Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Speedwell War - Draft 2 - Status Update 7

One more scene done, one more to go.

The last scene is The Battle of Dhanapal Dome and takes place on Mars.  This means I need to sit down and sketch out a map of the dome and the junction stations that connect it to the other portions of the Hellas Planitia Colony.  That's a long way of saying that the last scene is going to take longer to write because I need to make up what the place looks like to a reasonable degree.  Most of the other battles scenes in the novel were on Earth and there Google Maps is your friend.

Current Word Count: 71,473 words

With the novel almost done, I've started allowing myself to think about running a campaign next year.  It's been just over a year since I closed down the campaigns I'd been running and I'm really ready to start running a game again.  I'm playing three games right now, a weekly Mouse Guard game, a bi-weekly Artesia game, and a monthly Champions game (using 5th edition).  This has kept my gamer ADD in check (mostly) while I've been concentrating on the novel.

This past week I put up a poll for my gaming group, asking what game they would be most interested in seeing me run once my novel is complete.  I have three ideas and really only enough time to properly put together and run one campaign at a time, so I wanted to see what my player base was interested.  Here is what I listed:

The Bold and The DeterminedThis is a revival of my Champions game where players have two characters - one in a privately funded Avengers-like super team and one in the street-level group banding together to for help grinding their personal axes.  Both groups operate in the fictional Capital City, Maryland.  The Bold group is more standard superhero fare in a world where superheroes are a very new thing.  The Determined are desperate people with a beef against an enemy too big for the individual to face, but as a group can team up against each foe one at a time.  Needless to say, the Determined actively try to avoid any official or press attention.

Lustria Sandbox

This is a new Fantasy Hero campaign similar to my Southern Reaches campaign [a Western Reaches-style game], but lizardmen and jungles full of ruins will feature heavily instead of gnolls and plains.  They players can be colonial agents hired to keep the new colony safe or entrepreneurial explorers looking for "interesting things".  The setting will likely borrow a lot of setting dressing from Warhammer Fantasy RPG.  I have not decided about firearms yet.

Battletech Mercenaries

I've had a long hankering for trying out a campaign where the PCs are a mercenary company of mechwarriors out to make their fortune and honor.  Some may just want to fight in giant robots, others seek for enough legitimacy to become part of the nobility.  The RP aspect would be handled with the Hero System, mech combat with the War of the Mecha system, which has the flavor of Battletech but not the complexity.  The basic rules are one page long.  That's it.

 After a week, the Lustria Sandbox campaign had the most votes (although it was close).  Answering questions from the players expanded the base concept a bit and provided me with several ideas.  I'll start writing on it in earnest once I finish my novel and take a couple months to properly build enough into it that I don't run out of things for the players to do or investigate for a while.  This will be a bit more ambitious than my last Western Reaches campaign as there will be a major port and several minor ports already established rather than a single town for the PCs to fall back to each session.

That's it for this week.  Later!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Speedwell War - Draft 2 - Status Update 6

Last update I was down to eight scenes to write and one to re-write.  This week I'm down to TWO scenes to write and one to re-write.  Boo-yah!

Writing through the story threads has both sped things up and helped stay focused on what I'm writing.  It also changed the way I was going on the scenes as the story evolved organically while I was writing it.  I'm writing this Monday night and once I'm done I'm going to do the scene re-write to get that out of the way now.  The last two scenes I need to write are split between Chapter 5 and Chapter 7.  The Chapter 7 scene will be large as it involves a battle in a dome on Mars and I still need to sketch out the area the action will happen in so what I write will be coherent.  The Chapter 5 scene I think I'm going to change.  It will still contain the same subset of characters, but a little further along on their timeline as what I was going to write is starting to seem a bit boring and superfluous.

I feel confident now that I will finish writing this by December 31, in fact, I'll probably finish before mid-month in December, but I don't want to go counting my chickens just yet.

Current Word Count: 70,032 words

The scarey/weird part is I'm at the point where I need to start seriously thinking about publication routes.  I want to publish and I want a physical book - these are things I firm on.  After that...things get a bit fuzzy.  I have a friend in L.A. I'll send a copy of the completed draft to along with the question "Is this worth getting an agent for?"  He has experience in that arena and I trust his opinion.  I think I'm in good shape, but I need an outside voice of experience to confirm or deny that.

That's it for now.  Later!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Speedwell War - Draft 2 - Status Update 5

Sorry for the radio silence - I've been busy and sick, in that order.  Now I'm on vacation.  I wanted this to be a reading vacation, but I also want to finish writing my novel by the end of the year, so I'm doing some writing instead or reading.

I'm down to eight scenes to write and one scene to re-write to match the current draft better.  That number may shrink due to combining scenes as I write - in fact I know for a fact it will happen at least once.  I'll mention that when the appropriate scenes get written.

Current Word Count: 67,146 words

Now, what I really want to talk about is a small observation that I've heard before but saw in action recently. The observation is this:

If you want to write, read a lot of material that is the type of writing you want to do. 

So, for instance, if you want to write science fiction, READ a lot of science fiction.  It gives you a grounding in what you are trying to write and provides the mental equipment to write.  It should also give you a clue is the brilliant story twist is actually a trope that everyone knows about already and will spot early on or even what tropes are appropriate.  It also gives you better mental space to work in.

I saw this in action on Face Off, the movie make-up/special effects show on 'The Channel Previously Known as The Sci-Fi Channel".  My wife and I were watching Season 3, where one of the contestants had a strict Mennonite upbringing.  She had strong skills in make-up and prosthetics, but limited experience with pop culture.  She had no idea what sort of mind space 'zombies' might or might not inhabit, and the only cyborg experience she had was with Terminator and Terminator 2, which she saw ~20 years earlier, which knocked her out of the running when a cyborg challenge happened.  This lack of cultural experience left her at a severe disadvantage in a special effects competition where design was just as important as technical competency.  In real life it would (and probably does) inhibit her job opportunities.

Writing is the same way.  If you do not have experience at what you want to write about, then your ability to envision (design) what you are writing about is hampered and it will show.  The ability to string words together is limited by your ability to imagine what you are writing about.  If you want to write scripts for TV shows, read scripts and watch the shows to see how things are done.  Expand your mental drafting table/sandbox and your writing will be able to go farther and present more interesting things.

And that's all I have for today.  Later!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Speedwell War - Draft 2 - Status Update 4

I've had to do some more research, mostly for ship naming consistency, but have added a new scene for the White Rabbit story thread this week.  (No, I probably won't be explaining that here.)  This establishes several things that I needed emphasised, notably that there is a warp point out of the Sol System and people can actually use it, but don't just yet.  The warp point gets mentioned in passing in Chapter 1 and again in Chapter 8, but I needed it to be represented more.

(I realize that that entire paragraph is pretty opaque if you haven't read any of the draft material. Sorry about that.)

I'll update this post tonight with the actual word count.  I'm at the Day Job and don't have the file in an accessible place.  (Love those corporate firewalls.)

In summation: work progresses, but a bit slower than I expected.  I still plan on having a complete manuscript by December 31 and still feel I will make that (self-imposed) deadline.

That's all for now.  Later!

UPDATE: As it turns out, the draft achieved an even number.  First time for everything.
Word Count: 65,500 words

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Speedwell War - Draft 2 - Status Update 3-ish

OK, so the worst part about finishing a draft, but not having a complete draft (because, say, you've discovered you need to add scenes to make things flow better) is that you start getting hit really hard with Gamer ADD.

