Tag Archive for productivity

Keeping Productivity Honest with Todoist

I’ve tinkered with several productivity apps and task managers, but none of them have been as simple and convenient as Todoist. As an added bonus, Todoist has a tracker they call Karma which tells me at a glance when I’ve been slacking or when I’ve been productive.

Looks like I'm trending in the right direction

Looks like I’m trending in the right direction

My initial needs were simple: speed and convenience. As much as I love Evernote, its to-do list functionality is a little clunky. A note can include checkboxes and reminders, but there are few layout options, different projects have to be maintained on different notes, and opening and searching those notes takes some time.

Remember the Milk, Producteev, Google Keep, and a few other apps for manipulating Google Tasks didn’t quite cut it, either. They were simple but still a little clunky, especially for managing future tasks, deadlines, or tasks in different projects (or some combination of those).

Todoist, meanwhile, hooked me quick. First and foremost, it has a clean, simple design accessible with a single click of an app or as soon as I fire up the website. I can see all of the day’s tasks at a glance, as well as those for the next seven days and anything already overdue. There’s a daily digest email available for planning, and every day at 9am I get a summary of the day’s tasks pushed to my phone.

Adding a task is streamlined over other apps, too. While some of the task managers require filling out a form and saving it, in Todoist it’s just click, type, hit enter. Done. Changing the deadline (which can be as simple as “tomorrow” or “Friday”) or assigning the task to a project is still right there if you don’t want the defaults, of course, but just this simple tweak saves a lot of time, especially while adding tasks on the fly on my smartphone. It’s the first to-do app that really felt mobile for me, rather than just presenting a mobile portal to my data.

Todoist also gives me ubiquitous access. I have the Todoist website open in a browser tab at all times, and it’s always in sync with the Todoist apps on my Android phone and my iPad. There are checkboxes in both locations for completed apps, but a simple swipe completes a task in a mobile app.

Todoist has a more intuitive and flexible way of organizing tasks. Creating Project categories is a snap, labels can be applied with a click, and there are color codes for both. Adding a subtask is as simple as indenting it, almost like an outline or just tabbing over in a document. On the website, tasks can be reorganized by drag and drop.

Need to postpone something? Done with a click. Need to delete a task? Yup, just a click. I can also add notes or upload files for tasks. I’ve not uploaded anything, but notes have been helpful from time to time, such as when I need a task that follows up on a conversation or involves a website. I’ve even punched in a line or two of dialog into writing-related tasks.

The only feature I don’t take advantage of is sharing tasks or collaborating with others. It didn’t take me long to throw some money at Todoist for Premium, as it has been especially helpful at the day job.

Which brings me back to Karma. When I complete a task, I get karma points. When I miss a deadline, I start losing karma. Other actions, such as postponing a task, seem to influence karma as well, but the deadlines are the most obvious influence.

Karma and deadlines keep me honest. When I blow a deadline, I know where I’ve been slacking. When my karma graph flatlines—or worse, it drops—I know I’ve been really slacking. And when a task says 83 days overdue (which one of my two overdue tasks says), I know I’ve just completely dropped the ball.

This has been a huge benefit at the day job. I have all of my own day-to-day tasks, but I’m also helpdesk so I juggle a lot of other tasks for a lot of other people. Add to that my tendency to see something shiny and go off-task, or to procrastinate and forget about things, and a good to-do manager is a must.

I also use it for daily reminders at home or for family, for things I have to do for karate (whether for myself or for the class I run now), for a side job I have teaching technology to elementary students, and, yes, for writing projects.

On the writing side, it’s been a huge help in prioritizing and planning. It motivates me when I see those looming deadlines. The karma hit is a nice kick in the ass if I blow a deadline, but it also helps me reassess things when I know I’m getting too ambitious in scheduling things. I can leave deadlines open-ended for non-critical tasks, and bump things up after conversations with editors.

Overall it’s been a very helpful tool, and among the first apps I loaded when I changed phones. I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a to-do manager.

