Sunday, December 30, 2018

Repost: Oil Apocalypse Blogs #1

As I begin to blog about the topics that I’ve researched and that led me to situate this novel series at the end of petroleum, I hardly know where to begin.It was a three-year research process to come to the series, and some of my reading goes back to my university undergrad days.

I’ll start the series with answering general questions friends and readers have already asked me and imaginary questions that other people might ask in the future.

Do you believe that oil is coming to an end?

Without a doubt.

It’s a finite resource. The world population increases daily by almost a quarter of a million people, India and China, the most populous nations, become bigger users of fossil fuels every day, and it takes tens of millions of years for new oil to be made via geological processes. So yes, absolutely, it’s coming to an end. I don’t need to “believe” it, no more than I need to “believe” in gravity or molybdenum or the planet Mercury. Oil will run out.

But I’ve read in the newspaper there is plenty. Don’t you believe the official measures of available oil and predictions of how long it will last?

Not for a second. These figures come from the oil industry itself (remember, the folks you brought you Deep Horizon and the Exxon Valdez?), which is fixated on short-term profit, not the long-term health of civilization, and from the same governments who have lied about far too much for my entire life. Obviously none is to be trusted and all have their own vested economic interests that make lying advantageous to them. They aren’t wholly on my side and have plenty of incentive to lie, so I don’t believe them.

So who do you believe?

Sorry, but I have no one reliable to offer you in exchange for those unreliable sources. I’ve read every peak oil/post oil book there is out there, watched all the documentaries, read hundreds of blog posts by everyone from social scientists to actuaries to economists to “recovering oil executives,” to the Grand Archdruid, to back-to-the-earth small organic farmers who use horses and hoes instead of tractors, and there is so much panic-mongering and so many unlikely claims, so many crazy cults that don’t allow dissent or questions if you wish to clarify the source of their claims, it’s hard to know whom to believe. So I don’t believe any of them either. (lol.)

Sure, that’s because some are clearly nutty, but also because the most rational and well-read of them are predicting details about a future that is unpredictable. I don’t know the future, and they don’t know. Some (not much) new oil could be discovered. New technologies might emerge to get oil out of tar sands more efficiently, though for now it takes more energy to extract it than it gives in return. (same is true of corn-based ethanol.) Nobody knows the shape of the future, and while someone out there (probably a few gas executives and intelligence agencies) is certain how much gasoline is truly left to be pumped up, they aren’t sharing that info.

We do all know this: oil is a finite resource and more than half that ever was has already been burned.

Wikimedia. Oil production and use. Hubbert's Peak in action to 2003

When will oil entirely run out?

Not a clue. After I’m dead and gone, no doubt, and probably before 100 years beyond that has passed, but other than that, without someone first telling us the truth about how much there is, I would not hazard a guess. (Okay, I did hazard a guess in writing this novel series, but Slashed is set about a generation from now, and that seems far too soon for us living in the real, non-fictional world. I didn’t want the world unrecognizable, so I chose that time frame and a world political arrangement that had the US dependent on one foreign source that gets shut off in an instant. Artistic license.)

more to come next week

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Repost: some of what I read as research for the Oil Apocalypse series

1) Anything I could find on small ground-unit tactics, including parts of the US Army field manuals and after-action reports from Australian, US, and British ground troops going back to the 1950s. In a few cases, the reports had a few lines about what it felt like to be there and vivid descriptions that helped me imagine (though I’ve never been in combat myself) what that might be like. Many thanks to those authors.

2) I admit that I’m no expert on weapons (I’ve fired a half-dozen, but that’s about it), so online manuals and discussions have helped me appear (I hope) something other than a fool on the topic. Friends help, and I’ll continue to use my friends for just that purpose as I write the rest of the series. A big thank you goes out to them for this help.

3) Though it’s a subtle part of the setting at first, there is a warming trend in the deserts of the southwest US right now and I’ve extrapolated worse in the near future setting of my novels so that the snow level is higher, the mid-altitudes hotter, and the animal populations are shifting. I’ve read paleoclimatology edited for the non-professional reader, including The West Without Water, Ingram and Malamud-Roan. I’ve read climate change books that focus specifically on Arizona and New Mexico, including the beautifully written A Great Aridness by William DeBuys. I revisited some of the ruins of Sinagua and Hohokam people in Arizona where drought and heat drove them away from their home (and which also drove other cultural changes that led to the abandonment of many Indian cities in the 1400s in the southwestern US.) Brian Fagan’s books on water and climate and the history of human civilization provided some additional help. As the series progresses, it becomes more of a cli-fi series.

4) Over the past three years, I’ve read probably everything written for the general audience on peak oil since 1990, including many blogs and debates in comments, ones from the wackdoodle (and the topic seems to attract some of that!) to the sober. I’ve interviewed a petroleum engineer, viewed every documentary movie on the topic I could find, and if I’ve missed a single popular book, I’d be shocked. (Thanks to the public library and the concept of free inter-library loans for much of this.) For a quick overview, I might suggest (though it is not without its problems) the film A Crude Awakening.

5) Wikipedia has become a sine qua non for most authors. I probably look at some page there five times a day. WokFI is just one page I looked at one day (for a scene that lasts barely 25 words), but hardly an hour passes that I don’t look up something like that. I remember the days when you had to drive to the library and look in books and Periodical Indexes and ask reference librarians (who are terrific people) and call around to find friends of friends of friends in order to find such facts. I donate every year (often twice!) to Wikimedia Foundation because they save me a lot of time and effort.

People tell me I spend too much time and effort on research, but as a reader of novels, I like to think the author is telling me truth about the real world rather than nonsense, and so to me it's a worthwhile use of my time. Besides, I like learning, so it's no chore.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Simple tech ain't so simple

My new series is going to be set long after the apocalypse, and the world (or at least continent) as we know it will have fallen back to a 17th or 16th century world. Wheels, for instance, will be carved, wooden, and "tires" will be of salvaged metal strips. Someone has to do the salvage work. Someone has to carve the wheels.

Not that there will be gasoline engines to pull the contraptions the wheels are on, mind you. Horses or people! Or people just drag the plow or ard themselves, roped into it, rather than like this guy who apparently has some deer-dalmation hybrid pulling his. (Egypt. interesting place. 😏)

My book is partly set in a wooden windmill, where grain is ground for the community. I've been educating myself on the history of windmills, and how complex they grew with people adapting them using nothing but quite simple tools. Lubricated by bee's wax, these machines sawed wood, ground grain, made Holland habitable, made paint, and all sorts of other items for use or trade. I enjoyed musing about the innovations, who came up with them, how long it took to get it "right," and the sort of person who could innovate. Honestly, it took me a week of studying them to figure out the basics!

