Monday, June 16, 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour - Part Three

You've arrived at the third round for the Writing Process Blog Tour!

Thank You to Lily for passing people along from her blog! Loved that one answer of hers... writing as, "Free Therapy". I think that's a very good reason for becoming a writer!

Welcome. I'm JZ Murdock, I'll be your host for this session....

As a blog about writing, there are really two sides to this thing. Are you a reader looking to understand a writer's perspective?

Or are you a writer (or want to be a writer), looking for a writer's perspective? I'll try to cover both, just skip what isn't intriguing you. Okay?

What am I working on?
The almost final cover version of the new release
My editor and I just finished a re-edit of my book, Death of Heaven. It had previously received good reviews before but I suspect (and hope) they will be even better now. Much thanks to my editor, Ilene Giambastiani and her husband Kurt, who is an excellent writer in his own stead. 

You'll be hearing more from him shortly.

I also write screenplays and currently have two new in process. One is a true crime story about a murder I knew of years ago when I had helped someone evade organized crime who she had said, committed the crime (news articles from that time indicate it was a random killing).

The other is a sequel to one of my current screenplays titled, Gray and Lover - The Hearth Tales Incident. It's about two Steampunk demon hunters, sent to protect a famous horror writer. The writer's friend from his military days in Afghanistan, named Saleel, is also briefly in Death of Heaven. The end of the screenplay neatly dovetails into the sequel to the book. Yes, I'm writing a sequel to an as yet unsold screenplay. But I find that writing in multiple disciplines helps each one of them in various ways.

Then there are always the inevitable short stories and mini-stories like I've started writing on Wattpad.

What is my background?

I grew up reading sci fi, horror and science fact. Before that I loved watching old sci fi films on TV and my favorite show, the original, Twilight Zone.

My first ever written short story was a sci fi story I wrote in tenth grade. My next full story came more than a decade later at university and was horror ("Andrew", is now a novella at the end of my collection of short stories, "Anthology of Evil").

My first sold short story was a piece of social horror titled, In Memory, Yet Crystal Clear, also in Anthology of Evil, and that book opens with that story. We are starting the re-editing of that book with Andrewbecause it is the prequel and basis for my book, Death of Heaven.

Then I want to do, In Memory... and release it as a stand alone ebook because next year will be it's fifteenth anniversary since it was first published. Some of the other short stories in that book have already been released as short story ebooks and a few even as audiobooks.

In Memory... came to be when friends of mine challenged me when I said I could make any story workable. I was teasing them but they put me to task by saying that I couldn't write a believable story about a man who turned himself into a computer chip. In the end, I won the dare with that short story (as they had judged it) and eventually it was the first short story I ever sold.

The title of that story was an homage to Isaac Asimov (his first autobiography was, "In Memory, Yet Green". If you're a fan of traditional sci fi in its Golden Age, you really need to read that for a glimpse into the history of many of the old, great sci fi writers. In that book, Isaac had said that many of these great sci fi writers started out as Technical Writers during WWII.

Isaac thought that their need for attention to detail, working on cutting edge technologies in some cases (at the time) and all the practice they got finishing projects on deadline, as well as in needing to write and finish large projects, all made it easier for them to eventually become published as sci fi writers. 

So, I got a job as a Tech Writer too; later to become a Senior Tech Writer. I was working in Information and Internet Technologies (IT work). I finally got out of it because it just wasn't that much fun and really, I just wanted to write fiction, anyway. Besides, people found their team Tech Writer to be annoying as they were always trying to drag information out of team members who were just trying to get their work done. On Time.

I just wanted to write their work up as was a required part of the process; but I didn't want to be an annoyance to people. So eventually, I moved into other areas of IT work. I hope one day to make enough to support myself fully upon my writings. For now, I'm lucky to have the situation I do have. Lucky, though I have worked hard for years to be in a situation such as this, where I can work from home and have time to write in my off hours. You too can find your favored situation in your own life, but it takes hard work and is not without difficulties.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

That's a hard thing to ask of me. I'd consider my genres to be horror and sci fi, speculative fiction in general. Though I write a lot of non-fiction, too. Mostly on my blog here, and elsewhere (Facebook, Wattpad, etc.).

I wasn't sure what to say on this so I asked my editor, Ilene what she thought:

"I think your work differs within your genre in that it is deeply psychological in it's heart.  Certainly, there is plenty of gore to go around, but the gore tends to serve the psychological suspense in the story, rather than be an end in itself. Your work is also very engaging to the reader--meaning that I get lost in it. You weave very wonderful stories, with eroticism, suspense, and just plain horror! Yay!"

Well, thanks Ilene! There's more on my page for Death of Heaven and my web site at

According to author Michael Brooks as he puts it in having reviewed, Death of Heaven:\

"[JZ Murdock] demonstrates a lovely turn of phrase and some of the writing is almost poetic in its beauty."

High praise which I will always endeavor to live up to. Thanks Michael!
Why do I write what I write?

