Area 51: Interstellar

Area 51: Interstellar. The pre-order is live on the 12th book in the epic Area 51 series. I wrote this book differently, so that readers who have not previously experience any of the books can actually start with this one and by the end of it, they are looped back into where the series currently stands.

And those who have read the previous books, will enjoy having some of the key questions raised in the previous books answered.

Here’s the blurb:

Many millennia ago, humans, including us, were seeded on fifteen worlds by an alien race, the Airlia.

We believe we evolved, but the reality is we were bred as cannon fodder for the Airlia’s interstellar war against the Swarm, a viral race whose only mission appears to be the obliteration of sentient life wherever encountered.

On some worlds humans realized the truth about their origins, uncovered their hidden alien overlords and rebelled. On one world they succeeded, but in the process destroyed their planet. They sent teams to the other worlds to foment uprisings. Our Earth is one. Earth15 is also one of those worlds.

One of those teams, Bren and her mate Marcus, have been leading revolution on Earth15 off and on for thousands of years, slowly eroding the power of the Duo, the Airlia who rule as gods. But today she encounters Arcturus, a man who claims the impossible: he was on the planet before the Airlia.

If this blasphemy is true, what other truths need to be uncovered about the history and origin of mankind and our place among the stars? Who are we?

(Please note cover copy not final)

Meanwhile, Scout seems to be growing, much to Cool Gus’ dismay.

Stuff Doesn’t Just Happen (book free today)

It really doesn’t. Any man-made disaster usually has seven cascade events, with the seventh being the disaster. At least one of the six previous ones is always human error, if not more. Thus there is a Gift to Failure, if we study it, in order to prevent future, similar failures.

Today 2/16 and tomorrow, 2/17, Stuff Doesn’t Just Happen: The Gift of Failure I is free on Kindle. It examines seven great failures and the events leading up to them.

This book is about catastrophes and how to avoid them, mitigate their effects and learn from them as seen from the perspective of the Masters of Chaos: United States Army Special Forces (Green Berets). Taking the attitude shit happens is negative and is fatal. In this book we learn why propane has a smell; how crash positions in airplanes were refined; how economic bubbles happen over and over; how failures in leadership lead to murder, cannibalism and massacre; and much more.

Titanic: Systematic Failure
Kegworth Plane Crash: The Danger of Deferring to Authority and Experts
Little Big Horn: Leadership Failure
New London Schoolhouse Explosion: Lack of Focus
The Donner Party: Social Disintegration
From Tulips to the Housing Bubble: Greed Overwhelms Reality
Apollo 13: Success Snatched from the Jaws of Catastrophe

The bottom line is we can predict and prevent most catastrophes because every one has at least one man made factor, of the 7 cascade events, involved. In other words, we have control over whether shit happens. But it means changing a complacent mindset, getting rid of delusional thinking, and viewing the world around us in a Green Beret way.

Because sh!t doesn’t just happen.

Write What You Know?

We hear that all the time. Since I was abducted by aliens, I wrote the Area 51 series to describe the mothership and what they were like and it did rather well.

Or write what you want to know? The bottom line is write.

For my fifth book, Cut Out, the idea was a combination of things. One was an article I read that said an international treaty forbids militarizing Antarctica. Given my natural sunny and optimistic nature I immediately thought: Okay, how did we violate this treaty? We put something down there, nuclear weapons, and lost track of them. I’ve worked for the government. It can happen.

My wife also worked for the government at the National Records Center in St. Louis. And thus was born our heroine in this story who finds some old photos and wonders what they’re of.

The story, of course, leads to Antarctica with my hero, Dave Riley, who is now a civilian working as a contractor, providing security.

Interestingly, I’ve just realized that Dave Riley can make an appearance in New York Minute, my next thriller. It’s set in New York City in 1977 during that long hot summer. Riley is 17, and that’s the year he entered the Army.

Speaking about “write what you know” New York Minute is a classic example of that. I grew up in NYC. I remember that summer. Son of Sam shot a girl I’d gone to elementary school with. One of my uncles worked for the Fire Department on 138th St. in the Bronx and that was the year of the infamous “the Bronx is burning” and the Blackout. New York Minute is a book close to my heart.

Write whatever you want. But just write!

