My Weekend in Vegas

Last weekend I had the absolute pleasure to go on a weekend excursion to Las Vegas, NV. I was there for a conference with my firm, so I couldn’t spend the whole weekend going crazy, but I did have an amazing time!

The Hotel: The Cosmopolitan

The hotel that was hosting the event was the Cosmopolitan Hotel Las Vegas. I was completely blown away from the moment my taxi rolled onto the property. The level of glitz and glam is on par for what one would expect for Las Vegas high rollers.

LAS VEGAS

LAS VEGAS

LAS VEGAS

LAS VEGAS

LAS VEGAS

My boss paid for a fancy dinner for all of us on the first night, which was really delicious and awesome. Sorry my dinner photos aren’t great but whatever!

LAS VEGAS

LAS VEGAS

We walked down the strip (drunkenly) to an after-party and I snapped a few night time shots. I kind of prefer the strip at night all lit up!

LAS VEGAS

LAS VEGAS

LAS VEGAS

The Conference: T4AC

The conference was hosted in the Cosmopolitan hotel, so we didn’t have to crawl too far out of bed the next morning to get to registration. But my question is… why do they schedule these things to start so early in Las Vegas? Especially since the conference organizers also organized the cocktail parties… they know full well what we were doing the night before. Why do we have to get up so early the next day? I fully intend to leave feedback recommending a 10am-6pm conference with 9am breakfast and registration instead of 8am. I mean, come on!! This is a vacation, people!

The conference itself was pretty cool. There were some famous traders attending that I normally only see on TV or on Twitter. Then I saw some of them at the pool afterward. There are some things you can’t unsee… 🤣

The Casinos!!

The second day of the conference ended early in the day so I went on a last minute exploring and gambling excursion to the other end of the strip. Here are some of my travel photos!

LAS VEGAS

LAS VEGAS

LAS VEGAS

LAS VEGAS

LAS VEGAS

LAS VEGAS

LAS VEGAS

LAS VEGAS

I was proud of myself! Not only did I know to walk away with a $70 payout from a slot machine, but I also was brave enough to join in some blackjack tables and play with real people. That was something that had always intimidated me before, but I must say that playing at card tables is the fastest way to get noticed for free drinks. We stayed at the blackjack table until we had a reasonable pile of chips and a beer in hand. I think it was a great success!

If I play my cards right (pun intended) we will return for this trader conference every year. And it’s always in Vegas! Wahoo!!

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Welcome to Peangach

As part of my NaNoWriMo Prep, I have been developing a setting, characters and story structure so I can focus on simply writing when November starts. My plan has been to write my story based completely on tarot card pulls. As a writing exercise, I thought it would be fun to write a little ‘travel guide’ of sorts for the fictional setting that I am developing for my story! I used the Fantasy Name Generator to come up with the names. The tarot cards that I pulled for setting are:

  • XIX The Sun (fun, warmth, success, vitality)
  • Princess of Chalices (romance, charm, fantasy)
  • The Sorceress (power, skill, concentration, action)
  • V of Wands (disagreement, competition, tension, conflict)

Please enjoy…

Welcome to Peangach

The vast archipelago empire of Peangach, found on the northeast hemisphere of the Evero realm, was officially established after the “Blood Wars of the Bronze Age” over four centuries ago. At that time, the original Orm’shye Templar Monks claimed the mother island of Peangach as their birthright. The ancient Orm’shye Templar Monks created the first Orm’shye Temple in the newly formed capital city of Peangall, set upon the highest point of the largest Peangach archipelago island, also referred to as the mother island.  Centuries later, the thriving Peangach Empire has a population of 19,500 across all of the islands in the chain. Currently, the Peangach Empire is at war with the Imperial Issadel, a seafaring nation which populates a vast island system spanning across the southern hemisphere of Evero. The ongoing Spirit Wars have been fought for the last 80 years and neither side has a major advantage.

Peangach Geography

Gorgeous views from the Peangall Orm’shye Temple in the center of the archipelago chain are some of the most famous in the region. From the temple’s highest viewpoint, visitors can see the distant Cyis Island, located a few miles offshore from the mother island Peangach. Branching out from the mother island are the smaller Peangach archipelago islands of Cyis, Nepos, Ageos and Hatkal. These islands are focused on the mining and forging of iron ore and gemstones to create world renowned ironworks that have brought the Orm’shye Templar their immense victories through the centuries. The weather of the Peangach archipelago is hot and sunny for most of the year, with a cooler rain season to balance out the heat.

Peangach Religion

The Orm’shye Templar completely control the Peangach Empire. Their religion governs the land and deeply influences their legal system. The main practice of the Orm’shye Templar is the enchantment of gemstones. Using incense, oils and the spiritual powers of intention, the Orm’shye Templar Monks empower various gemstones, which are then embedded into their weapons and armor. This makes the Orm’shye Templar Monks not only powerful religious priests, but they are also master ironsmiths.

The Orm’shye Templar Monks incorporate their enchanted gemstones into metal with such artistry that their ironworks are sought after by other nations of Evero. The artistry of the Monks is replicated in the architecture of the towns. The city residents are devoutly religious and focus on meditating and praying for strength for the militia and their magical weaponry.

The Spirit Wars

The Peangach Empire has been warring with the Imperial Issadel over spiritual domination of Evero for a very long time. The two neighboring countries, while common in language and some customs, have major religious disputes that have been fought on and off, seemingly since the dawn of time. The Spirit Wars began as a result of civil unrest of the Peangach Empire’s southernmost residents, who had fallen victim to several hurricanes, floods and vicious sea dragon attacks, all suspected by the Peangach to be caused by the Issadel nation.

