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.”
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!
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.)
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!
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
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!
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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!
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.
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
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 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.”
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.
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:
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.
Welcome to our weekly Geek Speaks..Fiction series where authors talk about the geekdoms that inspired them.
You could call Eric Smith a renaissance man — for his interests run the gamut from corgi fashion, photography, music and teaching — but really, Eric’s more of a millennium man, for his dedication to supporting others at the Philly Geek Awards, as a literary agent, and in the on-point nature of his literary achievements. Eric’s here to talk about what he geeked on while writing Inked, his first novel* (and Eric recently announced there will be a sequel!).
The short pitch? Inked takes place in a fantasy realm where teenagers are given magical tattoos that tell the world what they will do for the rest of their lives. And as a young teen named Caenum and his friends unravel the secrets behind the practice, the ruling powers of their realm come after them.
There’s a lot of magic and mayhem, complicated friendships and awkward romance… all the stuff we experienced as kids, just maybe minus the magic powers stuff.
What was I geeking out over while writing Inked? A lot of things.
November 26th, 2015, marked the 150th anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The origin of the Alice stories were conceived by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, Oxford mathematics don, whom the world knows as Lewis Carroll.
In 1862, Dodgson constructed the basis of the Alice stories while on a boating trip with the daughters of Henry Liddell: Lorina Charlotte, Alice, and Edith. Henry Liddell’s middle daughter, Alice, requested Dodgson write the Alice stories down.
In 1864 Dodgson presented Alice Liddell with a handwritten, self-illustrated manuscript of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground on November 26th.
“It was all very well to say ‘Drink me,’ but the wise little Alice was not going to do that in a hurry. ‘No, I’ll look first,’ she said, ‘and see whether it’s marked poison or not’; for she had read several nice little stories about children who had got burnt, and eaten up by wild beasts, and other unpleasant things, all because they would not remember the simple rules their friends had taught them: such as, that a red-hot poker will burn you if you hold it too long; and that, if you cut your finger very deeply with a knife, it usually bleeds; and she had never forgotten that, if you drink much from a bottle marked ‘poison,’ it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later.”
In this month’s bumper edition of Between the Bookends, the GeekMoms have been reading about vampires (of both the sparkly and non-sparkly kind), tea, horror in New Zealand, cheese-mite cosmology, CSI meets The Brothers Grimm, and much more. Dive in to check out our recommendations for the month.
Since becoming a children’s librarian, I’ve found a new appreciation for picture books. The good ones (not the cheesy ones thrown together to cash in on a popular character or make grandparents go “awwww” that show up in the discount bin at the grocery store) are true works of art. Picture books are one kind of story you need to have in paper form, to open up and spread out in front of you, to experience as a whole. The words are chosen carefully, to say a lot with a little, like poetry (even when they don’t rhyme). The pictures don’t just illustrate the story, they enhance it, adding detail and humor that words can’t do alone. Even the page turns are considered to get the pacing right.
November is Picture Book Month, part of an international literacy initiative to raise awareness of and celebrate picture books as an art form that can and should be appreciated by people of all ages.
But in today’s score-driven educational environment, too many people see picture books as something to be outgrown. A year after learning to read, children are being pushed into chapter books, sometimes by teachers, but more often by parents. The more words, the better. Accelerated Reader, a program used by thousands of school districts in the U.S. to track student reading, awards students more points based not on the difficulty of the book, but on the length. Picture books, being almost all just 32 pages long, are worth exactly one-half of a point on Accelerated Reader. Kids trying to rack up points will almost always go for one longer book over several half-point books, even if the total number of words is the same.
In our house, we limit screen time, maybe an hour a day. For the first two years, we capped TV watching at an hour a week.
We also tend away from the licensed products.
You know the ones I am talking about, the Elsa socks, Batman toothbrushes, or Elmo dolls. So imagine my husband’s surprise when I announced we were giving our two-year-old nephew Spider-Man for Christmas.
I’ve always been fascinated with things that have a mind of their own. I’m not sure why, and never quite understood it, but I’m always happy to find someone else who shares that passion. This week on Geek Speaks…Fiction! I welcome guest Karina Sumner-Smith, speculative fiction author and fellow lover of sentient beings.
I’ve never been a geek for architecture. Don’t get me wrong; I love ancient monuments and urban skylines, interesting libraries and houses that feel like home from the moment you walk inside. But it’s never been the buildings themselves that catch my attention so much as the thought of the stories that might happen inside them.
Several years ago, I swooned with pride over a series of student blogs discussing the story ownership through the active process of reading compared to the passive process of movie watching.
My teacher’s heart swelled ten sizes as the group of first-year students debated the difference between reading Lord of the Rings and watching the movies because one student complained that comic book movies were never as good as the books.
Watching the group of engineering first-year students debate how imagining the written word leads to ownership of literature, I smugly sat back thinking that they had learned an important lesson.
Earlier this week, we started reading the new illustrated Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone with our son.
Today we welcome young adult fantasy author Lila Bowen to GeekMom’s Geek Speaks…Fiction! You might know her as Delilah S. Dawson: writer, artist, horse-lover, and geek extraordinaire. Here she is, talking about her childhood obsession, and how it inspired her fiction!
Before geeking out was cool, I was geeking out about horses. I was that kid doodling unicorns on homework papers and crying over Artax as he sank into the Swamp of Sadness. I had an ongoing fantasy that on my birthday, I would wake up to find a horse tied to a tree in my backyard or stashed in my closet—which never happened. I collected My Little Ponies, Fashion Star Fillies, and Breyer horses. I was so horse-crazy that bullies called me Horse as an insult in my yearbook, the implication being that I was big and buck-toothed and dumb, at least according to the accompanying drawings.
And I was so obsessed that I took it as a compliment.
Real, live horses weren’t a regular part of my life. I lived in the suburbs with decidedly unhorsey parents, and I got to ride a pony at a parade once a year. Those were the best moments of my life… at least until I was twenty-three and bought my own horse. Now I’m 38, and I live in the mountains and go trail riding on my mare, Polly, once or twice a week, and I promise you that this is one dream come true that’s even more rewarding than starry-eyed little Horse imagined when she was little.
It’s that time of year, folks. Halloween is over, and we’ve begun our holiday shopping. Or perhaps we have just begun our wish lists. In any case, first up for GeekMom’s gift guides this year is Books! Books are wonderful gifts for all ages, and there’s bound to be something here for someone on your gift list.
I didn’t read to my daughter when she was in the womb, but it wasn’t long after she was born that I started reading to her.
Some of the first books she heard were The Catcher in the Rye, and A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, because they’re some of my favorites. Plus, it’s never too early to know about phonies, and the fact that sometimes the smallest, strangest person can make the biggest difference in your life.
The girl is six now, and reading is still a major pastime of ours. Through the years we’ve been able to introduce a few classics—Charlotte’s Web, The Wizard of Oz—and while it’s hard to wait on some of our favorites, we know it’s important to.
She’s afraid of people in masks, for instance, so the Star Wars movies are flat out. I’m ready to read her Harry Potter but I don’t want to ruin it for her if she thinks it’s scary.
October 13, as it turned out, was The International Day For Failure. There are a lot of commemorative days that do not make good family storytime topics, and at first glance “International Day For Failure” seemed like a pass. It sounded like a cynical joke, a day to fail. By the bemused looks on the faces of everyone who saw the week’s topic when I scheduled it, this is a common reaction.
When folks read stories by James Walley, they mention things like “fun,” “crazy,” “hilarious,” and “insane.” They compare his writing style to Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. Is writing a novel like this all fun and games, though? Or does it involve the bleeding onto the page that Hemingway and others suggested? James Walley is our guest this week for Geek Speaks…Fiction!
I see a lot of things written about how tortuous it is, being an author. How you go through angst, pain, and coffee in equal measure, suffering for your art. Personally, I’m not a fan of angst or pain, and am trying to cut down on the black gold, so who says you can’t have a little fun with the worlds you are creating?
I’m not going to lie and paint a picture involving animated birds and beasts, who helpfully arrive in your house and write your chapters for you whilst you relax with a glass of wine. Sure, I am going to put that at the top of my Christmas list, but in truth, writing a novel involves a lot of hard work, dedication, and consideration. How could it not be? It’s a massive undertaking, requiring character depth, plot development, and that special, indescribable something that keeps the pages turning. Where it stops being a chore for me, is in the sheer possibility that this presents. Continue reading Escaping Into a Loop-the-Loop World of Fantasy
Audible.com narrator Khristine Hvam first contacted me with a question regarding my novel Updraft. “How do you pronounce Tobiat? What about Kirit?” she wanted to know. Then she asked about singing.
I’d never worked with a narrator before, much less an award-winning one like Khristine. But I did what I could to help, recording (VERY) rough versions of the songs and Laws in the bone city that she could work with.
What resulted is a series of sung Laws and myths that interlace the audiobook for Updraft—something I could never have achieved on my own. (Trust me!) I’m still stunned at the beauty of it.
Khristine’s not only an award-winning audiobook artist, she’s also a mom. GeekMom seemed like the perfect place to ask her questions about her work and life.
How long have you been working with Audible.com? What drew you to them? (Optional: Do you listen to audiobooks or are you a paper-book person?)
My audiobook career with Audible began in 2008. I had heard about them little by little during my fledgling beginnings in the voice over world. To me audiobooks were a mystery. I had absolutely NO IDEA what it would mean to record one. All I knew was that I wanted a full-time career as a voice over actor and audiobooks sounded like just one more feather to add to my cap. I was already doing some animation, video game, and commercial work. As with most industries you really need to know someone, and lucky me I met two! I had been doing some Audio Dialogue Replacement (ADR) work and both directors I was working with had begun directing audiobooks at Audible. Both of them thought I might be good and helped secure me an audition. Things moved pretty fast from there. I soon discovered the art of audiobook voice over is NOTHING like anything I had experienced before. It truly is the marathon of voice work. But so incredibly rewarding, not to mention tons of fun. The folks at Audible were wonderfully welcoming to me and continue to be to this day. I’m proud and blessed to call some of them friends. The rest, as they say, is history.
I did listen to audiobooks prior to becoming a narrator. It was amazing to me how easily I fell into the story, and often found myself sitting idle in my driveway for an hour or so just to finish a chapter. I’m also a huge fan of sitting in my bed at night with a good book and losing myself in the pages. There are myriad ways of getting lost in a story and I’m up for all of them!Continue reading Voicing the Story: Audible Narrator Khristine Hvam