“Worst Advice I’ve Heard from a Speaker”

This was what someone posted on a conference twitter thread that I recently spoke at. Of course, the speaker was moi. Making friends and sowing happiness wherever I go.

The advice was to query every agent who attended the conference whether the attendee met the agent or not and say they had met.

Of course, the tweet didn’t include my caveat that I include at the beginning of every session where I tell people that anything I say is my opinion and feel free to ignore. My wife does that on a regular basis and she’s the smartest person I know. In fact, I’m not sure the tweeter even attended my session since no issue was raised when I said this.

Here’s my theory: the difference between being aggressive and obnoxious is whether or not someone has a good manuscript.

I’m not talking sliding manuscripts under bathroom stalls or accosting agents. I’m just talking about sending a query. But here’s something to keep in mind: those attendees PAID for those agents to attend. To get flown in, housed, and wined and dined. It’s their job. The attendees took the time and energy and finances to attend the conference. That puts them ahead of 95% of wanna-be authors out there.

You know how long someone spends on an average query? Under a minute, if that long.

Here’s another thing: of those writers they meet that the agents actually do tell to send their material, the majority don’t. People don’t believe that, but trust me, it’s true. Writers reject themselves because they’re afraid of rejection.

I also said: if you’re not cheating you’re not trying.

Granted, that’s dangerous advice to put out. It’s like putting gasoline in the hands of pyromaniacs, but it’s also giving encouragement to the a few true writers who’ve worked hard and need a break. Because here’s a truism from my three decades making a living as a novelist: you try to get published the traditional way and then something strange and wonderful you don’t expect will happen and you seize the opportunity. Sometimes you have to make that strange and wonderful happen.

I’d rather err on the side of a hundred pyromaniacs starting small blazes in the hopes of helping one true, hard-working writer.

I leave you with more ‘worst advice’, which I learned in Special Forces and have lived with.

The Novel Writers Toolkit and Write It Forward: From Writer to Successful Author

When Empathy Ruled: Candy Bombers

Beginning today in 1948, the Berlin Airlift is a unique moment in history. When victors went to extraordinary lengths to extend a lifeline to a conquered people who were part of a regime that had committed the greatest atrocities in modern history.

I know there were geopolitical maneuverings driving the Berlin Airlift, but it was the individuals, from the pilots to the aircrews to the maintenance people to air traffic controllers to the loaders and unloaders of the steady train of planes that kept the people of West Berlin alive from today in 1948 through September 1949.

At its height there was literally an air bridge into West Berlin with a plane landing every four minutes. Not only were they landing, they were getting unloaded and back in the air quickly. A lot of what we now have for air traffic control came out of lessons learned from the Airlift.

The initiator of the Candy Bombers is still alive, Gail Halvorsen. Perhaps we could learn a little something from why he started this, in his own words:

“I met about thirty children at the barbed wire fence that protected Tempelhof’s huge area. They were excited and told me that ‘when the weather gets so bad that you can’t land, don’t worry about us. We can get by on a little food, but if we lose our freedom, we may never get it back.'”

The Candy Bombers started with planes dropping candy with parachutes made of handkerchiefs. While the large amounts of coal and food brought in by the airlift certainly kept the people alive, the candy kept the spirits of the children alive.

We need to conjure up the spirit that ran the Airlift. It’s there inside of us.

New York Minute Publication Day and a free book

Live today on all eBook platforms, in print and audiobook, New York Minute, introducing my newest and most intriguing character, Will Kane. While it’s technically book 10 in the Green Beret series, it stands on its own as a precursor to that series and is set in 1977. Kane is a West Point grad, Special Forces veteran, now trying to make his way in the civilian. A man with deadly skills who’d prefer to leave them in his past but circumstances dictate otherwise. A slow burn book, because it’s not easy for Kane to be pushed into action, but once he is . . .

Less than 90 days from now, the second book featuring Kane, flowing out of the ending of New York Minute is Lawyers, Guns and Money. It is live for eBook pre-order. And 90 days after that will be the third Will Kane novel: Walk on the Wild Side.

In memory of the debacle at Little Big Horn 143 years ago, Stuff Doesn’t Just Happen: The Gift of Failure I is free today (6/24) and tomorrow (6/25). The story of how that terrible event unfolded is one of the seven events covered in the book, along with how Titanic’s sinking evolved, what happened to the Donner Party and four other events.

Cool Gus is still in his cone as he constantly manages to shake it off; sometimes with Scout’s help. He’ll get healed, it just takes him a while. Meanwhile, he’s taking a lot of naps.

