Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Not every story is worth publishing.

     I set out to write a Christmas story to share this year.  As I wrote, the story took on a life of its own.  When I was done, I reread it, made a couple of changes, reread again, and wasn’t sure if it was worth publishing.  I gave it to a couple of trusted readers.  They agreed.  I thought about revising it but there just isn’t enough time and I need to give that time to my family in this busy time of year.

     All this is to say, not everything that I or any author is worth publishing.  I could go ahead and make this story available, but I want to leave my readers with a great experience, not a mediocre one. For now this story is relegated to the recycle bin.

     Have you had experiences like this?  Have you started a project that just did not come out right?  I am not an advocate for quitting.  Quite the opposite.  But, I do know when it is time to move on.  I will get back to writing “Synchronized” right after Christmas.  I am excited with how that is progressing.  Perhaps, after the beginning of the year, I will share a chapter of that.  Stay tuned and don’t let the failures drag you down!

Saturday, November 24, 2018

What's Next?

     After practice writing first chapters from each of the five projects listed in my last post (and one new one that I may mention eventually), weighing the suggestions of friends online and in person, and debating and debating and debating, I have finally decided which project to work on next.

And that project is.... Synchronized

Synchronized will stretch my writing abilities as it is written in third person and is intended for adults.  In it we will explore issues of national security, trust in government and in each other as well as security through faith.  Feel free to send scene suggestions my way as Roger and Adam struggle to save America as we know it.

FYI - I plan on starting a new website after the first of the year.  It will link to this blog which will concentrate more on the Wil Clarey saga.  It will also bring more general writing news and links to tips.  I am also open to suggestions as to what to put there.  Thanks for your support!

Monday, November 19, 2018

Wil Clarey: School of Hard Knocks is complete! (in rough draft form). Make sure you let me know which project you would like to see me complete next.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

     I'm just two chapters away from completing the first draft of Wil Clarey: School of Hard Knocks!  I took Thanksgiving week off of work so that I can finish it and now I find that I have time to start on my next project.  With that in mind, I would like your input as to what direction to go.

     I am thinking that I may want to take a break from the Wil Clarey series and complete one of the several other projects I have started.  With that in mind, I have created some very brief synopses of some of the possible stories.  Here they are:

Please comment here or go to my Facebook page (search "solanowriting") to let me know which you would like to see me complete next.  The images should be clearer on Facebook.  I would be glad to provide more details about any project you are interested in.  Thanks!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Raw excerpt just written

I just had one of those chapters that practically wrote itself.  I decided to be bold and share it with you.  Please be aware that it is raw and completely unedited so please overlook any blunders.  (I already found a couple just glancing through it.)  It may come out quite differently in the final product but, it was fun to write and I hope that it is fun to read.  Enjoy.
Oh yeah, if you aren't one of the few who have read the first book - spoiler alert!

Chapter 34 – On a Sled and a Prayer
Freezing air in my face.  Snow blasted up from the front of the sled and showered on me.  Fingers, almost numb, gripped the edge of the orange plastic.  Until… a lump on the hillside sent me airborne.  What goes up must come down.  I came down on my face. 
Ten inches of snow prevented any injury beyond the drastic lowering of the temperature of my skin.  I picked myself up and ran after the sled that continued down the hill. 
I didn’t see her coming but I heard her.  “WATCH OUT!!”  Hannah barreled by within two inches of my heels. 
I fell back in the snow and only just managed to get up and out of the way of Bill sliding out of control on his little red plastic saucer. Neither Bill nor Hannah made it to the bottom of the hill before wiping out.  We were on one of the big hills on my grandparent’s farm.  Bill had invited himself when I told him by text that morning that I was going to go sledding on the farm.  Mom had brought us out in the cute ute, trying out the all-wheel drive for the first time.
“You need to make a path for the sleds to follow.”  Grandpa shouted up from the bottom of the hill with a snow shovel in hand.  We walked down to him.  “Trample down the snow where you want the sleds to go.  I’ll build up a snow bank down here, so you don’t fly into the creek.”
“Your granddad’s pretty smart for an old guy.”
“Who you callin’ old, Bill?”  Grandpa tossed a snow ball at Bill.  It hit him in the chest splattering snow into his face.
“Oh, it’s on, old man.”  Bill became a snow throwing machine, diving for the ground and grabbing handful after handful of snow, crushing the snow into a ball and throwing it in a single smooth motion.
Grandpa wasn’t as fast, but he had strategy.  He ducked behind a pile of snow he had already started to build and lobbed snow bombs in Bill’s direction.  Hannah joined forces with him and soon I was being targeted too.
Something you should know about Asperger’s is that it enables us to concentrate on something to the exclusion of everything else.  In moments, I was strategizing how to decimate our “enemy.”  As inexperienced as I was at snowball fights, I soon had a winning strategy as I moved to flank Hannah and Grandpa. 
That focus that helps me sometimes makes it hard to know when to stop.  One of my snowballs nailed Hannah right in the face.  Most people would stop and let her recover.  My mind was in video game mode and kicked up the action to win the battle.  Bad idea.  After hitting her three more times in the back of the head, Grandpa had to stand in front of her and yell stop.
That triggered what hadn’t happened to me since the attack.  Defense mode.  I froze.  You would think I would apologize but my mind went into that horrible loop.  Why did I do that?  That was stupid.  I can’t face them.  I can’t.  I plopped back in the snow and started rocking, hiding my face in my icy gloved hands.  The world disappeared. 
I’m not sure what the others did during that time.  I'm not even sure how long I tuned out.  When I looked out from my gloves, Grandpa stood a couple feet in front of my talking to Bill and Hannah.  I think he was explaining my reaction. 
I snapped out of it pretty quickly then.  “I'm okay.”  I got up and stepped around Grandpa to face Hannah.  “I, I’m sorry.  I get…”
“You don’t need to apologize.”  Hannah put her hand on my arm.  “I understand.  Or at least I want to understand.”  She switched on a big grin.  “I’m a tough chick.  I can handle your… unique qualities.”
I stood there speechless.  Could she actually understand?  Even if she could, was it fair to her to have to put up with that in me? 
Before I could think to say anything, she said, “Let’s get this sled run built.”
Stunned, I stood as Bill passed close by me.  “She’s a keeper,” he whispered in my ear.
Yes, she was, but would I be able to keep her?

