What the hell is a runner’s high?

My second book is done. It’s been done for a while now. We are sitting strong at 67 000 words, which is approximately the same size as Far From Ordinary when it went to the presses.

Ten years later. More revisions that I’m proud to admit to. But there it is.

The characters are feeling developed. The themes are there, woven into the story. The writing is as strong as it’s going to be. I’ve even written “the end”

“So when can I buy in?” I can hear you thinking, hopefully.

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Please buy my new book. You wouldn’t want to disappoint Puss in Boots, would you?!

The truth is that even though it is done, it’s not finished. Couple things here:

1 – Big ups to my beta readers! The first wave included my brother and a few people who I met on Twitter. Their feedback has been instrumental in shaping what the manuscript looks like today.

(Sidebar! It’s amazing how the internet connects people. When I was a kid it was all about not talking to people online. Now we use the internet to summon strangers to pick us up in their cars and to find people to date.)

2 – There is a certain point where you need to give up the ghost and call the novel finished. Otherwise, I’m going to be tinkering with this thing for the next ten years of my life.

3 – That point hasn’t happened yet.

I think that the flow needs to be better. I think that I need to define the main antagonist more, make him or her more human, more relatable.

You don’t get the evil Dr. Claw type villains anymore, after all. In order for your audience to believe in your antagonist as a character, you need to give them motivation – something that makes sense so that the people reading go “Oh, that’s why!”

Take Thanos, for instance. He’s not after the unbelievably vague goal of universal domination. He doesn’t even want to rule. He just wants balance, for the natural order of nature to be reset.

Click on the above link at your own peril – there be spoilers.

The more you humanize your villains, the more people will relate to them. I need to give mine MORE of this.

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That is something that I needed to improve on with Far From Ordinary as well, but maybe that’s not a road I should go down right now.

Finally, I need to figure out how to finish the book. For a little bit of context, the idea for Fade to Black came to me way back in 2010, which means I’ve been writing it for almost 9.5 years.

No matter what I had going on I would always come back to it, chipping away slowly across the years. Over the years my idea of what the ending should “look like” changed when I thought about it.

The version of Microsoft Word which I used changed a few times as well.

Look for Fade to Black in bookstores and places of ill repute soon. Hopefully.

Fun Runs on Sunday

I stumbled into an organized running event this morning. Literally just stumbled upon, not like the time where I was having a few drinks and was convinced to run in the Manitoba Marathon the next morning.

I was jogging with my training partner and this race started up out of nowhere. Like, literally out of nowhere. It was a quiet Sunday morning and then there were a whole bunch of people who looked like they were in midseason form emerging from the path across the road.

So what else could we have done? We joined the race. Running is so funny that way. You’re alone for 99% of the time, so it’s a solitary pastime. So what do we do on a race day? Line up on the side of the road and cheer on these people who are pushing themselves if not to the point of exhaustion, at least the point of chaffing.

And let me tell you: chaffing ain’t no fun.

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It was pretty awesome to have people cheering us on and, if they were suspicious of our lack of BIB numbers, no one said anything.

I had to kick up my running pace a bit as well. The human body works wonders that way. I can feel like I couldn’t take another step, but as soon as someone is cheering me on I can dig in a bit deeper and push myself farther.

Running sucks, but it’s better when there are people around.

Pretty sure that, going forward, I only want to jog if people are standing by with water every couple of kilometres.

Also, the faces of the volunteers when we jogged off the trail was priceless.

SO

What did we learn this week?

  1. When you’re thirty, you need a nap of at least an hour and a half after a long run. Don’t @ me – I don’t make the rules
  2. I wanted to make a donation to the race – I DID have two cups of water after all. But I couldn’t find them. If anybody knows, @ me.
  3. Make your antagonists people for best results. Who’d a thunk it!
  4. It’s only nice in Winnipeg when I’m not wearing shorts. It’s only cold in Winnipeg when I wear shorts. Don’t @ me – I don’t make the rules.
  5. Every writer is worried about the length of their book. It’s always either too short, or too long. Sigmund Freud would have a field day analyzing a writer, I’m sure.

Later days,

M.

 

Un Ananas Qui Parle?!?

Ya know,

Some of the strangest sequences of things which has happened since I published Far from Ordinary back in November is the amount of editing work that people have asked me to do since.

For a bit of context, I was a solid C+ / B – student in school. Most of my teachers probably gave me the “doesn’t apply himself” tag at one point or another.

That’s fair. I didn’t. I was a fairly intelligent kid, but school didn’t really appeal to me. Especially not in French.

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Although to be fair, most of the programming I was exposed to as a child was reminiscent of a stoner on a really bad trip

So fast forward fifteen years or so, and all of a sudden people say I’m qualified to edit their shit.

Word to the wise: I’m not. Ask me about the rules of grammar or the best placement of a semi-colon. I dunno. That’s not what I’m good at.

If you give me a sentence with a mistake, well, I know that it doesn’t look right, but I couldn’t for the life of me tell you why it’s not right. This I blame on the 12+ years of French immersion which I went to.

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This is about how much French I’ve retained, too

Hell, dude, I just write. I don’t have any interest in editing. Of course, in my experience, most writers don’t like that part. It’s just a necessary evil.

Besides, sometimes editing other people’s stuff only reminds me of how bastardized the King’s English has become. It’s all “LOL” this, “On Fleek” that. And that’s mui depresso.

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But, even though I complain about it I guess I’m better than most. What surprised me, in getting to know different writer communities on Social was that there are a TON of writers who aren’t very good at English.

Oh, enough to get by for sure, but those things that are so intrinsic to me – when to use your/you’re/yore for instance – don’t come so easily to everyone.

Maybe those people just need a French education.

Other stuff

I’ve started training for a half marathon. It’ll be my 6th, so I’m not exactly a stranger to them. But this will be the first one I’m doing after thirty. My knees are going to kill me. But in the spirit of transparency, I’m doing it for fitness. I’m down about 8 pounds and counting.

My secret? Metamucil and no fast food. I’m a genius. Oh, and I’m on a diet. Why am I on a diet? Because my sister is on a diet. So I get shamed every time I eat a cheeseburger.

It’s working wonders.

Imagine how much I’d lose if I gave up drinking wine for a couple of months.

SO

What did we learn this week?

  1. Don’t marinate shit in olive oil, then cook it over an open flame. I’m happy I still have eyebrows. I blame Lisa.
  2. If you have to get the cat high to have her scratch a post, maybe she doesn’t like the post
  3. If you’re Irish, the sun is your enemy and should be avoided at all times. You’re pale for a reason
  4. Apparently I dress up so little that, when I do, people assume I have an interview
  5. Cardio is always better when you drag along people to keep you company.

Until next week,

M

Game of Thrones and Icepacks

Game. Of. Thrones.

Has there ever been a cultural phenomenon that has captivated the attention of everyone like GOT has? I doubt it.

Every Sunday at 10PM I’m watching HBO with the volume louder than my neighbors would like, just waiting for the madness to start.

Don’t text me, I’m not answering. Don’t call me, cause I probably won’t pick up, even if I wasn’t watching the best show ever.

Send me all the memes, but I won’t see them until afterward. For one hour a week in the springtime my attention is completely given to whatever is happening in Westeros.

Literally everybody has an opinion on it.

But wait, I hear you thinking, what about the people who don’t watch GOT? Well…

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There are two sorts of people. Those who watch GOT, and those who are proud that they haven’t.

Only four episodes left.

I. Can’t. Wait.

***

My Mondays are always the same. I wake up, massage my aching knees and take a few ibuprofen. The pain will last until the next day or so. Some days are worse than others.

The toll that Team Handball has taken on my body is easily visible through the scars on my knees and that Monday morning limp. But not once have I ever thought of giving it up.

Why? Maybe I’m a little crazy. Maybe I just love the smell of Bengay too much. I mean, who doesn’t??

This past Monday was especially bad. My team had lost the championship game the night before, and the aches are always worse after a loss.

So why do I do it?

Maybe it’s the competitive side of me.

I don’t know, I think sports appeal to me on a deeper level. There’s something about the idea of it that brings people together.

