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Newhart’s Inn

Last weekend my husband and I fulfilled one of my dreams and spent the weekend at the Stratford Inn (AKA Waybury Inn). I’ve always been a big fan of Bob Newhart and all his shows, especially Newhart. So a few years ago, when I googled “Stratford Inn” on a whim, I knew I had to make the pilgrimage.

The town of East Middlebury was much like the town of Norwich depicted in the intro to the show. But then we saw the bed and breakfast, and pulling into the parking lot, I thought Waybury Inn didn’t look much like Stratford Inn.


 But I think that was because we were approaching it from an angle.


We stepped inside, and the lobby and tiny front desk looked nothing like the lobby and long front desk in the show.


I mentioned this to my husband, and he said, “Of course none of the episodes were filmed here, they were all filmed on a Hollywood set!” And so I asked the front desk clerk. She said only the exterior of the Waybury Inn was filmed, and that was for the intro to the show. She also said Larry, Darryl, and Darryl had visited the inn, but not Dick Loudon (Bob Newhart).


We had a charming time regardless, and enjoyed the scenic countryside and small town atmosphere. But before we left, I took a look around the nooks and crannies and saw Dick Loudon’s Stratford Inn…

039.JPG Shining Through… 


Sunshine Over Cadillac Mountain


Last fall my husband and I took an overnight trip to Maine, specifically to capture the magic of the sun rising over the highest point on the eastern North American seaboard – Cadillac Mountain.


Only when we got there, we discovered the park loop leading to and from the mountain would be closed the next morning.


Undaunted, I changed our plans and decided we would capture the magic of the sun setting from the highest point on the seaboard.


The eve was cold and cloudy, but the sun shining through was all the more beautiful for it.


Then we moved to the highest vantage point…and the light was different.


Then it got spookier.




Poisoned Forest (an open-ended challenge within a challenge)


Click here for part 1, “Barnes of Tombminster,” by Tom Merriman!

Janice let out a sigh of relief, then pulled her silver scotch flash from her fanny pack. “See? I told you to trust me, Elaine.” She smiled, took a swig from the flask, then slipped it back into her pack. “You’re a landowner now, not just a lighthouse keeper.”

Elaine chuckled. ” ‘Bout right time, all the toilin’ I’ve done keepin’ up the crag.” She sat, swinging her heels against the side of the stone slab, and smoothed the fringe of her scarf. “And my first order o’ business is kickin’ the two o’ you off me property! Now scat!”

Ross gasped. “But the will… ” he said, frowning.

“Elaine,” Janice said low, “you have to wait until five o’clock, in case any other relatives show up. Remember?”

“Ha!” Elaine retorted. “They won’t show.”

“How do you know?” Ross said, waving the will.

Elaine gave a satisfied smirk. “The two other relatives be me kid brother an’ sister. They’s twins, an’ as fat an’ daft as the day is long. They got sent away ta boardin’ school fer bein’ whiners. Prolly in they thirties by now. They’ll ne’er make it through Poisoned Forest, not without eatin’ a load of rosary peas.” She chuckled. “Why do ya think the locals call it ‘Poisoned Forest’? Years ago I planted the poisoned peas along the forest path ta weed out the Tombminster meddlers.” Elaine shifted her eyes from Ross to Janice. “Meddler’s always be meddlin’.”

Janice lowered her eyes, reached into her fanny pack, and took another swig of scotch.

“Now look here, Ms. Barnes,” Ross said. “I came all the way down to Tombminster and tracked you down to give you what is rightfully yours and this is the thanks I get?” His face grew red. He took a step toward Janice, then collapsed in her arms, sobbing.

“You always were a cruel one, sis,” Janice said as she patted Ross’ back. “And you haven’t changed a bit.”

Elaine jumped off the stone slab. “Wha-?”

Ross spun around to face Elaine. Tears streaked his cheeks. “That’s right, Elaine! We’re your long-lost brother and sister! When paw-paw died, we thought we’d give you one last chance to step up and be a part of the family. One more chance to prove that you outgrew your horrid ways. But no… you’re just as vile as ever.”

Elaine clenched her fists. “Why ya sneaky lil’ wimp! I thought I recognized that wimpy whine o’ yours! But I put it out o’ my mind ’cause ya so skinny.”

