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  • Endless Joke
    Endless Joke
    by David Antrobus

    Here's that writers' manual you were reaching and scrambling for. You know the one: filled with juicy writing tidbits and dripping with pop cultural snark and smartassery. Ew. Not an attractive look. But effective. And by the end, you'll either want to kiss me or kill me. With extreme prejudice. Go on. You know you want to.

  • Dissolute Kinship: A 9/11 Road Trip
    Dissolute Kinship: A 9/11 Road Trip
    by David Antrobus

    Please click on the above thumbnail to buy my short, intense nonfiction book featuring 9/11 and trauma. It's less than the price of a cup of coffee... and contains fewer calories. Although, unlike most caffeine boosts, it might make you cry.

  • Music Speaks
    Music Speaks
    by LB Clark

    My story "Solo" appears in this excellent music charity anthology, Music Speaks. It is an odd hybrid of the darkly comic and the eerily apocalyptic... with a musical theme. Aw, rather than me explain it, just read it. Okay, uh, please?

  • First Time Dead 3 (Volume 3)
    First Time Dead 3 (Volume 3)
    by Sybil Wilen, P. J. Ruce, Jeffrey McDonald, John Page, Susan Burdorf, Christina Gavi, David Alexander, Joanna Parypinski, Jack Flynn, Graeme Edwardson, David Antrobus, Jason Bailey, Xavier Axelson

    My story "Unquiet Slumbers" appears in the zombie anthology First Time Dead, Volume 3. It spills blood, gore and genuine tears of sorrow. Anyway, buy this stellar anthology and judge for yourself.

  • Seasons
    Seasons
    by David Antrobus, Edward Lorn, JD Mader, Jo-Anne Teal

    Four stories, four writers, four seasons. Characters broken by life, although not necessarily beaten. Are the seasons reminders of our growth or a glimpse of our slow decay?

  • Indies Unlimited: 2012 Flash Fiction Anthology
    Indies Unlimited: 2012 Flash Fiction Anthology
    Indies Unlimited

    I have two stories in this delightful compendium of every 2012 winner of their Flash Fiction Challenge—one a nasty little horror short, the other an amusing misadventure of Og the caveman, his first appearance.

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Saturday
Apr282012

I Have No Idea

So you got this deadline for your latest blog post/writing assignment and all you can hear in your head is a sound resembling the distant whine of an overclocked laptop crossed with Mariah Carey conducting elaborate experiments involving helium and canary embryos. Essentially, a combination of blind panic and a sheer lack of anything resembling an idea. You briefly consider opening your carotid artery while gargling with paint thinner before saying to yourself “way too dramatic”, so you dial it down and rock back and forth making mewling noises instead.

But the ticking clock is relentless, and something has to give. This is your last chance to become a mother… oh, wait, different story altogether. Sorry. Got my notes mixed up… So, anyway, what do you do? Well, you consult my newly patented Top Ten List of Idea Generators and Writing Exercises, is what! In the spirit of heroic cartoon supermice everywhere, here they come to save the day…

1. You are an international jewel thief. You have just fenced enough ice to re-sink the Titanic. You are flush. You receive a phone call in which a heavily disguised voice says “I am stranded in the Philippines. I am not Stephen Hise, never even heard of him in fact, but just so you know, the awesome website Indies Unlimited could sure use some serious funding right about now.” What do you do?

2. Push an elderly lady into traffic and describe the aftermath. An alternate version would be to record the sound of an audio-assisted crosswalk, find a home for the visually impaired next to a busy street and wait for the residents to emerge, at which point you press Play on your recording device. Remember to describe the ensuing events in loving detail. It’s the hilarious aftermath we’re looking for in particular.

3. Ponder this simple question and then write down your thoughts: why is the word “phonetically” not spelled phonetically? And, for a bonus: why does “succinct” have two syllables? Do you think words can commit fraud? Did Emily Brontë completely make up the word “wuthering”? And, anyway, how badass is it that she has umlauts in her name?

