Monday, December 30, 2013

12 Steps to Self Care



This saccharine graphic, "12 Steps to Self Care", to living your life, has been making its way around Facebook. I'm sure it was meant well but it is so basic as to almost be useless. For these elements to be useful requires a degree of reading more into them than they offer here. As they are, they are simply too general. Which really is the point of these things, unless they become too general when they can become counterproductive.

These steps to "self care" imply that they aren't concerned about anything else; except you. However, in taking that tact, they can themselves become negative. Nothing is black and white in life and if you think they are, you are misleading yourself, doing yourself a disservice and setting yourself up for failure.

Ordering these elements up and seeing their limitations is as important as their original intent. On the surface they are useless. But they do hold a measure of help with a bit of help. So here is that bit of help.

1 If it feels wrong, don't do it.

 Okay, but working for a company every work day feels totally wrong to me. Should I quit? If I did, I would lose my house. I'd have no where to live. Be of no use to anyone else. Sometimes you have to do what feels wrong and yet it is the right thing to do. So how do you decide what you should do? Life, is all about balance.

2 Say "exactly" what you mean.

 This one, can get you killed. It refers to transparency. If I were to say exactly what I mean much of the time, it could affect my life and lifestyle poorly. However, if I try hard to be clear to others and communicate more rather than less clearly, with some degree of restraint in my honesty, with an attempt to be politic (gentle) in my dealings with others, but truly honest and heartfelt, there will be less ambiguity in my life and in dealings with others. Life, is all about balance.

3 Don't be a "people pleaser".

 Pleasing people is how one networks and sets oneself up for success in life. But to do it to excess, to get in a habit of constantly sacrificing oneself for pleasing others, will certainly be destructive. Please people whenever appropriate, when it falls in line with who you are and how you want to be, and how you want others to relate to you. Life, is about balance.

4 Trust your instincts.

 If you have good instincts in life and find you are not trusting them, and that things in your life are not going well, then trust them more. When your instincts become wrong on a continuous basis, then what? Review your internal and external existence and compare those to what you want out of life and how much you are using your instincts and adjust accordingly. Life, is about balance.

5 Never speak bad about yourself.

 Aside from questionable grammar, this can lead to delusional thought. Letting others know that you know where you are bad (or good) is useful, and can gain you a very valuable commodity, Trust. Be honest about yourself, be open. But work to make better what is bad about yourself. People seeing that you are aware and bettering yourself, progressing, give one another valuable commodity, Faith, in your abilities and your character. Self deprecating humor can be entertaining, it can relieve tense situations, it can be... endearing. But too much can be detrimental to you and how others perceive you. Stretching the truth to make oneself look good is one thing and useful, but breaking from reality becomes lying and negative and can come back around to cause you grief. Life, is about balance.

6 Never give up on your dreams.

 Better still, know when to give up on your dreams. Dreams don't just happen, they usually require hard work... and time. Time and effort are important elements in life to achieve anything. But you also have to take time to enjoy your efforts on the way to achieving your dreams. Otherwise you will burn out and never get to your goals. Life, is about balance.

7 Don't be afraid to say "No". 

 Better to be "concerned" about saying "No", while being able to say it when necessary. Still, don't always say "No" either. I have found that saying "Yes" more often than not, is useful in life, too. But as with anything, don't get addicted to it. Life, is about balance.

8 Don't be afraid to say "Yes".

 Like with saying "No", it is better to be "concerned" about saying "Yes", while being able to say it when necessary. Still, don't always say "Yes", either. Life, is about balance.

9 Be kind to yourself.

 This is probably the most important of all of these. Just be aware of whether your being kind to yourself is far out of proportion to what it is costing those around you. Is your being kind to yourself costing others at a degree far outweighing any justification you could openly make? Do you shun being nice to yourself? Life, is about balance.

10 Let go what you can't control.

 This is important as it goes along with "Never give up on your dreams". Sometimes, you should. But to give up on your dreams can also lead one to giving up too soon on them, as dreams are typically achieved after that point at which one wants to give up, even multiple times. Life, is about balance.

11 Stay away from drama & negativity.

 In general this is good advice, but if everyone always shunned drama and negativity, what would the world look like? Surviving drama and negativity also makes us stronger, smarter, it shows us ways to avoid them in the future. But being around too much drama and negativity is sooner or later destructive and sucks the energy out of one's life. Life, is about balance.

12 LOVE

 Let the feeling of love into your life. But don't let it become all consuming or the drug you are always chasing. Also, don't try to keep it from you simply because it can lead to pain. Experiencing love in life is what gives life it's fullness, it is the reward for all the rest and avoiding it is removing one of the most rewarding features of life, from life. Life is, after all, about balance.


In the end, we really don't need to know all these things. One simply needs balance in life and when one finds that life has come out of balance, then alter whatever it is you have been doing. Be aware that at that point however, altering things usually requires altering them to the point that it is at least at first, uncomfortable. Usually to the point that at first it seems like the counter-intuitively wrong thing to do.

That is when the twelve elements mentioned above can be useful. But you will find at some point that what it all comes back down to is that Life is, after all, about balance.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!
From my family to yours!
Cheers!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Where's all the information on the internet?

I wonder.

I've been trying to research something that happened years ago back in 1974, in Tacoma, Washington, and I'm having a lot of trouble with it. Like, is someone locking down all the online info? Sure there is still a lot out there, but it seems to me like there was more out a while back. Maybe there even is more out there now, but I used to be able to access more types than I can now.

All this talk about security and hackers, who are indeed out there but, how much is it a selling point to lock things down so we can be charged for it, for security reasons, for access, for info, for knowledge, for power?

He who holds the information holds the power. Is this a trend? Should we be worried? Is it too late?

I've been involved in many levels of security and technology in my life. I've been in the military, had a secret clearance, worked in keeping systems secure, learning about it, networking, I've been in rooms with people, talked to them, asked them questions, people who most of you will only ever see on TV. I see this from a variety of perspectives. Information should be free to people to better humanity. We need secrecy in some cases for purposes of national security. These both are true.

There is an old saying in the IT (information technologies or internet technologies if you like) world that you can have complete business or you can have complete security, but you can't fully have both. It's a continuing balancing act that by necessity slides from one end to the other, hopefully never being too far to one side or the other that in the end, that is dangerous for both endeavors.

Back in the 80s I was on newsgroups (remember those, pre WWW? before the "graphical internet"). I was one of those screaming that information should be free, the internet should remain free and open, knowledge should be free for the masses around the world. Well, to some respect, I've come around. Artists should be paid, obviously. So should writers, musicians, programmers, even software companies and certainly retail businesses but that's a bit different and not at all what I'm talking about today. Though that's all gotten a bit out of hand in some ways, too.

They started charging in the beginning for access to the internet (AOL, Compuserve, etc.). The web started up and took over and then ecommerce started up, which we were very against.

"Free the Internet", we cried. "Keep the internet free." Or more correctly, make it free. No someone has to pay for it, obviously, but free to just sit and use. As free as our roads and highways. Paid by most, used by all.

The internet should be free, as it was at the universities where we originally were accessing it from.

Well, we finally lost that battle, but then we saw the cool things coming up from it. There's some good stuff out there, buying online, saving our infrastructure (roads, gas, working from home, etc.), though now they don't want to support our digital infrastructure and make access to the internet free, or fast, or even, consistent. Or safe, but that's another matter.

And what about this "singularity" that could spring up, a sentient AI (artificial intelligence) that could one day come into being? We would have no control whatsoever over it. And it could do a lot, to everyone. Culled from so much of the nasty out there, what if it found God? God help us.

Fantasy? Thirty years ago, the internet was fantasy.

Now I’m starting to think that after all, we may have been right to start with. "Keep the internet free, information should be free." Certainly public information should be free, but not only free, but free to access. And, it's not. Now a days the term "free" has come to be relative. "Free" as long as you pay for it.

