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You Don’t Know Me

After my mini blogging-rebellion last week where I tried not blogging for a while to see what happened, my Corporate Masters have been sending me little reminders of my place in the world every morning. They come on little engraved cards slipped under my door. The one this morning read “We have your book, no one knows what you look like, we could hire Richard Grieco to play you at readings and no one would know better.

This is sadly true. Back in 1999 when I sold my first novel, the unlamented Lifers, I thought I would be famous almost immediately. This did not happen. When Lifers was reviewed in The New York Times Book Review in 2001, I thought, well, this is it: Better prepare for fame and paparazzi.

Again, nothing.

Recently I signed up for World Fantasy Con in Saratoga, New York because my publisher will be there and has promised to buy me drinks. Buying me drinks is the one sure way to get me to do anything; even the wife now offers me liquor in exchange for small chores at home. I got the mass email from the organizers asking if I wanted to be part of any panels or if I wanted reading time, and I emailed back saying, probably no to the panels–who wants to know what I think, anyway?–and yes to reading time if there is any. I didn’t expect to be added to the bill, to be honest, but they asked a question so I answered it.

A day later, I got a puzzled email from one of the WFC honchos saying, in effect, no offense old chap, but who in hell are you?

Such is the life of an unknown, albeit published, author. I’ve got a blog no one reads, a forum no one uses, and a book no one has yet heard of. Yet the glamour quotient people assume is connected to being a published writer continues to be way out of proportion–everyone expects me to be living the Hemingway life. Or at least the Dave Eggers life. Or possibly even the Dave Barry life–all of which assume no day job, a nifty income, and plenty of book tours to keep one busy.

I don’t want to be famous, and occasionally consider measures to stop that from happening. What I mean is, I don’t want to be recognizable. Famous in the sense of everyone buying my books and talking about me at parties? Sure. Bring that on, and quickly, because my wife The Duchess has set a very high income bar for me to achieve before I can quit the day job. But what I don’t want is to be on Gawker.com or something like that. I want to move through my life with my hideousness blurred from the world.

Whenever I consider measure to ensure this, however, I quickly realize that so far no power has been strong enough to break through the thick layers of obscurity that surround me, so I am probably safe.

If you ever do recognize me, as Tom Hanks says in the new Simpsons Movie, please leave me be. Just send over anonymous drinks.

Edit Me

I haven’t posted to this blog in a few days, and this morning a stern note arrived under my nailed-shut door threatening dire consequences if I don’t get on the stick. Apparently I have to come up with a post that’ll make Digg’s front page or they’re going to burn my house down, as stipulated in paragraph seven of page 345 of my contract. They say they will try their best to avoid loss of life, but can make no guarantees.

I haven’t posted for a few days because I’m busy, kids. Well, there’s been some napping and boozing, sure, but at those times when I’m not drunk or asleep or drunk and asleep, I’ve had shit to do.

Like, for one, getting my computer ready to play BioShock. I ditched Microsoft Windows long ago for the saner pastures of Linux (actually I started with FreeBSD back in the day, which was insanity, then migrated to Mandrake [er, Mandriva] and now exist in Ubuntu’s space) (and if you understood all that, hail fellow Geek) which makes playing games difficult. I bought a souped up rig from System 76 last year which has the muscle to play games (Doom3 runs like a charm on it) but sadly most game makers ignore Linux. My wife bought me BioShock for my birthday, though, so measures had to be taken, so I threw an extra Hard Drive into the box and installed Windows on that, so now I have a place to play my First Person Shooters.

Aside from that, I’ve been working on a book. I won’t say it isn’t a sequel to The Electric Church. I’ve written the first draft and now various minions are poring over it and handing me suggested edits, ranging from your obvious typos to subtle things like repeated words and plain old garbled storytelling, infodumps, possibly places where I’ve attempted to write drunk and inserted paragraphs of screeds against mine enemies. That last one happens more often than you’d think.

Trust me, this is a necessary step–I’ve never understood anyone, no matter how successful or famous (or not), who resists a brisk edit.

Some people think editing is all about someone telling you how to write. They imagine that you create this pristine work of art, hand it to an editor at a publishing house who proceeds to tell you how to re-write it in order to please the Entertainment Industry. This is a crock–editing is all about fixing the bullshit you’re too close to the story to see. Anyone would benefit from a good edit.

So, while I’m doing my own read-through, I’ve got the minions sending in their comments, and I’m feverishly trying to pull it all together. The first draft was pretty good, but who wants a pretty good book? We want greatness. Or possibly beer. Probably both.

Well, back to work, I suppose. Unless I can find a booze hiding place my wife hasn’t found yet. . .

At absolutely no one’s request…

. . .there’s a forum.

That’s right—-now you can register and post insults and other abuse! And possibly discuss my books and other exploits, if you were feeling charitable. And I promise I am not at home all the time madly clicking “refresh” to see if anyone is talking about me. And it never crossed my mind to create dozens of fake people on the forum to carry on discussions about my greatness.

Check it out and do your worst!