Getting back into the groove of regular writing when you are no longer telling the story but doing the work of writing to make it good can be difficult and distractions abound.  I'm having ideas about what campaign I want to run next year after I'm done writing this novel - except if I think on THAT, I'll never get the novel done.  NaNoWriMo is almost here and I'm thinking about writing the next novel as part of that.  I have an OK outline for the next book and most of the characters are ready to port over (those that live, that is).  How hard could it be?  (A death knell if there ever was one.)

So, I'm working on getting back in the groove.  The thing that's working for me is tackling one storyline at a time and follow them through to conclusion.  It also helps me remember where I was in the story and keep things consistent along each storyline.  It also helps me spot timeline discrepancies and fix them so each story works with the backdrop of everything else going on.  (Did I mention it's a complex story, made of multiple threads interwoven into one whole?  No?  I should have.)

So, writing achieved for this week.  Due to the switch in programs (from Word to Scrivener) the word count has gotten wonky, but I worked out a way to stay consistent going forward, so I'm good there.  Speaking of which:

Word Count: 64,357 words

So that's it for this week.  Thank you for keeping up so far.  Once I have a complete draft I'll be willing to let folks in general start reading the story.  I may even post it serially here, but I haven't decided yet.  I'm still working on getting a copy of the draft to my Mom - she read a version that was two-thirds done and told me to hurry up and finish so she could read the rest of the story.  Can't argue with that.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Quickie Novel Update

Short version: my writing time has needed to go elsewhere for the last week and a half.  This week I'll be able to get some good time in on Thursday, but I didn't want to leave you hanging, something I'm getting bad about doing.

So, Thursday writing and Friday an update.  My goal is to have a complete draft by the end of the year, so I can send it to reviewers for feedback.

That's it for now.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Review: The Case of the Syphilitic Sister by James Hutchings

This is one of my infrequent book reviews.  In fact, the other one I did was for The New Death and other stories, also by James Hutchings.  James ask me to take a look at his newest project, a piece of serial fiction he is releasing through Jukepop Serials, a literary website providing serialized fiction in a variety of genres.  James described it as 1930's era pulp superhero action and then some other words, but, really, he had me at "1930's pulp superhero action".  Plus, I REALLY liked The New Death and other stories, so I wanted to read more of his work.  (I'd link to New Death, but I'm not certain which link he'd prefer.  I'll add it later when I get confirmation.) (See Update at the bottom of this post.)

The Case of the Syphilitic Sister
First, let me fess up: I want you to go read this and up-vote it so James will publish the next chapter sooner.  I WANT to know what happens next and I'm terribly impatient.

Chapter 1 starts with a trope and subverts it immediately.  The classy dame meets the detective in his office.  Except the office is neat and orderly and has clean and polite man at the desk fronting for the actual "detectives".  I put detectives in quotes as they are actually the superheros.  It being the 1930's, these are the people in costumes using their brains, brawn, and gadgets kind of heros.  To make their organization seem larger and more powerful, they take turns acting as each others followers, which is a pretty neat trick.

I won't get too deep into the plot as A) I want you to go and read it, and B) it's only one chapter long so far and just gets the ball rolling, not deep into plot.  Suffice to say, there is a mystery and the heros are on the case.

Heros shown so far are Green Dragon, who is the client contact, wearing a dark green suit with pistols that can act as flamethrowers.  He is also good with people, which is why he talks with the clients.  Next introduced is Princess Iron Fan.  I'm guessing she's a martial artist, but that's a guess as she her abilities are not discussed.  Once on the job, The Kabbalist is at work, with the other heros dressed as his sidekicks, The Golems.  I'd like to say I really like this method of force multiplication.

While on the job, the heros run across thugs after the same thing they are.  This interaction is very entertaining in how the thugs react.  One pees himself when the Kabalist and the Golems "appear", one throws a punch into some body armor (hurting his hand), and one decides to go for a switch-blade.  The one with the wounded hand quietly tells the third thug to put away the knife and then has a whispered negotiation with the Kabalist to avoid the fight.  Both agree and the Kabalist loudly orders the thugs to begone and, on cue, the thugs run away screaming and everyone saves face.

I really like this part.  Being a 1930's superhero is dangerous to both sides and the fact that both sides are willing to publicly play their parts while quietly negotiating what those parts are going to be is believable.  Neither side wants to push things too far, but neither side can afford to lose face and the cops give both a sideways look when they get involved.

The only downside I'm seeing is one of some anachronistic language.  The most noticeable (for me) is a reference to "suicide by cop", a term that was not coined until the 1990's.  I am a stickler for things like this, so it was jarring.

As I said at the top, I really want to see where this story goes and I'm eagerly awaiting the next chapter, which I hear will be released on the 22nd of this month.  He has material for several chapters, so perhaps you could go, give it a read, and up-vote to get him to publish a little more often that monthly.  It's worth the time to read and I think you too will want to find out what happens next.

UPDATE:The New Death and other stories can be found here: 
Barnes and Noble

UPDATE 2: Chapter 2 is now published.  Go read it! (You'll need to log in to read it.  It's worth it.)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Speedwell War - Draft 2 - Status Update 2

The things you have to do as a writer.

I've moved the entirety of Draft 1.1 from Word into Scrivener, which is sort of backwards from the way the Scrivener folk expect the product to be used, but it's what I need at the moment. It let me easily identify the scenes needing work by tagging all of the sections and then sorting by the tag I wanted. I created a tag "Incomplete" to tag scenes where there is a gap to be filled, from a missing name to a missing scene to plague fatality numbers.

It is that last item I spent recently working out. With the World Wide Web, you'd think it would be easy to find a simple formula to estimate the infection rate of a disease. No such luck. All the sites list formulas in the form of differential equations and it has been way too long since Calc I in college for those to be useful to me.

After getting a feel for the process and possibilities, I started knocking around numbers and simple equations in Excel. My initial attempts looked OK, but there was no connection between fatalities and infected numbers and there clearly should have been, especially with the high mortality rate I was supposing.

After plugging away for a while, I realized the issue was that I was going about it backwards. I needed to start with exposure numbers, go to infected, and then mirror with fatalities after the appropriate time. This worked much better and started generating some realistic looking numbers. Or at least logical numbers. Now I have to decide if they are the numbers I want, or do I steepen the curve some more. I want this to be scary, not just a minor blip. I think I may need to up the infection rate more, but I'm not certain yet.

The one thing I did learn was that my initial scene with the Office of Infectious Diseases - Mars happens way too late in the timeline. 800+ dead in two weeks time is criminally past the time for CDC-Mars to get involved. That scene now clearly needs to be moved forward in time a week. In fact, several of the scenes involving the Martian Flu will need to be moved forward.

Luckily, the entire novel is in Scrivener now, broken down by scenes, and doing so is as simple as clicking and dragging the scene to where I want it. Then some cosmetic clean-up to get the time cues corrected and it is all good. This is exactly the kind of stuff I saw Scrivener being good at and Word failing at.

Once I have the plague numbers worked out and the scenes moved in time, I'll start filling in the "missing" scenes. Once those are done, I'll get with my focus group to see what needs work. Then I need to start working out how I want to get this published. I'd rather not self-publish, as I want to write more than publish, but we'll see what I find when I get there.

In the meantime, if you have any literary agent recommendations (good or bad), I'd love to hear from you.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Speedwell War – Draft 2 - Status Update 1

OK, so I took two weeks off from writing…here on my blog. Not what I intended, but there it is. During that time, I’ve gone through and performed a red-line edit of a hardcopy of Draft 1. My red pen bled a lot. I created a time line convertor to translate from things like “[+5 months, +2 weeks, +5 days]” to “Saturday, July 11, 2235”. I also listed out the scenes by number and a short description so I could see how the story events cluster and where time scrolls without much happening. Very enlightening.

