Life in the Times of Reviews

 

This is the first post I’m making on my brand new site! http://www.mjamesmurray.com has a pretty cool ring to it. For me, at least.

XBox live achievement unlocked.

So this week in the world of your favorite Indie author (me, I’m talking about me, guys) has been an interesting one. I’ve been hit with a minor case of the dreaded writer’s disease known as Writers Block

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Duh DA DAAAAAAAAA

There’s probably half a hundred reasons why this is happening, ranging from the fact that I don’t have a glass of wine by my side (a dry red really stimulates the word-smithing) to the fact that my mantlepiece hasn’t been dusted lately. YOU try writing with a dirty mantlepiece. It’s pretty much impossible.

The fact of the matter is that when you get hit with a case of Writers Block everything is more interesting than the blank page in front of you. And I mean absolutely everything.

But, this time at least, I know where it’s been coming from. Consistency. As in, lack thereof. It’s tough to find time to write something, but that can never be an excuse. I’ll do better going forward. Scouts honor.

There’s another reason why I haven’t been able to write, though, and it’s much more practical than a dirty mantlepiece or a perceived lack of wine:

I’ve been working on a sales strategy for Far from Ordinary. Moving into phase 2.

Makes it sound super fancy, right? Like I have a high powered marketing team at my disposal. Or like a video game. But I digress. In reality, as an Indie author, I’ve often got to make my own opportunities.

Which is why I need your help. Yes, you!

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Believe it or not, I couldn’t find a Canadian version of Uncle Sam in the thirty seconds I spent on Google.

Firstly, if you haven’t already, PLEASE buy my debut novel, Far from Ordinary. Pick it up on Amazon here.

Secondly, leave a review. You can do that right here.

Reviews are the lifeblood of independently published authors. They let people who I don’t know find, and hopefully, enjoy, my book. They don’t need to be long. It could be a single word or just the emoticon of a thumbs up or whatever.

But please leave one. It would help me out a ton.

Good? Good.

The good thing (especially for those that haven’t picked up their copy yet) is that the reviews which I’ve heard back have been positive. It’s in these moments when the line between “author” and “friend” begin to blur a bit. For example, one of the people who read my book said:

“I really liked it! But I couldn’t stop thinking “I know the author” in the more vulgar moments of the book.”

There are a few *ahem* mature scenes in the book. I actually figured that it was only a matter of time until someone brought that up. But I can’t just not write that stuff because I know that people who I know will read it, you know? It wouldn’t be fair to the story.

I’m also inching ever closer to a major book milestone in sales. My target is 250 by the end of February. I’m currently sitting at… Drull roll please…

140 BOOKS SOLD

 

Andrea and I
My smile could not be bigger

Going into the release date on November 15th, I had no idea how many I would sell. I figured that the number would be anywhere between one (thanks mom!) to 10 000 (granted, that’s a major stretch but it never hurts to think big).

Almost 150 is absolutely amazing. I’m excited to see what I can do to harness this momentum for 2019.

SO. What did we learn this week?

  1. Reviews are the best gift you could ever give me.
  2. The best way to write is as though you’re the only person who is going to read it
  3. I’m bad at consistently blogging
  4. Writers Block sucks
  5. I live in a place where the air hurts my face, but it STILL sucks more to drop your keys down an elevator shaft.

 

Happy New Year!

From me and mine to you and yours, have a fantastic New Year!

It’s been a hell of a year. There have been so many memories that I won’t do it all justice in a 500-word post. But I’m going to try!

So, why has it been such a great year?

Travel

Mexico, te amo.

I had a trip booked to Cancun in February. I ended up canceling, and it seemed like I was stuck in -30 weather for the entire winter. But my cousins (this seems to be a theme for this year) were headed to Puerto Vallarta and I desperately needed a vacation.

I spent about three and a half hours on the phone talking with hotels.com / Expedia. I was stressed, and I was cold. But it was booked! It was a week of fun in the sun and way too much drinking. Even for me.

Mike Mexico
Turns out that sunshine and beer agree with me. Who’da thunk it!

 

I also went to Houston, Texas to visit my aunt. I was still adapting to life as a writer and the catch 22 of being your own boss. But I couldn’t leave Cousin Patrick to suffer a week in the heat of Houston alone! I’m a great cousin, I know.