Ross straightened up and wiped away his tears. “Yeah, I was a fat kid. And you were no help, always teasing me. You drove me to eat even more. But when I left home, I was finally free of your constant bullying.”

Elaine stomped her foot and turned to face Janice “Liar!” She jabbed the air in front of Janice’s nose. “Foolin’ me these past five years. I thought the last I saw of me snivelin’ sis was when she went off ta the school. Ya was fat then. An’ I thought ya were the only friend I got in Tombminster!”

Janice shook her head. “You’re wrong on both counts, sis. After I got my surveyor’s license, I dyed my hair and came back down here to survey the area. I knew the three of us were going to inherit the land, and so I spent the last several years codifying the deeds. Turns out you inherited the lighthouse, but my brother and I inherited the forest, which is the only way to and from Tombminster. So if you want to go home to your lighthouse, you’ll have to step on private property.” Janice grabbed her brother’s hand.

“I’ll ne’er give up Poisoned Forest!” With both hands, Elaine grabbed her scarf from the slab and rushed at the two. “I’ll wring yer scrawny necks first!”

Ross shrieked and fainted, and Elaine tripped over his body and fell, slamming her head against the stone floor.

“Me ‘ead,” Elaine mumbled. “Ya broke me ‘ead.”

“You were right, bro,” Janice said, helping Ross to his feet. “She’ll never change.” She unbuckled her pack and tossed it on the floor next to her sister. “A parting gift from me to you.” Janice linked arms with her brother and they stepped over the prostrate, bleeding Elaine.

“Wait! Don’ leave me! I’ll sue ya fer e’erythin’!”

“Don’t worry, sis. The door locks from the outside to keep the dead from rising and wandering out, but I left you the keys to the crypt in the pack.” The pair stepped out and locked the door behind them.

“Wait! What good are the keys if the door locks from the outside?” Elaine pressed her hand against her her bleeding head and winced. She reached into the fanny pack and took out the scotch flask. She finished the bottle, then reached again into the pack. Her fingers felt dozens of small orbs. She scooped them out. “Rosary peas,” she mumbled, rolling the red and black berries around with her fingers. “Keys to the crypt indeed.”

What’s the next level for writing?


photo courtesy


Writers and readers, would you like your books to be written at the next level? That is, written not by a human, but by an artificial intelligence?


Good, because it’s coming. It’s here.


Too bad, because soon robots will take writer’s jobs (everybody’s jobs).

In the meantime, here’s a website that lets you ease into a world without human fiction writers:

This site has a list of links (on the left side) which lets you generate “random” story elements, such as story titles, character descriptions, and dialogue.

I played around a bit, and here’s what I got:

Title: Poisoned Forest


Town Name: Tombminster


Character Name #1: Elaine Barnes (mixed and matched first / last names with Janice Wilkinson)

Character Description: A selfish 60 year-old woman

Traits: shy, unkind, materialistic

Job Title: Lighthouse Keeper

Character Name #2: Janice Wilkinson (mixed and matched first / last names with Elaine Barnes)

Character Description: A helpful 33 year-old woman

Traits:  idealistic, decisive, compassionate

Job Title: Surveyor


Quickie Plot:

The story begins in a church crypt
Someone mistakenly believes s/he has killed someone
It’s a story about learning from mistakes
Your character offers to lend a helping hand


Random Dialogue (hacked this a bit):

“You came back!”

“Please don’t argue. You have to leave right now, you aren’t safe here.”

“This isn’t just about you. It’s about what’s best for all of us.”


List of 3 Random Words:

education ghost coffin


List of 8 Random Words (more=merrier):



More intriguing random stuff (I forget which links I clicked):

The old house, with its wildly overgrown garden, was silent, secretive

An imaginative 66 year-old woman, who comes from a poor background, lives in a terraced house and tends to be a little clumsy.

A generous 33 year-old woman, who comes from a poor background, lives in a caravan and tends to drink too much.


So if you’re looking for story prompts, check it out. I’m going to put the above in a back burner folder and use it as a springboard for a future story, robots be damned. But in the meantime, feel free to jump on any of the random elements I found for your own stories.

Writer and multi-leveled castle-dweller Tom Merriman provided the theme for this post; thanks, Tom!

