Board Game Tournament 2.0


Tonight, we are playing Pandemic.

When I was a kid, I loved playing Candyland and Sorry. Uno was pretty cool, as was Battleship. 

Now that I’m an adult, board games have taken over as one of my favorite pastimes.  I love playing strategy games: Dominion, Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Cataan, and Pandemic.  Luckily, I also have a group of friends who like playing these games.  We get together, eat snacks, and laugh. 

It makes me think of my grandparents playing cards. They had nicknames for each other.  Bud and Mickey were my grandparents’ monikers and I remember my grandma telling me about the good times they used to have.

Those were the good old days.

And that makes me think that if I’m not careful and I don’t pay attention, my good old days just might pass me by.  It’s easy to get caught up in the tempo of a life moving at warp speed.  Jobs and kids and appointments and meetings.  It seems like I’m always rushing to the next thing.

But, as I sit here tonight playing a board game with my friends, I need to take the time to appreciate it. 

Because, really, these ARE my good old days.

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What Would You Do?

Sometimes my characters get stuck in a pickle. I want them to be believable, so I want them to react in realistic ways. The problem? Sometimes I don’t know if my reaction would be everyone else’s.

In this scene, my twenty-eight year old protagonist takes off in her old car to search for a house she had been taken to several nights before. An hour and a half later, she has driven up and down the same deserted mountain road three times in the sleet. Just when she decides she’ll have to turn back, her car starts sputtering and she is able to just make it to a small gravel lookout before it dies completely. She is unable to get it to start again and is located twenty miles from the freeway exit and the last glimpse of civilization.

Now, here is where how she reacts can seem plausible or completely off the wall, depending on the reader’s point of reference.

What’s the first thing the character does after realizing her car won’t start? She checks her phone. Right? No bars. She can’t get a signal. Now, what does she do?

I could have her get out of the car and look under the hood, but if she’s anything like me, unless there’s a mechanic under the hood when I open it, I have no earthly idea what I’m looking for.

I could have her stay in the car until someone drives by. But, it’s pretty cold and she hasn’t seen a car since leaving the freeway.

I could have her get out and walk. She could make it to the freeway in roughly 4-5 hours of walking, she still has several hours of daylight left, and she has her pepper spray in her purse.

So, what’s the most realistic option for my character? πŸ™‚

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If Only They Were All One Day Work Weeks…

My house has never been so clean. Seriously. The laundry’s done, the closets are organized, and the baseboards are shining. I’ve baked two loaves of banana bread, a loaf of oatmeal raisin bread, and I even made pizza dough from scratch yesterday. From scratch!

My kiddo has played in the snow, built a blanket fort with me, and made snow ice cream. We’ve watched at least 27 episodes of Mythbusters and Tom and Jerry together.

And writing? Well, I’ve edited eight chapters of my own book and sent them out for my critique group, 60 pages of my friend’s book, and several chapters from three people in my critique group. I’m on to the next four chapters for editing and I’ve managed to add around 16,000 words to the 50,000 words in the novel I started during NaNoWriMo.

How did I get all this accomplished, you ask? (Or, maybe you didn’t ask).

Regardless, I was able to get this all done because I am a teacher and while throughout most of the school year, I am a crazy, harried mess of anxiety with NO TIME, there are these wonderful little gems that occur in my life…

These little gems are snow days.

And this week, we’ve gotten four of them. Four. I haven’t been to work since last Friday. Frankly, I’ve forgotten at least half of the kids’ names at this point. I may have to have them wear name tags tomorrow.

That is, if we have school.

I guess if we don’t, I’ll pull the fridge out and mop under there, go sledding with my kiddo, and write another 5,000 or so words down.

Ah, if only they were all one day work weeks! πŸ™‚

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Oh yeah, I just wrote that. Sure did.

I am about 10,000 words into my NaNo piece this year and I just wrote the following:

Dr. Pantel stood up, adjusting his glasses as he did so. β€œDean Washington, it seems that we are extending extraordinary measures of safety for this student. Is there any reason we should be concerned?”

β€œNo, no, these are simply precautionary measures we must put in place for our student. Her father is in some sort of danger. The author of this story will research this and get back to us, but for now, we just have to accept the fact that the father is in some sort of danger which will translate to the daughter being in some sort of danger as well.”

Oh, yeah. I just wrote that. Sure did.

But, the point of this is that during NaNo, it is perfectly acceptable to write and go back to fill in the details later. The details are what always hang me up. I get distracted by wandering through the backstories of my characters and suddenly, I’m not writing anymore. I am caught up in the background of the story rather than telling the story itself.

That’s where NaNo comes in – it allows me to give myself permission to not have everything perfect during the initial draft. It allows for research to occur later as the need for it arises. It allows for writing to happen and the rest to come later. It allows me to keep moving forward!

In this particular scene, a girl is arriving at a prestigious prep school and the Dean is putting into place a lot of safety measures. I’m not sure why – I just know that in order for the rest of the story to happen, she has to be in danger. And, I will get to it. During editing.

