The Game Console Dilemma

There’s a lot of heavy stuff going on right now, guys, for me and my friends. Bad news, terrible news, excellent news—real life stuff, you know?

So, naturally, I want to talk about video game consoles. This is serious business.

I didn’t have every new console when I was growing up. We had (I think) an Atari, then an original Nintendo, and then nothing. If we wanted to play Super Mario World or Donkey Kong or Final Fantasy VI or Sonic or any other game that was popular in the mid-1990s, we had to go to a friend’s house. And believe me, we found all the right friends with all the best game systems.

Then the late 90s rolled around and the N64 came out. I didn’t get the opportunity to play one until I was visiting a friend in Missouri in 1998, and she introduced me to Donkey Kong 64 and Zelda: the Ocarina of Time and a dozen other games, and I had to have one. I begged, I pleaded, and I finally convinced my parents to let me buy an N64 with my Christmas money.

What a glorious day it was. My mom and my brother were going to Abilene (yes, when I was a young lass in Texas, Abilene was the big city), and I sent them to whatever store had the best sale, and they returned with my sleek, glorious console with the giant controllers and those awesome cartridges that must now give millions of 30-somethings warm-fuzzy nostalgia.

I spent most of 1999 listening to No Doubt and playing N64 games. Zelda, Super Mario 64, Perfect Dark, the Star Wars pod-racing game… Good times.

Then I hit high school and I lost interest for awhile. Computer games, with their rich worlds and varied stories, were where it was at for me. I had a brief, torrid affair with a friend’s XBox, but that never went anywhere, and it wasn’t until college that I got to play PlayStation 2 games with my now-husband and was hooked all over again. This time it was Spyro and Kingdom Hearts and Champions of Norrath, but I realized my love of console games had never faded. It’s more immersive, somehow, just you and the controller and the screen, and you can lose hours and days in another world, jumping, racing, fighting, exploring, playing.

So when Nintendo Wii came out, hyping The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and a whole new method of play, I was intrigued. But it cost, like, $300, and I was a broke grad student and then a broke intern and then a broke reporter, and my husband said we just might be past the stage in our lives where we should buy console games, so I never bought one.

…until I had a steady, salaried job, that is. In 2010, in Santa Fe, I used my new smart phone to find Target. I went in, I went straight to the electronics section, and I picked it out: my Nintendo Wii, my secondary controller (hot pink!), and that (I thought) most glorious of all the gloried games: Twilight Princess. I rushed home to our 200-year-old house in New Mexico, I got it all set up, and my husband and I played Wii Sports for about two days straight.

Sort of. Well, we tried.

You see, that revolutionary new method of play wasn’t quite what we expected. It was tricky, and games often required fine movements to be performed with a controller that really had no precision. Aiming was tricky. Drawing was damn near impossible.

I played Zelda, but somehow I wasn’t hooked. I didn’t like having to position myself perfectly to be able to swing my “sword,” and the chicken-herding mission in the first five minutes of the game just didn’t do it for me, especially when it was so hard to aim the freaking horse at the freaking birds.

Eventually, the Wii started to collect dust, and then it became our Netflix player. More time passed, and it became our secondary Netflix player, relegated to the bedroom, where, unless we stood on the bed, we didn’t even have room to play the games.

So, yeah. The biggest purchase I’d ever made for myself, and it was a bust. It was years before I ever bought myself anything that cost more than $100 again. I toed the party line: no more video game consoles for us.

But the last few years have seen so many tempting systems. Xbox One with Kinect. PS4. And now… that freaking Nintendo 3DS with its cute design and its fancy 3D and its promise of access to dozens of old games.

As you’ve seen, I have rather rocky history with Nintendo. Sometimes I love it, sometimes I hate it. And once burned, twice never-gonna-cough-up-hundreds-again, right? I’m not going to buy one. I’m not.

But it’s difficult. I feel like Charlie Brown, continually swinging at console systems and missing because my stupid controller just doesn’t have enough precision to make contact.

What do you think, readers? Where do you stand on video game consoles? Do you keep buying?

Anime and Me: Part 2

Remember how I’ve said I don’t like anime?


So much for that blanket statement. Like so many sweeping claims of its kind, it has proven completely false. It has taken ten years and a lot (a LOT!) of trial and error, but my husband has finally helped me find some anime I seriously enjoy, and I’ve even branched out into manga. (Me! The girl who used to get confused by comics!)

Note: If you’ve read my post on Spellbound Scribes, you can scroll down through this bit and check out my recommendations at the bottom of this post.

There are a few things I’ve learned along the way to finding anime I love. The first is that saying, “I don’t like anime” is a little akin to saying, “I don’t like animated feature films or television, regardless of content.”

Okay, that’s exactly what it’s saying.