Take the Winnipeg Jets, for instance. I love the Jets. I own three jerseys and I go to as many games a year as works with my schedule. But there isn’t a single Winnipeg born player on the team, as far as I’m aware.

But they represent Winnipeg. And they bring the city together in a way that I’ve never seen before. Last year’s playoff run was great. There were Jets flags everywhere, people actually smiled at you when you walked by on the streets.

It was magical. It was as though the entire city knew that we were mixed up in something bigger than ourselves. The first real playoff run that Winnipeg had ever experienced. It was a small piece of history in the making, one that only Winnipeggers would understand.

But we also feel the lows. This year wasn’t our year. It happens. There’s always next year.

Maybe it’s for the best. Every time I go to a playoff game, they lose.

SO

What did we learn this week?

  1. If you dislike GOT, your opinion is like an asshole, if you know what I mean
  2. Whiteouts DO happen in April and May. Hopefully they happen in June, too. Just not this year.
  3. There’s nothing in this world that self-medication and icepacks can’t fix
  4. People don’t like it when I don’t end my blogs with a top five list
  5. See above

Later days,

M.

Invisible Threads

I started writing when I was 9 years old. It was a simpler time back then when a scraped knee was the biggest problem in my life.

The stories back then were simplistic. But they were stories. When I watched cartoons I was captivated by the main characters in them. No matter what the circumstances, they would pull through, usually learning a lesson or two in the meantime.

Reboot, Beast Wars, the old Johnny Quest series. All of them had larger than life figures doing things that were far from ordinary. And they spoke to me in a way that I couldn’t understand.

So I’d take a blank page from the printer and a crayon and I’d write stories. I wish I had kept them. But they’re gone, like so many other memories of my childhood. Writing it all down just seemed so right. It didn’t matter that they weren’t very good. There was no plot to speak of and they rarely lasted more than a page or so. I definitely wouldn’t be able to sell them nowadays.

But they were mine and that mattered. Every movie you’ve seen, every book you’ve read, they’re all recycled in one way or another. There are no more original ideas. Just facsimilies and twists. And that’s what mine were, too. That’s what mine are nowadays as well, for the record.

I remember one so vividly – I finished watching Spiderman and I wrote about it. For a child, I thought it was great, but it wasn’t. I think it was closer to fan fiction than an actual story since I had even ripped off most of the names. Spiderman goes back in time. Don’t try to tell me that it hasn’t been done already.

But the more I matured in the craft, the more the stories I’d write became my own. It sucks, in a way. Now, at thirty and far from mastery of my craft I can see the invisible threads which hold stories together.

The bildungsroman –  the coming of age story. The heroic epic and the eventual fall. The redemption story. The closer you look, the more apparent the strings become until everything is predictable.

But that’s what stories are.

What makes a story great, after all, isn’t the plot. It’s the characters. If you can make them memorable, if you can make them resonate with your audience then you’ve got something. After all, you see the threads too, even if you don’t know it.

That’s why you know the next Hugh Grant movie ends with him getting the girl. That’s why you know that Thanos isn’t going to win in the upcoming Avengers movie.

You know these things and you watch anyways. Why? Because the characters you see in them either remind you of yourself in one way or another or they are who you wish you were.

It’s all the same. Only the names will change.

So why do people write stories?

For me, it’s because I have to. It’s a weird concept I know, but it’s true. The first book I started writing didn’t start as a book. It started as a weird jumble of high emotion. I wrote about thirty pages, none of them linked together by anything other than emotion.

But once I started, I couldn’t stop. That didn’t mean I wrote every day – far from it actually. I wrote to make me feel better, and that has to count for something.

Eventually, the plot started to separate itself from my ramblings. I don’t know where the idea came from, as much as I want to say that I do. I just know that I wanted to write it down so I could see how the trainwreck ended.

Authors don’t write for their fans, for the most part. This is because if we were to do so, we wouldn’t be writing the story in our heads the way it’s supposed to be. And that’s not fair to the story.

You take something that is incredibly personal in a way and you make it available to anyone with $10.50 and an Amazon account. It truly is the most introverted and extroverted thing you can do.

