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Review of “The Digital Dimension” by Andrew

Some of you may remember my first post on the writing blog, which included a review of Bob and the Cyber-Llama by my young friend, Andrew Empedocles. For the unenlightened, the review went as follows:

Dear Joseph,

                 Your Bob and the cyber-llama book was amazing!!!!! Your book was the best book I have ever read!!!!!  Every part is so good, that I don’t even know what my favorite part was!!!!!  I stayed up all night reading it because it was so good.  Please make another book and send it to me.  I’m even making some books that I am going to send to you.

                                                                                     From,

                Andrew

(P.S. I wish that I could put llama emoji’s all over the page, but I don’t know how)

Mr. Empedocles kept his word and cooked up a literary work of grand proportions known as The Digital Dimension.

It is a work of suspense and mystery featuring three adventurers: Trevor, Aaron, and Greyson. The three are real-life friends of the author (I’m sure that, since the book was written, the three of them have graduated from Harvard or created a vaccine to eradicate mesothelioma or something.) Beginning with a prologue, we find Greyson lying in a hospital bed with a splitting head wound.

As he slowly regains consciousness, Greyson is greeted by Trevor and Aaron, who stumble into the hospital wrapped in bandages and covered in bruises and scrapes. Trevor then spins a tale of intrigue and tension and tells Greyson that, after Greyson was knocked out by a well-placed baseball, Trevor and Aaron rented a video game from a suspicious game store. We’ve all rented video games right after hospitalizing our friends, right?

Trevor reveals that, after injuring their friend, he and Aaron were sucked into a strange video game world full of hostile, pixelated bears, thick forests of mystery, and a creature “part monkey part rhinocerous part bear and more things of animals that we couldn’t even understand what it was.”

The Digital Dimension also features a parallel story about a man sent of a variety of daring missions by a mysterious employer. He travels into the digital dimension and explores a dark, Egyptian museum full of death traps. How this fellow’s story ties into the overall tale is a secret I don’t dare reveal.

With the threats of pixelated monkey-rhino creatures, reanimated mummies, and alien invasions looming, Trevor and Aaron must escape the digital dimension before their real world is consumed by chaos. If you’re a fan of adventure books, high-brow literature, or sentences like “the beast punched him to Jupiter”, give The Digital Dimension a read.

But I really couldn’t put it any better than the critic featured on the back of the book:

“A MASTERPIECE! Andrew Empedocles does it again, with a riveting story that keeps you on the edge of your seat right up to the very end! It has all the wit and thrill of Michael Crichton, with the chilling futuristic vision of Arthur C. Clark, rolled together into a brilliant story that will hold you in suspense…and have you laughing milk out your nose. The Digital Dimension is a definite must read.”

-Andrew’s dad

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The Charity Month was a Huge Success!

Sound the trumpets! Kill the fattened mongoose!

The charity month was a huge success!

For those of you who haven’t been keeping up with the blog, I will be donating all of the profits I earned during the month of August to CURE Childhood Cancer and Canines for Disabled Kids. I wasn’t sure how much I’d earn, but thanks to the generousity of our readers, Curt Fulster and I raised a bundle!

The biggest event of the month was the Western Welcome Week festival in downtown Littleton. We manned a booth all day, gained some new readers, and raised quite a bit for the charities. We even got a couple of generous cash donations from some older gents.

Special thanks to my mom and dad and Matt, Sarah, and Alethea Bubke for helping out (Matt’s improvised song and dance made a lot of festival-goers curious about our booth)!

I’m honored  that I was able to help raise money to fight childhood cancer and help disabled kids. The charity  month was a fantastic experience and something I may revisit in the future…

Review of “The Illustrated Alphabet of Birds” by Eve Heidi Bine-Stock

In-between bouts of “Super Smash Brothers” and watching pirated episodes of Fraggle Rock, I occasionally set foot outside my apartment to experience the beauty of nature. Granted, the “nature” outside my apartment typically consists of the singular tree next to the elevator and a fat, mustachioed gentleman sitting on the grass eating Cheetos, but still, it’s healthy to experience the magnificence of God’s creation.

