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About Robert P. Fitton
About Robert P. Fitton
Robert P. Fitton describes how he woke up one morning and realized he was-an author? Yikes! Here's the long journey to that realization.
ABOUT FITTON BOOKS
Robert P. Fitton
ABOUT FITTON BOOKS
Robert P. Fitton
There was no indication I would grow up to write and narrate books. From an early age I wanted to be a baseball player and lived and breathed baseball. The 1950’s was a different era. The Second World War had ended less than a decade before. For many kids in the 1950’s ‘playing war’ meant emulating our troops who defeated Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan. In our backyard war games, there were good guys and bad guys. There was some-thing wrong in the world we would fight before supper to overcome evil. Sounds like a good story.
It was the 1950’s and Westerns were all over the television. Westerns had he-roes and villains. Justice and courage were the mantras of the day. In all these Westerns the values of right and wrong were preached across America and freedom was a God given right. I didn’t know it but those qualities also make for a good plot.
In 1958 President Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. (NASA) The first seven astronauts were national heroes. Suddenly, the heavens opened up for me and on cold winter nights I peered into space with my telescope. Wonder is an essential element that easily powers a novel.
Not all stories have happy endings. We were at our monthly junior high school dance when our principal walked on stage and the music stopped. I did not know that what he was about to say would tremendously influence my life.
“President Kennedy has been shot by an assassin in Dallas Texas. I ask you to pray for Mrs. Kennedy and his children.”
Decades later I would write four novels searching as I was on that November afternoon, for the reason this president whom I really liked, was dead.
The clues I would be writing something:
Every week in class we would receive our next round of twenty spelling words. I hated spelling and that was before spell check! I had something better to do. I would construct a narrative in my head, keeping the words in order, until I had a story. Nobody ever asked to listen to my story but I did hear complaints for me to finish my spelling.
In fifth grade we were instructed to make a project book for certain regions of the country. My area was the North Central States. Today you can download what you need to know and put something together quickly. Not so back then. My mother provided the stamps but I had to write a letter (emails weren’t in-vented) to the state capitals or whatever department that would send you in-formation. Then you would wait and wait. And wait some more. But it was ex-citing to get something in the outside mailbox. Robert’s project was 87 pages, pictures pasted along with articles and various state trinkets. I liked constructing books.
By now I was in eight grade with one of my favorite teachers. Aside from imitating the teacher and others, I cannot believe he put up with my clever word play and smart Alec remarks. Maybe he saw something else there when after a snippy remark he walked up to me in the first row and said of my remark: “That wasn’t humor, Mr. Fitton. That was wit!”
WIT: an ability to say or write things that are clever and usually funny.
My favorite teacher in high school was not only witty, but clever and knowledgeable. Yes, he red-lined the hell out of my essays and corrected my grammatical mistakes. He would, to my chagrin write: ‘Not bad for a first draft,’ sending me into a tizzy. He did what no other teacher had done- let my words flow. This is an important part of writing anything. If you are stymied with the total grammatical perfection of a first draft you’ve limited your passion and purpose. Damn, I am so grateful he let me do that.
Both my mother and father loved history and brought my brother and me an extended trips around the country to historic places. We were at Gettysburg for the Centennial celebration. To get to these places you had to take a journey. Forget about car DVD players or smart phones in your lap, I was en-thralled looking at the window as the journey progressed. I liked the journey
Star Trek the Original Series.
I confess I missed the beginning episodes of Star Trek’s first season because I was concentrating on playing football. One Thursday night I turned the channel and the Corbomite Maneuver was beamed at me from deep space. Holy Holberg 917G! I was more than hooked. Decades of trivia followed-Episodes being played untold number of times- Quoting dialogue—Winning passes to Star Trek movies.
The Green-eyed Reel to Reel Tape Recorder:
One day I walked into my friend’s house and this bird, a minor bird to be precise, was babbling, “Hello you old crow,” throughout the house. You never knew what was going to show up in his house. Then...way back when… there was this big bulky box with a glowing green light and Mylar tape threaded through a recording head from clear plastic reels. It was magic indeed to play back reality. I know in this hyper-tech society its difficult to understand the fascination.
Not too much later I bought a three-and one-half inch reel to reel portable and I recorded everyone and everything. And I bought my friends into the act. We pretended we had station WOFI and performed parodies such as the Boston Strangler Albert DeSalvo being arrested by one of our friends. We parodied anyone we knew in our small town, including an episode of Jippidy (Jeopardy) that spotlighted local notables. We upped the ante by imitating Peyton Place and produced a comedic rendering of our close friends. How they remained friends is a mystery to me.
I recorded travelogues of everywhere I went from battlefields to national parks. I even had the FBI seize my recorder on a tour of their building in Washington D.C. From Custer’s Last Stand to Bloody Lane at Antietam Creek. It’s now in mp3 on hard drives and just a click away.
My fascination with audio becomes very important my writing future.
On the road to writing-something.
