Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows Trailer 2011 HD

13 Jul
Looking good! I enjoyed the first film and this trailer looks very promising.
Sherlock in drag for the win. Also like the gypsy character. Bring it on!

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The End of an Era: Last Harry Potter

7 Jul

It’s kind of sad. Next week, the last Harry Potter film will be released. I, like millions of other readers, devoured the seven books. Some of them, I bought on their release day. I’d read them from start to finish. I endured headaches and other distractions, but I refused to put the books down until I’d finished them.

Alright, I had a pit-stop so I could have dinner. But I wanted to know what happened next. J.K. Rowling built us an incredible world filled with magic. She got kids reading and revived the fantasy genre. Single-handedly. No wonder she’s the second-richest woman in England.

Now, that magic has come to an end. At least we got one extra film out of the experience. But it also means I will finally be able to get that much-anticipated box set. Thanks to relatives, I haven’t had to buy any of the films on DVD yet. Nope. Ever since the first ones were released, it was my intention to wait till the whole series was available. It would just look so much prettier on my shelf.

By then, I will hopefully have attained a blu-ray player as well. I already have plenty of DVDs but a few are on my blu-ray list: Pride and Prejudice (the Colin Firth BBC-series), Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Voldemort in blu-ray clarity. Creepy.

I’ve seen all seven movies in theatre so I’m looking forward to catching the last one on the big screen. It is my understanding that some cinemas will be showing a HP marathon. Can you imagine? All eight films back-by-back? I think I’d melt into the seat or dissipate.

Once I get back from seeing it, I will write a review. So far, I read one favourable review from the Daily Mail but that is hardly a reliable source so I’ll reserve my judgement till I see it for myself. Not sure when that will be, though. Didn’t reserve any tix. We’ll see.

And then we will only have Twilight to sustain us. -grumble-

Bumblebee Photography

2 Jul

I adore bumblebees. The fuzzballs are just so adorable that whenever they land on a flower, I automatically reach for my camera.

Is that a kind of bee?
Not sure what this is…
And all these photographs were taken in two days. I just want to cuddle the bees. Not sure they’d appreciate the sentiment, though. Two of these pictures, are up on my Deviantart page, as seen on the right hand side. Other nature photography, as well as living history, poetry and short stories can be found on my page there.

Matches and Matrimony – A pride and prejudice game

26 Jun
Although I’ve always thought it was a good idea to create a game about classic books, this was not what I had in mind. Which is not to say I didn’t enjoy it.
I discovered this little game yesterday and admittedly played it for a few hours. It is basically based on Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion.
Darcy, the Bingley sisters and Lizzy.
First of all, you can choose your own name. You have two sisters (a red-headed Jane and Lydianne). They only use a few characters so some characters take on multiple roles. Lady Lucas in the game also takes you to the Lake District and also takes you to London (like Mrs. Jenkins), although the fall from Persuasion now takes place there instead of at Lyme. Your sister Lydianne falls and turns into Louisa but is nursed back to health by Brandon, thus ending up as Marianne. 

Mr Bennett, Jane and Mrs. Bennett.

Mr. Wickham is now called Mr. Wickeby (he is a combination of Willoughly and Wickham) and Bingley is now called Edward instead of Charles. He’s supposed to be Edward Ferrars. At the end up the Bingley plot, news circulates of him having wed Miss Darcy. This is however false. Instead, Mr. Darcy has married Caroline Bingley!
I really enjoyed having Colonel Brandon randomly show up after my character (in Marianne-mode) played at the piano. However, I didn’t care for his red hair and silly beard. I was also thrilled to see Captain Wentworth, who is a favourite Austen man of mine. He was dashing in his red uniform.
The game is fun to play but a few things bothered me. First of all, some of the characters did not look very Regency. Some of them are walking around with their hair down and for some bizarre reason Mr. Bennett and Lady Catherine are dressed from a completely different period – and not from the Victorian era, although it is said that is the setting for the game. I also don’t like that the characters are wearing the same outfit throughout the game. It’s a period piece. I would have liked a mini-game to choose the most suitable outfit.

