Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

Goodbye, 2014!

Goodbye, long-ago-year of 2014.

And welcome, 2015!

(Image by NASA and the NSSDC)
The future has arrived!

Happy New Year, everyone!

May it be awesome!

In 2015, I'll probably be dropping most Wednesday posts, and going to a Mondays & Fridays schedule. There may still be occasional Wednesdays, but they'll be just when I have too much to say on Monday and Friday.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Publishing Industry News

This week's publishing news and industry blogs post runs from 12/13-12/28.

Publishing News

Barnes and Noble buys back Pearson's shares of Nook Media, in a deal similar to the one for Microsoft's shares. This seems to be in preparation for Nook Media separating from B&N.

In the Apple vs the DoJ case, during appeals, some questioning seems more favorable to Apple than in the original trials. Publishers Weekly takes a look at recent developments and analyzes if Apple is truly coming out ahead or not.

In the European Union, a change in tax laws has led KDP to modify their terms such that prices authors post include the VAT.

Now it's Macmillan's turn to write a new deal with Amazon, and Macmillan reaches a deal with Amazon for multiyear sales. Because of the terms of the DoJ's suit, Apple still has the power to discount Macmillan's e-books until October, so Macmillan announces there may be some seemingly random price shuffling in the meantime. The publisher will be considering joining Amazon's subscription services.

There will soon be a new tablet designed specifically for kids ages 3-10, made to be juice-proof and otherwise kid-friendly.

Industry Blogs

QueryTracker for 12/12.

On Writer Beware, Victoria Strauss warns us about an online literary magazine with some problematic terms for freelancers, but also notes in an edit that the magazine has already announced that it is changing those terms to more favorable ones. She also looks at some self-sabotaging thoughts authors have in contracts that end up getting them trapped into bad corners.

Agent Janet Reid answers questions and offers advice. Should you publish concept art on your blog? (If you want to. Might not do much.) If an agent's response is not a revise & resubmit, but did include advice you revised to address, should you ask to resubmit? (Usually the revision won't help for that agent, but it's not a faux pas to try, so long as you approach it correctly.) If a short story has been published, is it okay to later rework it into a novel? (Read your contract carefully before signing, because it may prevent you from doing this, but it has been done frequently.)

And more answers from Reid: If you've been told a market is saturated, should you give up on selling the book? (Don't give up from just one query response. Also, do some research yourself to see if it really is so.) Should you mention other works you've written when querying? (Not unless they're published. Including a link to your website where a list of published works can be found can cover this.)

Agent Rachel Kent offers 4 things you shouldn't rush in publishing.

On the Editors Blog is a suggestion that if you don't know a grammar rule, just choose a way to handle it and then be consistent with that method from thereon out. Saves both you and your editor a lot of work and looks better than being inconsistent.

On the Futuristic, Fantasy, and Paranormal blog, author PJ Sharon shares advice for writing trilogies: most importantly, keep a story bible from the beginning! Author Stefanie Worth talks about what to do when real life throws plot twists in your way.

An app allows you to see which of the books you own offers a free download e-book version if you have the physical book.

But don't read it in bed if you've a backlit e-reader. Light-emitting e-readers are apparently bad for your circadian rhythm.

On GalleyCat, an infographic looking at the state of e-books for 2014.

What publishing news have you encountered in the past two weeks?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Happy Holidays

From VH1's "50 Cats in Santa Hats"
A very Merry Christmas, or other happy winter holiday, or just happy winter, to everyone!

It's likely I'll miss posts for the rest of this week, what with family time and all. So I hope you have a great week and I'll see you for the next one! Publishing News will probably be next Monday.

So happy reading, happy writing, and have a great week!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Thrift Store Fun

How to Choose a 'Thrift Gift':

So for our department holiday party, we did a White Elephant gift exchange. We decided on one rule: You must buy your present for less than $5 at a local thrift store.
No one actually gave a pirate ducky.
But it would have been a good choice.

That way, we could support the community and have fun, too, and no one should feel pressure to spend a lot or buy personal gifts. We also make it a generic "Holiday" party instead of any specific holiday, since we have a pretty diverse community.

I was really tempted to buy the giant frog lamp. If it had had a price...

Then again, there was the glass yachting stein. I'm sure someone would have appreciated it, if only for the laugh of any of us being able to buy a yacht. Still, if someone bought a yacht, and drank beer on it not in the beer bottle, it would make sense to have a stein so it wouldn't slosh out.