I would end this chapter there, but I gotta tell you, that was some of the best sledding ever.  Once we had the path made and run over a few times, I swear we set some land speed records for sledding.  We all came away freezing on the outside but warm with joy on the inside.  That was a good thing since the next few weeks would be less than fun.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

This Week In (my) History

Are there weeks in your personal history that have significance?  This week is one for me.  28 years ago, this week, I started my first job as a copier field technician.  It was the start of my second career which has taken up the majority of my adult life.

This is not what I had planned in college.  I was planning on being a teacher and maybe a writer.  Then money ran out, I did not make it into the education program at UC Santa Cruz, and job opportunity arose (in my first career in audio/visual).  One thing led to another and I found that I was able to use my talents in fixing things to make a living.  In the meantime, I have also been able to teach and lead children and youth in church and write as a hobby.

I sometimes wonder what it would have been like if I had decided to switch to San Jose State and gotten my teaching credentials.  I honestly don’t know.  Would I have been a good teacher?  Would I have enjoyed it? 

All those questions are, of course, moot now.  I have had many “woulda, coulda, shoulda” moments through my life.  I can’t change those, and regret would only put a cloud over my life.  Instead I choose to look to the future.  I intend to pursue a career in writing while maintaining excellence in my current career.  Instead of dwelling on the missed opportunities of the past, I will reach for the opportunities out there in the future.

Where are you in your history?  Are you living in regret over past decisions?  Are there goals that you still want to strive for?  Let me encourage you to reach for the stars.  The sky is not the limit.  After all, we’ve already sent people to the moon (thanks Adam Young for that thought).  Think beyond the possible to the miraculous and you might be surprised what will happen.

Speaking of the impossible, I did manage to complete the revision of the already done first two-thirds of Wil Clarey: School of Hard Knocks.  I am excited to be able to move on to complete that book during NaNoWriMo in November.  I encourage all you writers out there to join in and work on your next great novel!  Let me know how it is going.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Indian Summer

     What inspires you to write?  This evening we have steaks and burgers sizzling on the grill.  That could be inspiration enough.  But then, we are in the midst of a beautiful “Indian Summer” day.  That could be inspiration enough. 

     But here’s my real inspiration.  I got to spend all day with my family.  Even my oldest daughter hung out with us this afternoon (that break in the writing that you did not see was to give her a goodbye hug).  I am a truly blessed man. 

     I don’t say this to bum you out if your family life is not great right now.  Trust me, mine has not always been great.  In fact, there were years when the bad far outweighed the good.  Through it all, I have held on to the good and have been thankful for all the little victories or sometimes just survival.  Some of those tough moments have made for some of the best parts of my books (like being forced to move to Virginia against my will).  For now, let me revel in this beautiful day.

     I will keep this short, so the food doesn’t burn, and the family doesn’t go hungry.  Just want to encourage you.  When the moment inspires you, write it down.  When your moments seem all wrong, write that down too.  You will get through it.  Someday, those moments will encourage others.

     I am wrapping this up quickly after dinner and before an evening of games with the family.  I am curious what you are writing about or are interested in writing about.  Please share here in the comments or on my Facebook page (search for solanowriting).

Friday, October 12, 2018

We the People of the Lincoln Highway

     Last weekend I took a quick trip to California (which is why I did not post a blog last week).  I decided to take the Lincoln Highway (US 50) through Nevada on my way home to Colorado.  I had never driven that route before and had heard that it was something to experience.  I had no idea!

     It was Sunday afternoon by the time I left Carson, NV.  I had a large late breakfast with my extended family back in Grass Valley, CA so I didn’t need to stop for lunch.  Armed with snacks and a full tank of gas, I hit the truly open road.  The middle of Nevada is one of the few places in America where you can look out on a 30-mile-wide valley and not see another soul. 

     In the midst of that isolation I saw something that took some real commitment.  Okay, I’ll be honest.  I didn’t see it until I looked back at one of the several one-handed random photos I took as I flew down that two-lane ribbon.  Along the shoulder the Preamble of the United States Constitution was written out in stones.  A little research told me that it took Michael Iacovone five days of work in the hot desert sun to complete that statement 20 miles east of Fallon.

     In the evening of my drive in the desert, still in Nevada, I saw something extraordinary.  SpaceX launched the Falcon 9 rocket and it created an amazing light show on the southwestern sky.  I had to stop and take pictures and watch in awe.  What a cap to a unique day!

     I have to stand in awe of the efforts that each of those sights took.  I also wonder if I have ever put that kind of effort into any one project.  What comes to mind are the long-term commitments of my everyday life.  My faith, my family, my friends, and my professions occupy the bulk of my time.  What if I took time to do something truly out of the ordinary?

     Tonight, I struggle to find the words to convey the wonder of it my experiences last Sunday.  That is my commitment.  I seek to enrich other’s lives through words that hope to convey the wonder of every aspect of life.  I am committed to completing “Wil Clarey: School of Hard Knocks” by the end of November and moving on to the next project.  I am not yet sure if it will be book three of the Wil Clarey series or if it will be completing one of my other stories.  Maybe I will ask your help in deciding.  For now, I will ask you this – will you join me in writing for the National Novel Writing Month?  Sign up and share your words and your wonder! 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

‘Tis a Season

     What is your favorite season?  I have to admit that Fall is not mine.  That title goes to Spring, with its new life and lengthening days.  Still, there are many things that make Fall special.

