Created Worlds – Short Story Collection by Joan Marie Verba

Created Worlds: Science fiction and fantasy short stories by Joan Marie Verba

The Wisest Wizard: Who will be the next Wisest Wizard? Maybe not who you think.

* The Sum of the Parts: Susan Page is a pacifist, who is attacked repeatedly by a criminal who evades arrest. Will she need to compromise her principles to defeat him?

* This One Time: Allira Elhalyn-Alton, and her daughter, Bruna, have always been protected by the men in their life. Can they stand on their own in a crisis?

* Death’s Scepter: Brothers Regis and Stefan Hastur have always been close. Will politics make them turn on each other?

* Mind-eater: Domenic MacAran seeks shelter in a house where the residents are terrorized by a bully. Can they turn the tables on him?

* The Honor of the Guild: A murder is committed and the Renunciates are blamed. Can Janna n’ha Cassilde solve the crime and restore the reputation of the guild?

* An Invitation to Chaos: Gwynn Alton has harbored resentment of his father since childhood. Will their simmering conflict mean danger for the Domains when the Towers experiment with their powers?

* The Mystery Woman of the Kilghard Hills: Young Kennard Lanart encounters a mysterious young woman in the woods, but his family is skeptical of his story. Will he, or they, uncover her secret?

* Safe Passage: Orain, a peddler, is beaten and robbed and left in an approaching blizzard. Can he get his merchandise back and evade the determined robbers?

“Safe Passage” was originally published in the Darkover anthology Snows of Darkover, January 1995. Reprinted by permission.

“The Madwoman of the Kilghard Hills” (retitled “The Mystery Woman of the Kilghard Hills”) was originally published in the Darkover anthology Towers of Darkover, July 1993. Reprinted by permission.

“An Invitation to Chaos” was originally published in the Darkover anthology Leroni of Darkover, November 1991. Reprinted by permission.

“The Honor of the Guild” was originally published in the Darkover anthology Renunciates of Darkover, March 1991. Reprinted by permission.

“Mind-eater” was originally published in the Darkover anthology Domains of Darkover, March 1990. Reprinted by permission.

“Death’s Scepter” was originally published in the Darkover anthology Four Moons of Darkover, November 1988. Reprinted by permission.

“This One Time” was originally published in the Darkover anthology Free Amazons of Darkover, December 1985. Reprinted by permission.


The Value of Your Own Web Development Project

When I was in the midst of my Full Stack Bootcamp, I was involved in a project where one of the requirements was to access an API. The instructor came by to the evaluate the proposal, and questioned the value of the project. He said why would anyone use the project when one could look up the same information on Google?

I didn’t have an answer then; I do now.

Back when I was taking the Front End Engineering Bootcamp, I made my own Astronomy Picture of the Day (this is encouraged by NASA, using their API). The images on this page show my version and NASA’s version of the APOD. In my opinion, my version is cleaner, less cluttered, and shows only the information that I’m personally interested in.



Similarly, yes, I can find out the local weather through any number of local weather apps. But I created my own through the Open Weather API, and it delivers a personal weather report giving all the information I want (and no excess information that I don’t need to see). I also coded a 7-day-weather forecast for an input city, and coded a current weather display for an input city. I use those to check out the weather where the Twins or Vikings are playing. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s accessible to me.

My movie search through the OMDB, is, I feel, much less cluttered than a Google search of a particular movie, and is also quick, easy, and accessible.

In summary, go ahead and make your own apps, even if you can get the same information elsewhere!

Short Treks: “The Brightest Star” review

I’ve been busy this month, and haven’t had time until now to write comments on “The Brightest Star,” which was a “Short Treks” episode of Star Trek: Discovery. (Yes, there are spoilers. Stop reading now if you don’t want any.)

The episode is about Saru’s origins on the planet Kaminar. Being a Saru fan, I was looking forward to this. What Saru established on Discovery is that his species, the Kelpiens, are a “prey” species, and they’ve evolved abilities as a result, such as the ability to sense danger (and there are “threat ganglia” which fan out from the back of his head when he does).

All this time, I thought that meant there was another intelligent species on Saru’s home planet which hunted them. While I guess this still could have been the case in Kaminar’s past, it isn’t during Saru’s time. Instead, a species called the Baul travel to Kaminar. They do not even beam down to the planet. Instead, in a ritual reminding me of the original Trek episode, “Taste of Armageddon,” Kelpiens just assemble in a certain spot and the Baul beam them up.

The rest of the story is Saru wondering what is out there in space. The Baul accidentally leave some of their technology behind, and Saru sends a signal. Eventually, Lt. Georgiou comes in a shuttle, picks Saru up, and takes him to the Federation.

Thus the debate among fans so far has been whether Georgiou violated the Prime Directive by going to get Saru. Personally, I don’t think so, because of the Next Generation episode “First Contact,” where Picard and co. take someone who wants to leave the planet and let her live in the Federation.

