Deep Thoughts & Pronouncements

A Drop of the Dull, Hard Stuff

I Miss Typewriters

I Miss Typewriters

When I was pup, sipping small beer and learning all my curse words from VHS tapes, I imagined the Writing Life to be pretty leisurely. I’d sell a novel, be recognized as a genius, and spend my days tapping out words while publishers delivered a steady stream of gifts in order to win my favor.

It didn’t exactly turn out that way.

A lot of writers, however, still think that way—that writing is all about being creative and creating and butt-in-the-seat and all that. Which it is, of course, Except there’s a lot of other stuff involved. Dull, boring stuff. For example, here’s what I’ve done over the last thirty days or so:

  • Written and revised a 15,000 word book proposal
  • Written a half dozen idea pitches for stories
  • Written a short story longhand
  • Transcribed a short story from longhand
  • Submitted a dozen short stories to various markets
  • Discussed a reprint of a previously published short story
  • Written a few dozen freelance pieces
  • Negotiated a reprint (in Sweden!) of an article I wrote
  • Completed a novel
  • Began two novels

Aside from the freelance stuff, none of this has an immediate or even certain paycheck; it’s all spec. And it’s a lot of work, between staying organized and awake (and sometimes sober). And that’s what a lot writing careers look like—a whole lot of hustle.

Now someone go buy one of my books so I’ll have beer money.

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How to Survive the Crushing Inevitability of Your Own Death

WHAT THE

WHAT THE

Friends, you’re going to die.

As certain as you’re sitting on the crapper right now reading this, you’re going to not be here soon enough. Terrifyingly soon. Death is so pants-shittingly terrifying, in fact, that all of the world’s religions – and by extension all of the atrocities and wars that have been waged in their names – were invented with the sole purpose of making you feel better about it. You may think – or have been told – that religion is about philosophy, or morality, or some other aspect of life. You have been lied to. Religion is about telling you there’s a fucking purpose to all this and you will continue on as a mind forever voyaging after you croak.

You won’t.

Of course, I don’t know that, any more than you know you will. The universe is infinite and unknowable and for all we know we will be greeted by Cooter from The Dukes of Hazzard when we die, handed a Monster energy drink, and asked who we’d like to be reborn as. Why the fuck not.

Until we find out what’s going to happen, we have just one job: Keeping the faith that all this somehow, impossibly, matters. Otherwise, what’s the point?

That faith is powerful shit, isn’t it. Because no matter what you tell your friends, your wife, your therapist, your priest or your mullah, you don’t know anything about what’s going to happen to you or to anyone and so every plan you make, every precaution, is raw faith, isn’t it. The fact that you think you’ll still be here in five seconds is startlingly optimistic, my friend, considering the incredibly complex machinery inside of you, whirring and clicking and somehow hitting every beat.

But if you start to think about it, you start to realize that any thought that you might get of this life alive is just faith. And once you start down that rabbit hole, there’s no going back: Being conscious of your own demise is part of the human condition. It causes grown men to weep and everyone to ingest all manner of numbing substances, but the simple fact is, once you you realize you’re going to die someday, how do you keep going? Because what’s the fucking point?

Here’s how you keep going.

The Inner Swine’s Guide to Keeping on Keeping On in the Face of Certain, Doubtless Futility because You Yes You are Going to Die and Even if You Somehow Survive in Defiance of All Known Natural Laws the Sun Eventually Explodes and There. You. Are.

Step One: Denial

Difficulty Level: Infinite.

Reach down deep inside and find that part of you that is convinced that medical breakthroughs or wishes extracted from a Leprechaun or alien technology will save you and you’ll live forever or until you choose to stop flipping channels thousands of years from now and just die on your own terms.

That’s what it takes to handle your own eventual death, isn’t it? Faith that it won’t actually happen.

This might seem difficult, but of course if you think about it for a moment you’ll know that it is, in fact exactly the sort of faith you have every day when you get out of bed. Because when you get out of bed it is, apparently, with the expectation that you not be swallowed by a giant Leviathan, turned to pudding by a flesh-eating virus, or crushed beneath something so heavy it actually becomes a gravitational singularity and consumes the Earth. In other words, you’re living on faith already, my friend!

But you knew that. That’s why you chose to read this instead of making out a new will and getting your affairs in order.

Step Two: Booze

Difficulty Level: Molto Facile

Or, you know, whatever you’re used to using to cloud your sense of doom and make yourself feel better. Some people knit, or make their pets wear adorable little costumes and pretend to have tea with them.

Here’s the thing: Life is either short or infinite. Or maybe something very lengthy but not infinite somewhere between those two extremes, which is the same as short, so whatever. If life is short, best to enjoy your cocktails before your liver gives out, right? If life is infinite, then drink all you want, my friend, because why not?

So: Assuming you have enough faith to get out of bed in the morning, you might as well sit around day drinking. Really, nothing else makes any sense.

Step Three:

There is no Step Three.

 

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A Million Ways to Fail

How I Feel Most Saturday Mornings.

How I Feel Most Saturday Mornings.

One of the most awesome things about writing has to be the almost infinite chances it offers you to fail.

Even if we stick to the slim piece of reality that mortal minds can comprehend, we have quite a list:

  1. First, you can fail to even start writing that idea you have. It’s a nice, clean failure, but a failure nonetheless.
  2. Then, of course, you can fail to finish it. I estimate I’ve failed in this manner about 5,000 times. That’s a conservative estimate.
  3. Or you can finish it and then fail to do anything with the raw material.
  4. You can fail to heed feedback, advice, or proofreading marks.
  5. You can fail to show it around or submit it or make any other attempt to sell the piece or at least have it be read.
  6. You can submit it, and fail to sell it. And fail and fail and fail to sell it.
  7. You can sell it, and then fail to, you know, sell it.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. And the glorious future world we find ourselves in offers even more ways to fail, in terms of promotion and social media. So now you can not only fail to write something, or fail to finish something, or fail to sell it, but you can also fail to be interesting or clever enough on Twitter. The failure involved in writing just one novel is monumental.

And you wonder why writers drink and talk to cats. Well, why they drink more and talk back to cats, anyway.

The worst part, of course, is that most of the time this kind of failure is necessary in order to write anything and then get it out there. In one of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker books, he has a thing about people learning to fly in which he describes it as throwing yourself at the ground, then distracting yourself at the very last possible moment so that you forget to hit it. And that’s writing, sometimes, most times: Throwing yourself at a mountain of failure and then, somehow, distracting yourself from hitting it at the last possible moment and sailing over.

And how do I distract myself from Mount Failure? You guessed it: Whiskey. And cats.

BOOM

BOOM

BOOK FORT FTW

BOOK FORT FTW

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For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never Worn.

The Good Old Days.

The Good Old Days.

Writing Short Stories is Crazy

I wrote my first short story when I was about 15 years old—that is to say, the first story I consciously set out in the form of a short story. Ridiculously enough, I wrote it solely to join my high school’s literary magazine, one of my most shameful moments. I mean, seriously. The fucking literary magazine. I can now safely say that this is perilously close to being my worst decision ever, right up there with gaining twenty pounds when I was thirteen and getting an English degree instead of something useful, like contacts in Russian organized crime.

The story was titled Bricks. I still have it. In about 1,000 words I tell the story of a family in the future where everyone lives underground because of a plague, and their son’s decision to leave home and go topside. It ends with the son wondering what will happen to him as he takes his first breath of fresh air on the surface.

Oh, it’s not good. It’s derivative, but it’s derivative in that special way you get away with when you’re fifteen and not named Mozart: People are so impressed that you wrote something that superficially resembles a real story they forgive all sorts of shit. I wrote it on a Commodore 64 in an application called Kwik-Writer I got from some friends; my friends and I were running a serious underground software piracy operation in grammar school, and I had thousands of stolen applications, and Kwik Writer was one of them. It was kind of awesome and terrible at the same time, which basically describes almost all of the applications available for the Commodore 64.

Since then, I’ve written about 500 more short stories. Bully for me. Getting them published isn’t easy, though there are more difficult projects in the world (self-surgery, perhaps, or tunneling under your house to the nearest mountain range) but the real challenge, as anyone will tell you, is getting paid for them. So why write them? Because I love short stories. Writing them and reading them. And, to be honest, selling them when I can—and I’ve sold quite a few over the years, with a few more on the way.

I write a lot of them, and since the chances of ever selling one are slim, it’s kind of a crazy waste of time. Plus, let’s be honest here, 99% of every short story ever written deserves to stay right in the notebook it was scrawled into, because most of them are terrible, and as luck would have it that goes twice for mine. Even the ones that I think are not terrible aren’t easy to sell; I recently had a story rejected very reluctantly by one market, which sent me a very sad note all about how great the story was and how distressed they were to not be buying it. I immediately submitted the story elsewhere in a frenzy of optimism—after all, this was obviously one of my better efforts.

The next market rejected it within 18 hours.

Writing and trying to sell short fiction sucks. Still, I write a lot of it.

Part of it is an exercise. You get some crazy ideas for stories after a few drinks, and while most of them are awful, some of them ain’t bad, but if you don’t put some flesh on them they disappear. So to keep them alive, I write them, even though most are pretty stillborn.

So, let’s see: Failure and no market, obviously these are fantastic ways to spend my time and mental energy. Then again, I’m an author; futility is what I eat for breakfast.

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Man Baby

Artist's Rendering of the Author

Artist’s Rendering of the Author

When I was a young’un, I was never, you know, the Cool Kid. I didn’t exactly have a tragic childhood or anything, but I was definitely aware in grammar school that I was a pudgy, glasses-wearing mascot for a lot of kids. I had friends, this isn’t a tragedy or anything, but there it was.

I got invited to a birthday party one weekend. I don’t know about you, but when I was like nine or ten getting invited to a birthday party was like the Social Event of the Season. Making it onto some other kids’ elite list was thrilling, and I was excited. It was in the summer, there would be a pool, and it was like 1,000 degrees out. My Mother, naturally, insisted I wear Church Clothes. I was mortified, but Mom insisted. No child of hers was showing up at someone’s house in play clothes.

Cut to: Jeff, the only kid wearing long pants and a dress shirt and shoes, sweating profusely. I didn’t get invited to a lot of birthday parties. I can’t swear that was the reason why, but … that was the reason why. That and the cursing and the habit of breaking into liquor cabinets.

Anyway, I digress. Cut to 2016, and I am a middle-aged married man (MAMM) and my wife, The Duchess, and I make plans with another couple to have dinner at a fancy shmancy restaurant. And the following conversation occurs:

DUCHESS: You’re not wearing … well, I assume those are clothes.

ME: Why not? They’re street legal.

DUCHESS: This is a nice place. Don’t you have anything pressed?

ME: … I do not know what that word means.

Needless to say, The Duchess, much like my Mother thirty-five years before, insisted on Church Clothes. I registered my vehement protest, but if the evening was going to end with me drinking Scotch and ordering a $50 appetizer, Church Clothes it had to be.

We walk over to the other couple’s house, and when the other husband walks out, he is also wearing Church Clothes. We share A Significant Look and spend the trip to the restaurant grumbling. Naturally, we walk in and the place is packed with very comfortable and happy people wearing shorts, T-shirts, and the like. We each turn to our wives and glower darkly, and spend the rest of the evening drunkenly threatening to take off our pants right there in the dining room.

This of course leads to the inevitable moment when we do take off our pants and are chased out onto the street, where we call an Uber and

What’s my take-away from this? It could be

  1. I really have no idea how to dress. There is much evidence that this might be the case, including three open indictments against me in several states, or
  2. The Duchess learned her Rules of Polite Society in the 1970s Texas Hill Country, which is like the 1870s everywhere else, or
  3. I need to burn all my clothes except what I’m wearing right now so as to have no other options (except that won’t work because a) The Duchess will just march me to The Gap for a shopping spree and b) that means I’ll be wearing Superman Underoos to all my fancy literary events), or
  4. I am a Man Baby and need constant supervision.

Actually, I don’t need to know. Thank you for your time, please forget this ever happened.

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The Most Interesting Scene in “Mr. Robot” S2E1

ursoscrewed.png

ursoscrewed.png

I remain absolutely riveted by USA’s Mr. Robot. It’s like a slow-motion horror movie—like literally if you took a horror movie about a man losing his mind and slowed it to like 1/8th speed, you would have Mr. Robot‘s episodes. Then a brilliant fan theory starts going around online that makes me appreciate what the show is doing even more. I mean, there simply isn’t another show out there operating on Mr. Robot’s visual and atmospheric level right now.

The show’s not perfect, of course, but every episode offers something, usually a sequence that is simply a brilliant mini-movie. This got me thinking about a sequence in the season two premiere that isn’t getting a lot of heat, but I think should: the hacking and takeover of Susan Jacobs’ smart house.

It’s no secret that Mr. Robot often films its episodes like a horror movie instead of a techno thriller or a story about hackers who actually kinda sorta resemble the real thing instead of the Hugh Jackman speed-typing sort you usually get. The lighting, framing, angles, and music all combine to offer up a tableau of dread that is very effective. And this scene is like a mini-horror movie without a payoff—or perhaps a delayed payoff to come.

Mild spoilers to follow if you care about spoilers.

Susan Jacobs is very rich woman, counsel to E Corp. She has a very nice townhome. It’s got a pool, a spa-like bathroom, and a “smart home” system that allows Susan to control everything via iPad. It’s kind of awesome, until she comes home and everything is misbehaving. The alarm won’t stop going off. Music blares at unbearable levels. Her shower is burning hot and the air conditioning has the place at 40 degrees. The TV won’t shut off.

She’s lost control.

The whole sequence is filmed like a horror movie and so it should, as the idea that by bringing these technologies into our homes we’re giving control of some of the most essential aspects of our lives—our shelter—into the hands of a) unseen corporate interests and their drones or b) hackers is kind of scary. By the time we get a smash cut to Jacobs, wearing a winter coat indoors and screaming into the phone that she can’t unplug anything because the wires are buried in the walls, we know she’s totally screwed. She schedules a service call, calls a car, and flees to her country house because of course she has a country house. And literally moments later, F Society shows up, turns everything off, and takes control of the house. They set everything to go crazy just to drive her away. Now they have weeks of using this awesome house for free.

Clever, but what’s really clever about it is how this sequence underscores something interesting: The hackers aren’t the heroes of this show. There are no heroes on this show. The hackers are just as menacing and destructive as the evil corporation. The hackers managed to erase the debts of millions, but this supposedly Robin Hood-like move has destabilized the world, and regular people are shown having to deal with the negative side of this Fight Club ideal: Sure, their debts have been erased … but so has all evidence that they paid those debts in the first place. As a sequence showing a woman desperately trying to convince the bank that she is up to date on her mortgage show, erasing all that data won’t cause the banks to shrug and say well, we can’t prove you owe us money so we guess you don’t! Instead, the more likely scenario is that we’d all find ourselves forced to prove the negative: That we don’t owe them money.

The theft of the smart house should be a chilling sequence for anyone who has a Nest installed and is thinking about an Internet-enabled lock or something. It should also serve as clear evidence that the show doesn’t think there’s really any difference between the hackers and the corporations. They both steal whatever they want, and the people who don’t understand the complex systems they administer—computers and the Internet Vs. money and finance—are doomed to be the victims of the people who do.

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Smug Bastards Can Go Pound Sand

OH NOES SMUG BASTARDS!

OH NOES SMUG BASTARDS!

I’ve never been what you would call a “hip” person. Or cool. I’ve never had my finger on the pulse, as it were; I tumble along, more or less lost in my own thoughts (you folks I’ve walked past on the street while you shout my name to no effect know exactly what I mean) and only occasionally surface to note the things around me. I’m more or less one step from living in my own fantasy world, and the only thing keeping me rooted to reality is probably whiskey.

In short, I’m blissfully unaware of most things.

My memory is also famously awful; my brain lives in the present, bro, and the past melts away and the future has no meaning. The memories I do retain tend to be powerful enough to gain some traction on the smooth, wrinkle-less vastness of my brain. One of the memories I came still summon up dates back to when I was about ten or eleven years old, and I just started to become aware of my social status. Up until then my identity had been wrapped up in my grades and the fact that my teachers thought I was adorable, and the opinions of my fellow children never really mattered; in my neighborhood I could beat all the kids in a footrace and thus considered myself King of the Block.

But then something shifted, and I realized I wasn’t King of the Block, I was a pudgy, glasses-wearing nerd. And this troubled me, because who wants that? So I began an incompetent and lazy campaign to make myself seem cooler, and part of this campaign involved the classic Jeff Somers strategy of pretending to be very knowledgeable about things all the other kids considered cool. And so, when challenged by a bullying classmate to name my favorite rock band — because this was back when rock bands were still cool, you see, which if you carry the two and divide by pi will reveal just how fucking old I am — I said Led Zeppelin, because I had vaguely heard the name before. Unimpressed, the kid demanded I name a favorite song, and, my knowledge of rock music exhausted, I was humiliated.

Now, since that day I’ve rectified both my knowledge of Led Zeppelin (favorite song: Black Dog) and my need for approval (somewhat) and am happy in my slightly obtuse existence. I have accepted myself and my limitations, even though this means I don’t get a lot of stuff. Like Pokémon Go. I barely understand what it is and have no desire to play it.

But, to paraphrase Voltaire, I will die to defend your right to play it.

The Smug Bastards

You know them: The killjoys who can’t stop announcing what they refuse to enjoy, or don’t consider interesting, or are mystified by. It might be Pokémon, it might be Game of Thrones. It might be Star Wars or sports or whatever — the only defining characteristic of the Smug Bastard is that they don’t share your enjoyment of something, and they wish — oh god how they wish, they wish hard — to let you know this fact.

The classic example has always been and will ever be the Person Without a Television. These days you could update that to The Person Without Any Sort of Screen. These folks have been waddling about for decades, proudly announcing that they are certainly not stupid and lazy enough to waste their time watching programs. They prefer reading books, collecting stamps, listening to the opera or some other Smug Bastard Approved form of entertainment.

These days, with pop culture fragmenting, Smug Bastards, much like bedbugs, are proliferating. It’s easy to fall into the trap; someone says “Hey, I love that show!” concerning something you’ve never heard of, and a cursory investigation reveals a cartoon whose premise seems silly to you. So you dismiss it. Now, you’re not required to like or even know about anything in this world. If you choose not to partake, no worries. It’s when you decide you have to let the rest of us know, in awful, horrible detail why you don’t care for it that you become a Smug Bastard, living in the damp, dark creases of the Internet.

The Dark Creases

Resting. Smug. Bastard. Face.

Resting. Smug. Bastard. Face.

The Internet, of course, is where most of the Smug Bastards thrive. The disconnect, the digital wall between you and everyone else — plus the other Smug Bastards who rally around you — makes it seem almost okay to shit all over someone else’s enjoyment. You meet Smug Bastards in real life, of course. People who will dismiss all of rap music, for example, as unworthy of their attention, or people who love and praise the worst movies made before 1970 but despise everything since. But it’s on the Internet where the Smug Bastards thrive, clogging up your Facebook feeds with smug declarations that what you enjoy is stupid, or less worthy.

Fuck ’em all.

I’m just as guilty of Smug Bastard Syndrome as anyone else. In fact, where some folks have a Resting Bitch Face I often have a Resting Smug Bastard Face, and my kneejerk reaction to just about, well, everything is bored, superior disinterest. But you know, at least I don’t post it on the Internet or walk around announcing it. When with my fellow humans, when something like Pokémon Go comes up, I smile and feign polite interest.

Because that’s what you do in a society.

So, to repeat: Fuck ’em all. Have a good day.

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Authoring is Hard Work

Cats Ate My DeskIn 2002, a year in which otherwise almost nothing I can remember happened, the New York Times reported that “a recent survey” confirmed the worst fears of many Americans: 81% of the country thought they could write and publish a book. Eighty-one percent. Considering there are about 319 million people in the U.S.A. alone, that means about 258 million people figure that someday when they have some spare time they’ll bang out a novel. Or, more accurately, they’ll go find a writer friend they know, drunkenly explain the story idea with helpful doodles on cocktail napkins as visual aids, and then let that writer friend write and publish the book while splitting the profits 70/30.

At first blush, the 81% number seems high, especially when you consider that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics counts just 129,100 authors and writers in the country as of 2012. Although, when combined with the explosion of self-publishing in recent years, that seems like a dubious number too, especially when you learn that the Bureau also claims the median income for authors and writers is $56,000 a year when most writers are constantly Googling “how to boil shoes for dinner” or “how long can I eat nothing but Ramen before getting scurvy”—although to be fair when you include people like James Patterson or Stephen King or E.L. James in the calculations, that median is going to shoot up quickly.

However, when you think about how many people participate in things like NaNoWriMo every year (more than 300,000 according to the website) and how many people are publishing novels—more than 750,000 traditionally and self-published books annually in the United States alone—it starts to seem like that 81% number might make sense after all.

In reality what this means is that an enormous number of people think they can write and sell a book, but less than 25% of them actually do, one way or another. That’s a big gap, even if we remove those helpful folks who are always offering up brilliant ideas for novels and seeking to split profits and restrict ourselves solely to people who would, you know, actually be willing to write a book. As an author myself, there’s only one explanation for the this discrepancy that makes sense: writing a novel is hella hard. Selling a novel is even harder. Black magic may be involved.

(more…)

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Admitting Defeat

Dear Mr. Manuscript: BURN IN HELL

Dear Mr. Manuscript: BURN IN HELL

SO, a few months ago I had an idea for a novel. It was a little outside my usual light cone, so it was a little scary. But sometimes the best thing to do when you’re not certain about an idea is to steer into it and see what happens, so I leaped in. 80,000 words later I had something that resembled a novel, and “resembles a novel” is the best I can ever hope for, honestly.

I was meeting with my agent, the also-frightening Janet Reid, doing a check-in kind of thing and I mentioned I might have a new novel for her to read. She asked for the elevator pitch, and I started laying out the premise, when she interrupted me.

“I love that,” she said, “as long as the next words out of your mouth aren’t X, X, or X.”

(Note that “X” here represent tropes, concepts, or buzzwords).

“Well,” I said, abashed. “Actually, it is X, X, and X.”

Janet attempted and failed to appear cheerful. “Well, who knows! Maybe you pulled it off.”

Being informed that your big idea isn’t nearly as original as you thought isn’t uncommon, and being blithely unaware that your big idea has been done to death isn’t uncommon, either, at least for me. I’m full of myself enough to ignore such advice when it suits me, however, so I decided that the way I’d approached the concepts set my novel apart. I polished it and sent a draft to my wife The Duchess for a read-through, as she is uncommonly smart.

A few days later, The Duchess reported on progress. “I’m halfway through, and I was really, really loving it until the end of Part I. Then I read the next chapter and it was X, X, and X, and you know I hate X, X, and X!”

So, friends, at this point as a writer who is at least trying to appear professional, you have three choices: One, assume everyone else is crazy and just barrel ahead with your lame novel; two, put it in a drawer and forget all about it, along with the dozens of other set-aside lame novels; or, three, accept that your original idea wasn’t so great and come up with something better. I went and had a whiskey and thought about it, and almost immediately thought of something better. I’ll have to rip out 40,000 words and start in the middle from scratch, but damn it’s a better idea. Much better than X, X, and X, anyway.

None of this means it’ll sell. It may yet wind up in that Drawer of Dead Novels. But at least for once I didn’t just put my head down like Juggernaut, because I have a tendency to ignore good advice. Even when it’s repeated several times, from different people. There’s still no guarantee that this novel will be successful, or sell, but at least it will be better.

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Let’s Contemplate Death, Want To?

Death Becomes Me

Death Becomes Me

My brother and I have an old routine where we discuss how we’d like to die, if we had our druthers. He always defaults to this fantasy of being diagnosed with some sort of movie disease like a Brain Cloud and having an idyllic six months to live, wherein he will feel more or less normal and have all his faculties, and then simply drop dead. The idea is he’ll have the time to liquidate all of his assets and fly out to Vegas, there to live like a modern-day Caligula until he simply keels over in a hot tub filled with prostitutes and, I presume, whiskey.

While I salute my brother’s dream of drinking himself to death when the last moments come, I deprecate his plan for the obvious reasons: None of us get that kind of warning, I don’t think. Or at least a vanishingly small number of us do. Most of us will either have a bus dropped on us without warning, or our last memories will be do I smell toast? or we’ll have a long, grinding road of misery and pain until we just sort of enter a new state of existence known as barely there.

In short, I haven’t known much death in my time, but I do know this: There is no such thing as a good death.

####

Writing often means you have to concoct good deaths for characters. The closer I hue to reality when it comes to death, the less satisfying people find my stories. People like to see just desserts, noble speeches, epiphanies, and deathbed confessions. They like to see death matter in fiction. I strongly suspect this is because almost always death doesn’t mean anything in life. It just is.

####

I think this topic has been on my mind (more than usual, anyway) because my agent, the Redoubtable Janet Reid, recently suggested that I take steps to set up a Literary Executor, someone who would be empowered to handle my Empire of Words after I’d died of acute alcohol poisoning (or, possibly, something else). Now, when your agent suggests you start looking towards a Post-Life Strategy, it makes you think. As in, I thought, Do I look like I’m fucking dying? It seemed like just a few years ago we were chortling over whiskies at Old Town Bar, plotting my eventual literary domination! Now we’re gently pushing my funeral barge into the water, the scent of lighting fluid all around me.

I’m no Stephen King or Nora Roberts, but I get royalty checks, which means my books sell and someone is making money from them. I’m the last stop on the Money Train, it’s true, but it’s still money. So, sure, when I die of (probably) drinking a fifth of bourbon and wandering into traffic whilst singing Irish folk songs, someone’s gonna have to make some decisions. And if I don’t designate someone, who knows what the hell happens. For all I know I signed a bar napkin a few years ago promising some rando they could have my literary empire. I mean, it’s entirely possible. I sign a lot of things.

####

On the other hand, you can’t think too hard about death when you create stories and universes. You have to be like god: eternal and unblinking, otherwise why bother? I mean, when I think about all the stories and novels I have planned for the coming years, I kind of assume I am eternal and ever-living, like Mumm-Ra. You can’t think, oh, I’d like to write this seven-book Sci Fi series, but … you know, chances are I’ll be dead tomorrow, probably from drinking grain alcohol with a lit candle nearby. Better safe than sorry!

So on the one hand, I have to plan for my own demise, when I will likely find myself on trial with every fly, roach, and cow I’ve ever murdered standing in judgment in the afterlife. On the other hand, I have to pretend I will live forever, like the aforementioned Mumm-Ra, or I will produce nothing. It’s kind of a mind fuck, if you ask me.

If anyone is thinking they might be the ideal choice to be my literary executor, I’m sorry to report the post is filled by The Duchess, who will not be amused if you make any attempts to seize control after my unfortunate death from beer poisoning.

And if you are one of the few who find references to Mumm-Ra, The Ever Living entertaining, y’all are my people.

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