My brother had this to say recently:

Searches are getting weird. Things I used to be able to do easily are now almost impossible. Google used to put forth thousands of responses now I'm often getting just one or two. And some of these are of known info. Also, it's suddenly gotten stupid when it comes to simple misspelled words. For instance, before if I put in the phrase "Sitiacum Puyalup Indian Tribe", it would easily pick up on what I was looking for by associating the words. I could get everything wrong and it would still figure it out. Now it's barely picking these up at all. Sometimes not at all. Hopefully this is some oversight that will be corrected soon. I can't believe that they will let their system slide backwards like this. It creeps me out that I'm thinking about having to talk to actual humans to get info. What is this the 1980's?!

That last part was obviously in jest, but he has a point. Lately, and with my current situation where I'm trying to research something and can't find any useful info unless I pay for it, pay for a service that may turn up nothing and yet, they will still charge me; it's really making me wonder if we weren't right after all.

Knowledge does need to be free, for whoever wants it. Maybe though, we do still need to mature a bit more, maybe. Maybe not.

I just keep remembering "1984" and "Brave New World", and others.

As concepts remain, history and technology progress. That is, as we have an ideal remaining constant ("information should be free"), the world changes around that, and what that originally meant may change with it, and so we need to keep up. Our government, our elected officials need to keep up. Not to ground us down under history, or grind us under status quo, blinding us with Zeitgeist, but to maintain our ideals by evolving our processes to keep us at a qualitative level and to advance that, to progress us to where we never thought we could go.

We  should be getting smarter, with more leisure time but we are getting dumber, with less time for ourselves and more time devoted to the God Corporation, or Money. We don't need money so much, as we need our resources, clean and well thought of. Barring that we do need our money so we can do for ourselves. But we've been cut off from both.

We need apparently now, to justify and indemnify those who should remain or be responsible to see, that what should be, should be. And will be.

Decide where you should be in life and wonder why you aren't there. And vote with your ballots, your mouths, words, thoughts and actions. Be good to one another but strive for better. Set an ideal and try to achieve it in any small or big way you deem fit.

"Of peace on earth, good will to men (and women)." - "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day" lyrics
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), 1867)

Remember too, good will to yourself.

Peace.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Edward Snowden

I happened to catch this guy on the radio yesterday and even paid for the pdf to read it all. I found what he had to say, compelling, to say the least. I'm not into conspiracy theories, I like to deal in fact, if and when you can divine what that might be. And with government recently, it's been getting harder and harder to tell what is going on.

Not to mention, our enemies have been getting harder to know of, deal with and stop from causing us grief. Albeit, as times we may have asked for the grief we have gotten. Even though it may have been something we did long ago. Not to mention, we may now be getting blamed (honestly, as we always have and somewhat rightfully so, but less so today, perhaps) for things corporations have done. Corporations have morphed far beyond our understanding or control. The puny controls we had in place to keep them in their place have been superseded long ago. They have grown so big and multinational that they are now, at least to some degree, controlling our government.

I do think our government means well, mostly I think people in government mean well, with a side of greed and lack of empathy many times, but I also think they need to be kept under control (as our Founding Father made it abundantly clear, time and time again). Much like like a pit bull trained to kill, needs to be kept under control. You just don't let it run free. It's not unlike a loaded gun, if you don't pay attention at ALL times as to what its up to, well, you are responsible for what happens.

Years ago when I first spoke out against terrorists and their kind, it was a concern regarding being targeted. Faint though that may be. Not that I think I'm anybody important or greatly noticed. One just never knows about these things, right? Ones to whom a finger might be pointed and great attention paid to. After all the ones to raise their head or be noticeable in the wrong ways, tend to be the ones who get beat down. It's nearly the law of sociology. I just never thought that one day my concern about being watched, monitored, or abused, might come from my own country. The freedoms are becoming thin, and the potentials for abuse, more pronounced.

Sadly, our government much of the time isn't. Responsible, that is. It hides its actions, misdirects attention and out right lies to its owners. Not all the time to be sure, it's not as bad as some conspiracy theorists would have us believe. Still today, at this time, things are pretty bad and we do need to reign things in. Our security industry is out of control, in size if nothing else. We need protection, but we need competent diplomacy over that of security and secrets to make us safe. Leaning on security techniques over diplomacy is always dangerous, and lazy.

Some of the things that look the worst in government are simply a multiplicity of processes going in unforeseen directions, being mismanaged, and you can add in some greed and self-serving interests (like the extreme and not so extreme, conservatives out there).

Anyway, this guy had some very interesting things to say about Edward Snowden, things we haven't heard in the media, or on the news and I highly suggest listening to what he has to say. Who is this guy and what does he have to say? Here is the lead in from the program:

RAY McGOVERN - Whistleblowers
University Temple United Methodist Church, Seattle, WA 17 October 2013
"Ray McGovern is a 27-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency. He helped form Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence. Sam Adams was McGovern’s colleague at the CIA. McGovern and several other former intelligence officials went to Russia in October to honor Edward Snowden with the Sam Adams Award. Ray McGovern also works for Tell the Word, a ministry of the inner-city Washington D.C. Church of the Saviour."

Now I expected this to be utter nonsense. I have a background in military and studied the cold war, while it was happening. I'm hard to fool. But after a few minutes of listening to this guy, some of my undecided opinions on Snowden, started to coalesce, and were not what I had expected them to be. It's worth a few bucks to hear what this guy had to say. I could quote it here but it would be best in his own words. He rambles a bit, but bear with him, and hear what he has to say.

We all need to start rethinking things and getting the powers that be back under OUR control. Not that they ever were completely, but this is ridiculous, how things have gotten. Be well.

Monday, December 9, 2013

"Welcome to the Machine" Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd's seminal song, at very least, one of them, "Welcome to the Machine", came out while I was in the Military. I was there for four years in active service, two years inactive service after that where I could be pulled back in. I had myself seen others pulled back in who had gotten out. I mean by that, they got pulled back, in part because of work I did. Four guys were sent to federal prison, two of them had to be pulled back into the military to be sent to prison. It was a horrible thing to contemplate but what they had down was pretty horrible.

When people blow off that there is a last two years of inactive service after your active service, where you aren't really any longer active in the service, well, you do still know very well that you are walking on thin ice and at any time, things can change. In a heartbeat. That's just the nature of the military and something that is hard to understand, if you haven't lived it.

It's a facing up to a higher authority who is sometimes literally, right in your face and can make you do whatever they want. Or at least, it feels that way, and in some cases, it is that way.

"Welcome to the Machine", was a reminder to us of how things are. It was poignant. It held purpose. Later after I got out and worked for large organizations like the University of Washington, or later, corporations across multiple states, the song never lost its impact.

Much like Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle" song. It too is one of those songs that points to your entire existence and asks the question, are you where you want to be? Are things as you always wanted them? Are they as you want them now? Should you have done things differently?

And is the reality of all this now, crushing to you? For anyone working for any corporation or entity far, far bigger than them, this song offers compassion. Understanding. But also, obviousness and transparency. With an underlying sense of a call to action.

Which was what we felt back then in the military. There was a call to action and we couldn't answer, we didn't even know what that action was and that was part of the issue. We thought we were answering it in joining up, but then we found we weren't. How could that be? Trapped by our own decisions, we found we were unable to act. At least until we got out. So one did what one could, while still in, while being kept down, under control, always available. Available, at any moment day or night. Available if need be, as canon fodder at the mention of a word.

