Archive for April, 2007

Send down a hogshead of whiskey

By | April 28, 2007 | 0 Comments

I suspect the hotel may be on fire. At any rate, room service doesn’t respond and I’ve been reduced to collecting rainwater outside the one window I can pry open–the gap is too narrow for me to make an escape through, though.

My whole life revolves around beverages. I’m not sure how this happened, or if this is a writer thing, since writers have been stereotyped as hopeless alcoholics whose talents run proportional to their liquor intake. All I know is that my days are loose chunks of time defined by what I’m drinking at the moment. The fact that many of these beverages are alcoholic in nature is just coincidence, don’t you think? Right? Hello?

In the morning, it’s Our God Coffee. I’d like to be one of those mysterious, intellectual writer types who drinks obscure Moroccan drinks whilst sitting on their veranda, thinking deeply, but the fact is I have the palate of a junkyard dog. Just about everything in the food and beverage world pleases me, and the subtle differences of quality people talk about elude me. I’ve never met a bottle of wine I didn’t like, and the while I can’t quite say the same thing about coffee–there is bad coffee in the world, Virginia, and I’ve had it–I am still pretty easy about coffee. The only real rule is, no Starbucks. I have nothing particularly against Starbucks as an evil corporation sucking the life out of the world, they can oppress the workers and rip off the consumer all they want. No, it’s their terrible, over-roasted coffee that offends me. That shit could be used to remove paint.Coffe Cart

So where do I get my coffee? I live near and work in Manhattan, fans, which means one thing: Coffee Carts run by Arab Men. Used to be $1 a cup for a large, now the evil of inflation has raised it to $1.25. It’s the best damn coffee in the universe, bar none.

The cart has been run by a series of Arabic men for years. They tend to work there for a few years and then disappear, without explanation. I assume there is a steady stream of family and friends coming into this country, getting jobs in the coffee cart empire, and then moving on when they’re established, but maybe it’s just the sort of job you can only take for so long before you go mad.

After coffee, nothing much happens for a very long time, and then there’s lunch. At lunch, I start working on a huge bottle of water. Now, I feel like a chump buying bottled water, I do. Water is water–at home I drink it from the tap, without any filters, and generally speaking I’m easy about the water. But any time I’ve tried to avoid buying the bottles, I’ve been frustrated, most probably by my weak brain and spineless tendencies. The water out of the tap at my office is deadly–when I did drink it for a week or so, I got sick every single day. Not sick enough to go home and call for lawyers in order to make my will, but nauseous nonetheless, and nothing makes a shitty day spent at work worse than nausea. Unless it’s suddenly realizing all that snickering talk around the water cooler is about you. So I’ve been stuck with bottled water, like a sucker.

After work, there is a beer when I get home–nothing heals like an ice cold beer, my beautiful babies. Whenever there is no beer in the icebox because of my incompetence, there are tears and recriminations, breast-beating and despair. Because I am an American, I’ve been drinking Yuengling. I completely agree with Homer Simpson, who once said of beer (well, he was actually talking about women, but he was using beer as a metaphor) “They smell good, they look good, you’d step over your own mother just to get one! But you can’t stop at one.”

Ahem. I must stop here before my wife or agent has me forcibly committed to a 12-step program.

After dinner, there’s more water. Hoboken water! Best water in the world. Of course, I’ve never been anywhere, so Hoboken water might suck for all I know. I mean, no one is pumping water out of Hoboken and bottling it, are they? Then again, from what I hear about bottled water, maybe they are.

Later, before bed, it’s a glass of good whiskey. I’d like to say that I sit and think deeply on the world’s problems while sipping some good 40-year old Scotch, but there’s only one thing true about that statement: I am sitting. The Scotch is  usually a little younger, and my thoughts generally focus on baseball scores and whatever is itching me that evening. Now you know, and you are no better for it. Maybe I should maintain a little more mystery on this site.

I don’t remember what my point was going to be. So I will simply stop typing, before making things worse. Bon soir, people!

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My Inner Monologue

By | April 24, 2007 | 1 Comments

Some people make this blogging shit look easy, my friends, but I am not one of them.

Writing is sometimes easy for me–I’ve had both experiences. Sometimes writing is like painfully carrying words made out of solid granite up a steep incline and laying them laboriously next to each other, with paragraphs taking days and chapters taking weeks. Sometimes I rattle it off like I’m just tossing words onto a wall, where they magically stick together in wonderful ways. But blogging just doesn’t feel natural, so far.

