Sunday, September 26, 2010

Steampunk Sunday: A little of This and That…and a Little Bragging

All lovers of steampunk be sure to check out the September issue of Locus magazine, It’s the steampunk issue and features interviews with Gail Carriger and Cherie Priest. There are extracts from the interviews on Locus’ website. I for one can’t wait to read it.

Issue09_444x576

This fall Aspen Comics are releasing the steampunk comic Lady Mechanika by artist Joe Benitez.

ladym_adFULL The tabloids dubbed her "Lady Mechanika", the sole survivor of a psychotic serial killer's three-year rampage through London. Authorities found her locked in an abandoned laboratory amidst an undeterminable number of corpses and body parts, her own limbs having been amputated and replaced with mechanical components.

With no memory of her captivity or her former life,Mechanika eventually built a new life for herself as a private detective, using her unique  abilities to solve cases the police couldn't or wouldn't handle. But she never stopped searching for the answers to her own past.

Set in turn of the century England, a time when magic and superstition clashed with new scientific discoveries and inventions, Lady Mechanika is about a young woman's search for her own identity as she solves other mysteries involving science and the supernatural. (From www.joebenitez.com)

If you go to Aspen Comics’ website there’s an interview with Joe Benitez…just click here and scroll down a bit.

(All artwork belong to their respective owners)

And now for a little bragging, which had nothing to do with Steampunk Sunday.

My Aussie friend, Janine Baroutsis attended the True Blood con this weekend and got me this beautiful picute signed by Kristen Bauer van Straten (Pam). It’s so awesome!!

True Blood Con 2010 Green 2

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Steampunk Sunday: Reviews and Interview with O. M. Grey…

Today, although a little late, Steampunk Sunday features reviews of O. M. Grey’s Avalon Revisited and her short story, Of Aether and Aeon, as well as a short interview with Ms. Grey.

 About O. M. Grey:

O. M. Grey currently lives in Texas with her husband. She holds both a BA and MA in British Literature. Although she doesn’t have a drop of British blood in her veins, she claims that her entire heart is British. As an amateur Anglophile, her dreams of the dark streets of London have finally found their home on the pages of her books.

She prefers to live in the cobwebbed corners of her dark mind writing paranormal romance with a Steampunk twist.

When she’s not writing, she’s reading or tending the garden or drinking a hot cup of tea.

Just two drops, please. (From www.http://omgrey.wordpress.com/)

 

Interview:

I have to be honest; Arthur leaves me baffled. He’s fascinating. There’s something almost Dorian Gray-like about him. How did his persona come about?

I know what it's like to be alive for forty years. I can't imagine living for 350, so I wanted to take all that middle-aged cynicism and intensify it. Couple that with his royal upbringing, and you've got one highly arrogant, cheeky bastard.

One of my favourite parts of the novel is all the references to the Arthurian Legends, the Tudors, and folk lore. How did all of this merge together? Did you have it all plotted before you started writing, or was it something that developed on its own?

It was always part of the plan. That's why I wrote this book. I love the Tudors, and I especially loved how Henry VII named his first son Arthur so he would become Arthur II of England. Perhaps the reason he died just adds to the Arthurian Legend, as if there will never be another Arthur until the true king returns from Avalon.

Why did you choose Arthur Tudor and not Arthur Pendragon for your novel?

I actually have a fascination with both Arthurs, but so very much has been done with King Arthur (Pendragon). Very few people have even heard of Arthur Tudor, whereas everyone knows his younger brother Henry VIII. .

Would you tell us a little known fact or secret about Avalon Revisited?

It attracted a fabulous NY literary agent. Score.

In reading the reviews to your short story, I have wondered if when you wrote Of Aether and Aeon, was your intent for it to be longer or was it written as planned?

My intent was for it to be a short story. I've seen some of the reviews about the length and it surprises me. I teach a college course on analyzing short fiction, and most short stories are between 2,000 and 5,000 words. 20,000 words is a novella, not a short story. "Of Aether and Aeon" is actually longer than my favorite short story "Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut. I wrote "Of Aether and Aeon" as an exercise in short, concise storytelling. I wanted to write something that made the reader think. The ending, which is quite tragic,

What has surprised you the most about becoming a published author?