"The song describes the band's disillusionment with the music industry as a money-making machine rather than a forum of artistic expression. The plot centers around an aspiring musician getting signed by a seedy executive to the music industry, "The Machine". The voice predicts all the boy's seemingly rebellious ideas ("You bought a guitar to punish your ma, you didn't like school, and you know you're nobody's fool"). The boy's illusions of personal identity are further crushed with lines such as, "What did you dream? It's all right we told you what to dream."
-Wikipedia

I never knew that till today, that what the song meant to the band was so much about their own situation. Even still, with what that song meant to some of us, with the power and import that it held for us, it has been an anthem. An anthem for those who are trapped, especially so if it's all by their own decisions.

How many times have many of us said that we are not where we are because of the choices we have made and now we would do it quite differently, in some other way?

The point of course is to think, to act appropriately ahead of time and, when you find yourself in that wrong place, to fix it. Act. To do, something. But in the mean time we do need songs to point a finger and say to us, "I feel your pain, but it's your responsibility, so now do something about it."

YouTube video of song
Pink Floyd Welcome To The Machine Lyrics
Songwriters: WATERS, ROGER

Welcome my son, welcome to the machine.
Where have you been? It's alright we know where you've been.
You've been in the pipeline, filling in time,
Provided with toys and Scouting for Boys.
You bought a guitar to punish your ma,
And you didn't like school, and you know you're nobody's fool,
So welcome to the machine.
Welcome my son, welcome to the machine.
What did you dream? It's alright we told you what to dream.
You dreamed of a big star, he played a mean guitar,
He always ate in the Steak Bar. He loved to drive in his Jaguar.
So welcome to the machine.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Finally, quality shows abound in the video wasteland. Great! Right?

Do you have a favorite TV or cable show? Have more than one? A few? Many? More than you can watch? Have you had trouble recording shows on your DVR  (digital video recorder) because there are more shows to record in one hour than your machine can handle? Recording on a second DVR in another room maybe? Feeling at all frustrated, even minimally, that you can't record (or watch) all of what is now available to you?

Remember when cable and TV were "video wastelands"?

But now you can watch on your DVR, stream shows, even watch on your cell phone!

I've finally hit a saturation point. I never thought I'd see the day. For years it was a video wasteland out there. Then Cable hit. Horrible, horrible cable TV that I told people would some day be great.

Things like tape (VHS, BETA) were wonderful and we could record off TV, buy or rent tapes and could finally enjoy a film straight through without commercial interruption.

Then, pay per view and pay cable channels arrived.

Then came TiVo and the DVR came to be. Awesome.

Now I could record shows and movies to watch as I spent increasingly too much time viewing as the amount of quality shows to watch grew and grew until today (see, I told them we'd get here, it just took nearly 30 years). I became concerned that I was watching too much video.

Then it happened, it came out of the blue. One day I realized that I had more video to watch than I could ever conceivably handle. And when you hit that saturation point, after worrying that you would be forever frozen to the screen (a thing which grew out of a long term sparseness of quality shows), finally, you could simply...let it all go.

Why?

Because. Since you have way more shows than you could ever conceivably watch, your internal responsibility checker, that software in your mind that tells you that you can't miss good shows because there are so few of them; you have to see them all. Finally we have passed through that now fictitious barrier to catch all the interesting stuff to watch and has led to opening the flood gates to reality.

Now you have got to let it go. You can finally back away. Away from too many shows to watch where you are watching all the time. Now you don't have to watch as many shows and that my friends, allows you to cut it down, to only a few of the highest quality shows, or the ones you are most attracted to. You can go out and breathe fresh air again, go visit friends, see something live and in person, music, plays, libraries, the sky's the limit!

And so here we are back again to where we all started. Except that now we do have more quality shows to view, when we are in the mood. Of course there is still the pablum out there available to when you feel like being mindless. Or for those who like remaining in that state, day in and day out.

Only, then you notice other shows that you feel compelled to watch, and so you again you increase your viewing till it gets saturated and then, one day, you realized it's too much again.

So you comfortably cut it back down, to reality and reasonableness. And so it goes, over and over....

Unless, you get a handle on it, adjust your lifestyle and lock yourself into only a few hours of only the most special shows per week. Just like we need to learn to limit our intake of luscious foods so we don't become morbidly obese, so we have to limit our intake of luscious and addictive shows and movies, so our life doesn't become morbidly obese with sitting and staring at the screen watching one after another after another, after another show.

So we have finally made it to where the video wasteland is filled also with very good shows and within that situation, we have a trap. Now that finally TV, cable, YouTube, Netflix and other DVD and streaming companies can supply us with  all we could ever want and then some, it is time we catch up to them and restrict ourselves and build our lives so that we are enhancing our human experience and learning, and not just watching, watching, watching.

Even if we only watch the best shows or the best documentaries, we still need to consider and limit our viewing behaviors, otherwise we face the prospect of some other countries whose interpersonal relationships are suffering from all this technology and media. And their population is decreasing because of it. Something that in the overall context is good, but only up to a point. Countries where it is too much trouble to interact and make intimate relationships do to fear of rejection, or a lack of desiring drama we can get elsewhere and prefer superficial relationships as we have all those needs taken care of elsewhere.

Like in Japan where you can go and for a price have two cute girls smother you in attention for the rented amount of time, bolstering your ego, eliminating the need to deal with the fears of the drama of real relationships, social diseases, monetary issues and loss from things like divorce and familial situations. And women have the same options to purchase beautiful young men, sans sex, sans guilt, sans negative aspects so apparent in most romantic relationships.

Are we losing the emotional toughness required through having relationships?

So the next time you turn on that next great show after hours of viewing others, ask yourself if you couldn't be doing something more real and useful. Or if this is your solace after working long hours, or because you can't afford to do real things, ask yourself why that is too.

Is quality viewing now the new drug of the masses? Not that the concept is new but the availability of so much good viewing certainly (and finally) is. Is this excess of quality viewing becoming the new Soma, as in the novel, "Brave New World"? The drug that calms the masses so the leaders of the country could do whatever they wanted.

"..there is always soma, delicious soma, half a gramme for a half-holiday, a gramme for a week-end, two grammes for a trip to the gorgeous East, three for a dark eternity on the moon..."

and

"the warm, the richly coloured, the infinitely friendly world of soma-holiday. How kind, how good-looking, how delightfully amusing every one was!" From Brave New World - 1932 by Aldous Huxley

Sounds kind of like TV, doesn't it. Have you ever taken a "staycation" because you couldn't afford to go to a real location and so you stay home to "relax" and work around the house or just watch and catch up on your viewing habit?

Perhaps this is all just more complicated than you ever realized? But how is it you haven't noticed?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Wishing you all a very safe and happy Thanksgiving 2013!

I just wanted to wish you all here in the US a very safe and happy Thanksgiving Day celebration. 

For all those others around the world I wish you the same in that you have something to be thankful for or that you will one day very soon. 

The world is a marvelous place and I only hope you have the opportunity and the luxury to be able to appreciate that.

As an example of the wonder all around  us, someone recorded crickets (bear with me here) and slowed their "singing" down to human speeds considering they live a faster and therefore shorter life. 

There is the amazing and wondrous all about us, if we only just can listen....


There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
- Hamlet (1.5.166-7), Hamlet to Horatio

Remember not only to thank your Divine entity but also to thank all of those between you. 


It is enlightened to see that although God may be great, so are those who are here with us and equal to us as human beings, who also deserve our love and concern. If you are offended by that photo, then look beyond your feelings to the reality of what it is saying. 

Enlightenment also means we understand that others are there to support us and many times we give them no thought whatsoever. On a day of thanks, it is a part of our being thankful in looking both directions and not only up, or to the person next to us.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving Day celebration!

Cheers!


"Great changes start with individuals; the basis of world peace is inner peace in the hearts of individuals, something we can all work for."
Dali Lama


"It is possible that the next Buddha will not take the form of an individual. The next Buddha may take the form of a community—a community practicing understanding and loving kindness, a community practicing mindful living.
This may be the most important thing we can do for the survival of the Earth."

