Ever have one of those moments when you think about something and realize some insane fact or statistic? Happens to me all the time. I’ve mentioned my casual relationship with time before; things just slip by me, and that also translates to being generally unaware of statistics about my life. Like how old I am. Or how many pairs of pants I’m currently wearing (the Margin of Pants Error is HUGE).

So today I was wondering how many freelance articles I wrote this year. Don’t why it occurred to me to think about it; generally I’m much more interested and concerned about how much money I’ve earned writing freelance pieces, as money can be readily exchanged for liquor, whereas vague reflections on the professional year that was usually cannot. So I sat down and counted them all, and the number is 880.

Eight hundred and eighty.

Now, more than half of those you won’t see my name next to, as they were ghost-written. And thank god. A lot of freelance writing is like doing porn: You’re not ashamed, per se, because it takes skills most people don’t have and you got paid for it. But it doesn’t mean you want the relatives looking it up online when you come home for the holidays. But that does leave more than 400 essays and articles that do bear my name, and at any rate 880 is just a big number. And December just started. It’s possible, though unlikely, I’ll hit 1,000 before the year’s out.

At any rate, even if I got hit by a bus tomorrow and couldn’t write good no more, I’d still average more than 2 articles a day, and since I spend my weekends in an alcoholic haze that means I actually average much more on a typical work day. That just makes me sleepy. Who was this energetic, motivated person cranking out these writings? Not me, certainly. I like to sleep in, nurse my hangovers, and read essays about Doctor Who Easter Eggs online.

In-between all that freelance writing, I also wrote one novel, got about 50% through two other novels, wrote a number of essays for other websites in the spirit of self-promotion, and 24 short stories with one more about 90% finished as I sit here. And submitted 23 of those stories to markets, selling exactly one. And that doesn’t even count blog posts — oh so many blog posts. I am, without meaning to be, one busy motherfucker.

What’s my point? Aside from once again underscoring the fact that my sole skill in this life is tapping a keyboard in creative ways, it goes to show the value of putting your head down. I didn’t start the year with a stretch goal of 1,000 freelance articles plus assorted fiction. I started the year thinking about writing one piece that day to make a certain amount of money. It’s the same with a novel or a short story. Start with the first line, go from there. Don’t think about how many you’ve piled up. Word count is useful, but distracting: Ignore it until you need to know what it is (i.e., when you’re sending it somewhere for submission or evaluation).

I am suddenly exhausted, so my stretch goal of improving the Margin of Pants Error has to be deferred until 2016. I’m sure you understand.


The Blount Rule of Sangria

The Devil's Drink

The Devil’s Drink

Friends, as we celebrate the Birthday Month of Patty Blount across the world, with parades, television specials, and an attempt in Paraguay to set a world record for Largest Chocolate Sculpture Ever Created, it’s naturally a good time for me to write about my second-favorite subject, alcohol. Because it is always a good time to write about alcohol.

Much like how Patty tests her physical limits when it comes to chocolate, constantly experimenting to see how much chocolate is too much chocolate (results so far are inconclusive), I once tested my own limits when it came to alcohol in all its forms, before settling into my middle-aged dotage awash in whiskey. These experiments included the following episodes, which to this day cause full-body shivers of horror among my friends and acquaintances:

The Martini Massacree: I once through a Martini-themed party because Martinis seemed so sophisticated and urbane despite tasting like cemetery dirt. I downloaded a bunch of recipes and laid in supplies, and then despite waking up with the Stomach Flu of the Damned, decided not to cancel, despite the fact that the smell of alcohol more or less made me puke immediately. I spent much of the party reclining in my bed doing breathing exercises, and the Martini recipes turned out to be speculative at best.

The Bubblegum Shot from Hell New Years: Persevering in my quest to understand all forms of alcohol, I volunteered to be bartender for a New Yeat’s Eve party, and prepared several shot recipes, one of which was a Bubblegum Shot. This was the worst thing anyone had ever prepared for consumption, in all of human history, and the party ended early with just about every sitting, stunned, all their joie de vivre sucked away.