I found some discrepancies in my date notations, like the first two chapters only notated weeks or months passed, not days, so everything was happening on Tuesdays. Plus, I missed time cues in the text at least twice, spreading an event and the reporting of that event too far apart. All of those corrections are now scribbled into the redline copy.

Additionally, making a complete read-through after finishing the writing let me see where I left gaps in the story or forgot to work out when some important events actually happen, which is critical when there’s a war on. I wrote in place holders for those scenes so I know where I need to add material. All told, I’m adding about 15 new scenes to the manuscript in order to cover everything that needs to be covered for the baseline story to actually flow with no gaps. I think I still want to add additional intrigue scenes that serve to enhance the political tensions, but I may need to wait for Draft 3 before I do that.

Finally, as I read through the manuscript in its entirety, I noted scenes where the writing was something I’m proud of and where I was just dropping text on the page to get to the next bit. Those latter sections will need some polishing (or re-writing) to get up to snuff.

As I haven’t touched the electronic file the past two weeks, the word count hasn’t changed from last time (and I can’t get to it while I’m writing this), so I’ll update the word count next time.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Chapter 8: Persecutions - Draft Complete : Novel: The Speedwell War - Draft Complete!

So, remember when I thought I had tons more to go before I finished the last chapter and the draft and it would take until the end of September?

I was wrong.

I didn't even get into September, I finished the first draft on the last day of August.  Sweet!

There were some big blocks of bullets in my outline that I thought were going to fill some pages and I found a better way of presenting the information by combining them with another scene and just summarizing.

Final Draft Word Count: 62,084 words

Part of me wants to set aside the draft and let it cool a couple weeks before starting the big work of Draft B corrections and additions.  Part of me wants to get started immediately.  I think the latter is the better path.  I will take the Labor Day weekend off and resume next week.

The next step is hammering out the timeline so I can verify that it is not time crunched and could actually happen in the time allocated.  The entire novel covers just under 10 months, but there are some big time gaps at the front and I don't want things to happen at too quick a pace.  It is science fiction and needs the verisimilitude of reality to work best.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Chapter 8: Prosecutions - Status Update 2

The more I move forward, the more I realize I need to fix things behind me.

I was going through my outline to incorporate the various chicken-scratch notes I've added as I work my way through the outline and discovered a discrepancy in how I'm notating time passing.  I did not have a particular date for the start of the novel, so rather than get bogged down, I just started listing the date for each scene as a function of time passed since the beginning of the book.  So, for instance, the first scene in Chapter 8 happens on (+7 months, +1 week, +3 days).  Easy and simple to count and I know how long passes between any two scenes in the novel.

The tricky part is the first and last week of a month.  The first week is the +0 weeks and the last week is +3 weeks, days +1 to +7.  Well, I forgot that in the middle of Chapter 6 and have a month with five weeks or 35 days.  Every date after that one is off by a full week.  Pain. In. The. Ass.

I'll straighten this out when I finish the first draft and go back for the first edit.  In the meantime, I've corrected the "dates" for Chapter 8 and they will be correct for the end of the first draft.  As I'm writing this chapter, I'm realizing I'm going to need to telescope the time covered as there are several trials happening.  Some will be important, some will be necessary background, but they will all take time.  Plus, I just want to discuss outcomes, not add "in court" scenes.  Probably.  We'll see what it looks like when I finish the draft and then tweak it like everything else.

Word Count: 60,062 words

I'm only averaging one evening a week for writing, which seems to be drawing this out, but I only have so many Husband Points to spend at any one time.  I'm hoping to be done with the first draft by the end of September and start mapping out the timeline to see what kind of tangles I've left for myself.  Then I can start plugging in the scenes I "missed" as I was writing or decided I needed to expand on.

I've been looking at a program called Scrivener, particularly the Windows version.  I've been writing in MS Word as it is what I use for my day job and I'm very proficient in it.  That said, Word is word processing software, not writing software and there are things Scrivener does that I want for the editorial pass, like being able to move entire scenes in a drag and drop fashion on a virtual cork board.  Plus, Scrivener exports in multiple formats, like .mobi, which is something I want to be able to do on my own.  I haven't decided how I want to publish, but I want options.

That's it for now.  Later!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Chapter 8: Prosecutions - Status Update 1

OK, this will be a quick update due to time constraints.

The restructure of Chapter 8 is complete and the outline expanded from three pages to five page in length.  I've added the first newly written scene (as opposed to the two scenes pulled over from Chapter 7) and I am please at the way things are shaping up.

Word Count: 59,030 words

What?  I told you it'd be quick this time around.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Chapter 7: War Comes to Speedwell - Draft Complete!

Hoody-hoo!  Chapter 7 done!

I wrapped up Chapter 7 over the weekend in two ways: I finished writing the material in my draft for Chapter 7 AND realized that there was a better chapter break two scenes earlier than where I put it.  What does that mean?  It means that there was a better place to end the chapter from a story flow perspective, so I moved the chapter break forward.  The transferred scenes are more expository (for scenes near the end of the book) and fit better as the start of Chapter 8.

I still need to map out Chapter 8 better and flesh out my (somewhat sketchy) notes for the chapter.  Things still need to happen to wrap up events in the book, but some other stuff needs to also happen to set up things for Book 2.  So I might not get much added to the word count of the story this week, but I will be doing noticeable adding to my outline.

Word Count: 57,239 words


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Chapter 7: War Comes to Speedwell - Status Update 4

Closing in on the end of Chapter 7.  I have about half a scene (really a series of news reports) to finish and then the chapter is done.  I hope to get that written tomorrow as my wife has other plans and I have the evening to myself.

Chapter 8 is going to take some work.  I've looked over my notes and realized they are terribly sketchy and not as fleshed out as earlier chapters were.  So next week's writing time is more likely to be planning time to better flesh out what I want to happen and how.  The ending has to be solid and stand on itself, but also start laying the ground work for the next book.  (Yes, there will be a next book - it will be more of an exploration story with time running out politically.)

Word Count: 56,753 words

That's it for now.  Later!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Chapter 7: War Comes to Speedwell - Status Update 3

It has been two weeks since the last time I got in some writing.  This was due to a combination of being busy and needing some downtime.  I finally spend a couple hours today writing (just before writing this).  I'm working on a large-ish combat scene and needing to work out the particulars of where things are and why there of all places.  This caused me to move the action from Warka to the outskirts of Lublin, which is a more reasonable location for what is about to happen.

Once I get the combat scene done, I have one more "news update" scene and the chapter should be complete, so next week is a likely time for that to happen, maybe the week after - depends on how long I get to write on Friday.

Word Count: 54,944 words

My outline for Chapter 8 is only six pages long, but I know I'm going to have to flesh those scenes out a good deal and probably add some new scenes to wrap up the first book.  I think I'm looking at a first draft of between 70,000 to 80,000 words.  Then I'll set it down a week or two and start diagramming out what I have and where I need to add "missing" scenes (scenes I didn't realize I needed until I was in the midst of writing).  Part of that will be expanding the number of corporate scenes to lay groundwork for events in the second novel.  Then the whole thing will need a thorough editing and I'll be willing to show it to people.

That's it for now.  Later!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Aldelle Group: Campaign Conclusion

The Aldelle Group Campaign concluded with an execution.

The final session (Session 82) was on Sunday, July 22.  It started with a fight already in progress against powerful otherworldly foes.  In the middle we banished a containment field keeping in something gargantuan and tentacle covered in a Chthulian manner to a demiplane specifically created (by Harkaitz) to hold it and keep out cultists forever.  Then we got down to some serious revenge for the destruction of our colony and the threat of death hanging over our friends and associates.