Reviews, glorious reviews…

Every morning some unknown flunky from my corporate masters slips a crisp sheet of expensive linen paper under my door, on which is printed the latest reviews of TEC and any other news items where my name or the book title appear. These always end with stern instructions to eat the paper after I am done memorizing its contents. The one time I failed to do so, my hotel room was invaded in the middle of the night by a group of ninja-types in black who beat me with bars of soap inside their socks like in Full Metal Jacket.

So, I’ve learned to read fast and like the taste of expensive linen paper. If they’d just send me up some ketchup like I’ve asked, it wouldn’t be so bad. At this point the paper is my main source of fiber anyway, so it’s actually welcome.

Remember, Good Folk of the Internet: Review my book so that I may live.

Anyway, here’s the latest review of The Electric Church I found while Googling myself. Which I do far more often than is healthy. If you’re on the fence about buying my book—-thinking, on the one hand, that it sounds intriguing but, on the other, I come off as a self-involved jackass on this site—-I hope some of these reviews sway you towards parting with the pesos.

If not,  well. . .to be honest, I’m not sure what happens to me if the book doesn’t do well. My corporate masters might just let me go one glorious morning. Or they might just leave me here.

I’m Almost as Dumb as I Look

This morning I woke up to discover that I had been moved to a new hotel room while I slept. My entire bed had been somehow transported to a room that appears to be in an entirely different hotel. How this was even possible is a question for some genius scientists out there, though I believe the secret can be gleaned from the movie Meatballs.

So far no explanation has been offered from my corporate masters. I look in the mirror and I am gaunt and unshaven, slightly yellow. This is probably not going to end well. They’ve pretty much broken me, so I think I’ll start posting to this blog on a twice-daily basis to see if my treatment improves.

I’ve actually got a reading scheduled, as you might note below; That also is probably not going to end well. For me, that is–for you if you’re in the audience it might end well, especially if it ends like my readings usually do–with me screaming and being beaten by security. Highly entertaining. But for me? Not so good. While I make it look easy with my superstar looks and boyish charm, readings are simply No Fun.

Hmmmn…someone just knocked on the door to the room and shouted in a thick Bronx accent that telling people how bad my readings are is unmutual, and if I don’t stop they’ll replace all the liquor in the honor bar with Near Beer. Crickey.

My readings aren’t terrible. I do, for instance, actually read coherently, and sometimes try hard to put some life into my words (it helps if I’m boozed up, which, honestly, I usually am, a trick I picked up back in High School). But Writers as a breed, I am convinced, write because it does not involve public speaking. If we had talent in the public speaking sphere, we’d be performers. Writers invariably write things down for a goddamn reason.

So, readings have always been  a strange promotional tool as far as I’m concerned. Take a bunch of pale, socially awkward people who have rich inner worlds and put them on stage. Brilliant! My god, have the gods of publishing promotion ever been to a reading? Mumbling, stammering, heckling–oh, it’s fun.

Here are my top three Reading Moments from past attempts to make a name for myself. You can be the judge of whether superstardom is in the cards for me or not. These are in reverse order of humiliation:

 #3 -  The Hecklers at Rocky’s. I read at Rocky Sullivans, which is a bar, and which convinced me to always read at bars from now on. I got a little drunk before getting up to the podium, which is why I think all readings should be at bars–the drunkening. Not everyone at the bar was there for the reading; some folks just wanted to drink and talk, and my reading was obviously annoying them, so they heckled me. And I was just Drunk Enough–you know, that magical twilight between sober and snookered–to respond with smart comebacks. At least they seemed like smart comebacks, and everyone laughed.

#2 – Dito. When my first novel, the lamented Lifers, came out, I set up some readings and landed a slot at the Barnes and Noble at Astor Place in Manhattan, which was cool. They paired my up with Dito Montiel for some unknown reason, who was not only reading in support of A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, which eventually Robert Downey Jr. turned into a movie, but who was being filmed by a documentary film crew. I went on first, stammered my way nervously through a passage, and respected the five minute time that had been suggested to me. Dito got up there and. . .performed. he sang, he told stories, he actually did read a little bit, and he basically wiped me off the floor. It kind of sucked.

#1 – Olssons. When I set up the Big Assed Famous Tour of 2002 I tried to hit as many cities as I could where I knew someone. New York was my town, so that was easy enough. In Chicago I had Quimbys Bookstore as an ally. I didn’t know anyone in Philadelphia, and somehow that turned into a triumph with press coverage and everything. In Washington D.C. I had a friend who’d once lived there, and he helped set me up with Olssons, who scheduled me despite not knowing who I was. They then did absolutely nothing to promote the reading, possibly because it had been booked as a favor. As a result, when I drove down there with a few friends, the future-wife, and my Mo, I ended up reading to. . .no one.

Absolutely no one.

Oh, one guy who’d been browsing the magazines wandered over and watched me for a few moments, but I literally read to my 3 friends, my fiancee, and my mother. Needless to say, there was some drinking that night.

Anyway, let’s hope the readings we set up in support of The Electric Church are not quite so horrible. Although, for your sake, maybe they should be, as they’re more entertaining that way.

