been tragic. Even with Episode 3… You knew Anakin was going to be redeemed. Jyn, Chirrut, Cassian, etc… They’re just gone. I didn’t mind how it ended — I thought it worked for the movie — but it didn’t feel very Star Wars-y.

Music: I completely agree. I think it would have been better off if it hadn’t tantalized us with brief glimpses at the original music that wandered off in different directions. Like the theme music over the opening title… It opens with a perfect fifth jump just like the Star Wars main theme, but then gives us different notes, which is just a huge let down. Anyway, enough music nerding for me!

RE Jyn: When we meet Jyn, she’s neither good nor evil. She’s just out for herself, which is perfectly understandable. She doesn’t believe in the rebellion… The empire planting their flags everywhere is “not a problem if you don’t look up.” She’s like Han Solo… He’s amoral when we meet him and doesn’t become good until he saves Luke at the very end. In RPG terms, I see Jyn as chaotic neutral. Of course, like Han, she makes the leap to chaotic good at the end, when she sacrifices herself for the greater good.

I loved that character arc for her. Women in SFF are almost always portrayed as either good or evil, period. They’re not allowed to inhabit that gray area of characters like Han. They’re not allowed to be a bit unlikable, yet still the hero. Jyn was groundbreaking in that sense.

Russ: I agree with that. Jyn was given the chance to have a significant yet tragic arc that had some weight to it.

But speaking of intense. Vader. Whoa. That was awesome! Not a lot of screen time but he definitely made his presence known

Mary: Yes!! I loved Vader’s role. That was the badass Vader I always wanted to see… Vader at the height of his evil power. We don’t really see that in the originals, and I think it’s just because of the technology of the time. Now, we understand why he’s so feared, why those Rebels looked so terrified at the beginning of A New Hope.

Speaking of OT characters, what did you thing of CGI Tarkin?

Russ: Mixed feelings. The performance was really good, with the same understated, cold-hearted delivery as Peter Cushing in New Hope. But … the technology isn’t totally there yet. He looked just ‘fake’ enough where it felt a bit creepy.

Also … what did u think about Krennic? Ben Mendelsohn is a good actor, and I’d love to see the footage of him that they cut from the movie, but I didn’t really fear him as much as he was just an ambitious weasel.

Mary: Krennic? He was all right. He wasn’t scary so much as a representative of a larger evil… Really, he was a high-ranking thug. Which I didn’t mind, to be honest. Vader and Tarkin were the ultimate villains, even though they had less screen time. I wish they hadn’t gotten so cocky with their CGI, though. If they’d only used transmissions/holograms, even full body shots, they could have gotten away with it. But the close-ups looked plastic to me. Good plastic, but plastic nonetheless. The performance by the actor behind the CGI was well done, though.

CGI Leia worked because she’s only seen for an instant. Also, it’s a lot easier to CGI a pretty teen with smooth skin LOL. Also, how thrilling was it to see the original rebel pilots?

Russ: Absolutely! I loved those original pilots! So cool! And one of my favorite nerd moments was learning that the same crystals that powered the light sabers were being mined to power the Death Star. Great use of duality — a physical embodiment of dark vs. light theme.

And how awesome was Donnie Chen as Chirrut! “I am one with the Force. The Force is with me.”

Mary: Yes! That’s going to be an iconic line… almost as iconic as “May the Force be with you.” I’ve seen people quoting it already. I loved everything about his character. Though now, having seen a real martial arts master in action in the Star Wars universe, suddenly all the Jedi look like actors with sticks! Which is hilarious because Chirrut isn’t a Jedi — despite several articles mistakenly calling him one.

What are your thoughts on K2? Everyone kept praising Alan Tudyk’s performance, but it mostly fell flat for me. Some moments were funny, but most of the quips felt forced, like he was trying too hard to be the comic relief.

Russ: Yeah … I wasn’t blown away. Not great, not terrible.

So …. we’ve kicked around Rogue One. How would you rate it compared with Force Awakens?

