Posts Tagged ‘thriller novel’

See, here’s the thing, the thing that really means this is happening. I just uploaded my book to the formatter who will then, you know, format the story and then, it’s ready to go. Ready to go. Ready. To. Go.

Up until around right now, it’s all been rather abstract. Yes, I started and finished writing a story, although I still hesitate calling myself a writer because, well, I don’t know why. The polite small talk, the “Ah, I’ve always wanted to be a writer,” and “Oh, I have such a great story idea,” all of that stuff, it really didn’t impact me much. Kinda felt like I was pretending, especially when I have had trouble accurately describing the story to people. And finishing things isn’t exactly my strong suit, so there is that.

But now, now dammit, it’s real. It’s real because I started and finished it. It’s real because it’s finally out of my hands and in the system and after that, it will be available for people, strangers even, to buy and read. It’s real because eight years after he said it, my father’s suggestion (that I try writing for a living) is actually happening and damn, I wish I’d gotten there sooner so he could have seen it.  So, in a large sense, it’s over. All the planning and plotting, the scheming and scribbling, the whining and the yelling, is over. Over.

And now people I know and people I don’t know will be able to read it and judge me and my story and the way I chose to tell it. If that’s not reasonable grounds for a proper freakout, then I don’t know the meaning of the word.

Buddy and Wanda Jean were on the road before dawn, tires kicking up a rooster tail of gravel that bounced off the side of the trailer, not that the occupants noticed, or were in any state to notice. No, Buddy had said, that boat done sailed, and there ain’t no coming back from where they’d sent them.

Wanda Jean smiled quietly in the pre-dawn light; the uninitiated observer might suggest her smile was one of sleepy serenity, and they would be about as wrong as tits on a turtle, as Buddy was fond of saying. No, Wanda Jean’s smile was one of deep satisfaction,  primal in its nature, as old and malignant as the comet that wiped them big old lizards off the face of the earth all those years ago.

Back in the trailer, in the pale light of the rising dawn, nothing stirred. Not yet, anyway – there would be maggots and flies soon enough, and eventually something bigger would force its way through the window screen and that’s when the party would really begin. The only sound from within the aluminum hovel were the sounds of rusty water dripping in the sink, and dark blood, dripping from the mouths and noses of Harley and Monster, as their bodies lay slumped against the cheap wood-paneled walls and the reeking, shag-carpeted floor. Dean was there too, but not nearly as…drippy as the others.

Several weeks before, the men had taken an interest in Wanda Jean, and once that happened, there wasn’t anything anyone could do but let them take what they claimed as theirs and hope there was something left afterward. Dean was the local sheriff, Harley his idiot brother, and Monster…well, Monster had drifted into town on an ill wind, and no one had the balls to send him back. When the boys get together and decided they wanted something, or someone, that’s all there was to it, and the devil help anyone who got in their way, because no god would have any part of it.

So they’d set their eyes on Wanda Jean; the defiant wiggle in her walk spoke of a rebellious nature, one that the boys wanted badly to break.

“That part of her right there,” Dean had been heard to say, “She holds her head up like she’s better’n the rest of us. I wanna break her heart and make her hate beautiful things. I wanna make her filthy with shame and disgusted at her reflection in the mirror. I aim to make her hurt.”

Harley and Monster agreed, and that led to Wanda Jean in the trailer last night. She’d shown up on time; their threats were enough to keep her from running, and besides, she had nowhere to run to. In her purse were the rocks, the crystal, they’d told her to bring. The boys liked to party, and they liked to party hard.

Wanda Jean was lucky; the boys were hard up to party, so they hit the meth first, before getting started on her. Wanda Jean knew they liked to snort the stuff, and so did her boyfriend, Buddy. Buddy knew that he couldn’t beat any of the men in a fair fight, knew they’d only treat his lady worse if he tried, so instead he had Dwayne cook up a special batch of rock for the boys.

Dean grabbed the bag from Wanda Jean, emptied it out on the coffee table, and began chopping it up with his long distance phone card while Harley leered at the girl, delighting in the fear visible on her face.

“God damn, this looks good!” Dean shouted as he set up three wide lines of powder. Each of the men bent over the table, hungrily snorting up the tweak like hogs at a trough. Dean waited a moment, enjoying the sight of his buddies enjoying the spread, and the anticipation of what was to come.

“Shit burns!” Harley said, braying laughter that sounded thunderous in the small single-wide.

Monster sat down heavily on the floor, his eyes wide. “Um…guys…” he stammered.

Dean looked at his friend on the floor; Monster’s breathing was deep, labored, as he sniffed, taking the dust deeper into his body. A thin trickle of blood ran from his nose.

Harley clapped his hands in joy as Monster leaned forward, blood now pouring from the larger man’s nose and mouth. On his hands and knees, Monster’s body convulsed and he vomited, a raging torrent of blackened blood and bile, while Harley kept clapping, clapping.

