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Author Archive: "Ken Denmead"

Ken Denmead: What I’m Giving

In this special series, we asked writers we admire to share a book they're giving to their friends and family this holiday season. Check back daily to see the books your favorite authors are gifting.

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I came to read (actually first listened to via audio book) Redshirts because I am a lifelong Star Trek geek (my cred goes as deep as the fact that I have personally run a play-by-email Star Trek RPG), and because I'm a fan of both John Scalzi and Wil Wheaton (who reads the audiobook and has been a friend of my site for many years).


It’s Time to Get Your Game On

Geek WeekOn Monday, gentle bookstore blog readers, I told you I wanted to evangelize you to a new way of life. Hopefully, if you've read this far, you've seen why I love games and why I work so hard trying to get people — especially families — into gaming. When you have little kids, the simple structured play is a tremendously helpful developmental tool for teaching them how to take turns, play fairly, cooperate, and even start telling stories. Later on, they learn strategy, maybe creative wordplay, and, in some cases, even how to craft a narrative or build a whole world.

Tomorrow is International TableTop Day (ITD), the first worldwide celebration of tabletop gaming. It's also a celebration of getting together with friends and family to have fun and interact on a face-to-face level. Yes, I'm a total technology geek, and I am not about to start putting down social networking as not being about "real friendships." But what I do look for, in almost everything I do, is balance. Sure, fragging aliens in online co-op videogame play is fantastic (as ...


A Quick, Custom Card Game Project

Geek WeekSometimes big board games can be a little overwhelming for younger gamers. That's why card games can be so engaging for kids. But after the thousandth game of War, parents may yearn for something a little more interesting. It also wouldn't hurt if you didn't have to go out and buy every last foil-wrapped packet of the latest combat card game to find that one special card. So, in the same vein as my DIY board game project, let me offer you an idea for making your own card game, which can combine the fun and craftiness of designing it together with the satisfying sense of ownership that comes from doing it yourself.

The idea for this project came from my good friend "Z," senior editor at GeekDad and longtime podcast partner. It's detailed in my second book, The Geek Dad's Guide to Weekend Fun, but I'm happy to outline it here so folks can try it with their families for International TableTop Day.

This is a game for 2-4 players using one customized deck of playing cards. If you want to work ...


Traveling with Board Games

Geek WeekI love my board games, and I'm proud to have the great boxes they come in displayed prominently on my living room shelves. Board game art is a fantastic genre in and of itself (I'm proud to know a couple board game artists, who are awesome folks and talented to boot), and obviously those big, brightly illustrated boxes are meant to make games stand out on game store shelves. But those big boxes also make it challenging to travel with your games if you want to take them with you on vacation. Of course, there are travel editions of many more mainstream games, but they're never quite up to snuff.

This summer, our family had the chance (thanks to my nonagenarian grandma) to take a cruise to Alaska (if you're ever in Juneau, don't miss Alaska Robotics, the geekiest place in town). Cruises are exciting, but there's also a lot of at-sea time that forces you to take it easy and find things to occupy your time. That's why I wanted to bring a number of our more interesting board games. But ...


Sometimes the Best Board Game Is the One You Make Yourself

Geek WeekAs we build up our anticipation for the first-ever International TableTop Day (ITD) this Saturday, we may get a bit overwhelmed. Like being suddenly placed in the middle of a bustling foreign city, the variety of new game concepts and settings may be more confusing than anything else. What's the best type of game to buy? RPG? German-style board game? Combat card game? There are so many!

Hopefully between my blog entries this week and the awesome events happening at Powell's this Saturday, you'll be able to find a few great new games to play with your family. But today I'm going to pitch you a different way to experience gaming with your family: with a DIY game project.

I developed "Buildrz" for my first book as a way for families to make the perfect game for themselves, and on the cheap. The idea is that, at least with many of the familiar American board games, there is a generic theme: a journey along a path to reach a destination. So I took some butcher paper, covered our pool table with ...


