Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Order out of Chaos

This year also marks the final battle against Chaos in my basement.  After living here five years and making only small progress on the remaining basement areas to be cleaned up and organized, the time has come to finish the job.

That and a damned fool cat has made a mess of my tool area by knocking stuff down off the shelves.  On the plus side, I've gotten words in every day for the last few days (save this past weekend, in which we went to Vancouver for my daughter's synchronized swim meet).  On the down side, I just don't feel like wrestling the last bunch of boxes into some semblance of order.

That said, I will also be able to get my comic books sorted out and on some shelves (which will need to be built), so in the long run it will be good.

Maybe some pictures to follow.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Sleepy Hollow

Having seen the first episode of this new series, I was reasonably impressed.  It takes an old legend and puts a new spin on it.  However, the strength of the pilot was less in its concept (though well done), but in how they executed it.

* Possible spoilers ahead *  (I’ll try not to, but you’ve been warned)

The show itself is about the return of the Headless Horseman, though in truth he’s a warrior from the American war of independence (the British side).  The Horseman is slain in combat by Ichabod Crane, who also succumbs to his wounds. 

Flash forward several hundred years or so and Crane wakes up in a cave, supposedly preserved and confused.  The Horseman is also ‘awake’ and starts taking heads.  Enter the police, and one Lt. Abbie Mills (well played by Nicole Beharie).  Conflict ensues, and we are introduced to a demonic plot and at least two covens of spellcasters.  I’ll leave it at that for the plot, as you’re better off watching it for yourselves.

What the story does do very well, is avoid excess complexity.  Rather than infodumping the viewer with massive amounts of backstory, the show starts with the battle where the Horseman and Crane are wounded, then jumps forward to Crane waking up in the cave.  There’s enough to get a sense of what’s going on, but hey, there’s more story to tell so let’s get moving. 

As the story continues, each character is introduced with enough information to give them a place and role in the story, and they develop with the story.  Information is given in the right amount at the right time to both keep the story moving and give the view the information needed to stay involved.  I thought the handling of pacing was well done.

The conflict set up in the show was also clear, simple, and uncomplicated.  There's a situation, a bad guy, and the good guys, and they go after the bad guy because that's what you do.  This isn’t to say it wasn’t interesting.  Far from it.  However, rather than some convoluted plot that will stretch over three episodes, it set up a villain, the plot behind the villain, and allowed the characters to pursue the conflict to the conclusion, and wrapped up the story within the eipsode.  At the end, they introduced more plot hooks and subplots, including some cool surprises, that clearly will work to sustain the overall story arc for a few (hopefully) more seasons.

Finally, what impressed me was the way the characters adapted to the really weird stuff happening in the episode.  Granted, many wouldn’t believe the stories of the Horseman (you know, the whole headless part), as well as Crane’s time-suspending stasis, when the evidence comes in (and the Horseman is standing right there), the characters adapt and work with what’s in front of them.  This includes the police chief and an assortment of other characters.  A few jokes are made (Crane: “you’ve been emancipated then?”) and that’s it.  On with the story, because there’s now a headless whackjob out there murdering people, so we have stuff to do.  They ran the balance between disbelief and practicality, which was refreshing.  The writers stuck with the story, rather than get caught up in what would have been a tiresome gag.

Overall, a thumbs up for the first episode.  Episode 2 is on the PVR and ready for tonight’s viewing and I’m looking forward to where this show goes.  I see potential for some good things here.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day

Hope ye've all been speaking as the sons of Davey Jones today.  Yarr, but if ye haven't, a taste 'o the last is all ye deserve!  Harrrr!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Northern Coastline

Here’s a photo I took from the bridge wing of HMCS Edmonton when I was on my MARS IV sea phase.  I can’t remember exactly where we were when I took this, but it was in the general area of the Queen Charlotte Islands and the ‘panhandle’ of Alaska where it comes down the BC coast.  Regardless, I snapped it with my point-and-shoot Nikon L18 camera, and it came out beautifully.

Photo: (c) Rowan Wilson

Just wanted to share that with everyone.  Maybe I’ll dig through the archives a bit more for some more interesting photos from my travels.

