A misguided tale of romance

I’ve been a little quiet on the blogging front as of late. But my absence isn’t because I haven’t been writing, rather I’ve been funnelling so much attention onto my other projects that I’ve struggled to find time to develop and post anything of substance onto this page. So, in keeping with the feel of my last entry I thought that I would offer you another little glimpse into the crazy and convoluted world that is my mind’s eye.
I would like to present to you a (very raw) snippet of my first attempt at creating a love story. As you can probably remember, a little while ago I wanted to branch out and try something new and exciting, and even though the characters I have created are far from what I would deem appropriate of a conventional tale of romance, I am still falling in love with them every single time I develop their stories. So here it is, a very brief, very raw, unedited snippet from what is quickly becoming my misguided tale of romance:

She slips back into her leather chair and smiles at me from across the desk, her hand twitches ever so slightly and I catch sight of a vein in her neck pulsating as she resists the urge to reach for the hand sanitiser positioned underneath the off centred computer screen on her desk. I should be concerned, offended even; I certainly don’t look like the leper she’s imagining before her. But rather than outrage I feel a hardening in the front of my pants as my eyes trace the V-neck of her blouse.

I’ve never held much interest in women older than myself; I’ve typically always looked for women closer to my own age. But maybe I’ve got some kind of fucked up fetish with woman in power. I did always think that my high school math teacher was pretty damn sexy.

She must be at least forty five, which would give her twenty one years on me, but dressed in her suit and makeup she has managed to knock ten years off her appearance, making that huge age gap seem just a fraction less heinous. Her lipstick and fingernails are a matching red, which blend in perfectly with the subtle layers of foundation across her cheeks, leaving them blemish free. Her body is slender and lithe; a gym junkie’s frame is clearly visible even under her navy suit and crisp white blouse. But it’s her huge breasts and the off coloured tan of her right hand’s ring finger that garner most of my attention, just as they did last time I met Victoria Whistler.

The boobs are new; courtesy of a top of the line plastic surgeon who appears to have done a fantastic job. Judging from the way they are pressing against the fabric of her blouse I’d say that they have dropped, which means that they were probably done anywhere from six months to a year ago; around about the same time that her husband left her. She looks like a strong woman, or at least she’d like to think that she is; which means that she probably kept wearing her wedding ring for a month or two after he ran off into the sunset to fuck the shit out of a woman half her age. Which is why the off colouring remains; she had worn the ring for so long that even after months of absence the slight discolouration of her skin remains after being shielded from the sun for however many years.

‘Congratulations Mr Miles,’ she says with a smile that pulls me back to the present and makes me realise that I’ve just psychoanalysed the living shit out of the poor woman before she even had a chance to open her perfectly proportioned lips. ‘Today is a very special day for you, as I am sure that you are aware there is a trust fund that was set up in your name before your parents passed away some years ago.’

She knows that I know this; she told me last time we met when she had knocked me back on a ten thousand dollar personal loan because I was a down on my luck student trying to make ends meet. That had been three years ago, and ever since then I’d been stuck in a state of perpetual frustration over an account in my name that I was refused access to until I turned twenty four.

Twenty four; what kind of random fucking age is that anyway. My parents had passed away when I was twelve, at the time I was too young to understand just what mechanical failure meant, but when my grandparents took custody of me and sued the living shit out of the local auto-mechanic I assumed that he must have fucked up pretty bad. I’d never really known my parents all that well, my father was a banker like the alluring Veronica Whistler before me, and my mother had been a struggling writer. Together they had been the shining example that opposites really do attract, and were supposedly happy right up until the day that their sedan’s brakes had failed and they’d plunged off the side of a mountain.

Thankfully I had never turned out like my father; that’s not to say that I’m not good with money. Shit, I spent four years studying at university, I can give a whole new meaning to the term ¬shoe string budget, my arsehole is tighter than a nun’s. But I had never developed my father’s interest in all things finance, instead I had thankfully wandered the same path of life that my mother had, toiling away at manuscript after manuscript in an effort to become a published author. It’s not an easy life, and one that isn’t readily marked out for me to follow, but I think that if I had turned into a male version of Miss Whistler here I probably would have blown my fucking head off years ago….