Consider the design of a millstone, carved by a stone carver or millwright by hand. They must have started with just two stones, millennia ago, and came to this point.The more you think about the design--and read up a little on it--you see what an astonishing bit of technology the design is. It grind the grain, it pushes the grain out, and it doesn't pulverize the grain. The stones are further apart near the center and closer at the edge. The design controls the movement of the grain (eventually down into a hopper.) Most rotate about 2 times per second. Here's one design, but most look something like this.

I'm reading widely, not quite knowing what will be of use. And some of this is based on TV shows I watched years ago, like "Life After People," where they explained how the buildings, bridges, and monuments of our culture will fall apart quickly in the absence of our keeping them up (and having the petroleum to do so). Articles I've been bookmarking for over a year might apply--like the "fruit walls of the 16th century" article I found that shows how to grow fruit by using the heat-storing capacity of southern-facing clay or brick walls to create a warmer microclimate that ripens the fruit sooner and allows you to grow figs in Montreal. (I may not need this, but it's the sort of thing I bookmark and may or may not use.)

My writing process is, as I do this research, it starts to come together for me, characters begin to pop into my mind (Who does the windsmith interact with most often? What is her role in the community? What kind of person could carve millstones for a living?) I simultaneously gain the knowledge I need to make details correct and (I hope) vivid and get to know my cast of characters. When it feels ripe I begin to outline a series or book, though I also have self-imposed deadlines, so it darned well better ripen up on time! :D

Jan 1, I plan to type the words "Chapter 1" and get going on the new series. It's a little unusual for indie post-apocalyptic, as the apocalypse will be rather far in the past, but there are similarities in how it's a survival adventure, and new sort of apocalyptic events will spring up for the characters to deal with. As a minor point, climate change may have been nasty for the Oil Apocalypse characters, but when it changes back for their descendants to a colder world, a new kind of climate change will be just as difficult to adapt to. There are other problems they'll face, but I won't spoil it for you. It's coming in 2019.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Gardening -- thoughts and resources

I have become obsessed with vegetable and fruit gardening again. This is not the first time in my life, but it has become a more interesting hobby/obsession lately because of the context of post-apocalyptic thinking.

I have a third of an acre lot, and this is close to how much land one person needs to survive on if using intensive planting techniques. I bought my new house in a tiny village where I'm allowed to have hens (and I looked at homes in the country, where I could have had goats, a milk cow, or raised any animal I wished), and that could add to my ability to survive without visiting a grocery store. With a patch of grain grown for the hens, and discards from the veg garden to supplement what they'd find pecking around the yard, I could keep a healthy half-dozen hens. For now, though, I'm focused on expanding the food-producing area of my yard.

I lived in Oregon's Willamette Valley once, and if you don't know of it, it's a perfect gardening locale. I had grape arbors, an apple tree, and a veg garden behind a chicken-wire fence. There were also local small farms that had inexpensive fresh produce as well and pick-your-own strawberry fields. Wild blackberry bushes were all over the place, and it was easy to get as many as you could want for no money. It was a lush, beautiful place, and it seldom froze or got over 90F there. I didn't realize how lucky I was!

In Arizona, I grew mostly tomatoes in containers, had to wrap them with netting or rabbits would eat the flowers, they were so desperate for food, and grew them from seed (plant seeds around Feb 1, water every day, harvest by May. Voila.)

Where I am now, it's a four-season place, and while with a small hoop row cover, you could harvest greens an extra four months of the year, usually May through October are the months for harvesting (or "cropping," if you're living elsewhere). I'm still fighting rabbits, not to mention the bugs that eat the brassicas, but I'm already growing a wider variety of food: tomatoes, peppers, chard, squash, and bok choi comprised my first spring planting. Next year, there will be a good deal more and seven varieties of tomatoes, not just two. Also, I learned some lessons I'll apply next year. And I've grabbed some trellises at yard sales for a dollar here and there that will help me maximize my use of space.

Right now, I'm making leaf mold and piling up various compostable items I can find on two new raised 8 x 4 beds. The idea is, over the winter, the organic bits will compost some more, and in spring I'll add a mix of top soil, peat (or equivalent), well rotted cow manure, and perhaps a bag of commercial compost to the top of each bed, plant into it, cover it with a final layer of more saved leaves from this autumn that act as both mulch and compost, and grow. Every year for the next several, as that base layer shrinks down with composting and the worms having at it, I'll add more organic material.

Here's a video that shows the sort of thing I'm talking about:

And if you want, you don't even need to build the sides of your no-dig "lasagna" bed (though that's carpentry anyone can manage--four boards, twelve screws, and done), but just do it over your grass lawn or weedy lawn and get to planting. Don't walk on it ever (so keep it fairly narrow, probably 4 feet, so you can reach to the middle), and you have a productive soil from year one that only gets better as you add to it.

One of the great things about this system is the soil is so loose, you don't need anything more than a trowel and your hands to harvest. Watch my current favorite youtube gardener, Patrick at One Yard Revolution, harvest his potatoes for soup this year.

I have a set-up for seed-starting so I can harvest earlier (I should be getting lettuce, bok choi, and spinach by the end of April, weather permitting), and keep accumulating weird containers to start seeds in. (toilet paper tubes for plants that hate to be transplanted, for instance, and I can't go to a potluck but that I'm rescuing the plastic top off the disposable cake dish). Best of all, I'm enjoying the learning, planning,and even the work a lot! Now, talk to me when it's 95 degrees F out there and I have to mow, and I'll complain all day long. But for now, I'm having a fun time, and I'm reading books like this about the science of gardening advice.

I hope to never actually need to survive off my own yard, and I'm not ever going to be willing to shoot strangers over them stealing a few potatoes, but perhaps one day I'll be in such dire financial straits I need the back yard garden in order to eat sufficient food to stay alive. The way the world is going, that doesn't seem like a silly thought any more. I'm getting the system in place, and living through my failures while I have the energy and initial cash to start it up. It's not super-pricey, mind you, but the first heirloom seeds before you begin to save them, the first tools, the bit of lumber, and a few bags of compost before your own pile is large enough to provide all you need will set you back around a dollar per every square gardening foot that first year. After that, if you save seeds, you need to spend almost nothing.

If you don't garden, you may not know what you're missing! Start small, with a 7-gallon container or grow bag for a cherry tomato plant, or new potatoes if you don't like tomatoes, and see if you don't think the small effort was worth what you'll be eating as a result.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Trying to imagine it's 1902

Before my family kills me for being so slow about this, I'm currently working on the finishing touches to a family history novel I wrote originally in 1911, based on the life of my great-grandmother Nellie. I've been promising it to my family for a while, and this holiday season, they will finally get it.

SPOILERS BELOW. If you want to read this book, don't read the blog post.

