It’s been some time since I posted.  Not much to say.  Things are going well.

Rattling on about writing has become a little –eh, boring.  But, I’m going to have to do a little bit of research on a topic that I uncovered in a story this morning.  So, I thought I’d share this little bit of humor.  The writers that are reading this will just nod.  Readers will probably get a kick out of it.

Here goes:

I am convinced that if I am not on the FBI watchlist. I will be soon.

Consider this –

For my first book, my internet search history includes:

  • Where to find prostitutes in Myrtle Beach, SC (this was infamously uncovered in the search history by Jill, my wife…fun)
  • Forums where strippers and their patrons post about their experiences
  • How to pick the lock of the modern hotel keycard lock


For my second book, at the very least, my search history included:

  • Vodun teachings on the afterlife
  • Historical weapons of Native Americans (the Mohawks, in particular)

In addition, I regularly look up stuff about guns. Despite my love for crime fiction and the violent stories found in the genre, I am for all intents and purposes a pacifist. I have never owned a gun and can only remember once shooting a shotgun.  So, yeah, call me out on it when I get something wrong (I don’t mind, actually … I do my best). My only point is … my internet search history would make me look like a budding domestic terrorist.

I won’t share what I’ll be researching during my next writing session, but yeah, it’s FBI watch list stuff.

*FBI is not a reference to JoJo Bigtree


Reset the Streak

Yep.  Already need a reset. This week has been hectic. I’ve worked an incredible amount of overtime.  I won’t put numbers to it, but suffice to say I worked overtime last week, and managed just fine to get some writing in every day. This week I worked OVERTIME.

And it’s a learning experience.  As I’ve mentioned before on this site, I’m a slow learner. (I’m also stubborn).  I swore, while I was going through the lay-off period, that I would never give myself SO much to a company like I had at the last two.  Alas, I still have a lot to learn about achieving some life balance.  And the power of saying “no.”

It was also reminder of one of my best practices.  Get what’s important to me* (writing and exercise) done first thing every day. When I do this, nothing the day throws at me can de-rail those priorities.  I failed to do this on Wednesday morning, and no writing got done. In fairness to myself, Thursday wasn’t going to happen out shear exhaustion anyway.  Friday, I probably could have/should have gotten a run and some writing in, but I slept in (until 6 a.m. haha), and chose to spend time with family* after work.  So, I lost three days. Two of those days I lost that I feel I could have written and run, but I chose not to.  One of those days, I lost because… well, because me.

So, on that ‘me’ thing, I’m trying to figure that out. I know I have to concentrate on being less busy.  On one hand, I know I perform much better when I have a regimented day. When I know I have to work my hour of writing into a relatively full day, I generally do better than when I have a ton of free time on my hands.  But it’s a delicate balance, and my days can get away from me like they did this week. I know there’s an answer.  Add this to my priorities for the year, too!

My streak ended at 7 days. I wrote today, so now it stands at One. And that’s okay, because I know I can get up and write and run (7.5 miles) tomorrow.

I re-read The Deep Blue Good-by by John D. MacDonald this week for maybe the sixth time. I love the book and the entire Travis McGee series, and I just wanted to revisit it and see what I could pick up on and learn from JDM. There’s surely a lot of stuff, but what I focused on was the balance JDM achieved in his action scenes of pace and enough depth of detail that he doesn’t leave the reader filling in too many blanks. I’m currently writing a chase scene on the beach, and I am trying to borrow from the master on keeping those scales level. It’s a lot of fun to write.

I’m also nearing the finish of Pepper Pike by Les Roberts.  Also a PI novel, featuring Milan Jacovich, and set in Cleveland.  So far, so good. I feel like I’ll be continuing on with this series.

We lost Neil Peart this week. I knew I had a lot of friends, who are Rush fans, but I had no idea the sheer number until my Facebook feed got lit up with them mourning his death. I’ve never been much of a fan of Rush, or Mr. Peart, but I’ve always admired their abilities (in the case of Peart his skill with the drumsticks in his hands is undeniable). Something to keep in mind. Just because something isn’t to our tastes, doesn’t mean anything about the quality of the work.

Looking forward to the week ahead. Long run tomorrow, which I hope I won’t suffer from the missed days this week. Then, who knows, maybe I finish a book (?). I certainly don’t know how it ends yet.

*Obviously spending time with Jill and Dylan trumps even these, but I’ve learned also that if I get the writing and running done first thing it frees up the quality time in the evenings.  Of course, I failed miserably this week, and saw maybe 5 minutes of them on Wednesday (actually think I missed Dylan completely).


Words this week – 3,417

Words so far this year – 7,926

Current Streak – 1

Longest Streak to date – 7

Miles Ran/walked this year –  15.5


A Tribute to my Literary Hero by His Daughter

Tribute to James Lee Burke

I’ve written about James Lee Burke before, and I read this Tribute years ago when Burke was awarded the Grand Master title by the Mystery Writers of America. It came up on my Facebook feed today, and I am sharing it here as a gift…because if you have not read James Lee Burke and you are compelled to read him after reading my post, than that is what this is — a gift.

I do not believe there is a Literary genre in fiction.  And I think it’s a little egotistical for a writer to claim they are writing in the Literary genre. I believe Literary is term for quality that the reader gives to a work regardless of genre. James Lee Burke writes, mostly, crime fiction, but to say he transcends genre is an understatement on the likes of saying The Great Gatsby is a nice little crime novel.  Mr. Burke is THAT good. He is literary.

Like most of us, there are things that I see in my hero.  Things I learn or hope to learn. There is a short line in Alafair’s beautiful tribute (she’s a good writer, as well!) about Burke’s refusal to outline or see more than a couple of scenes ahead.  I first encountered this bit of Burke’s process in The Tinroof Blowdown, the post-Katrina novel mentioned in the tribute.  In it, Robicheaux comments on Alafair’s (yes, the character shares a name with the author’s daughter) writing process as she is a budding author. Intrigued, I contacted Mr. Burke to ask if the fictional Alafair’s process resembled anything in his own process.  Burke was kind enough to respond to me, that it was exactly his writing process.  From that day forward, I became a reformed “plotter” .(That’s a nudge and a wink at all of the writers out there who say they are reformed pantsers, as if somehow becoming an outliner is a higher calling.) Writing became a lot more enjoyable. Since then I’ve learned most (not all) of my favorite authors do not outline…(and don’t rewrite).

Of course, the perseverance that Burke exhibited with The Lost Get Back Boogie is heroic, and something I regularly consider and remind myself when a case of the “why bothers” hit.

But those last two paragraphs are too much about me. Do yourself a favor. Read Alafair’s tribute. Then introduce yourself to Dave Robicheuaux and Clete Purcell, or any of Burke’s other fantastic, colorful characters.

Oh, and you’re welcome.



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.


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.

Everything is Broke_bc1a.jpg

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.

Persy's Song_bc2a.jpg

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


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)?



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?