Friday, September 30, 2011

Dinner (and Lunch) with the Stars

(Image:  Steve Berry)

PNWA does an excellent job of cramming as much activities as possible into three-and-a-half days.  Mealtimes are no exception.  During lunch breaks, attendees can join one of the keynote speakers, as they discuss their writing, publishing and book tour experiences.  Jeff Ayers emceed this year's luncheon banter between Steve Berry and his friend James Rollins.

(Image:  James Rollins)

Our Friday night keynote speaker was Jane Porter, hostess of the Alpha Males and Unforgettable Heroines workshops.
(Image:  Jane Porter)

Last but not least, Deb Caletti spoke to a packed audience on Saturday evening, prior to announcing the winners of this year's literary contest.

(Image:  Deb Caletti)

While I enjoyed listening to all our guest speakers, I enjoyed sitting with my Popular Fiction classmates even more.  So I didn't take any notes during any of their speeches.

Now I wasn't a total slacker during the conference.  The last workshop I attended was the three-part, Writing in Scenes, hosted by Nancy Kress.  There'll be plenty of notes in the upcoming post--I promise.

Jesse Joshua Watson on: Writing from the Drawing Board

In the on-line survey I received from PNWA, I voted Jesse Joshua Watson as the "Captain Jack Sparrow" of the conference.  Jesse's looks and mannerisms reminded me of Johnny Depp's famous character.

On a (somewhat) serious note, Jesse's workshop dealt with using an "illustrator's approach to narrative"  (PNWA Conference Booklet, pg 10). Jesse's utilized a slide-show featuring his artwork to illustrate how even a single picture can tell a story.

I wish I could say more on this subject, especially since I prefer working with visual media, such as graphic novels or YouTube movies.  Unfortunately, I enjoyed Jesse's presentation so much--that I forgot to take notes.

Despite my lack of material on this post, I recommend to anyone involved in art to attend any seminar hosted by Jack Jesse.

Kathryn Trueblood on: Setting Up an Author Blog Tour

As a blogger, I decided to attend the How To Set Up an Author Blog Tour workshop, for Saturday's second venue, hosted by Kathryn Trueblood.

The focus of this seminar was on generating buzz on the internet for one's book. Though I don't have a book ready for publication, I thought I'd get I'd be able to improve my knowledge about blogging in general. 

Despite technical difficulties, Kathryn is an engaging speaker and gave an informative workshop.

There are several reasons for doing a "blog tour."  One of them is, it extends the buzz-life of your book by about three months.

However, before composing a web release, keep in mind the following (gleaned from the class handout):

1. Figure out the relevance that your book offers.

2. Research blogs that cover themes similar to those in your book. 

The following are "must haves" on your blog:

1. Your book's cover image must be at the top.

2. The bottom of your web page should contain:  The book title, name & contact info of your publisher, publication date, number of pages, the ISBN, price and possibly a logo.

3. Prominently display your offer to give away a free copy, your booking date, live interview, along with your e-mail address and website address.

4. Your photo, preferably a head-shot, and a three-line bio should be at the very bottom of your page.

In addition, these "nice to haves," placed somewhere in the body of the text, will increase the effectiveness (and hopefully your sales) of your blog tour:

1. Excerpts from reviews.

2. Blurbs and testimonials.

3. Your pitch (what the book is about)

4. A self contained excerpt from your book.  And finally,

5. Information such as events, speaking engagements, or teaching related to your book.

After looking at my notes, I did a quick Google search and stumbled across two links to help you be a better "blog tour guide."  The first was by Dabbling Mum, while the second came from The Book Publicity Blog

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bill Kenower on: The 3 Narratives Arcs in Every Story

Wait a minute.  Three narrative arcs in a story?  I only see one here (pictured above). 

In the first Saturday workshop I attended,  Bill Kenower, editor of PNWA's Author Magazine, explained there are three arcs in every story. 

The image above, illustrates the overall plot, or the Physical Arc.  Here's a simple, but effective, example Bill used in this workshop to describe this arc:

--Boy meets girl.
--Boy gets girl.
--Boy loses girl.
--Boy gets girl back.

