The Ghost Train to New Orleans Contest!

It's here! It's here!

It’s here! It’s here!

In Ghost Train to New Orleans (Out March 4!) I have our hero, Zoe, going to a coterie-run bar and getting a “Captain Spaulding.” It has gin and (possibly) demon blood. That’s all I said about it.

Then I thought, what if people could try to make their own Captain Spauldings? So I’m doing a drink contest- send me a recipe at mightymur at Ideally it can include gin and something red, but you can get more creative if you like.

I’ll be doing videos this month*, doing taste tests of these drinks. I’ll have a couple of prize packs** available for the best ones. So send in your recipes and I’ll get mixing!

* I hope next weekend at Boskone to do some taste tests with other authors, fans, etc. Find me at the bar if you’re feeling adventurous!
** I have copies of Shambling Guide, Ghost Train, and more necklaces from Surly Amy to give away!

Events! Come visit! Make me not-lonely!

Not unlike Phil the groundhog, I am coming out of my hole in February and am ready to see people. Only I’m not looking for my shadow.

What the hell did that mean anyway? If it’s a sunny day, there are six more weeks of winter? And how can we tell what the groundhog sees, anyway? Is it like an elephant where it will be all startled if it sees it?

Anyway! Events!

  • This Saturday (Feb 8), I will have a Meet the Author event at the southeast branch of the Durham County Library.
  • Feb 14-16 – Next weekend I will attend Boskone and have a very full schedule on Friday and Saturday. I’m on the kid’s programming, and the readings, and the adult programming. So come see me at a panel, or I will likely be at whatever con bar is available during the evenings. I will also have giveaways and stuff. Find me!
  • March 4 - Ghost Train to New Orleans comes out! Preorder! Ask for it at your local book stores! Download the ebook! Listen to the audiobook! So many options!
  • March 6 - I will have a launch event at the utterly awesome indie bookstore Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill.
  • Future events- May has me attending RT in New Orleans, July has me teaching at Shared Worlds (Register now!), and in August I’m heading to London for WorldCon.

Tomorrow: The Return of ISBW!

Ghost Train to New Orleans – Out March 4

Audiobook Recording

When I got back from Stonecoast, as I said, I jumped right into recording the audiobook. Despite my podcasting experience, I went to a professional studio locally and recorded. Because of my schedule (childcare after school, etc) I can only record for five hours, and I discovered that my voice pretty much gives out after five hours anyway. It’s grueling to be “on” for that long, hard on the voice and strangely exhausting. Because of the schedule, I had less than a week to get it done, and had to go in on the weekend.

I don’t do voices or accents, frankly I’m afraid of either a) forgetting a specific vocal trait of a character, or b) butchering an accent. I haven’t heard anyone complain about this yet, but now that I’m doing this on a “professional” basis, at least for my own books, I’m feeling a bit behind the curve of narration skill. If I work on another one book, I’ll likely see if I can work on some vocal tics to distinguish characters, if not outright accents.

But for an untrained person, a “slight Irish lilt” as this damnable author wrote, is something that could easily go down in flames.

There of course is the downside of a pro-grade audio setup catching every stomach gurgle, spit bubble pop, and the brush of clothing as I reach up to turn a page. Redoing a take because of those things is just maddening.

So yesterday I did all the requested edits, and hopefully am done now. I will be doing a podcast of this one, too, but unlike the first one, the print book will be coming out first, and the podcast a few months later. But you can purchase the print, the ebook, or just get the whole audiobook at once.

Tomorrow: events of the next 30 days!

Ghost Train to New Orleans – Out March 4

I’m back! January Report

Hi there! I’m finally back. January was more intense than I expected it to be, and that’s saying something.

I had my final Stonecoast residency this month, and this was both more and less intense than the others. It was more intense because this time I was an instructor, responsible for an hour-long lecture, also a live reading. It was less intense because I had no workshops to participate in, and although I could attend the lectures, I wasn’t required to write anything about them.

My reading went well, the room was packed for myself and two of my fellow students. People laughed in the right places, and even in places I didn’t expect. Jim Kelly gave a wonderful introduction to my work that made me want to cry, damn him.