Angry 16th- to 18th-level Pathfinder characters can really put a hurt on a bad guy when they are not distracted by saving the world.  And Ra supports the meting out of righteous justice.

So we are starting the discussions as to what game we are playing next, both system and world.  I'm interested in a game set in the Warhammer world but using Pathfinder, but we are also talking about a short Mouseguard game to try the system out.

Once I finish the first draft of my novel, I'll resume writing the Aldelle Group adventure summaries, at least through the end of the war against the lich.  The material after that was a good experiment, but not so good for interesting reading.  We learned why a fresh sandbox setting isn't quite so challenging to characters with tons of money and magic to throw around.  Plus the need to challenge PCs with things that cannot be solved by killing or a handy spell (at least not without good ethical challenges).

Also, cohorts and minions, while VERY handy when you only have 3 or 4 players, quickly get out of hand when you have 6 or 7 players.  Especially if you flirt with letting cohorts have cohorts of their own.

Although, now that I think about it, it is still do-able and can add some interesting roleplay, but the DM has to do more work with soft challenges or setting multiple goals that have to be solved somewhat simultaneously.  Split the party up and the problem becomes more manageable and adds different tactical twists.  Plus, if you have time to run side adventures through blue-booking or short get-togethers outside of the regular play session, you can do a lot more personalized adventures.  Just make sure everyone gets equal time so no one runs away on the XP chart.  I've seen that and it's not fun to be on the short XP end.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Chapter 7: War Comes to Speedwell - Status Update 2

OK, I cheated.  I skipped a scene that was poorly outlined (as in "only two sentences to cover a long series of complicated conversational scenes to provide updates on the Mars War") for one that was more richly outlined and one that I've been waiting to get to since I started writing.  I've written the fun stuff, but now I have to go back and do the "hard one".  

This is a result of my reorganization of Chapter 5 into two parts and adding the necessary connecting bits before and after for the stuff I missed in the outline.  It's those "connecting bits" that are now the pain to write as I have to embroider full scenes from little blurbs that are just the gist of what I needed to go there.  These are coming out as very rough scenes and I know they will get seriously revised once I get to the second draft stage, but they are necessary to grind out or the whole thing falls apart.

But that cool scene - it was totally worth it.

Word Count: 54,397 words

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Chapter 7: War Comes to Speedwell - Status Update 1

OK, so things are progressing again.  It has been a busy and stressful week and a half (partly due to my wife's monthly tea being a week earlier than we thought it was) and my back acted up again, but a trip to the chiropractor has that on the healing track once again.

I had to re-write some of the material I had already written as I was not happy with it enough to push on.  I think it needs more polish and maybe to be expanded a bit, but it will have to do for now.  Plus, the domes of the Mars colony are now laid out, so I can write the scenes happening there with more detail.

The war crimes in Jupiter orbit have been written.  This involved my first space battle and took two tries at to get done as well.  I think it is better now, but will also need some embroidery on the editing pass.

After that, some more updates on the war on Earth and developments on Mars.  Then a set of important scenes that I don't want to spoil ahead of time, but I'm looking forward to writing them.  After that, Chapter 7 will start wrapping up.  Chapter 8 will be the aftermath and conclusion of the book (but not the story).  I'm starting to see the end of the writing tunnel - hoody-hoo!

Word Count: 52,265 words


Friday, June 29, 2012

Personal Status Update

I just realized how long it's been since my last post, so here's a quick update.
  • Insurance company is telling me my house is underinsured and so they aren't paying for all the repairs.  They are willing to write a check for ~$16K, but that leaves us ~$3K short on the cost of repairs.  We are shopping for competing bids, but may have to set up a payment plan, assuming the contractor will let us do so.  (Note: I'm insured for $163K, the price of the house - they say the cost to replace it is $260K.  Thanks Hurricane Ike for driving up construction costs.)
  • I had jury duty for two days last week and it threw off my schedule for several things.  Plus, one of the other jurors shared a cold, so I was zonked for several days.  I stayed home from work one day, but had to go in to do crucial things the other two.  When I got home those days, I watched legend of Korra as that was the limit of my energy.  Good series though - greatly enjoyed it.
  • This week's writing became an investigation of the Martian landscape.  I needed to actually place the Mars colony and lay it out as fighting happens there.  I stripped out the last scene as it was all "tell" and no "show", which is poor storytelling.  In order to improve it, I needed to work out the specifics of how the public colony connects with the four corporate enclaves.  That's done enough that I can resume writing...sometime next week.
  • The Aldelle Group Pathfinder RPG game has had scheduling issues due to the DM's work schedule.  He's working two jobs, so we are adapting to his schedule.  The Pulp Hero game starts a new chapter this saturday and the following Saturday will be the second session of the Champions game.  I'm looking towards both.  They are once a month, all day games.
That's it for now.  More later.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

So this is an excerpt from the email I sent to my family about the tree that fell on my garage last week.
Tuesday had several things go wrong.  North Houston had a strong thunderstorm blow through shortly after I got home.  The power went out about 4:45 pm and then the big oak tree in our back yard was blown down about 5:00, landing on our garage.  Phones and water were still working, but we were part of the 110,000 houses without power.  We got a call in to the insurance company almost immediately, but the power company's phones were jammed.  In the end, [my wife]'s folks were able to get a call in from Washington for us.
After the rain stopped (about 6:00 pm), we were able to force the garage doors open and get the cars out.  My car had drywall all over it, but that was about it (as far as the cars go).  The left railing for the garage door is bent and the door came partially off it when we lifted it.
At about 8:30 pm, the insurance company's tree cutters showed up and spent the next four hours with a chainsaw cutting away branches and eventually getting the tree off the garage.  (They were part of the emergency response from the insurance company and will bill them directly).  Once the tree was down on the ground, they put tarps on the garage roof and helped us pull the garage door back down.  They left between 12:30 am or 1:00 am, probably much to our neighbors satisfaction and relief.
Our power finally came back on at 2:41 am.  I happened to be awake after sleeping a couple hours as I was cold and contemplating pulling on a blanket.  I was out of it enough that I forgot to turn off my alarm clock and was awoken by it at 5:00 am and hit snooze 3 times before I awoke enough to remember I wasn't going in.  I got maybe another hour or so of sleep and then it was too bright to sleep any more, so I got up and showered.
I spent the morning in contact with work getting that squared away and doing some online training so I would not have to burn any vacation time waiting for the insurance adjuster and the contractor.  At 10:00 am a dumpster was dropped off for the tree cutters and they arrived at 11:00 am to start moving all the wood into the dumpster (we kept about a third of the tree as firewood).  They finished at 1:00 pm or so.  At about 2:00 pm the insurance guy arrived and did his thing.  At 3:00 pm the contractor showed and did his thing.  At 4:00 pm the contractors roof specialist showed and got specific counts of beam and brackets needed and then left.
All the electricity for the house runs from the back of the garage, through the damaged area, through the breezeway, and into the house.  Because of this, we are still waiting for the contractor's electrician to come by and see if they can do the work without cutting power to the house for a couple days or not.  Once he gets his stuff in to the contractor, the contractor and the insurance company will hash out the cost, the insurance company will cut a check for half to get work started (the rest after work is done and invoiced submitted), and repairs will finally start.  Our deductable is $1000.00, which we believe we will have, although timing might be tricky.  We'll see.
So, that's what's been going on in my life recently.
UPDATE: The electricia came by this past Monday (the 18th) while I was at Jury Duty and pointed out to my wife that, in addition to the power for the house running underneath where the tree fell, the gas line ALSO runs there.  We missed that originally - luckily, so did the tree.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Chapter 6: Call to Arms - Draft Complete!

