Monday, March 21, 2016

Mortal Thoughts VBT

The heist is cursed from the start. Doug Mulcahy and his gang hijack a mining plane and a fortune in black opals - gemstones with a rep for being unlucky. Following a brutal shootout on a remote airfield, the hijackers flee in the crippled plane only to crash-land soon after. Shaken and battered, they stagger through the outback until they stumble upon a strange little house and an ethereal woman. Taking the woman hostage, the thieves wait for her husband to return with his truck. But it all goes to hell when a rogue gang member forces himself onto the woman. The house is drenched with blood, the husband returns, and the men realise nothing in this place is as it seems. And the horrors are only just beginning...

The one-room office was a tight fit, shaped into narrow corridors by desks, radio equipment, kitchenette, filing cabinets and an antique photocopier. A wall-mounted fan oscillated back and forth, achieving little more than shifting the hot air around. Occasionally, for no discernible reason, it emitted a loud, ripping fart.

There was a small, lifeless waiting room glimpsed through a partition door, crammed high with sagging cardboard boxes. Neck explained that a delivery was overdue to be collected. Normally the boxes would be left undercover outside, he told Doug, but thieving had worsened lately. Doug readily sympathised.

There was one other notable feature of the office, and since entering Cutter had barely taken his eyes from her: a young, pretty woman sitting at the corner desk laden with paperwork. She wasn’t introduced, and after initially looking over the visitors, went back to working on her computer and fussing over a stray twist of hair, picking at her clothes, brushing her bared skin self-consciously. Whenever she glanced back up at Cutter, he answered her increasingly shy looks with an unwavering smile.

Duckbill scanned Doug’s clipboard while Neck directed the young woman to scroll through old emails, looking for any sign of the order.

The sound of the whirring, farting fan rose sharply for a moment before its pivot began to slow, the dusty blades becoming visible in their cage, slowing to a halt.

“Great,” said Neck. “Open the windows will you, Sonya?”

“They are open.”

“Open them wider.”

It was through the windows they heard it first – the distant droning of an approaching plane.

Duckbill bumped into Doug and Cutter in his rush to get outside.

“No-one’s due this morning,” Neck muttered for everyone’s benefit. “Sonya, get them on the radio. Ask them who they are and their flight plan.”

Doug spied Sonya rolling her eyes as she went to the radio.

The droning dropped to an abridged roar as a low-flying plane buzzed the building. Its shadow flitted past the windows.

“No, let me,” Neck insisted, elbowing Sonya aside.

Duckbill came back, stopping in the doorway. “It’s circling.”

Neck turned from fussing with the radio, his cheeks and Adam’s apple a heated pink. “Get that truck out of the way!”

“Sure,” Doug said congenially, “right after you sign the invoice.”

Neck clicked the radio repeatedly. “It’s not working!” He ducked under the desk. “For god’s sake … don’t tell me it’s not plugged in!”

“Maybe it’s blown a fuse,” Duckbill suggested.

Neck stood again, rubbing his ear furiously having clipped it on the edge of the desk. “Does it look like it’s in trouble?” he asked Duckbill as he reached for a mobile phone lying nearby.

“From what I could see, it’s flying fine,” Duckbill said.

Doug was closer to the mobile. Reaching to pick it up for Neck he bunted it away instead. It slipped down between the wall and desk.

“Whoops. Sorry.”

Neck pushed past Doug and Cutter, heading outside, glancing down at Doug’s nametag. “Just get out of the bloody way… Russell.”

The plane’s engine noise began swelling again. Duckbill skipped aside as Neck passed through the door. Doug looked over at Sonya, shrugged and gestured, “Ladies first,” yet she declined to exit until he and Cutter went ahead. Doug wasn’t offended. It wasn’t about him. It was Cutter. He made anybody nervous.

