More Shit I Gotta Do

POB Adventures

Back when The Duchess and I moved in together (when I still put out a print zine), I got myself a PO Box here in Hoboken. At first she was puzzled; The Duchess has always regarded me as far too lazy to conduct a successful adulterous relationship, so she couldn’t figure why I would need a separate mailing address. I told her the truth: The Zine generated a lot of seriously random, seriously weird correspondence. Back in those halcyon days when The Inner Swine was being mailed all over the world by the thousands, I got some weird-ass shit in the PO Box all the time. I figured The Duchess didn’t want the sort of people who made zines and wrote ten-page letters about them (so, basically, me) to know her home address, and once she saw some of the stuff I hauled home from the PO Box, she heartily agreed, and to this day ranks it as one of the Five Good Decisions Jeff Has Ever Made (#1, naturally, is marrying The Duchess).

(Of course, I also used to get tiny sums of cash there as well as folks sent me anywhere from $2 to $50 for single issues, lifetime subscriptions, and other zine-related stuff, which was sort of great)

Today, the PO Box is a desolate wasteland, because I’ve stopped putting out the zine. In fact, the weird/cool correspondence dried up alarmingly quickly once I stopped mailing out the zine. But every now and then I get treats there. Today was one of those days. Here’s what I got.

Never Been to Mars by Larry Gent

Never Been to Mars by Larry Gent

A signed copy of Never Been to Mars by Larry Gent. Larry and I have corresponded a few times as he tries to lure me to various events, and he was kind enough to send me a signed copy of his new novel. Here’s the BCC:

Benedict hasn’t been the same since he returned home from Iraq. He’d seen horrifying things, had his leg pumped full of shrapnel and watched friends vanish before his very eyes. To make matters worse he returned home to find he’d developed psychic visions that he can’t control.

Now he lives his life alone in his house, hobbling to and fro on a cane, doing little else but watching endless streams of TV and movies. He doesn’t want to talk to people, he doesn’t want to see anybody; he just wants to be left alone with his TV until reality develops a laugh track.

But when his nephew goes missing, and the FBI starts calling it a kidnapping, Ben hobbles into action and uses the powers he loathes to save his family and find himself in a seedy world of other with powers, child kidnappings and murderous celebrities.

He already misses his TV.

Xerography Debt #37A copy of Xerography Debt #37. Full disclosure, I write a column for this zine-review zine (with the nifty title It Means Its Wank), so I get a contributor’s copy, and am naturally not very objective about its value. Basically, XD has been a mainstay of the zine scene for a long time, and it’s a great place to start if you’re at all curious about the many, many self-published DIY publications that fall under the banner of “zine.” Fiddler's Green September 2015There are columns, as I mentioned, from folks with some connection to the zine world, as well as a plethora of reviews of zines of all kinds. That means every issue offers you a glimpse of hundreds of interesting, weird things you might otherwise never know about. Which would be sad. Also, I write a column, have I mentioned that? Worth the price of admission alone.

A copy of Fiddler’s Green, a pamphlet/magazine published “occasionally” by Wonderella, with a focus on “art and magic.” It’s truly a unique publication, beautifully designed and printed and ideal for languid afternoons spent day drinking and imagining you’re living another life.

There was also a freelance check in the POB, which I used to purchase this



What Do You Do for Money, Honey?

Jeff doing freelance writing research.

Jeff doing freelance writing research.

So, I decided to become a freelance writer, which is a story I’ve told before. Writing is my only marketable skill, after all. Despite our modern ways I have yet to find someone to pay me to drink copiously and utter drunken bon mots, and the idea of a Kickstarter or Patreon just doesn’t sit well with me. Nothing wrong with it, of course, but I don’t like the sense of obligation. I much prefer to write what I want when I want and then randomly publish it and beg for money in return. I don’t like promising a monthly delivery or something like that. It’s a road to trouble, for me. I’d wind up just passive aggressively hating all my supporters, writing stories about their gruesome deaths and creating temporary email accounts in order to send them drunken threats. So the whole crowdfunding thing is out.

But, sadly, writing novels hasn’t turned into the golden highway of money I was promised, so I need to hustle a bit, and so: Freelance writing. Today I’m having a pretty good time with it, writing about books at Barnes and Noble and, writing about my hometown at Life in Hoboken, and doing a few other projects here and there. But in the early days of my freelance career things got dark, fast.



