On the Outside, Looking In

As you should know (from the About Michael tab), in what passes for real life I am a Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy.  Up until a couple years ago I was a submariner by trade; since then I transitioned into the education and training side of Navy life, as I’ve reached the limit of what I’ll be allowed to do in submarines.  That was a bitter pill to swallow; it would have been cool to Captain my own boat.  But also highly annoying in a lot of ways, most of which spring from Nuclear Power.  Don’t get me started.

That said, I’m still a qualified submariner, still think submarines are awesome, and still like to be around submariners.  Consequently, when I learned that the annual Submarine Birthday Ball was this past weekend, my wife and I cleared out schedule, hired a babysitter, got all fancied up, and went out to the gala.  Fun, fun!

No I'm not trying to choke her.  I just tend to take on weird poses when someone's taking my picture.  Go figure.

No I’m not trying to choke her. I just tend to take on weird poses when someone’s taking my picture. Go figure.

Except…

I’m one of two submarine officers at my command, and the other guy opted not to go.  Aside from him, I know one other submarine guy in San Diego (which is decidedly odd, considering the submarine force is such a small community – there are a total of 5,000 submarine officers on Active Duty, last I checked).  So I sat at the table with people I didn’t know (except for this Australian fellow whom I met a few weeks ago; he’s not a submariner but he opted to come out to have a good time), listened to a speech from an Admiral whom I remembered as sort of a douche from back when he was Commanding Officer of a boat on the waterfront with me when I was a newly minted Junior Officer, watched all the submarine wardrooms from the waterfront hoop and holler and generally have a good old time, and basically felt like a complete outsider.

And in a way, I guess I am.  I wear the dolphins, but I won’t be going to sea on a submarine again.  Which means I’m really not part of the club.  You see, a submarine wardroom is fourteen (plus or minus) guys (including the CO and XO) who spend a ridiculous amount of time together, know each other really well, and at least tolerate each other really well if they don’t actually enjoy each other.  It’s a pretty tight group and oddly enough, I rather miss it.  Seeing all the local wardrooms together, it hit in a way that had not before that I’m really actually done with all that, and I’m really not part of the group.

Oh they won’t tell me to piss off or anything like that.  Bubbleheads stick together.  Mostly.  But there’s a difference between someone who has gone to sea on a boat and someone who is, and will continue to, going to sea on a boat.

Suffice it to say, this Sub Ball was not nearly as fun as others I’ve gone to in the past, primarily for that reason – I wasn’t part of it.  Not really.  Which kind of stinks.

Not sure if I’ll go to another one.

*sigh*

Oh well.  Enough bellyaching.  Back to the fight.

2013 Writing Goal – Week 12

 

Another week down.  Another success.  Observe:

Week 127,617 words for the week.  Met the goal.

🙂

But that’s not all.  I also decided to work on some covers.

I think I mentioned I finished my demon vampire bunny rabbit story a few weeks ago.  Well it’s more than a story, it’s a novella – 25,500 words.  I like it, as does one of my beta readers.  I’m waiting to hear back from a couple more, but I expect I’ll be releasing it within the month.  I had all kinds of trouble figuring out a title for it, though.  Well, on Friday I had a bit of free time because it was a day off at work, so in addition to writing 2,400 words I decided to try to make a cover for it.  In the process, I discovered an awesome title: What Lurks Between.  And over the course of the day, with advice from some friends and the good folks at Kindleboards, I came up with what I think is a great cover.  I have only used comp images yet, so it’ll be covered with watermarks, but here it is, for your enjoyment:

What Lurks Between Test Cover 4

Pretty good, eh?

I maybe should have gone ahead and bought the art, but on Saturday morning, I got to thinking about The Pericles Conspiracy.  I tried a while back to figure out a cover for it, and came up with this (again, all comp images):

Pericles Conspiracy Test Cover 2

Bleah, right?

Based on that utter failure, and having no clue how to do better, I sought out a cover artist and made an appointment for us to work on the cover this week.  Well, on Saturday I was feeling a little saucy, and figured I’d give it one last try considering I’ve upped my GIMP skills a lot over the last several months.  So I set about redoing the cover, knowing I wanted a starfield, or something with space in it, for the background and Josephine, the main character and ship’s captain, somewhere in the image as well.  I tried a few different ideas.  Again with help from the Kindleboards folks, I developed a design that absolutely rocks!  Rocks, I tell you!  So I actually spent the $17 to purchase rights to the art I found and made the cover, then cancelled the appointment with the cover artist.  Because, well, look what I did:

The Pericles Conspiracy Cover

Yeah.  Now THAT is good, isn’t it?