This is because the Issadel follow the Ancient Iss’ghao religion, which is a spiritual movement deeply rooted and connected to the sea dragons that dwell in the depths of the oceans of Evero. Those who claim to be true practitioners of the Ancient Iss’ghao say that they can communicate with the sea dragons and even harness their power. These rumors, while disputed by many scholars, lends to the Issadel being blamed for any sea-related calamity or unfortunate event. The Issadel nation claims innocence to these accusations, and the war started as a result. While the Peangach have a distinct advantage on ground combat, using their vast armies and wildly powerful gemstone weaponry to achieve victory, they are often bested when traveling to the Issadel archipelago by sea. The Imperial Issadel have advanced boating technologies, expert archers with tactical crossbows, and rumors continue to claim that the sea dragons controlled by the Ancient Iss’ghao priests can capsize an entire ship full of Peangach soldiers. With no major advantage on either side, the war continues on.

_____________

Thanks for reading about the newly imagined land of Evero. The conflicting nations of Peangach and Issadel are fighting over religion, truth, and world domination. How will this affect the personal lives of the citizens? My NaNoWriMo story will introduce two people on different sides of the war, and see how it goes when their paths cross!

Super Mario Party of One

The Mario Party series has developed kind of a bad reputation through the years. It’s been known as the ‘friendship ruiner’ due to it’s high stakes competition that tends to rely more on chance and far less on skill, causing arguments and pointing fingers among friends. “You stole my star!” “Why did you target ME and steal all of MY coins?!?!” “That mini-game is so cheap – I totally should have won!!!” If you haven’t heard yourself or one of your friends exclaim this or something similar in a fit of anger during a Mario Party game, well… you probably haven’t played it enough.

The ‘friendly’ competition has never stopped me from buying every edition of this game as they are released. I just noticed that I have fewer friends to play with each time a new Mario Party comes out. This game is #11 and it seems like Nintendo understands my struggle.

Nintendo must have realized that Mario Party is ending friendships, so they are trying to make the game-play more amicable by adding new characters and game modes to try out. In addition to the classic board game Mario Party format that we know from the franchise, Nintendo has added Partner Party team play, which allows you to team up with a partner and move more freely around the board to collect coins and stars. The team play includes 2 vs 2 mini games, and it does help to actually COORDINATE with your teammate to help you succeed. Which was tricky for me, seeing as I am playing all alone with AI computer players.

Kamek has a golden mystery board waiting if you clear the first three boards!!

So I haven’t played the Partner Party too much yet. Another mode that was added is the River Survival mode, which is a 4 player co-op game. You and your team have to make it down the river rapids, avoiding obstacles and adding time to the clock by completing mini games. However, there’s only a handful of co-op mini games so you end up repeating them after a while. This mode is pretty fun though, and you use your joy con to row your oar in the raft so you can control the steering. But of course, playing with AI computer partners isn’t ideal, so onto the next mode!

So glad to have Daisy as an option in Super Mario Party! Love her!

Sound Stage is a new rhythm game mode that has been added for the first time in Super Mario Party. It has varying levels of difficulty and reminds me a lot of some of the Japanese rhythm games that you can find in arcades. The rhythm games are really fun and this is one of my favorite modes so far. It is also a mode that you can play solo without feeling like you’re missing out on the group game-play experience, or feeling like you’re getting screwed by computer partners who can’t communicate.

In addition to Sound Stage, more modes have been added for the solo player. Challenge Mode is a linear mini-game challenge where one player must complete specific goals to proceed on the path. You don’t have to WIN the mini-game necessarily, but meet whatever the challenge demands, such as earning a particular point score. This is quite a challenge and it gets more difficult as you go!

My favorite mini-game: “Slaparazzi”! Push/slap opponents out of the way so YOU can be the star of the photo!

That’s not all, solo players! We can also play the new Mariothon as a single player (a quick mini-game tournament), and we can play it online as well! I didn’t delve into this mode too far yet, and the one online session that I did play [with random strangers] got disconnected, which isn’t fab. But maybe if you play it with your actual friends online it’s more reliable? Not sure.

There is another mode that I didn’t get to try at all because it requires two Switch systems and two copies of the game: Toad’s Rec Room. Hopefully I’ll be able to try that out… someday… *sniff* 😥

Goomba sticker doesn’t like getting fried in a pan.

One last important mode to discuss: STICKERS! As you play all of the game modes in Super Mario Party, you earn points which unlock stickers, tips, music tracks, etc. to enjoy with the game. If you go down a certain warp pipe, you can ‘affix’ the stickers to different pre-made backgrounds and create your own fun scenes! As a sticker lover, I had to mention this because it’s cute and fun! And for all you Amiibo collectors, it’s vital for me to share that you can scan in figures from the Super Mario family to unlock SHINY stickers that you can use. Ooooooh…. shiny.

If you’re on the fence about Super Mario Party because this game has ruined your friendships in the past… I recommend that you give it a try. I’d say it’s more of a friendship builder than a friendship ender. And if all else fails, there’s plenty to do as a solo player too! 😆

October is NaNoWriMo Prep Month!

Hahaha maybe not officially, but October is NaNoWriMo Prep Month for me this year! For those who aren’t familiar, “NaNoWriMo” is short for National Novel Writing Month, which is celebrated during the month of November. Many writers aspire to complete this challenge… but few actually finish it. In several past years I’ve wanted to do this, only to forget or come up short or just abandon my story idea. 😨

Writing an entire novel in one month is a daunting idea. Overwhelming, really. Maybe that’s why I haven’t ever completed it. But I think what I often forget about when considering taking on the NaNoWriMo challenge is that the process doesn’t really start on November 1st. Trying to start writing a novel on 11/1 with a blank page and no prep work is going to make NaNoWriMo a scary, scary time.

Which is why I’m writing this blog on October 1st, not next month. Writers need time to PREPARE before they can start writing. Having your plot outline, character overviews, setting and style figured out will make the actual writing process that much more streamlined. So that’s my focus right now – getting ready to write next month!