I do love going to sea.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Back from vacation

Whew.  Back from a trip back east to visit my parents.  The timing came up last minute, so we jumped on it, which is why posts have been sparse for the last two weeks.  The joys of mobilizing when your boss will be away and you have to get leave passes signed in a day, then make flights, then plan cat care, etc.

Anyway, much fun was had by all, especially the kids who haven't seen my parents' place in Quebec yet.  It's a house on the lake in the near north, and it's beautiful.  I'll get some pics up later.

Despite taking my computer, I must admit I did no writing.  I haven't seen my parents together in about five years.  While I love the west coast, it is far from them.  They've been out individually since then, once to look after the kids while we were in England, and my dad got to go on a tiger cruise aboard ship, but it was nice to have my side of the family all together.

Now it's back to the grindstone, both at the day job and writing.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ass in Chair

Today’s post is about ass in chair time.  That and my masterful ability to procrastinate or otherwise put off the work.  If there’s anyone able to out-procrastinate me, they clearly haven’t gotten around to it yet.  I’m terrible for it.  I’ll grant myself some things.  Such as January, February and March of this year.  It was all about passing my phase VI board.  Gotta eat you know, and the day job keeps that happening. 

Elsewise, I can be severely undisciplined.  Either distracted by daily stuff, family events or other hobbies.  It’s not that I don’t want to, but some days I just get sandbagged.  Now that I have a lower tempo job, I’ve actually been back at the writing, and it feels good.

In the same vein as passing my board, the only secret I can see is getting my ass in my chair, and writing more and more words until the project is done.

Thus, I am re-committing to push through this book until it’s done, and do so in this year.  So far, I’ve actually kept my promise to myself.  

Sunday, July 21, 2013

What has it got in it’s Pocketses?

Here’s a super-cool pocketwatch I bought from the  Steampunk Emporium.

Here's the face open (it has a glass cover):

And the back side, where you can see the various gears and bits:

It’s a wind-up one too.  No batteries.  Keeps excellent time too.  I bought it to go with my Navy Mess Kit (think formal) and it paid off in spades. 

To make the shipping worthwhile, I also bought some steampunk-ish goggles, and replacement lenses in blue (photos later).  This is for the Cygnaran look, and maybe to develop a new costume to go to cons in.  We’ll see.  For now, when I play Warmachine, I have the legit Cygnar look.  Now I just need a set of warcaster armour.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

Musical Accompaniment

I work with music.  Always.  Hell, whenever I’m home I’d have the CD player going with something.  Can’t stand radio, it has to be something I want.  As I draft this, I've got some Roxette playing in the background. The Tourism CD, I believe.

Reading: I pick something that will thematically go with the novel I’m reading.  Other things (game books, non-fiction) it can vary, depending on what I'm in the mood for.

Gaming: We use something appropriate for the game (i.e. fantasy for Pathfinder, Star Wars for Star Wars, etc), kept at a decent volume for playing.  In the past we’ve had ‘dire situation’ tapes made up for action scenes.

Wargaming: Same thing, usually more militaristic or modern soundtracks.

Painting: Depends on the mood.  Right now I have 25 CDs in on random, chosen from across my collection.

Housework: Crank the volume and the adrenalin.

Pretty much everything I do, I’d do it to music.  As I said, radio tends to have too much stuff I don’t care about, or they just talk inanely about something I don’t care about.  I’ll pick a CD to match a mood, or to accompany what I’m reading.  If it weren’t for the fact I’m up and out before my wife wakes up, I’d have the music on all morning too.

The same applies when I’m writing.  I know some authors have playlists (Carrie Vaughn puts it in the front pages of each of her Kitty novels) that are a bit more specific.  I made a playlist for Queen’s Legacy that, rather than the lyrics, works to evoke the mood I want to maintain for the main character.  In this case, there’s a lot of Rage Against the Machine, KMFDM, Evanescence and Nine Inch Nails.  My protagonist is angry, and she isn’t afraid to show it.  The whole playlist isn’t like that, but there’s a good dose of ass-kicking music. 

