Star Wars for my generation of women.

One of the biggest shames I can think of is how many women and girls have never seen Star Wars. I personally believe that movies are culturally significant, if not outright works of art. Movies, in their own way, can inform people as much as the very best books. Because of this, I feel like women and girls are missing out on something extraordinary and important if they never see Star Wars.

I've heard girls complain about the popularity of Star Wars, I've heard them scoff at it, I've seen them roll their eyes. They treat it like it's the most juvenile and ridiculous thing ever. Like it's an embarrassing thing their man-child husband likes. Now, when their dislike for Star Wars is a matter of taste, that's fine. People are, of course, entitled to their likes and dislikes. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the time, these women and girls have never seen the movies at all (or it was so long ago they don't even remember them).

But you know, I don't really blame them. Star Wars was relegated to a movie for boys and men who grew up watching it as boys. The Star Wars "Dark Ages" of the late 80's and 90's pretty much removed Star Wars from the collective consciousness. There were no toys in stores, no movies had been made for years and years, no video games had been released for a very long time, etc. Even boys weren't allowed by their peers to be open Star Wars fans. It just wasn't cool, and it wasn't accepted. I myself was bullied throughout elementary and middle school for being a fan of Star Wars.

With the Prequel Trilogy's release starting in 1999, the public suddenly remembered, "Oh yeah, Star Wars was awesome, and it changed everything about movies, and it kind of helped shape me into who I am today." Everyone smacked their heads at having forgotten such an important piece of their childhoods and culture at large. Star Wars started to be cool again (I recently spent two solid hours playing with my nephews and their Star Wars figures). It's been a Star Wars Renaissance since then, with the new Trilogy and Anthology movies being worked on, LEGOs and videogames releasing, toys and collectibles everywhere, and I'm thrilled beyond belief.

But we still have those women and girls who haven't seen it, and don't want to. Now, I will make it clear right now that I'm not putting them down, I am not saying it's their fault. Star Wars wasn't allowed to be a part of a normal girl's life. It wasn't given the respect it deserved by the people who raised these girls. And that's a shame.

Still, that was in the past, and these women and girls continue to show disdain for Star Wars. Trying to get them to watch it is tantamount to shoving rotten pears down their throats. But something they might not realize is that Star Wars was a phenomenon for boys AND girls, men AND women. When it came out, it didn't matter what your gender was, everyone loved it! Look up old photos of fans from 1977 and on, you'll see a crap ton of grown women and girls wearing Star Wars shirts, lining up to see the movie, etc. It was a gender-spanning movie! It's only since the 90's that we've made it a movie for boys. Hell, look up Comic Con cosplay and you'll see more women in Star Wars costumes than you can count.

There’s been a lot of talk about the lack of female roles in Star Wars. And for good reason. We should always have those kinds of discussions. Star Wars IS a mythology for everyone, and everyone should feel a part of it. There are definitely things that could be done better. That being said, Star Wars did some incredible things for feminism. It featured a tough female protagonist who didn’t take shit from anyone: Leia had her own blaster and shot dozens of Stormtroopers with it, she figured things out and saved everyone’s butts multiple times, and she was one of the head honchoes of the entire Rebellion throughout. By the end of the third film in the Original Trilogy, we find that Leia even has the Force, putting her right in line with Darth Vader and Luke! Girls, these movies are for you! They could have done better with gender equality, but man, for their time, they were revolutionary. Girls, whether you like it or not, Star Wars is a part of your history! Give it a chance!

I’m just gonna end on this: the feminist movement is about women bringing change, it’s about men bringing change. It’s about people ensuring equality for each other. I’m asking women and girls everywhere to give Star Wars a chance. Take back the fandom of these movies females used to have. Don’t let marketers sell it to boys and leave you out. Watch the movies, give them a chance. Look deeper into the themes and significance of the stories these movies weave. I promise, if you give them a serious chance, you’ll find you’ve been missing out on something meaningful. Better late than never. Let’s show everyone that women and girls love good stories and characters, love action and romance, love drama and humor. Don’t let people define what you should or shouldn’t like.

As the new movies are made and come out, let’s tell the brass of Disney and Lucasfilm we want more awesome female characters! We want more toys and merchandise to fit the desires of both boys AND girls! This is our chance to make a difference, to carry Star Wars into the rest of our lives, the lives of our children, and help give them the awe and wonder we all felt ourselves.

Today I officially hit 50 lbs lost since mid-May.

I was fat as a kid, really skinny as a teen and young adult, slightly overweight (though quite strong) while working several years ago as a furniture mover, then fat once again at my current job sitting at a computer all day. 

Gaining weight creeps up on you, you shut your eyes to it, tell yourself you're fine. Your internal image of yourself tricks your brain into thinking the damage isn't that bad, that you don't look horribly different than you did a year ago. You don't step on the scale because you don't want to think about what you've been doing to yourself when you eat two plates of spaghetti and two cups of milk for dinner.

Somehow it doesn't matter that you're sleeping terribly, can't jog for more than ten steps, your self-confidence is crap, or that your father has had multiple heart attacks and bypass surgeries from a very early age. All that matters is that donut, that cheeseburger, or all the bacon. (Truly, we're a screwed-up species.)

