Something is Coming Soon – The Yank Striker

I really wasn’t expecting to make this announcement this soon.

I had thought that I would have been putting this project forward sometime later next year, definitely as a self-publishing project. Even though I have been working toward self-publishing and still might put some projects out there under self-publishing, my next venture is going to be with someone familiar.

I have been talking with Biblio Publishing, the publishing company that worked with me to put out my book The Holy Fool. I mentioned that I had been working on a book project I had just recently completed, and they said that they were interested in publishing that book. Pending final agreements and so forth, it appears that my second book, The Yank Striker, will be published through Biblio this coming January.

I will give more details about publication, availability, etc., in the coming weeks and months. Again, all of this is preliminary, but from my past experiences with publishing I think that it is important to get as much word out about this upcoming project as soon and as often as I can.

The whole idea came to be a few years ago when I was getting ever deeper into my obsession with the sport of soccer. At a certain point, examining how Americans were starting to have careers in the major soccer leagues around the world, I asked myself a simple question:

What would the American Lionel Messi look like?

Liegois

After a bit of thinking, the character of Daniel John “DJ” Ryan came to mind. Over time, his story began developing like a sapling tree with branches sprouting up and down the trunk.

I’m going to include a brief synopsis of the book at the jump. I wrote it due to my love of the sport and the people who play it. I’ll be talking about this project more as its publication draws near, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with everyone.

Continue reading “Something is Coming Soon – The Yank Striker”

Joining the Yanks

It all started because I needed an essay.

The year was 2012. At that point in my life, I was pretty much in between jobs. I had returned to the first school district I have worked for at the start of my career because they had asked me to return and quite soon, I immediately wished I hadn’t accepted. With my wife’s consent, I decided to move on.

At this point in my life, I was considering a few options for what was next. My home was in Muscatine, Iowa, where I had graduated from high school, and I was keen on trying to teach there. I thought it was a good district and my kids were attending school there at the time, so I thought that might be a fun experience.

I also had a high in the sky dream that I might become a full-time professor at another place – Muscatine Community College (MCC). That went to some old fantasies I had of being a professor/writer, like I had first seen on the University of Iowa campus. I could picture myself teaching three or four classes a semester, hanging out on some spacious campus lounge during my off times, and putting together a novel every two years or something like that. I could picture myself teaching kids eager to be the next Hemingway or James Patterson to spread their literary (or genre) wings. Older people still need their fantasies, kids.

To accomplish these goals, I decided to start substitute teaching at the school district and started working as an adjunct instructor at MCC. In the district, I taught everything from pre-school to high school; at MCC, I taught composition and writing. While I was substituting for other teachers in the district and teaching their lessons, the MCC class was totally my own. I designed it with input from mentors who were full-time instructors there, and I did all the evaluating and grading. Both positions, coincidentally, were part-time. That obviously meant no benefits and varying hours, depending on the situation on any given week. I wanted to show that I was interested in working for both organizations and contributing to them.

Due to a multitude of factors, I never did work for either the district or MCC full-time. The exact reasons aren’t important anymore and I’ve long moved on since that time. In fact, about a year later I’d chuck all of that to briefly come out of retirement from journalism and work for my hometown newspaper for about 18 months. However, something happened as part of that teaching that was something of a thought experiment to me.

As part of my work with MCC, I was designing my own course to teach online – a virtual composition course. This was during the early years when online teaching was beginning to unfold – no Zoom, no live chat. However, it was writing, and I’d like to think that I was putting together some good online instruction.

When I was starting to design that course, I had a chance to examine some existing composition courses from some of the other instructors. One of the things that I noticed that at least a couple of those instructors were using sample essays that were written by other students. As I was just starting out as a composition instructor, I didn’t have ready access to some good example essays from students. Because of that, I decided to put together one of my own essays to fill in the gap.

As one of the strategies I was teaching was descriptive writing, I figured I’d put together an essay that would include a strong description of something I had experienced. The idea behind such an essay is to give a dominant impression of whatever subject that you are describing. You want your audience to feel something about your subject, to have a deeper understanding of it. At this point in my life, there was one subject that I wanted to write about more than anything else. That subject was soccer.