Mary: It’s hard to compare the two since they’re such different movies. Overall, I liked The Force Awakens more, but that’s not because it was necessarily ‘better’ than Rogue One. Breaking it down, Rogue One wins for originality, The Force Awakens wins for enjoyability and that special Star Wars ‘something’ (and for soundtrack). I also liked the characters of The Force Awakens more… I think it’s because there are fewer of them, and so we get to know each a little better.

What did you think?

Russ: I had really mixed feelings about Force Awakens. There were great nerd moments, like the first time we saw the Millennium Falcon, Han and Chewy, R2D2 and C3PO. I was cheering and fist pumping! There were some great action sequences, and for my money, Rey is one of the very best characters in the entire franchise. She’s tremendous. And yet … Force Awakens was, essentially, a remake of Star Wars, where they blow up the Death Star. Again. And Snoke? Meh. Pretty much just Golem with a throne instead of a ring. The movie looked great, but it lacked originality. Whereas Rogue One, I agree, didn’t have the same ‘magic’ as we might call a classic Star Wars movie, but to me it felt much more urgent, intense, and original. And given that Rogue One ends literally seconds before A New Hope begins, I’m really interested in watching them both back to back. It feels like it’ll give A New Hope an entirely different feel. So all in all, for me, Rogue One was the far superior movie, even though it has its flaws.

Stay tuned for Part II of this chat, where Mary and I rank our favorite Star Wars movies!

ABOUT MARY FAN
Mary Fan is a sci-fi/fantasy writer hailing from Jersey City, NJ. She is the author of the Jane Colt sci-fi series, which comprises ARTIFICIAL ABSOLUTES (Red Adept Publishing, 2013), SYNTHETIC ILLUSIONS (Red Adept Publishing, 2014), and VIRTUAL SHADOWS. Her works also include several young adult fantasy novellas: THE FIREDRAGON (Glass House Press, 2014), FIREDRAGON RISING (Glass House Press, 2015), TELL ME MY NAME (Glass House Press, 2014), and LET ME FLY FREE (Glass House Press, 2016). These serve as prequels to two full-length series currently under contract with Glass House Press, Flynn Nightsider and Fated Stars.

Find her online at www.maryfan.com, on Twitter as @astralcolt, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mfanwriter.

 

ABOUT RUSS COLCHAMIRO
He’s a science fiction and comedy author who writes lots of goofy stuff, particularly his Finders Keepers trilogy. But if you want to learn more, you’re visiting his site. Click here, or follow him on Twitter @authorduderuss and Facebook at www.facebook.com/RussColchamiroAuthor

 

Russ’s Top 10 of 2016 – Books, Movies, TV, & Music

Howdy folks! It’s been a few years since I’ve done my annual top 10 lists, but that’s the life of a busy author with two kids!

Anyway, 2016 was another crazy year for me, but I did manage to squeeze in a few moments for myself. Rather than break them out per category like I normally do, for this round I’m doing one combined list that includes my top 10 favorite books, movies, TV shows, and music … that I experienced in 2016.

That doesn’t mean each item on the list was necessarily new unto itself in 2016, but that it was new to me, which means there’s a bunch of catching up I did this year that made my list.

So … with all that in mind … here we go …

10. Sherlock Seasons 1-3 – I was a little late to the game here, but Sherlock on BBC has been great fun. The capers get a little convoluted at times, but the pacing is great, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock himself and Martin Freeman as his best pal and partner-in-(solving)-crimes Dr. John Watson are a joy to watch. If they keep making ’em, I’ll keep watching ’em. Great fun.

 9. Woody Harrelson and Mathew McConaughey in True Detective – Again, I was a little late to the game, but I finally caught up with True Detective season 1. The episodes were a mix of slow burn and tense thriller, and I had no idea how much this season was a kindred spirit with Silence of the Lambs. But Woody Harrelson and Mathew McConaughey both delivered multi-layered, powerhouse performances that will stand the test of time.

 8. Deadpool – Marvel has a strong track record when it comes to its superhero movies, mostly sticking to a friendly formula that really works. Well … toss that formula out with Deadpool! It’s nasty, raunchy, bloody, irreverent, and laugh-out-loud funny, letting Ryan Reynolds be, well, Ryan Reynolds, in a showcase perfectly suited for his style. Deadpool isn’t for everyone, especially if you’re easily offended, but if you can handle rough and raunchy, this is a superhero movie for you.

