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The Jakarta Pandemic : Steven Konkoly : The Interview

One of the offerings I have wanted to establish here on the blog that I am personally most excited about is the feature interview.  It is my goal to bring you enlightening and enthralling interviews with some of the most interesting people out there from all corners of the preparedness world, providing in-depth conversations that I hope you will find to be both practical and personal.

For our first installment, we are very fortunate to be joined by the highly acclaimed Steven Konkoly, author of apocalyptic thrillers including the Black Flagged series and, the focus of this interview, The Jakarta Pandemic.  Mr. Konkoly is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science in English Literature and a veteran, having served seven years with various Navy and Marine Corps units.

Welcome, Steve.  First and foremost, thank you for your service.

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Thank you, Randy. I really appreciate the opportunity to dig below the surface of my writing and expose some of the core ideas and concepts that help shape the stories. Regardless of what other authors may claim, writing is a personal endeavor, no matter how far fetched the plot or action may seem to the reader. There is always something deeply personal embedded in the writing, and the threads that wrap around these aspects often define the story’s core essence.

In your writings, there is no such thing as black and white.  You deal in personal confliction and there are no easy answers.  You have also said that your military experience figures heavily into your writings.  With all that said, TJP brings all that together in a complex character and gives us Alex Fletcher.

Ten years out of the Marines, Alex has fully transitioned back into the private sector and seems to be doing quite well.  Putting aside what I assume would be Alex’s tendency to be prepared due to his military experience, I would like to talk a little about what motivated Alex to focus on the threat of a pandemic and make preparations for his family.  At the end of Chapter 5, we learn about a presentation that Alex did for his company Biosphere and the research that went into it.  We learned that process “changed his life” in apparently more ways than just professionally.  Can you talk about how this process impacted Alex and his decisions when it comes to his family’s preparedness?

When I started to conceptualize The Jakarta Pandemic, I wanted to highlight the difficulties of surviving a catastrophic level event in a suburban setting. The leading difficulty in my opinion would be dealing with everyone else’s varying degree of unpreparedness in the face of a complete lack of essential services. With that in mind, I wanted to start Alex in a position of self-sufficiency, and I chose this “presentation” as his catalyst to start preparing for a worst-case scenario. The conclusion Alex draws from his research reflects the culmination of my own examination of the scenario. In a nutshell, it’s not a matter of IF something like this will happen, it’s a matter of WHEN, and WHEN it happens, survival will depend on your basic level of preparedness and planning.

I’ve read that you raised your personal level of preparedness AFTER writing TJP.  I was a bit shocked by that fact.  One of my favorite parts of the book is when we get a first look at the Fletcher’s supplies as we join Alex for an inventory “the Frito supply” for the first time.  You describe the Fletcher’s well rounded stockpile in some detail and even lay out a good plan for rotating food stores as if you had been doing it yourself for a long time.  I particularly appreciated how you pointed out throughout the book that building a stockpile like the Fletcher’s is something that anyone can do if they make a plan and execute it in a practical way.  Was family preparedness and establishing an emergency survival kit a chicken and egg type thing for you as you wrote the book?  And, without divulging too much, how much did Alex teach you about being more prepared and what steps have you taken in your personal life to be better prepared for any future emergency?

Most people are shocked to learn that I never visited a prepper or survivalist website prior to finishing The Jakarta Pandemic. In many ways, I’m glad that I didn’t. I’m a details oriented writer, and despite the fact that the scene you described is exhaustively detailed, I would have driven myself insane trying to get the Fletcher’s “bunker” perfect. I put a considerable amount of thought into the contents of their survival stockpile, starting with the basics: Food, Water, and Medical Supplies…and expanding from there. And I certainly expanded far beyond the basics. Solar panels connected to battery storage, two oil tanks for storing fuel (this is a New England phenomena…most of you have natural gas or propane), wood burning stove (which I don’t think they ever used), generator, antibiotics (unethically obtained through Alex’s employer) and many other items that might come in handy if the shelves at your local Home Depot and grocery store emptied overnight. Imagine going cold turkey off Fritos…devastating. :0)

So to answer your question, I created this incredible stockpile or “bunker” in my novel, and didn’t have so much as three extra cans of vegetables in my own house to back up one of the main themes in my book. A few months after publishing the novel, I took Alex Fletcher’s advice and started to slowly build up a reserve of food and supplies, one shopping trip at a time. It’s truly amazing what you can amass in two years, when you take a systematic, consistent approach to stockpiling supplies. Does my basement now resemble Alex’s? Not even close, but I feel confident that my family could ride out a major disaster, without resorting to desperate measures. Of course, the same question always remains, regardless of how much you prepare…what is your neighbor doing to avoid resorting to desperate measures, and what is your plan to deal their desperation. This becomes a pinnacle issue for Alex, and his plan is woefully lacking in this author’s opinion…on purpose.

