Tag Archives: Doctor Who

Living with Derek

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Back in February or March, my Eldest Weasel said “Hey Dad, can we build a full-size Dalek to take to Fan Expo?” It didn’t seem like a completely crazy idea, because the Fan Expo is usually in November, and with Eldest helping me, it would be a breeze.

Since my usual efforts in building don’t go beyond the odd helmet (some of which are very odd…)

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..Maybe I would have to actually…you know..do this properly. To that end, I got in touch with the Project Dalek Forum.

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The PDF is a great group of builders who make daleks from every era of Doctor Who, including the movies. They have plans that have measurements for every aspect of the build, and within a few days of registering with them, I had a complete set of plans myself. Yay! Here we go!

But I know me, so let’s start out simply, using cardboard. After all, building a life-size dalek is going to take a lot of materials, and I want to know I can get it right.

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Cardboard is easy, and it gave me a false sense of security. I knocked up the base and the panels in no time, and because they only had to be secured with duct tape, it was easy to do. Then we decided to make the real thing out of wood.

Oh dear.

I measured the base on a piece of wood. Eldest came home and measured it again, correcting my measurements. Then I checked hers and changed them again. Then we took an average of the three measurements and cut it out.

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Well, that looks fine. Let’s stick the wheels on it.

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Brilliant! Except, of course, you have to make the bit with the wheels on separate from the “skirt”, because the bit with the wheels on is called the bumpers, and it’s the widest. If you make it detachable, you can fit your dalek through doorways, which is important.

So we have to make another base for the skirt. But we don’t have another piece of wood big enough. Never mind, we’ll use these planks. There has to be a hole in the middle anyway, so Eldest can get her feet through and pedal.

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Yeah, not as pretty. Then we cut out the panels from some kind of plywood. It was not successful. We decided to ignore the results, and use foamcore board, which we could cut to size in place. And stick together with tape. First, we have to get the top of the skirt fitted at the right height. That involved math.

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Before we clad the skirt, I had a brainwave and installed a small seat, because who wants to shuffle around inside a dalek without taking a break now and then?

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Once the panels were on, it started to look quite convincing.

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Of course, the problem was that this was pretty good. And the next bit was the shoulders, which were very complicated. I needed a good whack of free time to build them, and yet the phrase “I need time to work on my dalek” cuts absolutely no ice in this household, I can tell you. I tried making a mock up in cardboard, but ended up making a muck up in cardboard. A lot of useful time passed.

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When the chance came along, I made the base plate for the shoulders, and the circular plate for the top. Then I had to cut out the four pieces that would delineate the slope of the body. I looked at the plans. I looked at the wood. I looked at the plans. I went away and looked in the fridge for more beer. When there was no more beer, I had to just go ahead and cut something out.

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And this, believe it or not, was the easy bit. Because the next bit was cladding the shoulders, and for that we had to soak two enormous sheets of hardboard, and then clamp them into place so they dried in the right shape. This was not easy.

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See those clamps? They are almost all the clamps I own, and the only ones the right size for doing this job.

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While I had been wrestling with the shoulders, Eldest Weasel had been adding the bumpers to the bumpers, so we could stack up the bumpers, the skirt and the shoulders, and stick a weasel inside. Not bad!

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That white blob on the skirt was a hemisphere of styrofoam. They are light, cheap, and easy to attach. But you can’t spray paint them, because they melt. If you coat them with, well, almost anything, you get the results pictured above. We needed to find sixty hemispheres that would NOT do this. But not right then.

The next job would be building the gun boxes. Some people build them as one unit, but because of the way I’d built the shoulders, it made more sense* to build them separately. My issues with measuring came to the fore again (or the three?), and required a lot of filling, sanding and re-cutting to try and get the gun boxes to be any kind of accurate. Since the next logical thing would be to cut into the now dry and shaped shoulders to fit the gunboxes, I decided to build the dome.

The dome is not a perfect hemisphere, so I got Eldest to cut multiple silhouettes and form the dome that way. Then we covered that with card, then paper mache, then wallboard filler. Later, we slapped some fibre glass on there too.

