What was the most demanding military training you personally conducted?

Saw this question on Quora and it made me think. I went into Beast Barracks at West Point when I was seventeen and clueless. Then it seemed like my military career was filled with one more challenge after another as I sought them out.

First, once you’ve been through a getting hazed school and then served on cadre at one, you’re not as stressed by it because you know it’s a job on the part of the cadre, although there are occasionally sadists among the instructors. Interestingly, they were often the ones who screwed up the most as students and are venting.

For me, the key was high standards; not hazing.

Danish Fromandkorpset Combat Swim School was when I was in the best shape of my life. We’d prepared hard, camping on an island off the coast of Maine for several weeks, swimming every day, running, doing PT, small boat drills etc. to get ready. My team sergeant ran that because he’d been through Dive School and later was NCOIC down there. When we arrived they simply told us the tasks we’d have to accomplish to graduate and then trained and tested us. What’s interesting is I didn’t even know how to swim when I went to West Point (not a big thing in the Bronx). I went through Rock Squad and survival swimming at the Academy. In Denmark we learned such things as dry suits aren’t. The North Sea is very cold in November. I remember we were doing a pier infiltration one night, moving very slowly and I heard this strange noise and finally realized it was someone’s teeth chattering. I credit my team sergeant, Dave Boltz (RIP) in that every team member graduated, which was rare.

Beast Barracks, Ranger, etc. were stressful. Lack of sleep, lack of food, someone always on you. The entire plebe year as West Point is intense. The #1 thing you learn is time management.

The school with the lowest graduation rate was jumpmaster because you had to score 100% because gravity always win. We started with 84 Special Forces qualified guys and graduated 17. I could probably still do a JMPI–inspecting a jumper.

Mentally, Robin Sage, the last exercise in the Q-Course, was a mind-fuck. Lots of lose-lose scenario where the goal was to see how you thought on your feet. What makes the Q-Course special is that you cadre will be your team-mates down the line. So they take it damn serious.

The Green Beret Series

When President Lincoln was reined in by

By The Jefferson Allegiance and a General named Grant. A document brokered by Jefferson and Hamilton against the future threat of a president run amok. That’s the core idea of the book. Most of it is a thriller set present day to track down the Allegiance, but there are flashbacks to when just the threat of it stopped presidents. Here is the second:

13 April 1865

Abraham Lincoln was tired to his core, and had told his secretary he would not be seeing any more visitors today.  He sat in his office, eyes closed, hoping the headache that had troubled him all day would go away.  He should be rejoicing, partaking in the fruits of a bitterly won victory.

Just ten days previously, Richmond had fallen.  Then four days ago, Lee had surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia.  The whereabouts of Jeff Davis and the remnants of the Confederate government were unknown, but there was no doubt they were in full flight.

The Civil War was over.

At a cost Lincoln could hardly bear to contemplate.  Ever since the rebels had fired on Fort Sumter, four years and one day ago, the telegraph wires had brought the grim numbers.  Over a quarter million Union soldiers dead.  No one knew how many Southerners, but given Grant and Sherman’s ruthlessness the past year, Lincoln had no doubt the Confederate losses were about the same.

What scared him, kept him awake at nights and caused his current headache, was realizing that a larger job loomed—mending a broken country.  One could win a war of arms, but it was the hearts and minds that concerned Lincoln.  There was much bitterness and anger on both sides, and he knew he would have to walk a narrow and treacherous path to bring the country together.

He’d laid the groundwork years ago when he assembled his first cabinet:  what some had dubbed ‘the cabinet of rivals.’  He’d tapped three men, opponents for the Republican nomination, and bitter enemies:  William Seward, Salmon Chase and Edward Bates to fill positions in his administration as Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury and Attorney General, respectively.  The move had shocked everyone in Washington, including the three men.  They’d demurred initially, and Lincoln recognized in them the same disdain others in the Capitol had for his rustic background and lack of political experience, especially since he’d been sent packing from Washington after only one term in Congress.  Lincoln knew, though, that bringing the country together after four years of war was going to take much more than bringing respect and cooperation from three such strong egos.  He also knew a few of the men were Cincinnatians, a price he had been willing to pay to keep the country together.

Lincoln heard the private door to the Oval Office open.  There were only five people who were allowed to come through that door.  He hoped it was Mary, but the heavy clump of boots informed him the hope was in vain.  More problems.

