What the f*ck timeline is this, and other questions “Logan” leaves unanswered

 

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I watched the new Wolverine movie, Logan, a few weeks ago, and well…I have mixed feelings.

As a movie, I thought it was fantastic—although at least two of the people in my party were thrown off because it wasn’t what they were expecting. (In fairness, they hadn’t seen any of the previews, which made no secret of the bleaker tone.) It’s a much darker, sadder movie than the previous X-Men films. In a lot of ways, it doesn’t even feel like a superhero movie. The director has admitted to taking much of his inspiration from westerns, and it shows.

But as someone who’s been a fan of the X-Men film franchise since its 2000 debut, I am…confused. And more than a little frustrated. Maybe someone who read the comics would be in better shape, but I found myself wondering what the hell I’d just watched, because it didn’t seem to fit with any of the other X-Men films in the franchise. Not to mention that there was a lot of stuff that just wasn’t explained. Like, at all.

So without further ado, here are the 10 questions that Logan should have answered…but didn’t.

 

 

SPOILERS. NO SERIOUSLY, SPOILERS. I WON’T WARN YOU AGAIN.

 

1) What the f*ck timeline are we in this time?

In Days of Future Past, Logan traveled back in time 50 years to 1973. We can then extrapolate that the “present” sequences take place in 2023. Logan takes place in 2029. So how the hell did we get from that cheery, optimistic ending of Days, to the bleak, broken-down, mutant-less existence of Logan—in just SIX YEARS?!?

It would make sense if Logan took place in the original timeline (i.e. the timeline of X1, X2, and X3). Many of our main characters were killed in X3 (a movie that I know we’d all prefer to forget), and still more of them were killed in the battles during Days, before Logan altered the past. Logan also references events that we know happened in the original timeline, such as Logan’s days as a cage fighter and the battle on Liberty Island.

But Director James Manigold has stated that Logan takes place in the Days timeline—so WTF?

(My personal theory has always been that while Days may have altered or changed some things, we’re supposed to assume that many of the events of X1 and X2 still occurred in some form or another. My primary basis for this: Rogue’s hair at the end of Days still has a white streak in it, her “scar” from Liberty Island, so to speak. If that battle hadn’t happened, why is Rogue still channeling Lily Munster?)

2) What happened to all the other mutants?

Are we really supposed to believe that Wolverine, Xavier, and Caliban are the only three mutants left on Earth? I don’t. So what happened?

We know some things:

*At some point several years before the story started, Xavier lost control of his abilities and killed several people in Westchester (presumably at the school). I believe the radio announcer said that seven people were killed, with many more injured. But still—seven isn’t “all the mutants on Earth.” But presumably, it may have taken out some of our beloved old guard X-Men.

*Transigen—a.k.a. the bad guys—manipulated the food and water supply so that no new mutants had been born in 25 years.

*The skeevy bad guy with the southern drawl also implies that at one point, Caliban used his abilities for Transigen to help them track down (and presumably kill) mutants.

But c’mon. ALL THE MUTANTS ON EARTH?!? I’ll say it again: it’s only been six years since Days, when everyone was happy and healthy and not dead.

LoganLaura3) If no mutant babies had been born in 25 years, how come no one mentioned that at the end of Days of Future Past? Shouldn’t they be a tiny bit alarmed about this?

The youngest mutant on Earth would have been 19 at the end of Days. Someone should have noticed the oncoming extinction of mutants by this time.

And for that matter, who the hell were all those students at the Xavier School at the end of the movie? If the youngest mutant on Earth is 19, who are they even holding classes for?

4) Is it really the adamantium making Logan sick and impeding his healing abilities?

We’re kind of left to make up our own minds about this. But really, it could be something else? Maybe a malevolent agent that Transigen released? Maybe a delayed side effect of time travel?

5) If it is the adamantium, does that mean that Laura will have the same problems in the future?

And possibly at a much younger age, since she was implanted so young?

6) Will Laura be able to grow with all that adamantium fused to her skeleton?

Because it kind of makes sense that she wouldn’t. I kept expected her to start shouting at Logan, “Do you know why I know how to drive? Because I’m really 37 years old!”

