Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Making My Peace with the Kitchen

I didn't cook when I was a young woman. In my first marriage, my husband did most of our day to day meal preparation.

I used to brag about that.

I think I thought it proved something about my feminism, that our house hadn't fallen into that particular traditional gender role. (Even though we fell into plenty of other typical patterns).

I definitely didn't want to be the little wifey, slaving away in the kitchen. No way, no how.

I only cooked if we were having a party or trying something I thought was ambitious or fun. That started to change when we had a child since there was a greater need for a variety of food preparation, but when we divorced, he was still the main cook in our house.

So, there I was, thirty-two years old, temporarily back in my parents house with a preschooler. My mom and dad are wonderful people, who really came through for me when I needed it. But I wasn't enjoying eating with them.

They weren't very adventurous eaters (I am), and my mom was pretty burnt out on meal preparation. She'd been making meals for one kind of family or another since she was nine years old, after all. Most meals involved a lot of boxes and cans, and I found them pretty darn dull.

So, I started cooking.

I was looking for a way to contribute to the household, since I was draining their resources, and unable to contribute any dollars (even an amicable divorce is expensive), so I could contribute my labor. I'm not very good at accepting help (especially if I can't reciprocate), and my parents were thrilled to have someone else take over cooking for a while, so it was a good arrangement.

I learned something other cooks have known for a long time: preparing food for people is an expression of love and care.

Like I've always done when I wanted to learn something new, I looked for helpful books, and found the wonderful world of cookbooks. My mom had a lovely basic cookbook on the shelves at her house. I think it was a Better Homes and Garden offering. The good thing about it was its specificity. It didn't assume that you knew the terminology or would automatically know how to tell if the carrots were done cooking. It was explicit and complete, and so useful for a novice cook!

Soon, I had mastered some good basics and started expanding. After a couple of years, I was a basically competent cook. I wasn't angsty about cooking or anything. It was a new and exciting skill; it meant I got to eat better; and it let me pay back my parents for the huge favor of taking me and my daughter in, when they should have been enjoying their empty nest.

And then I married again.

And it was time to negotiate.

In our courtship, Sweetman and I had each cooked for each other. There was that time that we learned I didn't understand peppers yet and nearly killed him with habaƱero peppers, and he still loved me afterwards. There was the time we had to order takeout because his meal plan took longer than he thought it would and my blood sugar tanked.

We really didn't know how we were going to handle food in our new shared life. We didn't walk into our first home knowing who would handle what household job.

I was superstitious in a lot of ways about this second chance at love and marriage. I wanted to do everything differently.

Since I didn't have a wedding the first time, we had a wedding. Since I didn't change my name the first time, this time I did. But I was not sure about taking on the cooking. I didn't want to shackle myself to the kitchen just because I was a wife again.

It's hard to remember now how it went at first. I think we tried taking turns. But it quickly became clear that my day job as a teacher got me home a LOT earlier than his job as a UX guy (like 2-3 hours!), and that we could have dinner a lot earlier if I cooked it. That was better for the flow of day, getting the kid (and later plural kids) to bed timely and getting enough rest. 

Luckily, Sweetman has always been great to cook for. He's willing to try things and shares the labor: helping choose menus, grocery shop, and prepare the food when he can get home in time. Most importantly, he's genuinely appreciative of the effort it takes each and every time. Ask anyone who cooks: an appreciative audience makes a difference.

So, now I've been the primary cook in our family for the twelve years we've been married. He cooks from time to time (usually once or twice a week). It's not about an unwillingness: it's just about time. On holidays and vacations, he often takes on more because he can. And now that I've been doing it a while, the kitchen is more my space. I don't always like to share it.

This summer, though, I hit a wall. I've hit a few of them over the years: just these periods when I can't get invested in the process, when I don't care what we have for dinner or even if we eat. I just want to be done.

It's a kind of burnout. Usually my burnout periods are short. This one was longer. About two months long. I definitely blew the take-out budget. I'd feel deflated just thinking about spending time in the kitchen. There were so many other things I wanted to do instead.

But, we needed to eat, so I had to find a way around my own roadblock.

So, what worked?

The same thing that always works on me: I tried something new.

I was bored as much as I was burnt out. It had been a while since I upped the ante by pushing myself with a new kitchen skill or new recipe. So, I broke out another cookbook and started trying the things in it we hadn't made yet.

