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 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!