Rants

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Russ Colchamiro, Author – CROSSLINE

Thanks to author Joyce Strand, who graciously requested this interview about my life as an author, and in particular about my novel CROSSLINE. This Q&A was conducted via email.

http://strandssimplytips.blogspot.com/

Thursday, May 18, 2017

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Russ Colchamiro, Author


Colchamiro has also written the Finders Keepers sci-fi comedy series, including,FINDERS KEEPERS, GENIUS DE MILO, and ASTROPALOOZA.
He is a contributing editor to a new science-fiction anthology, LOVE, MURDER AND MAYHEM, which he plans to release in July. He currently lives in New Jersey with his family, including his twin children (girl and boy.)Russ Colchamiro strives to write books that his readers “can’t wait to finish.” Readers of his science fiction novel, CROSSLINE, say the book isa good old fashioned yarn with just the right touch of action, humor and a few nice twists thrown in.” Colchamiro is drawn to science fiction because of the scope and breadth it gives to his imagination. He approaches his characters in depth to understand their motivations. Although he focuses on giving the reader a “fun ride”, he also offers thin layers of his own beliefs.

Q: What draws you to write science fiction?

Russ Colchamiro: Regardless of the genre, my goal is to write a great, compelling story that readers can’t wait to finish, so the fundamentals always need to be there—plot, characters, pacing, etc. Given that, science fiction allows me to dream as big as I want, or take the characters—and thus the readers—on a journey that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. Within these wild pulp adventures, I like to juxtapose the big, epic questions (What does it all mean? Is life itself random? Is there a grand design? Where do I fit in?) with the ‘smaller’ struggles of everyday life.

So even though the characters may be on some kind of intergalactic quest, or in a ‘foreign’ land (that happens to exist in another quadrant of time and space), the struggles they face are all too human. Love, guilt, fear, joy, passion, loyalty, family, sex, desire, and so on. And if they happen to be facing off against a galactic threat, all the better. When you sit down to read, I want the edges of each page to melt away.

Q: Reviewers say that in CROSSLINE your “Characters felt like people I knew from my own life.” When writing science fiction, how do your approach your characters? Are they bigger-than-life resembling super-heroes? Or are they, as reviewers suggest, “people I knew?”

Russ Colchamiro: My process is to climb inside the hearts and minds of every character I write, whether they are the protagonists, antagonists, or supporting players, and do my best to understand their motivations, so that I can deliver intimate character studies within the grand adventure. Whether ‘everyday people’ or more flamboyant personalities (my cast of players include lots of both) I want each one—male, female, young, old—to feel real and grounded within the confines of the narrative … quirks, contradictions, and all, even down to their speech patterns and cadence. Some characters are loosely based on people I know (or knew), others are amalgams, with the rest pure invention, reflecting various elements of my own personality.

Q: Reviewers also say CROSSLINE is a “Solid blending of science fiction and satire” and “Just the right touch of action, humor and a few nice twists thrown in. It never takes itself too seriously while still grabbing you by the shirt.” How useful was humor to tell your story?

Russ Colchamiro: Humor appears in all of my novels. It’s a natural element of my writing style. But there’s a distinction between sprinkling humor within the narrative, and writing an all-out comedy, which I have certainly done with the FINDERS KEEPERStrilogy. CROSSLINE has its humorous moments for sure, but it’s not a comedy, per se. It’s action/adventure/mystery, with my usual time-bending shenanigans and humor woven in.

Q: Did you write CROSSLINE primarily to entertain your readers or did you embed a few messages or themes along the way?

Russ Colchamiro: Both. I approach each book with a sense of fun, wonder, and adventure, with my hope that readers will come away feeling like they were taken on a wild, unforgettable ride. But underneath the surface of the pulpy SciFi tale I embed elements that are important to me and shape my own worldview—philosophy, history, mysticism, mythology, meditation, and transcendentalism. These elements are prevalent in my novels. But nothing too preachy. I want the readers to have a blast!

Q: How did you create credibility for readers as they explored parallel universes, time travel, and an altered Earth?

Russ Colchamiro: As long as you explain the ‘rules’ of each of these worlds, and stay consistent within them, the credibility is there. I try to include enough details and world building so that readers can say, “ah, okay, I get where I am and how this all works. I’m good.” If that happens, the narrative and characters are free to go wherever the story takes them.

