Filthy Lucre

Upcoming Releases

It’s tax season, which here in the Somers Compound buried deep under Hoboken (and we do mean buried, as the city removed the entrance/exit long ago) means that we’re slowly being crushed under 1099 forms and other tax documents (delivered via pneumatic tube). When you provide 45% of the Internet’s book-related Think Pieces, you accrue a lot of 1099s. Add on the statements from your agent, your DIY publishing endeavors, and your many Defense Department contracts for the Superweapons Based on Cats project, and it gets kind of cluttered.

Naturally, we’re aiming to make this year even more complex. Aside from writing even more book-related freelance articles to gain more of those precious 1099 forms, we also have a number of fresh, piping hot stories scheduled for 2016. This is all part of my plan to keep the pennies and nickels trickling in so I can fill the underground pool with filthy coins and swim around in them. Which is a lot harder to do than Scrooge McDuck makes it look.

So, here’s a breakdown of everything Somers coming at you this year, so you can plan accordingly and start polishing those nickels and pennies for me.

Avery Cates

The experiment of writing a novel in novella-sized chunks was a lot of fun, but all great experiments must end, so I’ll be releasing Parts 5 & 6 (The Bey & The City Lord) as well as the omnibus edition containing all 6 parts, The Shattered Gears, on 2/15. I originally said they’d go up for pre-order on that date, but now I think I’ll just release ’em. I wanted to keep the print version of the omnibus to $6 or so, but as it turns out that was drunk talk, as the cheapest I can make it is $14.

The Beycity lord_coverThe Shattered Gears Omnibus

The Ustari Cycle

There will be new additions to my other series, The Ustari Cycle, which began with 2014’s We Are Not Good People (technically, with 2013’s Trickster, but that became Part 1 of WANGP). I have four novellas/short stories scheduled for 2016 from this universe. Three of them will be published as eBooks from Pocket Star:

  • The Stringer (August 2016) (Pre-order now!)
  • Last Best Day (2016)
  • The Boom Bands (2016)

And one short story, Crossed Wires, is a collaboration with Stephen Blackmoore for the anthology Urban Allies, out in July, combining my Ustari Cycle characters with his Eric Carter universe in an explosive (and cuss-filled) adventure.

Urban Allies Coming 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bonus Situation

Finally, a standalone short story of mine titled The Bonus Situation is scheduled to appear in Ragnarok Publications’ Mech: Age of Steel anthology. Technically, this is scheduled for January 2017, but what the heck. I’ve already typed all this, I’m not going to erase it now.

mech

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There you go: All the Somers fiction you can handle. Or not handle.

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The Cates Digital Shorts Going Forward

The Shattered Gears Omnibus

The Shattered Gears Omnibus

SO, my little experiment in writing a novel as a series of short story-length sections has been going on for a little more than a year now. Well, a little more than four years, if I’m being honest, as the original section, The Shattered Gears, was originally sketched out in 2011. So far I’ve released sections Two through Four (The Walled City, The Pale, The Iron Island).

I’ve been sticking to a three-month schedule for these releases in order to give myself time to write each one (I’m doing this Full Pantser, writing as I go), but as I sit here I’ve finished sections Five and Six (The Bey and The City Lord).

Well, I say “pantsed” but to be fair I have sketched out brief summaries of twelve additional sections, which would comprise books two and three of this trilogy. And I mean sketched, these are thumbnails at best that just show a basic direction. I’d done the same for the first four, and things changed significantly as I merrily pantsed my way through it, but ultimately I’d say these have been a grand example of what I call plantsing, a hybrid approach to writing (I actually spoke about this and wrote an article about this for Writer’s Digest which will be coming out in 2016, watch the skies!).

There’s some proofin’ and other checking to do (never my strong suits — as I like to tell my editors, I’m more of a Big Idea sort of guy than a spellcheck kind of guy), but basically, the novel is done. In fact, here are the covers for Sections Five and Six:

The Beycity lord_cover

Since they’re complete and ready to go, I’ve decided to accelerate the schedule a bit, so here’s what I’ll be doing:

February 15, 2016: Both The Bey and The City Lord will go on pre-sale, together, at the same time, for anyone who wants to order them.

February 15, 2016: I’ll also be putting The Shattered Gears Omnibus up for pre-order as an eBook and a print book available through Amazon. This is all six sections collected and formatted into a single novel. The goal is to price both as close to $6 as possible, so the cost will be equal whether you bought each section as they came out or bought the omnibus.

March 15, 2016: Everything goes live, I am an instant millionaire, I stop responding to your emails and texts and begin building a Bond Villain Lair somewhere in the Pacific.

Hey! I bought all six digital shorts, do I have to spend another $6 to get the nifty omnibus? Not for the digital version. If you have all six sections, there will be a mechanism for getting a free eBook of the omnibus. Unfortunately, no, there won’t be any way for me to send you a free print version.

When will Sections 7-18 (books Two and Three) be out? I don’t know. My approach and enthusiasm for the second and third books depends a bit on how everything settles out sales-wise for this one, and my schedule. I do plan to write these at some point, but am also kind of hoping that I’m so spectacularly busy being paid to write other things in 2016 I have to postpone them, so, frankly, we’ll see. On the other hand, if in the final analysis the first one does really well I’d have to move these up in priority. I’ll let y’all know.

So, there you have it, The Plan Going Forward. To everyone who has downloaded, read, and reviewed, these digital shorts: Thanks! I hope you’ve enjoyed them as much as I enjoyed writing them. Cheers!