And then there was the 8-piece ugly-patterned tea set. Hey, 4 cups with saucers for under $5. What a great deal!

In the end, a lemon-painted ceramic cooking dish won, because it was both useful and quirky.

In return, I gained a 10-pound sunflower planter. Cute!

Conclusion? Thrift stores are fun. I could probably spend a few hours wandering around in one looking at just the non-clothes items. Plus, they help the community, so it's hard to feel guilty about buying things. And I've bought everything from dish sets to a fireplace kit in a thrift store, so I love an excuse to go in and see what's there, because there's always something interesting.

What's the most fun thing you've ever bought in a thrift store?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tea review: White Chocolate Peppermint Rooibos

White Chocolate Peppermint Rooibos

Reviewed by: Rebekkah
Type of tea

herbal, loose-leaf
Flavor aspects

minty, chocolatey
Where I got it

Teavana (part of the Winter Gift collection)

$9.98/ 2oz
How I brewed it

1.5 tsp in 12-oz mug, water from the coffee machine, drank half, added 1 packet powdered creamer to the rest
Rebrewing notes

Haven't re-brewed yet, but my hopes aren't high, since some of the flavor comes from the chocolate bits that melt.

Like many rooibos teas, I enjoyed this more after adding creamer. Luckily it's already sweet enough that I didn't need to add sugar, but it takes a bit weak without the richness of milk. 

It's pretty good. I find it does taste a bit like peppermint hot chocolate. More like regular chocolate than white chocolate, though. It is sweet on its own, so it's definitely a dessert tea. Enjoyable and easily drinkable. That said, for those who don't drink tea regularly, they'd be better off with actual cocoa. So probably not a great beginner tea. Better as a novelty gift for a veteran tea-drinker who enjoys the occasional fun tea. If holiday-themed gifts are your style, it's the sort of gift a tea-drinker would enjoy, but probably not put money into themselves. Just be sure to tell them to add milk.

On the whole, if I didn't get this tea as part of a gift set, I wouldn't have bought it myself. But I am enjoying it, and rather like the play of flavors. The mellowness of the chocolate goes well with the rooibos flavor--in fact, I can barely taste the rooibos, it blends so well. But I don't think the tea would be drinkable without the rooibos base; it's just that the chocolate is what you taste instead of the rooibos that gives the tea a solid foundation. The peppermint, like in most peppermint-chocolate blends, is a nice touch and goes very well. Plus it's easy to make and forgiving.

It's a decent tea. I enjoy it, but I don't head-over-heels love it. So... yeah. For a holiday gift, if you're only getting one tea, I'd probably actually suggest going with the White Ayurvedic Chai as a gift instead, especially if your friend has experience brewing white tea. 

Find it here at Teavana.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Review: Teavana's holiday gift

I bought Teavana's "The Ultimate Winter Collection" gift tea set for myself over Cyber Monday. A splurge, but no regrets on my part. TL;DR version: some good teas, some okay teas, great tea tins.

So the thing that sold me on this right away was that I saw it had 12 small, stackable tea tins included. Have you ever bought a Teavana tea tin? The cheapest hold 3 oz and are $4, but are rarely in stock in my experience. The fancy ones run $9-13 and hold at least 8 oz (and lately they've been trending to stock only the large ones in the stores).

From the front, they hardly
seem to take up any space at all.
Top shelf on the left: the gold
and white containers.

That's fine, especially if you drink a lot of the same kind of tea and don't have a lot of variety. But I'm a sample buyer: I buy in 2 oz doses to try new teas. If I really think I'll like them, I buy maybe 4 oz. So I have a lot of wasted space and really tight shelves. Though I do buy larger containers of favorites, for trying something new, I don't want a big container.

These 2-ish oz tea tins? They're perfect. Seriously perfect. Stackable. Not giant. The right size for a sample that doesn't leave me feeling like I've wasted a ton of room on a tea I don't much like. At $70 for the gift set, it's not a bad price; on the CyberMonday sale, the 12 tins alone were a pretty good deal, especially when you get 12 ounces tea with them.

