Adventures Around the Web September 24-29, 2017

We’re just starting to see some of the fall colors.  I don’t think the colors will be very good.  DC’s weather is strange enough that we either tend to be too dry or too wet for good colors like further up north in the Shenandoah.  Our leaves are drying out and going to brown.

Nikola Budanovic on Vintage News

 “For sale, baby shoes, never worn”: Tracing the history of the shortest story ever told

An urban legend?


Adventures Around the Web September 16-22

Tom on Feedreader

How to Beat Angry Writer’s Block Knocking on Your Door

Despite the sensationalist title, it’s a pretty interesting article.  The first part talks about the history of writer’s block and shows that writers who are productive have always been looked down on.  Then it describes all the reasons for writer’s block, and they’re all some form of fear.  Worse though is they may not feel like fear.

Edward Cambro on Screen Rant

Star Trek: 15 Dark Behind the Scenes Secrets You Never Knew

Yeah, it’s a link-bait title and some of the secrets we’ve heard, but there’s some interesting ones in there.  On #2, just after James Doohan had reported in the press some negative comments about William Shatner, I attended Farpoint in Maryland.  Michael Ansara was attending, and he’d been on the original series.  During the Q&A, he was asked about William Shatner and was ever the professional.  He praised working with William  Shatner and steered clear of the sensationalism.

Harrison Kitteridge on Medium

**** All the Publishers

This week there was quite a bit of traffic on how print is dead.  The publishers have circled their wagon around best selling writers, and even writers who are best sellers but not as spectacular as other ones are getting dropped.  There’s a saying in Washington DC for government contractors: Rest all your eggs in one basket and you’re going to get burned.  Publishers–and the movie industry–are going to run into trouble when the system collapses on itself.

Nate Hoffelder on The Digital Reader

Chrome and Safari Will Soon Block Auto-Play Videos

Yes, there’s nothing like opening a page and suddenly get full volume of video that’s somewhere on the page.


Kate Scott on Book Riot


Check it out and see if you fit where they think you do.  I’m an INTP, but I also like many genres.  Link from Anne R. Allen.

New Releases

Tall ship in the harbor at night

Lady Pearl

Inspired by a visit of a tall ship to Alexandria.  I thought if I went early I could get tickets, and the line was already so long that they would have run out by the time I got there.  So I took pictures




Back of man with digital code on his skinBlink of a Moment

Time travel in Washington DC!






Tall ship on the sea

Monkey River

More tall ships!  This was one was inspired by a local ship graveyard called Mallows Bay, which is located in Maryland (the history of it is far less romantic: Government waste).





Woman standing on balcony overlooking city

The August Ghost

This story was inspired by the visit of my great-grandfather’s ghost to the house he built.

Adventures around the Web: September 11-15, 2017

This week, I’m in the Depth #3 Research workshop, which is trying out to be a workshop I’d wished I had a lot earlier–and I’m only in week 2!  Most of the writerly topics on research approach it from fear–either they’re being graded like a term paper or the one percent of the audience who might know the actual fact will call them out.   Essentially that thinking makes research something unpleasant or to be feared.  The workshop is showing me a very different approach.

Rosie Cima on Priceonomics

Why Every Movie Looks Sort of Orange and Blue

This is on how using the new technologies to make a film have a consistent color palette.  Though it might have the same effect as Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat book–make movies all look alike.

Central Intelligence Agency

Spy Puppies

Okay, that’s not the title, which is not very interesting.  But it’s about the CIA training puppies.  From Piper Bayard.

Josh Hafner on USA Today

Girl finds sword in lake of King Arthur’s Excalibur

Can you imagine going out to the lake for a day and finding a real sword?  That is just too cool!

