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, May 28, 2010

Closing Out May

The arrival of Memorial Day Weekend signals the end of May and the real start of summer. Kids will get out of school at the end of next week, and my wife, herself a teacher, will have to find something productive to do with your time other than doing lesson plans and dealing with other people's children.

I'll keep the Memorial Day comments short: Memorial Day was enacted by Congress originally as 'Decoration Day' to commemorate U.S. service members who died during the Civil War. Over the years it was expanded to include later wars and conflicts. Traditionally, the remembrance is tied to 30 May, but in later decades the observance was shifted to facilitate a Federal holiday and expanded weekend. Traditionalist insist on adhering to the thirtieth of May, while I'm certain there's a good chunk of us who appreciate a couple of days off at the end of the month.

Enough eulogizing.

May was rough on the Deep Strike Battalion. We lost a Soldier and made our way through a field exercise, albeit the latter more by sheer force and willpower than style and finesse. I, for one, am glad to put May in the rear view mirror.

In the three weeks I separated myself from my writing, a new idea struck. Within a couple of weeks, a plot outline appeared. As of yesterday, the first couple chapters stretched across my Macbook.

Already knee-deep in two other projects, a WIP and a rewrite, the last thing I needed was a third novel. But there it is. I've decided to keep fleshing it out as long as the ideas keep coming. Like my second project, it's markedly different than its predecessor. This particular inspiration is another UFYA, but with a third-person narrative and multiple POVs.

I'm comfortable sticking with the first-person narrative, but at this point in my development, I refuse to shoehorn myself into any particular style or format.

By: Twitter Buttons

Last: I discovered Twitter (much to the chagrin of several of my fellow OWG members). After battling a dizzying array or malfunctioning widgets and a stubborn government firewall, what you see in the column on the right is my new Twitter feed, appropriately named 'Bulletwisdom.'
Unfortunately, all variations of my name were already taken.

Aspiring authors and fellow bloggers take note: Within a couple of hours, the traffic to this site jumped. This lends to the lessons that if you plan to utilize an online marketing strategy, including blogs and social networking, you need a holistic approach that includes all of the above. Links are important. You might have an great blog and a thousand followers, but if the two somehow don't meet in the middle, it counts as a missed opportunity.

That's it. Nothing profound. Remember, it's Memorial Day. While you're with your family and friends, take a moment to commemorate the service members who fell while defending our country.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Memorial

A couple weeks back, our Battalion lost a Soldier. Private First Class Barry Smith left this world far too soon. Only a month in the unit, Barry impacted everyone around him. He was talented, ambitious, creative, and gregarious, possessing a monster work ethic that would have seen him rise to the top of the profession. God decided he was too good for us, and brought him home.

This week my battalion did some platoon-level training and live fire. It was a tiring week. We ran each of our 6 platoons through a thirty-six hours training 'lane' consisting of events that would test their ability to perform basic, required tasks.

No room for error. Because of the tragedy, we compressed what my Brigade Commander called a 'tight timeline' to an insane point where if any of the platoons were hung up, it would adversely affect the training of the entire battalion.

Transparent to each of the platoons, was the tireless work of my Officers and NCOs. They worked tirelessly to make a great training event. We were fielding new equipment, training on new systems, introducing new personnel to the staff, and executing an aggressive.

But we made it, and made the news in the process. When we got back to the rear, we were smoked, completely drained by humidity, frustrating moments, and lack of sleep.

Then I got an email from Jodi Meadows. She posting a critique of my query at her site, (W)ords and (W)ardances. Last fall, I had limited success submitting my YA, EMANARE, with what I considered a train wreck of a query letter. What can I say? I was young. She's the first to look at the redo, so I'm hoping with her assistance and a better overall product, I can move forward.

This is my first weekend home in three weeks. Overall, May has been the toughest month on the job. Can't wait for June.

UPDATE - Jodi's critique of my query letter is up her site here. She provided some extremely helpful observations. Thanks Jodi!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Why is a Coach Visiting Iraq Important?

