Pikachu costume

I made a pikachu costume for my son.  I used a hoodie pattern as the base, and added ears tipped with brown cloth. The hood is lined, but I left the rest as one layer to keep it from getting too bulky to wear indoors.  P1100366

I put two brown ovals on the back of the shirt for stripes.  I used black, red and white felt to make the face. The eyes are slightly smaller circles than the cheeks, and the “glint” is about 1/3 size circle than the eye.  I’m not happy with the mouth- I would recommend making a felt smile if you are not proficient in embroidery.

I will update this post with a picture of him wearing this for Dragoncon.









Tween Craft Ideas #fizzboomread

Crafts for 8 to 10 year olds

This summer I’ve been running a weekly craft program for kids.  By trial and error over the years, I’ve developed a list of favorite go-to crafts, ones that are cheap, easy to explain and let the kids have fun.  I’ve also realized that crafts that work for 8 to 10 year olds are often too hard or frustrating for younger kids or ones that have problems with manual dexterity.  Since my program is an open one, with kids as young as three showing up (with their parents), I try to have an alternative, related craft.  Failing that, I try to have activity sheets.  These crafts are also successful with teens.


Decoupage is the art of placing cut pictures onto objects.  You can make so many things. I usually use recycled materials such as jars (both plastic and glass work).  This summer I purchased pencil boxes from Oriental Trading.  CAUTION: if using Mod Podge, do this project in a well-ventilated area.  For younger children, a mixture of watered down school glue can be substituted, but the results from Mod Podge produce a shiny, clear surface.

  • Mod Podge
  • sponge brush
  • colored tissue paper ( I purchased mine precut in tiny squares)
  • pictures cut out of magazines or printed

Start by applying tissue paper to your object with Mod Podge.  The pictures are then applied over the tissue paper. The biggest hurdle with this project is explaining that the “glue” goes over the top of the pictures.  Some children avoid getting the top of their picture messy and thus do not get the shiny, protective surface.  Other children go to town and apply way too much, leaving huge globs of Mod Podge and an uneven surface.  Gently apply a thin layer of Mod Podge, stick down the tissue paper, then swab more over the top of the paper.  Remind your class that you can go around corners- there should be no pieces sticking out.  Apply your cut out pictures and swab over them as well.  This project dries pretty  quickly, but can be sticky to the touch for about a day, so send your participants home with their project on a paper plate (check to make sure they have not glued their project to the plate by mistake!)  We get a lot of great pictures from women’s magazines, catalogs and celebrity magazines.  Kids can also cut out letters for a “ransom note” style sign.


Foil Art


  • thin aluminum foil sheets (I’ve found disposable lids for casserole dishes work well)
  • mouse pads or thick magazines to use as a surface
  • pieces of paper
  • pens
  • inspiration for pictures- drawing books, pre-made icons or examples
  • colored permanent markers (washable will not work)

Prepare before the class by cutting the aluminum sheets into pieces at least 5 inches square (rectangles work great too.)  CAREFULLY fold over the edges of the pieces.  These are seriously sharp.  A popsicle stick works great for smoothing the fold.  The object is to make the pieces safe.  For teens, they can do this step after a safety lecture.


Have kids draw the picture they want on a piece of paper.  The picture is going to be embossed, so simple images work best.  Put the foil piece on a mouse pad.  Place the paper over the front side of the foil piece, and trace over the outlines of the picture, pressing down hard but avoiding punching through.  Once the outline is clear, turn the piece over and use a retracted pen or wooden stylus to go back and forth inside the outline, which will create a raised surface on the other side.  When that is complete, turn it over and gently color the picture with Sharpie markers.  The pieces can be hung up as decorations.  A paperclip works great as a hole puncher, and pipe cleaners or thin wire work great for hanging.  A series of pieces could be hung together as a string.

Duct Tape Wallets


  • Duct tape- at least 3 rolls of regular grey, and 4-5 rolls of specialty colors and designs
  • black electrical tape
  • scissors

Duct tape can be a wonderful tool, or a frustrating sticky mess.  Working with Duct tape is best kept to kids 10 and older.  Why?  Even my 14 year old struggles to rip duct tape, and if you have to cut it with scissors, the likelihood of it sticking to itself increases.  Working with this material takes patience and care.  There are now many products to make working with duct tape easier, including flat sheets. After a very frustrating session, I realized I hadn’t done my homework.  Duct tape pros use a smooth plastic cutting board to stick tape down, they have tricks for making smooth edges and neat lines.

ducktivitiesplain-wallet-final_resizedDuck Tape Wallet instructions.

