News From the Con, Day 2

Another great day at MegaCon! Made  a few more sales, so that was good, but more than that we handed out the vast majority of my flyers! The best part? Most of the ladies who took the flyers actually seemed to have a positive reaction to the sample comic so I hope they stop by and check things out. Some were actually surprised to hear that there’s a comic out there by and about women… well, ladies, there’s a lot of them! Come on in and explore!

* * *

As to the site changes: after fiddling with things last night and becoming more and more frustrated I gave in and upgraded to the newest version of ComicPress and chose a site that actually shows posts in the right places and has a feed that actively works (with the comic included!) over one that sorta kinda mostly had my color scheme in place but was missing a sidebar and posted things in the wrong section. Tonight I was able to tweak the color settings so it should look like what we’re mostly used to and this will do, I think, until the revamp goes live in 2 months. It’ll be the same humor you’ve become accustomed to but in a shiny new wrapper.

News from the Con: Day 1

The first day of my first Con-as-Artist experience went pretty well. Got to meet some readers I didn’t know about and hopefully turned a few more people onto the strip as well as touch base with some fellow SoulGeek-ers. I also managed to sell a few things, which is especially nice, and I’m looking forward to an even better day tomorrow. Of course, I’m sort of a fish outta water, style-wise, compared to my neighbors but I’ll hang in and make the best of it!

Just to reiterate, if you’re coming out the booth is listed under my name: Jennifer Walker, Yellow #6 in Artist Alley.

Whoops!

So, see, you have an idea and you think, “Oh, yeah, I’ll just go upload that now while I’m thinking about it and deal with it later.” Only, then, you click on the wrong domain’s “WebFTP” link and accidentally overwrite the theme you were using.

Change those ‘you’s to ‘I’s and that’s why the site looks a little different… And wouldn’t you know it, I go and break things just before I leave for a Con where I’m going to now promote my barely-patched-together site. This’ll have to do for now, folks–thankfully Dreamhost keeps a copy of your most recent site pre-upgrade so I had something to fall back on but it’s not the most recent version. Save, folks, save!!!

And, hey, I was going to do a major facelift in 2 months, anyway, I guess I’m just making sure I get it done???

Appearances: MegaCon

This weekend, February 27 to March 1, is MegaCon in Orlando, Florida and Random Acts Comics will be there! Woo!

Where? Right here…

MegaCon Floor Plan

MegaCon Floor Plan

Table Yellow #6 (the red star in the yellow oval up there) is where you will find me, Todd and my comics for the duration of the event! What will there be to see? Well, let me tell you!

My books arrived yesterday (to much jumping up and down in excitement) so there will be the Year 1 Books (Party in the Handbasket), the print version of my 24-hour comic “Rings on her Fingers”, copies of Satyr #8, 2 minicomics (“Mixology Mini” and “Food of the Blogs”) and some very cute mini martini glasses will be for sale plus we’ll have SoulGeek goodness! SoulGeek is sending a supply of t-shirts and vouchers for a free month of Uber-membership. I’ll also have some info about Where the Geeks Are with me for those who are following the progress of my second project. So come by and say hi if you’ll be in the area!

MegaCon Price List
(all applicable taxes are included in the price to keep my record-keeping simple)

Mini Comics:
$1—-Mixology Mini (8 pages,5.5×8.5, black ink on pink paper, 5 drink-themed comics from years 1 and 2 in a handy, sip-size format)
$2—-Food of the Blogs (16 pages, 5.5×8.5, black ink on orange paper, selections from the Random Appetites blog feature)

$3—-Satyr #8 which features the exclusive “Random Acts… of Autos” 8-page story. This is a show-only price, regular cover price is $3.95.

$4—-”Rings on her Fingers” (24 pages plus cover, 6.625×10.25, color cover, b/w pages–the complete 24 hour comic featured in the November-December 2008 updates)

$5—-Mini Martini glasses–so cute! Limited quantity! (features an olive and “eat your veggies” design)

$10—Party in the Handbasket, Random Acts… Year 1 (80 pages, 8.5×11, color cover, b/w pages, all of the year 1 content plus 10% new content!)

