Thursday, March 08, 2018

Moving Along

My most recent novel, Broken Gods, has had its first reader, my lovely wife.  It was received mostly positively, with some (constructive) criticism on a few things dealing with the end of the book.  I am now in the middle of a fairly big round of edits, reworking a few different things, and am fairly happy with how things are coming.  Once the edits are done, the wife will likely read it again before it gets sent to the exclusive Cooper Book Club.

The version my wife read was at 106,000 words, and after a bit of editing, the current manuscript is at nearly 116,000 words, and I still have a whole extra chapter to write for it.  With that chapter (putting the book at 48 total) and extra edits, I would guess I would end up around 120,000 words.  Much more than that and it starts getting to be considered too long for first time authors, and I'll have to look into cutting it down a little.  I'd likely cap it around 124,000.  So we'll see.

Other than that, life is not too exciting.  We are going on a road trip with my brother Erik and their family in June, travelling from the Grand Canyon up to Yellowstone, ending up in Colorado for a cousins get together.  It should be good fun.  The wife and I will quite possibly also be taking a trip somewhere else later in the year, possibly to San Diego.  There are also plans to go back to Europe in 2019, going up into Scotland, as our first trip there didn't get us any farther than Edinburgh.  We may visit London again as well.  But that's a while away.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Broken Gods

I have been working quite a bit on my latest novel, Broken Gods, book one of the series The Path of Souls.  It is about to the point where my wife will read it and let me know what she thinks.  After editing based on her feedback, it will go to the esteemed Cooper Book Club.  In its current state, it is approximately 106,000 words, which is right in my initial goal range of 100,000 to 110,000.

This is certainly my most ambitious and complex book, but we shall see what people think of it when they read it.  It is epic fantasy with wizards and what I think and hope is a fairly original magic system.  It is written in third person past tense, which is a return to the style I used in my first couple books before doing three books in first person, mostly in present tense.  I have five point of view characters, and all thirty-eight of the chapters are from their points of view, with a few additional separate chapters (prologue, interludes, epilogue) that are from other points of view.


I'm really quite excited to see how this one is received.  I undoubtedly have quite a bit more work on it before it gets submitted to literary agents.

I already have notes on the book I will likely start writing after this one, with a very preliminary working title of Dice of the Divine, which would be an interesting mix of science fiction and fantasy.  But I won't start that one until Broken Gods gets submitted to agents.

In other writing news, I did have a small publisher respond to my query letter for Spaceman Steve and the Quest for the Awesome Artifact with a request for the full manuscript, which is actually the first time I've had that happen.  So that's exciting, no matter what comes from it.  They are currently reviewing the manuscript and will let me know within a couple months if they're going to do anything with it.  It's not overly likely, but I can hope. :)

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Path of Souls

Today has been a productive writing year.  Early in the year, I finished up work on Praeteran, my fourth novel.  That fantasy book is actually book one of a longer series that also includes my first novel, The Second Shadow.  I did not submit Praeteran to any literary agents, however, as I feel the entire series needs some more work.  I hope to get back to it some day.

In May, I started work my fifth book, which is the silliest thing I've ever written, which is a fantasy comedy novel called Spaceman Steve and the Quest for the Awesome Artifact.  It was the most fun I've had writing a book.  My little reading group (my wife and the Cooper Book Club) enjoyed it quite a bit.  I have submitted it to literary agents, but haven't gotten any further with it yet.  So we shall see.

I have now started work on my sixth novel, which I believe is my most ambitious.  It started with a short story called The Screams, and has since expanded.  Before starting to actually write any more chapters, I spent quite a bit of time with world building, coming up with (what I think is) a somewhat unique magic system, and creating a storyline for a trilogy with both overarching plots that cover the whole trilogy, and smaller plots for each book.  By the end of my planning phase, I had seventeen pages of notes in Word, an Excel workbook with thirteen different worksheets, and a detailed map created in Photoshop (a fragment of which is shown here).  I then started writing, and am thus far on chapter 15 out of the outlined 53 chapters.  This book, currently titled Broken Gods (and part of the series titled The Path of Souls), is epic fantasy, and I hope to end up with book 1 being between 100,000 and 110,000 words, which would by far be the longest thing I've written.  I am trying to take things slower to allow more time for character and world development.  We'll see how the finishe
d product comes out.  Maybe it will get to the Cooper Book Club sometime in the spring.

