Monday, July 25, 2011

Pocket Coyote goes to Comic-Con!

So I went to Comic-Con on Friday, July 22, and as usual I took photos of the Pocket Coyote with any interesting person who would stand still long enough. Here are the results:

1. My photo binge began with four of the Endless from Neil Gaiman’s classic Sandman comics. From left to right, they are Death, Delirium, Dream (the Daniel version), and Desire. They wish me to mention that they endorse I think that’s where they got their fabulous hair!

2. Pocket Coyote then decided to break down barriers between pseudo-species by making his first feline friend of the day—Cheetara from ThunderCats! (You can also see another cosplayer taking a break in the background—is that Psylocke from the X-Men, or am I ignorant of my video game characters again?)

3. Then my favorite plushie went upstairs to the Sail Pavilion, where he befriended Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel, in two of the nicest costumes I saw all day. Shazam!

4. Double points! Pocket Coyote managed to find Waldo in the crowd, and snagged a photo op with his brother, the Tenth Doctor. I asked him whether he got a TARDIS key out of the deal, or whether it was fun to be sonicked, but he just muttered something about “wibbly wobbly timey wimey” and would say no more …

5. The Riddler, far from Gotham City but dapper as ever …

6. It was pretty crowded down on the con floor, and I literally bumped into Darth Vader. It seems he finds the plushie’s lack of faith disturbing … 

7. Luckily Kato came along to rescue the Pocket Coyote before he joined the dark side!

8. Then we wandered through the lobby, and the Pocket Coyote met a couple of wandering members of the 501st Stormtrooper Legion (Vader’s Fist!), who seem to think that this is the plushie they were looking for … No word on whether they were supposed to be bodyguarding Vader, though.

9. Pocket Coyote is enchanted by a passing Ravenclaw …

10. And enchanted all over again by the Mistress of Magic, Zatanna!

11. Down in the Artists’ Alley, Pocket Coyote makes a friend of Phoenix of the X-Men …

12. And—in my favorite photo of the entire day—the well-traveled plushie was introduced to Peter S. Beagle, the widely acclaimed author of The Last Unicorn and the recent Hugo-winning story Two Hearts! (Mr. Beagle is displaying a Masks bookmark as well, for those of you who want to see how the finished product came out!)

13. On our way out of the Artists’ Alley, the Pocket Coyote took a little detour to hunt the biggest of all game with my radio favorite, the Green Hornet (who was looking for Kato—did you two ever find each other?)!

14. And last of all, the Pocket Coyote attached himself to the long-suffering Harry Dresden—wizard for hire, private investigator extraordinaire and star of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files novels. Harry looks rather resigned to having yet another magical animal adopt him … I hope Mister and Mouse don’t get jealous!

Monday, July 18, 2011

So I built a website in a day … wanna see?

I had the plague on Saturday, so I took time out from all the things I’d normally be doing (like spreading the plague) and finally got my shiny new website up and online. Alas, my web design software went out the window early, and I switched over to WordPress, which I like quite a bit so far.

Allow me to introduce

This is the site you’ll be hitting up for those free chapters of Masks … the first of which, incidentally, goes up on Wednesday and are you as excited as I am about that? No, you can’t be! But you’re welcome to try!


Anyhoo, the site will include a handy-dandy chapter archive so you don’t have to search through the blog archive to find what you want. There will be lovely illustrations by the fabulous Nicole Le, who also contributed the site’s header art. I’ll probably tinker with the site some more before Wednesday, but you’ve got the basic shape of the thing now. At some point in the future, I’m going to add more pages full of goodies—character profiles and more free stories, plus the Pocket Coyote pattern (don’t think I’ve forgotten about that!). There will eventually be trailers, too, when Nicole has more chapters illustrated.

This blog, meanwhile, isn’t going anywhere. It will remain my personal blog, in addition to acting as a kind of commentary track for the main story—isn’t that nice? You get the special features now instead of waiting for the eventual book release. Not that I won’t find more special features to include … it’s that kind of story …

So what’s the story about, you ask? At last I can tell.

In this version of Masks, there are two kinds of heroes. There are capes—the ones with powers. And there are masks—the ones without. Everybody knows who the real heroes are. No one takes masks seriously … until now.

You see, someone is kidnapping L.A.’s street kids—the superpowered ones. Because these kids are mostly teenage runaways, nobody pays much attention, and it’s hard to prove to the police that they’ve actually been abducted rather than just disappearing on their own. But our old friend Rae, a.k.a. Peregrine, a 16-year-old rookie mask whose greatest weapons are biting sarcasm and the ability to kick Captain Catastrophe in the knee, witnesses one of these kidnappings, and decides she’s going to hunt the bad guy down and stop him, powers or no powers. She finds her determination hardened by the fact that she’s in a summer honors program for high-achieving students, and she discovers there’s a secret training program within that program for kids who are going to be heroes someday … but masks need not apply. You need powers to get in the door. So there are innocent kids in danger, the grown-ups won’t listen, and Rae is out to prove she’s just as good as the next kid, even if the next kid happens to be bulletproof.