The teas themselves that come with the set are reasonable and holiday-themed. Actually, while some of them are great, others are the weak point of the set. Or maybe that's just my opinion. It's worth noting that of the ones I've tried, none re-steep very well. Since I tend to re-steep my teas, this is a bit of a disappointment. But the variety is on the whole pretty good. I've fallen in love with the Tiramisu, for example (which is, however, sadly a retired tea and no longer for sale on its own). I've reviewed the Spiced Apple Cider before (tasty but not a value I'd invest in on its own) and tried a couple of the others that I'm excited to get a little more of (I rather like Toasted Nut Brulee and Pumpkin Spice Brulee). Best described as "novelty" teas, really--fun and entertaining, a bit light on substance, but cute. None of them are super-rare or something the tea community would write home about, but the good ones have nice flavor and those I've tried are thoroughly drinkable and enjoyable. The only exception is the CocoCaramel Sea Salt, which I tried once and didn't like--but others seem to like it, so I think it's mostly personal taste.

Stackable. See how stackable they are? Also, my awesome
packing-tape labels.
The holiday teas are fun. On the whole I think the sample-sizes are perfect: I'd be unlikely to buy most of them on their own, but as a sample I greatly enjoy trying them. For a single-steep tea at Teavana prices, there's only a few I'll buy myself; in general I'd rather spend the money and shelf space on a multi-steep tea I know I love. But as samples? Heck, I know I'll drink the Spiced Apple Cider; it's quite tasty. Wouldn't buy it by itself, but it's a nice bonus with the White Chocolate Peppermint and the Chocolate Bananas Foster.

The major complaint people seem to have with the set is that there aren't labels for the teas. I made my own with packing tape and a sharpie, but it's a legit problem as the tea tins are identical. Since I'll refill them with other teas soon, though, I'm not exactly heartbroken. I'll just switch out the tape.

The next major complaint is that the tins are tricky to open. If you have nails, they're pretty easy to open. If no nails, a butter knife will give you the right leverage, but the tops aren't so tight that they gave me trouble after cutting my nails. Might not be a good gift for a family member with arthritis or finger strength/coordination troubles, though, because the flat tops don't give great leverage for opening them.

On the whole I'd say it's a good value, and one I'm glad I jumped on while it was on sale. Keep an eye on it, especially if you plan to buy your gifts on post-holiday sales (Teavana usually has at least one good one right after Christmas through New Years).

Friday, December 12, 2014

Publishing Industry News

This week's (rather shorter than usual) publishing news and industry blogs post covers 12/3-12/12.

Publishing News

Barnes & Noble's plans for Nook are discussed. Looks like the college textbooks may remain as part of the retailer's major holdings, while Nook Digital would go to Microsoft.

The Authors Guild vs Google lawsuit heads to the Second Circuit of Appeals court, where prosecutors try to prove the case should not use the Authors Guild vs Hathitrust suit as a precedent.

Hachette experiments with selling books through Twitter.

In England, the ban on sending books to prisoners is overturned.

Industry Blogs

On QueryTracker, Martina Boone gives questions writers should ask during The Phone Call with an agent (the one wherein you and the agent decide whether or not you can work together and if they want to rep you).

And on the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal blog, how do you know what agent you should even look for in the first place? Also, the benefits of using multiple deep POV in a manuscript.

On Writer Beware, Victoria Strauss explains that even if it's tempting if you have a deadbeat publisher, simply changing the title and republishing and hoping said deadbeat publisher "doesn't notice" is a terrible and potentially costly idea. She also warns writers to stay away the Game of Thrones Compendium.

Agent Janet Grant of Books & Such agency explains how a talk with a publisher about marketing plans should go.

Agent Jessica Faust explains the very basics of a synopsis. She gives a client's synopsis that worked. And she gives a detailed video interview about the basics of the business of publishing for writers.

Agent Janet Reid offers advice and answers questions. Is it okay to post about sensitive topics on your blog? (Personal choice. It can lose you readers, but maybe you're okay with losing those readers.) If an agent asks for the first 50 pages but it ends better on page 53, is it okay to play with font to make it fit? (The agent will reformat it anyway and it'll become 53 again, plus you'll look like you don't know what you're doing. Don't take the "50" as a hard and fast number; end at a good stopping place.) You're not sure if your manuscript is just a hard sell or if your query isn't good enough; should you self-publish instead? (Get facts before you make up your mind. That's not a question to answer on supposition.) One agent says not to submit during holidays; is this a universal rule? (No, it's agent-specific.) Agent #1 never responded to a request for a full; is it okay to query Agent #2 at the same agency? (Yes, and Reid explains how.)