Besides, I thought, Far from Ordinary is partially set in Houston. I HAD to go. You know, for research purposes. I strive for incredible realism in all my novels.

Tough life, hey!

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Family

From having a place to crash at for a while to teaching me how to cook to the legendary times at the lake to the immense reaction over my book launch. Oh and the surprise 30th birthday party. There’s way more, but I think you get the point. Those people closest to me really showed me the love this year.

You can’t pick your family, but even if I could I wouldn’t change a thing.

Friends

If you do it right, your friends are your family. Way too many pictures to share here. Besides, I wouldn’t want to post anything incriminating 😉

Sports

This year was pretty magical for Winnipeg sports. The city came to a stop for every playoff game. And c’mon, it was pretty surreal to see twenty-thousand strong downtown for the white-out parties. And I played a LOT of sports this year, too. Hockey and Handball, and I still can’t wait for Softball to come back.

My goal for this year is to run the half at the Manitoba Marathon. So far, I’m on the way, but we’ll see. Seems like it would be a lot easier to take up a less painful hobby. Like chess, or extreme lawn darts.

Everything Else

I got to spend more time at the cottage this year than I have since my childhood.  There were times when I was out there alone where I got my best writing done. With a cold beer and the birds chirping around me is when I get my best motivation.

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You’ll notice that I haven’t said a lot about the writing, or my book. That’s because I wanted to give you all a vague idea of the other things in my life which fuelled the unique circumstances which were this year for me.

2018 was the best year of my life. I can’t wait to top that in 2019. Shameless plug, my 2nd book will be finished in half a year or so. My goal is to find an agent to represent me. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, but it will be SO worth it.

If it wasn’t tough, it wouldn’t be so rewarding, right?

Bring on the New Year.

SO. What did we learn this year?

  1. Push yourself. Stay out of your comfort zone. It is NOT a good place to be in.
  2. You are only as good as the people with whom you surround yourself
  3. Nothing compares to the feeling of having your literary baby in front of you. I mean, I assume your ACTUAL baby might compare, but I’m going off of what I know.
  4. It is STILL never a good idea to drop your keys down the elevator shaft. Dropping your phone could be, though. Do it and let me know how it goes.
  5. Sometimes you go through life changes for a reason.

Stay frosty my friends!

Until next time,

M.

The Book Launch

This past Saturday I hosted my very first book launch party. Going in, I really had no idea what to expect. So I booked a pool hall for twenty people or so and went from there.

I considered contacting a local bookstore but discarded that idea for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted people to be able to mingle and be able to sit down. Second, I wanted it to be a PARTY. My humble opinion is that a thing such as this should be as much fun as possible.

And oh man, it delivered.

Below is a timeline of the day’s events

7:30 AM: I’m up! I wanted to get in a vigorous workout to mentally prepare my mind and body for… Who the hell am I kidding? I couldn’t sleep. Too excited. I briefly consider exercising, but try to nap instead.

10:00 AM: I get ready for the day. Ashamed to admit that I spent way too much deciding what to wear. My sister Lisa is getting annoyed at how chipper I am. This only makes me more hyper.

10:30 AM: Lisa asks how many people I’m hoping to see today. I have no idea. I’d been blasting it all over social media for the past two weeks. “Eighty, maybe?” I say. That seems way too high, but whatever. Got to shoot for the stars, right? She remains annoyed by how excited I am.

11:00 AM: I leave. Lisa is happy. I get picked up by my friend Carl and we head to the Bomber store. They’re having a season-end sale, but really we just want to see the dressing room. After that, we go to Staples. There’s a surprise waiting for me.

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A freakin’ posterboard for people to sign. Such a neat idea. Big ups to Big Carl for thinking of it.

12:45 PM: At the pool hall. Things are set up and starting to look good. I order a beer. The waitress brings me a Bud Light instead of a Bud. I hope that the wrong drink order is worst thing that happens to me today.

1:01 PM: The book launch has finally started! But where is everyone? A few people walk in. They’re here for the VLTs, not for my books. I think about going over and talking to them anyway. I sip my Bud Light. What if nobody comes? I take a bigger sip, and sit down. I try not to be impatient.

