Monthly Archive: November 2012

Rookie Mistake: Juvenilia

Drunk Jeff Working Hard at "writing"

Drunk Jeff Working Hard at “writing”

You’d think that by now I’d have this writing game down pat. Six novels with two more due out soon, over twenty-five short stories published, a few anthologies – I may not be a genius, or a bestseller, but I’ve done this for a while now. You’d think I’d have figured out how to not humiliate myself any more.

You’d think.

You have to remember, I am a lazy man. Lazy, lazy, lazy. Like, seriously lazy. Lazy Men like me have a lot of really bad habits born out of this laziness and we’re always getting ourselves into pickles because we try to be lazy and shit gets real and then we end up working twice as hard in order to pull things back together. Lazy Men are probably pretty much responsible for every tragedy and horror in history, just a long series of guys who’ve been wearing the same pants for six days shrugging and neglecting to do something.

So, my most recent laziness-related humiliation came from submitting a story. I write a lot of stories. Most are crap, but a few linger in my memory as pretty good. Sometimes I go back through the archives and find a few gems — pieces I didn’t appreciate at the time, but which have something to them. A more mature, diligent author would revise these. I prefer to just submit them.

Sometimes this works out. I’ve sold a few, much to my surprise. But then I’m always surprised when I sell something. When my agent called to tell me we’d sold Trickster last year I spent several weeks chuckling at her excellent joke. When the advance check arrived I was puzzled for a while, then assumed it was a hoax. So selling a few pieces of juvenilia doesn’t rattle me: Sometimes I think the central idea is good, but the execution is kind of meh, so I can see how it happens.

Recently, though, I submitted an old story with a nice idea and I didn’t really read it through very closely. I’m far too Rock Star for that, as long as we agree to define Rock Star as very drunk. It was recently rejected, and the comments from the editors were … not kind. They were also: Not inaccurate. I re-read the piece and frankly I’m a little ashamed of myself. Note the emphasis on little. I remain pretty much in love with myself.

The story can be saved with a bit of revision, and I’ll be dumb enough to submit it again. Lessons: none. I make it my business to never ever learn anything. So far it’s worked out remarkably well. And if you allow yourself to learn lessons from your writing career you’ll end up giving up writing because the lessons are always along the lines of you will never be able to quit your day job or your author photo makes you look like a dweeb because you are a dweeb. Still, this could be a lesson for all of you: Be careful when submitting your juvenilia, kids. There’s probably a reason you let it rot all those years.

The Void is Ever Eager

The Void is Ever Eager

by Jeff Somers

I sat in the dark and listened for Ellie, keeping perfectly still. It seemed very important, suddenly, that I stay perfectly still. No twitch, no shifting of weight—just the maintenance of equilibrium in the dark, quiet room. I had never sat in the overstuffed chair we kept in the corner. I’d seen people sit in it at parties, but always I’d had a vague sense of discomfort about the chair. Sometimes the shape of things tells you something about them, and this chair had just never looked comfortable, and time is precious, I didn’t want to waste it on an uncomfortable experience. Besides, it was out of the way in the room: You couldn’t see the television, or reach anything of us. Sitting in it, you were an island.

In the dark, as my eyes adjusted, the room took on a familiar layout with unfamiliar textures. Everything smooth, rubbed off.

In the light the room had warmth, because Ellie knew what she was doing when it came to decorating. She chose fabrics well, understanding that how something felt to you was just as important as how it looked. In the dark, though, all the lines and pills and deep furrows were lost: Everything was made of dark metal, cold and smooth.

Parts of me were going numb, but I didn’t want to move. I didn’t want to get river muck on the chair.


Three months before, almost to the day, I’d been at a party in the same room, just about everyone that my wife and I knew gathered into one house and given finger foods and alcohol. We liked things casual, and insisted that anyone who wished could bring someone along, no need to call, no need to clear it with the hosts. We liked crowded parties, lots of noise, spilled drinks, people meeting new people. We didn’t want ten people standing around politely, smiling until their faces cracked.

When people brought friends things got looser and more casual. So, I didn’t know a lot of the people attending my own party, but that wasn’t unusual.

I’d met her, Veronica Sawl, in this very room.


Forum is Gone

Hey, remember that forum I set up here? No? No, none of you bastards used it. Well, I deleted it. I had about 300 Russian robots try to sign up last night, and the last legit activity was like six months ago. WHY WON’T YOU LOVE ME?!?

Anyways: Gone. That is all!

No Stranger to Frustration

This story was published in From the Asylum in July 2006.

No Stranger to Frustration

by Jeff Somers

IT WAS the fourth of July again, and the Indians next door were playing music at top volume in their yard. Mister Carrol thought it sounded like a lot of cats being killed, slowly. He stood on the roof looking out across the city, across the river to the other city, smoking a cigarette and feeling the warm roof under his bare feet. The air was still but not oppressive, hanging but not pushing, clear and thin. He took a deep drag on his cigarette and contributed his own minor pollution to the atmosphere.

He glanced down at the backyard. It was overgrown with trees and weeds and rusting metal, completely untended and as wild as yards got in the city. It was a small, dark jungle, surrounded by neat and careful yards, yards with gardens, yards with tended lawns.

Mister Carrol sighed, flicking his cigarette into the night. He just hadn’t had the energy to deal with the yard recently.

He put his hands in his pockets, nodded to himself, and stepped off the roof.

The Indians next door, drunk on cheap domestic beer, heard something big and heavy crash through the trees and hit one of the rusting old bicycles in their neighbor’s yard, but the music drowned most of the noise out, and none of them heard the soft laughter that persisted for a few minutes after. They discussed the crash and finally one man got up and padded, none too steadily, over to the fence.

He returned a moment later, shaking his head, and retrieved his beer. “That man is crazy,” he said to the other men. “He is lying in his backyard, laughing to himself.”

They nodded, sagely.

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