Agent Nephele Tempest offers a gift list of gifts you can get for writers. She also gifts us with an assortment of links to interesting blogs.

Amazon has reconciled with Hachette, and Authors United is slowly winding down in turn. an interview with Authors United founder Douglas Preston reveals his feelings about AU's role in the deal, as well as the group's continuing plans to submit a packet of information in hopes of the DOJ bringing an anti-trust lawsuit against Amazon as a last major action.

What publishing news have you encountered in the past week and half?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Book Bonus: Possible Jobs for Illusion Powers

Illusion magic in the Broken Powers world alters perceptions. People with illusion magic, illusion Powers, can also perceive when perception is altered, including due to things such as colorblindness or deceit. To learn more about what illusion Powers can do, you can see the full description here.

Avery Cannon is a fifth-class illusion Power. She works as a detective, using her ability to perceive when others are seeing things differently, or seeing things she cannot. Although she can't see these things herself, she can use her magically-enhanced instincts to question those around her until the source of the difference becomes clear. Of course, what the person sees may not always be important. She also paints, using her illusion magic to sketch the image before she draws it to help her achieve what she's going for.

Dax Powell is a fourth-class illusion Power. With his ability to see through another person's eyes (with their permission), he works as an eye doctor. This allows him to diagnose more easily vision problems, and help patients, especially those with trouble communicating, achieve the correct prescription. Although as a Power he's paid less than most ophthalmologists, his work with the poor and disabled gives him tax and rent subsidies through the local Powered HQ, so he actually has nearly the same buying power as his un-Powered peers. He and his wife have recently planted a small vineyard on their property--a benefit to an hour-long commute being the large lot of land at a relatively low cost--and rent it out for weddings while the crops establish themselves. Although his magic doesn't show up in the photography, couples have been known to pay a little extra for a little "touch of magic" in the ceremony and reception. These tend to be obvious illusions, such as a glowing bride or stars or images on a screen; for as a fourth-class Power he can only create illusions "with awareness"--people know the illusioned objects have been altered in some manner.

Martha Powell, Dax's wife, is a third-class illusion Power. She works as a sketch artist for the local police department, using her illusion abilities to create and adjust an accurate image of the perpetrator based on the victim's descriptions and reactions. Once the sketch has been perfected, she draws it as closely as possible, often from multiple angles. She also sometimes puts on magic "plays" for visiting children, using her magic to create movies against a flat white screen.

Andrea Bordeaux, a second-class illusion Power, works for the FBI. Much like Avery, she investigates and uses her abilities to discover things she couldn't see on her own; unlike Avery, this may include using the eyes of someone near her (with their permission) to spot exactly what's important or different. She is also sometimes brought in for investigating and/or rescuing rogue illusion Powers, her magic giving her an extra buffer against second and even first-class illusion Powers' ability to alter perceptions without awareness (meaning even when no one else knows when something is an illusion, sometimes she can sense that it is). When she's not working, she usually knits or goes hiking. She also keeps 3-4 blank, framed canvasses in her home, and likes to create "paintings" on them based on places she's been when she has guests over.

Tone-deaf Kelly has long considered her inborn music magic to be useless. But after a disaster drowns the American South in magic, including her whole family except her twin brother, she discovers her “useless” magic lets her hear the voices of those lost. Now, with the help of her twin and her handsome, green-eyed neighbor Derik, she’ll face magic itself to save them–only the attempt may cost her everyone she has left.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Tea Review: Pineapple Kona Pop Herbal Tea

Pineapple Kona Pop Herbal Tea

Reviewed by: Rebekkah
Type of tea

herbal, loose-leaf
Flavor aspects

Where I got it


$6.98/ 2oz
How I brewed it

4 tsp in a liter teapot, added boiling water, let steep 3 minutes
Rebrewing notes

Like many fruit-herbal teas, it's not a good rebrew. You get one strong steeping and then you're done. The second brew has some flavor, but compared to the first it's very weak.

I brewed this tea strong, because I tend to like my fruity herbal teas strong (as it has no leaves from the tea plant, it's technically a tisané). This is just personal preference. It's very citrus-y, pineapple and orange. Made strong I don't taste any of the "floral undertones" advertised, but to me there seems to be a bit of a blueberry-reminiscent aftertaste, which is odd because there's absolutely no blueberry in it. Not enough to change the main taste, though; it mostly appears in the aftertaste.