For a comprehensive list of partial and full stories, click here.

Level Up!

Poppy Bachman hosts the new luxury travel show, “Best Resorts and Spas!”

Growing up, Poppy Bachman dreamed about one day usurping Samantha Brown as the next luxury travel host on her own luxury travel show. She worked her way through finishing school and private spokesmodel lessons by being a dog walker and personal shopper. Now she’s trying to get the attention of NBC executives with demos of her own amateur luxury travel show.

From her trailer park home, Poppy calls the owners and managers of five star resorts and spas around the world, hoping to be flown in style for a free stay in exchange for another five star review. Not giving the managers a chance to get a word in edgewise, she quickly invites herself to these resorts in the hopes of scoring her first big review gig. Poppy has a lot of self-confidence, but she also has dyscalculia, which makes it difficult for her to follow directions or distinguish between left and right. So actually getting to the resort is half the battle.

Undaunted, Poppy is determined to become a paid jet-setter, and every weekend takes a cross-country bus to the next luxury destination on her list. Free first-class travel, complimentary cocktails, getting paid for getting pampered. That’s her dream career. But for now she must prove her mettle to the execs at NBC and produce, direct, star in, and edit her own no-budget travel show herself. And somehow get them to watch it.

Here’s her first episode. Listen as she makes stumbling over words sound like a skill:

So… should NBC give Poppy a chance to take it to the next level?


Thanks to Diane Henders and Tom Merriman for the inspiration for this post!

And they said romance was dead… Not a chance!

At the close of the second half of the second month of the year, I give you part 2 (part 1 can be found here) of my pair-up challenge by doubling up Tom Merriman’s challenge with a goldfish’s challenge (click here for the prelude of this story)!

February, from the Très riches heures du Duc de Berry

Limbourg brothers [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


“I killed Scarlet because I thought she was going to shoot you!” David slumped against the barn wall and winced as a rusty nail poked a hole in his shoulder. He staggered forward, the nail further ripping his button-down shirt. He cupped his hand over the puncture wound. “And now I’ve got tetanus. And my best shirt is ruined.”

“Shut up, David. Just shut up.” Felicity shook her head, her tawny curls bouncing to and fro. She glanced down at the still body and sniffed. “I should never have gotten mixed up in your shady deals, David. I mean, I thought you were a bad boy, but this is insane.”

“But I did all of this for you. I wanted to impress you. Your profile said, ‘Jaded City Girl Looking for Romance. Likes: High stakes. Dislikes: Playing it safe.’ And, well… ta-da?” he said, spreading his arms wide.

“Is this your idea of a romantic night out?” She turned and stomped her way to the barn door. “Your profile said, ‘Take a chance on a Bad Boy in the making. Likes: Risks and romance. Dislikes: Fussy reading glasses’ – Oh!” Felicity spun around.

Scarlet sat up, tossed her reading glasses to David, and peeled off the fake blood-filled special effects skin. “I’m fine. Not a scratch. My brother here really wanted to impress you. And I think he did.” Scarlet winked at Felicity, stood up, and brushed herself off. “And now that you’ve passed the test, we can all get to work on the real Harrister deal.”

Felicity shrieked with delight, ran to David, and threw her arms around him. “You passed the test too, you bad boy.” She kissed him. “Sorry about your shoulder.” She tenderly pulled the cloth from the wound. “Maybe you should see a doctor.”

“That would ruin our alibi.”

“But don’t you think you could have tetanus?”

David shrugged. “That’s a chance I’ll have to take.” With a flourish, David led Felicity out the barn door.

“And they said romance was dead,” Scarlet said as she picked hay out of her hair.


“…and they said romance was dead…”

Not sure who “they” are, but fellow writer (and magical castle-dweller) Tom Merriman put forth this challenge.

And so I paced, pondered, and poked around the interwebs for tangential inspiration and found a free trial anagram site, and a free “make your own program-generated art” site. Just in time for Valentine’s Day. Pretty freaky. Here’s what I did:

and they said something (romance) was dead

The above was generated using the input “and they said something (romance) was dead” (slightly altered from Merriman’s theme for slight originality).

