Solo: A Star Wars Blog Entry

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Relax Jabba, Solo is there! Solo (A Star War Story) is everywhere these days. He made an appearance on The Super Bowl commercials, in between other notable characters such as The Bud Light Knight and the Danny DeVito M & M. Officially, Solo will be zooming into theaters within our galaxy this Memorial Day weekend. Don’t worry, that day will come super fast; faster than the speed of light (point five to be exact).

 You know where else Solo is these days? He’s right here at this blog! That’s right folks, it’s time to take a break from ghosts and haunted houses. In their stead, I give you Han Solo, captain of the Millennium Falcon. As you can tell, I’m excited about this upcoming movie. At the same time, I’m a little apprehensive.  See, ever since I was a little kid playing with my Star Wars action figures, I’ve wondered about Han Solo’s back story. I remember making up pre Star Wars Han Solo adventures. I have certain expectations. I sure hope they aren’t crushed. I haven’t heard anything about Boba Fett. Come on, Opie, the bounty hunter has to be in the film, right?  And what about the Almighty Jabba the Hutt? There can’t be a Solo film without him!

 The original Star Wars series contains a significant amount of dialogue referring to Han Solo’s life prior to the events of A New Hope. From this dialogue, we find out that he is a smuggler, that he was once employed by Jabba the Hutt , and that he “made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs.”  What exactly did he smuggle? What was is it like working for a gangster like Jabba? And just what in the heck is a Kessel Run anyway? These questions are all answered, by the way. Alas, these answers will soon be obsolete.  The entirety of the Star Wars Saga goes beyond the films. Any contribution to the story that is not written for the screen is (or was) known as the EU – Expanded Universe. The EU includes novels, comic books, television cartoons and video games. (Sorry, no fanfiction.)  When Disney purchased the Star Wars franchise and rebooted the series, they let it be known that the story arcs within the EU were being tossed to the wayside.  New story content would replace the old. For instance, the EU had already given accounts of a Star Wars life after the events of Return of the Jedi, the final film of the original series. Han and Leia had three children, Luke was married to a woman named Mara Jade. However, The Force Awakens tells a different story, and Mara Jade and the EU Solo children became null and void.

 Before it gets tossed into the dustbin of history, I must pay homage to The Han Solo Trilogy . Written by A. C. Crispin, this three volume series is devoted to the Han Solo back-story. I read these three books over ten years ago and I loved them. I burned through Vol. 1 The Paradise Snare, devoured Vol. 2 The Hutt Gambit and absorbed Vol. 3 Rebel Dawn. Collectively, they follow the life of a young Han Solo, a street-wise orphan kid on the planet Corellia who was abducted by Garris Shrike and forced into a life of crime. As a young adult, Han Solo learns to become a great pilot. The books also tell of his life as a smuggler as he works for several notorious characters around the galaxy. At the very end of the series, Han Solo is in the Mos Eisley Cantina, where he spies a funny looking old man in a large-sized Jawa robe accompanied by some kid in a moisture vaporator uniform and the rest is Star Wars history.

 In this article, I will answer the most popular questions concerning Han Solo’s young adult life, as per the writings of A.C. Crispin. For certain, many of these answers will change after this summer’s Solo film. But please, learn about what was on the page first and then you can take in the new this Solo story from writers Jon and Lawrence Kasdan and director Ron Howard. Will you do that for me? You will? Aw you’re so sweet.   Buckle in while I make the jump to lightspeed.

Here we go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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How does Han Solo become such a great pilot?

 Piloting was in Solo’s blood. For Solo, the ability to navigate a starship came both naturally and with experience. As a prisoner on Garris Shrike’s ship of slaves and criminals, he longed for freedom. At a young age, it was his dream to learn to “fly away” from all this and build his own life as a skilled navigator of the stars, and to eventually become a naval pilot for The Empire. One of his duties under Shrike was to operate race speeders; duties for which he became quite skilled.  Sometimes he was allowed to helm Shrike’s ship Trader’s Luck.

Han Solo’s first official experience as a pilot came when he stowed away on a freighter ship that operated via drone. This was to be his escape from the mother ship Trader’s Luck; his escape from the clutches of Garris Shrike.  He ends up taking control of the ship and redirecting its course to the tropical planet Ylesia, where a religious colony is seeking skilled pilots. Upon arrival, he skillfully pilots through a tumultuous landing, thereby impressing his future bosses. He is hired.

As it turns out, the religious colony is a front for a smuggling operation. After performing many smuggling runs as a pilot, he eventually earns enough money to attend The Imperial Academy. (Hint: any time the term “The Academy” is used in The Empire era of the Star Wars Saga , it means Imperial Academy”).  Through the training given to him via The Imperial Navy,  Solo learns to fly many types of spacecraft, including the Tie Fighter. When his time in the Empire ends (he is unceremoniously stripped of his duties! More in this later), he returns to smuggling. Any skilled pilot/smuggler will have to face the deadly Kessel Run sooner or later. The Kessel Run is a true test of a pilot’s ability. Solo is up to the challenge and successfully navigates this obstacle course on his first try. More details about The Kessel Run to come. Stay tuned!

Under what conditions does Han Solo meet Chewbacca?

Han Meets Chewbacca The Empire enslaved Wookies. As a lieutenant in the Empire, Commander Solo not only frees Chewbacca from slavery, but he saves his life as well. He prevents him from being whipped to death. This intervention leads to Solo’s dismissal from the Empire. His pilot license is revoked and never again would he be able to seek out “official” work as a pilot.

