Great Column in September GUNS Magazine On My Book Series

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Over the winter I received an email from legendary gun writer Mike Venturino who had read my books and really enjoyed them.  He mentioned several times in our correspondence that he’d love to do an article on the books if he ever had the opportunity.  The opportunity came recently and he sent me a message to check out the September issue of GUNS magazine, which had just gone on sale.

At lunch, I went to my nearest magazine vendor — a grocery store — and there was a two page column on the books.  It was a fantastic review with several pictures, including one of me shooting my friend Steve Bird’s sweet VZ58 rifle.

As of this writing, the article is available free online at their website.

https://gunsmagazine.com/good-books/

Interview with Engineer 775, aka Scott Hunt of Practical Preppers

While I was at Heritage Life Skills in Waynesville, NC, a few weeks back I had the opportunity to speak with Scott Hunt of Practical Preppers.  Scott is known to his legion of Youtube fans as Engineer775.  He did a short interview with me early one morning before things got rolling.  He was a great guy and I look forward to talking with him more in the future.  You can watch the interview below.

Great Times at Heritage Life Skills V

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Just spent a great weekend in Western North Carolina at the Heritage Life Skills event put on by Carolina Readiness.  This was their fifth event and I had a blast.  Sold lots of books, met lots of folks, and had a  lot of great after-hours conversations with the people that stuck around for the entire weekend.

I was set up at a vendor booth with my friend Chris Weatherman, otherwise known as Angery American, author of the fantastic Going Home series.  Chris and I signed lots of books and had a lot of time to sit and BS about everything from kids to guns to prepping and everything in between.  He’s a great guy I can’t thank him enough for recommending my books to all the folks that came up and said they’d read all of his already.

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Chris and I also taught a class together on Friday and on Saturday we were the opening speakers at the night’s event.  It was a sort of a panel discussion with Chris and I being joined by Alan Kay, winner of the first season of ALONE.  Although Alan and I didn’t get to spend a lot of time together, I can tell you that people raved about his classes and workshops.  If you ever get the opportunity to participate in a training offered by Alan, whether it’s on foraging, bug out bags, or personal defense, you should grab that opportunity.

I also got to meet Survivor Jane, well known in the preparedness community for her books, lectures, and her Prepper Camp event that she hosts in the fall.  We had a good opportunity to spend the morning talking and I really enjoyed meeting her.

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My buddy Steve Bird showed up on Sunday.  Steve and I always have a great time hanging out together.  He is on his second series of post-apocalyptic fiction now and you can find those on Amazon.  I’ve read through the first series and really enjoyed it.  In the picture, I’m not really depressed or anything but I was chewing gum and the camera caught me mid-chew.  The bearded guy on the right is Angery American.

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I’ll be posting more on this later, but I also had the opportunity to meet one of my own preparedness heroes Dr. Joe Alton, otherwise known as Dr. Bones.  He did an interview with the Steve, Chris, and myself for his podcast.  I also told him that he had a mention in Legion of Despair during  a scene when someone is stitching someone up and stated that they learned that skill in Dr. Bones’ suture class.  Sure enough, Dr. Bones was conducting suture classes at HLS, too.

On the last morning, I also got the opportunity to meet Scott Hunt of Practical Preppers, known as Engineer775 to his Youtube following.  Scott did a short video interview with me which he’s already released and I’ll get a link up to that soon.

There were so many cool and interesting people that it’s hard to list them all, but I wanted to thank Jan and Bill Sterrett at Carolina Readiness for the invitation and hospitality; my camping buddies James Ashton (NCPREPPER on Youtube) and instructor Kerry “Gabby” Alzner for the entertaining evening conversation and storytelling; and my entertaining vendor neighbors Ken and Jen Elswick and #mountainfabulous realtor Stephanie Johnson.

Great people, great event, and I look forward to going back next year.

Legion of Despair Now Available for Pre-Order

Book Three in The Borrowed World Series, Legion of Despair, is now available for pre-order.  If you pre-order the book, it shows up automatically on your Kindle on the day of release.

The release date is scheduled for April 8th.  I wanted to get it out in March, but Amazon needs the finished file 10 days prior to release and I just can’t guarantee it will be ready any sooner.  Even with the manuscript completed, there’s a lot of steps between here and there.

Hopefully by pushing the release back into April, that will give me enough time to get the paperback and audiobook completed so that we can have a simultaneous release in all formats.

I look forward to your comments and hope you enjoy the book.

Legion of Despair

Book Three Is A Wrap

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I’m excited to announce that I’ve finished Book Three of The Borrowed World Series.  I hope to have it edited this month and available toward the end of March.

This series is followed by a diverse group and they all enjoy different aspects of the books.  I hope there’s something here that appeals to everyone who liked the last two books.

I don’t want to reveal a lot, but I will say that this book picks up on Gary’s story and Alice’s story, which a lot of you have asked about.  Jim’s family is not left out, though, and there’s plenty of drama still going on in his valley.  There’s also a lot of the gritty, the terrifying, and the slightly disturbing elements that I enjoy writing.

As soon as we have a cover, I’ll share that and the title with you.

Thanks for the emails and the support.

Most of all, thanks for reading.

Chemical Lightsticks

In my book ASHES OF THE UNSPEAKABLE, a lightstick saves the day in a creative manner.  They are useful prepper gear for the Bug Out Bag, the Get Home Bag, or even for your vehicle.

As I write this, I am thinking of a story I heard on the news this morning.  Snow caused a twelve-hour, thirty-five mile long backup on a Kentucky interstate yesterday.  If you’re stuck on the highway for twelve hours, especially with kids, a light in the car can make a lot of difference.  Running the engine for twelve hours eats up a lot of fuel.  Most flashlights aren’t going to run twelve hours, either.  A twelve-hour lightstick in your car kit could be helpful.

Picture the following:

  • You lose your primary flashlight and have no backup
  • the cold weather zaps the batteries in your primary light and you have no backup
  • you need light but you don’t want to destroy your night vision
  • you need to mark a turn in the trail at night for other members of your party
  • you need to mark a distance for tactical purposes
  • the lights go out and you need a safe nightlight for the kids
  • you have a night vision device and need a way to distinguish the good guys from the bad

All of these are scenarios where you can put chemical lightsticks to use. They come in a variety of colors.  You can get white or yellow for providing good, usable light.  You can get red for preserving your night vision.

You can even get infrared IR lightsticks that produce light that is only visible to folks wearing nightvision.   This system is frequently used by military forces to distinguish the good guys from the bad in darkness.  The IR stick produces no visible light, but glows when viewed by a NVD.

Lightsticks are cheap, they don’t take up much room, and they don’t weigh much.  I’d encourage you to get a couple for your various gear bags.  You can buy them on Amazon in bulk to save money and find better variety.

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Backpacking Canister Stoves

In my books, my lead character carried a canister stove in his pack.  It’s a stove he’s familiar with through backpacking.  The reason I selected that particular stove is that I am familiar with it through backpacking, too, and it has served me well over the years.  That stove is the MSR Pocket Rocket.  It’s a hugely popular backpacking stove that uses readily-available canisters of a propane/butane mix.  The stove runs $39.95 on Amazon, which is exactly what it cost when I bought mine around 8 years ago.    The stove weighs around 3 ounces and comes in a plastic case.  It doesn’t have an igniter so you have to use a lighter or some spark source to light it.  It boils a liter of water in around 3 1/2 minutes.

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Three arms fold in to make the stove compact for storage, then fold out to rest a pot on.  I’ve never dumped my dinner yet, but I’ve seen it done so you want to make sure that you have a stable cooking base before you start.  If the wind gives you trouble, making the stove lose heat, you can make a screen out of aluminum foil to shield the flame.

One complaint about the stoves is that they do not function as well in extended sub-freezing conditions.  Notice I say “extended” — I have used mine many times on camping trips with overnight temps in the teens or for making coffee on a snowy hike.  It does work in cold temps, but extended trips in below freezing temps may cause you some issues so be aware of that.  Use of the MSR brand of fuel rather than other brands such as Coleman or Primus is supposed to alleviate this problem somewhat, as MSR has developed a mix that reportedly performs better in those temps.  If you’re likely to be facing those extreme, arctic-type conditions, though, you may want to look at a liquid fuel stove instead of a canister stove.

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What if you don’t want to tie up $40 on a stove that’s going to sit in your BOB and not be used all that often?

One option is a Chinese knock-off canister stove, also available on Amazon.  I’ll include links to both stoves at the end of this article.  My son got me this stove a couple of years ago as a backup.  It cost less than $10.  There are several on Amazon and they’re all in that $15 and under range.  It’s made a little differently, but it includes a piezo igniter which works really well and it’s in the same weight range of around 3 oz.  For the price, it works like a charm.  I’ve included some pics to show the size relative to the MSR, which comes in a red case.

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You can pick up cans of fuel everywhere from camping stores to Walmart to Dicks Sporting Goods.  Price vary but generally around $5-6 or less.  MRS also has smaller cans available.  The thing I like about those is that I can fit a can of fuel AND a stove inside my cooking pot.  The cooking pot came with a selection of smaller pots, cups, and bowls but in a BOB I leave those out for weight savings and just use the big pot.  The particular pot that’s shows is from a GSI Halulite Dualist cook set.  I’ll also include a link to that if you’re interested in checking it out, although an aluminum Coleman backpacking set will serve the purpose for cheaper.

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If you have any questions, drop me an email.  I don’t claim to be an expert but I do have some experience that I’m willing to share.  Bug Out and Get Home Bags have to be individualized to your own needs, based on where you’re likely to be going, how many days you’ll be on the road, and the conditions you expect to encounter.  The important thing is that if you don’t have one, you start building one.

 

Bushnell Nightwatch Night Vision Device

I probably get more questions about my night vision device than anything else.

First off, you have to accept that most consumer night vision — especially Gen 1, especially at a realistic entry-level price point — is going to produce a somewhat disappointing image quality.  It will not look like a good scope or binoculars.  It will probably look more like a toy and you’ll wonder why you paid good money for it.  However, you have to look at the strengths that even the most basic night vision gives you.  Seeing someone before they see you is a huge tactical advantage.  Being able to navigate unfamiliar terrain without the use of a flashlight is also an enormous tactical advantage.

So if you are going to be satisfied with your NVD, you have to accept it for the strengths and not the weaknesses.  That said, I use a Bushnell Night Watch, which is VERY basic.

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One of the things I like about this device is that it has an IR illuminator, so you aren’t relying on starlight alone, although it does function without the IR illuminator.  It provides 2x magnification.  Outside, I feel pretty comfortable at close range with this device.  Out to about fifty yards, I can recognize a familiar person.  Up to about 100 yards, I can see someone approaching my position.  As I said, not great but still an advantage.

The optics quality is not great, but that’s common to devices in this price range.  Focus is finicky.  Still, I have experimented with this device a lot and think that I would rather have it than not have night vision at all.  I will warn you, though, that getting into night vision is similar to getting into guns.  It just makes you want more and better.

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The 2x version runs about $155 bucks on Amazon.  You can also check out opticsplanet.com for similar devices.  They have a good range of devices at all price points.

 

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Anker 14 Watt Portable Solar Charger

In my book, the main character uses this same device to repeatedly charge his cellphone while traveling on foot.  How do I know it works?  Because I own one and I’ve tried it out myself.  More variations on this device are becoming available each day and they will only get lighter and more powerful as the technology is improved.

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If I’m in the backcountry, or even if I’m just camping away from a vehicle, this device will charge my cellphone.  It’s not as fast as a wall or car charger, but it works everywhere.  Opened it’s nearly three feet long and around eleven inches wide.  It weighs 27.9 oz so it’s not exactly ultralight, but the ability to communicate is one of your primary safety tools.  The grommet holes allow it to be attached to your backpack with carabiners so you can stow your phone in your pack, run a cord to one the two USB ports on the charger, and you can charge while you’re on the trail.

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You can read about the  device on Anker’s website.  You can also buy it for around $50 right now on Amazon.  While this device may seem like a luxury, what’s it worth to communicate with your family during a disaster?