Friday, September 08, 2017

One Busy Demon

Here is my third attempt at the five word writing challenge.  Just like in the past, I requested on Facebook that five friends each give me a word, and then I would use those five words in a piece of flash fiction (usually less than 1500 words).  This one is a bit different from the first two, and may be a little dumb, but I'm hoping it's at least somewhat amusing in the process.  And thus, I present to you One Busy Demon.

Words:
Platypus
Transmitter
Malevolent
Fraudulent
Homogeneous

One Busy Demon

“Good morning, oh malevolent one.”
“Shut up, Phil.”
“Okay, boss.”
It was another warm day in Hell, making it two hundred forty-three thousand two hundred forty-two consecutive days where Phil documented that it was warm in Hell.  As the chief scribe of the devil himself, this was part of his responsibilities, among many others.  He was one busy demon, as he was also the pitcher and manager of one of the realm’s best slow-pitch softball teams, the Angels.  He had gotten very good at ignoring the people who complained that the name was culturally insensitive.
The lord of the underworld sat at his desk, staring down at a three-dimensional holographic model of the planet Earth, scratching his red chin and scowling.
“What is wrong, Satan?” Phil asked.  “Are you feeling blue?”
“Please stop making that joke,” Satan said in a thunderous voice. 
“But it’s hilarious.”
“No, it’s not.”
“Oh, come on.  Just because we’re in Hell doesn’t mean we can’t laugh.  I mean, you’re feeling blue, even though you’re all red.  Gosh, I crack myself up.”
“Do you remember why my last chief scribe was fired from his position?” Satan asked.
“Because he smiled too much.”
“And do you remember where that former chief scribe is positioned now?”
“In the latrines.”
“That’s correct.  And yet you tell jokes.”
“Oh, I just want you to not be so glum all the time.  Every day, it seems you’re unhappy.  What gives?  Does something specific have you down today?”
“These people,” Satan said, nodding at the slowly rotating Earth.  “They’re making it far too easy for me.”
“Easy?  Isn’t easy good?”
“No, Phil,” Satan said, sighing and putting his horned head into his scaly hands.  “Do I want to dominate these people and make them turn away from my enemy?  Of course.  Do I want to fill their minds with things of the world and distract them from the bigger picture?  You bet.  Am I succeeding in that?  Absolutely.  And it isn’t even close.  But it used to be so much more interesting.  The chase.”
“There is still a chase, right?” Phil asked as he made notes in a tome about the day’s meal plan.  Lutefisk again.
“Yes, there is still a chase,” the devil said, “but the opportunities are becoming more and more limited.  Most of the people simply walk around oblivious to the world around them.  They come pre-distracted.  They are in their own little bubble, disconnected from the things my enemy would want them to seek.  Instead of observing the world in front of their eyes, they spend most of their time staring down at those little transmitters they hold in their hands, watching or reading or doing who knows what.  I still send demons down to possess people to deter them from following my enemy, but they used to put up a good fight against the little devils.  The demons really had to work at it to break the person.  Nowadays, though, people are just like, ‘Oh, I guess I’m possessed now,’ and it really doesn’t change anything because they’re already so disconnected from where my enemy wants them to be.  Things have changed.  This isn’t what I was promised.  This isn’t the adventure I was told about.  This is nothing but a fraudulent bore.”
“What?  Who promised you an adventure?”
