Archive for General

Achievement Unlocked: New Workspace

After fixing two separate sinks with two separate problems this week, I decided to keep on with the handyman routine and build the new home office desk I’ve been thinking about for some time now.

New Floating Desk

Quick shot with the smartphone before I bury the surface with office stuff.

Total cost: about fifty bucks after I return an extra bracket I didn’t need. This is a 6′ x 23 1/4″ bullet-nose shelf from Menards, supported by a trio of commercial shelving braces mounted to the wall studs with cabinetry anchors. I thought I’d need more support toward the front of the desk, but I found braces long enough to do the job. I’ve inadvertently leaned on the edge a couple of times now and it doesn’t budge, so I’m calling it good.

I have a few extra holes around one brace because stud finders are bullshit. Turns out Bob Vila agrees, and I used his advice to measure from an electrical outlet to find the right location. Boom, braced. And it just now occurred to me that I put the stud finder right back in the tool kit it came with, apparently so I can make the same mistake next time. D’oh.

I have to thank my sons for helping me out, particularly the eldest who installed the last few wood screws to anchor the shelf/desk to the braces. We had a light lunch and were starving after the Menards trip, so we hit Taco Bell quick. The Volcano Burrito I ate gave me a huge headache and had me feverish and puking within an hour. We’d have been done a lot faster if I didn’t need breaks to worship at the porcelain altar between measuring, drilling and leveling.

I’m very happy with the result so far. It takes up far less space in my office, I mounted it at a more comfortable height, and it will give me a lot more work surface to play with. I also see now that I need to rethink my wall decorations; everything is up high due to the huge frame of my old corner desk. 

My original vision included a small space to use as a standing desk for occasional work on the iPad or laptop, but that would take up far too much workspace and would require more carpentry work than it’s worth. It also turns out I can buy an Ikea Norbo for $30 and mount it in a separate spot if I really want one. The Norbo wouldn’t match my desk surface, but I’m typically a function-over-form guy. Heck, look at the sand-colored walls and blue carpeting I inherited from the previous homeowner; one year I really will get around to changing all that. I can live with the paint, but there’s also a birdhouse wallpaper border that has to go.

It wasn’t the lazy Sunday I’d originally planned, but I’ll call it a successful Sunday despite Taco Hell. I’m looking forward to putting this thing to the test with some writing sessions over the next few days.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Things I Learned Today

The dude in Fargo got hosed

You all remember the wood chipper scene in Fargo, right?

Poor Carl. Anyway, turns out Gaear got hosed by a bad wood chipper. Today, contractors took down trees at my day job to make room for new construction. They fed entire trees to this thing. Mulched them in seconds.

Mulched Grove

You get surprisingly little mulch from a tree

With one of these bad boys, Gaear would have been long gone by the time Marge showed up.

Plumbing can screw up your whole day

Slip nuts on a sink drain can, apparently, spontaneously break. I drained a sink full of dishwater and heard it splash all over inside the cabinet. It doesn’t look like a lot of water in the sink, but when it’s spread all over your cabinet, it’s quite a mess. Cleaning up, getting parts, and repairing the sink derailed the rest of the day’s plans.

Plumbing repairs are actually fairly cheap

If you do it yourself, that is. I’ve learned more about plumbing in the last two homes I’ve owned than I ever thought I would. I can now replace drains, reseat toilets, sweat pipes, replace water heaters, and replace thermocouples and heat elements on water heaters.

The sink repair above? $1.87 for the part I needed. If I’d paid a plumber, I’m sure it would have been at least $80 for labor.

Four Roses Yellow is good stuff

Really. You should try it. Not as good as their Small Batch, but still good. Goes down smooth.

The Montecristo Chicago cigar is good stuff

Really. You should try it. Separate Smoke Blog post will follow.

Chromebooks can spontaneously reboot

No computer or operating system is immune to occasional glitches, and ChromeOS is no exception. On the plus side, WordPress saved what I was working on, as did Google Docs. And the boot time? Just a few seconds. I was back to productivity in less time than it took for me to cuss the thing out.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Why the Hell Would You Eat That: Big Chain Pizza

Let’s get this out of the way up front: if you’re getting a pizza from a big pizza chain, you may as well be eating frozen pizza. Don’t trust any pizza place that can “run out of crusts,” because frozen pizza is exactly what you’re getting.

I didn’t even know this was possible until we moved from the Chicago ‘burbs out to central Illinois. One of the few pizza joints in the area at the time was a Marchelloni’s, which later became Geo’s. They had a thick, buttery, doughy crust most Chicagoans would call pan pizza, and they pretty much sucked. However, their competition was worse, so we gave them another shot one night and ordered a couple of large pizzas.

