Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Temeraire Series

I am SO excited to finally be able to share this series with all of you! I'd been waiting until I'd read them all (or almost all, book #2 isn't owned by my library). However last night I finally finished and now I can make my report.

"His Majesty's Dragon" is, to put it simply, a fascinating blend of "Master and Commander" and Jane Austen + Dragons. It features an alternative universe where the Napoleanic wars are being fought with the assistance of dragons on both sides. Sea captain Will Laurence finds his vocation changing drastically when his ship captures a French transport carrying a dragon egg. The egg hatches while on board Laurence's ship, and the baby dragon, Temeraire, choses Laurence as his captain. Now Laurence must leave seafaring behind and journey north to take his place in the mysterious and sometimes infamous Dragon Corps.

Temeraire grows into a formidable fighter and soon he and Laurence find themselves at the forefront of the war -- and carried off into adventures that will lead them to the four corners of the globe. From England, to China, to Russia, to Africa and Australia, there's no limit to what horizon's they'll visit next.

I was blown away by the quality of the series. I'm not big on war stories, but dragons are fascinating, and Naomi Novik has envisioned an intriguing and delightful dragonic society. Most engrossing is Temeraire, who has more personality than most human characters in literature these days. He is polite yet passionate, fierce yet learned. I couldn't stop turning the pages to find out what happened next. More than one night found me staying up well past midnight to further pursue the adventures of Laurence, Temeraire and their friends.

For books designated towards an adult audience, they are fairly clean. There is some rough language in a few places, but swear words are used very sparingly. This is a story about an honorable man, raised in an upper class home that thought highly of things like duty and manners. As such, we see the book through the eyes of a man of high moral standing. That doesn't mean Laurence never fails (in the Dragon Corps people rarely marry for reasons that are well explained in the books, however that doesn't mean there are never children conceived), however anything hinting at sexual matters is handled with pretty extreme delicacy (all things considered in this day and age), a fact which both surprised and pleased me.

While the books are good enough to stand purely on the merits of the story, they gain additional depth and my appreciation by their awareness and respect of real history. Characters like Nelson, Napoleon, George III and William Wilberforce all make appearances throughout the series.

Though the books deal primarily with masculine characters (appropriate, considering the social norms of the time), there are a few female characters, including some memorable dragons and a really adorable young ensign whom becomes almost an adopted daughter to Laurence.

Final bonus? The book series was optioned by Peter Jackson, director of "The Lord of the Rings." Which means there is a chance that we may see a Temeraire film adaptation or TV series at some point produced by this beloved director.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Yeah I've got a maid... her name is "The Dishwasher."

A hundred years ago most middle class families had some sort of hired help. Usually a woman or girl to help with the washing or cooking or cleaning. And the higher up you went, the more servants were to be found.

Nowadays? You might find a nanny or a once-a-week cleaning lady in some middle class families, but usually only in homes where both parents work.

I used to wonder about this. Middle class citizens are better off than ever, yet few of us could afford the hired help that people at our same comfort of living level would have easily afforded a hundred years ago. Then I came across the explanation via blog reading.

We do have servants. They're just not human.

Instead of hired help, we spend the money on dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, electric stoves, microwaves, washing machines, lawn mowers, sewing machines, premade meals, premade clothes... the list goes on.

So maybe we have to handle food a bit more than if we had hired help, but there is far less chance that we actually have to be the hired help. Instead other jobs have opened up. Instead of spending time struggling to survive, we can pursue other dreams.

Is this all a good thing? I sometimes think we might be better off going to a more basic level of existence, where growing one's own food was a normal activity.

However as someone who lives with a potentially debilitating disability, I am more than happy to stay in the technologically elite 21st century where hearing aids, texting and the internet allow me to, for the most part, function like most hearing people.

Plus, I think the dishwasher probably gets the dishes cleaner than most human washers would be able to.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Title of Neil Gaiman's Doctor Who Episode Revealed!

Oh my. Not the sort of fun news one expects to actually wake up to...

(Please, do read the article before continuing this post...)

The Doctor's Wife?

Let me say it again.

The Doctor's Wife?

I think it's almost unfair to give an episode a title like that. Not if it ends up being... well a big cheat like "The Doctor's Daughter" and "The Next Doctor" were. Now "The Doctor's Daughter" ended up being a fantastic episode, and "The Doctor's Wife" has been written by Neil Gaiman so that alone leads me to have high expectations for the quality of the show.

Idris is a familiar character with a new face. Say what? So many possibilities. I am actually desperately trying to keep my hopes down and believe that it is not the actual DOCTOR's wife, but you know... just some random doctor...

Yeah. Nice try, self.

As much as I want it to be River, I have to say, I don't think it is and here is one simple reason. All the previous episodes with River have been written by Steven Moffat. This one is not. She is his special creation and I don't think I'd want to see her written by anyone else (unless she became more of a regular and that just was the way it had to be).

What interests me is the very Victorian look of Idris's clothes. Is this just a planet where people dress that way? (As in "A Christmas Carol"). Or is it an episode that takes place in the past?

And then there is the curious phrase... "an old acquittance with a new face." There are three possible ways for that new face. Drastically different age. Plastic surgery. Or... Time Lord Regeneration.

Oh the possibilities. Is it River Song with a different face? Is it a Time Lady come back? (ROMANA? JENNY?)

Won't be much longer until we find out. The Season Premiere is less than a month away!

Monday, March 28, 2011

How to color digitally

Have you ever wondered how I do the digital colors in my pictures? Well now you can find out! My friend Shaelynn has featured me as a guest blogger over at her awesome craft blog. Check it out!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Alas! My brilliant plan has been foiled.

Today I planned to post the first installment of my latest sewing project -- my sister's prom dress. However my sister has put her foot down and declared she will not allow me to post any pictures of it until after prom. Which I guess is within her rights.

So instead I moved up my next art post and voila! Here are my latest creations.

The finished picture of Wolverine -- sketch reproduced from "How to Draw Marvel Heroes" but inks and colors primarily my own works.

An inked version of #2 from my "Nightcrawler in Action" series (sketches based on HtDMH)
An original picture of Rogue in current uniform, inked. I used a variety of reference sources, but the picture is ultimately my own unique creation.
Nightcrawler in Action #1, finished
A sketch of Jubilee I created for my friend Alicia, who is possibly the biggest Jubilee fan ever.
Scott Summers -- finished (look for an upcoming post on my friend Shaylynn's blog with a step-by-step digital coloring tutorial from moi on this picture!)
Lastly, my sketch of the bridesmaid dress I will be making for my friend's wedding this summer.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Books, weddings, writing and geekdom (not to mention a revolution)

The lovely thing about getting well is being able to... you know, do things. Like actually leave the house! Not that I'm completely recovered because I'm not, but I've got more energy than I have since Christmas and that is a major blessing!

Last week a friend and I went to the local Irish pub to celebrate St. Patrick's day. It was a blast! The pub was completely packed with celebrators -- we likened the crush to a concert. I felt sorry for the bartenders, but otherwise it was a pretty cool experience!

Have I ever mentioned how much I love my library? Because I really, really do. We just got a big beautiful new one. It's light and airy and has dozens of corners with comfy chairs to curl up in, and wonderful computer stations, and a huge selection of books... and it also has some great meeting rooms. My new D&D group discovered that we can meet for up to two hours in one of the library meeting rooms for free. Not long enough for a full game, but it's still fun to utilize!

On Friday I got a message from one of my oldest friends. He's getting married this spring and he and his fiance would like me to be a bridesmaid in their wedding! I am absolutely thrilled! (I also get to design and sew my own dress. WIN!)

Tuesday was cold, rainy and dreary. I couldn't bear to stay cooped up, so I hauled my laptop over to a local coffee shop and wrote for about five hours. It was heavenly. I got the comfy chair right next to the fireplace and pounded out an entire chapter in my latest novel. I also was able to talk to a young lady who works at the shop that I've been getting to know. She gave me the info for her church and I think I'm going to check it out (I need to find a new one). Also, the guy sitting in the chair across from me heard me talking about my book and we struck up a conversation. That's what a coffee shop should be, you know? Like in the old days of the enlightenment, when thinkers and revolutionaries sat in cafe`s exchanging great ideas.

