Monday musings: Fiction is often more believable than truth

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Maybe Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was right. Maybe life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man can invent.

You might as well write fiction.

Nobody believes the truth.

Why?

The truth often reads more like fiction than fiction does.

Just listen to the words of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:


Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive of the things, which are really mere commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city gently remove the roofs, and peep in at all the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the plannings, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chain of events, it would make all fiction with the conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable.

There are stories taking place in real life that are too strange and bizarre to be believed, yet they are part of the historical fabric that makes up the comings and goings of the world at large.

Take Edgar Allan Poe, for example. He wrote a novel that fulfills every tenet of the author’s literary connection with horror. He called it The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, and it told the odd tale of four shipwreck survivors who drifted on the open sea in a lifeboat for many days without food.

Desperate, they made a pact among themselves.

They would draw straws.

The loser would die.

The loser would make several meals.

A cabin boy drew the wrong straw.

His name in fiction was Richard Parker.

The tale was chilling.

Edgar Allan Poe always claimed that the novel was based on a true story.

He was right.

But there was one problem.

The true story had not taken place yet.

It was forty-six years later before the Mignonette went down in ocean waters.

Four men survived.

Four men and lifeboat.

The days passed, and they made a fateful decision.

They would draw straws.

The loser would die.

They would eat the loser.

The cabin boy drew the wrong straw.

His name, ironically enough in truth, was Richard Parker.

The stars do align strangely sometimes.

Try this coincidence on for size.

Wilmer lived the gentleman life of a farmer on the road between two major cities while the storm clouds of the Civil War were boiling overhead.

To the North lay Washington, D. C.

That was where the Yankees had their capital.

To the South, the road led to Richmond.

It was controlled by Johnny Reb.

And Wilmer?

All he wanted to do was farm.

Bull Run was the battle that triggered the war, and it erupted along the road that ran right past Wilmer’s farmstead. The Confederates even confiscated his home and turned it into their headquarters.

Wilmer tried to hang around.

But the shots of war were coming too fast, too deadly, and too often.

Bullets were slowly tearing his house apart.

So, being of sound mind and body, Wilmer packed up and headed farther back into Virginia where, once again, he could find peace and a measure of solitude.

The sounds of war faded, then stopped altogether. He was beyond their reach.

But four years later, the Yankees of Ulysses S. Grant and the Johnny Rebs commanded by Robert E. Lee once again came to Wilmer’s farm.

Wilmer McLean watched Lee surrender his sword.

He watched the Confederates lay down their rifles.

He watched them ride away from the McLean House on the edge of Appomattox.

He watched a terrible war come to an end.

And he later remarked, “The war began in my front yard and ended in my front parlor.”

Try making somebody believe that in a novel.

Too contrite they would say.

We don’t believe in such coincidences, they would say.

But none of us can escape them.

Maybe Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was right. Maybe life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man can invent.

The writers of fiction would never dare to put these stories on paper.

Fear is the reason.

Fear of ridicule and humiliation.

I believe all writing of fiction based on a few facts and a little truth.

You can see how Caleb Pirtle III uses this principle in his contemporary thriller, Lovely Night to Die, available on Amazon.

Caleb Pirtle III

Caleb Pirtle III is the author of more than seventy books, including three noir thrillers in the Ambrose Lincoln series: Secrets of the DeadConspiracy of Lies, and Night Side of DarkSecretsand Conspiracy are now audiobooks on audible.com. The fourth book in the series, Place of Skulls, was released in 2017. Pirtle’s most recent project is the Boomtown Saga, including Back Side of a Blue Moon and Bad Side of a Wicked Moon.

Pirtle is a graduate of The University of Texas in Austin and became the first student at the university to win the National William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing. Several of his books and his magazine writing have received national and regional awards.

Pirtle has also written three teleplays. His narrative nonfiction, Gamble in the Devil’s Chalk, is a true-life book about the fights and feuds during the founding of the controversial Giddings oilfield and From the Dark Side of the Rainbow, the story of a woman’s escape from the Nazis in Poland during World War II. His coffee-table quality book, XIT: The American Cowboy, became the publishing industry’s third best selling art book of all time.

Pirtle was a newspaper reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and served ten years as travel editor for Southern Living Magazine. He was editorial director for a Dallas custom publisher for more than twenty-five years.

