Running into the hurdles of writing

One of the most difficult parts about writing, for me, is storyline.
I’ll get a concept going, albeit a small one, and try to form it into something coherent. Sometimes that works, most of the time the idea ends up in a folder in the corner of my closet, buried underneath plastic bags of clothes I haven’t touched for years. On the rare occasion that it actually works, I’ll be at the keyboard for hours at a time, hammering out the details and making characters and situations follow the melody of that storyline.
A storyline is really quite easily compared to a song, one where the rhythm is persistent and purposeful with every action the characters are made to take.
The challenge of making a coherent storyline is the reason why I stuck to writing short stories for a while. (That is, when I actually made the effort to write them.) For years, I let my professional writing intrude on the personal writing. Instead of creating stories about a young man discovering the true story behind a box of items willed to him by his grandfather, I focused on making sure my newspaper article was properly structured.
Instead of writing that spinoff to “The Office”, I stuck to ensuring I didn’t have more than three or four sentences in the paragraph of a news article.
And, instead of bolstering my creative writing, I made excuses and told myself “I’ve done enough writing this week. There just isn’t any left in the tank.”
You see, writing isn’t easy, and I’m not trying to boost my ego or make further excuses here. For some, crafting a story with various subplots and making everything flow smoothly in line with the storyline’s drum beat is easy. For others, writing a 20-plus word lead and filling in the rest of the details in an article just over 500 words is easy.
For myself? I can write a traditional news article simply enough. It’s merely churning out a simplistic storyline and tossing some quotes in to balance the article’s objectivity.
But ask me to create a world from the chaos of my imagination and turn it into a coherent work? That’s not easy. Add in the challenge of making it marketable to a mass audience, and that’s a pretty tall order.
That is precisely why I’ve strayed from creative writing over the last few years. It isn’t due to a lack of ideas or a lack of ability. Creating a cohesive plot that works for several hundred pages is enough of a challenge on its own, and one that I haven’t ever successfully accomplished.
I would, however, like to add that to the ever-growing list of goals for this year.
A couple of good friends have already published their own novels. It’s time I join their ranks.


5 ideas to reboot Star Trek gaming

It’s a well-known fact that most Star Trek games have failed to catch any sort of good critical reviews or have strong mainstream sales. The latest movie tie-in failed to gather either of those, plagued by bugs and a concept that wasn’t fully developed. It had the potential to be a great production that jump-started game developers to consider Star Trek once again, but instead that hope may have been vaporized.

Not all games in the franchise, however, have been terrible. Elite Force, Star Trek: Borg, Bridge Commander, Armada and the Starfleet Command entries stood on their own and were pretty good. Star Trek Online continues to be pretty popular, although I have yet to play it. Other games like Hidden Evil, Legacy, New Worlds and the latest game, Star Trek, fell flat on their faces.

The last great Star Trek game.

The last great Star Trek game.

Now that the franchise is somewhat cool, due to the great movies directed by J.J. Abrams, the one thing missing from the picture is a series of strong games that stand on their own. Here are a few suggestions:

1. A “Civilization” game
How many races are there in the Star Trek universe? Hundreds is the easy answer. But we never really get a chance to explore their culture or history or interact with them in a diplomatic setting. “Birth of the Federation” was riddled with bugs, although serves as a good foundation from which to build. Let’s have a game where the Federation and the different major races are able to start from the ground-up, make or break diplomatic ties, engage in battle with each other, or work together to reach a common goal.
The long-standing “Civilization” series is a great template for Star Trek, and could be a great mainstream success if promoted to the right crowd.

2. Starship SimCity
Create the Enterprise in your own configuration and manage different rooms and operations throughout the ship. Just think of it, there are so many different rooms throughout each ship that were never explored in the Trek movies and TV shows. Sure, there were the hallmarks: the bridge, engineering, some crew quarters, the mess hall, the transporter room and shuttle bay. But we never really saw the guts of the ship, let alone had the chance to create one on our own or choose the ship’s leadership.
Back in the ’90s, the game Starship Creator came close, letting gamers customize the look and crew of a starship. It was a good start, but let’s have the starship operate like a city. Instead of roads, there are turbolifts. Instead of homes, there are crew quarters with varying densities, with the potential to refit a starship to have bigger population sizes. There could even be financial disasters using Federation credits. And, of course, it wouldn’t be like SimCity if there weren’t disasters along the way. Warp core breach anyone?

