Location, Location, Location

I made a wrong turn in Vegas.

I found myself on a short street under the freeway where a couple of dozen homeless people clung to the shadows. They looked sweaty and miserable.

I eventually made it to the Chick-Fil-A drive thru and enjoyed my sandwich in my air-conditioned van in the parking lot. Then I had to walk the twenty feet to the trash can.

A hot spot for dinner

113°F is brutal.

I grew a new respect for those homeless people under the freeway.

Then I knew I blew it.

Not right then and there but with several scenes in my novel Reymons. The main characters have to fly open cockpit ultralight aircraft through one of the hottest areas on the planet. I will have to rewrite the scenes to reflect the brutal desert heat that they have to endure.

I try to set my scenes in familiar areas. Sometimes that isn’t possible. In those cases, I am seeing that it is important to visit the scenes to get an idea of what would be affecting the characters.

In the desert of Nevada and Southern California, the heat would be of primary importance to the characters. In some places, the geological features may take precedence. In others, traffic or crowds.

To build depth and realism in characters, you have to know what they are sensing and bring that to the page.

This weekend, I will be in one of the towns that inspired the fictional town of Kerryville, VA. I will keep my senses alert for what my characters should experience.

And just so you know, I don’t plan on exploring the fictional depths of Humphrey’s Peak, known in the distant future as Reymons.

For some things you just have to use your imagination.

Where’d That Come From

Ever wonder where stories come from?

Have you wondered where you can find new stories?

This question came to the forefront when I recently came up with a new novel idea from a very novel source. But first, here’s where some of my other stories have come from.

Reymons came from a high school writing assignment. Mrs. Fender told us to write a short fiction story. She suggested we write about something we like.

I liked driving my dad’s Datsun 280Z. My short story had me going out for a short drive in the little sports car, only to have an obsession come over me that caused me to drive as fast as possible into the mountains. There I followed a line of traffic into a subterranean passage where we were sheltered from a nuclear holocaust (this was during the Cold War).

Reymons revisits that post-apocalyptic world four hundred years later.

Bob Wiley watches me write Wil Clarey: Mystery at the Mill

Wil Clarey came from my experience as a 16-year-old who was transplanted from the San Francisco Peninsula to rural southwest Virginia. Many of the scenes were based on actual events in my life.

It’s first iteration was, frankly, boring. Then I married into a son on the autism spectrum. I had to think, what if I had been on the spectrum? I rewrote it with that in mind. I lowered Wil’s age to make it middle grade which suited the story better.

Daddy Mine was a bed-time story. I wanted a strong female character for my daughter to look up to. I started with the concept of an orphan 12-year-old girl in a mining town. From the first scene where the neighbor girls are teasing her, it basically wrote itself as I told it to my daughter.

Countdown, or Synchronized, or whatever I end up calling it was a deliberate effort at coming up with an adult level action novel. Some of the situations are drawn from work experience. Other than that, it is made from scratch. It is on hold simply because I found that I need to do some significant research that I don’t have time for right now.

Finally, my as yet unnamed new story. The source?

A dream.

In my dream, I remember feeling very nervous going into an inner-city middle school. I was an adult, there to teach or give a speech. That’s about all I remember of the dream. But I woke up thinking, “this’ll write!”

I made an effort to remember the dream and at lunch, I wrote the first chapter so I would remember the idea.

The main character is now called Evan. He is a paraplegic, having lost the use of his legs in a brutal mugging. That made him re-evaluate his life. Upon recovery, he completed a teaching certificate and finally landed this teaching job after the previous teacher quit mid-year. His unique teaching style ruffles feathers among his fellow teachers.

I can hardly wait to write that story!

I hope this inspires you to find your stories. Look in the unusual places.

Get them written!

Sporty or Classic or Both?

In my last full blog, I explored whether I was an author or a writer.

The answer was yes.

Tonight, I ask myself –

Am I a sports car guy or a classic car guy?

First, you should know I am a car guy. From the Matchbox, Hot Wheels, and slot cars of my childhood to watching tons of You-Tube videos about cars nowadays, I’ve always been into cars.

My dad set the example. He did most of his own work on the old VW bus of my childhood. I helped, uh, watched. Then his midlife crisis hit in the form of a brand new 1975 Datsun 280Z. I loved that car. To my fledgling driving skills, it was like driving a rocket ship!

I’ve made it past midlife without a crisis car (unless I live to be more than 116!).

I have plans to get a project car when I retire, but what kind to get?

I go to car shows and feel that twinge of desire for much of what I see there. But I want a car I can drive whenever I want without worrying about it.

The ’65 VW bus of my childhood has gotten too expensive to drive without being nervous about scratching it. Most 280Zs have turned into a pile of rust. Same for the ’68 Plymouth wagon and ’73 Opel 1900 that were my first and second cars.

Somehow, I have gotten my eyes glued to a certain classic car model. It was popular enough for many preserved examples to be available. It’s unpopular enough for it not to be terribly expensive. Parts are readily available and it’s easy to work on.

And it has a role in the Wil Clarey series.

In the first rough draft of Wil Clarey: Impossible Summer, Wil encountered a Nash Metropolitan. I eventually decided (spoiler alert) that he would try to fix it up. Parts for the tiny British made American car are quite difficult to find and expensive. I had to find different car.

The car needed to be within Wil’s means to get on the road again. It had to be a hardtop that could survive a few years exposed to the elements. I also wanted it to be a little quirky and unique like Wil, (and me).

The car he found – the car I want to occupy some of my attention after retirement from my day job – is a VW Squareback. Look it up. It’s like a classic Beetle with a wagon body.

Photo credit – Hemings.com

So, if you ask me – sports car or classic car?

As the pile of Classic Car Magazines next to me testifies, I’ll take classic over sporty any day! Sure, I might squeeze a few more horsepower out of that air-cooled flat four, but it will be a practical classic car to match my classic but practical personality.

What about you? Classic or sports car? Or both? What’s your dream car?

Can’t Not Write

The yard has a long way to go but at least it’s not a jungle anymore. And the dogs have a new shelter in place of the trampoline I took down.

It’s been a good day. I got a lot accomplished. My yard looks far better than it did last week (a long ways to go though).

It felt good.

But something was missing.

It’s been missing a lot lately.

I’ve been so busy with other parts of life that I’ve spent too little time sitting at this little desk in the corner of my man cave.

There are two writing projects getting some attention lately.

The first draft of Wil Clarey: Mystery at the Mill is over half done! Wil, Gil, and Hannah are currently stuck on the farm with no power in the middle of an ice storm. Yes, I do think of my characters as living their story as it gets written. When I’m done with this blog, I will have to write a little more to help them thaw out.

Reymons is a much more ambitious project. As a YA fiction, it will be much longer and more complex. I am currently restructuring the first part of the story to add more character development.

My busy life and those two projects have left me ignoring this blog. There are so many things that I’d like to write about that I find myself in mental gridlock.

As I brainstormed in preparation for writing, the question popped in my head. “Am I a writer or an author.”

In typical rabbit trail fashion, I looked up the words.

A writer is someone who commits ideas to words.

An author is the originator of those ideas.

So, the answer is:


If you only knew the garbled-up tangle of ideas floating around this brain. The more I put off writing, the more garbled it gets.

In other words – I can’t not write!

I’ll let you act as my therapist as I spill out some of the ideas aching to find their way into words.

Novel ideas keep flowing in and out of my brain including:

Daddy Mine – A historical middle grade fiction following a twelve-year-old orphan girl in the Mountains of 1890’s Colorado.

Countdown – A contemporary fiction in which a hacker and a pastor make an unlikely team to try to stop a cataclysmic terrorist attack.

Several other less developed novel ideas.

Blog ideas are floating around the ideas of social justice, cars, travel, politeness, the horror that is grammar, and corporate responsibility. Oh, and maybe one or two focusing on dad jokes!

Finally, I am looking to restructure my most consistent writing.

Last February I revealed here that I was writing a daily devotion based on the Life Journal reading plan on YouVersion. Even if no one else reads it (107 people subscribe to it), it has transformed my Bible study time. In less than two weeks I will have reached the six-month mark on that. Much to my surprise, I haven’t missed a day yet.

I want to improve that, so I am working on a custom reading plan with the hopes of having some season appropriate reading and facilitating multiple levels of daily reading.

More on that later. For now, if you’re interested in following it, you can search for North Metro Life Journal on Facebook.

Thanks for reading a little of this craziness I call writing. If you want to continue your role as my therapist (reader), please contact me. I am currently looking for middle grade (age 10-14) readers for feedback on Wil Clarey: The Impossible Summer, and writer critics for Wil Clarey: School of Hard Knocks. Just click contact in the menu.

Finally, for all my fellow authors, let the words flow.

Don’t not write!

A Writer’s Passion

What’s this all about?

Why has it taken me over two months to post another blog?

What do I really want to say to you?

My last few blogs have been about love. Today I want to go into the word “passion” in terms of what I “love” spending my time doing. What are my passions?

You may have heard it said that to see what a person values, look at their bank statements (Apparently I value eating!). I would add to that, look at their calendar. You value what you spend time on.

I value my God, my wife, my family, my church, and my writing. That’s where my passions are directed. That’s where my time has been going.

Writing is a passion of mine that has been playing second fiddle to my other passions lately. My attention has been going to making good things happen for my family and for the kids I teach. There’s some exciting stuff coming up! I’ll share more later, both here and on the Wandering Pen You-Tube channel. In some ways we are in for a wild ride!

But right now, I’ll concentrate on my passion for writing.

Reymons is progressing! The limited time I’ve spent writing it has been fun. My characters keep throwing surprises at me. That nice, neat outline I have of the story keeps being blown apart! Sometimes literally! I’m curious to see what will happen in the end. Will my planned ending pan out? Stay tuned.

I am also signed up to attend the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. I am approaching it a little differently this year. Instead of intense planning and sweating over my elevator pitches and synopses, I am going there to learn and enjoy. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll have copies of Wil Clarey and will meet with editors and agents. But I am taking a more relaxed attitude with me this year. I don’t have much time to prepare so I will soak in as much as I can and, if I can get someone interested in publishing Wil Clarey’s stories, great!

I won’t promise another blog before the conference. If something smacks me in the head, I’ll write it down and share it here.

If not, see you in June!

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.