November 17, 2015

Boardgame Review: Dino Hunt Dice

At Salt Lake ComicCon, my kids discovered Zombie Dice. They loved it, but there's something really unnerving about hearing a five-year-old cheer, "Yes! More brains!"

So I was really happy to discover Dino Hunt Dice. It's also made by Steve Jackson Games and has almost-identical rules. Instead of brains, you collect dinosaurs.

Usually I'm a big fan of games with a fair amount of strategy and choice-making. This isn't that game. Dino Hunt Dice only has one choice to make -- whether or not you want to keep what you have or roll again and chance losing it all (here's the complete rules). There's a certain amount of calculated risk and probability involved, but this is no Euro game. So...why pick this game up?

You need something short. The game plays in about ten minutes, so it's perfect for moments when you really just don't have time to break out an hour-long game but want to be able to play something with your kids. It would work as a quick filler game for gaming groups, too -- or as a way to determine who gets to pick the next, heavier board game for the group to play. 

You need something simple. This is the kind of game one can literally play one-handed. The rules are easy peasy. It would be an easy game to get non-gamers to play. A great game for people who want to chat more than strategize. I don't have any very young novice board game players right now, but this would be a great game to introduce to a three-year-old. The luck element is heavy enough that they have a good chance of winning, but the game is still ten thousand times more interesting than Candyland. I'm excited to have a game that I'd willingly play with other adults that can also be accessed by kiddos still learning how to roll dice. And unlike a lot of dice games where there's some real score keeping involved, here you just have to be able to keep a running tally to twenty.

You need something portable. The whole game comes in a cup that would fit in most purses. It wouldn't be a bad game to just keep stashed in the car, and it's almost certainly going to be traveling with us. No need to worry about busted corners on boxes or finding space for it.

This game is no Settlers of Catan. It's not amazing or revolutionary. But I'm grateful to own it for those moments when we need short and simple and pulling out an absolutely brilliant game just isn't feasible. The kids have played it with me and by themselves I-don't-know-how-many-times. It seems easily worth the ten dollars we paid for it.

November 2, 2015

A Veil of Leaves

My science fiction short story, "A Veil of Leaves", is live over at Crossed Genres!

This is my first sale to Crossed Genres, and sadly my last. If you haven't seen, the magazine is closing after the December issue.

October 14, 2015

Genie From the Gym

I have a new short story up at Daily Science Fiction today, "Genie From the Gym." This story came from a writing prompt during a Codex flash-writing challenge. I can't for the life of me remember the prompt -- I really need to write these things down.

If you're not familiar with Daily Science Fiction, they publish a new flash story (very short fiction -- usually under a thousand words) every week day. You can read the stories for free on their website, or subscribe for free and have them delivered to your inbox every morning.

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.

May 20, 2015

Guest Post: Josh Vogt and Scotland Yard

Today, I'm welcoming fellow Codexiian Josh Vogt to talk about one of his favorite board games. He has two books out this spring -- Forge of Ashes and Enter the Janitor. My mind boggles at the idea of releasing two books at once. But maybe given the description of the board game he picked, I shouldn't be surprised (I sadly haven't played this, but it looks fantastic!). Here's Josh:

Scotland Yard

Scotland Yard has been around for quite a while (30+ years), but it’s a game I’ve found relatively few are even aware exists—and sadly so! It’s a fantastic group game that challenges your brainpower as well as your ability to work as a team to capture your opponent, Mr. X.

Scotland Yard is played on a board displaying an illustrated map of London, which is further overlaid by a series of travel lines, indicating various modes of transportation such as taxis, buses, the London Underground, and even a couple waterways. One person plays Mr. X, a fugitive from justice attempting to evade the detectives, which are controlled by up to five other players.

Each player receives a select number of “transportation tickets,” allowing them to move around via the different travel modes. Mr. X and the detectives draw starting node numbers to determine where on the board their pieces are set, and then the chase is on! The detectives must capture Mr. X (by landing on the space he occupies) before their tickets run out. If they fail, the game ends and Mr. X wins.