Nothing but good times ahead and I hope everyone is enjoying their summer!


Survival 5: Levels of Emergencies to Prepare for and Important Survival Definitions


There are so many variables when we consider the possible disasters, emergencies, accidents, etcetera that we could face both on a day to day basis and long term. To ensure we’re on the same page, let’s agree on some definitions.

Three Levels of Emergencies.

I’m going to define three types of survival situations/emergencies and will use these definitions throughout the book. They are also the order of what is most likely to happen. Our immediate goal is be prepared for a mild emergency. As we go through we can just focus on mild initially, and then come back to the higher levels; when we’re done procrastinating.

Mild: We experience some discomfort from our normal routine for no more than 48 hours, but it is not life threatening. Example: Our power goes off for a day or two.

Moderate: We experience a large change from our normal routine, either natural or man-made, which is not immediately life threatening but has the potential to become so if not dealt with, and/or it continues. Example: Our power goes off for five days or more. Our car slides off the road in a remote area and you are trapped inside. A powerful hurricane is approaching. A large earthquake strikes.

Extreme: A catastrophic natural or man-made event that immediately threatens our life and the lives of all around us, and if it continues, will be a constant threat. Example: A tsunami hits our coastal town. A tornado destroys our home. Nuclear, biological and chemical accident or warfare or terrorist attack. A powerful earthquake. The collapse of civilization. A pandemic with a high transmission and kill rate, aka zombies. Assume the worst until the situation stabilizes.

Length of emergency depends on how widespread it is, how severe, and how long it takes society to recover, if at all. There are too many variables to make any definitive parameters.

Some extreme emergencies could be very short in duration. For example a severe car crash. A mild emergency that continues, might have a severe, long-term effect, such as a drought that doesn’t abate. There could be a slow economic failure that will take years. A mild emergency for one person could be extreme for someone else—for example a hornet sting is painful and irritating for one person but life-threatening for someone who has an adverse reaction. That is why the Area Study which we’ll do is so important.

As you will see in the Area Study, I make a split and give a Mild Level of preparation and then a Moderate/Extreme (Mod/Ex) level. Initially, focus on being prepared for Mild. Then move to Mod/Ex in the priority determined by your Area Study. Mod/Ex is when you are moving from common emergencies that we all endure (such as a power outage) to something where you will probably have to evacuate your home for an indeterminate period of time. The former will certainly happen; the latter is one that is only a possibility we hope never occurs to us.

AREA OF OPERATIONS refers to the area around you. This includes your home, work, and school. It expands or contracts depending on the circumstances.

A-TEAM refers to the people you will be with during an emergency/disaster. For many of us that naturally means our family. For others, it could be a group of people we’ve coordinated with beforehand (more on that shortly). In an emergency it could also be the people we’re trapped with. I use this term instead of constantly referring to family/team.

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 this would be if there was a fire. It needs to be a place that’s easily identifiable and not far from the house and everyone can find in the dark.

It’s also the place where your A-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. Or a neighbor’s home.

ERP stands for Emergency Rally Point. It is where everyone will assemble if they can’t get to the IRP or home. This is also where your A-Team will rendezvous if they have to evacuate the home/work/school during a moderate or extreme emergency and have to stay for at least a day or more, with the possibility of not returning to the home.

BOHS stands for Bug Out Hide Site and is only for extreme emergencies where you’ve left your home and don’t plan on coming back. It refers to being on the move and also wherever you may stop, either temporarily or permanently, depending on the extent of the emergency and threats.

GnG stands for Grab-n-Go bag.

The Procrastinator’s Survival Guide

I Am Mother

I watched this movie last night and was impressed. The premise has been done– apocalyptic event, human embryos stores for survival, one brought to life. The first interesting line was the robot raising the child telling her the reason there is only one human is because “mothers have to learn”.

We don’t really know what happened to the outside world until near the end but it’s not that surprising, although I won’t give it away.

What was intriguing was the concept of trying to make humanity better. What would it take? We are really screwing up the world right now. Not just with climate change, which is the #1 problem, but also wealth inequality. When the bottom 50% have only 1% of the resources and we have this handful of ultra billionaires holding most of the wealth, something is seriously wrong. Something is also wrong with how much of our resources we pour into the military. We’re defending against ourselves while destroying the world. How crazy is that? This is an area I’ve veered to in the Area 51 series, especially with Redemption, Invasion and Interstellar and will continue to explore in the next book in the series.

Another interesting aspect of the movie is when the too much plastic surgery Hillary Swank shows up. The religious references are there, from her cloth crucifix to her praying to her little home and the religious icons. In essence, the movie is also saying religion is not a good thing. Has it made the world better? Like everything else the answer is simple: if a church locks its doors at night, given the number of homeless we have, then what is preached is not followed.

Whether you end up agreeing with the movie’s premise or not, it’s worth a watch. Cool Gus gives it four paws up.

Survival 4: Why You Need A Preparation & Survival Manual–What Exactly is Procrastination?

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

The Procrastinator’s Survival Guide

The Top 10 War Movies, picked by a veteran

Ah, when men were men and the sheep ran scared! Esquire ran a “10 Manliest War Movies” which I thought was a bit lacking; but it was by a movie critic not a veteran, so forgiveness. I wouldn’t even put The Green Berets in the top 25, and I’m a former Green Beret. Also, maybe I’m more of a realist as you’ll see by perusing my own rather dark list. It’s only my opinion and I’m open to your suggestions as there is not right or wrong in this. I also have some honorable mentions. And my memory isn’t what it used to be as Cool Gus and I go into our gray years. The movies are listed in no particular order

Blackhawk Down: Having served with people who were there, this one hits close to home. While some Hollywood elements were thrown in, I really liked Mark Bowden’s book on which it is based. He told both sides of the battle, while the movie really only showed one. Still, it shows the confusion and ferocity of modern warfare. And the bravery of the American soldier. Seriously. Rangers are the finest light infantry in the world.

NOAH. I binged this on Netflix. Norwegian with subtitles, but very realistic about Special Operations in all aspects. Kudos! We used to train with the Norwegians for Winter Warfare. I also graduated Danish Fromandkorpset Combat Swim School. That’s the reason why I won’t go into water colder than 85 degrees now. Dry suits aren’t.

Saving Private Ryan: The brutal opening shocked people and that’s what should be done. Too many movies glorify combat, when the reality is a messy, bloody, melee of confusion and chaos. Dying soldiers do curse, cry out for their mother, and, most especially, don’t want to die.

Cross of Iron: Classic. The Eastern Front was unbelievably brutal. Read The Forgotten Soldier just to get a glimpse.

The Odd Angry Shot: Most people have never heard of this movie, a 1979 Australian movie about the SAS in Vietnam (Who Dares Wins!). I found it showed the numbing mundaneness along with the terrifying moments of war. Some of our favorite sayings were: “Hurry up and wait” and “Prepare to prepare”. I throw it in just to have something obscure on the list.

Breaker Morant: Another Australian movie. Much like Paths of Glory (below), it focuses on the waste, the betrayal and the darkness of war. And the politics that kill people. The Boer War was where the concentration camp was invented, by the way. By the British. Just saying.

Zulu: I just had to put this in here. The sound of the Zulu’s in the distance, like a freight train approaching, sends chills down your spine. And the ending, with both sides saluting the other is epic. I write a lot about Shaka Zulu and the way he built his incredible army in my Atlantis series.

Das Boot: Classic. I don’t know how those guys stayed sane on those U-Boats; they mostly didn’t stay alive. They had an unbelievably high casualty rate: 82%. The greatness of humans is we can endure almost anything; that is also our Achilles Heel when that anything is war.

Band of Brothers: Technically not a movie but the mini-series showed the great arc from training, through the end of World War II, from the point of view of the men of Easy Company in the 101st Airborne.

The Pacific was confusing, but perhaps showed the trauma of war more deeply. Most Americans don’t realize that those Marines on Guadalcanal were abandoned for a while and could have been annihilated. And the Navy (my father fought in the Navy in WWII) suffered terrible losses. Do you recognize Mr. Robot and Oscar Winner?

Letters from Iwo Jima: Yes, the enemy are people too. We want to dehumanize our enemies, but maybe if we all treated each other as people, we wouldn’t be so quick to go to war. Old men and women declare wars and young men and women die in them.

Go Tell the Spartans: “Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here, obedient to their laws, we lie.” Burt Lancaster’s character has a costly affair with a superior’s wife and ends up in Vietnam in 1964. It’s downhill from there.

Paths Of Glory: “The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r, And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave, Awaits alike th’inevitable hour. The paths of glory lead but to the grave.” Stanley Kubrick made this movie and it is devastating about the futility and waste of war. As shattering as Gallipoli.

Honorable Mentions- Ken Burns: The Civil War: Technically not a war movie, but a spectacular mini-series about our bloodiest conflict. It was a West Point war (55 of the 60 major battles had West Pointers commanding both sides) and raises the issue I explore in my Duty, Honor, Country trilogy (by the way, 1st book is free right now): which is more important: Honor or loyalty? I know my answer.

Courage Under Fire — about a brave woman. So not manly? The book was better, because in the book, Denzel Washington’s character was more of a coward in combat, so his investigation was a way for him to try to find out what had been lacking in him that the heroine had. Also, the tank battle bears some resemblance to the one where our former National Security Advisor won a Silver Star– the Battle of 73 Easting.

All Quiet on the Western Front. Classic.

Kelly’s Heroes — the boys loved this movie

Platoon; Full Metal Jacket; Apocalypse Now — we all want to go a little Kurtz now and then. Seriously — if you’re going to fight a war, you’ve got to go all the way. Actually, Kurtz was based on the Fifth Group Commander who was involved in the Green Beret Affair in 1969. I have a slideshow about that and its in the backstory of my next book, New York Minute.

Bridge on the River Kwai — just for the whistling of The Colonel Bogey March. But also how the concept of duty can get perverted. I’d throw King Rat in too as an excellent character study.

Dirty Dozen Because. It was based on a real unit.

Catch-22 You think it’s over the top. It’s not really.

The Guns of Navarone Just cause.

Big Red One Lee Marvin made some classic war movies.

War Machine. People thought it over the top. Unfortunately it isn’t.

A Bridge Too Far — every soldier needs to know this story. I followed the assault path while on Reforger with the 1st Cavalry Division and people there still remembered the sacrifice of the Allies. And the Dutch War College did war game the exact operation before the war and concluded it would fail. And the Allies did it anyway.

Hurt Locker: Loved the ending, despite some very unrealistic scenes. Exactly the way I feel every time I go in the supermarket. Seriously. Ask my wife.

Live, Die, Repeat: The Edge of Tomorrow and Aliens. Just cause. “We’re all gonna die!” “What was he thinking?” Also, Battle Los Angeles was kind of interesting.

Twelve Strong was surprisingly well done. It was a realistic portrayal of what Special Forces actually did, and does.

The Green Berets — John Wayne doesn’t hook up before he jumps. Enough said. This is definitely not a complete list. And I’m lacking some movies about earlier wars.

Drums Along The Mohawk just jumped into my brain. And Last of the Mohicans!

Let’s hear your suggestions and what’s special about them!

Us– and the genius of Jordan Peele

From the title, which could be Us, as in all of us, or US, as in the country, everything in this brilliant movie by Jordan Peele resonates with deeper meaning.

When we watched Key and Peele we were always impressed not only with the insightful humor, but the excellent production of the skits. Both of those are hallmarks of this movie.

Some label the movie ‘horror’ but it is more a social commentary draped with some of the accouterments of horror. There are certainly very scary moments that will make you shiver, there are also funny moments. There is a shocking twist at the end that was telegraphed widely but not seen, the way the best ones are.

What Peele does with the movie makes a profound social commentary about our country. I won’t preach– watch the movie and come up with your own take.

Everything from the gloves the Tethered wore, to the way the re-named Alexa (really Apple? You wouldn’t allow Alexa to be used?) responded to “call the police” made a powerful impact.

As a writer, I am in awe of the way he not only wrote it and filmed it, but also edited it.

Highly recommended!!

Every Author is Different based on the Three P’s

Product, Platform, Promotion.

We all rate differently on those three, therefore any writing advice we get has to be factored through our own personal situation. One size does not fit all. I call my book on writing a Toolkit because I don’t believe there are any fixed rules in writing.

When we go to a writers conference, we all take something different away based on those three factors. Everything we read online has to be factored through them.

Here’s a way to look at them:

Survival 3: Do You Have ICE On Your Phone?

Make sure everyone has an ICE (in case of emergency) phone number on their cell phone.

Android users running 7.0 or higher can program emergency information and contact details through the emergency call screen when the device is locked.

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. Think about it. If you were found unconscious and your phone is locked, could anyone contact someone who would need to know? Would medical personnel know your blood type and allergies?

To access it, when the passcode screen comes up, you will see emergency in the bottom left of that screen. Tap that and you will get a phone dial screen; on the bottom left it will say, in red, Medical ID. Tap that and you will get all the pertinent information.

The Procrastinator’s Survival Guide