Again, I agree with Lily's answer, "Free Therapy." Honestly, I got my degree in Psychology for free therapy. After I got out of the military, I thought I could use some therapy and so I figured that getting a degree in Psych might just be a good way to go about it. Plus I wanted to learn true characterization, not through a literary degree. I think it worked out well on both accounts. 

I received some good ideas for stories in my university Abnormal Psych classes. Gumdrop City was one, a true crime but rather unbelievable story that I heard in class one day. Sarah is another one. One day after Abnormal Psych, a girl stopped me in the stairs on the way to my next class and told me about her grandmother's experiences with Alzheimer's. Of course, I fictionalized them both but GC is much closer to what actually happened. Sarah is more of a Twilight Zone tale.

To answer why I write what I do, it's when I have a story I inside that wants, needs to get out. It's like seeing a puzzle, one that you know you can solve and just have to work on. It's just very rewarding that I can share those with others; others who seem to enjoy reading them.

How does my writing process work?

I don't really have to brainstorm ideas. They come to me in various ways. Taking in fresh information is always helpful and sparks new ideas, constantly. I like to stay abreast of cutting edge technologies and consider where they could take us. What fresh nightmare could they visit upon us at some unforeseen time?

I get a kernel of an idea in my mind, it starts to grow and there is nothing I can do to stop it. Then I start writing it down. Write and re-write till it's polished.

There is one writing method I suspect some people don't use: Massaging your text. It's a term familiar (or should be) to all Tech Writers. In all the re-writing, sometimes things get messy. Maybe all the time. So once in a while you have to start at the top and read down to the end, correcting as you go. It's the only way to be sure you have everything connecting properly and in its right place. 

Sometimes I will have a base outline set up and stick to that, allowing changes as I go and as are necessary for the overall story. But more frequently I prefer to go on an adventure through discovery writing. I get the general idea or just a title; a place to start or sometimes, a place to finish. Then I just start writing. Frequently my beginning will turn into the middle and I will back fill. Or I will back up from the end and try to find the beginning, then flesh it all out. I try to write it all down and then edit, and re-edit, rewriting over and over until it's done.

I am constantly writing ideas down for later. Otherwise, no matter how great it is, it can vanish. Don't listen to people who say (or your mind telling you) that if it's such a great idea, you won't be able to forget it. You can forget, anything. Write it down, with as much detail as possible to spark your mind, to get you back to where you were when it seemed like a brilliant idea.

I also write down the title of the film or show I'm watching in my notes (or song, or whatever sparked the original thought), then store it on my hard drive under novels, or short stories, in a folder called Ideas, or Titles. Then later I have a lot of ideas to write out, or get more ideas from. It's been very valuable.

I never through away anything, idea-wise.

Getting a reader, someone to read my writings, to catch anything I missed, is a must. But for years I never had anyone to read it by myself. I'd put it away for a few days or a week (months or years sometimes) and then re-read it anew, as a fresh read. It can then become painfully clear where the messes are that need to be cleaned up.

As you may have noticed at the beginning, I have been creating a Universe in my writings with crisscrossing interrelated characters and timelines in my stories, novels or screenplays. Why? Because I always loved it when other author's did that. I just accidentally fell into doing it myself. But once I realized what I was doing, I kind of got into the idea and have been consciously trying to build on it.

Like one of my new short stories for an anthology of writers called, the Giant Tales series of books. For World of Pirates, I wrote a story called, Breaking on Cave Island, which became a prequel to a character I wrote in a bizarre story called, Poor Lord Ritchie's Answer to a Question He Knever Knew, contained in Anthology of Evil. That was a story actor Rutger Hauer chose as a winning story back in a 2004 contest he put on. 

To sum up, my writing process is just like that of most writers: write, finish, re-write, re-write, re-write, massage, till it feels solid and truly is finished. Then if you can, have someone read it (or put it away and read it again later). Tweak it some more and then, get it published; and that, is an entirely different blog.

What exactly is the key to my writing process and style, then? Same as yours would be. It's all about what one's "voice" is, as it has developed through the art and practice of writing. My voice comes from what I've read before and all through my life; what I've learned about the mechanics of writing and how I enjoy applying them, correctly or incorrectly; how I see the world in general and at times in specific; and in the end, how it all sounds to myself when I read back what I have written; does it then please me?

That's it, really. That and lots of practice (writing is rewriting) tied to how an audience of readers responds to my writings (or how I expect they will) along with my consideration of how I wanted them to respond and how I then react to that in my writings. Still, in the end it's really what's pleasing to me.

Hopefully something useful came out of these last few minutes. Thanks for stopping by and I wish you all the best! May you always find new and fascinating stories to read. 

The next blogger up is for next Monday's (June 23, 2014) Writing Process Blog TourHe is author of one of my favorite stories of all time, a revisionist's history called the Fallen Cloud series, as well as other very enjoyable books and stories.

I now turn the Blog reigns over to friend and fellow author, Kurt Giambastiani,


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