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A Mountain of Goodness

Our beautiful Buff Orpington and Appenzeller Spitzhauben chickens were two days old when we brought them to their forever home coop from the feed store last August.

This morning, they had their first experience of two mountains of newly-mowed grass and weed clippings from the front field. Initially, they were very suspicious of the two new monstrous creatures in their run, but eventually two of the Buffs ventured close and discovered seeds, fresh green grass, and bugs. Game on!

The chickens have spent the entire day scratching and snacking at the two large piles; the mountain in the back that is much smaller than it was this morning, probably because it had the most green grass blades on top, but they are discovering more tasty grass, seeds, and bugs in the closer mountain.

I understood exactly how they felt when they first saw the two large, foreboding creatures. I tackled my first 2023 mountain when I expanded selling my books through new retailers: Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google, Apple, and a myriad of other international booksellers in addition to Amazon. As I scratched and searched through the mountain of goodness, I’ve discovered a few yummy royalties and am sharing the bounty with my newsletter readers.

The second mountain, with which I’m more wrestling than tackling, is the daunting monster of developing an online book shop, so I can sell my ebooks and paperbacks directly to readers. I’m taking small steps because it’s an entirely new world with all kinds of strange creatures to wrangle. I’m hoping Barrett Book Shop will be live by the end of February.

Have I ever told you learning is fun? It still is!

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Taking off the Chill

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When the winter sun sets in Georgia, the blue sky blends with the orange strip of light on the horizon. As the temperature plummets and the wind howls from the northwest, it’s time for me to layer, grab a lap blanket, and stay close to the small fireplace. Drink of choice? Hot tea, hot apple cider, or hot chocolate are high on the list.

FarmerMan wanted a wood burning fireplace when we moved to Georgia five years ago. I wanted a house with two and a half bathrooms, so our visiting families wouldn’t have to knock on the guest bathroom door and ask repeatedly to use the toilet while someone took a long shower. Are you done yet? Hurry up! 

FarmerMan and I compromised with a gas burning fireplace and three bathrooms. (You caught the irony there, didn’t you?) FarmerMan has adjusted to not having to cut and stack wood, keep the wood dry, bring in firewood, and clean out the fireplace after an enjoyable fire in the evening; not to mention his wintertime aching back, which I just did. I’ve adjusted to the warmth near my writing corner that takes off the chill as I write.

What about you? Are you susceptible to the cold too, or are you one of those hardy souls who is outdoors in shorts and a short-sleeved T-shirt while I’m wrapped up in three layers and shivering?

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2023 Goals

goals 2023 

My plan for 2023 is to crush my goals!

My Writing Journey is a marathon, but I’m walking not running because I don’t want to miss any of the fun along the way.

My overall goal has always been to write books that people enjoy, so my motto is no surprise: You keep reading; I’ll keep writing! 

I’m a natural-born storyteller, but the skill of coaxing a story onto a page for a reader to enjoy was a craft that required extra work for me. I’m still learning, so I can write better books faster. For you wonderful readers that finish a book then tell me you’re ready for the next one: I’m working on it!

My next big hurdle after finding my writing style was how to get the stories in front of the right reader who will not only read the story, but love it, and want another and another. I’m still learning that elusive skill called marketing, which will put my books into the hands of the right readers. I’m stumbling along, but it’s fun to learn, and I’m encouraged when I hear how much you enjoy my books!

Summary of Previous Years

2018 (Year 1)  Goals: Publish 1 book   Results: Published 2 books!

2019 (Year 2)  Goals: Publish 4 books; cut the year’s expenses in half   Results: Published 4 books; expenses cut by more than half of Year 1 expenses!

2020 (Year 3)  Goals: Publish 4 books; end the year with a positive net income   Results: Published 6 books; first year to end the year with a positive net income!

2021 (Year 4)  Goals: Publish 6 books; end the year with a positive net income Results: Published 6 books and wrote a short story for an anthology; second year in a row to end the year with a positive net income!

2022 (Year 5) Goals: Publish 6 books; end the year with a new high for positive net income  Results: Published 8 books, a boxset, a novelette, and 2 short stories; ended the year with the highest net income since my first book was published!

2023 (Year 6) Goals

  • Publish 6 books
  • Publish 3 audiobooks 
  • Wild goal: Double net income from 2022 

 

You keep reading; I’ll keep writing! 

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The Magic of Mistletoe Market

The city of Cairo (pronounced Kay-row, like the syrup) blocks off Main Street on a Saturday in December for their annual Mistletoe Market; local vendors bring their wares for an all-day street party complete with food trucks, live music, and dance competitions.

The weather was ideal: no wind, rain, or too cold or too hot temperatures. I spent the day talking about books with a steady stream of readers. My most frequently asked question: “Are you really the author?” The second most-asked: “You wrote all these books?” My favorite question (from a ten-year-old): “Did you read all these books too?”

