Category Archives: Write It forward

Kindle Unlimited, Amazon-Hachette, and “Fairness”

I am so outraged! Yes. And you know what? No one gives a damn.

ShitDoesntJustHappen_TNActually, I’m not outraged. I’m kind of sick of outrage.  I think you can get an idea of part of my philosophy from one of the covers of a trifecta of similar books I’ve written coming out in September.

Somehow, this notion of ‘fair’ has crept into publishing. Which is really funny because it’s never been fair, and isn’t going to become fair.

Plus ‘fair’ means different things. For a bestselling trad author who gets 7 or 8 figure advances, fair is they made it and doggone, they want everything to stay the same. Because it works pretty well for them. Completely understandable.

Big name authors have agents that negotiate better terms for them than the average authors gets. Better royalty rates, kickers, marketing built into the contracts, etc. As I was told by my publicist at Random House: we put our marketing money behind our bestsellers. Yet these authors wrap themselves in the Emperor’s cloak of ‘we represent literature’ and ‘freedom of speech’. Seriously, dudes? A little honesty will be nice as you cash your checks.

Now we have Kindle Unlimited and how writers are being divided into classes? Duh. Always been. Simple answer if one doesn’t like Unlimited. Pull books from Select. Just as the authors putting an ad in the NY Times should focus their energies on something they might actually be able to do: get their publishers to pull their books from Amazon. Does anyone else find it strange that they’re ‘fighting’ Amazon while still working with Amazon? That’s called collusion. Amazon’s a corporation that doesn’t owe them squat. There is no right to have Amazon grant a pre-order button (ask indies who have fought this battle for years) or even stock your book. The contract these trad authors signed was with their publisher not Amazon. Focus on the real deal you signed.

And top indie authors are getting a different deal regarding Unlimited, pre-order buttons and other perks. Hmm. Class system? Or the reality that sales have clout? We’re seeing the indie world go the way of the trad world, where the better sellers get better deals, more merchandizing, etc. Fair? I served in Special Operations.  I don’t know what fair is.  I live in the real world.

Bottom line– this is capitalism, not a democracy where everyone gets treated the same (and if anyone can find a real democracy anywhere in the world, send me a note). We get treated according to our success and also by the business decisions we make. My not being happy with something isn’t going to change the reality of it. However, it does factor into the decisions I make.

Survival Friday: Total collapse of civilization & extreme emergencies

Survival Friday: Excerpt from The Green Beret Survival Guide SurvivalFinal

First you’ve got extinction events.

This falls under extreme emergency.

In that case, forget about it, as we used to say in the da’ Bronx.  However, don’t just assume it’s over.  There is a theory that mankind went through a population bottleneck 75,000 years ago when Mount Toba erupted.  Based on DNA, it seems we might all be descendents of that handful of people who survived.  I would always assume I’m part of the survival group.  That’s the mindset you need.

 Special Forces Assessment & Selection Thought:  Defeat isn’t bitter if you don’t swallow it.

 I’m going to cover some of the more likely ways our civilization can collapse to give you methods to survive the collapse.  Also, give you insight on how to cope with some specific extreme emergencies.  Beyond the first thirty days, you’re going into sustainment mode and I cover that in detail in the second book in this series:  The Green Beret Sustainment Guide After The Apocalypse, Zombies & More.

What can cause the collapse of civilization?

World War III.

The use of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons on a large scale.

A series of local conflicts that disrupt trade and commerce on an international level.

Water shortages.  This is one of the most glaring threats to our world.  Many places in the world already lack clean water.  I predict that wars in the future will not be over oil, but over water.

Climate change.  While people debate this, I prefer to deal with the scientific reality that we are damaging our environment and Mother Nature has a way of equalizing things.

A large solar flare that bathes the planet in an EMP pulse that destroys electronics.

A pandemic.  When we cover this in a bit, realize one will happen and sooner, rather than later.

Over-population, which leads to a depletion of resources.

Zombies.  Which actually is a form of pandemic.

A meteor strike of sufficient size.