1:03 PM: Someone is here! And not just for the VLTs! I stand up. I won’t sit down again until 5:30. I try to look cool, calm and collected as an author should. But inside I’m ecstatic. Andrea’s book gets the first signature of the day. It looks like chicken scratch. I make a mental note to myself to keep working on it.

 

Andrea and I
Another happy customer!

1:30 PM: All my fear around this are beginning to disappear. I count around twenty people already. I am feeling that warm bubbly feeling inside that the Grinch must have felt when his heart grew three sizes in one day. (note: he should probably go see a doctor – that can’t be healthy).

 

I make my first sale. Two, actually! She asks how much. I tell her the price of $15 / book. In my head I’m thinking “What if everyone thinks it’s too much?!” But there’s no complaints, just lots of hugs.

Lisa’s friend brings cupcakes. They look delicious! I make a mental note to myself to grab one when I get a moment.

*Narrator’s voice* He did not, in fact, ever get a cupcake.

3:00 PM: This is probably the busiest point of the day. I do my best to talk to everyone for a decent amount of time, and I feel guilty that I can’t spend as much time speaking to some people as I want to. The place is PACKED! There are at least 60 people in the lounge. I feel bad for the server. I only made the reso for twenty.

Still, drinks keep showing up at my side, so she can’t be doing that bad, right? I have no idea where they’re coming from. Who is ordering them for me? I try to ask the server, but she’s gone.

My professional photographer friend, Onee, arrives. She takes some awesome pictures.

Taylor and I

4:00 PM: There are no books left on the table. I grab some more from the big box in the corner. Still ten left – we’re looking good, even though the custom quill pen I have seems to have run out of ink (it was good, it was just being fickle).

I’ve decided to go with it. I’ve decided that this is a magical place where drinks seem to appear out of nowhere. I need to come here more often. Looking around the room there are so many people from all different areas of my life. Work friends, people from my sports team, family. People who I haven’t seen for years.

It’s amazing. I feel so proud. I really can’t believe that there are so many amazing people in my life.

My signature is beginning to improve. I think.

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A huge THANK YOU to Carl (left) – The book launch would not have been so successful if it hadn’t been for your hard work my friend

5:00 PM: I HAVE OFFICIALLY SOLD OUT OF BOOKS! There were twenty-three copies which I had brought with me. More than enough, I had thought. After all, most everyone had ordered their copy online.

What’s more, there were still people waiting to purchase. I had a waiting list! Now, this is truly spectacular. A huge win! Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that I could have sold out.

Nobody pinch me. If this is a dream, I don’t want to wake up.

Nursing girls and I

It has now been more than 4 hours since I have sat down, but I don’t feel tired at all. I feel exhilarated. I feel ALIVE.

5:30 PM: The event is officially over. I am out of business cards. I am out of books. But the magical beer fairy is still around because I have two pints in front of me.

I sit down. My body realizes how tired it is. The beer helps that. A few more book requests come in. A guy from my hockey team tells me that he literally stepped out to the ATM to get some cash to buy one. There were 5 when he stepped out. Two minutes later there were none. He is disappointed but vows to get one online. We clink drinks.

I am exhausted. But I am very, very happy. I would do this every single day if I could. Four and a half hours blinked by in an instant.

I originally hoped for 80 people or so. I think we doubled that. Such a great turnout!

From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU, everyone. For coming to the book launch, or sending me a well-wishes message or even just thinking of me. I am so privileged to know such amazing people. Once again, thank you! I don’t think I could thank you all enough.

SO

What did we learn this week?

  1. The answer to “what do you want me to write” is always “I don’t know, you’re the writer!”
  2. I think that everyone needs to accept that my signature will always be chicken scratch
  3. You. Are. All. Awesome. (To be fair, I knew that already, but this weekend just proved why)
  4. Bud is ALWAYS better than Bud Light
  5. Always have book launches in places where you can be loud

Later days,

M. James Murray

Book Launch Week

So the past few weeks for me have been crazy. Turns out that preparing for a book launch is a LOT more time consuming than I would have ever expected and, of course, life doesn’t stop just because Far from Ordinary is ranked 1185 in book sales on Amazon.

Seriously, check it out

This week I have *takes deep breath* Proofread for the bajillionth time / Organized venues / Dropped my keys down an elevator shaft / Coordinated cover art (Thanks Scott!!) / Learnt marketing 101 / DONE marketing 101 / Promised to drive across the city to sign copies of the book / Ordered author proofs / Gotten professional pictures taken (I look like THAT? Uh-oh…) / Second guessed myself.

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Basically, I looked pouty in the woods for a couple of hours. Huge thanks to Onee for capturing my good side!

And most importantly, I’ve held my book in my hands. It was a feeling like I’ve never experienced before. It was so fragile. I didn’t want to open the pages and crinkle the spine. Usually, I’m all about that. A book is meant to be worn and dog-eared. It’s the sign of a good book. But with this one, it was different.

I remember staring at it for the better part of an hour. Holding it in my hands and gently flipping through the pages. Everything I had worked towards for the past fifteen years was right in front of me. I wanted that moment to last forever. And it did, for a time. It settled and hovered for much, much more than a moment.

But then it was gone. I had been staring at a book without reading any of it for 45 minutes.

I’ve taken off my “author” hat and have put on a “marketing” hat. It feels foreign to me, and awkward. I’m super excited about it all. It’s just a lot of different “hats” that I’m not used to wearing.

And it’s all been worth it. I want to do this one hundred times more, at least We’re talking Stephen King-eque levels of book output. But the first one will always be special.

I want to feel this feeling over and over again.

So what did we learn this week?

  1. Always answer Social Media comments in a timely manner, or your sister will yell at you
  2. Your “Blue Steel” face is never as sexy as you want it to be
  3. Don’t drop your keys down an elevator shaft. But if you do, they can be recovered. Most of the time
  4. There is nothing better than holding your baby in your arms. Even if that baby is a paperback novel.

 

My first book, Far from Ordinary, is now available on Amazon. Pick up a copy today!

Far from Ordinary

You Did What?!

So I’ve been having some difficulty writing this post. The post last week was met with an overwhelming reaction, and it was pretty unexpected. I thought for a long time about what this post should look like.

This week I wanted to talk about what it means to me to be a writer. It can be a little weird. I mean, besides the fact that I live in my head all day making stories out of words and too active an imagination for a thirty-year-old man. That’s completely normal if you ask me!

No, the weird part for me is seeing how people react to the news that I’ve written a book. I never thought it was that big of a deal. A significant accomplishment, sure. There’s a ton of work that goes into writing a book, above and beyond getting words down on paper (which can be tricky as hell sometimes).

 

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Professional model holding my first book, or a stock photo? I’ll never tell.

 

But a big deal? I never really considered it like that until I started telling people about it, to get comments like:

“That’s awesome! Good for you.”

“How long did it take?”

“When can I buy it in bookstores?”

There’s something about that which just makes me very happy on the inside. But also very awkward. Now, I’m not usually an awkward person *cough cough* but I feel the weirdness in those moments. Below is a faithful approximation of my thought process:

This person really wants to read what I’ve written! That’s AMAZEBALLS. I can’t WAIT to send them a copy… do you think they want it autographed?

But what if they didn’t like that one scene that I wrote about the protagonist in the nightclub? Will they find the main character too awkward? Or even worse – What if they don’t like my writing!?

I’m toeing the line between committing fully to being a writer and not. Because being a writer means that you’re putting yourself out to the world to have people analyze a part of your brain.

Writing is the most personal thing that I can give to the world, and that’s scary. The start of every idea that is written has to come from somewhere – something I’ve read or a conversation which I was a part of or fifty other different things.

I took an idea which I’ve been sitting on for three years, and I’m about to run it up the flagpole and hope someone salutes.

And even better, I hope that it sells.

A Foray into the Great Unknown

I left my 9-5 job in the spring of 2018. At the time it seemed terrifying and exciting all at once. I mean, for once in my life it wasn’t the safe decision. I was leaving decent pay, benefits and amazing people for the great unknown.

I had no idea how scary it would be. Or how hard it would be to slog through the query trenches. That’s what we “in the biz” call looking for agents. It’s a tough gig and you get hit with a LOT of rejection. I detailed that a bit last week so I won’t say too much here, but it can be tough.

Think of it like this: You find your dream job. Everything is going great – you’ve got exciting prospects, you can see the potential long-term future and you’re doing work you’re passionate about. Then you get 150 words to sell someone on an idea. In my case an idea which I’ve put countless hours and eight years of my life in to. Oh, and 500 other people are looking for the same job, with one position to fill.