Larry Rohter on New York Times

Dear Donna: A Pinup So Swell She Kept G.I. Mail

Sometimes people have no idea how important the connection to home is for the soldiers at war.  Some very nice stories about the letters the soldiers sent to movie star Donna Reed—especially when she wrote back.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch on Business Musings

Rip Van Winkle Syndrome

The publishers are cutting even the best selling writers who aren’t doing as well.  Instead of trying to find new ways to work with—and use—the changes in the market, the publishers are circling the wagons and trying to hold onto what they have.  This does not bode well for them in the future.  What are they going to do when the mega best sellers start to die off?  They’re not going to have anyone to replace them because they’ve all gone indie!

Beach view of Morro RockStrands of Blackmail

This is a mystery set in Morro Bay, California






Space station orbits planet. Shuttle heads for station Watcher Ghost

This is a GALCOM Universe short story I wrote while I was finishing up Crying Planet.  It features the bug bots that show up first in Crying Planet.






Spaceship orbiting a planet Lonely Planet

This is the second book in the series.  It was inspired by an exercise in one of Dean Wesley Smith’s workshops–ruins.  Ruins became spaceship wreck–shipwreck, space wreck.  Who wouldn’t like to discover a long lost wreck?


Adventures Around the Web September 2-8, 2017

David Ignatius on the Washington Post

A diminutive woman — and a spy who defined courage

Sometimes people define bravery as someone an extra qualification a person has.  But it’s more like something you have to do because it’s right. Jeannie Rousseau de Clarens’ story about spying during World War II rings like soldiers who receive medals for bravery: She was only a small part of what everyone else was doing.  From Piper Bayard.

Greer Mcallister on Writer Unboxed

Should you Ever Write For Free?

I’ve had writers disagree with me on this (and I know at one point where I disagreed with the writers giving the same advice to me).  Writing for non-paying subconsciously tells you that you’re not good enough to compete with the pros, and it’s very easy to stay at that level.  Though I am one of the few women veterans who writes about war experiences, I’ve stopped submitting to those anthology calls.  None of them pay!  They want to help vets, but they don’t want to pay vets for their writing.  Think about that.

Phil Mawson on BBC News

The Men Who Drew The Mason-Dixon Line

When I drove from Washington State to Washington DC, I crossed over the the Mason-Dixon Line.  I’d heard the name, but didn’t know a lot of history about it.  The article has a map showing the lines, as well some cool bits about the science side.  It’s actually not accurate because of gravity!  From Piper Bayard.

Ashley Feinberg on IO9

Any Animal That Touches This Lethal Lake Turns to Stone

No, this isn’t a made up story.  It’s a real place.  Kind of creepy.  Hmm.  Might make a story.

Tim Kirkpatrick on We Are The Mighty

This is why the Navy wears bell bottoms, and it’s not for fashion

Everything on a military uniform has a purpose.


Adventures in History: Old Town Alexandria

For Labor Day, I decided to wander around Old Town, Alexandria. It’s a place where it’s like walking between two different times.  We have all the historic buildings and shops like Starbucks and Banana Republic.

It was a pretty nice day for wandering.  Not too hot and not too cold (we’ll have cold soon enough!).  Everyone was out walking their dogs, so lots of doggy action.

Alexandria was originally part of Washington, DC.   During the 1700s, it was major shipping port.  Those wonderful tall ships came down the river to pick up tobacco and other goods.  It was such a popular port that the city built out the waterfront from Lee Street down.

Visitor map is here if you want to follow along.  That street will become very important soon.

Potomac River from Alexandria

This is the Potomac River from Waterfront Park.  Maryland is that land in the distance.  In the 1800s, the British burned Washington DC.  Then enemy warships came down this area.  Fearing the same thing would happen to the city, Alexandria waved a white flag of surrender.

Statue of the Seafarer

This statue was also in the park.  It was called “The Seafarer.”  Not a specific person, but a beautiful work of art.

Then it was off to check out Point Lumley.  I admit I was thinking that there might be a lighthouse (there is one somewhere in the area).  Lumley was named after the skipper of a ship that moored there.  So I walked down Union Street.