It also certainly helps that it’s a high-energy playlist that keeps the energy in my fingers as well.  I’ve avoided using any kind of franchise soundtrack, as they tend to evoke more the worlds they were written for, as opposed to my own feeling.  The exception would be the Battlestar Galactica soundtracks by Bear McCreary.  They have just the right sense of angst.

It also helps to have a fair selection of music.  I noticed last time I was at the music store I had each of a Saliva, Yanni and Sarah McLachlan album in my hands.  I am not limited to a single genre, artist or style.  And yes, I still buy CDs.  For film/TV scores in particular, I like having the full disc worth.  I could download, and eventually I’m sure I will, but for now I like having a collection of one artist’s songs on one item.  That and maybe I’m just old fashioned enough to hold to the concept of an ‘album.’  I rip them onto my device for portability anyway. 

Back to the topic at hand.  I’ve found that having music playing while working makes the work easier, smoother, and creates a better environment.  For me at least.  I know others who need total silence, but I find that a bit weird.  As they say, one’s mileage may vary.

Right now, it’s back to the mix of 25 CDs set on random while I do some squad organization and upkeep on my Eldar and Cygnar armies.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

3D is Way Overrated

The last few movies I’ve seen have been 2D, and that is by choice.

Yep, regular old flatpic films.  Why? 

Not because of price.  Well, maybe a little.  It is a bit more expensive to see them, but as a percentage of the total cost of the four of us going out to a movie, not much.  However, that dollar each does add up.

Not because I’m some kind of luddite who doesn’t like new advances.

Mainly because it doesn’t matter.  The nature of the film format doesn’t change my desire to see it in 3D vs 2D.  If it’s a film I want to see, I want to see it.  The way I see it is this:

3D won’t save a bad movie from being bad because it’s a bad story, and a good movie will be good regardless of whether it’s 3D or not because it’s a good story.

Story first, it’s as simple as that.  When most 3D movies seem to be the shallow-field post-production style, which isn’t that great, and I have to wear glasses to watch them (something I paid good money several years ago to eliminate via laser), then I have to ask, what is the point?

Granted, some films are good in 3D when they’re made that way to begin with (i.e. 3D cameras or digital creation), such as “How to Train Your Dragon.”  Others are reasonably pretty to look at or were written with 3D in mind.  They are few in number, and still just as good on my regular old 2D home screen as they were in 3D.

I’m tired of the 3D fad, and would appreciate the continued production of well-written, well-acted films in 2D that I can go and enjoy.  Leave the 3D to the few that warrant it, or the IMAX crowd (I grant,  some of those IMAX 3D can be some kind of cool).

Thursday, July 04, 2013


As of this writing, I’m working through scene 45 of Queen’s Legacy.  I know it’s scene 45 because in my outline (which I will never, ever do by hand again) that is the number it has.  Overall, I’ve got 126 scenes (plus a timeline and flowchart), and I will get to them all.  It provides a level of progress (along with wordcounts), but most importantly it tells me where I’m going.

The roadmap of where I’m going is vitally important.  It keeps me on track, so that I know what I intend to write, and what each scene will include.  I also include notes on whose POV I’m using for that scene, and what I intend to accomplish in it (sort of a metadata for that scene).  The flowchart is just for some complex battle scenes as I had trouble making sure they all fit together.  The timeline just holds everything to a constant timescale.

Outlining also, and maybe this is the most important of all, reminds me of all the cool ideas I had when coming up with the story.

I admit it, I can’t remember everything I think of when I’m plotting.  When I sit down to make a new story, I sit with a blank piece of paper (and maybe a few notes from my ‘story ideas’ folder) and start to compose.  It’s pretty free form.  I start thinking of the plot, the characters, where I want it to go, any key or cool scenes I’d like to include.  However, that’s all it is, just an assortment of scribblings that are the nucleus of something.  Mostly to date it has been for writing RPG adventures, but as I was sitting down to plot out Queen’s Legacy, the techniques have served me just as well.

From there, I do an act breakdown.  Treating it like a multi-act play or adventure sort of helps me to break the action in to phases.  Not in an ironclad way, such that I must hold to it, but more as a standard starting point.  This construct then becomes the bones upon which I finalize the overall storyline, and dress up a few characters or ideas. 