As a token of gratitude, while adhering to Wookie custom, Chewbacca swears a life debt to Han Solo, vowing to never leave his side. Initially, Solo is put off by this. He wants to be left alone; he doesn’t need a partner. His name says is all – “Solo.” But he learns to love the hairy beast and admires his devotion. Even Chewbacca’s marriage doesn’t get in the way of the Solo/Chewbacca duo.  When Han attends the wedding of the two Wookies on the Wookie home world of Kashyyyk, he is prepared to go it alone when he leaves the planet. Chewbacca won’t here of it. The bonds of a life debt are strong than the bonds of holy matrimony.

Why did Han Solo have pity on Chewbacca in the first place? Solo has had an affection for Wookies ever since he was a young boy. On Trader’s Luck, a motherly Wookie named Dewlanna  looks after Solo. Through her, Solo learns to understand the Wookie language. Dewlanna dies helping Solo escape the ship.  Han brings this up to Chewbacca, telling him that he need not serve him, for Solo himself was only paying off a life deft. Dewlanna saved Solo, so in turn, Solo saves another Wookie. But Chewbacca doesn’t follow this logic.  He stubbornly stays by Solo’s side and Han becomes a better person for this loyalty.

How does Han Solo come to work for Jabba the Hutt?

Before enlisting in the Empire, Han Solo gains experience smuggling for an operation run by t’Landa Tils (t’Landa Tils are a cousin species to Hutts) and a Hutt named Zavval. But this wasn’t the kind of thing he could put on his resume, even a resume tailored for the underworld. Solo’s rather dramatic departure results in a dead Hutt and an extremely pissed off t’Landa Til.  The bosses of this operation are not about to recommend Solo to anyone.

If anything is to be gained from Solo’s stint with the t’Landa Tils and Zavval the Hutt it’s life experience. He learns of the Hutts’ volatile tempers and figures out how to approach and even work with these creatures. One day while Solo is wandering the streets of Nar Shadda, (also known as Smuggler’s Moon), he meets a Duros (humanoid species with blue-green skin, red eyes and lipless mouth)  who is desperate for a pilot. Evidentially he promised Tagta the Hutt to have a shipment of contraband delivered to a specified location but he had no one to deliver it. Half of Solo’s payment would come from the Duros and the other from Tagta himself. Solo takes the job, makes the delivery and approaches Tagta to collect. Tagta thanks him for his service but initially refuses Solo any money. Instead of cowering, Solo demands payment and threatens to ruin the Hutt’s reputation. As it turns out, Tagta was only testing Solo’s character. Tagta pays him his due. But Solo wants more. In order to succeed as a smuggler,  one must be connected to Jiliac and Jabba the Hutt; an uncle and nephew crime lord team. Tagta is Jabba’s cousin and so he asks him for a recommendation. Tagta gives him one.

Armed with his recommendation, Solo seeks out Jabba and Jiliac. These two Hutts employ him. Eventually, Solo will go on to be one of Jabba’s favored and most respected smugglers. On one occasion when Solo is weary, Jabba lends him his tail to sit on. Isn’t that sweet?

So Han Solo is a smuggler. Exactly what does he smuggle?

Well, we know that he smuggles people. He was, in affect, attempting to smuggle Luke Skywalker and Ben Kenobi to Alderaan. Ok, ok, it was really the droids he was smuggling. Han Solo also smuggles weapons to various rebel groups. In these days of Han Solo’s young adulthood, there are various factions that rebel against this tyrannical empire, but there is not yet a “Rebel Alliance” (not to the very end of the Han Solo trilogy). So…there’s that.

Ahh let’s cut to the chase. Han Solo mainly smuggles spice. Spice is THE drug of the Star Wars universe.  It is so heavily regulated by The Empire that it is practically illegal, though not 100% illegal. Special citizens of the Empire may enjoy a little recreational spice, which they may obtain though Imperial trade only. But for everyone else in the galaxy it is off limits. As for the criminal syndicate, The Hutts’ control much of the spice trade in the same way that Al Capone controlled the liquor trade during The Prohibition.

So basically, Han Solo is the Hutt’s mule. Make no mistake, if Han Solo were here on planet Earth, he’d be involved in shipping drugs from one nation to another. Cocaine, Heroin, etc.  Solo transports drugs. Solo transports drugs. Solo transports drugs. Get used to it!

Where does Boba Fett fit into all of this? Lando Calrissian?

Teroenza, High Priest of Ylesia, is the first to place a bounty on Han Solo. He is still sorehan-and-boba about the way things went down when Solo left his operation (Among many things, Solo stole many of his treasures). So he hires the most notorious bounty hunter in the galaxy – Boba Fett. Fett is expensive; he charges an outrageous amount of money just for a consultation. Fett is curt throughout their meeting. (Says stuff like “Get to the point!”) 

Throughout this series, Boba Fett will go on various missions and seek out several bounties. At one point, Han Solo goes into hiding due to Fett’s persistent nature. While in hiding, he is unavailable to smuggle for Jabba . So, The Hutt pays Fett to leave Solo alone. Whatever the bounty is, Jabba will pay more for that bounty to be ignored. How ironic, for later, as we know, Jabba will put a bounty on Solo’s head and Fett will collect.

At one point in the series, a stranger rescues Solo from Fett’s clutches. Han thanks the rescuer, but he can’t help but wonder why this stranger sticks out his neck for him. The stranger explains: Solo’s reputation as a pilot precedes him. The rescuer has a ship, but doesn’t know how to fly it. The stranger wants the best, so he seeks out Solo to hire as his teacher. Just when he is about to walk up and introduce himself to Han, he witnesses Boba Fett getting the best of Solo. He steps in and thwarts Fett’s capture. This stranger, this rescuer, this pilot-wanna-be is none other than Lando Calrissian.

How does Han Solo acquire the Millennium Falcon?

