Archive for April, 2019

House Keeping 4/30/19

We are racing towards the end of the month. Time feels both incredibly fast just now and indeterminably slow. Chalk it up to things coming up some time in the future and very little to mark the days leading up to it. Kind of funny that.

But, anyway, I’ve hit a few stumbles lately. Nothing huge, nothing that I can’t get past, just little things that put a bit of a dent in my plans. Working on getting those dents buffed out.

I’ve got something fun coming up for you all on Friday. At least, something fun for me.

There’s another Sunshine’s Journal coming up on Thursday. Are we getting into the meat of the plot? Are we still messing around with the setting developing? Will Chonck ever learn to read? The answer to at least two of those is a firm maybe.

And of course here is the spot where I note that it’s been two weeks with no book review in sight. I’m working on that. Just not as fast as I’d want. I should have one this week though. I’ve kind of been chugging through the book and getting distracted by other things.

And that’s about it for this week.

Standard stuff, if you like what I’m doing here feel free to leave a comment or a like. And, of course, if you really like what I’m doing here you can feed my caffeine addiction and buy me a ko-fi. With any luck I’ll have text books to buy soon. In any case, have a great rest of the week!

Happy Monday everyone! It’s been a busy weekend with game night and the War of the Spark pre-release, but I’m back with another set of dice. Bit of a heads up, Dice Envy is having their Spring Sale right now. They also have a new set of Your First Set of Dice out, King’s Heath, they’re pretty nice looking. But, for now at least, forward to today’s dice!

Spark Brook 1

Now, I’m pretty sure that this is the Spark Brook set of dice, something that I think was only recently posted up to the Dice Envy website. They have a lot of design aspects in common with the Kosmos Mars set, with the glitter and the combination of a lighter main color and a darker color sort of swirled in. That said the glitter in this set is finer adding more of a light sparkle to the dice rather than bold sparks, and that adds a lot I think. The main color of these is this sort of really pale light blue and the glitter makes it look almost ethereal. The darker blue is just a touch of another color, it adds interest to the set without distracting from the main color or the glitter.

Spark Brook 2

The hand feel and balance on these is good. The numbers are cut reasonably deeply. There are a few places where the paint on the numbers is a bit thin and the acrylic can be seen through it. It doesn’t stop the numbers from being legible at all and it can look pretty cool.

There’s something about this set that makes me think of spring days and the start of an adventure. I think it’s the color combination and that I’ve started trying to figure out what kind of character I would design for them. The gold and darker blue make me think of a classic hero type, with the sparkly lighter blue giving it a sense of freshness. I’d probably roll a character on their first adventure, a straight forward hero type.

In any case, these dice are nice. They feel good, they look good, and they roll reliably randomly. I would happily add them to my collection, five out of five.

Hank Quense Guest Post

Hey all! We’ve got a returning author with a guest post for you today, Hank Quense. It’s a nice interview with the super patient and deeply professional Faux News Network reporter Marcia Hammerhead regarding his new novel, The King Who Disappeared. Enjoy!

TKWD EbookCover

Author Interview:

This is Marcia Hammerhead.  I’m the cultural reporter for Faux News Network.  I love literary fiction and I love going to symphonies and ballets. My boss knows this, so what does he tell me to do?  Every time Hank Quense, an unknown scribbler of genre fiction, comes out with a new book, I have to interview him, but at least I don’t have to read and review the books.  Let’s get started.


Marcia Hammerhead: Mr. Quense.  What is your latest atrocity?

Hank Quense: It’s a fantasy novel called The King Who Disappeared.  The main character is a king who spends two hundred years under a sleep spell.  When he awakens, he finds his nemesis is still alive and the king wants revenge. The book has a lot of political satire in it.

MH: It sounds just as dreadful as all your previous books.  I suppose it’s filled with silly fantasy creatures.

HQ: It is.  Besides humans, there are elves dwarfs, half-pints —

MH: Half-pints?  What’s a half-pint?

HQ: They are also called halflings.  Hobbits in other words, but I can’t use the word ‘hobbit’ because Tolkien’s estate trademarked the word.

MH: Why don’t you invent your own creatures instead of stealing other authors’ work?

HQ: I do.  The novel has dwelfs.  They’re half elf and half dwarf.  They tend to have all the bad features of both races and none of the good traits.  The story also has yuks in it.  Yuks are like orcs but aren’t as friendly.

MH: I’m getting a headache just thinking about these matters.  How many books have you foisted on the unsuspecting reading public?

HQ: I have 23 books on Amazon right now, both fiction and non-fiction.

MH: Good heavens!  You’re like a plague.  Fortunately, you’re almost completely unknown.  Otherwise civilization would be in a crisis mode from reading all your drivel.  Have you considered retiring from writing to do something useful?  Like delivering newspapers or pumping gas?

