Category Archives: Personal

Rob’s Update: Love Alters Not

Week of 19 November – 2 December

Greetings all. I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. Mine was wonderful in many ways. My sweetie and I cooked together and ate great food.

We also bought Zombie Munchkin and Mansions of Madness, which of course we played both. Munchkin is always fun, of course, so no surprise there.

Mansions of Madness, though, is a fantastic combination of technology and board gaming. The game is built around the app, which randomizes all sorts of things and exposes clues here and there as the players find them. It scales up and down to reflect the number of players in the game. Really neat design.

Also, it’s a collaborative game and perfect for a family to play together. In other words, it’s a game where all the players are on the same side trying to solve the mystery. I should say, it’s usually a collaborative game. It’s based around H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu stories, so characters can not only be killed by the monsters, they can also be driven mad. And when they’re driven mad, the players might end up having different victory conditions.

Yes, I won the game, all by myself, by knifing my proto-incipient step-daughter. Go Me! And my insanity 😀

The only thing that would have made Thanksgiving better was if I hadn’t gotten a nasty cough and cold. When I wasn’t cooking or playing a game, I was mostly a slug. I didn’t do much, though I pushed through a little writing.

I did have a chance to record a couple of episodes of Write Pack Radio. You can find us at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/write-pack-radio/id870221780?mt=2 and http://www.blogtalkradio.com/writepackradio. On Sunday the 10th, we’ll discuss the differences between writing fiction and non-fiction. On the 17th, we’ll talk about making characters.

Quote of the Week

Today I am in Kansas City, where I am officiating the wedding of some friends this afternoon. I based the ceremony around one of Shakespeare’s most quoted sonnets, so it seems right to quote from that sonnet today. Congratulations, Nicholas and Margaret.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.

– Shakespeare, Sonnet 116

News and Works in Progress

  • Brief Is My Flame. Making progress. Treachery, deceit, war, and an ancient horror are on the docket for today.

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

One of the other Write Pack members is Brad R. Cook. He writes a lot of steampunk, and I enjoy hearing his takes during our discussions. You can find his work at: https://www.amazon.com/Brad-R.-Cook/e/B01EQZ7GEM/.

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.
Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Website: www.robhowell.org
Blog: www.robhowell.org/blog
Shijuren Wiki: http://www.shijuren.org/World+of+Shijuren+Home
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/robhowell.org/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Rhodri2112

Currently Available Works

A Lake Most Deep (Edward, Book 1)
The Eyes of a Doll (Edward, Book 2)
Where Now the Rider (Edward, Book 3)
I Am a Wondrous Thing (The Kreisens, Book 1)
Brief Is My Flame (The Kreisens, Book 2) Forthcoming 2017
None Call Me Mother (The Kreisens, Book 3) Forthcoming 2018

Weekly Update Archive

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

Conna’s Pelican Ceremony

Greetings all

Saturday, one of my favorite people was elevated to the Order of the Pelican. For those not in the SCA, the Order of the Pelican is a peerage order at the same level as the a knight. However, instead of prowess at arms on the battlefield, the Pelican is chosen for their hard work and service to the SCA. They serve as officers, run events, organize projects, and whatever else needs to be done at a high level. By the way, the other bestowed peerage orders are the Chivalry, which is someone who has great prowess with rattan fighting, the Master of Defense, which is someone who has great prowess with steel fighting, and the Laurel, which is someone who has great prowess with an art or science. There’s also the Royal Peer, which is someone who has served as royalty in the SCA. A person can earn the right to be a member of any or all of these orders.

For those who don’t know Conna, I hope someday you get to meet her. She is one of the sweetest, most helpful, and talented people you could ever meet. I was honored and excited for her sponsor, Elasait, to choose me to write the ceremony.

One reason she chose me is that I am currently the Lanner Herald of Calontir, which means I’m to help make sure ceremonies happen. I took this job in part because I love ceremonies, which is why I took such pleasure writing the funeral in A Lake Most Deep and the stepping down ceremony in I Am a Wondrous Thing. I also took this job because I wanted to make ceremonies more interesting and fun. Conna’s ceremony is an example.

It dawned on me I’ve never really talked about how I shape ceremonies and what I think about when I’m writing them. With Conna’s permission, this post is an annotated copy of her ceremony that people who have always been interested in ceremonies can perhaps use as a reference.

Many kingdoms have a set standard for each ceremony, but I am not a fan of that. I aim to make every ceremony special for the recipient, because it is their day in the sun. However, the first rule is the ceremony is for the recipient, not for me. My job is to give them or their sponsor interesting options, but if they want something standard and vanilla, they get it.

Like when I write scroll texts, I want to shape ceremonies around the recipient’s persona. It would be odd for a Norse persona to be given a ceremony that is appropriate for the Hundred Years War, and vice versa. So, my first step is to find out, if I don’t already know, what time and place they like so I can focus my research to match.

Determining the time and place for Conna was easy. I drew upon the writings of Alphonso X, the Wise, King of Castile from 1252 to 1284. Alphonso is one of Conna’s great inspirations. She’s studied his writings and, especially, the many cantigas he wrote. Taking from his work would be very powerful for her.

Even for those I know well, I always start by asking their sponsor a number of questions, not just the time and place of their persona. What does the recipient want? What are their likes and dislikes? Hopefully, I’ll find out some inside jokes. I’m looking for anything that makes the ceremony more personal.

Again, for this ceremony, that proved easy. Elasait said to me she wanted to retrieve the protege belt she gave to Conna years ago. For those not in the SCA a protege is to a squire what a Pelican is to a knight. Each bestowed peerage has the opportunity to take students and guide others in the SCA in what they’ve learned. A token, usually a belt, is given by the peer to the student to show the connection.

If a squire is elevated to the Order of Chivalry, part of the ceremony includes a moment where the squire returns the tokens showing their station as a student to the knight. However, if a squire, such as myself, is elevated to a different order, like the Order of the Laurel, he or she has the option of keeping the tokens and remaining a student of the peer, or returning the tokens to his former peer. This is a completely personal choice. I gave mine back to Fernando when I was elevated. Conna chose to keep hers ten years ago when she was elevated to her first peerage.

So Elasait wanted to make sure that was in the ceremony, and that gave me the hook.

This is often one of the greatest challenges of a ceremony. Very rarely in Calontir does a peerage ceremony happen without everyone in the audience knowing it’s going to be a part of that court. Many people will know who is sponsoring the candidate and know when that person is called into court that the elevation ceremony is beginning.

