Steven S. Drachman's Blog

April 19, 2015

Monday is my 50th birthday, and I’ve kind of planned the day out already. I’m going to wake up on my own at 5:30 in the morning, make myself a big bowl of oatmeal and a big mug of Postum, take some blood pressure pills, then some pills to counteract the side effects of the blood pressure pills, and then I will go out for the vigorous walk that the doctor recommends. When I get back, I’ll take some Metamucil, fall asleep and dream about Alice Faye. When I wake up from my mid-morning nap, I’ll realize with some shock (not to mention disappointment) that Alice Faye does not love me, and that I’ve slept through my pool aerobics class, so I’ll watch the morning reruns of Matlock and Murder She Wrote, then I’ll watch some Cavett on PBS before my early afternoon nap. Cavett is very thoughtful for a young person, I will think, as my head starts to nod. While I am asleep, Ira and Saul will come by for our bridge game, but I’ll be asleep, so they’ll go play bingo on 4th Avenue. The Hell with them, anyway. When I wake up, I’ll look around for those racy paperbacks about sexy ladies from Venus, a planet where no one wears any clothes and everyone is a sexy woman, which I stashed somewhere in the apartment back in the 1950s, and when I can’t find them, I’ll start boozing. At around 4:30, I’ll head over to Pete’s (you know, on the corner) for the early bird special, but on the way I’ll break my hip.
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Published on April 19, 2015 18:20 • 1 view

March 15, 2015

So here is a little story from my life. When I am not writing these critically acclaimed (and adequately selling) historical fantasy sagas, I work in an office engaged in tasks that involve pens and paper, among other things.

In the office pantry is a “Flavia” coffee machine.

(Yes, I am very uncomfortable with the name “Flavia.” It doesn’t make me think of coffee. But that’s a debate for a different day. Just so you know, I am not comfortable using the word “Flavia” in polite company. But it’s important to tell this story as it really happened.)

Yesterday, I went into the pantry, put my coffee mug in the receptacle, put a coffee envelope into the machine, and I pushed the “brew” button. The machine began to prepare to brew.

(It takes a minute or so before the coffee begins to squeeze out of the machine into the cup.)

I then paced to the back of the pantry, where the xerox machine resides, next to an alternate exit.

So you see the setup?

The coffee cup was sitting in the machine, and the machine was just GETTING READY to dispense the coffee. I was in the back of the pantry, not standing by the machine. I was in back of the pantry, pensive, quiet.

At that point, the nice lady came into the pantry. You know who I mean - that lady who works in the cubicle in the far north of the office, just before the glass doorway. The nice one, who always has a nice word for everyone.

Anyway, she went to the coffee machine, and as soon as she got there, it BEGAN to dispense the coffee, unasked, into a ghostly coffee mug.

The nice lady gasped. She took a nervous step back.

At that point, I walked over and said Good morning.

She breathed a sigh of relief.

“Oh thank goodness,” she said. “I thought it was a poltergeist.”

We had a good chuckle, a sort of office chuckle.

“I totally, totally believe in all of that,” she said.

So here is how legends get started:

I am nearly fifty years old, just a few weeks shy of 50. I look a little gray, a little sickly greenish. The pallor isn’t, you know, good. (I once fell asleep in a meeting, and when I woke up, the young direct marketing chick was standing over me, crying. “I thought you were dead,” she sobbed. “On the one hand, I was sad. On the other hand, it was beautiful. Because you looked so peaceful.”)

I have a very distinctive coffee mug. It has a picture of two grubby angels. One of my daughters bought it for me when she was little. Everyone knows this coffee mug, because I’m always leaving it in other people’s offices after meetings and pissing everyone off. “Come in here and get your stupid coffee mug, you idiot.” Oh, if I had a nickel for every time ….

So just imagine if I had put the coffee mug into the Flavia receptacle, paced around, then thought of something I needed to do, left via the back exit of the pantry, forgetting about my coffee mug as I am wont to do, just as the nice lady entered the pantry. Then imagine that on my way to whatever-it-was I needed to do, I collapsed in a heap, dead before I hit the floor.

The nice lady would have seen the coffee machine begin to dispense coffee by itself, prompted by an invisible, ghostly finger. She would have recognized the coffee mug.

She would have heard news of my death moments later.

“It was his spirit, his ghost,” she would have insisted. “His ghost was getting one last cup of coffee before departing the Earth.”