HQ: Nope.  I’m almost finished with the first book of a scifi series of three novellas.  I’m also writing a non-fiction book that integrates self-publishing and book marketing into a single project.

MH: I can’t stand the thought of interviewing you several more times. Maybe I should retire.  Well, I can’t go on.  That’s it for this interview.

HQ: Thanks for having me on again, Marcia.

M: Why is that whenever I interview you I have an urge to go out and buy a large bottle of wine?


Hank Quense writes satirical fantasy and sci-fi. Early in his writing career, he was strongly influenced by two authors: Douglas Adams and his Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. Happily, Hank has never quite recovered from those experiences.

He lives with his wife in northern New Jersey, a mere 20 miles from Manhattan, the center of the galaxy (according to those who live in Manhattan). They have two daughters and five grandchildren all of whom live nearby.

For vacations, Hank and Pat usually visit distant parts of the galaxy. Occasionally, they also time-travel.

Besides writing novels, Hank lectures on fiction writing, publishing and book marketing. He is most proud of his talk showing grammar school kids how to create a short story. He used these lectures to create an advanced ebook with embedded videos to coach the students on how to create characters, plots and setting. The target audience is 4th to 7th graders. The book’s title is Fiction Writing Workshop for Kids.

12th of Spring, Year 256

Good news! We have Eclair back and Azurei seems to be feeling much better.

Less good news, Eclair doesn’t seem terribly happy about the situation with Chonck’s new vocabulary. Can’t blame her really. She’s not real pleased with the ‘sticky book’ situation either, but that at least has been taken care of for now.

We’ve convinced Chonck that, given he figures the priests stole the book from its rightful owner, then the good thing to do would be to return it to One-Eyed Jimmy. So, Azurei escorted him to One-Eyed Jimmy’s house and we owe Chonck a book with pictures. Possibly two.

With that promise secured, the rest of the trip to White Hall was quick. Though it did take awhile to get Chonck harnessed up, since he was all but dancing with excitement and kept trying to dash off to get on the way. Getting him to not bowl over the walking traffic after we got there was also a minor issue, but easily dealt with.

We’ve got both the trade agreements for Dunhill, the village we stayed in yesterday, and White Hall and, of course, the first batch of trade good from White Hall. It’ll be a good boost to Caskfire’s supplies.

We’ll be heading out in the morning. Tonight, we make like the elf and drink.

(Added in a somewhat shakier hand, presumably later)

Make a point of explaining rules to Chonck before punishing him for breaking them. Bad idea to expect he’d understand the spirit of the rule rather than the word. Bad idea Sunshine.

House Keeping 4/23/19

Things are both rushing forwards and dragging. I’m waiting on the acceptance email for the school I’m hoping to attend. It should arrive any day now and then I can go forward with that, talk to financial aid and all that fun stuff. Plus, I’m a bit behind on reading again. Always with that.

But I think part of that is just falling into a rut again. It’s easy to sleep way too much right now or to marathon a bunch of YouTube videos. I need to set times for myself and just read.

I also need to look up the care and keeping of roses, but that’s a somewhat more immediate thing. It’s going to have to sprout roots first, but I’ve got a really nice cutting from one of my Dad’s rose bushes and I want to see if I can get it to grow.

On an aside from all that though. There was a bit in the book I’m reading just now that reminded me of something I’d read awhile back. Some folks mentioned in a thread that something they loved in fan fiction that regular published books don’t have was the tagging system that places like Archive of Our Own use. That they liked to be able to look at the tags and sort out what kinds of tropes and story bits they wanted to dig into or avoid. Part of the discussion there was trying to get a tagging system sorted for novels on the readers’ end of things. I know there’s supposed to be something like that on Goodreads, but I’m also considering starting to include a tags section after my reviews for stuff that seems notable. Like if there’s a left turn into romance novel territory or if an author kills the cat. Just stuff that seems worth mentioning but wouldn’t necessarily go in my review on its own. I’ll probably play with it a bit in the next few reviews and see how I think it works.

I have an author guest post coming up for you all on Friday. Those are always exciting.

There’s a couple of ideas I have for things I want to do later in the year, but I need time for them to simmer and come together a little better before I talk too much about them.

This week’s Sunshine’s Journals post is being interesting to write. It’ll be even more so going forward I think.

And that’s kind of it for this one. I’ve got dice on the way soon, they’re likely going to be reviewed some time in May. There’s a bunch of books I need to get reading and a bunch more all the time. And I’m trying to adjust my pace to keep up with that.

Standard stuff, if you like what I’m doing here feel free to leave a comment or a like. There’s things I want to try but I don’t know how interested anyone would be in them. And, of course, if you really like what I’m doing here you can feed my caffeine addiction and buy me a ko-fi. It’ll get eaten up with text books real soon. In any case have a great rest of the week!