 7. Star Wars Trilogy movies, ninja style — I’ve seen the original trilogy more times than I can count, but I had the chance to watch them all again — as well as The Force Awakens — with my little ninjas. There’s nothing quite like the experience of seeing 6-year-olds take in Star Wars movies for the first time. I was watching them all over again … in a whole new way. A SciFi dad’s dream. Next year we’ll tackle the prequels.

 6. Ready Player One came out back in 2012, but it wasn’t until last year that I finally had the chance to dive in. This was a pure page turner for me, knocking the entire book out in a week. I hardly ever do that. It had a few bumps mixed in, but otherwise it was a nerd’s dream, especially if you grew up in the 80s like I did, with endless references to video games, music, TV, and movies taken right out of my youth, including obscure references you could only know if you were there at the time. Spielberg is doing the movie. I hope they nail this one.

 5. Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden – I’ve been going to Billy Joel concerts for more than 30 years, which seems hard to believe. I saw him earlier in 2016, and he was off his game. But he came back in November for a great show, with a few surprises, like a rendition of The Eagles’ Take it Easy and later broke into some Led Zeppelin. But it was the final killer 6-song encore, which included We Didn’t Start the Fire, Uptown Girl, You May Be Right, Big Shot, Still Rock n’ Roll to Me, and Only the Good Die Young, which brought the house down. Again. He’s still got it.

 4. Mahershala Ali in Luke Cage Season 1 – As a season, Luke Cage was a mixed bag for me, with a compelling first half and an up and down second half. But Mahershala Ali as the smoldering, driven, yet tortured villain Cottonmouth stole every scene he was in. A tremendous actor who first popped up on my radar in House of Cards took things to a whole different level in Luke Cage. An unforgettable performance. He’s one to watch.
 3. Game of Thrones Season 6 – No TV show gripped me this year as much as this whopper. The epic is saga is coming to a close, and season 6 raised the stakes yet again, finally bringing years of build-up to some intense confrontations. And they have dragons. Hodor!
 2. Star Wars: Rogue One – The newest entry in the Star Wars Universe completely rocked my world. Filled from front to back with gritty, grounded, intensity, and a thrilling sense of urgency, Rogue One is probably my favorite in the series after The Empire Strikes Back. Sure, there were a few bumpy elements, but in total it was a riveting experience for any Star Wars nerd who wanted some closure leading up to A New Hope and yet get something utterly new and different with characters we hadn’t seen before and yet still immediately understood what they were up against, maybe even better than they did. I loved it.
 1. Pearl Jam at Madison Square Garden – I’ve been a Pearl Jam fan since their very first album came out almost 25 years ago, yet I’d never had the chance to see them live. Even in their early 50s, these guys still know how to rock with the best of them. Great songs, great show, with Jeremy probably my favorite tune of the night. It was also a birthday gift from a friend of mine, so that made the concert that much more fun. I’d go back for more in a heartbeat. Pearl Jam’s induction into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame is well deserved.
Honorable mentions: Supergirl Seasons 1-2, Dark Matter Seasons 1-2, Leverage Seasons 1-3​, Love Season 1, Master of None Season 1

My Balticon Panel Schedule – May 22-24

Howdy folks!

I’ll be attending the Balticon annual scifi show in Hunt Valley, MD, this weekend.

I’ll be manning my table throughout, selling and signing books, and mixing up with new and returning fans, and sharing a table with my partner in crime and fellow Crazy 8 Press author Aaron Rosenberg.

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If you want to come hear me speak, here’s my panel schedule for the weekend, all on Sunday:

Sunday, May 24

How to Intelligently Do Horrible Things to Your Characters
11 AM
Salon B
Trisha J Wooldridge (M), Katie Bryski, Russ Colchamiro, William Galaini, Joshua Palmatier

Every character does not have an idyllic past, nor is their journey through a story always smooth. How do you decide which of the wide range of awful things happen to your character, and how to treat traumatic events appropriately but not water down the impact of the events on your characters and story

 
Readings: Russ Colchamiro, Adam Ruben, Alex Shvartsman
1 pm
Chesapeak

 
How to Do a Blog Tour
2 pm
Tack
Mel Hayes (M), Starla Huchton, Tee Morris, Maria V Snyder, Russ Colchamiro

How to use a blog tour to generate publicity for your upcoming release.

