Monthly Archive: August 2008

Book Geek

Almost forgot to mention: I was flatteringly asked to participate in an Author Panel over at Book Geeks. How in the world I’m considered relevant enough to be included is anyone’s guess, but I really enjoyed the discussion topic, really like the general concept (much better than your typical static interview), and really like how it turned out, but content-wise and aesthetically. Check it out!


Rittenhouse Rye

I’ve been drinking a lot of Scotch lately, but you know what? Good old Rittenhouse Rye, I was reminded just tonight, is a damn fine whiskey.


Yep. After years of successful duplicity, I’ve been outed by Waterstones in the UK:

You always suspected, huh?

You always suspected, huh?

That’s right. I’m really Nicholas Sparks, author of The Notebook. You know what I realized The Notebook needed? More cyborgs. And thus Jeff Somers, evil alias, was born.

KGB Yesterday

Last night at The KGB Bar just proved my old saying: All book readings should be held in taverns.

A grand time was had by all. I think both Jim Kelly and I rocked the house with our chosen pieces; I read something a little funny for a change, and Jim read two creepy horror-tinged tales, and read them really, really well.

Books were signed, free drinks consumed, and I met a lot of really cool people. The always interesting Frank Marcopolos said hey, and Inner Swine Security Chief Ken West popped in to collect his usual blackmail payment, but stayed to have a drink and listen politely. Our amazing agent and editor also came by to cheer me on, or possibly to make sure I didn’t do anything embarrassing, always a challenging job.

As soon as i have some pictures I’ll post or link to a few. Thanks to everyone who came by, and hopefully we’ll do it again very soon!

UPDATE: A neat write-up is located here, along with (thankfully) blurry photos! There are clearer photos you can find on Google if you dare, but I am. . .not attractive in them. Thanks to Jay at Bookratination for coming, and for the write-up!


Don’t forget, my beautiful babies, tomorrow evening I’ll be in Manhattan entertaining the masses with my silky voice, rapier wit, and tendency of my pants to drop at inexplicable moments. You’d think it would be easy to have your pants drop on cue like you’re in a Marx Brothers short film, but you’d be wrong. It has taken my team of scientists decades to perfect it.

WHERE: KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003
WHAT: KGB Fantastic Fiction Series
WHEN: 7pm
WHY: It’s a Wednesday night: What else do you have going on?

I don’t know exactly what I’ll be reading yet; I’m going to see where the mood takes me. So you might get a blast of The Digital Plague, or maybe a preview of The Eternal Prison (now with more unicorn), or maybe something unexpected and possibly undesired. Who knows! It’s like a wild pantsless ride of wonder.

Come on by and say hey. I’ll be the drunk, sweaty guy hiding in the shadows.

That Whiff of Desperation

Forgive me for a moment while I discuss singer/songwriter/poet-of-the-damned Jewel.

I know, I know: You don’t paid enough to read this shit. Bear with me.

Jewel comes to mind partly because The Duchess, my formidable wife, forced me to watch the execrable Nashville Star this summer. What can I say? The Wife is powerful and scary and likes crappy TV. She even admits it’s crappy, in weaker moments, and does not care. Jewel was one of the judges on this show, and has a country-western album out this year. That’s right, country-western. Why? Because she’s flailing. Jessica Simpson is flailing too, and is also coming out with a CW album.

Jewel began her career as a folky/hippy type, with loose, acoustic folk songs. She stuck to that for a while, but her album sales dropped with each new release, so a few years ago she tried her hand at slinky pop songs like Intuition (a song I actually liked, and damn your eyes if you think that makes me lame). When this failed to launch her back into the pop stratosphere, she cast about for something else, and hit on country music. Why not? It has to sell better than her last platter.

Simpson’s in a similar pickle: Falling album sales, falling label interest–she’s got to find a gimmick to get her back, and she’s hoping the same people who bought so many Carrie Underwood CDs will buy hers too. They’re flailing. They have no artistic point of view, nothing sincere inside them. They’re just trying to chase trends to sell CDs.

Nothing wrong with that, though its 99% chance of failure ought to be intimidating. Most artists who flail like this just end up looking foolish.

One thing I understand about this is that flailing is hard to avoid sometimes, because success – on any level – is addicting. Once you’ve had some level of success, it’s difficult to sink back down to a lower level. If you’ve had a platinum album and been the darling of the media, it’s tough, five years later, to be a modest-selling small-timer. The temptation, when you smell the looming dead-rat stench of failure, to just flail about for anything that looks like it might save you from obscurity is pretty strong. I know, because I’ve imagined it myself.

Certainly it’s not like I’m at some lofty perch in the literary world. Most people don’t know anything about my writing. But I’ve done better than I had any right to really expect, considering my work ethic and general lack of common sense, and if I allow myself to start imagining going from being a published author with new books on the horizon to Jeff Somers, local hooligan who once had a few books, well, the temptation to look into the literary equivalent of Country Music is strong.