LoganProfessor7) When and why did Xavier lose control of his powers?

Again, we’re left to our own devices to make assumptions. “Neurodegenerative disease”—dementia, maybe?

8) Who or what is in Canada?

Is that where all the other mutants went? Did some of our heroes manage to escape? The pessimist in me says that it would be a fitting ending for this bleak entry into the series if nothing was in Canada, that it was just a bedtime story to give hope to the last surviving mutants. But obviously, Eden existed, Laura’s friend and fellow genetically engineered child mutant was talking to someone on the radio.

9) Why didn’t the other child mutants help out in the climactic fight sooner?

No wonder Transigen abandoned the “let’s genetically engineer children as weapons” program—these kids suck as weapons. I mean, I get it, they have consciences and don’t want to be used as weapons and all that. But when people are literally trying to kill you, you can make an exception! Instead, they seemed perfectly content to let Laura—who will probably be scarred for life—and Logan do the fighting for them, not jumping in with their own awesome mutant powers until Logan is on the verge of death. Seriously, guys, if you had done that 10 minutes earlier, maybe Wolverine wouldn’t have been impaled. #stupidkids

10) Seriously, why do I even bother to follow the continuity?

Because no one else in this franchise ever seems to bother. *Sigh*

The Cost of Being Healthy

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My mom, my brother, and me, a few weeks before her death.

I don’t get political on this blog generally. But something has been eating at me recently, and I have a story I need to tell.

For most of the last 17 years of her life, my mother didn’t have health insurance.

You see, my father died in 1997. He was the sole breadwinner of the family; my mom hadn’t been in the workforce since before I was born. Funny: he worked as an actuary for a health insurance company. He’d devoted his professional life to the industry. They still kicked my mom, my brother, and me off the rolls before his body was even cold. My brother and I got health insurance coverage through CHIP, a government-subsidized program that provides health insurance to low-income children.

But my mom was a different story.

My mom had rheumatic heart disease, a lifelong side effect of a bout of rheumatic fever as a child. The disease caused damage to her mitral heart valve. She’d had two open-heart surgeries, the first around 1979 to remove scar tissue from around the valve, and the second in 1992 to replace the valve altogether with an artificial one. After the second surgery, she would spend the rest of her life on blood thinners. She had to get blood tests to ensure her blood was the right consistency. (Too thick could cause the artificial valve not to function properly; too thin could cause her to bleed out from a minor wound.)

So my mom was pretty much the walking, talking personification of a preexisting condition. Although she was only in her late 40s when my dad died, she could not qualify for most health insurance plans. The ones she did qualify for were just too expensive–over $1,000 a month, she told me.

When it’s a choice between having health insurance and feeding your kids, or having health insurance and keeping a roof over their heads…I guess you can figure out what choice she made.

As a 50ish woman without a college education, my mom had a difficult time finding jobs. When she did find them, they were mostly either part-time or temporary–and, naturally, didn’t offer insurance.

So she did what she had to do. She paid for her health care out of pocket. Doctor’s appointments, blood tests, medication–it all adds up. She put off unnecessary exams and testing.

The one time she did find a job that offered health benefits was 2003. She got a job at a bank. She was so excited! She finally started getting all the check-ups she’d been putting off. But a few months into the job, she ended up in the hospital. The new medication her cardiologist prescribed to her was too expensive–over $90 a month, even with insurance–and she’d stopped taking it. When she was admitted to the hospital, her resting heart rate was over 200 beats per minute.

Several months later, she slipped and broke her wrist quite badly. She had to have surgery to get it fixed. Having surgery was complicated for my mom. They had to take her off the blood thinners beforehand to make sure she didn’t bleed too much, necessitating around-the-clock monitoring. Then afterwards, they had to keep her in the hospital as they restarted her blood thinners until her levels got back to normal. In total, she was in the hospital about nine days.

While she was in the hospital, she got a letter from her employer. She had exceeded her allotted amount of sick leave–two weeks. Since she had not been at the company for a year, she was not eligible for unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.

