Dragon Tomb - CoverNormally, I try not to gloat too much about the perks of being an author, but I’m gonna make an exception in this case. Because not only do I have an advance review copy of Patrick Samphire‘s first novel, Secrets of the Dragon Tomb [Amazon | B&N | IndieBound], I have the very first copy the author ever autographed. So I’m really hoping Samphire becomes the next J. K. Rowling, because when he does, I can auction this book on eBay and buy myself a nice mansion.

And you know, also because Samphire is a nice guy, and it’s a good book, and all that.

The official publisher’s description is:

Mars in 1816 is a world of high society, deadly danger, and strange clockwork machines. Pterodactyls glide through the sky, automatic servants hand out sandwiches at elegant garden parties, and in the north, the great dragon tombs hide marvels of Ancient Martian technology.

Twelve-year-old Edward Sullivan has always dreamed of becoming a spy like the ones he reads of in his favorite sci-fi magazine, Thrilling Martian Tales. Instead, he spends his days keeping his eccentric family from complete disaster … that is, until the villainous archaeologist Sir Titus Dane kidnaps Edward’s parents as part of a scheme to loot an undiscovered dragon tomb. Edward sets out on a perilous journey to save his parents and protect the dragon tombs in the process. Turns out spywork is a bit more challenging than he had imagined….

I read this one to my 10-year-old son, who goes by Jackson on the internet. So I invited him to help me review it. My questions are in bold, followed by his responses.

In your words, what is this book about?

The book is about the family, and the father is an inventor. At the beginning of the book, they run into their cousin Freddie who stole a map to a secret dragon tomb which is a tomb of the ancient Martian emperors. By the way, this is all on Mars, and it’s set in an alternate past, not an alternate future. He stole it from Sir Titus Dane, who had discovered multiple dragon tombs before, but it was proven that he stole the locations, and he actually didn’t find them. Sir Titus Dane wants to use their father’s invention, the water abacus, to decode the dragon map and find the tomb and get rich. He kidnaps their father, mother, and sister Jane. So the brother, sister, and other sister, and cousin Freddie, have to find Sir Titus and stop him. Also, Freddie is [SPOILER], and that’s pretty cool!

What did you like best about it?

I liked the funny bits, and a lot of stuff in it, like the adventure.

Who was your favorite character, and why?

Either Edward or Freddie. They’re both really cool. And Putty is pretty cool too, because she just knows absolutely everything about technology and she’s just a little kid.

What do you think about a twelve-year-old (Edward) setting out to save his family?

It was kind of like Harry Potter, but with robots instead of magic. [Note from Jim: Jackson just finished reading the Harry Potter books, so they’re on his mind a lot these days.]

Were there any parts you didn’t like?

Not really, except for the ancient Martian empire killing dragons when their owners died. I didn’t really like that, because that’s mean to the dragons.

What would be the coolest thing about visiting this Mars?

Seeing the dragons in the museums.

Who should read this book?

I think anyone who likes science fiction books should read it. Probably a lot of my friends would like it.

Do you want to read the next book in the series?


The book is aimed at younger readers like Jackson, but I enjoyed it too. Like Jackson said, there’s plenty of action, and a cast of young, smart, determined protagonists. It’s not a book that takes itself too seriously — one of the characters is named Doctor Blood. It’s more of an old-fashioned pulp-style adventure, but without the old-fashioned sexism and racism that often went with them.

Everything wraps up rather well at the end, but with plenty of possibility for the next books. I have a few guesses about what might happen next, but we’ll wait and see when book two comes out.

Secrets of the Dragon Tomb hits bookshelves, both real and virtual, on January 12, 2016. You can read an excerpt on the publisher’s website.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Got home from ICON late on Sunday. We lost power at the house a few hours later. Yesterday was blackout day. Around bedtime, we got the animals to heated homes, loaded the kids into the van, and headed over to my father-in-laws’ house for the night. Approximately 30 seconds after we settled in there, we discovered that the power was back on at our house.

So I’m behind on pretty much everything.

I will say I had a blast at ICON. Thank you to everyone who worked to make the con happen, and to the delightful guests of honor – it was a pleasure getting to hang out with you all!

Also, check out the pics from Windycon, including my Charlie Brown: Monster Hunter costume :-) Huge thanks to Ken Beach and Bruce Medic, the two photographers who worked the con. They also took a few shots of me and Jackson together, which was awesome.