In general, ceremonies are formulaic, so again most people know what’s going to happen in general terms. The sponsor will come up, ask to elevate the candidate. The candidate and the order to which they will join are called up. Also called up are the speakers in the ceremony and close family members. The speakers will talk about the candidate to the Crown, who will confirm that the candidate should be elevated. Then, the accoutrements of the order will be bestowed. The candidate is dubbed, swears an oath of fealty, and the scroll is read. There are some specific differences, like the buffet for the Chivalry and the different accoutrements to each of the orders, but that’s the basic structure.

Hence, it’s almost impossible to make ceremonies completely different from each other. One of the places you can make a ceremony unique is to find a way to start the ceremony in an unexpected way. I’ve done a number of different things, but in this case Elasait’s requirement about the protege belt gave me the opening.

Here’s the opening as written:

Herald:       Their Majesties grant the petition of Mistress Elasait ingen Diarmata.

< Elasait approaches the throne >

Elasait:       Your Majesties, I come here to seek redress. I hesitate to name it theft, but there is one amongst your people who for over a decade has held something of mine and it is time that she finally return it to me.

Damien:     This is a serious charge. Who do you thus accuse?

Elasait:       I accuse my protégé, Mistress Conna ingen Ui Chearbhaill.

You’ll see the first line is the most common way we start off ceremonies. The sponsor is granted a petition to speak to the Crown. Most often, they say something like “at such and such event, you granted my boon to elevate the candidate to this order, is it still your will to grant this?” There’s nothing wrong with that opening, but we do it all the time so I tried something different.

Now, I’m a bad, bad man for suggesting this opening. However, it was something that no one who knows Conna, or for that matter, knows how ceremonies work, would expect. Elasait had to think about doing this for a few days, but in the end agreed that this would be a fun way to kick things off. And when she went into court she put on her stern teacher face and blasted it out. Fantastic job with that.

As a side note you’ll see that I put all of the speaker’s names in the ceremony. There’s an argument to be made that I should use Their Majesties’ titles instead of their names, but this document is written to be a script, hence I’m focusing on making it as smooth as possible to perform. It’s easier to see your name than your title. However, since I don’t know who the herald will be when I’m writing it, I leave that in there. In the case of other speakers below, you’ll see both their role and their name. Again, I just put the name in, if I know it, or sometimes it’ll be both because the speakers get added in later. However it happens, the point is to make sure people can identify their part easily and quickly.

You can see I use italics for stage movements and instructions, bold and underline speakers, and I always write them in 14 point Garamond. It doesn’t show as well here, but I put in extra white space to make the separate lines easily readable. I also put extra page breaks between sections so that, at least for the herald, they can move from page to page while other things are happening and it doesn’t distract from the ceremony. People often rewrite ceremonies to their own preference but I start it out with as much differentiation as I can to make it easier and quicker to read from while it’s happening.

Getting back to the action, Elasait has just accused one of her best friends of stealing from her in court. I had spoken to Conna earlier in the day and knew she had no idea about the ceremony. So I knew to watch her face. It was priceless. The absolute last thing she expected. Yes, I am a big old meaniehead.

Issabell:      We grieve that such acrimony might exist between two peers of Our realm.

Damien:     And have you witnesses to support your claim?

Elasait:       I do.

Issabell:      Then I shall have my herald call them forward.

Herald:       Their Majesties call forward all who would bear witness is Mistress Elasait’s claim.

< The speakers all come forward and arrange themselves to the sides of the throne. Master David, even if he is not a speaker, should join the speakers >

This is even meaner to Conna, really, though it flows better arranging this as the next step. Conna was just bursting to come up after that start, but now she has to wait for all her speakers. It’s not terribly common for the speakers to precede the candidate, but there’s no real set order to get sponsor, candidate, speakers, and order up there. All that you have to do is make sure that all the people that need to get up for the ceremony know when they are supposed to go up.

A note on the last instruction. Master David is Conna’s husband and I usually find a role such as banner bearer or speaker for husbands, wives, children, and parents if I can. If there’s no specific role, I still specify that they go up to where they can watch. They may not be needed for the ceremony, but I’m a sentimental guy. Anyway, let’s give Conna chance to participate.

Damien:     Herald, call the accused before us that she may defend herself.

Herald:       Their Majesties invite forward, Mistress Conna ingen Ui Chearbhaill

< Conna comes forward >

Issabell:      Mistress Elasait, what item is it that you claim belongs to you?

Elasait:       When Conna was elevated to the Order of the Laurel, she deemed it improper that she then return the tokens I had given her as my protégé. I agreed only reluctantly that she keep them then, and the time has come for her to return these tokens.

Damien:     Why do believe the time has come?

Elasait:       Because I believe she has earned the right to be named a Pelican in her own right, and to put aside the tokens of a protégé forever.

Issabell:      Well-beloved is she, no doubt, but this is no small thing. We would have that Order advise Us and all such witnesses that might help.

Herald:       Their Majesties invite all members of the Order of the Pelican attending to join Them in Their court.

< The Order of the Pelican comes forward >

As you can see, I’ve arranged that this ceremony will work like a court case. This legal structure is convenient for peerage ceremonies and I use it the vast majority of the time. The sponsor has a suit, brings it before the Crown, provides witnesses to attest to the case, and the Order serves as the jury. Obviously, we don’t get to the point of having a ceremony written if the decision hasn’t already been made, but it’s still a good way to structure things.

Damien:     Mistress Elasait, call your witnesses.

Laurel (Aislinn): < own words, suggested topicAlphonso X (Siete Pardidas Part II, Title XXXI, Law ii): Masters who teach the sciences and the pupils who learn them, must have a hall where they may live in health, and rest and take pleasure in the evening, when their eyes have become weary with study. It should, moreover, be well provided with bread and wine, and good lodging houses, Conna has provided both a hall and been a teacher in that hall >

This begins the section where all of the orders of peerage and the populace speak about the candidate. There is no set order for which peerage goes where, however, I believe that the order to which the candidate will be added should always go last to confirm all the rest. I usually have the populace go right before them. Other than that, I may just choose randomly or I may have a sequence of topics that works best. It’s just whatever feels right.

Often, a ceremony will have a line that says something like: “Master Cooks-All-The-Feasts, will you speak for the Pelican?” There is nothing wrong at all with having the sponsor or the Crown saying this. In fact, it’s sometimes easier because everyone gets an explicit cue that it’s their turn. I will often try to avoid it, though, because if we prepare the speakers well (“you go after Mistress Pointy-End-In-The-Other Guy”), it’s not that difficult to arrange. By excluding the prompting lines, you speed up the ceremony a bit, and that’s sometimes really nice, especially in courts with multiple ceremonies.

