Author: Michael Mustizer

I'm a writer.

The Biking Incident.

I am out of it. I truly thought I already posted it. So much that I have all of the photos below on my ipad already and set to go. Oops. I guess I got busy and forgot to tell this daring tale of adventure and excitement.

Back in April, I won a $200 award at work for one contest or another. Those happen all the time. My lifelong friend Harold had been bugging me to get a bike to ride with him. He had been riding since last summer and was using it to be better in shape and keep his diabetes in line. So, I decided, yeah, I wanted a bike. My neighborhood gang ALL used to ride our bikes all over the north country all summer long. As kids, we would ride ten miles a day, easy, if not more. As we got older, that grew to twenty miles in a day. SO yeah. Fuck it. Let’s get back to that! I need that in my life.

So, I bought a bike.

She’s a beauty and exactly what I wanted. I wanted to take advantage of all of the snowmobile and ATV trails that surround my area. I also added, as I discovered later, cross country ski trails.

Once the bike arrived, I took a week or two to get myself adjusted to the routine… and adjusted to holy hell my thighs hurt. Harold and I took to the Black River Trail, which is a paved walkway through the Black River in Northern New York. It’s a VERY simple ride. It’s only about three miles. That was our warm up.

Harold had been biking for nearly a full year more than I had, so he was more adjusted to the routine.

A few weeks go by, after both of our schedules not meeting up, until May 29th. It’s game on. He heads over to my place. We throw the bikes in the truck and do a quick 1 mile off road loop around the Tug Hill area. It was too easy so, we needed to do more. We were just getting started.

It was a mild day. Nothing outrageous. A little warm. A bit sunny. Nothing unreasonable. It was also 9am.

“I know a trail nearby,” I say, “that I have been dying to try out. I walked it last year. It’s perfect for mountain biking.

This trail, the Oak Rim Trail, near Barnes Corners, NY is a cross country ski trail. It’s pretty rough terrain, but, as I had hoped, absolutely perfect for mountain biking.

We’re seasoned enough at this point, that this is a fairly easy ride. It’s gorgeous countryside and it overlooks one of the biggest ravines and cliffs in the area. You literally ride along the tops of the cliffs and try not to fall off as you stare off into the cliffs across the way.

I’m booking along at a pretty good clip. Up hills. Down gullys. Crags. Tree roots. Hopping and grinding my way along this tight path of a trail. Every once in a while, we would stop to check the markers on the trees to make sure we were headed on the right path.

What Harold neglected to tell me in his year of riding is that he wasn’t really an off road guy. He was a strictly ON road guy with the bike and had been, most recently, riding fifteen miles every couple days.

I tore through the forest… until I realized he wasn’t behind me any longer. I thought that perhaps, I had ridden a little too fast. He’s a big guy and I can be pretty limber and quick when I’m into what I’m doing. I stop and turn back, riding back, nearly as quickly as I had left, to find Harold, walking his bike.

“Dude,” he said, “I pulled something in my back,”

He was in pain, I could see it.

“While I was pedaling up that hill, I just felt a strain in my left leg, and something popped in my back. How far are we from the end?”

I checked my “Map My Ride” app. (I had been running it the entire day). We were only about 1 1/2 miles in.

That white circle is where we entered. That Red X is where he was.

Since I had walked this path before, I knew of that straight line right there. That, was high voltage power lines. That, was a service road.

“We’re not far form the service road,” I said, and showed him on a different app that I had been using for trails.

“Okay, I think I can make it to there,” he said and we took off on the bikes again.

I sped away, thinking he was right behind me. Again, I realized that he wasn’t.

Okay, he’s just walking, I thought. I’ll wait here.

Fifteen minutes pass.

Okay then… I had better go back and look for him.

I ride back, he’s on the ground. Prone. Staring up at the now very sunny sky.

“It’s my back. I can’t do anything,” he said.

I tried to help him to his feet. Nothing. Too much pain. Howling, grunting, painful back pain.

I’m going to need to call 911, I thought.

“I’m not going to make it out of here on my own,” he said.

“Do you need me to call 911?”

After some short deliberation, “Yeah,”

I step away down the trail and call 911. Now, I’ve never called 911, but I have seen it on TV. I was a little nervous and excited.

The operator came on and I explained the situation.

