Mission of Grace

The wind pushed my car out of its lane for the third time to the rhythm of the windshield wipers on the highest setting. The rain pelted down in sympathy out of the blackness as if a giant invisible heart were breaking. Leaves pulsed in horizontal blasts at the mercy of the wind. I would never have ventured out in such weather if it weren’t for the race against time; the race to see Grace just once more.

Every life has an effect on others, whether positive or negative. Maybe it is all these lives held captive to the gravity of this earth that keeps it in balance. All I know is that Grace held such positive power that she balanced out tens of thousands of negatives. She was Grace, and grace was her. Sometimes I put characters in my writing that are so gracious and kind, that never complain and never talk badly about others, but the living breathing person of Grace was the real thing. The closest thing I ever heard to a complaint was a few days ago when she said, “I’m not doing well.” And she only said it because someone asked her how she was doing.

It sounds impossible in our world today. Selfishness is rampant. Opinions are blasted from every speaker, every electronic device and every blog. Compare a person who never demanded her way. In the 20 years I knew her, she never said a cross word, never became impatient, and never sported a frown. She smiled and joked about everything. No one is perfect, so perhaps in the shadow of her death I am blocking out the negative, but I don’t think so.

Now she’s gone. There’s an empty chair, a pair of abandoned glasses, and a very sad old man who reaches across the bed to find himself alone there for the first time in 64 years. She has left such a hole in the fabric that is our family, and yet the sunshine she left with us we will hold in our hearts until we take our turn crossing that final border.

May those who knew her hold her memory close and let it effect our lives for the positive. She’s beyond pain now. She deserves that – happiness and health. I imagine she’s connected with her first born son who died at birth, as well as her parents and friends who have gone on before. She’s walked out of our lives but she will never walk out of our hearts.


Pen Tip #2: Atmosphere

Teaser – These next four simple paragraphs could change your writing forever, but you need all four.

The atmosphere of a coffee shop is inviting to writing and other activities that involve little more than an internet connection. The smells of coffee and sweet treats. The sounds of milk being steamed. People talking to one another. There’s a magic there aside from the effects of caffeine in your extra hot, skinny, sugar-free quad shot, caramel mocha with extra whip.

What did I just do in that last paragraph? Not only did I explain atmosphere in reference to where to write, I also explained by example a tip on how to write. Placing your reader in a coffee shop engages their imagination inspiring them to read more, just as sitting in a coffee shop may inspire you to write. Or perhaps it is a park that invokes your inner genius. Whatever the venue, the point is atmosphere.

Atmosphere is the grounds in the coffee maker. Without it, you merely have a cup of hot water. It shapes people. It shapes nations. It is that feeling you get when you’re in a certain place or around a certain person.

Put your reader in your story to the point where they don’t want out. Let them feel the rain on their face and smell the fresh hay as it’s tossed into a stall with a rusty pitchfork. We have five senses in common: sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. Stimulating those senses in the mind of your reader by creating an atmosphere in your story keeps them wanting more. And isn’t that what every writer lives for?

So what are you waiting for? Write.




Speaking FREEly

Lurking behind every set of eyes is a story. Some unfold effortlessly, intriguing you and drawing you in until you crave more. But what about that story that is held captive behind the eyes of its creator? That is the story I’m seeking to set free.

During November I’m offering to teach and motivate four groups for FREE. I’m building my portfolio and you can benefit! Clubs, homeschool groups, classrooms, etc. If you need some motivational writing tips and encouragement for your club or group, fill out the form below, or contact me through FaceBook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Details: I’m offering four 30 and/or 60 minute sessions for free during November while dates remain available.

Pen Tip #1: Where to Begin

You can’t steer a parked car.

I can’t tell you the number of people who have confessed to me, “I’ve had a story in my head for years.” From there the comments go different directions. Some say, “I should really write that thing someday.” Others, “I wish I could write but I’m no writer.” In each instance I offer words of encouragement and the all too common phrase, “You can do it.” Then as I sat in the orthodontist office waiting for my middle child to get a broken bracket glued back on, an epiphany hit me – not everyone can write. And I had to ask myself honestly, “Have I been lying to people, merely placating them with motivational drivel?”

Before you get discouraged, please read on! There is a happy ending.

To answer this question, I had to consider the definition of the word ‘write’ used in this context. It has nothing to do with penmanship, or even grammar, but has everything to do with the creative process. Can anyone write a story that people will want to read?

Back in the Jordan days, I used to think I was a major basketball fan. When he left the game I suddenly realized I didn’t have the old draw to the NBA finals like I used to. But it opened my eyes a bit to the true game of basketball. Some are gifted and some just put in a whole lot of dedicated hard work. Larry Bird for instance – now, I admit, he does have talent. I’m not diss’n Bird! Love him! But Larry had a dedication to the game that blasted the more ‘naturally gifted’ out of the water. He would practice free throws, studying; improving. He would show up  hours before a game and start dribbling the ball and practicing. Did Jordan do this? Well, I don’t know – but he was sort of a freak of nature (I say this in the kindest and most positive way, Mike!). You may not agree with me on how I see the BB greats, but just follow me to my point, which is: Both were astounding on the BB court! However, both were vastly different in their approach.

If you have a story in your mind that you’ve wondered if you can write, let me answer this way. Anyone can write a story someone else will read IF they write the story. But here’s the critical part: I don’t mean just typing words on page. Groom the story, learn how a story is put together, develop the characters, etc. Don’t just write. WRITE! You can’t make a story amazing if you don’t start typing, just like you can’t steer a parked car.

I can sit in a Hummer but if I don’t have keys I’m just warming a seat. I can ponder a scene or a character all day, but if I don’t turn the keys on my story I’m going nowhere.

Bottom line: If you want to write your story, you can but you must start typing! In the beginning it is seriously that easy. Those who can’t write are simply those who don’t really want to. Don’t believe me? Stick around. I’ll show you how to find your keys. If you don’t start, you can’t finish. Secondly, like anything you’ll need to put some effort behind it if you want it to succeed. If it isn’t worth your time to make great, it isn’t worth someone else’s time to read. Do you struggle with grammar? That’s just a Goliath waiting for a David to crush it. Can’t organize your thoughts? Just another Goliath. Whatever obstacle you’re facing, I’m here for you! That’s what Literary Clay is all about. Please don’t let your story die at the feet of the nay saying Goliath! At least give it a shot.

Incidentally, November is a great time to try. It is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. Google it. Join it. Make it happen! Whether you can or can’t write is yours to decide by your own actions.

Stay tuned for more tips on how you can make your story happen. 

A Fresh New Look

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You may notice I’ve changed the look of my site. Thank you for your patience as I get my fonts and things matched up. Plus, I’ll add more content as I go along. I moved over to WordPress from Blogger a while back so it appears as though I’m brand new on the scene. I didn’t move all of my history of things over for various reasons, whether a good idea or bad. I wanted a fresh start. So, it’s fresh.





It is that time again! Every November a group of people across the nation (and perhaps around the world) take on a writing challenge. It is National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo.

I’m going to use November as a time to progress on my current novel, Sword of the Butterfly, book II of The King’s Sword Series, and the sequel to Mariah’s Invisible Sword.

There are writing groups on FaceBook – just type NaNoWriMo in the search field and pick one. What do you have to lose? You’ll never get a book written if you don’t start so… NaNoWriMo!



Spontaneity: Friend or Foe?

Gone are the days when a merchant puts a board in a window of a shop along some street in town among local markets. Advertising has grown to be an electric light driven pixel package, virtual and intangible. The window is in the hands of everyone with a login ID.

Writers are encouraged to blog to develop a following. And so I sit in front of my computer willing to obey this advice, and yet when presented with a blank page to fill mechanically I stall, staring blankly like I did in literature class when asked to write an essay about frogs. I am a spontaneous writer, I suppose, picking up my virtual pen whenever the inspiration, that elusive muse, hits me. Although, my muse is more like a ninja; it attacks rather than hits. But that’s a topic for a different blog.

So, in the face of a society in which advertising is largely intangible and blogging is the new Front Street, Today’s merchant has become the new barker wandering the virtual crowds waving an onion smothered hot dog. Great. Now I’m hungry. Ah ha! See there? It works! Perhaps this visual is despised by the sophisticated sellers of more highly esteemed wares. The point is, if you’re going to advertise anything in this age you’re going to need to learn to navigate the modern store front. It is this modern store front that challenges me.

Don’t get me wrong, I embrace the idea of doing business in my fluffy bunny slippers sporting my favorite raised-by-wolves hairstyle. Who wouldn’t? But my ninja muse doesn’t attack me on cue. How does one work the modern virtual store front on a consistent basis with an inconsistent muse? {crickets} One could argue that I am consistent in that I am consistently inconsistent. I resemble that remark. And I love slippers.

So, is my spontaneity the enemy because it hobbles me from continuous barking? Or is it a friend, granting me something to bark about, profound or otherwise? Perhaps spontaneity is my Goliath and consistency its helmet. Or, is spontaneity the source of my product and consistency my Goliath? Yes, that fits better. So what is my sling and what are my stones? This will be my new quest to free myself from the hobbles.

Thank you for listening to me bark.


Literary Clay in November

I’m gearing up again for the Literary Clay series to be held at Launching Success in Bellingham, WA. Check out the new Literary Clay tab on this site for more information. This series will be aimed toward the high school homeschooler. More sessions inviting a broadened audience will be coming in the future.



Driving Progress

The theme of the summer seemed to be ‘driving’ as we rolled along the Pacific Northwest highways in slow progression halfway across the country. I have always loved a good road trip, but using both hands to keep a car on the road is somewhat prohibitive to the writing process. The summer was amazing – the weather, the fellowship with friends and family, and the days of swimming in the Spokane river in Idaho. Now leaves are falling and rather than steering toward the Continental Divide and back, I am ‘steering’ my way back to my desk to continue work on Fingerprints on My Heart (formerly referred to as Crayons in the Toaster) and The Sword of the Butterfly (the sequel to Mariah’s Invisible Sword).

In addition to resuming the creative writing process I am organizing some classes to be taught in coming months to help aspiring young authors bring their characters from the shadows of their imagination into the world of print. Beyond that, there will be various poetry readings and possibly a YouTube video – we shall see what the days provide me in the way of time.

Enjoy the lovely changes that come with the shifting of seasons.




Literary Clay Workshop

Introducing the Literary Clay online creative writing workshop! Early registration is $15. After May 1st, the price will be $20. At either price you will receive valuable coaching and practical guidance with various assignments, writing prompts, and training sessions. I hope to ‘see’ you there! (Register on the Events tab)Literary Clay Flyer_FB