But I digress. As scary as it was to leave my job, I’m so happy that I did. It gave me this feeling of helplessness. That I don’t know what I’m doing feeling. That’s the best feeling in the world. Do you know why? Because it never lasts, and you’re much better for it.

Once that feeling goes away it means that you’ve learned a new skill. Not mastered it, most likely, but learned enough that you don’t feel like you’re floundering. And that’s a great feeling. It’s in those moments that we grow the most, I find.

Since I left my 9-5 I’ve managed to write two books, rewrite the same two books (it’s like the same, but better!) and learn an entirely new industry. Regardless of whether I go back to tradition work in the future, I’ll always have that.

The biggest lesson? If you want to be a writer, you have to write. Simple enough, no? But the Blank Page isn’t that simple. Most writers I know (myself included) are chronic procrastinators.

“I was going to write today, but how the heck can I do that when there’s dust on the mantlepiece!”

That actually happened to me, by the way.

I started giving myself deadlines. Like I would have back in the 9-5 days.

Some days the words flow. I’ll sit at my laptop plugging away. Barely aware of anything around me. Lost in words. Other days I’ll be pulling my hair out trying to string together more than a few coherent sentences. But I stay sitting until I’ve gotten to my word count. An arbitrary number designed to give me targets, help me achieve goals.

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A rare photo of M. James Murray procrastinating

I’m a writer. Regardless of what happens going forward, I can say that. I’ve got the books to prove it.

It will be tight, but November 15th still looks like it’s going to be the day. Far from Ordinary will be available both in paperback and e-book format.

Wish me luck on this next jump into the Great Unknown.

I’ll need it!

There and Back Again: Dealing with Rejection in a Writer’s World

Did I ever tell you the definition of insanity?

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Being a professional writer is, to me, all about rejection. There’s a lot of it. A metric shit ton, cubed and delivered. Pardon my French. Oh, I’m not alone with this. My twitter feed is filled with advice from the writing community, posting every day.

“Don’t give up!”

“Rejection does NOT define you.”

They’re fantastic, by the way. The support I’ve gotten from complete strangers has been staggering. And yet, I’m sure the old writer adage holds up still, to this day. “The difference between a published writer and an unpublished one is that the published writer does not give up.”

But can we talk for a second about how hard that is? You try not to let it bother you. But it does. You see, I’m a positive person. I try to look at the positives of a situation and make the most out of a bad one. For me there’s no point in looking towards the negativity because it doesn’t help me at all, you know?

Doesn’t help anyone for that matter, but I think you get what I’m trying to say here. You can let the negatives weigh you down, or you can look towards the positives and pick yourself back up.

Down the rabbit hole

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Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com

I think that’s why this Writer’s Rejection is getting to me so much. So many factors weigh against you that it’s impossible not to feel down at least a little bit. Where’s the light at the end of the tunnel? Where’s the green grass on the other side? Why is this damn industry so rooted in old tradition that doesn’t work anymore?

I have been officially rejected by agents whom I’ve queried thirty-two times. Unofficially the number is higher since I’m only counting the official form rejection emails which I’ve received back from my queries.

I keep each one, putting them in their own folder in my mailbox. Then I continue the search.

Did I ever tell you the definition of insanity?

Par for the course

It sometimes feels like I’m spinning the tires in the dirt. I’m making a big mess, and I’m not moving anywhere. But the thing is, that’s how you get out of the hole. Look up any of the great writers of our time. Stephen King, George R.R. Martin. Basically, pick a book and look at the author. With few exceptions, they all have a stack of rejection slips somewhere.

“It’s good, but it’s not for us.”

A few successes change that “not for us” part in a BIG hurry. So I’m told, anyway.

The decision to publish my upcoming novel Far from Ordinary on Amazon was a tough one, at first. But why not! The goal for me was to publish a book. And, soon enough, that dream will be a reality.

I’m pushing through the wall of rejection, little by little. It’s not always easy, but anything worthwhile rarely is. It’s not going to define me as a writer, or as a person. It is not going to bring me down. Not anymore. 

I get to live my dream – my best life – every day. What could be better than that?

Far from Ordinary will be available on Amazon in November 2018.