 

The Book Cover Conundrum – How to Make it Great

This guest post originally appeared on My Loves, Lives, and Passion

The cover for every book is critical, sometimes even more important than us writers want to admit. We want to think that the story we’ve crafted alone should be enough to ‘sell’ our books, but let’s face it: covers sell books.

I’m the same way when I buy books. The cover absolutely helps draw me in.

Genius De MiloWith that in mind, I had very specific ideas about the cover I wanted for my latest novel, Genius de Milo.

I knew I wanted a yellow cover with red type. Why? Because the covers to my other novels are red/purple and blue, respectively, and I wanted contrast as they are lined up on the bookshelf!

But the color scheme is only one aspect. Now I needed a design concept. So I enlisted my pal and fellow author Roy Mauristen, who designs covers for a lot of authors, and does a great job at that.

I started off with the idea that I wanted a lot of turtles on the cover. And I wanted them flipping around like popcorn. Why? Well … it’s important to the story. We tried to make it work, but Roy just couldn’t find the right turtle image. So finally we started over.

And that’s when I switched to the bubbles filled with DNA helixes. Again, these are important to the story. Once I had that idea Roy went off to the races. He did an absolutely fabulous job bringing my idea life, and then added the hand with the pin about to pop one of the bubbles. I wasn’t so sure how I felt about it at first, but I was totally wrong, because it works great, and never would have come up with it myself. That was all Roy.

At that point we made a few tweaks, but otherwise the cover just fell into place.

The response I’ve gotten so far has been fantastic. I’ve gotten nothing but enthusiastic reviews of the cover, so to my pal Roy … thank you!!

The words may tell my story, but the cover helps sell the book.

Now that you can see it for yourself … how’d we do?

Dear Reader By Russ Colchamiro – I Write Some Wacky Novels. Or Do I?

This guest post originally appeared on The Writer’s Life eMagazine

Dear Reader by Russ Colchamiro Dear Reader 3

The Writer’s Life newest feature, Dear Reader, gives authors a chance to talk to their readers – YOU!  

Today’s guest is Russ Colchamiro, author of the scifi/comedy, Genius De Milo.

Dear Reader…

I write some wacky novels. And yet they are also not so wacky.

I’ll explain …

My first book, Finders Keepers, is loosely based on a series of backpacking trips I took through Europe and New Zealand, set against a quest for a jar that contains the Universe’s DNA. ThinkAmerican Pie meets Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

It’s a scifi backpacking comedy that falls under the category of what I like to call ‘Cosmic Lunacy’.

So when people ask me what my book is about, and I give them the explanation, I pretty much get only one of two responses. The first — my favorite — is this one: “Wow! That’s so crazy! How do you come up with this stuff? I gotta read that. Sounds awesome!”

And then I secretly (or not so secretly) bask in the glow of the compliment.

write letter - manYet the second response is juuust a bit different. Which is to say that I am on the receiving end of a blank, stern, judgmental stare — and utter silence.

And though no words are exchanged, I can see the thought balloon above their heads as clearly as the daggers being shot at me from their eyes. And the thought balloon goes something like this: “You are an imbecile. Leave. Now.”

So let me ask: Are you, dear reader, the sort of folk who insists upon rigid, predictable storylines that don’t dare venture in the world of wacky? Or, like yours truly, do you like to have loads of fun?

Because if you are fans of authors such as Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Tom Robbins, and Christopher Moore, or movies and TV shows such as Harold & Kumar, Bill & Ted, Hot Tub Time Machine, Time Bandits, Groundhog Day, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Quantum Leap, Northern Exposure, and Third Rock from the Sun, you might want to check out Finders Keepers, and my latest novel, Genius de Milo.

Genius de Milo is the second book in the Finders Keepers trilogy, where our bumbling 20-something backpacking heroes Jason Medley and Theo Barnes are once again tasked with retrieving a radioactive jar filled with the Universe’s DNA … before it wipes out the galaxy.

