Friday, October 30, 2015

Night of Fun Frights is here once again... Happy Halloween!

Hello and Happy Halloween!

Today is a day for being politically incorrect if ever there was one.
So all you "police" of what is correct...
(in your opinion)
Tone it down for a while, 
have a nap, 
rest, relax, 
take the day off!

It's a day to cut loose from 
the bonds of your life.
To be someone else
to offend or to frighten,
with contrary behavior
but all in good nature.

Happy Halloween!

Carved jack-o'-lantern by Marvin Hayes
As you all know... "Halloween is the evening before the Christian holy days of All Hallows' Day (also known as All Saints' or Hallowmas) on 1 November and All Souls' Day on 2 November, thus giving the holiday on 31 October the full name of All Hallows' Eve (meaning the evening before All Hallows' Day)."

"The word Halloween or Hallowe'en dates to about 1745 and is of Christian origin. The word "Halloween" means "hallowed evening" or "holy evening". It comes from a Scottish term for All Hallows' Eve (the evening before All Hallows' Day). In Scots, the word "eve" is even, and this is contracted to e'en or een. Over time, (All) Hallow(s) E(v)en evolved into Halloween. Although the phrase "All Hallows'" is found in Old English (ealra hālgena mæssedæg, all saints mass-day), "All Hallows' Eve" is itself not seen until 1556." - Wikipedia
Carved jack-o'-lantern by Marvin Hayes
'Tis the beginning of the holiday season, it 'tis. I know Halloween isn't until tomorrow but I wanted to give you a chance to see this a day ahead of time. Have a fun and safe celebration of all things scary and fun.

And yes, this is yet another attempt by yet another author to gain yet more of your valuable attention. I am however happy to reciprocate to use some of my own valuable time should you need a shout out in my own network of Horror and Sci Fi aficionados.

I’ll try not to bore you….
Cover by Marvin Hayes
The holidays are soon to be upon us and as any author does I'm looking to spread the word about my writings beyond my blog, my Facebook fans and 14,000 Twitter followers. Especially, concerning a rather unique book of horror and science fiction\fantasy that I have written.

I had acquired some pretty good reviews on my own, but I didn't have an editor. Which surprised some people. Until recently, that is. And so I re-released on my birthday, August 30th, 2014 (original release was 2012).

You can watch a video trailer for the book here - http://bit.ly/DeathOfHeaven
Carved jack-o'-lantern by Marvin Hayes
Based in horror this book has some elements of sci fi and is a bold reinvention of the history of Humanity and even the planet Earth. It encompasses a variety of different types of stories covering a bit of just about anything you can think of.

It's been discovered to be pretty entertaining, disturbing and at times horrifying. I've just needed to get the word out. As an indie author that’s always a challenge. I believe I have produced a worthy effort deserving the effort to acquire that attention.

As one author and reviewer, Michael Brookes has reviewed it:

"[Death of Heaven] ... has a Books of Blood vibe, which really works well. It's in these tales that the author's writing ability shines. He demonstrates a lovely turn of phrase and some of the writing is almost poetic in its beauty."

Not bad, right? He is of course referring to Clive Barker's seminal horror books from the 80s and 90s that established him as a force in the horror community and evoked Stephen King’s comment back then that, “I have seen the future of horror, his name is Clive Barker”.

Carved jack-o'-lantern by Marvin Hayes
Mr. Barker later went on to blaze trails in the fantasy and speculative fiction writing communities, as well as in the film and art communities. I have no aims on the art community, I leave that to my amazing cover artist. As for the rest of these communities well, only time will tell. I haven’t been able to get Mr. King’s attention, but Clive Barker has my book. He just can't seem to find it. But such is the pain of an author trying to climb high enough in the public eye to be seen among the masses of so many wannabe authors now a days. Everyone thinks they can be a writer anymore, such as social and instant media are anymore.

You can find downloads of “Death of Heaven” on Smashwords http://bit.ly/DHsmashwords where you can use this coupon code JG27M to get a copy on sale through the Halloween weekend.
Or you are quite welcome to pick up a copy in print at - http://bit.ly/DHAmazon which also has the ebook format available.

Please remember to leave a review on Amazon. It is very helpful if you do, I greatly appreciate it and if you do like it and want to see more, it's simply money in the bank for you toward seeing more coming down the road.

Although it's a difficult book to categorize, it's also a unique piece of work and I'm quite proud of it. It certainly has something for everybody. As you know that can make marketing something of a challenge and yet...that certainly doesn't mean it's not a terrific read. I challenge anyone to read the first full chapter and honestly feel there is no reason to continue.

I am currently working toward a sequel in both screenplay and book formats. This will also be a follow up sequel to my screenplay, "Gray and Lover The Hearth Tales Incident", which was a semi-finalist in the Circus Road Films production company's contest.

My Amazon Author page has many of my other works listed at - http://bit.ly/JZMurdockOnAmazon

I have an Author app for DL to your cell phone, which you can scan here or acquire from going to my web site where you can find links to most of my works (http://jzmurdock.com/):


Feel free to say hi on my Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/Murdockinations

In closing, I wish you all the best this holiday season as we approach breaking into the end of yet another challenging year.

May all your endeavors come back home to you with grace and success!

Have a great Halloween 2015!

