Strands of Blackmail


Cover for Strands of Blackmail
When I was driving home, a white dog was standing up on his hind legs, feet propped up on a fence, looking like he was chatting with the neighbors. So I had to use him in a story.

Sometimes returning home brings back good memories, or bad ones.

For Shari Kendell, it’s finding answers to the questions her grandmother’s death left.  Actors always live in their own world, but Shari is surprised and what she didn’t know.  Who was blackmailing her grandmother, and why?

A Morro Bay mystery short story, available from your favorite booksellers.

Spotlight on 5 Selected Links About Books


Girl lays on a bed, reading a book with a big smile on her face

Reading isn’t just the books, but sometimes the history of them, the libraries, or even how the world used them.  And sometimes it’s just wandering through the aisles looking at all of them and not knowing where to start.

7 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Bookstores This is a mostly fun list about bookstores.  I had no idea that books from different publishers had different smells! (16).

25 Interesting Facts About Libraries Did you know that there are libraries  where you can check out a storyteller?  Might have to steal that for a story.

Coalesce . . . A Bookstore & More.  This is a shout-out to a bookstore in Morro Bay, CA.  When my family visited my grandparents, I always ended up in this little bookstore, just a few blocks from the harbor.  Despite all the changes in the industry, the bookstore is still there.

Book Castle/Movie World: This bookstore in Burbank does not appear to have a website.  It’s a place I would check out frequently because I could find books and scripts and photos.  Just an awesome place to explore.

20 Interesting Facts About Science Fiction.  This has a lot of predictions that science fiction writers made in their stories that came true…like the internet.

Alien Traps


Cover for Alien Traps

Thirty years ago, Lily Chun saw a UFO in the desert and the memory disappeared into a child’s fantasies.  But after a dream called to her, she’s back out to the same place, drawn by the emptiness of the life she’s abandoned.  A chance meeting with a stranger convinces her that maybe there’s a reason to be here now, and it isn’t just to see aliens.

A science fiction short story available from your favorite booksellers.

A Veteran/Writer Looks at History: Fort C.F. Smith


I went to Fort C.F. Smith the same day I did Fort Ward.  It was such a nice day, and it was near the library, so I stopped over.  I really wanted to get some more of the sunshine.

First up, this Civil War fort is hard to find.  For some reason, the state or county inexplicably has a sign that points to a right turn, and then no signs indicating where to turn again unless you coming from the opposite direction.

The fort is smack in the middle of a suburban area, so it’s on a shady little street.  Without the sign, I wouldn’t know this had once been a Civil War fort.  It’s a basic park.  Green grass, trees.

Map of Fort C.F. Smith

So here’s the handy dandy map of what it used to look like.  Farmland was used to build the fort in 1863.  This was one of three forts that protected the Aqueduct bridge of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.

Fort C.F. Smith was named after General Charles Ferguson Smith.  He was commandant of the the U.S. Military Academy while Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman were there.

It was a lunette fort, which was apparently pretty unusual.  I had to look the word up to see what it meant.  It’s a fort that that has two faces.  This fort’s two faces are on the southern and western side.

The fort came with:

  • Barracks (got to have some places for the soldiers to stay)
  • Mess hall (that’s the place the soldiers eat)
  • Officer’s quarters (that would have been a little fancier than the barracks)
  • Barn (probably for horses)
  • Headquarters building (where the officers did their planning)

Two stone pillars mark the entrance to Fort C.F. Smith Park

This was one of the entrances to the park.  It’s not the entrance to the fort.

Off for a bit of walking.

Park area marking the original entrance of Fort C.F. Smith

This is the original entrance to the fort.  Can’t really tell much looking at it.  in the upper left third of the photo, there’s a post sticking out of the ground.  That marks the entrance.  It’s just a numbered post–if you visit this park, download the brochure before you go or you will have no context whatsoever.

Meadow of flowers and butterflies

There was a bench here so I sat down and looked at the flowers.  This is a meadow as it might have looked to the farmers of the time.  You can’t see it in the photo, but there were little yellow butterflies bouncing above the flowers.

As I sat here, I could hear the freeway on the other side of the meadow.  The roar of jets drowned out the thrilling of the birds.  The park was under the flight path of Ronald Reagan Airport.

Cannon

This was one of the cannons.  There were supposed to be eight, but it looked like the others had been removed.  The hill was a ramp to help move the equipment around.  Artillery is heavy!  During Desert Storm, we hauled shells for artillery to the front line and the trucks were always running on fumes because of the loads.

Stone well

The land was turned back over to the original owners after the fort was decommissioned and they used this well for their water.  I’m from Southern California, so I’ve never seen a well in person.  How I would picture it is those illustrated drawings that make them look rickety.  This was about 30 inches high (measuring by where it hit me on my legs), and the top was sealed up.

Can you imagine lowering a bucket with it’s own weight into that well, then getting filled with water, and hauling it back up?  Takes some serious muscle!

As you can see, there’s not a lot left here.  Why wasn’t more preserved?

The answer is the military.  The buildings were removed when the fort was decommissioned in 1865.   We’re lucky to have this much preservation because it could have disappeared as the world changed.

More of the story about this fort is on the park website.

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.

