Barrett Manor

Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

Hey, Look! A Story Publication!

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

Well, this has been on Amazon for a while, but since the press release has hit the virtual street I guess I can officially announce that I will have a story in The Further Crossovers of Sherlock Holmes from Moonstone Books, edited by Richard Dean Starr.

I'm the B-list author in with some serious heavy hitters like David Gerrold and Bill Crider. Also prolific Holmes author, A-lister, and good friend Brad Sinor has a story in this book, and I'm really happy that we get to be in print together.

My contribution, The Lady Detective, crosses Holmes with Loveday Brooke, a lady detective who made her debut in 1894 in stories by Catherine Louisa Pirkis. She is widely considered to be the first female detective written by a female author. Miss Brooke was also rather forward-thinking for her time. She had to be, as an upper-class woman who was left penniless and without friends by "a jerk of Fortune's wheel." At the time there were few career choices for women, so this was a bold move. 

The stories are in the public domain, and you can read them here.

So book cover or it ain't happening, right? The cover artist is Timothy Lantz.


And yes, the eagle-eyed among you have spotted the typo in the listing. I'm told the publisher will fix it.

Filed under: Sherlock Holmes   Writing   Publishing   The Further Crossovers of Sherlock Holmes   
4/17/2017 9:16:42 AM
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Playing With The Camera

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

It's been far too long since I wandered out into the back yard and shot some pictures. I get rusty with the camera if I don't get out once in a while.

Here's the pick of a bad lot:


Roses at the side of the house.


Dead berries.


Two cicada husks. This one may be my favorite of the batch.

Back to real work!

Filed under: Pictures            
4/6/2017 10:08:58 AM
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The Latrine Story

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

I've mentioned this several times on Facebook, and it's buried in a blog post about other stuff, but it deserves its own moment in the ... uh ... sun? At any rate, this story has been on my mind lately, and maybe the metaphor will hit you full in the face like...

Two sacks of shit. 

Yes, this story involves two bags of human waste, a metric crap ton of undeserved guilt, and maybe some metaphorical shit for good measure.

I was the daughter of a Girl Scout Leader. The kid of a Scout Leader is like a preacher's kid: The pressure is on you to be an example. Some parents and kids handle this very well. Others don't. My mom was pretty good about it, and there were some small perks for the pain. One was sitting up at Girl Scout camp to listen to adults swap stories. Oh, they were circumspect, but some of the women had led some very interesting lives when they were younger (a couple were retired) and their stories were funny and inspiring. 

Part of the pain was digging latrines. You wondered when I was going to get around to that, weren't you? The weekend before day camp every year, we would visit the farm and set up the site. Part of this involved helping dig latrines for the younger girls and in the community areas. Older girls would dig their own. Those jobs would be handled mostly by high school girls (Senior Scouts), but a few Cadettes (Jr. High level) would also join in, particularly the daughters of the camp leaders.  Adults would help as well, but someone had to drive loads of supplies around, and there were few older girls who had their licenses who were also at camp to help. These jobs weren't too bad, as far as they went, because everyone was there to work and get out of there as soon as possible. June in Texas. Need I say more?

Day camp was a two-week affair. Seniors got to stay the entire two weeks because they were older. Cadettes to to spend all of week two on site, and the Juniors (4th - 6th grades) got to spend one night. That was our big campout under the stars. It was generally the first Friday. 

All of the units were set up in wooded areas, but the overnight event took place in a big clearing where we raised and lowered the flag (sometimes lowering a pair of underwear before raising the flag), and had other large group gatherings. Because of the sheer number of girls spending the night in one place (and who wanted to go way down a trail in the woods in the dark to find a latrine?) we had to dig some holes.

Of course, the Cadettes got charged with this task. Since I had experience at the ripe old age of 13 or 14, I got placed in charge of the detail. We hung up some burlap sheets for privacy, then set about digging three holes. We were given some post hole diggers and shovels. We had to dig holes in the Texas clay and get them three feet deep if we could. I started the first hole and showed the others where to dig. They just stood there while I dug a hole. I finally finished, then cut the bottom out of a trash bag and lined one of the boxy seat contraptions, placing it over the hole. (It wasn't as bad as it sounds. The box was wooden, and open on the bottom. The removable top had a spot to sit and there was a hinged lid to cover the hole. But you wanted to line those boxes to make cleaning the inside MUCH easier. Trust me on this one.) 

So I finished one latrine and started two more holes. The other girls had barely moved. I tossed my tools and the ground and told them to finish. There were three of them, and they should make short work of two holes, right? I took off to Camp HQ, where I was rewarded with a soft drink for my efforts. In about half an hour, the other three girls trudged up, told us the job was done, and were suitably rewarded.

The big mistake was that we took them at their word.

So the campout began. We cooked food, we had whatever beverages girls were allowed. There were some scary camp fire stories. Fun was being had. Until we heard a bunch of nine  year-olds screaming their heads off. 

They were in the latrine.

I jumped up and joined the adults who were running to the rescue. After all, I'd helped build this thing so I was curious to see what was going on.

Two latrines were full. Of shit. Guess which two? We herded the girls out and got someone to escort those who really needed to go to the nearest latrine where they could relieve themselves. One of the adults gingerly lifted the lid on one of the toilets and pulled out the bag. The bottom hadn't been cut out. Same with the other latrine. We moved the seats and discovered that the holes were just as I'd left them. In other words, a three-inch deep indentation in the clay soil. 

Oh, crap.

Why yes, the latrine I'd labored over was perfectly fine and doing its job as per spec. I may have been blonde, fat, and four-eyed, but I knew how to dig a damn latrine.

The adults dealt with the bags. I volunteered to help, but was told that wasn't my job. I volunteered to make the two latrines right, and I was told THAT wasn't my job, either. They got the girls who were supposed to do the job, and stood over them until they finished.

That should have been the end of it. But the next morning I discovered the other girls had blamed me for not finishing the job. I already had a crapload of guilt for not going and checking up on their work. I'd been put in charge of the crew, so maybe some of the blame should have rightly fallen on me. But not all of it! 

I learned a lesson about trust. I also learned that adults would have your back if you were trustworthy. 

I've tried hard to pass those same lessons along to kids, but as an adult I've worked in one volunteer capacity or another for most of my life, and have found that some adults haven't really grown up. They want the credit, they want the rewards, but aren't keen on doing the hard work necessary to make things happen.

I have to temper that observation by saying that right now I'm working with a couple of really good groups of people who know how to do their jobs. So I lift a virtual glass to you guys. Don't worry. It's not full of shit. ;-)

Filed under: Life            
2/23/2017 12:22:05 PM
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Retched Recipes: Duck!

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

Place one Cold War-era rubber duck in a pot.


Stew for a half-life of 24,000 years, give or take.

Ponder what future archaeologists will make of the muck.

Filed under: Retched Recipes            
2/22/2017 12:15:47 PM
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Retched Recipes: Alternative Facts Fudge

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

3 cups of the best chocolate money can buy
1 can of condensed milk
1/4 cup butter

Combine ingredients in saucepan and heat until chocolate is melted. Spread in well-greased pan. Top generously with organic walnuts. Cool and serve. Yum!

That's what they swear they told you. Here's what they did:

Start with cheap chocolate dressed up as the good stuff.
Add 2% milk and sweeten with aspartame.
Prop it up with a little lard.
Heat it up, and point to the dog to deflect from the smell.
Spread in a pan generously greased with more lard.
Top with nuts. Washington won't miss a few.
Pour it in a pan and place outdoors on a hot sunny day. Call it winter, and the stuff will cool. Eventually. If the birds don't crap on it first.

Delicious! Honest! The mainstream recipe books lied to you.

Filed under: Retched Recipes            
2/18/2017 11:52:03 AM
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My ConDFW Schedule

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

Here is my panel schedule for ConDFW this weekend. You can also catch me in the Dealer's Room. Steam Cat and Whispering Leaf will be sharing a table.


3:00 PM, Programming 2: Brass Technology and Steam Power
The genre of Steampunk has always featured unlikely brass gadgets and powered by steam. Whether realistic or fanciful,these gadgets define a look which is unique for both costumers and writers. We gather our panelists to talk about how to bring these gadgets to life – and what lies in the future for Steampunk.

Panelists: Julie Barrett (M), Rie Sheridan Rose, Gloria Oliver, Julia S. Mandala

6:00 PM Programming 4: Writing for Comics
If you look at the credits of any modern comic, you will see that most of them have a separate writer, artist, shader, etc. So,how do you write for the comic medium? Is it like writing a screen play, or like writing a novel? Our comic experts debate this issue and others.

Panelists: David Doub, R. Cat Conrad, Mel White (M), Julie Barrett


10:00 AM Programming 3: Zen and the Art of Podcasting
A simple computer, a webcam, and you too can be a podcaster! Wait, it’s not that simple? Our panelists talk about Podcasting, what is needed, what to avoid and how to script for it.

Panelists: Mark Finn (M), Michael Ashleigh Finn, Tex Thompson, Julie Barrett

11:00 AM Programming 4: The Care and Feeding of Hats
Now that you have that fancy hat, how do you keep it in shape? What’s the best way to keep moths from nomming on the wool? How do you rehabilitate that cool flea market or thrift store find and still have money left over to buy more hats? Got a hat that needs work? Bring it in!

Panelist: Julie Barrett

2:00 PM Programming 4: Switched On (And Off!) Costume Lighting
Now that you’ve lit up your costume or prop, take it to the next level with specialty switches and sensors. Discover how to make lights react to movement, sound, and more!

Panelist: Julie Barrett (M)

5:00 PM Programming 4: Fandom Pictionary
Play Pictionary or just watch as our artists compete. Come and see our artists face off against each other. Pictionary has never been this much fun!

Panelists: R. Cat Conrad, Brad W. Foster, Mel White, Julie Barrett


11 AM Programming 2: Video Games: Inspiration or Distraction?
It’s easy to view video games as a distraction. Games such as Candy Crush can suck away free time with addictive puzzles until you realize that deadline has come and gone. However, video games can be an inspiration as well. Games such as World of Warcraft or No Man’s Sky can show you entire universes to explore, possibly giving you your own ideas for art or story. Can it be both? Or is it only one or the other? Let’s see what our panelists think.

Panelists: Mark Finn (M), R. Cat Conrad, Michael Ashleigh Finn, Julie Barrett, Seth Skorkowsky

2:00 PM Main Programming: If Only I Did that Differently
Forgetting to save never felt so bad, right? Right? How about going down that rabbit hole of a plot, only to write yourself into a corner so nasty you have to crumple it up and start from scratch. Our panelists relate their woes and try to help you so that you don’t have to follow their footsteps. 

Panelists: Julie Barrett (M), K. B. Bogen, A. Lee Martinez, Michelle Muenzler, Stephen Patrick

See you there!

Filed under: Conventions   ConDFW         
2/7/2017 9:52:54 AM
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Retched Recipes: Schadenfreude Stew

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


One healthy dose of "I told you so."
A generous portion of Lumps of Guilt, each oozing with misfortune.
Add shredded regret and stew until the appearance of the next presidential tweet.

Serve cold, like revenge.

Warning: May be undercooked.

Filed under: Retched Recipes            
2/3/2017 10:35:50 AM
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Introducing Retched Recipes

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

I need something to jump start my writing, and this project has been on the back burner for some time. Guess it's time to put it on the boil and see what happens.

Caution: Very likely to be seasoned with politics.

Filed under: Retched Recipes            
2/3/2017 10:32:04 AM
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Alternate History, Alternative Facts

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

In the spirit of “alternative facts” I present an alternative scenario to the gentlemen who still believe women have nothing to complain about.


“Excuse me?” you reply. 

“Come on, smile. There’s nothing to be upset about. I bet you look wonderful when you smile.”

The woman across the bus aisle appears to have plenty to smile about, judging from her clothing and expensive laptop bag. You, on the other hand, were thinking about how to get through yet another job interview. How do you explain that you weren’t sad, but hopeful, and really need this job? You flash a grin just to get her out of your hair, close your eyes, and start thinking about that interview.

She takes the smile as an invitation to talk. What’s your name? Tell me about yourself. Then she notices your wedding band and pivots. Got kids? What does your wife do? Why in the hell is it her business anyway? And if you tell her that you’re on the way to a job interview because your wife was killed on the job a couple of years back, you can expect some condescending remark about how it’s too bad that small kids don’t have someone around the house with them all day. Instead, you pretend you need to deal with an important message on your phone and bury yourself in the device until you get to your stop.

You make it to the interview, and the woman behind the desk can’t stop talking to your crotch, even though there’s nothing to see because you took care with your interview outfit. She’s looking through your suit to see if your abs are up to her standards. After a few perfunctory remarks, she says to your crotch, “You know, there aren’t a lot of men in this profession.” You stumble on about how you’d be a good fit for the company, but it’s no use. The interview is over.

Finally, you find a job, and at a barely sustainable wage. You have two small kids to support, and while the life insurance provided by your wife’s job was a help, it wasn’t enough to cover expenses for very long. They promise you that the salary is entry level, and if you do good work you’ll get good raises. You work hard, you keep your head down, you endure remarks about men’s cute butts at the water cooler. You go to meetings where you are interrupted at best, and ignored at worst.

A few months later a new hire shows up. She thinks herself to be hot stuff, but it’s clear that she knows nothing. While she spends her time gossiping about your butt around the water cooler, you fix her mistakes. At the next staff meeting, she takes credit for one of your ideas.

Evaluation time approaches, and you get a decent rating, which should translate into a nice raise. You were praised for your work ethic and for your attention to detail. When the raises finally come, you get something to barely cover the cost of living. You hear through the grapevine that not only was that new hire brought on at a higher salary even though she’s supposed to be doing the same entry-level job, she got a better raise. You go to your boss and dance around all that, but ask why, after such a bright report, that you got such a small raise. “Those women have families to support,” you’re told. Now get out and get back to work. So what are you, with two small kids at home, chopped liver?

