WORLD SHARING: ALMOST A NEW WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

Share Your World – April 23, 2018

If you could have an endless supply of any food, what would you get?

English muffins. No, really. You can eat them for breakfast and they make a great crunchy sandwich. They come in a million flavors, but a plain one with port wine cheddar on it? Delicious beyond human understanding.

But best? A simple toasted muffin with some orange marmalade or other jam and a cup of great coffee is one of the world’s most affordable and totally delicious treats.

List at least five movies or books that cheer you up.

Boy, this is a tough question. My head is so full of movies and books, characters and stories!

Movies

Murphy’s Romance
Blazing Saddles
Trading Places
Tombstone (all that delicious violence)
Rustler’s Rhapsody

Books:

This gets hard. So many books, so little time.

Connie Willis’s Bellwether (1996) – No matter how many times I read it, it makes me smile, laugh, and think … at the same time!

Robert H. “Rob” Reid wrote Year Zero: A Novel, the only science fiction novel I ever read with truly entertaining footnotes … and explained to me everything I never wanted to know about the music industry.

Everything by Douglas Adams, but especially The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul which I have read at least a dozen times and will probably read a few more — possibly soon.

Jasper Fforde – All seven of the Thursday Next series are a joy to anyone who loves books. In this series, “outer space” is actually the inside of novels. I yearn for another one, but I think he is done with the series.

Jodi Taylor’s entire series about the time-traveling historians of St. Mary’s make me happy. Actually, I love all her books, but anything with time travel in it is a sure winner for me. She is funny, sharp, literate, and she loves history. I just finished An Argumentation of Historians which was less funny and more touching than many of her books — and it was part 1, so now I have to wait for the next part. But I have loved every book she ever wrote.

Kim Harrison’s entire series about Rachel Morgan and The Hollows. Thirteen books long, from the start to conclusion, including a 14th book that was a prequel.

There are so many others. I’ve been an ardent reader for an entire lifetime and my head is full of books.

If you were a mouse in your house in the evening, what would you see your family doing? 

Trying to kill off the mice. We have a lot of mice and getting rid of them has become a priority. A few mice is cute. Hundreds — thousands? — of mice isn’t at all cute.

What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week?  

We went to a party. We got there and didn’t get lost. We stayed long enough to enjoy the company and then — we got home without getting lost. Thumbs up!

THE TRUTH OF SCHOOL

I always find myself defending school to kids. They complain it’s dull. That there’s nothing in it that “grabs” or fascinates them — and nothing they will find useful in life.

I find myself trying to explain that school wasn’t fascinating, but that many of the boring stuff you learn in it is indeed going to be useful. Like arithmetic, the ability to add and subtract mentally without a calculator or even a piece of paper and a pencil. The point of school wasn’t only to intrigue or titillate us but to make us ready to face the real world in which we all must live.

High School, really

Some studies were dull, but you needed to know it because while there’s creativity, there is day-to-day life too and unless you are one of the entitled few, you will have to do your share of it.

I was the kid who had a book in my lap so when no one was looking, I would read. Although I love science today, in school, it wasn’t interesting. Maybe it was the teachers who were dull. In high school I had a double period of botany beginning at eight in the morning when I was already half asleep. The class went on for two hours. We had a teacher who knew her stuff, but talked in a monotone. She’d start to talk — and I’d black out. Gone.

I did not do well in that class. A pity because I was interested, but she was better than a sleeping pill. Twice as good, really. Nothing I ever took knocked me out as well as she did.

 

Social studies which would today be … what? Social science? History? Some weird version of both? It consisted of everything that wasn’t English, math, or science. What we called “the rest of the stuff.” I was a passionate, ardent, enthusiastic reader.  I loved history and the world. But social studies? With those stupid work books where you would answer a question and then you had to color the pictures. Seriously? Color the pictures?

I flunked coloring.

English was dull, too. We had to read books that were of no interest to anyone. I suspected the teachers found them dull too, but it was in the curriculum and that’s what they were supposed to teach. They did. We yawned. I drew pictures of horses in my notebooks. Sometimes, when I got tired of horses — I never got the feet right — I moved into castles. I was better at castles.

If they let us write, I was good at that. But being good at it didn’t make it interesting. My summer vacation wasn’t the stuff to brighten my week.

The teachers droned on and on. Those of us who intended to go to college hung in there. It never — not once, not for a split second — crossed my mind that I should drop out and work at an entry-level jobs for the rest of my life because I was bored at school.

 

1893 Thayer Library Photo: Garry Armstrong

For me, going to college was exactly the same as going to heaven. I would go to college because I knew I could learn. I never doubted my ability to think. I was sure if I made it to college, the rest would follow. And so it did.

I learned a lot of things in college. Ultimately, the really interesting parts of my education were learned at work, when math, science, and statistics were relevant and meaningful.

When you are working, the things you learn are in a context. You discover science has a purpose. Numbers are not random shapes which you jiggle around until you get the answer or sit with empty eyes wondering what this is supposed to mean. I did stuff at work I had found impossible in a classroom.