My thirst for alcoholic knowledge was cooled somewhat by these misadventures, which took a toll on my health as well as my sanity. Then I discovered whiskey and it was my own personal burning bush, something that provided all the answers, and for a while held off on the experimentation. Until the first time I had Sangria, which kicked off the question: Is Sangria just fruit juice they pretend has wine in it?

The Sangria Question

Growing up in the Tri-State Area, my only prior experience with Sangria was as part of TV commercials for Beefsteak Charlie’s, which always promised all the “beer, wine, or sangria” you could drink, which always sounded kind of enticing. What was sangria? I had no idea. When I sat down to dinner with friends one day in my mid-20s, and we were offered sangria, I insisted we order it solely because I had those old commercials in my head: I was going to party like it was 1982.

The Sangria was fine. Delicious, even, a sweet fruity concoction in a glass decanter, bits of fruit floating about. And when we’d consumed it all, we felt … nothing. Not even the slightest buzz. I’d gotten drunker from a single beer, or from standing up too quickly on a hot day. And the question loomed: Was there actually wine in Sangria? Or was it justa  fruit-filled con? So we did the only thing we could do, as men and women of science: We kept ordering more. We figured if there was any alcohol in there, we’d feel it eventually, right?

We were so wrong. To this day I firmly believe you can drink Sangria all day long, then get behind the controls of a huge skyscraper crane and have no trouble whatsoever. No amount of evidence otherwise will ever convince me that Sangria isn’t just fruit juice, and that’s probably why Beefsteak Charlie’s gave it away for free. Sangria is the devil’s drink. That’s why I prefer whiskey–I like my alcohol to burn on the way down and force you to do some deep knee bends after each sip, because at least you know what you’re getting.

Hapy birthday, Patty!


Let’s Do the Time Warp Again



Time, my eternal enemy. Look, we’re all busy, and if you’re a writer or some other creative type who also has to do other things to keep yourself in whiskey and Netflix, time begins to form up into your greatest foe, constantly conniving to steal your life right out from under you. Once you pass a certain age — different for everyone, but essentially the Rubicon between your carefree youth when spending hours watching cartoons while day drinking was a constructive use of your time and your maturity when every day is a heart-attack-inducing marathon of squeezing ninety minutes of activity into sixty minutes of actual time — time is the biggest obstacle to achieving things.

Unless you’re me. In which case it’s not so much time as your perception of time.

it was autumn by the time I got around the corner

I’m fairly famous in my household for having absolutely no idea how long anything actually takes. I am always confident I can walk anywhere in about five minutes, that chores will take about an hour no matter what they involve, and that I always have about fifteen minutes to spare no matter when I’m supposed to be somewhere. Put simply, time is a foreign country and I have never learned the language.

This also means that for a very long time I felt like I had no time to do anything, and as a result I worked constantly at writing, because I was convinced I was squeezing in about five minutes of work every day. As a result I’m reasonably prolific, because I always work like my time is about to run out. As another result, I disdain revision and contemplation because my god man time is running out.

I had an epiphany a long time ago wherein I realized that I waste a monumental amount of time. This was an accurate but ultimately unhealthy epiphany, because it exacerbated my sense of time pressure, because now not only was The Man stepping on my neck in terms of time as a precious resource, I was stepping on my own neck. But it’s true: I like to waste time. It’s actually part of my creative process, sitting here doing nothing but mildly entertaining myself. But it was helpful to understand that my feeling that I was always lacking the time to work on projects wasn’t anybody else’s fault; if friends and family, bosses and colleagues used up hours of my day every day, well, I wasted just as many, so how could I get all pissy about it?

a whole lotta nothin’

A side effect of my complete bafflement with time is the constant feeling I haven’t actually done much. In 2015, I wrote two novels, 18 short stories, a screenplay, and hundreds of essays, and yet I feel like I’m always spinning my wheels and failing to produce enough material. Life is short, I am told I will die someday (I have my doubts), and as a result life is a race to write as much good stuff as possible. And I always feel like I’ve got nothing to show for my time.

It’s a disease, of course. If you’re waiting for me to keep an appointment and get that sinking feeling that I once again thought a one-hour commute would take only fifteen minutes, it might be amusing or irritating. From my point of view it’s exhausting, and yet in a lot of ways it’s the engine that drives my work. In the end it will kill me, either from the stress or from a miscalculation involving how quickly it takes a grown man to run across a busy street or train tracks.


