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Christmas Eve Writing Update

Whew, a lot of good stuff has happened since I last gave you a writing update.

First of all, “End of the World” has done all right for it being the first piece of fiction I’ve published in several months. I had zero expectations, so I can’t be disappointed. I’m simply happy it was well-received by those who have read it, and continues to sell a bit.

Door Below the Comic Store - High Resolution - alternate fontBut my focus has been on what’s next. Edits for my next fantasy story, “The Door Below the Comic Store” came back, and I’ve already gone through those and produced the ebook. I need to finish the paperback, and then that should be available about January 10th (my target).

My newsletter finds out about everything first, so sign up if you want to be notified (and get a free review copy!) Here’s the cover for “The Door Below the Comic Store”.

Edits for “Wendigo” also came back. This is a paranormal/horror story, a bit of a departure from my usual stuff, but in a good way if you like dark and twisted stuff. It’s inspired by the Wendigo legend of the Navajo tribe, and is about twice the length of most of my short stories: 12,000 words, either a long short story or a short novella depending how you want to look at it.

Funny story: I totally botched the ending of “Wendigo” the first time through. I sat on it, knowing something was wrong, for a couple months before I finally gave up and sent it to my editor. I knew, for certain, that I screwed something up, but sometimes you need an objective opinion. Once I realized it was the ending that was the problem (thanks to my editor and the help of a writer friend), it only took a few hours of focused work to fix it. “Wendigo” also has a creepy cover that I’ve already picked out, and will share soon. That one is slated for release in February.

So now, as you can see, I’m ahead of the curve as far as scheduling goes. That’s never happened before, but damn it feels good. Things are going to be different in 2017.

And that’s not all!

I also wrote 3k words of a new science fiction story that I’m calling, “A Body of Work.” I doubt that will be the final title, as I almost always change titles several times before a story is done. This is a hard science fiction story set in the near future, after Earth has colonized Mars and built a dozen habitable space stations in near-Earth orbit. Also, aliens. Fun stuff!

And finally, I made a smidge of progress on Tales of the Republic. Par for the course there. Now that I’m ahead of schedule, I’m going to make a big effort to change that and get through it sooner. Won’t speak to launch dates yet (I’ve made that mistake before…sorry).

2017 is definitely going to be different.

Which story are you most excited about? Leave a comment to let me know.

Last day to enter 12 Days of Books giveaway

Oh yes! And today is the lat day to enter the 12 Days of Books Giveaways. Click that link and leave your email to enter 12 signed novels.

12 Days of Books Giveaway

Story Tracker

Novels

Tales of the Republic … Status: Revising … Second draft, 30% complete
(24,088 words revised / 80,000 estimated total words)

Short Stories

“The Door Below the Comic Store” … 6,000 words … Status: Post-production

“Wendigo” … 12,000 words … Status: Queued for post-production

“A Body of Work” … Status: Writing (2,694 words written / 6,000 estimated total words)

“Centurion” … 3,000 words … Status: Out for submission

“Earworm” … 3,000 words … Status: Out for submission

The Curmudgeon

Photo by Jan Erik Waider: https://unsplash.com/@northlandscapes

I’ll be the first to admit that there’s a part of me that resists everything.

This is the part of me that scoffs, calls you a liar, hates being around people.

He thinks—no, not just thinks, this part of me actually believes that Valentine’s Day and Christmas have become nothing more than trumped up commercialized gimmicks designed to syphon money from his pockets and fill people with material greed.

He uses the holiday season not to give, but to decimate himself, cut the fat, reevaluate his life in the cold hard light of a chilly December morning.

And, of course, to demand you turn off that fucking christmas music. “If you play Holly Jolly Christmas one more goddamn time…!”

This part of me is a skeptic. He’s stubborn. He argues for the sake of argument, complains for the sake of complaining. He’s never satisfied. But he’s cunning, because he manages to eke an abnormal amount of satisfaction from his discontent regardless.

Let’s call him the Curmudgeon.

Curmudgeon (noun): a bad-tempered, difficult, cantankerous person. See: grouch, crank, bear.

The Curmudgeon is never comfortable. He fidgets and fusses, and heaps piles of scorn upon himself and those around him.

He is toxic. Don’t even get me started on his distraught relationship with guilt.

And yet, the stubbornness at his core fortifies him, like a shot of strong bourbon in the biting cold of mid-winter.

He knows it is darkest before the dawn, and that’s how he manages to carry on.

He walks tall through danger because OF COURSE THE DARK TIMES CAME BACK, YOU FOOLS. What the fuck did you think was going to happen? How did that possibly catch you off guard?

The worst case scenario is inevitable. Don’t ask if, but when and how and most of all, how bad.

