Take a Chance on … Chance

Things don't have to be just alike. (Monte Dutton photo)
Things don’t have to be just alike. (Monte Dutton photo)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, July 21, 2015, 1:20 p.m.

I’ve been doing something I don’t do every day. Lately, I’ve been doing it every two years. I’m reading my novel. Yeah, I wrote it. My novels have been published in 2011, 2013, and, now, 2015. The next one’s going to be out sooner than that.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

It’s not necessary. I mean, I know what’s in it. It’s a little painful. A few itsy-bitsy typos are still there, but I seldom read a book where I didn’t pick up a few, and I know it’s already been proofread by me during every draft, and again before it was published, and it’s really hard to catch little typos because absentminded mistakes are hard to find because one can’t imagine making them.

Mainly, I’m proud. I’ve written a good book, not that I’m objective or anything. Some won’t like it. Some will find passages they deem offensive. I respect their views. A book has to reflect my views. I had some things to say, or for Chance Benford, the main character, to say, and I didn’t feel the need to censor him because the way he was is the whole point of writing it.

Here’s a video.

Chance is both a religious man and a sinner. I don’t think it’s unusual. Some rather harsh events in his life contribute to his ability to rationalize away his own behavior. I started writing Crazy of Natural Causes because I wanted to make some great observation on the nature of sinful man.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky.)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky.)

It was supposed to be funny. It wound up being serious, but still, I think, amusing. I can relate to Chance. I expect most folks can, and that’s why I believe most folks will enjoy reading it.

Here’s where you can sign up for a mere $3.49: http://www.amazon.com/Crazy-Natural-Causes-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00YI8SWUU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436215069&sr=1-1&keywords=Crazy+of+Natural+Causes


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]

A Change of Tone

[cb_profit_poster Storytelling]Clinton, S.C., Friday, January 3, 2014, 2:12 p.m.

I'm changing my style whether I know it or not.
I’m changing my style whether I know it or not.

Here’s a surprise. I’ve been writing.

This morning, I went back through the first three chapters of my budding western novel, Cowboys Come Home, and cleaned them up a bit at the behest of potential representation. I’ve got a somewhat finished work, Crazy by Natural Causes (not published so not italic … yet), in the till, and a crime novel I had already started when a reason to write a western happened along. I’m planning to chip away at both of them in the coming months.

What struck me this morning, as I reexamined my writing, was how I slipped into character while writing it. This happens by necessity when writing dialogue, but as I tried to put myself in the middle of Texas in the 1940s (it’s a latter-day western), the characters seeped into my descriptions, too. It’s not necessarily a bad device, but, in this case, it was unintentional. I didn’t really notice the change until I started reading what I had written again.

Or maybe it's just the difference between cowboys in the 1940s and politicians in 2008.
Or maybe it’s just the difference between cowboys in the 1940s and politicians in 2008.

As an example, here is a paragraph from my first novel, The Audacity of Dope:

Two enterprising junior partners, Garner Thomas and Sue Ellen Spenser, regularly plotted strategies designed to elevate their stock. They had gradually, in tandem and over time, learned the usefulness of amorality.

And here is a paragraph from Cowboys Come Home:

Ennis smiled. He thought about how he hadn’t used much foul language till he’d gotten to where Japs were crawling around and bombs going off. In the Pacific, he’d gotten right adept at it. He was trying to clean himself up. Harry was, too.

I’m spending lots of time sailing uncharted seas these days.

In case you missed it (via social media), I picked Clemson and Oklahoma State in the bowl games. Orange is perfect for the Tigers, and Cowboys always feel like they’re in high Cotton in the Metroplex of Dallas/Fort Worth. I’m 11-5 but trending downward after a 7-1 start.

[cb_profit_poster Guitar1]

‘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


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


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.

[cb_profit_poster Speak1]

Where Do I Go Next?

[cb_profit_poster Acting]Clinton, S.C., Friday, December 6, 2013, 2:52 p.m.

I'm ready to write again, but what?
I’m ready to write again, but what?

Today’s a big day, not because Jimmie Johnson has been regaling NASCAR fans with photos simulating the movie ‘Hangover,” and not because Ford Field is hosting the Mid-American Conference championship between Bowling Green and Northern Illinois. It’s not because the Palmetto State is settling its high school championships. It’s not because the Seattle Mariners are signing Robinson Cano or the New York Yankees got Jacoby Ellsbury.

It’s because I finished the second draft of Crazy by Natural Causes, which I intend to be my third novel. I streamlined it a little, changed a character’s name, fixed a few discrepancies and the occasional imperfections of grammar and spelling. I’m sure more will materialize, but editing Crazy wasn’t all that crazy, which makes me feel like I’m making a little progress as a novelist. Now I’m going to let a couple people I trust read it, and then I’ll consider what they’ve got to say and give it another whirl.

A novel is a pretty long whirl. In fact, it’s several. I take some pride in not having to whirl as much in each of my whirls.

My second novel is more complicated than my first.
My second novel is more complicated than my first.

The blog tour is rolling along. I didn’t know what a blog tour was until I was on one. I’ve put lots of work in it: being interviewed, writing blogs when requested, shipping review copies, selecting excerpts of the novel, The Intangibles, that is brand-new to everyone but me because I turned my attention back to Crazy.

Which is crazy again, but that’s all right because here’s something that’s even crazier. I’ve got this hankering to set out on another. I haven’t decided which of a couple ideas I’m going to pursue, but when I wake up in the middle of the night and spend several hours floating along the river that separates the conscious from the unconscious, thinking plots, characters and settings, well, by gum, it’s time to sally forth again.

A good many readers have asked me if I’m going to write about Riley Mansfield, the pot-smoking hero of The Audacity of Dope, again. When I wrote True to the Roots: Americana Music Revealed, several years ago, I mentioned that I’d like to do another book featuring all women singers and songwriters, but I’m not going back that way, partly because I’ve gotten accustomed to writing fiction and partly because there is little apparent demand for a sequel.

I miss Riley Mansfield, but I'm not of a mind to write about him again ... yet.
I miss Riley Mansfield, but I’m not of a mind to write about him again … yet.

I really like Riley, and I might write a sequel (or prequel, I suppose) about him some day, but right now I’m still excited about inventing new characters and trying new styles.

Audacity was an irreverent, political, suspense thriller and a bit of a love story involving Riley and Melissa Franklin. The Intangibles is more complicated because it has more major characters, and it’s an historical work in that it was set in the 1960s. The Intangibles is more personal because it deals with events I experienced in a town based on my own. Crazy by Natural Causes is set in the present but not in a place so achingly familiar. It’s a commentary on the absurdity of the times in which we live. I relate to its main character, Chance Benford, in a way very different from Riley. Riley was a likable rogue. Chance starts out as a bad guy, and the second draft was partly an exercise in which I tried to make him likable enough at the beginning to keep readers interested enough to stay with him as he changes.

Part of me wants to write a crime novel. Part of me wants to write about a main character closer to my age. I might try to begin by writing separate short stories, then build on it with the one I like the best.

I might do anything. I’m even open to suggestions, though I’m probably too hardheaded to follow any. Writing a novel is quite a challenge, and I’ve got to come up with another story I love, one into which I can dive with passion.

I’ve still got new stories to tell, and unless Riley Mansfield, Reese Knighton or Frankie Hoskins makes me rich – no signs of that at present – I doubt I’ll revisit them.

Even though I like ‘em and all …

Send me $20, and I’ll sign and ship The Intangibles or The Audacity of Dope to you. Send me $35, and I’ll sign and ship you both. My mailing address is: 11185 Hwy. 56 N., Clinton, S.C.  29325.

[cb_profit_poster Storytelling]

In Marked Contrast to the Actual Weather …

The online promotional campaign for The Intangibles is underway.
The online promotional campaign for The Intangibles is underway.

[cb_profit_poster Storytelling]Clinton, S.C., Tuesday, December 3, 2013, 10:02 a.m.

It looks like rain today, and this wasn’t clear when I awakened shortly after dawn and opened the blinds to find a murky fog enveloping the bleak light. It wasn’t clear at the time whether or not the fog would burn off in an hour or so to reveal sunlight.

That’s why there’s a Weather Channel.

Honest to gosh, it's not a "selfie." Ten-year-old Alex took it.
Honest to gosh, it’s not a “selfie.” Ten-year-old Alex took it.