My Day at #WDC15

Jeff's Il Duce Pose

Jeff’s Il Duce Pose

This year I was once again invited to give a seminar on plotting a novel at the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference held in New York City at the rockin’ Roosevelt Hotel. Sure, I’m a cheap date because I live in New Jersey and thus can be booked for this conference for the cost of two drink tickets, but that’s actually kind of true no matter where your event is being held. Am I saying that you can have Jeff Somers giving a speech in your living room for the price of two free cocktails? Yes, I am saying that. But it better be top shelf. We will not tolerate any of that Early Times bullshit.

Anyway, I digress. I gave the same seminar I gave last year: Take Off Your Pants and Write: Pantsing Vs. Plotting a Novel. It’s all about plotting your story and the two main techniques most people naturally gravitate towards, and how you can get out of blocked situations by using a hybrid approach. It’s rather brilliant. I’m hilarious. I even wore pants!

Unlike last year, this year we will refer to the WDAC as The Year of Competence, because with the help and guidance of The Duchess I was pretty much an adult the entire time, which, as we all know, is unusual.

I Need a Stinkin' Badge

I Need a Stinkin’ Badge


6AM: I am actually awake, despite consuming a lot of whiskey and some wine over dinner the evening before. Yes, my way of prepping for a big day of public speaking is to drink heavily. What of it?

8AM: I am actually on a bus, showered, sober, and dressed like either a published author or a middle-aged schoolteacher, I’m not sure which. I actually had all of my props and a backup of the presentation on a thumb drive. I make a mental note to drink more, as it obviously helps me wake up early, clearheaded and organized.

8:45AM: I am actually at the hotel and have my badge and know where my seminar is being held. This is unprecedented. The year before, I was racing around this hotel like a maniac, wide-eyed and sweating freely.

8:55AM: The Duchess, concerned that I do not know how to make my Power Point Presentation appear on the screen, stomps to the laptop and starts touching things. The screen goes black. The Duchess turns away and resumes her seat and refuses to discuss what we should do next.

9AM: A nice technical person comes and fixes what The Duchess has wrought. She looks around and whistles nonchalantly.

9:01AM: I am actually giving my presentation, and it goes well. Last year I finished up with my prepared material 20 minutes into a 50-minute session, and had to soft-shoe, sing, and take questions for half an hour. This year almost none of that is necessary. Well, the soft-shoe isn’t strictly-speaking necessary, but I do it anyway, to thunderous applause.

10AM: After some gladhanding and chatting with attendees, we stalk my agent by following the scent of brimstone. I am hopeful that she will buy me alcoholic refreshments despite the time of day, but she is too clever for me: She leads us to the bar area, sits down and makes cryptic remarks about the state of my career, shouts HEY LOOK OVER THERE and when I turn back there is only a haze of purple smoke.

11AM: The Duchess and I go to lunch. I’m not sure whether managing to eat a burger and drink several beers without incident can be listed under my accomplishments for the day, as most people manage to feed themselves without trouble. But, as The Duchess is fond of saying, I am not most people.

NOON – 3PM: Lost time. I have no memory. I am still checking the news for mentions of a drunk white man taking off his pants somewhere.

3:00PM: We’re back at the hotel, and hit the bar, where I drink several whiskies while engaged in a war with a cloud of gnats who all intend to commit suicide in my drinks. After three of the little buggers die in my tumbler, I start drinking like I’m in prison, hunched over my glass and muttering and twitching. Or, you know, like usual. Yes, I drank it anyway. This is whiskey we’re talking about.

Jeff Merely Pawn in Game of Life

Jeff Merely Pawn in Game of Life

5:30PM: I am at my assigned spot in the ballroom for the cocktail reception-slash-book signing. Jacqueline Woodson is seated at the table next to me. Her line goes out the door. I have no line. I am sad.

But, because of this newfound competence, I stick it out and eventually my people find me. My people, I think, had their priorities straight: Getting to the bar first with their drink tickets so they could double-fist the booze as quickly as possible. I meet a few folks, sign some books, and have those curiously awkward conversations where you have to shout so much you’re hoarse. A few folks buy copies of We Are Not Good People and I fall asleep, and The Duchess carries me home.

So, here’s to a job: Done. Hopefully they invite me back next year so I can try the opposite approach: Total batshit incompetence. This would be for scientific purposes, of course, to see which approach works better.


We Are not Good People & WDAC

This year at the 2015 Writer’s Digest Annual Conference, I’ll not only be offering up my presentation on plotting a novel (which was really well-received last year and which will be 150% more awesome this year because I plan to be sober this time) I’ll also be attending the cocktail reception and signing copies of We Are Not Good People (the plotting of which I discussed last year in a WDAC-related post). It’s my understanding that the conference is sold out, so this isn’t really me drumming up attendance (and yes, I fully expect to be sitting there alone, nursing a drink and weeping when absolutely no one buys my book to get signed).