Q: Does the concept of “hero versus villain” apply to CROSSLINE? What makes a compelling villain?

Russ Colchamiro: My novels tend to be far less about ‘hero versus villain’ and more about the hero’s journey. In CROSSLINE, our ‘hero’ Marcus Powell is testing experimental warp thrusters, when (for reasons I won’t spoil here) he’s forced through a wormhole and into a parallel Earth, drawn into a battle he may actually have been destined for all along. He desperately wants to get back to his wife and young daughter, but the needs of the characters he meets on the ‘other Earth’ overtly conflict with his desire to get home.

Meanwhile, on our Earth, 90-year-old Harlan “Buddy” Rheams Jr.—the CEO of the private space corporation that launched Powell’s flight—may or may not have Powell’s best interests in mind.

There are some villainous characters in CROSSLINE for sure, and others more heroic, but I’m far more interested in characters that come to question their motivations, navigate the often confusing and ambiguous choices they face, then have to make decisions, and live with the consequences.

Q: How do you use your settings or worlds to propel the story?  Do they help to evolve your characters?

Russ Colchamiro: Both instinctively and by design I write each story like a mystery. Reveal, conceal, reveal again. Investigate, falter, discover, investigate again. The worlds in some cases are additional characters, with the journey to and from those worlds essential to the narrative.

The characters often find themselves unexpectedly thrust into new environments, having to discover and navigate them. Then—on their ‘heroes journey’ so richly described by Joseph Campbell in “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”—by hook or by crook figure out how, when, and why they really need or want to get back home, and if that’s even possible. And even if they do make it back, it’s unlikely they’ll be the same as when they left. That’s certainly the case with CROSSLINE.

Powell’s emersion in the ‘other Earth’ tests him in ways he never even considered. Most of the other characters also get their own arcs. Among others, Powell gets involved with a trigger happy rebel leader who reminds him of his wife, a pot-smoking shaman, a crafty pie-maker, and a weary solider who hates his guts. Some pass those tests. Some fail. Some do both.

Q: What’s next? Will we see more science fiction novels from you?

Russ Colchamiro: Yes! In July I’ll be launching LOVE, MURDER & MAYEHM, a science fiction-themed anthology from Crazy 8 Press, with 15 authors in total. I serve as the editor, and am contributing a story of my own. Each story contains at least one element of love or romance, at least one murder, and lots of mayhem, all in various, unrelated settings.

We have superhero and supervillain stories. We have artificial intelligence, off-world, and space cruiser stories. We also have dream surrogates, private eyes, an aliens vs. monsters showdown, and one DuckBob!

Some tales are wacky, some darker, and others pure fun. Mine is a private eye tale, with the PI—Angelica Hardwicke—written in that classic Sam Spade style, pinstripe suit, fedora, and all. I’m diving pretty deep into the mystery arena these days as both a reader and an author, so this collection was loads of fun to pull together.

Q: Tell us about Russ Colchamiro. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Russ Colchamiro: Ha. I’m a New York City transplant now living in northern New Jersey, married with twins—my ninjas, a boy and a girl, nearly seven. So between my family, my crazy dog Simon, my books, and my full-time day job as a real estate media specialist in NYC, it doesn’t leave room for much else! But I’m a lifelong baseball junkie, and gobble up fiction in whatever form I can, whenever I can. I’m actually watching The Flash on Netflix with my kids. They absolutely love it. Oh, yeah. Occasionally I sleep!

About Russ Colchamiro

Russ Colchamiro is the author of the rollicking space adventure, CROSSLINE, the hilarious sci-fi backpacking comedy series, FINDERS KEEPERS, GENIUS DE MILO, and ASTROPALOOZA, and is editor of the new anthology, Love, Murder & Mayhem, all with Crazy 8 Press.

Russ lives in New Jersey with his wife, two children, and crazy dog, Simon, who may in fact be an alien himself. Russ has also contributed to several other anthologies, including Tales of the Crimson Keep, Pangaea, and Altered States of the Union, and TV Gods 2. He is now at work on a top-secret project, and a Finders Keepers spin-off.