Now we had the dome, it became necessary to build the second most complex part of the dalek – the neck rings. There are three rings – one sits right on top of the shoulders, then two more are suspended by eight uprights, and the dome sits on top. At the intersections of each ring and the uprights are neck blocks – so, 24 of those. Cutting out the rings was tricky, as was cutting all eight uprights to the right length, but this was nothing – NOTHING – compared with trying to glue those uprights in place. because, you see, all three rings slotted into cutouts on the uprights, and the rings decrease in diameter as they go up, so you can’t put one on and then do the others. All eight uprights had to be glued to all three rings at once. How did I do that? I have no idea. And, unsurprisingly, there are no photos of me doing it because I didn’t have enough hands to do the job, let alone photograph me doing it. Here’s the damn thing done:

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Ok. So now we see how big the final thing is. And it actually looks like a dalek. In this picture, you can also see the upper collar at the top of the shoulders. Professionals used more damp hardboard for this and the lower collar, but I tried that. After being smacked in the face by damp hardboard three times in a row, I cracked and bought two camping mats from the dollar store and used them (they’re made from thin EVA foam, smooth to the touch and easy to glue.)

See the lower collar in place here.

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Now the lower collar was in place, there were no more excuses for avoiding putting the gunboxes in. And let me skate lightly over the process for that, because if fitting the neck cage together was the hardest thing ever, putting the gunboxes in comes a close second. It should have just been “cut two holes and slide ’em in”, but no, the shape of the holes got weirder and weirder to accommodate the gunboxes, and eventually I got them seated, but had lots of tidying up to do. The logical response was to paint the whole area with some spare housepaint to try and get it to look like one unit.

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I’d love to say that this was where we began to sprint for the finish, but the honest truth is that this is the point where we had six weeks of visitors, and dalek production slowed to a crawl. I mean, they were great visitors, and we even put some of them to work producing Derek’s ears:

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But it was slow going. We produced a lot of “slats” from EVA flooring foam, then glued them in place.

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We made lots of neck blocks and sprayed them the right colour.

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We bravely cut into the dome and built the “cowl” to house the eyestalk. The parts we needed for the eyestalk were too tricky to build ourselves, so we go them 3d printed and sent to us.

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That left putting together the two most iconic parts of the dalek, the plunger and the gun (or egg-whisk, if you prefer). The gun was hardest, requiring wire bending and stuff…

The plunger arm was an old shower curtain rod, or something similar, and I made the plunger itself from EVA foam. I don’t know why. Perhaps, by this point, I just felt the difficult way was the only way to do things.

And that was the main work done, right?

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Well, not quite – we bought a LOT of DIY Christmas Baubles from a craft store and sprayed them, and glued sticks inside them to attach them to the skirt. There is a rotation mechanism inside the dome, but it was rudimentary and did not work smoothly. The eyestalk was raised and lowered by means of ( I kid you not) a piece of string. Dalek dialogue and sounds were on an MP3 player with a separate speaker, and the ears lit up because they were LEDs stolen from two flashlights and wired up using Dim’s Patented Home Electrics Method (not recommended to anyone, ever, under any circumstances.)

Derek was ready for the Fan Expo, which was a good thing, because the Fan Expo was the very next day!

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So, we took him to pieces and stuffed him into the car.

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We got hm to the Expo and assembled him on the sidewalk outside and were immediately mobbed by people wanting to take his picture and ask “Is it real?” I honestly had no answer prepared for that.

Next, we decided to move towards the entrance and disaster struck. The front wheel snapped off. Derek came to pieces and got moved inside the convention centre, where we made repairs and people once more gathered around him.

When we went to move Derek further into the hall, the wheel failed again, and this time it could not be fixed. Derek stood guard just past the Prop Check area and made a lot of new friends. We have some serious repair work to do, but for now we’re proud of our newest family member, and glad to have had the chance to share him with Fan Expo Vancouver 2018.

*In as much as any of this makes any kind of sense.

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LAUNCH DAY! More Cosplay Disasters

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Yes! It’s finally launch day for my new e-book, “More Cosplay Disasters”!

In this follow-up volume to “My Cosplay Disasters”, I lay out the method I failed to develop properly to build another four helmets. This time I ruined:

A Captain Rex Clone Trooper Mod

A First Order Stormtrooper Helmet from “The Force Awakens”

Handles the Cyberman Head from Doctor Who

A Deathtrooper helmet from “Rogue One”

Each disaster is neatly laid out (which is more than can be said for my workshop) with accompanying photographs and a detailed account of where I went wrong (often, simply starting the project.)