Another Review of TEC

More reviews are popping up on teh intarwebs, which is awesome. Of course, good reviews are not as fun as bad reviews. With bad reviews I get to beat my breast and wail dramatically about so much unfairness of things, then drink myself into a stupor because my delicate artistic soul can’t handle negativity. Then I wake up and quote Cliff from Singles and announce that all this negative energy just makes me stronger.

Anyway, a review of TEC here.  If you have any interest whatsoever. Huzzah!

Big-Assed Famous

Yesterday the street urchin who occasionally does dirty jobs for me in exchange for a few coins informed me of a steam pipe explosion not too far away. Since I saw this news on the Internet, I know at least that my corporate masters are keeping me in a Hotel in Manhattan. Which doesn’t surprise me, since corporate masters are notoriously cheap so they wouldn’t spring to fly me anywhere.

I’ve been pondering the sad tradition of writers doing readings. After all, as a species we’re people who found our creative voice in the private, dry scratching of a pen against paper–generally speaking we’re not really meant to be performing before the public.

A few years ago I wrote some articles for my zine about the Big-Assed Famous Tour my wife and I organized around my first novel and a zine collection I’d published, so I thought I’d reprint it here for yucks, to give you a taste of what my readings are generally like. So here you go (note that some names have been changed–my wife, for instance, prefers to not have her name splashed across the Internet, so she is referred to as “The Duchess” at all times):

 

BIG ASSED in CHICAGO

Jeff’s Book Tour Diary: Part One, Quimbys

Pigs, it’s a sad fact of life that there are now so many humans in the world that simply being moderately smart and articulate no longer makes you a superstar (see the commentary “Where’s My Intellectual Elite?” elsewhere in this issue). This means that simply because I release a book unto the world doesn’t mean the world notices or cares. So I have to promote the damned thing. Having had a moribund novel on the shelves for a year, and a new collection of ziney goodness coming out, I launched the Big Assed Famous Tour to promote both. First stop: Chicago, Illinois, and Quimbys Bookstore.

 

PRE-TRIP PREPARATION

 

April 15, 2002: 7:34PM. Having transitioned from my Young River Phoenix Stage (scintillatingly beautiful with substance-abuse issues but still alive) into my Late Jim Morrison Stage (bloated, mush-mouthed, and scruffy) I avoid anything which requires effort, concentration, or sobriety. Having scheduled a trip to Chicago to read at Quimbys, and being determined to not travel by plane (flying being the worst possible way of traveling ever devised) this determination to remain parked in my easy chair was under assault, because I never learned how to drive a manual transmission, which was the only car available to drive out there.

Legal Counsel The Duchess marched into the living room three days before departure wearing a crash helmet and an umpire’s vest, an inky black suicide pill clenched between her teeth. She rudely slapped me on the back of my head, waking me from a fitful, booze-haunted nap.

“Up, doughboy. Time to drive.”

I cowered and whimpered in my easy chair, as is my usual reaction when The Duchess appears suddenly, demanding action.

The training was long and grueling, leaving me sweaty, drained, and bruised from The Duchess’ frequent bitchslaps. But I learned, oh, I learned.

(more…)

TEC Reviews

Just a quick note to point anyone who’s interested towards a review of The Electric Church I found while ego-surfing this morning:

Review by Charlene Brusso at www.sfsite.com: “Somers writes with assurance and style. This is fun, cyberpunky noir SF with just the right mix of fatalism and attitude, seasoned with plenty of bullets and black comedy

WHOO HOO!

Drunken Readings and Foreign Rights

Today I received a gift basket containing pretzels, peanuts, and salt packets, but no water, from my Corporate Masters. A little note informed me I was allowed to celebrate.

What are we celebrating? Why, the foreign rights sale of The Electric Church to Russian publisher AST Press (the site’s in Russian). As I sit here at my desk with a cat curled up behind me in such a way as to make my back ache and my head throb, this is good news. One, it means more money–I think, though now that you mention it I think I might get paid in Vodka. I’ll have to check my contract, if I can find it–I once drunkenly suggested that I be paid in the local liquor whenever a foreign rights sale is made, and I can’t recall if I made that particular joke while sitting at the negotiating table or not.

Two, it means the rest of the world is not laughing hysterically at the thought of me being a published author. Finally, it means that when Putin finishes his conquest of the North Pole and controls the world’s energy, I may be popular enough in Moscow to continue to live comfortably.

Rocky SullivansSecond, I’ll be doing a reading in a few months to celebrate the release of TEC, at one of my all-time favorite places, Rocky Sullivans! I did a reading there a few years ago in support of my books Lifers and The Freaks are Winning and it was a fantastic experience, complete with me drinking beer while I read and heckler’s trying to rattle me while I read, so I couldn’t be more excited to return.

Rocky’s is moving from Manhattan to Brooklyn, however, so make sure you make a note of the new address:

 

ROCKY SULLIVAN'S OF RED HOOK
34 Van Dyke St. (corner Dwight St.)
Brooklyn, N.Y. 11231
718-246-8050

The date is September 24, 2007, all other details to be figured out. Naturally enough, I’ll repeat this several thousand times as the day approaches. Welcome to the Big-Assed Famous Tour 07!!! Come by and buy me a drink and then make fun of me as I stammer and sweat through a reading.