The Raindancer

Depending on How You See a Thing

This Sunday morning’s activities deviated from my typical routine as I forewent attending the 10:15 church service for the one at 6:00 p.m. this evening. While walking my dog, a car stopped, its windows rolled down and a female head popped out.

“Hi, Clay,” the head said.

“Good morning,” I responded without a clue as to whom I was speaking.

“This is your second grade teacher, Mrs. Lucky, if you remember me,” the head said.

“Hi, Mrs. Lucky. How could I forget you?” I said. She was after all my favorite teacher. “How are you?”

“I’m well, thank you. You still look like a little boy—” she said

Wait. Say what now? That’s the last thing any guy wants to hear, especially a guy in his 50s.

Apparently, the years stripped Mrs. Lucky of any inhibition in speaking her mind. While my forty-eight inches may be close to the height of any garden variety second grader, my build is anything but. I mean, come on. Middle-age does that to a body.

“—in the face. You look good! Bye!” she said, rolled up her window, and drove away.

“Thank you,” I said and waved good-bye.

Time also must have ravaged her vision as I sported the beginnings of my annual winter beard.


I guess the way you see a person or thing really does depend on how you look at it. From a distance and with the passing of time, the easily recognized has a tendency to look the same. Upon closer inspection even the familiar changes in appearance and in essence.

The 80s group Deee-lite inspired the title of this post. The lyrics are as follows—

Depending on you see a thing
The ship is free or is it sinking?
Depending on how you see it
You cage your mind or you free it
Depending on how you see the times
The world divides or it closely binds

But I just wanna hear a good beat
I just wanna, I just wanna
But I just wanna hear a good beat
I just wanna hear a good beat, ooh

Depending on you see a thing
The ship is free or is it sinking?
Depending on how you see it
The song is over or you keep it
Depending on how you see the times
Were wasting time or in a moving line
But I just wanna hear a good beat

Oh oh, oh ah
I just wanna hear a good beat
Just piano and bass
Everything will be alright
When you feel it tonight
Zu zu zu, wah zu wah
I just wanna hear a good beat


The Raindancer, The Write Life

Finding Joy in the Writing


Providence set me on the path to writing my second book, The Raindancer: Finding Joy in the Storm five years ago. I never wanted to write this book. In my mind, it was someone else’s task, someone else’s burden to bear; but what I didn’t know was the heavy-lifting had already been done for me. All I had to do was continue on the path and everything would come together as planned. Providence lined up everyone and circumstances to guide, encourage, and assist me in that task.

So about those people and that heavy-lifting …

Rich Willis’ first-person account of experiencing colon and lung cancer serves as the backbone of the book. I know, anytime anyone hears the word “cancer,” it tends to suck all the fun out of the room, but hear me out. His blog posts ring with a singular voice brimming with joy, an unshakable faith, and an unusual sense of humor.

My initial concept for the book was that it would be a work of fiction, an inspired by true events story. In order to create believable fictional characters I needed to draw on real life experience or the characters would fall flat. So I interviewed the people who would later serve as the inspiration for my characters in my fictionalized book.

First there is Connie. She flung open the doors of her heart and shared freely about the rigors and opportunities of living with her husband’s cancer while raising a family and working. She also recounts surviving her own prior battle with breast cancer. And when you read the book you’ll agree that she did so with an unmatched grace and strength.

During the half a dozen times I interviewed Connie, she held nothing back as she answered every question I asked her, and on more than one occasion she was a step or two ahead of me. The same held true for everyone I interviewed. Her children, close family friends, and family members provided me with ample candid material upon which to base my characters. Two doctors gladly supplied me with insights into cancer, its treatment, and the roles different types of doctors play when partnering with patients.

I spent weeks developing throughlines, character arcs, plot points, scenes, and all the other stuff that goes into outlining a book, plus another two months cobbling together 25% of a first draft. So you’d think with fantastic source material, compelling interviews, and a great outline that writing an inspired fictional account of real-life events would be a breeze, right? No. So. Much.

