Every Character Matters

I began my writing career in journalism as an investigative reporter. Eventually, I wrote one-act plays, and the transition from journalism to playwriting wasn’t as bumpy as you might think. From there, I moved into television.

Of all the television work I undertook, miniseries were my favorite to write. They have a defined beginning, middle and end. They’re steadily fast paced and culminate swiftly. There’s no time to waste. While there was more to my television career, it was predominately replete with writing, and I liked that a lot.

Shortly after my last television job, before I had a chance to know it was happening, I found myself writing my first novel. It didn’t occur to me to write a book, until it did, and the transition was seamless

Miniseries gather momentum and I enjoy the swiftness with which we get to know characters, so I chose to write novels this way. By the time you’ve finished the second chapter, you know who everyone is; they all have a purpose for being there, and everyone – even the thugs – have at least a little good in them.

In “Fugue,” my second and latest novel, every chapter is laid out like a piece of music. There’s a rhythm to the paragraphs that echoes the structure of classical composition. My background in music helped this along, but a lot of it was luck. It felt easy, which is a blessing because most of my writing is more an act of sprezzatura, or effortful nonchalance—difficult and challenging with the appearance of simplicity and ease.

Now that I’m well into my third novel, a stylistic pattern is well under way, in that I operate on two levels: Every book I write has an element of mystery, and there is something to learn. I write what I know (borrowing from Twain), and find the subject interesting. I hope you do, too.



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.