And now I can tick writing this blog post off my task list.

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 I Love Evernote (and You Will, Too)

I use a lot of apps, but Evernote has become the single app I’m not sure I could replace. Word processors, task managers, and social media apps are all fairly interchangeable. Operating systems? I have my favorites, but they don’t much matter in the end. Even the device isn’t very important anymore.

Not so for Evernote. Sure, it has competitors offering some of the same features, but it’s so entrenched in my workflow, and I have so much data stashed in its cloudspace, that it would be difficult for me to migrate away from it, even if I wanted to. I have a premium account for the extra features, but I’m also happy to pay up to ensure they’re not going anywhere.

The following video sums up the basic idea and features. Check it out, and then I’ll get on to how Evernote’s been useful for me in so many ways.

Now let’s talk about why you might want to sign up.

I Use It For:

The Day Gig

I juggle a lot of information in the day job, and there’s not a lot that doesn’t find its way into Evernote. Software manuals and instruction booklets can be stored on several services, but Evernote makes them searchable, lets me tag them, and lets me add my own notes. The extensive federal paperwork I have to fill out every year goes into Evernote, along with all of the notes, dates, and filing information that goes with it.

It also makes a great repository for software license codes and activation keys. For a while I’d type in anything I couldn’t cut and paste, but now I just take a picture of the keys. For example, when we purchase interactive whiteboards, there are activation keys on both the board and the CD case. A couple of taps and a photo of every new key is added to the same note as the others.

Separately, I make extensive use of Evernote Skitch to mark up screenshots for passing instructions and tips along to coworkers. With Evernote integration, I have those same notes and annotations to share again later.


This one should be a no-brainer. I record it once, I keep it forever, no matter the subject. If I’m shopping for something, I can snap photos and take notes about pricing and/or features. If it’s a newspaper or magazine article, I can snap a photo and Evernote will make its text searchable.

This is also where the Evernote Web Clipper comes in handy. Web articles, blog posts, Wikipedia entries, and more can be saved and tagged with a couple of clicks. Just yesterday I grabbed an io9 article on powering a starship with an artificial black hole for possible use in a writing project.


There are a handful of print fitness magazines I’ll pick up from time to time, but my shelf space is far too limited to keep them around to look up a workout routine once in a blue moon. In those cases I’ll scan and tag the article and slide it into Evernote.

It works the same for digital magazines on the iPad. Whether I’m reading them in the Kindle app or Apple iBooks or Newsstand, a screenshot works as well as a scanner, and Evernote filing is handled on the same device.

Even better, I don’t have to think about them anymore. Magazines go forgotten on shelves, but if I search for “bench press” in Evernote, it’ll turn up a handful of useful articles I’ll have forgotten about.


This is how I hooked The Wife. She has a cabinet full of recipe books, magazines, and hand-written cards from her mom or her friends. I do most of the cooking these days, and I can never find the right books. If we go shopping, we would inevitably forget an ingredient or two.

With Evernote, I snap a picture of our favorite recipes. They’re instantly available when I’m cooking, and if we’re at the store and suddenly decide we’re going to make shrimp chowder, I can pull up the recipe right there. I’ve used Web Clipper to collect several new recipes, too.

Now The Wife has an account, and I’ve shared the entire recipe notebook with her. She can browse them on her phone, or she can add to our collection.

Martial Arts

This is where the workflow gets a little strange because I take notes by hand at first. I’d love to use an Evernote Notebook by Moleskine, but my handwriting is way too messy for Evernote to make any sense of it, especially when I’m writing in a hurry in class.

Taking a few minutes to retype them, however, is worth the time. I have research, history, kata breakdowns, judo articles, and more piled up in there, and I often include links to videos I’ve stashed on YouTube for reference. As such, it became an invaluable study guide for my black belt test last March, both for the written test and the board exam.

We also have a class where my instructor has a handout from time to time. We have a binder we keep for these papers, but scans or pictures of these, too, go straight into Evernote. Instead of digging up the binder, I just pick up my phone.


