Category Archives: Writing

DIY as an act of rebellion


I’m sorry to say that dependency is becoming the American way.

Why spend time and effort fixing something yourself when you can  A) Pay an “expert” to do it for you, or B) Trash whatever isn’t working and buy something fresh and new? After all, it’ll leave you more time to do really important stuff. You know, the kind of things you see all those gorgeous people doing on TV and the Web: sky diving, traipsing to exotic vacation locations, working out with their pals, gambling at the casino, and on and on.

After all, they’re worth it.

And so are you.

I get it.  I really do.  Hard to ignore the 24/7 advertising onslaught.  And some people just don’t like to get their hands dirty. Or may shy away from DIY because the repair involves doing something that is perceived as “dangerous.” Better to leave any risk to a well insured “professional.”  Or maybe it is a lack of self-confidence.  Plenty of advice on Youtube to counteract that, but still, some people fear failure and have been indoctrinated into leaving most things to “experts.”

There could also be more subtle impulses at play.  The one I hear most often can be boiled down to the belief that one’s time is so darn valuable why would they want to spend it fixing a dishwasher, or a leaky toilet, or something equally mundane and blue collar when one can hire some lackey to do it for them.

But getting it doesn’t mean I like it. In fact, in society’s mad rush to become more dependent, I’m marching the other way, along with a few other vagabonds.  From what I can see, we’re an odd quilt of men and women. We come from a variety of backgrounds and incomes even.  We may not get our news from the same networks, but we share a common interest in working with our hands and our minds.

Some of us are DIY by necessity. If I don’t fix it or build it, it won’t happen. We can’t afford to buy a playhouse for their kids; so we build it.  Others do it because they have an independent streak.  They could pay for someone else to do it, but what’s the fun in that?  And if you have kids, why model that kind of behavior?

This particular movement isn’t controlled by any organizations or political party. Anyone can join. . . anytime.  No need to start with something big like rebuilding a car engine, or fixing a short in your electrical panel.  Start with something else. Instead of ordering out, make dinner from scratch.  Next time you have a leaky faucet, fix it yourself.   Need to repaint a room.  Yeah, you can do that.  And if you don’t know what you’re doing, ask around, or spend some time snooping on Youtube.

So, if you’re ready, raise your right hand, and repeat after me:

I <ENTER YOUR NAME> do henceforth commit to a life of increasing independence from our political and corporate overlords and agree to follow the holy precepts of Do-It-Youselfism as handed down by our forefathers and mothers. I commit myself to a future of looking for opportunities for radical fun and learning new skills however innane by doing more things by myself with advice from family, friends and my community of brother and sister do-it-yourselfers.  So help me God (or whatever else you might consider holy).



And now painting

wherryAh, the clarity that comes from painting.  Imperfections unnoticed by eye or fingertip are revealed and I am once again thwarted by the sore fact that perfection is but a Siren’s song never to be attained this side of the veil.

That doesn’t, however, prevent me from continuing to throw myself against that particular rock. I can do nothing else. It is in my nature.

But after four coats of primer and three coats of white polyurethane, I must admit that my wherry looks pretty darn good.  I have two more coats of white to go, followed up by four or five coats of sea green on the top plank.  And then I get to flip it over and finish the inside with one more coat of epoxy and four or five coats of varnish.

Maybe an August launch?  That is one hope, anyway.



Abandoning “The Unexpected Adventure of Benjamin Goldberg”

Just finished an edit of my new YA novel about a Korean adoptee who decides to return to South Korea to look for his long lost twin brother.   I can honestly say to myself that the story is as good as I can get it.  I’ve spent hours and hours kneading sentences and reworking paragraphs, trying to get them to the point where they accurately describe the images I see, and capture the rhythm and candences of the voices I hear.

I’m not sure about other authors, but I never feel truly done with a story.  I just try to get them to the point where I can put them on the shelf without regret.  I’m at that point.  Voices from other stories are now demanding my attention.

New kid’s ebook, The Boy Who Hated Flowers, at

I’ve always loved this story and it is now available for free at

Back when I was sending it (and others) out to various publishers it was my first story  to elicit actual responses other than form rejections. I still remember how cool it was to have an editor at Holt say some nice things about story, encourage me to make a few changes, and then suggest that I resubmit it.  The other response was the complete opposite and came from an editor I can only imagine must have been having an incredibly shitty day–for some reason it was my turn to be punch bag.  This editor basically accused me of wasting my time and their time, and what was thinking writing a story for kids about death and dying, and didn’t I realize that my approach would be impossible to illustrate. . . blah. . .blah. . .blah. I remember wondering why he even bothered responding. He didn’t like it. I got it.  I wish now I’d kept the letter, but I didn’t.

What the icky editor didn’t get is that this story isn’t about death, but it’s about life and grieving and cherishing those we love even after they’re gone.

It’s also about me having a little fun with the names of wildflowers.

The Boy Who Hated Flowers is one of the most visual stories I have written.  Many of the scenes play out in my mind like fireworks on the fourth of July, particularly Peter’s night time encounter with all the wild flowers in the garden, as well as the opening scene, with Peter’s mother’s coffin surrounded by flowers.

Wouldn’t it be fun to see what a talented illustrator could do with this story?

Check out my new ebook, “The Last Eagle”

This story was inspired by the incredible escapades of the Polish submarine, Orzel and her crew, during the early days of World War II.   Read more here.  Buy the book here.

Back after a break and now living at Point No Point

It has been nice to be unplugged for a while.  No cell phone, off e-mail, Facebook and all the other media chatter places…

Since my last post, I’ve quit my job, my family has moved across the state, my son has enrolled in a new high school, I’ve finished my latest YA novel and started a new YA novel (loosely based on some aspects of my oldest son’s story — he’s a Korean adoptee), I’ve read a few dozen books, put a few hundred miles on my bike, hiked a couple of dozen miles with Sandy along nearby trails and beaches, reacquainted with some old friends, caught up on a huge sleep deficit, established a regular cocktail hour with Sandy and my father-in-law, repaired his tractor. . .well, you get the idea.

For the curious, Point No Point is located at the north tip of the Kitsap Peninsula, bounded by the waters of Admiralty Inlet to the north, Puget Sound to the east, and Hood Canal to the west.  We’re a 35 minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle.  This area is home to my wife, so she’s thrilled to be back.  I return with mixed feelings.  I was glad to turn over the symphony’s headaches  to someone with fresher legs, and certainly glad to be done with our house-of- perpetual-remodel in Walla Walla, but I love the wide open vistas found in Eastern Washington, the immense dome of sky, and its many empty places.  But the wet side of the state has its own beauty, and I’m looking forward to exploring some of its quiet, empty places, and catching a Mariner’s game with my sport nut, Luke, from time to time.  

So, stay tuned to learn more about the fate of my new YA novel, “The Girl Who was Dead.”  It is a departure from anything I’ve written previously. I have a terrific editor reviewing it right now; once I make corrections, I’ll send it off to my agent, Peter Rubie, and we’ll see what he thinks.  I’m cynically optimistic. A NY Times bestselling author friend of mine thinks it is terrific. I hope his opinion is shared by others.

3:15 isn’t just a time of day. . .

I’m writing for a really fun online project.  Here’s more info.