White Toast

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NO THROUGH ROAD: new book

Publish Date: March 14th, 2018

Wendi Radin wants to know how her famous husband died and she believes that a newspaper columnist can find the truth. William Fox has a past marked by one shining moment – he’s the one who found those kids when no one else could. His fame cannot protect him from falling in love with the alluring widow. The sex is amazing, but in the cold light of day, his doubts begin to haunt him. He has a decision to make, and that decision may see him lose everything he has worked for.

A Novelette by Terry R Barca

Published as an eBook only
Pre-orders available now.
iTunes iBooks
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/797828

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You’re the one who saved those kids

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He was different when he was dead, but while alive he was an idiot.
He needed money and of all the ways you can get some, legal and illegal, he chose to kidnap and hold to ransom a rural one teacher school — teacher and all. What a moron.
The minister for education volunteered to deliver the ransom — which took guts — no one considered him to be ‘just another politician’ after that. Before his phone went flat, THE KIDNAPPER didn’t turn up — couldn’t get the bus started — Miss Stephenson knew how to start the cantankerous machine, but she wasn’t about to help him. He got it going eventually, but by then the Minister and about a hundred well hidden, heavily armed police officers gave up on him and went home. THE KIDNAPPER didn’t have a plan B — didn’t have a phone charger either, so his phone died. He’d cut the school phone line — he probably saw that done on TV. With no way to contact the police, he panicked, not noticing the still functioning phone box outside the school.
He drove the bus towards the City until it ran out of fuel — parked it in a laneway and within an hour the area was awash with police. In the confusion, Miss Stephenson slipped away with five of the children. She would have gotten away with all of them but THE KIDNAPPER heard them, and she wisely left with the children she could save. He waived his rifle at her and the children, shouted at them, but didn’t fire. Miss Stephenson held her breath and didn’t look back.
The four kids I ‘saved’ were left behind. THE KIDNAPPER paced around the empty house and terrified the children before leaving by the back door when I banged on the front door — the rest has been well documented. That’s not strictly correct. You are one of the few people who know that I stumbled across the children.
Do you know how I pulled that off? The high point of my career? I was in the right place at the right time. I didn’t think they were there. I was banging on that door because someone had hemmed me in — parked so close that I couldn’t move my car. I was tired and pissed off, and I guess I sounded angry. The fuckwit must have thought I was the police and he legged it out the back door. When the front door came open, and that little face looked up at me and said, “Have you come to save us?” I just froze. I expected to get a shotgun pushed into my chest, but the kidnapper was gone. The kids were all scared and tired and grubby, and except for the boy who opened the door, they were very quiet.
I sat on the old vinyl couch with the kids and waited for the police to arrive. I’m not sure that the switchboard operator believed me when I rang it in. I left the front door open to show that we were in there and we were okay, but it didn’t stop the Special Response Squad from bursting in with the familiar sound of ‘Armed Police, get on the ground.’ I still have that fuckers knee print on my back.
They caught Stanley James Smith a few houses away, and I got a curt apology for being roughed up. ‘You know how it is Mr Fox. We can’t be too careful. Sorry about arresting you and all the rest.’
‘What’s your name again?’ I said.
‘Commander Wilson. I was in charge of the search.’ He put his hand out to shake mine — for the cameras.
‘Fuck you very much, Commander Wilson,’ was my reply — or words to that effect.
The Commander smiled at me and said, ‘Fair enough.’
We both produced our best smiles for the camera.
About a year later I won a Walkley Award for my series of articles on the Cameron Street Primary School kidnapping. The story stretched over four Saturday editions — about twenty thousand words and not once did I mention the kidnapper’s name — didn’t give the fucker what he wanted — fame.

