Seriously, I don’t understand how it happened. I don’t have a job. I am definitely, absolutely 100% retired. Yet — I’m always busy!
It’s probably all the reading. In recent months, there have been publications of great books by some of my favorite authors, many of whom hadn’t released a new one in quite a while.
You know I absolutely had to read them. Immediately!
There were two new books and a short story by Jodi Taylor, “The Something Girl,” and “The Rest is History.” book 8 of her St. Mary’s time travel series. Both were great. I’m crazy about the time travel books. Sometimes I need a “time travel fix” and listen to them again.
Then, “Mary Russell’s War: And Other Stories of Suspense” was released — a whole bunch of short stories about Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes. “The Furthest Station: A PC Peter Grant Novella” by Ben Aaronovitch was released and while it wasn’t as long as the other books, it was a day of reading.
Somewhere in there I also read the last three Michael Connelly books, two about Harry Bosch and another new one for another L.A. cop. The new Bosch stories are narrated by Titus Welliver, who plays Harry Bosch on the Amazon series, so it’s not just any old book. You can watch the series — or the movie — in your head and the right guy is the star.
I stumbled across “Strange Practice” by Vivian Shaw which is the kind of book you sincerely hope is the start of a new series. It was way too good to be a onefer! It’s about Dr. Greta Helsing who specializes in a medical practice for treating the undead. Great book and I hope it is followed by many more!
And then, Craig Johnson came out with a new Walt Longmire book — best one in quite a while — and there was Dan Brown’s “Origins” and Peter Clines’ “The Fold” and Neal Shusterman’s “Scythe” … and finally, to finish me off, the long-awaited “Robicheaux” by James Lee Burke. It has been a few years since his last Dave Robicheaux story and this was a honey. Simultaneously, up came this new book about Trump, “Fire and Fury” and …
You know? I just realized why I’m so busy.
As you may have realized, I’m a listener rather than a text reader. I started listening to audiobooks when I was commuting long distances. I got so into the habit of listening … and very much out of the habit of focusing on text … that I pretty much always listen and very rarely read. I do read a few things because they aren’t available as audiobooks and I want to read them … or I’m committed to reading them. To be fair, though, I love listening. It’s like watching a long movie in your head. It’s better than movies, really.
It’s definitely the books. And that isn’t all of my list, either. There are at least a dozen more still waiting for me to get to them.
I’m in the middle of “Fire and Fury” right now. Curiosity won on this book … but really, I just can’t resist a good book!
These are not necessarily my favorite posts, though a few are. These are posts that got a lot of hits — and are not reblogs. I also — with one exception — didn’t include photo-only posts. It was too much like comparing pineapples to raspberries.
NATIONAL ASSHOLE AWARENESS DAY– A multi-year winner because everyone knows a few assholes. I didn’t write this. I created a better insignia and cleaned it up, but I have no idea who really wrote it. It’s one of those things that goes around.
DON’T DRINK THE KOOL-AID – THE JONESTOWN MASSACRE – MARILYN ARMSTRONG – Written in 2012, rewritten each year since, usually on the anniversary of the event (November 18). it’s still worth a read. This is one of the few posts I’ve written which maybe deserves the attention. If I added the numbers for all its versions of publication, this one is probably the most popular post of all time for Serendipity.
INHERIT THE WIND AND THE SCOPES TRIAL – MARILYN ARMSTRONG – I wrote this in 2012. No one paid any attention to it. THIS year, because our political landscape has so altered, it got suddenly popular. It’s not about my writing. It is about Spencer Tracey’s amazing performance with a script largely based on the actual Scopes Trial. If you have never seen the movie — the original with Spencer Tracey — see it. It occurred more than 100 years ago and it might as well be right now.
BASEBALL: INTERVIEW WITH LYNN NOVICK – SEPTEMBER 1998 – I wrote it in 1998 and it was published in a very short-lived magazine on Martha’s Vineyard. I was digging through my old stories from before blogging and thought, “Hey, that was pretty good. Why don’t I publish it?” So I did.