4. Eat something you hate, such as boiled wombat elbows or rancid yak butter. Make sure the very thought of it already induces a degree of nausea. Follow it up with a plate of traditional English cuisine. Yes, that is redundant, I know. Drink a bottle of cod liver oil. Follow that up with a few shot glasses of hot sauce. Nurture some genuine anger in the pit of your stomach. (If you find you are unable to do this, turn on FOX News.) Locate a trampoline. Bounce on it repeatedly. If you possess sufficient athleticism, perform a few backflips. If not, keep bouncing. Dismount. Find a giant canvas and stand over it. Or squat, your call. Let nature take its course, in whatever way it chooses. Then, in 500 words, describe the resulting art work.

5. Write a Petrarchan Sonnet that includes the following elements: a banjo, a dispirited clown, two befuddled paranormal investigators, a lighthouse keeper with bipolar disorder and a lukewarm vat of seahorse droppings. Please remember: use iambic pentameter and an octave of

a b b a a b b a

and a more flexible sestet of

c d c d c d

or

c d d c d c

6. Free-write longhand for ten minutes. No cue, no topic. Just write. Do not take your pen off the paper. Go!

7. Write a series of short literary mashups. Why should musicians have all the fun, after all? For example, mimic the writing style of Ernest Hemingway while employing the subject matter of H.P. Lovecraft. You may call the final product The Old Man And Cthulhu, for instance. Or combine the style of Cormac McCarthy, perhaps, with a Dr. Seuss theme: “The sun did not shine. The Cat in the Hat raised his face to the god-abandoned day. Thing One was uncoupled from its shoring, everything grey in the world’s last dawn. Oh Fish in the Pot, he whispered. Oh Fish.” You get the idea.

8. If you write horror, try a chick lit story. If your preferred genre is paranormal romance, write a western. The world needs more Gucci zombies and levitating cowboys, after all.

9. Write a long piece outlining your thoughts on why JFK’s assassination might have been connected to an obscure standard bearer in the Duke of Wellington’s army at Waterloo. Be sure to include the rare yet incisive commentary by one Dwight Z. Finkelheimer, who famously postulated that the bell jar in Sylvia Plath’s famous novel was actually a metaphor for hair metal band Motley Crüe’s insistence on delivering tanning beds to orphanages, all of which culminates eerily in architect Frank Gehry’s blueprint for cloning Lee Harvey Oswald, providing him with a blowgun filled with toxic paperclips and setting him loose amid a throng of Jesuit priests riding gloriously oblivious and slightly dim alpacas, the prized wool of which will one day clothe the very standard bearer mentioned previously. Woah. I don’t know about you, but I got goosebumps.

10. Notice that writing is not an art or a science; it’s an exercise in sheer futility. It is a slow, quiet, lonely torment; less a long, dark night of the soul and more a longer, grey afternoon of the spleen. It is reminiscent of the feeling you might get if a beaming child-faced serial killer peeled off your skin a layer at a time while reciting the complete works of obscure Scottish poet William McGonagall and sprinkling apple cider vinegar on your exposed, suppurating flesh. Reminiscent, albeit not exact. It is possibly the world’s most stupid human activity, and considering those activities include Australian dwarf tossing and British shin-kicking contests as well as Japanese game shows featuring a Snooki lookalike and a man disguised as Rasputin performing disquieting rituals inside giant hamster balls, that’s got to be pretty stupid. It all just makes you want to cry for your momma, not only now, but every single moment that remains of your miserable life. Now, once you have absorbed this, go away and write a counter argument, providing rich examples of why I am wrong, while being careful to note the fact that none of this will matter to you in less than a hundred years, since you will be dead. Which may be ugly, but it’s the truth. As ugly a truth as the one about Mother Teresa and the one-legged insurance salesman in that Calcutta alleyway. But don’t write about that. Write instead of how the mind goes, of its inevitable ruin. Oh look, a flower. Florentine death squads. The Mitt Romney remix. Castigation. Fuel. Aphids.