Get to know Caleb through his

BestSelling Reads author page
   |    Amazon Author page
   |    Website   |   Blog    |  Facebook    |   Twitter



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New bestseller out: Back Side of a Wicked Moon

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Love, Law and Justice comes to Boom Town Texas

By Caleb Pirtle III

Now available from Amazon

The discovery of oil has broken the stranglehold the Great Depression had on a dying East Texas town. Strangers are pouring into Ashland. Where there is oil, there are jobs, as well as con artists, thieves, scalawags, and at least one murderer.

One stranger drives a hearse. But who is he, and why is he found hanging from the crown block of an oil derrick.

The Sheriff might solve the mystery. It’s his job. But he’s discovered shot to death on his own drilling rig.

No one in town is above suspicion. But who has a deadly motive?

Eudora Durant is the most beautiful widow in town. She’s also the richest. With the charming con man Doc Bannister at her side, she risks everything to bring law and justice to a struggling boom town even if she has to personally keep an innocent man from being sentenced to the electric chair.

As one reviewer said about book one of the Boom Town saga series, Back Side of Blue Moon:

This story set in a small town in East Texas in the Great Depression should go down as a classic in American literature.”

Get it today from Amazon.

Caleb Pirtle III

is the author of more than seventy books, including the Ambrose Lincoln series.

Pirtle is a graduate of The University of Texas in Austin and became the first student at the university to win the National William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing. Several of his books and his magazine writing have received national and regional awards.

Pirtle has written three teleplays, and wrote two novels for Berkeley based on the Gambler series: Dead Man’s Hand and Jokers Are Wild.

Pirtle’s narrative nonfiction, Gamble in the Devil’s Chalk is a true-life book about the fights and feuds during the founding of the controversial Giddings oilfield and From the Dark Side of the Rainbow, the story of a woman’s escape from the Nazis in Poland during World War II. His coffee-table quality book, XIT: The American Cowboy, became the publishing industry’s third best selling art book of all time.

Learn more about Caleb on his:

And follow him on Twitter @CalebPirtle.

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Monday musings: When headlines mimic your own writing

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For the next few weeks, your favorite bestselling authors take a few words to describe times when they saw something in the world around them that seemed to echo events they described in their books. This week, it’s the author of Friday Nights Don’t Last Forever.

Headlines echo fiction

Photo by Jon S via flickr

By Caleb Pirtle III

A few weeks ago, I saw the headlines for a sports story, the kind you once never saw, but now see on a regular basis. The unthinkable had happened again. Players from a major college football team had been suspended from the team and from the school. They had all the talent in the world. They had a great opportunity to play football in college and maybe even the NFL. But in the blink of an eye, they faced temptation and made the wrong choice.

There were confronted with allegations of sexual assault. One girl came forward to charge them. Then another. Universities use female students all the time to recruit elite football players. Smile a lot. Show them around campus. Host them at parties. Some of the players think the real party begins after the lights go out. It doesn’t. And a few players take advantage of the situation. A friendly dance turns into assault. It becomes a crime.

Suspension was one thing. Jail time was another, and the right judge under the right circumstances could put them away for a long time. Were the players guilty? I don’t know. Or did the coach just not want them on the team anymore? It happens. Lives are changed forever. The lights dim. Hopes dim with it.

News headlines echoed the events in the bestselling novel Friday Nights Don't Last Forever.It happened in my novel about what goes on behind the scenes of recruiting in college football. In my novel Friday Nights Don’t Last Forever, a star quarterback gets caught up in the wrong party. A coach no longer wants him. He watches his life go down the drain. No one cares about his innocence. They just want his scholarship back to give to another. I wrote:

Casey’s heart began to shrivel. Word somehow had gotten out. Somebody, at last, must have figured out how Bethany Locklar died, and who had been in the bathtub with her the night those sewing scissors were driven between her breasts.

She had been so beautiful. So bruised. So purple. And now it was over.

“Casey,” Johnson continued in that slow drawl of his, “I hate to tell you this, son, but it seems as though we are going to have to withdraw the football scholarship we offered you.”

Casey was not surprised. But he said, “I don’t understand. I’ve already signed it. The news is already out that I’ve signed it.”

“It was a mistake. It doesn’t look like we have that particular scholarship available to us anymore.”

“You can’t do that to me.”

“Yes, we can, son.” J. T. Johnson was silent for a moment, then he pounded each word into Casey as though it were a nail. “Under the circumstances, son, I’m afraid we can do any damn thing we want to. We know what you don’t want anybody else to know. Do you understand exactly what I’m saying to you?”

