Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Edwardian Ball 2011

Mark Day, the guy who filmed the crossplay Justice League I featured recently, just sent me his latest video. It's pretty awesome, too, so I thought I'd share:

This is the Edwardian Ball held recently in Los Angeles. I remember seeing Mark's last video of the San Francisco Ball last February, and both are equally incredible. The Ball itself is both beautiful and disturbing by turns, and I'm fascinated by the mash-up of Victorian, steampunk, carnival, and just plain weird styles. Part of the performance is a live staging of Edward Gorey's "The Eleventh Hour," and then there are lots of musical numbers, dances, and aerial acts. Definitely a spectacle in every sense of the word, and Mark captures it all beautifully.

Anyway, hope you enjoy, and check out Mark's Youtube channel for more!

Monday, April 18, 2011


I was recently asked to help spread the word about GeekGirlCon. As a geek, a girl, and rabid convention fan, obviously this is right up my alley.

Of course, the powers that be then decided to host it in Seattle - a location which couldn't possibly be farther away from me and still remain in the continental U.S. - and I'm really trying not to take that personally.

But, I digress.

The convention isn't until October, but I'm telling you now because this is their very first year, and they're looking for people to get involved any way they can. You're encouraged to volunteer, spread the word, suggest topics, bring cookies (ok, I'm guessing on the cookies), and just generally get plugged in over at the GGN website.

So, go! Do that. Tell 'em I sent you.

And then maybe start a petition for an east coast version.


PS - Oh, and guess what? Katie and her mom will be there!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Essential Steampunk Reading List

Since I've had several of you ask for steampunk book recommendations, I thought I'd put together a little list. So, if you like Victorian alternative history adventures with dashes of the supernatural, airships, and plenty of gadgetry, read on!

Note: I'll just be telling you whether I liked each title one or not, so hit the individual links for more info and plot summaries over on Amazon.

Let's start with the ones I've actually read:

Soulless, part 1 of the Parasol Protectorate Series

This is a fun book, and it's been wildly popular in the steampunk community. It is adult fiction, of course, not Young Adult, so expect the love scenes to be a bit more...adult. But, it's witty and funny and well worth a read.

That said, I can't recommend the rest of the series nearly as enthusiastically. I've read the first three, and felt books 2 and 3 just went downhill. The things that happen with the main characters also made me mad. ('Cuz I take my fictional characters seriously, dang it.) That said, if you simply ADORE the first book, then by all means keep going and judge for yourself.

Next up is one of my all-time favorites in any genre:

Airborn, by Kenneth Oppel

This is a YA adventure story on the high...winds. Heh. It's swashbuckling in the best sense of the word, with airships, lost islands, and undiscovered aerial species. I loved it. There are more books in the series, too: book 2 isn't *quite* as good, but read it anyway, because book 3 is simply spectacular. (In my opinion, of course.)

Next up is a book by one of my favorite authors:

Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld

If you've read the Uglies series, then you know Westerfeld couldn't write a bad book if he tried. So with that in mind, I'd definitely recommend this book. It didn't grab me quite as strongly as Uglies, but it puts a unique spin on steampunk and has a rich alt-history timeline.

Those are the steampunk titles I've read thus far. Now here's one Epbot reader Teabunny recommended:

The Iron Duke, part of the Iron Seas Series, by Meljean Brook

This has great reviews, and - in case the cover didn't tip you off - is a steamy alt-universe romance. Hubba hubba.

I've also heard good things about this one:

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

It's on my to-read list, so I'll let you know how it goes!

And finally, Delphine S. sent me a link to a gorgeous steampunk comic book. I'm ashamed to say I've never been a comic book reader, but the art in this one makes me want to start:

Lady Mechanika, by Joe Benitez

Have any of you read it? How do you like it?

Of course, there's plenty more steampunk lit out there. In fact, Jodie G. sent me this list: Steampunk: 20 Core Titles

So check that out, and then share your own steampunk reading recommendations in the comments!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Geek Glee 4/15/11

I know a lot of folks are busting out the Easter egg wreaths right now, but really, wouldn't you rather have THIS on your front door?