He opened his eyes and relaxed slightly.  The mighty Ulysses.  Still glowing from the surrender at Appomattox.  As always, Grant held out a cigar as he settled into the seat across the desk from Lincoln.

“No, thank you, General,” Lincoln said, as always.

“The city is alive, President,” Grant said.  “You should go out and pick up some of the energy.  Bask in the glow of victory.”

Lincoln grimaced.  “Basking is not my forte.”  Grant had two modes:  in battle and energized, or morose and drunk.  The drinking had been a large issue, but Lincoln took results wherever he could find them.  However, it was hard to tell which mode the General was in this evening.  Lincoln could smell the alcohol, but Grant appeared strangely animated.  Victory could do that, Lincoln supposed.

Grant fiddled with his cigar, seemingly uncertain, something Lincoln had never seen in the man.  His decisiveness had been his greatest attribute.  “Is there something amiss?” Lincoln asked.

“Sir—“ Grant began, but halted. 

“Go on,” Lincoln said, feeling his heart sink, knowing this was to be another burden of some sort.

“There was a meeting earlier today,” Grant said.  “I met with the Chair and the Philosophers.”

Lincoln stiffened.  “And?”

“They are very concerned.”  Grant had his eyes downcast.  “The war is over.  Of that there is no doubt.”  Grant lifted his dark gaze, meeting Lincoln’s eyes.  “I told them to wait.  To let things settle down.  But they wanted me to talk to you.”

Lincoln knew what Grant was talking about, but he still felt a surge of anger.  So soon.  He had not expected this so soon.  “I did not seek power for glory or riches.  You know that better than most.  I took the steps I did for the Union.  And I didn’t hide them.”

Lincoln knew he had done many things in violation of his oath of office and the Constitution.  He’d unilaterally expanded the military; suspended habeus corpus; proclaimed martial law; had citizens arrested; seized property; censored newspapers; and, perhaps most galling to many, issued the Emancipation Proclamation.  All without consulting Congress.  He imagined old Polk would be laughing heartily if he could have seen the events of the last four years.

“I understand that, Mister President,” Grant said.  “That’s why I have gotten the Chair to keep the Allegiance in hiding.  I told him it would not be needed.  Not now, nor in the future.  Once peace has taken hold, I am sure we will be back to where we were before the war.”

It will never be the same, Lincoln thought, but did not say.  He pressed a long finger against his temple, trying to calm the pounding in his head.  “You are quite correct.  The Allegiance will not be needed.  I will relinquish all those extra powers I have assumed in the name of the emergency as soon as the country returns to normalcy.”

“And the Cincinnatians?”

“They too will be in check.  I needed their support for the war, but not any longer.”

Grant heaved a sigh of relief.  “Very good, sir.  I will tell the Chair.”  Grant stood to depart.


Grant turned.  “Yes, sir?”

“Remember this meeting.  I once walked into this room with the Allegiance years ago.  You just walked in with the threat of the Allegiance.  Some day if you sit in this room, remember what happened, and remember the dangers of the power of this office and of the Cincinnatians.”

Grant removed the cigar from his mouth and nodded.  “I will, Mister President.”

“Very good.”  Lincoln remembered something.  “Mary wants to go to the theater tomorrow night.  Would you and Missus Grant like to join us?”

“I will consult with her, but I see no reason why we would not.”  Grant turned for the door.

“Very good,” Lincoln said.

Grant paused as he opened the door.  “What theater, sir?”

“The Ford Theater.”

The Jefferson Allegiance

When President Polk’s Imperialism Was Reined In

By The Jefferson Allegiance and a Congressman named Lincoln. A document brokered by Jefferson and Hamilton against the future threat of a president run amok. That’s the core idea of the book. Most of it is a thriller set present day to track down the Allegiance, but there are flashbacks to when just the threat of it stopped presidents. Here is the first:

22 August 1848

President Polk figured it had to be a hell of a lot hotter down south for the Mexican President than even Washington in the summer, although some might question that.  A bead of sweat dripped off Polk’s nose and onto the copy of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which he had been reading one more time, savoring the terms, as if he could feel the actual growth in the United States that the Treaty decreed.

Polk was staying in the White House, an insane decision for anyone who had survived a Washington August.  But there was work to be done, and even the specter of yellow fever couldn’t persuade Polk to head to the cooler mountains as most Washingtonians with means had done.  He could hear the mooing of cows from the large open pasture to the south of the White House, and the occasional rattle of a passing carriage, but otherwise the capitol was still.

Polk turned his chair to a map, his most prized possession since coming into office.  He had made four promises when elected to office and the map represented two of them:

-Acquiring some or all of the Oregon Territory.

-Purchasing California from Mexico in order to have access to the port of San Francisco to open trade to the Pacific.

Drawn in fountain pen on the map by his own hand were the successful results of those two promises:  the Oregon Territory and a huge chunk of land including Texas and the southwest from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, encompassing all of the California Territory. 

It was the second largest expansion of the United States since Jefferson had purchased the Louisiana Territory.  It was Manifest Destiny and Polk had done it, stretched the United States from Atlantic to Pacific.  That he had done it with blood via a war some considered imperialistic wasn’t something he concerned himself with.

Polk leaned back in his chair and barely noticed as he wiped the sheen of sweat off his forehead.  He looked over, irritated, as his secretary cracked open the door and stuck his head in.  “Sir, there are some gentlemen here to see you.”

Polk waved.  “Send them in.”  He stiffened as he saw former President John Quincy Adams leading three men into the room:  General Zachary Taylor, who was getting altogether too popular for winning the war Polk had instigated with Mexico.  There were more than whispers that Taylor wanted to run for President under the banner of the opposing Whigs.

There was also a tall, rangy freshman Congressman named Lincoln, who had been a minor thorn in Polk’s side during the run-up to the war.  The press had dubbed him ‘Spotty’ Lincoln for the resolution he had tried to get past Congress, demanding that Polk “show me the spot” where American blood had been spilled that precipitated the War with Mexico, claiming it had happened on Mexican soil, not American.  The resolution had failed, and Polk was determined to crush Lincoln’s political career.

Lastly, there was old General Winfield Scott, who had opened the way to the ‘Halls of Montezuma’ as the press liked to dub it.

Polk stood, focusing on Adams.  “Sir, what brings you here?”

Adams had a black, wooden tube in his hand, which he placed, to Polk’s chagrin, right on top of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.  “Let me be frank,” Adams said.  “You began this most horrid of wars by direct provocation of the Mexicans.  Generals Taylor and Scott, while supporting you publicly, verify that privately.”

Polk glared at the two generals, but they seemed impervious.

Adams continued.  “You used the war to further your Imperial goals, which is inconsistent with our Constitution.  And you are a front man for the Cincinnatians.”

Polk slammed a fist onto the map.  “We now stretch from sea to sea.  We won the war.  We—“

Adams cut him off.  “Mister President, I don’t care what the immediate results are.  You manipulated the military for the agenda of a select few.  As Congressman Lincoln noted, you declared war the way a monarch would, not a President.”

“I dealt with the problems I inherited with the office,” Polk argued.  “Texas was annexed by Congress four days before I took office.  The Mexicans had already promised war if that happened.  Conflict was inevitable.”

“Not if you had used diplomacy instead of the army,” Adams countered.  “You sent General Taylor and his troops into disputed territory without consulting Congress.”

“This is true,” Taylor said.

“Indeed it is,” echoed Lincoln.

“But Congress voted for war,” Polk said.

“On the basis of a fake ‘causus belli’,” Lincoln said.

Scott finally spoke up.  “The army is sick of such a war.  We lost more men to disease in that God-forsaken place than the enemy.  It cannot happen again.”

“How dare you all—“ Polk began, but Adams cut him off. 

“Read this, sir.”  He picked up the wooden tube and screwed off the end.  He pulled a scroll out and unrolled it on top of Polk’s map.

Polk leaned over and read the few sentences.  Startled, he looked up at Adams. “What—“

“Look at the signatures,” Adams commanded and Polk obeyed.  Before the current President could say anything, the former President continued.  “The War is done.  The treaty ratified.  You’ve had your glory.  You have a year left in office.  You will not start another war.  You will not violate the treaty to grab more land from Mexico or cross swords with the British in the Oregon Territory.  You will not run for election again.  You will tell your fellow Cincinnatians they have what they sought and that is enough.”

Taylor spoke up.  “Or else we will enforce the Jefferson Allegiance as you have just read.”

“Do you understand?” Adams asked.  “You will abide strictly by the Constitution for the remainder of your term.  Clear?”

Polk weakly nodded, slumping down into the chair where just minutes ago, he had been reveling in his achievements.  What they had just dictated meant he would be the first President not to seek re-election since the founding of the country.  It was unheard of.  But so was the document he had just read.  He numbly watched as Adams rolled the scroll and stuck it back in the tube.  The men turned and marched out of the room leaving the President alone.

President Polk grabbed the map and tore it to shreds.

The Jefferson Allegiance

Free Today: Survival Guide

Given recent events, I’ve made The Procrastinator’s Survival Guide free today and tomorrow. It’s a step by step guide on how to prepare for all possible emergencies and natural/man-made disasters. It starts with the basics and builds from there. If you’ve had no idea where to start, this will get you going. It covers everything from earthquakes to hurricanes to flood, etcetera. 80% of Americans live in a county that has suffered a weather disaster in the past decade.

It also has checklists for basic preparation and then more advanced. The book contains links to all the gear mentioned, making it easier to get prepared. Everything mentioned is something I have used or have in my grab-n-go bags.

Also, the pre-order for Lawyers, Guns and Money is live. And New York Minute is now in Kindle Unlimited for those of you who are in that program.

Swarming Area 51?

There is a movement afoot for people to gather and “swarm” Area 51. It started as a Facebook joke but has since taken a life of its own.

I’ve been out to the Area 51 vicinity a couple of times. Once with a film crew from the Syfy Channel. The show had hired me as an Area 51 ‘expert’ given my Area 51 series of books have sold several million copies. Of course, my books are fiction. However, I will say 95% of whats in them is true. I just added a fictional reason WHY these things happened or exist.

I don’t think most of the people who have this fantasy of ‘swarming’ Area 51 really understand where it is or how isolated. It’s in the middle of nowhere. As I say in my books it’s in the middle of nowhere on the way to nowhere. You don’t even drive Extraterrestrial Highway, or Nevada 375 unless you want to go by Area 51.

One time I was driving out there with my wife and we hadn’t seen anyone for a long time coming the other way, then this car comes by looking like the one in Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. Even the people were dressed era-appropriate. We figured they came through the time portals as described in my Time Patrol books.

My wife and I joke when we watch some documentary that I wrote about the subject matter, but it’s sort of true. The Area 51 series, now at 12 books, with three new ones out in the past year and more to come, literally rewrite the entire history of mankind. From before the dawn of history, through ancient Egypt to the present. I explain the Pyramids, the Sphinx, the Grail, the Ark of the Covenant, vampires, Excalibur, Jack the Ripper, Vlad the Impaler, the Great Wall of China, Devils Island, the Bermuda Triangle, Sir Burton’s lost manuscript, the Black Death, and on and on and on.

For those interested in this, here is the series page. AREA 51

For those interested in the history of Area 51, here you go:

Today, In 1804, Alexander Hamilton Died in Greenwich Village

I used to stay in the basement of a brownstone on Jane Street in the Village when I visited my agent or publisher in NYC. One day I noticed a plaque on the wall of the building across the street.

And thus another piece of history was revealed to me. I wonder how many people who go down that street have seen it?

Hamilton was wounded in the duel. A round to the lower abdomen that caused extensive internal damage. He knew it was a fatal wound. He was rowed across the river and lasted 24 hours.

Another odd thing about the duel. Where it took place in Jersey (Exit 3 I believe) was the same place his son had been killed in a duel three years earlier.

I did a lot of research on Hamilton for The Jefferson Allegiance. My idea for the book was that Hamilton and Jefferson, fierce political opponents, agreed on one key thing: we had to prevent an imperial president. And they both believe the Constitution wasn’t adequate for the job. So they came up with The Jefferson Allegiance. In the book, I show historical incidents where this Allegiance is brought out to reel in wayward presidents. The plot is that there is a race on now between two groups to find it– one to destroy it, the other to save it.

In my latest book, New York Minute, the main character, Will Kane, lives in the basement of a brownstone across the street from this plaque.

I wrote this some years ago and it was a #2 national bestseller at Barnes and Noble. Sometimes fiction precedes fact.

Nothing but good times ahead. I hope.

Getting Out Of A Flooded Car!

With levees getting ready to crest in New Orleans and record rain on the way, this is important. Almost all of us live near water. Even those in desert areas know how quickly a flash flood can cut across a road.

Do you know how to get out of a sinking car? How to prepare for and deal with floods?

Here is a video on how to get out of a sinking car and below it is information about preparing for and dealing with floods.


On Covers and the Importance of Title

Perhaps the biggest mistake I made early in my writing career involved titles. I’d never gone to a writing conference or had any classes on publishing. I was living overseas in the Orient, studying martial arts. This was pre-Internet– yes there was a time when we didn’t have access to the Internet. My sole publishing resource was an out of date Writers Marketplace from a library in the nearest military post, Camp Page (which no longer exists!).

No one, not my first agent, my first editor, my guardian angel, told me that title was critical. Years later I listened to Mary Higgins Clark talk about title and how it must gather attention and “invite readers into the book”. If only she’s been overseas studying martial arts nearby.

So I picked really stupid titles. I mean REALLY stupid.

A title must grab attention and/or let the reader know what the book is about. I decided to do neither. My first published book ended up being EYES OF THE HAMMER. (PS, it’s free on all eBook platforms) Even Cool Gus is rolling his eyes and it takes a lot for Cool Gus to use his muscles. It’s about Special Forces attacking drug labs in Colombia. Shortly after that book came out a guy named Tom Clancy released a book with a similar plot, but his was titled CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER. Hmm.

I’m now writing precursors to my bestselling Green Beret series. They occur before EYES OF THE HAMMER. And DRAGON SIM-13. And my invented term SYNBAT. And my most genius title Z. Yep, just the letter. My wife says I’m a little slow at times.

But I do learn. So the first book introducing my new character, Will Kane, is titled NEW YORK MINUTE. Which turns out to be quite brilliant as I’d actually chosen it before writing the book and then the term becomes a critical part of the book. You have to read it, but in the second scene and in the climactic scene, New York Minute plays a BIG role.

The second Will Kane book, now in editing, is LAWYERS, GUNS AND MONEY. Besides the fact I love Warren Zevon, the book actually revolves around lawyers, guns and money.

The third is WALK ON THE WILD SIDE. Yep, from Lou Reed’s second solo album in 1972, which is good timing since the first three books are set in 1977, New York City.

To be honest, I decided to use song titles because I’ve watched Bella Andre, Yo! Bella, have great success using some as titles with her Sullivan books. They resonate with people. Years ago, jokingly, I asked Bella how many Sullivan books there would be and she said some outrageous number and I thought she was joking, but hey, they’re still coming out and hitting the bestseller list, so check them out. She’s got Sullivans from Maine, from California, from Area 51, you name it. Those guys are everywhere.

I digress. Besides title, cover is key. Thumbnail has to pop in this day of ebooks. Here are two proposed ones for WALK ON THE WILD SIDE. As we say in da’ Bronx, whaddaya think? Preferences?

Nothing but good times ahead!

What Happens When Your Pilots Shut Down Your Only Good Engine?

Got your attention?

Yes. It happened. It is one of seven disasters covered in Stuff Doesn’t Just Happen: The Gift of Failure.

That’s the plane in the image. Just short of the runway. They almost made it. And if one of the passengers had spoken up, they would have.

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.

For an examination of the Cascade Events that went wrong leading to the crash, you’ll have to check out the book. I do give away the examination of what went wrong with the Donner Party and the St. Francis Dam failure on my nonfiction page.

By the way, the second book in this series is only .99/,99£ TODAY!

Independence Day FREE

Did you know Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on the same day? Exactly 50 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence on 4 July 1826.
What would have happened if there had been a Declaration of Emancipation prepared in addition to the more famous one?
What would have happened if the Union had attacked on the 4th of July, the day after Pickett’s Charge?
What would have happened if Grant’s pivotal capture of Vicksburg had turned into the Union’s greatest shame?
What if Sparta and its allies had won the Battle of Mantinea?
What if there had been two Israeli assault teams at Entebbe in 1976?
Independence Day (Time Patrol) is free today through the 4th of July in honor of the holiday.

From Philadelphia in 1776 to Gettyburg in 1863 to Monticello in 1826 to Vicksburg in 1863 to Entebbe in 1976 to the ancient battle of Mantinea in Greece in 362 BC, the Time Patrol has to keep our timeline intact.
On other fronts, the second Will Kane book is now available for pre-order: Lawyers, Guns and Money. Reviews for the first book, New York Minute have been universally positive and I am at work on the third book, Walk on the Wild Side.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy Fourth of July!