Archive for General

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.

The Nature Lesson

My children received a first-hand view of nature in action today.

I was in the middle of my lifting when my son ran into my office, excited because the cat had caught a bird. I told him to take the body out into the corn field, like we have with the other birds we’ve found on the porch.

“No, he just caught the bird now, and it’s still alive!”

I grabbed the camera and we ran outside. I thought the bird might chase him off and I’d get a few pictures. The cat’s not quite a year old, and he barely touched a mouse we caught in a trap once. I half wondered if the birds we’d been finding actually belonged to some of the other cats who prowl near the house, cats we hear Ghost fighting with from time to time.

Instead, I discovered Ghost had broken the bird’s wing and bit a hole in its back. I moved in to put the bird out of its misery, but it still had some fight left in it and it hopped away. That’s when Ghost pounced one more time and finished it off.

The kids watched as the cat settled in for supper.

Ghost's Kill

The kids' lesson in natural selection.

I thought the kids might be upset, but they handled it well. They asked a few questions, and they kept their distance until the cat wandered off. Then the two boys took the bird’s body out to the field. They didn’t play with it, or kick it around, or chase their sister with it, they just scooped it up with the shovel and disposed of it.

I think I felt bad for the bird more than they did. Nature is rarely gentle, though, and cats get hungry. Cats know their place in the food chain, and so do we. It was a safe way for the kids to observe in person the kinds of things they’ve been watching on nature shows on Netflix. It wasn’t bloodsport, it was just… nature.

Ghost

Less than a year ago, he looked like this

It amazes me how instinct takes over. Ghost was only five or six weeks old when we adopted him, and he didn’t spend a lot of time outdoors until this Spring. He had no mother cat around to raise him, so I don’t think he was ever taught to hunt. He just does it, and now we know those other birds belonged to him after all. We adopted him with the hope he’d become a mouser, and I guess birds come with the package.

Yet he’s gentle as can be with the kids, and he is very patient with other, smaller children who have visited and put their hands all over him. A friendly family pet one moment, a vicious predator the next. Maybe he just got tired of dry cat food.

Of course, he didn’t eat much of the bird. He ate some of the meat off its back and gave up.

I said “Hey Ghost, you didn’t even finish that bird. Why’d you kill it?”

He looked up at me with a lazy blink as if to say “Because fuck that bird, that’s why.” Then he curled up on the couch for a nap.

Damn. I hope I don’t forget to change his litter.

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.

Memorial Day

Deepest respect to those who gave their all to defend the freedoms we hold so dear.

USMC Memorial

Semper Fi, gentlemen. Thank you.

This US Marine Corps memorial stone is located in Tower Park in Peoria Heights, IL, at the intersection of Prospect and Glen.

If you have the day off today, please take a moment to reflect on why.

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.

Smoking Under the Supermoon

It’s quiet in my neighborhood.

Almost too quiet.

The wind is steady and strong, blowing through the trees and drowning out even the toads and cicadas in the fields. An American flag flies over my neighbor’s driveway, and it snaps and pops in the breeze while the orange streetlamp shines through its stars and bars. After that it’s just the sound of the living room stereo streaming tunes through the window behind me.

“Hey now, hey now now, sing this corrosion to me…”

I’m sitting under this year’s Supermoon with a Davidoff cigar. It’s a half hour before the first car comes down the street, a dark blue, late model Mustang with a throaty growl from under the hood. It pulls over three doors down and seconds later a pickup backs out of the drive. They roll off up the street together.

The kid in me says there are no drivers; they’re two Transformers heading out to kick some ass. Are they Autobots? Decepticons? Either way, it’s gonna be epic.

The crime/horror writer in me says they’ve got devious work planned. Someone, somewhere, is about to have a very bad night.

The displaced, suburb-raised dad that I am? He knows better. Local teens off to waste gas because there ain’t shit else to do around here.

Five minutes later the county deputy drives by. Someone wearing red riding shotgun. A ride-along, maybe. Neither of them so much as glances in my direction. Hope the ride-along is prepared for all the quiet and nothing.

That’s not to say this place doesn’t have its share of secrets. The paper may be full of small-town politics and fluff pieces about what’s happening at the school or the nursing home, but there’s still a crime blotter. Most of it is elsewhere in the county, but there’s the occasional local possession charge. Or warrant served. Or domestic battery arrest. The divorce listings tend to be longer than the marriage listings.

All signs of secrets bubbling and festering beneath the veneer. They’re not the dark secrets Writer Mike may conjure, but there are secrets nonetheless. From time to time one will break out into the open and make the shift from secret to scandal, something to be whispered about in watering holes and at water coolers. Then it will fade away, and things will be quiet again.

Almost too quiet.

Not that it stops me from writing about places like this. What am I writing, you ask? Well. That would be telling.

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.