It wasn’t my fault. It was their fault. They taught the material so poorly no one who didn’t have a special fervor for it figured it out. What a pity for everyone. Worst of all, they meant well. They genuinely did the best they knew how.

College had its share of drones and bores … but there were enough wonderful teachers — maybe a dozen — who were inspirational.
They were was enough.  For each year of school, there was at least one or two teachers who made a difference in my life. Plus, I was in an environment where everyone wanted to learn. We needed to learn.

We chose it.

I have never properly explained the whole school thing to my kid or granddaughter. I told them “Oh, it’s not that bad.”

PS 35, Queens

Except, it really can be that bad. Sometimes, it’s even worse and comes with boring teachers and brutal classmates. That is very bad. Whether they are teasing you because of your color or because you are smart and they aren’t … cruelty is cruelty and kids can be cruel.

The thing is, you don’t stay in school because it’s fun. Or because the quality of education is uplifting. You are there because you know that this is what you must do if you want to have a real life.

If you also get wonderful, inspiring, enlightening teachers, that’s better. But even if they are dull, you still need to be there.

School is the work of childhood. It’s the “why of the how” of growing up.

RELEASED TODAY! DOUBLE DOG DARE – GRETCHEN ARCHER

 DOUBLE DOG DARE  –  Gretchen Archer

From the publisher …

Print Length: 215 pages
Publisher: Henery Press 
Publication Date: March 20, 2018


Davis Way Cole has gotten stuck. Not permanently stuck, mind you, but stuck in the house, stuck with the kids, stuck in that life of children and housewifery that is a not-so-rare thing for working women. But the time has come for her to move out of the house and get back to work. There’s her family, of course and whenever they pop into her life, it just gets crazy. And there’s the Bellissimo casino. It has come a long way back from its near demise, but it has a way to go and it’s time for Davis to get back on board and help.

As it typical of all of Gretchen Archer’s hilarious yet incredibly complex novels, the dog show, the dogs, the people, the absolutely everything that could possibly go wrong or off the rails, does.

One of the truly delicious aspects of Ms. Archer’s writing is her ability to take a wildly complicated story, tie up all the ends, and come out in the end with all the hanging parts of the story neatly tied up in a proper bow. This one is no different and if it wouldn’t give away too much, I’d tell you more.

Double Dog Dare

Davis Way is growing up. Her world is still crazy. Her boss is definitely crazy and her family is charmingly wacko … but she’s maturing. She’s smart. She may not always make the perfect decisions, but she doesn’t make her decisions casually or without serious thought. She cares about people she is close to … and she also cares about all the people who ramble through her life. So the books aren’t merely funny. They are also warm and frequently touching. 

Want a sip from my Double Whammy cup?

Suffice to know that this is one intelligent, funny, thoughtful, weird, complicated book where everything is happening at the same time and it looks like it’s all different things. Yet, somehow, most of it comes together and all of it gets sorted out. This is a life and death tale that will leave you laughing, crying, and hugging your dog.

I gave all three of my dogs two extra biscuits.

A full five stars for DOUBLE DOG DARE! 


SUDDENLY, MARCH

It will be spring this month, though in this climate, it won’t feel like spring for at least another month. Not usually, anyway. The climate has been so peculiar, you never really know for sure what you will get. But typically, March is really winter, with the Vernal Equinox showing up towards the end of the month.

I seem to forget that. My birthday is March 11th and for a variety of irrational reasons, I think of it as being a “spring” birthday. It isn’t. March is the end of winter and often, the wildest weather of the season as the warmer weather tries to upset the entrenched cold of winter. Still, we are closer. Much closer. With a little luck, maybe we are done with snow. Sunshine and a few early flowers would be very lovely.

Share Your World – February 26, 2018


What are you reading right now?

During the day, I’m finally reading Jack Finney’s “Time and Again.” It’s a book I’m surprised I haven’t read before. At night, I’m re-reading “Lord of the Rings.” Frodo, Sam, Pippin, and Merri along with Aragorn are shortly to arrive in Rivendell. They have just discovered that Gandolf has gone missing.

I’ve read LOTR half a dozen times — audio and as text — but it has been quite a while since I read it last. In between, I saw all the movies when they came out. I don’ t know why I decided to read it again. Maybe I just needed that beautiful writing and memories of Middle Earth.

What was your first adult job?

I was the continuity director for WHLI. At the time it was an AM-FM station doing a bit of new music, mostly older music. News. Advertisements. I kept the logs we had to turn into the FCC — on paper — because there weren’t any computers yet.

I also wrote the advertisements and it was here that I realized I had a bit of a flair for PR and advertising. Before this, I was sure I was going to write Great Novels. After this, I thought I might write Great Advertising. Or both. Who knew I was really going to write Great Technical Documentation?

 What’s your favorite breakfast cereal?

It used to be oatmeal, but I don’t eat cereal anymore. I can’t even remember the last time I had any. It must be years.

What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination. 

I took Garry’s blood pressure and without any medication — it was NORMAL. That is very good news.

DIM PROSPECTS

GETTING VERY, VERY SLOWLY RICH … ?


We watched a TV show last night. Australian, I think, but they never actually say where it is. I just thought I saw a distant shot of Ayers rock in the background … but you just never know. The point is, the police were hunting for someone and there was this author who had published a lot of books for young adults.

She had earned her money and she had a mansion. It was the size of the New York City library on Fifth Avenue. Which is to say huge. I’ve seen smaller factories. Apparently she made all that money from selling books.

Today, I got an email telling me I had an automatic deposit from Amazon. I must have sold a book! You can never again say that authors don’t get rich selling books!

PAPERBACK RELEASED! DOUBLE DOG DARE – GRETCHEN ARCHER

 DOUBLE DOG DARE  –  Gretchen Archer

Print Length: 215 pages
Publisher: Henery Press 
Publication Date: March 20, 2018

Davis Way Cole has gotten stuck. Not permanently stuck, mind you, but stuck in the house, stuck with the kids, stuck in that life of children and housewifery that is a not-so-rare thing for working women. But the time has come for her to move out of the house and get back to work. There’s her family, of course and whenever they pop into her life, it just gets crazy. And there’s the Bellissimo casino. It has come a long way back from its near demise, but it has a way to go and it’s time for Davis to get back on board and help.

As it typical of all of Gretchen Archer’s hilarious yet incredibly complex novels, the dog show, the dogs, the people, the absolutely everything that could possibly go wrong or off the rails, does.

One of the truly delicious aspects of Ms. Archer’s writing is her ability to take a wildly complicated story, tie up all the ends, and come out in the end with all the hanging parts of the story neatly tied up in a proper bow. This one is no different and if it wouldn’t give away too much, I’d tell you more.

Double Dog Dare

Davis Way is growing up. Her world is still crazy. Her boss is definitely crazy and her family is charmingly wacko … but she’s maturing. She’s smart. She may not always make the perfect decisions, but she doesn’t make her decisions casually or without serious thought. She cares about people she is close to … and she also cares about all the people who ramble through her life. So the books aren’t merely funny. They are also warm and frequently touching. 

Want a sip from my Double Whammy cup?

Suffice to know that this is one intelligent, funny, thoughtful, weird, complicated book where everything is happening at the same time and it looks like it’s all different things. Yet, somehow, most of it comes together and all of it gets sorted out. This is a life and death tale that will leave you laughing, crying, and hugging your dog.

I gave all three of my dogs two extra biscuits.

A full five stars for DOUBLE DOG DARE! 


SOMEONE SAYS SOMETHING WONDERFUL AND THE WORLD GETS BETTER

FROM GRETCHEN ARCHER TO ME ON FACEBOOK


We all complain about Facebook, don’t we? And then, one day, someone says something so incredibly wonderful I feel like hugging it (hard to hug social media, but I can try) and definitely Gretchen. I review her books … but she reviewed me. Literally, bringing tears to my eyes.

From the day I read her first book (Double Whammy), I knew Gretchen Archer had “it,” that ineffable “something” that makes a writer an author. Her first book wasn’t perfect, but it had the heart of the winner and the soul of the future. She created characters that have grown and changed and become increasingly real. There are very few authors who get characters well enough to allow them to change in a normal way, with flaws and all and moreover, to put them through all those experiences that make us human. Her characters are never repetitive, never dull. They aren’t always doing the same thing, book after book.

What a pleasure to follow an author and watch her mature. I love you too, Gretchen!

Double Dog Dare will be available on March 20, 2018! 


Good morning, Players!

Gretchen Archer

If you have a minute, please read the review of Double Dog Dare Marilyn Armstrong posted here (look down) yesterday.

I *met* Marilyn and her husband Garry after Double Whammy released. Literary reviews (reviews written by people in the industry who know what they’re talking about) of your first book are terrifying/exhilarating/soul-crushing, and for me, in the mix of reviews, one stood out–Marilyn’s. They tell us, they warn us, they mean business: don’t contact reviewers. I did. Just the one. I had to. I had to thank her, because of all the reviews, Marilyn got me.

It’s not that she gave Whammy five fat stars and loved it to the point of me printing and framing the review, it was that she liked it (which, with Book One, is quite enough), allowing me a big sigh of relief. But more than liked it, Marilyn saw its possibilities–my potential. She was the one savvy reviewer who picked out the elements of Whammy that gave it the promise to go on and be a successful series. She was the one reviewer who took the time to (inadvertently, sneakily and stealthily, within the review) give me advice. Very good advice.

Marilyn Armstrong reads between the lines.

She gave me the courage to keep writing. Her honest review was perfectly in line with how I truly felt about my own book.

I’ve loved her every minute since.

Thank you so much, Marilyn. For your deep understanding of publishing, characters, plot, prose, and me. xo