Yesterday was busy because it was filled with boring, busy things. I had a stack of bills to process, thus causing the stack of money in my bank account to similarly diminish. I did some accounting and some sales-tax figuring. Somehow all this managed to eat up the better part of the day, and I was so occupied, I didn’t even nibble.

I believe in taking care of the boring things first, so thus are my Mondays often dampened. Monday was sunshine, and I was all cloudy. Today is clouds, and I’m all sunshiny. I didn’t even write a blog because I didn’t think it would be interesting to write irreverent tales of property taxes and how many books I sold in Greenville.

I could begin a blog with that today.

If you haven't read The Audacity of Dope, trust me. It will entertain you.
If you haven’t read The Audacity of Dope, trust me. It will entertain you.

Today begins the blog tour for The Intangibles, my new novel. When I wrote The Audacity of Dope, I didn’t have any idea such a promotional tool existed. I bet you’d like to know what it is. For the next two weeks, The Intangibles and I will be analyzed and promoted on a variety of websites frequented by those who enjoy the reading of books. I’ve conducted a variety of interviews in the form of receiving sets of questions via email and answering them as conversationally as is possible with one’s fingers. It’s “Meet the Author” time, boys and girls.

Here’s what I first saw this morning:


I was tempted to play Dizzy Dean. When Dean was a young phenom bursting into stardom with the St. Louis Cardinals, he’d tell different stories to different writers, telling one he was Jay Hanna Dean of Hannibal, Mo., and another he was Jerome Herman Dean of Pascagoula, Miss. When the discrepancies were uncovered, Dean just said he wanted to give “the boys” a scoop.

Don’t worry. I didn’t claim I was born in a log cabin or killed a bear when I was only three.

10:37 a.m.

Now my goal is to get back to writing, or the combination of writing, rewriting, editing and correcting that is the second draft of a novel, this one possessing the working title Crazy by Natural Causes.

I’m glad the sentence above is not in one of my novels. That’s why I’m going to let it lie.

The first 15 chapters are already second-drafted. Chance Benford is emerging from the fog of devastation. His life is about to change radically. He’s going to get used to several more. When last I started modifying the events of his imaginary life, Chance was adjusting to a shocker involving his soon-to-be ex-wife.

Chance and the other characters have been on hiatus since summer, when my efforts turned to thoughts of getting The Intangibles ready for publication.

We have remained friends, but now I’m visiting Chance again. Characters in novels are different from real-life friends because I can totally control them. We get along great because the characters don’t care. They’re characters.

Now I have warmed up my imagination by writing this blog, and it is the appropriate time to go back to being Crazy by Natural Causes.

No telling when this third novel is going to be published, but I’ve got two on the market, and you can buy either or both at amazon.com, neverlandpublishing.com, or right here by clicking on “merchandise” at the top of this virtual page.

[cb_profit_poster Speak1]

But Will the Cattle Make It Through the Winter?

The Intangibles is set in 1968. I was 10, but my memories of that time are sharp.
The Intangibles is set in 1968. I was 10, but my memories of that time are sharp.

[cb_profit_poster Acting]Clinton, S.C., Wednesday, November 13, 2013, 10:05 a.m.

I’m a ball of confusion this morning.

The Intangibles, my second novel, arrived via UPS on Tuesday afternoon. Two boxes, one with 40 books, the other with five. Their arrival started a race to the post office, which closes at 4:30 instead of 5 nowadays. I wasn’t the most popular guy around when I showed up in the lobby a little after 4, carrying a box with 25 packages to ship. I barely looked at the books as I signed, dated (it was 11/12/13) and stuffed them into padded envelopes that had been addressed for more than a week.

This sketch of mine is a bit evocative of The Intangibles setting.
This sketch of mine is a bit evocative of The Intangibles setting.

Last night I started reading it, which is a little weird because I wrote it, but on first sight, it’s irresistible.

There are too many typos and little mistakes in it. This is, in part, my fault, and, in total, my responsibility. The book’s release was a bit rushed. Neverland Publishing is a small house. I thought it important that The Intangibles be released before football season was over. Another author thought it just as important that his book be released in time for the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, which is a bit ironic because my novel begins with an account of the same horrible event, though situated far from Dealey Plaza.