You’ll also note the most important part of making every ceremony different. It is also the part that takes the most time to create. This is my basic structure of what the speakers are told to say: <own words, suggested topic – cool stuff related to the persona here >.

The people chosen to speak are close to the candidates. They love them. They want to put that love and friendship into words. This is not something you can script.

However, you can give them guidance and inspiration. Oddly, it doesn’t take much to make a ceremony feel like it’s from a particular time and place. If most of the speakers reference something of the time and place in the midst of their words, that adds the spice that makes the ceremony taste Norse, Hundred Years War, Pictish, Persian, Japanese, or whatever. I do the research to find relevant prompts, but it is up to the speaker to use any or all of that information. Again, this is a very personal moment and speakers need to have the freedom to show their heart and it only takes most, not all, of the speakers tossing in that spice to flavor the pot.

As I said before, Conna’s focus of interest is Alphonso X. I chose to pull from his Siete Pardidas for the witnesses and, as you’ll see, the Estoria de Espana for the bestowed items. These just felt right. I tend not to overthink things when I’m looking for inspiration, especially in an area where I’m not an expert. If it sounds cool to me, I put it in my notes and see if I can fit it into the ceremony. As a side note, when I’m looking through the texts of the period, I cut and paste out more passages into my notes than I’ll need. Sometimes a passage doesn’t work and needs replaced, or you need another one because there’s an extra speaker or seven. It’s nice to have a little extra just in case.

Anyway, here are the rest of the prompts for the witnesses:

Chivalry (Ariel):   < own words, suggested topicAlphonso X (Siete Pardidas Part II, Title XXI, Law xiii): For although our calling is rude and bloody, as it is concerned with wounds and death; nevertheless, our minds should not refuse to be naturally pleased with things which are beautiful and elegant, and especially when they wear them; for the reason that, on the one hand, they confer joy and comfort upon them, and, on the other, it induces them to perform intrepid deeds of arms, since that they are aware that they will be better known on this account, and that all persons will pay more attention to what they do; therefore cleanliness and elegance are not impediments to the bravery and ferocity which they ought to possess. >

Master of Defense(Ravasz):   < own words, suggested topicAlphonso X (Siete Pardidas Part II, Title XXI, Law iv): It is the duty of peers to protect the Church, the monarchs, and all others. Prudence will enable them to do this to advantage, and without injury, Conna has shown great prudence >

Royal Peer(Lucian):      < own words, suggested topicAlphonso X (Siete Pardidas Part I, Title I, Law xi): The law-maker should love justice and the benefit of all, Conna has supported the Crown >

Populace(Anne):           < own words, suggested topic Alphonso X (Siete Pardidas Part II, Title XXI, Law xiii) A peer should practice purity among themselves and it ought to be manifested in their good qualities and their habits, they should also display it externally in their clothing, and in the tools which they bear, Conna has done so time and again >

Pelican(Owain): < own words, suggested topicAlphonso X (Siete Pardidas Part II, Title X, Int.) All people are necessary, none can be excepted, for all are obliged to live together in order to live properly, be protected, and be supported, Conna has guided all around her >

Issabell:      Mistress Elasait, well have you proven your case.

Damien:     We deem that Mistress Conna must return to you all tokens that show she is your protégé.

< Elasait takes the protégé belt back. Much hugging ensues >

How do I choose which passage goes with which peerage? Again, whatever seems right. I’ll cut and paste and read it, then cut and paste a section to a different spot and so on.

I said before that ceremonies have a basic form and that’s to have speakers of the orders and the items. There’s another type of speaker that might be added, and those are speakers of the chivalric virtues. It is rare for me to write a ceremony that has speakers on the virtues and speakers from the orders and speakers on the things. That’s simply too many speakers, and peerage ceremonies are already long.

I’ll do it, if the candidate specifically requests, because it’s about the candidate, but I’ll advise against it. What I’ll suggest instead is that the speakers of the orders and the speakers of the items be prompted with references to the virtues. Something like, “I am Sir Hits-Things-Hard, and I will speak on Prowess,” and “I am Mistress Makes-Cool-Stuff, I bring the medallion, and I will speak on Courage,” and so on. That way we can have the virtues included, which many candidates want, and yet not have extremely long ceremonies.

Anyway, we have come to the end of the court case portion of the ceremony. The case has been proved to Their Majesties satisfaction, and we move on to the actual elevation portion. You see that in this case, we remind the crowd of the nature of the case by ensuring that Elasait gets that belt back. Hugging will usually ensue when the belts get returned.

I put in the stage direction about the hugging so that everyone involved is reminded to let that happen. We all know it’s going to, but sometimes on stage we get too focused on what comes next so it’s just a mild bit of humor people reading the ceremony see that suggests a break in the moment.

Now we continue to the next portion of the ceremony:

Issabell:      Mistress Elasait, have your claims been fully redressed?

Elasait:       No, Your Majesties. For though I brought suit against her, she is yet dear to me and I would give her gifts for you to bestow that befit her new station.

< Elasait turns to Conna >

Elasait:       Alphonso X said a kingdom consists of three main parts. I give you gifts that you always recall each of them.

Cap(Rosalyn):      < own words, suggested topicAlphonso X (Estoria de España) First, a good kingdom must have a king at its head, let this cap be a reminder that you ever help the king rule wisely >

(Ed. Note:  it’s actually a veil, modify accordingly)

Medallion(Fernando): < own words, suggested topicAlphonso X (Estoria de España) Second, a good kingdom is a body in itself, let this medallion remind you of the traditions of Calontir and the Order of the Pelican>

(Ed. Note: It’s actually a ring)

Cloak(Aoibheann):       < own words, suggested topicAlphonso X (Estoria de España) Third, a good kingdom is served by all its people, who are its arms and legs, let this cloak that covers you be a reminder that you must help all in Calontir as they need >

(Ed. Note: It’s actually a coat, modify accordingly—it’s her laurel coat which has had blood drops added)

Damien:     These are wise words indeed. We would have you remember them, now and forever.

Issabell:      You are accoutered as a Pelican. All claims against you are resolved.

Now, it’s going to come as complete shock but Alphonso X did not, actually, write about Calontir at any point in time. Clearly, a failing on his part. However, I’ve included Calontir references in these item speeches nonetheless. I simply paraphrased Alphonso with a Calontir twist. Again, these notes are there to give the speakers ideas, not exact quotes.

I obviously include the sources, though. One, I feel like I should as a researcher. Two, it’s also important that the speaker can track down the source, if they want, to find out the context. Some speakers do extra research. Some don’t. Doesn’t really matter, you’ve given them something to work with and a route to go if they want more.