For an RPG adventure, the next step for me has then been to write the individual encounters and events that will make up the adventure.  Things get tweaked along the way, but the writing pretty much stays true to what I outlined.

When I started fully outlining Queen’s Legacy, I replaced the encounters from the RPG adventure with a scene-by-scene breakdown of the story.  Some scenes had a few lines of notes, as they are quick, fairly simple in their action, or otherwise need little explanation.  Others were a full half-page so as to capture the intended action and other details.  Once this was done, the actual prose started.

Thus, everything I want to include is already outlined.  This is the bones and sinew of the story.  It has all the scenes and all the events that I want to tell.  This allows me, once it’s time to start putting the prose in place, to focus on writing those scenes well, rather than constantly being concerned with how it fits.  I’ve already thought about how everything fits together, even if I change it.

Change it I certainly will.  As I have written the first portions, I’ve already changed some events, moving them between scenes.  In some cases cutting some material out or adding some in as I realized the flow would be better one way or the other.  Despite needing an outline to stay on mission, I in no way write it in stone.  Things can change, scenes can move or be altered, all in service to telling the story as I outlined it waaaay back in the single sheet of paper stage.  Or maybe I change it dramatically and move away from that.  Sometimes I just have better ideas than when I originally outlined it. 

Sometimes I just embrace the chaos when I think of something better or a newer, better scene I need.  That works too, but without the overall roadmap, I couldn’t do what seat-of-the-pants (pantsers) do.  More power to them for being able to, but I just can’t.  Any time I’ve tried I tend to fizzle out after maybe a scene or two, because I just don’t know where I’m going.  Admittedly, that’s me.  One’s own mileage may vary, but thought I’d share.

This doesn’t even include the revision process, which will have its own joys.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The Geek Cave

Here's a few photos of what my friends and family affectionately call "the Geek Cave."  Right now it's in the basement, as there's only so much room to go around in military housing.

The centrepiece of the room here is the gaming table, which I use for RPGs, wargaming and any other projects.  My wife will also use it for quilting, as it's the biggest, baddest table in the house (6' long, 30" wide, built of solid 2x4s laminated together).

It's surrounded by my library, some of which you can see here.  Not just books, but lots of gaming books, wargames terrain, some mugs for drinking at the table, and lots of toys & collectables.  Here's a side shot of my Gamemaster chair.

Next up is the painting station.  I love having my painting stuff always out and ready.  Sadly, due to some impudent beasts, I can't always leave work in progress out.  Yes, there's a box on the window, because someone (Cassandra) feels the need to try to get up there.  That's when things start to fall down.

Here's my Warhammer 40k cabinet.  Not to be confused with the Warhammer Fantasy, Warmachine, Hordes, Firestorm Armada or other wargame model cabinets.  Yes, lots are unpainted.  We've covered this already, move along, move along.

Those are the highlights.  That's all really.  Just thought I'd show off a bit of my cave.  Later I'll get to the office, which is really just an extension of the cave where I have my desk, computer, more shelves and reading chair.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Work in Progress (painting)

Here’s the latest work in progress for me.  It’s an Eldar Wave Serpent transport tank. 

I’m engaged in an escalation campaign for Warhammer 40000 (the miniatures wargame) with a friend of mine.  We did this to accelerate our painting, as we’ve included in our scenario rules penalties that apply to models that are unpainted.  Things like not being able to start on the table or other minor effects that encourage us to paint.  This way, hopefully, it continues to push our painting and I may one day actually have an army that I can field all-painted most of the time.  That would be nice, rather than this:


Yes, I have lots to paint.  Thankfully, now having finished with one training milestone, I can actually do some.  In between bouts of writing.  That way, my armies will eventually look entirely like this:

Work continues.  

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Equivalence of Fandom

A while ago I was at a party at a friend’s house, and it was mostly other members of my MSE course in Halifax.  As we were chatting away and generally having a good time, one of my compatriots noted my Starfleet TNG delta-shield cufflinks.  She shook her head and dismissed them as my geeky silliness.  I pointed out to her that it was no different from someone wearing a jersey from their favourite hockey team.  She indignantly claimed it was somehow not the same, though whey I asked why she had no real answer other than ‘it just isn’t.’