How I Earned My Nickname

My Only Friend

My Only Friend

I was a weird kid. This is almost certainly obvious to anyone who has actually met me IRL, and it’s probably no shock to anyone who’s read my fiction, my zine, this blog, or literally anything else I’ve written, including my Twitter feed, which is clogged with photos of cats, rando announcements about haircuts, baseball, the weather, and, of course, self-promotion conducted with all the subtlety of a man burning down his house for the insurance money.

When it comes to my childhood, I often joke about how my whole life changed after a concussion, but it’s only half a joke. I suffered two concussions as a child. In the first I was wrestling with my brother, whose hideous strength is legendary, and he hurled me across the living room and the soft spot in the back of my skull hit the edge of a chair. This may or may not have been retaliation for the time I hid a pencil in couch cushions which my brother promptly sat on, and it may or may not have been part of a plot to murder me on the part of my brother who also once hit me in the head with a metal yard rake. So, yes, my home life was a chaotic mess of violence and poor diet choices because my exhausted mother allowed me to eat cookies for breakfast, but that’s not the point.

The second concussion occurred one summer when the fire hydrant outside my house was opened up for the kids. This was Jersey City, New Jersey in the late 1970s or very early 1980s; I don’t think there was a public pool anywhere nearby and our video game technology involved boxy sprites moving around a 13-inch black and white TV screen, so running around in the street in a bathing suit, risking stepping on broken glass, was as fun as it got.

Anyway, I was running around the freezing water when a red-haired kid the approximate size of four or five red-haired kids ran smack into me, knocking me down. My head hit the curb, and I was once again on my way to the hospital with a concussion. In retrospect, these injuries should have clued me in that I lacked coordination and was not going to be a professional baseball player long before I spent all those years playing Little League to the combined dread and amusement of my team-mates, but it did not.

After that second concussion, I swear I was different. My memory is awful and unreliable and I have subconsciously filled in the blanks with made-up shit, scenes from films and TV shows, and other strange detritus, but I’d swear I didn’t need glasses until after the concussion, that I got pudgy and slow after it, and became more introverted and read more books afterwards. Before that, I’d been a street kid, running around all day, playing with the other kids in the street and generally being athletic. After it, I withdrew and became the handsome but socially awkward devil you see before you now.

I can’t prove it, but I believe it.



The Curse of the Futile Victim

Knock Knock

Knock Knock

I spent a week recently without The Duchess, who was off in far-flung lands rampaging with credit cards and no interest in learning a second language, and spent some of that time watching bad movies on Netlfix etc. Also baseball playoffs, but also bad movies, because sometimes you need a palate cleanser. And some of these bad movies got me to thinking about tropes, as I often do, and one in particular that I’d always been annoyed by but hadn’t managed to articulate in my mind before: The Futile Victim.

You see TFV in horror movies, mainly (though not exclusively). The Futile Victim is generally the protagonist of the story, the one who is assaulted and tortured and possibly killed, and their main feature as a character is that they never have any reasonable chance at winning. The Futile Victim may occasionally see chances for escape, revenge, or return fire, but these opportunities are never presented in any serious way to the audience. We know they will fail, and they generally fail almost immediately and quite spectacularly.

Probably the easiest example in film I can think of is Funny Games, a meta-meta horror film where the two demonic young men torturing a pleasant suburban family are so totally in control at one point they literally rewind the movie to undo a sudden twist of fate that favors their victims. In a film like that, the victim never has any chance at all, and you can’t take any of their gambits, brilliancies, or moments of courage seriously, and frankly it’s all kinds of irritating. I think it’s fine to have your victims ultimately fail, and ultimately have the monster/villain be absolutely in control — but I think you have to sell the possibility of a reversal or the stakes disappear. Stakes have to exist for both sides, after all: If the villains are absolutely godlike, then there’s no tension. Bad writers think godlike villains are scarier, but they’re not, because we can easily skip 100s of pages or hours of your film and get right to the inevitable, utterly predictable end.

