Thursday, September 23, 2004

SECRET LIVES--Ziesing Books offer

I've hesitated to blog about the special offer Ziesing Books has been running for fear of being inundated, but what the hell...

I love Ziesing books, and they've been big supporters since the beginning. So I told them they could run a special offer: Every person who orders a copy of my collection Secret Life through Ziesing will receive their own secret life. How it works is, you order the collection and give Mark and Cindy Ziesing information about your profession and maybe one hobby or other fact about yourself (where you live is also good to know). The more interesting the facts you give about yourself, the easier it is for me to write you a secret life.

So then I write a secret life for you, based on that information. I print out the secret life on special paper, sign it, number it "1 of 1", put it in a special envelope, illustrate the front of the envelope, and seal the envelope with wax and a "V" stamp. I send them back to Ziesing in batches and they send them out to you. (Right now, there's probably about a month's lag time between your order and receipt of your own personalized secret life.)

I agreed to do this special offer for orders through at least the end of September. I might extend it for a couple of stragglers in October, but the response has been so overwhelming that I have to put an end date on it or I'll be writing secret lives until I die.

The other thing is, I'll soon have enough secret life mini-stories for a small, limited edition book (and there's interest from publishers). So you will have a unique 1 of 1 item, but it might also appear in a book, too. Which I think may actually increase the worth of the 1 of 1 limited-limited edition you get.

Below find a couple of examples of secret lives. In each case, the first line or two contains information--factual or whimsical--provided by the buyer.



Sidney Miller is currently a water resources planner. In the past, while serving in the military, Sidney worked with chemical weapons in the Persian Gulf and helped destroy them while on the Johnston Atoll near Hawaii. However, few people know that Sidney is perhaps the foremost writer of water puppet plays in the West. This ancient art, developed in Southeast Asia, requires a strong knowledge of the water and of the dramatic arts. In Asia, vast pools are filled with milk to make them cloudy. The puppeteers lurk beneath the water, breathing through straws as they animate the puppets that seem to walk on water. Sidney has forgotten where he got the urge to create water puppet plays, but it was from looking at a Time Golden Book with a blurry photo of a scene from just such a play. Now, Sidney has built a secret swimming pool which he keeps filled with chlorinated milk at all times. For years, he has scribbled down his intricate, twelve-act plays in the margins of official army journals, keeping the details sharp in his memory. Now that he’s settled down as a water resources planner, he has found the time to stage many of the plays. Sidney has a unique style for these plays, since he has been reluctant to tell his family about his pastime—or to enlist other actors in the production of his plays. Or, even, to divulge the secret of his tarp-hidden swimming pool. But many is the rainy Sunday afternoon when he can be found submerged in his milk pool, breathing through a straw, as he manipulates the ten finger puppets on his hands and the ten toe puppets on his feet—creating a great crescendo of drama such as the world has never seen. Someday, he thinks, he will go legit. He will stage his plays at the public pool, to a great and watery applause. Someday...But until then, this is his secret life.


Jim Henry has a fluency with languages that extends beyond his mastery of Esperanto and the languages inherent in being a network systems programmer. Not only has he learned the musical language first put forth by French crackpots in the 19th century—a language that required the intricate use of several musical instruments just to “say” common every-day words—but he has also learned to understand the secret language of dust. Wherever he goes, their voices follow him--small, reedy, mellifluous voices. They call out to him with a poignancy that speaks of decay and loss. As motes swirl around him in the light of the midday sun, he understands that they are only ghosts, only shadows, of the people or animals they once encroached upon, their language a kind of insensate memory of the shapes of the past. Mumbled, whispered, rattled. There’s nothing the dust can’t tell him, if only he listens hard enough.


Kevin Pointer, a network administrator/photographer, dresses in black most of the time. He has demons in his house that open bottles of sake and make him drink it. "Drink the sake, human beast!" they scream at him, cackling and waving their little swords. "Drink it ALL!" So he does, after which the demons usually become much more reasonable and revise their request: "Read us Saki! NOW! Read it all!" And so he reads all of Saki's collected short fiction to them, until they fall asleep, their little black bellies rising and falling from their repast on the couch. It is then and only then that he retires to his bedroom, there to indulge in the particulars of his secret life. Every piece of black clothing he possesses must be cleansed of lint using only a single tweezers. This is a nightly chore, even for clothing he does not remove from the closet. One. Two. Three. Pieces of lint. He squints. Is that another piece, at the seam? Yes. Yes, it is. Pluck, and it is gone, a sense of deep satisfaction welling up inside of him. He achieves a Zen-like level of concentration by removing the lint in this manner. It gives him the fortitude not to gibber with fright and wet himself when the demons demand the drinking of the sake, the reading of the Saki...


Andrew Hatchell travels all week and thus cannot entertain more than one cat on his premises. He must balance his need for the company of cats with his need to sustain a day career as an enterprise data warehousing consultant. By night, however, Andy scours the cities he's sent to for cats in distress. A cat up a tree? No problem. Andy brings his own tiny titanium collapsible ladder with him. A cat beset by dogs? Andy will jump into their midst and break them up, no matter what the cost in bites and possible rabies. A cat hungry? Andy carries cat food in his plastic-lined pockets for just such an eventuality. If there are no cats in definite distress, Andy's will seek out those felines who seem disgruntled or in some way disinclined to purr. A family with a disgruntled cat will get a stern talking to. "Don't you know how to play with your cat?" he will tell the startled family gathered at the front door of their suburban house as he hands their plump tabby to them. "Kitty tease your cat at least once a day." He gives them the evil eye. "If I hear of this happening again I will be back."...Sometimes Andy wears his bulky superhero costume with the kitty ears, and sometimes he doesn't. Depends on the weather.


At 9:44 AM, Blogger Matthew Rossi said...

Damn! I knew I shouldn't have bought it from Amazon before it came out. I may just have to buy two copies...

At 10:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure your secret life would be pretty damn cool, too...


At 1:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm also cursing the fact that I bought my copy before I knew about this offer. On the other hand, I'm not sure what sort of secret life a writer would give a reviewer...

Graham Sleight

At 1:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After the gracious way you put up with my mild grouchy-ness on the New Weird panel, Graham--a very good secret life indeed!


At 7:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I want a secret life!

I have just ordered the book from Zeising Books as fortuitously I have not previously bought it.

Anne S

At 8:43 PM, Blogger Jason Erik Lundberg said...

What about if I ordered the book direct from Golden Gryphon? Any chance on a secret life there?

At 6:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I can't really expand the offer at this point. I wanted to do something special for Mark and Cindy Ziesing, who have been supporting me since the 1990s.


At 6:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I really wish I could, but the offer is just for Secret Life, and just through Ziesing Books. There will be other offers in future for new books of mine when they come out, I'm sure.

For those of you who already bought Secret Life and do not wish to buy another, you can use the following secret life as your own.

X works as a Y in Z. His/her secret life is as an anti-super hero. At lunch, X sneaks out of Z and puts on his/her spandex superhero costume with the big "A" on it. Then X finds the nearest playground experiencing "recess" and helps bullies beat up nerds. Before returning to Z, X then patrols the streets looking for old ladies to trip and boy scouts to hinder in the performance of good deeds. Only thus may the universe be kept in balance and the great god Siva be convinced to let all Life linger for yet another day...

Sorry--that's all I got left.

Exhausted in Tallahassee, and thankful to have readers, I remain,

Jeffrog the Fatigued

At 7:24 AM, Blogger Brendan said...

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