Monthly Archive: September 2008

On Technology in Stories

Here’s an interesting story about why so few writers include modern stuff like the iPhone or Twitter in their stories:

At least, I find this interesting, because I do think about this quite a bit. Not concerning the Avery Cates novels, of course, those being SF and thus by law chock full of all sorts of specious technology and psuedo-science. But I write other stuff, and lots of it. In those more reality-based, mainstream works, I actually purposefully avoid mentioning technology explicitly as much as I can. I don’t have a defined theory on this, but in my own reading I find that the easiest way to jolt someone out of a narrative flow is to mention some bygone technology that is no longer even the slightest bit relevant.


Coffee Dystopia

The Duchess is running a half marathon in Jersey City today, so I am sitting in a Starbucks fine-tuning a manuscript and waiting for her to finish up so I can cheer her at the Finish and go home. And man, Starbucks is a horrible, horrible place. It’s been a long while since I’ve been in one, drinking their bitter, over-roasted coffee and listening to their bland, corporate soft-rock music. And I actually had to use the word venti <shiver> (which, thank goodness, WordPress’ spellcheck flags). I’ll need a shower when I get home. Just wanted to share that.

Not a Joiner

MySpace is haunting me.

Like a lot of clueless morons, I signed up for a MySpace page a while ago because some random person told me it was a necessary marketing tool. Every now and then I wake up on a strange park bench wearing a white linen suit that isn’t mine, and I think, damn, it’s time I started acting like a real live professional writer. On the long walk home I ponder what exactly real live professional writer means. I imagine wearing a dinner jacket all the time, smoking a pipe, and being able to quote poetry and Greek tragedies on demand. And then I notice I am walking by a windowless place named Teddy’s Bar and I forget all about it.

Sometimes, though, I make these spastic efforts at being all adult and professional, and lame attempts at branding or marketing result. Like, for example, setting up a MySpace page.

The great part about the MySpace page is that I don’t remember much about it. I think I set it up and then forgot about it, imagining it would yield all sorts of markety goodness all automatically and shit, without my intervention. Which is how I like to run things whenever possible. Hell, I would write my books without my direct conscious involvement if I could.

Instead, all I’ve gotten out of MySpace are endless friend invitations. And this is just underscoring and exacerbating my general misanthropy. I’m socially awkward, and this apparently extends to the Internets as well. As a matter of fact, it’s worse. In real life when total strangers try to flag me down for a conversation, or invite me to functions, I can generally do something to signal to them that I would rather make a total ass out of myself in public and be hated for all eternity than speak with them – you know, feign a seizure, feign not speaking English, all the usual tricks. On the Intarwebs, this is not possible. I get these friend requests and they just sit in my Junk email like radioactive nuggets until I turn off the PC and they get flushed away. Meanwhile, someone somewhere places me in their asshole folder for never responding.

I know it’s possible to delete your MySpace account and stop giving out the impression that I want to be people’s friends, but this would involve some actual effort, unlike the act of setting up the account in the first place, which basically involved me thinking casually that I ought to do it and then somehow, in a process probably involving black magic and elves, my account had been created.  Aside from crippling misanthropic tendencies, I am also: incredibly lazy. I’m the whole package!

How can a man be this socially awkward and yet achieve some modest success as a writer? Science has no answers.

Living in the Future

First, a side note: As I struggle to learn one stinking solo from AC/DC’s oeuvre and eat a big dish of Fail every day*, I note with glee that the band has a new album due out soon. This Glee is despite the fact that their last album felt like a drunk AC/DC tribute band had been hired at the last minute to mumble through some craptastic tracks, and despite the fact that you’ll only be able to buy the album at fucking Wal Mart or from their web site, for god’s sake.

The reason for the glee is that I actually like the first single, Rock n Roll Train.  Which is surprising, as it’s a dumb song based on a repetitive riff and a loosey group chorus. But then, I just described every single AC/DC song ever, except this one has what the best AC/DC stuff had: Rhythm you can cut glass with and surprisingly complex guitar interactions between the Young brothers. In other words, it’s one of those songs that gets deeper and chunkier every time you listen to it, until suddenly in the year 2019 you wake up with the burning compulsion to learn how to play it.

Anyway, I mention this because there’s a month to go before I can buy the first AC/DC album I’ve bought since 1995’s disappointing Ballbreaker. Thus, you know, the future.