My presentation was about if it’s possible to teach humor, learn how to write humorously, and if a joke can live once you take it apart to talk about why it works. (My answers are yes, yes, and yes. The lie of “you either have it or you don’t” lies in the problem of talking about humor isn’t funny, and therefore isn’t fun. Or, in short, it’s WORK.) It was well-attended and very well received. I was pleased.

I graduated with my MFA that Saturday and had my tearful good byes on Sunday. Now I’m Master Mur, and very happy with my experience.

When I came home, I jumped almost immediately into the recording of Ghost Train to New Orleans and that took a week. Recording for hours for the book didn’t make me really eager to come home and record a podcast. Sorry.

Now we are a month from book launch and I’m back, blogging and podcasting more regularly. Promise.

Tomorrow- what happens during the recording of an audiobook.

Ghost Train to New Orleans – Out March 4

On Disappointment

(I am aware I have been quiet for some time. I went to Stonecoast, graduated with my MFA, then had to record the audiobook for Ghost Train to New Orleans for six days straight, so I’m pretty beat. I’ll have a podcast update soon.)

I’m going to be careful with the details here, but I try to be honest about my career, even when there are downturns. So I’m not going to name names. People who know me can probably figure things out, but don’t guess in the comments. You can ask me privately if you like. But bad/annoying/disappointing stuff happens and we need to talk about it.

It’s said time and again, that you don’t Arrive when you get that agent, or when you get that book deal, or when the book comes out, or even when you win an award. You’re always fighting upstream, and whenever something great happens, like winning an award or gearing up for your second book launch, life will tend to try to knock you out of your groove with something shitty.

Anyway, I – through the proper channels, namely Orbit’s awesome publicist – tried to get a book event at a non-local indie book store that I like very much. They agreed, sent me possible dates, I chose one, and made my plan to drive to [REDACTED.] Today I found out that, hm, no, wait, they don’t want to do it anymore. They’ve pulled out. Canceled. GO AWAY MUR.

They are worried I won’t draw enough local interest.

The punchline is that this book store is probably the best indie bookstore that is closest to my hometown.* Local interest, indeed.

I don’t know if they know I’m from a town nearby. I am not sure if the publicist knows this. I probably should have told her; I didn’t even think to. But she told me they’re firm. No book event.

(This store recently hosted an old college buddy of mine who turned out to be an author too. But he writes literary fiction. Out of respect for my Stonecoast friends, I will refrain from any rude comments here. I didn’t even italicize literary. I feel like I’m growing as a person here.)

It’s not the end of the world, of course. I do have a reading at Boskone in 3 weeks, and I’m having a book launch in March at the awesome Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, and am planning at least one other local event. I’m going to be around, in public. It’s cool. Also I’ve had other authors commiserate with me that this has happened to them too, and it does indeed suck. So I’m not alone in the “HAHA JUST KIDDING NO BOOK EVENT FOR YOUUUUUU” situation.

But damn. This is my second (pro) book. It got a good review from Publishers Weekly. I won the Campbell last year. I’m not about to drunkenly stumble up to them and scream “Don’t you know WHO I AM?” but it’s times like this that make me realize that there will be times in my life, over and over again, where I feel like that newbie writer who can’t get a break.** It’s depressing. And humbling. But what can I do except do the usual rejection treatment***, and get back to writing?

* Granted, it’s still a bit of a drive from my town to said store. I’m from a VERY small town in the mountains. Everything is a bit of a drive.
** People told me I had to stop saying that I was a “wannabe writer” in my podcast. Times like this put me right back into that feeling.
*** Red wine. Blanket. Feeling sorry for self. Tomorrow morning, we’re done, and we’re acting like a pro again, what with the writing and the podcasting and stuff. But for tonight, well, poop.

The answer inside a turkey sandwich

There are things we know we are supposed to do. Floss. Get enough sleep. Eat regular meals. Eat healthy meals. Exercise.

And yet, inertia and incorrect priorities always make us sacrifice the important things. We eat crap and wonder why we feel sluggish. We sleep 6 hours a night and wonder why we are slow and snappish. We don’t floss and wonder why we bleed and get lectures at the dentist office.

