September 21, 2015

Bump: A Free Print-and-Play Board Game

In my novel Drift, the characters play an abstract board game named Bump. It's always been my plan to put a free, easy-to-print version of Bump on my website -- and here it is! Much thanks to my playtest volunteers -- Andy Lemmon, Aidan Doyle, Anaea Lay, and Tyler and Michelle Cowart.

The components you need are really, really simple. Print a board on a standard sized piece of paper, and gather fifteen tokens for each player to use (pennies and dimes, M&Ms, whatever is handy). Because there's nothing complicated involved in setting the game up, it's easy for book clubs or classrooms to print multiple copies and use this, too.

September 9, 2015

Salt Lake Comic Con Schedule

Salt Lake Comic Con is coming up! The schedule of panels is up. There's always so much good stuff. If you're looking for me, I'm going to be at:

Friday, September 25:

2:00pm, Room 235A -- Pacing and Plotting in YA Fiction

Saturday, September 26:

1:00pm, Room 255F -- Live Plotting: Build a Story.

The first one was my suggestion; I'm completely thrilled that it's happening. And I love live brainstorming panels -- either being on them or watching them. In short, I feel like I just got handed a Christmas present, and I'm very much looking forward to Comic Con. I hope to see lots of you there!

July 28, 2015

Poet-Scholars of the Necropolis

I have a brand-new short story out at Podcastle, "Poet-Scholars of the Necropolis"! I'm very happy this story found such a good home. Julia Rios does an amazing job of narrating.

I've also started a newsletter/mailing list -- there's a sign-up on the right-hand bar of this website, or on the Contacts page. I'll send out a newsletter a few time a year with updates and announcements. No spam. No giving away your e-mail. Just good times.

July 7, 2015

Reprint: The Temple's Posthole

"The Temple's Posthole" is, in my opinion, some of my very, very best work. It's been reprinted in this issue of Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, which means it's now free to read online. If you haven't read my stuff, this is pretty representative of what I love to write. There's a lot of worldbuilding with the magic, and exploration of that magic. There's family relationships. Perhaps this one also sticks closely with me because it deals with archaeology in a way (postholes!) and the setting is inspired by the Classic Maya civilization.

In any case, I'm pleased as pie that it's been reprinted. If you haven't read it, click here! And yes, I did just shamelessly link to the same story twice in the same small blog post. I still shamelessly love this story, and very proud to have it in another publication, to share with a new set of readers.

June 17, 2015

Necromancer, 79th Infantry Division

My flash fiction story, "Necromancer, 79th Infantry Division", released from Daily Science Fiction today! You can read it online for free.

If your not familiar with Daily Science Fiction, they e-mail subscribers a new flash fiction story (usually under 1,000 words) every week day. They publish a lot of great stuff -- and subscriptions are also free.

June 12, 2015

Boardgame Review: Black Sheep

I think this is the first boardgame I've come to because of the artist. I went to Ursula Vernon's website to check out her work and found Black Sheep. It had Ursula's delightful art, it was published by Fantasy Flight, and the designer's name looked familiar too. Google informed me that's because Reiner Knizia's done a lot of board games that I've played before.

How had I never heard of this game? I quickly acquired a copy.

The day it showed up, we played it six times. Twice in the afternoon with the kids. Twice with the kids and husband after dinner. And then twice more with just my husband that evening. Because it called, siren song-like on the shelf, and we couldn't leave it alone.


Black Sheep is a fast game with the feel of a more complex worker placement or bidding game. It's also a good deal like playing three simultaneous hands of Texas Hold 'Em.

Three fields are placed in the middle of the table, each with two animals on it. Players each have a hand of three cards, and take turns playing cards on their side of the field. When each player has three cards on their side, the field is scored. Between the animals on their fields and their own cards, players looks at their combinations of animals. One player might have a four-of-a-kind, another a full house, and another two pair. The player with the best combination (in this place, the four-of-a-kind) wins. They take the two animals and place them on their own coral.

The little animal figurines each have numbers stamped on the bottom -- victory points for the end of the game. Black sheep, however, count negative against your score! There are also end-of-game bonuses; one for whoever has the most of each type of animal, plus bonuses for having a complete set of animals. There are option mission cards, but we haven't added that extra layer of complexity yet.

*It's a good balance of luck and skill. That makes it great for families -- older players are still engaged and younger players can still win. This would also be great for a gaming group where there's a mix of hard-core boardgamers and people who want to try something new, but are intimidated by complex games with lots of components. (I should probably note that my 5-year-old has better strategy than me, anyway. He's happy to throw down the best cards he has and keep going. I tend to use some fields as essentially discard piles so I can look for just the perfect card to win somewhere else. The first game we played, he beat me 41 to 8. No, that's not a typo.)

*It's short. Also good for families, or a quick inbetween game at a group while waiting for people to show. It also means that the luck factor isn't devastating -- if the cards hate you this game, it's okay. There will be another game. Soon.

*Your hand is always three cards. We skip a lot of card games because the kids aren't coordinated enough to fan out and hold a dozen cards at a time. No problems here.

*It's easy to learn. I had to read the rules twice to get the hang of it, but only took a minute to teach my husband. The kids got the game play quickly, though it took them a few game to memorize which kinds of combination were better. They do not have any passing familiarity with poker.

*The corral where you keep your animals lists them from highest-value to lowest value; important if you're trying to figure out a tiebreaker (A three-of-a-kind of horses, for example, beats a three-of-a-kind of sheep).

*Quick set-up. Quick clean-up.

*Cute animals! Both in the arts and in the little pieces.

*Fantasy Flight always makes games with top-notch components, so I was surprised the fields weren't made out of something heavier. On the flip side, I wouldn't mention it if it were another publishing company. They look nice, and it probably helps keep the price of the game down.

*Cards are small, but I don't think it'd fit on my table well, otherwise. It means they're easy for my kids to hold, but hard for me to shuffle. There's a moderate amount of shuffling in a 3-player game, and quite a bit in a 4-player game.