Finally!  Wow, that chapter took forever to write.  Part of the time sink was the restructuring of the chapter and needing to create material from skimpy notes, sometimes as short as a single bullet point for an entire complex scene.  Nevertheless, I have completed the draft of that chapter.  I spent the day Saturday doing the writing to finish the chapter, packing in 3000 words.  Why so much in one day?  We'll I explain that in tomorrow's post.  The short version is that weather knocked out power and blew an oak tree down on my garage.  My joy knew definite bounds.

The notes for Chapter 7 look better organized, but I thought that about the last chapter as well.  I'll discover what land mines I set for myself as I get into the chapter.  There is a lot of war in Chapter 7, which will up the word count a lot and probably require more on-the-spot research.

Current word count: 49, 313 words

Oh, I'm writing this from the past, but when it appears (Monday the 18th), I'll be on my way downtown for jury duty.  Last time I got picked, but the case ended by 5:00 pm, so I didn't have to come back a second day.  Before that it was show up and read.  Go to the voir dire and wait for the jury to be selected from the people ahead of you.  Try not to fall asleep and drool.  Still, beats the alternative. 


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Chapter 6: Call to Arms - Status Update 6

Chapter 6 is speeding up.  I'm writing one of the big "ah-ha!" moments.  After this scene, there are only three more in this chapter and we'll reach Chapter 7, when all hell breaks loose.  Chapter 7 will be long as there is a lot of action in it and the story starts resolving.  Chapter 8 is the aftermath and denouement and that will conclude the first draft of the novel.

I've made it back to sections I outlined early on, which is why things are speeding up.  That plus taking a day off for my birthday let me get some serious writing time in.  Well, that and a trip to the new LEGO store that opened nearby, the Apple store for some new ear buds, and the Godiva shop for a free key lime truffle (membership has its privileges).  By the time this posts, it will be my actual birthday and I'll be doing birthday things, followed by Tea things the next day (supporting the wife's activities - not politics, actual tea).  If I squeeze anymore writing in this weekend, I'll post an additional update Tuesday.  If not, it'll likely be Thursday before the next update.

Current word count: 46,038 words

That's it for now - Later!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Chapter 6: Call to Arms - Status Update 5

So, my back went out two Sundays ago and then I had family in from out of state.  I didn't get any writing while my back was out (hard to write if you have to hold your laptop above you while lying in bed).  I got in some writing time today, so this chapter is progressing again.  I'm past the scenes that were giving me a lot of static and my pace has picked up.  Family is still in town and tomorrow night is our weekly Pathfinder game, so Wednesday will be my next writing night.  Conveniently, this has become my regular writing night, so that will dove-tail nicely.

Current word count: 41,196 words

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Chapter 6: Call to Arms - Status Update 4

Last week I was able to get another day of writing in and pushed into a set of scenes that is difficult to write for two reasons: 1) it wasn't part of the original outline so I have a one sentence bullet point to go off of and 2) people are going to die, several of whom happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  That last point is as obstructive (I may have created a new word there) as the first point.  People dying is something that is happening in the story, but it's not what the story is about and I don't really want to go any deeper than I need to, but it needs to happen.  I think I'm going to wimp out and have the thing happen of stage between a shift in perspectives.  I may be just thinking out loud here at the moment.

This week, writing will be thin as my back went out this past Sunday and I've spent most of the week so far on my back.  By the time this posts, I'll be back at work for the first time this week and hope to make it the whole day without needing too much pain medicine.  I do have to drive 45 minutes there and back, so I'm sticking to the over the counter stuff.  It's been doing the job so far - as long as I work within my current health limits.  My mom is flying in next week for Memorial Day weekend and it has been nearly a year since last time I saw her.  I'd like to be as near to healthy then as I can get.

Current word count: 38,757 words

After the current scene, I have the beginnings of revelations on who is behind the uprisings.  Clues are discovered and links are made.  Chapter 7 will be the turning of the tide and things will start happening quick there.

I currently have one scene in my list of "Scenes I Need to Add After the First Draft Is Done".  I have no doubt there will be more, but I'm pushing on to complete the first draft before going back to insert new material.

That's it for now.  Later!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Chapter 6: Call to Arms - Status Update 3

On my lunch time, so I have to be quick.  Most of the way through a long military scene and my writing is picking up some steam.  This weekend is busy with two games and helping a friend pack his deceased mother's belongings.

Word Count: 37,497 words

How much detail should be in a scene where the nominal protagonists have to attack an enemy supply depot?  Should the killing happen off screen, on screen, or both?

I'm currently favoring off screen as the actual killing is not critical to the story itself.  I find using Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising to be a good touchstone for things like this.  What are your thoughts?

Also, Happy Star Wars Day!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Chapter 6: Call to Arms - Status Update 2

The last two weeks have been busy, but not as busy in a writing sense as I'd like.  I'm still working through the "new" material for Chapter 6 and have just about got the "slogging" part done.  Next are some additional scenes where I know what I want to show, but don't have the details all laid out yet.  After that, I'm back to things I've planned out more fully and then Chapter 7.

Current word count: 35,210 words

That's about it for now.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Chapter 6: Call to Arms - Status Update 1

So, I'm swinging away at the beginning of Chapter 6.  This part is being difficult and I'm really having to work to get it written.  Not because it is difficult, but because it is something I've added as part of the Chapter 5 re-org and isn't as well thought out yet.  Mostly I have a bunch of bullet points of things happening and I've been wrestling with how to present them in ways that enhance the story and aren't boring.  I think I've worked it out, but I'm still slowly hacking through it.

The current word count is only 32, 494 words.

Once I get past this tar pit, the rest of the chapter is better laid out and should flow more quickly.  Well, sort of.  After this part, I get into the weeds of some police investigation needed to convey story and a bit of military action to keep story bits moving along.  Then I can finally get to the significant plot points for this chapter and those are pretty well outlined.

The other thing I'm working with is my gamer ADD.  I've stopped running games so I can concentrate on writing this novel.  I have to be fairly ruthless with adventure ideas and campaign concepts that try to derail my writing.  I'm playing in a (mostly) regular weekly Pathfinder game.  My Hero System group is getting together again to run a Pulp Hero game during the summer.  The GM is a high school English teacher and her work schedule is fairly grueling.  I at least get to leave work at work - she has to bring it home so it can get half of it done.  Papers won't grade themselves while she's teaching classes all day.  Ungrateful papers...

I've also got an interesting idea for automating the project documentation we do at work for every project.  I think I can see how to put a HTML front end on a database so all the necessary paperwork has all the necessary information without hand entering it in to each document.  Still scribbling out design specs in spare moments at work when I need a break from whatever I'm working on.  It's a cool problem to solve and engages many of the same mental muscles as writing does, so I have to keep the two things in separate mental boxes.

The document database is cool and all, but the novel will get published.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Chapter 5: Cincinnatus - Draft Complete

This past weekend, I finally completed the draft of Chapter 5 and I am now in Chapter 6.

Current Word Count: 30,498 words

Saturday my wife had a Women's Day Out and Slumber Party, so I hung out with a friend at his place and played Space Empires 5, an old turn-based Civ-type game.  It is just the right mix of complicated and easy to play that hits a sweet spot for us.  Plus it can be networked so we can play against computer opponents.  Assuming your laptop does not have a corporate firewall blocking all attempts to network.  Like mine did.

So I went and bought a new laptop.