This is the template for just about every romance novel in print, or romatic comedy on film.  And it's also the least important.

The second, or Emotional Arc, is of greater significance because it delves into the characters' emotions.  Examing the emotions of the boy and girl characters in the above example, we get:

--Boy feels inadequate.
--Boy misrepresents himself to gain girl's approval.
--Boy loses girl when she discovers his duplicity.
--Boy asks girl to accept him as he is and in the process, accepts himself.

The boy isn't the only one on this roller-coaster ride, though.  Taking a look at the girl's feelings, we discover:

--Girl feels inadequate.
--Girl believes whatever boy tells her, so she will feel impressive while dating him.
--Girl feels ashamed at appearing so desperate and dumps boy.
--Girl accepts boy as he is and in the process, accepts herself.

Stories are not about what happens, that's the domain of non-fiction, but what characters feel when things happen to them:  In getting back together the boy & girl accept themselves and each other.

So, if these two arcs create an emotionally satisfying ending, what does the third story arc do?

The third, or Intentional Arc, focuses on the one's motivation for writing this story and determine the whys and wherefores, we have to answer several questions:

--Why did you write this story?
--What is the story about and what is it to you emotionally?
--What drew you to write this story?
--What do you want the audience to feel when they read your book?

In the boy & girl example, the Intentional Arc can be boiled down to this:  Love. Thy. Self.

Notice there is nothing in the Intentional Arc about fame & fortune.  So this arc isn't about any of the following:

--Getting an agent.
--Getting published.
--Getting on the best seller-list.
--Winning the National Book Award.

A key point to remember is that following the mantra of "writing what you know," doesn't necessarily involve knowledge.  Instead write what you love.

Finally, the most important thing to remember is:  You are the author or your life.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Risk of the Ring--Stern Rake Studio's 22nd Movie

After a nine month hiatus, due to the popular fiction class I attended; along with my amicable divorce and subsequent move, I finally managed to post Risk of the Ring. 

Since just about everyone is familiar with the basic game of Risk, along with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I kept the full-page narratives to a minimum.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

RISK-ing Middle Earth

Every time I describe wargaming to a non-gamer, they ask, "Oh, is it like Risk?" 

I tell them, yes, only more specific to particular eras in history, or within the confines of a science-fiction or fantasy setting.  Many wargames lean more towards "war-simulation," which provide a greater level of detail, but at the cost of being more complex to play. 

While Risk may be considered a basic wargame, sometimes it's good to get back to basics. 

Which is just what a few of my gaming buddies and I did last weekend.  We sat down to play Risk: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Edition (LotR Risk), one of the many variants of the original game. 

Shown below is a look at the initial dispositions of the four factions, vying for control of Middle Earth.  The Fellowship, bearing the One Ring, started out at Hobbiton.

Although LotR Risk can be played like normal Risk, this version contains additional rules, along with "Mission Cards" and "Event Cards" that give this game a unique feel.  Half-way through our game we discovered we misinterpreted the Mission Cards.  These cards granted a player special capabilities or additional reinforcements--IF--one of the player's leader figures occupied the specific "site of power" listed on the card.  We initially thought a player received the benefit by merely possessing the card.  While this skewed the game, we played in this format to the end, for fairness sake. 

As for the results of our game session, I'm working on a detailed after action review (AAR), that I'll post either as a YouTube movie or graphic novel. 

In the process of deciding which format would be best, I stumbled across the following information for you Risk fans out there:

LotR Risk was published in 2003 and unfortunately, is no longer in print.  Copies, though, can be found on sites like, with prices ranging from "a real bargain" ($27.99) to a "real collector's item" ($199.99), depending on the condition of the game.  Comments on Boardgame Geek are mostly positive, giving the game an overall rating of 6.5 out of 10. 
The LotR Risk website is also available for strategy tips, rule variants and other internet links, although the forum appears to be dormant.

So sound the call-to-arms and seize control of Middle Earth! 

But remember: 

“...the hearts of men are easily corrupted... And the ring of power has a will of its own.”

Grue Cafe #4: Random Damage

After nearly a year in suspended animation, the "Grue Crew" has returned to host their fourth podcast.

