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Guest Post: Mur Lafferty — “I do writing wrong”

A post by someone cooler than I

Today I have a treat for you and me both, dear reader.

In my quest to absorb ALL THE THINGS about writing in print and audio form (it helps if you boil it all in a cauldron and bathe in it) I came across the podcast I Should Be Writing. (Subscribe: iTunes || RSS)

“I should be writing,” I mumbled to myself as I gleefully parked my work van on someones front lawn. Using my finely honed skills of deduction, I realized this must be a writing podcast — exactly what I was looking for at the time.

And this was the gateway to all things Mur Lafferty.

Mur Lafferty has written podcast fiction, published novels, penned words for RPGs, all the while keeping up a regular scheduled podcast on the art and craft and insanity that is writing.

And when I heard she was looking for places to pimp her new book, Ghost Train to New Orleans, out March 4th, I said to myself, “Hey, I have a blog…” and promptly contacted her via smoke signals and carrier pigeons. And when that didn’t work, I used email.

I am almost done with the first book in this series, The Shambling Guide to New York City, an inventive and fun mix of the absurd and the mundane — a New York City filled with water sprites, demons, fiends and zombies, all living in plain sight, yet hidden among us clueless humans. And the human woman who is writing a travel guide for them sure has her hands full not becoming lunch.

It’s like Terry Pratchett, clothed only in pages torn from urban fantasy novels and scrolls of ancient lore, ended up on the set of In the Mouth of Madness and decided to sit down and type out a book.

Ghost Train to New Orleans takes us to the next city that needs a good travel book for the undead — New Orleans.

There better be a zombie Mardi Gras, or Mrs. Lafferty is gonna hear from me…

From the blurb:

Zoe Nor­ris writes travel guides for the undead. And she’s good at it too — her new-found abil­ity to talk to cities seems to help. After the suc­cess of The Sham­bling Guide to New York City, Zoe and her team are sent to New Orleans to write the sequel.

Work isn’t all that brings Zoe to the Big Easy. The only per­son who can save her boyfriend from zom­bism is rumored to live in the city’s swamps, but Zoe’s out of her ele­ment in the wilder­ness. With her super­nat­ural col­leagues wait­ing to see her fail, and rumors of a new threat hunt­ing city talk­ers, can Zoe stay alive long enough to fin­ish her next book?

Needless to say, I got that bad boy on pre-order.

So, without further blathering, I present to you Mur Lafferty.

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I do writing wrong.

The TV movie about my fascinating life will have to be edited heavily. I’m bad at things that writers are supposed to do.

I don’t smoke. But i’m not sure if that stereotype still holds true, as smoking has gone out of style. I used to smoke, but not since the 90s.

I don’t drink scotch, whiskey, or absinthe. We have it in the house, my husband enjoys all of those things. But I can’t stand any of it. I enjoyed gin for a while, and sometimes would make myself a martini in a martini glass and feel like an ad exec coming home from work, and sometimes I’d make a martini and put it in a coffee cup and call it my writer’s martini- give me the gin, not the fancy crap. But then gin and I had a falling out, and we don’t talk much anymore.

Now I drink wine, which is just so very New York loft party. (actually I haven’t been to New York in a while. Is it NYC loft party to drink wine? Am I making stuff up? I can call it North Carolina suburban writer’s party of one. But that’s just sad.) I also like rum now, and was delighted when my favorite drink – rum and ginger ale – turned out to be called a “dark and stormy.” How is that for perfection? This is a WRITER’S drink! (<– best Klingon voice here.)

Lastly, I don’t do coffee well. I like coffee, but I’ve done the fancy beans, and the Chemex carafe, and the filters that look like a folded napkin BUT MORE EXPENSIVE BECAUSE CHEMEX. I read my friends talk about it like it’s a new religion, OMG COFFEE MUCH DIFFERENT SO BETTER, and then I make my own and… It’s good. It hasn’t changed my life, but it’s good. I even joined Tonx so I could get fancy coffee beans delivered to my door every 2 weeks. And the new coffee is… good. I’ve looked online to make sure I’m doing everything right, from warming the carafe to letting the coffee “bloom” to keeping the beans airtight and whole until I am ready to grind and brew. I even play the coffee soothing music while I go through the holy ritual, and make sure I only use water wept from orphans on the full moon.

OK, I exaggerate. The children who weep at the full moon have parents. Their parents just hate them, that’s all. Why do you think they’re crying? You monster.

But after all this, my coffee is still… good. I like it. And the ritual is a nice way to start the day, get the brain going and all that. Sleepy brain must wake in order to not break glass or burn self, after all. But even after all this, I’m not getting why this coffee is better than the coffee I was drinking before. And my writer friends still talk about all these things as if they’ve found Jesus. Would you like to hear the good news about coffee?

On bad days, I feel left out. On good days, I enjoy my coffee and try not to think about how much I’ve spent on coffee compared to how much someone with Dunkin Donuts coffee and a Mr. Coffee maker has spent. On bitter days, I assume this coffee is my ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ and I just am too chicken to stand, point, and go THIS COFFEE IS THE SAME AS ALL THE OTHER COFFEE, ONLY WE ARE STUPID AND SPEND MORE.

I’m also very sensitive to caffeine and have 1-2 cups a day, max. Very not writerly.

Lastly, I’m allergic to cats. All writers have cats. I have dogs, and they’re not allowed in my lap or on my desk and they do nothing cute to keep me from writing (eg. sit on my chair or lie on my keyboard or hold down my lap so I can’t possibly get up and write.)

