Learning By Reading, Or Trying To Figure Out How To Be A Professional Blogger

Since I happen to be at a writer’s retreat today in Des Moines sponsored by the Iowa Writer’s Corner, I decided to have a nice photo of the state capitol on this blog post because I’m trying to be topical without oversharing. You’re welcome. It has been great to hang out with my fellow writers that I’ve gotten to know and just write, revise, and shoot the breeze with them. It’s been a fantastic experience.

I’m the awkward looking dude in the green cap in back.

I’ve also been working to try and see what I can do to turn this blog into something more… professional? I’ve been working to try and continue the research that I began to just dip my toe into a few of weeks ago. I think I’m… slightly less nervous about starting a good email list than I was last month, and I’m eager enough that I want to actually get going on putting it together.

There have been a lot of things that have rattling around in my head. I now have at least one writing project that is not only “shovel-ready,” as they call construction projects – one book all but done, and an idea for at least two sequels. (One of the common pieces of advice I keep getting is that series are a good sell. One-shots, not so much.) I’m trying to get my head around the idea of actually trying to send it out to possible publishers or agents. Trying to find the perfect audience for a sports drama with an LGBTQ theme might be interesting. I’m not sure that there are too many publishers, for instance, that have a sports emphasis. There are more than a few LGBTQ-oriented publishers, however, but it would be interesting to find out if they would accept a project from a straight cis-male author.

More and more, however, I’m beginning to wonder at this point in my life whether it makes sense for me to just move forward on the self-publishing route. It’s a lot more straightforward to do it these days with all the technology that’s out there.

But then… I’ve always said that I always considered myself more of a sergeant than a general. When I was a reporter, I never could imagine that I would ever sit in an editor’s desk, making the big decisions. I definitely never want to be a principal at a school rather than a teacher. If you think it’s work running a classroom, try and run an entire school. It seems like all of the principals that I ever worked with had really packed schedules and lives.

And going into business for myself would be, at least a little bit, me being in charge. It’s something that’s a bit intimidating for me, and that’s an old feeling I’ve had. But as time goes on, I’ve begun thinking about what I’m waiting for. Maybe I’m not going to be a massive bestseller for my books, but at least they’ll be published. I’d rather have a group of books to talk up rather than just one.

So, that means getting onto ConvertKit to see if I can even begin to set up an email list and figure out what kind of goodies I need to give out to those who decide to sign up. It means looking into Gumroad and seeing if that is a good alternative to Amazon or whether the latter is the best bet. (It’s nice that I already have an Amazon page). Also on that list is Substack, Campfire Blaze, Canva, Netgalley, and Booksirens. (If anyone has had positive or negative experiences with any of those platforms, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.)

With that in mind, I’m moving forward. For right now, that means doing a good investigation into these programs, at least one every two weeks. I’m not going to get everything right, and not everything is going to work. However, I want to keep making progress, even if progress for one day looks like trying to get access to an old PayPal account.

More coming up.

We’ve Got A New Address, Everyone

I was going to make a quick little post about some of the research I’ve been doing on email lists. Instead, I’m making a new announcement about the site.

I decided to get a bit more serious about the site, so I’ve upgraded it a bit. This blog, my online writing home, is now situated at liegois.media. That’s all you’ll need to do to get to this blog to hear from me about writing, read some of my writing, and occasionally see me.

https://liegois.media

Funky photo/artist’s filter of an actual photo of me. You’re welcome.

As far as what will change with the site… not much, at first. I do believe that I will be using this more as a vehicle for spreading the word about past, present, and future projects, and other things about writing.

All of this is going to take some time, I think. I’m only just diving into some research about what to do for email lists, how to get them set up, and so on.

Until then, I will just say that I’m looking forward to growing and improving this blog for all of my readers. Thanks.

Well, I Accomplished A Little Something This Week (The Positives Of Limited Goals)

Once again, I’m writing this blog post on my phone because I am trying to get more than one thing done at the same time. In this case, I’m trying to get at least one round of grading done for my students to at least get some class work done ✅ and off the checklist for me. I like to think I don’t try and wear myself out mentally during the course of a school year, but I truly have to admit that a good portion of the real reason for this is that when I do try to get schoolwork done outside of school, I tend to procrastinate about it even worse than when I’m writing. I’m still doing all right keeping up with things, however.