I’ve posted three of their pictures below, or you can see everything at http://www.squirrelsnest.org/windycon/.

Read the rest of this entry » )

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

The eight-year-old and I just finished A. C. Crispin‘s book Starbridge [Amazon | B&N | Kobo]. I read this series a long time ago and remembered enjoying them a lot. We’ve read some fantasy to Jackson, including my goblin books, but this was the first science fiction novel I read to him. I wasn’t sure he’d like it, but I was hoping…

I admit to skimming over a few of the romance/smooching scenes, because eight-year-old interests and attention span. And I’m sure I mangled some of the alien names, but fortunately, Jackson didn’t know.

The best thing I can say about the experience is that when we got done, Jackson immediately asked if we could read book two next.

What follows is his review, prompted by my questions.

What is this book about?

It’s about a girl named Mahree and a boy named Rob and an alien named Dhurrrkk’ who go out to save a bunch of different alien species, including the humans.  It also has Simiu (dog species) and Mizari and Chhhh-kk-tu, and those are only the ones I can remember right now. I think there are 12 kinds of species in that book. And one is so easily frightened that seeing a different species can make it die!

What were the most exciting parts of the story?

I think the most exciting part was when Dhurrrkk’ challenged that other Simiu to a death-challenge.

Who was your favorite character, and why?

I liked Dhurrrkk’ because, well, I can’t really describe it. I liked how he acted. Like at the beginning when Mahree was telling him about human cultures, and when she made a joke, and he was like huh? I don’t understand. What is a joke? And then he tried to make a joke later.

Do you think it would be cool to meet other aliens? What would you like about it?

Yes! Because I’d be able to meet new species and then I’d probably be able to get a super high-tech sword or something like that.

A lot of the characters talk about how important communication is. Do you think they’re right?

Yes, I think they’re right. If you can’t communicate, then pretty much everyone will get into a bunch of fights. Jackson then demonstrated various fight moves, including fake-punching himself in the face.

Mahree made a dangerous decision to try to communicate better, partly because she wanted to be special. Do you think she made the right decision? Would you do something like that?

No, because it almost killed her.

Did you like the ending?


Who should read this book?


Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

My wife has been reading the goblin books to my eight-year-old son. Earlier this week, they finished the final book in the trilogy, Goblin War [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy]. I admit, I’m a little sad. This has been an amazing thing to watch. Toward the end, I found myself sneaking over to the couch to listen to my wife read and watch Jackson’s reactions. When I tucked him in at night, we’d talk about the latest chapter and what he thought might happen next.

But then I realized it’s not quite over! I’ve got five goblin short stories they can read, too! We started in on “Goblin Lullaby,” which has already led to some diaper-related laughter :-)

In the meantime, here are Jackson’s thoughts on Goblin War, as transcribed by me.

What is Goblin War about?

It’s about Jig and how he and Shadowstar have to defeat Billa and her god Issa. Relka, who was stabbed in the belly by Jig in Goblin Hero, became obsessed with Jig and Shadowstar. And Darnak comes back, because Theodore got the Rod of Creation. He used it to [SPOILER]!

Who are your favorite characters, and why?

Jig, because he’s the main character. And Tymalous Shadowstar, the other main character. I like them.

What about the other characters?

Yeah, I liked them too. I really liked how you made Noc and Issa.

What was the best part of the story?

I can’t decide. It’s too good!

Okay, what were some of the best parts?

I liked when it showed about Jig as a baby.

Let’s see… Don’t type that. Daddy!

I liked when Jig, Relka, and Trok had to clean the wolf pen. Smelly (one of the wolves) rolled around in the poop!

Were there any parts you didn’t like?


What’s the best book, Goblin Quest, Goblin Hero, or Goblin War?

Goblin War.

Who should read this book?


I always say that, because I really like them.

What do you think will happen to Jig and the goblins next?

I think that more characters will come back, either Veka or Riana.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

About a month ago, I posted my son’s review of Goblin Quest [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] here.

He and my wife finished reading Goblin Hero [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] last night, so I asked him to share his thoughts again. I was nervous, because he had said the first chapter was kind of slow. I also introduced a second point of view character in this book, and he didn’t really like Veka’s chapters, at least in the beginning. But by the end, he seemed to be really enjoying the story. Even the gross bits. (Glowing pee!!!)