Right now, I’m writing. Not always well (as evidenced above!), but I am writing! πŸ™‚

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And It Begins…

NaNo officially kicked off this morning at midnight. I attended the kickoff event at Country Kitchen and, as the minutes ticked down, my self-doubt amped up. What am I going to write about? Is it a good enough idea to carry me through 50,000 words? What if I don’t like my characters? What if I can’t write anything good down on paper?

Thirty minutes to go:
Eating a mushroom and cheese omelet and chatting with a fellow writer about our ideas.

Twenty minutes to go:
Indigestion immediately settles in and I question my choice to eat as my stomach rolls.

Ten minutes to go:
I’m madly thumbing through my character cards, deciding on my first lines and considering launching myself across the table and making a mad dash for my car. If I started driving now, I could make it to Mexico before morning. Oh, they have NaNo in Mexico, too? Drat.

Five minutes to go:
I’m resolved to writing. My idea is percolating and so full of promise. I pull up Pandora and tune in some 50s doo wop music – my playlist for my novel set in the late 1950s.

Three minutes to go:
Everyone else looks so confident. What am I doing here? I’m not even a real writer!

Two minutes to go:
I pull up a blank word document. The blinking cursor taunts me.

One minute to go:
The room is full of nervous laughter and the buzz of anticipation. I feel hot, then cold, then hot again and wish I would have opted for something cooler – perhaps a tank top and ice pack. Standing at the precipice…

Headphones in and my fingers are flying across the keyboard. Here’s my first character getting ready to meet my title character.

1:20 a.m.:
I have written 1,799 words of my next novel. And I love it. All the uncertainty is gone and I am in love with my characters and the world I’m creating.

It’s going to be okay. And, by November 30, I’ll have my newest novel: Rhodesha Jefferson Buries Her Shoes.

Happy writing! πŸ™‚

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I’m Totally a Ghost Hunter!


I’m totally a ghost hunter!

Last night, I had the opportunity to take part in something really cool – a paranormal investigation led by the stars of SyFy Channel’s Ghost Hunters and Haunted Collector at the Missouri State Penitentiary.

And, I did it all by myself.

I arrived at the event at 4:45 and talked to some ladies in line from a paranormal investigation team in Chicago. Pretty interesting. Then, they shuffled us in and we stood in line, waiting to get into A Hall to meet the team. I got to the doorway and caught a glimpse of the Ghost Hunters, and, I completely geeked out for a second! John Zaffis, from Haunted Collector was there. He shook my hand and we talked about Missouri weather for a minute. Then, I met Adam Berry and Amy Bruni from Ghost Hunters. They were so nice! So were Dave Tango and Steve Gonzalves. We moved over to the viewing area, and I met some really cool people who have an investigation group here in Columbia. I also met some people from Ozark and East STL – eclectic group! πŸ™‚ After they got all the people in, we had a Q&A session with the stars. Funny stuff! Adam even belted out a Journey song for us – he has an amazing voice! Then, we split into groups to investigate.

Dave Tango and I

Dave Tango and I

Our first investigator was Dave Tango. He is one of my favorite TAPS members! He explained the building to us and also gave some insider tips on conducting investigations. I learned not to whisper on my recordings, but to speak softly. Whispering distorts your voice and makes it unrecognizable on playback. We investigated the top floors of A Hall and nothing too exciting happened, but it was cool to wander off by myself in the dark!

Steve Gonsalves

Steve Gonsalves

Then, Steve took our group and gave us some great information on using technical equipment in investigations. I learned that when using a laser grid, paranormal interactions will actually cause the lights to grow brighter, not darker or blocked out. We investigated the first floor and solitary confinement in this part. I got some interesting feelings in the “dungeon” and thought I saw a mist in front of my flashlight beam in one of the cells.

Amy Bruni

Amy Bruni

Amy took us on the next leg of our investigation through the old women’s cell block. We were given free reign of all five levels and I was upstairs on level 5 in the corner cell (not sure what number) and was sitting on the floor with the lights out. I had just given permission for a spirit to touch me, and I got what felt like a fingernail softly rubbing on my finger twice. When reviewing my video this morning, I caught a voice in the cell with me – my husband and I think it says the name “Angela.”

John Zaffis

John Zaffis

The next part of our night came in Building 4. John Zaffis was our investigator and we tried to make contact using a spirit box (FM tuner randomly scanning channels). We got some interesting feedback, but I didn’t feel much in this part of the prison. I have been here twice before, once for a tour, and another time for an overnight paranormal investigation, but have not been on these floors of the building before, so it was really neat to wander around the levels.

Amy and Adam

Amy and Adam

Adam was our last investigator and it was around 1 a.m. at this point. We were down in Death Row where an inmate died a horrific death. We tried to make contact with Walter through the flashlight method and were getting some good hits, but too random to be conclusive. While I was in a cell on my own, Adam walked by and whispered: “You’re my favorite – you’re by yourself!” I can die a happy girl πŸ™‚

It was an amazing night. Quite an experience! πŸ™‚

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I wrote 14,571 words today.

I’m just about one thousand words short of my 50,000 word count goal for the month of July in Camp NaNo, but but my fingers hurt, my brain is mush, and I need to sleep.

14,571. Yeah. Like a boss.

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