When an artist gets discouraged remember this . . .

There was a young girl who wanted to be a violinist. She practiced hard for many years. Finally, when she was a teenager, her hero, a famous violinist, a master, whom she modeled herself after, was coming to town for a concert. The young girl attended the concert and was able to meet the master afterward back stage. They talked and then the master asked the girl to play something for her, offering her own violin.

The girl took the master’s violin and played her heart out. When she was done, she waited for a response. The master reached out and the girl handed back the violin. The master put it in her case, stood, looked at the girl and said “Not enough passion.” Then she left.

The girl was crushed. She never played the violin again.

Years later, the two crossed paths. The now woman confronted the master and angrily reminded her of what had happened. The master listened, then nodded. “I was right. If what I said was enough to make you quit, you didn’t have enough passion.”

Then she walked away.

Write It Forward.

When Should You Not Trust Experts?

Passenger on British Midland Flight 92 reflecting on hearing the pilot announce he was shutting down the right engine: “We were thinking: ‘Why is he doing that?’ because we saw flame coming out of the left engine. But I was only a bread man. What did I know?”

We put our trust in experts every day. We trust the car we drive will work. The crew of the space shuttle put its trust in the engineers who designed it. A soldier trusts his weapon will fire. Often we put our trust and our lives directly into the hands of experts, such as when we board an airplane. We trust that the people who designed and built the plane knew what they were doing and did it right. We trust that the mechanics who worked on the plane, did so correctly. And we particularly trust that the pilot is a professional.

We believe that the pilots know what they are doing and are well trained. That they will react properly in emergencies. That we shouldn’t interfere with their judgment. After all, what do we know about flying a plane?

Every one of us has been in a situation where we over-rode our common sense in deference to an expert. It can be as simple as a repairman telling us something needs to be fixed, when we really believe they aren’t going to fix the right thing. Or that the chef undercooked our meal. But how often do we speak up?

When we put our lives in the hands of experts, and common sense says they are making the wrong decision, it’s time to speak up. Even if, as is likely, we’re wrong. Because once in a while, they’re wrong.

The Facts

On 8 January 1989, a Boeing 737-400 crashed just short of the runway near Kegworth in the UK. 47 people were killed and 74 received serious injuries out of a complement of 126 on board.

Shortly after taking off and passing through 28,300 feet en route to a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet, a blade detached from the turboprop in the left engine. It resulted in a jolt and a bang. This was followed by a pounding noise, vibration, and smoke coming into the cabin. Several passengers near the rear of the plane noted smoke and sparks coming out of the left engine.

For reasons discussed below, the pilot shut down the plane’s right engine; the wrong engine. The vibration and smoke decreased and they descended to make an emergency landing at East Midland Airport.

Just short of the runway, the vibration and smoke returned as power was increased to the left engine for landing and that engine ceased operating. The crew attempted to restart the right engine using airflow, but because they were getting ready to land, the plane was flying too slow and too low for this to work.

The plane crashed a quarter mile from the edge of the runway.

The seven cascade events that led up to this crash are in Stuff Doesn’t Just Happen: The Gift of Failure. It’s FREE today, 8 January, and always in Kindle Unlimited. Also sign up for my newsletter to be informed of good deals, as I rotate over 70 titles through free and discount.

How to Write and How to be a Writer

The two are somewhat different. There are lots of writing books out there. It seems after a certain number of years writing, each author tries to capture the essence of their craft and art. I first did this in the early 90s, which, yikes, is a while ago. My first draft of the The Novel Writers Toolkit was 11 pages long. And this was after I had published four books traditionally. As the years went by, I added and revised.

The Novel Writers Toolkit was picked up and published by Writers Digest in 2001. It earned out in less than six months. This version was quite a bit longer, needless to say. Once I got the rights back, I continued to revise and update as I learned more. The current version is current. And I just put it in Kindle Unlimited today.

The reason it’s called a Toolkit is I don’t believe you can ever tell a writer: “You can’t do that!” Because I guarantee I can find “That” in a bestselling book somewhere. There are many craft tools. We can only use them wrong.