In my opinion, this is the wrong aspect of the Prime Directive to explore. The larger issue, in my opinion, is why the Federation is doing nothing to stop this. This is not 2 species on the same planet, or in the same solar system, preying on each other, in which case one might (though Kirk didn’t) make a case that interference is a violation of the prime directive. This is a case where one species from one solar system goes to another solar system, takes intelligent lifeforms off the planet, and has them for dinner. This is a no-no; more than that, this is an atrocity of the highest magnitude. FFS, doesn’t anyone remember “Journey to Babel” where members of the Federation were in an uproar over their members (and the Orions) doing illegal mining in the Coridon system, and doing everything to stop it? That was mining; this is murder. The Federation should start with sanctioning the Baul’s butts, continue with blockading the Kaminar system, and, if necessary, firing on Baul ships. Citizens of the Federation everywhere ought to be outraged (where the hell is Sarek?).

The writers have said that they know there are questions and those questions will be answered. I certainly hope so!

Later addition: Saru specifically said that the Baul was a predator species on his planet, which I take it to mean the Baul originated there, as did the Kelpians. In that case, the Prime Directive would apply; however, since the Baul apparently have transporter technology, I would think that the application of the Prime Directive would be very tenuous (the Baul may not have warp drive, but they’re close enough to it). In addition, it would seem that Vahar’ai is not a fatal condition, but a transition, loosely analogous to a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. That, too (as Saru indicated), changes things.

Even later addition: I was right all along. The Baul have warp capability and the Prime Directive does not apply to them. The Federation should have had the Baul’s butts in a sling long before this. At least they finally come to the conclusion that the Prime Directive doesn’t apply and take action to keep the Kelpiens from being slaughtered.

Real World Web Development

Since I graduated from The Iron Yard, I’ve turned my attention to my own websites, of which I have several, to rewrite them and improve them. As I anticipated, real world experience is a little different than the experience in the classroom.

I’ve started with 2 sites: a site promoting me as a web developer/social media expert/video provider at, and an informational site featuring my healthy living books at

I wasn’t far along in developing these sites when I realized I would have to learn some additional skills in coding: working with social media widgets, for instance. But, I knew enough to realize I needed to find the developer’s area of Facebook, Twitter, etc. to get the code that I needed to put a social media widget or badge on a website. Once there, I needed to select the options I needed, and modify the code for the website, and again, the concepts I learned in class helped me to get everything working. In some cases, the process was fairly clear. In others, I had to search through the developer part of the site before I found the code or the combination thereof to use. I got one widget working in a timely manner. Another didn’t work, so I had to keep going back until I found a section that had code that worked for me. Yet another time, I kept getting error messages which did not make sense. So I did what I remembered hearing in class: I copied and pasted the error message right into Google, and immediately Stack Overflow said that the code wouldn’t work in a simulator, or even localhost…it would only work on a live web page. And indeed, that’s what did work.

I found some curious omissions, such as getting error messages because of the absence of “http” in the code for an “src=”…when I inserted the “http” it worked, but I wonder why it was missing in the first place.

Some code worked…and then it didn’t…and then it did…and then it didn’t. Same code.
Also, as I mentioned earlier in this blog, the documentation for these and other items was sometimes frustratingly obscure. Again, I learned enough in class to eventually determine what was going on by myself, but I can definitely see how, when I was just starting my classwork, I was not able to grasp some of the coding concepts explained in online documentation right away. They definitely presume that the reader knows things that a novice may not, in fact, know.

In spite of these obstacles, I got the 2 websites working satisfactorily. (I even successfully added a favicon and web counter to each site!) Now to see whether I can get my other websites updated as well.

Writing Code, Writing Stories

I’m probably not the first to notice that writing code is very similar to writing stories. There is structure and creativity involved. There’s writing the first draft, editing the draft, and then publishing the result for the public to view. There can be second/revised editions. There can be collaborations. Reviewers check and comment on the published result.

In particular, I’ve noticed that when I write a story, and think it’s complete, I still wait before sending it off or publishing it, because in the following days or week, I will get additional ideas on what to add, delete, or change. This has also happened with my code: I thought my “Demo Day” project was complete, but after a couple of days, I got additional ideas for improvements.

There’s definitely a similar feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction upon publication of either code or prose. The sense of fun in building also applies to both activities.

It’s hard to select a preference for one or the other; I think I’ll continue happily doing both.

Week 12 at The Iron Yard…end of class, but not the end of learning

I have now completed week 12 at The Iron Yard and have the certificate to prove it! Week 12 was another week of intensive learning. I completed an online portfolio, and in the process learned more about CSS styling as well as responsive design (and media queries). I made more pages based on the Open Weather API: one page which gives current weather conditions when the user inputs a city name or zip code, and one page which gives a 7-day forecast when the user inputs a city name or zip code.

My demo project is now live on the web. This proved to be a more complex process than I had anticipated, and I learned that there is a significant difference between a web page that simply displays data and a web page that accesses storage on a server.

I have always thought that coding was fun, and this class was a lot of fun…and a lot of work (and I’d do it all again if it could!). I’d highly recommend The Iron Yard to anyone who wants to learn coding, and highly recommend Jim as a Front End instructor. I’ll miss seeing my classmates daily, though there will be opportunities to see them again, especially since our Demo Day is later this month.

