Schmovie | The Tabletop Letters

🎥🏆 Write Your Own Movie Title & Let Hilarity Ensue 🎥🏆

Dear Readers,

With award seasons upon us, it feels like the perfect time to share with you … Schmovie!

Schmovie is a hilarious game that’s easily adaptable for anyone with a sense of humor – no movie trivia knowledge required.

Image Description: the cover of Schmovie with a white hand in a blue sweater clutching a golden Cthulhu with 3D glasses and a popcorn bag.

In this game, you are given a genre, a description and a character. Then it’s up to you to impress the judge with your movie title.

The winner is given a golden (cardboard) Schmovie award to stand in front of your place at the table. These are all themed differently.

A whiteboard with a sample movie title, Gluestick: Stuck on the Starting Line
A movie title of a drama about a clumsy racehorse

Here’s the breakdown:

Players: 3-6 players or teams

Play time:

Age: 8+

By: Galactic Sneeze

Here we go- I’ll rank it on Accessibility, Mechanics, and Engagement.

Accessibility ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Image description: a UFO symbol on a die to indicate Sci-Fi with the cards Genius & Soldier.
An example of a movie title themed around Sci-Fi with a Genius Soldier.

You don’t have to be a movie buff to enjoy this game.

All you have to do is come up with a title for a movie around a premise. There are examples on the back of the whiteboards for each genre.

Image description: three examples of Schmovie awards.

I’ve played it with kids and had a good time, and played it with adults and also enjoyed it.

Mechanics ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🌑

It works very well. I have only one complaint about the mechanics, which we fix with a house rule inspired from The Game of Things.

My complaint is that if you pass the titles to the judge, they may instantly recognize someone’s hand writing. That kind of ruins judging unless you’re playing with playing with people who can put aside the author and judge solely on merit – I’ve known adults who couldn’t.

Image Description: a game whiteboard with the caption Cocoa Spanky and the Tootsie Rolls Get the Hell Outta Dodge
I can’t remember what this title was themed to, just that we thought it was hilarious at the time.

Our house rule to avoid that is that the whiteboards are passed to the person on the judge’s left and read to them. This seems to help very much.

Engagement ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🌑

Image description: several golden Cthulhu Schmovie awardsSince most of the time you’re wracking your brain for an excellent title, it can be very interesting. At the same time, when you are the judge, there isn’t much to do. The turns are pretty quick, and that’s just an aspect of the typical judges game. Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity are also subject to this.

In Conclusion

Image description: Game cards Unlikely + Sports Team

Schmovie is an excellent party game, and since it’s so easily accessible this is a game that you’ll be able to play with a wide range of groups.

Image Description: the starburst action die with the cards Blind + Butcher. The whiteboard says, Chopped: Outta Sight.
An action movie themed around a blind butcher titled, Chopped: Outta Sight

This post was #NotSponsored. Schmovie is available at Amazon and other retailers.

Happy Gaming! Play On!

Evolution : The Beginning | The Tabletop Letters

🦖🦕 Design Your Own Species and Battle Them – Put Survival of the Fittest to the Test

Dear Readers,

Have I complained about gray, barren winter lately? Have I? If I have, those complaints are half-hearted.

Box cover of Evolution: The Beginning showing a Brontosaurus 🦕

Sometimes in wonder I stare out my window to the diamond shavings clinging to the gray veins against the somber sky. I find the rain drops glimmering in the faint sunlight captivating. While any smattering of snow we receive is so fleeting I am still excited about it, the winter rains have an understated beauty. (To be fair, I must have a fascination with any sort of rain because I wrote a poem about autumn rain.)

Here’s a quote about winter that haunts me (I posted about it three years ago):

Let us therefore praise winter, rich in beauty, challenge and pregnant negativities. — Greta Crosby

I do miss a bit of greenery despite my fascination with sterile, quiet winter. There’s a book my daughter has showing a tiny squirrel bundled up against the winter cold.

Watering hole game piece with leafy food tokens.

Evolution: The Beginning is full of verdant life. It’s life upon life with modifications and very intriguing. It’s The Land Before Time meets Redshirts.

Here’s the breakdown:

Players: 2-5

Play time: 30 minutes

Age: 8+

By: Northstar Games

Here we go- I’ll rank it on Accessibility, Mechanics, and Engagement.

Game cards showing a Long Neck trait over a species card, and a Scavenger trait over a species card.

