Friday, November 25, 2016

Galactic Catalyst - My Take On Star Wars Catalyst - A Rogue One Novel.

Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel (Star Wars)Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel by James Luceno

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

War is tearing the galaxy apart. For years the Republic and the Separatists have battled across the stars, each building more and more deadly technology in an attempt to win the war. As a member of Chancellor Palpatine's top secret Death Star project, Orson Krennic is determined to develop a superweapon before their enemies can. And an old friend of Krennic's, the brilliant scientist Galen Erso, could be the key.

Galen's energy-focused research has captured the attention of both Krennic and his foes, making the scientist a crucial pawn in the galactic conflict. But after Krennic rescues Galen, his wife, Lyra, and their young daughter, Jyn, from Separatist kidnappers, the Erso family is deeply in Krennic's debt. Krennic then offers Galen an extraordinary opportunity: to continue his scientific studies with every resource put utterly at his disposal. While Galen and Lyra believe that his energy research will be used purely in altruistic ways, Krennic has other plans that will finally make the Death Star a reality. Trapped in their benefactor's tightening grasp, the Ersos must untangle Krennic's web of deception to save themselves and the galaxy itself.

James Luceno is one of my favourite Star Wars writers and having gotten comfortable with his prose in previous works, I found Catalyst easy to slip into here. He has a distinctive, lyrical writing style which I'm aware is not to everyone's taste but I have always found it to be engaging and satisfying. In fact, I was relieved by the familiarity as I was worried that Luceno would actually be hampered by the oversight of the Story Group - so much that his unique voice would have been stymied. I'm glad this wasn't the case.

(Star Wars author James Luceno.)

Catalyst traverses a time period in Star Wars that I have long been fascinated with - that being the Dark Times between Episodes 3 & 4 of the cinematic saga. It is a period that I've thought has been neglected in Star Wars storytelling so to find such a compelling story being told that features the Death Star's conception and construction, a story that explores the devastating rise of the Empire was satisfying.

Luceno's attention to the cast was absorbing and vivid. I found myself particularly drawn to the character of Lyra Erso - Galen Erso's devoted and head strong wife. I thought Lyra's arc throughout Catalyst was really compelling and I empathized with her struggle to open her husband's eyes to the truth of how Imperial Commander Orson Krennic was manipulating them both. Lyra had to dig into her reserves of strength to prevent her's and Galen's world from collapsing and I thought it was emotionally visceral and ultimately satisfying. I was reminded a little of the relationship between the famed mathematician John Nash (A Beautiful Mind) and his wife Alicia. Alicia Nash was said to have been John Nash 's anchor throughout their long relationship and while mental illness wasn't a feature in Galen Erso's characterisation, his genius and accompanying "eccentricities" required Lyra to have a lot of patience and strength. I really cheered for her.

(Irish actress Valene Kane will portray Lyra Erso in Rogue One).

The other surprise packet for me was the character of Has Obitt. I really liked his evolution from selfish (?) smuggler to conscientious freedom fighter and his was another instance where Lyra Erso made a positive and poignant impact.

And of course, Orson Krennic. How exquisite is this character?! Knowing Ben Mendelssohn's work as an actor and his capabilities in both protagonist and antagonist roles, Luceno's fleshing out of Krennic was a joy to read and I know I'm going to go into Rogue One watching Mendelssohn's performance closely.

(Australian actor Ben Mendelssohn as Orson Krennic in Rogue One.)

I was so excited for Catalyst and James Luceno's novel didn't disappoint. It captures the epic scale of a Star Wars story with characters as immediate and compelling as those we have come to know from the existing cinematic saga. I'm so excited now for Rogue One this December.


View all my Goodreads reviews

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Involuntary Pause - Misadventures In Writing & Other Things.

I wasn't feeling it today.

Maybe it was because I'd indulged a little more than I'd planned to last night at the Pub when I was catching up with family. Maybe it was because it was such a lovely morning this morning and I found myself tending to my garden and lawns while listening to an ever enlightening episode of the Osher Günsberg podcast.

