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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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Entries in Hunter S Thompson (3)

Friday
Sep012017

Ink Into Blue

All the warm lights settle into the glow of evening, that umbra of deep blue before it accedes to black. You can still see the ridge with its dark fractal conifers and a deepening gloom beneath, backdropping this pretty town, beyond the amber necklace of I-5 lights. This melancholic summer twilight. All our crew and passengers anticipating night.

"I walked for hours alongside the interstate and no one noticed me. Till I stumbled. Then everyone gathered to watch me stumble again."

"The way of things. Said it before."

"But surely it ain't right. Ain't normal!"

"There is no normal; only what we become accustomed to."

The bay is flat as a hockey rink, barely a ripple on its reflecting expanse. Blue and blue and more blue, deepening to ink, punctuated by the copper and brass of streetlights, passing ships, the breathless tremor of awakening stars.

We are on an ark amid those stars.

You write like HST, like Hitchens: whipsmart and hairshirt honest. You're a heartbreaker the moment a heartbreaker's required. Because the truth barely hides within all the voices. Hurts, though, hurts so good.

It's a dark room, massive as a hangar. I can't even tell what the floor is made from, whether it's natural or even solid. A doorframe filled with light gleams on the other side, far away, and every footstep leads me there yet doesn't. It won't come closer. I walk and walk before the traceless course is set. 

People have been seeing stairs in the deep woods—in the peace and the pure dark of those woods, stairs and no floors, concrete risers absent handrails, going up, descending—and have heard music notes that rise and fall with the wind on still days. Like a sudden mist, a shudder, an air of something terrifying, trees inhaling en masse then holding their breaths.

***

They left me here. To deal with Mother Russia, or one of her misbegotten spawn. Inside this grim building that feels like an institution. Flats, I hear; never apartments. One syllable will suffice. The single pane windows are framed in cold metal once painted a green so pale it's almost grey and is grey where it flakes. I stand at one and hear the spite of the windflung snow like grit on the glass. Did you know glass is a liquid, one very slow tear from an eye that cannot blink? I hear someone moaning, not close. Outside, a narrow road set back beyond an open area that is barely ever grass, even in springtime. Now it is patched with snow and strewn with ugly, unwanted things. Unloved things. A scarred dog the colour of dysentery investigates. The deep fissure between its eyes suggests something treacherous; I see the same in some men. The dog first sniffs then begins to chew on a used condom, and my nausea returns, beached like a gulping fish. There is nothing out there. I am in some blighted quarter of some nexus where all Cold War stereotypes happened upon truth for once. Someone left me here and isn't coming back. Nothing moves on the road and the ghosts of centuries hurl cold grit at the window and I try not to blink.

*** 

The man who speaks to birds divulges troubles. An emphysemic blues harp trailing in sync with the failing blue light. A hierarchy of blue. Near-black to india ink to royal blue to cerulean to shimmering abalone, that inbreath, the vestige of light unreal.

Bird man is on this. Where is the two-step hoot of the cuckoo in the bluebell woods? he asks. Our childhood springs were punctuated by its veiled predation. Its dulcet faux-solace bored into our brains unnoticed. Those auspicious Aprils. That banded marauder. Now silence presides over the wildflower lake that laps against dead bark, its waves curling midbreak and browning. How is it the birds are silent, the odd lone interloper gallant in its solo aria? Did we make of progress a ligature with which to choke the rest?

Bile and drool. Factories, refineries. They all sound like chickens. Astonished and blest.

Great swaths come of age defrauded. Cheated of this: supine in fragrant grasses as the lark spirals skyward buoyed by its own sweet song. Twitter is scant compensation, is weaksauce.

Close those massive doors and stop dreaming. Nostalgia is the devil's favourite trap, your fretful yearning throat in a capo grip, your flustered avian heartbeat faltering. 

Undressed.

Behold the false spring. Here, things live in things that grow on things. Cryptic. Larval. Something lives inside the holes, appallingly aware. You came and lived among us. The earth itself cries torrents.

"I'll never be accustomed to this."

"Shhhh…"

"I'm right, though, ain't I?"

"Hush now."

We are all writers. We lay upon this world black ribbons. We lay upon this world vile detritus. We lay upon this world our open, defective hearts. Sigils and glyphs. We lay upon this world our fathomless regret. 

