Don’t know about you, but, there are days when I feel all alone in the Arizona desert!
We all have our reasons for writing and it’s a good bet that most of those reasons are fairly standard…to fulfill a desire…to become established, famous, successful…to simply tell a story…to scratch an ego itch…for all these and many other reasons. Does it really matter what our reasons are for writing? Any reason is valid and need not be magnified, right? Well, not quite. Some might write to hurt someone, to slander, to libel, to ruin someone or some entity. Let’s just assume for this post that our reason for writing has a noble intent and has no malicious purpose…and, what we write is good. It’s a certainty we’ve picked up novels at the Book Store, read them, and announced them as crap-reads;
So, where are the sales, the 5-Star Reviews, the accolades we authors covet?
For some of us, we write a few books and here come the critics with their reviews that range from 5-Stars to 3-Stars, even lower. The world of reading thrives on reviews, what someone thinks about her/his reading experience. There are professional review services. There are housewives, husbands, people in book clubs, avid readers who are moved to comment about a writer’s effort. It is a fact of life in the relationship between reader and writer. We like those comments when they’re dripping with lovely words like, ‘great’, ‘brilliant’, ‘going to read more from this super author’… Oh, we salivate and pour some champagne. We begin to bore our spouses with our ceiling dances and loud hoots of joy.
So, you have written what you consider a relatively good book…sure, even you can in the final pre-publish reading find things you could change — extend a section, remove a section, embellish here, there, increase the length, decrease the length, and so forth. In the end, you feel that you have written an entertaining book, maybe not the perfect quintessential novel that you know is still inside you somewhere but a good book. The reviews line up, the 5-Stars, the 3-Stars, the 1-Star, the fractional Star, and you begin to analyze the reviews, maybe agree with a point or two the people are making. The emotions begin to swirl. Of course, you gravitate toward the 5-Star, 4-Star reviews and are elated. The bad reviews bring conflicting thought patterns…there is an initial sinking feeling which will become anger, denial, and, at some point, you will equivocate only to finally acknowledge that perhaps the negative points made in the bad reviews have validity.
Your thought processes on negative reviews from readers run the gamut. ‘What gives these people the right to publicly condemn your efforts, these Hannah Housewives, these Harold Hushpuppy husbands?’ Hell, you likely gave them the book free on amazon during a free giveaway day(s)! Cost them nothing and they’re critiquing you! You go back and re-read the fair-to-good reviews, get some renewed sustenance. But, most of all, you’re in a dither and doubting yourself and your writing talent because you could not please everyone. Chances are very good you are not being controlled by a publicist, someone who shelters you from this wasteful dithering, this minor earthquake inside your head. As an independent author you are a one-person publishing house, writing, editing, marketing, promoting, getting lost in all the digital world’s ‘ways and means.’
The really bad news is, of course, there are pitifully few sales… Ah, the aggravating world of the word-spinner! Where in the world did you get the idea you could write?
Does an established, famous, author get a mixture of critiques? Perhaps not so many because the pros have the reading Pavlov public 5-Star oriented. But the truth is, yes, even these most popular penners of best sellers get their negative reviews as well. They have a much better shield in place to deflect the nasty words that cause the dithering.
All of this is not to say that you, I, and the countless other millions of writers do not have our book flaws. All of us have them! The temperaments of some writers are better than yours and they keep writing, getting away from the ‘passive’ passages of narrative, the cliches, too many ellipses, redundancy of words and phrases. We have many flaws in our books, and with each new book we write, we are getting less and less errata. We are, as they say, growing our craft. Will we get to that stage where we live among the giants of our writing world? Some will because talent cannot be denied too long. In the rare instance, enough money is spent to insure success – I can come up with my book-example of this, and I’m sure you can. Or, have our egos, our inner selves, betrayed us with pronouncements of our talent?
It is difficult to separate ourselves from the critics in the writing field, but we can remember what our reasons are for writing. We will still experience the dithering, but we have to stay true to whom we are. If we are getting 5-Stars along with some minimal Stars, somebody likes us. And, that is the message: remember your reasons for writing and just know that somebody likes us.
My belief is you are getting better with each writing effort. Just stay committed to your course…and…don’t…give…up!
Somebody Likes Us!
Billy Ray Chitwood – 01/17/18 – (Old post worth repeating.)
Please preview my books, read some of my Amazon Reviews, and a short & clumsy Bio.
After a US Navy tour, college, much traveling, teaching, acting, marketing, sales, always searching for the ‘white buffalo’ – romancing and searching for pieces of me. I’m on an 80-acre spread in SE Arizona called ‘The Lazy Rabbit Ranch’, a second home for a while and a wonderful stretch of desert that charges my imagination. The house sits on a hilltop looking south toward Mexico and the Sierra Madre Mountains. To the east, there are the Chiricahua Mountains. To the West, there are the Dragoon Mountains and the legendary ‘Cochise Stronghold’. To the northeast, there are the Dos Cabezas Mountains.
‘Well, what are you doing there’? you can ask. That’s presuming you might be interested. Of course, you already know I’m going to tell you whether you are interested or not.
‘The Lazy Rabbit Ranch’ was solitude and space, a setting ripe with old west history and lore, cowboys and Indians. Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Cochise, sat tall in their saddles, had their gun fights, and all gathered to write Chapter One to open the west.
Tombstone, the town too tough to die, home of the infamous ‘OK Corral’ and ‘Boot Hill’, was just a thirty-minute drive from the house, with a stretch of desert that can titillate or eliminate. In short, TLRR was a wonderful spot for would-be writers, poets, novelists, and the artists with their easels and brushes.
