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.


#CliveBarker #HorrorBooks #Horror

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