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Calm Before the Storm

This morning there was room service, a crust of bread and some warm milk. This is the first food I’ve seen in days. Living on cigarettes and Whiskey always seems romantic in the movies or in books, but it. . .ain’t. I’m yellowed and frail.

I don’t know where you live. The town I live in–when I’m not held prisoner in a hotel room and forced to Blog–is a nice small city, about a mile across, forty thousand people or so. The roads are in bad shape, the sewage is a constant worrying concern (in the sense that one day it’s going to rain really hard and we’ll all be swept away because of the 19th-century drainage) and the city government is your typical old-fashioned political machine. It’s glorious!

The main reason I live here: The bars. There’s a bar on every corner, almost literally, and most have decent whiskey.

We’re supposed to be getting the Mother of All Storms there tomorrow, and considering the drainage situation, I have little doubt my house will be swept away in the deluge. Pray for it, and my cats, who live there.

Carrie PilbyStarting from Square TwoLike most small cities, we have a free alternative weekly paper that tries to cover the gap between local happenings and the larger New York City area stuff that the bigger newspapers concentrate on, and the Editor in Chief over there is also a writer–Caren Lissner. Caren’s had two novels (Carrie Pilby and Starting from Square Two) and a few smaller works published so far, and this on top of overseeing a journalism empire. She’s really talented.

And she’s very into her community–or perhaps pathetic writers desperate for attention–so a few years ago when my obscure first novel came out (the one you can now buy for a SINGLE THIN PENNY–a coin that is worth more when melted down and sold on the black market as raw metals–on Amazon.com) she sent over a poor suffering reporter to do a little interview with me (you can read it here if you want) and has always taken an interest in my writing.

The main thing to remember, though, is that she’s a kick-ass writer. Her work has often been classified as “chick lit”, but I don’t think that’s entirely accurate, unless you think any story about young women that involves some romantic angle should be classified such. They’re just good stories, well told, with interesting characters. What more do you want? Well, if you want a peek inside Caren’s brain, you can check out her own Blog.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to trying to unbolt the legs of this bed so I’ll have an ersatz club. My fingers are bloody, but I think I might be getting close.

Solamente Jeff

As much as I’d like to pretend writing is just me, a bottle of rye, a typewriter and my inner demons, the fact is, I owe a lot of people.

Not in the sense of owing them money–though there are plenty of people scattered across this world to whom I do owe vast sums, and lordy let’s pray they never find me. The one advantage of being trapped in this hotel room, blogging for my corporate masters, is that I am at least insulated from the various lawsuits and debts plaguing me.

No, I meant in the sense of them having contributed somehow to my writing. A lot of people fall into this category, from my parents to some teachers to acquaintances who have unwittingly been models for characters, usually in an unflattering sense. So I though, since I have nothing but time and blog posts to burn here, I might as well acknowledge some of them here. Since I will clearly never be cutting them checks in appreciation. Hollow praise is all they’ll ever get.

Lili's book! Today I’m thinking of Lili Saintcrow. Back a few years, I originally sold The Electric Church to a web publisher called Another Chapter, now defunct. The idea was serial fiction: People would subscribe to a story and every week AC would deliver a nifty PDF of the next chapter to their mailbox, with the ideal story being endless, like a soap opera, except in various genres. Doomed to failure, of course, as no one wants to wait a week for the next chapter and then have to read it on their computer screen or take the trouble to print it out themselves, but hell, a sale is a sale. Lili was involved with the site and was assigned as my editor on TEC.

And thank goodness, because Lili is a great editor. Sadly for you, she no longer does freelance editing, as she has her own kick-ass publishing career to tend to. She took the raw materials of TEC and really kicked my ass–forcing me to make sense, to write well, to be inventive, all those things writers get lazy about. In the end she made TEC a much better book, and even had a big hand in helping me sell the book to my publisher after Another Chapter went out of business.

In short, Lili rocks. And she can write, so you should check out some of her books, and you can thank me later.

And also too, if you get in touch with her, please tell her to get the word out that I am trapped in here, okay?

Day Three: The Booze is Almost Gone

Blogging ain’t easy. I’m going to try and make it look easy, but it ain’t. Not only have I consumed all the booze I smuggled into this room, but there was no lunch yesterday, or breakfast today. I am told I get fed only when I post entries to this blog.

I remember when I was a kid, buying cheap SciFi/Fantasy paperbacks like they were crack and reading until I was almost blind at three in the morning. I started off in the local magazine shop near my house, which had a lot of cheap paperbacks, and then eventually moved up to taking the train into NYC every weekend to go to Barnes & Noble’s on 14th street. Back then you could buy most MM paperbacks for about $3-$4, which fit right into my allowance range. I’d read these books and wonder about the writers, how they lived, how they wrote.

For a while, I was a big Piers Anthony fan. I probably have about 20 of his books moldering away at home; as I got older I moved away from his works, but for a while I really enjoyed him. For a while (and he may still be doing this) he was including a lengthy Author’s Note at the end of his books, in which he rambled on about what was happening in his life and gave credit to reader ideas he’d used in his latest books, and, most interestingly, described in great detail his work style when writing. I recall that he wrote all his first drafts in pencil on a pad. I also recall he was very frank about writing being his business, how he fed his family and put his kids through school.

At the time, this was something of a revelation to me; I guess when I’d been ten or so I imagined that writers all lived in a Jonestown-like commune, churning out epic fantasies. I was simultaneously intrigued by this slice of reality, and horrified.

