Picture Kaleidoscope 4/16/14 - Disney Cruise! and more...

Picture Kaleidoscope 4/16/14 - Disney Cruise!

Yep, I was out of town for a short vacation for our second Disney Cruise. We'd been chomping to go ever since we went for our 25th anniversary. 8 years later, we finally made it! Was a ton of fun. :)

I split the pics into 4 albums, so I will put in a few pics and links if you'd like to see more. :) It's kind of funky how the album shows all the pics at once and you can then pic and choose the ones to look at for commentary and more detail. Still, it gives you a quick feel for what's in there.

This voyage we were on the Disney Wonder!

Chip N Dale Dancing and welcoming people once we were all on board.

The first album is pics of the ship and while at Miami and when we left.

Isn't he CUTE?!?!?!  I learned you can rub the baby sea turtles under the neck to calm them down. They were adorable!

The second album is pics we took at the British Island Grand Cayman. You'll even get to see HELL. Heh heh.

Igua! I was surprised at the size of the iguanas at the island of Cozumel, Qunitana Roo, Mexico. 

The third album is pics we took at Cozumel.

And a cruise is not a cruise without awesome food!

The fourth album is full of food and pictures of the different areas of the ship. I didn't go as pic crazy as on our first cruise - I think. Heh heh.

Enjoy~! (We want to go back NOW!)

Mind Sieve 4/14/14

Back from vacation and ready for another as work has been tough! lol.

Fan Fun

How To Train Your Dragon 2 - Trailer 2 - this looks like it will be a lot of fun.

Crazy Time - Simon's Cat - Hah! Captured Chaos Kitten perfectly. Heh heh.

The Angriest Man in Brooklyn Trailer 1 - Robin Williams! And peeps from the Crazy Ones - awesome!

Social Media/Author Platform

Four Ways to Promote Your Book Before Release by Michael R Underwood at the Book Country Blog.

How To Promote Your Content With Social Media by Mike Ball at The Social Media Examiner. Some nice bits of info in here!

Writing Advice

From Jami Gold - Building a Theme Through Character Arcs. Awesome stuff as always!

That's all for today. May I catch up some more this week! Please! lol.

Virtual Tourist - Thief 4/13/14

I'm up way too early today. :P

Thief - Brothel

The ruins now serve a different kind of purpose.

Party town! Has a nice Asian slant. This part of the game went from PG-13 to almost R. So beware. :P

Some gorgeous architecture here and there. See the column in the back?

Cool instrument

The brothel interior

Lovely decor

Collectible hidden in a hidey hole in the attic. Squee!

Some really lovely images

Yes, red in all the decorating. :P

Hidden room/section off the Madam's room. You cannot go back from here, so make sure you are done with the brothel before going here!!!!

This takes a key, which is also a semi puzzle. Opens into a giant area. The peep holes have the hints. This is where the almost R stuff comes in. Also had a programming bug here as one of the peep shows sounds continues to blast at full volume even after you quit watching.

Zone beyond the wall after the key is used.

Coolest flowers ever!

The zone leads to more ruins that lead to an immense library

The stained glass was lovely!

Been missing playing. Need to sneak some time in for it. Everquest Landmark is still on learning curve and mostly building, but I do not have a good grip on it yet or the time to have built anything. Will try to take pics of what the others have been up to.

Movie Review - Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Starring: Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Redford, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Maximiliano Hernández, Emily VanCamp, Hayley Atwell, Toby Jones, Stan Lee and more.

Directed by: Anthony and Joe Russo Screenplay by: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely Concept and Story by: Ed Brubaker Based on the Comics by: Joe Simon and Jack Kirby Cinematography by: Trent Opaloch Music by: Henry Jackman

Premise: Still trying to acclimatize himself to the 21st century, Steve Rogers struggles to find his place and purpose in the world as SHIELD's methods don't quite fit with his own ideals on freedom and how to protect it. But when Director Fury shows up at his home wounded and with killers on his trail, Steve finds out that some things in the modern world aren't all that different from the one during World War II. (Rated PG-13)


1) Acting - Total Thumbs Up: New and familiar faces grace the cast. Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, and Scarlett Johansson reprise their roles as Captain America, Nick Fury, and Black Widow. Some nice dynamics develop between these three characters which made them a lot of fun to watch, especially as these dynamics are sorely tested. Robert Redford was in top form as Alexander Pierce - great to have him back acting in films. Sebastian Stan could not have been more cool.