For the past couple of years, I had been interested in the Chicago Fire Soccer Club (now the Chicago Fire Football Club). Soccer had been a longtime interest of mine (more on the origins of that subject later), but at that point in my life I had become obsessed with soccer in both domestic and foreign leagues, an obsession that has only grown in the years since. That summer, however, I had my first chance to watch a pro game live, in Chicago, with my son and one of my friends from Muscatine. It was an amazing experience… so I wanted to talk about it.

The result of all of this was “Joining the Men in Red,” a first-person account of that match. Is it a perfect example of a descriptive essay, like what I would find in some of the composition textbooks I used for my classes? Maybe not. Were there one of two things I could have made better? Maybe. But I think it had a lot of heart and passion, and I think it did reflect what I truly felt about the sport and its fandom.

And I was able to use that essay for those classes. I even found that it would up being useful for later classes (back at the high school level) where I used it as a descriptive writing example. Heck, even last year, I ended up using it in a composition class I was teaching at my new high school, and it wound up being a good resource.

However, this year, I had the opportunity to have another soccer experience that was brand-new for me but involved the oldest love of my soccer fandom. After that second experience, I started to wonder if it wasn’t time for a second essay about my soccer fandom, that used that second experience as an opportunity to express how I felt about the sport and one team in particular.

This is the result of that urge.

So, about 10 years after I tried this for the first time, I’m going to do something of a spiritual sequel to that article. Let’s hang out with the Yanks.

Continue reading “Joining the Yanks”

Writing Journal 21 September 2022: Another solid week and a nice trip to Badger, Iowa

I’d love every week to be something like this week, writing-wise.

I was nice and solidly productive this week and much of what I wrote ended up on this blog. That’s nice to see after many months where the only thing I produced on here were writing journals.

As for the exact numbers… they were not record-breaking, but very solid and above what I am trying to shoot for every week. If every week winds up like this, this year’s goals of 200,000 words in 2022 and meeting my daily writing quota at least 70 percent of the time is in the bag.

I also had the chance to make an appearance at the Badger (Iowa) Public Library when their librarian invited me to come to its book fair of regional authors. I had the chance to meet and network with several writers and the library was quite hospitable to me and the other authors there. It was a bit of a drive for me, but I enjoyed the experience and certainly would return there.

So, in all, it was a good week. I’ll be looking forward to seeing some falling temperatures at last now that it is officially fall in a day or so. Summer heat can get gone as soon as possible.

Anyway, here’s the numbers. Keep safe and live your lives, everyone.

Writing statistics for the week ending 17 September 2022:
+4,484 words written.|
Days writing: 6 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 1 of 7 for 120 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 6 of 7 days.

“Work” Writing Vs. “Fun” Writing: A Reflection (Part 2/?)

It all started with a television show.

The time was spring 2019. I had just become a published author for the first time ever, but I was having difficulty getting things off the ground. 

There were the usual difficulties with being a first-time author, of course, but I had many other things going against me other than the typical stuff. First, in a business where you want to be well-known in the region that you live in, I was less than a year away from moving to a totally different section of the state, far away from my home base of 40 years. In the middle of me doing that, trying to hustle for a side gig was the last thing on my mind. 

Looming in the distance, although I wasn’t aware of it at the time, was COVID, which would keep me away from doing anything in-person for a long time to come. That would eventually halt most of the momentum that I had, and the fact that the publisher I worked with on my book was not accepting any new fiction work stopped my progress on that front, as well.

I was in a weird middle place, which I haven’t totally escaped from yet, where I was in-between projects. I have (still do have) some fiction that I had been working on, and the idea of trying to get back into the grind of trying to find a new publisher or agent was something that I was dreading. I was anticipating a years-long process behind that, because that was how it had gone previously for me. And there was no guarantee that I would have what I wanted in the end.

It was then that I got… a bit distracted by a shiny object – that television show.

Back in 2019, Game of Thrones was king. While I am not an HBO subscriber, I had been following the progress of the television show by other means. I am a big fan of fantasy fiction, and this interest had only grown since I was in my pre-teens.

