Vacation Journal Day 2

Sometimes Mother Nature and her annoying friend, coincidence, can be a real bitch. Today they’re both getting on my very last nerve. I’ve spent the last 24 hours trying to seek out a nice place to have a Woosa moment or two, to no avail. Regardless of the amount of effort I put forth to relax, something keeps pissing all in my cheerios today.

Ok, I feel slightly better. I didn’t say what I wanted to say, but it achieved the purpose of letting some of the steam out of my head – enough that I can focus and return to writing, maybe.

So, today’s progress towards achieving the ultimate state of vacation happiness has been quasi successful. The work involved in getting setup has been completed and now all that remains is the tasks of actually trying to beat Mother Nature into submission while I sit here and write.

I’m not kidding. There are literally 50 mile per hour winds playing havoc with my urban man-cave setup I have going.


Ok, so I’m back, 30 minutes later. Having been forced to vacate my mancave for fear of either electrocuting something or being hit with flying camp chairs, not to mention being repeatedly being beat about the head and shoulders with my own hammock – I am hiding out in the outside shower stall on the second story. Yes, that’s right.. I’m in an outdoor shower. That’s how far I had to go to find peace, quiet, freedom from wind, and the solitude necessary to try to write. Dante would be proud.

So, here is my man cave, pictured below.

When the howling winds of hell cease to rain their tormented wrath upon me, I will attempt to revisit my paradise away from home and continue from there. For now, however, I guess I’ll just remain here… in the shower area.

Anyway, I’m taking an opportunity this trip to break out some of my survival gear and put it to work, along with some battery power gathered from my cordless drills to power my mobile rigged station. The battery powered Dewalt radio actually contains a DC to ac inverter as well as a DC direct 2.0 amp source capable of delivering power to all kinds of things. This is good to know if I ever needed it. The next trick is to be able to charge the radio’s 20v battery from solar panels. Currently, if I had to, I could use the DC power in the truck to power the truck’s inverter, charging the dewalt batteries from that as I drove down the road. When all 4 are fully charged I’d have a significant power source from which to run low power AC or DC devices for a long time. Just one more thing to file away, and one more thing I discovered a dual purpose for.

Amy came down to snap a picture of me hiding away earlier. This was of course before I was banished by the wind gods to my present location.

So – back to my writing. Assuming you’ve been keeping up with the journal, you already know I’ve felt inspired to start writing again. My problems with aspiring to be an author are multi-fold. First there’s simply the matter of time management. I have to run two businesses, be a husband and perform all the duties contractually stipulated therein, which happens to often include the verb tense of “can you”, which should be adjusted in the English dictionary to mean “You need to ____ followed by a descriptor” whenever said by a female of the human species. It can extend to include such additional sentence items as, but not limited to,

  • Take this to the road
  • Take this to your shop (requiring the moving and restructuring of already-present items in said shop to accommodate the new addition I was just presented with)
  • … build me a________ followed by something I’m required to make from scratch, fabricate from existing parts of, or give up and buy.
  • ..fix the ________ followed by something that basically means the same thing as the previous sentence.
  • And other such commands eloquently phrased as requests by the more guile-filled gentle gender.

After that there comes the company to run. I’m blessed to own my own business. That’s great. Then again it sucks. It just depends on the day. I try to structure my projects to meet certain needs. The first of those is the need to give my wife the predetermined amount of money she wants on the first of each month. The second is to be sure there’s enough left in general checking to cover all the expenses I undertake in the process of serving my clients – a bill which also comes due on the first of each month by automatic draft. Then there’s the income required for incidentals, the next month’s materials for new projects, travel funds, funds set aside for taxation, and hopefully some left I can play with for whatever other hobbies or interests I choose to pursue when not actively being a husband or an engineer.

On top of these admittedly completely normal tasks one has an a married adult male, come the interests I’ve prioritized in my life that I deem important either to future preparation for a particular purpose or for general knowledge because I live in a world that I increasingly believe will become much more difficult before it becomes any better.