“It was…” Satan sat up and scrunched his crimson brow.  “Now I don’t remember.  It was who knows how many millennia ago.  Humanity was so much more interesting back then.  They were homogenous, but within their similarities was boundless diversity.  Now they are just carbon copies of each other.  Billions of identical souls simply floating about in the wind, allowing me to push them where I desire, with little to no effort.  These people nowadays make most of their day to day decisions based on feelings and not facts, and feelings are so easily coerced.  I don’t have to be mean and scary anymore.  I don’t have to manipulate them deep to their core.  At most, I just dangle something shiny in front of their face, and they do whatever I want them to.  They don’t even know it’s happening.  It is almost too easy.”
“But like you said, you get to sway them anywhere you want!” Phil said excitedly.  “Isn’t that the point?  You still get to win!”
“Win?” Satan said, laughing a deep menacing laugh.  “When the game is so easy, it sure doesn’t feel like winning.”
“Feel?” Phil said.  “What an incredibly human thing for you to think.”
Satan turned and scowled down at his chief scribe.
“Oh, come now,” Phil said.  “You just need to laugh a little.  Fortunately for you, I’ve been prepping for this for the last few years.  One of these should make you laugh.”
“One of what?”
“One of these.  I think you’ll like them.  First off: a father was walking by a cemetery with his son.  The father told his son that he can’t be buried in that cemetery.  The son asked why.  The father answered, saying he can’t be buried there because he’s not dead yet.”
Satan just stared at Phil.
“Okay, tough crowd,” Phil said.  “What do you get when you cross a platypus with a steamroller?  Any guesses?  No?  Okay then.  You get a flatypus.”
Satan returned his head to his hands.
“Imagine that a flock of birds flies by in a V-formation.  One of the lines of birds is longer.  Do you know why?”
The devil sighed and shook his head.  “Why?”
“Because that line has more birds in it.”  Phil burst into laughter. 
Satan rolled his dark eyes.  “This is not what I need right now,” he said.  “I need a challenge.  Something to make the chase more interesting.”
“What can be more interesting than a good joke?”
“I don’t know, but if I hear one I will let you know.”
“Ouch.”
“Maybe I should see if my enemy would wipe most of the world out with a flood again,” Satan said, nearly smiling at the thought.  “That was quiet entertaining to watch the first time.  It would be nice to have another clean start to the chase.”
“I think your enemy promised not to do that again,” Phil said, flipping quickly through a large tome and pointing at a water-stained page.  “Something about a rainbow or whatever.”
“Ah, yes, you are correct,” Satan said.  “He did promise that, and he tends to be fairly good at keeping his promises.”
“That he does,” Phil said, nodding.  “So, you’re looking for something that doesn’t kill everybody off, but gives the world just enough hope so you can have fun crushing it all again?”
“Exactly.  Is that too much to ask?”
“Certainly not.”
“Ideas?”
“But of course,” Phil said.  “I mean, you already let the Cubs win the World Series, but I’m sure there’s something else we can do.  We could get them to treat Pluto as a planet again.”
“No.”
“We could make all of the world’s lawyers really sick.”
“No.”
“Well then I’m out of ideas.”
“There must be something.”
“Wait… yes,” Phil said excitedly.  “Yes!  I have it!”  He started to draw with a black feathered pen on a piece of parchment.  After several minutes, he held up the parchment and showed it to Satan.
The devil looked over it and then grinned widely, nodding at his chief scribe.  “You’ve done it, you brilliant little demon!”
“Thank you, oh malevolent one!  I remember seeing something similar in one of the tomes, and I thought, wow, the price of the power of the air would certainly have interest in this one!  It is so you!  It is perfect!  It is—”
“Shut up, Phil.”

“Okay, boss.”

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Witch Doctor

Here is my second attempt at the five word writing challenge.  Just like last time, I requested on Facebook that five friends each give me a word, and then I would use those five words in a piece of flash fiction (usually less than 1500 words).  And thus, I present to you the result of that attempt, Witch Doctor.