I've tried in the past to lose weight. Done little things like eliminate dessert, go to the gym every once in a while, or cut out any added sugar in my foods, but nothing has ever done more than make me unhappy. I honestly can't tell you how, but one day I was suddenly ready to actually make a difference, and it's all been downhill from there. I downloaded an app to my phone called My Fitness Pal, basically a calorie tracker that hosts a database with millions of food items and their nutrition information. It also includes a barcode scanner so you can scan anything from the real world and immediately find the details.

I haven't exercised much, though my activity has naturally increased as I grow healthier, and bike rides are not uncommon. My dog Darwin requires walks every day, so I suppose that has helped. But the big thing, really the only thing, has been counting calories. When I started, I could have eaten a whopping 3,000 calories a day to maintain my weight (the fact that I was previously gaining weight speaks to just how much I was actually eating). To start losing weight, I dropped that daily goal down to 1,960 a day (this was My Fitness Pal's suggested amount to lose 2 lbs a week). I've since adjusted that to 1,500 calories a day (2.7 lbs loss a week) to remain compatible with my lowering weight. I've been eating at that new daily goal for about two months now.

I have not limited what I eat, just how much I eat. I have not counted fat or sugar (though in the interest of full disclosure, seeking lower-calorie foods naturally leads to lower fat and sugar content). I still eat desserts and bread, etc. But everything has to fit in that 1,500 calories a day. It's really changed where I place my priorities. For instance, I'd rather eat a large plate of paprika spiced rice and pan-seared chicken with zucchini than one little burger from Arctic Circle. In fact, I can count how many burgers I've eaten in the last four months on one hand.

As of four and a half months ago, I weighed three hundred (300) pounds.

As of today, I weigh two hundred forty-nine point eight (249.8) pounds.

That's a total of fifty point two (50.2) pounds lost in just about four point five (4.5) months.

I went from a size forty-four (44) pant and XXL shirts (the extra big kind you get at Walmart) to a size thirty-eight (38) pant and XL shirts.

(I don't know why I'm writing the numbers like that, just go with it.)

Bottom is most recent, B&W is the oldest.

I've had to buy new sets of clothes, which is exciting and sucks at the same time. I'm still wearing several shirts that hang on me like a tent due to budget restrictions.

I can wear my wedding ring again. (Side note, the veins and tendons in my hands are visible once more.)

My Madrigal hoodie (from my high school choir) fits for the first time in many, many years.

I can ride my bike for longer than five minutes without getting winded. I can walk up stairs easily, even jog up them if I'm feeling crazy.

I feel slightly less embarrassed during sex.


I have a long way to go. 50.2 pounds is only halfway to my ideal weight of 195-200 lbs. But I'm barreling ahead, and I'm not slowing down for anything (except maybe Thanksgiving and Christmas).

The truth is, I'm still fat. 249.8 pounds is unhealthy, even at 6 ft 2 in tall. I still carry the shape of a fat person, though my bulk has mostly disappeared. My genes unfortunately gave me moobs and love-handles in addition to my gut, and they insist on sticking around, in shape at least, if not in size. I will most likely carry them right to the very end of my goal.

I've learned that nothing anyone can say or do will change you. Only you can make something happen, and only when you're really ready. Here's to avoiding heart attacks in my mid-30s.

Another death in the family.

A couple of weeks ago, my twenty-nine year-old sister-in-law died in her sleep. My brother-in-law and their nine year-old son were home at the time, playing video games and napping in the living room. After checking on her for the third time since going to bed the night before, my brother-in-law found her not breathing and attempted to perform life-saving measures with emergency responders on the phone, but were ultimately unsuccessful. When the paramedics arrived she had been gone much too long, and the only thing they could do was take her body to the medical examiner. An official of some sort took my brother-in-law outside, away from her body, and questioned him for two hours to eliminate the possibility of foul play.

A crisis worker arrived and encouraged my brother-in-law to call her family. After many attempts to different members he left a voicemail for her grandmother and received a call back a short while later. The news quickly spread through her family after that with the grandmother doing the calling. After repeated encouragement from the crisis worker, my brother-in-law finally called his own sister, my wife Becky. At this point, I believe just three hours had passed since she was found.

We were sitting at home; me finishing up a raid in World of Warcraft, Becky watching TV. As soon as she got the call, we dropped everything and rushed over to my brother-in-law's house. When we got there, my sister-in-law's mother and grandmother were there, along with an aunt and a few other people I wasn't sure about. Someone had taken their son out to Taco Bell for lunch, away from all the crying and distraught people.

To say I didn't know what to do or say would be an understatement (I imagine my brother-in-law felt this multiplied by many thousands). I was at a complete loss for words and actions so I just stood there while Becky hugged and cried with various people. I've never seen my brother-in-law cry (no one has, really) and I've never been at ground zero immediately after someone died. We tried to broach the subject of how events had played out as delicately as possible, eventually putting the whole picture together as we stood around and talked. No one felt like sitting down for hours.

Eventually their son returned from Taco Bell, where his aunt had told him his mother died. He's always been really young for his age, and it obviously hadn't hit him at all. He was really happy to see us when he came in and laughed at everyone crying. He continually asked why everyone was sad, and pointed out how puffy and red their faces was. I don't blame him in the slightest, but it was really hard and awkward, bordering on offensive at points. I mostly felt terribly bad for him, especially considering how many people told him his mom was a spirit now, or an angel, or asked him if he knew how to pray to god for comfort. His mother was an atheist, and he was not raised being familiar or comfortable with these ideas. The poor kid was so confused by so many people and their religious beliefs that just sounded like fantasy to his mind. I just wished people didn't press their beliefs on him, and I mean no offense by that.

