Monthly Archive: January 2012

Half-Assed Music Video

In the sphere of Dubious Achievements, I believe I have just created a new one: Making a DIY music video constructed entirely from video snippets left over from Ask Jeff Anything videos and free (or very cheap) stock video I had lying around on the hard drive.

I enjoy silly challenges like this: Take some disparate video and try to construct something that has a narrative (of sorts), makes sense, and is maybe slightly appealing. It’s fun. I don’t claim it’s great. Just fun. Mainly for me. Huzzah for me!

The! Inner! Swine!

The Inner Swine Vol 17, Issue 3/4The new issue of my zine The Inner Swine is ready. I have a pile of paper here that is slowly being transformed into issues, which will then slowly be folded and stuffed into envelopes and mailed out. The key word being slowly.

In the mean time, the Kindle and Nook editions are available right now! Technology is amazing. The issue is 100pp long and the Kindle/Nook versions are each 99 cents and differ from the print only in that they lack most of the images. Go buy them and tell me I am a genius:



Thank you for your support.


Breakin' BADThere are, believe it or not, still people in this world who do not own a television and like to communicate this fact with pride, as if it underscores their intellectual bona fides. Now, I don’t much care if you own or watch TV, or what you watch, but I have always believed that condemning an entire media as substandard is just intellectual vanity. It’s proving a negative: You don’t own a TV because you are too smart to fall for that dreck.

Whatever. I’ve been watching Breaking Bad from AMC recently. As with most things, I am several years behind the curve. I am not, as the kids said in 1985, hip. Whenever I start to hear about a good TV show I play coy, refusing to check it out until 5 years later. Part of this is because I myself have intellectual vanity and I like to think that if I haven’t discovered it independently it can’t be good. So if I wait long enough after you tell me about it, I can pretend I found it all by myself, because I am a genius.

Blogging ain’t pretty.

Anyways, after years of reading that Breaking Bad is a great show, I started watching it a few weeks ago. It is, in fact, a great show. I’m in the middle of Season 3 right now, so I haven’t finished the run, so much of what I’m about to discuss may be incorrect if you’ve watched it all the way through, who knows. Still, 66% of the way through, I’m damn impressed, because Walter White may be one of the greatest depictions of a character in history. Not necessarily the best character, but the best depiction of a character. Because this show takes that old writing class saw “show don’t tell” and makes it into a work of genius.

Spoilers, for those who care, follow.


Failed Novel Friday

It’s one of those mindscrew days outside, where you look out your window and it’s clear and sunny and looks wonderful, and then you run out there in your boxer shorts, singing something from The Sound of Music, and it turns out it’s 29 degrees and you freeze solid within seconds. Goddamn nature.

Stuck inside, I’m going through my archives. As a writer, I long ago came to understand that 95% of what I write is total crap, 3% is mediocre and might be salvageable in some manner, and the remaining 2% is, if not genius, at least sellable. Still, going through archives is sobering. There’s some bad stuff in here. I’ve posted parts of failed novels before, and it’s fun. Kind of freeing. You release yourself from the notion that you might, someday, actually make a go of this thing!

One of the novels I’ve been leafing through is The King Worm, the never-published Avery Cates novel I wrote then regretted. It’s not that it’s a bad book on its own; it’s not. It’s good, I think. But ultimately it wasn’t the right direction for the series or the character, and I have my editor at Orbit (the fearsome Devi Pillai) to thank for making me see that.

So, let’s post two chapters: This is a moment in an alternate-universe Avery that never actually happened, but I enjoyed writing tremendously.


Chapters 15 & 16

XV. So, so much worse.

I opened my eyes, didn’t like what I saw, and closed them again. This didn’t improve my situation much, so I opened them again.


From the Zine

This essay originally appeared in The Inner Swine, Volume 13, Issue 3, September 2007


Working From Home = No Pants Ever

by Jeff Somers

Friends, the Singularity has come. No, not one of those singularities geeks like to talk about, where we either reach a point of technological advancement that frees us from the traditional bonds of mortality, or anything like that. Like almost everything else in this crappy, zine, the singularity I refer to is completely all about me. And it has nothing to do with nanobots being injected into me, or jacking into the Matrix or any other type of horseshit. We all have a particular Singularity, right, a moment in our lives where everything changes and life as we know it will never be the same, yes? For you it might be the day you realize you can brew your own beer, or the moment you see your first born for the first time, or something like that. For me, the Singularity is when I am able to do my job in my underwear.

And it has happened.

