Swamped and Soaked in Wisconsin

One explains my lack of posting, while the other explains the effect of the last vacation we just got home from. Overall it is me telling myself why I am a horrible blogger. Not that it isn’t obvious by my lack of posting since the In This Moment concert. Hell, I’m already planning on if I can make their next show in Madison (early December in case you’re wondering).

Now the soaked portion of the title will come into play later. That will be a discussion of our cruise from New York to Halifax and back. As you can guess by its teaser in the title, water was more than just a little involved. But that is a story for another day…

Swamped. Writing. Editing. Working. Vacations (without wifi). Politics. In other words… swamped. All of this worked to keep me from posting a wrap of the Authors After Dark convention in New Orleans. I’ll try and correct that problem currently.

The first to consider is us getting the four dozen cupcakes prepped and ready to drag on the train with us to NOLA. This included making the toppers for the cakes and prepping a bunch of frosting to come with us in containers to be applied once at the hotel. Yeah. It was that crazy. First there was the bus trip from Madison to Chicago. Robin got all intimate with the cupcakes. Darn near biblical. See?

Seriously she had a couple inches of space for the ride down to Janesville. Yes, that Janesville (for those of you up on current events). Once there we switched buses for the last leg of the trip and were able to give the cupcakes their own space. Either way, it was interesting to say the least. Once we were on the train, there was plenty of space. Through a mix up, we’d been put in a family sleeping car as opposed to a bunkhouse. The cupcakes got their own seat there too.

Once there we piped frosting onto all of the cakes and brushed out the toppers (we transported them in sugar). Then the hotel stored them in the kitchens for us. But since I know you all are dying to find out what they were…

The Trampire

This one was brought to Romantic Times this year as well, but I did a return visit since people liked it so well. It takes a bit of doing and isn’t as “wet” of a cake as some of them, but it has a rather unique taste as it uses both whole wheat and regular flour as well as two kinds of sugar. (Brown sugar and standard sugar, for the curious.) The cake is a hard cider cake which is filled with a Granny Smith and hard cider compote. Which is the time consuming part of the process. It is topped with either a white chocolate cream cheese frosting or a cinnamon one. (For AAD all of the cupcakes got the same frosting.)

For fans of the Sabina Kane series (the source of the name Trampire and the flavor choice) you’ll notice the chocolate topper is a hand piped version of her birthmark that resembles the Caste of Nod symbol. Or as we like to call it, our most breakable topper transported. (We packed extras.)

The Ryzkahls (Spicy Demon Lords)

Another of my “go-to” cakes when baking for my gaming groups, this is a modification of the classic Devil’s Food recipe that I took from my Bleeding Heart Bakery cookbook. It is made with ancho chili in the batter giving it just a little heat with the rich devils food chocolate. The dark ganache inside is dusted with some cayenne for a bit more heat. This cake is actually meant to get the standard white chocolate cream cheese frosting. (Though I have considered trying a dark chocolate cream cheese frosting for this one.)

And while the Trampire toppers were the most breakable, these toppers were the ones that never were. I picked up an ice cube tray that makes AK47 bullet ice cubes. Doing those in chocolate leads to a lot of air bubbles. We need a couple more tries to get them right. My wife did do one bullet in gum paste and painted it for Diana’s topper. The rest of them were garnished with chocolate covered almonds so they wouldn’t be naked as Prince Harry on a Vegas bender.

The Velveteens (Goth Velvets)

Although not out until next month, I have read this book and knew that with a character named Velvet a cupcake had to follow. The attempt was for a Grey Velvet (same as a red but with a different color). We found when adding black coloring to the cocoa flavored batter it was hard to get grey. So we went a little Elvis and made black velvet cakes. It is filled with a white chocolate ganache and topped with the white chocolate cream cheese frosting. With more time open, I would do the frosting in grey to give us the three “goth colors” of black, white and grey.

Without spoiling too much of the story, the toppers are skeleton keys as they’re what Daniel Marks said would be an excellent element from the book. Taking his word on it, one of my friends gave me a present of getting the food safe silicone and molding me the key molds. They are a little thin for chocolate, so Robin made these out of gum paste and hand painted them.

