I have a hard time talking about myself and what I have done with my life. I feel I had a rather normal childhood growing up in Detroit with a brother and three sisters; my father worked two jobs and mom stayed home until I was ten. School was always easy for me, I learned easily and quickly. I recall most of my outdoor play time was spent alone, riding my bike, playing hopscotch, roller skating or going to the library to read.
By the time I was 12, I was 5’4” and reaching my full height early made me the tallest person in the class for years. I was awkward and embarrassed, slouching to hide my height, isolating myself even more. Then everyone grew up around me.
The very first time I thought ahead far enough to consider it prepping, was when I was 14. I gathered bundles of spearmint that grew wild in the alley behind our house in Detroit. I tied the bundles with string and hung them in the garage during the summer. That winter I retrieved some to burn in the fireplace for the wonderful scent. My father was astounded that I thought about that winter activity months before.
I started writing short stories when I was 13 as a way to do and be something exciting and have friends that I didn’t really have, and of course I felt I was the main character in any story, and did things I didn’t really know how to do. When I was 14 I wrote a story called “G Stands for Goldsby” in which the main character, an 18 year old aspiring detective, traveled to the Florida Keys to investigate a possible insurance fraud. To get to the bottom of the claim, she had to go scuba diving and do some shipwreck exploring. In truth, I didn’t take up diving until I was in my 40’s and I’m much too claustrophobic to go into wrecks, but she/I had quite the adventure.
I wrote my first, full length novel, The Reef Roamer, in my mid-40’s as a means to have an exciting romantic encounter during the failure of my second marriage.
I was a Prepper, long before the term had any meaning. At the tender age of 19, and a new bride living and working in Detroit, the area was to be hit with a late spring blizzard. As the child of a police officer, I was very law-abiding and fully intended to heed the warnings to stay off the streets once the snow fell, so the work crews could clear the snow. To do that though, I needed more than the two cans of soup in the cupboard. I ventured to the grocery store and got caught up in the mob of shoppers who were also preparing to weather in. It took longer to check out than it did for me to shop. I vowed to never be caught that short of food ever again.
With the arrival of my first son two years later, I was suddenly responsible for this tiny person, and I took that job very seriously. I never ran out of diapers or formula, never. I had learned my lesson. Many people have heard of a Go-Bag or a Bug Out Bag, but the very first one for me was a diaper-bag. It contained not only diapers and formula but also a change of clothes, toys, blankets, snacks, water and a book for me to read. Two and a half years after later, my second son was born. Concerned for our well-being we moved out of Detroit to the country. I was able to have chickens and a huge garden. It was a new experience to have so much food growing fresh. I got a book on canning and taught myself the basics. The very first thing I made was jam with strawberries fresh from the garden, and as I was ladling that first scoop into a jar, it spilled over the side and burned my thumb – badly. I wrapped an ice cube around that throbbing digit and kept going. The blister was the size of my thumb nail, and it was the last time I burned myself while canning. I learn quickly. I canned, froze and sold quite a bit of produce that year, and we never again went hungry.
The following summer my parents came to visit and my mother was appalled at my living situation. The house was an old farm house, but it was in good repair, freshly painted and clean, and I made sure the garden was freshly weeded. We lacked for nothing and were happy. Still, she commented that she raised me so I “wouldn’t have to do this” as she swept her arm around my pride and joy. Initially I was crushed because I was doing “this” out of love for my family. Mother always had a small garden, and I had a large one. What I didn’t know at the time, was she was forced to tend the dozens of chickens her father raised, and she hated it. I loved it. I reveled in the knowledge that I was providing healthy food for my children with my own two hands. In the five years we lived there, my parents never came back.
Fast forward many years to a time when those young tykes were now young teens and I had remarried. We now lived in the center of the small town we had been on the outskirts of. Although I had a garden, it was not nearly as big as the one on the farm, and there were no chickens allowed, but I still provided healthy food for the four of us, and I expanded my knowledge of canning. My preparedness never faltered; I never had less than two months of food available for us.