The show was in its final season and I know there were plenty of people online anticipating the ending of the show. Many were anticipating it so much, even, that they were starting to come up with their own endings for the show. Even more, I was beginning to read them and watch them online.

I’d never had a totally favorable opinion of fan fiction by this time of my life. I had heard the old stories about how Star Trek had gotten that and “slash” romance fiction (such as Kirk/Spock). It seemed like people just trying to write their weirdest fantasies and throw it out into the ether of the Internet.

I started, in an ever so gradual manner, to read some of this work. Some of it I found on Reddit; some I discovered lurking around on other sites. I even saw a table read of a Game of Thrones play covering the final season on YouTube. There was a lot of speculation on YouTube regarding how this was going to shake out.

So, as I began to read and watch that material, in waiting for that final season to drop, I came upon something of a revelation for myself. I started to realize, some of these authors are good.

When I say that, I’m not talking about writers who were basically literate. I’m talking guys (and ladies) who were really good storytellers. I was getting as much enjoyment out those stories online as I had ever gotten out of anything I’d bought from a bookstore or Amazon’s Kindle store. They had everything – compelling, real-to-life characters with compelling relationships, great descriptions, plots that drove the story and that made sense based on a clear understanding of human nature and logical thought.

Because there wasn’t a lot of that – especially good plots – on TV screens right around spring 2019. Specifically, on any screens showing Game of Thrones.

If you haven’t heard, there were a whole bunch of people not happy with the ending of Game of Thrones. In fact, it was a debacle that eventually ended up killing a lot of the rewatch potential for the series. Somehow, it has managed to not destroy interest in the A Song of Ice and Fire universe (as the George RR Martin series is called), based on the reaction to the new House of the Dragon series (essentially a prequel to Game of Thrones).

I had been through bad endings of television series before, many many times. Anyone who grew up with any memory of 1970’s television (and reruns of 1950’s-1960’s television) would be able to recall bad series endings. Especially in those early days, there was no sense among television executives that series could come to a clear ending. They’d usually run those series until the wheels came off, when the ratings kept dropping even when cute kids were introduced in a desperate effort to keep eyeballs on cathode ray tubes. 

Eventually, those producers and show-runners got more sophisticated and realized that series needed a decent ending so that you could have satisfying series-long story arcs. Of course, show runners still got things wrong when it came to final seasons and endings. I had already suffered through Rosanne, Dexter, Lost, and, most horrifically, Battlestar Galactica (1-2).

But this ending – the ending to Game of Thrones – that threw me more than nearly any other ending of a show or a movie ever had. And as I was stewing over the many flaws of not only the ending but the entire final season of the show, one thought kept nagging at me: I could do this better than the 2Ds (3).

So, I started writing, pouring all of that frustration and a desire for a great story out onto the computer screen. Within a few weeks, I had a 40,000-word story set after the events of the series. It was a wild little tale that was never going to earn me a single dime. I wound up posting it in full on FanFiction.Net. 

People started posting comments on it and saying it was good. It… was a bit of a rush, to be honest. I mean, I’ve had people compliment my work before (more than a few of them family), but this was some random strangers giving them out. 

Then I decided to post it on a site called Archive Of Our Own (AO3), a virtual warehouse of fanfiction content. I met several cool authors there who put out some really ambitious work. There was one younger writer out there who essentially did an entire rewrite and reimagining of the entire ASOIAF series (4). There was plenty of great writing out there… and the craziest idea popped into my head.

“I should do a rewrite of Season 8.”

Part of me thought it would be too much work to do for a “fun” project, something that had no commercial potential whatsoever. But the other part was drawn to the challenge. I’d seen too much cringe moments in that season that I knew I could have done a better job of it than they could. I’d had that feeling reading plenty of paperbacks over the years, but I hadn’t gotten the idea to actually redo a book. Until now. 

I ended up with about half a million words. 

It’s now a series. 

I’ve had more than 1,000 people give “kudos” (AO3-speak for likes). 

I’m not sure how much more of it I’m going to write. If I wanted to be a “serious” writer, I should just try and come up with an idea about a new OC dark fantasy series. 

But, it turns out it’s one of the most fun things that I’ve ever experienced as a writer. 