In this episode, Rox of Spazhouse, Kim, Dom and Doc Ezra discuss topics such as:  The decline of gaming at non-gaming conventions, "oldie-but-goodie" PC games that you can't play on systems more advanced than Windows 98; the good, the bad & the ugly game mechanics; and how to encourage people to role play instead of just rolling dice.

Remember to roll against your sanity level after listening " see if you lose another point."

Jane Porter on: Unforgettable Heroines

Jane Porter hosted this seminar as a follow-on to her Alpha Hero workshop.  (See previous post). 

Since women are still a mystery to me and I finished the alpha male class, I figured I'd follow-through and see what makes heroines so unforgettable, which are:

She's someone you'd want as a best friend.
She's someone you'd want to be like, or get to know.
She's not stagnant.
A heroine has to be better than good--she must be compelling.

In developing heroines, the key point to remember is--women readers are harder on women protagonists than they are on men.  So a writer must conjure-up a heroine that is interesting, real, complex and with a lot of depth.

Oh and give the readers a fantastic story.

Once again, Jane used scenes from several movies--some I've actually seen--to make the following points:

1. The Problem of Being a Girl (Princess Diaries)

Women often look for validation.  They're torn between being tough and tender.  Late-bloomers make popular characters.

2. The Historical Perspective (Mansfield Park)

Womens' choices were limited.  Women without means were powerless, but even well-established women were controlled by males.

3. The Modern Perspective (Erin Brockovich)

Women gain power through money or status, which even in today's times, can be difficult.

4. Sexism, Feminism & Prejudice (Legally Blonde)

Women often have a tough time challenging men.
Strong women are viewed as bitches.

5. How Tough? (Miss Congeniality)

Some women don't trust other women who are pretty.  "Pretty" is often viewed as weak, or worse--coniving, as opposed to being up-front and honest.

6. Getting Serious (We Were Soldiers)

Men feel safe when they're with their woman and their family in a stable condition.  However, women are often placed in the difficult role as the peacemaker.
Women don't want to receive bad news from strangers, in order to gain support from those they know.

7. The Magic Ingredient (Shrek)

Those intangible qualities that draw others, especially the hero, to her.

8. The Complete Package (Legally Blonde)

The climax, success gained by balancing the competing factors in a heroine's life, such as family and career.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Jane Porter on: Love, Sex & The Alpha Hero

There were several workshops scheduled after the big Agents & Editors Forums.  For me, deciding which one to attend during this time-frame was a no-brainer:  Love, Sex & The Alpha Hero, hosted by Jane Porter

Hey, any workshop containing the word "sex" "love" and I'm there!  The reason, of course, is to improve on what I know so little about--writing-wise, at least.  At this point, I'm still too worried writing anything steamy would sound like something I regularly read vaguely heard about in men's magazines.

At the start of the seminar, Jane admitted the "Love & Sex" part of the title were attention-getters.  (Well that certainly worked).  So the focus was on what makes Alpha Males tick. And since I seem to have misplaced my membership card to the local chapter of Alphas-R-Us, I decided to stay.

Jane used key scenes from several cool movies, to make the following points:

1. The Alpha Male, or "Mr. A," as I'll call him, is the Top Dog (Tarzan).

Every protagonist needs a coming-of-age moment.  They won't know if they have the strength until they're confronted.
Protagonists have to act.
An Alpha operates above the law and public opinion and operates under his own code of ethics.  However, he won't abuse his position and has a strong sense of justice.  They are in control of, and secure in themselves.

2. Mr. A Won't Run from a Fight (High Noon)

Courage is a key element to a hero.
The darkest moment is the hero's defining moment.
A hero can't walk away from conflict, unless under duress.

3. Mr. A Has Tremendous Emotional Appeal (Last of the Mohicans)

Women love a strong guy, which taps into their fantasy of being protected.
Women tend to be nurturers and will nurture a wounded hero.
The hero has a flaw that makes him week, such as stubborness, uncompromising, unwilling to accept help or the inability to accept love.

4. Mr. A is a Sophisticated Lover (Goldfinger)

Sex is not about domination, but a combination of wit and dialogue.

5. Mr. A Needs a Mission (Gladiator)

Men need conflict, but great men need a purpose and fight for a cause.

