Theater break: One Bear Lake

While I write weak and weary, and immerse myself deep in thought about backwoods mysteries full of Southern drawls and bad grammar, I thought I’d spend the next few weeks and months on the blog periodically filling you in on the upcoming production of my play One Bear Lake. The show doesn’t run until January of 2017, but this is my first experience being involved in a production of one of my full-length plays. I’m hoping playwrights at the beginning of their careers will find these production notes edifying, and perhaps it will help them prepare for their first production.

The play is a dark comedy about three siblings and their spouses spending a family vacation together in a rental home on a lake. The siblings discover that while they were raised in the same family, they all had completely different childhoods. The story is nothing like my books, in that there are no monsters and/or gun slinging bad guys. Writing stage plays brings out a completely different side of me as a writer, and I can’t tell how much I enjoy exploring that side.

The play is being produced by 5th Wall Productions, and it will be co-directed by Jason Olson and Blair Cadden. Fitting, because they helped me develop the play from its original 10-minute structure to the full-length version via their Writers’ Bloc program that meets on the fourth Sunday of every month. Incredibly, it’s a free ongoing workshop. If you’re in the Charleston area, you should really check it out.


Margaret Nyland will be playing the part of Rachel

Over the coming weeks, I’m going to feature the actors that have been cast in the show (six in all). It’s a stellar group, and I can’t wait to get to work with them. First up is Margaret Nyland who will be playing the part of Rachel, the wife of the oldest brother Freddy. She and Freddy have a sweet yet spirited relationship. In other words, they annoy and enjoy the hell out of each other.

Margaret is currently filming a movie about South Carolina’s greatest Revolutionary War hero and staunch abolitionist, John Laurens. She is playing the part of an Irish slave. Laurens was educated in Europe, so he had radical ideas that did not go over too well with his Southern slave-trading father. I’m convinced that had Laurens survived the war (he was actually killed in a skirmish after the British had surrendered) he would have been a delegate sent to the Constitutional Convention, and he would have pushed for freeing the slaves. Given that South Carolina was the most vocal state about keeping the institution of slavery alive, Laurens may have been successful and completely changed the course of history. But I digress. Back to Margaret. Here’s her bio, and I will keep you posted on future productions she may be in between now and rehearsals for One Bear Lake:

Margaret Nyland most recently performed the role of Lula in The Dayporch at Threshold Repertory, and previously played Laura Chandler in Threshold’s production of “1963”.  Margaret was also part of Pure Theatre’s Holiday Shorts 2015.  She performed the role of Amelia Tilford in the College of Charleston’s production of The Children’s Hour and Kate Mundy in Dancing at Lughnasa. During 2015 Piccolo Spoleto, Margaret portrayed death row inmate Sunny Jacobs in Midtown Production’s The Exonerated.  A graduate of UVA and the University of Michigan, Margaret and her family reside in downtown Charleston.

Diving on a grenade


This is gonna hurt.

Telling a Bernie supporter to get over it and accept defeat is the second most ineffective way to convince them to get over it and accept defeat. The most ineffective way is to scare them into supporting Hillary because the other guy is a historically worse candidate and will destroy America. They’ve followed a man who has preached the hope and promise of what America could be since he announced he was running for president. They’ve followed a man who never took money from big donors and special interest groups. They’ve followed a man who has walked the walk and talked the talk. Bernie supporters experienced an unprecedented event in American politics, a candidate told them the truth and refrained from pandering to them. He didn’t promise that he would save them. He promised that he would lead them. They would have to do the saving. He made his supporters feel necessary to the process and not just by voting, but by becoming a movement and getting involved. He didn’t just give them a solution, he made them part of the solution.

Here’s how you convince a Bernie supporter to get over it. Tell them not to get over it. Tell them that Bernie specifically said this wasn’t about him. This was and is about us.  He is a radical agent of peaceful change, and his supporters should be just as engaged with him out of the race as they were when he was in the race. His movement isn’t over. His movement, like every successful revolution, has simply adapted to changing conditions. He’s realigned the front from the White House to the down ticket races. Bernie supporters should put their money and efforts into winning House races, Senate contests, statewide and local elections.