*     *     *     *     *

This post was originally written for Indies Unlimited but was deemed unsuitable. A version of it appeared on the website BlergPop instead. also writes for Indies Unlimited and BlergPop. Be sure to check out his work there if you like what you read here.

Friday
Apr202012

I Love You

Here, in reverse order, are ten things I like that are related to writing. Sort of. This is a completely random list and may possibly be an early sign of my eventual and catastrophic disintegration. Actually, I’ve reread it and it makes a very abstract kind of sense, after all. If you’re a surrealist. Or a nutbar. Or a strange gelatinous creature from the Aldebaran system.

10. I like hats. Not to wear. Very rarely, in fact, do I wear hats. I am far too proud of my flowing golden locks to hide them. I run my fingers through those locks while mimicking the sound of gentle lovemaking in haylofts. Anyway, hats. I will write about hats until the cows come home. And if, upon arriving home, those same cows eat all the hats, I will create more hats from whole cloth. Only, not. I’ll create them from nothing but thoughts, like Lewis Carroll embracing Khalil Gibran while on acid. The flowing golden locks part was a lie, incidentally. It’s normal guy hair, short and greying, but I still like it.

9. Roy Batty. The coolest of replicants, steeped in pride and melancholy like a lost boy in a gymnasium full of parakeets. I wish I could have written something even a tenth as poignant and plain badass-cool as the “tears in rain” soliloquy. Actually, this isn’t good. This actually makes me want to give up writing. As it should. You should too. And when I do, I will sigh, with the staggering weight of humanity’s eternal sorrow behind my exhalation, and whisper “time to die.”

8. Poetry. Poetry is very cool, it’s just that most of it isn’t. But the good stuff, the good stuff… Here:

“Maybe, as he stood
two inches from the wall,
in darkness, fogging the old plaster
with his breath, he visualized the future
as a mansion standing on the shore
that he was rowing to
with his tongue’s exhausted oar.”

from Self Improvement by Tony Hoagland

Or:

“On longer evenings,
Light, chill and yellow,
Bathes the serene
Foreheads of houses.
A thrush sings,
Laurel-surrounded
In the deep bare garden,
Its fresh-peeled voice
Astonishing the brickwork.
It will be spring soon,
It will be spring soon –
And I, whose childhood
Is a forgotten boredom,
Feel like a child
Who comes on a scene
Of adult reconciling,
And can understand nothing
But the unusual laughter,
And starts to be happy.”

Coming by Philip Larkin

Poetry is not being all emo about how no one understands you, especially that girl with the cute dimples and the endearing way she flicks her hair back. When it comes to poetry, most of us get stuck in that phase and forget to move into the adult world, thinking such ephemera poetry. It’s understandable in a way. We are not always taught it with joy. But poetry is neither Hallmark doggerel nor a sterile academic sideshow. At its best, it’s more akin to music, with its odd internal logic, tone and rhythmic/melodic qualities. Each type of poem has its own rules. A sonnet is not even close to a poem written in free verse, but both are equally valid as forms, the skill of the poet and the (mind’s) ear of the audience the only things that matter. The good stuff isn’t easy to find; you have to dig. I could post maybe a hundred examples right now of why good poetry is worth your time. It’s inspiring. It’s the use of delicacy and subtlety within exacting strictures. It’s beauty. I don’t know why, but for many centuries poets were valued, yet if you say you’re a poet today (I don’t, because I’m not), you will likely be met with awkward silence or possibly even the mocking laughter of a growing crowd that quickly senses blood. In the shame scales, it’s perhaps only a rung above sex offender, or even politician. I’m really not sure why. But I like it. Good poetry, that is. Is there a person alive who wouldn’t react in some way to such a startling phrase as “astonishing the brickwork”?