Now, here I am. I’m not even exactly published yet, because the book is due out in September when Orbit Books launches, but still–a working author of sorts. And let me tell you, there ain’t no mystery about it. You write for love, you write stories you want to read and be read, and then, the moment you put THE END on the polished draft, it becomes a business: You want to sell the damn thing, tap into the huge grinding mechanism of the publishing industry and get some income generated to boot.

I think about all the books I’ve bought, especially those cheap paperbacks when I was a kid: Some of those authors seem to have disappeared from the world. I note that Barbara Hambly, who wrote one of my favorite trilogies in The Darwath Trilogy (a trilogy of five books, now, because that’s how we roll in this biz) is still going strong and has published an unreal number of books in her career. But then there’s someone like Lyndon Hardy, whose books I remember reading the same way I remember getting haircuts as a kid: Vaguely, with few details. I admit I am a Google whore–if you ain’t listed in Google, you might as well not exist as far as my frail research skills are concerned. So Lyndon might be doing lots of exciting things that I just don’t know about, but he certainly hasn’t been publishing books. And then there’s someone like Stephen R. Donaldson, who wrote two series I really enjoyed (the first Tom Covenant trilogy and the Gap into Conflict series). He’s written a LOT of stuff since I stopped buying anything I saw by him in the bookstores more or less automatically, but has come back to the Covenant series recently, like it’s 1980 all over again. Weird.

Anyway, I have to try to pull up the carpet and see if there are any loose floorboards that might allow me to tunnel down to the next floor and escape. Or if there’s at least some forgotten mints maybe under the bed.

Welcome to Yet Another Blog

I’ve been locked into this windowless hotel room and am told I cannot leave until I have produced a blog.

You may not believe me, but I assure you, it’s true. The hotel is in Manhattan, my lawyers have confirmed that the publisher is well within its rights per the draconian contract I signed, without an agent’s advice, after an evening spent drinking Tequila Fanny Bangers in a Hoboken bar called Stinky Sulllivan’s. Apparently clause 23 explicitly spells out the blog requirement, and the measure they can take to force me to comply, which includes, in paragraph fifteen, locking me into a cheap hotel room and posting two large, silent men outside the door.

The Electric ChurchAll this just to promote a book. I know this is lean times for publishing, but I thought publishing a novel was an express ticket to Hollywood, taking meetings with drug-addled producers dying to turn my careful works of literary genius into incoherent vehicles for Nicolas Cage or Tom Cruise, handing me bags of money in the process. In reality, the moment I signed the contract I’ve found its terms to be demeaning and, frankly, outrageous. This blog thing isn’t even the worst of it. My book is called The Electric Church (see the cover at the left) and I’ve just realized that if I don’t somehow sell one billion copies (give or take) I actually owe my publisher money and can be considered an indentured servant from that point on. There’s been talk of having me clean all the bathrooms in their office, or making me move everyone’s car on streetcleaning days.

So, for the time being, I’m playing along. The fact that I was knocked unconscious and brought here is one reason. The men outside my door is another. But mainly, my only hope now is that one of you good people–you People of the Internet, who I have heard are the best people in the world–will see this and come to my rescue. I’m afraid I don’t know what hotel this is, or where it’s located, or even my room number–the room has been stripped of such identifying marks–but I know that the Best People in the World will somehow take pity on me and bend their combined mental might on my situation.

LifersThis isn’t my first book. My first book was called Lifers and came out in 2001, where it promptly sank into obscurity. That’s okay; obscurity comes fast for writers and we get used to it. You can now purchase a copy of Lifers on Amazon for Penny for my book. DAMN YOUR EYES.the princely sum of one penny, plus shipping. Shipping is likely hundreds of dollars, otherwise I can’t figure out how you can make money selling my failed novel for a penny–if such a scheme exists, why not tell me how it works so I can feed my family? Oh no, that’d be too easy. Much better to leave me trapped in this hotel room, blogging for you like a trained monkey on the slim hope that you’ll either rescue me or buy my new book, when we’ve already established your hateful plot to sell my books for pennies.

TISAhem. That’s all okay, because I have Secret Internet Fame on my side. I publish a zine, you see. Oh, you don’t see. Heathens. A zine was what we did back before the Internet came along–we wrote witticisms down, photocopied them illicitly at our jobs, and mailed them out to a largely apathetic world. My zine is called The Inner Swine, perhaps you’ve heard of it. Of course you haven’t, you MySpace-ruined heathen. Well, I’ll have you know that I have at least two dozen loyal subscribers readers who will rally to my aid with furious vengance. You can’t hold me. Holding me would be like trying to hold Rock n Roll itself.

Still, as I sit here contemplating taupe wallpaper and scratchy sheets, a disturbing lack of a wet bar of any sort, and an ominous clicking noise that comes from the bathroom mirror whenever I’m in there combing my hair and winking at myself, I realize that I don’t have very much to do in this room. They’ve left me a crippled laptop with what appears to be a one-way Internet connection, so I might as well blog.

Later for that, though. Right now, I must go draw a bath, dig out one of the bottles of rye I always keep in my briefcase, and contemplate what I’m going to have for lunch tomorrow. There has to be lunch provided, doesn’t there? Something in the Geneva Convention must address this…though I admit I don’t know what my contract says on the subject of lunch.