And when we feel rather bad or low or like we’re the worst writers in the world, it’s often good to look away from the writing and see if you have covered all of the important things. If it’s been 8 or more hours since your last meal, or you got 4 hours of sleep, or you’ve got a cold coming on, those are all things other than your manuscript that can bring you down. We don’t like to admit it. We don’t like to think that the key to our novel lies inside a turkey sandwich. But our emotions are volatile little toddlers that can explode unexpectedly for reasons we don’t quite understand. And we take it out on unsuspecting things, like our work, or loved ones, or other drivers on the road.

So: you wake up. You’re convinced you’re shit. The world will chew up and spit out your prose. If you ever finish what you’re working on. But you won’t. Because you’re shit.

Hold up: how did you sleep last night? Have you had breakfast yet? Take the dog for a walk. (I do realize that suggesting this on the eve of a huge cold front about to freeze the eastern US solid is bad, but this post is technically evergreen.) Get a shower, get your head on straight. Hug your kids, tell your significant other that you’re grateful for them. THEN look at your work.

It’s possible it’s still shit, sure. I’m not saying all writing is magically better once you eat some eggs. But your attitude about approaching it will be better, and your endurance with writing and editing will be greater. We have to take care of ourselves if we want to accomplish anything.

(That said, you want to explain to me that medical doctors who prove time and again that the brain needs 7-9 hours of sleep a night, often pull 24 hour shifts?)

Those pesky resolutions – 3 words

I’ve read several blog posts on resolutions, everything from how much they suck, to how to write them so they stick, to avoiding resolutions all together for three words (I was reminded of this by my friend Grant Baciocco). The concept is explained at the bottom by the brilliant CC Chapman.

I try not to make resolutions, because I’m very bad at follow through, and then feel like a failure. But I like the three words approach.

  • I’m dealing with the inevitable opinion that my body takes of I’m 40 now! I don’t have to be in shape to make babies, so I can slow metabolism and just take the next 40 years off! And this isn’t just “I’d like to lose weight,” it’s also my health, how my body seems to get hitches here and problems there. And when I’m not feeling well, or feeling too tired, I don’t have energy for my family, energy to go on adventures with my kid, hikes with my husband. I’d just rather stay in. So for a better, more exciting 2014, I’m trying to track my sleep and what I eat, wear the proper shoes (I’ve had weird foot pain lately and realize I have fancy orthodics that I’m not wearing), and start running soon. Yoga starts today. (It’s really hard to find one word that means “I’m going to take care of myself.” I blame the Puritans, as every “self” and “ego” word is considered negative. But dammit, egocentric can also mean self-concerned and self-loving and I don’t see anything wrong with that. It doesn’t mean “at the expense of all others.” As the airlines say, secure your own mask before helping others. And as we say in the South, ain’t nobody happy if Mama ain’t happy. So even though it has a negative connotation, I choose Egocentric.)
  • In 2013 I wrote close to 300,000 words. That included one book, some short stories, several chapters of another book, several rewrites of those chapters, etc. I’m proud of that, but that’s just the beginning. This coming year has got to be more productive. I have to start respecting the demands of the magic spreadsheet again, shooting for my daily wordcount of 500+ instead of 250. If I had kept to the spreadsheet’s guidelines, I might have closer to 400,000 words. I need a word better than “write” or “create” since those would be my words every year. I guess the key here is how I approach writing, a problem I’ve had in the past: Persistence.
  • I’m timid and afraid. See yesterday’s post. I walk the safest path, which is often the laziest path. It hits me when I worry I’m not supporting my kid enough when she wants to capture the moon in a butterfly net. I figure if I can be more risky, I can encourage her to do so. I have a lot of projects in my head that I feel are too risky, and that, obviously, is why I must try them. Risks.

So what about you? For you, my dear listeners, I wish for you persistence, a tough lizard-skin, kindness, an editor who stays in her box until the proper time, wine/chocolate/comfort when you fail, and cheers and tiaras when you succeed. Find your words, find your resolutions, keep writing, keep believing, and good luck.

