Archive for June, 2009


New Work / Grinning White Teeth released

My first novel, Grinning White Teeth was released yesterday via the printer’s website. Follow the link to purchase. Thre months after completion, and I’ve come to term it my “demo tape”.

Featuring the artistic talents of Adam Geen on the cover, GWT follows the story of Cassius Hall, an Olympic caliber drug user and semi-functional human. Cass is crushed when his estranged best friend, the famed Jennifer Belle, dies of a gruesome overdose. Determined to stop the carnivorous “American Death Cult”, Cassius sets out to tell his best friend´s story before the cultural assembly line can get it´s hooks into her. When it´s discovered that a biopic about Jennifer is being developed, Cassius turns to the people closest to her to paint a picture of what celebrity really gets you.

Working on my next project, The American Literary Firearm Society. Excerpt below:

I first joined the American Literary Firearm Society on a cool fall evening three years ago, sitting at my desk with a fifth of whiskey and a painfully new Kimber .45 ACP. The grip still smelled of freshly pressed rubber, the clip was slick and smooth with machine oil. I had drained the bottle of whiskey quicker than usual, aggressively pouring refill after refill. The glass was clear and flawless, a ring of brown courage left at the bottom.

I counted off to myself, a second for each round I had loaded into the clip. One, two, three, four. I declared a spiritual war. Five, six, seven, eight. Time to dissociate. Nine, ten, eleven, twelve. Hope it’s nice tonight in Hell. Thirteen, fourteen, and one more in the chamber.

Screw this.

The gun cracked a tooth as it slid passed my lips, the pain was momentary and minor. The barrel angled upward, the sight scraping the roof of my mouth. Behind me, Hemingway and Thompson were cheering me on. They had been cheering me on for weeks. They founded the fucking group. ‘American Literary’ equals authors. ‘Firearm Society’ equals gun lovers. That is, American authors who’ve blown their brains out. I felt like I was starting a trend.

Trigger back, hammer down.

The amount of pressure from those two wasn’t much. Correctly applied, but minimal. I had spent fifteen years as an author, slugging it out, struggling to keep myself afloat. There were successes, wild and exuberant successes. Fantastic moments of triumph ringing out into the night. Successes that burned out, as did my marriage, and receded into the past with my money, my property, and my hairline. Then one misstep – “box office poison” they’d call it – and suddenly no editor would touch me.

Word gets around Manhattan quickly. I tried to sneak new work in under different pseudonyms. I wrote as Nicholas Cheney, Henry Pallas, Paul Darcy, Anton Holst. I’d leave my earlier work off of queries, and still they’d figure it out. Each rejection would start, “Dear Jack Harker.” I’d continue to read it in my own words. “You are a loser, who deserves to lay in traffic. Your work won’t sell, so we’re not interested, you hack piece of shit. Please go end your life and stop killing trees, because we are a ‘green company’ now, and we would rather you don’t send us giant manuscripts that we’re going to reject without a glance.”

Twelve manuscripts, running the gamut from genre to literary fiction, Post Modern to Southern Gothic, now collecting dust in small little packages in my office closet. I should have burned them before I buried the Armscor full metal jacket 45 in my skull. I had a feeling that no good would come from leaving them behind.

Thompson screamed and bitched at me to quit crying like a little girl. Hemingway laughed and told me to go get a hunting rifle like a real man. So I pulled the trigger. The force from the bullet exiting the top of my head jerked my body up and back. The two welcomed me with open arms to the Society. I asked them, “What now?” Hemingway turned away from me. Thompson smiled and bit hard on his cigarette holder and said “Now we get more.”

So we did.

No one notices our kind. We are faceless, names on spines stacked next to each other endlessly in bookstores. We have voices, essentially our whole identity, but we’re ethereal things. The most narcissistic of us stuffed into designer black clothing in a very well managed black and white photo on the back flap. You might recognize one or two on the street. You’ll miss five more when you stop to look. We are anonymous. No one bats an eye when five, ten, fifteen, failed writers pick up guns and end themselves in a year.

