Monday, June 29, 2009

Reaching for Something

Reaching for Something


Last night, my wife asked me, “so how many followers do you have in Twitter?”

I proudly responded, “thirty.” That’s about twice as many as I had a week ago. “And I just got a new one an hour ago.”

She laughed. “I have 237 and I haven’t been on Twitter anywhere as long as you.”

The wind dropped out of my sails. I had thought 30 was a huge achievement. I mean I know a couple of those are spammers, trying to lure me to their lurid web sites. Still, thirty people sounded like a lot to me. I compared our Facebook stats. Wow, I have a total of 94 friends! Then I checked hers. 1081. I don’t know a thousand people. I don’t think I know a hundred people. I don’t even know some of my own Facebook friends.

I don’t even want to compare blog followers.

I know her secret. She’s an net-ho, following each and every person she finds. She throws herself out there like party girl, enticing all those unsuspecting victims into her web of iniquity. Me? I’m like, “Hey, what’s up. You can follow me if you want. Or not. Whatever. No big deal.” I want to earn my followers through my brilliant analysis and fascinating blog posts (too bad I don’t have any—which is why the 30 followers surprised me).

So that brings me to my next thought.

I’ve added so many feeds into my reader that it now says “1000+ unread posts” at the top. I’m following 123 different feeds, although some of those don’t actually have activity anymore and need to be pruned. I’m inundated with posts from aspiring writers, established authors, agents, and editors, not to mention just other random feeds I find interesting (running, etc). I’m getting a sense of what topics are interesting to writers, what agents are dealing with, and what the book market is like (getting published, idiots, and depressing in order).

I’m trying to find a way to share these lists. Google Reader has some kind of “sharing” feature but I want to share subscriptions, not posts per se. I can add a bunch of feeds to my blogger page, but it only shows the last X posts. I don’t know if anyone would even find that interesting. If you go to my blog you can see some of the blogs I follow. Just scroll down the side until you see a bunch of faces. There’s some way to see what I follow through that, but it only lists Blogger blogs. If there’s a good feed-sharing site out there, let me know.

On to the next topic.

I’ve made a decision that I need more beta-readers for Dawn’s Rise. I feel like self-editing is only getting me 50% of the way there. I’m improving things, but I’m also missing tons of problems, not identifying flat areas, and since my ms keeps growing, I’m not cutting things out like I should. My critique group is around page 40, and I’m dealing with issues on page 150. At this rate, I won’t be completed until next year, while my brilliant epic fantasy novel languishes. I never realized this would be so hard or take so long (or how crappy my previous drafts are).

I’m therefore beginning an active search for beta readers, including posting some chapters out on Critters. And of course I’m willing to exchange whole-novel critiques. If are interested or know anyone out there willing to exchange critiques let me know. All I ask is that once you commit, you stick through to the bitter end, no matter how cheesy and unbelievable the novel becomes.

Now for a Medical Update that has no connection with the rest of the post.

There’s nothing wrong with me. I basically wracked up tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills (still waiting to see what insurance covers) because—listen to this—I had a STOMACH ACHE. What I’m left with is my original theory: I overdid it, eating and drinking too much, maybe got dehydrated, and things just got a bit clogged up. Maybe if I had drank some coffee and gone for a walk, things would have resolved themselves. I don’t have Crohn’s. I don’t have cancer. I don’t have diverticulitis. I don’t have ulcers. I don’t have Inflammatory Bowel Disease. I’m 100% disease free (AFAIK). I feel like I should be happy about that, but this knowledge comes at a great cost, and doesn’t change what I already knew. I’m not disappointed that I’m well, I just feel I sacrificed a week of my life and have nothing to show for it but bills.

So I’m trying to get back to my workout routine, but I’ve been unmotivated lately. I’ve missed a few of the big races I wanted to compete in, and I really have nothing I want to sign up for right now. I just want to get my novel out there into agents’ hands, but I can’t in its current format. I don’t where all the time goes, and I don’t know if my novel’s getting any closer to anything. My self-confidence is starting to slip away like Jell-O left out in the sun.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Critique Technique Part 2

Critique Technique Part 2

editingdemotivatorfeb07_n I submitted some fairly unedited text to Edittorrent. You can read it here. They did a pretty good job with it, and it’s a good example of what to look for in a critique. BTW everyone, it’s iapetus with an i.

Here is a small bit of background that those editors didn’t have. This is typical for critiques; they usually are considered in the context of the rest of the story:

During a meeting with our villain, Dawn freaks out, feeling something bad is about to happen. She is being transported back to a jail in a van when the ground begins shaking violently. The van tips over and she escapes her captors. She runs through the city, avoiding falling buildings and crumpling streets. She finds some relative safety in an old cemetery. The earthquake grows in intensity, until…

Original line in italics.
Edittorrent comments in normal face.
My comments in BLUE.

Iapetus posted:
A bulge of earth in the distance raced towards her at jet speed. As it passed, the ground ripped upwards, throwing Dawn into the air, almost 15 meters high. The earth threw off the top layers of soil, flinging buried pipes and wires as well as huge chunks of asphalt and concrete into the air. Dawn sailed over the soil, reminded of documentaries where tons of dynamite blew away a wall of material. The earth exploded in every direction. Dawn crashed onto a soft pile of debris and ducked from rain of high-flung rocks and bricks. A couple blocks away, Charlotte’s jewel, the HLSCO HQ building, the huge elegant structure almost a kilometer high, crumpled into itself, imploding in a huge cloud of dust and noise. Dawn spotted her own apartment complex, presumably with her Aunt Rose inside, settling down to the ground in a plume of debris.

"Bulge" seems to me still attached to the earth, not a projectile. Not sure if anyone else felt that way! Or do you mean it was still attached?
This should probably be “A bulge in the earth”
You know, a line of description might clear this up-- however, it's possible only I didn't get it.
I’m going to work on this a little more. With powerful quakes, you can actually see the earth ripple like waves on the ocean. If you watch videos of nukes, you can see this.

Good frenetic feel here, right for an action scene. Yay!

As it passed, the ground ripped upwards, throwing Dawn into the air, almost 15 meters high. The earth threw off the top layers of soil, flinging buried pipes and wires as well as huge chunks of asphalt and concrete into the air.

Maybe earlier say where we are? See if you can sneak it in-- like the bulge of earth ran past a highrise (we're in a city) or a silo (we're in the country).
This is out of context, so we know she’s in a cemetery within the city.

Notice that you've buried the experience of the POV character, in the middle of a line. How close are you to her own feelings? If you're in deep POV, or any kind of personal POV, you'll want to tell how it feels to be flung that way. If you're in omniscient, however, you want to concentrate on the overall scene-- but seeing a person flung into the air might be worth describing. Are her arms flailing, etc?
This is unfortunately typical of how I write drafts, where I just tell everything. :( It’s probably my number one style problem right now.

Dawn sailed over the soil, reminded of documentaries where tons of dynamite blew away a wall of material.

