Road Trip!

I’ve spent the last two days on the road. Tomorrow I arrive at Ridgecrest! I have been vlogging my trip. The video for day one is complete and uploaded. Lots of driving across the plains and my random musings.

Day two is in the works. If all goes well, I hope to upload it tomorrow night! It was a shorter drive today so I took the time to stop by a museum. Check back after it is uploaded to see which one!

Check it out at The Wandering Pen!

Old Dog, New Tricks

Due to COVID, I currently work in a hospital print shop. I have for the last 7 months. With the help of my coworkers, I’ve acquired several new skills.

Newly acquired skill, painting with glue.

We often have people from other locations help us out as we are the busiest print shop in our company in this area. One day, a guy I’ll call George (not his name) was helping us. He was at the workstation next to mine and was applying a second coat of glue to a project that I was taught only needed one coat.

I was curious. Did I miss something? I asked, “Hey George, didn’t you glue that already?”

Maybe I phrased that wrong because his reply was almost violent. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years, don’t tell me how to do my job!”

I was stunned silent. I thought about explaining that I was just curious but he shoved his earbuds back in and went about his redundant work.

I had to wonder, “Do I get that way?” When someone criticizes my writing, do I get defensive, or do I try to learn.

I have to admit, I sometimes get defensive. When someone points out an issue, I’ll try to explain it away. My reaction should be to learn from that criticism. Even if the critic has no writing experience, they have reading experience and can tell when something doesn’t sound right.

This old dog can learn new tricks. I was over 50 when I started getting serious about writing. I have learned a ton last few years. I still have a lot to learn.

In just a few days I take off on a road trip bound for the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference. I hope to refine my writing more and make some great connections.

I will be vlogging my road trip and time at the conference on The Wandering Pen, my YouTube writing channel. I can’t guarantee that I will be posting every day as I will be busy but I will do my best to make it fun and informative. See you there!

Oh, and if you criticize my videos, I’ll try to appreciate it and learn how to do them better.

Am I Crazy?

Am I crazy for participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) during the same month as the Blue Ridge Christian Writer’s Conference?

Yeah, probably!

But then my favorite Bible verse is 2 Corinthians 5:13 – “If we are out of our minds, it is for the sake of God.” (Loose quote from the NIV)

Problem is, I love writing – especially when it’s like today. I gave myself an hour to write a scene. It was an epic action scene where my band of travelers had no choice but to engage in battle with the guards who were pursuing them.

I won’t tell you how successful they were (but I’m only a third of the way through so – duh). I will tell you that the chapter ended with a plot twist that I didn’t see coming.

I love it when that happens!

Now I need to get back to my conference prep, working on one sheets and business cards.

As for NaNoWriMo, I most likely won’t reach that magic number of 50,000 words, but I will be motivated to write more. I’ll also be inspired by the stories of others and share a bit about my latest novel Reymons.

Should you participate in NaNoWriMo?

Do you love writing?

Do you have an idea for a novel that is just dying to get on paper?

Then, yes! Absolutely participate!

Don’t worry if you don’t make the 50,000 word goal. Just get going!

When you do, look me up under the user name Reymons.

An Old Guy Can Write YA?

In the hills of North Carolina stood a little country church in bad need of a paint job. The deacons got together and decided to hire a local painter. The painter arrived with a pickup filled with paint, rollers, brushes, and ladders and got to work.

The job went great and it looked like he would be able to finish in one day. When he got to the steeple, he realized that he had only one gallon left. He debated whether to run into town to buy more paint, but he would never finish that day if he did.

He had a solution. He had two gallons of thinner. Soon he had that one gallon stretched into three. Like Jesus and the loaves, he thought.

He got out his tallest ladder and proceeded to coat the steeple with the thinned paint. Nobody will ever tell the difference way up here. He was nearly finished when the sky turned dark. Thunder rolled and the painter sped up.

Just as he was making the last stroke, lightning hit the steeple and a loud voice thundered from heaven, “Repaint! And thin no more!”

Some of you started to read that joke and said, “Not this one again.” Some of you got to the end and laughed. Most young readers, if they got to the end, went, “Huh?” That’s the challenge I face as an older writer trying to be relevant to today’s young readers.