Casey did. It had been Bethany Locklar’s job to recruit him.  She worked hard to recruit him.

Now it seemed she had died for nothing.

Friday Nights Don’t Last Forever

The dream of college football propels Casey Clinton into the best and worst times of his life. On Friday nights in Avalon, Alabama, football reigns supreme. Quarterback Casey Clinton’s magic arm drives recruiters and his opponents wild. Girls worship him. A preacher’s wife seduces him. Life can’t be any better.

But when slick college football recruiters offer the small-town high school player the chance for fame and glory, it’s no longer a game. It’s business. And it’s brutal. Lavish promises of money, women, and a spot at the top of the football world take Casey into a violent world he could never imagine.

Temptation is great. His life spirals out of control. His world crumbles out from under him. Football is no longer a sport. It’s a fight for survival in a game where everyone but Casey knows how to play.

Find it on Amazon.

Caleb Pirtle IIIBestselling author Caleb Pirtle III

is the author of more than seventy books, including the Ambrose Lincoln series.

Pirtle is a graduate of The University of Texas in Austin and became the first student at the university to win the National William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing. Several of his books and his magazine writing have received national and regional awards.

Pirtle has written three teleplays, and wrote two novels for Berkeley based on the Gambler series: Dead Man’s Hand and Jokers Are Wild.

Pirtle’s narrative nonfiction, Gamble in the Devil’s Chalk is a true-life book about the fights and feuds during the founding of the controversial Giddings oilfield and From the Dark Side of the Rainbow, the story of a woman’s escape from the Nazis in Poland during World War II. His coffee-table quality book, XIT: The American Cowboy, became the publishing industry’s third best selling art book of all time.

Learn more about Caleb on his:

And follow him on Twitter @CalebPirtle.

 

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Thursday teaser: Back Side of A Blue Moon

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This week’s teaser is a noir excerpt from Back Side of a Blue Moon

By Caleb Pirtle III

Photo by Hmaag via Creative Commons

Her head snapped back, and she felt the room spin. Nausea swelled in her stomach, and the room turned black, then white, and finally an ashen gray.

“Till death do us part,” he said. “That’s what the preacher said.”

Eudora tried to speak.

Her lips tasted like blood.

Her tongue was swollen.

“We’re still together, you and me,” Washburn said.

“Leave me alone.” It was a plea.

“They said I was dead,” he said. “Everybody said I was dead. You killed me, they said. They thought my tramp wife had killed me, they said. They thought death had done us part, they said.”

Washburn cocked the hammer on the shotgun.

“Maybe it will,” he said.

Eudora grabbed the bedspread, held on tight, and pulled herself off the floor.

Washburn slapped her again.

She fell.

Her face burned.

“That’s for stealing my land,” he said.

He jerked Eudora to her knees and slammed his fist into her nose.

Blood spurted.

It splattered the wall beside he like a drizzle of red rain.

“And that’s for taking another man, and I’m not dead yet.”

“You’re alive,” she whispered. “Half the land is yours.”

He jammed the barrel of the shotgun against her forehead.

“One shot,” he said, “and I’ll take it all. The land. The oil. I’ll be a rich man,” he said. “And all you’ll be is a dead bitch.”

Doc burst through the door.

No one had heard the footsteps.

No one knew he was coming.

His eyes were wide with anger.

His face was twisted with rage.

He screamed like a wild animal, uncaged and unleashed, as he charged across the bedroom floor.

He had blood in his eyes.

Washburn stepped back.

Eudora rolled to the side of the bed.

Washburn fired.

The shotgun blast tore into Doc’s stomach and knocked him back against the wall. He jerked and tumbled to his knees, clawing at the wound with both hands. Blood seeped through his shirt and puddled the floor beneath him.

Washburn calmly reached in his pocket and removed another shell.

He took his time to reload.

He was laughing now.

“Kill one,” he said.

He raised the shotgun to his shoulder.

“Kill two,” he said.

Washburn cocked the hammer.

“Don’t make any difference.”

He never saw Eudora.

He never looked her way.

He loomed over Doc and shoved the shotgun barrel against his chest.

Doc might be dead.

Might not.

God, don’t let him be dead.

One shot to make sure.

The kill shot.

Eudora grabbed Washburn’s double barrel shotgun and ripped it from beneath the bed.

