Rogue One, and the "disneyfication" of Star Wars

First off, I’ll admit to having enjoyed the movie. This opinion/review will not concentrate on the merits of the film per se, but rather take a swing at the broader picture—pun definitely intended.

The truth is Rogue One is a well-acted, slightly better plotted than other entries, and with acceptable special effects. Okay, that star destroyer did look like made out of white Lego plastic, and I wasn’t impressed with CGI Tarkin or Leia; but other than it was fun to watch. Darth Vader is a scene stealer, and that last confrontation in the dark hallway alone is worth the price of admission.

As an individual film, Rogue One could not stay on its own. It is the eternal curse of the spin-offs being dependent on the audience being familiar with the original story from where they come. Still, as part of a larger franchise it is somewhat of a departure from the canon Episode movies. First off, the cast includes some popular and familiar authors. Okay, they are not power-superstars with a $20 Million paycheck, but Diego Luna, Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelsen and Forest Whitaker are hardly the unknown cast that Mark Hamill, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Daisy Ridley or John Boyega were before their Episodes hit the screens. Also, the flick is somewhat of a throwback to the old kind of moviemaking, focusing more in the story rather than the special effects. When the original episodes were released in 70’s and 80’s, the effects did dazzle, but they only served the purpose of telling the story; whereas Episodes I through III suffered from the vision of man who just wanted to show off what the new technology could do, and thus Rogue One falls closer to the original mark.

Although an entertaining movie, I question its reason for existence. The story tells nothing new, but expands on details of things we’ve already learned. This experiment was not really necessary, just like the now common practice of splitting the last book of a franchise into two movies just so we could pay double the amount of tickets and have to buy two videos instead of one. This sad tradition started with Harry Potter and the Deadly Hollows and will not stop until people stop making those flicks blockbusters. Law of offer and demand, remember?

This movie is the result of what I like to call the “Disney Treatment.” A few years ago when Disney bought Marvel, we got so many different TV series, movies, cartoons, and games even before the ink had dried off. Because of tricky licensing deals they couldn’t put all the characters into one film, but nothing stopped them from making it happen in a cartoon series for Disney Channel.

I had a bad feeling about this. I feared something similar would happen to Star Wars, a franchise that featured a movie every three years, then take a 20-year holiday in between. Now that Disney owns Lucasfilm we can see Star Wars literally everywhere, from the Rebel series on TV, to the standard Episodes, but wait, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet! New movies in the form of “A Star Wars story” are lined up, I understand there are plans for more spin-offs, like from a young Han Solo, etc. Disney will continue to commercialize the franchise by inundating the market with products that would appeal to all ages, genres and even tastes. As long as they continue to create quality products the trend will stay healthy for years to come.

Well, I’m curious to find out how they plan to resurrect the most popular character despite its short screen time: Bobba Fettt. Now, that’s a ticket I’d buy.

PS: A mourning note as I just learned of Carrie Fisher's death. May the Force be with her.

The Thrill List, and Suspense Magazine

A brief description of The Thrill List

Catherine Lea and Brakelight Press are thrilled to bring together New York Times and USA Today Bestsellers Russell Blake and Diane Capri, Amazon #1 Bestseller Joe Konrath, Edgar nominee and Mystery Booksellers Association Bestseller Austin Camacho, short story award-winning author Arthur Kerns, plus Cat Connor, J.H. Bogran, Mark Bastable, Helen Hanson, Jerry Hatchett and Ken Isaacson in a collection of riveting thriller crime reads.

My short story "Stealing the Band." Set in the early 70’s, a deep-cover operative used to gather intel from the Soviet Union is tasked with a new mission that is way out of his league: steal a piece of equipment that could tip the balance of the Cold War.

And to close the year with a bang, Suspense Magazine included The Thrill List in their "Best of 2016 Anthology."

The anthology is currently FREE at several venues. Here is the link to Amazon:

Cover reveal for Posioned Tears

There's an old adage about never judging a book by its cover. I guess that with time we have moved a bit away from that adage and we authors dedicate an enormous amount of time discussing, reviewing and plain agonizing over the face our novel will show to the work.

I've been blessed with great covers, most of them, come from a wonder artist Rachel Cole at Littera Designs.

Poisoned Tears comes out on March 15, 2017, but we already have a cover. The folks at The Real Book Spy did a cover reveal event. It's an honor to be named among a list of best sellers who are also releasing books the same month.

So here is the link. Take a look and let us know what you think.

A new take on The Yeti

The abominable snowman has filled the imagination—and nightmares—of people for years, and has achieved a certain measure of Pop Culture status. More than a few movies deal with the monster, including the one being portrayed as an outcast in Monsters Inc. And whether he admits it or not, George Lucas paid it an indirect tribute to the yeti with the creature that attacked Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back.

Authors Rick Chesler and Jack Douglas bring us a new tale of adventure about the yeti in their book.

My interview with Lee Child about Night School

Writing for The Big Thrill has allowed to come in contact with many authors, some of them new to me, some of them, as in this month's edition, already a fan.

Here is the special interview with Lee Child about his new book coming out in November 07, NIGHT SCHOOL, and of course, we talked a bit about the movie version of Jack Reacher and every one's favorite actor Tom Cruise.

