New Beginnings

Right before Labor Day weekend I was finally offered a job. I accepted the offer on the Tuesday after the holiday. After twenty-three years of living in Greenville, SC, I moved to Florence, SC mid-September. I’d lived in Greenville my entire adult working life, longer than I’d ever lived anywhere, and I felt like we grew into adulthood together. I enjoyed watching Greenville develop into what it has become, a city that routinely lands near the top of those lists published about the best places to live in the country. It is a beautiful place. But, it is no longer home. I’ve gone from that “best place to live” to a place nobody has heard of outside of South Carolina. And in South Carolina, it’s known as the town you stop in for gas on the way to the beach.  Oh, and the Lady in Black (Darlington Raceway) is right down the road. Yet, I love it here, and it’s been a good reminder that change is all about what you make of it. We have a new beginning here, and if you know me you’ve probably heard me quote Bob a time or two.  “That he not busy being born is busy dying.”

I’ve obviously missed my deadline to have Persy’s Song out by end of September. I give myself a mulligan. I am 48 years old. Moving a family of three was never easy. Today, it is borderline insanity. Fortunately, with my age has come some wisdom, and I know my limitations. And I don’t feel the need to prove myself any longer.  I am also getting (a little, not a lot) better at learning from my mistakes. So, there will be no new Persy’s Song deadline. It will be released when it is ready.  (And let me tell you I wrote a doozy of a scene this morning!). I’ve settled into a writing pace very similar to what I managed with Everything is Broken, and it’s fun watching this story hurl itself towards the climax.  A very minor character from Broken is coming into her own in this one. I’m very excited to share this story.

The new beginning doesn’t end there. Since I accepted the offer on that Tuesday, I have lost twenty-two pounds, and currently weigh less than I did when I graduated college back in 1995. I’ve begun running again, and have found a nice green-way here in Florence for my Sunday long runs. Two Sundays ago I met a beautiful doe on my run, who let me get within about 10 yards of her before she hopped back off into the marshland that the trail weaves through. I’ve learned a little on this endeavor as well, and I’m not pushing myself. No trying to prove anything. I’m slow as hell, and I’ve embraced it, because I’m also remembering how cathartic these runs (especially the Sunday long ones) are. That first Sunday was a little like hell on earth, partly I think because I still struggled to find my natural pace and not push myself (have I mentioned sometimes I’m a slow learner?). But now I’ve gotten to that beautiful meditative state, I finished my 4-1/2 mile last Sunday with no huffing and puffing. No wildlife encounters, but still a peaceful mind… as I’ve come expect on my outdoor traverses.  It was also 33F on this morning, and I learned something (woot) from the previous Sunday, and donned a second pair of underwear!

I’ll run a Turkey Trot 5K on Thanksgiving morning. It will be my first race since the Kiawah Island Half-Marathon in December 2012. My goal will be same, as I had with that one…finish standing up.

Life is beautiful. It is a gift. Whether you believe it comes from a creator, or your mother and father, or both, it truly is. It is also a struggle, and what I’m learning (again) is that the struggle is part of the gift.*

*As with all of my posts, this is me speaking to myself. The “you” is Tony. I say this because if you are a reader in the throes of a struggle right now, I am not making light of that struggle. And I’m here, even if all you need is for someone to ask if you are okay.

New Miserable Experience

Tonight, I will be seeing the Gin Blossoms, and I’m hit with the kind of nostalgia that seems to roll over me more frequently as I approach the end of my 40’s.  Evidently, they’ll play their breakout album New Miserable Experience in its entirety. This is the soundtrack to my senior year (of baseball) in college. It was a time, when every speed bump encountered seemed like the end of the world, but also the source of some of the fondest memories of my life. “New Miserable Experience” seemed a perfect title. The songs were filled with characters who drank a little too much, and probably brooded over every perceived slight a little too much.  Okay, a lot too much on both counts.

The music was infectious, and the lyrics captured a specific time in my life like all great universally, identifiable art does. We listened to it in the athletic dorms, on the bus to road games, and on the way to the local ginmills (which only served beer due to blue laws) of the small college town where I spent a good portion of my early 20’s.  They had names like – Muther’s, The Library Lounge, The Cue Stick, The Honky Tonk, Cooter Bay…and my personal favorite Fun-o-Mat, where you could do your laundry while downing fifty cent drafts of beer I couldn’t stomach today. And when we were there, it was a better than average chance that “Hey Jealousy” or “Found Out About You” or “Allison Road” would play on the jukebox. Even if it wasn’t me or one of my teammates feeding quarters into the machine.

Like most of us firmly in the middle of our lives, I’ve left that lifestyle behind. I quit drinking entirely this year (mainly a concession to the eye opening experience of losing my brother – truly New and Miserable). But that doesn’t mean I can’t look back on those days fondly and remember singing along with Mike Funk and KJ Rhoades…and many others.

Looking forward to tonight, and sharing the Experience with my son, Dylan.