There are many authors and makers out there who are keen to tell you how to do things right, but I’m pretty much the only person showing you how I do things wrong, thus proving that YOU could do a better job than me if you put your mind to it. Also, that I should have a different hobby.

The e-book is available exclusively on Amazon:

In the US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XCF665N

In the UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XCF665N

In Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B06XCF665N

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And anyone else, check your local Amazon variant!

Fan Expo Vancouver 2014

Thor and Loki, fighting as usual...

Thor and Loki, fighting as usual…

This was our third visit to FanExpo Vancouver, but only the second year we actually got inside. We’d been planning the day for ages – tickets bought well in advance, Weasels’ costumes worked out – but the last couple of days before were a blur of activity. Somehow, this did not include me getting the adjustments to my own costume done. Next year. Maybe.

Tiny Weasel had settled on a version of Ana from Frozen who is only onscreen for a few moments during the song “Do you want to build a Snowman?” but it came out pretty well, thanks to Mrs Dim’s sewing skills and some decorating on my part.

Tiny Weasel on the right, with a borrowed Olaf, meeting an older version of Ana.

Tiny Weasel on the right, with a borrowed Olaf, meeting an older version of Ana.

Middle Weasel had chosen the slightly more obscure computer game character Juno Eclipse. I built the hat, the gun rig, the rank badge and belt buckle, and Mrs Dim produced an awesome uniform jacket that will see plenty more use in everyday life.

These two members of the 501st made a good honour guard for Middle Weasel's arrival.

These two members of the 501st made a good honour guard for Middle Weasel’s arrival.

Eldest Weasel is usually quite shy and retiring, but she wanted to be a Time Lord, so Mrs Dim produced some fabulous robes, and I put together a headpiece based on the one worn by Timothy Dalton as Rassilon. She walked everywhere with an amazing poise and confidence, even though she was stopped every few feet by people wanting photographs – even at Subway!

This TARDIS cosplayer has used latex to make Gallifreyan writing appear burned into her skin. Amazing job.

This TARDIS cosplayer has used latex to make Gallifreyan writing appear burned into her skin. Amazing job.

This year the venue was larger, and we arrived early on the Sunday, so things were quieter for the first hour or so. We had a good chance to wander the booths and chat to the vendors and exhibitors, and saw some of the big names arriving for their signing sessions – Tom Felton, Charisma Carpenter, Eliza Dushku, Robert Englund…. (No photos of them this year, sorry!)

Attending in costume, even if only through the Weasels, was a very different experience to last year’s plain clothes day. There’s more of a sense of cameraderie with the other cosplayers, and it’s such fun meeting with other groups and taking photos together, or swapping notes on costume choice and construction.

I’m going to end with a photo reel without comments : These pictures have been posted on my Facebook page and my G+ account, so I’m all commented out, but feel free to ask for explanations or identifications!

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The Day of The Doctor

I’ve never been to the cinema to watch TV before.

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Eldest Weasel is a Whovian, in a big way. She quickly latched on to the fact that our lack of cable meant she would have to go elsewhere to watch the episode celebrating the 50th anniversary of the series beginning, and researched some alternatives. Our local cinema was one of those showing the two hour special, but we couldn’t get tickets until Monday 25th, two whole days after the show was being shown on tv. She managed to get together with some like-minded friends with cable and enjoyed the whole show as it was broadcast, then watched it all again. She’s seen it twice more since then.

I’d picked up some minor spoilers from the online fallout in the day or two that followed, but was still excited about the cinema trip. I’ve enjoyed the renewed Doctor Who (because it’s NOT a reboot, you know – just the same series….) but often felt that Stephen Moffat’s storylines needed more legroom than a tv episode offered.

The auditorium was small – our local cinema is a multiplex, and they had given over two screens to the Day of the Doctor. Each was sold out. We were nearly forty five minutes early for the showing, but the place was almost full. Most people were wearing t-shirts or hats with Whovian logos, and there were more than a couple in full costume – a Ninth Doctor and a Tenth, and at least one Rose Tyler. No Daleks…

This was not at the cinema.

This was not at the cinema.

When the lights went down the excitement was palpable. It was great to see that the warnings about cell phone usage and talking during the show were given by Strax, the Sontaran. This was followed by an introduction and reminder about the 3d glasses delivered by Matt Smith and David Tennant, both in character. These familiar faces were greeted with cheers and whistles, which died away as the pair turned to reveal the back of John Hurt, the mysterious War Doctor we would finally learn about when the show started.