2)  Special Effects - Total Thumbs Up: Lots of explosions, gadgets, virtual HUDs, and other lovely special effects. Falcon's wings totally rocked. They even got creative with the uses of Cap's shield. The look and feel of the Winter Soldier's metallic arm was excellent.

3) Plot/Story - Total Thumbs Up: I was quite happy when I saw the same script writers for "Captain America: The First Avenger" worked on this film as well. Out of the whole franchise of Marvel heroes, that film is still my overall favorite. But though it may not have topped itself, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is definitely up there on my list.

If you haven't yet watched the "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." episode that aired on 4/8/14 called "Turn, Turn, Turn" - you should wait and not watch it until AFTER you've seen "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." There are spoilers in there which will give the big plot complication away.

Lots of surprises are hidden in the film, and they range from small to world changing. The film is filled with many cute moments as well - Black Widow playing matchmaker, Sam Wilson's and Steve Rogers's literal 'running' joke, and more.

Several themes are explored and from a number of levels - trust, loyalty, family, right and wrong. Paying your dues. What was fun about these was the fact they didn't always have something to do with the good guys.

4) Stunts - Total Thumbs Up: There are stunts, stunts, and more fun stunts in this film. All the combat sequences are excellently executed with and without CGI. The hand-to-hand combat was awesome to behold. Combined with the special effects and explosions, the 'gags' are totally riveting and keep you 'on the edge of your seat'.

5) Locations/Cinematography - Total Thumbs Up: Filming in Washington DC as well as different parts of Cleveland, OH and elsewhere, all the locations added the right look and feel for the film. Then they took these real locations, added some creative CGI backgrounds, buildings, and giant, floating ships, and you're served a sumptuous visual feast.

Conclusion: "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is a lot of fun to watch. Darker than the first film, it is also in its own way a commentary on simpler times that really weren't so simple. Great combat scenes and special effects. Make sure to sit through the credits ALL the way to the end - there are two extra bits tucked in there.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5 (Hubby's Rating: Worth Full Price To See Again.)


Jewel of the Gods - Chapter 3

(Last one!)

Previous Chapters - Chapter 1, Chapter 2

Jewel of the Gods

Chapter 3

Red sat up, a scream scratching at his throat. Cold sweat beaded his brow; his body shaking from the unbelievable nightmare. No more spiced foreign mead for him—never again. It wasn’t worth this.

His gaze focused, and he realized he didn’t know where he was. There was no scent of salt, or the sound of lapping waves against the hull. Instead of a berth and wooden walls, he found himself in a narrow room made of sandstone. Light trickled in through the rough doorway and showed him he was sitting on a woven mat covered by a thin blanket.

He gasped as the realization the nightmare might be real splashed over him. Not wanting to, yet finding he possessed no other choice, Red looked down at himself. The body he saw was not his own.

Everything was smaller, more delicate. He wasn’t even a man anymore—a quick, awkward check of his attributes brought home that fact like an anchor dropping at port. The only thing that felt normal was his hair, which was still as red and thick as ever. He also still had his hard-earned tan, the pale skin he’d been born with tending to burn and its current state a work of long years. His arms and legs were well defined from doing heavy work but still seemed different because of the packaging.

It was as if his mother had given birth to a girl instead of a boy.

The woman Ylis’s final words echoed once more in his head—You are what you could have been had your fate been different.

His mind revolted against such a thing being possible. Panic gathered at the corners of his soul. His breathing grew labored, and the room started to spin.

“No!” Red smashed his small fist against his thigh. He focused on the pain, glad he could feel it, knowing fainting would gain him nothing. But what was he going to do about this madness?

A shadow filled the doorway.

“Ah, I see you’re awake.”

Red shot to his feet, recognizing the figure only too well—it was Ylis. The thin blanket covering him fell forgotten to the floor.

“You witch! Why have you done this to me? Change me back right now!”

Totally ignoring his outburst, she inspected his naked form from top to toe.

“The transformation was a total success. You feel healthy, yes? Nothing hurts?”

Red took a step toward her, his bare feet slapping against the cool stone floor.

“None of that matters. Change me back this instant!”

Ylis stared him dead in the face, her expression calm. “I will not.”

Heat flushed through Red as his anger flamed to rage.

“You will!” Despite his nakedness and the fact he had no weapon, he threw himself at her. His center of gravity wasn’t quite right, but this was only a fleeting thought in the far reaches of his mind. He wanted his life back, his body back, and this woman was denying it to him.

Ylis flowed forward, her sleeves flaring as she expertly intercepted him in mid-leap, flipped him, and thumped him down hard, one hand behind his head to keep it from hitting the floor.

Although his back and buttocks stung from smacking the stone, Red heaved with all his might to get back up. Ylis’s open palm smashed into his midriff, driving out all of his air.

“Calm yourself. Violence will gain you nothing.”

Red was in no shape to comment. He struggled to regain his breath, glaring his displeasure at her, since he could do little else.

“Your new condition will not be permanent.” She stared at him, concern clearly showing on her face. “Please listen to what I have to say. You’ll then understand why things have come to be as they are.”

She let him go and backed away then sat down cross-legged at the doorway. Still wheezing, Red turned on his side and slowly sat up. His new body was weak. He wasn’t sure just exactly what kind of fighting style the woman had used on him, but it shouldn’t have been this easy for him to be overpowered. If he’d had his real body, it wouldn’t have been. Or so he kept telling himself.

The situation only got worse by the moment.

“Say whatever it is you have to say, witch. But it’ll change nothing.”

“Thank you.” Ylis nodded in his direction and tucked her hands into her sleeves, as if trying to reassure him.
Red reached over for the discarded blanket and wrapped it about his lower half to keep his skin from the chilly floor.

“Just get on with it.”

If she got distracted enough with her tale, perhaps he’d get a chance to have at her again. His shape might be different, but he still knew how to hurt people. She’d caught him by surprise before.

Ylis nodded again then seemed to take a moment to gather her thoughts before beginning.

“A very delicate situation has arisen in Syrras recently. A tragedy has occurred, one which should never have happened. Which I should not have allowed to happen.” She paused for a moment, a fleeting look of pain crossing her face. “I am Grand Magister Ylis. I serve He Who is Most Honored by the Gods, Orthos Cloaustrain Lorraxia Tumil.”

The string of names meant absolutely nothing to him. “Who?”

The magister’s brows gathered for a moment.

“I believe his position would be equivalent to your term of king.”

Red barked a laugh, surprised by the answer.

“And servants of the king just go around kidnapping foreign sailors and turning them into girls? For what? His Royal Pleasure?”

Ylis’s face lost all expression.  Her voice turned cold.

“His Magnificence is dead. Including you, there are only four people in this world who are aware of that grievous fact.”

This brought Red up short, all thoughts of violence momentarily forgotten.

“You’re not making any sense. What does that have to do with me? And with this?” He pointed at his changed body, shrugging off a shudder as he was forced to acknowledge the changes yet again.

Ylis raised a hand to forestall any further questions. Red was glad to note there were no drawings on her palm, especially of creepy blinking eyes.

“The Highest of the High died in his sleep less than one of your weeks ago. She Who Sits on the Most Honored’s Right, Lyara Orthos Tumil, discovered him thus before the servants arrived to awaken him. She contacted me immediately, and I was able to ascertain the Most High didn’t die of natural causes, though it very much appeared so. I am still working to identify the exact poison used to arrange his demise.”

Red shook his head, his face twisting with distaste. Poison was a coward’s weapon. He’d once seen the effects of Bane’s Blood on a fellow sailor who’d boasted a little too much about his conquests to the wrong ears. White foam had filled his mouth and fallen from his lips as blood blossoms formed all over his face and arms. He’d fallen twitching to the floor and within minutes breathed no more. It was a ghastly way to go.

“If it left no external trace on the body, how do you know it was poison?”

Ylis’s brow rose.

“I am a magister,” she said, as if this were the only explanation needed.

“I see…” He changed positions, finding the hard stone quite uncomfortable. Ylis never moved, appearing to be able to maintain the same pose till the end of time. It annoyed him. “I still don’t see how this has anything to do with me.”