And whereas Finders Keepers was set predominantly in Europe and New Zealand, the action in Genius de Milo has shifted mostly to the U.S. And, of course, there’s lots going on in Eternity, the ‘cosmic’ realm where the Universe is created.

So Genius de Milo is more Midnight Run meets Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Also, since we’re sharing … well, technically, I’m sharing … even though my novels have that authentic you-are-there, on-the-ground feel to them, I kinda, sorta … fabricated all of the backpacking and Earth-bound travel scenes. Yep. I made them up.

But all of the scifi shenanigans are totally real and based on my personal intergalactic experiences.

Because it turns out — shhhhh, don’t tell anyone — I’m actually a fugitive from another dimension and the intergalactic agency in charge of such matters is hot on my trail, looking to drag me back to where I’ll face my day of reckoning.

Can’t say I’m ever looking forward to that.

Anyhoozle … while I’m still on Earth and up to no good, I like to write about the big questions we ask tend to ourselves: What does it all mean? Where do we come from? Is this all a dream? Is life random or is there some grand design?

And then I juxtapose those themes with the smaller, day-to-day questions we all face: How do I feel about my personal relationships? When is the plumber getting here? Is my Internet service working? Can I get the girl? Will my career ever amount to anything? Can I pay my rent? When are we going to see the new Star Wars movie?

So … wacky, but not so wacky.

There’s so much more I could tell you about what I get up to, but … I’ll leave that for my novels. Because if this letter gives you any indication as to the type of author I am, then you know you’ll be in for one heckuva ride.

Wanna come along?

Yours truly along the space time continuum …

Russ Colchamiro

Guest Post: Russ’ Top 10 Writing Tips for Aspiring Authors

This guest post originally appeared on FictionZeal

Guest Post by Russ Colchamiro

Russ’ Top 10 Writing Tips for Aspiring Authors

Throughout my travels as an author, young and aspiring writers often ask me how they themselves can become a great writer.

I usually chuckle – inwardly if not outwardly – not because the question is funny, but because it touches on something all authors seek: what’s the secret formula for success? And the answer is … it’s different for every author.

Genius-De-Milo-bannerI’m not so sure I can turn you into a great writer, but for those who are willing to indulge me, here are my top 10 suggestions for improving as a writer:

  1. Write every day. The more you write, the better you’ll get.
  2. Don’t try to be perfect. As my hero Zig Ziglar says, ‘you don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.’ In other words, if you never write the first word no other words will follow up. Just get going and trust that it will come.
  3. There’s a big and important distinction between writing and editing. To my eyes, the writing phase is the content dump. Just get your thoughts down, even if they are sloppy and convoluted. The editing phase is where the surgical crafting and precision comes in.
  4. Be your own writer. I find so many aspiring authors who want to write like Stephen King or Hemingway or whomever else they love and admire, or whatever’s trending at the time. Having author heroes is great. But you’re not them. You’re you. Write in the style that you find most comfortable.
  5. Don’t fear the blues. Discouragement is natural. Fight through it. Every writer, regardless of age or gender, has at one point or another felt like giving up. Don’t. If you’re stuck or discouraged, take a break. But then get back to it. You need to power through the rough patches to get to the good stuff.
  6. Quality feedback is key. Some writers prefer writer’s groups, others, like me, prefer just a handful of trusted beta readers for input. Whichever you choose, most important is that you enlist the help of readers who will give you the feedback you most need, but not necessarily what you want to hear. Cheerleaders are important, but if you want to improve your story, and your craft, enlist those will give you both technical and structural feedback that enhances or corrects what isn’t working.
  7. Celebrate accomplishments. Writing the first word is a big deal. Without word one, there’s no word two. Finishing a short story or a chapter in your novel is a milestone. So is finishing the first draft, the second, and so on, all the way to getting published, and then, hopefully, making sales. You need the emotional boosts of each milestone to give you juice to keep going. I’m not saying you should throw a parade for each little victory, but take some time to enjoy the small, medium, and big moments. You will have earned them all.
  8. Don’t be afraid to start over. Sometimes the story you’re working on will fall flat. That doesn’t mean the work is done. I’ve had occasion to delete entire chapters, rewrite characters, and even rip out entire sections of a book I’ve written because they just didn’t work, for whatever reason. Starting over is not a failure. It’s a mature acknowledgment that you went of the rails somewhere, and it’s time to course-correct.
  9. Develop a thick skin, because you will get rejected. A lot. So don’t worry about it. Nobody likes rejection, but it’s part of a writer’s life. Sometimes the rejections are fair, sometimes they’re not. We’ve all been there. Welcome to our world. You are now part of the club.
  10. Write because you love it. If you plan on publishing a novel, there is simply no way to predict whether it will achieve commercial success, at any level. But you can always control how dedicated you are to your craft. My suggestion is to focus on the work. Write well, write for yourself, bring on great, brutally honest editors who give you the feedback your book actually needs — and then hire a skilled publicist if you can afford one. And if there’s fame and fortune at the end of your journey, all the better.

