Friday, April 21, 2017

Still Alive, Still Kicking, Still Writing...

Been awhile since I posted anything here. Not even sure if anyone still reads this blog. For those of you that do (Thank you for not making this a wasted effort!), I figured some updates were in order.
I have made the jump from self-published author to having The Starhawk Chronicles published with Burning Willow Press! (Thank you to Edd and Kindra Sowder!) Not sure yet what the new cover or logo will look like, so I'm just winging it for now. I also changed the title of the official Facebook page because I DO write more than just The Starhawk Chronicles, and want to show a bit more diversity. It's okay. Change is good.
With the first book of TSC due to be released this December and Book II hopefully not too long after that, I have time to work on the continuing adventures of Jesse, Podo and the rest of the Starhawk crew as well as other projects.
Book III, subtitled Rightful Heir, will focus on Podo's backstory, and explain the mystery of where he came from and how that information will impact both his position with the Starhawk crew, and with the larger galaxy in general. Fan-favorite Kayla Karson returns in a major role.
Huntress is an origin story set approximately 3 years prior to the events of the first novel, detailing how Kayla Karson came to be the bounty hunter we know now. I am working on both this and Book III simultaneously. Not sure yet which will be released first.
New Leaf will be the story of Earth's first successful off-world colony AND its first contact with (several) alien species. Though not an actual prequel (It is set about 125 years before the events of TSC) it does tie in to the galaxy and events we know already, with many familiar species and locations throughout.
Another series, Tales of the Fighting 59th, will follow the adventures of a group of fighter pilots during the Confederation-Harkonian War, hinted at in TSC. More of a direct prequel than New Leaf, this series will include some familiar, though much younger, characters. 
Evil Angel (Working title) will be set during this same period, chronicling the adventures of a group of privateers working with the Confederation against the Harkonian Empire. Again, there will be some familiar characters within.
There are a few more Starhawk novels on the horizon. In addition to Book IV "All Together Now...", there will be Starhawk: Genesis (an origin story) and Starhawk: Legacy (Set some 18 years after Book VI)
Finally, there will be Druimoor, an epic fantasy (Possibly a two-book run) in the tradition of Tolkien and Dungeons & Dragons. If you want to get an idea of what will happen, check out my On Dragons Wings trilogy of short stories, available as a set, or combined with other works in Other Worlds: A Collection of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Epic Silliness, available on my Amazon page.
Stay tuned here for updates on all of these works-in-progress.I will try to keep updates regular, especially as we near the release of Book I.
JJM 4/21/17

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Prologue to Tales of the Wolf Pack

This is the prologue to a tale that has been in the works since long before The Starhawk Chronicles. Originally intended to be a stand-alone series, I later decided to weave it into the larger fabric of the Starhawk universe, setting it twenty-five years prior. While not a direct prequel, it does set up locations and scenarios that take place in those later tales.

I'm think of releasing the first book in the series as a serial, and seeing how it goes from there. If it does well, then I will tell the complete story of Earth's war with the Harkonian Empire.

Like I don't have enough on my plate already...