She sat up.

Washburn stood above her.

She saw the look in his eyes.

She saw how crazy a crazy man could look if he were crazy.

She heard the laughing.

She heard how crazy a crazy laugh could sound if it was uttered by a man whose mind had been twisted like strands of barbed wire.

The laugh grew louder.

She couldn’t miss.

She knew it.

Eudora pulled both triggers at the same time.

At least she tried.

At least she thought she did.

 

Thunder rocked the bedroom. Thunder reverberated from one wall to the next. Thunder shook the floor. Thunder roared from the bosom of an unrepentant earth. Thunder rolled across the landscape like a freight train on a downhill run. Thunder seared deep into her soul.

Lightning flashed.

It sizzled.

It scarred everything it touched.

Eudora crumpled to the floor.

She fought back the fog and expected the rain.

She stared through an open window.

A hot wind touched her face.

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

There was only the moon.

It was no longer blue.

Back Side of a Blue Moon

Times are hard along the Sabine River, and the little East Texas town of Ashland is crumbling under the weight of the Great Depression. Families are broke and hungry. For many, their last meal may well have been their last meal. Families are giving up and leaving town. Everyone knows the fate that awaits the scattered farms. No one can save Ashland. It is as isolated as the back side of a blue moon.

Into town comes Doc Bannister wearing a straw boater and a white suit. He is the miracle man. He has a homemade doodlebug machine that, he says, can find oil and make them all rich. Oil, he swears, lies beneath the blistered farmstead of Eudora Durant. She thinks Doc is a flim flam man. The Sheriff believes he is a con artist. Both are convinced that Doc has come to town to swindle every dime he can get before hitting the road again. Ashland knows Doc may be crooked, but he has brought hope to a town that had no hope.

Eudora has everything Doc wants. She is a beautiful woman who owns cheap land. In Ashland, she is known as the scarlet woman. Whispers say she murdered her husband. No one has seen him since the night they heard a shotgun blast on her farm. The town wants oil. Doc wants Eudora. But Eudora is too independent and stubborn to fall for the charms of a silver-tongued charlatan.

She holds the fate of Ashland in her hands. Will she let Doc drill? Is there really oil lying deep beneath her sunbaked land? Can Doc find it? Or is he more interested in finding love than oil? What happens when a man with a checkered past comes face to face with a woman whose past is as mysterious as his?

Caleb Pirtle III

is the author of more than seventy books, including the Ambrose Lincoln series.

Pirtle is a graduate of The University of Texas in Austin and became the first student at the university to win the National William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing. Several of his books and his magazine writing have received national and regional awards.

Pirtle has written three teleplays, and wrote two novels for Berkeley based on the Gambler series: Dead Man’s Hand and Jokers Are Wild.

Pirtle’s narrative nonfiction, Gamble in the Devil’s Chalk is a true-life book about the fights and feuds during the founding of the controversial Giddings oilfield and From the Dark Side of the Rainbow, the story of a woman’s escape from the Nazis in Poland during World War II. His coffee-table quality book, XIT: The American Cowboy, became the publishing industry’s third best selling art book of all time.

Learn more about Caleb on his:

And follow him on Twitter @CalebPirtle.

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Monday musings: Who is the greatest American hero?

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Wikimedia Commons

The Great American Heroes are the independent authors of today, and there are legions of them.

By Caleb Pirtle III

You probably never thought you were a hero.

You’re simply an author, you say.

That’s all.

You’ve just happened to cast your lot in life with eBooks and the digital revolution, and you say it’s hard to be a success.

There’s nothing heroic about it.

On some days, it seems that you merely throwing words against the wall to see if any of them stick, and some of them don’t, and the wall throws some of them back in your face.

Frustration sets in.

Don’t fret.

Frustration knocks on all of our doors.

For a writer, it always has.

In publishing, even during the days when agents and editors and traditional publishing ruled the industry, it was tough to be successful.

Finding an agent was hard.

Finding a publisher was even more difficult.

Selling your book was almost impossible.

A New York publisher might release 300 titles a year. The man in charge hoped that seven of them would sell enough copies to pay the losses on the other 293 titles and still make a profit.

Big risk.

Big reward.

Don’t despair.

Just remember one important fact.

Since the beginning of time, the world and all of humanity need storytellers.

You just happen to be a storyteller.

And you have a story to tell.

All you need is the Great American Hero.

You know him.