6. Mr. A Needs a Mrs. A (Last of the Mohicans)

In classic romance, heros will choose a heroine and not look at anyone else.
An alpha male will search for a woman that is his equal.

The key note on relationships is not to pair people who aren't evenly matched.  This creates constant tension between the would-be partners.

And this tension is what drives the story.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

2011 PNWA Conference: Agents Forum

Agents preparing to enter the forum.
(Image from:  Get Smart)

This was Friday's Big Event, Part II.  Twenty-two agents formed this year's panel to lift "the cone of silence" off some of the publishing industry's deepest secrets.  Bob Dugoni, continued his hosting duties and established the same ROE (Rules of Engagement) as he did during the previous workshop.  (See the Editors Forum post, 4 Sep 11). 

The agents panel (with links included), consisted of:

Agents deciding whether my work is best suited to line the litter box, or the bird cage.
(Image from:  Get Smart, the movie)

Since nearly every writer attending the conference had a WIP (Work In Progress), the first question posed to the panel was:

If submitted a partial, but have since revised it, should you submit the revised copy?

"No, don't change it"--Kate McKean
"Edit and workshop your book before you submit it"--Gordon Warnock.

Other questions soon followed...

If you pitched, then delayed, can you submit your work several months later?

"State where & when you met me"--Laretta Barett.
"Don't query agents until your material is ready to go"--Kate Folkers.
Michael Larson received a submission from someone he met at a conference 30 years ago.  While Cherry Weiner keeps a file on everyone she meets. 

Does motion-picture potential affect an agent's decision?

"Yes, although period pieces are expensive to shoot"--Ken Sherman.
"It's up to the agent"--Elizabeth Pomanda.

Can writers pitch to agents, who're already published under a small press?

"Yes, if you've retained the rights to your book"--April Eberhardt.
"It's the main way I scout new talent"--Rayhane Sanders.
"Don't make your decision [to go with a small press] in haste.  The 'any-contract-is-a-good-contract' is a false assumption"--Kate McKean.
"I would rather publish the next book than the one that's already published"--Lauren Abramo.

Should writers send out multiple or single queries?

"Multiple"--just about everyone on the panel.

Is there a way to speed up the publication process--especially if the author is elderly?

"You can't think like that!  I represent authors in their 70s & 80s"--Cherry Weiner.
"Mulitple submissions help"--(I can't remember who said this one).

Is there a best time during the year to submit?

"January--New Year Resolutionists"--April Eberhardt.
"Your timetable is ours"--Christina Ward.
"Check tye agent's site and activity calendar"--Gordon Warnock.
"A bad time to submit is when you're ready to go on vacation"--(can't remember who said this either).

If you establish a relationship with an agent on a book in one genre, then write a book in another genre, would you submit to another agent?

"Check with your current agent, because they're trying to build your career"--Rubin Pfeffer.

How has the collapse of Borders affected publishing?

"Penguin cut back 1/3 of it's first-print runs"--Kate McKean.
"I lost 600 outlets for my books"--Bob Dugoni.  (Hey!  He's not an agent!  But his point was well taken).

What's hot?

"Historical fiction, steam punk, cozy mystery, contemporary romance and paranormal"--just about everyone on the panel.

Is it a good idea to pitch an unfinished book?

"Don't do it!  But it's okay [here] at a conference, because it's a learning process"--Amy Boggs.
"Give your work to trusted writer friends to critique"--Rayhane Sanders.

And finally...

What is the impact of digitilization of books?

"We're all learning"--just about everyone.
"This may be a 'Plan-B' for writers, which may become 'Plan-A' in the intdeterminant future"--April Eberhardt.

Agents bidding a fond farewell to this year's PNWA Conference.
(Image from:  Get Smart, the movie)

The key point to remember is:  Once you sign-on with an agent, they'll work on your behalf to open all the doors necessary to get your work published. 

