Writing Journal 1.6.2018: Good start to 2019

Made some great use of my last bit of winter break, but I think that I’m back in the writing groove. The numbers:

+1,101 words written.

Days writing: 2 of 7.

Days revising: 6 of 7 for 615 total minutes.

Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of revisions): 6 of 7 days.

Six out of seven days of quota-level activity is always good, considering how I lazed around this December.

As for what’s going on:

  • I am within a few days of signing a formal contract with the publishers I have been working with. I will give an announcement on that when it happens, but the rollout for the new book will likely come in stages. In addition to the publishers themselves, it will also be available on Amazon.
    My loving wife says that she would be willing to help me with a promotional campaign, and she actually has a bit of experience with that. It will be interesting having her help in this part of my author’s journey.
    I’ll likely have to add a wing onto the old blog and my Facebook page for the new items. Don’t worry; I’ll announce that when it happens.
  • I think this year will be more than a little bit of a promotional push. There’s a good writing community in Iowa and the Quad Cities, and I want to try to make the rounds and see what I can do to get my book out there.
  • Of course, what comes next will also be on my mind. I was very happy with the results of my latest revision to my current work in progress. I’ve managed to cut the manuscript down from 92,000-plus words to just under 87,000. Currently, I think my writing priorities will be:
    • Another revision to WIP #1. Main goal: to cut the size down to under 85,000 at least.
    • Decide which other WIP (call them A, B, and C) I want to concentrate on when not revising WIP #1. A is essentially a sequel (one of at least two in mind) for WIP #1, B is a period drama about a 1980’s-1990’s indie rock band, and C is an ultra secret project I’m not sure if I want to release, at least not right away. Right now, I am leaning toward B.
  • I have a feeling that my personal life will be much different by the time the next 18 months is up. My son will be graduating from high school this spring and my daughter will be graduating the spring after that. That will be it for the kids, and then it will be me and my wife, just like it was 20 years ago in some small apartment in eastern Iowa. I’ll be excited for both our adventures and the new adventures of our kids.

OK, enough for now. For all you writers out there, keep writing and keep supporting each other. We definitely need it.

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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.

Writing Journal 8.12.2018: Numbers stable, but I’ve got a new short-term goal

Decided to give you a shot of the Mississippi River today to accompany this entry. (I wasn’t around this part of the river today, but I decided to make this work.)

Anyway, the numbers.

+395 words written.

Days writing: 1 out of 7.

Days revising: 5 out of 7 for 300 total minutes.

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

From a statistical standpoint, the numbers are more or less flat from last week’s performance. As I mentioned during the last piece, the end of my summer break is approaching and I am genuinely curious as to how much my work schedule will affect my writing activity.

A bit of this is unknown, since I am going to a new district with new duties. I have an idea of what they will be like, but it is a new culture, unknown students, etc. You never know what you are getting into until you are truly into it. I have to say that I truly enjoyed my previous district for the past three years and had no complaints about the workload I had or the support I had from staff and administration. I am getting similar good feelings and impressions from the new district, as well.

So, as an added short-term motivational tool, I have determined to finish my most recent revision of my WIP, The American Nine. I’m currently at page 237 out of 317, and I think that I can wrap that latest revision up by the end of this week. I definitely think that can be done.

I’ll get started on that later tonight, but I’m going to get some social media posts lined up for the next few days first.

That’s it for now; I’ll have more later.

 

Writing Journal 7/30/2018: A lull at the end of the month as I contemplate going back to school

Well, I got on a little bit of a losing streak this week, everyone. Here’s the totals:

+349 words written.

Days writing: 1 out of 7.

Days revising: 3 out of 7 for 120 total minutes.

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

Not much to say. I think part of it is because I am now in the “Sunday” section of my summer vacation. As of right now, I have 17 days until my first in-service day and 25 days before I start teaching to kids. It’s that mental of still being on vacation yet preparing yourself mentally for getting back into the school environment.

There are a couple of factors adding to my… not anxiety, but anticipation for the new year, at least. It will be my first year at a new district, and it will likely take me the whole school year to adjust to the new environment. This was after working for three years at a school district that I truly enjoyed and learned a lot from. It was where I first began working as a special education teacher, and the students and staff were amazing there. It definitely felt like a second home.

Now I’ll be a new district. It is slightly larger than my previous one, but I’ve got a good feeling from the staff and administration, and I do know some people there from previous professional experiences. I’ll have to go back to a five day-per-week rather than a four day-per-week schedule, sadly, but the school days will be shorter and I will have less travel time even taking the extra day into account. And of course, there will be the whole process of getting to know new school procedures, culture, students, and other expectations. I believe this will be a good move for me (one I had to make due to a decline in special education student enrollment at my previous district), so I am looking forward to making it a good year.

As for the 17 days I have left, I am going to try to use them to get as many revisions and writing done as possible. I have been doing OK with doing mid-weekly posts to the blog; that might fall off a little as I get closer to the start of the school year and into the school year. You will still see some of them sometimes.

That’s about all I can think of right now. I’ll write more here later.

Regarding How to Read and Consume E-books: Like I Have A Clue

It appears likely that I will be the author of at least one book, maybe more, that will be available in an e-book edition. As a result, I started considering how I should consume said e-books, because I’m not really doing that right now.

I was going to make this an in-depth study of e-book readers and formats, but guess what, I didn’t make the time to go ahead and research any platforms that I could use to read them. Instead, I decided to make this a quick piece about my (very brief) history with ebooks and the pros and cons I have with them.

Either my wife or my mom got my an ebook device who knows when from who knows what company. After a few years of sitting on my desk at home, I wound up stowing it in the big plastic tub where I store all of my old electronic stuff I no longer use but might remotely have a possible use for later. (All the kids out there, mine included: Don’t buy a lot of stuff. After a couple of decades at least half of it is going to either be in storage or cluttered junk, and you won’t remember most of it, anyway. Save your money and go on vacations instead.)

So, I’ll just list my pros and cons for each media, and let the chips fall where they will.

The Wood Books (just books)

Pros:

  • I can pick them up and read them anytime anywhere, except in the rain (naturally) or the dark.
  • No loading times.
  • Can be a nice decorating touch for a home office or library.
  • A pretty straightforward gift for people.

Cons

  • Heavy as hell and inconvenient to pack up and move.
  • Take up too much space once you get a whole bunch of them.
    • I might have mentioned before that I’ve had to get ruthless at culling my current collection, and I probably haven’t been as ruthless as I’ve needed to be.

The Metal and Plastic Books (ebooks)

Pros

  • Easy storage.
  • You can get a bunch of them and not break any of your shelves.
  • Portability is pretty nice, too.

Cons

  • No power, no reading.
  • Difficult to figure out all of the ins and outs of the programs.
  • Different formats – why can’t I buy one ebook and have it read on different platforms?
    • If any readers know if this is possible, let me know in the comments.

Well, regardless, I’m going to take another dive into this brave new world and see what is up with it. Wish me luck, and I’ll write more later.

 

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Writing Journal/Random Notes, 6.3.2018: New Milestone and Increased Activity

With me now on full vacation and some ideas shaking loose from old projects, I think that it was reflected in my activity this week.

+1,354 words written.

Days writing: 3 out of 7.

Days revising: 4 out of 7 for 300 total minutes.

Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of revisions): 5 out of 7 days.

Not a lot of original writing, of course, but I am keeping active. I’m going to keep the journal update brief this week, both due to the level of new info I have to share (not much) and the desire not to repeat myself (which is strong).

  • I have reached a milestone on my work for The American Nine after about 1 1/2 revisions to the book. Over the next month or so, I’m hoping to have beta readers from my writing group and possibly others have a chance to take a look at what I’ve produced and give me some comments. (I might revisit the topic of beta readers in a later post).
  • As far as other projects, I want to keep busy. There are two possibilities – We Can Be You…, which I’ve already discussed, and an old project that I’ve rechristened Excitable Boy to see if the name fits and if there’s enough story there to support something. Right now the latter project is at 50,000 words – shorter than most of my recent stuff – and I suspect there’s some things to cut and some things I might need to add.
  • My intent with the second point is to not get caught up in not producing or revising something and keeping busy with the work. I was very happy this year that I didn’t have any major declines or dead times of not writing or revising. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to keep that up when the next school year comes up and my new job. I think that I should be able to manage that.

Just a few Random Notes:

  • Looking into what format I might want to start reading e-books in. Considering how I might be publishing in the e-book format soon and many of the writers I’m running into online are doing that, I might want to consider it. (That also might be worth its own blog post later).
  • Getting in a lot of soccer watching on the weekends – will watch the World Cup even though the US won’t be in it, and Major League Soccer is still deep into its season here in the US.
  • I’ve recently noticed that when I get bored or start feeling down about things, getting more sleep is a good remedy to reset your mind. Probably helps healthwise, as well.

I’ll write some more when I have some more to write.

Writing Journal/Random Notes 5.20.2018: Officially blocked?

Well, here’s what happened last week in the official extension of my “vacation” :

+1,572 words written.

Days writing: 2 out of 7.

Days revising: 0 out of 7 for 0 total minutes.

Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of revisions): 2 out of 7 days.

writing notes idea class

[Pictured: What I’m not doing.]

These, I believe, are the factors behind the pause:

  1. I honestly had to take a break from The American Nine for a bit while I let the project sit for a bit. I think I am feeling more confident in taking another look at it and seeing what I can remove from it as being not needed. (One thing I realized two days ago, however, is that I believe I need to add a scene – or add to an existing scene – a confrontation between my MC and his father regarding his sexuality. I don’t want to make it a cliched standoff between straight dad and LGBT son, but I think I can take it into a better examination of how many of the personal choices my MC has made were a result of trying not to make the same mistakes as his father did, and his father trying to understand how it applies to his situation. It’s a characterization moment I can’t miss out on.
  2. I made the decision to try and move forward with We Can Be You… but I realized I’m more excited about the idea of the prospective third book in that series than the second or first. I think one of the reasons the rough drafting of The American Nine went so quickly and well was that I concentrated on writing just the parts that excited me, which told me what was worth keeping and what was not worth keeping. However, that is a bit more of a challenge over a series of books. I have to think about that one.

So, that’s what I have faced, but I think that this week I will start to turn that around.

Quick Random Notes:

  • I have now solidified my job situation. I will be leaving my district due to budget cuts and start work at a new district, contract in hand. Having all of that resolved is a big load off my mind, and with this being my last week of school, I will be getting into the writing mix soon.
  • This big conference sponsored by the Midwest Writing Center in the Quad Cities is coming up. Will have to check bank account and other financials to see if there is interest. I’ve been there twice and I have found the experience beneficial.
  • The Holy Fool will be published this year. Once I sign a full contract and the book would be available for purchase, I will announce it here first. My hope right now is that I could get something out in the fall, perhaps. You’ll have the details right after I get them.

That’s it for now; more later.

A Writer’s Biography, Volume I, Part 7: The Old Library

Yesterday was the last day that I checked out books from the library of my childhood.

 

It’s not like my community (Muscatine, Iowa) is losing a library, like too many others have in this country and others. In about two weeks, the current location you see above will be closed for four weeks. That’s why I decided to stock up while the getting is good – and got all of my library fines forgiven, as well! Classy move from the librarians. (I admit I am an inveterate book hoarder who has been fined by libraries in four different Iowa counties.)

Afterwards, the Musser Public Library will reopen as the HNI Community Center and Musser Public Library. (HNI makes stuff like office furniture, so if you work in a cubicle you might be sitting on or working on something they made.) This is what it’s going to look like:

HNI Musser Public Library

I mean, it looks classy, at least. HNI had an old headquarters building that was just sitting around and said why not let the city have it, since the older place was getting a bit run down. Here’s some info on the project if that kind of thing interests you.

I think there were things like roof issues, foundation issues, and some other things that required the old place to get retired. They first built the library that I used nearly 50 years ago. I mean, it looks ultramodern and slick from the outside, but it was built in the past century… like me.

Musser isn’t like a nickname for Muscatine or anything – it was the name of one of the old families here in town beginning in the 19th century that were some of the first to make some money – I think in the lumber business. The original library, build around the start of the 20th century, looked like this:

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If I went to libraries in Illinois and Texas when I was a young child, I do not remember them. I remember the first school library I had at Grant Elementary, a modest room overlooking the parking lot where I first started sorting for books. Central Middle School had a third-floor library, tucked away from everywhere else. I managed to plow through all the books they had of interest before I left.

The library of Muscatine High School, where I spent four years, was an ultra-funky layout that spoke to the building’s 1970’s origins. It was and is located in the center of the main building, on a mezzanine level between the ground and second floors. Back in the days when I went to school there, the sides of the library were open to the walkways of the ground floor below. A few years after I had graduated. apparently some students had thrown some smoke bombs from the library down below into those walkways to cause some consternation among the faculty. Well before the time I returned to the high school as a substitute teacher, they had walled off those open areas with paneling to prevent that from happening again.

However, it was the Musser Public Library that soon became my home. It’s a little difficult for me to recall how I first started getting there. I have to assume that my parents were willing to take me there as a child, to drive me there. After all, the location was catty-corner from the building where my engineer father spent the vast majority of his professional life as an engineer.

What I remember about those times, both before and after I started hauling myself to the library on a moped and then in a car, was how every topic I wanted to read about was there, open for me, at the library. That was where I was able to indulge my love of Stephen King, and, years later, Richard Laymon. I started learning about how good biographies could be, and how a book about building a castle could keep my attention until it had finished explaining how such a structure could be built. That’s where I learned about tourism guides and how they could become useful tools in my research. I believe that’s also where I learned about young adult writers like Julian F. Thompson, on Koertge, Paul Zindel, and others. I also got into Michael and Jeff Shaara and more historical fiction than I could shake a stick at.

I also remember the big comfy chairs, either over on the side or in the new additions area, where I hunkered down and started reading stuff. I would spend hours there, and had to make sure that I had enough quarters there to feed the meters or I would have to pay paring as well as book fines. (That didn’t always work out.)

That library was one of the main influences on wanting to write. I wanted to see if I could create something that could sit on the shelves along with all of the other works. I still might manage that.

 

Writing Journal/Random Notes, 4.22.2018: Consistent but a little quiet

So, I was checking my writing totals, and… they’re not too much different from last week – a little lower, but pretty consistent. Those totals:

+899 words written (blogging).

Days writing: 2 out of 7.

Days revising: 4 out of 7 for 150 total minutes.

Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of revisions): 5 out of 7 days.

And there we go. Not much to say about them, but some context with the numbers:

  • All the written words are in blogs, which I started counting recently. It’s probably going to be a while until I get out of the revising mode and into brand new draft writing.
  • My revising has been on both my projects and a beta read for a member of my local writing group, Writers On The Avenue. I’m hoping to do more of this for people.
  • This summer, I’m hoping some members of my group will be willing to beta read The American Nine. However, when I send it to the group, I will have to emphasize the fact that this material could be considered TV-MA, NC-17-type material (to be fair, romance novels are getting pretty explicit nowadays). Writers who prefer to write about religious or Christian themes are likely not going to get into the material, which I totally understand. Maybe I need to put this on the manuscripts when I email them out?
    1024px-Parental_Advisory_label.svg.png

OK, then! Random Notes time:

  • For those interested in my actual writing, including fiction, poetry, and nonfiction work not written specifically for this site, I’ve added a new category to the blog, My Writing. Just click on the handy folder link on the right side of the blog (or this link right here) and it will take you right to those pieces, if you are curious about them.
  • Real life often seems up in the air right now. I tend not to discuss a lot of personal life stuff here, but right now it appears that there is much waiting around for things to happen. Two big events are the fact that the last of my two kids will be graduating from high school in two years, and the fact that my wife is currently running for office. (Most of you probably wouldn’t be affected because it’s just our local legislative district, but here’s her site if you’re curious.) As a result of these and a few other things, I’m in the situation of having no idea what my life will look like two years from now. It’s an intriguing situation.
  • I’ve got a couple of blog post ideas coming up – another one on my series of posts about revising, and getting into what that revived book project I was reconsidering looks like. You’ll probably see those within this week.

That’s it for now; more later.

Writing Journal 3.4.2018: Oh, hahaha (Life and silliness interferes with writing)

 

OK, here’s the totals –  I’ll explain below:

+687 words written.

Days writing: 3 out of 7.

Days revising: 1 out of 7 for 60 total minutes.

Daily writing goals met (500+ words or 30 minutes of revisions): 1 out of 7 days.

OK, so it’s better than last week. Not the highest of hurdles to clear, but it is cleared, for what it’s worth. However, two main things interfered with my writing this week.

First, as I mentioned previously, my realization that I have to use a different, fictional club rather than a real Premier League club. (Spoiler alert – I was considering Arsenal FC.) After consultations on the Internet in a few different writing group pages on Facebook, I came to that conclusion pretty quickly.

To be frank, I’ve spent much of my time thinking of what this club will look like, be located, named, and its history. I am betting that 95 percent of what I came up with will not be used in the main draft, but I sincerely believe that being able to have that background, that world-building, is important enough to devote time to. I think my next mid-week post might be about that.

The second reason was more pedestrian – I’ve been dealing with some sort of cold/infection for the past three days. Yesterday, I was barely able to do anything except sit in front of the television and watch Premier League most of the day. Now, I think I can at least think, but this totally stuffed nose can disappear at any time. It is far tougher to get any sleep when you have your nose stuffed up than anything else.

So, with a relatively short work week, better mental and physical stamina, I should be able to pick up production. However, I think that it’s hard at this stage of the writing process. Like a sculptor, I’m no longer taking huge swings with the mallet and big chisel, but chipping away with the smaller tools to get everything looking just right. My plan is to have a sub-99,999-word finished manuscript in my hand by my birthday, March 30. With spring break coming up, more time away from work, and maybe one or two lucky breaks, I’m pretty sure that is achievable.

So, you’ll have another blog post Wednesday and I’ll be setting up some more content for the FB and Twitter pages to see out the week. Hope everyone has a great week, and welcome to all of the new visitors.