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”

A Writer’s Biography, Author’s Notes Part 1: Yeah, this is turning into a memoir

Since this is about my history, this was my childhood home in Muscatine, Iowa, where I grew up and spent 19 years of my life. Image courtesy of Google Maps.

I had sort of feared that during the course of a few years online, as I slowly began to be more of a blogger and getting into my personal writing life and my experiences, that some of those blogs, which I have been gathering here under the title of A Writer’s Biography could possibly become something bigger than I expected. Before I had realized what was going on, I had compiled more than twenty posts about my past life and its relation to writing1. I had thought that might be the case, but as often happens in these circumstances, I put off doing anything about it for a little bit2.

After a while, I returned to what I had written and started considering it again. Had I, almost by accident, at first, started writing an honest-to-goodness memoir? And if I was on my way to writing an actual memoir, didn’t I have the responsibility to see it through and see what it could become?

So, I had to consider the situation. I believe that writing is like the profession of teaching. There is more than a little art in both the act of writing and teaching. Artistic considerations have to be made in both cases so that what you produce is not lifeless and missing your personality.

However, data is also part of both writing and teaching, and you ignore it at your own peril. In teaching, assessment data, when those assessments are correctly given, can give you a look at what your students know as well as if they understand the concepts that you have been teaching them.

In writing, data might not seem to be as important at first glance, but it has its place. To give just one little example, late in my journalism career I had my editor point out that I had been consistently misspelling the names of people I had written about in my stories. Once I became aware of this trend, I was able to put measures into place to all but eliminate that problem for the rest of my time as a reporter3.

Later, as I was trying to restart my writing habit, data came to be useful when trying to set my daily goals. Because of my experience with National Novel Writing Month, I knew you could write the first draft of a modest-sized book in a month if you wrote at a brisk 1,667 words a day. With that in mind, I decided that a daily quota of 500 words a day was a nice, solid number that wouldn’t require me to write like a maniac unless I was really feeling the spirit. Likewise, after I noticed how much time typically it could take me to get to 500 words, it made sense for me to say that 30 minutes of revising old writing or planning new writing would be a good equivalent quota for that type of work. And also, me looking at my past years of writing productivity gave me the idea that a 200,000-word yearly goal, as well as a 70-percent daily quota success rate, would be challenging but quite reachable goals for 2022.

As a result, I decided to apply this data crunching to this idea of whether I had enough material to attempt a memoir. In case you were curious, 5,000 to 10,000 words is considered to be the range for a short story. Such a short story could be as low as maybe 1,000 words and avoid being classified as short short fiction. A novella is considered to be in between a short story and novella, so somewhere between 10,000 and 40,000 words. From my research into memoirs and their lengths by other writers, a length of somewhere between 60,000 and 80,000 words is considered optimal.

Once that was done, I decided to gather all of the entries from A Writer’s Biography into a single place. As of this moment, there are 24 “finished” entries to the series. For those who haven’t followed this or haven’t been noticing it, I’ve organized the entries into three different volumes. Volume I covers my writing and reading experiences from when I was a kid, from my first coherent memories of such things to about 18-20 years old. Volume II covers my writing experiences as a young man, from roughly the end of my college years to somewhere around 40 years old. Finally, Volume III covers my experiences since that time, as I have worked to expand my writing productivity, consistency, and quality. I gathered them into a single document, threw in a short forward section, and hit that word count button.

There was part of me that was expecting the count to be pretty low, maybe 10,000 words at most. What did I remember about my past? It certainly didn’t seem like enough to be within reaching distance of a full-blown memoir, especially since I was just screwing around online.

Then I checked the word count. I did it again. I clicked it for a third time just to make sure I was looking at it right.

It read 22,736 words.

That’s a big batch of words from just screwing around online.

And that’s not even close to the amount of possible words I could put into this project. I know for a fact that I have ideas for at least four more entries sitting in my drafts folder. I think there could be many more than that if I really thought hard about it.

As I did a quick read-through of the full rough draft, I also know that several of those existing sections could be easily expanded. If I expanded every existing entry by just 500 words on average, that would get me another 12,000 words without blinking.

Well, this is no longer a theoretical exercise. I’m now writing a memoir, just because I could. I’m going to get to that 60,000-word goal. And eventually, I’ll have to publish it. If you have any good wishes, send them my way as I continue to contemplate this craziness.

Footnotes:

  1. It’s grown since then, too, with more to come.
  2. A little bit, in this case, being more than a year (lol).
  3. My system was to ask anyone that I would interview to write down their names in my notebook. I would either do that or in the case of public officials or other people, I would copy and paste their names from their official sites. After triple-checking the first use of the word in the story, I would copy and paste it whenever it was used in the article. It was a relatively simple procedure.

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.

A Quick Promo Post…

So, a while ago, I got an invitation from Tambo Jones, a librarian in Badger, Iowa, for me to come on out to a city-wide garage sale and book fair. She had gotten my name from one of my fellow writers in Des Moines, Maggie Rivers, to come on down to the festivities.

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. Festivities are expected to start at 8 a.m. and will continue throughout the morning. I may be listening to Premier League soccer occasionally on my Sirius XM radio, but I am looking forward to getting out and meeting people. I also know one of my friends and fellow authors Darrel Day is expected to be there, too.

The location will be at:

Badger Public Library
211 1st Ave SE
Badger, IA 50516

I hope to see you there, if you can make it.

A Writer’s Biography, Volume III, Part 7: How Much Are Dreams Worth? A Consideration.

I was going to try and do a review of one of the publishing/writing/designing tools that I’ve been doing research on for the past few weeks. I still might do that later. However, I decided I wanted to talk about what happened with me this week.

In case you didn’t know, my current efforts to get published are by no means the first. I once managed to secure the services of an agent for a now long-forgotten young adult book. $120 and a year later, if I recall correctly, I told her thanks for her efforts, whatever those might be, and we parted ways.

Then there has been the recent publication of my book, The Holy Fool. I have nothing but thanks to them for giving me a chance to get published, and even if I’m not the biggest bestseller, at least I got farther than I have before.

During my recent research into self-publishing and related systems, I came across the radar of a company that provides services to self-publishing authors. I will not name this company here. Suffice it to say that through my research and investigation of the company, I was convinced that they were a legitimate company that truly believed that they could provide resources that that could turn me into a better-known author that could make a living at writing.

It was because of that I found myself on the phone last Friday evening with a representative of this company to discuss the plans I had for a possible series based on a project I have already written.

The discussion was quite amicable, informative, and to the point. During our conversation, it was clear that he had researched my book and its success as far as being widely known was, to be honest, extremely modest. I established that I knew little of book cover design and also little of search engine optimization and keyword usage. He gave me a couple pieces of advice and some complimentary research materials.

Eventually, it came down to cost. It always does underneath these circumstances, when a company approaches a person rather than the other way around. In this case, $6,000 for full services, or perhaps three payments of $2,400 every three months. After a few pleasantries and sincere thanks, we ended the call.

What sort of price do you put on a dream? How do you justify spending that amount of money on something when, until very recently, being able to scrape together just $1,000 on short notice without resorting to a loan was not a guarantee.

“There’s got to be a less expensive way to do all that,” was the thought of my wife Laura after the meeting. I’ve stayed married for 25-plus years because I tend more often than not to listen to my wife.

And that wasn’t even the biggest amount I would have paid to a publishing company. Another company that will not be named seriously quoted me a number of $20,000 for a full service package. Again, however, how do I justify investing that much into my art when I have a life and family to maintain?

That’s not even touching on how this conversation made me think about the difference between writing as a business and writing for writing’s sake. If my experience with fan fiction has taught me anything, it’s that I can find artistic validation and satisfaction totally absent a profit motive. (That question might be worth its own entry.)

So, anyway, I’m back to where I was, investigating future possibilities. Might my path be perfect and lead to fortune and fame? It might not. However, it will likely be something that I can manage to afford, and I am hoping it will be totally mine.

Writing Journal 11.3.2021: Sliding out of October

Not too much to talk about, so I’ll keep it quick. Well, this turned out to be not exactly what I expected. Let’s carry on, however.

As I sit here at the beginning of November, I’m wondering if I have enough time to pull together a decent writing year with two months of 2021 left to go. I think there is a chance that I might be able to finish strong this year, but whether I finish comparable to 2019 or 2020 is up in the air. Like I analyzed back in January, I wrote more words in 2020 than 2019 and a lot more than 2018, but the percentage of times that I met my writing goals during the year fell from 78 percent in 2019 to 62 percent in 2018.

In the end… it’s a little difficult to exactly pinpoint the reason for the drop-off last year and this year as opposed to 2019. I’ve tried to think about it more than a few times.

There was the move to south central Iowa that disrupted my routines and stalled out any momentum that I’ve tried to build with The Holy Fool coming out in 2019. My connections to my little writing community I had been starting to develop in eastern Iowa and Muscatine over the course of many years got severed, and the COVID-19 outbreak also put a lot of potential public events out of reach for at least a year. It has only been recently that I have been trying to rebuild my writing community out in the Des Moines area because that is the biggest community within driving distance for me to find fellow authors. I think this is leading me to more gradual (and I hope permanent) changes that I am starting to make aimed at growing myself as a writer and as a brand. It would be nice for there to be a good writing community where I am currently living (Lucas County, Iowa), but due to the population out here, I don’t think I can count on that. In addition, I think I am at a different place than I was when I first became involved in writing communities. Before, I was concerned about finding people I could bounce ideas off of, get writing advice, and show me how I could become a better writer. I still want that, but I also really want to try and push myself forward, becoming someone who could turn my writing into something that could at least become a nice little side gig, if not a full-time calling at the moment. The people I have met in Des Moines have been published multiple times. I don’t think I’m going to have that level of experience in little Chariton of Lucas County, as compared to Des Moines.

Once I moved out here last year to Chariton, my mental state was honestly not the best, not necessarily because of the move but because of the working environment I found myself in. By the end of my time at this particular school district, I was even questioning my dedication to continuing teaching, as so many of my colleagues both at that district and other places have done. However, my wife (Laura) encouraged me to keep my mind open to other teaching opportunities. As of this writing, I’m in the second quarter of the school year with my new school district. While it is by no means a perfect job, I find myself being in a far more positive mind set than I was at all during the last school year. Whether it is the smaller school district environment, positive and supporting administration and staff, or a combination of them and other factors, I am usually quite happy with my job. I never understood writers who said they couldn’t write in a depressive or down condition. I usually find writing when I am emotionally not in the best space to be a very taxing situation, much like weeding a lawn.

This fan fiction work that I’ve been doing during the past two years has been rewarding emotionally, and I think I’ve learned about my writing during that process. However, I think that the momentum of that work is starting to wind down. What was doing to be just two stories has now branched into an entire series that will run well over the 500,000 word mark when it is done, I believe. That has been great, but I think I also want to develop and support my OC writing material, with the fan fiction work continuing to be an occasional side hobby. However, for the sake of being complete and not able to let go of an idea, that work will continue while I try to get on with things.

Anyway, here’s the stats. Hope we have a good writing week to come.

Writing Statistics for the week ending 10.30.2021:
+2,536 words written.
Days writing: 5 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 0 of 7 for 0 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 3 of 7 days.

Hello From Des Moines

I’m at the Indie Author Book Expo at Valley View Mall in West Des Moines. This is my first opportunity to do one of these fairs and my first time that I have gotten to do an in-person event.

If you’re out in Des Moines, come out and see me and the other authors out there. I’m signing copies for sale, so get them while they last lol.

What I’m Working On Now, June 2019 Edition

A while ago, pretty shortly after I started this blog, I let readers know some of the bare-bones basics regarding some of the projects that I wanted to work on and that I was working on. I thought now might be a good time to update that, just to keep myself, much less any readers, in the loop about what’s coming down the development pipeline.

I’ve mentioned these projects before in some of my writing journals, but to keep from being too repetitive, I decided to put them all in one place as a reference. I’m not going to mention working titles or big details about plots, etc. However, I think you will get an idea of what the gist of each of the projects are below.

