August 15th, 2015



I've invited a few people to read the Beta 1 version of A Princess of a Lost Kingdom. If you're interested, there may be more slots.

Now it's waiting. Oh sure, I've got prep work for classes after Labor Day. But waiting to find out if anyone even likes my book -- this is worse than childbirth at eleven months of work!

So after I started shipping invites out, I went ahead and created mockups for Books 2 and 3. I already had the covers designed, though like Book 1, I had to redo them with the final book numbering scheme:

Books 2 and 3 -- The Loneliness of a Lost Kingdom and The Royals of a Lost Kingdom -- have been through the Edit Pass 1 process. Next is Pass 2, where I fill in on the names of people and places, expanding a bit because I now have a longer cast list and a map. Then more serious editing. When I try to sell Book 1, I'd really like to have Books 2 and 3 fairly clean, if not Beta 1 tested as well.

But, I'm not sure I've ever read either 2 or 3 as a complete book before. And of course, I immediately discovered a major continuity error early in Book 2. It's left over from discovering I'd lost a year in what is now Books 4 and 5 (DW) (LJ), and a chapter got moved... to a place that's too early.

Okay, that's fixable. But surprising.

Still, despite not quite being finished, Book 2 moves along and has a real kicker of an ending. And Book 3 leads directly into the second trilogy. Rather pleased with the timing of it all. Because these were all written together, one of the things I am proud of is how the transition between books is seamless. The story picks up right where we left it. Cool.

But reading the PDFs in the Acrobat Reader on the Kindle Fire HD is fast. So I got through Books 2 and 3 each in a late night session. I had a doctor's appointment Thursday afternoon, and when I got home I didn't feel like doing real work. Now what?

Well, I might as well play with the covers. So here are all nine books of the three trilogies. You might notice that there's some height variation. I am working from stock photos and didn't bother compensate completely for different source sizes. Like I keep saying, I'm doing this part for fun -- I am not self-publishing the stories. I did six covers in about two hours. But I am rather pleased with my results:

And I've just done some necessary file updating in the two files which contain Books 4-6. So late night tonight I went ahead and made mockups for Books 4 and 5 --

By the way, the stock photo credits from Maria Amanda Schaub are:
The Private Trilogy
A Princess of a Lost Kingdom
Photographer: Helle Gry

The Loneliness of a Lost Kingdom
Photographer: Martin Lindeblad Jørgensen

The Royals of a Lost Kingdom
Photographer: Helle Gry

The University Trilogy
The Heir to a Lost Kingdom
Photographer: Maria Amanda Schaub

Sisters From a Lost Kingdom
Photographer: Maria Amanda Schaub

A Queen of a Lost Kingdom
Photographer: Jan Holte Teller
Concept: Faestock

The Reign Trilogy
A Doctor of a Lost Kingdom
Photographer: Helle Gry

The Norwegian War
Photographer: Helle Gry

A Deposed Princess of a Lost Kingdom
Photographer: Helle Gry

And as usual, you can't tell too much from any of this as to what's going on. (big-grin)

Dr. Phil
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We both grew up with Mission:Impossible on TV. Mrs. Dr. Phil started earlier than I did, so she saw the early Barbara Bain/Martin Landau episodes as a kid, where I don't really remember seeing them until we were watching reruns in Laurium. Barney was always my favorite... (cough-geek) after of course the mandatory opening scene with the self-destructing tape, theme and burning fuse opening credits. And later Leonard Nimoy showed up, post-Spock. Whoa -- mind bending.

I have a love-hate relationship with the movie series. Jon Voight as Jim Phelps? Come on, Peter Graves was still active in 1996. How could they? Jim Phelps as the BAD GUY? HOW COULD THEY? Unforgivable. But as a Tom Cruise action franchise -- they have been fun. We saw the first two in the theatres. I've seen the third one on late night TV. We skipped the fourth one. I think the problem was blowing up the Kremlin. It's a divergent point. You can imagine the IMF teams running amuck around the world in our world... mostly. But not after they destroy an iconic landmark. We'd kind of notice. Threw me right out of the story.

Having missed the fourth movie, did we really want to see the fifth? Well, the trailers were quite exciting. The movies have always had good looks and over-the-top set pieces. But Tom Cruise hanging from the side of an Airbus A400M Atlas -- in the trailer I was thinking it was a C-130 and then in the movie I was thinking it was a Russian turboprop, but Wikipedia sets the record straight -- probably sold the deal. That Tom still does his own stunts, including the famous free climb of a cliff face in an earlier movie, is impressive.

Then the reviews came in, saying it was fun. So last Saturday we decided to go see the new one.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation [PG-13]
Holland 7 Theatre 4, 3:30pm, 2×$7.25

Tom Cruise is getting older. They compensate for that by beating him up, before setting him loose on the world. Sure, these movies are his vehicle, but it isn't just Cruise. Ving Rhames has been the reluctant operative all along, but I love his quiet confidence and tech geekery. And Simon Pegg? It'd be easy to dismiss him as just the comic relief, but his geek fu is strong, too.