Now this isn't as crazy as it seems.  While I did buy a laptop to play an old computer game, I had been planning on buying one anyway with my tax refund, which had been sitting in my savings account for a couple of weeks.  This was just the spark that pushed me into buying the thing.  Also, it came in under budget, so big win there.

Once we got it back, I had to run updates, load the anti-virus software, run updates, load MS Office, load updates, load the game, and then load the patch.  Somewhere in there we took a break for dinner.  After all THAT was done, we finally got to playing at about 8:00 PM and played until 3:00 AM.  We would have kept on playing (or at least taken a nap and played all the next day), but we had a Pathfinder game we both are players in to make at 11:00 AM on Sunday.  Needless to say, we were both slightly zombified, but caffeine helped tremendously.

Monday I spent loading and copying over a bunch of stuff (mostly my music) from my old laptop to my new one and running a backup.  That took most of the day, mostly due to moving large amounts of data through a USB port.  Plus, the cable TV went out and we had to wait for the repair guy to do his thing.  He got to the house at 3:00 PM and was there until 8:00 PM, replaced everything (even running a new cable) and still no TV.  Data was running fine, just no TV.  We said goodbye and expected to see him again later in the week.

Yesterday was our wedding anniversary and my wife and I spent the day on adventures across the city.  We had a really good time and greatly enjoyed the day out.  When we got home, the cable TV was running again.  Don't know how or why, but I'm not asking either.

That's it for now.  Later!


Monday, March 26, 2012

Chapter 5: Cincinnatus - Update 3

The visit by my in-laws is mostly over and I should be able to get back to a normal writing schedule again.  I like seeing my in-laws as they are great people, but being social cuts into writing time and I've cut out most television, books, and just about everything else to focus on writing.  House chores, grocery shopping, and helping fix dinner (or fixing it when it is my turn) are things that can't be cut, nor are visits from my in-laws.

But, man, do I want to get back to my writing.

Word count is now 28,542 words.

This is 4341 words over last week, so pretty good all things considered.  It represents mostly one full afternoon of writing while my wife and her mom hit the stores and my FIL read, napped, and walked.

I'm at a point where I'd like to take a sabbatical from work for a couple of weeks or three and do my flat out best to finish, but I'm saving my vacation days for an anniversary trip late in the year.  Plus, work would freak if I just said "Hey, I want to take a month off."  I know this, because they are still freaking from when a coworker did just that last year.

That's it for now.  Later!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Chapter 5: Cincinnatus - Update 2

So, as predicted, a funeral and following events cut into my writing time.  Additionally, I did research on army platoon organization (thank you, Scott S. and Mike K.) and then name 36 or the 40 people in the platoon.  I also did crash research into how modern armies are organized and how units are named.  This was not easy and so I winged part of it.  I'll run that past the aforementioned friends with actual service experience later, once I've finished the first draft.

Word count is now 24,199 words.

That said, now that my latest mini-research phase is over, I can buckle down on my writing.

Um, once the in-laws are done visiting over the next 5 days.

Random observation: Writing on laptops at coffee shops is easier on square tables rather than round ones.  Round ones limit mouse space due to the curved edge.

That's it for now.  More in a week or so.  I want to keep a steady posting schedule here as that prods me to write more and slack-off less.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Chapter 5: Cincinnatus - Update

So I turned the wall of my living room into a storyboard again so I could get a better feel for Chapter 5 and how I was going to split it.  This was particularly helpful as it made readily apparent where the gaps in my outline were and I plugged those gaps with new scenes.

As a result, the first half of the split Chapter 5 (now titled Cincinnatus) has twice as many scenes as the original Chapter 5.  The second half (keeping the original title A Call to Arms and which I still need to storyboard out separately) may also be twice as big as the original chapter. 

Sooooo, I've quadrupled the number of scenes for this "chapter". 

I now expect the next chapter to expand similarly, although it will taper off at the end.  This is actually fine, as I was only at 19,000 words at the end of Chapter 4 and I was worried that my total word-count was going to be just under 50,000 words.  I have no idea how big the manuscript will get (it'll be done when the story is done), but I was hoping to at least top the NaNoWriMo target for words.

No additional word-count right now due to storyboarding exercise.  I will get writing done tonight.  Tomorrow I have a funeral to attend, so I don't know how that will work out.  This weekend is booked for other social activities, so it may take a little longer to complete this (the new chapter 5) chapter.

That's it for now.  Later!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Chapter 4: Uprising - Draft Complete

Thanks to encouragement by my wife, I got a lot of writing time this week and finished my draft of Chapter 4.  The word count is now 19,234 words.

Now I'm looking into the cavernous maw of Chapter 5 and have realized something important: my outline for Chapter 5 is woefully inadequate.  In fact, I need to add so much material, I'm going to split it into two chapters so I can show the reader what's happening rather than tell them what's happening in a huge info dump.

I discovered this issue when I looked over my outline and realized I needed to put together a timeline to keep everything straight.  After doing that, I discovered huge gaps in the storyline where I skip of tons of stuff and then summarize it at the end of the chapter.  Very crappy storytelling there.

So, timelines!  I strongly recommend them for authors writing complicated material.

Right now Chapter 5 (the first half of the original Chapter 5) is titled Mars Attacks! for reasons that are evident in the story.  It's a cheesy name that right now is just a place holder until I can work out something better, but it amuses me, which is very important when mid-way through a story.

The Aldelle Group is still playing, averaging one game a week.  Due to scheduling issues, the actual day we play is not always consistent, but we are still playing.

Writing time this week may be sparse as I will be attending a funeral, so Chapter 5 may take a bit longer to finish as a result.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Chapter 3: A Trigger Is Pulled - Draft Complete

This weekend I completed the first draft of Chapter 3 of the sci-fi novel I'm writing.  Word count for the entire story is now at 13,705 words.

I had to do some research on the CDC for this chapter to get some verisimilitude.  I exchanged an e-mail with a woman in their Media News department and asked some detailed questions, so I'm probably on a watch list somewhere now.  They take a while to answer e-mails (like, a week).  I still haven't gotten answers to my questions, so I just bulled past that point and will go back and tweak it in the edit.

The next chapter will be about the same in length, at least according to my outline.  That said, I discovered as I was writing that I needed to add more material to Chapter 3 to provide some bridging material and to up the sense of urgency.  Looking at the material in in my notes for Chapter 4, I can already see that I'm going to have to break apart some of the scenes into separate pieces and re-write parts of the outline for a better story, rather than a series of information dumps.

This writing stuff takes time to do.  It'd be much easier if I didn't have to keep going to work instead of staying home and writing.  Pesky work.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Chapter 2: Pieces in Motion - Draft Complete

This weekend I finished the draft of Chapter 2 of my sci-fi novel.  Right now I'm looking at 7 chapters total, with each chapter having multiple scenes.  I will stick with that through the first draft, but may make each scene a chapter and have tens of chapters.  It depends on what chapters 4-6 end up looking like - I expect them to be rather large.

The working title of the novel contains a big plot point, which is why I've not shared it beyond my writing committee.  I'm torn between making it a secret and going with a more indirect title or just putting it out there and telegraphing a story element to the readers.  Still dithering on this right now and really have no plan on making a decision until the draft is finished.

That's it for right now.  Another update when the draft for Chapter 3: A Trigger Is Pulled is finished.  Later!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Chapter 1 - Draft Complete

I've completed my draft of Chapter 1 of my novel and started work on Chapter 2.  As a result, all of my other writing has come to a standstill.  I'm doing this on purpose so I can stay focused on the story and get the whole thing written.  The last novel I started I got pretty far into, but really didn't know where it was going and got into a point where I didn't know where to go next.  It is titled "Getting Educated" and can be found on The Podge Cast Forums, here.