We ended up staying extremely late that night with more of my in-laws coming over. Both Becky and I called in and got work off the next day. We took my brother-in-law's son home with us for the next two nights to give him a chance to wrestle with everything he was dealing with. I can't comprehend or even imagine what he is still going through. We returned the next three days and I spent many many hours at his house, talking, sitting in silence, or playing video games to pass the time. We've never been close, but in that environment, under those circumstances it didn't matter. I was surprised and gratified that he trusted me enough to tell me some of the very difficult and personal things he was feeling.

We attended an initial planning meeting the very next day regarding the funeral so my brother-in-law wouldn't have to be there alone, and while not much was completed at that particular time, it was important. Becky volunteered to create a slideshow for the viewing and wake, paired with some music my sister-in-law liked. It was interesting and desperately sad to watch her family try to figure out what their daughter/niece would have wanted out of a funeral, seeing as she'd never planned for it.

Through those first couple of days, I never felt the urge to cry, though I definitely empathized and shared the feelings of sadness and shock. I might have returned to work too soon, but on the Wednesday after, alone in the office, I inexplicably found myself crying. I had to tell my boss's wife I needed a break and fled to my car outside. I suppose it was the stress of being away from home for so many days coupled with being surrounded by grieving people and feeling some financial strain, but my body physically demanded that I cry at least once. I went back inside after 15 minutes and felt a little better.

The funeral itself was small, but nice, just a viewing prior to cremation. People talked and laughed when they weren't crying, and there weren't any hymns or prayers, which I appreciated (though a few songs were played on a cheap boombox that I might have vetoed had I been in the position). The wake was the next day and we ate food and people drank. It was a nice send-off, in my opinion.

Though she wasn't in my immediate family/social circle, my sister-in-law is the closest death I've yet experienced, even more so than my grandparents and various uncles, who I consider partially estranged. I've chatted with her socially many times over the years, been to family dinners with her, and she even came to multiple shows when I was in my band (something my own immediate family never even did with the exception of one brother). She bought merch afterward for goodness sake. I can't overemphasize how important that was to me.

Needless to say, my brain case has been full the last couple of weeks. Thoughts about death and life, unexpected accidents or tragedies, that sort of thing. I've felt scared by the suddenness and how it could happen to me or Becky, but grateful it hasn't. Focus on work or writing has been hard, and World of Warcraft has provided something I can fall into and forget everything for a time. Things are still uncertain with their son, and my brother-in-law probably feels like it barely happened no matter how much time passes. It's hard having someone young die so suddenly, cliche as it sounds to say it.

I have no grand thoughts about it, just a lot of questions and stupid feels that won't go away.

1998 Princess Leia in Hoth gear.

All photos by Becky Green Photography, effects by me.

  • Blaster Rifle (A slightly incorrect model, as she didn't procure an Imperial blaster rifle as pictured below until her escape from Cloud City with Lando, Chewie, and the droids, and was wearing another outfit by that point.)

"I'd rather kiss a Wookie!"
This 12" figure of Princess Leia Organa is taken from The Empire Strikes back, arguably the best of the original Star Wars movies (certainly the darkest). In the movie, Leia is part of the Rebel command structure working to secure the newest base on the ice planet of Hoth. While she doesn't do much fighting in this part of the movie, she does have a lot of responsibility on her shoulders, and can be seen giving orders for the evacuation of the base long after the Imperials discover and attack it.

"You stuck up, scruffy-
looking... nerd herder!"
I just barely purchased this 15 year-old figure from an antique store. Not only was this figure cheap, but I didn't have to pay shipping either! I was pretty excited to find it, as I had been hoping to get a Princess Leia figure for a while, but didn't like the version dressed in the costume from A New Hope. As an extra plus, she matches the Hoth Luke Skywalker I already have, and the Hoth Han Solo I hope to get. All the Hoth figures are high quality, and I'm glad to add them to my collection. Her clothing is authentic and stitched well, and though her skin color is much too yellow and the paint simplistic, her face is a surprisingly good likeness. In general, Kenner makes slightly horrendous female figures, but this is one of the better ones. One thing that bugs me: though her hair is well made, the hairline around her ears is too high, and makes her look weirdly shaved, even though she had those 1980s pronounced female side-burns in the movie.

While I've always appreciated how beautiful Princess Leia is, I've never had the typical male-geek obsession with her (though the gold bikini in Return of the Jedi was, and always will be, hot). I enjoyed watching her on screen because of her confidence and ability to blast stormtroopers when needed, as well as her caustic wit when it comes to Han. I feel like they're the perfect couple: drawn to each other even though they hate the idea of the other, and never mushy. Reading the Star Wars EU books has given me an extra appreciation for Leia, though I must admit they have never really explored her potential, and have perhaps written her with less finesse than the other characters. Still, I think she's an awesome character and I hope any girls I have in the future will look to her as the princess they emulate, rather than the many pink-ified Disney ones.

A death in the family.

Watching your family dwindle is a desperate and lonely thing. Though I still have my mother, brothers, sisters-in law, many cousins, aunts, and uncles left, their numbers were reduced by one last night.

