While I discuss publishing, writing, and yellow labs on this blog quite often, there are times when one must get serious. In the past year we’ve seen Hurricane Sandy, a landslide on Whidbey Island, a tornado in Oklahoma and other man-made and natural disasters. So I’m going to start posting excerpts from The Green Beret Survival Guide on this blog at least once a week because I truly feel it’s the most important book I’ve ever written because it does save lives. One of the key things that made us “Special” Forces was our ability to prepare for missions. In the same way, it’s key to prepare for disasters before they occur and I’ll post information on that, such as grabngo bags and more.
Since it’s fresh in our minds, let’s cover Tornadoes and Hurricanes first:
Tornados strike with little warning. If an alarm or alert has been sounded, even if you don’t see one, assume it’s there. Seek shelter. NOW!
Underground is always best for a shelter. Those areas that are prone to tornadoes have designated shelters. If your house is in a tornado area, you should have a room, a neighbor’s house with a room, or a shelter already decided upon.
If a shelter is not available, go to the basement of a building. Stay away from windows and glass. Cover yourself with a mattress, cushions, blankets or a sleeping bag. Look around you for objects that could be blown over and don’t be in their path if they fall.
If stuck in a building with no basement, go the lowest floor and the smallest room near the center of the house. Or under a stairwell or in an interior hallway with no windows. Bathrooms are good because you have pipes in the wall which help strengthen them and you can lie in the bathtub. Lie on the ground, face down, and cover your head with your hands and arms. If you have a strong table, take cover under that. Cover yourself with cushions, blankets or a mattress.
Stay in your safe place until well after the danger has passed. Hopefully you have your G&G bag with you with your crank radio so you can check in to the National Weather Service.
When you do leave your shelter, be careful. Avoid power lines and water that might be touched by power lines. Stay clear of buildings as they still might collapse. Avoid using open flame as it’s likely there are gas leaks.
If you’re driving, should you stay in the car? Stop the car and get under a bridge? What’s your answer? Probably wrong. The best is to not be driving in bad weather. If you can see it, drive away from it as quickly and safely as possible. Move at right angles to the tornado. If you can, seek shelter in a building or underground, such as a culvert. If you get caught, do NOT get out of the car. It’s not entirely safe, but it’s better than the options. Pull off the road, out of traffic, because that other idiot is still going to be barreling down the road at 70 miles an hour even though he can’t see. Make sure you have your seat belt on. Put your head down to avoid broken glass and hurled objects. Cover your head with a blanket or jacket. Do NOT seek shelter under overpasses. Tornadoes can move at sixty miles an hour, so think hard before trying to out-run one. To get an idea of the path of the storm, pick a stationery object near you and watch how the tornado moves in relation to that object. If it is moving to your left, drive to the right and vice versa. If it doesn’t seem to be moving left or right, then it’s either coming right at you or away from you. If it’s getting bigger, guess which of the two? Get out of the car and seek safety in a building or culvert if you have the time.
That sounds so simple, yet the other day I was reading about a family killed because they refused a mandatory evacuation for Hurricane Sandy. Their house had been robbed when they evacuated before and they didn’t want that to happen again. What happened this time makes a robbery look like such a not bad thing.
Hurricanes, unlike tornadoes, move slowly. So you will have warning and time to get away.
Most of the preparation for a hurricane you’ve already done in preparing your house. There are some special preparations you can add:
- · board and tape windows. Plywood is best for covering window. For taping, use alligator tape, not duct tape. Masking tape is not useful.
- · fasten your roof down to the house with tie down straps. Really long ones. You need to have these on hand before the hurricane is coming.
- · turn off gas and/or propane.
- · clear away debris that can be picked up and smash into the house and windows.
- · secure all outdoor furniture. If you have a pool, put the furniture into the water.
- · make sure your garage doors are closed.
- · Looking at the deaths from Hurricane Sandy, over half of them were from falling trees/limbs. Make sure the trees around your house are properly trimmed and if old and unstable, pay to have them removed. It’s worth your life and your family’s lives.
- · As the storm approaches, turn your freezer and refrigerator to their coldest settings.
- · Pack any coolers with as much ice as possible. Use them first instead of opening the refrigerator door. If you grew up like I did, your dad was always yelling at your for opening the frig door anyway.
- · Fill bathtubs with water.
- · Make sure all vehicles are topped off.
- · Know where the closest shelter is for you and for your pets.
- · If you have to evacuate leave a note saying where you are going.
- · Unplug everything before leaving.
- · Turn off electricity, gas and water.
- · After the hurricane passes, beware of flooding.
- · Use flashlights or chem lights, never candles.
- · Do not use tap water after the storm until you are sure it isn’t contaminated.
- · EVACUATE.
If you did not evacuate and it strikes, then you are in tornado mode. Go back to a couple of pages ago and do what’s listed.
More survival blogs to come!
We started with the traditional “walk barefoot on the rocks test” and ended with the “remove the dog hair or be eaten” finale. In between was the hot tub in the Noah’s Ark downpour, shifting a paranormal romance between a succubus and a police detective to a Biblical epic about a demon climbing Jacob’s Ladder to the end the world as we know it and another demon getting a Gold Star on their report card for taking down Romeo and Juliet and Henry VIII. There was also character X, who was dead, wondering why his ashes were in someone else’s urn, turning out to be the key to the story, and is it impolite for an Alpha werewolf to follow a Wiccan into a bar to try to pick her up in order to find out what happened to one of his pack members, not knowing the Big Bad, was trying to pick him up (let’s not even go there). And we had the Rock Star who wanted to take his career in a different direction, but then ran into a werewolf and a medium and a demon. And did he go to an island off of Maryland (there are islands off of Maryland?) or to some place more interesting, which seemed to be any place, based on those who’d been to islands off of Maryland.
The walk barefoot on the rocks test is so ingenious my wife, Deb, didn’t even know she was doing it, which is actually the key to a surprise ending—if the author doesn’t know the ending, they don’t telegraph it. Upon their arrival, she was showing our four test subjects the house, and out of niceness they removed their shoes as they trudged up and down stairs and made appropriate grunting noises approximating four women having just been squeezed into a car together for 11 hours and WTF just give us some alcohol? Then Deb led them outside through one of our 24 doors, and they were trapped. Up the driveway to the stone steps (no one paused, committed they were). But then they got to the rocks. One, who had told Deb on the phone that she loved being barefoot too, followed without hesitation. Deb took this to mean they all liked being barefoot on burning coals while having poison darts shot at them. There was some hopping, some wimping out off the trail to the pine straw, and Cool Gus and Sassy Becca took note which of the test subjects would be their first meal.
Which means whose foot would get licked raw from a raspy Lab tongue.
I know what you’re thinking—don’t go there.
I think we talked about books and publishing for a little while.
Then there was the deluge in the hot tub. Meaning we got in and then the skies opened and a demon and a rock star and a medium and succubus let loose.
Don’t go there either.
I went to bed but Deb tested our four subjects with fascinating discussions. At one point I heard some muttering about childbirth and pointed out I had a paper cut on my finger once.
That didn’t seem to get as much respect as I think it deserved.
There were many circular female discussions that solved not a single one of the world’s problems. I stuck to my whiteboard and my graphs and my arrows and lines and my Excel spreadsheets, but I don’t think they understood.
Strangely, while pontificating, I had some enlightening moments about my own books. This is something Ranger School teaches—it’s so much easier to be the RI—Ranger Instructor teaching and grading, than the Patrol Leader who is actually doing. I was pointing out all the flaws and opportunities in our test subjects’ books and telling them how brilliant my WIP, Burners, was, when I realized, uh, well, I didn’t have a WHY behind the WHAT of my own story.
I covered that quite well by getting Becca to viciously lick some feet as a distraction
Then there was Cool Gus slaloming down a drainage ditch at full speed when we went for a walk, which I’d never seen him do, back and forth, back and forth. Then he tried to get stuck in drainage pipe, but he told me later, since he was surrounded by all women, except me: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” Guys understand that after being surrounded by estrogen. Cool Gus is currently lying my feet, his heavy head on my ankles, sighing. I tell you, these dogs are utterly exhausted, giving up so much hair to our guests, which they had to roll off with the sticky thing Deb swears by before they got in the car to go back to whatever nest of demons they arose from. But you know, DNA. What if one of them uses Gus’s DNA at a crime scene? Becca is snoring. Her tongue content.
Don’t go there.
Deb and I conducted our own AAR before they even cleared the driveway with such astute observations as:
-well, they ate a lot of the food which is good but the fridge is still full
-should we have had music on the house speakers— nah it would distract their deep thoughts
-more diet coke, less wine—but nice try to show us you weren’t all just wanting to get wasted and empty your full brains
-maybe we should have gotten black labs instead of yellow because then their hair wouldn’t be as obvious on black clothes, but, nah, then our white couch would be covered with black hair, so screw them
-they’re coming back to kill us, break out the nuclear land mines
-I’ve been putting the laundry detergent in the wrong place in the upstairs washer ever since we’ve moved in
This weekend my wife and I will run our first Write on the River in-house workshop. So right now there are like 40 guys outside doing all sorts of things, but I see pots, flowers, electrician, pool guy, and who knows what else is being done, because that’s the way my wife is. We just had shades put in about half the windows, because even though we’re pretty isolated, I guess a sniper with a good scope on the other side of the TN River could take one of us out. I just leave my wife to talk to everyone because she’s the people person.
What flowers have to do with a writers workshop, I know not.
I’ve been running weekend workshops for over 10 years, starting when we lived on Hilton Head Island. Then when we moved to Whidbey Island, I ran them at the beautiful Saratoga Inn. Now, though, people will be staying in the house we bought last November. We can sleep four people and that’s about the right size for this kind of intensive weekend. The goal is to get each writer to focus on a book and we develop it as a group. We start with the one sentence idea, do the conflict box, then discuss initiating event, story, character, etc.
Another thing, though, that we’ll discuss is PROCESS. This is something I’ve focused more and more on the last couple of years. Just as a writer must become conscious of craft to become an artist. I think we also have to understand our unique creative process.
Additionally, we’ll discuss the evolving business of publishing. With 20 years experience in traditional publishing and four years in indie publishing, I’ve watched a number of cycles. I believe we’ve passed through the first cycle of digital and are now entering a new one.
As I’ve mentioned before, the key element is rights. Who controls the publishing rights to a book, particularly an eBook? In a Catch-22, the more successful an author has been, the less likely they are to regain their rights. Another issue for these successful authors is they have agents who have been in the business a long time and make a very good living off said successful authors. Therefore, these agents don’t have much incentive to investigate the digital market and especially indie publishing since the money is pouring in from the major publishers for their clients. That’s not to say some aren’t getting up to speed, but after talking to a number of bestselling authors, I can tell both they and their agents are pretty much clueless about digital publishing. They are especially clueless about actually going direct to digital for backlist and frontlist. What’s particularly bad about this, is the author often relies almost exclusively on that agent for advice and it can be a case of the blind leading the blind, except the agent is working off the old model of wanting that big hunk of money up front, rather than accepting monthly checks (every month from here on out), at a very high royalty rate could work more to their client’s (and their own) advantage. Worse, an agent who investigates a bit, might find they really don’t have much of a role to play for a client who wants to go digital.
There are exceptions, such as Kristin Nelson and other agencies, many of whom have opened their own indie-publishing arms. By the way it is NOT “self” publishing when you work with a team. It’s indie publishing. I don’t self-publish. I indie publish via Cool Gus. You say tomato, I say tomato.
The role of the agent is evolving and is necessary. However, the fear of authors often leads them to not step back and view the larger playing field, parts of which the agent doesn’t really have to be on. And if the agent is using a sub-contract company for their “self” publishing arm, one wonders why the author can’t go to that company directly?
More importantly, a key to indie publishing is the author is in control. The author has final say on cover, cover copy, pricing, promotions, and a lot of other critical factors. They need good advice on this, but the person (and there needs to be one point of contact) who is doing the indie publishing for that author who ought to be able to give them that so they can make an informed decision.
Everyone’s role in publishing is changing and evolving and authors need to change and evolve also. Fear can’t rule the decision making. Trusting to old ways also can’t.
As we say at Cool Gus: Who Dares Wins!
My latest release, The Green Berets: Chasing the Lost, has been selling remarkably steady which is nice. The reviews have been great so far and one of the things we’ll discuss this weekend is how changing my process on that brought about the stunning ending that readers are emailing me about.
The weather can’t decide if it wants to storm or become sunny. Which is sort of like life. It can be stormy or sunny up ahead. I still haven’t taken the top of the Jeep so the bad weather isn’t my fault. Once I take it off, then you can blame me. It’s a rite of spring. We had this neat rainbow the other day and it stretched over to our side of the river touched down behind the trees.
It’s been a good month so far. The weather is warming, the flowers all around our house are blooming. We planted a garden this past week. Gus jumped in the pool the other night and swam to his heart’s content while Becca prowled the edge, wary. She will learn to swim, she just doesn’t know it yet. I fixed the pump for the pool with my father-in-law’s help using a turnbuckle, a piece of wood, a new gasket, and lots of cussing. We’re finally settling in to WOR and this next weekend will host our first, in-house, Write On The River Story Workshop with four writers spending the weekend. We hope to make that a staple about every two months and I’ll blog on it and we’ll also add info on the new web site Jen is developing.
I went to the Romantic Times Convention and met a lot of interesting people. My main takeaway: traditional publishing is in trouble; agents are becoming publishers with both the attendant good and bad aspects; and some agents are so locked into getting that advance money, they give their clients bad advice. Ah well, not my problem except for Cool Gus, because the minute we’re talking to an author who is interested in coming with us, and they mention “I’ll have my agent contact you” we know that conversation is over.
We released The Green Berets: Chasing the Lost and it’s been surprisingly steady in sales. It didn’t blow doors off, but it’s been hanging in the top 3 bestsellers in Men’s Adventure since publication. The only problem is, that ranking would make me like #400 in romance. But hey, my book is centered on a woman. She’s the plot pusher. And readers are emailing me, saying they were blown away by the ending. Well, so was I. Because I actually wrote the book with the ending done first. I thought what I had was really cool and a great twist. So I wrote a draft. Then it just didn’t feel right. There were some loose ends. So I went to my wife, the story-whisperer, who runs the WOR here with me, since she does live here, and briefly summarized the book and told her a couple of things that I’d put in that didn’t fit. Then she said: “Well, what if—“ and three sentences later I sat there stunned. She taken what I thought was a great ending and made it truly, truly wicked and set up the next book in the Green Beret series perfectly. So, of course, the reader is surprised. Because I wrote the book not knowing the real ending too; it’s a brilliant writing process. Pure genius, that woman.
She just yelled down for the scoops and salsa sauce, so I brought them up to her. Of course that means Cool Gus and Sassy Becca are with her now, because they hang with whoever has the food.
I’m working with my wife’s streams for the third Nightstalker book, and Scout is back, along with the Fireflies and Roland and Neeley and Moms and Nada and Hannah and the whole crazy, black ops gang. Lots of fun, lots of guns, lots of Nada Yadas.
Nothing but good times ahead.