I’m hanging out today with “writer, storyteller … explorer of truths” (LOVE how she describes herself!) Shauntelle Hamlett of Being is a Verb. This started as your typical author interview – “Tell us about your book…” and rapidly (de?)evolved into giggling and silliness. So if you’ve been dying to know what’s in my purse or how many books I can stack on my head, you have to check out my YouTube Debut, in which we cover Princess in the Making and six more popular tags.

When you’re done, go browse through Being is a Verb. You will not stop thinking “oh very cool….” Trust me.

The other day, I read a really interesting article: The Ragamuffin Speaks: Cosplayers: Surprisingly Not Toys.

The entire article was pretty much one long “Since certain guys can’t figure it out, let me explain, using very small words, how not to treat women.” It bothers me that such an article was even worth the trouble of writing. I guess I’m naive. Or maybe I’ve just got enough of an ego to roll my eyes and walk away from anyone – man, woman, or frog – who tries to tell me I’m not good enough to do whatever I’ve decided I want to do.

That being said, I’ve never had to deal with the real bottom-of-the-barrel of male geekdom. I’ve never been groped at a con, or harassed, or had to sever any guy’s critical parts. I’d really like to think that’s because the reports of this sort of thing are overblown, but if we’re being honest, I suspect it’s because I’ve never gone to a con by myself. I’ve always been escorted by the guy who introduced me to gaming – who can look reasonably intimidating when he wants to. Luckily I like the guy enough to still be with him a couple of decades later so . . . if it’s not broke, right? No – I take that back. It is “broke.” But The Ragamuffin dealt with that pretty extensively, so I’ll direct you to him for further details.

Except for one statement, that I can speak to fairly personally:

“I’ve witnessed the great gatekeepers of geekdom challenging their right to wear their costumes by testing their knowledge, daring them to prove their geek credentials.”

It’s not just cosplayers, or comic book fans.

Gentlemen of the Role Playing and Video Gaming Persuasions, may I have your attention please?

I get it. Social situations don’t hold a lot of pleasant memories for  you. You walk into most interactions expecting to be looked down on. That’s why you got into geekery in the first place, right? Why keep chasing the popular crowd when they’re just going to reject you? Better to find something you actually think is pretty cool, than follow somebody else around doing what they dictate.

Trust me, I get it! Why do you think I, and so many other geeky women, got into role playing games or video games or comic books or SCA or whatever form our geekery takes? Same reasons, guys. We’re not stellar at the whole social interactions with normals thing either. To be honest, most of us don’t really get the point of it all. It looks kinda boring.

But here’s the thing. Ask a representative sample of long-time female geeks how we first got into our form of geekery, and most of us will tell you we had a boyfriend or a male friend who introduced us. Most of us have had guys who paved the way, who explained things and taught us how to play. And I suspect, who shielded us from the worst of the gatekeepers.

I don’t run games. I write stories, but I don’t tell them in the context of role playing games. I’ve written role playing modules, but I don’t even run my own playtests. You know why? Because I haven’t memorized every rule in every role playing book. For me, role playing has always been more about story than dice rolling. So it’s not surprising that the resident rules lawyer (every group has one) can argue me down. Every single time. And after the first few times, you get sick of dealing with it. Yeah, I get it Mr. I Can Recite Every Single Word That Fell From The Mouth of Gary Gygax. You know more about the rules than I do. Congratulations. Would you like a sticker?

White Wolf Role Playing Game Books

Small collection of books I haven’t memorized.

But what’s the point in running games (in my case) or cosplaying, or doing whatever else we find exciting and fun and creative, if we’re going to have to  submit to a courtroom-style cross-examination? We end up spending all our time defending ourselves instead of actually having fun.

And if that’s what I’ve had to deal with, in my sheltered and escorted and protected entry into geekdom, what about the girls and women who are unescorted into the old boys’ club of geekery? Some are incredibly brave and self-confident and walk in daring any guy to tell them they don’t belong. Others – and you, gentlemen, will never know how many – beautiful, creative, intelligent, interesting women  walked away, told loud and clear by one more group “You’re not good enough to hang with us.”

Really guys? We’re not good enough? Next time you lament the fact that you can’t meet girls, or that women won’t give you the time of day, remember that slightly lost looking girl that wandered by the gaming store. She wanted to meet you and get involved in the game. Unfortunately, you and your buddies ignored her or glared at her and threw around terminology you knew darn well she didn’t understand (not because she’s stupid, but because it was her first time in a gaming store, so how could she be expected to know the terminology?), and she walked out. Or she never bothered to go in.