Knock Knock

The film that actually tipped this over in my head to conscious thought was Knock Knock, the latest from director Eli Roth, starring Keanu Reeves — SPOILERS HO! Knock Knock is basically a remake/update of a 1970s cult film called Death Game or The Seducers depending on who you ask, starring Sondra Locke (who produced Knock Knock) and Colleen Camp, who has a small role, and some guy whose name escapes me but who is basically 1970s Marlboro Man by way of porn sets as far as I can tell.

Anyway, the basic plot of the film is kind of clever: A more or less happily married father of two (Reeves), slightly blueballed by a busy wife and perhaps resentful that his family abandons him on Father’s Day because he has to work, answers the door on a stormy night to find two cute young women, soaking wet and very polite, who beg him to let them in to use the phone. The girls slowly ramp up a seduction: At first they are the picture of good behavior, seeming only to appreciate the assistance, but they find excuses to penetrate deeper into his home, to shed their clothes, to chat about sex, to touch him.

This sequence of seduction is actually done very well. It uses an Uber car on its way as a clever time pressure — will Reeves manage to resist long enough? — and Reeves plays his combined discomfort and fascination well. The tension here i s real for one very important reason: We’re not 100% certain how it’s going to go. Reeves could believably resist. After all, the girls are cute, but he’s portrayed as a loving father and husband, and he seems perfectly aware of what they’re doing.

Of course, he does give in, and after a gratuitous threesome sequence, we get to the meat of the story: The girls, now that they’ve gotten Reeves to break the rules, set about punishing him, and he finds himself unable to simply throw them out of the house because they’ve got him: He cheated on his wife, the girls suddenly (and improbably) claim to be underage, and Reeves can see how it could all play out into a rape charge and the end of his life as he knows it. By the time the punishment switches from mind games and petty vandalism to Reeves tied to a chair while the girls dig his grave in the back yard, it’s too late for him to call the cops.

The Futility of It All

It’s not a bad movie, really, and if Roth will never be a great director he gets a lot of energy from the scenario, and does what horror films do best: Makes his audience ask themselves if they would be do any better. The problem is Reeves’ character is a Futile Victim.

Roth explicitly gives Reeves three specific moments in the story where it seems possible he might escape or at least turn the tables: Early on, the girls leave him alone while he’s imperfectly tied up and he frees himself — only to be almost immediately subdued again, as in literally thirty seconds after getting free; Next, his wife’s assistant shows up unexpectedly, and the girls are inscrutably worried about his presence at first, and he turns out to be a ballsier character than initially assumed, and for a moment it seems possible he might throw a believable wrench into their plan, but he has a fatal weakness that shows up almost immediately, and suddenly the girls aren’t concerned about his presence at all and so they kill him; and finally, Reeves knows where a gun is hidden in the house and seems on the verge of extracting it, only to have the girls swoop in and find it first.

In short, all three times, Reeves’ chances of escape end pretty much immediately. Why bother having them in the first place? To prove that the monsters are all-powerful, I assume, but it makes things terribly boring.

When the victim/protagonist gets the drop on their tormentor, it should be a moment rife with tension. You should be glued to the screen or the page, wondering what happens next. Instead, in Knock Knock and similar films, you’re bored, because you know it won’t last long, and will end in futility.


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



You’re the Worst Gets Authorin’

What is this thing your people call "shame"?

What is this thing your people call “shame”?

There’s a pretty-good-to-great comedy on FX right now called You’re the Worst. The premise is simple: It’s an anti-romcom, a story about two more or less immature, selfish assholes who get into a relationship and have to deal with the fact that they’re basically assholes, as are their friends to a large extent. It can be intermittently hilarious, as the show so far has walked a fine line between depicting its characters as believably monstrous without turning them into monsters. In short, I can often see the seeds of real human behavior that isn’t often depicted on your normally feel-good, stupor-inducing television in here.

But who cares about that, because clever TV shows are the norm these days (seriously, I am still recovering from the emotional black hole that was the Rick and Morty season two finale). I am not here to lather faint praise on You’re the Worst because it occasionally makes me giggle. I am here to lather faint praise upon You’re the Worst because it may be the first TV show in history to realistically portray what it’s like to be a published author who isn’t a bestseller. It’s so good it hurts.



How Do You Deal with Your Encroaching Death?

UNDOUBTEDLY how the universe sees my demise.