I was in awe of the number of readers who were willing to take a chance on a new-to-them local author. I sold paperbacks and handed out cards with the QR codes for the ebook readers. I listened to stories, talked to aspiring authors, told stories, and shared a shrimp po’boy with FarmerMan, who is my Chief Cashier and Number One Advisor.

I’d say I’m ready to go back again next year, but I left home with four full, large bins of books and returned with three half-full bins and one empty bin. I need to order more books.

You keep reading; I’ll keep writing!

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Not Your Typical Holiday Stories

There are two types of books that I could never write: the first is a horror book because scary stories scare me. I suppose some people enjoy being too terrified to go to sleep, but I’m not one of them. No horror or Halloween stories for me.

You may already know that in 2021, a publisher asked for cozy mystery stories to be included in a Halloween collection of stories, so I wrote a Halloween story, Sweet Scary Deal, with a crime or two for Donut Lady to solve while the zombies sold donuts. Not at all your typical horror story.

The second type of book that I could never write is any type of romance; I apologize to all romance readers and authors in advance, but I don’t understand romance because I keep waiting for a body to show up: you know, one of those dead ones; not a person who needs to put their shirt back on. If you’re looking for a December holiday or Christmas story to read, you’re almost guaranteed a romance book or as a twist, a horror book, but not a book that I would write.

You know where this is going, don’t you? Yep, I have a Christmas story in preorder for you, Book 6 of the Grid Down Survival series. I decided that even after the grid, economy, and everything else in the world as we know it ends with an abrupt collapse, we would still have Christmas, but my story wouldn’t have to be romancey or terrifying because we’d still have our usual killers, conspiracies, and gangs and cartels trying to take over.

Season of Danger, Grid Down Survival, Book 6

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Release Date: December 15 2022

Spirits are high in the anticipation of Christmas and snow at the four Georgia farms until the head of a cartel targets one of their own.

Tap HERE to PreOrder Now to be among the first to receive your copy!

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Celebrating The Limping Lady

Virginia Hall Spy

Virginia Hall, The Limping Lady

After completing her college studies in the US, Virginia Hall studied and traveled in Europe in the early 1930s. She had a knack for languages and a thirst for adventure. She lost her left leg below the knee in a serious hunting accident in Turkey. She’d always dreamed of being in the Foreign Service, but she was rejected because of her disability.

Virginia Hall was determined not to let her prosthetic leg “stand” in her way. With Europe deeply involved in World War II, the British Special Operations Executive not only accepted her, but gave her extensive training in clandestine tradecraft, communications, weapons, and other resistance activities.

Our daring Virginia Hall spent thirteen months in France from 1941 to 1942; she organized spy networks, ran safehouses, and delivered important intelligence to the British government.

She stayed one step ahead of the Gestapo, who called her “The Limping Lady,” by fleeing France in spite of the Nazis’ best double agents. After she was hired by the US Office of Strategic Services, which later became the CIA, Virginia Hall returned to France in 1944 and resumed her work with the Resistance. In 1945, Hall was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for her heroic actions during the war.

Want to read more about Virginia Hall, Limping Lady?  The CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence has published a more comprehensive story of her adventures complete with excerpts from her own journals. Tap HERE to read A Climb to Freedom: A Personal Journey in Virginia Hall’s Steps by Craig R. Gralley.

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The Road Less Traveled

Robert Frost ends his poem: “I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

We all travel different roads, don’t we? I love hearing the stories of others’ journeys and enjoy imagining the different paths we all take.

Taking the concept of the different path literally, which is very easy for a literal person like me to do, we’re checking our trail through the woods after a storm; it’s not unusual for a large limb or even an old tree to crash across the trail during one of our wicked, late summer storms. I’m always thinking of a reason to go outside on a quick writing break. Three times a day, I walk the perimeter of our field with the dogs. They look for voles and grasshoppers, and I listen to the birds and exchange trash talk with the crows. Four times a day, I check the chickens then report back with their latest antics. Be very wary if I approach you and ask if you want to see a picture of our baby chicks because a picture may be worth a thousand words, but I’ve got stories to go with the pictures. Unless, of course, you’ve set aside enough time to hear about our twelve baby chicks, then let’s go for a walk or for a coffee, and I’ll tell you a story.

If I were to write a memoir, I’d title it, “The Different Road.” It would be easy to write and edit, and it wouldn’t take long to read because it would consist of one page with five words: Our road was less traveled.

I promise I’ll stick with fiction.

You keep reading; I’ll keep writing.

Judith A. Barrett Books is 100% reader-sponsored. If you’re so inclined, buy me a cup of writer fuel that others may call coffee. Tap the cup or HERE!

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Sponsor a Judith A. Barrett Book

Support Judith’s Writing to Create More Books!

Judith is reader-sponsored. If you buy Judith a cup of coffee,  she promises to drink it while she’s writing her next book; did you know her VIP readers vote at the beginning of the year which books they’d like to read next?

Tap on the cup, the ko-fi link (get it?), or HERE to donate to Judith’s coffee fund.

