Refreshing/Cleaning My Writing/Pondering Space Because You Need To Do That Every Once In A While

Again, I got tunnel vision on one project and found myself without something in particular to write about.


This is the part of the post where I talk about what’s going on behind the scenes and don’t actually give writing advice. Thanks.

As it turns out, I’m now trying to write material for two blogs – this one and my one on Substack. Usually, what I try to do is cross-post my material on both sites. However, I can’t always do that. For example, while I am posting my writing journals on this site, I’m not sure that I’m going to do that on Substack. The audience for just me talking about writing numbers might be slightly limited (lol).

I’m also trying to continue to write the A Writer’s Biography posts on both sites as well. I’ve really enjoyed writing these (and it might be turning into a memoir), but this project is at different points on the different sites. On WordPress, I have been writing these stories for a while, and am trying to put together some new outings describing my past as a writer and my writing life. On Substack, I’ve just begun to post entries from this series, but I decided to start from the beginning. Since I am interested in expanding the series to book form, I’ve decided to post these expanded and revised entries as a sneak peek on Substack. So, that means I’m trying to write one thing for one site, revise another thing for another site, all the while researching the latest thing I’m hoping lets people know about me (Mailchimp), and trying to write my next novel project. All of this during a limited amount of time in the evenings and weekends of my life.

Basically, I’ve got a lot on my plate. But I am trying to write more. And there is a new book being published soon in early 2023 – The Yank Striker. Watch this space for upcoming details.

[Somewhat random explaining and complaining over.]


I’ve talked before about how having a dedicated writing space and taking care of it is something essential. As you can see from the featured photo at the beginning of this post, my writing space is relatively modest. In the first house I owned in Clinton, Iowa, I commandeered a former back porch converted into a four-season room as my first real dedicated writing room. Despite the fact it also happened to be the main entrance into the house for me and my family, it worked out well for what it was. Then there was the spare bedroom in our home in Muscatine, Iowa, where my wife Laura and I raised our two kids through their school-age years.

The spare bedroom/office in my home in Muscatine.

It wound up being essentially my clubhouse for the next 12 years, and my wife would say that since I didn’t clean it up enough, it started to take on the… essence of a guy’s locker room by the end of that run. It wasn’t a bad little writing space.

When I moved to Chariton, Iowa, I first took charge of a spare room in the front of our new house. Family circumstances, however, required me to vacate that room and for us to convert it into a spare bedroom so both our late-teen kids could share our house. Instead, I found a little landing that sat at the top of the staircase from the main floor to our main bedroom, which was converted from existing attic space. When I get to the top of the stairs, I have the bedroom to my left and the landing on my right.

This is absolutely the smallest writing space I have ever had. I only have half the bookshelf space I had in my first two homes, and at least one of the bookshelves I have is now in the bedroom rather than within reach. The total floor space on the landing is roughly 40 square feet but my effective space is probably more like 30 square feet. Much of that is taken up by two bookcases, a three-stack plastic storage case, and a desk that is only half the size of my desk in Muscatine. (I use the vintage desk that my wife previously used when she had her own consultant firm and worked out of our Muscatine home). I can’t quite stand up straight underneath the sloping ceiling above the desk, and I don’t have a door to close to keep the noise in the house out.

It might be the best writing space I have had yet.

For me, it seems to be just enough space. I’ve got enough light, people down on the main floor can’t see me up here type type typing away (but they probably hear me). Everything I absolutely need (light, notebooks, audio-visual equipment, a laptop, the Internet) is within a stretching arm reach. Despite not having a door to close, I can feel pretty set apart up here, which is a good situation to have for a writing space.

You also need to clean up the place every once in a while. My wife suggested today might be a good day to do it, and I took her up on it. After a while, a home office can accumulate quite a few things, like dust over everything, books, pop cans, and notebooks scattered around, and paper. There is often lots of small slips of paper scattered around the flat surfaces of a home office, and if it’s been too long since a sorting out and cleaning, you often have no idea of why they are there.

Anyway, I have two bits of related writing advice tonight.

  1. Make sure you clean and reorganize your writing space on a regular basis, at least once a month to prove that you’re not some degenerate derelict taking up space in your residence. If you have a clean and organized space, your thought processes tend to be cleaner and more straightforward as well. You’ll also feel like you accomplished something if you do it even without writing any words down that day.
  2. Despite the temptation to have a massive home office, consider the possibility of using a smaller space for your writing. It forces you to keep things simple and uncomplicated, which helps make your thinking simpler and uncomplicated. It also has the side benefit of making it a faster process of cleaning and reorganizing your writing area. For example, it just took me about 40 minutes to fully dust and reorganize my space.

That’s about it for tonight. I’ll try and see if I can post something on the weekend earlier than after 10 p.m. Central time on Sunday (lol). Take care everyone.

What I’m Writing About Recently, or I’m Writing This Just To Write Something

[PHOTO NOTE: My current Facebook profile pic. Just because.]

Sometimes I get into a situation where I know I should be writing but I can’t manage to do the right type of writing.

By most metrics, I think I’ve had a pretty productive writing year so far, and I think it will get better by the end of the year. However, I’m also going through a bit of a transition. For the past couple of years, I was writing fan fiction and spending most of my mental and creative energy in that sphere. It has been a wonderful experience and I have a strong feeling that it helped me recapture my passion for writing once again, but I feel like I should be talking some of the other writing that I have planned seriously. I wanted to get back to writing books again and doing more with this site. I even talked about it for a few weeks recently.

However, it turns out that sometimes people can wind up trying to do a whole bunch at once and find themselves frozen, so to speak. Well, perhaps I might only be speaking for myself, but it is true for me, at least. I think this is partially because I get used to working in certain ways and when I get out of what I’m used to doing, that can mess with me. In years past, that would have just convince me not to write anything. However, since I’ve actually decided to get serious about my writing during the past several years, that’s not really an option that I feel comfortable exercising. Even though everyone has off days and I certainly have days where I don’t write a single word, the fact that I do that too many days in a row makes me uncomfortable in a way it never did before.

I want to be creative and I definitely feel better mentally when I accomplish any sort of writing, whether it’s serious writing, fun writing, or even just a good round of revisions. So, in lieu of writing anything else, I thought I’d discuss some of the observations I’ve had about some of my current work habits and why it might be sometimes challenging to write in some circumstances. For me, it beats not writing, so I hope any writers out there get some benefit from it.

  1. Conventional book-writing and fan fiction writing have two particular differences that I have noticed. The first of these is how you go about putting together the work. In fan fiction, most writers post their fiction as they write it, in individual chapters. As a consequence, you are writing your work in chronological order as you work on it, or else readers would have no idea what was going on.
    This can be a sticky situation when you get to a point in your writing where it’s a slow part of the story and you don’t have as much enthusiasm for that particular scene. However, it can be a valuable way for you to realize that you either need to cut the scene altogether or drastically shorten it, so in that sense it can be valuable.
    In the case of book fiction, however, you don’t publish as you go. You only put out the book when you finish the entire work. Because of this fact, you have the ability to write sections of the book in whatever sequence you like, just like how movie and television directors often shoot scenes out of sequence. I began this practice in recent years for three particular reasons. It encourages me to write the most interesting scenes first, and thus encourages writing productivity. I also find that it indirectly encourages me to eventually leave out those scenes, which I think speeds up the action and pace of the narrative. So, that is an advantage of novel writing.

    The second difference, on the other hand, concerns overall word count. In the world of online fan fiction, there is no real limit to the amount of words you can write. I ended up writing more than a half million words for one series that I’m doing and nobody would blink and eye at it.
    When it comes to conventional publishing, however, keeping a narrative under a certain word count is more expected. Novels are typically between 60,000 to just under 100,000. Fantasy and science fiction authors can go a bit over that mark, but otherwise, publishers want you to keep those books at a certain length.
    I just took a look at the new manuscript I’m working on – essentially a sequel for the new book that’s coming out (watch this space for further announcements on that). I’m informally settling on a word count of about 80,000 to 95,000 for the book. I just started writing it in earnest two weeks ago. I took a look at my word count and I’m already up to 8,000 words. I feel like I just started telling the story. It’s a limitation for sure. However, maybe it’s a good limitation – not all of those unabridged novels and director’s cut films are genius-level works of art.
  2. Sticking to writing deadlines is a bit tough for me. I have usually been sticking to putting out my writing journals on WordPress every Wednesday recapping my word count and work for the previous week. Then again, those are pretty standard to put together because I’m usually just posting numbers and making the odd comments about them
    Making creative content, stuff like writing advice and those A Writer’s Biography posts, is a bit more work. I’ve been trying to write a content-rich post every weekend, but as you might notice from the timestamp on this one, that gets a bit difficult. (I was thinking that I was going to get something posted by Saturday, ha ha.)
    This is a skill that I think will be a work in progress for me. And, I realize that I’m not the only one with this type of problem. I’ve been gratified in recent years to learn that two of my creative idols growing up – the late great novelist Douglas Adams, and the cartoonist Berke Breathed, were notorious for missing deadlines. That helps me keep it in perspective.
  3. It’s tough to try and get a good word count going and be a poet.
    I’ve started to write poetry (and have shown some of them on this site), but they don’t really add to the word count, do they? I mean, I managed to get this post well over a thousand words without too much effort, but verse is a totally different animal than prose. Poets often go through just as much work to put together a group of words that a prose writer would put in to write ten times as many words. My writing group has been pondering this question for a while and wondering what a rightfully equivalent amount of writing would be for poets.
    Since I’ve been working at trying to write 200,000 words this year, obviously this has discouraged me from spending too much time on poetry. Something I might keep in mind when I am considering next year’s writing goals.

Anyway, that’s all for now. Take care of yourselves, everyone.

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.

Writing Journal 9.15.2021: Not too much to show for it… but I’m not just surrendering

If you couldn’t tell from my more recent post, I’ve had a time trying to write stuff this week.

There’s not too much of an explanation for it… but I’m proud that I’ve been at least tinkering around with trying to do something writing-wise. I don’t like to just write for the sake of it – I want to produce good material.

However, you inevitably face the idea that, if you want to write regularly, not all of your production is going to be first class, or even something you prefer that other people read. I’ve not gotten to that level recently, but I think I’m more understanding about those writers who prefer to keep some of their writings hidden permanently from public view (only to have well-meaning family or fans unearth them for good or for bad. I think Sir Terry Pratchett had the best idea when he had someone drive one of those asphalt rollers over a hard drive containing some unfinished/rough draft works after his death.

Anyway, here’s the stats. If I do the conversion of 500 words = 30 minutes of planning/revising, I’d add 2,000 more words to my total last week.

Of course, the numbers would still be unimpressive. At least, they would be less so. See you around and keep safe.

Writing statistics for the week ending 9.11.2021:
+1,088 words written.
Days writing: 2 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 2 of 7 for 120 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 3 of 7 days.

On Game of Thrones

OK, that was a ride, wasn’t it?

It’s been a couple of weeks since Game Of Thrones ended and I’m still not really over it. There have been arguments all across the Internets about whether the entire series is a failure or success based on the final season (or, in the case of some viewers, seasons 6-8 when the D&D team (I’m too fracking lazy to look up the full names of the Game Of Thrones showrunners) ran out of sweet sweet George R.R. Martin material to adapt).

In reviewing their concerns, they have laid their complaints squarely at the feet of the writing of D&D, and not anyone else involved with the production. There are at least a few brave souls online (mostly in the r/gameofthrones section of Reddit) that are attempting a straight-faced defense of Season 8 as a massive success in closing out one of the best series in TV history. And, there are a few people who are just online for the memes and fun (the r/freefolk section of Reddit).

For a couple of weeks, I’ve been trying to wrestle with how I feel about the series as a whole and Season 8 in particular. I’m in the (not surprising) position of wanting to argue a point but not to the degree that I have to put a massive amount of effort and research into the piece. (I’m just here to talk fantasy and writing, tbh, I’m not trying to put together the ultimate think-piece on GOT. If someone wants that, they can easily go to The Onion A.V. Club or i09 or Tor or wherever else they geek out about fantasy.)

What I am here to do is to talk about writing, which I personally agree with most of the commentators was the main problem with Season 8. However, if I’m going to label this series anything, the two words I would use to describe it would be: Flawed Masterpiece.

There’s so many aspects of this series that worked superbly throughout its entire run. The production design for GOT was never less than stellar. It always created a specific sense of place and culture, no matter where the action was. It did a great job of suggesting distinct cultures that were inspired by real-life culture but never exact copies of them – in fact, most of the time they would up being glorious remixes. The same goes for the costume, prop, and makeup departments.

The direction and cinematography of the series (notwithstanding Season 8 Episode 3’s darkness) were always top-notch. I loved how the action sequences were framed up and constructed from the beginning of the series to the end. Also, any stunt crew that can set records for longest combat action sequence on film and the most people on fire in a single shot are top of the line in my eyes.

Then there was the acting. Holy buckets, the acting was aces from the very first episode to the last. There were many different actors that had been there and done that (Sean Benn, Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage) and some veteran actors I’d never heard of (Iain Glenn, Charles Dance). Everyone proved why they were top of the line. There was great young talent (Kit Harrington, Emilia Clarke, Alfie Allen, Richard Madden) that the producers took a chance on and they carried the show on their backs. (I have no idea how this season would have gone if Emilia hadn’t leveled up on her acting skills and sold her entire arc.) Then there were the kids, Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner chief among them, who grew up on set and I know are going to be the next biggest actors to have both superb child and adult acting careers (Roddy McDowell, Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Rooney, Kurt Russell, Jodie Foster, Drew Barrymore, and Ethan Hawke* among many others).

No, for me, if there were flaws in this series, it came down to the writing. And trust me, I know about flaws in writing. I make enough of them to be sure.

I don’t want to speculate about the reasons for the abbreviated seasons. People say D&D wanted to get it over with so they could start working on the Star Wars franchise, not that I’m probably going to watch anything regarding that except for maybe Episode IX. To be honest, I think the cast and crew could have easily been the ones saying they wanted to wrap it up after all that time on the job. The impression I got from the actor interviews was of a cast that both didn’t want to end things and yet felt it was getting to be time for the end.

So, let’s get into each of the episodes. I’ll spend more time on some than the others, but there’ll be something about them all and some side conversations as well.

  • S8E1 – I thought this was an acceptable intro to the rest of the season. It effectively showed the tensions between the Dragon Queen and her army and her new northern allies. Plenty of good reunions all around (especially those involving Arya), and the scene at Last Hearth was spooky as hell.
    The thing that bothered me on the rewatch – I got the sense that with the dragons flying over Winterfell for the first time, that Dany’s prideful reaction is intended to show how she seems to be overly enamored of showing her strength and just expecting people to follow her.
    Unlike many people, I was not opposed to the Mad Queen scenario. I could absolutely see Dany feeling entitled to wear the crown of Westeros because it was her destiny to do that, it was her destiny to free all of the peoples of the world. But they needed to do better planning for that. Yeah, I saw the hints looking back at the different instances where she was a cold-blooded killer. But they needed to do better prep for that, man. At minimum, they needed to tell Emilia what was up long before the final season. She did everything she could to sell this last season, and I honestly think she grew several levels as an actor as a result of that, but it would have been so much better to let her in on the action when you know it’s happening, you know that it’s going to be part of GRRM’s endgame.
    Just compare springing this on Emilia to what happened with Alan Rickman and the Harry Potter series. They let him in on what was happening from the beginning and it informed his performance throughout the entire series; it added so much weight to what eventually happened.
    (OK, I had to take a break and watch the “Always” scene in the Deathly Hallows 2 film and start crying at the heaviness of all of it. I DON’T CARE. There, now.)
  • S8E2: easily among the top five episodes in the series, bar none. Where do I even start? The home truths between Jaime and Bran, Jaime and Tyrion, Jaime and Brianne? Gendrya happening in a way that felt right? Everyone contemplating death? And the big reveal between Jon and Dany? Absolutely perfect.
  • S8E3: OK, not too much to pick apart here. I can see the Dothraki making a suicidal charge into the Army of the Dead. It doesn’t make sense for the soldiers to be in front of the barricades keeping the wights out of Winterfell. Also, I have no idea why the catapults were stationed outside the castle rather than inside. (My father has no military experience whatsoever, but even he wondered what the hell was going on.) And honestly, it would have made sense for the NK to take down Rhaegal during this episode rather than having some random Ironborn scorpions do the job (see S8E4).
    The rest of it, however, made sense, and I will always be a fan of Arya being the one that kills the Night King and passing into legend.
    I admit Jon screaming at the dragon was pretty silly.
  • S8E4: This is a contradiction of an episode. It is both possibly the worst episode of the series, and yet contains some of the best scenes.
    Good parts: The opening sequence of the funeral for all of the dead. Man, Kit killed that speech at the beginning, didn’t he? The reactions of all of the actors was spot on. Also, the feast that night was the bomb, wasn’t it? I didn’t realize how much Northerners of all types loved drinking and cutting loose.
    Bad Parts: Where do I fracking start?

    • The whole reveal of Jon’s identity with his family. Yeah, I get that you didn’t want him to repeat his story a half dozen times, but don’t you think how his sisters and brother take this is important in establishing his relations with them going forward? At the bare minimum?
    • The Arya brushoff was handled totally wrong. I think I should be able to correct that in my epilogue for the series, and I am going to consider that cannon from here on out; no one else is going to consider that otherwise.
    • Rhaegal’s death from random scorpion fire (see S8E3).
    • The Jaime/Brianne brushoff. I can perfectly see why Jaime would want to do this, and I’m not of the opinion that his decision “ruined his redemption arc.” I’ve heard enough stories about addicts to know that not every one of them redeems themselves. In the end, Jaime was a flawed man who could rise to the occasion when absolutely necessary but in the end fell into his old addiction (in his case, Cersei). Just a few additional lines of dialogue would have been sufficient to show the conflict Jaime had between his love for two different women.
  • S8E5: I loved the action in this episode and it worked out far better than what I feared it was going to be. (Full disclosure: I was pouring over spoilers for this series from the beginning. Some people hate spoilers with the power of a thousand suns; I am all for them.) My complaints for this episode:
    • Again, the problem with the Mad Queen situation. I am OK with what happened, but they needed to make it slightly clearer that they were going this route from the beginning of the series, at least more clear than they did before. (See the S8E1 complaints.) Despite everything, Clarke totally sold this transformation and I think it will help her grow as an actor.
    • The Jaime/Euron meeting was trash. (Also, D&D really junked Euron’s character; I felt so bad for the actor playing him.) I think a fight could have taken place, but not the way it did. I could picture Jaime and Euron clashing after they both sneaked into the Red Keep trying to find Cersei.
    • The rest of it, I didn’t have a problem with.
  • S8E6: The ending worked better than I expected. Kit and Emilia really pulled off her death scene well. I thought the fates of the other characters made sense. I had no problem with Bran becoming king – again, this should have been developed more (along with his powers and what he was doing as the 3ER, as well). There were some hints about this in the series, but the idea wasn’t developed as much as it could have been.
    (For those who are hoping that GRRM’s books will change the characters’ fates significantly, bury those thoughts in your backyard or garden. D&D are working from Martin’s outline and his desired ending. Hopefully he’ll develop those plots more thoroughly.)
  • The things that didn’t work for me:
    • I’m fine with Arya going exploring, but it doesn’t make sense for someone who believes in family so much to act like she’s never going to see her family again. Just adding something like “I’ll see you once I find out what’s west of Westeros” would have done the trick. Sansa agreeing to help her out (with a ship) would have filled in a couple of gaps.
    • The ever changing size of the Unsullied and the Dothraki drove me up the fracking wall. Did they all get killed off or NOT? If this would have stayed consistent, it would have solved one of the biggest plot holes in the entire episode – why the Unsullied and Dothraki were so willing to go along with the decision of the Westerosi council.
    • How it should have gone would be like this: The Battle of the Long Night reduces the effective force of Dany’s army severely. Let’s say there were less than 500 Unsullied left and maybe 1-2,000 Dothraki around. (Of course there might be more Dothraki left in Essos, but they wouldn’t come into play). If this force is surrounded by, say, a 30,000-50,000 person army of bannermen from throughout Westeros, the threat of destruction becomes very real. Now, the Dothraki might still want to take everyone on due to their blood oaths to their queen, but I can easily see Grey Worm stopping them because he wants to at least survive and keep his promise to protect Narth. This scenario would have made much more sense.
    • I personally believe that Sansa, Tyrion, and all of the Westerosi lords were gaslighting GW by saying Jon was going to the Night’s Watch when he was really going to go beyond the wall. This need to be made clear because the way it was laid out in the episode was the height of stupidity.
      Why does Westeros still need a NW when there’s no more Night King and the North are friends with the Freefolk? If it’s more of a general force to serve the whole realm (such as the French Foreign Legion), wouldn’t they have NW garrisons throughout Westeros (except for those sentenced to the NW; they could be sent to the Wall).
      Once this was clear, all they would have to do would be to slip in another statement or two during Season 8 from Jon along the lines of “Oh, in many ways I wish I was north of the wall instead of here; things were so much simpler then.” Then, during Tyrion’s last conversation with Jon, after he discussed sending him to the Night’s Watch, he could have added, “…so that’s what’s going to happen to you as far as everyone’s concerned. But we’ve got another plan instead…”
    • Not even giving the Dorne guy a name? Seriously?
    • Not even a look between Arya and Gendry in that last episode when they were on the same platform?
    • Queen Yara needed to remind Bran of the promise Dany had made to her that the Iron Islands would be independent. He could still do that and claim to be ruler of the Six Kingdoms. Come on, a promise is a promise.

In the end, I think the screenwriters/showrunners collided with some Writing Fiction 101 no-nos that could have been easily avoided. They include:

  • If your plot only works because your characters are too stupid to figure out better plans or courses of action, then your story is going to run off the rails and destroy any suspension of belief that you might have. It’s OK for some characters to be that stupid, but it’s infuriating for an audience to see characters of reasonable intelligence or even high intelligence wind up doing dumb and dumber things. This is related to the next problem.
  • You need to have characters take actions and demonstrate behaviors that are consistent with who they are. It takes time and craftsmanship to create those characters and their identities. You can’t have characters suddenly take actions that don’t make sense to them. That kills off the ability for readers or viewers to believe in the action, and it’s an insult to characters that they have invested themselves in.

So, that was my very basic, bare-bones assessment of Game Of Thrones. I have no idea whether I will watch any of the prequels/sequels that will come out, but I will always recommend the series to others, I will root for the GOT actors in all of their future endeavors, and I will always appreciate it for reaffirming my love for fantasy writing.

*Ethan Hawke is the greatest actor of my generation (Generation X). Try and prove me wrong (protip: you can’t).

So I Want To Be A Fantasy Writer…

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: Yeah, I know I said I was going to write this in the middle of the week. Blame the end of the school year craziness for that. But, as it turns out, I’ve long had a theme on my Facebook writing page of #SciFiSaturday (or, as I should say now, #SciFiFantasySaturday). So, maybe it was for the best that I saved this for now. Anyway, here’s the post.]

Genre fiction was my thing growing up. (Maybe I should have made this into one of my Writer’s Biography pieces. Oh, well, maybe another time.) Science Fiction I was into for a long time – I was a Star Wars and Star Trek kid and loved the classic scifi of the 20th century (Frank Herbert, Ray Bradbury, etc.)

Fantasy, however… it wasn’t unknown to me, but it wasn’t something that was near and dear to my heart. At least, it wasn’t at the same level as the science fiction was. But it always was there, lurking around the margins. When I was either in elementary or middle school, I discovered Lloyd Alexander and his series The Chronicles of Prydain. I remember The High King making a massive impression on me, the epicness of it, how Taran was forced quickly to become a man and the choices he had to face. I loved that book.

There were other fantasy things that fascinated me, both growing up and in recent years. The film Conan The Barbarian came out when I was in elementary school, and I dug that character so much. I saw The Dark Crystal in the theater, watched the animated series Dungeons and Dragons and even played the game it was based on once or twice. (I spent more time reading the dungeon master’s manual than playing it, however.) I never have read The Lord of the Rings series, although I’ve now seen all three movies.

And finally, I have seen a good portion of the series Game of Thrones, and have read the first book in the series A Song of Ice and Fire. I keep promising that I’m going to give a quick review of the TV series (maybe this coming week?). There have been many think pieces written about the final season, and the series as a whole, but I would describe the series as follows: a flawed masterpiece.

What I will say is that all of the comments about the series and the inadequacies of it’s writing (which can certainly be argued) didn’t depress me, and the fact that the series didn’t end exactly the way I wanted it to didn’t depress me. No, what it did do was inspire me. It was the same thing that has always inspired me, looking at something in a book or online or on the screen that immediately made me think “I can do that better.”

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. It’s been a theme that maybe my mind has been… playing with for a while, taking the concept out for a test drive. 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. Now I’m starting to look over fantasy map building sites and thinking about what these civilizations would be like.

Yeah, it looks like I want this to happen. I’ll let you know more about it later.

On the Apostrophe S and it’s effect on me: a special #WritingAdviceWednesday #WAW post

As a writing teacher, I have an interest in correct grammar. I know from first-hand experience that having to read someone who doesn’t have a clue about grammar can be massively distracting from the message you are trying to convey.

One of the biggest questions I ever had growing up was, how do I, personally, deal with the apostrophe-s situation? I have a particular concern about this issue, because it directly affects me.

To review, the rules for apostrophe-s are basically as follows (I’m sure someone will nail me if I have misstated these rules):

Add an apostrophe and s to show possession for all words not ending in s.

ex. Jason’s, team’s, child’s

Add just an apostrophe to words ending in s.

ex. cars’, bakers’, fields’

Makes sense, correct? However, there is considerable debate regarding one issue in particular. What is the proper style in the event that you are trying to show possession for a subject that is a proper name but has an S at the end of the name? As someone with the surname Liegois, this is pretty relevant to me.

I recently came across these three articles on the subject. The general consensus is… there is no general consensus as to whether I should write, for example, Liegois’s car or Liegois’ car. Different stylebooks and grammatical techniques have it one or the other way.

Well, I believe I have decided for myself that Liegois’ will be the way I use it from this day forward. The tiebreaker for me is that the Associated Press Stylebook comes down squarely on the side of using just the apostrophe. As you might remember, I used to be a journalist, and we always kept one of those spiral-bound copies of the AP Stylebook on our desk to settle any uncertainties of language. So, Liegois’ it is.

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”

Writing Journal/Random Thoughts 7.16.2018: A slight drop off, World Cup thoughts just because, and one insight that might only interest me

Yeah, so the numbers for this week… not really impressive, but not a disaster:

+1,206 words written.

Days writing: 4 out of 7.

Days revising: 3 out of 7 for 90 total minutes.

Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of revisions): 3 out of 7 days.

So, not matching last week’s totals, but not a total collapse. Explanations? Two in particular come to mind.

First, since we are now in mid-July, I have to say that I am officially in the doldrums of my summer vacation where maximum complacency sets in. Luckily, this has not been as severe as previous years. Due to various circumstances, I find myself keeping active with local political volunteerism and assisting my wife with various errands. As a result, I am more occupied than last year, when I literally had nothing to do during the summer after a few consecutive years of taking and/or teaching classes during that time (to be fair, I probably needed the break).

Second, of course, was the conclusion of the World Cup yesterday and this past week. As has been documented previously on this blog, I have a pretty serious soccer obsession at this point. General thoughts (Random Notes? Random Notes!) on the tournament:

  • I was very happy with the quality of the games and the action.
  • Video assistant referees (VAR) have been a long time coming and much needed.
  • The final was great, with the young kids of France proving themselves against the best of the world.
  • Also glad to see the Belgians do well – my name and family background has some Belgian origin, so that was cool to see.
  • I was sorry not to see the USMNT in action, but I’ve been happy to see how the younger kids of that team have been doing in friendlies, and that plus the fact we will be hosting the 2026 WC alongside Canada and Mexico have helped me to get over that. Compared to the winter fiasco the 2022 Qatar WC will be, our tournament will be paradise.

How much of a soccer/football junkie am I? I’m actually counting down to the ICC club exhibition tournament in America within a couple of weeks. Plus there’s still Major League Soccer in America, and the European leagues will start up in a month… the fact that there’s always soccer on somewhere in the world is good for me, but it can be annoying to those close to me. 🙂

Well, hadn’t expected to write that much about soccer, but there hasn’t been too much writing items to talk about.

I will say this, however, as a small piece of writing advice. If you are writing a story and you are not feeling it, you may want to swap out your characters for new ones that attract your interest. Not to get into too many details at this very early stage of the creative process, but I started considering putting a main character from one of my current projects into a writing project that had a totally different genre. And I think it’s going to work. It might be a project that I wasn’t planning on writing for a while, but I think it has made it a far more interesting and not quite as cliched as I had initially feared. Mixing and matching – it worked for rap, and it will work for you, too.

That’s about all for now. I do plan to write up something for midweek – I know I didn’t do that last week as I have been trying to do. Anyway, I’ll get you more stuff later.

On The Question of Subtitles For Books (Not The Translating Kind)

Editors, agents, publishers, beta readers, and occasionally random people off the Internet can give you some insights on your work. Sometimes, they can give really good insights into your work. It turns out that I got one of those insights last week.

Not to go into too many details, but I’ve mentioned more than once that I’ve started working with a publisher this year, and that process has been ongoing, but one I hope to finish this year.

To set up this story, let me state that I’m a big fan of titles and the stories behind how people come up with them. For example, one of these was how the film The Evil Dead got its name not from Sam Raimi but from an imaginative distributor.

I thought that I put a lot of thought into the titles of my recent books that I am working on.

  • The Holy Fool – a reference to the truth-telling figure in Russian-European mythology who is seen as crazy but is able to reveal truths not acceptable from other sources. It’s a good metaphor, right?
  • The American Nine – a reference to the “Nine” position in association football (soccer), also known as the center forward. Since my MC in that book is American and he plays that position in soccer, that would make sense, right?

However, one of those that is helping to put my book together made an observation to me (I’ll paraphrase it here) that would seem to be obvious in hindsight, but not so much to me at first: you want your prospective reader to have an idea of what your book is about from the title on the cover.

But how do you do that without losing those cool metaphorical titles? The solution I was presented with – and I thought it was a great idea – was using subtitles.

When I write about subtitles, I am not referring to the yellow or white words that appear at the bottom of film screens when someone is speaking in a foreign language. I’m talking about the secondary titles on the covers of books that usually get left off when you are referring to them, but they are officially part of the title of the book.

The more that I’ve thought about it, the more I like how subtitles can give important, quick context to the book that you are writing, while still being able to keep the lyrical tone (or whatever tone you’d like to adapt) of your main title. I was looking through some of my own books to see if I could find some good examples for you. Here’s a few that caught my interest:

  • Title: Catch a Fire
    • Subtitle: The Life of Bob Marley
  • Title: Under the Banner of Heaven
    • Subtitle: A Story of Violent Faith
  • Title: Guns, Germs, and Steel
    • Subtitle: The Fates of Human Societies
  • Title: Breaking Free
    • Subtitle: How I Escaped Polygamy, the FLDS Cult, and My Father, Warren Jeffs
  • Title: Badass
    • Subtitle: A Relentless Onslaught Of The Toughest Warlords, Vikings, Samurai, Pirates, Gunfighters, And Military Commanders To Ever Live
  • Title: Soccernomics
    • Subtitle: Why England Loses, Why Spain, Germany, and Brazil Win, And Why The US, Japan, Australia, Turkey – And Even Iraq – Are Destined To Become The Kings Of The World’s Most Popular Sport

Now, you probably wouldn’t need something as big as the last two subtitles in that list for your book, but do you see how it works? You get a good idea of what you are going to get between the pages before you open it up to see the dust jacket comments or click on that Amazon or Barnes & Noble link. And in an era where more readers are clicking rather than grabbing to get a look at what you have to read, that is often the difference between getting someone to look at what you have to write and having them pass you by.

So, the result was that I passed along 10 possible subtitles to my publisher, and I decided to tack one on to my work in progress. It was a good lesson moving forward, and I hope this might give you some ideas for your own titles – or subtitles, as the case might be.