Children's & Fantasy/Sci-Fi Books

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Fun at WonderCon 2023

I attended WonderCon 2023 in Anaheim, CA. Was on a couple of panels and saw tons of fantastic cosplay. Enjoy!

Some of the doomed Space Marines from Aliens

My Speculative Fiction in Alternate History panel. From L to R: Lissa Price, me, Stacia Deutsch, Scott Sigler

The panel audience

Scott Sigler reads a snippet from his story.

Aquaman and Wonder Woman

Ahsoka Tano and Darth Maul: Theirs was a forbidden love.

Aang, Katara, and Aapa the flying bison from Avatar: The Last Airbender. “Yip, yip!”

Avengers: Hawkeye, Iron Man, Thor






















Futrama’s Bender (on a bender)

The brest, I mean best Catwoman cosplay there.

Chainsaw Man. The convention staff actually bothered to safety tag his chainsaw blades.



A reliable and helpful cosplay repair man.

Cousin It from The Addams Family

“In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.”

Dancing Stormtrooper with real boombox music

With David Gerrold, the man who wrote the tribbles episode of Star Trek, among many other things.

Doc Oc from Spiderman

Edna Mode from The Incredibles was VERY busy telling all the superheroes, “No capes!”

Elves from a video game.

Final Fantasy cosplay. Speak softly and carry a big sword.

A huge Master Sergeant from Halo.

Poison Ivy and four Harley Quinns.

My KidLit author panel with, L to R: Tara Gilboy, Reggie Brown, me, Dee Leone.

You might think this is just a cute kid in costume. But it is also the most horrific costume at WonderCon. Why? This junior canine astronaut’s spacesuit has red stars, making her a cosmonaut. The Soviets launched a mutt Laika on a one-way journey into space at the early stages of their space program. That’s cold.


Middle grade author panel with, L to R: Greg Van Eekhout, Dan Santat, Cecil Castelucci, and Chris Baron.

Amazingly well rendered Poison Ivy from Batman.

Remote-controlled robot from WALL-E.

The villain Ronan from The Avengers

Star Wars cosplay

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Michelangelo

Tony Stark and Pepper Potts

At The Rings of Power panel, the signer for the hearing impaired wore elf ears.


Wise Uncle Iroh from Avatar – The Last Airbender

Walter White from Breaking Bad

Wednesday from The Addams Family

A second version of Wednesday from The Addams Family

Zelda and Link from The Legend of Zelda

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Good Times at the 2023 Tucson Festival of Books

I had a lovely time at the 2023 Tucson Festival of Books. Met some real-life friends, met some Facebook friends in real-life for the first time, and even got to meet some politics journalists, which pleased my inner political junkie.

Here’s the well-dressed #kidlit author/illustrator Adam Rex in action.

Award-winning picture book authors-illustrator friends: Juana Martinez-Neal, Molly Idle, Andrea Wang & David LaRochelle.

Good friend author and skillful picture book critiquer. Lori Alexander.

Got to meet the dynamic duo of Construction Night rhyming picture books, Sherri Duskey Rinker and AG Ford.

The wildly talented adult authors, Luis Alberto Urrea and Charlaine Harris.

A graphic novelist panel with Franco Aureliani, Scott Magoon, and Molly Mendoza.

With the talented picture book author-illustrators Matthew Cordell and Dan Yaccarino.

Monkeying around.

With political journalists Tim Miller and David Corn. Also got to meet Jonathan Lemire.

A giant heart blow-up structure for teaching anatomy.

The wonderfully warm kidlit author-illustrator, Zahra Marwan.

With the well-dressed, articulate, and kind picture book illustrator and graphic novelist, Scott Magoon.

With the gifted and hilarious picture book author, Carmen Agra Deedy.

A picture book author-illustrator panel with rock stars Matthew Cordell, Dan Yaccarino, and Carmen Agra Deedy.

A horror writer panel with Weston Ochse, Yvonne Navarro, Johny Compton, and Hiron Ennes.

With superb adult horror writers Weston Ochse and Yvonne Navarro.

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Marie Curie is arguably the most famous female scientist in history: a double Nobel Prize winner whose discoveries changed our understanding of the universe. Luckily for humanity, Marie applied her brilliant mind and indomitable spirit to expanding the frontiers of science, doubly difficult for a woman of that time period. But what if Marie had instead drifted toward the darkness? What if she had used her talents for diabolical purposes?

The Hitherto Secret Experiments of Marie Curie (Blackstone Publishing) imagines that, with 16 original horror and dark fantasy/science fiction stories and four poems from a murderer’s row of talented authors, including six NY Times bestsellers: Christine Taylor Butler, Mylo Carbia, G.P. Charles, Stacia Deutsch, Sarah Beth Durst, Henry Herz, Alethea Kontis, Susanne Lambdin, Dee Leone, Jonathan Maberry, Emily McCosh, Seanan McGuire, Steve Pantazis, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Scott Sigler, Jo Whittemore, and Jane Yolen.

YA or horror book bloggers interested in interviewing an author, sign up at bit.ly/MarieCurieAuthorInterview

YA or horror book reviewers interested in reviewing the anthology on NetGalley, sign up at bit.ly/MarieCurieNetgalley

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The Eye of Argon – A Love Letter to Teen Writing and Exuberance

The Eye of Argon and the Further Adventures of Grignr the Barbarian (edited by Michael Ventrella, published by Fantastic Books, 2022) is a labor of love – an homage to teenaged (in 1970) Jim Theis’s The Eye of Argon. Michael’s introduction explains the modest beginning and enduring appeal of the quirky original:

So it’s 1970. If you’re a fan of high fantasy, you’ve read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. There’s no Dungeons and Dragons, no high fantasy movies or TV shows, and now you’re looking for something else…

But all that’s available is Conan the Barbarian and its clone, the Gor series.

Then again, you’re a nerdy teenage boy with raging hormones, and fantasizing about being a strong hero who has beautiful women at his mercy is appealing…

So put yourself back in those days and imagine young Jim Theis, who wants to be a writer. There are no home computers, no home printers, and photocopiers only exist in the largest corporations and cost tons of money.

So Jim decides to write his own story. He has no training as a writer, has no patron to assist him, but he certainly has the enthusiasm required. He types away, ignoring mistakes, misusing words left and right, and having the time of his life, coming up with a story to impress his friends.

He then submits it to the Ozark Science Fiction Association, and they publish it in their little fanzine. Jim thinks that’s the end of it—a nice little story some people will appreciate and then forget about.

However, the Forces of Fate stepped in.

It falls into the hands of the science fiction community, which embrace it and start reading it for fun at parties, challenging each other to see how far they could get before breaking up laughing.

This extended to science fiction conventions, where a panel would try to get through it, and were required to read it as written, pronouncing the words exactly as they appeared while not laughing or screwing up.

Years pass as the story’s distribution grows, shared from one convention to another. People all across America and Canada (and maybe elsewhere, too, who knows?) look forward to participating in the convention’s reading sessions.

The writing of the well-intentioned high-schooler Jim Theis clearly reflects inspiration from Robert E. Howard’s sword and sorcery classic, Conan the Barbarian. Jim’s youthful exuberance is smile-inducingly conveyed by flowery and poorly edited text. To wit, the tale begins thusly (its original spelling intact):

The weather beaten trail wound ahead into the dust racked climes of the baren land which dominates large portions of the Norgolian empire. Age worn hoof prints smothered by the sifting sands of time shone dully against the dust splattered crust of earth. The tireless sun cast its parching rays of incandescense from overhead, half way through its daily revolution. Small rodents scampered about, occupying themselves in the daily accomplishments of their dismal lives. Dust sprayed over three heaving mounts in blinding clouds, while they bore the burdonsome cargoes of their struggling overseers.

“Prepare to embrace your creators in the stygian haunts of hell, barbarian”, gasped the first soldier.

“Only after you have kissed the fleeting stead of death, wretch!” returned Grignr.

A sweeping blade of flashing steel riveted from the massive barbarians hide enameled shield as his rippling right arm thrust forth, sending a steel shod blade to the hilt into the soldiers vital organs. The disemboweled mercenary crumpled from his saddle and sank to the clouded sward, sprinkling the parched dust with crimson droplets of escaping life fluid.

Enough said.

Eventually, Ian Randal Strock and Michael Ventrella, experienced anthologists, assembled writer friends familiar with The Eye of Argon and its celebration at pop culture conventions to develop in the style of the original author further adventures of the Conan-esque protagonist, Grignr the Barbarian. The treatment will delight fans of the British sword and sorcery TV series, Kröd Mändoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire.

Widely published author Keith R.A. DeCandido (aka KRAD) contributed a story, “The Rat’s Tail,” to the anthology. “I’ve just submitted the worst story I’ve ever written!” he bragged on social media. It begins:

The rat waited.

The hirsute creature paced the stuygian depths of the dungeon beneath the castle. For its entire short life it had paced the stoney floor of the dark and dank dungeon, eating whatever scraps might find their way to his ravenous gullet.

Keith graciously agreed to answer some questions about the project:

Henry: What was it about the original The Eye of Argon that captured your interest?

KRAD: It wasn’t so much the original piece itself as the convention game of reading it straight-faced with all the typos intact. I was first exposed to it in the 1990s, and I took my turn to read it. I got eliminated by correcting one of the typos, which I didn’t even do consciously. After that, I viewed it as a challenge to try to win the contest by getting farther than anyone else, which I managed on several occasions. It’s a fun challenge, not just to keep the poker face (which is relatively easy for me), but to read it as written without correcting it, which goes against all my writerly and editorly instincts…

Henry: I feel your pain. How did you settle on telling the tale of The Rat’s Tail?

KRAD: Oh, that was easy. One of the times we were performing the story as it was read, I was playing Grignr and we were doing the scene where he encounters the rat in the dungeon. When the rat appeared, someone in the back of the room had a stuffed rat on their person, and tossed it up front so I’d have it as a prop. It was then, when I had an actual (stuffed) rat in hand that I realized that the unnecessarily detailed description of how Grignr broke the rat’s neck wouldn’t actually work in real life, as the hands are described in twisting in the wrong direction for the move to be effective. Ever since then, the rat’s unjust demise has kind of been my thing at these readings/performances, and I decided that it was important to give the rat a backstory.

Henry: #RatDeathsMatter. What was it like writing pastiche, especially with intentional grammatical and spelling mistakes?

KRAD: Similarly challenging to reading it—I had to almost physically restrain myself from correcting the typos. And there were a lot, as I type more than 150 words per minute….

Henry: Is your story autobiographical?

KRAD: Only in the sense that it was inspired by real events, as chronicled above…

Henry: Is there anything else you’d care to share about the experience?

My mother is a professional editor of several decades’ standing (though she usually does it sitting down), and she has always read everything I write before it gets sent off. This story was one of the few exceptions, as the last thing I wanted was for this story to be improved. It was very entertaining to write something deliberately bad like this, and then be able to proudly post on social media that I just e-mailed the worst story I’d ever written to the editor!

I’d never heard of The Eye of Argon until Michael Ventrella mentioned it. But upon reading his introduction to the anthology, it was easy to see why the original story captured the hearts of so many authors and pop culture convention-goers. In Jim Theis’s work, we see our own passion for sword and sorcery fantasy and the love of tale-telling.

The Eye of Argon and the Further Adventures of Grignr the Barbarian can be found at:

Barnes & Noble


Putting the SCBWI Book Launch Grant to Good Use

I was honored to receive the 2022 Book Launch Grant from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) for my award-winning picture book, I AM SMOKE. The funding was used to purchase copies of I AM SMOKE for elementary schools and to pay for travel to book promotion events, including WonderCon, the Bay Area Book Festival, and bookstores and schools in the Washington, DC area.

My booth at WonderCon in Anaheim, CA

I was also on a panel with children’s book authors and illustrators (l to r) Tim McCanna, Ernesto Cisneros, Sam Subity, and Salina Yoon.

I was an invited speaker at the Bay Area Book Festival, held near UC Berkeley.

Here I am, reading I AM SMOKE to an audience. What incredible stage presence! So lifelike!

I also got to meet fellow authors, including the charismatic Jessixa Bagley.

I helped the shy author John Scalzi out of his shell…

And here I am with author Mac Barnett and illustrator Shawn Harris, who, it turns out, played on the same soccer team when they were kids.

My trip to the Washington, DC area included popping in on Capclave, where I chatted with authors Alex Shvartsman and Leah Cypess.

Then it was on to the Manassas, VA Barnes & Noble store.

I got to read I AM SMOKE to the well-behaved and well-dressed kids of Westminster Elementary.

I signed copies of I AM SMOKE in good company at the Tyson’s Corner Barnes & Noble.

I read I AM SMOKE to the wonderful kids at Oakwood Elementary.

I rounded out the tour reading I AM SMOKE to these rapscallions at the Aurora Hills Library in Arlington, VA, followed by a wildly unsuccessful “ice volcano” experiment.


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San Diego Comic-Con 2022

As always, had a great time attending panels, meeting fellow creators, and wandering the exhibit hall.


Elden Ring

I have no idea…

Dragonball Z

Cthulhu (I think that’s H.P. Lovecraft’s head at the base)

Dark Souls

Someone with mother issues, perhaps.

Krapopolis: Rick & Morty meets Greek mythology

A powerful movement…

Dragonball Z

Cabbage cart for fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender

Large Funko

Final Fantasy woman on a dragon

Beavis and Butthead

LEGO Mario and Luigi

Huge Naruto bowl of noodles

Huge LEGO Darth Vader


Cool wall-mounted resin models

Conan the Barbarian

WWE’s The Undertaker

Masters of the Universe



Human-sized Porg from Star Wars

Huge Target dog. I have no idea why

Cool mermaid-like character

Mariachi Mandalorians!

The Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. “None shall pass.”

Syndrome from The Incredibles. I got him monologuing!

Captain America in an Iron Man suit

Thanos from Avengers End Game. Speak softly and carry a big…

Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings (and his plus one)


Hawkman and Hawkwoman from Flash Gordon

Metal Rick from Rick & Morty

House of the Dragon (Game of Thrones sequel series)

Alien character from Star Wars

Saga Press panel with Rebecca Roanhorse and Joe Monti

Golden Girls Bobbleheads – proving you can find anything at Comic-Con

Marvin the Martian. “You Earthlings make me very angry.” Me too, Marvin. Me too.

Aang from Avatar – The Last Airbender

Giant mechanical Cookie Monster


My fantasy author panel with (l to r): Wesley Chu, B.B. Alston, Maggie Stiefvater, and Tomi Adeyemi

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WonderCon 2022

Had a great time at WonderCon 2022. I moderated a KidLit author panel and sold my books at a small press booth for the first time. Cosplayers were out in full force.

With fellow children’s authors (l to r): Tim McCanna, Ernesto Cisneros, Sam Subity, and Salina Yoon.

Stunning artwork inspired by Avatar: The Last Airbender

Chainsaw Man. Note the safety tags on the chainsaws.

Not sure who this guy is, but he’s summoning a purple fireball, so…

This is Goat Vs. Fish. He literally walks around interviewing people, asking which animal they prefer. Hilarious.

Grogu from The Mandalorian

Jinx from Netflix’s amazing Arcane series

Another Jinx!

Kim Possible – an oldie but a goodie

Krampus is always a pleasant surprise

Kuiil (and Grogu!) from The Mandalorian

Lady Thor

Lara Croft from Tomb Raider

Merida from Brave

Daenerys Targaryen on a dragon from Game of Thrones

Oscar the Grouch and the Mysterious Galaxy devil puppet

Pickle Rick, my favorite character from the Rick and Morty series

Planet of the Apes ape. Get your damn, dirty hands off me.

Remote-controlled R2-D2 from Star Wars

Rick and Morty-inspired artwork

A rider of Rohan from The Lord of the Rings

Hilarious Saint X artwork

An awesome Sister of Battle from Warhammer 40K

Family of superheroes

Is this what Joe Satriani meant by “Surfing with the Alien”?

Tetris Man


Vi from Arcane

Jinx and Vi from Arcane

Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher

A bashful young Wonder Woman

Stunning Callisto and Xena from Xena: Warrior Princess

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COMING OF AGE review by ElenaReads

Our upcoming middle grade anthology, COMING OF AGE: 13 B’NAI MITZVAH stories (published by Albert Whitman), got this lovely review from book blogger and vlogger ElenaReads.

Coming Of Age Is Overflowing With Jewish Pride, Focuses On Mitzvah Celebrations

In recent years, bar and bat mitzvahs have looked different. Some have been virtual, others have been mask-mandated, but the focus remains the same – a coming of age ceremony that has been a tradition for generations.

Coming Of Age: 13 B’Nai Mitzvah Stories is a new book that can help boys and girls prepare for their special day. I got an advanced readers’ copy of this amazing book, edited by Jonathan Rosen and Henry Herz. It will be available in April.

It features short stories from 13 Jewish authors, all of them about a b’nai mitzvah. At first, I thought the book was going to be about the authors’ OWN b’nai mitzvahs, but, only one story was a personal narrative. Others were more fictional, one about having a pandemic bat mitzvah, and another about a bar mitzvah on a planet called Latke!

I think the title of the book is more powerful than it lets on. When you become a bar or bat mitzvah, you “come of age” and a full member of the Jewish community. This moment is meaningful and important because it means that you are a Jewish adult and you are responsible for your own actions.

It was so interesting reading this book because each author had their own unique style of telling a b’nai mitzvah story. Some of them focused more on the fantastical element of their story, others were amazing at describing the thoughts, feelings, and setting around the event. It’s hard to pick a favorite story, but I really enjoyed This Is What I’ll Tell You by Debbie Reed Fischer. That story was about a girl who decides to hide her religion after being bullied because she is Jewish.

I loved how the authors were so creative when it came to what they were writing about. One author made up a legend about how each person has to go inside their Torah portion and experience it. For example, the boy in the story had to help Noah and his ark.

Another person whose writing is featured is Melissa Roske, who wrote Kat Greene Comes Clean , a book I reviewed a few years back! Nora Raleigh Baskin, author of Nine, Ten, which I also reviewed, also has a short story in Coming Of Age.

Coming Of Age is full of Jewish pride, b’nai mitzvah preparation, romance, and whimsical elements. It’s a book you need to read, even if you are not Jewish!

Four out of four roses!





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Children’s Author Panel at WonderCon 2022

Henry participated in a children’s author panel at WonderCon 2022 with award-winning authors Ernesto Cisneros, Tim McCanna, Sam Subity, and Salina Yoon.

Ernesto Cisneros is the author of the middle grade novels Efren Divided and Falling Short. The former won a Pura Belpre award, Golden Poppy award, Crystal Kite award, and appeared on numerous Best Of lists, including by Kirkus, School Library Journal, Booklist, Chicago Public Library, New York Public Library, and NPR Books.

Tim McCanna is the author of several picture books including BITTY BOT, SO MANY SOUNDS, BARNYARD BOOGIE!, JACK B. NINJA, BOING! A Very Noisy ABC, BITTY BOT’S BIG BEACH GETAWAY (ALA/LITA Golden Duck Notable Picture Book) and WATERSONG (New York Public Library list of Best Books for Kids and NCTE 2017 Notable Poetry Book).

Sam Subity is the author of the middle grade novel, The Last Shadow Warrior, that blends Norse mythology with a modern-day setting. He loves writing stories that explore the magic and wonder of being a kid and is thrilled to share his writing with readers everywhere—both the young in age and the young at heart.

Salina Yoon is the talented and prolific author/illustrator of nearly two hundred novelty books, picture books, and early readers including Found, Kiki & Jax, Be a Friend, Tap to Play, and the Penguin Series. Her books have won numerous awards, including a Geisel honor, Children’s Literature Council of SoCal award, and NYSRA Charlotte Award.