Friday, May 22, 2020

What’s in a Naming Contest?

A rose by any other name… will still cut you if you aren’t careful about the thorns.  But would you look to buy a rose if it was labeled “thistle”? Would you even look at a rose scented candle if it was labeled “skunk”?  The same is true of a book title.

Will Clarey: A Kerryville Summer is a descriptive title that might not reach the middle grade reader as effectively as I hope. Thus, I am looking for a little help.  

Here’s the scoop:

How you enter:

Read the teaser below.
If you need more information, are brave, and don’t mind having major plot lines revealed, read the spoiler synopsis. 

Send title suggestions to me at (Wil’s friend Hannah’s email address in the book and a real address for this contest).

The Prize:

If a publisher goes with your title suggestion, your name will appear on the acknowledgement page as the creator of the title. The same will happen if I eventually decide to publish independently.

The rules:

Ummm, no money prize so no rules. No age limit for submissions. Sorry, no royalties. If you have amazing suggestions, we’ll talk. I can always use new ideas. Just keep in mind that I am not currently making any money from my writing and may or may not make much in the future.

The non-spoiler teaser (from the back of the draft cover above):

The spoiler synopsis:


       Wil Clarey’s life is turned upside-down when his mom gets a new job that forces him to move from Los Angeles to his grandparent’s farm in rural Kerryville, Virginia for the summer.

At first this seems like the end of the world. Chores, limited internet, and far too friendly people nearly crush this 13-year-old boy who is on the autism spectrum. 

On just his second day on the farm, Wil is called upon to lead the neighbor’s 2000-pound bull back to its barn. There he meets Hannah, a very outgoing girl his age. 

       Despite Wil’s initial reluctance, the two become fast friends. She helps him adjust to the country life and introduces him to other friends.  

       Wil’s grandpa introduces him to photography which reveals a hidden talent Wil didn’t know existed.

       Wil’s popularity explodes when he catches a 6-year-old child falling from the farmhouse roof. The story is picked up by the local paper, then the regional TV news, and finally the Today Show. Wil, his grandpa, Hannah and the 6-year-old and her mom are flown to New York to be interviewed. With Hannah and Grandpa’s encouragement, Wil speaks up for those with High Functioning Autism. Hannah also get the surprise of her life when One Direction plays a concert on the Today Show and she is called on stage and sung to.

       Several other adventures bring action, suspense, and humor to Wil’s summer.

       The summer climaxes with the Annual Kerryville Agricultural Fair. Hannah exhibits her rabbits and Wil enters the photography contest. They both come away winners.

       Wil’s grand prize also comes that day, but that’s one spoiler I will reserve for now.

Friday, April 3, 2020

First Edit, Second Book

The first edit of the second book in the Wil Clarey series begins!

A couple weeks ago, I finally picked up Wil Clarey: School of Hard Knocks and started editing. I knew from reading it that I needed a strong first chapter. How could I make this book grab the reader and still introduce Wil? I want the book to be able to stand on its own, impact lives and be a page turner.

In my frustration I stepped away from my writing corner and started walking on my treadmill a couple feet away. I found myself pushing myself faster than normal, praying, almost in anger, for inspiration. In my speed, it came:

Faster. I need to go faster. I hit the speed bump and caught air.
Oh man, don’t hit it. My wheels just barely scuffed the edge of the curb as I doubled my efforts, pumping my legs for all I was worth.  
Last straightaway! I can do this! I hit the button on my watch just as I passed the sidewalk to our apartment.
Skidding to a halt inches from a truck trailer, I looked at my watch. So close. I gotta try again.
“Don’t even think about it, Wil.” How did mom always read my mind? “We should have hit the road a half hour ago. Put the bike in the trailer and let’s go.”
I started to feel that little warning tug. After an awesome summer with no major “incidents” from my autism, I thought I’d better do what Mom said. This time.
“Let the new adventure begin.” Mom proclaimed as we pulled away from the trailer that held my bike, and all our belongings.
(excerpt copyright 2020, Richard D Solano)

I went on to begin Wil's journey in a fresh way that I hope will grab the reader into his world. Let me know what you think. I will keep you updated as the story reforms itself. 

Friday, September 6, 2019

Dark, Cold, and "Tired"

I saw an ad recently that showed an old car. No big deal to most. To me it was a time machine that took me back nearly 40 years. It looked just like my first car!

          My first car was a station wagon – a 1968 Plymouth Satellite to be exact. Yes, I am that much of a nerd.

Ride with me in that Plymouth Satellite time machine to a chilly Wednesday evening in Fall 1980. The sun was setting when I dropped off a couple of kids at their remote farm in Grayson County, Virginia.

I worked for their parents. I did a couple of chores before hopping back in my olive-green freedom machine. I threw the column shifter into reverse, gave it some gas and lifted the clutch.


The car moved back a couple of feet, wobbling like…

One look confirmed it. The driver’s side front tire was flat.

I was more than a little irritated. You see, I knew the spare was also flat.

That wasn’t enough. I walked back around the car to use the house phone when I noticed the front passenger side tire was also going flat! I was not going to make it to youth group at church that night.

I called my parents. They agreed to pick me up, but I would have to meet them at the road, a quarter mile down the driveway.

By the time I removed one of the front tires and the spare so we could get them replaced, it was completely dark. A single bulb on the porch shed weak light on the yard. Clouds blocked most of the starlight. The woods along the driveway blocked the rest.

You should probably know that I had lived in that area less than two months at this point. Before that, I lived in the suburbs of San Francisco. I had no concept of the total lack of light I would experience that night.

As the driveway entered the woods, a creek could be heard on the right. The crunch of gravel under my shoes reflected off the embankment on the left. 

I saw nothing.

Every now and then I heard noises in the woods. Visions of mountain lions and bears flooded my imagination as I tightened the grip on the pocket-knife in my hand. The pounding of my heart almost drowned out my footfalls.

I tried to stay in the tire ruts as the driveway curved down to the road. I took small steps to keep from stumbling – a strategy that wasn’t completely successful.

I heard no traffic ahead. This was about as far back as you could get in the country. The few local residents were already home.

Eventually I heard wood under my feet, marking the bridge at the end of the driveway. The clouds parted mercifully, leaving a small patch of starlight in the middle of the road. I stood in that patch for the minutes that felt like hours until my parent’s car approached.

This Sunday I'll teach 4th and 5th graders about trusting in God. I have to admit that I had far more fear than trust that night. Nearly 40 years has taught me that I need not fear the unknown. When fear creeps up like total darkness, I know that I have a light that I can trust in.

Wil Clarey has to deal with many of the same fears that I did. If you haven’t figured it out, his move from LA to Virginia is based on my experiences. In fact, his grandparent's farm is based on the farm where I experienced this story.

We have all had experiences of fear and trust. Where is your trust. Feel free to share yours in the comments here or on the Facebook post of this story. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Inspired by a Ninja

Yes, it has been a while.  A lot of stuff happening around the Solano household. Tonight, after work, My wife and I have been gardening.  Twenty bags of mulch in, the yard is beginning to look good.

But that’s not what inspired me to write tonight.  After cleaning up, I came into the living room to find Janet watching American Ninja Warrior.  I, being the caring, supportive husband that I am, sat down on the sofa and put the Rockies baseball game on my I-Pad.

That’s also not what inspired this blog (though Ian Desmond did just hit a home run. The game is still on in the corner of my screen as I write.).

What inspired me was what distracted me from the game.  Past the sound of strikes and balls in my ear, heard the word “autistic”. That’s when I learned about a 21-year old contestant by the name of Steven Moul.

Steven has autism.  Despite this, or maybe because of this, Steven found himself in front of a roaring crowd, bright flashing lights, TV cameras and a course that he trained for 8 years to complete.  The crowd chanted his name as he challenged the course.

Few complete the American Ninja Warrior course.  Steven was among that majority that try heroically but fall short of completion. But to me, he was the most inspiring. Like Wil Clarey, he shows us that those on the Spectrum can go far beyond what most people think.  Unlike Wil, he is real. I pray that you find hope and inspiration in his story.  You can find it HERE.

Now I return to my less than inspiring baseball game (at this moment, Rockies are behind 1-3).  May you experience an inspiring distraction tonight as well!

Monday, April 1, 2019

What Do I Know?

     That’s a loaded question!  What do any of us know?  Sometimes not enough.  Especially when it comes to parenting.

     There was that one evening, a few years ago.  I was convinced that my son was being dishonest.  He absolutely refused to tell me what I thought was the truth.  I decided that, until he was honest, I would withhold his treasured stuffed animal.  This brilliant tactic inspired rage on his part.  Yeah, I know – not so brilliant.  Had I only known…

     What I didn’t know at that time was that my son’s High Functioning Autism (HFA) gave him an extreme view of truth and justice.  It turns out that he was being honest.  It was almost impossible for him to be dishonest.  When I was unfair and withheld his cherished stuffed animal, that was unthinkable to him. 

     It took a while to realize my ignorance and foolishness from that night.  But I did.  I have realized that I can trust him.  I am learning how he sees the world and trying to help him find his own unique success in life.  I have high hopes for him, as I have for all my kiddos.

     We have four kids.  Each is unique.  Four distinct personalities.  Four amazing people.  They remind me of the child psychologist who started his practice with four theories and no children.  Ten years later, he had four children and no theories.  Those four awesome humans constantly surprise me with their uniqueness and growth.

     So, what do I know about parenting?  After nineteen years, a lot, and never enough.  I am learning constantly, loving them consistently, and moving forward when I blow it. 

     To be honest, that’s a big part of what compelled me to write the Wil Clarey series.  I want to give people an insight into the life of a teen with HFA.  I don’t believe that Wil is a typical teen with HFA.  I don’t believe that there is a typical teen with HFA. 

     Wil is unique (not my son with another name).  He displays some of the characteristics of HFA, but not all.  He and those around him learn to deal with those traits in a constructive way, growing in his strengths and dealing with his weakness.  Kind of sounds like how we all deal with life.  Maybe Wil is actually each of us. 

     If you would like to know more about the Wil Clarey series, please contact me at Solanowriting  I am willing to release a limited number of prerelease digital copies of Wil Clarey: A Kerryville Summer to those willing to review it.  Stay tuned here for publication news as I meet with agents and editors next week!  Your prayers and thoughts are appreciated during that time (April 12-15th)