Star Wars: New Script, New Titles

For those following my Reboot the Prequels project, Episode II is available to read now!

Hit that hyperlink, go to the landing page, and check out Attack of the Empire.

Attack of the Empire

And if you’ve been following along, you might have noticed I changed the title of my Episode II. Originally, it was going to be called The Dark Lord of the Sith. I’ve also changed Episode III from Fall of the Jedi to Return of the Sith. Why?

The titles changed between drafts. As A New Menace was born of a portmanteau of The Phantom Menace and A New Hope, so too is Attack of the Empire a linguistic blend of
Attack of the Clones and The Empire Strikes Back (while Return of the Sith sits between Revenge of the Sith and Return of the Jedi).

I felt these new titles more clearly stated my goal: Return the Prequel Trilogy to the tone, feel, and world of the Original Trilogy.

Interested? Head over to my Reboot the Prequels page and check it out for yourself.


Thanks for reading! What do YOU think? 

Leave me a comment below, and don’t forget to share and subscribe!

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That Time in Oberammergau

I’m coming up on living in the UK for 6-months! And while I’ve told you what parts I love, and what parts have no love lost, I haven’t stopped to tell you what I’ve been up to.
Other than, you know, that whole Star Wars reboot thing.

So, time to update my travel journals.

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Follow us on our ah-maze-ing adventures!

Here’s what’s happened so far:

November/Dec – Arrival in the UK, hotel living for a month, road trip around Southern England for Christmas and New Year’s.
January – Finally moved into our house! Visited Lincolnshire, England.
February – Oxford and York.
March – London for St Patty’s, then Oberammergau, Germany for a week.
April – Scotland and Madrid trips.
May – More local and Londonian fun, and a trip stateside for a friend’s wedding.

T20170327_102931he next six months look to be much more ambitious. The goal is to hit a different spot in the UK every month, and somewhere else in Europe every other month.

I should probably blog about all these things, and maybe I will, but for now I’m jumping into the middle. That’s a classic storytelling technique known as in medias res, which is Latin/Pretentious for “into the middle [of] things.”

So, let’s start with Oberammergau, Germany. This was our first European trip, so it’s a beginning of sorts.

Come with me, fly into Munich, which is actually Munchen, but is called Munich because…globalism? Then we’ll take the Autobahn and max out the rental car’s four-cylinder engine until the display screams, “SLOW DOWN – SNOW TIRES!!!”


Food and Drink

I’m not going to pretend to speak for the entire country, or even the region (Bavarian Alps), but I am going to make a few generalizations. The first, is that this is a “meat and potatoes” kind of place. If you ask for a salad, you’ll get one, but it’ll be made out of potatoes.

Let’s talk about the pictures above. Clockwise, from bottom right.

  1. Prost! Welcome to Germany, land of the beer. On this trip I discovered Weissbier, which in its unfiltered form, makes for a unique, tasty, frothy treat. Sort of like the Hefeweizen I’m used to, only more floral and playful. I’m still hooked months later.
  2. Though we went at the start of springtime, this is still mountain country and there was a chill in the air at night. Some warm mulled wine helped immensely.
  3. Bavarians are known for their sweets, and my week here did not disappoint.
  4. Ox steak. A new culinary adventure for me, if not for the region. Cooking ox with smoked hay seemed all the rage, and why not, it worked. Definitely a pricey meal, though not outrageous and certainly worth it.
  5. This fried chunk of meat  (bigger than the size of my fist!) was called a “pork knuckle.” Add a dumpling, cover it all in gravy, and you get a deliciously rich and heartburn-inducing meal.

Sights and Sites; Scenes and Seeings

In addition to having a really fun name, Oberammergau has many desirable qualities. Not the least of which, is that it’s a sleepy town without a lot of foreign tourism. Many German tourists do indeed travel here, and there are always foreigners present, because it’s the location of a NATO training school. But there’s a delightfully pastoral “untouched by the world” feel to the town.