            Is it even possible?

            Yes!

So how does this 50 something writer stay relevant to today’s young people? Here’s what works for me.

            First – Hang out with young people!

I have an unfair advantage in that department right now. I currently have three teenage kids at home (we started late). There have been teens in our home for eight years now!

That’s not enough. Teen kids often treat their parents like they’re from another planet (which we are, in a manner of speaking). For most of my adult life, I have remained involved in either children’s or youth ministry. I’ve gotten to know many young people and they have shared many of the secrets of their generation.

You can also volunteer at school libraries, Big Brother/Big Sister programs, youth centers, etc. Get involved and listen with an open mind to the things they are saying and doing!

            Second – Immerse yourself in the culture!

I’ve often volunteered to put together the music playlist for the hangout times at youth groups and camps. It was a proud moment when a youth told me that my playlist was “really good.” I researched what they were listening to. I listened to the songs (many today have lyrics inappropriate to youth groups), and I put together lists that would be both fun and uplifting to youth. (If you have i-Music, you can find one here.

The styles are much different from what I grew up with, but I’m learning to appreciate the drive behind them and enjoying many of them.

I also try to keep up on other entertainment that’s popular today. TikTok, Instagram, shows on Netflix and Disney+ are places that I visit as time allows, often with my kids. Mind you, I can’t spend the kind of time that many youth spend on entertainment, but I do what I can to stay current.

            Third – Get their help!

Run your ideas by the youth you know. After you’ve written, have them proofread.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “People don’t say that anymore.” And “That doesn’t make any sense.” And the worst, “Boring!”

Take their advice! Rewrite, edit, and work with your helpers to create writing that they will relate to.

There are many other tips I could list here that apply to writing for young readers. White space, chapter length, hooks, and others can take your story from good to gripping. I plan on learning more about them in two weeks at the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference. There’s still space there and there’s a virtual option. Check it out HERE!

Bottom line: if you have something that you think the next generation needs to hear, write it. Bring it to them in a way they will understand, enjoy, and believe!

Writing About Disabilities: A Conversation with Felicia

My oldest daughter Felicia is disabled. I admit that is a term that I am not comfortable with. I like to think in terms like “challenged” or “differently abled”. The plain truth is, though you can’t tell by looking, she has medical conditions that severely limit her abilities.

She is also an author currently writing a novel with a main character that shares her disabilities.

She and I had a lengthy conversation about writing about disabilities as well as a little trivia contest about our mutual favorite author, Ted Dekker.

I somehow managed to brutally edit that conversation down to 23 minutes of the most important topics. This was my first attempt at using Zoom recording for a video so please excuse the less than stellar quality.

I should mention that Felicia and I have rather different world views. Differences aside, we can still learn from each other and have mutual respect and love for each other. I would even go further to say that we need to hear from people who differ from us in order to learn and grow.

I hope you learn something from this conversation. Feel free to take part in the conversation in the comments on the video. You can find it here.

The Happy Little Weed

Weeds! Gotta hate ‘em. I go out every Saturday morning and do battle against them. By the next Saturday, there they are again, grinning from leaf to leaf! What can I do?

Okay, if you think this is going to be another blog about how weeds are like sin and we need to pluck them out, think again. I don’t disagree with that notion, but this is a story about a happy little weed that appeared in our yard a few years ago.

When it first appeared, I didn’t notice. It was just a little clump of grass in the dirt next to the deck.

The next summer, it came back. This time the clump of grass had stalks in the center that reached up to the deck. Quite handsome. I cut it back after the summer but left it there to see what would happen.

The next year, it reached high enough to provide a backdrop for my profile picture.

I tried to trim it back this last year with the hard-plastic blade attachment on my weed whacker. It destroyed the blade before I was half-way through. I actually resorted to a Sawzall to finish the job.

This year may be its last. It’s already taller than me when I’m standing on the deck, and it’s still growing. Its base is so wide that we have the walk to the side of our path to get around it.

Once it dies off for the winter, I’ll trim it back again (chain saw?) and try to dig it up to transplant it where there’s more room. Maybe I’ll try to split it up so it can bring its joy to multiple parts of the yard.

So, what does my happy little, um, big weed have to do with anything? I think it’s a lot like life, especially this year.