Accessibility ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🌑

Everyone begins the game on an even playing field. You have species to which you may assign characteristics that you draw – like being fast or nocturnal. These characteristics help you survive and sometimes avoid predators. The concepts are simple. The luck of the draw is very prominent in this game, though there is some strategy.

A food token pouch with a brontosaurus 🦕 on it.

The premise of evolution is one I’d hope most are familiar with. This game follows different species controlled by a player gaining traits, losing traits, struggling for food, while preying or being preyed upon.

They are written on medium sized plain text – reading glasses might be in order. The text is fairly legible. The colors are vibrant, but EnChroma glasses probably wouldn’t make a huge difference.

There are small pieces to pick up, and placing cards on the table is a definite factor to consider if fine motor skills are a concern.

The age of 8+ feels appropriate.

Mechanics ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🌑

Each turn begins with two pieces of food being added to the watering hole. A new species card is played. Cards are drawn. Next a player may turn those cards into traits, add to the population of a species, and keep the card(s) in hand. Traits may be removed. The species must then eat or die. If a species is carnivorous, they will attack other specimens (whether they are another player’s or the owner’s). Scavenger species feed off the deaths of others regardless of turn. If they are herbivores then they will feed out of the watering hole (with a few exceptions). Eaten food is moved to a food bag.

The Defensive Horns trait over a species with a population of three.

I’m knocking off one star because there were a couple of times where we disagreed about mechanics despite consulting the rule book and watching a how-to video about playing. In particular there were a couple of times where it seemed like there was more food in the watering hole than was appropriate or that carnivores perhaps gained more food than they should have.

Also, there was possibly poor shuffling in play combined with a lack of knowledge as to how common traits were. There were times where I used certain cards for their species/population aspect instead of as a trait not realizing how rare the traits were since I had already encountered several of that rare trait.

One player’s assortment of three different species with varying traits.

When the resources are exhausted the game ends after ensuring each player has an even number of turns. The player with the most points (surviving species, eaten food, uneaten food, etc.) wins. It’s survival of the fittest with cards. At first I don’t think we realized that wasting resources so others wouldn’t be able to use them is a good way to hasten the game and possibly help oneself. We don’t usually play that aggressively, so it was an intriguing dynamic for us – much like backstabbing in Redshirts and Munchkin.

Engagement ⭐️⭐️⭐️🌑🌑

Waiting for your turn can be boring in any game. With games where there are player vs. player combat aspects, sometimes it can be protracted (cough, cough … Redshirts… couch, cough Munchkin), this was more straightforward than that.

A carnivore card over a species card with the traits of defensive horns and speed.

Since you may be attacked by other players, and you may have the opportunity to feed as a scavenger, it could every engaging. When neither of those aspects were in play, waiting for other people’s turns was, well, a drag.

In Conclusion

This is a fun version of the Evolution game. I think a certain biology professor I had would have allowed it to be played in class toward the end of the semester when there wasn’t much to do.

A picture of the guide card showing each of the trait types.

It’s a fast game with straightforward concepts easily understandable by small children, but complex enough to be challenging and entertaining for adults.

This post is #notsponsored. Evolution: The Beginning is available at Walmart.com. Amazon has it available only through third-party sellers and at a higher rate as of this publication.

If you need some greenery in your life to beat the winter blues, then Evolution: The Beginning might be just the thing to help you adapt. 😉

This cracked me up, so I had to end with it.

Happy Gaming! Play On!

It’s OK to Not Be Jolly | Weekend Wishes

Being Gentle With Ourselves During the Hustle and Bustle

Dear Readers,

I broke down crying. I was standing in the store after an upsetting day, looking at ornaments and overwhelmed by the choices. I had to leave and collect myself. And ya know what? It’s okay. It was a little embarrassing. I caught some looks. I’ll live.

National Gingerbread House Competition 2019

Last weekend I had the wonderful opportunity of listening to a semi-retired therapist – Bonnie Gramlich- speak about the challenge of the holiday season. I’ll tell you what she talked about, my history with grief, and what I’ve been doing differently this year. Continue reading “It’s OK to Not Be Jolly | Weekend Wishes”

50 Publications Accepting Sci-Fi/Fantasy Submissions – Winter 2019

Winter 2019 Markets for Sci-Fi and Fantasy Short Fiction

Dear Writers,

In Fall 2019 I made a list of 26 magazines accepting Sci-Fi and/or Fantasy submissions. This is the updated list for Winter 2019 – there are some removals due to closing, hiatus, or reading period limitations. Many additions have been added – I’ve really scoured the web this time.