Some familiar faces returned for the special episode...

There have been plenty of reviews and analyses of the show itself online, and I’m sure I wouldn’t have anything new to add. There were nods to the fans in every nook and cranny of the film, eliciting gasps, giggles and the occasional tear. As I had hoped, the longer time frame really suited Moffat’s convoluted storyline, allowing him the space to stretch out and fill in all the corners. Though, as befits a story dealing with time travel, the plot swoops back and forth across different time lines , it was never wildly confusing. Nothing needed to be explained in great detail. The crescendo was surprise and delight piled on top of each other, as extra guest appearances and beautifully staged shots crowded the screen.

We’d been warned ahead of time that a featurette would follow the titles, and when the names began to roll, no one moved. Everyone stayed put for the featurette, cheering the actors again and applauding as their favourite parts of the episode were mentioned.

It’s not compulsory to like Doctor Who, even if you’re British. Just as you can’t fool all the people all the time, you can’t PLEASE all the people all the time either. At times it’s silly, and it often takes itself a little too seriously, but the fundamentals of the programme are very worthwhile. The Doctor doesn’t carry a weapon. He stands up for oppressed people and encourages them to stand up for themselves too. He works best when he has friends with him, as we all do. Time and again we are shown that, wonderful as the Doctor is, his regular, human companions play a vital part in saving the day.

I always thought there was more to Supes than muscles...

I always thought there was more to Supes than muscles…

Not so long ago, Mrs Dim and I went to watch Man of Steel. In that movie, Superman has a range of abilities, but most important seems to be his human nature, given to him by his adoptive parents. Yet in the final, endless scenes of the movie, he does nothing but pound away, pointlessly, with super-strength. The movie seems to say “Hey, we don’t care about brains, it’s brawn that’s important here! Sure, his first three hundred and seventy punches haven’t done any good, but you never know, the next one might do it…”

The Doctor’s adventures show that thinking is key. That problems may look insoluble, but they WON’T be solved if you don’t step up and TRY. The courage to try and the application of intelligence are worth more than huge muscles or a big gun. I hope that’s an idea that spreads.

Books of October

I've read a frightening number of Doctor Who books this month...

I’ve read a frightening number of Doctor Who books this month…

The actual number of books this month looks more impressive than it really is – several titles are individual Doctor Who stories in the Anniversary series, but they’re not really whole books – just short stories. However, since they’re packaged individually and written by different authors, I’ve given them a slot each.

The Meek – Brad Poynter

I mentioned Brad Poynter’s book in a previous post, and intended to give it a solo review. It’s a fun piece, a type of sci-fi that people don’t often attempt anymore. One day, everyone around the world (as far as we know) gets shrunk to miniscule size. Household pets become deadly predators, and getting from one room to another – or even getting up or down furniture – is a major expedition. Our protagonist is a teenage boy, trapped at home with his mother and desperately worried about his girlfriend who lives next door.

The story races along at tremendous pace. There’s no let up for the characters as everything is hard and dangerous as they search for a place that’s safe from animals, but presents food and water accessible to tiny people. The “Why?” isn’t considered for a long time, but that’s fine because you only get philosophical about things when you know where your next meal is coming from.

I was sorry this was the only the first in a series because I wanted to get all the answers, but I’ll be buying the next one as soon as it appears.

Halo: The Thursday War – Karen Traviss

A resurgence of Halo playing on my PC (Eldest Weasel decided to try it out, which meant I started playing again too…) got me curious about this new release. I like Karen’s books, being a fan of the Star Wars Commandos and Clones books she’s produced. However, I got the impression that I had missed the volume that comes before this one – I didn’t know most of the characters, and the situation was already half-developed. If I can find the one that comes first, I may go back and try it out.

Emerald City Blues – Peter Smalley

This was an e-book I’ve been promising myself for a while. Part PI novella, part spellcaster book, it’s all action and hard-boiled dialogue. Once again, it’s the introduction to a series, but it’s nicely written with good internal logic and interesting characters. I’ll be back for more.