“I can see you on the map,” she said, “but how do we get emergency services to you?”

Again, the service road is nearby. That’s the best route.

“They’re on the way. Please stay on the line,”

She talks to him. We know it’s not a super emergency. It’s not a heart attack. He is a city firefighter, so he is trained in as much EMS as anyone that would be headed our direction.

“Can you ride out to meet them?” The 911 operator asks me.

Here I go. Adventure time!

“Please stay on the line, until they find you,” she says.

I strapped my phone into my shoulder bag. Yeah, it’s a fanny pack I have just for travel and carrying water with me while biking. (Harold, maybe you should invest in one). I begin my trek to the tree line and the service road.

I chug along at a pretty good clip. I could feel the muscles in my thigh starting to burn. I could feel the sweat gathering all over my head, under my helmet. I tear through that forest like she’s my bitch. Until I came to a hill that I definitely had to walk up.

Walked it out. Rode through the downed trees and hollow ground. It had the weirdest feeling. Tree roots had extended far under everything in the forest and you could feel the ground beneath you hollow from years of tree roots.

I make it to the tree line. I’m sweating. The sun is getting hot now.

The power lines tower above me. The sky is spotless and crystal blue. The sun is bright and hot. The path below me. Green. Filled with life and weeds and… a giant gaping swamp where the “Service road” is. It’s not a service road at all. It’s just where the power lines go through and where the forest had been cleared.

Shit.

I explained this to the operator and made my way through the swamp. I hefted my bike to my shoulder and slogged through the muck, which was much deeper than I had anticipated. The mud went straight up to my calves and I almost lost my shoes twice.

FINALLY, I got to the road. Ten seconds later, the operator guides the EMS crews to me.

From here, Aside form the seventy year old men that responded, I led the younger EMS crews back, on foot to where Harold had gone down. I ditched my bike and walked them back through.

We get to Harold and they begin to assess the situation. He’s sweating. He’s pale. He doesn’t look good. Not. At. All.

“First thing, we have to get you to your feet,” they say. It’s a four man operation to get him to his feet. He’s coherent, despite laying in the only spot of sun in a dense forest.

We all grab him and heft him up. He gets to his feet and the pain is overtaking his body. They diagnose him as dehydrated. They give him water. He tells them he’s diabetic. They give him a glucose packet.

The pain is great, so he sits down on a fallen tree, with everyone holding him up.

As soon as the glucose packet hits his lips, the lights go out.

He falls to the ground unconscious.

Well, shit.

The EMS crew leaps into action. They whip out a little pack with a portable IV to get him some fluids. They attempt to call for help from the others who are still arriving, the radios don’t work. We’re too far out in the sticks. The woman tries her cell and has no signal. Another EMS worker uses his and has signal. (Verizon)

Harold SPRINGS back to life, fists swinging. He clips one of the EMS guys right in the thigh. He is OUT OF IT. He has no memory of where he is, who is is or what happened. Thirty seconds later, the pain comes back and he’s on his back, again.

The discussion of how to get him out takes place. The ATVs can’t get through the trails. They are too narrow. …they also can’t get past the swampy service road.

The town guy tried. But that didn’t fare well. When I left, later in the day… he was still back there.

It’s obvious that they need to call in help to have more people come and carry him out. The phone calls begin.

I grabbed Harold’s bike and rode it out to the road. There was all sorts of commotion by this time.

People are arriving left and right. I’m hanging out with all the old people. More people arrive. More people head back into the woods.

An hour goes by. I’m hot. Having a blast. I got to do exciting off routine stuff all day.

We went in at 10 AM. I got back to my house at 2:30 PM.

It was an adventure. There’s more details I’ve left out. The story gets longer each time I tell it. By the end we had three fire departments there. NYS conservation officers. A park Ranger. Two state police officers and a bunch of volunteer helping hands to carry the big guy out.

That, was my biking adventure.

Harold is doing fine. Two bulging discs. He’ll be back on the bike again soon.

Advertisements

I have been quiet

For most of this year, yes, I have been quiet. I, purposely, set myself on a course for advancing my career. I spent a good deal of time focused on doing the work, AT work. In the end it paid off and recently I took a promotion that I had been working so hard for. In doing so, I did set my personal hobbies and quests aside for the time being. Many of which involving Alice the Fifth. Alice is dear to me, and I want to get this one right. I need her to be as tight and perfect as can be, in order to submit to publishers and literary agents.

With the new position at work, I now have hour lunch breaks, where in the past it has been half hours. That, suddenly, has provided me with a dedicated hour a day to work on editing and tweaking and cutting down Alice’s word count. Turns out lit agents kinda frown upon 125,000 word modern feminist sci-fi novels. Need to cut about 30,000 words to get to where we need to be. So, I’m doing that daily on my lunch breaks for the last two weeks. It seems to be going well. I am getting ruthless with the editing and rewrites in ways I never have before. It’s doing wonders for my writing.

I’ve also taken up mountain biking, on a regular basis. It’s fun exercise and it gets me out exploring the world. The bike, I bought with money won from a contest in that said day job, so it all ties in nicely. There is actually a very long, personal story that ties in with the photo above that I will have to sit down and write another entry just dedicated to that.

My television watching has somewhat slowed down. I feel like I’ve watched all the good stuff and have been at a loss for other things to watch. Once in a while I will come back to True Detective Season 1. Fargo Season 2. Breaking Bad. But, mostly, I’ve taken back to reading. I’m going through a couple novels a month. That’s good for the writer inside. And, lately, at night, I decided that after twenty years, I wanted to get back into, and up to date with comic books. I’m enjoying the modern runs of Cable, Daredevil, Avengers, Old Man Logan. I’m enjoying reading a book or two before bed each night instead of the television.

That’s what I’ve been up to. Maybe I’ll write the story of my biking adventure tomorrow.

Back in the saddle… again

Greetings folks. It’s been a while. Life, as usual takes over for a while. I have been slowly, quietly editing Alice down to as few words as possible to make her the strongest work I can. Earlier this year, I made a round of submissions with the word counts attached and the general consensus was that the word count was too damn high. So, that’s been going on in the background.

In other news, today, I stepped back on the public stage and sang again for the first time in about five months or so. Last year I had been realizing that I was not happy singing in public. The summer and the year in general was wearing on my urge and desire to perform. In October, it was solidified by two horrendous weekends in a row. The first, I was heckled by drunken patrons for about three hours until I mouthed off and lost my shit on the dude. A week later, at a different location, I was pretty much at the end of some sexual harassment that I wasn’t enjoying or party to. In most eyes it would have been harmless fun. Two or three years ago, when I was drinking more, it would have been a blast. But, sober, and not looking for that sort of entertainment, it cut me harder than I expected it to. An older, not attractive woman decided that my bald head would be perfect as deodorant for her skanky boob sweat, and proceeded to drunkenly climb on the bar and yank my shirt until it tore as she lifted her shirt, trying to rub my head for luck? I’m not sure. She was drunk and her daughter, who was standing at the side of the room was horrified. Drunken gorillas like that have ridiculous brute strength.

I was not pleased. I was not happy. I decided that I don’t get paid enough for that shit. So, I took a break.

I am happy to say that six months later, I stepped out onto the stage again. I found a nice Sunday brunch to perform to and it was amazing to get back up there and work out those kinks. My voice was on point. As if I had never stopped. My guitar playing was pretty decent, although my lack of practice showed in my muscles and tendons. As of right now, I can barely type with my left hand, because my forearm aches so. But it was worth it. The venue was perfect. Right on the banks of the St. Lawrence River. The crowd was receptive and the management was very grateful. I had to play quieter than I am used to, but it was a good exercise and it was the perfect way to ease myself back into it all. I missed it.

Music is very therapeutic. Singing is some magical release of endorphins that makes the world right. The surprised and pleasant applause as ears hear your voice for the first time is just enough of an ego push to make it all better. It makes it all better. I’m glad I did it. It was a very good day.

Catching Up and the Query Letter

Yes, I have been quiet on here lately. It’s been a while. It’ not unusual for me to disappear during the holidays for family and work. Things have been slowing down. I did spend the greater part of the last two months fine tuning and editing Alice. I still probably need another good run through on it (word count is a little high), but she’s good enough and ready for the world at the moment. With that, I began the arduous task of submitting to literary agents. If you think editing is a chore, it has nothing on submitting to literary agents.

Every submission from one agent and agency to the next is extremely and abashedly NOT the same. While they all want query letters, after that it’s a huge split on who wants what. Some want only the query letter. Other agents want a synopsis… which is a chore in and of itself. Some want a query letter and the hook. Others want five pages (pasted in the body of the email), others want fifteen pages in an attached pdf, or fifty pages in a word doc.

While I believe every interaction with your prospective agent should be personal and “the right fit,” I believe there should be an industry standard. Is five pages really enough? Should the synopsis be enough? Sure, everyone has their differences and has different needs, but can’t we compromise as an industry? I don’t think there’s a writer out there that wants to do the business end. I know I would gladly get back to the keyboard and work on Rebel. Sure, it’s a short story, but she needs her dedication as well. In a perfect world… I would have an assistant to do this for me!

Just random thoughts. Back to the email and the search for the my perfect fit for Alice.

Costa Rica and the Rebel

Look how the weeks slip by. I’ve quietly started another project. I’m not sure I am ready to talk about it just yet, but, yeah, I’m about 6,000 words in on something. I’m thinking maybe a novella or a short crime novel. I’m not sure what it is yet. It hasn’t quite revealed itself to me. So, I will let that slide for now. I think it might be fun though.

Part of the reason I have been quiet is because of the nice, relaxing trip to Costa Rica. Okay, maybe it wasn’t relaxing. It was work. Wonderful, amazing exercise and constant adventure.

Back in March there was a vacation in Riviera Maya where I sat by a pool and ate and drank for a week straight. Costa Rica had already been planned at that point… so we decided Costa Rica was going to be excursion filled. And excursion filled it was.

The trip began on a Friday and after around eight hours of travel, we made our way to the resort. All in all, the trip there wasn’t too horrible. We had a delay in Atlanta… because that’s how ATL works, but it didn’t take us long after that.

The first night, we just relaxed. We were both shocked at how fucking humid Costa Rica was. It was beautiful, warm and clean. That humidity was crushing, but who cares. This place is paradise. The first day, we took a bike tour. Saw some howler monkeys, some big ass iguanas and rode to a the small town of Panama. Not that Panama, but the Costa Rica one. It barely exists. It was an interesting look at the every day life.

The second day was our big “Mega Combo” day. We left the hotel early. It was already warm and sunny. Our tour guide met us at the resort lobby and began our hour long drive up into the highlands. In Costa Rica, there’s lowlands, midlands and highlands. Highlands… are volcanoes. As we’re driving, we see the rain off to the west, in the mountains. “Oh that’s where we’re going,”. Of course it is.

Luckily, it was still fairly warm where the rain on the mountain fell. We rode for about 45 minutes to the top of the mountain where we met our zip line guides. There it was. Twelve zip lines back down the mountain to the resorts. I have never been one for heights and this was certainly testing on me. It was pouring rain and the drop offs, the valley below the zip lines were ungodly deep. It was a challenge for me that I forced myself to charge through. It wasn’t the easiest thing I have ever done. It might come close to being the hardest. It was not easy for me at all. But, I did it. With Jil by my side, she kept me focused.

That was followed by volcanic steam sauna, mud baths and hot springs. Again, not my element, but it was a life experience nonetheless. Amazing.

The next day. A mountainside hike up to catch the sunset. Again, amazing. Day four… ATV tour. What a fucking blast that was. Three hours in the side roads, back roads, creeks, rivers, secluded beaches, washed out access roads… It was fucking wild. I could go on and on into so many details, but it was just an adventure on so many levels. The entire trip.

After that, we relaxed and took a day to ourselves. Costa Rica is an amazing country. The people are amazing. The countryside is clean and welcoming. I would go back in a second. And, the moment they fix that humidity thing… I’ll retire there.

One last thing:

Costa Rica trip video

Oh wait. One more thing that I did on vacation. I picked up the new family member.

Editing. World Events. Time to Impeach.

Editing is still coming along. I don’t write here as much as I am editing. When I am actually writing and creating, I subconsciously use this blog to keep the creative juices flowing. Editing is a different beast. I spend my energy focused on the minutiae of spelling and wording and overall plot crafting, that it becomes the job. It becomes the work. And I have no mindset to escape here for a few hundred words. I’m plugging away. I want to have Alice ready to submit to agents and publishers soon. I’m not editing as fast as I would like, but I am getting there.

I think today I came here less as a writing escape than a reality escape. I am not one for political discussion. That isn’t who I am. It never has been. BUT, I can’t help but feel like I am witnessing the fall of the Roman Empire firsthand. Ten years ago it was a joke that America was getting to fat and rich for it’s own good and that it would be great to sit back and enjoy the ride. Now that I’m on that ride, I think I’d like to get off. The last nine months have been an absolute shitshow of mind numbing events, from the election of a buffoon by the idiot populace, to dropping out of the Paris accords, to the violent protests sprouting up around the country. Charlottesville. Fake news. Real news. The building of the war machine to take on “The Rocket Man” in North Korea. And now, today, Las Vegas. The largest, (to date) mass shooting on American soil. (No, the slaughtering of the Native Americans still doesn’t count)

I am at a loss for words. What can we do to restore order to this particular shift in this world? We fell into an alternate timeline. This is what happens when some dipshit goes back in time and accidentally kills the wrong person… or in this case pushes the republican and democratic parties to give this nation two absolutely ridiculous candidates. I have no doubt that had the other won, this timeline wouldn’t bee to far off from what we are now. I think we can all agree that President Obama was the president this country needed at the time we needed it most and we needed to change the rules to let that man stay in office, had he wanted to. At this point, removing Trump from office would be a huge start, but I am afraid that this dark timeline might be irreparable. The butterfly effect has taken hold and we, as a country, could be witnessing the very beginnings to the end of society as we are used to. Big government has been a problem for quite a few years. It got bloated and too many pockets were filled by corporate no-gooders. Yet, Barrack Obama managed to sidestep all of that and lead with honor, integrity and grace. He was the father that this country needed. Values. Poise. Wisdom. Not pussy grabbing. Urinating porn starring. Reality TV host.

I’m starting to wonder what can be done to fix this place we live in. It’s a sorry state. That’s for certain. This country won’t survive another three years and two months. The president is not leading this country the way it needs to be led. He’s golfing. He’s tweeting. He’s starting online fights with dictators from across the world. He’s literally cyber bullying Kim Jong Un. Really? That’s not the office of president. As I grew up, the office of president was one of respect. I’m afraid that no one will respect that seat for the rest of time. We’re going to have to change and we’re going to have to change fast. With North Korea comes China. With China comes Russia. How long will the UN stand by? How long with the American people stand by while this “Leader” runs us straight into a war that cannot be won? How long? What is it going to take for the world to see that this man needs to be removed from office? He’s an unfit leader. He’s a bully. And in America, the bully never wins. We can’t let him win this time.

Am I saying that our president brought about the events in Vegas today? Hell no. Not at all. All I am saying is, that this world is a beautiful place. This country is not. We are becoming the Wild West all over again. We need someone to bring us away from that. And our president is not that man. He has his own agendas and they are the agenda of the American people.

Editing Alice

After spending a few weeks working on proofreading and editing The Samurai and the Mountain, I just all but abandoned it. Alice was calling to me once more. The recent twitter hashtag day of manuscript wish list, a day where agents and publishes hashtag out what they are dreaming of finding from authors, led me straight to Alice. I quickly went through, having two novels nowhere near ready to submit, I found myself drifting into floating the words out there about Alice. She’s obviously the one I am more passionate about at this point.

Samurai (now) almost seems like it was a 120,000 word exercise to prepare me for all things Alice. I know Samurai will find it’s way. I am working myself back into the habit of daily proofing and editing now. It will only be a matter of time. Alice is just much more commercial. Samurai, as my dear blog readers know, is my pet project that has been in my head for fifteen years. It’s a personal agenda and it just had to be done. Alice, is a force of nature and craves an audience. So I am giving her her due first. I am going to prep her and get her ready for the masses and the agents and the publishers. Somewhere out there someone will latch on as much as I have, and as much as my test readers have.

I’m a third of the way through the book right now, reading most of this material for the first time. Jilian has read this work more than I have. As I read, I am amazed at how well the book flows. Even in it’s rough draft form, it is paced very well and the words just roll from one chapter from the next. Even when I feel I’ve hit a wall while editing, I turn the page and something catches my eye and suddenly I’m another chapter in.

Alice gets me excited. I’m looking forward to sharing her with the world.

And yes, I print out each and every one of my works and make my corrections with a red pen. I’ve done it since my first screenplay, I’m certainly not going to stop now.