If you’ve read WANGP, then you know the ending sort of folds back on the story, and the ending has been a divisive aspect of the story for some. It was very deliberate, though; Despite the fact that the whole book was more or less pantsed (that is, made up as I went, as opposed to being planned out) I did have the ending in mind as I wrote. As the story progressed, it became clearer and clearer to me that this was the only way the story could end.

One of the hardest things to come to terms with as a writer isn’t the people who think your works sucks and that you’re a terrible writer–every author will have those folks, and what can you do? No, it’s the people who love your work but hate one thing vehemently. When people tell me they loved We Are Not Good People but hate the ending, it’s difficult, because you feel like you disappointed Your People. These aren’t haters, they’re fans, and so their feelings about your work matter a lot more than the people who think you’re a Pantsless Wonder.

While writing this book, though, it slowly dawned on me that the whole point was really the friendship between the main character, Lem, and his nonsexual life partner Pitr Mags. This was a bromance, really, and Lem has nothing without his friend. As that friendship loomed larger and larger I realized, in the end, that Lem would do anything to save that friend–and thus that friendship. At a certain point, there was really only one way it could end. Sometimes plotting is like that: There’s only one possible ending, whether other people get it or not.

I’ll be talking about WANGP a bit during my Writer’s Digest presentation, and I’ll be ready to sign copies. Or sit there getting soused and muttering obscenities at people, whichever.


Hanzai Japan

Hanzai Japan

Hanzai Japan

One of the great joys of writing, for me, is selling a short story. I can’t explain it: You can’t live on the money you make, you often get very little notice for it, and yet I’m privately incredibly excited whenever I manage to convince someone that some chunk of words is worth paying me for.

My short story “Three Cups of Tea” will be included in the forthcoming Hanzai Japan from Haikasoru, which naturally makes it your priority. “Tea” is a Philip K. Marks story; this is the fourth story I’ve sold starring Mr. Marks, who’s a sort of run-down paranormal detective with huge chunks of his life missing from his memory (but not from some unpublished stories). For some reason when I think of Marks I tend to get some really awesome ideas.

I have some stiff competition in this anthology, though. Here’s the complete TOC:

Genevieve Valentine “(.dis)”

Yusuke Miyauchi “Sky Spider”

Libby Cudmore “Rough Night in Little Toke”

Ray Banks “Outside the Circle”

Yumeaki Hirayama “Monologue of a Universal Transverse Mercator Map”

Brian Evenson “Best Interest”

Jyouji Hayashi “Vampiric Crime Investigative Unit: Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department”

Naomi Hirahara “Jigoku”

Carrie Vaughn “The Girl Who Loved Shonen Knife”

Kaori Fujino “Run!”

S. J. Rozan “Hanami”

Violet LeVoit “The Electric Palace”

Setsuko Shinoda “The Long-Rumored Food Crisis”

Jeff Somers “Three Cups of Tea”

Chet Williamson “Out of Balance”

Hiroshi Sakurazaka “The Saitama Chain Saw Massacre”

Get excited and pre-order this one today! And while you’re at it, buy Haikasoru’s other anthologies: The Future is Japanese and Phantasm Japan.


What I’m Doing Tomorrow

Walled_coverSo, I’m taking part in a Facebook party-thing, hosted by Ragnarok Publications. The official details are:


WHEN: Event starts at 8PM EDT, I’m on at 9:30PM.

WHAT THE: So, I’ll be posting things like excerpts from the new Avery Cates Series story, videos, and photos, as well as answering questions and generally being a drunken fool, as per usual. ALSO, will be giving away both super-rare print versions of the new Avery Cates short story The Walled City (not out until 6/15, and then in ebook format only) as well as copies of We Are Not Good People.

So, if you’re in front of a screen tomorrow night, stop on by and accost me. Ask me anything! Or hurl


insults my way, I’m used to that. I’ll be happy to offer up liquor recommendations, relationship advice, photos of my cats, and humiliating personal anecdotes that make me look like a jackass. It’s what I do.


The Perils of Podcasts



As you may or may not know I am likely the most incompetent self-promoter in the universe, which is problematic when you live in the age of the Shrunken Publishers who basically buy your novel and then then wave vaguely at the wide world and wish you the best of luck promoting your book. Part of my incompetence is in the planning, certainly; I have never claimed to be skilled at or even knowledgeable about marketing or PR, and I literally often have no idea what I should be doing. Or not doing. So far all I’ve figured out is

SHOULD BE DOING: Wearing pants.