And because of it, I think I fell back in love with just writing for writing’s sake. And I’m so thankful for it.

And yes, there will be more to this in a later post. Maybe you’ll see it next weekend? And maybe you’ll see it with some other stuff.

Footnotes:

1. The one that started in 2003, not the one in 1978. You’d never expect a science fiction series to last long in the 1970’s.

2. The four best ever endings in TV history so far are, of course, The Shield, The Wire, Six Feet Under, and The Sopranos.

3. The Showrunners Who Will Not Be Named.

4. He’s since started at least three other series reimagining that universe. He’s a very ambitious and creative young man.

A Self-Publisher’s Progress, or Lack Of It: Why I’m Going to Go the Self-Publishing Route

These are interesting times.

You might remember that I managed to get a book published with an outside publisher a couple of years back. That was a feather in my cap, certainly, and I crossed a big item off my bucket list in the process.

Since then… I have not yet had a chance to publish another book. The publishing company I worked with previously is not accepting new fiction, so that avenue is closed to me. I have at least one or two possibilities for projects I could move forward with. I have at least one that is almost publishing ready, except for a few items.

So, I am faced with two different possibilities. First, there’s option of trying once again to find a publisher or agent willing to work with me to put together a new project. They would have a better idea of the current publishing climate than I would, obviously, and more connections in that area as well. Usually you won’t get a look from any of the Big FIve publishers – Penguin/Random House, Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster, and Macmillan – without an agent1. It’s a long-term process, as well – getting a book through the publishing process even if you succeed can take months and even years at a time, not even counting the initial writing process.

Or, I can go the self-publishing route. Selling physical books on demand is easier than ever thanks to Amazon, and e-book distribution can cut out even more middlemen out if you want to go the all e-book route. (As for me, I am too much of a traditionalist to totally abandon physical books. There I would be my own boss and have the majority of the profits. How much of those profits there would be is an open question. Some people can make a tidy career out of this. For others, the revenue is few and far between.

I’ve been thinking long and hard about this. As a result, I have elected to go the self-publishing route.

There are two main reasons that I’ve made that decision.

The first has to do with fame and fortune. When I was a kid, I may have had a small little dream to be a Stephen King-level writer. He was one of my idols, so of course I was going to think that. Then it turned out that for a long time I didn’t write a lot of stuff, as a young man. It would take me a long time to build up to being a consistently productive writer, and even then I wouldn’t imagine that I could be as productive as King, even in the early cocaine days2.

There are so many writers out there trying to make a name for themselves. A good number of them are truly great and talented, and most have at least some talent. Very few of them “make it,” just like so many talented actors, dancers, musicians, and other artists don’t make it. The ones who make it are successful enough to have publishing contracts, book advances, and teams of agents, attorneys, publicists, and other handlers to make their lives easier.

I don’t think that is going to happen to me.

I’d say that realistically, I am at the halfway point of my life. If it hasn’t happened at this point, I see an even smaller chance of it happening to me, even as you hear the tales of older authors becoming an “overnight” success. So if such a fate is not likely to happen to me, I shouldn’t want to concentrate on doing things with that in mind. I’d rather have full control over my fate, no matter what sort of financial rewards there are in it.

And that brings me to the second reason for this. I just want to write.

I’m tired of putting so much effort into finding publishers and agents, putting in so much time into it and not getting anything out of it. If I’m going to spend my time on this passion of mine, I want to start putting out the stories that I want to put out, and getting them out to anyone who wants to read them. Yeah, I’ll have to do promotional work, and other things like formatting and cover designs, but it will be a lot less foolishness than if I went the traditional route.

I know I only have a limited time in this existence, although I hope I still have many years still left. I want to do it telling the stories I have in me.

It’s going to take some time, even with the self-publishing route. But I’m looking forward to getting it started.

Footnotes:

  1. I should qualify this by saying that I would not include pay-to-play publishing or agents in this category. I have had past experiences and meetings with such people, and I’ve concluded that it’s more trouble than it’s worth.
  2. I do not endorse using hard drugs for any reason, but especially creative ones. Anyone who thinks it is sustainable needs to read The Tommyknockers and watch Maximum Overdrive. When he had a prescription drug relapse after getting run over by that van, he wrote Dreamcatcher. I rest my case.

Pure Promo Power Here

I decided to make a quick post promoting everything that I have going on, as well as one special event coming up in less than two weeks. Here we go:


First, I have a new presence on Substack. I have decided to start a Liegois Media branch there on that writer’s platform. You can see me there at the link below:

There is a Liegois Media page on Facebook, which reprints all the stuff you see here on WordPress and Substack, as well as any cool writing memes I run across on Facebook.

Also, there is a Liegois Media page on Twitter, for much of the same purpose as my Facebook page.

In the realm of upcoming events, there is a new one I mentioned just a bit ago. Here’s just a couple of reminders of what it’s about:

So, I and a whole group of Midwest writers will be at the Badger, Iowa city-wide garage sale and book fair beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday, September 17. The location will be at the Badger Public Library, 211 1st Ave SE, Badger, IA.

Here’s a link to the event.

So, I will be headed there for an appearance and with copies of my book The Holy Fool. Hope to see you all out there.

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Badger Book Fair, Badger, Iowa

I Finished My Fantasy Game of Thrones Fan Fiction (At Least One of Them)

About two and a half years ago, I was paying attention to the final season of a really popular fantasy series on television known as Game of Thrones. I had been interested in the series for a while, but I was getting obsessed with the season and the ending of the series.

It was a weird situation. The television series that was based on George R.R. Martin’s book series was about ready to be done even though the book series itself wasn’t yet done (it still isn’t lol). So, the decision of how the series would end would rest largely in the hands of two TV producers (henceforth referred to, collectively, as 2D) who convinced Martin a decade or so back that they would take good care of his life’s work.

And they had done an all-right job. I loved the main story, its grittiness and the twists and turns behind it. The production design was fantastic and put me into this world of Westeros, and the casting to a person was spot on.

To be honest, the entire experience made me fall in love with the whole fantasy genre. It’s a wild situation, because I live in a world that’s so technologically advanced it looks like nothing in the pages of Martin’s books or what I saw on the screen. But I was falling in love with the world, and admiring the stories I had previously read. When I was in late elementary school, I had discovered The Chronicles of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander and now, thirty or so years later, I was actually combing bookstores for a serviceable copy of The High King to see if it still held up. (Reader, it did.) That led to me starting (but yet to finish) The Lord of the Rings and be foolish enough to dip my toes into the deep ocean of story that is The Wheel of Time series. I would have to say that the entire experience was enough to propel my interest in fantasy fiction – one I half-fear, half-thrill at, will be what dominates my fiction writing interests moving forward.

Anyway, with that much of an impact on my fiction fandom, I was itching to see how it would all end up. And I was more than half dreading it, as well.

Because I knew about television series endings. Hollywood is starting to take ending television series a lot more seriously than the bad old days when they’d try to carry on a series forever until everyone got sick of it and they just canceled it with no concern about whether they ended it in the middle of a story or right after they got to a cliffhanger. I liked that they were trying to be civilized and try and consider a series to be part of a longer stories that could be told in just a couple or a few seasons, rather than rambling on and on with no concept of a finite story or making sense (looking at you, Simpsons and Supernatural after Season 5 or whatever it was). British television has managed to do that for years (except for Big Brother, Coronation Street, Eastenders etc.).

Getting that ending just perfect, however… a writer has to stick that landing/that ending right. Because when you stick that right, it can cover up a multitude of missteps along the way and make everything right in the end. Most people know those series – The Sopranos, The Shield, The Wire, Six Feet Under.

But the ones who screw it up, the ones that just foul up the last things devoted viewers loved about a series – their infamy is eternal. There are so many that fit that category. Lost and Dexter are just a couple of many.

(And I’m still not over the idiotic way they ended the second Battlestar Galactica series. Ancient humans colonizing Earth? Forget that nonsense. They did Adama, Apollo, and especially Starbuck dirty.)

I was desperately hoping that Game of Thrones would be one of the former types of series – the one with a great ending that overshadows everything – rather than the latter, the ones with horrible endings that poison all that came before it in regret. Guess which one it was. Go on, just guess.