Here are the ways that I am preparing for NaNoWriMo:

  • Writing Classes: I have been an online student of Coursera for several years now. The classes are very accessible, and while they do charge students who wish to take the course for a certificate, you can also “audit” any class for FREE. The only thing you won’t get is a grade, but you can still participate in the lessons and do the assignments. Learning costs nothing! So I enrolled in a few courses from the Wesleyan University Creative Writing Specialization to help me stay on track for my NaNoWriMo project next month. Having a refresher on the fundamentals is always a good thing.
  • Writing Resources: There are TONS of free online resources, writing groups and forums to join for ideas, inspiration and collaboration. My latest find is Eva Deverell’s website, which features a wealth of exercises and ideas available online to help you get organized. She made a TON of worksheets that you can download for free!
  • Writing Exercises: If that wasn’t enough writing exercises, I must also recommend Novlr.org. I’ll be honest and say that I paid for a lifetime account a few years back, so I don’t know if this is exclusive for paid subscribers, but Novlr recently rolled out a Novlr Writing Course that I’ve been dying to try out. As a side note, if you aren’t familiar with Novlr, it’s a great service for writers. It’s a website that works both off and online and gives each of your writing projects a designated space with it’s own area for notes and outlines. It makes writing a story a lot easier!
  • Tarot for Writers: I purchased the book “Tarot for Writers” a few months ago when I first was learning to read tarot. This book explains ways to use tarot cards for picking a setting, character development, even coming up with a plot line. Many writers often cite the “Fool’s Journey” as a writing template, which is a story arc that is made up of all the Major Arcana cards from a tarot deck in order.

My goal for NaNoWriMo is to write my entire novella based on tarot card pulls. I think it’ll be fun to come up with a story using the magick of tarot! I tried this once before and it was actually kind of amazing how the cards I pulled worked perfectly for the story I was working on at the time. And since I don’t have some BIG IDEA to write about for NaNoWriMo, this will be an easy way to get going fast.

Now my plan is to complete the writing courses I mentioned above during the month of October, as well as create some characters and a basic plot outline based on tarot cards. Then in November… it’s novel writing time!

Book Report: The Bloodlands Collection

This month, instead of reading one book, I checked out an Amazon Original Series – “The Bloodlands Collection.” It is composed of six separate short stories, optimized for the Amazon Kindle with both high quality graphics and an audiobook version. It was free with my Amazon Prime account!

Book Titles: The Pirate, Little Slaughterhouse on the Prairie, The Brick Slayer, Panic, The Pied Piper and Rampage.

Author: Harold Schechter

About the Author: A well established American true-crime writer, Harold Schechter has written a great number of books. In addition to true-crime, he has written mysteries and pop culture novels. He is clearly the master of RESEARCHING.

About These Books: Instead of covering the individual characters of each book and giving away the entire plot, I want to talk about the main theme of this collection. Each one of these stories is about a serial killer. American mass murderers, specifically. In recent years in America, we have had the misfortune to see the number of mass shootings increase at an exponential level. However, I think it’s interesting that you don’t learn very much about serial killers in history class. All of these stories in the Bloodlands Collection really happened, but I’d definitely never heard of any of them until I read these books. Yet, this country has been suffering serial killers from back when there were pirates roaming the seas. A family of murderers once terrorized log cabin dwellers on the prairie. Two very different stories of serial killers came out of the Great Depression in the 1930’s: one particularly heartless psychopath targeted, raped and murdered innocent children causing widespread parental panic; while the other story recounted how racist policemen unlawfully arrested and mistreated hundreds of black men in their search for the actual culprit, who had been simply described as “a black man in his early 20’s.” Moving forward in history, there was a man who came back from WWII as a respected veteran… until he snapped and killed 13 people one morning with his war trophy gun. The most recent story was of a bizarre pre-Manson, wannabe-James-Dean-esque ‘bad boy’ with a cult following who helped him murder and attempt to cover up the deaths of his three young female victims.

Lessons Learned: When I first started reading this collection, I thought it was historical fiction with doctored photos. Then I did my own research and was shocked to learn that all of these stories were true and the photos were very real. Some of these stories are so insane that it’s hard to believe they happened, but that’s always the case when it comes to horrific events such as these. I also learned that the true-crime genre is pretty riveting to read… if you can stomach it.

Personal Opinions: Why don’t we learn about this sort of thing in school? Maybe the subject matter was deemed too upsetting for children? But these days, kids in school are doing lock-down drills and mass shooting drills… maybe it’s time to realize that history repeats itself in many ways. Maybe learning about horrible things is the only way to be cognizant enough to prevent them from happening again?

On a lighter note, I will add that reading an eBook that was specifically optimized for the Kindle was a really cool experience. When I first opened a new book from the collection, the front cover would animate. Then when I flipped to the first page, all of the images from the story were presented in a quick montage. I thought that was a really cool way to set the stage for the story, and I was pretty impressed. I think I will keep an eye out for more Amazon Original Series books in the future, in hopes to see more cool features like that!

Pokémon Feud at NYCC!

Big News!! I am excited to announce that I will be co-hosting a panel at New York Comic Con this year! On Sunday 10/7 we will be running a game show called “Pokémon Feud: Team Pikachu vs Team Eevee” which is a Pokémon-centric version of the StreetPass Game Show that we’ve been running at PAX East, West and South this year. I love working with the game show team to put together a fun experience! If you are attending NYCC on Sunday and want a chance to be a contestant on the game show, please comment on this blog!

In preparation of the Pokémon Feud, we have to survey the gaming community to get the most popular answers! This is where you come in. If you are a Pokémon fan and have just a few spare minutes, please take the time to complete this survey!

https://goo.gl/forms/Hv9x3JMuuLOoazoF3

The survey will be closed shortly before the game show, so don’t delay! We really appreciate your input and hope you have fun with the survey! Thanks for your help, gamers!

Danaeryzard & Alaria: The Sentencing

It’s Dungeons and Dragons time! Here’s the latest installment of the epic journey of our heroines, Danaeryzard and Alaria! (If you’re new here, check out the entire saga in order by reading the chapters organized on the D&D tab of this site!)

