The last couple of weeks have been nothing short of magical for Potterheads! About four years ago, we all had that moment of realization that our beloved fandom had 'ended'. There were no more books or movies to be released and the end to the Potter Saga was just beautiful and perfect enough to give us all that much needed feeling of completion while at the same time leaving a small hole in all of our hearts. That's what happens when a writer doesn't just create excellent characters but entire worlds that their readers would desperately want to visit and play around in.

It would appear that Rowling isn't done playing with us.

Last week, the news of a stage play that will premiere July 30th, 2016 caught everyone by surprise. It's called 'Harry Potter and The Cursed Child' and will still follow our beloved protagonist but now he's all grown up with a job and a family. It would also appear that some focus will be given to his son, Albus, who goes to Hogwarts while struggling with the weight of his father's legacy.
My initial thought was how in the heck will they portray magic on stage? It's set to play at West End so I have no doubt that a nice budget will be given to them and it's not that hard for the Potter franchise to rake in the dollar bills, but there are still limits for what can be shown on stage. Will magic even be a strong component of the story in the play? It is set in the wizarding world so of course magic will be involved, but from what I've read in the plot descriptions we might be getting a more character-driven story that focuses on the relationship between Harry and his son.

My other thought was that this could be quite a depressing play for fans who've followed the franchise since childhood. I can already see myself watching a grown up Harry Potter go about a normal adult life (normal for a wizard, anyway) all while realizing how much I myself have grown up and become boring. And to see that while our hero saved the world, there were personal repercussions that effect not just him but his child who didn't even exist when everything with Voldemort went down is a downer for sure. Harry and his family should get the peace they deserve, dammit!

All the same, I'm too curious not to look into this play more and one day watch it for myself. Especially to see how magic is portrayed! The writers who worked with Rowling, the director and everyone involved in its production have excellent resumes. It's very possible that they've got a good thing going here, but we won't know until next summer.

In other news...
Everyone is going nuts over Entertainment Weekly releasing pictures from the upcoming film written by J.K. Rowling herself, depicting the adventures of Newt Scamander. When I heard about this film being written, I was ecstatic! As long as Rowling was writing it, I was happy. When I learned that most of it was going to take place in America I nearly passed out in excitement.

You have no idea how badly I've wanted to know more about what the wizarding world is like in the States. Ever since I read Goblet of Fire and got a glimpse at the Salem Witches' Institute my curiosity was piqued. As much as I loved the vast look at the world of wizards in the UK, I had to know more about the American side of wizard life. I had so many questions without any way to get an answer. Now I can get those answers!
JK Rowling
Direct me to where the American Wizarding school is, please! I'm past due for a much needed education.
Rowling has so far indicated that there is a sort of Hogwarts equivalent in America but that the Salem Institute is not it. She said its linked to Native Americans which leads me to believe that it is somewhere in the Midwest or Upper Southwest as there was once countless native tribes residing in those areas. My guess also comes from the fact that a wizarding school needs to be kept secret so what better place to have it than in the middle of nowhere. How crazy would it be if the schools were somewhere in North Dakota or Iowa?

But back to the movie -- the pictures don't reveal much that we didn't know already or about the plot itself. We know that Eddie Redmayne is playing Newt and we also know that the movie will take place in the 1920's in New York. The pictures reflect this fact with what looks like some beautiful set design and costuming! The 1920s provides some excellent visuals and I'm so happy that they're going all the way when it comes to looks and details.

One thing I did notice in the captions and the featured picture of the story is that America has a 'Magical Congress of the United States of America'. How freaking cool is that?! And it looks beautiful with the golden phoenixes behind Newt. I'd bet you anything that Phoenixes are American wizard versions of bald eagles.
Admit it, you want this to be our national bird now.
Guys, there are no words to describe how excited I am for this film! We're not just returning to the wizarding world, but we're going to see a part of it that I've ALWAYS wanted to explore! There's absolutely no doubt as to where I'll be November 17th in 2016. In line at the theater, waiting for the stroke of midnight!

For more on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them check out its IMDB page HERE.

And to see all the new Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them pictures from Entertainment Weekly, check them out HERE.