Just like Maxwell Smart.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Hometown Flooded

My hometown of Binghamton, NY, was hit with a flood today.  According to WBNG, 20,000 people have been evacuated.  Folks say this is worse than the 06 flood.  Back then I wasn't on Facebook.  Now I'm overwhelmed by the photos my fellow Binghamtonians are posting.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Studio's "Legal Entanglements"

(Image from: Lawyers by Sygnin on Deviant Art)

Despite my best efforts to the contrary, I managed to steer the "USS Stern Rake Studio" into legal tepid water.  The tempurature isn't "hot," at least not yet, anyway.  After a ten-month hiatus, due to attending a popular fiction course, amicable divorce and subsequent move into a new home, I finally got around to checking my YouTube account. 

To my surprise, I discovered GoDigital filed a copyright dispute against seven, out of twenty-one of my movies.  I never heard of these folks, let alone have any dealings with them--until now.  In response, I challenged their claim, because, I thought, I only used license-free music that I purchased from other sources.

Within hours of hitting send, the folks at YouTube sided with GoDigital and replied to my challenge:

All content owners have reviewed your video and confirmed their claims to some or all of its content.

Okay, so now what do I do?

No action is required on your part. Your video is still available worldwide. In some cases ads may appear next to your video.

Well, that's nice to know, but what does this mean about my movies' status?

Please note that the video's status can change, if the policies chosen by the content owners change. You may want to check back periodically to see if you have new options available to you.

While it doesn't sound like I'll be fined or sued, the following titles may one day be used as on-line billboards for GoDigital, or stricken from YouTube's roster:  Duel of the Demigods; Mayhem in Makassar Strait, Parts 4-6; Preparing for Battle at Enfilade 09; Impending Fury and my very first show, The Road to Eggmuehl.

Oh well.  At least three good things came out of all this:  I discovered Sygnin's work, joined Deviant Art and posted the link on to this site...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

2011 PNWA Conference: Editors Forum

Editors reading my prose.
(Image from: e-reads)

This was Friday's big event.  Ten editors gave an overview of the books they are looking for and the best way to submit your work.  Bob Dugoni, hosted the forum and moderated the Q&A session.  I liked how Bob established an ROE (military-ese for "Rules of Engagement") for attendees to refrain from asking questions specific to their WIP (writer-ese for "Work in Progress").

The panel of editors, (company links included), consisted of:

One of the first questions of the day was:  What, exactly, do editors do?

"Their goal is to make a better book"--Michelle Richter.
"Coordinate with all the other departments [in the publishing company]"--Anne Bensson.
"Act as your clone to help coordinate efforts"--Peter Lynch.

What is the most important Point in the Pitch?

"A good, marketable, readable product"--Brian Hades.
"Voice"--Peter Lynch, "especially for YA (Young Adult)"--Aubrey Poole.
"A platform for non-fiction"--Chuck Sambuchino.
"A unique spin"--J.Ellen Smith.
"For memoirs, understand the market and the competition"--Lynn Price.
"Research the publishing company"--Julie Matysik.

Does self-publishing hurt an author's chance with publishing companies?

"No"--just about everyone on the panel. 
However, they commented that mainstream publishing helps gain exposure that self-publishing can't.

Do you take un-agented manuscripts?

"Yes"--Aubrey Poole

Do you work with a cadre of agents?

"Yes"--Michelle Richter answered on behalf of the entire panel.  However, "we're willing to work with new ones, but it's like going on a blind date."

Should an author acquire an agent after the book has been acquired?

"No"--Aubrey Poole.
However, Lynn Price said yes and "... appreciates it when an author does so in order to navigate the maze of the publication process."
This difference exemplifies the most important thing writers should do when querying publishing houses--read their guidelines.

And there you have it, some words of wisdom in today's publishing industry.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

How to Survive a Pitch Session by Chuck Sambuchino

Prior to the big editors and agents forum, this year's PNWA conference held an introductory workshop focusing on key elements of book pitches.  Chuck Sambuchino, author of How To Survive a Garden Gnome Attack, hosted this seminar.

In this hour-long workshop, Chuck touched on some dos and don'ts to keep in mind during a pitch session with an agent or editor:


--Don't send agents any more material than what they ask for.
--Don't give them hardcopies, because they don't want to lug around paper from 50 or more writers.
--Don't pass them your business card, but ask them for theirs.
--And most importantly, don't give away the ending.