“The death of His Magnificence must be kept secret for the time being. However, those involved in the original poisoning will realize something hasn’t gone as planned as all they continue to hear is that the Most High has taken ill. They will surely attempt something else, so there is very little time to find the truth.

“At the moment, the Most Blessed is doing her utmost to keep things balanced and the Most High’s true condition secret. Yet the Most Blessed needs to be kept safe, and the culprits need to be found. The majority of my energies, however, are diverted elsewhere, so alternate means to do this had to be found. This is why you’re involved.”

Red could say nothing for several seconds, totally stunned.

“What? Are you saying you did this to me because you need a lousy watchdog to sniff out the killer and protect the queen? What about the royal guards? You must have plenty of people who work for you that are more than capable of solving the crime!”

Ylis shook her head. “It is not as simple as that. Please understand, we have no idea how the Highest was poisoned. He was surrounded by his most trusted people at all times, yet it was done. It was even likely committed by one of them.” Her gaze locked with his. “Too much is at stake due to matters I don’t have time to speak of now. As things stand, we can afford to trust no one. Only to a person such as yourself, who has never been here, who has little to no knowledge of our people or our city, someone who is not involved, dare we risk giving our confidence.”

“If a stranger is all you needed, then why all this? Why change me?”

The left corner of Ylis’s lips curved up.

“This has not been left to mere chance. Through meditation and spells, the All guided me to you. And who would believe someone who looks like you do now capable of much of anything? It is to our advantage.”
Red stood up, holding his blanket tighter about him, humiliated by her words despite the fact this new body wasn’t his.

“You’re insane.”

She nodded, conceding the fact.

“The change is also something that can be held over you, to force you to cooperate. Trust can always be bought away, but not if there is something the person needs, something the other side cannot possibly provide.” She stared at him intently, obviously interested in how he would react to this.

Red felt his anger returning.

“Kidnapping, extortion—you think these tactics are going to make me want to help you?”

She shocked him by bowing to the floor.

“I endanger everything by telling you what I have, for though it may seem as if I have the upper hand, the wrongs I’ve done you will only restrain you so far. Once we leave here, it would be nothing for you to spill our secret and bring us all to ruin before I could stop you.”

He stared at her bowed head in surprise, already having decided he would do whatever he could to get away from her. Screaming what she’d told him out at the top of his lungs had definitely been an option. Someone out there would understand him. And she was aware of it, yet had taken the risk anyway. It only served to make all this even more confusing.

“We are desperate, or we wouldn’t be doing as we are. There is much you do not know or understand, and as I've said, I have no time to explain. The longer we remain here, the longer she is alone and the greater chance there is our charade will be discovered.”

“Change me back and I might consider helping you. I might even keep silent about the things you’ve told me.” He knew he had no real leverage to make her do anything, but he hated having his hands tied. This whole thing was ludicrous. It made no sense they had to go to extremes like this.

Ylis straightened back up and slowly shook her head.

“I cannot. The energy and preparation for what was done to you took days to put together. The divinations to uselessly try to determine who did the deed and then to find you have drained me even more. I am at my limit.”

She stood up. For the first time, Red noticed the faint dark circles under her eyes, the lines of strain on her face.

“All I can give is being diverted elsewhere.” She lifted her robe off her right leg, where an incredibly complex set of drawings wound up her flesh, continuing past the raised hem. What that spell was for, he had no idea.

“Only once the current trouble has been averted will I be able to change you back.”

Red frowned, not sure if he should believe her. Aside from being vague, her explanations sounded contrived and convenient.

“I swear by the One Spirit and the All you shall be as you were once the threat is past.” Her gaze locked with his again. “But that will only happen if you help us.”

None of it made sense. Even as she denied him, she begged for his trust and aid. Was the situation worse than she'd said so they couldn't risk trusting anyone without strings? He'd seen enough backstabbing in the merchant business to know words only bound most men as long as it was convenient.

His mouth turned further down. He liked this less and less.

“Your gods mean nothing to me, but hear me and hear me well. I will help you, and if, by the heavens and earth and all the gods and people in between, you don’t come through on your word, there is no place in this world or the next where you will be safe from me.”

And if, in the meantime, he found a way to get out of this without having to wait for her, so much the better.

Fantasy Novel coming late 2014 or early 2015 from Zumaya Publications.

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