It did not work out, Readers. [Photo by Ann H on Pexels.com]

Yes, in May of 2019, what I was feeling was an overwhelming sense of… disappointment, sadness, and frustration, watching what unfolded across the small screen. And finally… I started thinking.

I knew that I could do better than what I was seeing. I knew I could turn out something better than these idiots, and I didn’t need a $10 million per episode or whatever budget they had to do it.

So, I dipped my toe into the waters. I thought, what if I had one more season to salvage the wreckage that was left at the end of the series. The result was a 40,000-plus word story I decided to call “The Reunion of the Pack.” I didn’t know where I could post it – I tried to set something up on FanFiction.Net and I did have it there for a time. Then I discovered Archive Of Our Own. I really loved how you could set up the stories into separate chapters, series, and also the tagging system.

I was happy with what it was. It wasn’t a perfect story, but I thought it did a decent job of salvaging the story and getting a nice enough ending to it. I got a decent reaction from it, based on the number of kudos that I received (the AO3 version of likes)… but I was still a little unsettled. Was there a way I could make a better ending for the story?

That’s when I thought if I had the chance to rewrite the entire final season… that would be something. It would be crazy. but it would definitely be something.

And then I started writing. I just thought that it would take maybe 40 short chapters, maybe 60,000 words at the most. I figured I would knock it out in a year at the most.

I’ve now not only finished that story, but added some other stories to it and it is now a series. It’s a series that now spans over 400,000 words and is likely to top a half million words sooner than later. It’s not something that I’m ever going to make money on it, because, of course, fan fiction. And I’m doing fan fiction on an author (George RR Martin) that has gone on record speaking out against fan fiction authors. (Personally, I think it would be hilarious if someone started doing fiction based on my work as long as they’re not trying to cash in on it.)

And, I’m likely not to publicize it here. By that, I mean linking to the story and so forth.

For one thing, I am considering eventually monitizing some of the stuff on the site, and maybe utilizing Substack. So, I wouldn’t want to try and do anything that might hint at trying to make money at that.

Secondly, I am a teacher in the public schools. Right now around the country, there are people who are trying to get books banned and teachers fired from their positions for either daring to tell the truth about history in the United States or teaching materials their parents consider too “difficult” for their kids to handle.

My students know I am an author and blogger. I have never promoted my book The Holy Fool to my students because the subject matter is definitely for adults, and adult situations definitely happen in it. I know some of them have even glanced at this blog, which I have no problem with. This blog is a writing-based blog for all ages, essentially.

However, the fan fiction that I do is also not aimed at children. I do not want any hint that I might encourage kids to read my fiction. If it had a movie rating, it would definitely be an “R” rating. I want to keep this separate from my professional education life, and I have no reason to stir up the waters, to be honest.

Besides, this experience has proven to me that I can enjoy writing for the sake of writing. All throughout the process, I never had to think about whether there would be a market for whatever this was, whether it would be easy to promote under a certain genre, or whatever it is. I just got to enjoy writing for the sake of writing, and I have gotten such a positive response for my fiction from the readers on AO3. I’ve also had the chance to read some writing on that site that is absolutely the equal of any that have been on my bookshelves.

So, what now? Although I will not likely put out fan fiction at the rate I have been putting it out over the past couple years, I will certainly continue to do it. There are a few other stories I want to wrap up there before I’m done, and I’m having a blast at it. I’ve gotten great feedback on my work, and I’ve gotten to talk to writers I never would have met otherwise.

So, this will leave a little more time for this blog – and perhaps some original fiction as well. But I won’t

A Writer’s Biography, Volume III, Part 6: The importance of writing groups

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: My deepest apologies for releasing this blog Monday rather than sometime civilized on Saturday. Still getting used to the new schedule.

[SECOND AUTHOR’S NOTE: OK, it’s at 12:10 p.m. rather than 12:00 p.m. Still pretty close to what I promised, right?

[PHOTO NOTE: This is not my actual writing group, past or present. This is the first image that popped up when I did a Pexel search for “writing group.” And, there you go.

If you would, permit me to make a small detour into the world of politics.

It was in the middle of running for his second term as president in 2012 when Barack Obama got into a minor controversy over a statement he made on the campaign trail. At a campaign stop in Virginia, he was trying to make the point that rich people don’t become rich just because of their own efforts, but from the help of others, the help of government, and good fortune. He said in part:

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.

Barack Obama

I bring up this statement not to debate its value (I personally agree with it) nor to explain why it is so. I wanted to compare this idea with another idea that has long been popular – the idea of a writer as a singular artist.

This is an idea that, if it cannot quite be classified as a cliche, maybe could be considered more like a trope. I can remember so many scenes in films, television, and (yes) books as well, scenes of serious, dedicated writers hunched over hand-held notebooks, legal pads, typewriters, or word processors. They’re always so serious, aren’t they, their isolated rooms echoing with the scritch scratch of pens or pencils, the slamming thunk thunk of typewriter keys or the tiki-tak tiki-tak of word processors. Those scenes burned into my brains so much I’ve worn out keyboards for the past 25-plus years. Wasn’t it Sean Connery in Finding Forrester who said “Punch the keys, for God’s sake!” Oh, I lived that idea for many years. It is the reason that all of my spacebars on my keyboards have some worn-off parts, as well as a few other keys.

A writer lends a person so well to being a solitary artist. Not quite sure an idea is going to work out, or if somebody else likes it? Who cares, nobody is going to stop you, right? You are the final say over your story except for those sorry brothers who agree to collaborate with one or more writers. No worries about how much it would cost to render a scene for your reader, no worries about filming budgets or payrolls for actors and crew – you can build any world you want, any characters you want, for the cost of your imagination, your time imagining, and the cost of a workable computer or typewriter if you have a real 20th Century mentality. Especially if you have a nice little writing space, you can shut everyone out and everything out except you and your imagination. You would be the classic, mythical rugged individualist as artist.

However, as Barack said at the start of all this, “You didn’t build that.” Sure, you did build those worlds, those fascinating characters, those wonderful stories. Those are your words on the screen or the page. But, you didn’t get to that point on your own.

If we look into ourselves and understand the real writing process, the real ins and outs of how literature comes to be, we know that we are not just lone gunmen spewing our stories into the ether. There were so many that got us to the point where we were able to tell our stories and share them with the world.

There were other people that helped us to be able to share these stories, these writings, with the rest of the world. It is the same for all you writers out there just as much as it was for me. For me, I admit, I relied on my fellow writers to get me to where I have gotten to today.

I specifically remember the late Aughts of 2007 or so in regards to myself. I was returning to my hometown (Muscatine, Iowa) after a 10-year stay in Clinton, Iowa, and what felt like an equally long hiatus from writing. (I was writing off and on, but in no way consistently at all). In fact, initially I just sat and stewed for a while, which I might have attributed to entering the teaching profession and getting adjusted to that. But another part of that was the fact that I was writing in a vacuum, with nobody I could turn to for advice or guidance.

It was then that I remembered a local writing group called Writers on the Avenue. There were many differences between me and the other members. I was generally younger than most of them. Many of them preferred to work in poetry or mainstream literature, and I was the crazy kid writing thrillers or sci-fi/fantasy. We had differences of opinion on a lot of things about life. But we all had writing in common.

I went off and on between not participating in the group to at one point serving as club secretary. However, the feedback I got from them all about writing was invaluable.

They helped shape what eventually became my first published novel, The Holy Fool. They also provided critiques of my other novel projects as well. It was through them that I was able to network and get in contact with groups such as the Midwest Writing Center, where I learned a lot from the seminars and critique groups they had. I was able to network with other writers and get ideas about expressing myself through writing that eventually led me from repurposing an old Facebook page I had used as part of my past journalism career to creating the blog that you see here. I even got into poetry because I kept listening to their work and finally decided to try my hand at it. Some of those poems you can find here.

One of the real downsides of moving to South Central Iowa (Chariton, to be exact), is that I’m not able to meet with those groups on a regular basis. I’m glad now that I have started to settle in and get to be part of groups such as the Iowa Writer’s Corner. I’m hoping to get together with some other writers in the Des Moines area and continue my progress as a writer.

And who knows? Since Zoom has become such a thing, maybe I can get together with some of my old Eastern Iowa writing friends without burning too much gas.