The Illustrated Alphabet of Birds by Eve Heidi Bine-Stock immerses readers in the natural world. It’s a fascinating nature lesson for kids, or adults, of any age (I learned the names of a few birds I wasn’t familiar with.)

This work is based on a book with the same title already in the public domain. The author used this books as a jumping-off point and has composed most of the poems herself, adding the illustrations. So it’s a little like my twenty six-volume set of Tom Sawyer/Fifty Shades of Gray fan fiction. Only The Illustrated Alphabet of Birds is actually good. And allowed in Oklahoma.

Each of the twenty-six birds is introduced with a letter and described in a short rhyme. The rhymes teach readers a little about the birds involved, like the fact that the Ibis “wanders in bogs and lives upon lizards and fishes and frogs.” It’s a simple story structure, but a great way to make learning fun. The sing-song-y tone will hold a kids attention like a starving Ethiopian gripping a carrot stick.

But the most impressive thing about this book is the art. By applying artistic effects to photographs, the author creates stunning pictures that look like they were drawn with colored pencils or painted. The end result is collection of beautiful pieces of art that truly look like the birds they represent.

So the next time you’re jonesin’ for some nature, pick up The Illustrated Alphabet of Birds. The book is a treat for your kids’ eyes, as well as their ears, and may encourage them to do some bird research themselves. Just don’t let them near an ostrich farm on espresso night. One of those little trips cost me an appendix.

Bob and the Cyber-Llama at Western Welcome Week

I have yet another piece of poodle-roastingtly exciting news: I’m going to have a booth at the Western Welcome Week festival in downtown Littleton on August 19!

The Western Welcome Week festival has taken place once a year for almost a hundred years. It’s a huge community celebration in downtown Littleton, Colorado. Events take place from 8am to 5pm on most days from Friday, August 11 through Sunday, August 20.

The real action takes place on Saturday, the 19th. There’s a huge parade, a bunch of vendors selling books, food, entertainment, and other goodies, an obstacle course, gryphon rides, orca-eating contests, and giant robot battles. Or at least, some of those things.

I’ll be sharing a booth with Curt Fulster of C. Fulsty Books, who’s also donating his August profits to charity.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ll be donating all of the money I make in August to CURE Childhood Cancer and Canines for Disabled Kids. This includes all of my Western Welcome Week sales, so be sure to stop by and support a good cause.

Stay tuned for details on my booth location!

Charity Donation Month

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in my underwear eating Doritos and watching The Smurfs when I thought, “You know, maybe I should get off my butt and do something that makes a difference.”

So I put on pants.

And then I decided to help out some charities. Throughout August, I’ll be partnering with Curt Fulster of C. Fulsty Books and donating all of my profits to CURE Childhood Cancer and Canines for Disabled kids!

CURE Childhood Cancer is committed to seeing childhood cancer cured during our lifetime. They’ve raised over $32 million over the last ten years to fund research and support kids and their families. CURE provides services to people in a variety of situations; they offer resources to families of recently-diagnosed kids, help out with meals, and even provide after-treatment services for families with kids done with treatment.

I didn’t choose to donate to CURE by throwing a dart at a spinning wheel-o-charities. I’ve been affected by childhood cancer twice. In 2000, my baby cousin, Parker Caldara, was diagnosed with brain cancer. She died shortly thereafter. And a few years ago, my friend Cade Humphreys  got cancer, too. He’s finished his treatments and is doing well (his screenings have all been excellent – no sign of the cancer returning!)

The other charity I’ll be donating to is Canines for Disabled Kids, which provides service dogs for children with disabilities. When it was founded in 1998, very few charities were willing to provide such dogs for disabled kids, (service dogs are pretty expensive.) By providing scholarships to these kids and their families, CDK was able to make service dogs available to a lot more children and reduce the time it takes for kids to get one.