Most folks living a preparedness lifestyle understand that planning is paramount to the success of any emergency plan.  This usually means having a plan to ride out an emergency situation at home, also known as sheltering in place or bugging in, and also having a plan to evacuate if the situation dictates, commonly referred to as bugging out.  If the plan is to shelter in place, neighbors can become a real problem like we see in TJP.  We don’t want to give the story away, but what are your thoughts on working with neighbors or building a survival team, given that the necessities of dealing with a pandemic primarily call for isolation?  Makeshift alliances develop in TJP, but should Alex have developed relationships and built his team within the neighborhood well ahead of the pandemic since he viewed it as such a real threat?

This is hard to say. Unfortunately for Alex, his plan from the start was isolation, but he quickly learned that this wasn’t going to be a viable option. Without recognizing the need for a diplomacy based “crowd control” plan prior to the arrival of the pandemic virus, he really shortchanged himself and put his family in danger. With that said, none of us want to view our neighborhood as an episode of Survivor, where shifting alliances and secret plots undermine the ease of living and sense of relaxation we come to expect when we pull into the driveway. Alex had some core friends in the neighborhood, which came in handy as the conflict escalated, and he found a few surprise allies along the way. If anything, Alex could have been more open to dispelling a few stereotypes that hindered him in the beginning. I don’t write big moral lessons into my novels, but Alex’s character gave me the opportunity to point out a few negative behaviors that most of us can find in ourselves from time to time.

I believe I have read that your favorite scene in TJP is the neighborhood meeting.  The part of this gathering that stood out to me was, with the exception of a small few, the neighbor’s almost outright denial that anything really bad or prolonged could ever actually happen.  Their cognitive dissonance would not let them believe that the grid could go down or that there would be more than a short term disruption in food deliveries, even with a viable threat staring them in the face.  What are your thoughts on this phenomena and just how prevalent it is within American society today?

Don’t get me started, Randy. Just take one look around and you can start to see the extent of the problem. We’ve become a society of instant information…everyone connected to smartphones, tablets, computers, blogs, websites…all downloading the latest opinions, news, and “facts” in real time. Few people put any discernable time into researching topics, simply accepting the latest New York Times or Wall Street Journal article as gospel, whichever suits their purpose. Conservative? Fox News will steer you in the right direction. Liberal? MSNBC never gets it wrong. We’ve polarized ourselves to think along the lines of convenience and convention, staying well within our comfort zones and dismissing information that doesn’t conform. This is not a new phenomena, but I think it’s compounded in our society today. I’m just as guilty as anyone (I use all of these newfangled technologies), but I’ve set some ground rules for myself, and the first rule is to dig deeper. I can find ten articles that say the next pandemic will be manageable, all of them one page summaries of the latest CDC or WHO assessment, but I’m far more interested in the twenty page, multi-source researched essay explaining the why the CDC and WHO pandemic models are based on unlikely scenarios and how they vastly underestimate the impact of the next deadly pandemic.

Complexity is a trademark of the characters in your works.  To pay homage to that fact, I would like to look into what I call “the dichotomy of Kate”.  Alex’s wife Kate doesn’t seem to like guns or Alex “playing commando”, but on the other hand she seems to constantly want him to shoot any threat to the family dead first and ask questions later.  I know you have stated in the past that looking back on it, you can now see the need for characters like Kate’s to be rounded out a little more in TJP, so I would like to ask you to take all the space you need to help us understand where she’s coming from.

Like any woman, she’s complex and I can’t explain what she does or says with any regularity. Sound familiar? Just kidding, sort of. Kate’s gun dichotomy represents what I consider to be a prevalent attitude in society, which can be expanded far beyond guns. She’s not a big fan of firearms, but this isn’t a moral stand or some kind of a political statement. In my mind, it was more related to a general apathy toward firearms, which we see everywhere in society, even within firearms friendly families (I just made that term up by the way-FFF). It’s easier to lock them up and hide them, than it is to teach responsible firearms safety and respect. With young children in the house, Kate chose the easy path, instead of embracing the fact that firearms were intrinsically linked to her husband’s past and would always be a part of their life together. Of course, when her family was threatened, she was one of the first to encourage her husband to put them to use. Here is the dichotomy I was trying to expose in our society. In general, we don’t want to deal with the hassle and responsibility of guns (substitute “guns” for any number of other words), but when the SHTF, we have a sudden need for them. Rarely does this sudden need come with responsible or tempered use. I liked Kate’s character overall, and wished I could have explained her thought process more fully, but I had chosen to stick to a first person, single point of view for the story (Alex’s), and this made it extremely difficult round out any of the characters beyond Alex. The sequel to The Jakarta Pandemic will be written from multiple points of view, similar to my Black Flagged series, giving the reader a much deeper understanding of the key characters.

