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by Adrian Cruz — August 24, 2016 at 4:45 pm 0

"We Are Still Tornadoes" cover (Photo courtesy of Amazon.com)Arlington lawyer Susan Mullen’s journey to becoming a novelist began with an encounter with an old friend on Facebook.

Mullen reconnected with fellow lawyer and University of Virginia School of Law alum Michael Kun, who sought her help with what became “We Are Still Tornadoes,” a novel about best friends who follow different paths after high school. Kun, an author whose books include “The Locklear Letters” and “My Wife and My Dead Wife,” shocked Mullen with his writing proposal.

“I thought, ‘Why would you want to do that?'” Mullen said. “He’s a successful novelist, and I’ve never written anything before. We talked it through and basically agreed that we’d be honest with each other, and if it wasn’t going well, we’d just say, ‘Well this was fun,’ and move on.”

The novel centers around Scott and Cath, who grew up together in a small Maryland town. Through the use of letters between the friends, Mullen and Kun weave together a story of what happens when Cath goes to Wake Forest University and Scott stays behind to follow his musical dreams.

In order to keep the concept of writing letters back and forth a realistic one, the book is set in 1982, before online communication became widespread.

“It was a time when people wrote letters,” Mullen said. “It had to pre-date email because I don’t think that email has the same charm as writing letters, although members of the younger generations might disagree.”

To add authenticity to the missives, Mullen and Kun actually sent letters to each other throughout the writing process, with Mullen drafting Cath’s dispatches and Kun penning Scott’s notes.

Mullen and Kun discussed little beyond the novel’s framework and basic plot before starting the process, leaving the rest to the individual writer.

“We exchanged letters back and forth, and we just let it evolve,” Mullen said. “We surprised each other with the letters to a certain extent, and we would give each other a little bit of feedback along the way.”

The exchange of letters took over three years, something that Mullen attributes to both her and Kun’s busy lives as lawyers with families.

“I would only write when I had a significant block of time to really sit down and pay attention to do my best work,” Mullen said. “I really wanted to respect the process.”

When she was writing, Mullen’s oldest daughter was beginning her freshman year at Harvard University, giving her somebody to base the collegiate experience on. Both of her daughters also provided feedback in terms of how authentic the letters sounded. One major change was the inclusion of profanity, something her daughters felt came off as more authentic.

“Mike previously had a rule that he did not want his characters to curse because he wanted his daughter to eventually read his books,” Mullen said. “When my girls read it, they were like, ‘Mom, they have to curse, its just not realistic. It’s the way teenagers talk.'”

One challenge they faced while writing the book was finding a way to describe events that occurred while both characters were in the same location.

“You’re not going to write to each other about things that you have experienced together,” Mullen said. “It’s challenging sometimes to describe events with enough detail to be interesting to the reader and at the same time not include so much detail that its unrealistic from a letter-writing standpoint.”

At the same time, she said that the epistolary format helped make the writing process easier for her as a rookie novelist.

“I only had to write one letter at a time,” Mullen said. “For a lot of first-time authors, what stops them is trying to figure out what they’re going to say from start to finish.”

“We Are Still Tornadoes” is set to come out Nov. 1.

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — August 24, 2016 at 3:50 pm 0

Rental Trends banner

This biweekly sponsored column is written by the experts at Gordon James Realty, a local property management firm that specializes in residential real estate, commercial real estate and home owner associations. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

Real estate investments should be made on their potential to produce a good return (ROI) and consistent cash flow. Experienced real estate investors use financial metrics such as net present value, internal rate of return, and capitalization rate to evaluate real estate investment opportunities.

Let’s explain:

Net Present Value (NPV)

The net present value (NPV) is a good place to start. The formula provides a broad overview of the value of future earnings in contrast to money invested in the present.

The metric isn’t perfect, but it does give you an idea of whether you’ll gain or lose on a property. Because of that, it’s a good calculation to use when deliberating between a couple of investments. It should always be paired with other financial data before coming to a final decision about a property.

Internal Rate of Return (IRR)

The internal rate of return (IRR) is the discount rate, or interest rate, used to produce an NPV of zero. Generally, the higher the IRR, the better. It means that an investment has less risk associated with it.

However, the IRR calculation, like the NPV, is influenced by cash inflows and outflows, inflation, and other factors throughout the years you hold the property. It should be combined with other financial metrics to develop a clearer picture of your real estate investment portfolio.