Source found via

An industrious father and son duo made this wreath together from dollar store toy packs. Yep, it's a wreath made of toys. Don't you love it? I mean, who wouldn't grin seeing this?

Plus, after spying that little ray gun in the top left, I'm thinking a completely sci-fi themed one would be awesome. Or what about Lego? Or little green army men? Or marbles? Or...well, you get the idea. :)

Here's an oldie but a goodie for us Labyrinth fans:

Did you hear about the time someone found Hoggle in a pile of lost luggage? Amanda D. found the story through the site of a company that buys and sells lost luggage by the truckload. Fascinating stuff! It reminds me of the time someone dredged a real, series-used Dalek from Doctor Who out of a pond in England.

And speaking of England: Monty Python fans, prepare for much rejoicing.

Alex M. has discovered a webpage that calculates the Airspeed Velocity of an Unladen Swallow. Seriously. It's got intimidating graphs, over-my-head mathematical formulas, and plenty of Monty Python quotes. Finally, the answer is revealed! (No, I won't tell you what it is - you'll have to go to the page and find it yourself.)

Here's some Muppet art that really pops:

Bork bork bork!

Susanne Ritchie (the artist) has set out to make all the Muppets out of balloons. And they're awesome. You can see the rest at her blog, Black Cat Balloons (Found via @GlennzTees)

And finally, your weekend simply can't kick off until you watch Peter Jackson's first video blog from the set of The Hobbit:

Stop everything. Watch this. Cry a little. Squee a lot.

Ok, now your weekend can officially begin.

Happy Friday, everyone! What's making you grin today?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Planes, Pains, & Automobiles

So...the next Cake Wrecks book is just about done.

(I'll pause here for a little "dancing around the office" time.)

Yep, the layout and design are still being tweaked, but soon I'll be able to check "Write a *holiday* goofy cake book" off my life's to-do list.

Now, however, comes the hard part:


[blood-curdling scream]

Now, I know I don't talk about CW much over here, so you might be wondering why I'm bringing this up. Well, here's the thing: I'm in a quandary. A conundrum. A fix. John and I have spent the past several days talking it over and puzzling it out and sharing a lot of dramatic, brow-furrowed glances, and yet we *still* can't figure this one out. So maybe you guys can help.

Here's the problem: John and I don't want to fly for this tour; we want to road trip it.

In an RV.

'Cuz we're nuts.

(Ok, maybe not *this* nuts.)

Or that's what most of our friends and all of our family keep telling us, anyway. So, before you jump on board with the "seek professional help" team, let me list for you what *we* see as the positives for a road trip across the U.S. (and perhaps a bit of Canada):

- No airplanes
- No security lines/screening/indignity
- Less hassle: no constant packing/unpacking/rushing to meet flights
- Faster (for shorter trips, of course, and taking into account airline delays & such.)
- Less exposure to sick travelers, plague, ebola virus, etc.
- More tour stops (we'd strive to make no more than 6-hr hops between cities when possible)

If that last point seems sarcastic, it's not. John and I love the idea of an extended road trip, and considering that we spent the first two years of our marriage working and living in a 45o square foot condo together, we're used to tight quarters. Plus as a teenager I once lived in a motorhome with my grandparents for a few weeks, and it's one of my all-time favorite memories. I loved it.

However, my list is also in order of importance. I've never been a huge fan of flying, but the recently increased "security" measures (and resulting personal rights violations) have made me swear it off completely wherever possible. I'm not trying to start a debate on politics here; I'm just telling you how I feel, as an anxiety-prone individual with a history of things I don't want to relive while a government employee gropes me, sees me naked, or both.

Still, I know many people have no problem with the nude scanners and pat-downs, and those people tell me, "If you don't like it, don't fly." Well, I'm not flying. Or at least trying not to! However, there are times when people simply don't have a choice in the matter, whether it's for work or family emergencies or what-have-you. And, when it comes to this book tour, I honestly don't know if we'll be able to avoid the less-than-friendly skies.

Here's why:

- The cost
- The risks (one fender-bender could throw the whole tour off, and, no matter how you look at it, flying IS safer.)
- The cost
- Getting around town (would we rent a cab, or drive the RV to the bookstore?)
and, of course:
- The cost.