It happened that I did fairly well for myself after leaving Appalachia and my hill country ways. After shedding some of my Tennessee mountain charm and going into that bright neon-world of confusion and doubt. Believe me, there was surely enough extended education in that glitter-dome big city living. Not all of that good life was pure and wholesome. I worked a lot and I played a lot, and no extension of verbiage here can get me to an ‘All-American’ salutary status.
I lost most of my Tennessee ‘down-home’ accent, met and dated some very lovely ladies, all of whom I adored. Admittedly, certainly not glowingly, there was a very active hedonistic culture to which I quite easily and shamelessly inured.
But, back to ‘The Lazy Rabbit Ranch’.
Perhaps surprisingly to the reader(s) of this post, I taught at one point an ‘Advanced Writing’ class to high school college-bound seniors and had in the young years myself dabbled in poetry, singing, and writing. At ‘The Lazy Rabbit’ I began to write book one of a six-book series entitled ‘The Bailey Crane Mystery Series’. “An Arizona Tragedy” – Book 1 was inspired by the brutal murder of a personal fellow actress friend of mine in Phoenix, Az. (Incidentally, that homicide is now a ‘cold case’ for the Phoenix, AZ Police Department. If anyone can add anything of value to this ‘cold case’, please contact the Phoenix PD.)
All but one of the remaining ‘Bailey Crane Mysteries’ were inspired by true crime events. I have always had this fascination for the evil that shocks and angers our world, the fodder that makes millions for the movie makers, game makers, and some authors (he writes, enviably!).
During my time at ‘The Lazy Rabbit Ranch’, I was using a ‘Star-Writer’ word processor to peck out my narrative brilliance. (Okay, how many of you did I lose, if there was anyone to lose?) The digital age was advancing fast, and the Wizards of the Web had already figured out how to create technology that would add to their billion-dollar caches every few years by coming out with extra software. These added goodies would provide more speed, more apps, more games, and more frantic competition.
So, except for books 4-6 of ‘The Bailey Crane Mystery Series’, I had three boxes of manuscripts gathering dust on the shelves.
Eventually, Julie and I moved to the ‘Sea of Cortez’ in Mexico. I must admit, we lived in penthouse luxury, the sand and beach just outside our windows. The cobalt Sea of Cortez greeted us each morning, and it was near perpetual sun-shine every day. The SE Arizona desert had been an alluring habitat for writing, but the Sea of Cortez could really get the juices flowing.
So, I finished the ‘Bailey Crane Mystery Series’ books 1-6, plus eight other titles while in Mexico, some non-fiction, mostly fictional forays inspired by true crime events.
Okay, I’m guilty of parsing, or, likely, a better word would be, rambling. My title suggests ‘mistakes made’. And, WOW! Did I make them?
Take a look at my laundry list of amateurish mistakes! To beat it all, I was in Sales and Marketing most of my business life! Look, I know how my next lines might sound, but the impulse is there, so I’m writing them.
My books are good, readable, and should have a wider market than they now have! If I’m wrong and fooling myself, more time will tell. AND, I won’t be ashamed to admit it!
Read Them! If I’m wrong, tell me. If enough of you tell me I’m wrong, I WON’T STOP WRITING! I’ll just spend the next fifteen, twenty years entertaining myself! If the Pre and Post Marketing damage is irreparable, guess I’ll just keep re-reading my own books… There is always the rare chance that my writing is not as good as I think it is! NAW! That can’t be possible, he says HUMBLY!
Take a deep breath and look over my list. BE GENTLE AND KIND WITH YOUR REMARKS! We folks in Twilight need special handling – sort of!
After exhaustive editing and re-writes, I took the six dusty ‘Bailey Crane Mystery’ manuscripts and simultaneously published them on CreateSpace… NO LAUNCH OF ANY KIND! Just started tweeting! CRAZY! I ought to be in a looney bin!
I used CreateSpace FREE book ..okay, thanks CS, some are nice but your covers don’t compete with the BIG BOYS AND GIRLS! AND, I’m a SCROOGE, first order!
Did I mention? I’m a SCROOGE!
NO Beta Readers or pre-reviews! With my “Mama’s Madness” title, without soliciting, I got sixty reviews, most of them 5-Stars. The other books, precious few reviews, mostly 5-STARS.
BLOG ABSENCE for years. Now, I’ve written over 350 posts… My mistake: wrote a book and several posts giving my political views. NEVER AGAIN! Also, it’s better to leave religious beliefs at the door, although I’m not ashamed of my faith in God! Seems to me there’s got to be more than ashes in an urn to scatter on a mountaintop, the ocean/sea, or a hole in the cold hard ground.
Platforms: This is tedious business, picking and choosing writing platforms, at least for me. I’ve tried some, but unless I’m willing to put out the bucks for P/R and Advertising, I’m guessing I just need to enjoy the process of writing and be done with the marketing and selling sides. Writing is my therapy so it shouldn’t bother me so much if the books are not selling… But, everyone enjoys good reviews and kind support… Perhaps I’ve found that now with #RRBC, #RWISA, #ASMSG, #IAN1.
TWILIGHT! As my ‘About Me’ section at http://billyraychitwood.com states: “I’m a young man in an old man’s body… AND, I’m thinking I’ve got more books to write. I’m midway in writing my fifteenth book and damned well plan to finish it – and others. THE QUESTION: is age a factor for people buying books? For books not selling?
‘SOCIAL MEDIA: I’m spending too much time on social media and NOT WRITING. That has to change but I can’t give up my good followers on my blog, twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, google+, et al. I’m on Goodreads and find it difficult to navigate, e.g., I’ve had new Book Covers for my books for well over a year, have written to GR librarians for help in changing the old CreateSpace covers to the newly designed covers, but get no response. The old covers that appear on the Goodreads dashboard are not appealing at all…another big mistake! I’ve tried on GR changing of covers myself, but, not allowed.