Ever since I was 6 years old, I've wanted to go to Disneyland. I know. How original of me, right? But could you blame my kid-self? The idea of going to a closed off place that has somehow resisted the dull and anxiety-ridden pains of the real world would be tempting for anyone, let alone a grade-schooler. While I never got my trip to Anaheim I did get a decent enough substitute, not to mention an much more reasonably priced one. The local Renaissance Festival.
MN RenFest
About 1/1000 the price of a trip to Disneyland.
A few years after my dream trip was decided, I was taken to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival and was successfully sated. I've been going at least once every year ever since and suspect I'll always find a way to visit. So you can imagine how dumbfounded I was to find out that our resident n00b, Lisa, had never set foot in a Ren Fair her whole life! Well this needed to be remedied, so I took her this past weekend and, let me say, I've never felt more like a parent my whole life.

            Her eyes were practically popping out of her head and her mouth hung open in silent awe. After only an hour of sightseeing she told me that she wished she had come sooner. When I asked her why she hadn't before I got a sheepish reply that had something to do with the cost, obnoxious renaissance actors, and the theme not being enough to hold someone's interest. This wasn't an opinion she came up with herself, this was after hearing about it from other people and it's an opinion I've heard of before. So many friends that I've recommended the Ren Fest to have voiced these same concerns and apprehensions. Well guess what, I'm going to explain why you should tell the naysayers to shove it!
Live battles!
The Environment. The moment you approach the gates of any Renaissance Festival/Fair you know what you're getting into. One minute you're in modern society and in the next you're walking through a marketplace bustling with men and women dressed in tunics and bodices who greet you with a “Milord!” or “Milady!” On either side of you there are shops and stalls selling wares you certainly won't be able to find at your neighborhood strip mall, all while performers entertain the masses that surround them in the street. Every building you pass is distinctly Medieval/Renaissance in it's structure and design (aside from Port-a-Potties, of course). You are instantly transported to a new world and they  do it very well.
Renfest performer.
The Entertainment. I'm thoroughly convinced anyone can find something fun to see or do at Ren Fest. Whether you feel like laughing at a comedy show, marveling at an impressive feat, or watching dances from far away lands. It's all here. There are various shows performed on stage everyday, but out on the streets you can't swing a peasant without hitting one of the many roaming performers. You also get entertainment you'd NEVER find outside of a Ren Fest. Live jousting? They've got it. Kilt or Beard competitions? It's here. Fencing duels? Of course! Riding freakin' elephants? Yep (At least in MN). You'll want to see and do everything you possibly can and will probably find that there's no way to fit it all in a day.
Renfest cosplayers.
The Costumes. I mentioned earlier that those working or acting at the Fest wear a costume fit for the times, but they don't have to be the only ones. While it's certainly not required, guests to the Fest/Fair are free to wear their own costumes on the grounds! Being the nerdy cosplayer that I am, I've brought my share of outfits in order to really feel like part of the magic. Even better is that you don't have to wear a period costume! They have themed weekends that encompass pirates, steampunk, magic, or even fairies! I've also seen people dressed in anime, video game characters (Assassin's Creed is literally everywhere), and Tolkien-verse costumes. Yes, they may not be strictly keeping to the theme, but it's all in good fun. For me, it's amusing to think about how such characters would act in medieval/renaissance times. The interactions these cosplayers have with the actors and environment is nothing short of entertaining!

The Stuff/Food &Drinks. Seriously, guys. So much stuff! Not just renaissance related either! I could list off all of the things sold at my local fest, but then we'd be here for hours. Let's just say that there are about 250 artisans who come by to sell their wares. Yeah. The food is quite varied; you can get the classic turkey leg or you can get yourself some italian pasta or greek gyros! And, of course, there's plenty of booze to go around. As I'm not much of a beer or ale person, the option of having mead or hard cider is greatly appreciated. Might I recommend some Egyptian Mead or 'Gumption' Hard Cider? Delicious!
Renfest food.
It's hard to put my finger on exactly what makes my local Renaissance Festival work. Everything I mentioned above certainly adds to the charm, but I'd have to say that the actors, artisans, and everyone who works there has a lot to do with it. Everyone I've encountered at Fest made me feel welcomed and like a part of this little world they created. They have a love and passion for what they do and are dedicated to getting some of that love and passion rubbed off on the rest of us (along with that fairy glitter). Well, I suppose that if my job was going from festival to festival and living in such a magical state of mind, I'd be pretty passionate too.