Friday
Aug252017

Majestic

© Robert WattsWe were staggered by rain. A torrent of it, for damn near half a day, before the sun broke through once more and redaubed our world in accustomed gold. Some called it cleansing, but if you haven't showered in a month or so, one won't get you clean.

Before they abated, the littoral squalls had a faint salt taste, it's true. 

I do recall my period came in heavy that month, lasted best part of a week.

***

Hunter S. Thompson bowed out right on time, Shaun assures us. One of those moments America forgot to hide its death rictus. Baghdad shenanigans and worse. He—HST, that is—clicked off the safety and cocked his piece while he spoke on the phone of love and language. Then he triggered the mechanism that drove that fingerlike cylinder of shiny metal into his raging, glorious brain, and left instructions to fire his ashes from a cannon to the sound of "Spirit in the Sky" by Norman Greenbaum. That mad, splendid sacrificial ram.

Somewhere in the universe he's pursuing Richard Nixon like a bloodhound, like the finest hunter. Once he catches him, he'll circle back.

All those beach houses, lined up, balancing seasonal abandonment with clusters of carousers, while a faraway train trails its melancholy bray eastward, northward, calling for backup. 

Cross my heart and hope to fly. Shaun demands we all meet on Rodeo Drive and shop. To our credit and our shame we comply. The evening sun cracks its shell-like rim and drips like fulvous glue among us. 

***

I don't know what to do with myself. This is something new. Last thing I remember 'fore I killed the motherfucker was dancing at the strip club, my dress rehearsal legs astride some pole already smeared with someone else's body fluids, my ropy arms holding me trembling in a pose above the sightlines of a bevy of blithe and lustful men. A magnificent queen of tawdry caught in the lustfire.

Backstage the man named Crawdog stepped in my path, and I lost some part of myself. I never even knew I'd kept ahold of that blade until I drove it between his obdurate ribs and into his stupid heart. It felt dirty. Cuntish. Before he died, for ten whole seconds, he sobbed his ruined heart out. 

He sure knew. Play his drastic songs now, he sure did know.

***

"We need to agree to a meeting place."

"You know it."

"How about that old motel out on Sunset? Wait, no. Pacific Coast Highway? The Magic Motel? The Magisterial?"

"Ain't no such place."

"Uh, you sure? I can see it in my dreams, you know?"

"That's just dreams, though."

***

Who dies first? Is the desert next? What do we fear and who do we loathe, before and after a rain squall? We don't know. Not even Shaun. No. We won't ever know, have no idea where to gather, amid the oily puddles, stumbling ghoulish in this filthy sunset glow.

Friday
Aug242012

Fear and Loathing No More

Long before the interwebs dubbed them “epic fails”, I used to collect such stories in the dimly-lit, ironic laugh-a-thon I call my “mind”. Like the bank robber who wrote his holdup note on the back of an envelope that not only displayed his own name and address clearly and almost heartbreakingly, but also that of his parole officer, upper left corner, return address. Then… he left the envelope. Or a different guy—surely related via some spectacular yet hitherto undiscovered boneheadedness gene—who held up the teller with a rifle… but left the cork plugged proudly and prominently in the end of his painfully-obvious-to-everyone toy firearm.

Anyway, that’s a trip down Fail Boulevard. And highly amusing as that journey undoubtedly is, I want to explore another part of town: Success Street. Success. Even the word itself sounds like it tastes good (cf: succinct, succumb, succour, succulent). Yeah. Did I ever mention how much I love words? So much so I want to eat them. With bacon. And chocolate-dipped seahorse roe.

But I digress.

Look, without further ado, here are seven awesome ways to totally guarantee your writing success.

7. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, insert the word “Game” in your title. It certainly worked for Orson Scott Card (Ender!), Clive Barker (Damnation!), Tom Clancy (Patriot!), George R. R. Martin (Thrones!), Neil Strauss (seduction!) and Suzanne Collins (Hunger!). Although I suppose the jury’s still out on Herman Hesse… not altogether surprising, given The Glass Bead Game‘s so not-intimidating German title (Das Glasperlenspiel) as well as the novel’s popular and frothy mix of existentialist, epistemological and ontological themes. Ahem. But the overall idea is sound. If it’s not already taken, I suggest something like The Hungry Game of Patriotic Seduction. Kind of puts you in mind of a Clancy/Kundera collab. Which would be magnificent. Oh, and for your sequel, you might want a title that somehow incorporates girls with interesting tattoos and frustrated soccer moms just beginning to explore the pain/pleasure dichotomy.

