• 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
    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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Lit By Fire

"If you must die, sweetheart, die knowing your life was my life's best part.” — Keaton Henson

They said it was Banksy. The last painting. The howling boy on the wall of the capitol. We’ll probably never know, but I saw it, and it sure looked like a Banksy. 

You can’t really miss a black bear. The dripping, flexing arms of the forest murmur their shades of green, some a pale jade whisper, some an emerald shout, some so abysmal they’re nearly black, and within those dark branches lie shadows, blacker still. Yet a black bear, once it crosses your visual field in front of or within those varied shades of green, is a piece cut out of the world, a stark absence, a patch of lonely void in the shape of a bear. At which point, is it even a bear?

We sit in a quiet corner, you with your floppy hat and me with my eighties obsession that I can barely articulate.

“Try my hat on,” you say.

“I’d prefer not to.” I realize this is a hat store, and I balk. 

“Ha ha, that’s why I love you! You let me down gently, like an escalator.”

“No idea what you’re talking about, but you’re my friend, and I love you too, of course. Why are we even saying any of this? It’s a given.”

“Nothing’s a given. We’re renewing our friendship vows.”

“Um, you can stop now. Stop talking, that is. For fuck’s sakes. My toes are cramping.”

“Which only makes me love you more.”

“Shut up. Uh. Please, shut up.”

“Let’s go see some sights.”

“Yes, the new Banksy. The one we literally dropped everything to come and see.”

She had a way about her, a mood, something impossible to say no to.

But yes, back to art and stuff. Life. Banksy or not. 

What matters? Stale toast and the late, lazy flap of corvids against a peach sunset. An avocado pit sending tendrils. A butter churn. Scaffolding arched above a sidewalk, mauve and crimson night leaking into the tubular screens of its graceless folded geometry. Umbilicals. A honeybee nudging petals, reticent as a new lover. “I can’t breathe.” Do unto others. Me too. Make me an instrument of thy peace. Do what thou wilt, though it harm none. Keep on truckin’. Just do it. The great oil canvas of Serengeti brushstroked by wildebeest. Boreal trails of the caribou. Helpless, tenacious Marlowe balanced on the unlikely ridge spanning love and cynicism. The shock of a black locust on the whitewashed farmhouse wall, droning stark on stucco. Slanted dusty rays of old gold across grocery scales. The micro worlds of toys, all those chimes and astonished faces. And she has gone to Carterhaugh. How long, baby, how long? Stripe of the Bengal tiger, the lion’s nasal folds, the cougar’s stern and diffident brow. Howling alien nowheres blazoning the arrant vacancy of forsaken love. Pissing your name in a snowbank, or better yet an obscenity. Reeking fresh leaves of basil torn and open as the Sacré-Coeur. Bats exploding from a granite mouth, hurtling like scorched sparks in the quiet fire of twilight. Reciprocity: mouthing a woman to orgasm and being sucked. Croissants warm in the slatemine morning beside the drifting river. Dreamed unearthly cathedrals. Black lives never not mattering. The hart of the wood, the heart of the would, a-bloom with grief and guilt. Kiln-baked pizzas assailed by artichokes. Rooks prattling in a copse, jackdaws likewise on ramparts. Blastocysts zapped by lasers. Terror cells cleansed by drones. Eyelashes shipped free by Amazon. Thirst, in all its forms. 

Smiles like an ocean horizon, faint, blue, where the sky is stitched. 

A baby crying on the floor, abandoned. Cold concrete and a massive ceiling. A bear seeking entry, quivering snout attuned. Junior’s alone and loud, his laments a looping echo of their own discordant song.

“Come back now. Did you hear me? Where did you go?”

My ears half-closed, my heart is like a cannonball, shock aroused by alcohol, patterns like a dream tattoo. 

Open my secular breast. These dripping fragrant delicacies I’ve saved for you.


Seasons Now Published

If there were such a thing as a Writer Genie, I'd only have one wish to ask of it: please make me more prolific. Actually, that's not true. Since childhood, I've urged every character in every tale to ever feature the standard three wishes to simply ask for an infinite number of wishes, but to no avail. Why doesn't anyone ever think of that?