I also think, looking at some of the items on this list, that you’ll see that I’ve been bouncing around with several different genres and subjects. I appreciate writers who want to stick to one thing, but I enjoyed too many different styles and genres of writing to stay in one wheelhouse. I want to create and I want to spread my work to others – that’s basically my life goals regarding writing.

And Now, The Projects

  • Project A: This is a book about a young man who is a football player and the son of a famous college football coach who is also obsessed with soccer. I first got the idea to write about what I thought the first American Lionel Messi might be like and it turned into one of the richest characters I’ve ever written about.
  • Project B: This is a short novel about a young teen who shoots two of his classmates during a psychotic break. After five years imprisonment, he is looking to rebuild his life with the help of his brother, but former high school classmates start turning up dead around him…
    A former NaNoWriMo project, this is one of the shortest books I’ve written, around 50,000 words. I want to make this one nice and tight, not much longer than it is now, which I think will be a good plan for a thriller.
  • Project C: For someone who never messed around with poetry, the idea of me putting together a poetry collection is a real trip. The poetry enthusiasts of Writers On The Avenue in Muscatine were so much into poetry that I decided, starting around 2010 or so, to give it a whirl as well.
    However, I think this is some of the most interesting stuff I’ve written, and a way for me to connect to where I grew up. A big theme in this collection is the Mississippi River, how I’ve experienced it, and what it means to me. I first got the idea of this project well before I knew I was going to eventually leave the Mississippi River area, but I think it’s been a good reflection of what I will be leaving behind. (People leaving their homes for various reasons appears to be a reoccurring theme in a lot of my work).
    I had originally decided to try to put this out as a whole project, but some recent advice from a poet I’ve met has convinced me to try and get some of these out individually. So I’m going to start looking into those markets, with the intention of getting those poems published and thus generating interest in the larger collection.
  • Project F: This is the fantasy project I was inspired to write based on my Game of Thrones obsession. The basic theme that I’ve been playing around with is this: So, I started thinking of a scenario, of a new fantasy world, where civilizations representing the concepts of magic, chivalry, and science and progress would clash and face each other. The more that I’ve watched Game of Thrones and what they’ve done right and wrong, the more this idea of writing fantasy intrigues me. I’ve started to look over fantasy map building sites and think about what these civilizations would be like.
  • Project S: What started out as the idea for an analysis of one Game of Thrones character has now turned into an epilogue for the series that is running over 27,000 words as of this writing. Obviously I have no interest in monetizing this whatsoever. I’m going it as an exercise and as a way to get over how ridiculous the last season was.

Also, there are the following projects that might get letter designations as well, to help keep them straight.

  • Project R: A story of a fictional indie rock band and its history from the early 1980’s to the early/mid-1990’s, my love letter, so to speak, of the indie rock that caught my ear so many years ago. This will likely turn out to be a trilogy.
  • Project W: A thriller, just the germ of an idea. But, it’s pretty intense, pretty heavy material. This might wind up simmering for a while.

As part of my greater efforts to keep myself publicly accountable for my writing successes and failures, I also want to list when I am planning to get these projects done. So, feel free to cheer me on or have a laugh at me, depending on my successes and failures. Putting my goals in print makes them more real for me.

  • So, here are the current projected deadlines for those projects:
  • Project A, begin querying agents and publishers: Sometime in early-mid summer 2019.
  • Project B, finish major redrafting of the rough draft (more of a second rough draft rather than a more focused revision): End of summer 2019.
  • Project C, finishing creating rough draft poems: End of 2019.
  • Project F: None at this time, but I would like planning for the project to be well underway by the end of 2019.
  • Project S: Maybe posted by the end of the month (tentative)
  • Project R: None at this time
  • Project W: None at this time

Finally, don’t forget my first published project, The Holy Fool: A Journalist’s Revolt. That project was years in the making and getting it out this year was a major life accomplishment for me. Get to the My Work page on this blog for all of the links if you want to find out more about it and (possibly?) buy it. But, there’s other ways you can support it, too.