A volcanic eruption that spreads enough ash to start the equivalent of a nuclear winter.

Economic disruption that spreads.  We’re seeing Europe in the midst of an economic meltdown.  What if what is happening in Greece spreads?

For a long time Peak Oil was a looming catastrophe that many pundits thundered about.  While we are still overly reliant on oil and need to wean ourselves from it, it seems as if technology is finding ways to pull oil out of places that weren’t considered before.  Actually, the next great change of technology will be when someone invents an effective capacitor than can store energy efficiently, thus allowing wind, sun, water, tidal and other forms of energy to be stored.

Remember that great civilizations have collapsed before.  Often it wasn’t a single event, but an accumulation of events.  The Mayans, Mesopotamia, Persia, Greece, Rome, and on and on.  While I am not an alarmist, I think we have a reasonably good chance of seeing a major disruption of our way of life in the next thirty years.  As they used to say in the old Army, when they had cigarettes in the C-Rations:  Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.

Less than that, there are a number of various possibilities.  What most people fail to realize is how fragile civilization is, and how easily it can break down, with a domino effect that will be shocking.

In researching this, I found many of those addressing this issue are either naïve or gloss over the depth of what will happen. Many dwell on political issues.  I’m just going to focus on the practical issues.

While New York and New Jersey struggle to recover from Hurricane Sandy, a friend just emailed that they got their power back, and a crew from Alabama had been working in their neighborhood day and night doing this.  While this shows the great spirit of America, it occurs to me that that crew would not be there is Alabama needed them.  This is key:  a large-scale catastrophe that covers most of a continent will preclude aid from inside that continent.

Pre-Collapse

There are stages to surviving an extreme emergency.  While a dramatic event might bring it about, it is more likely you will see many signs indicating the collapse is coming.  Most people will ignore these signs.  The closest I can liken it to is Germany in the 1930s.  Many people saw what was coming; the vast majority chose to ignore it.  On a much lower level, as the housing market bubbled and boiled in 2006, my wife and I sold our house, against the advice of pretty much everyone.  We crunched the numbers and also accepted that things had to change, and not in a good way.

You will see signs of bad things coming.  A highly contagious plague is something we’ll discuss.  It won’t happen overnight.  Severe power outages that don’t get better are another sign.

The key to pre-collapse is, like everything in this book, to prepare.  The base level of survival, Grab & Go bags, etc. will not be sufficient.  Some preparations can be integrated into your current life as a way of living, such as growing a garden.  But you have to start now.

I’m not going to cover the likelihood of various scenarios, because it’s just as likely a random, unexpected event can cause the collapse of civilization as easily as war, peak oil, global warming, etc etc.

The bottom line is it isn’t going to be pretty.  You can expect food shortages, fuel shortages, riots, power outages, martial law, war and the complete breakdown of law and order.

And that’s only the first month.

I cannot overemphasize how quickly the veneer of civilization can be stripped away.  Some of the ethnic fighting in various places around the world have shown how quickly apparently civilized people can rapidly fall into barbarism.  In 10th Special Forces, I found many of our soldiers were most dismayed by the fighting they saw in the Balkans because those places seemed so much like their own home (Sarajevo hosted the Olympics not long before the war). We tend to think this “can’t happen here” but it can.

Another key to wrap your brain around is that there won’t be any help coming.  Once civilization breaks down, there won’t be a reaching out from any remaining pockets.  They will be desperate for their own survival.  Supermarkets have a three-day supply of food.  The world, the entire world, has about a month and a half supply.  One of the signs will be panic buying.  Right now we’re seeing long lines for gas in the area struck by Hurricane Sandy and many of those people actually don’t need gas—they’re panicking.  You don’t want to be caught up in the panic.

On the plus side, you will be amazed how quickly many human beings can adapt to a change in their standard of living.  While we will miss our cell phones and lights and supermarkets, we can adapt and evolve.

I started this book by discussing the mindset needed to survive.  An extreme emergency requires an extreme mindset.  You have to let go of many habits.

So what do you need to do to prepare?

Prioritize your needs based on your area study.  The first question is if you can even stay where you are.  If you are in a metropolitan area, most likely not.  If you live in the suburbs, consider that you will see massive urban flight through your communities.  Where can you go?  This is taking the concept of the hide site to a whole new level.  Since you have now done all your preparations for mild and moderate emergencies it’s time to take it to the next level and prepare for an extreme emergency.

The priorities are the same except on a sustainable, long-term basis:  water, food, shelter.

The key word is sustainable.  You can stock up a year’s worth of food and have a water source, but that’s not sustainable.  Also, a food stock, like any other, is subject to being taken from you.

Here’s a sobering thought:  few areas in the United States are locally self-sustaining.  Without industrialized food processing, we simply can’t produce enough food to feed our current population level.  Think what that means:  many people will starve to death.  Starving people are desperate people and they will do anything to get food.  So your food stock will be like fresh brains to zombies.

Can you live off the land?  Do you know how?  Do you want to learn how to?

There are things you can stock up on that will be useful.  While initially, cash and valuables such as gold coins might have value, when things get desperate enough, other things will become more precious.  Weapons and ammunition are two of those.  Medical supplies are another.  So is food.

I’m not going to rehash what’s already been covered in equipment.  Look at what has been discussed and then consider it in terms of years of use.  The Sustainment book goes into making it past the thirty-day mark and into the future.

Collapse

Run for the hills boys!

Not necessarily.  Evaluate the situation.  If you are not in immediate danger, this is a moment when taking your time is important.  Gather as much information as possible, understanding that you will hear conflicting accounts.  There will be an effort by those in power to suppress panic.  Remember reading or hearing about the original broadcast of War of the Worlds?  Panic can cause tremendous problems and is dangerous, but in an extreme survival situation, you have to make your own decisions.

There were those on 9-11 who evacuated the second tower, and then went back to their offices when given the all clear.  I’ve listened to tapes of some of those people on their cell phones, decrying this decision as they were trapped after the second plane hit.  Be very leery of those who declare an emergency over.  In many emergency situations there are after-effects, whether it be follow-on earthquakes, more bombs set for first responders in a terrorist attack, or others.

How do you know civilization has collapsed?  When the infrastructure (electricity, roads, rail, flight) fails and does not appear to be coming back any time soon.  Many people will wait for “them” to help.  Unfortunately, “them” will be in the same situation.  As you will see in the Sustainment book, it’s a question of considering your hide site your new home, or, if untenable, moving until you find a locale you can develop a self-sustaining community for your team.

Speed of Collapse

Understand that a collapse can be a gradual thing or it can happen very quickly.  There are some keys that collapse is imminent.  Steer away from the fear mongers who warn you that society is going to collapse and you should run out and invest in gold or whatever product they’re hawking.  Their goal is to make money, which makes little sense if they truly believe society is collapsing.  My theory here is that it is a possibility, but not a probability.

Signs:

  • Power outages that cover entire regions and show little sign of being restored.
  • Multiple nuclear explosions.
  • A solar flare that fries the world’s electrical grid.
  • When an endemic (confined to a particular area) becomes a pandemic (spread over all areas).  A pandemic also has a higher infection rate and usually a higher kill rate.
  • Remember, a huge problem you will face is that most people, unlike you, are not prepared for emergencies.  Panic is inevitable regardless of the emergency, especially if it affects everyone in your area.

 

Getting Lost in NJ on the way to Thrillerfest in NYC

I had some interesting travels this past week.

womanwalkingIt started off with some issues flying out of Rochester to LGA. I had the right dates but somehow I had booked myself from LGA to ROC instead of ROC to LGA. It happens. Not often, but it does. Now this is why I heart Delta. Because I booked it through their site on my business AMEX CARD from Delta, Howard at the Delta counter worked his magic and got to NY and back without any extra charges. How awesome is that? But this was the start of a Planes, Trains and Walking movie. The emphasis on walking. Oh, and I broke my favorite black sandals that are insanely comfortable because off all the walking I ended up doing…

Bob and I decided that since I was heading to NJ to visit with one of our contract editors that it would be a good idea for me to head across the Hudson and spend a day at Thrillerfest, so instead of driving (I don’t drive in NYC) I flew. I managed to get from LGA to Penn Station via a bus, then walked two blocks to the Path and get on the train. Of course when I got to the Path I had to pick between two trains. Well, I had to make sure I got on the right train, which I did. I even got off at the right stop. All by myself. See, I don’t generally travel alone, anywhere. If its work, I’m with Bob. If its fun, I’m with Hubby. So, this is all their fault. Just saying.

Fast forward to Friday and I had to make my way back into NYC via the train. And walking. Well, not as much walking. I managed to take the Path to 33rd and transfer to the D train and then off at 42nd and then walked in the RIGHT direction to the Grand Hyatt where I was able to get into my hotel room at 10am! When does that happen? So perhaps the travel Gods are no longer frowning on me.

I didn’t actually attend Thrillerfest, so I can’t report back on any of the panels or workshops, because I didn’t attend any, but I did sit in the lobby and meet with authors as well as one of our contacts from Amazon and also got to meet face to face (even if for a moment) our contact at iBooks.

My first meeting was with Amy Shojai, one of our authors. It was nice to see her again and we discussed our plan with her future books. I then had lunch with Laura Benedict and Rebecca Cantrell and a couple other authors as well as agent Janet Reid. It was a great lunch, chatting about publishing and other topics.

But what struck me right off the bat this year at Thrillerfest was the feeling I got the moment I started to see people was an overwhelming positive sense. And, while I know the topic of Amazon and Hachette was discussed, it wasn’t THE topic of conversation. I talked with a lot of authors who are trying different things from Kickstarter to collaborations to shorts to switching genres to writing more, writing less. Many roads to OZ.

While it had a very positive vibe, Thrillerfest is still very grounded in Traditional Publishing. Even though many authors are dipping their fingers into other possibilities, the focus is on Traditional.

There is a danger in having roots too deep in any one camp. There are both positive and negatives to both indie publishing and trad publishing. I think the hardest part for an author today is sorting through all the information and making the right decision for themselves. This is especially hard when the top 1% on both sides who are well respected in the business are giving advice that is often times the complete opposite of one another. Many of the authors I talked to at Thrillerfest are intrigued by what Bob and I are doing and the Cool Gus Business Model, but, and this is a big but, they are either doing well enough with current publisher, or stuck in contractual obligations, or simply scared to make the leap in part because they do know its not “simple”. It doesn’t matter what side of the fence you sit on, or not sit on, publishing is still undergoing some major changes and there is more to come. We can fight it all we want, but that won’t change reality. Change is required to grow.

There is a lot of misinformation being passed around the internet. And a lot of slanted information for one side or the other. It’s very hard to wade through all the blogs, news articles, blogs and posts about any and all aspects of publishing. I had a long talk at Thrillerfest with Dan from Amazon, mostly about Cool Gus and our authors, since that is my business, and that is the point. It’s a business and we all have to make business decisions. Many roads to OZ and OZ means different things to different people. But we do all have to exist and often work together in this business. Sometimes ego just has to be checked at the door.

Now, how did I break my shoes?

Thrillerfest Dinner 2014Keith Raffel was gracious and invited me out to dinner with him, Laura Benedict, Shane Gericke, Janice Gable Bashman, Karen Dionne, Rebecca Cantrell, Kieran Crowley and Julie Kramer. The dinner was filled a lot of wonderful conversations about various aspects of publishing and different ways to go about it. Also, Rebecca was up for Best eBook Original and WON! Congrats Rebecca! Dinner was on 2nd Avenue near 77th and Keith, Laura and I got this bright idea we’d walk back. Very glad we did as Keith provided a great Fire Work show (thanks Keith!) for Laura and I and also let Laura and I window shop for shoes in some very nice little shops. But, it is a long walk from 77th and 2nd to 42nd and whatever intersection that is for the Grand Hyatt hotel. Not to mention we took a slight detour to see the fireworks. Unfortunately, these long leisurely walks weren’t meant for my very favorite black sandals and the straps broke on the way up to my room and oddly, these were the only shoes I brought with me. Thankfully, I didn’t have anymore walking and got a cab to the airport in duct tape sandals.

Nothing but Good Times.

Survival Friday: First Aid

Survival Friday: Excerpt from The Green Beret Survival Guide SurvivalFinal

Again, if injured, this can quickly become the number one priority.  When considering first aid, think not only of the body, but of the mind.  As noted in the first case study in the Andes, when the group received the devastating news that the search for them had been called off, that could have easily caused many of them to give up mentally, which leads to a very quick physical deterioration.

In the Civil War, it is now estimated there were 750,000 combat deaths.  Two-thirds of those came from disease.  Of those killed in battle, many suffered survivable wounds but because of inadequate medical treatment, a large percentage of those died.

I started this book discussing the mindset needed to survive.  There is also a mindset needed to live.  Two people with the same wound:  one dies, the other lives.  The difference?  A burning desire to cling to life as opposed to giving up.  One key to this is that everyone on your team has to be positive:  when I see someone on a TV show or in a movie look at a wounded person and go: “You’re really messed up!” I shake my head.  That’s not projecting a positive attitude.

Every member of your team should receive basic first aid training.  This goes beyond the local CPR course.  Frankly, the chances that you will have to perform CPR are higher in day-to-day living then in a survival situation, as other types of injuries will be more prevalent.  A few hours spent going over first aid basics can yield great results.

Spend the money on well-stocked first aid kits.  The two types of supplies that are going to be in great demand in an extreme emergency are weapons/ammunition and medical supplies.  We’ve already noted that you need at least a month’s supplies of whatever medication you take.  If it appears that the extreme emergency will be of lasting duration, getting more of that medication is a priority.

Here are some prepackaged first aid kits:

At the more expensive, more extensive end is this Elite Large Fully Stocked GI Issue Medic First Aid Bag: http://goo.gl/dgTMf   Elite Large Fully Stocked GI Issue Medic First Aide Bag

 For trauma, here is a basic kit, The Molle Tactical Trauma Kit:  http://goo.gl/gjHn8  Fully Stocked MOLLE Tactical Trauma Kit First Aide Pouch

 I also like to have a basic first aid kit in the car and house that actually gets used (and restocked) in day to day living, the Adventure Medical Kit Weekender:  http://goo.gl/wccPb  Adventure Medical Kits Weekender First Aid

As with all the products I’m posting, what you really need is to have the expert on your team in each specific area be the one who decides what gear the team needs.

Everyone must understand the priorities of triage:

  • Breathing
  • Bleeding
  • Broken

Check injured people in that order.  It’s the order in which a person dies.  However, like everything else, there are exceptions.  Arterial bleeding (spurting blood) can kill as quickly lack of oxygen.

The ability to treat yourself with basic first aid is critical.  In Special Forces we even trained how to give ourselves shots and IVs.  Many people have died from injuries that were not lethal.  But because they didn’t know how to deal with the injury, panic set in, which leads to shock, which kills.

Stay up to date on physical exams.

A critical part of first aid that many people ignore in survival situations is personal hygiene.  Preventing illness is more important than treating it.

Keys to first aid:

  1. Train, train, train.  CPR, stopping bleeding, stabilizing broken limbs.  All are priorities.  Learn how to recognize and deal with hypothermia and dehydration.
  2. Prepare, prepare, prepare.  Antibiotics are critical.  So are bandages.  Splints.  Medicine.
  3. Learn how to field expedient some supplies.
  4. As part of your Area Study (coming next) you will be familiar with health threats in your area.  Be prepared for them.  This includes not just flora and fauna threats, but environmental ones.
  5. If you wear glasses, have a back up pair, and also back ups stored in your cache.  Even using old prescription glasses is better than nothing.  Don’t throw those glasses away, store them.
  6. When building your team, a person with medical training should be a high priority.

 

 

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