Children's & Fantasy/Sci-Fi Books

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Fairy-Tale Scenes With Live Animals

From photographer Darya Kondratyeva and the mad geniuses at Bored Panda. Where can I get my own bear?

“When Moscow-based photographer Darya Kondratyeva isn’t snapping family, maternity or baby photos, she creates enchanting photos that seem like re-interpretations of old fairytales or legends. The models in her photos seem like they could be witches, princesses or forest spirits.

Aside from her models, trained animals feature heavily in Kondratyeva’s fantasy photography as well. Each one seems like it might open its mouth and whisper a wise secret into the model’s ear.”


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Interview with NY Times bestselling ‘Mistborn’ & ‘Steelheart’ author Brandon Sanderson

Wikipedia gives a helpful summary of Brandon’s impressive writing career. “Sanderson published his first novel, Elantris, through Tor Books on April 21, 2005, to generally positive reviews. This was followed in 2006 by The Final Empire, the first book in his Mistborn fantasy trilogy, where “allomancers”, people who have the ability to ‘burn’ various metals and alloys after ingesting them can enhance senses and allow control over powerful supernatural forces. He followed up in 2007 with a sequel, The Well of Ascension.

Sanderson then released the children’s novel Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians, about a boy named Alcatraz who has a unique gift: he’s very good at breaking things. He also has a group of evil librarians who are bent on taking over the world. In 2008 The Hero of Ages was published, and an Alcatraz sequel named Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener’s Bones.

In 2009 Tor Books released Warbreaker, originally published on Sanderson’s website while writing the novel from 2006 to 2009. The same year a third Alcatraz book followed, titled Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia.

After Robert Jordan’s death in September 2007, Sanderson was selected by Harriet McDougal (Jordan’s widow) to complete the final book in Jordan’s epic fantasy series The Wheel of Time. McDougal asked him to complete the series after being deeply impressed by his first Mistborn novel. Tor Books made the announcement on December 7, 2007. After reviewing what needed to be done to wrap up the series, Sanderson and Tor announced on March 30, 2009 there would be a final three books instead of just one. The first of these, The Gathering Storm, was published October 27, 2009, and reached the number one spot on the New York Times bestseller list for hardcover fiction.

In 2010 Sanderson released the first novel in a planned ten-book series called The Stormlight Archive, titled The Way of Kings. It reached number seven on the New York Times hardcover fiction bestseller list. Towers of Midnight, the second-to-last Wheel of Time book, was released just over a year after The Gathering Storm on November 2, 2010, also debuting at number one on the bestseller list. The fourth Alcatraz novel, Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens, was released a month later on December 1.

In October 2011, he released a novella ebook, Infinity Blade: Awakening, based on the action role-playing iOS video game Infinity Blade developed by Chair Entertainment and Epic Games. A stand alone sequel to the Mistborn trilogy, Mistborn: The Alloy of Law, was released in November 2011, where it debuted at #7 on the bestseller list.

On August 31, 2012, Sanderson released a science fiction novella entitled Legion. Another short work, The Emperor’s Soul, was published in October 2012. A few months later, on January 8, 2013, A Memory of Light was published, the final book in The Wheel of Time series. On May 14, 2013 Sanderson published the first in a new young adult series, titled The Rithmatist. Another YA book series began with the publication of Steelheart on September 24, 2013.”


I had the pleasure of meeting Brandon at a Mysterious Galaxy Books book signing. I am a huge fan of his Mistborn series. Brandon’s answers below are a transcription from audio he recorded specifically for this interview.

Tell us about your writing process.

I am an outliner. I like to have books with explosive endings, and to manage this—for me—I need to know what is going to happen in the story. I generally plot my books backward, starting my outline with the ending, then I work my way forward. When I write, I go the other direction.

Henry: Well, your technique works, even if it flips the Cheshire Cat’s advice on its head. Keep it up, sir!

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where,” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat. — Alice in Wonderland

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Practice. Don’t worry about anything other than finding time to write—then spend that time on your stories. Publishing shouldn’t worry you; nothing should. Just practice.

Henry: Indeed, I cannot underscore enough the value of belonging to a good critique group. I would also offer up Brandon’s Laws (again from Wikipedia):

“Sanderson’s First Law is that “An author’s ability to solve conflict satisfactorily with magic is directly proportional to how well the reader understands said magic.” While originally created as a rule for magic systems in fantasy novels, Sanderson has specified that this law need not apply just to fantasy, but is also applicable to science fiction. This Law was originally defined in Sanderson’s online essay “Sanderson’s First Law”. In the essay he qualifies the two extremes of design as being:

1. Magic/technology has well defined rules that the audience understands. As a result, one can use this to solve conflict more easily as the capabilities are cleanly defined. Sanderson classifies this as “Hard Magic”. C.L. Wilson in her essay “Worldbuilding 101 – Making Magic” advocated this method of creation, stating, “…create your rules, then follow them.”