Some absentminded mistakes occurred because I made them and no one else caught them. It’s hard to catch one’s own absentminded mistakes simply because one can’t imagine making them. The eyes skip over items even when they are striving not to do so.

Thus am I wracked with a certain sense of embarrassment. I rarely read a book that doesn’t have typos in it, but that’s a rationalization. The issue isn’t other books; it’s mine.

That having been said, as disappointed as I am in the proofreading, I’m just as proud of the story and how I presented it. I think I did a good job editing but not proofreading.

I get a little distant from my writing after a while. After The Intangibles manuscript was shipped, I turned my attention to a first draft of what will be my third novel, Crazy by Natural Causes. (I wonder if it’s proper to italicize it when it isn’t officially a book yet.)

What that means is that I dove into The Intangibles – now richly deserving of italicization – with a relish that seemed odd given that I was reading a story I wrote. I knew how it ended, but it was still impossible to put down because I read it with the fright and worry that comes with revisiting my own work. Every time I caught a mistake – “wonder” when it should have been “wander,” a misidentified last name (a result of changing that name in midstream and then not catching every appearance), an article (as in “a” or “the”) missing – I shuddered. A couples times I felt psychosomatically ill.

I’m worrying at a time when there’s no use for worrying. As we used to say on the farm, “The hay’s in the barn.” Back then it was because the hay was literally in the barn. Now the symbolic hay is books on shelves … and in envelopes, painstakingly making their way through the postal system.

Front of folder
Front of folder



If – no, when – you read The Intangibles, let me know what you think, or, better yet, tell others about it by writing a short customer review at amazon.com, goodreads.com or other sites where readers go to find novels.

[cb_profit_poster Guitar1]

The Audacity of Guitarists

Walt Kulwicki, my Florida friend, is one of several great guitarists with whom I've had the occasional honor playing.
Walt Kulwicki, my Florida friend, is one of several great guitarists with whom I’ve had the occasional honor of playing.

[cb_profit_poster Guitar1]Clinton, S.C., Wednesday, November 6, 2013, 10:30 a.m.

Thus far, it’s been sort of a musical morning. Oh, I’ve gone through the email and social media. I’ve balanced my checking account online. Since “Imus in the Morning” ended, I’ve had The Weather Channel on, which is the most ignored channel on my TV. I’m sure it’s the secret to their ratings, and that’s probably only slightly less true of the news channels. You write, or you read, or you write checks, at the same time aware almost unconsciously that a cold front is plunging across the Rockies and some bozo fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a mattress store.

My friends Mike Reynolds (left) and Donnie "Tex" Baker, jamming in Kentucky.
My friends Mike Reynolds (left) and Donnie “Tex” Baker, jamming in Kentucky.

Last night I eschewed Tuesday Night Football in the MAC to watch a documentary on Jimi Hendrix that aired on PBS’s “American Masters.” I didn’t know Hendrix as anything but a name until well after he died. I grew up watching “The Porter Wagoner Show” instead of Woodstock. When he died, I was 12, and that was way too young to regard him as anything but vaguely weird. He was the kind of fellow who made a little kid’s wonder way too wide-eyed.

Matt VanDeburgh and I used to play together from time to time.
Matt VanDeburgh and I used to play together from time to time.

Hendrix, not to mention Eric Clapton, Chet Atkins, Merle Travis, Don Rich, Les Paul, Tony Rice, B.B. King, Mark Knopfler, Willie Nelson, Keith Richards and dozens of others, didn’t much interest me until I started playing guitar myself. I’m not a picker; I’m a strummer. I gradually get better at it, but regardless of how simple one’s own guitar skills are, watching the masters becomes an obsession.

Last night, as I watched Hendrix display his otherworldly skills, my Pawless was sitting within reach. When the documentary — and by extension, Hendrix — was no more, I picked up the guitar, but I certainly didn’t try to mimic any licks I saw Hendrix do.

I’ll never be a guitar stylist, but I can be a vocal stylist. What Hendrix’s guitar inspired me to do was sing songs in ways I’d never sung them. He instilled in me a desire to break what boundaries I could.

The Intangibles is set in 1968. I was 10, but my memories of that time are sharp.
The Intangibles is set in 1968. I was 10, but my memories of that time are sharp.

