The Grind Gets Better

Into the Smokies on the way home. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, January 31, 2017, 10:58 a.m.

Let’s see. Today is the last day of the month, which means a download of my fourth novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, will no longer be 99 cents. Good news and bad news. I won’t sell as many in February, but I’ll make more money on the ones I do. The idea behind Amazon’s 99 cents specials is that they give the book a boost. It’s already sold the most of my five novels. I should probably write another like it.

By Monte Dutton

Maybe I am. It’s not finished.

Tonight Newberry is visiting Clinton for a big night of high school basketball, and I’ll be on hand to write about it and take a few pictures. The Red Devils clobbered Mid-Carolina while I was away. Newberry is only 25 miles away. The two schools played in most every sport even before they were both aligned in Region 3-3A. They split earlier games, both in Newberry, but the overtime loss was in a holiday tournament, and Clinton won the one that counted. Tonight’s will, too. The Red Devils have an undefeated region record on the line.

Mike Reynolds

I’m just getting reacclimated with the world. I spent most of four days avoiding all that was going on around me. I checked the Twitter feed occasionally. I watched the second half of Kansas-Kentucky on a TV in a Kentucky bar where I couldn’t find anyone who didn’t hate Louisville. The Jayhawks won, and that probably increased sales while the Mike Reynolds Band rocked the night away.

I don’t party much anymore. As best I can tell, I came out of it relatively intact.

The trip: (a.) increased my interest in writing songs and drawing sketches; (b.) lessened my sense of disappointent; (c.) provided me with sustenance and inspiration; (d.) got me out of town; (e.) satisfied a growing wanderlust; and (f.) gave me a chance to play a lot of music and listen to a lot more.

I’m sure I could think of several more, but this blog isn’t for money, and I’ve got to get to some things that are.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

This week is the Super Bowl. I assume, sometime recently, there has been a Pro Bowl. I watched a little of the Rolex 24 over the weekend, mostly with the sound off, and I tried for a while to find the ending, but I am not adept at surfing the program guide of Dish Network, so I watched Virginia-Villanova, again with the sound off.

The Falcons are playing the Patriots in the Super Bowl. The only other time the Falcons reached the Super Bowl, I watched in a condo in Ormond Beach, Florida. All I remember is that it wasn’t much of a game. One year while I was in Florida early for Speedweeks, the Patriots played the Eagles in Jacksonville, so, when I went to see some friends play music in St. Augustine Beach, the bar was full of NFL fans. I wore a Red Sox cap because, well, I wear one a lot. When I got in there, it seemed as if everyone knew me. Some people were slapping me on the back; others just looked at me with scorn and derision. It hadn’t occurred me that a Boston cap would get me lumped in with the Patriots.

This shouldn’t have been so hard to figure out.

I’ve rooted for the Red Sox since I was seven years old, but it all started with Carl Yastrzemski, not Boston. For that particular Super Bowl, which the Patriots won, I just wanted to see a good game.

That’s about the way I feel about this one.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

(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.

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is 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).

All the Dyed Easter Eggs of Sport

It's a little easier to compare Fenway Park now to Fenway Park then, but some things are timeless. (Monte Dutton)
It’s a little easier to compare Fenway Park now to Fenway Park then, but some things are timeless. (Monte Dutton)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, April 5, 2015, 9:32 a.m.

Happy Easter. May you ponder its significance, and may it mean more to you than dyed eggs and chocolate bunny rabbits. Don’t feel guilty about it, though, for kids like dyed eggs and chocolate rabbits. Christ is risen, and, coincidentally, here comes Peter Cottontail, hopping down the bunny trail.

So many Easter Bunnies in the world of sports.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

The present is glorified to the detriment of the past, and, ultimately, it’s because there isn’t much money to be made from the past.

Kentucky lost last night in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, falling two shy of the first 40-victory season. To be fair, it should be acknowledged that, for most of college basketball history, no one had a chance to win 40 games because a season wasn’t that long. Kentucky was 38-2 in 2012, 38-1 this year, the Wildcats that lost two won the national championship.

Indiana only had a chance to be 32-0 in 1976. North Carolina was 32-0 in 1957. San Francisco was 29-0 in 1956. UCLA went 30-0 in 1964, ’67, ’72, and ’73.

One cannot hold it against a school that it won as many games as it was allowed to play. The seasons get longer, but one cannot improve upon perfection.

When Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941, it was a percentage that hasn’t been equaled since. No one in college basketball has equaled 1.000 since 1976, and 1.000 cannot be exceeded, no matter how many times an athlete says he’s giving 110 percent.

Post-season home runs? The entire post-season in baseball consisted of the World Series until 1969. Mickey Mantle hit 18 home runs in the Series. That’s the pertinent record.

Would Clayton Kershaw overpower Babe Ruth?  (Monte Dutton sketch)
Would Clayton Kershaw overpower Babe Ruth? (Monte Dutton sketch)

Underneath this façade of hype, somehow it has become acceptable to defend the superiority of the present by citing the level of play. Athletes are better. Everything is bigger. Conditions have changed. Babe Ruth couldn’t touch Clayton Kershaw, or whoever the current pitching Flavor of the Month is.