Uh, this doesn't seem to be a real person. She's sailing through the air, and a bulge of earth is pursuing her, and she's thinking about documentaries? Come on. Be in her. Close your eyes and imagine that you are her, and you are there on earth and suddenly you're flung into the air, and there is NOTHING you can do, but you try to do it anyway-- grab at the air, reach down for the earth, anything that can stop your flight. Be in her, and tell us what it feels like, and what you're thinking as you sail through the air to probable death.
I just love that image and I tried to sneak it in. I knew it wouldn’t fly (pun intended :). I’m thinking of rewriting sections in first person to get inside my character, then changing it back to third and see how that works. Or maybe I should go into screenwriting. Nah.

If you want to talk about documentaries, you need to be in omniscient POV, I think.
I think I see the topic of my next blog: what POV should I write in? Because I don’t know, and I’m not getting it right.

Then again, maybe she's a lot cooler under pressure than I am!
The earth exploded in every direction. Dawn crashed onto a soft pile of debris and ducked from rain of high-flung rocks and bricks.
How does it feel to crash? Can she scramble up, look wildly around, and then duck?
Noted. She’s dazed and confused, and of course terrified. This is the most dramatic scene in the novel save the final climactic scene (which makes this look like a walk in the park), so I have my work cut out.

A couple blocks away, Charlotte’s jewel, the HLSCO HQ building, the huge elegant structure almost a kilometer high, crumpled into itself, imploding in a huge cloud of dust and noise.

I like that "almost a kilometer high", and I can really see it "crumpling".
Maybe too many short elements there? The punctuation is right, but so many short elements might be kind of choppy, and the main purpose of the sentence might be lost. Maybe if you get rid of "Charlotte's jewel"? and end the sentence thus:

crumpled into itself and imploded in a cloud of dust and noise.

See what you think--
That sounds better. See? Editors do help. :)

Dawn spotted her own apartment complex, presumably with her Aunt Rose inside, settling down to the ground in a plume of debris.

I'd delete that "presumably" right away, as it bleeds out all your credibility. Come on, this is a novel. You're in charge. Aunt Ruth is there, as far as Dawn knows.
Hmm. I like that thought, that I’m in charge. I do rule this novel! Sometimes authors need a slap in the face.

I live in the Midwest, and we have tornadoes that will mow down a town and then delicately take one car and set it down undented a mile away. So I envision that apartment complex landing intact and just causing a big dustbomb as it lands. What do you mean? Is the apartment complex destroyed? Tell us.
Good idea. It’s a 300+ story complex, taller than the HQ building. It takes a while to fall down, too, like half a minute.

Also, Dawn is not just a camera. What's going on with her? Is she crouched behind a broken shard of concrete, watching helplessly as her home hurtles by and crashes into the cornfield/desert/parking lot?
See that? I don't know where we are-- the verdant farmland, the desert, the suburbs. "Ground" can be on the moon, for all I know. You did mention Charlotte, presumably the North Carolina city and not the girl I went to high school with. But you know, I'm from Virginia, just north of there, and I still want to know-- are those buildings crashing into the mountains? the mall? a lake?
Got it. I make sure the context is clear. Need to get in Dawn’s head. Working on it.

Look for non-informative words. "Ground" says less than "dirt" even. Sneak in info whenever you can without calling too much attention to it. You can almost always replace a generic word like "ground" with something more interesting, like "the North Carolina clay," or "the desert sand," or "the mall parking lot."

Challenge yourself. Find every generic word and see if you can specific it up. :)
Will do.

So I took my own advice, and rewrote it in first person, trying to get into my character’s head:

I staggered over to an old cemetery covered with dust. My throat ached and my eyes watered. I waved the dust away and covered my face with my shirt. My legs trembled, and I felt dizzy and disorientated. I prayed that this terrible vision would stop, that I would wake up in my apartment and everything would be fine, that there wouldn’t be bodies and buildings lying everywhere. The earth kept swaying as if I walked inside a canoe. I trembled with every cry and scream that mingled with the thunder of collapsing buildings, sounding like a rollercoaster that continuously plunged down. My voice keened as I looked around for a safe place, only to find nothing. From my small hill, I looked down past the airport towards the Catawba River. The land over there seemed to rise up in a wave, traveling towards me like a train. The river splashed into the air like someone was fishing with dynamite. Everything in the wave’s path exploded into the air. A plane tumbled into a fireball as it landed. I ducked, covering my head, knowing the wave would hit me in seconds. The ground dipped and then pulsed upwards, throwing me and the very ground I stood on far into the air. I screamed, swimming in tombstones and debris. The dirt blinded and choked me as reached out for anything. I hung in the air like a ragdoll tossed by a child, helpless and frantic, seeing nothing but brown soil flying everywhere.

The dirt collapsed back onto the ground. I landed with a thump on the freshly turned soil while tons of the stuff rained onto my back. A tombstone narrowly missed my head. I gasped for air, my lungs refusing to function. Pain shot through my body from a dozen places as rocks hit me. I pushed myself up before the raining soil could bury me. My head swam from lack of oxygen and I felt faint. As I rose, holding my arms over my head, my blood froze. A couple blocks away, the enormous HLSCO HQ building—where I had just been interrogated—imploded, folding in on itself in a tower of dust. I felt my stomach charge up my throat when I spotted the next sight. I watched the Edenville Sky Towers, all 325 floors, sink down to the streets with my Aunt Rose inside. I tried to scream but dirt clogged my throat. I retched, falling to my knees as my stomach spewed its contents. I could only breathe in tiny quick inhalations like a dog panting. My Eyespy warned me of my dangerously low oxygen saturation, and my Earbug chimed, another reminder that I was dying.

And then converted to 3rd person with some additional minor edits:

Dawn staggered over to an old cemetery covered with dust. Her throat ached and her eyes watered. She waved the dust away and covered her face with her shirt. Her legs trembled, and she felt dizzy and disorientated. She prayed that this terrible vision would stop—that she would wake up in her apartment and everything would be fine, without bodies and buildings lying everywhere. The earth kept swaying as if she walked inside a canoe. She shuddered at the cries and screams mingling with the thunder of collapsing buildings, sounding like a rollercoaster plunging down in an infinite loop. From a small hill, she looked down past the airport towards the Catawba River. The land rose up in a wave that travelled towards her like a train. The river splashed into the air like someone was fishing with dynamite. Everything in the wave’s path exploded into the air. A plane tumbled into a fireball as it landed. Dawn ducked, covering her head, fearing the wave would strike her in seconds. The ground dipped and then pulsed upwards, throwing her and the cemetery plots far into the air. She screamed, swimming in tombstones and debris. The dirt blinded and choked her as reached out for anything. She hung in the air like a ragdoll tossed by a child, helpless and frantic, seeing nothing but brown soil flying everywhere.

The dirt collapsed back onto the ground. Dawn landed with a thump on the freshly turned soil while tons of earth rained onto her back. A tombstone narrowly missed her head. She gasped for air, her lungs refusing to function. Pain shot through her body in a dozen places as rocks pummeled her. Dawn dug herself up before the raining soil could bury her, her arms and legs burning from exertion. Her head swam from lack of oxygen and she felt faint. She rose, holding her arms over her head, and her blood froze. A couple blocks away, the enormous HLSCO HQ building—where she had just been interrogated—imploded, folding in on itself in a tower of dust. She felt her stomach charge up her throat when she spotted the next sight. The Edenville Sky Towers, all 325 floors, sank down to the streets with Aunt Rose inside. She tried to scream but dirt clogged her throat. She retched, falling to her knees as her stomach spewed its contents. She could only breathe in tiny quick inhalations like a dog panting. Her Eyespy warned her of dangerously low oxygen saturation, and her Earbug chimed, another reminder that she was dying.

