It’s Got to Come from Somewhere

(Monte Dutton photos)
(Monte Dutton photos)
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, October 7, 2016, 10:24 a.m.

It’s still tranquil here. The rain will be coming along directly. It seems like a Saturday because last night seemed like a Friday, and that was because I wrote about a high school football game in which Clinton High defeated Mid-Carolina, 45-7, on homecoming at Wilder Stadium.

Here’s my story and video.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

Have no fear. By tonight, it will seem like Friday again because I’ll be watching Laurens play at Wade Hampton. Bad weather brings with it postponements – hmm, what was Clinton’s homecoming, a preponement? – and an opportunity to write about a “regularly scheduled game,” which the Raiders and Generals will apparently play.

Last night was lovely. Wilder Stadium is only a couple miles from my house. I haven’t been to Wade Hampton High School in a while. As best I recall, it’s behind Wade Hampton Boulevard. The last time I was there was more than 30 years ago. We have phones to take care of these things now.

dscf3914Because of the schedule change, it was a 2-for-1 homecoming. Clinton’s junior varsity played Mid-Carolina at 5, before the varsity, and the Red Devils won that one, too. I sat in the stands and impersonated any other fan.

Gracie Waldron, whose father Chuck was a CHS classmate of mine, was homecoming queen. Gracie is the No. 1 singles player on the tennis team – her father was once a state champion – and I’ve known her father and uncle all my life. I wrote a story on the academic accomplishments of her first cousin, Abby, less than a year ago and a story on the playoff prospects of Gracie’s team early this week.

Gracie Waldron, Miss CHS, and her father, Chuck, Class of '76.
Gracie Waldron, Miss CHS, and her father, Chuck, Class of ’76.

During the J.V. game, I sat two rows behind Congressman Jeff Duncan and his wife, Melody, whose son Parker plays on the team and whose son J.P. was an important part of this year’s highly successful baseball team. Congressman Duncan and I agree on little as far as politics is concerned, but he’s a nice fellow. I don’t have to agree with his politics to like him personally. I admire him for being a regular guy when he’s home from Washington. We happened to walk down the steps together at the end of the game. I asked him what J.P. was doing and mentioned that I’d developed quite an attachment to that baseball team.

Going to a local football game is democratic with a little “d.”

dscf3927As crazy as this may seem, I’m looking forward to the game tonight in Greenville. I’m interested to see how it goes. Maybe it will rain a lot. Maybe it won’t be too bad. Something will happen there that is worthy of remembering. Maybe it’ll be utter misery, as in the case of a Clinton playoff game at Seneca three years back. I’ll remember something that somebody said, or something somebody said will give me the impetus for something that shows up in a short story or a novel.

I try to inspire or amuse while I’m sitting behind this laptop, but no inspiration or amusement actually occurs here.

 

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs.

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

Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is the latest. It’s a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.

The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

Now I Gotta Scramble Some Eggs

(Monte Dutton photos)
Twon Roberson (Monte Dutton photos)
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, August 12, 2016, 9:46 a.m.

“Laws are like sausages. It is better not to see them being made.” — Otto von Bismarck.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

A little of this probably exists in every means of making a living. Somewhere right now, two florists are having a drink, trading stories about the ugly side of a pretty job.

“Uhhhhhh. Camellias are nasty.”

“God, Frank, have you ever tried to keep tulips fresh?”

“It’s a nightmare.”

Rainbow

Such is the case with sportswriters. Writing about the Super Bowl is of greater import, but the Authur State Bank Wolverine Showcase is just as stressful. Or can be, even if a lovely rainbow arches over one end zone of W.L. Varner Stadium shortly before the proceedings commence.

No Boy Scout ever headed off to the camporee better prepared than a certain scribe for Woodruff Thursday night.

Tashymen Boyd
Tashymen Boyd

For whatever reason — rainbow watching, field drying, general malaise — it all started late, though it didn’t dampen the Clinton ardor. The Red Devils scored a point a minute for 24 — under this modified, unofficial format, two quarters constitute one of three halves, or, as Larry McReynolds sometimes says during Fox NASCAR broadcasts, “Dale Junior just shaved three and two-third tenths off Smoke’s lead” — while limiting the Blue Ridge Tigers to seven.