As I pass a hotel, I catch a passing conversation.  A woman tells the concierge if he knows about the Coast Guard ship on the next block.

Wait…ship?  What ship?

Needless to say I have to explore this.

The Coast Guard ship Eagle moored at Point Lumley

I turn left on Duke street and see these masts.  Holy cow!

I was expecting a Coast Guard cutter, not a tall ship.  Magnificent, isn’t it?

It’s called Eagle.  Across the water, I can hear a woman’s voice over the intercom.  There is also a lot of activity on board, with the crew about their business.

After this, it’s time for Captain’s Row.

Historical signage for Captain's Row

This is a sign in front of a two block street dating back to 1783 and preserved for us to have a look.

Captain's Row Cobblestone street

It’s a cobblestone street.  I read about cobblestone streets in books, but this is what one actually looks like . I try to walk on it, a little bit.  The stones are very uneven.  Some have settled in places.  Not good for my feet.

A closeup shot of cobblestone

And a closeup of what it looks like.

Bizarrely, as I look at cobblestone from three hundred years ago, jets are roaring overhead.  I’m on the flight path for Reagan Airport.

Next up is George Washington.  I’m on Lee Street again, so I follow that to Cameron, then turn left.  I know George had a townhouse here.

From the perspective of today, it seems like a long ways. But if he lived here before the waterfront was built out, then he might have been pretty close to the water.

View of Gatsby's Tavern

My trip up Cameron takes me past Gatsby’s Tavern.  It’s actually a museum and a restaurant.  I’ll spend a whole post on that, since there’s a lot to see.

Sign saying George ate here

And, as you can see, this was a place that George Washington visited.  Hmm.  Maybe I need to check out the restaurant when I visit the museum.

Replica of George Washington's Townhouse

And here is George’s townhouse.

It’s actually a replica of the house and privately owned.  But note in the left window that George is peeping out.  George would stay here when he traveled in from Mount Vernon.

It’s also amazing because I never knew this was here, and I nearly always pass by it trying to get out of Old Town.

By the time, I’ve done a lot of walking, so I’m heading back.  But not without one last stop.

Historic city hall, fountain, and American flag

This is City Hall.  The building is historic.  The fountain and the flag is pretty cool.  It’s a lot of water, and the air is filled with the scents of it.

Back down to Lee Street and my car.  Parking for 90 minutes was fourteen bucks!

Adventures in History: Gunston Hall

After this last week, I really needed a fun outing or two.  So it was off to Gunston Hall.  I’d seen the signs on the way to Pohick Bay Park and Mason Neck Park, but I’d never visited before.  The day started out a little chilly.

Gunston Hall was the home of George Mason.  That’s a familiar name around Northern Virginia, though his role in history is largely forgotten.  And it was an important role!

He was a plantation owner at the time of the Revolutionary War.  He drafted the Virginia Bill of Rights, which was used as a basis for the U.S. Bill of Rights.

When everyone gathered in Philadelphia to sign the Constitution, he was one of three people who refused to sign.  They were called the “non-signers” (some trends don’t die.  I’ve certainly seen some labeling today).  The other two were Edmond Randolph (many streets and schools named after him) and Elbridge Gerry (haven’t seen his name around).

George Washington disagreed and thought the Constitution was enough.  George and George had been friends, but the disagreement effectively ended their friendship.  George Washington never visited George Mason again.

Now for the pictures!

Maps first:

Map showing George Mason's properties

This is a map that shows where George Mason owned land.  All the brown squares represent his land.  He was a third generation Mason, and each family member acquired more land.  He owned a lot of land!  Most of is now gone.  All that’s left is the area where the house is.

George Mason's house

This is the house.  It’s in the Georgian style, where everything is symmetrical, which you can see in the location of the chimneys, the windows–even the door and the window over it.

The name of the house comes from the family home in England.

