BLUF: Five flippin’ stars. An amazing work in the first rank, think Alas, Babylon, The Stand or On the Beach. It’s that good.
Need I say more?
Well, I will anyway. Here is why you should run out and buy Zero Day Code, which is at last available in Kindle format on Amazon. ZDC was previously Audible only, and now we junkies of the written word can jump in on the fun.
First, we encounter any number of believable heroes and villains, both sets of which come with human traits and flaws. There are no bulging biceps or straining bras, seemingly bulletproof protagonists or withering damsels in distress. No, these are flesh and blood people trying to survive in what becomes a desperate struggle for the living.
Next, the settings are carefully researched and believably presented. The reader can easily place her or himself into the action, at times one can almost taste and smell the locales. Beautifully done, and with a real feel for place and time.
Another point is a driving sense of urgency throughout the work. I experienced this as a strong desire to first keep listening, and then later to turn the pages of the ebook. This is a very difficult book to put down.
Finally, JB’s work is terrifying. The depiction of the situation and the catalyst is dead on. Harrowing. You can absolutely picture the scenario in this book happening tomorrow, the work leaves you with a distinct feeling of unease. Dread.
For me? This book makes me appreciate our currently peaceful and mostly pleasant world, epidemics and political strife set aside. It also rubs my nose in the fact that everything we hold dear is fragile and easily lost. Not to be taken for granted.
Today I’m going to talk a little about something most of us take for granted.
Electricity on demand.
See recent utter disaster in Texas, energy capitol of the US. One significant weather event and half the state was plunged into darkness and freezing conditions. It’s terrible.
John Birmingham, one of my favorite authors, wrote a terrifying book called Zero Day Code. A cyber attack by a hostile state pretty much guts the US, and the US retaliates in spectacular fashion. This book is riveting and horrifying at the same time. As I watched the news this week, I thought of his work. See image below.
Pretty disturbing reading.
For those in Texas, the moment to go buy a small, quality generator is too late.
For those of us who can, you may want to consider buying a small backup unit. They are relatively expensive, but so are burst pipes or spoiled food. In addition, you will also want to safely store at least 5G/20L of high-octane gasoline. Finally, you will want a heavy-duty extension cord for whatever appliance or set of lights that you choose to run.
I would suggest that you consult an electrician to find out how to run your furnace with your new generator, or the refrigerator.
Where I live, we usually lose power during violent summer weather events. Our record without power was eight days or so. Some people were pretty miserable by the end of that one. However, I am well aware that power outages can happen in the winter, too. One year we lost power on New Year’s Day; I had to start the generator early in the morning at 0F/-18C.
This is why, today, I made sure that our family generator had a fresh battery, gas, and I test ran it for an hour or so. Yeah, it totally shot my writing, but hearing that generator run gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling. The feeling that I won’t be swearing and cursing the day that I overlooked sensible measures and maintenance out of laziness.
No, our generator will not defend against Zero Day Code hellish experiences. News flash: nothing will.
However, what it will do is keep us warm for a minimum of 72 hours in the winter. Under most circumstances this will do. I could milk it out for longer, up to a week using only the fuel I have stored, if I ran it only when we got seriously cold. As the article is titled, sensible measures. Not crazy-man stuff.
Even in the city it makes sense to get a generator and then learn how to use it. Learn its quirks and its limitations. Maintain it.
Maintain it. There. I think I’ve said it three times. A generator is USELESS if you can’t get it to start.
Most of the time it just sits there and you feel slightly ridiculous that you own it. Trust me when I tell you: when you need that thing, you will really need it. So take care of it.
Today I will speak of only the generator. It’s a nice to have thing.
I have said nothing about food, water and shelter.
There’s problems with that stuff down south, too. Those of you who are currently unaffected, those who still have the luxury of time and resources, you might want to do a bare minimum of planning for some type of extreme weather event.
Just a thought. I think my readers are a cut above. Y’all are big boys and girls, you can figure it out.