I can sort of smell the flowers in the scent, but mostly it's a pineapple orange tea. If you want a slightly juice-like tea, this is a good one to taste. I'd say it's great if you're just getting used to teas, too, with a strong flavor (still weak compared to, say, Gatorade, but it's tea, not juice or soda-substitute.) A nice tea for breakfast, and also a nice tea for nighttime when you're trying to avoid caffeine.

On the whole I'd give a solid score: tasty, but not spectacular. A good for someone new to tea, or looking for a caffeine-free cup, or in the mood for something fruity. Better than most average-priced bagged teas, but I won't call it the very best herbal tea I've ever had, either; and for the price a high-end bagged tea would be just as good, without the mess of clean-up of loose-leaf tea. Still, it's enjoyable and not terribly expensive, and honestly the tea blend looks very pretty. It would make a very nice gift for a citrus-loving tea drinker who is looking to avoid caffeine for a while, without breaking the bank or looking cheap.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Don't forget to read

Hello, fall.

If there are leaves still on the trees near you, you're probably south of me.

It's busy time of year, with December (which always seems overscheduled) and upcoming holidays. Preparing for the new year, making sure all the files are in order, cleaning for guests.

Are you making time to read? It's a boon if you can do it in the car while traveling to visit family, but you might not have the luxury... or you might be the one driving. Maybe you're sneaking a few minutes at night, or snacking on stories during lunch.

Or maybe you're like me, and crack open a book while waiting for the water to boil or the food to finish simmering. Yep, I'm a lunch-reader and a while-cooking reader (on the nights I volunteer to cook, anyway), and often a purse-in-the-book reader.

How are you finding time? What books are you reading now?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Publishing Industry News

This week's Publishing News and industry blogs post covers 11/15-12/2.

Publishing News

Nook Press, Barnes & Noble's e-book self-publishing site, now offers POD self-publishing for print books. Also, B&N gets back into selling audiobooks.

Simon & Schuster opens e-lending to all libraries, even those that don't give readers a "buy it now" button.

Judge Cote approved the terms of settlement for Apple in the Apple vs the DOJ case. However, Apple doesn't have to pay the $400 million until the appeal has had a chance to overturn the settlement.

Industry Blogs

QueryTracker's Publishing Pulse for 11/21.

Live in Spain? Thinking about publishing? Writer Beware shares a warning that Author Solutions Inc, known as a US vanity publisher, is expanding into Spain under the name MeGustaEscribir. Avoid.

Agent Janet Reid answers questions and gives advice. She suggests you don't start out with a joke beginning--agents get such ridiculous queries that they take them seriously. And now that you have an agent, how do you avoid screwing up the relationship? (She gives 9 steps. Hint: Be polite to everyone, and don't panic.) Can you call it Stockholm syndrome in a world without a Stockholm? (Probably not; find another way to describe it if you're concerned with accuracy.) If your second manuscript steal elements from your unsold first, and you're worried about agents recognizing it, should you mention it's not the same book? (Change the title. If the title's different, the agent probably won't recognize it from the query.)

Reid answers more questions and gives more advice. What kind of gift is appropriate give your agent? (You don't have to give your agent a gift. If you must, a card is fine.) Is it better to go with an agent who reps one of your books at a time, or who wants to rep your whole career? (It's up to you, but here's the functional difference between the two approaches.)

Agent Nephele Tempest posts a couple of Friday Links blogs. 11/14, 11/21, 11/28. One of her posts is an interesting post on writing people of color if you're white.

On the Editor's Blog, a warning not to let your standards fall just because you're on the second book. Or the tenth. Or whatever. Every book should be your best work.

Some upcoming writing and publishing online workshops by the Futuristic, Fantasy, and Paranormal Romance Writers. Also, how to design a magic system for your fantasy world.

On the Books & Such Literary Agency blog, what you should know about FaceBook's latest revamp: the one that makes unpaid ads less visible.

Agent Jessica Faust reminds us to update our addresses if we've moved in the last year, now, so that tax forms go to the right houses.

Smashwords CEO Mark Coker posts that self-publishing is, yes, getting harder because of how many books are out there--but at the same time, it's still the best time to be an author. He gives advice on how to succeed.

Just because NaNoWriMo is over, doesn't mean the tools aren't still useful. GalleyCat tip #15: consult cheatsheets, like color reference guides and The Hero's Journey map. And more NaNoWriMo tips!