Words:
Salmon
Dachshund
Toenail
Intravenous
Waterfall

Witch Doctor

“My life is in danger,” I said to the small man seated cross-legged on the other side of the fire.  The colorful paint on his face glimmered in the light of the fire, the piercings that covered his body causing strange shadows to dance on the thick trees behind him.  I had hiked for several days through the tropical forest to find this man, the witch doctor of the Eastern Woods, a man known to hold powers that no other man could hold.  He was the cure to the fear that had taken over my life over the last two weeks.  It was all I could think about, and my very life depended on this man.
I had arrived at the witch doctor’s small hut four days ago, explaining to him my dire situation.  I am a man of the people, serving on the highest council in country’s capital city.  There were nine of us serving together as advisors to the prime minister.  There were nine.  Now there is one.  The other eight were murdered in their homes, or on walks with their children, or while riding in a limousine on the way to a meeting.  One by one their bodies were discovered, no signs of death or even a struggle, no life remaining.  I didn’t know who killed them or for what purpose, but I knew I was next.  I had to do something drastic.  Believing my bodyguards and trusty sidearm would be insufficient defense, I sought the man that now sits before me, hoping he could provide some additional protection against the oncoming foe.
“There is a potion,” he had said two days ago in a deep and slowly rolling voice, after I sat down and explained my unfortunate situation.  “The potion will protect you from your enemies in supernatural ways.  You must do exactly what I tell you.  Do not stray from even a single instruction, or things will not go well.”
I didn’t want to believe what I was doing.  In a world of cars flying through the sky and robots doing much of the physical labor, here I am, sitting around a campfire in a forest, listening to a witch doctor talk about magical potions.  I started to regret my decision, and yet, his reputation proceeded him.  This man had done many inexplicable things, and he was paid well for it.  He had only started talking to me when I set the bag of gold on the ground, which was quickly carried away by one of his many similarly dressed servants.  It all seemed too strange for me, but I made myself feel better by remembering that I’m only using his services for protection, and that the potion he is creating is not one of his infamous poisons.
On the first day, he told me to do nothing but sit by the fire and think about the people who may be trying to kill me.  He told me to envision them and their purposes.  I didn’t know who they were, so I mainly thought about the upcoming football games.
On the second day, he told me to venture out into the forest.  “Travel west three miles, to a large tree long split in two by fire from the sky,” he said.  “You must then turn north, travel two miles, until your ears perceive the noise of rushing water.  Follow the noise to the base of a great waterfall, and there you will find many living things in the water.  You must bring back a specimen from the base of the falls, and only from the base.  There will be fish of many different kinds, rainbowfish and angelfish and leaf fish, but you must stand in the water and wait, and soon enough you will find a silver fish with blue markings.  You must reach in with your hands and catch this fish and bring it back, alive.”
I did exactly what he said.  I stood there in the water for two hours before the silver fish came swimming by.  It looked like a salmon.  After several attempts, I pulled it from the water and placed it in a small water basin I had brought with me.  When I returned to the witch doctor, he was still sitting by the fire, but there was now a black pot sitting over the flames.  I sat the basin beside him.  He reached into it and pulled out the fish and proceeded to break it in half, which I hadn’t thought possible to do to a slippery fish.  A thick blue liquid poured from its insides into the pot.
On the third day, he told me to follow a path.  “Travel the road to the east four miles,” he said, “until you come to a small village with dwellings built from the forest.  In the middle there is a well of stone.  You must sit down and wait.  People will walk by, but you must not speak to them.  A young maiden will approach, with a silver dress and blue flowers in her hair, and she will fill her bucket from the well.  You must then offer her this.”  He held out his hand, showing a violet berry.  “You must take what she gives you.”
I did exactly what he said.  I sat for two hours before the young woman with a silver dress and blue flowers in her hair approached, filling her bucket from the well.  I then offered her the berry.  She took it, ate it, and then did one somewhat normal thing, followed by several very abnormal things.  She took a cloth from a pocket in her simple dress and laid it on the well.  Reaching back into the pocket, she took a knife and cut off several long brown hairs from her head, placing them on the cloth.  She then cut off several of her eyelashes and a piece of a toenail, placing them each on the cloth.  Finally, she folded up the cloth and bound it together with twine from her pocket.  She then took her bucket of water and left.
Sitting back in front of the witch doctor, really starting to think this may have been a bad idea, I watched as he took the girl’s hair, eyelashes, and toenail, and dropped them into the pot, mixing it with the blue liquid from the fish.
On the fourth day, he told me to once again venture out into the forest.  “Travel west three miles, to a large tree long split in two by fire from the sky,” he said.  “There you will find many living things in the branches.  You must climb the tree and bring back a specimen from the largest of the branches, and only from the largest.  There will be birds of many different kinds, macaws and trogons and lorikeets, but you must sit on the branch and wait, and soon enough you will find a silver bird with blue markings.  You must reach out with your hands and catch this bird and bring it back, alive.”
I did exactly what he said.  As I sat on that branch waiting, I wondered why I didn’t stop by this tree two days earlier, but I decided not to question the witch doctor.  I waited for two hours before the silver bird with blue markings flew to the large branch I was sitting on.  The bird allowed me to catch it easily and place it within a small metal cage I had brought with me.
Sitting back in front of the witch doctor, I watched as he took the bird and used tweezers made from two small bones to extract something small and black from the bird’s mouth.  He dropped it into the pot, mixing it with the blue liquid from the fish and the girl’s hair, eyelashes, and toenail.
It is now the fifth day, early in the morning.  I half expect him to send me to a dog park, instructing me to wait until a silver dachshund with a blue collar approaches.  Instead, I find myself laying on my back on a mat near the fire.  The witch doctor sits, stirring the pot, as it generates blue bubbles.  He then takes a very modern looking syringe and sticks it into the pot, filling it with the potion.  He comes over and, without saying anything, sticks the needle in my arm, filling me with an intravenous injection of magical potion.  For a moment, I feel nothing.  And then I feel terrible.
The witch doctor stands over me, and then smiles, and then grins a terrible grin.  “It will be quick, worry not.”
I try to ask him why I feel so terrible, but I can’t form any words.  I can’t move.
“Your ambition has granted me a much simpler task than I had with the others, your fellow councilors, coming to assemble your own concoction.”
What?
“All ends lead to new beginnings.”