So there it is; a brief look at my terribly misguided attempt at a love story. It was always going to be more Imperial Bedrooms than The Notebook, but so far I’m happy with the foundations I’ve created for my tale. I’ll be in touch again soon…

A nostalgic look back at a young writer heading north.

It’s been a week or so since my last post, and unfortunately I’m still stuck in the same funk that saw me lose sight of myself and unleash a verbal attack on the publishing industry. My writer’s block is taking over my life, and I’m struggling with a severe case of apathy towards everything and everyone. As I’ve said before, the writing process is sempiternal and I am continuously moving in waves of highs and lows as I strive towards my eventual goal of having a novel published. But today for something different, I’ve decided that rather then fly into another bout of misguided rhetoric, I will take you back in time and present to you the piece of work that saw me win the 2011 Heading North Young Writers Competition.

The piece you are about to read is one that I never imagined would warrant the affirmation of my peers. The idea was conceived whilst standing at a reception counter at my work watching the sun rise at 5:30am through a thin window. I had been in a bad place for a few months and was wallowing in the depths of depression. At just twenty two years of age my body was exhausted from working and studying fulltime and my mind felt as though it were fracturing in two. I spent about half an hour creating the short-story, instead focusing all of my attention on an alternate piece that I submitted to university (and was slammed by my tutor for producing). Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that this story would be first time that I ever saw my work in print… Nevertheless, I present to you Moonlight & Prison Bars…

The sliver of moonlight retracted slowly across the dusty floor of his cell, climbing walls covered in flaking grey paint before disappearing from sight. He had been waiting all night for this moment, watching the silver beam of light cast from the heavens as it filtered through the iron bars fastened across the window. This morning in the yard he had seen clouds on the horizon, felt the subtle south westerly breeze scaling the fence and blowing gently across his skin. He had known then that rain was coming; he could smell it in the air.

He craned his neck and caught sight of the clouds concealing the moon, their once greyed edges illuminated as the moon reflected light from its counterpart half a world away. He heard a soft tapping as the first raindrops splashed against the dried dirt of the yard. A drop landed near the windows and the mixture of dirt and water splashed against his face, startling him. He twisted his body and edged his shoulders through the bars, extending his arms out into the cool night air, pressing his face against the cold iron as the smattering of raindrops became a torrent. His arms were soaked in seconds, cool droplets cascading over his skin, wrapping around his sinewy fingers, muscles, and tendons before free falling to the earth below. His face was sprayed with continuous flecks of water, reminding him of the feel of the ocean spray blasting across his skin as he sat on a surfboard watching lumps of swell roll beneath him.

He closed his eyes and pressed harder against the bars, his cheekbones aching against the pressure. The constant spray against his skin felt magical, and he ran his tongue across his lips remembering the taste that the saltwater used to leave there. He could feel the pitch in the pit of his stomach as his board lurched over the lip of the wave and he rose to his feet, feeling his fins catch as he bottom turned and set his line for the barrel. The lip rose up over his head and he tucked his frame inside the wave and felt time slow. He could hear his heart beating above the sound of the wave smashing down against the shallow sandbank, his eyes constantly roaming the green wall of water ahead of him. The wave began to slow and he emerged from the barrel and sunk the rail of his board into its wall, sending a huge spray skyward before he whipped off the back.

Opening his eyes against the rain he felt his stomach sink. It had been so long since he had felt saltwater against his skin, but he could still remember it so vividly. Like it was yesterday. His mind raced away from him again, and he felt the warmth of his own tears grace his cheeks between the never ending torrent of raindrops. He had never been much of a drinker. Alcohol had never really held any prestige in his life.

Thinking back now he wasn’t sure why he had decided to drink and drive that night. He didn’t think. It was as simple as that. The image of the young woman bouncing off the bonnet of his truck as he mounted the curb played through his head almost as vividly as his memories of the ocean. He had pulled over and tried to help her, he had done everything that he could. But she had broken her back and had haemorrhaging on the brain. He looked at his hands again, soaked with rain, watching as the individual droplets lost their translucency and transformed into a scarlet red before falling to the earth. He pulled his face away from the bars and watched his bloodstained hands with horror, just like he had after an innocent bystander had died in his arms.