Lando Calrissian owns a Corellian-made freighter. It’s name – The Millennium Falcon. When Calrissian shows it to Solo, Han immediately falls in love with it. But he doesn’t let on. In an attempt to hide his covetous attraction to the ship, he calls it “a piece of junk” (The same expression used by Luke Skywalker upon first sighting).  Nevertheless, he teaches Lando how to fly it, all while learning of the ships idiosyncrasies.

Now, In The Empire Strikes Back, viewers learn that Solo had won The Falcon from Calrissian. This happens later in the Han Solo Series.  Lando meets Han in the second book – The Hutt Gambit .  Solo wins The Falcon in the third book – Rebel Dawn. Han and Lando separate after the flying lessons. They reunite in the cloud city of Bespin where an intergalactic Sabacc tournament it taking place. At this point, Lando Calrissian is not yet an administrator of this city like he is in The Empire Strikes Back; he doesn’t even live there. Both men are enrolled in the tournament. Sabacc is a popular card and gambling game and Lando is an expert. The game is his profession.

Hundreds of species from various systems are there at Bespin competing in the tournament. In the end, it is down to three; Solo, Calrissian, and another. The other drops out. Calrissian bluffs and Solo calls him on it.   This pays off and Solo wins. In addition to winning the jackpot, Solo and Calrissian have a private bet going. Lando has acquired a spaceship lot. He was willing to put up any ship from the lot. But Solo demands the Falcon. Calrissian protests but in the end, he turns it over to him.

Remember in a New Hope when Luke Skywalker puts down the Millennium Falcon and Solo tells him that the ship has “got it where it counts” and that he had made special modifications himself? Well some of those modifications include military armor plating that he scrapped form an Imperial ship. Then there is the gateway blaster that pops out of the lower part of the ship (remember when it blasted away at those Mos Eisley stormtroopers?) In addition, he overhauls the hyperdrive, installs canons , and , of course, he adds the hidden compartments to hide smuggled goods; the same compartments that hid Solo/Chewie, Luke/Obi-Wan and the droids from the Death Star stormtroopers. Not bad, eh?

 


 

In the original trilogy, Han Solo had a lot of attention-grabbing lines. Many of these lines point to backstory. In addition, some of the sticky situations he finds himself in can be traced back to adventures that took place pre-A New Hope. Let us examine some of this dialogue and take a look at some of those scenes. We will then trace these lines and scenes to this Han Solo Trilogy and discover what in the heck was going on, at least in the mind of the brilliant A.C. Crispin.

 

“It’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs”

You knew this was coming. This is perhaps the most quoted of Han Solo’s lines; his famous boast to Obi Wan Kenobi about the ability of the Millennium Falcon. This line has been made fun of by many a math and science geek. A “parsec” is a unit of distance, not time! So why is Solo using the term to describe the Falcon’s speed? Well, he’s not, according to A.C. Crispin. Solo is referring to distance. In order to understand, we need to know what a “Kessel Run” is in the first place.  Let’s learn about that right now.

Han Solo was not the first Star Wars character to refer to “Kessel”. Oh no he wasn’t! He might have been the first to describe the “run”, but it is C3PO that first refers to the planet Kessel. In the very beginning of A New Hope, he warns his little buddy R2D2 about what could happen for their discretions.

“We’ll be sent to the spice mines of Kessel, smashed into who knows what!”

As can be inferred by C3PO’s statement, Kessel is known for its spice mines. Not only that, Kessel has refineries that take raw spice and process it into “glitterstim;” thereby purifying it while heightening its potency. Mining spice is dangerous and often droids are assigned to that task, hence C3PO’s fear.

Imperial Customs ships often patrol Kessel. How does a drug smuggler transport spice from Kessel while avoiding Imperial confrontations? By taking a detour through “The Kessel Run”.  The Kessel Run is a section of space near Kessel that is plagued with an obstacle course of black holes, asteroids and nebula gas clouds. It is a very tricky and deadly course and only skilled pilots navigate it.  Solo is taught to fly the course while on  another smuggler’s ship. His first attempt, though not perfect, is remarkable. Solo will go on to make hundreds of Kessel Runs.  But it is on The Millennium Falcon, while outrunning two Imperial ships, that he breaks a record. Checking the Falcon’s instruments, he learns that he has made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. He goes on to tell Chewbacca, “Hey this is weird. It says we actually shortened the distance we traveled, not just the time.” Black holes warp both distance and time. By flying insanely close to the maw of a black hole, Solo shortened the distance.  Neat huh?

“Kid, I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other. I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen anything to make me believe there’s one all-powerful force controlling everything.”

When Solo says this, he is not a believer in The Force. Of course by the time the events in The Force Awakens take place, he has changed his tune. But did he really see “a lot of strange stuff” that might, to the ignorant, rival the perceived magic of The Force? Yeah he really did.  But much of this strange stuff has a logical explanation behind it (Let’s suspend our disbelief somewhat; we’re talking “Star Wars” logic here).  Let’s outline of some of these strange experiences.

1) The Exultation.

 On the world of Ylesia, within the operation that allowed Solo his first big break into the smuggling business,” there was a lot of “Strange stuff” going on. To the outside world, Ylesia is a planet that offers the best of religious retreats. It is advertised throughout the planets as a place to escape the cruel galaxy; a place to live a monastic life in religious bliss. Pilgrims come and experience what is known at The Exultation. This “exultation” is administered nightly by the high priest Teroenza; a t’Landa Til that is similar in appearance to a Hutt. The high priest does his thing and crowds before him are overcome with a euphoric bliss. For those blessed moments, pilgrims are one with the entire universe! The administering of The Exultation, along with the sermon and other rituals, lasts a little over an hour.  When it’s over, the receivers of this “sacrament” must wait 23 hours for the next one. What will they do while waiting? Why, they will work is Ylesia’s spice mines, of course! They are kept as slaves, forced to work long hours in very dangerous situations. But they put up with it. Anything for the nightly Exultation!