You don’t have to make a wallet- there are hundreds of duct tape books out there, showing you how to make bags, clothing, boxes and many other fun things.  I just made a bust of John Barrowman (don’t ask).  CAUTION: doing a google search may show you cases of both human and animal abuse.  NEVER put duct tape directly on your skin or on an animal.

Other ideas:

  • zentangle drawings
  • acrylic painting
  • braiding and paracords
  • learn a skill- hand sewing, knitting…
  • painting ceramics or metal figurines

Alien Autopsy Craft at the Library #Fizzboomread

Gross Alien Autopsy for kids!

Here’s a cool program that involves gross stuff and aliens, two things that kids love.  They examine an alien corpse and make scientific observations.  The “corpse” is a jello mold full of strange objects.


I got this idea from Catherine Brenner of Bethlehem Public Library, who made a presentation for our summer reading workshop.  She did a whole series of programs centered around “grossology”.


The gelatin mold above is actually a British import for a “giant jelly baby”.  Other options would be a gingerbread man cake pan.

The recipe I used has about a half-bowl extra, which was fine with my family.

  • 2 6 oz. packages of gelatin mix (orange or lime)
  • 1 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • small plastic toys, jiggly eyes and boiled spaghetti

Pour the boiling water into a large bowl with the gelatin mix, stir for two minutes, add cold water.  Spray the mold with oil.  Pour the gelatin into the mold along with the weird objects.  Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.


To un-mold, run a knife along the edges of the mold to break the seal.  Put mold in a bath of warm water (do not submerge).  I used plastic shoe boxes to store the aliens.  Moisten the inside lid of the box and carefully flip the mold onto it, peeling it off.  Aliens should either be stored in the fridge or a cool, dark place.

For the program, make your kids into scientists.  I recommend plastic aprons and plastic gloves.  Remind the participants not to eat their specimen (to avoid accidentally ingesting toys, and also, ew).  Before they begin dissecting, have your scientists make observations, notes, and drawings.  Ask them to use their senses to describe what they see without using emotional words like yucky or gross.

WARNING: this consistency of gelatin is as sticky as glue- it can stick the fingers of your gloves together if you get too covered.


Great tools to have for the autopsy would be plastic knives and tweezers.


My exuberant five year old demonstrated to me why this program is best for ages 8 and up.  He was all about the texture of the jello and mashing it between his fingers, sending it everywhere.  For his age group, an ooblek project would work better (non-newtonian fluid).

Pair this project with nonfiction and fiction books about aliens, and possibly some about surgery or anatomy.  P1100120

The Dreaded Summer Reading List- a Librarian’s Perspective


Librarian’s Summer Reading List Challenge

I’ve decided to take on a challenge, to go over the school’s recommended summer reading list, read at least two from each grade, and blog about it.

Every year I, a public library director, chase down teachers and school librarians for their summer reading list.  I have to track down leads, hound sources and twist arms, and still, I sometimes get a redacted list!

I have found that 6th grade fluctuates the most, those poor in-betweeners not quite ready for YA, but so done with kiddy stuff.  I’ll think I’m ready to help students come in and get a book for their optional assignment, only to find the list has changed without being notified.  Then instead of calmly purchasing books in spring, I’m scrambling to buy books, catalog them and get them on the shelf, or doing lots of inter-library loans.  I hate that- I want to be able to get the right book in their hands immediately.  On the other end of the spectrum, some grade’s lists haven’t changed since I was in elementary school, which was …quite a while ago.  With that I have to contend with out of print books and books that aren’t great enough to become classics and have lost their relevancy.

Every year some ambitious parent marches their child into the library to read everything on the list.  They don’t understand that these titles are examples.  If one book in a series is on the list, another can replace it.  There are wonderful books coming out each year, heck each month, that are excellent for your child and would be approved by the teacher if asked.

I have a big concern with assigned reading.  It should be presented as “here are some ideas”.  My goal is to increase the number of people reading for pleasure.  We want kids coming in and finding the book that fits them, that appeals to them.  The book they stay up late at night reading, and continue while chomping down their cereal in the morning. I love reading, but I remember some assigned books with horror- tedious, out-of date, mother dying and Nazi death camp stuff that made me miserable.  There are some great literary classics out there that should be discussed in class, ones that shaped culture, that have deep meaning.  Some kids would happily read these on their own during the summer, and that is wonderful.  Other kids need support reading such difficult books, and definitely do not derive pleasure from reading them.

ANY READING IS GOOD READING!   Let kids read what they want.  Gently encourage them to discover new series and authors, suggest read-a-likes for their favorites that are slightly higher in reading level, but most of all, put books in front of them that they can choose from.