$15+–Year 1 Originals (sizes and materials vary, prices as marked–Most strips from year 1 are in the $20 range, the painted ones are a bit more along with those that I drew really big and so, therefore, are spread over 2 full-size sheets, the ones I did smaller are less.)

Anything that’s left (allow me a bit of hubris in thinking anything might sell out this weekend) will be offerred for sale here at the website once I get back and recover. It’ll be cash-only at the show, I’m afraid, as a mobile credit card set-up isn’t feasible at this point, but I’ll be taking PayPal for Internet orders, so there’s that! Still haven’t decided if I’m comfortable doing sketches yet, or not. We’ll see.

Random Appetites: Travelling Food

Happy Fat Tuesday to all the revelers among us: Laissez les bon temps roulez! (let the good times roll, for the uninitiated)

(And, now, back to our regularly scheduled Random Appetites)

Seems like I spend an inordinate amount of time in my car–I’m sure many of you can relate. And even though my commute is a short one (around 20 minutes to work, less if the students are on break), the road trips have become quite regular occurences and, among other things, road trips mean travelling snacks.

It all started when I was a kid and we’d take trips back home to visit family over the holidays. The boys (my younger brothers) would be tucked into the back seat with toys to keep them occupied for as much of 6 hours was possible and a bag of simple, non-messy snacks to keep the tummies from grumbling. Just after high school I was diagnosed as hypoglycemic so travelling with food became more of a necessity than a perk. And then there’s those trips home where the sun makes you sleepy and the only thing you can do, once blasting the a/c and the radio have stopped working, is chew to stay awake–travelling food to the rescue.

When choosing foods for interstate foraging it’s best to follow a few, simple guidelines:

  • Avoid those that need refrigeration; you never know when the cooler will get wedged closed, spring a leak, or just be too difficult to get into while at top speeds,
  • Packages must be easy to open so as not to cause impediment that you’d have to explain to a state trooper or your insurance company,
  • Must be edible with only the use of hands–no cutlery allowed.

I prefer, also, to keep things on the dry side (easier to brush off crumbs than spills) and as self-contained as possible (to avoid those crumbs in the first place).

In the canvas bag that holds the snacks for the next road trip are the following supplies:

  • 3 types of organic granola bars–the Cascadian Farms bars are just too yummy and the fact that they avoid all those convoluted chemicals can’t be a bad thing
  • dried fruit (apricots, pineapple, cranberries)–can be high in sugar but it’s at least fruit that won’t spoil if left in the car for a few hours
  • packets of trail mix–good for protein
  • baked pita chips
  • Oreos (what, I need chocolate in there somewhere!)

The cookies, admittedly, are more for destination snacking when the post-con sweet-tooth hits. The rest are prime examples of road snacks.

Random Appetites: Mardi Gras

Even though Fat Tuesday, the culmination of weeks of carnival-type fun in New Orleans, Mobile and elsewhere, isn’t until next week, what’s the point in giving you recipes, etc. to try out with only 1 day to do it? Exactly. So here’s your annual dose of the green, gold and purple with time to spare.

For those who may not know, I grew up about an hour away from New Orleans, in a little town named Ponchatoula which has been making it’s name, over the last couple of decades, as an antique center. Anyway, despite my formative years having been so close to the action and family still fairly thick over there, I have a confession to make:

I have never been to Mardi Gras.

The shame! I know! How can I have gone this long without attending this cultural event? Hell if I know. But one of these days I’ll remedy the lack and experience the fun for myself. Of course, more and more I have less and less tolerance for crowds and craziness so I think it’ll be only when I can afford (and book way in advance) a Quarter room so that I can explore and escape as needed without having to navigate anything but foot traffic.

But I digress!

There’s a lot of history behind Mardi Gras and this New Orleans website has a heaping helping of it, so if you’re curious, check it out! But I know what you really want to know, you want the skinny on all the fattening, pre-Lent consumables. And here we go!

First things, first, the King Cake. (Pardon me while I drool…) Now, in reality, the King Cake is a coffee cake decorated for the occasion in green (for faith), gold (for power) and purple (for justice) and with a wee plastic baby, silver or gold coin or bean of some such inside. Why? Well, it’s heavy on the Christian symbolism: the prize inside is supposed to be the Baby Jesus. Whoever finds the baby, coin or bean is, traditionally, the King or Queen of the week and is supposed to host the next party or, at the very least, supply the next King Cake.

Any oval coffee cake will do and many, these days, deviate from the cinnamon brioche tradition and use danish pastry filled with cream, fruit filling or chocolate. Yum! I tend to stick with the eggy brioche because it’s just so good the way it is, and the crunchy sugar on top is the best!

According to Rima and Richard Collin’s The New Orleans Cookbook, the King Cake should be made with a coffee cake dough of choice that uses about 4 packages of active dry yeast. So, the first time I made it I went to my go-to brioche recipe from Nick Malgieri’s How to Bake, which uses 2 packages of yeast. So I doubled the recipe. Despite the fact that Malgieri’s recipe makes 2.5 lbs of dough. I made 5 lbs of brioche. I ended up with 2 ginormous king cakes that overflowed my sheet pans, not to mention my counter space. Use only a single batch of the recipe below and you’ll probably still have enough for 2 normal size cakes.

Brioche Dough
(by Nick Malgieri with my paraphrased directions)

Sponge
1 c milk
5 tsp (2 env) active dry yeast
1.5 c all-purpose flour

Dough
12 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
6 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3 lg eggs plus 1 egg yolk
2.25 c all-purpose flour

For the sponge: Heat the milk until warm (seriously, you don’t want it over 110 or you could kill the yeast, so just slightly warmer than body temperature) and (off the heat) whisk in yeast and then the flour, cover with plastic wrap to protect against drafts and let sit for 30 minutes.

For the dough: Cream the butter until it’s very soft and fluffy, beat in the sugar and then one egg. Alternate flour and the remaining eggs, one after the other, until everything is incorporated. Mix in the risen sponge then knead for 5 minutes (or let the dough hook of your mixer go at it for 2 minutes). Cover with a piece of plastic wrap, let the dough rise for about an hour, punching down the dough periodically.

Punch down the dough once more, then place it in an oiled bowl, turning the dough over so the surface is lightly coated. Cover and refrigerate the dough for 4 hours or overnight. It’s going to rise so use a big enough bowl to accommodate it and don’t be surprised if it goes all ‘blob’ on you and pushes the top of that super-large rubbermaid container completely off–just means your yeast was really healthy!

After four hours or overnight, take the dough out, punch it down and knead it a bit to get the extra air out, and divide the dough into 2 pieces for one big cake or 4 pieces for 2 normal sized ones.

Now, if you want to fill your dough with anything, that’s up to you. Filled or not you want to roll out each piece of dough into a log shape and twist two of them together and then arrange the twist into an oval, gently pressing the two ends together. Sprinkle the ring with colored sugars and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until the bread is golden and done (thump the bottom of the loaf and if it sounds hollow, it’s ready).

Alternately, you can simply sprinkle the dough with cinnamon sugar, bake, and then drizzle the cake with a powdered sugar icing and then top with the colored sugars. (But the crunchy baked sugar really is one of the best parts!)

After the cake has cooled, insert the bean, baby or coin in through the bottom of the cake (make sure no one is looking) and serve to a group of friends. Sure, you can bake a bean or coin inside, but I usually don’t. It’s just as easy to wait until it’s cool (and make sure you clean that coin well before adding it to any food!).

Now, if you’re serving this cake in the morning, coffee will work well enough to wash it down (but at least go for a good, chicory blend or an all-out cafe au lait) but if you’re off for the day or out for the evening, wash your King Cake down with the quintessential New Orleans drink: the Hurricane. You can find a mix in many liquor stores or specialty shops, but Chef Rick has a from-scratch Hurricane recipe that will most likely treat you better than any powder ever could:

Hurricane Punch

1 ounce white rum
1 ounce Jamaican rum
1 ounce Bacardi 151 proof rum
3 ounces orange juice, with pulp
3 ounces unsweetened pineapple juice
1/2 ounce Grenadine
Crushed Ice

Combine all ingredients, mix well (shake or stir). Pour over crushed ice in Hurricane glass. Garnish with orange or pineapple ring and drink through a small straw for maximum wind speed.

