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

Wow, that was bad.

What scares you the most?

What gives you sweaty palms, a dry feeling in your mouth and anxiety in your stomach? Maybe its spiders, or public speaking, or werewolves or quicksand (which is admittedly a smaller problem than I was led to believe as a child)

Maybe it’s love.

That’s one of the things that I explore in my upcoming book. What happens when it all goes south? What do you do when the one who loves you doesn’t anymore. How does that feel?

What kind of emotion does that invoke in a person?

How does the same story sound so different depending on the side that’s telling it?

Every story is about a girl if you dig deep enough.

Tempes Fugit

My next book is seven years in the making. Seven years! A lot can happen in seven years. I read somewhere that the body replaces itself every seven years. So, quite literally, you’re not the same person you were back then.

Hair, skin, muscles. Even the brain. Do you know what that means? Your memories are just that – memories. Every time you remember something the electronic synapses trace an almost familiar pathway. That path changes after years as the brain subtly molds the memory.

Which is why it’s not uncommon for two people to remember an event years ago two radically different ways.

It’s a little different every time.

So why that? Why bother writing a story about love. It’s been done literally millions of times before. But, just like memories, every time it’s different.

I tell ya – love and mathematics are the two universal languages.

So Here’s the Thing

It’s not just a love story. Fade to Black is about a disillusioned, heartbroken guy who just happens to be psychic.

Weird, right?

Now, I get it. There’s probably a group of people that are going to hear that and think “Nope, that’s not for me.” And that’s fair – that’s your choice. But hear me out.

I think that when love ends the thing you want the most is to know the mind of the other person. Was it as real for them as it was for you? Did they care as deeply about you as you did about them?

As clear cut as it probably is for those on the outside looking in, it’s pretty rare for the same to be said when you’re in the middle of it.

So our anti-hero (he’s a bit of an asshole) who can read minds all of a sudden has his life flipped end over end. And he has no idea that it’s coming.

Fast forward five years and we have the start of my second novel.

Fade to Black.

Although, come to think of it, maybe it should be seven.

That Damned Khajit

There was a fire alarm at my apartment the other day. Actually, there were four of them. There wasn’t a fire, just a tripped sensor.

They happened in the middle of the night because of course they did. The first one was at 1:30 AM. The 2nd was just after I fell back asleep. The third one told me I was in a sleepless hell.

The fourth one was forty-five minutes before my alarm because of course it was.

In a building the size of my apartment complex, a fire truck needs to be called every time the alarm goes off. It’s mostly precautionary, and really it’s probably a good thing because, you know, safety.

Oh, and the siren keeps going until they show up.

It’s funny that the reaction nowadays to an alarm is one of vague disinterest and annoyance. Besides a few keeners who care for their lives more than the amount of sleep they got everyone was inside.

I was inside.

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Turns out when I’m grumpy I don’t take many pictures. Please enjoy this image of Grumpy Cat instead. You probably don’t want to see me grumpy anyway

The sister-roommate was out for the night. So there I was, 1:30 in the AM, wondering if my building was on fire when a thought crossed my mind.

THE KHAJIT!

My sister’s cat, Ollie. If we had to evacuate, I’d have to either take the damned cat with me or I’d have to burn.

There were no other options. If the cat didn’t make it, I’m sure that I wouldn’t be far behind.

Lisa would see to that.

So the alarm is blaring and the cat is nowhere to be found. Usually she’s right on the couch in the middle of the night, the perfect place to scare the crap out of me. Not today, of course.

So I’m frantically searching everywhere for her. In the pantry, in the linen closet. I’m beginning to think that cats are ethereal creatures which can disappear on a whim. And then it occurs to me:

What the hell am I going to do if I catch her?

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I was going to post a picture of some random dude with scratches on his face, but this picture was too good to NOT include. WTH is happening here?

There was a ninety percent chance of me getting eviscerated, my somewhat average face ruined. RUINED I SAY!

And what the hell was I supposed to do with her once I caught her, too? At that moment I pictured myself standing outside in -30 degree weather with a squirming cat and a scratched up face.