I just wrote a paragraph that might have led readers to get a scratch pad. Oh, well. On to the sausage making.

DSCF3560Once high school football games start in earnest, deadlines will be reasonable. If this had been a regular-season game in Woodruff, I probably would have packed up and driven home, a mere 22 miles, to write a story. On this Thursday evening, the deadline was 10 p.m., a time at which the Laurens Raiders, the dual focus of my coverage, were still playing.

This was not my hope. It was my dark suspicion.

DSCF3559Before arriving at the lovely yard, bedecked with the rainbow lending credibility to the drizzle, I went to see if Burger King had wi-fi. I knew McDonald’s did, but that’s on the other side of town from Woodruff High School and the opposite from home. Burger King would be open till 10. The Index-Journal deadline was 10. Eureka!

I drove back to the stadium, enjoyed fond conversation with the friendly folks who frequent the Woodruff press box, took my camera and note pad to the sideline, where I took photos during the first quarter of the half that was a third, and went back to catch up my notes with my stats while following the second quarter that was a half that was a third. Then, while Spartanburg was holding off Chapman, 21-20, I wrote about Clinton winning, 24-7. I edited the photos, and while Laurens was playing Woodruff, drove back to Burger King to email Clinton photos and a story on the Showcase sans LDHS results.

DSCF3572

The second quarter of the third half that was mathematically a third had begun by the time I got back. I took a few blurry pictures of the Raiders, asked my peers what had happened while I was away — the score was then 7-7 — and waited for it all to end, with Woodruff winning, 14-13. I interviewed Laurens head coach Chris Liner.

Nathan Rutter
Nathan Rutter

In the parking lot, I pecked out four paragraphs on my phone and emailed them to Greenwood, where the folks at the home office pasted the brief account of the Laurens third into the account of the Clinton third and this is how it all wound up.

The above is how I did it, and how I did it was the only way it could have been done.

Now I have a fresh batch of sausage, and, somewhere, Bismarck is proud.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy either Forgive Us Our Trespasses or Crazy of Natural Causes, and you’ll get a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs, absolutely free. Tell ‘em Mr. Monte sent you, y’hear?

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

Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Crazy of Natural Causes is on sale at $1.99. Links to print copies are below.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is the latest. It’s a tale about crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.

The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

In My Element

Wilder Stadium. Richardson Field. (Monte Dutton photo)
Wilder Stadium. Richardson Field. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, August 22, 2015, 10:30 a.m.

Football has changed. I still love it.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

The players are bigger, though not so much at Clinton High School as the teams it faces. The best word to describe the Red Devil linemen these days is stout. Those who aren’t are generally lanky.

The defense doesn’t crush opponents. The offense doesn’t pummel them into submission. Sometimes it seems as if the rules of football don’t allow the playing of football anymore.

“But back in … my day.”

My day wasn’t any better. It was just different. I liked it, though. Football hasn’t changed any more than everything else.

I've had a change of venue. (Monte Dutton)
I’ve had a change of venue. (Monte Dutton)

After twenty years of watching stock cars go around and around from relatively close range, now I go out on Fridays and Saturdays to watch Red Devils, Paladins, and Blue Hose. I still write. I’m as competitive ever. I want to do it better than anyone else. Sometimes I win. Sometimes I lose. The desire is still there.

It sometimes confounds my subjects. What they don’t understand about writers is that we’re competitive, too. Journalism isn’t really about the truth. It’s about getting as close to the truth as possible by writing what the subjects tell us the truth is. It’s not the same, but the pursuit of truth is righteous and exhilarating for those of us who have acquired the addiction.

After Friday night’s football game at Wilder Stadium, which has seldom been wilder, I was in the zone. Sometimes it isn’t pretty to watch. In fact, come to think of it, I’m never pretty to watch. Hence the bachelorhood.

Talladega. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)
Talladega. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

One of the more frequent questions I was asked about NASCAR during the aforementioned two decades was, “Who’s your favorite driver?”

Fans root for drivers and teams. Writers root for stories.

Once, at Atlanta Motor Speedway, on a Saturday many years ago, I got finished talking to Bud Moore, and, as I walked away, he grabbed my shoulder and yelled in my ear.

