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.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Waiting on Pins and Needles

April twenty-seventh.

Not that I'm counting or anything. It's the date that the semifinalists from the ABNA are announced. They'll post a list, and chances are one of my friends will send me an email saying, 'OMG, you made it!' or, 'You had a great run.'

For me, it's either vindication, or liberation. Vindication that I wrote a pretty decent story worthy of being in the top 50 of 2,500 writers in my category (and get a full manuscript review from Publishers Weekly). Or liberation, I can move forward with a pretty dramatic rewrite and sculpt my creation into what I think it's worthy of becoming.

So, this week's gun bit. A friend asked if I knew anything about loading a pre-1860 Adams percussion revolver, particular how to reload the weapon. A little Googling and I was able to find out. Here's the Adams revolver:

I'll keep it simple. Like any black powder revolver, the powder and lead ball is loaded into the cylinder. Then the cylinder is rotated, and one by one, each round is pressed by the ram on the left side of the pistol. It's a slow process and requires patience, but as evidenced by the success of the Adams percussion revolver on the battlefield, worth the effort.

The Adams is unique because it was the first successful double-action pistol (Wikipedia), meaning the trigger is required to cock and fire the trigger in one motion. As a matter of fact, this particular pistol cannot be manually cocked and fired single action. Guess you better have a real steady trigger pull.

A great wiki on how to reload a typical cap and ball pistol can be found here.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Genuine Bullet Wisdom and Betas

I'm a Soldier and competitive shooter. Aside from a little creative licensing, I'm also a fan of keeping things real. When folks in my writing group ask a question regarding my profession or its tools, I gladly help. Lord knows, I ask them for plenty.

Last week, a friend closed a comment with a question:

On the boom and bang angle, I've seen people with shotguns with the pistol grip. I was thinking of using a "super shorty" and was wondering if it was possible to utilize one handed (if it helps the character is female and its a sort of true grit moment.) Oh, and if there's problems would a lower yield of gunpowder make it possible and what effect would it have on the rounds? IE penetration etc.
I love shotguns. As much as they're a pain to reload under pressure, they're extremely effective in Close Quarter Combat (QCQ), and are great as a breeching tool to remove doors and locks. They have their disadvantages: can't carry that many rounds, limited engagement distance, slow reloads (on average), and the shells are large and you can't carry all that many of them.

If my friend is married to his idea of a shotgun, you could go classic. I recommend the 1901 upgrade of the Winchester Model 1887. You'll remember it as the famous lever action shotgun used by Governor Arnold in Terminator 2. Fires six shells and can be shortened to movie dimensions. It can even be cocked and fired, swung in a circular motion, in 'true' True Grit fashion.

Now, the modified gun in the movie fired slugs, and modern looking ones at that. It should be noted that this is a classic gun made to fire the reduced loads of the late-eighteenth/early-nineteenth century. Getting the right gun/ammo combination into the hands of the heroine could be complicated. For penetration, you want slugs or buckshot, but penetration wanes considerably the further your target. Take a rock and throw it as far as you can, and there you go. For more modern guns, take your pick here. Personally, my fav these days is the Benelli M3 Super 90.

Okay, onto the second half. I'm doing my first beta for a fellow aspiring writer this weekend. For the uninitiated, a 'beta' is a test-reading of a book done for authors. Professional's send their manuscripts to a limited number of confidants who provide their feedback. Generally, us aspiring types go to beta after between completion and submission, with a couple more edits sprinkled in for good measure.

On a humorous note, when I queried my YA manuscript last fall, I had no idea what a beta was. True story. Probably would have saved me a crap-ton of embarrassment over some silly mistakes. Next time, anyway...

It's an intimidating task, critiquing an entire story from cover to cover. My current forays into critiquing are limited to 3500 words at a time, but fortunately, this is a novella, and comes in just under 30,000. I'm about halfway done, and so far, I'm enjoying the experience. For the first time, I can critique not only the writing, but the story as well.

To the contrary of my initial impressions, it's easier to critique the story as a whole when you have the whole thing sitting in front of you. A chapter at a time, month to month, presents a very fragmented picture. With the whole enchilada, I get to see how the writer wove everything together. I'll go through it twice over the next week to make sure I hit everything before sending it back to its anxious master.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Why Are Writers So Accessible?

