Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Possession

How do you think being possessed would feel? This is a topic of many horror or thriller films/books/TV shows. I recently watched Paranormal Survivor on Netflix and some of the stories there are harrowing. This is also a theme of the novella The Cursed Armor that I will be publishing soon. These kind of slow burn psychological thrillers are some of my favorite kind to write. They don't always involve possession, but let's pretend the dog ate the other stories.

Imagine a world where you are slowly being affected by another presence or being. They may or may not be communicating with you. They might not even speak the same language as you. It starts with a tickle or an object moving on its own. Something showing up later several feet from where you left it. A cabinet left open that you don't remember opening. Do you ignore the strange things going on?

This is something I didn't understand with the people who were in the show Paranormal Survivor. Many of them were warned or given signs of what was going on before it escalated. Some of them were harassed for months and months before it got to the point where they could no longer take it anymore. Why would these people choose to live with this torment? Spirits that taunt and attack you. Spirits that whisper things into your ears. How can you choose to ignore it?

Imagine blacking out then finding yourself in a different setting, moving from one room to another without thinking about it. Maybe you have done things you can't remember within that period of time you were blacked out. Imagine watching yourself take actions that you don't will your body to do. It is like you are a passenger within your own body while someone or thing is at the controls.

These are just a few of the things I think about when trying to write a character that is going through these types of experiences. What could cause them to allow such a thing to happen? Do they have a choice in the matter? How can they fight back?

If you have had any strange or paranormal experiences then I would love to hear about them. Please share them with me! Don't make me send Casper to haunt you!

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Writing Progress Updates

The Cursed Armor
Just received cover art!!! Will be making announcements next week.

Virtual Wars: Running
First Draft: 47,508 word

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Traversing Hell

What would it be like to walk across Hell? The actual burning inferno of a place that many have had nightmares about. The Bible gives us a depiction of Hell as a lake of fire that provides a place of constant torment. There are many other literary depictions of Hell, but none more famous than the portion of The Divine Comedy known as Dante's Inferno.

Dante's Inferno give us the most comprehensive view of Hell that has shaped how people have viewed it for centuries. The story follows Dante as he is guided through Hell by the Roman poet Virgil. It describes 9 circles of Hell in detail. Each circle is made for a specific type of sin with its own special punishment.

What kind of creatures would you find in Hell? There are many creatures that you might expect like demons, witches, warlocks,  and so on. In Dante's version he includes many of the mythical creatures you might see in fantasy novels like centaurs, the minotaur, cyclops, griffins, and others. Being in Hell these encounters could be terrifying. The creatures involved cannot have good intentions toward anyone they encounter.

These are the kinds of questions I ask to help build a story. The story of The Cursed Armor (formerly known as Season 1 of The Ghost) began with the question of "How could my character escape Hell?" I decided to lean on the most detailed version of Hell as inspiration for the version that would be used in the story. I had to rewind that a bit as I realized this journey through Hell was part of the middle and the ending, but the beginning had to be how the main character got in this predicament in the first place.

In the coming weeks I will delve further into the other aspects of the story that I found interesting. The creatures, the culture and rules of the Thieves Guild, the structure of Hell, and so on.

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Writing Progress Updates

Virtual Wars: Running
First Draft: 46,107 words

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Lost in the Shuffle

Art can be beautiful, amazing, terrifying, emotional, and a great many other things. What is most important is that art speaks to you, that it provokes an emotion or makes you think. So often we discount the whole because part of it is problematic. When you think about life in general we know that things are not always fair and just. By condemning it all and ignoring the rest we deny ourselves the parts that are enjoyable.

We all live within a shade of grey. No one is perfect no matter how much we may try. Expecting perfection in anything is a fool's pursuit. If you do this then you will constantly be disappointed in everything.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't point out things that are problematic and talk about why these things are harmful. I'm saying that we should also celebrate the things that are fantastic within the same scope and offer ways to improve. We can simultaneously talk about the things we love and hate about every piece of art we come into contact with.

The inspiration for this post is the film Birth of the Dragon. There is so much within this film to hate and love at the same time. The main message that I got out of this movie is fantastic and hypocritical at the same time. The fictional interpretations are laughably inaccurate and potentially offensive. The fight scenes are well choreographed and some of the best I have seen in a film so far this year.

One of the messages from the film that I enjoyed were that even a stubborn and ignorant person can be taught a lesson that may change the direction of their life. It is a long and difficult road to teach that lesson, but it can be done. There is a lot of hope that can be taken from that message especially in these times where many seem to celebrate ignorance.

The other message is that we should all think about how our lives touch and impact the life of everyone else. Every action we take should be moving toward making the world a better place for everyone. This message calls to me. I hope that I have a positive and inspirational impact on those around me. The makers of the film however did not take this lesson to heart. The fictional glue that they used to compose this story should have been more thoroughly thought out. If they had then they wouldn't have tried to whitewash the story by making the main character a white man enamored with an indentured Chinese woman. It doesn't make sense within the scope of the film to make him the main character in the first place. He ends up sharing equal time with the characters of Bruce Lee and Wong Jack Man yet he is only used as a vehicle to push the story of the two real main characters.

The message is still valid and resonates deeply for me, but I also recognize the hypocrisy of the film itself that preaches one thing while doing something else. I will keep the message with me while rejecting the method that is used to project it.

This also leads me to the film Detroit which many user reviews blasted as being leftist political hype without seeing the film. To all of you who avoided the film, you missed out on a great film. For the most part the film is historically accurate based on first hand accounts of people who were there. If you think it is just fiction then I would invite you to use google to look up which parts are fictionalized.