This time, I did a storyboard using my living room wall and a bunch of sticky notes of different colors.  I hashed it out with my focus committee (my wife and a friend familiar with the roots of the story) and worked out a better flow.  Simply explaining it to them helped focus the story for me and make it more concrete in my head.  I've then did a much more detailed story board of the first major arc and converted that into bullet pointed lists for each scene or group of scenes and ran it by my focus committee.  This helped point out some timing issues in the story and some gaps in the story.  I've moved the scenes that needed moving and added those missing.  Now I'm convert all those notes into the text of the novel.

I'm torn between sharing the material as it gets finished and wanting to wait until the entire draft is done and sharing the bits as I edit them.  I'll probably go with sharing the edited version, so you'll have to wait a while.  I want to have the first draft done by the end of March, which currently seems do-able with the restricted writing time I have now, so the wait won't be for ever, it'll just seem like it.

I'll post here as I get chapters done to keep folks up to date.


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Freedonia Falls

[This is the beginning of what I'm working on right now.  Would you read more?]
Sol Asteroid Belt, 2235 CE

“Captain, I’ve got engine traces on my screen.  Military ships, based on their velocity.”  The rest of the bridge crew sat upright at this announcement.

Captain Darnell Witfield, a fit black man in his late forties, stepped over behind his sensor officer’s station to see her screens.  “Where are they, what’s their heading, and can they see us?”  Delivering supplies to the asteroid colony wasn’t exactly illegal (yet), but military ships arriving in response to the colony declaring it was not part of the United Government of Earth was not a good sign.  Better to play it safe.

“They’re on the system plane, at 90° from our current vector and heading to Freedonia,” Devorah McCandlish, a woman in her late thirties with curly blonde hair, responded.  “With our latest company sensors we have a roughly 25% advantage in range over them, so I don’t believe they see us yet, but at their current velocity…”  She pressed a few keys and the display changed to show the approaching ships estimated sensor coverage.

“I see it.  They’ll get a glimpse of us soon.”  The captain returned to his own station and spoke to the helm officer, Jason Brownlee, a black man also in his late thirties.  “Mister Brownlee, power down our engines completely.”  The captain then opened the intra-ship channel on his comm unit and stated, “Attention all crew, switch to quiet running.  Repeat: switch to quiet running,” and then shut off his comm unit.  “Comm, send a focused message to Freedonia and warn them they’re about to have UGE visitors.  Then keep our ears open.” 

Most of the crew was familiar with this drill and quickly responded as the background hum from the ships engines quickly died out.  Jo Wagner, the communications officer, a pale woman with long brown hair in her late twenties, was relatively new to the crew of the Rhinesburg and after sending the message to the asteroid colony, she turned and asked the captain, “Why are we hiding from UGE ships?  If they catch us here, won’t they just fine the company?”

“The UGE military has a…history…of over responding,” Captain Witfield replied, biting on a thumbnail.  “This isn’t likely to end well if the UGE sent a military taskforce in response to Freedonia’s declaration of independence.  If Freedonia’s actions have been declared illegal or even treasonous, then any ship caught having just delivered supplies to the colony would be just as guilty and share in the penalty.”

“Which would be…” Jo asked.

“Well, I’m certain their letters of condolences to our next of kin would be very convincing.”

“Ah,” was Jo’s only reply before returning to her console.

“UGE ships are arriving at the colony now,” Devorah interjected.

“I’m getting transmissions on the public frequencies,” Jo added.

“Put them on the main screen and display throughout the ship,” Captain Witfield ordered.

The main viewscreen switched from an exterior view to showing a man in a UGE Navy uniform with a touch of grey in his otherwise black hair.  When he spoke, he had a British accent of some sort, Captain Witfield could not pinpoint from where.  “I am Captain Evan Claibourne of the UGE Fleet.  Per the UGE Charter, no independent governments are allowed.  As you are not a registered Orbital Corporation, you are in violation of UGE law and found to be in open revolt.  As a representative of the UGE, I have been tasked to end this revolt expediently.  Weapon’s Officer: fire.”  The transmission then abruptly ended.

“McCandlish, show me what they’re doing,” Captain Witfield snapped at the sensors officer and the main viewer switched to a display of the UGE ships and the colony.  The paniced response from someone in the colony could be heard over the public channel.

Captain Witfield was able to identify the three UGE ships as a Hound-class destroyer and two Hammer-class corvettes.  The destroyer was just firing its five missile launchers at the colony.  The missiles raced to the asteroid and detonated their nuclear warheads.  The few surface structures on the asteroid were scoured away and the surface of the asteroid fractured.  There was a brief inferno inside the passages and chambers of the colony as the heat from the five nuclear warheads ignited and consumed the air in the colony.  All transmissions from the colony ceased.  The bridge of the Rhinesburg was just as silent.

As the fury of the blasts died down, the UGE ships turned and headed away from the now lifeless asteroid, returning the way they came.

“McCandlish, will any of the debris hit us?” Captain Witfield asked quietly.  When he got no response he repeated himself loudly, “McCandlish!  Will any of the debris hit us?”

This snapped the sensors officer out of it and she looked down at her screens.  “No, sir.  Not for a couple of hours.  We are nearly ten light-minutes away.”

“Good,” Captain Witfield replied.  “Brownlee, once we are out of the taskforce’s sensor range, plot an elliptical course to Mars and then make best speed.  I do NOT want want to run across that taskforce on our way to Mars.”  Captain Witfield got up from his chair and headed towards the exit from the bridge.  “Brownlee, you’re in charge until I return.  I’m going to my cabin to throw up.”

Copyright 2012 by Patrick Walsh
All rights reserved.

Monday, January 23, 2012

An Unusual Beginning to the Year

So, normally (as in for the last 10 years or so), the beginning of the year is a slow time for me at the DayJob and I can easily spend lunch time writing either blog posts or game stuff.

This year...not so much.

I've been solidly busy with a large document where the subject matter expert is a PRIME example of why engineers need technical writers.  If you cannot get your thoughts across in writing and explain your results, that year long study you just did is actually a waste of time.  So I'm at 200+ pages of document so far and I think I have another 200-300 pages to go to get the draft done so his boss can review it and verify he did what was asked.  Of, and the draft is due Feb. 10.  That's do-able for me, but not much time for slacking.

Additionally, the company I work for has recalled all company laptops for a security upgrade they are pushing out through the corporate network.  This will take 3-5 days as the push outs are random to keep the network from getting overloaded, with no way for remote workers to trigger it so we could get in and out in a timely fashion as we are under 10% of the workforce.

Long story short (too late!), I don't have my regular laptop and my back up is about 5 years old and has a bum power cord that keeps the batter from charging, meaning I have to always keep it plugged in when I'm using it.  Not very conducive to going out to some place and writing for an hour or two when most places don't have public plugs.

OK, now I'm just whining a bit.  I'll stop.

In other news, I've got a story for a sci-fi book I want to write and most of my writing time I have is now going to that.  I've been story-boarding and have the first arc outlined.  I'm fleshing out the major points right now (still in story-board format).  When I have some material for folks to look at, I'll post a notice here and request solicitations for reading and feedback.  That won't be for a couple of months as my writing time is somewhat crimped right now.  I'll keep you updated.

