How Rian Johnson just saved Star Wars

This blog post has MASSIVE SPOILERS for Star Wars The Last Jedi, so if you haven’t seen it yet, please scroll no further than the porg of spoilderdom…

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Ready for spoilery thoughts? Here we go…

“You have to kill the past,’ says Kylo Ren in Rian Johnson’s take on the Star Wars saga. To say that this film has been divisive would be an understatement, but the film wears its themes on its sleeve, and the viewer soon discovers that this will be no ordinary Star Wars story. It opens with a comedy sketch co-starring Adrian Edmonson, followed by Luke tossing his lightsaber over a cliff, then the Resistance fleet is all but wiped out, General Leia is ejected into space, Admiral Ackbar discovers that even he can’t repel scripts of this magnitude, and no one says “I have a very bad feeling about this,” or any of its variants, which might be a first for the series.

This is an irreverent movie, and thank the Maker for that. I enjoyed The Force Awakens and Rogue One very much, though both were quick to doff the cap to tradition and tiptoed very carefully through the minefield of fan expectation. Johnson’s film streaks gleefully through the minefield, flipping the bird at any man-baby fanboy appalled at the liberties he takes (and it does seem to be all men complaining… We really have to stop getting so petulant about stuff like this, guys).

As I watched, I kept thinking; “I didn’t know the Force could do that,” and “Ooh, that’s new!” and it engaged me in a way that a Star Wars film hasn’t done since Return of the Jedi, and it’s given me a fun quote that I’ll be using on my kids for years to come: “Congratulations. Everything you just said in that sentence is wrong.”

It’s not perfect. The middle is pretty baggy, Snoke is still uninteresting as a villain. and threads are set-up and resolved a little too quickly – mainly the excursion to Canto Bight and Poe Dameron’s mini-mutiny – though one has to wonder if the latter of these was affected by the sudden passing of Carrie Fisher. (Pauses to sniff and make excuses about something in my eye)

Fisher is heartbreakingly good in the few scenes she’s conscious in, and it makes you wonder how great she would have been had she lived to complete the role. Hamill shines, giving a career-best send-off to a character that started as a callow youth, and ends a grizzled, regretful war veteran in hiding. His final vision of two suns setting is a wonderful bookend to his story, and a genuine lump-in-the-throat moment.

For me, the most thrilling part of this film is its message that anyone can be the hero now. You don’t have to be a Skywalker, or even a distant second cousin, or a collection of immaculate midichlorians, as many thought Rey to be. You can be Rose, or her sister Paige, or that stable boy and his friends at the very end. Heroism doesn’t require a special lineage, you don’t need to come from a renowned family, or be in the top percentage of society. In a time when we’re seeing the powers-that-be on their worst behaviour, that’s a very important message for any yoot watching this film. And this is a film for the young fans; giving them ownership of the series with a range of diverse and interesting new characters. Maybe that’s why the older fanboys are so distressed…? Someone else is playing with their toys and they’re not playing by the rules…

Curiously, and refreshingly, the film doesn’t end on a cliffhanger. Rian Johnson has cleared the decks and JJ Abrams now has a free reign to wind-up the trilogy any way he pleases. I hope he has as much fun with his new film as Rian did with his, and takes advantage of how Rian Johnson just saved Star Wars saga from disappearing up its own continuity. The fact that none of us has the first clue where this is going next is really exciting and I can’t wait for Episode IX.

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The best shortbread cookies you’ll ever taste!! Honestly!!

I heartily endorse this message…

Clairesallotment's Blog

When the weather outside is very cold, frosty, and wet, playing in the garden isn’t an option. So you can either do a massive pile of ironing (nah!), or those other boring household chores that you try and put off for as long as possible (do I have to?). Instead, you can get out your cookery books, look through the recipe books, and bake some of the most wonderful shortbread cookies ever. You can add whatever flavourings you like, just keep the basic shortbread the same.

So why not make the house smell wonderful, and once you’ve made your cookies, sit down with a couple of them and a nice cup of tea. The ironing can wait for another day…..

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GollanczFest 2017 part 6

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This continues on from my first post about the Gollancz Festival 2017.

