Brooklyn Book Festival Interaction Guide

By | September 12, 2014 | 1 Comments

BBFSO, I will be at the Brooklyn Book Festival on Sunday, September 21, at the MWA table. Officially, I’ll be sharing the table from 4:30PM to 5:30PM. I’ll likely be wandering the festival for a time before then, likely with no identifying marks of any kind so no one will know who I am. When I’m at the MWA table, I’ll hopefully have some copies of We Are Not Good People to give away as well as some other swag (bookmarks, stickers, maybe the odd T-shirt) and some of my other novels as well.

Since I rarely go out in public, and even more rarely go out in public sober, I thought this would be as good a time as any to review Guidelines for Interacting with Jeff.

GUIDELINES FOR INTERACTING WITH JEFF
  1. I do not remember you. I don’t care if you’re my brother or if we had drinks the night before, I will not remember you without a robust prompting of my sluggish memory. Don’t take it personally.
  2. Yes, I will dance for you but only in exchange for sums of money or free drinks out of an unmarked glass bottle filled with cloudy liquid.
  3. Please excuse the shouting and occasional bouts of sobbing.
  4. Since I am a professional author, under no circumstances should you bring up the subject of money or ask me to pay for anything, as I have none and pay for nothing.
  5. Regarding #4, if you see me rooting around in the garbage cans for something to eat, please turn away politely and wait for me to finish so I am not humiliated. Or, also referring back to #4, humiliated more.
  6. If I happen to be pantsless, don’t point this out to me directly. It’s best to avert your eyes and wait for my wife The Duchess to come and pants me. Otherwise there might be a scene.
  7. There will be a scene anyway, no matter what you do. It is vital that you approach the entire experience from this perspective.
  8. If I start to read from my book, don’t be alarmed: Someone will stop me.
  9. There will be profanity. I apologize in advance.
  10. There is an international signal that we’ve chatted long enough: It’s when I abruptly turn and sprint away from you, possibly mid-sentence. Please don’t chase after me, or things will get heated.

There, now we’re ready to have a great time interacting in public. Assuming I am not incapacitated by drink, of course.

Reading Outside Your Comfort Zone

By | September 8, 2014 | 6 Comments
Damn You Book Meddlers!

Damn You Book Meddlers!

Friends, we all need a Literary Meddler in our lives. The Literary Meddler is that person who foists unwanted books on us and demands we read them, and is unperturbed when you hate 90% of the books they force you to read.

Of course, I’m kind of disagreeable: A smug know-it-all who deprecates anything he didn’t discover himself. You know the type. If I wasn’t so devastatingly handsome and effortlessly charming, I’d be kind of an asshole. This is why having a Literary Meddler has been so important to me.

Early on, my Literary Meddler, as with many folks, was school: School was constantly popping up at unwanted moments, dancing around my knees like an over-excited puppy, and demanding to know if I’d read those books yet. Had I? Had I? Had I? What did I think? What about that one part, huh? And then when I finally did read them and wrote up a paper on it School was a dick and gave me a B- on it and then handed me a pile of new books to read, many of which I would never have read in a million years on my own.

Today, my Literary Meddler is my wife, The Duchess, who gets incredibly excited about books I would walk right past in the book store and then hectors me to read them incessantly until I do and then is very sadfaced and irritated when I (usually) don’t like them nearly as much as she does.We’ve even had real-life, bitter fights when I didn’t like a character she loved. But the effect is the same: I am forced to read outside my comfort zone, and this is generally a very good thing. Because I have a disease that’s very common in my family (it might be genetic) which causes me to become increasingly cynical and convinced that something is crap the more popular it gets. This is one reason The Duchess and I fight: She assumes I am pre-disposed to dislike things, and when I dislike things it means I never gave them a chance.

Which, to be fair, is often true.

As a writer, this also means I am exposed to a lot of tricks and deceptions I’m not aware of, or have never thought in using in certain ways. Having a Literary Meddler is an essential part of an ongoing education. While their constant insistence that you read things often results in horrifying journeys into fictional worlds you’d rather not visit followed by vicious arguments over whether or not you’re a closed-off poopyhead who wouldn’t know a great story if it hit them on the head much the same way your wife is hitting you in the head with a sock full of quarters right now, it also sometimes broadens your world just a tiny bit.

The take-away? If you don’t have a Literary Meddler, get one. Even if it has to be that weird guy on the subway who always smells like Salmon and is always trying to hand you a handwritten novel in a box.

Cocksucker Blues: Profanity When Reading in Public

By | September 2, 2014 | 5 Comments

This initially appeared in The Inner Swine Volume 16, Issue 1/2 Summer 2010.

