Monday, August 31, 2015

Married with Board Games: Five Tribes

Not a surprise since I just announced it as one of my favorite games on my Top 20 list, Five Tribes is one of my all-time favorite games to play with my boyfriend. Perhaps my enthusiasm is partly due to the fact that he's never beat me...maybe? Nah, it's probably just because it's an incredibly beautiful and well-designed game. Right?

Look at it! Now go to the website and see what's inside the pretty pretty box...seriously go ahead...some pretty pretty pieces! If you need something to draw you to a game, the aesthetics and art work in Five Tribes might just be enough for you. Seriously, look at these:

Now, why do I think this is the perfect game to play with your spouse? 
  • It plays well with two people: Most strategic games have some sort of two player variant but they can be extremely disappointing. For example, as much as I love 7 Wonders, playing with one dummy player does not make a two player variant. Sorry. Five Tribes actually has differences to change up the strategy of the game when you play with two people.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The 7 Worst Characteristics About YA Books

I consider myself a Young Adult author in the sense that I'm most interested and most comfortable in this genre. Because I write YA fiction, I also read a ton of it. Or maybe that's the other way around? Maybe I'm so interested in it because I've read so much of it. Regardless, YA is my jam. That's why I need to do this post. There are some incredible YA books that I feel everyone needs to read with complex characters, smart plots, and narrative voices that say "Reader, I trust you to keep up." There are also YA books that do the exact opposite of these things and I've compiled a list of the 7 worst characteristics of many YA books so you and I can be cognizant of them in our own writing.

Free stock photo of person, woman, hand, relaxing

Annoyingly Hip
We've all read books that make us cringe with their slang, technology, and Mean-Girls-on-steroids type interactions. To me this is a little bit hard to overcome in writing because you want modern narrative and you convince yourself this is the way to do it. But there can be too much of a good thing here, we need to make sure we use this modern-speak in moderation. You can only mention Twitter, iPads, Apps, and popular websites so many times before readers say "Okay, we get it. The characters are teens in the 21st century..."

Monday, August 24, 2015

Making the Time to Write When You're Busy

As the summer ends and the school year begins I am faced with too much to fill my plate and nothing I can give up. So what do you do when you're faced with these dilemmas day after day? You still write. You write in any spare moment even for just a few minutes.

I'd be a hypocrite if I said I've never put my writing on hiatus, but this post is just as much for me as it is for everyone else out there. We need to stay pumped, focused, and...sane.

Free stock photo of man, person, woman, face

So how do you make the time to write when it seems like every minute of your day is spoken for?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

My Top 20 Board Games...and Why You'll Disagree 

Any legitimate board gamer out there will most likely look at my list and scoff at the number of party games that made it to my top 20 (or the fact that I play party games at all!), but I must include a disclaimer here about my list. I ranked all the games I own and all the games I can remember playing by how much fun they were and how much I look forward to playing them again.

That's it.

I didn't take into account design, length, theme, my own game group, etc (though these all add to my experience so they are included overall). All I did was gauge my own fond memories and excitement to play again. Part of me feels like I need to defend this and part of me feels like it speaks for itself. Why do we play games? To have fun! To be social! To make memories! To me, that's what this list represents.

Allow me to make a quick comment on behalf of anyone who has ever done this before. I basically rated all of my board games on BoardGameGeek, meaning I had about 30 games that were ranked between 9-10. I had ten games that I like very much which had to be cut. I can only imagine that's akin to picking a favorite child.

Drum roll, please.

20. March of the Ants: This is a great light option with a lot of theme. There are only four rounds, there are only a certain number of turns you can take, and each action allows non-active players to take a counter action, so AP is much less painful in this game. There can be as much or as little conflict as you like and it is simple yet addicting enough to be a gateway game.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Building a Twitter Platform from Scratch

Confession time. Until about a week ago I was kinda sorta anti-Twitter. I'm not sure why I never got into it, I think it was a cross between hating the constraint and the perceived neediness of it all. I hated feeling like I was trying so hard to connect with people and be witty.

*cough* circle-jerk *cough*

But about a week ago my boyfriend talked me into re-activating my Twitter account. I'd made one about a year prior but never got the hang of it, so it sat unused like a pair of roller skates after the 80s.
I digress. But it's worth pointing out that no one roller skates anymore. Blades are where it's at.