They fired her. Her final termination date was, ironically, the date her surgeon cleared her to go back to work.

 

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My mom in New Orleans, the year before she died.

Thankfully, her insurance from the bank did cover her surgery and hospitalization, since the injury happened while she was still insured, as well as physical therapy afterwards. But when her mobility didn’t return to normal and her surgeon recommended a second surgery, that was not covered. My mom didn’t get the second surgery, and she never did recover full mobility in that wrist.

 

Even with insurance, she amassed a lot of bills from her surgery and hospitalization. I think I remember her telling me that it totaled around $6,000. It took her years to pay off the debt.

My mom was excited when they passed the Obamacare law that prevented insurers from denying coverage just because of a preexisting condition. But she would be eligible for Medicare coverage before Obamacare came into effect. In October 2013, she celebrated her 65th birthday. For years before that, her doctors had been urging her to get an EKG. She’d been putting it off, waiting until it was covered by Medicare.

She never made it that far. She died just two weeks after her birthday. The cause of death was “acute cardiac failure.” I’m still not exactly sure what that means, except that it was her heart and she had heart disease that wasn’t being monitored as much as her doctors recommended.

For the rest of my life, I’ll wonder whether having health insurance could have prevented her death.

So when I hear a comment saying that poor people just need to choose between getting a new [insert luxury item here] and having health care, it pisses me off. Because basically what you’re saying to me is that my mom didn’t deserve to live.

We were what I’d call “borderline poor.” We never had to water down ketchup and call it tomato soup (although I know people who did). But we were financially insecure. My mom budgeted well enough that our needs were always taken care of, but an unexpected expense–like a $350 car repair or a $175 plumber visit to fix a leaky toilet–could set her back months.

Even with insurance, health care is ridiculously expensive. A visit to a specialist may be a $50 deductible. Blood work might cost $75-$150 above and beyond what insurance will pay. X-rays will probably be about $150. An ultrasound might be something like $200; an EKG could be closer to $400. I know, because I’ve had all of these tests done–all with employer-provided insurance coverage.

I’m in better financial shape now, so I was able to pay all these costs. (I don’t know what I would have done if I’d been in an accident or gotten sick, and I had incurred all these costs and more at the same time.) But not everyone is so lucky.

As long as health care is a for-profit business, our health outcomes will never be as good as other countries. And don’t lie to yourself: our health care outcomes are not good. Take a look at this article from Forbes, published in 2014. Specifically:

Equity: The U.S. ranks clear last on measures of equity. Americans with below-average incomes were much more likely than their counterparts in other countries to report not visiting a physician when sick; not getting a recommended test, treatment, or follow-up care; or not filling prescriptions or skipping doses when needed because of costs. On each of these indicators, one-third or more lower-income adults in the U.S. said they went without needed care because of costs in the last year.

One-third. More than 33% of adults are skipping health care because they can’t afford it.

We spend much, much more money than other countries on health care, and we’re still sicker.

One of the main arguments I’ve always heard against a government-subsidized single-payer health care system is that the quality of our health care system would deteriorate. But look at the facts. Among other first-world countries, we’ve got nowhere to go but up.

Every time a discussion about health care or welfare or government aid comes up, I hear someone talk about the people who “abuse the system”–those people they met who were living in the projects, getting food stamps, but still managed to have the nicest clothes and cars and electronics. Hell, it’s even people who have been poor who do it, so quick to point out that they weren’t like other poor people.

Let me add my anecdotal evidence to others’ anecdotal evidence: that has never been my experience. My family was just doing the best it could to get by. And when my mom had the audacity to spend money on “little luxuries”–Christmas presents for my brother and me, a new television to replace the broken one in our family room–those were never the thing preventing her from obtaining health care.

Also, let’s just ignore the fact that many consumer goods–electronics in particular, but also food and clothing–have come down in inflation-adjusted dollars over the last several decades, while the costs of health care have continued to go way, way up.

But I’m going to conclude with this: yes, I realize there are people who abuse the system, who take freebies and handouts wherever and however they can get them. But even if someone is abusing the system, taking advantage, whatever, do they deserve to die?