Monday, November 25, 2013

On Creativity

On the professional networking web site, LinkedinI made a post myself on a thread on creativity. Yes, yet another post on the never ending stream of online threads about creativity. To paraphrase, I said that putting creativity "on the back burner" as someone had said, is the gestation period, which is different for everyone. I need to take in the information necessary to create a piece, then simply create it; typically, to write it.

Maybe it's just calling it different things but I don't see that as creativity, per se. Synthesis more likely. Once I have the info I need and start to write, the creativity comes from choosing the obvious next step. With each scene, the description, narrative or dialog that I write builds upon itself. Much of the "creativity" involved is in the "seeing" or imagining of what should come next and then, how it should develop. As many people say, at some point it starts to write itself. And it should, if you can see the logical options available. 

I've heard writers say that readers (or viewers in film) should almost be able to mouth the words a character is going to say next, as it should make that much sense to the readers (or viewers) that they might know what is coming. When I'm writing I take that to mean that I need to try to hear what should come next in my own mind, then try to find a way to twist that so that what comes out will leave the readers/viewers to think, "yeah, sure, I see that, but oh, well now, that's interesting and not quite what I had expected."

We serve up to them an interesting, intriguing situation. Then lead them down a common path, twist it, and play it off of what they expect to hear, making it fresh and intriguing. 

Therein for me anyway, lay the creativity. Give people what they expect, then please them with what they don't see coming, giving it some relevance to them. The more the better.

Most of this talk on creativity is simply about what should come next. Of course picking a good starting point helps but it's not necessary. It's the same in outlining ahead of time. You have a situation/scenario, how should it develop? Where should it go? I find many times that I start a story in the middle and end up adding to the beginning and ending. Still, I always have the intent to end up with the beginning as far as possible toward the middle as I can work it.

If I start with an ending in mind, do I backtrack from there? O do I start at a random beginning and fill it in to make it work? There's certainly different ways to do all this. But in the breakdown I see the creativity as a small thing in. Or maybe I just try to see it that way so as not to overload myself? Like tricking myself into thinking it's really not all so hard to do (it is pretty much, but if you see where I'm going here, don't let that stop you). The point is, it really shouldn't be so intimidating. Don't let it become that. It just looks big from an outsider's point of view. Many times that outsider is a new writer being intimidated by themselves until finally, they have writer's block. Or give up altogether.

My editor, Ilene Giambastiani had this to say about that:

"I think every writer has a unique process. Some like to know every step of the story ahead of time, and so they outline like crazy. Some are content to let the story unfold in a more organic fashion. I think it is up to each writer to keep working on the honing of one's craft, and trying new ways to stimulate the creative process. IMHO, being too comfortable with one's process is not a good idea. Nothing like a bit of sheer terror to spark the creative process!"

Good advice. My response was:

"I agree. But to me this relates to several issues writers have problems with. Like "writer's block" and the definition of "creativity". In fact when I got my degree in Psych I took the opportunity by designing my own independent study class to research what Creativity is. What does it mean to be creative?"

I continued:

"I once shot a phenomenology video about creativity for two Phenomenology Psych Professors of mine at WWU. I had to turn it in at the end of the quarter, along with a journal detailing what I did and, a paper about the experience. 

On a side note, one of those Professors showed it to all of his classes and I ended up with a kind of celebrity status on campus for a while, which was not only uncomfortable but somewhat annoying. Not half of the trouble of the notoriety was constantly getting stopped between classes and trying not to be late. The discussions were all interesting but after a while it got old. Also, I had a few technical issues with the equipment that forced my end product into something I simply hadn't intended. Those technical difficulties were something that plagued me later on while being a Producer on public access cable in Seattle in the early 90s.

In the end, I learned what creative is. To be brief here, it is to create. Pretty simple, right? Create, creative. Many of us think it is about some unattainable process, some undefined genius where the end product that results from it has been born of some magical ability. That does exist or seems to, but is really an altogether different thing. 

The other issue that keeps cropping up with this thing about being creative has to do with what is called, "Writer's Block". Which I almost want to call, "Writers' Block". A subtle distinction. So, never mind....

I think that with both issues, one need only to look at the smallest particle of what those things are. If you do that, as I stated in the initial post, life just ain't so tough in being a writer. One step in front of the other and eventually you have crossed a continent. What seems at first impossible is in the end workable with time and effort.

Where it can get tough sometimes is in pleasing others, in selling a work, or in becoming popular in the Industry, Craft, Art, or media. Those are also separate issues. We just choose typically not to see it that way. 

To do "Art", to be a "Writer", requires doing it, learning it, practicing it. It requires showing your work to others, taking their "constructive" comments and discarding the rest and then, doing it all again and again. It is not letting our fears hold us back because we're not, "good enough". You're as good as you want to be. True or not, that is the thought to hold on to if you ever want to get anywhere. Have you ever noticed some artists seem to get somewhere, but aren't really that good, yet their attitude is such that people simply seem to buy into it? We all need a little of that to achieve success, but the effort also needs to be there, and the quality. 

The point of all this really is this, do not get caught up in the romanticism and elitism of what "creativity" is or what others think it should be. it is what you need it to be. But to be accepted, you have to convince others and make them see what you see. If you can't do that, then the creativity is all yours, and yours alone. Only you can decide whether that is good enough for you. Most of us however, want others to see and believe in what we have created.

The important part here is to just do it, learn from it, and do it again. 

It is when you find after some time and effort that you are not progressing, that then is the time move on and go to something less "creative" and find another venue to be productive in. If that is even possible. Because to create is to be creative. The issue there is in being accepted as being a "creative" in a "creative" field, like the Arts. 

Sometimes our "bliss" is not what we want it to be. Recognize that. 

If your bliss is not in being a "creative type", then find what it is and find your passion for it. Or find somewhere that the two can compromise within you to allow you to be something that gives your life meaning. Meaning above and beyond. It certainly beats being miserable all your life just because your capabilities and talents aren't what you imagined or wished them to be. If and when those two things match up in life, it truly is a wonderful thing and yes, then it's easier to get into that productive, creative "zone" that people talk about. But not everyone has that perfect "zone". You see those types (but not always) in places like the Olympics, as famous artists or authors, even Doctors, or Space Engineers, or whatever. But you may know them by name. 

Still in the end it's your choice. It has to be. 

The wonderful thing about being a human being is that you can decide your destiny. It's not typically easy. Not for most of us. Good hard work pays off. But also luck, making your own luck, being in the right places at the right times, knowing the right people for your need and, in never giving up on a dream that is reasonable for you to attain. Even if it is unreasonable, you can still attain it (within reason). There are two meanings for "reason" here. One is if it is improbable or worse, impossible. The other is if it can happen but cannot happen within all known realms of information. Many great things have been done when someone did what all others assumed to be the impossible. On the other end of the spectrum, some have wasted entire lives and never gotten anywhere and what they achieved was never of any use to anyone, anywhere at any time. Just do your best not to fit into that last category.

You'll never fly simply by flapping your arms, but it doesn't mean you can't invent a way for you to fly.

Whether you are born into being someone creative or not, whether it's genetic or environmental or both, work with what you have and make it be what you need. Don't let your need be something you cannot attain, but don't let yourself think you can never attain the unattainable. Sometimes our reasoning changes on things and what once was unreasonable can quickly becomes reasonable, and mundane. Consider the cell phone and what it was like in the 1960s to contact others. Think about the personal computer, iPads, Smart phones and so on. These were all things that were unreasonable and yet, someone made them reasonable. 

You can become who you want to be. 

Just make educated, well informed decisions on your desires, have a little imagination (or a lot) and push the envelope. Most importantly, just start to make something where there once was nothing. 

And then creativity can be yours, too.

#creative #writer #author

Monday, November 18, 2013

Mind Tricks of Delayed Gratification

How A Scientist Tricks His Brain Into Solving Ultra-Complex Problems.

