Filling the bucket of learning

This video popped across my feed yesterday, courtesy of Me-TV. Disco was at its height when I was growing up, and I remember hearing this song over the radio.  I like the visuals in this one better than the Night Fever one in the link.

I can’t sing.  At all.  I was so bad at rhythm that the Army tried to kick me out twice for my marching.  When we were marching off to war with the press watching, the acting first shirt put me at the end of the formation so I wouldn’t embarrass him.

So when I watch a video like the one above, it amazes me that one of these singers could replicate this song now.

Even as a writer, I wouldn’t be able to replicate something I wrote a year ago.  I could redraft the story, but it would come out different.  I would hope it would come out as something better.

Because I’m always learning something new.

I’ve been reading a book called The Psychology of Selling by Brian Tracy.  It’s part of the Personal MBA, which is reading a list of books to have the basics of business.  I’ve read Brian Tracy’s Eat That Frog! and I didn’t care much for the book.   Partially because it seems like his goal is to jam as much into the day as possible (a problem with a lot of time management books).  But also, I think, because he focused heavily on emotions to make the sale.

I’m an INTP on the Myers-Brigg scale.  Means I like logical and analytical.  Emotional appeals can work, but I’ll be a skeptic first.  If someone is trying to sell a workshop, I’ll scroll past all the “shouting” to find out the price first.

This book though…it had something in it that caught my attention.  It said that learning was like a bucket of water. You have to constantly fill up the bucket because it doesn’t stay full, or continue learning.

Little girl on beach filling up bucket with sand.

Which reminded me of a writer that I used to love.  She first came out with awesome book in the 1990s.   It was a series. The main character was different than any I’d seen before, and it was a woman character.  In an action role!  She had a team of interesting characters surrounding her.  I just took a workshop on Teams in Fiction, and it identified one of the reasons I really liked this series.

So ever time I went into B. Dalton’s, I checked the shelves for this writer to see if there was a new one out.  When I found one, I snatched it up, took it home and read it in a day, then reread it.  I would happily still be reading this writer today.

If something hadn’t changed.

The writer became a best seller and stopped filling her bucket.

It happened by about book five.  I just knew at the time that the books weren’t quite as good.  I still bought the books for a while, thinking they would get better.  But the other team members I liked disappeared. They were replaced with a collection of characters who filled space but weren’t a team.

So I stopped buying the books, since I could use the money for books I was enjoying and wanted to keep.  I still read the books, but I checked them out from the library.  I was always disappointed and finally decided they weren’t worth my time to read.

But I occasionally picked up one, hoping for that old magic.  In the last one, it looks like the writer must be having a decline of sales because she circled back around to the roots that started the series and tried to replicate it.

And failed.

She’s been writing for 20+ years and should have been able to turn out a much better book than that first one I read.  But her bucket was empty.  She’d stopped learning long ago, and no longer has those tools.

But learning means not just grabbing the next book and reading it, but finding resources that actually push the skills.  The bucket should always be overflowing.

I’m in the process of learning about subplots, and as from above, selling.  What are you learning today?

I’m in a new Story Bundle called Short Flights (of the Imagination). My story is from my GALCOM Universe series, called Watcher Ghost. But I wanted to share the image of all the stories in the bundle so you can pre-order it and get lots of great speculative fiction stories (like we really don’t have all that much to read :).

Short Flights (of the Imagination)

Mansplaining to Women Veterans

Kristine Kathryn Rusch has a post on Facebook that’s gotten pretty interesting, and a lot of comments.  It’s on mansplaining.

Mansplaining is when a man with lesser experience, or even no knowledge lectures to a woman who has that experience. It implies that she is ignorant because of her gender.  Pretty much it’s: “You don’t know what you’re talking about and I do because I’m a guy.”

Even if he has no clue what he’s talking about.

That happened on Absolute Write. I was answering a writer’s question about the military, and mentioned that most military people don’t use profanity non-stop the way Hollywood depicts it.

It’s one of those things that depends on the type of unit, the rank of the people and even the people themselves.  I know the all male military ones do use more because they have trouble interacting around women soldiers.  And I’ve been in an “adult” unit where the culture was no profanity.  In my truck driver unit, there were some people who used none at all, some who used it sometimes, and ones who got themselves into trouble because they couldn’t turn it off.

It also depends on the book itself and who the readers are.  If you’re writing a romance with a military character, there is no way that you want any profanity landing in that book.  But a military thriller…yeah, some would be appropriate and expected by the audience.  Military science fiction, too.

Male writer who had never been in the military trots onto the board and explains that I was wrong.  That any military character would not be realistically depicted with out the non-stop profanity.

Really?  He told this to a veteran?

The feel of the military in a story isn’t INSERT PROFANITY HERE.  It starts with understanding the difference between the officers and enlisted, and what the rank structure means in relation to your characters.  Without that, profanity’s not going to help.

With the dam bursting over MeToo, there’s been a lot of articles about the women veteran’s experience.  I remember one where the various organizations like Veterans of Foreign Wars were complaining about membership being low, and women commented that they did not feel welcome.  Many of them said things like they were treated like a veteran’s wife, not as a veteran.

The men promptly jumped in and explained that none of the women knew what they were talking about.  Their local chapter wasn’t like that at all, so we were all just plain mistaken.  And besides, they lectured, if we thought the system was broken, we should join and fix it.


Not every man does mansplaining.

The problem is that the women veterans struggle to have their voices heard because there are those that are busy trying to drown it out.  We need to do better.



Halloween Adventures

I’ve been working on a short story for an anthology call that’s closing tomorrow, but I had time for a quick walk around the neighborhood to have a look at the Halloween decorations.  These are some of the pretty cool ones.  Enjoy!

This is a ghost over a garden entrance. It’ll be pretty spooky at night with all the shadows from the garden.

Ghost over a garden entrance

I found Stonehenge!  It’s down the street!

Stonehenge for Halloween

Heeelllppp meee!

Two half buried skeletons on a lawn, gravestones behind them.

Clearly waiting for public transportation.

Skeleton laying on a bench with cobwebs all over it.

Only in Washington DC…  Note the bottles of booze (which I did not see when I took the picture).

Skeleton with a couple of bottles of booze next to a sign about politics

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.

Adventures Around the Web August 12-18, 2017

Fall is continuing into Washington DC.  Last week, I saw the first fall squash at the farmer’s market.  I’ll be visiting an end of summer tradition, the local county fare, today, and I decided to take the day off for the eclipse, in case everyone goes nuts.  In DC, you never know . These are the same people who, when a single drop of a sprinkle hits their windshield, goes into full panic mode.

The Military Yearbook Project

USA Military Platoon and Personal Photos

This site takes the concept of a school yearbook and puts up the group photos from Basic Training.  Some great history here.  One of the earliest photos is 1934!.  Mine’s not on here, but I would have been Fort Dix, 1989.  From Tracy Jordan, Desert Storm veteran.

K. Gitter on Do You Remember?

These Vintage Photos Show the History of the Supermarket

Shopping for food has changed quite a bit over the years.  I found it fascinating to see that in the early days, it was a series of small shops specializing in produce or fish, not a general store of everything.  I also remember in Los Angeles the grocery store, Mrs. Gooch’s, which was also a precursor to Whole Foods and got bought out when they started growing.

Joanna Penn on Creative Penn

Writing Christian Fiction and Success Over a Long Career with Jerry Jenkins

(Link Corrected) Under the process question, he describes how he cycles through his writing to get a clean first draft.  He calls it revising, but it is a form of cycling.  I used to call it revising when I write, but that leads to thinking it’s actual revision, which isn’t, so I’ve just called it moving around in the story.

Harvey Stanbrough

Why Do You Write?

This is an interesting look at the different categories of people coming into writing and all their reasons.  When I first got on the internet and joined up with writing communities, I ran afoul of what I call hobby/lottery writers–people who wanted to write a best seller so they could quit their day job.  I thought everyone was like me–wanting to write full time, always wanting to improve as a writer.  It ended up being the reason I dropped off writing communities, because they were also the same people passing around a lot of bad information.

Melissa Ragsdale on Bustle

7 Things People Who Use Bookmarks Will Never Understand About People Who Dog Ear Books

Waves!  Yes, I dog ear my books.  Don’t know why. Just always have.  Might be that, being an INTP, it’s easier than tracking down a bookmark.  If I had one.  The writer of this might be able to find free bookmarks, but I usually don’t see that many around.

