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

Leslie!!!

The last time that I saw Novelist Leslie A. Banks (she also wrote as Leslie Esdaile) was in April 2010. She had taken an AMTRAK train to Washington, DC to do a book signing at Union Station. Afterwards, she was my guest for lunch. She was my friend, writing mentor, and champion. For example, her belief in me prompted her to send a note to the editor-in-chief of Penguin Books that I was the next Stephen King. She also urged me to put aside writing horror and to start writing romance novels because of the great demand for new books.

Leslie was a tall lady who loved wearing high heels, and she had a larger than life personality. That explains how she was able to craft such colorful characters. She also had a booming laugh. After lots of catching up that was punctuated with bursts of giggling and guffaws, she sighed. Her countenance brightened. She exhibited an excitement for the writing business again after regaining the rights to many of her oldest books and re-publishing them as ebooks. The income was growing monthly at an exponential rate, and that was blowing her mind. That’s when she turned serious.

Leslie knew that my written goal was to get published by a major New York City publishing house. She implored me to drop that as my objective, at least initially. She urged me to forego the agent hunting ordeal and to take total control over my writing business by becoming an independent author-publisher.

I am sad that Leslie succumbed months later to one of the most insidious forms of cancer of which she wasn’t aware during our lunch. That said, she presented me with a tremendous gift. She gave me her example of what an independent author could expect in terms of cash flow, autonomy, and peace of mind. In future blogs, I’ll detail some of the advantages I am enjoying as an indie author-publisher.

Likewise, there are a lot of behind-the-scenes headaches of being a literary entrepreneur. Business licenses, hiring a team of professionals, distribution, etc. Nonetheless, I love being in charge of my direction.

The launch of my RINGS novel series is just weeks away. Once this monthly serial begins, it’s going to be a blast. I can’t wait for you to meet Travis Blackwell, his wife Siobhan, and their six year old twins, Sara and Little Travis. Travis enjoys fame and fortune and all that comes with being the most recognizable person in Washington, DC other than the president. Can his relationships with Siobhan, his Washington Cavalry football teammates, and the public survive?

I thank Leslie Banks for plucking me from the obscurity of Internet, coaching me, and advising me to launch my own business.

Blessings and love, Leslie!!!

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.