The rest of the world needed a hero that week, and cynically, I cashed in on their need. I thought it would be good for my career. The truth of it weighed me down over time. It certainly did help my career, but it did nothing for my heart.
I interviewed Miss Stephenson for the series of articles I was writing. In a sane world, she would be the hero, but she made one mistake — she chose wisely and left with as many of the children as she was able — but not all.
THE KIDNAPPER walked into the well kept little one teacher country school on a bright Spring morning. Strangers are noticed quickly in rural communities, but although he was new to the area, THE KIDNAPPER didn’t raise suspicion. His appearance and demeanour made him look like any rural worker. His battered utility, just like a thousand others. Even the rifle he was carrying was not out of place in this environment.
People worry about their kids, but never in their wildest dreams would they expect them to be involved in a ransom attempt.
It didn’t take long for the press, of which I am one, to work out that Miss Stephenson was not going to sell newspapers beyond the usual five-day window — she wasn’t interested in being famous. “I was just doing my job. The parents entrust their children to my care, so I was doing my best to keep them safe and get them home to their parents.”
When I asked her how she kept the gunman from hurting any of the children she said, “I treated him like one of the children. I spoke to him firmly but gently and reminded him that people would not be happy if anything happened to the children.”
“Weren’t you frightened?” I asked.
“Yes, but I had a job to do, and if I showed fear, it was only going to escalate the situation.”
What a woman.
THE KIDNAPPER had a predictable background which was laid out in minute detail by his defence counsel at trial. His father beat him regularly, which caused some brain damage and he didn’t do well at school — which had nothing to do with his decision to hold an entire school to ransom, apparently. His defence team worked hard, but in the end, he was found guilty of kidnapping and a bunch of other stuff — all window dressing, the main charge was the big one. The sentence didn’t surprise anyone — life in prison, which meant that he would be out in about thirty years as long as the government of the day didn’t see the need to make some ‘hard on crime’ mileage and keep him inside.
In the end, it was all academic, as they say. THE KIDNAPPER got into a discussion with a big bloke who had kids — lots of them. The big bloke wasn’t allowed anywhere near his kids, for obvious reasons, but that did not stop him from striking a blow for parents everywhere. The resultant blow ended THE KIDNAPPER’s life after a few days in a coma.
His death was front page for a day, and my paper reran the series of articles I had written more than a year before and I became ‘the bloke who saved those kids’ all over again.
I never visited THE KIDNAPPER’s grave, and I never mentioned his name in print.
I don’t know where Miss Stephenson is these days although I believe that she got married and moved to a warmer climate. I’ll bet the children in her classroom will remember her and so will the parents.
Me too, if it comes to that.
She got her quiet life back, I got to be famous, and THE KIDNAPPER got to be dead — he was different when he was dead.

Bullet Hole: a SECRETS KEPT teaser

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Every time I arrive at Barry’s office, I notice something new.

I’d long since stopped asking him why his office is a table in the corner of the public bar at the Rising Sun Hotel in Richmond. “Convenient, centrally located with a well-stocked bar.” The well-stocked bar consisted of three different sized beer glasses with the vague possibility of a bottle of scotch, Most likely Black and White, and in recent times, “just in case one of these jokers brings his missus in here,” there is a bottle of Pimms.     

I’ve had all the necessary inoculations, but even so, I’ve never chanced my luck by having a drink at the bar.

“Get ya a drink girly?” was Barry’s opening line, as I arrived for our meeting. The neatly typed pages were folded into my handbag, and the public bar looked different. The familiar smells were the same — stale beer and a not unpleasant aroma of very old dust — a strong memory trigger from my childhood, fetching my dad from the pub so he could have his dinner — my private moments with the most important man in my life.

On certain days, you can taste the dust, but it is never visible. For visibility there would need to be sunlight and sunlight never penetrates this dingy room.

On this day, the room was bright — almost festive.

“What’s with the bright lights?” I said as I waved off Barry’s lethal offer of a drink.

“Boris and the staff are getting ready for the celebration. You need light to celebrate and to clean up a bit in order to celebrate,” said Barry with an air certainty.

“This place has staff?” I asked.

“You don’t think that Boris does everything on his own, do ya?” said Barry.

I glanced at Boris wiping the bar. He had one eye almost closed, and I resisted the urge to dig deeper into the complex running of the Public Bar at the Rising Sun Hotel.

“What’s the occasion, why the celebration?” I said.

“Ancient Ivan is getting out tomorrow. It’s going to be a hell of a welcome home party. Of course, most of Ivan’s contemporaries have carked it, but all the young ones will be there. Ivan’s a fuckin’ legend. He pretty much ran this town even after they banged him up. Tiny little bloke — knew everyone — had something on everyone, including me. Not a bloke to be messed with — fuckin’ legend,” said Barry with the sort of enthusiasm he reserved for attacking a beef roll with extra mustard.