Jackson would like everyone to know that there are SPOILERS in his review.

What is Goblin Hero about?

It’s about Jig, who has to kill the pixie queen, and Veka, who wants to be a hero, but she can’t really. None of the things that she did were in her book* except [SPOILER ALERT!] slaying a dragon, and that wasn’t really direct, but I guess a giant flying snake is kind of like a dragon.

*The Path of the Hero, Wizard’s Ed., by Josca. It’s a book Veka carries around that supposedly tells her how to become a hero. Naturally, shenanigans ensue.

Who is your favorite character?

I like Braf, but he’s not my favorite. He’s funny, and I like what he did to avoid getting killed by the other goblins. He just plays dumb. Jig is my favorite. He was in the last book. Of course, in the last book, most of the people were bad guys, and they were treating Jig like a slave. The only two good guys in Goblin Quest were Jig and Riana.

What about the other characters?

I liked them. Veka, well, I liked her, but what she was doing to try to help the pixies, I didn’t like that. I think you made more Veka chapters than there were Jig chapters. Jig chapters were my favorite.

What was the best part of the story?

The best part was when Jig found out [SPOILER ALERT!] that he couldn’t get affected by the pixie queen because he would be looking at her through two steel circles*, and steel is what the pixies call death metal. It’s the only thing powerful enough to kill a pixie!

*Jig’s spectacles.

Were there any parts you didn’t like?

There were some chapters I didn’t really like, but I don’t really remember them.

Which is better, Goblin Quest or Goblin Hero?

I can’t pick.

Who should read this book?


What do you think is going to happen in Goblin War?

I do not know. I’d like to see Riana coming back in her [SPOILER ALERT!] dragonchild form.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

A week or so back, my wife sat down and started reading Goblin Quest [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] to my son Jackson. To be honest, this made me nervous. I wrote this book more than a decade ago, and while some people have loved it, no book works for everyone. What if he didn’t like it? What if he didn’t get the humor? What if it was just too old for him?

Basically, I was more worried about what my seven-year-old boy thought of my book than I was about what my editor thought of the Codex Born draft.

I’m happy to say he loved it. Night after night when I put him to bed, he’d ask me questions about the goblins and the hobgoblins and the dragon, and told me what he thought would happen next. He even guessed where the Rod of Creation would be found. The first time the forgotten god Tymalous Shadowstar spoke to Jig the goblin, Jackson literally gasped. He giggled when Smudge set various people and things on fire. He worried about Riana and Jig, and got mad at the adventurers for how they treated Jig.

I’ve gotten some great reviews for this book. Wil Wheaton called it “too f***ing cool for words.” Ed Greenwood loved it. Fans have made crocheted goblins and gotten tattoos of Jig or Smudge.

But this review is at the top of my list. Watching and listening to his reactions as my wife read the story has been one of the best experiences in almost 20 years of writing.

With that said, let’s find out what he thought of the book.

What is Goblin Quest about?

You should know that. You wrote it!

Okay, fine. What do you think Goblin Quest is about?

I think it’s about the first goblin that goes on an adventure. Jig was on muck duty, and then Porak and the rest of his patrol took him out and sent him ahead so they could play games and not technically abandon their duties. But they really did abandon their duties, but Jig didn’t. He did their duties for them, and he got captured by a group of adventurers that were on a quest to find the Rod of Creation.

Who was your favorite character?

Jig, because he’s he main character, and I think he’s pretty cool.

What did you think of the other characters?

I liked it when Jig was talking to the adventurers in English, but then he talked to the other goblins in Goblin, except that he forgot that Darnak could speak Goblin. Uh oh…

What was the best part of the story?

For me, it was when they found out that [SPOILER ABOUT THE ROD OF CREATION].

Were there any parts you didn’t like, or that you thought were too scary?

I didn’t like when Riana was picking one of the Necromancer’s locks and it started to turn her into one of the walking corpses, a zombie, basically. It was scary.

Who do you think should read this book?


What are you and Mama going to read next?

Goblin Hero!

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

For months, we’ve been reading the Harry Potter books to our kids every night before bed. They get through a book, and then they watch the movie. (And then they talk about all the things that got left out or changed.)

My son Jackson is particularly into Harry Potter right now. He dressed up as Harry Potter for Halloween, had a Harry Potter themed birthday party, and recently created a book poster about Harry Potter for a school project. He also routinely casts spells around the house. (We’ve learned to use this to our advantage when we want him to come here. “Accio Jackson” works great.”)

