Thursday, November 29, 2007

London 3

A few more pix until the final London blog this weekend....

Most days on my research trip, I took two London Walks, and I'd go back to my hotel room to crash because it was a lot of physical activity as well as a lot of info being crammed into my cabesa. Sunday, I chose the Historic London Square Mile (basically what's known as "The City" or the Financial District) and Highgate.

The Square Mile is pretty deserted during off-work hours, so there was a slightly removed pall to The City. However, it was Rememberance Day, which is basically equivalent to Memorial Day in the U.S., and everyone was wearing paper poppies on their lapels and visiting the Westminster area to pay their respects to the tiny crosses planted in the cathedral yard to commemorate fallen soldiers.

During the tour, we traversed little out-of-the-way alleys and paid attention to many a detail I might've missed on my own. For instance, there was this:

Our guide told us that this is the type of symbol that would've served as a warning of the plague lingering behind a doorway. This particular emblem was over the gate of a churchyard entrance, so seeing something so omimous this close to a place of worship was rather eerie. (BTW, I love the spikes on the fence; I found those at Highgate Cemetery, too, but I'll get to that adventure in a bit.)

This second picture features a few odd bits, mainly the 1) "inside out" building on the left (which is just a business building) and 2) The "Gherkin" building in the middle. Surely you've seen this second structure in movies like BASIC INSTINCT 2. (Yes, I watched it! And I didn't think it was as bad as everyone makes it out to be.) It looks like the kind of Easter egg a Goth child would decorate. People around London also call the building "the Crystal Phallus" and that's a pretty great description right there. As far as my research goes, I was able to block a chase scene by poking along these streets.

Finally, here's a snap of my second tour: Highgate. This was a village just north of Central London, and folks used to come up here for the clear air and "healing" water. More recently, Sting and Annie Lennox lived here, and I caught a peek of their former residences. Though they didn't look all that stunning from the outside--just serene and stately, really--Sting sold his place for about 6 million pounds, which equals more than 12 million dollars. Gah!

The reason I took a pic of this haunted pub was that it's going to serve a vampire underground purpose. See, Highgate featured a heavily traveled road and, accordingly, highwaymen lurked its corridors. Not too long ago, tunnels were found beneath the pub, and they believe the highwaymen dug them in order to aid with smuggling their goods. (Thank you, oh, god of fiction!)

A couple days later I decided not to take a tour--to instead return to Highgate on my own and inspect the cemetery. (No pictures though--we were asked not to take any.) Naturally, that was the one day it rained, but I won't complain because, first, that was the only bad-weather day of my trip and 2) rain definitely lends itself to a stroll in a graveyard. And let me tell you, it was such a wonderful experience to wander around quietly, with only the tap of the rain on my umbrella as I read the markers. I even blocked out another scene here, and it turned out to be pretty pivotal in the development of book 4's mystery. Yay, graveyards!

Stay tuned for the last London blog, which is going to cover the "Darkest Victorian London," Clerkenwell, and Hampstead tours....

Monday, November 26, 2007

HEROES, 11/26

It’s been a long day, and maybe that made me closed-minded and cranky, but there were quite a few things that frustrated me about HEROES tonight….

Moment by moment:

* I do love me some Anders evil. IMHO, Sark was always at his best when he was straightforward baaaaaaad, and I’m quite enjoying Adam. (And this might be the only glowing thing I have to say about tonight. Bummer.)

* So it’s HRG’s paranoia versus Mohinder’s black/white belief system, huh? Which side are you on? I, myself, lay all my chips on HRG, mainly due to the fact that I just like him better.

* OK, total geek observation here, but Micah is carrying around a $600 comic book without a plastic cover and cardboard backing (or even a hard casing for an item of that value? Maybe they were talking about a different comic and not the one they were carrying around???)? Heck, I have books that are worth, like, 2 cents but they’re protected, just because it seems so very wrong to leave the wonderful pages to rot. Then Monica hits Micah with the comic. I know Micah said that he just likes to read the stories, but the geek within me shudders.

* Gross—Sylar and Maya on an idyllic picnic. Pardon me while I hork up dinner.

* Maya is definitely the new Mohinder. Seriously—did she not believe her own brother about Sylar’s murder record? Yeah, right, Wonderlich, your bro went through all the trouble of creating a mock newspaper with a headline specifically designed to falsely warn you away from Sylar. (I know she vacillates in the next instant, but, dang, that one moment really chapped my hide.)

* And, hate to say it, but Peter might be suffering from Mohinderitis, too. Why didn’t Peter go into Victoria Pratt’s mind to see if she was telling the truth about Adam? Wasn’t that slightly important?

* What the hell kind of alien hair experiment was hatched on Sylar’s chest?

