Conquest of Greystone Valley is Available to Pre-Order!

Conquest of Greystone Valley“Quick! Everybody count your fingers and toes!”

Halloween seems like a long way off, but in less than three months Conquest of Greystone Valley will be on the shelves! The sequel to Greystone Valley, this novel takes Sarah back to the world between worlds, where she and her friends must face a new villain who now rules the valley with an iron fist.

Conquest of Greystone Valley is now available for pre-order through Grey Gecko Press! To see what Sarah and the gang are up to, click the link below and reserve your copy!

Pre-Order now!


Image: Jessica von Braun

You’re More Likely to Forget a Kid in the Car Than You Think

Kid in CarEvery summer, there are entirely too many cases of children dying in hot cars. Despite this being many parents’ worst fear, it happens to an average of 37 children every year. And the really unfortunate thing about these tragedies is they can happen to anybody – even you.

It doesn’t take a negligent parent to forget their child. It doesn’t even take an absent-minded one. Sadly, the reason so many kids get forgotten in the back seat of the car during the summer boils down to biology. Our brains are betraying us. Preventing this problem means outsmarting human nature.

The human brain is a powerful tool, but its attempts to streamline the decision-making process sometimes leads to bad results. If you’ve ever found yourself on autopilot while grocery shopping, that’s this phenomenon at work. When something gets done often enough to become muscle memory, the brain will free up thoughts for more complex tasks.

The brain creates a neural pathway for everything we do, and that pathway gets stronger as a task becomes habit. I can walk through my house with my eyes closed because it’s so familiar, but a slight change could cause me to walk into a wall. My brain might not account for the new information.

If your kids are in school or daycare for most of the year, your brain might be used to that fact and might not always adjust to changes in the routine. These changes tend happen most often in the summer, which is also the most dangerous time to forget something so important.

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Could the Sugar High Really be a Parenting Urban Legend?

Sugar Rush

It’s a story that every parent knows: you bake some cookies or take your kid to the fair, and an hour later they’re bouncing off the walls and driving you crazy. Bloody sugar highs. But almost 20 years of research indicates that the legendary sugar high doesn’t really exist at all.

If you’re anything like me, the suggestion that a sugar rush is a myth has you shaking your head. I don’t care what kind of research they’ve done. I don’t care that studies dating as far back as 1994 all come to the same conclusion. This phenomenon must exist because I’ve seen it myself.

Or have I? Maybe seeing isn’t believing. Maybe because I’ve been told from an early age that sugar causes you to get hyper, and because I myself used to go nuts when I had sugary treats as a kid, my own brain is wired to see signs that aren’t really there.

Mark Wolraich, MD of Johns Hopkins University was part of that 1994 study and part of numerous studies afterward that examined hyperactivity in children. The conclusions have remained the same for more than 20 years: sugar doesn’t necessarily get kids wired, but it does make parents look for signs of misbehavior.

Do kids get wound up after parties, trips to the carnival, and other events where sugar is plentiful? Yes, but it’s more excitement than sugar. The most common places where kids get sugar are events that excite them, making them more likely to go nuts and less likely to listen to their parents.

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Conquest of Greystone Valley: Coming Halloween 2016!

Conquest of Greystone Valley

Another bolt of lightning struck Sarah. It tickled this time.

With cover art by the amazing Jessica von Braun and the help of a terrific editorial team at Grey Gecko Press, Conquest of Greystone Valley will soon be on the shelves!

A mysterious new villain has conquered Greystone Valley and done her best to keep Sarah from returning. But armed with friends old and new, she’s ready to enter the world between worlds once again!

Conquest of Greystone Valley will be available for sale on October 31st. In the meantime, keep an eye over at the Grey Gecko Press store, where you’ll have a chance to preorder it soon!


Image: Jessica von Braun

My mom saved the books I wrote as a kid, and here’s another one

Charlie Martin The Game

A couple of months back, I posted scans of the book I wrote back in first grade, saved from the ravages of time by the foresight of my mom. That was only one of three grade school stories my mom saved. The second one, written when I was in third grade, was called The Game.

The Game is another example where, as a kid, I really wanted to sound like I knew what I was talking about. A bunch of my friends liked baseball, so I decided to write a story about the sport. However, I was a football fan and didn’t even know what a shortstop was.

I guess I could have watched a baseball game at some point, but instead I dove head-first into my narrative with nothing more than second-hand knowledge and rules references from Peanuts comic strips. When you’re eight years old and writing a book, enthusiasm is everything.

This story went on display at my school library, which reminds me of how amazing teachers are. They receive these raw, unfinished projects all the time and have to celebrate them while also providing gentle criticism. Moreover, they need to be sincere in their praise, which must be pretty tough.

I’d say that parents have the same plight, but I don’t feel that with my kids. Anything they make, even if it’s just scribbles on a piece of paper, is something I want to put on display somewhere. The fact that they were passionate enough to do something artistic blinds me to everything else.

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How do Disney Princesses really affect kids’ self-esteem?

Disney PrincessesA recent study by Brigham Young University took aim at the Disney Princess line to determine exactly what kind of effects that franchise has on children. The results showed a generally negative impact on girls, but it raises an important question: how reliable are these studies, anyway?

Before I start talking about the results, let’s take some time to put the study in perspective. This project involved 198 preschoolers who were quizzed about their familiarity with the Disney Princess line. The data gathered included reports from parents and teachers as well as child observations.

What does that mean? It means that, like many research projects that hit the news, this isn’t a definitive study – it’s just a start. You’re talking about 198 kids in a population of millions, and the data here is subject to interpretation from parents, teachers, and researchers. This study suggests things – it doesn’t prove them.

What Happens as a Man Becomes a Dad?

Dad and Baby Hands

Most of my adult development has come down to a matter of expanding empathy. I did care about other people when I was younger, but everything tended to be filtered through my own experiences. I didn’t have a knack for putting myself in other people’s shoes, and I placed my own well-being above others.

You don’t need empathy to live in this world, but you do need it if you want to make the world a better place. You also don’t need a sense of perspective to survive, but it definitely helps if you want to do more than draw breath and take up space.

The average human being will inhabit this planet for less than a century and be but one of seven billion other voices. The best impact you can make is not to live happily in your own tiny space but to try to impact others around you. Instead of being seven billion scared and lonely people, we can share our passions and pleasures, our pains and tragedies.

The video below talks about “Dadification,” showing the journey from being a man to being a dad. When the kids show up, it jumps right into the chaos of having children around, which I absolutely appreciate – you can’t talk about being a dad without talking about the mayhem of parenting.

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