They’ve finished the first six books/movies and are starting number seven, and I figured I’d ask him about his thoughts so far. What follows is all his words, with any comments from me in parentheses.

What are the Harry Potter books about?

It’s about Harry, Ron and Hermione trying to kill Voldemort. Voldemort is the bad guy. But Harry does need some help from Ron and Hermione.

What’s your favorite Harry Potter book?

The Sorcerer’s Stone, because it’s the very first one. That’s the most exciting book. And because the only part that’s scary is the last part.

You don’t like the scary parts?

Well, I kind of do and I kind of don’t. In most of the scary parts, Harry’s battling Voldemort or one of the Death-Eaters. It’s scary and exciting. But sometimes some of the good guys die, and I don’t like that.

What was your least favorite book?

I think it was the fourth book, because the editor didn’t do much! (This answer makes me laugh, but it’s possible he might have picked up this particular opinion from me and my wife…)

Who is your favorite character?

Harry Potter! (To truly appreciate this answer, you’d have to imagine the “Duh, Dad!” tone and expression.)

What do you think about the romance, like Ron and Hermione, or Harry and Ginny?

::Laughs:: I like them. Just because.

Which is better, the books or the movies?

The books. Because they got the idea for the movies from the books. Plus, in the movies, sometimes they fast forwarded through a bunch of parts, like in the third movie they fast forwarded through almost all of it! Like one minute you’re watching Harry, Ron, and Hermione and then poof! They find out that Serious, Pettigrew, and James are animaguses!

(I love this answer!)

What do you think about Snape?

I don’t like him! He killed Dumbledore! (I’m very interested to see what the kids think by the end of book seven.)

Who’s your favorite character who isn’t Harry Potter?

Ron, because he was Harry’s first friend.

What would you do if you were a wizard?

I’d probably decide to be an auror and fight Death-Eaters!

Who do you think should read these books?


What is it about these books that everyone likes so much?

Because there’s a bunch of magic. Even if something is a mile away, just point your wand in the right direction and say Accio, and it comes to you. Unless it’s protected.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


My six-year-old and I just finished reading the fourth Oz book: Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. He’s still enjoying the series, and we did our review together about ten minutes after we closed the book.

As with his previous reviews, I asked Jackson some questions, but everything that follows is his own words (except for my italicized comments, which will be in parentheses).


First Dorothy was at Hugson’s Ranch, but then the earthquake brought them inside of the world. It’s a good thing that they didn’t fall to the core! Then they would die. So they fell a little , and while they were there they were trapped in a mountain and it had glass rocks because everything was glass there. And they have a bunch of colored suns. And there’s a trick that the Wizard performed to make two suns that they’d never seen before, with lanterns!

Then they went to a higher layer because they were climbing the mountain, where everything but them was invisible, and the wizard killed an invisible bear! And then they got into the buggy and rowed up the river away from the bears to where the wooden gargoyles lived, and everything was wooden! And then when they were locked up they saw another rock so they went in there and met some dragonettes. They should be called dragons, but they say that they’re too young. And then they went the wrong way, but Dorothy made the signal, and then they were in Oz. And a couple of chapters later, everybody went home. (Plotwise, the ending of this one did not impress me. -Jim)

But when Zeb was home, his uncle asked where in the world he’s been, and Zeb said he was in the world!  That was funny, wasn’t it?

The best part was when they saw the dragonettes. I thought it was funny when the eyes were flashing yellow. I think it was silly.

I didn’t like the part when they were saying that Eureka (Dorothy’s kitten) ate the piggy. Well, she tried to actually, but she couldn’t because it fell into a vase. And then the Tin Woodman had to open the vase. I didn’t like it because they said Eureka was going to die. I don’t like it when people say other people are going to die.

I think my favorite character was the piggies. They were the ones who were safe from the bears. They were invisible, so the bears couldn’t see them! When I pictured them in my head with my mind’s eye, they looked cute! Teeny tiny pigs.

I think the best Oz book is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. And by the way, how many of you read that book from my first interview? I want to know!

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


My son’s IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting was last week. This was his second IEP, and I wasn’t able to make it to the meeting. So I came home and read through the paperwork, reviewing the plans and ideas for next year, when he’ll be in first grade.