Han Solo smuggles spice for Teroenza and his Hutt counterpart. He too experiences the Exultation and is overcome with bliss. But he fights its addicting effects and succeeds in overcoming its lure. After a while, Teroenza let’s Han in on the secret. What humans experience as an “Exultation” is simply the effects of a male t’Landa Til’s mating call. Certain movements of its throat cause a humming. This humming, along with the telepathic projections that are released from this exercise, create an addictive high to the humans that are directly exposed to the call.

Having been a slave on Trader’s Luck, Han is appalled by what is going on. He ends up rescuing some of the slaves and helping them to break their addiction. Part of the deprograming comes with knowing the truth: the High priest does not have any special powers. He is just a low life gangster thug.

One of the slaves he rescues is a woman named Bria. She and Solo have an on again/off again relationship throughout the series.

 2) Forced Suggestion.

It is similar to a Jedi Mind Trick. While under the spell, a victim has no will of his/her own.  S/he is at the mercy of the commands of another. Han Solo falls prey to this. It is Boba Fett who takes control of Han Solo. Solo is unable to move or speak without the direction of Fett. If Fett says “walk”, Solo will walk, despite any wishes to the contrary. If Fett directs him to walk off a cliff, he will do so, for his motor skills have been taken over by the other. 

Boba Fett victimizes Solo by a dart laced with a drug that strips him of his own will. While under his command, he orders him to march toward his ship Slave 1.

Han cannot utter a word of protest. He cannot speak unless the bounty hunter permits it. It is Lando that interferes, shoots Fett with his own dart, and orders the bounty hunter to get in his ship and travel to the other side of the galaxy. I wonder if Solo thought the Jedis used this drug to produce the effects of the Jedi Mind Trick.

 

3) – Telepathic powers

Glitterstim has been known to produce this effect. The drug can allow its user to read the mind of another. But only for a limited amount of time. In fact, Bria refused to believe that her religious experience on Ylesia was inauthentic. While under the influence of Glitterstim, she reads Han Solo’s mind and knows that he is telling the truth when he declares Teroenza to be a fraud.

 4) – The Illusionist

 Han Solo has a fling with Xaverri,  an illusionist who performs magic for sold out shows. She once tricked Imperial senators and made them believe that a fleet of war ships were attacking. Solo could never figure out how she performs her tricks. But that’s what they were – tricks.

Han Solo – “That was a long time ago, I’m sure he’s forgotten that.”

Lando Calrissian – “Why you slimy double crossing no good swindler. You’ve got a lot of guts coming here, after what you pulled!”

Remember when Solo and company first arrived at Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back? They weren’t greeted to fondly, were they? The twin pod ships of Bespin were prohibiting Solo’s landing. Chewbacca growls a possible explanation and Solo suggests that Lando had forgotten about “that”.  What is “that”?  When they finally do land, Lando greets them coldly, accusing Solo of having “pulled something.”

Some have offered that it was Lando’s loss of The Millennium Falcon that had him so steamed. Well I had never thought that and neither did Author Crispin. Instead, she offers a much more interesting account of what went on between Lando and Han.

Bria, Solo’s lover whom he had rescued from slavery on Ylesia, has hooked up with a band of rebels. She wants to invade Ylesia and wipe out the entire smuggling operation. Her motives are two-fold; to steal the treasures to help fund the rebels in their fight against The Empire, and to extract revenge. She enlists the help of Solo who in turn enlists the help of Lando and several smugglers. All will split the loot. But when the fighting is over and the rebels and smugglers achieve their victory, Bria reneges on the deal. She and her band or armed rebels hold Lando and his men at gunpoint, prohibiting them from claiming their share.

Naturally, Lando suspects that Solo took part in planning this treachery, since Bria was an old flame of his. When Solo tries to explain his innocence, Lando sucker punches him in the face. This is why, many years later on the landing platform on Bespin, Lando makes like he is about to punch Solo.  In the end he is joshing and ends up hugging is old friend. All is forgiven (but we know that Lando is part of the plan to hand Solo and his friends to the Empire, even if it wasn’t his fault)

Greedo – “Jabba has no use for smugglers who drop their shipments at first sign of a an Imperial Cruiser”

Solo – “Even I get boarded sometimes.”

Greedo-George-Lucas-1130151Soon after this conversation, Solo shoots Greedo dead. (Solo shot first. Case closed!) But he then goes on to have a similar conversation with Jabba himself. Just what in the heck went down anyway? Well, a shipment of spice went down, down upon some asteroid in the Kessel Run.  Solo drops the shipment. But he had no choice. As he said, “Even I get boarded sometimes.” And he does get boarded.

Han Solo happened to have a bunch of kids on board The Falcon when he was smuggling spice from Kessel to Corellia. (Children on a drug run? Shame! Shame! Shame!). The kids are orphans that they had rescued from slavery on Ylesia. While in flight, Solo receives orders from Jabba to pick up a load of spice on Kessel. What was he to do?

After leaving Kessel with the shipment, they head into The Run where three Imperial ships are waiting. They chase Solo, and Solo speeds ahead just enough to drop his shipment with the intentions of retrieving it later. The “Imps” catch up to him, board the Falcon, and place Solo on “Suspicion of smuggling spice from Kessel.” The ship is searched.