Okay, still not perfect, but is it better? It’s a heck of a lot longer, so I need to trim it. I think I grabbed a few things from surrounding paragraphs, so the whole chapter can be pared down.

Now your turn. What additional edits do I need now? What still needs work? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

[Edited 6/23/2009]
After I read Merrilee's comments I came up with this re-edit.

Dawn thought it appropriate to flee to a cemetery, because when she spotted the wave of destruction flying towards her across the landscape, she knew she was about to die. In the distance, a violent upheaval of earth raced along, flinging rivers into the air, tossing cars like toys, and detonating the ground like a vast field of dynamite. She prayed that this was a vision, one of her crazy delusions. It felt so real, and the fear reached down to her bones, shaking her knees and cramping her stomach. She saw Death coming in the form of an earthquake beyond her poor power to comprehend. The wave carved down streets and buildings, then before she could take another breath, it flung her and the contents of cemetery high into the air. She closed her eyes and held her arms across her face as she sailed through the flying soil, tensing her body in anticipation of the final impact that spelled her doom.

With a violent whump, she landed in a pile of loose dirt. Her breath escaped her body and she lay there trying to draw in air while dirt and debris rained down. Her eyes refused to focus, her legs threatened to collapse, and the dirt prepared to bury her like the other corpses all around her. Dawn clawed her way free, her breath finally coming in tiny gasps. Her only thought was survival. Just survive one more second. She pulled herself up by grasping a large tombstone that had narrowly missed crushing her head. She cleared the dirt in her eyes, and witnessed a sight that froze her. The grand HQ building, a kilometer high and the pinnacle of modern architecture, imploded on itself and collapsed into the streets in a huge cloud of dust. Dawn knew thousands of people worked there, all crushed in an instant. Another sight made Dawn wish she had died in the cemetery. The Edenville Sky Towers, all 325 stories, tilted and fell down, thundering and generating more dark dust clouds. Dawn’s heart sank. Not Rose. Please, not Rose. This vision has to stop. This can’t be happening. I want it to stop. Now! Everything she had in the world just vanished. Her family, her home, her job, her city, all destroyed in one instant. She fell to her knees as her stomach rebelled and purged itself, then she rolled onto her back, wishing her suffering would just end.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Critique Technique QnA

Critique Technique QnA

criticism2 First off, a hearty welcome to all new Blogger and Twitter followers, and Facebook friends. I hope you find this blog interesting and entertaining.

By no means am I an expert, but here are my thoughts on critiquing, in a Q and A format. This is for fiction critiques specifically.

Q: What is a Critique?
A: A critique is a well-thought-out evaluation of a piece of writing. The critiquer examines the work on many levels, depending on the desires of the author.

Q: What should Critiquers look for?
A: For me, when I look at a piece, the first and foremost thing I look for is whether the piece captures my attention and makes me want to read more. Many times, I’ll read something that is dull and pedantic. I’ve read chapters where absolutely nothing happens. This is death for a writer. It’s imperative that every chapter, paragraph, and even word moves the story forward. Everything else should be cut, or improved by adding conflict. Remember, there must be something at stake in every passage.

Q: What else?
A: The next thing I look for is style, grammar, spelling, flow, etc. Are the characters realistic? (Or if it’s zombies, are they consistent? They shouldn’t start flying or playing concertos). Do the characters have needs and fears? Is the science accurate? Do Vamps and Werewolves really sit and drink tea and talk sports? Every sentence should be crisp, concise, and clear. Tense has to agree. This is not an exhaustive list; there are boos upon books written on the subject.

Q: How detailed should a critique be?
A: This depends on what the author is looking for. The most detailed critique is known as a “line edit” where every single word and phrase is judged and considered. But sometimes the author just wants to know if it “works” and what general advice would make it better. Communicate with the author and come to agreement on the detail level of the critique.

Q: Why should I get a critique?
A: Everyone loves every little word they write. It all seems so perfect and magical, and only a fool would miss the brilliance of their writing. This is why an impartial observer will tear down your house of cards and force you to build something sturdy and well-grounded. Every time I get critiqued, I’m surprised by how many obvious problems I miss. Critiquers stand in place of your eventual readers, because none of them will give you feedback, and when the do, they will publicly berate you on for the world to see.
The other reason is that you will learn a ton from each critique. You can only learn so much from books and web sites. The best learning is by doing, writing and rewriting a passage until it’s perfect.

Q: How many critiques should I get?
A: All of them. I would say at least three from different critiquers. That way if two people say one thing and the third disagrees, then you can decide whether it’s a problem or not. If all three spot an issue, then you better address it. The more the better, but of course this can be a reciprocal process, so the more people critique you, the more works you should critique yourself. 

Q: How do I learn to critique other people’s work?
A: This is a tough one, since I’m still learning the art of critiquing. First of all, don’t be afraid of the process. People want to know what you think. Maybe you’re not great at grammar, but you have some ideas on how 15yo Filipinos speak in Tagalog and you want to provide some input. Picking out things to praise is well and good, but praise doesn’t help an author improve his craft. It just makes him all gooey and soft. A great way to learn is to put your own work up for critique, and see what kind of comments come your way. Soon you’ll be able to see the same issues in other people’s work. Once again you have to learn by doing.

Q: Should I do critiques? What if I don’t find anything?
A: Absolutely. Remember, the more you learn how to critique, the more you’ll be able to improve your own craft. You’ll begin to see your own work with a more critical eye. Now don’t get so caught up that you can’t write anything new without critiquing it! Get all your thoughts down, let it sit for a while, then critique it.
I find it hard to believe that you can critique a piece of work without finding anything to comment on. Heck, just comment on stuff that seems perfectly fine, because there’s no work that can’t be improved. Just don’t annoy the author with frivolous comments.

Q: How harsh should a critiquer be?
A: By “harsh” I mean “honest.” The critiquer should absolutely never ever state anything personal about the author.
What not to say:
”This is a stupid thing to write. No one’s ever going to read this.”
”This is the most unoriginal piece of crap I’ve ever read.”
”You’ll never get published because you’re an idiot.”
But these are harsh comments that can be appropriate:
”I just don’t connect with this character.”
”This contradicts what you just said. Is she really happy her dog died?”
”Where’s your basis for flying zombies? You need to establish this earlier. You can’t just throw them in.”
”Please choose a tense and stick with it. This is hard to follow”

Q: How do I find critiquers?
A: I wish I had a good answer here. Basically, wherever you can. The internet, local writing groups, references, desperate blog posts begging for readers. The bigger question is “How do I find effective critiquers?” I’ve lucked into a couple but I don’t have a general response except “keep trying.” It helps if you can find someone interested in your genre, and your story and characters in particular.

Q: Any other advice?
A: Always thank your critiquer, no matter how much they ripped your precious manuscript to shreds. After all, they gave you their valuable time and effort. And don’t take anything personally. They are critiquing a bunch of words on paper, not you as a human being. This also means you probably shouldn’t ask your mom for a critique.

What do you look for in a critique? What makes a good critiquer? Let me know your thoughts.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Do I need a Platform to get Published?