The Society grew bloated with souls. Leah Whitman, the narcissist, wanted everyone to watch. She threw a dinner party. At 10:00 PM on the dot she stood atop her long oak dinner table, pressed a Glock to her head, and sprayed her brains all over her guests. Gregory London, the psychotic, took a hostage with a flat head screwdriver. He committed suicide by deliberately enticing Milwaukee’s finest. Stellan Faulkner, the obsessive compulsive, spent thirteen months picking the weapon, the bullet, the day, and time of his suicide. He covered his living room in two blue tarps, called his parents, carefully taped his suicide note on the front door, undressed, and meticulously folded his clothes before he wrapped his lips around a Browning Maxus Stalker.

Each had reasons for wanting to die. Each hung around with the three of us for a time before moving on to wherever. Now we make it a habit to meet once every six months, bringing new faces with us. A simple enough task for the motivated. They call it “The Sylvia Plath Effect”, a curious correlation between writers and mental illness. As if writing only attracts the unstable.

Now it’s up to me to find the new kid.


Defiance in the face of inevitability

The back of the cruiser was cramped, so focused on safety that I could barely fit inside. The screen that separates the back from front seat extends from the roof to the floor, completely blocking off the underside of the driver’s seat. My feet were pressed hard against the barrier, curled up and stretched. The handcuffs dug into my wrists, slicing as I tried to adjust my position.

The deputy groaned loudly as he sat in the driver’s seat, almost lounging across the cab. He tapped away at the keys of his on board computer and laughed to himself. I tried to stretch my neck to catch a glimpse of the screen, the cuffs catching the upholstery and tearing out a seam with a “pop”.

The deputy glanced back and swung the table the laptop rested on to a greater angle. “Whatever you’re doing back there, quit it.” He seemed annoyed at my presence. He smiled as he tapped away, laughing to himself. “You’re fucked, kiddo.”

I stretched me neck, cracking it as I turned. I felt annoyed, frustrated that it was going to end with this. Picked up walking home from a random girl’s house simply by looking drunk and undesirable. My beard itched, and my wrists hurt. I simmered slowly, and could feel the heat build in my face.

“Oh yeah? Fucked?”

“Oh yeah. Fucked.”

He straightened in his seat and reached for his radio. He mumbled something that most likely only made sense to cops. There was a response over the line, it was short and made little more sense then what he had said. “Do you know what happens to people like you?”

He turned back to me and grinned wide. His face was craggy and old. The cleft in his chin was so severe that there were hairs caught in the crevice that could never be shaved by conventional means. “Really? Do you have any idea?”

He laughed again, a wheezing laugh full of phlegm. His voice cracked, and the sound of a trillion Camels like steel wool scraping the inside of his lungs.

I grinned back, smarmy and toothless. Wearing my disdain as a mask. I pictured the most punchable face I’d ever seen and slipped it on. “No, sir, not at all. I’ve never yelled ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater before.”

He turned back to the wheel and shut the door to the cruiser with authority. He glanced back at me through the rear-view mirror, his eyes narrowing. “Enjoy it. I hope you can speak Arabic.”

Without hesitation. “Your mom taught me. While I fucked her in the ass last night.” Couldn’t help myself.

He dropped the car into drive and pulled out onto the road. I settled again in the seat, stretching my legs across the whole of the cab. “Nice and roomy back here. It’s nice.”


The Great And The Good

The sun was painful in it’s brightness. I couldn’t have done this a month ago. I’d struggle to get out of bed, and sleep walk to the coffee maker to try and wake up. Barney would jump at my leg, whining and screaming to get out to the backyard. Now I’ve gone commando, up and gone without amenities like caffeine. It’s a luxury now to get a beer and a smoke, or to spend a night with a pretty girl in a bed that is more than a mattress on the floor.

I slipped on my sweatshirt as I walked, the fabric catching on my newly shaven head, dragging across my scalp. I struggled to poke my head through the neck as I hit 4th Ave, hoping to make it to the junkyard on 27th before the boys made it to work in the morning.

My heart sank when the siren kicked up.

I stopped dead in my tracks, my head sliding through the neck of the sweatshirt. I was standing in the middle of the street, unaware I had crossed off the side of the road as I walked. I wondered why it couldn’t have been a delivery truck or some doughy yuppie racing to work. Metallic green lettering – HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY SHERRIFF – on the hood of the patrol car glimmered in the morning sun. The deputy opened his door and called out to me.

“You alright there?”

He didn’t recognize me. I sprang back to life and struggled to find anything to say. “Yes, sir. Doing fine.” Any words. He shut the door to his car, and slowly walked towards me. Fuck.