That people actually like my work enough to keep it on the Amazon Gothic Romance top 40 for nearly 3 months.

What’s the one question you wish you’d be asked when doing blog interviews and what would your answer be?

Q:  My best friend is a reviewer at the New York Times, and he's been looking for a book to feature. Can I give him your number?"

A: .......

Reviews:

Title: Avalon Revisited

Author: O. M. Grey

Publisher: Blue Moose Press

Date of Publication: March 25th, 2010/April 22nd, 2010

ASIN/ISBN: B003E7F2T0/9780981994956

Summary:

Arthur has made his existence as a vampire bearable for over three hundred years by immersing himself in blood and debauchery. Aboard an airship gala, he meets Avalon, an aspiring vampire slayer who sparks fire into Arthur's shriveled heart. Together they try to solve the mystery of several horrendous murders. Cultures clash and pressures rise in this sexy Steampunk Romance. (From www.amazon.com)

I remember reading about Avalon Revisited a few weeks before it was published. My immediate response was “omigod I have to read this!” As a lover of all things vampire, and supernatural, who wouldn’t want to read a book with words like “blood and debauchery” in the product description? And thus I bought the Kindle version on the day it was published, which means this review is long overdue.

I’m a novice when it comes to Steampunk as a literary genre, but I love the idea of mixing genres like Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy (unfortunately, these two genres have become synonymous with each other, but I won’t start a rant about that). Adding a supernatural or unnatural aspect to an already otherworldly genre gives it an extra kick.

Avalon Revisited surprised me in more ways than one mostly in good ways, but also a in a couple of bad ones. After reading the first sentence, “I was to be the King of England”, my inner Anglophile did a happy dance, I thought it was Arthur Pendragon. To my joy I soon found out it was Arthur Tudor (I have a fascination with the Tudors that boarders on an obsession). I like the idea of authors putting historical characters into their books and giving them their own spin of history, while still staying true to actual facts. When it comes to vampire mythology in literature Ms. Grey stays true to facts but puts her on twist on it. All who have read Stoker’s Dracula know that vampires can walk in sunlight, but their powers are weakened by it, which Arthur can as well. A few of the twists in Avalon Revisited are that vampires have a reflection, yet it deteriorates as the vampire age and that they can actually consume human food.

I feel rather ambivalent when it comes to Arthur. I can’t figure out if I like him, hate him, or feel sorry for him. Instant gratification seems to be the name of the game when it comes to him, he is a vampire after all, and his ways of gaining this are more sinister than in any other book I’ve read of this genre. I don’t want to give too much away, but the chamber of horrors scene at Madam Jeffries’ (also a real historical character) brothel and the scene in the lab made me cringe. Arthur battles with his urges after meeting Avalon not only because she’s a vampire hunter, but also because she is the spitting image of his late wife, Catherine of Aragon. But he isn’t the only one, Avalon struggles with her feelings as well, but eventually comes to terms with them…one way or another.

The different side characters add a delicious zest, humor, and not to forget an unexpected jaw-dropping moment.

I’m a sucker for details (no pun intended); in every chapter there were notable things which made Avalon Revisited worthy of a few rereads. Sometimes I paid more attention to the details than the plot. To me that isn’t a bad thing, it goes to show a good deal of research has been put into a book and makes it all the more enjoyable.

Title: Of Aether and Aeon

Author: O. M. Grey

Publisher: Blue Moon Press

Date of Publication: August 7th, 2010

ASIN: B003YRIRA6

Summary:

In the midst of war, a beautiful young officer finds love aboard an airship.