It's kind of funny that I didn't think of it. I mean, that's what I do when I'm teaching or writing and things start to feel stale and uninteresting. You'd think I would know.

This week we had five things I'd never made before.

Sure enough, the family was re-engaged because the meals were interesting, and so was I. I guess the kitchen have made our peace again (until next time!).

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Pitfalls of a Writing Life: IWSG


Welcome to August! It's the first Wednesday of the month which means it's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy and networking. If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life. 

The August question - What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?

After you check out my post, be sure to check out the rest of the hop! Especially our co-hosts: Erika Beebe, Sandra Hoover,Susan Gourley, and Lee Lowery!
___________________________________

The oldschool videogame Pitfall is a pretty good analogy for building a writing life, at least the business side of it. 

There are alligators out there: predators who smile while they make plans to eat you. Beware the offer that sounds too good to be true: it is!

Snakes too, springing out to attack. Creatives are sensitive people, and they've been known to turn on other creatives. Ask anyone who's had a critique partner turn on them, or gotten in the middle of something ugly online. 

You can get so busy jumping over promotional hurdles that you fall into a plot hole in your new work and struggle to write your way back out! I've found this especially true after publication: balancing writing new material with promoting my published work and keeping my name "out there" for discovery and networking is quite the Balancing Act. 

The worst is when you think you're on solid ground and pit opens up. When a publisher fails to hold up their end of the bargain and your supports drop away. It's an industry, but it's all just people as well. Sometimes people's lives and businesses fall apart, leaving a writer hanging. 

I've been careful and fortunate in my writing life, and I've still run into some of these traps. Especially when you're not yet published, it can be easy to get involved in something less than good. You might accept a deal that isn't fair to you and your work just because you're so grateful to have an offer at all. We're all chomping at the bit to get started as writers after all. 

Luckily for us, it's the twenty-first century and with a bit of research, a lot of scams can be avoided. A bit of cyberstalking of your potential business partners is just due diligence, protecting yourself from abuse. Sites like Writers Beware are helpful, but I've done best by reaching out to other writers through organizations like this one (IWSG), WFWA (Women's Fiction Writers Association), and Broad Universe. There are plenty of other groups out there, too, where you can find advice and support about the business end as well as the craft end of a writing life. 

When I'm checking something out, I post in forums and Facebook groups asking other writers to share their experiences. We can all help protect each other in this way. Other writers have been so generous to me with their time and advice. Writers don't let writers get cheated or scammed! 

So, yes, just like in the game, there are many pitfalls and traps out there. But there are ways to keep yourself safe and protected while enjoying the grand adventure we call a writing life! Just do your research and take time to ask questions.

How about you? Where do you go to find out about potential business partners? What steps do you take to protect yourself and your work? 

Monday, July 30, 2018

Retreat! Taking a step back to move forward (now with scene cards!)

The word retreat is a funny one. It can mean giving up the fight and running away. It can also mean a purposeful step back, a repose or reflection. This year I needed both.

I had dropped my novel entirely in May and June, choosing instead to work on short fiction to match my shorter focus (end of school year teaching + graduating daughter = scatterbrained Samantha). I was having a hard time getting back into the flow and picking the project back up. I felt lost in my own novel. All my momentum had fallen still.

My critique group has a tradition (we've done it three times now, so that's a tradition, right?) of taking a summer writing retreat. We pool our funds and rent someplace nice for a few days in July and go and write our fingers off. This year's retreat was at Pelican House, part of the Trinity Center in Salter Path, NC. I've been on two previous writing retreats here with the RCWMS and when my group said they wanted beach instead of mountains this year, I suggested here.

3 Views from my retreat
Besides the access to the sea and the wetlands, wonderful for walking and thinking or clearing your head, this complex offers a variety of working and contemplation areas and a dining hall, so I can just show up and eat without having to give over any time to meal preparation (anyone who prepares the meals at their house will understand how much time that really is). And, especially for beach access, it was very inexpensive. Just over $300 covered my share of three nights food and lodging. 

But, I'm not meaning to make this blogpost into an ad for Pelican House. I'm meaning to write about the value of a retreat. 

I'm a writer with a full time job (sometimes more than full time: I teach) and a family (a husband, a teen/young adult, a tween, and a rescue dog), so my writing is often in the backseat of my life, crammed into the corners where I can stuff it. I'm pretty good at being productive this way. In the five years since I "went pro" by signing my first book contract, I've completed two more novels, several short stories, and drafted three other novels that are simmering on my back burner now. But, it's not easy. Too often I lose the flow because I can't get enough focus: either I'm short on time, or my mental and emotional energy is pulled somewhere else. 