Do not tell them to give money or support to Hillary for two reasons. First, she doesn’t need their money. She’s got Super PACs and wealthy donors to help her win. That’s who she came to the dance with, that’s who she will continue to dance with. The rich and super rich can’t buy any more influence than they already have, but they will continue to try. Second, the truth is the DNC did lie. They weren’t a neutral arbiter of the Democratic primaries even though they claimed to be on many occasions. The system is corrupt. No reasonable person can look at what happened this campaign season and not see the full scale fraud that took place. I am 50, and I’ve never seen lines to vote as long as we saw this election. I’ve never seen this many voters purged from the system, and I’ve never seen voter registrations mysteriously change in mass the way we witnessed in these primaries. Bernie supporters should be mad about all of it. They should be vocal. They should be obnoxious. They should be demanding a change.  Everyone should.

So, this post is clearly not an endorsement of Hillary. This is an endorsement of Bernie’s revolution. Be part of the solution. Vote for the candidate that has a real chance of winning and who best fits the down ticket candidates you are going to help get elected. Bernie hasn’t been defeated. He’s just getting started. He scored a major win by pulling Hillary to the left. Her acceptance speech outlined Bernie’s platform as her own. She’s even vowing to push for a constitutional amendment that overturns Citizens United, a move that will take money out of her own campaign’s pocket next election.

If you want to continue Bernie’s revolution, you are going to have to dive on a grenade and vote for Hillary. And after you’ve marked her name on the ballot, vote for every progressive candidate you can. People who will make her life a living hell until she delivers on Bernie’s revolution. People who will demand Liberal SCOTUS appointments. People who will push her until the anti-Citizens United Amendment is the law of the land. That’s how Bernie wins the 2016 election. If you want to take your ball and go home, you’re free to do so, but Bernie loses if you do. That’s not a scare tactic. That’s just what happens when believers give up on a revolution. If you’re not willing to make a sacrifice, then this wasn’t a cause you wanted to fight for. This was a trend you wanted to be a part of until you were asked to do something hard.  Shifting your vote to Dr. Jill Stein is easy.  She is a true progressive, but she can’t win. That is a reality. I’d love to say that she can, but she can’t. Just because you will vote her doesn’t change the fact that the system is corrupt. They, the powers that be, won’t let her win. Nothing changes until Bernie supporters become the powers that be, and you do that by voting for Hillary and giving her lawmakers that force her to govern from the left.

And for my Republican friends. What the hell are you doing? The man-turd that is your current nominee does not in any way represent your values. You have to have a revolution of your own to save your party, and the candidate that can deliver on that is Gary Johnson. If he draws enough votes from your side of the aisle, he gets you all back in the game.  Otherwise, you might as well dust off the old Whig Party stationary.

Here’s my one caveat to all this. If you are a progressive in a deeply red state, a state that Hillary has no chance of winning, my suggestion is not to vote for her. Give your vote to Jill at that point, or any other progressive presidential candidate.  If enough red state progressives cast protest votes, that will make some noise. The media will take notice, and it will make our political leaders take notice.

Fight on fellow revolutionaries!

C. Hoyt Caldwell Update


C. Hoyt Caldwell: author of Bad Way Out and Savage Reckoning

C. Hoyt would like you to know that he is working on the second book in the Backwoods Justice series featuring Deputy Dani Savage. 85,000 words down, about 20,ooo to go, plus some weeping, bleeding and rewriting.

The First book, Savage Reckoning, will be released on Oct. 3 and is available for pre-order, BUT if you’re a media type person that reviews books on a blog or for a newspaper or on the Radio, or some mass communication vehicle, I can get you a FREE electronic advance reader copy or you can find it on NetGalley. Hit me up via email ( or PM on Facebook.

From the Publisher: In the vein of Elmore Leonard’s Justified, C. Hoyt Caldwell introduces a thriller series set in the dark side of the Appalachian mountains—featuring a heroine who’s playing both sides of the law.

Deputy Dani Savage would like nothing better than to shoot the wife beaters, carjackers, drug dealers, and all the rest of the low-life good ol’ boys that make policing Baptist Flats, Tennessee, near impossible. Instead, she grits her teeth and serves the God-fearing townsfolk without complaint. The “little deputy,” as she’s known, is often overlooked and ridiculed for being a small-statured woman in a big man’s world. But while investigating a cold case involving a missing teen, Dani stumbles onto some disturbing facts that cannot be ignored.