     I’m not talking about pumpkin spice, although I love a good pumpkin pie.  I’m talking about a little bit more significant things like the fact that all my daughters were born in Autumn.  It was in the Fall twelve years ago that I moved to Colorado.  My second book takes place in the Fall (and just a little in Winter).  

     I will admit that I am a sucker for Fall festivals and a nice big Thanksgiving dinner compete with parade and football watching.  Watching the kids jump in a big pile of freshly raked leaves also warms my heart.  It is with childlike joy that I spend the latter part of Autumn putting up as many lights as I can find on the outside of the house to shine forth the joy of Advent.

     Despite all these wonderful things I find I must fight a little depression in the Fall.  I thrive on daylight and the fall steals a little of that each day.  I am reminded that it was in the Fall 13 years ago that my first wife announced that she was leaving me.  It was also in late Fall that my amazing current wife lost her first husband to a heart attack.

     The one constant in Fall, and all the seasons for that matter, is change.  Some good, some not so good.  In the not so good, I remember that Hebrews 13:8 says that Jesus is the same yesterday today and forever.  

     This Wednesday I get to teach our church’s youth group, The Refuge.  We will be studying the 8th chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans.  It is one of the most encouraging chapters in the whole Bible.  I highly recommend it, especially if you are struggling.  It reminds us that, no matter our problems, God can make good come from them.

     I wrote a short piece of fiction to read to the students.  I will share that with you later this week along with a bit of my autumn history.  Until then, sit down with your pumpkin spice latte and watch the brightly colored leaves fall as you enjoy the benefits of fall.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Hard to Write Hard Knocks

     Tonight, I tried out my new writing nook.  The board above me will support the town of Kerryville on the Kerryville & Pacific (HO scale model) Railway.  I made the platform above me high so I could have this little writing space.

     It is nice to have a quiet private spot to write, especially tonight.

     I am in the process of refining Wil Clarey: School of Hard Knocks in preparation for writing the last several chapters during NaNoWriMo.  Tonight, I rewrote much of the chapter entitled "Hard Knocks".  It has been a hard chapter to write.  I hope it will be a hard chapter to read.  

     I have heard it said that if there are no tears in the author, there will be no tears in the reader.  Honestly, I am taking these few minutes to write this so my eyes aren't so red when I go back upstairs (my nook is in the basement).

     I have been fortunate to not have to live through what I just put Wil Clarey through, but we all have our Hard Knocks.  At this point in the story, Wil has to decide how to deal with his.  How do you deal with yours?  Do you wallow in self pity?  Do you burst forth in anger?  Do you seek healing?  

    I know of one local family who lost their child through murder.  I will forever be impressed at how they not only sought healing, but offered forgiveness to the murderer.  I hope I never find out what that is like.  I also hope that I would have that strength of character!

     Don't worry, Wil does not go through the same situation.  I just recall it as being an amazing example of forgiveness.  I will not be sharing that chapter apart from the whole book as it is pivotal (hence the chapter and book titles being so similar).  Let's just say that Wil may have to draw on some of that strength of character.  May we all be that strong when hard knocks come our way.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Blazing Urge to Write

       Thirty years ago, I ran sound for Mount Hermon Christian Conference Center.  In that capacity, I met a number of amazing people.  During their annual Christian Writer’s Conference one year, a familiar face stood out. 

I had already met this person through one of his sherpas.  He led an expedition program in the Sierras and my friend Danny worked for him.  One day, while visiting Danny up at Bass Lake, CA, he introduced me to Tim Hansel.  

I did not realize that Tim was a writer.  At the time, he had a popular book call “You Gotta Keep Dancing” (still available on Amazon).  In it he explains how he can keep choosing joy in the midst of chronic severe pain.  That book has brought encouragement to thousands of people, including myself.

As a speaker at the conference, he related his story.  Then he explained that, in the midst of his pain and his busy schedule, he had a “blazing urge to write.”  He HAD to write.

It has never been that way with me.  Writing has been an outlet for my overactive imagination.  For me, writing can be hard.  I enjoy writing, but it is work.  As you may have guessed by the length of time between my blog posts, I do not write everyday.  In fact, this post has taken me two days of writing between other tasks to complete.

I do read almost everyday.  Well, at least I listen to a lot of books since I drive a lot.  Recently, Overdrive, the library app that I use to listen to library books, suggested “The Forgotten Road” by Richard Paul Evans.  It was riveting.  For many, I am sure it was life changing.  It is fiction.

As a writer of fiction I can’t tell you how encouraging that is..  It is my hope that my writing will influence people.  Wil Clarey was created to encourage and educate.  That now drives me to write more and to pursue publication.  I am closer than ever to having that “blazing urge to write.”

        Do you have that blazing urge to write?  Or paint, or sing, or any other form of expression?  Join me in fanning that flame to a blaze.  Let’s express ourselves in such a way that we will improve our world!

That said, I will let you in a a couple of personal writing goals.  First, it is my goal to have the first draft of “Wil Clarey; School of Hard Knocks” completed by the end of November (with the close of NaNoWriMo – more on that later).  Second, I have decided to start with Kindle publishing for “Wil Clarey: A Kerryville Summer.”  I don’t have a timeline yet for that.  I am working with an artist for the cover.  Once that is done, I can upload everything but I want it to be as good as possible before it goes public.