But a retreat is dedicated time. 
  • I go somewhere else, so I can't get distracted by the state of my house and decide that clean towels matter more than fresh words. Out of my usual element is a good place for fresh starts.
  • I make arrangements for my children and dog (the husband went with me this time, but even if he hadn't, he'd make his own arrangements). I put off any other life business and really, truly live only my writing life for a few days. No teaching life. No home life. No mom life. Just writing. 
  • I go with trusted writing friends, which leaves room for talk and discussion to help hash out ideas if I want it, and makes my company people who will understand if I find a zone and ignore them for eight hours, too. 
  • I go with a clear goal. This year, mine was to map out what I've already written, trying using storycards for the first time to organize my vision, and then to get back into writing this book!

StoryCards for Thursday's Children, Day 1

I feel really good about the progress I made. Not only am I feeling focused on this book, I think using storycards might be my new M.O. 

I've tried doing this digitally with Scrivener and other tools, but it wasn't really working for me. So, I went with paper and pen. Sometimes, changing the tools you use can make all the difference in how it works for your brain. I'm mostly a digital tools kind of writer, but I do find that some things work better for me on paper and by hand.

Orange notecards here are Kye'luh Wade's (my main character). Green ones are Jason Berger. Yellow ones are Malcolm Singletary. Pink ones are rando-thoughts that I didn't want to lose about problems to fix or other chapters to write, sort of my "parking lot" for stuff to pick up later. 

When I sat down to do this, I had about 50K of the novel written, all pantsed. I've seen several different versions of storycards, storyboarding, post-it outlining, or whatever you want to call this process. Most recently, I'd read DIY MFA by Gabriela Pereira (well, part of it; I'm not done yet). Pereira calls this process "scene cards" and says that each scene card should include: a title, a list of major players, a description of the action, and a statement of the scene's purpose. That last part is crucial for pantsers like me, who are always looking to impose structure after the fact. 

So, that's what I did first: made a scene card for each chapter I had already written, adding the color coding element for my three point of view characters to watch for balance among them as well. 

It was enlightening. 

Sometimes I couldn't easily name a purpose for a scene, or I could only name one purpose and it didn't seem like a very important one. Sometimes, I ran into a glut of several chapters in a row with a single character, leaving my other storylines hanging too long.  Sometimes I spotted a GIANT hole where there's nothing to connect an earlier scene to what happens later. 

This was so helpful! It probably also helped that I was far enough into the process to have a little distance. It almost felt like I was the helpful friend examining someone else's books to find the flaws and help fix them, rather than being my own critic. It felt like good useful work instead of self-recrimination or negative self-talk.

So, does this mean I'm an outliner/planner now?

I don't think so.

I think my process will still involve a fair amount of exploratory/discovery writing where I pants my way across the countryside waiting for the story to tell me what it's about. But I think I'll get to a point on each project, where this will become useful and will help me get to the end and build a more coherent first full draft. So, I'm excited about finding something new that works for me!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Guest Post: Favorite Five by Patricia Josephine



It's always such an exciting thing when a new book comes into the world and July 24 is Patricia Josephine's book birthday. 
To help her celebrate, I've invited her to share my blog space and tell us about her new release. 

At first, Quinn isn’t impressed by Keane. He’s cocky and has sex on the brain. The polar opposite of her. Despite their differences, something blossoms between the two.

Never one to take things seriously, Keane is an incubus coasting through life without a care. When he meets Quinn, her lack of reaction to him piques his interest. No human has ever been able to resist him.

As Keane and Quinn struggle to understand what is going on between them, something sinister rocks their world. Young incubi are vanishing, and Keane's friends go missing. Someone is after his kind. When Quinn is kidnapped, Keane must uncover who is behind the abductions and get to her before it's too late.

____________________________________________

Favorite Five: Tempting Friendship
by: Patricia Josephine

Another author did this for her book, and it looked like so much fun, I had to get in on it. Here are my answers to my favorite five things about Tempting Friendship.

1. What was your favorite line of dialogue?

"Seriously?" That's Quinn's favorite reaction to outrageous things and it often got he and Keane bickering which was fun to write.