And because V-Day is supposed to be all about pairs, I did this:

a nasty odd screwhead idea man

…which was generated using the input “a nasty odd screwhead idea man”, which is an anagram of Merriman’s “and they said romance was dead” theme. My hubby picked it out from a list of contenders which included “I am shadowy as dead-end nectar,” and “Idea man hand-sedates yard cow.”

And they said romance was dead! Pshaw.

So now you have the tools to make your own free Valentine’s Day (or any day) cards! My gift to you.



Exploring Area X, part I

Book Review of Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, book 1 of Southern Reach trilogy.

synopsis – Area X is a mysterious, ever-encroaching expanse of land in America, bordering the ocean. This land is wild. Dangerous. Feral. And the flora and fauna are… abnormal. And Southern Reach keeps sending expeditions into the heart of Area X. Willing volunteers who, after immersion into this feral land, return mere husks of themselves, if they return at all.  No one knows exactly why Area X is so powerful, only that it must be explored. And so the twelfth expedition sent into Area X consists of a biologist, a psychologist, a surveyor, and an anthropologist. They must explore, take notes, collect samples… and hopefully return. Ah, but who are they kidding? For the land is lush with transformation, and the expedition members are keeping secrets from each other. Secrets that give even more power to Area X.

reaction – While I refer to the novel as “Area X,” the title is “Annihilation.” The annihilation of civilization, of society, of the codes governing interpersonal expectations and conduct. The annihilation of others. The annihilation of self. Within Area X, you get a sense of being immersed, slowly but effortlessly, then “the sense of” fades away and You’re Actually There, in Area X, lost, and this is as it should be, because Area X is your home, it’s always been your home. You just didn’t know it, because you thought “home” meant “familiarity.” It doesn’t. “Home” means 4.4 billion years of evolution on a warm, wet speck of dirt in an unknowable universe. Struggling, squirming, little bags of meat, absorbing, growing, breeding, fighting, destroying, dying. Starting over again. And again. As with what will be the endless expeditions into Area X, marching into the unknown, hoping to learn, but ultimately facing the unknowable. Area X gives enough clues so that you can see, hear, touch… but what you’re experiencing is something completely unexpected. Foreign. Dizzying. If and when you reach the other side and found you’ve survived, it’s only because Area X infected you. Its germ kept you alive, so that you may serve it. And now you have no choice but to carry the germ back into civilization, where you shrug your shoulders and shake your head. So that others should venture home to Area X.


Other versions and reviews of Annihilation can be found here.

That Book You’re Writing? It’s Already Been Written.

This seems to be impervious to fire, so I'll choose to ignore it

You read that right. The book / article / essay / blog post (including this one)/ email / love letter / hate mail / poem / note to self / grocery list / laundry list / gibberish you’re writing HAS ALREADY BEEN WRITTEN.*

Not only that, but every book / article / essay / blog post / email / love letter / hate mail / poem / note to self / grocery list / laundry list / gibberish you’ve written in the past, or will write in the future, HAS ALREADY BEEN WRITTEN (or written again, for past writings).*

Not only that, but EVERY POSSIBLE VERSION (typos, rearrangements, and such) of every book / article / essay / blog post / email / love letter / hate mail / poem / note to self / grocery list / laundry list / gibberish HAS ALREADY BEEN WRITTEN.*

And it’s all cataloged in an evil library.

An explanation from the evil archive: “At present it contains all possible pages of 3200 characters, about 104677 books. …any text you find in any location of the library will be in the same place in perpetuity. We do not simply generate and store books as they are requested – in fact, the storage demands would make that impossible. Every possible permutation of letters is accessible at this very moment in one of the library’s books, only awaiting its discovery.”

Go ahead. Search any text you make up on the spot for yourself. IT WILL ALREADY BE IN THERE.

By the way, happy NaNo-ing to those participating (in writing something that’s already been written).

Here’s what inspired this soul-punting abomination:

So your (and my) Great American Novel is already floating around in this infernal library in every possible version in 3200-character chunks. I’m gonna stop driving this home because it’s making me queasy.

*In English, in 3200-character chunks, using the 26 letters of the alphabet, the blank (space), the comma, and the period.

In other news, here’s the highlight of my container gardening this year:

…and every possible description of my pomato is in the damn thing.

Who knows when I will write another blog post which HAS ALREADY BEEN WRITTEN. ARGH.

Thanks for stopping by.