INEPTNESS – MY OWN! I Truly cannot believe how incredibly naïve I was in the beginning of my publishing efforts (likely, still am!). To be sure, there are other items I’m leaving out of this list and I’m reasonably sure it could be much longer.
Although my embarrassment shows ‘big time’ here, perhaps someone beginning her/his publishing efforts will heed these remarks and make sure the chances for success are much better if you don’t rush the process as I did.
In the meantime, to show you really ‘like me’ and ‘care about me’, you could start some viral BUYING of my books. I’m not begging! I’m just saying!
Billy Ray Chitwood – HAPPY NEW YEAR! – January 1, 2018
Please PREVIEW my books of Mystery, Suspense, Romance, et al at:
How often do you use the word, ‘Soul?’ How often do you think about your ‘Soul?’
Mirriam-Webster defines ‘Soul’ as:
1. the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life
2. a: the spiritual principle embodied in human beings, all rational and spiritual beings, or the universe
So, that’s enough, right? The two definitions pretty much say it all, and there are more definitions there in the dictionary if you want more.
‘Soul’ seems to me, though, such a huge word to be so small. Writers likely get the most use out of the word than the people who really work for a living — no anger, please, just adding a little levity here. Really, it seems to me that ‘Soul’ is not in too many mundane conversations. ‘Soul’ is usually saved for the philosophers, poets, preachers, Romantics, sentimentalists, and writers.
You can almost envision the literary expatriates who gathered in Paris between the period of World War One and the onset of World War Two…wtiters like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemmingway, Sherwood Anderson, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, John Dos Passos, Samuel Beckett, Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Lawrence Durrell, Gertrude Stein to name a few — okay, okay, I’m name-dropping — but these were the people I read and studied in college and their lives got somehow interwoven with my own, with my ‘Soul.’ I can see them sitting at the sidewalk cafes talking in the afternoon about their writings, about how the devastation of war had impacted their lives. I can see them drinking the Bacchus liquids and debauching in the evenings, pausing in their fun and frivolity for serious and sober moments to discuss the condition of the ‘Soul.’ These were the people Gertrude Stein referred to as ‘the lost generation.’ Certainly, why not Paris? Why not gather in the great city of lights with so much art and beauty? It was the place to be if you were disillusioned by a world intent on war and destruction. It was the perfect place and time to discuss matters of the ‘Soul,’ and these great writers held those discussions in the finest style and with some of the most celebrated erudition prevalent in those days.
So, why do I post about ‘Soul?’
Guess it’s easy for me, an oldtimer looking back on his life, how he’s lived, somewhat of an anachronism in today’s fast moving digital world. ‘Soul’ is such an all-encompassing word. It holds such a fascination for me in these sunset years, but it has always held that fascination for me — guess ‘Soul’ for me is what writing is all about. We live, we pay taxes, and we die, but the ‘Soul’ offers us so many delectable scenarios of which to consider and ponder.
‘Soul’ is that defining part of us that we can’t pinpoint, can’t know exactly where it is, but we have to know that it is there. ‘Soul’ is everything Mirriam-Webster says it is, but so very much more. There are times when the directions we take as a world concerns me greatly. It is my hope that we can still take time, Paris or not, to discuss the implications of such an enigmatic and beautiful word.
Billy Ray Chitwood – 12/10/17 (From the Archives, 8/12)
Please preview my books of Mystery, Suspense, Thrillers, Romance, Memoirs, et al:
“The Cracked Mirror…” is a Fictional Memoir I wrote a few years ago…ninety per cent true! This book was written while living on The Sea of Cortez in Mexico.
This poem in ‘free verse’ is at the beginning of the book, serving as an ‘entrée’ to my life as I’ve known it.
I once looked at men like you,
old men, frail and haunted…
That was when youth declared
that I would live forever.
How hard it was to see then…
how easy it is to see now.
Life was moonlight and promises…
So soon came ecstasy and joy.
When did it get this late?
When did the tree sap harden?
Where is the gold I sought?
Where is the key I held?
Why is the day no longer long?
Why does morning come so late?
What is the mystery to solve?
What day the reckoning?
– Billy Ray Chitwood –
And, this ‘free verse’ piece is at the end of THE CRACKED MIRROR…just before the ‘Epilogue’ of the book.
Portrait in Time
Young man, do you not see me
as once I might have been?
Is it the wrinkle, the sagging skin
Time laid upon me that you see?
Once I stood, perhaps like you,
with noble thoughts and dreams
a new bright morning might bring.
Time wore me down with its ceaseless
ubiquitous ways and subtle promises.
Time taunted and tempted me
with its guile and deception,
with its beauty beads of love.
Time gave me its reins to run wild
with the wind toward sunrise and sunset.
Time now leaves me here along the sea,
better to have had its moments of joy;
sad to have you see the frail
and broken parts of me…
Young man, can you not see me
as once I might have been?
Billy Ray Chitwood
Between these two poems is a narrative I truly believe you will enjoy. At least, that is my hope. It’s got some important history, a senseless murder, a suicide, and a young kid growing into a man NOT without tough lessons from the neon glittering world of deception, false promises, love, naive bluster, and a lot of soul searching…still have some of that ‘straw’ behind my ears! BUT, my books are worth your reading – that, of course, is my humble opinion.
If you have the time or inclination, please leave a comment below, just after the shameless words of ‘BUY MY BOOKS’, ‘LEAVE REVIEWS’, and ‘FOLLOW’ ME.
Settle in…tell me about the roads you travelled to get here.
What dreams did you chase?
How many did you catch and find an ecstatic, enduring rapture in their fulfillment?
How many were somehow forbidden by tenuous moments of doubt and indecision?
How many routes along the road did you take?
How many loves?
How many heartaches?
How many moments of despair?