One reason is that I can’t believe anyone wants to know what I’m thinking. I mean, how would that be possible? My inner monologue consists of baseball statistics, beer cravings, and a morass of useless trivia. No one in their right mind wants to read that, right? I can’t be wrong on this. If I’m wrong on this then I should really be on TV, earning millions from you people.

Some people make this shit look easy, though: Consider Jeff Kay, who writes The West Virginia Surf Report.  Jeff used to put out a printed zine back in The Day, and now does it blog-style, and damn if he doesn’t post funny, interesting things just about every day. I am insanely jealous. I am jealous enough to go down and burn down his house, except that would require planning. And energy. And time. Basically all the things that conspire against me on a daily basis. Normally I would hire someone else to take care of the house-burning-down stuff, but I’m a writer, you know. We have no monies.

Jeff recently got a literary agent, so we can only hope he starts delivering the printed goods again, and that maybe then he’ll stop blogging and for want of a better alternative people will start wandering here! Muhahahahaha!

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Pre-order The Electric Church

By | April 20, 2007 | 0 Comments

Avast!

The Electric Church is available for pre-order at Amazon. I assume you are as excited by this as I am. Now, the book isn’t going to publish until September, but don’t let that stop you. Please? Pretty Please? Jeff needs liquor monies.

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Peeps Who Have Published The Pantsless Wonder

By | April 19, 2007 | 1 Comments

I know from dirty, shameful experience that it sometimes seems like getting published is a mysterious process, involving chicken sacrifice and the black arts. Sadly, it’s a lot more mundane than that.

The Electric Church is my first experience with a large publisher, actually. My first book, Lifers, was published by a tiny company based in California, now defunct, and most of the rest of my resume is short stories and essays sold to small magazines. A lot of these were just faceless submissions–I mailed a story to a name and an address, and at some point someone sent me a nice note of acceptance an, in the best scenarios, a check. My first short story sale was for $7.50. As you can see, this is a glamorous, big-money life we’re talking here.

But a lot of my stories have been published by people I’ve actually met, god bless them. I assume, for ego purposes, that this is not because I am charming, attractive, and free with rounds bought at the local bars, but because of the searing force of my genius. Or at least so I tell myself every night before I finally pass out, bottle of Peach Schnapps in hand.

You see, I’m a Zine Publisher. A zine, in case you don’t know, is a self-produced magazine. I write a bunch of stories and essays, lay them out, print them out, and mail them to people. My zine is called The Inner Swine and I’ve been putting it out since 1995. There are two kinds of people in the world: People who hear “I put out a zine” and think hey, cool! and people who hear “I put out a zine” and think that’s the biggest waste of fucking time I’ve ever heard. That’s fine–not everyone can be cool like me. The zine world is a complicated place, littered with people who publish, people who used to publish, people who just like to read them, and people who just write for them. As a result, you get in contact with a lot of people who not only like your writing–which they were exposed to when someone handed them a tattered copy of your zine–but who might want to publish you in their zine.

Take Frank Marcopolos, for example. He used to publish a zine called The Whirligig, which was a literary fiction zine. He published 2 or 3 of my stories therein, and we met once at a reading. A very cool guy. He eventually gave up The Whirligig and moved on to other things, selling the magazine to another publisher who is working on the first issue of the reborn zine as we speak (and I’ll have a story in that one, too!). Now, zines tend to have a fairly low readership (all things being relative) but you’d be surprised–a fancy-pants literary mag based at a college sometimes is lucky to have a couple hundred readers, yet it’s got prestige. Some zines have several thousand readers, believe it or not.

The reading I met Frank at was in support of an anthology called The Urban Bizarre, edited by Nick Mamatas. Nick never put out a zine (that I know of) but loves to discuss writing and reading and such and so could be found on message boards that intersected with the subject of zines.  Nick bought two stories of mine for that anthology, and thus will always have a place in my heart. He’d also had a story or two published in The Whirligig, and that’s how we became aware of each other. See? Everything’s a little clique. All that changes is the scale of the clique.

The difference between the scrappy, photocopied publishing of zines and the polished, nationally distributed book publishing of The Electric Church isn’t as big as you’d think. Heck, I had not only national, but international distribution for The Inner Swine for a few years there. Not only could you find TIS in stores across America, you could also find it in Tower Records stores in Japan, Ireland, England, and a few other places. The main difference I can see so far is that there are more people involved, and they buy you cocktails slightly more often.

