You Are Not Your Device

I drive around Washington, DC, and I see people on sidewalks with their heads down. Crossing streets, their eyes are not looking at traffic. Are folks not concerned that they might get mugged?

At restaurants, heads and eyes are angled downwards, not engaged with others even if sitting with a party. I’m guilty, too. When my two young adult children and I dine, we whip out our electronic gizmos and connect to everybody else in the freaking universe.

The attached video shows a sixteen year old high school freshman who lost his mind. He went violent against his sixty-two year old teacher who confiscated his cell phone.

We’ve gotten to the point in society that our phones are an extension of ourselves. During this past Christmas season, a hot gift item was the selfie arm. It allows people to extend their phones away from their bodies so that they can take a greater variety of photos of one’s self.

And get this. Technology is close to manufacturing cell phones that can tell if your eyes are on your device or not.

“Hey! Look at me,” will scream your mobile phone in coming years. It will demand your attention to the exclusion of the world.

Did the high school freshman feel a loss of connection to his current reality when he lost his phone? How could he relate to his friends without the means to return text messages or send photos? Wasn’t it cruel of the teacher to restrict the teen’s relationships on social media by taking the phone? How could the kid live without his music and videos?

But mobile phones are only getting smarter.

Sigh.

Here’s a novel concept. Turn off your tablets, cell phones, and laptops. Even try turning off the television. Hand write a note to someone. Visit a family member. Hug a dog. Take a walk and talk to your spouse. You might even drop a few pounds.

Yeah, I need to heed my own advice.

In other words, relate to other living beings. Engage with another’s soul. When we give of ourselves, we receive so much more in return.

Embracing passions and relationships.™

Chip

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Feeding My Muse

I did the unusual on New Year’s Eve.

Ordinarily, I adhere to the credo that nothing good ever happens in the streets after midnight, but last night I decided to feed my muse. I went out. I rarely drink, but I said, What the heck? I stopped at a 7-Eleven and bought two Naked smoothies, two bananas, and a bag of white cheddar popcorn to fortify myself for my adventure. Yeah, I was living on the wild side.

The author in me was on a mission to observe Washington, DC with an eye for stories.

Tony nightclubs had long lines behind velvet ropes. Some clubs erected tents on the sidewalks for the overflow of revelers.

The Metropolitan Police Department maintained a visible presence on foot along city blocks. They also parked their patrol cars in strategic locations to be an ostentatious deterrent.

The roadways were an obstacle course. License plates from every state and territory clogged the sixty-nine square miles of the nation’s capital. Pedestrians threw out the rules of the road by crossing anywhere they wanted without any regard to moving vehicles. Taxis and limos stopped on a dime to drop off passengers, paying no mind to those behind them. Bicyclists zipped between cars with reckless abandon, making drivers hit their brakes. As I was entering a gnarly intersection, a cop car responding to a call flipped on its whirling lights and siren and sped across my path, forcing me to take evasive action. I wish that I had worn a Depends.

And why do people stand in the streets to hold conversations with those behind the wheels of their cars? They lean their forearms on the window wells, and project their butts into the driving lanes. Don’t they realize they distract drivers in traffic who must account for them, decreasing the margin of error? Sheesh!

At one point in my car, I was rocking out to the local classic rock station. I turned up AC/DC’s “Back in Black” and jammed like it was the 1980s all over again.

Then, a preppy, college-aged man walked up to my passenger side window and knocked. He casually wanted to have a conversation. Booze induces some drunks to be friendly.

Food trucks were making a killing. The sliced pizza joints were filled beyond capacity. Who knew that so many Subway sandwich shops were open so deep into the night?

Despite temperatures in the low to mid-30s, women showed skin as if it were summertime. All rubbed their arms or folded into the embraces of their fully dressed dates. Is being cute more important than warding off colds and the flu? So much skin. The fashion of bareness leaves nothing to the imagination.

Last night reminded me why I don’t like to drink. The slack facial expressions and vacant stares. The unladylike gaits. Buddies folding a limp dude into a cab. A woman holding a light post oblivious to her revealing wardrobe malfunction. An inebriated driver being handcuffed after a fender bender on 14th Street, stopping already snarled traffic.

I won’t be going out like that any time soon.

Now I write from those notes. I choose quiet to last night’s chaos. I play soothing jazz versus hard rock. Coltrane’s soprano sax inspires my imagination to take flight. Real life is stranger than fiction.

Embracing passions and relationships.

Chip

Embracing passions and relationships.™

It’s all my late-mother’s fault.

She earned a degree in library science, and she plied her trade as a public school librarian for decades until she retired. As an elementary school librarian, she was a reading teacher. She always brought her work home. She had new books around the house from the time that I exited the womb. It’s her fault that I fell in love with spooky stories because she was reading Edgar Allan Poe to me on her lap before I could walk. THE LITTLE TRAIN THAT COULD by Watty Piper is the theme story for my life. HEIDI was one of my favorites back in second grade. At the start of every school year through high school, she presented me with a brand new dictionary. Yes, I am a word nerd, and I read dictionaries. I blame Annie Belle. I always called her by her name from the around first or second grade, and she never blinked.

She was simply my Annie Belle. Mother, confidant, friend, grandmother to my two children. She was the embodiment of love. I write romance novels.