Well, you’re here in Twilight, here where you can suffer not so much the decisions you’ve made, here in the near-pleasant world of ‘been there, done that’, here where one can attend the parties without concern for the morrow, here where the golf club, shopping, lunch with friends are the only things that matter…
Unless, of course…
You’re a romantic and wanderlust, still carrying sad baggage of mistakes and minimal accomplishments, a quaint legacy void of grand, lasting dimensions.
We all are somewhere in that passage to Twilight. God forbid, you might be in politics! Even, the leader of the free world, and, if you have not been too indiscriminate to matters of heart and soul, it is likely Twilight will fit you just fine.
Along those roads to Twilight, many of us were charmed and/or deceptively beguiled by people who have love or evil in their hearts. Both of those groups will have no problems in Twilight. Each in her/his way has not the heart-wrench in recounting their lives, both convinced of purity in their souls. (Only one, of course, could be correct.)
Those of us who carried too much Joy, love, and regret in our baggage along the roads travelled, whose feelings are fraught with emotional quakes of sorrow, fragile in the remembering, will have the toughest time in Twilight.
Why? You ask.
Because their souls lend them along the way the brush to paint the sunrise, the sunset, the musical instrument and voice to bring tears to our eyes, the pen to write the pathos and poetry of our lives. To be blessed with that tenderness of being must make Twilight difficult because they have searched and loved most arduously, have kissed the sensual and hungry lips, have strolled the Champs-Élysées most fervidly with easel and pallet, have shown their hearts most beautifully playing the tenor sax. AND, Because the desires never diminish for these people of the night – these people who speak to us from their hearts and souls.
But, so be it…
Twilight can make exceptions and can be a most wonderful place to be.
Welcome to Twilight…
Post by Billy Ray Chitwood – October 10, 2017
Please preview my books, some reviews, and a bit about me at my Website:
THE CRACKED MIRROR – Reflections of an Appalachian Son
“Mr. Chitwood–the author of Bailey Crane novels and works of nonfiction–bares his life from childhood to old age with the skill of a surgeon and the requisite messiness of ER trauma.”
(From the 5-Star Review by Dr. Timothy Tays – Author and Clinical Psychologist who has his practice in Scottsdale, Arizona.)
“The Cracked Mirror”
A memoir of author Billy Ray Chitwood, AND, 90+% of the narrative is TRUE!
From Appalachia to neon lights and mind swirls of adulthood. A book worthy of any Book Shelf. A Book of literary quality, life events, and historical significance.
Childhood was the ’emotional pits’ – sucking the clean air of Appalachia from the lungs of a little boy as he endured chronic abuse and steady mobility – the sad and emotional soup would be difficult to digest for a lifetime.
From the boyhood uncertainty to neon lights and sharp contrasts in adulthood, the young man searches to find family and love amid a new world of glamour and ‘lotus eaters’. While demons of the past often visit, the man finds modest hope in the many gin mills, love affairs, and an ultimate prize.
THE CRACKED MIRROR
A memoir of author Billy Ray Chitwood, AND, 90+% of the narrative is TRUE!
Living on the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, the deep cobalt beauty all around me, I decided to write the story of my life. Not really knowing why, I determined that characters on the Chitwood side of my genealogy would have fictitious names…while on my Mom’s side, real names were used. So, the reader can assume correctly that, in the memoir, my name is Prentice Paul Hiller. The idea was to liven up the story line, make it more interesting than a ‘laundry list’ of dates and facts, to give the book form and shape, some important historical data, and merge the facts with some titillating, dramatic moments, again, most of them true.”
Billy Ray Chitwood’s “The Cracked Mirror: Reflections of an Appalachian Son” is a brave, soulful read, which is imaginatively crafted (the story being told from the confines of an assisted living facility – the “way station” – while the main character, Prentice Paul Hiller, is recovering from hip replacement surgery).
Memoirs (even ones admittedly fictional, as this one is) are often a good way of learning history. This book manages to do just that, painting a vivid picture of life growing up in rural Tennessee in the 30’s and 40’s. The story is told with frankness and insight – revealing one man’s experiences, thoughts and feelings – warts and all – from early childhood through adulthood, and on into the “golden years”.
Along the way, the reader finds himself empathizing with the author’s quest for inner peace and understanding of his personal life struggles. This book should be an inspiration to all of us – to find the motivation and make the time to pen our very own memoirs to leave for future generations.
I approached “The Cracked Mirror” by Billy Ray Chitwood with much anticipation because it uniquely presented itself as “A Fictional Memoir.” A challenge that could have easily been a literary disaster is instead a literary gem.
Mr. Chitwood–the author of Bailey Crane novels and works of nonfiction–bares his life from childhood to old age with the skill of a surgeon and the requisite messiness of ER trauma. He is honest and contrite about youthful transgressions, and is both traumatized and healed. The “Mirror” of the title is an accurate reflection of a lifetime that includes victory and beauty, the “Cracked” an honest ownership of human imperfections.
The fictional chapters titled “The Way Station” occur every-other chapter, and serve as introspection to the memoir chapters. These are handled flawlessly via the protagonist PP Hiller and the clinical psychologist character Greta Fogel. Mr. Chitwood does not make the mistake of leaning on psychobabble jargon to play psychologist, but instead captures the rapport of a friend who is also a retired psychologist sharing some insights with a friend, that we, as readers, get to also benefit. The result is a memoir that expertly handles the arch of a lifetime from childhood poverty and abuse to the bittersweet regrets, acceptance, and amends of a man intensely aware that he is in the autumn of his life.
Powerful writing from an author that now has me seeking out his other works.
I don’t normally care for memoirs, but Billy Ray Chitwood’s “The Cracked Mirror” was more than a memoir. The author expressed his views and showed his heartache in growing up poor while at the same time loving all of his relatives who took him under their wing.