Author of the critically acclaimed novel AVALON REVISITED, O. M. Grey takes the reader on a Steampunk journey through tragedy and romance. Short Story. (From www.amazon.com)

Of Aether and Aeon was not what I thought it to be. I thought it would, like Avalon Revisited, contain a supernatural aspect, but it doesn’t which, honestly was quiet uplifting. Like a lot of readers, I wanted it to be longer. I wanted to know more about the people of the store. I wanted to know their pasts. I think, as readers, we are more than often indulged when authors, especially within the fantasy/SF spectrum, write novella length short stories and therefore expect to be treated to this whenever we see the label “short story”. Once again, O. M. Grey pulls out her bag of unexpected tricks, and within a very short amount of space, manages to convey a sad but touching story with a surprising end.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

When I’m Not Reading…Scones…

This week’s post will, sort of, be an extension of the post I did last week. For the past few weeks I’ve been baking my own bread instead of buying it…well I’ve been baking scones mostly. Some of my girls wanted the recipe, but I don’t have one. I’ve been baking these scones for so long that I don’t use a recipe anymore. I’ve had to come up with my own recipe because of the stupid oven I have. It sounds crazy, but it has a life of its’ own. There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to my oven…

  1. The weather
  2. My oven has, like most women, PMS
  3. It hates baking trays
  4. Day of the week
  5. National Holidays

I kid you not people my oven is a bitch! And on to some of the stuff to think about once you actually start baking…

  1. Brand of flour
  2. No eggs
  3. Butter
  4. Absolutely no oil
  5. Stickiness of the dough

For some reason I have to use a special brand of flour or the scones will turn into rocks, which is also the case if I use eggs and oil in the dough. The more butter the better and the dough has to be very sticky. Lastly, I bake my scones in a pie dish since my oven has an aversion to baking trays. You see what I have to deal with?

Anyways, fear not there is a solution to the no recipe problem. I have a recipe for a fool proof Danish scones (unless of course you have my oven). The good thing about it is that you can use it as a base for all kinds of scones and cinnamon buns. You’ll have to do the conversion yourself and you can modify it with regards to sugar and butter.

 

  • 25 grams fresh yeast
  • 4 deciliter milk
  • 100 grams butter
  • 1 egg
  • 12-13 deciliter flour
  • 1 deciliter sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm milk. Add the rest of the ingredients, mix and kneed well, but hold back a bit of the flour since it’s hard to say how much you actually need. The dough needs to be a bit sticky.

Put the dough in the fridge to rise for a couple of hours. A little trick is to let it rise in the fridge over night, it just does something to the bread that makes it extra yummie. Take the dough out of the fridge and shape it into little balls roughly the size of two golf balls and place them on a baking tray covered with baking paper. Brush some milk or beaten eggs over it and let the scones rise a second time for about an hour at room temp. Put the tray in the oven at 200 C and keep an eye on it the scones need very little time in the oven…around 10 minutes.

The best way to eat them is straight out of the oven with a little butter.

if the recipe doesn’t make sense feel free to contact me.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

When I’m Not Reading…

 

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of Missie’s When I’m Not Reading, mostly because I either work or read.

I looooooove cooking! From I was about 15 and until I moved out of my parents’ house at 19 I did all the cooking at home, except on weekends, because my mom worked in another town and got home late…and my dad just did not cook. Most teenager would probably have hated the idea of having to cook dinner for the ‘rents every day, honestly I did too, but now I’m glad I had the chance. I didn’t live on noodles for the entire time I went uni, but knew how to cook yummie cheap meals.

Cooking for friends is one of my fav things to do, sadly I don’t have time for it now, but it still warms my heart when I cook for BFF and her kids and at the end of the meal by saying things like, “Dutski, you’re the best cook EVER!”, or when her son eats one of my cakes in 30 seconds flat.

IMAG0015 IMAG0016

I attempted to make a Columbian dish I had in NYC. My friend Sylvia informed me later that I had made enough platanos for about 15 people. As you can see we were only three and a cat. That’s one of BFF’s cats – his name is Linus and he loves to snuggle…and take off your socks…and steal your pillow at night. Oh and don’t laugh at him, he’ll do some freaky cat ninja move and scratch the hell out of your hand. Other than that he’s adorable.

Pumpkin bars are a hit. Thanks so much to my American Mommy, Maire, for introducing me to them and for the recipe.