The Hornicorns

This one seemed to have the most people excited about them. Sometime soon, I will post the recipe for these so y’all can make them at home. Warning, this does involve “shaving” raw sweet corn. In other words, a bit messy. Also, this is the only one of the four that wasn’t filled. It doesn’t really need to be filled. It is a sweet corn cake that I folded chopped bits of pig candy into. (Pig candy is candied bacon.) Half way through the baking cycle I sprinkled a bit more pig candy on the tops of the cakes to add to the bacon flavor and to add a texture layer to it. I had first topped it with a maple butter cream, but for the convention I topped it with white chocolate cream cheese frosting. Either works well.

For the topper, we placed the hornicorn part into it with a gum paste unicorn horn. We even disco dusted it like the unicorn poop that both we and Allison Pang had made. And since these were for her Phin the unicorn sidekick from her series, it seemed appropriate. Also these spurned the comments of “surprise horn” as the unicorn horns were pretty long so we buried into the cupcake.

This is a whole lot of description of the cupcakes, so I think I will leave things here and post up more news and photos of the trip to New Orleans later. Give me until like Tuesday or Wednesday.

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Geek in Review – Battle of the Network Zombies

February is the opening of the League of Reluctant Adults floodgates. Like the poor little Dutch boy who could no longer keep his finger in the dike, the raging waves of Leaguer books are heading to stores come February 23rd. The one I am probably most excited about (with apologies to the other authors) is Battle of the Network Zombies by Mark Henry. This is the third book in the Amanda Feral series that shows us the seedy underside of the Supernatural Seattle. Unfortunately from time to time it shows us other “seedy undersides” as well.

Back in November, in the midst of the insanity that was Nanowrimo, I received the ARC of the book I won through a contest on Bitten by Books. National Novel Writing Month or not, I was not going to wait to read this book. I also wrote a review of it that unfortunately never saw publication. I used the basis of that for this review – most definitely I kept the tag line for it. But that will have to wait.

If you are not familiar with the Amanda Feral series, I suggest picking up Happy Hour of the Damned. It is the first in the series and explains a lot of the world and the characters. Also, it just released earlier this week in mass market paperback so is only $6.99. If you are located in Southern Wisconsin and want to get your copies of Mark Henry’s books personalized, signed and possibly have dirty stick figures drawn in them (his words, not mine), then contact me and I can do that for you in the end of April. Seriously, he told me to bring a whole suitcase full of them and I will make sure he is at least two drinks in before he signs any of them.

Also, any purchases made of either Happy Hour of the Damned or Battle of the Network Zombies will help towards the Save Amanda campaign. With the economy the way it has been, trade paperback sales have been deadly – more so than our favorite snarky zombie socialite. If the mass market sales and the initial sales of Battle of the Network Zombies do not show promise, there may be no book four. And from everything I have heard, we all will want to see a book four.

I suppose I should hop down off this soapbox and produce an actual review of the book for you. I will include some links at the bottom where you can go to join in on other contests involving the Save Amanda campaign. But for now let’s talk Supernatural Reality Television.

This book focuses on two things, Amanda’s need for money and her love of the celebrity lifestyle. Let’s face it, she is a high maintenance girl – mortuary grade make-up isn’t the only thing a zombie needs to keep herself from looking a little green around the edges. And those psycho little Reapers are not cheap. Don’t let the Shirley Temple look fool you, they cannot be paid in gumdrops and Barbie dolls! From the start of the book, Amanda deals with both of these needs by signing on for one of Mark Henry’s obsessions – a reality television show. (Seriously, an intervention might be in order.)

Amanda joins the cast of a show to pick out a bodyguard for a rather raunchy nature spirit that feels he needs protection – in the form of a busty female supernatural. Well, for the most part. The cast of characters in the show ranges from a drag queen werewolf (probably one of my favorite characters in the book), an oriental floating head and guts style vampire nail tech to a pair of drunken sirens. All just lining up to be judged by Amanda, the Simon of the show.