What Is An Area Study And Why Should You Do One?

The first thing we did when we were assigned a mission in Special Forces was an Area Study. We examined WHERE the mission would occur in detail. We all need to do an area study of where we live, work, go to school and travel. It is the very first step of preparation, because it focuses you, yet I’ve not seen it in any other survival or prep guide I’ve researched.

An Area Study is simply examining your environment with the perspective of evaluating possible assets and threats so you can properly prepare. An Area Study will allow you to tighten down your preparation and focus on things in order of priority. It’s not just the environment but also includes yourself and your team.

You must conduct an Area Study of your Area of Operations (AO). This means studying your home, your work, school, and any other locales where you and people on your A-Team 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. Preparation is so much better than reacting. Which is what we’re doing now.

Area Studies can have non-emergency uses, such as if you’re considering moving to a new place. An Area Study can provide valuable decision making data.

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 flees at the same time on the same route creating a traffic jam? You work on the 40th 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? While schools run active shooter drills, what about the work place?

You’ve already begun your Area Study and didn’t even realize it by doing Task Two in the book. Some of the core questions are already answered: How close are you to the nearest military base? Nearest police station? Firehouse? Hospital? 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? When my wife and I lived on a winding road that was difficult and confusing to travel, during one medical emergency my wife had to be driven to the nearest largest road to meet an ambulance as it came toward us, saving considerable time and perhaps her life.

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 is the terrain and how can it help you or hamper you in movement? What are the roads, trails, rail, etc. What effect does your environment have on you? What effect will you have on it?

You don’t have to answer these questions right now, but you will soon.

In essence, an Area Study requires you to invest some time and energy on research and to look at your surroundings from a different perspective. It can actually be a fun experience and allow you to see the world around you with a different perspective. Get your A-Team involved because we all look at things a little bit differently.

When my A-Team traveled, my engineers would always be looking at things they saw with a unique perspective. When they saw a bridge, they were mentally calculating how to blow it up. When they saw a stream, they were thinking how to provide a water supply to villagers and irrigation for fields. My weapons men would look at terrain for fields of fire for direct and indirect fire weapons. And cover and concealment for us. As a survivor, you have to look at your environment in terms of what you can use and what can be a threat, what can be scavenged and much more, which requires you to assume a different mindset for a while.

We live in a variety of natural environments. There are also a wide range of human developments from urban to remote rural. Thus one size doesn’t fit all.

Doing an Area Study is critical so you can tailor your preparation (and the information in this book) for your specific situation. Some threats are going to be of much more importance for you to prepare for than others. For instance, if you live in Oklahoma, the threat of hurricane is nonexistent (so far), but tornados and earthquakes are likely.

More detail in The Procastinator’s Survival Guide.

Writer’s Need Mule-Like Stupidity

Substitute the word ‘books’ and you’ve got it. Early in my career, which has now spanned three decades, while I was living in a one-room unheated apartment above a garage, I used to say I could make a lot more money doing other things, such as gun-slinging as a contractor. Besides the fact I wouldn’t do that, it just never occurred to me to stop writing.

Now that I’m older those options have dwindled to the only option I want: keep writing.

I often get asked what the key to success is, what the marketing secret is, and I always say: write a book. Then I get asked: What next? Write another book.

Being a writer makes no economic or practical sense. When you tell people you’re a writer, often they’ll ask “What do you do for a living, then?” Or they’ll ask what you’ve written and say they never heard of it.

The naysayers will far out number the supporters. In fact, the supporters will be few and far between.

I’m always amazed when I hear about people who get discouraged because some writing instructor said bad things about their writing. Some people even quit, which is incomprehensible to me– giving control of your passion to someone else means the passion wasn’t there. That doesn’t mean negative words don’t hurt, but use them as motivation.

There are times over my career when I fall in what I call the “black hole” where there is no positive news, things look dismal and you do start to think you have some of mental disorder trying to do this for a living. I think of the title to a book by one of my favorite authors, Kate Atkinson.

Nah, we’re just STUPID. But in a good way.

And then come good times when the news is positive and things are clicking. The same is true with the writing. There are days when it’s agony and my wife does not like me being around as I’m in a foul mood as my brain his churning with thoughts of “This is awful, this idea and story suck, it will never work”. And there are days where the writing flows and the characters are alive. Here’s a piece of advice I’ve learned: the actual writing on either of those days is the SAME. Some may disagree with that, but after seventy-five books, I’ve seen a lot of evidence to that.

So what we must do is simple: write.

Here’s to mule-like stupidity!

PS: another hard-earned lesson: almost no one will tutor you on what you need to be an author. How to run a business as a writer, which is critical to success. I took what I did in Special Forces and applied it to the writing world in Write It Forward.

The Wife– a must see movie

We recently watched The Wife (because my wife always has the controls and always finds the best stuff to watch, and even if she didn’t, I would say she did, because I’ve gotten wiser in my old age).

First, this is a must see, but especially for writers. Trying to avoid spoilers, but let’s say it does touch on the very nature of creativity and how we write. Where does story come from? Is the actual writing the key or the idea or the editing?

Second, Glenn Close gives an Oscar-worthy performance. She plays the wife of an author who has just won the Nobel Prize for Literature. What unwinds as the movie plays along is the time in Sweden for the prize with flashbacks (yes, the dreaded flashback) to their early life together.

The truth is slowly unveiled, but more importantly, this movie, based on the book, The Wife, by Meg Wolitzer, raises some devastating questions about the nature of people and relationships.

These characters are real. They have real joy and real fights. They have a real relationship that has its up and downs.

The ending is intriguing and, as the best stories do, makes you think. There is no convenient black and white, clear-cut wrap up. Nor are the characters all good or all bad. In fact, a great discussion is who actually was the “worse” of the two? Was there a worse?

On other matters– the first three books of my Atlantis series are only .99 each. Just saying. Cool Gus needs to be fed. And Scout is growing fast.

And I’ve added more free slideshows on writing and survival on my free slideshows page.

On Writing: Dumb and Dumber

I mentioned in a previous post about ideas that title is important and how my first book published, Eyes of the Hammer, failed in that regard? As did my second book: Dragon Sim-13.

By the time my third book rolled around I was much smarter. Not.

I got cute. I invented a word: SYNBAT.

You know what that stands for, right? Of course not. Which leads me to my rule of thumb that a title should not need you to read the book in order to understand it. That’s backwards. Unless (because there are no hard and fast rules in writing) the title is evocative enough to get you to read the book and then you understand the meaning.

For example, one of my next books coming out will be New York Minute. I think its evocative as well as being the title of an Eagle’s song. The story is set in New York City, so that’s good. And here’s the really scary thing. I didn’t know it when I’d chosen the title and started writing the book, but the Minute thing turns out playing a HUGE role in the story and is central to the actions in the climactic scene. So. Trust the subconscious.

Back to inventing a title. I’d started with straight military thrillers in Eyes of the Hammer and Dragon Sim-13. But my mind wanders, as my career clearly indicates.

With my third book I drifted toward science fiction as I pondered the idea: how will scientists use genetics to ‘improve’ the soldier? Thus SYNBAT which you knew stood for Synthetic Battle form. Right?

This was in the early 90s so the science wasn’t as advanced as it is now, but I projected forward, which is the duty of the fiction writer. I envisioned a merging of humans and baboons to create killing machines. Add on top of that an ability to procreate and fast growth and you essentially have a military virus.

As an interesting side note on this book, at the very end a dog plays a key role in saving the day. I named the dog Chelsea, after our Golden Retriever who was with us for so many years. The editor came back and said I can’t name a dog after the First Daughter. That gives you an idea of the time period.

So we’re three books into my career and its obvious I’d learned little on the business side of things. I hadn’t been to any writers conferences, wasn’t a member of a writing group. I was basically fumbling my way alone into the publishing business, which is never good.

More to come.

Why We Must Stop Procrastinating and Start Preparing?

We all need we need to “be prepared”. But what does that mean? Where do we start? There’s so much information out there and the image of hunkering down in a bunker, fending off zombies is overwhelming. But the real problems are real and WILL happen to all of us.

We know we need to do something, but we’re not sure what, and there’s just so much other stuff to do in day-to-day living we never get around to that something that could save our lives and the lives of the people we love.

80% of Americans live in a county that has been hit by a weather related disaster since 2007

60% of people have not practiced or prepared for what to do in an emergency

55% of people think they can rely on the “authorities” to rescue them

53% of people do not have a three day supply of water

52% of families do not have an emergency rally point (ERP)

48% of people have no emergency supplies

44% of people have no first aid kit

42% of people do not know the phone numbers of immediate family members

In the Green Berets, the most important thing that made us elite was our planning. We not only thoroughly planned our missions, we also prepared for all the possible things we could imagine going wrong.

You prepare for 3 reasons:

To avoid the emergency.

To have a plan, equipment, training etc. in place in case the emergency strikes.

To give you peace of mind in day-to-day living so you don’t constantly have to worry about potential emergencies because you are prepared for them. This allows you to experience a higher quality of life.

Procrastination comes from the Latin: pro= forward; crastinus=belonging to tomorrow. Which is a bit redundant, but you get the point. When we procrastinate we stay in a constant state of worry, knowing there’s something that needs to be done, but hasn’t been.

My latest book, The Procrastinator’s Survival Guide was written with you in mind. To show you how to start small and build. It has a number of tasks in it that build your preparation.

By ticking off these tasks, your peace of mind will expand.

Clear and Present Danger?

Great title, eh? I listened to Mary Higgins Clark speak one day and she said a title must invite the reader into the book. It seems so obvious now, but when I was a newbie writer, I didn’t know this, nor did I focus on it.

As my wife and psychologist will tell you, I have focus issues among some of my brain problems.

No one else told me about the importance of title either. Or, let’s be honest, perhaps they did and I was too obstinate to listen. Which has happened once or twice.

The second book I wrote, which was actually my first book published, was about Special Forces going into Colombia to interdict drug traffickers. Sound familiar? Remember I said that no idea is unique?

I wrote this book because I understood from the inside how such an operation might go down and also the inherent risks. One of the first things we did in Special Forces after we got a mission packet in Isolation, after all the briefers had left, was ask ourselves: What if this is a lie? What if the real mission is something else and we’re being used as a diversion? As a maneuvering piece in a larger geo-political game?

I was already into my third book when my agent finally got me my first book contract, which was, no surprisingly, a three book deal. It was with Presidio Press, a nonfiction military publisher which was now testing the fiction waters given the Naval Institute Press’ massive success with Tom Clancy’s first book, Hunt for Red October (another good title).

The first book I wrote was Dragon-Sim 13 (another terrible title) ended up being the second published. Think about that title: what does it mean? In fact, when it sold in paperback the editor said people would think it was a fantasy novel so let’s add Operation Dragon Sim-13.

Back to my first published book, which was very similar to Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger. Did I come up with a title to invited readers into the book? Sure. It’s Eyes of the Hammer.

I mean, WTF does that mean? Well, the Special Forces were the recon team (Eyes) for the airborne platforms with the firepower (the Hammer). You knew that right? Right?

Arggh. I can’t complain too much as the book has sold a lot over the years, but still.

So. Title is really, really, really important!

BTW, that book, Eyes of the Hammer, is free on every eBook platform as the lead in to my Green Beret series which has sold over a million copies over the years and continues forward. Nothing but good times and better titles ahead!

Did You Set Up The Health App on your iPhone?

We have so many things on our phones, we often don’t focus on them. iPhones come with an App that is easily ignored but can save your life. The Health App is loaded on your iPhone when you buy it. I know I didn’t even notice it until I started researching information for this book. Then again, my wife knows that to hide something in the fridge from me all she has to do is put it behind something. I’ll never find it.

Have you considered what would happen if you were in an accident and not conscious or able to speak? How would someone get hold of your In Case of Emergency (ICE) contact? How would they know if you are allergic to certain medicines? What is your blood type?

Remember, your phone is locked. What information do you carry in your wallet or purse with this information other than driver’s license? And is that up to date with the right address?

On the iPhone go to your Health App, which looks like this:

  1. Launch the Health app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap the Medical ID tab.
  3. Tap Edit in the upper right corner.
  4. Tap Edit Medical ID.
  5. Under Emergency Contacts tap Add emergency contact.
  6. Select a contact from your list.
  7. Select a Relationship.

You can add as much information as you like on this app in the appropriate places.

Just one of many practical, small steps to take to being better prepared as presented in: The Procrastinator’s Survival Guide.