In Chapter 16, Alex and Kate have a discussion about what could happen if a sick friend or family member came to them looking for help.  They also discussed the decisions they (the Fletchers) had made that would lead to such a dilemma.  Those same decisions run counter to the original Fletcher survival plan and there is a real possibility that their real fears could become reality of their own making.  This speaks directly to a couple of our main teaching points: 1) Craft a survival plan for your situation 2) OPSEC (operational security) cannot be overstated.  In my mind, this powerful conversation could be a story by itself or at least a complete chapter.  Although you make the point pretty well in the book, I was hoping you might expand your thoughts on never-ending web of problems that could arise in a scenario like the Fletchers explore in their conversation.

I chickened out writing TJP. I’ll admit this here for the first time. I had set the stage for a possible visit from any of several family members within striking distance, with the full intention of putting the Fletchers in the position of having to either refuse to take in a sick relative or subject them to quarantine procedures. This is a difficult topic for most of us to comprehend, and I decided to steer clear of it ultimately, leaving the discussion to stand on its own merits. I couldn’t imagine writing a scene turning “Grandpa” away because he was running a fever and coughing and the response I’d get from readers. The book is controversial enough, and I felt that I accomplished the goal of raising awareness by introducing the concept as an important part of a any survival plan, especially in the face of a contagious virus.

As for Operational Security? I’d say the Fletchers failed miserably, letting too many people know that they were stocked up and prepared. He may not have walked around with a banner announcing it, but the neighbors quickly put it together and he made matters worse by disclosing certain information and offering to share some very critical and hard to find supplies. In a limited disaster scenario like an earthquake, hurricane or tidal wave, this wouldn’t be such a problem, but Alex knew for a fact from his own research that a massive pandemic was different. The effects of deadly flu virus had the potential to crash the “system,” forcing the neighborhood to endure severe food shortages and limited access to essential services.

Given Alex’s military background and the fact that the Fletchers had been planning for a disaster like the Jakarta Pandemic for years, I was surprised that they had not ran a “practice weekend” disaster scenario to work out the kinks before actually having to implement their survival plan.  Did I just miss that in the book because it was not specifically mentioned or is that something that was purposely omitted from the story line for impact?

You didn’t miss anything. Frankly, I didn’t think about it. If I had, I would likely have modeled my own family for the Fletcher’s “drill weekend,” and had it perpetually postponed. I have two emergency escape ladders on my second floor that have not been opened. I bought them with the full intention of running a drill out of one of the first floor windows, just so my kids could figure out how to attach them to the windowsill. We’ve been too busy. We’ve watched over two thousand hours of TV as a family since acquiring the ladders, but can’t find thirty minutes for a drill that could save lives. We always talk about a home invasion plan…how to react as a family, but we’ve never gone through the motions. You make a great point, Randy, and I think this could have been another opportunity to highlight an important aspect to any preparedness plan. 

Let’s turn our focus to real world current events for a moment.  The Jakarta Pandemic is set in 2013 and oddly enough, the world has already seen a couple of rather scary viral outbreaks this year with the novel coronavirus in the middle east that has shown an alarming death rate among those infected and the H7N9 avian flu that is currently spreading across, you guessed it, China.  It seems you may have been onto something when you wrote TJP by setting it to take place in 2013!  What are your thoughts on these ongoing situations and what should we be looking for as these stories develop?

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I may be the only person on earth hoping that this avian flu thing takes off…book sales will be off the charts! Just kidding, sort of, until I get my basement squared away. As you can imagine, I like to track this kind of stuff, but I’d be lying if I told your readers that I predicted 2013 for the next deadly pandemic. Unfortunately, we don’t have the organization that I created for The Jakarta Pandemic to warn us when a pandemic is imminent. The International Scientific Pandemic Awareness Collaborative (ISPAC) was an entirely fictional entity, based on the needs identified by my research. Namely, an independent, nonpolitical agency focused on the early detection of potential pandemic threats and the relevant public education needed to prepare individuals and civil groups. Readers can set Google alerts or other news alerts to receive articles related to pandemic events or topics, using key phrases or words. You can also frequently review our own nation’s CDC website and navigate toward the bottom left corner to “OUTBREAKS.” I check this section every week or two to see what’s new in the world of infectious diseases. The WHO website (home page) contains a link at the top right, “Disease Outbreak News,” which accomplishes the same goal, but leads to a wide variety of articles and disease topics which can expand your knowledge of pandemic viruses. If you find a link to an emerging disease on one of these sites, you can add the name of the disease to your list of news alert subscriptions. By keeping a loose eye on these sites and your alerts, you’ll be in a strong position to detect an emerging threat before it “hits the news.” I don’t go crazy with this stuff, but if something catches my eye, I like to get the news first.

Like our name suggests, we believe in those things that provide the practical, tactical solutions for the everyday emergencies that can impact any of us like a bolt from the blue.  TJP provides us with a practical outline for how to tackle the threat of a flu pandemic, but I was wondering if you had any other advice or information that you would like to leave our readers with before we go?