2. What was your favorite scene setting?

When Quinn and her friends are in the private room at the strip club. It was fun writing their reactions to such a posh room.

3. What was your favorite cliffhanger? 

When Quinn sees what Keane is. It gave me an evil laugh. >8D

4. Who is your favorite secondary character?
 

I love Quinn's BFF, Abby. She's carefree, sweet, and, a great friend. She always knows when to push Quinn and when to listen.

5. What was your favorite change? 

There really isn't one that was big enough to think it made the story so much better. There were lots of little changes, but nothing big.

_______________

Buy your copy: 

Enter the Giveaway!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
___________________________
About the Author

Patricia never set out to become a writer, and in fact, she never considered it an option during high school and college. She was more of an art and band geek. Some stories are meant to be told, and now she can't stop writing.

She writes New Adult under the name Patricia Josephine and Young Adult under the name Patricia Lynne.

Patricia lives with her husband in Michigan, hopes one day to have what will resemble a small petting zoo, and has a fondness for dying her hair the colors of the rainbow.

Social Media Links:

Storytime Blog Hop: Team Building Exercise

Today I'm playing along with a new (to me) blog hop: The Storytime Blog Hop. Participants are asked to post a speculative fiction story less than 1,000 words quarterly. So, here's my story: "Team Building Exercise." I hope you enjoy it!
_________________________________________

“Now stare into your partner’s eyes.” The trainer’s voice had taken on a dreamy, hypnotic sort of tone. “Imagine you can see into their very soul. Let the connection between you flow.”

Adam looked at the man across from him. Though they had worked together for several months, he realized he didn’t even know what the man’s name was. Will? Walter? Something W, he felt pretty sure. He looked steadily at the man, but he felt nothing. He was a quiet, steady sort. No one that Adam found particularly interesting.

These kinds of exercises were the favorite team-building activities of the new department head. She was kind of flaky, to say the least. Adam missed the old guy. He’d gone with good old fashioned alcohol as a bonding element. Even if he didn’t feel any closer to his colleagues at the end of the day, at least there had been some fun and laughter. It had been better than all this earnest, touchy-feely shit.

It wasn’t long until his attention wavered. He wished he had been partnered with Lisa. That was a pair of eyes he’d happily gaze into hoping for a connection. Hers were that sharp clear blue that it felt like you could cut yourself on. But the only two women in the group had been assigned as each other’s partners, probably in an attempt to avoid another debacle like the sexual harassment training that had cost the old guy his position. Lisa had her laser-gaze aimed at the new girl just transferred from upstairs. So, that left Adam with Wilbur, or whoever he was.

He forced his attention back and saw the amusement in the other man’s eyes. His lack of attention must have been obvious. He shrugged apologetically and tried again to maintain focus on the task at hand. He met the man’s steady gaze and tried to feel something.

“It’s Wilt, dumbass. My dad was a big basketball fan.” Adam blinked. The man’s mouth had not moved, but he was sure he’d just heard him speak.

He broke eye contact and looked around. Everyone else was intent on their partner’s faces. The teamwork guru cleared her throat and arched an eyebrow at him when he met her gaze. That had been weird.

Wilt wasn’t smiling anymore when Adam looked back at him. His brown eyes had gone dark and cold, and Adam swore he felt a swirling hatred in the look. He couldn’t imagine what reason the man had to hate him. They barely knew one another. “You don’t even remember, do you?” The voice was in his head again. Suddenly his throat felt tight. Adam gasped a little, trying to catch his breath. Panic rose and his eyes grew wide. The room seemed to grow grey at the edges and then he collapsed on his desk.

“Ms. Smith? I think there’s something wrong with my partner,” he heard Wilt say. He swore the man sounded amused. He heard all the chairs moving back and everyone talking at once, but he couldn’t move. Somebody pulled him out of his chair and laid him out on the floor.

“What’s his name?” the trainer was shouting.

No one answered her.

Adam, he thought. It’s Adam. Then it was all black and quiet.
________________________________________
I hope you enjoyed this bit of flash fiction! Don't forget to check out the stories by my colleagues on this bloghop (links below):

Another Time, by J. Q. Rose
Suds and Scales, by Eileen Meuller
Beginning Again, by Karen Lynn
Under The Bridge, by Katharina Gerlach
Black and White, by Bill Bush
Summer Siren, by Elizabeth McCleary
The Birch Tree, by Juneta Key
The Zoning Zone, by Vanessa Wells
Secrets, by Elizabeth Winfield

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Art and the Artist

I was a guest author last weekend at ConGregate (a FANTASTIC small convention in High Point, NC that you should all attend if it's reasonable at all to your lives). I've written about it before: here, here, and here.