Speaking of the Enlightenment, yesterday I got to see part of my sister's drama practice for "A Tale of Two Cities." Primarily I got to see a bit of the courtroom scene, with Madam Defarge and Lucy Manette/Darnay doing their bits of drama. It was wonderful!

I also hooked up with a friend and we went out for supper, then poked around in the local comic book shop. We had to laugh because there was some sort of game going on and ALL the players were guys. We only spotted ONE other girl in the entire store. C'mon, girl geeks! Don't be shy. Get out of hiding! Be proud of your interests! ;)

We didn't actually buy any comics at that shop through. Instead we went over to the Half-Price books and I picked up a whole handful of comics for less than $9.00. That made me happy...

Don't get me wrong, I like staying home too. On Wednesday I hung out with my sister. I'm working on her prom dress, and we sung Disney songs while I worked. It was pretty epic.

Of course, the downside of this week is that we got another major dumping of snow. The forecast was 1-3 inches, but we ended up getting more like half a foot. Boo.

However we've actually got sun now, which is way nicer than the constant cloudcover we've been having...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

POTC: On Stranger Tides - Trailer #2

A new POTC: On Stranger Tides trailer came out this week! While reusing many previously released shots, it also contains extensions of sequences and some entirely new material!

Most interesting to me is the further revelation of the mermaid plot. It looks to me like one of the mermaids is going to be somehow a protagonist and join our group of heroes, and likely fall in love with the young missionary guy (I think that's who he is, anyhow). Anyone have any thoughts to add to this theory?

Also, it appears that Blackbeard can actually control his ship almost telekinetically. He appears to have power over the ropes at least. Agree with this? Disagree? Why?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Farewell, Elizabeth Taylor

This morning we mourned the passing of one of Hollywood's greatest stars - Elizabeth Taylor.

Taylor was classic, beautiful, talented, and dedicated to humanitarian causes despite personal health and romantic troubles (including her famous 8 marriages).

I first saw her in "National Velvet" ages ago, but my first memories come from seeing her play Amy March in "Little Women."

My favorite roles, however, are her portrayals of Maggie the Cat in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (with Paul Newman) and Katherina in "The Taming of the Shrew" (with Richard Burton).

What are your favorite Liz memories? When did you first see her? How many of her movies have you seen?

(For a refresher, check out the Elizabeth Taylor IMDB page to see a complete list of her roles)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

AT LAST! Here comes THE HOBBIT...

The Hobbit begins filming today!

Have you been keeping up to date with the production? You can find the latest news at or check out the full cast list at Keep in mind that some names are still rumors only, but even so, there are a lot of very impressive actors involved in this project!

Anyhow, congrats to Peter Jackson and crew for finally getting cameras rolling. It's been a long haul and at times many of us doubted it would ever happen. Thankfully we were wrong and PJ persevered!

Monday, March 21, 2011

X-Men on the screen -- hits and misses... and what might actually work

5 Television shows, 6 films. You really can't beat superheros for their longitivity on screen. Yet outside of the geek world, most of the X-Men incarnations are far less well-known than the different takes on heroes like Spiderman and Batman.

Why is this? Let's see if we can find out...

The first attempt at telling the X-Men story on screen was a short-lived venture called "Pryde of the X-Men" that never got beyond a pilot. It was quickly shelved, and what's interesting to note is that three of the main characters (Kitty Pryde, Dazzler and Colossus) never showed up in the subsequent X-Men animated show, and another (Nightcrawler) only got limited appearances. An attempt on Marvel's part to clearly set apart this team from the last one?

Whatever the reasoning, it must have worked because "X-Men" became an extremely successful television show, running for 5 years and remaining the longest running X-Men show (and one of the longest running Marvel Animated shows) to date. It featured a classic line-up and was extremely faithful to the traditional story-arcs of the original comics. To this day many X-Men fans credit their interest in the team to this show.

The only other X-Men appearance in the 90's was the generally disliked "Generation X" made-for-tv movie which did so poorly that most fans don't even mention it except to ridicule.

In 2000, Marvel decided to take the X-Men out for a spin again, this time moving away from tradition and instead imagining the main team as teenagers who attend public high school. This allowed for a more character driven, kid-friendly show that better fit the expectations of Saturday-morning audiences. It also was a surprisingly good show. Though the dialog was weak at points, the characterization and plotting was quite strong. The main strength of the show was treating the characters as teens struggling both with normal teen issues as well as the pressures of their superpowers. This made for an extremely accessible show, not only for comic-fans but also for the average viewer. In fact, it was this show that got me into comic books in the first place, and I've gotten several friends hooked on the X-Men through this show as well.

