Tag Archive for progress

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.

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.

Brainstorming

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.

Coming Soon

You will soon, at last, have some new Oliveri work in your hands.

First up, Evileye Books this weekend released a cover teaser for a new The Pack project, “Bravo Four”:

Bravo Four short story cover

I think you’re gonna dig this one.

I don’t have a firm release date as we’re still wrapping up some of the ancillary materials, but the true content of the piece is done and ready to go. Fans of The Pack will dig this one, and it will also be a good introduction to the series for anyone who hasn’t read Winter Kill (or, for that matter, Call of the Wild). As soon as it’s ready to go, believe me, you’ll hear about it.

Also, my editor had this to say:

https://twitter.com/ommus/status/219267387269201921

“That’s great, Mike, but what about Lie with the Dead?”

I’m glad you asked. Lie with the Dead is on track, despite delays. I’m wrapping the current round of revisions as I type this update, and then it will go back to my editor to kick around for the final draft. I apologize for the delay on this, but I still believe in this series and hope to keep it going for a long time.

In comics, I’m told this will be available in August:

Pig Money

Art by Jorge Fornes

When Greg Kishbaugh at Kaleidoscope Entertainment asked me to send in a short comic script, I was happy to oblige. The result is “Pig Money”, an 8-page crime piece which will appear in the debut of the A Dark and Stormy Night quarterly anthology. I’ve worked with Greg a bit through Evileye Books, and his biz partner Rafael Nieves has a long history with comics. Both are sharp guys, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else they’ve got up their sleeves.

I will, of course, supply purchase information when it becomes available.

Finally, I’ve been told The Burning Maiden will drop on Kindle in the middle of this month!

The Burning Maiden

Complete with a new cover illustration by Daniele Serra

Folks have been waiting for this one a while now. It’s had its challenges on the back end, but I believe you will find it well worth the wait. I’m very excited to be a part of the lineup Evileye has put together for this one.

Unfortunately I have no further updates on some of the other projects I’d expected to appear by now. Publishers have gone incommunicado, things have been canceled, or there have just been general delays while editors and publishers assemble the books. There are at least three more anthologies I was hoping to have in your hands by now.

More news soon.

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

Man it feels good to be back at the keyboard.

I spent the bulk of the day working on The Pack: Lie with the Dead and finished a few chapters. It’s the first really productive day I’ve had in a long time, and the first time I’ve felt like I’ve made any real progress in ages.

More importantly, I’ve felt good about the words I’m putting on the page. Last week I went back and looked at an earlier portion of the manuscript, and I have no idea what I was thinking at the time. If I didn’t find it compelling, I’m betting my editor wouldn’t have, either. I spent some time doing a little tweaking, then moved on to the new stuff.

Today’s work just feels right. I’m a lot more relaxed, a lot more absorbed in what’s going on the page. I haven’t had to think about work stresses in several days, and a weekend with family has helped me forget some of the other bullshit swirling around us.

I’m remembering why I love to write.

The real trick is going to be hanging on to this feeling when I return to the day job next week.

You’ll help me out, won’t you?

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 Simple Goal: Create Every Day

The problem with goals for word counts or page counts is I tend to beat myself up when I don’t make them. I start feeling like I’ve failed at something, and that makes it even tougher to go back and do it again. This is a big problem when I have so many irons in the fire that I don’t actually make it to the keyboard.

Fact is I’m a busy guy. Between the work, the family, karate classes, kids’ basketball games and concerts, trips, and other events, I have a lot going on. Every weekend this month is booked solid, and last month wasn’t a whole lot better. Cramming in an hour of writing a day is not always easy.

Instead I’ve made it a goal to create something every day.

This plan dawned on me a week ago when I grabbed my Moleskine shortly before bedtime. I had an idea rolling around in my head for a couple of days, and I didn’t get it to the computer so I decided to at least get it into the notebook. As I wrote it down, that idea led to another, and another, and yet another, all connected to the same story. In a matter of ten minutes I had four characters and a rough plot for what could easily be a novel or graphic novel.