But that’s how to write the book. What really surprised me in publishing was the lack of books on how to be an author. Every job I’ve held, I end up writing an SOP for it. Standing Operating Procedure. When I first reported to my Special Forces A-Team they had taught me in the Q-Course at Bragg to ask for the team’s SOP. So I arrived at 10th Special Forces, got assigned to a team, and asked for the team SOP. They didn’t have one. They said they knew everything they needed to know.

That didn’t help me much. So we wrote one. Turns out we didn’t know as much as we thought we knew.

Once I became published, I learned many hard lessons, usually by doing things the wrong way. I looked around for guidance and the attitude of agents and editors seemed to be: learn on the job.

Which is a terrible idea. But I understand where it comes from. They know 99% of the writers they work with won’t be around in 10 years so it’s kind of a waste of time to educate each one. But I always wondered: which comes first? The writer failing or the lack of education on the business side helping the writer fail?

So I started writing down what I learned. I had various names for it over the years. Even back when I used to comb bind my workbooks for workshops and conferences (that gives you an idea how long ago it was, well before Print On Demand), I quickly broke my Toolkit into a craft book and a business section.

The business section evolved into Write It Forward: From Writer to Successful Author. Not only did I write about lessons learned, I incorporated things we had done in Special Forces into it.

I have a unique perspective, not just because of my Special Forces background, but also because I have a wide publishing experience: 42 books traditionally published; 9 with an Amazon Publishing imprint, which is very hot right now; and the rest indie published. I’ve hit all the bestseller lists and have made my living as a writer for three decades.

I hope burgeoning writers take advantage of my knowledge as I continue to take advantage of the expertise and knowledge of others. I feel like every year I learn so much more about my craft and business. It’s always evolving.

But here’s something I truly believe after three decades: there’s never been a better time to be a writer!

What Is An Area Study

I’ve just added this section from the Green Beret Preparation and Survival Guide to Wattpad, and here is the excerpt below. An Area Study is the step many people overlook when they begin to prepare but it gives focus to all efforts.


An Area Study is simply examining your environment with the perspective of evaluating 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.

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 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 begun your Area Study and didn’t even realize it by doing Task Two. 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 will it 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, the engineers would be looking at things 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.

The first step is to start with the most important factor: you and those in your A-Team.

More to come.

The Green Beret Preparation and Survival Guide

Accurately Predicting How A War Will Go Will Make People Call You Crazy

First interesting piece of trivia: William Tecumseh Sherman was the first president of the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning and Military Academy, which eventually became LSU.

In 1860, with war clouds on the horizon, he wrote a letter to a fellow professor where he predicated what a Civil War would be like.

Not long into the actual war, after he resigned his post, went north and served the Union, he was sent home for being ‘crazy’ because he was thought to be too pessimistic.

I recently read an interesting biography of him, that I recommend.

Here’s the letter:

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.

Duty, Honor, Country, a novel of West Point and the Civil War.

Welcome to 2020! Time To Get Ready For The Future—Free Books!

There are several books free for you to start the New Year with!
Free today, 1 January 2020 and tomorrow, 2 January, is The Green Beret Preparation and Survival Guide.

I really believe this book is critical for everyone and that’s the reason it’s free to start the year. It’s guides you in preparing, even if you’ve starting from scratch. If you get it and check it, please feel free to leave a review and let us know what you think!
Free today only, 1 January: Lawyers, Guns and Money
Free to 3 January: Eternity Base (Green Berets)
And Nine-Eleven (Time Patrol) is discounted to .99.

All these books are listed HERE
We wish everyone the best for 2020!
Bob & Cool Gus, and even Scout

How To Prepare for and deal with Wildfires

As Australia is learning, wildfires are extremely dangerous. We had one here in the Smokies a couple of years ago that killed a bunch of people. Driving through not long after, you can hardly see the damage to the forest; but you can see the houses that burned. It moved so fast the trees were barely burnt.

First, know when the danger is high. If there’s been drought, that heightens the risk. High winds help push it. Watch the special on the Paradise fires in CA and you’ll get an idea how fast it moves.

All fires start small. All fires go out. What matters is what happens in between.

The wind throws embers one mile or more ahead of the flames. These embers start new fires. A fast wild fire has an intense wall of heat in front of it. Even if the flames haven’t arrived, it will combust the most flammable material.

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.

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 which cause the fires to burn even more intensely.

Fires like this occur every year. Wild 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 prepare 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 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 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 GnG bag, also take that fireproof container with all your key documents in it. And your pets. Beyond that, forget about it.

While evacuating, make sure you have enough gas. This goes back to always keeping your tank at least half full.

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.

Excerpted from The Green Beret Preparation and Survival Guide

How To Stay Warm, Without Being Able to Make a Fire

  1. Stay dry. Water accelerates the cold and hypothermia.
  2. Get out of the wind.
  3. Build a shelter. Make it as small as possible. Essentially consider it extending layers of clothing. Use leaves, bark, pine needles, whatever. People forget that their clothing is their first layer of shelter.

I remember the first time I deployed in winter with 10th Special Forces, the winter warfare Special Forces group. I had little idea about what it was like to operate at altitude (above 10,000 feet) and in the winter cold. My team sergeant had just come from Panama so he didn’t either. We built a snow cave together and showed it off to the amusement of the more experienced team members. We explained we had two entrances so the wind could blow the cold out. Eventually I became a fan of a snow trench. Thermarest pad on the bottom— and note the name— therma. You don’t want to be touching the cold ground. So don’t just put stuff on top of you, put something between you and the ground. I kept the trench just deep enough to put a poncho across the top. I would glaze the walls with a small candle. One night I was awakened for my guard shift and the poncho was in my face, almost suffocating me with over a foot of snow having fallen.

Part of stay dry is if you have to move, strip down so you don’t sweat. I’d give my team time warnings for when we’d move out on our skis with all our gear. We’d take off our outer shell at about a minute. And as time got close get down to polyprop undershirts. We were damn cold, but not for long once we moved out. Skiiing with gear, an akhio, uphill isn’t fun.

Also, we didn’t take our weapons into our snow trenches because that would warm them up and make them sweat. Then they’d freeze. And you wouldn’t be able to defend yourself against the Abominable Snowman.

Also, canteens stayed next to the body or– they freeze. The next meal went in the thigh cargo pocket to thaw it out.

Fun stuff. The Green Beret Preparation and Survival Guide. Get prepared for the New Year!

The Report and the Sec of State

I recently noticed the Secretary of State weighing in on his review of a movie. Which is odd, to say the least.

I watched The Report and yes, it is fiction. Thus, why is he weighing in on it? Doesn’t he have more important things to do?

It’s also odd since his boss, the President HAS called our “intelligence warriors” a slew of negative names and smeared them and that is not fiction. That’s reality. Yet not a word from Pompeo. The president has also smeared patriots working for Pompeo and not a single tweet or word of defense of people he is supposed to be leading and is responsible for.

It is definitely not leadership.

I can only assume that after I graduated West Point, the leadership standards were in the toilet, although Pompeo graduated 1st in his class, which is also amazing.

This isn’t political. This is practical. The CIA conducted a campaign of torture that was if not illegal (yes, they danced around the legality of it) but most definitely immoral and violated the norms for which this country is supposed to stand. The torture has not kept us safe. Every experienced interrogator could have told them, and many did, that torture doesn’t produce credible results.

Furthermore, as a writer of fiction, I find it odd that someone in his position would see fit to comment on it and act is it was some insult.

Once more– not political. I am tired of people assuming they know where your stance is on everything if you speak out against a specific topic. Torture was wrong; I don’t care where you stand politically. If we can’t admit our mistakes we’re going to keep repeating them: aka Vietnam and then Afghanistan. But that’s another topic.