Meanwhile, the orphan kids plead with the Imperial commander to let Solo go, for he is not a smuggler (the kids know what’s up, but they lie for their new hero!) but instead, a hero. Reluctantly, after finding no spice, the Imperials escort the Falcon to Corellia ,where he is greeted as a hero. So much time wasted! When all is said and done, Solo rushes back into The Kessel Run to where he had dropped the spice. It isn’t there. Most likely, Imperials had found it and claimed it.

Jabba is peeved and demands payment for the lost shipment. Solo agrees to pay. But he never does. After some time, Jabba is forced to put a bounty on Solo’s head and the rest is Star Was history.


 

Aside from all the satisfying explanations to those often quoted and humorously reenacted lines and scenes in A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back concerning Solo’s back story, the Han Solo trilogy offers intriguing story concepts independent of the films. For instance:

Hutt vs. Hutt

Who does a Hutt have to compete with in the spice trade? Answer – another Hutt. The Hutts control the spice trade, but sometimes a clan of Hutts is at odds with another clan in terms of which crime unit controls what sector of the galaxy. Sometimes these disputes are settled diplomatically, sometimes they are not. Crispin writes of one of these non-diplomatic situations. It is a caged death match – one Hutt is to fight another in an arena style combat.  Hutts from both clans gather around to watch these two high-ranking Hutts pummel each other. In the end, one lives while the other dies. Now isn’t this something that needs to be seen on the big screen? Or is this too gross of a concept for you? If you answered “yes” to the second question, then surely you will not be prepared for what follows in the next paragraph.

Hermaphrodite Hutts  

Han Solo approaches the two Hutts, Jiliac and Jabba. He had known for a long time that Jiliac was the uncle and Jabba was the nephew. Imagine how confused he is when the pair scolds him for addressing both as males. “This is my Aunt!” Jabba barks in the Huttese language, “Can’t you see that Jiliac is pregnant?” When it is time to procreate, a male Hutt will develop a female anatomy to give birth. But, how does a Hutt get pregnant?  That is NOT discussed in the book and let’s be thankful for that!

Planet Coruscant

I’m not sure when the planet Coruscant was written into the Star Wars Extended Universe. Before this planet made it to the big screen, it first appeared in the books. It was the former capital of The Old Republic. It later becomes the capital of The Empire. We’ve seen this planet depicted in the Prequel Trilogy. It is the planet that hosts the Senate arena, the Jedi Council. It is the city planet where a young Obi Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker pursue a bounty hunter on a high speed chase.

Han Solo frequents this planet in the Han Solo trilogy. He tries to do banking an Imperial Bank and almost gets himself arrested. The thing to note is that this trilogy of books was published BEFORE The Phantom Menace came out in theaters. So George Lucas did in fact canonize certain elements from the extended universe of books. This brings us to the perfect segue. Read on!

Was Rouge 1 partially based on Rebel Dawn?

Rouge 1 has Jen Erso. Rebel Dawn has Bria Tharen, Solo’s ex-girlfriend. Both are females that lose their lives on a mission to transmit stolen plans to a Rebel Courier ship. Both are on a planet that acts as an Imperial Com Center when they perish. Jen dies while in the arms of Cassian Andor, her mission partner and last minute lover,  as The Death Star blows the planet away. Bria chats with a young male, a kid really, who asks her if they are going to die. She answers him honestly.  Then they face off against a legion of stormtroopers who spray them with their blasters. (I know, stormtroopers are infamous for being bad at shooting. But in this case, they hit their intended targets)

The story of Bria is obsolete; overwritten by the events in Rouge 1. But it certainly seems as if the writers of Rouge 1 got some of their ideas from this last book in the Han Solo Trilogy.

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The Han Solo Trilogy is a tough act to follow. I don’t expect Solo: A Star Wars Story to be as good as these books. I do hope the film utilizes some of the story ideas though. From the trailer, we do learn that Han had gone into The Imperial Academy (he calls it simply “The Academy”).  Whereas the movie Solo appears to quit, the book Solo graduates with honors. I don’t expect things to be the same in each medium, but I do wish for similarity. Sadly, A.C. Crispin will never know if her ideas made it on to the big screen.

Ann Carol Crispin, author of twenty three books, lost her life to cancer in 2013 She also A-C-Crispin wrote books based on the Star Trek and V series as well.

In a message to fans three days before she died, she said:

“I want to thank you all for your good wishes and prayers. I fear my condition is deteriorating. I am doing the best I can to be positive but I probably don’t have an awful lot of time left. I want you all to know that I am receiving excellent care and am surrounded by family and friends.”

R.I.P. Ann Carol Crispin. I enjoyed your Han Solo Series immensely. I will be thinking of you when I am in the theater watching the up and coming Solo film. You wrote Solo well. Let’s hope the film does half the justice that you have done to this iconic character.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halloween Is Over (Or is it???)

All Hallow’s Eve has passed. All of the free roaming spirits have returned to their graves. Or have they?

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They might have “clocked out” for the season, but a bunch of them are still haunting this blog! PLEASE, help me get rid of them!

This is a Ghost Hunt Contest! Find Ghosts – win a book!!

 

Help me find these ghosts. In turn, I will reward you with points. When all is said and done, the person with the most points will win an autographed copy of Matt Power’s book, “Ghosts of Manor House”

Some ghosts are worth more points than others. The chart below shows the point value for each ghost:

Some ghosts are worth more points than others. The chart below shows the point value for each ghost:

Red Ghost: 1 point

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         RED GHOST FOUND!

Yellow ghost: 5 pointsyellowghost2

Blue Ghost: 10 points

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Green ghost: 25 points

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Orange ghost: 50 pointsoramgeghost3

Purple Ghost: 75 points

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White ghost: 100 points

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Find one, find two, or find them all! Once you find a ghost, post the identity (color) and location of the ghost in the comment section below and then I shall remove the ghost from the blog and distribute to you the earned points. For instance, you might say in the comment: “In the Cat and the Canary article, inside the paragraph that begins ‘the movie is a remake of the 1927 film’, I found a blue ghost.

