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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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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

Season of Danger Cover (6 × 9 in) beveled 

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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Checkmate

ar·ti·fi·cial in·tel·li·gence

noun The theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.
 
According to the internet, Artificial Intelligence had its beginning in 1956 at Dartmouth College in the US, so it appears that AI has been around longer than the current society realizes. As usual, the internet is not quite right.
 

Wolfgang von Kempelen (1734-1804)

 
Wolfgang von Kempelen
Self-portrait by Wolfgang von Kempelen
 
In 1769, Hungarian Wolfgang von Kempelen, poet and inventor, introduced his amazing Mechanical Turk that not only played high-level chess, but defeated most of its highly talented, skilled chess challengers and prominent figures.
 

The Turk

 
The TurkA reproduction of the Turk
 
The Turk sat behind a large box that contained gears and the mechanical parts which supposedly allowed the Turk to move chess pieces as it carefully considered each move. Von Kempelen opened the box to reveal the contents to his skeptical audiences before the chess competitions began. The Turk’s fame grew as it played and even won chess games against Benjamin Franklin and Napoleon Bonaparte.
 
The Turk was an amazing machine and a brilliant, profitable venture for the man who was an imaginative and highly skilled writer and artist, a brilliant inventor, talented story-teller, and successful fraud. 
 
Of course, Turk’s success sent the entire world into a tizzy of fear of what would happen if the machines take over the world. Sound familiar? Maybe they were onto something after all.
 
The Turk’s new owner took the chess-playing machine to Richmond, Virginia; Edgar Allan Poe studied the machine in operation then wrote an essay about the Turk in 1836. Anyone else suspect the Turk might have inspired the first of our modern day science fiction writers?
 

The Difference Engine

The Turk inspired other chess players who were inventors and scientists to consider the idea of artificial intelligence more seriously, and is highly regarded by many as the inspiration for the Difference Engine, which was the precursor of our modern computers that Charles Babbage built in 1821 fifty years after von Kempelen introduced his amazing Turk. 
 
Difference Engine

 

My (short) Chess Career

My first year in college, I discovered the Chess Club. I wasn’t allowed to be a member because of the Club Rules that were antiquated even then, but there was no known rule about “nonmembers” being in the Chess Club room, so I watched, learned, and quickly spotted the common errors and absorbed the strategies that won. 

It must have been a rainy day because there weren’t many chess club members in the sacred room, so I sat at a forbidden chest table, offered to play, and won. I loved chess. I played and won for weeks until the advisor told me I couldn’t play chess any more because a tournament was coming up, and the members couldn’t practice with “outsiders.” 

I suppose it should have been a major blow to my self-esteem, but it wasn’t. I was used to being an outsider and eventually became a computer programmer fifteen years later. I followed your lead, Turk!

Well played, Turk. Checkmate. 

 
 
 

Judith is reader-sponsored. If you buy Judith a cup of coffee,  she promises to drink it while she’s writing.

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

Ko-fi Link: https://ko-fi.com/judithawriter

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You keep reading; I’ll keep writing!
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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!

Follow her on BookBub, your favorite book store, or her blog to be notified of New Releases!

You keep reading; I’ll keep writing!

     

QuickJAB

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.

ko-fi.com/judithawriter

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Science Fiction Short Stories

Promotional Giveaways

IASFA Promotion July 24-28 2022 Science Fiction

Have you heard of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Lord of the Rings, Enders Game, Dune, 1984, Fahrenheit 451? All are Science Fiction Classics!

Ready for a new generation of Classics?

IASFA

The International Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors banded together for a rare opportunity for you to pick and choose one or sixteen of their best science fiction short stories that are free only from July 24 – July 28.

Tap the link to sign up for your stories ISAFA Science Fiction Short Stories Giveaway

psst. Be sure to look for ESCAPE TO SURVIVE!

Escape

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Spies Blend In

The best spies blend in with the herd.  

You know the Cow Rule, right? When you’re driving in the countryside, it’s obligatory for all passengers to say, “Cows,” when they see cows in a field. I may not always follow all the rules, but I definitely would never break the Cow Rule. 

The Spy in the field is banking on the Cow Rule, so when cars and trucks pass by, the passengers say, “Cow,” and everybody’s happy.  

Except for that one time we were driving on a familiar road near our small farm, and I startled FarmerMan when I shouted, “DEER!” He slammed on the brakes and pulled to the side of the road, fully expecting to see a doe with a fawn or two behind her as they darted across the road in front of us. He was even more startled when I hopped out of the truck and stepped near the ditch and snapped a photo then climbed back in. “I got it!”   

This deer with her tribe is exactly what Maggie Sloan had in mind when she decided she needed to blend in, like a Gray Man. If you haven’t read any of the Maggie Sloan Thriller Series, I suggest you start with Book 1, I ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A SPY.

UNLESS you’d like to read a New Unpublished Short Story that isn’t included in any of the Maggie Sloan Thriller Series, THE LIBRARIAN WHO WANTED TO BE A SPY, that is available when you sign up for a Giveaway that includes the books and stories of 70+ authors through July 31. Of course, if you love the short story, you’ll love the Maggie Sloan Thriller Series. 

Here are the covers, so you’ll have a visual when you look for the MAGGIE SPY books.

   

If you’ve already read THE LIBRARIAN short story, you might enjoy I ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A SPY!