Archive for Fiction

Jersey City Writers

By | April 3, 2014 | 2 Comments

SO, last night I was invited to speak at the first-ever Genre Night for Jersey City Writers. Now, I was born and raised in Jersey City and I currently live a 5 minute walk away from that city, but when I was a kid it didn’t have writer’s groups. It had gangs, yes, and Boy Scouts. But no writer’s groups. So this was exciting stuff.

The event was held at the Freshly Baked Gallery on Monmouth Street in JC – it’s a delightful little space in the middle of a sleepy block in a newly revitalized area of the city. If you click through you’ll see a lot of really neat pieces – The Duchess and I were really intrigued by a couple of them.

Naturally, I was awkward. We walked in and after greeting Meg Merriet, who organized everything, The Duchess and I sat up front trying to look casual while an alarmingly large crowd filled the space. I turned to the Duchess.

“Think there’s a window in the back I can fit through? I’m terrified. I think I just wet myself.”

She slapped me violently and warned me not to embarrass her in public.

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Glad and Big

By | March 27, 2014 | 0 Comments
The cover glows in the dark!

The cover glows in the dark!

“Glad & Big” was the first story I ever sold for real, actual money. Written in 1993, it was published by Aberrations Magazine in issue #34 in 1995. I was paid 1/4 cent a word, or $7.50. I never cashed the check and still have it. In 2014 dollars that’s $12.19. By the time I die I hope it hits at least $20 so I can start saying “I got paid $20 in today’s dollars!”

This is very clearly, to me, an early story, right down to the narrating protagonist who happens to be a bitter writer, because all lazy writers make their characters writers as well, because we don’t know anything about anything else.

——————————–

Glad and Big

Life at Lee’s on second street had a pattern, one I liked well enough. It sucked at my heels with insistent attraction, pulling me back despite the heat and the same old people and the wooden seat worn smooth from years of my weight.

We usually played cards at the small square table in the big bay window, eating Lee’s filling specialties and drinking, smoking cigarettes, and ignoring everyone else. Sometimes I tried to stay away. It never worked. I always needed a drink and the only place to get one was Lee’s and my seat was always open.

That night it was raining and I felt pretty good. The conversation wasn’t too bad and it was warm inside, I was half-tanked all night and I had three packs of cigarettes to get through. Even in a crummy bar and grill like Lee’s, being inside with friends on a rainy night is a special kind of thing. Even being inside with people who drove you crazy like I was was still not bad.

###

It was an old, run-down place owned by a hundred different people so far, with a truckload of future owners down the line waiting to be suckered. You walked in, the old hardwood floor creaking beneath your feet, and the bar stretched off to your left, far too long, too far into the shadows, built in more optimistic times when booze was cheaper. Tables and the rickety wooden seats they required filled the rest of the floor, never crowded but always occupied.

The walls were three generations of photographs, mostly black and white. They stretched back into the past too far to be remembered; now they were meaningless portraits of people we’d never met, moments in time we couldn’t interpret. They wrapped around the back wall and behind the bar, big and small, some dated and some not. We each had our favorites.

Nelson, the crotchety old bastard, had a soft spot for Helen. She was a brooding, sad-eyed young girl in a bullet bra and a tight, tight turtleneck, sipping coffee, framed by the bay window. She had a Sixties hair-do and in the corner she had written “to Tony – always – Helen.” The steam rising from her coffee, the way she glanced away from the camera. It entranced the old fuck.

Terry liked the one with the big crowd. It was one of the oldest ones, and it showed old Lee’s filled with smiling, jostling, shoving people. There was pandemonium in that picture, static chaos. We all theorized that it had been taken just before a riot, just before the taps ran dry and drove the proles crazy. Terry didn’t have too much chaos in his life, but he desired it. The picture made him feel like it was all at his fingertips.

Me, I like the picture that had to have been the first one there, right behind the bar, framed. It was a dour, lean man wearing a bowler cap and a white apron, leaning behind the bar and staring at the camera fiercely. A small plaque on the frame declared him “Mr. Lee.” The first owner, I guessed. His name survived but not his memory – if asked I liked to say I thought he’d died in the great tapped keg riots of Terry’s picture. We were the only ones who got it, but then we were the only ones who mattered.

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Free eBooks

By | August 24, 2013 | 0 Comments

SO, in my ongoing attempts to draw your attention to my novel Chum, out from Tyrus books on 9/18, I’ve put together two free eBooks over one Smashwords that are either directly or tangentially connected to Chum:

Up the Crazy by Jeff Somers - a Lifers/Chum crossover.

Up the Crazy by Jeff Somers – a Lifers/Chum crossover.

Up the Crazy is a crossover short story. Crossover of what? Well, Chum and my first published novel Lifers share a universe and, briefly, some characters. They also share some scenes and characters from other novels I wrote, but since those remain unpublished they remain Novels Whose Titles Shall Not be Mentioned As They Are Meaningless to Everyone Not Named Jeff Somers.

So, anyways, I thought it would be fun to explore one point where the stories of Chum and Lifers intersect a bit a more fully, and wrote a “deleted chapter” from Lifers. It’s not necessary to have read either book to enjoy the story. Here’s a few lines from it:

“Trim, naturally, had a complete speech about Florence, the kind of speech Trim gave from time to time that convinced you he had dossiers on all of us with pre-canned speeches prepared for all occasions. The speeches were also curiously filled with strange stresses and obscure words and this also led me to believe they were basically toneless, rhythmless, rhymeless poems, the kind that Trim specialized in.

Florence, Trim told me, was too much woman for most men. She was tall. She was busty. She was, he insisted, a giantess – everything in proportion, but simply too much of it. It was overwhelming for most men, he said. Add to that red hair and a fuck yeah Florence! kind of attitude which gave her incredible confidence despite being a girl Trim was certain had been mercilessly mocked in her school days for being three or four times normal size, and you had a girl who intimidated all the men in her life and was therefore inexplicably single.”

American Wedding Confidential by Jeff Somers

American Wedding Confidential by Jeff Somers

American Wedding Confidential is a collection of essays from my zine The Inner Swine about the weddings I attended. I’ve been to a lot of weddings, at first as a sort of gigolo emergency wedding date for my single girl friends, and later as escort to The Duchess as everyone we knew in the universe got married one after the other. Weddings are, generally speaking, the most horrible way you can spend an evening, so I started writing darkly humorous essays about my experiences. Fifteen of them are collected here.

Why? Well, a lot of the action in Chum takes place at a disastrous wedding, so there’s your tangential connection. That’s about it, really, although you can well imagine that much of my inspiration for the wedding scenes in Chum came directly from my terrible experiences at the weddings described in American Wedding Confidential.

Here’s a sample:

 ”I may have forgotten to explore an equally important facet of the swinging gigolos wedding experience: the dark side.

Oh, it’s there. I didn’t think so myself until a few years ago. Behind the free booze, between the drunkenly wanton bridesmaids, hidden by the blinding light of the camera capturing the Loco-Motion forever, eternally, winks the grinning leer of The Darkness, waiting for some sucker in a bad suit like me to innocently wander in. I started my long, slow walk into the darkness when Insane Co-worker #23 invited me to her friend’s wedding one day, about five minutes after she’d told me she liked me a whole lot and I’d blithely given her the memorized and oft-used (believe it or not) “we’re better off being friends but I will always be there for you” speech. Usually when I give that speech I mean it, and I meant it at that moment; even though I am running the other way as fast as I can whenever someone wants to date me, I usually do want to be just friends.

I hadn’t yet realized that Insane Co-worker #23 was, well, insane.”

Chum by Jeff Somers

Chum by Jeff Somers

Huzzah! Both are absolutely free and available in whatever format you prefer — go for it! Both are also rather poorly formatted and rife with errors, but then you wouldn’t expect anything less from me, would you? Now, go buy Chum before I burst into tears.