I’m also living in the future, I realize, because while you folks have not yet read Avery Cates #3, I am starting the difficult imagineering of Avery Cates #4. Yet I must pretend, in public, that Avery Cates #3 does not exist, in order to avoid the wrath of my Corporate Masters, who, I assume, have some sort of teh awesoma marketing plan. Or not. I can totally see them handing me a sandwich board on which someone has scrawled BUY ETERNAL PRISON OR WE KILL THIS MAN’S CATS and a bullhorn and being told to get to it.

But, see, I know everything. I know the plot, the twists, the ancillary characters, and where I’m taking them into #4, and here you are waaayyyy behind the curb. It’s like I was standing in the room, eating a sandwich, when the Large Hadron Collidor was switched on and immediately launched into a time loop where I am approximately 9 months in the future, taunting you. Although if that were true I’d already have bought AC/DC’s new album, wouldn’t I?


*I have what scientists call Big Dumb Hands.

email woes

Just a note: I had a slight mailbox meltdown today, so if you sent an email to within the last 24 hours or so and haven’t gotten a response, send it again in about an hour. Thanks!


When the Music’s Over

SO, the book’s done.

INTERIOR: Jeff’s office. A simple wooden desk laden with pornographic magazines and old copies of Who’s Who in Baseball, some filing cabinets, a futon, a hollow-body electric guitar, four cats, and a computer.

Enter JEFF. He is wearing a soiled-looking bathrobe. His hair stands up as if superglued. He is carrying an unlabeled bottle of brown liquid. He sits down at his desk and stares blearily at the computer screen. Slowly he nods off, chin sinking to his chest. Just as the bottle slips from his slackened fingers, three uniformed Helper Monkeys appear, gather up the bottle, make sure Jeff is still breathing, and scamper off, chattering.

In other words, I always find the transition from working like mad on a novel to being done with the novel to be a tough one.  I go from constantly working on a familiar and well-known piece, something I know so well I can jump to tiny details in the manuscript automatically without having to search for them, to having no big project at all.

For a few days I’ll contemplate my next step: Hire mercenaries and try to take over a small, unstable South-American country? See if I can finally gain that 150 lbs I’ve been dreaming of? Start writing that vampire-romance where pure, agape-type love cures vampirism? Begin my campaign to make public pantslessness acceptable to society?

Or, most likely: Sit around getting drunk and hate myself for wasting time? Yup. Let’s go with that.

I hate wasting time, but after a major project it takes me a few days to retread the tires and get started on something else, so for a few days all I do is waste time. So I sit around drinking cocktails and thinking, damn, I ought to be writing something. This way lies madness, of course. And cocktails.

In the mean time, in an attempt to make this dull period not completely useless, I am trying to learn the guitar solo from AC/DC’s You Shook Me All Night Long. ANGUS YOUNG WHY DO YOU MOCK ME SO! The man must have freakish hands. Freakish.

Reagan Calls Women ‘America’s Little Dumplings’

A quick update for all your weirdos who care what I’m up to:

  • Finished my monthly short story on Sunday. For those who may not know, I write a short story a month, rain or shine, inspiration or no. This is mainly an exercise to force myself to finish at least one project a month, and also a way to keep a steady flow of ideas hitting paper. This is especially important when working on a book project like The Eternal Prison, because otherwise some good ideas might wither away as I kill brain cells with reckless alcohol consumption triggered by a phone call from my agent wherein she advises me to add More Unicorn. Writing a story a month has the expected result: 99.9% of my stories are Teh Suck. But a few every year can be earmarked for future rewriting and expansion, and the one I just finished is one of them. It’s got potential.
  • Finished my latest revision of The Eternal Prison, too. The new draft is much better than the previous draft, which I’d labeled FINAL. Just goes to show, you think a book is done, you show it to your editor and she kicks it back to you, you spend a few hours in the bathroom with a gun in your mouth, weeping, and then suddenly you realize she just made your final draft look like clown shoes. And BAM! A better draft is born.
  • The new issue of The Inner Swine, my little zine, is being proofread. Whether it will actually mail in the month of September remains to be seen. You can check out the editorial from it at the web site, and then send me two bucks for a sample issue, you cheap bastards.
  • I am surrounded by cats. And I have no pants on.

Not too shabby. Between all that, baseball, and avoiding the various political conventions like plague-infested blankets, I’m a busy, busy man.