Category Archives: Write It forward
Gus loves the Jeep. We’ve realized that if we can’t find him (those of you with dogs know that if you can’t see the dog, something is wrong), we’ve learned to check the Jeep in the garage. If I left the back gate open, as I sometimes do, Gus will always jump in, climb into the passenger seat, and just sit there.
Not Becca. She’ll get into the Jeep if I ask politely, sometimes beg. And if she’s first up the ramp, she takes the passenger seat and Gus is Cool with that. No fussing. If she’s not first, she goes in the back, but when I get out, she slides through into the driver seat. Because she’s alpha. They get their pictures taken everywhere we go, because they both just sit there calmly, no fussing or barking, staring out at the world, as if exceedingly bored with all this human stuff.
When we lived on Whidbey Island, I took Gus running every day. Either in Saratoga Woods or Putney Woods. Gus loves running in the woods. (Becca, not so much). But he’s a lab. Unlike other breeds (such as German Shepherds who bond with one person), labs bond with everyone. Even though I feed him, Cool Gus likes everyone. And the problem was, sometimes he’d get ahead of me on a run, and if someone else ran by, he’d decide to run with them. After all, it’s all about the running right? One day he latched onto a couple running and followed them for miles. While I was running around on the trails yelling for him. They ended up taking him home and calling me. I mean, what a doofus.
Back to Gus and the Jeep. We’ve learned it isn’t just the Jeep. One day I met the UPS guy and he told us the previous day he’d come by when we weren’t there. He put a package at the door and got back in his truck and started it up and then about had a heart attack when he turned and Gus was just sitting there in the passenger seat. Ready to get shipped somewhere I suppose.
So if Cool Gus is dropped off at your house by UPS, drop me a line and I’ll come get him.
Spoiler Alert—if you haven’t watched the three episodes of Ascension, the latest release from the Syfy Channel, then I’ll tell you this: highly recommended. Very smart. On a lot of layers. I’ll try not to reveal spoilers, but I am going to give some heads up.
My wife controls the TV in our house. I watch whatever she puts on. Our hobby, and our profession, is story. I write books and my wife works with authors as a sort of story runner. A recent book she worked on with an author was nominated for both an Edgar and an Agatha so she knows story. I’ve had 3 #1 bestselling scifi Kindle series (Area 51, Atlantis, Nightstalkers) so I’ve had some experience writing science fiction.
Anywho. So she watched Ascension on her own and then when I came upstairs with Cool Gus & Sassy Becca afer work yesterday and we all piled into the big bed, she just turned it on. And we watched all of it last night.
I love it when a smart idea is coupled with a smart story. And when I get surprised, then on reflection go duh! The end of the first episode was a great hook. Should have seen it coming because otherwise the story required a big suspension of disbelief. So that was good.
Character development—okay, not so much, although the Captain and his wife (I’m sorry, she just has that Cylon walk so it was hard to separate her from BSG) plot was very cool. Every time you think he’s stupid; he’s not. And she’s a master player.
I will say way too many using the head as a fist. And getting hit with a pipe wrench—we’re talking brain splatter. And every shooter knows getting within arms reach with your weapon negates the advantage of the gun. But hey. Okay. It’s entertainment.
Backstory. One thing I learned writing the Area 51 series was less is better. I learned not to overly explain things, especially backstory. I got the feeling that the version we saw of Ascension actually had stuff cut from the original screenplay. Especially if it was supposed to be a stand alone mini-series then they had a lot to explain that they didn’t. Just enough. Because the final result definitely sets up both a follow on series and even better, a prequel. Who is the corporation? How did this get started?
I also really liked in the last episode where the woman the investigator turns to, turns out to be—well, let’s just say when I was researching Area 51 what struck me was how few original sources there were. How they all quoted each other. Layer on top of that my background in Special/Covert Operations and I loved the misdirection in AScension. Some very smart people are writing it.
The ending: even my wife didn’t get it the first time, but I cut her slack because she just had rotator cuff surgery, was on pain killers, and was half asleep the first time she saw it. I noted people on social media going “Huh? and “WTF?”” over the ending.
But it really works. It’s what the entire project was set up for. Sorry if you didn’t get it. But the ‘star child’ is the ‘star gate’.
I’m looking forward to more Inception, whether it be forward or backward or both. Kudos to the writers and Syfy.
(excerpt from It Doesn’t Just Happen: The Gift of Failure)
Conduct Area Studies
In Special Forces, prior to deploying to an Area of Operations, we conducted an Area Study of that location. You must conduct an Area Study of your Catastrophe Area of Operations (AO). Your home, your work, and any other locales where you spend a significant amount of time. When taking a trip, you should conduct a travel area study, examining the route you will take, your destination, and your route back.