It is also quite difficult. To play the game, you select activities to get through the Monday – Friday. Different activities give you different points. You can gather points for: Willpower, Talent, Kindness, Sensibility, Propriety and Wit. Sometimes, you cannot progress because you lack Willpower points to speak up. The first time I played, this caused me to accept the proposal from Mr. Collins! -shudder-
With Lady Catherine the Bourgh’s confrontation, I had too many Propriety points to disobey her and if you did not save the game recently, that basically means you’re screwed. There are 9 possible endings (one of which is Collins and another is not getting married). 
Charlotte and Lizzy
Once you finish the game once, you can request information on how to get a certain suitor and you have the option to ”get a head start” and fast-forward to chapter 10 with all the necessary attributes to get to that point. One of the things that amused me is that you can also end up with Bingley, in which case you have to get his sisters to like you. In this ending, Jane marries Colonel Brandon. 
Overall, I thought the dialogue also ran too long and I kept clicking to move on. Especially with verbose characters such as Collins and Mrs. Bennett, it went on and on. Maybe if you are not familiar with the story yet, this will interest you. But for someone who knows the dialogue inside out, it is not very interesting. 
Luckily, once you have gone through a certain dialogue once, you can skip it next time. You progress through the story by selecting dialogue. The options you are presented with depend on your skills. A very kind person might say this but a very improper person might say that. What you say to the characters affects the storyline and it is worth saying that with Mr. Darcy, being difficult and stubborn is what gets him to like you. The first time, I agreed with him, danced with him straight away and as a result, he did not like me. How singular!
So far, Wentworth is my favourite ending. That letter just gets me every time. If you’re stuck, there is a walk-through up on YouTube. You should check it out. I do find the narrator obnoxious, though. 
3 1/5 stars

Graphic Sex Scenes in Romance Novels

25 Jun

Maybe I’m old-fashioned but I just don’t like gratuitous sex scenes in novels. I don’t see why they’re romantic or even sexy. If anything, they make me giggle. There’s something really over-the-top about these scenes. They just don’t seem realistic and especially in historical novels, feel really out-of-place.

Would a shy débutante really let a rake ravish her in the corner of a ball room? The thought makes me cringe. I remember skimming through my mum’s dirty novels as an adolescent. I’d enjoy the banter between the hero and the heroine but all the heaving bosoms? These scenes did nothing for me. I usually skipped them completely because romance can be expressed in other, more effective ways. I much prefer witty banter or a stolen kiss.

Historical novels are also filled with cliché characters, such as:

* The roguish, dashing Highlander
* The innocent, virginal English rose
* The witty, spunky heiress
* The conniving relative

I am sure there are many others. There are few original characters left anymore but unless written really well, these archetypes are tedious to read about. If you are going to flout historical accuracy by writing racy sex scenes, at least make the characters fun. What about a clergyman who falls for a courtesan? What about a woman accused of witchcraft finding love in her cell?

And then there’s the covers. What’s sexy about an unrealistic fellow rippling with Photoshop masculinity? And then they lean over the heroine, whose dress is half undone and spilling with cleavage. The word tacky comes to mind. I can’t help but think that this sort of soft-porn only appeals to middle-aged housewives with expanded waistlines. But looking at the steady sales of such novels, I must be mistaken. Give me the classy covers of Heyer any day. Modern authors like Amanda Grange or Abigail Reynolds, too, use historical covers. And I think they’re gorgeous.

The possibilities are endless. I always have a dozen potential stories in mind at any given time. Some are abandoned, others never reach the page. The point is: I write romance without sex scenes because I am more interested in the journey of falling in love. I grew up watching Jane Austen and being a re-enactor of the Regency period. Whether I like it or not, it has affected my writing.

So yes, I am old-fashioned. But is being a hopeless romantic really that bad? I would rather wait for the right one than end up with ten wrong ones.

Mermaids in New Orleans Opening Excerpt

19 Jun
I wrote the first chapter from a New Orleans perspective. I leave the world building for later on (I received feedback that there was too much too soon in the London version). In this version, they have not yet discovered the existence of mermaids.

New Orleans, 1860
Chapter 1
As soon as Heloise entered the drawing room, all went quiet; the family rarely conversed in her presence and when they did, it concerned trivial matters or polite enquiries. But this time, they had asked for her especially and Heloise wondered why. She stole a quick glance at Mrs. Wilder but her expression was as impenetrable as always.

“You rang, madam?” Heloise said in a soft French accent.
Marianne Wilder, a sallow, thin person of forty, inclined her head. “As you might know, we are hosting a soiree tonight.”

Heloise bit her lower lip. She certainly did; she’d spent many hours polishing the silverwork and dusting the carpets for the occasion.

“Mr. Lark has made a historical discovery and means to introduce it to the world from our home. This is a great honor for us and it is of the utmost importance that he leaves this house with a favourable impression. Is that understood?” Mrs. Wilder demanded.

Heloise whispered in the affirmative, her dark lashes fluttering at the prospect.
Mrs. Wilder scrutinized the girl’s face; her sun-kissed complexion, brown eyes and the black curls that slipped from her colourful turban. Heloise took a deep breath, her hands clasped in comfort and Marianne caught a glimpse of her bosom in the tight, cream dress.