 Soon Dani realizes that this case goes back decades. There’s a history of young women being stolen from the Tennessee hills, and a legacy of corrupt cops looking the other way. Dani’s investigation leads her to the “closeout kings,” a pair of hired killers with a tale to tell—a tale of a missing girl and a crime worse than murder. Somehow these two deranged hit men are Dani’s last, best allies. They know that it’s time for payback—and in the backwoods, justice takes only one form.

America’s Impacted Colon is Playing the Media with Melania’s Plagiarism


stock-photo-34236370-digestive-problems-like-constipation-or-diarrhea-Strange headline, no? Allow me to explain. I have vowed to never say the name of the GOP’s nominee for POTUS because his brand of hatred only grows when his name is mentioned in the media. From now on, I shall call him the Impacted Colon because he’s full of shit.

Mrs. Impacted Colon gave a speech last night at the RNC, and the media is ablaze with stories about how similar her speech was to Michelle Obama’s 2008 DNC speech. In fact, parts of Melania Impacted Colon’s address were unquestionably plagiarized from the current First Lady’s speech, word-for-word. One would think it’s as if the Impacted Colon’s campaign WANTED to get called out for it.

And that’s exactly what they wanted. I can’t believe the media hasn’t recognized the Impacted Colon’s strategy by now, but let me spell it out. He wants to be attacked because that gives him license to attack back. He purposely lies so the establishment media and politicians will come after him. It makes him look like an outsider. It doesn’t matter how outrageous and ridiculous his lies are, his followers don’t care, because he is saying what they truly want to hear. In this case, they want to believe that the media and Democrats are so depraved and delusional that they are coming after their candidate’s wife. How dare they? The reason for the attack will get lost in their outrage.

I am saying, without a shred of doubt in my mind, that his team knowingly plagiarized the First Lady’s speech from 2008. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were the first to use clandestine “haters” to point out the plagiarism on Twitter and Facebook. Did Melania know she was using stolen words to express her beliefs? I doubt it. I’m guessing the campaign threw her under the bus, so they could give the Impacted Colon a foothold for his counterattack.

Here’s how this act of plagiarism works to the Impacted Colon’s benefit. It gives him the opportunity to pretend like he’s a tough guy when he comes out and defends his wife from the comfort of his podium. He can appear to be macho and caring, even though we all know he is neither of those things. He’s going to give a fiery defense of his wife and his followers will salivate at how manly he is. This will be done in an effort to court the women of the GOP. This will be done in effort to strengthen his position with the male misogynist voter that thinks women need to be protected.  This is a play to strengthen the base of his movement, Mr. and Mrs. Moron.

This also opens the door for his campaign to go after the spouse of the Democrat nominee. Like it or not, Bill Clinton has a lot of personal baggage, and the Impacted Colon wants free rein to go after the former President’s past. Attacking Melania allows him to dive deep into conspiracy theory nonsense that gets his moronic base fired up. We will hear about murders and affairs and backroom deals. Justifiably questioning Melania’s speech, gives the Impacted Colon permission to distract from the issues and get GOP voter’s nostalgic about how much they hate Bill Clinton.

Finally, the hardest part for Democrats to swallow about this whole thing is that attacking Melania allows the Impacted Colon to compare his wife’s harmless act of plagiarism with Hillary Clinton’s “lies.” Forget for a moment whether you personally believe Hillary or not. That’s not the issue. The issue is that most independent voters in this country and a record number of Democrats question Hillary’s ability to tell the truth. Her brand is associated with a lack of ethics. Whether you think that’s fair or not doesn’t matter. She’s had 30 plus years in politics. Her likability and trustworthiness have always been weak. That’s not going to change this close to the general election. Her perceived distant relationship with the truth is her vulnerability, and that’s where the Impacted Colon can score real points with this ultimately unimportant plagiarism story. He can list the lies Hillary has been associated with, and he can win the all-important independent protest vote.