And it’s easy to imagine. My bookshelves are stuffed with SF/F books I bought in the 1980s while a tender youth. We’re talking trilogies, series of books published over the course of several years. And many of the authors on my shelves are now, as far as I can tell, nowhere to be seen. Take a fellow named Dennis McCarty, who wrote a series of books about a place called Thlassa Mey back in the 80s and 90s – five book in total (my memories of these books is poor, which doesn’t mean anything – my memory of everything is poor). Nowadays I can’t find anything about him at all via Google. Granted, that doesn’t mean anything beyond his lack of online presence, but if he was still publishing he’d be somewhere online, I think–if nowhere else, on Amazon. Apparently he published 5 fantasy books and then promptly disappeared, and he’s not the only example.

Of course, some folks may have died. Or found new careers. Or gone on to write the sorts of things I don’t pay attention to – who knows? But most likely, of course, is that their last books didn’t sell well, their publisher passed on their next idea, and that was That.

That’s the fate that makes you reach for your cowboy hat and boots. Resisting that urge to crap out and try to do something that matches up with the newest trends, whatever they are, or maybe try to write a – gasp! – children’s book, is difficult. At least until the next book contract comes through.

In the mean time, let’s take comfort in the lyrical wisdom of Jewel Kilcher:

Follow your heart
Your intuition
It will lead you in the right direction
Let go of your mind
Your Intuition
It’s easy to find
Just follow your heart baby

Nota Bene

A few days ago I realized that the contact form plugin I was using here was. . .well, to borrow a term from Diamat, buggered. You could fill it out and click “submit” and by and large nothing would happen. So, if you signed up for the occasional update from me (including the rare but possible drunk-emailing of random insults and poetry) and haven’t heard a peep in a while, you might want to sign up again. For example, I sent an update email out yesterday. If you signed up and didn’t get it, your signup submission went into the Dustbin of the Cosmos, and you should sign up again using our shiny new form, which actually works. I think.

More Shit I Gotta Do: Permit Me to Burn Your Building Down

Friends, I own a house. Well, let’s be clear: A bank owns a house, and if I pay the bank a garbage bag filled with crumpled dollar bills every month, we’re allowed to live here. The Duchess and I love our house, tiny and crowded with cats as it is, and we seek to improve it every now and then, the same way I sometimes get my hair cut: It’s just time to make things better. Most recently, we decided to get some air-conditioning installed.

I’ve never had any sort of central air-conditioning. I’ve had your standard window-units (Jeff Kay, over at the glorious West Virginia Surf Report, calls them “soviet humboxes”) from time to time and for the last few years, sure, but I’ve also spent a great deal of time without any sort of climate control at all. In fact, about twelve years ago I had an out of body experience in my old fourth-floor walkup in Jersey City, which reached an indoor temperature of about 500 degrees one July evening during a blistering heat wave. I’ve set up about 7 fans around my bed that night, all aligned carefully to create what I thought would be a lifesaving indoor tornado of moving air. All it did was create a sort of EZ Bake oven effect, resulting in the first time in my life I believe I soaked a mattress with sweat.

The Duchess, however, is from Texas, where everything, from homes to businesses to port-a-potties has central air. It’s a necessity down there, and people scramble from air-conditioned spot to air-conditioned spot like ants fleeing a giant magnifying glass. When she moved up here she was dismayed to find how rare central air is up in these parts, and has long vowed to rectify this in her own life. So the decision was handed down: Install some sort of AC in the house, so that we may be one of the gentry, living our ease while the rest of the world suffers.

I am always down with inching closer to the definition of “gentry”.

We found a contractor pretty easily, and they went to get permits for the work, which involved putting a condenser on the roof of the house. This proved problematic; the permit office claimed they needed architectural drawings of the whole system (which would cost about every dime I’m ever going to make, ever). The contractor basically said this can’t be right, but maybe they’re getting a hard time because they’re out of town. Hoboken is notorious for its politics, so this seemed reasonable. We decided I’d go down to the permit office myself and file as the homeowner. I mean, I pay taxes, right? Why do you think I’m broke? I might as well get my money’s worth.

What I entered into was a Kafka-like journey into a world without rules or justice. And filled with stuff I didn’t understand.

In theory, it should have been pretty simple: I show up, fill out an application, supply some basic materials describing the system being installed, and pay a fee for my permit. The first day I walked into the office, things looked promising: A nice woman told me I’d need a letter from an architect stating that our roof could handle the load of the condenser, and all would be well. This was fine – a letter from an architect is a lot cheaper than an official drawing. We procured said letter, and I went back again.