Because that’s what this comes down to. The widowed mother who can’t afford to buy her medication. The recent college graduate who can’t afford health insurance and then gets into an accident. The minimum wage worker who has two jobs and still can’t afford to go to the doctor to get his stage four cancer treated. The real death panels are when you have to play Russian Roulette with your own health because you can’t afford not to.

That’s the cost of being healthy in America.

Word Constipation

 

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Do you like it?

 

So…Embracing the Demon. Dale, book 2.

I’m frustrated.

The good news is, the book is coming along. I’ve got about 40,000 words right now. I’m not stuck, and I don’t feel like I’ve written myself into a corner. My editor read a good chunk of it, and he’s happy with how it’s coming. This is good news. When we were working on The Demon Within, I basically had to rewrite the book from the original manuscript I submitted to him. Then after his feedback on the rewritten draft, I still had to go back and gut the entire middle section. It was an arduous process, and there were days when I felt like giving up completely. I figured maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a professional writer. For perspective: I signed my contract with California Coldblood in May of 2014. I submitted the final manuscript to my editor in November of 2015. Even after that, there were copy edits and minor changes, but I was mostly out of it by then.

That’s not what’s going on here.

This time, I did a lot of the work up front by writing an extensive outline of the story ahead of time and submitting it to my editor. As much as my pantser heart hated to do it, I have to admit that it is helping considerably, especially now that I’m truly in the middle section of the story (which has always been the hardest part for me). Whenever I get stuck, I just refer back to the outline. I’ve got a map to give me directions.

The problem I’m facing now is that the story is not coming fast enough, and because of that, I’m looking at the very real possibility that Embracing the Demon won’t be out until 2018.

When I sit down to write, I average about 1,000 words. On a good day, I might be able to push it closer to 1,500 or 2,000. On a bad day, I might only write a few hundred. Some days, I don’t write. I’ve heard so many writers give the advice to “write every day, no matter what,” but that has never worked for me. Writing is a job–on top of my other, full-time job. I love it, but some days, my brain just needs a break. Other days, I just don’t have time to write. Maybe I’m busy at work (the full-time job, the one that currently pays the bills) or I’ve got other appointments that don’t bring me home until late. Most weeks, I’m averaging about 4-5 days of writing time, 2-3 days off.

I know this about myself, though, so I know I should have started sooner. I was very burned out after finishing The Demon Within–and then once I’d recovered enough to write again, I was smack-dab in the middle of buying a house and wedding mania. But even beyond that…I got married in July. I didn’t start working on the outline until October. That’s on me, I know.

I’ll also be the first to admit that I’m not so great with either time management or focus. I’m distracted easily, and tend to fall down the internet rabbit hole too often.

The first draft of The Demon Within was about 100,000 words; the final was about 85,000. Then you need to factor in time for rewrites–which probably won’t be as extensive as they were on the first book, but there are still going to be scenes where my editor says things like, “Add more cool weapons” or “Be more descriptive.” In order to get Embracing the Demon out this year, my editor would have to upload it sometime in the next couple of months. You don’t have to be great with numbers to see that the math doesn’t work out.

I follow other writers on Facebook and Twitter who says things like, “I wrote 10,000 words today!” or “I only wrote 2,500 words today, I’m so disappointed in myself.” To which I’m like, WTF?!? I don’t even know how it’s physically possible to write 10,000 words in one day, and 2,500 words would be a great day for me!

Mostly, though, I’m just oozing jealousy. I genuinely don’t know how one can manage to be that prolific, especially with a full-time job (or kids, or family obligations, or volunteering, or pets, or whatever).

I wrote faster back when I was living on my own, but back then I had fewer demands on my time and distractions. It’s so much easier to write when you have no life!

But, since I have no intention of giving up my husband, my family, my friends, or my cats anytime soon, some mitigating strategies are in order.

–I’m going to be deactivating my personal Facebook account soon. It’s temporary, and I will reactivate when my draft is done. My public author page will stay up, but it’ll probably be less active. This is both for my mental health as well as time management: ever since the election, Facebook has been a hotbed of political activism and discussion. Which is great, but it’s causing me stress I can’t handle right now.