Enter Trevor.

He’s trying to stay under the radar, hiding in the storm tunnels under Los Angeles. But when one of the tunnel dwellers offers him information on the person who made his mentor disappear—only if Trevor will get the missing kids back—our brooding former sidekick is on the case.

And he meets Rae on the rooftop, and things go very right and very wrong.

It’s a story about growing up. About being an underdog, and succeeding anyway. About first love, and all that’s good and bad in it. Mostly, though, it’s a story about identity. Both Rae and Trevor are figuring out who they’ll be, and they use each other to find some of that answer … but ultimately it’s an answer we all have to find on our own.

There will be secrets. There will be mysteries. There will be action. There will be romance. There will be humor. There will be an awful lot of running around, and shouting, and people’s mouths falling open when something unexpected happens. There will be tears, and a bit with a dog. And if you like it, there will be more. I could end this story with Chapter 32, or I could go on … and your response will decide.

I hope you enjoy reading Masks as much as I’ve enjoyed creating it for you. I can’t wait to show you my world …

Monday, July 11, 2011

The TARDIS (cake) is exploding!

I have a wonderful friend named Tammy who has recently become a fan of Doctor Who. She is such a recent fan that her favorite Doctor is Matt Smith, because he was her first. And she joked that, for her birthday, she wanted Matt Smith to jump out of a cake the way he did in the episode “Vampires of Venice”:

Well, after I kidded around for a couple of weeks about kidnapping poor Mr. Smith and hauling him back across the Pond with me for the festivities, she made me promise not to actually do it, and I offered to make her a TARDIS cake instead. (For those of you not in the know, the TARDIS is the Doctor’s time machine. It looks a bit like a phone booth, it’s bigger on the inside than on the outside, and it goes anywhere in time and space … and sometimes even where he tries to make it go!) She liked the idea. And so began my quixotic quest to create a cake that’s bigger on the inside … using only my limited baking skills and stuff I bought from the grocery store and the Internet.

You may laugh now.

I had seen a friend make a cake that looked like the TARDIS lying on its back (a loaf pan was her friend there), but I wanted a freestanding TARDIS. Considering the pans I had at my disposal, that meant I was baking a layer cake—and cutting the layers myself.
 I started with rainbow-chip cake mix, or “funfetti” as my friend calls it. It’s one of her favorite kinds of cake, the pattern sort of looks like stars, and it was the closest I could get to a “bigger on the inside” flavor (although I also considered red velvet). I baked the cake in a 9x13” sheet.

 I carefully compared the height of the cake to the height of the Matt Smith action figure I purchased online (what, you thought I was really giving up on putting him inside a cake?).
Then I cut the cake into thirds and cut the outer two thirds in half. I left the middle third uncut because I was hoping to get away with only five layers, in which case I could cut my top layer from the very center of the cake. It worked out that way, luckily for me. Note the tape measure I used to get the pieces uniform.

Then I noticed a problem: the top of my cake was not flat!

So I sliced off the top of each layer to level it out.

 Then it was time to start cutting out the inside of the TARDIS to create a place for the action figure. I cut a little gap in the bottom layer.

 Then I made sure it would actually accommodate Action Matt.

I stacked four layers with cavities cut out of them, gluing them together with cream-cheese icing. It was tall enough that I would need only one more layer, so I could cut it from the center.

 And I stuck Action Matt into his TARDIS-in-progress.

Then it was time to add the center-cut top layer, which had no hole in it, as the TARDIS’ roof. I stuck bamboo skewers into the cake to hold it upright.


 Did you know it takes 3.5 bottles of blue food coloring to turn 24 ounces of cream-cheese frosting TARDIS blue?

I managed to get the cake frosted, and it looked good … but it was over 80 degrees in that kitchen on a July morning, and no matter how much powdered sugar I added to the icing to make it firmer, it continued to melt. Turns out the TARDIS is not exactly heat-proof. Even my decorations began to melt as soon as I applied them, and had to be removed.
So the TARDIS was a plain blue box by the time the birthday girl arrived to collect it, but she seemed to like it anyway.
The cake was disintegrating in the heat, so we cut it up and put plates of blue-frosted cake in a cake-safe. And we went out and hit a teahouse, where Action Matt stood sentinel on the table, occasionally trying to sonic the tea and sandwiches. We gave some of the cake to the waiter, and shared the rest with friends.

Alas, I have no pictures of the blue teeth and tongues that resulted …