Thank you all for your continued support!  Please pray for me as I pursue this growing urge to write.  I will pray for you as express your passions through your writing and other forms of art.  Let that fire in you grow and blaze on!


Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Random sample from School of Hard Knocks

I know that my writing time is going well when I look up from my laptop and notice that I am sitting in the dark.  I sought the quiet and fresh air of our sun porch this evening to continue my polishing of Book 2 - Wil Clarey: School of Hard Knocks.  I had such fun with the scene that I didn't notice night fall around me.  I thought I would share most of it with you tonight.  I will admit that I left the ending of the chapter off (insert maniacal laugh here).  I didn't want to completely spoil it for you.

Here you go: (warning - I have not edited it for errors so be patient if it is not perfect).

Chapter 12 - Towing the Type Three

“What’s going on here?”  I looked at my grandparent’s driveway, crowded with a big flat trailer attached to Mr. Vaughn’s big pick up.

Mom got a funny smile.  “Good question.  Let’s find out.”  She squeezed her new car, a small Chevy SUV (a “cute ute,” she calls it) around the truck and parked by the back door.
I had been working on the farm Saturday’s and Grandpa was paying me!  I now had a savings account with quite a few dollars in it.  At least it seemed like a lot to me.

It was the Saturday before my birthday.

Hannah came bounding out of the kitchen with a big grin on her face.  “Hi Wil!”

Even as dense as I could be, I could tell she was hiding something.  Her smile was way too big.  “What’s up?” I asked.

“You’ll see,” was all she said as she led me into the kitchen.

“What’s up?” I asked Grandpa.

He was at the kitchen table drinking coffee with Ken Vaughn.  “We have a big clean up job for you today, Ken and I are gonna help this time.”

“Hey, don’t forget me, I get to help too!” Hannah put her hands on her hips.  “I already filled the air tank.”

“Huh.”  My confused look must have been amusing because Mr. Vaughn and Grandpa chuckled.

“You get the first part of your birthday gift today.  We planned on doing this next weekend, but Ken wasn’t available then and we need his trailer.”

A light bulb started to light in my head.  Could it be?  Is Grandpa giving me the old car in the woods?

Grandpa confirmed my thoughts, “There’s a 1972 VW Squareback sitting in the woods with your name on it.”

Hannah came up close to my ear.  “I told you that you need to start working on it for our first date when we’re 16.”   

My mind was a whirl.  Part of me was a little weirded out by Hannah’s whispered comment (just a little).  Part of me was excited about getting the car.  Part of me was overwhelmed by the thought of getting that pile of rust running.  If nothing else, I could sit in it if we brought it to our house.  “Where are we putting it?” 

“You have that little garage below your mom’s room.” Grandpa explained.  “Your mom and I discussed it.  She doesn’t mind you keeping it in there as long as you actually work on it.” 

“Are you kidding me?  I’ll work on it every day!”

“You can start by putting some air in the tires and see if they’ll hold air while we get the trailer in position.  Make sure you put a rock or a log in front of it in case it wants to roll away on you.” 

Hannah and I headed to the woods carrying the air tank with us.  Grandpa had already cleared the berry bushes from around the car.  I put a little air at a time in each tire.  I had a feeling that the tank did not have enough air to completely fill all the tires.  It turned out that there was just enough to get each tire about three quarters full.  That was enough. 

I sat in the driver’s seat and put my foot on the brake pedal.  It went straight to the floor. 

I rolled down the window as Grandpa approached.  “I don’t think the brakes work.”

“Pull the parking brake and see if it works.”

I did, and it stopped halfway up.  “I think it works.”

“Let’s give it a try.  Do you want me in the driver’s seat or are you feeling brave?”

I was feeling bold.  “I’ll do it.”

“Okay, I’ll pull the log.  Are you ready?”


“Wait!”  Hannah climbed in the passenger side.   “Now we’re ready.”  She had a huge smile.

Grandpa pulled the log from in front of the front left wheel.  The car didn’t budge.  I slowly released the parking brake.  The car still didn’t move.  Grandpa started pushing.  It moved an inch but settled back into place when he stopped.  Then he started rocking it – pushing, releasing, pushing, releasing.  Something popped.  The car started rolling.  Grandpa walked alongside directing me where to turn and when to start pulling on the handbrake. 

I can handle this.  I was practically giddy.  I’m actually driving. I felt a confidence and sense of responsibility like never before.   A glance at Hannah told me that she was enjoying the ride too.

POP!  The brake handle popped straight up!  I slammed both feet on the brake pedal.  Nothing happened.  I pumped the pedal over and over.  The car started speeding up. 

“The brake broke!”  I yelled to Grandpa.

He yelled something back, but we were quickly rolling away from him.  I was close to panicking.  The trailer was straight ahead.  If I hit it at this speed, I would go right over the trailer and into the truck.  There was a little bit of space to the left, so I aimed that way.  At least the steering works.

“Watch it.”  Hannah’s voice was unsteady.

“I am watching it!”  I managed to miss the trailer and the truck but scraped along a pine tree.  I had to duck to the right to avoid getting whacked by the branches.  They scraped the car, but they also slowed us down some. 

Now the pond was straight ahead.  I yanked the wheel to the left.  I could feel the wheels sliding on the wet grass.  In the space of a couple seconds, in my mind I saw me pulling Hannah from the sinking car and us swimming to shore.  God help me!  I screamed in my head.  We continued to slide towards water, the car leaning dangerously to the right.

               POW!  The right front tire blew.  We leaned even more.  We’re gonna flip into the water.  Now would be a really good time to help God!

Don't worry, Wil doesn't die.  If you want to know how the chapter ends, I'll make you a deal.  Share this page with two friends and I'll send you the end.  The more people who want to hear about Wil and his adventures, the sooner they can be published!

