Ted Clifton's   Updater   2019

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Some Truth and Some Fiction
I write fiction books.

“Fiction broadly refers to any narrative consisting of imaginary people, events, or descriptions—in other words, a narrative not based strictly on history or fact. It also commonly refers, more narrowly, to written narratives in prose and often specifically novels.” Wikipedia

While there is no doubt my books are fiction, many of the characters in those books are based on people I have known.  Real people.  Now, do I incorporate them into this invented narrative just as they were in real life; no.  But they are not entirely imaginary either.  Some truth and some fiction.
One of those was Taylor Albright featured in the three books of the Muckraker series, starting with Murder So Wrong.  His real name wasn’t Albright and I won’t use it here, but he was the person described in the book.  He had been a newspaper reporter and columnist for several organizations.  He was originally from New York City.  The real Albright also, as in the book, did not drive and was by most people’s estimation an odd man.  He loved gossip and politics.  By all appearances he was a meek man, but by his actions he was aggressive and had no fear.

I first became aware of Albright as a political columnist for the newly created Oklahoma Journal.  His columns were part political gossip and part political opinion, and I read it every day.  I wasn’t all that interested in politics but Albright made it interesting, funny, irreverent and addictive.  Then one day the column was gone—Albright had apparently offended someone important and was fired.  I missed my daily interaction with his witty nastiness.
Sometime later, can’t remember for sure how long, I was meeting someone at a Denny’s for breakfast.  This was related to my business, which at that time was a printing company.  My appointment was sitting at a booth with several other people, one of which turned out to be Albright.  I joined them and experienced the over-the-top odd-ball personality of Albright in person.  He was the brash, funny, name dropping newspaper column come to life.  I learned that the gathering at Denny’s was a regular group who mostly gathered to hear Albright spout off about one thing or another, usually tied into that day’s latest headlines from the pile of newspapers in front of him.  On that first time meeting, he asked me for a lift downtown.  I was not headed downtown, but decided to give him a ride.

After that I would drop into Denny’s about once a week and get my dose of his off-the-wall wisdom.  He soon found out I owned a printing company and began a campaign of me “publishing” his proposed tabloid paper.  In a moment of weakness, I agreed to publish a very limited number of copies for a few editions and gave him access to my pre-print staff to help produce his paper.  It was a free tabloid (doubt anyone would have paid to read it) and Albright had made it clear he was financially strapped.  So, without the proper thought I should have given this, I became his benefactor.

Albright was what the British would call an “odd-duck” and mostly harmless; unless you were a politician.  However, it soon became obvious that he was driving my support staff crazy.  I had daily complaints about his rudeness and overly demanding ways.  Even though he was not being charged for the services being provided, he was critical of everyone and acted as if his tabloid was vital to the survival of humanity. 

After a few months of this madness I had to cut him loose.  Not only was he costing me money but every employee who had anything to do with him had threatened to quit.  Even under those circumstances, I was reluctant to end his freeloading.  I liked the guy, and thought he had an amazing talent for writing and reporting.  But he was annoying.  He left without a fuss (I think he knew he was annoying) and I never saw him again.  I heard he left town to find something better.  Even with a calmer (and less costly) work environment after his departure, I missed him.  Annoying or not he was probably the smartest person I had ever met.

Many of the characters in The Bootlegger’s Legacy are based on real people, including myself.  Joe Meadows shared many of my characteristics but was different.  Like several characters in this book they are a combination of real people I had known.  Joe was a CPA, as I was, and had friends based on those business connections.  Mike Allen, the other main character in the book, was his friend from grade school and an accounting client.  Mike was based on several people I knew.  Two for sure, who I kind of meshed together to create Mike.

Mike Allen’s father, Pat, was the bootlegger of the title.  One of my friend’s father ran a hardware store after he retired, and I was never sure what he did before he retired –so maybe, he had been a bootlegger.  At least I can pretend he was.

Ideas for characters can just come out of the blue; or they can be based on people the author has known then molded to fit the story.  Many of the central characters in my books are based on someone I have known, but most of the other characters are totally made up. 

Ray Pacheco and Tyee Chino are not based on people I have known.  Those characters were somehow lodged in my imagination.  Maybe somewhere in the deep recesses of my brains, and no we don’t want to go there, they are real; but not in the real world.  Vincent Malone, the down and out private investigator, is not a real person; more than likely he is based on a composite of book or movie characters; which is sort of real.