The Curmudgeon is bad tempered because he believes he can be better; he is disgusted with humanity because he recognizes how far we have to go to become good.

And how often that opportunity slips through our sweaty fuckin’ fingers.

People who believe we live during the golden age of civilization are cursed with a severe lack of imagination.

A goddamn travesty, he’d tell ya. A waste.

If you happen to pass the Curmudgeon in the street at this time of year, and he’s not lost in thought or mumbling under his breath like a lunatic, you will know him by his greeting.

“Hey ya. Fuck you. Merry Christmas.”

Audiobook Recommendation: The Name of the Wind

51hp1ac+k6L._SL300_.jpgI just finished listening to The Name of the Wind on Audible — what a lyrical, beautiful book that is. Rothfuss’s metaphors and similes are music to my ears.

This was my second read through—I read the paperback last fall, and decided I needed to really take my time and listen this time around.

I was listening with my writer’s ear—but Rothfuss’s work has that magic. Even when I’m trying to study the story, I can’t helped but get sucked into it.

The best bit: Siaru accents, like loud, sarcastic Russians. I didn’t laugh nearly as hard reading these lines. In the audiobook version, however, dialogue from the Siaru merchant in charge of the caravan where Kvothe first meets Denna had me doubled over, clutching my stomach. And when Kilvin, with a burned hand, was talking to Kvothe after the fire in the Fishery, and even Kvothe couldn’t tell if Kilvin was joking … instant classic.

Click here to listen to the clip of the Siaru merchant telling Kvothe the many ways he might “get left behind.”

The Name of the Wind Fan art

I also want to take this opportunity to share with you some of my favorite fan art from fans of The Name of the Wind. With the exception of Neil Gaiman, I’ve never known of another author whose fans are so engaged they make TONS of art featuring their characters. I hope one day to write a story that inspires art in this way.

the_waystone_inn_by_bchart-d91iu1s.jpg
By bchart on DeviantArt
cinder_v2_by_myques-d9o4djg.jpg
By myques on DeviantArt
doors_of_stone_mock_cover_by_thatsummersguy-d6gwtlo.jpg
By ThatSummersGuy on DeviantArt

I could have included dozens more, but these three caught my eye first and I’ve got to get back to working on a story. You can find more fan art on Pat Rothfuss’s all time favorites list.

The Smell of Cut Grass

eli-francis.jpg

Interior book design is meditative in a way that’s hard to explain. Repetitive yet satisfying, like mowing the lawn. Ahh, the smell of cut grass! The way the afternoon sun reflects off the even rows behind me.

But formatting books is better than mowing the lawn because I don’t have to contend with gasoline and hot metal, and there’s no grass to itch where my shoes rub against my ankles.

The design process clears my mind. I pop my headphones in and get lost putting things to rights. Resize a photo there. Match the fonts here. Even up those margins! METADATA IS THE BEST!!

*achem*

It’s especially freeing when the words don’t belong to me. When they’re someone else’s words, no dampened anxieties lurk behind the curtains of my mind. I’m still on the lookout for typos, errors, inconsistencies—as natural as breathing, you see—but have no need to worry about a massive hidden plot hole that might be lurking in that whiskey-fueled chapter I wrote at two o clock in the morning before a deadline.

Yet I still get to help make something I can hold in my hands. Maybe that’s why I like formatting books so much better than mowing the lawn, though they have traits in common—books are a craft, not a chore. After it’s done, a book goes out into the world. It takes on a life of its own. The grass in your front lawn carries on with its minor existence, too. Except, in that case, as every homeowner the whole world over knows even if they refuse to admit it, the grass looks and smells nice, but its only true purpose is to grow tall enough to force you back out there to cut it again.

I’m not saying my addiction to writing is any less potent. If anything, my draw to books is stronger, especially in me. But I’ll stick with books for now.

At least until the spring.

What It Means to Be Human

Photo by Patrick Tomasso: https://unsplash.com/@impatrickt

I believe people read to explore what it means to be human.

Who doesn’t love to pick up a new book, and get whisked away on an unexpected adventure? To fall in love with journey, the people? They are beautiful and they are flawed. Just like you.

It’s only natural to begin to empathize with their romance and their pain. Their loss becomes your loss. Their friendships folds itself close to your heart.

Life is to fiction as watered-down wine is to clear moonshine. Fiction is not life, it is life distilled.

Even a comedy has something to teach us between the punch lines.

Do you know anyone as well as you know the heroes and villains in your favorite books? Do you even know yourself that well?

And what other operation, apart from brain surgery, can take you so deep into the human mind?

This can be frightening, to be caught in such dark waters. But it also tends to open eyes.

