COVER ART – THE 12-FOOT TEEPEE

Cover Art – Weekly Photo Challenge

Guest host Pete Rosos invites you to imagine the cover of a favorite book, music album, or magazine.


I don’t have to look far for this since I actually did write a book. I wrote it, designed the interior layout and the cover. The cover, spine, and back required multiple iterations, but eventually I think it came out pretty well.

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You can, if you like, actually buy the book which is available through Amazon both as a paperback and for Kindle. Some people think it’s great and I deeply appreciate their kindness.

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It’s hard for me to appreciate it quite the way others do because all I see is where I should have written that part differently. And it reminds me how much I and my world have changed since I wrote it, which is sometimes a bit strange, as if I am channeling a different version of myself.

I’ve learned a lot about using Photoshop since I put this together. But I can’t replace these covers. The teepee no stands. Last year, after 6 years through all seasons, her poles were rotted and the canvas moldy. A bobcat had taken up residence there. She needed to be put to rest.

I miss my teepee.

THE 12-FOOT TEEPEE by Marilyn Armstrong – Available for Kindle and as a paperback.

TOYS IN BLACK AND WHITE – A PHOTO CHALLENGE BY CEE

Cee’s Black & White Challenge: Toys for kids or adults

The difference between adult toys and tools is getting a bit blurry. Are my Kindles toys or tools? My computers? The big screen TV?

I recently picked up an original Robbie the Robot. I don’t know who the target audience was, but I’m sure the people buying Robbie today are grown ups, at least physically. I can’t vouch for their mental age.

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This old doll belongs to a friend of mine. She inherited it from her Norwegian grandmother and time had done very ill by it. The face was gone and one leg rotted away. The dress was ragged and all the paint on her was blackened. I gave her a wig, repainted her.

I recreated her face and repaired her dress. I could not replace her bad leg, but I took it off cleanly and sealed her body so she will not rot more. I’m sorry I didn’t take “before” pictures, but this “after” shot gives you an idea of how well the restoration went. She lives in Maine with her proud mommy.

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Ten years ago, it was the 100th anniversary of the original Teddy Bear. I bought one and gave him his own chair. He became a she-Teddy, or maybe just a bit dandified — because I found this feathered hat and it fit. He/she/it has worn it ever since.

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Allow me to introduce Toni. She was produced by Ideal in the 1950s. She was the second doll to come into my life, on my 6th birthday. She was — is — all about her hair. She came with a little box of miniature rollers and a permanent wave kit, aptly named “Toni Permanent Wave.” The setting lotion (you mixed it yourself), was just sugar and water. It didn’t do anything except make her hair sticky, but for as long as she lasted under the assault of small girls with combs, brushes, and the 1950s version of styling gel, she was glorious.

I got this Toni — an original from 1954 — in urgent need of TLC. I replaced her wig, got her a new dress, underwear, shoes and socks. Did a little touch-up on her face paint, then re-strung her. She is as good as new and just as lovely.

I used a “toy lens” effect for Toni’s portrait. I’m considering getting an actual toy lens for my camera. The effects are fun and unpredictable, but the lenses are inexpensive and great when I’m feeling playful.

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My granddaughter loved the dolls and stuffies when she was a kid, but the teenage years brought new requirements. As soon as she was old enough, she began saving her birthday and Christmas money. When she had enough, she bought her own toy. And ATV. They get bigger. Toys get bigger, too.

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Kaity wanted wheels. Too young for a driver’s license, this ATV was her first “ride.”

WHICH WAY? I DON’T KNOW … I’M SO CONFUSED!

Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge: 2014 #17

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Since the beginning of October, we’ve been on the road. From Uxbridge to Jackman, Maine. Jackman to Skowhegan and back again. Jackman to Peacham, Vermont. Peacham back to Uxbridge.

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A short pause. Take a breath. Uxbridge to Hadley. Back to Uxbridge. Two nights ago, in my best friends’ guest room, I woke in the middle of the night and didn’t know where I was. Definitely time to go home!