After the morning panels were finished I got another chance to talk with Mark Stay (Orion Publishing, Author & The Bestseller Experiment). It was an informal chat with Mr Stay, as he was on hand for any customer or author enquiries. We had a chance to discuss The Bestseller Experiment, and briefly touch on some of the other projects he had mentioned in some of the bonus video chats the two Marks had done, and of course at the time the big query regarding the future of The Bestseller Experiment. I managed to avoid pitching my current projects, and when Mark asked about my work I give a concise overview; I think I did well considering how much I’d have liked to have said 😉

Mark Stay Mark Stay guardian of the Author-Portal for #GollanczFest 2017

Mr Stay’s welcoming…

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Listeners’ Question Time – Bestseller Experiment ep70

The new episode of the podcast is online. This was a live recording, inasmuch as were live on Youtube for our Patreon supporters who had either sent questions in advance or were asking them in real time. It’s a format we tried on the launch day for Back to Reality, and I really enjoy it. We talk about mailing list and blog tips, the differences between developmental edits, copy edits and line edits, private Pinterest boards and all sorts of other shizzle.

If you want in on this next time, then come and support us over at Patreon.

In the meantime, you can listen to this week’s podcast here.

And if you’re a fantasy fan, be sure to check out our interview with legend and all-round nice guy Tad Williams here.

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And I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t mention that Back to Reality is out now!

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5 Tips for exporting your manuscript from Scrivener to Word

Julie Stock - My Indie Writing Life

This week, I finally finished editing my manuscript of my debut novel, ‘From Here to Nashville,’ ready to send off to the Romantic Novelists’ Association to be assessed as part of their New Writers’ Scheme. As some of you will know, I originally started writing it in MS Word but when I ‘won’ Camp NaNoWriMo last July, I decided to buy Scrivener and I’ve been using it ever since. I love Scrivener and find it very flexible but there is so much to learn all the time. I recently managed to successfully export my second novel to my Kindle from Scrivener (see blog post here) but this week, I had to work out how to export my manuscript from Scrivener to Word. As it took me quite a few goes, I thought I would share some of the lessons I learned whilst doing it.

1. Read the notes about the…

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25 things I’ve learned from 25 years in books…

December 1992: Charles and Di announced their separation, the NET book agreement was still in place, Amazon was still just a river to most people, and a fresh-faced bookseller started a temporary Christmas placement at Waterstones in Dorking.

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Me and Horrid Henry before the TV and movie money changed him…

I’ve been selling books for 25 years (I only meant to stay for Christmas!) and I thought I could share a few of the things I’ve learned on the way, though I suspect the final tip is the only one of true practical use…

25 things I’ve learned from 25 years in books:

1. Be professional and courteous to everyone you meet and work with. It’s a small industry.
2. Amazon is all about the customer. Keep that in mind with every dealing you have with them.
3. Formats may change, genres will wax and wane, but people will always want good stories.
4. Never confuse ubiquity with popularity. I can’t tell you how many celeb biogs I’ve seen crash and burn just because publishers thought that being on the telly meant that people liked them.
5. Meeting your heroes can be awkward, but you’ll be fine if you keep it short and sweet. Don’t expect them to be your best friend and invite you on holiday. And remember that they have good days and bad days like everyone else.
6. Authors who have a clear idea of what kind of career they want tend to last longer.
7. Series characters that move with the times stay the course: Rebus, Noddy, Batman.
8. The best editors combine passion and integrity, but aren’t afraid to make a few quid.
9. A big advance can be a curse and a blessing. If you don’t earn out, you’re screwed.
10. Authors can’t sit back and leave it all to the publisher and agent. The successful ones get out there and make it happen.
11. Never respond to bad reviews. Just enjoy the good ones and screw the haters.
12. Never badmouth another author. We’re all in this together and we don’t need to be flinging shit at each other.
13. And be pleased for their successes. Bitterness helps no one.
14. Never stop learning. There have been more changes in this industry in the last ten years since the invention of the printing press.
15. Survival is one part cynicism, two parts optimism.
16. Be loyal to people, not companies.
17. Always make time for a proper lunch break.
18. Write for yourself. Not the market. Trends come and go. You’ll always be you.
19. Changing an author’s name or adding an initial rarely makes any difference to sales. The reading public only care if it’s a good book.
20. Don’t believe your own publicity. Publishing, like any creative medium, is great at creating monsters, and it always happens when the writer starts to believe it when people tell them they’re a genius.
21. Success is not a bestseller, it’s writing what you love… though the money would be nice.
22. Of course people judge a book by its cover. And its title. And its review average on Amazon.
23. Tenacity is everything: keep writing and you can only improve.
24. Balance modesty and confidence and don’t get cocky.
25. And finally, and this is really important, when confronted with a multi-storey car park, always park on the roof. You’ll never forget where you parked (five years on the road as a rep!).