Ha. But anyway, where was I? Oh right. Prolific. You've heard the phrase "verbal diarrhea," right? Well, I suffer from the polar opposite. Consonantal constipation. In short, I need a lexicographic laxative.

But today, thanks to the efforts of some fine colleagues, I and those very same compadres have (to mercifully change the metaphor) added a few more blocks of ice to the glacially expanding edifice of our written output. The story behind Seasons is as serendipitous as the stories within Seasons, if that makes sense. At some point last September, a story about a troubled young woman wrestling with self-destructive impulses appeared to me almost unbidden. No doubt it emerged from a subconscious filled with the real life horror stories of young people who are so often dealt a cruel and arbitrary hand before they're even born. "Summer Long" is a difficult character study, dark and anxious and fearful. But I think it said what I'd needed to say. Then a chance exchange in the comments section (you can read how it all unfolded here) resulted in a chain reaction in which Edward Lorn, JD Mader and Jo-Anne Teal each began to add a new, related story, a season at a time, until we ended up with this delicately balanced quartet of tales poised between oblivion and redemption.

And now, you can buy the collected stories for an insanely low price, and better yet, know that 100 percent of the royalties will go to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Yeah, the four of us won't see a single penny. (Which is good, as half the authors here are Canadian and pennies are now outlawed in Canada. It's true.)


The Uber Cannons of Snark

© Miramax Films, 1994Okay, I’m going to go full douchenozzle in this post. You may know me for my mildly snarky yet oddly gentle sense of humour, but enough’s enough. Time on this occasion to unleash both barrels of the Über Cannons of Snark.

No messing about, here are eight dick moves for writers, and once you’ve read them, please stop doing them. Now. And I’m turning the barrels on myself, too: I’ve been as guilty as anyone with a few of these. Well, a couple, at least. Okay, one of them.

8. Quit trying to earn your book nerd cred. Telling people you don’t own a television and that you don’t even miss it doesn’t actually make you look the erudite techno-rebel you think it does. Or the noble ascetic, either. Or whatever other worthy character your inner movie is projecting on the murky screen inside your head. No, it makes you look more like an elitist luddite and an extremist bizarropod. Guess what, folks? You can own and even occasionally watch a television and you might on occasion be entertained or learn something or catch a great Seinfeld rerun or discover how badass the honey badger really is (wait, that’s YouTube) or marvel at Lionel Messi’s close ball control or weep uncontrollably at an old classic movie… or at Mitt Romney’s awkward and obvious avoidance of any questions with the letters T, A and X in close proximity… and none of this will prevent you from also reading books. One does not exclude the other. May I repeat that? One does not exclude the other! Blaming TV for all the pop culture trash out there is like blaming the internet for porn… oh wait…. Think I broke my brain again. Give me a second…

7. Speaking of pop culture trash, bemoaning the fact Snooki has a bestselling book to her name does nothing for you other than to raise your blood pressure a few notches. It’s stupid and pointless. As, indeed, you believe the young lady herself to be. But let’s reframe it: she is an example of a young person from a generation many older folk dismiss as unmotivated and entitled. Did she sit around in various bars and clubs in Seaside Heights getting hella crunk like you assume most of her contemporaries did/do? Well, okay, sort of. But the key is, she did it on camera, even getting punched in the face for her troubles, and did it all with enough tawdry poignance that people couldn’t help but notice her. And try watching the scene where she’s so achingly (and at that point, pretty much deservedly) lonely she wanders the boardwalk barefoot, literally begging for someone to party with her, without feeling even a twinge of genuine pity in your black and empty heart. Just try it. Anyway, she bootstrapped her decidedly odd and needy defiance into something lucrative. Fair play to her. So what? Move on, that’s what.