The show lasted into a 4th season, and left a lasting legacy in the Marvel canon as an original show character (Wolverine teenage girl clone, X-23) went on to become a regular member of the comic team and even a main player for a time on X-Force.

Also in 2000 was the debut of the live action film "X-Men." This featured the most well-known characters in lead roles, but contained a completely new storyline and dramatically changed character ages and in some cases, entire personalities. It did well commercially, but reviews among fans were mixed. The sequel, "X-2" was loosely based on the comic story "God Loves, Man Kills" but again changed character relations and personalities. The third in the trilogy, "X-Men: The Last Stand" tried to retell the Dark Phoenix arc, but turned into what is generally seen as a muddle of cameos and poorly executed and confusing storylines.

In 2009, Fox decided to try again with the X-Men films (which had been good moneymakers despite poor reactions to the third), and featured the most popular X-Man character, Wolverine in an origins story.

"Wolverine" proved to be a fun romp, but once again strayed too far from comic cannon to satisfy fans -- instead antagonizing and alienating many of them.

However, while the big screen was failing, the small screen scored a success with "Wolverine and the X-Men" which featured a solid line-up of favorite and currently featured characters, and a solid storyline that, while new, paid respectful homage to cannon. It's premature cancellation after only one season was mourned by many fans (especially this one!).

2011. What's next for X-Men? We've got another film coming up. Which, if you've read any of my previous posts on the subject, you'll know is being viewed with trepidation by most fans. And no wonder, with the track record Fox has made itself on the films.

At the same time, Japan is due to release an anime show, featuring a line-up of traditionally popular characters. Since X-Men animation and Japan's anime tradition are both strong and well-respected, there's interest and hope for something good here.

So looking over this colorful and relatively extensive history... what trends can we notice here?

Canon works. It's canon for a reason, and the comics have had 40 years to figure out how these characters work.

It's a sad but true fact that the time constraints of a film simply cannot do justice to the varied cast and adventures of the X-Men. There are just too many characters, and anything less than a full-length season is just going to delegate most of them to cameo roles.

And financially, a full live-action season would still run far, far less than making a big budget film.

So why haven't we seen a live action X-Men show yet? Two reasons. First of all, up until recently, doing that kind of special effect-work on TV was simply not financially feasible. However science fiction shows are showing up more and more on prime-time television -- to say nothing of cable. So that objection is pretty much out the window.

Second reason? Back in the late 90's, the executives saw two options. To make a film, or a live action show. They chose to go film. Their reasoning was that they couldn't promote both at the same time. Which is a very valid reason. It's just sad because I feel quite strongly that, in the long run, a show would have proved a far more satisfying experience than a film.

I could be wrong. They could have hired a horrid writer, cast terrible actors, decided on a corny plot...

Or it could have been wonderful. They could have decided to follow the comics, telling the story of the move from New York to San Francisco... or even better, they could adapt Joss Whedon's run on "Astonishing X-Men" which still remains (IMHO) one of the finest bits of X-Men story ever.

Want more of my opinions on all things X-Men? Check out my Geek Portal!
You can also see my fan art here!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Smile-ful Things

There are several small things that have been making me smile lately. I thought I'd share them with you.

First off is a cryptic message that appeared on our refrigerator...
I didn't write it. My sister didn't write it. So who did???? WHO did? ;)
(Actually we're fairly certain someone wrote it at my birthday party, but it's a cool mystery nonetheless)

Speaking of birthdays, this little cake box is an adorable present I received this year. I still have to figure out something special to keep in it.

Dice. Dice are addicting. Give a handful of dice to anyone and they cannot stop playing with them. Especially if they are my super awesome red dice (pictured below). Little story behind these. I was at my friends Jason and Alicia's house and Jason has this HUGE bowl of all the dice people have left at his place over the years. I was digging through it and I came across some of these red dice. I fell in love with them at once. I didn't have my own dice yet but I knew if I ever got any, I wanted them to look like these. Well the next time I came over, Jason had gone through all his dice and found the complete set and gave them to me. So now I have my dream dice. :)

Alas, the next picture is blurry... but here is my beloved Wacom Bamboo drawing tablet. This is what I do all of my digital coloring on. I LOVE it. It is my... well not my best technological friend (that's my laptop) but pretty close.