One of my panels this time was a conversation on separating the art and the artist.

Carol Cowles of the podcasts Guardians of the Geekery and Out of Our Skull moderated a panel of me, sci-fi/fantasy author and publisher Nicole Givens Kurtz of Mocha Memoirs Press, and sci-fi/fantasy author and editor Margaret McGraw.

It's always epic to have a conversation with intelligent, thoughtful, well-read, and articulate women like these three, but this discussion has really lingered with me. It's still resonating several days later.

What's a reader/viewer/media consumer to do when a work of art you love is sullied by realizations about the creator?

When you find out the author is a racist, misogynist jerk, or the actor sexually assaulted someone?

Are you a bad person if you still admire the work? Or a hypocrite?

The four of us couldn't solve this quandary in a fifty minute conversation at a convention, but we did break it down a little and how it works for us when we find we have a problematic love. The big conclusions I walked away with:

1. Context is everything: consider the timeframe and life experience of the creator. (Especially useful when we're talking about classic works of history)

If you read or view media that is more than fifty years old, there's a high probability that you will find attitudes that seem old-fashioned or even outright offensive to modern sensibilities (and not just if you're liberal; conservative views have evolved, too). Art is always part of the era in which it was created and artists are people with beliefs and attitudes, too. (NOTE: there's plenty of misogyny, racism, and hatred in contemporary work as well, but I don't give it a "bye" like I might in an older work).

So, do you throw Herman Melville's Moby Dick back into the sea unread because of the cringe-y chapter with the black cook? (Or Queequeg?) Do you burn copies of the First Folio because of antisemitic jokes in Shakespeare's plays? Is Rochester still hot even though he locked his first wife in the attic when it became clear she was mentally ill?

If you follow me on Goodreads, then you know that I read a fair amount of classic literature. So, I run into this quite a bit.

There are some classics I can't get through because the bile fills my mouth until I'm ready to vomit. There are others that I can grimace through a section that makes me feel uncomfortable because there's enough to the rest of the work to keep me pulled in and engaged.

I don't write off the problematic attitudes entirely and automatically as "well, it was different back then" because that's only partly true (I'm looking at you HP Lovecraft, considered racist by your own peers even "back then."). But nor do I refuse to read anything that reflects a world view I disagree with.

A major part of why I read is to learn. To walk in someone else's metaphorical shoes and see what it is like to be them and live their lives. That includes learning about people I wouldn't want to invite to lunch. Understanding is at the heart of growth and change.

2. Attitude in the art: is the attitude or belief that troubles you evident in the work itself?

When I'm reading a living author, currently writing, it's pretty easy to learn about their lives and attitudes. Like many contemporary readers, when I like someone's work, I check them out on social media, follow their Twitter or Instagram, subscribe to their newsletter, attend their public events.

That's not always great for my enjoyment of the work. I learn things I wish I didn't know.

More than once, I've learned that someone who made a piece of art I enjoyed is not a good person by my personal moral compass.  Sometimes, this changes how I view their art. I can't, for example, watch anything with Woody Allen in it anymore without getting slammed in the face by all the troubling sexual attitudes, when once I would have laughed those off as comic exaggerations.

But, sometimes, I don't find the "problem" in the work. There are some writers I have enjoyed reading that I was genuinely surprised to learn held attitudes I find offensive. HP Lovecraft's racism is directly in the work. You don't even have to dig for it. But when I read Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, I didn't notice an anti-homosexual agenda, even though I now know the author has one (I haven't gone back and re-read since I learned though, so I don't know yet if it would color my perception of the work).

But then…especially if the author is still living, I have to consider what I'm supporting with my money:

3. Follow the money: Are you funding bad behavior that you don't support by buying this work?

When the #metoo movement started uncovering poorly hidden predatory behavior in Hollywood and other media, I felt gut-punched more than once. Someone whose work I admire was revealed for the ugly face beneath the pretty mask and I learned once again that actors ACT, so it's a mistake to conflate actors with the characters they play.