But that feeling of the words flowing through my fingers and onto the page is so liberating. It feels like the air before a big thunderstorm – electric with anticipation.

And when you stop it feeling like the storm has cleared, and the air is somehow crisper than it was before, the petrichor caressing your nostrils like a lover.

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What a writer has to do is describe things that most people would consider undescribable. Like what it feels like to be in love, above and beyond that feeling of walking on air.

Or what it feels like to be in love with the person sitting beside you, when you know they can’t, or won’t, reciprocate your feelings.

Or describing those times when you feel sad for no reason at all other than a smell reminded you of a lost time in your childhood.

Next time you watch a rom-com, watch for the strings.

And remember: People fall in love like they fall asleep. Slowly, then all at once.

Medicine, Man-Colds and the Blank Page

Truthfully I’ve been having some issues writing this blog post. There have been three different versions of it so far. I started writing about being sick (enthralling literature, I know) before I decided to write about books instead.

That had a bit more promise, my bookcase IS pretty awesome, after all, and most everybody has a favorite book. But I couldn’t write that either, because the words weren’t flowing, and when the words don’t flow writing is the most frustrating thing ever.

I feel like that should be a post in itself, but to set it up a bit:

What is it about your favorite book that you love the most? How did you find it?

Maybe that will be the next one. Let me know in the comments if that’s something you’re interested in reading about. In the meantime…

 

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Look at it! It’s beautiful!

You see, the problem is that I don’t just want to write about just anything in these posts. You deserve better than that. The problem is that most great works of art have a theme that ties them together.

This one doesn’t.

But I think that’s the thing that gets me the most. This is a blog about my author’s journey, and that means it’s important that I give you guys the best. Truthfully I always look back on my past posts and think “I could have done that better” or “I should have talked about this.”

But it’s also a blog about my life. And when I’ve got an atrocious man-cold, I’m not doing much, so I don’t have much to write about. Imagine THAT blog

8:02 am: Went back to bed after ingesting the maximum dosage of cold/flu medicine

8:03 am: Did I take the blue pill or the orange pill? Isn’t this how the Matrix started? “Take the orange pill, Neo, and the journey continues. Take the blue pill, and wake up four hours later in a pool of your own drool.”

There are only so many jokes about the man-cold that I can make before I start to feel a little dead inside.

 

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The man cold is real. Believe me.

 

But both the times I tried to write, I couldn’t. The blank page is not my friend. I’m talking about that moment when a perfect, blank page is in front of you. A writer can do one of two things with that.

The first? Fill it with amazing and magical things. Really make the words come alive until the reader feels like they’re right there with the main character, wherever they are. If the writer does it right then time stops. You forget about the problems of your day and small things like eating or drinking. There’s nothing but you and the next page.

The second? Nothing happens. For me, I can feel the magic in my fingertips, or I’ve got the ideas in my brain but there’s a disconnect somewhere. I try to force it but it doesn’t work that way. The few prosaic sentences that I string together mock me on the page until I delete them.

And then the laptop goes into sleep mode because I haven’t written a word in five minutes, and I’m left staring at my sad expression in the reflection of the screen.

Some days, the words don’t come. Those are the hardest days. When you sit in front of a blank screen for hours on end just hoping for that one little spark that will get you going. You don’t know what’s causing it – the day before it all went great. But now you’ve just got a Blank Page in front of you, and an overwhelming desire to clean.

Because the reason why you can’t write is that your mantlepiece is dirty, right? That’s GOT to be it.

Maybe the reason is that the glass of wine beside you is empty, and that dry-red is the only thing keeping the words flowing.

Maybe the cold medicine is starting to wear off.

What I want to write is magic. That’s the plan I have for this blog. That’s why it’s got to be as close to perfect as I can make it.

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SO. What did we learn this week?

  1. Yeah, I’m a big baby when I’m sick.
  2. Being sick was way more fun when I was a kid. I swear I only pretended to be sick back then once or twice, mom
  3. See? I’m getting writer’s block even right now
  4. Something something magic fingers something something buy my book

Grabbing the cough medicine now.

Later days,

M James Murray