When I finally put together Wednesday’s writing journal entry, I get the impression that the word count and the stats will not be kind to me. I have an idea 💡 as to why that is, but I think I will save that general observation for the actual entry.

The fact that I’m getting this entry out tonight means that I accomplished one of my very modest goals I set last week. As I said at the time, I tend to do better when I set modest goals and attempt to reach them rather than try and accomplish a lot of goals or large goals all at once. I try to break up big goals into different parts. I also have found that taking on goals a couple of them at a time rather than several at once tends to help me with being able to complete them.

I did get some research accomplished regarding getting an email list set up. I read some articles about the process written by Jeff Goins and other authors. (By the way, this quote from him recently fit my mood.) From that research, I think I will have to look up the program ConvertKit for that process. I also wound up getting signed up for Reedsy as well, so I might be able to meet fellow creatives there and get future advice as well.

So, that will be another program I will be having to research. Currently, I’ve got notes to check out Substack, Campfire Blaze, Canva, Gumroad, Netgalley, and Booksirens. I’m not going to get to all of those in a single week. Small steps, right? (Once I have a chance to check out each of them, those would be some easy material for blog posts.)

I did not manage to write that extra article this weekend that I wanted to do. My plan is to get started on putting that together now with the idea of posting it next weekend. (I have the advantage of knowing what I want to write that article about.)

All right, I feel good about this tonight. Hope your Sunday went well too.

Moving Forward

Well, this is the second week in a row I rolled into the weekend without an idea of what to write about. Hopefully this is not a trend.

Again, I’m facing a bit of inertia, as I once wrote about. The situation is that I am, in a sense, in between projects. There has been more than a bit of uncertainty for me for at least the past two years. Unfortunately, the work I did to get my first novel out stalled over the past two years due to both the COVID situation and my moving away to a new location. I’ve been trying to find my footing ever since.

Also, the uncertainty over what I was going to be doing this fall (teaching or not teaching) was sort of weighing on me. I’ll be honest, I sort of bugged out between June 4 and July 4 of this year after I finished up the school year. I was looking forward to actually getting things done… but, as I detailed, I have to admit that I didn’t use that time wisely. i think last year in the classroom, for many reasons, was very tough for me. I was prepared not to teach full-time and instead to tread water as a substitute (and substitute teachers are in big demand throughout the state, especially due to COVID absences). However, I managed to find a job at a small school district near my home… and I’m enjoying the classroom this year. I think it is a good environment and that is good, although once again I am back in the teaching bubble where I end up noticing little but the classroom and everything supporting that work. Working as a teacher and commuting to work can quickly dominate your life, but things are still much better for me now.

Now, I have to consider what is next for me. There are a few things I am facing.

  • You may remember that I have a project that longer readers of my blog, or readers willing to go back and read my older work, might remember as Project A. This has been written, revised, and professionally proofread. With the lone exception of one last small revision and some slight editing on one issue, this is ready to go.
    • I like the project very much. I have at least two other ideas to make this into a trilogy. But, as I’m considering whether to submit it to any publishers – I’m just dreading the long, drawn-out process. And, I’m seriously wondering whether I shouldn’t just try and go the self-publishing route, which I have long considered but I have never tried.
    • Right now, I’m sick of my inertia on this. I just need to get moving on seeing what it would take to get this published on my own because I’m really tired of calling myself a writer and I’ve only done one book that has been published.
  • For the past couple of years, I have been concentrating on fan fiction projects. This has been something that has revived my interest in writing and has been an irreplaceable experience. I’ve connected with so many readers and fellow writers, and discovered so much great fiction that isn’t in traditional publishing. I’ve really been amazed with the response that readers have given my work, and I will always treasure the opportunity I have taken.
    • However, I do think I need to give some more priority to my original content (OC). I am hoping that after I finish up some parts of the series I am working on, I will reduce the amount of time I am working on those projects. I am planning on continuing to write some stuff on AO3 (the main fanfiction site I use), but it will not be my main creative focus. I do think that the particular fanfiction I have been working on (A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones) has given me a strong interest in producing some of my own fantasy writing.
    • I also need to finish reading Lord of the Rings. I started that early during the pandemic and I let that fall through the cracks. Maybe I need to add it/adapt it to my podcast that I just started.
  • Also, I need to release some more episodes of that podcast on a regular basis, similar to what I am (trying) to do with the blog. I need to sort that out, but at least I have plenty of old blogs that would be great to build up some material.
  • I need to do some research into building some email lists and how that can help with promoting my writing. That I need to do more work on.

There’s plenty of stuff I can be doing… but I’ve learned the hard way that trying to get too many things done in too short of time is a recipe for a disaster. So, I think I will concentrate on getting the writing journal done, writing one article about my experience with the legendary Alphasmart, and another about what I might be thinking of regarding a mailing list.

That would be a great start, I think.

I’m Kicking Off My Podcast… Slowly

Remember when I talked about starting up my own podcast for this blog? Well, it’s already started.

Indicative of the kind of recording gear I don’t have on hand.
Photo by Wallace Chuck on Pexels.com

Well, I have now taken leave of my senses and decided to actually have a companion podcast to this blog. Here it is – however, you can also find it over on Spotify thanks to Anchor. Both of these links are now in the blog sidebar, as well as an RSS feed.

For now, I am keeping this pretty simple – it will be just me reading my posts more or less word for word. I have no idea about audio production or sound effects, etc., even though I did manage to work in radio for a couple of hot seconds back in my journalism days. I’m not going to do audio versions of my writing journals – I think that would get pretty dry and repetitive listening to over time. However, I do plan to redo the more content heavy blogs I’ve done recently and in the past, such as the A Writer’s Biography series and some of the other ones I’ve done over the past four years.

I’ll record a podcast about this blog now, but I will be busy attempting to record and upload some more content from years past onto the podcast. It will take me a while to do that, but at least I’ll have plenty of content to upload for a time. I hesitate to think that I might actually turn this into something that not only people could listen to, but could actually make money at… but that will be a bit in the future. For right now, I’ve just got my feet in the ocean and getting a feel for what the possibilities might be like.

Photo by Kellie Churchman on Pexels.com

Do You Want To Hear Me?

I’ve heard the phrase “A face for radio.” It’s a subtle insult, for sure. Whether my face fits it, now or back then years ago, I’m not one to say.

It’s a face. Whatever.

There are some times where I have experimented with video posts on my Facebook writing page. That included my (for now) stalled reaction series to the Lord of the Rings books. Unfortunately, I’m not able to host video clips directly on this WordPress site, and I’m wanting as little to do with Facebook as humanly possible due to the things that company is either promoting or otherwise letting happen.

As much as I love writing and plan to communicate that way, I’m thinking that there might be at least one third option. I keep hearing about a refurbished and souped-up version of the radio broadcasts my parents and grandparents used to listen to back in the early to mid-20th Century. You guessed it, it’s a podcast.

Although they’re not massive moneymakers like some forms of media, they are quite popular with listeners, and it might be another way for people to get into my blog. In addition, it would be a relatively easy thing to produce.

Spotify apparently is one of the leaders of podcast distribution. They have this program called Anchor that allows you to set up your own podcast and tie it to your WordPress blog. Well, after staring at the site for a month or two, I’ve decided that I’m going to get an Anchor site set up for this blog. It might take me a week or two to shake out all the bugs, but I plan to make it work and get it operational. It apparently allows me to turn old blogs into a podcast, so I want to try it out and see what happens.

Once I get things operational, I’ll post a story and link here. Wish me luck.

But Wait…

…I’m working on a post regarding writing software that I’ve been toying around with for a bit. I don’t think I’ll get it finished before late night tonight, so I’ll release it… twelve noon tomorrow? I’ll see if I can make it work.

I honestly think I am doing a little better trying to be more consistent with my writing on the blog and more productive. It will be interesting to see how things go two weeks from now when I am back at school – it’s my suspicion that my productivity will actually increase.

Anyway, see you tomorrow.

Coming Up…

I got tied up, but I am planning on writing a piece to be released tomorrow (Sunday). It’ll be a quick talk about what equipment I actually use to write and could lead into some more posts getting into more detail.

As before, I could have just blown it off, but I want to hold myself more accountable. Plus, who knows, maybe people are actually waiting for me to write something.

See you then.

Wow, It Has Been Four Years Since I Started This Blog

Another stylized self-pic because I hate taking selfies and this looks cooler.

Although technically, I started this blog in late June 2017, I always consider this post on 7.2.2017 as the official start of this blog. Since then, it has been my home base on the Internet.