I've been talking about this type of thing for decades, tricks involved with thought and action. I'm going to delve a little  beyond what this video is really about. Have you ever had to get around your own desires at times, in order to do what is right or what needs to be done?

My inner conscious self, knows what I need to do, stripped away from my needs and desires. Need and desire are peripheral to the central core of consciousness, in my mind anyway. I can clearly "see" the separateness most of the time. I don't know if we are all like that, as some certainly don't seem to see this at all, but it's how it seems to work in my head.

Discipline is a very good way to go, and there is a huge range of degrees of discipline between people, but sometimes it falls short of action, or can even be counter-productive in one's own psyche. I seem to have a higher degree of that, out of necessity just to have survived my own childhood. But we need more than simply to do what is right or needed all the time. We need reward, pleasure, satiation, but in the right ways. Ways that do not always come through discipline, doing what is right, or what is needed.

Tricking oneself, tricking in some cases others, manipulating them into the correct course(s) of action is not as evil as it sounds. If it sounds manipulative, it is. But we already are all manipulative to one another on a daily, hourly basis. The difference here has to do with acting without thought and, conscious thought and consideration toward a hopefully better good for those involved.

Our normal manipulations, the ones we are unaware of, tend to be selfish in nature as we don't usually think about them; they are tapped into our inner selves and are therefore, selfish. In many cases they are not good for all involved. What we want sometimes is not what is best of us. Some of us see that more clearly than others. This doesn't mean we need an elitist society, it means we already have one. Human nature is simply like that.

In simply considering all this with as the Buddhists call it, "right thought", we can make a better self, or an even better world around us. I don't get my daily exercise routine done much of the time through simple will power, rather I get it done through tricks of my mind, my desires and laziness. So how is it bad if I trick myself to do what needs to be done when I don't want to?

In example, I was sitting around today watching shows stored on my DVR. I couldn't get myself to do much of anything. I'm having a really bad neck pain the past few days and it's hard to do much more than recline on the couch and stare at something. But that being said, after I had watched a few shows this morning, I found and started a movie that I had recorded and have been looking forward to watching since even before he hit the theaters.

I started to watching it and realized that I was very much engaged, really wanting to watch it. Aha! Found something I really want. I immediately saw a reward I could use. Then I thought about my list of things to do. I have an edit to do of a part of my book that I need to finish and send back to my editor. So there it is. I stopped the movie and started editing. Once I sent off the edited pages, I could then relax and watch the movie.

This isn't so much "tricking" myself into doing something as much as it is finding a way to properly motivate myself. The problem there for some of us is that I have to be the reward giver. "Delayed gratification" can be a great thing. It is something that modern Americans seem to have forgotten about. Certainly it's something that college students are very familiar with as it's the only way to get a college degree. But in daily life how much do we make use of it? Not enough I'm willing to bet.

When a friend wants to take just one more shot of heroin (or pot, alcohol, pills, even go back to a bad relationship) and yet you know that will most likely be their last, how is it bad that we... okay, maybe bad example(s), as some things are simply out of our control; but many times by consideration and action, we can make things better around us. And, we don't when frequently all it takes is the right word or action and then waiting for it to take seed and sprout into a better situation, a better person, a way.

Anyway, I think you get the idea.

Whether it's "mind tricks" or "delayed gratification", we own our bodies and minds. We own our lives, mostly, except for some incarcerated or enslaved individuals. We can make choices. When those are problematic, we can choose to work around these issues and still see things get done. It takes though and practice and allowing one to succeed, to suspend belief perhaps, but to see whatever it is brought through to fruition, to completion.

Try it! Go forth and become a trickster. In all the right ways.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Two free JZ Murdock Horror ebooks through this weekend - Zombies

In creating this for my friends at ZombieFans.com, I thought I'd share with everyone. Here are two for the price of none, my two short Horror ebook stories on zombies in order too make up for their not being an entire novel. Free through Sunday, 11/17/2013.


Japheth, Ishvi and The Light
by JZ Murdock
The zombie apocalypse hits a father and religious commune try to deal with it, God, and the military HAZMAT team who have shown up on their doorstep.

Mr. Pakool's Spice
by JZ Murdock
Originally in the "Hunger Pangs" anthology, a father tries to escape the zombie apocalypse with his two young children through the back winter woods of Oregon.

Also, for more free ebooks this weekend, check out Indies Unlimited page for Freebie Friday!

Cheers!
JZMurdock.com

Monday, November 11, 2013

The 5 Elements Necessary To Lose Weight

I hope you have a pleasant Veteran's Day. Make a Vet feel good, do something nice for one. I'm taking the day off myself, having served. When I got out I swore I'd take advantage of every Veteran's Day that I could. The military, peace time, or war time (or "police action" time) is usually no cup of tea and not everyone can handle it. I'm glad I did. I'm glad I'm not now. All who have served have my gratitude. Thank you!

That being said, as I've aged I seem to put on weight with each year. I finally got sick of it this year and put some serious intent and effort into some losing pounds. I'd always been fairly healthy and have a somewhat athletic past in martial arts and other things. And I have tried to lose weight off and on over the years but never could seem to get the hang of it.

There are several elements that are of primary importance in losing weight. Follow these, and weight comes off.
  1. Education - Learn what to do. I've spent several years altering my lifestyle toward losing weight so it wasn't a shock when I finally got serious. Results don't come over night or by guessing at what to do or in choosing to do what doesn't work.
  2. Endurance - You have to do what you decide needs to be done. Set up a work out, do it.
  3. Perseverance - When you decide on a routine, stay with it.
  4. Variety - Change things up. One thing we are is adaptable and our bodies will adapt to routine.
  5. Lifestyle - Make changes you can maintain for good, or the weight comes back on.
I've tried different diets, exercise routines and other more stupid concepts. I had some success with Kinetix, now out of business. A friend has had good success with the Dukan Diet. I've tried the Atkins myself and though I lost some at first, all that did was to raise my cholesterol to ,unreasonable levels. Now that is under control and my Doctor says I have the blood pressure of a sixteen year old. Though I do take cholesterol meds (Simvastatin), so does my brother so maybe it's genetic. Still, I chose to only take it every other day as it makes me feel not so great, taken daily. To which my Doctor was quite surprised. Still it is working out very well taken every other day. I'm hoping that once I get the weight off and my diet being appropriate enough, I'll be able to quit the meds.

Diets. I'd see some progress trying various programs but then in the end, nothing. I'd always plateau, get frustrated and eventually drop it. Or for one reason or another, life would invade and again I'd be no where. Again. Sometimes illness would stop me for a while, I'd get a cold, or the flu (I always get a flu shot now) and then I'd never get back to it. Or, I'd simply get lazy.

Here is my experience in trying to lose weight and get back into shape. Disclaimer, don't listen to me, what do I know. I'm regularly checked up by my doctor and I run my routine by him. This is good for me, and it may not be for you. But you might pick up some ideas from my experience. Go research on your own and try what works for you, then stick to it. Run it by your doctor. Use your mind. But if you follow exactly what I do and you die, well that's your fault and that's on you. OK? Be smart.

At my full height in my life I was 6'2". When I was in the service I could lift two 226 pound B-52 drag chutes, one in each hand, far off the ground enough to carry into the loading room from the packing table room. Back then I was about 190. The most I've weighed has been in the last few years, around 240-50. 250 being the heaviest I've ever gotten and one of those unbreakable lines you don't want to cross. But that was an issue unto itself as it lets one rationalize not going over, but not really doing anything about backing down away from it.

For some reason this year I hit that line again and something snapped. I'd finally had it. I was going well along this road last year, but then I got sick and it took a while to get back to it. I never got back up to the level of exercise that I had previously been at. This year I got my ire up. I was suddenly determined. So I started out on that long road again. Sometimes you have to trick yourself into doing what is best for you. Whatever it takes, whatever it took, I got back on that road.