Stop playing into the Impacted Colon’s hands. He’s using the establishment to court the uninformed disenfranchised voter (not to be confused with the informed disenfranchised voter). Wake up and start pushing him on the issues. Make him spell out his policies. Make him sweat. He is most confident when he’s spouting outrageous lies.  As soon as he’s faced with having to explain his policies in detail, he sweats and that’s when he loses followers.  Don’t let him off the hook either. He will obfuscate and redirect back to a lie, but you have to hold him accountable and make him behave like an adult. Force him to give details about specific policies and he will crumble. After all, the Impacted Colon can only hold so much shit before he fails miserably.

What the Second Amendment Doesn’t Say


It’s beyond time to end the madness.

It’s time we talk about guns on this blog. I write novels that feature gun use. Both good guys and bad guys use guns in my books. I try not to glorify the use of the guns. I, hopefully, present that there is a catastrophic consequence to firing a gun at another human being, either aggressively or defensively. The presence of a gun always, without exception, escalates stress levels. When stress levels are escalated, the creep towards tragedy is set in motion.

It will be no surprise to anyone who knows my political leanings that I am for the government regulation of guns. It is absolute deadly folly that we live in a country that has more guns than people within its borders. We live in a country where the NRA – an organization that serves gun manufacturers and not gun owners – writes the gun bills that the politicians they buy off introduce, pass and make the law of the land. Guns must be regulated, and I believe we can do it without violating the Second Amendment.

The problem with people on my side of the argument is that we spend too much time focusing on what the Second Amendment says. We think that there is nothing ambiguous about the term “well regulated militia.” And there’s not – until you get to the part where the Founding Fathers talked about not infringing on a citizen’s right to keep and bear arms.  We forget that the men who wrote the constitution were politicians first trained in the law. Writing confusing documents open to interpretation was kind of their thing. They created a document that had the best chance of being accepted by all the revolutionaries in attendance. Let’s face it, they didn’t create a document that represents consistency. If you’re offended by that claim, you tell me how they founded a country based on the concept that all men are created equal, but permitted the practice of slavery to continue. That is not just a lack of consistency. It is blatant hypocrisy.

The bottom line is that there are no winners when opposing sides talk about what the Second Amendment says. Therefore, I propose we focus on what the Second Amendment doesn’t say.  Here it is in all its argument inducing glory:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

 So, what is missing from the Second Amendment that allows for the government regulation of guns? Well, the only rights that are protected are the rights “to keep and bear arms.”  That’s it. Here are two crucial rights that are not protected by the Second Amendment.

  1. The right to manufacture guns – There is nothing in the Second Amendment that says the gun manufacturers cannot be heavily regulated. Gun manufacturers can and should at the very least face the same level of regulation that the tobacco, automobile and pharmaceutical industries face to get their products to market. I would argue that since their products are designed with the specific purpose of causing damage, gun manufacturers should face stiffer regulations than any other industry in this country. This power to regulate, by the way, includes the restriction of what types of guns can be manufactured. The government is within its constitutional rights to ban the manufacture of military style assault weapons.
  2. The right to sell guns – Gun dealers of any kind are not protected by the Second Amendment. The language just isn’t there to argue otherwise. The government not only has a right to regulate any and all gun dealers, they have a duty to do so since gun dealers can threaten the concept of the right to the security of free state by selling guns to individuals who oppose the right to a free state.

The obvious argument from gun enthusiasts is that regulating gun manufacturers and dealers is ultimately an infringement on gun ownership. If you have a car in your driveway, regulations on the automobile industry did not infringe on your right to own a car. If you smoke, regulations on the tobacco industry did not infringe on your right to be a smoker. In fact, if you want to take the concept of infringement to the extreme, the price of a gun is an infringement on ownership. In essence, the Second Amendment very clearly says that charging any amount of money for a gun is unconstitutional, but I’ve digressed into an argument about what the Second Amendment says, and that’s not the point of the post.

My point is to take emotion out of this very emotional topic and focus on what rights are not protected by the Second Amendment. To me, it’s clear that the rights of gun manufacturers and gun dealers are not protected by the otherwise ambiguous law.