Tombstone Bone Dice

I’m behind on things again, but there’s no time for worrying about that. Just going to have to do better. For now though, dice! This week’s set is Dice Envy’s Tombstone Bone dice. Enjoy!

Tombstone 2

So, these dice are something I’ve been wanting to check out because I was curious about the matte coloring and the name of the set. I also wanted to check out the texture, because they’re supposed to immitate bone instead of being smooth like standard dice. There’s a little bit of roughness to the surface of the dice, I can’t confirm that it’s accurate to bone, but the novelty is pretty great. The texture isn’t enough to disturb rolling them and it isn’t super rough, but it’s a nice difference.

That said, while I’m really happy with the texture, the color on the d20 could be lighter. While I like that it isn’t even across the set, again this is meant to be imitating bone, I feel like the d20 specifically could have been better served by having one of the paler or more faded colors. The darker brown isn’t bad on its own, but it does make the numbers a little difficult to read. The other dice are fine on this and I like the layering of the stain over the acrylic itself. It makes for a good worn look.

Tombstone 1

Rolling these is a lot of fun. I think it’s mostly a novelty thing, they feel different enough to be noticeable so it’s just kind of nifty. Like usual, they’re well balanced with no tendency to get stuck on certain numbers. I feel like I’m getting really lucky on that, but I’m happy to roll with it.

And that’s kind of where I land on this. The Tombstone Bone dice do lose a little for the color on the d20, but I imagine that rolling them in better lighting than I had here would help with that. Overall though, I really like these. The balance is good, the hand feel is nice, and I’m big on the novelty of the whole imitating bone thing. I actually picked this set over the other two of the same style because it was the most bone like. I give this set a four out of five. I really like the idea of them for a necromancer or maybe a barbarian.

11th of Spring, Year 256

The human ambassador brought some goods to trade. Not much. Some linens and things. A little bit of furniture. And more importantly, alcohol. We finally have something other than mushroom beer even if it will have to be carefully rationed.

To take care of that, we’re going to be headed to the ambassador’s home city of White Hall, the closest major city they have, to see about setting up more steady trade with them. We have some goods of our own to offer them. Mostly things that weren’t quite to Churt’s standards, but that’s hardly a mark against them. And, of course, mushroom beer and a selection of our most recent harvest of mushrooms. It’s likely to be unfamiliar, novel, enough that we can get a good price on it.

At least, we should be able to get a good price on it if we can avoid diplomatic incidents.

Chonck related diplomatic incidents mostly.

I should have waited until Eclair returned before we set out. Or made certain that I watched my words more carefully. Or even if I had considered that Chonck wasn’t likely to know any of the more colorful language some of my fellows have tended to use in the past.

I didn’t consider though, and Azurei took ill while we were en route to the village we were planning on staying in for the night, so she was in no shape to help. The elf, of course, did nothing but sit in the wagon and drink all out beer. Deeply helpful that. Never mind maybe helping the rest of the party. No, no, never mind that.

I digress. Chonck wanted to learn what his new word was. Before she had to leave to rest, Azurei offered to teach him once he was older. That did nothing to put him off it. Though a local farmer helpfully suggested that one of the village priests had confiscated such a book recently and perhaps Chonck could convince them to let him have it. I don’t question how the farmer overheard us, only why he saw fit to tell Chonck about this.

I keep coming back to the idea that things might still have been fine if any of us had thought to stop Chonck from going to the temple after we unharnessed him from the cart. Just, a suggestion that the priest had likely taken the book for a reason or and offer to find him a different book on the subject. Something to that effect.

But no. We got him unharnessed  and he charged off into the village chanting his new word the whole way. I had the cart about unloaded for tonight’s stop when he came back, still muttering the word, and happily talking about his new ‘sticky book’. He’s very happy about the pictures in the book, but still doesn’t understand the content and says they make him feel funny.

With Azurei ill and Eclair off on a mission from her patron and the elf busy doing absolutely nothing, I’ve made a number of otherwise easily avoided mistakes today. A good number of them. I’ve badly given a dwarc with no concept of his own age beyond probably more than two tens the talk. Confused him. Accidentally explained the concept of whores, badly. Confused him worse. And, I think, more or less convinced Chonck that he needs to be able to read books that have words instead of pictures before he’s allowed to have sex. As long as he never thinks to ask anyone else, that might hold up. Maybe.

I hope.

In any case, if this gets back to Churt or if our attempts at diplomacy go wrong because of it, I think I’m going to blame a wizard. Or that farmer. Or better still, I’ll blame the elf.

House Keeping 4/16/19

Not much to talk about again this week. Not much is  changing at the moment.

There are a couple of things to the side of my blog here that I want to mention.