…………..

In the middle of the night, Alaria paced back and forth alone in the bedroom that she shared with Danaeryzard in the Barracks. But Dany was locked away in the Dungeons, and despite her best efforts, there seemed to be nothing that Alaria could do to help her. All the while, Tanar from the Midnight Ring was still holding the Castle Bookstore owner Samuel and his family hostage! If the Midnight Ring didn’t receive the etching that they demanded, they might kill those innocent people! Alaria was running out of time.

She did the etching heist on her own, technically. She could do the delivery on her own as well. There was nothing she could do to help Dany right now, but Alaria could help Samuel and his family. She concealed the etching under her cloak and set off for the carriage service to take her back to the Green Street Tavern in Drachen City.

Green Street Tavern

By the time Alaria arrived, it was after midnight. It had begun to rain steadily. Alaria walked up to the guards at the door and asked to see Tanar.

Unlike their first visit to the tavern, Alaria was admitted in immediately. All eyes were on her as she was taken through the busy tavern and straight to the downstairs room where she had first encountered Tanar. He stood in the same place she had met him last time, with his arms folded under his black cloak. 

“Where is the family?” Alaria demanded of Tanar, who responded with laughter.

Tanar

“Oh! I thought you would be dead by now. Well done. I trust you have completed your task?” Tanar asked with an evil smile.

Alaria glared at him and opened her cloak to reveal the paper hidden in an inside pocket. This seemed to be enough evidence for Tanar, who suddenly stomped his foot on the wooden floor three times. Near his feet was a trap door, which sprang open and a woman and two children began making their way out of a crawl space. Samuel came out last. They were all blindfolded and had their hands bound before them, making the process a bit clumsy. But they otherwise appeared to be unharmed. 

“Give me the etching,” Tanar said simply.

“Not until you release this innocent family,” Alaria bluntly replied.

“Fine. I’ll let the woman and children leave, then you give me the etching, and I will release Samuel. Fair?”

“Fair.” 

Tanar removed their blindfolds and instructed the mother and her two children to go upstairs and leave, and then relayed a message via his black chat ring to some of his associates to let the family exit. Tanar held out his hand, and Alaria reluctantly gave him the etching of the engravings from the Princess’ Diadem. She was slightly nervous because she didn’t know the meaning of these etchings or what the consequences will be for sharing this secret information with the Midnight Ring. But it’s not like she had any choice in the matter! 

Samuel

Once Tanar received the slip of paper and glanced at it, he was satisfied. He released Samuel and told them to leave the tavern. The exchange was complete. 

As they exited the tavern, Alaria asked Samuel how he got mixed up with the Midnight Ring. He wasn’t so sure himself; all he knew was that a bunch of thugs wearing masks came into his shop… and after that, his mind was a blank. He had no memory of leaving his store, or his family getting captured, or getting into that little crawl space. Samuel seemed pretty distraught about his strange amnesia, and the fact that his family had been through this ordeal. They all hugged outside, and even Alaria gave Samuel a hug to try and reassure him that she was there to help. She offered that the family take the carriage service with her back to the Castle Bookstore, since their home was on the second floor of the shop. 

“Do you still have the translations, by any chance? The Orc translations that Esmeralda had sent me and my partner to retrieve from you?” Alaria asked Samuel during the ride. 

“As a matter of fact, I do still have them. Whatever the Midnight Ring was looking for in my shop, it wasn’t those translations. I am pretty sure I’ll find them for you,” Samuel said, just as they were pulling up in front of the store. The Castle Bookstore was still in shambles, the door wide open, books strewn everywhere, shelves knocked over… and the coinbox still safely locked. 

After some shuffling around of books and papers, Samuel was able to find the sealed envelope addressed to Esmeralda of the Expeditionary Guard. He handed it to Alaria, looking weary. “I hope this was worth it.”

Alaria thanked Samuel for the translations. This is what she and Dany had been sent to the city to retrieve, and Alaria felt sad that Dany was still sitting in the Dungeon. Alaria rode the carriage service back to the Castle Barracks and resolved that she would try to use these translations as leverage to get Dany freed. She was determined to go straight to Esmeralda – but not before pickpocketing the carriage driver and getting her cab fare back. 

Esmeralda

Luckily, Esmeralda was still awake and in her usual spot, pouring over paperwork at a big table in the Great Hall in the Barracks. Esmeralda looked tired and stressed, and when Alaria approached her she tried to turn the Tiefling away.

“But Esmeralda, I have the translations that you sent Dany and me to retrieve. Don’t forget, Dany worked on this mission too. If I hand over these translations, I want you to promise me that Danaeryzard will be freed.”

Esmeralda sighed. “I told you, this is out of my hands.” Alaria asked if she could visit Dany in the Dungeons, but even that was forbidden. “I will let Dany know that you were able to complete the mission, and that you have been trying to visit her. That’s all I can do for now, but please know that I am fighting for her every day.”

Frustrated but out of options, Alaria handed over the sealed envelope. Esmeralda tucked it away in her pouch without opening it. Alaria decided to go off to bed.

Meanwhile, after her third day in the Dungeons, Dany was getting extremely restless and angry. As a prisoner, she felt that she was constantly being judged for her Dragonborn race. Guards would call her derogatory names and beat her when they visited her cell to give her daily rations of bread and water. The only conversations Dany had were with guards asking her all sorts of questions. It felt like an inquisition as they prodded her for a motive to burn down the South Hall. Dany repeated that the whole thing was an accident, and it frustrated the guards. Finally, on the third day, Esmeralda showed up at Dany’s barred cell door.

Without speaking, Esmeralda revealed a key and opened the door.

“Follow me. But don’t get too excited – this isn’t over yet.”

Esmeralda led Dany to the Officer’s Post area of the Barracks, where Dany had never been before. It was filled with desks and workers, who were all staring at Dany. News about “The Dragonborn Who Tried to Burn Down the South Hall” had spread rapidly around the castle. They walked into Esmeralda’s Main Office and Esmeralda shut the door behind them. 

