Finite Creatures – At what age did you realize you were not immortal? How did you react to that discovery?

I am not sure I ever thought I was immortal — probably because I didn’t think about it at all. Until sometime in college, I did not ponder the nature of life and death.

College was a peak time for that kind of mental muck-raking. Was it the drugs? No, I’m inclined to think it was going to classes. You see, college presents no danger unless you actually attend lectures and stuff. If you just hang out on the quad, it’ll be okay. But I took courses like  “The Philosophy of Religion” and went to lectures on Phenomenology. And, I had a steady assignment of existential novels to read by Sartre, Camus, et al. Deep stuff. The kind of books I totally won’t look at any more.

96-Me Young in Maine

That this hyper-intellectual phase of my life coincided nicely with my first actual near-death experience was pure chance. It didn’t improve my personality, that’s for sure. There is nothing more aggravating than a teenage college student contemplating the philosophical meaning of life. And death. Had I not already been me, I would have had to expel myself as a punishment for being so annoying.

I’m pretty sure all of us thought we were very smart and had a solid grip on the life and death stuff. Even adding on my botched spine surgery — which nearly killed me for real and all — I was still an obnoxious wise-ass with an inflated sense of my intellectual prowess.

Things have really improved. Now I’m an aging senior citizen wise-ass. Oh, and I am pretty sure — not 100%, but maybe 90% — I am not immortal. Eventually, I’ll know for 100% certain.

I’ll get back to you on that.


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.

double strike gretchen archer

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.

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.

Double Strike Gretchen Archer

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

Double Strike is available from Amazon (release scheduled for 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.


Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: Week 34

I think every photographer has a few subjects that he or she just loves shooting, but no one quite “gets it.” Except me … and other photographers.

My oddball thing are wires, hoses, knots, rope, and other things that are complicated and twisted. Tangles of things, including roads. There’s no logical reason why I find these interesting to shoot, but I do. And, here are a few!


wires and blue sky


old number two coil hose

cows in the pasture


Fourth Wall – You get to spend a day inside your favorite movie. Tell us which one it is — and what happens to you while you’re there.


I grew up yearning for a horse and devoured any book about them. My favorites books were the Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series. I probably read the book so many times its cover fell apart.


All through my childhood, Walter Farley wrote a steady stream of new Black Stallion books  – and I read every one of them. About his colts and fillies. About Alec Ramsey, who grew from a teenage boy to a man in the course of the series. Of Henry Daily, the old horse trainer whose career is revived by his accidental encounter with Alec and The Black. Many stories, as the years went on, were about the racing stable Alex and Henry build in upstate New York for which The Black was the founding stud. To this day, I know more about horses and horse racing than most people … because Walter Farley told me all about it in book after book.

Throughout my young years, I wished they would make The Black Stallion into a movie. I wanted to see The Black, to see Alec ride him. To see him come from behind and become the greatest horse to ever run on a track. I was bewitched by horses and was convinced I would need nothing else in this life if I had a horse.


Oddly, the great Secretariat’s real accomplishments — winning the Triple Crown in 1973 — remarkably mirrored those of the fictional Black. Watching Secretariat’s career — in the real world — made up for never having seen The Black race.

I never got a horse. Gradually real life overtook my fantasy life. College, work, husband, baby, home, friends replaced dreams of riding bareback on the greatest stallion of them all.

But the magic wasn’t over me because in 1979, Francis Ford Coppola made the movie I’d yearned for since childhood. He based the movie, The Black Stallion, on the first of Walter Farley’s Black Stallion books, the one he wrote in 1941. In making the movie, they changed the story some. This would have made me crazy as a kid, but by the time I saw the movie — in an old theater in Jerusalem, Israel — I was a 30-year-old mother living overseas and able to cope with relatively minor digressions from the original tale.

Last night, Turner Classic Movies showed The Black Stallion. Again. I’ve seen it before, obviously. Many times. Every time I see it, it is seeing it for the first time as I am swept away to a desert island for the adventure of a lifetime. Even if you aren’t a great horse lover, the score and the cinematography are so extraordinary, the movie is like a dream. They set the story in its original time period, the early 1940s which helps augment the dreamlike effect.