SHOULD NOT BE DOING: Cursing at people on the assumption that they have not bought my book.

That’s it. But I’m also incompetent on the doing of self-promotion as well. For example, I recently did a promotional thing and broke all the rules of a good live reading and interview appearance: I was not prepared, I got flustered, I got out of breath and spent the entire forty-five minute experience sounding like someone had recently kicked me in the groin and about a second or so away from passing out.

Once you lose your breath under pressure, my experience tells me, you’re screwed, because you need a few minutes of calm in order to get yourself under control, which means a few minutes of dead silence while the person or audience listens to you breathing (and possibly sobbing, or glugging down booze, or possibly all of those things).

Which brings me to the lesson here: Be prepared? Sure, see how that works out for you. No, the lesson is to always be drunk when doing any sort of appearance.

I am not kidding. In the words of Professor Jennings from Animal House: “I’m not joking. This is my job!”

Now, I’m not talking about being ripped, staggering about shouting. I’ve done that, and it is not effective promotion. Back before The Electric Church was published, I was invited to a launch party by my publisher. I’d recently been asked to consider writing sequels to the book, and so I thought: Jebus, this is it, I will henceforth be rich and famous and adored by millions and able to leverage that adoration into an income the likes of which has never been seen! Or something to that effect. I’d already written about half the sequel, and was really full of myself. So I got really, really drunk and began shouting all sorts of things I now regret. I can’t forget this because The Duchess reminds me of it any time we go out to an industry party, with the implication that she will knock me unconscious if I try to repeat the performance.

No, what I mean is: Have a drink. Sit for twenty minutes with a scotch, or a glass of wine or a beer and relax. Have two! Then stop, because your goal is a nice buzz, not staggering around in Hulk Jeff mode as described above.

I’ll never get this particular appearance back, and maybe it wasn’t as bad as it felt at the time (it was). My sole comfort is that no one is paying much attention to me anyway, so very few people will notice this when it goes live. Which means I might as well not wear pants and get horribly drunk anyway, right?


The Lazy Writer’s Problem: Wikipedia

Tell you what ... you do it.

Tell you what … you do it.

The conundrum is classic: They tell you, as a young writer, that you should always “write what you know.” The idea is sound enough: If you stick to things you know something about from personal experience — be it people to base characters on, or outlandish stories that actually happened, or the infinite details of a trade or hobby — then your writing will always ring true. It was shimmer with that special realistic gravity that sucks people in.

There are limitations, of course. Say you’re halfway through your novel and the plot problems would be solved if someone, say, joined the army. Great! Except you’ve never joined the army. In fact, uniforms, exercise, and weapons — the three main ingredients of military service, peppered with humiliation, violence, and busy work — are so not your thing. You wind up facing the horror that Lazy Writers everywhere fear most: Research.

The Bad Old Days

Of course, in the Bad Old Days, research generally meant either hitting the books at a library or actually doing the thing you needed research on. The former, while affordable and possible no matter your circumstances, was often deadly dull. The latter was only possible if you were a Gentry Writer living off the fumes of a trust fund or something — the rest of us, proles all, were forced to work Day Jobs and do our research on the margins.

Ah, but then the Internet! Suddenly, Lazy Writers like me could just look stuff up. Need to know what a street looks like in a small town in France? Try Google Street View. Everything is out there if you dig hard enough, and you don’t have to put on pants and walk out into the sunlight to the library, or book a flight to France just to snap some photos.

The Bad Old Now

However, disaster looms for we Lazy Writers, because, as usual, Trolls are ruining everything. Wikipedia has always been a dubious place to do real research — you would never have used Wikipedia as the basis for anything serious. Novel research, however — why not. After all, 90% of a novel is made up anyway. Wikipedia was filled with misinformation and politically-motivated edits, yes, but for quick, basic stuff you could at least use it as a starting point.

No more; the Trolls have ruined it. A decline in working editors, an ever-expanding and torturous set of rules in an increasingly insulated Wikipedia, and a growing amount of bullshit going uncaught in the online encyclopedia has put the nail in it: If you want to be a Lazy Writer, you’re screwed.

Worse, a recent experiment found that small errors purposefully introduced to Wikipedia lingered for very long periods of time, meaning that your chances of picking up a detail you think makes you sound smart will actually make you sound incredibly stupid. This, of course, is the fear of the Lazy Writer.