Anyways, I’m doing something really awesome this fall. I’m so excited! I can’t give all the details on how this endeavor started yet, but I will in due time. *Drum roll* I am taking cake decorating classes at the beginning of November! The first one is a beginner’s course in using fondant and the other one is cupcake decorating. I know how to bake, but decorating is not one of my fortés so I thought I’d treat myself to a few courses over the fall.

If any of you have experience, tips, or ideas that might help me I would love to hear from you.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Apology…

I am a dork! I should not post at 1 am in the mornings. I accidently put the wrong cover on the Blameless post. The error has been corrected, and I’m sorry for the incontinence. Have a great day!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Steampunk Sunday: Review of Blameless (may contain a few spoilers)…

 

Title: Blameless

Author: Gail Carriger

Publisher: Orbit

Date of Publication: September 1st, 2010

ISBN: 9780316074155

Summary:

Quitting her husband's house and moving back in with her horrible family, Lady Maccon becomes the scandal of the London season.


Queen Victoria dismisses her from the Shadow Council, and the only person who can explain anything, Lord Akeldama, unexpectedly leaves town. To top it all off, Alexia is attacked by homicidal mechanical ladybugs, indicating, as only ladybugs can, the fact that all of London's vampires are now very much interested in seeing Alexia quite thoroughly dead.


While Lord Maccon elects to get progressively more inebriated and Professor Lyall desperately tries to hold the Woolsey werewolf pack together, Alexia flees England for Italy in search of the mysterious Templars. Only they know enough about the preternatural to explain her increasingly inconvenient condition, but they may be worse than the vampires -- and they're armed with pesto. (From www.amazon.com)

Review:

More often than not, when you waiting for a highly anticipated book, you are disappointed. You spend weeks or months waiting, building anticipation, and then it fails to deliver. Yet, once in a while, you strike gold. After a lot of trouble and panicking I got a hold of a copy of Blameless. If you only read one book this fall, let it be this book. It’s like a hot steamy cup of tea on a cold winter evening. Perfect.


After returning from Scotland, pregnant and sans husband, Alexia is forced to move back in with her mother, stepfather, and stepsisters. After the public revelation of her condition in the gossip columns, hinting Alexia has been unfaithful due to the fact that werewolves cannot produce offspring, she is no longer welcome in her family home. Luckily her friend, rogue vampire, Lord Akeldama offers her a safe haven. Upon reaching Lord Akeldama’s house, she finds it utterly deserted except for a cat, which “possessed the disposition of a placid narcoleptic”, with a curious note attached around the neck. It turns out the news of Alexia’s pregnancy has put the vampire community of London into a frenzy; their ultimate goal is to dispose of her as fast as possible, which they nearly succeed in doing when a mob of poisonous mechanical ladybugs attacks her as she departs the lord’s house. Always resourceful, Alexia wards off the Coccinellidaen pest and calls a meeting at Lady Lefoux’s hat shop, with Professor Lyall, Floote, Mr. Tunstell, and eventually Ivy Hisselpenny (now Mrs. Tunstell) in attendance. The group quickly agrees that Alexia’s removal from London (and England entirely) would be the best course of action. They decide on Italy where she, Madame Lefoux, and Floote also will have an opportunity to research the nature of the pregnancy in the Templars’ archives. The journey takes them through France, where they are, more or less, aided by Madame Lefoux’s connection with the Order of the Brass Octopus. The journey is by no means peaceful as they’re attacked by vampires and their drones, but receive unexpected help from a vigilante.


Back in England; Professor Lyall takes over the responsibilities as pack master and head of BUR, as Lord Maccon is depressed and in an ever increasing form of drunkenness, achieved by consuming large quantities of formaldehyde, in the form of the Professor’s specimen collection. Lord Maccon slowly comes to the conclusion he might have been wrong in rejecting Alexia and has enough sense to realize he must do something. However, pack responsibilities, BUR, and the business with the vampires create an interesting turn of events (and maybe an interesting sub plot in Heartless?).