This week I’ll be going over the Kindergarten list.  Each grade list is by the grade the child is going into in the fall, so the Kindergarten list is for preschoolers who are age 5 before September.


Getting Kids Interested in Science #fizzboomread

Stand back, I’m going to do SCIENCE!

We had a science expo at our library to kick off summer reading.  This year’s theme is Fizz, Boom, Read!  Instead of just focusing on encouraging reading, libraries want to get kids into S.T.E.A.M. (science, technology, engineering, art and math).  The way to do that is to make it hands-on, fun, and allow room for creativity and play

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Our library system lent us a Makey Makey kit, which is a controller that uses everyday objects to complete circuits.  So we could play Tetris using a banana, cucumber, tomato and orange.

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I am loaning my son’s snap circuit kit, which allows kids to create different configurations to power devices- a fan, a siren and a light.

We are fortunate to have two parent volunteers who are great at doing science demos.  The most popular experiment was making a “fake shake”, a foaming colored substance that becomes hard.  (I need to get the information on how it was done!)  My daughter’s example was a little over the top.  (heh)

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Elements of a great book series

What makes a great series?

I just read an article by Elizabeth Spann Craig about keeping a series fresh while meeting your fan’s expectations.  She was talking about mysteries, which as a genre often run long series, but it prompted me to think about what makes a great series in my genre of choice, fantasy.

In a mystery series, you start with the character, the mystery solver.  In each book, the character investigates and solves a murder.  This is why the genre works so well for series, because while the character can and should grow and change, the adversary is different in every book.  Fantasies often lend themselves to trilogies because the main characters are struggling against one huge adversary.  Often the story hinges on the hero coming of age.


The Belgariad

The Belgariad by David Eddings is a great example of an epic fantasy series.  Garion, the young reluctant hero, starts off as a little boy swept up into a global struggle of good against evil.  He is surrounded by powerful people who effect change, and travels across the world.  
Garion grows to become the hero, a powerful sorcerer, and a ruler.


Another way to keep The Colour of MagicSir David Jason as Rincewind©RHI/Bill Kayea series going is to tell many different stories on one world.  Terry Pratchett started
out by telling the story of Rincewind, a very (very!) reluctant hero of a wizard, but he has gone on to tell many character’s stories set on Discworld.  Some stories run into multiple books, some stand alone.  He has developed many characters and many adversaries in a complex, well developed world.

Dresden Files

927979Jim Butcher’s Dreden series combines the mystery and fantasy genres to create a reluctant hero strugging against evil while also solving a problem brought to him.  He has gone from solving simple cases involving one monster to dealing with world-shattering problems.  In gaming terms, in each book he has leveled up to the point where he is now at epic level (20th level in classic D+D).

I would say that all great fantasy series have strongly developed characters and settings. They are consistent in tone.  As characters gain power and experience, the level and
scope of their problems increase as well.

Some more of my favorite fantasy series:

  • Lord of the Rings By J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey
  • Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander
  • Graceling series by Kristin Cashore
  • Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
  • Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb
  • Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
  • Sun Wolf series by Barbara Hambly
  • Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

What’s your favorite fantasy series? What makes it great?




Book Launch

Name Quest launched

My book is now up and available for Kindle, Nook , Kobo  and iBooks for $2.99.


Flying ships, wild magic, a land in trouble and a toy duck.  Three women and a shapeshifter accidentally save their world.

Long ago, it used to be easy for pilgrims to journey to the northern temple and get a new, adult name.  Now wild magic is flowing like lava across the land, cutting off the route.  A nameless girl hires a guard named Brynn, and they venture into the cursed dreamlands, guided by a mad sorceress and her shapeshifting companion.  They fight their way past monsters, dangers and frightening wonders to reach the temple, where they will be tested to see who they truly are.

Anything can happen in the dreamlands, and there is more at stake than the three women realize.  Their actions will not only effect the rulership of a country, but the fate of their whole world.


Interested in reviewing?  Let me know!

Looking for input

Preparing for launch: covers and beta readers

I am about to launch my next book, please let me know if you are interested in being a beta reader.  The great thing about self publishing ebooks is that you can create a second edition at any time.

I’m trying to put together a cover that looks professional, but my artwork is um, well, primitive is a nice word for it.  I now understand why most DIY is done with photographs.

drawing name questcovernamequesttrialcoverThis last one is cleaner looking, but doesn’t explain the book enough, even if I add in a pirate ship floating in the distance.  I’ve got to pick something, but if I start earning money on this I am going to get a real cover designer.

Update 5/9/14- I combined the two covers together (using Gimp).