Happy writing and have a splendid Christmas! Oh, and if you’re looking for something to read in the bleak midwinter then Back to Reality will brighten your day!

And if you want to support our work on the podcast, we now have a Patreon. Do please support us and we can keep it going.

Till next time, happy writing,

Mark

 

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Book Review: Paperbacks From Hell, Grady Hendrix

I don’t often do book reviews here (never crap on your own lawn, folks), but Grady Hendrix‘s Paperbacks From Hell was such a happy surprise that I can’t resist. I met Grady when he launched the book at the MCM Comic in October and we bonded over happy memories of rabies scares and The Omen novelisation…

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Bought from a second-hand bookstore on holiday for 10p… it warped my fragile little mind.

His book is a history of horror fiction in the ’70s and ’80s. It covers pulp paperbacks, the blockbusters, the fads, the won’t-they-think-of-the-children? outrages, the forgotten gems, the best-forgotten misogyny and racism of the times, the cover designers and artists, the die-cut paperback covers, the editors, the imprints and the authors – many of whom are now only remembered by aficionados.

If you’re a writer, or you work in publishing, and you want a primer on how trends wax and wane, how brands come and go, how one-hit wonders can change an industry, then this book is essential reading. Whatever genre you write in or enjoy reading, you can learn a lot from Hendrix’s astute observations on the publishing industry’s ability to squeeze the lemon till it’s dry, and then to toss it away for the next juicy fruit that comes along. In these pages you’ll see writers’ careers soar, then nosedive, taking all the copycat pretenders with them. You’ll see how politics, social change, and a bust and boom economy can affect the public’s reading tastes (think of how the fear of foreign animals coincided with the UK joining the Common Market… time for a resurrection of the rabid dog genre, perhaps?).

It’s relentlessly entertaining, very funny, and Grady’s love for the genre in all its forms is soaked into every page. One word of warning: having read this, you’ll be hightailing it to eBay to buy at least a dozen books just to see if they’re as good/bad/terrible/gruesome as Grady says they are. I shall be seeking out Let’s Go Play At The Adams’s, Michael McDowell’s Blackwater series, and reacquainting myself with a delightful young man called Damien Thorn. Happy reading.

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A podcast double bill…

If you’re a fan of hearing me waffle on about writing and books and stuff then you’re in for a real treat this week! Not only is there the regular episode of the Bestseller Experiment with the amazing Victoria Aveyard, but Mr. D and me were also interviewed by Joanna Penn for her podcast.

The Victoria Aveyard was our biggest first day ever for a podcast, which was a very nice start to the week… I guess we must be doing something right! CLICK HERE TO LISTEN.

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Another back of a taxi interview with the full leather interior acoustics!

The Joanna Penn is fun as we’re off duty and let a few behind the scenes secrets slip out. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN.

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If you’re even remotely awesome you’re already supporting us via Patreon. If you want to join the ranks of our wonderful supporters, then pop over to Patreon  and help us for as little as $2 a month now!

And I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t mention that Back to Reality is out now!

 

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The Bestseller Experiment is back!

After a bit of a post-publication break, the Bestseller Experiment podcast has returned, with an episode we recorded… back in September…

Okay, so that’s maybe cheating a bit, but it’s an excellent episode featuring three of Orion’s top publicist sharing their secrets of the trade.

Elaine Egan won an award this week for her excellent work on Lucy Vine’s debut Hot Mess (including getting her a much-prized guest spot on our beloved podcast), Lauren Woosey who recently arranged our interview Victoria Aveyard (tune in next week), and Virginia Woolstencroft who squeezed us into the busy schedule of some bloke called Bryan Cranston. They’re full of really useful advice, so if you want in on some tip-top publicity tips, listen here now.

And speaking of amazing publicity, our wonderful publicist Lisa Shakespeare got us a double page spread in Publishers Weekly. You can read the online version here, or the slightly longer print piece here.

If you’re even remotely awesome you’re already supporting us via Patreon. If you want to join the ranks of our wonderful supporters, then pop over to Patreon  and help us for as little as $2 a month now!

And I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t mention that Back to Reality is out now!

 

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I was on the Cover to Cover podcast this week…

I had good fun being interviewed by Lee Middleton on the Cover to Cover podcast this week. We talk Star Wars, the Bestseller Experiment, Back to Reality and my thwarted dream to become a firefighter. It’s a fab show for readers and writers alike. Click to listen… https://m.mixcloud.com/Studio5OnAir/cover-to-cover-episode-12/