Last year I had purchased a bicycle, a nice Schwinn from WalMart for $200 on sale. Ironically, a couple of months later I took my daughter down to get one and we got her the same bike, her size, for $100. WallMart had a bin that they had some bikes in, returns I presume. So we lucked out on hers. I like this bike, though the gears could use some adjusting and the tires went flat between each time I rode it (which was every other day). However this year, they seem to be holding the air better and my daughter said she hasn't had that issue, but that perhaps I just need an inner tube replacement.

Anyway, this year I got back at it in the spring. I started slow and started to build back up. Monday's are for weight lifting. Tuesdays, bicycling. I found a road six miles from here that is a perfect 1/5 mile circuit. Or I use my elliptical, usually on days of inclement weather. I really do like bike riding. I also like riding my "new" 2006 Harley Davidson Dyna "Street Bob". But, in seeing too many old guys on Harley's with big guts, I've restricted myself to riding "Bob" when I haven't been peddling around enough that week. A strong motivator once it's a nice day. If I have time to ride, I won't if I hadn't exercised enough and earned it. That situation only took once going through it before I had a carrot on a stick that worked for me.

So I started light on the weights. It's no fun to work out and then the next day or worse, the day after, when you are in so much pain you never want to work again. You could argue, just do it. Though the reality is, it won't always happen and I want to guarantee success. So as frustrating as it was, I started slow and light. After a week and my muscles adjusting, I added some weight and thereafter slowly continued to add small amounts.

The same goes for my aerobic exercise. Moderation and perseverance.

Diet. Over the past few years between my reading about dieting and nutrition, and my daughter (and son's) prodding, I've adjusted my diet. I had heard that a male my size needs a certain amount of calories per day. There is also an issue about carbohydrates, protein and fats that is important. But it's more complicated than that as you need the right kinds of fats and carbs. This can get very complicated very quickly. But it doesn't have to be. Eat less, work out more, pretty much works.
With some fine tuning. Don't let it all overwhelm you.

I mostly cut sugars out years ago and I've decreased dairy in recent years to almost nothing. I'm not lactose intolerant or anything and I can eat just about anything, but I've been trying to get to the basics. Tasty, but useful foods.

But I was making a big mistake. I had kept hearing that it's simple, what you take in needs to match what you put out, plus some. So if you eat big meals, but don't exercise, that food has got to go somewhere, like on your frame, probably as fat. I'm not a big fan of carrying around extra fat. I mean, why? Right? What do you need it for, other than to rationalize why you don't have to work to get rid of it? Fat isn't attractive, it's bad on your body, your joints, your self-esteem, and the nation's infrastructure to be honest. Airplanes don't need to carry our lard around, wasting fuel, adding to carbon emissions. Cars don't need to be lugging around our bulk, wearing them out slowly along with our roads and bridges. We are costing our nation a lot of money year in and year out with all the unnecessary fat we are carrying about. So, why not lose it? You may even live longer.

So diet is important. It also needs to match our lives, our lifestyles. So I spent much of this year doing many of the right things, working out daily, then taking one day off a week as a treat and for  rest. I got to where I was more uncomfortable when I didn't work out than if I had. Someplace you really want to get to. I tried to eat healthy, even weighing some of my food on a kitchen scale. I was really trying hard.

Still, I wasn't getting anywhere. Well, that's not completely true, I was getting in better shape, more muscle tone, more energy, better attitude. But the weight was not coming off. I realized that at some point the fat turns to muscle. That is, you lose fat and build up muscle mass and there's an exchange, but I don't want to put on weight, or ever maintain it. I want to get slimmer (which I was, but not enough) and lighter (my knees were begging me for lighter).

It kept echoing in my head about the numbers game, the amount going in needs to match the output of energy it is fueling, not overwhelm it. So I finally said to hell with the "proper" approach and I simply started to decrease my input. But how to go about that?

First thing I looked at was density. Protein is more dense than vegetables. So I decreased that from 4-6 ounces of protein with each meal to taking in that much per day. So rather than a piece of meat with each meal, I cut it down to only with one meal. Except that we do need protein with each meal. So I exchanged the dense protein (meats) with vegetable protein (like garbanzo beans and such) and maybe dairy. I started to consider alternatives.

I love a good steak but I don't eat red meat much anymore. I've taken the things I've been told are bad for us and turned those into treats. For breakfast I started eating an apple with freshly crushed almond butter from the local store with no other ingredients, no sugar, nothing. I only have two cups of coffee in the morning, then tea, mostly green tea the rest of the day until I get off work. Again, no sugar.

Lunch, Top Ramen with a hard boiled egg (no yolk) and a piece of fish or meat weighed at about 4-6 ounces. Dinner, salad with hard boiled egg (again, no yolk), maybe cheese, legumes typically garbanzo and black bean and salad dressing (not creamy). I have a thought that acidic foods might help us lose weight, don't know if there is a basis but it's a way of thinking. And it orients one away from creamy dressings, for one. Whatever works for you to start losing. See?

I work from home now and start early, at 5:30AM working till 3PM with 90 minutes for lunch when I exercise. I used to have a four hour a day commute, driving to the park and ride, bussing to the ferry, 35 minutes on the ferry and 10-15 minute walk to work. When that changed a couple of years ago, I put on a few more pounds and the readjustment was no fun. So I needed to decrease my food intake and increase my exercise regime.

I lost some weight, not much, but some.

After a while I realized how many carbs the Ramen was. I started to think about those noodles, so I cut them in half, two packs now made a meal, and I added sprouts to make up the difference. I kind of liked it. I realized there was MSG in the seasoning of the Ramen so I don't use that anymore. I bought a healthier alternative in liquid form. I'm also now going to stop using the Ramen, once this box I got from Costco runs out. Then I'm going to substitute some other kinds of noodles like Quinoa noodles, or some other healthier version. I've also seen spirulina noodles. I'll have to work all that out with my taste buds. We need to eat healthy, not eat bad tasting food.

Then I changed up other things.

I stopped eating such big salads for dinner. I started eating my biggest meal at lunchtime. I do not eat two to three hours before bedtime. I eat snacks between meals, but only nuts, fruit. I avoid high fructose foods as much as possible, higher fiber contents. I buy a dessert once a week and enjoy it. I go out for a burger or whatever once a week and try to eat healthier if I eat out more often. I have a beer occasionally, telling myself I can't do that often until I drop the weight. I drink wine more than beer. But I don't drink much either way.

As for exercising, for aerobics I started at fifteen minutes on the elliptical, twenty minutes on the bicycle out of doors. I'd add ten minute increments on the elliptical, and mileage on the bike. I started with what felt good, three miles and got up to five and a half before summer wore out, losing the nice weather. The path on the bicycle has rolling hills so I get a variable workout. On the elliptical I started on a level program and worked up to harder increments on a variable workout. I plan to get up to forty-five minutes, at least.

Previously a few years ago I was up to ninety minutes on the elliptical but I think forty-five is reasonable. Thirty seems to just get me started. I mean, it's good to break a sweat. Even fifteen extra minutes seems to be doing real work. Everyone is different so following a generalized plan can be useless for you. My body has always needed a lot of workout to get in a good workout. I can take a lot of punishment. So I push myself, but build up to a point where I can take the punishment I'm doling out.

As for weights, I use free weights, dumbbells and barbell. I found a weight that was easier than what I needed to start with and did enough reps to start to feel it. Then I added weight and reps over time and sets to maintain a solid workout (reps are how many times you do the movement, sets are how many groupings of those reps you do). Weights are important for weight loss and won't just make you muscle bound. So ladies, don't worry too much about it.

For good weight loss, use both aerobic and anaerobic types of exercise.

