Bullet Wisdom

I am an Active Duty Officer in the US Army. I am a Husband, father, writer, hunter, gamer, and SOLDIER. This blog is a forum for my many hobbies as well as my random musings.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

New DoD Policy Embraces Social Media

Last week was pretty huge for me for two reasons. First, author Jim Butcher personally provided some tremendously helpful advice, and second, my manuscript made it to the second round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. I was working on this week's post, a look at the Fort Hood Esquire article, but late in the week, the Department of Defense issued Directive-Type Memorandum (DTM) 09-026 - The DoD's policy for Responsible and Effective Use of Internet-based Capabilities.

For the last few years, the Army and other services faced a conundrum: How do you maintain operational security during a period of protracted conflict while dealing with the rapidly increasing popularity of social media. The policies that evolved from the problem were as inconsistent as they were perceived by the field to be unfair towards a young generation of service members who grew up with the expectation of free speech through social media.

It was difficult to watch senior leaders tweet and blog while Soldiers in the field were occasionally disciplined for doing nothing more than voicing their own opinion. Of course, this is the military, none of us are under the illusions that we service members have the same free speech rights as the rest of the civilian population. Nonetheless the perception of disparity was out there. Generals and Admirals Tweeted and Facebooked while Privates and Lieutenants were blocked from reaching the same sites.

The disparity needed to be address. The DoD recognized the disparity as well as the changing landscape of social media and its implications in the broader scheme. So, smart dudes gathered, panels conducted, and recommendations made. And after months of speculation, this last week the policy went public.

Basically, the new, unified policy allows access to social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs) while still authorizing commanders in the field to "defend against malicious activity” and to bar access to sites with pornography, gambling or hate-crime content. Commanders can also block access to social media sites, particularly YouTube, as necessary to protect a mission or protect sufficient bandwidth, but, and this is a big but, only on a temporary basis.

It's no secret that I stopped posting to my blog because my local command in Iraq was uncomfortable with my blogging while they restricted the content of their own Soldiers. I had no problem shutting things down in the name of fairness and good order and discipline, but privately, I didn't enjoy seeing higher institutions blog away while those of us in the field watched from behind a firewall of mistrust.

Like many other Milbloggers, I don't thing this is going to have a huge impact on the great scheme of things. Soldiers that want to blog and Facebook did it anyway. They simply used friends and family members to get out their message. If anything, this new policy is more of an assist to commanders in the field, who now have clear guidance from their higher how to handle social media.

The public should see this as a reminder that there is a small percentage of the population serving you with honor and pride, and while we defend your rights of free expression, we are not granted them ourselves. I'll get back to writing about writing next week.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Guy Writing in a Gal's World

This month marked my one year anniversary as an aspiring writer. In the past year, I completed my first novel, started a second, successfully published a short story, and had a single manuscript request from one of nine queried agents. Not a bad start, right? But as I walked through the aisles of my local Barnes & Noble, I came to a stark realization: most successful Urban Fantasy authors these days are women.

Why would I even notice such a thing? I don't know, but it's as plain as the by-lines on the book covers. Not that there's a dearth of successful male writers. Jim Butcher, Rick Riordan, Mario Acevedo, and many others achieve high levels of success. But as I looked over the new releases, I couldn't help but feel the odds for success are stacked against me.

What's the difference between the male and female writers? Well, first, I think you have to look at the market. What appears to be selling right now is UF with a required strong romantic element (Thanks, Twilight). There are men writing romance (see Nicholas Sparks), but it's not a stretch to say that it's a genre traditionally dominated by the other gender. So, combine what's hot with tradition, and you get what I discovered at the UFYA new release stacks at B&N.

So, what does that mean for me? As a friend recently told me, do I need to find and channel my inner-chick? Not likely. Right now, what's wrong with my writing isn't unique to males or females, but rather the common problems afflicting most new writers. Voice, dialogue, story, style; the list goes on and on. I'm working on it, and thanks to my OWG friends at Kelley Armstrong's Forum, the results are tangible.

Surfing the net this week, I discovered that a few agents are actively searching for male UFYA writers. The caveat, if the story and writing isn't there, no amount of testosterone is going to get you through the door. What's out there is a talent-barrier; gender has nothing to do with it.

I'll leave you all with some office humor. A few of my Captain's decided to play a trick on the boss, and swapped my keyboard. Thing is, I never look at the keys. This sat on my desk all day before someone pointed it out. See you next week!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Starting over, and another contest...

I was about three chapters into my latest effort, when I came to the halting realization that my current ability to write in third-person narrative sucked. Not so much sucked, but I'm having difficult expressing my characters and have a tendency at times to jump between limited and omniscient narratives. Of course this was pointed out by my friend in my writing group.

So, I made the radical decision to go back and rewrite the entire thing in first person. Granted, the manuscript was only 10,000 words along, but jumping back and switching the perspective wasn't that hard. Actually, it was very easy. Having written my first manuscript in first-person, the dialogue and narrative came much easier. I still don't want to abandon my efforts to learn and use third person, so for the meantime I'm going to continue to use it for shorts.

Last month I neglected to post the link of my first published work, Footsoldier, which is currently featured in the current online edition of Drops of Crimson. So feel free to take a look.

I'm entering my YA novel in another contest, this one over at Guide to Literary Agents. Prize is a free critique by literary agent Jennifer Laughran from the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Their agents represent a lot of YA writers, so any feedback on my work would be a heck of a prize.