I was nineteen years old and unhappy at the college I’m attending. Dispirited is a more accurate word. I’m hard-core partying and about to take the sharp turn to Loserville. I did a lot of diary audio-complete with music all of which I chucked in a dumpster in California years later. I wrote minimal poetry which needed work and had a wild vision (no drugs) of traveling into a world where a multitude of people would float by in a darkened morass. I engaged the thought of writing what I had imagined. Then again it was probably time to join my drinking buddies at George’s Cafe in the city.
I jettisoned the college and worked for a while before I applied to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. I was accepted and left my hometown for good. I took a full three credit course on science fiction. Getting three credits for a sci-fi course was astounding! I did not have the writing bug or plans to be an author of anything. My major, formed by myself and my advisors was American Studies, a combination of American History and American government and politics. Keep that American History in mind when I start writing time travel novels. So, there I am in a course of mythology of Native Americans and we are assigned to writing a couple of pages about the meaning and motif of the American Indian. (I don’t know it but I am at a pivotal point.)
I took out the Smith Corona portable and began punching out a story from my notes and the assigned readings. OMG. What’s happening? I felt the same thing long distance running where everything flows away and the world disappears. I complete a couple more drafts and thought it was pretty good. I just had no idea where this would lead. The paper was returned to me not just with glowing praise but with substantial respect by the professor and detailed in writing. I titled it The Legend of the Seasons as told by the old man. It’s a Free-bee on site.
I would stay in Amherst another six years and as summer approached, I began writing a Star Trek novel. I heavily relied on The Making of Star Trek by Stephen E. Whitfield and Gene Roddenberry which allowed me to acquire the mechanical aspects of writing Star Trek. My good friend, a Star Trek aficionado, read the manuscript and liked it. I made inquiries and finally found ‘Lewie, the literary agent.” He liked the book- enough to have me meet him at his agency in New York City. The manuscript would be called The Apex of Power and it was sent to the major paperback publishers including Bantam books.
All these years later I see the flaws in the flow of the book and will call it one of my bumpy road manuscripts. And I strayed from the Paramount story lines and parameters. Not bad for a first attempt. The audio of this manuscript is in the freebee section of my web site.
While still retaining Lewie as my agent and with his encouragement I wrote my first independent novel called The Red-Light District. It was not what the title implies. The Red-Light District was an area in Arizona housing a top-secret project. The book had a classic maniacal scientist, time travel, and the threat involving the President of the United States. Lewie went over changes but liked the manuscript. Again, it made the rounds to the publishing houses with positive feedback. But no sale.
Still typing on the Smith-Corona portable I produced A Nobel Experiment and did a good job with two alien races, time travel, and a phony UFO Investigator as well as a pesky reporter. A Nobel experiment was read independently with great reviews. But I was rolling the dice I should have sought a more critical evaluation of the mechanics of the work.
What followed was The Bottom Line, stressing over-population after a lecture by the renowned Isaac Asimov at UMass. Also, the concept of an average person confronting the world problems in The Bottom Line was unique. Absolute Zero, which detailed a virus that shut down the human race, also sits on the shelf. With this book I learned how to best research my material from the 26-story library at UMass. And I had a Smith-Corona Selectric typewriter!
And at this juncture I began to get upset with Lewie’s efforts.
I can see now that these early books did not need to ‘make the rounds.’ What they required was some repair.
The repair ticket:
-proper placement of action in the sentence
-Utilize Anglo-Saxon verbs
-Focus on paragraph construction
Memo from Lewie:
“Bob, you need to write horror. That’s what’s selling.”
No, No, No. What I needed was better editing and repair. But I wrote My Other Face anyway.
Tiny bright creatures take over the bodies of residents of a northern New England town. The action is gruesome. I think without the gore I would have been proud of the work. Yet the threat of bodily harm and even death is ‘Hitchcockian.’ Fear rather than gruesome
Wonderment, brilliance describes the man who opened up science and the Cosmos in the 1970’s. And that was the name of the series. I was enamored Sagan’s presentation and even today the science and the quest for knowledge past and future inundates my writing.
Follow your bliss, said Joseph Campbell and I did! I was hooked on writing, ex-pressed in prose and some poetry. But I had to make a living. But as I wrote I always was aware that the hero, as Campbell said is always ready for the ad-venture.
From New England to California:
I managed to nix Lewie from my thoughts and focused on short stories and no-vellas. Channel 5 in LA had hours of the Twilight Zone, a show that I liked from an early age. Most of the work was written by Rod Serling whom I idolized. The marathon came at an apropos time because I was able to view the Twilight Zone episode with an analytical eye
At the same time, now with a fantastic outside sales job around LA I began work on XB-234, a gargantuan novel. Later this novel was called The Ramdama’s Kingdom. My travels to Florida to see the first shuttle launch and subsequent landings at Edwards Air Force Base, home of the X-15, seeped into the book. So, did the outright obedience of the people in Jonestown. The Ramdama character was a long-life alien who had a violent past and his future was not too serene either. Having the dimensional doors provided intriguing possibilities in this novel. And the time travel aspect of the book knitted the plot together. Just to get the manuscript bound was a feat. Off it went to NYC.
I know that you know that I knew and know I should have ditched Lewie long before XB-234. And you are right. 100% right. My problem with representation is that I always had material and was always excited about my latest effort. I kept writing and just sent material out because it would get to a publishing house. While still in California I began to work on a complicated novel called Sojourn.