See, renting an RV is amazingly expensive. I mean, AMAZINGLY expensive. One RV guy told us it's actually cheaper to just buy one and sell it again when you're done with the trip. Um. Yikes? And then there's the gas, which John estimates would cost nearly $4,000 for a round-the-country trip. FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS. Just for gas. Now, our publisher is willing to pick up the tab on quite a lot, but I can't ask them to pay more than they would for regular ol' flights and hotels.

A few more negatives:

- A road trip would take a bit longer, though hopefully not much if we plan the route right. (Also taking into account that, if we flew, we'd allow extra days to rest between stops. I don't want a repeat of our first tour disaster!)

- Since John is the one with experience driving large trucks, he would be the only driver. Meaning if he were to get sick, we'd be up the proverbial creek without a literal driver.

- We also have to consider the physical toll driving and hooking up an RV each night would take on us. Before we usually had a taxi waiting at each airport to take us directly to the store or hotel, meaning we didn't have to worry much about directions and driving and disposing of our own poop. (TMI? Heh. Sorry.)

How cool is this bus?? Can I have one? Please?

The good news is I have the World's Most Amazing Publisher, aka Andrews McMeel. The lovely ladies there are open to just about about any and every crazy idea John and I throw at them. Road trip across the U.S.? Sure! Twenty five stops? Why not? John made a joke about including Australia the other day, and I think they were even on board with *that.* (Now I'm trying to brainstorm ideas just to mess with them, but I have a sneaking suspicion they'd be unflaggingly enthusiastic about a hidden camera show punking bakers with ridiculous cake orders.)

So here's where I'd like some input, if you readers have any to offer: who out there has RV experience? What aspects of this kind of travel am I missing? Are trailer parks hard to find/awful to stay in? Is it a massive amount of work? Do you like it better than flying?

(I wouldn't mind this one, either.)

Our hope would be to find a relatively small RV to save on gas and maximize maneuverability in-town. Our dream would be to find an RV manufacturer willing to rent us one in exchange for some kind of sponsorship deal. I've never done anything like this, of course, and more than likely the motorhome companies won't give us the time of day, but it's worth a shot, right? Especially since you know I'll be posting and tweeting and generally yammering on about the trip when the time comes anyway. Heck, maybe we'll become the new poster-children for the American Road Trip!

Or maybe we'll end up in another Dallas ER.

Who can say?


Right now we're looking at the month of November to hit the road, so we still have a little time to figure out what we're going to do. So, please, chime in with your thoughts! I want any and all advice/ideas you readers have to offer.


UPDATE: Wow, you guys are bringing up some excellent points and making great suggestions. To save on the comment deluge, let me list the most common issues I'm seeing:

- "November? ARE YOU CRAZY??"

Ok, good point on the snowy road conditions. However, I think we could leave in early October and wrap the tour by mid November, visiting the frozen North first to avoid the worst of the blizzards and such. Plus John was raised in Maine, so he's not unfamiliar with driving in the snow.

- "Why not just take a car and stay in hotels?"

Another good point, and one we're considering. The downsides I see are a) it's a lot less fun, b) you still have to unpack & repack every night, and c) if, God forbid, we get in a wreck, the risk of bodily harm seems much higher in a small car vs a large RV. (As a compromise, we're continuing to research small RVs and/or large vans.)

- "What about trains?"

Good question! Not sure if they go everywhere we need them to, but I'll look into it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Maker Spotlight: BioShock Munny Mod

I love art, and I love artists who put their own spin on characters I already know and love. So when that artist is a geek, things *really* get cool.

Like so:

This little Big Daddy (gotta love that contradiction) is the work of InkyMcStapleFace, who, in addition to having a user name that made me guffaw, is a rockin' geek girl with some mad Munny-modding skills. (For those unfamiliar, Munnys are art dolls used pretty extensively in the art world as modifiable blank canvases.)

And it gets better: Big Daddy lights up!

How's that for an awesome night light?

And because every Mr. Bubbles needs his own little sister:


Yep, I'm already having flashbacks of bathroom stall ambushes and those horrifying, invincible doorways. Someday, doors, I'll find a way to get through you.

