Monday, January 13, 2014

Dwarves in Space: The Serial

Ever wanted to read a book slowly over the course of a couple months on the internet for free?

Well do I have the deal for you!

I've placed my Dwarves in Space story up for a NaNo contest. What it means for me is that I have to beg people to vote for every one of my chapters -- PLEASE VOTE FOR MY STORY, I HAVE CANDY -- in that detached, effervescent way I exude. What it means for you is free novel about dwarves, elves, genies, orcs and some humans in space.

There are of course characters, locations, quests and pratfalls; but it's mostly an excuse to throw sci-fi and fantasy together and satirize all the cliches both genres provide.

You want more?


Captain Variel Tuffman, the proprietor of one re-purposed ancient cruise ship, has a secret. One of those change your face, change your name, change your socks kind of secrets. She’s kept it at bay for five years by keeping out of human space but it’s all about to go pear shaped thanks to a third technician.

Segundo, Quito is what it says on his name tag but he wasn’t born with that name, nor was he even called it most of his life. Segundo is a fresh faced idiot recently apprenticed into the exciting life of bureaucratic oversight, but he was raised in a mystical Prophet School. Sprung up by some middle men to help religions hunt quicker for their messiah, they put some 50 boys through the ringer to find their one true prophet and then he is gifted to a life of very tall hats. It’s what happens to the other 49 that no one thinks much about. As the not chosen one, Segundo finds himself stumbling through a galaxy he knows nothing about while at the mercy of the hands on the Elation-Cru who accidentally kidnapped him.

The pilot of the illustrious, glorified tin can is Orn Lidoffad; a Dwarf with a debilitating sugar addiction. He’s technically Variel’s right hand man despite him missing his own right hand. If you want the best pilot in the galaxy you best be looking somewhere else, but Orn’s never parked a ship near a black hole or pinched the wyrm into the middle of a planet so he’s got that going for him.
He’s also married to the ship’s engineer, the frosty elven Ferra who spends half her time complaining about the ship even as she fixes it and the other half defending her flying coprolite to anyone that dares mock her baby. Getting on her good side is nigh on impossible, but you never want to be on her bad side. At least not without sleeping with one eye open at all times.

Rounding out the official crew is an Orc doctor, Demi Monde. He had a bit of training before being struck with the inexplicable need to get off his people’s planets and never ever go back. It was surprising he’d team up with a human captain, the war having only ended a decade or so back, but then there are so few species the Orcs haven’t warred with. Monde is a constant professional, making the fact he has to perform life saving operations on an old pool table all the more maddening for him.
To supplement the expense of keeping a ship in space, a pair of High Elven siblings pay rent. Taliesin is an official assassin through the elven guild. He is as silent as the grave, not because it’s cool, he’s just unused to so many social gatherings, like greeting someone over the malfunctioning toaster in the morning. His sister, however, is a Bard. Brena travels the turbulent stars spinning tales and transforming popular movies into one woman songs with the help of a few electronics and some old ventriloquist lessons. She’s got a small problem that, if left unmedicated, could turn into a very big and deadly one. That’s why her brother travels with her, to keep an eye on her. And conveniently she’s also there to keep a close watch on him and his own wandering eyes.

The Djinn isn’t technically crew or passenger. He’s also not technically a person, being classified as a non-corporeal species that can only communicate with others inside an eight foot tall suit made from volcanic rocks. Despite the smog of Gene’s form keeping himself carefully constrained within the suit at all time, the Djinn has taken a vow of silence, never uttering a word to anyone. Only Variel, his single ally on the ship, has even an inkling of what the Djinn wants.

And then there’s WEST, the Welcoming Engine from the old days of the ship who — after a quarter of a century of solitary confinement — went a bit loony in the logarithms. It takes special glee in messing with any and all organics that walk through its halls, especially if it can refuse to open a pod bay door or two.
I already have up for free eyeball scanning:
I aim to do about two chapters a week, maybe I'll get it up to three if I'm in a particular editing mood.

So get out there and get reading, and if you could spare a click or two I'd KILL FOR A VOTE!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

It's that time again

Today my husband adds another notch on that old belt of life. Which means I once again must don the mantle of butcher, baker and candlestick maker.

After the balors, vampires, and mind flayers have been butchered it's baking time.