Practical is the key. Alex Fletcher’s set up in TJP was not a practical solution for most families. I did the math at one point and calculated that the cost of their home modifications and supplies ran well into the six-figure range. The supplies can be accrued slowly over time, but the big-ticket items will not be practical or reasonable for 99% of people. You can drive by my house and you won’t see solar panels on my roof. I spent that money on a sailboat so I can enjoy the Maine summers on Casco Bay. Priorities. My key advice is to develop and execute a basic plan for building a modest stockpile of food, medical supplies and water. Get your security situation in order and start expanding your preparedness knowledge. The rest will follow. There is no “one size” fits all solution to preparedness, because our needs vary, however, the themes are the same, and Randy’s blog is a great place to start. His focus on combining PRACTICAL advice with a TACTICAL outlook defines the survival mindset.

So, you’ve mentioned a sequel to TJP a couple of times during this interview and that is certainly welcome and exciting news for fans of the work like us.  Is there anything you can tell us about what lies ahead for the Fletchers?

I’m looking at a sequel, but not in the traditional sense. The story will take place several years after the first and present the Fletchers with a unique set of challenges. TJP focused on the human challenges (even if you are uber-stockpiled) of hunkering down “in place.” For the sequel, I have created a unique set of circumstances that will force the Fletchers and likely send them in two different directions. Alex Fletcher has learned a lot during the five or six years since The Jakarta Pandemic, but what I have in store for the Fletchers will force him to improvise nearly every skill he has developed, and once again band together with friends. This will not be your typical “bug out” story, though some of the key aspects of “bugging out” will be explored and expanded…really expanded. In order to avoid treading well-worn ground in this genre, I plan to leverage the techno-thriller writing style/skills of my Black Flagged series with an apocalyptic event. The scenario I have in mind will leave the story open to a series. The initiating disaster scenario will be what I like to call a “realistic stretch,” but it sets the stage for a wild ride.  

At Practical Tactical we’ve adopted the slogan, Semper Paratus. We are proponents of firearm ownership and believe in having the ability to exercise the “force option” if necessary.  We are absolutely of the opinion that a well thought out and rigorously trained defense strategy be a part of any emergency plan. With that said, we also believe that you must be willing to take on the necessary level of responsibility that accompanies which ever method of self-defense you choose to employ.  While we offer Barney-basic firearms training through Practical Tactical, we understand that may not be the choice for everyone and we absolutely respect that position. Each person or family must come to terms with what level of self-defense is appropriate for themselves and their situation. We only suggest that whatever method of defense is chosen, it must include the appropriate exposure and training to be effectively deployed when/if the time comes to use it.  Do you have any thoughts on this topic, Steve?

This is sage advice, especially talking about what each person or family finds “appropriate for themselves and their situation,” followed by a commitment to effectively deploying the method. In terms of home defense, a good house alarm or dog would better serve some families than a firearm, especially if they are unwilling to regularly practice with the firearm. “One size fits all” does not apply to self-defense or preparedness.

I’m just as comfortable walking up to a firearms counter and handling weapons as I am picking out a loaf of bread for dinner. Actually, the bread gives me more stress, because everyone in my house likes different types of bread and I can never win. :0)  Have you ever handed a “safed” firearm (slide back, chamber examined by both parties) to someone unfamiliar with firearms? They hold it like you just handed them your soiled underwear. You (Randy) have shared Practical Tactical’s approach to beginners, and it is all about demystifying and developing comfort with a method (in this case firearms). This applies across the board to every aspect of a solid, executable preparedness/survival plan.

One of the biggest criticisms (in reviews and emails) of TJP and Alex Fletcher’s character, is that he didn’t simply shoot first and ask questions in a pivotal scene. This decision clearly leads to a cascade of problems that not only affect Alex’s family, but the entire neighborhood. I’m being as vague as possible so I don’t spoil the story for potential readers. Everyone will know when this scene takes place, and most of you will be screaming at Alex…especially in light of what you know is coming later. Some reviewers have decried Alex’s behavior as “non-Marine,” and others claiming that his hesitancy to kill was out of character with his background. While his decision only delayed the inevitable lethal confrontation with these clearly “bad intentioned” people, it served a greater purpose, which I didn’t make immediately clear in the book…for a reason.

In my view, the most critical aspect of a preparedness/self-defense plan is never losing sight of the big picture and the ultimate goal. I love the controversy surrounding this scene, because it really drives this point home. Emotionally, even I wanted Alex to open fire on the crazies that had descended on his neighborhood. He knew they were bad news across the board. Was shooting them in the middle of the street really an option, like his wife and neighbor suggested? Sure. It would have immediately neutralized a likely threat to their safety, but what next? The police were still responding to calls (barely) and Alex had been questioned by the police for another incident involving firearms. Three men dead in the middle of the street. They hadn’t overtly threatened him or tried to break into his house. Clearly, they were up to no good, but how would the police react? Maybe the police would turn a blind eye, but what if they didn’t? Alex incarcerated during a deadly pandemic, leaving Kate to fend off the next group of lunatics that decide to prey on the neighborhood OR angry neighbors that know they are well stocked with food and supplies? House searched and all firearms confiscated, leaving Kate with nothing but kitchen knives for self-defense. This was one of the toughest decisions Alex had to make, but it wasn’t due to a lack of conviction or guts. His character served as a company commander in Iraq, where rules of engagement defined the big picture. I felt that his reaction to the situation was the best survival decision for his family, even if it did put off the inevitable.