“We’re out of large crusts,” she tells me.

“Okay, can’t you make more?”

“We don’t do that here,” she says, all snide like I’m the asshole. Turns out the crusts are made elsewhere and shipped in frozen to the actual store. No thanks.

Know who else does this? Pizza Hut. Our local PH had a night donating their proceeds to our elementary school, so we paid them a visit. They were jam crowded with townies and unprepared, so they ran out of everything but regular thin crust (and those were “going fast”).

This is why these pizza joints’ pizzas are nasty, greasy messes. Yeah, Pizza Hut may be edible when it’s hot and fresh, but suck it down fast because it becomes slop two minutes after it hits the table.

Now, I realize some of you are stuck in the wild pizza frontier outside of Chicago and New York City. I realize some of you think Domino’s, Pizza Hut, and the bland bullshit served up  at your local mom & pop dustbowl pizza place is pretty good. I pity you. I really do. When some friends of ours from L.A. first tried Domino’s out in Baltimore and were impressed, I wept for their souls.

See, when the dough is made fresh on the spot, it’s got your standard dough ingredients. If you can see the guy rolling out your dough, you’re in the right place. Frozen dough? Now you’re getting preservatives and shit in it. It’s been processed, just like the garbage pizza in the freezer aisle. Not to mention these big chains need to make sure the crap they’re serving has to taste the same at every location, which means the rest of their ingredients are equally processed and preserved and loaded with things like MSG. Domino’s and Papa John’s can claim “fresher ingredients” all they want, but remember, McDonald’s makes the same nonsense claim about their fries.

I’ve tried your revamped pizzas gentlemen. An improvement? Maybe. Good pizza? Sorry, no.

I’ll admit I’m a pizza snob. Am I a Chicago or New York pizza guy? Both. I love a good Chicago stuffed pizza, and I like the giant slices you gotta fold in half to eat, so long as they’re not hyper-processed chain food disguised as the real deal.

Growing up in the ‘burbs, we could get good pizza just about anywhere, and most everywhere had a signature flavor the chains couldn’t match. Friday nights were pizza night in my family. Even our dog responded to the word pizza with excitement. Most places we called were dedicated pizza joints, but there were a couple bars that had pizza ovens, too.

Unfortunately, the farther I move from Chicago, the harder it gets to find good pizza. Things were so bad my mom, who commuted to the suburbs, brought pizza home with her on Friday nights. One pizza joint gave her an insulated delivery bag when they found out what she was doing. An hour from the oven, their pizza tasted better than anything local.

Out here in Peoria, most of the bars serve frozen pizza. The locals think it’s great, but to be fair, they have nothing to compare it to. In fact, the pizza is so bad out here, people dip it in ranch or Catalina dressing. I was horrified the first time I saw that. If the pizza is so bland you have to jazz it up with a dip, why the hell are you eating it?

The biggest culprit is Butch’s. Peorians love Butch’s because they make their pizzas locally in Morton, and they sell their own hot sauce and seasonings. My theory is they make the hot sauce to disguise the flavor of the pizza: no matter the topping, a Butch’s pizza tastes like a salt lick. It’s good bar food because you’re drunk and hungry and won’t remember the flavor anyway.

Monical’s is the nasty local chain of choice. They’re all over the Peoria area, and if I drive east on Route 24 into Indiana, I’ll pass half a dozen or so of them, all right there on Route 24. Their pizza is a cracker with a little spaghetti sauce on it. Dry and bland. Kids go ape over it, but they’re too young to know better.

Understand, no pizza is going to be good for you. My point is if you’re going to eat something unhealthy, shouldn’t it at least taste good? Shouldn’t it be worth those extra calories? The extra laps around the track you’ll have to punish yourself with?

Choking down a Caesar’s hot & ready just isn’t going to cut it.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Flood Waters

No writing or editing tonight. Instead, I’m battling flooding at my back door.

Ready for Flood Warfare, Round 3.

I’d much rather be manning the keyboard

We’re used to getting some water when the rain is heaviest, but tonight we’ve already fought back two floods and the weather is threatening more. The good news for us is the damage is minimal, it’s just a huge mess and a pain in the ass.

Some of our neighbors are not so lucky. The south side of town sits lower, and we’re hearing word of flash floods and evacuations. It has flooded down there at least once before. We’re hoping nobody was injured.

More nasty weather is brewing up over Oklahoma, and it’s supposed to work its way through the Midwest tomorrow and Friday. Here’s hoping it calms down. Between Boston and Texas, there’s been more than enough disaster this week.