He points out to the reader all of the “cracks” in our poor misguided world, and he knows what he is talking about. This is not a “poor me” book because the author is quite intelligent and points out where we as a people are going in the wrong direction. He made his own mistakes along the way, but haven’t we all. He suffered greatly from those blips in his life and still does. He and his wife and Bengal cat live a good life now at the beautiful Sea of Cortez. His dreams continue to haunt him and undoubtedly always will. He is hanging on and will continue to do so.
Described as ‘fiction but 90% true’, the author has created protagonist Prentice Paul Hiller as a man reflecting on his life whilst recovering from a hip operation in a nursing home. We follow him from his birth in Appalachia where there were idyllic times, happy childhood days (his mom was a great cook and of course the food tasted that much better because it was served up with a great big dollop of love!) There were traumatic times too during The Great Depression, when his mom and dad would fight in the true sense of the word, with his mom suffering some beatings.
Prentice leads an eventful life, it’s raw and gritty, but it’s written with simplicity and an honesty that ensures there are no skeletons left in the proverbial cupboard. There were times when his life appeared to be spiraling out of control, but he managed to take back that control and carved out a good and comfortable life for himself. He’s an intelligent man, a good person who appreciates the love of his family, though his demons do come back to haunt him at times. There were some deeply moving moments, told with a clarity and candour that was a pleasure to read. It’s clear that the author’s life mirrors that of his protagonist, and it was a great insight into the life of this Appalachian boy…
When I reviewed Mr. Chitwood’s novel “Mama’s Madness” last year, I applauded the author’s gritty, literary style and noted he was a writer outside of the ‘usual’ Indie mould – a chance-taker, and one who speaks his mind without pandering unduly to his readership.
“The Cracked Mirror” reinforces my view of Billy Ray Chitwood as a man of words. The book is a ‘fictional’ memoir, although most of the material is supplied from Chitwood’s own life.
Prentice Paul Hiller, the book’s first-person protagonist, is in the twilight of his years. He is recovering from hip replacement surgery in an old people’s facility. This provides him with the opportunity to reflect on his life; its highs and its disappointments. Hiller uses his enforced leisure time to document a restless, tumbleweed existence from a childhood of poverty in 1930s Tennessee to the present day. He is candid about what he perceives as his failures. In spite of his rationalisations, he remains haunted by his actions and inactions, missed opportunities and unsuccessful relationships. Chitwood presents us with a mind on a quest for meaning and understanding. Above all he gives us a portrait of a man trying to come to terms with guilt; an individual working towards self-forgiveness and peace of mind. This is a touching book and a brave one.
Some of the musings on the state of present-day America were lost on this British reader, but they may well have a resonance for those residing on the other side of the Atlantic.
This is a worthwhile and thought-provoking read. Five stars.
I found this book to be a thoughtful, well told story of an interesting life. The author pulled no punches in baring his soul with refreshing candor and insight as well as good natured humor. I’m looking forward to reading his most recent book.
Goodreads Review – 5-Stars
“The Cracked Mirror” by Billy Ray Chitwood is a thoughtful and reflective fictional memoir. The author’s life is told from one care home inmate to the other, giving us a dual narrative of life story from 1933 onwards and the present day relationship between the friends who are talking.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Billy Ray Chitwood
Being an Appalachian lad I ate quite a lot of emotional soup and have been trying for all the years to digest it. I’ve taken the easy and the difficult routes to get at this point in life, a point not so different from that confused kid who joined the US Navy to escape the fragmented uncertainty of youth. All the mobility of childhood, all the harshness that comes with a broken and misplaced family, all the ensuing mistakes and successes, all have guided me to this place in time and space.
NOW – The Hard Truth – About Me
I’m a young man in an old man’s body, trying to catch up to myself, trying to find pieces of me I left back in a disconnected youth and the early years of manhood. I’m a stereotype of many in my generation who can play the ‘blame game’, yell ‘foul’, and ‘let’s start over’. But, we are what we are, the sum of all the scary kid-emotions we experienced, the gin mills and piano bars that became our sandbox of pleasure – lotus eaters of the best (or, worse!) kind, the love affairs that did not quite settle us down, the sad poetry and songs written in bars and motels along the way… A Dreamer! A Wanderlust! The world needs such fools as we to write our books, our poetry, our songs, to offset the madness that plagues the soul.
I’ve written fourteen books, over three hundred blog posts in search of those pieces left somewhere in many parts of the globe. You can preview my books at https://billyraychitwood.com. If you wish to read some of my 350 blog posts, go to my old blog site at:
Don’t guess too many boarding houses even exist anymore, but let me tell you: the best food I’ve ever eaten was in a boarding house setting.
The cook? My dear, beloved, departed mother. In one of my books, I mention that she is up there with angel ‘Clarence’ ringing a bell when some earthly creature does something good — you will all remember ‘Clarence:’ he visits us each year at Christmas time in a re-run of the movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
It might seem strange to sing the praises of a boarding house cook in a post, but the mind can carry you to some memory stations that leave a faint, sometime tearful, wisp of nostalgia.
The sleeping room in Mrs. Lester’s Boarding House my Mom and I shared was just across from the big kitchen, and, as a small eight-year old kid, I sat in one of the two rocking chairs in that room listening on the radio to a broadcast of a baseball game or football game, and the smells from that kitchen at dinner time would get me really hungry.