But here’s the twist. Mr. X’s game piece only appears on the board at pre-determined turns. Otherwise, Mr. X’s position is tracked on a hidden pad, and the only clue to his whereabouts are the tickets he uses to move each turn.
Every so often, Mr. X will be forced to reveal himself, and then will disappear again on the next turn.
This forces the detectives to track him through deduction and corner the criminal by theorizing which route he is likeliest to take to escape once spotted. Will he double-back? Play the “two moves in one turn” card? Go down the river? Zip across a train line? And if you know Mr. X’s piece will appear in the next move or two, how can you all get into position to be as mobile as possible and close in on him before he vanishes again?

It’s such a fun game for both sides. It can be incredibly tense when playing Mr. X, listening to the other players discuss your potential plans and trying to box you in. For the detectives, using your collective intellects to project several steps ahead and eliminate possible escape routes is quite satisfying—especially when you’re proven right and capture the crook.

The game doesn’t drag on too long since you’ve got a limited number of turns right from the get-go, and you can easily fit a few play-throughs in an evening, with various players trying their hand at being Mr. X.

Or, yes, Mrs. X.

About Josh:

Josh Vogt has been published in dozens of genre markets with work ranging from flash fiction to short stories to doorstopper novels that cover fantasy, science fiction, horror, humor, pulp, and more. His debut fantasy novel, Forge of Ashes, adds to the RPG Pathfinder Tales tie-in line. WordFire Press is also launching his urban fantasy series, The Cleaners, with Enter the Janitor (2015) and The Maids of Wrath (2016). You can find him at or on Twitter @JRVogt. He’s a member of SFWA as well as the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.

May 11, 2015


First off, I'm over on the SFWA blog, talking about My Journey into SFWA as part of the 50th anniversary blog tour! You can see the rest of the tour here.

Next, IGMS has compiled a free sample issue. You can read it online or download a .mobi or .epub. It's an awesome collection. The first story, "Sojourn for Ephah" by Marina J. Lostetter, is a favorite of mine. It's worth downloading for that alone, though there's a ton of other goodness packed in -- some of the best science fiction and fantasy from IGMS history.

Lastly, I won't be making it to WorldCon this year, unfortunately. But I will be at Salt Lake Comic Con in September, which I'm very much looking forward to. If you haven't been, Salt Lake Comic Con is huge and bustling and amazing. Hope to see you there!

April 27, 2015


It's official! I'm now represented by David Dunton at Harvey Klinger.

I feel like I should have more to say -- it seems people often put long how-I-got-my-agent posts on their blogs -- but mostly I spent a lot of time querying and then a short, exciting time talking to agents on the phone and agonizing over which one would be best for my career. I'm thrilled to have such a great agent, and very happy that the projects I've been working on will now be moving forward.

April 23, 2015

Dulemba Blog Guest Post

Hi! I'm over at Elizabeth Dulemba's blog today, talking about patience and writing Drift. She has amazing coloring books pages she's drawn and lots of interviews with authors -- it's a great site to check out.

Here's the start of my post:

Patience is an under-sung virtue in the publishing world.  Nearly a decade ago, I sat in a college classroom listening to a professor talk about how the Classic Maya envisioned the world as being on the back of a turtle, surrounded by a watery hell. I knew I had to write a story about that. (continue)

April 7, 2015

The Game of Psychological Warfare: Guestpost from David Walton

Today I'm very excited to welcome David Walton to the blog to talk about one of his favorite boardgames. His fantasy novel Quintessence is one of the finest books I've read in years. His newest book, Superposition, is out today. And now, from David...

The Game of Psychological Warfare
I recently introduced my oldest four children to the classic game of Risk, a favorite of my younger days.  Despite its length (the game always last a bit longer than you wished it would), its mix of strategy, randomness, and the thrill of taking over the world can be addictive.  The aspect of the game that really sets it apart, however, is the psychological component.  The best Risk players aren't the ones who have the strategy down, but those who can manipulate the other players into handing over the victory.