And now we have the big one. Aside from the writing itself, there’s not much I don’t do in Evernote (though there’s no reason I couldn’t write in a note if I chose to). Let’s just make a list:

  • Character descriptions. Sure beats searching back through a manuscript, and I’ll often paste in passages alongside my own notes.
  • Timelines and continuity. Character histories, plot timelines, back story, all of it.
  • Plot notes. Best way to keep the story straight.
  • Outlines. I’ve been known to use ’em.
  • Submission tracking. Dates, editor information, all of it.
  • Contracts and contract terms. Of course I keep the paper, too, but sometimes I need to look things up.
  • Production notes. Artwork, thumbnails, layouts, cover mock-ups, and so on.
  • Publication details. Street dates, blurbs, reviews, ISBNs, and links.

I’m also using Evernote to collaborate on a project. We have a small pile of notes and reference material in a shared notebook. We’re gearing up to do the actual writing in Google Docs, but Evernote is better for organizing the rest of the material.

I Don’t Use It For:

As much as I love Evernote, there are some things I prefer other apps for. Most notably, I use an entirely different task manager, as Evernote’s task/todo list is a bit unwieldy for my taste. And I haven’t used its reminder feature much because Google Calendar is faster and easier.

All in All:

Evernote rocks. I love it, and at the day job I encourage the staff and students to check it out. There are more uses for it, and there are more videos and articles about those uses than you can possibly keep up with. Project management, going paperless, research, running a business, the possibilities are endless. There’s even a private investigator using Evernote for case management and field work.

If you think it’ll help you, by all means, sign up for an account.

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.

On False Productivity and Professionalism

I’ve been doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work the last couple of weeks. A lot of it is assembling notes and research, putting outlines together, communicating with folks to line up more work. It feels like I’ve been really busy.

Unfortunately, it’s all false productivity.

Things have kept me from the keyboard, but I still do what I can to stay busy and be prepared for that precious keyboard time. It’s the actual keyboard time, however, that counts. I can spend all year with the notes, research, and email, but until these things make their way onto a page that’s available for sale in some form or another, it doesn’t count for squat.

That includes the blog. I haven’t had time to keep it up since my vacation, but while it does serve its purpose, it’s not the priority. The same goes for social media. The priority has to be the clack clack clack that outputs an actual draft. The clickety-clack that outputs a pitch that becomes a gig. The clack clack clickety outputs an outline attached to a business proposal. The priority has to be the writing and the rewriting.

The priority has to be the clack clack clack that becomes the cha-ching of cash flow.

Not coincidentally, this is what makes one a professional writer. “Professional” should be suggestive of its root word: profession. You know, job. Career. Trade.

Whether one is obsessively pounding away at the keys to the detriment of his home, family, and social life or making occasional forays into the office for hurried spurts of writing between a day job and family and social life doesn’t matter. This is all differing views of what a writer should be, and it’s often an idealized point of view, not a practical one. It’s very subjective.

Writing to get paid, or to at least get content out there to build future pay upon, is enough to be professional. Everything else is that same false productivity, and trying to put a compensation level or success level on it is just splitting hairs. It may matter for some status in an organization, but in the big picture, really, who gives a shit?

Finally, I’d like to point out that by some folks’ standards, J.D. Salinger would not be a professional writer. That just seems kind of foolish, doesn’t 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.

Defending Your Time

“Wipe away the magic and myth of creating and all that remains is work … No matter what you read, no matter what they claim, nearly all creators spend nearly all their time on the work of creation. There are few overnight successes and many up-all-night successes.”
—Kevin Ashton

I’m getting better at saying “no.”

I just read the Lifehacker article “Why Some of the World’s Most Productive People Have Empty Schedules” and the related Medium article “Creative People Say No.” If you’re a creative type, especially if you’re yearning to undertake a creative profession, take the few minutes to read these articles. (If you’re already creating full time, you probably already live this stuff, and I envy you.)

When your creations put food on the table and keep the lights on, or when you’re trying to balance a creative career with a full-time “real” job, time is your most valuable possession. Money may seem most important, because you trade money around for that food and those lights. Money helps you buy Shiny New Things and even funds business expenses. Lack of money is what keeps you up at night, sweating bills and empty accounts rather than sweating over creating something.

However, it takes time to generate money. If you have no time to create, then you will not generate money with your creativity. You will stay at the “real” job, and you will pour your valuable time into it, and your creativity will continue to suffer.

This is why I developed the “no” habit, and more importantly, why I’m learning to say “no” to myself.

This is why I haven’t seen the latest, greatest movie in the theater, and why I’m always several episodes—or even an entire season—behind on my favorite television shows. This is why I’ve rejiggered my karate schedule following my black belt test. This is why I sometimes have to tell my friends I can’t hang out on a given night, as much as I’d like to.

After a time, it gets easier. You may feel like a jerk at first, but soon people get the idea. They may not always be happy about it, but they understand what you’re trying to do. If I hadn’t finally learned to say no, Lie with the Dead still wouldn’t be finished, and Deadliest of the Species would still be out of print.

My next trick will be balancing my available time between health and creative endeavors. My martial arts training is not just a hobby, it’s exercise. My weight lifting supports my karate and judo, and I’m trying to get back into running to burn off some fat and increase cardio endurance. Adequate sleep is important for general health and for muscle recovery.

Sometimes, something has to give. Deadlines, you know. It sucks, but that’s how it goes. When I find that winning formula for time management, I’ll let you know.

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.

Getting the Work Done

It may not be apparent to the rest of you (yet), but the last month has been good to me. First, the publishers of a work-for-hire OGN project accepted the final draft of the script. Second, my editor at Evileye accepted the final draft of Lie with the Dead. And finally, I started a few things rolling on a couple of smaller projects before moving on to my next big one.

Oh, and I also built a new desk, which I continue to enjoy the hell out of.

This week marked the two-year anniversary of my first appearance on Shotgun Honey. Two years is entirely too long, so I cranked out another flash piece for them on that day. Hopefully they like it and I’ll have a second appearance in the near future. It’s still going strong as a fun little crime fiction site, and they have several repeat offenders. I was honored to be included in their first anthology, Both Barrels, and my next goal is to make deadline for their second book. (If I don’t make it in time, no worries; there’s another cool crime ‘zine I’d like to return to, too.)

Deadliest of the Species is hitting e-readers everywhere, but no reviews yet. Weird. I’ve heard from several folks holding out for the trade paperback edition, though. I’ll have more news on that front as Evileye Books and I put Lie with the Dead to bed.

I’m happy to say the publisher at Evileye was very pleased with the way Lie with the Dead turned out. He had a handful of very small notes which will be addressed no later than this weekend, if not by tomorrow. I look forward to having firm release news soon, as well as being able to share a small surprise for Winter Kill.

If you dug “Bravo Four”, the next The Pack short is under way. I have several planned and will continue to work on them as my editor and I nail down the outline for the next The Pack novel.

I will also have a short story collab going up on Kindle soon. I’ve got the original version edited on paper and will get those edits in place, and then I need to talk to some folks about designing a cover. If said cover won’t break the bank, I’ll have it live sooner rather than later. Stay tuned.

All of this is part of my revised Exit Strategy, which is my plan to get enough projects out there to write full time. I do all right when I finally have something available, but it’s still far from financially feasible to quit the day gig. I’m working up a few things that will help, but the Exit Strategy is long-term, not an immediate solution. For the next few months, at least, I’ve concentrated on making it realistic and attainable. So far, so good. I’ll check off the last goal box for last month very soon and be on track for this month thanks to some vacation time. (For the record, while there is a lot I like about my job, I can’t see myself doing it for another 20 or 30 years. Thus the Exit Strategy.)

And so begins what I intend to be a long and fruitful summer. Stay with me, folks, it’s getting better.

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.

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.

Newton’s First Law of Writing

Once I’ve started writing, I’m flying.

