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Bum Knees and Writer Conferences

I came to a pretty frustrating conclusion this week. Over the past month and a half I’ve been training for a half marathon on Father’s Day.

It started out pretty good – we’d do 3 miles here and there, and I was starting to get into a rhythm.

Maybe I trained too hard. Maybe I should have started out earlier. Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Hell, I used to show up and run without any training.

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Back when I was SUPER-PUMPED to get going

But, as has happened so much more frequently over the past few years, the knee pain started to creep in. It started as a dull ache right in the joint, annoying but manageable.

Over the weeks it began to get worse. At thirty years old I was limping in the mornings, having trouble sleeping because of the pain.

So, something had to give.

I think the biggest turning point for me was examining why I was running in the first place. Was I the fastest? Definitely not. Even at my fastest, there were still a bunch of people finishing the race a solid half an hour before me.

Do I get a runner’s high? I don’t think so. I mean, there is usually a time in the run when I don’t feel quite as shitty, but it’s not like I feel good.

So… Fitness, I guess?

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Yeah… there’s got to be a better way to do that.

Writer’s Conferences

I’ve been working on ways to make myself more appealing to agents lately. I’ve always wanted to get signed, though I realize that this is a bit of a conflicting subject for many writers.

Nowadays more writers are choosing to self-publish their work. That’s what I did as well, for reasons that I’ll get to shortly. So why do we do this?

Creative control.

When you sign with an agent they will do whatever it takes to get that book picked up by a publishing house. Oftentimes what that means is that the writer will need to change parts of their novel.

Some of us are a little put off by this since our novels are a bit like our children. I remember the first time I held my book in my hands. The feel of the spine in my hands, the smell of the pages – all these little details just seemed so surreal. Like how could these be my words? My words.

So yeah, I get that. But at the same time, I’d bet dollars to donuts that whoever is suggesting an edit to me knows a bit more about the market, and probably literature in general.

More royalties

This one is a bit of a catch 22. Yes, if you self-publish you get more royalties. I get about 70% of the proceeds of an ebook and 60% of a paperback, minus the printing cost. This comes out to about $1.50- $2.00 per book on the (fairly reasonable) price which I’m currently selling at.

With traditional publishing, prices can fluctuate but you generally earn less per book. But you also have the opportunity to sell a lot more books, too. It’s not just me on an Instagram account or a Facebook page, there are bookstores and publicity events and all the stuff that indie authors just can’t afford.

So I’ve weighed both options and I’ve decided that I want my next book to be published traditionally. The reaction to Far from Ordinary has been fantastic – I’ve sold more copies than I ever expected and I’m SO grateful for that.

But, looking at the demographic reports that Amazon makes for me, the majority of my sales are concentrated in Winnipeg and Calgary. Two cities where I’ve got strong connections.

Imagine how awesome it would be for my writing career if I were able to branch out into the U.S. market, or Europe.

I want to walk into a bookstore in Houston and see an M. James Murray on the shelf.

So there’s that. But also, I think that traditional publishing has always been the goal for me. So that’s what brings me back to what I was originally talking about. Full circle. It’s tough to get picked up by an agent. It involves a lot of skill and even more luck.

But I think it also involves doing something differently. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

So I’ve published an article. I wrote a book and published it. What else can I do to set myself apart from the other tens of thousands of aspiring writers out there?

The next step for me is getting myself to a writing conference. If I can get myself in front of an agent and talk about my upcoming book, Fade to Black, I think that I stand a pretty good chance of getting picked up. At the very least I’m going to become a lot more visible in the writing community.

Now, they’re not cheap – most range in the $500 USD range for a couple of days, not including hotel and food and all that minor stuff. But I don’t really care about the cost all that much. Ten years from now I won’t be talking about how expensive that trip to New York was, I’ll be talking about how I wish I had done it sooner.

That’s what really matters.

What did we learn this week?

  1. You’ve got to be a little bit crazy to be a long distance runner
  2. I have bad knees. Who’d have known?! Definitely not my surgeon, although he probably figured it out when I came back in for the fourth time
  3. I’m a Hank Moody looking for my Charlie Runkle
  4. Yes I wrote that last one for you, Col
  5. It’s much easier to write these blog posts sitting outside with a cold beer. Even if I get distracted easily

Next week it’s the RETURN OF THE KHAJIT! That’s right – my sister’s cat has a plan to kill me. And it’s now one step closer to fruition. She’s 11 pounds of stealth and death. I’m worried.

STAY TUNED.

Later days,

M

 

 

 

 

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.