I neglected most of my own personal needs and desires in favor of raising my sons well, and being a good wife. After the boys left home to be on their own, as all children are meant to do, I once again took up writing as a way to fulfill some of my emptiness, and only partially succeeded. I grew restless. New horizons and a new life called to me.
I moved to the woods of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to start over. A new, efficient house set in the center of one hundred and sixty acres of land, powered only by four large solar panels, a wood burning furnace in the walk out basement, a new wood burning cookstove in the kitchen and a real icebox, totally off-grid: I had found home.
All that land gave me the room to do anything. My garden grew to 100’ x 150’, protected only by a solar charged electric fence. I had a few mishaps, though it produced enough to keep us fed. After the first very harsh winter that I was mentally unprepared for, I realized that chickens would not fare well in my new setting. They would have to wait.
That first summer we worked long hours to finish the house that had only been closed in the previous fall. A bare stud interior delighted the cats though that didn’t last long. We wired, did plumbing, and hung drywall. He taped and mudded the drywall seams and I sanded. Then I did the trim work and laid the tile carpeting. By November we had moved in all of the furniture we had in storage. We took days off from the house to cut fire wood. Lots and lots of fire wood. I still have no idea how I knew to do some of the things I did, but by the end of October, I had stored enough kindling to supply both the wood stove and the wood furnace. Winter was coming.
The first winter was a true learning experience. Although we had shelves in the basement for food storage, and a month or so of food, I had not considered that I wouldn’t be able to resupply easily. When the snow hit, we parked one vehicle out at the main road. We were over a mile into the woods and it would be impossible to plow that distance. We had one, old snowmobile that I didn’t know how to drive, so I would snow shoe out to the car, pulling a sled. I learned that a full sled was very heavy to pull over a mile. From that time on, my pantry was full by November, with enough to last us eight months, while I could still drive the supplies in. Grocery shopping after that was simple fresh vegetables or meat, or just a reason to get out of the woods.
Cooking on the wood stove came easily to me, as I love to cook. I had to adjust my timing a great deal and nothing was instant. I will go into detail later, but suffice to say I reveled in the new method. One of the activities I clung to during the winter, was writing magazine articles on off grid living, cooking and storage. It quickly became a satisfying refuge for me. Not only writing though, I also sewed on my treadle sewing machine, did embroidery, along with basic knitting and crocheting, and … I cooked. I set up menus for weeks in advance, trying new recipes cut from culinary periodicals. I would try something new, change it, adjust it to our taste until it became my own. I experimented with baking, creating new and unusual breads. I kept a notebook on everything I tried and rated it. Somethings became favorites, others were never made again.
The second summer I took a weekend class on mushroom foraging, which I still whenever the season is right. I bought books on wild edibles, and to this day, supplement my food with wild cattail flowers, ramps, fiddle-heads and of course, a variety of mushrooms. I even dabbled in growing mushrooms on logs; what fun that was.
Having paid cash for everything, the land, the house and everything it took to finish it, so we could remain debt-free, the money ran out a year later and I went back to work. The work was summer seasonal and trying to keep up with work, the garden and the canning exhausted me. I would physically and mentally recover over the winter, but after several years it became increasingly difficult: it’s impossible to have a goal that takes two when only one is committed to it.
When Y2K happened, I doubled the stock in the pantry. He was furious that I would even think something would happen and I was just as angry that he didn’t.
We lasted seven years.
After selling the house in the woods, I reinvested my share in a smaller house, on ten wooded acres, outside of the same small town. He left, I stayed, his loss.
I kept my wood cookstove and it heats my house all winter, providing me with a ready cooking surface and a hot oven to bake. I still have to store just as much wood, about fourteen face cord and I do it by myself in the spring so it can cure and dry all summer. I also don’t want to worry about my winter wood supply while I’m busy working, gardening and canning. Priorities have to be set and abided by. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Having a plan without a goal is senseless; having a goal without a plan is worthless.
My garden is now 25’x85’ and is protected with a high fence topped with a grid electric charger. It’s easy to maintain, even with my busy summer work schedule, and provides me with enough food to eat fresh, can for storage and to share with my family. My pantry is still filled by November first and has increased over the years. A good Prepper never admits to how much they have stored, but I could last a very long time without shopping. It’s actually a relief to be able to stock up on what I feel is necessary without someone questioning or criticizing my every move.
Attached to the big barn I had built is the chicken coop, with a dozen well fed and happy chickens. Finally. They provide eggs daily, and meat occasionally. The rooster insures I have fertile eggs to incubate to perpetuate the flock.
I lived the life and I still do.
I have reconnected with my artistic side and do water color painting now. And with five new novels, my writing has become a dream come true.
Here it is, Sunday morning, 4/12. The sky is clear blue and the temp is already 50*…awesome. The high for today is expected to be in the low 60′s and thunder storms moving in late tonight. I can deal with that. Three days ago I had 8″ of wet slushy heavy snow. I shoveled the steps and enough of the deck to get to the grill :), but I knew it would be gone quickly, so why shovel? I wasn’t going anywhere anyway.
Forecast is 50/60′s all week, so that should take care of the rest of the snow pack. It’s been a very long winter. We had our first snowfall on Nov. 9, and by Nov. 11 there was 20″ on the ground. That’s what is melting now; it never left. Six months of winter is NOT the norm for here, it just feels like it.. lol. For all of that, we are still a foot low on average snow fall and that hurts the water tables. Hopefully the coming rain will help.
I didn’t fire up the woodstove yesterday, and I won’t today, maybe not all week! This could be the turning point. My wood has held out really well. I still have one full row left (two face cord – 8x8x1 log) plus a 1/4 row. The first of May I will move that out onto a pallet as my first burn for next fall, and start the process all over again of filling the shed (8x8x8+, which this year was 5 rows plus a half row that stuck out). I try to be done with splitting and stacking wood no later than June 15, so I don’t have to worry about it as I head into my busy summer season of work. Wood is critical to my way of life and has high priority.
My driveway is a muddy mess, but I can deal with that because it means the snow is melting and the permafrost is rising/leaving the ground. Spring here is usually two weeks of melting followed by two weeks of mud and then it’s summer :) During the winter I only keep half of the driveway open. It’s a long U shaped drive and the southern end always drifts badly and it’s a strain on my aging snow-blower (and me), so I don’t bother. It’s very close to the time when I just might try busting through what’s left. The worse section is the last six feet right at the road where the snowplows hit. If I can bust through that, even a single set of tire trails will help melt it that much faster, and I can use that end of the drive. Why is that important? It’s hard packed gravel and doesn’t get muddy and I can leave the bad part untouched to dry out without leaving ruts while staying OFF the main road.
Tufts is healthy and a bit pudgy from the winter confinement and he’s loving the meltdown because he gets to go out. He always trims down in the summer of exploring our property. My ten acres is split by the creek. Two acres on this side and eight that backs up to hundreds of acres of forest. Tufts rarely ventures past the creek.
On the writing front. Wow, what a winter it has been. My second book, The Journal: Ash Fall, was released at the end of November and did really well until January, when almost ALL books seemed to slump (post-Christmas Crash I’ve been told). With the warmer weather things are stirring again. The third book in the series will be released on Tuesday! TJ: Crimson Skies has been touted as the best one yet. I will be making an announcement across the groups as a reminder :), and then again when the printed version is available in another week. AND I’m 75% done with the fourth – and final – book of the series, TJ: Broken Shores (title is still being debated). It wasn’t until the 4th book that I realized I was addressing the elements: Earth, Wind/air, Fire and now Water. Interesting. There isn’t a release date for #4 yet, but my publisher loves my sales, so the releases have been pushed to the front, though no guarantees. I have a goal of finishing it by mid-May, or sooner.
Why the final book? That could take a bit to explain, I’ll try to keep it simple. My series has been popular because it’s so believable, it reads real and draws you into the story. I do that by feeling what the characters are feeling: all their joys, their pain and sorrow, all of it. Quite frankly, I’m getting depressed.. lol… these ‘people’ have been through SO much in the two years the story spans, that it’s time to give them – and me – a rest.
Next fall, when my $$ job is over and the canning is done, I will start writing again. This time it’s a cookbook that goes with the series, then there’s a children’s book on prepping I’ve been kicking around and who knows what else. For now, though, I need the mental and emotional break from all the fictional disasters.
Today, with the wonderful weather, I’m doing some spring cleaning. I might even hang sheets and rugs on the line outside to dry :)
For those who are following The Journal Series, my next book (#3), The Journal: Crimson Skies, will be release on April 14, 2015. The link for the pre-order is: http://amzn.com/B00VD4MITI.
Book #4, TJ: Divided Shores, is in progress, and will be followed by TJ: Cooking in the Woods, which will present all the recipes -plus more- used by Allexa Smeth in her journey.
I’m sure most of you know how I feel about New Years Resolutions … I just don’t believe in them. After all, if you’re going to try to improve something within yourself, why wait?
want to lose that ten or twenty pounds? why wait?
exercise more? why wait?
be kinder, better, more attentive … just start now
spend less? do it now.
That’s what I did. I made up my mind I needed to do more exercising during the winter, since I spend so much time sitting at the computer writing. So I made up a chart of my ‘favorite’ stretches and toning moves. I printed out a copy and put it on my fridge, so I can see it and check off when I’ve done that move. I started two weeks ago, not today. Why wait
I did an interview, online, about myself and my writing. check it out! and don’t forget.. TOMORROW, Nov. 18, 2914, The Journal: Ash Fall goes live on Amazon!!
Fans of The Journal will be happy to know that book two will be out in just eleven days, November 18th! Available on Amazon, in kindle or print format, also at Barnes & Noble in both formats.
The Journal: Cracked Earth, which debuted in July, has been a smash hit, much to the delight of my publisher, Permuted Press, and we have high hopes for The Journal: Ash Fall.
In Ash Fall, the saga and the trials continue for Allexa Smeth, her family and the small town of Moose Creek. Many surprises are in store for the fans in this sequel.
And as a tantalizer, The Journal: Crimson Skies, the third and final book of the series, is scheduled for release in July, 2015… HOWEVER, there has been some discussion that it might be released sooner. So, stay tuned!
I like to spend just a bit of time each week surfing through different prepper/survival message boards and other forums. It helps me decide what topics are of interest for my writing, of course, and it also serves to give me an idea of how the whole “prepper movement” is progressing. I saw something posted the other day that gave me pause.
What disasters do you prep for, since disasters are prep-specific?
See, here’s the thing. If you think about it for more than, say, 3 seconds, you’ll realize that we are rarely ever prepping for any specific disaster. Instead, we are prepping for the aftermath of said disasters. I mean, sure, there are disaster-specific things, such as installing shutters or covering your windows with plywood in advance of a hurricane. But, by and large, prepping involves making plans to meet our basic needs (food, water, security, etc.) in the event that our normal everyday methods of meeting those needs are interrupted. It doesn’t matter if the reason you can’t buy food is because the economy collapsed and money is worthless or that you can’t buy food because a pandemic has resulted in massive business closures and the grocery store isn’t operating any more. The relevant issue is that you can’t buy more food and need to have prepared ahead of time for that possibility.
It doesn’t matter if your personal bugaboo is EMP, pandemic, the New Madrid fault giving way, the Yellowstone caldera finally blowing, or aliens from Alpha Centauri deciding they like the taste of human brains. Any of those scenarios, as well as tons of others, both realistic and far-fetched, will likely result in:
–The power grid going down.
–Running water and sewer systems no longer operating.
–Grocery stores and other retailers no longer options.
–Police, fire, and rescue overwhelmed, if still operating at all.
–Massive civil unrest, particularly in urban areas.
The reason you prep, your own private theory about what is most likely to happen down the road, is a secondary concern. First and foremost is recognizing the need for being better prepared for whatever might be coming down the proverbial pike.
in the UP of MI