“What are you doing in the road, sir?”

I turned and pointed to the sidewalk, grasping at straws. “Well, I was walking down from my girlfriend’s house. She…” I paused, searching. “She just kicked me out, sir. Found out about the other one.” He grinned wide and shook his head.

“Gotta cover your tracks, kid.”

I laughed nervously. “Yeah, I guess I just took it a little too far.” He stood back and sized me up, eyes taking in the only clothes I had left. The sweatshirt was torn at the sleeves, and my jeans were covered in weeks of dirt and tattered at the knees. My Doc Martens were scuffed and worn. I was speckled with paint, in my hair and caught in my three day beard.

“Have you been drinking?”

“No…No sir. Not this early.”

He stepped closer. “No place open yet?”

I tried to straighten my posture. “No, sir. I…don’t drink?” Son of a bitch. This is not going the way I had hoped.


Half finished thoughts on paper

Slowly, they eventually come together into something new. Most of the time they don’t have to, lasting long enough for music or moments to fade.


I woke up to the sun sneaking in between the venetian blinds, warm light soaking the room in a gentle orange. I slowly pulled back the bed sheet and slid off the mattress, careful not to wake Sarah as I stood. I winced at the creeking of the springs and waited in silence to make sure she hadn’t awoken, her gentle rhythmic breathing the only sign that her motionless body was still alive.

I dug through the pile of clothes thrown chaotically on the floor next to the bed, searching for my cigarettes and lighter. I opened the Zippo with the greatest ease, and was just as careful in closing it. I enjoyed it, the first drag in the morning, killing the burning ache in my throat and jump starting my consciousness.

I peered through the blinds, watching the world below already alive and kicking. The taxis and delivery trucks, the bike messengers and town cars, all of them twisting and turning through the street, lives intersecting for a moment before receding off into the darkness. From high above I watched, stark naked except for a thin sheet of smoke wrapped around me, and smiled.

In my head, in his perfect deadpan, Lou Reed spoke for me. Oh it’s such a perfect day, glad I spent it with you. The song played in my head, the world slowing down to a slow beat as he droned on and on. It played to completion, and when it was done I smothered the cigarette in the ashtray and dress. I left, without ever waking her.


Have you ever asked yourself…

What would happen if a universe was born in your neighborhood? I imagine something like this. This short story should be finished in a day or so.


I woke up three days ago to a hole where the roof, windows, and upper floors of my apartment building should be. Blown out by some noiseless explosion that had never disturbed my completely sound sleep. The unfiltered noise of the city drifting in to replace my alarm clock. The white noise was shattered by a screech, “JESUS!”

From my bed, I could see into my neighbor’s apartment, as he struggled to hold onto his oak dinner table dangling from the rubble that used to be his nook. His wife cried and screamed and did little to help him as the massive table creeked and slowly slid backwards under the pull of gravity.

I vaulted from my bed, and slammed hard into the wooden floor of my apartment, my feet still tangled in the sheets. “ROY!” I screamed. “HOLD ON!” His wife shot her eyes to me and wailed again, blubbering out something that sounded like “Help.”

Roy, for his part grasped at the table, working his hardest to crawl his way across the slick finish of the wood. “I’m trying!” He yelled, his voice half muffled by distance and the wind rushing past the building.

I stumbled over what was once my fridge, a gnarled and twisted pile of sharp metal, tearing a gash in my leg as I tried to crawl across it.

Roy’s wife screamed again, as the wooden legs clawed into the carpet of their apartment began to crack under the stress. The stress of it’s own weight, and Roy’s middle aged girth, too much for the glue holding the leg to the table to stand.

The table crashed into the floor and began to slid over the side of the cliff that was once our apartment building. Roy yelled something that was swallowed by the noise of the moment, and then lost in the next.

Roy’s widow collapsed to her knees, sobbing, burying her head in the carpet. I stood, looking out over the expanse between our building and the one across the street. It too was missing a large part of it’s wall, in a sort of half spherical pattern, like someone had dropped a massive bowling ball between our two buildings.

Mike Black is…

A writer, reader, commentator, music lover, art lover, futurist, tech lover, pragmatist, romantic, DepDecoist, and a bastard. Hopefully you enjoy.

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