Anyway, here's a final shot of Inky, giving her creation a cuddle:


Go check out all of her in-process shots here, and a big thanks to my fav blog SuperPunch for the link!

Monday, April 11, 2011

WonderCon Crossplay Fun

Mary B. shared this great photo with me from WonderCon last weekend:

Ha! Isn't it fabulous?

If you've never heard of it, "crossplay" is a form of cosplay that involves dressing as a character of the opposite gender. Often you'll see the costumes tweaked a bit to be more feminine or masculine, which is what makes it so fun. Of this group, I love Aqua(wo)man and Super(wo)man the most, but they're all great.

I also found a video of just the ladies over on Geekologie:

Hit the link to see three more WonderCon vids by the same guy, showing off all the costumes at the con. They're really well done.

Anyway, I love crossplay for its creativity and double-take-inducing fun. For me, the best ones are those that re-imagine a character as if s/he had been born the opposite sex, as opposed to dressing exactly like the original. At it's worst, crossplay can be just slapping on a pair of thigh-highs and stilettos to make the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles "sexy." [eyeroll] I have no problem with sexy, but, c'mon, ladies! Get a little more creative!

You know, like this:


Hellboy Girl!

Or how about the lady Link I posted from MegaCon?

And I think this is the same female Boba Fett I saw at the Star Wars Celebration last year:


I could go on, but I'm supposed to be working on my "real" job right now. ;) Being sick this past week has really put me behind.

Oh, and crossplay obviously goes the other way, too, with boys dressing as girls, but I just get a bigger kick out of seeing my fellow geek girls 'playing it up.

Ok, so, your turn: what character would you like to see crossplayed? Or for that matter, what characters *have* you crossplayed? Share your ideas and links in the comments!

UPDATE: I've since heard from more experienced cosplayers that this kind of crossplay - where the gender change is played up - is more accurately known as "gender swap." Sorry for bungling the terminology, guys!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Road Trippin'

John and I have been on the road this past week, traveling up the east coast to see some friends and family. Our first stop was New Bern, North Carolina, to see our long-time friends John and Abby Gjertsen.

New Bern is a small town packed with charm. In fact, their downtown area is the way I wish all downtowns were: lots of fun boutiques, art shops, delis, and not a single chain-store to be found. Here's a shot I took on the street by a gorgeous brick church:

There was also this old hardware store, lit with gas lamps and stuffed to the gills with everything you'd need to restore a period house:

Sorry for the yucky iPhone picture; I forgot my camera.

They almost had to drag me out of there. (And if I tell you I bought a copper toilet float - with no intention of using it in a toilet - you won't judge me, right?)

New Bern's main claim to fame is that it's the birthplace of Pepsi-Cola. Since John drinks enough Diet Pepsi and Diet Mountain Dew to bleed soda, we of course had to stop in to the little corner store:

I don't drink soda anymore - and when I did, it was Coke products - so my main highlight was the penny smashing machine. You can bet I got a couple of those!

On our second morning with the Gj's, they received some terrible news. After some tears and hugs, we left them in the care of their families and continued on to see my parents and grandmother in Williamsburg, Virginia. The weather was as miserable there as it was in New Bern, which is to say cold and rainy, so we spent our time prowling antique malls or playing PS3 at their place. (My dad is addicted to racing games, so we were up past midnight crashing into each other and shouting with laughter. Good times.)

And, because it isn't possible for me to leave an antique mall empty-handed, we currently have an old radio cabinet wrapped up and strapped in to our back seat. I forgot to take a picture, but while searching online I stumbled across this ad for it:


Ok, so you can't tell much from the picture, but trust me: it's cool. The radio has been removed so we just have the cabinet, but it's in amazing condition - and it was only $45! Granted, I have no idea how much a 1931 radio cabinet is worth, but considering it originally sold for $142.50, I figure $45 can't be that bad.

We have some fun plans for it, too. I can't wait to show you when we're done!

Our final destination - and where I'm writing this post - is just outside of Washington, D.C. Our good friends Mat and Amy live here, so we're staying with them and their two little boys. We timed our trip to coincide with the cherry blossom festival, which means DC is crowded, but also well worth the crowds:

All around the city, pinkish-white cotton-top trees are snowing petals. It's gorgeous!