–Twitter will stay up, but again, I may not be around as much. (Twitter has never been my poison.)

–I’m going to try (emphasis on try) to start getting up early in the morning before work to write. I’m not a morning person, so this will likely be the biggest struggle. But I’ve done it before.

–I’m going to try to get to the gym more. Doesn’t directly have anything to do with writing, but it clears my head and makes me feel better.

–After I finish the draft of Embracing the Demon, I’m going to work on some things that aren’t Dale-related. I love Dale, but I’ve been in her head exclusively for way too long now. (The last non-Dale project I worked on was in 2013.)

–And if it does come down to delaying the publication, I’ll have to think about some things to put out in the meantime. Short stories? A Dale novella? A non-Dale novella? Deleted scenes? (God knows I’ve got plenty of them.)

I know that building a writing career is a long process, and it feels better to have a plan. But right now, I’m still grumpy and frustrated with myself. Damn kids. Get off my lawn!

 

#lifegoals

So the coolest thing happened to me on Facebook tonight…

Some background information first: I keep my personal Facebook page and my author Facebook page separate, partially for privacy reasons and partially because I’m very outspoken and I know book readers might not want to hear my opinions on politics and social issues. I do have a few professional acquaintances on my friends list, mostly people I’ve met through various conventions and people I worked with in my CC2K days. But mostly, the people I know on Facebook are people I’ve met socially, and some of them date all the way back to high school. In other words, I figure most of them haven’t read or heard of my book, nor do they care.

So anyway…

I got into a discussion on a friend’s post, and by discussion I mean “minor, non-heated disagreement.” Yes, those are possible on Facebook, however you’d never know it once politics becomes involved. Thankfully, this one was not political, so the vitriol associated with those kinds of arguments was absent.

Then the person I was going back and forth with said this to me:

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So for the very first time in my life, I got to say, “Yes, I am that Beth Woodward.”

Seriously, this is probably the coolest thing ever. (On a side note: see, reviews really are important!)

And then I thought, “Hmmm, maybe I should have disagreed a bit less vehemently.”

Thankfully, he followed up with this:

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At least I know he didn’t take our argument non-heated disagreement personally!

So, to the person whose name I redacted for privacy: thank you in advance for reading, and I hope you enjoy the book. And you seriously made my night. Hell, maybe my whole week!

It’s definitely good motivation to get my butt back to work on book 2, which is what I’m going to do right…now.

The Good Stuff

It’s been a hard day. I don’t like to get political in this blog, preferring to keep my personal and professional life separate, but that’s a hard thing when you’re a writer–a career that, inherently, requires you to expose so much of yourself. So it’s been a hard day. And I know I’m not the only one who’s feeling that way.

I have a tendency to be very self-deprecating (and even self-defeating) at times. It can take a toll on my confidence. One of the things I’ve done through the years, when I get into that mindset, is write down all the things I like and value about myself–the hell with what everyone else things. Today, though, what I need is a reminder of what I like about the world–all the stuff that brings me joy and strength. So here it is, in no particular order.