* Ngggggg… Sylar just murdered poor Alejandro and now Maya is kissing all over the scum. Loathing Maya. Loooooaaaaathing. She betrayed her loyal brother, and that’s all I can compute right now. Do you think they’re setting her up as a true villain instead of a Hero who’ll eventually come to her senses? Because I cannot imagine rooting for this character in the future.

* Yay, Monica! She’s actually the only new character who’s working for me. I love her enthusiasm and true heart, but I just hope she’s smart about executing this right-the-wrongs plan of hers.

* And...maybe not so smart. Question: didn’t she previously watch martial arts videos? (Isn’t that how she kicked the butt of that first criminal?) Or is her see-it-do-it power only short term?

* Now I’m losing it: Peter is defending Adam against Hiro, who previously proved to be an ally??? Why wouldn’t he believe Hiro, especially on the tail of Victoria Pratt’s accusations?

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

On a positive note, CHUCK is still awesome, and Bryce is such a babe that it disturbs me to epic proportions. Love.

Until the next London report, see y’all!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

London 2

To continue with what I saw on my London trip, I'll show you a few more pix that I took during walking tours....

The day after I enjoyed my private Public School Tour in Bath, I started hitting the walking circuit pretty hard. See, the tours available from Original London Walks show you a lot of things you'd miss on your own--for instance, you might discover a tiny etching on a building or a the significance of a plaque above a doorway. Each little detail contains great stories, too, and you know how that works on a writer's mind. Also, the tours are pretty good exercise, as you generally cover some decent ground. (The second tour I'll be sharing--St. Albans--was a total walk-a-thon. Loved it.) Really, if you guys ever make it to London, I highly suggest this company. They even have night tours that cover everything from pub walks to haunted city strolls to Jack the Ripper jaunts.

Anyway, first thing, I had to track down a computer for a quick Internet check. You all, I didn't even know it would be so tough to find a darn computer for rent in this city. Yeesh. But if you need one, Leicester Square has these little places tucked away. The one I went to was on the third floor of the Trocedero, a shopping complex off the Square. Heck, McDonald's even has computers for rent, but the keyboards offer all the grace of using a public phone keypad that sticks, so I don't suggest that.

Back to the subject, the first tour I went on concerned the DA VINCI CODE. I didn't take it because I was that interested in the story-related details, but because the walk would show me stuff about the occult and the Knights Templar, and I absolutely could not resist the lure. Here's the best place I found on the tour, and I actually kind of fell in love with it:
The Temple Church is a gem of a peaceful spot right smack dab in the hustle and bustle of barrister (lawyer) hell. While the DA VINCI movie did film a scene in here, I was busier imagining setting my own scene within the church, and I've already even blocked it out. One down! Twenty four to go!
See these creepy faces embedded in the walls? (Look hard.) Tell me I can't use that.
I know--the lighting is terrible, but you can kind of see these knight effigies. Are you getting chills, too?

And here are some pix from an all-day tour I took the next day. St. Albans is just north of London, and I'm going to put a very important vampire location on its outskirts. Interestingly enough, much of the land around this little city is owned by Charles Spencer, Diana's brother, so I hope he doesn't mind me borrowing a bit of it for fictional purposes.
Just under an old inn, The Christopher, in St. Albans, we find this little miss. She's a succubus, and this might have been placed here to warn monks that there might be some evil afoot in this place. Avoid, avoid! St. Albans is named after a matyr, and pilgrims always came through on their way to pay respects to him. When I asked our tour guide if the city might be too holy for vampires to tread over (due to its sainted history), she assured me that it wouldn't be and then gave me a very curious look.
This house makes me salivate as a writer. Sure, it now houses a Laura Ashley shoppe, but it's haunted, baby. Word has it that, sometimes, you can see a woman in one of those two top windows, and several employees have quit this business because of freaky events. Gold!

After I do my HEROES blog on Monday night, I'll be returning with a little more London, including highwaymen, cemeteries, and the stomping grounds of poets....

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

London: A Few Mysterious Pix

I thought I would just share a few snaps of what I was looking at in London. The trick is for me to show you what I experienced without giving away too much about what I was researching. After all, two books still have to come out in the first Vampire Babylon trilogy, which takes place in Hollywood. Then the action is going to shift overseas for the next trilogy, which is going to feature its own story arc (almost like each trilogy is its own TV season).

Now, just a note about pictures in general when it comes to me: I *hate* having my image captured by film. Looking at snapshots with me in them is just...wrong. It's not that I think they steal my soul or anything, it's just...yikes. Bleh. Get that thing out of here. You know what I mean?

Anyway, here we go!