Do I need a Platform to get Published?

platform-4-626 I read something today that’s really bothering me. Thanks to Christine for pointing it out. A literary agent blogged that writers need a “platform” before querying her. I’ll give you the quote:

I DON'T want to see in your proposal, "I am willing to start a blog and join social networks to market myself."

I DO want to see: "I've been blogging for a year, with my readership growing steadily. I use Facebook and Twitter to create relationships with potential future readers of my books, and to drive people back to my blog. I'm currently making contact through the blog and social networks with several hundred (or several thousand) people a day."

Here’s the original post by Rachelle Gardner. Note that it’s more directed towards non-fiction, but she says that novelists should pay heed.

Now does she mean that I need to grow my readership by a hundred people a day? Or simply have 300+ subscribers? Either way, holy crap!

BTW I love you guys. By reading this blog, you’ve already proven that you’re smartest and savviest people in the blogosphere. I don’t know if you found me or I found you, but either way I appreciate it.

So apparently I need to grow this thing, fast. I have no idea how to do this, but here are some thoughts. Let me know if you’ve tried any.

  • Follow everyone I can find on Twitter who is either a writer or SciFi fan. The problem with this is that there are a bunch of tweeters I really want to read, and their tweets would get drowned in the crush. I guess I could create a “platform” account that I never read, but that seems lame. Maybe there’s a filtered Twitter reader out there.
  • Comment on every blog I can find. Keep following links around and make myself known across the blogosphere. Become a pest (but add to the conversations).
  • Facebook? Does mean I friend everyone in every writing and SciFi group out there? And do I suck up to all the agents? God I’m starting to feel dirty.
  • Make this blog so interesting that people put links to my entries everywhere. Oh wait—that will never happen. I’d have to do stuff like find authors to interview, have guest bloggers, and not rely on my own random prattling. Or start giving away stuff. Hmmm…

This sounds like more work than writing the damn book…and I need to do this before I even send out query letters! Note that this particular agent doesn’t represent my genre so she’s not on my list, but I think she’s echoing what a lot of agents are thinking nowadays.

The other issue is that I want my friends to read my Facebook and Twitter. I don’t really want random strangers reading details about my colonoscopy. Or even you guys for that matter (I apologize). But I do want them to read my posts about writing and publishing (if/when I ever make any that are worth reading).

So let me know what you think I should be doing. Does this “platform” thing really have merit? Or would I be throwing a lot of energy down a hole when I could have been improving my actual writing? What do you think?

Monday, June 15, 2009

My Other Characters Speak

My Other Characters Speak

BUNCH OF BEEF Or should I say “complain”…

First a quick medical update on my issue: I’m feeling much better, and I still have no idea what caused everything. I’m getting back to my normal workout and food routines (as well as writing). BTW I wrote some of this in the hospital while “under the influence”.

Well, you saw my post where some of my female Main Character’s speak. After reading that, some of my male main characters had a bunch of beefs(like the picture) they wanted to bring up too.

JOHN: Hi, I’m John Jacobs, star of the ill-named “Dawn’s Rise” novel Iap is trying to publish. You see, I’ve read what he’s posted for query letters and such, and frankly, it’s getting ridiculous. I mean, I really like Dawn and all, but to be honest, I’m the one who saves everyone, not Dawn. It’s all my idea. I don’t understand why Dawn is getting all the credit. She even has her name in the title. It should be “John’s Rise” or “John Rules” or something.

(Iap sighs)

IAPETUS999: John. We’ve been over this before. This is about Dawn’s transformation, not yours. It’s her perspective and her point of view. She faces the greatest challenges and makes the greatest sacrifices.

JOHN: Riiiight. You made me live in a sewer full of decomposing bodies for a month, which then turned into an unbearable stinking sauna. Then I was tortured! Dawn goes through the entire novel without as much as a nosebleed. She’s pampered and well-fed through most of the novel. Have you ever considered re-writing it from my point of view?

DANNY: Hi, John. I’m Danny, “The Child God” from Iap’s The Immortals WIP. I gotta say, I think you have a point, though I think you’re exaggerating when you say she doesn’t suffer.

JOHN: Hey, Danny. Okay, maybe I’m stretching things a little, but come on. So, what’s it like being a God? If I even had a fraction of your power, I can’t even imagine what I would have been able to do. Do you have room for any more Immortals? I don’t think this gig is working out for me.

DANNY: Well, you know, it was rough at first, with Ethan busting my ass all the time. What really sucks is that I haven’t aged past the age of ten for over three thousand years. I don’t really notice it much, but every so often, I wish I could be big.

JOHN: Man, that does suck. You can’t just use your Magic to make yourself bigger?

DANNY: It doesn’t work that way. It only preserves who you are when you acquired it.

ALEX: Hey guys, I’m Alex Ross from Iap’s NaNoWriMo blogvel. It’s great to meet you guys.

JOHN: Uhh—who?

DANNY: Not ringing a bell.

ALEX: Oh come on! I know I’m not one of Iap’s strongest characters. But I’ve been through some tough times as well. Hell, I was water-boarded at one point.

(John and Danny shake their heads)

JOHN: Sorry.

ALEX: Oh, fuck both of you. At least I have my own blog.

SYLVESTER: General Sylvester R. Taylor reporting! From Iap’s very first novel way back when.


JOHN: Dude! Welcome!

(John whispers aside to Danny)

JOHN: Who is this guy?

SYLVESTER: John, I think you should be proud of your achievements. You singlehandedly created the plan that saved Dawn and the rest of Earth’s survivors. The survivors owe you a huge debt of gratitude.

JOHN: Hey, I like you. Danny, sure you don’t have a few Immortal slots to fill out?

DANNY: Heh heh.

XENA: Hey boys. How’d you like some real action?

(Alex walks up to her)

ALEX: Hey, babe. I’m up for it.

(he grabs her ass. Xena slams him on the ground)

JOHN: Ahh! You broke my nose! Misty! Help!

(John stumbles away)

SYLVESTER: Who the hell wrote that boy? Did he just cry off to mama?

JOHN: Actually Misty’s his wife, and she deserves a lot better than him.

XENA: You boys gonna yap all day or are we gonna get it on?

DANNY: Well John, you said you wanted a bigger role. You up for it?

JOHN: Hell, yeah. Bring it.

(John faces Xena. He holds his own for a minute, but the Warrior Princess is too much for him. John lies bleeding on the ground)

XENA: Anyone else?

JOHN: No! I’ll do it. Everyone back off!

(John pushes himself to his feet)

DANNY: Well, then, at least take this.

(Danny hands John a Magic Matchbox Car)

JOHN: What the heck? Ohh…I can feel the power. Now I get it.

(he attacks Xena in a flurry of blue light, and in moments Xena is driven off. High-fives ensue)

DANNY: Good job, man. Okay, can I have that back now?

(John hesitates and holds it up high)

JOHN: Maybe I should keep it. Might be the thing I need to get Iap change the novel.

SYLVESTER: Uh, son, you’re playing with fire now.

JOHN: No. I want the book changed. It’s not fair.

DANNY: Well it’s not fair that I never grow up! I’m the most mature damn character in the book, yet everyone still sees me as a kid.

SYLVESTER: And it’s not fair that Iap never works on my novel anymore, but that’s life, kid. Now hand it over!

(from off-stage)

ALEX: And it’s not fair that I have no guts!

(John rolls his eyes then hands it back)

JOHN: Fine. But we all know who the real hero is.



ALEX: Iap for creating all us wonderful characters.

(John, Danny, and Sylvester groan as one, then take off chasing Alex, finishing the job Xena started)

IAPETUS999: Where did everyone go? Am I all alone again? Damnit!

Friday, June 12, 2009

From Triathlon Course To Hospital Bed In A Week

From Triathlon Course To Hospital Bed In A Week

Hydromorphone One week I’m running a triathlon, the next I’m in a hospital bed with IV’s in my veins. And a week later, I still have no idea what happened.

Last Friday was pretty normal. I ran 5 miles in the morning, worked on my writing the rest of the day. At around 3 I headed over to the local watering hole for some beers, still working on my novel using my Netbook. Around 6, I went to another establishment for some specialty beer tasting, then headed to a BBQ joint for dinner with the Mrs. Pretty normal so far. When I got home around 9, I started having stomach cramps. Nothing really out of the ordinary. I figured I ate and drank too much, and it would pass. It didn’t.

At 2am my stomach was still killing me. By morning, nothing had changed. If anything, the pain grew worse. Knotting, piercing pains that came in waves. I had barely slept. I thought about eating or making coffee, but I didn’t have the energy or appetite. Standing made the pain worse. So I literally spent the entire day curled up on the couch in the fetal position. By night time, I considered heading to the local Urgent Care clinic. I hadn’t eaten anything all day except a little bit of cheese, some nuts, and and a little fruit. I felt a little better, so I figured I would feel okay in the morning. I didn’t.

I had no idea what this was. I figured either food poisoning or some reaction to what I ate, maybe even appendicitis, although the pain wasn’t down that far.

The next morning, I still had cramps, so I looked at the Urgent Care website, which directed me to the ER based on my symptoms. It was off to the Emergency Room. Fortunately, they aren’t super busy Sunday mornings, so I saw someone immediately. They apparently take abdominal pain pretty seriously. They gave me some anti-nausea medicine and an took an x-ray, then scheduled a CT scan. I had to drink a ton of this disgusting barium solution while my stomach killed me.

The doctor arrived at one point and sat down, acting all serious like I had cancer or a burst appendix. “We’re going to have to admit you,” he said. “You have a pretty bad bowel obstruction. No food or water until it’s resolved, just IV fluids.” What? I’m constipated? Then he tells me that if it doesn’t resolve in a few days, I’m looking at surgery. Gulp. I’ve never been admitted to a hospital before as an in-patient. After the CT scan (which doesn’t reveal any more than the X-ray), they shuttle me to a hospital room, and hook up the IV’s. My wife is also shocked that they were admitting me. She never realized how serious my condition was. I didn’t either. I never had this before, so who knew? Apparently this condition is pretty serious. Definitely was glad I hadn’t gone to the Urgent Care center…they might have made me take an ambulance.

Now, I’m trying to respect the privacy of the other gentleman in my hospital room as much as I can as I write this. Without getting into details, let’s just say he was a very loud person with very advanced Alzheimer’s disease. He would relentlessly beg me to help him with simple stuff, and I was, “dude, I’m sick. Leave me alone.” I was indeed miserable…until they hooked up the Hydromorphone (forget the brand, it’s all I could see on the packaging) drip. One button click, instant bliss. The immediate effect was to make me sweat buckets, but in a few minutes my pain went away. I could click a shot every ten minutes, but I did maybe one an hour. Finally around 4pm, I felt some rumbling in my guts. The blockage must have let loose around then, because the pain died away and I didn’t need any more narcotics after that.

With infinite sympathy, they changed my room so I had no roommate. If they hadn’t, I probably would have doped myself up to drown out that unfortunate man. The next morning I successfully used the potty and I could keep liquids down, so they released me about 4 in the afternoon. Still, they wanted me to keep to liquids for the rest of the day.

My ordeal didn’t end there. I was previously scheduled for some procedures on Thursday to scope the bowels and stomach. The prep for this involves eating no fiber for a couple days, ending with a day with nothing but liquids. So we headed to the store, and I bought nothing but soup, pudding, and juices. Delish. The night before the procedure was the most special. I drank a gallon of gross solution in about ninety minutes. I mixed in a little Crystal Light in each glass, but it was awful. I spent the next six hours on the toilet as the indigestible solution passed through almost unchanged. Good times.

Thursday was fun. Nothing more than water to drink. I had one of these procedures before, so I wasn’t as nervous this time. They give you a mix of drugs that put you in a semi-conscious state during the procedures. One drug is a narcotic, the other is like Valium or something. The last thing I remember is them asking if I felt drugged yet. I said, “a little,” then I don’t remember anything at all (thankfully). The rest of the day is a bit of a fog. I remember talking to the doctor afterwards, and my wife dressing me. Apparently I refused to take off the blanket so she could get my pants on. No recollection of that. I remember mostly wanting to sleep afterwards. We went to lunch, and I gobbled down some fried rice and egg-drop soup. Went home, turned on the Mariner’s game, and fell back to sleep. I didn’t get out of the fog until I woke from that nap. There was a rain delay which I slept through so I didn’t miss much of the game. End result: inconclusive. Whatever’s wrong wasn’t found in this test.

So today, it was more tests. Another force-feeding of chalky barium solution. It took almost four hours for the damn solution to make it all the way through. I wound up having to drink a latte and some food to convince things to move in there. Then came the fun part. A doctor probed my guts which I could see in a video monitor live. He literally took a paddle and moved my guts around so he could image different parts. Cool and disturbing at the same time. He finished and said to me, “I don’t see anything wrong.” JTFC! I’ve spent a week being poked and prodded and starved and fed bilious fluids, and still nothing? W  T  F????

What’s the next step after this? Surgery?

So that was my Week from Hell. Haven’t had any exercise except walking the dog. Haven’t written much at all. I just hope this resolves quickly, because I’m beginning to fall apart.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

NOT (Good Times)

NOT (Good Times)

There’s something wrong with me. Deep inside. Down in my guts. I can feel it. It’s like an Alien is trying to claw out. Or maybe I’ve taken a bullet, and I’m laying here on the ground, bleeding out my least drop. And it hurts.

Now I must undergo alien-abduction-style tests. Needles. Probes. They must determine what lives inside of me, what’s festering beneath the surface. They must uncover the thing that keeps me in agonizing pain, the secret underlying my makeup.

I’m trying to bring this extended metaphor around to my writing career, but it’s not happening. Anyways, after my last post where Dawn bitched about her outfit, I put her in the dress she wears where she confronts the chief of her company’s biggest competitor. You can see how highly fashionable it is and how she feels about it.

Dawn Bad Dress

Monday, June 8, 2009

My Characters Speak

My Characters Speak

dawn-bad outfit So after Dawn got to make a speech bubble, she insisted that she wanted to address the readers on my blog. As you’ll see, things got a little out of hand. The morphine drip may have been a factor. Without further ado, here’s the transcript of what happened:

DAWN: Hi everyone! I’m Dawn Anami, star of Iap’s novel Dawn’s Rise, named after me of course. I wanted to come onto this blog to let everyone know that, well, he needs a lot of help. Honestly, he’s struggling. Hell, he’s in the hospital right now. I’m a little bit psychic, and I can see that things are going to go downhill for him. In a big way. All he needs (I think) is some hope that someday this will be published. And I also want to mention how great it would if I had my own blog like some of his other characters.

IAPETUS999: Hi Dawn. Thanks for the support. I think I have enough going without creating another blog.

(Dawn glares at Iapetus999)

DAWN: So you’re saying I’m not as important a character as Ellie? I don’t deserve my own blog? Heck, this is, and I don’t even have my own account! What kind of operation are you running?

BRANDY: Hi, I thought I’d drop in. I’m 2nd Cadet Brandiwyn from Iap’s other Work In Progress. You think that’s bad? Have you seen how he’s writing my character?

DAWN: Oh, hey Brandy. I love your universe. I wish I had all that magic power you guys have. It would make things so much easier.

BRANDY: Thanks. I love all the cool implants you have. In my world, Magic would push them right out of my body. You know, Magic isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be. It’s not natural. Your world is pretty strange though. Computers run your life? Not for me. Give me a sword and a strong mount, that’s all I need.

DAWN: Uck.  You have no idea how much I hate violence. I mean I’m like the nicest, friendliest person in the world, and Iap puts me through all this crap. You’re crazy if you think fighting’s a good life.

BRANDY: I guess Iap should have written you better then.

DAWN: Listen, Brandy, I can see the future, and yours isn’t that hot, if you know what I mean. I know what Iap has in store for you, and it isn’t pretty.

ELLIE: Hey, I heard my name. I’m Elena Galistina, the Chinese Super Agent from his NaNoWriMo blogvels. What’s this about blogs?

DAWN: Iap won’t give us blogs.

BRANDY: Yeah. I guess we’re not that important.

IAPETUS999: Guys! Ellie is a special case! She lives in a blogvel, the whole point of the blogvel is that she’s published out there.

DAWN: Ellie’s published?? What the hell?

ELLIE: Whoa, settle down. It’s not like that.

BRANDY: Iap needs to explain. I mean look at her! She’s a horribly developed caricature of a character, and she gets to blog.

ELLIE: Hey, it’s not my fault. He writes me on the fly! Look. Dawn’s getting all the attention here, while we just languish.

BRANDY: Hey, you’re right. It’s all Dawn, Dawn, Dawn, Dawn, Dawn. Dawn this, Dawn that. Blah, blah, blah. I’m getting sick of it.

DAWN: Well maybe you guys need better plots. He’s working on me because I deserve it. I’ve earned it.

ELLIE: Oh, please, you fruit loop. He only works on you because you’re his “practice” novel. When he’s ready, he’ll come back to us.

ALEXANDRA: Hey, am I too late?

(Ellie, Brandy, and Dawn look at each other)

BRANDY: Who the heck are you?

ALEXANDRA: I’m Alexandra Toykalelova. I’m Iap’s first. His first female main character. Ever. He wrote me 25 years ago as a college freshman. I’m an ex-Russian agent with a couple special gifts. First, I’m the most beautiful woman in the world. Ever. He made a promise when he created me that I would be his most beautiful character, and he’s kept his word.

BRANDY: I think I’m going to be sick.

ALEXANDRA: Second, I emit a special pheromone that makes men do whatever I want.

ELLIE: Hmm, that would be useful. Can you bottle some for me?

ALEXANDRA: Third, I can heal from any injury.

DAWN: So if you’re so special, why hasn’t he touched you in 25 years?

(Alexandra is silent and downcast)

BRANDY: Yeah, Iap, what’s up with that?

DAWN: And while you’re at it, will she be getting a blog, too?

BRANDY: I want a blog.

XENA: Hey guys. Nice day isn’t it?

DAWN: What the—

ELLIE: Hey! She’s not even one of your characters!

BRANDY: Holy Earth Mother, is just anyone invited here?


ELLIE: Shut up! Hey Brandy, you can fight, right? What about you, Alexandra?

ALEXANDRA: It’s been a while, but I’m with you. Dawn?

DAWN: Let’s get her!

(a melee ensues with a lot of clanging and screaming. Xena is vanquished)

DAWN: Wow, that was awesome! Thanks, guys!

ELLIE: No problem. You weren’t so bad yourself.

BRANDY: Did everyone see Alexandra’s move? Here, show me how you did that.

ALEXANDRA: Sure. Just twist like this and it’s a piece of cake.


(Iapetus999 tries to tiptoe out of the room after seeing Xena whooped)

ELLIE: Whoa! Hold on there, comrade.

DAWN: Yeah, get your fat ass back in here. We want answers.

BRANDY: Why aren’t you working on The Immortals?

DAWN: Why can’t I blog?

ELLIE: Why do I have to wait ‘til November to live again?

ALEXANDRA: And why have you forsaken me?

(They corner Iapetus999, waving swords and guns in his face. He puts his hand behind his back, and pulls out his Netbook)

IAPETUS999: Back! Back, all of you! Do you know what this is? Do you? It’s the most powerful weapon ever created.

BRANDY: Is it infused with Magic?

DAWN: Can it analyze dreams?

IAPETUS999: It’s called a “computer”, and with one keystroke, I can completely erase you from existence. I can make you do anything I want. Watch this: Dawn, say: “I love Xena.”

DAWN: I love Xena. Hey!

IAPETUS999: Brandy, say: “I love Death Angel".

BRANDY: I love Death Angel. Damn it! Guys, what’s he up to?

IAPETUS999: Ha Ha Ha! You guys think this is a game? You have no idea the power I have at my fingertips. Watch. Ellie: Fly to the ceiling and lick it.

(Ellie flies to the ceiling and licks it)

ELLIE: Ack! Gross! Guys! He’s too powerful! Run! Before he can type anything else!

(they all run away)

IAPETUS999: No matter. I know where they live, which docs are theirs. I’ll get mine. They will bow before me! I am the ruler of their worlds! HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

(Iapetus999 looks around the hospital room where he’s working, and wishes he hadn’t chased all his characters away, because now he’s all alone)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Agent Query Letter Redux

Agent Query Letter Redux

dawn rises

Okay, as you can see over there, Dawn’s getting a bit ticked at the delays getting her story published. Hey, I’m doing my best! Settle down!

I’ve been working off and on on my Query Letter for Dawn’s Rise, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts: Secret Screwup, The One Sentence Summary, I'm Wripped, Done Moving, and a bunch more I’m too lazy to list now.

Earlier this week, I posted my latest version up here on Agent Query. Click that link if you want to read it. As usual, people ripped it apart. Confusing, unoriginal. So I wrote this long reply explaining everything. I use the word “prophecy” in the query but it’s not a prophecy. I use the word “psychic” in the query but Dawn’s not (well, I leave it up to the reader to decide). I talk about the future but even that confuses people. So when all was said and done, I looked at my long reply and thought, “Hey, this isn’t a bad query in itself.” It’s a little cheeky, so I need to tone it down (maybe), but I think I’ve finally captured the essence of Dawn’s Rise in it. It’s a bit long, and I need a closing paragraph with genre, word count etc, but maybe this will finally fly with few edits.

So here’s my “fun” query:

Dear Agent X:

When bad things start to happen, some random person may have happened to make an accurate prediction about it.

In this case, a bunch of people dream of a very tall woman as a Savior during a time of disasters. This woman resembles Dawn, who happens to work as a psychic, but the computers do all the readings based on client's history and interests so she really isn't. Enamored by the idea, she keeps finding evidence that she's this Savior—and of course it's confirmed by this random guy (whose own friends think is nuts). He's also promoting this idea of “Dawn is the Savior” online, so it grows into a worldwide phenomenon. She's an overnight sensation.

She's not super stable, so when the corporations decide to shut her down, she sees it as further confirmation that she's this Savior person. Her own dreams become filled with these visions. When disaster wipes out most of the population, she becomes leader because her "citizen value" is higher than anyone else the computers can locate. As this leader, she tries to work with the computers, but as we all know, computers suck and screw everything up because they have no reasoning—even 100 years from now. So she kills them, a nice logical solution. (not).

So she's completely incapable of performing this job, she's thrown away the only tool that can really help her, and now that the computers have stopped regulating her mental state, she's relying on hallucinations to guide her to save humanity. Naturally, she's overthrown and locked in a jail cell to die. When even her rescuers decide to abandon her, she finally decides that enough is enough—and whether or not she's psychic or insane, she's going to lead mankind to safety. She uses good old-fashioned willpower and conviction and finds that she really can be a leader. The rest is a bunch of fighting and race-against-the-clock action. Interested?


  • I used the words “random”, “bunch”, “happen”, and “so” a couple times each.
  • Plenty of nasty adverbs. I frankly don’t care.
  • I use a conversational voice. I think previous attempts always come off a bit stiff. I think now it’s too “cute” and will put off agents who might think I’m a dingbat. But when I write the query very professionally, it’s too dry and uninteresting.
  • The line starting, “The rest” just cracks me up. I’m hand-waving over my own novel. Maybe I should add “yada yada” at the end.

Let me know what you think. Should I focus on this one? Keep the tone? Or just work on the one I posted on the Agent Query site?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The “Modern Pentathlon”

The “Modern Pentathlon”

World-Ch-Logo I was doing some research into Triathlons and came across a wiki page for an Olympic sport known as “Modern Pentathlon.” It’s a bizarre sport that combines running (not bad), swimming (okay so far), show jumping (uhh), shooting (waitasec) and fencing (whoa! Hold the show jumping horses!). It originated in 1912 as a contest utilizing the skills of the cavalry men of the time. Apparently, they’ve changed the rules this year and combined the pistol and running portion so you stop and shoot every so often (but not the horses).

So. I wonder why they didn’t combine all the skills? Say…shooting a target from horseback while fighting off attackers with your sword as the horse fords a river, then running alongside the horse during the “dismount” zones. I’m sure that would spice things up a bit.

Or, maybe it’s time to change the five skills to something more modern. Let’s call this the “Post-Modern” Pentathlon. The running has to stay. But it must be in full combat gear including boots, a 80lb pack, weapons, helmet and body armor. Maybe even a full-body chem suit and gas mask for good measure. No more horseback riding. What modern army uses horses? Now it’s a tank chase. You must guide your 67 ton M1A1 Abrams through mud and quicksand without throwing a track or flipping over. Of course they’re fully armed in case your competitors get too close. Fencing is of replaced with caged knife fighting. Take that, UFC! Let’s get real and make this event interesting. Swimming? For pansies. How about swamp survival? You’re dropped into alligator-infested waters with nothing more than a knife. You must fight your way out before the mosquitoes eat you alive. And last, we get to shooting. Well, let’s just say there’s only one medal given for this event, and whoever reaches the finish line first can claim it. If you’re not first, you’re dead.

Sound like an improvement? I’m sending this off to the IOC as we speak, I’ll let you know what they say.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Dawn Anami—In the Flesh

Dawn Anami—In the Flesh

I found this awesome site called Hero Machine that lets you create comic-style images of heroes. So I made a picture of Dawn from Dawn’s Rise, the novel I’m trying to publish.

dawn hero The outfit is something from the late middle part of the book where Dawn has to wear whatever scraps the remains of the HLSCO Army can find, which of course don’t fit her very well.

Here’s how I describe it in the book:

She threw on a plain tee shirt and jeans, which was fast becoming her outfit of choice. The jeans were Capri-styled, ending just below her knees. For shoes she wore some black combat boots. Her shirt had some simple lettering on the breast: “Property of HLSCO”. They had also found her a large camo jacket for travelling outside.

Well the image isn’t exactly the same as the description. They also provide a ton of implements for her to hold, but I didn’t find any that were appropriate. If anyone makes their own character, upload the image somewhere and I’ll link to it from here.


Here's Suzanne's Hero "Jakob"

Monday, June 1, 2009

Issaquah Triathlon Race Report PR

Issaquah Triathlon Race Report PR

issatri Pre-Race

The day started early, at 4:30AM, just as dawn began to brighten the Northeastern sky. My alarm was set for 4:40, but I was up, so I killed the alarm. I flipped through my iPhone, checking the latest weather readings and forecasts. The forecasted cold marine push never materialized, so the day started clear and not too chilly. I had packed up everything the night before, so all I had to do was prepare my usual pre-race smoothie consisting of fruit, yogurt, and soymilk including a banana, strawberries, and blueberries. I also packed a Starbucks Double-shot, an instant dose of caffeine(if you can stand the taste). I lathered myself with BodyGlide to prevent chafing, and threw on my tri suit, a run/ride/swim suit that looks like a wrestlers uniform.

I left the house at 5:30, and arrived at the race site fifteen minutes later. The sun had just started to peek over the distant tree line. It was still a bit chilly, but I had 90 minutes before my swim, and I knew things would heat up. I used the potty, then wheeled my bike and all my gear over to my rail, right in the center of the transition area. Only a couple people had arrived, so I claimed a nice spot. A one-footed guy set up next to me, so we chatted about how he would change his prosthetic for each leg of the Triathlon (no pun intended). I jogged a long lap around the parking lot to warm up and stretch. People arrived in droves, some of them actually riding their bikes to the event. I arranged all my bike and run gear neatly on a towel, hoping I didn’t forget anything. I put on my wetsuit and headed towards the start.

They held a quick “blah blah” meeting which I guess was supposed to bring order to the chaos, but people received it as much as they listen to airplane safety lectures. I hit the water to warm up. It felt real nice to just splash around, and the lake had heated up nicely after a couple 80-degree days last week. People swam around, but I just kind of enjoyed the moment, floating around and acclimating my body to the water. I left the water, and walked around looking for other people with gold caps. These were men in my age group, so I knew I would see them a lot during the race. The race starts by age group and gender. I greeted a guy I had met a week before during a training session and we wished each other luck. Then, of course, I needed to use the potty again, ten minutes before my race start.

Using a potty with a wet suit and tri suit on is not easy. I essentially had to strip inside a portapotty. Needless to say I got everything done, but getting that wetsuit back on while wet it not an easy task. I almost pulled a muscle in my back.

The Swim

Finally it was my wave’s turn. We waded into the water. A bunch of guys started swimming right away. I realized they were warming up or just getting wet.  I looked behind me and noticed I was right at the front of the pack, not where I wanted to be. I had no idea how fast I swam compared to everyone else. I pushed back a little bit. The horn sounded. I started to walk, but then I slipped on a bunch of large rocks. I grabbed the start banner, almost bringing it down on the guys behind me. Those rocks really hurt. I dove in, my foot screaming. It hurt so bad I wondered if A) I was leaving a trail of blood in the water and B) whether I’d be able to bike and run with it.  Bodies flailed all around me. I had no idea where I was going. I tried to stay in the middle of the course by keeping people on either side. Guys kept stopping or doing breaststroke which meant they hit or kicked me. It was pure chaos. I got pissed off enough to think, “fuck it, I’m going for it. I gotta get around these morons.” So I kicked my stroke up a notch, and finally swam into clearer water.

I almost saw where I was going. I swim using “bilateral breathing” which means I breathe on both sides, every three strokes. I think in an event like this it’s the only way to go, because it gives you a better sense of your position and direction. I passed the final buoy, and spotted the finish gate. I then changed to every-other stroke breathing on my right side so I could sprint to the finish. I usually practice a sprint or two during my swim training. When my hand contacted the bottom, I got to my feet, and immediately fell over, disorientated from swimming. I got back up, and waded off the beach, trying to remove my wetsuit as I ran towards the transition area.


I hit the beach running, heading towards my bike. Someone tied a smiley-face balloon on my rack so I knew exactly where to go. My foot didn’t feel too bad at this point and I had no cuts. I panted and gasped for air from my swim sprint. A ton of bikes had already left, so the area wasn’t too crowded. I yanked off my wetsuit, snagging it on my timing chip, then put on my helmet, socks and running shoes, and my CamelBak. I had decided it was a much easier option than a water bottle. I also remembered that I had forgot to A) change the gear of my bike to something low and B) open my Shot Bloks, impossible to do when in a hurry or on a bike. Fortunately I had packed some Sport Beans, which I threw in the little pocket I had attached to my bike.

The Ride

I ran to the bike start and I was off. Someone told me to start fast, so I tried. I soon confirmed two things I had already suspected: A) My bike is not a racing bike. The main difference between my bike and a tri bike is the geometry. The point is to minimize the overlap between riding and running muscles. So people whizzed by me like I was standing still. And B) I’m not very fast on a bike anyways. Some of these guys flew by like they were going downhill and I was going up. According to my GPS, I ended up with a overall speed of 17.6mph. That’s better than my training pace of 15mph. There were a couple of those radar signs on the course, so I could actually the rates of the other bikers. They were 23,24 where I was 16,17. The thing is, and I confirmed this after talking to a few other participants, is that a Triathlon is basically a bike race with a small swim and run thrown in for fun. The bike leg is clearly the most difficult (at least for a runner). I can’t afford one of those fancy shmancy Tri bikes. Some people even raced time-trial bikes with those solid wheels. They sound like Tie-Fighters when they pass you: Wuh wuh wuh wuh wuh.

At a couple of points along the course we passed through a snow of puffy white seeds that float in the air. I guess they come from cottonwood trees, but they literally can be as thick as snow, and even cover the ground in places. Weird but pretty. I did okay on the big hill (both ways). I did manage to pass a few people on the course, so I didn’t feel like the slowest person out there. They wound up cutting the course short due to construction, so I was surprised when the turnaround came at 7 miles instead of 7.5. I was glad though. The second half of the ride wasn’t too tiring either. I wound up eating the Sport Beans on each downhill section of the hill where I didn’t have to pedal. It probably cost me a few seconds but I figured the energy from the beans would make up for it. I managed a negative split, meaning my second half was faster than my first.


I transitioned quickly, only need to take off my helmet and CamelBak, and threw on my running visor and GPS. As I ran towards the run start I realized two things: A) My inner right thigh hurt like hell, and B) I had to pee really bad. Fortunately there’s a restroom building right along the trail at the start, so I ran in. I only lost 20-30 seconds. That time would only account for about 10 positions in the overall rankings, and no effect at all in my age group, so it was time well spent. Some Shot Bloks would have been nice to grab in hindsight.

The Run

The first mile was pretty slow.  It was through a field with rough terrain, and my legs and feet ached. I couldn’t catch my breath, even though my heart rate wasn’t very high. This is completely opposite from my last race when my heart rate was way high but my breathing was okay. It was strange, but I went with it. My first mile elapsed 11:03 but that includes the potty stop where I lost some time. The next mile included a water stop. I drank one cup and threw the other on my neck. It was pretty warm by then, maybe upper 60’s. (That’s not warm for swimming/biking, but it’s hella-warm for running, especially in a field with the sun beating down). The second mile elapsed at 10:30, and the last at 10:08. I’m pretty pleased at that. I did pass a lot of people, but I’m not sure how many were triathletes since they had some other races going on as well. A bunch of guys cruised past like I was walking. I poured it on the last half mile, as much as I could, and crossed the finish line.

Post Race

They took of my chip and then handed me my finisher’s medal. I found the nearest park bench where I alternately drank water and poured it down my back. I felt great but also slightly let down, partly because I thought it would be harder, and partly because I knew I had not performed my best due to the pain in my bruised foot, my stiff leg, and my lack of training. I felt better later on in the day when I calculated an estimated finish time (about ten minutes over what I actually did), and now that I can see my actual time and placement, I’m pretty pleased. At that moment, I knew I had a lot to work on, and I was glad it was over. (Sorry it’s not a magic cathartic ending). They did have a nice post-race spread including sausages! Words cannot describe how great sausages are after a grueling race. It’s a children’s benefit, so they also had tons of homemade cookies. I even loved a raisin cookie which I usually hate. You know why? Because it tasted like Victory.

The rest of the day I was completely wiped out and in pain. The bottom of my foot is black and blue. I’ve been icing it, but it may be a couple days before I run again.

Official Results

Leg Time Overall M 40-45
Swim 8:06
1/4 mile PR
617 65
T1 3:42
Ride 50:07
14 mile PR
743 84
T2 1:28
Run 31:21 786 85
OVERALL 1:34:44
737/929 82/97


Firsts: First Swim Race. First Open Water Swim Race. First Bike Race. First Triathlon. All Personal Records! (PR’s)

So here’s the crazy thing. If you look at these results, everything is opposite what I’d expect. How did swimming become my strongest leg and running my worst? I only learned to swim any kind of distance last year. And I run all the time. How is that my worst event? (The potty break had no effect on my rankings). I don’t see much room for improvement in either swim or run. I could maybe shave a minute off the swim and two with the run. The place I need to concentrate is on the ride and the first transition. I managed 17.6 mph, which is pretty good compared to my training times. I think I could get it over 20 with more training, and maybe 22-24 with a better bike. If I can do all these improvements, I think I can get my ride down to 45 and T1 closer to 2 minutes. If you add all that up, I figure I left maybe ten minutes out on the course.

I do hope to do a few more of these this summer, maybe one a month. I know my biking would definitely improve if I kept at it, and maybe I can find a decent used tri bike somewhere along the way. Just getting my head down out of the wind would help a lot.

Overall I’m pretty pleased. I’m going to be so much better prepared for the next event. I’m taking a couple days off, but I’m back on the horse tomorrow. I still have plenty of challenges to come.