Rewrites and a note to beta readers

My pain. My joy. My Life.

My pain. My joy. My Life.

This is how I’m spending my days for the foreseeable future. I am in the throes of rewrites on the first Pearl of Justice novel, which is still without a title.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the rewrite process, it’s painful. I’m not going to compare it to childbirth because I am a man and that would get me shot or castrated in most states. I obviously couldn’t possibly know that kind of pain, but I am free to compare the process to getting a rectal examine from a doctor with an index finger the size of a Buick.

This rewrite is especially challenging because I’m trying to find minor fixes and tweaks to swap out protagonists’ roles, and I’m trying to do it without losing a lot of existing character development. It’s not so much like pulling a tablecloth out from under a fully set dinner table and leaving the setting intact, it’s more like pulling the table out and expecting the tablecloth and setting to hover in midair.  I’ll find a way to pull it off, but I may have to break a few laws of physics and common sense to do it.

To the beta readers of The Closeout Kings, may I be turn to you for title suggestions? You all did a terrific job of giving me pre-publication advice, so why not take advantage of your generosity and creative acumen again?   What would you name a book about Deputy Dani Pearl?  Non beta readers feel free to chime in too, here or on Facebook.

As the Pope would say, “Do I have to wear this funny hat?” Errr – I mean, pray for me.

C. Hoyt Caldwell and the Two-Book Publishing Deal

Awesome news! I’m very excited to announce that I (C. Hoyt Caldwell aka R.W. Ridley) have signed a two-book deal with Alibi, an imprint of Penguin Random House. A big thanks to my editor Dana Isaacson and my agent Curtis Russell of P.S. Literary Agency.  I could not be more thrilled to have the opportunity to explore and develop Deputy Dani Pearl’s character, and the good (and not so good) folks of Baptist Flats, Tennessee. As a woman trying to keep the law in the deep South, there is a lot of fertile ground for potential growth.  I can’t way to play!

I’ll have more details later, but for now here’s a quick video I made with a little more information.  Needless to say, today is a very good day!

Might-Could: A lesson in Southern negotiating tactics

The redneck nuclear option

The redneck nuclear option

If you’ve spent any amount of time in the South, chances are you’ve heard the phrase “might-could.” It’s a response uttered by Southerners when asked if they want to do something.  Here’s a practical application of the phrase used in an exchange between two good ol’ boys:

“Hey, Tater, you wanna go to the game on Sad’day?”

“I might-could.”

If you’re a Northerner, you undoubtedly write this off as a meaningless and unnecessary extension of the word might. You may even mistake it as an example of dimwitted rednecks butchering the English language.  You couldn’t be more wrong.

Might-could is one of the most succinct and brilliant negotiating tactics ever devised by human beings.  Using the example above, it’s a way for Tater to signal to his friend Bubba (because everyone thinks every third male in the South is named Bubba) that while he’s not particularly motivated to go to the game, he’s willing to go if his friend sweetens the deal.  Here’s the conversation played out a little further:

“Hey, Tater, you wanna go to the game on Sad’day?”

“I might-could.”

“I’ll drive.”

Okay, so now Tater knows he doesn’t have to drive. He’s intrigued enough to follow up with a question.

“What time’s the game?”


Tater tilts his head slightly to the right and smirks, indicating that 3:30 is not the ideal time for him.  Bubba ramps up the pressure.

“Game Day crew’ll be there.”

“So will a shitload of people.”

Now Bubba’s made a huge mistake. He’s introduced a negative that he thought would be a positive. He thought his friend’s affinity for ESPN’s College Game Day was the perfect enticement. Instead, he’s damaged his case. He’s forced to go nuclear.

“Gotta a case of Bud.”

“I ain’t gotta chip in for gas, do I?”

Bubba grins and spits tobacco infused saliva into his Sonic cup because he knows he just successfully sealed the deal.

Now, the question those of you who aren’t familiar with Southernisms may have is what’s the difference between might-could and might.  Frankly, might is an emphatic no.  If anyone with a Southern accent ever says to you in response to a question, “I might,” take it for the no that it is and move on. The next logical question is what happens when a Southerner says no. Here’s the deal, Southerners rarely say no. We think it’s way too rude. That’s why we came up with the might-could and might response system. If a Southerner is moved to display such a definitive rebuff as a no represents, some major shit is about to go down, and you might-should arm yourself.  BTW – might-should is the Southern way of saying “Hell yeah you should.”

In summary:

Might-could means “I’m open to the idea.”

Might means “Hell, no.”

No means “Ima beat you stupid for asking such a dumb question.”

Let the negotiations begin.

A Staged Reading and a Grateful Playwright

12015563_10152995483872131_724180267_oI had an unbelievable opportunity last night thanks to the folks at 5th Wall Productions in Charleston. I sat in an audience and watched as five extremely talented actors did a staged reading of my play Never Living.  To be honest, I now feel strange calling it MY play. I came up with the idea, gave the characters names and wrote the dialogue, but it didn’t come to life from the first act to the final curtain until last night. The actors (Fredric DeJaco, DeShawn Mason, Sarah Daniel, Jamie Young, and Mariah Baideme) and the director/moderator, Jason Oslon really added a dimension to the story that went way beyond my wildest dreams.  I probably should be embarrassed that I laughed at my own jokes and got choked up as Fred as Emmett explained how he came to love his wife, but the second the reading started, I felt like part of a collective watching my fellow travelers perform. The material benefited tremendously by the talent on the stage. As a new playwright, it’s hard not to be thrilled and moved by seeing something you’ve written and rewritten and rewritten – and rewritten being read with such care and confidence in front of a live audience.