7. Why don’t North Americans “get” what they insist on calling soccer? It’s inspirational. The very criticisms they level at it are the aspects that make it more than a sport, something elevated into a hybrid of art form and planetary-wide cult. Take the low scoring. It really should be obvious to anyone who has thought about gold or diamonds or raucous laughter on a killing field why that is a positive. When you make the goals so rare, their value is increased. They are precious. I watch soccer, or football as I used to call it back when I was European, and something of its grace and power and drama has to inform my writing. At least, I hope it does. It has to. Even the simulation must translate. I dive to win a penalty. Metaphorically. Even when you dive, you still have to tuck it away. The crowd is outraged. It’s wrong, yet you now have a chance to win. I can’t explain this. It has something to do with the inherent unfairness of the universe. Randomness and a terrible unquenched need.

6. I love you. And I will make you love me back.

5. I am not judgmental. Generally. But if I encounter someone who doesn’t like animals I am creeped out. I have created characters still only at the sketch stage who are extremely unpleasant and capable of great brutality, and I instinctively make them animal-haters. This I might never change.

4. Do you recall an early morning in which the air is cool yet already embracing the promise of the sun? In which the simple act of breathing is a delight albeit one containing the chill woe of its eventual absence? In which the shadows are still soft yet beginning to test their edges like a hoodlum with a switchblade grinning in an alley? I don’t know what I’m trying to say, but this dark, dichotomous urgency is filling me with the strangest panic.

3. It’s all about writing. Which is essentially communication. Which, in its turn, is how we connect with our fellow humans. So, it’s about love. Because we can’t love any one or any thing if we surrender to the awful void of the world’s loneliness. Isolation is narcissism. When we magically talk to another, and we get even a portion of our meaning across, with all its beauty or frustration or uncertainty or hunger, we are performing the work we once attributed to gods. It’s alchemical. It’s akin to magic. Love can’t fully happen without it. I take back what I said earlier: we should never give up writing. It would be like a bird giving up the air.

© mental images, 19982. I don’t know what this post is about. It isn’t funny, or even profound. We sometimes have strange days in which the quirky detritus of the world comes drifting in on rays of alien light via windows we didn’t know existed. Once we know they exist, it’s important not to board them up, yet equally important we don’t force their eldritch light to shine. Let them shine when they shine, and otherwise remain shrouded.

1. A woman stood on a promontory. She clasped a dead kitten to her breasts, and the look of sorrow on her face made the gods weep so much they lost their nerve and abandoned humanity. She looked down at the wrathful surf below, at its inexplicable tantrum against the snaggletoothed rocks and she knew both the ocean’s rage and it’s deceptive placidity. She swayed. A sudden gust would plunge her toward those rocks. She held her breath and waited to see if nature would further aid and abet a terrible crime against love, a crime of neglect. She leaned forward at an almost impossible angle. But no gust, not even a breeze. Nature was violent below, yet gentle as lark song up here on the cliff edge. The sun’s rays were splayed above the horizon, gilt-edging the few clouds amid the deepening blue of the sky. She let her tears fall and recalled a time when she had been a little girl and thought she had seen a stunted demon steal across the school playing fields, hunched and hooded and malignant as any inoperable cancer, as hostile a thing as any she had encountered before or since. She cried for the kitten that had been denied its chance to accept or reject the glory and the disenchantment, the splendour and the defilement. She held its tiny grey body out, marveling at its lightness, and she let it fall to the tumultuous indifference of the eternal clash of water and rock below. The way of yielding and the way of resistance. Thinking about the many ways we must choose to either love or murder, she turned toward home and the man who might soon pay the price—deserved or otherwise—of her eventual decision.

*     *     *     *     *

A version of this post appeared on Indies Unlimited on April 13, 2012. also writes for Indies Unlimited and BlergPop. Be sure to check out his work there if you like what you read here.

