Monday, August 28, 2017

The Eclipse that Almost Wasn't

Heavy cloud cover last Monday almost spoiled our Big Eclipse Day here in New Mexico, but we were able to snap a few shots of the event. We were in the "Big Bite" region quite a bit south of the Path of Totality, but my overall impression was that it certainly looked like more than 72% of the sun was eaten. David got these shots with his filtered 35mm Pentax camera about two minutes before the largest chunk was taken out of the sun.

One phenomenon that I did manage to capture was the "Hole in the Sky" effect. The blue sky immediately overhead, where we could see it between the clouds, turned a nearly black shade of blue! To the point you could alllllmost see the stars, but not quite. Though these photos don't do it justice, you'll notice how much bluer the sky is on the horizon than it is straight overhead. It was eerie!

This photo probably shows the "Hole in the Sky" effect
the best. Notice how much lighter the sky is in the lower left.

This photo shows the dramatic gradient from Robin's Egg Blue
in the lower left to the midnight blue in the upper center.
Another eerie thing was how very quiet everything got at the moments of the eclipse. No birds sang, no dogs barked, and even the breeze seemed to die down to nothing. It was like the world had been enveloped by one of those Get Smart "Cones of Silence" (for those who might remember the old spoof spy show).

Not everyone was impressed by the 2017 solar eclipse.
Maura takes a snooze.
So although we didn't get to experience the spectacular and once-in-a-lifetime totality, it still made for a very memorable experience here at home on the range.

StarDog is Flying

Off the shelves, that is!

Click here to get it FREE via Instafreebie
I'm offering my original Pets in Space story for #FREE via Instafreebie, since it's a prequel to the new story Courting Disaster: StarDog 2 due out in the Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2 collection releasing October 10th.

Before the debut, I wanted to give readers a chance to catch up on the original story as the first installment in the continuing StarDog adventures. (Yes, there are some direct ties to Courting Disaster though StarDog works as a standalone novella.)

I set a goal for the number of copies I'd like to see claimed, and it's already more than a third of the way there with nearly six weeks to go before Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2 releases, so I'm one happy author!

Already claim your copy? Well, if you think a friend might enjoy the story, I'd love for you to forward or post the link.

StarDog now has it's own page on my website, too!

Need a refresher? Here's the blurb:

Navigator Taro Shall has a mission no one wants – find a way to eradicate snakes on a starship. He never expects to find the answer to his problem in a charming street vendor named Adini. His already unusual mission becomes more complicated when he suddenly acquires an adorable StarDog that soon sweeps him and Adini into the maw of a brewing insurrection.

In Case You Missed It...

We posted a fun blog last week featuring songs that inspired nine of the Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2 authors. The Music Behind the Words - Nine Authors Talk Inspiration

Can you guess what song Susan Grant chose as inspiration for her space fighter jocks?

If Sabine Priestly could choose another body, what would she do?

What sci-fi themed boy band song gives Veronica Scott inspiration?

After suffering a terrible real life tragedy, what song empowered Pauline Baird Jones to return to writing?

Learn the answers to all of these questions while enjoying a wonderful mix of eclectic song videos chosen by the authors.

And check out these video interviews and responses from four of the authors--Pauline Baird Jones, Susan Grant, Sabine Priestley and Michelle Howard--on the first in a series of Saturday video blog posts: About Pets in Space

Alien Covenant: Movie Review

Let me sum it up in just ten words: I'm SO glad I didn't buy tickets to this movie!

I really, really hate to end my weekly blog on a downer, but OMG, this film was bad!

I'm now completely convinced that Hollywood is not only totally out of touch with reality, they seldom seem to have a clue what sort of entertainment people want or are expecting when they dish out $30-$50 for movie night.

Granted, the original classic, Alien, and it's fabulous successor, Aliens, had a few moments of gore and horrificness, but they didn't do just for shock value ALONE or to see how many stomachs they could turn. They also didn't do it at the expense of story or character. This monstrosity was a gorefest with no redeeming value...and almost zero entertainment value after roughly the first fifteen minutes. There were several scenes so over-the-top stomach-churning that I had to get up and leave the room.

Let me explain a few of the things that went seriously wrong for me. I'm sorry, but there will be spoilers. There is no way to avoid them because they are intricately woven into the fabric of this "what the hell happened" quilt.