Oh, and I now have 6 sessions of Aldelle Group notes needing transliteration into readable format (with another one happening by the time you read this).  Sigh.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

2012 Board Game Review – Part 3

This is a continuation of my game reviews of games played at Lone Star Gaming Fest 2011. In Part 1 I reviewed Hamsterrolle (a.k.a. Hamster Wheel), Inca Empire, Defenders of the Realm, and Martian Dice (along with Zombie Dice). In Part 2 I reviewed Endeavor, Shogun, Age of Steam, Fortune & Glory, and Factory Fun.

Mondo (1-4 players)
Mondo is an odd little game where the players are racing each other and a clock to build a world for point. Each player has a world board, which is a small grid of empty spaces. One side has water borders, the other’s edge is quartered with each quarter having one of the four environment types: water, desert, plains, forest/jungle. When the timer starts (7 minutes for a 3 player game), the players draw from a common pool of tiles to fill out their world board. The tiles have one to three of the environments on them and you use the multi-environment tiles to form the borders of each biome, which is important as you lose points for mismatches and you can’t move the tiles once they are on your world board (honor system rules used here). There are tiles with bonus points for first to stop building (completed world or not) and you have to grab those. Once you take one of those, you may no longer add tiles to your world, even if you finally spot that perfect piece that will complete your world. Oh, and the pieces are double sided, so the cool piece you want that perfectly borders your desert and ocean biomes? Another player may have played that tile for the flip side, a blank ocean square. Tough luck.

Once time runs out or all the players are done building, scoring happens. Points are scored for animals on tiles, completed biomes (bordered all the way around like a city in Carcasonne), and order you finished. Points are lost for active volcanoes (and all the best pieces seem to have active volcanoes), tile mismatches, and empty spaces. Then you clear the boards and play two more rounds, highest score at the end of the three rounds wins.

I liked this very much and will likely buy a copy sometime this year. The down side is my wife doesn’t enjoy this style of game, wanting more time to contemplate her selections and not having to compete with the other players for tiles, so I won’t get to play it at home a lot without having enough people over to run two games at once so she can play in the other game. Luckily, this happens about once a month when she hosts a tea, so the game is viable for me. In college, this game would have been played often.

King of Tokyo (2-6 players)
In King of Tokyo you play one of six giant monsters fighting each other to be King of Tokyo. The game has stand-ups for each of the monsters, which include a giant ape (The King), a giant robot controlled by a rabbit (Death Bunny), a Godzilla knock off, a Cthulhu knock off, and two others I can’t remember off the top of my head. The board has three locations: the suburbs (where all the monsters start), Tokyo (big enough for one monster stand up only), and Tokyo Bay (equivalent to Tokyo, but only used in 5 and 6 player games). There are 8 dice, but normally you only use 6 of them. Each die has a clawed hand, a heart, a lightning bolt, and the numbers 1, 2, and 3 on them. You get three rolls, keeping what you want each time and rerolling the rest. After your third roll (or if you stop earlier) you apply the icons you have. The numbers 1, 2, and 3 score points if you have a three-of-a-kind and score the number shown, so three 3s scores three points. Each extra of the same number scores a single point more, so five 2s scores (2+1+1=4) points. Hearts heal damage you’ve taken, unless you are in Tokyo. Claws do damage to the monster in Tokyo if you are in the suburbs or ALL the monsters in the suburbs if you are in Tokyo. If you are in Tokyo and get hit, you can yield Tokyo to the attacker (remember you cannot heal while in Tokyo, only take an do damage). Lightning bolts score power cubes, which can be used to buy power-up cards from a deck, the top three cards of which are face up beside the board (so you have a selection to purchase from and know how many cubes you need). In addition to scoring points from the dice, you score one point when you enter Tokyo and TWO points if you start your turn there. First person to 20 points or last monster standing wins the game.

This is on my must purchase list. I had so much fun playing it the first time (even though I died early) I immediately played three more times. Strategizing which dice to keep and which to reroll provides just the right amount of strategy for a game like this. My favorite card was “Throw a tanker”, which gave me two victory points whenever I did three or more damage on my turn, simulating my monster throwing an oil tanker on the other monster(s). Least favorite: poison spit – it was too easy for monsters to get rid of the poison tokens, so I never did more than a single point of extra damage.

Cargo Noir (2-5 players)
In Cargo Noir you are playing a pulp era criminal group fighting for control of ports so you can smuggle goods to buy things: extra freighters, syndicates, extra warehouses, or things for sheer victory points like dive bars, the film industry, or even a principality of your own. “Combat” is done by committing resources in the form of one of you freighters and a stack of gold coins. Control of the port goes to the highest bidder after the other players either don’t send anyone there or withdraw their bid if they did send a freighter there. The port gives you one to four cargo tiles (number is fixed and based on the port and randomly stocked from a bag of tiles), which you either store in your warehouse or turn in sets to buy the cards showing the things mentioned above. At the start your warehouse only holds six cargos and you only have three freighters, so an expansion plan is necessary to get the cargos to pay for the more expensive goods (victory point cards) and the means to expand. Additionally, you can send freighters to either the Black Market or casino in Macao to swap cargo tiles/draw a new one from the bag (Black Market) or make 2 coins (Casino), which is the only way to get the coins to bid for control of the ports to get the cargos to buy the victory points.

There’s a lot going on in this game and I’m skipping a few bits to simplify this, but it is a very fun game. Since the convention I have purchased my own copy of the game and plan on playing it at the tea this weekend. If you get a chance, play this game – you’ll probably want to get your own copy shortly after that.

One note, you cannot return to a port you’ve abandoned in the same turn and syndicates are single payouts, not each time you abandon a port. We missed this one game and it warped game play to an unfun spot. Afterwards we re-read the rules and found our mistake.

Olympos (3-5 players)
In Olympos you are moving your tribe (in the form of counters) across Greece, parts of Turkey, and three isles of Atlantis (which appear on the board south of Greece, but not in the real world). The turn structure is fairly unique: the outer edge of the board is a time track and you move your marker based on the cost of the action you performed. When you finish, whoever’s counter is further back goes next. It often happens that one player gets to take a few small turns in a row if the other players make expensive actions on their turn. Placed on spots around the time track are Olympos cards that represent the gods getting involved and either help or hinder a player based on the god and who has the most or least Zeus tokens.

On your turn you can do an explore action or a discovery action. The explore action involves moving one piece on the board and involves combat if you land in a territory previously controlled by another player. You always win, but how many actions it takes depends upon your combat “technology” (for lack of a better term). Discovery actions involve allocating resources you have under your control to make tech discoveries or build wonders. Examples include horse riding (which makes movement on land dirt cheap in actions), medicine (which makes it cheaper to bring new tokens into play), and things that have swords on them (representing fighting technology – more swords is better). You have two pools of tokens: personal and general. General is used on the tech chart to grant a bonus of some sort for discovering a tech (examples include tokens for your personal pool, one use resources, or hour glass tokens that reduce the cost of your next action). The personal pool is all of the tokens you have to place on the board. As you need to leave a token on a territory to claim its resource (to buy discoveries), you always need more, especially if you are feeling ambitious. Points are scored once all the players pass the last Olympos card, which marks the point where each player gets one last turn. While this could mean that several players have to wait while the other player(s) finish, in practice the players tend to hit this point at about the same time.

This is described as a “gamers game” and I agreed. Sending a piece across the board may look tempting, but it takes a lot of actions to do, meaning it will be a while until your next turn and you may get bored waiting. I plan on buying this game this year. It probably ranks above Mondo and Age of Steam, but I don’t NEED it right now.

That’s it for this year. I’ll post reviews if I play anything new this year before the next Lone Star Gaming Fest. In the meantime, I’ll be posting Aldelle Group adventure journals until I catch up – I’m five sessions behind now as it is and Things Have HappenedTM.