Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Not Dead Yet

Not dead, but busy and missing updates. Still writing, and I should finish up this bloated tick of a first draft either Friday or Saturday morning. Hockey update coming soon too, as I attended a clinic and ate huge portions of humble pie. Might wait to combine it with another next week CONTAIN YOUR EXCITEMENT

Happy New Year, y'all.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

At Least There's Not a Siren - Old Man Learns Hockey - Game 9

Some cold, hard facts:
- we're 0-9.
- we've been outscored 72-3. Seventy-two to three. That means on average we lose 8 to 0.3 each time.
- we've never had a lead.
- we've scored zero power play goals. In fact, last game when we had a power play it was a moral victory that we didn't give up any shorthanded goals.
- while some of us are definitely improving individually, it's harder to see how we're playing better as a team.

The last bit is the most troubling of all. We don't really have any sort of system in place knowing who's playing where - we still gather and figure it out 30 seconds before the game starts. When I decided to start playing I figured I'd be eons behind other players in both skill and knowledge. The former has proven true, but the latter doesn't appear to be the case. There are definitely people who don't really know their assignment in the defensive zone.  I like to use this as a reference point. The problem is, if one person out of the five on the ice doesn't pick up his or her responsibility, it all falls to shit. Which is what happens to us.

As if a 10:30 scheduled start time wasn't late enough, the game before us both was delayed by a clock problem and then ended in a tie that went into a shootout. We don't start until late, and our usual minimal four minutes of warm-up is cut to one. I don't even touch a puck before we're at our bench, belatedly figuring out who is going to play where. Jeff hasn't shown (home sick) and with others missing we have twelve skaters. There's a whole story about goalies and last minute cancellations and me scrambling like hell, but we end up with Old Bob in goal and despite the lopsided final, he wasn't the problem and actually had a pretty good game. We decide to start with six forwards (two lines) and 6 defense (three pairs). I'm on D, paired with Stephanie.  I see exactly how the night is going to go as I head out for my first shift. It's a live change, and the vastly better team we're playing has missed a long pass that's heading for the boards near me. I have plenty of time to scoop it up and possibly even head up ice - expect that it hits the skate of one of the players I've replaced, who isn't over the boards yet. Technically it's a 'too many men' penalty, but I don't have to worry if it gets called or not because the puck ricochets away from me, directly to one of their guys who comes in two on one and buries the goal. Five seconds out and I'm already a -1. Ugh.

At the end of the first Steph and Rudy both say they want to move up to forward. Since none of the forwards are interested in moving back to D, we run with just the four of us for the rest of the game. I'm not going to complain about the extra ice time, but against a team this good it's a rough outing. I'm embracing a concept a friend of mine has called 'failing faster.' It states that in a situation like this, where me making a mistake and giving up a goal in a blowout of a beer league game is really not the end of the world, I should take chances and learn from my mistakes instead of being conservative. I'm definitely getting the fail faster part down, as I spend a little more time skating backwards during actual play when I'm under pressure. The other team swarms the net, and I spend most of my time either shoving guys away, lifting their sticks, or being stickhandled around when I challenge the puckcarrier. This is a top team and they play like it, and I get juked out of my hockey pants numerous times. It's always frustrating, but especially so when the obvious solution would be to smear the guy against the boards. For example, one guy was behind our goal and when I went to cover him he passed the puck off the back of the net to himself as he went by. What I wanted to do was just drive right at his body and check him - dodge that, jerkweed - but I can't in this league. I more or less accidentally tore a guy's skates out and still didn't get a tripping call. I guess the refs don't want to pile on when it's already 7-0. In fact they asked if we wanted to play the 3rd period with a running clock so we 'wouldn't feel humiliated,' to which we politely told them to go screw themselves. We were having issues with guys taking shifts that were way too long. One guy had an absurdly long shift in the second that was at least 3+ minutes. They had multiple opportunities to either ice the puck or just dump it and come over for a change, but didn't. If you've been out there for two+ minutes and have dead legs but somehow manage to make it to their blue line, you should be dumping the puck into the far corner and getting to the bench, especially when that's what your bench is screaming at you to do. Sheq was frothing at the mouth. After splitting the first period with only one other line, he only managed five total shifts the rest of the way. To say he was pissed would be an understatement. Also, pregame he gave me a Hansons jersey AND a Rangers practice jersey. I'm not sure I'm allowed to wear it. It was a damn nice thing of him to do and it kind of stunned me at the time. Thanks again, brother.