Also, his olive salad recipe is the best I’ve found short of taking a trip to Central Grocery for a jar, which isn’t exactly convenient when you’re 4 states away and craving a Muffaletta

Sharing the ‘Geek Love

With Valentine’s Day having just passed and many still feeling the love (or lack thereof), it’s no surprise that SoulGeek is finally getting some well-deserved notice among the geek media. Now, we all know I’m a fan of SoulGeek (or did you, somehow, miss all of September’s comics?) and SoulGeek has been very good to me, both personally and professionally. As such, I’m hoping you, my friends and readers, will check out the articles that are linked below, pass them around and give them the attention they, and SoulGeek, deserve.

Fall in Love in February, Episode IV from examiner.com
direct digg link here

Geeks Gettin’ Lucky? from Geeks of Doom
direct digg link here

G4TV’s Olivia Munn and her Super Geek’s Valentine’s Present (video)
direct digg link here

And Now for Something Completely Different!

Well, okay, in retrospect it’s not completely different, it’s actually kinda similar in a lot of ways but different enough where it counts. Trust me.

My 2nd webcomic launched today! Wohoo!

Where the Geeks Are,” the newest comic in the SoulGeek Webcomics pantheon, launched at 15 minutes passed midnight, EST, on Thursday, February 12, 2009. It’s a story about a topic many self-proclaimed geeks know oh-so-well: finding the person that really gets you. Follow the (mis?)adventures of Meredith, Trina, Carson and Sophie as they look for love in what they hope are all the right places every Tuesday and Thursday.

Random Appetites: Pick-Me-Ups

Had a bad day? A rough year? Or maybe you don’t have a Valentine of your own. There’s nothing that says you can’t be your own cheerleader, champion or sweetheart. After all–who knows you better than you do?

Whatever the reason, pick-me-ups are one of those staples of life that we all need from time to time. They come in all shapes and sizes–from fluffy reads to high-carb treats–with the acquisition sometimes part of the fun (aka retail therapy).

Here are some of my indulgences when I want to boost my mood, lift my spirits or just treat myself.

  • Flowers. I used to buy myself flowers every week at the grocery store. They didn’t cost a lot and I would spread them throughout my little apartment to brighten up the place. My second husband took the stance that killing flowers for the enjoyment of one person was wrong, that everyone got to enjoy them as they grew in the wild. Another ex- considered the giving of flowers even more intimate than saying “I love you” so I learned a long time about to get them when I wanted them and not to expect someone else to. Because cutting them does kill them, it’d be lovely to be able to grow my own but I’ve got a horrid black thumb so I’ll have to settle for the cut variety when the mood strikes.
  • TV on DVD. Perfect veg-out fodder: immersing myself in a season or two of a favorite television show. Even though most of my favorites (Charmed, Friends, Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, ST:The Next Generation, Gilmore Girls and Sex and the City) are now off-the-air, it makes them all the easier to find on DVD and stock up for that emotionally rainy day. Best for weekend indulgences, weeknights still work (especially during reruns or those blank slate nights where nothing I like is on) just in smaller doses.
  • Chocolate. This certainly should have been obvious. Hershey’s and Dove are all right for day-to-day consumption but when I want decadent, I want Godiva. Of course, that means a trek out to the Mall most times, so I settle for second best (but still not shabby) Lindt.

Those are my preferred pick-me-ups but no matter what form yours take, treat yourself often and in a preemptive manner and you might find the need for the emergency mood lifters decreases.

(Oh! Notice alcohol isn’t on that list? I prefer to keep that for celebratory times since any euphoric effects are temporary and seem to make the doldrums worse. We here at Random Acts… encourage you to have all the legal fun you want, as long as you do it responsibly.)

Well, That Was Quick!

My Small Press Idol aspirations are over for this year, at least. I had really high hopes for the cover and pitch I turned in this weekend but apparently they were too high: 2 “no” votes and I don’t move on to Round 2. For my part, I obviously failed to convey the right tone of the project, the humor inherent in the situation and the potential I saw there. Also on me is the very real possibility that I brought the wrong project to the wrong audience. Oh, well, it happens. And this project, which originally started life as an offshoot of “Random Acts…” and then took on a life of it’s own, was originally intended for the web and I have no problem continuing in that vein. So Gamma Girl, the Hospitality Heroine will see web-production at some point this year (at least the first episode) as a “Random Acts Comics presents” feature and we’ll go from there.