Posts in Category: Writing

The 2014 Goal-post

Some time last year, I decided that, while 2013 had been the year of reading, 2014 was going to be the year of writing. After all, if I’d managed to dedicate a year to reading and had it pay off that well, I could do the same thing with writing, right?

As it turns out, it amounted to not as much as I’d hoped, but more than I’d feared.

What dedicating the year to writing got me was two short stories, which fed into an idea for a bigger story around that; a second NaNoWriMo win, which was the story that the short stories had spawned; a way to finish the NaNo story from the year before, as a sequel to this story; and the beginnings of a serial fiction that will actually get me editing something.

It’s the last one I’m most excited about right now. I mean, I know how to write a first draft, and I’m getting better at it, but I’ve never really committed anything to editing. I published the first entry almost two weeks ago, but I haven’t gotten any feedback. I started to edit the second part, but it felt wrong and I ran away from it. I’ll get back to it tonight, though.

Another unexpected thing that came from my year of writing is another big bump in the number of books I read. I’d originally planned on reading twelve books, really diving into them, and getting the storytelling elements out of them — what worked, what didn’t, what to tell, what to skip — but instead, I just read a bunch of books. I made up for the lack of deeper dive by reading 70 books. I’ll try not to dither about how it would have been better as a writer to use the reading time more productively. I had a good time.

So, another year is nigh, and I feel like, instead of moving on to something else, I owe it to myself to make a better showing at a year of writing, so I’m going to continue to focus on that and see what it brings me. I don’t want to just crank out stuff. Now that I have three or four first drafts sitting around, I want to edit them, to make them something that someone else might some day want to read. But I have to keep writing new stuff, too. Oh, and also read. I don’t know if I’ll do the deeper dive this year, or if I’ll continue to just read for pleasure, but I’m sure that I’ll read.

So, guitar and game programming, you get to sit on the shelf for another year while I keep trying my hand at writing.

The Consortial Narrative: Serial as a Heart Attack

Last year, Cliff, James, Vlad, and I decided to write a story. We got far. Really far. Like 80,000 words far. But we couldn’t find an ending, and it did what so many projects do, which is lie on a hard drive, unfinished. Loved, but at least partially forgotten.

I don’t want that to happen to our creation. I want to publish it. Correction. I want to polish it and then publish it.

But I’m not up for a mammoth editing job on 80000 words, two-thirds of which I didn’t write.

So I’ve decided to serialize the group story under the name: The Consortial Narrative (Serial as a Heart Attack)

I’ve done a quick editing pass over the first three writing sections and pushed them to a new blog that I made for just such an occasion, here

I’d be pleased as punch if you’d head on over there and let me know what you thought of it so far. Intrigued? Disgusted? Bored? Please let me know.

Also, if you like it and feel like boosting the signal a little bit, that wouldn’t be bad.

The Unremembered by Peter Orullian: A Criticism Part 1

Introduction: I’ve seen people at my favourite book message board do this, and I see Cliff do this with movies and music videos all the time. I won’t pretend that my mockery is as capable or as cutting as Cliff’s. But I want to play too. So, without further ado, here is my commentary on The Unremembered by Peter Orullian.

– The name of the prologue is The Whiting. That will be relevant soon.

– The council quiets as The One shows up. Where does he show up? Some place with columns but no roof. Clearly these guys have power because the columns are a hundred and eighty feet high. Only gods would have a marble floor, impossibly high columns, and forget to put a roof on the sucker.

– Clues to the godhood of the council are confirmed by constellations written into the columns.

– The One, not to be confused with The Great One, shows his contempt for the council by magically messing with the architecture.

– Apparently the sky is important. It’s given two very fraught descriptions. “The depths of the morning stretched above,” and, “Above them, the sky shone a peerless blue,” That second quote leads me to wonder if there is some kind of hierarchy to the colour blue. I mean, all oranges were created equal, but blue has a caste system? Doesn’t seem fair.

– So, The One doesn’t like the council and they return the favour. It hasn’t come to blows, though. Just words so far as The One, also called Maldaea (for now) speaks “with casual sarcasm.” As opposed to formal sarcasm which must be filled out in triplicate.

– Maldaea’s been up to some bad tricks, causing some cosmic imbalance. But he thinks the council is too heavy-handed and stagnant.

– Maldaea and Dossolum, the Speaker, argue at length, until The One has had enough. he offers an ultimatum and apparently the gods break shit with their feelings: “His defiance, bright and fiery, ascended the columns, jouncing over stone and rushing skyward.”

– The council takes a different tack and kick him out. They also change his name: “Quietus! … Now and forever you will be known by this name!” Just guessing here, though it’s a guess with the weight of experience reading Fantasy novels: Names have power and a god changing your name is some serious bad ju-ju.

– Dossolum shows off HIS magic chops by fixing all the stuff that The One — or can he still be called that after he’s been kicked out and basically called Shutup — broke with his tantrum.

– Quietus vows his revenge: “I will also take those that sprang from my bowels and torment this world…” I can only imagine torrential downpours of God-shit. Not good for that world, for sure.

– The world is in trouble now. Everyone knows it. Every THING knows it: “books on the council table sighed with the resignation of the hopeless.” I’m really struggling not to make some crack about hopeless books… See terrible Quietus. His disdain makes books sigh and tapestries moan.

– Undaunted by disdain from The One, Dossolum pronounces his sentence: “You shall be Whited.” — note: in epic fantasy, a capital letter on an innocuous word generally means it’s a spell. Which this is: “Quietus began to slowly drain of color, his clothes bleached white.” And it goes all the way through, I expect. Sure, he looks like Powder, but just look at that winning smile.

– As a last note, there’s a little foreshadowing about Quietus’s ultimate triumph. It wasn’t subtle, but at least it wasn’t hard to miss.

That prologue felt, to me, very much like the prologue to The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan. Great powers at the end of an era, discussing things of great import that we won’t understand or care about for four books, if not more.
I don’t know what the take-away is from this. It’s obvious that Maldaea was a loose cannon. He did bad things and upset some karmic balance, which was hinted at maybe having magical ramifications. That said, Dossolum is a total dick. He cuts Maldaea off, is completely without compromise, and basically sends legions of his own creations off to live with the evil that Maldaea has created. Along with Maldaea himself, since the council, along with stripping the hue from The One, consigned him to a fate on whatever world it was that he was fucking with. I suppose there’s some justice there: You built it that way, now live with it or something. But I kinda felt like Quietus wasn’t treated well, and I felt a little sympathy for him.
Going on with the Eye of the World analogy, I presumed that we’d be shuttled off in the first chapter to a quiet village where nothing ever happens, until today, and chapter one doesn’t miss the mark too much.
Next time I discuss The Unremembered, you’ll meet Rand… no, Richard… no, Tahn. That’s it.

Until next time,


The 2014 Houston Texans Defense

When I finished my write-up on the Texans offense, I won’t pretend that I didn’t despair a little. So many question marks on that side of the ball are going to make it hard for the team to succeed. Looking at the defense, I feel a little happier. There are a lot of questions there as well, but the question marks are smaller and the sure things are huge.

While the bona fide stars on offense, namely Arian Foster and Andre Johnson, have some things we don’t know about them, the big guy on defense is as solid a lock as the Texans have. JJ Watt does everything well. He gets a ton of sacks, a bunch of passes defensed, and a pile of tackles behind the line, which is the high profile stuff, but he’s always a factor. Every play. He’s joined on the defensive line by Jerrell Powe and Jared Crick. Crick is solid if not spectacular and the hope is that Powe, along with Louis Nix III will be able to anchor the middle.

Behind those guys, there are some uncertainties at linebacker, for sure. Brian Cushing is an amazing athlete. He has awareness, speed, strength, and aggressiveness to spare. What he doesn’t have are sound knees. When he’s healthy, he is a game-changer who can dictate the kinds of things an offense can do. Jadeveon Clowney is the Texans’ first overall pick. If he’s anywhere near as good as he was in college, he and Watt will be some serious peril for any quarterback they face. He also seems to be disciplined against the run, though, which warms my heart. Brooks Reed remains the strong-side linebacker. I haven’t been blown away by his play, but the coaches see enough in what he brings to keep him in the starting position, so we’ll see what they can get out of him. The fourth linebacker is a bit of a question, with Mike Mohammed starting and Jeff Tarpinian backing him up. I have no idea what these guys can do, so we’ll just hold on to hope that Cushing stays healthy and makes all the tackles.

Jonathan Joseph is back again and starting opposite Kareem Jackson at cornerback. Jackson seems to have really emerged, but I’m not sure what was going on with Joseph last year. I hope it comes down to injury, but he seemed tentative in coverage. AJ Bouye will likely join them in Nickel coverage, but it seems most likely that Jackson will be taking the inside receiver in those situations.

Safety is a bit of a mixed bag. I like what I see from DJ Swearinger. He’s aggressive, he tackles hard, and he’s not afraid to mix it up, but his coverage, if I remember correctly, was a little undisciplined and led to some easy completions. If he grows up a little, he could be very dangerous. Kendrick Lewis starts opposite him, which may just be a placeholder until Danieal Manning is up-to-speed. Yes, he couldn’t stick in Cincinnati, but we’re bringing him back.

At punter, Shane Lechler is everything. Will his age show this year? That’s the only potential issue there.

I think the defense will be fine if the linebackers can stay healthy. They should be a little stronger against the run than the pass if last year is an indication, though if Cushing falls apart again, it could just be a train wreck.

My prediction for the Texans this year is six wins and second place in the division. That could jump up to as many as nine wins if everyone stays reasonably healthy and the offense starts clicking at some point.

2014 Houston Texans — Offense

The Houston Texans come into this season on the heels of a dismal 2-14 season that saw them lose all 14 games in a row. As a fan, that was the bottom of the barrel. I mean, I sat through 1-15 in 2005, and that wasn’t as bad as this was. The problem was, the team seemed on the brink in some of the games. They either lost leads in the second half or came charging back time and again only to fall short. It didn’t matter if it was Matt Schaub sucking under centre or Case Keenum sucking under centre. They looked very little like the team that won the AFC South two years in a row, and the problem is that they looked very much like the team that won the AFC South two years in a row.

If you believe that quarterbacking and coaching were the root of the problem, well, probably you know something about football. Also, if you believe that, you have to admit that the Texans made some changes this year. They passed on the temptation of a premiere quarterback in the draft at first over-all, instead opting for Jadeveon Clowney, the no-brainer best player. Granted, the draft every year is a crap-shoot, and Clowney could be the next Aundray Bruce, but the consensus was, at least to my untrained ear, that Clowney was the guy.

Gary Kubiak was yanked from the sidelines before the season was over, with the reins handed to Wade Phillips to close out the season. Unfortunately for him and his head-coaching prospects, the season finished the way it was trending, and the Texans did not opt to bring him back. Instead, the Texans chose Bill O’Brien, an offensive-minded disciple from the Bill Bellicheck school of coaching. He led Penn State in the wake of the Paterno debacle, and did very well. Beyond that, I know very little about the man they call OB.

Without an offensive coordinator, I have to wonder if O’Brien has bitten off more than he can chew. He’s going to call his own plays, and manage to oversee the entire operation for the team in his first year as a head coach. I find that to be a very ambitious goal. But he’s brought in guys that he presumably trusts to be position coaches, and we’ll see the way that goes,

At defensive coordinator, I’ve been an admirer of Romeo Crennel for some time. I won’t pretend that his time in Cleveland didn’t happen, but I consider that to be a learning experience for him. He’s a great defensive coordinator, but a terrible head coach. If he holds on to that, he should be fine. Also, Cleveland since their reincarnation have been nothing more than a black hole for promising quarterbacks and good linebackers.

At quarterback, any suggestion that it might be the same-old, same-old was banished when Matt Schaub, he of the pick-six, and his early understudy, T.J. Yates were sent out of town in trades.

Still, the quarterbacks the team trotted out in the preseason were a backpack full of mediocre. I think they realized just how dire the situation was when they traded a conditional sixth/seventh-round pick to New England for Ryan Mallet. He joins Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tom Savage on a depth chart. I know a couple things about Mallet from my less-than-extensive googling: He can throw 80 yards, and he drinks a lot. Maybe he’s gotten that second one under control, and if so, I laud his newfound maturity. I hope that kind of decision-making keeps him from throwing a touchdown to the other team each and every game. I know some things about Fitzpatrick, too. During the 1-15 season, he rolled over the Texans as a member of the Rams. I also know he was beat out of a starting position in Buffalo by a EJ Manuel, who is the current regime’s draft pick.

Fitzpatrick did not impress in camp, and I predict that if Mallet learns the playbook, something that should be a given, since he’s a playing product of the same coaching tree, he’ll be starting by week 5. If the Texans didn’t have the receiving weapons they do, I would not give this group any chance of putting up numbers.

At running back, Arian Foster returns. At least until he gets hurt. If and when he does, Alfred Blue, Jonathan Grimes, and Ronnie Brown — yes, that Ronnie Brown — will be there to back him up. Between the mileage on Foster, his injuries, and a system change that will impact the work that the offensive line does, I’ve got a bad feeling about the running game this year.

At fullback, Jay Prosch seems to do what fullbacks should do, which is block. Can he catch? I don’t care. I want him to open holes. Anything he grabs out of the backfield should be a ten-yard penalty if it’s noticed.

Which means that the wide receivers should be stellar. Right? I mean, Father Time can’t catch up on Andre Johnson this year, right? And his hold-out means that he should be well-rested. Deandre Hopkins should be ready to come into his own. He doesn’t drop much — at least not much that makes it to him. Devier Posey is a bit more of a mystery to me, but he’s made the team again, and he looked not too bad in the preseason, so we’ll see what they can get out of him. Keshawn Martin has to be on his last legs. I mean, as a receiver he’s done very little to impress me, at least. As a returner, he’s a little better than solid, when the team can manage to avoid a penalty, which isn’t very often. Finally, they have another guy, a young guy, named Johnson. Damaris Johnson, to be more precise. We’ll see what he brings to the bench, because I doubt he’ll get much playing time.

Tight end caught a little bit of a makeover. Owen Daniels was allowed to leave, which surprised me. When he’s healthy, he is open. But Garrett Graham is younger, probably cheaper, and doesn’t have as much surgically repaired tissue. Behind him, I’m a little surprised to see that C.J. Fiedorowicz has passed Ryan Griffin. I wonder if he’s one of those earth-moving blocking types. I like them, but I hope it doesn’t cut into Griffin’s playing time too much. I liked the way he ran routes last year.

Chris Myers returns at centre, and I can only hope that he stays healthy. He’s been a good pickup from the Broncos since he arrived, and I have nothing but dread at the idea of Ben Jones filling in.

Speaking of Jones, he starts at guard ahead of Xavier Su’a-Filo, who was supposed to be the guy, but apparently his pass protection wasn’t up to snuff. I’m hoping he’ll be able to take over soon. On the other side, Brandon Brooks brings his mammoth 6’5″ 335 pound frame to the line. Hopefully he’ll be able to hold up.

On the edge, Duane Brown is the best offensive lineman the Texans have. Run or pass, he tends to dominate. Jeff Adams is his understudy. I know nothing about him. On the right side, Derek Newton has beaten out Tyson Clabo. This worries me. I remember Newton last year, and it didn’t look good. If he’s better than the guy who’s supposed to replace him, the Texans will probably want to start looking at mobile quarterbacks because that’s the only way they’re going to be able to get a pass off after the first three quarterbacks have been declared legally dead.