Well all, the middle of an amazingly cold and bleak February is upon us, and I suppose I’m pleased to report that I’ve gone over some two hundred thousand words in my planned trilogy. For me, that’s a lot of writing. Generally spoken one of my novels is about 90k, so this means that I’m about 20-30k into Book Three of this unpublished trilogy.
A good start, 20 or 30k. It’s enough to give you the idea that you’re stuck into a book pretty well, that you’re not screwing around. My final target for the series is about 270k, I think I’ll probably come up a couple of thousand short, but not by a crazy amount.
As you all know, writing is my bulwark against the black dogs of winter. The more I write, the better I feel.
Funny how before my fortieth birthday the only thing I ever wrote were papers at college and military reports. Now I can’t imagine not having this gift during my unplanned early retirement.
Let’s add it up, I’ve never done this before.
My original trilogy. ~270k.
Second trilogy. ~200k to date.
Numbered book. ~56k
Unpublished novellas. ~111k
Fanfic, odd jobs, etc. ~30k
And I’m sure there’s stuff I’m forgetting. However, let’s bust out my computer’s calculator. 703k words, approximately.
Whoa. That’s a lot of writing, especially for an unemployed ex-soldier. This represents seven winter’s outputs- it looks as if I’ve kicked out about 100k words each black season since 2014. I hadn’t realized it was so much until just now; plus, each year for the past four I’ve typed about 50k words onto this website. So heap another 200k words onto my total.
That’s well over 900k words since I was put out to pasture by the Army.
I anticipate that by COB 2021 that I will exceed 1,000k words.
One Million Words.
How did this happen?
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t unpleasant. It’s simply surprising, like watching an odometer roll onto 111,111.1 miles or something.
It’s kind of hard to imagine these days, but this region has a pretty dark and bloody past. As I write my alternate history, I’m always thinking about how things could have been different.
But they weren’t. What happened was that waves of what were known as “Scots-Irish” were chased into America’s frontier with the express intent to violently displace the natives that lived there.
The refugees from the aftershocks of the Battle of Culloden were encouraged to take a ship to America. Once there, they were further encouraged to head west into the waiting mountains. They were heavily armed and primed for conflict; vicious fighting took place. It lasted for decades and the mentality of all against all lasts to this day.
This actually explains a lot about how Americans came to view the world as they do. The maintenance of weapons. The feeling of being threatened by outsiders. The ready resort to violence. It’s all there if you care to look, written into the blood and the history books.
My family and I, we have been touched by this as well.
I need only look at my genetic chart.
Fascinating stuff. Oddly enough one of the most likely matches is for Glasgow, and I can’t think of a single glaringly Scottish name in my background. There are a number of English ones, though. So who knows. But the thumbprint is there, an echo of a long-forgotten war.
But is it really forgotten?
I’d argue not. I read an excellent book years ago about America and the folkways it inherited from England called “Albion’s Seed.”
One of the folkways was the Scots-Irish, also known as the “Borderers.” As I read the book, I clearly recognized the traditions described in my family and region. Hundreds of years later, and millions still act as if they are huddled in threatened settlements, with reivers or other hostiles at the door. It is a mentality that is very, very hard to break. Also, the borderers and the regions they settled tend to have very high populations of combat veterans.
Guilty as charged.
Of course, genes and culture are not destiny. We can all make choices that break the mold, and what’s funny is that a further perusal of my genetic chart reveals other choices my ancestors made in an attempt at forging a better world.
I’ve also got a lot of German and NW European blood, along with a smattering of Native American (with a named ancestor, Mdewakanton Dakota (Sioux)). So ha, the borderers ended up breeding with their sworn enemies over the course of centuries.
I think there’s a delicious irony in this, and a message of hope. If we can slaughter each other and put our enemies to the sword, we can also get along and agree on the common things. In the end, we are all human, we want the same things.
A good life for our kids. A comfortable old age. A dry roof. You get what I’m saying.
Yeah, there’s violence and bad stuff.
But if the borderers, whose blood many of us carry, could move past it, then we inhabitants of the 21st century can, too. Our circumstances are so much better, we have no excuse.