–TD

Happy Birthday, Everything is Broken

A year ago, I published my first novel.  The following year has been tough…fraught with loss, and I haven’t been as productive as I would like (that’s on me).  But, it is nice to look back on how excited I was to put myself out there with this book.  I’m also proud of the do-it-yourself efforts that I put forward with it – written, cover designed, interiors formatted all by me. It was a labor of love.  Of course, another book has come out since then, and I haven’t quite gotten the third one out…that second book is the better book, and the third book is shaping up to be even better. This is the way it should be, as a young artist finding my voice and working to continuously improve.

But this was the first one. It’s special, and I’ll always feel that way.

One of these days, I’ll get around to uploading this, and it will be the new branding for the series.  I won’t be changing the paperback covers (at least not in the foreseeable future), but here’s what the ebook will look like in the near future.

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Film Noir Friday – The Big Clock

bigclock     For the first time in forever I tuned into TCM’s Noir Alley and watched The Big Clock (last Friday), a film that has been on my to watch list almost as long as it’s been since I’ve watched Noir Alley.  I wasn’t disappointed. I wasn’t exactly knocked off my feet, either. That’s okay.

<possible minor spoilers>

The film stars Ray Milland in a made-to-order noir protagonist’s role. He’s an investigative reporter for a crime rag with a knack for finding missing/wanted persons. He has an overbearing boss (Charles Laughton).  And they both have an eye for the seductive blonde (Rita Johnson). Milland is, of course, married.  The blonde is a bit of a femme fatale until she is murdered. And the ensuing cat and mouse game includes Milland’s character actually being faced with finding… himself.  It’s a bit gonzo, but fun. And I may be the only person that feels this way, but I believe Milland was made to play a noir protagonist’s role. His facial expressions perfectly exhibit the tightening vise. (See The Lost Weekend!). Even so, Laughton steals the show as a truly despicable villain.

The Big Clock isn’t the purist of films noir, but I’m really not interested in that.  It’s noir-ish enough, and it’s a fine (if not great) film.

— TD

 

Cover Reveal

I know it’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted anything, but this is exciting. Right?  And, yes, this is some re-branding.  And, yes, I’ve re-titled the current book again. Hahaha. This one will stick, because y’know COVER.

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Toni Morrison

Whenever we lose someone like this, I grieve.  I know it’s silly I’ve never known Ms. Morrison, and she’s just a person like any other of us.  But, that is the thing with the best of our artists. I feel like I did know her through her work.

I haven’t read all (or even most) of her books, but the ones I have read were all terrific, challenging, thought and emotion provoking reads.  It probably comes as no surprise that Song of Solomon was my favorite of her books. After all, it is the only of her books told from a male perspective (unless I’m mistaken?). Yes, I’m a walking cliche.  But I think it also says something about Morrison’s mastery.  Just last week we had discussion about this in a small group of writers…specifically about the challenge of writing the opposite gender (or race, culture, whatever other stumbling block). Morrison like many, many authors before and after her proves it can be done. And done well. I’m guessing she didn’t use sensitivity readers. 😉

The other thing that I think often is lost in our seemingly current “issue” of writers writing outside their physical gender, identified gender, skin pigment, or cultural upbringing (again and whatever other…) is the ability of the writer to write from their own expertise (i.e. skin pigment, gender, etc.) and show the story in a way that it is accessible to an audience outside of those confined barriers.  Toni Morrison is one of the reasons I am fascinated by literature about the African-American experience (along with Richard Wright, probably the biggest reason).

So, she did a lot of things well. Not the least of which was creating beauty. When Jill told me she had passed it was like a kick in the gut. She will be missed.

Years ago, I wrote a blog about what I was reading…specifically because I was making an effort to read more widely.  I posted on a couple of Toni Morrison books:

Song of Solomon

Beloved

You’ll find that blog as unedited, rambling and stream of conscious as this one. It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks.

Have you read any Morrison?  What book would you suggest I start next (I’ve read Solomon, Beloved, and The Bluest Eye)?

–TD

 

I have a deadline

Okay, It’s a self-imposed one. However, now that I’m feeling snowball pick up speed (and snow) on the writing, I figured it’s time to set some goals.  Well, really just the one.  I’m mulling a production schedule and I have some ideas, but I’m nowhere near ready to share those.  I may never be.

But, I will publish the current book I’m writing by September 30th.

The other thing I’m considering (as always) is changing the title. None of my working titles have survived, but I do like having one.  I don’t always start with one, but one emerges in the early goings. This usually is a result of some turn of phrase triggering a song connection.  In the case of Everything is Broken, the working title was Heaven Ain’t Bad. It was triggered by some dialogue between Fuzzy and Sample (I leave it at that as to spare people the spoilers). I made a connection to the Townes Van Zandt song “You Are Not Needed Now”, and that was enough to give me a working title I was happy with. Then I wrote the scene with the little boy and his mama and the broken seashells, which my son later identified as the theme of the book (!)… I made a connection with the Bob Dylan song “Everything is Broken.” (I am a huge Bob Dylan fan for those of you who do not know me in person).

