Rainbow

It started during a long drive home. Golden sunlight reflected gently on a gray cloud more friendly than its deep, stormy companions further east. A touch of azure sky still framed it, holding out against the impending storm.

Then it blazed to life. A hint of red, punchy yellow, a tinge of green and violet. Like a knowing wink, it made me smile.

 

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S.B. Roberts 2017

 

The garage door opened, and I pulled the car inside. The cat rubbed my legs, hungry for attention and food. After giving him enough of both, I returned to the window, wondering if that little wink of color was still there.

The whole sky had grown golden with the light drizzle and the lowering sun. The splash of color had begun to spread across the sky. I hurried outside, not minding misting. Within seconds, it had encompassed everything above me in one perfectly curved line.

I stood there a moment, in awe. I made it home just in time for this. This beautiful moment.

Then the beauty became extravagance. It mirrored itself, transforming everything into a magnificent array of colors.

 

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S.B. Roberts 2017

The sun sank further, and the spectacle began to fade. Being bathed with that much beauty for too long would be too much for any mortal. But as it faded, I felt revived. A wink from above. A promise remembered.

 


Rip It, Write It, Draw It: Cactus

The theme is cactus, yet somehow everything always takes a sharp turn towards cats. Maybe I really am obsessed.

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In case the story above is too small to read clearly (which it probably is), here it is:

Once upon a time, there was a cactus. It sat in a sunny dining room window. From there, it watched the world. It watched the cars and people who passed down the sidewalk. It watched the family in whose house it lived and who always watered it just the right amount. But it especially liked to watch the cat. The cat was a strange creature that liked to spend its time up high, like the cactus. But unlike the cactus, it never minded its own business. It climbed on everything (even the counters when the family wasn’t looking), it chewed on the curtains, and it knocked things over. The cactus dreaded the cat coming onto its shelf.

One day, though, that’s exactly what happened. With an unexpectedly graceful leap, the cat landed right beside the cactus. Since this creature seemed to defy all the laws of physics, the cactus expected the cat might try to eat it and dreaded that it might succeed. Instead, the cat nestled in closer than anything had to the cactus, started purring, and watched the world go by.


For When You’re Feeling Board: Star Trek Panic

Every Christmas, my husband and I look for a new game that we can play together. We love games: card, board, and video games alike. This year turned into a game extravaganza, between gifts to each other and from family and friends. I’m sure I’ll talk about at least one other one (the Oregon Trail now has a card game version, so there are new ways to die of dysentery!), but there’s one I can’t resist writing about: Star Trek Panic.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt like such a geek while playing a game. But it also is a lot of fun.

The object of the game is to complete missions (most of them based on Original Series episodes) and keep the Enterprise intact the whole time.

 

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Cards tell you what to do and when to do it, the missions add pressure (especially because there’s a turn limit before you have to restart the mission), and enemies can start piling up quickly. They also are very true to the show: Tholian ships will create a web around you to keep you from moving, ships that can cloak in the show will do so every other turn, and the introduction of Klingon captains like Kang can cause serious trouble.

Unlike most games, this one is completely cooperative. All of the cards stay face up for easy strategizing and you can trade cards with your teammates (which is sometimes essential to winning/not dying).

If you’re a Trekkie, it’s definitely worth checking out. And if you’re not and a Trekkie friend invites you to play, don’t worry. You don’t have to know that much about the show to know what’s going on.

Have you played any form of Panic before? What kinds of games do you like to play?


Adventures in Art: Mountain Moonlight

My husband bought me a book about learning how to paint for Christmas, so over the break, I decided to check it out.

The opening pages explained materials and basic techniques, like understanding how to choose colors and the importance of a focal point. They were all things I had never considered with painting but that I haven’t been able to un-see since.

It also has 50 different little paintings to try with instructions and explanations of different techniques. Even though I’ve painted before, I decided to start with the first one in the book.

It’s just black and white paint, but the goal is to learn mixing and become comfortable with playing around.

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Believe it or not, it took about an hour from start to finish, and it was just as fun to do in my quiet house as it was in a studio. (Though, the curious cat can make things interesting.)

I can’t wait to try out the next one.


Happy Birthday, Tolkien! #TolkienBirthdayToast

Today is Tolkien’s 125th birthday, which means British food, plenty of tea, and all things Middle-earth are on tap for today. Okay, amid getting ready for the spring semester to begin.