Friday
Apr132012

Flash Fiction Contest

Should have blogged about this a lot sooner, but last week I won the Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Contest for a second time. The premise was a comic one, involving a caveman named Og and a deer or two, and it was an opportunity to write something very different. So I grasped the deer by both antlers and went for the funny bone. Apparently it was just funny enough to win. The thing is, aside from the feeling of pride you get from winning a fiction contest—itself reward enough—the winning stories will be anthologized at year's end, so it's a worthwhile stab at a form of immortality alongside some other excellent writers. Anyway, without further ado, here's Og's story:

© K.S. BrooksOg Hunts

by David Antrobus

Og lonely. Wish had friend.

Wait. Deer! Og move slow, get close to deer. Drum inside chest pounding. Breathe slow. Jump up and throw rock. Og miss, but deer not run away. No. Deer run toward. Head down. Og surprised. Catches Og’s loincloth with pointy head spears. Tries to shake Og off. Can’t. Og’s teeth and bones hurt. Deer panics, runs into water. Og breathing water. Og scared. Notices log. Tries to grab it. Not log. Log with teeth. Log bites deer on leg and starts to spin. Og spins too. Loincloth rips. Og naked. But Og free. Deer not so lucky. But here come other logs with teeth. Fight over deer. Og doesn’t think. Og wishes Og thinks more. Og grabs bloody part of deer and runs, heads for cave. Thinks tribe will like him again now. Make friends. Piece of deer is almost deer.

Arrive at cave. Tribe home. Og smiles. Tribe look at Og naked and laugh. But then not laugh. Tribe look over Og’s shoulder. Og and bleeding deer gut trail been followed by big cat with mouth spears. Tribe scream. Run. Big cat with mouth spears eat two of tribe, Glug and Grog. Tribe sad.

Next day, Og lonelier. Og hunting far away. Very far. No rocks this time. Sunburn in bad place.

*     *     *     *     *

also writes for Indies Unlimited and BlergPop. Be sure to check out his work there if you like what you read here.

Friday
Apr132012

The Method, Man

Dan Mader’s recent post on Indies Unlimited is pertinent here. In it, he goes all Wu Tang on our collective be-hinds, extolling the benefits of “the crew”, of having a cadre of peers with which to bounce ideas off of, collaborate with, borrow from, represent to, and party alongside till you’re hoarse and vacant. He has a point. Writers are horribly misanthropic for the most part, and that solitary nature can be toxic when left to its own unhealthy and addictive devices. I call it the writer’s paradox: we spend most of our time alone figuring out how to communicate with people. I mean, really. How utterly ludicrous is that?

So, I was trying to come up with this week’s post while in the type of mood Mussolini was probably in around the time those Italian partisans captured him and hung him on a meathook, only a much lower grade version, obviously, and was about to burn more bridges than all the desperate, self-hating trolls in and around Madison County by posting something pointlessly scattershot-angry to be read by pretty much anyone on the internet, which you don’t need me to say would have been astoundingly, mindbogglingly dumb, when I found myself in a conversation with our very own Mader and Brooks (which sounds like a Savile Row tailor shop, or maybe part of a law firm: Mader, Mader and Brooks) and they allowed me to rant for a while as they snuck occasional glances at each other, no doubt wondering how they were going to inform my loved ones, until I eventually ran out of steam and left an awkward, very pregnant silence. Not to mention the mother of all run-on sentences.

After which they suggested with exquisite, admirable patience that I tone down the outrage and frustration slightly, and instead of skewering my formless targets with sharpened words, I sweeten the whole deal with an extended metaphor. For which you, kind reader, will henceforth be the beneficiary.

I love music. I adore music. Music has saved my life. Music has preserved my last shreds of sanity. Music has taught me as much as any other human activity, including books. Like many who become obsessed with consuming something, I eventually tried to produce it. I saved my paper route money and picked up a small Spanish guitar for less than £20 when I was around 12, then a horribly battered Strat copy a year or so later for around the same price, for which a friend of mine built a battery powered 10-Watt amp so we could go annoy woodland creatures by playing distorted versions of “Stairway To Heaven” and “Anarchy in the UK” in bucolic settings (squirrels in particular really dislike the Sex Pistols, I’ve discovered).

As we all pretty much did back then (music lessons were for those middle class kids who owned handkerchiefs and didn’t drink from jars with chips around their rims), I basically taught myself to play—jamming with friends who were better, playing along to my worn records and cassettes, painstakingly rewinding and playing, rewinding and playing… until I noticed something that troubled me.

Basically, I sucked.

Don’t get me wrong, I learned a bunch of chords over the years, a variety of rhythmic strumming patterns (if three constitutes a “variety”) and even some picking techniques (if by “some picking techniques” I mean “two slightly different ways of moving my thumb and forefinger”). I was and remain an enthusiastic guitar player and have spent untold years downloading chords and simple guitar tablature for many of my favourite songs, which I have inflicted on very few bystanders given the sheer volume of songs I’ve managed to collect.

Because it bears repeating: I suck.

My singing voice is reminiscent of the sound you made that time you grated your thumb halfway down to the first knuckle instead of the chunk of fresh Parmesan. Hearing it makes honey badgers think it’s mating season. I’ve set off alarms. Triggered border skirmishes. Oh, and I’m not tone deaf. I can actually sing in key and everything. But then, that’s like saying Justin Bieber can wield a paintbrush. It’s meaningless on too many levels to even bother unpacking. The fact remains, I have the self awareness to realise that my career as a musician was basically stillborn from the moment I tried to play that riff from “Smoke on the Water” alone in my bedroom. I may be a complete idiot but I’m not stupid.

All of which saved me the headache of a lifetime of figuring out what time signatures are, as well as the heartache of telling my special friend back home that the oozing, alarmingly lurid rash in my bathing suit area was from sitting too long on hot, sweaty tour buses and had nothing to do with those silly groupies you, ha ha, might have, you know, heard about from an irresponsibly sensationalist media, baby.

So. I’m not taking up space on stage, or anywhere. I don’t have to yell above the fray to get noticed, to land that elusive recording contract, perhaps hit that stage while modelling burlap rainbow lederhosen and rubber nun suits or setting fire to fruit bat entrails and whipping them around my howling, desperate head while silently urging those A&R dudes from Sony BMG who just have to be scattered throughout the audience, to notice me, goddamnit, acknowledge my inherent genius, make me the star I know I should be…

As I said, I’m not doing any of that.

And the world sighs in sweet, blessed relief. Because I knew. All along. I knew I couldn’t turn the sow’s ear of my musical “talent” into the silk purse of a career. In other words, I had only half the prerequisites, which wasn’t enough: a deep and abiding love for music but nowhere near the talent. I even tried writing songs but they were essentially sounds stuck together with modeling glue and yarn. Love, but no talent. At least I had half.

But writing is different. And that’s all I’m saying. That’s all I’m saying. Now go. Figure it out. Scoot. I can feel that mood coming back…

*     *     *     *     *

A version of this post appeared on Indies Unlimited on April 6, 2012. also writes for Indies Unlimited and BlergPop. Be sure to check out his work there if you like what you read here.

Wednesday
Apr042012

The Power at Our Fingertips

In this week’s post, I want to demonstrate the power of what Mark Coker calls the “rise of the indie author collective” (The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success). Indies Unlimited is every bit a part of that rise, that revolution really, one that has eroded the power of traditional publishing and significantly democratized the entire process.

Now, there are as many tips and tricks out there for helping independent authors “maximize their brand” or “utilize the tools of the internet” as there are slightly dodgy-looking punters at a female mud wrestling contest, and the debate continues to rage over the effectiveness of reciprocal Facebook “liking” or Amazon “tagging” every bit as fiercely as it does over that of Mona’s standing moonsault and tilt-a-whirl crossbody press on Dolores back in the Fifth Round.

And I have no more answers to those questions than your average… well, dodgy-looking punter at a female mud… But enough of that; in the tradition of great pitchmen everywhere… I wanna tell ya about what works, folks!