11:03 a.m.

So far, I’ve heard nothing but satisfaction with my new novel, The Intangibles, copies of which I am still awaiting and expecting to see today. The stack of padded envelopes on the love seat gets bigger every day. I’ve been biding my time looking up prospective reviewers and mailing copies of my promotional flyer. Then I follow up with an email alerting them that it’s on the way and I’ll send them a copy if they’re interested in reviewing it.

Many have told me they’ve already received their copies via amazon.com. Dan Atkinson has already read it and posted on Facebook that he couldn’t put it down when he got to the final 75 pages.

I asked Dr. John Edwin Mason of the University of Virginia to read an advance copy and offer a blurb if he felt The Intangibles deserved one. He did so and graciously added a blog on his website that, in case you didn’t see my social-media references, is linked below.


Lives there an author who oversees the publication of his book without trepidation? I think not. I’m sure some won’t enjoy The Intangibles, and I hope to greet their criticisms, if they offer them, constructively.

This is the cover of my first novel. It's about a musician who prevents a plane from being blown up. And he smokes weed. He hates being a hero, but it doesn't keep him from being one.
This is the cover of my first novel. It’s about a musician who prevents a plane from being blown up. And he smokes weed. He hates being a hero, but it doesn’t keep him from being one.

But I’m proud that almost all the readers of The Audacity of Dope seem to have enjoyed it. With The Intangibles, it’s sort of like last night’s election results. The polls just closed. A smattering of the vote is in. The exit polling looks promising.

It’s not just a matter of being liked, though. I liked Mo Udall, but he never became president. I’m trying to make a living writing these books, and it’s not easy. I’m giving it my best shot, though. When I was a kid, I heard Congressman Udall say, “We’re in this race until hell freezes over, and then we’ll lay siege to the ice.” I think he may have been quoting Abraham Lincoln.

Unlike Lincoln, though, Udall lost.

11:27 a.m.

The Audacity of Dope wasn’t a particularly personal novel. It was the end of a process in which I tried to come up with an original story that would attract the attention of a publisher. Riley Mansfield was a character I came to like during my time inside him. I tried to get to know him, think the way he would think and proceed accordingly with his story.

I came up with a yarn and spun it. Readers liked Riley, too. He wasn’t as controversial as I thought he would be, at least not from the readers who forgave him his flaws and recognized his flawed goodness. I probably like Melissa Franklin, his girl Friday and girlfriend, more than Riley.

When the great football coach Bum Phillips died, I read that he once said coaching isn’t about being smart. It’s about being able to get people to do things. It occurred to me that this bit of simple wisdom isn’t limited to coaching.

There is some evidence that I can write fiction. I’ve got to get people to read it.

Thus am I embroiled in all sorts of projects, in cahoots with my book concierge, Rowe Copeland, and a variety of, uh, subcontractors. Something like that.

All I’m qualified to do is write these books. To sell them, I need help. It can come from people who are in the business of providing assistance, and it can come from you. It’s like those PBS messages that tell you that the program is supported by various foundations, corporations and, at the end, “Viewers Like You.” Make that “Readers Like You.”

Write a customer review at amazon.com, or goodreads.com, or a number of other sites that provide a clearinghouse of information on books and authors. Tell your friends about The Intangibles and/or The Audacity of Dope. If you’ve read one, try the other. Is there a locally owned bookstore in your area? Tell them about me and me about them.

Many of you have gone to bat for me. I’m sure part of it’s because you like me, but I’d like to think that wouldn’t matter if you didn’t like what I write.

That’s enough for today. Now I’ll go back to Internet research, addressing envelopes and writing emails until those boxes of books arrive, at which point I shall pick up my guitar and sing a gospel song, then start signing copies and go to the post office.

[cb_profit_poster Guitar2]

Trying to Reason with Book-Release Season

The Intangibles is set in 1968. I was 10, but my memories of that time are sharp.
The Intangibles is set in 1968. I was 10, but my memories of that time are sharp.

[cb_profit_poster Storytelling]Clinton, S.C., Tuesday, October 29, 2013, 9:45 a.m.