That isn’t legitimate, either. An athlete can do no better than to dominate his era.

The football players of the 1960s weren’t as large. Or as fast. Well, guess what, if Jerry Kramer came along now, he’d have had the advantage of all that we know now that we didn’t then. He’d be larger. He’d be faster. He’d have the advantage of all the training techniques. So would Johnny Unitas. So would Wilt Chamberlain. So would Bobby Orr.

Petty Blue forever.
Petty Blue forever.

If Richard Petty was 22 again, now, and strapped himself into one of the Power Generics that pass for stock cars nowadays, he’d figure out how to get it around the track fast. He’d be more comfortable, too. Back in his day, winning drivers climbed out of their cars looking exhausted. Perhaps it was because a few climbed in looking hung over.

I get tired of this “but, uuhhh, back in Petty’s day, he used to lap the whole field.” Look into this a little more, bud. If not for free passes, wave-arounds, and hot-dog-wrapper cautions, drivers would lap the field now. NASCAR is highly competitive, but it’s not as much different from the old days as hype-aholics would have one believe. Engines and tires weren’t as reliable. More fell by the wayside. At the beginning of the races, particularly the big ones, there were lots of drivers in the lineup who had a shot.

Another fake measure is money. Most of it’s counterfeit. Today athletes make more in a game, or a match, or a tournament, or a contest, than many greats earned in their careers. Easter is probably the last day we should claim that money really means anything, but, for God’s sake (literally), if one must cite money, at least allow for inflation.

It’s not just sports, of course. Don’t tell me how much bigger than Gone with the Wind the latest box-office smash is until you charge everyone a nickel to get in.

I’m satisfied most readers of this blog will nod a couple of times while reading it, then go back to hinting darkly that Rory McIlroy is better than Arnold Palmer ever thought about being. At the very least, check back with me in 15 years. Let a career run its course, and try to compare mashies with mashies and not niblicks with spoons. Meanwhile, read my short fiction at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com and then visit here and buy a novel or two: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

Somewhat of a Race

Brad Keselowski's Kentucky victory was a no doubter. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Brad Keselowski’s Kentucky victory was a no doubter. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, S.C., Saturday, June 28, 2014, 7:15 p.m.

Occasionally, I blog a NASCAR race as it goes along, and this is such a night. At worst, this will be a superior form of tweeting, though lacking immediacy because I won’t post it until after the race. At best, it will be reasonably okay.

This panoramic photo makes it look almost as if there were people there in great numbers. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
This panoramic photo makes it look almost as if there were people there in great numbers. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

7:33 p.m.

Kentucky Speedway is a hard lesson in customer service. When a restaurant opens its doors, everything had better be right. Most people won’t complain; they’ll just never return. This track botched its first Sprint Cup race – I spent a week there one night – and lots of the fans have never come back.

You can’t treat folks that way without there being consequences.

8:10 p.m.

It’s entirely possible that I’m going to learn more about TNT’s programming schedule than stock car racing.

Then again, I already knew a lot about stock car racing.

8:30 p.m.

Larry McReynolds, tonight christened “America’s Crew Chief” by Adam Alexander, said a minute ago, referring to some driver or another, “He’s decided to stay right where he is.”

That passes as a description of the whole race to this point.

McReynolds has no worlds left to conquer … unless he wants to be “America’s Sweetheart.”

9:07 p.m.

Brad Keselowski’s Ford is the fastest car on the track. They just missed the setup on pit road, which is the only place anyone has passed him.

In the latest addition to “Things I Never Thought I’d Say About NASCAR,” nothing that has happened in this race so far rivals the excitement of the Brazil-Chile soccer match.

I may be struck by lightning.

9:30 p.m.

It’s a pattern. Keselowski loses the lead on pit road to his teammate, Joey Logano, and then he passes him with, uh, aplomb. Three times, now. It gives everyone something predictable to discuss.

By the way, I hate the phrase “cosmetic damage.”

9:52 p.m.

Something may happen near the end. It almost always does.

So far, it’s a replay of Thursday night’s Camping World Truck race, with Keselowski playing the Kyle Busch role.

Joey Logano's engine faltered at the end. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Joey Logano’s engine faltered at the end. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

10:08 p.m.

Yellow-flag timing – three were pitting while Aric Almirola was crashing – puts Kyle Busch in the lead and leaves Keselowski and Logano, the chosen ones, buried in the pack.

This is supposed to make the rest of the race interesting.

10:24 p.m.

Keselowski systematically tracks down Busch with all the method of a bounty hunter, and this race’s rigid order has been restored. This is definitely one of the season’s races.

The United States Senate has more upward mobility.

10:39 p.m.

All year long I’ve been writing that the racing was better. Right now it’s in a slump.

But, I reckon the sport can stand an ass whuppin’ now and then.