And she would have believed it.

(Collapsing in a heap is not such a stretch of the imagination, apparently, at my age and with my light turd-gray/green skin color. Most people, I understand, have been expecting it for a while and are kind of surprised to see me each morning.)

This would have become the story of the Ghost of that-stupid-guy-with-the-stupid-Coffee-Mug, the Poltergeist of Wall Street. No actual magic would have been involved, no spirit, no ghost. Just a Flavia coffee machine that takes about a minute to brew and dispense coffee, and a distracted middle-aged man who always forgets to take his coffee cup with him.

Yet, still, this would have been an incredible mystery, proof of eternal life. And from then on, whenever one of my kids or grand-kids went on a job interview, someone would recognize her last name and say, “NO! Not the Poltergeist of Wall Street. Holy what-the - ! I LOVE that story.”

OK, thanks.

Get back to whatever you were doing.
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Published on March 15, 2015 17:50 • 14 views • Tags: flavia, ghosts, poltergeists

February 16, 2015

My second book came out in 2014 to a rather surprisingly enthusiastic initial response and healthy (initial) sales, and if I were a more organized man, we might have seen 2015 as the year I wrapped up the whole thing with the wind at my back and momentum in the air.

But then came the August Gaza war, and I got it in my head that the time might be right to unveil the peace plan I'd been debating with cab drivers for the last ten or fifteen years. I called it "The New Framework," which was perhaps a little less snappy then it should have been. ("Independence with Benefits" could have gotten some sexy attention in America.)

Almost a year later, I have an ebook and Ted talk on Israel/Palestine peace under my belt, a highly perused Facebook peace page (ten thousand followers and counting) and one failed 501(c)(3). The status quo reigns in Israel and Palestine. If all the people who had sent me messages letting me know they wanted to kill all the Jews had actually bought my book, I'd be laughing all the way to the bank. Three people "want to read" my peace book on Goodreads. I didn't know that there was any book ever written that only three people want to read ....

The fact seems to be that the world, and even cocktail party chit-chat, is pretty sick of the Jews and the Palestinians at this point, and indeed, what could be more boring than another argument about whether Israel overreacted to missiles flying over their borders. The usual suspects say yes, and the usual suspects say that no country in the world would accept the reality of missiles flying over their borders every day. Except that every country in the world has now been forced to accept the reality of terrorism, so that line doesn't really hold water. And terrorism in Israel is less interesting and less effective than terrorism in Norway, Holland, France, Syria, Libya, Jordan, England, Egypt and everywhere else.

There are outliers on both sides who offer hope - I spent the night before Thanksgiving having drinks with an Algerian activist and an Egyptian activist, both good fellows - but for the most part the Jews are digging in their heels, insisting that the Palestinians can have peace whenever they decide they love their children more than they hate us, and the Arabs are digging in their heels as they demand pre-conditions for peace (an apology, a withdrawal to the Green Line, all the Jews leaving their land, right of return, and so on). The terms of reference are crazily different - Israel's War of Independence is not just the Nakhba but also the "Israeli Invasion" in Arab parlance. And years of indoctrination have left many Arabs absolutely incapable of believing that there is any good Jew in the world. Too many Jews have told me that "the Arabs don't want peace." Well, of course they do -- but not all of them want peace with the Jews. It is tough to figure out what to do with a dispute in which everyone is wrong. Worst of all, though, are the meddling outsiders - from the college students in South Africa who have just voted to expel all the Jews to the ridiculous co-op members in Park Slope, Brooklyn who fight over whether to boycott Israeli humus, and an idiotic neighbor of mine who uses his daddy's money to fly to Israel to protest by the security barrier. On the other side, there's AIPAC, and the Republican House and Senate. All offering false hope.

To which I have now added my name. In addition to the messages of hate, people have also written to me that they can see an end to the conflict for the first time; "for the first time, I can see hope."

I am still a believer, and I still believe that it could all happen all happen right now. If anyone is willing to listen, I would be most grateful.

In the meantime, I have some good news about Watt O'Hugh - a podcast, an opera, an animated TV show, and even (finally) a book 3 is coming in the months and (with respect the last two) years to come.

I haven't forgotten you; please don't forget me.
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Published on February 16, 2015 08:43 • 50 views • Tags: historical-fantasy, israel, middle-east, palestine, peace, science-fiction, war, watt-o-hugh

December 17, 2014

On January 1, I predicted that 2014 would be a pretty bad year - it was just in the air. There was almost a movie sense of foreboding when I walked out into that terrible underpopulated overcast Brooklyn gloom. There were a lot of real warning signs too, in America and around the world.