The hard part of writing them is still ahead, but now I’ve got something to make that precious keyboard time all the more effective. I can’t afford to sit and stare at a blank page, wondering what comes next, for a half hour or so. This way if I’m working on The Pack book 2 and I’m stuck, I can shift gears to this project and bust out several pages or a few thousand words.

I’ve been working on it for the whole week, and so far it’s worked. I’ve jotted notes, I printed and edited an old short story, and I wrote responses to a couple of interviews. I’ve done some research, which in turn led to even more ideas on another project. Better yet, they were all done in short bursts. They were times I had a few minutes to kill, but not quite enough time to get lost in a page. (If I can’t get a complete thought/scene onto a page, I feel I’ve lost the thread of it when I get back to the keyboard and the narrative turns to crap.)

And I haven’t been beating myself up over note writing. I haven’t been crabby and irritable because I’m worried I’m wasting my time. It doesn’t feel like work (in either a good or bad sense), but it doesn’t feel like failure.

So if you’ll excuse me, I have a little creating to do before I crash for the night.

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.

Crises of Confidence

Tonight I was promoted to Sankyu, or 3rd-degree brown belt, in Shuri-ryu karate. That’s not something I’d ever thought I’d be able to say in my lifetime, but man does it feel good.

Not that it was an easy review or test, mind.

While I practiced my butt off for it, I have a bad habit of getting nervous and choking during the actual review process. I could (and should) have made it all the way through the review process on Tuesday, but in working through a set of techniques called ippon kumite kata #10, I kept stepping back with the wrong leg at the end. I did it wrong the first time, then did it right, but second-guessed myself and ran it wrong yet again because the people around me were making my same mistake. By that time I was completely thrown off and got sent off to work on it.

I was extremely upset with myself because I knew better, and though my muscle memory was trying to tell me I was doing it wrong, I let my brain dump a big load of doubt on me and that was all she wrote. Fortunately I was able to take another crack at it and passed, and I was able to finish the rest of the review process and earn my belt tonight.

I have the same crisis of confidence with other things. Call it performance anxiety, stagefright, or whatever, it’s generally when I’m on the spot that I start getting uncomfortable. I have no problem doing panels at conventions these days, and I still enjoy standing behind a busy table. Yet I start second-guessing myself if I’m the center of attention in other situations.

In fact, I’ve been more worried about performing my kata, Empi Sho, tomorrow night than I was about earning the belt in the first place. I get out to Peoria dojo about once a month, so I don’t run my kata in front of the other instructors and students very often. Not only do I have to look like I earned my belt, I have to make my Sensei look good as both a martial arts instructor and an employee of the school. Not to mention all the parents, siblings, friends, etc., of other students will be there watching. No pressure, right?

Honestly, there shouldn’t be any. I’ve been running the kata for 18 weeks now, and while that’s not total mastery by any stretch, it’s enough that I have the movements down and can get through it without getting shredded by other karateka. Ill even admit I’ve kind of been hoping I’d have a family conflict rise up so I could get out of it.

But brown belt’s a big deal. I should be there to receive my belt, and I should be there to support the other students from my dojo who were promoted. So I’m going to call it an exercise in self-discipline and just suck it up and head over there. The Wife is going to come along to take pictures, so I’m calling it a photo op as well. Believe it or not it helps, and tomorrow I plan to share some photos here on the blog and on Flickr.

Watch this space.

As for the future, if yellow belt was the first big milestone in the belt progression, I consider Sankyu the second. There are two more levels of brown belt between here and black belt, and Ikkyu, or first degree brown belt, is the next major milestone. My goal is to make Ikkyu by the end of this year, but I’m going to have to bust my ass to do it. Once I make Ikkyu, it’s a working and waiting game until Shihan Joseph Walker decides I’m ready to test for black belt.

