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!


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