Nellie was born a bastard, as they said back when, of a 17-year-old girl and the farm worker 18-year-old boy, son of a merchant, who was working the farm kitty-cornered on the plat map to my great-great-grandfather's farm. This boy went on to be a merchant himself, owning a clothing store in Chicago until he died. His last name had come down through oral history, and only a bizarre bit of luck in my genealogical research let me know who his family was: he was recorded twice in a single census, in town and on the farm. (Anyone who does genealogical research will know what an incredible stroke of luck this was!)

not the orphanage...but built at a similar time.

Nellie's mom, Clara, went on to move to Indiana, where an older man married her despite the out-of-wedlock child, and she had two more girls by him, and he died. Her poverty grew dire, and quickly. It was a time of transition for America, when the good farming land was mostly claimed by oldest brothers, when steam engines were harvesting the crops and fewer farm workers were needed, when city factories were calling to displaced children of farms with their hard, filthy, and dangerous jobs, and when the working class was trying to find its place.

With women having no rights, really--not the right to own property in some states or to vote or to ask for equal pay or to divorce a man who beat them--Clara was in a deteriorating situation. While some of her brothers had money, none of them stepped up to help her or her other sisters with money problems. One of them, possibly ill with tuberculosis, visited with her daughter Florence and left her with Clara. I have no idea what their arrangement was--did Clara agree to take on this extra mouth to feed? Or did the sister sneak off in the night? No idea.

But it was the straw that broke Clara. She drove all four of the girls to the local orphanage and signed over her parental rights. It was their only shot at surviving.

Carrie Nation in Ann Arbor 1902. Wikimedia Commons

As always, I researched for this book extensively, and the story on orphanages of the turn of the 19th-20th century is fascinating. Fully half of the children there were like Nellie--not orphaned at all, but arriving on the edge of starvation. Their living parents, fighting for jobs in the shifting economy (from agrarian to industrial) felt they had no other choice. They were lucky there was any social service system, I suppose, for there was no food stamps or governmental assistance. All this fell on the private sector, on benefactors, on good orphanage administration finding ways to get merchant-class citizens to donate.

There were terrible orphanages, ruled by child gangs. There were terrible orphanages, where the children continued to starve and were beaten. And there was the one in Indianapolis (which still survives as a child-aid organization!) which was by all accounts, pretty well done.

Nellie was a pretty girl, with dark hair and strong eyebrows, and she was snatched up by a farm couple from a neighboring county and taken away, as an indentured servant. Again, the experience of orphan indentured servants varied around the turn of the century. Most of them were worked half to death.

Nellie was incredibly fortunate. The couple who picked her out was a lovely pair, with three teenage sons, a well-run farm, and only lacking a girl to help out Ma in keeping everyone fed and clothed. Nellie filled that roll. She was not raped or beaten or starved or forced to sleep in the barn, as many of the indentured orphans may have been. She did not have any need to run away from her indentured life, as many of them did.

an indoor bike track, 1902. Whoda thunk?

But she was under contract, not a slave but still very much controlled under the law. And that's all I tell you (except you can guess she survived, because here I am, writing about her!) The book takes us through her time in the orphanage only, right up to when the farm couple took her out the front door and into an unknown future.

In editing this, I'm appreciative of people who write historical fiction for a living. It's not easy! Just one example: I was editing the book and saw the word "toothbrush." Luckily, I thought to question it. Did people own toothbrushes in 1900, the year this is set?

As it ends up, no. Toothbrushes were not commercially available until the 1930s. People might have used a twig, or they might have used baking soda and a square of cloth to clean their teeth. And it would be said 'clean the teeth,' not 'brush the teeth.'

Heavens knows how many similar errors I've missed! I knew not to have a lot of cars driving around. I've been to historic museums of the Midwest to look at household items like kitchen items, pocketbooks, and clothing. I researched extensively Indianapolis's street car system, fares, and how people bought food. I've read dozens of newspapers from Nellie's childhood years at a historical archive in Indiana. Studying the ads helped put me in mind of what life had been like then. But even though I do all this careful work, it's the little details, like a toothbrush (or not) that are sure to trip me up.

I know a few of my regular readers will like this book, but mostly, it's for my family, my fictional account of what Nellie must have felt like and experienced after her mother dropped her off at the orphanage that spring day. She was 11, the eldest. Children were different then, with more responsibilities in a home or farm. What might she have felt? What comforts would she have clung to? Would she love or hate her mother, or both?

I can't know, but I guessed, as novelists do. The book should be out approximately the end of the year.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Final Oil Apocalypse book is out

Oil Apocalypse 5, Desolated, is now available.

A new threat. Join Sierra and Dev as they struggle to survive in a hotter, drier world when a new enemy arrives with promises that ring false, even to desperate ears.

Here are the links

Barnes and Noble
Google Play

Monday, October 1, 2018

Disaster movies

Sometimes, I review disaster movies.

Click on this link to see several reviews, including some that you may have for free via Amazon Prime or Netflix. I suspect there are one or two you've never heard of, and if you're a fan of such movies, you have some new wishlist items!

Friday, September 21, 2018

How to follow news about my new releases

The best way to be informed of when my next book is coming out is to sign up for my mailing list here on this page, in the form to the right.→

After you fill in the form, you should get an email asking you to confirm. If you do not get that, check your spam folder, where it sometimes ends up. Label it "not spam" and continue.

I have always handled my mailing list this way, and I pledge to continue to:

  1. I will never send you newsy notes that clog up your inbox, just the information you signed up to get: new release notices
  2. I will never EVER sell or give the mailing list to anyone, for any reason. Most authors give it to Facebook to advertise their books to similar people. But I wouldn't want that information shared about me, and I will not do that to you. Not ever. I won't be budged on this!
Other options are to follow me as an author on Bookbub, or click +follow on Amazon, if you use it to buy your books. If you're at Barnes and Noble, Kobo, or Apple/iBooks, there is a link in the back of my books that allows you to sign up for a notification when I upload a new book. Or, you can follow this blog, which is chattier than my newsletter mailing, and you'll see when I am nearing a new release and when the book is available for pre-order.

And some people just remember their favorite authors or bookmark their author page at Amazon and check every few months to see if there is anything new. Myself, I'm a bit too confused to remember to do that, so I admire people who can keep that many mental balls in the air. (I seem to be limited to about three objects in my mental juggling! 😉)

Thanks for reading my books. It has been the thrill of a lifetime to have fans interested in my fiction, to know people believe in my characters as much as I do, and to hear when you've stayed up all night finishing a book.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Oil Apocalypse 5 is coming!

First, a big welcome to my new fans!

I'm revising Desolated, the fifth and last installment of the Oil Apocalypse series. I so like these characters and, as always, when I have to leave them it's like moving away from dear friends. I'm aiming for an October 10 release.

If you haven't read the series yet, you have until October to catch up.