As a matter of full disclosure, readers should not be surprised if Russ spontaneously teleports in a blast of white light followed by screaming fluorescent color and the feeling of being sucked through a tornado. It’s just how he gets around — windier than the bus, for sure, but much quicker.

About CROSSLINE

In the spirit of Firefly, Flash Gordon, Stargate, and Escape from New York

Hotdog pilot Marcus Powell has been selected to test Taurus Enterprises’ Crossline prototype craft and its newly developed warp thrusters, which, if successful, will revolutionize space travel as we know it.

But during his jaunt across the stars, Powell is forced into a parallel universe — including a parallel Earth — where he finds himself at the center of an epic battle he may have been destined for all along.

Meanwhile, back home, reclusive oil tycoon and Taurus CEO Buddy Rheams Jr. — who sent Powell on that very mission — has a mysterious past and a secret agenda, one that could prevent Powell from ever making it back to his wife and little girl.

From author Russ Colchamiro, CROSSLINE is a psychedelic, action-packed romp across time, space, and dimension that asks the question: once you cross the line, can you ever really go back?

Cover Reveal – Love, Murder & Mayhem – New SciFi Anthology

COVER REVEAL: LOVE, MURDER & MAYHEM

In addition to my own stand-alone novels, I’m also serving as editor for a new anthology with my guys at Crazy 8 Press. Here’s the cover!

At long last we are thrilled to present here the official cover for our new scifi-themed Love, Murder & Mayhem anthology coming out in July, debuting at Shore Leave in Cockeysville, MD.

As always, our pal and cover designer extraordinaire Roy Mauritsen did a fantastic job on the cover, with the collection featuring stories from an all-star author lineup including Aaron Rosenberg, Robert Greenberger, Michael Jan Friedman, Peter David, Paul Kupperberg, Glenn Hauman, Mary Fan, Hildy Silverman, Meriah Crawford, Kelly Meding, Paige Daniels, Karissa Laurel, Patrick Thomas, Lois Spangler, and editor Russ Colchamiro.

In this great collection you’ll get 15 stand-alone stories, including those featuring superheroes, super villains, A.I., off-world, space cruisers, private eyes, a monster mash and … one DuckBob!

This blog was originally posted on the Crazy 8 Press web site – http://www.crazy8press.com/2017/04/18/cover-reveal-love-murder-mayhem/

The Russ Colchamiro Astropalooza Interview – Self Publisher’s Showcase

The Russ Colchamiro Astropalooza Interview

Russ Interview

Self-Publisher’s Showcase: Today we are joined by Russ Colchamiro, author of the Finders Keepers science fiction comedy series, which includes Finders Keepers, Genius De Milo, and his newest book—the final in the trilogy—Astropalooza. Welcome to the Showcase Lounge, Russ

RC: Thanks, guys!

SPS: For any of our readers that haven’t come across the Finders Keepers trilogy previously, can you take a moment to tell us all a little about the story leading up to the release of Astropalooza, the final part of the trilogy?

RC: Sure. The first book in the series – Finders Keepers – is loosely based on a series of backpacking trips I took through Europe and New Zealand, set against the quest for a jar that contains the Universe’s DNA. Think Bill & Ted meets Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

So you have these two knuckleheads – Jason Medley, from New Yok, and Theo Barnes, from Auckland, New Zealand, who are on their last hurrah – after college – but before they have to pay rent and be responsible adults! So while they’re backpacking, their biggest worries are … can I get the cute girl? Can I make my train to Amsterdam? I’m hung over … again. Meanwhile, the fate of the galaxy is hanging in the balance, and they’re at the center of it, with characters from Earth and the Cosmos hunting them down, to claim this jar of the Universe’s DNA, which, if opened prematurely, could dissolved the Milky Way. Only, the guys don’t realize it, and you do, so as the reader, you’re in the joke, and they’re not.

In Genius de Milo … Milo, the Universe’s Great Disruptor – essentially, the Universe’s gremlin – squares off against the Minder of the Universe, essentially, the God the character. They are Cosmic foils basically battling for the status of the Universe.