I’m not going to make some ranting post about people disparaging geeks because that’s just old and doesn't really do anything.  I just found it interesting that there’s a perception that one piece of fandom (pro sports) is some how more legitimate than another (sci-fi).  Granted, to the followers of each, their particular thing is more legit.  Likely, many pro sports have more fans than a lot of sci-fi.  Fair enough.  I no more want to go watch hockey than she wants to sit down to a TNG or DS9 marathon.  Roger out, we’ll go our separate ways on that.  It was the way it was commented on, as if it were something beyond the norm, that I found a bit irksome.  Especially considering everyone in my course knows I’m the resident geek.  Everyone has their fandom (or they should).  Life is pretty boring and empty if there’s nothing you’re passionate about. 

(Funny aside: when I did ask how long a hockey game was (really, I had no idea), a classmate says ‘three periods.’  I know he was being helpful, but my confused look probably indicated an actual unit of time would have helped more.)

Wil Wheaton put up a good video about why it’s good to be a geek in his blog here, (or just google it).  Be passionate about something.  Writing, costuming, sports, whatever.  Otherwise, what are you really doing with your time?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Pathfinder Beginner Box

Last Christmas (2011, not 2012), I got for each of my daughters the Pathfinder RPG beginner box. For those who do not know, Pathfinder is a roleplaying game, successor to the popular Dungeons & Dragons game.  I like Pathfinder better, but it's a matter of taste.

The next day, we had our inaugural game with myself as GM.  To say the girls liked it would be an understatement of monumental proportions.  Since then, working around my sailing schedule of course, we’ve managed a few more games.  They finished the adventure that comes with the box  and I wrote an interlude adventure to move them to the next adventure locale.  They’ve had a blast playing, and I’ve finally been able to give them something that’s been a part of my life since I was 12 years old.

It is gratifying that I can share this thing called roleplaying games with them.  Good, old-fashioned players-around-the-table gaming.  Firing up the imagination and letting it take you to worlds unknown, where everyone gets to take part in telling the story.  I love it.  They love it.  It’s the passing of the torch, so they can have the same fun I’ve had for over 28 years now.  I also like playing games with them, they’re fun and aren’t yet experienced enough to have seen a lot.  When I describe the dragon, or the castle, or the dank crypt they’ve entered there’s that sense of wonder.  The same sense that I had when I started playing. 

I also am glad they like it so much.  Hopefully my oldest will start a campaign of her own.  Right now I GM for her and a few of her friends, which has been a big hit.  I think she would enjoy gamemastering, but she just has to get off her butt and do it.  She will, I think, and hopefully it will lead to years of adventuring, all in their own minds.

I laugh some days, as when others are telling tales of their youths, a host of my tales take place in fictional environments.  Talking of the grand schemes, the nail-biting escapes and crazy rolls when you toss the dice calling ‘twenty!’ and it actually comes up.  It certainly kept us out of trouble in our teen years (though I’d say we weren’t really prone to trouble anyway) and exercised our minds enormously.  It also taught teamwork, social interaction (i.e. you have to be civil at the gaming table) and as a gaming group we bonded to the point where we’re all ‘uncles/aunts’ to each others kids.

Since then both kids want to start/have started Warhammer 40000 armies, and we all have had a few good games of FFG’s X-Wing miniatures game.  I am raising two geeky, gamer girls and we all couldn’t be happier about it.  It also means I get to play with my kids more often, which is never bad.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Fixing the landscape

So here’s a picture of the gaming table.  

You’ve seen it before, covered in wargames terrain.  However, this time there’s some sorting going on.  With the help of my youngest, we’ve broken the stuff down into trees, hedgerows, battlefield kit, rocks, buildings and (for lack of a better term) elaborate pieces.  The trees, rocks, battlefield kit and hedgerows will all go in small bins to keep the dust off and make storage easier.  It should also keep them in better condition, once I’ve fixed them up.  Here's a bunch of trees, with sand added to their bases:

The buildings all need some sort of repair, and then to be painted, but they can still go on a shelf.  The elaborate pieces, almost entirely being made of some form of Styrofoam, will need repair.  Two (or more) moves have not been kind to some of them. 