The Last Colony – John Scalzi

One of my favourite audio books is “Old Man’s War”. I have it on Kindle too, as well as  the sequel “Ghost Brigades”, but I’d never picked up this third in the series. It was nice to hear from the protagonist John Perry again, along with his unusual wife, ex-special forces soldier Jane, and their adopted daughter. As before, the politics of living in a multi-species galaxy drives a complex plot, but the essence of the book is that John and Jane are given command of a colony world and have to make it work despite indigenous life forms, intransigent colonists and, ultimately, alien invasion.

Unless I’m completely mistaken, I still don’t think that this book quite brings the reader up to the point where the latest book “The Human Division” opens, so maybe I’ll look up “Zoe’s Tale”, which purports to be the daughter’s view of events. It may go further….

Dr Who: Tip of the Tongue – Patrick Ness

I’m really enjoying this series of stories, giving each incarnation of The Doctor a new adventure. This story – about an alien race existing on Earth and being sold as fashion accessories that only speak the truth – had a real Whovian feel to it.

The Map of Time – Felix J Palmer

I’ve read a few books on Jack the Ripper, so his inclusion in this book that was supposedly about Time Travel was intriguing. However, overall I was a little disappointed. The book can be divided into three parts, each section dealing with a different (but connected) main character and situation. Each involves time travel, and each one used the same gimmick. I don’t want to give too much away, but halfway through the second section, I was thinking “If this works out like the first one, I’ll be really annoyed…”

I was really annoyed.

Dr Who: Something Borrowed – Richelle Mead

Despite him being on TV when I was growing up, I don’t remember much about the sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) but this story was entertaining and fit the Whovian universe nicely, drawing in old characters and putting them in feasible (in a Doctor Who sense) situations.

Dr Who: The Ripple Effect – Malorie Blackman

I haven’t read the award winning “Noughts and Crosses”, so I was looking forward to this short as an introduction to Malorie Blackman’s writing. Sadly, days later, I can’t remember anything about it. Even looking at the cover in front of me, I can’t for the life of me think what “The Ripple Effect” was about.

Dr Who: Spore – Alex Scarrow

I can remember this one alright – Spore was grim sci-fi, with invasion and destruction and soldiers sent in to investigate getting digested in the streets. However, the realisation that Alex Scarrow was also responsible for the Halo Jones knock-off “The Legend of Ellie Quinn” took some of the shine off for me…

The Purloined Number – Jenn Thorson

I was glad to finally get my hands on the second in Jenn’s trilogy of GCU sci-fi comedies. In a world of hard sci-fi, Jenn is taking a much more human and imaginative approach, making her Greater Communicating Universe more about the characters in it, than about the physics that allows them to travel between the stars. Better yet, her Earthman snatched from his home and dumped amongst the madness in the first book has found his feet and is starting to be a proactive protagonist. After years of watching poor old Arthur Dent wander bewildered through a wonderful Galaxy, it’s great to see Betram decide to go sightseeing, to cash in his fame for real money and use it to buy his own ship – to make the most of his opportunity now he’s offplanet. Of course, there’s also the little matter of the theft of the number three and his erstwhile friend and captor Rollie Tsmorlood to “help out”… But that’s life in the good old GCU.

Dr Who: The Beast of Babylon – Charlie Higson

I’m really glad that Charlie Higson is having so much success as a novelist. Taking on Young James Bond right out of the gate must have been daunting, even for a seasoned comedy writer, but his quartet (quintet?) of zombie novels set in England are particularly good. This adventure featuring the Ninth Doctor has the right blend of humour, horror and lesson-learning, and has the nice touch of being set between the Tardis dematerialising after Rose has decided not to travel with the Doctor at the end of the first episode, and then rematerialising for him to say “Did I mention I can travel in time too?”. The whole book takes place in the space of two seconds of screen time….

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs

This book has slid over my desk at the library several times, and the picture on the front was enticing. However, it was a while before I got hold of a copy not being held for someone else, and discovered that the author used found photographs to illustrate his bizarre tale. Be warned – this is a magical tale of time loops and VERY peculiar children, and there are monsters. It’s also the first in a series that promises to be very engaging, but who knows how long we have to wait for book two? (Edit: Book 2 comes out in January 2014 – “Hollow City”)

Live and Let Drood – Simon R Green

There are some books that you keep reading because you just can’t believe they are the way they are. This was one of those. By page five I was heartily sick of the word “Drood”, which is a shame because it is mentioned on every page. Every. Single. Page. The lead character is Edwin Drood, and his entire family has either been killed or transported to another dimension. He’s not sure which, but someone is going to pay. Because he’s a Drood. And his family were Droods. And now he’s the last Drood. And vengeance is something that Droods do. Can you see how annoying it is?