I have to say Professor Lyall and Ivy surprised me the most when I read Blameless; the Professor really was the hero of this book. The man is an octopus; he must possess eight arms in order to juggle all of the responsibilities thrust upon him. I won’t get into details with regards to Ivy, but she is more than meets the eye. The drunk Lord Maccon offers a great deal of comical relief. However helpless he might seem he does, eventually, step up to his responsibilities. I could have used a bit more time with Lord Maccon, but that would probably have caused him to take over the book.


Alexia is as witty as ever, which is clearly only to cover up how distraught she is over Lord Maccon’s rejection. The reader will see a more emotional side of Alexia, which didn’t really come out in the two previous books – a great addition to the fabulousness that is Alexia Tarabotti, the Lady Maccon.


I love how Gail Carriger didn’t rush through Alexia’s pregnancy. Instead of forcing several months into one book, the majority of the book occurs over a very short period of time, which leaves the reader anticipating and pondering over what might happen next before the child is brought into the world. My only wish is that Heartless would be out sooner. I need my Alexia fix.


By Wednesday my week had already been exhausting, but reading Blameless completely turned that around. I can’t remember the last time I’ve laughed this much. I’ve been quoting Lord Maccon all week…and have taught my friend’s six year old son how to say, “Ish good stuff…”, we’re still working on the “fermaldathdie” part.   


All in all; Blameless is a wonderful imaginative novel and definitely deserves a re-read, or two, over the coming fall and winter. A job very well done, indeed.

Enjoy!

Introducing: Steampunk Sunday…

In the past year or so I’ve really started to enjoy the steampunk genre. I’m not a tech savvy; most of the gadget and scientific aspects of the genre is lost to me, but I can definitely appreciate the aesthetics of it. I adore the Victorian, or Neo-Victorian, aspects of it, especially the couture…corsets and dresses yay!

As many of you know I’m quite taken by Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, which is what spurred my interest in the genre. My plan is to read and review some of the newer books in the genre, maybe not every Sunday, but once or twice a month.

To kick off this new feature I want to share a little field trip I went on yesterday, followed by my review of Blameless (the 3rd book in the Parasol Protectorate series). Next week I’ll review O. M. Grey’s Avalon Revisited and her short story, Of Aether and Aeon.

To some Denmark might seem like a very liberal and progressive country, however, when it comes to subcultures such as Goth and steampunk we’re very far behind and options for clothing stores and clubs are very limited. So imagine my surprise when I found out there would be a, sort of, trade fair or con in Copenhagen. Being a closet Goth; I was ecstatic!

Dark Market was held yesterday at a venue in the center of Copenhagen. Considering how small it was (only about 10-15 stalls at most) the turn out, for the time I was there, was pretty great. I had done some research online and there were only a couple of stalls that caught my interest, as a result I was only there for about an hour.

One of the things I was looking forward to was Elves Garden, which sells beautiful, Neo-Victorian, handmade jewelry, but also has some amazing steampunk inspired jewelry. I had a chance to talk to Malene, who makes all of these beautiful creations. She’s such a delightful person. She takes a great deal of pride on finding right materials in order to create these beautiful pieces. I just checked her store and Etsy and from today she’s adding pieces inspired by the Danish folklore surrounding elf girls.

I fell in love with a very pretty brass and Dragon’s Breath glass necklace.     

The one in the middle is mine (sorry for the bad lighting, it was very dark in the room and the flash was no help).

 

The second thing I wanted to check out was the artwork by Zindy Nielsen. Zindy creates some beautiful work, which reminds me of the art of Victoria Franés. The pieces I saw very all simply stunning.

 

Zindy offers a large variety of items, I bought a beautiful bookmark. Please go to her web shop and she what she has to offer.

One of Copenhagen’s few alternative clothing stores, The Black Sheep, was at Dark Market as well and offered a 10% discount on all items at the market as well as the store all Saturday. Stupid as I was I didn’t bring enough cash and only had my credit card when I got to their stall, but I went to the store in town afterwards and bought myself a wonderful black, lace parasol.

Isn’t it marvelous?

I had a really nice chat with one of the staff members and he told me they would get a shipment of steampunk watches next week. Yay!

Honestly, I’d hoped the market was bigger, but I had good time and talked to some nice people. Again, please visit Malene and Zindy’s web shops and see what they have to offer.