My plans are to start a job search, and to work on even more projects. I particularly wish to find out more about jQuery and about CSS animation. I expect that my GitHub repository record will remain active.

I also hope to speak to future Iron Yard classes and meetups to share all the fun I’ve had!

The Goal of Web Development

Lately, I’ve been constructing web pages for my online portfolio and for display on my own domains. One of the web pages I have made (this was the result of a class assignment, and it was a page that I wanted to make for myself) is the Astronomy Picture of the Day from the NASA API. (For those not familiar with APIs, they’re databases an entity keeps and allows others to access and use through a key). I made and styled my own Astronomy Picture of the Day and compared it with NASA’s. NASA’s is larger and has a lot of links and added information. It’s great for those who want links and added information, but to me, the appearance is “busy.”  I styled my own Astronomy Picture of the Day (which NASA encourages the use of its API for – essentially, they tell web developers such as myself, “go ahead and make your own Astronomy Picture of the Day using our data.”), and I find it much more to my taste. I’m now checking my version daily.

Similarly, I made and styled my own weather app from the Open Weather API (the Open Weather API essentially says, “go ahead and make your own weather report using our data”). I realize there are a number of weather apps out there that users can customize to their personal tastes, but this is my very own weather app that I specifically styled to my own personal tastes and I am happy with it.

It occurred to me that this is the goal of coding (or more specifically, front end web development): to make applications/web pages that present users with the information they want in the style they prefer. I find this both challenging and exciting, and is one of the reasons I find coding so much fun.

Week 11 at The Iron Yard

My project for Demo Day was nearing completion this week. I made the pages responsive, mostly with the use of the Aphrodite library. I also added a “print” button to the main directory page. Right now all that I may need to add are more test entries and perhaps some minor styling changes.

With the Demo Day project well on its way to completion, I spent time this week learning additional skills by working on additional projects. I built an online portfolio, with screen captures of projects I have completed, and links to both the code on GitHub and to the working web pages. The portfolio page also contains a summary of what I’ve learned at The Iron Yard.

I felt a great sense of accomplishment on Thursday when the API call that I sent to the Open Weather API worked on the first try. I spent most of the rest of the day on Friday building my own weather app, which I’ve wanted to do ever since The Iron Yard Crash Course I attended before starting week 1.

Our campus director started talking about job seeking skills this week, which was most welcome. She invited us to find three job listings for web developers, and I was pleasantly surprised to find four that I felt I was qualified for.

Next week is week 12…even more learning to come!

Week 10 at The Iron Yard

This week I started my project for Demo Day and worked on it for most of the week. I was very pleased with the progress I made this week, and even more pleased with the fact that I was learning more ways to use JavaScript and ReactJS to build a web page. For example, I wanted to make a list from a string where the entries were separated by carriage returns. The method I first tried resulted in error messages. So I searched on Google for a technique that would work and was directed to, where I found an example that was similar to what I wanted to do. In particular, it suggested that the method be placed between the render and the return, instead of within the return. I did and it worked. I have searched Google for information on other techniques I have wanted to use, and have found it (and, among other online resources) to be helpful. I’ve also been using Trello to keep track of the features that I want to include and my progress on those features (those not started yet, those in progress, and those which have been completed).

I also made more progress on preparing an online “portfolio” of my work. I have three projects in place and visible (a chat function, an API call to the omdb media database, and a “guess a number” game), but need a unifying home page. That’s still in the beginning stages, but taking shape.

Our class took a field trip to Best Buy headquarters to talk to the web developers there. They gave us a tour and answered our questions. It was informative to learn about what sort of work they do, and what sort of knowledge and skills are required in their jobs. They’ve offered a place there for our Demo Day in September.

Continuing work on the Demo Day project next week. Still having fun!

Week 9 at The Iron Yard

The week started out on Sunday when I took a look at some code that Jim had introduced to us about a month ago. At the time, I had only a vague idea of what the code was for and how it worked. Now I realized that I understood it fairly thoroughly. (Progress!)

Early this week, we all worked on getting our chat functions working with Horizon, placing data on a web page for retrieval. Wednesday we had a lecture on Java (even though our course is front end web development) so that we would have an idea of what it was about and what it did. Thursday, our class voted to have Jim go over APIs and jQuery (he included Bootstrap as a bonus), all of which was very useful. For the afternoon lab session, we were asked to develop code to get data from an API with  jQuery, and at the end of class I was feeling discouraged because I had been unable to make a successful connection to the server. After a brief discussion on Slack in the evening, I was back on track on Friday and made a successful API retrieval using jQuery. Not only that, but I felt I understood the jQuery code clearly.

I have been going over previous assignments and improving the code and functionality in preparation for building an online “portfolio” of my work. I am very pleased with myself for taking code that I wrote only 2 weeks ago and making significant improvements to the style, functionality, and sophistication. Friday afternoon, Jim went over with me how to place that code on one of my web pages to start the online portfolio.

Friday morning we also went over my project for the upcoming “Demo Day” in detail, mostly diagramming it on the board.  Working on this will, I expect, take up a significant part of the next 3 weeks. I feel excited about getting started with it.