Or you can email me the identity and location at dwcheely@yahoo.com

The person with the most points wins a free autographed copied of Matt’s book – Ghosts of Manor House

 

ManorHouse

An Interview with Matt Powers – Author of “Ghosts of Manor House” – Part 2

GhostsManor2Welcome to the second part of my interview with Matt Powers, author of the book Ghosts of Manor House .  By now, I hope that all of you have gotten word that you can win an autographed copy of the book. But just in case this news has not yet reached your noggin,’  here goes: I am featuring a Ghost Hunt contest – Find the ghosts that are hiding across my blog and earn points. Whoever earns the most points wins the book!  Click on the link below for more details:

Ghost Hunt Contest – Win a book!

In the first part of the interview, we explored Matt’s influences and learned that he prefers a haunted house that exists as “a being with needs and desires.”  For Matt, a haunted house should have a “mysterious power to it”.  We tested his criteria against the house of his own creation – Manor House. I concluded that Manor House does, in fact, conform to Matt’s criteria and effectively so.  It was an intriguing conversation to say the least!  If you have not yet read the first part of the interview, I recommend that you do so! Click on the link and read, read, read!

An Interview with Matt Powers – Author of “Ghosts of Manor House” – Part 1

In this second half of the interview, I ask Matt questions regarding the book-building process. How does an indie-writer with limited resources tackle issues such as marketing and editing? Also we learn about what Matt does when he is not writing books. He has an interesting profession outside the world of literature.

(The following information was gathered mostly on Sept 25, 26, 27 2017 )

Daniel:  I’m curious about your marketing in general. This is your first published book. It seems you have promoted it quite well. Fifteen people have reviewed it on Amazon, most giving it five out of five stars. 21 ratings, 18 reviews on Goodreads, mostly all positive. How did you generate so much interest?

Matt: I’m glad it appears my marketing is going well, I’ve been working hard at it.

I’ve taken a number of approaches. First off, after finishing the book I started just promoting it to people I know.  I would call it a “soft” launch – the goal being really to get as many reviews as possible.  I gave the book away to people I knew who said they would read it.  Then I pestered them to read it and write a review.

It should be noted – even with friends and family, you need to have a good book to start with. But I think one is more likely to get positive reviews from people you know.

I spent a couple months working on this “soft” launch. Then I had the “real” launch, which wasn’t that different except I actually told the world (via Facebook and Goodreads) that the book was now available. People who then looked at it saw it had positive reviews in the wings.

I truly believe people are more likely to purchase something if they see positive reviews. No one wants to be the first to try something unknown. I did a Goodreads giveaway in August leading up to this launch as well. Then for September I also sent query letters to cool websites like yours –  blogs that I thought would appreciate my book, asking them to read and provide feedback. Also, I created accounts at Instagram, Twitter, and Wattpad

The gearing up continues; I’m always trying to build interest and get people to read (and then write reviews).

In summary, it has been a lot of hard work. Honestly, I was hoping I would have more reviews by now.  But I realize that people are busy and not everyone reads as much as I do.  For the 40 people that  might have my book, I got around 12-15 reviews.  About 30%?  Probably good odds really.  Again it is important to stress that this all starts with a good book in the first place.

Daniel:  I do notice that a lot of people don’t leave reviews.  Still your book has a lot more reviews than any of my books. Of course I never did a “soft launch.”  Next time I’ll do that!

But you are right that it is important to have a good book in order to get good reviews. And Ghosts of Manor House is a good book. Not only is it a great story, but the writing is very good as well. In most self-published books (mine included), I find grammar mistakes or sections or awkward writing. But in your book, I couldn’t find any such things. Did you have an editor?

Matt: To get my book as good as possible I went through many stages.  While I wrote GoMH I had a couple people who would read my writings and give input and check grammar and mechanics.  I went to writing groups where I read chapters and received input.  When I had a good portion of the story done I asked a member of the writing group to read it, do some editting, and provide feedback.  I then took this input and made the changes that I agreed with and then I continued on the story.  I did this twice before I finished GoMH.

When I thought I was pretty much done I had two more people read and edit. I again made some changes and finally thought I was done. Then I sent out query letters to find a small publisher who might be interested.  I sent a lot of letters and I found a publisher.  Together we edited it again –  more changes were made.  I parted ways with the publisher as I found they really didn’t have time to do the pre-marketing type activities I wanted to do.  We parted amicably and I finally had my finished story.

But I look at it now and I see mistakes – mistakes in grammar, mechanics. I see paragraphs that I should have spent more time on.  No matter what, I think we always feel our work could be better.  But at some point we need to call it done and see what the readers think.

Daniel: I didn’t realize that you had a publisher at one time. But in the end you published w/out them. Still in the meantime, they helped you with professional editing.

Without a publisher, editing is difficult. Editors are expensive and many indie-writers, like myself, can’t afford them. What advice do you have for struggling authors that need to have their work edited? I know that the publisher wasn’t your only source for editing, you mentioned writing groups. Are there any other ways for writers to have their work edited? And can you tell me more about writing groups, where to find them and how members help each other?

Matt: I recommend joining a writing club near you.  Then join any and all writing groups the club has nearby.  I didn’t do this but check “MeetUp.com” and there are tons of writing groups.  If you don’t have a writing group try and start one.  I started one at work with co-workers to get more people to read and give input.

Then have friends and family give their imput, which is pretty challenging to do sometimes. I am lucky to have a couple of family members and  friends who are into writing. They gave me a lot of good input.

