Idiot Genius Nabs 5th Award

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We’re proud to announce another book award for Richard Due’s Idiot Genius series—this time from Writer’s Digest (for middle grade & young adult). This is the 5th time Idiot Genius has been recognized this year. We’re so proud we typeset a new first page!

Flying Devils and the Marine Screw Propeller

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First, it’s worth mentioning that most inventors and innovators who are credited with being the “first” to invent something are almost always not the first: they just got the credit for it.

Remember the Black Fez Axiom:
“History is always older.”

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Telling the difference between science and what looks like magic has never been easy.

Take the Age of Sail, for example. Even though air is invisible, it was easy for people to understand what made ships move through water. All they had to see were the sails filling with air.

The same was true for the first steam-powered ships, which used giant paddle-wheels to propel themselves through the water.

But all that changed in 1836, after Swiss inventor John Ericsson proposed towing a barge carrying members of the Royal Admiralty around the Thames River using twin marine screw propellers powered by a steam engine.

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The people watching the event from the shore were not only amazed, but highly confused. Where were the sails? Where were the paddle wheels? Certainly some black magic must be at work! Spectators, and even some able seamen, posited “flying devils.”

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A John Ericsson propeller. circa 1840s

Ericsson’s first propeller ship was a steam-powered tugboat, the Francis B. Ogden. It was 40 feet long, 8 feet wide at the beam, drew 3 to 5 feet of water, and was capable of towing a barge at 7 mph—which is exactly what Ericsson did. But afterwards, the Lords of the Admiralty he’d invited for the ride were completely unimpressed—they even told him they didn’t care for his design!

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John Ericsson

Ericsson took his second ship, the Robert F. Stockton, a much larger oceangoing vessel, to America, in hopes of getting a better reception. Which he did.

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Early steamships still relied on sails for long voyages.

 

Further readings:

Iron Thunder: The Battle Between the Monitor & the Merrimac by Avi

Monitor: The Story of the Legendary Civil War Ironclad and the Man Whose Invention Changed the Course of History, by James Tertius Dekay

A History of the Growth of the Steam-Engine, by Robert H. Thurston, A.M., C.E., 1907. (free download)

Bonus fun: Click HERE

Willa Snap’s first illegal memoir: Idiot Genius: Willa Snap and the Clockwerk Boy.

Oh, Snap! Willa Snap has been shortlisted for the Internatinal Rubery Book Award

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Idiot Genius: Willa Snap and the Clockwerk Boy

There is plenty to like about this novel. It is full of fun, and clearly the product of a quirky, inventive mind, ideal for children’s writing. Willa is a smart, likeable child with no prejudices. She, her genius mother and practical father (no problem with gender stereotypes here) are kidnapped and taken to a world where they experience bizarre encounters with a variety of unlikely entities. The narrative is often very witty and the absurdity of the story is what carries it along. The pace is fast and the plot farcical in places which is what children will like about it. This would appeal to the 10-12 age range, although a certain amount of intelligence is assumed, otherwise too many of the jokes would be missed.

—International Rubery Book Award

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Clockwerk Dress Bodice and Sleeves

Bodice Dress 2
This bodice will have a huge number of gears and clockfaces and chain attached.

Dress Bodice
The wire’s been added to the hem of the outer skirt. The way it moves when Willa’s walking around looks pretty cool.

BodiceThe zipper will be either blackened, or covered. (the buckles are purely decorative)

Willa Snap Wins an IPPY!

Idiot Genius: Willa Snap and the Clockwerk Boy just won Independent Publisher Book Award for Juvenile Fiction!

I can’t believe it! I couldn’t more proud!

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“Thoroughly engrossing story recommended for young sci-fi and fantasy fans who hold a prior attraction to books such as John Bellairs’ House with a Clock in its Walls.” -D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

Willa always knew one of her mother’s crazy inventions would cause trouble. She just didn’t think it would get the whole family banished to Grandeur, a hidden city of Geniuses deemed too dangerous to remain Outside.

Now, with the help of her cat, the Magnificent Lady Grayson of the Silky White Underbelly, or Just Grayson for Short, Willa and her new friends must scour Grandeur’s strange avenues in search of the Clockwerk Boy. Among her encounters: a curiosity shop run by curiously intelligent cats. Gear Hall, where Clockwerks outnumber humans. And the Jolly Rajah, a man-o’-war o’ pancakes, where your meal of flapjacks and hot chocolate is served with a brace of pistols and side of grappling hooks. Prepare to be boarded!

International Rubery Book Award Shortlist ~ Young Adult
Independent Publisher Book Award Medalist ~ Juvenile Fiction
National Indie Excellence Award ~ Juvenile Fiction
Eric Hoffer Award Category Finalist ~ Young Adult

“It’s unusual to see such sci-fi depth and detail in a title directed to young adults, but this is precisely what makes Idiot Genius: Willa Snap and the Clockwerk Boy such an appealing production: the characterization is solid while its fantastic setting will intrigue ages well beyond its intended 9-12-year-old audience. Highly recommended for young adults seeking something compellingly different.” -D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

 

Bringing Willa Snap’s Clockwerk Dress to Life

Once we decided to attend Balticon 52, it was a pretty short jump to: Let’s make Willa’s Clockwerk dress!

But how?*

Well, as luck would have it, we have a costume designer in the family. In fact, Meredith was there from the beginning. After reading an early draft, and after pincushioning me with questions, she dashed off—within minutes—the first design sketch of the dress. She then sat at my side, answering my questions, as I converted her sketch back into words. (Meredith was 14 at the time she drew this sketch. She’s now in her second year at Rutger’s University, pursing a BFA in costume design.)

DithSketch

(please pardon the refrigerator magnets)

Years later, working from a newer draft, Carolyn Arcabascio created a quick napkin sketch, in color, to see if she was on the right track. (She was.)

NapkinSketch

The dress appears twice in Carolyn’s many illustrations for the book. Once in black and white:

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Chapter Twenty-One: Villa da Vinci

And once in color, on the cover:

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(detail from the cover)

At this exact second, Meredith is ordering all manner of supplies for the dress, which will be modeled at Balticon this May by two Willa Snap impersonators.

My plan over the next few months is to document Meredith’s progress as she brings Willa Snap’s Clockwerk dress to life. Consider this installment #1. Watch this space.

*All of the above is, of course, complete nonsense. The simple truth is that CeeCee da Vinci swiped the original dress pattern from Clockwerk Couture in the Clockwerk burg, Nimet relayed the pattern to me, and I delivered it to Meredith. There’s a longer version (as you might imagine), involving a midnight burgling, a dozen of Aunt Mila’s Clockwerk cats, a defective Smith & Blazooski mini stun cannon, and the careful deployment of ten balls of yarn (work with what you have). And if Willa ever figures out what we’ve all been up to . . . well, as Nimet would say, “Tanrı yardımcımız olsun” (Heaven help us).