The further I get into my new passion, the more I'm baffled by how accessible and helpful successful writers make themselves to a large community of aspiring writers. You would think it would be quite the opposite, I mean, why encourage the competition? Instead, there are a generous folks out there ready to share advices and experiences.

One contemporary was quick to point out there are just as many pros who are complete douchebags. My opinion, that's more than likely a function of a personality than the results of success. You encounter disagreeable folks in all walks of life, and the publishing profession is more than likely no different.

To date I've enjoyed the advice from authors Jim Butcher, Mario Acevedo, and David Devereux. All of which were helpful and motivated the heck out of me to work harder to join the exclusive club of published authors. I need to take the time to thank them, and others, for contributing to my growth as an aspiring author.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Kelley Armstrong. Through the Online Writing Group, her Otherworld Forums provide a tremendous opportunity for aspiring authors to come and cut their teeth with the free masochistic beatdowns. Seriously, that group is filled with characters who take their craft seriously and spend a lot of time mentoring new writers.

Without the help of these eclectic collection of individuals, I'd be just another dude peddling a manuscript. When you think about it, it's in the best interest of the publishing industry to assist aspiring authors. After all, better stories equate to better sales. One of these days I plan to go and participate in a 'Con' so I can meet some of these people in person and attempt to learn more in a different environment, maybe even share a beer with one or two.

That's about it for this week. Next week I'll start a protracted distracted about firearms. I'm a Soldier and competitive shooter, and I get question from other writers about things that go bang or boom (I especially like the boom questions). I'll take a stab at some of the things I like and dislike about the employment of firearms in some of the books I've read (without naming the books, of course). It'll be one guys relatively informed opinion of what right should look like.

Should make for some interesting discussion.

Friday, April 2, 2010

What Drives You?

What drives you? What motivates you to overcome obstacles and drive for success? Why do you want to be published? Fame and glory? Or maybe something more pure and altruistic, like having a story to tell and wanting to share is with a broader population.

When I was a younger man, my brother and I used to rock climb. We would spend hours and hours, pouring out sweat and blood, trying to figure out some insanely physical technique to work our way up unforgiving vertical slabs of stone. There really was no point to it, neither of us received any money or fame. In the end, we simply climbed, as the saying goes, because it was there.

When I started writing in January of 2009, I did it because I was bored and wanted a way to pass time separated from my wife in Iraq. Inspired by long travels punctuated by a pile of popular Urban Fantasy, I found my head a swirl of ideas and inspiration. So I started typing. Eight months later, there was a 150,000 word manuscript.

Gravity took hold; I'd completed a novel. Wow, can't say I knew too many people that had done the same. Pretty cool. I got a crazy idea: publish it. So I look into self-publishing. Seems promising at first, then kind of gay. Publishing yourself is like being the first kid in the neighborhood to do the triple flip at the public pool. If no one sees it, it never really happened.

So, more Internet, more research, and the lessons came fast and furious. Queries, what are those? Rejection letters. Yay. Who are these agents anyway? What is an Online Writing Group? People that provide you feedback for free? Hells yeah. Then back to reality: I have a lot to learn.

And learn a ton I did, not only about the art and science of telling a good story, but of the profession, market, and all the players, agents, and publishers who make the whole thing go around. In particular, I've taken note of a few statistics. The blogosphere is full of folks, professional and amateur, using their valuable time to assist aspiring authors like myself. One in particular I enjoy, is a writer and former slush reader, Jodi Meadows.

Until recently, I didn't know what slush was, so I went to Wikipedia and found out. Slush readers are folks who sift through piles of unsolicited material for agents and publishers, providing an initial filter for material worthy enough to make it through. On Jodi's blog, she provided some statistics from her days reading slush:

Queries read: 5,468
Offers to represent: 5

Look at the numbers; do the math. That's what drives me: a thousandths of a single percent.

Agents and publishers are not obstacles en route to my success, they're the mountains of my youth, my Mt. Everest; something to stand on necessary to get to the top of the world. I never undertaken anything with this statistical degree of difficulty. But that's okay, I don't want this to be easy. A few years from now, when I'm staring at my book sitting on the shelf at the local Barnes & Noble, I want to savor all effort it took to get there.

Damn it's fun. What drives you?