“Be sure to give him my best wishes,” I said.

“Wouldn’t do any good. He doesn’t know who you are and let’s keep it that way, besides, the bugger’s deaf as,” said Barry.

“Jesus Barry, is that what I think it is?” I said. Our conversation had taken place with me in a standing position as I scanned the room for the signs of the aforementioned improvements. I’d given up due to lack of evidence and was about to take a seat at Barry’s table. I reached for a chair — the room was populated by a large collection of identical wooden chairs, all in various stages of decomposition. The chair I reached for had a bullet hole in the back of the seat — just about where a person’s heart would be. I’d assumed that everything stayed the same in this mysterious room, but not so. I’ve sat at Barry’s favourite table many times, and I haven’t noticed this chair before.

“Boris rotates the chairs every now and then — not mine but. My bum is nice and comfy in this chair. People tend to sit at the same tables, and the chairs start to come apart, so Boris rotates them. Gets a longer life out of a set of chairs that way. Bright boy, that Boris. Just like rotating the tyres on your car,” said Barry and I shot a look at Boris who was still rubbing the same spot on the bar — one eye was now completely closed. “That chair could tell a story or two,” said Barry.

“How long have these chairs been here?” I asked.

“Bloody long time,” said Barry.

“And that bullet hole?” I said.

“Interesting story that,” said Barry and I winced. Barry’s stories are often hair-raising and a tad too graphic for my tender sensibilities.

Barry launched into an exciting tale of gunplay, jealousy and sudden death.

“He got his revolver out and squeezed off a couple of rounds, but it was mostly muscle memory. He was fucked the moment the bullet hit him. Shouldn’t have been giving the big bloke’s missus one behind his back. We don’t normally allow gun play in here — it tends to attract the chaps in blue — but everyone understands affairs of the heart. We banned the big bloke from the Public Bar for a year, and it broke his heart. All that was years ago now. No one has been shot in here since. A few blokes have waved their shooters around a bit, but nothing serious,” said Barry.

“Was anyone else hurt while all this was going on?” I asked.

“Na, the bullets lodged in the wall over there. Holes are still there — bullets as well. We stuck that painting over them before the cops arrived. We told them he shot himself, being all broken hearted and stuff. I don’t think they bought it, but apart from the usual hassle, we didn’t hear any more about it. Case is still open but. Coroner brought in an open finding, so it is just hanging there waiting to drop on some poor bugger who the cops don’t like, just like that sword thing,” said Barry.

“Damocles,” I said.

“Yeah, that bloke,” said Barry.

“Not exactly the same thing, but what would I know?” I said.

I produced the typed pages, and Barry read them carefully.

“Bloody hell. How did you get her to tell you all this?” said Barry.

“I have charms you know nothing about,” I said, feeling very pleased with myself. I recognised the opportunity, acted on it, formulated a plan and carried it out. I’m not sure it gets much better than this.

“I’ve got a feeling that there will be more, but the stuff in there should do the trick,” I said with the air of someone who had done this type of thing all their lives.

My grandmother flashed into my mind, and I imagined her behind enemy lines, making instant decisions and risking her life.

Barry ordered another beer and tried once again to tempt me. “We should celebrate. I could get him to make you a sheila’s drink?” said Barry.

“No thanks Barry, I’m driving,” I said.

I stood up and my finger traced around the bullet hole in the back of the chair, and I tried to imagine the scene on that night. I must have been standing there for a while because Barry said, “Are you, alright kid?”

“Right as rain,” I said, gathering up my handbag.

The drive home left me time to think, and even the idiot who drove right up behind me most of the way could not dampen my high. Susan Smith, industrial spy. I would love to read that on a business card. I’d like to hand it to some would be Casanova who tried to chat me up at one of my husband’s work parties — it isn’t going to happen, but a girl can dream.