I won’t go on and on breaking these pictures down one-by-one (though they do have captions). Instead, here’s generally what you see above:

We stayed in a mountain town with amazing views. The first picture is taken from our hotel. Others are right around–it’s a small hamlet. There is an awesome restaurant that one can hike to, which is a steep walk, but worth it. And boy does all that rich food taste amazing afterwards. There are walking trails everywhere, nice wide open ones. And there are monks who brew and distill. Like a lot of the Old World, the churches are the some of the most impressive sights in the town. They are a wood carving people, who also love their meat so much it’s stored in vending machines.

The Passion of Oberammergau

Once a decade, the whole town comes together to put on a play about the life and times of Jesus Christ. You read that correctly. Once a decade, for like three months straight. Hundreds of thousands of people journey to this remote hamlet for the play which is literally performed by the entire town.

Unfortunately, the play won’t be going on next until 2020, but I was able to learn quite a bit from the museum (pictures above). The story goes, that the town vowed to perform this play to honor God if He would spare them from the plague. Well, seems to have worked, because the townspeople have been dutifully holding up their end of the bargain for nearly 400 years!

Ludwig II’s Two Castles

Beyond the Passion Play, the area is most well-known for the architecture of King Ludwig II. The first castle we visited was his home in the last years of his life, while the second was the famed Neuschwanstein castle, still incomplete, yet world-renowned for giving its iconography to Walt Disney’s logo.

Unfortunately, no photography was allowed inside. These were works of art, modern for their time and gilded to the gills. Beautiful spots, worth visiting.

My Takeaways

It was nice getting some springtime sunshine after the damp cold of British winter. I joked after I first arrived that the most notable difference between the two countries is that they sell sunglasses in Germany.

With a name like Schannep, I must have some German heritage somewhere (though no evidence of it in Oberammergau…).

Don’t mind me, just blending in.

I lived in Germany from kindergarten to second grade while my dad was stationed here by the Army. My memories are mostly of Kinder eggs, sledding, playmobile toys, and mainly just being a kid. I have memories of seeing a salt mine, some mountaintops, and sites outside of Germany like the leaning tower of Pisa.

And then there’s spaghetti eis.

“Eis” is the German word for ice cream, and this was without a doubt my favorite childhood dessert. A layer of whipped cream serves as a base, which is then topped by vanilla ice cream/gelato put through a press so it comes out to look like spaghetti noodles. A strawberry “meat” sauce topped with white chocolate “parmesan” shavings completes the illusion.

Spaghetti was my favorite meal, ice cream the best treat, which made this confection the perfect go-between.

I had spaghetti eis here in Oberammergau for the first time in at least twenty-five years. Mostly as a novelty, I ordered it up, expecting something deeply sugary-sweet, but I got more than I bargained for.

With the first bite, my entire body swirled with warmth, like a hug from a loved one after a prolonged absence. I couldn’t have described the taste or texture by memory, but this was comfort on an instinctual level. It’s moments like these that make travel so rewarding.


Thanks for reading! What do YOU think? Enjoy “following” me on my travels? Want to read more blog posts like this one?

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Lessons: The Force Awakens

My final posting on lessons from Star Wars before I start the reboot. What a great week it has been!

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In case you missed it, I read and analyzed the Original Trilogy (OT):

Now, time for the fourth film. Stream-of-consciousness impressions follow:

-Opening crawl: Leia’s Resistance has the support of the Republic? Shouldn’t she…be the Republic?
-Apparently Jedi are prone to disappearing into Hermitage after a traumatic event.
-This movie cheats the “always open in space” conceit quite well
-Maybe the old man can be a little kid in the prequels? Hahaha, just kidding
-Plans given to a droid
-Finn being the first “person” stormtrooper is great. But don’t do this in your story.
-Humor!
-Phasma is cool. What a waste.
-By minute 11, we’ve met all our main characters. Nice! What was the timestamp when they meet Han and Chewie? [Went and checked…48 minutes before we see Han? Holy shit! Well, wind up between those two extremes.]
-Rey is a “kid” (dolls, wears helmet, etc) without actually being a kid. Well done.
-Speaking alien/robot language without subtitles, but we get it.
-Jakku is essentially Tatooine. Environments can be reused successfully
-TIE escape: nothing goes according to plan
-This movie sure has action!
-As far as the physics of these movies are concerned, space is just an extension of the sky
-Everyone has their own goals and motivation, but gets pulled into something larger
-Han Solo… goosebumps. These movies are about characters
-Why would the Reptar carry Finn around when it immediately devoured everyone else? Guess it was going to tuck him away for later…be consistent.
-So… what was the Awakening?
-The remote, the chess board, this film is full of member berries
-Cantinas are an important part of the underworld
-Orphans, man…
-That vision scene suggests some strange things about the nature of the Force
-The only thing in this movie from the prequels is Coruscant, nice!
-Stormtrooper energy staff thing is cool. It would make sense if there were other “energy barrier” weapons to combat lightsabers
-How the hell does Rey even know what a mind trick is? Much less how to do it
-The “let’s plan a mission to blow up the big thing” scene. This movie “feels” like Star Wars…and that’s the most important part
-I hate to say it, but Rey is too good at too many things. Mainly, at the Force
-Is it possible for the good guys to have a win without blowing up a superweapon?
-No medal, no hug…what does Leia have against Chewbacca? Haha
-Why did R2 suddenly awaken? Where did he get the rest of the map? Why is there even a map? Who made it? Luke? Abrams sure is good at asking questions. Hope the next guy is up to the task.

That’s it! What’s next? Am I going to analyze the prequels?

Nope.

That’s been done many times over. If that’s what you’re looking for, I’d recommend watching RedLetterMedia’s prequel reviews or BelatedMedia’s if the prequels were good videos.

Instead, I’m going to Reboot the Prequels. The ultimate writing exercise. I’ve spent plenty of time groaning about the prequels, and now it’s time to put my money where my mouth is, so to speak.

I’m going to write three screenplays that do justice to the series and make the OT stronger, rather than weakening it. Craft a series that’s essentially what the prequels should have been. 


Thanks for reading! What do YOU think? Will you join me on this journey?

Leave me a comment below, and don’t forget to share and subscribe!

Lessons: Return of the Jedi

The original trilogy (OT) is now complete! Read the other two entries here:

As I go on, I’m getting more and more excited about how to crack the prequel trilogy (PT) into a successful reboot. Talking with Brian (my go-to fellow Star Wars fanatic who’s helping me crack the story), we think we may have just figured out a gigantic story beat: How to give a compelling PT storyline without ruining the major reveals from the OT.

That is to say, the biggest reveal of all time. We’re going to keep that secret!

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How, you may ask? All in good time…

For now, check out my notes from viewing Episode VI: Return of the Jedi in all their glorious stream-of-consciousness format:

-The opening crawl says that Luke doesn’t know about the new Death Star. That means this galaxy is huge.
-Maybe if there is a Jedi council, each member is on his/her own world, defending it. The core worlds. When they meet, it’s via hologram.
-Vader’s opening speech uses excellent foreshadowing. The Emperor is coming, a man we haven’t truly seen in two movies. And he “isn’t as forgiving” as a villain who just spent a whole movie choking people out. Awesome.
-Jabba is another who was mentioned in each movie. His palace is delightfully terrifying, yet fits with what we know of Tatooine
-Droids are treated almost like slaves on Tatooine. It’s odd, but makes us feel danger for the innocent characters.
-The rancor is so cool!
-Heroes hiding in uniforms is fun
-Luke choked out the pigmen guards with the force! No way!
-The guy who cries over the rancor is a nice touch
-Just seeing Luke’s new lightsaber is great
-But the “humorous” Boba Fett death is not.
-There is chaos on the sail barge scene, but it’s manage. And only a few minutes long…
-Could do something with those cool red Imperial guard. Show them off at the formation of the Empire so that it adds gravity to their impression on this film
-This movie did a Star Wars greatest hits before it was cool. Return to Tatooine, Dagobah, and a Death Star
-Obi Wan says Anakin was already a great pilot (and amazed at how the force flowed through him) when he took it upon himself to train him. None of this little kid shit.
-“Bury your feelings” re: Leia. Great foreshadowing!
-“Battle of Denab, many bothans died” – again, mention events that happen between movies
-Weird looking Imperial advisor dudes. Use for them?
-Lucas used most of Earth’s environments in these films: Desert, tundra, rainforest/swamp, and forest. It makes sense that in the prequels he used a city planet, plains, waterworld, and volcano. Use these and maybe mountain planet too.
-Man, I can’t help but think this would have been better as the Wookie world and not with Ewoks.
-Does Leia do anything in this movie after her role in freeing Han? Aside from getting her hair braided by teddy bears…
-The Emperor sees himself as the chessmaster, to his own detriment. “There’s a small rebel force…” “Yes, I know.”
-“I have foreseen it” would make a great bluff. Who could call you out?
-Luke only uses his powers when absolutely necessary. “Han, can you reach my lightsaber?”
-Leia remembers her “real mother”
-“It’s a Trap!” Traps are a great power-reversal in these movies.
-Interesting…The Ewok battle is pretty silly, but the only hero in the space battle is Lando.
-Even so, Ewoks die. This isn’t full Gungan.
-Hopelessness tempts the dark side
-Make battles more like Hoth and less like Endor
-Lightsaber throw can be quite effective
-Palpatine’s lightning. Anakin needs the breather because of his own exposure?
-Did they really throw the prequel “Nooooo” in there? Goddamn these special editions!
-“With my own eyes” so there is Vader vision
-CGI celebration scene…yuck
-Young Anakin force ghost…double yuck

That’s it for now. Up next, The Force Awakens!


Thanks for reading! What do YOU think? Was I too rough on the Ewoks? Not rough enough?

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Lessons: Empire Strikes Back

Continuing yesterday’s A New Hope post, I’m proceeding with my breakdown of Star Wars for the impending writing exercise where I Reboot the Prequels.

I have to say, after viewing Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, with a critical mindset…this might just be the best sequel ever made.

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Stream-of-consciousness notes follow:

-Fun worlds + using the local wildlife = magic
-Probe droids are efficient.
-Danger, always danger
-Chewie and R2 didn’t need subtitles, nor did they need to speak English. Keep that in mind.
-Significant events have transpired between movies. Characters and relationships have changed without us seeing it, but it works. This is how you achieve the gravity of growth.
-Conflict, conflict, conflict!
-Swears: hell, blast
-Seeing someone learn to use new force powers is exciting. Use this tool sparingly.
-Rebel personnel are everything, Empire personnel are expendable
-“Bounty hunter on ord mandell” and “ears off a gondark” –plenty is mentioned that we don’t see or even understand, yet it works
-Vader didn’t even need to be in the same room as the Admiral he force-choked! He did it during a teleconference! That’s huge!
-Vader is patient…except when it comes to incompetence
-Ion cannons can take out a Star Destroyer, but it doesn’t stop the invasion
-Things that are new to us are not new to the characters. Speeders, Walkers, etc
-TV screens for short range comm, hologram for longer
-Obi Wan had plans at the ready, Luke improvises. Use this characteristic for Anakin.
-Did the Special Edition really add a single AT-ST to the battle? Lame.
-Snowtrooper uniform is legit.
-Heroes barely win. Losses on both sides. Tense battles put our favorite people in jeopardy, not a lot of expendables
-Vader’s meditation pod is legitimately cool. But is it because he was “promoted” since the last movie? Perhaps he’s outside of the Imperial command structure. A Lord, not an officer. Was attached to the Death Star while on his own mission to recover the plans. Now he leads the mission to crush the rebellion/capture Luke.
-Yoda testing Luke while playing the fool is too cool. Don’t ruin this. There is a way to keep this surprise. Does Yoda need to be in the prequels? What if Obi Wan mentions his old master’s wisdom, but Anakin thinks Yoda is more of a teaching metaphor, and not someone who truly exists. We never see the green little dude. And certainly never see him fight with a lightsaber.
-“Who will Leia end up with?” is the original love triangle. Make your own romance as interesting.
-We don’t even see the Emperor until this movie, though he was mentioned. We don’t need to cram every character in every movie
-“Was I any different when you trained me?” This implies that young Obi Wan was temperamental
-“Adventure, etc. A Jedi craves not these things.”
-All hero dialogue is either an argument, humor, or both
-“Jedi use the force for knowledge and defense, never attack.”
-Why is there a domain of evil (cave) on Dagobah? Is that why Yoda is there? To balance out an evil place?
-Imperial officers don’t like bounty hunters, but Vader doesn’t care.
-“No disintegrations.” Have a scene with disintegrations!
-“No ship that small has a cloaking device!” So…big ships can cloak, eh? Interesting…
-The force will show visions of the past, the future, friends. Moments of strong connection.
-“No, there is another.” — Planting seeds of a reveal in the next movie, daaaaaaamn
-Seems like all the heroes in these movies start off hating each other.
-“I love you, I know” has to be the best line ever
-Vader wants order, that is his ultimate goal.
-Vader as Luke’s father is the best reveal of all time. Is there any way not to ruin that if someone sees the prequels first?
-Luke literally watches his lightsaber fall from the floating city…
-It’s a dark ending for the rebellion, but they state their plan for the future. There’s a way forward.