I’ve broken this into three groups:

SFWA Qualifying Markets
Qualifying Rates but Not Approved SFWA Venues
Non-SFWA Markets

New to magazine submissions? Then this link will take you to something I previously wrote – What the ****? Things Beginners Might Want to Know about Magazine Submissions.

Continue reading “50 Publications Accepting Sci-Fi/Fantasy Submissions – Winter 2019”

Going the Distance – Thoughts After NaNoWriMo

🏃‍♀️On pacing, burnout, and progress 🏃🏃‍♀️

Writing a novel takes time – even if you’re a pantser (a NaNoWriMo term meaning someone who writes by the seat of their pants), it is still a process: drafting, developmental edits, line edits, and that’s not even considering critiques and re-reading it yourself.

Athlete’s feet over asphalt.

Today I want to talk to you about pacing, burnout, and progress.

Continue reading “Going the Distance – Thoughts After NaNoWriMo”

5 Reasons I’m Attempting NaNoWriMo This Year

I know what I said before …

Long time readers may remember my lamentations about National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo).

I know what I said:

The “at this rate you’ll finish your novel on x date” ticker in NaNoWriMo is stressful for me.  It causes undue stress…

That was a few years ago. It’s been long enough that I’ve been able to forget some of the stress.

This year I’ve succumbed to the madness. Here are my thoughts on why I’m attempting it this year:

Continue reading “5 Reasons I’m Attempting NaNoWriMo This Year”

Camden’s Follies | Book Review

A riveting steampunk British Indiana Jones space opera with an unwanted harem.

Dear Readers,

I hope this installment finds you well.

This week I’m sharing my review of Camden’s Follies: From the diaries of Doctor James Camden, Lunar Physician and Pirate (Book 1, Part 1) by J. Nathanial Corres.

To describe this story succinctly – it’s like a steampunk British Indiana Jones space opera with an unwanted harem. Let me explain: it’s set in the early 1900s and uses a mix of industrial revolution era technology with reproductions of ancient tech from translations from the Mayans, who were gifted the tech by a species that may have had ulterior motives.

What better opportunity to use this GIF?

History Channel’s “Ancient Aliens” producer, Giorgio Tsoukalos, saying, “It was aliens!”

It has that swashbuckling feel of Indiana Jones. Their main vessel is a dirigible, though that feels like a generous description given its space-faring modifications.

Dr. Camden thought he was headed to “central Africa” (no particular country/region mentioned) to study forensics and become a medical examiner, but it turns out he’s been recruited for a secret mission on an experimental vessel.

He has two women fighting over him – thus, the unwanted harem trope.

First, I’ll give you my usual breakdown of the characters, settings, and emotional payoff. Then I’ll close with some thoughts about this book, about literary citizenship, and reviewing in general.

Characters

James Camden is probably an accurate portrayal of a military doctor from that time as far as backstory, clothing, & vernacular go. At the same time, personality wise … I’m not sure he’s healthy. I think it was a common trait, especially post-war, to have a rather brusque bedside manner. He doesn’t fixate on his soldiering life, but I wonder if he’s fully dealt with it.

Actor Max Greenfield as “Dewey Denouement” from Netflix’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events”

Source: Netflix’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events” via Snicket.Fandom

Please note: the author says this is not a good inspiration picture for Dr. Camden: the mustache is lacking. I, however, imagine him looking this way, so I’m including it based off my imaginings of the book.

Here’s my evidence that Dr. Camden may be a little cold, or perhaps having burnout, or a slight touch of sociopathy – in the beginning of the book he states this:

Quote: “I wasn’t really up to patients, but it was either that or listen to the sounds of wailing and screams.”
A screenshot I took from the Kindle App

At first I took it that it was … perhaps he is suffering from physician burnout, a very real thing. I mean, he was wanting to work on forensic medicine instead of living people. Perhaps he knew he was at his limit for bedside pleasantries. Coupled with his lack of empathy and what seems to be a brusque bedside manner, it seems to go beyond a stiff upper lip or fatigue, though.