I did pay for a lot of my editing. A couple  places where you can find people to edit and give feedback are:

Fiver.com : inexpensive but the quality is sketchy

craigslist.com : can find editors here. I didn’t do this because it costs more and I didn’t know the people.

I did use some local editors and writing coaches that I found through people in the writing group. Since I had recommendations and could meet them in person, I felt comfortable spending money on them.

But the number one free way to get input on your writing is to join writing groups; groups where people bring chapters, read, and then critique each other.  You learn a lot about your writing by having it critiqued but also you can learn a lot by reviewing other people’s writing.


 

The next part of the interview will focus on some aspects of Matt’s personal life  MattPowers

Writers come from all walks of life. They are gardeners, meat-packers, homemakers, etc. etc. Matt Powers (pictured on the right) is employed as a game developer at Zynga Inc.

Daniel:  What is you job like? Are there any similarities between what you do as a game developer and what goes into your writing process?

Matt:  I have been a video game producer for a long time.  I started as a game programmer, creating Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo games.  Then I became a producer.  As a producer I manage teams and projects.  I make sure things get done on time, within budget, and at a high level of quality. I have a lot of daily meetings.  I think about the project a lot.  I need to make sure what we are doing now goes smoothly AND try to plan ahead to avoid problems and ensure we continue to go the right direction.  Producers are traffic cops, mentors, organizers, babysitters, tradesman, and planners.

Making video games is fun and very challenging. We are working on technology, trying to push the limits of tech, and we are creating entertainment.  Combining technology and “fun” is tricky.  We have a very creative team and a very technical team working together to make the fun, the art, and the technology all play well together.

Being in a creative business but not being the creative person, I think, keeps my creative juices flowing but without a big outlet.  Writing, I found, is a great way to express my creativity and it is different enough from developing games where I don’t feel like I am working, even though writing is work in its own right.

Daniel: So in the beginning you wrote computer code.

Matt:   Correct. I started programming when I was 10 years old.  My dad worked for Atari and taught me how to program.  I went to college and majored in Computer Science.  I actually got started with writing by blogging for Gamasutra.com.  It is a video game site. 

Daniel:   I took a six-month computer programming class at a community college. Nothing came from it, but on the admissions test, there was one question that I can still remember to this day. “What would you most like to do?” It was a multiple choice question and two of the possible answers were a) Learn a foreign language b) Write a book. I chose “write a book” and that was a “wrong” answer. They wanted to see “learn a language” as the choice.

But you are proof that one can be both a programmer and writer.

Matt:  To be fair, I’m an ex-programmer. : )

Daniel: True.

Matt:  When I made the decision to write a book, I approached it sort of like a programmer and producer. I examined how writing is done, read books about how to write, studied authors (like Stephen King), looked into writing groups, etc.  I wanted to understand the “process” of writing something good.   Then I had to practice, a lot.  I wrote a lot of stuff before finally getting to GoMH.

It helps that I really enjoy reading and I love movies. Understanding other forms of entertainment helped me find my “voice” in writing.

Daniel: Are there any other genres besides horror that interest you?

Matt:  Probably my favorite genre of books would be Cyberpunk – Neal Stephenson my favorite but also Gibson for example.  I also read Fantasy and Science fiction.  I like to mix it up between genres and try different things.  Last night I just finished a fantasy book.  Before that I was reading science fiction.  The next book I read will be horror.

Daniel: What is Cyberpunk exactly? Or better yet, what does Cyberpunk mean to you?

Matt: The proper definition of Cyberpunk is:  a genre of science fiction set in a lawless subculture of an oppressive society dominated by computer technology

But to me it means more than that. It is the use of emerging(bleeding edge) technology into realistic, probable fiction. It is about taking science fiction and bringing into a realistic, modern age.  That is part of it.  Then there is the actual style of writing I associate with Cyberpunk.  When I think of CP I think of being thrown into a story where I am immediately catching up.  The world is assumed, not described immediately.  You are thrown into the deep end of the story.

GoMH is sorta like this – I wanted to create a realistic story that could be true. Then put the reader right into it, figure it out as you go.  And who’s to say Ghosts of Manor House isn’t a true story?  I met Lucas, made a deal, and wrote the story I was told. 


 

And that about wraps it up! If you wish to  read Matt’s articles on the video game site, go to: 

https://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/MattPowers/951858/

To buy Matt’s book Ghosts of Manor House, go to:

Ghosts of Manor House

And of course don’t forget to participate in the Ghost Hunt contest for a chance to win a free autographed copy of Ghosts of Manor House

Ghost Hunt

 

 

 

Ghost Hunt Contest! Win a book!

Remember in my last post when I wrote that I would soon have the details on how you can win an autographed copy of Matt Power’s book “Ghosts of Manor House”?   Well How Soon is NOW!!

GhostContestMatt

Several ghosts are hiding in this blog. Find them. Earn points. The Ghostbuster with the most points wins the book!

For further details, click anywhere around those cute pictures that are posted above! You will be directed to the contest page!

Or, you can go to the Special Features section of this blog! Click on the menu and this contest appears as the first item!

An Interview with Matt Powers – Author of “Ghosts of Manor House” – Part 1

GhostsManor2Several weeks back, I posted a review of Matt Power’s Ghosts of Manor House.  It was, is, and continues to be an excellent haunted house story. I am hoping that many of you buy it.  Want some buy links?  Here!  Here! and Here!

I really want to share the brilliance of this piece. With Matt’s permission, I will be giving away a free, signed copy of the paperback book.   That means it’s contest time again!  I will be posting the details of the contest soon. But the important thing to know right now is that I will mail the book to the winner when the contest is over.