 At the far edge of Earth’s solar system, just beyond the range of its early warning sensor net, the Harkonian attack fleet waited.
Admiral Grystall Strygar watched the activity outside the bridge of her flagship Imperial Crown, but there was not much to see. From this distance, Earth’s sun was a mere point of light in the dark void of space, only slightly brighter from the millions of stars surrounding it. The ships of the fleet around her flagship were mostly settled into their final positions, with Imperial Crown at the spearhead of the formation. The most movement came from the few sentry ships making runs around the fleet’s perimeter.
From behind her, the soft—one could almost say stealthy—footsteps of her first officer alerted her to Captain Trag’s approach. A moment later, his reflection appeared as a ghostly image in the clearsteel viewport. He stood in silence behind her, waiting for her to turn and acknowledge his presence.
Strygar waited almost a full minute before turning, letting her subordinate sweat a while longer. “Your report, Captain,” she said, keeping her voice glacially cool.
As she completed her turn, she caught the ever so faint glare of hatred in his eyes. It was not unexpected. She knew Trag despised being second-in-command to a woman. While he had been given command of Imperial Crown in reward for his exemplary service in the Harkonian starfleet, the ship would never truly be his while Strygar retained its services as her personal vessel. The fact that a female outranked him, Strygar knew, irked him even more.
He is a pit viper, she thought, as she met the steely gaze of his golden eyes. Let down my guard for a moment around him and he will sink his fangs in.
The look disappeared as their eyes met, and Trag straightened, all business now. He cleared his throat, averted his gaze and spoke.
“All ships stand ready, Admiral,” Trag‘s voice had a grating rasp that reminded Strygar of shards of glass grinding together. “The Nova Prince reported a slight fluctuation in her engine core manifold sensors, but they report the problem is minor and will cause no delay to the mission.” He handed her a datapad and waited in silence as she reviewed its information.
“Very good, Captain,” Strygar handed back the datapad and turned her attention back to the viewport. “And the crews of the Khataraa cruisers?”
“All six report ready and await further orders.”
Strygar nodded in satisfaction. The Khataraa cruisers were the backbone of the entire mission. They were tucked safely away at the rear of the formation and would refrain from jumping in-system with the rest of the fleet until the main battle line had broken through the defense net. “Are we receiving the signal?”
His return nod was reflected once more in the clearsteel of the viewport. “We are, Admiral. The signal is strong.”
Strygar stood silent for a moment, letting Trag squirm. He knew what her next order would be, but was duty-bound to stand and wait until she voiced it before carrying it out. If she felt the whim, she could have him stand there all day, waiting. But she would not indulge herself this day. The tasks ahead would be far more pleasurable.
Strygar turned her head slightly to one side, acknowledging Trag’s presence without actually looking at him. “Very well, Captain. Transmit the orders. The fleet will move in exactly one hour.”
Now Trag’s face split with a half-smile that reminded her of a snarling predator. He bowed sharply at the waist, and turned to issue the order.
Strygar watched as he departed, working his way between the ranks of consoles where Imperial Crown’s bridge crew was at work with their preparations for the attack. Her crew, despite what Trag thought. The men, with their bald heads and piercing gold eyes, and the women, with their dark hair no longer than mid-neck length, were all hers to control. They would jump at her commands, no matter how trivial; all prepared to die at her will. Strygar would have it no other way. She expected complete obedience to her command.
Loyalty, however, especially with an overly ambitious second-in-command was another matter altogether. Deceit and treachery were rules of thumb in the Harkonian military.
Any concerns she may have had about Trag were put away for now. From the way the Captain was issuing orders, it was apparent that he was just as eager for this mission to start, no matter who was in charge.
The rest of her crew felt the same way. The air of excitement that was coursing through the bridge, indeed, through the rest of the ship, was such a tangible thing that one could almost physically touch it. All were anxious for this mission to begin.
One hour, Strygar thought to herself. In one hour, we will begin to pay the damned Confederation back for the dishonors they have heaped upon us in this war.
She fought to hold back a thin smile as she watched Imperial Crown’s fighter wing exiting from the cruiser’s forward hangar bay. Forty-five fighters strong, the wing quickly maneuvered away from the Crown and joined up with the wings from the other cruisers, settling into a diamond formation in front of the fleet.
Strygar checked the countdown on the ship’s chrono.

In fifty-six minutes, the tide of the war would change.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens - A Spoiler-Free Review

Been quite a while since I last posted a blog about anything. Sorry readers, but with the release of my latest Starhawk Chronicles novel, and all the marketing and promoting that goes with it, plus those annoying familial obligations, I haven't had much time for anything else. But I felt my newest topic was something worth writing about. So without further adieu, here is my SPOILER-FREE REVIEW OF...

In a nutshell I loved it. As much as I liked the prequels (Yes, I liked them) they just never had the same feel as the original trilogy did for me. Perhaps it was simply because I was seeing those as an adult rather than a wide-eyed youth between the ages of 7-12. Perhaps it was Lucas' reliance on CG everything, rather than practical effects and sets. Perhaps they really did just suck. I don't know. All I can tell is that right from the beginning, this one FELT right.

The cast is fantastic, especially SW newcomers John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and Daisy Ridley (In her first film role.) Unlike Natalie Portman and Hayden Christenson, thse kids can ACT! There was nothing wooden or awkward in their performances, and there was a natural chemistry between them and returning members of the cast. Boyega and Ridley especially seem destined for superstardom. Adam Driver is compelling as villain Kylo Ren, and makes him both a character you want to feel sympathy for, while simultaneously wanting to rip his lungs out. And Domhnall Gleeson takes on a chilling Hitler-esque turn as First Order leader General Hux.

