Monthly Archive: November 2011

Review of The Final Evolution

The Final EvolutionWhat are we thankful for? Positive reviews of The Final Evolution, of course. Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist has gifted us with a recommendation for #5 in the Avery Cates series:

“The multilayered storylines add another dimension to The Final Evolution, true, but they did not slow the pace of the book. This final installment is another shoot-to-kill thrill ride that will keep you turning those pages … I’ve been saying it for years: These books are addictive! Give this series a shot!”


Goodreads Choice Awards 2011

The Final EvolutionWell, lookie here: The Final Evolution is a semifinalist in the GoodReads Choice Awards in the category of Science Fiction:

I assume if I win I get lots of money or the power to seize people’s estates or something like that. I’m far too busy to actually read the details, so let’s assume if I win I get to King of a small European country for a day, with complete power over every citizen. Vote for me! Or I will burn your house down, and take all your cattle.

It would be nice to win something, if only to justify this tinfoil crown I made seventeen years ago and insist on wearing every day.

The Tandem Reading Series 11-13-11

Last night I was invited to read at the Tandem Reading Series along with Sean Ferrell and Evan Mandery, both of whom are much smarter than me. This was intimidating, especially since the theme of the reading was Time Travel, and both Sean and Evan’s new novels have time travel as a component. My newest novel does not, nor did I have any novels that do. So I was anticipating the kind of evening where I would be forced to drop my trousers just to please the crowd, and would then shuffle off the stage, pants around my ankles and tears streaming down my face. As usual.

But then I remembered a story I’d written recently. Not a time-travel story per se, but a story that had the travel through time as a component. This cheered me, and I thought perhaps I might make it through the evening without humiliation after all.

Before the reading, the three of us were penned in away from the crowd for everyone’s safety:

Evan, Sean, Jeff

We look relatively sane and happy, I admit. I got to read first, followed by Sean and then Evan:

Jeff reads Sean reads Evan reads

Then our talented and charming host, Brooks Sherman, gathered us together for a spirited Q&A session, though we don’t appear so happy for this part of the evening, for some reason:

Evan, jeff, Sean look, er, pensive.

For me, this was where the tears started. Brooks’ questions went something like this:

Brooks: Sean, your novels are so complex. I love how you interweave time travel in your latest with self-examination, leaving this reader visibly flushed with excitement after reading it.

Sean: Sorry, was there a question in there?

Brooks: Evan, your novel taught me things about myself I wasn’t aware of. I am a better person for having read your book.

Jeff: Hey, I’ve been sitting here for half an hour, ask me a question!

Brooks: Of course. Er … you talk a lot about pants on your blog. What’s up with that?

And so it goes.

No, seriously, it was a great time. Thanks to brooks and the Tandem Reading Series for inviting me, Sean and Evan for tolerating my presence next to them, and everyone who came out for supporting us all!

Lifers In the 21st Century

Kids, many many moons ago, I published my first novel, called Lifers. It got reviewed in The New York Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer and sold about as well as a can of syphilis. What can you do? Everyone’s got to have a first novel, and this one is mine. I still have a great deal of affection for the book.

It went out of print years ago; aside from the copies currently selling for $87.45 on Amazon (!) I have a few hundred littering my crawlspace. Happy to sell a signed copy to anyone, make me an offer. And then I thought, well, why not put it out on Kindle and Nook? WHY NOT? Aside from the fact that by now anyone vaguely interested in this novel has purchased a copy and thus my sales will be crushingly low, there is no reason not to. So I did.

You can now buy Lifers at Amazon and Barnes & Noble for $1.99 to read on their respective reading devices:

Lifers for Amazon Kindle

Lifers for BN Nook

Go on! As an added incentive, if you ever see me in public, show me Lifers on your device and I will buy you drink, a bar of chocolate, or give you a hug (your choice) on the spot.

The Courage of Your (Writing) Convictions

This Guy. Damn.