That last is a huge difference, by the way. I’m going to hook my mouth up to the corporate publishing teat for the free booze more than anything else.

I am weary now. Click on the links above and tell these people how cool they are.

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This is Livin’

By | April 16, 2007 | 2 Comments

The heat is broken in this hotel room, and it’s about 103 degrees in here. I’ve complained to the mostly silent men who stand guard outside my door, but they don’t respond, or do anything. So, I’m blogging naked, soaking in cold water in the tub.

By lowering a note to the street on a thread worked free of the bedsheets, I convinced a street urchin to purchase a bottle of Glenmoranjie for me, and so I’ve got a nice drink balanced on the edge of the old clawtooth tub. Things are looking up.

My present living situation and my recent contemplation of my flooding house has me thinking about places I’ve lived. Plus, I was just reading Jeff Kay’s West Virginia Surf Report and one of his recent posts was about an old apartment he lived in, so I’ve been thinking about places I’ve lived. My memories are suspect in the best of times, so really all I have are impressions:

Rented house: In my sophomore year of college I rented a house with 7 friends, or 4 friends and 3 of their friends. My main memory of this place is when one of my roommates went into the bathroom one day after a big party. The rest of us were watching TV in the living room, directly below the bathroom. Suddenly, there is a horrible, inhuman noise from the upstairs bathroom, and then, in quick succession, the sound of water dripping through the ceiling, the sound of running feet on the stairs, and then my roommate, in a green robe, skidding to a halt in the room, staring comically at the ceiling, then snatching my clean towels from the rack on which they were drying and sopping up his filthy toilet runoff with them. Good times, good times.

Apartment #1: The next year two of my friends and I rented a subterranean apartment a few blocks away. The place had no windows, particle board walls, and madness in the air. How we made it out without killing each other, I’ll never know.

Apartment #2: The first place I ever rented on my own was actually not a bad place, all things considered. The upstairs neighbors weren’t so great, though. A huge, red-faced woman and her thirty or forty kids, as far as I could tell. She took her parenting very seriously, however, asking me to go to the liquor store to buy her booze when she couldn’t leave the “young ‘uns” alone by themselves.

Apartment #3: A cheap place, with floors painted brown. I once decided to take a bath and turned the water on, and then forgot all about it until my suffering downstairs neighbor came screaming up the stairs, wondering why Niagra frickin Falls was pouring into her bathroom. Good times.

Apartment #4: Shared with the future Duchess Mrs. Somers, this was a bargain-priced railroad with the worst heat ever known to man. Pluto is warmer than that apartment in the winter. Once we put a thermometer into the bathroom in January and it told us it was 43 degrees in the bathroom. WITH THE HEAT ON. We had it “fixed” many times, to no avail. They’ll likely find an Indian Burial ground underneath that place someday.

Ah, good times, good times. When I get out of this hotel, I’m going to burn it down and send the bill to my publisher.

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Swamped

By | April 16, 2007 | 1 Comments

When we first moved into this house, a neighbor said “These houses have been here for 120 years, I think they’ll handle anything.”

Yesterday was pretty nasty, but we survived the storm here in the NYC area, although this morning we do have a foot of water in the crawlspace and a new slow leak from the roof. But at least nothing caved in, slid away, or otherwise disintegrated. Our cats are also all dry, which is the most important consideration. If you don’t have cats, you may not understand that. If you do have cats, or have experienced the joy that is a wet, unhappy cat, you may have a glimmer of the horror we just avoided.

I’m at home today, forbidden to leave my house by the governor of this great state. Well, of course I could leave the house, but when the governor gets on the horn and begs everyone to stay home, why not take a work-at-home day, stay in your jammies, and drink beer all day while answering work email? And writing a bit in-between.

I’m working on something that might be of interest to anyone interested in The Electric Church, but that’s all I can say right now. Soon the world will know the truth! SOON, MY PRETTIES.

And that’s it for today. Read a few more posts to see some of the Ultra Cool People who have occasionally been nice to Senor Jefe over the years. They all deserve your attention and Amazon purchases.

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Calm Before the Storm

By | April 14, 2007 | 2 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Solamente Jeff

By | April 12, 2007 | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Day Three: The Booze is Almost Gone

By | April 10, 2007 | 0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Welcome to Yet Another Blog

By | April 8, 2007 | 10 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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