Do You Have A Family Rally Point? Out of Area Emergency Contact?

Given the recent tragedy in England, it occurs to me that most families do not have sufficient emergency preparation plans. I’m just blasting this out while this is still in everyone’s consciousness so you can take a few minutes and just do a few basics that can be life-saving, and at the very least, anxiety-reducing. It’s too late to do these things after an emergency has happened!

Just some quick things to think about:

1. Does everyone know each other’s phone numbers? We’re overly reliant on auto-dial, but in an emergency there are many reasons we might not be able to use or have access to our own cell phone and might have to use someone else’s or a landline.

2. Do you have an out of area emergency contact that everyone in the family will contact if they can’t get in touch which each other due to a local disaster? If everyone is scattered and communication is bad, everyone needs the same point of contact who would not be affected by a local emergency (think earthquake, tornado, hurricane, etc). Each family member should know the phone number and address of that person.

3. Do you have an Immediate Rally Point near your house? (Statistics show that 52% of families don’t!)

The IRP and the ERP: These are two places you need to pick.

IRP stands for Immediate Rally Point. This is a point outside of your home, where your family can gather if they have to evacuate the house for some reason. The most likely reason for that would be if there was a fire. It needs to be a place that’s easily identifiable and not far from the house. It’s also the place where your family/team will rendezvous if they can’t go into the house for whatever reason, but need to assemble from other locations, such as school and/or work. A street intersection near the home works well.

4. Do you have an Emergency Rally Point (ERP)? This is where your family/team will rendezvous if they have to evacuate the house during a moderate or extreme emergency and have to stay for at least a day or more, with the possibility of not returning. Your ERP is the alternative to your home. It is where you plan to survive during a moderate to extreme emergency when your home is untenable. It is where your team gathers if unable to gather at home or the IRP. It is as likely an emergency will happen while the family is scattered– at work, school, etc. and you need home, IRP and ERP already designated in order.

There are no hard and fast rules when you should utilize the ERP. Every situation is going to be different. The key is to prepare the ERP. It cannot be prepared after the emergency has begun. There’s a  more to all this, such as considerations for the ERP, and it, and a lot more, is in Prepare Now-Survive Later. But i just wanted to put this out there for immediate consideration, especially the list below.

Stay safe. Stay positive.

For more free information, sign up for my blog on the right.



Live, Die, Repeat and Repeat?

I just re-watched Edge of Tomorrow, re-titled Live, Die, Repeat by the studios, with my uncle who is visiting. I noted some things I hadn’t caught first time around. Also it was just announced that there will be another movie, but not a sequel, but a prequel sequel, which makes sense. I can see pitching this as Groundhog Day meets Alien. The man who wrote the story said he was inspired by video games, where you get to come back to life and re-fight the same battle over and over until you master it.

I’m not a big Tom Cruise fan but I though this was one of his better roles as he was able to poke fun at himself. Emily Blunt was very good in her role as Sergeant Vrataski.

In LDR, a couple of things. When they kiss at the end– not sure I buy it. She only knew him for that day and didn’t seem in her character.

Also, she was the hero of Verdun– while it sounds cool, Verdun is in France. Yet when they show maps, the Mimics own most of mainland Europe, including Verdun. So what gives there? I must have missed something.

And, it occurs to me– did we stop making tanks? The suits were cool but sort of the way Starship Trooper went off the rails big time, it seems like tanks would make crunchies out of aliens. (Crunchies is what tankers call the Infantry BTW). Lots of cool tilt wing aircraft, as a jumpmaster thought the “jump” sequences were cool, but there were no tanks on the beach. Even on D-Day, they pushed to get tanks on the beach with the first wave, rigging some with canvas boats around them– almost all sank. No tanks, no artillery, no naval gun support I could see, some jets flying high overhead, but the focus is on the grunt. Of course, combat always comes down to boots on the ground, so . . .

I’m in that pondering time travel thing as I finish up Valentines Day for publication later this month.

Nothing but good times ahead. And ahead. And ahead. And yesterday. And today. And tomorrow. Creeps in that petty pace from day to day– okay, enough.

Thoughts on LDR?


“You Can’t Try To Do Things; You Simply Must Do Them.” Ray Bradbury

Words are important. I was recently reading one of my older books and I kept noticing unnecessary words. It’s a tendency of mine. What are the words and why do I use them? That’s an issue that’s bigger than just editing. It gives me insight into my creative process.This is an area of writing I spent more and more time on. I just prepared a new workshop about it; what I view as going from the craft of writing into the art of writing. It’s what my wife and I work with people on during our Writing Scenic Workshops. That’s the best bang for your time and energy because a lot of if is subconscious but if we become aware of it, we can change it.