Breaking news! Keselowski said he wants to win another championship. He’ll have to make it to “Final Jeopardy” at Homestead first. The category is “Winning the Lottery.”

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]

Collecting My Highway Thoughts

I consider Kyle Petty a friend. We've played music together, but what I admire him for the most is his willingness to say what he thinks. NASCAR needs more like him.
I consider Kyle Petty a friend. We’ve played music together, but what I admire him for the most is his willingness to say what he thinks. NASCAR needs more like him.

Clinton, S.C., Monday, July 1, 2013, 11:16 a.m.

I just thought of some Elton John/Bernie Taupin lines: I’m back on dry land once again / Opportunity awaits me like a rat in a drain …

Okay. It’s not all that pertinent. The song is named “Sweet Painted Lady,” and the narrator is a sailor, not an author who just got back from a rainy, nine-day tour of the Mid-Atlantic states.

I didn’t write it was profound. I just wrote that the lines occurred to me. Veteran readers of this blog know that happens a lot.

I digress, which happens a lot, too.

The eastern half of the country is mostly lush and green. The western half is mostly dry and parched. These aren’t supposed to be absolutes. At the moment, the West is burning up, and the East is filling up … with water.

For the present, weather stereotypes are extremely valid. I got rained on for most of a week in various parts of Pennsylvania. Now I’m home. Rain is forecast all week. A man’s got to cut his grass sometime.

I just opened the front door. I could hear the grass growing.

On Sunday, my plan was to watch the NASCAR race from Kentucky from a motel room. It had been raining all during the drive to Pittsburgh. The race got rained out. I drove all the way home Sunday, maniacally trying to find the race on the radio as it faded in and out. I spent the first hour of the race listening to “Prairie Home Companion” on NPR, which was quite enjoyable. Siri, my electronic navigator, got me out of a bad spot in southern Virginia when I-77 was hopelessly backed up and I boldly exited for a 15-mile drive through narrow, mountainous roads. Siri got me back on track. Bless her heart. I told her that, but she didn’t seem to understand me. It rained very little till I hit the Charlotte area. It doesn’t take a storm to get the highway backed up around Mooresville, so I stopped at Arby’s and used a coupon. I really enjoyed being off my diet for a week, succumbing to the difficulties of eating right on the road.

Now I’m back on track. Really. It’s not a joke.

One thing doesn’t seem to change in NASCAR right now. Forgive the stereotype, and the exception here and there, but it seems as if every week, Jimmie Johnson drives the fastest car. Only strategy or mistakes beats him. That being the case, I think I would be very proud if I were Matt Kenseth right now. He won the only way he could have won, which was to pass up tires for track position and hope everyone behind him would start squabbling enough for him to get away.

There’s this saying. “The race does not always go the swift, but that’s still the way to bet.” Johnson is still the way to bet, but things change. Right now, it looks as if Five Time is going to become Six Time. After Johnson won every championship from 2006 through 2010, I said he’d have to lose two titles before I picked anyone else. He did, so this year, when asked, I picked Kyle Busch. Any similarity between me and Nostradamus seems merely coincidental right now.

But, of course, the Chase changes everything.

While driving down the highway, maniacally tuning the radio to keep in contact with what was happening in Kentucky, I thought about Kyle Petty’s remarks of last week. Petty cited an old saying of his father, The King, who said that some drivers can go fast and others are really race drivers. Richard’s son said that Danica Patrick could go fast but wasn’t a race driver yet and quite possibly never will be. I think he’s right, but if Patrick proves me wrong, I’ll be happy about it and admit I was wrong. Kyle will, too. I think his view is the way to bet.

The whole kerfuffle – I borrowed that word from a Nate Ryan tweet, so he owes me one – was pretty amusing. Many of those who unleashed an artillery barrage against Kyle (that’s Petty, not Busch) somehow centered their fire on the career of Petty, not Patrick, which was basically changing the subject. By the way, I arrived on the NASCAR beat when Kyle Petty was a contender. He won eight career Cup races and came reasonably close to winning a championship in 1992. Kyle, by virtue of being the grandson of a three-time champion and son of the most influential figure in the history of the sport, has more perspective on the sport than almost anyone else. I don’t always agree with Kyle, but it’s absurd to suggest that he lacks standing.

I thought it kind of laugh-out-loud funny that many fans, who have never even driven a race car, thought Kyle had no business expressing his view on the career prospects of Danica Patrick.

Kyle Petty is the most honest guy on television, at least where NASCAR is concerned. He puts himself in the line of fire every single week, and I admire him for that. It reminds me of how any politician who sticks his (or her) neck out has to fight like hell to stay in office, but the guy who just sits up there in Washington like a knot on a log gets reelected time after time.

Kyle’s way is not the norm, but it’s refreshing, and I’m glad he’s willing to put up with being perpetually in the Twitter crosshairs. His is not the path of least resistance.

Mine isn’t, either, but I can look at myself in the mirror, and I think Kyle can, too.