So.  In addition to meeting my writing goal for the week, I also designed a couple awesome covers.  🙂  I just need to buy the rights to the art for What Lurks Between to finish it.  That’ll be my project for this week, after I meet my writing goal.

So I’m feeling pretty good about myself right now.  In the writing sense, anyway.  I’ve got about 84,000 words written on Pericles now – I’m closing in on the ending very quickly, and I gotta say I’ll be happy to have it done.  Not just because I love the story and want to see it out there for all to see, but also because I’m frankly getting tired of not having it finished.  It’s literally been almost two years since I wrote the first scene for this book and I just want it done.  Now.

Seriously.

So I need to write up a storm the next week or two, and just finish it already.

Which is what I’m going to do.

Hope all is well with all y’all out there.  Until next time!  🙂

2013 Writing Goal – Week 11

Another week ended the other night.  Time to tell you guys how I did.

In a word, meh.  Observe:

Week 11Just 4,402 words.

But that’s ok.  I ran a freaking Triathlon last week!  Suck it, beeotches!  😛

Or something like that.

But seriously, not so good.  I didn’t hit the goal.  But I’m over 77,000 words on The Pericles Conspiracy now, and the end is in (close) sight.  I feel good about that.

On another down side, I heard back from Ellery Queen about my new Cop story: they don’t want it.  And I heard back from Writers of the Future about my first quarter entry: straight up reject.  That brings me to 5 rejects and 3 Honorable Mentions.  Not a horrible ratio but still, this whole R/HM trend is getting old.  How about a Semi- or Finalist or winner, Dave?  🙂

The story in question from WotF is called The Beast and the God-Woman, and runs at 16,500 words.  Given its length, most of the short fiction markets are out, but I decided to try one I’ve not gone to before: GigaNotoSaurus.  It’s a monthly web-zine that pays, but not at pro rates.  But they’ve pub’d some good folks, so what the heck?  We’ll see what happens.

And in the meantime, I’m working to finish up Pericles.  I’m actually to the point where I’m getting sick of it, so it’s a good thing I’m almost done.  Now don’t get me wrong, it’s a great story and I love it.  I’m just tired of writing it, want to move on to the next thing.  And I’m eager to see what other people will think of it once it’s (finally – and I mean really finally; I only wrote the first scene in May 2011, for Christ’s sake) finished.

Wow, the last couple paragraphs were rather depressing to read.  But no worries, I am not upset, angry, hurt, depressed or what have you.  My ego and feelings are far tougher than all of that.  It comes from the submarine life; you learn quickly how to focus on the mission and how to fend off being made fun of.  Making fun of each other is how we entertain ourselves underway, after all.  No room for emo wimps on a submarine, let me tell you.  So the idea of getting freaked out or all “Oh woe is me” over a rejection or two is just, frankly, stupid to me.  Every time I read some writer opining about how rejections are so hard, I have to stop myself from leaving a comment saying something along the lines of, “Seriously?  Grow a pair will you?  Stop being such a fucking crybaby wimp.  You are not the center of the universe, you know!”

So yeah.  Rejections don’t bother me.  It’s just business, and I can always post them myself.

That said, I guess I’ll get back to writing something.  Cheers, y’all!

 

SuperSEAL

Last year, I set a goal of running a triathlon.  I then promptly got doored on my bicycle and broke a finger in my hand, putting me in a cast for eight weeks and a splint for another month-plus.  That precluded biking and swimming, and running sucked too because it made the inside of my cast all gooey for two days afterwords.  Consequently, no triathlon for me last year.

But this year, I was not going to be denied.  At the start of the year, I had my eye on the SuperFrog half-iron man, put on my the Navy SEALs here in San Diego, on Coronado.  It takes place at the end of September, and will be TOTALLY kick-ass.

Now I know what you’re thinking.  How in the hell do you think you’ll be able to do a half iron man by September?  Others are thinking what the hell is a half iron man?

So.  A quick primer on Triathlons.  There are several varieties.

  1. Sprint Triathlon.  Generally involves about 500m swim, 20-ish km (~12 mile) bike, and 5-ish km (~3.1 mile) run.  Not hard at all individually, but taken as a whole, more challenging than you’d think.
  2. Olympic Distance.  As an example, the OC Triathlon, which my friends and I are planning to do in May, is a 1.5 km swim, 50 km (31 mile) bike, and 10 km (6.2 mile) run.  Quite a bit more challenging.
  3. Half Iron Man. 1.2 mile swim.  56 mile bike.  Half marathon (13.1 miles).
  4. Iron Man. Double that.

