11 April, 2015

J is for Jamberry [A to Z Challenge 2015]

Today, I am talking nails. Namely, manicures and pretty things for nails. (This is one of those posts that doesn't fall into fantasy and science fiction so much as the "I like this so I'm going to write about it").

Don't flee! Hang with me for just a few minutes. I promise I'll be quick and there will even be Doctor Who at the end. I swear.

Have you ever heard of Jamberry Nails? I hadn't, either, until a friend posted pictures of a fabulous Jamberry manicure. Now, I love a good manicure. But I cannot describe how much I hate doing it myself. Seriously, brushing paint on my nails is like a two-year-old with a marker. Nothing good can come of it. And I really don't enjoy professional manicures. They hurt my nails and are expensive and take too long. So, when my friend told me that her Jamberry nail wraps take about twenty minutes to put on and last for two weeks, I was intrigued. Two samples later, I was hooked enough to become a Jamberry consultant myself.

This move gave me the fabulous exhibits A - C below:

That was all me, ladies and gentlemen. Seriously. The wraps bond to my nails, so I can do dishes, bury my hands in garden dirt, and bang them around in my generally ungraceful state and they stay on. Nail polish cracks on me after the first day. The bonding apparently keeps my normally fragile nails intact so I can grow longer and stronger nails now, to boot.

It is so worth the money: $15 for one sheet (3-4 manicures). Best of all, they're non-toxic and gluten-free.

Jamberry also has a make-your-own-design feature that produces the promised following Doctor Who fabulosity made by my consultant team's lead manager:

See? What self-respecting geek wouldn't want that on her nails?

For continuing adventures in Jamberry nails, feel free to follow my Instagram feed. You can also check out the pretties yourself at my consultant website. And, if you find yourself drawn in, don't lurk at the edges like I did - ask me your questions! Party hostesses can earn free nail pretties and online Facebook parties are the easiest way to get them. (Plus, then I get more pretties and we can compare our pretties and then it's all over.)

I have no idea what's in store for Monday's 'K' but come back then and we'll figure it out together!

10 April, 2015

I is for Icarus [A to Z Challenge 2015]

Another Friday means another flash fiction piece for Flash! Friday. I'm tired and out of sorts today but I just couldn't leave it alone after coming so close last week. It's a like a drug, I tell you. You can  read the actual entry here.

Enjoy and come back tomorrow for the letter 'J' and all the pretties that I am pairing with it....


by Jessica Marcarelli

I kneel in the slime left by a thousand rain cycles and hold out my cup. Acid from the atmospheric vents overhead drips over the porcelain rim.

A man stumbles by, his skin blistered like all the other sufferers here. Rumor has it the disease rose from terraforming imbalances as the first miners arrived.

It’s called the Icarus Syndrome, taken from some Lost Earth myth. Named for the hubris of those who can’t leave well enough alone. They sent me. Government officials who can’t let go of a trillion pounds of whatever passes for coin these days out in the ‘verse. I was sent to spy out the ore that will power a thousand worldships.

Except the miners never found it.

And I’m not interested. My hope is in the ship legend told me was buried here. Solar wings on a battered hull. An engine fueled by the same acid falling into my cup. Soon, I’ll sail close enough to the bloated monstrosity of a star this system calls a sun to collect the energy the ship needs to make that one jump all the way back to the ancient world where humanity took its first wide-eyed steps into the void.

This vessel is my ticket home.

09 April, 2015

H is for HEMA [A to Z Challenge 2015]

HEMA stands for Historical European Martial Arts.

Before we go any further, I'll answer the first question I am always asked: no, it is not that thing at renaissance fairs where people dress up in costumes, hold royal courts, and often beat one another up with foam tubing. That is most likely the Society for Creative Anachronism or some other role playing, primarily creative, affiliation. It is also not theatrical fighting or a fencing sport. All three of these may or may not draw from historical materials or origins but do not observe the actual method of practical survival with historical weapons.

HEMA is exactly that. The term refers to the documented methods of historical European combat. It is used as a system for reconstructing medieval combat according to its original function through study and practice. You can read more about it here at the HEMA website.

I found out about both the organization and the concept of historical European martial arts through my husband. We're both history geeks and he loves studying historical combat and warfare. It started slowly, with the purchase of historically accurate swords, and has culminated in participation in a local HEMA chapter - the Phoenix Society of Historical Swordsmanship - for both of us. While my work schedule has forced me to stick to home practice and being the unofficial, sometimes-photographer of the group, hubby has advanced in skill and knowledge to the point that he teaches others. We have scores of books on the subject, various DVDs, and an entire closet full of gear and weaponry that we regularly use to beat one another over the head (a joke! Though it is very easy to injure the other person if you're too forceful).

My interest in HEMA began as an education for my fantasy writing. Neither my husband or I appreciate the creative liberties that Hollywood - and modern society - has long taken that make swordsmanship look ridiculously hard. (For example, most single-handed European swords are not heavy, weighing in at about 2-4 pounds. I am not muscular by any means and I can easily hold one up for several minutes. Also, a twenty-minute fight is simply not accurate. Most one-on-one combat I've seen is over in seconds. ) I was determined to make my fighting scenes realistic.

Not only has it made my writing stronger and more accurate, it's just fun. I mean, where else can I whack someone with a sword or wrestle him to the ground with a dagger?

08 April, 2015

G is for Games [A to Z Challenge 2015]

I love a good game: board games, card games, video games, role playing tabletop games...you name it. Video games, especially, are high on my interest list. I have over a hundred games in Steam and am constantly intrigued by new titles that my husband or friends find. I love the story lines and worlds. Fantasy and science fiction come alive in the most remarkable ways onscreen. In fact, we could be here all day as I tell you about all my adventures in the various games I own.

But that's not the point of this post. Recently, I have found new entertainment in card games. Two, in particular, have taken up the last few weekends: Star Wars the Card Game and Lord of the Rings the Card Game.

I love a good card game and have owned several in the past, namely trading card varieties, but all have fallen short of what I really would like them to be. Most are too complicated or not involved enough to be worth repeating. These two games are nothing like those. Both core sets furnish two players with all they need to do battle.

Star Wars the Card Game is head to head combat of good versus evil between the two players. Light versus dark, Jedi against Sith, Empire against Rebellion, smugglers against scum: who will win? A clever countdown timer forces the light side player to hurry through the deck and take risky gambles while the dark side must protect its territories at all costs or risk losing everything.

Lord of the Rings the Card Game allows two players to join together as their own little fellowship against the game itself. It seemed an almost too-easy concept at first but it is really quite challenging. Themed player decks allow you to choose between healing, fighting, movement abilities, and strategy to try and win. Some decks work well together better than others, so it's wise to consider your teammate's choices when making your own. Once again, a timer counts down against the players with every turn, forcing you to make quick decisions to stay ahead of the doom of Middle-earth.

Both games are more adult in nature and require a fair amount of brain power but are easy to learn once you get into the swing of things. Plus, as a writer, I found myself making up stories as to why certain things were happening as I played, which made for an entirely new level of enjoyment.

If you're any sort of tabletop game player (or even just a fan or one or both universes), I highly recommend both. What do you think? Any particular games you all enjoy?
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