Searching… For A Plan?

Once again, I’m finding that I’m able to write these blogs a bit better on my phone because of procrastination. You know how that goes.

Once again, I think that I get into the situation where I try to do a whole bunch of things at once and then it turns out that I don’t focus on getting every single thing done. And again, I’m writing this late on Saturday night. At least it’s Saturday rather than Sunday.

I went and looked back at the list I first set up about two weeks ago and laughed a bit in despair and ruefulness. I might as well review what did (and more often did not) happen.

1. Continue to set up the email list, especially this “landing page.”

This got stalled out to be honest. I’m getting the idea that I might be able to try and do an email list with someone other than ConvertKit or whatever it’s called. If you asked me what that alternative was, I wouldn’t be able to tell you what it is.

So, the new goal will be, make sure the ConvertKit account is fully set up and start looking into alternatives to it. 🤷🏻‍♂️

2. Look into Canva. I suck at designing things.

Like I said before, I’m signed up but haven’t really messed with it. I’m considering whether getting the paid subscription might be a good idea, at least for a little while. It seems like it would give me more access to other designs and clip art. Anyone who has used it, feel free to let me know if it was worth it.

3. Set up a query letter for my new project.

Totally blew this off. I need to take a look at the synopsis I typed up of it and see if I can turn that into something.

4. Get more writing done.

🤣🤣🤣 …anyway…

Yeah, I was on a cold streak for at least the past three days. I think this is due to me spending a bit too long in fanfiction. I’m beginning to feel a little bit of obligation to continue it, and I will because I feel like I started something that I need to finish. However, I want to also start on my original work, the work that the A Song Of Ice And Fire world sparked in me. I’m getting close to having the main story finished, and after that… I think that I will be able to take things at a bit of a slower pace.

I will say this about fan fiction, however. So many people have classified it as illiterate nerds trying to fulfill whatever fantasies their favorite books, movies, or television series sparked in them. There is a bit of it there – I will say that a bit of wish fulfillment was the reason I started writing it. I’ve been writing and judging other people’s writings in different circumstances for around 25 years, so I think you can trust what I’m about to say. There are more than a few examples of fan fiction writing that were as accomplished or more accomplished than many published authors of original content that I’ve ever read, and that’s the absolute truth.

5. What I did rather than what I said I was going to do…

I signed up for Substack and Gumroad. I was a bit disappointed to find out that I wouldn’t be able to do print on demand through them, so it would have to be through Amazon self-publishing or maybe another service. I don’t just want to sell electronic copies of my books, I want to have some physical copies as well.

It’s going to take me a while to figure out the best system for me. It’s probably going to take a bit of trial and error. Whelp, such is life.

Next week I think I’m going to give a review of one of the pieces of software that I’m going to experiment with. At least that should give me plenty of material to write.

Also… I’m trying to read a new series, and that is giving me a some fits. It might be worth another blog about my feeling on spoilers.

On a totally unrelated note, I found out that I got my 1,000th “like” on this blog. So, I’ve got that going for me, which is nice, as Bill Murray once said.

A Step Or Two Forward And A Step Back

Decided to type this out on my phone because it takes me a bit to get upstairs and we’ve got trick or treaters in our modest south central Iowa town.

Ahead of time, I want to apologize for these past few non-journal posts being a bit talkative about me just experimenting with stuff. However, I guess that’s better than me just doing my journals, so… I think I’m improving? It’s a long process.

Looking back a week ago, I set myself a few goals to try and accomplish. So, I figured that I might as well look back and see how well I accomplished them (since I’m low on ideas at the moment, lol).

1. Continue to set up the email list, especially this “landing page.”

Well, I certainly worked at that. If a few of you noticed how the look of the site was changing a bit. Part of that was trying to see if I could get something set up with that email list.

However, I wasn’t able to quite get it set up. Apparently the easy way to do this would be to sign up for something that would cost me $25 a month rather than $8 a month, and the question becomes, how much do you spend on something that is a bit more than a hobby but not quite a business.

It’s a good question… but also not a question that I need to answer right away. I might want to experiment with a couple other mail clients other than ConvertKit. (You can always email me over at jasonliegois@liegois.media if you wish).

2. Look into Canva. I suck at designing things.

Signed up for Canva and also got the app. I figured why not, since I’m not an artist and I don’t know anything about Photoshop. (How much does that cost nowadays anyway? Maybe I need to check into that). Anyway, if Chuck Tingle manages to design his own covers it might be easier for me to try my hand at it if I’m seriously considering trying to self-publish. They have a “prime” paid membership, and it might be worth it if I can do some decent work with it.

3. Set up a query letter for my new project.

Actually, I might have already done this, but I might have misplaced that/didn’t look around for that. I’m vowing to do that tonight.

4. Get more writing done.

Whether I got that done this week, well… I’ll have to check out the journal on that to be sure. But, I think I’ll do better this weekend than last weekend, at least. And I got this post out late Saturday night rather than late Sunday night, so that’s a minor victory. If I manage to post early Saturday evening I might be starting a trend.

Well, I think some additional progress on projects 1-3 are in order. Plus, I’m planning to look into Substack and/or Gumroad.

Publishing the follow up post to this post before 8 pm next Saturday might be a good goal too. 😉

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.

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.

A Writer’s Biography, Volume III, Part 2: On nonfiction writing and abandoned projects

I was going to tell you a story, right? But, I got distracted by explaining some back story. Honestly, though, I probably needed to explain that back story to understand some of it myself. Apparently I’ve been writing a memoir for just over a year and I didn’t realize it.

(OK, that’s it for the hyperlinks. 🙂 EDIT: Sorry, lies. (see below))

I’ve had experience writing nonfiction as a journalist. I think that I’m doing well as a writer of fiction, and I’m a fan of writing book-length works.

However, when faced with the opportunity to write book-length nonfiction, I considered it for a while. At the time, it seemed like a great idea for a book.

In the end, though, I wound up walking away from the project for more than just one reason. Even though that project was not a story I eventually wanted to tell, the story behind that story might be worth a post.

Continue reading “A Writer’s Biography, Volume III, Part 2: On nonfiction writing and abandoned projects”

Building Your Fictional World

Whether it’s done through intergalactic forces, Minecraft, or writing, building your own world can be a little tough.

The pictures here are of one of two main locations for my current work in progress – London, England. I’ve not yet set foot in this city. For that matter, I haven’t ever visited the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, which is the other main setting for my book.

There are usually two main situations that you find yourself in putting together a work of fiction regarding setting. You could find yourself creating a totally fictional world, just as with Lord of the Rings and A Song Of Ice And Fire. The immediate advantage to this situation is that you are able to start everything from scratch, without having to refer to existing locations and worlds. You are free to make your world pretty much anything that you want it to be.

Of course, as anyone who’s tried to build King’s Landing in Minecraft would tell you, that’s a lot of work. However, the cool thing about this is that you can take ingredients from the cultures and histories of our world and remix that in another world. The world of Westeros has echos of the histories, cultures, and myths of the Roman Empire, England during the War of the Roses, the Vikings, the Mongols of Genghis Khan’s time, Arabic Spain, and assorted medieval histories.

In my opinion, probably the most difficult world-building to do is putting a fictional location into (on top of? I’m not sure of the nomenclature) a real-life environment you aren’t familiar with. William Faulkner and Stephen King, among many others, have done with their fictional worlds, even though they look very similar to worlds they were familiar with. The advantage to this is that you have a world that may seem familiar to people, and yet different from the real locations. The latter can be an advantage since there can be all sorts of entanglements in using real places/people/entities/etc.

In the first two books I wrote, I set them in eastern Iowa, where I’ve lived for the vast majority of my life. My most recent book which I did and am in the process of finally revising, The Holy Fool, was set in Chicago during 2008. I was familiar with the city, having visited there frequently throughout my life, although I was never a resident except for a very brief time as a small child.

However, one of the difficulties with this technique is trying to make something seem as close to the real thing as possible without seeming too unreal, too unauthentic, according to the people who live in those areas the fictional world takes place in. You have to know something about the place that you are borrowing for your fiction.

In this new project, that is a difficulty for me. I only briefly lived in Texas when I was a boy (and in the Galveston area to boot), and I’ve never lived in or even visited London. How am I supposed to create a realistic world without spending five years trying to research things, like Tom Clancy did with Hunt For Red October?

Luckily, it’s a lot easier to research things than it was back in the days where my equivalent to Wikipedia was a massive encyclopedia set in my basement. Four items help with my research:

  1. Wikipedia – obviously. However, even if the main article doesn’t give you enough in-depth information, the references and external links to each article often lead you to that kind of information. It’s definitely my first stop when I’m looking into something new.
  2. Tourism guides – you would not believe how much information you can find out from these things. Guides to Chicago were one way that I determined what neighborhoods my characters would live in and where my fictional newspaper offices would be located. You don’t have to buy these – any local library has these in bulk. My favorites are Rough Guide and any “off the beaten path” themed ones.
  3. Talking with other people – I’ve signed up with a massive amount of writer’s groups on Facebooks. Every so often, I’ll ask them questions about certain items I’m interested in adding to my work. Regarding this fictional club, I was trying to think of names that would be similar but not identical to any placenames in London. I got some good feedback from people, especially some British residents, who helped me figure out what I might not exactly be doing right. I think I have a place name (and club name) that would fit the East London area, where I want to locate the club.
  4. Just reading a whole bunch. When I first got involved with soccer fandom during the 1994 World Cup, I had no background knowledge of the game whatsoever. The only reason why I’m feeling comfortable with this book is because I’ve read everything from popular soccer histories, news coverage about the sport, and scholarly books including Inverting the Pyramid and Soccernomics.

I have to admit, however, that I get a bit in-depth on other items with my stories. With The Holy Fool, I put together a timeline and family tree of the founding family of my fictional newspaper, the Chicago Journal (not to be confused with other defunct papers of that name). On the new project, I went so far as to design a club crest and kits for the team, as well as a rough history for the club.

Whether it will be convincing for Londoners and/or fans of football is another issue. I hope it is, or, at least, it’s authentic enough not to make them laugh. However, I guess if Toto can write a song about Africa without visiting the place that impresses Africans, I figure that I can manage this.

 

On Research: writing what you know (or find out)

Tell me if I told you this story before (that’s a frequent request I’ve begun making of friends, family, and students if I tell a tale one too many times)…

 

I first became truly obsessed with the sport of soccer during the 1994 World Cup, when I saw the US beat Columbia due in part to an unfortunate own goal by the late great Andrés Escobar. I have been a #USMNT fan then and forever since, although there’s some other club teams I support as well.

That’s been a while ago; Eric Wynalda was a forward for that team, and now he’s a TV and radio pundit looking to run for the US Soccer Federation presidency.

Some years after that, as my love for the sport grew, I began thinking of maybe setting a story in the world of soccer, especially in Europe where the big leagues were, such as the Premier League and Serie A. There was one problem, however; I didn’t know anything about them.

So, that’s where the research comes in.

I’ve often been accused of being one of those people who knows a little something (or a lot of something) about anything you can think of. At the beginning of my fandom for soccer, I knew about Pele, Maradona, the fact there had once been a North American Soccer League (the first one, not the second) in the US that went bust years ago. But that was it. I had no idea about the transfer market, promotion and relegation, the history of soccer in Europe. When I played this one soccer game 10 years ago, I had no idea what they were talking about when they started showing me game schedules for the UEFA Champions League.

But I started reading up on the sport, both in books and online. I read more than a few selections of fiction, like David Peace’s The Dammed United. And I started watching more and more soccer matches. By about a couple of years ago, I felt confident enough to truly start thinking about writing a story based in the soccer world.

“Well, that’s touching,” you might say. “I appreciate those guys like David Foster Wallace who actually go to accounting school to brush up on IRS issues before writing The Pale King. But I’ve got a life? How much is too much?”

Ah, well, that’s what I found myself running into this week. Although some of the writing carnage was my direct fault of being lazy (I’ll post it right after I finish writing this), another part of it was realizing I had written myself into a research hole.

To summarize: My soccer project takes place in Texas. I originally decided to base the book in a fictional Austin suburb and a fictional college in Corpus Christi. My main character’s father is a football (gridiron) coach. I had originally thought my MC would go to a school separate from his dad because of the tension between them, but I realized that didn’t make sense, both from a story standpoint and wanting to keep the character list from mushrooming when it didn’t need to. So I took care of that, but then realized that why would my MC’s family live in Austin when the college is in CC and it’s over three hours to get there by car?

That’s when I had the idea to base everything in Austin and have the MC’s father coach the University of Texas. And that’s when I froze, fam. You should have seen me online with a dozen tabs open from pages on UT’s web site, with maps, academic information, athletic information. I was considering writing about a school that’s famous throughout Texas and the nation. Richard Linklater made Austin a character in his film Slacker, and he’s one of the best film directors there is. I lived in Texas for a few years, but I’ve never been on campus. And I’m planning on trying to make it sound credible?

Eventually, I turned to the Internet for an answer to my dilemma. The majority of advice said it’s easier to plan a vague fictional location than a real life one that its residents care about. The same thing for universities, especially since they can be really sensitive to anything that might put them in a bad light.

So, this is what I decided: The hometown of my MC, where he grew up, is now a fictional north Dallas suburb that remains one of the few enclaves around Dallas resisting cultural diversity. It will keep the old name, however, that was inspired by a few Austin suburbs. The college is a fictional one in a nearby north Dallas suburb, inspired by but in no way derived from colleges such as SMU and University of Houston. I now have a fairly nice and tidy setting for this book.

As for whether I should use the name of an actual Premier League club – I think that’s a conversation that I’ll have later.

Research is great and essential for making your book sound realistic. But it shouldn’t get in the way of you telling the story.

 

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: Today’s pic comes from Jurgen Vantomme, and you can check his web site out here.] I discovered his work in the blog In Bed With Maradona.