My Uncle Steve passed away in his sleep after years fighting cancer.

I didn't know him well. When I was less than two-years old, my father, Uncle Steve's brother, divorced my mother and left us, taking his side of the family with him, grandparents and all. My mother's side of the family has been absent and silent my whole life, and were never a factor. As I grew up I didn't particularly miss my father's side, as many families of a single parent learn to make do and don't know any better. But as I grew into a teenager and later entered my early twenties, I started to feel bitter about my father's side of the family that hadn't--in my mind--done anything to reach out to us like they should have.

Then my own brother got divorced and left his family. None of us were prepared, and none of us could have imagined the rift that immediately opened between his ex-wife and us, and by extension, his four young boys. Things spiraled into madness and my brother's children ended up halfway across the country with their mother, leaving the rest of us with spinning heads. The damage is done, and I don't know what to do.

I understand now how hard it is to reach out to a family torn apart by divorce. Misinformation, discomfort, animosity, and reluctance, both sides experience all these things to some level, and the walls they erect are powerful, even when it comes to children who don't deserve the effects of divorce. I no longer carry any bitterness toward my uncles and aunts for the lonely life my mother and brothers lived growing up, I'm simply saddened by the circumstances. I would apologize for the anger they probably never knew I felt.

Last year I had the chance to attend a family reunion for the first time in over ten years, and re-acquainted myself with a family of good people I wish I knew better. I spent some time with my dad, shook lots of hands, and relearned names, including Uncle Steve's. Though my grandmother--the person I had known best of all of them--had died years before, I thought of her as I hugged my grandpa.

Now, with another death in the family, thoughts of her are also echoing in my mind.

Uncle Steve's death marks another lost opportunity for me, just as my grandmother's had years before. Death is so very final, and marks the ending of a life that will never return, no matter how we rationalize as the years go that we will make the wrongs of divorce right eventually and someday make the ties of family strong once more. For Uncle Steve and I, that time passed, and I will never know the man his wife and children describe as so strong and wonderful.

I wish I had known him. I don't know when he was born, I don't know what he did in life, or much about his legacy. I wish I could cry for a beloved uncle, but tears won't come for a stranger, sad as that sounds, though a pain in my chest and ache in my head swells when I think about his death. I know others are crying, those that were closest to him, and my heart goes out to them.

Life is too short for a decades-old divorce to keep family apart, plain and simple. My own father won't live forever, and despite his wronging of my immediate family those decades ago, I can't stand the thought of his passing in the same manner as Uncle Steve's. I'm grateful for all the attempts that have been made over the years by my aunts, uncles, and cousins, and hope to do more on my part to accept them. It would be tragic if my eventual children were ever separated from their own cousins, so why should I be separated from mine?

The time is always now, whether it be family strengthened, dreams pursued, or goals set.

1998 Emperor Palpatine from Return of the Jedi by Kenner.

All photos by Becky Green Photography. Lightning and effects by me.
  • Knobbly Cane
  • Pure Evil

I love that he has
a cane.
This 12" Emperor Palpatine figure comes straight from Return of the Jedi, the last of the Star Wars movies (so far). In the movies, he's the ruler of the Galactic Empire, a dictator with a hatred for all non-humans, the dark center of the galaxy, and the acting force behind Darth Vader's many atrocities. Luke Skywalker's character arc peaks during his confrontation with Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader, where the Emperor's cruel order to join the Dark Side or watch his friends die brings an emotional and powerful climax to the trilogy. (I'm not sure anyone was expecting freaking lightning to shoot from his fingers!) Vader kind of messes the Emperor's plan up by betraying his master and helping his son defeat the darkness whirling within him, but it was a good plan for a while. Paplatine dies screaming, thrown down an air shaft, where his Dark Side energy explodes and nearly drags a wounded Vader down with him.

"If you will not be turned,
you will be destroyed!"
This is one of the new figures I've purchased in the last month. And by "new," I mean new to me. He's actually fifteen years old, but came to me sealed and pristine in his original packaging. I originally purchased him in tandem with a new figure of Luke (more on him to come), but fell in love with him as soon as I opened the box. The detail on his face and hands is exquisite, by far the best sculpt job of any of the 12" figures I own so far. Everyone I've shown him to gives me the same reaction: "Oh, he's creepy!" I love it. His robes are well made and the falls of fabric actually look like the costume from the movie. The only downsides I can see are his resistance to standing up straight (which the figure stands I purchased will rectify as soon as they get here) and a strange decision by the manufacturer to sew his hood to the top of his head. It makes his head seem kind of flat and smashed on top, so I stuffed some tissues under the hood to give it some extra volume. I'm pretty sure I'm going to keep collecting more Palpatine stuff, he's just that cool.

"It is inevitable. You–like
your father–are now... mine."
I don't know if I've ever come across a character that does the "evil overlord" archetype better (Sauron from Lord of the Rings certainly comes to mind, but I'm not sure who wins out). Palpatine is evil as all get out, unseen in the original trilogy until the final movie, which was an excellent move: letting the obvious intimidation of Vader run the show for so long, until–BAM!–someone even more evil shows up. I'll never forget the first time I saw his shuttle fly into the Deathstar, surrounded by ranks of white stormtroopers and greeted by a nervous–nervous!–Darth Vader: the low male's chorus in the background (love his theme), the bleak atmosphere, the slow reveal of the character from the hem of his plain black robes up, not to mention that damn creepy cackle he weirds Vader out with a minute later as they talk. Oh man, such a great character. I actually used his general appearance and creep factor to inspire one of the characters from one of my novels.