But, when I go to a movie, my dollars don't all go to that actor. A movie employs a LOT of people doing a lot of different kinds of work. Of course, if an actor stops being a box-office draw, they will stop being cast, but I don't generally go back and destroy all the copies of movies I already have and enjoyed before the fall. I might even still see a movie with a problematic personality attached, depending on how intrinsically linked the project and the person are.

With a book, there's also a production team, but it's much smaller, and it definitely feels like more of my dollars are going to the writer. So, just like I don't eat at some restaurants or buy some kinds of products because I don't want to hand their owners dollars to ruin my country with, I also don't buy books by people like this. If I want to read them still, I borrow from my library or buy second-hand to mitigate the financial aspect of support.

So how about you, friends? How do you handle it when you learn something troubling about an artist? Or are the art and the artist completely separate in your mind? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Shall We Play a Game?

I've always liked games. It's partly the game itself--the brain tease, problem-solving feeling of achievement--and partly the camaraderie of the time with my playmates.

When I married my husband, I leveled up when it came to games, learning about a world of different sorts of games than the Gin Rummy, Clue, and Yahtzee that I grew up on. Now we're a pretty serious gaming family, whether we're talking about board games, card games, improv games, role-playing games, or video games. We have quite a library of games to enjoy, but it can be hard to find time amongst all of life's other demands.

I got to play quite a few games in the past few weeks. Summer vacation is great for that, because I sometimes still have a little brain left to use for fun at the end of the day :-)  Some of the fun is choosing the right kind of game for the group and the time frame.

So here are a few of my favorite picks from Bryant family gaming so far this summer.

What do you play with an 11 year old girl, an 18 year old girl and her boyfriend, three grandparents, an aunt, and a set of parents during a family graduation party? We went with Use Your Words.


It's a party game for a videogame console. We played it on our Playstation 4. It doesn't require any video-gaming skills. Instead it networks your phones, tablets, or other internet-accessing devices through a website with a room code. It's a series of mini-games in which you make up subtitles for a film clip, newspaper headlines, and mad-libs style fill-in-the-blanks, with the goal of being funny enough that the other players will vote for your answer. It's great in that it's not knowledge based (unlike trivia games), so younger players (so long as they are old enough to read and write well) can participate fully. 



Another console based game I enjoyed recently was Overcooked on the Nintendo Switch. This one is a co-op game (meaning all the players are working together to achieve a goal, rather than working against each other). It's probably easier for people who have some video game experience, but there are only a few buttons to figure out. This matters to me as I'm not that great at remembering complicated game controls. 

The premise is that we are a group of chefs trying to fill orders while the kitchen itself provides additional challenges, like occasionally getting rearranged as the ship rocks, or having very narrow passageways so it's hard to move around each other. It's got a silly animation style and each challenge is short, so you don't need a lot of time to play either. I'm especially fond of co-op games, so this one is right up my alley. 

Off screen, I've been enjoying short board and card games: games with a less-than-15 minute
playtime. Our recent high school graduate is one busy young woman and it can be hard to pin her down long enough to play something good, but with quick-but-fun games like Kokoro, Tides Time, and Wonderland, we can fit in a quick round of fun after dinner and still leave time for her to spend time with all her friends.

Kokoro is my favorite of these three. You get a printed white-erase board with the grid for the game on it and based on the cards you pull, have to build a maze-like path connecting certain elements. The more you connect, the higher your score.

Tides of Time and Wonderland were also beautiful and fun to play, but are only two player games, so great for me and my husband, but not great for family night.

I'm looking for more games with a very short play time like this because they really fit well into this phase of life.

One more recent play was Rising Sun. This is a big board game. Best with several players (we played with 5) and requiring a long play time of three or more hours.


My husband scored this one on Kickstarter, so we have the edition with all the fancier fiddly-bits: metal coins, 3D building and tokens for various parts, and extra materials that don't come with the standard edition. The more I've played games, the more I've come to appreciate the art and craftsmanship of well made game pieces. They make a game feel like a luxury experience. 

This game took me a while to understand, but I really came to appreciate it. Both complex and easy to understand, it's a satisfying experience for more experienced gamers who are looking for something a little different. It's a territory game in some ways, but there's also a political element, monsters, special abilities, and several different possible paths to victory, not necessarily coming from winning the most battles. I look forward to playing this one again!

So, that's what I've been playing this summer. You can read my fuller reviews and comments about these and other games I've been playing in this Google Plus collection

Any other gamers out there among my blog-readers? What have you been playing? Got any suggestions I should check out?