As for the specific items, there’s a base list of items which each peerage gets. This base list can be modified and some of the items are optional. For example, I did not want someone to make me a laurel wreath when I was elevated because I would never wear it. Why waste someone’s time and money? There are times as well that a certain type of item doesn’t really fit a persona, so the item becomes something similar, like in Conna’s case a veil instead of a cap. In cases of a second peerage, as in this case, the coat is often modified to reflect the second peerage. These are things that the sponsor arranges and either they tell you the changes ahead of time or, as in this case, edits the ceremony themselves.

Damien:     Accept then from our hands that which your devotion and service have brought you.

< dubbing right shoulder with scepter >

May your skills ever be increased and offered in service to Crown and Kingdom.

Issabell:      < dubbing left shoulder with scepter >

May your courtesy and gentle demeanor ever serve as an inspiration for those who would observe you.

Damien and Issabell: < crossing scepters and dubbing head >

And may your spirit ever follow the goals your heart has set before you.

This is the dubbing, and it’s a basic formula. I rarely change this part, but it is something that could be changed. It might be something that a particular Crown decides to change for all of their peerages, like they change the oath to suit their time and place. However, this is a pretty good set of words and is the standard.

Issabell:      Are you now prepared to swear your oath as a Pelican?

Conna:        I am.

Oath:          Here do I swear fealty to the Crown and Kingdom of Calontir,
And herewith give my solemn oath:
To take you as liege of life and limb and truth and earthly honors.
To defend with all my power the rightful laws and customs,
Of the Crown, the Kingdom, and the Society.
To bear you faith by deed, word, consent, and counsel,
To serve, foster knowledge, and strive ever to be worthy
Of the Pelican.
Against all who love, move, or die,
swear I, Conna ingen Ui Chearbhaill

TRM Confirm Oath: We hear your fealty freely given,
And by Our word confirm
that We Will never sacrifice you needlessly.
We swear to judge your oaths with mercy,
Your words with honor, and your deeds with justice.
We will it and grant it and swear it so,
Damien, King.
Issabell, Queen.

As part of their preparation to rule, Calontir Kings and Queens create the fealty oaths peerages and populace swear at Coronation. There are some standard oaths that are often chosen, but they can choose whatever they want. Because they’re doing the orders as a group, the oath is specific to the Crown. However, the oath for a peerage ceremony does not have to be the normal one for the reign and I will always look for an oath that matches the persona.

Some Crowns prefer all to swear the same oath. Since this is Their court, the Crowns get to make this choice. Some sponsors and recipients also want to swear the normal oath. Again, if the Crown accepts, that’s the recipient’s choice. However, in my mind this is perhaps the most personal moment in the ceremony for the recipient and I at least offer an oath to match the persona, even if it’s not chosen. In Conna’s case, the oath was close enough to her persona I didn’t change anything. In contrast, when Severin received her Laurel later in that court, I made darn sure she got a Norse oath to swear because it meant a lot more to her than the normal oath of the reign would have.

At this point, though, we’re basically done. Often I’ll put something here where the Crown announces something like, “Calontir, your newest Pelican.” Sometimes that flows well. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes the Crown says it whether it’s in the script or not. It’s not terribly important either way. The crowd knows it’s about time to cheer for the recipient, and all they need is some sort of sign when to start.

There is one last thing that’s in the script though:

Read Scroll Text

Another side note. It’s a little tricky for the herald to actually know when to start reading. In general, you need to let the cheering begin to die down before reading. Each second waiting for the right moment tests your patience, especially when Their Majesties are turning to look at you with a look that says, “Read the scroll NOW or I’ll get a woodworker to make stocks and a blacksmith to make locks,” but it’s better if it’s timed right even so.

I always put the scroll text in the ceremony, if I’ve gotten it ahead of time. I have a blank in my template that says:

Scroll Text: If at all possible, put the scroll text in the ceremony. It will help the herald out.

Again, we’re trying to make this a ceremony that is easy to perform. As you can see, there’s little for a herald to do after everyone is called into court until this point, but they must follow along prepared to prompt Their Majesties or a speaker if needed. By adding the scroll text in the ceremony, it makes it easier for the herald to read, or at least it has when I’ve been the herald.

I’m not going to include the scroll text here because I didn’t write it, though I hope that they post it on Facebook or somewhere because it was really good. I also thought Elaisse, Ingeborg, and the performers did a fantastic job singing those portions. It was such a fitting thing for Conna.

Well, there you have it. A blow-by-blow retelling of that miscreant Conna ingen Ui Chearbhaill getting called into court to get her just desserts.

If you have questions about writing a ceremony or would like to volunteer to do so, just drop me a email at rob@robhowell.org and I’ll get you started.

 

 

 

Rob’s Update: Toys for Tots

Week of 12-18 November

Greetings all

It’s been a good week. Lots of work on Eleonore’s portion of Brief Is My Flame, which is always fun for me. She’s one of my favorite characters. The only real problem with her is not having too many words about her. There’s no real way to write a full novel just about her in this sequence, but I easily could.

One of the threads I’ve added that was not part of I Am a Wondrous Thing is Geirr Stronghair in Svellheim. He and Eleonore will have some interesting times together.

On a different note, I may have found a replacement for Brewbaker’s. If you recall, Brewbaker’s in the Kansas City area was a bar that proved especially comfortable and productive. There’s a barbecue place in Council Bluffs that may prove just as productive a spot.

And if it doesn’t turn out quite as well, I’ll somehow survive eating the ribs and pulled pork. And the brisket. Oh, the sausage balls are tasty too. It’s not quite B&C Creations in Wichita level of barbecue, but I’ll make do.

Tomorrow, I will head to Calontir’s Toys for Tots Tournament. It’s a great event because of all the toys we gather. Always over a thousand. It’s definitely a cool thing to have Marines come into a medieval-themed court and accept the toys formally. For those readers not coming, which is most of you, I ask that consider finding a Marine and giving him a new, unopened, and unwrapped toy. It’s a good cause in my opinion.

Well, I should get back to writing another battle scene. Have a great Thanksgiving everyone.

Quote of the Week

One of the interesting things about writing is how much you have to honestly evaluate what you’re doing, and that’s hard. Imposter syndrome makes it hard to like what you’ve written sometimes, but at the same time each sentence is one of your babies. Don’t want to cut what is good, but nothing is good if you leave in the extra stuff.

Rush, of course, helps me when I’m fighting through some of this, so we get this week’s quote. I hear this song and then I remember to distance myself from myself when I look at what I’ve written. I should probably just put this song on repeat when I’m editing.