As I finally…FINALLY…approach the launch date for my novel series RINGS, I can only wonder how much she would beam with pride if she could hold in her hands a copy. I am a grammar policeman because my school teacher father always screamed at me about my violations of subject-verb agreement, subjunctive mood, or word choice errors. He ruled language by wielding a big stick, so to speak. Annie Belle, on the other hand, made me fall in love with the texture of pages and the mellifluous timber of words strung together to paint images of distant places in my head.

RINGS is a monthly romance series that focuses on the lives of the players and personnel of the NFL Washington Cavalry franchise. It is less a football story than it is a tale of their hearts. Initially it centers around last year’s Most Valuable Player Travis Blackwell and how he and his wife Siobhan handle his rising celebrity.

God bless your immortal soul, Annie Belle! Thank you so much for the passion for words and stories. I dedicate the RINGS novel series to you.

Chip

Embracing passions and relationships.

Contemporary Women’s Fiction? Really?

Contemporary women’s fiction, huh?

“Is Chip being politically correct?” you ask. “Isn’t that a fancy-schmancy colloquialism for romance novels?”

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I write novels that have romance as a focus. I write novels that are designed first for the women’s market. I write fiction that I want men to read also.

Back in 1986, I was an Army officer for a combat arms unit. During a major exercise, I stopped at the post exchange in Kaiserslautern, Germany. I came out with Tom Clancy’s Hunt for Red October and Danielle Steele’s Message from Nam. Bedecked in my full combat gear, I was armed with some reading material to last the coming month in the field. I had a few minutes before returning to the throes of our maneuvers. I pulled out the camouflage book first. My driver immediately said, “You read Danielle Steele, sir?” I didn’t know Steele at the time. I purchased the book simply because of the cover, thinking it a war story. I got to the battalion’s tactical operation center for a staff meeting with the battalion commander. I pulled out the book before the meeting started, and several officers came by and snickered that I was reading Steele. Needless to say, being a manly man in an all-male combat unit, I quickly ditched Danielle Steele’s novel in the trash.

I had been judged by the cover of the book that I was reading.

Fast forward to the 2000s. I was writing paranormal thrillers. I had gotten the audience of several NYC publishing houses, including the editor-in-chief of one of the very largest. My works dealt with Biblical demons in the modern day and a sexy, female warrior who was born with special talents for hunting them. That editor-in-chief asked me to sex up the woman warrior in a new tale in a series for her. One evening after an evening of writing this new book, I was demon attacked on the drive home. I sought sanctuary on sacred ground instead of going home that night. The next day, the chief exorcist for the Archdiocese of Washington, DC urged me to give up writing in that genre.

My late writing mentor, Leslie A. Banks (L.A. Banks) screamed at me to write romance novels. She told me that 80% of novels are purchased by women, and 80% of those books are romance. Her logic was that I should consider entering a field where there was great demand instead of trying to break into a small niche that is dominated by the names Stephen King, Dean Koontz, John Saul, and others.

Romance novels? Me?

I first had to get over the notion of bare chested men with long hair and women with heaving bosoms on the covers of romance novels. I was still afflicted with the reaction of men soldiers to Danielle Steele. Hence, I read all of Nicholas Sparks’ novels. I read Richard Paul Evans’ books. They are men who have sold millions of copies of contemporary women’s fiction. Their stories delved into all types of life situations, and they all had romance themes running through them. And, their covers didn’t embarrass me when I read them in public.

As a result, I now write stories that Embracing passions and relationships.

Rings, due out in November 2014, centers around an NFL football player, his wife, and his teammates. Although football players and coaches are in the story, it is not a sports story. It’s all about passions and relationships.

Jesse & Alexandra, due out in early 2015, involves an Army paratrooper meeting his soul-mate on first sight at a wedding on the brink of the First Gulf War. Rather than attending the reception, they jump into her Porsche and drive across country. Then, his duty calls. Will their new relationship survive?

Am I a romance novelist?

Yes I am.

Do I write for women?

Yes I do.

Do I write for men, too?

Absolutely!!!

 

Chip

http://www.chiparmstrong.com

Embracing passions and relationships.

 

 

“I think that t…

“I think that the best thing we can do for our children is to allow them to do things for themselves, allow them to be strong, allow them to experience life on their own terms, allow them to take the subway… let them be better people, let them believe more in themselves.”
― C. JoyBell C.

My Greatest Mission & Title

As an old soldier and Army combat arms officer, I had the honor of leading this great nation’s fighting men around the globe.  Each promotion bestowed more responsibilities.  Colonels and generals placed medals on my chest and one around my neck.  After the Army, I rose up the ranks of corporate giants like DuPont, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Wachovia, and Under Armour, earning coveted corner offices along distinguished avenues and great titles such as vice president and director.  My greatest mission is….

And, I identify as West Pointer, businessman, Washingtonian, Roman Catholic-flavored Christian, writer, and jazz saxophonist.  But the greatest title that I shall ever have in this lifetime is….

Yesterday my daughter turned seventeen years old.  The days countdown until I have no more minor children.  In May, my son turns twenty-one.  They are no longer little people.  They are their own decision makers.  I worry about their falls, their mistakes.  I know that I’ve armed them with a Christian belief system, the finest education, and a knowledge that I love them without judgement.  Each time I watch them eat, my heart fills my chest with pride and powerful joy.

In this life, my greatest mission is fatherhood, and my greatest title is daddy.  

You?  What’s your greatest mission?  Title?