Whatever it was - I just couldn't engage my creative impulse today and, despite the eventual two hours I spent at my computer, my output wasn't good. I think I stared at my screen more than I did input anything of value. I'm struggling with the challenge of bringing two people together in a way that is gentle and convincing - and not soppy. So far, it has involved my protagonist, Hayden Luschcombe, helping my co-protagonist, Isabelle Sampi, with a blocked fuel line in her car and her showing him her bakehouse that she pretty much built herself. There's gotta be romance in there somewhere right.

It's a long story...

...And it's not easy.

Traditionally, I've been really hard on myself and overly criticized myself for not being productive. It's sonething that has caused me considerable distress - unnecessary distress. But I've slowly learned to accept that, sometimes, I'm simply not going to be able to tap into whatever it is that allows me to write freely and easily. When that happens, I've given myself permission to step away and disengage and it actually helps a lot. Of course, as with any learned behaviour - particularly those that have been learned over a long period of time - it's not easy to shake the anxiety and the tendency to be self critical. It takes effort to deprogram yourself and that can be pretty tiring. As I sit and I type this however, I'm okay...

...I think.

To contrast this with something completely opposite, something ratrathgroynd shaking has happened with The Recipient in the past couple of weeks. Back at the beginning of this month, my publisher wrote to advise me that The Recipient had been accepted for a Goodreads promotion that would see it be featured prominently at Goodreads as well as being included in a subscriber email mail-out.

Well, as the result of this promotion, The Recipient embarked on a rapid climb up the Amazon charts, peaking at a ranking of 735 a couple of weeks ago (out of several million titles) and it entered in the Top 100 across several fiction categories. It's since settled back into the mid 10,000 range as I write this but, it's selling at least a half dozen copies daily rather than say one or two copies a week. It's safe to say that I've never experienced anything like this and I'm kind of unsure how to see this. Further, I've just been informed that Amazon itself has selected The Recipient for its Kindle Monthly Deal mailout for November which has the potential to continue this run of high sales through its high visibility promotion. This includes prominent placement across the Amazon site as well as its social network.

In a word, I'm flabbergasted.

In the six years since my first novel, The Hambledown Dream, was published, I haven't had this level of exposure nor sales and it's a little hard to believe it's actually happening.

It's all a little bit of yin and yang today (is that right?)

Have you experienced something similar this past week? Let me know in the comments section below.


Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Writer's Emotional Investment.

I've somehow worked myself up into an emotional state this afternoon. 

In my continuing development of my latest work in progress, I've been working on the back story of my central character, Hayden Luschcombe, that involves a falling out with his father Russell that remains unresolved at the beginning of the story. 

See, Hayden's mother Lavinia died around four years before the events in the story, having suffered from ovarian cancer. His father Russell, who devoted himself to being her sole carer, died about a year later - ostensibly from a broken heart. During his mother's illness, Hayden made many trips over to Walhalla from Adelaide but often had difficulties in getting away from his demanding job in a hospital's emergency department to be with his parents and help with his mother's care.

When Lavinia's illness took a turn for the worse and Russell warned Hayden that there was much time left, Hayden tried to get a flight over but, due to circumstances at work and, possibly, some intransigence from his unsympathetic wife, he didn't make it in time. Lavinia died before Hayden got to her bedside.

Russell, in his grief, turned on Hayden and, I guess, blamed him for not being there at the last moments of his mother's life. This developed into a rift between father and son that went unresolved. When Russell died a year later, father and son never reconciled and so Hayden is left to live with guilt and regret. This is part of the reason why Hayden appears as something of an introvert at the beginning of the story and doesn't find it easy to mix with others.

Family dynamics can be really complex when cancer visits a loved one and relationships are often strained. Sometimes they can break. I was reminded of this, this afternoon as I sat trying to flesh out this aspect of the story and I couldn't help but feeling an overwhelming sadness as I considered how I am going to incorporate this back story into the main story. Part of Hayden's journey will involve him 'reconciling' with his father in a posthumous sense and I have an idea about how that will play out but getting to that point requires a bit of work. And it's not easy. 

When considering weighty issues such as these, it's inevitable that I become emotionally invested in these characters and these situations. It's a little surprising just how invested one can become. I'm not gonna lie, it's more affecting than I anticipated.

Do you find the same thing happens to you? Do you find yourself being affected by the situations you place you characters in? Tell me in the comments section below.