So, in our continuing series of Jeff Complains About Other Writers’ (Mainly TV & Movie Writers) Missteps While Wholly Ignoring His Own, what should I complain about? That while Boss is a good TV show comparisons of it to The Wire are ridiculous and make me want to smash my television in righteous anger? That I am wondering just how long the electricity and other utilities, not to mention fresh bread, will be online in the universe of The Walking Dead? (I mean, it’s been weeks or months since the epidemic destroyed civilization, right — and yet they are STILL USING THE POWER GRIDS).

No, let’s discuss Boardwalk Empire and why you’ve got to resist SitComming your stories.

SitComming, in Somers Parlance, refers to those static situation comedies where you cannot ever actually change the situation, the balance of circumstance and characters you’ve created. Every episode has to end with the characters back at square one. Sometimes, for Sweeps or something, you can introduce some chaos, but by the end of the cycle, everything is back where it was. This makes sense in a Sit Com, as that is entirely the point of such shows. But for a drama, especially a drama that is supposed to be multi-layered and complex (like Boardwalk Empire), part of the appeal is the fact that things will change and evolve.

One of my biggest complaints about The Sopranos, after all, was that it struggled mightily to keep Tony in exactly the same position week after week. The show would have been much more interesting if they’d sent him to prison, or witness protection, or simply had his empire crumble beneath him. The show flirted with these ideas, but it never actually followed through, and it weakened an otherwise excellent show.

In its first season, BE established the universe and the ground rules and the characters: Steve Buscemi’s Nucky Thompson was a smart, sharp-dressed political boss with a dangerous Dragon as his right-hand man (Jimmy, who rose from schmuck to a cold-blooded killer pretty awesomely) and all the clout in the world. Season One was fine, if not brilliant. I enjoyed it, and I looked forward to Season Two. I was encouraged, incredibly encouraged when Season Two immediately established that Nucky was in serious trouble: He’s abandoned by his Dragon, his brother, and all of the Ward Bosses with any brains. His income dries up, his influence disappears, and everything is up in the air in a delightful way. I was hooked. I knew that Nucky would probably end up on top again at some point, but how were the writers going to do it?

By SitComming it, apparently.

Nucky’s Dragon, Jimmy Darmody, is seduced over to the opposition. This leaves Nucky without a capable killer on his payroll. Nucky himself is not intimidating. He’s Steve Buscemi, after all, and while I can believe Nucky slitting a throat in the dark, he’s not a guy to walk into a building with a shotgun and murder an entire family. That was Jimmy’s job. Removing Jimmy from Nucky’s team was the engine that drove my interest in the storyline — Nucky’s a political operator who’s gotten into the organized crime game, not the other way around. How would he handle himself? What surprises would the character hold for me?

None, because the writers wasted little time in introducing a replacement Jimmy for Nucky, a mysterious Irish immigrant Nucky is asked to give a job to. The new guy, Owen Slater, observes Nucky’s businesses for a bit and then marches into Nucky’s office and announces he’s a man who can get people to stop doing things. With a nod from Nucky he goes off, beats up some of the opposition’s guys, and establishes that Nucky has some muscle again.

In other words, Nucky’s situation is nudged back towards the center. He loses his Dragon, and thus his ability to translate his will into violent action … then he gets a new Dragon. Yawn.

Now, It’s still interesting, and well-written. And I’m curious what the New Dragon’s real motives are, whether this will turn out to be something more or different. For the moment though, I feel like the writers just couldn’t think of a way for Nucky to fight his way out of the current situation without someone like Jimmy/Owen to kill folks for him, so they surrendered to practicality and brought in the new character to redress things. It’s kind of disappointing.

The WWI veteran who wears half a mask to hide his shell-destroyed missing face? THAT GUY is awesome. I want a spinoff show about him.

Jeff In the Wild

Yea, verily: I will be taking part in the fantabulous Tandem Reading Series again, along with the awesome Sean Ferrell and the slightly more awesome Evan Mandery:

WHAT: The Time Traveler’s Life

WHERE: The Cell Theatre, 338 West 23 St. (between 8 and 9 Ave.; take the 1, C, E to 23rd St; 212-989-7434. Donation: $5. Or you can hand in a story.

WHEN: Sunday, November 13, 2011, 5pm

Be there and be prepared to be smeared with awesome sauce. At least that’s what we’re calling it.