If the video below doesn't show up on your smartphone, use a desktop. Not sure why that is.

~1997/1998 12" Han Solo in Smuggler Outfit by Kenner.

All photos by Becky Green Photography. Blaster bolts and effects by me.

  • DL-44 Blaster Pistol
  • Hip Holster and Gunslinger's Belt

This 12" Han Solo figure is the quintessential smuggler as we know him from Episode 4: A New Hope. It's the clothing every kid wanted to dress up in, and every girl swooned over. (Those tight pants and low-slung belt? Yeah, sexy). Something about the outfit fits perfectly with Han's swagger when he boasts that the Millennium Falcon was the one "who made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs" to a skeptical Obi-wan and confused Luke. (Most likely because parsecs are a unit of distance, not speed. However, this isn't actually a mistake on Han's or the scriptwriters' part, seeing as the Kessel Run is a well-traveled smuggler's path that runs through an asteroid field edged by a cluster of black holes. The closer one pilots their ship to the black holes to avoid losing time dodging among the asteroids, the more space and time are warped, thereby shaving distance from the route. This makes Han's boast not only correct, but an impressively dangerous accomplishment.)

This Han figure technically belongs to my oldest brother, though it resides at my house for now. (I'll be getting my own duplicate as soon as I can.) I love the detail of his jacket and the way his belt sits with the grip of his blaster right next to his hand. Notice the Corellian Bloodstripe running down those trousers, an award for bravery, I believe. He's the only dude who can actually pull off a popped collar. While his face isn't the truest representation of Harrison Ford's (even the 6" Kenner figures from 1995 do a better portrayal), I consider it a fun interpretation of the character, rather than an attempt at a real-life face.

Han runs a close second to Luke as far as favorite characters go, and I've always liked the Star Wars novels featuring Han prominently best. His cocky attitude and dangerous scowl are the perfect foil to Luke's earnestness in A New Hope. His relationship with Chewie has always fired my imagination; just two buddies out adventuring in the galaxy and running from those up-tight Imps. While Harrison Ford has long held that he didn't think the character had enough depth, I've always disagreed; Han may not be a true anti-hero, but he has that same spirit, the guy who sometimes does the right thing, but is never far from trouble. After all, Han did shoot first.

~1997/1998 12" Luke Skywalker in Hoth Gear by Kenner.

All photos by Becky Green Photography, lightsabers and effects by me.
  • Blue Lightsaber
  • DL-44 Blaster Pistol
  • Standard Issue Rebel Blaster Rifle with working missile
  • Removeable Helmet, Goggles, and Scarf

This 12" figure of Luke Skywalker takes its outfit from The Empire Strikes Back, Episode 4 of the original Star Wars Trilogy. In the movie, Luke begins on the ice planet of Hoth, helping to install a new rebel base after the Empire destroyed the previous base on the jungle moon of Yavin IV. Due to the extreme cold, all the characters are dressed in thick coats as they explore the snow-covered surface on the furred-lizard tauntauns. I've always liked the design behind all the cold weather costumes in this part of the movie, and was super excited to get this figure many, many years ago. I'm pretty sure it was for my birthday.

Real Life
The Hoth version of Luke is one of my favorites of all the 12" Kenner figures I own. The detail and stitching on his jacket and pants is of incredible quality and each piece of his outfit comes off separately. His cuffs even unfold and his scarf can be tied any way you want. Notice the communicator on his wrist, just like in the movie. While his face isn't incredibly true to Mark Hamill's, it's a mite better than the monkey-visage present on the 6" figures Kenner introduced in 1995.

I've always been a big fan of Luke despite pop culture's portrayal of how whiny he is in A New Hope. It's probably because he has such a defined character arc and I prefer to look at his whole journey through the trilogy as opposed to one movie at a time. I think his "farm boy" archetype has to be one of my favorites, as evidenced by my love for Taran from The Prydain Chronicles, Sam from The Lord of the Rings, and the characters in my own novels.

Click to Expand

I've been interviewed again!

A twitter buddy of mine and soon to be published author Kristin McFarland deemed me worthy of an interview on her blog recently, where I promptly grew long-winded. Check it out if you're interested and see what I have to say about writing YA fantasy!

Introducing a new feature of my blog: Weekly Star Wars Toy Highlights!

Before you take a single breath further, know I am aware how nerdy this is and realize how little I care.

I posted about my resurrected Star Wars collection already on this blog, which was fun, but left me wanting to talk about it more. So I've decided to highlight each piece in the collection once a week, complete with quality photos and description of their place in the movie universe. I'm hoping to include a breakdown of their accessories, a brief history, along with the year they were manufactured, if I can swing it. For the more interesting or rare pieces, I'll include the details that make them such. I'm excited by the idea because it will give me an excuse to play with everything once more, and of course, talk about Star Wars toys.

I'll begin with my favorites, then move on to the smaller and less consequential pieces, all the while mixing in the new pieces I acquire going forward. The first post should come some time this week!