2. Magic/technology has unclear or vague rules, or none at all. This allows for a greater sense of wonder to be attained for the reader, but the ability to solve problems without resorting to deus ex machina decreases. Sanderson classifies this as “Soft Magic”. Lawrence Watt-Evans specifically advised “The trick is to be a benevolent and consistent deity, not one who pulls miracles out of a hat as needed”

Sanderson’s Second Law is “Limitations > Powers”, that a character’s weaknesses are more interesting than his or her abilities. It was initially set down in Episode 14 of the podcast Writing Excuses. John Brown, likewise looked to Sanderson’s work in his own essay involving magic systems, noting “What are the ramifications and conflicts of using it?” Patricia Wrede likewise noted several issues on this topic ranging from magic suppressing other technologies, to how a magic might affect farming. In explaining the second law, Sanderson references the magic system of Superman, claiming that Superman’s powers are not what make him interesting, but his limits, specifically his vulnerability to kryptonite and the code of ethics he received from his parents.

Sanderson’s Third Law is that a writer should “Expand what you already have before you add something new.”

Sanderson’s Last Law is that a good magic system should be interconnected with the world around it. Sanderson points out that magic does not take place in a vacuum. It is related to the ecology, religion, economics, warfare, and politics of the world it inhabits. The job of the author is to think farther than the reader about the ramifications of the magic system. If magic can turn mud into diamonds, that has an effect on the value of diamonds. Sanderson states that readers of genre fiction are interested not just in the magic system but how the world and characters will be different because of the magic. “

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

What power I would choose depends on how rational my brain is that day. It makes the most sense to have Wolverine’s regenerative powers. At the same time, it’s not like I’m jumping off cliffs or getting into fights. So I probably wouldn’t do much with this power. But in the back of my mind, there’s a part of me that says, “Boy, would I really love to be able to fly!” Which is why a lot of the magic systems in my books wind up dealing with people having powers that let them soar in the air.

Henry: I would have bet big money you’d have chosen Allomancy as your superpower! For those unfortunate souls who haven’t yet read Mistborn, Allomancy allows people to “burn” (metabolize metals in the body for magical powers) ingested metals, thereby enhancing various physical and mental capacities. Burning iron enables the Allomancer to pull on metals. Burning steel enables pushing. Burning copper hides Allomancers from others, while burning bronze reveals them. Burning zinc enflames emotions, while burning brass dampens emotions. Burning tin enhances the senses, while burning pewter enhances strength and toughness.

Brandon’s Mistborn Allomancers cleverly use a combination of burning iron and steel to effectively fly. ‘Nuff said.

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

First would be Robert Jordan, easily, because I would like to question him about the things he wanted to do with the Wheel of Time that he didn’t leave us notes on and get answers to the questions that he didn’t leave us answers for. Then I would pick Terry Pratchett because I’ve seen him at conventions and he seems like a blast. After that, probably Moses. I’d have to get an interpreter, but hanging out with Moses would be pretty awesome, and I would have a lot of questions for him as well.

Henry: Great choices (and what an honor for you to be chosen to complete Robert Jordan’s work). And kudos for remembering you’d need an interpreter for Moses. Can you imagine how frustrating it would be to have Moses over for dinner, but not be able to converse with him? I’m guessing dinner would include matzoh and quail.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

Wow! What a fantastic question! The problem is I think that everyone in my position is going to say dragon. Many of us got started in fantasy by reading books about dragons, so there’s a special place for cool dragons in a fantasy writer’s heart. For example, Anne McCaffrey’s books are part of what pulled me into fantasy in the first place, so I’d have to take the cliched route and say dragons, but I would specifically pick her dragons.

Henry: Dragon is a go-to answer, but we’ve certainly had others. No question, dragons are an oldie, but a goodie. McCaffrey’s dragons were far more user-friendly than Tolkien’s Smaug and Glaurung.

This interview is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

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LEGO Architecture Studio Event in Oceanside, CA

Calling All Architecture & Adult LEGO® Fans! Barnes & Noble Oceanside to host first-ever, exclusive LEGO Architecture Studio event on July 26, 2013. The free celebration features David Parker, Architecture Professor, MiraCosta College as guest speaker.

Barnes & Noble, Inc., the leading retailer of content, digital media and educational products, today announced that the Barnes & Noble store in Oceanside will host its first-ever LEGO Architecture event in celebration of LEGO’s new launch, LEGO Architecture Studio, on Friday, July 26, 2013, at 6 p.m at 2615 Vista Way, Oceanside, CA 92054.

