Monday, August 26, 2013

Character bios for Gilbert and Amber from Why My Love Life Sucks

I was asked to share the bios of the main characters from my latest novel, so here they are:

The main characters in Why My Love Life Sucks (The Legend of Gilbert the Fixer, book one) are Gilbert Garfinkle--a.k.a. Gilbert the Fixer--and Amber. Gilbert is the ultimate, teenage geek; and Amber is the gorgeous, vampire girl who wants to turn him into her platonic BFF--literally forever. The story is written from Gilbert’s point of view.


Age: 17
Goal: to fix the world
Weakness: anything illogical
Favorite things: electronics, lockpicks, fixing things, inventing things, rock-climbing, aikido,  comic books, fantasy & science fiction, The Princess Bride, Albert Einstein, Dungeons & Dragons, his father, his Uncle Ian, his friends

Gilbert loves everything geeky: from Star Trek and Dungeons & Dragons to rock-climbing and inventing electronics. He has a compulsive need to fix things that are broken or can be improved on, and he plans on someday fixing the world. He’s already invented a few things to help him achieve that goal, including his Lablet, which is a cross between a laboratory and a computer tablet. At one time he tried to upload his own conscience into the Lablet, but it turned into a closed-lipped, depressed, animated robot instead. He has no idea why this happened. He is currently inventing a form of artificial intelligence with a will of its own. His father was a very successful chemical engineer who died at the age of 83 when Gilbert was still a toddler. His mother is a self-absorbed gold digger who only married his father for his vast fortune and who loathes even being in the same room as Gilbert. Uncle Ian, his mother’s lawyer, is the only person that Gilbert considers living family, even though they aren’t related. His best friend, Dylan, calls him “Little Dude,” and Gilbert calls Dylan “Big Dude.” He’s had a secret crush on the absolutely brilliant Jenny Chen since they were both six, and he considers Dungeon Master Dave his own personal Yoda, the mentor he turns to for advice. His life isn't perfect, but as far as he’s concerned, it’s pretty good...and it was going to be amazing until the Amber ruined his well thought out plans. His brilliant mind, eidetic memory, sarcastic sense of humor, lockpicking, aikido and rock-climbing skills, various gadgets, and friends are just what he needs to help him solve any mystery and get him out of any jam.


Age: claims to be 17, although she appears to be 15
Goal: to turn Gilbert into a vampire and her platonic BFF--literally forever
Weakness: low self-esteem (although she hides it well)
Favorite things: bacon, pizza, candy, her friends, boys, dancing, laughing and smiling, and above all being liked

Why My Love Life Sucks is written from Gilbert’s point of view, and the first time we meet Amber is on the first page. As Gilbert lies paralyzed by her vampire bite, he looks back at the events of the night, starting with what happened when he brought her to his room: “Amber laughed. It was a nice laugh. I felt so relaxed, because she’s so beautiful. They say there’s no point in worrying about the things you can't control, and I figured I didn't have a chance in hell with her. Guess I was right, but not in the way I thought.” Aside from being drop-dead gorgeous, seemingly sweet, funny and quick, asking Gilbert to kiss her, and the whole turning-him-into-a-vampire thing, she remains mostly a puzzle for the start of the book, a puzzle Gilbert feels compelled to figure out. And he does figure out some of it by the end of this book. But there’s a lot more to Amber than meets the eye, and it will take the rest of the series for readers and Gilbert--and in some ways Amber herself--to truly know who and what she is.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The answer to "Where does your humor come from?"

A friend and fellow writer, LM Preston, recently asked me where my humor comes from. 

Well, I'll tell you, and I hope it helps you see the humor in the world the way that I do, because if there’s one thing the world needs more of, it’s laughter.

Like Gilbert Garfinkle--the hero of Why My Love Life Sucks (The Legend of Gilbert the Fixer, book one), I like to take things apart and fix them. I always have. Unlike Gilbert, though, the things I most like to take apart are stories, particularly funny stories.

I was born into a big family. I was the second child of six, which means I was a middle child in a sea of middle children. Like most middle children, I wanted attention. After all, that’s easy for the eldest and youngest to get attention. Middle children, not so much, particularly when there’s four.

My dad loved jokes, and I did too. So I would collect them. I know it seems odd, but I would watch sitcoms and take notes. I had a little spiral notebook where I’d write down different elements of my favorite shows, like Taxi and M.A.S.H., including the best lines. Once a week, I’d repeat the jokes I had collected to my family and make my dad laugh.