In the Writer’s Chair: Is Author Russ Colchamiro a Genius or Moron? You Be the Judge

This blog entry originally appeared as a ‘Guest Post’ on Lori’s Reading Corner

loriGenius or Moron? You Be the Judge

When people ask me about the Finders Keepers series, which includes Finders Keepers and now Genius de Milo, I give them my standard answer:

They’re loosely based on a series of backpacking and road trips I took across Europe, New Zealand, and the U.S., set against a quest for a jar that contains the Universe’s DNA. Think road trip movies meet Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

And after given my little elevator speech, I typically get one of two responses. The first one is usually something like: “Whoa! Dude! That’s awesome! Where do you come up with these ideas? I need to read that!”

Admittedly, that’s a fun response.

The other typical exchange, however, is slightly different.

I say my bit, but instead of unbridled enthusiasm I am usually on the receiving end of a stern, cold, blank stare – accompanied by utter silence. I also can also pretty much see the thought balloons over their heads, and they go something like this: “You are an utter moron. Leave. Immediately.”

So I understand going in that when it comes to my sci-fi backpacking comedies — in the genre of what I like to call ‘Cosmic Lunacy’ — they’re not for everyone. That was never my intention.

If you’re the kind of person that prefers nonfiction, or history, New Yorker-style ‘literature’, or hard boiled spy novels, these books are probably not for you.

But if you’re a fan of Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, and Christopher Moore, and movies and TV shows such as Harold & Kumar, Bill & Ted, Hot Tub Time Machine, The Big Bang Theory, Time Bandits, Quantum Leap, Groundhog Day, Northern Exposure, and Third Rock from the Sun, then you’ll probably enjoy Finders Keepers and Genius de Milo.

I like to have fun when I write. And I want you, the reader, to have fun, too. I like to write big and wacky, but also bring disparate characters together on one big cosmic journey.

If you want to meet some of the characters, you can check out these illustrations: http://russcolchamiro.com/books/finders-keepers/character-illustrations/

Am I a genius? A moron? Neither? Both?

I’ll let you be the judge.

But give my books a chance. You just might be surprised …

In the Writer’s Chair – Taking a Novel from ‘Almost’ Done to ‘Actually’ Done

There’s a strange feeling that comes with almost being done with a novel.

Almost.

I’m having that sensation now.

The sequel to Finders KeepersGenius de Milo — is just about done.

The manuscript is written. I printed it out, doubled spaced, and have been reading the pages for the last few weeks.

I’ve read every word on every page, twice, and I’m down to the last 20 pages on the third and final read-through. Some pages are perfectly clean, others have lots of hand-written notes, and the rest are somewhere in between.

In addition, the Genius de Milo manuscript is in the hands of three trusted friends who I’ve worked with before, who will be sending back their notes within the next month.

There’s an excitement to being almost finished. A flutter of anticipation.

There’s also a sense of … ooooh, this book is going to be great, but I’m basically done, so … let’s ease up.

And there’s even a middling sense of … I want to be done already. I’ve been at this a long time. I’m ready to move on.

But mostly … I’m feeling good.

Yes, the fatigue can set in, but this time around I’m coming to the finish line with energy, focus, and enthusiasm.