3. A choose your own destiny game
Mass Effect has been heralded as one of the best game series in recent years, and is what many believe Star Trek games should have been. As an officer, you’re able to settle events either through diplomacy or through the barrel of a weapon. For ages, Trek fans have clamored for a game where diplomacy is a viable option, residing in line with the original Star Trek message: the improvement of humanity in the future.
The new “Star Trek” game was marketed in a way to compare it to Mass Effect, but there wasn’t any chance of developing characters on your own. Kirk couldn’t weigh the balance between good and evil, Spock didn’t have a choice to follow logic or go by his emotions. Those two fatal story flaws ruined the game for most people.

4. Star Trek: Section 31
This is practically begging to be made. A first-person shooter using the storyline of Section 31 – a shadow organization in Starfleet that officially doesn’t exist. Little is known about it, but a game series could easily expand on that small background. A first-person shooter game about an officer working for a shadow organization, taking down bad guys across the universe. How is that not a winner? All you need is a decent storyline taking place in a Star Trek setting and this type of game will sell on a massive scale.

5. Trapped in the Holodeck
Just consider it. If you can’t make a Star Trek-themed game, make something else fit inside the Star Trek universe. Star Trek: The Next Generation had the holodeck villain of Moriarty take control of the ship, trying to become a real person. Consider a game like “Assassin’s Creed” with a few Starfleet officers, or even turn it into an educational game for kids, taking them to different eras of history to learn various lessons.

There is so much potential for Star Trek to have a string of great games, and the market is there. We aren’t seeking after games like “Star Trek: Trexels”, although there are elements of the game I like, particularly the ability to build your own ship.
It’s time for a good, high-quality Star Trek game, and the market is eager to see it happen.

Given these suggestions, what type of Trek game would you like to see come to life?

2014 goal – Write Less by Writing More

My priorities have changed this year.
Lately, I’ve been encouraged from numerous sources to write more. In a way, writing has always been my passion, but I never really took notice of it until college.
Sure, I wrote silly stories about a chicken plant exploding with feathers flying everywhere, Star Trek fan fiction, the ever-elusive third Ghostbusters movie and plenty of other silly pieces throughout my younger years. I think I even still have a few of those saved somewhere among my numerous files back home.
It was only when I needed to finalize my reason for going to college that I realized how much fun there was in writing, and that I wanted to make it a career. With a stroke of the key, I could create a brand new world, start friendships, pit enemies against each other and listen to the melody of a storyline as it progressed through the page. My priorities changed along the way, and I began pursuing a career in journalism, focusing on a different style of writing.
But, since 2008 or 2009, writing has taken a backseat to photography and design.
I love photography and how it can capture a story in one frame, or a set of them. A family’s grief at the loss of a loved one, celebrating a birthday, or even just a visit to the local mini golf company all factor in to a great story.
That brings me back to the promptings to tell my story this year.
In all honesty, I’m not sure what part of my life is worth putting down on the page. I’ve had great things happen, no doubt, and some terrible experiences along the way. But I’m not a military veteran, I wasn’t a college graduate at the age of 16, nor do I consider myself remotely influential in people’s lives. Then again, that’s the beauty of storytelling. Even the most mundane, repetitive things in life can show someone’s personality through the actions they take each day.
So what SEO-oriented statement can best define my goals in 2014? It’s simple: “Write Less by Writing More”.
Be purposeful with words and actions in life. We’re given an opportunity to leave a legacy each day that we spend on this planet. It’s time we make the most of it.

Why I won’t make a list for 2014

  1. Lists hardly convey what actually happened in a year with sufficient details. Let’s be honest, there isn’t much information for readers when something gets put into a list form.
  2. I took photos this year.
  3. See? Not much detail at all. Just one line doesn’t share that I traveled to Sandpoint, Wallace, Harrison, Grand Coulee Dam, Ocean Shores, southwest Oregon, the Columbia River, Seattle and elsewhere within the past year.
  4. I remember the squishy feeling of freshly-laid sod as I walked through Sandpoint in the pouring rain with a friend. Although I haven’t experienced sinking in quicksand, watching your foot disappear slowly into the ground is unnerving to say the least.
  5. Paul Colman’s newest CD, From the Saltland to the River, was my soundtrack while driving out to Wallace. He has a way with lyrics and different guitar rhythms that made each listen of the 14 or so tracks enjoyable several times through. Given some questions I had at the time, his words hit the right spot.
  6. “Welcome to the Human Race” is a particularly haunting look at humanity and what some versions of religion have become. And then a couple of tracks later, he bursts out into a tune similar to an Irish drinking song.
  7. Wallace, Sandpoint, Harrison – they’re all just a little over an hour outside of Spokane, but provide a breathtaking view of the different landscapes Spokane has to offer. That diversity in geography is why I love living here.
  8. That same geography is also why I hate driving on Spokane’s South Hill in winter.
  9. There’s a love-hate relationship with my love of Spokane.
  10. On one hand, Spokane is the right size to attract great music festivals, like Spirit Fest, which I attended in July. My favorite singer/songwriter Peter Furler was the opening act.