The glamorous life of a writer.

The glamorous life of a writer.

FRIENDS, I occasionally read from my fiction in public, which is surprising, since I am frequently drunk, pantsless, and belligerent. Since I am not a BIG STAR in the literary world, I almost never get to read all by myself, which is good because when I’m sharing a stage I can imagine that the audience hates the other readers and not, as would be my natural assumption otherwise, me.

Sharing the bill with other readers does however present me with another problem: Invariably, I am teamed up with writers who read beautiful, lyrical pieces of prose involving elves or Grey Aliens who contemplate the universe and seek enlightenment, and then I stand up and read a piece that is is 84% the words fuck and cocksucker.

COCKSUCKER BLUES

There is, simply, a lot of cursing in the Avery Cates books. Well, in all my fiction, actually, because, frankly, people curse in real life. I’ve been peppering my speech with cuss words since I was about nine years old, and I was a late bloomer in my neighborhood. I worry about it when I read in public, though; not because my audiences are filled with blue-haired old ladies who will die from shock—the people who actually attend any reading I do are quite prepared for a little cursing—but because I am the blue-haired lady in this scenario. Somehow I become all guilt-ridden and Catholic when I find myself having to shout cocksucker at the top of my voice in a room filled with strangers.

There are three approaches to this situation:

BOWDLERIZE

One, I can bowdlerize my own writing and replace every curse word with its prime-time equivalent, frick for fuck and all that jazz. This has the unfortunate side effect of making me resemble the berries and cream lad.

THE CURSE WHISPERER

Two, I can read the text as is but keep the volume low so I don’t feel like a nun is going to time travel from my past, rap my knuckles, and steal my pants.

GUSTO, MOTHERFUCKER!

Finally, I can read the text as is but emphasize every curse word with something that can only be described as gusto, delighting in the sudden freedom of being able to shout curses at a crowd and not be arrested. Generally I choose the latter as it promises the least humiliation, and everyone seems to enjoy themselves.

####

This hangup only exists when I’m reading out loud to people; when I’m writing I have no problem dropping language so foul it would make your nose hairs burn. In my everyday life I generally go around cloaked in what I have dubbed White Boy Politeness, which is a way of behaving towards people that generally makes folks want to rub your head and call you a good lad, even thirteen-year-old kids who would otherwise be knifing you for meth money.

curses2This sometimes causes a minor bout of mental dissonance when people meet me for the first time just prior to a reading. I am all, shucks, nice to meet you, did you know I was an Eagle Scout? And then I am all fuck you, cocksucker.

curses3Of course, this is nothing compared to my other public reading foible, which is spontaneous and inexplicable pantslessness. So if all you ever experience during one of my readings is some rough language, consider yourself: lucky.

Self Promotion Round Up

By | August 31, 2014 | 1 Comments
October 7, 2014

October 7, 2014

Believe me, if there was a digital version of a sandwich board that read PAY ATTENTION TO ME OR I WILL FOLLOW YOU HOME AND TAKE A DUMP ON YOUR LAWN I would wear that sumbitch. Lacking that, I must lower myself to doing self-promotion like a commoner, begging people to put eyeballs on me. It’s humiliating. It’s why I drink. Damn you all, just buy my books without me having to do anything! Including write the books, as that is a LOT of effort.

Freebies!

Still, promotion must be done. Here’s a round up of all the freebies out there currently to inspire you to read my mighty works:

Here’s a starred review of We Are Not Good People in Publisher’s Weekly, BTW.

Appearances!

If the idea of meeting me and shaking my sweaty hand as I mutter and twitch appeals to you, you will have your opportunities, my friends:

Essays!

I’ve been writing a lot of things in service of self-promotion. Some of them are even good!

That does it for now. More things in the works, of course, but self promotion is exhausting and makes me feel dirty, so I need to drink now.

 

Just Because Some Watery Tart Threw a Sword at You

By | August 28, 2014 | 3 Comments

I’ve had Enough of The One for a Lifetime

Hi there. I'm He-Man. Won't Someone Love Me?

Hi there. I’m He-Man. Won’t Someone Love Me?

Let us discuss He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, because it is a subject that has been sorely ignored by the media old and new for too long. When I was a kid He-Man was on TV all the time, protecting Castle Grayskull for some reason and fighting his eternal battle against Skeletor, who wanted in to Castle Grayskull for some reason. It’s all a bit fuzzy, because I was ten years old, and because I barely remember anything from all that time ago. I remember almost nothing from yesterday, in fact, so thirty years ago? We’ll need Leo DiCaprio and his totem to drill in that deeply.