All puffed up with vanity
We see what we want to see
To the beautiful and the wise
The mirror always lies
– Rush, “War Paint”

News and Works in Progress

  • Brief Is My Flame, about 25k now
  • A short story about the meeting of Edward and Deor
  • A seeeekrit project that I’ll open up in December.

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

Today, The Good, the Bad, and the Merc, the third collection of short stories in the Four Horsemen Universe was released into the wild. You can find it on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Good-Bad-Merc-Horsemen-Revelations-ebook/dp/B077H6H36M/

There’s a lot coming up in the Four Horsemen Universe and these three collections have a ton of background information and backstories. And, of course, my excellent story “Where Enemies Sit” in For a Few Credits More 😉

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

Rob’s Update: The Windshield A Movie Screen

Weeks of 15 October – 4 November

I have finally unburied myself enough from the trip to get an update to you. Sorry for the missed weeks, but what a journey it was. It went something like this:

Council Bluffs, IA to Wichita, KS (304 miles / 304 miles total)
Wichita to Elk Falls, KS (84 / 388 )
Elk Falls to Memphis, TN (468 / 856 )
Memphis to Huntsville, AL (215 / 1071)
Huntsville to Maryville, TN (216 / 1287)
Maryville to Flat Rock, NC (138 / 1425)
Flat Rock to Columbus, NC then Tryon, NC and back (29 / 1454)
Columbus to Whitakers, NC (301 / 1755)
Whitakers to Booneville, NC (190 / 1945)
Booneville to Whitakers (190 / 2135)
Whitakers to Wilmington, NC (154 / 2289 )
Wilmington, NC to Charleston, SC (172 / 2461)
Charleston to Whitakers (318 / 2779)
Whitakers to Raleigh (55 / 2834)
Raleigh to Whitakers (55 / 2889)
Whitakers to Louisville, KY (620 / 3509)
Louisville to Wichita (697 / 4206)
Wichita to Council Bluffs (304 / 4510)

There you have it. Over 4500 miles, plus driving around cities. I went to two conventions, ConStellation and HonorCon and had a great time at both. My after action reports are at http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=856 and http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=862. I went to a big SCA event, War of the Wings. My report is at: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=858.

I saw lots of relatives, some of whom I’d never even known existed. I also met my cousins. I haven’t seen them since the 1970s. I need to make visits to the Carolinas more common so I can keep in touch. Neither ConStellation nor HonorCon are continuing as such, but I’ll go back to War of the Wings.

I also toured the USS North Carolina in Wilmington, the USS Yorktown and USS Laffey in Charleston, and took the cruise to Fort Sumter. The North Carolina is the best battleship museum I’ve been to, and I’ve been on the Alabama (her sister ship), the Iowa, the Wisconsin, and the Texas. One specific extra cool thing on her is that you can actually go inside two of her 16in turrets. Tight quarters, but really neat to see. The Laffey was especially interesting, as I’d never been on a Sumner-class destroyer before. Also, I got fantastic pictures of the Yorktown as the cruise ship goes around her to get to Fort Sumter.

Fort Sumter is a place everyone should go. It’s part of a series of forts that guarded Charleston harbor and it’s fascinating to think how one would try and attack the harbor. You see fairly quickly why Fort Wagner had to be taken, and this why the 54th Massachusetts was thrown against its walls as shown in the movie Glory.

We had planned to take a more leisurely trip home, but by the end of HonorCon I was ready to get home. We drove the quick route back and did not visit Cape Girardeau on this trip as we had planned. The drive was generally smooth, though the really high winds and light snow on I-77 through the mountains north of Greensboro added a bit of difficulty factor.

Overall, it was a fantastic trip. Mom and I had a great time, though it was exhausting. From a professional standpoint, I thought it went really well, even though I barely had a chance to write anything. I’m feeling the lack, because writing is like working out, if you do it consistently it feels better.

But that’s what I’m ramping back up on since I got home. I’ve gotten a few thousand words in Brief Is My Flame, but I’m not yet back into form. That’s coming though, as I recover.

Fortunately, there’s not much travel between now and January, so I can get back into the rhythm.

Quote of the Week

Whenever I’m on a long trip, I can’t help but think of William Least-Heat Moon and Blue Highways. If you haven’t read this book, go do so. It’s a fantastic read, with all sorts of philosophical thought, history, and a sample of 1970s America.
“A car whipped past, the driver eating and a passenger clicking a camera. Moving without going anywhere, taking a trip instead of making one. I laughed at the absurdity of the photographs and then realized I, too, was rolling effortlessly along, turning the windshield into a movie screen in which I, the viewer, did the moving while the subject held still. That was the temptation of the American highway, of the American vacation (from the Latin vacare, “to be empty”).”
― William Least Heat-Moon, Blue Highways

News and Works in Progress

  • Brief Is My Flame

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

I met another of my fellow contributors to For a Few Credits More at HonorCon, Ian J. Malone. You can find him on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.com/Ian-J.-Malone/e/B00BJ5QO50/

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

War of the Wings AAR

The second thing on this trip was War of the Wings, an SCA event in Atlantia. I am glad I get to do what I do, but sometimes the effort required can make things challenging.

Once again, I have to thank Master Andrixos for letting me sell in his booth. I really enjoy spending time with Drix, and there’s no doubt he’s helped me get traffic.

Now, traffic at the event for the merchants wasn’t as good as anyone hoped, and I suspect some of that is because they are still settling in with the best layout for everything. War of the Wings is a growing event, and the site is great, though tilted. However, they’re still fiddling with some stuff, including the best way to arrange the merchants. Sales were good enough that I’d like to go back if circumstances allow, but I think they’ll be better in the future.

One thing that I think we’ll do differently is that both Drix and I will get separate booths, though we’ll ask to be next to each other. There are advantages for both of us to work together, including setup and tear down, but my logistics were a little complicated because my tent was so far away from the merchant booth. We’re going to try to be next to each other at Meridies 40th Year.

While my camp was not close, I was blessed to be permitted to camp with Yorkshire Manor, one of the households in Atlantia. Included in that camp is Bryce de Byram, who is someone I knew well enough from Pennsics past to ask for space, but not much more.

I said that the effort to do this job is challenging, and where that effort can be frustrating is my fatigue after work. Not just physical fatigue either, but also the fatigue of talking to people all day long. What that meant was my hopes to get to know the people of Yorkshire Manor better, especially Bryce, were foiled. I barely was able to spend any time with them. By the time I got home, I was too tired to enjoy the group, which was a shame. Many thanks to all of them, especially Bryce, Christian Thomas (who ran the camp), and all the people who helped make it a cool place. I’m sorry I didn’t do you all justice.

