The Weather Underground

 

Occasionally, I just want to scream. (John Clark photo)
Occasionally, I just want to scream. (John Clark photo)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, S.C., Thursday, January 30, 2014, 9:44 a.m.

I've weathered the storm ... but what's up in Daytona?
I’ve weathered the storm … but what’s up in Daytona?

Yesterday I was working on a future novel, which is what I do for at least part of most days, and I had the television droning in the background. Lately, I’ve gotten tired of 24-hour news and 24-hour sports, so I’ve turned to the weather for my daily droning. No one drones like weathermen and women. It’s a little reminiscent of the old “Biff Barnes” routines by Roy Firestone.

Up steps Larry Lord, and, boy, oh, boy, is the Lord on a hot streak. Takes a ball, one and oh. Meanwhile, it’s a real pleasure to have in the booth Soviet novelist and dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn, call strike, one and one. Alex, I was browsing that novel of yours, The Gulag Archipelago, and, oh, swing! and a miss by Lord, I’m telling you, that’s what you call a heavy read, and, we’ll get back to the Gulag in the top of the second, Lord grounds sharply to second baseman Julio Herrera, and it’s three up and three down for the Swamp Critters, after one, scoreless from Ipanema …

The present weather channel at my house is the replacement DirecTV drummed up when they had a fees dispute with The Weather Channel, so now, predictably, it’s WeatherNation, and I don’t miss Jim Cantore nearly as much as the little red button on the remote that makes the local forecast pop up, and not only my local forecast but other areas where I might either be going or interested in. For instance, next month the red button, if I still had one, might cause Daytona Beach, Fla., to pop up.

My life. So exciting. The first sentence of the above paragraph. So long.

When I’m writing, I like a drone. Any drone, except the kind that bombs homes of al Qaeda “operatives,” whatever operatives are. At the moment, my writing is probably hindered by a “post-State-of-the-Union” panel. Maybe I’ll switch to “The Kennel Murder Case” on TCM:

Movie, Mystery/Crime. (1933) William Powell, Mary Astor. Doberman fancier Philo Vance solves clubby murders on Long Island.

I’m totally against murders, but the clubby ones don’t bother me quite as much.

[cb_profit_poster Movies]

Ready … Set … Write!

"36, x-cross, trips left, on three, ready, break!"
“36, x-cross, trips left, on three, ready, break!”

 

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, S.C., Tuesday, January 28, 2014, 9:19 a.m.

Charlotte seems as far away as Sochi, and likely as cold, on this last week of January. For 20 years, the hustling-and-bustling, head-‘em-up-move-‘em-out NASCAR Media Tour occupied my time damn near completely.

Now I see the tweets.

"Hmm. Well, that depends," said a puzzled Jeff Gordon.
“Hmm. Well, that depends,” said a puzzled Jeff Gordon.

The Media Tour changes slowly, as does the sport, and pretty soon I’m not going to have any business writing about because it will have changed in ways I couldn’t appreciate even if I was paying attention.

It changed during the 20 years, 1993-2012, when I was in the ranks.

The Tour relates mostly to NASCAR – there are almost always a few exceptions, thanks to multifarious Charlotte Motor Speedway’s sponsorship – but I always thought of each day as a drag race. I never had the luxury of entrusting part of the Tour to an associate, though John Clark was often handy to accompany my stories with well-crafted photos.

It was up early, to bed late (this was sometimes no one’s fault but my own), and keeping up with the day’s activities for a daily newspaper often meant, in the early days, that I was typing away on a bus, and in the later, heading back to the room, typing right up to the last possible minute and filing stories before barely getting back in time to board the bus before it pulled away to the Speedway, or Hendrick, or some once-impressive facility now relegated to the vague mists of memory.

I just missed one bus in all those years.

In the 1990s, the travel was grueling. Off we’d go, feigning a certain esprit de corps, to far-flung outposts of speed in Dawsonville, Ga., or Stuart, Va. They’ve become NASCAR ghost towns since.

Now a high percentage of the tour is at the host hotel, with shiny color schemes unveiled and everyone sitting in rows of chairs, attempting to get recognition at endless media conferences. The amount of information grows as the quality diminishes.

I used to sandbag. I’d chat with a fabricator, or a PR rep, and wait for the swarm to be satiated, then I’d walk up and ask a question whose answer I didn’t have to share with so many. Before I got old enough to be patient, I’d sometimes get angry at being in the swarm.

Now there are far fewer people available for chats in the corner. They’re back at the shop, fabricating.

Now the Tour, and the sport, is more writing contest. Everyone gets the same information, and there’s a subtly measured intramural competition in which whoever does best with that information gets grudgingly acknowledged, though not often publicly.

I used to liken it to the annual Soil & Water Conservation Essay Contest I entered several times back around junior high school. Most of my colleagues laughed nervously, and a few even had an inkling of what I meant.

[cb_profit_poster Travel1]

A Road ‘Companion’

[cb_profit_poster Guitar2]Clinton, S.C., Sunday, January 26, 2014, 1:57 p.m.

On Saturday, I took quite the day trip, a round trip to Georgetown, S.C., down on the coast more than 200 miles away. I left the house at 6 in the morning and got back a little past 8 at night.

I had a wonderful time playing my guitar, signing copies of my novels and talking about The Intangibles and The Audacity of Dope.

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)

The timing was excellent because I managed to listen to A Prairie Home Companion in its entirety on the way home. In fact, I had NPR on for the whole trip.

I had planned to take some music along, but the early wake-up left me a bit foggy (not that my late wake-ups aren’t often foggy, too) and I forgot to select some music for the trip. I also forgot my iPod. (In fact, at this very moment, I’m not sure exactly where my iPod is. It’ll turn up. I haven’t looked for it, either.)

The Intangibles is set in a small Southern town during the 1960s.
The Intangibles is set in a small Southern town during the 1960s.

On the way down, I listened to a Duke professor discuss the pros and cons of medical marijuana. I listened to experts talk about the value of taking turmeric (I think that’s it) and drinking hibiscus tea. I may try the latter. I listened to nerdy humor and brainy music. It kept my attention. I must have drunk a quart of coffee before the book signing even started and a pint while it was going on.

On the way home, I didn’t need coffee, having felt, paradoxically, both jumpy and dull by the time I finished up at Clock Tower Books. Fortunately, I had Garrison Keillor to keep me occupied. It was easier to follow Keillor’s train of thought than maintain my own.

The Audacity of Dope's plot is ignited by an incident on an airplane.
The Audacity of Dope’s plot is ignited by an incident on an airplane.

The world’s greatest female bluegrass singer, Rhonda Vincent, and her band, the Rage, were on the show, as were at least two other brilliant groups whose names unfortunately elude me now. The rumors regarding Pastor Liz and her boyfriend dominated the news from Lake Wobegon. Guy Noir, Private Eye, was more alliterative than usual, but, of course, he had the obligatory encounter with a sultry woman, and I could tell you more but I was in a McDonald’s drive-through near Orangeburg and missed some of pertinent details.

I grew up driving home with my father from horse and cattle auctions, listening to the Grand Ole Opry, and that’s one of the reasons I love A Prairie Home Companion. I often listen to excerpts online, but it’s rare that I listen to the actual show. It’s just one of those things I do while driving, and it’s not often I’m driving between 6 and 8 p.m.

This montedutton.com special is limited to the folks who read this blog, and I’m talking just this blog. Send me $40, and I’ll ship you autographed copies of both my novels, The Audacity of Dope and The Intangibles, and I’ll throw in a T-shirt. Give me your size and mail payment to: Monte Dutton, 11185 Hwy. 56 N., Clinton, S.C  29325.

[cb_profit_poster Guitar1]

Making Believe

This photo is several years old, but my hair looks this way right now, anyway.
This photo is several years old, but my hair looks this way right now, anyway.

[cb_profit_poster Storytelling]Clinton, S.C., Friday, January 24, 2014, 12:22 p.m.

It is I.
It is I.

Fortunately, in this weekend bereft of football, I will manage to occupy myself for at least part of it on the road. I’m going to be making a long drive early in the morning, hosting a book signing and then turning around and coming back home. I’ll placate myself by taking along some music I haven’t heard in a while and getting some of the thinking done that long drives afford.

On Sunday, I’ll probably watch the closing stages of the Rolex 24 endurance race and get some writing done, which normally doesn’t happen on Sundays with the National Football League in action.

My trusty Pawless. (Vince Pawless photo)
My trusty Pawless. (Vince Pawless photo)

Tuesday and Wednesday were productive days. I wrote two long chapters in my modern western, Cowboys Come Home. The crime novel, Deadly Arrogance, and the western are each sitting at about 20,000 words of a first draft. Meanwhile, Crazy by Natural Causes awaits a good polishing.

On Thursday night, I was in Shelby, N.C., and it was cold. I met some nice people and got up there early enough to enjoy some outstanding barbecue and banana pudding. The pudding was better than the signing, but I still had a good time playing some songs, reading some selections from both my actually published novels, The Intangibles and The Audacity of Dope, talking about them and my music, and answering questions. I never know how these signings are going to go. I hope to go back to Shelby later, when the weather warms up. In the meantime, autographed copies of both novels are available at Fireside Books & Gifts, which is right in the middle of downtown on Lafayette Street, as they are at Fiction Addiction in Greenville and Barnhill’s in Winston-Salem, N.C. Signed copies of The Intangibles are available at L&L Office Supply in Clinton and Burry Bookstore in Hartsville. You can order it at any Barnes & Noble, or online at bn.com and amazon.com.

But I digress with shameless commercialism.

12:41 p.m.

My relatively new song, “It’s Only Fiction,” plays well to bookstore audiences since it’s about the process of concocting a story (a bank robbery earlier this week) while sitting in a chair behind a laptop.

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 soaring o’er the pits of hell.

Being a novelist is a little like being the Wizard of Oz, concocting great mayhem by twisting imaginary dials behind an imaginary curtain.

I just made a vain attempt to retrieve some Jerry Jeff Walker lyrics, something about at least he wasn’t just some writer staring at a wall.

At least I am. Beats robbing banks for real.

I’ll be at Clock Tower Books, 105 Screven Street, Georgetown, S.C., on Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. I’ll see if the coast is clear. I know it’s chilly.

[cb_profit_poster Travel1]

Me and My Old Man, Two Decades Later

[cb_profit_poster Peace]Clinton, S.C., Wednesday, January 22, 2014, 9:41 a.m.

As you know, I often use this blog to warm up for writing fiction. I’ve got a bank robbery to describe in a few minutes, so …

La-la-la-luh-LA-luh-la-la-LA … toon-TOON …

I look quite a bit like him, I'm often reminded.
I look quite a bit like him, I’m often reminded.

My father, Jimmy Dutton, would have been 77 today, which is unimaginable since he died at 56. His life was an evocative tragedy, worthy of the Greeks, but, over time, the good memories gradually come to supersede and obscure the bad. I think of my old man every day, and most times I chuckle. I probably wouldn’t have become a writer had the Colonel (that’s what auctioneers are titled) not provided so much material early on.

However, the answer to the question “what would Daddy do?” is not often a feasible solution or worthwhile guidance. I suppose father-son relationships have some commonality. Sons are different in some ways and the same in others. On many occasions, like the pretty woman in “South Pacific,” I wanted to “wash that man right out of my hair, and send him on his way,” but I had no more chance than she did.

Memories that are 21 years distant naturally lead to nostalgia. This morning is a cornucopia of images. My father inspired many lyrics in my songs, some of which I actually realized when I wrote them:

My daddy used to say / You gotta be a man / You gotta pull your weight / You gotta work the land / But every time I tried and failed he turned away from me / By the time I was a man / It was too late for him to see.

You’ve had hard times / Most self-imposed / You’ve taken long trips / Down rocky roads / But for every hill you tumbled down / It’s been worth it all having you around.

I just went through all my song lyrics, and I need to revisit a number of unfinished songs when I’m not buried in prose:

My daddy was an auctioneer / Rode the train from Jacksonville to High Point / How to get there wasn’t clear / All in all he had no fear / Couldn’t tell you where he was going / Didn’t know it was a goal / Didn’t have the fear of knowing / When he’d have to pay the toll.

My dad raised me to root for the Red Sox, too.
My dad raised me to root for the Red Sox, too.

Complicated? My relationship with my old man? It’s complicated now, over 20 years after he died. You should have seen it when I was a teen-ager. It amuses me, thinking of how, when he was of a mind to raise hell, he was going to find a vehicle to do so. I remember lying on the couch on a summer Saturday, reading a book with the baseball “Game of the Week” on TV, and Daddy, steaming into the house, sweaty, red-faced, likely hung over.

“Well, I be goddamned,” he says, “there’s a fence down bordering Howard Watkins’ place, no telling where three cows are, your mama’s sitting in the parking lot of Belk’s with a flat tire, and what are you doing? Laying on your goddamned ass reading a book.”

I look up, knowing nothing of these dire emergencies except that a good bit of them are fabricated.

“What’s up, Pop?”

This, of course, only made him madder, which is why I chuckle now.

It wasn’t all bad. I often think that a dysfunctional boyhood – this was back before all families were dysfunctional – made me tougher, which is, by the way, just where the old man claimed to be aiming. A boyhood full of problems made me fairly adept at fixing them. When Jerry Reed was singing about automobiles, he could’ve been singing about Jimmy Dutton.

If I’m not out of gas in a pouring rain / I’m changing a flat in a hurricane / Lord, Mr. Ford, what have you done?

Oh, yeah. Daddy gave me a love of country music. He took me to see Charley Pride, Johnny Cash, loved Waylon & Willie, and sometimes when he was drunk and depressed, he mournfully sang Kristofferson:

Lord, help me Jesus / I’ve wasted it so / Help me, Jesus / My soul’s in your haaaaaand.

He was never more religious than when drunk on his ass.

By the way, he also took me to Darlington and Greenville-Pickens to see the NASCAR legends race. Somewhere, probably in a shoe box, are photos of my 10-year-old self, wearing a homemade football jersey, made out of a sweat shirt and iron-on numerals cut out of patches that I was so proud of then and so mortified by now, posed next to Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, Tiny Lund and Wendell Scott.

I never pleased him much. He wasn’t interested in straight A’s and SAT scores, but a state football championship made him right happy. I think he wanted to give the world a womanizing, liquor-drinking, rodeo cowboy. He wasn’t much impressed by writers, but I think he would have enjoyed hearing me tell outrageous, profane stories from the NASCAR garage, the kind that aren’t told much anymore. He’s in me, like the imaginary devil perched on one shoulder, debating the angel on the other. Everyone has these debates. Mine are more colorful, thanks to the Colonel.

Grudgingly, I miss him. Occasionally.

Some of my father is in every novel I write, whether it’s the pot-smoking folk singer, Riley Mansfield, or the high-school football fan, Tommy Hoskins, or Chance Benford, whom you may eventually meet.

[cb_profit_poster Speak1]

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

The big winner could be ... Jamie McMurray! (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevrolet)
The big winner could be … Jamie McMurray! (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevrolet)

[cb_profit_poster Movies]Clinton, S.C., Monday, January 20, 2014, 12:58 p.m.

You’ve heard of the cross between the elephant and the rhinoceros, right?

The “hell if I know”? Maybe the helephino.

What’s NASCAR going to do? Hell if I know. I read about the alleged Chase formula that leaked out over the weekend. I really just can’t believe it. Surely calmer heads will prevail.

In NASCAR? Hah! They’ve got calmer heads breaking up passes in the NFL playoffs.

Sixteen drivers in the Chase? Anyone who wins a race getting in, EIRI? (NASCAR-speak for “except in rare instances,” even though, in NASCAR, rare instances aren’t even rare.) Eliminations during the Chase from 16 to 8 to 4, and then the four “lucky winners” dueling it out for the Sprint Cup championship in the final race?

My very first thought was, well, Jamie McMurray’s big year has finally arrived.

My second thought was, well, this is another in the endless series of NASCAR trial balloons. If fans don’t jump up and down, hyperventilate while chatting with Dave Moody on SiriusXM, show up at the NASCAR Hall of Fame carrying fiery clubs and threatening to burn the place down, and launch the NASCAR wing of the Tea Party, this is going through.

I went to stock car races, on and off, since I was about five years old, so, yeah, lots of my opinions are old. I never once found myself thinking, well, you know, this Chase really works well. I did, however, accept that it was here to stay and there was nothing I could do about it. NASCAR has never played by my rules, and it shouldn’t. The sporting world passed me by long ago. If it was up to me, NASCAR wouldn’t have a Chase, baseball wouldn’t have a designated hitter, football lineman wouldn’t be allowed to block with their hands, and basketball would still have numerous jump balls. Golf clubs and tennis racquets would still have wood in them.

I'm smiling, but, inside ...
I’m smiling, but, inside …

This cockamamie proposal took me by surprise, though, and, at this point, I say just go all the way. Any acceptance of this means of determining the Sprint Cup champion also implies further radical departures.

— All qualifying must be conducted at the Bonneville Salt Flats, which would effectively move the epicenter of stock car racing from North Carolina to Utah. The teams would have to hit the salt for qualifying each Tuesday, then pack up and go to tracks.

— Loop-the-loops, which work splendidly in Hot Wheels sets, must be installed at all “intermediate” tracks.

— Borrowing even more from Mattel, Milton Bradley and Hasbro, Dover and New Hampshire must be converted into “over-and-under” figure-8’s.

— Five diversity provisionals.

— Kool-Aid, the Official Powdery Substance of NASCAR.

— Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Herman Cain, in the tower, calling the race. Maybe Dennis Kucinich, too, at the road courses to placate the sport’s hundreds of liberal fans. And Blake Shelton because he’s everywhere else and looks a bit like Dale Earnhardt Jr. And they’ll have to find a place for Regis Philbin and Nancy Grace.

— Jim Carrey, NASCAR Vice President for Corporate Communications.

— One demolition derby in the Chase, and that’s in addition to Talladega.

— A Monster Truck Series.

— Replace the all-star races with a converted triathlon – 100 miles in a stock car, 100 miles on a motorcycle and 100 miles in a powerboat – and a cross-country race through the Monument Valley of Utah. As with the Sprint All-Star Race, all the Salt Lake City-based teams would call the latter their home race.

Someone in Daytona Beach is reading this right now and thinking, well, we considered all those things. The numbers didn’t jive.

Buy my novel, The Intangibles, which isn’t nearly as outlandish as this blog. Now I’m going back to writing about a bank robbery.
[cb_profit_poster Lotto]

NASCAR: A Ridiculously Brief History

Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. lead the pack at Talladega on Oct. 20, 2013. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevrolet)
Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. lead the pack at Talladega on Oct. 20, 2013. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevrolet)
[cb_profit_poster Storytelling]Clinton, S.C., Thursday, January 16, 2014, 8:31 a.m.
NASCAR these days is just a whirling dervish, which naturally leads to the question, “What is a dervish?”

I mean, besides something that whirls.

The whirling dance, or Sufi whirling, that is proverbially associated with Dervishes is best known in the West by the practices (performances) of the Mevlevi order in Turkey, and is part of a formal ceremony known as the Serna.

What of the Dervish?

A Dervish or Darvesh is someone treading a Sufi Muslim ascetic path …

Ah. Like Scott Speed.

Meanwhile, Yu Darvish had an exceptional season pitching for the Texas Rangers, but that’s not important. Nor is it that I know a country singer named Andy Serna.

NASCAR keeps me playing catch-up.
NASCAR keeps me playing catch-up.

Dervish 6.0: NASCAR Edition involves constantly changing everything. Have a Chase, change a Chase, label it “New and Improved!” just like a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Car of Tomorrow? Tomorrow never comes. Free pass on the lead lap? Ah, let’s wave a heap of them around. Bonus points. Talking points. Points as they run. Point Break. Swimming pools. Movie stars. Come and listen to a story about a man named Jed. Poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed. Then one day he was shooting at some food. Up through the ground come a-bubblin’ crude. Oil, that is. Texas tea.

Then, once Jed Clampett found all that oil, Big Bill France figured out what to do with it. Only Slightly Less Big Bill France built an empire, and along came Brian Zoroaster France (okay, it’s Zachary) to decide he was going to run football out of business.

France Jung Un.

What is NASCAR’s biggest problem? It went out of style. I had a history professor decades ago who was fond of using that phrase: “So, in Alabama, they started buying up those plots of land like they were going out of style!” Meanwhile, I sat scribbling in a notebook and thinking, If they’re going out of style, that is not going to be a wise investment.

NASCAR, however, agreed with Dr. Sanders.

Watch us! Watch us! We’re already the fastest growing sport in America! Next we take over the world!

For a while, people flocked to the tracks, anxious to see what the big deal was. Then there came a time – one that’s inevitable when dealing with those flocking to what has lately been deemed cool – when the newbies all decided NASCAR was sooooo last year.

Then there were the longtime fans, tried and true, who had loved NASCAR the way it was, or had been. They got grumpy and still are.

The best way to rebuild is to be patient. Reassure the base and regain their enthusiasm.

But that is not Zoroaster’s way. To reconfigure a baseball slogan, it’s “Tinker forever to France.”

[cb_profit_poster Beer1]

Holding Things Together

Presumably, this is the home of the Fairmont Cyclones, though I don't actually know where the cover photo was taken.
Presumably, this is the home of the Fairmont Cyclones, though I don’t actually know where the cover photo was taken.
[cb_profit_poster Lotto]Clinton, S.C., Tuesday, January 14, 2014, 10:20 a.m.

Two steps forward. One step back. That wouldn’t have been acceptable to my high-school football coach. The slogans on Keith Richardson’s locker-room walls gave my latter novel its name. Those slogans were the original Intangibles.

Hit and Don’t Be Hit!

Any Old Nag Can Start but It Takes a Thoroughbred to Finish!

Fatigue Makes Cowards of Us All.

If You Won’t Be Beat, You Can’t Be Beat!

This is where the Clinton Red Devils play.
This is where the Clinton Red Devils play.
It’s unnecessary for me to tell his former players that Fairmont High School’s Reese Knighton is loosely based on Clinton High School’s Keith Richardson. The stories aren’t the same – truth isn’t stranger than fiction here, though it was just as extraordinary – but suffice it to say that Knighton and Richardson would have liked each other.

Or they may have been bitter enemies. Richardson once told me that “the hardest thing in the world is being friends with those you compete against.”

There’s a little bit of that in The Intangibles, too.

On the other hand, Richardson wasn’t a head coach in 1968, and the schools here didn’t fully integrate until 1970. He never changed the uniform numbers to the ones no one wanted. He never went through a major controversy regarding a player deemed ineligible. A lot of The Intangibles’ major characters – Click Clowney, Preston Shipley, the Leverette twins, Ned Whitesides – were completely invented. A lot of them weren’t, but there’s not one carbon copy. Some of it is based on what really happened. Some of it isn’t.

Football is useful in life, but life isn’t as simple. Life isn’t a football game. It’s more a season.

Right now I’ve got my nose to the grindstone (yet it’s not bleeding). I’m writing as much as I can. I’ve got a third novel, Crazy by Natural Causes, standing on the sideline and hoping to go in. I’m working on a couple junior varsity novels, in progress, and I hope they’ll be ready for varsity play. I’m toughening them up. They’re getting there. Deadly Arrogance is the outrageous story of a good cop and a bad solicitor. (What we call solicitors here, others call district attorneys.) Cowboys Come Home is about what happens to a couple of heroes when they come home from the war. It’s a modern western.

The Audacity of Dope's plot is ignited by an incident on an airplane.
The Audacity of Dope’s plot is ignited by an incident on an airplane.
The Audacity of Dope’s main character, Riley Mansfield, lived in Henry, S.C., though he didn’t spend much time there. The Intangibles was set in Fairmont. Both towns are a lot like this one. Crazy by Natural Causes is set in the hills of Kentucky. Its home base, Elmore, is a bit more imaginary than Henry and Fairmont. Deadly Arrogance moves back to South Carolina, where it resides in Latimohr. Cowboys Come Home is set in a real town, Gainesville, Texas, though I never, for obvious reasons, spent any time there in 1945-46. It’s about a post-war conflict between oilmen and ranchers. As best I can tell, it has no basis in any real incident, and none of the characters is based on anyone real, or at least not specifically.

I really need to start chipping away at my taxes. I need to catch up on my accounting. A stack of bills needs addressing (no, I’m sorry, those are the envelopes). I’m obsessed about those two new projects, though. I’m writing this blog right now as a means of warming up for another chapter of Cowboys Come Home. Yesterday’s work on Deadly Arrogance accelerated the plot. What’s rattling around in my mind this morning is a really crucial chapter of Cowboys Come Home. It may not get done today, and it may take more than one chapter. That’s what happens when a very general outline becomes a first draft, not to mention a very detailed outline.

Unlike a football team, my sights aren’t set on a championship yet. I’m dreaming of having more money coming in than going out.

My whole life I’ve done what I loved and managed to make a living. It gets harder with time, though.

I’ve got a couple of book signings coming up, Shelby, N.C., on January 23 and Georgetown, S.C., on January 25. Give me a few minutes, and I’ll get the “events” on this site updated.
[cb_profit_poster Baseball]

Stopping by Cinema on a Rainy Afternoon

I settled for a movie and could've done worse.
I settled for a movie and could’ve done worse.
[cb_profit_poster Movies]Clinton, S.C., Saturday, January 11, 2014, 9:45 a.m.
From time to time, I get that “Here in Topeka” feeling, even though it’s actually in Clinton. It’s from the old Loretta Lynn song “One’s on the Way”: Here in Topeka / The screen door’s a-bangin’ / One needs a huggin’ and one needs a spankin’ / And one’s on the way.
Even though I’m overwhelmingly confident that I’m neither pregnant nor going to be, I relate to the song, anyway.
Sometimes I also find romantic relevance in the name of the Peter O’Toole/Katharine Hepburn movie “The Lion in Winter.” No, my life’s not mundane. I’m just a lion in winter. Yeah.
Yesterday I attended a movie. In a theater! It’s the same every time. I get through with some meeting or errand. I’ve got a few hours to kill. I go to the movies. I never end up watching the movie I really want to see. Invariably, the next showtime is an hour away, so I settle for the best available convenient option. Yesterday what I really wanted to see was “Inside Llewyn Davis,” but I settled for “Saving Mr. Banks,” and that was fine. I could’ve seen “The Wolf of Wall Street,” but I don’t care much for wolves or Wall Street.
Opinion on “Inside Llewyn Davis” has been sharply divided among acquaintances, Twitter followers, Facebook friends and the like, which was part of the reason I wanted to see it for myself.
“Saving Mr. Banks” has an unbelievable cast that includes Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Paul Giamatti, Colin Farrell and Bradley Whitford. It’s not a classic, but it’s a solid, competent movie. I liked it. I didn’t love it. I think, if I’d seen “Inside Llewyn Davis,” I probably would’ve either loved or hated it. Ah, well, I guess I’ll see it on HBO or something one day. Or, maybe, in a couple weeks, when I’m on a short road trip selling my novels, I’ll have some free time and see it then.
Most of the movies I see in theaters are animated because I pick up my grand-nephew Alex (who turns 11 on Monday) and see something with a name like “Happy Feet,” “Cars,” or “Ice Age” and a number after it.
Alone, I wouldn’t go to see a “Mary Poppins,” but I enjoyed a movie centered on the making of “Mary Poppins,” which, of course, I saw when I was younger than Alex is now. Hanks makes a fine Walt Disney. Hanks makes a fine anything except Sherman McCoy (“The Bonfire of the Vanities,” a wretched film from a splendid novel).
It’s time to bring this to a conclusion so that I can write about a conflict between ranchers and oilmen in 1946 Texas. It’s more interesting than my trip to two bookstores, followed by a Disney movie and Sam’s Club, where I picked up such exciting items as shampoo and ginkgo biloba.
And a bag of oranges. I think I’ll have one now.
It cost about $20 to see a movie and buy a small drink and fried cheese sticks (cheaper than any of the popcorn options). Then I had supper at Sam’s Club, where a hot dog, drink and slice of pizza cost $3.65. Go figure.
I promise that my new novel, The Intangibles, is a great deal more compelling than this blog. If you’ve read The Intangibles already – and why wouldn’t you? – I’d appreciate a customer review at amazon.com, goodreads.com or barnesandnoble.com. It doesn’t take but a few sentences to let others know what you think.
[cb_profit_poster Peace]

Don’t Pin All Your Hopes on Daytona

In an incredible coincidence, the Daytona 500 winner, Jimmie Johnson, actually went on to win the championship. (HHP/Brian Lawdermilk photo for Chevrolet)
In an incredible coincidence, the Daytona 500 winner, Jimmie Johnson, actually went on to win the championship. (HHP/Brian Lawdermilk photo for Chevrolet)

[cb_profit_poster sponsor1]Clinton, S.C., Tuesday, January 7, 2014, 5:31 p.m.

I’m going to make a few random observations about NASCAR, the reason being that, at this point of the year, I don’t have many opinions that are fully formed.

The baseball stats guru Bill James once said that if then-Red Sox manager John McNamara ever wrote a book on strategy, it would be called Let Them Play and See What Happens.

Is it finally Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s year? It's not the way to bet.(John Clark photo)
Is it finally Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s year? It’s not the way to bet.(John Clark photo)

We could argue all night about whether or not Jimmie Johnson is going win yet another Sprint Cup championship, or whether Dale Earnhardt Jr. can win one, or whether Tony Stewart can come back from injury, or Brad Keselowski get back in the Chase, or Kyle Busch can defeat himself, or Jack Roush can get his team back up to speed, or a plethora of other potential happenings, but we really don’t know.

Let Them Race and See What Happens.

I’m not making any predictions. It’s premature. My former colleagues are getting busy. Some are going to testing in Daytona Beach. Most all will be at the upcoming media tour. At this time a year ago, I was informing the sanctioners of such activities that I no longer had any practical reason to attend. I guess I haven’t missed it since a year ago, so, since I just thought of it, I guess I’ll start missing it a little now.

But just a little.

Herewith are my trivial, unformed and uninformed thoughts:

Will Danica Patrick impress again at Daytona? Will it have anything to do with anything else?  (John Clark photo)
Will Danica Patrick impress again at Daytona? Will it have anything to do with anything else? (John Clark photo)

No worries about Daytona. The lead-up will be most sanguine. Danica Patrick will be written about, once again, as if she is a contender, but all will be sweetness and light for virtually everyone else, too. This year I’m expecting a white sale on long features celebrating the underappreciated majesty of Johnson. They’ve probably been written in the past less than 100,000 times.

NASCAR itself will be lavishly praised, not having besmirched the clean slate with any wildly improbable screw-ups … yet.

Everyone will go to the beach at the height of their powers, having bolstered their forces over the winter. The form may vary, but I expect Speedweeks will provide a progression of exciting races. It’s hard to run a race there that isn’t interesting, at least. Some will, as always, grouse that “it’s not real racing.” That’s why NASCAR excels at it.

It’s the only time of the season when all is truly optimistic. Something may dampen it. Yes, I remember that horrible day in 2001. It’s unlikely that such a disaster will occur again, but so was it then. There may be gruesome crashes, but as long as everyone walks away, the effect will be positive, not negative. A few hands will be figuratively wrung, but that’s about it.

David Ragan probably won't win the Daytona 500, but it's my preference. (John Clark photo)
David Ragan probably won’t win the Daytona 500, but it’s my preference. (John Clark photo)

Part of what makes Daytona so invigorating is that, practically every year, a team performs spectacularly and is never heard from again. It may even be the winner, as in Trevor Bayne’s case in 2011. It may even be Danica Patrick doing well, as it was last year.

Ultimately, the Daytona 500 will have no more to do with this, or any season, than an exhibition between the Boston Red Sox and Boston College presages the outcome of the World Series.

If the Daytona 500 winner wins the Sprint Cup championship, as he did last year, it will be a coincidence, not a portent of things to come.

Back at home, I’ll hope for the best, but I’ve been around too long to expect it.

I’m not making any predictions, but I’ll be rooting for David Ragan.

[cb_profit_poster Guitar2]