It’s a long way off, but it looks a hell of a lot closer now than it did when I first put on a white belt two years ago next week.

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.

Martial Progress

I’m coming up on two years studying Shuri-ryu with the Academy of Okinawan Karate, and I’m still surprised at how far I’ve progressed. My weight loss may have stalled out over the last year, but I’ve made huge strides in strength and flexibility.

A big part of that is my sensei has turned our advanced class on Tuesday nights into a workout class. We may work a little karate, but we focus on a mix of cardio, flexibility, and strength training. For the last few weeks we’ve done the same with Thursday night’s class; it’s not quite as intense, but we get a good workout before moving on to the night’s lesson.

Last night was a good measure of my progress: we started with 150 front kicks after our warm-up, then did 110 push-ups and 110 sit-ups in ladders. By ladders I mean we partnered up and did 1 push-up, then the partner did 1. Did 2, partner did 2, and so on, up to 10, for a total of 55 reps. We did sit-ups the same way, then counted down from 10 with the push-ups, and finally counted down with the sit-ups.

I made it all the way through without hitting failure or losing form (though I am feeling it in the abs today). I’m not so sure I could have done that a year ago, so I was very pleased with myself.

The Tuesday class has also been great for my side kicks. I’ve learned a new waza, a certain combination of techniques, that requires me to do a blocking kick immediately followed by a side kick, both above the belt. We’ve been working side kicks and stretches on Tuesday nights in preparation, and now I’m happy to report I can pull off both kicks. I don’t know how pretty it looks, especially in the transition to the technique following them, but Sensei Miller seems content so I’ll just keep practicing.

If I can perform the waza and the rest of my new material properly, I’ll be a brown belt in two weeks. I’ve been looking at sankyu, or third degree brown belt, as the next big milestone in my karate progession, and it feels great to be so close to earning it.

My first summer with karate, I was just glad to have moved beyond a few physical annoyances and cut some weight. I wasn’t really focused on black belt, or even brown belt. It was tough to see that far into the future, and I admit I was intimidated by some of the things I saw our advanced students doing. Now I’m right up there with them. Now I know what I need to do to hit the next point. Now I know how to concentrate on the things I’m lacking.

Now I am one of the advanced students, helping to teach some of the basic students. I’m thinking about what needs to be done to hit my next milestone, ikkyu (first degree brown belt), by the end of this year. I have a goal in mind for shodan (first degree black belt), and a good idea of what it’s going to take to get there. It’s starting to sink in that there are real milestones beyond that point, be it nidan and beyond or exploring other styles and arts.

I don’t look at my martial arts journey as a long road, neither in front of me nor behind me. It’s just a road.

I’m just happy I’m enjoying the trip.

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.

It's Good to Be In Demand

I just fired a 12-page script off to a publisher. It’s not been approved yet, but it felt good to finally accomplish something, even something so short.

In a time where most small presses are dropping titles, changing formats, facing a tougher distributor market, failing to return messages, and generally struggling to survive, it’s good to have publishers courting me for a change. The script above went to the first, and I’m working on a polish of Powerless for the other.

It’s also nice to have people asking after my work. It’s been very quiet for a while, but lately I’ve had people emailing me on and off wondering when Deadliest will be reprinted, when my next novel will be coming out, or when they kind find any of my work, period. I’d be hard pressed to label many of them fans, but nonethless, it feels pretty good.

It’s even more flattering when people are surprised I don’t write for a living. Despite the market conditions, there’s not much that would please me more than to be able to — or make that to have to — pound out a couple thousand words a day rather than wrangling stubborn computers all day. If just a few more publishers felt I should be writing for a living, maybe that would finally happen.

I can already hear a few people out there saying “But Mike, you should do it for the love of the craft!”

Keep telling yourself that if it makes you feel better. My thinking is people should get paid to do what they love if they can get away with it. There are people out there who love their jobs, so why not turn something you love into your job? Bring in the money that lets you continue doing what you love.

