Monthly Archive: January 2010

Slum Online

Slum OnlineHow many writers do you know who have a blurb on a Japanese translation published by Haikasoru? That’s right: One. Namely, me (if you look closely at this image, you’ll see my name down there at the bottom). I was psyched to get an advanced peek at Slum Online and thoroughly enjoyed the book – I just wish I’d thought of Nick Mamatas’ neat blurb for it: “Catcher in the Rye with MMO karate fights!” Now I am jealous, as my blurb pales in comparison.

Check it out.

I am Exhausted Just Reading This

So, apparently James Patterson is the world’s most successful writer (via Pimp My Novel) [key quote: “Patterson may lack the name recognition of a Stephen King, a John Grisham or a Dan Brown, but he outsells them all. Really, it’s not even close. (According to Nielsen BookScan, Grisham’s, King’s and Brown’s combined U.S. sales in recent years still don’t match Patterson’s.)”]. This is fascinating stuff, especially when you dig in and read how hard the man works, although he’s pretty much just a Content Supplier at this point, and not so much a writer.

Which is cool; I doubt Patterson has sleepless nights regretting that he never wrote that spiritually devastating Serious Novel. The man pays co-authors out of his own pocket in order to publish 9 books a year; there’s no way he has any angst about the road he’s taken. Plus, sleeping on a bed of money kind of eases the pain a little, I’ll bet.

Some struggling authors might be jealous of Patterson’s success. Some who have even had a measure of success might be envious, but not me. And not because of fruity artistic concerns, either (they can make Avery Cates lunchboxes if they want, or — OOH! — Avery Cates cologne), but because I do not ever want to work that hard.

I can’t speak for other authors, because I shun the company of other writers (all they want to do is talk about craft and writing and the business of publishing, when all I want to talk about is who is buying the next round, when will the next round be forthcoming, and where are we going after closing time), but for me, my authorial dream life has always been the sort they depict in the movies and television: Rich writer spends about 5 minutes a day writing, about six hours a day endorsing huge checks, and the rest attending fabulous parties. I enjoy the writing, so writing for a few hours every day is fun, but that’s about where my ambition ends, and I fully believe in paying other people to do things like read my contracts, market my books, cut up and pre-chew my food, etc.

SO, I will never be quite as rich or successful as Mr. Patterson, sure, I accept that. Trust me, you will never hear me complaining because I haven’t published nine books in the past year, and I will never, ever, bemoan the fact that I’m not allowed to run my own marketing meetings at Hachette. Trust me. I’m putting all my efforts into becoming Castle from the TV show, sans daughter. Although, I must admit, the idea of paying other folks to write my books for me is kind of appealing. Except for the paying part. Maybe I could start the first ever unpaid internship for ghostwriting? College kids would submit writing samples and I’d pick three every year to live at my house and write a novel each for me to submit under my name. IT’S GENIUS!

Who’s with me? All accepted interns would be required to address me as El Jefe. Submit your resumes via my contact page.

The Plot of The Electric Church in 1 Minute

In order to celebrate and promote the release of The Eternal Prison across the pond in the U.K., I’ve created some new videos giving the plots of The Electric Church and The Digital Plague in about one minute, as a refresher course for folks who are thinking about buying The Eternal Prison. Here’s the first one, The Electric Church in One  Minute:

The next one, The Plot of The Digital PLague in One Minute, will follow later this week. Enjoy!

Cultural Dissonance

Songs listened to while reading F. Scott Fitzgerald on the subway the other night:

  1. On to The Next One – Jay Z
  2. Let Me Put My Love Into You – AC/DC
  3. Chicago Bump – Chicago, Amanda Blank, Spank Rock, Bloodhound Gang, Greg Bihn Band, Detroit Grand Pubahs, mashed by DJ Magnet
  4. Goodbye Ohio – Too Much Joy
  5. That Willy Wonka Song – Me First and the Gimme Gimmes
  6. Paperback Writer – The Beatles
  7. Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way – Waylon Jennings
  8. Dumpweed – Blink 182
  9. Bastards of Young – The Replacements
  10. Head On – The Pixies

I’m Ordering the Gold Toilet Right Now

It’s not every day you see your own name in The Hollywood Reporter, kids:

Sony nabs rights to Jeff Somers novel series

We actually sold the rights some months ago, but this makes it seem like there might actually be a movie made, which is pretty damn exciting. I don’t know any other details (I’m probably the least-involved person associated with the movie, actually) so let’s just cross our fingers and hope it turns out well, shall we?