So I stumbled through six or seven of my most used passwords to try and resuscitate the feeble thing and after only a few minutes I was in! With...2 followers, who I didn't know. Now is the point of my journey that I share the fact that I'm basically a closet writer. I write for me and it's a part of my life that is semi-private from my friends and family. I like that I get to be someone else  and not have to worry about someone not liking what I have to say. I feel like a teenager that is just growing in to her body and developing her own personality. I'm still in that awkward hone-your-voice stage.

My Facebook page is where I keep in touch with people from past lives. My Twitter page is my attempt at building a platform from which to strengthen my own writing career, but also to network with important people in the business.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Ticket to Ride: 10 Reasons You Must Add it to Your Collection

Far be it for me to tell you how to live your life, but GET TICKET TO RIDE RIGHT NOW.

I mean it.

I am not exaggerating when I say Ticket to Ride is one of my favorite games of all time, and probably the game that I've played the most. I've decided to dedicate my first game suggestion for those Married with Board Games to Ticket to Ride because it is beloved in my home and in the gamer world in general. You will likely have to search far and wide for a gamer who has not heard of or played Ticket to Ride. That sounds like a poem.

You will likely search far and wide
For a gamer who has not played Ticket to Ride

Okay, someone else finish it. I'm no poet.

But, seriously. TTR is the best option for couples, families, friends, new gamers, light gamers, Euro gamers, and non-hipster gamers. I include that last one because the more popular certain games get, the more hipster gamers feel they have to shun it, i.e. Settler's of Catan (or is it just Catan now?).

Saturday, August 15, 2015

4 Young Adult Fiction Books You Need to Read

I know, I know. There are a hundred million thousand billion posts like this...but I can't help it. I want to tell you what to read. And then I want you to tell me how much you loved every book on the list and thank me for changing your life forever. Is that too much to ask? The list isn't comprehensive of all YA books since, well, I haven't read all the books. These books aren't in any order, nor are they necessarily my top four favorite YA of all time. For instance, you won't find Harry Potter on here even though I consider it a prerequisite to being my friend. I guess you will find it on here since I just mentioned it. Anywho... read Harry Potter.


1. Vampire Academy & Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
Richelle Mead gets a twofer since these series are very closely related (just a switch of POV as the story progresses). What does this book have to offer?  Unique vampires, the school scene we all fell in love with in HP, romance, danger, strong female characters, and secret societies. If you saw the movie and weren't in to it, give it a second chance. The movie tried way too hard to be modern, sexy, and cool.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Married with Board Games: An Introduction to Converting Your Spouse

I love board games. My boyfriend loves board games. We're a happy couple, 'nough said. Okay, maybe that's not all there is to it...but it helps.

Free stock photo of young, game, match, kids 

So why doesn't everyone play board games instead of sitting silently in front of the TV or spending an intimate evening with their phones? My theory is that they haven't found the right games to play. In this blog thread I will suggest games for couples to play together to introduce the idea of gaming and hopefully start a life-long hobby. 

So. Without further ado, why should you be playing games?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Staying Motivated After the Excitement of Beginning Your Novel Wears Off

Starting a novel can be an incredible rush. New characters, an idea that just seems so original, who wouldn't want to pick it up? I begin each of my books so confident that I convince myself this will be the book that I get published. This will be the first of many chart topping successes. And most importantly, this will be the one that lets me quit my day job.

A few days in to writing and the infectious excitement inevitably wears off and you have a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde moment. The demon on your shoulder whispers convincingly in your ear, "You think this is good? Your characters are all watered down versions of what you had in mind. Your story is boring. And you don't know how to fix any of it. Maybe you should just step away for a few days to think about it."


Coming from someone who has listened to that demon, don't do it. Sure, the story may be turning out different than you expected, you may have trouble finding the right words, and your characters seem a little blah but (let's see how many cliches we can apply) Rome wasn't built in a day, each journey starts with just one step, and..that's it. Two. I could only think of two.

The important thing here is that we remember that this feeling is going to come and we prepare ourselves to face it head on. I'm about 7,000 words into a new novel right now that doesn't have a clear arc or direction. There are three main characters and I am having an incredibly hard time staying focused. The demon on my shoulder whispers for me to give up because if I'm having a hard time focusing on my own book how can I expect anyone else to want to read it? Touche, demon. But I'm not going to give up, instead I'm going to ride myself a little bit harder.