These days, Texas A&M Head Footbal Coach Mike Sherman isn't much of a household name. Back when my team was winning in the late-nineties, he was coaching in the NFL. A lot of people are still wondering just who the hell the guy is after he replaced savior-turned-homewrecker Dennis Franchione.

Sherman's two seasons coaching the Aggies are remarkable only in their ability to continually confuse and frustrate our fanbase.

Disclaimer: I'm an Aggie.

So, when I got word he took the time this last week to visit with Soldiers in Iraq, two words came to mind:

Thanks, Mike.

Iraq is slowly fading from the American public's rearview mirror, and that's a good thing. For years, the only news on Iraq was negative. It was viewed by a good chunk of our national leadership as a lost cause that should have been abandoned for the good of all. But you don't hear that anymore.

The protests have died down. The finger pointing has mostly ended. It means things are going well for Iraq and its people. Violence continues to decrease and our presence in the country continues to decline. Soldiers in Iraq don't appear in the headlines as often as they used to. Regardless of who claims the credit (or blame), it feels good to be a victim of our own success.

It was nice to see my school's headcoach visit Iraq for no other reason than thank the Soldiers who worked so hard to turn the country around. He shared some words of wisdom with those who would listen, and listen they did. I especially liked the part of the Longhorn officer taking notes.

So what? Why address the visit of a little-know coach's visit to an area where the war is gradually coming to a close?

Because we're still there.

As we get closer to Memorial Day weekend, the national holiday where we Americans honor our men and women who died while in military service, take a moment and offer your thoughts and support to our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines still in harm's way. Just because we're winning doesn't mean life is back to normal for them or their families. Casualties are always inevitable, and before it ends, more of our Soldiers will perish. Our families back home will still struggle with the anxiety and stress of brought by seperation and protracted conflict.

Until we're all back home together.

Monday, May 3, 2010

No Thin Skins

I'm still a relative noob when it comes to writing. Not a week goes by that I don't learn something useful from my friends in the OWG at Kelley Armstrong's Otherworld Forums. Today I got exactly what I needed: a good swift kick in the rear.

In a moment of weakness, I let some criticism get under my skin. Now I get criticism of all sorts from my OWG friends, some harsher than others. Their's never phases me, after all, it's not personal, they give of their free time to assist my development, and I'm appreciative of their efforts. It's kind of like getting whacked on the ass in a college fraternity and saying, 'Thank you sir, may I have another?'

Initially, I wasn't very appreciative of the Publisher's Weekly review I received as a prize for making through to the ABNA Quarterfinals. The editor used phrases like gauche, limited promise, apropos of nothing, and watered down. I was rather enraged. I fumed, stormed about the office, complained to my OWG mates. A good hour of the productivity was lost to my private little tantrum.

Then there was a cup of coffee, a meeting, some work that needed to get done. For a moment, I was lost in solving tax-payer funded issues. I did what a Field Grade officer gets paid to do: solve macro problems. When I sat back down in front of my laptop, my perspective had changed.

Years ago, as a Lieutenant, training at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, I would attend After Action Reviews (AARs) following each engagement. The memorable rule of the AAR: No Thin Skins. Sometimes the truth hurts, especially when it comes from an anonymous source.

The rule still applies. It's not personal; you're only going to learn if you're will to take your pitches high and inside. As I've grown as a writer, my early inadequacies became glaringly obvious. I've known about the issues with my manuscript. The individuals who read the manuscript came to similar, albeit somewhat less despotic conclusions. The book I entered in the ABNA was completed in July of last year, months before my adventures in a writing group even began.

So I'm thankful for my anonymous professional reviewer. They confirmed the suspected shortcomings and helped me regain some of the perspective I'd lost while cramming in my myopic little writer's cave.

Given the impossibly small percentage of writer's that end up with their work on the shelf of a local bookstore, I anticipate many more of these insightful critiques. I'll survive.