Here’s a brief synopsis. In the wake of a family tragedy, Edmund takes his wife and daughter to Manor House for a retreat.  He hopes their time spent at this house will provide the healing they need.  Manor House comes equipped with a staff of servants…and much, much more!  There is more to Manor House than meets the eye, as Edmund will find out.

Manor House has its ghosts, as the book’s title suggests. But what makes this book so appealing to me is that Manor House is more than just the sum of its ghosts. Manor House is an entity unto itself – it’s my kind of haunted house!  In addition, a tall, creepy tree stands over the house.  Like the house, the tree has a consciousness; a will.  It influences the events of the story. It even has a name – Mr. Travels.

Let us dive into a deeper analysis of these entities that Matt has created. What is their nature? How did his imagination conjure such things?   I don’t know the answers to these questions, but perhaps Matt does.  Let’s find out!  I interviewed Matt Powers and I have posted a summary of the first part of our interview.  I hope you will find it enlightening.

Matt’s influences and the nature of Manor House and Mr. Travels

Before reading a novel, I always say that one can get an idea about its content by knowing the stories that influence it. Matt shared with me several of his influences.

Summer of Night by Dan Simmons

The Club Dumas by Artura Perez-Reverte

Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

Woman In Black by Susan Hill

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Ghost Story by Peter Straub

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

The Shining by Stephen King

Hell House by Richard Matheson

The Graveyard book by Neil Gaiman

Matt went on to single out three of these books.

I had/have a tough time finding good haunted house books. After reading Hill House and The Shining and Hell House I had trouble finding other haunted house stories that were the kind I liked.  Which is one reason I wanted to write GoMH.

I asked Matt his opinion on why these three books are so good.

To me a haunted house is an entity, a being with needs and desires. A haunted house has a history and a certain mysterious power to it (which he then said summarizes the houses in those three stories)

I asked Matt if he thinks Ghosts of Manor House meets his own criteria.

I think I succeeded in writing a haunted house book the way I like haunted house books. It has all the elements I would expect. Of course, in the end, it is my readers that will decide.

As one of his readers, I decide that he has succeeded. Matt went on to say:

I wanted my house to be a part of the story about the people and the ghosts.

As far as the story itself, I always like twists – things that make the reader wonder guess, and think.  When the book is over I hope readers of GoMH think about the people and what motivated them.  Is Manor House a good entity or evil or misguided or none of the above?  The fact that people may think about that means that the house must have registered some thought and needs and personality to them.

So far this discourse has been all about Manor House itself. But we can’t forget about Mr. Travels – the scary tree! In the back-story, the tree’s branches were used to hang people, a long time before the events of the story.  I asked Matt is there was a specific inspiration for Mr. Travels.

Mr. Travels came to me after thinking about other entities that could be affected by death – how they may have changed and came to be what they are.

I thought that Manor House needed a buddy, someone to offset him a bit. And I always imagined this big creepy tree in the yard and then starting thinking about all the death this tree probably has seen.  Through the ages of hangings and such.  Then I figured, the tree probably drew those deaths to it and that is what makes Manor House and Mr. Travels similar. But they are also different. Mr. Travels has a need to kill and take the souls of the living. Manor House wants the souls to have company and not be lonely.


 

So that wraps up our exploration into Matt’s influences and the nature of Manor House/Mr. Travels. In Part 2 of my interview with Matt Powers, (Coming soon!) we will explore the publishing process of an indie author. How much work is involved? (Short answer: A LOT!) What does an indie author have to do get his work noticed?  (He has good ideas.)  Also, we discover what Matt does when he is not writing books.  You will be surprised!

So stay tuned – more details on how you can win an autographed copy of Ghosts of Manor House are up ahead!

Special Feature Update! – From Summer to Autumn: The Spirit Remains the Same (The Darker Sides of Ray Bradbury and Herman Raucher.)

Guess what folks, I’ve finally updated the “Special Feature” section of this blog!

And the latest feature that I have for you readers is an article about summer, winter and fall. It’s about the change of seasons.  It’s about the works of Ray Bradbury and Herman Raucher. It’s about themes that carry on from season to season.  It’s about Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked Comes This Way. It’s about Summer of ’42 and Maynard’s House.  I compare! I contrast!

Click on the pic below to see it!

SeasonsBradRauch

 

(There’s a Special Feature section at this blog?)

There sure is!  Take a look at the picture below:

BlogCoverSpecialFeature2

Now take a look at THIS picture! It has Menus!!!

BlogCoveSpecialFeatureMenus

(Oooooo!  Ahhhhhhhh!)

Yes it’s all so exciting. Enjoy, my friends! Enjoy!

 

My Virtual Journey to The Spooky Isles!

Greetings Readers!

I was about to begin this post by announcing that I recently had the honor of taking my entourage of haunted houses across the Atlantic Ocean to the scariest places in the British Isles.  Scratch that (which I have!) – these are The Spooky Isles

SpookyIsles

 

As I said, I WAS going to begin my post this way, but I’m sure glad I didn’t because that would have been misleading. First of all,

These houses aren’t mine

They belong to their creators: E Bulwer Lytton, William Hope Hodgson,  Horace Walpole, Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, etc. and etc.   Secondly:

Most of the houses originate from the U.K.

Even some of the works of Poe and Lovecraft have their roots in the U.K. as well.  However, I did  write an article for this awesome website.  In the article I explain how British Literature has greatly influenced haunted house lore.  The article is titled:

Everything I needed to know about Haunted Houses I learned from British Literature

The Spooky Isles collects all things “spooky” from the British Isles:  Tales of Scottish fairies, monsters of Shrewsbury, and even Poltergeist Bunnies! I highly recommend this website!

So what are you waiting for? Take a trip to The Spooky Isles.

While you’re there, stop by at my article and say “Hi!”