Cheers!
JZ Murdock

From one of the members of The Murdock Society, a grouping of some of Marvin Hayes' Halloween pumpkin works....


Monday, October 26, 2015

Death of the Human Worker? IF Computers here to stay start acting like it!

The other day read this article and my blood pressure rose exponentially:

Bank's Severance Deal Requires IT Workers to Be on Call for Two Years — Without Pay -
"Employees of SunTrust Banks in Atlanta said their severance agreement requires them to remain available for two years to provide help — and to do so without compensation."

SunTrust Banks in Atlanta is laying off about 100 IT employees as it moves work offshore. But this layoff is unusual for what the employer is asking of its soon-to-be displaced workers: SunTrust's severance agreement requires terminated employees to remain available for two years to provide help if needed, including in-person assistance, and to do so without compensation. - Computerworld


To be fair, SunTrust told Computerworld for the article that it was just if they have to touch base with an old employee for information. But they don't say if they will actually require work from them. We had this situation at work just recently when they laid off the "big brain" guy on our team and we suffered for it.

Our music for this blog today will be Donovan's old, "Gold Watch Blues."

When they called him for information such as this article discusses, he just never called back and I didn't blame him. If they are going do to that kind of thing after you leave, then they should pay you consulting fees. It's high time corporations stop getting such a free ride. Corporate loopholes? This is just one more. It's just one more corporate loophole of a different kind that needs to be closed before this one too gets any worse.

This is just more nonsense from business that was obvious to be coming from how IT workers have been treated now for years. Not to mention, my home mortgage is through SunTrust Mortgage and my second mortgage is through SunTrust Bank.

We don't get paid overtime in IT work because of being salaried yet we have to pull "on call". For myself I have it monthly for a week at a time 24/7 and also as last week "day time on call" from 7am to 5pm where I have to have my hands on keyboard within five minutes should I get a call and then triage it across our IT department.

The rationale for how we are treated is that we get paid how much we get paid because of things like that and because we're considered professionals. But we're really no treated like that. We're the grunts of white collar work, just as many of the developers are who write the code we support. But when their code breaks in the middle of the night we are the ones called to either fix it, or figure it out. When we can, we wait till daylight hours to call the programmer's up. And that's all okay because our salary is good enough.

But at what point does that stop being justification?

We're human beings too in the end. It is this corporate mindset of these corporations that puts us in this position and it is a mindset that goes from our level all the way on down to the least compensated employee. After all if the company can get away with doing this to us, then how is some lowest base pay or new employee going to be able to stand up about this for themselves?

Research has shown very clearly employees need to get away from work at times, to KNOW they are away from work. To put work out of their minds for a while until they return. To get off work at night and not have to deal with it again until the next day, or to be free of it over the weekend. We know in this job that we can be called at any time while on call, or not. Why? Because they have cut the workforce down to the bare minimum and then some so that there are seldom enough knowledgeable employees available to be able to effective deal with unforeseen situations. Much like is of late in government and just about everywhere.

When will this stop and from what level will that stoppage come from? Blue collar workers? White collar? The executive levels (I don't think so).

I was on vacation in Mexico years ago and got called up and to work, from Mexico! I had been required to take my laptop with me. My wife and kids weren't happy about it. So how was that a vacation? A "working vacation"? A "vacation" because it was a nicer "cubical"? You can almost never get away from work now a days.

Originally, decades ago this law was set to enable computer companies, being the fledgling business they were back then to take off, to help the industry overall to take off. Especially in the Pacific Northwest around Seattle because of companies like Microsoft. So. Do you think it has taken off yet? Is it here to stay, the compute industry? Time for them to start paying their way on things like employee compensation for overtime and on call?

I DO.

There are employees working 80-90 hours a week at times, with no extra pay involved and now a days the higher ups say they don't even want to hear about compensatory time. I worked at one company many years ago and if you worked an hour, you got to take of 1.5 hours that next week, or within that pay period. Then it was equal time off. Then it was "no we don't do that anymore." Why? They wouldn't pay us money as we were "exempt" but now they won' give up time off either to justify, to pay us back for our extra time worked.

There is a site you can read about this for Washington State law. The law had been changed back in 1992, 1994 and in 2004. It seems reasonable at first read, but it does not address what I would consider abuses. When working over a normal number of hours per week, isn't some number of hours too many? I believe 12 hours per day is the limit actually. 12 hours per day times 7 days is 84 hours a week, with no compensation in pay, possibly no time compensation in days off. To be fair, I've seen a day or two given as time off, but not always to be sure. Just a "thanks" and let's move on (and not talk about it).

Law states that overtime needs to be paid to workers in Washington state UNLESS you are specifically a computer worker, the one exemption actually broken out and cited in law.

If they want us to be on call, how about paying for that now? Even a token amount...something? It's not so much about the money as a mental hedge but also a hedge for the company to consider when it is work and when it broaches abuse. When it has too few workers for one thing. When it has cut costs beyond the point of functionality.

Most of us are on call 24/7/365 anyway for what we are responsible for and "on call" merely means who is on point for that day or week. When I worked at the University of Washington, I was hourly, granted. But I got paid if I got a call, two hours work even if it was a minute to fix something. I got paid extra for night work. I got paid extra for holidays, time and a half or sometimes double time.