Wherever you may be, stay safe, everyone.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

2013 Reboot

It’s been a long year already. Most of my plans have been derailed, but now it’s time for a fresh start.

Here’s the deal:

Late last year, my karate instructors told me they wanted to put me up for black belt in March. Two other candidates and I put together our attack team and we started training on Sundays. This also meant attending more classes, practicing and studying more often at home, and following the New Year the three of us started additional weekly training separate from our team.

Writing karate papers today

My writing and studying through the first quarter of the year looked like this

Training soon trumped everything, including writing. If I were a full-time writer, it wouldn’t have been an issue. However, I still have obligations to a day gig and I have a family, so something had to give. For the time being, unfortunately, that meant the writing.

I didn’t want to mention it here because I didn’t want to jinx it. See, my dojo doesn’t play games when it comes to black belts. It’s earned, no question. I felt confident I would pass the test, but there’s always a very real possibility of failure. I had to write three essays, take a 120-question written test, attempt the various physical requirements several times, and the test itself took about eight hours and covered just about everything I’d learned from white belt up to that point. I certainly didn’t want to be the guy talking up my upcoming test in public, only to turn around and have to admit I failed it.

Fortunately, I passed.

Our Kamiza

Our brown belts left on the altar following the kamiza ceremony

All three of us passed, in fact, and I scored better than I expected to. Two of us attended a seminar for our style, Shuri-ryu, the weekend following the test, and then this past weekend we had our formal promotion ceremony to receive our black belts and make things official.

It’s a huge load of pressure off, and it’s nice to finally have real free time again. My karate training will continue, but now I’ll be able to dial things back down to a sane level again. I’ll have my Sundays freed up and I’ll have more time for writing in general. I’ll be able to fiddle around with the camera again, and I can revisit my writing plans for the year once more.

Back on Track

Back on track, in more ways than one

I’ve resumed my normal fitness routine, too. I got back on the weight bench last week, and this morning I went out for my first run of the season. It was short and not near what I hoped, but I’m glad I could get back out there. I’m hoping to run the Warrior Dash again this year if my schedule allows, and I can’t let this stubborn Winter slow me down any longer.

It’s also catch-up time. I owe a few people a few different things. It’s about time I handle that, too.

So here I am with a fresh start on 2013. And it’s Spring Break, so it’s a good week to kick it all off. Stay tuned here this week for more news and updates, and thank you all for sticking around while I’ve been quiet.

Your patience will pay off!

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Beaten, Not Broken

Coming down to the wire on something for next month. The prep has been taking its toll.

My mornings look like this now:

Morning Remedy of Champions

Every pro knows you need to work with injuries

This event has been consuming my time since August. On the downside, it’s put me farther behind on some of my writing projects. On the upside, I feel ready for this. If I get through it, it will have been worth it.

I’ve got a problem with my left elbow and grip, and I have assorted other dings and bruises. One of my training partners has bad knees. One of the guys on my team has a leg injury, and another is about to be taken out by a surgical procedure.

We’re adapting. We train around or through the weak parts. Giving up and walking away isn’t an option. Treat and rehab the nagging injuries: that’s how a pro does it. Tape and ibuprofen and therapy and stretching.

“You’re getting old,” they say. “You don’t recover quick anymore.”

So I should sit and rot? No way. Pass me that brace and get out of my way.

Business note: I’m switching hosting providers. The site and my email may be inaccessible for a short period as a result. I don’t plan to lose anything, but one never knows with these things. I’ve had it with all the spam getting through my current provider’s filters and it’s time for a change. See you on the other side.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Progress Report

Yes, I’m alive. I’ve just been too busy to post to the blog.

Most of it is due to the extra time I’ve been putting into my martial arts training lately. I’ve got a big day coming in March and I need to be prepared. To do so has meant extra training with fellow students, extra classes, and both studying and practicing at home. It’s been like this since Fall, so I’m looking forward to more breathing room this Spring.

It goes back to making the time we need: I make some time to write, and that’s more important than making time to blog. There are a few things I’ve been meaning to post for a while, including a follow-up to my Gone Digital post, but there are other, more pressing projects that require my attention.

There’s an announcement coming soon on one of those projects, and I’ve recently turned in the latest draft of a work-for-hire project that’s consumed a chunk of my writing time (I’m waiting to hear from the editors on whether it will be the final draft). The final edits on Lie with the Dead have suffered as a result of the extra karate practice, the unannounced project, and the work-for-hire project, but it will be back on the high priority list this week.