Esmeralda’s Main Office

“Everyone is concerned, Danaeryzard. The South Hall is a big deal; it’s a museum of priceless heirlooms of the royal family. It’s up to the royal family how to respond to a threat to their private property, and they do not take these things lightly. I was able to get you released from the Dungeons, but you are not free. You are to remain within the Castle grounds at all times, and you are not permitted to leave at any time. Hopefully the royal family will change their mind on this eventually, once you have proven to them that you are trustworthy. But for now you have to comply. In addition, all of your duties are now suspended, for the most part. And so are Alaria’s.”

Dany gasped upon hearing this, and at the same moment, Alaria entered the office with Ragnar on her shoulder. She had been summoned by chat ring while Esmeralda was transporting Dany out of the Dungeon. Alaria was happy to see that Dany was out of her cell, but was otherwise very confused. Esmeralda broke the news to Alaria that they were no longer going on missions, and the two partners were upset.

“Don’t worry, we will still have something for you two to do. You will have to earn your room and board somehow, so I’ve enlisted you both in our Combat Training program. You two will participate in supervised drills instead of doing guard duty. Don’t despair. I believe eventually the Princess will change her mind and you can resume your duties as before. Just give it some time,” Esmeralda continued to explain. Then she instructed Dany to return to their room in the Barracks, take a bath and try to clean the Dungeon-stench off. Esmeralda also advised Dany to lay low for a few days, as most of the guards were not very happy with her. Dany walked out without saying a word to Esmeralda, but waved a quick hi to Alaria as she left the office.

Alaria started getting up to follow Dany, but Esmeralda stopped her. “I’m counting on you to keep an eye on her. You’re both on very thin ice right now. Do not let Dany leave the castle. You two need to train more and we both have to make sure Dany learns to properly control her breath weapon.” Alaria nodded, feeling that this treatment was extremely unfair, but unable to do anything about it. 

“Oh! I also have an update on the Orc translations! Come with me.” Esmeralda led Alaria to another part of the Main Offices – a grand Library filled with books, maps and globes.

The Officers’ Library

When they arrived, Esmeralda continued, “It turns out that the Orc writing on one of the building schematics was actually the title of a book… and it makes the situation worse. You see, Water’s Edge was once the location of an ancient Orc empire. It was these ancient Orcs who really discovered the power of the magic crystals. And the book referenced here is a book that explains how to control those crystals. We happen to have a copy of this ancient tome, and I have hired Samuel once again to translate it.” 

They reached a table where Samuel was busy scribbling into a notebook, while glancing at an ancient leather-bound book every two seconds. He looked up and saw Alaria, and gave her a big smile. But then he looked at Esmeralda and his face grew solemn. 

“Esmeralda… I think I know what the Sun Wizard is looking to do next. You see, this structure is made of crystal.” Samuel pointed to an illustration in the book. “I fear that the Sun Wizard is working on… achieving immortality. One of these crystal structures is the Library at Water’s Edge, this much we know. But the other is in Toril. The Orc Homeland.”

They shared silence for a moment as they all processed what this terrible news meant. Then Esmeralda sighed and thanked Samuel once again for his knowledge and assistance. Then she turned to Alaria and asked what she thought.

“I think Dany needs to be able to leave the castle so that she and I can further investigate this,” Alaria snapped. She was still upset about Dany’s punishment, and the fact that Alaria was being punished right along with her partner.

“You know the situation right now, Alaria. Please don’t make this more difficult. Now, I want you to rest up with Dany for two days, and then come report to Combat Training.” Esmeralda commanded Alaria. 

Back in their Barracks room, Dany had finished a bath and Alaria was grooming Ragnar. They were both pretty angry at the situation, and didn’t know what to say. They thought about that fateful day when they had first started traveling together, and were given a choice to join the Expeditionary Guard or the Midnight Ring. 

“Do you think we made the wrong choice?” Alaria asked. After what Dany had been through, she wasn’t really sure what the right choice might have been.

On training day, the duo prepared their weapons and were a little excited to go outdoors and have a little excitement. It was better than being cooped up in their room in the Barracks. 

“Welcome to Day One of Specialized Combat Training,” Esmeralda greeted them as they approached the training site. They had been instructed to meet at a special training area that was designed to look like a real city block. There were fake stores and townhouses along the road, and it looked very realistic. “This is a simulated street for combat in an urban setting. You see this building behind me?”

She pointed to a large two story building with a pointed roof. 

“Today’s Mission: Don’t let anyone in this building. I’ll observe.”

Dany and Alaria looked at each other, trying to hide their confusion. They had no idea where to begin. 

…………………..

And so ends the latest installment of our DnD adventures! Thanks for reading! I hope you like this ongoing storyline lol! If you play Dungeons and Dragons too, let’s hear about your character in the comments! 🙂

The Planet of the Fitness

Even nerds should work out. I don’t care what shape you’re in, staying active is important. I have a chronic spinal injury and for years I was full of excuses and didn’t join a gym. But this year I finally was peer pressured into joining Planet Fitness by my awesome colleagues who encouraged me to come with them after work.

Before joining a gym I had gone to physical therapy for my back, so I know which machines to avoid to stay safe. My routine currently is about a half hour of cardio and a half hour on the weight machines… plus 5-10 mins on the elliptical. I’m still not in perfect shape but I’m making small improvements, and I feel a lot better about myself for at least making the effort.

Planet Fitness is a great starter gym for people like me who are a little intimidated to get going. The best part is the price – $10 a month if you are dedicated to one location, and $22 a month for Black Card, which allows you to go to any location and take advantage of some other perks like the hydro massage therapy beds (this alone is worth the Black Card membership fee imho). I went with Black Card because I love going to different locations, free massages and half price drinks.