Overall, his school has been wonderful. They confirmed our gut feeling about his autism last year. They tested and found that he was “high-functioning,” but definitely on the ASD scale. They’ve been more than willing to work with us and with him. I’m very happy with everything they’ve done and continue to do for my son.

But as I was reading through the IEP paperwork, I came to the end where it said, “J will have full involvment [sic] and progress in the general education curriculum with non-disabled students…”

With non-disabled students. That line hit me hard, and it pissed me off.

I don’t think of my son as disabled, but the state of Michigan does. I work at an education department. We collect student data for the state, including disability information. Autism Spectrum Disorder is code 15 in the Primary Disability Field of the Special Education Component in the Michigan Student Data System.

It’s not the school’s fault. They’re using standard terminology. And I’m left wondering whether my angry reaction is my own problem, a kind of denial over wanting my son to be “normal,” whatever that means.

I don’t think so … I just don’t think he’s disabled. Dis- is a prefix implying negation or lack, and believe me, this boy has no lack of ability. Strengths and weaknesses, definitely. But he’s not unable to function.

Differently able, maybe. Which I’m sure makes some readers roll their eyes at the “political correctness” of the phrase. But words matter to me, both as J’s father and as a writer, and “disabled” feels like the wrong word.

And yet … there are things he’s unable to do. Nothing that interferes with his day-to-day functioning, but you should see him when I’m reading him the Oz books. The boy cannot hold still. It’s a stimulation issue. The other night, he wiggled so much he fell off the couch. (There was much giggling after this.)

But this doesn’t prevent us from reading the books. It doesn’t stop him from going to school, playing with his friends, or roughhousing with Daddy. Are there challenges? Sometimes, yes. Is he “disabled?” Not by my definition.

I meant what I said about how great the school has been. I know this wasn’t intended as any sort of slight against my son. Just like I know my coworker doesn’t mean anything by it when she dismisses things as “retarded.”

But words matter. They shape how we think about things. How we think about people. I don’t think “disabled” is a bad word.

It’s just the wrong word.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


After my six-year-old son Jackson and I finished reading Ozma of Oz, the third Oz book, my wife and I decided to rent of the second Oz movie. I remembered not being as happy with Return to Oz (it lost the fun and wonder of the first movie), but I wanted to see what Jackson thought seeing characters like Jack Pumpkinhead and Tik Tok on the screen.

As with his previous reviews, what follows are Jackson’s own words, with my comments and questions in italics.


In the book they went to Ev. The Nome King captured the royal family of Ev. There was only one person left to rule, a princess. She had more than one head. But there was one of her heads that liked to do bad things.

I liked that in the movie they made it in Oz still instead of bringing it to somewhere else.  Instead of washing up on the beach, they washed up in the Deadly Desert, and they had to step on Nomes to get across. (Nomes can move to anything that’s stone!)

In the movie everybody turned  to stone, and the princess wasn’t the princess of Ev with the different heads, it was Mombi!

I didn’t like it (in the movie) that the Nome King took over the Emerald City and turned everybody to stone, and Mombi took all those heads from the dancing girls, and then they were headless. The wheelers looked really scary. In the book Tik Tok knew they were just playing to make people be scared of them, but they couldn’t harm anybody because they just had wheels.

So what did you like about the movie?

I liked that they had the ruby slippers back, because they don’t have to be lost forever, so Dorothy can get back to Kansas.

I liked the ending. Actually, the second movie, I thought the cowardly lion looked more like a lion. The first movie didn’t look at all like a lion. But why did they make the Tin Woodman so thin? He was a Thin Woodman!

At the end, Tik Tok looked like C3PO because they polished him. That was silly.

I didn’t like the doctors. They weren’t doing the right thing. They were toasting the patients’ brains! But luckily they got arrested.

What did you like about the book?

I like the Nome King in the book better, because  in the book he just sent out his army to fight, and then the Scarecrow got out his eggs and threw them at the Nome King. But in the movie, he came into the ornament room and started eating them! But he only got part of the Gump, and when he tried to eat Jack Pumpkinhead, Billina laid an egg in Jack Pumpkinhead’s head, and the egg went into his (the Nome King’s) mouth and he crumpled into pieces!