 

Version 2

Coming soon

Why I Won’t Be Entering The Ned Kelly Awards This Year

I’m currently a member of the Australian Crime Writer’s Association and as expected, I received notification that entries are open for the Ned Kelly Awards. This is the top award for Crime and Spy novels in Australia. This is one of the genres that I write in so I enter most years. The idea was to get shortlisted (winning was a long shot as some awesomely talented writers have won this award and I’m not quite in that category just yet). Being shortlisted would give me a bit of exposure and hopefully lead to a few sales.

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The Genre I write in — crime.

I began to feel like I was wasting my time when I entered my most recent novel (at that time) and didn’t get a sniff. Naturally, I was disappointed (the book is very good). I did a bit of research and read all of the shortlisted books and found (naturally I’m a bit biased) that none of them was any better than my book — a bit strange I thought. I was expecting writing that blew my work away — not so.

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The shortlisted books didn’t blow me away — none were better than mine.

Then this article came out and I did a bit more research and discovered that publishers don’t see any boost in sales when a book wins an award (the Miles Franklin and the Stella are exceptions). So why was I knocking myself out?

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Why was I knocking myself out?

I did a bit more research and found that self-published works have NEVER been shortlisted. There is an obvious bias towards big publishers as you can see in this quote:

“Asked how the system could be improved, publishers suggested lowering the fees, or removing them for small presses; reducing the number of categories to focus attention and cut fees; accepting digital copies, possibly without the author’s or publisher’s name to reduce a perceived bias towards big publishers; announcing shortlists and winners earlier so books are still in shops, and promoting those lists better.”

Then there is the question of cost. I have to pay a fee each year to be a member of the ACWA so I can enter, and then there is an entry fee. Things have improved a bit because they accept electronic entries which cuts out the cost of postage and the cost of supplying paperbacks.

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Then there is the question of cost.

Let’s face it, I’m a very small fish in a huge pond. I’m doing all the things the hip little articles tell me about ‘promoting my work’ and ‘marketing my books’, but the reality is that I will probably have to live another hundred years before my books are seen by more than a few hardy fans (love you guys).

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A recent shot of all of my readers in one spot — love you guys.

So, for now, I’m not going to be lining any pockets associated with awards — it’s just not cost effective, especially as there is a sneaking suspicion that the major publishers are all that the judges look at.

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Let’s face it, I’m a very small fish in a huge pond.

Here are a few quotes from the article I mentioned, just in case you cannot be bothered reading the whole thing:

“The returns from our very substantial investment every year in shortlisted and winning entries and the minimal sales results from our winning entries tell us something about the way awards and prizes operate these days.”

Terri-ann White, the director of University of Western Australia Publishing.

“When Geoffrey Lehmann’s Poems 1957-2013won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for poetry in 2015, the author received a generous $80,000 but White says, “We saw no results whatsoever [in sales].”

“Publishers agree that in Australia only the Miles Franklin Literary Award for a novel ($60,000 prize money), the well-promoted four-year-old Stella Prize for women writers ($50,000), and the Children’s Book Council of Australia awards significantly affect sales. As well as an $80 entry fee ($60 for early-birds), the Stella asks publishers to pay $500 for each shortlisted title to support the marketing that increases sales.”

“Asked how the system could be improved, publishers suggested lowering the fees, or removing them for small presses; reducing the number of categories to focus attention and cut fees; accepting digital copies, possibly without the author’s or publisher’s name to reduce a perceived bias towards big publishers; announcing shortlists and winners earlier so books are still in shops, and promoting those lists better.”

“In short, you don’t do it for sales, you do it for your authors, and for the reputation of the publishing house. Since we do it for our authors, we can hardly ask them to pay for it – they are less likely to be able to afford the fees than we are, and statistically speaking, it is most likely to be a waste of money for them. So that is where I disagree with Terri-ann. The prize organisers and sponsors should allow free entry for small publishers.”

Ivor Indyk, publisher at Giramondo Publishing.

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I’m feeling a bit discouraged — I need a hug.

Some links worth following:

http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/the-hidden-costs-that-threaten-australian-literary-awards-20161202-gt32wc.html

https://www.bookdesignmadesimple.com/book-award-contests-are-they-worthwhile/

http://publishing.artshub.com.au/news-article/news/writing-and-publishing/brooke-boland/small-publishers-get-a-prized-break-253084