Add in the fact that there are so many shadowy, magical and mystical organisations and rogues, that it makes you wonder if anyone in the whole world is actually NORMAL. Not werewolf, sorceror, half angel, witch, wizard, warlock or whatever, just a regular person….Anyway, after this, there’s another book. It doesn’t have the word Drood in the title, but I’m willing to bet that’s the only page that doesn’t have it.

Devil May Care – Sebastian Faulks

I read the original Bond books at the behest of Mrs Dim, many, many years ago. They were good, in a grim, 1960’s way, and I much preferred the lighter and less complex Modesty Blaise series. However, Faulks has captured the tone and pace of the original books and combined them with a convincing and gripping Cold War plot that works well.

Dr Who: The Mystery of the Haunted Cottage – Derek Landy

Although I’m a huge fan of the Tenth Doctor, and Landy caught his mannerisms well, I didn’t take to the story. It was a good decision to pair the Doctor with Martha, rather than the more ratings-grabbing Rose or Donna, but the “falling-into-a-story” plotline was hard work to explain and escape from. Fun for the dialogue and well-written, but not my favourite of the series.

And of course, I’ve also read my own book several times this month – “Tribute”.

The story of a teenage girl trying to find her own way to grow as a songwriter while coping with the death of the man she thought of as her father and come to terms with a man who might be her biological father. It’s more fun than it sounds. Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned the death and stuff?

Available now from Amazon stores around the world, you can find it on Amazon US HERE , Amazon Canada HERE, and Amazon UK HERE .

I think next month I’ll be balancing out all this Doctor Who with some good old fashioned Star Wars books, and I’ll be recovering from Halloween with some comedies and fun stuff. or maybe some cerebral non-fiction again. Coming up soon, I intend to take a whole month to investigate the appeal of the Harlequin-style romance novels (Mills and Boon, to you UK readers…) and then try and write my own within a month. Title suggestions below, please….

Preparing to recross the pond

It’s been a long time since I’ve talked about emigrating. Long ago life settled down into a regular form, became just the ordinary every day. Yes, there are still times I marvel that we live in Canada, that I tell which direction I’m driving by seeing the mountains on the North Shore, but I don’t convert dollars into pounds any more, trying to see if things are cheaper or more expensive. I don’t flinch from saying “pants” instead of “trousers”, and I no longer think “parkade” is a fizzy drink.

Soon we’ll head back to the UK for our second visit since we emigrated. This time we’ll be going back in the winter, with all the added unpredictability that brings. Will there be a sprinkling of snow that closes roads and railways? Having once shoveled my driveway clear three times in the same day, I’m inclined to roll my eyes at that thought. And we don’t get “real” snow here in the Vancouver area… Just ask someone from Winnipeg.

Our last trip back was a summertime thing, and we met friends on the beach in Bournemouth. We walked through parks, in London and Worcester. When I think of going back, those are the images that come to mind.

Weasels and pigeons in the park, Bournemouth

Weasels and pigeons in the park, Bournemouth

After a while out here the view of the UK becomes somewhat idealised, like this:

Younger Weasels and their Grandma in a very English garden.

Younger Weasels and their Grandma in a very English garden.

But we’ll be there for early nights, cold, brisk days. And probably rain. We’ll be spending almost every day going from one place to another so we can visit as many friends as possible, but we also have to set aside time so we can celebrate Christmas with the family we’ve been away from for so long.

The travel is, as ever, the part that bothers me the most. Our appreciation of distance has changed significantly. To illustrate, let me show you our last but one holiday : we went to Cardiff-by-Sea, Encinitas, by way of San Francisco. We drove, and it took a week or so to get there. It was fun (except for going through LA, obviously.) Here’s what that journey looks like:

Thank you, Google Maps!

Thank you, Google Maps!

You can see (perhaps) that that journey is 2197 km. If you need a translation, that’s 1365.153 miles, or a trip from John O’Groats to Land’s End and more than halfway back again. We did the journey home again in three days.