If the first two books showed anything it is this. In addition to all of the characters being damaged way before they became monsters, nothing in Amanda’s life ever goes according to plan. The whole story is an amazing roller coaster ride and is way more raunchy than either of the first two books. That is not to say it is bad though. Quite to the contrary, it is freeing to see Amanda and Mark both really open up in this book and let loose. Of course this is at the cost of me ever eating corn on the cob again. Ever!

One of the strangest things about this book is that there really is no “protagonist” to the story. Amanda is the main character, but she is a monster. She does not wax emo over the fact that she has to kill to survive. She will eat your face off and only apologize for the clothes you are wearing or your hideous makeup job. Yet still, with all of these monsters who are out on the prowl eating defenseless people, you still get invested in the story – you still care about the characters. Even when they are being seriously gross.

If you enjoy dark humor along the lines of the movie Heathers, this is definitely the book for you. Although I would start at the first book, you will want to pick up the other two. If you are not into some of the more gross aspects of the undead lifestyle, this book might bother you but I don’t think it will detract you from the story enough to enjoy it. My wife has read the first two and loved them even though she is not into “gross horror stuff.” Simply put, Battle of the Network Zombies is similar to dislocating your shoulder during sex – it is really uncomfortable in spots, but you are enjoying yourself too much to stop.

I feel totally safe in giving this book a solid A. Five out of five dancing zombies. You name the scale, and this will top it. It is fun, wild and disturbing in the most crazy awesome ways. Definitely worth the price of admission, which brings me to the other offers and contests revolving around the book.

Amberkatze’s Blog – Guest Blog and Contest with Mark Henry

You can go there and read the discussion on the books, Mark’s rockstar lifestyle and enter to win copies of his books. All just for asking questions, pointing other people towards the blog or purchasing copies of his other books!

The Qwillery – Author Comments and Photoshop Funnies

Go to the Qwillery you can enter to win a copy of Happy Hour of the Damned and a Zombie Rubber Duckie – just for leaving a comment!

If any more pop up and are still current I will add them to the list. Otherwise, besides my offer to get your books personalized, you can purchase online from the University of Washington book store and request in the notes of your order to have him personalize it. Otherwise, get them to me by April.

Save Amanda!

Another November Come and Gone

You know how you can tell it is December? When your wife looks at you and says, “So do I get my husband back now?” For those of you wondering – yes, that was a direct quote from last night.

Allow me to explain. My wife allows me to participate in Nanowrimo because she knows it makes me happy. Exhausted and insane, but happy. She supports me even though it means most nights I will be in a coffee shop writing instead of at home. She supports it even though coffee is expensive and we eat out more than we normally do that month. What I was reminded of last night is that she is also as relieved as I am when the month is over.

Lucky for me Sunday night she was still up in Wild Rose due to a business meeting in Sturgeon Bay on Monday. She didn’t get to see me staying up most of the night to meet my goal for the month.

I will be blogging a bit more frequently now, but let’s throw up a small recap of the month…

  • read Battle of the Network Zombies by Mark Henry
  • wrote a review of Battle of the Network Zombies that will hopefully post soon (mental note to check on that)
  • wrote just over 51,000 words over the course of 30 days
  • found out things about my main character in my WIP that will likely change that piece
  • discovered electric streetlights were installed in Madison in 1921
  • the building that houses the Italian Workman’s Club was built in 1921
  • before 1921 the Italian Workman’s Club met in someone’s garage
  • saw no deer except when driving home at night during gun season
  • drank a whole lot of coffee
  • found some help from people that likely had no idea they were helping me

The end result is a renewed resolve to complete the final revision on my WIP and then likely work on the next. I might consider working on the 1921 version of the story I did for Nanowrimo, but we shall see.

Save Amanda FeralIn lieu of another blurp about the contest at the Enchanted Inkpot, let me draw your attention to the Save Amanda Feral campaign. If you are unfamiliar with Mark Henry’s books Happy Hour of the Damned and Road Trip of the Living Dead, they are a couple of my favorites. It has intelligence, snark, dark humor and monsters. I am talking honest to goodness monsters that will eat your face off just because they are hungry and not brood over it all emo like with GQ hairstyles. (Well, Gil might have the hair, but not the emo bit.)