I apologize if I mentioned this sometime in the past, but I did try this blogging thing for the first time about… not quite 20 years ago, back sometime in the mid-Aughts. I know that blogging was the cool thing to do and I had just heard about a new browser called Mozilla Firefox. I decided to join the other anonymous keyboard warriors and put up my own personal blog on Blogger (I think Google had just acquired that company by that point).

I designed it myself, wrote under an alias and wrote about everything – politics, culture, anything that caught my fancy. That was back in the days when I had plenty of great ideas but hadn’t even begun to sort out how I would consistently bring them to life.

I was having fun… for about four months. Then, as with most writing projects in my earlier years, it got abandoned. Procrastination was always an issue for me, but I also think there were two other factors involved. First, there was the fact that I was writing anonymously. I started to get a little nervous about that idea of being too revealing about myself online. The other issue was that the topics I covered were basically a grab bag of what I found interesting, and I didn’t have a good focus about what the blog should be about. Without that focus, I just floundered.

Again, I might be repeating this part of the story, but anyways… the first seed of this web site actually happened around 2014. I had essentially come out of retirement from journalism to work full-time at my hometown newspaper, the Muscatine Journal. During that time, I was making good use of social media to try and keep up to date with readers and generate story ideas. To separate my personal social media and my “professional” social media, I set up a Facebook page to use and interact with people as a journalist. I did the same with a Twitter handle.

All good things come to an end, however, and my brief journalism comeback ended by the fall of 2015 when I returned to teaching as a special education teacher. However, I had these social media accounts, and I felt like I wanted to make use of them. I decided that they would be the focus of my interests in writing – posts about writing, sharing my thoughts about writing, reposting other interesting stuff about writing.

I did that relatively inconsistently for about two years. I still have both of those accounts – I crosspost both all the blogs you see here on both pages as well as some odds and ends I find on the Internet every once in a while. (On the Facebook page, I recently liveblogged watching an episode of the Ernest Hemingway documentary by Ken Burns.) I am particularly ambivalent about Facebook nowadays and if there was a better place to be on and reach people I would shut that down. Currently, however, there is not.

So, I was having some fund with those little posts, when I said to myself, “wait one minute. It would be cool to have something where I could write longer pieces about writing, about myself as a writer. I could even put out the odd poem, story, or excerpt of something I was writing as well. Plus, I might not be tied to a larger company (or at least a megacompany) for my online presence.

Wil Wheaton is a guy that I have admired for a while – we’re of about the same age and I grew up watching him in Stand By Me, Star Trek TNG, and other projects. (He looks a lot better for his age than I do to be honest.) I also really admired how he had gotten into writing and recast himself as a creative person. In looking over his blog back in 2017, I noticed that he was using WordPress as its platform.

I wound up getting an account, started toying around… and the result is what you see here, with a few small modifications to the look and feel of the place.

This was likely the first image I used on this site. In case any of you wondered what it was, this is the Norbert F. Beckey Bridge, which carries Iowa Highway 92 across the Mississippi River in my hometown of Muscatine, Iowa.

There’s been a few changes in my life since I started this blog. I continued my career in special education at several school districts, and I will soon be starting at the fifth school district I have ever taught at full-time. My two kids graduated high school, moved out for college and/or full-time work, and promptly moved back in due to COVID/real life stuff. We moved from Muscatine on the mighty Mississippi to the little community of Chariton in South Central Iowa… and it’s a nice little community. After a year of living here myself, I’m starting to get a feel for the place, as well as getting to know fellow writers in the greater Des Moines community.

One of the water towers where I live.

Finally, I wound up becoming a published novelist for the first time in my life. Although sales have been extremely modest to say the least (I think in part due to COVID and having to move), but it has been a tremendous experience that for a long time I did not think that I would ever achieve. It’s made me hungry for more success and more progress along the writing front.

The cover for my book…

So, what is next? I think that I want to continue to develop this blog more, to more consistently produce some good content for my page, and not just report on my writing totals for each week (even though that will continue to be a big part of this site, because it has helped me to stay consistent with writing and increase my general writing productivity). I want to try new techniques to promote this page and do things that might get people interested in it. Even though it will always be a writing blog, I want to get into a variety of writing subjects that I might not have touched on before or not discussed for some time. There might be some other ways to use this page to both promote my past and future writing projects and reach more people.

I’ll leave it at that for now and wish everyone a great weekend. Writers keep writing and everyone keep safe.