My first exposure to anime was when I was probably twelve years old, and a friend of mine fell in love with Sailor Moon. She watched it, she carried the lunch box, she wrote fan fiction, she tried to turn me on to it. She failed. Again, in high school, a friend loved The Power Puff Girls. I tried it, I scoffed, I moved on. By the time I got to college and landed a roommate who loved anime, my experience was enough to give me a sinking feeling when we met in person. “Oh. She likes anime. Nope.” She tried it on me (I have no idea what we watched), I didn’t like it, she moved out.

Ha. No, she didn’t move out over anime. But it felt that way at times, like my dislike of anime was a dogmatic schism between me and people who could otherwise have been my friends. After that experience, I settled happily into a cozy, sheltered world of disliking anime, with friends who never even gave it a moment’s thought.

Cue meeting my husband. He likes anime, and cartoons of all colors, genres, and levels of satire. While he pretty quickly realized that I’ll never like anything in the Family GuyFuturamaArcher, and, yes, The Simpsons oeuvre (it’s to do with the colors, animation style, and voices), he insisted that there did exist anime I would like. He just needed to find it. It became his quest, and I continued stubbornly stumping along, dismissing most of his suggestions.

Eventually, guilted by his continual efforts, I set three guidelines for finding Kristin-Approved anime:

1. The artwork needs to be pretty.

2. The cast needs to include strong female characters OR, at the least, the male characters can’t all be sexist a-holes.

3. A fantasy or fairy tale element is preferable, but not strictly necessary.

I asked that his suggestions meet two of those three criteria. We’ve crossed the eight-month mark on those guidelines, and we’ve found a handful of anime that I really like (see below).

But I’ve also discovered that anime is not always super heroes, creepy monsters, or giant machines, though I’ve enjoyed series that fall into all of those categories! And watching shojo anime does not in fact make one a connoisseur of creepy schoolgirl things, though there are also anime and manga targeted at older women. In fact, not only are there romance stories, “slice of life” stories, and some pretty serious erotica stories, there are historical stories, folkloric stories, hard-sci fi stories, and mythical stories.

Bottom line: anime cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand and a vague assumption about girls with pink hair. I hereby humbly eat my words. Again.

So if you’re interested in following me down the anime (and even manga) path, here are some of those Kristin-Approved series* I mentioned. Mild spoilers follow.

1. Princess Jellyfish: This is hands-down my favorite anime so far. It spoke to my heart, and I binge-watched it in mere days. It tells the story of a group of otaku women who live in the lone holdout building in a neighborhood targeted for gentrification. The story actually manages to parallel the women’s feelings of awkwardness and isolation with their love for the “retro,” eccentric old building they inhabit, and their push-pull relationship with the outside world is crystallized in their reluctant friendship with a “Stylish” who has acceptance problems (and secrets) of his—I mean, “her”—own.

2. xxxHolic: This one meets the pretty artwork and fantasy criteria, though the relative strength of the female characters is debatable. The show follows the story of Watanuki, a teenager who can see spirits, who agrees to work for a wish-granting witch in exchange for having his powers dampened. I’m not gonna lie, this one and the creatures in it have been an influence on my own fiction.

3. Mushishi: Gorgeously animated (seriously, incomparable artwork), this series is about Ginko, a man who protects people, usually rural villagers, from supernatural creatures/spirits called Mushi.

4. Noragami: Teenage girl Hiyori Iki is transformed into a half-phantom after a near lethal accident, and she works with struggling god Yato to, well, have adventures, fight spirits, stay grounded in the physical realm, and redeem Yato himself. That’s not a great description, but I’ve just started watching/reading this one and it’s fantastic so far.

5. My Little Monster: Scholarly loner “dry ice” girl Shizuku Mizutani becomes involved with “monster” boy Haru Yoshida, and together the two learn how to socialize and even love in a world that seems to neither want nor respect them. Meant for a younger audience, this one I could have loved when I was a shy and awkward pre-teen.

6. Neon Genesis Evangelion: Need I describe this one? Yes, it’s old. Yes, it’s incredibly successful and popular. Yes, I’m a late-bloomer. No, I haven’t watched it all the way through yet. Mecha, teens fighting the apocalypse, kids thrust into grown-up responsibility in a really adult story. I’ll pre-approve this one.

7. Howl’s Moving Castle: Yes, this one is also old(er) and well-known. No, I don’t know if a Japanese adaptation of an English book counts as anime: that’s way beyond the scope of this post. But I freaking LOVED this movie, and I want everyone I know to watch it. A witch’s curse turns a young girl into an old woman, and ends up seeking help from Howl and his cursed-demon friend Calcifer. That description does not do it justice. Go watch it now.