Thus, I will fail as a writer. It’s over. Stick a fork in me, I’m done. It looks like all that’s left is the actual book that’s coming out, which has a distinct lack of cigarette smoke, whiskey stains, or coffee cup rings on the manuscript. The only thing this book has is WORDS.

But I hope you like them. Ghost Train to New Orleans. Out March 4.

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Head over to Amazon and pick up Ghost Train to New Orleans and the first in the series, The Shambling Guide to New York City now, or the zombies will get you!

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About Mur Lafferty

Winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, 2013

“…one of the worst-kept secrets in science fiction and fantasy publishing.” – author/blogger Cory Doctorow via BoingBoing

Mur Lafferty is an author and podcaster. She lives in Durham, NC, with her husband, daughter, and two dogs.

  • Books: Building her audience since 2006 with podcast-only titles, Mur has written several books and novellas. Her first professionally published book, The Shambling Guides 1: The Shambling Guide to New York City, is in bookstores now. The sequel, The Shambling Guides 2: Ghost Train to New Orleans will be out March 4. She writes urban fantasy, superhero satire, afterlife mythology, and Christmas stories. All of her early works are available via podcast and ebook.
  • Podcasts: She has been podcasting since 2004 when she started her essay-focused show, Geek Fu Action Grip. Then she started the award-winning I Should Be Writing in 2005, which is still going today. She was the editor of Escape Pod from 2010-2012, and she currently hosts the Angry Robot Books podcast.
  • Nonfiction: Mur has written for several magazines including Knights of the Dinner Table, Anime Insider, and The Escapist.

In January 2014, Mur graduated from the Stonecoast program at the University of Southern Maine with an MFA in popular fiction.

Mur was born in Charlotte, NC, and currently lives in Durham, NC with her family. She enjoys running, martial arts, board games, video games, and cooking.

Contact Info:

Mur Lafferty


Twitter: @mightymur

Snail Mail:
8311 Brier Creek Parkway
Ste 105274
Raleigh, NC 27617

Jennifer Udden (
Donald Maass Literary Agency
121 W. 27th Suite 801
New York, NY 10001


Ghost Train to New Orleans (Orbit Books, March 2014):

Zoe Norris writes travel guides for the undead. And she’s good at it too — her new-found ability to talk to cities seems to help. After the success of The Shambling Guide to New York City, Zoe and her team are sent to New Orleans to write the sequel.

Work isn’t all that brings Zoe to the Big Easy. The only person who can save her boyfriend from zombism is rumored to live in the city’s swamps, but Zoe’s out of her element in the wilderness. With her supernatural colleagues waiting to see her fail, and rumors of a new threat hunting city talkers, can Zoe stay alive long enough to finish her next book?
Available via paperback, ebook, and audiobook.
Amz) (BN) (Indie) (Waterstones)

The Shambling Guide to New York City (Orbit Books, May 2013):

Zoe Norris is a human returning to her hometown in disgrace, wishing to get a new job in publishing. After many strikeouts, she finds the perfect-sounding job, only it happens to be at a publishing company that writes travel books for monsters.
Oh yeah, and monsters are real, too.
Available via paperback, ebook, and audiobook.
Amz) (BN) (Indie) (Waterstones) (Audible)

This is a great start to what promises to be one of the gems of the comic urban fantasy crown. The Shambling Guide sets the wonderful world of the supernatural–and the slightly more esoteric world of travel guide publishing–on its ear, and the result is nothing short of delightful.” (New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire)

An engagingly funny, and fun, romp through NYC. You’ll love Zoe… to bits.” (New York Times bestselling Tobias S. Buckell)

Shows exactly why so many writers have been buzzing about Mur Lafferty for so many years: an unbeatable mixture of humor, heart, imagination, and characterization. I want to live in Mur’s New York.” (Cory Doctorow)

A wild ride through the secret side of New York City, Mur Lafferty’s mighty debut is urban fantasy the way it should be: fast, funny, with bags of action and characters you’ll love. A total delight from cover to cover.” (Adam Christopher)

The Shambling Guide to New York City is a monstrously fun romp by one of our most engaging new authors.” (Tim Pratt)

Zombies and vampires and golems, oh my! The Shambling Guide to New York City rounds up the biggest cast of the undead and never-quite-alive ever to appear in a single novel, along with a wisecracking heroine whose picture belongs over the dictionary entry for spunky. This is a comic tour-de-force by a writer who lives and breathes popular culture. Mur Lafferty is throwing a monster party and you’re invited.”
James Patrick Kelly, Hugo and Nebula Award Winner)

With really interesting restaurant recs and sightseeing suggestions, and unusual (to say the least) takes on the Statue of Liberty and Grant’s Tomb, it’s got everything you need to know for the trip of a lifetime–or longer! And with the smart and intrepid Zoe to show you around, how could you possibly get in trouble? I give it 5 Michelin stars and 8 Zombie Planet Thumbs Up (with real thumbs)!”
Connie Willis)

The hip, knowing and sometimes hysterically funny narrative, interspersed with excerpts from the guide of the title, lurches along in splendid fashion. Combine wit, style and acute observation: the result is irresistible.” (Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review))

Charming debut… an enjoyable tour of the city’s supernatural side.” (Publishers Weekly)

The Shambling Guide to New York City shows that Mur Lafferty has something different to bring to the urban fantasy genre. She’s created a character that can experience the human/non-human dynamic via researching a travel guide, which we’d never see through the usual detectives and ass-kicking central characters, and with snappy dialogue, a creative cast and can-do central characters, we have fun tagging along.” (Gavin Pugh,

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