Still, the problem of motivation: Why was He-Man He-Man? In other words, aside from Mattel’s desperate need to sell kids like me plastic action figures and advertising on the cartoon, why was He-Man chosen to be super strong and manly by The Sorceress (Note: There was also a Sorceress)? Aside from the fact that he’s one of about two men in reasonable physical shape on Eternia, his buddy Man At Arms would have been a better choice. Man At Arms is not only in pretty buff shape to begin with, he’s also a technical genius inventor of weapons. If you’re handing out He-Man-ness to random people, why not him?

An argument could be made that giving Man At Arms super powers in addition to his super-genius at creating awesome death-dealing weapons would have made him too powerful. I reject this argument because it requires a depth of thought impossible in the He-Man universe. He-Man is chosen to be He-Man simply because – and that is awful storytelling.

(more…)

ESSENTIAL WRITER TOOLS PART ONE: CATS

By | August 25, 2014 | 2 Comments

This essay originally appeared in The Inner Swine Volume 15, Issue 3/4, Summer 2009.

See? Pithy.

See? Pithy.

ONE OF THE greatest things about being a writer is the ability to engage in all sorts of eccentric and bizarre behavior and have it laughingly accepted by society because you’re an artist, an artist traditionally known as either a drunk or a madman. Being a writer is more or less like being publicly diagnosed with Weirdo Disease and from that point on everyone’s willing to believe anything about you:

POLICE: Sir, you’re not wearing any pants.
ME: Is OK. Me writer.
POLICE: Ah. Published anything I’da heard of?

This is of course partly due to the plethora of examples from history showing writers to, in fact, be either drunks or madmen, often both. As a writer, you’re free to do all sorts of odd things and have people just shrug their shoulders, accepting you for who you are. This is because as a writer you’ve already made the choice to earn something akin to what a third-world cobbler for Nike might expect to earn over their lifetime, and are thus excused from society’s normal requirements. Let your beard grow wild and free? Why not, you’re going to be living on Top Ramen for the rest of your life. Wear suspenders and a belt? Vote Libertarian? Spend your life murdering every living thing you’re allowed legally to murder?

The world shrugs, as you’ve already made the insane decision to write for a living.

So, while wallowing in the pants-free and deoderant-optional lifestyle of the working author, I can understand why, despite the obvious social and financial drawbacks of such a lifestyle, so many folks aspire to be professional writers. After all, financial security and respect within your community are overrated, especially when compared to the ability to wake up at four in the afternoon, immediately begin drinking, and call it ‘research’.

So I’ve decided to help anyone who wants to be a writer by outlining some of the main tools you too can use to establish yourself, since ‘writing’ these days is more of a lifestyle choice than a profession, based on the fact that for something to be a profession you have to actually earn money at it. There are many things a writer must have in order to prosecute their art and look writerly while doing it, but I thought we’d start with the most basic, the most fundamental, the single thing that tells the world that not only are you a writer, but you’re a serious writer: A cat.

Or cats, plural; the more the merrier.

####

(more…)

Categories: Bullshit, Writing

Shameless Self-Promotion

By | August 23, 2014 | 1 Comments
October 7, 2014

October 7, 2014

SO, as you must know if you pay attention to my constant self-serving bleating at any point during the day, I have a new novel coming out in October called We Are Not Good People (Pocket). Yay for me! I also just got a great starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, which reads in part:

“Somers’s heartbreaking second Ustari Cycle installment (after Trickster) is soaked in blood and steeped in deadly power and desperation.”

To paraphrase Sally Field, they get me – they totally get me!

Pre-order that sucker (for god’s sake, I need liquor monies) here, or here, or here, or even here.

Ancient Book Reviews Part Two

By | August 21, 2014 | 1 Comments
Darrell K. Sweet WAS the 1980s As Far As I was Concerned

Darrell K. Sweet WAS the 1980s as Far as I Was Concerned

Not too long ago I wrote about Lyndon Hardy’s “Five Magics” series with the intention of regularly returning to my ancient bookshelves to contemplate treasured cheap paperbacks from my youth. And then of course forgot all about it. Until today! Today for reasons beyond my ken I was moved to consider one of the most obscure books I’ve ever read, and one that I will frankly admit I do not remember at all: Dennis McCarty’s Flight to Thlassa Mey, published by Del Rey in 1986 and on my shelves ever since.

I remember nothing about this book, or the two sequels I also own.

This is what fascinates me about my book collection, these books I can’t remember. Dennis McCarty sold this book, no doubt promoted it, and published sequels and at least one other book I can identify – and yet no one remembers him or this book. Sure, someone does, but collectively he’s been burned out of the pattern. Since I always worry this will be my own fate, I’m drawn back to these obscure books.