This is a beautiful handmade card my friend JoJo sent me for my birthday. Isn't it gorgeous? I am in awe...

'Hello mates! Here is my latest art acquisition... an artist's mannequin. And before you ask, no I have NOT named it. My sister calls hers "Alfred." I don't know if I want to name mine, because it'll be a stand in for all sorts of people and I'm afraid the drama of sketching... oh, say, Rogue, will be lost if the model is named "George." You know?

Okay, final laugh? Remember how I told you earlier this week that I'd ordered... well a lot of X-Men books from the library? *sigh* Over half of them have now come in. I've returned the ones I've already read, but here is what one corner of my room currently looks like.
(The truth? It makes me very happy.)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Doctor Who Comic Relief Sketch

Have you seen the new Doctor Who Comic Relief sketch they've released to hold us over until Season 6 begins airing on April 23rd?

Like "Time Crash" this two part short takes place entirely in the Tardis. It starts the Doctor, Amy and Rory in a stand alone story that definitely qualifies as "wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey"

Part 1 (Space)

Part 2 (Time)

Who can't wait for Season 6?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Blue Tailcoat - Part 4 (Complete!)

Aren't the sleeves cool? I really love how they turned out!

Putting the collar in... believe it or not, collars have always scared me to death. Turns out they're absurdly simple and nothing to be afraid of.
Almost done...
Marking the buttonholes. Buttonholes are another thing I used to be afraid of. These, however, I did in about 15 minutes. Hurrah for machines with buttonhole functions!
Shipped it off to my client, and he presented me with some pictures of the finished product!

I think it turned out fantastic! It was so fun to work on a project like this and get to do fun little details like the sleeve buttons and the piping.

I also love that it fit perfectly. Patterns can be notorious for not fitting properly, but from the pictures it looks wonderful!
Want to commission your own costume? Simply send me an e-mail at elenatintil [at] gmail[dot] com and describe your vision and I'll give you a price quote on the project.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Scottish encounters and celebrating Irish-ness

Sometimes life is just plain interesting.

For instance, now that we've made the switch from Daylight Savings Time, if I wake up at 8:10 I will be just in time to see the sunrise over the forest outside my bedroom window.

Yesterday I was so inspired, that I actually wrote a bit on my latest book before breakfast. For the record, I never write before breakfast. Well except for maybe a blog post. But never novel writing. Anyhow this book is interesting because I'm writing it in tiny spurts -- never more than a page and a half at a time. Yesterday I hit page 14. So, we'll see where it goes...

Yesterday was also the deadline for the blue tailcoat project. So I spent most of the day frantically sewing, and ended up dragging the project along to a doctor's appointment. That was sort of... interesting. The cool part was that the receptionist saw my project and came over to look at it. Turns out she does costumes for a living history group and gave me the information on it. I looked up the website and nearly freaked out... it's a Scottish living history group.

Of course, I'm also terribly amused that I find out about the Scottish group the day before St. Patrick's day. But there isn't a "Scottish Day" in American tradition, so I guess this was the closest God could get...

And maybe the Scotland fixation explains why I didn't get the date significance when my friend Alicia announced she was working on a drawing of the Irish Mutant, Banshee. I feel very annoyed with myself for missing that one.

Speaking of mutants... I recently decided to do some X-Men research and ordered... um... a lot of comics from the library. By a lot I mean somewhere close to... *whispers* 100. And about a quarter of them came in yesterday. There had only been 14 listen on the website when I had checked before heading in to town, but when I arrived the number had almost doubled. That was slightly embarrassing. But, oh well, I have plenty of reading material now.

I'll conclude this post with an Irish blessing, and now I'm off to find something green to wear...

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Hunger Games

You know, it's funny. I'm both skeptical of popular media, and I also want to check it out to stay afresh of the times. It's an interesting battle.