Sometimes those little weeds in life pop up in places we don’t expect. That new friend or neighbor. That hobby you started out of boredom. That opportunity to change careers (because your current job disappeared). That nagging sense that there’s more to this life.

There’s a lot of things that seem like weeds that are choking your life when they start. Maybe they need to be pulled up at the roots. Maybe they don’t.

My point today is to stop and think before you yank that weed out.  Maybe it isn’t a weed but a healthy volunteer plant like our ornamental grass.

Maybe that person could become a life-long friend.

Maybe that opportunity could become a life changer.

Maybe that hobby could become a living.

Maybe that prayer could change your life.

If you want a little more joy, look for that happy little weed.

I Must Confess

I must confess.

I just killed someone.

They had to go.

I admit that the flames may have been a bit much, but I needed the drama.
After all, they say, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.”

For the very first time, I killed a character in one of my books.

Don’t worry, the gang in Kerryville are fine.

I went into my writing session tonight determined to trim the character list in Reymons. It had gotten too complicated to write dialog that the reader could easily follow. That’s the very reason I stopped writing that story and turned to editing Wil Clarey: School of Hard Knocks.

At first, I was just going to delete a character. I then realized that Reymons need a bit more drama with its fast-paced action. The Young Adult (YA) audience won’t put up with a book that doesn’t engage the emotions.

The challenges that come with writing for different audiences are daunting. I had one of my daughters read a section of Wil Clarey that I had just written. Her confusion showed me that I had to paint the scene a little more clearly for the younger reader.

For YA, I know that gripping scenes that pull the reader into the middle of the drama and action are what turn pages. My hope is that Reymons becomes a book that the reader cannot set down.

If any of you wish to be a test reader for sections of Reymons or any of the Wil Clarey books, email me. Anyone who brings constructive criticism to either of those books will receive a free copy of the book and acknowledgement in the books if and when it is published.

Thanks for reading this. Be sure to check out the links including social media. I have added a link for my new (as of the beginning of the year) YouTube channel, The Wandering Pen.

Farewell and write well.

Update from my writing corner

My new study and work area.

You would think that I would get a lot of stuff done during a stay at home order. True, I am still working, but my commute usually consists of walking down the stairs. I am still doing field service calls, but they are few as most people aren’t using their copiers right now.

So why has it taken me so long to post another blog? That’s a good question. The short answer is found in my priorities.

I’ve been spending a lot of time with my family, playing games, watching movies, enjoying time together. We even videoed one of our activities and posted it on my YouTube channel (The Wandering Pen).

I also spent time calling families of the kids that I normally teach in children’s church on Sundays. As an introvert who hates to talk on the phone, I can’t tell you how tough that was. I can also tell you that it was worth it!

I set up a new study/writing area. I still have the comfy chair under my train table but It’s a little too comfy. Puts me to sleep; not a good thing when I’m supposed to be working.

I could go on, but I am starting to bore myself. Let’s just say that my interests are a little too diverse. What I have mentioned above is just the tip of the iceberg. At least I can say that “couch potato” is not a very accurate description for me.

Despite my scattered interests, at my core I am a writer.

Even that area of my life is diverse. In the last few months, I have written several chapters of Synced or Countdown or whatever the title ends up as. Then I switched gears and had a blast writing on Reymons. Now I’m working on the first edit of Wil Clarey: School of Hard Knocks. Read on if you would like a peek into each.

Countdown is a contemporary action suspense novel about a hacker and a pastor desperately trying to stop a massive terrorist attack. It’s quite a challenge switching to writing for adults. While I love the story line, right now, it is mainly a practice piece to learn how to write more gripping fiction. I will get back to it, but my scattered brain took me back to something completely different.

Reymons was the first real fiction story I wrote back when I was 16. In December, I started reworking it to be a viable YA novel. It is a post-apocalyptic story about a young man’s discovery of the truth of the world and his efforts against all odds to discover more and bring it back to the “civilized” world. A couple weeks ago, I realized that I had to rework the character list to simplify it. Too many characters!

While I ponder my character list, I am back to working on Wil Clarey: School of Hard Knocks. After completing the first draft, I set it aside for several months so I can get a fresh look at it for the first edit. Two weeks ago, I started that edit with a new first chapter. You can get a peek at it on my Wil Clarey blog.