8. A Bride’s Story: Psych! This one’s not an anime. It is, however, my very first manga, and I love it. Set in central Asia in the late 1800s, this historical romance tells the story of an arranged marriage between a 20-year-old woman and a 12-year-old boy. Yes it does. And it’s not even a little creepy. Instead, it’s a nuanced exploration of cultural norms in an often unrepresented time and place, and it follows lovable, thoughtful characters in their personal journeys. The books focus as much on the side characters as they do the bride and her young husband, and every volume is worth a read. Check it out if you’re at all into historical fiction. (P.S. This one is also N. K. Jemisin-approved!)

So there you have it. Consider these series Kristin-stamped, and I highly recommend you try them out. Have you seen any of these? Based on this list, do you have any more recommendations for me?

*Most of these are manga as well as anime, but, except where mentioned, in this list I’m really referring to the anime. I plan to read Princess Jellyfish and NoragamiHowl’s Moving Castle is a different beast altogether.

The Semi-Annual NaNo Post

Greetings, friends! It’s that time again… You know the one. The glorious highs and soul-sucking despair, the crushing doubt, the caffeine, the neglect of your family, the manic laughter, the joy of squeezing out JUST ONE MORE WORD.

Oh. I’m talking about National Novel Writing Month. Obviously.

I’ll be participating in NaNo this year. I can’t remember if I tried last year. I’m guessing yes… probably? And the year before I started with one book and ended up with another. But the year before… ah, glorious 2011… I used November to wrap up the book that later landed me an agent.

I’m not a NaNo purist: I don’t write an entire book in 30 days. I’m also not convinced that anyone can pump out 50,000 words with a beginning, middle, and end, and call that a NOVEL, but that’s probably a different issue.

What I love about NaNoWriMo is the the spirit of the thing: professional and hobby writers all over the country coming together to write all the words. I love the NaNo survival kits, I love the late-night Twitter sprints, I love the mania of writing words while preparing for Thanksgiving. I love all of it.

So this year, I’ll be joining NaNo in the grand tradition of my 2011 success, and I’ll use the month to finish my current book. It’s a short book, and well-outlined, so I think I can do it. I’ll also be outlining my next book, which is not short and is currently little more than a concept and some scribblings in the tiny notebook I carry in my purse. With any luck, and a lot of dedication, I’ll enter December with 90% of one novel and a stable jumping-off point for my new work.


*takes deep breath*

Whew. Lofty goals. If I finish NaNo, I’ll be sitting pretty at about 200,000 words (of fiction only!) written this year. Not too shabby.

In the next week, I’ll put up a few posts containing my meager NaNoWriMo tips. I’m no expert, but I have a few recommended strategies that may help you reach your goals. Hell, they may even help me reach my goals! Let’s see what happens.

This brings us to the really big question: Are YOU NaNo-ing this year? If yes, what’s your goal? If no, why not?!

If you are joining the crowd of maniacs, feel free to look me up and buddy me. My username is Kristin Lynn, and I’m always looking for new friends.

You Can Take the Girl Out of Texas…

You know the old adage. “You can take the X out of Y, but you can’t take the Y out of the X.”

Well, this little X left Texas in the dust almost a decade ago (and to go to Rome, no less!), and I like to think there’s little of the Lone Star State left in me. Sure, if you cut me, I’ll probably bleed Dr Pepper. And more than one of the anecdotes in my mental file of “Funny Stories to Tell at Parties” involves an armadillo. (C’mon, you know you want to hear my armadillo stories.) And fine, yes, I spent a large portion of my high school career at football games, but I was there for the marching band, and I haven’t been to a sporting event since.

Bottom line: I’m totally not a Texan. I lived there, grand total, about eight years. My southern accent is 95% gone, I haven’t worn spurs since I was knee high to a—well, to many people, since I’m the same height I was at 12. With the exception of two of my best friends, I don’t miss anything about Texas.

Except, curse you, the food. THE FOOD.

I’m obsessed with Tex-Mex, Mexican, New Mexican, Southwestern food of all types, colors, and degrees of spiciness. My stomach still growls when I think about certain breakfast burritos of my past. I drool at the scent of roasting Anaheim peppers, and I even know how to make green and red chili sauce. I own and regularly use a tortilla press. I gained ten pounds I still haven’t lost the year my husband and I lived in northern New Mexico, and I have no regrets. I would choose a pillowy, hot sopapilla dripping with honey over a donut any day of the week.

You get the idea. My attachment to Mexican food is almost unhealthy. I reject any and all Midwestern Mexican restaurants, almost out of hand. It’s tragic. They just don’t meet my standards.

So when I first moved out on my own and started venturing into cooking, one of the first cooking blogs I got addicted to was The Homesick Texan. I don’t remember how exactly I started craving soft, squishy flour tortillas—it probably had something to do with nostalgia for my midnight runs with my roommates to Taco Cabana, where we’d get tortillas and queso and eat them on the floor of our dorm room. We don’t have Taco C in the Midwest.