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We’ve only been home a few hours and I’m a weird kind of tired. Not only achy, but confused. So much mail and stuff was waiting here. I’m years behind in email, blog reading, book reviewing, photo processing.

The house looks neglected. The well is not yet fixed, though Dave told me today that he will get to it next week, for sure. If it stops raining. Hard to do all of this in the rain and right now, the drought is ending in a bang, not a whimper.

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So which way? Don’t ask! I’m so confused!

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THE END OF THE ROAD FOR WINDOWS AND ME

Summary: Windows 10 will build in standards-based two-factor authentication to every device, effectively neutering most phishing attacks and password database breaches. The company also announced new features aimed at securing corporate machines from malware attacks and data leaks.

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The summary of Ed Bott’s column on the upcoming Windows 10 appalled me. Sickened me. Frightened me. The rest of the article confirmed my worst fears. I’m walking the final piece of road with Microsoft. The end of the road for me and Windows.

IN WITH THE NEW

The handwriting has been on my wall for a while.

Since April, my primary computer has been my Dell XPS 15 laptop. It has a fast motherboard, 8 GB RAM, 750 GB at 7500 HD, a backlit keyboard, high def monitor, a DVD that plays Blu-Ray, and a 9-cell battery. It weighs like a cannonball.

I use a lap desk with two fans to cool it. I treat it well, keep it clean. It’s never been dropped.

WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?

Glad you asked. The graphics card is inadequate. It’s a card with both sound and graphics on it, so I can’t listen to anything while I work in Photoshop. And even so, it locks. It used to recover and knowing the source of the problem, (insufficient video RAM), I rebooted frequently. Mostly, it was okay. Lately, it has stopped recovering. It goes down, stays down. Hard crashes and blue screens of death.

Last week, it gave me a black screen — fatal error — which told me it did not recognize its power source. It was plugged into an AC outlet, so I suspect the battery is starting to go.

For months now, it has refused to install Microsoft updates, except antivirus. I figured I didn’t really need the updates, but I’d have to be stupid to not see the warnings. My faithful laptop is getting tired. Some day soon, it’s going to quit.

SO WHAT DID YOU ORDER? TELL ALL, PLEASE!

Possibly for the first time, I got enough computer to do what I need to do. It’s a gaming laptop, Alienware 14. It has 16 gigs of RAM, a dedicated 2 gig video card. DVD reader/writer. High definition graphics. Heavier than I’d like at 6 pounds, but nothing lighter had all the features I want.

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It looks like my new computer will be my last Windows machine. It’s the most powerful Alienware computer I could configure — based on Windows 7. It had better last a long time because I’ve tried using Windows 8 on Microsoft’s tablets (1 running RT and the other running Windows 8.1). I’ve also put in some time using my friend’s Windows 8.1 desktop.

I hated it. From Mr. Bott’s description, the worst of the problems of Windows 8 will become “the features” of Windows 10 or whatever they decide to call it. This is not a new approach in the high-tech world, mind you. It’s a classic, the “smoke and mirrors” approach.

“OH NO, that isn’t a bug … IT’S A FEATURE!”

You heard me right. It isn’t that Microsoft has made it impossible to run non-Microsoft products on that computer you bought. They are protecting you from the big, bad, world. Nor are they are providing you with a viable alternative to the way you used to work. They are requiring you play in their ballpark. A tiny world that has limited tools and applications to do whatever it is you do. If you want to do other things and they don’t have what you need? Gee … I guess that’s too bad. Microsoft figures it can set the rules. They own you. All you zombies will march in step and pay them money for the privilege.

Not this zombie. And not a whole lot of my fellow zombies. Mind you I am no great fan of Mac, either. I have a heavy investment in windows-based software, which is how come I have put up with all this crap so far … but there is a line over which you cannot push me. You cannot tell me I have to live in your universe to the exclusion of all others “for my own safety.” If my mother couldn’t do it, Microsoft definitely cannot.

No matter what you believe, it’s MY world. MY computer. MY money. MY investment, work, effort, and creativity. You will not force me to do it your way. This is not happening. Thanks for warning me, though. I’ll start saving now for the huge investment I will have to make in the future to change to a different system. And shame on all you tech authors for trying to sell this as a good thing. For not saying that the obvious end result of this shill game is the end of freedom of choice for anyone who buys into Microsoft’s new operating systems.

And so, Mr. Bott, you who wrote this article for ZDnet — Whatever happened to your journalistic ethics? Did they pay you to dump them or merely make it clear you have to tow the party line or else? I can’t believe you actually believe the drivel you’re writing. When I started in the high-tech biz as a writer, we limited the shilling for sponsored products to the “new products” columns and didn’t feature the lies. We were encouraged to use judgment and commonsense when writing lead articles because we still thought our subscribers were the people to whom we answered.

I’m embarrassed to be a member of the same profession. Ashamed. You should be too.


In conjunction with today’s Daily Prompt – Ready, Set, Done – free writing exercise. I think this may have taken more than 10 minutes (but not much more) and it is I have to say.

AUTUMN IN THE MOUNTAINS OF MAINE – GARRY ARMSTRONG

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We both took a few pictures. I didn’t take as many as Marilyn, but as it happens, a few of mine came out pretty well … so let’s all enjoy autumn a little longer. The first three are of Attean Pond, taken from the scenic view on Route 201.

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The photograph below was taken from the Margaret Chase Smith Library grounds in Skowhegan, the day we drove down to have lunch with Bette Stevens, Maine author and a good friend.

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GREAT RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY — GRETCHEN ARCHER – DOUBLE STRIKE

Double Dip is on sale this week. Just this week, for $.99. (We Lost Our Lease) (Fire Sale!) (BOGO) (Kidding. It’s a one-week promotional sale.) The best way to sell books has always been, and will always be, word of mouth. Telling a friend. Help me tell your friends. Share this link– not this post, share the LINK– on your page, tell your friends it’s on sale, then leave your name in the comments below. On Monday, 10.27, Rafflecopter will draw one name to win signed hardcover copies of the Davis Way series. All three books in hardcover, plus, maybe a little something extra. I pack a mean prize box.

Check out Gretchen Archer’s Facebook page!


It took me almost a week to read Double Strike. I could easily have read it in one marathon night, but I was enjoying it so much, I intentionally slowed down to make it last longer. I didn’t want to eat it in one bite, as it were.

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I didn’t think it was possible, but Gretchen Archer and her cast of characters have gotten even better — and they were already wonderful. Ms. Archer’s writing is crisp, sure-footed, smart. You can clearly hear the author’s voice, something that was a bit muffled in earlier books.

I have it on good authority the editors — this time — let her “have at it.” There are sections in Double Strike, descriptive, opinionated, and hilarious. So good I stopped and read them aloud to my husband. I don’t usually do that, but I was having a “wow” reading moment and had to share.

Davis Way and her associates are becoming more 3-dimensional. No more cartoons. Everyone is a person with motivation, a back story, and a unique personality. Even the “bad guys” are complicated. The interpersonal relationships are also filling out and filling up. Bradley Cole works with Davis, at the same casino. Ms. Archer could easily create an entire other series — the same events from Bradley’s point of view.

I loved it. The complexity and depth of old and new characters. The intricacies of a plot which the author handles perfectly, never dropping a stitch. I have read a lot of mysteries over the years. Thousands of mysteries — and I have never seen a plot of this complexity handled better or more elegantly.  Gretchen Archer is a champ and a pro. Each book is better than the last.

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Garry in the classic #savewalter Double Strike tee shirt!

Bradley’s growth as a character is particularly satisfying. He always had potential, but he was never around enough to become real. Now he’s in the middle of the action. All of the “regulars” get flushed out in this third book. Fantasy, No-Hair … even Bianca Sanders are growing new layers, developing depth.

Ms. Archer’s descriptions of southern culture are mind-blowing. I doubt they will make her popular in Alabama, but it’s some of the best, snarky, sharp, intelligent descriptive writing of a place and its culture I’ve ever read. Astute, witty. Highly quotable.

I am so impressed with Double Strike.  I hate to gush, but it was a privilege and a pleasure to read this, especially because I’ve been a fan of Gretchen Archer since Double Whammy. And I was sure  — knew for sure — that this author has “it,” the special something which separates an author from the herd, makes her unique, memorable. And I’m betting “best seller.”

I didn’t want Double Strike to end, but when I got to the final few chapters, I knew I could not put it down until I finished it.

It was 2:30 in the morning when I finished the book … and I read the last chapter three times, just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. A fantastic, climactic finish to this story! Our intrepid Davis Way has plenty of bread crumbs to follow into her next adventure. A satisfying conclusion for readers with enough dangly bits to make us come back and read the next installment.

Author, author!!

From the publisher:

Bellissimo Resort and Casino Super Spy Davis Way has three problems: She’s desperate to change her marital status, she has a new boss who speaks in hashtags, and Bianca Sanders has confiscated her clothes. All of which bring on a headache hot enough to spark a fire. Solving her problems means stealing a car. From a dingbat lawyer.

Bellissimo Resort and Casino Super Spy Davis Way has three goals: Keep the Sanders family out of prison, regain her footing in her relationship, and find the genius who wrote the software for Future Gaming. One of which, the manhunt part, is iffy. Because when Alabama hides someone, they hide them good.

DOUBLE STRIKE. A VIP invitation to an extraordinary high-stakes gaming event, as thieves, feds, dance instructors, shady bankers, kidnappers, and gold waiters go all in. #Don’tMissIt

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Double Strike is available from Amazon (release yesterday – October 21, 2014) in paperback, hardcover, and Kindle. Do not miss it! This is a great read. Fast, funny, witty, intelligent … and fun. You will like it. That’s a promise.

And you will love Walter, wherever he may be.

FIXING TYPOS IN MY LIFE STORY

IMAGINARY FRIEND – Weekly Writing Challenge


When I was little, I had imaginary playmates. I talked to them. They followed me around. I was never lonely because I had friends who understood me. After I started school, my shadow friends left, never to return. More accurately, they consolidated and acquired a more sophisticated persona.

“They” became a “she.” My narrator. And she as been with me my entire life. A companion for sure, but also a “shadow me.” She sits on my shoulder and almost never shuts up. Whatever has gone wrong in my life, I can blame it on the narrator. It’s all her fault.

My narrator remembers everything. She fills in my back story. Technically, I’m in charge of my life, but sometimes, I wonder. My narrator seems to know what will happen before I do. She never stops telling my story.

She is my third person perspective on life — as I live it in real time. I’m so accustomed to her running commentary, that during her brief silences, I become alarmed by her absence. She is so much a part of how I make sense of life (the universe and everything, thank you Douglas Adams), I’m unsure whether or not I could understand anything much without the accompanying narration.

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As long as I can remember, my narrator — who is me but not me — has had no name except maybe a form of mine. She is writer-Marilyn. She has a job. To fill the gaps in my story. To add “he said” and “she said.” To describe the things people do. Sometimes supply a little mood music, suggest changes to the script, and scenery. She “fictionalizes” reality.

My unreal pal distracts me and has no respect for “the moment.” No respecter of persons either, she will make me laugh precisely when I shouldn’t. Over the years, she has gotten me into trouble with bosses, teachers, spouses, and complete strangers. I can hardly explain it’s not me laughing at them … it’s that damned narrator.

Despite the perils of the relationship, I’ve learned a lot from my nameless friend. She has taught me to view life as an endless story with chapters, back stories, hilarity, weird characters, strange coincidences, tragedy, romance, hope, and despair. Because she weaves the story lines together into the epic of my life, I have a better world view, a more cohesive vision of how I fit into the fabric of others’ existences — and how other people fit into mine.

She complicates my life and at the same time, simplifies it.

My only job is to follow the script, even when it makes no sense, and to fix the typos when I spot them. My narrator takes care of the rest.