And yes, I had the privilege to read an ARC ahead of its publication. So hard to not brag about that. :-)

Honduras and The Big Thrill

In the September edition of the e-zine published by the International Thriller Writers I was honored to participate in three feature articles.

The first one, a guided tour of my beloved country. This time I refer to the capital city of Tegucigalpa and its predecessor Comayagua.

I first read the work of Brenda Novak a few years ago, with the first entry in her romance series Whiskey Creek, now I was privileged to read an ARC of her newest novel HER DARKEST NIGHTMARE with a new set of characters. Now, this time a full time thriller.

Clive Cussler and his Dirk Pitt adventures inspired my love for the thriller and adventure genre, it was probably him that I learned to always put a prologue. Also through his spin-off series I met the work of Paul Kemprekos, and now I read his solo work. THE MINOAN CIPHER is an excellent adventure thriller.

Brad Thor's Foreign Agent

This month at The Big Thrill I got to interview a New York Times Best-Seller author. Here´s my take on Brad Thor and his newest novel Foreign Agent

Meeting the real James Bond

For the month of June at The Big Thrill, I had the chance to interview Larry Loftis about his new book, a non-fiction tale about the man who was the inspiration to Ian Flemming´s James Bond.
But more shockingly still, is the proof that J. Edgar Hoover received information about Japan´s intention to launch an attack on Pearl Harbor but kept it quiet, until now...

Into the Lion’s Mouth by Larry Loftis

The True Story of Dusko Popov—World War II Spy, Patriot, and the Real-Life Inspiration for James Bond

Read the intervieww here:

I got to interview David Baldacci

Every once in a while working for The Big Thrill decks you a chance to interview one of your stars. This month I had the opportunity to interview David Baldacci, and read an ARC of his lates novel The Last Mile.

Writing About a World Not Black and White

Cambodia Noir in The Big Thrill

In the latest edition of The Big Thrill, I had the opportunity to read Cambodia Noir by Nick Seeley.

Here´s the interview as published last week:

March edition of The Big Thrill

Somebody at The Big Thrill must have thought I resented not having written a story for February--that was not the case--but still, now for March I'm pleased to say I have two, and they were quite different.

Peter Steiner's THE CAPITALIST

Author and cartoonist Peter Steiner writes about the a financial tycoon who thought he could get away with millions of his investor's dollars, until Louis Morgon, a defrocked CIA agent takes an interest in the situation. 

Read the interview here:

Mathew Betley's OVERWATCH

This is a debut author with his introduction of an action-packed globe-trotting hero Logan West. Logan is a former Marine officer and relapsing alcoholic who wakes up from a booze-induced sleep only to find a hitman next to him. 

Read the interview here:  

And of course, there are plenty of other awesome books you may want to catch on with just by reading the e-zine here:

About: The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

“In case you were wondering, I didn’t do it. I didn’t have anything to do with Frank’s death. I don’t have an alibi, so you’ll have to take my word for it...”

This first-person narrated tale of a woman on the run is a psychological trip as well as a real one. Although she changes names several times during the book, let’s refer to her a Tanya for the sake of avoiding confusion.

Tanya runs from a dead husband in the opening chapter, but that’s only the top of the iceberg as there is more in Tanya’s past that we are allowed to see at first. The trip sees her through a downgrading spiral both in her economic situation and her sanity, and endless changes of hair and cuts. It is also interesting how she gets her new identities in these new age of technology and records.
Despite her circumstances, at the core Tanya is a decent person with a conscience and although her actions are on the wrong side of the law, her motives somewhat justifies them, at least most of the times.

There is a lot said about the twist at the end that I was anticipating a “Brad Pitt was a figment of your imagination in Fight Club,” but no, the reveal is more grounded in reality than that-thank god!
Overall, it is an interesting read, filled with suspense if not action scenes that are only sprinkled throughout the tale.

I was lucky to get my hands on an ARC from Lisa Lutz’s new novel The Passenger.

New blog post

Here's me at Bookbrowsing talking about the evolution of the dictionary.

Thank you,

About The Swans of Fifth Avenue

Some people are mighty curious. I know, I’m one of them. I spend much of my time in the reading the Trivia section of movies, especially the ones I have just watched. But where I’m curious about trivia facts, other people are keen to learn details of the lives of the celebrities.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue is a fictionalization of the story behind closed doors of Truman Capote and his friends in high society from New York, his swans. Author Melanie Benjamin takes us behind closed doors to experience how things may have developed between Truman and his friends, and their later fallen out. We are privy to the sanctum sanctorum of the former socialites like Babe Paley and her powerful husband Bill—none other than the CEO of CBS! We are taken on a journey from the early days when the high court of society fought over who had brought Truman first, and then as the friendship evaporates, those same Swans deny being responsible for letting him into the group. We also have the chance to experience the inner details of the famous Black and White Ball Mr. Capote threw back in 1966. An event that, as far as I can tell, was the place to be if you were somebody in New York in those days.

This is by no means history, and should not be considered as such. I say this because some people often confuse fiction with reality and take events depicted in novels and movies—historical movies mainly—and consider them true historical events.

Nevertheless, this enticing tale is an entertaining one, one that will be soon released. 

Get your copy here.

My interview of Brad Taylor

For the January edition of The Big Thrill I had the honour of interviewing a New-York Times best-seller author Brad Taylor about his new novel The Forgotten Soldier.

Here is the direct link: