Children's & Fantasy/Sci-Fi Books

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Interview with author/illustrator Lisa Desimini

Lisa Desimini grew up reading and drawing every chance she got. Her friends and fellow students told her that she should be an artist when she grew up, and Lisa agreed. She graduated from The School of Visual Arts in NYC. Now, she has written and/or illustrated over 35 books for children. She has also illustrated many book jackets for YA and adults novels.

For what age audience do you write​/illustrate​, and in what genre(s)?

My children’s books are for children ages 3-7. Some of my books are for all ages. My favorite genre is fantasy, but I’ve published non-fiction, too. I adore illustrating poetry collections.

Henry: I met Lisa at a book event at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore, where she was signing her new picture book. I was especially surprised and pleased to learn she also illustrated the covers for the Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood) paranormal fantasy novels!

Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book is THE FLEATASTICS. It’s about an acrobatic troupe of fleas that travel from sleeping dog to sleeping dog to put on a show. Sarafleana’s family wants her to be part of their parasite pyramid, but she dreams of having her own act. When someone in the audience says the forbidden “T” word…Sarafleana gets a chance to prove what she can do.

Henry: My agent is right now shopping a narrative nonfiction picture book told by and about fleas. Fascinating little dudes.

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

There are two messages in this book. First, it’s important to do what it takes to follow ones dreams. The second message is that no matter what knocks us down, we have to get back up, brush ourselves off and get back on the horse… But I usually don’t set out with a mission for my books to have a message. It just happens sometimes.

Henry: If you’re a flea, you brush yourself off and get back on the cat.

What aspect of writing​ or illustrating​ do you find most challenging?

For me, writing is more challenging. I write something and, at first, I love it. Then I kind of like it, then I’m not sure about it at all, so I put it away for a few days. When I look again, I say, “OK, this has potential!” Then I show a friend and they make me see something I could do to make it better, so I do it and I like it better. Rinse and repeat and then maybe I send it to my editor and maybe it gets published. I don’t have as much back and forth when it comes to illustration because I’ve been making pictures since I was a little kid.

Henry: I certainly agree that critique groups (the external opinion) is absolutely vital to good writing.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer​/illustrator​?

The powerful lesson I’ve learned is the more research the better! Nowadays, the internet makes it easier to find books, gather information, and see images from different regions. When I was younger I illustrated a book about the Navaho and I thought I did a good job in recreating their hogans, but I got a very sweet letter from the tribe saying they weren’t accurate. I felt terrible. More recently, when I illustrated, SHE SANG PROMISE about a Seminole woman named Betty Mae Jumper, I was thrilled that National Geographic sent my images to the Seminole museum to be approved.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer​/illustrator​?

The memorable experiences for me are when I do a drawing at the end of all my school visits. They’re not preplanned. I use the students’ ideas, and they never cease to amaze me. When their creativity is lit up, there is an exuberant energy in the room. They might call out instead of raising their hands, bounce around, and get a bit loud, but it’s all worth it to me because when creativity is unleashed, it’s wild. It’s not always about being perfectly behaved.

Henry: I also call out instead of raising my hand.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors​ or illustrators​?

I would tell aspiring authors and illustrators to read as much as you can. Go to the library or bookstore every week–read classics and the latest books. Take a class and join the SCBWI. If kid’s books are truly your passion, you will have the energy and desire to follow the ideas that come to you. Some of my ideas have flowed quickly, but most of my books have taken years to come together and sell.

Henry: The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators has been helpful to many a career. Their website is http://www.scbwi.org.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

My favorite quote: “You must do the things you think you cannot do.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

Henry: I also like “Whether you think you can, or you think you cannot, you are right.”

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write​/illustrate​?

I like to clean up and organize before I start working on a new project. Then I read a bunch of favorite books. Even if they’re not related to my new project, they get me excited and revved up about stories and the infinite worlds they create.

Henry: Is that preparation or procrastination? 🙂

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

My superpower would be the ability to teleport myself–anytime and anywhere.

Henry: I love it. No time wasted commuting or in traffic. No greenhouse gas emissions.

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

Is it OK if I answer a slightly different question–a dinner with my favorite characters from books instead of authors? I love authors, but Owen Meany, Harry Potter and Pippi Longstocking popped into my mind!! Owen because he is so dearly earnest, Harry because of his bravery, and Pippi because of her adventurous spirit!

Henry: No, it is not OK. This interview is cancelled! Per Wikipedia:

A Prayer for Owen Meany is the seventh novel by American writer John Irving. Published in 1989, it tells the story of John Wheelwright and his best friend Owen Meany growing up together in a small New Hampshire town during the 1950s and 1960s. According to John’s narration, Owen is a remarkable boy in many ways; he believes himself to be God’s instrument and sets out to fulfill the fate he has prophesied for himself.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

My favorite creature is a centaur. I like that they have the intellect of a human and an animal’s wild nature.

Henry: I like them too. One is featured on the cover of my first book.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing​/illustrating​?

When I’m not writing, I like to be with my husband and our kitty Crash, cook, read, watch movies, be in the garden and do yoga.

Henry: But not all at the same time…Yoga cooking!

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

I plan on being cremated and turned into a tree, so my treestone would say, “She always tried to be better and do better.”

Henry: I’m going to go out on a limb and say the root of that choice is that one must be thick-skinned to be an author.

Where can readers find your work?

You can find my work in bookstores, libraries and on my website: http://www.lisadesimini.com

Henry: Thank you for spending time with us, Lisa!


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Photos from San Diego Comic-Con 2017

Here, in no particular order, are photos from San Diego Comic-Con 2017

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Only D&D fans will get that pun.

A classic Comic-Con mashup. Elvis Boba Fett!

Cabbage merchant: An obscure, but lovable character from Avatar: The Last Airbender

A huge dragon you could ride. Stuffed animal sold separately.

D.VA’s mech video game character from Overwatch

A flying (thanks to magnetic repulsion) Iron Man and friends.

NY Times bestselling fantasy author Gail Carriger

Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy from Batman

NY Times bestselling fantasy author Ilona Andrews

Life-sized Iron Man model

Pint-sized General Grievous and Boba Fett

The eloquent First Second editorial director Mark Seigel

NY Times bestselling fantasy author Mary Pearson

Megaman video game character

My fantasy novel panel with Seanan McGuire, Robin Hobb, Gail Carriger & Mary Pearson

The authors of my panel packed the room!

Authors Todd McCaffrey, the Winner twins, and Seanan McGuire

The world’s largest Pikachu (from Pokemon)

Two fun posters. “Gandalf Airlines. Fly you fools! Our planes are never late. Nor are they early.
They arrive precisely when they mean to. You shall not need a boarding pass!” and
BatPug: “I am the night… but mostly I just piddle on stuff”)

Three princesses, or perhaps two princes and a Mother of Dragons

NY Times bestselling fantasy author Robin Hobb

Even the animals get in on the cosplay action. Ye scurvy dog!

Does this Skyrim helmet make me look fat?

Super Saiyan Blue from Dragon Ball Z

Some fun toothy artwork I bought.

Fantasy/sci-fi authors Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Jonathan Maberry, Seanan McGuire and Scott Sigler.

And, of course, Wonder Woman.

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Famous Movie Scenes Recreated Using Cardboard Boxes & a Two-Year Old

I never imagined that parents could have a two-year old AND too much time on their hands. But I was wrong. From Vaiva Vareikaite and the mad geniuses at Bored Panda.

“Sometimes what you need to get creative is just a pile of cardboard boxes and a baby, who needs to be entertained. This is exactly what inspired Leon Mackie and Lilly Lang to recreate their favorite film scenes after moving into their new home.

A young couple with a baby on their hands recently moved from Melbourne to Sydney, Australia, and got left with a lot of spare cardboard boxes. The boxes were a perfect source of inspiration for some astonishing things that were about to happen. Lilly and Leon are passionate cinephiles, so they didn’t take long to come up with an idea to bring most memorable moments from their favorite films back to life, except this time starring their 2-year-old son.

The beautiful initiative to have a quality family time became an inspirational project titled Cardboard Box Office and a source for quite a successful weblog. The adorable couple and the little one have already re-enacted such movie classics as Alien (Bubbalien), Jurassic Park (Goo-Goo Gaa-Gaa-Rassic Park), Castaway (Castababy), and Jaws (“You’re Gonna Need A Bigger Baby…”).”

#1 Game Of Thrones

Game Of Thrones

 #2 Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad

#3 Mad Max

Mad Max

#4 Lord Of The Rings

Lord Of The Rings

#5 Batman


#6 E.T. : The Extraterrestrial

E.t. : The Extra Terrestrial

#7 Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump

#8 Beetlejuice


#9 The Revenant

The Revenant

#10 Home Alone

Home Alone

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Adding Pop-Culture Characters to Paintings

Ever wonder about alternative uses for old thrift-store paintings? Well clever artist David Irwine shows us some great ideas using pop-culture icons, as shown at Sad & Useless.

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Helpful Advice for First-Time Convention Attendees

I’m a children’s book author, with a love of fantasy and science fiction that stretches back to elementary school, where I repeatedly borrowed WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE from the library. It should come as no surprise, then, that I enjoy attending and moderating panels at pop culture conventions like San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC), WonderCon, Condor, and San Diego Comicfest.


The folks at Eventbrite requested that I leverage my convention experience to write a post offering helpful tips. Want to have fun at a convention? Of course you do! I divided my suggestions into two categories: for convention attendees and for convention panel moderators. WonderCon

WONDERCON 2016: Moderating a children’s literature panel with (l to r) Barney Saltzberg, Caldecott-winner Dan Santat, Bruce Hale, NY Times bestseller Antoinette Portis, and Caldecott-winner Jon Klassen


Conventions offer a variety of activities, including: individual presentations, art exhibits, book signings, vendor displays, movie sneak peaks, and themed discussion panels. Here are some tips for first-time attendees to get the most out of their convention experience:

  • First things first: purchase your badge(s). This must be done WELL in advance for high-demand events like SDCC.
  • Plan your lodging. If you attend a big convention from out of town, a nearby hotel reservation (or gracious friend’s house) is a must, preferably near public transportation.
  • Plan your transportation. How will you get to the convention, and if you drive, where will you park? Public transportation is a great choice to avoid parking hassles at heavily-attended conventions.
  • Plan your activities*. Review the convention schedule to decide which events you will attend. Some conventions may offer multiple enticing events at the same time; the convention equivalent of Sophie’s Choice. *Or not – some people enjoy choosing events as their mood dictates throughout the day. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
  • Review in advance the convention facility map to see how close the events are located to each other. This is particularly important if events are scattered across multiple buildings, like at DragonCon and SDCC. Hence the importance of the aforementioned “Plan your activities”.
  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. You will likely be doing a lot of walking. I’d recommend NOT wearing a costume at your FIRST convention, because it adds some complications. But, if you MUST wear a costume, see my costume-specific suggestions at the end of this list.
  • Bring a friend and a mobile phone, both fully charged. It’s more fun with a friend, and a phone will help you reconnect if you attend separate events. You’ll also want to have your phone (or camera) so you can take pictures of pop culture icons, displays, cosplayers, and other strange persons.
  • The more popular the event, the bigger the line. In some cases, lines are so long that you may not gain admittance. This makes me sad. So, move briskly from one event to the next if they are in different rooms. In the most extreme cases, like Hall H at SDCC, you must get into a line the prior evening to obtain a wristband to even be eligible for entry. What!? Why is Hall H so popular? In a word (well, two words), movie stars. My honest advice for first-time attendees is to skip such events. You essentially commit ALL your time to getting in (and staying in, see below) that room. I prefer to attend multiple interesting (but less sought after) events where I’m actually likely to get a seat.
  • If you miraculously manage to get into a room with multiple events that interest you (e.g., Hall H at SDCC), stay there. SDCC does not clear rooms of attendees between events. But if you leave (for say a bathroom break), you will not be readmitted. Hence the importance of the aforementioned “Plan your activities”, including how much liquid you imbibe. Now you know why Howard Wolowitz wears a “stadium pal” in Big Bang Theory Season 4 Episode 8.
  • Ask permission before taking a photo of someone. I’ve never had anyone decline, but it’s the polite thing to do.
  • Don’t bogart the talent. Sometimes, you may encounter panelists (more true of authors than movie or TV stars) outside a convention room just prior to the event or at a signing. It’s fine to politely introduce yourself, offer them kind words, and request a signature. But once you’ve had your turn, let someone else interact with them.
  • There may be sexy or scantily dressed cosplayers in attendance. The normal rules of society apply – you don’t get to touch them! You don’t want to vex a superhero.
  • Bring credit cards and cash if you plan on buying stuff. There are often very tempting purchases in exhibit halls and artist alleys. But don’t buy more than you can carry. Hence the aforementioned advice to bring a backpack. Sherpas are also very handy for carrying your stuff.
  • Bring food and water. If you’ll be attending for a full day, you’ll want to eat and drink. You can visit convention food stalls, but they are typically pricey, and can involve waiting in LONG lines. I advise against drinking alcohol. You’ll be in tight quarters and challenging conditions, so you’ll want to keep your manners and wits about you.
  • Bring a hat. This suggestion is relevant only if you are planning to wait in a long, outdoor line, such as for gaining admittance to the coveted Hall H events at SDCC. It can be sunny and hot, and a hat can help keep you cool.
  • Bring a 4″ diameter cardboard poster tube. This suggestion is only relevant if you plan to purchase artwork or posters. A tube will enable you to carry your paper treasures without risking them getting bent or torn. I wouldn’t go smaller than 4″ diameter, or you’ll have trouble rolling, inserting, and retrieving your artwork. Plastic tubes are on sale at some conventions for about ten bucks.
  • Bring a back pack. It’s not only good for carrying your food, water, hat, and poster tube, but it enables you to schlep your purchases hands-free.
  • Don’t cut in line. This is unfair to others. Some conventions, like SDCC, do a great job of organizing lines for panels, book signings, etc. Be a good citizen and follow the rules. Don’t make me stop the car!
  • When walking about the convention, expect to move slowly due to thick crowds. Look where you’re going. Don’t text and walk at the same time, or you may get a Harley Quinn mallet in the face.
  • While this may be difficult given the density of some convention crowds, if you stop to look at a display, speak with someone, take a photo, or pull an item from your backpack, step toward the display or wall so as to leave a pathway for others to pass.
  • Don’t walk in front of people if it is clear they are taking a photo of something. Conversely, take your photos quickly so you don’t make people wait long. “None shall pass!”
  • COSTUMES offer advantages and disadvantages. They can be great fun to wear and are natural icebreakers, offering others a reason to interact with you. However, some preclude you from being able to wear the aforementioned handy backpack. Some costumes can make accessing your wallet, eating, or using the bathroom a challenge. Some costumes can be heavy, hot, or otherwise uncomfortable to wear. Others can limit the ease with which you can see or breathe. Bulky costumes can make it hard to maneuver, especially down crowded exhibit hall aisles. And some are SO bulky that you need a friend to accompany you, just to help you get into and out of it (for aforementioned food, water and bathroom breaks). Fake weapons typically require you have them checked and tagged as safe.


As mentioned above conventions often offer themed discussion panels. Such panels are typically organized and hosted by a moderator. As a panel moderator, your job is to ensure an entertaining and informative experience for BOTH the audience and the panelists. A panelist should be a good steward of everyone’s time so that all the panelists can engage with their fans. Here are some tips for first-time convention panel moderators.


SAN DIECO COMIC-CON 2015: Moderating a fantasy literature panel with (l to r) New York Times bestselling authors Brandon Sanderson, Maggie Stiefvater, Kami Garcia, Jonathan Maberry, and Zac (Heather) Brewer

  • Once the convention approves your panel, provide logistical information to your panelists. They’ll need to know prior to the event where the panel will be held, when to arrive, how they get their convention badge, whether they can bring a guest, who else is participating on the panel, how the panel will be run, how to get a hold of you, whether they’re allowed to give out swag, and if there will be a signing event after the panel.
  • Don’t assume everyone in the audience knows who your panelists are. Prior to the event, communicate with your panelists or look at their website so you can give an accurate introduction. Do NOT ask panelists to introduce themselves (I’ve actually seen that).
  • The audience will almost certainly have questions for the panelists, but just in case (and to get the ball rolling), prepare some questions of your own in advance.
    WONDERCON 2015: Moderating a children’s literature panel with (l to r) Salina Yoon, Brian Won, Newbery Honoree Jenni Holm, Pura Belpre Honoree Joe Cepeda, and Caldecott Honoree Molly Idle.
  • I like to create a PowerPoint presentation for both introducing the panelists and showing the questions I’ll ask them. It’s not required; only diehard moderators do this. But, in my experience, attendees enjoy a visual element like images or videos. Let the convention organizers know in advance if you’ll need a projector, audio speakers, etc. Bring your own laptop and VGA/HDMI connector. Bring a spare copy of your files on a thumb drive and a printout of your introductions and panelist questions, in case your computer fails.
  • Guide your panelists. Ask questions in such a way that more than one panelist can respond. If panelists aren’t responding because questions don’t apply to them, then ask those individuals a question directed solely at them. If, on the other hand, a panelist speaks too long, don’t be afraid to gently break in and redirect to another panelist.
  • Control your audience. An effective introduction will get the audience excited to hear from the panelists. When I open up a panel for audience questions, I ask them to raise their hands, and select them one at a time. Some conferences will have a standing mic set up, at which panelists can line up prior to asking their questions. If there is no such mic, I will repeat audience questions so everyone in the room can hear it. If a question meanders, I will gently ask the person to state their question. If a question is inappropriate or somehow puts the panel in an awkward position, I will move on to the next audience question. Again, I’ve prepared questions in advance, just in case the audience runs out of questions.
  • Remind the audience at the end of the panel of the time and room where the panelists will subsequently be doing a signing event.


SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON 2014: Moderating a sci-fi & fantasy literature panel with (l to r) New York Times bestselling authors Jonathan Maberry, David Brin, Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine, Jason Hough & Marie Lu.

I hope that these suggestions make your convention-going experience a fantastic one! If you have additional ideas, feel free to submit them via the Comments section. I hope to see you at a convention some time.


The author, Henry Herz, wearing a costume that does not impede his ability to
see, breath, eat, walk, or access his mobile phone. Claymore sold separately.


Monsters plus coffee equals winning!

From J.D. Cotton and the mad geniuses at Bored Panda, for all my caffeine-dependent horror writer friends.

“These scary mugs I make are one of a kind. Working in clay is the best since it combines several different “crafts” – throwing on the pottery wheel, sculpting and the final process, painting. All of which I love to do, especially with my background as an illustrator. After discovering pottery approximately 15 years ago, I’ve been hooked on it.

Originally, I was most inspired by those primitive face jugs that were made down south in the 1800s. My first few face mugs were similar in style which have since evolved into these more detailed pieces.
I sometimes refer to a photo image or whatever pops in my head. I love details and include a lot of it in my work – down to the wrinkles and pores on their faces.”

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What if Tim Burton directed Disney movies?

From Andrew Tarusov and the mad geniuses at Bored Panda.

“My name is Andrew Tarusov. Originally I was born in Ribinsk, Russia, but now I’m living in Los Angeles, California. My general occupation after 10 years of studying is art and animation.

Being a huge fan of Disney classics, I imagined how our favorite childhood movies could look if they were directed by the great Tim Burton. Pretty interesting, huh?”

The Beauty And The Beast, Directed By Tim Burton

Pinocchio, Directed By Tim Burton

101 Dalmatians, Directed By Tim Burton

Bambi, Directed By Tim Burton

Sleeping Beauty, Directed By Tim Burton

The Little Mermaid, Directed By Tim Burton

Snow White, Directed By Tim Burton

Dumbo, Directed By Tim Burton

Aladdin, Directed By Tim Burton