What Is A Bug Out Bag?

(This post will become part of the Ask an Apocalypse Author series. Credentials are at the end of the post. If you have suggested topics, please leave them in the comments.)

A bug-out bag, or BOB, is a good for anyone to keep around, especially those who live with the strong possibility of natural disaster. The point of a BOB is that in case of emergency, you will just be able to grab your everyday bag and your BOB and go.

Here’s basically what a BOB should contain:

  • Non-perishable snacks (nuts, jerky, hard granola bars)
  • Water bottles
  • A basic first aid kit (including medications you and your family need)
  • Hygiene kit (toothbrush, toothpaste, wet wipes, soap, tampons etc. if needed)
  • Dust masks
  • Space blankets
  • Hand warmers
  • Flashlight (hand-crank or with batteries stored separately)
  • Extra socks and underwear
  • Work gloves
  • Lighter
  • Full-tang camping knife
  • Solar or crank-powered AM/FM radio
  • A small sewing kit (needles, thread, safety pins)
  • Playing cards
  • Notebook, pencils, and sharpener
  • Duct tape
  • Copies of important documents (Birth certificates, insurance, etc.)
  • At least $20 in cash

You can customize as you see fit, but remember that you’re going to have to carry it and you might need to locate something in the kit quickly, so don’t pack for a two-week vacation.

The bag you use to hold it all is up to you, but a water-resistant backpack is generally a good idea. Nothing with a short handle. Rolling luggage isn’t going to work out for you either.

For more guidance, check out this guide from FEMA.


The author of these posts in a writer of apocalyptic fiction as well as an experienced woodswoman and avid researcher. She learned to gut fish at age 8, received her orange card (hunter safety cert.) at age 11, and her first compound bow at age 12.

She has worked in state parks and on trailblazing jobs for the conservation corps, as well as in hardware stores and on a landscape maintenance crew (in sub-zero temperatures). She can back a Kubota with a five-foot plow and a six-foot trailer of rock salt into a seven-foot garage bay. On ice.

Resistance Donor Guide

In these times of actively clashing ideals, many people have started donating to organizations that support and defend their values. And some have realized that they don’t fully agree with their initial choice of organizations, but don’t know where else to throw their $10 a month. (This may be especially true of Millennials…we have great intentions, but few of us are card-carrying members of anything.)

So this post is meant to serve as a master list of organizations I think people may be interested in and wish to donate to, but don’t yet know about or haven’t considered. Not all of them will be for everyone, but the goal here is to provide information and choices. This list will be updated as I vet new suggestions or receive new information.


Legal and Political Action









Service Providers












(Charity Navigator evaluates charities based on how financially effective and transparent they are.)

In Case of Fire, Don’t Be Shy

Let me tell you a story.

I used to work as a dog-walker/cat-sitter/chicken-feeder/iguana-nurse. (I signed up for the dog-walking part, and the rest just happened.)

One day, I was walking one of my favorite dogs, Oliver, and saw smoke coming up out of the ground. It had been unusually hot and dry, and the mulch around a tree was slow-burning underground. For a minute, I blanked, patting my pockets like I might have casually put a fire extinguisher in them that morning. No one else was around. The smoke cloud was getting bigger.

The burn patches were getting bigger when I took this, and smoke was coming out of the ground for 10 square yards.

Now, I’m not shy with my friends, but I do have some stranger anxiety. I hate knocking on doors, making phone calls, that sort of thing. I especially hate intruding on people in their own natural habitat. But no garden hose immediately presented itself, and by the time a fire truck got there, I was worried that the mulch fire would spread and start destroying property in earnest.

So I ran up and down the block knocking on doors until someone answered and brought out some water.


This isn’t a story with some new moral. It’s just a point of demonstration, because when we see other people react a certain way, we’re more likely to do the same in the future. Peer pressure is powerful.

If you see a fire, find a way to put it out. If you see a hate group poster, tear it down. If a public space is covered in broken glass and is dangerous, go get a broom and a paper bag. If you see someone being abusive, start recording them, yell, get help. Do the thing that needs doing. People are basically okay and they’ll back you.


Seems like a thing we need reminding of sometimes.

Self-Promotion for Indie Authors: Spam Not Included

So, you wrote a book and it’s out in the world now. You don’t have a Big 5 powerhouse shelling out thousands of dollars to market it, and so, in addition to your classy Author hat, you must wear many others; the ink-stained chapeau of the publisher, the bedazzled manic pixie dream bowler of the public personality, and finally, the logo-emblazoned baseball cap of the promoter.

Shoving your own work in front of people’s faces is hard.

I am no marketing professional, but I have some tips from experience, both as a book promoter and a consumer. Here they are.

  1. Sign Up For Everything. Ideally, you want to exist on Amazon, Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat, Bookbub, and anything else you can think of ALL WITH THE SAME USERNAME. Try to check them every day and cross-promote them occasionally. Of course, you also need a website and ideally a blog, which you should post on once a week or so. (Do as I say, not as I do, damn it.)
  2. Connect With People Who Want Your Book. Sorry, but having 50k Twitter followers doesn’t help you if they’re all promotion accounts that only followed you back to up their own follower count. No human on the other end will ever even look at your tweets. You won’t sell books that way; you’ll just look less reputable to anyone who investigates your profile out of genuine interest. Instead, go out and find real people who might be genuinely interested in you. Look for people who like your genre, your personal interests, etc.. Make some new friends.
  3. Spend Your Ad Money Wisely. Some online ads are just a waste. Facebook, for example, doesn’t seem to sell books. Twitter might get a few hits. Goodreads ads are cheaper than dirt, so they might be a good investment if you’re just spending an exploratory $20. Most services that offer “book promotions to thousands of viewers!” are exactly the kind of advertising ouroboros that will do you no good. Bookbub, on the other hand, does actually have a large audience, but it’s not cheap. Ask around to see what various platforms have been like for other authors in your genre.
  4. Nobody Wants Your Spam. You have to advertise, but you don’t have to be obnoxious. Don’t #hashtag #everything #you #do, because while people might check the #SciFi hashtag and see your book (good), nobody checks the #book or #freebook tags. I can prove it; go look at those hashtags on Twitter under the Latest tab. No likes. No comments. Just spam into the void. Likewise, nobody ever sees “#Free #mustread #musthave #western #amreading #amwriting (insert sale link here)” and says to themselves, “Hm, this seems reputable and interesting, I think I’ll buy it.” As a final note, post more than just book links. People lose interest if all you do in advertise to them. I personally set a max of one link, per book, per day, per platform. Don’t forget to tell them what your book is about.
  5. Create Merch And Freebies That People Will Actually Want. Business cards are good, and you should have them, but they are not merch. Even if they’re shaped like a bookmark. You want stuff that people will wear, use, and keep around. Unless you are a band or a beer, nobody wants to wear your name on their shirt or carry it around on their keychain. Cute character art, beautiful cover art, funny quotes, or reading-themed items are much more likely to appeal and persist. See the squeezable hippos for Sarah Gailey’s River of Teeth, the straight-from-the-books stuff from the Discworld Emporium, or even my own “I See Faeries” buttons. Relevant, memorable, and fun, without making anyone feel like a walking billboard. Good times.

I hope this helps, for those of you trying to get the word out about your books without falling into egomaniacal spammer promotional hell. If you have any additional tips, please leave them in the comments.

Freedom for Women: A List Of Ideas

In middle school, my friend told me I should cut my hair short. “Short hair is nice,” he said. “You won’t have to, y’know. Deal with it all the time.”

He had a point. My hair is a beast all its own, with curls and bulk and a general Joey-Ramone-ish thing going on, and I did spend a lot of time dealing with it. And yet, I hesitated for years, because I already felt insufficiently cute and to cut my hair was to risk *gasp* looking like a boy. I couldn’t put my finger on why that was a bad thing. It was just a law of the universe in which I lived.

I did eventually cut my hair. To the shoulders, to a bob, and finally to a severe A-line where the back of my head is buzzed. And each time I cut it, I felt incrementally better about living in my body.

Making decisions that counter generations of gender expectations can be hard. So just in case you need a little help, you have my permission to do any of the things listed below and enjoy the results. If anyone tells you that you can’t, throw them in a dumpster.

  1.  CUT YOUR HAIR. Short hair is freedom. Shorter showers, faster drying time, less assorted goop required to keep it in check, more freedom to experiment with color knowing it can be grown back out in less than five years. A strong wind will hold no terrors for you. It will never get tangled in your jewelry or clog your shower drain. It’s difficult to emphasis how many little differences it will make, but they all add up to freeing up time and effort. Plus, short hair is cute as hell.
  2. BUY THINGS “FOR MEN.” Have cargo pants with real pockets. Buy a shirt for under $20 that doesn’t require three additional layers to go out in public. Get the razors that are cheaper and ignore gendered color-coding. Own a real tool kit that doesn’t have flowers on it. Most of the stuff marketed to women is poor quality because convincing you that you can buy gender conformity is good for business.  Don’t let them get away with that foolishness.
  3. EXPLORE YOUR REPRO HEALTH OPTIONS. Have you tried an IUD or an implant? How about a menstrual cup? Lots of people never try these things because it’s “rude” to talk about them and word doesn’t get around. This is getting better. After getting my IUD placed, I had a very loud (RUDE!) conversation about it on a train with a friend who had had hers for a few years. Still, look up the options. We need to spread information about these things that affect our lives every damn day. (P.S. If you bleed through, hydrogen peroxide can help remove blood from clothes, sheets, etc.. The more you know.🌈)
  4. STOP HURTING YOURSELF. The idea that “pain is beauty” might apply to tattoos, but otherwise, it’s just a really silly saying used to make you feel tough when you suffer in the name of gender conformity. You don’t have to do that. No, seriously. Shoes shouldn’t hurt. Breathing shouldn’t be difficult. If you put a dude through these pains, he’d go to the ER. You don’t have to do this to yourself.
  5. LIKE WHAT YOU LIKE. Trying to match up your preferences to match or avoid gendered expectations is a cause of psychic pain all its own. Don’t bother. It won’t make you happy. What will make you happy is listening to the music, watching the movies, and participating in the activities that you actually enjoy. If some clown wants to belittle you for loving musicals or grill you on your love of comics, once again I say to hell with him. Your time on earth is limited and its purpose is not to please every small-minded misogynist. Go. Be free. Find your thing and do it.



If You Can Do More

I have been running myself ragged trying to be an activist. It doesn’t take much for me to be exhausted. I’m always sick, always tired, always about to keel over.

Die-In for Health Care

If you are not these things, do me a personal favor and step up.

I know that able-bodied people have issues, too, but I see a lot of people working well below their potential while I’m injuring myself trying to show up for protests. So I’m asking you to run down this list and see what you can do. I can’t keep hurting myself trying to show up because not enough other people could be bothered. Maybe you can help.

-Register to vote.

-Then VOTE in every election (not just presidential ones). Mark them on your calendar.

-Call, write, send postcards. Online petitions aren’t helpful. They’re just mailing list farms.

-Educate your friends on issues like health care, voting rights, and economics on social media. Make sure your sources are reputable.

-Show up for as many local protests as possible. If you feel like you never know when they’re happening, get connected to some local organizers and look for upcoming events on Facebook or Meetup.


Also, a note on the argument that voting only encourages them:

Much as I hate to go against George Carlin on this, here’s how it really works: Voting for the ‘lesser of two evils” moves the Overton Window. If moderate left people keep getting elected, moderate left becomes the new center, making room for far left in the field. If you doubt this, you should note that this has already happened in the opposite direction, which is why the American Left now correlates to the rest of the world’s Centerist.

Yes, voting for a candidate who’s close but not ideal only encourages them. But not voting at all only encourages the opposition.


I Forgot How Books Work

While struggling to keep laying down words in both Pharos and Epitaph for Everything Else, I realized I had a problem. I’d forgotten how books work.


The creeping vines of Netflix binges, Twitter rants, news cycles, and medical concerns had completely locked down my mental processes. My attention span suffered. My scope narrowed. My brain was out of shape.

The other night, I rebelled. Picked up a physical book that had been holding down a shelf for far too long (the excellent Updraft by Fran Wilde) and turned off all my screens. Sat down to read. And remembered how books work.

Now, I’ve never been much of a plotter. When I start a book, it’s usually a “what if” that then spirals out of control (and people seem to like that). My outlines look something like this:

  • What if there were decopunk pirates living in an alternate reality where 1920’s New York City was mostly water, like Venice
  • There are now decopunk pirates and their names are Dorothy and Edna
  • (Then some stuff happens)
  • And in the end, they blow up the secret speakeasy in the sealed underwater levels of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel

Until recently, this process worked great for me. What I had lost was my ability to fill in the middle…because I forgot how stories are supposed to be put together. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dusting off the old Hero’s Journey steps (never really worked for me), but I’m getting back to reading more books and remembering how it’s done.

I have no great tying-together line for this blog post, so I’ll leave you with this cat.



A Grief And A Gift

I recently took a trip back to Vermont for my Grandfather’s memorial service. He was a good man. I miss him. He taught me to fish and to be patient; I still try to use one of those things every day.

While I was there, I saw my cousin for the first time in a long time. And she saw me, trying to push through the day. She contacted me online after I got home to pass on some medical information in case it was helpful…she’s been going through all the same things. Pain, mystery symptoms, long pursuit of diagnosis. She’s a few years older than me, and she’s been living with it a little longer. She finally got her real diagnosis, though. EDS. Ehlers-Danlos. It’s genetic.

So now, I get to go back to my rheumatologist and yell. My official diagnosis has been “fibromyalgia, hypermobility, heart valve dysfunction, B12 deficiency, POTS, etc., etc., etc.,” and doctors telling me that it wasn’t all connected. All of these things are symptoms of EDS, which the rheumatologist said I “probably didn’t have, it’s so rare.” Now that I have an established family history, I have more confidence to self-advocate. And yell. And replace doctors, if necessary.

My reaction to all this? Hell if I can put it into words. There has been a lot of crying and some laughing at the absurdity. It does change my treatment plan going forward, but my doctors can either get on board or get out of my way. As long as I keep my heart function monitored, it’s not likely to kill me anytime soon.

This will hopefully be my last medical blog for a while. I have some closure; Knowing why my body is falling apart means that I can move on to living my life to the best of my somewhat disjointed ability.

See you next time.

New Book Goodies

There are now a few varieties of merchandise available through Zazzle with designs from currently published books. For right now, it’s a basic selection, but there are plans for more in the future. If you have any input on what you’d like to see, let me know in the comments.

Click on these words to see the store, or on any of the pictures below.




Banging Your Head On Your Desk, And Other Solutions

I’m stuck! Wheee!




Okay, but seriously. I’ve got two books on the burner, and I can’t seem to get a fire going under either of them. It happens. You’re chugging along, knocking out a few hundred words a day, and then your country elects a belligerent news-cycle nightmare and suddenly there’s no brainspace left for writing because it feels like the room is on fire. (It’s not just me, is it?)

I’m still laying down a few hundred words a week. Epitaph For Everything Else is finally over 25k long. Pharos has got 18.6k and keeps getting sticky notes added to the idea wall. But I can’t seem to get a good workflow going.

The first-order advice I usually see to fix this is to sit down at your desk at exactly (x) o’clock every day and stay there until (y) whether writing gets done or not. The idea, I think, is that you will get so bored that you’ll do something useful. This would be great advice if my life were not a circus of doctor appointments, sleep-inducing meds, physical therapy, yelling at my government to not get me killed, and trying to maintain a bare minimum of normalcy. I’ve tried the “Butt In Chair, Same Time Every Day” advice several times. And I’ll try it again. But my success rate isn’t good.

What’s next? I’m not sure. A vacation from my life would be helpful, but wherever I go, there too goes my stupid needy body. Cutting down on distractions is good, but selling books means being present on social media, so there’s only so much of that I can withdraw from. I suppose I could cancel my Netflix. If I’m still too tired and achy to write, though, it won’t do much good. I’ll just spend more time in bed reading instead of watching.

If I come up with some magical new mind-diet that works, I’ll keep you posted.


P.S. I kind of hate that I just used the word “diet.”

P.P.S. Riots not diets.