--The pitch should be 3-10 sentences long.  The narrative should be similar to "the back of the DVD box."
--After introductions, talk about the details and the logline of the book.
--Details consist of:  Title, word count, genre and whether the book is finished or not.
--Logline:  A one-sentence summary of the book.
--Start with the main characters.
--Include the inciting incident.  What propels the story into motion?  What is the conflict?
--Optional:  Discuss the character arc.  Does the protagonist change?

Some cautionary notes include:

--Avoid general terms.  Be specific.
--Caveat for sci-fi novels:  Avoid using proper names for worlds an races.
--Avoid delving into subplots.

The advice given above, was primarily geared for fiction.  Pitching non-fiction books has some different elements:

--Pitches tend to be dry and factual.  Have a good book idea and discuss your credentials with the agent.
--Have a platform.  Who is your target audience?
--The exception:  Memoirs are treated like fiction.

Finally, the #1 reason why agents & editors refuse to publish someone's work:  It was turned in too early, often after writing the first draft.  It would be best to submit your book after finishing the 2nd or even 3rd draft.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Extrovertness 101 and Two New Authors

Writers tend to be introverts and often thrive in creative solitude.  However, publishing is a business requiring direct human contact.  And in business, extroverts are the dominant life-form. 

Gone are the days when writers can live the life of a J.D. Salinger, venturing outside only to buy groceries and get their royalty checks out of the mailbox.  To get published and promote their books, writers need to be more like extroverts, or at least act like them.

The PNWA conference organizers recognized this dilemma and held a workshop to discuss extrovert tactics for a room full of introvert attendees.

I'd love to tell you about this workshop, but--I didn't attend.

Not because I was too shy to go.  Instead, my popular fiction classmates and I had dinner reservations at the time this workshop was being held.  Even though I enjoyed a night out with my friends, I wanted to attend this seminar, especially since it was hosted by these two dynamic women:

Lorraine Wilde is a freelance journalist and environmental scientist with numerous articles to her credit.  Even though I didn't make the class, Lorraine posted the slide show and handout on her blog, under the "Introverts" tab.  (I'll read them as soon as I complete this post).  She is currently working on her memoir, Egg Mama: An Egg Donor and Her Extraordinary Family

Kim Kircher is the author of the upcoming book, The Next Fifteen Minutes: Strength from the Top of the Mountain.  (Fortunately for us conference attendees, advance copies were available).

I've been acquainted with Kim through a mutual friend and PNWA for the past three years.  My writer friends come in two flavors:  Unpublished and published.  In the time I've known Kim, she's the first one among us unpublished-types to step into the published winner's circle. 

For you extrovert, skier-types:  Kim and her husband manage Crystal Mountain.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fixing What Isn't Broke About Star Wars

A favorite saying among those in the military is:  "If it isn't broke, don't fix it."

Unfortunately, George Lucas isn't following such advice. 

The Star Wars Creator-in-Chief is currently in the process of re-vamping the orignal films--again.  A couple of "improvements" have been leaked and are now swirling around the internet.  This article in blastr has the details.

While these films are riddled with gaffes and story-line inconsistencies, they're still well loved by us fans.  So instead of improving on what is truly wrong, Lucas is dumbing-down the orignal films down to "prequel level."

Here are some noteworthy comments/rants from some friends:

I think it's safe to say, it sucks. I hate when they dumb down movies because they think we don't get it.  Blade Runner was dumbed down as well when they added the dialog at the end of the movie.

However, there is one change he could make - he could get rid of the couple of scenes in Episodes IV and V where Leia kisses Luke because those scenes take on rather creepy overtones in light later revelations...

Nahhh…those were innocent pecks on the cheek. I'd much rather Lucas go back to the original and fix the dialog about the Millenium Falcon being so fast it "made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs." In the Summer of 1977 I had just learned what a parsec was (a unit of distance….NOT speed). So this has eaten at my brain for 34 years!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It even made it's way into the Family Guy "Blu Harvest" episode.

There were two innocent pecks on the cheek in Episode IV. In Episode V Leia gives Luke a full blown kiss on mouth when they were still on Hoth and she had just gotten done arguing with Han Solo and she says, "Well I guess you don't know everything about women" and then Leia proceeds to plant one on Luke - EWWWWWWWWWWW.