I liked that that they freed the royal family by Billina guessing the ornaments right. I liked that everybody was free. Billina was the last one to free everybody.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


My son and I just finished reading The Marvelous Land of Oz, the second of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books. One of Jackson’s first questions after we finished was whether we were going to do another review :-)

Just like last time, I asked questions to guide the review, but what follows (except for my italicized comments) are entirely his own words.


The Army of Revolt took over the Emerald City. The big mission in The Marvelous Land of Oz is to find Ozma and make her the rightful Queen of the Emerald City. The characters are Tip, Jack Pumpkinhead, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, the Woggle-Bug, and the Gump. The Gump is made out of a broom, a head, sofas, and palm leaves that the Tin Woodman cut and could have gotten killed seven times and imprisoned for life!

This is the first Oz book where people from Oz go outside of the land of Oz. They end up in a jackdaws’ nest, and the Scarecrow loses his straw because he uses it to protect Jack Pumpkinhead and the Woggle-Bug. He has to get stuffed with money!

Several people had warned me about reading this book because of the boy turning into a girl, saying this could be upsetting. So I asked Jackson what he thought about the ending.

I really wanted to see how Princess Ozma got hidden, and she wasn’t even hidden! She was in the body of a boy named Tip. I was surprised. I liked that Tip was Ozma because then the Sawhorse and Jack Pumpkinhead were still able to be in the Emerald City. … ! (Punctuation dictated by Jackson.)

I didn’t like the part where Mombi said she was going to turn Tip into a marble statue and make Jack Pumpkinhead work for her. I didn’t like the Army of Revolt because they took over the Emerald City.

I thought in the beginning Tip was a little mean because he wanted to scare Mombi, but in the end he was nicer. He punished the bad guys and let the Sawhorse and Jack Pumpkinhead stay.

I like both books the same. Everybody should read them.

Below: Jackson’s illustration of The Scarecrow in the Jackdaws’ nest.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


My son Jackson and I just finished reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, so I asked if he’d do a review I could share with my readers here. I asked some questions to help him along, but everything that follows (except my italicized comments) is his own words.

There are spoilers, but given that the book is more than a century old, I’m not going to worry about putting anything behind a cut.


The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is about a girl named Dorothy who is carried by a tornado to the land of Oz and then meets a Scarecrow, a Cowardly Lion, and a Tin Woodman, and kills both the wicked witches. And then she has to get back to Kansas but it turns out that the Wizard of Oz, he isn’t even a  wizard! He’s just a humbug who was carried by a balloon when he was a balloonist.

What I don’t like is that the winged monkeys didn’t give a second chance to Dorothy (the second time she summoned them)  since they couldn’t go out of the Land of Oz. (Jackson is big on fairness.) And I don’t like the Hammer-head Slinky-neck guys, when they had to use their last time to call the monkeys. And I don’t like when the silver shoes come off in the desert, because then Dorothy can’t see Oz again!

Here’s what I did like. Okay, I like that they made the Lion the king of the beasts and I also like that the Wicked Witch that they were going to kill had all those guys, because then I found out that there were black bees! I liked the black bees because I used to not know that there were such things as black bees and now I found out.

I liked at the ending that Dorothy’s companions came to rule over them. The lion ruled over the beasts after he killed the spider thing, and the Scarecrow ruled over the land of Oz, and the Tin Woodman ruled over the Winkies.

There’s only one thing that surprised me — that the Hammer-Heads could shoot their heads out with their necks; they had Slinky-necks!

Oz helped me go to sleep because then I had other things to think about and see in my mind instead of scary things so I didn’t wake up and have to open my eyes … ! . (Punctuation dictated by Jackson.)

I like the book and the movie both, because in the book there were surprise chapters, and in the movie they gave her ruby slippers, and I liked the ruby slippers better than silver shoes.

I think everybody should read this book because it’s really fun.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

jimhines: (Default)
( May. 19th, 2011 09:30 am)

I have looked at so many fantasy art images this week that tiny dragons have burned themselves into my retinas. The original piece I had been looking at for the Kitemaster collection is by Jenna Vincent. Click the thumbnail for a larger view, and check out some of her other work while you’re there.

This pic doesn’t actually match the details of the story “Kitemaster,” but I think it captures the whimsical tone of the collection.

Sadly for me, this was a personal commission, and the rights weren’t available. But I wanted to link y’all to her site and this pic anyway, ’cause I like it.