I haven’t seen the big money yet, but for the first time in a long time I’m seeing the potential. This 12-page script is a direct lead-in to bigger and better things, and I can’t wait to see how they play out.

Good times are coming.

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.

Run for Your Life

Tomorrow, Troy and I officially start the Cool Running Couch-to-5k Running Program. The late cold weather delayed us several times this month, but now it looks like weather for both of us will be more cooperative this week and we’re going to get started. Anyone else feel like joining us?

I spent some time the last few days preparing for the program. I’ve never been much of a runner, so I’m doing everything I can to eliminate excuses and make it as fun as possible before I even get started. I set up some running tunes on my iPod nano (lots of punk and metal), injected a little tech geekery by setting up a Nike+ account, and selected Pantera’s “Cowboys from Hell” as my PowerSong.

I’m finding the Nike+ site is flexible with its goals and resolutions, letting experienced runners set up marathons and sprints or allowing folks like me to set simpler goals. For now I’ve set a goal to run 10 times over the next four weeks, which should be a piece of cake if I follow the Cool Running program properly. It recommends running three days a week, so if I stick to it I should hit 12 runs. I’ve made my progress public here, and there’s also a new widget to track my goal in the sidebar of my blog.

I’ve mentioned the plan to several of my friends and family member, and by far the first question they ask is “Why?” Two reasons: lose more weight and to increase my endurance.

I’ve already mentioned I lost about 35 pounds in my first year of karate, and there’s no question it has helped me make dramatic improvements in my overall health. However, my weight loss has kind of stalled out since December. I’m thinking I’m making a trade off by packing on new muscle, but in general I’m floating in the same five-pound range and I wonder if I’ve hit a plateau. A running program should help me get past that point and burn off some more fat.

The endurance is also karate related; when I spar, I come away gasping for breath. The matches rarely go the full two minutes allotted, and they’re mostly bursts of activity rather than constant motion because we’d trade a few blows, one of us would score, and the judge would call a quick stop to award a point and reset. The few times we’ve done Judo matches I’ve been even more exhausted, and in one match my body just about quit on me before the match was over. Don’t get me wrong, I expect to be at least winded. However, I feel like I should be able to last longer than I do, and that I should be less exhausted and recover faster when a match is over.

As a bonus it will help my endurance when we do our hundred front kicks, ideally preparing me for having to do 500 front kicks in a black belt test at some point in the future. It should also be helpful for running strings of wazas in rapid succession. For example, running the first four ippon kumite katas out of kiba dachi for my first review as a blue belt wasn’t terrible, but those numbers will increase as I climb in rank and I’ll perform the technique to multiple directions, so I had best prepare now.

So the motivation is there and my intentions are good. Let’s see if I can’t make this happen.

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 Year in Pictures

What a difference a year makes.

Despite falling behind on my 52 Weeks Flickr group contributions, I now have an entire year’s worth of self portraits in my 52 Weeks set. Sure, I’ve got 8 more to post, but time-wise there’s a year in there and it’s neat looking back and seeing if things have changed at all.

For example, there was my beardless phase, which I recently abandoned:

The Yin and the Yang

Not to mention the time I busted my head in Pennsylvania:

Home Lobotomy

Yeah, good times.

I can also play the then-and-now game. The following picture was taken in March, shortly after I joined the Academy of Okinawan Karate:

Academy of Okinawan Karate

Compare it to the picture I took just last night:

American Karateka

Higher rank, better gi, looking a little leaner… not too shabby.

A year goes by quick, but as we’re experiencing it, we don’t always see the big changes. I’m glad I participated. It’s kind of a pain to remember to take the pics and keep on top of dumping the pics to the computer and then uploading them to Flickr, but I’m tempted to do it again this year.

I really don’t know how the 365 Days folks do it, though. I’d almost have to cop out and use cell phone pics to post directly to Flickr. I’m sure my cellular provider would love me for that…

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.