CDK also emphasizes educating people about the importance of service dogs and offers resources for families interested in such a dog.

Keep an eye on the website for future posts about the charity month and please use the links above to visit the CURE and CDK websites. I’m proud to be able to help out these organizations throughout all of August.

And I’ll be wearing pants the entire time.

Review of “My Buddy Knows…Letters!” by Keith Wheeler

Living through the ups and downs of life, I always try to view things from other people’s perspectives. And while performing this psychological practice, I always come to one inescapable conclusion: it must be really weird to be four years old.

Think about it. Four-year-olds can walk and run, but their legs are still a little chubby and infant-like. They usually speak like grown human beings, but sometimes end up sounding like a drunk Cookie Monster on helium. And, though they’re new to life, they suddenly have expectations thrust upon them.

When you’re four or five years old, you have three jobs:

  1. Learn your letters
  2. Learn your numbers
  3. Don’t poop your pants

Assuming you find it within yourself to count to ten and become a true deacon of the diapers, all that’s left is to learn your alphabet. Master that and you can lord it over all the other five-year-olds forever.

Keith Wheeler’s “My Buddy Knows…Letters!” is a fantastic way to teach kids the alphabet. The book makes letters fun while still pounding that sweet, sweet learning into kids’ heads like a jackhammer of knowledge.

It starts with a simple phrase: “This is my buddy, Josh! Josh knows a lot about…letters!” Josh looks like a nice guy, even though he could really use some self-tanning lotion and maybe a fashion consultant. Regardless, he’s a welcoming figure that kids will gravitate toward.

Readers are then shown a picture of an object and, on the next page, told which letter it begins with (“My buddy knows that apple starts with A”, “My buddy knows that ball starts with B”, “My buddy knows that colonoscopy starts with C”, etc.)

But unlike other alphabet books, this one has a unique twist: it shows kids a picture of the object, and then tells them which letter the word starts with. A toddler reading this book with their parents will think “oh, that’s an apple.” just before the book tells them “Apple starts with A.”

At that moment, the wires in that kids’ head will connect and the electricity will start flowing. Pretend there’s a motionless hamster wheel in the middle of your child’s brain. Reading this book is like putting a steroid-infused hamster in the middle of that wheel and letting that rodent fly.

“My Buddy Knows…Letters!” by Keith Wheeler will alleviate some of the enormous stress your four year old endures between episodes of “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood” by breaking down letters in a way they can wrap their heads around. Keep an eye out for “My Buddy Knows…Numbers!”, too. I expect it to revolutionize my world in a similar way.

Bob and the Pop-Up Book of Destiny Now Available

Kill the fattened calf! Sound the horns of celebration! Run into the streets, put on your finest top hat, coat your naked body in dijon mustard, and sing hallelujah!

Bob and the Pop-Up Book of Destiny is finally available on Amazon Createspace, Kindle, and Lulu!

In this, their second adventure, Bob Halibut and his cybernetic llama butler, Jeeves, travel to Mexico, where they use Hamadi’s map to explore an ancient Aztec ruin. Deep in the dark, stanky temple, they discover the Pop-Up Book of Destiny, an artifact of unimaginable power.

And after they encounter a vengeful conquistador, Bob and Jeeves battle long-dead forces to save Mexico City from destruction and despotic rule.

But the story is only part of the fun this time: each chapter now includes a picture of one of the characters or scenarios described in the book.

I’ve also added illustrations to the original Bob and the Cyber-Llama. You’ll have fortnights of fun gazing in awe at my glorious artistry, your personal hygiene slowly deteriorating as you fail to tear yourself away from its breathtaking beauty.

Like Bob and the Cyber-Llama, Bob and the Pop-Up Book of Destiny is a great read for kids, adults, and fifth-dimensional koalas alike. Buy it now or regret it for the rest of your days.