Well at the end of the day, I believe that making “the best survival decision” for our families is all any of us can hope to do, Steve.  Friends, I highly recommend The Jakarta Pandemic for anyone in the preparedness community looking for an exciting read that also provides some common sense steps anyone can take to be better prepared for an emergency.  So pick a copy up soon, download the audio book from your favorite provider to listen to during a long commute or follow my lead and do both!  I’m confident you will find it a fun, interesting and useful read.  Steve, where else can our readers find you and your other works?

I’m pretty accessible, and unlike Stephen King, I still answer reader emails. Of course, I’m about 400 million readers away from matching Mr. King’s level of “busy,” so I can still take the time to respond and enjoy the best part of writing…interacting with readers. You can email me at stevenkonkoly@gmail.com and if I’m not in the throes of writing my latest work in progress, you’ll probably hear back from me the same day. I’d love to invite everyone to visit my blog, www.stevenkonkoly.com, where you can go behind the scenes of my writing, catch some book reviews (apocalyptic, thriller, horror and some sci-fi), enjoy some humor and get updates about my work in progress or future projects. There’s something for everyone.

Sounds great, Steve.  I would like to thank you for taking the time to discuss The Jakarta Pandemic in depth with us!  It has certainly been a pleasure.

Finally, I want to encourage everyone to join in and keep the conversation going by asking your own questions of Steve (or me) in the comment section below and by sharing this talk on Facebook and Twitter (or your preferred social media platform) with everyone you know.  The more people we can reach and hopefully help along their journey towards personal preparedness the better off we’ll all be in the long run.

#SemperParatus

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12 responses

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  3. Linda Steimle

    I enjoyed the interview. I also enjoyed both of the Alex Fletcher books. I screamed “Noooo” when I saw the last two words in the sequel to The Jakarta Pandemic. If I’d been warned, I would have waited until ‘early 2014″ to read the sequel. I feel Alex did the right (and in character) thing when he didn’t kill the guys in the middle of the street. For one thing, it just wasn’t practical at that time, and also they had not been overtly threatened yet. I thought, though, that when he didn’t make sure the lead bad guy was really dead, it was a mistake and also out of character. I understand Kate, but don’t see her reluctance about weapons at the beginning, seeing she married Alex and had to have known weapons were a part of his life. I used to be very anti-gun, but have done almost a complete 180 degree turn about that.

    Unfortunately, as you say, the preparations Alex takes are not practical for a lot of people. I am elderly and don’t get around well. Worse yet, I am poor (but not too poor to buy your books!) and can’t afford a gun. It seems to me, that without a way to protect any stockpile I could manage to get together in my postage stamp sized apartment, it would just be taken from me by force. I am also very short and have very short arms, so just about anyone would have a easy way to hurt me. I do wonder if it is possible to hurt someone enough with a pellet gun (not so expensive, I’d still have to save) that they would leave me alone? Could I kill someone with one, if I had to? I mean would a pellet be strong enough to kill someone, if necessary? I have doubts, but I don’t know really. I live in an apartment complex that would be easy for bad characters to get into, and the apartment doors are so flimsy I probably could break mine down. I have two sons here, but they live on opposite ends of our city, with me in the middle. I don’t see any way they could get to me if the roads were impassible or an EMP were to hit. I can’t see going around and asking my neighbors in the complex “Uh, by the way, do you have a gun for protection and if everything goes to hell, could I come to your apartment and have you protect me? Ah, please.” Do you have any suggestions? Also I can’t wait, really can’t wait, to read your next Alex Fletcher book in early 2014. Ahh, so long to wait! I’ve started your Black Flag books (reading the first right now) and like them too. I’m so glad I discovered your books. It’s creepy that there have been bird flu deaths in Asia just in the last few weeks. We’ll have to keep an eye on it, huh?

    In humor and in seriousness, Linda (sillymelinda@q.com)

    December 9, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    • See response below. Thanks.

      December 19, 2013 at 5:54 pm

  4. Linda,

    First, thank you so much for reading my books…even the Black Flagged books. Sorry to leave you hanging with the ending to book one of Perseid, but you’ll see why I had to stop it there…Alex doesn’t get much of a break in Book Two either! I’m furiously working on the sequel.

    Second, with two sons nearby, you won’t have to worry about the flimsy doors of your apartment. Alex is traveling miles to find his son, against all odds. This is the least fictional aspect of the story. You’ll be in good company, very quickly if something went awry in the world.

    Bird flu deaths? I’ll have to start watching the news. Thank you for the heads up!

    Also, do you read hardcopy books or ebooks?