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Normal is just a city in Illinois

                I once heard of a child psychiatrist who started his practice with four theories and no children.  Ten years later, he had four children and no theories.  I have four children and only one theory – Everyone is different.

                It is no secret that my passion for writing the Wil Clarey series comes out of my love for my son Nathan.  He is on the Autism Spectrum or what I prefer to call HFA (High Functioning Autistic).  You will not find the term ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder in my books.  I honestly despise the term.  His condition brings him some difficulties, but also brings special abilities.  As a parent, my hopes for him are the same as each of my other kids.

                I tell people that Momma always told me, “Remember that you are a totally unique individual different from anyone else on earth – just like everyone else.”  Okay, she didn’t really say that, but she taught me that principal.  I see it at work in my kids.  Felicia is mature beyond her years and passionate about what she values; Hannah, a true, caring, loving, and faithful friend who is afraid to meet new people; Nathan, brilliant and logical but unable to relate to other people; and Grace, full of life and mischief and heir to my sarcasm.  They are four completely unique people each of whom I love beyond what words can express.

                Like each of my kids, every person I have ever met has had their unique qualities, both good and bad.  I hate to stuff anyone in a box and label it “normal.”  We are each unique.  We each have our strengths and each harbor our mental abnormalities.  I say, celebrate that uniqueness.  Yes, we should each strive to improve ourselves, but I don’t think that means striving to be normal.

                This concept is not new.  The Apostle Paul wrote of it in his first letter to the Corinthian church.  In chapter twelve he writes of the body of Christ having many different parts working together as a whole.  “The eye can never say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you.’  The head can’t say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you.’” (verse 21, NLT) 

                Maybe my son has ASU – Autism Spectrum Uniqueness.  I am confident that he, like many before, will find his unique spot in this world.  We will try to help him and his siblings hone their strengths and bring those to a world that needs them.  What would it be like if we each strengthened our unique abilities and brought them together into an amazing diverse community?  Let’s try it!

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Home Town

           Last weekend, we visited my wife’s parents.  They still live in the same house the she grew up in. Janet lived in that little town until we got married just over 4 years ago.

As we drove the small-town streets to her parent’s house, Janet recognized someone crossing the street ahead of us as an old acquaintance.  That sort of thing doesn’t happen much here in the suburbs of Denver.  I found myself feeling a little jealous of the roots that she had.

When I was growing up, my parents moved a lot.  Between parents’ job changes and their divorce, I had lived in eight homes in six towns by the time I was 18.  Most of that time was in the suburban areas of Fresno and San Francisco.

From age 16 to 18, I lived in Grayson County, VA near the small town of Fries (pronounced freeze).  I took the above photo from my room.  Despite having lived there for only two years, the little town of Fries is what I look back to as my home town.  I could point to the fact that I graduated from Fries High School (Go Wildcats!).  It goes way beyond that, though.

A few years ago, I was returning to the area to support my sister when her husband passed away.  Coming up highway 89 from North Carolina, I passed a sign at a community center that read, “Benefit Gospel Sing.”  I thought, Yep, I’m home.

At 16, this long-haired wierdo from California was welcomed to the area with a graciousness that I have only ever found in the South.  When I returned for that funeral, I saw an outpouring of love and help to my sister that defied description. 

I doubt if I will ever be able to return to Fries to live.  It and the rest of the New River Valley will always hold a special place in my heart.  I may not be able to go “home,” but I can try to bring that sense of home to my suburban neighborhood.   I suggest we all bring a little but of that southern hospitality where-ever we may be.  Perhaps it will feel like coming home.

P.S.  I will also admit that Kerryville, the fictional small town in the Wil Clarey stories is, in part, based on Fries (more culturally than geographically - the geography puts it closer to the village of Newport, VA).  My hope is that my readers will enjoy that hometown feel and want to bring it to their home towns.  

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Birthday Mom

     A year ago, I asked my siblings to come visit Mom for her 79th birthday.  I was afraid that she would not recognize them on her 80th birthday.  A year later, I wish I could say that I was wrong. 

     Mom still seems to enjoy my visits, though it is becoming increasingly rare that she knows who I am.  Today she enjoyed the attention she got as we video chatted with family, but she had no clue who we were.  Even after I told her that I was her son, that fact slipped her mind just minutes later.

     Dementia is a weird disease.  It has crept up slowly on Mom for years.  She fought it with reading and word search games and jigsaw puzzles.  Now it has all but won that battle. 

     Mom has always been a little scatter-brained.  Just like me.  She is human with all her faults and failures and strengths and love.  I could sit here and recount all her short comings.  That would seem pointless in her current condition.  I would rather look back at the mom who taught me to care for others.  Mom who bandaged my scrapes.  Mom who encouraged me to try harder.  Mom who proudly held her grand-babies.  Who shared photos of the same with anyone who would look.

     Life’s too short to hold on to the negative.  It’s too short to not listen to those stories of years gone by.  Many of those stories are gone for good now, vanished from her memory.  Those that are left are so jumbled up as to have little or no correlation with the truth.  I will cherish the memories that mom has passed down to me.  I will continue to visit her if just for the fleeting smiles when she gets some glimpse of recognition in her mind.

     All this is to say, cherish the time you have with your parents – your whole family for that matter.  It slips away far too quickly!  Feel free to comment below especially if you have any amusing or special parent stories.  And then, have a chat with your mom.

Thursday, July 26, 2018


Greetings from Camp Cedaredge!  Once again, happenings at camp have inspired a devotional chapter.  If you have a tendency to live by your emotions, this one's for you:

Emotions in Motion

How emotional are you?  My kids give me a hard time because I tear up at movies.  I admit it, I enjoy experiencing the full gamut of emotions, especially joy to the point of tears.  Even so, I firmly believe that important decisions should be made as separate from the influence of emotion as possible.  For that reason, I loved last night’s service at the youth camp I am at this week.