I picked 25 posts. Some of the posts were a redo of others, so I picked one of several. Posts are not listed by their statistics. All were all popular. A few posts that don’t show here were re-blogs that did extremely well, but since none of us wrote them, they aren’t included. Also, photo posts — with one exception — are not listed. They are a different class and deserve their own place.
A lot of posts had very similar numbers, just three or four views separating them. To me, that meant they were all popular. I could easily have included another 25, but I got tired of cutting and pasting and it’s New Year’s Eve.
A big hand for Serendipity’s whole crew! We broke all our records this year. It’s the best year to date as we enter year number six. We are up by almost 60,000 views from 2016 and more than 150 views per day. The credit belongs us all — and you. Everyone who comes to read and comment, the folks who give me great ideas about what to write. Ideas that make me think and grow.
You are my friends. I listen to you, share your words, read your work. Truly, all of you have made my life so much better!
We have a small pond in our woods. It’s way far back and though I can see it from two windows in the house, I have never been there. There’s no path. Getting there would mean climbing boulders and crossing rough terrain. At least half the year, I can’t even see it. In the summer, the trees hide it. In winter, it’s buried under snow. As summer ends, it becomes so dry, there’s little to see. Right now, though, for this brief period after a lot of rain and before leaves come out, I can see it clearly, bright behind the trees.
It rained like crazy yesterday, so this morning, my little pond was shining in the sun. I could easily see it, so I tried to get some pictures. They aren’t good pictures. Even with a my longest lens, there are so many trees and branches and weeds in the way, the lens had a hard time focusing. But I know it’s there. Sometimes, it sort of disappears, but it pops up again.
During the five years of doing this daily, I’ve seen my numbers rise and fall. Sometimes dramatically. I have learned to not let statistics drive my writing. I am tenacious. Stubborn. Determined. If I think a post is good — mine or anyone else’s — I’ll keep putting it out there until it gets its due. Like that little pond. I may have to wait for rain, but it always rains. Eventually.
This has been a very rainy year.
I’ve been watching Serendipity’s numbers climb. Despite hearing repeatedly how “blogging is dying,” I’ve seen our statistics rise by at least 50% since last summer. I’m sure having so much help in writing makes a big difference as do the various points of view. We have more voices. More interesting ideas to think about. More dogs, too.
I always wonder what makes some sites “popular,” while others go off with a bang and then fade away. Sometimes, it’s because the blogger loses interest, gets busy with work or whatever else. Other times, there’s a sense of mental exhaustion. Good ideas popping when the blog began fade and there’s nothing new. It isn’t easy to write day after day.
I spent my life writing professionally, so I’m accustomed to writing. It isn’t exactly automatic, but I don’t suffer from writer’s block. Almost any idea can be a post. Before blogging, my best writing was done writing letters. When blogging arrived, I instantly realized I’d found my thing: blogging is letter writing with an audience.
On Serendipity, we don’t write the same way. We each have a personal style. I don’t always agree with everything, but that’s the point of not being the only writer. If I wanted it all to sound like me, I’d write it myself.
I like writing. I’ve always liked it, since the first time I picked up a pencil. Now that I blog, people read what I write. Before that, I wrote, but I no one read it. I’ve heard people say it doesn’t matter if anyone reads what they write, but I don’t buy it. Writing is meant to be read. That’s the point. If no one reads it, why bother?
Being a good writer and a pretty good photographer improves the blogging process. Varied content matters too. There’s so much available online. It is a busy, electronic world. You need to be entertaining. Five writers are a huge plus. No two people write the same Even when we write about the same thing, we each have our own way of doing it.
The pictures are pretty and our dogs are cute. Posts are funny — or at the least, humorous. On the whole, we don’t rant. Much. Okay, there’s an occasional rant, but it isn’t a daily event. Also, though we all have issues, we try not to dump it all on the blog. Everyone’s got their own bag of rocks to work through; you probably don’t need ours.
From the start of Serendipity, I got plenty of advice from WordPress. They assured me I needed a theme. I needed to have a direction because no one would want to read just anything. Personally, I’m a big reader of just anything. There are a few things I avoid. If it’s gory, I usually move on. Mostly I’m willing to try anything you throw at me. I figured I can’t be the only one who feels like that.