My vision starts to fade, and then…

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Mallory

This is my first attempt at the five word writing challenge.  I requested on Facebook that five friends each give me a word, and then I would use those five words in a piece of flash fiction (usually less than 1500 words).  And thus, I present to you the result of that attempt, Mallory.

Words:
Remote
Pirate Ship
Cosmic
Sparkling
Barley

Mallory

Many days have come and gone since the last abandoned ship showed itself on the horizon, drifting aimlessly upon the ocean.  It is the reason I put together our team to navigate the waters for months at a time.  Our current sixteen week exploration is only five days from completion, and while this mission has been an overall success, it is still missing something to set it apart. 
We are not the only such team attempting to profit from the mysterious vessels, and we are far from the most successful.  Teams have come from both sides of the Atlantic to scour the seas, and most of them have at least found one of the centuries-old ships.  There are many theories as to why such crafts have been discovered over the last several years, having somehow floated upon the water undiscovered since the American Revolution.  Some include references to the Bermuda Triangle, while others sound like something out of science fiction or some sort of paranormal horror film.  I do not know why the ships have started appearing, and it is not really of my concern.  I have my sights on something else.
The ships have come in different sizes and styles.  Some are cargo ships, and the teams that discovered those crafts plundered a wide variety of antique objects of historical significance.  Other ships were strictly for passengers, perhaps transporting British diplomats between Europe and their western colonies.  Pirate ships have been found, of course, full of cannons and the occasional treasure horde.  These finds are the main reasons our team is out searching, seeking the one great discovery that will make us richer than we could ever imagine.  We have watched videos of other teams coming across such ships, grown men weeping at the sight, the ship shimmering of bright gold in the cosmic rays of the midday sun.  That is what we want.  There is a ship out there for us, we know it, and we will not stop until we find it.
The strangest thing about the discovered ships is that they have all been completely devoid of human remains.  It would be expected to find the occasional body.  Perhaps a sailor who died of starvation on his voyage, or an apprehended prisoner found shackled to the walls in the brig.  Yet there has been nothing.  Not a skeleton, not even a bone.  I assume the sea travelers all abandoned ship and lived out their days on some remote island somewhere, only to watch their ship drift off and disappear into the horizon.  It is still strange, though.
Our own ship, a large freighter named Mallory, was repurposed from its transatlantic trade route and now holds the remains of our last several finds in large cargo containers.  The containers will be brought to our headquarters in South Carolina and unloaded into the warehouse, and hopefully the loot will sell for enough to finance our next three month mission on the high seas.  Finding a treasure horde would allow us to retire, though I do not believe I would.  There is always more to find.
“Captain!” comes the voice, pulling my eyes from the maps that cover the walls of my office.  A man runs in through the door, a wide smile across his face. 
“What is it?” I say, not wanting to be disturbed.  I spend much of my time studying the maps and watching weather patterns, attempting to discern the places a drifting sea vessel would be most likely to be discovered.
“A ship!  We’ve found a ship!”
“Good,” I say, standing and walking through toward the door.
“And Captain,” the man says.  “There is a shine.”
I raise my eyebrow at him.  “We shall see,” I say, not wanting to be too optimistic.  I quickly make my way to the bow, joining dozens of my crew.  Just ahead of and well below us, there is indeed a ship, a great structure of dark brown wood.  It is dwarfed by our own cargo ship, but it is significantly larger than any of our previous finds, perhaps even larger than any of the other finds by the other teams.  A small number of cannons protrude from its gun ports at a variety of angles, some obviously damaged and others completely missing.  The cannons were there only for defense from pirates, as this appears to be a trade ship.  The vessel does emit a shine, but I am still hesitant.  However, as I watch it come closer, the shine becomes more pronounced, and I finally allow myself to smile. 
The ship is full of gold.  I watch the sparkling coins and jewels, piles of riches larger than anything we’ve ever seen.  I feel a tear falling down my cheek and quickly wipe it away.  This is it, I know it.  This is what we’ve been looking for.
Mallory stops and anchors with the trade vessel directly on our starboard side.  I do not need to give a single order, as my crews know exactly what to do when we come across a find.  Each crew member goes through months of training before they are allowed on such a mission, as I will not allow our expeditions to be slowed by ineptitude.  I smile as the boarding bridge is lowered, the ladders are let down, and the initial boarding crew scampers down and across quickly, and soon they are aboard it, and then…
And then the air around the trade vessel shimmers, with thin streaks of color twisting around the whole of the craft, and the men and women who boarded it can no longer be seen.
And neither can anyone else.
I am suddenly alone on the deck of Mallory, completely alone in the middle of the sea.  I see none of my crew on either ship, nor do I hear them.  For several moments I can only stand there, my unbelieving eyes staring at the vacant deck.  I feel cold and can see my breath.  And then, my eyes move toward the trade ship below me, the gold shine filling the air.  I feel myself smiling, though I know I should not be smiling.  And yet, smile I do, and I am then approaching the edge of the ship, climbing down the ladder, walking across the boarding bridge.  My eyes have not left the gold that shines brightly.
I step down onto the craft, walking up to a small wooden table with high piles of gold coins.  I hear myself cackling as I reach out and take several of the coins, running them through my fingers.  This is it.  This is what I’ve been looking for.  This is the answer to all my questions.
I then realize that the coins don’t feel like coins.
The whole of my vision shifts, and suddenly there are not coins in my hand, and there are not piles of gold or mounds of jewels.  I peer at my hand and see small fragments of yellow.  Corn kernels.  All around me there are massive piles of yellow, but not of the kind I have been seeking.  There is wheat and bananas and barley, and more corn, all scattered about.  I begin to see bones, some scattered about and some in full skeletons, piled high and buried within the food of the ship, as though this were a floating mass grave.  The more I looked, the more bones I saw.  They were everywhere.
I shiver in fear and then turn toward Mallory, knowing I need to return.  I run for it, leaping over the side of the trade ship.  Or I try to, as I instead slam into something that I cannot see, an invisible barrier that shimmers with streaks of color as I bounce off it and fall to the floor, landing between two skeletons in a pile of corn ears.  I scamper up, attempting not to completely lose my mind, and again run toward the edge, but I abruptly stop.  I watch as the boarding bridge is raised back to the ship, and the ladders are pulled back up.  I look to the deck, and for a moment I see nothing, and then suddenly the deck is full.  I bring my hand to my mouth as I watch skeletons walk upon the deck of my ship, and soon they are running off into its interior, acting very much like crew should act.  I turn and see piles of food, but the bodies have all vanished.
When I turn back to Mallory, I see nothing but the blue of the ocean.