It’s still the calm before the storm. Copies of my novel, The Intangibles, are en route to my doorstep. I’ve been biding my time this morning addressing packing envelopes so that I can send autographed copies to people who ordered in advance, review copies to those who responded to my pamphlets and six to a bookstore that has signed up.

I’ll stuff the envelopes as soon as the boxes get here.

It’s just busy work. I’m doing menial tasks to keep my mind off the book, the one I’ve been waiting all my life to write, the one that determines whether or not I can make a go of this career writing books, the gateway to the next one and everything else.

I’m a tad neurotic. Some would say this is always the case.

My printer is whirring. It’s the backup I used to take on the road to NASCAR races. The better printer is in a bad mood. I can’t get it to work. At least for the time being, I’m tired of messing with it. I got the portable one out of the trunk, put new cartridges in, and so far, it’s working fine.

I got some bills to pay. I’ve got to get to the trash dump today because it’s closed on Wednesdays. Resolving a major family problem – my mother’s house was damaged in a fire over a week ago, and getting her, my sister and two nephews back into their residence has been frustrating and maddening – has taken a lot of time.

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 / Hopin’ I can get / To the paved road

10:17 a.m.

My problems are not unique. Millions struggle to make it, billions if you count the whole world. In a way, social media is a means for people to say, “Hey, I’m important. You may not know me, but you’d like me. I got problems, too. I got kids driving me crazy. I’m frustrated. I’m somebody!”

Blogs are like that, too, I reckon, only I don’t have to confine my words to small spaces that conspire to abridge my grammar.

A blog lets me fully explain myself. Of course, when I link to it on social media, many won’t click on it. They’ll respond to the slug, not the link, and I’ll sigh when they write back, “Hey, what about [so and so]?” when [so and so] is fully explained in the story.

I keep expecting people to ask if there’s a Twitter version of The Intangibles.

This is the cover of my first novel. It's about a musician who prevents a plane from being blown up. And he smokes weed. He hates being a hero, but it doesn't keep him from being one.
This is the cover of my first novel. It’s about a musician who prevents a plane from being blown up. And he smokes weed. He hates being a hero, but it doesn’t keep him from being one.

10:43 a.m.

The release of a book brings with it an inevitable sense of curiosity. That was certainly the case with The Audacity of Dope, which, of course, had a flawed hero, Riley Mansfield, who didn’t want to be one. When I wrote Audacity, I was trying to attract a publisher by writing an original story that applied mainly to the present.

The Intangibles is a fictional attempt to come to grips with my boyhood, my roots and my heritage. It’s more personal. It’s set in a time very different from this one.

I expected The Audacity of Dope to be controversial, and, remarkably, it wasn’t. Most of the readers who didn’t agree with Riley’s pot-smoking ways or his political views seemed to enjoy it because it was an entertaining story. I believe there was some stigma attached to it by bookstores that were a bit afraid of it, but I heard little other than praise from readers, as the customer reviews will attest. I think most of Audacity’s readers are enthusiastic about The Intangibles, although some obviously yearn for another novel about Riley. It won’t be the third – a first draft of Crazy by Natural Causes has already been written – but never say never.

One man recently said to me, “There’s pot smoking in The Audacity of Dope, but the book is not about pot smoking,” and he’s right.

Everyone who read The Audacity of Dope seemed to enjoy it; I just need more of them. When I wrote Audacity, there was only so much I could do because I was running around the country covering NASCAR at the time. There are activities and opportunities available that I didn’t know existed when Audacity was released. I’ll let you know about “coming attractions” as they unfold.

I also should thank my book concierge, Rowe Copeland, for making me aware such opportunities exist.

11:07 a.m.

Oh, I don’t know, it might have been six months ago when I had a conversation with Larry Franklin, the publisher of The Clinton Chronicle and a man who has been very supportive of my writing career. We were talking about The Audacity of Dope and how its reception had surprised me. I never expected most everyone who read it to like it. I thought it would be controversial.

“Well,” I told him, “the next novel is about a town that’s a lot like this one.

“Maybe this’ll tick ‘em off.”

I hope not. It’s certainly for adults, and I’m worried a little that some people drawn to its content – high school football plays a major role – might be offended by its candor.

It’s kind of funny that the same people who just polished off Fifty Shades of Grey might express shock at a much less graphic tale – actually, I know little about Fifty Shades of Grey other than it’s apparently notably sexy – that hits close to home.