So I rejected their advice, though I did wonder if I was making a mistake. Ultimately, I figured if the posts are well written well and the pictures are pretty, a few people are bound to drop by for a look.
I was surprised — and still am — at all of you who have dropped by. Even more rewarded by how many of you have become friends. You are the biggest and happiest surprise of all. We may not be able to hop on an airplane to hang out for coffee, but we are friends.
From Ellin: CONGRATULATIONS MARILYN!
You started your blog five years ago, by yourself, from nothing. You now have accumulated a half million views! You have a crew of talented and devoted contributors to help you with content. You have faithful and enthusiastic regular readers. And you’re winning over new people every day. Your hard work has paid off and you deserve all the success you’ve achieved!
Thank you for including Tom and me in the Serendipity family. Here’s to the next 500,000 views!
For anyone who hasn’t noticed, there are “author pages” for everyone as well as a contact page under the graphic. So if you want to leave messages, please feel free!
Thanks to all my authors — and all our friends.
I know I’m small potatoes compared to many other sites. I know bloggers who have millions of hits and tens of thousands of followers. For me, this is fine. Moreover, it’s fun. I get to write whatever I want, when I want … or not. No one tells me what to say or in how many words in which to say it. If you have spent a lifetime writing as a business, you have no idea how special this is.
Thank you for finding Serendipity interesting enough to visit when there is so much else going on in the world. What are my chances of making it to a million? You think?
Regarding your fridge, is it organized or a mess inside?
It is an organized mess.
Do you prefer your food separated or mixed together?
Separated. I like to taste each thing as itself. Otherwise, I’d just throw it all in one big pan and cook it together.
Do you prefer reading coffee table books (picture), biographies, fiction, non-fiction, educational?
I mostly listen to audiobooks these days, but regardless of form, speculative science fiction and fantasy is my top genre with detectives and mysteries running a tight second and history running a very close third. I tend to read in waves. When I find a new author, I read everything he or she wrote, sequentially if possible and sometimes, twice. Favorite authors (in no particular author) include Gretchen Archer, Kim Harrison, Ben Aaronovitch, Mike Carey, Jim Butcher, Barbara Tuchman, Jodi Taylor, Connie Willis, Doris Kearns Goodwin, David McCullough, James Lee Burke, Jasper FForde, and Anne Golan. I’m forgetting dozens more because I haven’t had nearly enough coffee.
I have a particular love for anything funny, witty, involving time travel, and the undead (except zombies … I’m really not into zombies). I do not like dystopian future stuff because it depresses me. Reality is entirely dystopian enough. I do not need to feed the beast.
I also love a good thriller and historical fiction, as long as it isn’t too sappy. My love of history started long years ago with Thomas Costain’s books and of course, the brilliant and oft-overlooked Angelique series. Fiction got me hunting real history and taught me that no matter what people make up, the stuff that really happened is more bizarre. You can’t make that stuff up.
Close your eyes. Listen to your body. What part of your body is seeking attention? What is it telling you?
My right shoulder, the one with the bad rotator cuff, is trying to kill me. I wanted to get it repaired years ago, but was told (and I think I should have gotten another opinion on this) that it was beyond repair. Usually, if I’m careful, it doesn’t bother me. The problem is that I am short and that shoulder really hates when I raise my arms to get something from a cabinet … all of which are above me because I am really SHORT. The stretch and lift thing is lethal. I have reached a few times too many recently. Now, as I sit here with the heating pad on my back, I realize I am going to have to give it a rest. If I don’t, it will keep getting worse until I can’t do anything at all.
This is another reminder of the days when I rode horses and fell off a few. I yanked that right shoulder out of joint a couple of times. Eventually, it began popping out of the socket whenever I used the arm fully extended. I had to tuck the arm in and keep the elbow bent and below shoulder level. I didn’t count on shrinking as I got older and having every cabinet above my head.
My shoulder is telling me to stop, just stop. Give it a rest. This is extremely inconvenient because it’s my right shoulder, which is attached to my right arm, which is further attached to my right hand. Guess what? I’m a rightie.
Optional Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?
Grateful to the Pats for winning the Superbowl.
Shamelessness, thy name is sports fan. For nearly a hundred years, no team in New England won anything. Except the Celtics (basketball, for the sports-challenged) who had an incredible run from the late 1950s through the 1960s during which period they were the best (and dominant) team in the sport.
Otherwise, it was a long, barren time for New England fans. A pathetic and seemingly endless run of embarrassments, near misses, and coulda, shoulda, woulda. Then the world turned the corner into the 21st century. The Sox got new owners. In 2004, they won their first World Series since 1918. They won again 2007, and 2013.
Meanwhile, the Pats got Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
Brady wasn’t supposed to be the “real” quarterback. He was filling in for Drew Bledsoe, who was injured. Talk about Serendipity.
The rest, as they say, is history. This year’s Superbowl was, even as spectacular sporting events go, spectacular. If you aren’t a sports fan or are a hardcore “I hate the Patriots” sore-loser, too bad. Because that come-from-behind victory in the first-ever overtime in Superbowl history was amazing. The Pats were toast. They couldn’t win. Down by 25. Then, magically, the game was tied with just 57 seconds left on the clock.
Overtime! They won. With a politically challenged, 39-year-old quarterback, they won. Roger Goodell got a well-deserved and totally earnedbooing. The Patriots made all kinds of history. Falcon’s fans sat in their living rooms stunned, wondering what hit them. Perk up Falcons and fans. You’re a great young team. Time is on your side.
It was a very good night for New England and a bright spot in what has got to be the most depressing year I can remember.
As for next week? I can just hope it isn’t too awful.
There was a piece on NBC’s Sunday Morning show about a guy who always wanted to be an NHL goalie. He never made it. Instead, he wound up as the equipment manager for a Carolina team. He wasn’t a player, but he got to hang out with them, be part of the team. Then, one day, the goalie was injured. They needed a backup goalie.
Not even enough time to call one up from a minor league team … he got the call. Mostly, he sat on the bench, though he got to sit there in a full goalie’s uniform with his name on it. And for the final 7 seconds of the game, he was a player. He didn’t make the goal that saved the game and no one offered him a contract … but he could finally say he’d played in the NHL. As a goalie. His dream came true.
Most of us have dreams and occasionally, they come true. Or very close to true.
I got to hang out with Alfred Eisenstaedt on Martha’s Vineyard and talk to him about his photographs I had bought several books of his pictures (we eventually owned several of his actual pictures) and he went through the books, looked at each picture and could tell me what film he used, which lens, camera … and most important, what it was that inspired him to shoot that picture in that way.
About his arguably most famous “street shot” of the sailor kissing the lady in white on V-J Day in Times Square in New York:
V-J Day in Times Square (also known as V-Day and The Kiss) portrays a U.S. Navy sailor grabbing and kissing a stranger—a woman in a white dress—on Victory over Japan Day (“V-J Day”) in New York City’s Times Square on August 14, 1945. I asked him how he got the shot.
He said “I was walking around Times Square with my Nikon. Everyone was celebrating, and I was looking for something special, I wasn’t sure exactly what. Then, I saw the sailor in his dark outfit kissing the woman in white. I swung my Nikon into place and just shot. I had the right lens, the right film. It came out well, I think.” Yes, it came out well. Very well.
I will never get that picture or any picture like it because I can’t “just shoot.” It’s not for want of trying. I see a shot, but I stop to think. One second of thinking is more than enough time to lose the shot. In a second, the hawk takes to the air and the kiss is ended. That special look on his or her face vanishes.
In short, I think too much to be a good street photographer. Fortunately, I think just enough to be a pretty good landscape photographer. Even a sunset moves slowly enough for me to get a few pictures before it goes to black. Which is why I always carry a camera.
Blogging has given me other pieces of my dreams. I didn’t become a best-selling, world-famous author, but I have gotten to chat with authors whose work is best-selling and widely read. And who I admire. Every once in a great while, I get a “like” or a “tweet” from a favorite author. I’m as thrilled now as I was the first time I made contact with one of my favorite authors.
I suppose I hope by being in contact with greatness, a bit of the star-dust will rub off. On me
I probably will never need to buy another book. I’m a popular reviewer. When I worked at Doubleday, I was extremely popular there, too. Probably because I read the books. So many reviewers don’t read the books they review. You can tell when you read their reviews that all they did was skim the first couple of pages and work from the publisher’s summaries. TV critics seem to be doing the same thing these days. Sometimes movie reviewers, too. It’s why we read a book or see a movie, then check reviews and wonder if it’s the same book or movie.
I remember at Doubleday I would discover that the publisher’s summary was factually wrong. Wrong names for major characters. Wrong relationships between characters. Incorrect plot description. It was clear whoever wrote the summary had not read the book.
So … who did read the book? Did anyone read it? That was in the mid 1970s, when most people did read, at least sometimes. Now? Does anyone read books before they are published, and have reviewers read the books they are praising or panning?
Until this year, I was a judge for a major book award. I did it for more than a decade. It started out as fun. You’d get a bunch of books, read, review, and rate them, picking a few to move on to the finals. A few years ago, they started sending me more books … so many I could not possibly read even half of them in the allotted time. Last year, I think I had almost 100 books to judge with an average of more than 300 pages per book. And just five weeks to read them all.
It was hopeless. A couple of books were more than 500 pages. These were books that needed considerable stage-setting before the story began. Depending on genre, authors may devote a couple of hundred pages to explaining how their world works. If there’s magic. Rules of the physical world. Some geography. Who and what gods are extant — or were. What languages are spoken. A bit of history, so characters don’t walk onto an empty stage.
Tolkien was a genius at world-building, which is why he remains the gold standard for the fantasy genre.
If you only have an hour to give each book you’re judging, how can you, in good faith, even get a sense of what the book is about, much less if it’s good? Were you to put J.R.R. Tolkien to this test, you’d never get out of Hobbiton. More than 300 pages of Lord of the Rings is geography, language, history, and demographics.
All history books require substantial background, as do historical novels and time-travel books that are historical novels in science fiction garb. A lot of writers use “the wormhole in time” to get readers to be “in the time” rather than looking back at it. It’s been a popular ploy for generations.
So this year, I said no to judging. It wasn’t fair to the authors to judge them without giving them a proper reading. I have to wonder how many other “awards” are done this way, with over-burdened judges who have too many books or whatever to review without adequate time in which to do it. I’m sure I was not the only one who got down to the wire and was unable to even skim several books before “judging them.” I wouldn’t do it again.
For all of these reasons, I’m diligent about reviewing books — or anything else. I’m not getting paid and reviews won’t make me famous or rich. They won’t even buy me a quick meal at Mickey D’s. But it is a big deal to authors. Reviews make or break books, even for established authors.
I suspect all authors are perpetually being judged. Reviewed. Each book is a trial by fire. A book doesn’t sell and suddenly, your publisher forgets your name. The industry wants nothing to do with a failing author. Even if you have written a string of major best-sellers, you are only as good as the sales figures of your most recently published volume.
I doubt any of the great authors of the past would thrive under these conditions. Can you imagine Hemingway doing his own PR? Or Capone? Can you imagine Shakespeare dealing with focus groups and fighting for his contract to be renewed?
So I do my bit. Not for money or glory, or even for the authors, who I love. I do it because if no one cares about the quality of books being published, eventually it will all be pulp and garbage. There will be classics from days of yore and nothing new worth reading.
I have had people tell me I’m stupid for doing so much work for free, but authors don’t have money — and publishers won’t pay. Even successful authors — unless Hollywood has bought their books — aren’t financially secure. Maybe Stephen King and Michael Crichton don’t have to worry about where the next check will come from, but every other author I know — and at this point, I know more than a few — are scraping by. Many still keep their day jobs because there are mortgages to pay and kids to feed.
You have to love writing for its own sake. As a profession, authoring is a hard and rocky road. Glory and riches come to few. Maybe publishers get rich. I hope someone is making money, because as far as I can tell, most authors don’t.
Publisher: BQB Publishing — June 25, 2013 Category: Thriller/Suspense
Growing up in the secluded mountain town of Winston, Colorado – the middle of nowhere – carries its own burdens. Especially when you aren’t the kind of guy who gets much respect from anyone. Not that Sean Coleman has earned much respect. He’s always been a bully, even when he was in high school. His manners and personal habits are distasteful and he’s a drunk, the kind of drunk who gets mean then falls face down and lays there until morning.
The only thing that’s kept him going is his work as a security guard at his uncle’s company. It’s not much of a job, but Sean takes the responsibility seriously. Not far below his bad mannered alcoholic exterior, he wants to be a hero. He’s addicted to crime shows and he has an active — many would say overactive — imagination.
Whatever else is wrong with him, he’s no dummy. Sean is a keen observer of his surroundings, a man who notices small things, details others miss or dismiss. It’s gotten him into trouble in the past and it’s about to do it again. Early in the morning following a particularly unfortunate night of bad choices and heavy drinking, Sean is the sole witness to a bizarre suicide. The man is a mystery, a total stranger — rare in a tiny rural town. Slowed by difficult terrain and his own sluggish, hung-over reflexes, his attempt to prevent the death are unsuccessful. Equally unsuccessful but much more embarrassing are his attempts to convince local law enforcement something really happened.
There’s not a shred of solid evidence. The body is gone, flushed away by the powerful current of the river into which it fell. Most people think Sean’s account is his imagination or an outright lie. Yet a there are some folks who know him well and harbor a nagging suspicion there might be something to his strange story.
Lacking a body or hard evidence, Sean finds he has become — again — the town’s biggest joke. But this time, he knows what he saw. He can’t let it go. When he finds a few scraps of evidence, he determines to follow the trail wherever it leads. He’s going to see this through to a conclusion. For good or ill. Because he’s been living a life he no longer wants. He needs a win, something to restore his credibility with the town, his family, and above all, himself.
Sean Coleman needs redemption.
With no money or even a cell phone, a credit card or a plan … armed with a fierce determination to prove himself and his father’s old 45 revolver, Sean embarks on a quest. It takes him cross-country to uncover a network of evil uglier and more dangerous than he imagined possible.
Sean Coleman is complex. An unlikely protagonist, a gray man in a black and white world. The theme reminded me of Clint Eastwood’s “Gran Torino” – the gruff, anti-social protagonist looking for salvation in a most unlikely way.
FROM A DEAD SLEEP is a page turner, an exciting, well-written thriller with a solid back story and more than enough plot twists to keep you guessing. Most interesting is the slow discovery of Sean as his personality is peeled back, layer by layer. Sean Coleman is not easy to like, yet you quickly find yourself paying him grudging respect, even admiration.
Enigmas are nested inside mysteries. It’s a lot of book and nothing is as it seems. The journey is well worth taking.
About the Author:
“Some writers are thoughtful. Some have style. John Daly has both. When I read his work, it’s time well spent.” – Bernard Goldberg, New York Times bestselling author of ‘Bias‘.
A lifelong Coloradoan, John Daly graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with a degree in business administration and computer information systems. He spent the next fifteen years developing accounting software and Internet-based work-flow collaboration solutions.
With a thirst for creative expression that went beyond the logic and absolutes of computer programming, John developed an interest in writing. His early work included newspaper editorials and film and television reviews for entertainment websites. He later became drawn toward more substantive commentary on world events. He currently writes political, cultural, and media analysis columns for the website of Bernard Goldberg, former CBS News journalist and The New York Times bestselling author.
John felt compelled to take his writing to the next level after watching a television interview with former NFL football player, Tim Green. Inspired by Green’s career transition from a professional athlete to an accomplished author, John found the motivation to begin work on his first novel, FROM A DEAD SLEEP.
FROM A DEAD SLEEP is the story of a profoundly flawed man who witnesses a tragic event that no one else believes, and that man’s quest for the truth and redemption. The mystery novel unfolds in the dense mountain ranges of Colorado where John has spent much time camping, hiking, and enjoying the outdoors.
John lives in Greeley, Colorado, with his wife and two children.