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Category: Writing Out Loud

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.

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

Good Distractions

Seattle trip near Pike Place Market

I haven’t written much fiction since my last update. Tinkered on short story revisions and procrastinated like a champion on novel edits. But my time was not wasted.

I spent most of my creative energy at the day job getting money to pay the bills. The rest of my time went into hunting for a new house in Austin, exercising and stretching to keep the back pain away, and–today–hosting an Indie Author Society meetup and setting up a future workshop on author branding. More on that soon. I’m really excited as this is the first workshop I’ve organized and I think it could help a lot of authors.

All that extra work last week was necessary because we leave for Seattle on Tuesday for a family getaway.

And, if I’m being honest, I think I could use a little vacation.

I will be working part time on the trip (of course), and doing a little writing too, but also trying to enjoy the downtime and soak in the atmosphere. We’ll be spending a lot of time in Capitol Hill, one of my favorite neighborhoods in Seattle, so that part will be easy.

I’ll leave you now with one more photo, which I took last time we visited Seattle.

Seattle Gum Wall

I’ll try to post some new photos while we’re there later this week.

Until then I’ll be carving slices of time out of the day to write. Don’t need much, just need it to be focused. That’s the real trick to being productive.

A Tour of My Bookshelf

MG Herron's bookshelf

I’m experimenting with short book videos on my Facebook page.

The first installment is a tour of my bookshelf!

I’m posting them straight to my M. G. Herron Facebook page, but I’ve embedded the first video below for you to check out here.

Next, I’m going to do some short book reviews, starting with The Word for World is Forest by Ursula K. Le Guin. It’s a wonderful short book and I know a bunch of interesting stuff about it, so it’s an easy one for me to do.

Like my page on Facebook if you want to see more videos like this. Doing videos is very much outside of my comfort zone, but I had fun with this one and decided to do more. It helps that they’re short, so they don’t take a lot of time to put together. Just need enough courage to smile into the camera lens and something to talk about.

Are there any books you’d like to see me review? Leave a comment on the blog and let me know if you do!

Writing updates

Here’s what’s new in my fiction.

I’m polishing those 5 short stories I wrote in the workshop. One has been submitted to a magazine. Another is awaiting some more feedback from beta readers. The other three need a little more work before I’m ready to mail them out.

Now that I have the titles more or less fixed, I’m going to list them here in the order I finished writing them:

  1. “Centurion”
  2. “Earworm”
  3. “The City of Many Worlds”
  4. “The Alien Apocalypse is Better with Friends”
  5. “Wendigo”

With any luck, I’ll be able to sell a few of these. I haven’t decided how long I’m going to keep them in the mail. Some of the more stubborn writers would keep them in the mail forever, until they sold. I don’t know if I have that kind of patience, but I want to give it at least six months to a year. These things take time, but the payoff is worth it for me. Selling a fiction story to a pro market has been a personal goal of mine for a long time.

In other book news, I also got all of the edits for Tales of the Republic back, and had a great call with my editor last Thursday. I’m currently doing a full read through of the manuscript and making detailed notes before I start the revisions.

To summarize the editorial feedback, the plot of the book is solid, but there is some work to be done on character depth, emotion, pacing, and some of the mystery that I unintentionally left off the page.

C’est la vie. I feel like this is pretty standard feedback for a first draft of mine, short or long. I’m glad that all the work I put into the plot paid off—not having to rewrite a significant portion of the manuscript is a relief (I rewrote huge chunks of The Auriga Project because of plot problems).

So I think I’m getting better at this writing novels thing. But I still have a lot to learn. Of course!

I expect the revisions will take me another month or two, so Tales probably won’t be ready until near the end of the year.

That’s okay. My first priority is always to write the best book I can.

It’s worth the extra effort to make readers happy, and to know in my bones that I wrote the best book I could at the time.

I plan to be writing for a long time, so patience at this stage is crucial. I’ve been on this journey for almost three years now and this is still just the beginning.

Belly Breathe

I spent the weekend in severe pain when my back problems flared up again. At one point I had a muscle spasm so bad I was laid out for a whole day.

I don’t write about my back pain very often, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the first time you’re hearing about it. Back pain is not a fun topic to write or talk about and I figure that I have to deal with it often enough in life that I can leave it out of my writing.

But it’s a part of my life, and I promised that I would be more honest with this blog, so today you get to read all about it.

On Monday I went to see the chiropractor/physical therapist who fixed me last time I had problems—back in the summer of 2014. I’ve been taking pretty good care of myself since then. Although, clearly, I have not healed completely.

She said that part of my problem (this time) is that I’m aggravating the muscles under my scapula—where the spasm was centered—by breathing too much with my chest and not enough with my belly. This is a bad habit I probably developed from having asthma as a kid. I lift my shoulders and chest using these back muscles when I am trying to grab a full breath.

The solution she proposed was to fix my blind spots (how I’m doing certain exercises and with which muscles)—and learn to belly breathe.

It’s worked so far. It’s only Wednesday and my pain is already down significantly from where I was 3 days ago. The muscles that spasmed are still weak and sore, but as long as I remember to belly breathe and do my exercises, I’m able to write and work and go about my day without interference.

I even went for my normal 1.5 mile walk this morning. Haven’t been able to do that since last week.

So, back pain bad, doctor good. I wish I would have had the awareness to bite this in the ass before it got really bad again, but I never can predict my breaking point. Some mundane action triggers a muscle spasm—like taking water out of the fridge or reaching down to tie my shoes—but it’s really my bad habits that are the source of the problem.

Usually, I go to the doctor until the pain is gone and then I’m on my own again. But since I’m starting to see a pattern, and habits are hard to break on your own, I’ll keep seeing the doctor until the core problem is resolved this time.

Until I learn to belly breathe naturally. Until the pain is completely gone and my core is strong and my posture is correct. I’ll have to come up with some benchmarks, but I’m getting really tired of going back to physical therapy every couple years. I can’t change the fact that I have scoliosis and an extra vertebrae and a 12 year history of back problems. But I can change how I deal with it.

So I’ll be here belly breathing if you need me.


Photo by Teddy Kelley