  1. My amazing husband, whose joy and optimism and zest for life are just unparalleled. There’s so many sub-bullets I could put under this. Hugging my husband. Spending time just chilling with him. Watching movies. Listening to him talk. How he makes me laugh all the time. The way he’s so good with animals. He’s the coolest person I know, and I adore him.
  2. Our cats, cuddly and goofy and crazy.
  3. I have the same best friends I’ve had since high school.
  4. I have in-laws who actually like me!
  5. I’m closer to my brother than I ever thought I would be.
  6. I have the coolest social media friends ever. Every time I scroll through my Facebook feed, I feel like I’ve found my people, weird and geeky as they are. But they’re also so intelligent, and they challenge me to think about things outside my own experience. Even when things get political–as they often do on Facebook–it never devolves into the kind of name-calling and straw-man arguments that I see elsewhere on the internet.
  7. I am following my dream of being a writer!
  8. J. and I have a cozy, lovely house–and it’s ours, not a rental!
  9. Volunteering at the shelter. Much as I love my own cats, I can’t overlook how much joy it brings me to help other people find their Annabels, their Shays, their Jupiters.
  10. We have the most ridiculously comfortable sectional couch ever made. I spent many hours napping there.
  11. BOOKS! SO MANY BOOKS! All the world of books!
  12. I work in a cool office where intelligent, challenging discussions are par for the course.
  13. Guapos (the Mexican restaurant down the street).
  14. Disney World.
  15. The traveling I’ve done, and the traveling I will do.
  16. Creating new worlds in my imagination.
  17. Starbucks Frappucinos.
  18. The excitement of knowing you have a package on the way.
  19. Streaming video, whether TV shows or movies or whatever. I can watch what I want INSTANTLY! Technology rocks!
  20. My childhood teddy bear, Hugge, which is still sitting on our chest of drawers.
  21. Ghiaradelli’s Milk Chocolate and Caramel Bites.
  22. Going to the gym. I forget it sometimes, but I shouldn’t, because spending a few hours a week sweating just makes me feel better about myself and my body (which I’ve always had a fraught relationship with).
  23. The sci-fi/fantasy-themed artwork we have scattered around the house.
  24. Going to conventions.
  25. Sleeping. There’s nothing like curling up onto a nice, warm bed (or couch) and drifting off to dreamland. I nap often.

That’s not everything, but it’s enough for today.

So that’s my advice to you for today: find your joy. Take care of yourself. Do stuff to make yourself happy, even if it’s just a little, and even if it’s just for the moment. There’s strength in your happy place, and there’s nothing wrong with needing to escape there for a while.

How Should Star Wars Handle Carrie Fisher’s Death?

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It’s only been three weeks since Carrie Fisher’s sudden and untimely death, but already the question has emerged: how will the Star Wars franchise handle Fisher’s death? We already know that Fisher completed filming before her death, and that she’ll have a larger role in Episode 8. But that still leaves filmmakers with a dilemma for Episode 9, the final act of the new trilogy.

A few days ago, rumors emerged that Disney was negotiating with Fisher’s estate for the rights to use her digital image, which was, not unexpectedly, met with the predictable freak-out on the internet. The next day, Disney denied the rumors.

But that still leaves Disney with a problem. If Leia was, as reported, supposed to have a significant role in Episode 9, how should the franchise handle her death?

This isn’t the first time an actor has died or left a franchise, so it’s not like there isn’t precedent. Based on how this has been handled in the past, Disney has four options.

The Dumbledore Option

Beloved British actor Richard Harris–the guy played King Arthur, FFS–played Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter movies. But Harris died shortly before the premiere of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and Michael Gambon replaced him as Dumbledore for the remainder of the series.

Pros: To me, this is the best option. There’s no getting around the fact that Fisher is dead. But Princess Leia is an integral part of the Star Wars universe, and ending her story prematurely would be a disservice to the fans who have followed this story for 40 years. This way, Disney can say, “Yes, Carrie Fisher is dead, and we’re not going to hide that with camera tricks or digital imaging. We’re going to bring in a different actress as Princess Leia, so that we can finish telling the best story we can and honor the character that Fisher created.” Not to mention the fact that there aren’t a whole lot of roles out there for late middle-aged women. I’m sure there are many talented actresses who could bring something unique to the role.

Cons: Carrie Fisher is Princess Leia. It’s hard to imagine anyone else playing her, no matter how talented. Whoever replaces Fisher is going to have a hard time living up to that, and will likely be torn apart by critics and fans alike.

The Grand Moff Tarkin Option

Disney may have denied that they are negotiating with Fisher’s estate for the rights to her digital image, but you can’t tell me this hasn’t crossed their minds. Just last month, Disney successfully used CGI, along with a stand-in actor, to bring Peter Cushing back to play Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One. Cushing died in 1994.

Pros: This would allow Fisher to “perform” the role that she originated 40 years ago. And personally–as I wrote in my review of Rogue One last month–I thought the use of CGI to replicate Cushing was amazing! I’ve spoken to some casual fans of the series, who had no idea that Cushing was dead, and that his performance was a digital rendering.