As I said, I would like to go back, if circumstances allow. Now that I know how things are laid out, I think I can plan more efficiently, meaning I might have more energy to get to know some of those great people.

Rob’s Update: Near Tannhauser Gate

Weeks of 1-14 October

Greetings all. It’s been a busy couple of weeks, and there’s some good news to report. Though I don’t have news on a house, we’ve managed to carve out enough space for me to have a cubicle I can work in from home. I haven’t had such a thing in months.

I’ve been working on a series of small things, including some short stories in Shijuren. Also, I’ve made major progress on the website upgrade. I expect that to go live soon.

That hasn’t left much time for Brief Is My Flame, but there have been bits and pieces here and there. Scenes, mostly, or snippets of conversation. I don’t actually know how many words, because they’re in a variety of places right now, but when I get back I’ll piece them together.

Get back? Where is Rob going?

Well, let me tell you. My mom wanted to see relatives in North Carolina, so we scheduled a trip in conjunction with cons and events. We leave tomorrow and wind our way to Huntsville, AL where I’ll be at Constellation.

Then, we see a variety of relatives as we make our way across eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina. On Wednesday of next week, I’ll drop my mom off with relatives and end up in Boonville, where I’ll be selling books at War of the Wings. This will be a good chance for me to get my name out to a part of the SCA I’ve not spent much time at.

Following that, we spend more time with relatives concluded by attending HonorCon in Raleigh.

Whew. I’m gonna be tired in early November, I tell you what. But I’m really excited.

Quote of the Week

I don’t know when I’ll get to see it, but I’m really excited about Blade Runner 2049. So, there seems only one quote that’s appropriate.

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain…” – Roy Batty, Blade Runner

News and Works in Progress

  • Short stories
  • Brief Is My Flame

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • Nothing new to add, but more will be coming during the trip.

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

My story in For a Few Credits More involves a Peacemaker, but Peacemakers in the Four Horsemen Universe have their noses in all sorts of places. Kevin Ikenberry, who assisted me to make sure we were consistent, put out a full length Peacemaker novel. Here’s his author page on Amazon for the rest of his stuff: https://www.amazon.com/Kevin-Ikenberry/e/B00ASFBXT4/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1.

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

Rob’s Update: Mechs in Action

Week of 10-16 September

Greetings all and welcome to release day!

For a Few Credits More, the second anthology in the Four Horsemen Universe is now available at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075LGF41H

I want to thank Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey for letting me play in their sandbox. If you like military science fiction with mechs, this is the universe for you.

My story, “Where Enemies Sit” talks about a lieutenant on his first deployment. The title comes from the Havamal which begins:

All the entrances, before you walk forward,
you should look at,
you should spy out;
for you can’t know for certain where enemies are sitting,
ahead in the hall
(Larrington, Carolyne. (Trans.) (1999) The Poetic Edda, page 14. Oxford World’s Classics)

Let’s just say the lieutenant finds enemies sitting where he did not expect.

Anyway, I’m very excited to become a part of the Four Horsemen Universe, and hope to be allowed to contribute more. “Where Enemies Sit” has spawned a number of ideas for me that I will try and fit between writing in Shijuren.

Speaking of which, I’ve done a little, but not much. With all the upheaval in my life, I simply haven’t written much. I’ve done a number of other projects, though, and have been clearing the decks of some assembled things that have also needed attention.

I’ve got a series of SCA events to attend over the next three weeks. I’ll be at Queen’s Prize Tournament, which will give me an opportunity to visit with my apprentice. The week after, I’ll be in Grimfells with my booth. I’ll also be selling at the Gryphon’s Fest event.

I hope to have copies of For a Few Credits More there, but it may take a while.

With that, I’ll get back to work.

Quote of the Week

Also from Larrington’s translation of the Havamal is a much more famous passage:

Cattle die,
kinsmen die
you yourself die;
I know one thing
which never dies:
the judgment of a dead man’s life
– The Havamal, Stanza 77

News and Works in Progress

  • Did about 2k words in Brief Is My Flame this week. Not much really, but I’ve been scribbling out and recording notes to hopefully make the writing much quicker when everything settles down.

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • Last week I did my NFL prediction at http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=839. There are also eight other blog posts breaking down each division. They’re linked in this main post.

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

I’ve put both of them here before, but this week’s spotlight again goes to Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey, whose Four Horsemen Universe is blowing up. In fact, over the next few weeks, I’ll be linking to other authors in For a Few Credits More.

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

2017 AFC East

AFC East

2016 Finish: New England, Miami, Buffalo, New York Jets

Overall Notes: New England is perhaps the best run team ever, with perhaps the best quarterback ever. They are also extremely lucky to be in the AFC East. The Dolphins, Bills, and Jets have had, in general, mediocre teams. The Patriots have been great, no doubt, but they’ve also benefited from a weak division.

New England Patriots
2016 Record: 14-2 (Pythagorean Wins: 12.8)
2016 Division Rank: 1st
2016 Injury Rank: 8th
2017 Age Rank: 26th
2016 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 1st (2nd / 16th / 8th)

The defending NFL champs return and seem to be even more loaded than before. The are an extremely smart organization, and they know more than anyone else that their window with Tom Brady is closing because he getting old. So, instead of using the draft, which they’re actually not particularly good at, they used their draft picks as trade capital to bring back Brandon Cooks and signed Stephon Gilmore in free agency.

This is excellent game theory. They will suffer a bit as the lack of a draft class bites them a little in three years or so, but if it means another Super Bowl in 2017, that’s a good trade.

Nothing about last year suggests their record was a fluke. They outperformed their Pythagorean record by a little, but they were still the best Overall DVOA team in the NFL. They were a little lucky with injuries, but not extremely so. This was a great team that was a worthy NFL winner and they might be better this year.

People are predicting them back to the Super Bowl. In fact, some are suggesting 16-0 is possible. That’s overly optimistic but I can understand it.

The only real concern I have for this team is injuries. They are older than most, meaning they’re more likely to have injuries. We’ve already seen that with Julian Edelman out for the season.

However, this team will dominate this division. If they aren’t at least 5-1 in division, I’ll be shocked. In fact, they’d win this division handily if Brady gets injured tonight and Jimmy Garoppolo is their quarterback all year long.

I predict 14-2 and the 1st seed in the playoffs with Brady. Without? 11-5 or 10-6, winning the division and being the 3rd or 4th seed.