I also used to write funny essays for school. My class and my teachers loved them. I wasn't the class clown; I was the class wit. I was funny on paper, and I still am. 

Brevity, they say, is the soul of wit, and I know that’s true when it comes to my humor. The more I edit something funny, the funnier it gets. Comedy, I believe, is tragedy dancing the quickstep.

I continued to take apart and try to figure out comedy as I grew up, and I even took a couple of courses on the topic in college, where I majored in English Literature and Theater Studies. I was taught that pain plus distance equals comedy, which is the standard theory. I didn't agree with it. I think that sometimes comedy comes from painful things viewed at a distance; but so many funny things have no element of pain in them, and so many things that include pain and distance aren't funny at all. So I continued to work on my own theory.

A few years later, I got a job as an editorial cartoonist, and that's when I developed my own formula for comedy.

It’s summed up with three S’s. They are Setup, Surprise, and Sense.

Setup is pretty much what your humor is about. It could be the news, your life, or the characters and plot of your novel.

Surprise is the most important element of comedy, because without it, the audience just isn't going to laugh. Think of a joke you've already heard. If you hear it again, you won't find it as funny as you did the first time, and that’s because the element of surprise is gone.

And all jokes have to make some sort of Sense, because if they didn't, they'd just be confusing, not funny. Puns, for example, make phonetic sense.  And when it comes to stories, each character has to act in a way that makes sense in some way for that character.

As for pain, I think it's important that a joke not be too painful for the intended audience. That's when you cross the line from being funny to just being mean and hurtful. Of course, what one audience finds painful, another won't. Sometimes it's a matter of tailoring your humor for a particular audience; and other times it's a matter of finding an audience that fits a particular brand of humor.

Okay, so now you have my formula. The question still remains: where does humor come from? Finding or creating a setup is easy. Finding the sense in it is easy too. But how do you create the surprise--the most important element of comedy?

It’s all about looking at things from a fresh and surprising perspective.

Blow it up under a magnifying glass. Make it big, bigger, biggest. Put it in a surprising context, but in a way that makes sense. If it’s rosy, make it blue. If it’s blue, make it rosy. And take it as far as it will go. I like to say that when it comes to comedy take it all the way, to the edge of that cliff. Then push.

Edit, edit, and edit some more. Can you make that happen faster? Then do. Can you say that more briefly and still make sense? Then do.

I wrote the first draft for NaNoWriMo in under a month...and then I spent the next year editing it. 

Taking a page from Improv, I wrote several versions of many of the scenes so I could choose the funniest one. And any time I saw a chance to make things bigger, I took it. I didn't want Gilbert to be just a regular geek: I wanted him to be the ultimate geek. And I didn't want to give him just any old conflict: I wanted to give him the ultimate geek's ultimate conflict. Gilbert has a compulsive need to take apart, figure out, and fix things, so I had to give him something he would never be able to take apart, figure out, and fix. I had to give him a gorgeous vampire girl who wants to turn him into her platonic BFF, literally forever. How is the ultimate geek supposed to make sense of that?  

If you're thinking, “But that doesn't make sense, and you said comedy has to make sense,” you're right, it doesn't. It defies Gilbert's obsessively logic mind. At least it does at first. There is a logic to that gorgeous vampire girl's seeming insane choice, a logic that takes Gilbert most of the book to figure out.

I’d tell you what it is, but then I'd spoil the surprise, and you know comedy won't work without it. You'll just have to read it to find that out for yourself.    

Friday, August 23, 2013

Q&A with Shevi Arnold about her funny, YA, sci-fi novel--Why My Love Life Sucks

This interview was conducted for a book blog tour for Why My Love Life Sucks (The Legend of Gilbert the Fixer, book one), but it was never posted, so here it is:

Q&A with Shevi Arnold 
about her funny, YA, sci-fi novel
Why My Love Life Sucks

What would you have done differently if you were the main character of your book?

Everything. Gilbert is a teenage boy and a super genius who can fix just about anything. I’m not.

What was your inspiration behind this book?

I'm a geek, and I love geeks. Geeks love things beyond what some people consider socially acceptable. That’s how I feel about stories, particularly funny fiction, fantasy and science fiction, like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Lord of the Rings. I see geeks as real-life heroes, and it’s long bothered me that there are no books that show this.