CHUM’s Cover

By | July 1, 2013 | 3 Comments
Designed by Frank Rivera

Chum by Jeff Somers

Here’s the Fab cover for my next novel, Chum, due out from Tyrus books on 9/18/13. Chum is a darkly comic novel about marriage, mayhem, and murder, told from multiple points of view and revisiting events from different POVs throughout the book.

When I first saw the cover I wasn’t sure what I thought, frankly – it seemed very stark and the roughness of the art on the bottles threw me. But then I got it, and realize how great this cover is.

It’s stark so it stand out as a thumbnail when people are scrolling on web sites or their phones.

It’s rough because the story is rough. The characters have jagged edges. The language is, er, salty (would you expect anything else from me?). There are literally – literally – no good people in the whole story. One or two people think they’re good, but they … aren’t.

And the off-center “U” in CHUM? Genius. It’s drunken and unpredictable.

So, my gratitude and respect to Frank Rivera who created this cover, and to Tyrus Books, for packaging my work so well. We’re gonna be good friends, I think.

 

And, without further comment:

Chum by Jeff Somers

The Inner Swine Volume 11, Issue 3, The Entire Issue

By | June 24, 2013 | 0 Comments
A few years ago I wanted to challenge myself a little with my zine project, so I decided that the next issue’s theme would be minutiae and then I decided that the issue would eschew formal articles and just be a stream-of-consciousness examination of the minutiae of my life. I think it kind of worked. So, here’s the entire issue of Volume 11, Issue 3 of The Inner Swine, which published in September, 2005. It’s about 25,000 words written by a guy I no longer am.

Minutiae. I am standing on the corner of 30th street and 7th avenue, desperate for coffee. I’m here just about every weekday, on my way to work, and I buy my coffee from a very pleasant Arabic man in a cart. I like his coffee, and he’s incredibly friendly. For the past ten years I have bought all my coffee from these sorts of carts in New York City, and the coffee is always good, the carts always owned by Arabic men, and these Arabic men are always very friendly. I’ve been in other cities that have no equivalent to the coffee cart on the street, places where you have to purchase your coffee from someplace horrible, like Starbucks, or Au Bon Pain or something. That’s not civilization. That’s corporate domination. What this country needs is more Arabic men selling cheap but delicious coffee out of metal carts.

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“A Meek and Thankful Heart” in Buzzy Mag

By | June 10, 2013 | 0 Comments

Watch the skies, er, the Internet tomorrow, kids. I’m told my short story A Meek and Thankful Heart will be appearing on Buzzy Mag’s site (http://buzzymag.com/) tomorrow. Of course, they also told me it would be appearing on 6/7 and then nothing. On the other hand, they actually paid me for this one, so one would think they must do something with it.

A Meek and Thankful Heart is the second story I’ve published about the character of Philip K. Marks. The first was Sift, Almost Invisible, Through which appeared in the Crimes by Moonlight anthology, edited by Charlaine Harris.

I’ll post an update when it’s live, but keep your eyes peeled. I’ll also be monitoring the comments section and responding to reactions and questions.

Categories: BAM!, Fiction

The Hollow Men

By | May 1, 2013 | 0 Comments

I wrote this a loooong time ago when I was really, really young. AND IT SHOWS. Still, I have some affection for this piece.

The Hollow Men

The Syndicate

Mind-eaters and soul-stealers, drug-dealers and drop-outs, minor miracles for small-time sinners, endless cycles and mean gray walls: It squatted gray and lifeless against the moon-lit horizon, behind a chain link fence designed to contain giants, to repel behemoths, soaring up beyond reason. It squatted three stories high, speckled in graffiti, grinning lopsidedly with teeth made up of windows which didn’t open. We stared at it long enough, surprised, I guess, by how strange it looked at night. I sucked on a cigarette, waiting for someone to move, feeling the wind stick its fingers into me, testing the surface tension.