Monday, December 05, 2016

The College Football Eight Team Playoff

I was very pleased when college football decided to go with a playoff system.  It is much better than the BCS system that it replaced, which was itself much better than its predecessor.  A four team playoff is good for the game.  However, were I given the reins from the NCAA, I would expand the field to eight teams, and then put a system in place that does not rely on the discussions and opinions of a playoff committee to determine which teams made the final eight.

Right now, that playoff committee chooses what four teams make the field.  They can take many things into account, including a team's ranking, impressive wins, and who they lost to.  They can think about injuries and off the field issues.  They can think about tough road games and bad refereeing.  They can look at the whole picture to choose which four teams they see as most deserving.  The problem with this, in my eyes, is that everything is based on opinion.  I would propose a system where most of the field is selected not by opinion, but by the champions of the five major conferences.  You win your conference, you get into the playoff.  It's just how it works in college basketball, and pretty much every other sport in the country.  Leagues are made up of divisions; you win your division, you get into the playoff.  The same theory should apply here.  Many sports have wildcard or at-large playoff entrants, but in the end, teams who do not win their conference or division are never guaranteed a spot in the playoff.  Just ask the 2008 New England Patriots, who finished 11-5 and missed the playoffs.  Fair?  Maybe not, but conference and division championships are the only way to guarantee a playoff spot.

The three remaining spots of the playoff would be filled with the three highest ranked non-champions.  Yes, there is opinion in the creation of the poll, of course, but going this route will leave no question as to who will make the field.  Win your conference, get in the playoff.  If you don't win your conference, be one of the top three non-champion teams in the country, get in the playoff.  There would be no guessing, no who-will-the-committee-select type questions.  You then take the eight teams that made the playoff, and you order them based on their ranking, and that gives you the eight teams, seeded from 1 to 8.  Done, let's play some football.

The 2016 playoff committee has just released its playoff bracket, which looks like this:


As an Ohio State fan, I am very excited that the Buckeyes are in the playoff.  However, I'm not sure I would have given them the spot over Big Ten champion Penn State, considering the Nittany Lions beat the Buckeyes during the regular season.

Using the above described eight team playoff method, the playoff would look like this (I am using the AP poll for the rankings):



Conference Champions:
Alabama (SEC)
Clemson (ACC)
Washingon (Pac-12)
Penn State (Big Ten)
Oklahoma (Big 12)

At-Large Births:
Ohio State
Michigan
Wisconsin

This year's bracket would create a few oddities: all three at-large teams are from the Big Ten, meaning that four of the eight playoff teams are from that conference.  In theory, there could be a rule in place that limits the number of teams from any particular conference.  The bracket also creates a repeat matchup between Ohio State and Oklahoma.

However, I believe this eight team playoff provides the most straight-forward and fair way to determine a national champion for college football.