            It is the second book in the middle grade fiction story of a teenage boy with high functioning Autism making the transition from city life to country living. As Wil starts to get used to his new small-town school, he finds himself struggling with forgiveness in a serious way.

Don’t worry, the seriousness is mixed with a continuing mix of humorous and adventurous scenes. Honestly, I am looking forward to seeing what other situations Wil gets himself into as the story reforms itself.

All this is to say that the wheels are still spinning in this scattered brain. Keep your eyes open here, at The Wandering Pen, and WilClarey.com to see what’s happening.

The Wandering Pen and other adventures!

Why is there a paper airplane stuck in a camera on a tripod?

I’m glad you asked. But first an update –

In November, I got a good head start on writing Reymons. That’s my first novel idea from when I was 16 and in Mrs. Fender’s English class in the 11th grade. That was a long time ago. My writing was pretty terrible back then (enough to get me an A in that class). I restarted from scratch and through free-writing, I now have the solid beginning of what should be a fun and adventure filled YA novel. More on that in a later post.

Once Thanksgiving hit, I put the writing on hold. With all the activities of the holidays, I wanted to be sure to have time for my family. It has been a good season and I don’t regret the break from writing. Other than taking down the lights and a postponed family get together in Nebraska, I am done with the holidays. I’m now itching to get back to writing and platform building.

After I have this posted, I intend to create an outline for Reymons. While I enjoy free-writing and I will probably veer from the outline at some point, I want to be sure that I keep the story on track and moving along with action and suspense.

Are you still wondering about the camera and paper airplane?

Those were used in making the first episode of The Wandering Pen. That is a new YouTube channel that Hannah, my daughter, is helping me make. I am a rank amateur when it comes to that kind of stuff but it’s fun and it will improve as we get more experienced at it.

The first episode explains why we are doing the channel in a funny way. Okay, a big part of why it is funny is because I am a terrible actor. The paper airplane was featured in the first chapter of Wil Clarey: a Kerryville Summer. We’ll see where it goes. I’d love your input for ideas for future episode ideas.

I have also revamped another ongoing practice of mine. For the past five years, I have posted a daily Bible reading on Facebook. I have started posting short original devotionals or comments with each day’s reading. If you like reading the Bible or are just curious, feel free to join the group by searching “North Metro Life Journal” on Facebook.

While I try to avoid New Years resolutions, I do promise that this will be a season full of new blogs, videos, writing samples, and maybe a contest or two. Stay tuned…

Frozen Fingers

Most of you writers out there know that it’s hard to find time to write. It’s been a while since I finished the latest revision of Wil Clarey Book 1. At first I took a little break from writing. Then I got caught up in the busyness of work, fixing up the house and happenings at church. This last week I’ve been on vacation. Most of that spent with the family in Estes Park. Yesterday and today (the last day of vacation) my youngest daughter and I are camping at Lake Dillon. That brings me to the frozen fingers.

Have you ever planned ahead for something, gathered everything on your list, and then forgot the simplest thing? Yep, me too. Yesterday, in the heat of the early afternoon, everything packed in the truck, I managed to drive off without grabbing my coat.

It is currently in the 40’s here. I’m huddled under a sleeping bag at a picnic table while my daughter sleeps in the tent. The sun has just peeked over the ridge (Hallelujah – warmth!) and I am taking advantage of the early morning quiet to write.

This would be the point at which I’d say something about being sure that you don’t miss the obvious things in life. That’s certainly a lesson I could learn but that’s not where my mind is going today.

If I had remembered my coat, this wouldn’t have been the experience that it has been. If I’d remembered, we might not have spent time with the people in the next campsite around their roaring fire. Forgetting my coat gave us the experience of laying in our sleeping bags with our heads sticking out the entrance of the tent looking at the stars. It also put a memorable edge on the experience of climbing the trail at Mount Evans (from the parking lot to the peak at 14,265’).

Now, as the sun and my tea start to warm me, I look forward to one last day of relaxing. I’ll press in and work on my book proposal and building my platform soon.

Until then, if you forget the obvious, do as I’m doing now, relax and… chill.