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 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 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.

WANDERING SENIOR WITH BOOK

Verbal Confirmation – To be, to have, to think, to move — which of these verbs is the one you feel most connected to? Or is there another verb that characterizes you better?


Confused. That would be my verb-du-jour. Except it’s not a verb. Maybe I am not a verb at all. Maybe I’m a noun or — heaven forbid — an adverb or an adjective! Horrors!

Take last night.

I recently read Gretchen Archer’s most recent book. It has not yet been released. Due out October 24th. Double Strike (A Davis Way Crime Caper Book 3) is really great … definitely the best yet and I loved the first two books, so I really adored this most recent one.

I haven’t reviewed it yet because it’s a bit early. I don’t like to review unreleased books longer than a week before they become available. I want people to be able to actually buy the book, not have to wait a month or two before it’s ready to be downloaded or ordered.

I’d been keeping the book on the end table next my recliner. This is where I spend most of my waking time. I have a laptop here, Garry sits next to me (he has his own laptop). And there’s the big TV, a good little CD player in case we want music. Robby the Robot in case we need entertainment … and usually a bouquet of  flowers because my husband is a peach.

I decided to put Double Strike in the bookcase in the office where I have all Gretchen’s other books and mementos.

I picked up the book. I fully intended to take it to the bookcase until I realized another book was missing … one I was planning to take with me and read on vacation next week. It wasn’t where I thought it should be, so I went to the office, thinking maybe I left it on my desk, or in the other office — might I have put in the bookcase? How about the bedroom, with the miscellaneous books and CDs I’m planning to listen to or read?

This other book — Savior by Martha Kennedy — was in none of these places and I started to panic. What could I have done with it? The older I get, the more absent-minded I become. I kept looking until I realized I was looking right at it. I had put it — because Martha and I share a passion for Robby the Robot — right next to Robby on the coffee table. Logical, in a non-linear way.

75-MyBooks-NK-05

That was when I realized I had no idea where I’d put Gretchen’s book. I’d had it in hand when I got up because my initial mission was to put it in a safer place, but I’d gotten distracted looking for Martha’s book … and obviously had put it down somewhere.

Where did I leave it? I had been in 5 different rooms and the hallway. I started in the living room, went to my office. Then down the hall to Garry’s office, where we have the big bookcases. From there, I went to our bedroom — with a quick side trip to the bathroom. I had stopped, made the bed, decided to change into my big tee-shirt because it was late and I was tired of elastic.

I then went back to the living room and watched some TV with Garry. The newest NCIS and NCIS: New Orleans (I think that’s going to be a keeper) and The Black List (another favorite). We record everything because zapping the commercials is so satisfying.

Now, it was bedtime. I gathered up my Kindle, my cup of juice, my bag of medications and a protein bar. Down the hall to the bedroom. Which was when I realized I had no idea where I put Double Strike. I retraced my steps to the best of my ability, but couldn’t find it anywhere. I knew it had to be in the house because I hadn’t left the house. I had put it down somewhere en route to somewhere else.

Eventually I found it. It was on the keyboard of the electric organ. Under Garry’s copy of Malkin’s movie references. I don’t want to think about how it got there. I picked it up, gave it a little kiss because I was so very glad to see it, then took it to the bookcase. Where, after rearranging a few things to make room for it, it has finally gone to live where I originally meant to put it.

You ask me about verbs? Verbs? Moi?

Color me befuddled. Confused. Is there a verb for that? As in … to be or not to be?

NO GREAT DIVIDE

The Great Divide – The Daily Prompt for Monday, September 29, 2014

When reading for fun, do you usually choose fiction or non-fiction? Do you have an idea why you prefer one over the other?


There is no great divide. You must have made that up. Or maybe you don’t read much because if you did, you would know that literature is a continuity, a world without walls.

All my friends read. Friends and acquaintances, we read everything. Anything. Non-fiction and fiction, fantasy, mystery, and science fiction. The back of cereal boxes and magazines. Newspapers. Science and biography. Auto-biography and historical fiction.

I’m not sure there’s a whole lot of difference between historical fiction and regular old history anyhow. There’s a lot of fiction, made-up nonsense, wishful thinking and mythology in traditional history … and a lot of truth in fiction. Sometimes, the freedom an author gets under the cloak of fiction gives him or her the opportunity to write truer and reach more people than he or she could accomplish in an academic setting.

books and the duke

Those who love books don’t worry much about such distinctions. We pick books based on whether or not they will engage us. Teach us something we want to know. Make us laugh, cry, grow, change.

Most importantly, books take us out of ourselves. They transport us into a bigger world and give us food for thought and tools for understanding.

May a day never come when I confine my reading to a single genre, rejecting all others.

May the world never force such an awful choice upon me or anyone.

THE END OF THE REPUBLIC – IMPERIUM, ROBERT HARRIS

Cover of "Imperium"

Imperium, by Robert Harris

Random House – Sep 7, 2010

Fiction – 496 pages

It’s déjà vu all over again as we travel back with author Robert Harris to Republican Rome just before it became Imperial Rome. We complain loudly and frequently about government corruption, speculate about conspiracies. Brood darkly on the failure of government to address issues of inequality. Deplore the bribery of officials. The world, we say, is going to Hell.

Except that government went to Hell a long time ago and you could easily argue that government — all government — was always a bit hellish. Compared to Imperial Rome, our government is a clean machine, clean as driven snow. It’s all a matter of perspective. Republican Rome was in most ways a model for good government, but over the centuries, corruption ate away at it. By the time it became imperial, it was heading into its final days.

Reading history puts the world in which I live into perspective. Whatever problems we face, we — the human family — have faced them before. We survived. It’s important to remember our ability to survive is greater (for the most part) than our ability to screw up.

English: Bust of Cicero, Musei Capitolini, Rom...

Cicero, Musei Capitolini, Roma Italiano: Bust of Cicero, Musei Capitolini, Rome (Photo: Wikipedia)

Imperium, by Robert Harris, is about a guy named Cicero. You’ve probably heard of him. Famed as a lawyer, even more famed as an orator, Cicero rose to fame and power during a critical cusp in history as Rome was about to change from republican to imperial. Julius Caesar had just stepped onto the stage of history. It was the beginning of the greatest imperial power the earth had ever seen … and the end of the greatest republic the world ever knew. Perspective.

Marcus Cicero started his journey to power as an outsider from the provinces. His first significant legal case put him head-to-head with the dangerous, cruel and utterly corrupt Gaius Verres, governor of provincial Sicily. Using his stunning oratorical abilities and dogged determination in the face of impossible odds, Cicero beats Verres in court. He then goes on to triumph over many powerful opponents, making friends — but far more enemies — along the way.

Cicero seeks ultimate power — imperium. His allegiance is to the Republic. Cicero’s secretary and slave, Tiro — the inventor of shorthand — is the “author” of this biography of his master. Tiro was at Cicero’s right hand throughout his career, by his side, through triumph and catastrophe. Through his voice the world of ancient Rome is brought to life.

It’s a fascinating story. Pompey and Julius Caesar stride across the stage of this deeply corrupt, depraved, dangerous and strangely familiar society.

Robert Harris is a brilliant story-teller and author of historical fiction. He lures us into a violent, treacherous world of Roman politics simultaneously exotically different from and startlingly similar to our own. I read it on Kindle, then listened to the very fine version available from Audible.com. I recommend both most highly.

This is part one of a duology.  The second volume in the American printing is titled Conspirata. In Great Britain the same book is titled Lustrum.

Both books are available on Kindle from Amazon and as a paperback from most sellers.