The 12 parsecs thing is a good catch. The also used hyperspace and light speed interchangeably at differents points in the films. After the escape from Tatooine in Episode IV, Han Solo says, "Strap yourselves in, I'm going to make the jump to light speed." The problem is, in the scope of space travel, light speed still isn't very fast and at that speed it would still take them several years to get to the next star system.

Ouch, you're right. I forgot that Luke nearly tongued his sister in "Empire." Yick!

Of all the things to fix, the "12 Parsecs" comment was the one to do. There are T-shirts that say "Han Shot First!"  And lets not forget the prequels. One writer I know, Kristen Lamb, maintains a blog and posted on why the prequels were so bad:

Those were good points on that blog, though I might quibble about the edges of a few. Still, the bottom line is that Lucas was spiraling downwards rapidly after Star Wars and Empire, and by the time he did the prequels he had descended totally into madness and banality.  I think I sent this around a few months back, but it is apropos:

As the series went on it became less about the story and more about Lucas saying, "Hey, look at all of the cool things I can do with special effects and CGI."

The biggest problem overall is that Lucas made it all up as he went along which means there are so many holes and inconsistencies in the plot you can sail a supertanker though them. He even admitted that he came up with the whole Luke/Leia brother and sister thing to solve the emerging love triangle between Luke, Leia, and Han. If a writer/producer/whatever can't have basic issues like that solved before he starts the problem will compound itself in multiple ways as the story goes along. Gee, why not just solve the issue by deciding that in the Star Wars universe they practice a form of polygamy where women take multiple husbands and have Leia get together with Luke and Han. Return of the Jedi could have ended with the three of them heading off to private hut in the Ewok village for a threesome.

However, for some reason the single biggest thing that bugged me was the secret creation of the clone army over the course of a decade. This probably bugs me because I work in government. I don't care how corrupt or dysfunctional a government is, there is no way anybody can fund, organize, man, train, and equip a force that size to include weapons, warships, and everything else that goes with it in secret. That is just silly and to compound the problem, a war starts and this massive army appears out of nowhere to fight it and everybody just says, "Wow, it sure is a good thing we have this army and navy that nobody knew existed so we can fight this war" Yeah, right...

I think we all need to get together, pound back a few dozen pints, and hash all of this out. Our middle-aged psyches would be greatly salved.  Here's another one……is anyone else a bit dubious that Luke's "training" as a Jedi night lasted….what….a few days….a week tops?  And how bad a sentinel was Obi-wan? I mean, he parks himself in Tatooine's equivalent to Death Valley where he has no hope of keeping watch on the bright young hope for the rebellion. It was only a fluke of the boy wonder removing R2's restraining bolt that kept Luke from getting chopped along with his aunt and uncle. Nice job Obi-wan.  As for the "prequels," I refuse to comment on them because well…..while visually stunning…the stories just blew all over the place. I always like the idea of the Jedi until I saw those movies. What a collection of group-think sissified pansies!!! They deserved what they got.  OK….I'm better now.

"Hello. We're the Jedi - guardians of the Republic. We're on the lookout for the Sith Lord, our greatest enemy.....whaddaya mean he's running the whole government?!?"  "What, the mystery army that appeared from nowhere is suddenly attacking all us Jedi and we have not made the slightest contingency plan for our own survival."  If I was helping form the new Republic, I would certainly not allow the Jedi any role in it - they failed spectacularly though hubris and sheer stupidity.

On the list of things that bug me about the movies, you can add the battle scenes. People are just standing around shooting at one another. It doesn't occur to anyone that they might want to take cover so they are a smaller target. Do they have no instinct for self-preservation? If someone is shooting searing bolts of plasma at me, I would think of ways to avoid taking one in the chest. It drives me crazy every time I see it.   Also, why can't storm troopers hit anything with their blasters? They were the Empire's elite troops but apparently didn't get any weapons training. They got their butts kicked by a bunch of stone age teddy bears. The Emperor might as well have issued them Brown Bess muskets and bayonets for all the good those blaster did.