 

Alien Traps (Short Story)


Cover for Alien Traps
Alien Traps $1.99

Thirty years ago, Lily Chun saw a UFO in the desert and the memory disappeared into a child’s fantasies. But after a dream called to her, she’s back out to the same place, drawn by the emptiness of the life she’s abandoned. A chance meeting with a stranger convinces her that maybe there’s a reason to be here now, and it isn’t just to see aliens.

Available from your favorite bookseller:

The Sea Listens (short story)


Cover for The Sea Listens
The Sea Listens – $1.99

Voices in the fog call to war veteran Meredith Talmadge. Those voices drew her grandfather into the sea to his death. What did he hear in the voices? Meredith needs to solve the mystery, and to do that, she has to face the fog. But now those voices want her, and what they seek will change her forever …

This story was a winner of the Enchanted Spark Photo Flare Contest.

Available from your favorite booksellers:

79th Anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge


The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco first opened in 1937.  This is article of the map from Popular Mechanics in 1931, showing both a drawing of the towers and maps of the area.  It must have been amazing to see it being built then!

My grandparents lived in Marin County, which was on the other side of the bridge, for a number of years when I was growing up.

We would drive up the coast from Los Angeles, stopping over in Morro Bay for a day, which was at about the four hour mark.  Probably at the point where the kids were driving the parents crazy.

The following day, it was off to San Francisco.  I could see the bridge from a distance as we approached—it was hard to miss.  Sometimes fog swirled around it—even the fog is bigger than the bridge!

I thought of it as a red bridge though it’s actually a color called international orange.  I still think it’s red.

As we crossed the bridge, it was both exciting and frightening.

Frightening because it’s so high up, with just those cables holding us up.  There’s not much on either side except a very long drop to the ocean.  And, from the backseat of the car, with the bridge rising up, no way to visually tell how far it is to the other side.

It was always a relief to see the end looming up ahead!

Exciting because crossing that bridge meant we were on the final leg to see our grandparents!

Bridges always have a sort of mystic feel to the them.  They both represent the beginning of a journey, like a trip to grandmother’s, and a sign the journey is ending.  But sometimes it’s the adventure, too.

What’s on the other side of the bridge that’s there to explore?

Massive Landslide in California


When I was growing up, we would drive from Los Angeles to Morro Bay, which is a coastal town in Central California, stay a day, and then head onto San Francisco.  My grandparents lived in San Francisco at the time, but later moved to Morro Bay. Our trip took us on Highway 101, which had beautiful views of the ocean.

But it had a big problem, too.  The road cut through these huge sloping mountains.  Always brown from the dryness, and some years, black, because brush fires had burned away the grass.  Nothing to anchor down the dirt when it rained.

One year, it was pouring rain and we were headed back to Los Angeles.  A state trooper stopped us, dressed up in his yellow slicker, and told us the road was closed.  We had to turn back and wait a day for it to be cleared.

A landslide happened this week in the same general area and closed a quarter mile of the freeway. Check out the video in the link.

Weird Typos and Other Distractions


Dena Wesley Smith has a post up today about typos.  In this case, it’s what every blogger has probably experienced–someone zooming in to inform us that they caught us in a typo.

You have sinned!  You made a typo!

I don’t know what it is about typos, but they bring out the worst in people.  I suppose if you attach writer to that and suddenly we’re supposed to be perfect with the words.

Hmm.  Tell that to my fingers.  I am constantly making corrections because I am a lousy typist.  My fingers get tangled up and sometimes I have words that are mostly spelled correctly,  but have an extra letter in there.  Particularly as I’ve gotten older (to the point of reading glasses), it’s harder for me to tell if I have too many i’s and l’s, especially if the font is small or condensed.

But then sometimes extra words creep in, and where they’re not supposed to.  I wandered into an existing scene, did a quick spell check (three typos, not too bad), then read it.  Found this:

Hope passed added the flatware to the plate and passed up up, but left the glass behind

Clearly I was thinking it too many directions when I wrote that!

I like checking soon after I write because occasionally I run into one where I have to stop and think about what I was trying to say.  If it’s too long after, I have to strike the sentence entirely because I don’t remember.

Working on Multiple Projects

This week, I was part of an online INTP discussion, which was quite fascinating.  Filing was actually the major part of the discussion, and how hard it is just to put pieces of paper in files.  It’s like details, and I don’t have much tolerance for it.

But, also my natural state, I like hopping between projects.  Sometimes it’s a break, or a way to get a different perspective.  Sometimes I even get bored.  Doesn’t mean the story is getting boring, but that I need a break from it.

At the moment, I’m working on a science fiction novel, a mystery short story, and a fantasy short story.  Both the short stories are set in Morro Bay, California.  I’m thinking of wandering around between them, following the flow of what I want to work on.  I ended up getting hung up on the fantasy for a week because of a combination of getting stuck (let critical brain in and went in the wrong direction) and wanted to get it done.  The result is not as much done as I wanted to. I probably would have figured out the problem if I’d hopped to a different story.  Sometimes I need a little time to process where I need to go next.

Washington DC’s big party: The Inauguration

That’s only a few weeks away now.  We will be shut down close into downtown because all the streets will be closed.  Expect it to be cold.  We were 11 when I went out to my car yesterday.  Probably no better.  But that’s typical weather for this time of the year.  At least things will finally get back to whatever normal is after that.

Only six more weeks until Spring!