I lost some more weight but it stopped, again. I wanted to drop down below the 240 pound range. So I started further to decrease what I ate, lowering my intake and maintaining my exercise levels. Basically I continued to lower my intake and increase my output. Less food, more exercise. More exercise/movement other than just the exercising, too. Go work in the yard, or something. As I have a rather sedentary job sitting and typing most of the day now, I need to do more outside of that. I need to get up and move around more during the work hours. Every two hours, walk around, do something.

On exercise, I am building up to doing aerobic exercise on my anaerobic days. So then I will being doing aerobic exercise daily but more/double every other day, continuing the weights every other day. I plan to continue that. Less food / more exercise, until I started to see some progress. I started to feel hungry between meals, an odd feeling anymore. I finally hit a point that I saw progress and finally, I dropped below 240.

Today I weighed myself and I am for the first time in years seeing 234.x on the scale. Wow! I think I'm honestly finally on to something. But it's not always easy. My biggest challenge I noticed last night when two hours before bedtime I really wanted something to munch. If you find you are wanting to much too much between meals and at bed time, you are probably not getting enough protein. Adjust things slightly.

Although I got a few tiny crackers and jam, because of that. I realized something. And I know this sounds stupid but I have to assume I'm not the only human being going through all this. I need to start to get used to that hungry feeling and learn to love it. I've done that before. It just takes doing. But first you have to recognize it.

The thing about being hungry between meals is, I'd felt that before, normally. But this is a more empty hunger. And it's a good sign. Now too much isn't healthy, of course. You don't want to lose muscle mass in doing this. But you get the idea. Eventually, find what the balance is. If I'm feeling hungry, I'm doing something right. Yes, I know you can eat right and not feel that, supposedly. But I like it and feel it's a milestone in making progress. So I like to feel it, within reason. It reminds me of what I'm fighting for here in all this. Feeling hungry is one thing, but feeling that right kind of hunger, let's you know you're burning fat. At least that's what I tell myself and it seems to spur me on.

I know it's harder for some of us to lose weight. As you get older, it certainly takes more effort. It's easier to put on pounds, too. We tend not to be as physically active for a variety of reasons as we get older. But we have to keep active. Use it or lose it and you don't want your joints and muscles giving up on you.

But it really is a balancing act. Throw in a lot of poorly planned, not real healthy stuff and don't exercise as much as YOUR body needs (we're all different, you have to find out what your body needs from you), and you will reap the rewards, however disappointing they might be. But try to learn to eat healthier. Take in less dense proteins and less of them. Exercise and keep moving and you just might have to lose weight.

And with losing weight comes a better feeling about everything. If you need to be losing weight that is.

A couple of other things. Be sure you aren't starved when you exercise. If you're feeling weak, eat something, not a lot and not immediately before working out. Try to notice it an hour ahead of time, even a half hour. If you notice an odor as you work out like ammonia, you need more complex carbs. Before working out, eat a slice of whole grain bread, or some nuts. Don't pass out working out. It's dangerous, obviously. You should feel hungry when you work out, but not lightheaded. The food you eat after a workout is metabolized differently than if you eat before a work out.

One more thing. I've had issues in the wintertime about feeling unmotivated. I couldn't figure it out. The doctor thought it might be SAD (Seasonal Affect Disorder) as I live in the PNW here in Washington State. Winters get kind of dismal for most of the year. You have to stay on top of things. My Doctor even suggested antidepressants if need be. I mention this because if you can't maintain a good attitude during weight loss, you will stop. But if you keep going, overall your attitude gets better. It can seem kind of counter-intuitive sometimes.

Diet and exercise go a long way toward maintaining an upbeat attitude. But I noticed that as I work in my home office about eight hours a day, minimum maybe that could affect things. So I looked at the florescent light bulbs that burn over my head hour after hour. I went to Home Depot and bought two new all natural light bulbs and swapped them out. It's been almost two weeks now and I had at first forgotten that I had done that. One day I started to wonder about my attitude. It was winter and I just felt more, upbeat. And I'm sure it's not just the diet or exercise.

In previous years I had worked out through the winter. But I've found it hard to do, to maintain. I just wanted to sit on the couch. Hibernate. The exercise didn't seem to help, and then I'd stop. But now I feel much more positive and more motivated to continue exercising. To continue all of this. Even when I don't feel like exercising now, I can get myself to. In previous years it would eventually fizzle out. And the only thing I can really attribute that to was this simple change in lighting.

I'm not saying rush out and buy new bulbs. I'm saying that maybe you should, but what I am really saying is, it can be a subtle and small change such as that, to simply swap out a couple of light bulbs, or to stop eating something, or to change your exercise routine and, suddenly you can feel, if not see amazing results.

The point being there, be creative and keep at it.

So, to wrap up....
  1. Education - Figure it all out as best you can, be smart about your choices and make use of them.
  2. Endurance - Set up a work out, and do it.
  3. Perseverance - Stay with a routine.
  4. Variety - Change things up.
  5. Lifestyle - Learn it, love it, live it.
Just do, something. But use your head. Spend the time on yourself to find and figure out what you need to do. Remember that you are worth it. In the end, all we have is our self. Treat yourself like you are what is important. Because in the end, you are. And nobody else is going to do these things for you, and in point of fact, they can't.

Be well!

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Phenomenology of the Writings of JZ Murdock - The Mea Culpa Document of London

In May of 2012 I released, by definition, an epic Horror novel titled, "Death of Heaven". It is a quite unusual book. A bit Horror (okay a lot Horror), a bit Science Fiction, even somewhat social commentary and an argument for rational and critical thought. But mostly, it's for fun. For the roller coaster that is the genre of, Horror.

1st edition cover of the book
I recently found an editor I am working with. Ilene Giambastiani. She is coincidentally wife to a favorite writer and friend of mine, Kurt Giambastiani who has a fun catalog of his own books available that I suggest you check out. He also has a fun and informative blog titled, Seattle Author.

But this blog today isn't about either of them. Nor is it about me, or my own catalog of writings that now include several audiobooks. This is about the book that I am now in the process of re-editing with Ilene's editorial assistance.

Why we are here today is, the process.

There is a story within Death of Heaven titled, "Vaughan's Theorum", about an insane man named Vaughan who is locked up in an asylum in England. The asylum is run by his old, one time best friend, Dr. Truman. It's a long and involved story that leads you through some pretty horrific and hopefully, thrilling moments.

This story started when I was at University. I had an incredible Professor named Perry Mills. He was a fan of Medieval literature. He has always been the type that you love him or hate him. Most of the women I knew loved him, as did most of us as students. He was a "Brain" (capital "B"). You just wanted to bask in his humor and knowledge.

One day for no reason, I wrote this story called, "Mea Culpa". I think he gave me the idea for the Mea Culpa object and document. I was just writing a story about a witch hunter and judge in Medieval times. I did a few rewrites, he read it and commented to me in his office on it. He liked where I was going with it and in the end, he wanted to do a one man stage show of it. But I could never work that out for the stage and I had plenty of actual schoolwork to do. So that never happened.

Eventually I graduated. Years later I took it back out and after having tried to peddle it to magazines (as well as other works, one of which finally sold in 1990 titled, "In Memory, Yet Crystal Clear"), I started to build on the concept of that document about a witch hunter. I wrote an intro page for it. I put it away. Years later, I pulled it back out again and decided to expand on that intro part, creating Vaughan and bringing Truman to life.

Yes, then I put that away and pulled it out some years later. I started to write it into a novel based on Stephen King's, "The Stand" along with other short stories I had written. But I never finished it. That happened several times with different concepts, one based on college guys and the IRA chasing them which my short story, "The Harbinger" fit well into. It never got finished either.