By far, my favorite character was Lupita Nyong'o's Maz Kanata, the only major CGI-rendered character in the film, a diminutive, whimsical pirate/ cantina owner who helps set Daisy Ridley's Rey on her path. With her tiny, Yoda-like stature and over-large eyewear, she is less Jar Jar Binks and more like Edna Mode from Pixars The Incredibles.

Cinematography is gorgeous in this film, in part again due to the actual physical sets and locations, and contrary to what all the J.J. Abrams haters were expecting, not one lens flare in the entire film.
Not once did I find myself cringing at dialogue, unlike the prequels, especially the supposed "romantic" scenes, where it sounded more like cheesy Harlequin romance and not like Star Wars. The banter between the characters was fun and funny. Let's admit it, any time Han Solo is involved, you know there are going to be some good lines. You believe that these characters truly believe what they are saying.

Visual effects are, without having to go into detail, top-notch as expected. The only qualm I had was the busy-ness of the aerial battles, but this could be due to my being seated in the second row, off-center from the screen. Next time I see it, I'll sit further back.

Fun, fast-paced, with lots of neat surprises, The Force Awakens is easily one of the best in the saga, up there with The Empire Strikes Back. People have been complaining that Disney would ruin the franchise, but it is clear that the future of the Force is in very capable hands.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

He lived long. . . WE prospered : Remembering Leonard Nimoy

 It's difficult to put into words the impact that the death of Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy had on the science fiction community. The outpouring of love for the iconic actor from both friends and fans on social media has been overwhelming proving Captain Kirk's assessment that "How we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life."
Nimoy on stage, New York, Jan. 1987
For myself, Leonard Nimoy was a staple of my childhood. Along with Star Wars, Star Trek held my fascination as a young boy enthralled with all things science fiction. With each successive film, my enchantment grew to near-obsessiveness, culminating with my first time attending a Star Trek Convention in January of 1987, just after the phenomenal success of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Dubbed the "Spock family reunion", Nimoy appeared at New York's Penta hotel along with "parents" Mark Lenard and Jane Wyatt. The main auditorium where Nimoy appeared was packed full, standing room only. When he took the stage, it was an immediate standing ovation, and the outpouring of love that emanated from the crowd was overwhelming, an almost physical sensation. It was powerful for me, a boy just turned 16. I can only imagine what it must have felt like for him on-stage. Anyone with a camera rushed to the stage to get a picture. The closest I could get was 50 feet. Nimoy spoke for about 45 minutes, and the crowd hung on every word. One would have thought that the Messiah himself had taken the stage.
Directing Star Trek III, 1983

Over the years, Nimoy distinguished himself not only with his acting, but also as a director, producer, poet, photographer, and writer, penning not one, but two autobiographies I am Not Spock, written at the time the Trek series was still on the air, and I Am Spock, a memoir written in the late 90's, reflecting on his varied life and career. He also used his distinctive voice for voice-over work on shows such as In Search Of. . ., the animated Transformers movie, and Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire.

His death this past week, due to his long-time fight with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) has touched many, celebrity and fan alike. Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites came alive with postings all celebrating the man and his work. Zachary Quinto, who played opposite Nimoy in the 2009 reboot of Star Trek said, on Instagram, "My heart is broken. I love you profoundly my dear friend. And I will miss you everyday. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest." The entire remaining cast of the original series also had nothing but kind words for their friend and co-star. "I loved him like a brother," William Shatner told ET. "We will all miss his humor, his talent, and his capacity to love."

Perhaps most poignant were Nimoy's final words to friends and fans, posted on his Twitter account just five days before his death. "A life is like a garden." Mr. Nimoy said. "Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP"

We will never see his like again.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Rating Rebels

 I recently watched the premiere episode of Star Wars Rebels (Subtitled Spark of Rebellion), the first effort put forth from Lucasfilm since its take over by the Walt Disney Company and I have to say I am very pleased with what I have seen so far. Set approximately 5 years before Episode IV, Rebels follows the crew of the Ghost, a not un-Millenium Falcon-esque transport as they set about the galaxy far, far away, doing their best to hamper the Empire in any way they can.