North Country Girl was originally “Girl of the North Country”, which of course is a more obvious and famous Dylan tune.  I grew tired of the more obvious nod, plus it was more words to fit on the cover, so I settled on North Country Girl, which I think sounds better anyway.

The current book, as loyal readers may recall, has the working title God’s Golden Shore.  Again, this was triggered by some dialogue. This time between Fuzzy and a local mob Don, which recalled lyrics to the Traditional folk song “Man of Constant Sorrow”.  But, sigh, I had a book signing a couple of weeks ago, and I was paired with a couple of authors, who wrote faith-based memoirs. I admit to a little blushing standing beside them with my somewhat racy covers (and books a little on the saucy side).  It dawned on me that a book titled God’s Golden Shore would fit nicely with my fellow authors’ stacks at the book signing. Eh, maybe not such a good idea.

So… I’m leaning towards Dyin’ Southpaw’s Blues.  It would probably be the closest to a “genre appropriate” title I’ve managed.  Sorry, I’m not a fan of “The Case of…” or “Murder at…” type titles.  At any rate, I’m almost certain God’s Golden Shore becomes Dyin’ Southpaw’s Blues, but no guarantee that Dyin’ survives.  And yes, it is a nod to Georgia bluesman Blind Willie McTell’s Dyin’ Crapshooter’s Blues.

What d’ya think?

TD

www.palmettopulpmill.com

Heinlein’s Rule #1

That’s right. I’m back to #1.

Life has been rough for…well, a few years honestly. I’ve lost people I love… and of late a job that I loved.  If I’m completely honest, I may have some depression that needs tackling.

One of the symptoms, I’m aware of is the lack of interest in doing the things I truly enjoy. Which, is all my way of saying that my writing has been very spotty over these last couple of months. I think it was fine in the early goings of dealing with my latest life turn — the job loss. For one, my focus has been (and still is) finding the new source of income.  But… as time has gone, I’ve realized that 1) I could have managed a lot of writing during the hours I haven’t been job searching and 2) I love to write. It certainly could help with my mindset.

So, I’m back to Heinlein’s Rules.  Those incredibly simple set of rules. Most, of which if you read just on the surface without any real reflection, will result in you saying, “Duh. No shit Sherlock.”   But here’s the thing, they are simple to understand, and probably easy to follow… but it’s also incredibly easy to “fall off the horse.”  But I’m here, and I climbing back into the saddle. Right on #1.

You Must Write.

And for me that means every day.

Today? That meant 800 words this morning, when I woke up (not by design) at the insane hour of 2:30 a.m. It involved heavy, cycling back to get back into the story…and I’m sure the early going will be slow, and require more heavy cycling.  That’s okay. It’s all part of working towards adherence to Rule #2 – Finish what you start.

I’ve gotten some feedback from readers and writers of late. Asking when the next story is coming. Telling me they like this blog. Of course, none greater than my wife, Jill.  All of it is really, really appreciated. My purpose in all of this is to “entertain myself”… but that is always immediately followed by “and hopefully others.”

So, thank you others. The support is helpful.

— TD

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What I Am Reading – Max Allan Collins

Max Allan Collins writes a lot. He writes a ton of movie/tv tie-ins. He writes about hit men (see his Quarry novels). He writes a lot of Mickey Spillane (what do you call it when an author completes the unfinished work of a deceased legend?). He writes graphic novels (Road to Perdition…of Tom Hanks fame). Probably massive amount of other stuff, that I am forgetting. What I always turn to MAC for, however, is his Nate Heller books.

Heller is a PI that somehow finds himself involved in nearly every high-profile “crime” case in the 20th century. I’ve read cases involving Chicago gangsters, the Roswell incident, the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, Marilyn Monroe’s death, and, now, the Black Dahlia case. I haven’t read all of the series, and I certainly haven’t read them in order, but visiting with Nate is nearly alway a good time.

Of course, this encounter with Nate was spurred on by my recent watching of I Am the Night. I’ve also ready Jame Ellroy’s Black Dahlia a couple of times, and have seen the movie based on it. Point being, this particular case isn’t new ground for me (or most anyone). Still MAC’s take on it is original and very readable. It does deal with the standard uncomfortable material, but some doesn’t come off completely weirdo.  And, as far as I know MAC’s whodunnit is a completely original proposition. (Which I will not spoil).

I never really know where the historical stops and the fictional picks up in a Heller book, and this one was no different.  I think that is a good sign for an historical fiction writer.

If you have any interest at all in Historical Mysteries or P.I. fiction, you should give this series a look:

http://www.maxallancollins.com/books/

By the way, in the Longarm post I mentioned that I had scored a handful of Harry Whittington penned Longarms. I’ve made it through the first one Whittington wrote, and it was just great, pure pulp fun. I’d even go so far to say that the Larry Flint material was light for a Longarm… which is okay by me!

–TD

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