    Third Day at Spirit Fest in Spokane

  11. Peter Furler doesn’t need flashy lights, autotune or confetti machines to put on a good set.
  12. A week after seeing that show, I was baptized.
  13. The next day, I saw Paul McCartney in Seattle.
  14. July was a good month.
  15. In late August, it was time for a week off from the newspaper. It’s a good time for a vacation, but driving across the desert that is central Washington without a functioning air conditioner was a poor life choice.
  16. ADD Moment: It’s a bright idea to regularly check your vehicle’s oil on a thousand-mile trip.
  17. I hadn’t traveled to Seattle on my own via Highway 2, and I’m glad I made a good life choice in that regard. The scenery is incredible, even if you might be roasting inside of a traveling red oven of a car.
  18. Driving through Seattle made me realize why I love the lack of traffic here at home.
  19. A trip from Everett to IKEA shouldn’t take 90 minutes. A more balmy 45 would have been acceptable.
  20. I love to learn new things in life. Facts, figures, dates, events; it’s why I devour historical books with gusto. Just this last weekend, I learned about Jack Jouett, and how important he was in the American Revolution.
  21. I also learned you don’t let a moment slip away where you can visit family. They’re here one moment and gone the next.
  22. A trip in November to Oregon to visit family should have been a joyous one, not one where tears were shed. That said, it was a chance to visit family, and to cherish each moment together.
  23. The year ended the way I consider the last one to have started – in the last week of December on a Sunday morning. Dec. 30, 2012, I was looking for a new church, needing a change of scenery. Memory reminded me of a fun group of people at Spokane Christian Church I once met the year before.
  24. I snuck in the back just as the service started, sitting in the last couple of rows, trying my best not to be noticed. I’ve been told it’s a quality I possess, blending in with crowds.
  25. I didn’t want to be noticed or called out as being a visitor. A few people gave me some quizzical looks, as though they’d recognized me before, but didn’t approach me. I’m thankful for that, now that I look back.
  26. After the service, I quickly ducked out through one of the side aisles, escaping to the car.
  27. My anonymity didn’t last, however, as a good friend from high school dragged me up to one of the front aisles the week after. I was grateful for the gesture, recognizing a friendly face, but throwing this introverted personality in the middle of something completely new like that was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences I’ve had in my 24 years of life. Pardon the Doctor Who reference, but it was a moment where yelling “Geronimo” would have been appropriate.
  28. The people with whom I’ve worked and the friendships formed in the past year are too impactful to put in words. Countless people have changed my life for the better in 2013, and I’m certain the same will happen over the next 52 weeks.
  29. Lists won’t ever convey the true breadth of a calendar year, because it’s just not possible to contain it in such a small sample size. When we’re restricted to lists and numbers, abbreviations and acronyms, instead of simplifying our lives, they tend to get more complicated.
  30. Don’t make lists.
  31. Tell your story as it is.
  32. Have a blessed new year.
  33. Make it count.

When you need a break, look nearby

One of the things I find true enjoyment in is traveling to different places within about an hour or so from home. Less than a tank of gas will take you quite a few places in the greater Spokane area. It’s truly one of the things that I love about my home: the geography changes in just a few minutes.
This year alone, I’ve managed to see the natural beauty of the Northern Lights, historic cities like Wallace and Sandpoint (both in Idaho), and find unknown streets and neighborhoods just by taking a different route home or sacrificing some of that precious weekend time to venture outside my comfort zone. Some places I’d love to find again and others… well, let’s just say I’ll take my regular route next time. But the off-chance of finding a city or town with a great history is pretty exciting.
My camera is attached to my hip on every one of these chance ventures, and I’ve captured a great many sights. Small towns just outside Spokane are some of the most interesting places in the Pacific Northwest, even though living in one can be maddening for a younger person like myself.
Sure, living in a town of 300 people could get pretty mundane after a while – for comparison, Spokane’s metropolitan area is around 500,000. It truly does take a special type of person to turn a town of 300 to 10,000 a place where people want to visit. Wallace is a special little place because of some great history and a group of dedicated residents making the city so much bigger than themselves. Meanwhile other towns, even the ones with thousands of people, can’t muster up enough culture to even begin growing some form of excitement.
Now, I travel away from Spokane every once in a while to leave things behind. Work. Traffic. Mass amounts of people. Frustration. Stress.
That’s the world in which I live, and I bet that’s where you live, too. Otherwise, why take vacations if we enjoy things in our lives? We go elsewhere to escape our problems, hoping that a change of scenery will offer us a bit of a reprieve. What a great life, huh? We live to get away.
But sadly, getting away from things is only a weakness and a diversion from solving our real problems in life. That doesn’t mean you can’t be productive during such a diversion, though.
Many of us are stressed and tired, myself included. But a different routine or a quick detour helps change even the most frustrating situation for the better. A different perspective can shed new light in your life. A different turn at the light can bring something new your way.
Personally, I’m delighted by the change of scenery this weekend, even of it is just for an hour or so. Although, admittedly, this delicious ice cream cone I’m enjoying in Harrison, Idaho, may be distorting my objectivity somewhat.
Get out and see what lies outside of your daily routine. Break out of the rut and change something in your life if you don’t enjoy it. It’s all in your hands.