There’s more in the works. I want to re-release an old short story through Kindle, and I have plans for more The Pack short stories as well as the third novel. I’ve got a crime opportunity I’m working on, and plans for separate projects I can’t talk about yet. After said Big Karate Day in March, things should open up dramatically for all of it.

I’ve also learned the Cadence in Decay anthology is officially dead. Relics & Remains is still out there, but I haven’t heard any news about how it’s doing. If you’ve read it, an Amazon review would be appreciated.

So, yes, I still live. And now I must dash off to a few hours of karate classes, as well as the dojo’s annual Chinese New Year party. Afterwards, I plan to camp out at a Starbucks and get some work done.

Tomorrow? Motorcycle show! \m/ I should be home in time for—you guessed it—more karate practice with the team for the Big Karate Day. Yep, it’s been a big commitment.

It’ll be worth it.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

2013: Full Steam Ahead

Most years, this is the time I sit down to reflect, reassess, and regroup for the coming year. I’m not much feeling it this time around, though. The last quarter gave me more headaches than solutions, and it served up one last kick in the balls in the form of a flat tire.

Right before my appointment for four new tires, too. Awesome. Tires barely more than a year old, and two of them almost bald and two “chopping on the threads,” whatever that means. The flat—one of the chopping tires—had developed a slow leak over the last few weeks.

But hey, on the plus side, the tire held long enough that it didn’t blow on the road. Especially with family aboard. The mechanics at the local Ford dealership put the spare back under the grocery getter and packed up my jack and tools for me, and the bill came in forty bucks under the estimate. When’s the last time that happened to anyone?

It seemed a fitting setup for the 2012-2013 handoff. In 2012, I had to do some course correction and troubleshooting. I may not have accomplished as much as intended, but I laid the groundwork for 2013, most notably a novel, some novella work, a work-for-hire comics project, and, yes, Lie with the Dead.

So, those resolutions? Unnecessary. When the goals are the same, the plans are already in place. From here out it’s all execution.

Onward into 2013, full steam ahead.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Winter Break(-In)

Today starts winter break. Just shy of two weeks off work, during which I plan to finish up several writing tasks.

Unfortunately it hasn’t started well. The blizzard tearing through the Midwest didn’t hit our area hard, but a window broke in our garage and the snow blew in. I opened the garage door this morning to get a shovel, only to find Lenore plastered with snow.

Poor Lenore

Not cool.

So, too, was most of the back wall of the garage, a lot of our stuff, and one side of the grocery getter. It’s powdery, frozen snow, too. Clingy stuff, a real pain to clear off. Thanks, nature. I’ve never had to shovel a garage before.

Insult to injury: while shoveling the garage and the drifts that built up across the driveway and front porch, the city snowplow came by and knocked our mailbox off its post. This is three years running, and it’s the fourth or fifth time in those three years. Even after I put in a smaller mailbox, and later mounted it farther back on the post. This has to be personal.

All in all, a shit start to what should be a productive couple of weeks.

All in all, good reasons to move to a warmer climate.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Time is When You Make It

I’ve been hearing a lot of “I don’t have time” lately. Hell, I’ve been sweating a lot of that lack of time myself.

I thought about going for a run this morning. It’s an unseasonably warm day, and there’s a storm and a cold front bearing down on us that will plunge temps back down into the thirties. I may not have another nice running day this season.

Then I took a look at all of the things I’ve got on my plate for today:

  1. Clean up the dishes
  2. Get lunch started
  3. Lower the storm windows all around the house
  4. Seal up the attic fan
  5. Finish rewriting this graphic novel script
  6. Put together invoices for a publisher
  7. Go through photos from Friday’s karate graduation
  8. Head out to the dojo to work out with my attack team

It would be nice if I had some time to hang out with the Wife and the Rugrats. This list also fails to address bigger projects like the short stories I need to write and tackling the last round of revisions on Lie with the Dead. Nor does it address my desire to revamp my weightlifting workouts because I haven’t been happy with the routine I put together a few weeks ago.

If today were a normal workday at the day gig, I’d be hosed.

I felt bad about not going out of the run, and griped about not having time. But it occurred to me I’m still going to get a good workout at the dojo. I want to get better at running, but what’s the ultimate goal? Getting in shape. Does it matter how I sweat the extra weight off? If I don’t have time to sit down and look at my weightlifting routine today, will it kill me to stick to the current routine this week? Either way it amounts to moving heavy stuff around and working muscles.

We can’t find time because we’re not looking for it. I don’t think it’s because we’re not working hard, though. I think it’s because we’re not working smart. We’re not addressing and attacking our tasks in a diligent manner, and we let our failures to address some items weigh us down far too much.