I also encourage you all to experience art fully even if it is problematic for you. Embrace the parts you enjoy and reject the parts that are harmful. Seriously talk about what is problematic and why it is harmful while also celebrating anything positive you can pull from it as well. The more we can talk about things that are harmful and problematic the more awareness we can spread to others who don't see or understand it. Art, like the rest of us, lives in a grey area.

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Writing Progress Updates

Virtual Wars: Running
First Draft: 45,601 words

Monday, August 21, 2017

Fantasy Football Strategy

I just completed my first fantasy football draft and wanted to talk about it a bit. I haven't done nearly as much research as I usually do because there are so many good resources available now. In previous years I would obsessively watch every preseason game and scour all the information and final stats that I could find. Last year was the first year that I hadn't won a fantasy football league in decades, but it was also the first time in decades where I had only played in one league. I had the first pick in that draft, and against all of the advice available I picked David Johnson. This year picking him first overall doesn't seem as crazy. So let's talk about some basics of fantasy football draft strategy. I think these tips are helpful especially if you don't have one of the first two picks.

Want List

Fist thing I do is to make a want list of players that I feel have a lot of upside in the upcoming season. I also make a list of players I do not want. The upside players are ones that I feel could have a breakout year or could outperform projections. These are mostly late round fliers that could turn into next year's solid mid-round picks. The do not want list are players that I feel will underachieve based on the projections made. These are players I avoid unless the value becomes too good to pass up. I will also avoid players if I feel like they could miss more than 4 games. For these players I come up with a backup plan in case I end up drafting them anyway. These are the types of picks that can make or break your season. The experts aren't always right. Their projections give you a baseline to work with of what players might accomplish in the upcoming season.

Seeing the preseason roles of players helps to determine how much of an impact these players may have in the upcoming season. The first half of the 3rd preseason game is the most important one to watch for every team. This is usually the dress rehearsal for the first week of the season. I also pay attention to the depth charts for teams. Sometimes the experts will rank a backup higher than a starter for another team, or you may not know who will win the position battle by the time the draft begins. I don't like picking backups unless I want to handcuff a player that I already have as insurance.

Points System

This is perhaps the most important thing to look at before the draft begins. This can affect your whole draft strategy. If the league uses standard PPR or standard scoring then you can use the standard draft strategy. In the draft that I just completed the scoring system was skewed toward Quarterbacks and Receivers. This changes your whole draft strategy. Dual threat Running Backs are always going to be the most valuable, but with this scoring system 3rd down or passing down backs could have just as much value as rushing down backs. The system for this league gives half a point per completion and 1 point for every 20 yards passing. This makes Quarterbacks insanely high point players.

Determine Value

By value I mean the relative value one position has over the other players at that position. This will help determine how important it is to pick certain players based on their average draft position. This is why the first 2 picks this year have such a large advantage coming into this season. Bell and Johnson, the top 2 running backs, are projected to get about 100 more fantasy points than the number 3 running back in standard PPR. By contrast the top WR is projected to get around 15-20 more points in standard PPR, and then there are 8 more WRs that are projected to be within 15 points of each other. The top 3 QBs are within 10 points of each other, and 20 points ahead of the next 9 who are within about 20 points of each other. In the league I just drafted for the QB evaluations were different. The 3rd ranked QB was projected to get the most points in this system, and the top 3 QBs were projected to be 50 points ahead of the next one. That made me decide to pick a QB much earlier than I would have done otherwise. This is the most important factor in deciding your early draft strategy when everyone is picking players that they know.

Mock Drafts


Mock drafts are your friend when it comes to putting together a draft strategy. It lets you know which players are being reached for, and which players are falling down the draft boards. If there are players you absolutely have to draft then you can figure out where you can draft them to get the best value. This year in mock drafts I am seeing Christian Mccaffrey trending way up draft boards. Right now you would have to use a 2nd or 3rd round pick to get him. I think he is going to be a solid football player, but I'm not ready to say he is worth a 2nd or 3rd round pick. I ended up picking up Frank Gore because he dropped to the 10th round which is great value for a consistent 1,000 yard rusher even if father time may finally catch up to him this year. I was also in desperate need of a RB at that point because I was ultra stacked at WR and QB which are the two most valuable positions in this league.

My Draft

Please keep in mind that this league is heavily weighted toward pass catchers and even more heavily weighted toward Quarterbacks. We also had 7 bench spots in a 12 team league. The starter spots for this league are QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, Flex, TE, D/ST, and K.
  • QB - Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford
  • RB - Dalvin Cook, Frank Gore, Chris Thompson, Shane Vereen, and Jerick Mckinnon
  • WR - Jordy Nelson, Demaryius Thomas, Pierre Garcon, Kenny Britt, Torrey Smith, and Marquise Goodwin
  • TE - Greg Olsen
  • D/ST - Cardinals
  • K - Chris Boswell

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Writing Progress Updates


The Ghost Novella
Waiting on Cover Art

Virtual Wars: Running
First Draft: 45,136 words

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Book Review: Dead Things by Stephen Blackmoore

Dead Things (Eric Carter #1)Dead Things by Stephen Blackmoore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Eric Carter has been exiled from his hometown by a local gangster. He has since become a badass necromancer of some renown. Unfortunately his sister has passed away and it looks like murder, and it may be of the supernatural kind. Now he has to use all of his skills to find out what happened, and get revenge.

I found this as an audio book in a gas station while on a long road trip. The tale was a fun adventure through the world of the supernatural. The characters are all rich with their own wants, needs, and histories. The story itself is a bit predictable, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable. This is more of a character driven novel and the characters are vibrant and interesting.

In the end Dead Things is an entertaining journey through a new paranormal world. I would recommend this to fans of the Supernatural TV show or those who enjoy the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris.

View all my reviews

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Writing Progress Updates


The Ghost Novella
Waiting on Cover Art

Virtual Wars: Running
First Draft: 45,136 words