As a reader I’ve always thought that the characters made a book something special, not the story.  The plot in mysteries is what drives the reader to keep turning those pages wanting to find out who did it and why.  But when you think about books you liked; you’re more than likely remembering the characters not the story line.

Some months ago I started a new series with a different kind of character; Doctor Hightower.  This is definitely not someone in my past or any combination of people.  He is 100% created to fit a narrative.  I’ve struggled with this book some; it has not flowed the way I would like.  Not abandoning the idea, but having some doubts.  The reason, I think, is that the character is to foreign to me.  I haven’t developed a connection with my make-believe protagonist and it has interrupted the story telling.

May have to rethink Hightower and add some aspects of some of my old grade school buddies or maybe the strange guy who used to live down the street.  I seem to do better telling their story, if I can relate these fictional characters to someone who is more real—even if it is myself.  Doctor Hightower is often seen wearing a cape, maybe I could relate better if I started wearing a cape?  Nah, probably not a good idea.

FEATURED Author: Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Boxcar Children is a classic children's literary franchise originally created and written by the American first-grade school teacher Gertrude Chandler Warner. Today, the series includes well over 150 titles. The series is aimed at readers in grades 2–6.

I remember reading these books and the feelings that came from that experience.  The Boxcar Children tells the story of four orphans: Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny and how they ended up living in an abandoned box-car.  Not sure about the psychology here but why would a book about orphan kids be so popular with children?

I know what appealed to me—it was that they managed to live on their own.  Maybe that is part of growing up; to think about how you would survive without adults.  I only read a couple of the books but they stayed with me.  It is still a comforting feeling to remember reading the stories.  There is no doubt it was the first adventure story I ever read and maybe one of the greatest--at least for a kid.

Alamogordo and Cloudcroft
New Mexico

Alamogordo and Cloudcroft are featured in Dog Gone Lies and Sky High Stakes.  These are places I have spent considerable time.  Ray Pacheco and Tyee Chino meet one of the characters in Dog Gone LIes at The Lodge.  I used that setting in the book due to my enjoyable visits to the Lodge.  Also while we were living in Las Cruces my daughter's wedding was held at the Lodge.  It is a unique hotel with lots of history and wonderful grounds.

Cloudcroft is a village in Otero County, New Mexico, and is within the Lincoln National Forest. The population was 674 at the 2010 census. Despite being located in an otherwise arid region, its high elevation allows for a relatively mild summer that makes it a popular tourist attraction in West Texas and New Mexico.

Alamogordo, county seat of Otero County, New Mexico, is the micropolitan center of the Tularosa Basin. The city is the commercial and governmental center for the county. Alamogordo is a thriving center of 35,000+ residents. The city’s mild climate and pristine scenery offer its people an ambiance that enriches their quality of life. The Tularosa Basin is surrounded by the majestic Organ, San Andres and Sacramento Mountain ranges.
Like No Place Else on Earth
Rising from the heart of the Tularosa Basin is one of the world's great natural wonders - the glistening white sands of New Mexico. Great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert, creating the world's largest gypsum dunefield. White Sands National Monument preserves a major portion of this unique dunefield, along with the plants and animals that live here.
Ted Clifton (short) bio
Ted Clifton, award winning author, is currently writing in three mystery series—Pacheco & Chino Mystery series, the Muckraker Mystery series and the Vincent Malone series.  Clifton’s focus is on strong character development with unusual backdrops.  His books take place in Southwest settings with some of his stories happening in the 1960s, 1980s and current times.  The settings are places Clifton has lived and knows well, giving great authenticity to his narratives.  Clifton has received the IBPA Benjamin Franklin award and the CIPA EVVY award--twice.  Today Clifton and his wife reside in Denver, Colorado, with frequent visits to one of their favorite destinations, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Book Updates
Four Corners War.  Ray Pacheco and Tyee Chino in their latest adventure unraveling a maze of misdeeds.  Money, sex and all known sins come into play in a small town drama that will take Pacheco and Chino into a conflict that will involve many of the good citizens of Farmington and the nearby Navajo Nation.