And since I mentioned dog ears, here’s a dog doing a Marilyn Monroe imitation.


Adventures around the web July 15- 21, 2017

It’s been a hot week in DC.  As I write this, it’s 91 degrees at 5:45 AM.  And it’s supposed to be even hotter.   Even the pool water will be hot!

Rūta Grašytė on Bored Panda

Illustrator Reimagines Fast Food Mascots As Anime Characters And Now Everyone Wants To Read Their Manga

A little fun for Friday.  Colonel Sanders, Ronald McDonald, and Wendy’s all reimagined as anime.  I really liked the Colonel Sanders one.  The Hamburglar appears on page 2–not one that’s been seen in years–and he definitely looks more on the bad guy side.

Kristen Lamb

The Creative Benefits of Being Bored

There’s been a lot of online discussion lately about how people are always on.  The slightest hint of boredom and they head over to play a game or look at email.  Sometimes boredom is where the creativity comes into place and the leaps of intuition take place.  At least take a walk today and look at everything around you.  And keep the cell phone in the pocket.  Hopefully it isn’t too hot outside.

Domagoj Valjak on The Vintage News

Patrick Stewart, prepared to play Data in “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” was reluctant to audition for the captain

Gene Roddenberry originally wanted an actor more like William Shatner in Star Trek: The Next Generation.  It’s amazing how much difference an actor casting makes to an entire series.

Nate Hoffelder on Valiant Chicken Digital

Four Things I Learned at WordCamp DC

WordCamp was a weekend conference on WordPress in DC, which I wish I’d known about–I might have gone.  But it lists a couple of interesting features about WordPress that are worth looking at.

Joanna Penn on Creative Penn

How To Write Fast, Publish Slowly And Focus On Your Author Marketing With Rachel Aaron

This is an interview with a writer who writes full time and takes on the myth of “writing fast means your story is crap.”

Adventures around the web July 9-14, 2017

A lot of good links this week.

Brett & Kate McKay from The Art of Manliness

The History of Obstacle Courses for Military Fitness, Sport, and All-Around Toughness

I’m using a military obstacle course for my third GALCOM Universe book, Cursed Planet. What better way to train for heavy gravity? While hunting down resources online for it, I ran across this nifty link about the history. Lots of historic photos.

John Allsopp from A List Apart

A Dao of Web Design

This is a fascinating look at how web design evolved, which starts by using the example of how TV evolved from radio.  The eBook industry is still very early in its own development (only about 10 years–can you believe that?), so it provokes the question about how ebooks might evolve in the future.

Piper Bayard and Jay Homes on Bayard & Holmes

Analyzing News: Considering the Source

With all the inaccurate news getting into major newspapers, it’s hard to navigate through what’s true and what isn’t.  This gives some guidelines for figuring out what’s fact and what might not be.  The guidelines are pretty sensible and allow you to make the decisions.

C. Hope Clark on Funds For Writers

What Attracts Readers to Books?

This was a survey of about 5,000 people on Facebook, and the results are pretty interesting.  Most readers pick a book based on genre.  Which makes sense.  If you walk into a bookstore or a library, you have to go to the right shelf to find the books you want to read and those are categorized as genre.

Margie Lawson

Deep Editing, Rhetorical Devices, and More

The lecture description doesn’t do this justice, I think because she’s focusing more on the EDITS system.  This lecture covers writing in depth–five senses, character opinions.  Best coverage I’ve seen of rhetorical devices and how to use them in novels.  And one hidden benefit…it covers an aspect of pacing  (backloading).  Loads of examples from best selling writers.

My version was from 2011, so there may be changes.  It came in a zip file with Word document.  Formatting made it hard to read.

Adventures Around the Web July 2-8, 2017

I’m trying my hand with content curation this week in conjunction with writing in public.  Enjoy the stories!

Alessandra Codinha in Vogue Magazine

Women in the Military: The Female Soldiers on the Front Lines 

When I look for photos of women on the military websites, I can’t find much.  Those available are pretty limited, like an afterthought (I imagine someone in command is saying, “Oh, that’s right, we forgot to add a photo of a woman.”).  This article has stunning photos of military women, from all the different services.

Mary Elizabeth Pratt in We Are the Mighty

The 7 Everyday Struggles of Women in the Military

This was written recently, but even twenty-five years ago it was all true.  My most popular blog post of all time was on hair for women in the military.

K. Gitter on Do You Remember?

Julie Andrews Wiped Out While Filming the Sound of Music

I just saw the musical production of The Sound of Music at the Kennedy Center–my first live Rogers and Hammerstein production, so this caught my eye.  Behind the scenes filming of movies that we all like is fascinating.  This one talks about the hazards some of these actors went through.

Besides, it’s Julie Andrews.

Max Booth III in LitReactor

Exposure is Not Payment: Why You Should Start Respecting Yourself as a Writer

This link comes from Day Al-Mohamed, who used to belong to my writing group. A lot of magazines don’t pay writers, but instead promise to give the writer “exposure.” Unfortunately, this type of payment also means they don’t get good stories that will draw readers to read your story. Everyone else is going to try to take advantage of us.  We don’t need to jump in and help them.

Roz Marshall

DIY eBook Covers: Design Principles for Non-Designers (How to sell more books, 1)

This is an ebook, which I found this book via Angie’s Desk.   I know a lot about graphics, though I was never trained formally in it, so I almost passed it by.  But after I saw Angie’s description, I decided to buy it.  And I learned something new about building covers, which you would have seen (and probably not noticed) on the Granny Logic cover.

Robotech Revisited

Robotech was a cartoon series that I watched in the 1980s.  It was, at the time, a stunning story because it wasn’t just about blowing aliens up or selling merchandising, but it was about characters in a tough situation.

And way cool battles for the action woman.

It had three parts to it.  The first, and the best, was the Rick/Minmai/Lisa series.  Nothing more spectacular than how the humans won the battle in the final part of the story.  Next up was the Dana series, and followed by the Rebel series.  The later two felt like they were added on … you know, where the first story was finished and told but did so well, they wanted a sequel.

I rewatched more recently–post military– and found myself cringing through the first part of the series because of fact checking issues.

I’m generally not picky about research details that aren’t quite right.  Sometimes you have to change things to tell the story the way it needs to be told.  But I found myself cringing over the way the military was presented.  The military ranks were all over the place, enlisted were disrespectful to the officers, and officer/enlisted romantic relationships (gets you in to big trouble in the real military).

I could have ignored some of the rank issues–because I have done that for many movies and TV shows (notably Law and Order this morning had an Army captain with a rack of medals only a general could have).  But Robotech was so sloppy in that area that it made it hard to revisit the good story I remembered.


Now Robotech being brought back as a comic book retelling.  Cool art.  And at least one of the same problems.

Writer's Guide to Military Culture



I know everyone’s image of the military is what we see on the news and in film.  It’s one of the reasons I did the Writer’s Guide to Military Culture.

Link takes you to all formats.

Why can’t women be heroes and have adventures?

I got into see the Wonder Woman movie last weekend.  I got the tickets online in advance, and the theater was nearly already sold out (but at least my seat wasn’t in the front row!).

I won’t give any spoilers away, but the movie doesn’t something that most wouldn’t have: it assumed that women wanted to see the movie, and it was made with that audience in mind.

Most movies are made with men in mind.  Get the men into the theater and they’ll bring their dates, wives, and families.

But it effectively leaves women out of the experience.  The movies have things that appeal to the men, but little for the women.  Usually the studio will toss in a romance for the women, but it’s still a movie for men.

But Wonder Woman … she’s a hero.  And she has adventures that feel like things that women would do.  There’s a stunning battle of the Amazons, who should be outclassed by the Germans with the guns, and win the battle through cunning and pure skill.  But it’s skill that’s available to women, not taking a man’s skills and giving them to a woman.

The studio waffled on the movie after it was made, thinking it wouldn’t be a success.  How do you spend $150 million and then want to write it off before a movie even premieres?  It scared the head honchos because it wasn’t made to fit the men’s experience.

Several years ago, I was writing a Civil War thriller, which was pretty much Most Dangerous Game.  Man Hunts Man, or in the case of this story, man hunts man and women.  A professionally published male writer reacted extremely badly to it like I had offended him personally.

I’d like to think that he believed the men in the story would be short-changed in favor of having the women.


I’m all for equal opportunity.  Everyone gets into trouble and has to be a hero, no matter their gender.  Part of the fun of a really good story is having all the characters participate to the best of their abilities and have agency.