6. In fact, stop being envious, period. Of sparkly vampires or soccer mom spanking sessions. Lamenting your own obscurity while publicly calling out examples of undeserved success is not a good look. Who gets to decide the “undeserved” part? Do you really want to end up looking like those hoary old classic rock bands in the ’70s who turned up their noses at upstarts like… the Sex Pistols? The Clash? The Ramones? Again, we don’t have to take sides, we can listen to both, capiche? Even if we’re a dinosaur (and at some point, everyone has to take his or her turn in the Dino-dome), it’s better to be Neil Young than Ted freaking Nugent, after all. And I’m not even saying that because I’m Canadian. Honest. Embrace it all and stop experiencing life in narrowcast (or something… sometimes I worry even I don’t know what I’m talking about). And when it comes to music, thanks partly to the whole iTunes revolution, we seem to have collectively gotten that message at last. Now we just need to extend it to books and realise how much of this is simply down to subjective taste and stop reinventing hierarchies that only ever succeed in pissing everyone off or, worse, intimidating new writers into quitting before they’ve ever had the chance to learn and hone their skills. Stop telling people who’s allowed to eat at the big folks’ table. Besides, the big folks’ table looks a little dull. And you can’t even put your elbows on it.

5. Oh, and the corollary to that last one: if you do begin to experience a measure of success, be gracious about it. Don’t set odd little traps for others. Don’t suddenly act like the King or Queen of I Am Bearer Of The Ultimate Secret and start rubbing your friends’ faces in it only to then turn around and imply they’re acting jealous when in fact they’re only being aghast and uncomfortable at your embarrassing hubris. No, this is bad behaviour all around, stop it. Sure, success can be down to hard work, but there’s often a measure of sheer random luck involved, right-place-right-time kind of thing. Many writers work their typing fingers to the calcium-depleted bone with relatively little success. You gonna tell them they don’t deserve it? Some of them? All of them? And even more pertinent: you cannot know whether this relative upsurge in your own fortunes will last. What is that thing they say pride comes before? You know exactly what I’m saying. Show a little humility, fool. Be kind.

4. Back in the day, writers were sticklike figures barely subsisting on the rotted cotton wadding inside an old stained recliner they dragged to their meagre garret from an alleyway before the rats could use it for nests. They were isolated and flea-bitten wrecks, drinking methylated spirits until blindness finally destroyed their only chance at literary fame and fortune. Okay, not really, them’s stereotypes, but indulge me. In place of unbearable loneliness, we now have…. Facebook. Social media. Which we’re told to use relentlessly, to connect with people like a string of special and—thanks to inactivity and the universal accessibility of Cheetos—increasingly odd-shaped snowflakes. Snowflakes with orange teeth. And we do it. We even befriend people, genuinely. It’s a social thing. We’re a social animal. The artificial divide between writer and reader is now virtually gone (sorry, pun not intended). Which is great and everything, but now we can bite back… snipe back directly at the suddenly malicious critics and readers who attack our precious babies. We can use the very tools we’re most adept in—words—to strike, like Jules Winnfield, with great vengeance and furious anger on our foes. Everywhere. On Amazon. On our personal blogs. On Facebook. Twitter. Mwahahaha, we are The Forgers of Words, hear us roar… Well, no. We really shouldn’t do that. Not even once. It will have no effect other than to convince a sizeable number of silent observers that we’re an arsey little hosebag. And, wherever you are posting or commenting on the interwebs, never forget the vast, silent bank of lurkers. Their eyes are beady and mean and they will watch you and they will judge you. It’s sheer professional suicide to act like a handicapped badger’s spleen… and besides, you know that cool “lay my vengeance upon thee” Ezekiel-schtick in Pulp Fiction? Tarantino made it the hell up. ‘Nuff said.

3. Now, with this one I don’t fully see eye to eye with many of my writer peers. I’m talking about politics and religion. And unlike others, I don’t think you should avoid these topics. In fact, they’re pretty much the motherlode for any discussion of the human condition, the sacred and the profane… which is what we as writers should be eating for breakfast. Before moving onto philosophy and existential eel porn by lunch time. So don’t avoid them. But… be tactful. If someone disagrees with you, try not to call him a rabid baboon’s esophagus. Quite honestly, the only writers I would advise to STFU on this stuff are the true bigots: the racists, the sexists, the homophobes. They just need to sit down, be quiet, watch how normal people work, and learn how utterly futile their pathetic attempts to swim against the prevailing winds are, almost as excruciatingly failworthy as my last metaphor, in fact.