There’s also … the difference of modern medicine. In Camden’s day, someone who had PTSD would be called “shell-shocked” and dealt with callously. In America’s Civil War, ridicule was considered a treatment for this disease. Surgery was very painful, not as successful, and anesthetics were not as advanced – they were basically chloroform and ether. In Darwin’s day, not that long before, it would have almost taken someone being a sociopath to handle being a surgeon: a level of detachment and composure that many would not be able to maintain. In the historical fantasy The Witch’s Daughter, Liza deals with gruesome failed surgeries. Darwin himself in real life pursued natural history because he could not stomach medicine. Camden mentions Darwin in passing, and this is by my guess about 40 years after.

Back to Camden’s sometimes chilly demeanor: When someone expresses a healthy fear of a large predatory species (that nearly killed one member and severely wounded Camden himself), he as a doctor reacts in this way:

Quote: REDACTED on the other hand nearly fainted. Good thing REDACTED was nearby to see to him!
Screenshot from Kindle App

Um, you’re the doctor? Shouldn’t you see to him?

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch as “Sherlock” when he states he is a sociopath.
Source: Sherlock via GIPHY

He’s in good company, though: Sherlock himself claims to be a “high functioning sociopath” (though I’ve read psychologists disagree). Imperfect characters are often more interesting if not more relatable than perfect ones. In writing Mary Sues (or Gary Stus) are something to be avoided. Camden’s not perfect (me either), and sometimes a little aloof. That makes him a more likable character, though.

One last word about Dr. James Camden – he seems to suffer from a bit of insecurity. I make this observation because his narration demonstrates near constant criticism for other men. Again, this flaw makes an interesting character. At the same time, though, I’m not sure I would like him in person. I’ve talked about this at length with my husband and … we’ve decided that some of the best storytelling features unlikable protagonists – from Preacher to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Enjoying a story is different than hanging out with someone. Flaws that might be charming, interesting even, while enjoying a story could be quickly grating in person.

Reptilian mademoiselle with a bright red drink. Source: Reptile Woman by Mario Clemente, Deviant Art

Cafea – The Tedarian female claims dibs on Dr. Camden almost immediately after she meets him, despite being frustratingly picky with men, and despite Camden being frequently mistaken for female (or perhaps because of what by some alien sensibilities passes for as feminine). She bridges the alien pirate crew of the War Dragon Fire and that of the humans’ Bernoulli. Without her, Camden would not succeed. She is fiercely loyal and knowledgeable.

Please note, this picture is again my imagination, and is not an accurate description. She is described as being an attractive reptilian humanoid female with green skin, a hint of scales, purple hair hiding a hint of black, and black irises and pupils.

Jane from Tarzan in a pith hat.
Source: Disney’s “Tarzan” via GIPHY

Cynthia Belle-Anderson – Described as being a deceivingly delicate widow who frequently dons pith hats, Cynthia is a former spy. It’s revealed that she encouraged the selection of Dr. Camden for this experimental mission, and she’s been attracted to him from afar.

He later observed that she’s more worldly than originally guessed due to her demure demeanor and that some of the interactions between Cafea and Cynthia make him consider French women. I’m linking to Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal because it was a scandalous book that feautures, among other things, women attracted to women. Le Fleurs du Mal was written in the mid 1800s and features gorgeous imagery and mostly melancholic themes. It was not received well in polite French society at the time, but given the apparent setting of this book would have had enough time to become as infamous as The Room and to possibly have become more acceptable. It’s a space opera, aka a space fantasy. The author may do whatever he likes.

I enjoyed this character – I expected her to be a bland British woman of that era, but she was a real go-getter when it came down to it. She’s fierce. Some might even say savage. The dichotomy between the exotic and intense Cafea and the girl-next-door vibes of Cynthia is intriguing, especially when coupled with their similarities. They are two sides of the same coin.

Let’s be honest: this is escapism, and a common fantasy for many men is passion between two attractive women.

Again, the picture is just my imagination! I think she’s supposed to be more looking strawberry-blonde than Tarzan’s Jane.

Bechdel Test – This book does not pass the Bechdel test, and I don’t think the future parts will either. Being from a single male perspective, we only experience what James does. Since he doesn’t eavesdrop really, we don’t experience what Cafea and Cynthia, or any of the other women, talk about together. It’s apparent that Cafea and Cynthia have verbal spats and resolutions off screen, but those appear to be regarding James.

Does every book have to pass the Bechdel Test? No. I bring it up frequently because of how lacking representation is in media and how focused on the male gaze things are. This book is written by a man (a very kind one if I do say so), and it has an authentically male POV.