On March 17, our colleague here at Indies Unlimited, the redoubtable Jim Devitt, showed us a neat if at-first-glance confusing trick. Well, confusing if, like me, you’re more than a little dense when it comes to the arcane ways of the mighty Amazon dot com. In his post, Jim explained a method by which you change what is known as the “category path” of your book on its Amazon page and effectively reduce its number of competitors by fine-tuning that path, or string. Now, I’m not going to completely humiliate myself by outlining each and every wrong turn I took after my initial wild misinterpretations of Jim’s instructions. Suffice it to say that, after a number of emails between Amazon and my heartbreakingly clueless self, I did manage to end up with two slightly more customized category paths. Read Jim’s post—including the comments section in which I also humiliate myself publicly (okay, sensing a theme here)—for a much better nuts-and-bolts explanation than I could honestly provide (I can do nuts, no problem, just not bolts).

But the point is that I did finally arrive at these two new paths, and noticed that in one of them in particular (Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction > Travel > United States > States > New York > New York City), I was already ranked at #4. It so happened that someone bought my book that day and I noticed it move up to #2. Which is when it dawned on me that if I asked enough people to buy it over one short, frenzied period of time, there was a chance it could make the #1 slot, however temporarily, thus giving me a bone fide Amazon #1 Bestseller! The only question: how far ahead in Amazon’s mysterious ranking algorithms was the current #1 seller in that particular category path, and was it catchable? I didn’t know. But I wanted to find out.

So I called in all my favours from the boys downtown… well okay, from my slightly bemused and mainly bespectacled writing cohorts and colleagues from within various Facebook groups. Essentially begging them to buy my book, I even lowered the price, which is the equivalent of leaning into the passenger side window and flashing acres of cleavage while making kissy faces. Not a good look, in other words. And perhaps my lowest point to date as an independent writer was when I found myself with my finger poised over the Buy Now With 1-Click button… and clicked. Yes, I admit it here for the world to mock me with: I bought my own book. For which I later did penance by dragging razor wire through my spleen and driving carpet nails into my perineum.

But also, some very kind people, most of them my colleagues right here at Indies Unlimited, felt sufficient excruciating embarrassment sympathy for my plight that they dug deep and shelled out for my lonely little book. Cue a couple of tense hours refreshing the Amazon page and watching the ranking (what on earth did we do for fun before the internet? Torture the kids with crocodile clips and car batteries? Prank the neighbours with elaborate setups involving loud hailers, flamethrowers and wolverine feces? Oh wait, yeah, we read books), until… well, it worked. Just like that (if you doubt me, click on the embedded photo above).

I was gobsmacked. #1 in an admittedly gerrymandered category, but no matter. It was a real bestseller. Which is especially ironic, since it has never sold well, being both short and nonfiction; pretty much guaranteed niche market material. In fact, I don’t mind admitting that its usual overall ranking fluctuates somewhere between 200,000 and 400,000. And that brings me to another point: the book’s overall Amazon Kindle Store ranking peaked at around 22,000, which prompts me to ask: if a small number of near-simultaneous purchases is enough to lift one eBook hundreds of thousands of places in the Amazon lists, are the vast majority of eBooks really selling as well as we’ve been led to believe? Is this an example of the so-called long tail, and did I just witness my own book advance from its usual place partway down the tail to somewhere nearer the front… yet still essentially a part of the tail? Okay, we’re getting into areas outside my expertise, which is admittedly not difficult, but it’s nutrition for cogitation, don’t you think?

What I take from this, however, is that the power of social media and our potential for collective action gave me a bestseller, as it could give you a bestseller, and as much as an observer might accuse us of gaming the system, we still put in the effort and discovered it was possible. And that surely stands for something in a world in which the little guy often feels excluded by the arcane rules of gargantuan corporations; rules that appear only to benefit those already at the top. Hey, Coker’s right. We’re not so little after all, not when we’re many.

*     *     *     *     *

A version of this post appeared on Indies Unlimited on March 30, 2010. also writes for Indies Unlimited and BlergPop. Be sure to check out his work there if you like what you read here.