Why My Love Life Sucks started with Gilbert Garfinkle and my determination to create a series about an ultimate geek who turns out to be the ultimate hero. Of course, if I wanted to show this, I needed to give him the ultimate conflict. Gilbert has a desperate need to take apart and make sense of things, so I had to give him something he couldn't take apart and make sense of. Enter Amber, the gorgeous vampire girl who has inexplicably chosen to spend eternity with him. She wants to be his platonic BFF--literally forever! It’s the ultimate geek’s ultimate nightmare, and that’s what makes it so very funny.

Why did you become a writer?

I don’t know if I became a writer so much as I was born one. My family has been working in newspapers and magazines for five generations, and when I was little, I was constantly writing stories in my head. I didn’t become a writer; I just am one. John Green in an interview with Craig Ferguson pointed out that writers are wired differently. We think differently. We see the potential stories in everything. I know I do. I’ve only ever been good at two things--writing and illustrating, and I’ve been working at both since 1987.

As a reader and writer, I think it is important to get to know your fans and make a connection with them. Authors should take the extra step to hear what their fans think and want in their continued writing. It’s the key to an author’s continued success and to selling more books. Do you agree with that?

I love connecting with readers. Geeks are my world! And I do suspect some readers will want certain things as the story continues. I can't promise I'm going to give you them, though, because that would ruin the surprise--and comedy is all about surprise.

Have you ever laughed at a joke the first time, but not the second time? That’s because the element of surprise was gone. I'm not going to ruin the joke for you. I plan to surprise you, and surprise you, and surprise you again.
But rest assured, I have the entire story planned in my head, and it is all leading to a fantastic conclusion, probably better than anything any reader can imagine. To quote The Best Exoctic Marigold Hotel, “Everything will be all right in the end. If it is not all right, then it is not yet the end.”

Do you have a favorite author or authors?


Oh, you want a list?

Peter S. Beagle, Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman, J.R.R. Tolkien, Ray Bradbury, Sue Townsend, Louise Rennison, Patricia C. Wrede, Ursula K. Le Guin, Rick Riordan, Georgia Byng, Christopher Moore, Dave Barry...I could go on and on, but I'll stop there.

Do you like to write your books in a continuing series?

That depends on the book. Why My Love Life Sucks is meant to be the first in a six-book series entitled The Legend of Gilbert the Fixer.

If you could date any character from any book, who would it be and why?

Gilbert. Because he’s my idea of the perfect guy. Of course, he would probably be terrified of me. He's terrified of Amber, because she killed him--and I made her do it!

What kinds of books do you like to read in your spare time?

Anything that makes me laugh or takes me away to amazing new worlds, preferably both.

Do you cry  when writing sad scenes?

Of course, I do. I cried buckets when I was writing the most heart-wrenching scenes in Ride of Your Life and a certain scene near the end of Toren the Teller’s Tale.  It has to make me cry first if I want it to have that effect on the reader. I’m also the first to laugh at my own jokes. Many scenes from Gilbert’s story make me laugh out loud when I just think about them. It can be a little embarrassing when that happens in public.

Did you have a Cover Designer?

Yes. Me. I worked for years as a magazine and newspaper illustrator and designer, so of course that was something I wanted to do myself. In fact, you’ll find several articles on my blog about cover design.

Who is your fictional boyfriend or girlfriend crush?

Gilbert. I love him to death. Literally.

If you were able to dine and have a one on one with your favorite writer/author who would it be?

Mark Twain. I know the conversation would be fascinating.

Do just re-read your favorite books?

Do I reread my favorite books? Sometimes. Rarely. It has to be a geeking awesome book.

Do you ever get in a reading slump like your readers do?

No. I can always “read” the stories in my head. I have many more than I could possibly write down in a lifetime.

What is the funniest book you ever read?

The first books in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. They are funny on every page. That’s something I aspire to with The Legend of Gilbert the Fixer.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What actors would you cast for Why My Love Life Sucks?

Some people have fantasy football teams. Others like to imagine a dream cast for the movie or TV versions of their favorite novels. Someone asks me for my dream cast for Why My Love Life Sucks (The Legend of Gilbert the Fixer, book one), so here it is: .

Jared Gilman as Gilbert Garfinkle

The star of Moonrise Kingdom has the geeky good looks, the right voice (he’s not from New York City, but South Orange is pretty close), and is almost the right age. I can picture him spouting Gilbert’s sarcastic lines, but is he capable of being super intense, like Gilbert? So far, all his roles seem to have had him acting chill. And at 14, I think he might already be too tall. But when I saw him again in a recent commercial for Verizon, I knew he has the look I want for Gilbert. He just needs his hair curled.