A player's power in Risk can be measured by how many armies she has.  The more armies, the more countries and continents she will conquer, and thus the more armies she will continue to acquire.  The problem is, as soon as she gains too much power (particularly when she controls a continent), she will inevitably bring the combined might of the other players down on her.  So how can she gain power without losing it?

The answer is psychological warfare.  The winning player will be able to gain power while simultaneously convincing the other players that he is not a threat.  He will talk the other players into fighting each other instead of him, thus bleeding away the rest of the power on the board while retaining his own.  Of course, this can't go on indefinitely--eventually his power will be so great that the other players can no longer be fooled.  But by then it will be too late.

I've seen this accomplished in multiple ways.  There are bullies, who scorn other players for the foolish choice of attacking them.  There are advisers, who give kind counsel to other players, explaining what course of action they should take for their own good (which of course involves attacking someone else).  There are the humble players, who feign a lack of skill while quietly growing in unnoticed power.  That's where the strategic choice in the game really figures--not in which continent to conquer first or how many armies to leave behind, but in how to convince the other players to fight each other instead of you.

Then there's the kicker.

It's the one rule that makes the difference in every Risk game: the rule that gives you all of a player's Risk cards if you knock him out of the game.  This is usually the point where the psychological player rips off her mask and shows herself for the power-hungry conqueror she is.  Her full power is suddenly brought to bear to destroy another player utterly, acquiring those precious cards and tipping the scales irreversibly in her favor.  Every game can have some flavor of psychology in their play, but I don't think I've ever encountered a board game where the psychological component is as significant to victory as it is in Risk.

This does raise a question: can the strategy of a game have a moral component?  Is it ethical to play a game where, no matter what friendships you pretend as the game goes on, you will inevitably stab someone in the back by the end and sweep everyone else off the board?  Do we want games that train our children to be effective manipulators of other people?  Is this just a sanitized opportunity to practice ruthlessness?

I don't think so.

Like all strategy games, Risk sharpens the mind, honing wits for problem solving and effective prediction of complex cause and effect.  Games like this promote flexible thinking and the ability to adapt when plans go awry.  That the game includes a strong psychological component just expands the nature of that thinking to include human concepts, not just mathematical or geometric ones.  It trains the mind to adapt to changing social structures and hierarchies, to engage with human systems to achieve a desired goal.  Just like in a novel, where we can assume for a time the thinking and perspective of another human being, games strengthen our ability to think outside the box, and outside of ourselves.

And besides... conquering the world is terrific fun.


David Walton is the author of the newly released novel SUPERPOSITION, a quantum physics murder mystery with the same mind-bending, breathless action as films like INCEPTION and MINORITY REPORT.  His other works include the Philip K. Dick Award-winning TERMINAL MIND, the historical fantasy QUINTESSENCE (Tor, 2013) and its sequel, QUINTESSENCE SKY.  He's also a Lockheed Martin engineer and the father of seven children.  You can read about his books and life at

April 1, 2015

Guest Post: M. Darusha Wehm and Ex Libris

I'm very happy to have Darusha Wehm, a fellow Codexiian, here today to talk about one of her favorite board games. She also just had a novel released -- check it out below. And now for Darusha...

Ex Libris is possibly the perfect game for fiction writers.

It’s basically Balderdash for books. The premise is simple: receive a synopsis of a real, English language novel. Write a fake first or last line for the book. Read them all out, along with the real one. Guess the right one. Die laughing.

The game consists of a deck of cards, on each of which is the title and author of a real book, a brief synopsis, and the actual first and last sentences of the novel. Like Balderdash, one player picks a card, reads it out and decides whether the others will write the first or last line. In my experience, the choice is based on which of the real sentences sounds most like something one of the other players might write, or is hilarious in its lack of context. Points are awarded for guessing the correct line and when other players incorrectly guess your submission as the right one.

While a version of this could be played by using books just lying around, one of the great things about the game is its large variety of books. There are some classics in there (which does give a guessing advantage to widely read players), but there are also some pretty bizarre stories included as well. I strongly suspect many books were chosen because of their unusual first and last lines.

If you have a group of friends who all write, or are creative and enjoy books, this game is one where the time just disappears.