Premise: The Covenant is a colony ship. It has a crew of roughly a dozen couples and a colony population (of 2000 or so) in suspended animation. Covenant is heading for a new world when it has a small mishap and gets sidetracked. This is established in the first ten-fifteen minutes of the film. It all goes downhill from there.

Let's start with the example of just one character, a male crewmember with Christian values--which in this future time and place is considered "extremist." This character is thrust into a leadership role and just as the story arc begins to scratch the surface of what could have been a layered and evolving personality--you guessed it, he gets "alienated." (I'm using that as a euphemism for dying a terrible, bloody, gory death, which most of the characters do--whether human or otherwise.)

And then there's the planet where they land, after following a static-y transmission of the John Denver song Take Me Home Country Roads. Yes, you heard that right. There's a reason they put that tune in the previews, though it seemed grossly out of place and weird. It was equally out of place and weird in the movie, trust me. Lord knows what statement Hollywood was trying to make there. What a horrible fate for a perfectly beautiful song.

Back to the "plot." The crew goes to the planet surface to investigate this transmission, ala the original Alien. When they land, they find a very Earth-like wilderness, several members of the crew soon get "alienated" and then later, survivors are led to a city where every single resident has been laid waste and is still decomposing in the streets. Yet, no one seems to question this! They just "follow the leader" through this carnage to a supposed place of safety (let me show you to my lair, said the spider to the fly).

Now, maybe it's just me, but if I landed on an alien world where the residents of an entire city had obviously been obliterated by something, I think I might have a question or two. Especially if those residents were about twelve feet tall. Yes, you guessed it again. The monstrous, human-creating Space Jockeys which were built up to be "a very big deal" in the Prometheus prequel are now all dead. How was this society of supposedly advanced intelligent beings wiped out? It's shown in one very problematic scene. But why did they create the human species and then make plans to annihilate us? We'll never know.

The film will show us, however, that Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, the sole human survivor of Prometheus (does that also sound familiar?) did make it to the planet, only to meet a horrible, alienated end. Apparently, the filmmakers threw to the winds the pressing questions that drove her to seek out this progenitor species. Because that might have made sense or shown some continuity in theme between films in the franchise, which apparently had to be avoided at all costs.

To say the end of this film is grim would be a terrible understatement. It had all the redeeming value *cough* of the previously reviewed clunker, Life. Compared to this disaster, Arrival was an uplifting, feel-good movie.

Hmmm, Hollywood. I'm seeing a disturbing pattern here. Are you out to destroy the science fiction genre entirely? If this is how you reward fans for shelling out a sizable chunk of change for "entertainment" it's no wonder you're in trouble.

Don't ask for whom the bell tolls...

And don't even THINK about destroying the STAR WARS franchise as your next act of self-destruction!

And with that, I've made a decision that going forward, I'm only going to review movies I enjoy. Which means you're probably going to see far fewer reviews from me...if any, at all. If it's a big, highly anticipated Sci-Fi film and I don't make a peep, you'll know that IMHO it's not worth seeing.

And, now that THAT'S behind us, I really hope you have a great week! Everyone in Texas and the Gulf Coast, please stay dry and stay safe. Thinking of you in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.


  1. So sorry you wasted your time on Alien: Covenant, Laurie. I could tell just from the previews and blurb that it was a loser. Yes, I think Hollywood has a problem, not just with SF, but with a lot of films. Check out this week's blog for my take on it.

  2. I'll definitely do that, Donna. We can only hope that Hollywood will eventually get the message.

  3. I wouldn't have seen Alien Covenant anyway - I haven't watched any of the Alien films. But yeah, Hollywood seems to be on a roll making grisly movies without any real reason. I have my fingers firmly crossed that SW 8 is not the bomb I'm fearing it will be. But at least we have Young Han to look forward to next year.

  4. I know what you mean, Greta. I'm worried about some of the concerns Mark Hamill has expressed with Luke Skywalker in SW8. I'd hate to see them destroy the heart of a character that has inspired generations for more than 40 years just to give fans "something they aren't expecting." IMHO it would forever taint everything Star Wars stands for. We can only hope they're smarter than that, even though all evidence is to the contrary.

  5. That's an awesome cover for Star Dog, Laurie!

    1. Thanks, Sharon. I think Danielle Fine did a wonderful job on it. And she even created a great image of a StarDog--a creature that doesn't even exist! :)


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