Dakota Fanning as Amber

I've long loved Dakota Fanning’s acting, particularly in Charlotte’s Web and Dreamer, although she might already be too old to play the 17-year-old who will forever look like she’s 15. Or maybe not? Of course, she'd have to change her hair color and put on some weight for the role of the voluptuous Amber. It would be nice to see her in a role that lets her smile a lot, because I've seen her on late-night talk shows, and she has a beautiful smile. And she does deserve a chance to play a vampire in a series that doesn't, you know, suck.  

Anneliese van der Pol as Delilah Jones

I don’t know what it is about her, but I have the feeling that Anneliese van der Pol from Vampires Sucks and That’s So Raven could play the beautiful, bullying queen bee who will use every trick in the book to get exactly what she wants. It’s a fun and crazy role, and I think she would have a great time with it.

Ryan Lee as Dylan Barry

Ryan Lee, from Super 8, has almost exactly the right look and mannerisms I wanted for Dylan, and he’s also the right age. The one problem is that Dylan--Gilbert’s best friend--is meant to be much, much taller than Gilbert, and Ryan Lee isn't exactly tall. Not a good match for the guy who calls Gilbert “Little Dude.” Aside from that, he would be the perfect choice.

Victor Garber as Ian MacIntyre

Gilbert’s Uncle Ian is a tall, suave, sophisticated, silver-haired lawyer with incredible charm, who has always been kind to Gilbert but not so kind to those who cross him. Unlike Gilbert and Amber, I’ve only ever pictured Uncle Ian as being played by one actor. Victor Garber is exactly how I picture him, and he’s a great actor who brings so much to any role he plays.

Yvonne Strahovski as Candy Garfinkle

I loved her as Sarah Walker, the gorgeous secret agent who falls for a super geek,  in the TV series Chuck, one of the most geeking awesome action-comedy shows ever! Candy Garfinkle is pretty much the opposite of Sarah Walker, but I still think that Strahovski has the talent--and beauty--to play Gilbert’s self-absorbed, gold-digging mother without making it campy.  

Nikki SooHoo as Jenny Chen

At 24, she’s much older than Jenny, but she has exactly the look I've always pictured for the love of Gilbert’s life. Nikki SooHoo has had many small roles on TV and in the movies, including playing the main character's best friend in heaven in The Lovely Bones. She also has a gymnastics background, which could come in useful considering that Gilbert and Jenny bond over rock-climbing, aikido, and ballroom dancing.

Seth Rogen as Dungeon Master Dave

The truth? I've always pictured Kevin Smith as Dungeon Master Dave, but Dave is supposed to be about 25, and Smith is too old to play him. Seth Rogen, though, would be a perfect second choice. Yes, he’s still a little older than Dave, but Rogen captures the geeky vibe of incredible humor, intelligence and calm that is Dave.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Top 10 Reasons to Date a Geek (like Gilbert)

Geeks (or nerds) are our most undervalued resource. The meek might inherit the earth someday, but the geeks will definitely inherit the stars! 

Here are ten reasons why geeks make the best boyfriends or girlfriends:

1. Passionate

As Gilbert Garfinkle tells Amber in Why My Love Life Sucks (The Legend of Gilbert the Fixer, book one) , all geeks are passionate about something: “The very definition of being a geek is that you love something just because you love it, not because someone is telling you you should, but in spite of them telling you you shouldn't. There's no greater love than geek love. If you're lucky, maybe someday you'll find it too.”

2. Intelligent

It takes a certain genius to be a true geek.

3. Fun

Who better to watch Doctor Who with than a fellow Whovian? What do you mean, you've never seen an episode of Doctor Who? Well then, you are in for a treat! Just try to get to the episodes with Amy and Rory quickly. They're the most romantic couple on TV ever. And you can watch The Princess Bride together, and he can tell you, “As you wish,” and... 

You are just going to have so much fun together.  

4. Likely to get rich someday

That’s true in Gilbert’s case, anyway. He’s a computer genius who invents things. True, he’s not really interested in money, but the potential is definitely there.

5. Happy and often funny

Geeks are happy because they've found something they love. And while not all geeks are funny, many have a great sense of humor. Gilbert does.

6. Inventive

Whether your geek is into designing software, writing science fiction, or drawing comic books, he or she is sure to come up with creative ways to express his or her love for you.

7. Appreciative

Geeks generally don't expect to be loved, so when they are, they appreciate the one who loves them.

8. Doesn't judge

You know those people who only want to hang out with the popular crowd and who dress and look a certain way and wouldn't dare deviate from what's currently considered cool? Those people aren't geeks, and they have no idea what they're missing.