You need at least three to play and the more the merrier.

Children of Arkadia
Kaus wants nothing more than to be loved while its human counterpart, Raj Patel, believes fervently in freedom. Arkadia, one of four space stations circling Jupiter, was to be a refuge for all who fought the corrupt systems of old Earth, a haven where both humans and Artificial Intelligences could be happy and free. But the old prejudices and desires are still at play and, no matter how well-meaning its citizens, the children of Arkadia have tough compromises to make.

When the future of humanity is at stake, which will prove more powerful: freedom or happiness? What sacrifices will Kaus, Raj, and the rest of Arkadia’s residents have to make to survive?

M. Darusha Wehm is the three-time Parsec Award shortlisted author of the novels Beautiful Red, Self Made, Act of Will and The Beauty of Our Weapons. Her next novel, Children of Arkadia, is forthcoming from Bundoran Press on April 28, 2015. Her short fiction has appeared in many venues, including Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Toasted Cake and Escape Pod. She is the editor of the crime and mystery magazine Plan B.

She is from Canada, but currently lives in Wellington, New Zealand after spending the past several years traveling at sea on her sailboat. For more information, visit

February 10, 2015

Why SFF: A Reading List

I'm over at David Walton's blog, talking about why I write science fiction and fantasy -- which I do by looking at things I love to read at why. Click here for the post!

David's the author of Quintessence, which was absolutely fantastic. He's got a new book coming out this year, too, which I'm looking forward to. In any case, definitely check out his website.

February 8, 2015

Unlikely Influences: Two Lessons from Toy Story

I'm guest-blogging over at Kate Heartfield's blog on her Unlikely Influence Series:
Unlikely Influences is a series of weekly blog posts about how science fiction and fantasy writers can learn the tricks of their trade in odd places.
 I'm writing about what Toy Story taught me about endings! Click here to read.

January 29, 2015

The Great Con Question

I'm over at Inkpunks today, guest posting on conventions -- and whether or not writers should go to them. Check it out here.

January 23, 2015

LTUE Schedule

I'll be at Life, the Universe, and Everything -- a great conference about writing held from Feb 12-14 in Provo, Utah. Here's my schedule! Room numbers are yet to come. It looks like I'll get to spend lots of time talking about archaeology/anthropology/folklore. :)

9am Thu: Building Different Economies / Politics
2pm Thu: Using History & Folklore to Enrich Your World
7pm Thu: Using Anthropology for Inspiration

1pm Fri: Push Button Technology

10am Sat: Young Adult Protagonists
1pm Sat: Modern Fantasy & It’s Relation to Folklore and Myth
4pm Sat: The History of Chocolate
6pm Sat: Selling Your Short Story

ETA: I will also be at the mass book signing Friday, 8:00pm.

January 13, 2015

Bricks and Sunlight at Cast of Wonders

Cast of Wonders, the Parsec-winning YA fiction podcast, has produced my short story, "Bricks and Sunlight." This is both my first reprint, and my first audio fiction! Click here to listen.

January 9, 2015


Mary Robinette Kowal posted an interesting article: "This post! I'm promoting it, even though I've been told it's tacky to self-promote." She makes a very good argument that if you don't tell people what you've done this year, they won't just know.

Even though I doubt I'm in the running for anything this award season*, she's right. I should put up a summary. And thanks to her excellent post, if it's tacky, I get to be tacky along with a very classy woman.

So! Here's my 2014:

Drift, from Tu Books. Kirkus Review said: "Original worldbuilding and cosmology spice up a save-the-world romantic adventure....Readers will find watching Hutchins’ unusual magical rules bring about startling consequences for family and political structure utterly fascinating."

"Golden Chaos," Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, Issue # 40. Available here.

Short Stories:
"A Dragon's Doula," Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, Issue #42. Available here.

"Waterlilies," Daily Science Fiction. April 21, 2014. Available for free online here.

"Wishing Hard Enough," Leading Edge Magazine, Issue #65. February 2014.

*For readers who aren't aware, nominations for the Nebulas and Hugos are both coming up soon, making this "award season" for the SF/F genres.