EDIT: Holy crap, I made!

Bar Paradise

Hey gang: This is a little essay that appeared in my local newspaper a few years ago. I wrote a number of these for the fun of it back in the day, so I thought I’d just repost a few.

When you live in Hoboken, you either live there in spite of the ubiquitous bars, or you live there because of the bars. And there are a lot of bars, that’s for sure—wherever you live in Hoboken, you are within three blocks of a tavern of some sort. So you’re either sitting up late at nights with a shotgun across your knees, gritting your teeth in rage because of all the noisy drunkards screaming in the street, or you’re one of the screaming drunkards. Or, like me, you once were one of the screaming drunkards and look back on that time fondly, vomit and all.

Living here, therefore, you learn pretty quickly how to navigate the bars. It’s a survival skill. And the first thing you learn is that there are, fundamentally, two types of bars. There may be infinite sub-categories within, but every bar can be boiled down to one of these: Old Man Bars, and everything else.

The Old Man Bar is a phenomenon that crosses borders, cultures, and, apparently, time. Sometimes referred to with the misleading term ‘neighborhood bar’, the Old Man Bar is a simple concept: It’s that bar you walk into and stop three steps in because staring back at you, blank-faced with disdain, are men uniformly over the age of fifty (with a couple of possible exceptions). Instantly, you know you’re not supposed to be in this bar, and you get the heck out of it as quickly as you possibly can.

Of course, there are plenty of men over fifty who don’t spend their days in Old Man Bars, and plenty of people over fifty who quite happily hang out at bars you wouldn’t term “Old Man Bars”. It’s not that all old men go to Old Man Bars, it’s that, invariably, Old Man Bars are peopled exclusively by old men. There’s nothing wrong with this, either, of course—live and let live, I say—but the fact is that if you aren’t already spending your time in an Old Man Bar, I know two things about you without having met you: One, you don’t want to be in an Old Man Bar, and two, the old men don’t want you in their bar either.

Aside from the unfriendly glares from the old men, you can tell an Old Man Bar from the uncannily consistent features it will sport:

1. It will be populated, but never crowded. There will be plenty of elbow room, and a sprinkling of patrons, most men over fifty—however, there may be one or two women, also over fifty, and even one or two of those old-before-their time younger men who have decided to get it over with and begin the serious business of drinking.

2. There will be a single pool table, much abused.

3. The jukebox will be playing something from 1973 when you walk in, and there won’t be an album more recent than 1980 on it.

4. There will be, at most, two beers on tap. It’s possible one of the taps won’t even work.

The best thing to do when you arrive inadvertently at an Old Man Bars to just back out silently and never return. Any instinct to be polite will not be appreciated, and will be uniformly painful for both sides. Besides, the bartenders in Old Man bars are usually bartenders by avocation, and any cocktail more complex than a Boilermaker will require a quick glance through a bartender’s handbook, not to mention a disdainfully raised eyebrow, so any request for a Cosmopolitan or a Dirty Martini will probably go unanswered.

No one knows, I don’t think, why this phenomenon is so common. Certainly a time comes when you’re too old for the crowded, loud, singles-oriented scene that most of Hoboken’s bars offer, but maybe you still want to meet friends for a drink once in a while, or every day, or just spend your time sopping up as much alcohol as possible before cirrhosis takes its toll. We all probably have an Old Man Bar in our future at some point, when the music gets too loud, the air too smoky, and the crowd too young. We’ll wander onto the dimly-lit side streets of Hoboken, croaking out our mating call, eventually hearing an old song from our youth on the warm air. And when we trace it to its source, we’ll find the Old Man Bar of our future, sparsely populated by people who know the same trivia as we do, and there’ll be plenty of room at the bar, and no screaming kids ordering sweet mixed drinks, and the occasional entertainment of watching a group of youngsters stumble in, stop dead, and quietly back out with wide eyes and trembling lips.