Moving away from the bars he sat down on the edge of his lumpy mattress, listening to the unending torrent of rain as he stared down at the dusty concrete where the slivers of moonlight had shined in the not too distant past. He belonged here. He knew that. And it was selfish of him to miss the ocean. It was selfish of him to feel as though he was the victim. He was a monster, and an idiot. His decisions had killed an innocent woman who had been waiting for the bus. His only solace was that she had been alone. He couldn’t remember how many times he had driven past that particular stop when it was standing room only.

He sat for hours, his eyes never once leaving the floor, his ears twitching in response to each raindrop as it fell against the earth outside. He watched and listened as morning arrived and the rain eased. He waited until the thin slivers of sunlight filtered between the bars, glistening off a pool of tears drying on the concrete before he lay down on the lumpy mattress and rested his eyes. Licking his lips as he drifted off to sleep he tasted not of the ocean, but the gritty taste of justice. He belonged here for what he had done. He had told the judge that himself. He had taken a life and this is what he deserved. Even so, as he drifted off the sleep in the morning light he imagined himself running down a grassy headland, leaping into the ice cold water and paddling towards the point.

So there you have it. An entry into a competition that saw me taste success before my writing journey careened off course and ground to a halt in a cacophony of personal shit. Now two years later I look back on what I created with a sense of nostalgia. In the past two years my writing has improved tenfold, so much so that I found it difficult presenting the piece as it was back then. Each time I put pen to paper my skills develop and I grow ever more confident in what I produce. Moonlight & Prison Bars was my first published work, but with a little bit of luck it won’t be my last.

King of the cinderblock

Sometimes no matter how hard you try and fight it, you just can’t seem to overcome that voice inside your head that wants you to tear down everything you’ve worked so hard to create and set it all ablaze. Relapses, anger and anxiety are common place for someone who has suffered the limitless lows of depression, and lately I’ve felt that all too familiar feeling of the devil crawling up my back to whisper sweet nothings in my ear. Usually when you slip into a mindset like this you can grab the devil by the throat and throw him to the floor, but lately those little whispers have been resonating in a manner that they haven’t done for quite some time. Lately I’ve actually been considering setting everything ablaze for no other reason than to watch myself burn.

I’m not a hundred per cent sure how I got here again. When I wrote my last post I was in a good place; my writing was evolving and I felt like I was actually achieving something with everything that I was doing. But now I feel like the only thing that can quash my current mindset would be the familiar smell of smoke as I destroy everything that I have become as a writer. Maybe it’s just the perpetually slow industry I am trying to enter that’s making me feel like this, or maybe it’s just creative frustration at starting over once more. But what if it’s not? What if it’s me? I could just be overtired; the fact that I’m not sleeping again means that this could be a real possibility. Or maybe I’m histrionic, or a masochist; perhaps I am here again because I actually love to see myself fail. Whatever the reason, I’m stuck in a fucking rut and am struggling to clear my head of the negative bullshit that’s overwhelming my senses.

I’ve come a long way in the past twelve months, when I originally started this blog I was in a terrible state. I’d shed kilos, lost hours of sleep and decided that I pretty much hated the world and every single person in it. Now I can usually find solace and beauty in my surroundings, and can even more often than not see the good in people. But now it’s almost as though I have created this bubble of positivity around myself that prevents me from ever fully articulating my angst and frustrations. There are times in my life where I just want to scream from the rooftops, or call someone a cunt, but I can’t bring myself to do it for fear of shattering my own perception that I am no longer a negative person. – Take this post for example. I’m pissed off, I’m frustrated as hell, and I just want to burn every fucking thing I’ve ever written; yet rather than actually do that I resort to trying to create a logical argument and reason with myself as to why I am angry.