Cons: Cushing had been dead for 22 years by the time Rogue One released, and he was never as integral to the Star Wars franchise as Fisher. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last month, you know that Fisher has died, and the wound is much more recent. I’ve also spoken to fans who thought that the digital rendering of Cushing was creepy and unrealistic. Based on the reaction to Cushing’s appearance, I feel like viewers will likely spend more of their time scrutinizing the digital rendering of Fisher than paying attention to the story. Then there’s also all the ethical questions raised by this technology to consider, specifically pertaining to how much control actors have over their voice and images, even after their deaths.

The George McFly Option

Crispin Glover played Marty’s awkward father George McFly in Back to the Future. But when he famously refused to return for the sequels (over disputes over money or the script, depending on who you ask), filmmakers reduced the role and used a combination of another actor and splicing in footage of Glover from previous films to conceal the absence.

Pros: With a reduced role in Episode IX, Fisher’s absence will be noted but less noticeable. Filmmakers can also use a combination of recasting, CGI effects, and archive footage to have Leia in the film to a limited degree instead of writing her out altogether. This is probably the option that will get the least backlash from fans.

Cons: It may be the safest option, but it’s also the least satisfying. Leia has been an integral part of the Star Wars universe from the beginning, so to turn her into a bit character does a disservice to both the story and the fans. This option is also not without ethical implications; Glover successfully sued over the use of his image and facial prosthetics in the Back to the Future franchise. (That said, I think Disney will be smart enough to negotiate the necessary rights with Fisher’s estate ahead of time. Which, to be honest, is going to be a necessary evil no matter how Disney resolves this.)

The Sarah Connor Option

When Linda Hamilton elected not to reprise her role as Sarah Connor in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, filmmakers killed her character off-screen. (We’re told she died of cancer years before the film is set.)

Pros: Since Disney does have the option of negotiating with Fisher’s estate, as well as access to all of Fisher’s archive footage and the Lucasfilm digital technology, we’ve got to assume they’d be able to come up with something better for our beloved princess than offing her unceremoniously off-screen. Story-wise, Kylo Ren has already killed one of his parents; it would make sense that he might kill another. It would also be a great way for filmmakers to say, “We can’t replace Carrie Fisher. We’re not even going to try.”

Cons: Killing Leia might be a salve to Fisher fans, but I don’t know that it would serve the story. Han Solo’s death was probably the most shocking moment in the Star Wars franchise–and one could argue it’s one of the most shocking moments of film history. Wouldn’t killing Leia just dilute that?

TL;DR: All of these options SUCK, because all we really want is for Carrie Fisher to come back and finish playing the role she originated in 1977. But I hope that Disney will think long and hard about the best way to serve the story, the character, and fans of Carrie Fisher.

A Writer’s Christmas Wish: Reviews

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If I could have one thing for Christmas this year, it would be more reviews of The Demon Within on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and other retail and review sites.

We are in an era where new books are being published in hard copy and electronic format every single day. But what that means is that any individual book has a harder time standing out from among the masses. We’re competing for people’s time and entertainment dollars with not just other books, but with television, movies, computer games, smartphone apps, etc., etc., etc.

With so many books out there, it can be hard to separate the ones we’ll like from the ones we won’t. It’s easy to be skeptical about a book when it only has a few reviews, and it makes people less likely to want to spend their money on that book.

Andi Cumbo-Floyd, an author and editor I’ve gotten to know this last year through her blog and social media pages, posted a video a few months ago about the importance of reviews, particularly Amazon reviews. (Amazon uses its review system to do a lot of cross-promotion through those “You May Also Be Interested In” links and their direct e-mails.)

So that’s why I’m asking if you could do me a solid this Christmas. If you’ve read the book, I would be super duper grateful if you posted a review. It doesn’t have to be long or involved. Just a couple of sentences saying what you thought about the book.

And hey…even if you didn’t like the book, I’d still appreciate the review. Don’t get me wrong: I’d much rather you liked the book. But I get that my book is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s okay. What you disliked about the book may be exactly why someone else likes it. All reviews are helpful, because they give people different perspectives.