Speaking of the audience, after the reading, Jason moderated feedback from those who took the time to spend their Monday night with us, and I got some great comments and opinions on what worked and what needed tweaking.  I’ve made a lot of friends over this past year jumping into the theater scene in Charleston, and a number of the folks I’ve come to know and admire were there. A big thank you to everyone who attended.  A special thanks to my poker night buddies who’ve been at all my public and semi-public readings.10389512_1564615963750068_8929018021791817570_n
Thanks to Jason, his co-founding partner at 5th Wall, Blair Cadden, and Kate Tooley (and I’m sure there are others to thank, but I was too awestruck to get everyone’s name) for doing a fantastic job of hosting Rough Draft Readings.  It’s a great opportunity for playwrights to hone their craft and improve a work in progress.  If you live in Charleston, checkout their current season.  Next on the docket, is a comedy written by Blair called The Stray Englishman.

Dear Self-Published Author

Speed-Writing-8-Tips-On-How-To-Write-FasterAuthor Lorraine Devon Wilke is taking some heat for a piece she wrote for the Huffington Post titled Dear Self-Published Author: Do NOT Write Four Books a Year. Her argument condensed is that if you’re writing that many books a year, you’re stuffing an already over-stuffed market with poorly written books.  She gives a number of examples of great writers who took years in between each title.  She wraps the piece up by insisting that she doesn’t mean to imply that prolific writers are bad writers.

Wilke was inspired to write her article after reading an advice piece titled Discovery: Another Buzzword We’re Wrestling to Understand written by Penny C. Sansevieri, a marketing guru.  Full disclosure, I’ve worked with Penny before and I like her. She knows the publishing industry inside and out. Her advice isn’t coming from the position of craft development.  Her advice is strictly marketing driven. The theory is that the more you publish the more opportunity you have for discovery. It’s a solid theory and one with which I agree.

So, where do I stand? First, I’ve never written more than two titles in a year, and I hate myself for it. In fact, I’m completely jealous of people who can write more than three books in a year. I know one author that published seven books in a year, and I have to admit I dismissed his achievement because I had a hard time believing that they could possibly be any good. I never read any of them, so I don’t know if they were the crapfest that I expected, but to Penny’s point, he has a lot of fans, many more than I do, so I can scoff all I want, but he’s getting results.  And I know this about him, he has a genuine passion for what he does, so more power to him.  

The truth is that there are certain genres that lend themselves to formulaic writing and if you know the formula, cranking out four-plus books a year is easy.  It doesn’t mean they’re bad books.  It just means they deliver a story told in a manner that the reading public has come to expect.

My advice is this. Write. As quickly or as methodically as you want. In the end, what really matters is that you develop a style and voice that fulfills you as a writer. Do that in your own time. Don’t be prodded into publishing a lot of books because you want to be discovered and don’t feel pressured to hold back because you don’t think people will take your art seriously. Just do whatever your artistic heart tells you.  I agree with Wilke on her main point. It’s more important that you commit to craft than publishing frequently, but that doesn’t mean I think publishing four books in a year means you’ve sacrificed quality.

Worlds to Merge

She is the law.


I’m in the process of making my various writing identities more manageable. In addition to R.W. Ridley and C. Hoyt Caldwell, I am attempting to break into the theater scene as a playwright.  I’m on the ground floor on that particular venture, but I am having a blast. Writing a play is much more collaborative than writing a novel, particularly when it comes to rewriting.

ANNOUNCEMENT: If you’re in the Charleston, SC area, come to a staged reading of my play Never Living at 5th Wall Productions in the Citadel Mall on Monday, September 21 at 7:00 PM.

All that being said, there will be some structural changes to the blog that will follow over the next few weeks. R.W. and C. Hoyt will share a space. The topics and tone will become considerably more adult. Does that mean more profane? Not necessarily, but we won’t shy away from salty language. It primarily means we’re going to dive deeper into a lot of different topics. My plan to keep all my writing identities separate did not take into account the time that sort of thing involved.

More news to follow. BTW – The pearl is a clue. The launch of new series is coming.

C. Hoyt Caldwell news is coming soon

deputy-sheriff-badgeI’ve been away from the blog a long time, I know. Longer than long. Disgustingly long. Let’s just say the first half of 2015 was not my favorite period of time on a personal level. I had some cool opportunities pop up professionally here and there, but for the most part, the blog was not something I had the energy to deal with.  But that was then, this is now.  I’m out of the crapfest that was my life, and I’m on to bigger and better things.

To that end, I have a fairly big announcement concerning my alter-ego, one C. Hoyt Caldwell, but unfortunately it’s an announcement that I can’t make at the moment. The old Southern son-of-a-bitch made good.  As soon as everything is official, I’ll share the details, but for now I’ll leave you with this hint. Baptist Flats Deputy Sheriff Dani Pearl has some unfinished business.