6. Don’t just make your vampires sparkly, make them iridescent. In fact, make them musical. So they walk into a room accompanied by the ominous baritone strains of “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”. Also, give them love interest. Try to avoid thinking about how skeevy they actually are, given their deathly pallor and propensity for amorous violations of the species barrier. Along these lines, make them handsome and/or beautiful so your readers completely overlook the fact they resemble something that died in its parents’ basement a long time ago. Writing is stage(d) magic, right? As in, sleight-of-hand and misdirection. Readers are suckers. Just never say that last part again. Ever. Not even with your inside voice.

5. Worry about how your target audience will react to everything. Pander to them. Shy away from profanity, sex and violence, and assume your readership is as rigidly and deeply puritanical as a fingerwag of church ladies at a Calvinist Convention… in Alabama. Actually, forget that last one: violence is your birthright as an American. As the aforementioned George R. R. Martin aptly put it: “I can describe an axe entering a human skull in great explicit detail and no one will blink twice at it. I provide a similar description, just as detailed, of a penis entering a vagina, and I get letters about it and people swearing off. To my mind this is kind of frustrating, it’s madness. Ultimately, in the history of [the] world, penises entering vaginas have given a lot of people a lot of pleasure; axes entering skulls, well, not so much.”

4. Take a stand on the big publishing issues of the day and stick to your guns, even in the face of any contradictory evidence. No, wait: don’t just stick to your effete, feeble Saturday night specials—amass bigger and better versions! Fully automatics. RPGs. Decide whether this issue is black. Or whether that one’s white. Never grey, nuh-uh. I mean, really, how does one choose a specific shade of grey when they are essentially infinite (certainly more than a paltry fifty, Ms. E. L. James)? Simple: one doesn’t. So, go ahead, decide that the traditional publishing houses are ancient, threatened elitists dripping with unctuous literary pretension or decide that independent authors are a talentless hollow-eyed Noob Army of wretched hacks who are to fine writing what Justin Bieber is to fine musicianship. But decide. And don’t dare waver or show nuance. Nuance is just another word for “liberal pantywaist do-gooder”, after all. No. Save “flexibility” for your special yoga moments.

3. Defend your brand. Your brand being you, obviously. If someone has the audacity to dislike one of your books in a review, take the fight to Amazon. Or beyond. Argue and defend it all over the interwebs. It’s your baby. You are almost literally advocating for your kid at the most dysfunctional school board meeting you’ve ever attended. You need to make horrible threats, maybe even personalize the conflict by accusing your reviewer of having a balloon animal fetish trying to ruin you. Use every rhetorical trick in the book to belittle your attackers, pull no punches. How can you be the bully when you are one and they are many? Right? It’s more important to demonstrate your passion than your professionalism. Just ask Gordon Ramsay.

2. Spam. I mean spam the living hell out of every Facebook group, every Twitter account, every Goodreads and LinkedIn group you can conceivably sign up for. Cover the online world with your bland, pink, lukewarm meat. Make sure you log in every day and repeat the same blurb about how your book is the bestest and most awesomest book since Stephen King and J. K. Rowling teamed up to invent rabid St Bernards who eat bespectacled young wizards in deserted Colorado hotels. Use multiple exclamation points. And don’t make friends. They take up too much of your promo time.

1. Die. This is the most surefire yet simultaneously most drastic way to achieve success in the arts, and only recommended when all else fails. Actually, I don’t really recommend it at all; it’s generally a stupid idea and will make people cry. Unless you are already known for crazy. And even then, it’s worth pointing out that what worked for Hunter S. Thompson may not work for the average person. This is a man whose body contained more drugs in his lifetime than all of Bristol-Myers Squibb and Pfizer combined, a man whose remains were fired out of a cannon to the tune of Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky”. I think it’s safe to say his example was pretty much an outlier by any measure you could choose to make.

*     *     *     *     *

A version of this post appeared on Indies Unlimited on August 10, 2012. David Antrobus also writes for Indies Unlimited and BlergPop. Be sure to check out his work there if you like what you read here.