In any case, Milo seems to have initiated the end of the Milky Way, and possibly worse. Only this time our bumbling backpackers are trekking across America to once again retrieve that jar that keeps causing trouble. But in both books, every time the guys think they have saved the day, their ‘solution’ actually makes things much much worse! LOL! Which takes us to Astropalooza.

SPS:  Was it always your intention to write the story as a trilogy?

RC: Ha! No! LOL! When I wrote Finders Keepers, it was a stand-alone adventure. I had a very specific story I wanted to tell, and tell it in a very specific way. But I intentionally gave it an open ending, because deep down I suspected there was a lot more story.

SPS: How far through the series did you plan? Have you always known the eventual outcome?

RC: After Finders Keepers, I took time away from those characters to start an entirely different novel, Crossline, which is an action adventure in the spirit of Firefly, Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Farscape, and Escape from New York. Our space pilot hero, Marcus Powell, while testing experimental warp thrusters, is forced through a wormhole and into a parallel Earth, and gets roped into this wild scenario that actually links back to his home Earth, where the CEO of the private space program that launched that flight through the wormhole has his own motivations … and not necessarily to Powell’s benefit. It was loads of fun, and got tremendous reviews.

But as I was writing Crossline I had that classic a-ha moment where I suddenly knew the basic concept for the Finders Keepers sequel, which became Genius de Milo. I knew then that I was going to tell a trilogy. About half-way through Genius de Milo, I worked out the conclusion to the entire series, including where every character would end up. That allowed me to write Genius de Milo with a lot more confidence and assertiveness, because not only was I telling a self-contained story for that book, but I was laying the groundwork in a very specific way leading up to the third and final book in the series, which became Astropalooza.

SPS: Would you say that your writing style has progressed through the trilogy?

RC: No doubt. In Finders Keepers, there’s a definite frenetic, madcap energy to it which I absolutely love, whereas with the next two books the tone and feel are more similar, my writing more confident and expansive (IMHO) as the books progress.

SPS: Was there anything you wished you’d done differently in the first two books when it came to writing the third?

RC: I’m extremely proud of Finders Keepers, especially given that it was my first book. But sure, there are a few things I would have changed if I knew then what I know now. Kinda like life! Ha! But live and learn, huh?

SPS: What can we expect from this final part of the trilogy?

RC: With the conclusion of the second book, Genius de Milo, which I saw in my mind’s eye from the very first moment I wanted to write that book, the guys do again ‘save the day,’ only this time they have inadvertently set in motion the next Big Bang. So in Astropalooza we have these two huge energy waves of the Universe’s DNA barrelling across the Universe towards each other.

Whereas the first two books are split between Earth and the Cosmos, Astropalooza is set almost entirely in the cosmic realm, where the guys have to stop these energy waves from crashing into one another before the start of Astropalooza, a celebration of the Universe itself. The stakes are as high as they can possibly be, yet the characters all still get their own intimate, personal arc, once again juxtaposing the big with the small. And then there’s the whole ‘saving the Universe’ thing going on!

SPS: What do you think a reader will take away from reading the whole trilogy?

RC: My hope is that readers say, “Wow, that was loads of fun! That was crazy!” But also as they stop and think about it, they realize that the narrative actually ruminates on the nature of the Universe, asking the big questions, and maybe challenging you a bit to think about what’s really most important to you. It’s a theme that runs through all of my books. I read a lot about philosophy, mythology, and world history in my personal time, and those ideas filter into my writing.

SPS: Was it hard letting go of the characters, or have you left any scope to ever revisit the characters or ‘universe’ again in the future?

RC: I’m still so deep into the marketing phase that I really haven’t let go! Plus … I’m working on a spin-off series, based on the Angela Hardwick private eye character I introduce briefly in Genius de Milo and who has a larger role in Astropalooza. Now she’s getting the ‘star’ treatment!  Her stories will mostly include new characters, but the ‘world’ I’ve created is very much a part of the Finders Keepers universe. It’s loads of fun. My hope is to write several Hardwicke books, all in that classic Same Spade style, only … with my usual scifi slant to it. In fact, Hardwicke will be appearing in a short story I just wrote for an upcoming anthology I’m editing – Love, Murder, & Mayhem – which will be out through Crazy 8 Press in July.

SPS: Would you say Jason and Theo have grown, as the series comes to a head, or are they the same two guys we meet at the start of Finders Keepers (Book One)?