GoodReads publishes an infographic on reading and gender, as in, what percent of a female author's readers are male versus what percent of a male author's readers are female, and how many readers there are of each gender.

Not sure what book to get your reader friend for the holidays? Penguin has a book recommendation hotline! (But obviously, you should get them Into The Tides. [/end self-plug])

Monday, December 1, 2014

How to Play Caverna

Hope you had a great American Thanksgiving! Had a lovely time myself, but drove back from New York last night, so no brain power for Publishing News. Expect it Wednesday.
From Mayfair Games

Played the game Caverna for the first time. It's a very interesting game, and worth playing, but I warn you now the rulebook is badly written. The rulebook doesn't actually explain well how to play--written more like a reference guide of game terms. We spent 3 hours with 3 people just playing through the first game to figure out how it worked, rulebooks in hand. They're not so easy to parse, as far as rulebooks go.

If you pick up the game yourself (and it's really a fun game, so it's worth it), here's the basic game play. You can use the official rules to give more detail on each described action.

I'd suggest reading through this post either before or after certain sections of the official rulebook, after opening the game to see the pieces.(Suggested parts of rulebook to read: "Setup" Pages 1-3, charts on 4 & 5, "Flow of Play" section pp. 6-11, "End of Game & Scoring" p 23).

The rest of the rulebook and the appendix are more useful during the first time that you play. They further define each action. If you don't have someone who knows how to play, you can read over the explanation of each action in the rulebook/appendix as you play it, for any action that isn't immediately obvious.

HOW TO PLAY: (the 5 stages of each round)

1) Flip the card that determines the new action for the round. There are 12 rounds.
2) "Replenish" the tiles (for any tile with a resource and an arrow, add one more). If any tile exceeds six of one type of resource, empty it back to 0 instead (unless it goes from 5 to 7, in which case empty it the next turn when it would have 9).
3) First person puts a "dwarf" (a round piece) on one action (actions include the new action drawn for this round). First person does whatever the action says they can do, if possible (if not possible, they can still play there to block it.) Second person plays a dwarf on a different action. Third play plays a dwarf on an unplayed action. Etc. First person then plays the second dwarf, etc. When everyone has played two dwarfs, anyone with a third dwarf may play dwarf #3 (in turn order, of course). After all 3rd dwarves are played, anyone with a dwarf #4 may play it. Etc. NOTE: For each player, the strongest dwarf goes last. Weakest goes first. So all dwarves without a weapon must be played first, and dwarves are played in ascending weapon order.
4) After all dwarves have been played, players take their dwarves back home.
5) Harvest if applicable. Then feed dwarves as required (this can change during different turns). Then breed animals.
Round is over. Start next round.

Points are scored for having the most victory ("gold") points at the end of the game. Points may be lost for not having one of every kind of animal, for undeveloped spaces on the gameboard, and for not having enough food to feed all your dwarves.

Each dwarf eats 2 food. On the turn you get a new dwarf ("having a baby"), you only have to feed it 1 food. If you cannot feed all your dwarves, for each food you fall short, you lose 3 points. So if you have 3 dwarves but only 4 food available (let's say a wheat, a food token, and a pig), you get -6 points.

The game is over after the end of the twelfth round's harvest.

Those are the basics.

Types of Actions & Resources Overview (AKA further details in a slightly more organized presentation than in the manual):

There's a lot of extra tokens, tiles, chips, and wooden markers in this game. Don't panic; most of them are ways to mark resources at hand or are special tiles you may or may not have by the end of the game. In other words, you won't use most of them.

The five basic types of actions are clearing rock or forest, building mines/rooms/farms, obtaining resources, expeditions, and having a baby.

Clearing forest/building mines: This allows you to build stuff. You can't build anything on an uncleared section. There are a few different actions that allow you to do these, and most allow you to do something else in addition (get resources, etc).

Building mines/rooms/farms: On cleared forest, you get farmland and a meadow. You need these to grow your own food. You can also upgrade your meadow to a pen using the wood resource, which allows you to keep animals. Farmland allows you to grow food, but you have to plant it first. In cleared rock--tunnels you can build mines (ore mines or ruby mines); in cleared rock--squares you can build rooms. The room called a dwelling is needed before you can get an extra dwarf piece; the rest of the rooms give various bonuses that differ per game (they've got various symbols on the back and are drawn randomly from the set for each game).