RUB, RUB THE CALLOUS OF MY SOUL: On Writing & Rejection

Rejection sucks. There’s no simpler way to put it. Whether it’s for a job, a rental application, or a date – nothing sucks, blows or suckblows like the big N-O. But it’s particularly rough for writers. The first three scenarios are bad enough because you’re being assessed as a person but for a writer, in most cases, the person judging your work knows nothing about you – your income, employment history, appearance and personal hygiene. Which let’s face it, for some writers, myself included is not a bad thing (my agent tells me No Pants Day is not a thing for most non-writers but a luxury for those who are.)  But writers are putting something even more personal and fragile out there – a vulnerable little piece of themselves – a fragment of their souls (mine’s kind of dark and twisted so it might just like a little of the pain) and when it’s rejected it can be a soul-destroying thing.  Especially for the first-time submitter. But here’s the good news – it’s a good thing to be rejected – even better to be rejected and criticized. And I’ll tell you why in a minute but first let me tell you a little story – because that’s how it happened with me – with a little story.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a kid – I’ve thought about writing novels since I was a teenager but seeing as it’s taken me two decades to get around to completing my first novel (UNBIDDEN), it’s a good thing I went into screenwriting. But before my first screenplay and waaaaaay before my first novel I dipped my toes in the writing pool the way a lot of beginners do – with a short story.  It was no surprise a horror story. Well “horror story” is pretty light – it was probably the most horrific story I’ve written – shocking, depraved, gory but it was also chilling and visceral and original (I can still see that). So I sent it off to a national magazine that published horror fiction (old school style – printed on a dot-matrix printer and mailed in an A4 envelope) and then nervously waited each day for a letter not only accepting my story for publication but an accompanying mini-novella of gushing praise for my writing skills and a heralding of mine as the new voice in horror fiction the world was waiting for.) 

The letter came – within a week (Why wouldn’t it? They’d have to move quickly to snap up the story before a rival publication did). So I ran up to my bedroom, shut the door to privately savour the moment of triumph, took a deep breath and peeled open the envelope. Within was a short and polite rejection of the story as well as some accompanying feedback. They recognized that I was a writer of “some obvious talent” (Yes! Yes! They were right of course) but that the story itself lacked a central character that elicited any sympathy or empathy or any character arc or narrative logic. These were nonsense words and phrases to me – my central character was a murderous necrophile – why would he be sympathetic? And narrative logic? This was a nightmarish, surreal story meant to defy logic. The fools! Couldn’t they see that? My chest filled with sadness - my solar plexus became a black hole that drew in and devoured my heavy heart and then every vestige of self-confidence cowering in my brain. I fell into a deep sleep and I don’t think that I wanted to wake up. But I did. I felt quiet refreshed. I reread the letter, put it to one side,  went out and made myself a cup of coffee then sat down to write another story. It was better than the rejected one but still to this day remains unpublished. That doesn’t matter.
What does matter is that I had my rejection cherry popped. The first time always hurts the most and leaves you the most confused. Remember the first time someone broke your heart or broke up with you? You thought you’d never survive the humiliation and the hurt but you did. And each time it happens it gets easier to deal with, easier to take – and most of the people you lay down with are going to be gentle and others are going to be rough but none of them are going to shock and sting like that first time. So get stung. Then sleep it off, have a coffee, get up and start writing again.

You get conditioned against rejection and the irks and pain of criticism. You develop a resistance to it – a hardness.

The phrase I like to use is a callous of the soul. Because like I said, it’s a little bit of your soul that you’re putting out there to be slapped, bruised, scalded and kicked. But each time it happens you get tougher and stronger. And every time someone else entering the field can’t take that first shocking hit to the system and bows out, crippled and cowed by their first smackdown, then that’s good for you. Making it in writing – novels or screenwriting or advertising (three tough arenas that I’ve battled in at various times of my life) – is only partially about talent or ability – it’s also about determination and tenacity. It’s about taking the licks then taking your bruised arse to a comfy chair and a forgiving keyboard.

Because twenty years later you might have a supernatural crime novel with Harper-Collins or three or four feature films with your name on it.

Thirty publishers rejected Stephen King’s debut novel CARRIE. Many more rejected his earlier manuscripts. And when he’d become established he resent some of those earlier rejected works to publishers again and this time no-one rejected him.

Because sometimes before you get to be King, you have to be told you’re a knave.

The fools…


TJ Park

March 14: BooksChatter
March 15: Writer Wonderland
March 16: Rogue's Angels
March 17: Writers and Authors
March 18: Two Ends of the Pen
March 21: Sharing Links and Wisdom
March 22: Natural Bri - review only
March 23: Lisa Haselton's Reviews and Interviews
March 24: Long and Short Reviews
March 25: T's Stuff
March 25: The Cerebral Writer

Author Bio and Links:
TJ Park is an Australian novelist and screenwriter. He was raised on a steady diet of Stephen King novels, British science-fiction television, and the cinema of John Carpenter and Sergio Leone. Not much else is known about him. That's just the way he likes it.

Mortal Thoughts is $0.99.
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  1. What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

  2. Enjoyed reading your guest post! Who designed your cover art? Why did you go with that particular image?