So why not just let go Chris? Why not open the flood gates and give in to the devil’s charm? Why not be that abrasive voice that tells someone just how fucking worthless they really are?… The answer isn’t always simple, but the truth is that it’s often just not worth it. Sometimes it’s better to let the lowest common denominator believe that they are something more and that you actually give a fuck about them than shatter their minds by telling them just what the devil is whispering in your ear.
I think the troubling thing in all of this is that as a student and an emerging writer, I am often considered to be the lowest common denominator by all the self-indulgent fuckwits within the writing and publishing industries. I received an email recently were a local poetry society were offering one lucky student the opportunity to work with them as an intern. It’s something that any young writer would jump at; the opportunity to work alongside those who have managed to break into the industry and build some wonderful contacts is tantalizing to any student sitting at the bottom of the industry’s proverbial slush pile. The only thing was the internship on offer was nothing more than cheap exploitation on behalf of some self-important cock that couldn’t be fucked giving anyone a real opportunity.

The internship was to be conducted by the successful candidate in their own time, at their own house, meaning they would never actually mingle with anyone other than their keyboard over the course of four months. The intern would be required to manage the poetry society’s Facebook/twitter accounts, write fortnightly newsletters, update blogs, and so on. After all their hard work over the four months this very (un)lucky intern would receive a beautiful letter of reference from the societies director that would see them considered favourably for any future internships… I mean honestly, what kind of fucked up logic is that? Is the industry that I so desperately want to enter so shallow that organizations will blatantly capitalize on someone’s desire to succeed and treat them like a leper? Because if it is then I will happily set fire to everything I have created and let it all burn to hell.

I’m an idealist and a realist all rolled into one. When I write I’m not trying to change the world; I’m just trying to have some fun and overcome my own demons. But I’m also not out to cut someone off at the knees and manipulate their dreams for my own personal gain. That’s not to say that the ability to do so isn’t in me. Once upon a time I would have been more than eager to screw someone over in the pursuit of glory, but thankfully I’ve grown a little since then. But sadly my chosen field seems to run riot with arrogant pricks that would are still willing to do so. My rut that I’m stuck in isn’t due entirely too pretentious dickheads like this, I’ve got more issues than a fucking psychiatric patient, but it can sometimes be hard to remain upbeat when you’ve constantly got those who have succeeded pissing down on you as though you are one of the great unwashed. Nothing stings more than the arrogant smirks and remarks of those deluded men and women who have forgotten where they came from and chose to look down their nose at the rest of us still trying desperately to make it.

Right now I’m angry, I’m irritable and I’m beyond fucking tired. My days follow the same basic design. I wake early to write, I work, and I come home and study while trying to keep my eyelids open. By the time the weekend rolls around I’m usually exhausted and struggle just to roll out of bed. Yet I do all of this in the hopes that I can break into the publishing industry and achieve something incredible. But if breaking into this industry means parading myself around like a king and treating those below me like a piece of shit than I’m not interested. I’d rather burn everything I have created to hell and be king of my own cinderblock than be just another pretentious cunt who can’t write to save himself yet looks down on others like they are the scum of the earth.

Trials & Tribulations.

It’s no secret that one of the reasons I write is because indulging my creative side helps to quell the darker impulses of my heart. To me there is something cathartic in escaping from reality and allowing my creativity to flourish and spill onto a blank page. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I’ve lived through the worst that life has to offer, but through my trials and tribulations I’ve battled old man depression a few times now and so far I’ve managed to upstage the bastard every time. Recently I’ve been feverishly writing the opening chapters of my follow up novel to Midas and have rediscovered the elation of creating something new and exciting.

It must sound odd to read this; my last post spoke about a case of writer’s block and my frustrations at the industry I am so desperately trying to break into. But when you have been through depression and stared your demons in the eye you learn that life is sempiternal. That is to say that life is a relentless and everlasting wave of emotion. We move through our existence flawed by our highs, and polarised by our lows and if we are astute enough to accept and savour the two extremes we can learn some truly incredible truths about ourselves along the way.

I love to create flawed characters. And I love to take those characters and set their world ablaze, or destroy their faith in humanity, in a bid to leave them completely and utterly hopeless. I don’t do this because I’m a sadist; however that would probably be a lot easier to explain… I do this because when I need to escape from reality there is nothing more incredible than seeing someone pushed so far beyond their limits, only for them to triumph in the face of overwhelming adversity.
That’s not to say that my characters always triumph. Sadly life doesn’t always work that way. I’ve murdered some of my favourite creations in the name of realism. Wrists have been slit, windpipes severed, and bodies beaten beyond all reason. But even in these tales of woe I strive to weave just a subtle thread of hope for the reader to hold onto. With just the tiniest thread of hope a man (or woman) can walk through the depths of hell or move an entire mountain of shit.