Between the 2nd and 3rd period one of the forwards made a suggestion that the forwards stay up near the blue line and not really help out as much on D, so they could get some more opportunities for offense. We shared one of those, 'Is he kidding?' looks between us before realizing that no, he wasn't kidding, and then informed him that wasn't a very good idea. We still managed to generate some chances - in one of my few good passes of the game I sprung Tom on a breakaway and could see the assist on my scoresheet, but he didn't beat the bear of a goalie they had. My performance was about what I'd expect - a rookie learning a new position in a new game, making a slew of mistakes but playing every shift like it's game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals. 

I guess the important question is, Am I still having fun? I am. It's nerve-wracking playing defense when my skating is not wonderful - like playing basketball with a foot cast on - but the fact we're so awful lessens the pressure. We're not tied at 2-2 with 30 seconds left, which means if I screw up it's not going to cost us the game. I pinch a little. I try to cut off passes, maybe jump in a rush. We're heading down the back of our schedule now - six or seven games left, most against good teams - but all I can do is improve, right? We're off for the next three weeks but I plan on joining Jeff and Sheq at the brutal clinic they've been doing, so there might be more folly to follow.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

It's Not Evil, It's Challenging

I created a new monster (or monsters) for my Pathfinder group. That's unusual for me, as I tend to pick and choose among things already established and we're running Jade Regent (not my choice - it was requested by someone who left the group before we started without a word) anyway.  But i was reading something to my daughter and I was like, 'Hey, this would be cool!' I need to keep challenging them, as one guy is a power gamer who knows exactly the right spells for his wizard  to be a nightmare for me. At low levels it was Pyrotechnics to blind the bad guys. Soon after it was Haste on his summoned celestial snow leopards to tear my evil characters to shreds (and ye gods - 5 attacks with pounce and smite Evil. It's even worse when he sends the lantern archons with their touch attacks). Now it's Confusion to screw things up . . . but this will be lovely. LOVELY.

Writing: 681 words. I'm cranking now. If I didn't have to go to work I would have finished the book today, easy. IN THE ZONE

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

I wouldn't! Well . . .

The Boy got another tab on his yellow-striped belt yesterday, and I'm thrilled to see he still enjoys karate so much. I signed him up for another 6 month contract. When I asked what happens if he suddenly loses interest or gets hurt or whatever, and I was told the money doesn't expire and can be used whenever.

Or by anyone.

Oh, my. Maybe some subtle discouragement . . . no. Kidding. I watched him pull off a nice frontkick-round kick combination last night and was super proud.

Writing: 602 words. Another day or two (or three) for this chapter and then on to the final one. Also, I had that wonderful moment when I figured out an awesome way to work in one of the ending bits instead of using a deux ex machina for it. It gave me a big grin and probably kept me from throttling the Gorram Cat, who kept insisting on walking on my keyboard.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Growing Pains Old man Learns Hockey - Game 8

We're getting tired of losing.

I can see it in the demeanor on the bench. People are paying closer attention and noticing that some guys are just wandering around the ice in the defensive zone instead of doing what they're supposed to, and yelling out instructions to them. Exasperation is starting to build. I usually laugh every time I fall to the ice but last night it elicited nothing from me but frustrated growls. Like I said, we're tired of losing.

Which is awesome.