    Best regards,

    Steve

    December 10, 2013 at 8:25 am

    • Linda Steimle

      Thanks for answering my comments and questions. Do you have any ideas about the possibility of using a pellet gun for defense, or is that just wishful thinking on my part? I read your books and others on my Kindle. I have trouble with my eyesight, and with the Kindle I can make the letters as large as I need to and the sentences farther apart for easier reading. I have convinced my son Tony (he lives in New Mexico) to buy your Alex Fletcher books. Your books are easy to sell people on! Out of curiosity, why did you say “and even the Black Flagged books”? Is there some reason you feel that I wouldn’t like them? I do like the Alex Fletcher books better, but I think the Black Flagged books are also a very good read. I am enjoying them a lot. Also, congratulations on being able to stay home and write. All your readers will be happy to get more good books. Take some time to smell the roses (and enjoy the kids) too.

      Me, Linda

      December 11, 2013 at 2:35 am

  5. Linda,

    Sorry for the tardy reply. Randy took up all of my free time last week with an incredible interview! We chatted for two hours about The Perseid Collapse, and I can’t wait to see the published interview.

    I said “even the Black Flagged books” because I have found that readers of my apocalyptic series don’t always bridge the gap to my covert ops series and vice versa. I think with Perseid, that gap will close. Jakarta was my first book, and I hadn’t found my true writing voice at that point. You can definitely hear the voice, but it wasn’t practiced and true.

    A pellet gun for self defense is tough. Your basically employing the “punch a shark” in the nose theory. Pellet guns typically come in .177 caliber, though .22 cal are available. Unless I’m underestimating your strength, you would probably be limited to 1.) CO2 powered pistol or 2.) CO2 powered rifle, because it would be physically difficult to manually pump the pellet gun enough times to make buying anything but a CO2 powered pellet gun worth it. A CO2 powered rifle (best scenario in terms of projectile power) gives a significantly lower velocity than a manually pumped pellet gun. 700-900 fps (not shabby) vs 1000-1800 fps (breaks sound barrier…solid punch). While the 700-900 fps pellet would certainly stop me from trespassing on someone’s yard, it does not represent a strong enough deterrent if I’m determined to get into your space. A heavy jacket will soften the blow to a tolerable level…still will suck, but if I want what you have, it’s not going to stop me. You’ll have to hit someone in the face with this, which is why I call it the “punch a shark” option. We’ve all heard this piece of advice. If a shark attacks you or gets too close, punch it in the face. They don’t like that and will leave you alone. I’m skeptical. I think it will piss them off, or at least amp up the “adrenaline.” With that being said, if it’s the only option you have, it’s better than nothing. Twenty .177 pellets from a semi-auto rifle/pistol fired at me within the span of several seconds is going to make me reconsider my action…maybe the apartment next door will be easier.

    When I was in the Navy, I served as the ship’s security officer. We’d pull into ports all over the Middle East, and this was pre-USS Cole and 9/11. Security was HORRIBLE! We had one 19 year old with an M1911 .45 standing at the quarter deck. That was all that stood between my ship and the next terrorist cell that wanted to take over a US Navy Warship. Not kidding. My captain was uneasy about increasing the number of young sailors carrying weapons…a concern well founded 🙂 I suggested that we add a visible roving patrol armed with a shotgun, along with arming another sailor on the quarterdeck with a shotgun…ALL UNLOADED. Huh? Alex Fletcher with the unloaded shotgun all over again…you’re thinking. My Captain had the same thought. What’s the point? I told him (respectfully) to look at the other US ships in port. What did visible security did they have? The one guy on the quarterdeck with a .45! Any van full of crazies looking to score a US ship will choose the easiest target. They wouldn’t know our guys were walking around with empty shotguns.

    My point is that something is better than nothing, just be aware that the CO2 powered options are underpowered and not a true substitute for a bullet cartridge.

    Have you looked into .22 caliber rifles or pistols?

    AND, thank you for the wonderful comment about full time writing. I’m enjoying it very, very much. More time for the stories.

    December 16, 2013 at 5:38 am

  6. Linda,

    To begin, I would like to echo Steve’s comments and say thank you very much for checking out the interview. I am very happy you enjoyed TJP and The Perseid Collapse. We are thrilled and thankful to have had a role in Steve’s writing process. Whether in your reading enjoyment or your practical, tactical knowledge, we hope our part in the process adding something to the book for you. It is awesome that you’re spreading the word about Steve’s books! They are certainly addictive and easy for any of us to relate to because the scenarios are so plausible and real.

    Also, thank you very much for coming to the blog and looking around. It is our goal to cover a lot of topics and provide helpful suggestions on all things preparedness and survival for everyone, especially those living with circumstances that might be “less than ideal” for preparing. We try to focus on these angles because we come from a background that didn’t provide us with unlimited resources and a present that faces many of the hurdles that we find our readers struggling with, whether it’s not having a lot of money to spend on preparedness or physical limitations. Hopefully you will come back again and send others our way too.

    As for your questions, I wanted to give Steve a chance to offer his thoughts before I jumped into the discussion. Reading the conversation you guys have going has gotten me all fired up and couldn’t wait any longer.