I’ll be done reading pages within a day or so.

Then I need to get back to the computer, and start transferring all of my hand-written notes to the electronic file. In most cases we’re talking minor technical edits — a spelling mistake, a misplaced comma, the wrong character name!

But there are cases where a sentence or paragraphs needs to be re-written, and one section I’m going to cut entirely because it doesn’t serve the story. There’s some character development that I liked, but not enough to warrant slowing down the plot. So that’s gone.

I’ll have to fill in some details through Web searches, and fact check a few items.

I figure it’ll take me 2-3 weeks to input all of my changes, by which time I should be getting notes from my reader crew. What comes next will depend on their notes. They might have minor notes, or perhaps they’ll be more extensive. And then I’ll have to think on them, and decide which ones to incorporate into what by then should be a ‘clean’ manuscript.

But getting back to being almost done …

This is the time to really focus. To appreciate that being almost done isn’t the same as being actually done. It’s those final edits, those little tweaks that can clean up a mistake, take a passage from good to great, and even elevate the tenor of the entire novel.

The finishing touches are vital. At least that’s been the case for me.

Yet getting those final touches across with nuance and sophistication, while fighting off the fatigue of just wanting to be done, is critical. It’s where the mental discipline comes in. The focus.

So here I go, ready to finish another novel, one that I’m awfully excited about.

Genius de Milo has been a lot of fun to write. I’m curious as to what you all will think. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it.

Now it’s a matter from getting this book from almost done to actually done.

Wish me luck.

 

Note: this blog originally appeared on the Crazy 8 Press Web site: http://www.crazy8press.com/2014/10/20/in-the-writers-chair-taking-a-novel-from-almost-done-to-actually-done/

Meet the Author – Russ Colchamiro at Shore Leave

Howdy folks!

This weekend — Friday, August 1 – 3 — I’ll be down in Hunt Valley, MD for Shore Leave, a fan-run science fiction that is loads of fun — with Spock himself Leonard Nimoy as one of the big name guests.

I’ll also be there with my  Crazy 8 Press partners in crime, and where we’re debuting our new fantasy anthology, Tales of the Crimson Keep.

CrimsonKeep

I’ll be there meeting fans, signing books, and turns out I’ll be talking on a LOT of panels.

🙂

Here’ my schedule, if want to say howdy:

FRIDAY

8 pm — Hunt
Science Fiction Comedy
Moderator: Aaron Rosenberg
Panelists: Russ Colchamiro, Peter David, Lorraine Anderson

 

9 pm — Hunt
Why We Love SF
Moderator: Russ Colchamiro
Panelists: Susanna Reilly, Phil Giunta, Daniel Patrick Corcoran,
Stuart Roth

10 pm Hunt/Valley
Meet the Pros

SATURDAY

1 pm
The Writing Process — Derby
Moderator: Russ Colchamiro
Panelists: Phil Giunta, Melissa Scott, Amanda Headlee, Lorraine
Anderson, Danielle Ackley-McPhail

2 pm
Crazy 8 Press — Salon F
Moderator: Bob Greenberger
Panelists: Aaron Rosenberg, Glenn Hauman, Russ Colchamiro, Mike
Friedman, Peter David

3 pm
Using Social Media — Belmont
Moderator: Russ Colchamiro
Panelists: Jenifer Rosenberg, Keith DeCandido, Dayton Ward, Danielle Ackley-McPhail

4 pm
Game of Thrones — Salon E
Moderator: Kathleen David
Panelists: Jen Rosenberg, Russ Colchamiro, Glenn Hauman

SUNDAY

11 am
Orphan Black — Salon E
Moderator: Russ Colchamiro
Panelists: Jen Rosenberg, Marco Palmieri, Susanna Reilly

Noon
Tracking All the Moving Parts — Derby
Moderator: Eric Bakutis
Panelists: Kirsten Beyer, Russ Colchamiro, Jeff Lang, David
Mack, Jim Johnson

2 pm
Giving and Getting Good Critiques — Derby
Moderator: Aaron Rosenberg
Panelists: Susanna Reilly, Russ Colchamiro, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Steve Wilson, Eric Bakutis

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