Ben, this week’s main speaker, explained his topic well.  He showed scriptures that supported what he was saying and brought his message down to the point where he asked the students to make a decision.  Then he did something unique.

In our denomination and others like it, it is common to bring services to an emotional peak where people will make decisions amid music and tears.  It can be an experience to remember.  Last night, Ben asked the worship band not to play while students made decisions.  He did not want their decisions based on hype.  I am certain that those decisions were a result of Holy Spirit prompting and student’s responding with their minds fully engaged.  As a result, I believe that those choices will follow them the rest of their lives, not just until they get home.

This does not just apply to spiritual matters.  My wife and I recently looked at a new home.  It was beautiful and in a great location.  That evening, we were dreaming of what life could be like there.  Still, we knew that we had to give ourselves time to consider all the implications.  We did not buy that house.  It will go to someone else who will enjoy its beauty and comfort.  And we are confident that we are better off for making the decision to pass it up. 

Do you jump into things because they feel good?  Do you avoid things because they might hurt?  Would it make a difference if we made decisions based on facts instead of emotion?  Give it a try.  I’ll bet that would be a good decision.

                Read Judges 11:29-34

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Early Riser

I am at youth camp this week and find myself with one of few early risers.  So, naturally, I had to write about it.  Here's today's devo from "365 Super Short Stories."

Early Riser
I don’t know when I became a morning person.  Today I am at a youth camp helping in the auditorium for the week.  It is about 6:30 in the morning and I have an hour to kill, even though I finished my quiet time an hour ago.  The camp is coming alive with the sounds of youthful early risers, though I have yet to see another adult.

I used to be among the majority who liked to sleep as long as possible.  Perhaps it was the early morning walks on the beach when I lived in Santa Cruz.  Maybe it is the quiet of the house when no one else is awake.  Or it may just be the still small voice of God that comes through so much clearer in the quiet of the morning.  What ever it is, I have a hard time sleeping past six now.

I think my son may be on to something.  Being on the autism spectrum, he avoids loud noise and hectic situations.  His most comfortable place is in his room.  He spends much of his time mastering games for which I struggle to grasp the basics.  He even manages to tune out the sometimes-wild play of his sisters.

Yes, it makes me sad that he cannot handle the craziness of camp to come and enjoy the awesome aspects of it, but he finds his joy in peace.  We can all use a little of that.  So, pardon me while I enjoy a little more of that while I bask in the quiet of an empty auditorium.  Perhaps you can find a little quiet spot yourself.
             Read Luke 4:42

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Beneath the Surface

     I finally got around to writing another entry for my devotion book 365 Super Short Stories.  It has been a hot exhausting day working on our sunroom floor.  I was amused to find a clip from the sunroom security camera of me finishing the underlayment (see screen shot).  I thought you might enjoy a little peek into my “sweat equity” investment (I was sweating profusely to the point that my sweat was mixing with the leveling mix).  I hope you enjoy.  Feel free to comment with any amusing tales of when you failed to look beneath the surface.

                                                       Beneath the Surface

     I am currently rewriting the beginning of book 2 of the Wil Clarey series.  I am struggling with how to word a conversation between Wil’s mom and a helpful couple while they are on the road.  Through it all, Wil is staying silent (except in that he reports the conversation to the reader).  His thoughts on the subject (whether or not someone with Asperger’s needs healing) are eloquent despite the fact that he says nothing out loud.

     Oddly, that fact came to the surface of my mind as I was repairing the floor of our sunroom today.  I had thought that the floor was inadequately supported resulting in that feeling that we were going to fall through the floor every time we stepped out of the house into the sunroom.  Why would they not put an extra joist right where you step onto it.  After removing the floor in that section, I found out why.

     The house was built with a concrete porch so there was no room for a joist.  The floor was supported with plywood stacked on the concrete porch which had subsided about an inch and a half.  That fact made for a much easier repair than I thought (nothing was rotten).

     How many times do we make assumptions based upon what we see on the surface?  The helpful couple in the book saw Wil exhibit a couple of autistic traits and assumed he was broken.  Honestly, I often see something of mine broken or missing and assume one of the kids did it.  Do you jump to conclusions before you know the whole story?  Welcome to the club.  Let’s try to get ourselves out of that club.

Read John 7:24

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Why Am I Writing?

I am trying to learn.  Now that the manuscript for A Kerryville Summer is done, I can divide my time more on reading, writing, and even blogging.

One of the books I am reading (yes, I am one of those freaks who read several books at a time) is called Platform, Get Noticed In a Busy World by Michael Hyatt.  I know that, if I want my book to be successful, I need to be able to get the word about it out.  That is a big part of what this blog is about.

One of the things that Mr. Hyatt suggests is to give some focus to my blog.  Even now, I find my mind wandering all over.  Focus is not my forte.  

Even so, I will try to keep this blog centered around the Wil Clarey universe and the subjects around that.  I admit, that gives me some latitude.  I can talk about life in rural southwest Virginia, Photography, Rabbits, Type 3 Volkswagens, novel writing, and even Asperger's.  

That brings me to my purpose.  Why am I writing the Wil Clarey Series?  I sum that up in two statements:

1 - I want to encourage those with Asperger's to realize that they have great potential!  When you think differently, it is easy to get discouraged; even wallow in self pity.  People with Asperger's don't have normal potential.  Their potential is far greater than the average person.  They can think in ways I can only imagine.  I want to encourage them to not use Autism as an excuse but as a launching pad.