I just looked up Fifty Shades. It’s listed as “an erotic romance novel.” The Intangibles definitely isn’t that.

By the way, there will be a Kindle version of The Intangibles. When? It’s not my call. It’s listed as “coming soon” on the neverlandpublishing.com site. Maybe the “perfect paperback” (that’s what’s listed under “format”) is being rolled out first on purpose. Maybe it’s just as well because, if you download for Kindle when it becomes available, you’ll get it as soon as those whose books have to be shipped. I honestly don’t know and generally consider such issues best left to the experts, of which I’m not one. The writer is no expert on sales, or, at least, this one isn’t. So … if you’d like a sale-priced version of the book, it’s available now at amazon.com. If you’d like a signed copy, you can follow instructions at “merchandise” here at montedutton.com, send me a check, and I’ll ship it. I’ve still got plenty of boxes and envelopes handy.

[cb_profit_poster Acting]

I’m about Half Ready to Be Ready

My favorite collection of confusing signs. This is outside Richmond International Raceway. The photo was taken in 2007. The last time I was there, the signs were, too.
My favorite collection of confusing signs. This is outside Richmond International Raceway. The photo was taken in 2007. The last time I was there, the signs were, too.

[cb_profit_poster Storytelling]Clinton, S.C., Tuesday, October 22, 2013, 2:07 p.m.

Some days are just aggravating.

Here around home, that’s pronounced “aye-guh-vay-tun.”

People in sports don’t know when to quit. They don’t know when enough is enough. Sometimes, they just stay up half the night hoping, by doing the same things over and over, they’ll have some great moment of discovery. Eureka!

Remember, in “Days of Thunder,” when Cole got out of his car, all relaxed, and said, “Don’t touch a thing”?

I don’t think that actually happens much anymore.

I already get this question everywhere. I don't actually know where the photo was taken, only that it was by Melissa Thornly Ryon and it's probably around Winston-Salem.
I already get this question everywhere. I don’t actually know where the photo was taken, only that it was by Melissa Thornley Ryon and it’s probably around Winston-Salem.

Since I have a new novel, The Intangibles, coming out, I’m falling prey to that same, insidious form of insecurity. Between now and the weekend, when I have book launches scheduled for a local restaurant on Friday and Saturday, I’m obsessed with doing everything I can do.

I’m sending event invitations on Facebook. I’m stuffing envelopes. I’m looking up addresses on web sites (it’s amazing sometimes how hard it is to find “contact us”), and sending emails.

I’ve got a lot riding on this tale of 1968. Part of the reason I wrote it is that I don’t want the kids of today to feel so all alone. You think it seems like the world is crazy now? Well, yeah, me, too. But when I was an inquisitive but still relatively clueless kid, folks older than me were getting killed in Vietnam, famous people were getting assassinated, major cities were getting burned down, and buses were getting turned over in school parking lots. The president was resigning because he was a crook. Culture was changing in a big hurry.

It is now, too, but, kids, take heart. Your unease is not unprecedented. They thought we were as crazy then as we think you now. And vice-versa.

As a matter of fact, this novel is about how crazy things were then, and my next one – I’ve completed the first draft of Crazy by Natural Causes – is about how crazy things are now. Then there was my first, The Audacity of Dope (still very much available, by the way), which had quite a lot of craziness in it, too.

Either I’m crazy or I’ve got a good eye for it.

Right now I’ve got a family emergency (not health), a balky printer that won’t work for no apparent reason, a yard that needs cutting one more time before I shut the equipment down for the winter and a phone that won’t quit ringing.

And a novel that’s about to come out. As the Statler Brothers sang, “Don’t tell me I’ve nothing to do,” but the thing is, I mean it.

I’ll be reading from The Intangibles, talking about it, selling it and singing a few songs while strumming my guitar on Friday (Oct. 25) at 4:30 p.m. at House of Pizza, 120 Musgrove Street, uptown Clinton, S.C, where you can’t hardly miss it, and again at the same place on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. The former is before the Chester-Clinton game; the latter is after the Point-Presbyterian game. If you’re from a small southern town, you’re going to feel some kinship in this novel.

[cb_profit_poster Acting]