2. Spam. You just knew the pink, lukewarm meat of doom was going to make an appearance, didn’t you? Look, I get it. We’re told, exhorted in fact, to promote our work across a kajillion social networks with names like Tinglr and GoodFellas and FaceSpace. So we sign up for most of them and then… we go nuts. This isn’t one can of Spam, oh no, this is a cloying, gelatinous, somehow horribly sluggish, pink slough of the stuff. For the love of all that is holy, calm down. Breathe. Okay. You’re in a vast hall, and there are small groups of people scattered around. First, you don’t stand in the middle and randomly start yelling “Guys, I’m so excited! Got a 5 Star review on Smashwords today. Squeeee.” Right? (In fact, please don’t ever say squee, period, okay? Unless you’re five and like to wear tiaras.) You certainly don’t shoulder your way into a group and say “I just sold three copies of my book on the Lithuanian version of Amazon this week!” No, you find a conversation that interests you, and you politely join in when there’s a lull. It’s really that simple. Do the stuff yo’ mama taught you. Check you don’t have spinach in your teeth. Wash behind your ears. Say please and thank you. Don’t interrupt. Don’t fart and blame it on the server. Be nice. And guess what? People will like you. After which, there may come a time when someone turns to you and asks “so what is it you do?” Bingo! The online world really is but a reflection of the real world… only with way more kitties… and lots more naughty stuff. But yeah, it’s common sense, really. Moderation. Balance. If you feel you’ve crossed the line this week, cool your jets next week.

1. I was going to talk about dodgy or questionable ethics surrounding the whole recent reviews controversy, but I think I’m going to leave that to someone who will do it far more justice in a longer post than I ever could here. Instead, I’ll end somewhat anticlimactically on a subject that will make most of you sigh and look at your watch and say “oh, is that the time?” Namely… editing. Yes, go ahead, scurry away, you horrible little wordworm, but you know what’s coming, don’t you? I can still see you, so I’mma shout at your retreating backs: “HIRE AN EDITOR!” Now, this final item is in no way self-serving (cough, Be Write There, hack), but it cannot and should not be avoided. If money’s tight, go the beta reader route… something. Can you imagine if God himself had thought “You know, in the time it’ll take me to find an editor, I could have this thing up and running and put through Coker’s meatgrinder twice over, and besides, I think I’m a pretty good writer, possibly even the best. Nah, forget it, who’ll even know”? You might have gotten something like this:

1. At the start, God made up heaven and earth.

2. And teh earth was without from, and void; and drakness was up all over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of teh waters.

3. And God says, Let their be light: and thurr was light.

4. And God seen the light, that it was a’ight: and God partitioned the light from teh darkness.

5. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he thought about for a bit and eventually decided to call Night.

6. And the evening and the mourning were the 1st day.

Wait, the evening was the first day? Um… help? Someone? Where’d that editor go?


Two 5 Star Reviews in Two Days

Dissolute Kinship: A 9/11 Road Trip was reviewed twice in two days this week, and both were of the 5 Star variety. They were also genuine, emotional and compassionate.

The first came courtesy of a promising Peruvian writer named Patricia Awapara whose own work is remarkable in that English is not her native tongue. The review is on Amazon, but I'm also going to link to Patricia's own website in an attempt to give her more exposure (although I suspect her blog gets more hits than my own). Anyway, here's her kind review:

From the moment I picked up the book, I was moved by David Antrobus’ words. Beautifully written, this short story starts moments after the world goes into shock about the 9/11 tragedy. The author takes a road trip, from Canada to New York. He describes the city’s emotional state and his reaction to this horrific event with much insight and warmth. His words took me back in time. I felt as though I was there with him, with all those people. I felt their hurt and despair. It made me cried, but his word also carried hope and unity. I recommend it!

I wish I could write Spanish as well as she writes English.