It seems that Randy Bullock, the incumbent kicker, has beaten out whatever fresh-faced loser he was facing in camp, so he can continue to miss the kicks when it matters. He has an iron leg and can kick it a ton, but you can practically see the Archie-Comics-esque sweat drops flying from his head when the game’s on the line. We’ll see if he’s overcome his psychoses from last year when the bullets start flying for real. Until then, they’d better have whatsisface from the preseason on speed dial.

Given that this is a rebuilding year, I’ll accept that the team isn’t going to do too well. The quarterbacks are not great, the running situation scares me, and the main receiving threat is almost ready to collect social security. There are some bright spots — Arian Foster could have a resurgence and stay healthy. Johnson could sip once more from philosopher’s stone or whatever, and the late addition of Ryan Mallet could be just what the team needs — later on. The offensive line is really concerning to me, with a couple of re-treads and some unknowns paired with a rock-solid left tackle and centre. With all this to consider, I have absolutely no idea how things will work out offensively for the Texans, but if I had to guess, I’d say the passing game will take awhile to gel, and the running game will suffer until they can start to make some teams guess instead of just stacking the box all game.

Tomorrow, I’ll look at the defense, unless I forget or just don’t feel like it.

Until then,


Writer’s Block?

I like writing. You may have guessed that by the tone of some of my posts — most notably those that touch on the subject. The sharper among you may even note that the mere fact that I have a blog points to some interest in the writing sphere. Good job, guys. I have the smartest readers.

That said, writing is a pastime for me. Something to do when the work that pays the bills is done for the day. Again, I’m sure this is something you all know.

The problem with writing as a hobby is the pesky fact that it can get pretty challenging. I guess that’s the case with all kinds of hobbies, but writing is the one thing I do where I constantly run into that wall.

I’ve seen the things that professional writers have to say about writing, about the creative process, and about writer’s block. Most of them take the disciplined approach of sitting there and putting words down, even if they’re relatively sure the words will be thrown away on edit. They do that because it’s a job and when you’re working, you’re working.

I’ve used the ultra-scientific approach of dredging up memories of blog posts and tweets by authors I follow to construct this scenario, so I’d appreciate it if you could bear with me a little further.

I think that a job-like approach is the best way to look at it. If I’m being honest with myself, a pastime is something I could probably take or drop as my feelings dictated. If I truly want to improve myself as a writer, as I’ve said in the past, I have to take it more seriously. What that has to mean is getting my ass in the chair, staring at a blank screen for a half-hour if that’s what it takes. I like the things I write when I buckle down. Last night is a good example of persevering when I thought I had nothing to say, and I like how that turned out. I like the stories I’ve worked on that I’ve given up on partway through. I want to see how they turn out.

Writing has to be about more than flitting my fingers across the keyboard when the feeling overtakes me. It has to be about creating my own motivation by doing it. It has to be about pushing past my comfort zone and through my insecurities. And at its heart, it has to be about getting words onto the page.

Changing Gears

So far, I’ve been posting things that I’ve enjoyed writing, and been engaged on them, and enjoyed that too. Then there have been the short story ideas.

I’m happy to come up with short story ideas, and I see some things that I want to write. But I’m not enjoying posting them. I was hoping that having that as a challenge topic would give me more inspiration to come up with more ideas, but what it’s been has been a cop-out. A way to have a post that I’ve already written and can just type up quickly and move on. Good for having another post, but not good for getting another story idea.

So, I’m going to stop that. I’m going to stop throwing story ideas up here for this challenge. I’m not enjoying it, and I get the feeling you aren’t either. Instead, I’ll make it a goal to have one or two (I haven’t made my mind up about that yet) stories written to put up here before the end of the challenge.

I’m not feeling bitter about this switch. I want to enjoy what I’m writing and it will feel right to actually write some of the stories I’m thinking about.

Talk to you guys tomorrow,


Short Story Idea #3

Working Title: Power Failure

A primitive culture finds a piece of technology. The thing has indicators that can properly predict rain and weather changes, which the primitive culture learns to interpret. They attach religious significance to the item. when the thing starts flashing red, they worry. And when the red light stops blinking and the thing stops working, there are religious wars that wipe out the population. Later, a modern society finds the relic and replaces the battery. It boots up, and one guy says to another, “Hm. Looks like rain.”

It’s Easy Until it Isn’t

“What’s a blog challenge?”

“It’s where you write a blog post every day for 31 days.”

“Oh. That sounds easy.”

That from my eight-year-old daughter when I was talking about it just before it started.

I defended my trepidation, saying something inane like, “Yeah, it’s easy. Until it isn’t.”

But it’s true. Even right now, now that I’ve found what I’m going to write about tonight, the words are coming out smooth and true. That’s fantastic. But you weren’t inside my head three minutes prior, when I had absolutely nothing cooking up there.

This year was supposed to be the year of writing. Last year was the year of reading and that went over swimmingly. I read more books last year than I have in a single year ever, and finally hit the 50-book goal I’d set way back in 2003.

With writing, though, it’s a different kettle of fish. For one thing, reading is just staring at something and occasionally moving your hand. Writing is much more than that. There’s the whole thing, from coming up with an idea to making a reasonable and believable sequence of events out of it, making characters that feel like they didn’t come out of your head, and then actually sitting down and getting the words that you think should be there down. Then you have to read it all over again and fix all the little screw-ups that you’ve made in the first draft. It’s expected that the first draft is going to be a broken piece of garbage. Even for people who write regularly. If I’m going to produce crap, why even try?

That is something that I’ve struggled with for a long time. Probably since I heard the first-draft-as-steaming-pile theory. Then, thanks to Robb, I learned about this:

Performance, Feedback, Revision. How a person improves. Not just at writing. Not just at acting. At anything. That’s what I try to drill into my children. If I do well at something, their reaction is that I’m really good at it. My response is that I’ve had more practice than they have. And generally, that’s true. As hard as it is to convince myself to keep writing stories that aren’t very good to my mind, I know — I KNOW — that this is the only way I’m going to improve. So, even when there are nights that I want to read a book and not write, even though I’m in the middle of the summer blog challenge and there are twos and twos of readers out there depending on my words to get them through the next day, even when sitting in front of a blue screen with a white cursor blinking at me seems unbearable, I’ll sit here, think of an idea, and throw some syllables at it. Because I want to improve.

Until tomorrow,


Short Story Idea #2

This one takes a little bit of setting up. At the beginning of the year, when everything was possible, and I didn’t have reality all intruding on my writing goals, I had thought it would be really good to write a story based in Edmonton about a group of people who, for whatever reason, were brought together to fight evil. I didn’t have anything specific in mind yet, and I didn’t have any characters thought out. But I knew where I wanted to go.

When the reality of the time I take to write hit me, I decided to take a step back from the big goal of the story for now, and to think about the group of people that I wanted to come together. I’ve written one of the stories from that series — you may have seen part of it on my blog. It’s the Angel story that I was serializing. I finished it, but never got around to putting the rest of the story up, because I’m all inconsistent like that. You love me for it, and you know it. As such, it can’t really be a candidate for me to work on it, because, well, I’ve written it. I’ll get to the revision and all that at a different time, but for now, it’s off the table, because I want to focus on getting new stuff created.

As such, here’s the second story that I want to have for the convergence type story.

An alcoholic ex-professional athlete saves a kid from getting run over in downtown Edmonton because the kid was trying to find her father, who was abducted. The athlete, having returned the kid to the mother, becomes involved in the abduction case, and works to recover the man, who was abducted because of the company he works for.

See, the first story dealt with a mastermind of sorts, Dante, who reduced his assistant, or something, to a gibbering mad man with some technology or power that he has. And Dante is behind this abduction as well, because he wants something that the company the man works for has developed. The story isn’t incredibly well-developed, mainly because I haven’t spent a lot of concentration on the motivations of the shadowy bad guy behind the misery.

Anyway, the athlete finds out a little about Dante at the same time the reader does and, after the victim is rescued or released, the athlete now has motivation and direction in his life. But he’s still an alcoholic, so we’ll see how that works out for him.

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