Midas is a novel that is very dear to my heart, and always will be. But now that the incredible thrill of writing and editing the piece has subsided, I am enthralled with the limitless possibilities and plotlines rolling through my head as I dive headfirst into its follow up. Each morning when I rise at the crack of dawn my fingertips dance effortlessly across my keyboard and my characters continue to grow to a point where they are now more flesh than fiction in my mind’s eye. My characters and my stories are once again becoming a part of me as the joy of venturing into the unknown alongside my creations becomes my reality once more.

I’m learning that just as my personal life is sempiternal in its everlasting series of elations and battles with that fucker called depression, so too is my life as a writer. I move through calm seas and troubled waters as I navigate the murky depths of my mind in order to push the boundaries of my own creativity. I’ve learned over the course of my writing lifespan that I need to remain astute and open minded to every piece of literature I read, every university lecture or book launch I attend, and every other writer I stumble across on my journey. But most of all I’ve learned to open my mind and truly embrace myself so that I can continue to grow and develop each and every single time I write. When you are writing to fight off your inner demons you must first learn to accept and acknowledge their existence so that you can better understand just what you are facing up to on a daily basis.

My passion for writing is growing again, and even though my style is ever evolving and my tales growing increasingly complex, the catalysts and compulsions behind what I do remain constant. I write to keep the demons in my head at bay and to express myself as an individual in a world that often overlooks those who try to establish themselves as such. Right now I’m riding a wave of euphoria that sees me putting pen to page every chance I get. And even though this euphoria will pass and I’ll be struck with writer’s block time and time again, I’ll always find solace in the fact that without those lows, I’d never be able to experience all the wonderful highs that my life as a writer has bought me.

Hands on the table where I can see them…

There’s nothing quite like waking yourself up at the crack of dawn to write, only to find that your brain has decided to take the day off and left you struggling with a severe case of writer’s block. The empty page stares up at you from the computer screen, almost mocking you as you fail to fill it with anything of substance.

-That’s me today. I’m honestly struggling. For some reason unbeknownst to me, my head has decided that it just doesn’t want to write. So what do I do? Well my initial thought was to take the morning off and go back to bed, but then I thought, fuck it. I’ll just push a little harder and see what I come up with. Sometimes all you need to break out of a rut is to change tact and try and hit your problems from a new angle. So with that said, it’s time for one of those awkward put your hands on the table where I can see them while I press my linguistic gun to your head and spit my own misguided rhetoric at you moments…

Creativity is dead. Actually, let me retract that and try again. Creativity is a bloated aging whore that has been beaten and battered to the point of total exhaustion. She lies in a state of semi-consciousness on a threadbare mattress in a shit-fight of a room awaiting a knight in shining armour to come and cease her terrible suffering. As she lies with her ear propped against the wall, she can hear into the next room. Sounds of debauchery fill her ears as her younger counterpart uniformity is bent over and fucked by every so called artist vying to make it big.

Sounds vulgar doesn’t it? Well it should. For this is the state of our creative industries nowadays. Once upon a time artists were revered for their talents; they were praised for their abilities to weave intricate tales of romance and affection, ruin and woe. But now, in our ever¬-evolving society we have shifted our focus away from devouring and worshiping originality and focused instead on producing easily palatable artworks that fall in line with our preconceived idea that everything must have an expiry date of five minutes. We focus more intently on the misguided antics of the artist than what they are actually producing – and we do this because what they produce is more often than not mind-numbingly shit.

It really is a sad state of affairs, especially for someone like me, who is looking at breaking into the elusive world of publishing. A writer/artist used to strive to create a truly unique tale in order to secure a book deal or the likes, yet now it seems as though the key to finding success is to duplicate the works of your predecessors as closely as possible without being labelled a fraud. A long time ago a man by the name of Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch proposed the idea that there were only seven basic conflicts in literature. Quiller-Couch proposed that from these seven conflicts a talented writer would be able to construct an endless myriad of unique ideas and produce a story worthy of acclaim. The wordsmith’s conflicts were as follows:

1. Man against man.
2. Man against nature.
3. Man against himself.
4. Man against God.
5. Man against society.
6. Man caught in the middle.
7. Man and woman.

