Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I was inspired

18 08 2010

One of the first movies I saw as a child was the original “Star Wars.” At that time, it was simply known as “Star Wars.” Now the official name of that movie I love is “Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope.” Over the years, as home video technology has grown and changed, the movie has been released in various formats. First it was released on VHS. Then George Lucas decided to remaster the movies with extra special effects that weren’t available when they were released. Extra scenes also were added. Eventually, all 6 of the movies were released in a box set in 2004 and even more subtle changes were made.

Last week, George Lucas announced that all six movies will be released on Blu-Ray next year. As part of the announcement, he showed a clip of a deleted scene that will be added to “The Return of the Jedi” for the Blu-Ray edition. The scene toward the beginning of the movie shows Darth Vader attempting to contact Luke, and also Luke building his new lightsaber after losing his father’s lightsaber when his hand was cut off at the end of “The Empire Strikes Back.”  You can view the scene here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5XR-M-_UpE 

Personally, I prefer the original versions of the original trilogy. There’s something about the raw, old-school feel of the movie that can not be duplicated using today’s CGI. The second trilogy and the special versions of the older movies feel, I don’t know, too sterile. Too fake. The original movies make you feel like you are really there. Like you could be in the movie. The new ones, with all their fancy special effects, just feel too sanitary. Like you can tell it’s not real. Much harder to suspend disbelief and throw yourself into the movie. At least for me. However, this deleted scene is pretty cool. I don’t have a Blu-Ray player yet. But one day when I do, I’m sure this version of the movies will end up in my collection.

I will always hold a special place in my heart for “Star Wars.” It was one of the things that first inspired me as a storyteller. Some of the first stories I wrote in elementary school were my version of what happened after “The Return of the Jedi.” More than 10 years later, George Lucas would allow for the creation of a trilogy of novels known as The Heir to the Empire series, written by Timothy Zahn. They were the true beginning of what now is knowns as The Expanded Universe. Hundreds of novels, dozens of comic book series and several video games have told the ongoing saga of the beloved characters. But long before that, I was making up my own version of their adventures. Now they have a name for that: fan fiction. At the time, I didn’t know that. It was just me and my typewriter or pad of paper, making up the further adventures of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia. I’ve since moved on to creating my own characters in their own life-changing situations.

While my stories may not happen long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I hope some day, some little boy or girl will read one of them and become inspired to make up their own story. As a writer, what better legacy could you ask for? So in spite of my feelings about your later work, George Lucas, thank you for the original trilogy and thank you for inpsiring my imagination.

Money for nothing, write for free

16 08 2010

As I’ve been working on my novel, I’ve also been doing tons of research on the publishing industry. With technology growing in every facet of our lives, it’s not surprising that the book publishing industry also has been greatly affected.

As you probably know, there are many people who have started using portable devices to read their favorite books, newspapers or  magazines. Instead of going to the newsstand or bookstore and picking up a physical copy of the latest Stephen King book or this morning’s edition of The New York Times, you can download them onto a portable reader and enjoy them wherever you are.

This new technology has greatly changed reader’s buying habits. Publishers have had to rethink their practices and authors have found a variety of new ways to get their work out to the public. Some are only releasing their work as ebooks, which are much cheaper for readers. That lower price point makes them more likely to try a new author. Other authors are going with one of the many publish-on-demand sites online, like www.lulu.com. These sites offer authors the ability to let people order books online and the company will print copies of the book as they are ordered. These sites have their advantages and their drawbacks, but they certainly are one option for people looking to get their work out there.

Personally, I think I’m going to hold out for a traditional publishing deal. Although there are the rare success stories of people who have self-published or just released ebooks, and then signed a deal, they are few and far between. I believe in my story and I believe in myself. I believe that someone will want to sign me once they read my book. Maybe I’m a fool and maybe I’m wrong. But I don’t think so. I know what my strengths are and I know what my weaknesses are. I don’t try to be a professional carpenter. That WOULD be crazy. I am about as talented with tools as Tim Allen is as an actor. I can write. I have good story ideas and someone will want to sign me so other people can read those stories.

I am not writing to become rich. The odds of becoming rich as a writer are slim to none. There’s a joke that goes “What’s the difference between a writer and a pizza? A pizza can feed a family of four.” While that may be a bad joke, the message is very true. If you want to become rich and famous, don’t become a writer. There are many occupations that are much more likely to be lucrative.

I am writing because I HAVE to write. I have these words inside of me that are fighting to come out. For years, they were stuffed down inside by my busy, everyday life. Now, I have given them freedom to run wild, and they are taking advantage of it. I have so many story ideas, I can’t find enough time to get them all down even. I have 33,000 words done on my first novel, and the words just keep coming. I don’t care if millions of people read my book, but I definitely want people to read them. And I believe that once people read them, they will want to read me, and they will tell their friends about them and the rest will be history.

If you love to write, do it. Find some outlet for your writing. Just don’t expect to get rich. But expect to feel good about yourself and your work. And that may be payment enough.

Idol reborn?

4 08 2010

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post declaring “American Idol” dead, or at least having one foot in the grave. The 2010 season of the “talent show” was less than thrilling. Ellen annoyed me and Kara and Simon’s banter couldn’t replace the rapport Simon and Paula had shared. I was ready to stop watching the show. In fact, I only half-watched as Lee DeWyze was named the next American Idol.