We won’t be traveling nearly as far in our trip around the UK, but our nomadic lifestyle prior to leaving the country means we have friends all over the place, and I look at the map of the UK Mrs Dim has pinned to the wall and the little flags stuck into it and I think….”How hard is that going to be?”

Four and a half years is quite a long time. It’s time for a child to be born and reach school age. It’s been time for one of our Weasels to reach High School and settle in. Middle Weasel is now in the top age group in her school. I’m on my third job, and am convinced the ancient curse has followed me to Canada (I worked for TVS – they lost their franchise. I worked for Peter Dominic’s – they went out of business. I worked at the Bell Hotel in Alresford – it looks like they did  a good job of rebuilding it after the fire. Here in Canada I worked for Canpages and they went out of business.) But I’m happy in my library job and hope to stay with it for a long time to come.

I guess the idea I’m circling here is that the only part of the UK we miss is the people. We moved every two years all the time we were married, and learned to place value on friendships, rather than places. We loved the old stuff like the Cathedral in Winchester, the Standing Stones in the Avebury Ring, or Roman ruins, or Iron Age Forts. We loved medieval towns and historical buildings, and we loved the modern parts of the country too, but they’re not why we’re going back. *

We’re going back to see our friends and family, and we’re only sorry we won’t be able to visit everyone in the time available. And of course, if it snows, we may not get out of the airport….

*There are certain factions within the family that maintain the ENTIRE reason for the visit is The Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff. If anyone from the BBC is reading this, we know the perfect person to co-ordinate a Doctor Who Exhibition in Vancouver – she already knows EVERYTHING about Doctor Who.

Doctor Wheasel - TARDIS not included.

Doctor Wheasel – TARDIS not included.

The April Bookshelf

Trotting off on a road trip to San Diego for the first half of April put quite a dent in my reading. Since we were packing all five of us and our gear into the one car, it seemed unwise to take up too much space with reading material.

Lucky for me I have a kindle.

The Steampunk Megapack

I’ve been reading this collection of stories on and off for a while now. Not because I couldn’t get into it, but because there’s SO MUCH in it. The first few tales are short stories, but before long the content is padded with entire novels – I really enjoyed re-reading Conan-Doyle’s “The Lost World” and experiencing “John Carter and the Princess of Mars” for the first time.

As with most of the collections I’ve read, not all of the stories were to my taste, which isn’t surprising. What was surprising and a bit annoying was that very few of the stories were genuine Steampunk. Though the term itself is only a loose classification, I really feel there does need to be an “alternate universe” feel to the setting. The basic idea of Steampunk is that modern technology, like electrical devices and gasoline-powered vehicles were not developed along the same lines, and that Steam Power achieved most of the same results. In addition, there’s usually more than a touch of Victoriana about the mannerism and the dress code, if not the time zone.

The majority of these stories were based in the right era and thus had the language, but hit none of the other checkpoints. Value for money, but not the product it’s claiming to be.

Behemoth and Goliath – Scott Westerfeld

I mentioned the first of Westerfeld’s “Animalistic Steampunk” trilogy last month, and this month I tracked down the next two in the series. I really enjoyed these books – partially for the plucky female lead, and partially for the excellently real, yet fantastic world they’re set in. I also give Scott credit for stopping World War One in his world. Good job, that man.

The Girl of Nightmares – Kendare Blake

Picked entirely because of the beautiful artwork on the cover, I found this was at least the second or third in a series. The story goes that a mystic group imbued a knife with the power to release the unquiet dead – to “kill” ghosts. Now, in the modern day, the wielder of the knife lives in America, and only “kills” the “bad” ghosts, plus he’s fallen in love with a dead girl, and wants to know if the knife can be used to rescue her from hell. Now, aside from the other practical issues here, what kind of mystic group goes to all that trouble then leaves their mystic warriors to their own devices for TWO GENERATIONS? Were they twiddling their mystic thumbs all this time?

I rushed back to the library to hurriedly NOT book out the other books in the series.

Shada – Gareth Roberts

When Eldest Weasel bought herself this book for her birthday, I was intrigued to note that it had Douglas Adams’ name on the cover. DA wrote three Doctor Who episodes for the Tom Baker era Doctor, but the third one was not one of his favourites, and was never completed due to strike action at the BBC. Now the scripts from that story, his notes and the knowledge of the books Douglas wrote later have been brought together to create this novel. It was very good, even though I spent a lot of time tutting and saying “Hitch hiker….Dirk Gently…Dirk Gently…Huh…” as I recognised bits and pieces here and there. Well worth the read if you are a fan of Adams, Doctor Who, Dirk Gently or all three.