Your loss guys. She’ll be fine. She’ll find something else to do. And you’ll continue to sit around with five other guys wondering why you can’t meet girls.

Bristol Renaissance Faire

Bristol Renaissance Faire Entrance

The Renaissance Faire, like so much else in geekdom, can be both intimidating and a whole lot of fun. Here are the three big things I wish somebody had told me before my first Renaissance Faire:

  • It will be hot. Ren Faires are usually held in July and August. Depending on the location, there may or may not be shade. Drink plenty of (non-cafeinated, non-alcoholic) fluids.
  • It will be weird (in a good way). Guys will bow and call you m’lady. Women curtsy – and flirt. Have fun with it. Join in. Pull out your best Shakespearean/British/Pirate/Celtic/Gypsy accent and play along.
  • It will be fun. You can expect plenty of shopping at any Renaissance Faire. Most Faires have at least one shop where you can buy garb, or period-esque clothing. Jewelry, swords, and handmade period crafts are all common. If shopping isn’t your idea of a good time, you can also watch the joust or the tournament events (because really, who doesn’t want to sit around on a grassy knoll watching guys with swords beating the daylights out of each other??). Some larger Faires have several stages with a diverse selection of entertainments from storytellers (yay!) to live music to more…erm….crude entertainments. If you’re into that sort of thing, check out The Mud Show at Bristol. It’s quite cringe-worthy.

A word on garb – or period-esque clothing:

I adore garb! Weirdly, I don’t think I have a single photo of myself actually in garb. It doesn’t have to be complicated:

Queen Elizabeth I

Queen Elizabeth I

In fact, showing up dressed as the Queen would be a huge breach of etiquette. There’s only one Queen, and she’s an actress hired by the Faire. Moving on…Most people who come to Faire in garb wear some variation of the peasant look. For women, this means one or more full skirts, a chemise (a long undershirt), and a bodice. For men, it’s even simpler. Loose-fitting pants, a poofy shirt, and a leather belt and you’re good to go. Leather boots complete the outfit.

Typical Renaissance Fair couple

Typical Renaissance Fair couple

You don’t have to come dressed up in order to have a blast at the Renaissance Faire! Check out the photo at the top of this post – most of the people are wearing modern street clothes. That’s perfectly fine. Nobody is going to think you’re out of place if you don’t have garb. Likewise, you’re unlikely to get weird looks if you show up dressed as a gypsy or a pirate!

Historical accuracy is something of a controversy. Most Faires have a specific date they are trying to recreate. The actors and vendors may even try to stick pretty closely to clothing and speech of that time period. For the average visitor, most bets are off. As long as you go for something vaguely medieval (yes, I know, it’s called a Renaissance Faire and that’s later than the medieval period), you’ll be fine. Don’t show up dressed as a Klingon. This isn’t ComicCon. 🙂


Good morning!

It’s a not-well-kept secret that I’m a total Disney geek. I grew up watching Cinderella and The Lion King (yeah, I’m that old.) I went to Disneyland the requisite 3.5 times as a California girl. Disneyland was ok, and I liked the movies, but they didn’t inspire the type of obsessive fandom required for true geekery until I hit Walt Disney World a few years ago. It was one of those “right place at the right time” things.


The thing that grabbed me about Walt Disney World was how immersive it is. How that place blends fantasy and reality so perfectly that you willingly suspend disbelief. That has been a big influence, a quality I try to emulate in my stories. That’s also what attracted me to role playing games and especially LARP, back in the day. But now…reality is I can’t just pause Final Fantasy and head off to go school some guy with a boffer sword. Leaving my house requires more planning than most military operations!

The Optimist

I came across The Optimist the other day. It’s an online mystery game that blurs fiction and reality. Perfect! It looks like an online LARP, but not in the mass-multi sense. This is going to carry over from the in-game blog to various social media sites (which, let’s face it, is where I do most of my socializing anyway) and I’m not sure what else.

I’m playing along, both for the fun of it and to see where this form of gaming goes. This is a concept I’ve played with for my Oreveille novels, but I didn’t have the time or the resources to put it together. Disney does, so I’m pretty excited to see how they pull it off.