“By God, your ass got a story to write about now,” he said.

Exactly. I love it when all hell breaks loose.

Laurens County Speedway, (Monte Dutton photo)
Laurens County Speedway, (Monte Dutton photo)

What I love particularly about sports is that it’s all out there for the world to see. Politicians choke in the clutch, but, quite often, they get to hide it behind closed doors, talking points, and othere diversionary tactics, and they don’t consider it the least bit impolite to ignore the question asked and say what they want to say, anyway. Incredibly, some athletes do it, too, most often those who make a lot of money. The making of lots of money often leads those who make it to lose all respect for those who don’t.

They’ve heard some of us don’t even make a hundred thousand dollars a year. People who don’t make lots of money can’t possibly be very smart.

Okay, Jesus, maybe. Gandhi. The stray prophet. The token eccentric.

Near the center of the photo is the new Clinton High head coach, Andrew Webb. (Monte Dutton photo)
Near the center of the photo is the new Clinton High head coach, Andrew Webb. (Monte Dutton photo)

Here’s how nuts I am. I’d have rather been at the A.C. Flora-Clinton high school football game than the Super Bowl. A few weeks ago, I enjoyed a trip to Laurens County Speedway more than my most recent visit to a NASCAR track. In the past year, the most miserable experience I’ve had on assignment was an Atlantic Coast Conference basketball game.

On Friday night, after Clinton’s overtime upset, I asked the Red Devils’ head coach, Andrew Webb, if he made any adjustments when his team trailed 14-0 in the first quarter.

“We really stuck to our game plan,” he said. “We didn’t change anything. We did what we said we were going to do. Our coaches up top made some good adjustments throughout the game, put us in better spots, but as far as changing the game plan, we didn’t change anything. I think we were so amped up that we just made some little mistakes (early). We calmed down and executed.”

Paladin Stadium (Monte Dutton)
Paladin Stadium (Monte Dutton)

I have known writers who sort of badgered coaches because they had in mind what they wanted to write and were determined to fill in their planned blanks. I’ve tried not to do that. I don’t mind if coaches dispute the perceived direction of my question. That’s why I asked it.

It was hot as hell. I was sweating furiously. I was trying to develop an angle that I didn’t think anyone else would. I was trying to get close to the truth by asking people what the truth was.

It’s what I love.

 

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

I spend so much of my time holed up at the house writing that, when I get out, it’s golden. A conversation under the grandstands may conjure up a short story. A phrase may show up in a novel. A character may begin with the guy in front of me in a line, or a woman at a bar whose mannerisms I observe while sitting in a booth five yards away. Writers are observers. Journalists cultivate that craft. I’d appreciate your consideration of the books I’ve written. Here’s where you can examine and buy them: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

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]

‘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.

[cb_profit_poster Speak1]

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.

[cb_profit_poster Acting]

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.

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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:

http://quietfurybooks.com/bestsellerboundrecommends/blog-tour-interview-and-giveaway-the-intangibles-by-monte-dutton/

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.

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No Need To Be So Touchy

It's not hard to get me to play guitar and sing.
It’s not hard to get me to play guitar and sing.

[cb_profit_poster Storytelling]Clinton, S.C., Tuesday, November 26, 2013, 4:37 p.m.

I go to the post office quite often these days as I am occupied shipping copies of my novel, The Intangibles, that folks order off this web site. Today I was by there twice.

People have gotten so sensitive. I saw someone I know, but not so well that I can count on seeing her regularly. In fact, it was the first time we’ve crossed paths in more than a year, and it seems that similarly random meetings take place at the post office with some degree of regularity. Thinking, well, Thanksgiving is in two days, and I probably won’t see her until next year sometime, I said, “Happy Holidays.”

For about a half second, she gave me a look that suggested President Obama and I just got finished quoting the Koran back and forth during a Kenyan sojourn.

I felt like saying, “Look, lady, I was saying ‘happy Holidays’ before you were born. If it was Christmas, or even after Thanksgiving, I’d probably have said ‘merry Christmas,’ but I’ve been saying ‘happy Holidays’ when I wanted to wish someone good tidings for the general holiday season, and I reserve the right to say ‘happy Holidays’ if I’m talking to someone who might be Jewish or Muslim or … Confucian, I don’t know.