Excuse me while I wipe a solitary, queso-less tear from my transplanted southern cheek. *sniffle*

So when I found Lisa Fain’s recipe for flour tortillas all those years ago, it felt like a warm, delicious homecoming, and I didn’t even have to face the unbearable heat and questionable fashion choices of life in Texas. I bought her first cookbook as soon as it came out, and it’s one of the most stained, battered books in my collection—and I’m a vegetarian, mind you, so I can’t eat half the recipes in it.

Last weekend, feeling nostalgic again, I made kolaches. If you’re not from Texas or, oddly, central Europe, you may not yet know and love these delightful pastries. In a word, they’re rather like Danishes. In a sentence, they’re soft, buttery cakes with either a sweet or savory filling. But I could write more than a sentence: I could write a poem, a novel, an EPIC about kolaches and my love for them.

In a strange twist, the kolaches I ate so many early mornings in central Texas were actually made by a Korean family who had somehow landed in my small town. (Yep, Korean immigrants making the food of Czech immigrants for a Midwestern transplant. WTF?) I probably ate hundreds of their small, delicious sausage and cheese rolls, like pigs-in-blankets but infinitely more delicious. But being vegetarian now, I was more keen to try making a sweet kolache rather than one filled with greasy pork sausage.

I chose Lisa Fain’s Strawberry Cream Cheese Kolaches, a recipe you can find both online and in her first cookbook. And my goodness, was I rewarded. It’s a multi-step process: you have to make the filling beforehand and refrigerate it, mix up and knead the dough and let it rise multiple times, and you have to keep your out of control saliva glands dry long enough to keep yourself from drooling all over the individual components.

But when they baked, they filled my apartment with an amazing sweet, rich smell, and the first bite was so nostalgic (and delicious!), I could have closed my eyes and drifted away on a sea of buttery bliss. With one taste, I was fifteen, it was dark outside, and I was riding in the back of my parents’ car on the way to visit my brother in Waco.

Food more than anything can tie our senses to experiences: a whiff of scent, a nibble of food, and suddenly we’re in another place and time. I may have left Texas and my Texan life behind me, but my love for the food of the Southwest will be with me till I die. And it’s so delicious… I’m perfectly okay with that.

What food makes you nostalgic? Are there any regional cuisines that make you drool over mere photos of an entree? 

Why I No Longer Write Book Reviews

I’ve had some folks asking me lately why I don’t write book reviews anymore. The short answer is, “I’m lazy.” The long answer has to do with sensitive authors, Goodreads bullies, and my own strange mental categorization of the books I read.

You can read elsewhere about fake reviews, Goodreads bullies who gang up on authors just for fun, and petty author reactions to reviews, so I won’t talk much about that. The truth is, I’ve had little but positive experience writing reviews here on my blog. When I included David Anthony Durham’s Acacia on my list of fantasy novels I should read, he sent me a very nice note encouraging me to finish his book. (BTW, Mr. Durham, I finished it and it was fantastic!) My readers here are awesome, and you all generally engage in polite, thoughtful discussion of what I have to say. Go us.

So the truth is, my stubborn refusal to write book reviews, even on Goodreads, is due more to my own inability to distinguish between a good book and a great book, and my reluctance to publicly say, where the author can read it, “YOUR BOOK SUCKS OMG YOU SHOULD DIE IN A FIRE.” (Not that I would say it like that.)

Really, I just love books and authors. I rarely read a book I would rate below two stars, and I’m a voracious enough reader that I’ll plow through just about anything in a few days. (And then, once I’m done, I want to READ MOAR, not spend time navel-gazing about what I just read. I’m all about the instant gratification. So sue me.) Because of my attitude toward reading and writing (YES, MORE PLEASE!), I end up wondering how to distinguish between the books I adore and the books I just really loved.

How do you compare Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, which I read this summer and completely adored, with Tiffany Reisz’s The Mistress, which I just finished and could hardly stand to put down? One is a five-star book because the writing was flawless and the content practically life-changing, and one is a five-star book because I love the characters and the plot held me in its slobbery teeth for 400 pages. But even though I loved The Mistress, I just wouldn’t put it on the same shelf as The Dispossessed or Tigana or Possession or even Words of Radiance, all books whose honor I would protect with fisticuffs. And where the hell on the spectrum do Jane Austen’s books fall? How do I compare the books that are practically my Bible with anything else I’ve ever read?

I think I need a sixth star just for books that are so good, I hug them tenderly when I finish them.



Maybe I’m over-thinking it, but I really just can’t do it. I can’t distinguish between the love and REALLY SUPER LOVE.

Do you write book reviews? Do you use Goodreads? How do you rate books?