Setting

The Bernoulli is caught in interstellar disputes between the Garinthians and the Dragon Helm Pirate clan. We see various close range battles, several shipboard combat scenes, and romps on alien worlds with big game hunting. It feels very time appropriate in its observations to the doctor- the author was careful to avoid anachronisms.

For me the clearest scenes were in the engine room and the scenes with the big game. I’m not going to spoil them for you: they’re quite exciting.

Emotional Payoff

This is a quote (sans context) from this book.

Conflict makes for good storytelling, so, dear doctor, I don’t believe you will.

This story was very clean in regards to the intimate scenes. Perhaps the author was thinking a gentleman wouldn’t kiss and tell, but I think he could have been a little more graphic. This detracted from the emotional payoff a bit.

Otherwise, it plugged along at a decent pace. Sometimes being interrupted and having to pick it back up made for me needing to re-read a bit before to know what was going on if i was interrupted during a tense scene, but alas – that is my life.

Final Thoughts

Camden’s Folly shows at once time appropriate sentiments and observations along with more modern themes- diversity, atypical romantic formats (aka polyamory), and with it provides interesting observations of modern heteronormativity and mores.

I truly wish this was a TV series so more people could enjoy the story. I think it would lend well to other formats – the sign of a truly good story.

This is an indie published book. As far as I can tell, it did not have a professional editor. There are typographical errors throughout – misplaced homonyms, extra or missing commas, and some issues with capitalization and consistency.

I once read that the average traditionally published book has about ten typographical errors in it. This has quite a number more, but please remember that there was not a team of people working on this story: just one writer. I hope that you can overlook those ink marks to enjoy this story. As a reviewer, I want you to know that I aim to help both the author have their book be promoted and the reader in selecting worthwhile pieces. I hope this review will accomplish both these tasks. It’s truly an enjoyable story and I look forward to the future installments.

Camden’s Follies: From the diaries of Doctor James Camden, Lunar Physician and Pirate (Book 1, Part 1) is available on Amazon.

This post was not sponsored. I will say that J. Nathanial Corres is such a wonderful example of a writer supporting other writers. I am so pleased to have made his online acquaintance. He is a pure example of literary citizenship.

In the words of Corres, and Camden: Geronimo!


Image note: screenshots are from the Kindle App of the book, and a few are from TV/movies with a note regarding where I found them. Also, the reptilian artwork is linked back to the original source on Deviant Art, and of course if the artist does not want me using the picture I will punctually comply in removing it.

Unless otherwise noted pictures on my blog are ones I personally took or from a CC0 source like Pixhere or Pixabay.

Words Matter: Unfortunate Edition

Words matter! Say what you mean.

There’s a word I hate hearing. It’s a word that others often use to explain away poor behavior, harsh company policies, or an unlikable decision.

A pair of dice displaying sixes.

This word has been twisted from the primary meaning. This word makes me cringe every time I hear or read it. It instantly makes it more difficult for me to accept what is being communicated to me.

Continue reading “Words Matter: Unfortunate Edition”

Lost Magic | Book Review

🇨🇦 🔮 🕶 Think The Dresden Files meets Anita Blake but with a snarky Canadian Woman of Color

With Egyptian and Métis/Native American* roots, this sorceress has a long life span, souped up powers, and a big attitude

In a world where witches, wizards, and vampires have all been integrated (though painfully) into modern society, Irelynne – a sorcerer – must hide her unusual magic while investigating a series of murders that only she will be able to solve.

Black cat laughing maniacally.
Source: “Sabrina the Teenage Witch”, original, via GIPHY

Ire is funny, relatable, and very competent. Zoro the “cat” is very sassy.

There were fresh takes on common tropes, but with a sense of modernity and respect that can sometimes be lacking in fantasy.

I look forward to the next book (due out in 2020).

Canadian cityscape reflecting on water at night

Continue reading “Lost Magic | Book Review”

Ghost of the Gaelic Moon | Review

👻☘️🌝If Hallmark had a modern Jane Eyre in Ireland with Supernatural’s Rowena as the Villain. 👻☘️🌝

What comes to mind when you think of Ireland? Maybe it’s the Blarney Stone or leprechauns. Maybe it’s St. Patrick or druids.

After reading Ghost of the Gaelic Moon, I think this book will come to mind for me. This was a lighthearted paranormal romp through Dublin and beyond. Ireland is on my travel bucket list, so maybe one day I can experience this magic myself.

Here is my (hopefully) spoiler free review covering the characters, setting, and emotional payoff.

Continue reading “Ghost of the Gaelic Moon | Review”