I used what was left of my first day to travel to Jurys Inn just outside of Central London and wander the streets of Croydon. Even though it seems I wasn't in the thick of things in this "commuter area," I was across the street from a huge mall which contained a Marks and Spencer. I adore M&S, mostly because they have a food hall that's ideal for stocking a picnic. So I snatched up some apples and "flapjacks" (treat bars that are basically held together by oats, sugar, and lots of butter), toodled around High Street with its shops and pubs, then crashed in bed. Sleeping on the airplane is always a bitch, and I'm no match for the demanding god of slumber.

Jet lag allowed me to arise at 4:15 am, which was perfect, seeing as I had to start the day out early. I was scheduled to meet Claire from London Walks because I had arranged a private tour that would focus on some significant research for Vampire Babylon. So, in the dark, I strolled to the train station--which was only five minutes away from Jurys Inn--then caught a ride to Victoria Station in Central London. (As I noted in a previous entry, staying outside the deep city is really cost-effective. You get so much more room and comfort for the money, IMHO, and it's very easy to travel where you need to go.)

Claire--a classy woman who educated me about some fun Brit sayings that I'm totally using in the upcoming books--drove me to Bath, where I had two appointments with "public schools" which I won't name. What's confusing is that in England, a "public" school is what we think of as "private" here in the States. A "state" school is their "public" school, so I had to get used to the terminology right quick.

Bath in itself is beautiful--I'd been there before--but I won't be using it for a setting. I needed a spot closer to London itself, but as you'll see in an upcoming post, that's taken care of. However, I'll be using a lot about these schools I visited. Here are some pix:


Note the gargoyle detailing. How's that for atmosphere?












The dining hall--dim, ominous. Nice.





Suitably cloudy and gloomy--and check out this architecture. Also, this particular school has quite a history. An eccentric millionaire who gained his fortune "on the back of slaves," donated his land for this school. You don't think I'll be using a riff on that for this location's background?





I'll be back in a couple of days with more photos. In the meantime, have a Happy Thanksgiving to all those who are celebrating it!

Monday, November 19, 2007

HEROES, 11/19

I have to note this first—whoo for the return of epic cliffhangers!!!

But before I start with the watch-by-the-minute comments, I have to say something about the program that comes on just before HEROES. Are you all watching CHUCK, for heaven’s sake? Dude, has this program hit some kind of stride or what? I loved the show when it first started, but now I LOVE it. LOOOOOOOOOOVE. See, for those who don’t know, CHUCK’s probably got the sweetest, most heart-wrenching love-square going on TV. And now…Bryce? Holy schmoly. If you’re not watching, please start.

On to HEROES, which got a whole lot better starting tonight….

- I didn’t get to comment on last week’s episode, but I have to say that I began to really dislike Elle at that point. Don’t get me wrong—I loved Kristen Bell in VERONICA MARS, but I’m really, really trying to warm up to her character here. In the previous eppie, I found her to be utterly irritating and needy. And the fact that she seems so darned pleased with herself just grates.

- Guys, was there ever an explanation as to the reason no one ever sees West flying to school in daylight, etc? I’m being picky, but it’s bugging.

- Claire’s “sorry” was pretty cute…but I feel like she needs to spell the same sign out to her dad. (note from the Chris/Crystal who has traveled back in time to comment on this early observation: Ay, me, the foreshadowing. How it resonates at the end….)

- Cool shot with HRG’s glasses reflecting the computer image! There’s the way to get the old HEROES back to form—now just give me those cliffhangers again. (Another note: Wish fulfilled.)

- Blah. Can Elle keep her hands off any person who sports testosterone?

- Ooooo—HRG! I think he’s one of my faves because he’s predictable in his unpredictability. I actually thought he might shoot Mohinder. I think Mohinder thought so, too, since he most likely pee-peed in his britches right there.

- How many of you were thinking of the Emperor’s death in RETURN OF THE JEDI when skank was getting her own shock treatment? Wouldn’t it be evilly delicious if she turned all nasty-skinned and cackly afterward? The Palpatine makeover would be poetic justice for this sadistic little chit.

- Even though the reveal of Kaito’s killer wasn’t shocking, it was cool with all that freeze-motion. BTW, Sulu rocked that last scene.

- Power up there, Parkman! I can see how he might go to the dark side in the future. This ability to make Gramama Petrelli tremble in fright does wonders for his appeal. And, on that note, I am officially a weirdo for kinda digging him now.

- And now we get to THE PART. Imagine me sitting there with my mouth open as HRG gets plugged in the eye by freakin’ Mohinder of all people. As expected, I immediately curse Suresh’s weenie to rot off and I fervently hope for ten demented little monks to pop into the scene to pluck the hairs out from around his nipples while giggling madly. Then I go into denial. Surely this is a Mohinder/HRG set-up of some sort. Or surely someone will get a hold of Adam’s blood and bring HRG back to life because THIS CANNOT JUST HAVE HAPPENED.

Then…

YEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!! The man lives! And the cliffhangers that distinguished HEROES last year are resurrected, right along with HRG.