And my white Snow Lion sorels, of course. Got to save the important things.

“Hey, sis. Good news, I saved the cat. Bad news, it’s now loose in the neighborhood and I think I need to go to the ER”

So what did we learn this week?

  1. Dating sites literally put faith in your inability to find a partner. “Go ahead, take the 6-month subscription. It’s cheaper – we KNOW you’ll still be here”
  2. Don’t judge a book by its cover. I.e. give my little psychic story a chance.
  3. Cats continue to be assholes
  4. Fire alarms only malfunction when the weather outside is inclement
  5. Or when you’ve got to get up at the crack of dawn

 

Cats are Evil. OR, Why Winter Sucks

It’s minus thirty today. Again. You can tell it’s cold because the sky is so clear. The cold air chases away the clouds and it’s invigorating. Cold and crisp.

It’s the type of day that you don’t want to do anything or go anywhere.

It’s also the type of day where my sister’s car doesn’t like to start.

“I’ll help – not a problem,” I said, even though the last time I helped her boost the SUV my jumper cables melted.

There’s only one problem, besides the obvious car-not-starting problem, I mean. I haven’t driven since last Wednesday. Since then there’s been two or three big snowfalls.

Winnipeg, amiright!

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This might be a problem

“No worries,” says the sister-roommate. “We’ll just kick some of the snow away and it’ll be fine.”

Now I know right now some of you are asking: Why not just shovel it out!

Well, I think that’s a tremendous idea. If you own a shovel, that it. Maybe that was an oversight on my part. Maybe.

I admit to nothing.

Really, though, there’s been no reason for me to have a shovel until RIGHT NOW. I live in an apartment so they take care of all the shoveling needs, and my little balcony never really gets snow.

Regardless, no shovel.

So we kicked away all the snow and I got to the front of the car to push it out of the spot.

“Okay, we’re going to rock it out. Got it?” I said. The sister gives me the thumbs-up from the driver’s seat of my car.

“No, Lisa. We’re rocking it. That means you SHOULDN’T step on the gas. Last thing we want is for the tires to spin.”

I start pushing the car, rueing the fact that I left my glorious white snow boots at work yesterday as I stepped into a snow pile a foot and a half deep.

But try as I might, straining with all the strength in my arms, the damned thing wouldn’t budge.

“Should I have this thing in reverse?” The sister asks.

Facepalm.

#

The cat hates me.

To give you a little bit of context, I’ve never been a cat person. To this day I’m allergic to em. My chest gets tight and I get sneezy.

But still I want this damned cat to like me.

I think she senses this.

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And she judges

I don’t know why it bugs me so much. I think it’s a game for her now. She’ll stare at me at a distance. If I ever get too close to her she leaps away.

Dramatically.

So you know how cats like to push things off counters, right? Well the Khajit likes to do that too. But ONLY to my things. She also likes to hang out in my closet and sit in my dressers.

But ONLY if I’m not around, of course.

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No, I’m not crazy. She sheds EVERYWHERE. I find the hair in all the things

It’s some sort of a game to her – psychological warfare designed to slowly make me crazy, break me down.

A war of attrition.

But there is ONE place where she seems to adore me:

The bathroom.

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It’s weird, I know. Just go with it. 

Sigmund Freud would have had a field day with this one. I really don’t know why she’s so obsessed with the bathroom. But she is. She paws at the door and meows until you do something about it.

And then she’s the most affectionate kitty in the world.

I think it’s another part of her psychological warfare. She’s probably constantly plotting of ways to kill me, and what better way than when I’m most vulnerable?

Or is it just her way of judging my shower-beer habit on weekends?

Nature’s deadliest predator. A seven-pound ball of soft fur and hate. The perfect killer.

She’s staring at me now. Wish me luck. If you don’t hear from me again, you’ll know why.

Blame the cat.

SO. What did we learn this week?

  1. It usually helps if the car is in the right gear. Or, at the very least, that it’s trying to move the way you’re pushing
  2. It’s best if your shower beer is Bud Light or PBR. They’re mostly water anyway
  3. Cats are cunning, intelligent creatures who WILL hold grudges for no reason
  4. It’s a lot easier to boost a car if you spent more than $9 on jumper cables
  5. If you don’t have one already, you should probably get a shovel

Until next time.

Later days,

M.

BIG promotion coming tomorrow

Hey everyone,

I’ll get to the blogging stuff in a minute, but first I wanted to tell you of a HUGE promotion which I’m running, starting tomorrow on Superbowl Sunday.

Far from Ordinary will be FREE for 48 hours.

Pick it up here

Oh, and tell your friends! Pick it up for free and leave a review.

I wanted to circle back around to leaving reviews because they’re so important to an indie author.

Amazon’s got some pretty crappy rules in place for leaving reviews currently, such as that you need to have spent a minimum of $50 in the past six months, so it’s been really tough for me to get reviews.

Reviews dictate how visible your book is to other people on Amazon. If I hit 20-25, I’ll start appearing in the “you may like” and “Also bought” recommendations. If I can get to 50, then Amazon starts highlighting it in targeted emails.

Both of those, as you can imagine, are very important to me as they get Far from Ordinary exposure on a much larger level.

So please, take a moment and leave a review. 

You can read about Amazon’s rules for leaving reviews here if you’re interested.

Cool beans? Cool beans.

Finding the Balance

I’m not going to lie, it can be difficult sometimes to balance my working life with my writing life. There’s only so many “mental calories” to go around after all and it truly takes a determined effort (and a few glasses of wine) to push through some days.

I’ve used the excuse in the past of “I’m too tired” more often than I should.

“I’m too tired, I’ll do it tomorrow.”

The litany of excuses piles up quickly if you let it.

And that’s just the thing – I’ve chosen the writer’s life for myself. To worship the Blank Page and all that comes with it.

So what is the most important thing to you? For me, it’s continuing to write – to feel that feeling again of holding your literary baby in your arms for the first time.

And sometimes that means that I’ve got to sacrifice a little sleep to get it done.

And maybe pour myself a second whiskey, too 😉

I am about 3 months away from completing my second novel. I’m in the “editing” phase – a process that takes just as long, if not longer than the actual writing phase.

*Side note* I’m REALLY happy with how it’s going. The characters, the plot etc. are resonating with me on a deep level. I think you guys are really going to like it.

I don’t mind the grind – I find writing to be therapeutic in fact. I just wish I had more energy to do it.

Winter Sports

I’ve been so good this year at going outside and enjoying the Manitoba winter. It’s been cold. But us Canadian Prairie folk are hardy. It’s funny – we almost take pride in bragging about how cold it is outside, and what we did.

Last weekend it was about minus forty with the windchill. No biggie. T-shirt weather! I participated in a Sno-Pitch tournament. It’s exactly how it sounds. It’s Softball slo-pitch in the wintertime.

They use a bright orange ball so that it doesn’t get lost in the snow. Give it a chance if you get the opportunity – you won’t regret it. Anyway, I put my famous White Sorels on and went to work.

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Okay, my mustache is saying that it was a LITTLE cold out
It’s a common theme for me over the past year and a bit. I’m trying to push myself out of my comfort zone and into that magical place where things happen. You don’t get a great story by sitting home and watching Netflix on a Friday evening, after all.

It’s funny – when I take a moment to think back on last year, I remember how crazy it all was. That seems like half a lifetime ago now.

This weekend I’m participating in Jam Can. It’s like curling, except with beer. Wait, you can drink beer while curling. It’s like curling, except with MORE beer, maybe?

Oh, and it’s outside. Not to worry, it’s a balmy minus 20 today.

Either way, it has me nursing a hangover this morning and looking forward to going back to it again tonight.

SO

What did we learn this week?

  1. Nothing worthwhile ever comes easy
  2. Free promotions are a great way to sell more copies and get more reviews. I hope.
  3. It’s frakking hard to run in ski-pants and winter boots
  4. Apparently, if you drink a lot of the substance known as “alcohol” your body will hate you for it. Apparently.
  5. Being out of your comfort zone is a great place to be.

Later days,

– M. James Murray

 

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

 

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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.