So what does it all leave us with? A lot of novels about being sad, mildly-employed alcoholics, because now all of us Lazy Writers have to Write What We Know.


America’s Next Idiot Model: I Spent a Day Wearing Scrubs

Yes, I was beaten several times for being too pretty.

Yes, I was beaten several times for being too pretty.

This originally appeared in The Inner Swine Volume 19, Issue 3/4.

So, 1:30PM on a Sunday and I’m a plastic surgeon’s office in Manhattan, wearing hospital scrubs and eating a free lunch. I’ve been here since 9AM, along with approximately six thousand other people: A photographer and his assistants, a wardrobe person, a producer, three professional models and many extras, of which I am one.

How I wound up here is unimportant. Suffice to say I didn’t seek out a one-day career as a model, it was thrust upon me. By The Duchess. Need I say more? Probably, but I won’t.

Hurry Up: Wait

I will say this: Modeling, even the half-assed form of it I engaged in wherein I was basically a warm body needed for background shots, a piece of human staging and decoration, is fucking hard work. Obviously not “hard work” in the sense of, say, working in a mine or sewing shoes for Nike in some unventilated Chinese factory, but hard enough for a pudgy boy like myself, used to frequent marinating in liquor and lots of nap time.

First of all: The waiting. You have to show up on time, natch, but then there is a lot of sitting around while they get their shit together or work with other people. So I sat there all morning writing. Not a bad deal, if you’re getting paid – sit around and work on a novel, go home with a check.

But if anyone out there has ever had to put in some serious waiting, you know it’s actually hard work. Reality distorts around you. You begin eating everything in sight. You watch the battery drain on your laptop in despair. After after being somewhat productive for a few hours, you find you just can’t work any more and goddamn you just want the photographer to call your name and ask you to do something. Anything. This is how people are lured into pornography. They hire you to ?model’ and make you sit around for hours and hours until you snap and when they say “Hey, wouldn’t it be fun if you took off your top?” you think God yes ANYTHING to relieve the boredom and six weeks later you’re starring with Lindsay Lohan in The Canyons 2: Electric Boogaloo and weeping in public toilets.

But I digress.



Why I’ll Never Be an Actor

A face for radio!

A face for radio!

So, the other day I was recorded reading a brief excerpt of We Are Not Good People for The Author’s Corner, a public radio program. When I was initially approached for this, I was excited, of course, and also pretty confident. I’ve done a fair share of readings, after all, and I think I have a good sense of what works in a reading and how to read my own work so it’s a little entertaining. I’m fairly confident in my voice; while I don’t think it’s some sort of Saruman-like instrument, people don’t run screaming when I start to read some fiction. Or, more commonly, when I stand up in a tavern and begin to recite The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock from memory, as I am wont to do.

As usual, life noticed me being cocky and confident, and decided that Somers boy needs to be taught a lesson.

First, the first twelve or so excerpts from the book I submitted were rejected. We only had about a minute to work with, so the excerpt had to do a lot of work: Be entertaining, be coherent, have an arc and a point, not be too gory or profanity-laden (that last one, from a book written by me and involving blood magic, was a doozy). Finding the ideal piece to read was a struggle, and just when I thought we’d failed, I hit on the perfect excerpt: The very beginning of the book.

Triumph! We were both happy with that choice. So I sailed into the offices of my redoubtable lit agent and met the producer of the show. He unpacked his equipment and created a mini-studio in an unused office, and we started working on a very brief introduction. This was harder than expected, too, but we finally nailed it down and I commenced reading. And discovered I could never be an actor.

Which I guess I knew.

Take after take, the producer gave notes. Good notes, really. Smart notes. And while I always considered myself at least modestly facile with performance — see my leading man-caliber performances as part of Two Men Have Words, for instance — even I knew that I wasn’t really nailing it. I knew what I wanted to do, how I wanted it to sound, and yet when I read it I would lose the thread of what I was hearing in my head and it would be … not so good.

Actors, I imagine, have to go through something like that. Being told their performance was just not … quite right, do it again. And then that the version they gave five minutes ago was 98% right, but this most recent one was only 60%. And then you finally nail one bit that was problematic, and feel great, only to hear that there are 15 more things to tweak. It’s exhausting. It didn’t exactly make me think that actors deserve the tens of millions of dollars they get for their films, but it drifted me a little closer to that conclusion.

In the end, I got it right. For about eighty total seconds of audio we worked for an hour and a half. It’s probably the longest I’ve gone without a drink in years.