Have you gone to a Renaissance Festival/Fair? What do you like most about your local one? Comment below to let me know! Maybe I'll visit yours one day.
These days, there's a lot of TV series to stay up-to-date on. Sometimes it can seem like a part-time job. Other times, there are droughts. This seems to be due to the fact that many series are moving toward a shorter episode run. As much as you are all enjoying "Game of Thrones" season 5 right now, in 9-weeks you'll again be waiting for winter to come.

So for the times you find yourself scrolling though the Netflix selections, I am starting a new feature called "The TV Vault." In these write ups, I'll present to you a series that is now over that you may have missed when it was on. The series could be American or from across the pond.
PictureMoss and his sweet style.
In this first write up, I'd like to present the beloved UK show, The IT Crowd. This show is about a lovable group of losers: Moss, Roy, and Jen, as they provide IT support to a large general 'company.' In their off time, they try to find companionship and friendship with little success. To fit this show into a nutshell, it's about people desperately looking for acceptance from the societies Joe Cool's but always coming to the conclusion that maybe they're the ones that need to accept who they really are.  Being an outsider myself, I immediately found an affinity for each of the characters in a different way.

The show is also a laugh riot. It does borrow many beats from the 90s show Seinfeld, but it's full of sharply written banter and hilarious geek culture references. It's writing also executes it's humor in a more intelligent way then it's watered down and made for the masses American counterpart, "The Big Bang Theory."

The IT Crowd is the perfect show to pick you up and make you laugh on a rainy day. With only a scant six thirty-minute episodes per season, you can giggle your way into a sunny day.  Below are the quick details for the show.

The IT Crowd cast of characters.
Title: The IT Crowd
Genre: Sitcom
Premise: This series tracks the trials and tribulations of the misfit IT support staff of Reynholm Industries.
Original Run: 2006-2010; 2013
Seasons/Series: 4
Episodes: 24 + 1 Special
Why You Should Watch It: If you're a geek or nerd, you'll definitely catch all the references. If you're not, you may relate to the characters if you've ever been considered an outcast or a social pariah.
Best episode: "Jen the Fredo"
Best character: Maurice Moss a.k.a. Nine 
Best Season/Series: 3
Pop culture affect: Many catch phrases have been spawned from this series but none more popular that Roy's standard IT phone support advice "Have you tried turning it off and back on again." If you're a techy, you know this phrase well when your friends call you to help them troubleshoot their problems. 

Where to watch: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and YouTube

If you check out the show, let me know how you liked it. If you're already a fan, tell me your favorite bits in the comments below.
Valentine's Day sucks. It does for me anyway. If like me, you too find yourself hopelessly single year-after-year, you know that even the promise of half-priced chocolate the day after doesn't make up for an excessive amount of pink & red everywhere, along with the silent judgment the restaurant hostess gives you when you ask for a table for one. That being said, I won't let it get me down this time around. Yes, this year looks like it'll be more lonely than usual. Margaret is going out with her newest beau, Jamie, for the day (whoever he/she is), Lisa was asked to pick up an extra shift at the movie theater because of “you-know-what” playing, and Tiffany has officially started dating this 'Zach' guy I've been hearing about for ages.

I may be home alone on Valentine’s Day, but I won't spend it crying into a pint of chocolate ice cream while watching Nicholas Sparks movies (I prefer butter pecan and Period Romance/Dramas). No! Not a single tear will be shed I tell you! Though there may be some drooling...
Can't resist a man with a cravat. Double HP when paired with fabulous top hats!
Yes, despite the rampant sexism of the times, I can't help but enjoy watching love stories from a bygone era. They have all the elements of a chauvinistic fairy tale romance, yet many of the female protagonists are not necessarily helpless. Sure they may need help after hurting themselves or putting themselves in harms way, but they are all fiercely intelligent and loyal to their family and to themselves. These girls know who they love, but will reject their love if he doesn't prove to be worthy of it first. Then the films seal the deal by making all of their male protagonists gorgeous, British men who know how to turn on the smolder.
Don't give me that look!
C'mon, Pheebs don't give in! You can do this!
...Oh, sweet Jesus...
Cue all the straight girls swooning, begrudgingly or not.

Despite the amazing qualities these stories have, I can't overlook the fact that these strong women have to live in a world where they 'belong' to these men they fall in love with. It's pretty sad to realize that if I were to live in that society my chances of ending up with a Mr. Darcy or Mr. Rochester would be incredibly slim, as I know for a fact, that I wouldn't be able to pull off that quiet yet tenacious attitude with men like the ones pictured above, staring at me. And even if I did win their heart, I'd have no choice but to be the lady of the house for the rest of my days.