9. Loves you for who you are

A geek cares most about what's in your heart and would never ask you to change for him or her.

10. Encourages you to express your own geeky side

Stop caring about what people might think. Is there something you love so much you want the world to know? Then tell the world! You'll soon find you aren't alone. There's someone out there who is as geeky about that thing as you are, and you can share that limitless passion together.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Top 10 Destinations for a Geek Holiday

Top 10 Destinations for a Geek Holiday
by Shevi Arnold

I’m a geek. An all-round geek. I am geeky about science fiction, fantasy, science, books, comic books, smart video games, comic strips, computers, tech, Dungeons & Dragons, The Princess Bride, The Big Bang Theory, Eureka, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, FireFly, Doctor Who, Grimm, Star Trek, Star Wars, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Monty Python, Jonathan Coulton, the Barenaked Ladies, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Sherlock, pretty much anything you can buy at ThinkGeek, creativity, writing, and my fellow geeks. I wrote Why My Love Life Sucks (The Legend of Gilbert the Fixer, book one) to tell my fellow geeks--and the world--how geeking awesome we geeks are.

Here’s a list of 10 places the geek in me would love to visit or has visited and would love to visit again.

1. San Diego Comic Con

I’ve been to the New York City Comic Con, and it is wonderful. I still dream, though, of going to Comic Con in San Diego, California, which is the biggest and best Comic Con. The stars for any show or movie with a geek following know that this is where you want to “represent.” There’s no better place to promote a movie, like the next Avengers, Iron Man, or Star Trek, or a TV show, like Arrow, The Big Bang Theory, and even Glee. Geeks here get a chance to see movies and TV shows before anyone else, talk with stars and creators, dress up as or take pictures with their favorite heroes, buy comics and a ton of other geek stuff, and so much more. The New York City Comic Con might have a bit of a more literary and comic-book angle, since New York is where you’ll find Marvel and DC Comics, as well as most of the major publishers. I love that aspect of it, but I still want to go to Comic Con in San Diego. FYI, geek goddess Felicia Day from Eureka, The Guild, and more is going to be at the New York City Comic Con in 2013.

2. Orlando, Florida

My family has been to Orlando, Florida, and it was. The. Best. Vacation. Ever! If your geek love includes anything Disney, Pixar, Harry Potter, Universal, Marvel and more, this is where you want to be. The best thing to do in Orlando? EVERYTHING. We stayed at the Nick Hotel, which is a lot of fun with Nickelodeon characters everywhere, and at a Disney resort. Both were great. I guess my favorite thing at any of the parks was Muppet Vision 3D at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, because it shows of Jim Henson’s genius so well, and I have been a fan of his since I was a teenager. But we loved almost everything we did at all the resorts, Disney parks, and Universal. This was before the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and lots of other wonderful additions to the parks, so we really need to go again. 

3. London, England

My husband is from London, and I’ve seen many of the most popular tourist destinations there. My favorite is the London Eye, which was has been featured in many movies and TV shows, including one of my favorites: Doctor Who. The theater geek in me (I have bachelor degrees in English Lit and Theater Studies) also loved taking a Thames river tour and seeing the reconstruction of the Globe Theater. My daughter’s best friend visited London last summer, and her favorite was the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, London, which features sets from the Harry Potter movies. Other geeky things you can do in London include checking out platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross station. taking a walking tour of various places where Doctor Who was filmed (and taking a photo in front of a blue phone box), hopping on a bus or train to Cardiff (a three-hour journey) to check out The Doctor Who Experience, and visiting the Sherlock Holmes Museum, which is (of course) located at 221B Baker Street.  

4. New York City

Click here to check out Sci-Fi Now’s Nerd Guide to New York City

So many great movies, comic books, and fantasy and science fiction novels take place in New York. Wouldn’t you like to visit the locations of your favorite scenes? Take the elevator to the top of the Empire State Building like Percy Jackson. Check out the Statue of Liberty when it’s still standing, unlike in Planet of the Apes. Imagine Spiderman swinging from the skyscrapers, or the Avengers preparing for battle in Times Square. And, yes, if you don’t want to do it on your own, you can even take the Superheroes Tour of New York. Catch a movie at Loews AMC at Lincoln Square, which has one of the world’s best and biggest IMAX theaters in the world. And while there’s no Bucky Bee’s on Broadway (that part of Why My Love Life Sucks is made up), make sure to get some geeking great chocolate from Max Brenner and check out Toys R Us with its animatronic dinosaur, Ferris Wheel, and all sorts of incredible stuff. Gilbert Garfinkle says that New York City is the best place for vampires, because there’s something to do any time of day or night. It’s also amazing for geeks. Best time to visit? Anytime is good, but if you go this year on July 14th, you can participate in Improv Everywhere’s MP3 Experiment, which is always geeky good fun! And if you’re a book geek, you might want to catch Matilda, the Broadway musical based on Roald Dahl’s children’s book about a magical little girl who loves to read. Whatever your geek love is, you’re sure to find something you’ll love in the Big Apple.

