April 22, 2014

Salt Lake Comic Con FanXperience: KidCon 2014

Thanks to an excellent friend of mine, I ended up with a pair of tickets to SLC Comic Con. And kids under ten get in free -- hurrah! We decided all to go and just have fun.

I think this was the first conference/convention I've gone to with no aspirations of professional development. We walked the dealer's floor. We hung out at the KidCon area.

And KidCon was awesome.

There was a giant LEGO display from the Utah LEGO Users Group, including a spectacular Helm's Deep, the Orthnac, trains, the Avengers hovercraft, castles...it was fantastic. Someone else had a giant balloon sculpture. Disney princesses hosted tea parties. The Children's Museum had a booth where kids could transform painted toilet paper rolls into superhero bracers.

LEGO Orthnac
And there was great programing. The Leonardo did some science experients and explained how science was like super powers! The Hoogle zoo brought out some cool animals (owl, kestrel, snake, armadillo) and explained how animal adaptations were like super powers! There was something going on at one of the two stages about every half hour, it seemed.

The costumes were amazing, too. My kids adored all the Star Wars stuff, especially the guy with a real-sized, remote-controlled R2D2. I've never had the kids ask me to take their picture before.

I was told that this is the first time there's been kid programming at SLC Comic Con...which isn't a long wait, because this Comic Con debuted last year. Spectacularly. This year, there were more than 100,000 in attendance, making it the 3rd largest Comic Con in the nation, and the largest convention to be held in the state of Utah.

I'm glad we got to go and be a part of it. The kids are already designing costumes for next time.

April 16, 2014

Ricochet Robot Turtles

Time for a board game comparison. These two games are similar in many ways, one aimed at kiddos, one at adults.

Robot Turtles: This game is designed to sneakily teach programming skills to tots. Okay -- I was actually skeptical about the game when I first learned about it. I've seen some "educational" games that try to teach letters and numbers at the utter expense of game play. I hope my kids have fun and learn critical thinking skills with board games, so I'm aiming for a different kind of "educational".

But this game hits "fun" and "critical thinking" on the nose. The game is actually a maze  that the kids work their turtles through -- a maze that the adult (or senior child) designs every time you pull out the game. The players use their cards to "program" their turtle's movements. The Turtle Mover then follows those exact instructions, regardless of intent. Don't worry; mistakes can be rectified with use of the bug card. It was fun and refreshing to play a game where the whole point is to let them figure out how it works, instead of spending the first few games teaching rules. The game also nicely adds complexity as you get better at it. This is still a big hit at our house -- many, many programs later.

Ricochet Robot: In this game, you try to find the shortest path for the robots -- who can only move in straight lines -- to reach their targets. It's very spacial, almost maze-like, trying to use the various walls and/or other robots on the board to bounce off of just right.

There is no turn-taking. Everyone tries to solve it at the same time,  so the game plays as many people as you can fit around the board, which is nice. There's also a great catch-up mechanism. If you've solved more puzzles than anyone else, you have to focus hard to stay ahead. If you're behind, you've got a very good chance to catch up in the scoring.

Neither of these games is particularly cut-throat and they're low on player interactions. They're more like puzzles that you solve independently (Turtles) or a puzzle that you're trying to solve faster and more efficiently than the rest of the players (Robots).

But I love both of these. I love the logical planning efforts in Robot Turtles, and I love how after a few rounds of Ricochet Robots, my head either hurts or I start to get really good at it (or both). They're mind-stretching and full of spacial reasoning. Both come highly recommended.

April 14, 2014

April 12, 2014

Updates, Again

Stuff for DRIFT:

Final copyedits are in! The book's gone to the printers!

The release date has also been moved back to mid-June to give reviewers with ARCs ample time to read them. I think, overall, this will be a good thing. :)

Other Stuff:

I sold a novelette! I'll have more details later, after everything's all signed and super-official. This means that I now have three pieces of new short fiction accepted at three different magazine. They should all be out this year, I think.

I finished a novel draft! My first drafts are always horribly messy, but I'm really happy those initial thoughts are down. Editing is always fun for me. This makes for the twelfth book I've written. DRIFT was #4. I'm currently looking for a new agent, but I'm hopeful that I'll have more news on the novel-front to share sometime.