The fence was easy. There had been talk, back when I’d been a freshman, of putting wire up on top of the fence. But it had never materialized, and the fence remained toothless. It was easy. Get a good running start, jump, grab hold, get set. pull up, hand over hand. Flip your legs over, brace yourself, and drop down. Less than a minute, and we stood panting in the courtyard.

There were four of us. Me. Gail, in black jeans, boots, and leather jacket. Henry, in front as always, blue eyes and little else. Kevin hulking in the rear. Our breath steamed in front of us nervously. We were surrounded by broken rules, swimming in the thick grease of guilt, and all we could do was smile at each other. It lay shattered at our feet and we grinned at our reflections in the shards and reveled that we had the power to cause it. Then Henry took off and we followed.

The side boiler-room door out back was still propped just so slightly open. Bill the mumbling old man who cleaned the place on good days hadn’t bothered to check it, as usual. Old bill could be counted on for two things: to be asleep by two every day, and to steal dirty magazines from our lockers. With that he was clockwork.

We slipped in and shut it behind us, making our way out of the works and into the lockers, dark and damp, foreign all of a sudden. We didn’t take our time. Working on fear and determination, we cut through the halls by memory and broke into the printing office with Henry’s screwdriver -push, pull, watch for falling wood chips.

I grabbed the paper, three packs of five hundred, from the side closet. Gail prepped the copier and set it up. The whine of its warm-up was ear-shattering. Kevin searched for the copy codes, popping open desk drawers with hard snaps of his own screwdriver, finally digging them up. Henry just watched, smoothing out the original.

Gail stepped back, Kev punched in the pass code, programmed fifteen hundred, and I loaded up the paper trays. We turned to Henry, and he was just grinning, watching us, looking crazy, his flashlight pointed up at his face and all the wrong shadows around his eyes. Then he slapped the page down and pressed start. The room filled with snapshot lightning, and we waited, getting nervous. nothing happened. Minor miracles for small-time sinners.

Done, we split up. We papered the place. We had to wade through papers to get out. Outside the gate, we checked time. Twenty minutes, exactly. henry joked that it took him longer to take a shit. It was his way of complimenting us. Then we each went home and forgot we’d seen each other.

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An Essay and Two Reviews

By | April 18, 2013 | 0 Comments

Over at the glittering blog Geeks Versus Nerds, I have an awesome guest post:

“So, yeah, I’d love to have my life recorded for me. Although what would happen then is that I would always intend to go back and cull out the boring stuff – the bathroom breaks, the time spent doing nothing – and hone it down to a grand documentary called Jeff Fucking Somers and then I’d never get around to it.”

It may be the greatest thing you ever read. Or not. I don’t know, frankly.

ALSO! In what might appear to be some sort of payment for my awesome guest post but which certainly was not, Geeks Versus Nerds also reviewed Trickster:

“I love urban fantasy, I blame The Dresden Files for that, and I love the wonder that could be hiding in the shadows of the streets we walk every day.  But everything always seems to stay in the shadows.  There is rarely any consequences when the Vampire declare war or when the Fae revolt.  UF also seems to have, despite its dark atmosphere, a rosy feel to it.  Everything will always work out.  Jeff Somers seems to ignore both of that.  When shit start to explode it takes millions of ‘normals’ with them.  Jeff’s UF world is dark and gritty.  It’s full of backstabbing and horrifying people and that’s before the cutting starts.”

HUZZAH.

AND ALSO! The Electric Church, book #1 in the Avery Cates series, was reviewed by The Taichung Bookworm:

“If the set-up sounds equally insane and implausible then you’re absolutely correct and let me assure you – that’s part of the fun. The Electric Church is an oil-burning page-turner playing like a pulp novel yet with a serious literary bent. Jeff Somers obviously spent some large portion of his life wolfing down Hammett, Chandler and their lesser-known ilk and portrays bustling, seedy dives and wandering, down-on-their-luck loners with a natural ease. Cates is such a grim, sardonic anti-hero that he often seems in danger of falling into caricature before saving himself with his stark insights into the rigged nature of the game he’s forced to play.The team of broken, conniving rejects he rounds up as his crack team and the decaying world they inhabit all contribute to the atmosphere of hopelessness which all must overcome.”