There are some variations in the lengths but that’s pretty much how it rolls.

I shall now pause while various people’s eyes pop out of their heads.  🙂

Now, to answer the question, I could totally be ready for a half iron man by the end of September.  I’ve run marathons.  It takes ~6 months to train for one, and that’s starting from nothing, the way the Team in Training does.  I’m not starting from nothing.  But…  I’m not sure that I’ll actually go out for SuperFrog this year.  We’ll see how some other races go first.

Anyway, today two friends and I ran the SuperSEAL Sprint Triathlon, which is put on by the same guys who put on SuperFrog.  It’s a bit different from the sprint Tri that I described above in two respects: the run is 6k, not 5, and the swim, though advertised as 500m, was in fact more like 800m, based on my buddy’s GPS.  This was my first time running a Triathlon.  I gotta say, it was fun.  I also underestimated the amount of effort required for it.

Put it this way.  I run a half marathon in 2:10:00 – 2:20:00 or so.  I finished today’s triathlon in 1:43:00.  Not a great time, but I’m not interested in speed, at least for now; just in finishing.  So anyway, this thing took nearly the same amount of exertion (in terms of time anyway) as a half marathon.  I would say the half marathon is, in fact, quite harder.  Certainly a marathon is harder than a century (a 100 mile bike ride), so I don’t feel bad saying that.  And yes, I’ve done both.  But that’s not the point.  Point is, thinking of the events individually, I was like, “Yeah I’ve got this easy.”  But as we all know the whole tends to be greater than the sum of the parts.  And this was not easy.  It was not excessively challenging by any means, but not a cake walk.

As I said above, we’re planning another tri in May, up in OC.  This one will be longer, more challenging.  Between now and then, I need to spend a lot more time in the pool.  And get a different wetsuit. This swim was far more challenging than planned.  Part of it was my swim conditioning.  Part of it was that my wetsuit (which is the suit I bought back in 1999 for scuba diving in Hawaii) is not very good for normal swimming.  For one thing, I’m a little bit bigger in the chest (and belly, I’ll admit) now than I was then, so I’m already stretching the wetsuit just by wearing it.  For another, it’s a bit thicker than your standard triathlon wetsuit.  So trying to breath while reaching over my head while swimming freestyle was very hard.  Backstroke?  Sidestroke?  Not a problem.  But freestyle just didn’t work.  It was quite uncomfortable and annoying; I ended up in the very back of my wave, and was overtaken by a whole lot of swimmers from the wave behind me.  Which was annoying, and a little bit embarrassing.

So for next time, more swimming first.  Fortunately, it’s getting warmer now.  And when it’s warm, we spend our Sunday mornings in Mission Bay, a park a short distance north of where I live.  There are nice sheltered beaches there where they kids don’t have to contend with waves (which scare them).  And a couple nice convenient islands that I can swim back and forth to.  So that will be a big help in preparing better for the next one.

Anyway, long story short this morning rocked.  Not only did we have a lot of fun during the race, but at the end we all cracked open cans of Guiness, because after an endurance event there’s nothing better than a good beer.  And it’s St. Patrick’s day so really it’s required.  🙂

2013 Writing Progress – Week 9

I’m a little late in updating for this week, but that’s ok.  I don’t hear any complaints.  🙂

Simply put, I crushed it.  Observe:

Week 1011,212 words, almost 50% above my 7,500 word goal for the week.  It helped that I was off on travel in Japan (Okinawa, to be precise).  And it helped that I lived Saturday twice; the beauty of flying west-to-east across the date line.  I actually landed in LA before I departed Tokyo, at least as far as the date and hour were concerned.  Plus it was a 9.5 hour plane ride, on that leg alone.  Another 3 hours from Okinawa to Tokyo, and a couple hours in various airports.  The flight from LA to San Diego was miniscule, and I didn’t write; it was low altitude and I love watching the landscape during low altitude flights.  Long story short, I was able to get a lot done on Saturday.  Obviously I did not write the entire time on the plane; I attempted to get some sleep.  And for obvious reasons I did not right Saturday night or Sunday – one must reunite with one’s family after all.  🙂

It was a good week.  I made a LOT of progress on The Pericles Conspiracy; it’s up to a bit over 72,000 words now, and I’m well past that difficult hump so I think I have clear sailing from here to the end, in another 30k or so, depending.  I also completed a short story, which I intended for this quarter’s Writers of the Future entry.  But now I’m wondering if I might submit it to Clarkesworld first, since they have a quick turnaround (just a few days).  I really dig the story and think it may do well.  If they like it, I still have time to write another story for WotF.  I don’t know.  I’m still pondering.