That’s it for now. Up next, Jedi!


Thanks for reading! What do YOU think? Is this really the best sequel of all-time?

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Lessons: A New Hope

Now that my newest book has launched (and is available in paperback!) and the promos are finished, I’m finally diving into a passion project/writing exercise that has been on my mind for years.

Only this time, I mean it. I’m not starting my next CYP book until I Reboot the Prequels.

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As part of the project, I’m rewatching all four Star Wars movies with a higher scrutiny than ever before. Trying to make myself see them for the first time. Really, focusing on the world and writing, and divorcing that from the existing prequels.

It should be noted that I’m essentially starting from scratch; going with what the prequels should have been. This is not “Episode I with less Jar-Jar.”

Feel free to follow along, maybe even tell me when I’m wrong; I’m going to try to do a lot of blogging during the process (relative to my normal hardly-ever blogging). And, of course, the scripts will be available for download once I’m finished.

Here are my notes from yesterday’s screening of Episode IV: A New Hope. I wrote these out stream-of-consciousness, so bear with me.

-Starts in the middle of the “civil war.” Start the prequels with the clone wars already underway.
-Vader lets his troops do the fighting, he interrogates
-What is Leia doing? Mystery!
-Have a consul ship “with an ambassador”
-Use stun settings somewhere
-Droid banter is fun
-Empire is overconfident/hubris. Give a reason why…
-It’s fun to see new worlds and aliens
-Literally every scene has conflict in it and this informs us of character
-Seems like C-3P0 doesn’t really know R2D2. Doesn’t even like him until the end of the movie. Don’t put them in the prequels.
-Owen Lars knows Obi Wan and Luke’s father, but doesn’t want to talk about it
-What if Beru is Anakin’s sister? A literal Aunt and Uncle.
-These worlds are dangerous. People die.
-Jedi trick: Vocal mimicry? Obi Wan made a ridiculous screech to scare off the sand people.
-Jedi healing: Hand over face.
-“Obi Wan” is his official, Republic name. He’s Ben to friends.
-Ben didn’t own a droid.
-Owen thought “your father should have stayed here and not gotten involved.” So Anakin really is from Tatooine. But instead of the exact same start…Maybe have Anakin “fresh off the bus” on Coruscant. Bright eyed and idealistic. The Republic doesn’t need him, they have plenty of people.  Gets swindled by locals and ends up homeless. Until he crosses paths with Major Kenobi…
-Response to “you fought in the clone wars?” Is “Yes, I was once a Jedi Knight. Same as your father.”
-Anakin was the best Star Pilot in the galaxy.
-Wanted his son to have his lightsaber, when he was old enough. Maybe said in the abstract to Ben? In a life or death situation? “I imagined a family,” etc…
-Jedi Knights were gentlemen.
-General Kenobi served Bail Organa in the Clone Wars
-“We’re being deployed. To Alderaan.”
-Maybe a “If you ever need me” moment from Kenobi to Organa.
-Imperial Senate must exist the whole time. It gets officially disbanded in this movie.
-The robes. Jesus, do Jawas wear tiny Jedi robes? No. Those aren’t a thing. Obi Wan is wearing a desert hermit’s outfit, not the official uniform of a League of Badasses.
-Random droid racism in the cantina
-Clone War Idea: Clones take a while to “bake” but they come out identical. If you rush the process, they deform like monsters and are mentally unstable. As the clone wars progress, there are more and more of the latter kind. In keeping with “starting in the middle” most of the clone troops we see in the opening have some sort of deformity and a quick temper.
-Outer systems are the Wild West, Imperial systems are colonial Britain
-Big trooper rifles need backpacks
-Han’s skepticism implies that the Jedi were secret. More powerful if people don’t know your tricks. Obi Wan was a General who was also a Knight in a secret society.
-The first rebel base is on Dantooine. Leave it there so audiences think Leia really did give away the location if they were to watch these in numerical order.
-“I’ve got a bad feeling about this…”
-Tractor beams are things.
-Give Prince Bail Organa a sweet cape. Anakin likes the look of it.
-Remember, this is a high tech analog world. Nothing is wireless.
-None of our heroes agree on anything.
-Most of the imperial officers are old. Maybe the “new” Empire is run by 20-somethings? Hitler-youthesque.
-“Not as clumsy or random as a blaster” no kidding. Those things can’t hit anything.
-“spirited droids” are great. Maybe a little flying one who helps Anakin?
-Same Jedi “sound trick” used on stormtroopers
-Jedi avoid engagement. Outsmart their opponents
-Humor, humor, humor!
-Vader is genuinely surprised when Obi Wan disappears
-The Republic should use new, shiny X and Y wings. The Empire tech later replaces it all. The rebellion uses the junk.
-Surprises and twists!

