Between the Bookends: Tea, Vampires, Fantasy CSI &…Cheese-Mites?

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.

Continue reading Between the Bookends: Tea, Vampires, Fantasy CSI &…Cheese-Mites?

Why You and Your Children Should Read a Book With No Words

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.

And if there are no words at all, what’s the point? Continue reading Why You and Your Children Should Read a Book With No Words

Why I Gave My Nephew Spider-Man

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.

It all started with a sentence:

“I’m going to lose!”

Continue reading Why I Gave My Nephew Spider-Man

It’s Alive! Geeking Out About Inhuman, Yet Sentient, Beings

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.

Image: Talos/Skyhorse
Image: Talos/Skyhorse

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.

Yet, of everything, it was the Towers of the title that made me geek out while writing Towers Fall. Continue reading It’s Alive! Geeking Out About Inhuman, Yet Sentient, Beings

Accio Literatia! Information Literacy and the Illustrated Harry Potter

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.

I began questioning the viability of reading an illustrated book. Continue reading Accio Literatia! Information Literacy and the Illustrated Harry Potter

‘Voyagers:’ Join the Crew, Save the World

New York Times best-selling author Patrick Carman recently launched a six book series aimed at middle school kids.

The series is part sci-fi, part eco-mystery, and is filled with plenty of action adventure. The series also includes a companion website,, and app.

Below, you’ll have a chance to enter our giveaway for a $50 gift card, the Voyagers books, an app, and an iPhone Case.  Continue reading ‘Voyagers:’ Join the Crew, Save the World

Geeking Out About Horses and Making Childhood Dreams Come True

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.

Image: Orbit Books
Image: Orbit Books

And that’s why I’m so geeked out over writing Wake Of Vutures. Continue reading Geeking Out About Horses and Making Childhood Dreams Come True

GeekMom Holiday Gift Guide #1: Books, Books, Books!

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.

Image: Tor Books
Image: Tor Books

Updraft by Fran Wilde
“Welcome to a world of wind and wings, songs and silence, secrets and betrayal.” GeekMom Fran Wilde’s debut novel has made several prestigious lists, including Library Journal’s Debut of the Month and Publishers Weekly’s Top 10 Fall 2015 SF, Fantasy, Horror Debuts. It also received a very favorable review on NPR.

Image: Potter Craft
Image: Potter Craft

Geek Mom: Projects, Tips, and Adventures for Moms and Their 21st-Century Families
Start the new year right, with plenty of project and activity ideas to do with your kids. Written by the founding editors of GeekMom, this book is also full of insightful essays on being a geek and a geeky parent, as well as bits on geeky people and topics of interest to the geek world.

Continue reading GeekMom Holiday Gift Guide #1: Books, Books, Books!

How to Introduce Your Kids to Things You Love

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.

a prayer for owen meany
This is one of the first books I read to my daughter. Really. Image via HarperCollins.

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.

Continue reading How to Introduce Your Kids to Things You Love

Appreciating How to Fail: A Library Storytime

When brainstorming topics for my weekly Family Storytimes at the public library, I like to browse the Brownielocks site for unusual holidays. I’ve spun storytimes out of the likes of Squirrel Awareness Month, National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, World Vegetarian Day, and Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day.

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.

But when I read what had to say about it, I knew I couldn’t pass it up. Continue reading Appreciating How to Fail: A Library Storytime

Escaping Into a Loop-the-Loop World of Fantasy

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

Voicing the Story: Audible Narrator Khristine Hvam

Khristine Hvam. Image courtesy of the artist.
Khristine Hvam. Image courtesy of the artist. 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.

  1. How long have you been working with 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

Get Ready WriMos – National Novel Writing Month Approaches

Every November, thousands of people embark on a month of literary abandon. National Novel Writing Month is the brainchild of Chris Baty, having started as a fun challenge between friends in 1999 which eventually evolved into the worldwide phenomenon that it is today. The challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days may seem wildly impractical and foolhardy to some, as one who has won five of the past seven years, I can tell you it is more than feasible with some determination and a few tricks up your sleeve.

If there is one thing that you will be told again and again as you voyage through the uncharted waters of novel writing, it is to let your muse take the helm. Your imagination is more than capable of this challenge, but you need to get your ego and inner critic out of the way.

Your novel will suck and that is okay. First drafts are always awful, so let go of the thought you need to write a masterpiece during the month. The idea is to write; write without filters or fear. Jump head first into the unknown and see what happens. Continue reading Get Ready WriMos – National Novel Writing Month Approaches

Why Are We So Hard On Our Heroines?

This is a question that’s been rolling around in my brain for some time. It started when I watched the first episode of Marvel’s Agent Carter and Peggy blew away all my expectations, and it twigged again when I encountered the heroines written by my fellow authors in the Five Past Midnight supernatural thriller box set.

All of the heroines in this set are independent-minded and unapologetic about it. One is an assassin and loves the adrenaline rush. Another smokes. Another is a bartender who loves sex.

It’s not the usual treatment of women even in romance novels, which is why those characters struck me as unusual.

The overall question of who our heroines are and what we want from them goes hand-in-hand with Jennifer Lawrence’s recent statement that she’s done with trying to be likable, or the debate over Black Widow‘s role in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

We, as a society, have a certain idea of what fictional women should be, what they should feel, and why they should feel.


Five main reasons and they’re all related.

We’re Not In Charge of Our Own Destiny

Men are the ones usually writing female characters in pop culture. Sure, that’s beginning to change, but not as fast as it should. For example, the percentage of female directors has hardly budged in the last 20 years. (Still 16 percent.) The Star Wars and Star Trek films are all written and directed by men. Only one woman, Nicole Perlman, has a screenwriting credit on the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, for Guardians of the Galaxy. Some men can write women well, of course, but for the most part, these men are mainly interested in male stories. See my Ant-Man rant. Women are seen in so many cases as adjuncts supporting a lead male character’s story, not as part of their own story.

There Can Be Only One

This leads to the second problem. Because there are so few women, she has to stand in for all the things. She has to be beautiful, she has to be intelligent, she has to kick-ass, but she has to be warm and supportive to everyone too. This is nowhere more clear than in Age of Ultron. Tony is the impulsive, smart one, Steve is the stalwart leader, Clint is the family man, Bruce is the loner, but Natasha is also the loner, the smart one, the leader when needed, the women grieving for losing the idea of family, and the sexy one. If she were non-white, she’d be the representative for that ethnic group as well.

Whew. That’s a lot of things to be all at once. Continue reading Why Are We So Hard On Our Heroines?

My Favorite Read-Aloud Books Right Now: October 2015

This month our favorite library finds cover everything from evolution to cuteness, picture books to graphic novels!

Older than the Stars. Image credit: Charlesbridge Publishing
Older than the Stars. Image credit: Charlesbridge Publishing

Older Than the Stars, written by Karen C. Fox and illustrated by Nancy Davis, presents the idea that we are all as old as the universe. With abstract background images, the cumulative story starts with the last line and works its way backward. For example, the first two pages are: “This is the bang when the world began” and “These are the bits that were born in the bang when the world began.” Eventually, we work our way through to how the big bang relates to the sun, our planet, our environment, all the way down to “you.” It’s really fun to read, much in the style of “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly,” and each page features a little side note with more details. Continue reading My Favorite Read-Aloud Books Right Now: October 2015

An Acrostic Poem In Honor of Ada Lovelace

I have to admit that when I first heard the name of Ada Lovelace, I had to look her up. When girls and women had few options outside the home, Ada followed her dreams, studied mathematics and became the world’s first computer programmer.

It’s awesome to see so many women who’ve made vast contributions to the world finally coming to light. And it’s even more awesome that my friend, Laurie Wallmark, got to tell her story in Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine

In honor of the book’s release, Laure composed an acrostic poem to Ada:

A proper Victorian gentlewoman,
Determined to become
A professional mathematician.

Lady Ada Lovelace,
Of noble birth, a
Excited by the marvels of the Industrial Age.
Lord Byron’s daughter,
Appreciator of technology, the world’s first
Computer programmer and an
Exceptional mathematician.

Of course I had to plague Laurie to pen an acrostic poem to describe her debut picture book.

Laurie  is one of my oldest friends in NJSCBWI (the New Jersey chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). Our resident technical wizard, Laurie maintains the chapter website and builds the online forms that make registering for events and workshops so easy for our membership.

You can find out more about the book and Laurie at her website, or on Facebook and Twitter.

3 Picture Books Starring Girls Who Love Science

I’m always on the lookout for picture books with characters my daughter can really identify with. As she’s someone who has a big interest in science, I was on the hunt to find books featuring girls who also love science and experiments.

Here are three great picture book finds with science superstars who know how to have fun while learning about the scientific method and participating in the science fair. (Didn’t think that was possible, did you?) Continue reading 3 Picture Books Starring Girls Who Love Science

Between the Bookends: Nightvale, Miss Peregrine & Black Widow

This month the GeekMoms have been enjoying spooky tales of peculiar children, talented alchemists, mysterious desert towns, and deep, dark, fears.

These include the latest in the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children‘s novels, a novelization of the Welcome to NightVale podcast world, the latest from Jenny Lawson aka The Bloggess, and the definitive origin of Black Widow.

Continue reading Between the Bookends: Nightvale, Miss Peregrine & Black Widow

‘Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding’ – Learning Through Fiction

This post was sponsored by Macmillan, publisher of the Hello Ruby children’s book.

Growing up, I had a number of wonderful teachers. Mrs. Snyder showed me how to write in cursive, and Mrs. Walls taught me all about Indiana history and the various legends behind the word “Hoosier.” Not all of my teachers held class in the local elementary school, though. My Marine Biology instructor, Mr. Land, taught me that a squid has three hearts. From Mr. Queequeg in World Civilizations, I learned what a cannibal was and how people in other cultures lived. My favorite two teachers, though, were Mr. Crusoe, my Shop and Home Economics teacher, from whom I learned how to bake, farm, build, and sew, and Mr. Dorough, who laid the foundation of Math, Science, and American History that the rest of my education would be built upon.


I only spent a few days at a time with these teachers, although I would go back for a visit from time to time, but they made the biggest impact on my life. Why is it I can remember Miss Havisham’s clocks were stopped at 8:40 in Great Expectations, but not what year the Revolutionary War began? Why can I recall the name Rufus Xavier Sarsparilla, but have to look up the name of the guy who rode with Paul Revere?

As it turns out, that’s just the way humans are hardwired. We’ve been passing down information from one generation to the next via storytelling for thousands of years precisely because it is the most effective way to engage our brains. Scientists have determined that when we listen to someone explain a concept using simple definitions and bullet points, it triggers the area of our brain that is responsible for processing language and little else. However, when that same concept is explained in story form, suddenly our brains begin to light up in other regions. The mere description of sights, sounds, and smells trigger the same areas of the brain that experiencing those sensations in real life would trigger. Continue reading ‘Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding’ – Learning Through Fiction

Geeking Out On Starship Design

This week on Geek Speaks…Fiction! we welcome science fiction author Patrick S. Tomlinson! Not only is Patrick the author of the brand new book The Ark from Angry Robot Books, he’s also a stand-up comedian and a blogger. Please welcome him to GeekMom!

Hello GeekMom readers! My name is Patrick S. Tomlinson. I’m a sci-fi author and stand-up comedian living in Milwaukee. My debut novel, The Ark, is hitting the shelves November 3rd from Angry Robot Books. I’ve been asked to share what about writing it made me geek out the most.

The Ark was the first novel I’ve written where the plot emerged fully formed. In the span of just a few hours, the outline of all the major plot points and characters filled up my head in a burst of creativity. Over dinner that night, I positively gushed everything I’d come up with to my girlfriend, just to get it out.

As a result, it was also the fastest book I’ve written to date, taking only six months to reach the end, (I’m still not the fastest writer, although I’m getting a lot better). The whole idea behind the book is Earth was destroyed centuries ago, but humanity had just enough time to do something about it. So they built a stupendous generation ship, filled it with fifty-thousand of the planet’s best and brightest, then shot them off for the stars.

Because of this, the world-building for the story was limited to the ship and its occupants, but that didn’t make the task any less daunting. Creating a self-sustaining world in miniature that is believable, compelling, and still scientifically-grounded was a big deal. Just look at the infamous Biodome II experiment to know what I mean. Continue reading Geeking Out On Starship Design

‘Black Widow: Forever Red’ Is the “Definitive” Story of Natasha Romanoff

It’s usually difficult to find the elusive Natasha Romanoff, but not today: You can now find Black Widow starring her own young adult title, Forever Red, in bookstores everywhere.

Black Widow: Forever Red not only gives us a much-needed insight into the history of Natasha Romanoff, but also introduces a new teenaged character, Ava Orlova, who made her debut in September in the Mockingbird comic book one-shot. How do their paths intersect?

“Being able to tell a canon story—the definitive story of Natasha Romanoff’s past—that was both the carrot and the stick,” says author Margaret Stohl. “But the book is both an origin story and a legacy story—with our Black Widow and our Red Widow—so in many ways it becomes a very powerful female narrative about friendship and really sisterhood between two pretty amazing women.”

Continue reading ‘Black Widow: Forever Red’ Is the “Definitive” Story of Natasha Romanoff

‘Storied Myth’ Is a Hands-On Reading Experience

My son will pretty much do anything to get his hands on my iPad. He has plenty of his own devices, but that doesn’t keep him from ogling my iPad’s big, beautiful screen and whatever apps I’m checking out. I don’t mind forking it over if he’s using it wisely. Like I said, he has plenty of other portables for comics, books, and games. However, Storied Myth is a good reason to give up my precious portable. This is an iOS exclusive that combines reading with hands-on activities.

Storied Myth is an app that weaves a series of stories in with an “adventure kit” that includes puzzles and other trinkets. After you finish reading each chapter, there’s a puzzle that will help you move on to the next installment. Continue reading ‘Storied Myth’ Is a Hands-On Reading Experience

Laura Anne Gilman Geeks Out on Muppets, X-Files & Leverage

Welcome to our weekly Geek Speaks..Fiction series where authors talk about the geekdoms that inspired them.

Our guest today, Laura Anne Gilman is the author of nearly twenty books, including the Nebula award-nominated The Vineart War trilogy.  Her next book project, SILVER ON THE ROAD, is the first in the Devil’s West series from Saga / Simon & Schuster.

I am a child of fandom. Be it the Muppets or Star Wars (my childhood favorites), or X-Files, (my first “adult” fandoms), I’ve been one of the quiet but dedicated fans, who may not wear my heart as cosplay, but was cheering those cosplayers along.

You will never hear me saying “oh, I don’t watch tv.” I think television has been one of the greatest storytelling devices of our lifetime, up there with the commercial printing press and digitally-adjustable font sizes. Is there crap out there? Absolutely. But theres also genius.

And when I look at my own work, I can see their influence, from the very earliest to the most current productions.

  1. The Muppets. There is nothing about the Muppets that I do not still geek over, from the opening number to the guest stars, to the way their scripts managed to remain true to the ‘reality’ of their lives without ever losing the madcap glee of being a muppet. It was my first real experience with an ensemble cast, seeing how disparate stories interweave and overlap, without ever getting tangled. I learned how to snark from Statler and Waldorf – the fine and surprisingly delicate art of cutting without drawing actual blood – and how to love characters that are utterly self-absorbed from Miss Piggy and Fozzie, each in their own delightful way. Farron, the east wind magician in SILVER ON THE ROAD, inherited those balances, and his interactions with Gabriel carry the same real “on the same team but not friends” vibe that the Muppet Show brought out, every single week.

Continue reading Laura Anne Gilman Geeks Out on Muppets, X-Files & Leverage

Star Wars Reads Day Awakens October 10, 2015

October not only brings Halloween fun every year, but the return of Star Wars Reads Day! As Episode VII gets closer and closer, this year’s event promises to be more exciting than ever. With a ton of new Star Wars books to choose from, events nationwide, and spoiler-free activity sheets for The Force Awakens, Star Wars Read Day 2015 will be a blast!

Continue reading Star Wars Reads Day Awakens October 10, 2015

This Is SO Good: ‘Parable of the Sower’ In Concert

I’m spending a rainy morning re-reading Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower. There’s a lot to do around the house and for work, but I don’t care. My ears are filled with words and song, and I want to revisit Butler’s masterful and wrenching post-apocalyptic vision, thanks to folk musician Toshi Reagon and the team of performers who are helping bring Butler’s work to a new audience.

Photo: Hachette (trade reprint, 2000). Buy the book at Amazon.

Published in 1993, Parable of the Sower was a 1994 Nebula Award nominee. Twenty-two years on, the story doesn’t just resonate and shock. It grabs hold and shakes, yelling “Wake up!”

In Parable of the Sower, Lauren Olamina, a young woman with hyperempathy who is the daughter of a visionary preacher, chronicles her journey through a destroyed L.A. and out into the world.

“The first time I read Parable, it was so terrifying,” folksinger Reagon told her audience at a recent concert. “I had to put it down.” Luckily, Reagon picked the book back up again.

Reagon and her mother, Dr. Bernice Johnson (Sweet Honey in the Rock & Freedom Singers co-founder), have written a glorious rock opera and set Parable of the Sower to music. Her musical interpretation of Parable of the Sower premiered at the 2015 Under the Radar festival and is currently making limited appearances as a work-in-progress. Parable of the Sower features outstanding performances by cast members Bertilla Baker, Helga Davis, Karma Mayet Johnson, Tamar-kali, Morley Kamen, Marcelle Davies Lashley, Josette Newsam-Marchak, Carl Hancock Rux, Shayna Small, and Jason C. Walker. The musicians are Robert Burke, Fred Cash, Juliette Jones, and Adam Widoff. (Source:

Program for Parable of the Sower, from The Annenberg Center performance 10/02/15. Image: Fran Wilde
Program for Parable of the Sower, from the Annenberg Center performance on 10/02/15. Image: Fran Wilde

A mix of spirituals, rock, soul-searing solos, and powerful choruses and harmonies, Reagon’s Parable of the Sower is nothing short of transformative. At the Annenberg Center for Performing Arts, where I saw the concert, performers wove the intimacy of the setting and the power of connection through the audience with voice, movement, light and darkness, and eye contact. The music is exquisite. The voices linger long after the theater is quiet.

Reagon said during the performance that Parable of the Sower will be a full opera. Should it, or the work-in-progress concert come to a venue near you? Go.

Concert photo by Fran Wilde.

‘Earth+Space’: The Coffee Table Book That’s Out of This World

Earth+Space: Other than the attractive but questionable title (which sometimes wreaks havoc on precise search engine searches), I love this book. I mean, you’ve got space. You’ve got photography. And I’m pretty sure there are very few people out there who do astrophotography better than NASA. I mean, how many space telescopes do you have?

Image: Chronicle Books
Image: Chronicle Books

With a preface from Bill Nye (the Science Guy, don’tcha know), Earth+Space begins with several photos of Earth from space, including a beautiful nighttime shot. Then it quickly turns its cameras in the other direction, pointing us toward other planets and moons in the solar system, and then out to galaxies, comets, nebulae, brown dwarfs, various other space phenomena, and, one of my favorite things to say, globular clusters. As you move through the book, you get farther and farther away from Earth. Though the distance increases, the beauty does not decrease. NASA’s technology is second to none, and can get clear, detailed, intricate photos of objects far, far away. It also takes us back in time, as we see far away objects as they were many, many years ago.

Continue reading ‘Earth+Space’: The Coffee Table Book That’s Out of This World

Make Paper Folding Your Superpower With ‘DC Super Heroes Origami’

There’s something a little bit magical about turning a piece of paper into a crane, bear, or dragon through the practice of origami. But turning a piece of paper into Batman? That’s being a flat-out origami superhero. Thanks to John Montroll, origami master and author of DC Super Heroes Origami, you and your kids will be making super origami versions of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and more in no time.

Continue reading Make Paper Folding Your Superpower With ‘DC Super Heroes Origami’

My Favorite Picture Books Right Now: September 2015

My 5-year-old and I haven’t shared our favorite picture books in a while for two reasons. First, we’ve ventured into the world of chapter books with Zach Weinersmith’s Augie and the Green Knight. The second is that we’ve been working our way through DK’s lengthy History Year by Year reference book produced by the Smithsonian Institution. More on those two at the end.

Nevertheless, I’m glad to finally have a few wonderful library finds, a few Kickstarter success stories, and some not-quite-picture-book books that cover the gamut of history, science, programming, and a little bit of humor.

Continue reading My Favorite Picture Books Right Now: September 2015

Geekomancer: You’ll Totally Want This Power

Michael R. Underwood (aka: Mike) has traveled the world, knows why Tybalt cancels out Capo Ferro, and rolls a mean d20. He was raised in no small part at his local hobby game store, and he spent so much time helping out they eventually had to put him on staff.

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 the forthcoming 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 fiancée 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. Visit him at and on Twitter.

Last year, Fran had me on GeekMom for a special Cooking The Books/GeekMom crossover, where I talked about Attack the Geek, a novella in the Ree Reyes world. Now I’m very happy to talk about Hexomancy, which follows directly after the events of the novella.

cover courtesy Mike Underwood
cover courtesy Mike Underwood

The Ree Reyes series is about geeking out – Ree, the lead, is a Geekomancer, which means that when she geeks out, she can do extraordinary things – watching a favorite film or TV show lets her emulate the power of its heroes (watch The Matrix and do wire-fu, watch Captain America: The Winter Soldier and get Cap’s strength and speed, as well as a dose of old-timey righteousness), channeling the collective nostalgia for props to bring them to life (while emulating Captain America, she uses a prop shield and it comes to life as an actual vibranium shield), or using collectible cards like spell scrolls – tearing up a Green Lantern card to make a one-shot lantern construct to help her while chasing an enemy. Continue reading Geekomancer: You’ll Totally Want This Power

Need Fresh Reads? Try Bill Murray & ‘The Martian’

It’s back-to-school month and the GeekMoms have been working hard on their very own reading lists. From Bill Murray to origami, To Kill a Mockingbird to Shakespearean Star Wars, check out what we have been reading this month.

Continue reading Need Fresh Reads? Try Bill Murray & ‘The Martian’