I have to say, this is the first M:I movie where I felt they were getting closer to the Bourne movies. No, I won't say Ethan Hunt out does Jason Bourne, as one blurb proclaims. But I think they did a good job. And I have to say that the motorcycle chase scene was one of the best chase scenes I've seen in a while. Though there was the little continuity point where I suddenly wondered where did we get off the divided highway and onto the two-lane mountain road.

After the whole Jim Phelps betrayal in the first movie, I spent the whole movie wondering who the evils really were. Alec Baldwin as the head of the CIA and trying to shut down the IMF was a logical choice. But Jeremy Renner? I guess he was in the fourth movie -- but we just thought he was just a new outsider. And therefore a candidate for duplicity. And of course Rebecca Ferguson as the femme fatale whose loyalty we worry about the whole movie. Think Bond Girl but more professional.

The main villain is terribly confident and competent. His denouement is lovely.

There's a cute moment where a cute IMF operative does a Ethan Hunt fangirl moment, before he gets his secret message. So much for security with the whole long pass phrase exchange. (grin)

You're not supposed to examine the physics and engineering too closely in these superspy technothrillers. But come on. Does anyone think that storing important computer data in unfiltered water -- possibly even seawater -- is a good idea? And don't you think that someone would notice a unit being disengaged by something other than the robot arms? And doesn't Ethan have the biggest streak of luck in the world? Sheesh. Pretty. Impressive. Fun. But not very realistic. Sorry.

The one trouble I have with the film series is the repetition of the plot where someone is destroying the whole IMF team -- or the IMF itself. In the first film, there's a nice setpiece where much of Hunt's team is massacred, setting up the revenge aspect of the rest of the film. The one we didn't see involves the IMF being framed for blowing up the Kremlin.

We were perfectly happy to see this at our favorite Holland 7 and not spend the big bucks for IMAX. But I'm glad we saw it on a big screen and not TV -- it deserves the larger canvas. It's fun, it's fresh. And I guess we're not done with the franchise after five movies and 19 years -- another is planned.

Should you choose to accept the mission...

Good times.

Recommended -- better than some of the previous.

Trailers: Hmm... I had taken notes on the trailers, but I've misplaced the half index card with the information. That's what I get for waiting a week before posting this.


As long as we're talking about Tom Cruise -- and Tom Cruise movies we haven't seen -- I was flipping late night channels the other night after the news and stumbled onto this movie, fairly close to the beginning.

Oblivion [PG-13]

We missed this because it opened on 19 April 2013 -- which would have been Grading Week for me and just when my foot was getting infected after our basement flooded. Over the next couple of weekends things deteriorated and by 6 May I was stuck in the hospital for 5½ months. Game over. And it's not on Netflix.

Visually Oblivion is beautiful. I remember an article in Wired talking about the 360° dome they used to project aerial imagery for Cruise's bubble ship.

Where I came in, the movie is pretty sparsely cast. We have dashing pilot Jack Harper, his elegant live-in flight controller Vika and the remote image of Sally from the space station supervising them. Aliens had attacked Earth decades earlier, damaging it and making it uninhabitable. Mankind is moving to Saturn's moon Titan. There are giant fusion power plants powered by seawater which must be protected from any remaining aliens. Jack's job is to the fix the armed spherical drones defending them. When their mission is up, Vika and Jack will migrate to Titan and Earth will be abandoned. Meanwhile, they live a beautiful life atop Tower 49.

There's a hitch. Jack and Vika have had their memories wiped it seems. My guess, having not seeing the very beginning, is this is supposed to aid in their cleanup and abandonment of Earth. Excuse me, giant red flag waving over here.

Of course, like the fireman in Fahrenheit 451, Jack doesn't quite toe the company line. He's found an unspoiled mountain lake retreat and spends time there. He collects things, including an old book. And he keeps having flashbacks of the observation deck on the Empire State Building -- and a girl.

We soon realize that part of Tower 49's territory includes New York City -- or rather the mostly buried and destroyed remnants of NYC. And if you think all is not as it seems, this gets cemented when he discovers a stasis chamber with the girl of his dreams. And then he runs into Morgan Freeman. The Earth is not empty of humans, it seems.

From there it gets complicated. And overall, I have to say it's nicely done. The end is a bit reminiscent of Independence Day or V'ger from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The very end reminds me of the end of Battlestar Galactica -- and if BSG had ended like Oblivion, I would've been much happier with it. (evil-grin)

Make fun of Tom Cruise if you want, but his name is still a big budget draw and he's been willing to get into some top drawer science fiction movies. Technical accuracy might be traded in for thrilling action, but at the end of the day, Mr. Cruise gets the job done and in style.

We will have to rent this sometime and see it all the way through with Mrs. Dr. Phil. Sorry we missed it in the theatres, because I did want to see it, but that damned heel got in the way.


Dr. Phil
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