Then in Winter of 2011 I got an offer to publish my short stories. I went to work. "Anthology of Evil" was born at about 1,000 pages. Okay, too big. So I cut it in half and created what was at first a second book, but turned into something else. Rather than a collection of short stories, it became a kind of hybrid novel. I created a narrative through it using those left over short stories and gave a copy to a friend. She said, "Too many words." Okay, then. Now what?

I thought about it long and hard. What did she mean? How can I make that useful to me? Then something clicked and I restructured it. Then I gave it to a few people and they liked it a lot. I figured I was onto something and so "Death of Heaven" came to be. Both books were published early 2012 by Zilyon Publishing on the east coast. Cal Miller, awesome publisher.

So here we are today.

Ilene (my editor, remember?) had found that I needed to give the reader a little more toward the end of the Vaughan story because, although I had done this on purpose, I left out two primary scenarios. She argued that the reader would want the catharsis I could supply them with a few additional scenes. By the way, part of the "Mea Culpa" story is in the anthology, the bigger part about Vaughan is in the other book which I'm dealing with here.

So last weekend I completed an additional 7,000 words to the story about Vaughan's demise. That section is done, first draft anyway (third honestly) but it's not fully done yet. And I still need to finish a second, smaller section (it's written but needs editing) That of the discovery by the police of the abducted and tortured body of Dr. Truman. The story will keep the original ending on the beach at the white cliffs of Dover as it's a very well written piece (not my judgement, but others).

I thought it might be interesting to trace the flow of my writing of this new section. That is, to show a first draft. Something my Professor (Perry Mills again) once told us in class should never be done, because it's like showing someone your own "feces" (my word, not his, he was more shocking in class that day to make his point).

Here is the situation at this point in the story. SPOILER ALERT: Things happened after Vaughan escapes from the asylum. He takes his old friend, Dr. Truman hostage and hides him away where he can torture him and take his time to enjoy the man's misery in private. He then leaves Truman alone to go seek the conclusion of something he failed to complete earlier in the story. Truman at this point is sliced up pretty good, immobilized and being kept alive with artificial means, like a saline and drug drip which can be moderated when Vaughan is there to allow for massive amounts of pain, while keeping the man alive.

The scene in question is the one where Truman is discovered by the police in their effort to find him. They have several patrols out looking for him. Some are just looking around on patrol and keeping an eye out for him. But several are specifically sent to locations where it is mostly likely he will be found, places discovered through investigative police work. And there you have it. This scene is about the two man team who actually arrives at the location where Truman is being detained.

So now you know what I'm faced with, and where I'm going. I know I have to describe and build a scene wherein two cops find a torture victim. I have the back story in mind though if you haven't yet read the book, then obviously you don't at this point. But you have enough for this to make sense. It is getting dark to a point that light is starting to fail. Though it's still day time, the shadows are too dark to see in in some cases and so the cops need flashlights ("torches", as this is England), adding to the tension.

This particular team has been sent to an abandoned church in a forest that isn't frequented much by anyone anymore, save perhaps for the odd out back trekker, or local kids. As Vaughan certainly wouldn't want anyone to find his prize, he had to somehow seal the church where Truman is situated on the "alter". That is, what once would have been considered where the alter should be but was arranged now by Vaughan to be the alter.

I know several things at this point. I need to show the reader the cop's concern for the object of their search, for the perpetrator and his whereabouts, and for the safety of any not involved who they might run into. They do not know where Vaughan is, or if he is currently there. They do not know if Truman is alive still, or if he is there. They don't know if there may be other victims. Or if Vaughan himself, is even still alive.

I didn't want this scene to go on very long. I wanted it short. A paragraph, a page maybe, though I know considering how I write, if I'm not careful I could make this go on for page after page. So I wanted to keep it brief. We've already experienced in previous scenes what Truman's situation is and I won't go into that here. Let's not spoil too much.

And so, here I go....what follows is my first draft of this scene:


Sgt. Rand was the first out of the car. He ran up toward the church but was stopped by Constable Jameson who, standing still now, was staring at something. So he stopped and they both stared as their eyes adjusted. The old church beyond was no Church of England, but an old Catholic church long since abandoned.

"Look at that," the Constable said. The Sergeant could see that he was looking down on a field full of dug holes which lay before the entrance of the old, unconsecrated church that they had been sent out to. As of yet no one had found either the criminal or the victim in their search.

'It takes takes a single glance in the wrong direction, and life will never be the same again,' he thought as he thought about the case at hand and looked about the plot of land surrounding the church structure. He was searching for any movement, anything out of place. Sgt. Rand was one of the newly trained of Scotland Yard's "super-recognizers" and he knew he was being underutilized on this task. He had been trained as had a few hundred others, to identify suspects, even months later, from surveillance photos or on the street. But they were stretched to the limit on this one and anyone available was out on the search."

So, here I have established a few things. Time of day, stress, time factors as the officer was running from the car toward their target, not walking, therefore the effort and importance of the case, and at a more than local level, number on this team indicating a level of danger, superiority of individuals employed on this case of even the most routine of tasks like running down leads. I continued....

The Constable walked up to the nearest of the holes and looked in.

"It's recent, dug today maybe, even," he said observing the lack of settling in the soil. "Someone's been here recently." He looked at Sgt. Rand. They both pulled out their handguns and flashlights, as there would be even less light in the church. Together they picked there way through what must be about a hundred dug holes about the size of a man digging a hole down to nearly waste level. Some of he holes they passed seemed to be older than others and they soon realized that whoever had dug them had started near the church entrance and worked his way outward.

They got to the front door. They were old and massive doors. Locked or barricaded, they had to take the time to get tools from the boot of the car and then began working on the doors. It took them about fifteen minutes, but finally, one of the doors gave way and they were able to force it open all the way. It was dimly lit inside, some light filtering in from outside through the stained glass windows, many of which were broken. Probably by local kids on a lark, throwing stones and enjoying the sound of breaking glass and depravity of damaging a one time holy structure.

The Officers pushed their way through the door into the vestibule. It smelled musty, like old linen, mold and rotting wood. The Sergeant nodded to the side door and they split up, both entering the nave, the main hall of he church from obtuse angles on either side of the room. They had to pick their way carefully trying to be quiet, trying to be careful not to trip over something. There were various odds and ends around the floor along with dust and dirt. Something had made a nest here, defecated there, some pews were haphazardly set out of order. Then the Constable's light hit on something up front and he marked the find with a simple, "click" sound from his mouth to draw his superiors attention.

The Sergeant saw the other flashlight aimed ahead and drew his own up to match and enhance what they were seeing. They were about halfway into the nave now and what they saw made the Constable suck in a breath louder than he had intended. Their lights were bathing an odd structure of shiny lines, like thin steel cables in a "cat's cradle" configuration that hovered above a still form on a table of sorts. What would have been the altar in an active and consecrated Church.

"What in the Hell?" The Sergeant said this as he moved forward. When Jameson realize that, he too hesitantly started to move toward the oddity reflecting their lights. When they got to about three meters from the table, they both stopped, neither wanting to advance further because of what they saw before them. It was obviously a corpse, its....


Well that was all I got done, unedited, from this sitting. Stream of consciousness straight forward dumping onto the screen, for what it's worth, for how good or bad it is. It's not after all in the writing, but the rewriting, where this will become fully developed. But I think I have a good start.

I have since updated, edited, reread the original story in my book, "Death of Heaven" and found a few flaws and continuity errors that I will have to fix. After I have it all done, the creative part, I will "massage" the text to flow and all fit together in a cohesive story. I had found a couple of errors in the original story and I liked one or two things I did here in this new section, that I will massage well into the original piece. I will have my editor review it, work things out with her and, we will have a completed manuscript.

Once we complete re-editing the book so that it will be tighter, flow better, and put in some fixes, the second edition will be born. As I said, I hope to re-release it in the next month or two for the holiday season.

Please, wish me luck!
Have a great Holiday season!

Cheers!