Over the years I've been interrupted during holidays, family time, and during Christmas eve. All because companies "can't afford" to pay enough employees. Which begs the question, what are they doing wrong? What as a nation are we doing wrong?

It's high time that even salaried and exempted workers are paid for their extra work on things such as being on call. Let's do away with the concept of exemption. Just as we should be doing away with the concept of more than 40 hour work weeks, more than 8 hour days, while we should be shooting for 4 day (not ten hour day) workweeks and 6 hour days (and not 6 day work weeks).

Besides, paying overtime forces a company to see what is truly happening, to do what is right, rather than giving them a false sense of the state of things, or abusing their exempted workforce. It shows them when they do indeed need to hire more people, not just make it through with less and let those few take the burden, to feel they are not capable at times, all because more employees are needed which expands the knowledgebase base of their workforce overall.

It is long and well known that no one can know all the nuances of just about any software product anymore. Systems are fixed by hit and miss much of the time anymore. Employees who by the company's dictate "should know" are really just guessing much of the time.

There is simply too much knowledge on any one element for any single individual in their area to know all of it. So much of the time I know I need to work on something with someone else, and yet, they are seldom there for more than a minute to offer suggestions on a direction to go and then they are back on their own work, swamped, overloaded with their own work.

This is not a secret within the industry, it never has been. I'm not saying anything that will surprise any computer worker. It is held close to the vest of these workers however in order to keep their jobs but I'd be very surprised if the execs in their company or any company, simply don't know all this very clearly. And yet they go on with business as usual.

It is not as it is typically portrayed that computer "experts" know all there is to know. Of those there are very few, though they are out there and we all hold them in high esteem. But they pull a high dollar figure and most companies can't or won't suffer to afford them. And then, as in the gentleman I mentioned above, they lay them off. Three degrees, a "big brain", they are usually too expensive to maintain for long by most companies.

Computer work is more like a doctor who "practices" their field of study. Just like doctors computer workers guess at the diagnosis much of the time, trying things if they cannot find the lines of description somewhere for solutions to problems they come across. Doctors guess at drug levels to fix illnesses just as computer workers guess at various settings to lighten loads and decrease overheads. Putting all these different networks, software and systems together exponentially increases the difficulty of things.

It's a compliment to these computer workers who somehow do their jobs, figure things out and keep at their jobs year after year. Though only because many of us are trapped at that compensation level and cannot now get out. Still, more and more of us now are working to get out, to find ways to live on less so we can leave this nonsense and abuse behind.

Wake up. As a nation we need to start acting like adults, like an advancing culture, to start bettering everyone's work environment in all ways possible and not just do what pleases corporate heads and their stockholders.

Having to continue to work for a company after you have finally divested yourself of the company, possibly one you can no longer stand to be associated with in the worst case example, or in having to keep working somewhere you will miss working at,  all when you have a new full time job to do (possibly with on call associated with it as I've looked for other jobs doing what I do and they all require on call), is ludicrous. In my case I'm just looking for a new industry and in my case, it is writing as I'm a far better writer than anything else.

Of course this is all brilliant for the old company one leaves (to be able to force you into two years of on call after you resign), but as it is now they have refused to pay their way anyway in these kinds of cost cutting tactics where they put the burden of their financial situation, so typically because of mismanagement on the executive levels, upon the worker rather than the CEO, the CIO and the CTO.

It's high time this is addressed as it will remain a hidden issue forever if something isn't simply done about it. And for all involved.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Snowden's Credibility Issues

The Daily Banter put out a piece by Bob Cesca, in June 24, 2014 titled: Snowden’s Credibility Problem Worsens as Whistleblowing Email Story Blows Up. I mention this because I saw it posted on my Facebook today.

Cesca is pushing the notion that Snowden didn't try established channels to voice his concerns and instead simply released them to journalists and the world.

This is all fine and dandy. Except for a couple of things.

Did Snowden actually use email to complain about illegal activities to management? Or hard copy, or voice? Did the email response he did get to his question as released to the public, mean something to him we're not seeing that Snowden did see in that reply?

The article posts this within it:

"Today’s release is incomplete, and does not include my correspondence with the Signals Intelligence Directorate’s Office of Compliance, which believed that a classified executive order could take precedence over an act of Congress, contradicting what was just published. It also did not include concerns about how indefensible collection activities—such as breaking into the back-haul communications of major US internet companies—are sometimes concealed under EO 12333 to avoid Congressional reporting requirements and regulations. […]
I did raise such concerns both verbally and in writing, and on multiple, continuing occasions — as I have always said, and as NSA has always denied."

He asks why Snowden didn't release those emails along with other things being released to vindicate himself, that he should have thought that out ahead of time and so on. Reasonable questions. But then things like this don't always go smoothly, all the answers aren't always given or freely available and that doesn't simply mean there is something fishy going on. Getting this kind of thing to the public is a very messy, complicated thing.

Do you really think, even if Snowden had properly complained to management in any format that anything would really have changed? In something so big, so endemic within the agency? Something they obviously valued so highly?

Consider this. Should this EVER happen in America? Would or could this ever happen in China, or Russia? Or North Korea? Maybe this, or other such breaches really haven't been that bad for the people of America? Maybe in fact we need them from time to time. It's as if the Founding Fathers themselves had considered such things in setting up free speech and a free press.