The Ghost crew seems new, yet familiar at the same time. You have a cocky pilot, an over-sized tough guy alien, a battered R2 unit, a Jedi-in-hiding, a brash young woman wearing some very familiar armor, and a young orphan just beginning to realize that he is Force-sensitive.  The story follows young Ezra, an orphan living on the Imperial-occupied world of Lothal, who gets by by stealing what he needs from the Imperials, and making them look like fools in the meantime. It is on one of these exploits that he meets with the Ghost crew, and eventually decides to join them in trying to thwart Imperial plans, which includes rescuing a group of Wookie slaves from the spice mines of Kessel.

At this time, the Rebel Alliance does not exist as a formal entity. I suspect that as the series progresses, we will see these characters meet with other rebel cells, and if the show runs long enough, we may even see the birth of the Rebellion.

I will admit that the animation was lacking somewhat - a surprise since The Clone Wars was so well done. The Wookies in particular could have been better. They looked too plastic, especially the young one who I thought had a head too big for its body. Like its predecessor, I'm sure that this will improve over time.

Having grown up on the Original Trilogy, I love that the look and feel of that series was so well replicated. I loved that certain shots were replicated from the TIE battle of A New Hope, as well as integrating cues from John Williams' original score throughout the soundtrack without making them feel cliche'd. The playful banter was also back, making these new characters already seem like old friends.

I know that Clone Wars was very well received, and was indeed an excellent series, but being a child of the 70's and 80's, my preference will always be for the Rebellion era. After a while, all the political intrigue and dark Sith dealings wore on me and I lost interest. I guess I'll always champion the underdogs. Always been more of a scoundrel and rogue myself.

I know many people have misgivings about the Disney/Lucasfilm merger, but based on what I have seen so far, I feel those worries are sorely unjustified. The fate of the Force is in good hands.

#StarWars #StarWarsRebels #TheForce #Disney #Lucasfilm

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Impression's De Comic-Con

I have been a long-time convention goer, ever since attending my first Star Trek con back at the tender age of 16. Ironically, this was only a few days after William Shatner's infamous "Get a Life!" skit on Saturday Night Live. I remember thinking that there was no way that a convention could be like that, only to find out that the SNL skit was pretty spot-on. At the end, I figured that this was a one time event in my life, a bucket list item to be crossed off, just so you you could tell your grandkids you did it.

I was wrong.

I did go back again -a lot. Over the course of the next decade, my friends and I would venture into Manhattan, sometimes 4 or 5 times a year, to feed our need to be around (and I use the term lovingly) geeks like us. For myself, the treat was seeing and meeting celebrities from my favorite shows and movies, and getting their autographs. (My favorites are my personalized Dave Prowse/Darth Vader autograph and my DC Comics Star Trek # 19, written by Walter Koenig, and signed by him as well -also personalized.)

My con experiences lasted into my mid-twenties, until I moved from New York to Wisconsin, married, and began raising a family. The idea of attending a con was put on the back burner, but the need to fill that geek-centric part of my soul still tugged at me. I needed to let my geek-flag fly.

Star Trek's Karl Urban onstage.
On August 23, 2014, I attended my first con in years, making the trek down to Chicago (Rosemont, IL, actually) for the big Wizard World Comic-Con. I expected it to be big, bigger even than the epic 3-day Creation Con held in New York every Thanksgiving weekend, but even I was taken back by the immensity of the venue. Whereas the shows I had attended previously had maybe 2 - 3 big name guests, Comic-Con had literally dozens, either appearing onstage for Q&A sessions, or signing autographs and doing photo-ops.Michael Rooker and Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy), Karl Urban (Star Trek), Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar (Big Bang Theory), Lou Ferrigno (The Incredble Hulk), director John Carpenter, and the entire cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, along with pro-wrestlers, comic writers and artists were in attendance. And yes, Stan Lee was there too.

Star Lord takes aim.
One of the great attractions of cons are the cos-players, people who go to great lengths to emulate their favorite T.V., movie, or comic book, or anime characters. Costumes range from fairly simple (Wearing an ARC-reactor under your T-shirt and saying you're Tony Stark) to the complex (A full-blown Iron Man suit). The Guardians of the Galaxy made an appearance. Mal, Kaylee, and Jayne of Firefly/Serenity were there. I counted no fewer than six Black Widow's,and at least an even number of Harley Quinn's. Star Wars was surprisingly under-represented, though I did spot at least two of the obligatory slave-girl Leia's. Whovians were very much in existence, with various Doctors represented by both genders, as well as several women wearing Tardis-themed dresses. Superheroes were everywhere, including The Greatest American Hero, from the 80's T.V. show. Each and every cos-player was happy to take the time to pose for pictures, some even thanking me for taking their picture.