Let the only war we wage be in our movies and books.
Yeah, OK, the pic is a little blurry but you get the idea. Best I could do with the goats at feeding time this frigid morning, the animals are a study of frantic motion. It always gives me a laugh to see how the goats fight it out over some hay and sweet feed; this. This is why I keep them. They make me smile.
The goats started it, but today is a day that makes me smile, after a bleak, seemingly endless winter.
Well, first it must be mentioned that this January marks an anniversary I almost overlooked. I can’t believe I’ve been writing in this blog for four solid years now. Looking back on it, this has been a successful venture. Enjoyable. Which is the whole point.
Second, I have an excellent book to read, “The Splendid and the Vile,” by Erik Larson. It was recommended to me by a friend, and the man knows of what he speaks. I needed a Churchill book to deepen my understanding of this larger-than-life hero; this fits the ticket in excellent fashion. Great reading on a day that is meant for reading.
This leads to a thought: “Hero” is a word that should be used sparingly. Winston Churchill was a hero by any definition, and I am borrowing him for Book Three of my trilogy.
Finally, as long time readers know, a lot of my writing and work is weather-driven. Today is not only cold, it is snowing outside. Snow and rain are the best incentives, at least for me, for keyboard work. On days like today I don’t want to do a darn thing but live inside my own head for hours at a stretch, creating new worlds, or joining friends in explorations of theirs.
The other day, a frigid icebox with lows of 8F (-13.3), I matched a writing record dating back to 2016. Back then I finished up “The Captain’s Cauldron,” the bridge novel of my original trilogy in a day. It was, as I recall, a manic episode that spanned a period from the early dawn to after evening supper, with only brief breaks for coffee or a bite to eat.
That’s the problem with finales, at least for me. The story accelerates to a point that I can’t let go in the final chapters, it seems that I vomit the last words onto the waiting Word document.
This happened on that freezing day last week. Thirteen hours of work, nearly ten thousand words. Stupid. Unbelievable. I paid for it with the stirrings of a migraine and a general feeling of detached shell-shock.
I don’t want to do that again any time soon. Seriously.
But today, today is a leisurely Sunday. All of our running around and chores were tackled yesterday before the snow started to fall. In addition, I visited old friends for the first time since late summer and caught up, the visit was relaxing, enjoyable.
So today I’m in a perfect mindset for Book Number Three in this alternate history trilogy; the beginning of a novel doesn’t have the same feeling of pressure that the end does. The reader, and the writer, have time to watch as events unfold. This is not to say that the writer should be too relaxed; no, the story needs to draw the reader in and unfold in such a fashion that people need to turn the next page.
I guess what I’m saying is that today the pressure is off, and as the snow flies I can have some fun.
It seems like screwing around, really, reading and writing. Maybe it is.
But screwing around, done properly, adds up to work that is fun.
This is how stuff gets done when you’re in the groove; you enjoy what you’re doing and at the end of it you can take some degree of pride in what happened.
Then the editors get to the work in question.
But that’s the tale for another day, and I’m actually very much looking forward to that point.
First, though, the story must be written.
Time to open the Word file. Catch you all sometime soon.
All, in the previous post today, I spoke about how my current project is progressing. Well, I decided to release a non-spoilerrific sample today in my alternate history; some of the pure hell our ancestors dealt with in World War One, both in our history and in my alternate one.
Here goes, fresh off the presses.
Bill tried to scream underwater; he could feel that his feet were stuck in the sucking mud. He panicked and twisted. His struggles were rewarded by the sensation of the muck releasing his boots. He bobbed upwards. He stroked with his arms as if he were a bird taking flight; he kicked with his ungainly, booted feet.
“AH!” He broke the surface. Bill vomited the hole’s corrupted effluent from his lungs; after a few heaves he could breathe again. He doggy-paddled in place, then he picked the closest point in the mud at the bottom of the crater and swam towards it. He puked again as he swam, he had to stop as he heaved.
Mother of God, he thought. There were at least three bloated bags of skin in the hole with him. German, Allied, who fucking knew. He paddled some more in the flare light, after some indeterminate length of time he reached the muddy slope. He tried to crawl out, his knees braced against something kind of solid underwater. He rested against the mud, he panted and retched some more.
For fuck’s sake, he thought. He had breathed in a lungful of corpse water. When he thought about it, he vomited again into the slime. He was wrung out, he couldn’t move. He could barely lift his arms, let alone struggle to the top of the pit. He panted, then the solid thing beneath his knees, perhaps a rock, shifted.
He slid back into the water, screaming. His hands shot out and he tried to grab something, anything. It was for naught. He settled back into the yellow dead man’s pond, his feet scrabbled once again for some type of purchase. This, he decided, wasn’t his fucking day. He resorted again to doggy-paddling, something rotten, soft and stinky bumped against the back of his head.
Oh fuck, he thought. He steered towards a different part of the shore and prayed for a rock, a root, something. He made it just as his arms stiffened and gave out. With a heave he threw himself upward. His hand shot out and probed for something, anything, to grab as his legs thrashed about.
He was rewarded when his hand grabbed something sort of round and hard, his body began to slide backwards once more. The movement into what could have been Bill’s watery grave was arrested by a protrusion in the muddy object that Bill had ahold of; after a few seconds his fingers identified the jutting-out bit on the object he held on to for dear life.
He held onto the front sight ears of a buried Enfield rifle; a dead man’s dropped weapon had saved him, at least for now. He panted, his chest heaved. Another flare shot heavenward. Bill finally had a second to look around at his environs. The bodies in the sluggish, stale water drifted about, probably as a result of his struggles. Their blackened uniforms and equipment strained against the bloat of decomposition gasses pressing to be free; one man’s eternal vacant and eyeless gaze pointed to spectacle overhead as if in awe at the light show.
Bill looked up, too. Tracers streaked overhead, along with a blue flare. The artificial light lit the hole with a frigid touch. Speaking of which, thought Bill, he needed to get the hell out of this water or he would die of exposure. He shook his head and tried to control his breathing. Hyperventilating would do no good, and it robbed him of his dwindling strength. He pulled on the rifle some more, and prayed it was jammed on something solid.
Alright, so you’ve seen this picture before. Not a big deal; it only serves to illustrate my broader point with today’s post. The fact is that I’m in a serious groove with my writing right now, I am dishing out two to four thousand words a day, every day. No stops on the weekends. In fact, the weekends are some of my most productive times. I haven’t deciphered why that is, but it is so.
This latest streak started back in December, maybe late November as I recovered from an illness. I wrote a fanfic for John Birmingham, this was the first thing I had written since concluding an unpublished series last May.
I started to feel it. I wrote three commissioned shorts, and the bug hit.
It was time to write. But what, I asked myself, should I do? As you all know, I lost my indie publisher a few years ago, I have published nothing in my name since Immolation in 2017. However, I had left a one-off, still classified alternate history in the stack.
Perhaps, I wondered, I could turn it into a trilogy. Even better, I could plan the entire trilogy in advance and write it all at once, some planned 270,000 words strung together, hopefully in one cohesive whole.
I’ve learned the hard way that the first thing you need is a detailed outline. Now, when I say “detailed,” I don’t mean a blueprint that shows each and every interaction. That’s not how I roll. How I do it is I write out my chapters according to a three act structure, where Act I is the set-up, Act II is the body of the work, and Act III is the finale. Basically a 1:2:1 structure, where Act II is twice the length of I and III. Then for each chapter I write a sentence, maybe two. Sometimes I describe POV shifts, but often I do not. In any case, as I write, I have the original outline to return to. It keeps me on track.
So I did exactly that in mid December. I wrote the outlines for Books Two and Three, and made sure they formed a cohesive whole with Book One, whose manuscript has been sitting in the slush pile for nearly two years.
Once the outlines were done, it was time to sit down and write.
A quick note. One of the joys of writing is that it costs exactly nothing. Nothing. However, getting your pride and joy in front of readers can cost A LOT, especially if you want to produce a quality indie product.
Trust me, I know. I’m still underwater on my original sci-fi trilogy, The Valley series. I loved those books, but they blew a hole in my wallet.
But I digress.
So yeah, I started to puke words onto paper in my bridge novel of the series. Where does the effort stand as of right this second?
64,426 words written in MS 2 of the series as we speak, and I am closing in on the finale of Book 2. I would have liked to have reached the planned length of 90K words, but I think this one is going to land north of 80K and it’ll settle there.
This isn’t an issue. “The Captain’s Cauldron,” Book 2 of my original trilogy, stopped at 84K, so these are charted waters. I’m satisfied with a RD that hangs out at ~80K.
So there. I offcially started writing on the 21st of December 2020, and I anticipate that MS 2 will be Rough Draft complete NLT 31JAN21.
This is the internal deadline I’ve set for myself, and it looks as if I’ll meet it.
But when, you ask, will these books be published? So my readers can, well, read? That’s kind of the whole point to this exercise, after all.
I don’t know.
Right now I’m writing on the “Field of Dreams” concept. “Build it, and they will come.” Much as Kevin Costner thought he was crazy for erecting a ballfield in the middle of a corn patch, I have moments where I doubt what the hell I’m doing.
But that’s OK. It’s all part of the journey, I suppose.
“Write it, and they will come.”
Worst case scenario I can start a Patreon page and release the series one chapter at a time.
The image above is a remarkable document posted yesterday, the 12th of January 2021. The document was written in response to the events we all witnessed in Washington DC on the 6th of January, 2021. It reminds members of the DoD about the oath they willingly took when they joined the ranks.
It struck me that this was a fine time to repost a dissection of the basic oath of enlistment that I originally posted on the 8th of June, 2020.
I want to discuss this oath, this basic step, because a lot of people misunderstand the role of the US Military in society. So here goes.
First, the oath of enlistment in its present day form.
I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.” (Title 10, US Code; Act of 5 May 1960 replacing the wording first adopted in 1789, with amendment effective 5 October 1962).
Now I’m going to tear it apart and reveal exactly why a lot of military leaders this week have been hesitant to summon the Regular military to US cities to suppress lawful demonstrations.
First, “I will support and defend…” This refers to the obligation, freely assumed by members of the military, to defend the entire US Constitution against those who would seek to deny its specific rights to fellow citizens or attempt to conquer from without. Some examples would be lawful conflict against Nazis in World War Two, or suppression of the Klu Klux Klan during Reconstruction. The Nazis because they sought to overthrow our system of government, the KKK because they sought to deny the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens.
“I will bear true faith…” This means that you follow the Constitution to the letter and the spirit, and that you are loyal to the Constitution before all else. It’s why this clause is written before the following clause, which authorizes lawful authority to command.
“That I will obey the orders of the President… officers…” A military member is required to follow the orders of the President and officers, commissioned and non-commissioned. The clause means what it says. However, there is an important caveat; and this is raised in the next clause.
“According to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice…” This body of written regulation and law is first subject to the Constitution. A military member may not circumvent the Constitution. After the Constitution follows regulations and the UCMJ, which are partially subject to international treaties (ex: the Geneva Convention). This clause, within regulation, recognizes the difference between illegal and legal orders. This is a concept which was fleshed out by the Nuremberg Trials of 1945-47; i.e. it is why it is never a sufficient defense to say “I was just following orders” in the course of atrocities, etc.
“So help me God.” The capping clause that acknowledges the supremacy of a deity over the laws and actions of man.
There you go. A nutshell class in why every service member in the United States serves as a guarantor of the freedoms enumerated in the US Constitution, and why they must follow orders, but only legal orders given in the spirit of the US Constitution.
By the way, National Guard personnel have a slightly different oath in which they recognize the command authority of a given state’s governor. Look it up, it’s much the same; also, National Guard personnel are frequently summoned to active duty and they function under Title 10 exactly like regulars. Sometimes people get confused by this, but it’s really simple.
So there you have it, the reason why every US trooper is obligated by law to uphold the Constitution.
If a servicemember acts to deny his or her fellow citizen their Constitutional rights, then they have gone against the base principle that they committed themselves to on their first day of service.
The US oath of enlistment.
It is specifically designed to ensure and lawfully oblige each member of the armed services to protect the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens; with their lives if necessary.
OK, why am I posting an image of yet another medal today?
There’s a reason for this. One is that military medals are important symbols for those who know how to read them; they signal a service member’s complete record if you know what you’re looking at. In many cases, they also serve to illustrate the history and choices a nation makes.
The medal above is the United States World War Two Victory Medal; anyone who honorably served in the US military between December 7, 1941 and December 31st, 1946 is entitled to wear it.
This medal represents the moral courage of an entire nation and government; it was issued at the cost of trillions in treasure, hundreds of thousands of young deaths; and millions maimed and traumatized.
Moral courage is the courage to take action for moral reasons despite the risk of adverse consequences. (Wikipedia)
Physical courage is bravery in the face of physical pain, hardship, even death or threat of death. (Wikipedia)
I’ve been up against situations that required both types of courage, and I believe that the harder of the two is moral courage.
The World War Two medal above required both types of courage from its participants, although physical courage was the one most frequently praised and acknowledged.
For physical courage, you don’t have to look far or think hard. This can be divorced from the moral aspects and frequently is. For example, the qualifications for valor decorations amongst the German, Soviet, US, British, etc. militaries is similar. The moral aspects behind the causes was worlds apart.
There is nothing to admire about the German cause in World War Two. Nothing. But it took real moral courage to oppose Nazism and fascism at the time.
These days, eighty odd years later, one may think that this is no longer relevant.
Allow me to explain how the moral courage of President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill still matter.
Both had to deal with isolationist sentiment, as well as large blocs of the population that were sympathetic to fascism. It is a myth that the British Empire and the United States went into World War Two united and motivated. Not true at all, and this reluctance to engage ascendant fascism is easily perceived upon any type of study whatsoever.
In terms of the subject, moral courage, President Roosevelt had to make a clear policy stand to prepare the US for war; he had to define an enemy that many Americans didn’t see as a threat. It is well known that isolationist sentiment in the US opposed Roosevelt’s proposed military buildup; celebrities such as Charles Lindbergh were staunch proponents of the America First movement. He was an open admirer of Adolph Hitler; many Americans shared his views.
These days this may be inconceivable for many of us. But it was true. Millions across the United States and Europe thought that the Fascists had the solution to the economic woes of the Depression; millions also could have cared less about the plight of the Jews and other oppressed minorities.
Sad but true.
Roosevelt had to use every tool at his disposal to get the US to prepare for war; in the end it was only the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor and Hitler’s ill-advised declaration of war on the US that really got the “arsenal of democracy” turning.
The stress and strain of his prewar stand and the conduct of the war killed President Roosevelt on the job.
Roosevelt was a real, no kidding profile in moral courage.
Brought back to the personal level, I don’t have many opportunities these days to exercise physical courage. This is a good thing. Physical courage implies danger either to me or my family. I don’t think many of us have to confront real enemies at the gate.
But all of us have to make choices that require moral courage.
Moral courage is hard. Draining. It’s the constant drive to do the right thing; in the service we would have called this “living by the Army values.” I know I constantly put things into the paradigm of what I did in the past. It can be a problem. But the past applies here, in this discussion.
Let me show you the Army Values, and you will understand.
Loyalty. Duty. Respect. Selfless Service. Honor. Integrity. Personal Courage.
I guess this still means something to me, even after seven years of retirement. These values aren’t just hot air, and they aren’t just for soldiers. This is moral courage in a nutshell; and trying, and occasionally failing, to live up to these values has cost me. I am certain that I am not alone in this; all of us face difficult life choices. It’s the decisions we make that represent something else of importance; character.