Join me, and together, we can build our collection as father and son!

The Star Wars movies, books, comics, and radio dramas were some of the most wonderful things to me in my childhood to mid teen years, and I feel no shame in how much of a role they played in my life. I count the EU novels to be one of the big reasons I developed a love for reading--and by extension--writing.

Anyway, when I was a kid, my brothers and I had a ton of Star Wars toys. I mean a TON of them, from different manufacturing runs and decades from before I was even born. We never had a lot of random toys lying around everywhere like you might imagine a spoiled kid might have had, but we scrimped and saved allowances for each action figure and begged Santa for the more expensive vehicle sets (my poor, poor mother). Because of this, each acquisition was precious and well played with. (Unfortunately, that also means we no longer have any boxes for the collector items, more about that later.)

When my three brothers and I grew up, other things took priority over continuing our Star Wars collection: a sofa to sit on, a $50 TV from the D.I., a kitchen table, those sorts of things. We got married, got jobs, went to college, etc. Unfortunately none of us really had room for our old Star Wars collection in our little apartments, and my mom eventually boxed everything up and stuck them in the garage.

Until now.

I've always been a geek (the kind that gets bullied at school because they can't bring themselves to hide it)  and as I grew up, I never lost my love for fantasy and scifi. I've recently begun to embrace that aspect of my life once more and my new collection of superhero action figures and comics has slowly been growing as I rewatch the old Star Trek TNG/Voyager/DS9 episodes and write fantasy novels.

My mind has naturally turned once more to the boxes of Star Wars toys at my mother's house.

So, a couple weeks ago, I stopped by and broke open the boxes for the first time in years (while screaming like a girl at the spiderwebs).

It was like Christmas times twenty. I didn't even remember some of the stuff I found before I actually pulled them out! My HUGE X-wing fighter, the MASSIVE Millennium Falcon, our SWEET AT-AT walker, not to mention the hundreds of action figures. We have playsets, SW micro-machines, full-size lightsabers, puzzles, and half a dozen smaller vehicles like the A-wing, Luke's landspeeder, a special edition snowspeeder based off a Ralph McQuarrie painting, and much more.

Perhaps most valuable are the dozen or so original Kenner toys from the '80s, including such figures as telescoping lightsaber Darth Vader (x2), RoTJ Obi-wan, Imperial Star Destroyer Controller, AT-AT Pilot, Walrus Face, Weequay (x2), and a many more I can't recall at the moment. We even have a super rare RoTJ Anakin Skywalker that would be worth BIG (and I mean MEGA) bucks if we only had the box he came in. This is super painful, because he'd be worth more than a lot of used cars if we had never opened him up (not that I'd ever sell him anyway, nostalgia and all that).

But I wasn't prepared for the wave of comfy nostalgia brought on by my pride and joy: a set of 1998 12" fully-poseable dolls with real cloth costumes and armor. There's Luke, Han, Darth Vader, Obi-wan, and Luke with Hoth gear. Man, we had so much fun with those (I used to swap Darth Vader's clothes to Luke and pretend he'd turned to the Dark Side like in the graphic novels). They just don't make toys like that any more.

I'll add some better
pictures later.
Each one belongs to a different brother, with the two Lukes belonging to me, but for now, they're all residing at my house with the rest of the Star Wars stuff (minus the toys from the Prequels, they went back in the boxes and are now sleeping with the spiders, as is fitting. Seriously, screw them). My dearest wish is to continue adding more of the 1998 12" dolls to that collection, since Amazon has a ton of characters I never knew belonged to that particular toy line. There's even a Boba Fett, which I think I might faint when I can finally afford to buy (peeps love that bounty hunter, so he's kind of expensive).

I dedicated a whole corner of my writing office to the display shelves that reach almost to the ceiling and stare at the collection for perhaps longer than is strictly necessary. I don't know why it took me so long to reclaim everything from my mom's house, but I'm really glad I finally did. I'm sure at some point my brothers will also come to their senses and start stripping their personally-owned toys from the collection (as is their right), but until then, I just gotta work on building my own collection to fill in the eventual gaps.

So yeah, I have a geeky collection once again, and life is good.

UPDATE: I have just purchased two new 12" figures: Luke Skywalker in black Jedi gear, and Emperor Palpatine from RoTJ.

Meet the characters of THE WITCKE IN THE RUINS.

DISCLAIMER: Many writers take inspiration from already existing characters or real people like actors or celebrities. It's an easy way to reference and check yourself as you write them. That doesn't mean that the writer copied someone else, or hasn't put thought and effort into making their own characters with good story arcs. Trust me, paying homage to the following characters in no way means I haven't created my own world, with my own characters, and their own struggles and motivations. Despite the general trend toward  inspiration from cartoon and MG characters, The Witcke in the Ruins is a YA fantasy with dark elements.

Fifteen-year old Astrid Kindle has never heard of the magical witckas, though her parents have spent the last two decades fighting one. She only knows her mother disappeared, leaving behind a silver necklace that's the key to crossing into other worlds.

After accidentally stumbling into a world that uses spellbinds instead of technology, Astrid is shocked to find her long-lost mother part of a stalwart group working to protect her world from Black Annis, an black witcke with world-dominating designs.