Then Harley’s laughter and applause abruptly ceased, as he found himself bleeding as well, his eyes suddenly widening in panic as he felt the same thing starting to happen with himself. Harley moaned, feeling as though someone were inside his gut, trying to punch and stab their way out. His lungs felt like they were filled with fire, each breath more painful than the last. Harley suddenly pitched forward, hands on the coffee table, as his stomach lurched violently, as if it were trying to escape through his throat. Harley suddenly erupted, disgorging a torrent of bile, blood, and tissue; upon seeing the result of sickness, Harley understood that his body was truly tearing itself to pieces and forcing him to puke it out. His stomach lurched again, and his bowels exploded as his final humiliation got underway. The foulness that came from his was unimaginable; the hot, sticky mess that used to be Harley’s colon slithered out of him, followed by a fusillade of feces and blood. As his body’s catastrophic failure wound toward its conclusion, Harley’s last coherent thought was of the girl, and wondering why she would be laughing.

And Wanda Jean was indeed laughing, despite the sickening horror being played out in front of her. Dean, who had snorted the meth last, was just beginning his short, painful trip to the next life, and had already pissed himself out of fear over what he had witnessed with Harley and Monster, who was now in a fetal position on the floor, ragged pieces of tissue hanging from his gaping mouth as his body continued ripping itself to shreds. His eyes wide with disbelief, he looked at the laughing girl.

“But…why?” he asked, his eyes filled with the naïve innocence of the very young and the very evil.

“Because, you stump-broke, hillbilly piece of shit, watchin’ you die is fuckin’ fun,” Wanda Jean laughed. “Looks like it fuckin’ hurts, too. Damn, you see that ol’ boy? He puked up his goddamn stomach!”

Dean’s eyes twitched over to Harley, his brother, as the younger man gasped in desperation, eyes wide, as his body instinctively attempted to breathe, not realizing that it was far past the point of needing air anymore. Dean began to cough, a pink spray coating his hand as Buddy’s lethal dose got to work.

“Oh, you’re in it now, Dean!” Wanda Jean said, clapping her hands joyfully. “You fellas ain’t gonna be beatin’ and a-rapin’ no one no more. Now, I’m gonna sit right here and watch you go through what them other boys went through, and then I’m gonna walking this fine young ass of mine right out of here and you know what? I’m gonna get away with killing all three of you sons of bitches. Now, what do y’all think of that?”

Dean was already incapable of responding; Wanda Jean knew this, but she’d rehearsed the speech and wanted to get it all out. She figured she’d earned the right, knowing what the boys had been planning to do to her. She sat on the edge of the couch and watched as Dean’s body went through the now-familiar motions, taking great delight in the agony of the man.

When it was over, Wanda Jean stood and tiptoed through the stinking mess left by the three men, her foot squishing wetly on the sodden carpet. She stopped next to Dean and bent over, hungrily licking away the red and black mess that had spattered his chin. She plucked a piece of gore from his collar and popped it into her mouth, purring contentedly.

Unable to control her desire, Wanda Jean fell onto the dead man, her teeth bared, and ripped into the still-warm flesh of his throat, noisily sucking up the wreckage with a hunger nameless and ancient. When all that remained was a desiccated husk, she belched contentedly and rose to her feet, wiping a ribbon of blood from her chin.

Sanguis tuus cœnam meam. Historia incipit iam,” she whispered quietly.

Wanda Jean paused a moment longer, deeply inhaling the stench of death, delighting in its delicate complexity, as she made her way to the door, which she kicked open. The trailer was set back away from the others, not that anyone would have reported what they’d heard. Everyone knew what went on in Harley’s trailer, and all were accustomed to turning the other way when the screaming started, finding any number of other things to do that would keep them from harm’s way.

Wanda Jean hopped into the passenger seat of Buddy’s Camaro, and flashed a smile at her waiting boyfriend.

“Come on darlin’, let’s get outta here,” she said happily.

“Did them ol’ boys like what I had made for ‘em?” Buddy asked.

“I can’t rightly say, honey bunny, they was rather speechless about it all.”

With a laugh, Buddy stomped the accelerator, kicking up a rooster tail of gravel at the dilapidated trailer as they sped off into the breaking light of a new day, just two kids out for adventure, and not a care in the world.

Halloween has come and gone, and this past weekend we set the clocks back. Now we’re in the dark half of year; short days and long nights. The Celts felt that this is when the veil between the living and the dead is at its most transparent, when the spirits find it easiest to come into our world, when we should pay respects to the ancestors and those among us who have passed. They had a whole celebration about it, one that I find fascinating good. I’ve lost three people this year; a neighbor, a co-worker, and the father of an old friend, who I’d known for about thirty-five years. Good people all, and I miss them. I hope that they are well and happy in whatever follows the life that we know.