The LEGO Architecture Studio event features local Architecture Professor, David Parker from MiraCosta College discussing, facilitating and demonstrating key aspects of the design process in architecture using LEGO bricks to educate and inspire. Participants will have the opportunity to reference the LEGO 250 guide book, experiment and create original architectural designs with more than 1,200 monochromatic building pieces, and learn a few architectural concepts such as scale, mass and density, symmetry, modules and repetition, space and section and surface.

During the event the participants will have an opportunity to build with LEGO Architecture Studio and demonstrate how one can explore the design process in architecture through a hands-on exercise building exercise. The event will focus on what the main stages of the architectural process are, from defining your project, gathering inspiration, and exploration of the context, to researching and developing your concept. Participants will build as a team and as individuals.

Additionally, the store will offer architecture fans the first look at a new LEGO Architecture product that can only be found for sale in Barnes & Noble and LEGO brand outlets from July 25-28.

“This event is perfect for anyone interested in visual design and the important and profound role design plays in our communities. Aspiring architects, design enthusiasts and LEGO fans will have a hands-on opportunity to explore concepts and discover new insights by constructing 3D models,” said Kathleen Campisano, Vice President, Toys & Games, Barnes & Noble, Inc. “Barnes & Noble is excited to partner with LEGO to continue the world-wide conversation and collaborative nature of architectural design through these engaging and fun events.”

The LEGO Architecture Studio event is free and open to the public. Space is limited for each event.

*Architect availability subject to change without notice.

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Interview with ‘Schrodinger’s Gat’ YA author Rob Kroese

Robert Kroese is the author of several humorous fantasy novels, including ‘Mercury Falls’ and ‘Disenchanted’. His latest novel is ‘Schrodinger’s Gat’, a “quantum physics noir thriller.” He has graciously agreed to talk with us about his books.


For what audience do you write?

I write for anybody who can understand dependent clauses and doesn’t mind occasional profanity. Most of my books are classified as “science fiction” or “fantasy,” but they span all sorts of subjects, from religion and history to quantum physics.

Henry: That give me an idea for a sci-fi picture book, ‘The Little Quark That Could’.

Tell us about your latest book

In my ongoing effort to stymie publishers trying to figure out how to classify my novels, Schrodinger’s Gat is a thriller that relies heavily on the principles of quantum mechanics. It’s sort of a philosophical sci-fi noir thriller.

Henry: I too am working on a book that crosses boundaries – a sci-fi coffee table book.

What will readers will get from the book?

I think there’s a common misconception that science has somehow replaced religion — that science is somehow more certain and reliable than philosophy and other modes of thought. I’d be thrilled if I could get a few people to question that idea.

Henry: While I don’t see any conflict between being scientific and spiritual, I do prefer that my car be engineered by people that understand the laws of physics. 🙂

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

Probably deciding which ideas are worth pursuing, and which ones I need to let go.

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

It’s essential that you be excited about what you write. If you’re an aspiring novelist, write the novel you want to read.

What’s been a memorable experience you’ve had as a writer?

Last year at this time I was in London, speaking at a conference about self-publishing. That was pretty awesome.

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?


Henry: Brevity is the soul of wit.

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

I choose not to answer this question to protect those close to me.

Henry: Ah, so your superpower is discretion.

If you could have three authors (alive or dead) over for dinner, who would it be?

Thomas Jefferson, Kurt Vonnegut and Mark Twain.

Henry: Nice combination. This is the literary equivalent of pairing wines with food.

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

The Babel fish, from the ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’. Such an ingenious idea. I wish I’d thought of it.

Henry: For those who haven’t read the book, Wikipedia helpfully summarizes. “The Babel fish is small, yellow, leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the universe. It feeds on brain wave energy, absorbing all unconscious frequencies and then excreting telepathically a matrix formed from the conscious frequencies and nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain, the practical upshot of which is that if you stick one in your ear, you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language: the speech you hear decodes the brain wave matrix.”
It is a universal translator that neatly crosses the language divide between any species. The book points out that the Babel fish could not possibly have developed naturally, and therefore it both proves and disproves the existence of God.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

What is this “not writing” you speak of?

Henry: So, the answer is “sleeping”.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

“He lived.”

Henry: A highly attainable, if not ambitious, goal. Well played, sir.

Where can readers find your work?

Amazon, Amazon, Amazon. My publisher is owned by Amazon, and a lot of bookstores have apparently decided they can punish Amazon by not stocking books they publish. In reality, they’re only hurting readers and writers, but I guess it helps them feel like they’re doing something against the big, bad Internet giant. So the short answer is: the easiest place to get my books is Amazon.com.

This article is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.