Or her.

The Great American Hero has long been the foundation of fiction, nonfiction, film, legends, and life.

The Great American Hero has always been the one who stood strong when he had no chance of winning, who went to war against overwhelming odds, who defied those odds, who refused to bend, refused to back down, refused to quit.

So who are the Great American Heroes of today?

Look in the mirror sometime.

The Great American Heroes are the independent authors, and there are legions of them.

They battle the fickle and unpredictable publishing business alone.

Only the fortunate few find someone to help them.

But they are willing to forsake any semblance of a normal, sensible life and invest their time and their talent, their hopes and their dreams, their last ounce of sanity in novels they pray someone will buy and someone will want to read.

Frustrations come.

But like a bellyache, it passes.

Indie writers keep getting knocked down.

They keep getting back up.

They don’t give up.

They don’t quit.

They can’t.

There is always another story to be told, and the Great American Heroes can’t wait to tell it.

Caleb Pirtle III

is the author of more than seventy books, including the Ambrose Lincoln series.

Pirtle is a graduate of The University of Texas in Austin and became the first student at the university to win the National William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing. Several of his books and his magazine writing have received national and regional awards.

Pirtle has written three teleplays, and wrote two novels for Berkeley based on the Gambler series: Dead Man’s Hand and Jokers Are Wild.

Pirtle’s narrative nonfiction, Gamble in the Devil’s Chalk is a true-life book about the fights and feuds during the founding of the controversial Giddings oilfield and From the Dark Side of the Rainbow, the story of a woman’s escape from the Nazis in Poland during World War II. His coffee-table quality book, XIT: The American Cowboy, became the publishing industry’s third best selling art book of all time.

Learn more about Caleb on his:

And follow him on Twitter @CalebPirtle.

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Monday musings: The writing year ahead

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At the beginning of the year, Monday Musings tells readers BestSelling authors’ plans for the year—so you can start getting excited now!

By Caleb Pirtle III

New year.

New plans.

It happens every time one yellowed and dog-eared calendar bites the dust, and another January suddenly appears out of the blue.

I have long written that today’s readers prefer shorter books.

At least they do with mystery/thrillers.

Or romance.

Forget the epics, the long-winded sagas.

Readers don’t want to make the journey anymore.

Those days of settling down and following a family through three generations and six-hundred pages have faded away.

No, readers prefer bite-sized books.

Grab me quick.

Tell me a story.

Few characters.

A lot of emotion.

Some suspense and surprises along the way.

Make me laugh a little.

Make me shed a tear or two.

Write The End, and let me move on to another book.

It may be a saga.

It may be about the same family.

But tell me their story in four books instead of one.

In today’s hectic, chaotic, stress-filed world, readers no longer have the attention span they once did.

They want short.

Maybe even shorter.

So here is what I intend to do.

During 2018, I plan to write a time travel series built around the same character.

Each book will be a novella, somewhere between 100 to 120 pages.

I will place each on Amazon as a stand-alone eBook, then my idea is to package all three novellas into one Trade paperback book.

I think the three-in-one concept will be great for book signings, which is where I sell most of paperback books anyway.

My idea is not original.

It’s not a breakthrough concept.

Many authors are already writing and producing variations of the idea.

But I’ve never done it before, so I’m anxious to give it a whirl and see what the marketplace does it with it.

The idea may work.

It may not.

It may hit a dead end and fall flat at my feet.

If so, there will always be another year.

I’ll take a deep breath and develop another plan.

Books are like life.

We have a lot of stops and starts and usually get lost a few times from the opening chapter to the last.

Caleb Pirtle III

is the author of more than seventy books, including the Ambrose Lincoln series.

Pirtle is a graduate of The University of Texas in Austin and became the first student at the university to win the National William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing. Several of his books and his magazine writing have received national and regional awards.

Pirtle has written three teleplays, and wrote two novels for Berkeley based on the Gambler series: Dead Man’s Hand and Jokers Are Wild.

Pirtle’s narrative nonfiction, Gamble in the Devil’s Chalk is a true-life book about the fights and feuds during the founding of the controversial Giddings oilfield and From the Dark Side of the Rainbow, the story of a woman’s escape from the Nazis in Poland during World War II. His coffee-table quality book, XIT: The American Cowboy, became the publishing industry’s third best selling art book of all time.

Learn more about Caleb on his:

And follow him on Twitter @CalebPirtle.

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