Durango Two Step.  This is my current project.  No completion date yet--but starting to look like 2020.  However as a bonus for reading the newsletter there is a early preview of the fist few chapters--very early.  Click on the picture above or here.
Doctor Hightower.  On hold.  For a while I was writing on this and DTS--that didn't work; so Hightower will happen after DTS is finished.

Santa Fe Mojo - audio.  No more forecasts on completion dates--I will let you know when it happens. 

Muckraker Series.  Should have some news regarding this series in a few weeks.  First hint is below.
Odds and Ends
(This post is reprinted from Ted Clifton's PurpleSage Books blog) Click to sign up to receive the blog every week.

My advice is…..

Advice: guidance or recommendations offered with regard to prudent future action.

On occasion I get questions from one source or another about writing.  Many of these are prompted by “interviews” for web sites that promote books.  One such question was “what advice would I give someone who was thinking about writing their first novel”.  Generally, I respond to these in kind of a casual way, more or less assuming nobody actually reads the answers.  But for this one I was stumped, it seemed to deserve a more serious answer.

One of the first things I learned about writing was that it is hard.  So maybe I should pass that along—hey, this is hard and more than likely will cost you money and a huge amount of time.  You might self-publish something and have the first review on your Amazon page be by someone who thinks “This book is terrible. There are punctuation errors and my goodness this author sure needs a better spell checker.  The cover sucked.”  You have spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours to produce this masterpiece and the first review just tossed it into the trash.  My advice is; don’t do it!

Okay that would be a bit snarky.  So what would my advice be?

Expect disappointment, but never give up.  Sure the hard work is more like digging a forever ditch than anything creative, but there are wonderful rewards for doing something that is uniquely you.  Nobody else can write the book you write.  It may be great or may be not so great, but it is yours.  Tell a story you have in your head and be proud of the results.  The number one way of becoming a good (and successful) writer is to write.

I’ve written before about practicing to be creative.  That idea seems counter to what we think of in producing something creative.  We want a burst of creative genius, not hard work or practice—but the dirty little secret is that most creative activity, from writing, to art, to singing, to dance is based on effort and practice. 

In my circle of family, friends and acquaintances there are people who believe I write a book over the weekend.  They have never said that; but by what they do say-- it is apparent they think writing is based on talent and happens in a flash.  If you have talent you just dash out a 300-page book like it was nothing.  I’ve tried to correct that misconception with information about the hours it takes to write a book.  For me it is usually about three months of writing, but often that writing is interrupted by periods of no activity.  This can be just the outside world needing my attention or it can be writers block.  I have written books from beginning to end without any delays; that would be the three months I mentioned, others have taken much longer. Usually when I give out this real information, I get looks that suggest they don’t believe me, and I’m just trying to make what I do sound harder than it really is.  My list of family, friends and acquaintances that I talked to is steadily getting smaller every day.

After my private writing part of the book is “finished”, it is only the first draft.  Currently my books are going through months of editing by up to three editors.  This could be because I’m a sloppy author and if I was better this wouldn’t be needed.  But all professionally prepared books are edited at some level or another.   And then you have cover design and other aspects of publishing.  All and all, at least for me, it is about six months from start to finish—assuming none of those writer’s block demons drop in.  Of course there are examples of great works taking the author years and years or maybe, even decades.  That is dedication.

Writing a book is not easy.  It is hard work.  Once all of the work is completed and you have a finished product there is a great sense of accomplishment and pride.  The author knows better than anyone the effort it took to complete.  Now you publish and submit it to the public.  Unless you a proven, known author you have no idea what will happen.  You work on promotions and marketing and hopefully sell some books.  Then you see the bad review; highlighted, one star, standing out like a sore thumb –saying you wasted your time.  You’re a moron.

If you do something creative that is subject to this sort of criticism, then you will understand the angst that is created by someone, who may or may not have any ability to objectively comment on anything, who says whatever they want regarding something you spent hours, days, months and often years creating.  In a matter of minutes, they can turn that effort into a hurtful, ugly feeling of self-doubt.  Tiny bit of more advice—ignore them; all of them (except those wonderful, obviously accurate 5 star reviews).

Write every day, seven days a week and never worry about what some faceless person says—it’s your story to tell how you see fit.  Stay true to yourself, study your craft and write the next damn bestseller.  Screw everything else.  The more you write; the better it gets.

Thanks everyone for being a reader!
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