Muhammad Ali and The Tree Readers

I was deeply saddened to hear about Muhammad Ali’s passing this morning. He was one of my childhood idols, and while it was startling to watch him weaken and grow frail over the years because of Parkinson’s disease, it still leaves you wounded to know that not even Ali could conquer death.

Some of you may remember that I have been writing a Science Fiction novel called Tree Readers for some time now (well over 7 years). It’s my passion project that I pull out whenever I feel the need to escape. While I don’t have time to go into the details of the plot, I will just say that it is essentially about our alien overlords finally deciding they’ve had enough of humans, and they are going to wipe out the entire species. There is one champion of humans among the aliens named Mr. Marduk.  I bring this up because in explaining his affinity for humans, Mr. Marduk uses the Thrilla in Manila as an example of why humans are so complicated and interesting and worthy of saving.

The following is that chapter (typos and all):

Mr. Marduk sat on the bed in his quarters going through his notes, video records and books on humans. He was a student of Homo sapiens. That was his job, and that was his passion. That’s why he was included in the first wave.

In all his lifetimes, he had never been to Earth. He gleaned all his knowledge from the translucent screen of his personal reader and from various professors throughout the Alliance. Everything he was presented had a very definite slant, humans were supremely inferior to virtually every other sentient beings in the universe.

But Marduk believed differently. It was clear there was an agenda among most members of the Alliance to paint the humans as more than disposable. They were considered a cancer by most.

He came to the photograph of Jeanne d’Arc, a female warrior in the Earth’s 14th century. Human history would credit her with saving her homeland from invasion from a superior force, a victory so resounding the invaders would never return. What they wouldn’t record is that Jeanne d’Arc was a Tree Reader.

Marduk examined her hand. The skin over the knuckle stretched tautly over the bones and turned a shade of white as she wielded a sword above her head, seconds away from slicing a man twice her size across the jaw. He created a fist with his own hand and marveled at the similarities. His knuckles turned almost the identical shade of white.

The door to his quarters opened, and Ensign Lilith entered. She was tall and slender and as perfect as any other Anunnaki woman in the universe. On Earth, she would be worshiped by most the males and reviled by most the females.

“Studying your humans, again?” She asked.

“It’s my job,” Marduk said.

She raised an eyebrow. “Such a shame that you’ll be out of a job in a few… What are the time cycles the humans use?”

Marduk sneered. “Does no one pay attention to my briefings? I believe the word you’re looking for is months.” He added, “And, I wouldn’t be too sure about that if I were you.”

She unbuttoned the top button of her uniform and massaged her neck. “You overestimate your pets,” she said. “Their weaponry is so pathetic it’s a stretch to call them primitive. Their propulsion systems are practically useless. They are not even united. They are broken up into factions.”

He smiled. “They have… Heart.”

She laughed. “You’re kidding, right?”

He sat back. “I’m not.”

She sat down and patted his leg. “We’ve advanced beyond the frailties of a heart, Mr. Marduk.”

“And that is our biggest failing,” he said. “Besides I’m not talking about a heart, not the organ. I’m talking about heart, the feeling, the drive, the will. Compassion.”

She leaned back and sat shoulder to shoulder with him. “Explain.”

He considered her request and searched through his memories for a good example. He smiled when one came to him. “The Thrilla in Manila,” he said.

“And that is?” she asked.

“A fight, boxing they call it. The pugilistic arts.”

“A fight? A military battle?”

“No, it’s a sport. Two athletes stand on a platform outlined by a fence of ropes and fight each other.”

“For what purpose?”

Marduk shrugged. “Monetary gain.”

“Ridiculous,” Lilith huffed. “What are their weapons?”

He held up his hands and balled them into fists. “These.”

“They stand on a platform and strike each other with their fists to gain wealth?” She sounded outraged.

“They do.”

“And this goes on all the time?”

“It does, but never so beautifully executed as the Thrilla in Manila.”

She looked at him disgusted but also curious. “Tell me about it.”