Our failures should not outweigh our successes. We should concentrate on what we’ve achieved, then address a plan to address the things we had to put aside. Not the things we’ve failed to do, the things we simply need to reprioritize.

It’s 11:30am as I start this, and for the most part I’ve already taken out items 1-3. 7, honestly, can wait. If I don’t do 4 today I’ll get a chewing from the Wife, but I’ve been chewed out before. 5, 6 and 8 are must-do.

Following lunch in a moment, I’ve got another ten hours or so in the day.

Boom, time made.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Thicker Than Blood, Stronger Than Time

It hit the five of us as we drove through the mountain passes between Loveland and Estes Park, Colorado: we’ve known one another fourteen or fifteen years, depending who logged in to the old HorrorNet chat when.

It occurred to me tonight that we’ve known one another over a third of our lives, even for the oldest of us.

KRAP 1

The original “KRAP” photo: John, Geoff, Brian, me, Mikey
World Horror Convention, Seattle, 2001

I’m horrible at keeping in touch with people. My family moved around like gypsies while I grew up, and I haven’t managed to do a whole lot better as an adult. The past seven years are the longest I’ve spent any place, any time. There are friends from farther back whom I’ve known longer, but there are very few who I’ve kept in touch with as consistently as these guys.

Part of the Cabal. The Four/Five Horsemen. The Musketeers. Several monikers (and epithets) have been thrown our way over the years. They all work, and they all tend to stick. I’ve always felt brotherhood was as good a description as any.

It’s been fourteen or fifteen years, but in many ways it feels like longer. That bit in my latest Indie Pulp column about spilling and shedding blood together? That was with these guys. We’ve seen births and deaths in our circle. We’ve been to marriages and through divorces. There have been fights and reconciliations. All through it, we celebrate with or lean on one another as appropriate.

KRAP 2 Color

KRAP Revisited, 11 years later
The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, 2012

We gathered this time to visit our friend and mentor, Tom Piccirilli. All things considered, Tom’s doing well and he and Michelle are staying positive and are determined to fight. It was good to see them and to help out.

I think, too, we got a glimpse of our own mortality.

At least, I did. I may be the youngest of the group, but I can see age sneaking up on us. Various ailments were discussed, as were the health scares some have already faced. What will KRAP Re-Revisited look like in another 11 years? It’s hard to say.

But in the meantime, gentlemen, it’s damn good to know we can count on one another.

Boom de yada.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Help Tom Piccirilli Crush Cancer

Our friend Tom Piccirilli needs help.

Last week, doctors discovered a large tumor on his brain. As I write this, Tom is undergoing surgery to remove the tumor. He will have a long recovery and cancer therapy ahead of him, and there is little doubt the bills will quickly overwhelm whatever insurance he and his wife may have.

Tom and Michelle

Pic and his wife, Michelle Scalise

Tom is a great writer and a hell of a guy. A number of writers—myself included—look to Tom for advice and guidance in our work and our careers, and he is always happy to provide it. We’ve hung out at cons, we hang out online, and he and his wife were gracious enough to take my family on a tour of Estes Park and the Stanley Hotel when we visited Colorado one year.

If you’ve ever considered picking up Tom’s work, or if you’re looking for something in the horror or crime/noir genres, now’s a great time to make a purchase. His electronic publisher, Crossroads Press, is currently giving all proceeds from the sale of Tom’s books directly to Tom. If you shoot over to their website, you’ll find links to Tom’s entire Crossroads catalog in various formats. You may also want to drop by his Amazon Author Page, where his current books are available in both electronic and print editions. His most recent novel, The Last Kind Words, is a good place to start with Pic’s work.

If you would like to donate directly, Tom’s niece has set up an IndieGoGo page. With IndieGoGo, all donations will go to Tom to help defray the costs of medical bills. The campaign has already raised $10,000 in 24 hours, which is amazing. Every donation counts and would be greatly appreciated.

Our thoughts our with you, Pic. Get well soon, brother.

Update: Great news out of Colorado! Michelle has posted to Pic’s FB page that he’s awake and recovering in the ICU and already cracking jokes with the nurses. So glad to hear this. Keep it up, Tom!

Update 2: Michelle reprots things may be tougher than expected for Pic’s recovery. However, there are now two more ways you can help them with medical bills so they can concentrate on the physical and emotional recovery:

Publisher Warren Lapine is donating 200% of the October proceeds from the anthology Fantastic Stories of the Imagination to Pic.

ChiZine Publications is donating 100% of the proceeds of Pic’s Every Shallow Cut eBook.

Support a great guy and get yourself a good read. It doesn’t get much better than that. I love seeing the lit community pull together for one of their own like this. Very cool.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.