A lot of people didn’t take me seriously or thought I was joking. I gave a Q1 report that seemed to be proving me right, then a Q2 report that seemed to be proving me right, and by Q3, this year was too traumatic for me even to think about. 2014 was so bad, I really almost can’t remember how to spell the word “good.”

I believe that my prediction has been proven correct.

On the world news front, 2014 was one of the worst for death and destruction without a world war - really wretched terror and death, globe-wide. Do I need to list it? From Gaza, to Isil, to Egypt to Ukraine … A massive epidemic that shut down Africa; so many people dying now in Africa. Really, how much do people in Africa have to go through?

The world economy remains bad, worse elsewhere but still bad. Global warming is proving a reality that we’re doing nothing about because of rich America oligarchs. More species went extinct this year. For some reason, U.S. politicians think this is funny. (“Oh, the poor golden toad,” they laugh after a caviar lunch with the Koch brothers. “Ha ha ha. Liberals care so much about the golden toad. Ha ha ha.”)

The U.S. saw more gridlock, a slow economic recovery with the superwealthy widening the gap with everyone else, racial violence, an increase in school shootings. Obamacare remains under attack and could be gone soon … In entertainment news, I’ll never get over Bill Cosby, and almost everyone else whose name I still know died in just awful ways. And any year in which Lou Reed is still dead is a sad year. (Knowing that my childhood hero, Bill Cosby, systematically drugged and raped women over the course of decades makes 2014 seem like a Vonnegut satire, not like real life at all.)

Listen, it’s not my imagination - this really was a horrible year. I know you could take examples pro and con from any year, but it would be pretty hard to make a case for this being a good one. I mean, we had some bad years before - 1918 comes to mind, and I probably would not have wanted to be around in 1351. But this year is like 1918 and 1351 combined. Can you think of something really good about this year?. Ummm …. the Oscars were better?

People I know, other late-40ish men who have been out of work longer than they should, have had to listen to Paul Ryan lecture them on their dependency because after a lifetime of taxes they thought the government might help us. Instead it cut unemployment benefits.

What will it take for 2015 to be “good?” U.S politics is shot, but I’ll accept a Supreme Court decision upholding Obamacare, weak growth with no major economic collapse, no more police killing unarmed black people minding their own business (not a single one, not one) and a 25% drop in school and other public gun massacres. (Can we manage a 25% drop?) Internationally, all we can hope for is that the really extravagant level of outrageous killing declines somewhat. I don’t know what we can ask for in public health in Africa - maybe just a certain level of people-giving-a-damn?

Anyway, Happy New Year everyone -
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Published on December 17, 2014 17:21 • 58 views • Tags: 2014, new-year

October 7, 2014

It's always tough when the initial whoop-de-doo over a book dies down, it's no longer appearing someplace every day (and so my Google searches are boring) and I realize I've got to get around to writing the next one! Home sick all day and didn't write a word.

I'm going to wrap the whole Watt O'Hugh story up in Book 3 rather than the previously promised (threatened?) 5 books. You know, I got a little sidetracked this summer writing a book about world peace (not kidding - buy it if you're interested in such things) and I'm not getting any younger! Book 3 will be entitled, "Watt O'Hugh: And Then I Died ...." (The man's in his 90s, I hope that doesn't come as a shock or a spoiler! But I can tell you, I've got some surprises up my sleeves.)

In other news, as you may know, Chickadee Prince Books is about to publish its first non-Drachman book, a YA sci-fi trilogy that's already won amazingly great pre-publication reviews. (It's much better than my books, I can tell you that with envy.) More on that very soon, this week I hope.
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Published on October 07, 2014 14:54 • 18 views

September 28, 2014

I wanted to let you all know that I have a new ebook single entitled Enough Already: A Framework For Permanent Peace in a New Palestine and Israel.

The title is pretty much self explanatory. The publication coincides with my TedX Talk last week on the same subject. The talk will be available on the web in about three weeks, but the book is available now, for only 99 cents.

I'd love to hear what you think.
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Published on September 28, 2014 09:57 • 46 views • Tags: israel, middle-east, palestine, peace, war

September 14, 2014

Thanks to everyone who has reviewed my books on Goodreads!