“The fight was between one called Muhammad Ali and one called Joe Frazier. It was their third fight. They had split the two previous bouts. These two athletes hated each other. The one called Ali was favored to win the third fight easily. They stepped onto the platform and proceeded to fight.” Marduk extended his fists in front of him as he talked and boxed the air. “Ali started as most predicted. He threw punch after punch, confusing Frazier and keeping him off balance. Round one… They fight in separate segments of time called rounds. Round one went to Ali and then round two and then three and then four and five. It looked as if all was lost for the one called Frazier. Then in round six he found his heart. His will. He hit Ali with a punch that startled both fighters. Neither of them seemed to know Frazier had it in him. Ali was now confused, and Frazier kept him off balance for the next six rounds. The crowd who attended the match gasped and groaned with each punch thrown. They cheered for Frazier. They cheered for Ali. They found their heart, as well.” He paused and played the fight in his mind as he had seen it dozens of times before in the visual records.

“And?” Lilith asked, grabbing his arm.


She rolled her eyes. “Only by its depth of stupidity.”

He chuckled because he knew she was lying. “Rounds 11 through 14 were a back and forth battle. One athlete would throw a flurry of punches and then the other would come back with his own flurry. Frazier’s vision became impaired, and he fought virtually blind in the latter rounds while Ali’s internal organs were battered and not functioning properly. The crowd was amazed that either man could remain standing. They sat with their supporters before the start of the final round. The one called Ali instructed his men that he wanted to quit. He felt himself dying. His legs were shot. He was bleeding internally. The one called Frazier informed his men that he would never quit, and they were not to stop the fight under any circumstances.”

“So the Frazier human won,” Lilith said.

Marduk held up a finger. “That is where another form a heart comes into play. A man in charge of Frazier’s wellbeing by the name of Futch would not let his boxer continue the fight.”

Lilith’s mouth dropped open. “But the other human wanted to quit.”

“Futch did not know this. He was concerned for his human. He was afraid that Frazier would die in the final round. Futch found his heart. His love for another human being.”
Lilith sat up. “I can see why you like that story, but it does demonstrate why humans could not win this war even if they matched us in weaponry.”

“How so?”

“Their fear of death. It is the downfall of all mortal beings.”

Marduk put his hand behind his head and stretched out. “You miss the point of the story. Humans fear death only because they value life so much. They always find the will to preserve it.”

My Last Love Letter to My Wife


My favorite picture of Mr. and Mrs. Ridley. In time, this is how I will think of our time together. 

Emotionally, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write. I have to acknowledge something intensely painful in order to allow myself to move forward. Tragedy has a way of paralyzing you and letting every destructive thought beat you down if you don’t face it head on. That’s what I’m doing here, and I’m doing it publicly so I’ll stop hiding.

Marianna and I have split. While I don’t want to go into details, I will just say that our twenty-year relationship didn’t end because of infidelity or abuse or because of any one life-altering act. It simply ended because we stopped communicating. As of this writing, we are both feeling a sense of betrayal, and we’re struggling to treat each other as our better selves instead of our bitter selves. I recognize she has some very real complaints about me, and I hope she recognizes I have some very real complaints, too. We haven’t yet worked through all of our misgivings and misunderstandings, but we will. It will just take some time. One of the last things we said to each other is that we both want the other to be happy. It is my greatest hope for her, and I know it’s her greatest hope for me.

For those of you who know us personally, my only request is that you not inundate us with questions. We are both dealing with raw emotions, and it’s agonizing to wade through the minutiae. We welcome your support and well wishes, but neither of us are prepared to dive into the details. Marianna has suspended all activity on Facebook, so I’m afraid reaching out to her there won’t result in a reply or acknowledgement of gratitude. It will be enough for her if you keep her in your thoughts and prayers.

Before I knew my marriage was over, my publisher asked me to provide them with a dedication for my book. I’m posting it here (awkward phrasing and all) because it is my last love letter to my best friend and wife. Even though things have changed since I wrote it, I still mean every word of it. I have gone through the seven stages of grief about 12 times a day since the separation, but I’m working with a therapist to get through it. Right now there are over 800 miles of physical road between Marianna and me, as well as an ocean of pain, but we will always be connected by the best years of our lives.

This book is dedicated to she who sacrificed so much so I could write. To she who carried more than her share of the burden so I could chase a dream, and to she who picked me up when life ran me over. I can’t begin to thank her enough, but I will do all that I can to return the favor. Thank you, Marianna.

Be happy, Marianna.