Black Stallion Beach.jpg

I want to be on that island with The Black. To ride him along the edge of the ocean, free from everything but the sun, the wind, the sand beneath my horse’s pounding hoofs. I would give a lot for just one day to live that dream.

As a movie, The Black Stallion is stunning. It’s a paean to horses, nature, and overcoming adversity. You don’t have to be a kid. It also contains the least dialogue of any movie since the talkies took over Hollywood. Director Carroll Ballard tells the story with luscious cinematography combined with a breathtaking soundtrack … music fusing with images to wrench your heart.

If you love animals and especially horses, this is a movie you must see. If you have seen it, see it again. Let it sweep you away to that island and a world out of time.


Sometimes, I decide I need something. Something better than what I already own. Like … for argument’s sake … a new coffee machine.

When we were leaving for vacation two weeks ago, we’d driven a few miles before we realized we hadn’t turned off the coffee machine. It’s a very basic Mr. Coffee. Add coffee, water, push start. A few minutes later, coffee is ready. Maybe not THE best coffee on earth, but pretty good, strong, and it’s stays hot until you turn it off. Manually. By pushing the “off” button. Which is what we had forgotten to do.

To be fair, I thought Garry had turned it off and Garry thought I had turned it off. There was no one at home to call except the dogs and they don’t do coffee. Or electrical appliances. We drove back, turned Mr. Coffee off, made a u-turn and were back on our way.

We’ve gone through a variety of fancy coffee makers. Some came with a thermal carafe. One of them ground the beans, then brewed coffee. We’ve had coffee makers famous for producing exceptional coffee. Or making coffee faster, and/or keeping it hotter.

The grind and brew machine — don’t remember the brand, but it was expensive — was such a pain in the butt to clean, we gave it up after a couple of weeks. I notice it is no longer offered for sale. Another great idea down the tubes. We went back to our basic, dependable Mr. Coffee.

A classy Melitta which had the reputation of making a superior brew failed to impress us. It was okay, but nothing to write home about. A few months after we got it, it developed a leak, flooded the kitchen. I am amazed at how much water 12-cups can seem to be when it is sloshing around the floor. Not to worry. I re-installed Mr. Coffee.

A couple of years ago, Mr. Coffee seemed tired, so we purchases a 12-cup Black and Decker coffee machine. It promised to brew coffee faster while keep it hotter. It did both. Except the coffee was awful. It is the only coffee machine I threw in the trash when it was in fine working order. No one wanted it. I popped over the Wally World and bought a basic 12-cup Mr. Coffee.

After the incident in which both of us forgot to turn off Mr. Coffee, I was inspired to try a different solution. I bought — through Amazon — a lovely 12-cup Cuisinart brewer with a thermal carafe. Guaranteed to keep the coffee hot all day without leaving the electricity on. It arrived yesterday. I immediately unpacked it and made a pot of delicious coffee which, as promised, stayed very hot in for more than 6 hours. I was impressed.

I set it up for this morning. When got to the kitchen, I pushed “on,” but my beautiful new coffee maker just sat there. Silent. None of that comforting hissing, dripping, brewing sound. No wonderful scent of coffee. After 30 seconds, it turned itself off. I reread the directions. On the Microsoft theory (when it doubt, reboot), I unplugged it, counted to 20. Plugged it in again. Turned it on. Waited. Nothing.

My son came upstairs. Read the instructions, then did the same thing with the same results. Nothing. “It’s broken,” he assured me.

As it happened, I had a spare (brand new, still in the box) Mr. Coffee in the closet. I had bought it on sale almost a year ago because I could not contemplate a morning without coffee.

As soon as I can pack it up and get it to UPS,  fancy pants Cuisinart goes back it goes to Amazon. I talked to the rep there and she asked me if I wanted a replacement, but I don’t. Given our track record, I’ll stay with Mr. Coffee. It appears to be the only coffee machine we will ever own which makes good coffee with no fuss. No problems, no complications. Easy to clean, cheap to replace.

Our coffee machine is a basic 12-cup Mr. Coffee.  Accept no substitutes. We just have to remember to it off.