Just before Mom served the boarders at the long large dining table in front of the house, she would bring a heaping plate of food to me in that bedroom across the hall. Didn’t matter what it was, meatloaf, pot roast, pork chops, corn bread, biscuits, mashed potatoes with gravy or home fries, it was always the most enjoyable food I would ever remember eating. And Mom would always smile, give me a kiss on the cheek, and say something like: “You’re the best little boy in the world…”
My Mom was a boarding house cook during some of the most troubled times in our economic history…during the great depression era in Appalachia. East Tennessee would be more precise. Knoxville, Tennessee would be most precise. Mom and Dad were divorced, and my sister was living fifty miles away with my maternal grandparents because of the bad times. Mom worked long hours seven days a week and she always made the time for me, made the time to make me feel like all was really right with the world. Even in my little pea-brain I knew all was not right in our world, that there were things happening in our lives that were beyond my scope of understanding. But Mom tried and she did make me feel loved and very much wanted in her life.
So, when that big plate of food was all consumed and wiped clean with the last bit of biscuit or cornbread, the ballgame ended, I would become wistful about my Mom’s boarding house existence, feeling that she really did not have much of a life. I would sit in that room, stuffed with good southern cooking, Mom doing dinner clean-up duties, and I would try to write a poem…try to write a poem that would convey the love I felt for my Mom, try to say in words on paper what my tiny voice could not say.
My Mom always encouraged me to follow my heart, to sing my songs, to write my verses, and it was there in those days during World War Two when I first took pencil to paper. Yes, the words were the mutterings of a young unsettled mind, but they meant something to me then.
Today, perhaps my mind is still unsettled, still searching for some ultimate truths, and that is okay. The words still mean something to me. Whatever my writing comes to be, somewhere in those sentences and paragraphs, in those characters and plots, there will be parts of me, and, actually, they are pretty easy to find. I am not a very large mystery in the scheme of things.
My Mom gave me the great gift of writing, the wonderful gift of expressing myself with words. It doesn’t matter so much that the words will or will not ring so many bells down here.
It does matter that Mom and ‘Clarence’ might occasionally ring their bells for me.
FOREWARD (of sorts): this was my very first blog post on July 10, 2012. At the time I had two e-mail accounts and the blog was connected to one that is now no longer in use. Being inept in the digital world (still am!) I lost many followers because of my inability to correct the issue. SO, I’m hoping for new followers, plain and simple… I won’t be posting views on dangerous topics like Politics and Religion, but I might give a hint now and then.
I’ve always been a Frank Sinatra guy and “My Way” has accompanied me on many romantic adventures. “My Way” has been one of those ‘etchings’ to enjoy with someone special at the end of a candlelight and wine dinner, a song that can be parsed and qualified in so many ways…guess that’s my best reason for the blog title.
It isn’t so much that those lines in the song, “The Final Curtain,” need to conjure up morbid thoughts and ‘let’s all be sentimental’ thoughts. In fact,”The Final Curtain” can conjure up benign thoughts, those that lift the spirit and put an extra swagger in our strides.
I’m pretty much a ‘romantic’ with some life dreams realized and some that still wish to be. Mostly, these days, my writing speaks to me in so many ways, telling me so many truths about myself. Through the characters pecked out on the laptop, in their actions, reactions, interactions, there are glimpses of me, mini-portraits never seen before. Some are scary. Some are strangely uplifting and gratifying. Some glimpses make me sad. Some make me happy. Some make me confident. Some make me doubt myself.
There is this ‘thing’ that always keeps me rooted to some true genetic spot: we can be no more in life than what we are intended to be. So, what’s with all the gibberish about “The Final Curtain” and the writing and the glimpses? Truth is, I’m aging with a great deal of reluctance, going through the ‘pages’ past, present, and future, still searching for the elusive and the unattainable, trying very hard to make up for some wasted moments in this passage. I’m here in the ‘wings’ and the curtain has not closed and I’m wanting to know about you, how you differ so much from me, how we are so much alike, how we can somehow better know each other.
One of my favorite poet/writers is an ex-priest named James Kavanaugh. Among all his work, he has written two beautiful books of poetry: “There Are Men Too Gentle To Walk Among Wolves” and “Will You Be My Friend?” There is so much of his verse with which I identify. His words speak to me with the most marvelous clarity. With my Appalachian bible-belt roots, there is little wonder.
Sinatra and Kavanaugh are my two favorite ‘etchings’ with some Kahlil Gibran thrown in, each of them fodder for the romantic and soulful parts of me. There is of course nothing wrong with the different tastes in music. There are those who like the brassy groups, the rappers, and the new gents and ladies of song — most of my soul dances favor the ballads. We can’t all like the same music. And, yes, of course, age, time, and place carry our predictable favorites.
Now, ‘will you be my friend?’ Are you a ‘romantic’ – dreamer – pragmatist – young adult – baby boomer – timid – out-going… How do you approach the page on which you are about to spill your guts — or, your character’s guts? How much of you do you leave on the written pages of your books? You tell me, and I’ll tell you.
If this kind of soulful musing is not your thing, pass me by…’thirty-one flavors’ you know. If you do like to muse and don’t mind sharing, jump on in. I’ll be lurking around the ‘curtain’ to see if someone shows up on stage. There’s a lot of time before the final curtain.
forever after a smash-up on a Phoenix freeway. At the hospital he is given pain medication, and strange things begin to happen…he experiences a ‘time travel’ episode back to 1838 to one of history’s greatest despicable acts – ‘The Trail of Tears’.
Back in present time Blake will find the woman of his dreams, find power and money, be involved in a murder, and live some unforgettable moments…both eerie and poetically divine.
It is an exciting and beautifully written book – a love story for the ages, plus a whole lot more… 5-Star reviews on Amazon.
It is a piteous whimper, lost in the black void of the narrow closet. The weak and eerie sound of her own voice chills her more fiercely than the cold. The thought brings an aberrant amusement. Her own small voice frightens her!
A sound! A creaking sound. Far off. A footfall! Is it? No. It is not a footfall. It’s just one of the strange noises that comes in the night.