A two-month long bout of writer’s block set in.

Not to worry—a gifted writer friend gave me solid advice that helped me regain my writing voice once and for all. I also realized that I was writing out of my preferred genre: nonfiction. I excelled at writing about personal experiences ranging from the noble to the naughty and everything in between.

I regrouped and wrote the first third of a nonfiction draft, I needed readers to act as an impromptu focus group. Their reaction to the partial manuscript would indicate whether or not it came across as I intended. And lo and behold a small number of people of varying ages and backgrounds made themselves available. Their responses far exceeded my expectations and prompted me to forge ahead in my new direction. Even the need for an editor was filled.

Lest you be deceived and think I was single-minded about finishing the book, I have a confession: I went looking for, found, and followed many a job lead; I even tried to force an opportunity—fortunately, none came to fruition. Then it dawned on me that all the paths I pursued led to dead ends; except those involving the book. Once I took hold of that notion, I wrote with wild abandon and project I sought to avoid became my raison d’être. And the writing took on a deeper meaning.

So. The Raindancer is done. It’s out there. And the response has been overwhelming. I attribute its draw not to any writing prowess on my part, but the uplifting spiritual truths it contains.

The Take-Away: For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. —Ephesians 2:10

Announcements, The Raindancer, The Write Life

Announcing … “The Raindancer”

Here we go. After almost two years, it’s here: time to release my new book, The Raindancer, to the world!


The Raindancer: Finding Joy in the Storm takes a 360-degree look at one man’s use of unwavering faith, a positive attitude, and an indomitable sense of humor in dire circumstances and how he changed the lives of everyone with whom he came in contact.

My hope is that this story will present the world in a new light and give you the courage to dance in the midst of life’s storms.

The Raindancer is available in print at and

Design and Conquer, The Raindancer

Shifting Gears.

I’ve moved from the editorial phase to the design phase of publishing my second book, The Raindancer. The manuscript has been line and copy edited. I’ve designed the front cover (but I’m keeping that under wraps for now). And I’ve completed preliminary design of the book’s text pages, and have started transferring the text from the manuscript to the actual layout for the printed book.

More on all of this a little later . . . stay tuned!

"Hello Style Sheets, Hyphenation & Justification, line breaks, and kerning. Remember, you rascals are no match for me; not while I have this . . . "
“Hello Style Sheets, Hyphenation & Justification, line breaks, and kerning. Remember, you rascals are no match for me; not while I have this . . . “
The Raindancer, The Write Life

Life’s Not About Waiting for the Storms to Pass

richwillis Five years ago today Rich Willis went home to be with the Lord after his battle with cancer. This family man, inspiring friend, and all-around good guy leaves a legacy of unwavering faith, positive attitude, indomitable sense of humor, and compassion for others that is lived out daily through his family and friends.

Their stories will present the world in a whole new light and give you the courage to dance in the midst of life’s storms.

(Trust me, Gene Kelly’s got nothing on this guy.)

The Raindancer, The Write Life



The first third of the second draft of The Raindancer is done! I hope to have a completed second draft by the end of July. Keep your fingers crossed.

Now I’m recruiting a few readers to take a peek at the first half before too long. I also need a couple of pairs of eyes to read the whole thing in its entirety, once I’ve completed the second draft. And even a couple more to read something a lot more polished. But there’s a catch: you’ll only get to read one version. Why? Because it’s tough for anyone to give a first impression of a second reading. So choose wisely.

Thanks, y’all!

(It’s amazing what a couple of large servings of home-brewed iced coffee and do. Now, about these jitters…)

Christmas, The Raindancer, The Write Life

All I Want For Christmas Is My New … First Draft

Turkey-carcassNow that two major events of the fall have passed (Thanksgiving and the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree), I can say that the holidays are in full swing. Unfortunately, I’m unable to say the same about the total number of written blog posts for this time of year. Nothing’s swinging there, no movement at all. One reason for my sedentary post numbers is that I’m not in New York this fall. The other is that I’ve been toiling over a hot MacBook Pro working on my next book, The Raindancer.

rock-treeThe writing style for this book is a departure from my usual cheeky regaling of firsthand experiences. Just about everything you’ve read of mine so far has been non-fiction. The Raindancer, an inspired by real events tome, requires that I take the essence of real-life situations and populate them with fictitious characters in imagined settings and still have them read as plausible to the reader.

How am I doing that?

I’ve completed a basic outline and book proposal (a more in-depth outline) that covers, themes, characters and their development, conflicts, blah, blah, blah. Next comes—

christmas-typewriterThe First Draft

As Ernest Hemingway so eloquently put it, “the first draft of anything is shit.” That’s because the first draft is a the phase when the writer put his thoughts on paper, real or virtual. Writers are encouraged to write with wild abandon since writing is rewriting and rewriting and rewriting again.

I sat at my keyboard ready to let the thoughts in my head flow freely from my fingertips to my keyboard and. . .nada. Nix. Ne rien. This wasn’t like telling about the time I stood waiting on a subway platform at 2:00 a.m. with one of New York’s seedier denizens lurking around. I had to put my main character in a specific place and time and have him realistically experience things in a fictional setting.

That’s my challenge. I have to create as opposed to recall events.

This isn’t so bad, as sometimes I can swap out an interest in marching band with an interest in theater (since I know about that and it won’t change the direction of the story). The real fun comes in when I have to write about I have no experience with, like motorcycles. I can’t fake my way through that because anyone familiar with motorcycles will see right through my writing. I can’t swap out that hobby with something about which I have a working knowledge, like knitting. It won’t fly. Everything I know about motorcycles can fit on the head of a pin.

So in instances like that, I have to interview people, people who have a working knowledge and appreciation of motorcycles. Pity I don’t like talking one on one to people, right?

The Interview

Typically, I prepare my questions in advance, thinking of the entire book and what specific information will I need to glean from the interviewee(s). We get together, I tell them exactly what the book is about so that there’s no misinterpretation as to what’s going on, and we start in. It’s like being Arsenio Hall with a celebrity guest, but without the set, the audience, the lights, the band, and the big check. It is however way more fun than Mr. Hall’s job, I’m sure.

I have a personal relationship with 90% of the people I’ve interviewed thus far, so that gives us both a certain level of trust which puts us both at ease. Each and everyone of my subjects has answered every question asked of them, but they’ve also given me a lot of background on what else was going on in their lives at that time. And more often than not it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. It’s the nitty-gritty parts of life. It’s been the writers dream of getting for character development.

In the beginning, I thought I could conduct these interviews and rely on taking notes during the session to catch all the relevant information.


Because these people are friends of mine, they’re sharing things with me that are personal. Things I’ve never known, so of course, I’m going to be engrossed in what they’re telling me. Can you imagine taking notes while catching up with someone you haven’t seen in a few years? Yeah, it doesn’t make for total recall.

Thank you, Steve Jobs, for putting a voice recorder into every iPhone. Now I whip out my iPhone and record the interviews.


After a couple of days I listen the recording and cherry-pick all the stuff I need for the book. Then I mull over where all this raw information is going to go and how I’ll disguise it as fiction, and finally start weaving it loosely into the first draft.

Easy, huh? (That was abject sarcasm at its finest.)

I never thought it’d be easy, but it’s more challenging than I thought. Ergo, the delayed timeline. The cool thing is that every step of the way, the people I’ve needed to to interview have popped up at exactly the right time I’ve needed them. And they’ve all been more than eager to help out.

I hoped to have the first draft done by the end of the year, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. And that’s okay. I’m dedicated to this project and believe that this book has the potential to change a lot of people’s lives for the better. I’m sure of it.

So while my butt is in Orlando and a part of my heart is still in New York; I’m pouring the rest of myself into this book and spending long-awaited quality time with my family and friends.