Fear- The Ugly Cry

This is not one of those inspirational posts that talks with sanitized optimism and comfort about golly gee we all have fear and it’s important to overcome it. No, I’m going to talk about my own fear, my specific and ugly fear, and show you all the snot and the blotchy face and the sobbing. I’m baring my soul so I can have the cathartic experience and perhaps move on.

I’m afraid of starting new projects. I think I’ve gotten to a placid feeling in my life of having plenty of projects due – book contracts or school assignments or story requests – that I have gotten lazy. Nine years ago I had no audience, no readers, and I thought, hey, let’s do this podcasting thing. A project that had no money, no reward, just This Might Be Fun. And it was.

I don’t think like that anymore.

In my own defense, if I have a contract, it takes precedence. I shouldn’t blow off school work when I get a wild idea. But you know what? Right now I’m between contracts. I’m about to graduate from school. I have limitless potential. And I’m fucking terrified.

  • I’m afraid of failure.
  • I’m afraid of succeeding and not knowing how to handle it.
  • I’m afraid there are more eyes on me than ever and I’m open to more criticism.
  • I’m afraid of starting something and fizzling out and slinking away, ashamed. That’s probably the biggest one, the fear of my own lack of motivation.

I know that everything I say on I Should Be Writing is true – that you have to put fears in the Happy Box, that you have to strangle the Inner Editor, that you have to understand that failure, rejection, criticism, none of those will kill you. You can look at authors and other creatives who have tanked their careers (I often marvel at Hollywood in this case) and then five or ten years later rise from the ashes like the phoenix, stronger and better and more popular than ever.

But that stuff is hard to internalize. I feel its truth when I’m saying it on the show, but during the dark times, when I’m not podcasting, when i’m sitting here going AH GAWD I AM A FRAUD AND EVERYONE WILL FIGURE IT OUT ANY TIME NOW, that’s when I’m not on the mic, and I’m not saying the truths, and it’s when I need to hear it the most.

So this is my baring of the soul, the open look at the ugly cry. The truth is I’m so damn afraid of every project I have in mind. It is still hard to look at feedback and critique as helpful instead of “THIS IS DRIVEL QUIT NOW AND GO BACK TO MAKING COFFEE FOR A LIVING.” It’s hard to look at failed projects and think, “OK, what did I learn from this?” instead of “FAILURE MEANS I SUCK AND SHOULD QUIT.”

My subconscious always speaks in all caps. Little punctuation. I know it’s annoying, shit, I live with it every day.

When I’m feeling low, I can’t even look at successes without seeing downsides. I’ve written every day for 393 days? Well, somewhere around July I stopped hitting my big daily wordcount goal (which was something like 600 a day) and went back to hitting minimum 250. Sometimes I do more, but I haven’t been able to work up a good streak of writing over 500 words a day. I won an award? Well, that was for potential. I can easily not live up to THAT expectation. I got a book deal? Great, but those books are done and finished. What is in the future for me?

The absolute worst part of the fear is that when I speak them or write them down, they sound illogical and whining.

I don’t feel like I have the right to have these fears.

I did have a well-received book, I did win an award, I am about to graduate with my MFA. My career is going great. The answers to these fears are clear and obvious.

Airing these fears makes me feel ashamed. But I don’t feel as if I can work through them if I let them fester, so here they are.

I’m afraid nearly all the time. I hold back creatively nearly all the time.

It feels hypocritical since I give advice to deal with this stuff. But that’s one reason I give the advice; the problems of writers are so obvious to me because I feel them all the time. I don’t know if it will make you feel any better, knowing you’re not alone if you feel this way. It could make you feel worse since you might hope that these things go away once you get a book deal/the book comes out/you win an award. For me, they didn’t.

You know when you’re walking down the street and you stumble and flail like an idiot, and you look around and see no one saw, you have that sense of relief that kind of washes over the embarrassment? That’s being a new writer and writing something that doesn’t work. Doing a project that no one cares about. Getting a rejection. Yeah, you stumbled, and that can be disappointing, even disheartening but who cares? No one saw.* Try again. Next time you won’t be as likely to stumble.

The thing is, when you have eyes on you and you stumble, well, it’s a little more embarrassing.

