5 Books That Can’t Hit The Big Screen Fast Enough

It’s inevitable.

I get excited, borderline giddy sometimes, when a favorite book of mine gets ready to make its way onto the big screen. I follow the trailers, pour over pictures of the casting choices, sets, and costume designs. I gather up the family or plan a date night when the book hits the big screen, but am always unable to turn off my “book was better” skepticism.

I loved both the Harry Potter and Peter Jackson’s Hobbit/Lord of the Rings film series, but had my criticisms of these big-screen versions. Too many characters and scenes added to The Hobbit, and too many scenes and characters left out of Harry Potter. Where was Peeves, for goodness sake?

This has always been an issue. How many ways can they mess up Wizard of Oz? Or Peter Pan? Or Treasure Island?

Continue reading 5 Books That Can’t Hit The Big Screen Fast Enough

Delilah Dirk’s Second Adventure!

Image From First Second Press

Delilah Dirk strikes again! In the new graphic novel by Tony Cliff: Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling, we are once more in the company of the swashbuckling heroine and her faithful friend, Mister Selim. This time, it’s Delilah’s reputation in her homeland of England that is at stake. She gets on the wrong side of a new character, Major Merrick (not being the submissive woman he expected), and he decides to use her as a scapegoat for his own traitorous deeds. I had the opportunity to ask Tony some questions about his second book: the action, the friendship, and even the fashion.

GEEKMOM: Creating, writing, and illustration on your own sounds overwhelming. How do you keep yourself motivated? Were there different challenges with the second book?
Continue reading Delilah Dirk’s Second Adventure!

Literary Geocaching: When Books Leap Into Real Life

We all know what geocaching is—a global treasure hunt where participants use a GPS receiver to locate hidden “caches” of tiny toys or rubber stamps. Literary geocaching (or GeoLit) takes the treasure hunt concept one step further by asking readers to find parts of stories hidden in physical locations.

Available only in e-book form, these next-generation narratives provide only part of a story. The reader must actually travel to a specific location (germane to the tale) to access the rest of the work. When the GPS in the reader’s iPad or iPhone matches the target position, another portion of the story is electronically revealed.

The locations chosen for this distinction are places where action in the story might actually happen. For example, if the Little House on the Prairie books were given the literary geocaching treatment, a reader would need to travel to Pepin, Wisconsin, before the text regarding Laura’s little house in the Big Woods would appear. Imagine reading about the cozy cabin while sitting in the grass in front of the very building (a replica of which does stand today).

Photo: Jodamiller
Photo: Jodamiller

The concept of enhancing the reading experience through technology opens a wide range of exciting opportunities. One popular work, The Silent History, encourages readers to write their own segments of the story through “Field Reports” that are tied to specific locations. In the original story, written by four authors*, 120 “Testimonials” or oral histories were included. Each Testimonial was narrated by a character in the story, and provided the background on which the tale was based. Readers who live in the areas mentioned in the Testimonials can enhance the original reports with details of their own, tied to specific GPS points in real locations. To date, over 300 Field Reports have been written, including one that can only be opened at the White House.

To unlock all of the essential parts of a GeoLit story, a reader must leave his quiet home and travel. Some might view this as an annoyance, but to those who love the concept of geocaching and treasure hunting, the obstacles are just part of the fun. The thrill of being able to see, hear, and smell actual elements of a fictional work overcomes the minor inconveniences inherent in the hunt.

Chrissy Clark, a writer who created Stories Everywhere, describes GeoLit as “a magical way of allowing you to have one foot in the physical world, and one foot in the … annotated world on top of it.” Clark’s location-based storytelling includes a project on a historic block in San Francisco where she left short notes about events that happened there, marked with red balloons for passersby to find.

Photo: Michael Kozlowski
Photo: Michael Kozlowski

Clever authors have adapted the GeoLit concept in many ways. Marcelo Rubens Paiva wrote The Trip Book, which uses GPS to change the locations in the story into landmarks that can be found where the reader is situated. Mark Melnykowycz created Lost in Reality, an app that lets users record their stories as they walk through cities, and search for stories recorded by other users. Andrew Mason, founder of the NPR show RadioLab, has collaborated on Detour Austin, an “immersive audio walking tour” that allows users to hear a fictional story about a serial killer in 1885 in Austin, TX, as they walk around that city.

Finding GeoLit e-books can be tricky, as the genre is labeled in many different ways, but for the eager treasure hunter, the obstacles are just part of the fun!

*Eli Horowitz, Kevin Moffett, Matthew Derby, and Russell Quinn.

Author Mishell Baker Geeks Out About Gaming

MBWalking-200x300
image courtesy Mishell Baker.

Mishell Baker’s urban fantasy series The Arcadia Project begins with the novel Borderline, just released this March. The series is narrated by Millicent Roper, a snarky double-amputee and suicide survivor who works with a ragtag collection of society’s least-wanted, keeping the world safe from the chaotic whims of supernatural beasties. Mishell’s short fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Daily Science Fiction, Redstone Science Fiction, and Electric Velocipede.

When Mishell isn’t convention-hopping or going on wild research adventures, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two changelings.  When her offspring are older, she will probably remember what her hobbies are. In the meantime, she enjoys sending and receiving old-fashioned handwritten paper letters.

I always hesitate to call myself a “gamer,” since my tastes are so specific. But within the very small subcategory of “story-driven fantasy RPGs for PC,” the term “enthusiast” doesn’t even begin to cover my obsession or these games’ effect on my writing. Here are five RPG series I could easily play (and geek out about) endlessly:

  1. Quest for Glory – My first gaming addiction was Sierra’s classic Quest for Glory series, by Lori and Corey Cole. I grew up right along with the game’s hero as I played and replayed a tale that is by turns silly, suspenseful, and heartbreaking. I began the first installment—in which a naive young hero saves a small town from a curse—at age twelve. By the end of the fifth installment, I was in my mid-twenties, and my hero was king of a powerful nation. Talk about epic!
  2. Guild Wars – This one had me at the tutorial. I painstakingly discovered lush forests and fields, quest by quest… and then the moment I completed the introductory section I watched everything I’d just explored get blasted into noxious wasteland. I was traumatized… and hooked. Both the original game and its follow-up Guild Wars 2 gave me plenty of opportunities to crawl back through the ruins of that first memorable area and experience a strange mix of grief and nostalgia. I love trying to recreate this feeling in my work: trying to identify readers’ strongest first impressions, then finding ways to tease, twist, and distort those memories later on.
  3. The Elder Scrolls – The lore of the Elder Scrolls’ world of Tamriel has changed the way I approach world-building. Unlike the typical coherent mythology created by a singular author, the books and scrolls you find lying about in the Elder Scrolls games reveal diverse and uncomfortably irreconcilable views of theology and history that only suggest, never reveal, the truth. The second book of the Arcadia Project series owes a lot to my fascination with this startlingly realistic approach to world lore.
  4. EverquestEQ was the grandmother of MMORPGs, and it’s where I discovered online roleplaying. During my time in EQ and EQ2, I practiced my character creation and dialogue skills and met some amazing writers. Most importantly, it was while playing Everquest 2 that I first invented a deadpan gloved warlock named Caryl Vallo. She didn’t thrive in that world; too many other strong-willed characters steered her story in directions that didn’t satisfy me. So I plucked her out of Norrath, gave her a different backstory, and found her a new home in my debut novel Borderline.

    BorderlineCover-300x453
    Image Courtesy Simon & Schuster. Available on Amazon.
  5. Dragon Age – Put off by the blood-spattered marketing campaign, I tried the first Dragon Age game only reluctantly. But within a week I was wholeheartedly immersed in the world of Thedas, and immediately after finishing the game for the first time I surprised myself by bursting into tears. All three Dragon Age installments differ radically in interface and design (a common criticism), but the world and characters consistently enrapture and move me to the point that I find myself irritated when I have to actually fight monsters to earn another 24-karat nugget of story. BioWare’s writers are astonishing; their games are master classes in how to set up and pay off emotional effect.

I’ve loved computer games as a storytelling medium all my life, and to this day it affects the way I construct story. As a writer I try to address what I think the readers will want to explore, not what I, as the Authority, feel the need to explain. The fun in plotting for me, as it may well be in game design, is trying to guess what the audience would choose. In deciding when it’s best to indulge them and when it will satisfy them more in the long run if I frustrate or subvert their desires. If I’ve learned anything from games it’s that when a story is well designed, losing can be almost as fun as winning.

Visit http://mishellbaker.com/ for more information about Mishell and her books!

My Favorite Read-Aloud Books Right Now: March 2016

Do you ever feel like you hit a streak of not-so-great books, and then boom! You get a ton of really great ones in one shot?

Below are the library finds my family and I enjoyed reading in the last month, including everything from picture books about having a can-do attitude to graphic novels strangely reminiscent of Doctor Who.

GeekMom Ariane features her family's favorite read-aloud books this month.
Edgar Gets Ready for Bed. Image credit: Gibbs Smith

Edgar Gets Ready for Bed, written by Jennifer Adams and illustrated by Ron Stucki is, as you can probably deduce, a picture book inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.” Edgar is a boisterous young raven whose answer for everything is, you guessed it, “nevermore!” The kids won’t get the reference, but you will. Adorable!

GeekMom Ariane features her family's favorite read-aloud books this month.
I Had a Favorite Dress. Image credit: Harry N. Abrams

I Had a Favorite Dress, written by Bonie Ashburn and illustrated by Julia Denos, starts with a young girl’s favorite dress and a problem: her dress is now too short. Continue reading My Favorite Read-Aloud Books Right Now: March 2016

The Original Genrenaut: An Interview With Mike Underwood

Mike has circumnavigated the world, knows why Tybalt cancels out Capo Ferro, and rolls a mean d20.

He is the author the several series: the comedic fantasy Ree Reyes series (GEEKOMANCY, CELEBROMANCY, ATTACK THE GEEK, HEXOMANCY), fantasy superhero novel SHIELD AND CROCUS, supernatural thriller THE YOUNGER GODS, and GENRENAUTS, a science fiction series in novellas. By day, he’s the North American Sales & Marketing Manager for Angry Robot Books.

Mike lives in Baltimore with his wife and their ever-growing library. In his rapidly-vanishing free time, he plays video games, geeks out on TV, and makes pizzas from scratch. He is a co-host on the Hugo-nominated Skiffy and Fanty Show as well as Speculate! The Podcast for Readers, Writers, and Fans.

Full disclosure, dear readers: I’ve interviewed Mike once before and it was a blast, so I knew this was going to be fun. That he was generous enough to allow me to do so again speaks to his being an utterly rad dude and one who has a lot of really interesting stuff to say.

Give us the basement to penthouse elevator pitch for the Genrenauts concept.

A. The Genrenauts are a group of storytellers that travel between dimensions, each the source and home of a narrative genre (Western, Romance, etc.), to find and fix broken stories. Because if they fail, the damage from those broken stories ripples over and causes disaster on earth.

The series starts as struggling stand-up comedian Leah Tang is recruited to be a probationary member of the Genrenauts. The team heads to the Western story world to fix a story where the posse of heroic gunslingers was killed by the black hats, leaving the town defenseless. And it just gets wackier from there. Continue reading The Original Genrenaut: An Interview With Mike Underwood

DC Comics’ Big Three Are Big Kids in ‘Study Hall of Justice’

When the team behind Li’l Gotham is back for a unique take on DC’s Big Three in a book for kids, it’s almost a no-brainer for any Batman, Superman, or Wonder Woman fan to pick it up. You know, for the kids. (If you want to share it, I mean.)

Study Hall of Justice (DC Comics: Secret Hero Society #1) is a new middle-grade book series from Scholastic that is part journal, part graphic novel, and all DC Comics fun.

Continue reading DC Comics’ Big Three Are Big Kids in ‘Study Hall of Justice’

Letting the Oddity Live On: A Salute to Diana Wynne Jones

I’ve had those times when I’ve actively mourned “celebrities”artists, let’s call them because it isn’t the fame that made them important to me, and I think the “celebrity” label cheapens that importance.

But the experience I had five years ago at the end of this month was just a little different. Yes, I was mourning one of my favorite authors. But I also couldn’t shake the feeling that now I had to—was being called to—carry on her legacy.

And in at least one way—the forcing-other-people-to-listen-to-me-rave-about-her way—I’ve had help with that. During March 2012, a year after her death, her publishers held a blog tour/on-line celebration of the life and works of Diana Wynne Jones. So many bloggers wanted to participate that “#DWJMarch” managed to take over April and May as well. Each year since, Kristen M. at the book blog We Be Reading has continued to host #DWJMarch, and a smaller-but-dedicated group of fans continues to pitch in.

Since last March took Terry Pratchett away from us, too, she’s added him into the mix this year as well, renaming the celebration “March Magics.”

It’s a combination that makes a lot of sense. They’re both English fantasy writers who wrote books that not only skewered the conventions of fantasy, but also offered biting observations of any other topic (especially real life). They created characters both hilarious and heartbreaking. The Venn Diagram for Terry Pratchett and Diana Wynne Jones fans ought to be nearly a circle, but somehow she is less well-known in the mainstream. Continue reading Letting the Oddity Live On: A Salute to Diana Wynne Jones

Geek Speaks… Coloring Books! With Natalie Zaman and Wendy Martin

This week’s post is from GeekMom writer Natalie Zaman, who is also a writer of fantastical fiction and magical non-fiction. She’s joined by her co-author, illustrator Wendy Martin and they’re going to talk about their process in creating their project, the Totem Animal Mandala Coloring Book with Reflections for Relaxation:

Nat says…

I’ve always loved Wendy Martin’s work. I’ve watched it evolve from her Pagan-themed picture books (portraying character diversity in age, size, and ethnicity—check out Smoky and the Feast of Mabon penned by New York Times Bestselling author Cathrynne M. Valente) to wickedly detailed Art Nouveau single illustrations. Plus, we’re pals, so I was excited as well as intrigued when she suggested we do a project together.

Smoky and the Feast of Mabon tells the story of a little girl's magical Autumnal Equinox adventure.
Smoky and the Feast of Mabon tells the story of a little girl’s magical Autumnal Equinox adventure.

Sales of her ABCs of Lesser Known Goddesses coloring book had seen a surge with the adult coloring book trend. I know there are tons of coloring books on the market now, but for me, coloring has always been a “thing.” When I was teaching, I used Dover’s Cathedral Stained Glass Windows coloring book as supplemental material for the Renaissance unit that was part of the high school curriculum. Coloring unleashes creativity. It’s comforting because anyone can do it. With these pages, we turned our classroom into a cathedral, and the activity helped my students get comfortable with the period, and as a result, the poetry and plays we read seemed a little less daunting. Continue reading Geek Speaks… Coloring Books! With Natalie Zaman and Wendy Martin

‘Wonder Woman at Super Hero High’ is Super for Tweens

DC Super Hero Girls continues its path to superhero-stardom with the release of a new middle grade book series. Wonder Woman at Super Hero High, written by Lisa Yee, is out today for readers ages 8-12 years.

The novel is a look at a high school with an all-star lineup of superhero students, but the characters are so relatable that readers of any age don’t need superpowers themselves to identify with them.

Continue reading ‘Wonder Woman at Super Hero High’ is Super for Tweens

First Second Press: 10 Years Of Great Graphic Novels

Image By Rebecca Angel

I honestly don’t remember how I came across American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. Librarian friend? Bookstore display? I read it somewhere and bought a copy to show my family this…comic book that wasn’t a comic because it was a real book, just with all pictures, kinda like a comic book but thicker. A graphic novel. My family really liked it too. The artwork was cartoon, but the message was deep. My husband and son picked it for their book club. My daughter found out about other graphic novels in the library. I became a writer for GeekMom and contacted the publisher of American Born Chinese wondering what else they had.

First Second Press is celebrating its ten year anniversary as a publisher of excellent graphic novels, many of which I have reviewed for this blog. Here are some of my favorites over the years:

The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew: Another winner from Yang that brings the past of comics and the future of graphic novels into one fantastic adventure story.

Zita the Spacegirl  by Ben Hatke: So fun, so funny, so full of girl power. And the follow-ups: The Return of Zita and The Legends of Zita.

Bake Sale by Sara Varon: This is one of those books that’s hard to describe when I recommend it. Saying it’s a kids book is like saying the Giving Tree is a kids book. It is, but… After reading it to my nieces, we had a huge discussion on the ending. (And this is when they were five and three!) I contacted Sara Varon telling her about the chat, and she wrote us back!

Giants Beware! by Rafael Rosado and Jorge Aguirre is currently on loan by my nine-year niece. We started it together and she is loving it. The heroine is great, but the side characters are what makes this one stand out.

Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks: Pick this up. Pick this up. Pick this up. My daughter and I chose it for our mother-daughter book club a few years back. There was quite a bit of skepticism since we had only read “real” books. For the graphic novel novices, I gave the advice to read it through once, and you’ll probably just be reading the words because that’s what you’re used to. Then go back and reread it, this time looking at the characters’ faces, the background art, all the little visual details that fill in the subtext and mood. It was a good book discussion because this is a GOOD BOOK!

Mastering Comics: Drawing Words & Writing Pictures Continued by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden: Can’t go without mentioning this authoritative work for anyone interested in making your own comics and graphic novels. I was asked to write a comic with someone and this book was my text.

Sailor Twain: Or: The Mermaid in the Hudson by Mark Siegel: An adult book with art to savor. This one sticks with you. I heard Mark speak about the development of this novel, and afterwards he signed and drew on my copy.

Photo on 2-23-16 at 6.46 PM

Happy Birthday First Second!

Tribute: The Mockingbird That Died of a Broken Heart

There will be no candlelit vigils outside theatres. No tribute performances in memory. No posthumous award with a standing ovation at a gala event—that would be too ironic for both of them.

Perhaps instead we could consider a single image—a mockingbird, lying dead on the doorstop of a local bookstore. It died of a broken heart in a world no longer moved by the symbolic gestures of strength and virtue.

This would be the best way to remember Umberto Eco and Harper Lee; two very different writers who influenced the Evil Genius Mum I am today. Continue reading Tribute: The Mockingbird That Died of a Broken Heart

Between the Bookends Feb 2016: Smugglers, Spaceflight, and Schooling

In this most romantic of months, the GeekMoms have been reading about smugglers, spaceflight, and schools, elder gods, forensic anthropology, and grumpy cats.

Oh, and there might be a romance novel buried in there somewhere too! Read on to check out our February book choices.

Continue reading Between the Bookends Feb 2016: Smugglers, Spaceflight, and Schooling

14 Romantic Novels to Make Your Heart Beat Faster

Whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day this weekend or not, romance is in the air. It’s cold outside, so it’s a great time of year to heat things up inside. Here’s a list of books that run the gamut from romantic to sweet to full-on sexy.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. This one is actually a YA title, and a fairly chaste one at that. But it is incredibly funny and on-point about what it’s like to be a teenager with a crush. High school senior Anna is suddenly shipped off to boarding school in Paris, and she thinks her life is over. Until she meets Etienne St. Clair, a gorgeous fellow student. She spends the year almost falling in love with him and learning all about French cinema, until she finally gets the French kiss of her dreams. Incredibly charming.

Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie. Crusie’s most popular romance is still one of the great contemporary romance novels. It’s really a romantic comedy. Min Dobbs and Cal Morrissey start their rocky relationship with a bet. Her ex thinks Cal won’t be able to get her into bed, and Min decides to string him along to prove a point. But even though they seem terribly mismatched, there’s more going on there. Food, matchmaking, great humor. A great, lighthearted love story. Continue reading 14 Romantic Novels to Make Your Heart Beat Faster

Confessions of a Recovering Ravenclaw

I never got around to joining Pottermore the first time around, so the new Sorting Hat Test is the only official sorting test I’ve ever taken. I don’t know what the old test would have given me, but I was just as befuddled by my result as the people who were finding themselves suddenly re-sorted.

Gryffindor? Seriously? That was third most likely. The only less likely house would have been Slytherin—not so much because I have anything against potentially hanging out with Dark Wizards, but more because my utter lack of ambition is at marginally dangerous levels.

On the other hand, who knows? I don’t think this particular test is very accurate, but it’s not impossible for me to be Gryffindor. I do have a tendency to jump to other people’s defense whenever someone needs defending. Maybe I’m like Neville Longbottom, all my Gryffindor energy pent up inside until I grow up enough to embody it.

I wonder if the real Sorting Hat, in the universe where it really exists, does take the course of a person’s entire future into account. I wonder if it sees the ultimate end of one’s life philosophies, or if it takes the average of one’s philosophies over the course of one’s life. A friend of mine wondered what would happen if Hogwarts students got re-sorted each year. “Wouldn’t it be interesting? As people change, and grow, and develop, so might their Houses change. Because who we are when we are eleven is not (so I devoutly hope) who we will be the rest of our lives.”

I am positive I am not who I was when I was eleven. Continue reading Confessions of a Recovering Ravenclaw

Custom Made Disease: Geeking Out About Mutants With William C. Dietz

This week, New York Times bestselling science fiction author William C. Dietz joins us to tell us about what made him geek out while writing his Mutant Files trilogy!

Image: Ace/Roc Books
Image: Ace/Roc Books

Geeking Out is a natural part of writing science fiction, and vice versa. So when I wrote Graveyard, which is the third volume in the Mutant Files trilogy, I was in the full-on geek mode.

The book’s main character is a Los Angeles police detective named Cassandra Lee. The story takes place in 2069, a time when the entire world had been divided up into a patchwork quilt of green zones (where the norms live,) and red zones (where the mutants live.)

That’s the McGuffin, and to justify it I knew that it would be necessary to get some science on. The mutants had to come from somewhere, right? Continue reading Custom Made Disease: Geeking Out About Mutants With William C. Dietz

8 Funny Picture Books for Guaranteed Guffaws

Each week during my volunteer time at the school library, students swarm around asking for help finding just the right book. “Do you have books about squids?” “Where are the books with Ninja Turtles?” “Where can I find the Titanic books?” (These are all actual requests by first graders.)

The Loch Ness monster, mermaids, and how to care for your pet hedgehog I can handle. But the most difficult request by far comes up every single week: “I want a book that’s funny!”

Librarian Jackie Reeve and I have teamed up to bring you a cheat sheet of books proven to fall into that category, a favorite for kids of any age. Get ready for some giggles!

Continue reading 8 Funny Picture Books for Guaranteed Guffaws

Becoming My Own Superhero

Admittedly, I’ve come late to the superhero game. I didn’t really, truly get into The Avengers until the Marvel movie universe made everyone love superheroes (admit it: Captain America is dreamy). Growing up, I had a general awareness of Batman, Superman, and all the other biggies, and I do remember liking Superfriends (I always very specifically liked Jayna of the Wonder Twins). But in general, that whole world just wasn’t my thing. Continue reading Becoming My Own Superhero

Between the Bookends Jan 2016: Werewolves, Wonderland, and a Whole Lot of History

The holiday period can make it tricky to squeeze in reading time, but the GeekMoms still managed to clock up plenty of reading material. This month’s selections include books on alternative and real-life history, Wonderland and werewolves, yoga and classic sci-fi, and teaching kids both how to draw sharks, and how to value money.
Continue reading Between the Bookends Jan 2016: Werewolves, Wonderland, and a Whole Lot of History

The American Library Association Announces the 2016 Youth Media Awards Winners

It’s the most exciting awards show of the year! …if you’re a kidlit geek.

Every year at the American Library Association’s Midwinter conference, committees of youth services librarians hold secret meetings, discussing and arguing and trying to determine the most Distinguished Books for young people published in the United States in the past year. Early Monday morning, they call the winners. Then, once the sun comes up, they tell the rest of the world, in a live-streamed announcement and press release!

The two oldest and most famous of these awards are the Newbery and the Caldecott. The Newbery is awarded to “the author [emphasis mine] of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” The Caldecott is awarded to “the artist [still mine] of the most distinguished American picture book for children.” So, Newbery is for words, Caldecott is for pictures. Got that? Continue reading The American Library Association Announces the 2016 Youth Media Awards Winners

Helloooo! This is ‘Stampy’s Lovely Book’

If your kids are fans of Minecraft Let’s Play videos, chances are you’re already familiar with the enthusiastic Stampycat and his buoyant laugh. With over 6 million subscribers, Stampy and his Lovely World are fixtures of Minecraft Let’s Play on YouTube.

Young fans of Stampy, known in real life as Joseph Garrett, will be delighted to hear that Stampy’s Lovely Book has been released in the U.S. Penned by Garrett himself, this book is perfect for young readers looking to hear from Stampy himself about his friends, his favorite adventures in his Lovely World, and even some tips about getting started with their own Let’s Play videos. And with a price under $10, it’s practically a no-brainer to pick up for the Stampy fan in your life.

Continue reading Helloooo! This is ‘Stampy’s Lovely Book’

The Best Trick To Play On Your Children — So Sneaky!

My husband and I have this little trick we play on our children.

Every night, we try to get our three children in bed as close to 7:00 pm as possible. Our rule is that they need to stay in their rooms quietly and lights must be off. Oh, unless they feel like using this

Are you scratching your head over there? Continue reading The Best Trick To Play On Your Children — So Sneaky!

Do Not Mess With Grandmothers: Erin M. Evans Geeks Out

This week we welcome fantasy author Erin M. Evans as our guest to Geek Speaks…Fiction! She talks about about the role grandmothers play in fantasy, specifically in her own recent release, Ashes of the Tyrant, the fourth book in her Brimstone Angels saga set in the Forgotten Realms world.

I told my grandmother I was engaged the night after my husband proposed, and she gave me some advice that taught me a valuable lesson.

“Don’t ever get divorced,” my grandmother—who is herself divorced, I should mention–told me. “Trust me. No one respects you if you’re divorced.”

“…I think things are a bit different now,” I started.

“Still.” Then, “You can be a widow if you have to, Erin. Just don’t get divorced.”

The lesson of course is “Do not mess with my grandmother.” Continue reading Do Not Mess With Grandmothers: Erin M. Evans Geeks Out

Geeking Out About New Fans

Kenny Soward is the author of the fan-loved Gnomesaga fantasy series, but gnomes are not the only thing he likes to write about. Kenny has recently tried his hand at another of his passions, urban fantasy, and as he tells us in this week’s Geek Speaks…Fiction!, it gave him a whole new set of things to geek out about.

Image: Broke Dog Press
Image: Broke Dog Press

Venturing into a new genre can be quite an exciting time for an author, or it can be a stress-inducing nightmare. Although I sense writers are becoming more and more willing to try new things, many consider writing in varied genres career suicide especially right out of the gate. So I knew writing my latest book, Galefire, might set me back a bit.

Then again, I was already all over the place with three epic fantasy books and two weird west novels, so I supposed trying out something new (again) wouldn’t be such a stretch.

What finally crushed my fear was the realization I had an opportunity to write for a target audience I didn’t know I had. Let me explain. I realized that while I interacted with a lot of people via social media about movies, TV shows, and books, only about half of those people were into epic fantasy. Far less than that were interested in gnomes. And knowing some were curious about my stories but not enough to purchase a book they’d might lose interest in simply because of the subject matter, I was instantly struck with a sense of intense focus and determination to make Galefire a reality with them in mind.

The marketing experts out there might groan a collective, “duh,” but I didn’t have the experience in marketing when I started Gnomesaga in 2001 and certainly didn’t understand how much the epic fantasy world had changed since I read Dragonlance ages ago. I didn’t know about grimdark, and I only learned through Gnomesaga reviewers exactly what epic fantasy readers expect to see—paired with the realization I may not be that kind of writer after all. It doesn’t mean I won’t venture into epic fantasy again (I have so many ideas for future Gnomesaga books and novellas) but for now I thought it might do me some good to branch out a little bit and experiment before writing the next six books.

The idea I’d be writing for my old and new friends struck a nerve of excitement in me. Plus I’d also be merging some of my favorite things…dark fantasy, magic, a touch of horror, as well as working out some of my snarky social commentary through Galefire’s protagonist, Lonnie.

Publishing Galefire under my Broken Dog Press gave me a chance to delve into hybrid publishing and try out some things on my own, which is something I think every author should think about. It doesn’t hurt to learn how to gather editors, artists, and promoters around you. You have to do a lot of your own promotion even if you sign with a major publisher, unless you’re one of the few at the very top of the pyramid, so it’s good experience.

Given the positive responses over Galefire thus far it seems I made the right call with this one, and I can’t wait to finish the sequels.

That’s what has me geeking out these days!

Image: Joe M. Martin
Image: Joe M. Martin

Kenny Soward grew up in Crescent Park, Kentucky, a small suburb just south of Cincinnati, Ohio, listening to hard rock and playing outdoors. In those quiet 1970s streets, he jumped bikes, played Nerf football, and acquired many a childhood scar.

Kenny’s love for books flourished early, a habit passed down to him by his uncles. He burned through his grade school library, and in high school spent many days in detention for reading fantasy fiction during class.

By day, Kenny works as a Unix professional, and at night he writes and sips bourbon. Kenny lives in Independence, Kentucky.

GeekMom Recommends: Christmas Picture Books

Christmas is a time for traditions, with the same food, films, music, and memories brought out year after year. Yet it’s always great to add a little something new to the mix as well. Here are some of my favorite Christmas-themed picture books that I hope you might enjoy adding to your own library. Continue reading GeekMom Recommends: Christmas Picture Books

Between the Bookends Dec 2015: Ms. Marvel, Teen Angst & The Science of Parenthood

This month the GeekMoms have been preparing for the holiday season, but we have still found time to do some serious reading. Selections this month include bad teenage poetry, a Hobbit-style adventure in post-war England,  advice for hosting a steampunk tea party, and a bad-ass female superhero trying to manage her own life as well. Read on for our December recommendations. Continue reading Between the Bookends Dec 2015: Ms. Marvel, Teen Angst & The Science of Parenthood

My Favorite Read-Aloud Books Right Now: December 2015

This month my family’s favorite read-alouds cover some reverse psychology about potatoes, sloths that have to “go,” Christmas bots, spatial thinking skills, and more!

The Twelve Bots of Christmas. Image credit: Walker Childrens
The Twelve Bots of Christmas. Image credit: Walker Childrens

The Twelve Bots of Christmas by Nathan Hale is a geeky twist on the twelve days of Christmas. I just took our copy out of the Christmas storage and it’s been fun reading it again to get in the spirit. My 5-year-old can now memorize most of the song and it never really stops being cute hearing her sing “and a cartridge in a geeeeeear tree.”

The Potato King. Image credit: Owlkids Books
The Potato King. Image credit: Owlkids Books

The Potato King by Christoph Niemann tells the legend of how King Frederick the Great of Prussia convinced his kingdom to adopt the newly-imported potato plant in their diets. They wanted nothing to do with this strange plant, but King Frederick found an ingenious solution. It’s a funny and clever story, illustrated entirely as potato stamp art!
Continue reading My Favorite Read-Aloud Books Right Now: December 2015

Best Audiobooks for Family Road Trips: Holiday Edition

It’s that time of year when families gather for togetherness and merriment, and it reminds me of childhood hours spent in the car heading to this relative and that relative. Carols, snow, big family meals, presents, baking. So much good stuff.

This made me think about books. That’s what happens when you’re a librarian, everything makes you think of books. Our original list of audiobooks for family road trips has some truly great picks, but what if you’re feeling a little extra festive? This is a list of great audiobooks that are about the holidays, but also some that are about families, and the love (and humor) that binds us. It’s a great list for that drive to grandma’s house, but maybe you want to stick one of these on when you’re wrapping presents and need a break from Rudolph and Burl Ives, too.

The 101 Dalmations by Dodie Smith, read by Martin Jarvis
We all know the story of those adorable puppies and the dastardly plot to turn them into a coat by ultimate villainess Cruella de Ville. But if you haven’t read the original 1956 novel it’s really a treat, and this narration is wonderful. The plot to rescue the puppies unfolds on the streets of London with a plan to get all the little ones back home just in time for Christmas.

The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” by Sherlock Holmes, read by Alan Cumming
Every year, Audible gives away a free short story for the holidays. A few years ago they offered this Alan Cumming version of the Sherlock Holmes story of a holiday goose and a missing gem. It is so superb, and short (about 45 minutes), and available for $1.95. Continue reading Best Audiobooks for Family Road Trips: Holiday Edition

STEM Education for 3-Year-Olds: Teaching Toddlers To Count in Binary

A long time computer science professional and mother of a young family, Lisa Seacat DeLuca is sharing her profession with both her twins and children everywhere.

Her board book, A Robot Story, started life as a Kickstarter campaign and is now available on Amazon. Easy to read and interactive, the book explains binary at a level a young child can understand by the simple method of counting to ten.

The interactive “switches” in the board book that my daughter pretends to control based on the binary numbers provides a meaningful way to equate ones and zeros to on and off. Additionally, it expands the child’s vocabulary and uses industry jargon in a friendly way.

My four-year-old daughter even asked me what “allocate” means. The best part fo this? She later used the word to describe something else in her life.

But at the same time, the book is simple enough and short enough to read to an infant.

GeekMom had a chance to talk with Lisa about her career, family, and book’s concepts:

Continue reading STEM Education for 3-Year-Olds: Teaching Toddlers To Count in Binary

Hail to the Paper Chief: the Hillary Rodham Clinton Presidential Playset

In these days of apps, games and show-streaming, it’s unusual to amuse yourself with something as analog as paper dolls. Leave it to Quirk Books to come up with a fun, pop culture-friendly take with the Hillary Rodham Clinton Presidential Playset.

Illustrated by Caitlin Kuhwald, the paper doll set imagines Hillary as the first woman in charge of the Oval Office.

Continue reading Hail to the Paper Chief: the Hillary Rodham Clinton Presidential Playset