"In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government's power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the public. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government." - Hugo L. Black (1971). New York Times Co. v. United States. Supreme Court of the United States. pp. 403 U.S. 713, at p. 717.

Why would someone with a brain who had knowledge of the agency's inner functionings, even really consider that they could evoke change of this type from the inside, without the need to publicly release information?

It really makes Cesca's article seem pretty naive. Just a journalist's need for a hook to write an article about regardless how useless its commentary may be. But hey, we all gotta make a living. And journalists get paid for writing, not necessarily writing what's useful but engaging the public so they can continue to seem relevant and useful in making money for their organization.

I've seen things in a mere corporation that needed to change before. I said in the beginning of a new proposed project (more than once on more than one project) that it was a bad idea. But no one would listen. Though many would nod their heads silently, also knowing what I said was true but not wanting to stick their heads up to be wacked.

And so it came to be, all because those at the top had a vested interest.

It was going to happen, it did happen. In one case, there was a personal financial interest for the guy at the top and he never got called out on it. Even after he abandoned the company leaving a sinking ship where he created the hole all the money was pouring out of. Eventually the hole was plugged, the ship didn't sink although people now openly will say what a nightmare his reign was.

Years later in this case, after millions of dollars wasted, change did finally happen. Only after he left. But no at first one would listen. It was a waste of time and effort and it left you looking the fool. In speaking out, even after being proven correct, it still could leave you looking untrustworthy in certain career fields.

Like, intelligence. A field which has always been a kind of oxymoron. Between those in the field with the know and those in management with their "know"; so much, so many times, the wrong things are done even though the ones lower down knew very well and wanted things to be different. They could only sit and shake their head in frustration. Such is the bureaucracy and dynamics in government and intelligence.

I'm really not sure Snowden's attempt to tell anyone would have been a smart thing to do.

It would have been the proper thing to do, to be sure, though that has little to do in intelligence with reality. A field of shadows to most people, and one that runs with a grossly different and unspoken set of rules than the rest of us. A field where asking doesn't always get done what needs to be done, where doing what is right and asking permission later, apologizing later if need be, does get the right thing done. Though you'd better be right, do the right thing, make the right people look...right. And if you don't, people can die. You, can die.

I think discussion on it this who thing, whether Snowden spoke out ahead of time or not, as if it could have made any difference at all, is really now a moot point.

It may very well always have been.

And then last Friday, October 16, 2015 there is this....
Edward Snowden: Clinton made 'false claim' about whistleblower protection

Monday, October 12, 2015

My Open Letter to Clive Barker - Part II

To My Dear Mr. Clive Barker,

Hello again, Clive!

Cutting to the quick, here's my plea:

Do please consider, would you give me a short (or long) blurb for my book?

Feel free to send me a new address or I can just use the one I sent to twice before that Phil and Sarah gave me. I'm also on Twitter where I've messaged before with you.

Continued from Part I....

Okay, now please allow me to lay out my rambling argument for why I think it would be fair and completely awesome, if you did.

Yes, we have met in person before.

A few times, actually. Years ago, back in the late 80s and early 90s, you replied a few times to my letters via international post (not electronic). Back when you still lived I believe, in London. I had sent them to your publisher at the time and they forwarded them to you. No I don't really expect you to remember me at all, though you did think my name was funny the first time we met. Then more recently we exchanged messages on your Twitter account about my book, which this is all about.

To my surprise, you not only received them, you wrote back! I still have those letters. How could I not? One is in fact framed on my wall next to a few signed photos of others like Tom Savini (whom I have also met), Woody Allen (whom I haven't), and Richard and Danny Elfman (that's a story too long for this situation).

As I said, we most recently chatted on Twitter but even that now was a year or two ago. I had also entered your short story contest on DeviantArt but I didn't get anywhere with that as I think my story on the Men of the City may have been taken too literally. I had fun writing it though and I think I got a great story out of it based on your painting. Love your art by the way and no I'm not just saying that. Anyone who has seen your art could understand why.

These more recent communications were about my book, Death of Heaven. A book I believe is good enough to bother you about and that I thought you might even be interested in being associated with, in some way or another. No, really. I wouldn't waste your time otherwise. Or mine.

One more thing. Please do not judge my writings overall by this letter. I put a lot more time in the book and my published writings. Or does that even need to be said anymore?

Here's the thing. I could really use your help on this as my newer revised copy is an even stronger read now that I have an editor. Stronger than the original release was, the one I sent you a while back to the address that Phil and Sarah gave me. That was the original release, the one that actually got me compared to you and your Books of Blood by one reviewer (see below). I couldn't have been more pleased that he registered and drew that comparison. Perhaps compared is too strong a word, but hey, I'll take what I can get.


"[Death of Heaven] ... has a Books of Blood vibe, which really works well. It's in these tales that the author's writing ability shines. He demonstrates a lovely turn of phrase and some of the writing is almost poetic in it's beauty. There's an interesting mix of tales, although the focus of the stories narrows as the book progresses."
-From Author & Reviewer Michael Brookes.

This blog today is therefore an open letter to you. A most dear and perhaps foolish request to even think you might consider it. But hey, who know?