As anyone who has followed The Inner Swine lo these many years knows, I work on the low end of publishing. No swanky lunches with John Grisham for me, just endless drudgery working on textbooks and the like, taking shit from editors who think their book is the first book evah published and doing things like sizing five jabillion pictures of eye diseases for publication. This is not a glamorous job, but it pays a tiny proportion of the bills and allows me to claim to people that I am gainfully employed—I don’t think The Duchess would have married me 4 years ago if I hadn’t had at least a minimum-level kind of job, after all.

The company I’ve worked for since 2004 decided to close its New York office this year, which normally would have been a sad day in Jeff Land, since unemployment is shortly followed by Interviews and Resumes and Jeff staring at the bottom of a bottle of Rye and wondering if he could possibly make enough money selling bodily fluids to satisfy his wife’s need for new shoes (answer: no). But my company didn’t “let me go”, as the euphemism goes. They offered to let me work from home. And man, I jumped on that with two feet, just barely stifling a whoop of joy. Because now I can become Bathrobe Man.


A Darkling Plain

So, after yesterday’s post, here’s one of the short stories from my notebooks. Not one of the stronger ones — Note how it’s basically a vague concept that peters out to nothing!

A Darkling Plain

by Jeff Somers

HARRY didn’t notice them for the first few minutes. His morning  had been going according to routine: He’d woken up and allowed himself to stare at the ceiling for nine minutes, then slapped the alarm off and sat up. It was quiet, almost silent—he missed the roar of the bus, the chatter of adults off to work, car horns and slamming doors. As he shuffled for the bathroom in his underwear, the night before pressing uncomfortably against his belly, he wondered if he’d forgotten a holiday, if maybe the world was sleeping in around him.

He showered, dressed, and had his first cup of coffee for the day, standing in the kitchen with the paper spread on the counter as usual. Nothing in the paper caused him to read more than a few sentences, and he wondered again when he would stop reading the paper altogether.

It was a bright, sunny day, warm in the sun but cool in the shade. The walk to the bus stop was three blocks, two along the quiet side streets and a right turn onto Main Street. Harry was in the habit of walking this short distance, briefcase in hand, with his chin sunk onto his chest, pondering his day to come. He liked to plan and organize and be ready for the work ahead. Thinking of the work ahead made him happy.

As a result, he didn’t notice all the soldiers until he’d boarded the bus, digging change out of several pockets and ignoring the low buzz of conversation as he walked to the rear, selecting an empty double seat.

Then he looked up and squinted out the scratched and stained window.

There were soldiers everywhere. They wore bright white uniforms, fatigues tucked into shiny black boots. Cowls with wide plastic goggles built in covered their heads, giving them a faceless quality. Each one carried an automatic rifle slung over their shoulder. There were two on the corner, standing silently, one hand each on the strap of their rifles. Four stood against the wall behind the bus stop shelter. As the bus rumbled down the street, his eyes leaped from group to group, all of them appearing identical. He stopped counting after a hundred.

He looked around suddenly, seeing the rest of the bus for the first time. A few rows ahead of him sat Paul Drake from his office. Clutching his briefcase, he shuffled forward and crashed into the seat next to him.

Paul Drake was a round, balding man who had the breathless look of a man who sweated freely. He jumped and turned to stare at Harry.

“Jesus, Hank, you scared the shit out of me.”

“What’s going on, Paulie?”

“Don’t call me Paulie, goddammit,” Paul looked out the window and licked his lips. “No one knows. There’s nothing on the news. No mention of it at all. And no one I’ve talked to knows anything.”

Harry stared along with Paul. Groups of soldiers passed by like white clouds, there and gone. “This is impossible. Someone’s got to know.”

The bus route terminated at the subway, and Harry left Paul behind, walking briskly past an impressive row of soldiers lined up against the fence that separated the bus lanes from the subway entrances. he kept his eyes on the ground, afraid to look at them.

Underground, more soldiers stood around silently, faceless and ominous. Harry stopped just off the stairs, staring, crowds of commuters pushing around him like water, flooding the tubes. He noticed they gave the soldiers a wide berth on each side, crunching inward. The soldiers just stared straight ahead, occasionally shifting their weight.

Spying a Transit Cop near the electronic fare machines, Harry pushed against the crowd’s current and swam over to her.


The cop held up her hand without looking at him. Her long, red face was set in a tired expression, her eyes locked on something invisible in the distance.

“I don’t know anything. Believe me, I’ve tried to find out.”

Harry turned away. Keeping his eyes down, he walked to the turnstiles, acutely aware of the uniforms against the walls on either side. He paid his fare and stepped onto the platform, where another half dozen white uniforms waited, like statues. He looked around, noting the utter silence, and found everyone looking around, eyes meeting, little shrugs sent sailing back and forth through the warm, thick air.


Sho’ Stories

Short Stories in HereSo, I write a lot of short stories. I enjoy writing them, and have a rule that I write a complete story every month. This doesn’t mean every story is genius, or even good: I’ve got plenty of stinkers. Some ideas were never that good to begin with (when pressuring yourself to write a story a month you sometimes have to go with whatever moldy inspiration you have), some good ideas aren’t handled well, and sometimes I have a good idea and a good beginning and just run out of time. On the 31st of the month (or the 30th, or 28th, or 29th) sometimes you just have to sculpt that Plane Crash Ending, or that Sub-O’Henry WTF ending, and go with it.

This is useful for me for three reasons: One, it keeps me on my toes, forcing me to work quickly and get ideas organized into a story fast. Sure, sometimes the story has a terrible ending, or a weak development, but it’s useful to be able to sketch out a recognizable concept in 3-4 weeks. Two, it serves as a meta-notebook of ideas. Instead of opening some small moleskin and finding something scrawled in there like MAGIC BABY MARBLES and trying to figure out what the fuck I thought would make a great story idea, I actually have the stories. At any time I can go back and revise, enlarge, or steal from them. Finally, sometimes by some miracle I actually write a story in 3-4 weeks that I think is good enough to polish and submit.

This year I managed 13 stories, actually, writing two in August. One or two have potential and might end up plaguing editors around the globe this year. The rest are kind of meh, but then you never know: Sometimes I go through the meh pile and find something that I can’t believe I didn’t think was great at first.

I submit my stories pretty freely; I write the damn things, I like to see them published, and I like to get paid for them when I do. Why not? This whiskey ain’t buying itself. As I’ve mentioned before I used to be a damn machine when it came to submitting stories: In 2002 I submitted 107 stories. One-hundred and seven. Jebus. How is that even possible? Of course, I sold 4 stories that year, so there might be a lesson there.

In 2011 I submitted 35 stories. Not 35 different stories, just 35 submissions. A slight improvement over last year’s 31. but I didn’t sell any of them. I got some interesting rejections, but no bites. This is the first year without a story sale since 1998, and officially made 2011 one of the worst Years of Jeff in recorded history. Sigh.

Oh well. For 2012 I aim to add 1-3 new stories to the submission pile, and try to hit 50 subs this year. And of course, 12 more new ones in the ole’ notebook, even if they all end with David Lynch Mindscrews.*

*I enjoy taking mild writing techniques and giving them names that could also be sexual acts a’la a Dirty Sanchez. Don’t judge me.

It’s a New Year!

Here is a post of randomness:

PAGE 69 IS MISSING: Jebus. Last year I pulled out an old manuscript from my typewriter days. Meaning there are 100 pages of typewritten prose and no electronic record anywhere aside from a PDF scan that has no OCR capabilities. Meaning that if I wanted to do something with it, I’d need to keyboard it. I thought, what the hell. What else do I have to do between liver transplants and crying jags? Nothing. Besides, I had an idea about ruthlessly editing it down to novella-size, just because. I figure something I wrote so long ago must be filled with juvenilia-type bullshit, so cutting it by 50% is probably being gentle.

I’ve been slowly grinding on this. Keyboard is no fun, so it’s slow. And yesterday I took a glance forward, because I am old and brain-damaged and cannot even remember the plot of my own novels any more, and guess what? Page sixty-nine of the goddamn manuscript is missing.

Now, this is not that big a deal, right? 200-300 words, tops, missing. On the other hand, it’s so frustrating I want to track you down and set your house on fire just to see it burn.

THE DENTIST IS THE MOST AWKWARD SOCIAL INTERACTION IN YOUR LIFE. Forget the teen-aged register jockey you have to buy condoms and tampons from at midnight at 7-11, the Dentist is so awkward I try to make myself pass out on purpose when I get into that chair. I just had my teeth cleaned. Aside from the fact that my dentist uses a red-colored polish that always – always! – makes me think I am bleeding to death when I rinse.

The rest of the time, let’s face it, someone has their hands in your mouth and is breathing directly onto your face. Granted, that’s how most of my social interactions go, but at least I’m drunk).

HAPPY NEW YEAR. My New Year’s Eve was spent eating and drinking and staring at a cat sitting on my chest, rising and falling as I breathed. or, struggled to breathe, as the cat in question weighs 22 pounds. The resulting oxygen deprivation caused a series of hallucinations, most involving my pants as sentient beings and a universe where Lana Del Rey doesn’t exist.

Some friends of The Duchess hail from Kentucky, and for my Xmas gift they went and bought some ridiculously cheap bourbon for me and drove it back up to Jersey. Apparently in Kentucky bourbon is handed out on street corners and children can taste-test the sweet syrup of life from an early age. A glorious state it must be. I might move there. I might move there an establish some new Whiskey Free State. Why not? All I have are the aforementioned liver transplants and crying jags to look forward to.