Reading other people’s stories has something to do with what it means to be human.

Maybe the exploration is the meaning itself.

You can win 12 signed novels if you enter here between now and midnight on December 24, 2016! Award-winning novels, science fiction novels, fantasy novels. Do it!

12 Days of Books Giveaway

Also, check out my new short story about a garden and a robot named Michelangelo.

A New Post-Apocalyptic Story!

The End of the World Is Better with Friends

Sid is all alone at the end of the world, with only his robot and his garden to keep him company. He tends his plot, and tries to keep his distance from Slimeball, the lake monster the aliens left behind. But a hot spell and the need for water finally forces him to the lake’s perilous shores. His clever plan to distract Slimeball goes sideways, and turns into a discovery that forever alters the way he lives his post-apocalyptic life.

The End of the World ebook cover

Kindle  Paperback

Author’s Note

This story was written for a workshop I took back in August. It’s now available in both Kindle and paperback formats. I hope you enjoy this post-apocalyptic tale of survival and friendship. It’s set in one of my favorite cities.

Tons of fun making these little paperbacks, too. They’re only $5, with free shipping for Amazon Prime members. Never done a paperback on a short story before, but they make great little gifts, and bring me joy to hold in my hands.

Christmas joy! Order a paperback of The End of the World Is Better with Friends and/or Magick Mirror, and help stuff the stockings of some happy readers.


Story Tracker

I’ve got 2 good news updates on the writing front. I made over 2,400 words of progress on the revisions of Tales since my last update. It would have been more, but I also publishing this book, completely revamped the website, and wrote a new author bio (something I’d been putting off forever), so not a bad week.

Next time I do one of these updates, I’ll remove the newly published story from the works-in-progress list below.

Novels

Tales of the Republic, second draft … 28% complete
22,475 words revised / 80,000 estimated total words

Short Stories

“The End of the World Is Better with Friends” … 6k words … Status: Published!

“Centurion” … 3k words … Status: Out for submission (trade pub)

“Earworm” … 3k words … Status: Out for submission (trade pub)

“The Door Below the Comic Store” … 6k words … Status: Out for edits (indie)

“Wendigo” … 10k words … Status: Rough draft complete (tbd)

“A Body of Work” … Status: Prewriting

12 Days of Books, Christmas Giveaway

12 Days of Books Giveaway

Holy wow, Christmas is coming up fast! To celebrate the holidays, I’m participating in a 12 Days of Books promotion with some very awesome authors. From now until Christmas, you can enter to win the whole set of 12 signed science fiction and fantasy books, including my own novel, The Auriga Project, E.J. Wenstrom’s Mud: Chronicles of the Third Realm War, Jade Kerrion’s Perfection Unleashed, and a many more!

How do you enter? Simply sign up on this giveaway page between now and midnight December 24th, 2016, Christmas Eve.

I’ll post some more blogs going into the books being included in more detail. In the meantime, you can browse the websites of the other participating authors for more ways to enter and good books to read. Here’s the full list:

Charles Cornell

Danielle DeVor

Louann Carroll

Connor Drexler

Jeff Elkins

M. G. Herron

Sharon Johnston

Jade Kerrion

R. Perez de Pereda

Brian Rella

Antonio Simon, Jr.

E. J. Wenstrom

In Search of a Better Reading Experience

Photo by Samuel Zeller: https://unsplash.com/@samuelzeller

I took some time this week to redo mgherron.com. What do you think? A lot cleaner, right?

In search of a better reading experience, I switched themes on the site. This one (Make, if you’re wondering) loads much faster, has fewer bugs, and the style of the blog is more flexible. But above all, it’s clean and easy to read.

Ease of use is also a factor. Less work for me means I can spend more time spent writing for you.

Homepage of mgherron.com as of Dec 2016
Homepage of mgherron.com 12/10/16. Click to embiggen.

I also took the opportunity to gut some needless pages, and generally reorganize things. The blog is now over on the blog page instead of the homepage. There’s a new short stories page, and the stories not available on the website link straight to Amazon where you can buy them. Best of all, the new homepage features the books and stories instead of these random ass blog posts 😀

The blog posts are fun, but it makes perfect sense to feature the books and stories first. Welcome to MGHerron.com, here’s some entertaining fiction. That’s what this is about.

I also wrote a new bio. I wrote it in third person initially…Writing about myself in first person still feels awkward, but I changed it person at the suggestion of a writer friend. These Writing Out Loud blog posts have always been transparent and honest, I remembered, so it makes sense to extend that vulnerability to the rest of the site and what I’m trying to do here.