And yet, nothing, literally nothing remains in my memory about this book. Sure, I read it 30 years ago and never again since – but you’d think something would remain, right? There are books on my shelves with similar stories – bought three decades ago by a younger man, read once, carted around the country ever since – but I recall at least a few slivers of detail and plot from them.

Flight to Thlassa Mey: Nothing.

The scant information on the Internet doesn’t help much; the book was a fairly standard fantasy from the 1980s (one glance at the cover tells you as much) and it was a time in my life when I was reading three books a week, just burning through cheap paperbacks like there was no tomorrow. I probably read this in three days and was on to the next thing immediately afterwards, all of its story elements lost in a swirl of swords and wizards and (based on the cover) princesses wearing ridiculous head gear.

But it is precisely this lack of information and memory that now fascinates me. Sure, I could read this again and maybe I should, but what really grabs me about this is the complete obscurity of it all. Try to find out something about the author or his books: I dare you. And that of course drives me to pour approximately six fingers of whiskey into a paper cup and slam it down, forgetting that I had just done that a few moments ago, and now here I am finishing this post from the hospital. Again.

Certainly the odds are good that I’ll be this guy in 20 years. While I’ve sold a few books and made a little money (and published more novels – 9 in October than most), I haven’t made any lasting cultural impact and don’t pretend that I have. If I stopped writing today, slowly I’d just sink beneath the waves of history, which will likely happen even if I continue to publish – there are books and authors that were best sellers in their day that are now totally forgotten, after all.

So, for a book review, this was shit. I can’t remember a thing about the book. You have learned nothing concerning whether or not you should read this book aside from the fact that no one remembers it which I guess is actually a pretty useful piece of data so this was, in fact, a great review and you are welcome.

The Inner Swine Guide to Ignorance Episode 8

By | August 18, 2014 | 0 Comments

(This originally appeared in Brutarian Quarterly #54; for a while I wrote a column there about ignorance in general and my ignorance in specific. It was a lot of fun and I figure I’ll post them here now and again.)

BROMANCE IS REAL

BROMANCE IS REAL

Episode Eight: Ignorance for the Win!

My wife teaches me things every day, alleviating the huge welter of my ignorance little by little. Admittedly, most of this education concerns my many, many failings, but hell, ignorance of something is ignorance, and through her violent and painful lessons I emerge a smarter—and slightly anemic—man.

Sometimes, though, these lessons are a little more general, if no less painful. Like, for example, the following recent example:

ME: Wha? Where am I?
THE DUCHESS: On the couch. Watching TV.
ME: Wha? What is. . .what is that?
THE DUCHESS: This is a television show called Bromance.
ME: . . .I wish now I could have remained ignorant of this show.
THE DUCHESS: Too late! HEY! Keep those eyes open or I break out the clamps.
ME: Yes’m.

Bromance was a show on MTV starring Brody Jenner, son of former Olympic star and current plastic surgery victim Bruce Jenner. The show was all about Brody trying to choose a new best friend. The reasons why he needs a new best friend and why we’re imagined to care are difficult to explain if you aren’t forced to watch this sort of terrible, terrible TV show in the first place, but, sadly, I now know all about Mr. Jenner and his awful show. I am, sadly, no longer ignorant about Bromance. Pray for me.

Of course, you never know—this unwanted knowledge of Bromance might come in handy. Bizarre and impossible as it might sound at first blush, you have to remember the fact that none of us know what’s coming—there are no spoilers in life. So who can say that Bromance might not someday save my life? No one can say, that’s who. As far as any of you can prove, knowledge of Bromance could certainly save my life someday.

(more…)

The Real Reason “Halt & Catch Fire” Sucked

By | August 15, 2014 | 1 Comments
This poster is much better than the actual show.

This poster is much better than the actual show.

So, if you were one of the very small number of people who watched Halt and Catch Fire on AMC this summer (possible reasons for your interest include being fascinated by 1980s-era computer technology and hacking [that would be my excuse] or possibly a fascination with bad television [also, strangely, me]), you likely share my reaction to the Season One Finale: A disgusted shrug. Put succinctly: This show was awful.

Also, the Whitest Show Ever Produced (and I watch Mad Men, y’all). But mainly: Awful.

It was, however, awful in a curious way. Yes, the writing was slipshod, the show reached for ridiculous dramatic moments far too often and failed to pull them off, and for some reason thought simply giving a character a “mysterious backstory” and then immediately revealing it to be a shallow and poorly conceived …. non-moment was somehow deconstructive or brilliant. Sure, stipulated.

The real reason this show sucked? It was too real. Halt and Catch Fire was the realest fucking show on television.

(more…)

loading