Not bad for a book that came out in 2007. And now: Celebratory drinks for everyone! Note: Must supply your own celebratory drinks.

The Witch King of Angmar

By | April 10, 2013 | 1 Comments

Here’s an unpublished story from a few years ago. The meaning of the title is, frankly, forgotten by this writer. WHo forgets a lot of things.

The Witch King of Angmar

by Jeff Somers

WHEN the report that the Beckels Sphere had become unstable, it preempted and interrupted every broadcast in the world. All the uplinks were seized by priority interrupts, and no one complained. I was with Denise, sharing a bottle of wine, when the hulking monitor in the corner of her living room came to life without warning, the looped report stating in clipped, computer-modulated sentences that the world was going to end now, it was unavoidable. Denise took my hand. We were both trembling.

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No Great Trick

By | March 11, 2013 | 0 Comments

NOTE: This story originally appeared in The Drexel Online Journal, which no longer appears to exist, in 2003.

No Great Trick

By Jeff Somers

1. Black Magic

It was about the time that Norm Cashman began practicing black magic in his little closet of an office that I met Debbie, the most uninhibited receptionist to ever refuse to sleep with me in a long and proud tradition of women refusing to sleep with me. I can remember the time exactly because Norm caused quite a ruckus before he got fired, what with the dead chickens and the black smoke leaking from under his door. It was during a fire drill caused by one of his spells gone awry (involving, from the smell, burning animal fat) that I met her, a tall brunette in her thirties who turned to me in the chill of an early morning and began saying some of the filthiest things I’d ever heard uttered. I was delighted, of course. I stood next to her for fifteen minutes with a grin on my face the size of my erection and wondered if this was the universe’s way of paying me back for all that acne back in high school.

It wasn’t. Although of course I asked her out (34 times to date) she has never so much as shared a cup of coffee with me. She will freely and gladly describe sexual acts and concepts I had until-then thought arcane and possibly mystical, she will gab on and on about all manner of kinks and fetishes and apparatus until I am red-faced and incoherent, but she only smiles slightly and shakes her head when I beg to buy her dinner, gifts, mansions, whatever. I have grown to hate her, in a way, so I call her twice a day.

I was on the phone with her (being put on hold every few minutes so she could answer the other lines and do her job), amazed at how smoothly she could go from “Good morning, Denton Incorporated” to a lengthy discussion of the true meaning of the phrase “ribbed for her pleasure” without any signs of transition, when Norm finally got canned. He’d been chanting in his office all morning, casting some mighty incantation we were all ignoring more or less by habit, when they came. They being Mark Fillmore, Human Resources Director, and Phyllis Gumber, Director of Outside Sales, Norm’s boss. Apart, they were just about the ugliest two human beings I had ever seen. Together, however, their ugliness sort of canceled itself out, leaving them moderately blurred and possibly bland. We all knew Norm was getting canned, and we just kept talking on the phones and tapping our computers as if we’d seen dozens of forced departures, which, of course, we had.

Norm, however, wasn’t ready yet. As they entered his office he let out a cry and there was some sort of purple flash (I only saw it out of the corner of my eye and my mind was occupied with Debbie’s descriptions of the sensual properties of latex) and the door slammed. Then, nothing for about a minute, as Debbie moaned on into my ear about rubber.

When the door opened, Norm was preceded by a thick cloud of smoke, and then he ran into the maze of cubicles yelling “I’m invisible! I’m invisible!” while most of us just stared and held down anything we didn’t want him grabbing up in his frenzy. He dashed around the cubes for a while despite the fact that no one was chasing him, and then disappeared into the halls.

I glanced over at Phil Dublen, and our eyes met. Silently, we said to each other “Who gets his office?”

They eventually found Norm’s clothes down on the 17th floor, but as far as I know they never found Norm that day. Of course, once they were sure he had left the building, they stopped looking.

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