If I could ask you also to post your reviews on Amazon, it would be a great help to me in reaching even more readers and keeping the momentum going.

You can find it here.

Thanks very much for your help -
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Published on September 14, 2014 08:20 • 31 views • Tags: ghosts-of-watt-o-hugh, indie-books

September 5, 2014

The Story so Far:

Chelsea Cain wrote a couple of FaceBook posts at one in the morning, telling her fans not to send her stupid questions, and she used the eff word.

As for me, my readers can send me any questions they want. I am happy to be your personal client service representative. Get in touch any time. Her posts were rude, and she got a lot of blowback.

So today, she deletes her prior, extremely mildly testy posts because her publisher asked her to and because they do not have time to deal with all the hysteria she "apparently whipped up," but then she repeats everything all again in attempting to justify her prior extremely mildly testy post and clarifies that she doesn't "apologize for a single word of my earlier posts," which she had to delete so that her publisher would not have to deal with all the hysteria. New hysteria predictably ensues! The poor woman has a gun aimed at her own foot - someone stop her before she shoots again! (Once again, as someone who from time to time may have sent an email I later regretted, I have a great deal of sympathy for her, but a time comes when you just have to get off the computer, drink some warm milk, maybe go on a long hike and calm down.) As someone who in the past every once in a while lost his temper, I have a lot of sympathy (empathy?) for people who occasionally act like assholes. (And by "the past," I include yesterday and the day before.) I'm going to buy her most recent book (the one that didn't make the Times best-seller list in spite of great reviews and lots of early enthusiasm, which is what set off all these tantrums) just because I feel sorry for her. So maybe this whole "being a jerk" thing is working for her.

But more broadly, it's a disturbing development when we want our novelists to be "nice." If Frederick Exley, William Styron, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and John Cheever were alive today, I would expect their FaceBook pages to be filled with lots of 1 in the morning drunken rants and profanity much worse than the very mild umbridge expressed by the likes of Chelsea Cain at 1 in the morning (possibly drunk, because she has admitted in earlier posts that she drinks). Why? Because they were a pretty rotten bunch who wrote great books when they weren't passed out in their own vomit. Frederick Exley, for example, wrote A Fan's Notes, a great book about what a jerk he was, when drunk AND sober. I love the book but would not want to be his FaceBook friend. There are plenty of people who communicate badly with other people and have this or that psychological issue, whether inborn or acquired, who just simply cannot help it and don't understand what they are doing wrong and who therefore shouldn't get jobs as receptionists or restaurant greeters (or generally work with other people at all), and if they are lucky enough to become novelists, we should let them spend all day in their pajamas wrestling with their demons, and we should still enjoy their books, if their books are good, and, unless they are friends or family or loved ones, we shouldn't bother them while they are wrestling with their demons, or we should expect a rude response from time to time if we choose to try to befriend them over the internet. The idea of boycotting an author's books because she's not very nice all the time, or because she lost her temper once at 1 in the morning, is a pretty remarkable idea. To be clear, I am in favor of people being nice to everyone else all the time, but the fact is that a lot of novelists aren't nice to everyone else all the time, and not reading their books if their books are good hurts no one but the person not reading their books.

That said, I AM nice to my readers all the time. And I love to hear from you. And I will never curse you out.
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Published on September 05, 2014 09:44 • 713 views • Tags: chelsea-cain

June 19, 2014

I am honored that the very prominent website, SF Signal, has published the first chapter of Watt O'Hugh Underground.

Please do take a look if you haven't read it yet or you're on the fence - plenty of punching and shooting and time roaming, all in one chapter.
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Published on June 19, 2014 12:40 • 23 views • Tags: time-travel, western-science-fiction, westerns

June 15, 2014

Dear Readers,

"Forces of Geek" have exclusively published the prologue to my new book, Watt O'Hugh Underground, so you can give it a try. If you like it, buy it. If you don't like it, then, hell, it's only the damn prologue. Buy it anyway.

No shooting or punching in the prologue; a little wistful romance, wistful time roaming, and wistful scenes of New York back in the 1860s. (Painstakingly and wistfully researched.)

I guess what I am saying is that the book starts ouit on a wistful note, but, I promise, Chapter 1 has lots of shooting and punching.

Love from,
your old pal, Drax
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Published on June 15, 2014 14:23 • 86 views • Tags: free, historical-fantasy, watt-o-hugh, western