Of course, not all locations are the same. Depending on which gym is your ‘home’ location, you’ll find different membership fees and other fine print. Luckily I found a gym near my house on LI to set as my home, to avoid the $10 sign up fees at the NYC locations. Gotta shop around and be smart!

Planet Fitness Great Neck

It’s important to tour a gym before committing. My favorite PF location is in Great Neck, NY. It’s located under a shopping center and has a ton of square footage. The weight room just keeps going and going. There are always enough treadmills and elliptical machines. They also have the most hydro massage beds and massage chairs that I’ve seen in any gym location. My only complaint about Great Neck is that the cardio machines don’t have little TV’s installed in them like the machines in NYC have. You are stuck watching the pre-selected news channels and whatnot that are showing on the many TV’s posted around. But there is free Wi-Fi so I could just put on Netflix on my phone and watch whatever I want.

Planet Fitness Carle Place

Another location on LI that I’ve frequented is Carle Place, NY. This location is convenient because it’s near my house, but that’s really the best thing I have to say about it. I think this gym is a little awkward because the cardio machines and the weight machines are facing each other. You can stare at other people working out! Oh boy! It’s not THAT big of a deal, but I just wonder why they chose to set it up that way. Regardless, it’s clean and not very busy, so I still go there. I can watch the big guys work out on the heavy weights while I run. Not such a down side, I guess lol!

In NYC, I’ve been to Tribeca and Herald Square. They are very different! Tribeca has a nice giant square shaped space where the machines are set up similar to Carle Place, except the machines DON’T face each other. And the machines all have mini TV’s in them, which is fun. You can watch whatever you want, turn on CC and listen to music… whatever works for you. Herald Square on the other hand, is set up among three floors. It’s very confusing and disjointed. There are elliptical machines in a space that looks like a hallway. Some of the treadmills were broken the last time I went there. But the Herald Square location is right next to Penn Station, so it’s great if I’m in a rush. That is, if I can find an open locker! It’s definitely the busiest gym I’ve been to out of the four.

Machines with TV’s in them!

Even despite the down sides of some of these locations, I really love Planet Fitness no matter which location I go to. It is definitely a ‘judgment free zone’ and you see people of all fitness levels and age groups working out. The staff is usually a bunch of young people so naturally they would rather socialize than do work. I get it, I was that age once, lol! But they are still friendly if you approach them and ask them for help.

Overall, my biggest con for PF is that they don’t offer organized classes in the traditional sense. They have little meetup sessions that you can sign up for and get some guided exercises with a staff member, but it’s not really the same as a Zumba class. But that’s okay – I’m more of a lone wolf anyway! I like to use an app called C25K to get back into running shape. It uses interval training to get your body used to running long distances. It’s just enough guidance that I need to stay motivated.

Hydro Massage!!

But what really motivates me is the hydro massage bed. It’s my favorite thing. You can lay on it for 10 mins at a time and you can customize the massage to be exactly what you want. Laying on the hydro massage bed after working out feels so amazing. It makes my sciatica go away for the rest of the day. It’s the best thing!!

If you are scared of committing to a gym, give Planet Fitness a try. It’s cheap and not all locations require an annual contract. (Again, shop around!!) Or if you recommend a different gym, I’m all ears! What gym do you think is the best??

Danaeryzard & Alaria: The South Hall Heist

It’s Dungeons and Dragons time! Here’s the latest installment of the epic journey of our heroines, Danaeryzard and Alaria! (If you’re new here, check out the entire saga in order by reading the chapters organized on the D&D tab of this site!)

…………..

It was 10AM at the South Hall, and it seemed even more vast and glorious in the daylight. Danaeryzard and Alaria were ready to start their heist to get an etching of the engravings in the Princess’ Diadem for the Midnight Ring, so that they could rescue the Castle Bookstore shopkeeper, Samuel. 

The South Hall

Alaria had disguised herself as an old man, a Royal Jeweler named ‘Jasox.’ Her plan was to claim that she was there to do a presentation on how to properly clean the royal jewels that were on display in the South Hall. Dany was planning to enter separately as a regular visitor and create a diversion when ‘Jasox’ reached the diadem, so that Alaria could secretly get the etching that they needed. 

‘Jasox’ approached the entrance of the South Hall and was met by a row of guards at the entrance, who questioned the random appearance of this unknown Royal Jeweler. One of the guards called over to his captain, “Jacob – can you come here and verify this jeweler?”

Jacob the Guard Captain

Jacob was annoyed to be interrupted. He was busy talking to the charming South Hall curator Willow and did not want to be disturbed for something trivial like this. He began berating the team for shouting to him across the South Hall.  

Willow told Jacob to relax and assign a guard to accompany ‘Jasox’ around the hall to clean the various jewels on display. She brought ‘Jasox’ into a side room and gave him a special set of royal jeweler tools, as well as a set of cleaning instructions for specifics. Alaria was a bit nervous, but wouldn’t let it show through her disguise. If she made any mistakes as she impersonated this Royal Jeweler, then her cover would be blown. ‘Jasox’ would have to be very focused.

Back at the entrance of the South Hall, Dany was making her way through the guard security check, handing over her daggers and crossbow before walking through the door. She kept her distance from Alaria in her ‘Jasox’ disguise, but made sure that the Royal Jeweler was in view at all times. Danaeryzard was planning to wait for the signal – ‘Jasox’ will drop his tools – and then she’ll create a diversion. Dany watched ‘Jasox’ clean the first jeweled crown on display without any issues. Dany pretended to be inspecting a jeweled staff in a random display case.

Chancellor Thormek

“Do you know how much copper is in that staff? With the price of copper these days, that staff is worth a fortune!” laughed a gruff voice behind Dany, surprising her and causing her to spin around and see a rather round dwarf. “Oh did I startle you? My apologies. I’m Chancellor Thormek, I’m visiting Castle Drachen for the Trade Conference this week. I don’t usually see non-humans around here! You… caught my eye.”