Bonus points

Speaking of which…Bonus points if you can find the new short story. I’m not doing anything to hide it. In fact, the cover is lovely and brings great joy to my heart. But I’m holding back on announcing it until the paperback version is ready. It’s taking longer than I expected for CreateSpace to sync with Amazon for this title. The ebook, however, is available.

If you have any comments on the new site, leave it in the comments or drop me a line at matt@mgherron.com


Photo by Samuel Zeller

Nothing + Time = Something

Photo by Maxime Le Conte des Floris: https://unsplash.com/@mlcdf

Blogging is exciting when I have news to share. It’s harder on all the other days, when I have so much I want to tell you but none of it seems like big news, none of it worthy of marking as time passes. So instead of making a new blog I shrug and let it slip by.

Not today!

November was a lot of nothing in that way. I worked. I showed up for my responsibilities. Time passed. It felt like nothing until I looked up and it was December, the end of another year, and, why, would you take a look at that, it all added up to a little something in the end.

During October and November I spent my writing time working on Tales. Of course. It seems like that project is going to drag on forever, but I’m about 25% of the way through the second draft now. At the end of this draft the book goes to a copyeditor, then to beta readers, then to the world.

So, very close. It’s been a long time coming. It feels like nothing, but there it is: 25% complete the second draft. 20,000 words out of about 80k total.

The other thing I accomplished, and this is more recent, just this week in fact, is that I got a new short story edited and produced. This is a story called “The End of the World Is Better with Friends” that I wrote during the short story workshop I took in August/September. I ran it by a new copyeditor, who seems great, and produced the ebook and print book myself just today.

I’ve listed those two projects in the new Story Tracker section included below along with all the other stories I have in various stages of completion. I’ll include these Story Trackers on non-topic-based blogs like this so you can see what I’ve been working on, if you’re interested.

The Tracker helps keep me honest, and, as I’ve said, helps me see that my effort adds up to something over time.

The next time you hear from me, I should have a new short story for you!

• • •

Story Tracker

Novels

Tales of the Republic, second draft … 25% complete
20,000 words revised / 80,000 estimated total words

Short Stories

“Centurion” … 3k words … Status: Out for submission (trade pub)

“Earworm” … 3k words … Status: Out for submission (trade pub)

“The End of the World Is Better with Friends” … 6k words … Status: Post-Production (indie)

“The Door Below the Comic Store” … 6k words … Status: Out for edits (indie)

“Wendigo” … 10k words … Status: Rough draft complete (tbd)

_
Photo by Maxime Le Conte des Floris

David Heinemeier Hansson on Flow State

David Heinemeier Hansson

Tim Ferriss recently interviewed David Heinemeier Hansson, the creator of Ruby on Rails and winner of “world’s biggest endurance race: 24 hours of Le Mans.”

Early in the interview, Tim and David had a fascinating discussion about creative flow state that I had to capture and share with you.

DHH: It’s exciting, it’s a loud car and shaking. There’s the element of danger, you could go off course, you could hit something. But just the closed loop system of improvement was absolutely intoxicating. It was kind of like you just had a bottle of flow. You could just go open your fridge and go ‘I’d like some flow, please. Can you get me into the flow state where you lose track of time and where you just have such a great experience learning and getting better—that’s how I felt the first very many times I got into a race car. I could just switch on flow. Which was something I had discovered in programming a fair amount, but I find at least in programming it was a little more elusive. The best programming sessions I’d have flow, but then I’d also have a fair number of other programming sessions where I wouldn’t have flow. When I stepped into the race car, I just felt like, oh, you turned the ignition and flow comes. And that was just magic.

Tim Ferriss: Why do you think it was more elusive in programming and can you identify any common factors for the sessions that had flow or that didn’t have flow?

DHH: I think part of it with racing was just that the intensity level was at 100% right away. As soon as you stepped into a car you had maximum danger—actually you had more danger in the beginning than you will have later on because it’s more dangerous to drive a car in the track when you don’t know what you were doing than it is later on. Versus with programming I didn’t get flow until I was—I mean, I shouldn’t say that. I didn’t get great consistent flow in the quantities that I’d like to enjoy it before I was actually a fairly well-developed programmer. Because that was when I had enough of an eye for the whole scope of programming to really dive into Oh let’s make this beautiful, Oh, let’s make this as simple as possible. When, in the beginning, I was just focused on, Oh, let’s get this to work. Can the PHP page render? Oh no, I get an error, let me try something else. That was fun. There was glimpses of flow. But the real moments of flow I wouldn’t get until I was much better.

Flow state is what I strive for in writing, and I guess it’s just good to hear that other people also find it elusive at times.

Listen to the whole interview at FourHourWorkWeek.com.