Are you playing along? Let me know what you think!

D20picI discovered role playing games pretty late in life, compared to most people. I was in college before I played my first game of Dungeons and Dragons. Before that, while I was vaguely aware of its existence, I didn’t know anyone who played. There was a vague sense that it was almost occult – something  mysterious and questionable, and definitely not something you admitted to knowing. I hung out with the outcasts and the geeks in high school back in the 90’s, before “geek” meant “cool,” but even we had standards. Even we were too cool for Dungeons and Dragons. (What can I say? It was Southern California. You can’t completely avoid the coolness thing.)

Then I started playing, and started hearing the stories, becoming part of the gaming culture. One of the recurring themes was societal – or at least parental – disaproval. Dungeons and Dragons was satanic, so the story goes. It was subversive (ok, maybe a little, but in a good way!). So when someone sent me a link to Dr. Joyce Brothers discussing the game in the context of family activities, I had to see what was going on.

It turns out I was right – Dungeons and Dragons and other role playing games are actually really good family activities. Why play role playing games with your kids?

You’ll learn a lot about them – and they’ll learn a lot about you. Let’s face it, you never really know a person until you’ve faced a pack of orcs together and lived to tell the tale.

They’ll learn and practice social skills. Real social skills like negotiation, cooperation, problem solving, assertiveness, and fair play.

They’ll do math. Voluntarily. Depending on the game, they’ll do a lot of math.

They’ll read. A lot.

They’ll research. They’ll learn obscure facts about how fast a horse can run over rocky terrain, but more importantly, they’ll learn how to find information.

They’ll make up stories. They’ll finally play with all that theory their English teachers have been talking about with plot and setting and characterization and climax.

And perhaps most importantly as a parent, it gives you common ground to tackle the tough stuff that’s hard to talk about. If you haven’t had an actual conversation with your child in six years, you can hardly expect to come to you and tell you they’re experimenting with heroin. But if you have a longstanding campaign to save the world from unimaginable evil, then that little heroin chat can happen while you wait for the pizza to arrive. (Ok, maybe Dungeons and Dragons doesn’t quite make parenting that easy, but anything that strengthens those bonds can’t hurt.)

When you think of role playing games, you probably imagine a handful of teenage guys in somebody’s basement. I started gaming in college, so it was a handful of guys and a couple of girls in somebody’s dorm room. But then adulthood hit, with all the responsibilities that come with it. Full time jobs, commuting, and young kids all conspire to prevent the dice from rolling! Once they get a little older, we’ve started gaming with the kids. It’s a toned down version of our college gaming experience, but a lot of fun in its own right.

So – what are the best RPGs to play with kids?

There are a few role playing games specifically designed for kids, with simplified rules and G-rated themes. Some of my favorites are:

  • MouseGuard (available as an eBook or hardcover). Based on the popular kids’ comic book series by David Peterson. This is ideal for younger gamers (ages 6+) who can relate to the characters and themes. Older kids (12+) might think it’s too “kiddy” though.
  • Toon (available as an eBook from Steve Jackson Games). Based on those old Saturday morning cartoons. This one is just plain silly, but in a good way! You blow up, drop Acme safes, and nobody ever dies. You just fall down and come back in the next scene. This is a good choice for a mixed-age group. Younger kids can be as goofy as they want, and older ones don’t feel like it’s just for little kids.
  • Pathfinder (available as an eBook or hardcover). Ok, so maybe I’m biased, since I’m writing modules based on the Pathfinder system! But this really is a great system to play with the kids. The rules aren’t too complicated, and you can make it as intense or as light as you want. Maybe you’re just looking for a good hack and slash dungeon crawl on a Saturday afternoon, or maybe it’s about character development and stopping the schemes of the evil king. That’s all up to you and what your family is interested in at the moment.

Most RPGs can be adapted to play with kids, depending on the ages, interests (and math skills!) of your family.  If your kids have never role-played before, start with a simple system for the first several games. Once they have the hang of it, you can begin a longer campaign.

Do you role play with your kids? What’s your favorite RPG to play with the kids?

Curious about role playing? Not sure what it’s about or how to get started? I’m working on a series of blog posts for the curious gamer in you. But I need your help – I can guess what a non-gamer might want to know, but I’ve been doing this for almost 20 years. It’s hard to remember what questions I had back then. Leave a question here, and I’ll do my best to answer it in an upcoming blog post.