John and I walked around the tidal basin on Monday, and spent some time just sitting under the dense canopy of flowers:

We've always loved DC - we even came here for our honeymoon - but I tend to forget just how much walking it takes to get around. I guess I need to be logging more hours on the ol' treadmill desk.

Looking out across the water:

We also saw several painters out:

From there we walked to the Lincoln Memorial and the new(ish) World War II Memorial. It's hard to take an original picture of things so heavily photographed, but here are my best shots (pun intended [of course]):

Walking up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

The ceiling inside.

Inside one of the two archways of the WWII Memorial.

It was a beautiful day on Monday - warm and sunny - but today we were back to the cold and rain. Plus all this yucky weather seems to have caught up with me, since I woke up this morning with a bit of a head cold. I packed my trusty neti pot, though, so here's hoping I'll be up for another spin around the city tomorrow.

We head home Thursday - wish us luck on the 15-hour drive! (Oy.)

Monday, April 4, 2011

How's it Hangin'? A Flop Tutorial

I know some of you still have snow on the ground, but for us Floridians summer is already kicking into high gear. And summer means flip flops.

Yep, we southern girls have 'em for everything: casual wear, evening wear, 'flops with heels, 'flops with big poofy flowers glued on...you name it. They're cheap impulse buys, so it's easy to accumulate a whole mountain of flip-flops in a single season.

But say you don't like the "mountain" storage method. Say you need to get your mound o' 'flops off the floor and into a tidy system, but are limited on space. What then?

Well, how about this?

This was my no-cost solution last year: a left over curtain rod mounted on two shelf brackets, and lots of modified hangers. For the rod you could also use a wooden dowel, piece of PVC pipe, or any other strong bit of metal. To mount it we bent up the tips of two metal shelf brackets and secured the rod with small screws, but you could also use conventional closet rod hangers, which you can find in any hardware store.

Now, the fun part is the actual hangers. Here's how to make them:

First, grab a handful of the flimsiest metal hangers you can find in your closet. (You want to be able to bend them with your hands, if possible.) You'll also need a pair of needle-nosed pliers.

Cut off the bottom section of the hanger like so:

You may need to score the metal with the pliers and then snap it with your hands.

Now take your pliers and roll up the two edges, like this:

This gets the sharp edges safely out of the way, and also looks kind of cute.

Now, using both your hands and your pliers, bend your hanger into this approximate shape:

Kind of like a stick figure flexing his muscles. :)

Now, to be honest, you could just stop here. I did, for over a year. The hangers are perfectly functional, if a bit chippy and drab.

I recently went back and decided to pretty them up, though. First I put a fresh coat of spray paint on them:

And then I found some gorgeous teal, orange, and red ribbon - though it took me a little while to figure out a way to use it. In the end, I came up with this cute little hanger jacket:

Here's how you make it:

Make sure your ribbon is snug, so it doesn't fall off the hanger. To secure it you can use fabric or super glue - or, if the glue stains the ribbon like mine did, glue dots also work really well.

Step 6 shows the backside of the hanger. I suggest flipping it over like this to trim off the excess ribbon.

When you're done, your hanger should look like this:

Again, you could stop there, but I thought a red button was the perfect cherry on top for mine:

And here they are, hanging in a row:

Actually I have even more than this, but I didn't want to hang them all up because then you'd know I have that many flip-flops and it'd be, like, totally embarrassing.

Here's how the 'flops hang:

I never could get all the sides quite even. :/

And now en masse:

Plus, here's a handy bonus: you can also hang your ballerina flats on these!

And finally, since I spent the better part of an evening cleaning it out, allow me to present - for your judging pleasure - a glimpse inside my closet:

Hey! It's, like, neat and stuff!

I had to use a wide-angle lens to get this; it's pretty cramped in there. As you can see, when I'm not wearing flip-flops I'm wearing little boy's sneakers or boots. (I loooove boots.) I think the last time I wore a pair of heels was our Christmas cruise, but at least they look pretty on the shelves. ;)

So, do you guys have any nifty space-saving tips from your closet? Share in the comments!