Allow me to offer a reintroduction of myself to you and as well as a piece of your history and mine. Should I ever myself become someone notable as you are now, I do hope that one day I can help some nobody, just as you can here.

This will also serve as a piece of my own history for any who are interested as I do actually have a few fans. So it's also about what I've accomplished since we last shook hands in Seattle around those many few years ago of 1988-90.

Basically this is my pitch:

I'd love to get a blurb from you for my book. I think it's something you might feel good about being associated with. 

You'll see shortly what I mean.
An early version of the revised Death of Heaven release cover by Marvin Hayes
Just for fun, here's what I looked like back when we last stood in the same room and spoke.

Me in the late 1980s from a head shot
Now we haven't seen one another in many years, decades even. We met as you have with so many others, several times at book signings in the Seattle Tower Books. I certainly don't expect you to remember me, being who you are and the numbers of people you have met. But I'll never forget meeting you and I won't go into all that here.

When we first met I told you that I had written you before. You perked right up and with a big smile proudly said, "And I wrote you back too, didn't I!"

Yes, yes you had. You said you were trying hard to reply to all your fans. With my minor experiences with social media and in not being the big name you were even then, I'm even more impressed now by your efforts in that. I know who that can easily become overwhelming.

I look back now on those letters that I sent to you and I cringe on my part. Still, you were kind enough to reply to myself as an aspiring writer. To one such as that, it was pure gold. By the way, Stephen King never wrote me back, but then I was lucky enough to catch you before fame struck you so hard in the middle of your talents when then the entire world wanted a piece of you.


I had corresponded with Phil and Sarah a while back and sent them the cassette tape cover from the music for a play of yours that was done in the Netherlands, "History of the Devil", with music by Hank Toet.

This tape was originally sent to me in the 90s by Erwin Verweij of Yellow Productions. I have more recently reconnected with him on Facebook. I ran into him on the internet back in the 90s and we struck up a bit of a long distance friendship leading to my request and his sending me a copy of the music.

More recently (already now some years ago) Phil and Sarah had given me an address to send my book to you, and I did. But it had apparently gotten misplaced. Though now, happily so. Happily because I've since re-released it after a massive re-edit as I finally got an editor.

Sorry, back to our having met. Obviously, I remember our meetings like they were yesterday.

During one I only heard you were in town that day and I had my son with me. My wife was working. What could I do but I brought along my then two year old in his stroller to meet you. I wanted to be able to tell him one day that he once shook hands with who Stephen King had said was the "future of horror", and so I have.

You did indeed shake hands with the little guy and it seems it's not the only time you have met kids (Sasha Meets Horror writer and Director Clive Barker in 1989) like that back in the 80s. That son of mine is now twenty-seven and has an adorable daughter of his own.
My son around that time
More recently
I was a proud dad then and now, though now my son stands 6'5" and I have to look up to him and he is a brilliant young man now of twenty-seven. I continue to be proud of him as I am, both my kids as they are extremely bright, talented and charismatic. My daughter is twenty-three and has now traveled Europe on her own (twice for a year at a time) playing her awesome music (singing with her accordion and hoola hoop) and is herself writing and illustrating a couple of very cool children's books and is as well a talented photographer.

The first time I met you I was first in line of a long line of Stephen King fans with an hour wait before you were to arrive. I thought they were more than a bit irritating. I had read your books. They had not.

You arrived in a suit looking quite dapper. Your handler asked if you wanted anything and you smiled and said, "Yes, some coffee would be nice." When asked how you would like it, you said, "White." Which stumped the guy. However, the guy next to him said he fully understood and quickly acquired it, bringing you what you had requested. Coffee with cream. Americans, right?

Sitting there and settled in at the author's table at Tower Books' Mercer Street store in Seattle, you looked up at me and said, "Hi."

I smiled back happy to finally get to meet this amazing author and briefly I told you my story and about the King fans in line behind me who were trailing in line around the store. You smiled a knowing smile. I thought it odd that as far as I could figure I was the only actual Clive Barker fan there. Where were the Barker fans?

You took your time with me, about fifteen minutes actually, while the King fans fidgeted behind me. You had said you were always happy to acquire new fans from wherever and then you took your time to draw some artwork (it was a head) in the front of my book. You seemed to quite enjoy yourself. I was myself having a very good time.

Thanks for that by the way. And of course I still have all of my signed Barker books. But that one was my first.

Cutting to the quick, I had hoped through all these years that should I ever get there (in having written a book of my own, that is), that if you thought it showed talent, then perhaps as King had done for you, you might be so kind as to give me a blurb for my own book. A sentence, a phrase, a word. even, "I really hated this book" - Clive Barker,,, would work for me, I suppose. I just never had considered the necessity of getting it to you, or in getting your attention in the first place. Amateurs, right?

That eventual book in question ended up being my book titled, "Death of Heaven." A title that I borrowed from one of my son's songs on a CD of his original music he produced in a High School music production class. It is also the music I used for my video book trailers. I used a piece of my daughter's artwork in my book, too.

My slightly younger brother by another mother graciously did the awesome cover art for most of my books and is himself a truly great and genius artist. No, seriously. I'm not kidding, he's pretty amazing. Check out below his cover for my book. And this book cover is almost lame in comparison to most of the things he's been winning awards for over the decades and in a variety of mediums.