Star Wars Omnibus “Menace revealed”

I couldn’t resist adding such a thick collection of Star Wars comics to my library list when I found out they were gathered together in one volume. This bunch includes a couple of tales about Jango Fett and Zam Wesell which changes my view of their working relationship as portrayed in “Episode 2” and a couple more  about Aurra Sing, the mysterious Jedi Hunter. The final few were simply advertisements for toys, being reprints of the short comics that came free with the vehicles and figures on sale, but I enjoyed the first stories enough to make the loan worthwhile.

4th Doctor Who anniversary story: The Roots of Evil – Phillip Reeve

There are some cracking authors in this anniversary series. I’ve been a fan of Phillip Reeve since picking up “Mortal Engines” on a whim and reading the whole series thereafter. Now THAT’s a series begging to be a movie AND  a computer game. I would pay good money to fly the Jenny Hanniver from Traction City to the Air Market… But that ‘s NOT what this book’s about. This is an adventure of the fourth Doctor, traveling with the wonderfully savage Leela and discovering an entire floating world made from a single, enormous tree.

Plain Kate – Erin Bow

When I began reading “Plain Kate” I really felt like I had stumbled across a good old fashioned children’s story. The world was recognisable, but old, the characters were simple, but believable and there was a touch of magic. Things got dark quickly, however, and I raced on through the book, waiting for the tide to turn and Kate’s life to improve.

I don’t want to spoil the ending, so I’ll say it’s definitely worth the read. It’ll strain the heartstrings of even the toughest reader, and I would hesitate before offering it to any of the Weasels, since they all have such soft hearts. Mrs Dim is working through it now, and “enjoying” it.

Michael Vey: The prisoner of cell 25 – Richard Paul Evans

I’ve seen a brilliant map that someone has created, showing many of the lands from fiction as if they shared the same world: Middle Earth, Westeros, Narnia, Panem… I was thinking there should be a similar thing to show the many bunches of renegade kids with super-powers running about the place.

This book doesn’t have much new to say on the subject of being a kid with superpowers, but it was an engaging read and I found myself flying through the book to see if the villains get their comeuppance at the end. Rather than answer that question, I’ll just say there’s a second book in the series….

The Bughouse Affair – Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini

I have to be honest, I picked this one up, assuming it to be another steampunk detective piece, but it’s not – it’s a period detective piece. If you’re a fan of San Francisco, or the 1890’s, or of books that feature cameos by Sherlock Holmes, then this may well be a book for you. Or maybe you just like central characters that say “Bah!” a lot. Sadly, I don’t fit into any of those catagories, and I also have a peculiar need for the title of a book to bear some relation to the content of the book. This book is entitled “The Bughouse Affair” and deals with burglaries, pickpocketing and Sherlock Holmes. NOT elementary.

From a Buick 8 – Stephen King

I’ve been a King fan for years, but it’s been a long time since I’ve read this particular book. It’s an interesting story, particularly if you’ve worked your way through the rest of the King canon, because what the book is about is a piece of a much larger story, yet you don’t NEED to know that other story to appreciate this one.

Troop D are keeping an old Buick in a shed, and it has a dangerous and strange history. When the son of a trooper who was killed in a roadside accident begins to ask questions about the shed, it’s time to tell the strange story and lay the ghosts to rest.

Apologies for linking all these books to Amazon.com, and not having the techno-savvy to allow the link from the picture to show the inside of the books.

I know some of my reviews are harsh, both here and last month, but these are the books that I stuck with to the end. They may not, in some cases, have made my favourite list, but they were engaging enough to hold my attention. There are books not mentioned here because I didn’t finish them.

And, of course, the other book I’ve been reading a lot in the last month is my own : The Great Canadian Adventure .  I’ve been putting this account of our first year in Canada together for the last couple of years, but a concerted effort this month has produced the kindle edition, complete with colour photographs and hyperlinks. I certainly haven’t seen another kindle book like it. Let me know what you think of it.

I DO have all the links for this one:

Amazon.Com: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CKZQUX4
Amazon.co.uk : http://amzn.to/12WTomY
Amazon.ca : http://amzn.to/ZWv5XD