ON NOT BEING A CULTURE SNOB

I read a post about how dreadful (yet gripping) romance novels can be. It’s true. They are the potato chips of the literary world. Bet you can’t consume just one! Even if you don’t like them (and mostly, I don’t, much), they grab you and won’t let you go, even though you know in advance exactly what is going to happen, pretty much from the opening page.

That’s not the point of these books. If as a girl, you read the back of cereal boxes, romance novels are the next step up. I’m not sure what the literary equivalent is for guys, but I’m sure there is one.

netflix for books

As the former editor of the Doubleday Romance Library, I can tell you our research showed readers of romance novels to be far better educated than average readers. Many have advanced degrees in the sciences. They read romance novels exactly because they are mindless pulp. They aren’t looking to be informed or improved, to have their world expanded, reading-level or awareness raised. They want a book they can pick up, read, put down. If life gets in the way, they can just forget them without regret.

I read each 3-book volume, one per month. It contained three romances: 2 modern with a Gothic sandwiched between. Every novel had the same plot, the same outcome. They sold gangbusters.

Regardless of what we, as writers, would like, people don’t necessarily read books because they are good. Me? I often avoid “good” books. I don’t want to go where the book would take me. I’m not stupid or lacking in culture. I just don’t want to read it.

Why? Too depressing, too intense, too serious, too ugly, too educational. Too real. I read for the same reasons I watch TV and movies. To be entertained. I am not seeking enlightenment. Perhaps I should rephrase that. I am no longer seeking enlightenment. If I ain’t enlightened by now, I’m pretty sure it won’t happen in this lifetime.

The wondrous thing about the world of books is there are so many books. Enough genres, themes, and styles for anyone. Everyone. An infinity of literature so no matter what your taste –low-brow, high-brow, middle-brow, no-brow — there are thousands of books waiting for you. That’s good. I’d rather see someone reading a bad book than no book.

I’m not a culture snob. I think reading crappy novels is fine if you like them. Watching bad TV is fine too. Snobs take the fun out of reading. While I’m not a fan of romance novels, if you are, that’s fine. Since I love reading about vampires and witches, I’d be a hypocrite to act like your taste is somehow inferior to mine.

These days, I’m rarely in the mood for serious literature. Tastes change with the years. Mine has changed more than most. Life has been a very serious business for me. When I read, watch TV, or see a movie, I am happy to escape from reality.

Finally, my favorite professor at university — a man I believe was profound and wise in every way that counted — was a big fan of Mickey Spillane. He said there was a much truth in his books. I believe for him, there was.

SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION

A friend asked me why I do this, why I blog. So I asked her why she plays golf.

We do what we do because we love it, need it. Or both. Because, despite the fact the many bloggers pretend they “write for themselves,” it’s untrue. We blog because we want other people to read our words, to connect with our ideas. If we wanted to write “for ourselves,” we’d keep a diary.Garry - Writer Christmas Day

Why are bloggers so coy about wanting an audience? Is it because they aren’t getting a good response, so instead of trying to figure how to bring in more readers and followers, they say they don’t care whether or not anyone reads them?

And then when one of us is moderately successful and popular, they get all squinchy-eyed and moralistic, as if  we’ve ruined the purity of the blogging experience.

Really? Seriously? When did we achieve that lofty spiritual level where we are above worldly concerns … like popularity and success? The hypocrisy of it takes my breath away. If that is how you really feel, you shouldn’t be blogging.

We all care. Anyone who says otherwise is lying — probably to themselves and definitely to us. We all want to be read, to be seen, to have an audience. If we take pictures, we want people to look at our images and say “Wow, that’s amazing.” Because we want to be amazing.

Writing is like breathing. If I don’t write, I suffocate. My friend?  She needs to compete. To play golf. Or she will suffocate.

TELL ME HOW TO WRITE

I can’t begin to count the number of people who tell me they want to be writers, but don’t know how to start.

That they ask the question suggests they will never be writers. Writers write. No one has to tell you how or when. You write and will keep doing it because it’s not what you do, it’s what you are. You may not write brilliantly, but you will write. You’ll get it right eventually. Doing is learning.

I started writing as soon as I could read. Putting words on paper was the same as speaking, but took longer. I didn’t mind the extra time because I could go back and fix written words. Being able to change the words and keep changing them until they said precisely what I wanted them to say was the prize.

I was socially awkward and my youthful verbal skills not well-suited to my age and stage in life. I wasn’t good at sports. No one wanted me on the team. In retrospect, I can understand it, but when I was a kid, it hurt.

Games and other social activities let you become popular, make friends, and do those other things which matter to kids. I couldn’t do that stuff, but I could write. And read. I might be a klutz, but words let me build worlds.

75-BookStory HP-2

If you are going to be a writer, you know it. Practice will make you better, help you understand how to build plots,  produce books publishers will buy. But writing itself is a gift. If you have it, you know it.

Writers have words waiting to be written, lining up for the opportunity to be set on paper or in the computer. It may take a while for you to find what you want to write about. But you will write.

Talent comes in an endless number of flavors. If you are a musician, you’ll find a way to make music. The same with painting, photography, drawing, running, hitting a baseball or throwing one so that it just skims that outer corner of the plate at 96 miles per hour. Mathematics, engineering, architecture … creativity and talent are as varied as the people who use it.

Ghost Photographer

ADVICE FOR THE BEWILDERED 

My advice to hopeful writers is simple. Write.

Don’t talk about it. Do it. Write a lot, as often as you can, even if most of it is crap and you won’t show it to anyone. Sooner or later, you’ll find your way. If you don’t write, it’s your loss, but it may also be the world’s loss. You never know how good you can be if you don’t try.

This blog is my outlet for the millions of words stuffed in my head. Yes, I really want you to read it. It matters to me and I see no reason to pretend it doesn’t.

On the other hand, I hate golf. Can’t figure out why anyone would want to walk around an enormous lawn hitting a little white ball. I can’t think of anything more boring, but I know a lot of golfers. They live for it. The rest of the week is just a pause between tee times.

So, if you don’t get why I write, that’s okay. You don’t have to get it. That I get it and can do it and other people read it … that’s fine.

You do your thing, I’ll do mine. And we will all find happiness doing stuff we love.

ALL TECHNOLOGY IS MAGIC — WALDO AND MAGIC, INC.

waldo and magic incI’m astonished how many people have read these two novellas and miss the point. Some readers apparently can’t see any connection between the two stories. They think these novellas are in a single volume by a fluke or “to fill up space.” Either they didn’t really read them or they are conceptually challenged, unable to make a logical leap between two related ideas without a flow chart.

The point is that technology is a based on our belief it will work. As long as we believe in it, it functions. If or when we stop believing, it won’t. It’s all magic.

When we lose faith in technology, magic jumps in and becomes the new technology. The difference between one and the other is functionally negligible. The stories’ plots are irrelevant. It’s the concept that counts.

I read these books about 50 years ago. I haven’t read them since, but remember them. Meanwhile, I can’t remember the plot of whatever book I read last week. These were original concepts when first introduced in the 1940s, was still original 25 years later when I read it. Probably still original today, more than 60 years after the stories were first published.

The best science fiction is concept-driven rather than character or plot-driven. These two have stuck with me for a lifetime. Both novellas are based on a unified concept: We believe in what works — and what works is what we believe.

Nothing is certain anymore. Nothing. Chaos is king and magic is loose in the world.

Available on Kindle, in paperback and from Audible.com.

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.

The_12-Foot_Teepee_Cover_for_Kindle

teepee book back

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.

I wrote “The 12-Foot Teepee” about seven years ago. I think. Hard to remember. So much has happened since then and I’m in a very different place spiritually. In other ways, I’m in the same place.

The lessons I learned are as relevant today as they were then.

I don’t know if my “now” place is better, but it’s different. Life … for all of us … is a moving target. Change is part of being alive and we are not the same people from one part of our life to the next. That’s a good thing because if we stop changing, we die — mentally and emotionally. Change IS life. However — when you are a writer, it’s more than a little unnerving to encounter a past self in your own book.

It’s difficult for me to appreciate “Teepee” the way others do. I tend to focus on how I should have phrased that part differently. It reminds me how much I and my world have evolved since I wrote it, which is sometimes as if I am channeling an alternate version of me.

I’ve learned a lot about using Photoshop since I put this together and I think I’d make a classier cover now than I did back then. Mind you, I’m not unhappy with the cover. Pretty good for an amateur.

In any case, I can’t replace these covers. The teepee no longer 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.

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.

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.

72-DblStrkT-1

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

Double Strike Gretchen Archer

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.

DOUBLE STRIKE — GRETCHEN ARCHER — A NEW DAVIS WAY CAPER

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 the book. 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 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.

TO RIDE FREE WITH THE WIND

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.


NO ANIMAL IS HARMED OR HURT. NOTHING BAD HAPPENS TO ANY ANIMAL DURING THIS MOVIE (OR IN ANY OF THE BOOKS, EITHER). IT’S ALL GOOD, ALL HAPPY ENDINGS. PHEW!


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.

Black_stallion_poster

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.

bucephalus

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.