Final cover by Marvin Hayes
Here's a review from WILDSound Writing Festival's First Chapter Contest:

"The story itself is very strong, lulling the reader into a false sense of security as two young boys hunt for treasure, before ultimately morphing into a violent and sometimes disturbing tale of horror. This is done with such swiftness that it takes the reader almost completely by surprise, which only enhances the effect."

That is about my horror story The Conqueror Worm which opens the book and then goes into much more serious situations one after another, all the way to the end. I had no choice at that time, no extra money with which to get an editor. Yes I know, it's like a defendant being his own attorney in court, perhaps I did have a fool for a client in thinking I could self-edit. And yet not such a fool perhaps considering my reviews.

Reviewer Lynn Worton said of it: "4 out of 5 stars! JZ Murdock has written a horror story that completely had me transfixed! I'm intrigued as to what he is working on next! Although horror is not one of my favourite genres, I recommend this book to those who do love it."

Originally the book came out early in 2012 and I've since re-released it in 2014. Since then I've been working hard on screenplays including one that did well in the Circus Road Films screenplay contest where my horror comedy "Gray and Lover The Hearth Tales Incident" placed as a semi-finalist and my biopic "Teenage Bodyguard" was requested by a London production company.

"Gray" is an excellent franchise film opportunity by the way. People just seem to like the story and its wise cracking , mercenary demon hunting duo, two women who dress steampunk because demons cannot so easily mimic them. So it's only a matter of time before it gets produced.

With this revision of Death of Heaven I'm looking to push it and my writings into the public's consciousness. As an indie author (through Zilyon Publishing) I don't really have the money for making a big noise about it. I'm just trying to make my way and find a niche like any other author as I work myself out of life in corporate IT work. I've been in that nightmare for a while. I raised a family as a single father doing it and now that they are raised and moved out and I'm stretching for my future and a new career.

So you see any help would be greatly appreciated.

That's what this is all about here. This blog that is. Trying to get you to check out my book. If you like I'd be happy to send you a third copy (perhaps to a new address?). Maybe I have less claim upon you than anyone else, yet we all do have to try in life and so this here is me, trying.

Back in 2012 I had sent you a copy of the book to the address that Phil and Sarah gave me. I told you about that on Twitter and you had actually replied and said that you'd look for it and if it was there, you'd find it. But that was the old version, and from a while back. Which might explain your not finding it and which, though other people liked it, this new edition really is much better. I sent you a copy of the revision in 2014.

Stephen King had said of you in that Newsweek article, something I'll never forget it. And what a comment it was:

"I've seen the future of Horror and it is, Clive Barker."

My God, what a statement! Right? I was floored when I read that.

I would never hope for anything like that but anything would be amazing. I'd even take, "This piece of shit sucks so bad I couldn't even make it to the end of page one. Avoid it at all costs. I've seen the future of Horror and if it's this guy well, we're all in very big trouble!"

I don't think you'd find that to be the case however, but hey, whatever!

As I said the first time I met you as was at Tower Books on Mercer Street in Seattle, across from where now TS McHugh's is, a bar that used to be where all the local bands would go after their gigs. I was at the time working at Tower Video up the street. This was after I graduated college with a degree in psychology and a minor in creative writing, fiction and screenwriting.
Jeff Ament (Pearl Jam) during Mother Love Bone years
I was supervisor back then to eventual Pearl Jam bassist, Jeff Ament. This was back when he was in the band Green River and before his Mother Love Bone days. The day he quit to go and try to become a "real musician" I had told him that I thought of anyone I knew, he would be the one to make it. That seemed to mean something to him, considering his momentary contemplation, his bowed head, and then his telling me so.

Those were rough times back in the late 80s.

I had graduated from WWU and simply couldn't sell any writings. So I did as a famous author suggested, I started collecting rejection slip after rejection slip. Perhaps I simply wasn't ready yet.

Once I sent one story to a horror rag in Oregon who had claimed in a magazine advert that if you can't sell your horror elsewhere, they'd buy it. My story was turned down because she didn't like stories where the protagonist dies in the end. So I gave up for a while at that point. Eventually I got back into sending short stories off again though.

Finally in 1990 I sold my first short story, "In Memory, Yet Crystal Clear." This is now in my collection of old short horror and sci fi stories titled, "Anthology of Evil" and also available as an ebook. An east coast horror quarterly bought it, twisted piece of social horror that it was and that my friends had said was too high brow and too impossible to write.

See, that was the challenge they gave me back in the early 80s. To write a story about "a guy who turns himself into a computer chip." One day I had jokingly told them that "I could make any concept workable. Give me something you think is impossible to write and I'll do it." Ironically, that "unsellable" story (which they liked a lot by the way) turned out years later, to be my first horror story to sell and actually be published.

After I fulfilled my four year commitment in the US Air Force where I had a secret clearance for working around nuclear weapons, I had happily gotten out. Truth be told, the military was somewhat of a nightmare to an artistic type. Still, I survived it to my benefit as it paid for first a two year college degree and then a university degree.

From time to time because of my background in martial arts and firearms I've actually written a screenplay about my first time acting as a bodyguard. That revolved believe it or not, around a strip club waitress and murder witness who had seen a murder committed by an organized crime group in Tacoma back in 1974.