If only we all had the humor and strength to deal with it as well as Jennifer Lawrence did.

And so, now that more eyes are on me, I’m terrified of stumbling; I have held back. And my cold logical stern mind says yeah, but if you don’t walk anywhere, you don’t go anywhere. You take the risk of stumbling when you take that step. And the rewards are worth that risk, dammit.

So there is my ugly cry. I’m afraid of new things. And I’m airing this on New Year’s Day to be cathartic and hopefully push me into realizing that these fears, while very real, are also very stupid, and I need to just create and get it done and over with, and move on. 2004 Mur would be appalled if she saw how I hold back today. We don’t want to appall our past selves.

Now, to create.

Happy New Year!

* And if you’re thinking, “THE EDITOR SAW, MUR!” I promise you, it’s rare the editor formed any opinion about you when they rejected you. They probably didn’t even register your name, unless they’ve seen it many times before. And EVEN THEN you’re still a new writer, and all new writers are expected to submit and be rejected. It’s part of the process. You see it as huge,** that the editor is singling you out to reject you, while you’re just a part of the process to them. You can see this as a positive or a negative. I try really hard to see it as a positive.
** And it is huge. I remember the sting of rejection, and still experience it. But there’s the sting of rejection and the humiliation of public failure, two different feelings, two horrible things.

2013 – Not a bad year

2013 was a weird year for me. Personally and professionally, it was amazing. To many people around me, and close to me, it could have been a hell of a lot better. 2013 brought me the launch of my first book (call it traditionally published, or professionally published, or whatever) in May, which was a huge thrill (The Shambling Guide to NYC). I got asked to be part of a large video game project that was crowdfunded over $1 million (Torment). I became part of another storytelling project (Storium) that should take off next year. And even though graduation will be in January, I still feel as though I’ve ended my MFA program at Stonecoast this year, as my thesis is turned in and my presentation nearly done.

One of the biggest thrills of 2013, and, indeed, my life, was winning the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Author, which I completely didn’t expect. Last year I learned how to lose an award, and I was fully prepared this year. I still feel somewhat stunned when I think about that night.

Another unexpected thing was getting nominated for the RT Best Urban Fantasy award, which cemented my decision to attend the RT conference next year in New Orleans, where the award will be given. (Also, Ghost Train to New Orleans was completed this year, and will launch next year. I may be hosting a party in NOLA. Stay tuned.)

I had my first Guest of Honor gig at VCon, which was, well, an honor. (Also I was GoH alongside Dan Wells, who is a delightful man and a disturbing writer, and John Kovalic, who I managed to spend time and only squee and fangirl at once.) It’s a great con, and I highly recommend attending if you’re in that area of the country.

I got a new agent this year, Jen Udden with the Donald Maass Literary Agency, and I’m excited to be working with her. She’s already giving me tons of feedback to make my WiP better.

Personally, the family is doing great, the kiddo is loving middle school and the husband just celebrated his first year at Google, and is loving working there. Jim made it to San Antonio with me so he could hold my hand at the Hugo Awards, and we also had a few other family trips.

The year had its downsides too. We had several family health problems, including Jim getting hit by a car in May, and some other family issues that it’s not my place to put in public. Most of our issues are resolved, or healing, now, and right now I feel lucky, because things could have gone so much worse.

What does 2014 look like? Well, I certainly hope there will be fewer vehicular accidents. I have the book coming out in March, and I will be doing Torment work early in the year. My convention schedule includes, for sure, RT in May and WorldCon (LonCon!) in August. I’m graduating from Stonecoast in January. I’m teaching at the Shared Worlds camp for teens in July.

And in the middle of it all, I’ll be writing and podcasting like always. This month marks 9 years podcasting for me. NINE. Per tradition, I forgot the actual anniversary. But at least I hit the month, right?

My new year, I hope, will contain more creation and less fear. (I will be blogging about fear later on this week.) More fun and less nursing loved ones back to health. (Of course if they need it, I’ll be there. I more hope they will not need the nursing.) Exercise, running, perhaps even a return to kung fu. But as we all do, I’d just want to take it one day at a time.