    I can absolutely understand your shifting position on firearms. Although I grew up with guns in our home and was taught to treat them with respect and handle them in a safe manner, we were not a “gun family”. However I did grow up surrounded by gun culture (the respectful and safe one) and virtually everyone I knew hunted (for the table) or were sporting shooters (clays and target shooting). I went 20 years without owning or shooting a firearm and this period extended into my married life. I had no real aversion to gun ownership, but it just really wasn’t a part of that period of my life. That sounds a little funny I know. However, my wife and I always discussed owning a firearm for personal and home protection and eventually we decided to make a move. We now keep firearms in our home, we both have concealed carry permits, have taken training on every weapon we own and are proficient on every platform we have chosen to employ. We have found that the key to any discussion of firearms is education. It all starts there.

    Now that my background is out of the way, I do have some thoughts on your pellet gun question.

    Steve’s statements on using a pellet gun for defense are spot on and very detailed. Thanks for that, Steve! The two takeaways I have from his statements are 1) “something is better than nothing” 2) “maybe the apartment next door will be easier”. I also want to follow up on his question, “Have you looked into .22 caliber rifles or pistols?”

    To the first point, when it comes to the point the use of a firearm is necessary, any gun is better than no gun. This is absolutely my position. But, I would pretty much agree with everything Steve had to say on this subject. In my opinion, it would be a stretch to think you could effectively end an attacker’s threat with deadly force using a pellet gun for all the reasons Steve has already mentioned.

    To the second point, your apartment does not have be Fort Knox, it simply has to be a tougher nut to crack than the next available option, or at least you have to make the potential threat believe that it is. There are several ways to address hardening your home against invasion. Some of the most effective can also be fairly inexpensive. It’s always a good idea to get to know your immediate neighbors and having defense in mind as a bonus doesn’t hurt. Hopefully you can help each other by keeping an eye on things for one another and speaking up if something looks shady. If you are practicing a preparedness lifestyle, it’s always a good idea to do what you can to keep your preps under wraps. Now just who you talk to about what you’re doing is a personal choice, but you would never want to make yourself stick out like a sore thumb by just telling any and everyone of the preparations you may have been able to put aside. Doing the simple things like reinforcing all entrance points to your apartment like adding a bar lock (as simple as a sturdy stick of wood in the slide runners) to a sliding patio door (if you have one), applying reinforcing backing to large pane windows or sliding glass doors to prevent them from shattering or the old stand by, merely adding a dead bolt lock (or several) to any exterior doors would add layers of protection to your home. Remember, that’s the goal here. You want to avoid being seen as the ‘low hanging fruit’ or the easiest target. Possible invaders will always attack what they perceive to be the softest mark. In addition, you could also add more, fierce and possibly lethal, deterrents if you felt the situation called for it and you would most likely know with a little advance warning that these steps would be necessary. These might include something like placing a board with upward facing spikes below any windows that could be entry points for intruders. Of course, firearms would fall into this category and that leads me to my next talking point.

    Based on the information you’ve provided about your age, stature and resources, I think Steve’s question regarding a .22 caliber option is a valid one. The .22 can absolutely be used as a self-defense option, especially in the “any gun is better than no gun” scenario. However, (at least in our area) a .22 caliber rifle or pistol is still not an inexpensive option. It does seem that it is round that you could easily manage and there are some really nice pistols available that are chambered in .22 (our personal favorite is the M&P .22 pistol, $300-$400), but I’m thinking you may see this as too expensive. Now, you can always search out a price that might be affordable for you with some saving, but that call is up to you.

    I would also suggest that you give a shotgun some consideration for home defense. I know you mentioned you are older and smaller in stature, but a 20 gauge shotgun with a shortened stock or pistol grip could still be an affordable consideration for you. I can find a very serviceable, brand new 12 gauge in my area for less than $200 and the 20 gauge (or maybe even a 410) should have a recoil that you could handle. My wife, and other very small framed women we have worked with, can handle my 12 gauge with no issues. Since it seems you would have to save some money to make any kind of self-defense firearm purchase, I would just suggest you not rule out the shotgun as a real option. It may require you to wait a bit longer and save an extra $50 or so, but I believe the trade-off would be well worth the effort. The ultimate question with the purchase of any firearm for self-defense is this: “Would I trust my life to this tool in an emergency situation.” When it comes to your situation, I would be much more inclined to look at the .22 caliber or the often more affordable 20 gauge (or 410) shotgun option than any air rifle out there.

    With regards to your sons and whether you would be alone in an emergency situation, I think Steve hit the nail on the head with his response to this one as well. I’m quite confident your children would make there way to you, especially if they’ve done a little pre-planning. That’s where we here at Practical Tactical can help. We help our client’s focus on creating detailed plans for all contingencies surrounding situation such as this and then helping them kit out and implement them. Even if we never get to work with you or your children directly, it is our hope that the blog can also prove to be of some assistance in your preparedness.