I had little interest in "The Hunger Games" until a friend of mine declared they were the best books ever and I absolutely had to read them. I've learned to trust recommendations by my friends (mostly because I never stop searching for something new to read) so I immediately placed a hold for them at my library. Of course, I was #300 or something on the reserve list, so I ended up having to wait about three months for the books to come in!

Then, when I finally got them, I spent about three days warily looking at the covers and wondering whether I really wanted to read a story about a dystopian future where people apparently fought to the death for food.

I mean, really?

At last I had absolutely nothing left to read and I was going to end up with overdue fines... so I picked up the first book and started reading.

"The Hunger Games" (and its sequels, "Catching Fire" and "Mockingjay") take place some centuries in the future. America as we know it has fallen, to be replaced by twelve districts. A thirteenth that was obliterated as a warning when it tried to lead a rebellion against the Capitol. As a final safeguard against future rebellion, the Capitol instituted Hunger Games to remind the populace of their absolute control over the districts.

Every year, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 is selected from each of the districts. They are then dropped into a huge arena and forced to battle each other to the death until only one remains.

The worst part? The entire thing is broadcasted on television and the people are forced to watch their children die.

Katniss Everdeen finds herself thrust into the midst of this horror when she steps up to take her sister's place, after the 12-year-old's name was drawn. Katniss is a resident of district twelve, the mining district, and has spent most of her life hunting in the forbidden woods to feed her family. This gives her a bit of an edge, but will it be enough? And what will happen to the other contestant chosen from their district, a boy whom Katniss owes a debt of gratitude to? Will she be forced to kill him? Or will she die first? Is there any way out? Will they be forced to submit to the Capitol forever?

This is not a book for everyone. It is at times hard to read, and can be dark and violent. However it is also a book of hope, of light, and of understanding the human condition and the power of love. It is one of the most brilliant young adult books I've ever read and I strongly recommend it to anyone who feels brave enough to try.

Word of warning. Do NOT begin book 1 without having the next two volumes close at hand. Both of the first two books have cliffhanger endings and you will go absolutely insane if you do not have the next one to start immediately.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Blue Tailcoat - Part 3

Well I meant to get this up yesterday, but between internet issues and general business it didn't happen. So I'm actually further along than the photos show. Oh well!

First off is a look at the lining with the sleeve attached...

Transferring dart marks is always a pain. Since this pattern is made with stiff paper, I cheated and cut out the dart mark so I could use it like a stencil. Still proud of that one...

Here I had to reshape the lapels. The pattern called for the curved shape you see on the right, but my client wanted something straighter and more military, as you see on the left.
Adding the interfacing to the blue wool.

A look at the back.

A closer look at the join between the waist and the tails. These tails were pretty frustrating to put in because the pattern is poorly written at this point. However I was adding a split anyhow (not included in the original pattern) so I finally just scrapped the directions for this part and followed my intuition. I think it turned out pretty nice.

In the next three pictures I've put the body of the assembled wool over the lining. You can get an idea of the shape of the final coat, minus the full sleeves.

(Bear in mind, the dress form is being used as a hanging device only. It's a female dress form, so the actual coat will hang much straighter when worn by its intended user)

Sleeve time! Sleeves are hard to iron properly, so I used a hand towel to construct a poor man's sleeve board. It worked like a charm!

I then assembled the cuffs, including the pipping on the top. Below you can see the sleeve and cuff laid out as they will be in the final garment.

There will also be three buttons across the top of the sleeve... but I haven't gotten them sewn on yet, so look to see the rest of the coolness in post #4, coming later this week!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Laconic update


I am home.

I am also dead tired from an insane day of traveling on Friday.

Plus a light case of the flu.

Hence the lack of posts.

But! I have been creative today and tomorrow you shall see the results. So. Stay tuned...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rings and Engagements and Weddings, OH MY!

Remember how I mentioned earlier this week that my brother's girlfriend was one of our travel party down here on the island? Well my brother took advantage of a beautiful beach sunset on Tuesday to propose to her. And now one of my best friends from high school is going to become my sister sometime next summer.

And we've got a wedding to plan!

We girls hurried over to the library first thing yesterday morning (okay, not first thing and it wasn't morning but you get the idea) and checked out half a dozen books on weddings. Then we spent a couple hours pouring over them and the bride-to-be started a notebook full of thoughts, ideas and reminders.