So, of course, just as it’s getting good, we’re in danger of running out of episodes this year. Figures. But at least we have a few more, and I’m actually excited now to see who’s behind this gross bullet-eyed HRG plan….

Friday, November 16, 2007

Return of the Wanderer

Hi, all!

As you know, I've been away from the computer for a while, checking in here and there. First, thank you for your patience in waiting for me to come back--I was in a position where I had a very hard time finding a computer and then staying on it for an extended amount of time. Second, a HUGE thanks to Celise and Karm and Nicole and everyone who took on HEROES duty. I loved reading what you all had to say!

Now, what you've all been waiting for with bated breath. Where in tarnation was I?

Um...London.

Hee.

I didn't tell you guys because I don't love to advertise when I'm away from home, know what I mean? But I crossed the ocean in order to do research for my next Vampire Babylon trilogy, and no, this does not mean I'm going to reveal any plot developments and how they pertain to Britain. : ) However, in future posts, I'll share a few pictures and hint about what's coming up for Limpet and Associates. And I will be back on HEROES patrol come Monday, even if the writers' strike is going to shorten the season for the time being. (Let's just all cross our fingers that the suits give those writers that 2/3 of a freakin' penny the scribes are asking for, among other very reasonable things. [Biased? Who me?])

Anyway, as for those upcoming London blogs, I'll be telling you how I spent my days. I wasn't there to party--it really was all work. Mostly. Except for a few pints of cider and some high tea. It'll be so much fun to play "seasoned traveller" and act like I know what I'm talking about as I offer my experiences. (For instance: did you know that staying just outside of central London can save you oodles of pounds and that the rooms are much roomier and comfortable? All the fun stuff is only a short train ride to Victoria Station away. Sure, my business hotel didn't have a computer in its business centre--go figure--but it had an actual hairdryer and several BBC channels. Awesome, and I'm not kidding around.) I can't wait to tell you all about one of my favorite activities, too: The Original London Walks, which you can preview here.

So until next time, I'm going to indulge this bothersome jet lag and then check in with you soon....

Monday, November 05, 2007

MIDNIGHT REIGN Book Teaser!

Some of you already got your newsletters, but if you don't subscribe, here's the blog premiere of the book teaser for MIDNIGHT REIGN, book two in the Vampire Babylon series!!!

http://www.DigitalrealmProductions.com/Client1/Midnight_Reign.mov

So we've got murder, mayhem, hot lovin' and, of course, vampires. Three months away, you all. I can't believe it.

Now, something really cool and good is going on my life right now--and it has to do with this series--but it's going to limit my computer time in the next week and a half. I'll be telling you what's going on after this cool/good thing ends, and believe me, I'm sure I'll have a lot to say about it.

In the meantime, though, it's going to keep me from posting about HEROES tonight and next week. BUMMER--because isn't next week "Four Months Earlier"? Gah. But what I'm about to experience is totally worth watching HEROES later with my lovely DVR. If anyone wants to comment on tonight's episode, please feel free! I might be able to check in tomorrow and make my own little comments.....

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Bookshelf: UNMASQUED


Maybe you guys have heard about this book, because it's certainly caused some online waves.

First off, UNMASQUED is a retelling of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, which is, in itself, a grandly risky endeavor, seeing as the musical has produced a number of diehards who like the story the way it is--darkly romantic with a lot semi-chaste yearning woven through the action. (I'm not talking about the original book though; even the musical took its liberties with that.)

Oh, and did I mention that this is an erotic retelling of the tale?

Feathers were bound to be ruffled with this fictional effort. And I do mean bound in its sauciest way.

Penned by Colette Gale, the pen name for a well-known historical author (and I'm pretty sure I know who it is, but I'm not positive, so I shouldn't say), the book uses the most of the basic story structure and adds lots of spice. LOTS. I'm talking about Anne Rice (A.N. Rolquelaure) SLEEPING BEAUTY lots. There's so much sex between so many people that, after a while, it doesn't even seem like sex any more. Scenes become exercises in how many funky toys can be utilized in how many orifices. Still, I kept reading. And reading. And reading.

As you would expect, the action follows ingenue Christine Daae, the rising star of the opera, and at least early on, the book recalls the musical in many instances. But then we meet Erik, who's more of a brooding, misunderstood hero than the sociopathic menance we are used to (even though musical kept the Phantom's violent, vengeful edge, and I suppose that's why Christine didn't end up with him). It's a smart change in order to make this more of a romance, although he really isn't the same character.

And the sex? Hot, manic, and very dirty. Sooooooo dirty, you all. This is definitely one to hide from the kids--and that's kind of a good thing.

So overall it was an interesting read, and I'll be picking up the author's next work, which will be an erotic retelling of THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO....