Time Traveling to the Past

The Desert Storm Memorial was looking for photos from in theater (which means in Saudi Arabia in my case) for a pair of videos they’re doing.  I was digging around and found some from after the war.

In January 1991, the mail clerk passed me a flyer she’d received advertising a Desert Storm Writing Contest.  If I won first prize, I’d go to Washingon, DC to receive the award from BarbaCover for Women at War: Stories & Poemsra Bush.  The contest was for fiction and poetry.

I instantly knew what story I wanted to write, though I expected it to get rejected.  It was on a friendship that had just self-destructed because of the war.  It was a very dark story, born out of the stress of war.

I also wrote several others, and a bunch of poems.  The poems hold up pretty well, so they’re in my book Women at War: Stories and Poems.

And then I forgot about it.

We all came back and started back to normal things again.

One day, I found a transmittal stuffed in the training box and it was an announcement that the story had picked up an honorable mention.  Cool.

Maybe about a week later, I was on CQ (Charge of Quarters; two soldiers man the desk overnight).  It was a 24 hour duty, so my brain was always fried in the morning because I needed to bed.

And suddenly everybody was freaking out.  They didn’t tell me why, but kept telling me I had to be in formation this morning.  I was pretty sure it had something to do with the contest.  But I let everyone think it was a surprise.

Me standing in front of formation with an officer to the left and the soldier with the guidon on the right.

The officer is giving me a plaque.Another view of the officer giving me the plaqueMe in front of the formationA closer shot of me being given the plaqueMe in front of the formation, trying very hard not to smile.

An officer came to present a plaque and a savings bond.  I was chuffed.  I was the only lower enlisted who had placed.  Everyone else had been officers or more senior non-commissioned officers.

I was told at the time DOD would be publishing all of them in a book, but as far as I know that didn’t happen.

The story was called “A Loss of Innocence,” and it was the start of my writing veering into some pretty dark fiction.  And I couldn’t see it myself until my writing group pointed it out.  I also reviewed a book by Phil Clay that was getting a lot of press.  He was five years out of Afghanistan and had written a series of short stories.  They were so dark that I looked at them and didn’t want to be writing like that.

So I had to do a conscious shift to not go dark.  It was hard in the beginning because I would get these ideas and as I thought about them, I knew they would go dark very easily.  So I passed on a lot of story ideas.

Eventually, I was able to shift myself out of it, and then I was able to write my book, Soldier, Storyteller, which is available in the Rabbit Bundle Remembering Warriors.  Check out the list of writers.  I’m chuffed again to be published next to these big name writers!

The proceeds go to charity.  The book is available for preorder, but will be available January 1.  Start the new year donating to charity and getting books!


Remembering Warriors cover

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 19-25, 2017

The Passive Voice

A Check Girl

This is a quote from a Raymond Chandler story.   Wow.  Just wow.

Susan Elia MacNeal on Signature

These Six Incredible Women Served as Undercover Spies During World War II

When I was in school, history that was taught wasn’t particularly interesting.  It was dates and events, not about the people.  Finding things like this on the internet gives history a very different perspective that’s often lost.  And well…spies.  Shared from Gail Reid in the Desert Storm Combat Women Facebook group.

Bored Panda

10+ of the Best Shorts of the 2017 Solar Eclipse

Number two is awesome!

Fossil Guy

Mallows Bay Ghost Fleet Along the Potomac River, Maryland

This is a ship graveyard in Maryland.  I would check it out, but it’s only accessible via the water.  But the story about it is pretty cool.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Business Musings: Eclipse Expectations

Kris was was in the starting place for the eclipse, so it’s got a lot of good details.  But it also talks about how hyped it was and people planned for big business in the totality areas–and didn’t get enough business.  Which slides right into what publishers do with books, like assuming everyone will buy a book because it’s like another book.  Very interesting post on marketing.


A Writer/Veteran Looks at History: Fort Ward, Virginia

I’ve been disturbed at the attempts I’m seeing to destroy history.  In Baltimore, there’s talk of removing statues.  Remove history and you take away who we are.  Since Virginia has a whole lot of historical sites, I thought I would visit them and talk about them.