“We must find you something else to wear. This would be highly inappropriate.”

Mrs. Wilder eyed her daughter, Sophie – a plain girl of eighteen with a wide jaw and a predilection to pink garments with an abundance of ribbons; Sophie did not listen to the conversation but engaged in needlework. Mr. Wilder, by contrast, read the newspaper.

Marianne sighed. “For tonight, you can wear Catherine’s uniform.”

And, with a glance of disapprobation at the turban, she added: “And you will wear a servant’s cap. That is all. Leave us.”

That did not leave much room for discussion. Heloise wanted to speak out and beg the lady to leave her heritage untouched. But that would not aid her suit. I could be dismissed and then where will I go? Back to the plantation? To the French Quarter like my sister? Never! I would rather beg on the streets than sell my body to strangers.

Heloise nodded, curtsied and left the room. Once the door closed behind her, she balled her fists and muttered under her breath. As the only Creole slave girl in the house, no one would understand or judge. It brought her solitude as well as loneliness. When Heloise returned to the kitchen, Sarah rushed to her side to learn what had been discussed.

“So, what did the family want from you?” she asked.

Sarah could rarely contain her curiosity and sought excitement above all else. They had become fast friends since Heloise joined the household a month ago; however, they had little in common besides their profession and interest in literature.

“They want me to wear Catherine’s uniform. They deem my own dress ‘inappropriate’. I can’t wear my turban either.”

Sarah chuckled; her green eyes sparkled when she laughed. “They want that Mr. Lark to marry Sophie. I heard the missus say so myself. They probably think that your attire would draw too much attention – although they still want you to be there to show Mr. Lark how generous and open-minded they are.”

Heloise washed some dishes. “Why? What sort of man is Mr. Lark?”

“He’s a politician – rumored to be the next governor or something. His party believes in equality – even for slaves.”

Although Heloise had no interest in politics, she hoped he would prevail so her kind could soon live life as they saw fit. If she were a free woman, she would seek employment aboard one of those passenger airships. Travel had always eluded her but she found it of great interest. She wished to go to Europe; to visit Paris, the birthplace of her ancestors.

“Would you like to try on the uniform?” Sarah teased and elbowed her.

The uniform fitted her rather well; the two ladies were similar in size and build but as Heloise peeked into the mirror, she scarcely recognized the person staring back at her. She looked almost American, though rather tanned for a Southern belle. A well-travelled woman or an Italian immigrant perhaps.

The rest of the day was spent preparing the house for the rich and powerful of New Orleans. For Heloise, it would be her first social event. She knew little of etiquette and refinement but she often watched Sophie as she descended the staircase looking very grand and fine. Heloise stood in front of the mirror and emulated a few gestures she had observed. Her hands moved with grace and for a moment, she felt like a débutante.

“The first guests will soon be here. We’re expected downstairs,” Sarah warned her and off they went. 

The servants gathered at the front door, ready to take a coat or hat. When the doorbell rang, Heloise swallowed but it was simply an old lady. Many guests flocked to the house and Heloise began to feel secure.

“Mr. Lark!” Mrs. Wilder exclaimed and a tall, blonde gentleman approached her. His bow was deep and respectful; he straightened his back and gestured at the door.

“I have brought a friend – a man of great importance to what I am about to impart tonight,” he said and a man entered.

“Mrs. Wilder, allow me to introduce you to the most feared bounty hunter in the New World, Captain Gabriel Faulkner of Neptune Sorrow, the greatest ship in the Seven Skies.”

In Search of Setting

16 Jun

I’ve finished the first two chapters of Residue (working title). Not bad for a week, eh?

However, I am giving my setting some second thoughts. Dru Pagliasotti has graciously sent me a link to an article he wrote on Steampunk and it entailed some of the clichés in the genre.

I am guilty of one: setting the story in Victorian London. What can I say? I love England and since I am a great Jane Austen fan, I imagine it as the epitome of elegance for my characters to go there and immerse themselves in the Season.

So, should I change it? I can. I’ve only written a few pages. But then what should I change it to?

Right now, I am considering Paris. That place where fashion was born, the courtesans were powerful and painters gather on the Montmartre. It has a little something, doesn’t it?

I ran it by my Mum and she also had a few suggestions: Dublin, Vienna and Prague. Obviously, having lived in Dublin, I could easily transport the story to that place. It will always have a special place in my heart. Vienna and Prague I have never visited and know little about.

What do you guys think? Steampunk Egyptians? Highlander air pirates?

Or should I stick to London?