Because I find that I am not nearly as certain as I have been about all this, which is interesting. In the last decade, I’ve been in a fairly solid place of non-belief or disbelief in things spiritual, read the appropriate books, weighed the appropriate evidence, and felt that I’d come to a reasonable conclusion. Of course, that’s the wonderful thing about making up one’s mind: things change. If one keeps their mind open, change needn’t be scary or confusing; rather, I’ve always welcomed that which causes me to reevaluate my thoughts and opinions, testing the strength of my resolve and challenging that which I hold as truth. Not fact, because fact is absolute. Truth, however, is subjective and capable of changing.

We (and by we, I mean Epic Steph and I) have had some experiences in the past year that have us thinking differently on the nature of life and the after-life. I’m not in a position to comment further, but suffice it to say that enough has happened, has been documented, to give us considerable reason to think. At first, I gave the experiences little real thought; they didn’t easily fit into my view of things, and I found it easier to deny or debunk, because that required less work, less thought. So it goes.

Anyway, awakening this morning to a sky darkened with heavy clouds, I found myself in a state of introspection and realized it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything to the site. On the book front, there’s not much news: the manuscript is still under review with the publisher, and it’ll be a few months yet before I expect to hear from them. I have ideas for new stories, but none of them felt compelled to come out to play today. Being that it’s now November, the next few weeks will be spent doing various small home improvement projects in advance of the holidays. Aside from a couple of film pieces, I’m not anticipating much writing getting done before the year turns.

Writing, to me, is heavily introspective, and that doesn’t always fit well with the whole “Think of others” vibe that the winter holiday season is supposed to be all about. So, while there will be occasional posts and probably a rant or two about hammers and appliances and stuff, I doubt any new novels will find their genesis for the next two months.

Talk about a week of ups and downs. After feeling completely sandbagged by a certain rejection (for no good reason, aside from hubris), I managed to claw out from the abyss and get my head straight. That same morning, I received another rejection, which of course was the universe performing an irony check. But…shit, man, I just rolled with it, because the alternative was to get all bummed out again that did me no good at all. So I rolled with it.

And later that day, I got a message from an independent publisher. They had reviewed the sample I sent them, and have requested my full manuscript. Which I just sent.

Needless to say, there’s a bit of excitement afoot. I realize that this is just the first step in a process that will ultimately take many months, if they decide to proceed with the story. But no matter how you slice it, this is a positive response, the first, and that’s kind of a big deal. Updates will follow!

rejection-300x200“Good horror fiction deals with taboos. It must always go to the limits of what is acceptable. To that extent, paradoxically, you should be prepared to be rejected as an artist, because you’re dealing with areas that people don’t often admit to, and at the same time you have to be aware that you have to use your skills as an artist in order to wrench from material which is graphic, or brutal, or stomach-churning, subtext and resonance which is subtle and – I hope – optimistic.” 

So says Clive Barker, whose words showed up on my Facebook feed yesterday. The timing could not have been better, and as I let the words sink in, I began to see the absolute truth in what he had to say. Barker has created entire worlds of weirdness, and a style of horror that, to me, harkens back to Lovecraft. Yes, they’re different; Lovecraft would expend energy into vague descriptions of the indescribable, while Barker never shies away from the glistening awfulness of his creations. Anyway, all that to say that Mr Barker must have had his fair share of rejection letters.

Thus far, I’ve had four. Two were likely professional copy/paste, one was arrogant, and one was just awesome. The good one was from an agent in London, who remarked, “I thought this was really promising, but I do think you’d be better off with a US agent in the first instance – I’m sure someone will snap you up.”

How bloody wonderful was that? How much more time did it take to draft a rejection steeped in human decency?

I’m not whining. I knew that when I decided to take this approach that there would be rejections, and that what matters isn’t how many have said no, but rather it’s the one who says yes. My story is nowhere near what Barker puts out; mine is a fairly simple, straightforward story, rooted right here in the US, and its varied elements make it a uniquely American story. I do believe that I have wrenched a series of brutal truths from our collective human experience, with a lingering subtext and yes, there is an underlying optimism that will hopefully resonate with the reader. A trusted colleague has read the manuscript, and had this to say:

“The amalgamation of Southern Gothic and stark contemporary horror was fascinating and beautiful. Pathos and sympathy are tools with which you masterfully change alliances and favours; with the aggressors becoming victims, and victims becoming aggressors. 

It’s a fabulous three act novel, with a flow and structure so flawless, that it serves to highlight the vast quantities of time, thought and effort which have gone into it. It’s brutal, it’s moving and it’s superbly imaginative. Each character is as vital to the plot as the next, all of them incredibly well thought out, believable and varied.”
So, there’s that. I reflect on the above comments daily; they give me hope, and remind me that the harder road can also be the most rewarding. Were it not for the unwavering support and enthusiasm of friends and family, this endeavor would be unbelievably difficult, if not well nigh impossible.
Here’s to another day spent in pursuit of representation, and that most elusive of the holiest of grails, a paycheck.