I’m Having A Promotional Event on July 10th. Think anybody can make it out there?

After an extended absence from doing any sort of in-person promotional events due first to my move out to South Central Iowa and the whole COVID situation, I thought it was time for me to finally bring that dry spell to an end.

I will be making an appearance at the 6th annual Indie Author Book Expo at Valley West Mall in West Des Moines July 10th. I will be at the expo from 11 am to 5 pm that day.

Come down to talk with me and pick up a copy of my novel The Holy Fool. It’s my debut novel, a journalism thriller about a reporter trying to break a big national security story in Chicago on the eve of the 2008 elections and the Great Recession while trying to help keep his paper alive. Go ahead and come to the My Works page on the blog for more information about the book and links to buy paperback and e-book editions.

Here’s a link to the expo. Hope to see you there.

A Writer’s Biography, Volume I, Part 8: The Old Mississippi

I recently completed my move from Muscatine, Iowa, where I’ve lived for more than 30 of the fortysomething years I’ve lived, to Chariton, Iowa, in south-central Iowa. In many ways, I’m excited about the move – it has been a great professional opportunity for my wife, a good financial move for us, and a good change of pace for me. Being closer to Des Moines might even be helpful for me as far as writing goes – more writers, more people to network with. My wife even has suggested that I start a Chariton or Lucas County writer’s group, but I have to admit that I have no idea how many writers are out there or what type of writing they might do. I’d be open to the idea, however.

It’s going to be the river, however, that I’m going to miss the most.

For more than forty of my years, I have lived a couple miles or so from the Mississippi River. That has been something that I truly treasured. I remembered when I was a little kid, reading something in a National Geographic book about how the Mississippi/Missouri/Ohio river system was the third biggest river system in the world, topped only by the Amazon and the Nile. Heady stuff for a little kid.

I want to describe what this river meant to me, then and now. Doing justice to the subject is a little intimidating, to be honest. I haven’t done much looking at other people’s writings about rivers or the Mississippi in particular.

When I talk about this, I need to be honest. It wasn’t like I was some river rat, hanging out on the shore every weekend or even every month. If I wandered down to the riverfront once every week it was an uncommon occurrence. But the fact that the river was there was reassuring to me. It was a living, breathing river and passageway to me, a place where I could lose myself if I had the chance.

Since I learned that we were going to be moving to South Central Iowa, I’ve been thinking more about my feelings about the Mississippi, some of the ways that I have experienced the river. My old writing group back in Muscatine did a lot of poetry and a lot of writing about our region. I decided to finally try my own hand at poetry, which turned into my current Project C.

So, I’m thinking that maybe a poem might be a good way to maybe get at the way I feel. This is the first time I’ve shown this – be gentle.

NO-MAN’S ISLANDS (A River Story)
2.2019
The thing that The River has over other rivers and streams
is its own land.
Usually, it’s just a dirt road of two-lane blacktop of muddy water
or a four-lane at best.
But The River has its own land, right there tucked in the channel.
Carved and molded and rounded-off by the ever-shifting waters
with no shape but overwhelming mass and motion.
These are the No Man’s Island’s.  
Temporary Sentinels guarding the river for as long as they’re around.
They are for no one for everyone that has a boat
or strong enough swimming stroke.
Some are bare sand, all but ready for a rise in The River
to send it away.
Others are thick jungles, oaks and maples cluttering the interior
and hanging off the banks like a daredevil hanging from a bridge.
They’re perfect for parking your boat,
and getting some sun quota for the day.
You hang out with love behind the trees and bushes
obscuring the view of the jet skiers and party boat passengers and barge crews.
It’s their own little fiefdoms away from the cares and stresses
On Shore.
At least, they are until the snacks and beers in the coolers run out.

I’m planning on trying to do more of that poetry with river themes, as a way of keeping those memories alive with me and keep creative.

There’s no rivers the size of the Mississippi around here. There are some sizable lakes around here, including Lake Rathburn and some others within decent driving range. However, I do have an active railway not a block away from my house. I’m actually living on a highway for the first time in my life, as well.

Maybe its time to try out some train and road poems.