I had been hoping to get the rights to use a completed piece, because I’m a cheap bastard and don’t have the budget most New York publishers do, but I’m also very picky. At this point, I’ve e-mailed another artist about doing a cover image on commission, and we’ll see what happens.

Once again, this process is giving me new reasons to appreciate my publisher. I’m sure they’ve got a Rolodex of potential artists ready to go, but taking the time to go through that list, match up the artist’s style to the book in question, negotiate the work … it’s more hours of behind-the-scene work that I don’t have to worry about, freeing me to do more important things like catch the season finales of Criminal Minds and Castle.


On a totally different note, I’ve been reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to my six-year-old, and he’s loving it. So am I. This is a big book for him, and I’m reading it from my iPhone, so there are no pictures. But we go through 2-3 chapters every night, and he’s already told me he wants to read the second book when we’re done.

(He was especially impressed when I mentioned that a friend of mine had actually written two three Oz books. That was much cooler than those goblin and princess books Daddy writes.)

I love that he’ll put the Nintendo DS down and hurry to get ready for bed so we can read. I love that he talks about the book, about the golden cap that controls the flying monkeys and the Tin Woodman’s heart and whether it would be better to have a brain or a heart. I love that his big sister stopped reading her own book last night to listen.

I want to say something like, “Behold the power of books,” but that would be cheesy. It’s true though. I don’t know how long it will last, but for now, we’re spending our evenings on the couch together, me reading and scrolling through the pages on my phone while he wiggles and squirms and listens, and it’s wonderful.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


I’ve had the iPhone 4, hereafter known as Shinynewphone, for a few months now.  I figured it was time to describe the pros and cons of the new toy.  Overall, I’m quite happy.  Details beneath the cut, along with a sample photo and a video of my son singing Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.

Read the rest of this entry » )

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

During the sexual harassment discussion, one commenter said certain elements of SF/F fandom simply lack social graces, and you’re going to run into these drooling Asperger types.  It’s not their fault. All you can really do is avoid them and try to warn others.

I’m not linking to the comment, because several people have already confronted the commenter (including an excellent post by Mrissa here).  I’m certain it wasn’t intended to be hurtful.  It’s the kind of comment I’ve heard many times, and I know it’s not malicious.

But it hurts.

I’m having a hard time being my normal, “reasonable” self about this.  My son was diagnosed with Asperger’s early this year.  He’s high-functioning, but there was no question about the diagnosis.  It’s been months, and I’m still adjusting and learning.  But I know one thing — my son is Fucking Awesome.

Let me show you one example of what Asperger’s looks like:

That’s my son Jackson in his Halloween costume, vanquishing one of our neighbors.  (Everyone knows the gorilla is the natural enemy of the Italian plumber, right?)

Jackson does struggle socially.  I remember picking him up from preschool last year, asking how his day went, and fighting tears when he said, “Nobody wants to play with me.”  Most days I’d find him playing by himself in a corner. He has meltdowns when routines get broken without warning.  He can also be overly physical and affectionate sometimes, and we’ve had to work with him on that, but he’s learning where the boundaries are.

He struggles physically as well.  He’s 5 and a half, and still can’t ride a bike.  He’s in physical and occupational therapy every week.  He runs laps in the house most nights.  Lately, he’s started whipping his hands around as a form of self-stimulation.

He’s Fucking Awesome.

He’s in kindergarten now, and he’s making progress.  He’s starting to learn how to get along with other kids.  We visited some friends a few weeks ago, and he spent four hours playing with their five-year-old, with only a few minor, typical squabbles.  I don’t know how to explain how much that meant to me.

The harasser from WFC?  That was someone who knows to behave one way in public and another when he has a woman alone.  That’s someone with social awareness.  Hell, many abusers and harassers have very advanced social skills.  I remember the first time I sat in on a batterer’s group, and how terrifyingly charming these guys were.  These are not people who simply lack social skills or don’t know how to behave due to autistic spectrum disorders.

I’ve heard it before.  Cons and fandom are full of Aspies who can’t communicate save through Monty Python jokes.  Really?  Because Asperger’s Syndrome is an actual diagnosis, with fairly strict criteria that include more than simple social awkwardness.  Like sensory issues.  (Jackson sometimes asks me to squeeze him, because the physical pressure is comforting.)

I had a rough time in school.  My social skills sucked.  But I didn’t have Asperger’s.  I was just a geek.  Smart and awkward and doing my best to get through the day without having my books knocked out of my hands.