Those tasks include heirloom gardening – a project that is much harder than it sounds, and one which requires constant year-round attention on an almost daily basis; attention which I am unable to give when I’m traveling and which therefore requires additional efforts to correct and replenish when I return from traveling. The only thing worse than finding Japanese beetles on your vegetables is finding them after you’ve been gone for an entire week and discovering they have completely stripped your roses, squash, etc of all their live-giving leaves. Thus gardening becomes triage instead. Some people garden. Me? I spend more time performing emergency resuscitation on my cucumbers and tomatoes than anything else.

Ghost is another responsibility that takes an huge amount of time to properly train and work with. Committing to making her an active and well-trained search and rescue dog involves a lot more than just training her. The good thing is that it plays in to my natural hobby of survivalism. The bad thing, is that both survivalism itself and the SAR aspect of it require even more additional skills.

Being able to bring your dog with you to a search and rescue event is fine. Hundreds of volunteers from across the nation to that each year to help with locating lost children, hikers, boy-scout troops, etc. The problem is my absolute abhorrence for mediocrity or being average. If I’m going to do something, the engineer in me must understand it completely, know how it works, and be able to fix it when it breaks down. To do that required being better than the average team. To be better than the average team requires being able to be completely self-sustainable in the field for extended periods of time so as to be an effective unit and not a drain on civil or volunteer resources, up to and including medical personnel, radio operators, coordinators, police and others. It means being able to take off into the woods with your dog for a couple hours or for a couple days with 100% knowledge that you can keep yourself safe from harm, your dog safe from harm, do your job, and oh yeah.. hopefully locate and bring assistance to whatever person or group of persons your searching for.

This is one of the driving factors that has caused me to really up my ante when it comes to being an outdoorsman, as well as my drive to master amateur radio and be able to be an integral part of a civil search network.

So while I’m working on training Ghost, I’m also working on acquiring new gear, testing that gear, studying for my HAM radio license, taking my gear out on weekends (which means more time away husband duties, work duties, gardening duties, teaching firearm’s classes, and the occasional weekend off I’d like to enjoy.)

Between running two companies, and staying on top of the hobbies I already have, trying to commit to working in more time to write is an especially difficult responsibility to undertake. Either I do it and do it successfully or it simply results in a net-effect of wasted time with no financial or educational gain. I dislike inputting something into one side of an equation without having a net-positive outcome guaranteed on the other end.

So why write at all?

Because I want to. Since I was a pre-teen sneaking out Stephen King books from the Dare County library in my backpack (Yes, I returned them all) I’ve wanted to be an author. While it’s true I’ve technically written a book, published that book, and made a decent amount of income with its few thousand sales, let’s not kid ourselves. Calling myself an author because some people bought something I wrote once does NOT an author make. It’s like buying a kit-car from the internet, assembling all the parts yourself, and then advertising that you’re a master mechanic. It’s simply overstatement on a grotesque level. Need I remind you of my glaring hatred for mediocrity?

You might say I’m my own worst critic. You’d be wrong. I’ve spent long enough in my life “famous” to one degree or another to fully realize the potential for people to waste time talking heatedly about something they don’t like, and had the fairly uncommon opportunity to be the recipient of said dislike. If I write it, whether it’s a Facebook post, a blog post, or a recipe book; some will buy it simply because I wrote it. While that will feel good for about two days, the trend of stagnation that would immediately follow that influx of sales would likely affect me in disastrously negative ways mentally and emotionally and a sound mental and emotional foundation are a requirement for me to have any creativity at all.

Others would buy it simply to be able to qualify to write a negative review, tell me how much I suck as a parent, as an author, and how they would like to creatively kill me, my wife, and my children. Stop smirking. You think I’m kidding? Go look at the Facebook wall of shame I posted. It’s horrendous; the amount of crap that comes in from random people that think they’ve latched on to breaking news and who insist on sending me their vitriol inspired messages. Don’t read them you say? Why damnit man. I never thought of that! You’re a genius! The only problem with your solution is that I don’t get the “good” stuff that way either. Its an all or nothing approach when working as I do with social media and internet in general. My customer base often comes from random people I’ve yet to meet and if I simply ignored their communications in a misguided effort to ignore the bad stuff, then I’d neither gain customers, nor hear the occasional gratuity or compliment hurled my way amidst the flotsam of poor vocabulary I see on a daily basis.

Side Note: Spell check is pissing me off right now. Microsoft word is insisting that I misused the word “its” in my previous sentence, trying in vain to get me to change it to “it’s” instead when its clearly not the proper usage of the contraction. Sigh.

Anyway, I actually DID start a book; two actually. I had a lot of time on my hands with my previous experience in Libya a couple years back; time I filled with flushing out the ideas for my first novel. While attempting to be unique in the tech-savvy-thriller field was a success, the complete separation from anything else ever written presented its own challenges.


Jumping Mary on a stick that was close! You’d be proud mom. I didn’t use a single curse word in their general direction… my stern “I’m going to come over there and kick your parent’s ass” look seemed to be enough to send the teenage girl and boy scurrying back inside the protective shelter of their beach house.

Where was I? *scans back a paragraph*

Oh yeah.. so writing a unique novel presented unique challenges. Enough said on that one.

My second novel idea was decidedly better, already appealed to a reader’s niche sorely in need of more literature, and involved something I’m incredibly interested in; survival in the event of some sort of a collapse.

Yes, I went with the nuclear event concept as opposed to the financial collapse or alien invasion concept because the former would require me to recount massive amounts of education to the reader in financial analysis and economics and because the latter is so cliché that I’d never do it anyway. A nuclear EMP event is both statistically probable and completely possible using any variety of technology invented between 1960 and today.

I began the novel using inspiration I had on-hand at the moment the idea hit me. I was driving through Georgia, about 250 miles from home, headed out on a week-long trip and wondered aloud as I watched an airliner descend low over the approaching horizon what would happen to me if an EMP hit. Right. That. Second.

I’d have to get home, 250 miles away, and do it with only the gear I had on me at the time. What would the story possibly entail? I began writing.

To my credit I got an impressive hundred or so pages into the novel before being distracted by real life and having to spend less time on it so I could focus on my responsibilities. From there it sat on my computer, specifically bought for that purpose, and never had another word added to it.

In retrospect, I’m grateful.

Fast forward two years and.. no seriously.. fast forward. You’re supposed to make that bizzirriizziit sound when I say that. Try it.

OK. You with me now?

So fast forward two years * bizzirriizziit* and I’m out of novels to read, in all genres. One day I’ll detail how hard that task is to accomplish. I have a huge appetite for literature spanning a wide variety of genres and subject fields, but alas it is the unfortunate truth that I consume them faster than my fifty or so favorite authors can write them.

Using an Audible suggestion for a book based on another book I had 5-starred in the past, I trepidatiously downloaded a book titled “Going Home” by author “A American.” Ok, I thought to myself, let’s give this a shot. I can always get a refund, right?

The book starts out with the character Morgan, who is 250 miles away from home when the story starts.
Funny, that’s how far my character was away in my book.

Morgan was apparently on the road away from home, due to his job
Funny, sound exactly like me.

Morgan is an IT consultant.

Funny, wait, NOT funny. Come on! This is me! The dude is writing me, not just my character, but ACTUALLY me. Is now the time to mention that when I started this book I was in my truck, headed north into Connecticut for a week-long work trip… as an IT consultant?

Morgan is in his mid 30’s.
My character was too.

Morgan’s character abandons his truck, grabs his bug-out-bag, and starts his preparations for..
OH COME ON! FOR THE LOVE OF PEANUT BUTTER! US army rifleman’s pack with two sustainment pouches, and sleeping bag? (I literally glanced back over my shoulder and said “well, shit” to myself.)

Long story short (ha-ha, right), I devoured the book in the almost-20 hour trip to Connecticut. Not only did the author steal my idea (I use the word steak jokingly. It truly WAS amazing coincidence) but he wrote the story I was going to write. Further, he wrote it at a level above what I would have done, with incredible character development, a strong plot, and with more cohesion and intrigue than I would have.

In case you missed the previous blog post in the Survival series of blog posts, you can check out his books on that page. It’s called the “Going Home” series and is currently five books long with a sixth book in the works as I write this.

After reading his books, sitting on the back patio one afternoon, I was having a conversation with Amy about the book and my desire to continue writing again, or at least pick up the pen and try. She encouraged me to finish the book I started.

The problem is; I can’t. I literally can’t write that book now. Perhaps, had I never read his books, never read the twists and turns his plot took and enjoyed the survival skills his characters displayed in their creative methods used to survive in a post-electric world, I might have stood a chance at completing my own novel. The problem was I DID read it. There’s no way I can unlearn the things I learned from his narrative. There’s no way I could possibly write the book without falling into either plagiarism or parallelism with his plot. It’s simply not possible. I would either copy his plot devices, knowingly or unknowingly, or adopt things into my novel that I learned from his novel, such as the myriad uses for kudzu – I mean who knew all the things that… weed was capable of in an emergency situation? Well, he did.

Instead of his novel, maybe I’ll attempt to write another along the same vein; post-EMP like my original story, but with enough of a different basic goal and starting point that I’d wind up somewhere else entirely with the story.

I even considered today as a great starting point. As I was driving across the bridge to the south banks it occurred to me how incredibly appealing the situation was for a terrorist attack. It’s the 4th of July, a great celebration of American independence. We’re on a coastal region with a native population of locals numbering some 20,000 and a summertime population in excess of a million. The situation would be absolutely perfect for a survival novel. Literally hundreds of plot devices are available to play with. There is only one way on and one way off the islands by vehicle. There are over 5 bridges between the two evacuable ends to the mainland areas. Hundreds of thousands of unprepared tourists; both exceedingly old retirees and exceedingly young families with no idea what to do, and only a select few that know what they’re experiencing when the event occurs.

The onus of course, is to get home, away from these people and back to the sustainable homestead awaiting the character and his family, 350 miles away to the west. I know the area well, and all areas in between. Hell, I’ve been driving those roads to and from for the last 22 years, so I could lean on personal experience as well as familiarity with the terrain to make decisions about travel… There are families along the way that I know and could incorporate into the story. There are people back at home that could be either wrapped into the plot as a dual story line or who could make their own stand-alone sequel if the first novel was successful – kind of a what happened on the OTHER end while the first book was occurring. From a prepper/survivalist standpoint it has potential to be epic. It could cover both situations in one series; the lone family on the road trying to get home and the well established homestead survival-oriented group back home sans a couple of core members. Are they on the way? Do they plan for their eventual return? Could anyone make that journey to home? How do the rest of the group handle things in the meantime?

So.. well, yeah, there’s a plot thought.

I’m gonna end the journal here for today. There’s a lot more to tell, but I’ve got all week and I should enjoy some time with my wife and Krissi before the crowds of family arrive. Now I’m off to check on my mancave and see how it weathered the storm; the mancave which purely by chance happens to be situated next to the hot tub downstairs!

End of log.






2 thoughts on “Vacation Journal Day 2

  1. I’d imagine that you watch The Walking Dead, right, Tommy? Think about Roanoke Island as a zombie apocalypse refuge: accessible by road only via two bridges, which could be easily blocked; large enough to support both a farming and fishing economy. Only disadvantage is the relative closeness of the Norfolk metropolitan area.

    • I hadn’t considered that particular plot device: writing a novel about the island here. Not as much fun for me personally.. or not as interesting as the other idea I should say, but I’ll accept any inspiration! I ain’t skeerd.

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