Is it night?
Time is lost. Time is gone from her world like a chunk of youth. The black hole draws her toward an uncertain vortex. She must close her eyes. But, not so tightly… With eyes open, the blackness comes alive with trickery… Inspired by a California newspaper account some years ago, this novel has truth along with the author’s story line. It is dark and ugly, like the black closet used for punishment by a malevolent mother whose heart and mind can only know evil. It is poignant and sad in the penning, to know that such cruelty and debasement can exist in one family.
From the black closet to fiery murder in the high Sierras, this shocking tale will scar the soul… 5-Star reviews on Amazon.
About a Tennessee boy who ate some emotional soup and spent a lifetime trying to digest it. It is the story of a young man leaving east Tennessee and going in search of himself, unprepared for the adult world he is about to enter. Behind him, and, within him, is the emotional debris of his childhood: abuse, broken family, and a substantial part of his soul. Searching for his identity in ‘isms’ and bars, he stumbles, gets up, only to find in the end that legacy and meaning are elusive, a ‘white buffalo’ always somewhere in the shadows.
“The Cracked Mirror – Reflections of an Appalachian Son” is largely a true story of the author’s own life, a mirror of his past, cracked with the stress of all his memories: a family broken apart by their Appalachian circumstances and the ‘great depression’; a childhood tainted by a father’s abusive nature; an impetuous marriage and a sorrowful divorce; a subsequent search of ‘isms,’ for love and meaning in California and Arizona gin mills; a tableau of horrible events, including a senseless family murder, suicide, and a desert survival.
“The Cracked Mirror – Reflections of an Appalachian Son,” is the story of fictional Prentice Paul Hiller, his life, his heritage, his mistakes, the events that have come to shape him, and the demons within that he cannot dispel. Along the way, he gives his passionate and provocative views on criminal justice, love, politics, religion, war, and his favorite writers. In the end he finds a new love, some hope for redemption, some semblance of meaning and legacy.
The author’s own family roots trace back to the eleventh century in Chetwode, a lovely hamlet north of London… 5-Star reviews on Amazon.
(Embraces the genres of Mystery, Suspense, and Romance)
High school sweethearts, Billy Jay Campbell and Marcie Dangino reunite after many years apart. They discover the fire of their young love still glows brightly. With the Air Force behind him, Billy now works as an investigator for a law firm,
Two problems threaten to spoil his homecoming. Marcie is now married to a junior partner at Clarkson and Dangino, a firm that has occasionally employed Billy for their investigative work. The second problem occurs when Billy’s close friend and boss is murdered.
The Reluctant Savage follows a mystery that connects greed, murder, romance, and a love triangle.
A Phoenix, AZ entrepreneur and an ad agency director fall in love in a most unusual way. Their budding relationship is interrupted by sibling clashes, an out of control gambling addiction, a murder, and a matriarch’s secret that will ultimately cause emotional chaos and disorientation.
This is a book that will draw the reader into the story and compel them to stay glued until the end. The gripping climax to PHOENIX FIRE is powerful, and tissues are recommended.
Treat yourself to a marvelous romance, mixed with some suspense and a desert odyssey to save one’s soul.
A non-fictional memoir that covers the author’s time in East Tennessee and his whirlwind education in the big world of neon lights, gin mills, pretty ladies, acting, television, stage, and film.
It is also a book that takes a remarkably honest look at some mistakes and triumphs.
It is a story that has depth beneath the glitter of shiny piano bars and lovely women, beneath a family disconnect and sorrowful musings.
The book reveals the author’s relationships in his life, the lamenting moments of despair and loneliness, the never-ending search for meaning, his faith, and the brutal assessments of who he really is. It has the family disconnect, even murder and suicide, and there is always a candor that is both refreshing and shocking in its self-analyses. In the end, it is likely a bio not so different from everyman…just changes in circumstance and event. AMAZON BUY SITES:
The author could be accused of ranting and raving as he comments on some of our very important issues.
While members of both parties without question have contributed to costly legislation, too much wasteful spending, an entitlement mentality, the previous president, his liberal supporters, and his entire administration has been evasive, inept, irresponsible, and continually in a campaign mode…in short, the American people were not served well by the people they elected to serve.
– Inspired by true events – Many years ago, a lovely actress friend of mine was brutally murdered in the desert northeast of Phoenix, Arizona. She was a young mother of two children, a legal secretary for two of my attorney buddies, and she was responsible for my acting avocation — we had the same great agent in Scottsdale, Bobby Ball. She had her life in front of her with all the dreams most of our young generation had at the time, but her biggest dream was to have someone to love and a home for her family…
You are never far from our thoughts, dear lady.
Meet Bailey Crane, a transplanted son of the south. Bailey is an auxiliary detective, has a soft rep business that brings in easy money, and he’s a part-time actor.
Bailey’s got golf, love, money, friends, a hearty life, and he carries an amusing personality with him wherever he goes. He’s a rowdy, good looking rogue with a lot of that southern charm. His heart and his emotions are in his eyes and on his lips…he is not reluctant to share his world.
A young actress/model is brutally murdered in the Arizona desert northeast of Phoenix. The lady is a friend of Bailey Crane, and her homicide begins an adventure for our musing sleuth that takes him down the halls of our nation’s capital where he discovers that fact and fiction are strange bedfellows.
Bailey is a marked man, chased by an unknown pursuer with a gun. Wounded, his body battered and bruised, his anger pushes him onward until the puzzle pieces begin to make sense. The exciting climax has a unique twist, and our musing son of the south does not quite know it but the ending is also a beginning… 5-Star reviews on Amazon.
A young woman is murdered in a most gruesome way. The authorities have no leads in the case, and Bailey Crane is sought out by the victim’s desperate mother. She must know the awful truth of her daughter’s death, must come to some semblance of closure.