5. The E3

The E3 is the Electronic Entertainment Expo, and it’s held annually in Los Angeles, California. What does that mean to geeks? Video games, of course! And you get to find out--and even try out--the latest and future video games and gaming tech. But it’s not just video games. It’s sort of like Comic Con but with a greater focus on video games--and other geeky cool electronics--than comics. Regardless, it still has all the things that make a great Comic Con great. Zac Levi, the star of Chuck, Disney’s Tangled, and more, will be there again with his Nerd Machine, and this year they’re going to be covering the event for Spike TV. If you like the electronics side but aren’t that much of a gamer, don’t worry. There’s also the CES, or Consumer Electronics Show, held every year in Las Vegas. Some of my siblings who work in the computer industry have been there, and I would love to go. I’m sure Gilbert Garfinkle, the hero of Why My Love Life Sucks, would love that too.  

6. Tokyo, Japan

If you’re the kind of geek who loves sushi, manga, anime, or Nintendo or Sony Playstation games, you’ve probably tried to imagine yourself visiting Japan. I know I have, and many of my friends and relatives have gone there. I want to see sushi served on a conveyor belt. I want to buy a copy of the latest Professor Layton video game before it’s translated into English. I want to explore the gadgets in the shops in Tokyo. I want to stare at the cute and cool harajuku girls with their over-the-top sense of style. And I want to take a short bus ride to Mitaka to visit the Ghibli Museum, because I love Hayao Miyazaki’s movies that were produced by Studio Ghibli. Kiki’s Delivery Service is my favorite, but they’re all great. Geeks love Japan.

7. A TED Conference

Technically, you don’t have to go to a TED Conference to enjoy it, but it would be a huge honor for any geek to be invited to speak at one. What’s a TED Conference? It’s a conference for people who have ideas that could make the world a better place (very Gilbert the Fixer, don’t you think?). The TED motto is “ideas worth spreading.” And since they believe in practicing what they preach, every TED talk can be found online and shared. Some are funny. Some are brilliant. Some are creative. Some are inspirational. But all of them will make you see something in a new light. Just go to and click on the kind of thing you’d like to see. Then prepare to be amazed.

8. Space Camp

Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama lets anyone at any age can find out what it’s like to be an astronaut. And while I personally wouldn’t like to go (I suffer from car sickness, so I don’t want to even imagine what space sickness might be like), I know Gilbert would love it. They have camps for kids, teens, adults, families, and even corporations interested in building teamwork. So what is it exactly? Here’s a description from their website: “During the five-night program, trainees participate in two 1-hour simulated shuttle missions. Students in mission control will monitor the progress and safety of the mission, those in the shuttle will successfully launch and land the spacecraft, and those in the space station will conduct science experiments while learning basic scientific principles....Trainees will experience walking on the moon in our 1/6th gravity chair to feel what it’s like to work in a frictionless environment and navigate a tumble-spin on the multi-axis trainer, just like the Mercury astronaut training!

9. Dragon*Con

Dragon*Con Parade photo from WSB-TV of Atlanta, Georgia

Dragon*Con in Atlanta, Georgia is very much like a Comic Con, but with less of a focus on comic books, and with a greater focus (although not exclusive) on fantasy and science-fiction novels, classic sci-fi TV shows, Dungeons & Dragons, and rock music. In a way, you could say it’s more hard-core geek than the Comic Cons. This year Dragon*Con will be held August 30th to Sept. 2nd, 2013 Here’s a link to the featured appearances, including several famous fantasy and SF writers, Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage from Mythbusters, William Shatner from Star Trek, and James Marsters, who played Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer:

10. Your local public library

A reading room in the New York Public Library (from Wikimedia)

You can go anywhere in a book: Middle Earth, Hogwarts School of Wizardry, Narnia, Oz--it’s all waiting for you, and a good public library can take you there. Most public libraries in the United States offer books, magazines, Internet access, CDs, DVDs, and so much more. And best of all--it’s free! So pick up a book and let it take you wherever you want to go.