Thus, the remainder of this week will bring out the white glue, paint and modelling flock so as to bring all the terrain pieces up to an attractive and playable condition. 

As much as I have to assemble and paint models, which is still the primary activity, the last few games have been played with fully finished terrain (well, less the scuffs, scrapes and dents I plan to fix).  It reinforced the idea that having a core of good terrain pieces makes battles so much more cinematic.  Besides, if one is going to paint a bunch of toy soldiers to a high standard, why not give them the battlefield they deserve?

Monday, May 13, 2013


Whew.  Passed my Phase VI board, which means promotion to Lieutenant and a break from all the studying.  I tell you, I almost didn't know what to do with myself, going from a work all day - study all night schedule to a regular workday with time after.  Still, my board was "very strong" according to the Commander who chaired it, so I'll take that one to the bank!

That was on March 26th.  Since then I've been playing catch up with all the plans, tasks and other life stuff.  Immediately my 'to do' list of 50+ items sprang out to attack me.  I pushed it around and made it a bit less onerous, but gradually clawed through the important stuff.  That and, most importantly, made time for my family, who I'm pretty sure had forgotten what I looked like for a while.  That's what happens when you cloister yourself in for several weeks.

Today I got some words down.  Not a lot, nothing epic, but I took the time to get back into the story, figure out where I was and just started the next scene.  Boy did it feel good.  Feels like I'm getting back to the things that matter.

I've also planned another session of Pathfinder (the roleplaying game) and am resurrecting the Council of Thieves adventure path.  Add to that some planned model painting and some game-playing with my kids, and life is back to normal.  My latest project is this:

I've pulled out all my wargaming terrain, and plan to repair all the broken or otherwise damaged pieces.  Once done, I'll stack it back on the shelves you can see in the background.  The gaming room is in a bit of flux, but that's only because we had to get our hot water tank replaced, so lots of things are in weird places.  That big box on end is actually our Christmas tree.  The library wraps around the gaming area, thus all the books to the right.  In the lower left you'll see Cassandra, one of our cats, giving me the laser beam eyes.  

Garfield came down to join us, and was promptly inspected by Cassandra.  

That's it for now.  This week is all about regaining the story of Queen's Legacy, and getting some sorting done to bring the gaming area back to snuff.

Monday, February 11, 2013


Tumbleweeds are what you might see here for a bit.  Running up the last bit before my Marine Systems Engineering Officer Phase VI board, which means study, study, study.  Still have more drawings of systems and write-ups to get done, so the blogging may be a bit sparse.

That said, once done, promotion!  That and no more drawings, practice boards, studying... ugh.  Not for a while at least.  Then back to the book, back to normal.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled netsurfing.

Monday, January 07, 2013

2013 Goals

Happy January everyone!
I hope that your holiday celebrations (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, etc) were fruitful, engaging, relaxing or whatever your pleasure was over the past month or so.  Mine were certainly fun, and I'll be putting up some photos and musings from them in a bit.  Now it's on to a new year, and new plans.

As I've said before, resolutions aren't really my style.  I do, though, plan some goals for the calendar year.  Why the calendar year?  Why not?  So, in no particular order, here's my main goals for this year...

1) Finish my package and pass my oral board as a Marine Systems Engineering Officer.  That's coming up first, and the extra pay of promotion will help pay the bills.

2) Finish Queen's Legacy.  I've been pounding away on this for waaaaaaaaary too long.  Not that there's anything wrong with the progress I've made, but I want to get the draft done.  DONE.  (yes, repeating it in caps doesn't make it better, but it's only behind #1 because #1 is the day job)

3) Finish painting an army for Warhammer, Warmachine or one of the other wargames I play.  I say this because painting models fuels my muse, and is one of my biggest creative outlets, aside from writing.

That's it for the year.  Frankly, that's enough.  Those are my main, overarching goals.  In between is where day to day life happens.  I don't include things like 'spend more time with family' or 'play with the kids more' because in truth, I do that a lot anyway.  I'm always up for family time, especially now that the kids are playing the games I play, but that's another post I have planned.

That's it for now, only three days left of leave, and time to get some homework done.