Yet somewhere along the way, literature and society lost its way and lost sight of the meaning behind Quiller-Couch’s list. The list was originally intended as a foundation upon which a writer can build, however more and more increasingly it seems as though writers are quite literally limiting themselves to the brief bullet points on this list. Imagination and creativity are no longer valuable commodities in our society.

We used to worship the new and unexpected. We used to praise an artist who was willing to push the boundaries of their craft in an effort to develop something truly unique. Now however, we seem content to consume second rate shit and scorn the notion of a truly beautiful, truly unique piece of work. Something needs to change. Writers need to stop patronising their readers and actually dig deep and create something worthwhile rather than continuing to spew forth the dribble filling bookstore shelves. And readers in turn need to stop being so willing to digest the bullshit flooding best seller’s lists and instead venture deeper into the world of literature and start sifting out those wondrous novels sitting dormant on shelves just waiting to be discovered.

And there we have it. Rant over, my negativity has been voiced and you are free to take your hands off the table. Stand up, stretch out your legs, and try just for one moment to take what I have said into account before you eventually come to the realisation that I’m nothing more than a narcissist suffering from delusions of grandeur. Try to read something new and exciting rather than reaching for the tried, true and downright fucking boring. I’ll be in touch again soon…

Resurrecting the Renegade

Today I’ve been hit by a crippling bout of nostalgia. I’m coming down with a curious temptation to return to a manuscript long left dormant and try and salvage what was very nearly my first published work. A few years ago I wrote a novel titled Renegade, a tale of murder and mayhem that almost drove me insane. The story was told from the duel perspectives of a killer and the police officer leading the hunt to find him, and was one of the most enjoyable pieces of work I have ever completed. Or at least it was, the first time I wrote it.

I was only about nineteen years old when I completed the first draft of Renegade, and with my youth came a state of naivety. I assumed that the first draft of my manuscript would be strong enough to navigate the proverbial slush pile of scripts saturating the desks of publishers and agents throughout the industry. But after a few knockbacks I took to rewriting the story and editing the absolute shit out of it. From there I started to see some improvements, and I started to progress ever so slowly through the initial stages of securing an agent for my work.

But with these minor successes came the need to edit again and again. The agency that I was in contact with asked for another rewrite on the manuscript and I begrudgingly obliged time and time again, until I found myself crying in the wardrobe one night and decided that enough was enough. Renegade was complete; I had edited the fucking thing to the point where I couldn’t bear to look at it anymore. Thankfully my agency agreed that the editing side of things was complete. They were finally happy to take on the manuscript and present it to the world. Shortly after I received a contract from a publishing company and thought that I had finally made it as an author… Unfortunately the deal fell through and I was left right back where I started, without a publisher or an agent to represent my work.

From there I started approaching publishers direct, and nearly found a home for Renegade with an Australian publishing house, before failing to progress through the final stages of the selection process. My work was praised for its construction, but much to my dismay the publishing house suggested that I make a few edits; that I rewrite sections of the script to improve its overall marketability. And in my infinite stupidity I decided against following their suggestions and chose to simply abandon the script altogether.

It wasn’t until a few years later during a university lecture that I learned a very valuable lesson; publishers don’t often give out feedback on a script. And if they do, it means that they believe in the work and you should just make the fucking changes to please them. After all, they are the ones who are potentially financing your dreams.

So now years later, as I sit on my hands and await some feedback on the Midas script that is still half a world away, I have to contend with a case of nostalgia for the novel that never was. While I would love to devote the time and effort required to resurrect Renegade and see it put into print, I feel that right now I’m not in the right headspace to reopen Pandora’s Box just yet. Instead I’ll keep toiling away on the follow up to Midas and the love story that I have been trying to develop. I’ll eventually return to Renegade one day, and when I do I know that I will be able to turn what I have into something fantastic. But sadly, today is just not that day.

On a side note, I am involved in the 2013 Best Australian Blogs competition. If you would like to vote for me in the people’s choice awards, just click on the big button below. As always, I promise to be in touch very soon.

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