This team is really good. Yes, my name is Captain Obvious

Miami Dolphins
2016 Record: 10-6 (Pythagorean Wins: 7.5)
2016 Division Rank: 2nd
2016 Injury Rank: 26th
2017 Age Rank: 29th
2016 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 18th (14th / 19th / 12th)

I suppose I’ll pick the Dolphins to come in 2nd place in the AFC East. Someone has to and the Bills and Jets will be competing for the first pick in the draft.

This was a playoff team last year, but got there by getting lucky. They outperformed their Pythagorean record quite a bit. They were mediocre last year. Yes, they added a few players, but none of them were world-beaters. They also lost a few players, again none of them great.

They’ve already been hit by the injury bug by losing their quarterback, Ryan Tannehill. However, I think Jay Cutler is about as good, perhaps even a tick better. It’s hard to say. Neither is particularly good.

And that’s the problem. There’s nothing on this team that’s good. Last year they were middle of the pack in DVOA across the board. They had a lot of injuries, but are unlikely to see that change this year as they’re old.

I can see them going 8-8 if *everything* breaks well, but honestly that’s because they could sweep both the Bills and Jets. More realistically, they eke out a victory or two and end up 6-10 or so.

Buffalo Bills
2016 Record: 7-9 (Pythagorean Wins: 8.5)
2016 Division Rank: 3rd
2016 Injury Rank: 25th
2017 Age Rank: 30th
2016 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 17th (10th / 27th / 22nd)

This was actually a better team than the Dolphins last year, though their record didn’t reflect it.

But they weren’t that much better. This year, they’ve lost a number of their best players to trades and free agency. Their best offensive player, LeSean McCoy, is 29, and that’s old for a running back. I’d bet he doesn’t make it through the season healthy. Their offensive line is pretty good, actually, but they simply don’t have enough weapons. They were 10th in DVOA last year, which isn’t bad, but I don’t see them improving and they’d have to improve to make this team competitive.

On defense, they lost one of their best players, Stephon Gilmore, to the Patriots. They have some good defensive linemen, but this defense won’t improve much from that 27th ranking.

I see this team in the 5-11 range.

New York Jets
2016 Record: 5-11 (Pythagorean Wins: 4.4)
2016 Division Rank: 4th
2016 Injury Rank: 29th
2017 Age Rank: 6th
2016 DVOA Overall (O/D/ST): 32nd (31st / 21st / 32nd)

This may be the worst team in the NFL. They were last in DVOA last year, significantly worse than the 1-15 Cleveland Browns. Awful on offense, mediocre on defense, and the worst on special teams.

They lost a number of good players to free agency like Brandon Marshall. They cut some like Nick Mangold. These weren’t bad decisions, actually, as they were all old and on the downward slope like Darrelle Revis. It’s clear that the Jets are looking at getting younger. This is a smart thing.

But they’ve got nothing on offense. Most of their starters aren’t as good as the Patriots’ backups. They have a number of good players on defense, like Muhammed Wilkerson, but not enough. Morris Claiborne was signed away from the Cowboys, and he’s a good player when healthy. The problem is that he’s never made it through a season healthy.

It’s possible this team wins 3 games. I suppose. I’d bet they win less, though. They were awful last year and got worse. They are the mirror image of the Patriots.

2017 AFC West

2016 Finish: Kansas City, Oakland, Denver, San Diego

Overall Notes: This is a really balanced division. You can make a good argument for any of the four teams winning it. Each of the teams is playoff worthy, but none of them might be wild-card teams. The division will beat each other up, plus they play the NFC East, though they do have the advantage of playing the AFC East as well.

Kansas City Chiefs
2016 Record:  12-4 (Pythagorean Wins: 10.1)
2016 Division Rank: 1st
2016 Injury Rank: 27th
2017 Age Rank: 16th
2016 DVOA Overall 6th (O/D/ST):  (13th / 14th / 1st)

There’s a lot to like about this team. Travis Kelce is one of the best TEs in the game. Tyreek Hill can score from anywhere. Yes, even from Novosibirsk. Alex Smith knows his strengths and plays to them. Kareem Hunt will do very well at RB. They don’t have enough on the outside, though, and that’ll hurt them. I think the Chiefs will take a small step up on offense, but not a huge one. Say 9th or 10th in Offensive DVOA next year.

I think they’ll also see a slight step up on defense, simply because Justin Houston is healthy. In all honesty, this team could, if all breaks well, take a large step up, say to 5th in DVOA. There’s a lot to work with here.

But I don’t think they’ll duplicate that 1st in Special Teams. It’s the most volatile of rankings, and if they are indeed only using Hill on offense, then they’re losing him in the return game and that’s a mistake. I understand the idea of protecting him from injury, but he’s just too good not to use him.

Overall, I think they’ll come in around 11-5. They didn’t add much, in my opinion, having spent so much draft capital on Patrick Mahomes, but they were really unlucky on injuries last year. Given their age, middle of the pack, I’d expect their injuries to return to middle of the pack, even though they’ve already lost Spencer Ware for the season. I think they’ll win the division, but as I said, it could really be any team.

Los Angeles Chargers
2016 Record: 5-11 (Pythagorean Wins: 7.7)

2016 Division Rank: 4th
2016 Injury Rank: 31st
2017 Age Rank: 8th
2016 DVOA Overall 19th (O/D/ST):  (18th / 7th / 29th)

Speaking of volatile, let’s talk about the Chargers. They were hammered by injuries last year, but were much better than their 5-11 record. Essentially, this was an average team *after* all of the injuries. They were fairly stable in terms of free agency, though I do like what they did in the draft.

If Keenan Allen can stay healthy, they’re very good on the outside. Melvin Gordon is a good RB. They have a great QB in Philip Rivers. At TE, while Antonio Gates may be at the end of his career, I think Hunter Henry will be outstanding. If that offensive line can be average, this offense will dramatically improve. And it wasn’t awful last year.

On defense, they were very good last year. I see a small dropoff here, but not much. Joey Bosa will be better this year, and while they don’t have a tone of stars on defense, they have lots of quality players.

Their weakness was Special Teams. I don’t honestly know how well they’ve addressed this, but there’s room for significant improvement if they can just reach mediocre.

Man, I have no idea what to do with this team. I can see them dominating the division if the offense clicks and their injury luck turns back in their favor. They’re also the youngest team in the division, and I think they’ll do better in the latter part of the season. So, ummm, yeah. I’ll say 10-6 and contending for a wild card.