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You are invited to put your feet up, grab your favorite beverage, and bring your imagination with you when you open one of her books.

BONUS! Become a member of the Silver Tier VIP Readers to read the exclusive Behind The Scenes posts that I write every month. I encourage my Silver Tier VIPs to suggest topics for me to tackle!

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You keep reading; I’ll keep writing!

     

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Bugged by Bugs

 

I love dragonflies because they eat mosquitoes. Anything that can catch a mosquito and chomp it down is a hero to me. I managed to snap a photo of a red dragonfly as she zipped past me. 

I had a day this week that was obviously a concerted attempt by bugs to terrify me, and they were successful.

Are you squeamish about bugs? Stop reading now because this is not for you.

Bugged #1

I was sweeping out our chicken coop that hasn’t had any chickens in it for almost a year. Most of my sweeping was sweeping down the walls and corners near the ceiling because the cobwebs were thick and sticky. I had my hair pushed up into a ballcap, not my writer ballcap, and I wore work gloves, but my arms were bare because it was hot. I had knocked down all the cobwebs and spiders’ eggs and was sweeping the floor when FarmerMan came into the coop to check on me. 

 

We have dropdown doors on the inside of the coop for the nest boxes that close the boxes when the chickens are too little to lay because we don’t want them to learn to roost in the boxes. FarmerMan knows how I feel about cockroaches, so he peeked behind the doors and told me he found cockroaches. He sprinkled the poultry dust that we use in the nest boxes to keep out bugs and mites. Cockroaches evidently hate poultry dust because 200 (okay, maybe it was 20) cockroaches flew out from behind the doors and LANDED ON ME. I screamed, brushed off cockroaches, and flew out of the coop, almost literally.  

Bugged #2

Later that morning, we sprayed our trees. FarmerMan had more chores that didn’t require my participation, so I went to the camper to write.

 

Toby helps with mowing by clearing the mowed area of grasshoppers that fly up, in case you wondered why I don’t help with mowing.

The camper is my favorite writing spot because I don’t have any distractions. When I went into the camper, TWO aggressive, black WASPS went in with me and buzzed me. I’m allergic to stings, but my most severe reaction was a few years ago when a black wasp stung me, and I collapsed. I had no intention of a repeat performance, so I flew out of the camper. FarmerMan killed the two, found their nest, and dispatched the nest. I was kind of over trying to write in the camper, so I went inside the farmhouse.

Bugged #3

 

After I was inside, I was certain I was over being bugged. I wrote until it was almost time for lunch, then my computer rebooted itself then came back up and rebooted itself: automatically and repeatedly. I pulled out every computer trick I knew, including trying to catch it mid-reboots, so I could run a diagnostic test or two. It finally quit rebooting and mooned me with the Blue Screen of Death. 

I called a Computer Guy, who said it sounded like a hardware failure, but they could probably recover my hard drive. FarmerMan took it to the computer shop. I discovered I have every file on the computer backed up, except for one: my Character Bible, which is a listing of  the names of all my characters (4 series with 27 books and approximately 50 different characters per series), major, secondary, and minor and their physical descriptions, relationships, and in which books they appear. I certainly hope they can recover the hard drive. I bought a new laptop, so I can write in the camper, at the coffee shop, on trips, and while I sit on the sofa with my feet up.

Meanwhile, that’s The End of my sorry tale of being Bugged by Bugs, and I’m writing.

 

Guess which series my newest book belongs in…

 

Did you know I’m a full-time author who is completely supported by my Readers?

If you buy me a cup of coffee,  I promise I’ll drink it while I’m writing at the coffee shop. 

Tap on the cup, the ko-fi link (get it?), or HERE to donate to Judith’s coffee fund.

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The Eccentric Historian

My Foster Plants

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Sometimes people fall into a position at a company that isn’t a good fit for their interests or their skills. My favorite was a brilliant historian with a PhD who worked in a group of software engineers. I don’t know how it happened because he was there when I joined the company and the group.

He had an incredible knowledge of history, particularly of his niche specialty, but I had trouble following all his wonderful tales, so I’m not sure I ever knew what his area of expertise was. One day, he came into my office with two large, brown paper grocery sacks and set them down on my already-crowded desk. 

Inside the heavy sacks were plants and dirt. He told me that he stayed up all night  to dig up the plants in his yard because he decided to retire immediately and sell his house, and he was sure whoever bought the house wouldn’t be the right type of person to give the plants proper care. He told me what kind of plants they were, but I was still in awe of his plan to walk out and walk away from work and his house. 

He told me the plants were rare, native plants and very delicate, and I was the only one he knew that would take care of them properly, so he decided I could foster them until he bought another house and could get them back from me. 

That was seventeen years ago, and we have moved twice since he gave me the plants. We’ve never watered them, but we have divided them several times and have more pots of plants.

Over a dozen years after he abruptly disappeared, I was so inspired by his example that I gave two weeks’ notice, instead of the “expected” three months’, that I was retiring. Then I started writing…

You keep reading; I’ll keep writing! 

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