Writing Journeys – C.L. Murray
Today we hear from C.L. Murray, author of A Facet for the Gem – a world wherein knights ride great eagles rather than measly horses. He’s become a bit of a wiz at Amazon ads and marketing, a skill many pay a small fortune just to learn. Earlier in 2016 he even secured an audio book deal with Podium Publishing (this is the audio publisher that discovered a little book called The Martian).
By C. L. Murray – authorclmurray.com
I didn’t even play an instrument. Still don’t to this day. But one night when I was thirteen and my mom’s friendly neighbors gave me a green wooden flute that they’d brought back from Peru, the floodgates of inspiration opened. I immediately envisioned a young swashbuckling hero with a magical flute that gave him the power to vanquish all sorts of slimy enemies in a sprawling fantasy world. Did the magical flute play music? Hell no. It was basically just a magic wand, but so much more unique.
Over the next year, while the other teens around me were living eventful lives, I was world-building. My first book, The Flute of Korindelf, was well under way. It had a full cast of characters led by an eagle-riding protagonist with places to go, monsters to slay, and personal growth to achieve. In the summer after 9th grade, I basked in the unsung glory of being one of the only students to snag an A minus minus (2 minuses) in both semesters of the most chilling Honors English course that any freshman ever suffered. After going through that wringer, I thought I was ready to crank out my full novel (LOL).
I started writing the book’s climactic second half, because why not jump in the middle where all the action is and worry about all that tedious character development later? And when that “second half” turned out to be about twenty pages long, I took a step back and accepted that my fantasy story was barely past the embryonic stage.
My march to age eighteen was gloomy and introverted, spent in my dad’s custody five days a week and with my mom the other two (a court-decided arrangement that had been in place since their divorce when I was six). With my legal adulthood just around the corner, Dad anticipated that I might decide to leave and significantly reduce our contact with one another, which made those days a bit tense. I quietly packed one box with everything important to me—mostly just notebooks with years’ worth of writings that further developed my book—and then I lived only with my mom until I moved to the dorms at San Diego State four months later.
College was when I REALLY started to write the book, which was of course still very disjointed and bogged down with massive info-dumps and backstory that made the veins in my mom’s head bulge when I had her read the first few chapters. I went from being a Mechanical Engineering major (for f*ck knows why) to an English major and made the Dean’s List that first year (like it matters). Ever the introvert, I spent most days trying to fix those opening chapters while planning the subsequent ones. For the next two years, my obsession with perfecting and finishing that first novel took complete priority over anything else in my life, so I dropped out of college at twenty-one, saved up the money I’d earned as a painter and maintenance worker for a school district, and hauled ass to Phoenix, Arizona, where the cost of living was dirt cheap and I had a lot of family.
After the better part of a year, I moved back to California with an almost half-completed first draft, and eventually got an apartment in one of the cheapest areas I could find. I continued working my old job trucking heavy equipment and doing repairs for schools, and also logged hundreds of hours as a fill-in janitor. Being passionately immersed in writing my fantasy at night and then clocking in the next morning to perform a function from which I was mentally and spiritually detached was like jumping between dimensions in a way that brought on cute little panic attacks, so I would work for a few months and not write, and then take a few months off to do nothing but write.
I had to live in the world I had developed, BE the characters and let them lead me to wonders I didn’t know I could discover. In Stephen King’s On Writing, he says he believes that stories are found, not created. When I first read that, I narcissistically thought, “F you, Stephen King. You don’t know sh*t! I created this world and everyone in it out of nothing but pure talent!” But as I matured and got more engrossed in my craft, what would start as my daily writing session became a euphoric trip to a higher plane where the story lived and breathed, waiting to be accessed. At its core is a young man’s coming of age and his bond with three different fathers, each the kind of father I wish I’d had and exemplifying redeeming qualities that I loved in my own dad. These central characters are all symbolically confined to a rock in a sea of endless potential waiting to be explored, and it is only through helping one another find the courage to take a leap forward that they discover the vastness of themselves and their connection to those around them.
The book that had begun as The Flute of Korindelf when I was thirteen evolved to a complete, 130K word first draft of A Facet for the Gem right after I turned twenty-four. You’ll find no cumbersome magical flutes in there now, but rather a small, easily pocketed mystical relic called the Goldshard, and there are three more installments to complete The Tale of Eaglefriend series.
I spent the next two and a half years racking up about 400 rejections from literary agents and getting mighty drunk after work. Then, a big turning point came when I did a Writer’s Digest workshop with agent Paula Munier, who helped me see that I had majorly sacrificed clarity for style in the prose. While before I’d been considering splitting it into two books to avoid exceeding agents’ desired length for a debut, I realized I could substantially trim it down and keep it all intact. I went line by line and removed all distracting flourishes and extraneous details, chiseling the substance out of the murk, and after a few months had it down to around 89K words, just below Ms. Munier’s maximum.
When she rejected my partial with praise, I decided the time had come to self-publish and hired my wonderful editor Karen Conlin, whom I discovered through some very successful indie authors on Google Plus. Then I hired the highly-recommended book designers at Damonza, and A Facet for the Gem finally went live just before my twenty-seventh birthday, half my lifetime after its genesis.
More than ten months since its debut, I’m thrilled with the positive response it’s gotten, and a big highlight was signing the audiobook rights over to multi award-winning Podium Publishing, whose first fiction title was Andy Weir’s The Martian. Through Amazon ads, I’ve gone from gaining dozens of new readers every month to hundreds, and recently launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the cover design of Book 2, which I plan to publish this summer.
Be sure to come back tomorrow to hear from the new Grimdark powerhouse of Michael R. Fletcher!
C.L. Murray, fantasy authors, writing journeys