Oakland Raiders
2016 Record:  12-4 (Pythagorean Wins: 8.8)

2016 Division Rank: 2nd
2016 Injury Rank: 13th
2017 Age Rank: 19th
2016 DVOA Overall 10th (O/D/ST):  (8th / 22nd / 14th)

The Oakland Raiders were not as good as their record indicated last year. That 3.2 differential in record to Pythagorean wins is huge. They got really lucky in a bunch of games, even though the loss of Derek Carr in game 15 was awful luck that ruined their season. In general though, their injuries and their age are not extraordinary.

The team was pretty stable in terms of additions and losses. The big addition is Marshawn Lynch, but no one really knows what he’ll do after spending a year out of the league. Plus, he’s old. I will say that this never gets old: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIjQuxaK4Mw.

I actually think the Raiders will be very good on offense. They’ve got a great offensive line, very good to great receivers, and Lynch. I think Carr is a little overrated, but there’s no denying he’s damn good. This offense could be even better and they were really good last year.

Defense is a huge question mark, though. They were 22nd on defensive DVOA last year despite having Khalil Mack, who is fantastic. They drafted well, and both Gareon Conley and Obi Melifonwu will help.

But I can’t get over that 8.8 Pythagorean from last year. They were extremely lucky to get to 12 wins, and I don’t see it happening again. They’re the oldest team in the division, and that won’t help. I think they’re a better team this year but I think they end up 9-7.

Denver Broncos
2016 Record:  9-7 (Pythagorean Wins: 9.1)

2016 Division Rank: 3rd
2016 Injury Rank: 10th
2017 Age Rank: 14th
2016 DVOA Overall 14th (O/D/ST):  (28th / 1st / 24th)

I really like what this team did on the offensive line, especially adding Ron Leary. The offensive line was a weakness last year, and I think it’ll be at least average. This is huge for them, because they do not have the quarterback to overcome that weakness. Tom Brady could. Trevor Simien? Not so much. However, with that improved line I see this offense getting significantly better.

But I see a regression on defense. I really couldn’t tell you why, though. Maybe it’s because their best defensive players are 28 and older. Maybe it’s because I love DeMarcus Ware so much that his retirement is influencing me.

My suspicion is this team will be about the same, in the 9-7 range, though I’ll actually predict 8-8, but that will be driven by the offense approaching average.

 

2017 AFC South

2016 Finish: Houston, Tennessee, Indianapolis, Jacksonville

Overall Notes: Tennessee is head and shoulders above the others. The Texans will do well because of that defense, but that offense is iffy. Jacksonville will improve, but they also don’t have a quarterback. And Indianapolis? I’d rank them pretty low *if* Andrew Luck were healthy.

Tennessee Titans
2016 Record:  9-7 (Pythagorean Wins: 8.1)
2016 Division Rank: 2nd
2016 Injury Rank: 2nd
2017 Age Rank: 27th
2016 DVOA Overall 15th (O/D/ST):  (9th / 24th / 19th)

The Titans are the best team in this division and it’s not close. However, there are two worrisome factors. One, they were extraordinarily lucky in terms of injuries last year. That probably won’t happen again especially since they’re one of the oldest teams in the NFL.

However, Marcus Mariota is a rising star for a reason. DeMarco Murray is ancient for an RB, but Derrick Henry is about as good, if not better. I don’t like their receiver corps overall, but by the end of the year Corey Davis might have figured a bunch of things out. He’s going to be really good, though probably not this year.

Their defense is a problem, though. I *think* it’ll be better, but not much. Still, I think it’ll be good enough with that offense.

They are old, and will get injuries, but the oldest players on the roster are not their most important ones. Matt Cassel’s age, for example, is irrelevant, because no team survives the loss of their first-string QB.

This team might finish last in the AFC West, but in the AFC South? I think they win it with a 10-6 record.

Houston Texans
2016 Record:  9-7 (Pythagorean Wins: 6.5)

2016 Division Rank: 1st
2016 Injury Rank: 22nd
2017 Age Rank: 4th
2016 DVOA Overall 29th (O/D/ST):  (30th / 9th /  31st)

This team was not as good as its record last year. They were unlucky in terms of injuries, especially to J.J. Watt, but even so this offense was horrible. Their Special Teams were even worse.

Things could get better on offense, but that will mean Tom Savage will dramatically improve (unlikely), or Deshaun Watson will be good (more likely, but only if he gets a chance). They’ll have weapons on the offense, but the line isn’t great. I could see an improvement here, maybe even to mediocrity.

On defense, their fans have to be salivating over a defense with a healthy Watt, Jadaveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, and some solid DBs. They could be fantastic.

The problem with this team is that they could be significantly better and their record stay the same or even get worse. Now, being a young team, I think they’ll improve at the end of the year, but I still see an 8-8 team.

Jacksonville Jaguars
2016 Record:  3-13 (Pythagorean Wins: 5.8)

2016 Division Rank: 4th
2016 Injury Rank: 17th
2017 Age Rank: 7th
2016 DVOA Overall 26th (O/D/ST):  (27th / 12th / 23rd)

Man, this team is frustrating. They have a ton of talent. But they have Blake Bortles and Chad Henne at QB.

They do have a good RB in Leonard Fournette, and a number of talented WRs. The offensive is mediocre, though, and without a good QB, they can’t overcome it.

The defense has a chance to be fantastic, though, perhaps even better than the Texans. They are going to be really stout up the middle, and if they can get some pass rush off the end, they will do some damage, though that’s not necessarily likely.

They were unlucky last year, and they’re youngish so I expect them to dramatically improve on that 3-13 record, but I can’t see them more than 7-9 because of wretched QB play.

Indianapolis Colts
2016 Record:  8-8 (Pythagorean Wins: 8.5)

2016 Division Rank: 3rd
2016 Injury Rank: 20th
2017 Age Rank: 5th
2016 DVOA Overall 23rd (O/D/ST):  (12th / 29th / 5th)

I see a huge regression on this team, and it’s not simply because Andrew Luck is hurt. They don’t have great RBs. Outside of T.Y. Hilton, who is really good, they don’t have any other weapons. The offensive line is horrible. The only reason they were 12th in Offensive DVOA was Luck. They’d be worse this year with him, but without? Whew, doggy.

The defense isn’t getting significantly better, either, even with their top 3 draft picks coming on this side of the ball. I think Malik Hooker will be fantastic, and was higher on Quincy Wilson than most, but the rest of their DBs aren’t much. Nor do they have a front seven to scare anyone. They were 29th last year for a reason, and while they improve a touch, it won’t be higher than 20th.

I think they might steal a win or two at the end of the season as some of their young players catch up to the NFL’s speed and Luck returns, but I see this as a 5-11 type team. Maybe 3-13.