The Writing Man Can’t Get Nowhere Today

This is why I don’t design my own covers. I drew this up trying to sum up the characters. (Monte Dutton sketch)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, June 24, 2017, 1:39 p.m.

This has been a troubling week. It’s better than, oh, a disastrous week.

It’s had its good points.

By Monte Dutton

My latest novel, Lightning in a Bottle, is getting rave reviews and middling sales. So far, 10 readers have reviewed it on Amazon, and it’s gotten nine “five stars” and one four. They absurdly seem to think it’s as good as I do. It may seem vain, but, of course, an author loves his own work. As I’ve said, regarding journalism, nobody writes shit on purpose. What’s gratifying is seeing that others like it.

No one likes to seem delusional.

It’s been a good week for writing, which is a shelter from figurative thunderstorms. I just had one bad day. I think it was Tuesday. On Tuesday, I wasted lots of time staring at the screen.

It happens. Sometimes thoughts have to gather and coalesce before it’s possible to advance and progress. I have developed some intuition about reaching a level of comfort in a subject before deeming it time to write it. It’s been, oh, seventeen years since I stumbled upon what I call “mulling time.”

I was writing a NASCAR book, and I had been compiling information all season long, as I hopped, skipped, and jumped (via my vehicle, rental vehicles and airplanes) across the country for parts of ten months. At season’s end, after Thanksgiving, I had my notes assembled and was ready to write. In order to get the book out quickly, I had to abide by a tight deadline schedule, one that involved writing an average of a chapter and a half a day. As a daily-newspaper journalist, I thought that would be a snap. What I discovered was that the book required as much “mulling time” as writing time. I had to think about how I was going to go about each chapter, and get that method settled in my mind.

It was the closest I ever came to a nervous breakdown and the beginning of my intuition regarding the role of “mulling time” in the process.

All in all, the week was satisfactory. I’ve been editing one manuscript and writing another.


My knee is bothering me. The arthritis has been acting up. I’m getting around, but it hurts.

I haven’t been reading as much as I should. I haven’t been playing guitar as much as I should. I haven’t completed any sketches in months. I haven’t been “getting out,” partly because it’s a barren time for free-lance writing, though I had an enjoyable return to NASCAR in May.

Jerry Jeff Walker (Monte Dutton photo)

Jerry Jeff Walker wrote:

Getting by on getting by’s my stock in trade / Livin’ it day to day / Pickin’ up the pieces wherever they fall / Just lettin’ it roll / Lettin’ the high times carry the low / Just living my life / Easy come, easy go.

That’s pretty much it.

What hangs over me is the prospect of life without health care. I’ve been paying close attention at what the Republicans are doing, and for me to have more of a target on my back, I’d have to get some stencils and red paint.

Lots of people criticize Obamacare, but it’s been a godsend for me. If anything close to what is currently proposed goes through, and is signed by President Trump, then, (a.) my rates are going to at least double; (b.) I will be eligible for tax credits that I will not be able to use because I cannot pay the premiums; (c.) allowing my coverage to lapse will make it even harder to regain it because missing as little as a month will allow companies to charge me even higher rates.

Republicans speak as if the phrase “higher deductibles” belongs in The Ten Commandments. That’s because there are actually some of them who can afford to pay higher deductibles.

Mixed messages. (Monte Dutton photo)

An extensive body of work suggests that no one is going to hire me. Since the Gaston Gazette eliminated my job, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to claim that I have applied for a hundred jobs. For exactly two have I been interviewed. None of these applications was for executive editor of Sports Illustrated. I’ve applied for jobs I was so overqualified for that it embarrassed those doing the hiring. One of the interviews was, as it turned out, for a part-time job I took that didn’t last but a few months of the year that had been, well, not quite promised, but assured.

Ah, those fellows in the business office. They’re forcing us to cut back. I hate it.

In spite of my liberal arts education, I have reached the point of age and health where all I can really do is what I do best.

Write. Every day. Every way.




Lightning in a Bottle        4.9

Cowboys Come Home	   4.7

The Intangibles                 4.7

The Audacity of Dope		    4.7

Crazy of Natural Causes	 4.2

Forgive Us Our Trespasses*	        3.7

*Biggest seller to date

Now I need you folks to read. Give my books a try. There’s a heap of them. Take one or two or five to the beach. Download them to your phone. The novels range in price from $2.99 to $4.99. The latest, the aforementioned Lightning in a Bottle, is $3.99 for your Kindle app and $16.95 for your coffee table.

I wrote the book. Now I need the lightning.

With that shameful plea hanging, the best way I know to make more money on books is to write more of them.

You may see me on a street corner, playing my guitar, passing a cowboy hat, and leaning a sign against a lamp pole that reads:



(Steven Novak design)

If you’d like me to mail you a signed copy of Lightning in a Bottle, or any of my other novels, you can find my address and instructions at (

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

I’ve written six novels and a collection of short stories. I’ve also written a number of books about sports, mostly about NASCAR. You can find most of them here.

The Kindle versions of my books, where available, can be found above. Links below are to print editions.

(Cover design by Steven Novak)

Lightning in a Bottle is the story of Barrie Jarman, the hope of stock car racing’s future. Barrie, a 18-year-old from Spartanburg, South Carolina, is both typical of his generation and a throwback to the sport’s glory days.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Cowboys Come Home is a modern western. Two World War II heroes come home from the Pacific to Texas.

I’ve written a crime novel about the corrosive effects of patronage and the rise and fall of a powerful politician and his dysfunctional family, Forgive Us Our Trespasses.

I’ve written about what happens to a football coach when he loses everything, Crazy of Natural Causes. It’s a fable of life’s absurdity.

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

I’ve written a tale of the Sixties in the South, centered on school integration and a high school football team, The Intangibles.

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font cover design)

I’ve written a rollicking yarn about the feds trying to track down and manipulate a national hero who just happens to be a pot-smoking songwriter, The Audacity of Dope.

I’ve written a collection of 11 short stories, all derived from songs I wrote, Longer Songs.

Signed copies of Lightning in a Bottle are on sale at Emma Jane’s (see ad above). Signed copies of all my fiction are also on sale at L&L Office Supply in uptown Clinton, South Carolina.

(Cover photo by Crystal Lynn)
(Cover photo by Crystal Lynn)

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing), and/or @wastedpilgrim (more opinionated and irreverent). I’m on Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Instagram (TUG50), and Google-Plus (MonteDuttonWriter).


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