Then in my rabbit trail of a mind, an idea came to me. What would these stories be like if the roles were reversed? What if the woman held control over their lives and the men they could go after? Stranger questions have been asked about history.
And stupider questions have been asked, too.
Hear me out on this one! Just once I'd like an alternate Period Romance where things are a bit different... Get your internal ‘movie trailer narrator’ voice ready.  Now, imagine:
    Though the son of a wealthy businesswoman, Charles Wright has no claim to the inheritance his mother left behind in her passing. His step-sister, true heir to the family fortune made it clear that he would receive no financial help from her, therefore Charles and his ailing father had no choice but to leave the life of luxury behind and move to the countryside to find work. The two men move in with a cousin of his father’s and though it's far smaller than what they are accustomed to, Charles makes the most of it, focusing all of his efforts on providing for his father.

    He befriends a young man who is privy to all of the local rumors and gossip. When Charles notices a grand mansion sitting on a hill in the distant forest surrounding the village, he's told about Ms. Glover, the heiress of the Hillside Mansion and estate. She's rumored to be very rich and beautiful, but has never married because of her apparent cold and brooding behavior. Living with her is Kate Glover, Ms. Glover's niece and heir of the entire Hillside Estate. Kate is rumored to be a floozy and treat men poorly, but nothing has ever been brought to the public eye.

    Not long after, Charles walks home from an odd job not far from Hillside. Rain pours down as he struggles to trudge through the muddy path on the road and despite his efforts he trips and falls, injuring his foot. Suddenly, a carriage races towards Charles down the road and the driver appears to not be able to see him through the torrents of rain. He desperately tries to get off the road but is only able to move at a snails pace through the mud. Then right in the nick of time, a woman with boots and a staff comes out from the trees and stops the rider, scolding them for their careless driving.

    She goes to Charles and upon finding him injured, asks to help him the rest of the way home, which he accepts. The woman turns out to be Ms. Glover and the rumors about her aren't entirely incorrect as she answers his attempts at conversation with curt responses and often doesn't speak at all. Once they arrive at his cousin's cottage, Ms. Glover takes note of the state of Charles' father and the small space in which they live. She unexpectedly offers Charles a job caring for the grounds on her estate once his foot recovers. Surprised but grateful, he accepts.

            Caring for the gardens and grounds of Hillside proves to be a challenge, but Charles revels in it as he enjoys the outdoors and has always shown a proclivity for gardening. He begins to see a different and warmer side to Ms. Glover, as she begins to slowly open up to him and he to her. The two slowly but surely begin to fall for one another. Kate Glover returns to Hillside after a trip to the city and is immediately attracted to Charles, as such she accosts him on the grounds in an attempt to seduce him which he vehemently refuses. This and the revelation that her aunt 'Emily' Glover and Charles may become betrothed, thereby making their progeny be the heir to Hillside instead of her, makes her hate Charles. So she lies to Charles and tells him that Ms. Glover has been engaged to marry another wealthy heir in the village that he's frequently seen visit Hillside; she's been stringing him along, making false promises of love and affection the whole time.

            Heartbroken and betrayed, Charles makes to confront Ms. Glover but hears that his father is very close to death. So he decides to leave Hillside without a word instead. He makes it home to be by his father’s side as he dies. Seeing as there is nothing tying him to the village any longer, he makes to go back to the city, where his friend has gotten him a job tending the gardens of a university. Days after starting, Ms. Glover surprises him with a visit. Here he learns that one of Kate's 'endeavors' became very public and resulted in her being shamed out of the Hillside inheritance. Ms. Glover demands to know why he left in the first place and Kate’s lie is revealed for what it truly was, a lie. Here is where Ms. Glover proposes to the overjoyed Charles, who accepts.
That's my pitch for all of you aspiring novelists and Hollywood producers out there! Make romance even better by letting women feel empowered! Let them know that their love story can happen at any time or in any way AND be on their terms. Something new and different needs to happen to the romance genre these days.
And this sure as hell isn't it.
If you like historical romance as much as I do, check out "Lord Blackburn's Treasure" written by my friend Kelly Lynn Peters. You can get the Kindle edition for only $2.99!
You can find out more about the book on Amazon. Use either link.