Dany shook his outstretched hand and explained that she was a new member of the Expeditionary Guard at the castle. Chancellor Thormek identified himself as a history buff, and began to drone on and on about the background of each item that was on display. Dany decided to walk around with the Chancellor; he might help her blend in while she waited for the signal from ‘Jasox’ at the other end of the South Hall. 

The far side of the South Hall was starting to draw a crowd, as ‘Jasox’ continued on his presentation to properly clean the royal jewels. It was a rare chance for people to see the jewels out of their display cases, and some of the visitors were starting to watch ‘Jasox’ quite closely. Alaria was nervous and sweating a little in her ‘Jasox’ disguise and she fumbled with her tools, but luckily she did not drop any! If she gave the signal at the wrong time, the entire heist might be ruined. But ‘Jasox’ continued on without issue, and when he finished cleaning the royal dagger that he was holding, the crowd gave a polite round of quiet claps.

Dany led the Chancellor a little further into the South Hall to keep a better watch on ‘Jasox.’ The Princess’ Diadem was located in the back of the hall, and ‘Jasox’ was approaching it. Dany knew the signal would be coming soon, and she began to feel nerves and panic sweep through her body. What was her distraction plan? She was going to have to use her Breath Weapon to start a fire, but she didn’t want to cause too much destruction. 

Suddenly Dany heard ‘Jasox’ drop his tools on the floor with a loud clang. Dany froze for a moment, but she knew she had to act. She turned towards a wall that was covered with a red velvet drape and sneezed out loudly, blasting her Dragonborn Breath Weapon out in a cone of fire from her lizard-like mouth. Unfortunately, Chancellor Thormek was also in the line of the flames, and his burly beard and flowing royal robes caught fire. The drapes along the wall also began to burn, and the distraction was certainly working. Everyone in the room was looking at Danaeryzard and the Chancellor, and the guards were running towards her with their swords drawn. Dany raised her arms and immediately began shouting that it was an accident.

During the commotion, Alaria in her ‘Jasox’ disguise had no problem pulling a piece of paper and creating an etching of the engraving on the inside of the Diadem. The guard that had been watching ‘Jasox’ was rushing to help with the fire situation on the other side of the hall. In a matter of ten seconds Alaria’s heist was complete, but Dany’s troubles were far from over.

South Hall Guard

One guard used the end of his sword to bludgeon Dany in the back as another guard yelled for her to get on the ground. More guards were patting down the Chancellor to put out the fires on his robes and beard, and the once-friendly dwarf was now cursing in dwarvish at Dany, and screaming at the guards for letting a Dragonborn into their midst.

“I only sneezed! I have trouble controlling my Breath Weapon sometimes! It was an accident!” Dany pleaded, but the guards continued to attack her. 

Meanwhile, ‘Jasox’ folded the etching back into his robes, pretended to have a coughing fit from the smoke, and demanded that the guards let him leave the South Hall. Cleared from the building, Alaria rushed back to the Barracks to remove her disguise and hide the etching somewhere safe. Then she would come back and try to help Dany, somehow.

It didn’t seem like any amount of help would change Dany’s situation. She was laying prone, face down on the ground as the guards continued to beat and kick her.

“This is excessive brutality! I am in the Expeditionary Guard!” Dany cried, trying to cover her face from more beatings. 

“The jewels in the South Hall are worth more than your LIFE!” a guard spat at her as he and another lifted Dany from the ground and escorted her into a Guard Barracks room off to the side of the South Hall. Dany was placed in restraints and the guards held her there until they received further orders.

Alaria showed up at the South Hall, as herself, and claimed to the guards at the door that Esmeralda had sent her to retrieve Dany. But just at that moment, Esmeralda arrived and coldly told Alaria go back to the Barracks. Esmeralda marched inside the South Hall and was shocked to see the guards putting out fires, and the recently doused Chancellor cursing and panting. Esmeralda had been given simple orders – throw Danaeryzard Targeleon in the Dungeons.

Hours later, Dany was in her Dungeon cell, sitting on a bed of hay. The Dungeons were dark and dank, but Dany knew precisely where she was… because she used to guard and clean these cells when she was working for the Expeditionary Guard. Now she was a prisoner. She felt sad and regretful. She had never meant for anyone to get hurt. This was turning into a repeat of when she was exiled from her home after she burned down the outdoor market. Dany was furious with herself. Why did she think that a fire was a good idea for a distraction? She should have thought more about the repercussions of her actions! Dany could only hope that Alaria would be able to complete the mission on her own.

But Alaria wasn’t thinking about delivering the sketch to the Midnight Ring at that moment. She was trying to rescue her partner! The guards at the Dungeons wouldn’t let Alaria get anywhere near the prisoner cells. Alaria used her Mage Hand spell to pickpocket a key from the guards, but she knew there was no way to get past them. Esmeralda suddenly contacted Alaria through the Chat Ring and told her to meet her in the Barracks for a debrief. Alaria obeyed and acted as though she didn’t know what was going on with Dany.

Esmeralda was blunt and said that Dany had set a Chancellor and some drapes in the South Hall on fire, and that she was in a lot of trouble and suspected of being a part of an evil Dragonborn clan working with the Midnight Ring. Alaria was shocked that Esmeralda would believe Dany to be evil, after having worked with her so closely. Dragonborn prejudice seemed to be very prevalent in this castle all of the sudden.

Esmeralda asked Alaria for the Orc translations that they were sent to retrieve. Alaria simply replied that there was a delay and she would have them soon. She asked again for Esmeralda to free Dany, but Esmeralda claimed that at this moment, her hands were tied.

Later on in the evening, Esmeralda and Hendricks walked into Dany’s cell in the dungeon. Dany was very nervous looking at their stern faces. Hendricks seemed to be glaring at her with hate in his eyes. Once again, Dany stated her case – that it was an accident, she needs to learn to control her Breath Weapon, nobody was seriously injured, this was all blown out of proportion… but Esmeralda and Hendricks didn’t want to listen. 