There are so many cases where a thoughtful Area Study followed up by the appropriate preparations would have saved lives and avoided catastrophe. Prevention is more efficient than avoidance. Preparation is so much better than reacting.
Custer certainly would have benefited from an area study. At the very least, a better reconnaissance would have shown him what he was really up against.
The Donner Party put their lives on the line because of the words of a man who had not done an area study, but wrote as if he had.
Think about it. You live in a tsunami zone. Have you actually driven your evacuation route? How long does it take? Have you figured out the quickest escape route on foot, when an accident caused by terrified people blocks the road or everyone in your neighborhood fleeing on the same route creates a traffic jam? You work on the 90th floor of a skyscraper. Do you ever look around and ask yourself: how do I get out of here if the normal means of egress are blocked?
How close are you to the nearest military base? Nearest police station? Firehouse? Hospital? Even in day-to-day living, do you know where the closest emergency room is? How long it will take to get there? How quickly can an ambulance respond to your location?
You want to examine your environment for a lot of things. What can harm you? What can help you? What can hide you? What are your enabling factors? What are your disabling factors? What effect does your environment have on you? What effect will you have on it? In essence, an Area Study requires you to invest the time and energy on research.
For an A-Team, we conducted the Area Study in Isolation where we were locked up 24/7 in a secure compound. We’d bring in area experts (CIA agents, State Department personnel, people who’d traveled there, locals, academics, etc.) to tell us about the environment we were heading into. This is a technique I recommend for businesses under my Who Dares Wins program.
Do a HALO study of your environment and organization.
An Area Study must combine with the catastrophe mindset to focus on what can go wrong will go wrong!
It Doesn’t Just Happen: The Gift of Failure I and II availabe at all platforms via this landing page.
I’m a dog guy. Obviously. Cats, not so much (I probably just lost thousands of readers). When Jennifer Cruise and I were writing Don’t Look Down, in the third scene I had Tyler, the sniper, in the swamp. And I wanted him to shoot something. Why? Because I’m a shoot something kind of guy too. Nah. But anyway. So I had him shoot a cat.
Needless to say, Jenny was appalled when she got that scene. You’d have thunk I’d committed some awful crime. So we changed it to some other poor creature. Sigh.
I’ve learned a lot from my dogs over the years. There was Rex, the abandoned stray who weighed around 40 pounds when found eating out of a dumpster. Mixture of chow, shepherd and who knows what else and filled out to around 100 pounds once fed properly (and improperly such as when he snarked the meatloaf off the counter) and was not fat (I’m talking to you Gus and Becca). He could find his way home from anywhere. You ever read about the dog that somehow gets lost a thousand miles away from home and makes it back?
When we first moved to Boulder, Colorado, I went on my first run on the Mesa trails with Rex. And we were a couple of miles in and he saw a deer. And he was gone like that. Zoom. I called for him and searched for him and then came home and told my wife “I lost Rex” although technically, Rex lost Rex. But my wife somehow feels I have more responsibility for things than the dog. Sigh.
So I went back out and ran the trail and at the exact spot where he’d taken off after that deer, he was sitting there, with a look that said: Yo, dude, where did you go? One time he got mad at me on the beach at Hilton Head and decided to head home. And he just started trotting away on the bike paths toward home.
Oh yeah, the beach. I don’t know what happened to him as a puppy, but he was terrified of water. When the waves came in, he ran away, terrified he might get his huge paws wet. Yet, at the same time, he could find water to drink anywhere. In Colorado, he would disappear into some ravine and be slurping it up from some tiny spring. Actually not liking water was a good idea on Hilton Head because there were gators in the fresh water. And those suckers can move fast when they see a meal.
Rex apparently didn’t like deer. Maybe it was personal? You’re not supposed to mess with deer in Colorado. We had open space behind the house, a strip about a hundred yards wide. And Rex saw a deer and zoom, he was on that thing. He knocked it down, and had his paw on it, looking back like—hey, look at me. He let it go, but we were like, yo, Rex, don’t be doing that. At least not in daylight when people can see.
Rex loved the Jeep. Actually, all my dogs have loved the Jeep. Well, okay, Becca isn’t too thrilled with it. Not like Gus. Becca is only thrilled with food and cuddling. But more on that in another post.
All I had to do was open the door in the Jeep and Rex was in there, sitting in the passenger seat, his head the same height as mine. He looked so fierce, but he was the gentlest soul. He wouldn’t eat unless one of us was there with him.
Rex was a good dog.