2 - I want to help people understand those who have Asperger's.  To be completely honest, I am still learning about it myself.  While I have a couple of the tendencies of Asperger's, I am not on the Autism spectrum.  I have made many mistakes in raising my son, and in teaching other kids on the spectrum.  Fortunately, I am learning from my mistakes.  I am putting what I learn into my books.  I would love to encourage discussion here and through social media on the subject.  I have much to learn and I hope that you will help me.

To fulfill these two goals, I would like to enlist your help.  Please get the word out about this blog.  The more people who read this, the sooner the Wil Clarey books can be published.  Feel free to share this website and it's content with your friends.  I will get more consistent with the frequency and content of this blog.

Finally, if you are interested in getting a free copy of A Kerryville Summer, I will be glad to send you one on the following conditions.  You must read it and give me feedback, especially on the content (unless you are a professional editor).  Please email me here if you would like more information.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Just a quick note to say that, moments ago, I completed the revision of Wil Clarey: A Kerryville Summer!  While I am sure that it will have some more editing before it is published, it is now ready to be presented to publishers!

Monday, May 21, 2018

First two chapters of Wil Clarey: A Kerryville Summer revised.

I am taking what I learned at the writer's conference and polishing my manuscripts.  So far I have completed the first two chapters of "A Kerryville Summer."  You are the first to see it.  Enjoy! (and please send feedback):

Chapter 1 - Defense Mode

They say that everyone is really good at something.  I’m not good at much, but I can fold an awesome paper airplane.  And that’s where the trouble began. 
Between classes, I had bragged to my friend Zach that I could make the best paper airplane.  Zach and I were lucky to be assigned seats next to each other at the back of Mr. Cochran’s 8th grade math class.  That’s where we were secretly making paper airplanes.  I was a little afraid that I wouldn’t get the folds just right working on it in my lap in the shelter of the desktop.
Mr. Cochran was droning on about stuff that I learned on my own a couple of years ago, so I didn’t feel bad about not paying attention to him.  If Zach missed something I could always explain it to him later.
You could say that Zach was my best friend.  But then, he was my only friend.  I don’t start conversations, so I don’t meet new friends unless they are like Zach.  At the beginning of the school year, he came up to me and introduced himself.  While his personality is totally different from mine, we both like video games, especially Minecraft.  We are also both into electronics and other nerdy kind of stuff.  He is very outgoing and has a bunch of other friends.  Still, he makes time for me.
My plane was complete and so was Zach’s.  Zach mouthed that we should throw them forward when Mr. Cochran turned around.  This is crazy, but awesome, I was thinking.  We watched.  He turned.  We lifted our planes.  He turned back.  We hid them quickly.  Mr. Cochran gave a suspicious glance our way but went on talking and turned to write something on the whiteboard.
That’s when we struck.  Both planes took to the air above the heads of the kids in front of us.  As I thought, mine flew better and farther.  Too far!  Mr. Cochran turned around just as my plane came right at his face!  He just barely dodged it and grabbed it as it bounced off the whiteboard.  The room erupted in laughter.  For a moment, I was in heaven.  Other kids were laughing at something I did that was not embarrassing.  Visions of sudden popularity flashed through my brain.
Mr. Cochran’s eyes blazed, and face reddened as he turned.  “Silence!  Who threw that?!”
The fingers pointed towards me were too many to count.  Mr. Cochran stared straight at me.  I swear I could almost see steam coming from his nose and ears.
“Mr. Clarey, you will head straight to the principal’s office!  Do you hear me?”  I’m pretty sure the principal could hear him from here.  I imagined a roaring locomotive of words heading straight for me and I was tied to the tracks.
Perhaps I should explain something to you.  I have what is known as High Functioning Autism or HFA.  A lot of people call it Asperger’s Syndrome.  I can tell you more about it later but what you need to know now is that my brain can get overwhelmed under pressure.  Right now, Mr. Cochran was bringing on the pressure.
“I said, head to the principal’s office, NOW!”
I could no longer look at him.  I buried my head in my hands and started rocking.  Through my fingers I could see Zach get up.
“Zachary, sit back down!  Mr. Clarey GO TO THE PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE!”
I heard the door open and close.  Did Zach go get me help? 
“William Clarey, this is your last chance.  Get up and go to the principal’s office or else.”  Mr. Cochran was right at my desk!
My thoughts were locked in a loop.  I blew it.  He’s overreacting. I can’t handle this.  I blew it.  He’s overreacting…
He grabbed my arm – the muscle part- just above the elbow like he was going to yank me from my seat.  I locked my grip on the desk and kept my head down.
He tugged.  “Move it! NOW!”
I gripped harder.
“Stand down Mr. Cochran,” came the calm but firm voice of Ms. Elliot.  She was the special education teacher.  Zach must have gotten her.  I hate the term “Special Education” but right now, Ms. Elliot was an angel.  “Continue with your lesson.  I’ll take care of Wil.”
“He needs to be disciplined!”  Mr. Cochran grumbled.
“He will be, appropriately.”  She touched me lightly on the back. “I am going to pull up a chair next to you Wil and when you are ready, we’ll talk.”  Then she just sat silently.  She knew me well.  She knew that, unlike a lot of people with HFA, I did not mind being touched by people I trust.  She also knew that I would come out of my “defense mode” (that’s what it is officially called) once things around me calmed down.
With the attention off me, I was able to come out of it in just a few minutes.  Ms. Elliot must have seen the change in me.  She’s good at that.  She tapped my shoulder, nodded towards the door and whispered, “ready?”  I followed her out the door.  Mr. Cochran kept talking – like Ms. Elliot and I were invisible.  Sometimes I wish I really was.  I won’t bore you with the details.  Let’s just say I had to call my mom that day and she had to take me home early.  I was so glad that it was almost summer!
Incidentally, Mr. Cochran doesn’t even know my real name.  Neither do you and I am not sure I want to tell you.  Let’s just say that I go by “Wil”, with one “l.”