There’s an opportunity for a promotion. You work long nights. You continue to correct the other employee's work because she expects it and you don't want to rock the boat. She makes several crude jokes at staff meetings and her ignorance about her job shines through. That promotion is yours! The next day there are celebrations around the water cooler. She’s your new boss. What’s up with that? Well, you had to leave a couple of times to get a sick kid home from school in the last month, and that just doesn’t show dedication to your work.
The next week there is a round of layoffs. Most of the women hired after you stay on, and you’re let go. 

You’re on the bus on the way home, dejected, holding back the tears, when a woman across the aisle implores: “Smile. It’s going to be okay, sweetie.”

Every one of the above things either happened to me or a relative of mine. If you think women have it good, think again. And smile. I bet you look great when you smile.

Filed under: Life            
1/24/2017 9:48:28 AM
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Sorting Real News From Fake: Can It Be Done?

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

I've been giving some thought lately to the definition of "fake news." It's impossible to do that without acknowledging that a "fake" story can sometimes be in the eye of the beholder. Politics aside, ever know someone who is so set in their worldview that they refuse to believe the evidence? 

(Before I continue, I'm going to note that this post is a work in progress and will likely be revised. I'll note revisions in bold text at the top of this post.)

Now, there's nothing wrong with a good dose of healthy skepticism, and that's what you need to determine whether or not a story is fake. How do you do this? First, you have to put aside your bias. That's not easy. You may be convinced Obama is a Kenyan Muslim agent or that Trump is the Antichrist, but you have to dig and determine facts. Screw that "facts have a liberal bias" argument. Facts can be proven. They may be uncomfortable. They may go against the grain of everything you believe, but the point is to dig beyond the headlines and the memes to discover the truth.

My definition of fake news is something that is made up out of whole cloth, but is crafted to appeal to a certain segment of the population. 

How can you tell? One clue is that the links in the story go back to other stories on the same web site. That's not always a clue for fake news. There could be an "as we previously reported..." link. So follow the links. Do they go elsewhere? Does the link that goes to previous reporting link to the outside world? If so, does the linked story support the article? 

Search engines are your friend. Find out what other news outlets are saying. If Fox and CNN and MSNBC and Reuters and the AP are saying the same thing, that's a pretty good indication that the story isn't made up. Look for video, if it exists. There are enough clips and full versions of the recent Trump press conference that you can see and hear what went on - and look out for suspicious edits. 

Wait a minute. This sounds an awful lot like the basic research techniques we were taught in school. That's because those techniques still hold up even in this age of technology. 

The close cousin to fake news is the story that pulls out one or two bits of truth and builds up a false narrative. Say you run across an article that presents as fact that lungfish can breathe air, so that's proof that all fish can breathe air. All those other species are just hanging out in the water for some nefarious reason that has to do with the conspiracy theory du jour.  How do you correct that? Research. Science! I don't suggest you take one of your tropical fish out of the tank and watch it die, because there are plenty of sources to confirm that most species of fish breathe water through their gills. (Yep, I'm being a little simplistic, but you get the idea.)

Then there's misleading headlines, or clickbait. Case in point would be the many articles I've seen shared in the last two days that Republicans have killed the ACA. Buried in those articles is the truth that they voted on a budget resolution that will open the door to to repeal. But the fact is that there are still several steps to go, and your birth control is not going to get more expensive tomorrow. Make no mistake, it could very well happen. (Please don't argue nuance with me. In the end this may be the thing that ultimately does lead to repeal of the ACA, but as of the time I type these words it hasn't happened. I'm not sure enough of our representatives will grow a pair and realize what they're doing, but since that possibility still exits, the ACA may have been coughing up blood last night, but it's not dead yet.)

Then there's satire. Sometimes that can be hard to detect without a label, which you'll find on most satire sites. 

What's not fake news: An article that presents a fact that disagrees with your worldview, if that fact can be readily sourced and proven. Example: Some people are calling the fact that John McCain turned the "showergate memos" over to the FBI fake news. Nope. It's a fact that he did that. He said so himself. And I'm going to let you vet that on your own. Now those memos may turn out to be fake. But the fact is that they exist. 

(My personal opinion is, while I'm experiencing some schadenfreude over this, in the end I hope they're fake because it scares the you-know-what out of me that a foreign power has blackmail goods on the president, or the man about to assume that office. However, we won't know until they're thoroughly investigated. That needs to happen.)

In conclusion, check sources. Check them again. Don't spread stories and memes without checking them first. Do not make me deploy the Laughing Cat of Shame on you.


Filed under: News   Life         
1/13/2017 10:36:28 AM
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