The hope is that it spurs some change. We are a rudderless ship out there. We have no defensive plan, no set defense, nothing. We're not running a neutral zone trap or a 1-2-2 forecheck - we're just kind of out there, reacting to what the other team does, which ends up with us in our zone for too much time. Last night we played the other winless team in the league. They had one player who had no right to be in a developmental division (3 goals, 2 assists on the game) and a couple of other good skaters, but they weren't amazing. At the end of the 1st it was a 2-0, and just before the the period ended one of our guys missed a wide open net that would have made it a 2-1 game and possibly scared the crap out of them. As time went on they took advantages of our mistakes and skated away with an 8-1 laughter - yeah, we scored with like 17 seconds left - but we were better than we'd been the week before.

Missed assignments are haunting us. The blond from the clinic was playing right defense, and by the 3rd period she was skating by our bench asking why the left winger who kept forgetting to cover her wasn't out there so she could have some freedom. She wanted him there because instead of covering her he'd be somewhere else and she'd have time to tee up her slap shots.

Then there's me. In order to be an effective defenseman I need to be able to skate backwards well, so I crammed in as much practice as I could in the 5 minutes of warmup and swore I'd start using it, no matter what. And so I fell over backwards numerous times, often leaving our poor goalie (side story - Alex the Good Goalie is possibly done, and old goalie Bob was kind enough to let us know Sunday around noon that he was out too. This set off a panicked search for a goalie. I was online @6 and saw Dave, the guy who introduced me to this league and is who is on a team currently fighting for a top slot that i could have been on but I'm playing with my brothers so never mind, had just posted something about getting his stick ready for his game. I asked him, mostly joking, if his goalie wanted to play two games tonight. His goalie didn't, but knew someone who wanted to play. About this time one of our guys said the league had found a guy for us, but I figured two goalies were better than none. Charlie is a young kid who's been a goalie for a about a year and he had an odd game - he saved a lot of shots he shouldn't have but gave up a few he maybe should have had. Nice guy and when we were a pair of the last few stragglers in the locker room I found out nobody had grabbed him for next week's game. Yeesh! I locked that shit down. Anyway, I found a goalie. I'm useful! And thanks, Dave!) alone and exposed. It was infuriating but I have to get it down.

I'm not sure how I ended up for the game. I was paired with one of our better skaters and through 2 periods we were a -2, and neither goal was really on us. One was a bad angle shot that hit Charlie's pad, popped up, then dribbled in. Another was the guy who was too good coming on a partial breakway. I hauled ass to get back and forced him wide, but his wrister from the faceoff dot hit off in the inside of Charlie's elbow pad and rolled in. It was a nice shot, hard and accurate. In the 3rd we broke down at least once, and the big guy I'd been warring with all game - well, big is being kind, he was a very large dude who just set up in front of the goal like it was an all-you-can-eat-buffet in every sense of that simile possible - finally punched one in, so I was at least a -3. It was a war, too, with a lot of shoving and pushing. At one point I flat-out crosschecked him and he spun around with a pissed off look and showed me how an effective crosscheck is really done. Two-hundred-fifty pounds versus one-hundred-eighty-eight produced predictable results - my ass on the ice. The puck went through his feet while we was doing that, though, so I guess I won? I played a much more physical game in general, including .  . . well, shit, there's no way to gloss it over. I laid a dude out. Late in the game I pinched as the puck was being carried up the boards, and the guy wasn't looking up so he rammed right into me. Well, my lowered, braced shoulder, anyway. He went back over hard and I skated back down the ice with my head on a swivel, figuring someone was going to try to light me up. Nobody did, and the ref just shrugged and said, 'He ran into you.' The guy was okay and I loved it. GRRR SMASH! I'm still not great - or even good - deciding what to do with the puck. I came out from behind our net and they had a full pressing forecheck on. As we have no breakout play set up I skated until challenged and then tried to send it high off the boards. If I were a better skater I could have avoided him and kept it, but I'm not and we need guys moving around.

We had some good moments. There was a goal, and our top line - it's time to stop pretending one of our lines isn't better than the others - had several good chances and did a decent job forechecking. Jeff continues to get his rising wrister on goal and I wish he'd have more confidence and use it all the time. We're heading into a stretch against good teams and it may get ugly for us. That's life in the fast-paced world of men's beer league hockey.