Gadget Malaise

One thing I always try to keep in mind when trolling the Internet, magazines, newspapers, and random cocktail napkins found in the gutters of the world for something to read while I drink my coffee in the morning is this: Writers need something to write about. Even I, sitting here in my secret underground bunker with crates full of cheap Canadian whisky stacked up around me, wake up every now and then and decide I need to update this blog (like, say, this morning) and stew for a few moments wondering what in the world I can write about. This makes me deeply suspicious of a lot of media; there’s a lot of doom and gloom and alarmism out there, but I suspect a lot of it has to do with the need for content and the fact that pessimism always sells better (IMHO – YMMV).

Recently, I was reading about the supposed “rapid generation gaps” we’re experiencing, wherein every set of kids learn a whole host of technologies that their older siblings, merely five years older, are completely unfamiliar with.  For example, people of my generation grabbed onto e-mail with gusto in the 1990s and haven’t let go since, but the generations that followed us view e-mail as a business thing for the old folks, and spend their time texting or IMing or, who knows, inserting their souls into cyberspace and interacting in The Matrix.

Sidenote: By using the words “cyberspace” and “Matrix” in that sentence, I have dated myself dangerously, and the kids are now cheerfully mocking me on IRC channels I’ll never hear about.

I don’t doubt the truth in that article: I’ve seen with my own eyes how people 10 years younger than me use technology differently, and people 10 years younger than them use it differently from them, and so on. Technology is evolving rapidly and kids will be in the forefront of it because unlike folks my age, its kids who by and large use these new technologies at first. When I was a kid, all technology trickled down from my parents. Today it’s the kids who want the new phones, the new media players, the new game systems. So, sure. By the time I’m old enough to retire, there will likely be a baffling array of technological gadgets I can’t comprehend.

But here’s the thing: So what?

Who cares if 10-year olds are communicating using gadgets I’ve never seen and probably couldn’t figure out how to use? They are ten. I will never wish to speak with them.

This is a general rule of thumb I apply to everything like this. If a group of people are using a technology or tool to socialize, I ask myself: Do I really want to hang out and communicate with them? If the answer is “no” (and it almost always is, as I am misanthropic) then I cease to care about whatever it is we’re talking about. This works out much better than you might imagine.

There is, I think, a general fear of growing old and becoming dumb, fueled by the rapid pace of change and the fact that people my age have vivid memories (possibly from yesterday, literally) of having to painfully show our parents or grandparents how to use what we consider simple technologies, like the television after the recent digital signal switchover. We’re used to being the smug hippies who know everything, and it terrifies us that we might one day be sitting in puzzled humility while a cretinous child who doesn’t know anything about good booze or classic pornography smugly teaches us how to use our Teleportation Stick or whatever. Of course, it’s entirely possible to live a full and happy life without knowing anything about the latest gadgets (hell, I’ve been doing it since I was a teenager), it’s just a fear of being left behind that drives this kind of insanity.

Which brings me to a gadget that makes me leaden with boredom despite what the marketing droids want me to believe: 3D Television. If there is a more useless upgrade in the universe, I am not aware of it. While 3D visuals are kind of fun, and I don’t mind wearing stupid glasses, say, once every decade, the fact is I can’t imagine anyone who wants 3D television. But the electronics industries fear nothing like the end of a constant upgrade-cycle; I’m convinced one of the reasons for the fierce resistance to MP3s as a standard digital music format had nothing to do with DRM or quality issues, but rather the simple fact that MP3s can be played on any device these days, so you may never have to purchase another music content delivery item (a CD, for example) or a content decoder (a CD player, for example). For the last 30 years there’s been a constant stream of upgrades that people have bought, and now, there’s little reason to. But I digress.

The point is, no matter how hard they try, no one will convince me that I must have 3D TV or risk being irrelevant to society. I already am irrelevant to society, in that sense of the term. I don’t need wacky glasses to prove that. And so it goes.