The Seattle Seahawks could Mariner it up this year

The Seahawks are projected to be one of the best teams in the NFL next season, but fans should really keep in mind what happened to their neighbors across the street in 2010.

Could the 2010 Mariners team be a glimpse of things to come in 2013 for the Seahawks?

Could the 2010 Mariners team be a glimpse of things to come for the Seahawks?

Remember when the Mariners traded for Cliff Lee, signed Chone Figgins and dumped Carlos Silva for Milton Bradley? Ryan Rowland-Smith was expected to be a great No. 4 starter, Casey Kotchman actually had potential to be a good starting first baseman and people still believed in Jose Lopez for some reason. And let’s not forget the promise of a Rob Johnson and Adam Moore catching platoon.

That Mariners team was hyped to be one that would handily win the division based on one of the best pitching rotations in baseball and awe-inspiring defense while maintaining a somewhat mediocre offense.

Little did they know fate would have another viewpoint.

The Seahawks are floating on top of the world right now, just like the Mariners were feeling after the 2009 season, which saw them turn a 100-loss season into an 85-win year, offering hope for the future. A World Series game was in striking distance.

In football terms, that’s just like going from a 7-win season to an 11-win season like the Seahawks did in 2011 and 2012. It’s impossible to feel anything but hope when that sort of a turnaround comes with new management, a new vision and great decisions made by the front office.

Signing Antoine Winfield and Cliff Avril were excellent moves for the Seahawks this offseason, and all of the signs point to a runaway year for the team. Those tingly happy feelings are spreading throughout Seattle, and it looks like nothing could go wrong.

Unfortunately, that’s where the 2010 Mariners can step in for Seahawks fans.

While everything may seem rosy right now with an awesome quarterback, a much improved offense and a defensive line that defies nearly every other team, the Seahawks haven’t proven anything yet. The season is still a good three or four months away, and plenty can happen between now and then.

Baseball and football are two different sports, yes, but fandom can rally behind a team that’s making the right moves. Heck, just look at the Philadelphia Phillies last year. The team made all the right moves with a massive payroll of $171 million, yet barely managed to break even by the end of the year.

Sometimes karma has other plans for sports, and that usually involves flushing a team’s hopes and dreams down the toilet.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be rooting for the Seahawks and watch the games when I can. But the black spot that’s plagued the team across the street for the last decade is undeniable. This season could potentially send the Seahawks into a downward spiral.

But, then again, having owners who actually care about the team’s performance gives the Seahawks a leg up on their neighbors.

The new Star Trek video game isn’t as bad as you think

Playing as Kirk or Spock in the new Star Trek video game has its flaws, but it's better than nothing.

Playing as Kirk or Spock in the new Star Trek video game has its flaws, but it’s better than other Trek games.

Kirk, Spock, ships, Gorn and tricorders.

They’re the foundation of the new Star Trek video game (STTVG) released in the past week.

The game isn’t going to become the next Mass Effect, Assassin’s Creed, Skyrim or Halo and spawn an immense fanbase that consumes every DLC or add-on offered down the road. While it likely won’t attract a huge following, STTVG is something the franchise hasn’t had in almost a decade: a decent playable video game.

Nearly every video game in the Star Trek franchise is compared to three of the only stomachable entries to date: Elite Force (and its sequel), Bridge Commander and Armada. Those three are the stalwarts in an otherwise disappointing lineup. Compared to them, STTVG is in the middle of the pack.

There are a few obvious problems throughout the game: the AI pales in comparison to other modern games, exploration isn’t really encouraged and environments are too apparent in their effort to make this a cover-shooter game.

Big bulky panels to hide behind in the middle of a busy corridor? Yeah, not too practical on a working starship. Energy hubs to refill your weapons? They just happen to be the same style as yours, despite being a galaxy away.