Writing - I got to bed at 1am last night, you think I really got up at 5am and wrote? Gorram right I did. 602 words, plus 514 on Saturday.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I Liked it, Okay?

 I played Monte Cook's new system Numenara this weekend, and it was . . . okay? The need to roll high to hit in combat requires a lot of spending of your stats, and while it was a decent session I wasn't overwhelmed enough to want to run out and buy the system. Cook is probably best known for the 3.5 version of D&D, but my love for his work goes to Rolemaster.

Yes, that Rolemaster, the one one with all the charts.

It did have a lot of charts - each weapon had its own, which actually made sense as an arrow should have a better chance of punching through chainmail than a sword does. Once you had the specific charts for your character it wasn't so bad. You could vary how intensely you wanted to attack or defend yourself, and as you took more damage you became less adept at doing things. So unlike D&D, a foe with a single hit left didn't have the same chance to hit you as he did when he was healthy.

And ye gods, combat. BRUTAL. With open-ended rolls you could do more damage and access better critical columns, which would often stop a fight right then and there. The results were often humorous, too. DAMMIT I LOVED ROLEMASTER

writing: 561 words, although it felt like more. Thinking this might be done by the end of next week. Maybe.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

On the Joy of Trying to Be Successful at Writing

It's getting close to the end of the year and Matthew Bennardo, editor of the Machine of Death books and seller of more than a few short stories, did a summary about how his year went. I figured maybe I should do the same. I'm not sure if it's uplifting or depressing.

If we go from January 1st to now - I'm still all tangled up win the home stretch of my novel and it's unlikely that I'll do any short story submissions right now - I sent out 22 submissions and had 3 acceptances (I'm fudging a little here - one went out Dec 20th but didn't get accepted until January. Screw it, it counts). In baseball that batting average would earn me my outright release, but given this industry I'll take what I can get. Almost all of these submission were out before August, as I spent a good while working on a novella I thought for sure would get picked up (I was wrong) and since then book book book book.

The money is laughable, of course. I wasn't really trying with the pro-paying markets. The Machine of Death story somehow managed to throw more money my way - I think I'm in the vicinity of 0.25 cents a word there at this point - but at this point any money from writing is pretty much gravy. Sales are what I'm after, and four pro sales look better than three. Once i finish the novel and switch to the first edit I'll get back to writing short stories as well. Maybe even go for some better paying markets. I do note with some small measure of glee that the most recent sale marks the second story bought that was passed on by Daily SF, which pays great rates but tends to publish some of the worst stuff I've seen. I gave up on even reading them 6 months ago because I got tired of grinding my teeth with frustration. Man, i can't wait to be a successful novelist and be able to look back on this and laugh. Or maybe weep a little. Or both.

Writing: 641 words. Action! Conflict! Another day when I was upset to see it was time to go to work. I could have written all day. If I didn't have a 'real' job . . . 2-3K a day would be reality.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

No Better Clinic Than a Free Clinic - Old Man Playing Hockey, Game 7

I'll pop the suspense bubble right away - we didn't win. We didn't even score. In fact, we took several steps backward as a team. Not great stuff out there, the most glaring being length of shifts. One guy on the team simply refuses to come off when he should, and the resentment of the others is starting to grow. Might get ugly. Makes for good writing, but not much fun on the bench. 

We had a slew of forwards, so I was more than happy to volunteer for defense. And when the guy who ran our training clinic showed up to help us out, I was quick to offer myself as his partner (no, not in that way. Not that there's anything wrong with that). My hope was that I could pick up a few pointers as players zipped by me and for once, I had the right idea. Shaking a weekend's worth of kobolds, inspectres, and clever players having fun with my characters out of my head, I put my mind on hockey and hit the ice. Eventually. After it was already 1-0. We followed our usual pattern of giving up an early goal, regrouping and keeping things under control for 8 or 9 minutes, then letting them get 3 or 4 goals in the end of the first period to make the game a joke. Seriously. I have no idea why that happens beyond people staying out too long on their shifts and not getting back on D.

