Survival Friday: Wildfires

Survival Friday: Excerpt from The Green Beret Survival Guide SurvivalFinal

While I lived in Boulder, CO, several times wild fires threatened the foothills. 

I like what the Department of Interior says about wildfires:  “All fires start small.  All fires go out.  What matters is what happens in between.”

Here is what they also say about understanding wildfire:

  • The wind throws embers one mile or more ahead of the flames. These embers start new fires.
  • As the main fire approaches your house, strong winds blow embers everywhere possible – under decks, against wood fences, into woodpiles, and through open doors and windows. Embers blown onto the roof come to rest in thick piles of dry leaves.
  • In some places the air is so smoky that you can’t see more than 10 feet.
  • Close to where the fire is burning most intensely, the air is far too hot to breathe.
  • The rising smoke and ash create winds on the ground cause all the fires to burn even more intensely.
  • Fires like this occur every year. Fires don’t just happen in the summer; in many areas fires can happen year round.
  • When it is dry and windy be watchful and be prepared to take action to protect your family and property.

To prepare your home if you live in an area prone to wildfires, here is a list of things to do:

  • ·      keep your roof and gutters free of leaves.
  • ·      store firewood at least 30 feet away from structures.  The nice pile up against the side of your house is called fuel for a wildfire.
  • ·      your outdoor furniture should be made of noncombustible materials.
  • ·      clear the area around your house of other combustible material such as leaves, bark, pine needles and underbrush.  Especially trim grass and brush around your propane tank.  Optimally you want a hundred foot barrier of no trees, shrubs or bushes around your house.
  • ·      when building walls, barriers, gates, landscaping, etc use noncombustible materials.
  • ·      when evacuating a wildfire, you should leave as soon as you receive notice.  Considering there is a chance your house might not be there for you to come back to, besides your G&G bag, also take that fireproof container with all your key documents in it.  And your pets.  Beyond that, forget about it.  Just like below, when discussing a tsunami, people are more important than any keepsake.
  • ·      while evacuating, make sure you have enough gas.  This goes back to always keeping your tank at least half full and having at least a five gallon spare can that you can grab to take with you.
  • ·      leave any gates open for firefighters and others.
  • ·      drive with headlights on.  If it’s smoky, close all windows, and recirculate air inside the vehicle.
  • ·      if you get trapped, park in an area that is clear of vegetation (parking lot, gravel area, dirt), close all windows and vents, cover yourself with a blanket or coat and lie on the floor.  Car tires may burst from heat. 
  • ·      in an extreme situation, you have to consider whether you can stay in your house only if:  your only escape route is blocked; smoke is so thick you can’t travel; you don’t have time to evacuate; or emergency personnel tell you to.
  • ·      You cannot stay in your house if:  you have wood siding or shingles; you’re located in a narrow canyon or on a steep slope; you have a lot of vegetation close around the house.  Find a neighbor with a better house.
  • ·      if you do stay in a house, do the following:  use a sprinkler or the sprinkler system to wet the yard.  Wet the roof with a hose.  Turn off all propane and gas.  Close all windows and doors.  Move fabric covered furniture away from large windows or sliding doors.  Turn off everything that circulates air through the house.  Close all interior doors.


99% of what Writers are hearing in terms of advice comes from 1% of Authors.

So how much actually applies and is useful?

I recently taught at a conference that forced me to get back to basics. Both in terms of the craft of writing and the business. Like many agents and editors, successful authors, after years in the trenches, become a bit jaded, and we also tend to forget what it was like to be on the outside looking in.

Looking at many conferences and conventions we see the same names presenting, again and again. Normally, they are very successful authors, whether indie or trad, who indeed have a lot of great information to impart. Still, the same person saying the same thing at a lot of conferences the same year might be overkill. The same is true of popular blogs where the same party line is touted, without considering the nuanced sides to every issue. After all, I’ve never seen a business event in publishing to be all good or all bad. Every thing has shades to it that every writer has to factor into their own personal situation.

IMG_1247But, after all, we want to hear from success stories, not failures. Still, if it were easy to replicate those successes, then everyone would be doing it. Plus, many success stories feel their path is the path, and don’t take into account not only other paths, but the changes in the business and even in story telling since they started.

For decades the spiel was pretty much the same: write a great novel following a traditional form of narrative structure (I still teach the five part structure) and then query an agent, hope the agent takes you on, then the agent pitches an editor, etc. etc. etc.