First thing, the May Second Star Books box is going to be the last of their monthly boxes. As it turns out the monthly candle box that they do has been super successful, so that will still be running and the quarterly book box will still be running. It was apparently a matter of things being a lot more successful than was expected and I’m glad for that. The bi-annual candle sale is also coming up soon, so definitely keep an eye out for that. You can check them out here.

Second thing, while I’m not sure how many of you are here for the dice reviews I did want to also mention this one. But Dice Envy is currently running a Kickstarter for wooden dice. I think that’s pretty cool and if you’re interested you can find it through the link here.

Following those, I don’t have a lot to say.

I’m behind a bit on my reading, so the review might be late this week. Not sure by how much, but it shouldn’t be bad.

There will be a “Sunshine’s Journal” post this week, but it’s being a bit maddening to write. Things went sideways and I’m not entirely sure how to words that out.

And I’m still working on getting back to school. Which is something that I am very much looking forward to and also terrified of.

That’s about it.

Standard stuff, if you like what I’m doing here feel free to leave a comment or a like. It makes me feel less like I’m screaming into the void. And, of course, if you really like what I’m doing here you can feed my caffeine addiction and buy me a ko-fi. It’s probably going to go towards text books or classes. In either case, have a great rest of the week!

Confetti Dice

Running late on this, but I’m super excited for these dice. I say that every week, and to be honest, it’s been true every week so far. These guys are a Dice Envy exclusive, so if you’re interested grab them while you can because only 200 sets were made available to the public. You can check them out here at the link. But now, on to the dice!

Confetti 1

These dice just kind of make me happy to look at with the bright pops of color from the confetti. I definitely feel like the clear acrylic was the way to go with that, since it allows for the clearest view of the confetti. Plus there’s a nice sense of chaos to these with the confetti settling towards one side of the individual dice but being sprinkled throughout so different sides and edges show in any given angle. I makes me want to play something bright and flashy, maybe some kind of warlock or see if I can wrangle an alchemist into 5e.

Confetti 2

This being a first casting, there are a few places where the confetti sticks out of the acrylic a little. So these don’t have the smoothest hand feel. That doesn’t seem to affect the rolling, but it is noticeable on some sides of the dice. I’m expecting that would be taken care of if they do any future castings. The legibility of the numbers is also interesting on these. From a distance, the confetti can confuse the numbers some though it shouldn’t be a problem from standard rolling range. The numbers actually seem to be a little deeper cast than some other dice I’ve got to account for this. So that’s pretty cool.

I do really like these dice and look forward to using them. I’ve actually started pairing them with the Kosmos Mars dice for my current Dungeons and Dragons character, since I need more than one d6 for her. The odd bits with the confetti throw off the hand feel a bit, but don’t remove from the fun of the set. Overall, I give Dice Envy’s Confetti Dice a four out of five.

Late posting this, yesterday didn’t really happen. The “And Another Thing” is something I’ve been wanting to write something for for a while and I’ve been meaning to go back and talk about this since I realized it, but haven’t really taken the time to put it to paper as it were. So now seemed like a great time to get this done. This is sort of touching on an older review, you can find that here. I might make this a semi-regular thing for books that I couldn’t get to everything reasonably or series after I’ve already reviewed the books that make them up. It could be a lot of fun, this one was at least.

So, one of my big issues with Free Chocolate was pacing and information related. There would be long stretches of nothing new, of repetition, of the reader being reminded that Bo is in trouble because of the Zamite’s usually eating stowaways or of the corporate assassin calling her to remind her that he’s going to kill her family if she doesn’t get the cacao beans back and provably destroy them. Of how she doesn’t know as much about her boyfriend as she thought.

It hit me some time later.

Each chapter is an episode of a soap opera.

Each chapter.

And I missed that on my first go round with the book.

This is a thing that could have been brilliant. But I feel like it’s let down by the novel format and, as a result, becomes a letdown of a read.

One of the big things with soap operas is getting the viewer to come back every day. So, there’s a lot of characters and a lot of plot lines running constantly. Even if one plot line ends during an episode there’s still several more going and chances are that the ending of one will result in the start of another. It’s a constant cycle and characters are continually being introduced and developed and moved out of the story.

It’s a daily thing and needs to keep people coming back daily. But it’s also only a half an hour to an hour daily, so small amounts of all of this can be twined together and stretched out. But it loses something if you’re watching episodes back to back to back. Things fall a little flat because tension doesn’t work if it’s kept cranked up over a long amount of time. Plus, a lot of the repetition on a soap opera covers if you miss a day here and there.

Same thing with Free Chocolate. Since every chapter is an episode and soap operas require continual high tension it winds up being clunky. Plot lines and information are continually reintroduced. Characters are continually gone back over.

It feels like it could work really well over the course of a couple of months. Just like, post one chapter a day and have it go from there and I think the pacing would have worked a lot better.