I’ve got to admit, I’m a pretty negligent reviewer. I read a lot, but I don’t review nearly as often as I should. But I’m going to try to remedy that this holiday season. I’ll be spending some of my time off writing reviews for some of the books I’ve read this year, especially for the authors who are not as well known.

Whether it’s for me or someone else, it’s a small thing you can do that will make a huge difference to an author.

 

 

Rogue One: A Good Movie That Should Have Been Great

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Rogue One is a good movie. But it could have been a great one.

So let’s start with the good stuff. This is the darkest of the movies in the Star Wars universe. Not necessarily the bleakest—I think that award goes to The Empire Strikes Back—but thematically and tonally, it is the darkest. The irony here is that the movie spends a lot of time talking about the necessity of hope. It is, ultimately, hopeful—but it also shows you that the cost of hope can be insurmountably large.

It feels much more like a war movie than the other films in the Star Wars universe. Yes, tragic things happen in the other films, but they’re so largely focused on the hero’s journey that they feel, by and large, like adventure movies with coming-of-age themes. In Rogue One, we’re focused more on the scope and the costs of the decades-long rebellion against the Empire—one that has lost almost all hope.

Anyone who has watched A New Hope knows how our rebels’ mission—stealing the plans for the original Death Star—is going to turn out. But still, director Gareth Edwards has managed to give us a movie that is exciting and suspenseful. He’s aided in no small part by a great cast, led by Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso.

I’m absolutely in love with the fact that they brought the long-dead Peter Cushing back as Grand Moff Tarkin. When I heard they were going to digitally insert him into the movie, I figured he’d be in the background for maybe a few seconds, but no—he’s actually got a substantial role in the story! The process of bringing Cushing back involved CGI, a stand-in, and a voice actor. Others disagree with me, but personally, I thought it looked fantastic. I would not have known that there was anything different about Grand Moff Tarkin if I didn’t realize that Cushing had been dead since 1994. (Also, I really, really hope his estate got compensated for this!)

(On a side note, I’m very excited to see where this technology goes as it improves. Could we get a screwball comedy starring Katharine Hepburn and George Clooney? This is a thing that absolutely must happen!)

As for the not-so-good…

The movies in the Star Wars universe are at their best when their focus is on characters. That’s where Rogue One fails. Story-wise, Rogue One had the potential to be better than The Force Awakens. Rogue One charts out entirely new territory in the Star Wars universe, whereas much of The Force Awakens feels—purposefully, I would argue—like a re-tread of A New Hope. But The Force Awakens introduced new characters, showed you who they were and what their motivation was, and made you care about them. By the end of the movie, I was completely invested in the fates of Rey and Finn.

But the characters in Rogue One—even Jyn herself—feel terribly underwritten. There are six—six!—leading rebels in Rogue One. Each of the characters seemed to have potential, and if Rogue One had been a television miniseries the large leading cast could have been an asset. But in 2 ½ hours of screen time, each of them kind of blends into the background. If they had halved the leading cast, and dug deeper into each of them, the movie would have worked much, much better.

And so we’re left with a movie that could have been—should have been—incredibly powerful and emotional. Instead, when I left the theater, I was like, “Okay, that happened.” Don’t get me wrong: I enjoyed the movie. But it’s disappointing when I think about how much better it could have been.

Sale on THE DEMON WITHIN

Amazon has The Demon Within paperback on sale now for $4.73. I have no idea how long the sale is going to last. So if you’re thinking about buying the book but you’re short on cash, now might be a good time.

Second…I sent out the Goodreads giveaway books on Saturday. US residents should have received their books today. Canadian residents should get them in another week or so. If you don’t receive your book, please feel free to contact me via the e-mail listed on my website.

Happy Holidays, everyone! I’ve been a little busy of late, but I promise a more substantive update soon.

Goodreads Giveaway Update

I finally signed and addressed all the books from the Goodreads giveaway. They will be in the mail tomorrow morning.

Winners were notified by Goodreads. If you don’t receive your book in the next few weeks, feel free to contact me via the e-mail address on my contact page.

I hope the winners enjoy! Stay tuned for more giveaways soon.