I love weddings. I'm a die-hard romantic and I've organized some pretty complicated things before. However it wasn't until yesterday that I really understood how many details are involved in wedding planning! It's a big enough task that I'm actually a little bit relieved that I'm not the first bride in my generation (although I'm the oldest) and I'll be able to go through the process as a helper at least once before having to deal with being the centerpiece of the operation.

It's going to be awesome though. And a whole new kind of adventure...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Magneto is in Jane Eyre.

No, it's not a crazy mash-up. It's just that Michael Fassbender who is playing Magneto in X-Men: First Class is also starring as Mr. Rochester in the newest version of Jane Eyre. I just discovered this a few days ago and feel pretty silly for not figuring it all out earlier... I knew there was a reason I liked this guy!

Anyhow, you can read Fassbender's latest interview here, which covers both movies as well as several other interesting projects due to come out soon (including one that co-stars Viggo Mortensen and Kiera Knightley).

What else has he been in? Fans of 300 and Band of Brothers should recognize him as well. In fact, he met his X-Men co-star James McAvoy while filming Band of Brothers!

(Fassbender as Mr. Rochester)

Monday, March 7, 2011

It's the little things that count.

A vacation isn't about big fancy amazing things (that's a 'trip' or 'tour'). A vacation is about relaxing and enjoying the little things that bring joy and wonder into a day.

Last week I was walking along the beach, when suddenly a group of about ten rays came swimming by. They weren't huge -- just about 20 inches in wingspan at the most. I was amazed, as I've never seen them in the wild before. Then, as I kept walking, I realized that they weren't the only group. Hundreds of rays were swimming all along the coastline! It was amazing! When I talked to my grandpa later, he said that in the 30 years he's been coming down here he has never seen anything like this. I thought that was absolutely amazing.

My first week it was just me with my grandparents, but some extended family members had a nearby unit and I was able to spend a lot of time playing with my little cousin. We had a blast building sandcastles, drawing pictures and swimming in the pool. I feel so blessed to have been able to spend so much time with such a creative and sweet little boy!

My family and my brother's girlfriend joined us on Friday which has changed a lot of dynamics. On Saturday night all eight of us sat down to watch "The Swiss Family Robinson." It was one of our favorite live action films growing up, so it was really fun to watch all together. However it was also pretty funny to look at it through adult eyes, and notice some lines we'd never picked up on before! For instance, in the big end fight, little Francis says "Look! It's a man getting squashed!" We howled over that one.

Last year at this time I was attending a little church in the mountains of Virginia. This month I've been able to attend a little church on an island. It's been a really wonderful experience. Last night we had the founder of the International College of Prayer preach and that was fantastic. This week our sermon was on the meaning of faith and it was also very eye-opening.

Another highlight of the service was a baby dedication. Now I've been to a lot of baby dedications... but I've never seen a little guy as happy as this one was! He just wiggled his feet and smiled at the audience... so much laughter!

We also had a singer who was a very old little lady -- probably at least 80. When she came up I did a double take, wondering how she could possibly still have a decent voice at her age. Then she started singing and blew us all away with the power and sweetness of her voice! It's not unlikely that she had some history on stage or in opera, she was that good. And the most amazing thing was that not only did she sing three times for us, but she also sang for the early service as well!

I've been spending time with my sister and my brother's girlfriend, which has been nice. We all are pretty close and excited to hopefully be family some day. And it's nice to have other girls to go tanning with, or go out to breakfast with.

In fact, on Saturday my grandma treated all of us ladies to pedicures! It was my first time with such an experience and it was absolutely delightful! We had really nice beauticians and the ten of us chattered away like a scene from "Steel Magnolias."

I've been reading lot of Orson Scott Card down here. I absolutely love that man's writing. I finally finished all of his 'Ender' and 'Shadow' series and just love them...

I've also started a new writing project. It's been so long since I really crafted a new mythology that I've almost forgotten how much work there is to do! Especially with an ensemble cast when you have to figure out personality and backstories and physical appearance and motivations for all of them...

Do you ever feel that your writing is more about exploring your characters than about creating them? I sometimes feel that these are people that really exist, and I'm just uncovering who they really are.