If you missed the cakes of yester-year here's a quick reminder of why I will never replace Martha Stewart or anyone who's ever properly held a piping bag.

This madness, this odd tradition of my wallowing in incompetence began years ago with this cake:
Truly it is a modern expression in the play of black against blue then held down and forced to swallow yellow play-dough. Oh and then a few sprinkles for funsies. She is the cake we must never forget or it'll break into your house and steal your furniture.

This is such a bad cake it was put on the no fly list - twice.

The next year, despite all common sense I actually tried with piping bags and everything:
Adorable baby sea turtle sprinkles covers all shame. I wish I could explain the ectoplasm ringing the sides but I assume I had to fight a giant portrait of a member of a hair metal band that was looking for a baby and had to run.

Then I went avant garde, post-modern, and other fancy sounding terms that means I meant for it to look like that and you can't prove I didn't.
Why is the cake a teal color? Who knows. Why does it seem to be constantly oozing over the side? Because I want it to. Why does it...? That's enough questions now Mr. Nosey, nosey pants.

One year I went ambitious on the cake aspect and less so on the covering in frosting approximating something like decorations.

I broke from the typical banana cake mold (which I'd only spice up on occasion) to make one of Celebration Generation's Banana's Foster cake. I did a few things differently.

1. I added a banana back to the batter along with a bit of creme de banana for that super yellow fruit kick.

2. I completely forgot to add the pudding until I had the batter sitting in the pans waiting for the oven. This then lead to a lot of cursing, repouring into the bowl, remixing, repouring into the pans and a good 10 minutes into baking when I remembered "Oh shit, I didn't re-grease the pans."

So, naturally, the cake was less than forgiving about exiting from said pans and while one layer only had a crack here and there the other was condemned after an 8.9 earthquake crumbled its foundation.

The sides held in tact only through willpower and a heavy dose of duct tape while the middle bottomed out. Once it finished cooling over night I, with the help of an excavation team, moved that crumbling mess to the cake stand and swore it would never move again.

Then came the filling, that was done mostly the same, but due to structural problems (as in there was none) I didn't torte anything in favor of digging a bit into the cake and then dumping in all of the banana and brown sugar into the middle and sealing its banana tomb with the second cake.

Frosting, oh yes frosting. This was luckily my second attempt at making my own buttercream frosting, and despite the fact I own neither double boiler or stand mixer I manage to make some nice tasting spackle. Is it supposed to be that consistency? I have no idea but its edible and it clings to things, it's doing far better than most previous attempts.

Here she is, my husband's Birthday Banana's Foster Cake:
You'll note the dedication to piling all of the frosting on with a spoon and then swiping at it as a bear does intruding camera crews. A swipe here, a swipe there, eh I'm tired, let's go see what's at the dump.

Here are the guts of the cake, you'll note the single banana layer tucked away waiting patiently for the signal to kill.

Last year I went my version of old school, simple banana cake which I added some nutmeg, cinnamon and a whole lot of rum to.

And for the frosting even lazier, a cream cheese to which I poured in a capfull of banana liquor and then accidentally dumped a good ounce worth of rum.

But you're here for the picture.
If you're wondering why the cake is a strange green/salmoney color there's a perfectly logical explanation for that.



........Look over there!

I also didn't cover the sides because I ran out of frosting. I could have made more frosting but then it wouldn't look like a dirt clod half dug out of the grass. You know, a traditional birthday cake.

So to 2014's big banana birthday cake I decided to go old school and once again try my attempts at creating something with a theme and all.

If you thought through that whole tutorial that my largest problem is that I never tried and surely over the years I had to get better, your undiluted optimism makes me smile and shake my head sadly.

What I tried to do was create an RPG map with the green being a graveyard, the lump of frosting being mountains, and behind is some yellow sugar to mimic the desert. Because there's always a desert. (The candles are supposed to be quest markers)
 What you actually have is a cocoa cream cheese frosting I flopped onto the cake with the skill of a drunk man fighting with pudding fairies. The mountains were because I had a ton of leftover and I wasn't about to let it go to waste. Instead of pasting on another layer, I just lobbed it at the cake and called it a landscape feature.

So, as you can see, even when I try and have a theme and get fancy sprinkles, it still approaches an abomination that must be sliced up and consumed lest its evil infest the entire world!