I don’t have a problem finding my groove. My fingers my stop for a few moments as I consider a word choice, examine how a scene should play out, or re-read a passage for rhythm and flow, but otherwise it’s all tap-tap-tappity-tap until I have to be somewhere or until I realize I’d best get some sleep so I’m not a zombie at the day job. (Or worse, I realize I need some sleep or I’ll be too tired to work again the next night.)

It’s Newton’s First Law of Motion at the keyboard: an object in motion tends to remain in motion. Go go go until there’s some element of friction (i.e., children) or some obstacle (i.e., day gig) to slow or stop me. The momentum is greater on the creation side than on the editing side, too. I can build momentum while editing, but editing is the work sie. The creation side is the fun side, the greased, downward slope toward fame and fortune. (Okay, maybe not, but it can feel that way.) Even brainstorming has its own unstoppable and insatiable rhythm as one connection leads to the next two.


Still my go-to brainstorming tool

But as we all remember from science class, there’s a dark side to Newton’s Law of Motion: an object at rest tends to remain at rest. I apply the same to any keyboard time that doesn’t include the productivity. Monkeying with email, surfing the web, browsing all the crap I’ve saved to Instapaper, hitting a forum, social networking bullshit, et cetera, ad nauseum, all feel like movement, but they don’t get me anywhere. Sure, I might justify some of it as pimping a book or some other effort at marketing, but unless it leads to a signed contract or a negotiated sale, it doesn’t count.

I also find getting an object into motion requires more force than what’s required to cease its motion. This is the real problem. Closing browser tabs, shutting down Twitter, or taking a word processor to full screen all help, but I have yet to find a trigger.

My workout trigger, for example, is simple: I use the warmup routine from my karate dojo. Whether I’m going to practice some karate, hit the punching bag, go for a run, or lift weights, the warmup tells the body it’s time to move. Then I keep moving. The warmup isn’t difficult, it’s just some easy movements to bump the pulse rate up a couple beats and shake the rust out of the joints. Nothing intimidating enough to make it a dreaded part of the workout, or a workout in itself.

Back in the Dark Age of Dial-up, sitting at the keyboard was still trigger enough. Sure, I could start my email downloading, but depending upon mail volume, I could crank out a decent word count before I remember to return to the email window. These days, lighting up a cigar at the keyboard sometimes helps, but I don’t get to do that often in the Winter, and the pull of being always connected can still trump it.

That’s why I’m going to try the Pomodoro Technique. I’ve seen some comic artists recommend it, but it applies easily to any project. The concept is simple: set a timer for 25 minutes and work only on the project until the clock expires. Then take a break before starting over for as many cycles as wanted/needed.

There are timers for it all over the web. I’ve found a couple Chrome extensions that connect with them, too. My plan is to hit those 25 minutes, then use the break time to surf, email, and so on. Break time is reward time. Idle time. Then I get right back to work.

Knock out the nonsense work, but maintain that precious momentum.

I have that same discipline in the dojo, though it’s more habit than using a timer. My theory is it should apply the same to writing after a short while of using the timer. If anyone has tried it, or has any other suggestions, please hit the comments.

I’ll report back in a few weeks and let you know how it goes.

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.

Make Your Workspace Work for You

Ever watch someone sit down and shoehorn themselves into an uncomfortable position and then say this is how they work? I see it all the time with students and co-workers in my day job. Maybe their chair is too high or too low, or the monitor is tilted at an improper angle, or there’s clutter preventing them from getting their mouse or keyboard into an accessible position.

I don’t know the psychology behind it. Maybe it’s laziness, maybe it’s fear of touching something that doesn’t quite belong to them, or maybe they’ve done it enough it’s just plain habit. They sit down so focused on the task that they forget to adjust their environment.

The only advice I can give is be aware of it. Fix it. Get comfortable. Adjust your workspace to you, not the other way around.

Mixed Sushi and Orange Roll

Who says you have to work in a stuffy office?

I bought a high-backed executive chair some time ago because I was told they’re comfortable. I hate it. Turns out it’s made for tall people, and the extra cushioning in the front causes problems with my legs. Now I use a simple metal fold-out picnic chair because it’s much more comfortable.

I was given a fancy corner desk. It has a keyboard tray, and the monitor sits nice and high. Too high, unfortunately. I was constantly having to tweak the angle of the monitor, and I started to get pain in my neck from having to look higher than normal. Now my iMac sits on the flat work surface of the desk instead. It doesn’t look right, but it’s much more comfortable.

Try different music. Try a different chair. Clear your desk entirely and start from scratch. Comfort breeds productivity. If where you’re writing isn’t working—even if it’s only for this particular moment—change it.

If you’re feeling cooped up in your office, leave. This is why it’s good to invest in a laptop, or to use an iPad for writing. It’s not uncommon for me to sit outside and write. I also don’t mind writing in a café somewhere, be it a Barnes & Noble, Starbucks, or someplace local (and I don’t even like coffee). I’ve even done some work at restaurants during lunches or at bars while waiting for friends. John Hornor Jacobs goes out for a bike ride somewhere to write. Brian Keene travels out to his family’s cabin.

Find your happy place and be productive.

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.

Get the Work Done

“A writer writes,” my editor told me once. “That’s all there is to it.”

It was a good pep talk. It’s something I needed to hear, and something I remind myself of often. If I’m going to make a go at this full time at some point in the future, I need to not just land more work, but produce enough to keep it all selling and keep the cash flowing.

If a writer has nothing to sell, then he’s not going to have anything to eat. Even doing it for the love, or as a hobby, requires the work to be out there and available in some form or another.


When you’re not writing, you need to be thinking.

It took time, but I’m at a point now that things are moving again. The latest draft of Lie with the Dead is sitting on my editor’s desk. I have an invitation to write some novella-length work and I’m now under contract for a graphic novel, both of which I hope to be able to tell you more about in the near future. I have a short story due, a column due, and if I can get it done by 8/1, an invitation to submit a short story to an anthology.

And that’s the firm work. There are still things circulating in the background, some of which may jump to the foreground at any moment to demand my attention.

I told a local friend about all this, and he said, “Man, you must be stressin’ hard.”

Nope. I love this. It’s good to be in demand, and to see fan response to “Bravo Four” and have them demand more.

This is what writing is all about.

So how, then, does one get the work done? The three keys: sort your shit, make sacrifices, develop discipline.

Sorting one’s shit involves a number of things, ranging from resolving personal problems to simply having a plan. Sitting down to develop my Exit Strategy was a big one for me, as was cleaning up some of the personal issues slowing me down last year. I also have a lot of things pulling me in many different directions, and I came to realize tackling them in a catch-as-catch-can manner wouldn’t do any one of them any good. I sorted those, refocused, and figured out how I can tackle each in the appropriate manner.

Making sacrifices doesn’t have to be as scary as it sounds. Dumping satellite and switching to Netflix got rid of a lot of my idle television viewing and the temptation to become a couch potato after a long day at work. My family is out of town this weekend, making it a perfect opportunity to catch up on Breaking Bad season 4 and Justified season 3, but there’s work to be done. When I put a dent in all of it, then I can make time for Walter White and Raylan Givens.

Developing discipline, then, is a matter of remembering how badly you want to accomplish something. My physical goals require a lot of effort and practice, and I make it happen every day, whether it’s running, lifting weights, or getting out to karate class. Once I sorted my other shit and made a few sacrifices, it became a hell of a lot easier to develop the discipline for writing.

When this post goes live, I won’t actually be at the keyboard, I’ll be in karate class and then on the way to a dinner celebration with some friends. Keeping up the blog requires the same attention and focus, though, and I’m writing this post during a moment I’m stuck on another project. Discipline means not wandering away from the keyboard when I’m stuck. It means finding some way to keep busy, to jump start the word machine.

And guess where my ass will be as soon as I get home from that dinner? Yep, sitting in the very chair I wrote this post from and working on one of these projects. The wee hours are very productive for me, and I’m going to take full advantage of them until the day job hours go back to normal in August. (And then I’ll either develop a new schedule or invest in 5-Hour Energy.)

Here I come to save the day!

It’s worked before…

On Sunday I’ll sleep in, get a short workout in and eat breakfast, then ride Lenore into town and write in a coffee shop until they throw me out. Then I’ll come home and keep on going until at least two of the current projects are done.

Sort your shit, make sacrifices, and develop discipline. This is how I am balancing a day job, Daddy Daycare, family time, writing, working out, and karate class.

It can be done.

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.

Last Night, This Happened

Last night I lit up a cigar and made one last push to complete the latest draft of Lie with the Dead. Five minutes after I tossed the stub of that cigar, I posted the following to Twitter:

It felt great to get that off my plate for at least a while longer. My editor will comb through it one more time, then I’ll have a final run-through, and then it’s just proofreading and prep for publication. I do not have a time frame on that, but of course I will continue to keep you updated.

For the new readers out there, Lie with the Dead is the next book in the The Pack series, a sequel to Winter Kill. If you haven’t read Winter Kill, I recommend downloading “Bravo Four” for the low low price of 99 cents. “Bravo Four” is a short story, and it also includes an extended preview of Winter Kill.

In the meantime, there is no rest for the wicked. I’ve got another writing gig cooking, I need to write a column by month’s end, another short story, and if I can swing it, I’ve got yet one more short story due by August 1st.

It’s been a good summer for the Exit Strategy.

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.

A Productive Fourth

All fingers accounted for? Check. Both eyes accounted for? Check. Balls still attached? Check. House hasn’t burned down? Check. Excellent. Any 4th where everything survives is a good one, especially with neighbors setting off their own fireworks in the field behind us.

I had the day off at the day job, but I still had work to do. I wrote the last of the ancillary materials to go with “Bravo Four”, the short story I posted a cover for on Monday. I also wrote a column by invitation for a webzine, and if it’s approved I imagine it will go up soon. It felt good to be able to spend a significant chunk of the day at the keyboard.

Not that I didn’t get out and witness some Americana. Check out this Harley-Davidson:

Copper Harley

Copper-colored Harley. Gorgeous paint scheme.

If memory serves, this is an anniversary edition paint scheme, and a friend of mine has a die-cast model of the same bike with the same colors. He almost purchased the bike itself, but concerns of safety and family prevailed and he purchased a boat instead. Too cool to see the same bike out in the wild.

We saw the local fireworks display last night, and this afternoon we saw the flags posted all around the streets in neighboring communities and did a little light grocery and gas shopping like the good little consumers we are. I even managed to squeeze the day’s weight lifting in between reviewing the publication master for “Bravo Four”. All in all I’d have to call it a good day, and it felt especially good to be productive at the keyboard.

Tomorrow it’s back to the day gig. Given it’s the middle of the year, it will also be a good time to revisit the Exit Strategy.

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.

Healing Up

Yesterday I had my face ripped apart:

Now I talk like the Godfather

I got to do my Godfather impression for a while

I had my two bottom wisdom teeth extracted. Everything went fine, and though I’m pretty sure I woke up for a second or two and saw the doctor with his hands in my mouth, I didn’t go Total Recall on them and start kicking their asses.

Recovery has been going well. I ditched the narcotic pain meds this morning, and ate solid food for lunch and supper. One of the benefits of being (mostly) healthy is I had no after effects from the anesthetic or the surgery beyond the pain and swelling, and things have gone well.

I took an extra day off work to rest and heal, but that didn’t stop my co-workers from pestering me. I spent the day at the keyboard anyway, which is good, but didn’t make as much progress as I’d hoped. I’ll take it, though. Need to keep on rolling, keep punching those keys. I revisited my Exit Strategy and saw I’m not as far behind as I feared, but I’ve got a workload ahead of me that I need to keep chipping away at.

Onward and upward.

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.