Inside, I’m walking on a plank floor that George Washington, James Madison, and even Winston Churchill has walked on.  The planks creak under my feet, announcing where I am to the house.

Parlor Room with ornate fireplace

This is the parlor room.  Some of the furniture in the house is original, obtained from donations, loans, or auctions.

The colors on the walls and fireplace are also what they would have been in George Mason’s time.  The fireplace was carved out of black walnut.  It was, indeed, painted, because paint was a luxury item.  If you could afford paint, you painted everything.

The Family Room of the era, showing a desk and chairs

This was the family room of the era.  This desk was the one George Mason actually used, and perhaps he drafted the Virginia Bill of Rights here.  His family would also eat in here.

It was also the room where he passed away.

Framed bed with yellow drapes and green walls

The bedroom.  The green paint was an expensive color for the time.  You can’t see it in the photo, but there’s also a pantry in here.  Mrs. Mason locked up the valuables in it: chocolate, sugar, and tea.

Mrs. Mason was also friends with Martha Washington, so maybe they talked about the two Georges in here. 🙂

View of the gardens through the rear door

This is the view of the gardens through the back door.  The trees lining the path are the original Boxwoods–240 years old!  The trees were struck by a disease or a blight, so they’re not in good shape.

By the time I get outside, it’s nice out.  Comfortably warm, though clouds are moving in. The last of the cicadas are buzzing, hoping for a mate.  They probably only have a few weeks left.

18th Century Kitchen

I stop by for a look at the kitchen.  In George Mason’s time, it was a separate building.  A later owner added a kitchen onto the end of the house.  After the house was turned over to the state of Virginia, that was removed to help restore the house to its original appearance.

The business end of a well

And another well, right across from the kitchen building. I couldn’t see the bottom of this.  There were two women checking this out too and commented it was the perfect place to lose your cell phone in.

The room where the ironing was done.

And another exterior building where the laundry was done.  I was reminded of a story my grandmother told.  When she moved into the family house–after having grown up during the Depression–she was horrified at the seeming extravagance of having eight table cloths.  Turned out the reason for it was because it took so long to clean each one and iron it out.

The school room for the kids

The interior or the schoolhouse where the family’s children learned every day.  Since the winters here can get pretty cold, can you imagine huddling here by the fire and listening to the teacher?  The light might not have been too good either during those winter months.

View of the Potomac River through the trees

My final part was a nice walk out in the grassy area behind the house.  A pebble path wove around, though it was hard to walk on.  The pebbles kept shifting under my feet with each step, and in unexpected ways.  I had to be careful not to fall!

The small T about 1/3 down and 1/3 across is the Potomac River.

It was a pretty fun day.  You can read more about Gunston Hall and George Mason here.

Writing in Public: Story 4, Last Chapter

Cover for 49er PlanetCHAPTER 32

Four days after everyone had returned to Kangjun, Graul went down to Hope’s stateroom  in Women’s Country.  She’d been released from medical, but he knew that even with the healing bots work on the severe bruising, she would be sore for several days.

He found her pale and drawn and moving stiffly.  Too quiet, for Hope.

“Another mission?” she said.  She was dressed in a simple shift, which was probably the easiest piece of clothing she could get on.

“From my wife.” Graul gave her a small smile.  “Mel wanted me to check up on you.”

“Mel could have come down here.”

“She says I know you better.”  He rested his backside on the corner of her desk.  “It’s not your fault, you know.”

He’d contacted the 49ers with the help of the translator Orson and told them if they wanted the ghost problem fixed, they should move away from the ruins.  It had been the best Graul could do, and should have been obvious to the 49ers.

Red Stone had refused.

The next message Graul received—two days later–was that White Crystal was evacuating everyone.  Then filed a complaint with GALCOM against Hope specifically for not fixing their problem.

The complaint was scathing.

He also knew she’d seen it.