“We know that you’re working with the Midnight Ring! You Dragonborn are bred to be villains!” Hendricks shouted at Dany, trying to intimidate her. Esmeralda rolled her eyes a bit, thinking that Hendricks was taking this a bit too far. 

“You should have known better, Esmeralda. We trusted her, and now THIS happens!” Hendricks shouted as he stormed out of the dungeon cell and out of sight. 

When they were alone, Esmeralda’s face changed and showed a bit of sadness.

“I’m fighting for you up there, Dany. But you’ve really gotten yourself into a mess. I don’t know how much I can do at this point. Hendricks outranks me and the Princess is furious with you. Just stay here, do what they tell you, and hopefully I’ll get you out of the Dungeon soon. There isn’t anything I can do right now…” Esmeralda said softly, and made her exit.

Dany sighed and rubbed her arms to help keep her warm as she sat alone in the dark.

Later that night, a hooded figure rode on horseback in the moonlight to a barn in the outskirts of Drachen City. The figure dismounted the horse, cracked the door of the barn open and slipped inside. Inside the barn stood another hooded figure waiting and lighting a lantern. The dim light revealed Hendricks, holding out a sealed scroll.

Ezra of the Midnight Ring

“Here it is, Ezra,” Hendricks whispered, passing the scroll to the Midnight Ring recruiter – the same elf who tried to convince Dany and Alaria to join the Ring back when the duo had first met! Ezra nodded knowingly at Hendricks and slipped the scroll into her satchel. 

“We’ll bust Dany out though, right?” Hendricks asked.

Ezra laughed and her white eye gleamed.

“Don’t worry Hendricks, the Ring isn’t done with those two just yet…”

…………………..

And so ends the latest installment of our DnD adventures! Thanks for reading! I hope you like this ongoing storyline lol! If you play Dungeons and Dragons too, let’s hear about your character in the comments! 🙂

OMG THE NINTENDO DIRECT OMG

Moments like last night are when I wish I had a Twitch channel so I could have shared my glee with random weebs. Yesterday there was a new Nintendo Direct and it was FILLED with exciting news!! Most importantly…

NEW ANIMAL CROSSING FOR SWITCH IS COMING NEXT YEAR!

But I’ll get back to that in a minute. First, I wanted to talk about all the things I’m hyped about from the latest direct:

  • Luigi’s Mansions galore! There’s a new third game in the Luigi’s Mansion franchise coming out sometime in the future, plus the original GC game coming to 3DS this October.
  • New 3DS Games?!?! Just when you thought that Nintendo was done with the 3DS, they reveal a few new kid-friendly titles like Kirby and Bowser’s Inside Story.
  • Splatoon 2 Updates! I love how they always add new stages and features to this game. It gives me hope that when the new Animal Crossing game comes out, they will add new things just as often as they do in Pocket Camp. Splatoon 2 doesn’t disappoint and their constant game updates really make this game a great value.
  • New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe! Who can pass on the latest version of a Super Mario sidescroller? Plus there are two new playable characters (Nabbit and Toadette) that make the gameplay easier for younger players (or spastic ppl like me).
  • Nintendo Switch Online! It’s finally here! Now we get the pleasure of… paying for online service. Meh. But I’m excited about the Virtual Console library and the prospect of playing those retro games online with my friends. That will be cool! I need to figure out my family plan! lol
  • Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee! They revealed new features, such as your buddy Pokemon being an HM Slave and being able to learn special moves for gym battles. I’m ready to play! But I’ll definitely buy this on cartridge lol!
  • Super Mario Party! This game is coming out soon and to add to the hype, Nintendo showed us that there are ways to play the game that won’t even ruin friendships! You can play in a new CO-OP mode and be on a TEAM with your friends. That should be better for friendships…. right?!?!
  • Yoshi’s Crafted World! I cannot resist Mario’s green dino buddy. I always like Yoshi games, and I love how this franchise has embraced the craft world. I really liked Yarn Yoshi from Yoshi’s Wooly World, and now in the latest game they are adding more crafts to the design, like cardboard and string and it’s just so cute. The design styles of these Yoshi games are beautiful and I can’t get enough! Yay crafts!
  • Civilization 6!!! OMG! I wasn’t expecting this one! I looooove Civ I have been playing it since Civ 2 on Windows 95. I loved playing Civ on the DS back in the day as well, carrying my empire in my bag so I can play whenever I want is so great! I will be SO excited to play Civ 6 on my Switch coming this November! EEEEEE!!!!
  • New LE Switch Consoles! Here come all the cutely designed money-grabbing limited edition Switch systems! Not too long ago Nintendo announced the special Pikachu/Eevee limited edition Switch with custom color scheme and images of the cute Pokemon on the Switch dock. In the direct they showed off a new Smash Bros. Ultimate Switch design. This must mean that more exclusive designs are on the way in the future. Personally, I don’t love either of the two designs, and the fact that the dock is what gets most of the artwork is not a huge appeal to me. But we’ll see… if they make an Animal Crossing edition that I think is cute, I might get that!
  • ISABELLE IN SMASH!!! What??! I wasn’t expecting this at all! I am super psyched to try out Isabelle and make her my new main! I loved playing as Villager in Smash 4, so I would imagine that Isabelle will have a similar moveset. Hopefully she is quick and powerful!
  • ANIMAL CROSSING 2019!!!!!!!! As I expected, once the hype of Smash Bros. Ultimate has waned and Nintendo needs a boost, Animal Crossing will be ready for us to play on Switch! While it’s devastating to have to wait until NEXT year to get this game, I am super thrilled! I’m sure they will slowly reveal more details as time goes by, so my anticipation is SUPER HIGH! Who knows, maybe some of my predictions from my AC Switch Wish List will come true!

As usual, I didn’t cover everything in the latest Nintendo Direct, so I highly recommend that everyone watch it if you haven’t already! So much exciting gaming coming up on the horizon! What are you the most excited about??