Brooklyn Book Festival

By | September 25, 2014 | 1 Comments
October 7, 2014

October 7, 2014

When people live in New Jersey, the borough of Brooklyn is viewed with much anxiety and excitement, because it’s relatively unexplored by we Jerseyans. Myths and legends abound, but there’s is precious little actual information. We hear tales of men with outrageous facial hair and people amassing small fortunes via Air BnB, but when you go there it’s pretty much just like every other urban area. When I was given the opportunity to spend an hour signing We Are Not Good People at the Mystery Writers of America‘s table at the Brooklyn Book Festival recently, I agreed because so far wishing very hard hasn’t resulted in anyone paying attention to my book, and because I am always looking for ways to defy the various restraining orders that bookstores have on me.

It was a sultry day. So sultry I almost swooned several times, and had to be resuscitated by my friends Ken West and Sean Ferrell, who showed up demanding I pay them monies I owed them, then stuck around on orders from The Duchess, who feared I would slip away without supervision to the nearest bar.

Ken offers me a quarter for my book while Sean laughs uproariously, delighted at my humiliation.

Ken offers me a quarter for my book while Sean laughs uproariously, delighted at my humiliation.

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Upcoming Events

By | September 19, 2014 | 0 Comments
October 7, 2014

October 7, 2014

SO, I have a book coming out. A book you should totally buy! TOTALLY. If you need a reason, here’s the review of the book from Publisher’s Weekly:

“Somers conjures a riveting setting that bends and breaks time and again, each iteration raising the stakes for his accidental hero.”

In service of promoting this book, I have committed myself to several public appearances which will either be exciting moments of Beatlemania-esque euphoria or me slowly getting mean drunk, sitting alone and undisturbed at a table piled high with books.

For your convenience, here’s a rundown of my forays into the public sphere so you can mark your calendars and start haranguing your friends and family to come out to see me.

SUNDAY, 9/21: The Brooklyn Book Festival! I’ll be there, floating around until 4:30PM at which point I will be at the MWA table (#624) selling/signing copies of We Are Not Good People and giving away some stuff.

SUNDAY, 10/5: Noir at the Bar – I’ll be appearing at Shade Bar in NYC (241 Sulllivan Street) as part of this amazing reading series, along with several other crime/thriller writers. 6PM – 8PM, and I’ll have copies of WANGP as well!

FRIDAY, 10/10: New York ComicCon! I’ll be loitering around the Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster booth, being shooed away every now and then by security, and I’ll do a book signing there at some point. Then I’m participating in a panel moderated by Lev Grossman: Playing with Magic at 1:15PM. After that, probably being ejected by security.

Come by, and get an early copy of WANGP with the added bonus of getting me to sign it – or, if you prefer, making me cry with personal insults. The choice is yours!

It’s a Neighbor Affair

By | September 18, 2014 | 2 Comments
Hi, we just opened a Clown College next door.

Hi, we just opened a Clown College next door.

Ah, other people. You mysterious, dreadful beings. From afar, I can appreciate your beauty and the exotic ways of your mating rituals and territorial pissings. Up close, I usually at least have the sensation of an open doorway behind me so I can make a fast getaway by shouting “Look!” and just running really fast.

But then, sometimes, you live next door to me.

Now, to be clear, almost all of my neighbors in my life have been good people. Polite, respectful, and if a little strange around the edges well I’m sure some misguided folks think the same about me, even though I am kept in a lab in Switzerland next to the International Prototype Kilogram as the Standard Person. But just because my neighbors have by and large been totally fine to live near doesn’t mean I don’t watch them carefully at all times, looking for signs of Weird.

Because it’s there.

Now, I’ve always had a healthy distrust of other people, a distrust that grows stronger the nearer they are to me and sprouts into full-blown paranoia when they’re within my Sphere of Influence, so to speak, but since I started working from home a few years ago I’ve had the opportunity to just sit here and sip whiskey … uh, I mean, work really hard in case my wife is reading this … and observe my neighborhood at my leisure. I’ve seen fights break out over parking spaces. I’ve seen people having sex with the windows open. I’ve seen one neighbor mysteriously deliver a gallon of milk to another once or twice a month. I’ve witnessed public lovers’ quarrels and I’ve overheard entire conversations about home renovations.

Once, a group of neighbors gathered under my window and sang songs to me in soft, angelic voices, but to be honest I was halfway through a bottle of Scotch that turned out, upon closer examination the next day, to be a bottle of really old cough syrup that had turned from ruby red to brown, so that one might have been imagined.

I’ve become a sort of Groundhog Day Godling of my block. I know all and see all. I know when you’re having work done, and I know when you shop for groceries. Also what you consider the word groceries to be, which is often a surprising and not very comforting grouping of innovations. I know when you leave in the morning (unless its super early, in which case I assume there is a insomniac godling doing my job at night, glowing softly, like the moon) and I know when you get home at night.

Come to think of it, maybe I’m the weird neighbor in this scenario.

If so, it’s not on purpose. My desk just happens to be next to a window.

Naturally, all of these observations will end up in books and stories under changed names and sometimes genders and ethnicities, usually long after I’ve completely forgotten the original moments I witnessed. My memory is a feeble thing, and everything I’ve seen recently will swirl into an imprecise haze, allowing me to take your humiliations and churn them into stories. It’s what I do.

Categories: Bullshit, Writing

Going Carless

By | September 15, 2014 | 3 Comments

518487_89017606Growing up, I had what I imagine was a fairly typical Western middle-class relationship with the automobile: Indifference at first, followed by an adolescent lust. When I purchased my first car – a 1978 Chevy Nova for $1 – it was an amazing moment: The whole world was open to me. A year or two later I took that beater cross-country, and it suffered catastrophic problems in the Black Hills and I barely limped home.

After that, I experienced the phenomenon of Car Envy; I was carless, and I would walk the streets and study everyone else’s cars and wish I could afford to buy a new one. Or knew how to steal one. Cars filled my thoughts. I felt trapped and constrained.

I did eventually buy another car (not as cool as Laverne, the Nova, who had style) and later got rid of it when I merged everything with The Duchess. Then Hurricane Sandy hit, and our car got flooded and towed away …  and we simply never replaced it.

We live in a walkable town, with plenty of public transportation and access to New York City, so we’re kind of ideally positioned to not have a car. There are plenty of places in the world where not having a car would be impossible. And our circumstances could change at any moment and require us to buy a car, since the world today is designed for car travel. So this isn’t a statement about how awful cars are and how everyone should go carless.

That said, it’s been pretty nice. No parking woes. No insurance and maintenance costs. Any time we’ve rented a car to go somewhere, there is a fifteen-second period of “Wow, driving is hella fun!” followed by sitting at a stop sign for ten minutes and then crawling another four blocks followed by inching our way along an access ramp followed by oh holy hell someone shoot me in the head. In other words, every time we rent a car it reminds us how awful driving in this area really is.

What’s really interesting are the disbelieving reactions we get. Even people who live in this town and know what it’s like always give us what scientists call The Fisheye when we tell them we not only don’t own a car, we have no desire or plans to purchase a new one. It’s like we just announced we’re communists and that we’re keeping our cats not as pets but as a food source. Granted, it’s a bit unusual to not have a car these days, but the awkwardness the revelation inspires is a little off-putting.

Then again, I sit at my office window in the early evenings and watch people literally fight over parking spaces, and I feel this smug sense of peace settle over me. Plus there’s the fact that when I irritate and irritate my neighbors with my pantsless antics, they can’t slash my tires.

Categories: Bullshit

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.

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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.

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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.

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Categories: Bullshit, Writing

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