Complicating that calculus is the fact that I’ve lined up a cover artist for Pericles.  She’s penciled me in for the 28th of this month to work the cover, and since I’m getting both an ebook and print cover from her I need to have at least a reasonable guess as to the book’s final page count so she can get the cover dimensions correct for the print version (damn that spine width bit!).  So I really need to devote the majority of my attention to Pericles so as to get it done.  Pronto.

So I’ll probably just send that short story to WotF and worry about Clarkesworld et al after the quarter’s results are in.

Regardless, just because last week was a good one doesn’t mean I can rest on my laurels.  I didn’t write yesterday, and I’ve only done 459 words today, so I really need to get back to cranking this week.  Must meet the writing goal, and Sunday at least is going to be busy.  I’m running a triathlon, so I can’t count on a ton of free time that day to make up any slack I may leave this week.

Right.  So, back to it then.  Cheers!

Goal Progress Update

It’s been several weeks since I did an update on here.  Got some good excuses, which aren’t really excuses but reasons.  I’ll discuss them  as we go.  Ready?

Ok.

Week 6

Week 6I only got 2,248 words that week.  I was Mr. Mom, but interestingly enough I only got words written after my Mom left.  Odd.

Week 7

Week 7You’ll notice I didn’t get much written in week 7 until the middle of the week.  That’s when my better half came home.  Not sure how that correlation works.  It’s not like taking care of 3 kids is all that stressful or time consuming.  I blame watching too much TV and drinking too much wine.  Yeah, that’s it.

Week 8

Nada.

The thing to know about that week is it was the last week of an internation tactics course at my place of work.  A bunch of Australians flew into town to train with us.  I got out of playing with them the first two weeks because I took time off to deal with the family crisis.  But even if I’d wanted to, I could not get out of this week.  Because I am in charge of their course of instruction, and while the previous two weeks were classroom, this one was hands on.  We went underway on a couple destroyers for the night, flew back in a Navy helicopter, toured a few other ships, went to the Navy helicopter simulator, and generally had a great time.  And then on Saturday I flew to Japan for two weeks of exercises and training.  The fun thing about flying to Japan is that you get there a day after you left, because you’re flying west across the Date Line.  So even though I left in Saturday, I arrived (pretty late) on Sunday night.  So even if I’d had the energy to write that night, there would be no more writing that week.

Week 9

Week 9I hit the goal this week.  You’ll notice the writing was weighted toward the end of the week.  That’s because the exercise we ran in Yokosuka last week kept me busy.  And because after the exercise each night, we tended to go out and get dinner.  I mean drink.  Ok, both.  But we finished the exercise on Thursday, and I flew here to Okinawa on Friday.  We didn’t start the training here until yesterday, Monday in Japan (Sunday to people in the US).  So I had time to write.  And I did so.  It worked out well.  🙂

I’ll tell you what, I’ve not been to Okinawa since 1999.  I until last October, I hadn’t been to Yokosuka since 2000.  Things haven’t changed that much.  As before, I find I like Okinawa more.  It’s less cluttered and it’s tropical.  What’s not to like.  This trip, four of us are renting a cabin from the Navy WMR on White Beach, which is where CTF 76, the command we’re training, is stationed.  There’s not a lot on the base, but it’s a pretty nice place, nonetheless.  I’ll post some pictures a little later.

 

Long story short, I’m now a little behind on my annual goal.  I’m at 32,500 words written so far, in 2 months.  Do that math on that: if I continue at this pace it’ll take 19 months to complete my 300,000 word goal.  Fortunately, I’m not going to continue at this pace.  A lot of stuff went on at work and at home in January and February, but the busy season at work will be over soon, and that’ll help.  So I’m not panicking yet.

I’ve made a lot of progress on The Pericles Conspiracy.  I’ve also completed my vampire demon bunny story: it ended up at 25,500 word novella.  And I finished the cop story I started a long, long, long time ago: it came out to 4,300 words.  I named it Crossing The Line and  submitted it to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.  We’ll see how that works out, but I like how the story turned out.  So even if EQ doesn’t dig it I’m still happy.

🙂

Ok, getting back to writing now.  Cheers.