UNDOUBTEDLY how the universe sees my demise.

I get antsy whenever I don’t write much. I don’t deal with word count much, as word count is a stat porn for people who like stat porn (i.e., people who somehow think that a steaming pile of words is somehow an accomplishment in and of itself, or people who enjoy measuring the coffee spoons and afternoons of their life as if any of it aside from the finished product means anything at all) but I like to close out every day feeling like I’ve accomplished a lot of work. This is all I have, after all; no one is going to be talking about the way Jeff Somers revolutionized chess or how he re-invented the modern cocktail or that one classic guitar riff he wrote.

Chances are they also won’t be discussing my writing, sure, but it’s the only chance I have.

So, I get really freaked out any day that I don’t make progress in whatever projects I’m working on. It all has to do with my absolute terror of death, of course. As a man with no faith, no spirituality, and a liver the size of Maine, mortality is more or less all I think about. It’s all that drives me.

It makes sense; in school and when I had a day job I was that guy who left everything to the last minute, then did like 5 weeks worth of homework and project work in one evening, wild-eyed and desperate. And somehow pulled through with a decent grade or performance review, because I am a genius at skimming by. A fucking genius. Deadlines work for me, so why shouldn’t the Ultimate Deadline work more or less to motivate me to write in a constant panic? And also to drink heroic amounts of booze, yes. No doubt when death finally appears in my office, it’ll go like this:

DEATH: Jeff Somers, your time has come!

JEFF: Dude, I’ve been waiting. Have a toast with me!

DEATH: <examining the Jaba-like form of Jeff Somers> Hmmmn….I hadn’t counted on your liver being quite so … large. And glowing. And … hot? Is it hot? How does that happen?

JEFF: I got a deal on some Russian whiskey made in the general Chernobyl area.

DEATH: Hold on. I’ll need to call in some help. Do you know anyone who owns a truck and might be near death? A smoker, maybe?

If they ever invent immortality — and jebus, let’s hope they do — then I don’t know what I’ll do. Aside from procrastinate, probably by watching all 37 seasons of Rick and Morty over and over again and, yes, drinking. And I don’t understand people who don’t spend all their free time tapping at keyboards (or playing instruments, or shorting stock markets, or murdering people, or whatever it is that brings you joy) and just sort of hesitate. Like, I know a writer who has been working on one book more or less his whole life. It’s never ready, never done, and yet he hardly works on it. HUge swaths of time go by and he doesn’t touch it. It’s horrifying.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to spend the next few hours working on three manuscripts and making my way through a bottle of Russian whiskey that has an odd blue glow to it. Vashe zrodovye!


On Not Jumping

The Future is SEXY

The Future is SEXY

So: Peak TV. What a time to be alive. I’m old enough to remember when there was literally nothing on television. Nothing. You’d come home and have a choice between old Brady Bunch reruns and some awful afternoon talk show hosted by Morton Downey, Jr. or someone and after dinner you could watch literally some of the worst television ever made (literally) or sit in your room typing in BASIC programs from a magazine for six hours just to see a sprite of a rocket ship blip across your TV screen. That was Life Before, kids. No wonder any time a TV show that had anything at all resembling promise came along — an X Files or Twin Peaks — we collectively lost our shit. I recall watching the episode of Twin Peaks when Agent Cooper had the Dream Sequence and I nearly shit my pants because it was just so different from the dreck that was on TV at the time.

Of course, as a child, reruns of The Brady Bunch was just fine (also: reruns of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century with Gil Gerard, still my personal hero). What did I know? I still thought going outside and running in the street until I collapsed from exhaustion was a good way to spend my time. But here we are now living in Peak TV, a time when there are literally more good TV shows to watch than we have conscious hours in our lifetime. People view this as a blessing or a curse depending on their own particular TV-related traumas (and age; we’re moving into a time when kids will have grown up with nothing but Peak TV, and those fools will expect there to be a new Breaking Bad for them to watch every year).

The folks who think Peak TV is a curse tend t focus on the overwhelming nature of modern programming choice; it’s too much! Too many shows! These people are weak. The fact is, Peak TV has one basic benefit that is changing how we relate to programming that I personally am revelling in: We no longer have to jump.



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 About.com, 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.