Unfortunately, Astrid's arrival in the forest village of Grundwell alerts the black witcke to the presence of the last piece of her plot--the silver necklace--and she attacks. Astrid narrowly escapes with the help of an awkward kitchen boy named Chale, but not before her mother is captured by the enemy.

Armed only with a temperamental spellbound sword and Astrid's unforeseen aptitude for magic, the two teenagers vow to rescue her mother. Pointed along a path by Chale's estranged grandmother, they trek across a rocky expanse of hazardous lowland inhabited by the ghoulish wights. Pursued by thirteen ancient Druids in Black Annis's thrall, they desperately seek for the source of the black witcke's power: a totem that--if destroyed--will give them a fighting chance. But time is running out for Astrid's mother as Astrid and Chale discover their quest may be exactly what Black Annis intended.


As the main character, Astrid was the most difficult to pin down from the get-go. I had a vague idea of who she would be, but it wasn't until the second rewrite of the book that I finally began to draw some defined personality and voice from her. Her inspiration came from many different characters including Elonwy from the Lloyd Alexander's The Prydain Chronicles, Mariel from Brain Jacques's Redwall books, and a small bit of Hermione from the Harry Potter books. I mixed them all together and added a little attitude and a lot of self-awareness from the girls I met while involved with the Hardcore music scene.


I always knew who Chale would be: a mix between my brother Travis and myself, especially when it came to interacting with girls. (We were both unbelievably painful nerds.) Chale needed to be awkward, stutter, look at his feet, all that good stuff. He can't read, can't write, and sees himself as only a mere kitchen boy. But I also wanted him to have courage that could be coaxed from him as the book unfolded. A few rewrites in, his stuttering lessened, and his courage came sooner. I also added in a little longing for adventure, a desire to make a difference, along with a need to help protect Astrid (who almost doesn't need protecting). I took inspiration from Wart (Arthur) in Disney's The Sword in the Stone and Taran from Lloyd Alexander's The Prydain Chronicles.


I'm going to admit something: Spigworth is a blatant love-note to all the talking owls that have appeared in cartoons and books through my childhood. Archimedes from Disney's The Sword in the Stone, Brian Jacques's half dozen owl characters, Owl from Winnie the Pooh, and many more. I just love the idea of stuffy British owls in books! Can't help myself. The spirit of the character also took some bits of Fflewddur Fflam from Lloyd Alexander's The Prydain Chronicles. Spigworth fills the role of guardian over Astrid and Chale, keeping them in line and adding a little worldly knowledge to temper their decisions.


I've owned rats as pets, and love to look at them at pet stores. I think they're cute and funny; sue me. But a rat (or rats as was originally intended until I combined two characters--RIP Git) was also the perfect character to pair with Spigworth; polar opposites in form, the food chain, and personality. While Spigworth thinks highly of himself and puts great emphasis on duty, Kenneth is mostly concerned with turning a profit at the expense of his reputation, legally or otherwise. As the book progressed, Kenneth became more complex, moving into the role of a cynical pessimist who didn't really want to be helping Chale and Astrid. His story arc, ending with a pivotal role in the climax, is a little more defined than I had initially intended, which I'm quite satisfied with. Some of his inspiration came once again from Brian Jacques's many sea-rat scallywags, but mostly Templeton from Charlotte's Web.


I have a thing for witches. And I mean a particular kind of witch: old, robed, filthy, seriously nasty--nothing funny about them. (Possibly a little female Emperor Palpatine in there.) She's the bad guy and does some not-cool stuff. Some of you might recognize the name of Black Annis (or Agnes) as that of an old rural legend from the UK. With Black Annis, I play homage to that legend as it fascinates me: an old crone living in the woods/moors, sometimes in a house, sometimes in a hill, always with an oak tree growing by the door and tanned human hides in the branches or tied around her belt. Super creepy, and oh-so-fun. I actually had the character developed before I researched the legend, and she fit pretty well with a few tweaks and name change.


There's an old Still Remains song titled "Blossom: The Witch." I don't know if I've ever had three small words spark such an explosion of imagination as these. I'm not sure what the song is about beyond a few lyrics ("Beware of her eyes, beware of Blossom"), but that didn't matter. I knew I had to write a book that had a witch named Blossom in it. She's Chale's creepy estranged grandmother, a small bit part that I hope is a lot of fun to read.


Chale's grandfather and innkeeper of the Wandering Wanderer. Going back to the boy with a sword archetype, there's gotta be the wise old man in there, just like Obi-wan Kenobi in Star Wars, Dalben in The Prydain Chronicles, or the inimitable Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings. A little Merlin from The Sword in the Stone. I did pull back on Donette however, limiting his role in the story, making him more of an armchair magician that doesn't affect the plot much. He's not a bad guy, but he's done wrong with Chale, never teaching him to read, relegating him to the kitchen of the inn, etc. I do have exciting plans for him in possible sequels. :)


As a smaller character, I still found Mother Ambridge fun to write. She's old, cranky, and quietly powerful. I took inspiration (strangely enough) from Madam Mim in The Sword in the Stone, and Mrs. Patmore from Downton Abbey.


As Astrid's mother, Abbey is important to the story, but strangely didn't need a lot of characterization. I eventually wrote her as the sort of blank-faced character that you'd see in the background of an older Disney cartoon or something. She makes a bad decision before the book begins and comes to regret it in the course of the story, so there is a small arc there and character development.