Homicides of young women in other states arouse Bailey’s attention and provide a trail that will lead him to physical and psychological confrontations that will leave his relatively sane world rearranged and shaken.
The bizarre conclusion comes in a small mountain town in Colorado.
Our always musing southern sleuth will find a very personal and near sacred part of his life finding its own end point. There is emotional pain and there is a new beginning for our endearing Tennessee Sherlock with the Cherokee blood.
“Lake’s face was the face of a memory my mind carried, a face with no discernible sign of hope, a face with no sign of soul.”This tale begins with a raging warehouse fire that nearly consumes our southern sleuth.
A thug arrested in connection to the fire is overheard muttering a cryptic phrase, ‘beware The Brutus Gate.’ The fire and the phrase is the starting point of this story about drugs, murder, rape and political corruption at government’s elite levels.
Bailey Crane and his Phoenix PD buddies chuckle about the pithy ‘Brutus Gate’ remark, and the adventure begins. Our Sherlock hero is bounced around by the criminal elements and by his own personal demons of guilt and remorse — all standard fare for the Tennessee man of endless mind queries about his emotions and the state of his life.
The action is keen, and the climax comes on an old ranch on the Mexican border just south of Yuma, Arizona. This is likely a romp you don’t want to miss.
“The Brutus Gate – A Bailey Crane Mystery” is Book 3 in the ‘Bailey Crane Mystery Series.’ Each Bailey Crane book can be read independently of the other. There is the natural progression of the central character in each succeeding book (aging, loves, experiences).
MURDER INPUEBLO DEL MAR(BOOK 4)
– Inspired by true events –
An Arizona wife and mother is murdered while on holiday in Mexico, and her three children find her brutally beaten and slashed body. Bailey Crane, an auxiliary member of the Phoenix PD, is visiting close friends in Pueblo del Mar, and is asked by the local police chief to assist him in building his case against the transsexual lover of the victim’s husband. Bailey’s Cherokee blood comes to an emotional boil when family and friends get caught up in the web of corruption, drugs, and sex. The highly intense climax comes in a ‘Whale Shack’ in the scrub brush and sand near the Sea of Cortez. This tale has the always soulful musings of our southern Sherlock, a chance encounter with a mysterious mystic who shares his thoughts on Time and Place, and fragile nerves that get edgy and frayed. This tale was inspired by an actual murder some years ago, and you don’t want to miss it… 5-Star reviews on Amazon.
Bailey’s intent is fun and sun on the beautiful Sea of Cortez, but an old friend’s request for help changes his immediate plans: the Homeowners Association at the lovely Mar y Sol resort is experiencing some financial problems and its treasurer has just been murdered. His friend’s request for assistance leads to some very scary moments for our southern sleuth. Kidnapped twice, battered, bruised, Bailey finds it all in this caper — murder, money laundering scams, and betrayal. There is a man of intrigue that brings another dimension to the story, and the climactic ending to the tale is riveting, bringing with it an emotional catharsis for our hero. Bailey goes through the mazes, eventually finds his bad guys but he is left with the knowledge that friendship can be fragile and tentative.
PASSAGE FROM THE BOOK:
At the beach, he gave the middle-aged vendor his wallet to hold for him, chatted with him for a while in Spanish, got astride the jet ski and slowly moved out to deeper water. He made a few fast figure eights some five hundred yards offshore, allowing himself some final and nebulous act of rebellion, then pointed the jet ski in a straight line toward the distant horizon. He accelerated, and the jet ski thrust forward, spewing up heavy sprays, bouncing on the sea ruts and ripples. The wind screamed and hurled itself at his face and body, his hair flaring out in demonic poses, his wide lips closed tightly against his clenched teeth. On he went toward a horizon that only got farther away. His mind and body worked to keep balance on the jet ski, his heart pounding inside his chest, his mind focused only on the never diminishing line ahead where the sea meets the sky. Something in the water ahead caught his attention, something orange and heavy metal. He gave the jet ski all that the throttle would give and headed toward the orange object.
Just before the jet ski hit the orange metal, his mind projected the picture of a little boy sobbing, standing sad and forlorn in front of an old deserted house. Tears now came in a mad rush to mix with the sea spray and wind and his ending.
On the beach, the vendor could no longer see the Jet ski and he somehow knew that he would never see the man again. With a premonition, the vendor pulled from his pocket the wallet the man had given him. Inside the wallet was a note and twenty-five hundred dollars. The handwritten note read: “Follow these instructions and you will be a very wealthy man. Do with your life and the money what you will. My hope is that you will use the money for good and noble deeds. You will find your ending a much nicer place to be.” Attached to the note was a website address, numbers and password for an online bank account, instructions for redirecting funds, and further linkage information.
The man in soiled clothes looked toward the distant horizon and saw nothing. While the excitement of the moment overwhelmed him, he replaced the wallet and note in his pocket, stood for moments looking out at the sea. An unaccountable sadness overtook him and he wept for the man he would never know.
– Final book in series –Former sleuth Bailey Crane and lovely wife Wendy are enjoying their penthouse pleasures until a cartel sting operation at their Mexican resort brings chaos and emotional uncertainty into a blurry reality.
Wendy is kidnapped, and Bailey faces the demons running loose in his mind as he struggles with his choices.
Also President of the resort’s HOA, Bailey has not only kidnapping and murders with which to contend, but other problems which add to this suspenseful chapter in his life. The surprising end point brings back to Bailey and Wendy those memories better left in the memory vault.
An exciting, intense thriller in the sand and cacti of Mexico’s Sonoran desert by the beautiful Sea of Cortez. This is the final Book 6 of ‘The Bailey Crane Mystery Series’… 5-Star reviews on Amazon.