Next up is Linda Rae Blair, another writer I've run into in various social media sites. Again, I am struck by the sheer emotional impact my book has on people. Of course, it was very emotional to write (and to experience), and you always hope you can convey the visceral essence of that, but it's incredibly gratifying all the same when you find you have indeed succeeded. As I said, this is another 5 Star review and is up on Smashwords:

This is a work I knew would be great, knew I would regret if I didn't read, knew would be painful to read—so, what did I do? I put it off, kept it neatly tucked away in my Kindle To Be Reads where it haunted me like a personal ghost. Well, I was yanked from my frozen state into action when someone else's review crossed by screen. "Coward," I called myself and reached for my Kindle. Half an hour later, with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes, a knot in my stomach, I knew I was right to read it. Glad I didn't try sooner, but glad I had finally gotten beyond my own PTS. David has done a tremendous job, putting his own perspective to this painful topic, as well as jarring us into facing our own pain in the memory. Thank you, David. It was beautiful, sad, and oh, so very accurate. And, as a southern neighbor, I am so very glad you took the trip that I have yet to face.

I love the way she provides a short backstory for her process in relation to the book. I imagine it sitting on her (virtual) coffee table ticking quietly like a time bomb for months.

Anyway, it goes without saying that I love and appreciate these reviews, and indeed anyone who takes the time not only to read my strange little book, but to throw some thoughts at the screen afterward.


Use Your Imagination

Life is busy at the moment, so please forgive the short post. One of the earliest pieces of writing advice I ever remember reading arrived courtesy of Stephen King. It was three simple (if slightly crude) words: “ass in chair.” Okay, fine. Thanks for that, Stephen. It can’t be argued with, though. But the next question occurs once you have molded said body part firmly onto the furniture in question: how do you keep it there? How do you stay motivated and focused enough to type out the allotted number of words at whatever rate you’ve set yourself? Well, this week I thought I’d be helpful and share five simple techniques to keep you in your seat, facing your screen, typing mindlessly into a document. An activity we mystifyingly insist on calling “writing”.

1. Remember the scene in Lethal Weapon 2 where Danny Glover is sitting on the toilet and a bomb is wired to explode if he gets up off the seat? Well, there’s a real clue to our dilemma right there. I don’t mean boobytrap your computer chair with an actual bomb, although that would work too, I suppose. Albeit a tad risky. But no, we don’t have to recreate it literally; I mean, we can let ourselves imagine a bomb going off if we stand up before our word quota is met, right? We are writers, after all. With imaginations, presumably. Oh, never mind.

2. So, you’re quietly seething because all your friends took off for a day of sun and surf and you’re sitting alone in this dingy basement again. How do you resist the urge to join them? Simple. With an unhealthy dose of schadenfreude, that’s how. You tell yourself those selfsame frolicking, carefree friends will all lose ten years off their lives thanks to the malignant melanomas that were hatched in their damaged skin cells on this very day. You made the right call, and not only did you write your allotted number of words, but you will be healthier than everyone you know (as long as you ignore the impact on your health of lengthy periods of sedentary existence punctuated only by the rustle of a chip bag or the uncorking of another bottle of Cabernet).

3. You steadily release these literary masterpieces into the black hole of the mighty ‘Zon. You then pointedly ignore the unanimous silence of the world’s cruel indifference. In the movie that runs in your head, the one in which you are the star of course, you watch excitedly as your genius is acknowledged by the literati; you are now lauded among the greats. Okay, if you are able to ignore reality this remarkably, it isn’t any great leap to further pretend there is a man with a hefty cheque waiting for you if you only finish this chapter, edit that section, proofread this paragraph. Add as many zeros to said cheque as you like. Hell, spell it “check”, even, I don’t care. Make the man a famous celebrity. Have him place a Care Bear in a headlock for no apparent reason. Make him laugh at sly librarians. It’s your scenario. Self-delusion (along with near-psychosis) is an essential part of being a writer.

4. Tell yourself if you don’t meet today’s word quota, not only will you make the baby Jesus cry, but you will plunge a battalion of the adorablest kittens into a chronic depression that will eliminate the will to live for 38% of them. You want that on your conscience? (Wait, my spellcheck didn’t flag “adorablest”? Has the world gone mad?)

5. And finally, if the other techniques fail, buy an industrial staple gun, around twenty tubes of Crazy Glue, a roll of the ever-handy duct tape, and use them in ways that will become obvious on even the most cursory of reflections to affix your rebel carcass to your chair.

*     *     *     *     *

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