Why screenplays? What kind of a diversion is this now?

Well, I had a year of screenwriting that I fell into after being chosen in playwriting for a special year long, team scriptwriting class. See, I had been sent to playwriting in the Theatre department by my Fiction 101 professor because he thought I needed to learn dialog. Even though that class was mesmerized by my fiction stories that we had to read in class, mine did have little dialog.

In 1984 in college I wrote a screenplay that got me two A's. I had actually graduated college and took one final quarter after that, just so I could leave college with a fully written screenplay under my belt.

There were things in that screenplay that I didn't see in any produced film for another ten or twenty years. Had I been able to get that screenplay ("Ahriman") produced, my entire life would have been completely different and I wouldn't be writing this here today.

Movies that later incorporated elements of my script were Dune (1984 I'll grant you, but I honestly didn't see it until 1985 or so), The Thirteenth Floor (1999) and Dark City (1998) just to name a few. I did eventually get to work with a production company as an "in house" writer for a few years, but never got anything on screen by 2000 so I quit. But it was a good experience in learning to work with producers.

My writings weren't going anywhere, other than I had a good job through the 1990s working as a senior tech writer in IT. After my divorce in 2002 I kept up tthe IT work, moving out of tech writing and into full on system administration. Finally in 2010 I turned my mind back to my writing as my children were pretty much raised and beginning to move out of the house. I even broke up with my girlfriend in order to spend all my time writing thinking that once I got that going, I could return to the arena of romance and the lighter endeavors in life. Kind of still waiting on that now and really ready to pick up the pace on things.

I have a few screenplays done now. "Popsicle Death" is a short screenplay now in the Rod Serling contest at Ithaca College where he used to teach. I wrote that one for my team script and screenwriting class.

There's also "Colorado Lobsters" and "Poor Lord Ritchie's Answer to a Question He Knever Knew." The latter of which I wrote as a short story and just for fun in college. The actor Rutger Hauer chose it as a winner in his short story contest in 2004. I then later adapted it to screenplay format. A professor of mine in college had wanted to do it as a one man stage performance but it never came to be. I guess I'm more of a screenwriter than a playwright. Well, maybe some day.

Back when I met you that first time, I had very little money. There were times when dinner was an apple from the Circle K up the street from Tower. Times, were pretty rough. Even buying one of your books was difficult, but reading it made life all the easier.

Eventually, times got better but I was still at an emotional low. My first marriage had failed when I got out of the service, and I lost everything to the point that I was living in my brother's loft in his garage. Not a bad life for a year until he convinced me to start college ("Hey, parties, girls, degree, more money!").

One day in Seattle I was eating lunch at a Greek restaurant half way between Tower Video Mercer Street store and Tower Books. While enjoying a Celebrator stout, where each bottle comes with a tiny, plastic white goat on a string, I read that life changing Newsweek article about a new force in Horror named, Clive Barker. I went back to work invigorated. It had fascinated me. So I got one of your Books of Blood and read it. Then another. I was hooked.

Not long after on the day I quit Tower in order to go into IT work at the University of Washington, my employees finally admitted they could tell what my mood would be upon returning from lunch. It depended upon how many little dangling plastic Celebrator goats on a string were hanging on my jacket when I returned.

It wasn't that I wasn't normally good natured, but they said they would know how much they could get away even with more than usual by how many goats there were, 1, 2 or 3. Hey, those goats are cool. I have a few hanging on my key holder downstairs, even now.

My first Barker book signed at that first meeting
Those times have passed, as so much has.

My kids are now grown. I've now been at this job for twenty years as of next April 1, 2016 (yes, I know... April Fool's Day) and I'm still single and living alone on a couple of acres just across Puget Sound from Seattle with my German Shepherd of thirteen years named Buddha Thai. I've started working with Kelly Hughes Productions on their next horror film. My kids are happy and seeking their own artistic pursuits. Now it's my turn. Beyond time for mine, really.

I still have my original collection of your books from back then, all signed by you personally in front of me, as well as later books. "Weaveworld" will always be a favorite for the concept of the rug alone and that first day meeting you. I had even gotten you at one point to sign your Books of Blood for  my girlfriend at the time, later my wife and later still, my ex-wife, albeit mother of my only son.

Well, that's more than enough I'm sure. That is who I am in a nutshell but not the entire story surely. There is so much more and much of that will be coming out in my books and screenplays. So keep an eye out, you'll be hearing of me, one way or another.

I wish you well as always and thanks so very much for the memories and the good times!

All the best to you, Clive.

Cheers!
JZ

#CliveBarker #HorrorBooks #Horror

Sunday, October 11, 2015

An Open Letter to Mr. Clive Barker - Part I

Dear Mr. Clive Barker,

Hello again, Clive! Haven't talked to you directly face to face since the 90s. Haven't written to you or had you write back since the 80s or early 90s. And we haven't communicated at all even on your Twitter account, since a couple of years ago. Cutting to the quick, I'll just ask outright.

Here's my plea....

Please, consider giving me a short (or long?) blurb for my book, Death of Heaven?