    If you have any other questions regarding these topics or anything else, please reach out to us through Facebook, Twitter or in an email and we will help out any way we can.

    Semper Paratus!

    December 17, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    • Linda Steimle

      My first reply is for Steve. I can see your point about some readers not wanting to make the leap between the Alex Fletcher books and the Black Flag books. I hadn’t thought of that. I am now on the last Black Flag book (Vector) and really enjoying it. I also like Jack Reacher books. I feel that Jack Reacher and Alex Fletcher have essentially the same values, whereas Sanderson and his group perhaps go along a slightly different path as far as ethics go. I have no problem with Alex’s or Jack’s values, but sometimes I wonder about Sanderson.

      My sons agree with you about the pellet gun. They feel I would just piss off any attacker and I would get hurt worse. I may have to save up for a .22 or a shotgun, I think. I can’t wait for the next Alex Fletcher book! Or, I guess, pretty much any book you might write. I appreciate your input about self-protection. Hope you had a great Christmas. Linda

      My second reply is to the second person (unnamed, I think) who commented on my reply. My sons also think a pellet gun is a poor choice of a weapon. You mention shotguns, and I found that interesting. Would any shotgun within a manageable (with saving) price only shoot one or two shots at a time before I would need to reload? But, it seems, those shots would really count. Is it best to buy a gun from a gun store or are guns from pawn shops, etc. acceptable? Or a gun show? How does Practical Tactical work? How would I set up a plan with my sons? Or myself? Cost? I live in a building for older, lower-income adults, so, although I know my neighbors, most would be helpless, some dependent on walkers and wheelchairs. The ones what are able would probably eventually be trying to get in my apartment! I am not allowed to alter my apartment door in any way, are there any ways of reinforcing doors or keeping them closed that do not require using hardware added onto the door? I am on the fourth floor, opening onto a central courtyard, so unless someone had a ladder (not beyond belief, I guess), it would be difficult to get at my windows. (Now that I think of it, there may be a ladder available somewhere in a storage room for the maintenance man to use; a problem). Safety is the main reason I took a fourth floor apartment. Actually, I guess I need to know what to buy to reinforce my door in the case all goes to hell and I really didn’t care anymore what management thinks I should be able to do to my door! Again, how does Practical Tactical work, I wonder if you are in the affordable range for me. I’ll check out the website. I appreciate your help. Linda

      December 27, 2013 at 5:09 pm

      • Wonderful response, Linda. My name is Randy Powers. I started Practical Tactical as a very small side business with the goal of helping preparedness beginners that are starting at zero develop a personal preparedness plan based on their individual situation. The level of preparedness we need to reach is up to the individual. My wife Alice helps me out from time to time with the business as well. Getting yourself prepared can be an intimidating process, but we have made it our goal to work on a very personal level with our clients every step along their road to preparedness to insure that they do not become overwhelmed and keep at it.

        As for the shotgun, virtually all shotguns with a magazine tube hold at least FOUR rounds (plus ONE in the chamber for a total of FIVE) and some hold as many as six or more. This number can also depend on the state you live in and your local laws. I would NOT recommend something like a double barreled shotgun for home defense primarily because it limits you to two shots.

        Whether you buy from a gun store, a pawn shop, gun show or an individual is completely up to you. Factors like price, whether you want to pay with cash and product availability come in to play here. As long as you get a properly functioning firearm that meets your needs at a price you can afford, where you buy it is up to you. As I mentioned earlier, you can get a perfectly fine, brand new shotgun for self defense at a reasonable price. Just last week I saw a local gun shop offering a new 12 gauge for $179. To this point, since you have stated you would need to save before making any purchase I strongly suggest doing some research during this time, educate yourself and get a good idea about exactly what type of firearm (shotgun or whatever) you want. That will save you some time when you are finally in position to buy.

        At Practical Tactical we specialize in personal preparedness consultation, with individuals primarily, but we also offer services for businesses that want to develop a plan for their store locations. A consultation session is $100, but we cover everything in that session and any further communication with our clients is also covered by that one time fee. Future classes or training sessions require a separate sign up process and fee (class offerings and prices TBD). During a consultation session, we walk our clients through a step by step process of plan development and advise in choosing any gear required to build any kits to fit the plan we have developed.

        As for your current situation, you might look into a device that acts very much like putting a chair beneath the door knob to keep it from opening. See Safe has one option ( http://www.SeeSafe.com ) or something like this offering from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Heavy-Duty-Iron-Clad-Security/dp/B0042QP3BY

        We would love to help you out if we can. I am very familiar with the challenges people in your situation face (financial and other) due to my experiences with my grandparents and my parents. Please feel free to reach out to me via private email if you wish to discuss your options further: practicaltactical4you@gmail.com

        Thanks for your interest, the conversation and best of luck going forward!

        December 27, 2013 at 6:59 pm

  7. Pingback: The Perseid Collapse : Steven Konkoly : The Interview | PRACTICAL TACTICAL

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