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.™

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’m baaaaaaaaaaaaaa-aaaaaaaaaaack!!!!!!!!!!!

http://www.cosmopolitan.com/food-cocktails/news/a31564/wtf-is-this-insanity/?src=spr_FBPAGE&spr_id=1440_93458665

Whew!!! After a hiatus, I’m back to my blog. Hey! I had to write some books first.

The job of a novelist is never ending, especially if he is new to the business. During my time away from blogging, I’ve created my limited liability company, hired a part-time assistant, written another novel, launched http://www.chiparmstrong.com, assembled a publishing team, and changed the cover to the soon to be published book several times. Yeah, whew!!!

The easy part of this business is for me to sit all alone at a coffee shop with my iPod jamming while banging away at my laptop, creating compelling characters and imperiling them in crazy situations. That’s fun!

But writing is a business, and I’ve set some lofty goals.

It’s October 1st. I’ve decided to re-launch my blog today. I promise to put out new content at least twice a week. I shall write about the writing process. I want you to know all of the steps involved with being an author-publisher. I want to share my driving motivations for writing. I’ll tell you why I’ve decided to publish through my own company versus pursuing the traditional, legacy New York City publishing companies. I will post photos and stories about me so that you can get to know both the man and the author who writes this crazy drama. I write about my successes and failures along the way to my lofty goals.

And what does the attached pizza cake article have to do with my author-publishing business? Nothing except that I LOVE pizza! Now you know something very personal about Chip the author-publisher-blogger-saxophonist.

Embracing passions and relationships.

Chip

 

Grim Reaper’s Proximty

Grim Reaper’s Proximty

May 22, 2014 was a grand day in the Armstrong family. My son turned twenty-one years old. He is my first born child and only son. He made reservations for Baby Blues BBQ Restaurant in Philadelphia, PA. It is walking distance from Drexel University where he’s a third-year communications major. We were psyched. He had six of his buddies with huge appetites joining us for dinner. I knew not to leave home without my American Express card. 

My heart was full of pride and love because my young man is growing up to be a caring man with a great work ethic. I suffered the nearly five hour drive from Washington, DC to the City of Brotherly Love, double the normal drive time thanks to two traffic accidents, construction just north of Baltimore, sporadic rain, and Memorial Day traffic. I couldn’t wait to hug my young man. He’s exceeding my dreams.

And the dreams of his paternal grandmother, God rest her immortal soul. Soon after I graduated from West Point in the early ’80s, she began requesting grandchildren, even during periods when I wasn’t even dating. Eventually I married and divorced; nonetheless, both of my children became her very own. She spent more time with them than I did as a divorced father.

On the afternoon of my son’s birthday, my mobile phone rang. His handsome face popped up on the screen. I immediately joked that he was calling to inform me that the guest list for the restaurant was expanding yet again.

“Dad, I have bad news,” he replied.

“Uncle Charles died?” I guessed, holding my breath. He is my late-father’s nearly ninety year old surviving sibling. He’s a member of the Greatest Generation who fought as an Army enlisted man in World War II and as an Army lieutenant in Korea where he lost a leg in battle.

“They found Cousin Mike dead.”

Shock stunned me, rendering me utterly breathless.

My cousin and I grew up more like brothers than cousins. He attended a military boarding school through twelfth grade, and then I attended the nation’s largest military high school. He got accepted to West Point, choosing instead to attend Johns Hopkins University. He eventually graduated, attended medical school, and earned a commission as a medical doctor and Army officer. I became the second in the family to earn an appointment to West Point and upon graduation, was commissioned a combat arms officer in the US Army. He blazed the trail.

After the Army, he and I regularly played tennis. He was a very fit retired colonel who had not an ounce of fat on his body. When police found him dead apparently of natural causes in his home, he was fifty-six years and eleven months old, two years older than I am.

It was good fortune to be around so much youth at my son’s birthday dinner in Philly. All seven young men were college juniors at various universities. Their faces lit up with so much promise and life. They distracted me from the closeness of the Grim Reaper.

Tomorrow is never promised, but with the death of my closest relative (other than my two children), I felt mortality’s proximity. The wretched breath of the Grim Reaper burned against the back of my neck.

I arrived home in DC around 3am. With God as my witness before I closed my eyes to sleep, despite a shaken heart, I renewed my vow to live again. The choice to live is more than deciding to wake up in the mornings, grab a bowl of cereal, and slog through the day in mere existence. 

I choose to live on my terms. I seek joy in the smallest of chores because we only control our actions and our attitudes.

I am happy being alive!!!

That is my choice.