50 Shades of Great

I have been extremely blessed to have a career in writing for the better part of my life. Starting out as a director at a news station in Atlanta, I never imagined that one day I would be writing novels – after spending three decades in TV and film. Making the jump from TV to novels has literally been the most liberating experience in my creative existence as a writer.

I feel like the shackles have been removed. There are no budgets for my stories. If I want my character to go from Santa Barbara to Paris, it just takes a few taps on my keyboard. And best of all – I don’t get a call from the studio head two hours later telling me global excursions from California to France are not in the budget. Writing novels has given me total creative license to kill who I want, when I want, how I want and where I want. Ok, that sounds better in my head than it looks on my computer screen 🙂 But, with that freedom comes a sense of walking a new rope without a net.

The point is that my writing career has taken me to many, many stops – from Atlanta to Hazzard County to Los Angeles and beyond. I have made life long friends through my writing. And now, in this next phase of my writing career, I’m making new friends. But, I do feel like I’m starting over – learning a new craft, and wondering if my writing chops from another entertainment medium will translate to novels. I believe that they will – but as writers, we are constantly hoping that we aren’t out of ideas. That we still have something to say that people will want to hear … or read. I’m completely humbled by the kind words I constantly receive from Dukes fans, and from folks who are probably just amazed that I’m still upright and kicking. And, I’m incredibly impressed by the authors I’ve learned about who are writing series of novels and building fan bases that rival anything I’ve ever seen in TV and film. You are ALL my heroes and my inspiration.

I read a quote today from E.L. James – “I’m not a great writer.” That made me laugh out loud. Untold millions of folks would argue otherwise dear! It also got me to thinking – what constitutes “great” writing? To me, great writing is simply great storytelling. Nothing more and nothing less. Taste, style, genre, and any other moniker don’t really matter. Great stories are great stories – PERIOD. And, Ms. James, if you can write a story (or a trilogy) that millions of people clamor to read – and will line up to see when your story moves to the silver screen – you are a pretty great writer in my book! 50 Shades of Great!


The Odd Connection Between the Dukes of Hazzard and Twist of Time

There is an odd connection between “Dukes of Hazzard” – the television series I created – and my novel “Twist of Time,” which is a high action romantic thriller. “Twist of Time” is about Thomas, a renegade monk with a mysterious past, who must solve 700 years of serial murders before he becomes the next victim. In addition, Thomas is locked in a forbidden love affair with Kate, a homicide detective.  So, like the Duke boys, Thomas breaks all the rules to get results, even though he is a monk.

When I created “Dukes” I drew upon my family (Uncle Jesse was based on my grandfather Franklyn ) as well as some of the boys I grew up with, who for fun and adventure, drove moonshine in the Kentucky hills.  In the same way the Dukes were raised by Uncle Jesse, Thomas the monk, was raised by his Grandfather in Scotland where he became a Celtic scholar.

In “Twist of Time” Thomas is hired to translate a 14th century diary written by a Templar Knight who was on a suicide mission. The diary disappeared. For the next 700 years every time it re-appeared there were serial murders.  Now, Thomas is marked to be the next victim.  How many times were those Duke boys targeted by Boss Hogg?

To solve the mystery and stay alive, Thomas and Kate must follow clues in the diary, which takes them to England, France and Scotland as they retrace the path of the doomed Templar.  All the while they are being chased by two illegal cartels that are after the diary and will kill to get it.  I seem to recall a few Dukes episodes where the boys were being chased by “illegal cartels” – ok, maybe not quite so illegal, but cartels none the less.

So I guess the moral to this story is don’t be surprised when something you are writing now bears more than just a passing family resemblance to something you’ve penned in your recent past.