That’s somewhat true now, but there are so many more options, if I were new to publishing I’d be completely confused, as many writers I’ve met at conferences are.

First—does what the 1% say regarding their career path even apply any more? Things are different now than they were just six months ago. For trad authors issues like rights granted, reversion clauses, and non-compete clauses are growing more and more important. For indie authors, the market is saturated, so how do you get a toehold in it and leverage your way up, especially if you don’t have backlist, which is the conundrum for the new author?

When I was listening to an agent present I felt like I was in a time warp going back five years or more. Much of what she said was applicable but some of it had cobwebs hanging all over it. In fact, the success story she touted was a couple of years out of date and no longer applicable. But in a similar manner, I’ve heard some on the indie side speak and while what they say is often cutting edge, the cut is often very much slanted toward indie, while disparaging to trad publishing. I tend to believe for a new author, trad is probably the better option simply because the learning curve in publishing is so steep, that to learn it and break in while publishing yourself (while still writing, being a parent, working a job, etc.) might be more a cliff than a curve.  I think it all co-exists, much like Cool Gus & Sassy Becca above.

Second—does narrative structure even hold true in a different story-telling market? I turn to TV for this as my wife and I spend an inordinate amount of time watching it (she always controls the remote and she’s always right about what to watch). Shows like Orange Is The New Black do things to story (time hops, protagonist really not being part of climactic scene, etc) that are non-traditional but fascinating.

While I teach the basic narrative structure, I do so as part of craft, always reminding writers that to be true artists they have to learn the rules, then break them.

The same is true of the business. We hear “This is the way to do it!” shouted, but is it for you? Actually, the true entrepreneur blazes a new path. One reason I’ve stayed alive in publishing for a quarter century is I never thought I had it made. Every author I know who thought they had it made, ended their career the second they thought that. I’ve constantly reinvented myself and still am. I’m doing things differently now, both creatively and business-wise, than I was six months ago.

I want to hear from you—the writers getting all this great advice from so many sources. What have you heard that you liked, didn’t like and what do you want to hear that hasn’t been spoken yet?

A 25 Year Series Arc: The Green Berets re-launched (discounted & free)

patch-500x500Write what you know is a maxim often preached to writers. When I began writing over 25 years ago, I followed it, writing novels based on my continuing experience as a soldier, particularly as a Special Forces soldier. Thus, I believe on key to my Green Beret series is insight into a mindset less than 1% of American have experienced (much less than that if you consider just Special Operations).

I started my first novel in 1988. It ended up being the second book in my Green Beret series: Dragon Sim-13. I wrote the most recent book in the Green Beret series: Chasing the Lost in 2013 and am writing the ninth book in the series now, Chasing the Son. We’re re-launching the updated entire series discounted or free on Nook (.99), iBooks, Kobo, and Google (Free) this week to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the introduction of my main character in the series, Dave Riley. Much like me, Riley has been through a lot of over the year.  Here are all the links to the books on all platforms on one page including audiobook excerpts.

What a long strange trip it’s been.

Dave went from an NCO to a Warrant Officer to a private contractor to retired and living on Dafuskie Island. Along the way, he lost a love, fought many battles, and met Horace Chase to launch a new part of his life in the Low Country.

HelicoptersThat first book back in 1988 was initially titled Payback. It was set in Russia, not China. Of course, the Cold War ending put the end to that. I had to rewrite it and thus Eyes of the Hammer became the first book published.

I went into Special Forces when it wasn’t sheik. When my Infantry Battalion executive officer flat out told me I was destroying my ‘career’ by applying to the Special Forces Qualification Course. I pinned on the crossed arrows of the newly minted Special Forces branch at Ft. Benning while attending the Infantry Officer Advanced Course. That didn’t go over well there.

I was part of the committee at Ft. Bragg that completely revamped the Q-Course to update it. That helped design the new Special Forces branch. That wrote manuals focused on fighting Low Intensity Conflict, as it was called then, that led into the War On Terror. And, once off active duty and in the reserves, was constantly called to active duty for various tours of duty in various places around the globe, usually not tourist attractions.

I incorporated all this experience into my books. While I took a bit of turn toward science fiction in Synbat (which foreshadowed my career as a scifi writer with 3 #1 bestselling series), I stayed true to Dave Riley. He disappeared for a while after Z (terrible title!), but then I wrote Chasing the Ghost about another ex Spec-Ops guy, set in Boulder, Colorado, where I lived for a time. And I realized Riley and Chase has to meet and they did in Chasing the Lost, which I consider one of my best books. And that book flows naturally into the next book which will be out later this year. I love my cast of misfits and veterans in the low country; sort of my version of Deadwood. A lawless place where there’s a lot of violence in the shadows.

Sneak PeakSo this week, we’re celebrating Riley’s return to these platforms and the partnership of Riley & Chase.

Nothing but good times ahead.

With lots of shooting.

And, if you haven’t yet, download my free Sneak Peeks which has excerpts from all the Green Beret books (and many authors).


Survival Friday: Nuclear Power Plants

Survival Friday: Excerpt from The Green Beret Survival Guide SurvivalFinal

Three Mile Island.


Do you live near a nuclear plant?  They usually don’t advertise their location.  I didn’t realize there was one nearby in North Caroline until I was flying in to Raleigh-Durham Airport and saw the cooling tower.

Here is a list of nuclear power reactor sites:

Here’s what’s really scary about that list.  Look how old they are.

Realize, that there are more nuclear facilities than just reactors.  When I lived in Boulder, the glow from Rocky Flats south of town was always enchanting.  The Savannah River Site in South Carolina?  And since I wrote a bestselling series on Area 51, do you know what’s just west of there?  The Nevada Test Site is where we tested most of our nukes.

So what to do, other than move far, far away?

Let’s focus on a meltdown as I’ll cover a nuclear explosion later, under NBC:  Nuclear, Biological, Chemical. 

Nuclear power plants work by using heat from the reaction to convert water into steam, which powers generators.  They produce around 20% of our country’s electricity.  Over three million Americans live with ten miles of a nuke plant.  That radius is important because emergency response plans have two zones.  One is the ten-mile radius where people can be hit by direct radiation exposure.  The other is a fifty-mile radius where radiation can contaminate water supplies, crops and livestock.

Without getting into physicist speak, here are the basics:  radiation is the danger.  Even if you are a distance from the plant, radiation can get into the air through venting or explosion.  You want to avoid exposure from material on the ground, from inhaling it, or ingesting it.  Here are the keys to minimize your exposure:

  • ·      Distance.  Get away.  The further you are from the source of the radiation, the better.  If it is going into the air, check prevailing wind patterns.  If you want some history on this, check out how Chernobyl dispersed radiation across Russia and Europe.
  • ·      Shielding.  Put heavy, dense, material between you and the source of the radiation.  That is why paper works well.  Hunker down in the middle of a library.  Or a records center.  Or a newspaper recycle bin—think about it.
  • ·      There are a series of alerts, curiously named, that you should be aware of it you live near a reactor: 
  • ·      Notification of Unusual Event:  a minor problem has occurred but no radiation has leaked or is expected to leak.  We’re just notifying you because the law says so and we want to scare you.  But no action on your part is necessary.
  • ·      Alert:  A small problem has occurred and small amounts of radiation have or may leak inside the facility.  This won’t affect you—we hope—and you don’t have to do anything.  Personally, I’d be bugging out.  Because they are, in essence, telling you they’ve had a breach of containment. They wouldn’t be telling you that unless absolutely necessary.
  • ·      Site Area Emergency:  They’re a little vague on this one.  Area sirens may sound.  Listen to your radio or television for safety info.  I’d be listening to the radio while leaving.
  • ·      General Emergency:  Radiation could be coming off the plant site.  Sirens are sounding.  Dogs are barking.  Frogs are falling from the sky.  Tune to radio/TV for information.  I’d check the information first, before bugging.  Because you might be better off hunkering down inside your house than going through a radiation cloud.
  • ·      Measures to be taken in a nuclear emergency:
  • ·      Keep windows closed in your house and car.  Use re-circulating air.
  • ·      If you are advised to stay in your house:
  • ·      turn of the air conditioner, ventilation fans, furnace and any other air intakes into the house.
  • ·      go to the basement or other underground area.
  • ·      If you have been exposed to nuclear radiation:
  • ·      take off all clothing.  Bag it and seal it.  Don’t ever wear it again.  Safely dispose of as soon as possible.
  • ·      take a thorough shower.  You are literally washing radiation off you.
  • ·      put fresh, unexposed clothing on.
  • ·      Any exposed food should be disposed off.

The bottom line is to get as far away as quickly and as far as possible if you can. 


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 115,222 other followers

%d bloggers like this: