Picking Dumb, Day 2

Like the Painted Desert, I have no idea where my bowl picks came from.
Like the Painted Desert, I have no idea where my bowl picks came from.

[cb_profit_poster Lottery1]Clinton, S.C., Tuesday, December 31, 2013, 10:25 a.m.

Do not, repeat, do not bet based on my bowl picks. Lug Nut knows better. (John Clark photo)
Do not, repeat, do not bet based on my bowl picks. Lug Nut knows better. (John Clark photo)

This is going to be a brief blog, a mere update on the project of Monday, which was to predict football games solely on the basis of frivolous details. I went 3-1, missing only Texas Tech’s late-night victory over Arizona State because I figured the team from Tempe would enjoy a Holiday (Bowl) in San Diego better than one from Lubbock.

No word on how the Red Raiders fared at the beach, or if they even went there.

“Just” three bowl games are today. The first is a tough pick: Arizona vs. Boston College at the AdvoCare V100 Bowl in Shreveport, La. At first glance, both schools would seem out of place in Louisiana. I have driven through Shreveport many times but stopped only once and that was to have dinner at the Longhorn. Shreveport is loaded with casinos, so I’m picking the Wildcats because they are, oh, about a large western state away from Las Vegas, and Las Vegas trumps Mohegan Sun.

The AutoZone Liberty Bowl – all my visits to AutoZone have been noteworthy for the liberty I felt perusing the shelves – pits Mississippi State vs. Rice. I hope Rice wins – for years I have referred to the Owls as the Krispies – but I just see the Bulldogs, or, for that matter, any team called Bulldogs, as being better suited to “Memphis, Tennessee,” long-distance information or not. If only Rice had played in the Fight Hunger Bowl … That game was in San Francisco, and Rice-A-Roni is “the San Francisco Treat.”

Finally, the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta pits Duke against Texas A&M. If Chick-Fil-A sandwiches came with mayonnaise (we love Duke’s around here), I’d pick the Blue Devils, but they don’t. My late friend, David Poole, a Chapel Hill man, used to call Duke “the University of New Jersey at Durham.” No way that team is going to beat Johnny Manziel/Football/Paycheck in Atlanta, which, I think, is the kind of place where Johnny Paycheck is going to let the good times roll.

Solidifying my pick is the fact that the real Paycheck had a hit song set in Atlanta, “The Only Hell Mama Ever Raised,” where he was in a stolen car and almost out of gas, needed some money and had lately learned how to get it fast. Manziel and the Aggies are accustomed to duress.

Relax. It’s bowl season, and it’s like an NCAA basketball pool. The ones who do all the research never win.

[cb_profit_poster Acting]

My Football Season in a Nutshell

A victory over Samford was crucial to Furman's Southern Conference championship.
A victory over Samford was crucial to Furman’s Southern Conference championship.

[cb_profit_poster Beer2]Clinton, S.C., Sunday, December 29, 2013, 4:50 p.m.

I hadn't seen more than 3-4 Clinton High games in a single season in 20 years. This year I was at every game.
I hadn’t seen more than 3-4 Clinton High games in a single season in 20 years. This year I was at every game.

Perhaps you will detect a pattern.

The Clinton High School Red Devils started slowly, rallied and made it to the second round of the Class 3A playoffs.

The Furman University Paladins started slowly, rallied and made it to the second round of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

The Carolina Panthers started slowly …

The Panthers do have the benefit of a first-round bye, so perhaps that will disprove the hypothesis.

This, of course, is more ridiculous than a Ouija board. The very idea that I have some unwitting control or effect on the outcome of football seasons is ludicrous. It’s all Clinton Red Devil fans, and all Furman Paladin fans, and all Carolina Panther fans. It’s a three-team effort. There must be strength in numbers to conjure up jinxes.

Don’t be one of those fans who considers anything except the championship a failure. That defeats the purpose of being a fan, which is to enjoy the good and endure the bad. If the highs are higher than the lows are low, it’s been a good year.

I didn't make it to Fenway this year, but I watched more than half the Red Sox' games on TV.
I didn’t make it to Fenway this year, but I watched more than half the Red Sox’ games on TV.

Besides, the sports team I follow most closely, the Boston Red Sox, won the World Series. That’s happened three times in my lifetime. Other than being laid off and struggling to get by, it’s been a great year!

Money can’t buy love. Nor can the lack of it. And money helps sometime. No one ever meets a woman he likes and says, “Hi, nice to meet you. I’m poor.”

It’s kind of a buzz kill.

It’s funny how this works. I’ve lived most of my life in South Carolina. I’ve also spent most of my life worshiping the Red Sox. Because I’m not from New England, sometimes people question my Red Sox credentials. Once, at a sprint-car race in Charlotte, a guy from Boston saw me wearing a Sox cap and asked, “Red Sox fan?”

I said, “All my life,” and when he heard my voice, his expression told me he was leery.

“Ask me a question.”

“Do what?”

“Ask me a question,” I said. “I’ve been a Boston fan all my life.”

“Oh, all right,” the guy said. “When the Sox went to the ’75 World Series, who played second base?”

“Denny Doyle,” I said, “and that wasn’t even hard.”

On the other hand, the Panthers are the closest NFL team to me, and yet I consider my own credentials suspect. I didn’t even like Carolina until I started writing about the team a little. Watching Cam Newton was exciting, I really liked Ron Rivera the first time I met him, and I thought Luke Kuechly was astonishingly good the first time I watched him.

The biggest reason I became a Panthers fan was Daniel Snyder. He’s the owner of the Washington Redskins. I’d feel better if Sarah Palin bought the team. For most of the past two decades, being a Redskins fan has been like not being a fan at all.

Maybe the Panthers will win it all. Maybe the second-round jinx will wither. I’m not a Panther fan from the old neighborhood.

By the way, I’m not politically correct regarding team nicknames. I don’t think anyone ever named a team as a means to insult. When one attaches a name to his team, it is a gesture of admiration.

But it’s time to get rid of the Redskins moniker. It’s that team, not its name, that insults Native Americans.

As Henny Youngman did not say, “Take my book. Please!”

[cb_profit_poster Beer1]

Buried Treasure

This photo was taken at Utopia in June when the weather outside was different.
This photo was taken at Utopia in June when the weather outside was different.

[cb_profit_poster Guitar1]Clinton, S.C., Thursday, December 26, 2013, 9:55 a.m.

No, it was not I. I've never even driven a Lexus.
I haven’t been playing too much music lately. I’ve been busy writing fiction. (John Clark photo)

Lo and behold. “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is on TV.

I’m just half watching it. I’ve seen it a dozen times, at least, and many more if I count half watching. Jean Arthur just greeted James Stewart at the train station.

It’s romantic, idealistic pap, but in Frank Capra’s film lies the essence of America. I wish we could find it again.

I had a funny thing happen the other day. I was looking for something in the pile of books, magazines and miscellany that covers the loveseat. I found two sheets of paper edging out from the edge, on the floor. I looked at it and discovered a song I’d completely forgotten writing. The paper, typewritten because it was printed from my laptop, is slightly stained from what is likely spilled coffee. It’s saved, of course, but the folder dubbed “lyrics” is crowded with old songs, new songs and snippets I haven’t yet turned into songs. It’s easy to get lost in there.

I started fooling around with it, but I couldn’t remember the original tune. I adapted a chord progression that is simple. Maybe I’ll remember the way it was, eventually, or maybe I won’t. I’m going to sing it the way it is now Thursday night in Columbia at my friend Bentz Kirby’s open mic. In fact, I’m going to perform two new songs, “The System’s Down” and “It’s Only Fiction.”

Here’s the song, “The System’s Down,” that came in from the couch.

Some fool in California / Deleted my account / And some dude that owes me money / Lessened the amount / The man who fixed my washer / Took me for a spin / And when I checked the mailbox / It all began again.

The system’s down / Tension’s up / Bills are high / Banks corrupt / I’d rather be a writer / Than a pencil-pushin’ fool / And I’d rather break the law / Than obey these dadgum rules.

The bozo at the register / Tipped himself my five / My doctor checked my blood / And declared me still alive / The cowboy with a badge / Said I drove too fast / And if I didn’t shut up / He’d gladly whip my ass.

The woman I’ve been dating / Likes my brother twice as much / The bottom of my feet / Are painful to the touch / My ex-wife thinks I’m / Overwhelmed with cash / But all that’s really overwhelmed / Is the can that holds my trash

CHORUS

My favorite ball team / Has lost five out of six / My mother got mad at me / And called me a sonuvabitch / I couldn’t help but question / Who it was that shared her bed / Looking back those are words / I wish I hadn’t said.

CHORUS

I’ll shoot a video of it tonight if I can remember.

By the way, if you’re in Columbia or just happen to be in town, stop by Utopia Food & Spirits (3830 Rosewood Drive) at 8 p.m. Or, bring your guitar or whatever and be there by 7:30 to sign up. It’ll be fun either way.

[cb_profit_poster Guitar2]

It’s a Good Night for Singing!

Fortunately, I'm outside the bars.
Fortunately, I’m outside the bars.

[cb_profit_poster Storytelling]Clinton, S.C., Tuesday, December 24, 2013, 10:30 a.m.

Each year I put together my would-be, heartfelt, admittedly self-indulgent e-card, which this year, for the first time, is going to be a blog. I’ll send it via email to the tiny remaining portion of my friend/fan base that does not socially quibble.

I don’t always send it by Christmas, but I always make it by New Year’s because there are lots of football games to marginally monitor on TV, and I can do things like think of song lyrics.

I hope the Holidays are awe-inspiring for you.
I hope the Holidays are awe-inspiring for you.

They’re not Christmas greetings. They’re not all happy. They’re not all sad. They reflect my mood when I sit down to write them. A couple times they’ve been all songs I wrote. Sometimes they were built upon some of the songs from the year before.

They’re lyrics that move me, or amuse me, or recuse me (oh, wait, I’m not actually writing a song now, and it doesn’t make sense). For whatever reason.

I’m going to write this year’s from scratch. That doesn’t mean I won’t think of lyrics I used last year. It just means I’ll think of them originally. Or something like that.

Here goes. I’ll start with a few of my recents:

Some fool in California / Deleted my account / And some dude that owes me money / Lessened the amount / The man who fixed my washer / Took me for a spin / And when I checked my mailbox / It all began again

But it’s not me / It’s only fiction / It’s not me / It’s someone else / It’s not me / I’m just the writer / I’m as boring as a buzzard circling o’er the pits of hell

Hell to pay / Tears to cry / Days and nights to sit and wonder why / Back before we lived together / We could bear the stormy weather / Now nothing remains but hell to pay

Scuppernongs and muscadines / Bubble gum three for a dime / Orange Crush over ice / Sawmill gravy over rice / That’s the way my world used to be

Uh huh / It’s not the same as uh-uh / No, baby, it’s uh, huh / Just nod your head / Uh, huh

The last was my only lyric that could possibly be appealing to any of the freshly coiffed, fashionably unshaven (in the case of males) stars illuminating the mainstream firmament at present. But … the verses are wholly inappropriate.

Meanwhile, Tom T. Hall occurs to me, as is often the case:

While all the time she’s been waiting on him / She’s been waiting on you and me (“Ravishing Ruby”)

She never said a word to him but said a prayer for me / I told her in a way that I’d been praying for her too (“The Little Lady Preacher”)

If you tell me she’s not here / I’ll follow the trail of her tears (“That’s How I Got to Memphis”)

And you have the nerve to tell me that you think that as a mother I’m not fit / Well, this is just a little Peyton Place and you’re all Harper Valley hypocrites (“Harper Valley PTA)

So close but yet so far away / So wrong but yet so right / I flew over our house last night (“I Flew Over Our House Last Night”)

Moving on to some one-on-ones, as sports writers are prone to say just as inaccurately:

Out into the cool of the evening / Strolls the pretender / He started out so young and strong / Only to surrender (Jackson Browne, “The Pretender”)

The silence of a falling star / Lights up a purple sky / And as I wonder where you are / I’m so lonesome I could cry (Hank Williams, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”)

Chained upon the face of time / Feeling full of foolish rhyme / Ain’t no dark till something shines / I’m bound to leave this world behind (Townes Van Zandt, “Rex’s Blues”)

On a package show in Buffalo / With us and Kitty Wells and Charley Pride / The show was long and we’s just sittin’ there / And we’d come to play and not just for the ride / We drank a lot of whisky and I don’t know if we got on that night at all / Don’t think they even missed us / I guess Buffalo ain’t geared for me and Paul (Willie Nelson, “Me and Paul”)

He could be the richest man in seven counties / And not be good enough to take her hand / But he says he really loves the farmer’s daughter / And I know the farmer’s daughter loves the man (Merle Haggard, “The Farmer’s Daughter”)

Someday I’m finally gonna let go / ‘Cause I know there’s a better way / I know something’s over that rainbow / I’m gonna get out of here someday (Steve Earle, “Someday”)

Blow up your TV / Throw away the papers / Go out to the country / Build you a home / Plant a little garden / Eat a lotta peaches / Try and find Jesus / On your own (John Prine, “Spanish Pipedream”)

Okay, enough of the good stuff. Back to my silly little rhymes:

The world is changing / Always rearranging / From birth to the end / With my Facebook friends

Apparently in heaven things are getting out of hand / The Lord is running out of folks who’ll take it like a man / Someone had to die too soon to save eternity / God needed a better man than me / Who else but Sniper could it be?

When the sun comes up on that bright morn / In the quiet that follows every storm / When the demons have all died away / We’ll celebrate your independence day

Martinsville / A place frozen in space and time

She’s just stuck in a rut / Head in the sand / Refusing to deal with what she don’t understand / She’s just stuck in a rut without a plan / Trying to please her man

Life is hard / No matter where you go / It’s a tortured path / Tough row to hoe / When the wheels spin / Got a heavy load / Hoping I can get / To the paved road

Johnny can’t write / ‘Cause Johnny can’t read / Johnny can’t read / ‘Cause his mama’s on speed

And on that cheery note … nah, nah, nah, not at Christmas time. I’ll conclude with another excerpt from Tom T., “Trip to Hyden” (which is principally why I put Hyden in my first novel, The Audacity of Dope) …

Past some hound dogs and some dominecker chickens / Temporary looking houses with their lean and bashful kids / Every mile or so a sign proclaimed that Christ was coming soon / And I thought, well, man, He’d sure be disappointed if He did

[cb_profit_poster Guitar2]

The Carolina Panthers from Afar

[cb_profit_poster Beer1]Clinton, S.C., Sunday, December 22, 2013, 2 p.m.

It’s raining outside. The Saints-Panthers game is frozen on my TV because this is what happens on DirecTV when fierce thunderstorms hit.

I sort of miss writing columns at Bank of America Stadium now.
I sort of miss writing columns at Bank of America Stadium now.

What I won’t do to make sure I can see each and every Boston Red Sox game for three quarters of the year. Which I took advantage of a great deal this year. In 2011-12? Not so much. Then again, it wasn’t so bad because I had other things to occupy me, and I was traveling a lot. I’ve got plenty of things to occupy me now, but they don’t involve packing suitcases and dragging them around nearly as much.

If the Red Sox stink next year, I might well be miserable. That’s the way it works for sports fans.

The game is back. The Saints have pulled ahead, 6-0, while the game was off the TV literally and the radar screen figuratively.

I’ve become a Panthers fan. I wasn’t always. It was strictly cold-blooded.

Back in the 1990s, I occasionally wrote columns at Panthers games when NASCAR didn’t occupy me. Then I stopped as a matter of principle because the paper always wanted me to help out with the NFL but didn’t provide me any when the races were run at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

If the Panthers were good, they got the coverage. Racing got crowded to the bottom of the sports front. If the Panthers were bad, racing moved right up top. Hence, things were better for me when things were worse for the local NFL team.

In 2011, I relented, in part because I had some interest in Cam Newton, and in part because times were getting tougher at both the paper and papers in general. All of us started wearing more hats. It started to seem as if the website and social media were more important than the actual paper, perhaps because printing it required paper.

I gave it my best effort. I learned how to blog and tweet. I studied all the new-fangled masterpieces of journalism. Occasionally, I got chided for writing above the heads of readers. When Twitter came along, it really moved full circle.

For the first time in my career, I started hearing, “Well, we won’t get the race in the paper, but don’t worry. It’ll be on the website.”

So I started videoing and blogging and tweeting and retweeting and posting and sharing and God knows how many other things that, at first, seemed alien to my being.

When they asked, “Hey, you want to write some columns at Panther games?” I said, “How soon you want me to be there?”

It did no good. When the Grim Reaper showed up, I got no media timeout.

Here’s my advice to the journalists who must emerge from this wreckage: Being a team player means nothing. When the time comes, it’ll only be seen as a sign of weakness.

I really like the Panthers now. I just don’t have much way of showing it.

[cb_profit_poster Travel1]

Skipped the Warm-Ups

[cb_profit_poster Acting]Clinton, S.C., Friday, December 20, 2013, 2:35 p.m.

On most days, I blog bright and early, or at least I make it the first of my daily writing. It’s the way I get myself ready for the rest of the day’s duties. It’s like tuning the guitar or singing scales in the chorus.

(Editor’s note: I tuned my guitar, too.)

I went straight to fiction this morning, and it felt ... fictional. Or maybe fictitious.
I went straight to fiction this morning, and it felt … fictional. Or maybe fictitious.

I wonder if I’ve ever written as much as this week. Probably. Way back in 2000, at about this time of year, I was fighting unbelievable – for my former colleagues, imagine the Bristol Night Race every day for a month – deadline pressure finishing a book on Tony Stewart called Rebel with a Cause. That was a lot more stressful than now.

Then there were the times when newspapers were still close enough to their prime and I was covering one of the major events: Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600 at nearby Charlotte, early Brickyards. Those were harsh but also different. Novels are more complicated than columns, features, extra work for the preseason racing section, notebooks, rails (sort of the newspaper term for “notes ‘n’ quotes”) and, for that matter, blogs. On the other hand, back in the heyday, I didn’t have to tweet post and produce laughably amateurish “video blogs.”

I went right at the fiction this morning and have been engaged in siege warfare all week. Straightaway, as the English are fond of saying.

I haven't been anywhere near an ocean this year, but I'll be in Georgetown, S.C., in January.
I haven’t been anywhere near an ocean this year, but I’ll be in Georgetown, S.C., in January.

The reason was that I awakened brainstorming. Actually, I spent about two hours, half asleep, brainstorming. I got up and wanted to write before I lost the train of thought. Today I wrote the fifth chapter of a crime novel that doesn’t have a name yet. Yesterday I wrote the second chapter of a western. I’ve already written about how I can’t believe I’m trying to write two new novels at the same time. It works so far. This morning I realized I was using the name of the sheriff in the western for the sheriff in the crime novel, but a quick search-and-replace operation fixed that.

When I start a novel – a whole two of them are out – I write a very general outline, and my first draft consists of filling in lots and lots of blanks. The second draft straightens the fillings. The third is a general overview and correction. Some writers rewrite five or more times. Some claim they write 10 and really write five or six. Three seem to work for me.

The western may or may not wind up being titled Cowboys Come Home. That’s what I’ve got right now.

Opportunity knocks, and a man has to answer the door. (Actually, a friend of mine knocked, and I took a break from this blog talking to him in the front yard about our wildly dissimilar adventures.)

Now I’m going to clean up and head out to run an errand. Specifically, I’ve got everything I need except butter to make a stew that I can snack on this weekend watching football games. I’ll let it stew, naturally, in the slow cooker (previously the crockpot) overnight.

That’s the news from the Dutton Farm, not that the press needs stopping.

You can keep my cash flowing by buying The Intangibles and/or The Audacity of Dope (2011) at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, neverlandpublishing.com, montedutton.com, and several valued independent sellers.

[cb_profit_poster Beer2]

Yippi-Yi … Ki-Yay!

Elmore Leonard just imagined Arizona. This is the Painted Desert.
Elmore Leonard just imagined Arizona. This is the Painted Desert.

[cb_profit_poster Storytelling]Clinton, S.C., Wednesday, December 18, 2013, 12:22 p.m.

Oliver Hardy would have said, “Another fine mess you’ve got us in,” and called me Stanley. My daddy would’ve said, “If that ain’t a Dutton deal, damned if I’ve seen one.”

Jimmy Dutton was prone to hyperbole. He also said something was “the damndest thing ever I heard” at least five times every day I was around him.

His older son, slightly over 20 years after he died, has lost his marbles.

I mean, I've got a pair of boots and a hat. Should I start wearing them?
I mean, I’ve got a pair of boots and a hat. Should I start wearing them?

That would be I.

You see, I’ve got this notion that I’m going to write novels for a living. It’s not a hard decision. I have little else to do besides this blog and the occasional song, but I’m busy because I’ve got this odd notion that I can make a living out of it.

How busy am I? Yesterday I found a sheet of paper with the words to a song I completely forgot writing. As a result, I’ve completely lost the tune. The lyrics are good, though. It’ll come back around now that I’ve found it, but it’ll be a while because there’s another one whose words I’ve got to memorize, and I just can’t do that but one at a time.

I’m trying to promote, and in quite a few cases sell, my second novel, The Intangibles. I’m at the second-draft stopping point for a third that I intend to be called Crazy by Natural Causes. Last week I started a fourth, which is a crime novel of undetermined title, and now I’ve decided to write yet another … at the same time.

Definite Dutton Deal. It’s not a term of industriousness. It’s a testimony to the considerable occasions in which Duttons attempt to defy odds, tilt at windmills and embark upon personal Pickett’s Charges.

It’s more fun that way, right up until disaster ensues.

The reason I am writing two novels at the same time is that, last week, fresh upon my excitement at completing three chapters of the crime novel, I was informed that there was a potential market for me writing a western.

Unfortunately, these aren't singing cowboys (Vince Pawless photo)
Unfortunately, these aren’t singing cowboys (Vince Pawless photo)

A western!

At the time, my view was that writing a novel is so damned difficult that I can’t really justify any project that doesn’t absolutely, positively, undeniably excite me.

Then I drove up, down, through and around a bunch of mountains, and damned if I didn’t come up with a preliminary plot for a western.

How could I possibly write a western? Well, (1.) I grew up on a farm around horses and cattle, (2.) back in ancient times, I actually knew rodeo cowboys and took part in events in which youngsters lunged after dollar bills attached in the ears of calves, and (3.) I occasionally participated in horse shows, though not with particularly notable success. I think my entire cowboy career soured on the humiliation of fifth-place ribbons being pink, even when boys won them.

Then there’s the fact that I’ve read some really great ones by Larry McMurtry and Elmore Leonard, and I’m a big fan of those that have pictures and move at the whims of John Ford and Henry Hathaway.

Plus, one of my idols, the recently departed Elmore Leonard, started out writing westerns and based them all on a couple weeks he spent wandering around Arizona. I’ve wandered around Arizona, though not for two weeks at a time.

My favorite western is a modern one, McMurtry’s Leaving Cheyenne, and one started forming itself in my mind as I pondered that novel and the sad movie “The Misfits,” directed in 1961 by John Huston from a script by Arthur Miller.

If Arthur Miller could write a western, channeling Disney, “why, but, oh, why, can’t I?”

Now I’ve got four chapters of crime and one of western typed out. Can I switch back and forth? It’s like the “Tuggy the Tugboat” of my childhood: I think I can, I think I can …

[cb_profit_poster Acting]

Country Roads

I went by my favorite American road sign but in the opposite direction.
I went by my favorite American road sign but in the opposite direction.

[cb_profit_poster Travel1]Clinton, S.C., Monday, December 16, 2013, 9:47 a.m.

I’m back. I hope you enjoyed some of the old blogs I posted during the three days I was away and otherwise occupied. I can play a harmonica while driving – I never text – but I can’t write a blog.

It occurred to me that, having written more than 300 blogs this year, I could afford to re-release a few of my blasts from the past.

No, it was not I. I've never even driven a Lexus.
I sang my new song, “It’s Only Fiction,” in several locations.

I’m traveling as inexpensively as I can these days, the better to string myself along and ease the “cash-flow” problems. I’m turning the corner, but, like the roads I drove on for half of Saturday, it’s a hairpin.

I used some motel points for a room after my book signing at Barnhill’s in Winston-Salem, N.C. It went well. I enjoyed the audience. They seemed to enjoy my songs and impassioned readings of The Intangibles. I had enough points from one chain to get three free nights if I choose cheaply, so I looked for motels along the route and picked a doozy for the first freebie.

I’ve come down a few notches from the NASCAR road.

It was a really strange room. It was upstairs, even though there were only a few cars in th parking lot at 10 p.m. I guess there must be an informal policy to make the guy using the points suffer.

Weel poot im upstayers!

The room was frigid, which was understandable since the heat was off and it was 25 degrees outside. I turned the heat on and fled to the nearby Hardee’s, where I used a coupon for some chicken planks and a perusal of social media on my gadget. When I got back, it was nice and warm, but when I undressed, I discovered the carpet was damp. Then I discovered that both spigots on the faucet ran hot water.

I didn’t mind much, though. Who cares about a crummy room when you’re checking in at 10 o’clock and leaving the next morning at 8? All I was going to do was sleep. I had some concerns about the shower, but they were only minor. It had hot and cold, but they were in the wrong directions. Cautiously, I set the temperature in the middle, and then when I got under the nozzle, it was a mite cool, so I moved the lever to the hot side, which was the cold side. Momentarily, I thought, oh, no, the hot water is out, but then I turned it the opposite way – at this point, it couldn’t have gotten any colder — and it heated right up.

It rained all night the day I left, the weather it was dry

Sun so hot I froze to death, Susanna, don’t you cry?
Oh, what? Ah. I forgot to tell you about Susanna.

It did rain all day on Saturday, but I still enjoyed a long, winding drive through mountains. I listened to the last vestiges of quality small-town radio, emanating through various translater channels in Virginia and Kentucky. I heard Dave Van Ronk’s version of “In the Pines,” and that might have made the whole trip worth it.

That plus the church that had an RC Cola sign out front, the body of water called Fish Pond Lake (is there also a Fish Lake Pond?) and Kingdom Come State Park, where I was afraid to stop.

I also came up with a new idea for a novel and daydreamed about it for the rest of the trip. I might do a little writing on it this week.

Hardee’s coupons came in handy. (They all expired on Sunday.) So did coffee. I particularly enjoyed the Dunkin’ Donuts variety that got me home last night from Asheville, N.C., which is less than two hours from the house. Asheville is a lovely city, and I regret the fact that I almost always just drive by it.

Maybe one day I’ll catch on in those parts.

Hmm. I hadn’t been out of town for anything except a football game in, well, months. There was that one time, Ella, Alex, Anthony and I went to the movies in Columbia, but other than that, it was only to Clinton and Furman games in places like Abbeville, Boiling Springs, Six Mile and Orangeburg.

Roving through the mountains was fun, but I’m fairly content being back home now. Except for occasional jaunts, it appears my days as a nomad are over.

I sold books, read from them, spent time with great friends and played my guitar a whole lot. Now I’m home with good memories and a few mementoes from the road.

The Intangibles – it’s a novel for grown-ups, now – is available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as from the publisher and (autographed) this web site (click on “merchandise”). Signed copies are also available at L&L Office Supply here in Clinton, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, S.C., and Barnhill’s in Winston-Salem, N.C. If you’re interested in me, my writing, and/or what the South was like in the late 1960s, I think you’ll enjoy my second novel.

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‘It’s Only Fiction’

This photo was taken the last time I signed books at Barnhill's in Winston-Salem, N.C., where I'll be on Friday from 6 to 7:30.
This photo was taken the last time I signed books at Barnhill’s in Winston-Salem, N.C., where I’ll be on Friday from 6 to 7:30.

[cb_profit_poster Storytelling]Clinton, S.C., Wednesday, December 11, 2013, 11:15 a.m.

It’s been a quiet week but one filled with satisfaction. On Monday, I wrote the first two chapters of what will eventually become my fourth novel. If you’re keeping a scorecard at home, that’s two (The Audacity of Dope, The Intangibles) out, Crazy by Natural Causes (not yet italicized because not yet published) on deck and as-yet-untitled in the hold.

(The baseball terminology is derived from Navy terms: it’s supposed to be “hold,” not “hole.”)

I dress a little differently when I'm signing books.
I dress a little differently when I’m signing books.

On Tuesday, I wrote a new song, which I had been aspiring to do for weeks. You may recall that, in the previous blog, I said I was going to write a song about writing fiction. Surprising no one more than me, I did it.

It’s called “It’s Only Fiction,” and here are the words.

My daddy was a drunkard but it wasn’t how I wrote him in my song / I claimed he was an uncle who enjoyed taking rips upon a bong / And the writer in my novel was descended from a friend who played guitar / I haven’t seen him lately but maybe he’s become a big rock star

But it’s not me / It’s only fiction /It’s not me /It’s someone else / It’s not me / I’m just the writer / I’m as boring as a buzzard circling o’er the pits of hell

I wrote about a singer who traveled with the cops in hot pursuit /His major sign of weakness was a taste for all forbidden fruit / While he was smoking pot in Hyden I was typing in my den / Trying to find a way to get old Riley out of harm’s way again

There’s a football coach in Caroline who taught me half of everything I know / But I never was a hero in the tension-charged events of long ago / I just did enough and saw enough to dream myself a tale / With memories and fancy mixing in and out along my sliding scale

CHORUS

In conclusion please don’t blame me for playing fast and loose with the facts / What separates the fiction is the truth that slips through the cracks / With my guitar at the ready and a website on my screen / I can take the full advantage of my itsy-bitsy writing machine

CHORUS

Here's the cover of my latest.
Here’s the cover of my latest.

I’m hot. “I keep rolling them sevens,” as Jerry Reed used to sing. Of course, the flip side of “when you hot, you hot” is “when you not, you not.”

I’m due for a slump, but that’s not the right term. For every creative day I enjoy, there’s another for the facts of life to intervene. I just finished washing dishes. I’ve got to wash clothes sometime before Friday, because I’m heading to Winston-Salem, N.C., to sign copies of The Intangibles and The Audacity of Dope at Barnhill’s.

I got bills to pay. I got trash to dump. If I really get an outdoors impulse, I could ride around on my mower and clip down the wild onions that are the only plants still growing in the yard. It would be worth the reaction of people wondering why I’d be cutting grass in December. Kids might sneak over from the nearby apartments and whisper about the crazy white man mowing grass in cold weather.

I won’t do it. It would be too much fun.

And I need to write something besides this today.

The Barnhill’s signing (811 Burke Street, Winston-Salem) lasts from 6 to 6:30 p.m. It’s entirely possible that I’ll play a few tunes on my guitar, too.

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Twisting and Turning All the Way

[cb_profit_poster Storytelling]Clinton, S.C., Monday, December 9, 2013, 2:31 p.m.

I might write a song … about writing a novel.

I still like to play my songs, but most of the time here lately it's been at a fishpond instead of a honky tonk. (John Clark photo)
I still like to play my songs, but most of the time here lately it’s been at a fishpond instead of a honky tonk. (John Clark photo)

Maybe I can find common ground. I’m not going to plot a song. I’m just going to make some rhymes on how characters develop from taking parts of different real people and incidents and combining them. It’s about mixing and matching in a plausible way.

Well, I say I’m going to write a song. I’ve been saying it for several weeks, just like I’ve been going to write a friend a letter, and put my guitar on my back, take a walk on the farm, sit down on a stomp, sing to the birds and see if I can get the birds to sing back to me.

Today, of course, it’s raining, as it was yesterday and, quite possibly, tomorrow. Good excuse.

The Intangibles is set in Fairmont, which is based on Clinton. Crazy by Natural Causes, the next one, is set in Elmore, which isn't based on Clinton.
The Intangibles is set in Fairmont, which is based on Clinton. Crazy by Natural Causes, the next one, is set in Elmore, which isn’t based on Clinton.

As a matter of fact, I’ve been living in blissful solitude, tweeting and posting and reading and, this very morning, writing the first two chapters of what I hope will become my fourth novel. I’d tell you its name if it had one. As soon as I get through with this blog, I’m going to, uh, freshen up a bit, then go to the post office to ship someone a copy of The Intangibles, my second novel. From there, it’s the grocery store. Most every day I work all morning and half the afternoon, venture outside for a few errands, and return home to watch sports or a movie and read, the amount of the last dependent on how entertaining the sports or movie is.

I’m slowly printing out the latest incarnation of the third novel, several chapters at a time, so that I can have someone read it as soon as I get it all together. This is something I’m going to be doing off and on for several days.

I went over to Presbyterian College on Saturday night, but that was only to watch a basketball game, so it’s not like it was something new and completely different.

I’m not complaining. I enjoy writing more than anything else, which is why I’m … a writer.

I like writing novels. I like writing songs. I like writing blogs. Why not write a song about how I write novels? It’s not going to be for the purpose of showing how I write. It’s more likely going to be for the purpose of being funny. Given the shrinking ranks of writers – the few, the proud, the destitute – it had better be funny to more than the literary community, much of which doesn’t realize I’m a member.

So I think I’ll write about how a party with college friends turns into a football team shindig, and how the rival coach isn’t really based on who you’d think, and how the guy who committed suicide wasn’t really the school principal, and how Fairmont in The Intangibles and Henry in The Audacity of Dope are a lot like Clinton, but Clinton isn’t a whole lot like Elmore in the next novel (Crazy by Natural Causes).

Riley Mansfield isn't based on any one person.
Riley Mansfield isn’t based on any one person.

I might even write about how about a dozen people have allowed in confidence as how they realize they were the real Riley Mansfield, and I never even thought about a single one of them when I was creating him. I can’t tell you upon whom Riley was based because, in my mind, he looks like one person I know and acts like another. Well, he acts like him a little bit. Riley is as close to an original as this novelist can concoct.

That’s why it’s called fiction.

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