I’m not sure when or why it became “cool” for people in fandom to self-diagnose as Aspies, or to misuse that label as shorthand for the awkward, unwashed masses, but I wish it would stop.  It’s hurtful.  It reinforces attitudes and false stereotypes that make life harder for those who actually have autistic spectrum disorders.

My son has Asperger’s.  He’s not some filthy, drooling fool.  I don’t believe he’s going to grow up to become a harasser.  He’s a brilliant, energetic, loving little kid.  He remembers passages from books and movies, and can recite them word for word months later.  He loves superheroes and Mario and Transformers, and watching animated LEGO videos on YouTube.  He’s excited about coming to his first convention with his Daddy this month.

And he’s Fucking Awesome.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

jimhines: (Default)
( May. 30th, 2010 07:00 pm)

Reminder: Tomorrow is the last day to bid in Brenda Novak’s Auction for Diabetes Research.  I’ve donated an autographed copy of Stepsister Scheme and a critique of a novel chapter or short story.  Go forth and browse!  There’s a ton of great stuff up for bid.


I mentioned a few weeks ago that my son (alias: Jackson) met his school’s criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder.  We had the IEP (individualized education program), which went wonderfully.  He’ll be in a mainstream kindergarten class next year, but we spent ninety minutes talking about his behaviors and some of the things they’ll put in place to help out.  I expect next year to present new challenges, but I’m cautiously hopeful.

One thing I’ve noticed about myself: I can say Jackson is on the Autistic Spectrum.  I can say he has Aspergers Syndrome.  But I have a really hard time saying he has autism.  My brain just rebels at that point.  (I edited this paragraph slightly for clarity.)

Part of this is probably the evolving nature of the diagnosis.  When I first learned about autism, there was a clearer line between autism and Asperger’s.  My sense is that this is changing, moving more toward the broader autistic spectrum diagnosis.  Mostly though, it’s just hard for me to accept that label for my son.  One of the things I’m working on in my brain…

We’ve looked into getting services to help him over the summer.  But of course, autism isn’t covered by our insurance.  We’ve been looking into one program that has been highly recommended; ten sessions would be a total of $3000.

Three grand.  For ten sessions.

(Editorial aside: to the woman who responded to my thoughts on health care a few months back by saying I was an elitest, lazy deadbeat, please consider this a formal invitation to kiss my ass.)

We’re still looking into options and trying to figure out what he actually needs.  It’s not about “Autistic children need _______.”  It’s about “Jackson, who happens to be ASD, needs _______.”

One of those needs is to improve his hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.  Building with LEGOs seems like one way to work on that.  I’ve also started him on regular LEGO Star Wars video gaming therapy.  Now if I could only get him to stop blowing me up…

One final thought.  Jackson is very rule-oriented, which I’m told is not uncommon for children with Aspergers.  Yesterday, my wife was teaching him to play checkers.  He did quite well … and then he got his first king, at which point he announced, “But kings make their own rules!”

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

So a little while back, I was pondering how much to publicly share about family, particularly my children.  There was a reason for this.

Today we received confirmation from my son’s school that he meets their criteria for ASD — Autism Spectrum Disorder.

It’s not completely unexpected.  My wife is a practicing counselor.  I’ve got a degree in psych.  Both of us had noticed certain behavioral issues.

Jackson1 is a brilliant little kid, and he’s very high functioning.  He is who he is.  A note from the school doesn’t change that.  What it does is gives us a way to make sure he gets the help he needs in school.

Next steps are to meet with the school this afternoon, and to talk to someone about a medical diagnosis.  (If he meets the school’s criteria, the odds are very good that he’ll meet the medical criteria as well, since the schools … well, since it costs them money to provide special ed. services, they’re motivated to minimize the false positives.)

I’m still processing this, and probably will be for a very long time.

I’m not asking for advice, and I’m not currently in a space where I’m interested in hearing it.  If you decide to comment and tell me what I should do, there’s a very good chance your comment will be deleted.

He’s a good kid.  I know he’s going to be okay.  I know the rest of us will, too.  But it’s hard right now.

I don’t know where I’m going with this, so I’m going to just share a picture.

(This was from two years back.  Jackson was sick.  It’s one of my favorite pictures.)

  1. That’s the name he chose for himself for Daddy’s blog

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.



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