RC: Ha! They both go through incredible journeys. I can tell you that their relationships with each other, everyone they know, and even themselves, looks in some ways like it always did, but other ways does not even resemble their lives from how they started.

SPS: How easy do you find it to write the comedy aspects of your work?

RC: My writing style is naturally to lean towards humor, although I find there’s a big distinction between ‘fun’ and ‘funny’. Fun leads to a smile on your face, while funny has you laughing out loud. They are part of the same family, but not the same, although they often go hand in hand.

SPS: If you could give one reason for someone to pick up the trilogy and read, what would it be?

RC: You’ll have a wild time you’ll never forget!

SPS: Thank you for joining us today, and all the best for the future.

RC: Thanks! Had a great time.

SPS: For more information on Russ and the trilogy, please do visit www.russcolchamiro.com, follow him on Twitter @AuthorDudeRuss, and ‘like’ his Facebook author page www.facebook.com/RussColchamiroAuthor. His books are also available for sale through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

​And enjoy the FINDERS KEEPERS book trailer: http://bit.ly/16SNh8Q

Russ’s Blog – Welcome to Astropalooza!

Welcome to Astropalooza!

There’s a tendency among us humans to exaggerate. Just a wee bit.

Things like … I’ve been doing this half my life!

Yet in my case … in this particular case … it happens to be true.

ASTROPALOOZA is not just my newest novel. It’s also the third and final entry in my SciFi backpacking comedy series, which started with FINDERS KEEPERS, continued with GENIUS DE MILO, and now concludes with ASTROPALOOZA.

I have to say … whew! What a journey it’s been.

For the uninitiated … FINDERS KEEPERS is loosely based on a series of backpacking trips I personally took through Europe and New Zealand, set against a jar that contains the Universe’s DNA.

When we first start our gonzo tale … bumbling backpackers Jason Medley (from New York) and Theo Barnes (from Auckland, New Zealand) meet in Europe and become fast friends. Their biggest worries include … can I get the hot girl? Can I make my train to Amsterdam? I’m hung over … again.

Meanwhile, as they fret over their ability to pay off student loans and eventually become full-fledged adults … the galaxy is about to be wiped out of existence as a motley crew — from Earth and a galactic realm — chase down that missing jar of the Universe’s DNA, because they all think the boys have it.

Our heroes are at the center of the action only … they don’t know it. So as the reader you’re in on the joke … and they’re not.

Throughout FINDERS KEEPERS, GENIUS DE MILO, and now ASTROPALOOZA, the boys somehow stumble their way into saving the Universe, only … every ass backwards solution they come up with sets in motion an even bigger, more complicated problem.

And so it goes, raising the stakes with each new adventure.

In ASTROPALOOZA, there are two massive energy waves barreling towards one another, and if they collide in space before the boys save the day one last time, the waves’ll smash together, initiating the next Big Bang, wiping out Existence as we know it.

Which brings me back to the beginning.

I took my first backpacking trip to Europe back in 1994. This was at a time in the world where, if you were stranded in the middle of Romania in the dead of night with a crazed, drunken madman on the loose with armed soldiers about to knock on the door — which in fact happened to me — you couldn’t Google where to go next because … there was no Google. There was no Internet.

You had to rely on guide books, whatever knowledge you could pick up, people you met along the way … and your ability to adjust on the fly.

Since then I’ve been around the world and back, including New Zealand, which motivated a lot of the action in these three books.

I’m almost 46 now. Yet I’ve been living, thinking, and writing about these guys and their adventures for the past 23 years.

Half my life.

It’s a symphony of emotions to have spent so much time and effort with Jason, Theo, and the gang, to finally see their journey come to an end. Well … this journey, anyway.

ASTROPALOOLZA is the culmination of it all.

And now that I’m here, I can say this: the boys did right by me.

I hope you have just as much fun with them as I did.

Enjoy the ride.

ASTROPALOOLZA is available for sale in paperback and e-book.

For more on ASTROPALOOZA and my other books, visit www.russcolchamiro.com

This blog was originally posted on the Crazy 8 Press web site – http://www.crazy8press.com/2017/03/08/welcome-to-astropalooza/

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

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