It’s also a great day to share an interesting tidbit of Anglo-Saxon history. While Tolkien is best known for writing about Middle-earth, he had many interests, including Anglo-Saxon history. With that in mind, I came across something fascinating while making cookies and watching Secrets of Great British Castles via Netflix.

Evidently, there was once a Norman monk known as Gundulf of Rochester. King William I noticed that he had a knack for architecture so he helped build none other than the White Tower, which is now part of the Tower of London. Could this Gundulf have somehow inspired the Gandalf we all know and love today? Or did the White Tower influence Minis Tirith or The Two Towers itself? No one may know now, but a historian on the show presented the theory, and it’s certainly one I’d never heard before.

Tonight at 9pm local time is the Tolkien Society’s annual toast to the Professor. I’ll likely have my customary Taylor’s of Harrogate afternoon Darjeeling (because afternoon Darjeeling is good at any time of day). A good cup of tea just seems appropriate.

So here’s to another year of celebrating the Professor, his many accomplishments, and his lasting influence.


Couch Co-op Adventures: Two Wins and a Flop

While there are plenty of video games I enjoy playing alone, couch co-op is my favorite way to play. My husband and I have spent much of our relationship playing video games together, so we’re always on the hunt for something new.

This year, we found three that sit on both ends of the spectrum.

Yoshi’s Wooly World
It looked like it had great potential. Nintendo tends to have good co-op games in general, but this game had two major flaws.

  1. It was really hard.
    Platforming isn’t my forte, but some of the platformers we’ve played over the years are forgiving or have ways of allowing that slightly inept second player to make it through the hard parts with some help. This one was the epitome of unforgiving. I spent most of the time dead.
  2. Players could push each other around.
    Literally. Other games allow you to occupy the same space or walk past each other without consequence. This one didn’t allow that at all, which meant I spent half of my time pushing my husband into pits and enemies. I’ll let you guess how well that went over.

It wasn’t long before I gave up and he continued alone.

Gears of War 4
Yes, it’s violent and over-the-top, but the couch co-op is great. Overall, the split screen works well, and the fact that the other player (and the computer player posse) can save you if you go down is helpful too.

Another bonus is the ability to change the difficulty setting individually. This does, however, have some unintentional consequences. One night, I spent several levels feeling like a total failure in the game. Everything seemed to kill me. It was only as we wrapped up for the night that I realized I had been playing on hardcore. All things considered, I didn’t do that bad.

Kirby’s Return to Dreamland
This one is fantastic. Originally created for the Wii and impossible to find, it’s recently made an appearance in the e-store which means we can finally play it. Since it was a Christmas present, we’ve only played the first world so far, but it’s just as fun as the other Kirby games have been.

While there are challenges, none of the Kirby games are excessively hard. That means I spend more time having fun and less time feeling frustrated and inept. There are puzzles to solve, power-ups to try, and bosses to beat.

Not only can you pass the other player, but you can also jump on top of them, like a piggy back ride. This comes in handy since you can attack together too. Or it can just be done for fun.

You can also share health when you pick it up. If I pick up some health (in the ironic form of a donut, for instance), I can share some of it with him. Though, most of the time, it goes the other way around. After all, I like to play as Meta Knight and plunge straight into danger… which doesn’t always end well.

 

So though couch co-op doesn’t seem to be as popular as it used to be, there are still plenty of great games out there taking advantage of it. Here’s hoping there will be more out there in 2017.


2017 Writing Goals

2016 was a productive year in different ways than I anticipated. That means that the goals I set out early in 2016 aren’t quite accomplished, but plenty of things still got done.

Finish a solid draft of the steampunk/fantasy/sci-fi novel
Not so much. The mid-year stall set me way behind, but NaNoWriMo helped make up for lost time by adding a new section that didn’t exist before. It’s a worthwhile addition that’s challenged the main story itself in good ways, so while the draft isn’t done like I had hoped for, it’s in a better place than it was before.

Find some writing competitions and submit some works
Again, not so much. Actually, I didn’t really touch this one at all. With the novel floundering, most of my attention was focused on it or on the blog, so this goal fell by the wayside. There’s always next year, though.

Blog at least weekly but aim for three times a week
With only a few exceptions, mission accomplished here. Considering how inconsistent I’ve been in the past, this is really good.

So what about 2017?

Well, here are the writing goals I’d like to focus on:

  • Continue to blog at least weekly, but aim for three times a week
  • Complete a draft of the novel
  • Read more books

Last year was about perseverance (and I needed it). This year’s motto is finish the fight.

What are your goals for 2017? Do you lay out specific goals or do you have another method to keep yourself accountable?