There were delights and disappointments. I was thrilled to see just about every toy I ever played with as a kid at some of the vendor's tables. Many were out of the package, well-worn,and well-loved, and ala Toy Story, just waiting for someone to play with them again. I was also pleased to see that the prices on these items were not ridiculously over-priced, nor were their modern day counterparts, most reasonably priced between $5-$10-a fair deal for in-package toys dating back 10 years or more. Unfortunately, I never did find the Dexter Jettster action figure I was looking for.

On the downside, I was disappointed at how Cons have changed in the last twenty years.When I used to attend, autographs were never charged for-that was included within your admission price. At best you would have to pay for a photo to get signed (around $5). This time around, I dropped $60 for a 1-day admission. Prices for photo or autograph sessions ranged between $40 to $150 or more depending on the celebrity. I don't know how people justify that kind of expense, no matter how popular the star.

On the flip-side, I should note that many celebrities were happy to allow photo-ops at their autograph tables, if the line was not too busy. Comic-Con policy forbids taking pictures from outside the autograph venues, even from a distance. Sad.

The truly great thing about cons like these is how they become a sort of microcosm of our society today. All types exist here in a Roddenberry-esque kind of Utopia. Age, race, beliefs are not as evident to con-goers. We all come together to get our geek on and celebrate that diversity amongst kindred souls.

I already plan on attending next years event. If you're there, look me up. Perhaps you'll even appear in a future blog post. Until then friends, keep on geekin' on.

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Lost Era of Klingon History - Star Trek : The Final Reflection

While looking back 30 years into the past for my 1984 movie retrospective Setting the Way-Back Machine, I came to realize that this is not only the 30th anniversary of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, but also one of the finest Star Trek novels I have ever read. So for this post, I'm going to introduce you (or re-introduce for some) to the John M. Ford novel The Final Reflection.

The Final Reflection is unique in that the original series trio of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are barely present within its pages, and have no bearing on the tale whatsoever. They appear only as bookends at the beginning and end of the book. The rest is written as a historical novel detailing a little known (and according to Federation files, fictionalized) period in history set before the birth of Kirk. It is also unique in that it focuses on those events from the Klingon, not Human, point of view.

The story follows a Klingon Captain named Krenn, who starts out as an orphan child with no House to speak of. Krenn and other orphans are used as playing pieces in high-stakes live chess games played by the Klingon elite. Impressed by his performance, an Admiral adopts Krenn and proceeds to set him on the path to command, which he rises to quickly. On one particular mission, where he ferries a human Federation envoy to the first Babel conference, he learns a lesson in peace, and discovers a Klingon plot to bring the Empire and the Federation into a war that could destroy both. Krenn must then decide which is more important, total, unquestioning devotion to the Empire, or turning against the Empire in order to save it.

Written long before The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, or Enterprise were ever conceived, The Final Reflection offers a fascinating inside look at the (arguably) most fascinating alien race in Star Trek lore, a look that is different from anything we have come to know from those shows. The characters are believable, likable, and as honorable as any Klingon we have seen. The battle scenes (and there are quite a few) are well-written and tense, and the pace of the novel is swift, with some surprising bits of humor that comes from the characters interactions, and not at their expense.

The beauty of this novel, despite the fact that it is totally non-canon from a modern Star Trek point-of-view, is that it stands out as a well-written science fiction novel overall. All author John M. Ford would have had to do was change some names of characters and races, and removed the Kirk-centric prologue and epilogue, and he would have had a wonderful, original sci-fi work that easily could have generated further adventures of Captain Krenn and crew.

Though I still have my original paperback from years back, and there are still some copies floating around, I was delighted to find that this fine work is still available as an e-book from Amazon (I have provided the link below.). If you ever get the chance, and are not too much of a Trek purist and can overlook the discrepancies that several seasons of television and movies provide, I highly recommend taking a look at this fascinating bit of little-known Klingon history.