Obtaining resources: (Note: All resources can also be obtained on expeditions; see "expeditions" for more)
  • By farm: Growable resources: wheat or a pumpkin ("vegetable"). During any action that allows you to sow, you place one growable resource per farmland square, for up to two wheat and two pumpkins (aka sow a total of 4 squares if you have 2 pumpkins and 2 wheat, or 2 squares if you 3 wheat in your stock, etc). This turns each wheat into 3 wheat (take 2 extra from the bank) and each pumpkin into 2 pumpkins (take 1 extra from the bank). Pumpkins are worth 2 food each and wheat worth 1. The catch is that you only get to take one from each farm per harvest, and they don't automatically replenish, and they don't count as points until they're harvested. So if you plant 1 pumpkin, during the next harvest (which doesn't happen at the end of every turn, even though you still have to feed your dwarves) you get 1 pumpkin, and during the harvest after that you get another pumpkin.
  • By animals: Breeding resources: All types of animals except dogs can breed 1 animal per harvest, if you have 2 after feeding your dwarves. So 2 pigs (worth 2 food each) can become 3 pigs, but 4 pigs only become 5 pigs. If you don't have a place to put a new animal, it runs away. Donkeys can live in ore and ruby mines (1 per mine), sheep can live in meadows if you have dogs, and any animal can live in your house. You can't mix animals other than dogs in locations (pigs and cows are mortal enemies, apparently, and cannot share a pen or the house). Dogs are bonuses that don't count towards limits.
  • By nonliving: Rocks and wood are used to build houses. You get these by clearing (caves or forest) or by taking special actions that give them as bonuses. Ore is used for making weapons, which are required for expeditions.
  • Rubies: Rubies are obtained as bonuses through several special actions. They're cheat stones, basically. They count as any resource when building, they can count as 2 food, you can use them to clear forest or make a cavern tunnel, you can trade them for cows (you don't get cows otherwise), you can use them to play your dwarves out of order. This last is important b/c it allows you to send your strong dwarves on expeditions when you need lots of items at once, but think someone else can and will claim that action before you.
Expeditions: You can use up to 8 ore to build a weapon. When you have built a weapon, there is a card numbered 1-8 on one side and 9-14 on the other, with pictures. A weapon built with 5 ore is considered a level 5 weapon. When you take an expedition action, you may choose rewards from 5 or below (but no repeats). Actions show a shield with a number on it. This number on the action board is the total number of rewards you can get. So a level 5 weapon built when you land on the "Blacksmithing" action (which has a shield with a 3 on it) allows you to choose 3 resources level 5 or below. You can choose the level 5 reward (pig) and the two level 3 rewards (a wheat and a sheep), or a level 4 reward and level 3 and level 1 (pumpkin+donkey+dog), or any combination so long as you don't take a reward higher than your weapon level. You cannot take two of the same reward in the same expedition action (so you can't take 2 pumpkins). After you take all your rewards, your weapon levels up. You cannot build higher than a level 8 weapon, but you can level it up to a 14. You may always choose to give your weapon a single extra level as one of your rewards. You can only get cows from expeditions with a leveled up weapon (level 10 reward) or by buying one with a ruby.

Having a baby: there a couple of different action tiles that allow you to do this. They give you the ability to produce an extra dwarf that basically means from that round on, you get an extra move every round.

Special notes:

Dogs look a lot like woods. We built an unfortunate number of rooms out of dogs, after clearing dog-forests, before we decided to put these on separate ends of the table in order to avoid mixing them up. Cows are also the same color, but they're slightly easier to distinguish. Pigs and ore are both black, but are easy to distinguish; same with donkeys and stones.

It seems to be worth it to get baby dwarves asap. The extra moves usually feed themselves. Going first and having an extra move tend to be about equal advantages (together they've especially powerful).

It also seems worth it to have multiple weapons. And to have rubies. Otherwise other people end up taking the best expeditions first, meaning you don't get multiple rewards. Expeditions are very powerful.

The imitate action allows you copy someone else's action. However, only 1 person can use it per round. It's a powerful action but easily blocked, and easily used for blocking others.

TL;DR summary: Don't be intimidated by the number of pieces; they're all optional ways of scoring points. To play, each player puts pieces on actions and does what the action shows. Look at the pictures carefully. Feed your dwarves to not lose.