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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):



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.




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.


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 “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


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:


34 Van Dyke St. (corner Dwight St.)
Brooklyn, N.Y. 11231

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.

My name! In a PodCast!

Apparently, while I toil away in here without air-conditioning, my corporate overlords–who have to wear sweaters to work because the AC is cranked so high–are busy pimping me out as well.

I heard from the awesoma Lili Saintcrow (whose web site has just been redesigned, and which you should check out post-haste) that we’re both mention in the latest Adventures in SciFi Publishing podcast by Shaun Ferrel and Sam Wynns. You can listen at their web site or download the whole thing.

I think my name flutters by at around the 3-minute mark. She sounds truly psyched to find out more about the book, which is cool, and hearing someone talk about you is always pretty exciting. At least to me. But then I’m pretty excitable.

Working for the Devil, by Lili SaintcrowAs I may have mentioned, Lili Saintcrow edited The Electric Church back before it was cool to edit The Electric Church, and she actually introduced me to her editor, who bought my book. So aside from being a talented writer (check out the cover of the first book in her Dante Valentine series here) she’s also a very cool gal.

Now go listen to my name being spoken by someone who, unusually, is not me.

I Am a Short Story Whore

They can lock me in a hotel room and force me to Blog for food in order to shift more units of my book, but they can’t stop me from selling my words to other people. I am unstoppable.

In other words, I sold a short story yesterday to GUD Magazine. It’s called closer in my heart to thee; I don’t yet know what issue it would appear in or any of that. Hell, I’m still waiting on the contract, so this might be yet another alcohol-induced fever dream. I love selling stories, not just because of the (minimal) money they generate, but just because it means someone read something I wrote and thought it worth some time and effort, and now people might actually read it.

The money really rarely factors into my decision to submit to a magazine or other market–I will literally sell anyone a story. I am a short story whore. Though I do restrict my submissions to paying markets; I mean, you have to offer me something. Papa’s got booze to buy, and all that. But if you think about the money too hard, you realize that selling short stories is just a ridiculously difficult way to earn money.

I kind of remember reading that some famous author–maybe Vonnegut, maybe Asimov–once made a living by selling off 10-20 shorts a year back in The Day. In this phantom essay, which I cannot recall with any accuracy and which I may have made up wholesale in my mind, the author was lamenting how that could no longer be accomplished. Since I’ve never made more than a few hundred bucks for a short story, I can see how that works. I mean, even if you make an eye-popping amount for every story you sell, your chances of selling 20 a year are slim.

Hell, the first short I ever sold—Glad and Big, to a defunct magazine called Aberrations—netted me a princely $7.50. If I sold 20 at that level, I’d have enough for a modest dinner in Manhattan.

Still, I love short stories. I write one a month as an exercise, penning them longhand in a notebook I carry with me at all times. Most of these stories suck, usually because it’s the end of the month and I scrawl out some garbage ending at 11:59 because I have a low-level OCD problem and I must finish a story a month. I tell myself I can always go back and revise the damn thing, but I’m not sure I’ve ever actually done that. Cannibalized a bad-ending story for a new one, yes—but gone back and revised? I doubt it.

I think the one-a-month exercise has value. It forces me to keep putting ideas on the page, it forces me to end things instead of leaving them wide-open for months, getting stale. Of course, it’s also generating a lot of really bad shorts, but on the other hand I’ve written a few I think are good enough to show, and a few of those have sold, so it can’t all be a waste of time.

GUD Magazine’s got a weird payment plan; they pay a minimum for the story up front and then you supposedly get a share of every issue that sells once they satisfy their printing and shipping costs. In other words, you get a tiny minimum for the story and will probably never see another dime. That’s okay–I knew this when I submitted, and in theory it might even work out.

Anyway, back to knocking softly on the walls looking for hollow spots. Someone slipped some packets of tuna under the door yesterday, and I have a sinking feeling this is my monthly food ration. I’ve noticed that when I blog more, I get more tuna, so I might try posting some gibberish later and see what happens.

TEC in Kirkus Reviews


The Electric Church just got covered in Kirkus Reviews Sci Fi/Fantasy special issue.

The review/interview actually makes me seem intelligent and witty, which is a wonder of editing. Interviewing me is like trying to form coherent sentences out of thousands of hours of random words recorded off the television–laborious and usually not worth the trouble. But in this I actually sound interesting!

From the lazy man’s friend Wikipedia: “Kirkus Reviews is an American book review company founded in 1933 by Virginia Kirkus (1893-1980); it serves the book and literary trade sector, including libraries, publishers, literary and film agents, film and TV producers and booksellers. It is published 24 times annually and reviews, three to four months pre-publication, approximately 5,000 titles per year. Kirkus has long been a respected, authoritative pre-pub review source within the literary and film industries.”

Ye Olde Interview

A couple of years ago I was interviewed by a guy named Frank Marcopolos, who published a zine called The Whirligig. It was part of a series of audio interviews he did with other DIY-type writers. He’s reposted the interview on his blog, apparently under the misapprehension that I am in some way interesting.

If you’re curious, surf on over to Brooklyn Frank and listen to my stammering, half-baked thoughts!