Anyway, that’s what I’m working on. If you’ve got any questions or comments, leave them here and I’ll be glad to answer them.

Writing Journal 5.25.2019: As my summer vacation begins, I get the feeling that my writing vacation is coming to an end

Hi, everyone. As I mentioned during the last journal entry, I have decided to add fiction planning time to my writing journal to reflect the work I am doing to plan and research for projects. I believe that is just as legitimate work as is putting the words to the paper (or hard drive) and revising what you have. So, it makes sense to add that to the journal, although when I changed the journal to the latest format, I wasn’t doing too much planning for projects, so the numbers shouldn’t be totally off.

So with that, here’s the numbers for last week.

+1,158 words written.

Days writing:  2 of 7.

Days planning/revising: 2 of 7 for 60 total minutes.

Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of revisions): 4 of 7 days.

As anyone who has been watching media could guess, Game Of Thrones ended last Sunday, so that’s all over but the shouting, the memes, and the memories. It’s even inspired me to try some fantasy fiction myself.

I am now officially in the summer vacation mode. After the long weekend, I’ve got two more days of in-service work to do, but honestly, working in-service days I can get done in my sleep. After that, I’ll be moving my wife into her new temporary digs and settling into the summer months running around kids and transitioning into a new thing.

Now that I have a long period of time where I will be doing little except running kids back and forth and trying to keep things ship-shape while the wife is away, I’m going to get back into the mix of writing and doing things to promote my work and this blog. Here’s a few things on the list.

  • First, get back to writing in a serious manner. I have a lot of work to do, both on the projects that are in the pipeline (see below) and the projects that are in the pipe dreams, so to speak. I want to spend this summer getting quite a lot done and moving myself forward regarding my writing career (since I won’t have to worry about teaching until the first part of August at least.). You’ll see what I have to do below.
  • I want to get more active on my Goodreads account. (Yes, I am on Goodreads.) I have a former high school classmate who reviews all of these books and does a great job of it, and he’s running the local United Way organization. There’s another former colleague of mine who manages to get on there more than I do; he’s one of those teachers who is all in regarding their work, bless them, and his wife is just the same, but they are good people and I admire them anyway. Regardless of that, I’m a writer who teaches, and what’s my fracking excuse? I should be reviewing books left and right and posting those reviews. I’ll post them on Goodreads; I should post them here as well.
  • I need to produce some more work. Almost two years ago, when I started this fracking blog, I wanted to be a published writer. Against all of the odds, I managed to make that happen. But, I’m not resting on those laurels. I want to make my writing career as big as I can make it. But, this goes beyond making money. I no longer write because I want to be famous like Stephen King or some rubbish like that. I’m writing because I literally cannot picture myself doing anything else. The only way I see myself is as a writer, prosperous or not. I can’t do anything else with my life.
  • It’s going to be a fun summer.

    Look, I have an event less than a week from now. Would you be willing to spread the word? [Obligatory plug, if you will (see below)]:

I’ll be hosting a book talk on my novel The Holy Fool at the Rock Island (Ill.) Public Library at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 1. I’m going to be there courtesy of the Midwest Writing Center, which is hosting the event.

One thing to keep in mind: My favorite English football team, Liverpool FC, is playing in the Champions’ League final at the exact same time this book talk is going to start. I may have to call off this talk early so we can all frack off to the nearest sports bar and see the results. We haven’t won the title in 14 years; I’m not going to miss that. Who knows any good sports bars on the Illinois side of the Quad Cities?

I have three writing projects I want to complete this summer (check things out here if you want more details on them.).

These are the projected deadlines for those projects:

  • Project A, begin querying agents and publishers: Sometime in early-mid summer 2019.
  • Project B, finish major redrafting of the rough draft (more of a second rough draft rather than a more focused revision): End of summer 2019.
  • Project C, finishing creating rough draft poems: End of 2019.

I am psyched about this summer. There’s so many things to do, and so much to take care of, before I get back into the grind of school sometime in mid-August. I’m looking forward to many cool things before everything cools down.. 😀