“I most certainly was not denying, minimizing or disrespecting Christianity, and if you’d like to check the heavenly records, I’m sure He must have a file on all those prayers I’m regularly sending His way.”

Of course, I didn’t say any of that. Just before her laser rays melted my retinas, the lady’s expression changed and she walked out.

Okay, I’ll forgive this one time.

I have an old friend who often shakes his end on equivalent occasions and says, “Gollamighty.”

We used to sit next to each other at race tracks.

“Gollamighty, this is the most boring race I’ve ever seen.”

“Look at the bright side. I just finished my federal income taxes.”

“Gollamighty, I taught myself Portuguese.”

4:56 p.m.

I spent most of today talking to three classes at Bell Street Middle School, which I once attended along with David O’Shields, who now has Dr. in front of his name and is superintendent of School District 56. I lectured classes taught by his wife, Terry. Between the second and third classes, David, Terry and I had lunch.

The Fairmont High School students in The Intangibles are older than me. When Clinton schools were integrated, I was a seventh grader at Bell Street Middle School, where I lectured on Tuesday.
The Fairmont High School students in The Intangibles are older than me. When Clinton schools were integrated, I was a seventh grader at Bell Street Middle School, where I lectured on Tuesday.

My message was on the value of reading, writing and music. The point was that music can be helpful in writing. I asked them if they’d ever written poetry for a school assignment, and, of course they had. I said the chief weakness of most amateur poetry is that it lacks rhythm and meter. I suggested that they try writing poetry with a melody in mind as a means of giving it the rhythm it might otherwise lack. I further suggested that rhythm is a helpful ingredient in prose, as well.

For instance, I told them of the time in high school when my English teacher, Edna Ellison, read an excerpt from a clipping of a wire story:

“A crowded cable car crashed down a deep ravine in Italy, killing all 38 passengers on board.”

The sentence has a rhythm. Rhythm aids writing. It was a lesson that benefited my writing. In the 1970s, even though I couldn’t play any kind of instrument except a kazoo, I wrote my first song from that wire lead.

A crowded cable car plunged down a deep ravine in Italy / It killed all of the people there on board / And among the smoking ruins of that mass of twisted metal / Lie the body of a man named Peter Ford …

I never claimed it was any good, but I made up a whole song based on a wire lead.

It doesn’t take much to get me to play music. I took my guitar along to demonstrate what I meant. I explained how sometimes my songs begin with words, and other times they begin with melodies, after which I fill in the words. If I start out with a hook, such as, “I got cash money, and I’m workin’ steady,” the melodies usually wind up simpler (not that any of my songs are complex), and if I start out with a melody, the song winds up a little more complicated.

I also explained how I taught myself to play guitar by learning two chords at the beginning, playing songs that needed only two chords, getting the hang of that, and then adding more chords and trying to gradually learn to play by ear along the way. This was the key that unlocked songwriting.

I’m a writer by trade, and therefore, words are important to me. Many guitarists are fascinated with the music, and the words to their songs are less of a priority. I have a lot more craftsmanship with lyrics than with melodies. I generally just play chords, and that is enough to make me happy.

I think I held their attention. Terry had given me a choice of Monday or Tuesday, pointing out that it might be harder to hold the students’ attention on Tuesday because school was out for Thanksgiving at the end of the day. I chose Tuesday because I figured that, on the last school day until next Monday, they would enjoy a fun lecture about music and writing more than, say, a pop quiz.

I also urged them to cultivate an enjoyment of reading, pointing out that the best way to learn how to write is … to read.

I doubt I inspired the next John Steinbeck, but I hope someone might at least learn the value, in most every form of work, of being able to communicate clearly.

If you’d like to test my theory, you can buy my novels – the new one, The Intangibles, and the first, The Audacity of Dope – at amazon.com, neverlandpublishing.com, or via this site. The Intangibles is available here in Clinton at L&L Office Supply on North Broad Street and in Hartsville, S.C., at Burry Bookstore. Both novels are available at Fiction Addiction in Greenville, S.C.

[cb_profit_poster Guitar2]