The Closeout Kings musical countdown, day 4, part 2

Scott Vaughn sent me two more song suggestions.  Both were little ditties by Drive-By Truckers. This is a group I had heard of, but I wasn’t really familiar with their work.  I liked Scott’s two choices, but I started listening to more of their music, and I was really struck by their song Puttin’ People on the Moon.  It really fits the theme and tone of The Closeout Kings.  At first, I thought this was just another hillbilly tune about getting drunk and getting screwed by the man.  But, if you pay attention to the lyrics, you’ll discover this a really deep, meaningful tune about abject poverty in the rural south.  Good men turn to bad habits just to get by.  That’s essentially what The Closeout Kings is about.

Remember, The Closeout Kings will be officially released tomorrow – Oct. 24, 2014.  It is available for pre-order at this very moment.

The Closeout Kings musical countdown, day 4, part 1

Many thanks to Thom Millman’s musical suggestion today.  His choice is A Man of Constant Sorrow by the Soggy Bottom Boys, which, according to a YouTube commenter, is actually “Ralph Stanley, Dan Tymiski from Allison Kraus’ band,  Harley Allen, Nashville songwriter and Pat Enright of The Nashville Bluegrass Band.”  Thom nailed this one.  Step Crawford, our dour hillbilly hit man, is indeed a man of constant sorrow.  Don’t forget that The Closeout Kings’ release is tomorrow, Friday, Oct. 24, 2014, and you can beat the Kindle rush by pre-ordering today!


Another note for beta readers – Even More on Kenny

Kenny update

Kenny Part 2

This is a continuation of yesterdays post addressing comments brought up in a few beta readers surveys for the Closeout Kings.  If you are a beta reader and you have not taken the survey, I urge you to stop reading now.

More than one beta reader commented that Kenny wasn’t as dumb as he should be at times.  He used words and language you wouldn’t expect a hickbilly from the backwoods to use. I never really meant for Kenny to be stupid just curious.  I know he’s a strange mix of not knowing and knowing.  I guess my thinking on Kenny is that he’s not completely closed off from the world.  His curiosity (misguided at times) does lead him to explore and seek out information.  This is all done outside of the view of the reader, so I can understand how his character seems a little inconsistent.  He has a lot of information that you wouldn’t expect him to at times, but sometimes he uses that information out of context which makes him sound really stupid.  I wrote a short dialogue between Step and Kenny to give the reader a hint to this off-story behavior of Kenny’s.  The danger of doing this is that it can some times come off as unnecessary exposition, so I tried to tread lightly.

This dialogue occurs in the truck after Step and Kenny meet Dani for the first time and it opens here with Kenny speaking:

“Human beings are what’s called pack animals, Step. Means we need others to bond with. Helps us get along better. Even adds years to our lives being with others. Ain’t nothing more important in a human pack than what they call physical communion. Means sex with an emotional tinge to it.”

“Goddamn,” Step said with a laugh. “Did you grow a vagina somewheres along the way?”

“Laugh all you want, but that don’t change the fact that I don’t just need a hooker to hump. I need a lady that I can exchange emotional wherewithal with.”

“I don’t get you at all, Kenny. You’re dumb enough to think there’s such a thing as a nobility prize on the one hand, but on the other, you come up with this pack animal, emotional communion bullshit that makes you sound half-way smart.”

“First off, I’m sure as I can be about that nobility prize. Folks have been winning that thing almost every year for a few years now, and second off, I read up on things.”

“Read? What the shit do you read?”

“Stuff that was writ to be read.”

“Like what?”


“What stuff?”

“I got my daddy’s collection of magazines and the like when he died. It feeds my mind on various topics.”

“Magazines? You mean Playboy?”

Kenny smirked. “I seem to recall coming across an edition or two in his collection, yes.”

Step shook his head. “So in between cranking off throughout the day, you read up on emotional wherewithal and other such nonsense in these pornographic periodicals?”

Kenny shrugged. “I got a curious mind. I ain’t ashamed of that.” He fiddled with his cap. “Do you got that with Bones?”

“Got what with Bones?”

“Emotional wherewithal.”

“What I got with Bones ain’t none of your business.”

Once again, thanks for the feedback. It’s really helping see the problem areas.

“I took a risk.”

Lessons in storytelling by Larry David

Lessons in storytelling by Larry David

The headline for this blog post comes from an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Larry David’s character, Larry David, offers it as an explanation to his wife Cheryl, played by Cheryl Hines, when she asks why he would say something so socially unacceptable to another human being. He took a risk in an attempt to be honest to another person, and he failed miserably. That’s what made it so funny.

It sums up how I feel when I think about the stories I write under C. Hoyt Caldwell. Succeeding as Mr. Caldwell isn’t nearly as important to me as taking risks as Mr. Caldwell. I go down some dark roads in an attempt to tell an honest story. Not honest from my point of view, but from my characters’ various points of view. They say and do things that I am embarrassed and shocked by, and I love it. It’s really a blast.

There are parts of The Closeout Kings that I know will offend some readers. As a reader of the material, I even felt it might have gone too far, but as the writer, I knew the material called for it because it advanced character, conflict, and action. Those are the only things I can and will concern myself with. If I start considering how the story will affect the reader, then I’m not really writing. I’m pandering.

Can I take risks as R.W. Ridley? I hope so. Oz’ tale isn’t your typical Young Adult series. There are some very adult themes that he has dealt with and will deal with in the final installment. My goal with Oz all along has been to take him from a boy to a man over the course of the series, and that in and of itself is a risk in the Young Adult market. I never think about category and genre when I write, so that may be why some of the major publishers who’ve thought about picking it up eventually passed because they didn’t know where to place it. I’ve been told on a number of occasions by editors that Oz sounds too grown up. I agree. He does. But there’s a reason for that, and hopefully I can make that clear in Book Seven.

So, here’s a little helpful tool for readers as you flip through the pages of a book. If you are offended by something you read, ask yourself if it reveals something to you about the character and/or story. If it does, then the author took a risk in an effort to be honest. Can you really be offended by that?