First up is Fort Ward, which is in Alexandria, Virginia.  I like places where I can walk the area and try to picture what it was like for the people who were there.  Plus I get some good walking in.  The weather was nice and sunny, so it was pretty fun checking everything out.

This was a Union fort during the Civil War.   Today, it’s a park where you can walk around with your dog or even have a picnic.  The buzz of cicadas do battle with the sounds of cars racing by just outside the park.  It’s like an island in the middle of busy.

Fort Ward was an earthen fort built to defend Washington DC during the Civil War, though it never actually saw an action.  Construction was completed in September 1861.

This is a picture of the original design.

A diagram of the 5 pointed star shape of Fort Ward.

Time’s now worn down the earthen walls, and it’s hard to picture.  But this design was so that on the star’s points, soldiers could catching approaching enemy in the crossfire.  Very old military technology.

Gated entrance to Fort Ward
Starting at the entrance to the fort.  You can see what a nice day it was out–that sky is a pretty blue and clear.  Warm, but not muggy.

This gate was the only entrance to the fort.  The fort was surrounded by a dry moat.  I can imagine this being a guard post with two Union soldiers on duty, watching for arriving visitors.

Dry moat surrounding Fort Ward.

This is where I start imaging what the soldiers did.  This is the dry moat.  The picture doesn’t show the height really well, but it’s actually pretty steep.

Imagine running up to this berm and dropping down against it, your muzzle loader rifle at the ready and the enemy coming on the other side.  The berm would stop any bullets headed your way (hopefully), but you would still have to stick part of your body up over the berm to fire back, making yourself a target.

Rear view of Fort Ward

I wander on and come up to the fort itself.  This is from the rear view, from inside, so it’s what the Union soldiers themselves would have seen.  That white wall has a shelf in front of it for guard duty.

I get up and walk along it and this is what I see:

What I might see on guard duty from Fort Ward. All grass and bushes now.

And I stop here and think about being a soldier on guard duty.  It’s cold out, because whenever I was on guard duty, it was always cold!

And I’m scared because I don’t know what’s coming, except that I know that my enemy might be coming over that next hill to kill me.

War is both very personal and very impersonal.

Defensive position with cannons at Fort Ward.

Back down the stairs to check out what we in the military calls the “defensive position.”  This position was set up to defend Little River Turnpike (which turns into Duke Street) and Leesburg Pike (which turns into King Street,  Obviously named after General Lee).  All those streets are still here, but it’s hard picturing how it must have looked in 1861.

Time to get closer.


This is one of the bigger cannons.  War then was definitely not for short people!  I can barely see over the cannon to where the enemy is coming.

So I try a smaller cannon.

Following a cannon's line of fire.

Cannon fire is very loud.  I was on Fort Lewis, walking on the sidewalk across the street from the parade field.  Someone was test-firing the cannon.


I jumped and was going, “What the heck?”

I’d been in front of the cannon, so it was much noisier.  If you ever go to a cannon demonstration, make sure you are on the side you see in the photos above.

The door to Magazine No3

This was where the ammunition was packed with black powder.  It was very hazardous duty.  Then the military didn’t have the safeguards to protect the soldiers, so people often got killed.

Door labeled "Filling Room No5"

And this is where the ammunition is stored.  Also not a particularly safe place to be.

The front of Fort Ward, though bushes

Then I walk around to the front of Fort Ward.  If this fort had seen action, this is the view the approaching Confederates would have had.

More of the fort is visible at winter when the plants die off, so I can’t see much now.  But there’s that trench I’d have to cross if I were on the Confederate side, with cannons pointed down on me and probably soldiers with muzzle loaders.  Look on the left for a cannon poking out.

The last part of my trip I don’t have any pictures for, because there’s nothing left other than the story.  After the war ended, the African Americans who had been freed established what became known as “The Fort” around the remains of Fort Ward.  It was their home and a place where they raised their families.  They emphasized faith, education and moral codes.

As the Civil Rights Era kicked off, they were displaced by time.  All that’s left is a sign and a graveyard of a church in the area.  But some of the new generations still live in the area, and the street names mark the location (Seminary Road).

Here’s the link to the Fort Ward site.

I’m thinking of hitting Leesylvania Park next (you guessed it–named after General Lee, who lived in Virginia).  It’s a pretty area, a bit of challenging walk, and some interesting history that involves–of all things–gambling!

What do you think?  Is there anything you want me to wander off and check out (safety permitting)?




Apologizing for History

Washington Monument against cloudy skyThis weekend, I wanted to get out and do something fun.  That turned into a trip to the Museum of American History, which is right near the Washington Monument.  It was cloudy out, with rain predicted…and humid and hot.

The museum can be a lot of fun.  Like their Transportation history exhibit, or the one on food (with Julia Child’s kitchen).  There’s even the office of the man who invented  the first video game.  It’s pretty cool looking at how different creative people are.

There were also two exhibits which apologized for history.  I got a problem with that.

  1. History’s best value is if we take all of it into context.  Apologizing takes a piece of it entirely out of context, and devalues the rest.
  2. When the rest is devalued, we don’t hear about the positive things people did.

One of the exhibits that went on apology mode was on the Japanese internment during World War II.

What happened to the Japanese in the U.S. was a terrible thing.  I was glad for the opportunity to read George Takei’s biography, because his internment camp as a child put a different perspective on what happened (it was actually more interesting that the actor part).  I also went to an exhibit several years back (think that was at Freer-Sackler) of items made by people in the camps.  It was both sad and amazing, because it spoke of the power of  human spirit.

But I also have a bit of family history that comes with World War II and the Japanese.

My grandparents lived in San Francisco during World War II.  My grandfather was a minister of a church there.  My grandmother reported that she had to do a submarine watch on the coast of California.


After the war intended, there was a lot of distrust of Japanese.  My grandfather gave them jobs around the church.  It was a deeply unpopular thing to do, and he did it anyway.  The Japanese honored him about ten years ago.

History is about putting things into perspective and honoring who we are, warts and beauty and all.  Apologizing robs of us that perspective, which we need as human beings.


Arlington County Fair

Today, I checked out the Arlington County Fair, and there was some interesting sightings along the way …

A cardboard poster of a blond guy advertising yard sale

The yard sale folks put this out to catch the eye of all the people walking to the fair.  Yard sale wasn’t much by the time I got there, but the sign was eye catching.  I wasn’t the only one taking a picture.

Blue and green dragon carnival ride

There be dragons, and they are my favorite color.

A pink pig with wings on the roof of a building

When pigs fly …


A person in a pig costume in a golf cart

Or when pigs drive …

Spiderman stands next to Camaro decked out in spiders

Spiderman’s got a hot Camaro.

The shiny chrome engine interior of the Spiderman car, decorated with black widows

Checking out the inside of the Camaro.  Awesome.

Medium shot of Linda Adams

And a shot of me on the way back.  It was a hot day out!


Gratuitous Volcano Pictures

Volcanoes are one of those cool things that make for a great action story (real life, not so much).  There’s nothing like a character trying to escape as the volcano is rumbling and shaking and vents are opening up.

These are some awesome photos of the Kilauea Volcano spilling lava into the sea. 

Take a peak inside my family’s historical house

My family’s historical house, the Havilah Babcock house, has a website.  The house was built by my great-great grandfather (the aforementioned Havilah), who was one of the co-founders of the Kimberly-Clark Corporation.

Havilah designed everything in the house, picking the furnishings, the wallpaper—and after he died, the family left it all the way it was.  So you can take a peak inside at what Havilah designed.

There be baby sea lions at the Smithsonian

When I went back to Morro Bay, CA a few years back, the sea lions were having a pretty racauous party out on the harbor platform.  They are such fun to watch.

Now the Smithsonian’s National Zoo is celebrating the birth of a new sea lion.  Some way cool pictures here to google at.  Clearly a trip to the zoo is in order.

Otters for your viewing pleasure

Just passing along some photos of otters for Friday, Courtesy of Mike Schulenberg