Am I qualifying statements? Is my point of view ‘floating’?

In life we do the same. We qualify. We use words like “maybe” “some day” “if only” “try”.

The saying from Ray Bradbury cuts to the core of this. It’s also what we called the “wanna-be” syndrome in Special Operations. Lots of people want to wear a Green Beret or the SEAL trident. But do they want to actually BE a Green Beret or SEAL?

The other day I got asked: “What is the best preparation I can do to survive Special Forces training?” My instinctual response was: If you phrase it that way, you won’t ‘survive’. The question should be “What is the best preparation to succeed at Special Forces training?” There is a profound difference between the two questions. It’s the standing wave front of our conscious and subconscious mind that we’re propagating. Which affects our reality.

I see it in query letters by authors. They’re “Hoping”. They phrase things in the negative. They’re backing into their future instead of striding face forward into it.

So instead of saying “I’m going to try . . . ”

Say “I’m going to do . . .”

Nothing but good times ahead!

Why did Custer lead half the 7th Cavalry into a massacre?

Last in his class at West Point. What we called the “goat”. He had some of his men executed for going AWOL, yet went AWOL himself when he wanted to. He was the youngest general in the Civil War. He was gifted the desk on which the surrender was signed at Appomattox. Custer is a controversial figure. The first trip my wife and I ever took was a road trip out to Little Big Horn– turns out she’d also been fascinated by the battle. I’d never really understood what happened until I got there. Once I saw terrain, it all fell into place.

Was Custer more focused on the upcoming Centennial and national convention in St. Louis than the matter at hand? Too much in a rush for glory?

When I was in the 1st Cavalry Division they used to play Garry Owen. And the 7th Cavalry was one of the units. I was in the 1st of the 12th Cavalry. My horse was named George. Not. Anyway– here’s some of the info on Custer:

If you’re out west and in the area, I highly recommend stopping by Little Big Horn and studying the terrain on which the battle was fought. My own theory is that Custer was among the fist wounded crossing the river and because too many people in the section he took with him had family ties to him, the command structure broke down quickly. There are other theories. The bottom line: half the the 7th Cav was wiped. The story of the survivors is also quite interesting.

How Does GPS work?

One of those things we take for granted. Perhaps too much. But understanding the basics of the system helps.

I’m wrapping up Valentines Day and researching for Area 51: Resurrection. Flew back from my last conference flight yesterday. Early June I’m teaching at Desert Dreams, but that will be a Jeep road trip. Already planning some stops, including Monument Valley, Sedona, Escalante Staircase, and Indian Peaks in the Rockies. What else should I see in AZ, Utah, Colorado area?

Notes from a Writers Panel

I just listened to a panel of authors at the Northern Colorado Writers Conference. Here are some questions and answers, as best I could write them down. The panel consisted of Kerrie Flanagan, Jon Davis, Chuck Wendig, Denise Vega and Warren Hammond.

The replies are approximations, not exact quotes, so please don’t hold anyone accountable!

What’s the best piece of writing advice you ever received?

Denise Vega: Don’t follow trends

Chuck Wendig: Finish what you start

Kerrie Flanagan: When someone says “no” you say “next”

What consistent piece of advice you give your students?

Jon Davis: Start the next book

When you’re stuck; what do you do to get past that?

Chuck Wendig: I look at my mortgage payments

Denise Vega: I move. I free my brain up. I ask myself a question—whether about a scene or a character? Sometimes I take it to bed and wake up with the answer.

Warren Hammond: step back. let your subconscious work on it.

Jon Davis: I used to write screenplays. I let the computer read it back to me in its terrible voice. Gives me a new perspective.

When are you ready to submit when you’re? How do you know when its done since it can always be better.

Warren Hammond: It’s never finished; you just give up.

Denise Vega: Raymond Carver said when you take all the commas out and put them back in, you’re ready.

Chuck Wendig: Use beta readers; but once you have five or six books you have a feel.


Denise Vega: Sometimes you have to change your process. How do you work best? Try different things. I used to not plan or plot—now I’m doing it and it’s going so much better.

Jon Davis: Take a screenwriting course. It teaches you about the shape of a story. I’ve used a screenplay as an outline.

What things do you use to help creativity?

Jon Davis: I spent some weeks in a famine house in cold weather in Ireland. Being away from everyone for three weeks.

Kerrie Flanagan: Getting away. Go to a cabin with no internet. No TV. Just yourself and your thoughts.

April Moore NCW conference chair—we have a retreat. Being around other writers gives creative energy. (link)

How do you carve out the time to write?

Denise Vega: On Sunday I write out my schedule and put writing in just like any other appointment. It’s sacred time.

Kerrie Flanagan: Train the people around you to give you time.

Jon Davis: No one wants you to write—they want you to have written. It’s your job.

Chuck Wendig: Treat it like a job. A regular job. Would you treat someone in an office like this?

How far in your writing journey did you have the realization you are a writer?

Kerrie Flanagan: At Universal Studios. When people asked me I would say “I used to be a teacher.” At universal studios there was a sweatshirt that said WRITER. I bought the shirt and it reminds me all the time. We have to accept it and own it. So go get a sweatshirt.

Denise Vega: If you’re writing, you’re a writer. You don’t have to be published to be a writer. I had people around me supporting me.

What time of you day do you like to write?

Kerrie: Creative in the morning. Business in the afternoon.

Chuck: Same.

Denise: I don’t check my email first. Morning tends to be better. But whenever I find the time.

What % do you spent on the business?

Denise: It varies. In children’s books there’s an expectation you’re going to help market. I’m spending a lot of time connecting with booksellers, readers, etc. But often it’s a procrastination technique; I’ll do that instead of working on my book. Checking email is not going to help you solve the problem if you’re stuck.

Chuck: 75% to craft. 25% to business. You don’t need to be on social media.

Social media?

Denise: if it feels like a chore, it’s not good. I’m pulling back. I’m not convinced it helps with sales.

Warren: Publishers latched onto social media as free marketing. There are some success stories. Publishers push the marketing back on authors. There are a lot of authors who aren’t good at it. There are authors who get in trouble on social media. Social media should be more of an afterthought. Writers write. Publishers sell books.

Chuck: The more you’re willing to do, the less your publisher has to do. You’re training your publisher. Don’t do that. You want your publisher to get you opportunities. My career has kind of been made by social media. It’s not a great place to sell books. Keep that noise down. Promote other people. More people want to know what I like rather than what I promote. The professional value of social media is to engage with readers; to make professional connections. It’s a professional watercooler. I like social media.

Kerrie: One thing people don’t think of is writing for magazines. A byline is valuable and you can put your web site there. I get a lot of contacts that way.

Chuck: Branding might be a bad thing for writers- no one wants to read Coca-Cola.

Denise: Finding the joy in the work is key. I focused too much on “Will this book get published” I lost it. I had to re-find it.


It’s always good to hear other creative people talk about their process and their reality. The longer I’ve done this, the more I want to learn how to do things differently. And the best way do that is to listen to others.

Class of 1840– United States Military Academy

This the listing of graduates from that class. There were 41 graduates. The number, called a Cullum Number, is a cumulative number starting from the first graduate of the Academy.

There were 41 graduates in this class. Note #1022. It’s interesting to see where various graduates ended up and their fate.


What William T. Sherman predicted for the Civil War in 1860– and was sent home as “crazy”.

Sherman wrote this to another professor at Louisiana State Seminary (where he taught) in 1860, seeing the inevitability of a Civil War. Sherman had seen combat in the Seminole Wars.

You people of the South don’t know what you are doing. This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end. It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization! You people speak so lightly of war; you don’t know what you’re talking about. War is a terrible thing! You mistake, too, the people of the North. They are a peaceable people but an earnest people, and they will fight, too. They are not going to let this country be destroyed without a mighty effort to save it … Besides, where are your men and appliances of war to contend against them? The North can make a steam engine, locomotive, or railway car; hardly a yard of cloth or pair of shoes can you make. You are rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical, and determined people on Earth — right at your doors. You are bound to fail. Only in your spirit and determination are you prepared for war. In all else you are totally unprepared, with a bad cause to start with. At first you will make headway, but as your limited resources begin to fail, shut out from the markets of Europe as you will be, your cause will begin to wane. If your people will but stop and think, they must see in the end that you will surely fail.

Sherman was sent home early in the Civil War because of his extreme pessimism– he was deemed a bit crazy. Turns out he was very accurate. A piece of trivia I also discovered researching my Duty, Honor, Country books was that he was ship-wrecked not once, but twice, coming in to San Francisco harbor. And he was on the expedition that confirmed the discovery of gold in CA, which started the gold rush.

Here’s his entry in the Cullum Register of Graduates for West Point where he is #1022, which means he is the 1,022 graduate of the Academy. Hmm, had to look mine up. I get #38625. Still, that’s not a lot since 1802.

Hidden History: “Fear not death too much, nor fear death too little . . .

. . .  lest you fail in your hopes; not too little, lest you die presumptuously. And here I must conclude with my prayers to God for it, and that he would have mercy on your soul.” The Lord Chief Justice on 29 October 1618 to Sir Walter Raleigh who was awaiting execution.

Raleigh had been living under a death sentence for a couple of decades, but his luck had finally run out in 1618.