In the near future, the delivery of petroleum to the US ends because of a foreign war, and the residents of one neighborhood in the hills of Arizona are better equipped than most to survive the collapse of civilization that follows hard on its heels.

But are they prepared enough? Twenty-five years after the end of oil, how many more years are they going to be able to nurse along these clothes and tools? The unpainted houses are leaking--though as there is no rain, this isn't the biggest trouble. That comes in the person of mounted horsemen with weapons too great to withstand.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Gray I on sale + new book

Hi! Gray 1 is on sale now, and through the 12th of September, for .99 US everywhere--all countries, and all vendors.

Google Play
Barnes and Noble

Also, I've written "The End" on the first draft of Oil Apocalypse 5, the final installment in that series. Now I have to revise it, edit it, proofread it, and then my pro proofreader will work on it. It should be out by October 10 or so, with a pre-order period on Amazon and Google Play for sure (the other places, I've never tried a pre-order, so I won't promise you that until I see how it works!)

Thanks for reading and enjoying my books.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Links to Lou Cadle author pages

Every place that sells e- and audio books has most of my books for sale now.

Because I have so many for sale, rather than linking each one individually, here are the links for my author page or an author search. Depending on if they carry audiobooks or not, there should be somewhere between 18 and 22 titles for sale.

The links are:



Barnes and Noble

Google Play



Monday, August 20, 2018

Oil Apocalypse 5 update

The book is going great. It's so much fun to be back with Dev and Sierra and the gang.

Between that and getting onto Google Play (and figuring that interface out!) I'm super-busy, so I'm keeping it brief today.

And the garden in bearing like crazy. One day of tomatoes (I do like them, and I can make a sauce when it gets even crazier, which it will):

Friday, August 10, 2018

Starting on Oil Apocalypse 5

Anyone on my mailing list knows this already, but Monday I'm starting on Oil Apocalypse 5, the final book in that series. I don't yet know a title, but I'll decide by Monday.

If all goes well, it could be out as early as October 8-15.

I have a rough outline for it, and I was a bit shocked to realize how many characters I've created. "How am I going to finish off all those stories?" I wondered. But I think I can fit it all in.

It'll be busy keeping up my house, garden, and drafting a novel inside a month, so I won't post here often, just an update every 10 days to tell you if the book is coming along quickly or not.

Thanks for reading! (pic is of #4's cover--I don't have the cover for #5 yet! Can't order it until I have a title.)

Sunday, July 29, 2018

novel status, life status

Greetings! I'm nearly done with drafting my new novel, the World War II thriller. I'll be revising it in September, and then I'm not 100% sure what I'll be doing with it. My stand-alone books don't sell all that well on Amazon (and hardly ever on other platforms), so I might try marketing it directly to publishers instead. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

After that, I'm not sure what I'll be writing. I have a lot of ideas, so whatever appeals to me at that moment.

Otherwise, I'm busy being a new homeowner. The lawn (which, by the way, I hate with the force of a thousand suns!) takes up about four hours a week. My vegetable garden is a much happier endeavor, and I enjoy the bit of self-reliance it provides. I have enough yard that I could be quite self-reliant. I live in a country-ish area that still has regulations but allows five hens per home with sufficient space. I also have 1/3 of an acre, and you can grow a lot of fruit and vegetables on that. Were I to convert the lawn to all vegetable and fruit garden, I could survive for at least nine months of the year.

Although, with the fight I had with cabbage beetles on my bok choi, I'd have to quit eating foods in that family, for sure.

Some cheap phone/ too blurry pictures of the state of my veggie garden a week ago. Potatoes (planted late), cherry tomatoes (coming in well now), regular tomatoes (barely approaching orange), bell peppers, squash. That poor pepper plant was transplanted three times, uprooted by a raccoon and dragged 20 feet across my sister's deck, and then a big tomato plant in a cage fell over on it in a bad storm, smashing it flat to the ground, and somehow it still is making peppers.

I promise to try and be more like that pepper plant!

Sunday, July 22, 2018

My books are now for sale most places

As we say in the business, I've "gone wide," which about where my books are available to purchase--widely, at most vendors. I'm still working on Google Play but hope to be there soon.

You can find my books under this name at:

Barnes and Noble
Angus and Roberson

and even Overdrive, so you can request them through your library if it uses Overdrive. Here is a link to one that has every link in one place except for Amazon.

To have the right to put my books out there for more readers, I had to give up Kindle Unlimited for good, but with the problems (including quality problems) there, it's a wise move. I'm sorry if that hurts my readers.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Pain of Writing Violent Fiction

It is hard for me to live in a world of violence, cruelty, and grief, even if that world is only imaginary. And yet fiction is about struggle and conflict. Often the conflict escalates to violence.

Yes, a few genres, like cozy mysteries (with the murder safely off-stage) and sweet romances (with the conflict about what’s keeping the lovers apart) don’t have that level of conflict or risk or resulting pain. But the ones I read and the ones I write do.

Amazon has, over the 4+ years I have been self-publishing there, made it harder to sell books if you write two a year. You have to write five or six a year to stay visible in the charts, and that’s extremely difficult to do. Readers can read a book in a day or two and think it feels “too short,” but the 75,000 words I wrote took to provide that experience took me considerably longer than a day or two to write. After closing a book of mine, you get to hug your kid and dog and cook up a nice stir-fry. Day after day, I'm mired in my creation.

During the writing, and the editing, often without vacation time between, I’m thinking about pain and terror and loss. With post-apocalyptic fiction, I’m glancing off: “oh right, and six billion other people are dead too” but I notice it. It wears on me, which is why I don’t write only post-apocalyptic with its endless fight to just survive, which I have to feel too in order to make you the reader feel it.

Right now, I’m writing about Nazis in France in 1944 and the brave spies of the Resistance and SOE who worked against them. The research alone is horrifying. I was not even looking for horrors one day a couple weeks back (sometimes I must, but not that day) and found a list of known SS officers on Wikipedia. If they knew what atrocities each had committed, they listed it in a simple sentence.

Glancing through them (I was only hunting for a rank!) was like being smacked in the gut with a baseball bat. One Nazi concentration camp doctor who had literally hundreds of recently dead Jews (disease, overwork, shot trying to escape) available for study had 86 relatively healthy ones gassed so he could study their skeletons. And briefly, there was a museum of them. (I didn’t follow up, but I know the Nazis pretty well by now and am guessing it was to “prove” they were an “inferior race” through some nonsense about bone measurements, and the museum was provided so other Nazis could walk through the horrific display and nod about how "right" they were about that. Spoiler alert: they were wrong, dead wrong. No group of humans is inferior to some other group. Period.)

mass grave #3 at Bergen-Belsen

This research actually hurts. It hurts worse because I worry about the state of the world today. It hurts because I must think about very real dangers and terrors and possible outcomes for my characters, who I come to almost believe are real, must become them with their terror, must witness what they witness--and then describe it all. And then edit those words. And then proofread those words. Day after day after day.

I’m glad I’m writing this book, and I think it will be a page-turner and moving to read. But I’ll also be glad to see the end of it.

Sorry to complain. I know I’m not digging ditches during the hot summer for a living, that I sit in air conditioned comfort and type, but there are other strains than back strains. I’m feeling more than a bit strained right now.

Thank you for listening.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Camp Nano

I take part in April and July in Camp Nano, a social writing event that was created by the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) folks. It is a chance to hang out with other writers struggling as I am, feeling the same highs of the good days when a cascade of words effortlessly flows from you (and it feels like merely through you at times), and frustrations of the days when either life intervenes and no words are possible, or the days when, despite several free hours to write, you have to squeeze each syllable out as if lancing a painful boil.

In virtual “cabins” we drop by and post, as if on any social media, and respond to other people posting. As the de facto leader of this months’ cabin, I make sure to drop by twice a day at least. (I really am not the leader in any sense but I know how to work the interface and was willing to take on the extra few hours of administrative tasks. We're equals there.)

I know writers know all this, but readers don’t, so let me describe some of what gets posted.

  • One person doubts her ability to write at all
  • Another person doubts the project she has committed to is the right project to be working on
  • Another is in love with the research but admits loves the writing less
  • To that, someone responds that they always like having written but don’t love writing
  • The next one says she loves drafting but hates rewriting
  • Someone pops in to announce that house guests have stayed two days too long and she can’t get rid of them and wants to strangle them for taking up her writing time
  • Someone writes more than that day’s goal
  • And even the people who are fighting for every word congratulate them
  • In week three, someone who has been writing effortlessly inexplicably grinds to a halt
  • Everyone sympathizes, for we have all been there.
  • Someone makes a joke about the concept of this being a summer cabin, perhaps offering to make camp stew or s’mores for everyone to cheer us up "out by the lake"
  • Two people drop out quietly, possibly because they are ashamed they aren’t meeting a goal as everyone else seems to be -- or maybe we somehow offended them, but we’ll never know
  • Someone pops in to ask a question of craft
  • Someone else asks a research question. As we’re an international cabin, sometimes we can help each other understand our language or food or other parts of our home culture.

Writing is a solitary, sometimes even lonely, occupation; as a result, I keep some social connections alive with other writers to share the joys and pains of the work.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Settling in

I have a new home, I'm moved in, and I'm struggling to get a yard neglected by the prior owner cleaned up. The weather is often too hot and other times too wet to work outdoors, and once a week I have to stop the fun jobs to mow, which takes me two mornings. Last night we had one heck of a storm--people told me it's the worst in years--and so this morning I spent over two hours cleaning up after it. (And I was lucky. It could have been far, far worse for me.)

People in most of Arizona don't mow, as you may never have realized. There's no grass! My sister asks "what do they do with all their time?" and now I understand what she meant.

My tomato plants are huge and loaded with flowers and tiny fruit, and I have bok choi and chard, a sweet pepper and a yellow squash as well. I barely had time to get that much in before June 1. I'll plant cool season crop seeds in August. So far, the pests aren't awful, but I'm on the learning curve to understanding how to grow my own food in this I expect some disasters will occur. There are a lot of farmers selling chicken eggs from their homes near me and at farmer's markets, so not being able to have chickens ends up being okay for now. At least I can eat good eggs!

I am working on a new book, a stand-alone historical spy novel. I should be done with the first draft by the end of July. In August I need to proofread and send off to the pro proofreader my pen name book based on the childhood of my great-grandmother, who was sent to an orphanage when her mother couldn't afford her and then purchased as an indentured servant. I designed it as two short books and this is the first.

I can see that with all the work my house and yard demand, I'll be writing more from November through April than in the warmer months. I'm still thinking about Oil Apocalypse 5 and if I can bear to do to them what I had planned to do. I'll keep you updated.

my pic of a lily I inherited + hostas.

Friday, June 15, 2018

One of my books free!

I have never done this before, and I'm not spreading the news terribly wide, but I wanted to let you know that this weekend, June 16-17 (Amazon time--that is, it starts at 12:01 a.m. Western Daylight Time), my first in series Saber Tooth will be on sale for nothing as an ebook. Yes, that's no dollars and no cents!

Here's the link

A time gate.
A team of fossil-hunters.
A desperate fight to survive.

Park Ranger Hannah Kates is leading a group of gifted teens on a fossil hunt when a rock slide at the fossil site uncovers a portal through time. The fossil hunters are caught in it and whisked back to an era when giant predator mammals roamed the earth.

When they have no weapons but sticks and stones, how can they survive on their wits and courage alone? And will they ever find their way home?

The exciting adventure begins.

If you've already read it, tell your friends to give it a try. Thanks, as always, for being a reader and fan.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

With life even more busy...a break from blogging.

I've purchased a house. Not my dream house, but a house for a good price that will do for me for the next five to eight years and should re-sell fairly easily.

I'll be signing the final paperwork this week, and then there's a month of painting, fixing, cleaning (the yard in particular is getting to be a neighborhood eyesore!), shopping for supplies, and moving.

I've written 14,000 words on my new novel while I've been on the road and house-hunting, which is both not enough to satisfy me and more than many folks might be able to write under these circumstances. I'd love to be able to get at least another 14,000 while I'm settling in. With that goal in mind, I'm going to blog less during the rest of May and June. I hope to get back to it in July again.

I enjoy blogging, especially the articles I've written on particular disasters. It takes time for the research and writing, but I learn things, which is among my top five activities in life. But it doesn't pay me anything, so it's an indulgence that I won't be able to afford while I'm busy with settling in to a new house. Better to work on a new novel than to write blog posts, yes?

There are over 200 blog posts here, many of them substantial about preparing for emergencies, natural disasters, paleontology, and diseases. Scroll down the right side of the blog, and there are topic links you can use. Enjoy reading!

Thanks for your patience.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

4 Films That Define Me

Someone asked me to post this over at Twitter--it's a hashtag game there. I quickly found four films that, taken together, do catch something of my personality, life, and beliefs.

My 4 films are

1) Les glaneurs et la glaneuse In English, The Gleaners and I.

2) Fight Like a Girl 

3) RV

4) Wordplay 


Sunday, May 6, 2018

Still too busy to be interesting

I'm still mired in house-buying and moving problems. Somehow, I'm writing four days a week nonetheless. And if I get the house I made an offer on, I have a month of mostly outdoor work to do in order for it to not be the house no one wants to look at on that nice block of houses!

I'm mostly posting this to say I'm still alive, still writing, and I'll be back to more interesting posts when life itself is LESS interesting. Isn't there a Chinese curse about that...?

Saturday, April 21, 2018


I am 90% overwhelmed by first keeping my sister's social schedule (a drain for an introvert like me), second by house-hunting, and third by the usual overwhelm I feel about the book-selling business.

Somehow, I've been working on a book between all that. This is another book you could say I've been researching for 2-3 years (as was the case with Crow Vector.) It's a World War II spy novel, and I started writing it while driving 10 hour days from Arizona to Illinois. (I'm apparently nuts. But the darned thing came to life right then, so I had to begin!)

Because of how busy I am, there is no way I'm going to be able to draft this at my typical one-month pace. But I have a book coming out in late April and one in July, so I should be able to hit September with this one. Maybe. Possibly. I hope!

A real life person who appears in three chapters in the book, Vera Atkins, the woman who supervised the female spies in the SOE and spent years after the war trying to find out what happened to the ones who never returned.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

House-hunting with a self-reliant mindset

I've been house-hunting non-stop for two weeks, and I've learned some interesting things.

- buy a house in a less regulated state than the one I'm in! Crazy long lists of rules
- abutting farm land sounds good...until you realize they are spraying a lot of chemicals right next to your garden and Roundup will kill it and neonicitinoids will kill the bees you are hoping to attract
- not all real estate agents are created equal. It is possible that if a real estate agent wears shoes worth more than your entire closet, she spends time on the wrong things
- I've also learned the difference between foreclosures, foreclosures being auctioned, and short sales (around where I'm looking, there is a buttload of all three of those), and the dangers of each
- some people let houses on which they have mortgages fall to pieces, and I want to weep for the poor house, which did nothing to deserve that
- you might not get everything you want for the price you want. Something has gotta give, and then your time may be spent fixing up a house's problems rather than doing the gardening you'd rather do.

nothing I've looked at, but a kind of dream place
Sorry for a short post. I'll do my best while I'm settling in. And after that...who knows about internet!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Seasonal Lag

The astronomical seasons are determined by the relationship of the sun to a planet (or moon). When a planet is tilted, as the Earth is, when days and nights are equal, you have an Equinox. Spring and Autumn equinoxes are March 21 and September 22. The longest day of the year north of the equator is June 22, and the shortest is December 21.

Those dates, in the Northern Hemisphere, are considered the start of our four seasons. April won't necessarily be warm, however. The trend in the Northern Hemisphere now is warming (cooling for my Australian and NZ fans!) but depending on your latitude, proximity to the ocean, and other local factors, it might not be very warm yet as spring technically arrives.

From Wikipedia, Season article

More goes into starting the warming of spring or the cooling of autumn than mere minutes of sunlight. Atmospheric realities delay heating and cooling, insulating the surface of the world, in effect. So, if the date in the Northern Hemisphere with the most sun is June 21, you might wonder why that isn't the hottest day of the year. It usually isn't. Hottest days are usually in July or August. In San Francisco, because of the influence of the ocean, the hottest day is usually around September 25, after astronomical autumn begins! (This results in an interesting non-atmospheric phenomenon where tourists arriving in June, expecting summer, freeze their bums off, and sweatshirt vendors on the street make a bundle of money selling clothes to them. :D ) In Southern Arizona, years when there's a good monsoon---a season of rain, with clouds coming in by noon most days--June actually is the hottest month, for the cloud cover makes July and August almost tolerable.

Again, the sunniest day of the year in the north is June 22. Interestingly, the closest the sun and earth draw to each other is in January, as the illustration above shows, so the summers in the Southern Hemisphere will be a little hotter, all other matters being equal.

The atmosphere takes time to warm, and the ocean takes longer. This is why San Francisco's seasonal lag is greater than inland lags, and it's why the peak Northern Atlantic hurricane months are September and October, when the ocean has finally warmed up to its summer temps.

Historically, some cultures have named six or eight seasons, not four. Other planets have longer or shorter seasonal lags. Mars's is almost zip! (It has very little atmosphere.) Uranus, on the other hand, has over a hundred years of season lag (data











Sunday, April 1, 2018

Revising pen name novel

My great-grandmother Nellie was born a "bastard," as they used to say back when. Bad luck landed her mother in dire financial trouble eight years later. Nellie was given over to an orphanage in the 1890s, and from there sold as an indentured servant for seven years, where she worked for a farm family.

I wrote the first part of her story--the orphanage years--as a novel about eight years ago. (I wrote Gray in 2004-2005, for a comparison.) While I'm busy moving, I've been revising it, and it's done except for proofreading. The working title is The Long Trip Home.

My post-apocalyptic short story collection Timeless will be out in May, and this one will likely be out in July (if you're interested) under my Rosellyn Sparks pen name.

a Vilhelm painting that has the right mood...

Writers speak of "trunk novels"--novels in the trunk that never were published. Once upon a time, there was an actual trunk in the attic, with a paper manuscript or two in it. Nowadays the trunk is more likely to be digital information on a thumb drive.

This is my next-to-last one of those, the one closest to my heart, and for my family's sake, I'll be relieved to get it out there. I think a lot of people will enjoy it beyond them, and it's even appropriate for teen readers who like historical novels, but mostly, I'm doing this one for my family.

It's good to remember where we came from, and how hard our ancestors had it. Most of us lead a relatively easy life today. For much of human history, this was simply not so.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

On the road again...

I'm in my RV, traveling across 1/2 of the country.

Not sure what internet will be like once I settle for good. I want to live in a rural setting, and so I might have a struggle finding a decent sort of connection. I might need to put an automated message on my mail and only deal with it once a week, for instance.

I'm still here, and I'm still writing!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

SF Postapocalyptic story collection

I've finished my part of the work on my upcoming story collection, Timeless. My proofreader is fairly busy, so it'll be up for pre-order on about April 15 (tax day, in the USA!) and will be available on Kindle Unlimited from at least May 1-July 29 and perhaps longer.

I'm moving right now, first to one place, then to another, and after that to a third, over a period of about three months.

(Why yes, now that you ask, apparently I am totally nuts!)

As a result of that, the blog is likely to be a bit skimpy for a month or two. Wish me luck in finding a dream house (including a tiny house, four acres, mature fruit trees, and a nice south-facing roof for solar panels.)

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Oil Apocalypse 4: Parched

Oil Apocalypse 4 is up on preorder at Amazon. The release date is March 22!


It will be on Kindle Unlimited, as is the whole series again.

Thank you so much for reading!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Update on El Faro sinking

Because news has been so crazy this past year, stories like this tend to sink under the rough seas of the news cycle. But I posted about it when it happened, wondering why they'd kept steering into the hurricane, and here's the NTSB press release of six weeks ago on it, verbatim. RIP, crew

​WASHINGTON (Dec. 12, 2017) — The deadliest shipping disaster involving a U.S.-flagged vessel in more than 30 years was caused by a captain’s failure to avoid sailing into a hurricane despite numerous opportunities to route a course away from hazardous weather, the National Transportation Safety Board announced during a public meeting Tuesday.

The 790-foot, cargo vessel, S.S. El Faro, en route from Jacksonville, Florida, to San Juan, Puerto Rico, sank Oct. 1, 2015, in the Atlantic Ocean during Hurricane Joaquin, taking the lives of all 33 aboard.

“We may never understand why the captain failed to heed his crew’s concerns about sailing into the path of a hurricane, or why he refused to chart a safer course away from such dangerous weather,” said NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt.  “But we know all too well the devastating consequences of those decisions.”

NTSB investigators worked closely with the U.S. military and federal- and private-sector partners to locate the wreckage, photo- and video-document the ship and related debris field, and recover the El Faro’s voyage data recorder from more than 15,000 feet under the surface of the sea.

The ship departed Florida Sept. 29, 2015, and had a range of navigation options that would have allowed it to steer clear of the storm that later became a Category 4 hurricane.  The captain, consulting outdated weather forecasts and ignoring the suggestions of his bridge officers to take the ship farther south and away from the storm, ordered a course that intersected with the path of a hurricane that pounded the ship with 35-foot seas and 100 mph winds.

As the ship sailed into the outer bands of the storm, about five hours prior to the sinking, its speed decreased and it began to list to starboard due to severe wind and seas.  In the last few hours of the voyage, the crew struggled to deal with a cascading series of events, any one of which could have endangered the ship on its own.

Seawater entered the ship through cargo loading and other openings on a partially enclosed deck in the ship’s hull, pooled on the starboard side and poured through an open hatch into a cargo hold.  The hold began to fill with seawater, and automobiles in the hold broke free of lashings and likely ruptured a fire main pipe that could have allowed thousands of gallons of seawater per minute into the ship – faster than could be removed by bilge pumps.

About 90 minutes before the sinking the listing ship lost its propulsion and was unable to maneuver, leaving it at the mercy of the sea.  Although the captain ordered the crew to abandon ship when the sinking was imminent, the crew’s chances of survival were significantly reduced because El Faro was equipped with life rafts and open uncovered lifeboats, which met requirements but were ineffective in hurricane conditions.

The NTSB also said that the poor oversight and inadequate safety management system of the ship’s operator, TOTE, contributed to the sinking.

“Although El Faro and its crew should never have found themselves in such treacherous weather, that ship was not destined to sink,” said Sumwalt.  “If the crew had more information about the status of the hatches, how to best manage the flooding situation, and the ship’s vulnerabilities when in a sustained list, the accident might have been prevented.”

As a result of the 26-month long investigation, the NTSB made 29 recommendations to the U.S. Coast Guard, two to the Federal Communications Commission, one to the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, nine to the International Association of Classification Societies, one to the American Bureau of Shipping, one to Furuno Electric Company and 10 to TOTE Services.

The complete accident report will be available in several weeks.  The executive summary, including the findings, probable cause and safety recommendations is available at

Additional information related to this investigation, including news releases, photographs, videos, and a link to the accident docket containing more than 30,000 pages of factual material, is available on the El Faro accident investigation page at

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Almost done with Oil Apocalypse #4

I wanted to update you on what I'm up to these days. I'm proofreading Oil Apocalypse #4, Parched, and I'll turn it over to the pro proofreader on March 1. I think I should be able to get it out around March 20 with a three-week pre-order period.

I'm not 100% sure where to go from there in the tale. I had outlined a book 5, but it was going to be a terribly bleak story, and I'm not in the mood to do that at this moment. (It gets harder to kill characters the longer I live with them!) So now I'm dithering. (You can stop at book 3, or you can stop at book 4, and it should feel like a complete series, no matter what I end up saying in book 5.)

I have a related series planned for longer after the end of oil, hundreds of years later, with a distant descendant of Sierra in the lead role. Have you ever seen the TV shows about Life After Humans? (there are two or three.) This fascinates me, how humans might be rebuilding while around them, there is rusting steel from collapsed bridges, crumbled skyscrapers, and other old tech that still exists, doesn't work, and creates something of a puzzle for the survivors. I've done quite a bit of reading about simple tech--building a wooden windmill to grind grain, blacksmithing, and so on. I plan to write that three-book series in 2019...unless some new, shiny idea jumps up, raises its hand, and demands to be noticed.

Ideas, by the way, are never my problem. I have files stuffed with ideas for novels, stories, and probably a dozen first chapters that wouldn't make half-bad books were I to continue them. I woke up a month ago with two great ideas for books I'll probably never have time to write. I'm an idea factory! The difficulty is in choosing between them, finding something I believe my fans will like but that won't bore me by being too similar to what I've already written.

In personal news, I'm moving halfway across the country in March, with the dates not yet set in stone (partly because of weather). What this means is that I might not be able to blog every single Sunday in March and April, but I'll get some articles up on some Sundays.

For those of you looking forward to spring, enjoy the weather, and for those of you entering autumn soon, enjoy the end of the awful heat you probably have had. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018


(This is a reprint of an article I wrote three years ago.)

Arguably the most famous of volcanic eruptions was the Krakatoa eruption in Indonesia. In the last week of August, 134 years ago, the volcano entered its final phase of eruption, an event that had been building for six months. With a force much more powerful than any nuclear weapon ever detonated, its final eruption sent an ash plume 50 miles into the air and burst the eardrums of people 40 miles away. It was heard clearly in Australia, Manilla, and in islands just west of Madagascar, and the shock wave was recorded on barographs as it swept around the world seven times.

Over 36,000 people died. Pyroclastic flow killed islanders nearby, and a hot rain of ash and stone killed more people 30 miles off. The following tsunami resulted in most of the deaths, and some argue that it caused well over 50,000 deaths not included in the 36,000 figure.

For months afterwards, there were spectacular sunsets from the particulates in the air, as well as changes to weather that lasted five years.

If you had been hanging out on the planet Mars at the time, you would have seen the Earth get--and remain for years--considerably brighter as the particulates increased the albedo of the planet's atmosphere.

Westerners living in the area or sailing nearby took notes that reached newspapers on the other side of the globe quickly. It was the first natural disaster that was reported so quickly, and widely. We take this for granted today, but the technologies for communication were new then.

While not the biggest volcanic eruption in the past 1000 years, it happened when communication and science technologies had progressed to such a point that its importance to the science of volcanology could hardly be overstated. It also revealed to meteorologists new information about high-level winds.

In 2003, Simon Winchester wrote a terrific non-fiction book about it, well worth reading if you're as into natural disasters as I am. Also, you could mosey on over to youtube and look for uploaded TV specials on the topic

Sunday, February 11, 2018

My pen-name fantasy is out!

Emperor of Eyes, my first fantasy book, published under the name LC Bard, is out at Amazon and on Kindle Unlimited.


Thanks for giving it a chance. I think you'll like it.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

A scam warning

Just a quick post this week to note something about myself.

I don't have a PayPal "donate" button, and I don't have a Go Fund Me, and I don't have a Patreon account. If you see one of those, or of any other such scheme pretending to be me, that would be a lie and a scam. Don't donate to it.

I'm old fashioned. (Also, simply old!) I think the way a writer gets paid is by writing books that people like enough to pay for, and earning some percentage of that as royalty. Any other form of payment makes me uncomfortable.

If you see any other authors that you'd like to support in those ways looking for money, always find their real website and see if they ask for donations there. Don't click via Facebook or anywhere else. Go directly to the source. Their website's URL is probably printed on their books and in the end-matter of their ebooks. If they don't have books out, they may never actually write one (loads of people "want to be a writer one day" but never get down to it). Look for writers who have proven they can write books you like to read, and support their careers.

And I believe the very best way to support writers' careers is not through Patreon but by buying their books. Already have the ebook and want to support them even more? Buy the audio or paperback or graphic novel version as well. It's pretty simple to do, and it's difficult to set up a scam for that, and it helps keep their book higher in the charts and so it might be found by a new reader more easily. To my mind, that's always a better choice than clicking "donate via PayPal."

Caveat emptor: buyer beware. And that goes double for giving away your money, even out of an urge toward kindness.

Back, next week, to your regularly scheduled blog.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

I'm launching a pen name

Perhaps because I was burned out on writing novels that killed billions of people, or perhaps because I felt the real world was drifting far too close to Armageddon by the autumn of 2017, I took a break in November and wrote fantasy stories where billions do not die. I'll be publishing a book of that fiction under a pen name, L.C. Bard (ha! get it?) in a little over a week.

I have a website for it: I doubt I'll put much on that site any time soon, but I wanted to give you a head's-up that it will exist. I'm making no secret of the fact that L.C. is also me.

This upcoming book has a short novel, The Gift, a Novella, "Presence," and the title short story "The Emperor of Eyes." All are set in the same world and are about people with what we might call a psychic gift, the ability to read spirits. It has no other fantasy elements, no elves or kobolds or demons or singing swords or what-have-you, just that one magical ability. Set in a world of outdoor markets, sailing ships, horse-drawn carts, and craft guilds, it should be easy to read even if you don't typically read fantasy.

The two longer stories could become series, for I know and like the characters I created. But I'll only do that if it finds readers. Otherwise, I'm over halfway through Oil Apocalypse 4 and planning on continuing to write that series this year.

See you soon with more news! And thanks for reading my books.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Anniversary: Northridge Quake

The Northridge earthquake was 20 years ago this past week. I found a cool site I wanted to link for you.

It's the Earthquake County Alliance page on the quake. Click on that link, scroll down, and you'll see this map:

It's the basic USGS shake map for th event, with hardest shaking in red, significant shaking in yellow, and mild shaking in green. The numbers on there you can click on, and a video interview of a person who was at that spot will appear. A short interview will run--less than two minutes in most cases. They're terrific and give you the sense of the mindset of someone who experienced it.

All but one person was asleep; it was 4:30 a.m. I particularly liked the police officer admitting that though he knew what to do--had been trained to "drop, cover, and hold on," that in his panic he went running outside. One can hardly blame him!

Visit it and enjoy.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Chronic Disaster: Poverty

…chronic conditions as well as acute events can induce trauma, and this, too, belongs in our calculations. A chronic disaster is one that gathers force slowly and insidiously, creeping around one’s defenses rather than smashing through them. People are unable to mobilize their normal defenses against the threat, sometimes because they have elected consciously or unconsciously to ignore it, sometimes because they have been misinformed about it, and sometimes because they cannot do anything to avoid it in any case. -- Kai Ericson

I’ve been following disaster scholar Scott Knowles for a while now on Twitter, and he uses the term “slow disaster” to talk about poverty, and it was his posts that made me want to write this article. We need to look, he and others say, more at economically disadvantaged people and how disasters affect them more—harder and for longer—than they do more advantaged people.

One of Haiti's tent cities, still plentiful 8 years after the big quake

We’ve seen this in the US this past hurricane season at the macro level. Texas and Florida got a lot of attention and relief, while Puerto Rico, poorer to begin with, received less. As I write this, it’s over a hundred days after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, and half the people do not yet have electricity. Imagine that happening in Florida and the outcry there’d be.

This becomes a problem for several reasons

Poor people live in substandard housing, which is more vulnerable in an earthquake, tornado, or hurricane. Poor people are more likely to build in flood plains unprotected by good levees.
Poor people have less of a voice in governments. Poor people seldom run for local office (often an unpaid job at the beginning level) and never develop a political career that goes farther. Even at a local level, they might be on the zoning board, but several of my relatives were on zoning boards, and I promise you, that’s a time suck. Who can afford that kind of public service but people who are already financially comfortable—whether because of retirement or a high income or a wealthy spouse. And so poor people and their concerns—their safety, their education, their needs, and their very lives—are not a part of the public discourse about safety or defense against disaster.

Poor people have fewer resources when the disaster hits. I think this whenever television talks to a homeowner who has behind him, the day after a storm surge, six guys working on tearing out his drywall. “The wife has the Sharpeis and is at a hotel,” he says, nonchalantly. I promise you, there are poor people living ten miles from him who couldn’t think of staying in a hotel, have to do the work themselves, and have to live in damp, moldy, dangerous homes while they struggle along. If they are renting, good luck getting a landlord to come right out and fix a bad situation. (something I was recently reminded of when renting for the first time in years, when the landlord refused to repair a series of problems, from bats to crickets to lead-laced water to a broken toilet. As I’m not poor, I just said “(Forget) you!” and moved, but were I truly poor, that might not be an option.)

Recovery takes longer for poor people. Few can afford renter’s insurance. Some lose their jobs because a car is destroyed and they can’t afford another to get to work. One big natural disaster hit on a poor family can mean no more chances to leave poverty, a life lived out suffering from the downstream effects, which can snowball and carry into the next generation. Nor might they have health insurance, and probably not mental health coverage, so any trauma they experienced goes untreated. Families can deteriorate in such a situation, and that leads to—yes, you guessed it—worsening poverty.

TV crews tend not to go into poor areas to interview disaster survivors. They aren’t as pretty to film, the producers and directors assume no one wants to see squalor, and perhaps the poor aren’t as articulate. So we tend to forget about those truly in need, the working poor, the homeless, and the dispossessed.

For more on the topic, you can read articles at