I'm happy to send you another copy to the address Phil and Sarah gave me or another address. This would be my third book. Which is fine as my first was my first edition and I'd prefer you saw my revised second edition after I got an editor. Though I got some good reviews without having one. Which this one is:

Cover art by Marvin Hayes
Maybe, perhaps allow me to lay out my argument for why I think it would be completely awesome if you did give me a blurb. Anything? But that will be in my letter to you in Part II that will be posting here the morning of Monday, October 12, 2015.

Cheers!

[No Clive, really, I'm warning you, don't go to Part II. Just let me know what address to send you another copy to. But if you're unsure what that means, well, then go ahead I guess, head over to Part II....you'll find out all you want to know and then some.]

And again Clive, cheers!

Monday, October 5, 2015

On Leaving a Clean Kitchen, America

Being able to cook good food makes you a good cook. Quite obviously.

But cooking, serving and then eating a meal, while leaving the kitchen still a wreck, in still having a kitchen full of all the pots and pans and utensils you used, doesn't just show how you know how to use all that stuff, that is not the badge of honor.

It also shows that you don't know how to manage a kitchen. It may say that you have good (or great) cooking skills. But it also says you have terrible kitchen skills.

A chef in a professional kitchen has a staff who cleans up. Or if they don't, they clean up themselves. Typically after the night is over, or throughout a shift in order to have the clean tools to cook with.

Though more typically they will have a dishwasher to help them keep up. Otherwise, they'd need way too many utensils and dishes to cook with and serve on. Besides they are cooking dish after dish, meal after meal for person or group after group, for hours on end. While cooking at home is one meal at a time.

A cook in a home kitchen who leaves a mess to clean up later, after the meal, simply shows how inexperienced and amateurish they are. After all, cleaning up as you go really isn't that difficult. It just takes practice and some organizing.

Nor is saying "the dishwasher is full" an excuse for leaving a kitchen mess and certainly not leaving a mess overnight to wake up to. Certainly not for someone who was uninvolved in the previous night's revelry.

So keep up as you use utensils, pots, pans, dishes and so on. Then when you finish the meal and it's ready to eat and serve, you will walk out of a kitchen that is truly ready to be ignored until the next meal and you can eat in peace and relaxation.

If there are any dishes left over it should be from the meal itself and not from the cooking of it. But even that should be taken care of and not left overnight.

Surely there are good times here and there that come up wherein it simply detracts from the event to be cleaning when you should be socializing. That is true enough. But how often should that be considered reasonable to happen throughout a year? A few perhaps, to be sure, but not a lot of them and not on a regular or certainly not on a daily basis.

Because in that case, you are just lazy. Admit it, then you're just a slob.

It takes organizing skills to cook a sophisticated meal. It takes true organizing skills to finish cooking a meal and leaving things so that it looks like no one has even touched the kitchen.

That is the sign of a true master. And a thoroughly achievable one at that.

This isn't just about cooking dinner, however. You may have guessed by now this is about so much more.

America has become very good at quick fixes. Fixes that simply don't work but sound really great. At first. Those "fixes" then continue to remain in place even long after it's common knowledge they failed. Which as we've seen, leads to some very angry communities. Some very damaged communities.

We're not the only ones in the world doing this kind of thing.

Many other countries have picked up some of our bad habits. We have been world leaders in so many areas and that has led to some mimicking our good as well as our bad behaviors.

It's far easier to say for instance, "I'm tough on crime." Then to say, "We have to address the reasons for the crime we're seeing."

As in much of western medicine, we choose to fix the symptom rather than the cause.

This leads us to end up doing things like lowering taxes until we can't afford real maintenance of our country and citizens. When really we need to fix the middle class so we don't have to lower taxes in the first place so we can continue to afford to fund and fix things. As we should be doing.

This twisted thinking leads us to fall into believing some very odd things indeed. Things like we must push all the money up to those who least need it in order to fix things that are wrong with our country. Things that got to be needing to be fixed because of wrong thinking to begin with.

This leaves those at that other lower end to have to be "creative" simply in order to exist, many of whom end up in a biased and broken judicial system. While those committing crimes in acquiring more money at the uppe other end of things, in being people who don't need more money just want it, seem to get off completely free when they get caught. If they ever do get caught. If their crimes are even brought out to the light of day. In fact, many times they are rewarded for their illicit behaviors, even if they are ever fired.

There was a time when common wisdom was to choose the hard road because in that way you learn the most and you end up fixing more.

Anymore however that is considered insane by too many. We have gotten lazy, rationalizing we have to produce more and more rather than better and better. After all, when there is an easy way to accomplish something, the easy fix becomes the priority in order for you to move on as quickly and cheaply as possible.

This is not human thought, this is "corporate thought". A disease seemingly invisible to so many people now a days. But it has become insidious and ubiquitous.

It is however fixable. It is all fixable. With effort. Learn to love effort. Learn to love fixing and not masking symptoms. Learn to be aware of results, of the facts, of cause and effect.

Try the longer road. Try the harder road. Try the better road.

Try to fix things. Not just make them unnoticeable.

Clean the kitchen as you go along. It seems like a lot of work a the time but once you get used to it you begin to realize, it really is the better way. And it will also lead to other things in your life increasing in their quality, and decreasing in their perceived effort.

Life can be good. Life can be better. It's all up to... us.