That’s it for now. Time for Empire!


Thanks for reading! What do YOU think? Are the prequels in need of a reboot? Excited to check out this side-project?

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Behind the scenes of a writing exercise

Since I write both movies and books, I find it only appropriate if my blog blurs the line between the two as well.  I wrote a short story entitled, “the deepest part of man is his skin“, which I posted under fiction yesterday (if you were following me on twitter, you’d have seen the notification).  This blog entry is a DVD commentary, if you will; a look into the writer’s process.

It began, like any good endeavor, out of both necessity and inspiration.  I was taking my niece and nephews camping, and figured scary stories might be the order of the day.  I started to think, “If only I had a book of campfire tales,” and it wasn’t long before my DIY attitude took over.  After all, if I were a carpenter, I wouldn’t buy a birdhouse, would I?  So I took to the challenge of writing my own scary story.

At the time, I was reading a collection of HP Lovecraft shorts.  Lovecraft, if you don’t know, is as much a founding father of horror as Poe.  Stephen King called Lovecraft, “the twentieth century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale.”

Lovecraft is most renowned for his Cthulu mythos.

From the first sentence, I heard his voice in my own words.  I embraced it.  Writing as another author, one whom you admire, can be a great way to expand as a writer.  Or, as my friend Damon suggested, many of the greats would type out word-for-word copies of the works of the masters as a way to put another’s genius through their own mind.

I quickly spewed out the first draft, but found it was far too adult for the kiddos (in vernacular, mostly), and so it stayed as an incomplete work for the next few months.  This was August 8th.

Cut to four months later, I’m done editing my novel–which I can’t wait to share!  Queries to be sent soon (gulp)–and I find myself with some extra writing time as I transition to my next big project.  So I pick this one up.

Let me emphasize now the importance of peer review.  I showed an early draft of the story to my friend Chris, who’s not a writer; just someone smart and insightful.  His suggestion was to make it seem more “real”by having the letter come  to me rather than by me (as it was originally written).  This one simple suggestion gave it a new spin; like one of those “found footage” horror movies.  Lovecraft was fond of spelling the demise of his narrators, and I feel he would approve of such a creative choice.

Overall, I found the exercise to be a success.  It was fun to be overly macabre and descriptive, and I think the final product is something new and valuable.  I hope you enjoy it.