Capitalization Rate

The capitalization rate is more often termed “cap rate.” It measures the rate of ROI and is based on the annual net operating income (NOI) of the property. It’s a simple way to calculate potential returns and compare them against current market trends.

Like other calculations, the cap rate has limitations. It only analyzes one year of prospective NOI, a number that doesn’t and often cannot account for expenses like taxes or financing costs. While it’s a good number to have in hand, you should always view it as an exploratory, rather than final, number when evaluating real estate investment opportunities.

Real estate can be highly lucrative. However, it requires careful consideration and an understanding of some basic financial metrics. Always evaluate your real estate investment opportunities’ NPV, IRR, and cap rate before committing to one of them.

In fact, if you’re contemplating a property and would like some advice, we’re happy to help. Not only do we provide residential property management services, but we also counsel clients on their investments.

by ARLnow.com — August 24, 2016 at 3:05 pm 0

Police standoff in Virginia Square (courtesy photo)

(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) A reported standoff with an armed man near the Virginia Square Metro station ended peacefully this afternoon.

The standoff was said to be taking place in an apartment tower on the 900 block of N. Pollard Street. Police said the man was making threats and was in possession of multiple loaded firearms.

A police spokeswoman described it as a “fluid situation,” with officers “taking an abundance of caution for everyone’s safety.”

While police took defensive positions down the hall from the man’s apartment, he was spotted outside the Starbucks near the Metro station. As it turns out, the man had left his apartment prior to police arriving. Officers talked with the man, who was said to be calm and mostly cooperative.

At 4 p.m., police said the situation was “safely resolved” and the man was “being referred to County services.”

During the standoff Pollard Street was closed to traffic and police advised people to avoid the area. One nearby resident told us that heavily-armed officers had the apartment building “locked down.”

Courtesy photo

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — August 24, 2016 at 2:35 pm 0

Crystal City Sip & Salsa (courtesy photo)

Get ready to Sip, Salsa and Save with today’s Deal of the Day.

Snag a general admission ticket to the 10th annual Crystal City Sip & Salsa for only $10 (or get a food only tasting ticket for $5) and enjoy great Spanish and South American wines, delicious bites from area restaurants, live music, and, of course, salsa dancing!

That’s half off the usual price. You’ll have to hurry — only 100 discounted tickets are available and the deal ends at 9 a.m. Thursday.

Purchase Today’s Deal Now

Daily Discount Code: ARLnowSip

WHEN: Sunday, September 11 from 2-6 p.m.

WHERE: Parking lot at 220 20th Street S., Arlington, VA 22202

WHAT: The region’s largest inside the beltway, outdoor wine festival is celebrating its 10th year! Crystal City’s 10th Annual Sip and Salsa features delicious wines from Spain, Portugal, and Argentina, food tastes from restaurants in Crystal City and the region, great live music, and live dancing demonstrations and lessons from Columbia Pike’s Salsa Room. Part of Crystal City’s SIPtember series, enjoy a variety of sipping events with Sip & Salsa, Pups & Pilsners, Wine in the Water Park, and Crystal Screen: Sips and Sweets movie festival.

by ARLnow.com — August 24, 2016 at 1:45 pm 0

Lanier Avant (Photo via cbcfinc.org)Lanier Avant, the chief of staff for Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and a House Homeland Security Committee staff director, has been charged with failing to file his tax returns for five years.

Avant, who lives in Arlington, falsely claimed he was exempt from federal tax withholding, prosecutors say. He made more than $170,000 per year during tax years 2009-2013, but did not file a tax return during that time, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Avant faces up to five years in prison. From a press release:

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Isaac Lanier Avant, of Arlington, who is currently employed as a staffer by the U.S. House of Representatives, has been charged with five counts of willfully failing to file a tax return.

According to the criminal information and affidavit, Avant has been employed as a staff member of the U.S. House of Representatives since approximately 2002.  For tax years 2009 through 2013, Avant earned annual wages of over $170,000, but did not timely file a personal income tax return for any of those years. In May 2005, Avant filed a form with his employer that falsely claimed he was exempt from federal income taxes.  Avant did not have any federal tax withheld from his paycheck until the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) mandated that his employer begin withholding in January 2013.

Avant faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison if convicted. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; and Caroline D. Ciraolo, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, made the announcement.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Hanly and Assistant Chief Todd Ellinwood of the Tax Division.

Photo via cbcfinc.org

by ARLnow.com — August 24, 2016 at 12:45 pm 0

This week’s Arlington Pet of the Week is Tucker, who enjoys nibbling on envelopes, grocery bags and clothes.

Here’s what Tucker’s owner, Amanda, had to say about him:

Tucker is a very handsome gentleman born near Charlottesville. He was adopted from a shelter when he was nine months old and has been an Arlingtonian ever since!

Tucker lives with his mom, dad, human-sister, Alice, and fur-brother, Brody. He spends his days napping, chasing his brother, begging for water from the bathroom faucet, and swatting at himself in the mirror. He’s a very healthy boy in spite of his minor case of cat pica. Tucker enjoys, in particular, eating the envelopes from the mail, plastic grocery bags, mom and dad’s clothing, and string. His house is kept very tidy due to his occasional appetite for non-food material!

Tucker loves living in Arlington and hopes that more families will adopt furry friends like him from local shelters. He brings great joy to his family and they are thankful for him every day.

Want your pet to be considered for the Arlington Pet of the Week? Email [email protected] with a 2-3 paragraph bio and at least 3-4 horizontally-oriented photos of your pet. Please don’t send vertical photos, they don’t fit in our photo galleries!

Each week’s winner receives a sample of dog or cat treats from our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, along with $100 in Becky’s Bucks. Becky’s Pet Care is the winner six consecutive Angie’s List Super Service Awards, the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters’ 2013 Business of the Year and a proud supporter of the Arlington County Pawsitively Prepared Campaign.

Becky’s Pet Care provides professional dog walking and pet sitting in Arlington and all of Northern Virginia, as well as PetPrep training courses for Pet Care, CPR and emergency preparedness.

by ARLnow.com — August 24, 2016 at 11:45 am 0

Ft. Barnard Park on 8/24/16

A “serial pooper” has left a No. 2 on the Ft. Barnard Park playground for the second time in as many weeks.

The ill-placed excrement was spotted this morning, conveniently while county crews were at the park for routine landscaping work.

“Unfortunately, the serial pooper struck again this morning,” a nearby resident told ARLnow.com. “This time it was not covered by a shirt, but a pile of human feces was found on the playground by some benches. County landscapers were already on the scene when it was found and called their office to arrange for cleanup and to discuss other methods to deter or catch the pooper. I guess this makes him the very brazen serial pooper.”

Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish confirmed that feces was found and that employees promptly took action to remove it.

“Yes, we found some more this morning,” Kalish said. “It is being cleaned up. We’ve notified police, rangers and are also working with homeless advocates.”

Kalish relayed some bullet points from the parks department regarding the defecation situation, including the somewhat surprising revelation that poop is pretty common in parks.

This is unacceptable behavior.

  • To reiterate – please do not poop in public places. This is something your mom should have taught you long ago.

When we know about it, we remove it immediately.

  • General practice is to remove waste on natural surfaces such as grass or mulch. However if the waste is on a surface such as concrete, paving or playgrounds, staff removes the waste and the cleans the area with disinfectant.
  • Staff has turned the issue over to police and park rangers to continue investigating in an effort to stop the issue.

We regret this sometimes happens.

  • As surprising as it may sound, it is not uncommon to find human waste in a park.
  • A couple months ago we noticed sporadically the waste in Ft. Barnard Park. It stood out because someone puts a t-shirt on top of it.
  • It became more common over the last month so park maintenance staff started pro-active check-ins at the park.
  • It seems that the waste is deposited overnight.

As of 11 a.m. this morning, it appeared that the latest droppings had been cleaned up and about a dozen children and caretakers were in the park, playing on the playground.

by ARLnow.com — August 24, 2016 at 10:30 am 0

Now is your chance to own a piece of the former Hard Times Cafe in Clarendon.

The restaurant closed last month after many years in business directly across from the Clarendon Metro station.

Hundreds of items from the restaurant are now being auctioned off online — just about everything you can imagine, including signs, tables, chairs, beer taps and kitchen equipment.

Most items currently have bids under $10.

by ARLnow.com — August 24, 2016 at 9:30 am 0

N. Randolph Street is shut down between Glebe and Wilson due to a gas leakUpdate at 10:20 a.m. — The leak has reportedly been stopped and the road is being reopened.

A busy street in Ballston has been closed due to a strong odor of natural gas coming from a manhole.

N. Randolph Street is closed between N. Glebe Road and Wilson Blvd, near the Ballston Common Mall demolition site. Several businesses on the Glebe Road side of Randolph have been evacuated.

Washington Gas crews are en route to try to stop the leak.

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