The same woman examined our materials again, and then said I’d need a drawing of just the straps holding the condenser in place. So we went and got that, and I returned a third time. Now I was informed that we needed to show liability insurance. I said, doesn’t our homeowner’s insurance cover that? And she made a call and confirmed that it certainly did, but there was something wrong with our drawing, so it had to be adjusted. So I had that taken care of, and went back, and the nice woman looked everything over and looked at me.

“We need to see a drawing of the roof with the condenser on it, showing load calculations,” she said.

I blinked. “The condenser weighs 150 pounds,” I said. “If our roof can’t hold it, we’ve got bigger problems.”

She gave me the patented city official Stare of Not Caring, and I went back to the architect to get said drawing, which he kindly threw in for no extra cost because I think the whole construction-related world was reading about me on the Internet and pulling for me. I think I was some sort of forum celebrity for a while there as kindly contractors from around the world said silent prayers that I not lose faith in The System.

“You need to show liability insurance, hon,” she said.

I stared at her. If you boiled down all my permit office experiences now into one conversation, it would go like this:

ME: Here’s my application.
THEM: You need huge, complicated, expensive architecture drawings.
ME: That’s ridiculous.
THEM: You’re right. How about a simple drawing of the straps?
ME: Here you go.
THEM: Great. You need liability insurance in case you destroy your neighbor’s house installing this.
ME: No I don’t. I’m the homeowner. My homeowner’s insurance covers everything, including the accidental molecular de-bonding of the house next door.
THEM: Right you are. These drawings are no good, we need to see the roof so we can be sure it can hold the weight of a normal human woman.
ME: Sweet jebus, here.
THEM: That’s great. Now if you could show us your liability insurance, we’d be in business.

It was like one of those phone polls when they ask you the same damn question sixteen times, phrased differently, to try and get a certain answer out of you.

So, we sent in our secret weapon: The Duchess herself. All tiny and girly, she went into the permit office the next day prepared to weep on demand, and damn if the gruff old guy in charge didn’t glance through her paperwork and grant her the permit almost immediately. This brings us to the central question of our times: Is Jeff a complete jackass, or is his wife The Duchess some sort of alien with super powers?

Most votes lean towards the former.

In the end, we got the work done and are now part of the landed gentry for reals. If anyone ever wants to come by in person for an autographed book, a hot meal, and several drunken rants* from Your Truly, you’ll have an air-conditioned couch to sleep on, now.

[*] Must bring own liquor supply.

More Shit I Gotta Do

Let’s see, what have been up to? I know you’re all fascinated.

First off, revisions to The Eternal Prison have gotten, er, involved. Has this ever happened to you: You write the world’s greatest book, nice and pulpy, perfect in every way, and then someone gives you a tiny bit of reasonable feedback about it and you think, damn, that’s a good idea, so you start tugging at the careful knots and patterns you’ve created, trying to slip in a few modest new threads, and then things come unraveled and you realize you have to work in some supplementary materials. . .which emphasizes a character you’d left in the background. . .which means you have to give that character more flesh and background. . and before you know it you’ve written War and Fucking Peace, except less coherent and with more future (not to mention unicorn)?

Dammit, that’s what’s happening here. The extremely good ideas fed to me in reaction to my first final draft has inspired me to basically write a whole new book of new material. This is either genius or the end of my career as Wildly Popular Novelist.

Erm, moderately popular novelist? Novelist? Moving on. . .

I’ve got another web site, which is the Intarweb home of my zine, The Inner Swine. It’s been live since the late 1990’s and had grown to absolutely amazing proportions, filled with archives of old issues, columns written, and a million static pages of various cruft. This weekend I lopped most of it off and transformed it into a clean archive for the zine. I’m still publishing the zine, and the web site will still have the latest issue and archives of the old issues, as well as occasional bits of news that are zine-specific, but I’ll be doing all my lazy, unfocused BS writing here from now on. I just can’t populate two web sites, a 20,000 word quarterly zine issue, short stories and novels any more. I AM NOT A YOUNG MAN ANYMORE.

The column I used to write for the TIS web site was called More Shit I Gotta Do. It’s theme was. . .all the shit I have to do on a daily basis. For those who have not been following my writing career, I am a lazy, lazy man, and my ideal existence would be sitting on a bean-bag chair with a laptop balanced on my belly, having tumblers of whisky brought to me by trained Helper Monkeys. Every day where I have to actually perform tasks is torture, and so just about anything can be the subject of a column. Had to buy groceries? That’s a column. Had to leave the house once this month? That’s a column. It’s genius.

I think I’ll start posting those here. Probably not too often, and I won’t mock the universe by proposing a schedule. But they’ll start popping up here, just wait and see.

Or, as most of you appear to be doing, ignore my blog completely and make fun of me in private forums.