“I’m the ghost expert,” she said, and she was trembling.  “I’m supposed to be able to help with ghosts.”

“But you can’t help people—or ghosts—who don’t want to be helped. And you’re doing what they did to yourself.”

That got her attention.  “What do you mean?”

“You’re focusing on what’s wrong.” Graul shrugged.  “It’s easy to do.  I’ve been used for target practice by senior officers who only looked at what was wrong, and not what went right.”

He stood.

“You risked your own life to save fourteen people.  Fourteen!”

Her voice was sharp. “What else was I supposed to do?  Just leave them there?’

Graul waggled his forefinger at her.  “That’s what you would do.  We all have a tendency to think everyone thinks like us.  And you know better than anyone else that’s not always true.”

His words cut deep into her heart.  Not in a bad way, just in a remembering way.  All those people who had been cruel to her, and how she had vowed to never be like that.

“C’mon,” Graul said.  “Mel’s waiting for us in the mess. It’s ice cream sundae day.  I hear the fudge is pretty good.”

“Ice cream?” Hope’s stomach growled at the thought of ice cream and fudge and sprinkles.  She’d struggled to eat since she’d gotten back.

As they exited Women’s Country, she was surprised to see one of Mel’s Marines waiting in the passageway.  He weren’t dressed in a CTU, but in his spiffy dress uniform with a midnight blue coat.  She could have stared at him all day.  He looked that good in the uniform.

The Marine stepped forward, offering her a perfectly crooked arm.

“That’s your escort, Ms. Delgado,” Graul said.

She glanced back at him.  She wanted to say, Who me?

Graul answered the unvoiced question with a grin. “Two of the Marines were seriously hurt enough that if you hadn’t helped, they might have died.  So you have an escort until we meet up with the passenger transport.”

Hope was chuffed.  The first smile she’d had in many days stretched across her face.  She slipped her hand through the Marine’s muscular arm.  It was time for some serious ice cream.

Adventures Around the Web August 26-September 1, 2017

It’s been an unbelievably crazy week.  Even though I’m nowhere near Hurricane Harvey in Texas, I’ve had to help people at work who are there.  Everything is very chaotic, because the situation is so chaotic.

Erin Kelly and Kevin Green

Crews Cut Steel for the Next Aircraft Carrier Enterprise

The Navy is building a new aircraft carrier.  Enterprise, of course, has special meaning, because of Star Trek.  I remember when NASA renamed the space shuttle Enterprise after a write-in campaign.  It was pretty cool.  This will be the ninth Navy ship named Enterprise.  The first one was in 1775.  Ships named Enterprise have a long history!

**Note if you watch the video and you start getting music halfway through, scroll down and turn off the second video.  It’s set to autoplay.  Most annoying!

Lakshmi Gandi on NPR

History of Snake Oil Salesman

I had to look this up for my GALCOM story.  Pretty interesting site on the history of snake oil salesman.  Most of my knowledge came, unfortunately, from old Westerns like The Big Valley, where the snake oil salesman was conning people into buying fake medicine.  I had no idea the origins were with the Chinese and that it really did work.  Very interesting that the oil had the Omega 3 acids that we need for healing inflammation.

Geert Weggen on Bored Panda

Squirrel Game of Thrones

Virginia has a love-hate relationship with squirrels (mostly hate, actually).  But this is silly and fun.  Who thought a squirrel could ride a dragon?

Christopher Luu on Refinery 29

A Gender Swapped Lord of the Flies Remake Nobody Asked for is Coming

I’m all for getting better roles for women in film–not just “girlfriend of the hero” that’s pretty common.  But gender-swapping like this is ridiculous.  It speaks volumes about the risk adverse problems in Hollywood.  It’s apparently easier to remake a film and swap out the genders then it is to create new material that uses men and women better.

Venable Dance

Word Motivates Change.  Your World Be Motivated

Very powerful video on hope, habits, and how to change the world.  From Roberta Viler.