Chapter 2 - Mom’s News
                Just a little more redstone dust and this should work.  It was two weeks after the little incident in Mr. Cochran’s class.  I was at home after school and mom would be there any minute.  I got my Minecraft time in before mom got home so she wouldn’t bug me about my homework.  I probably spend way too much time on the game, but I have gotten really good at it. 
I could vaguely hear my mom entering the apartment.  She would have to wait.  It was almost done.  I just had to place one last repeater and get Steve, the main Minecraft character, into position.  I gave it one last check - and hit the button.  Instantly, Steve was pushed from the depths of the mine towards the surface.  Up, up he went until -  he stopped a little over half way up and plummeted back to the bottom. 
“I said ‘Hello Wil’.”  It was my mom’s voice Jennifer Clarey.
“Hi mom” I kept my eyes on the screen.  I had worked for over an hour to make the elevator work, only to be thwarted by one miss-click.
“Dinner will be ready in about three minutes” came Mom’s cheerful voice, “Get your hands washed.”
“Just a couple more minutes, I need to fix this.”  Adjusting a repeater, I hit the button again.  The second attempt at lifting Steve was successful.  I did a little victory dance in front of the living room TV.  Zach would say that I’m nuts for building an elevator to lift Steve to the surface, but I’m funny that way.
I really like gaming and videos about gaming.  I don’t really like school.  I know, no normal kid likes school.  But, for me, it’s worse.  After what happened in Mr. Cochran’s class, mom made me apologize to him.  I can’t say that I was totally sincere.  I get really bored at school.  I already know a bunch of that stuff and the rest I don’t see how I could ever need.  Still, Mom insists that I go. 
When I get bored, I fidget.  When I fidget, I get in trouble.  When I get in trouble I freeze up.  Some of my teachers are good at handling that.  They give me room to fidget and don’t get all in my space.  Mr. Cochran has never grasped that concept. 
I hate that they had to call my mom in after that problem in Mr. Cochran’s class.  Mom has enough to worry about.  It’s hard to make a living in Southern California as a single mom.  My dad is not around.  Mom has never told me anything about him.  She works really hard.  I don’t want her to worry about me. 
I know she does anyway.  I hear her talking on the phone about me to my grandparents when she doesn’t think I can hear.  I try not to listen, but sometimes I can’t help it.  Hopefully she won’t have as much to worry about since it is almost summer.  Thirteen more days and then it’s just me and my games!
The small dining table in our little apartment had two very different dinners on it.  Mom had a take-out plate with steak, mashed potatoes, green beans, and a salad.  My simple plate had mac ‘n’ dogs.  Mom had learned the hard lesson that autism does funny things to my taste buds making certain foods, well, nasty.  She now chooses her battles wisely, not worrying too much about my diet as long as I keep up on my vitamins.
“I have some very interesting news!” Mom smiled. 
“Interesting?” Was interesting news ever good? I wondered about the fancy dinner she brought home.  I just figured she wanted to splurge for a change.  Maybe she was celebrating.  “What do you mean, interesting?”
“Well, I would call it exciting, but I’m not sure if you will find it exciting.”  She paused like she was trying to build up the suspense.  “I got a promotion at work today.”  Another pause.  “An amazing promotion.  I’ll be making almost double what I do now.”
“Okay…  Yay mom!?”  I never really know what to say at times like this.  I know I should be excited for her, but it just doesn’t come naturally.  I must learn to try harder I thought, but then I dismissed the thought as soon as it occurred.
“There is a catch…”
Uh oh.  Here it comes.
“I will be on the road for the summer.”
“What?! I don’t want to travel all summer.”  I hate to travel.  The thought of being away from our comfortable apartment all summer sent panic through my bones.
“You won’t be.  I need to call Grandma and Grandpa Clarey first, but I am pretty sure they will let you stay with them for the summer.”
I was confused.  I was mad!  I was starting to freak out.  “You can’t just do that!”  I started pacing.  I do that – a lot.  What was she thinking?  What am I going to do?  This isn’t fair!  Those were my thoughts as I tried to sort things out.  
“I’m sorry to spring this on you so suddenly.  I really don’t want to be away from you all summer but,” she paused.  “I really couldn’t pass this opportunity up.”
But you could pass me up for the summer!  I tried to imagine what summer on my grandparents’ farm would be like.  I could not imagine.  One word came to mind.  Boring.
“I thought that a summer on the farm would do you some good too.”
I was not sure I could let that go but I bit my tongue, literally.  How would you know what would be good for me? 
“And you know that Grandma and Grandpa keep trying to get us out there.”
I stayed silent.  That’s just an excuse so you feel less guilty.  I felt betrayed.  Is this how my dad ditched us?  Of course, my mom never told me that.  Maybe she was hiding something else.  I was boiling inside.   
  “If you really don’t think you can handle it,” Mom paused for a moment.  “I can call my boss…”
“No.”  I stopped pacing.  My thoughts settled, and I made my decision.  “I’ll manage.  I won’t like it, but I’ll manage.”  Part of me wasn’t so sure. 

Mom called Grandma and Grandpa Clarey.  They were “delighted at the prospect” of having me there for the summer.  They insisted on talking to me.  I hate talking on the phone.  Most of my answers to their questions were “Uh huh” and “okay.”  Sorry, I’ll never win any “Conversationalist of the Year” awards.  I finally was able to give the phone back to mom when I said I had to do my homework. 
It was tough concentrating that night.  Earlier I was counting the days till summer.  A quick calculation told me that now it was 114 days until Summer is over!