Free stock photo of schedule, startup, to do, whiteboard

I think I'm having trouble focusing because I haven't really given myself undivided time to think through my story. I got the initial idea, I rushed through some basic outlining and character development, and I jumped into writing.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

5 Steps to Starting a Novel from Scratch

Okay, okay, these aren't necessarily consecutive, all-inclusive steps that will guide you from the blank page and blinking cursor in front of you to a tidy 90,000 word book. But it's a start. And hopefully it will give you a good idea of how to get started and what to expect as you plow through.

May the force be with you. I don't even like Star Wars, I don't know why I said that. May the odds be ever in your favor? That's better, but hopefully no one dies...

Step 1: Be crazy. 

You need to be just the right amount of insane to come up with a books' worth of thoughts, write them down, read through them, and then berate yourself repeatedly until you questions your whole purpose in life...And then try and convince someone that it's the best thing since The Bible. If you're not crazy enough you will likely get a chapter or two into the book (one or two sittings) think "Well, that was fun..." and put it down forever. That's fine. It's what most people who start a book do, but you need to be prepared to push through that feeling. Write when you don't want to, even if it's just 500 words and it's junk that you'll inevitably throw out in a fit of rage. Eventually you'll get your groove back and you and Stella will have a finished book!

Free stock photo of fashion, legs, notebook, working

Step 2: Start with something.

You don't have to know exactly what is going to happen every step of the way but, good god man, start with something. As a freelance writer I wrote short stories, novels, non-fiction informative e-books, and I've started several of my own books and it feels like I do something different every time. I've started with no plan except one character (basically me in the flesh...or at least how I like to think of myself...) and a general idea of what I wanted the genre to be. That's right, the genre. I was pretty sure I wanted it to be Young Adult, but I didn't know if it would be fantasy, sci-fi, romance, etc. And then I really liked typing with a potty mouth so I almost threw the Young Adult out the window. Trust me. It doesn't work. Have a plan.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Are the "Great Works" of Literature Obsolete?

This post is inspired by my recent accomplishment: reading Catcher in the Rye. I like classical books as much as the next person, which is to say I mostly just like the idea of reading them and then impressing people with how well read I am.

The thing that got to me about Catcher in the Rye is that it wasn't really about anything. When trying to explain it to my boyfriend here's what I had to say: "'s about a guy who gets kicked out of boarding school and he basically hates everything. He doesn't want to go home to his parents yet so he stays in a hotel and gets beat up by a pimp. Oh, but then he sneaks into his own house to say hi to his little sister and then later he tells her he's going to run away. But then he doesn't."

Ok, maybe I didn't do it justice, but can anyone tell me how to better explain it? I get that the kid didn't know what he wanted to do with his life and didn't see the point in going to school, those surly teenagers... But seriously, are these books actually doing today's youth any good? Is the reason we have them read this stuff in school to get the message? Or to learn how to expertly use spark notes to make it seem like they actually read the book?

Compare Catcher in the Rye to basically anything written by John Greene. I don't necessarily think John Greene is an incredible author but I've read a few of his books and they strike the same societal chord that, I believe, Catcher in the Rye was meant to strike. Teens going through a range of existential crises, trying to figure out what their purpose is. That about sum it up? 

So my question is, should the great works of literature still be used in the every day classroom, or have they become culturally obsolete? I don't know who determines what books are important for kids in school to read, but shouldn't they be reading pieces they can relate to? Is it so important for these kids to be able to decipher Shakespeare or understand the time and culture of Catcher in the Rye? 

Why not push new books with similar messages that may be of more interest to students and foster an overall greater interest in reading? Is there no other love story than Romeo and Juliet? Isn't it just as important, if not more so, to study literature from the past thirty years? Teach students about the issues we were just facing, are facing now, and will be facing. Leave the centuries old plays for some light reading when they're older and it won't completely deter them from the written word...   

Thursday, August 6, 2015

All Writers Are Narcissists

Free stock photo of hand, laptop, notebook, typing

Don't get me wrong, I think we're all a bit narcissistic on a basic, human level. But narcissism is the life blood of writers. We, and I include myself to be generous (To me, not to other, more talented writers. Though that would be narcissistic of me, so...), think we have something so unique and profound to say. I don't write to add to the piles of unread material out there, though likely that is where most of my stuff will end up, I write because I have something to say. Or at least I think I do. Sometimes I get half way through and ask myself "What was this supposed to be about again?"