A Note about Sojourn and computers:
Before I owned a laptop of any computer, I would use a special pencil and yellow lined paper to write Sojourn as I parked off road after work or at lunch. In the late 1990’s my friend suggested I get off the typewriter and onto a computer. I thought that was a nutty idea. Why I don’t know. So he sent an IBM-XT. My production went off the charts with a lot less frustration.
Back to New England and the Writing Conferences.
She had a newspaper clipping for the Cape Cod Writer’s conference that she handed me when I met her. I made the decision as time went on to attend my first Cape Cod Writer’s Conference. I have all the notebooks. Of course, my writing improved. After a three-year hiatus I continued work of Sojourn, now reworked and filled with autobiographical material. I was incredibly fortunate to have Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game) review and critique my work. Card al-so was an instructor and deluged us with mechanics of the craft of writing. When he said: “You obviously know how to write,” I knew I had made progress. I later studied screenplay writing but having Cape Cod Writer Sally Gunning’s course and critique of a Matthias Jones book that became Deader than Dead helped me avoid common pitfalls. She did like the idea that Matthias Jones noticed the car made creaking noises as cars do when the engine is just shut off. Jones realizes the suspect was lying about being home. Tom Sawyer was head writer for Murder She Wrote. You don’t get much luckier than have this guy slice and dice your work. Sawyer stressed the idea of outlining everything be-fore writing any work. My very next book The Ice of Triton was outlined first. The story flowed nicely.
I am impelled to insert kudos to Stephen King. King’s book On Writing is to writing what the Chilton’s Guide is to auto repair. Here’s what Simon and Schuster says about On Writing:
‘Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have.’
Whatever your writing or even if you couldn’t care less about writing: Get this book!
Change of Genre in the 90’s
-Harry Cobb, Intra-Solar System investigator.
-The House Series-Alone in the house far far away from home.
-Downsized-Back to the past in Barkley Idaho
-Green Haze, Craig Grafton Series.
Galactic Command-Commander John Ross and crew in the distant future.
Two Important Series:
The Matthias Jones Series: This series has the greatest number of books.
"Murder, Mayhem, and Monkey Business."
His father was an investigator who was murdered. Matthias Jones became an athlete and coach, but he and Cocoa Stefani solved his father's murder. Hamil-ton College on the coast of New Hampshire hired him to coach sports but get-ting into murder investigations remains his passion. He knows the cops and the district attorney, Herbert Lane, hate his guts. He's best buds with Cocoa, a major underworld character and a good friend of parish priest Father Jim Gallagher. Jones' persistence gains him the upper hand over the cops and the DA - and the murderer.
Hamilton New Hampshire is the fictional New England town located along the New Hampshire coast and bordering the larger city of Prince William. Originally settled by the Fletcher and Hall families the town is most known for Hamilton College. The college is controlled by the powerful Fletcher family and funded in nefarious ways. The town is littered with eccentric and quite odd citizens with a radically aberrant view of reality. Sometimes, when it comes to murder, the locals are dead on.
The Jones series started out very serious and my humor and silliness soon overtook the plots. The town is a conglomeration of places I’ve lived. The weirdness of the characters surrounding the normal Jones has its roots in Hogan’s Heroes, Newhart, and Green Acres. The town where I grew up had an assortment of characters but most of the Jones characters are people I encountered in outside sales.
The Patch Kincaid Series: Certainly, the most historically poignant novels produced by Robert P. Fitton.
The Kennedy Paradox began as Red Shift. The novel had a twist at the end: Because Patch Kincaid went back in time President Kennedy was killed. I left it at that. I have had interest in the Kennedy Assassination that intensified when Mark Lane showed the Zapruder film at UMASS. Further developments with the House Select Committee in the late 1970’s as well as the dramatic release of millions of documents by the AARB in the 1990’s tempted me to change Red Shift. Jim Cahill became Patch Kincaid. I ramped up research of the Bay of Pigs and the multitude of characters involved in the assassination, thus providing a framework of reasons why Kennedy was killed and a sequel. The sequel, Re-turn to Dallas took almost two years to research, write and footnote. I wanted everything I said about JFK’s death to be sourced and backed up. The final book of the series American Injustice- volume one and two explores the government’s full court press of Jim Garrison’s pursuit of the truth and the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. I have a separate web site for the Kennedy Assassination.
More Time Travel Novels:
When You’re Dead You’re Dead-
I Have Seen the Future
Once in a Lifetime-
A World Without Her
Time Portal Alpha
The Butterfly in the Deadly Storm
Lewie finally admitted after I tracked him down that he had not sent out my manuscripts for a long time. N’uff said.
I linked up with a West Coast firm that helped me get my books sold on my personal web site. We actually sold a goodly amount of the books in palm pilot files (precursor of kindle) I made the transition to print on demand which I buttressed with web and search engine placement by using companies out Chicago and Miami. When Amazon competed with I-Universe it was a no brainer to take control of what I was writing. I took an early retirement and began the arduous task of upgrading and further editing over forty books.
© 2022 The Robert P. Fitton Revocable Trust