I should add, the idea for this post came from Vicki Weavil, a good friend who posted a similar thing to her own blog yesterday. Go check it out, as she just signed with an agent and you may be seeing her novel in print soon!

All images are borrowed from the internet for entertainment purposes only. I do not claim the rights to them, and they do not represent the characters I have detailed--only provide a visual hint.

Why I changed my title.

This graphic is very suddenly
out of date.
Hello everyone! It's been a while since I last posted, so I thought I'd pop in and let you all know what's been going on. The last couple of months have been a strange mix of waiting impatiently on other people, then furiously working for hours and hours to finish editing my latest book. Looking back, I can't decide if I should classify the months as productive or a general waste of time. Let's go with productive, since the book is finally being queried.

So, yay! After more than a year since the first word was typed, THE SOMETIMES SWORD is finally on submissions to agents. Kind of. See, it's now called THE WITCKE IN THE RUINS. Let me explain: when the book first started, the main idea was that of a young boy with a magical sword saving the day. Yeah, that's the archetype I chose to go with. The sword in question liked to disappear at the worst possible times due to an unfortunate mix of spellbinds that had been placed upon it not playing well together. However, the book has been rewritten 3 times now, altering not only the main character (adding in a female protagonist as the main POV), but also changing the nature and importance of the sword.

The sword is now a very small aspect of the book, serving only as yet another plot device to frustrate the characters by disappearing at inopportune times, hardly pivotal to the plot. Because the title was THE SOMETIMES SWORD, the current version of the book was a little confusing, as I didn't really explain much about the sword, or why it disappeared (it's now simply an experimental sword that wasn't ready for real world use yet). My beta readers kept repeating that they couldn't understand why the sword was even in the story to begin with (this was very frustrating for me, as I didn't want the sword to be important anymore, and hated the thought of making it once more a large part of the story).

After a bit of thinking, I decided that rather than expanding the sword's importance, I would simply change the title of the book, thereby changing the reader's expectations, and voila! The sword now fit in its current role, no changes needed.

But that brought a new challenge. What should I title the book after a year of calling it something else? I won't go through the whole process (I had five or six options and talked to a lot of people about them), but I eventually landed on THE WITCHER IN THE RUINS, seeing as my magic users are called witchers, and one of them happens to be in some ruins at one point. It worked, and I liked the tone the new title gave.

BUT. *record scratch*

The term "witcher" is apparently associated quite strongly with a series of books/videogames by the same name. I'd never heard of it before, but it just goes to show that the best laid plans of mice and men, and all that. After talking with a few people in the industry, I decided I'd need to change the name of my magic users and my title. Now, I already have made-up names for other familiar creatures specific to the world (such as canavar, bloedrech, etc), so it wasn't a stretch to simply alter the idea of a witch-like person into a new word. I came up with "witcke" (pronounced wit-key) with the plural of "witckas" (similar to Wicca, which works on a lot of levels). It was close enough to evoke some of the same associations as "witch", but different enough to catch the eye a little bit. Hence the new title of THE WITCKE IN THE RUINS was born.

I'll post again about the querying process here soon.

MY NAME IS STEVE: A short Minecraft story for the curious.


Don't ask me what I'm doing here, because I don't know. One day, I woke up in the middle of a forest, covered in snow, devoid of all memory and sense of identity. Why? I have no clue. It almost doesn't matter.

I spent the first couple of hours calling for help, wandering around, hoping I'd find someone nearby. After a while, I came to the reluctant conclusion that I was well and truly isolated: no sound of human voices, no hum of tires on distant roadways; nothing but the trill of far off birds and rustling branches in the wind. There might have been a cow nearby from all the mooing, but I couldn't find it.

I might not have known who I am, or why I woke up in this snowy forest, but that didn't mean I was going to sit down and let depression take me along with the wolves. I needed a plan of action, needed to find a way to survive! But first, a man needs to know himself before he can trust himself, and because my old name was lost to my departed memory, I have decided to call myself Steve.

It's a good name.

What I'll be doing in 2013.

I feel like 2013 will be the year everything changes for me. It has to be, right? This last year has been stressful, full of little disappointments, but also some modest accomplishments. There's been tragedies, confusion, and too many bills. Looking forward is the only thing that will change all that.

I've been writing novels for over 2 years now, with several books completed and one actively being queried. A second book will be ready for the same by the end of February. I've sent out dozens of query letters, received many rejections and two full requests (one of which was just the other day, and I have yet to hear back on it). I keep getting told that if I keep at it, and don't give up, I'll make it, if only by default. I'd like to believe that.

So here's what 2013 has in store for me:

First off, I committed to my writing group that I would complete 2 books this year. As I mentioned, one is already set to be done by the end of February, and the second is almost a third of the way written so far. I may even be able to exceed my goal by a whole novel by the end of the year.

Secondly--and I know I have little control over this--I aim to sign a contract with an agent, hopefully even be on submissions to publishers this year. If I keep at it and don't give up, I think this is extremely possible.

Third, this coming year will mark a new level of commitment and time management for me. Earlier in 2012 I made the decision to work part time and quit school, instead focusing on writing as my Plan A. 2013 will be the first full year where I implement that plan. Wish me luck.

Fourth, watch the heck out of a ton of awesome movies coming out this summer.

What do you look forward to in 2013?