Simon had announced that he would not be returning for another season. Then, last week, Ellen announced she was done with the show. And a day later, reports began to surface that Kara had been fired from the show. That left only the Dawg, Randy Jackson, under contract as a judge. Rumors have been swirling about replacement judges. Everyone from Howard Stern to Justin Timberlake were mentioned as possibly joining the hit show.

However, according to entertainment site TMZ (http:www.tmz.com), the replacements have been chosen, and all that’s left is to sign the contracts. Reportedly, Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith frontman Stephen Tyler will join Jackson on the new 3-judge panel when the new season gets under way in January 2011. Fox has not issued a statement yet, and probably won’t until all the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed.

If JLo and Tyler do join “Idol,” their addition would certainly breath new life into the aging show. Both of them are huge personalities who have enjoyed huge success in the music industry. Their comments would definitely carry more weight and be more respected than the inane chatter Ellen would throw around. Even Kara, who has been a successful songwriter for years, never seemed quite comfortable during her two years on the show. The experience JLo and Tyler have performing should help them feel more comfortable on the biggest stage in American television for musical talent.

I certainly will tune in and see how the new judges fit, but I’m not yet ready to declare the show must-watch TV again. That will have as much to do with the level of talent the three judges send through as it does with who the judges are. So Randy, Jennifer and Stephen, choose wisely, or else “Idol” really may be dead.

Home sweet home?

3 08 2010

Well I thought I would blog while I was in Florida. But, alas, it did not happen. But after 5 weeks in the Sunshine State, my family and I are back home in the Buckeye State. So back to blogging I go.

During our time in Florida, we spent part of nearly every day on the beach, either swimming or just walking along the beach. There were so many beaches to explore, each one unique. We drove up and down the Central Florida coastline, mostly staying between Vero Beach in the north and Juno Beach on the south. We went as far south as Palm Beach and as far north as Merritt Island. We saw more than 20 different beaches, but our favorite one was on Hutchinson Island, near Jensen Beach. It had soft sand and stayed the water stayed shallow for quite a distance, allowing us to explore more.

Many of the beaches were nearly deserted when we were there. Several times, we were THE only people on the beach. It was amazingly peaceful and relaxing. Watching the waves come in and out. Feeling the sun on my face. Building sand castles with my daughter. Reading on the beach. Collecting sea shells. Playing in the water. Walking along the beach. It was the most fun I’ve had in a long time.

All 3 kids could live at the beach. Addie, who is 3, fell in love with the beach immediately. It was her first visit to the ocean, but you can be sure it won’t be her last. She would spend the whole 3 or 4 hours that we stayed at the beach playing in the sand with her bucket and shovel. Or her other favorite activity was to sit on someone’s lap at the edge of the water as the waves would wash up onto her lap.

Emma, 6, was very cautious around the water when we first arrived. It was only her second trip to the ocean. Her dad had taken her and her brother to Myrtle Beach 2 years ago. But even though she was uncertain, she loved to dance along the edge of the water and when she got brave enough, wading into the shallow water. Many times though, even in the shallow water, the waves were pretty powerful for a 6 year old to deal with. But by the end of our trip, she was brave enough to go out into water that was almost up to her neck, as long as I was right there next to her. She even stuck her face under the water a few times. I was proud of the progress she made in conquering her fears.

Nassem, 10, turned out to be part fish. At the start, he would go out with me as far as he could as we let the huge swells lift us off our feet and push us toward the shore, over and over. However, he quickly graduated from that. By the time we left, he was spending the whole time at the beach in the water, and at least half of that time, he had his goggles on as he scoured the ocean bed for seashells. I think he’s going to be a marine biologist or oceanic archaeologist someday.

For Erin, the beach was very therapeutic, both mentally and physically. Being at the beach made her probably the happiest I’ve ever seen her. And laying on the hot sand really helped ease her fibromyalgia pain. She also enjoyed photographing all the seashells and other beautiful scenery.

Personally, I don’t know how to swim, but I still love the water. I took swimming lessons for two summers as a kid, but never quite got the hang of it. Yet I do my best to not let that hold me back from doing things I want to do. I spent hours in the ocean, just letting the waves blow me around. It was so relaxing, so fun, and good exercise.

Besides going to the beach, we also explored the natural beauty of the area. We searched for manatees, took a nature hike to an ancient Native American burial mound and visited several centers devoted to marine life. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any manatees or dolphins, but it still was fun watching for them. The weather was too hot while we were down there. There were so many different things to see and do, I think even if we had stayed another 5 weeks we wouldn’t have exhausted our options.

So as you can see, everyone in the family was the happiest I’ve ever seen them while we were on the beach. Which made our return to Ohio that much harder. At least on the beach you had nice cool breezes which made the weather feel 10 or 15 degrees cooler than it actually was. In Ohio, you just get this nasty muginess that makes it almost unbearable. But the kids start school in two weeks, so it was time for us to come home and get back to real life. We have hundreds of photos and lots of great memories from our time in Florida. I’ll probably share more later this week.

A move to Florida may be in the cards for our family. There are issues to deal with before that can happen, but if I was a betting man, I would put money on us making our home there eventually. But for now, home is where you make it, and right now, that’s in Ohio. So to all our Ohio friends, we’re back and ready to get back in touch with all of you. So say hi when you get a chance, and let’s catch up.

%d bloggers like this: