As some of you may have heard, the South got hit with a major catastrophic snow storm Tuesday.  I know what some of you are thinking.  “How can that little snow cause so much trouble?  Don’t those people know how to drive?”   Yes, we do know how to drive.  Haven’t you ever watched THE DUKES OF HAZZARD? 

Seriously, when you only encounter the white stuff every few years, your snow driving skills may get a little rusty and the southern states and cities try to spend their money on more necessary items than snow plows and anti-icing mixtures that may sit in warehouses for many seasons to come.  But when we know that the snow is coming our way, we do expect those in charge of such weather related incidents to have a plan and then to implement said plan.  Unfortunately this did not happen in Atlanta.

State and city officials, once the snow was already seriously coming down, put out the word that businesses should close down and schools, which many say should have never been open in the first place Tuesday, should dismiss early.  If aliens decide to invade Atlanta and its citizens try to evacuate, I know what it will look like – GRIDLOCK.    The aliens can just hover over the interstate and scoop us up.

By 1:00pm this Wednesday afternoon I heard on the local news that there had been over 800 accidents reported.  How many more accidents occurred that were not reported by then or, that never will be, is anyone’s guess.  School buses could not get to some schools to pick up children and hundreds of kids were forced to spend the night camped out.  Some Atlanta school buses carrying children home couldn’t safely navigate the hilly streets or they got stuck behind 18 wheelers that were having similar problems and waited for long hours until they could have the children rescued and brought to safety.  The interstates became parking lots. Drivers were in some cases stuck in their cars for 12 to 18 hours!  Vehicles were piled up on the medium strips because they ran out of gas; some that couldn’t get that far just parked on the side of the road.  National Guardsmen were out in force this morning checking to see if some of these stranded vehicles were still occupied and to offer assistance.

Both the governor and the mayor of Atlanta are under attack for not handling the situation better.  People feel that the root of the traffic problems stem from the fact that there was no staggering of the shut downs; everyone, schools, government workers and Atlanta business were all told to shut down at basically the same time.  This caused way too many motorists out there traveling the always busy roads.  In perfect weather, this would have overloaded the city’s streets. Also, the officials had promised that they were ready for the potential storm and had equipment and de-icing trucks in place. They said this on television and you don’t lie on tv!  They then proceeded to wait on clearing until the congestion on the highways made it impossible for the roads to be cleared.

The blame then shifted to the truckers who couldn’t get enough speed up to manage the steep inclines associated with Atlanta’s bridges and exit ramps.  They were stuck and had no particular place to go, blocking those behind them.  The truckers turned the blame back on the government officials who had held off too long on clearing the roads.

Then I heard the most creative blame of all.  The meteorologists were the ones to blame because they said the major path of the storm would not affect Atlanta much and would drop the greatest amounts further away.  Local meteorologists stood up and defended themselves, pointing out that on Monday, almost 24 hours before the snow started to fall, they had given the city fair warning that snow was on the way and could be several inches in accumulation.  Even weather man Al Roker from the TODAY show defended them and their forecasts.

The only one not getting blamed for this mess is the snow!  We can’t stop it from falling but maybe with a little common sense we can learn to live with it, know when to stay home and off the streets and throw some snowballs before it all melts away.  And now is the time that those in charge make promises as to how things will be done better next time - just like they did last time.


PS  As some of you know, I don’t live in Atlanta.  I live in a town in Georgia far enough away from the big city that we don’t deal with traffic jams unless you count the Fourth of July or Christmas parades.  It snowed here.  The sun came out.  Snow is melting.  A simple life for sure.


FYI  A little girl was born on I-285.  Her parents couldn't get to the hospital in time.  Her name is Grace.





John Thomas Rourke, the main character in the SURVIVALIST series, is to many people the epitome of true survivalism.  Here you have a man who comes out basically unscathed from a nuclear holocaust and then travels across the United States on a Harley Davidson motorcycle, fighting kill-crazy brigands, radiation disease, cannibals and whatever else crosses his path in order to save his family and bring them to a safe haven that he had planed ahead and created for just such an occurrence. 

            There are a lot of you who do try to plan ahead.  You stock food and supplies for that SHTF day, hoping it never comes but wanting to be ready, just in case. Many of you learn the basics of first aid and CPR, knowing that in an emergency, medical help may not be forthcoming.  Skills such as setting up a safe, comfortable shelter in the out of doors without the “necessities” of electricity and running water are learned and passed on to others who have like interests as well as the skill of obtaining fresh meat and the art of preserving it for later consumption. 

            All the above are abilities that will serve well in any situation and are useful to all of us in order to survive in this constantly changing world. But, some of us have taken the essence of survival to a whole new level; a level few of us are capable of obtaining.

            As many of you know, Jerry was an inner city High School teacher in Chicago, many long years ago. At this one particular school he taught at, he was accepted into the teaching community and made some good friends.  One of these friends, Jerry Buergel became a mentor to him as well as a friend.  Jerry - we just called him Buergel, knew how to fish and work on guns, and understood electricity; skills not all of us had acquired.  The school had a teacher’s bowling team and we were both involved.  My Jerry had never bowled before and Buergel and the rest of the teachers took it upon themselves to instruct him in the fine art of the game.  Jerry never got beyond dangerous to himself and anyone else near by.  Jerry loved it and the bowling teams knew to keep their eyes open for flying objects.

Buergel and his wife, Judy welcomed us to their home regularly and we rarely turned them down.  We were the young, just married ones and they were the mature folk with two kids and dogs and ducks and ferrets and.....

          When we moved to Georgia in the very late 70s, the Aherns and the Buergels managed to stay in touch.  We called to let them know how warm and sunny our weather was when we knew Chicago was in the midst of its usual deep freeze.  They would call us to see if we had floated away during one of our springtime floods.  Later the calls turned to the exploits of our grown children and still later, our grandchildren. Jerry and Judy made it down here a few times over the years and we would camp or just get lost up in the mountains.  Sometimes, they came down with all their clown paraphernalia and put on shows for the local kids of all ages.  Yes, they became professional clowns!      

Life wasn’t always easy for the Buregels.  Just like most of us, they’ve had their ups and downs with health, retirement and the almighty quest to stay afloat in life.  They have survived all that has been thrust upon them.  They have survived because the one thing they always have had, no matter what, was their love and respect for each other. 

Jerry and Judy Buergel have spent the last 50 years honing survival skills that are the most important for us to remember.  Treat every day of your life together like a sip of good wine.  Don’t waste it! 






I’ll cover questions about other books in later blogs but I received the most requests for more information about THE TAKERS.   So, here it goes. The three books in the series, at least so far, are THE TAKERSTHE TAKERS: RIVER OF GOLD and THE TAKERS:  SUMMON THE DEMON.  The first two books have been reprinted and are available from Speaking Volumes and the third book, SUMMON THE DEMON will be available sometime late November.  This installment is all about Zombies and Devil Worshipers and Voodoo and Nuclear Submarines.  SUMMON THE DEMON was done as an audio adaptation but this will be the first time ever that it will be available in print or e-book format,  I’m looking forward to seeing it myself!

            The TAKERS books were by far the most fun to write.  We had characters that --at least to us -- seemed perfectly normal who we could throw into completely outrageous situations and know that they would somehow stumble through and save the day.  Did we see them as counterparts of Jerry and Sharon?  Looking back, I think we took little pieces of ourselves and gave those pieces to Josh and Fanny but we pushed them way beyond our comfort zones.  They also had a lot more money to play with.

            You don’t see a lot of Josh’s house on Georgia’s Lake Lanier until the third book, SUMMON THE DEMON and the short story SIEGE PERILOUS where Father Damascus Santini, a major character from RIVER OF GOLD, finds refuge from a bunch of bad guys.  Of course the house is gorgeous right down to the great room with the fireplace and the bearskin rug on the floor in front of it.  We had a mounted bear’s head once.  A friend’s wife wouldn’t let him bring it into the house so he gave it to Jerry.  I hated that thing.  It kept staring.  It also shed and when I found its nose on the floor I made him take the semi-balding, noseless bear head out of the house.  He found someone else to give it to.  I sometimes wonder where he lives now. If you walk up three steps from the great room to the kitchen you can pour yourself an inch or two of Myers’s Dark Rum which was a staple in our house during the winter months.  Our house lacked central heating at that time and some nights some extra warmth was necessary.

            We also housed graveside recording that were sent to us that were very interesting (more like they scared the sh-- out of us) as well as Zuni rain dance music.  We did interviews with a real vampire hunter and had an extensive tape collection of interviews with experts on Voodoo and the Occult.  In other words we had the typical home library that everyone in a small town in Georgia had, not to mention a Rolodex with some of the cards listing fake names.    

            The multi-million dollar house that they share overlooks Lake Sidney Lanier, named for the poet. It is a Mecca for outdoor recreation. Some of the rowing and canoeing events for the 1996 Summer Olympics took place there.  Josh and Fanny don’t live in a really secluded area since 7.5 million people visit this lake each year, most during the summer months.  Of course when they stand out on their balcony, all they see is the lake and the surrounding mountains.   When we had severe drought conditions here two years ago, they could see boats stuck in the mud with no chance of coming ashore until the rains came along.  Something you may not be aware of is that if things get really rough, they’re pretty close neighbors to the Rourke Retreat.  Lots of adventure in Northeast Georgia! 

            The idea for the first book, THE TAKERS, came about while doing research for something else.  I can’t even remember what the something else was but I came upon a reference that William Gladstone who served as the British Prime Minister four times between 1868 and 1894 had, based on the findings of a lawyer named Ignatius Donnelly, gone to Parliament asking for funds to send out an expedition to find Atlantis. Gladstone was turned down.  I told Jerry and we started kicking around the idea that what if Gladstone had gotten the ok and an expedition had been sent off.  That was all it took to get started.  Going from there to ancient aliens with horns really wasn’t much of a stretch. Nazis and crazy psychopaths just naturally followed.

            Josh Culhane spends a lot of his time trying to live up to his fictional adventure hero. When Josh is in a tough spot he wonders what Sean Dodge would do.  He usually comes up with a plan and occasionally feels elated that he’s one upped Sean.   Jerry related to Josh’s character in that he was the one who always tried to be sensible and was usually ignored. Jerry would try to work out a problem and look at it from all angles then find out that someone solved the problem using a hammer or baseball bat or whatever.  Josh has a lot more money and got to travel extensively but Jerry was happy to have a family and pets and friends and a load of interesting characters.

            If there is something I’ve missed that you would like to know about the TAKERS, please, feel free to ask.





            A lot of people have been asking whether or not the Retreat located inside a mountain that was critical to the survival of the Rourkes and their extended family was based on reality or just a figment of our imagination.  This home away from home served them well for quite a number of years – quite a number.

            Shortly after moving to Georgia in the late 70s, we started exploring the beautiful countryside.  We’d grab the kids, fill up the tank of our Ford LTD and take off for the day.  One of these excursions took us into higher elevations and towns like Helen and Cleveland.  Cleveland, by the way, is home to the original Cabbage Patch dolls where if you’re there at just the right time you may be able to witness a birth.  As we drove, a very distinctive mountain loomed off to our right.  It wasn’t the tallest mountain we’d seen in Georgia but, it was just different.  For those of you who remember the beginnings of the SURVIVALIST series, you might be interested in knowing that in order to get close to its base, the last paved road before you hit gravel is named Chambers Road.  It just called out to us as the perfect place for the location of the Retreat.

            Mount Yonah or Yonah Bald is in the Chattahoochee National Forest and around 1960 was used by the Army for basic mountaineering training and is still used for that purpose. Later in the 1970s the mountain was also used by civilian rock climbers. 

   Yonah is the Cherokee word for bear.  This area is well associated with the Cherokee.  One of the stories associated with Yonah deals with Nacoochee, a Cherokee girl and Sautee, a Chickasaw warrior.  The Cherokees were not at all happy with this union and warriors pushed Sautee off the mountaintop to his death. His lover, Nacoochee threw herself from the same cliff to be with him forever.

   In the early 1500s the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto searched the caves of Yonah for a lost Indian treasure,  de Soto never found the treasure but in 1834 the village he and his men inhabited during the search was discovered by gold miners.  To his credit though, de Soto did discover the Mississippi River.

   In our story, THE SURVIVALIST, John Thomas Rourke actually bought the mountain and spent years renovating and supplying his hideaway.  He drew upon his knowledge of weights and counterbalances as used by the Egyptians to secure his home and equipped it with all the comforts and supplies anyone could have thought of. With hydro-electric power and generators, every type of appliance was available as well as television, stereo and in his day, VCR devices.  Well stocked freezers were filled with not only food but also Rourke’s supply of cigars and ammunition and reloading equipment were in abundance.  Rourke had included a huge library of everything from the classics to reference materials to children’s books.


One thing most readers miss when they’ve talked to us about the Retreat is the fact that wherever a character traveled from point A to point B and there were stairs to take, for example, if they were going to a bedroom or the kitchen, we always had the same number of stairs throughout.  Check out SURVIVALIST NUMBER 3:  The Quest.  We did the same thing in some other books but it started with the Retreat.  Writers do not remember everything and it pays to plan ahead -- even with stairs.




            Customarily on Saturday nights, I tune in my local Public Television station and catch a Britcom or two.  I know – wild and crazy!  My favorite is AS TIME GOES BY with Judi Dench and  Jeoffery Palmer which ran from 1992 to 2005..  A few years ago I was gifted with the entire series on CD but I still tune it in on the television out of force of habit.  My station was running a beg-a-thon and I was about to flip to something else when they returned to a show in progress that they had recently acquired for their new season.  The show was called GOOD NEIGHBORS and it was about a family of Preppers.  Preppers in the UK?

            Preppers are supposed to live in undisclosed locations primarily in the South and Northwest sections of the US.  They have beards – well the men do – and their wives wear skimpy outfits and carry illegal assault weapons.  Their children are home schooled up to second grade and then spend their days guarding the homestead and taking care of the family’s sheep and goats and whatever else happens to be their meat of choice,  Of course, hunting season  lasts 365 days a year just like road kill season. 

            This program featured a man who on his 40th. Birthday quits his job, wishing to live off the power grid and be self-sustaining, and his family raising their own meat and vegetables and creating their own electricity.  Much to the horror of their neighbors, they live their new survival lifestyle right smack in the middle of the suburbs.  After some digging, I found out that this show originally ran in the UK from 1975 to 1978.  Up to date programming at its best!

            Whereas this show made light of various “survival” situations, it did present the concept.of not waiting for disaster to strike but to rather plan for such situations if they materialize.  Sounds like nothing more than common sense to me.  We teach our children to put aside a portion of their allowance, saving it for a rainy day.  What is so funny about buying some extra canned goods when we go to the grocery store to put aside or keeping extra batteries for our flash lights?  For some of us, a charcoal grill or a couple of canisters of propane for a portable cook stove is just a must for when the power goes out, along with alternative lighting sources.  This is life and we all know shit happens.

            Do some preppers go over the top with their underground bunkers and years worth of food and supplies?  Maybe, but who can say.  Some do it because they fear the government, some because they know that in this world anything that can go wrong eventually will.  These people are into long term survival.

            All I know is that I don’t think most of us want to be the ones outside, looking in when something goes wrong.  The outsiders are the ones who tell their kids to save for tomorrow and then they learn the hard way that they have never planned ahead and haven’t enough food or water in the house to last more than a day, much less toilet paper and, their electricity has just run out!  They won’t be able to call out for a pizza and their debit cards will be useless.  These people will be living in their cave, surrounded by their “stuff” that doesn’t work and will be either cold and hungry or very hot and hungry depending on the season.  Their tropical fish, floating on their backs by now are starting to look good and the dog…

            Preppers I have known over the years both in this country and elsewhere are not to be laughed at.  They think about what could happen and prepare for it in case it does.  That sounds smart to me!  Using tried and true techniques of food processing used for generations and some more modern methods now at their disposal, they are showing us that good, healthy food does not necessarily come from the local grocery store.  By the time “fresh” food hits the shelves, how much of its mineral and vitamin content has been diminished compared to food freshly picked or processed without the addition of chemicals?  Consider how many times a year we hear about meat being recalled or tainted produce.  There is a lot of truth to the phrase, “what you see is what you get.” 

            Most of the preppers I know are more than willing to share their knowledge of reliable sources for everything from garden seeds to packaged survival foods to books and manuals on a wide array of subjects.  While a lot of us only think in terms of buying, preppers may also think in terms of making.  What if you had to make your own soap or set up a chicken coop or determine what backyard weeds are edible?  If you killed a deer for food would you know how to butcher it?  People used to know how to do many of these things.  If someone gets injured do you have the basic first aid skills necessary if no other help is available? 

            Thank you preppers, here and abroad, for doing what you think is right to keep you and your family safe in any situation.  Thank you for thinking outside the box when considering all of the “what if” situations that could be facing us and coming up with solutions to the myriad of problems associated.  Thanks for reminding us that we did enter into this world equipped with brains.

            Remember, “It always pays to plan ahead.”  I think I’ve heard that slogan before.