The other team had a guy about Rudy-sized (not our defenseman Rudy, but Rudy from the movie with the dude from Lord of the Rings) who should have been playing at least two divisions higher. Bart (the coach, my D partner) knew him and told him before the game to take it easy on us. Evidently that involved scoring two highlight-reel goals within the first 10 minutes. Our goalie - not the really good one, who has a knee injury and oh boy are we fucked without him - used to play with the team we were playing (or 'versing' as Becky says) and hates them with enough fire to burn the ice. If he had spent a little less time yelling at them and hacking at their ankles and a little more trying to actively stop the puck the score might not have been 9-0. Just saying, Bob, just saying. By the end of the game Bob looked exhausted. As we currently have no other goalie option, things might be ugly the next two weeks.

I spent the game learning. I made mistakes but not only did I have a free clinic, I pretty much had a private coach. In the first period we worked on my positioning, which was okay because ye gods I've watched a lot of hockey in my life, but Bart gave me some subtle tips that proved useful. In the second period we worked on me timing stick lifts, which means that I attempt to poke my stick under the guy set up in the crease (PHRASING, for so many reasons) and pick it up when the pass comes his way. I had limited success with that, as those players were better with their sticks than I am (PHRASING) and often I found myself trying to cover two guys without the help of the center, who was supposed to be there. It's a bad feeling to see the other team celebrating as your goalie lies sprawled out on the ice like a mollusk while you wonder how that other guy got so open.

In the third period Bart suggested I get a little more physical, and at the expense of sounding like a haughty prick it was easily my best period. When guys set up in front of the net I pushed them out. When the puck went into the corner I gave little shoves and yanks with one hand while hacking at the puck with the other. I wasn't checking, but I was still playing with a physical presence. Success with that gave me confidence elsewhere, and when I got the puck off a faceoff instead of just flailing to get it out of the zone immediately I skated with it for a bit and threaded a pass to one of our forwards (by 'threaded' I mean 'other teams' player deflected the long pass precisely where it needed to go'). On a three on two break I forced the guy with the puck wide and took away his passing lanes by dropping to a knee and laying my stick on the ice. He hit the shaft and I was able to clear it, eliciting a curse from him that was sweeter than a round of applause.  I still made a boatload of mistakes, of course. I whiffed twice on a puck at the blue line, screwing up a clear, and my ass got beat a few times by better skaters (which is pretty much everyone). But at this stage pretty much everything is up, so I keep trying. Jeff continues to develop a pretty damn good wrist shot and over criticize himself while instead I saw a guy who hustled all over the ice, and Sheq seems to be growing into his game as well.  Next week is our only shot this season at the other winless team, and I'd feel a lot more confident if I had Alex backing me up in net for the slurry of mistakes I'm going to make. Either way, I'm going to lace them up and give it my best.

At 10:30pm. Ugh.

Writing: 561 words. Time for the Big Reveal. Oh! And I got an acceptance on a story I'd submitted in July and forgotten about (probably because I sent in a novella for an anthology at the same place and gotten rejected after that), so that's a happy thing. It'll be in Stupefying Stories sometime in the future I WILL BOTHER YOU WHEN IT DOES

Monday, December 9, 2013

Yeah, I know, I know

Sorry - between gaming prep and work I was run ragged last week, so I missed updates. Writing continued at almost a full clip. Better update (with Hockey!) either later today (not likely) or tomorrow. Maybe tonight. Plan accordingly.

Gaming notes - had 9 - that's NINE - people at my Inspectres game. Should have been impossible, but we did okay. They took down the T-Rex from the Jurrassic PArk ride at Universal Studios that was being powered by the spirits of angry C and D actors that had been forgotten. Good fun. the law of 'give 'em enough rope' worked beautifully.

1st KAMB! game was okay, has 3 12 year old boys so yeah. 2nd one was rollicking and creative.

DW mod didn't get finished but they loved roleplaying the characters and doing the puzzle rooms. My dice game was a HUGE hit. Maybe I'll try it at Rabbitcon.