Why Playing Tabletop Games Is as Important as Reading

Geek WeekI thought that title on a bookstore blog might raise a few eyebrows, and I'll admit I wrote it just to be sensationalistic. Of course, you have to be able to read to play most tabletop games, so there is a hierarchy involved, but the point I hope to make is that playing tabletop games, especially as a family, can be as rewarding as reading to your kids. If you already consider yourself a gamer, I'll probably be preaching to the choir here, but if not, please read on; I'm here to evangelize you toward a new way of life.

First, a refresher: I'm Ken Denmead. I run a blog called GeekDad (and am the publisher of GeekMom). I also wrote three books filled with projects for parents and kids to build together, and with two boys of my own, I'm very invested in the realm of figuring out how to have rewarding family experiences.

Powell's asked me to do a return-stint as guest blogger this week, as we lead up to the first-ever International TableTop Day (ITD) on ...


So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

Somewhere around 1987, I and my best friend Michael took a train trip around the U.S. before we headed off to college. We visited relatives back East, saw a show in NYC, and spent a couple days at Disney World. And, I remember vividly, stopped at a rather cool bookstore in downtown Portland while we were there on a layover. That was the first I'd ever heard of Powell's, but the memory stuck with me , and over the years I've become more and more aware of its status as one of the finest independent bookstores in the country. I always hear about great, geeky folks like Wil Wheaton or John Hodgman visiting for a signing, and I picture the place in my head.

Last year, when my first book came out, my parents (who are retired) were on an RV trip to the Northwest and stopped by Powell's. My dad, ever impish, went looking for my book, and cheerfully found it on a shelf with a special recommendation note on it by one of the store's staff. He ...


What a Book Launch Looks Like From Inside

This last Tuesday, my third book in 18 months launched. It's been an amazing year and a half, and I still find it strange to call myself an author, let alone being able to add "New York Times Bestselling." It's like getting knighted, or being Prince: You have this title to put in front of your name for the rest of your life, and you can never give it back. It's just a bit surreal.

As is launch day. It's surreal because it's a rather disconnected experience. All the work I did on the book was over months ago, and it's been in the hands of the publisher to finally assemble, put through the printing process, and do all the magical sales stuff that gets copies into your local bookstores on a given day. I wrote and delivered 50,000-odd words, and then sent it off to be finished like the teenage daughter of a middle-class Victorian family. And while I've moved onto things like kitchen renovations and planning for the holidays, people I've never met have been adding value to my work doing their own day job responsibilities. How ...


Why the “Three Rs” Needs to Become “RRRS”

I am not an educator. I am not a scientist. I'm hardly what you could call an expert in anything. What I know about is being a geek (technology, gaming, obscure references to cult movies), and being a dad, a husband, and an engineer.

And yet, stories like this make me sad and nervous:

Teachers Have Little Time to Teach Science, Study Shows

Intense pressure to meet accountability goals in mathematics and English is limiting time for science, and teachers and schools do not have the infrastructure support needed to consistently provide students with quality science learning opportunities. Forty percent of elementary teachers say they spend just 60 minutes or less teaching science each week. Just one-third of elementary teachers say they feel prepared to teach science, but 85 percent of teachers say they have not received any professional development in science during the last three years. And while nine in ten principals say science education is very important and should start early, less than half of principals (44%) believe it is likely that a student would receive high-quality science instruction in his or her

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The Day the Geeks Took Over the Bookstore

If there was ever a sign that the geekpocalypse is nigh, it's the list of new books coming out today.

Obviously I'm here on the Powell's blog this week because my new book is hitting the shelves (I'm sure there's a link somewhere on this page to find it), but there's more.

Geek culture is in the mainstream (well, maybe dipping its toes on the shore of the mainstream), and many of us poor sods who had our d20s stolen by jocks in high school now have books . It's starting to feel like maybe we weren't as isolated and alone as we thought, and, better than that, there are a lot of us with interesting things to say.

So separate from my own endeavors, I'd like to point you towards two other deep geek culture tomes coming out today.

The first is The Nerdist Way by Chris Hardwick. Chris is one of the best interviewers ...


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