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I got too much stuff on the grill

by Alec Clayton

I got too much stuff on the grill. Hamburgers, hot dogs, barbecue chicken, corn on the cob, veggie burgers. Everything cooking at once. Uh oh, the hot dogs are about to burn. Gotta get them off the grill. Oops, chicken needs more sauce. Hey, ya’ll better get your buns and spread you some mayo and ketchup. Can somebody get some more butter? And salt and pepper?

All the above is me metaphorically juggling my various writing projects.

I finished my latest novel, Locked In, and now I’m waiting for my wife, Gabi, to edit it. But Gabi’s got too much stuff on the grill too. She’s illustrating Jack Butler’s latest book, a young adult sci-fi Christmas story that’s terrific. I’ve read it. And she’s got the part-time job at the Quaker Meeting House, and she’s designing and maintaining websites and making her own art.

So, while waiting on her to edit Locked In, I’m working on a new novel, working title Teacher. It’s about a high school English teacher named Eva who lives on a farm on Old Highway 99 between Olympia and Tenino, Washington with her wife and two teenage children, a boy and a girl. Every year on May 20 they drink a toast and sing happy birthday to her son Johnny who was kidnapped by her ex husband when he was two years old and whom she has never been able to find. The story is fiction, but Eva gets involved with many real events that took place in and around Olympia such as the shooting of Bryson Chaplin and Andre Thompson by Olympia Police Officer Ryan Donald and the resulting protests and the kangaroo court trial of the brothers. Eva is a strong, loving women who cares deeply about their children and their community and her students.

Locked In is a story of romance and a lifelong fight for justice that takes place entirely in Willie Ray Canyon’s mind. Willie Ray is a newspaper publisher in Mississippi. After a stroke, he is left paralyzed head to foot and cannot speak. Cared for by his wife, Ella, and their friends Dream Wilson and Edgar David, Willie Ray looks inward. He sees in his heart and mind a cauldron of memories and the occasional bout of self-loathing. His memories take him from a jail cell in Mississippi to Amazing Grace Church in San Francisco and back to Mississippi where he and  Ella found a crusading newspaper and become entangled with the corrupt city council leader Bubba Wright.

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