 

midvaleIt’s been a few weeks since the first round of submissions to agents. I’ve received two rejections but other than that, nothing. Nada. Every agency and publisher I wrote to stated very clearly that it will take at least four to six weeks for a response.

I am aware of this.

And yet, I’m stuck in limbo and it sucks. Because of a number of things in the last month or so, I’m feeling stuck in a rut of non-creativity, and while there are things that need doing, I can’t seem to do them. I have a new review to post for Zombie Hamster, but thus far lack the skills to successfully upload it myself. I have a film to watch and review, but can’t seem to find a way to watch Region 2 dvds on my computer. Everyone says it’s easy, but it’s just not happening.

Treading water is not good, and the frustration is mounting. I can’t focus on new stories, I desperately want an agent to simply take a chance with me, and get this thing on track.

I’ve never been good with patience.

On a more personal note, I lost a friend and co-worker this week. We’ve all been dealing with the shock and sorrow of it, and I think the cracks are beginning to show. I’m definitely feeling rushed, because this big life thing happened, and it reminds me that this time we have is short, which fuels the fire to get my book out there, and adds to the frustration over the process that I know, I know, takes time. My friend, the one who passed on, commented in this blog that she couldn’t wait to read my story, and now she’s gone. 

It’s not about my story. It’s about the clock ticking for all of us, and the need to realize this dream before it’s too late, to make the most of whatever time is allotted, to not waste any more time. 

Dammit.

bigstock_story_2226743Okay, I finally have a bit of news to share on the book front. My novel, Revival, is at the final draft stage. It is at this point that I would upload it to the e-book aggregator and let them have at it. Except I’ve decided against going that route. Let me explain. No, there’s not enough time.

Let me sum up.

I gave the manuscript to a trusted colleague for review, and the feedback I received far surpassed any expectations I held, so much so that I am now going to take the admittedly more difficult track, which is to find a literary agent who will shop the manuscript around to various publishers. Yes, this way takes patience and perseverance, two things which, historically, I have in short supply. I am, however, held aloft on a cloud of positivity which, again, is a rather precious commodity for me. but this is how we grow, or so I’m told.

Seriously, his review of my work is something I want to frame and hang on my wall, it’s that amazing and if all goes well, he’ll get cover blurbs if I have anything to do with it. After reading it, I just sat there for a while in a daze, amazed at how well things are going of late. I guess I spent enough time waiting for something to happen and am finally ready to actually take charge of this life.

However, getting the story published the traditional way will allow me an inroad to organizations that electronic self-publishing will not, and will give me that most desired thing, treasured by all writers: legitimacy. There is nothing wrong with e-publishing; many have done it, and some have done well. To my mind, at this point in my life, I want to be able to walk into a bookstore and see Revival on a shelf, to pick it up and pretend to be engrossed in it, to tell some innocent shopper that they might want to check it out and walk away giggling. Because I’m that mature.

So yes, there will likely be rejection letters, because that’s how things work. If I am to try to make a life of writing, however, I have to do it this way, if only to say that I tried.

So…Revival will not be available this summer for Kindle, Nook, iBooks or any other platform. It’s written and done, and now comes the hard part: shifting out of creative mode and into marketing mode. Wish me well, it’s going to be tough. But if it pays off, it will be awesome.

This is the part where things begin to get exciting, and I must apologize for the lag between posts. The manuscript is complete, and now I step away from the novel completely for a couple of weeks, and then return to it to see if I’m still happy with it. And I think I will be; I got to say all the things I wanted to say, and in such a way that is appropriate for the characters and the setting. The research has paid off and by mid-July, Revival should be out and available for purchase.

Until then, it’s a crash course in self-marketing, an endeavor in which I have absolutely no experience. Hence, the Facebook link thingy to the left of this post. By the way, does anyone know how to add a Facebook ‘Share’ button to a WordPress site? I’m reading everything I can find about how to sell a book, and would gladly accept any info/advice that anyone would care to offer. Seriously. I need help here, so tell your friends, your family, the person next to you in line at the grocery store. I’m not proud.

Here’s the premise, seeing as how I haven’t yet mentioned it here. Revival is the story of a traveling tent show revival preacher in the American South, in the 1940s, his use of scripture as justification to do very bad things, and the former carnival worker who may be his undoing. While religion plays a part in the story, this is not, however,  a religious book; you will not find it next to the Left Behind series. It resides firmly in the horror/dark thriller genre, and it is my hope that it provides a few dark thrills.

So that’s it for now. Stay tuned, there’s more to come!