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880

I GOT BLISTERS ON ME FINGERS

I GOT BLISTERS ON ME FINGERS

Ever have one of those moments when you think about something and realize some insane fact or statistic? Happens to me all the time. I’ve mentioned my casual relationship with time before; things just slip by me, and that also translates to being generally unaware of statistics about my life. Like how old I am. Or how many pairs of pants I’m currently wearing (the Margin of Pants Error is HUGE).

So today I was wondering how many freelance articles I wrote this year. Don’t why it occurred to me to think about it; generally I’m much more interested and concerned about how much money I’ve earned writing freelance pieces, as money can be readily exchanged for liquor, whereas vague reflections on the professional year that was usually cannot. So I sat down and counted them all, and the number is 880.

Eight hundred and eighty.

Now, more than half of those you won’t see my name next to, as they were ghost-written. And thank god. A lot of freelance writing is like doing porn: You’re not ashamed, per se, because it takes skills most people don’t have and you got paid for it. But it doesn’t mean you want the relatives looking it up online when you come home for the holidays. But that does leave more than 400 essays and articles that do bear my name, and at any rate 880 is just a big number. And December just started. It’s possible, though unlikely, I’ll hit 1,000 before the year’s out.

At any rate, even if I got hit by a bus tomorrow and couldn’t write good no more, I’d still average more than 2 articles a day, and since I spend my weekends in an alcoholic haze that means I actually average much more on a typical work day. That just makes me sleepy. Who was this energetic, motivated person cranking out these writings? Not me, certainly. I like to sleep in, nurse my hangovers, and read essays about Doctor Who Easter Eggs online.

In-between all that freelance writing, I also wrote one novel, got about 50% through two other novels, wrote a number of essays for other websites in the spirit of self-promotion, and 24 short stories with one more about 90% finished as I sit here. And submitted 23 of those stories to markets, selling exactly one. And that doesn’t even count blog posts — oh so many blog posts. I am, without meaning to be, one busy motherfucker.

What’s my point? Aside from once again underscoring the fact that my sole skill in this life is tapping a keyboard in creative ways, it goes to show the value of putting your head down. I didn’t start the year with a stretch goal of 1,000 freelance articles plus assorted fiction. I started the year thinking about writing one piece that day to make a certain amount of money. It’s the same with a novel or a short story. Start with the first line, go from there. Don’t think about how many you’ve piled up. Word count is useful, but distracting: Ignore it until you need to know what it is (i.e., when you’re sending it somewhere for submission or evaluation).

I am suddenly exhausted, so my stretch goal of improving the Margin of Pants Error has to be deferred until 2016. I’m sure you understand.

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Pre-Order “The Pale”

The Pale: An Avery Cates Story

The Pale: An Avery Cates Story

So, here is the third Avery Cates short story in my ongoing writing experiment: The Pale. Out on September 15, it’s available for pre-order over at Amazon and Kobo at the moment, with Google Play to follow. It’ll be available for Nook in September.

I’ve also gone ahead and created a dedicated web page for this new series, as it appears I’m actually going to keep doing this and deliver three novels in short-story slices. Why not? I’m having fun.

In The Pale, we pick up where we left off in The Walled City as Cates is on the road trying to put distance between him and The Angels. He meets an old man with a … peculiar companion, who decides to accompany Cates for security. A decision he regrets as it becomes clear that someone is hunting Avery.

Check it out!

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Hanzai Japan

Hanzai Japan

Hanzai Japan

One of the great joys of writing, for me, is selling a short story. I can’t explain it: You can’t live on the money you make, you often get very little notice for it, and yet I’m privately incredibly excited whenever I manage to convince someone that some chunk of words is worth paying me for.

My short story “Three Cups of Tea” will be included in the forthcoming Hanzai Japan from Haikasoru, which naturally makes it your priority. “Tea” is a Philip K. Marks story; this is the fourth story I’ve sold starring Mr. Marks, who’s a sort of run-down paranormal detective with huge chunks of his life missing from his memory (but not from some unpublished stories). For some reason when I think of Marks I tend to get some really awesome ideas.

I have some stiff competition in this anthology, though. Here’s the complete TOC:

Genevieve Valentine “(.dis)”

Yusuke Miyauchi “Sky Spider”

Libby Cudmore “Rough Night in Little Toke”

Ray Banks “Outside the Circle”

Yumeaki Hirayama “Monologue of a Universal Transverse Mercator Map”

Brian Evenson “Best Interest”

Jyouji Hayashi “Vampiric Crime Investigative Unit: Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department”

Naomi Hirahara “Jigoku”

Carrie Vaughn “The Girl Who Loved Shonen Knife”

Kaori Fujino “Run!”

S. J. Rozan “Hanami”

Violet LeVoit “The Electric Palace”

Setsuko Shinoda “The Long-Rumored Food Crisis”

Jeff Somers “Three Cups of Tea”

Chet Williamson “Out of Balance”

Hiroshi Sakurazaka “The Saitama Chain Saw Massacre”

Get excited and pre-order this one today! And while you’re at it, buy Haikasoru’s other anthologies: The Future is Japanese and Phantasm Japan.

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New Avery Cates Short Story Coming

Walled_coverSo, Avery Cates is not only my first published book series, it’s also a character close to my heart and one I thoroughly enjoy writing. And while I’m busy with a lot of other projects, sitting down and writing an Avery story always remains in the back of my head, so I’m giving in, slowly.

A few months ago I published The Shattered Gears, a short story that was also the nub of a new Avery adventure. Since then I’ve written The Walled City, which will be released as a short story on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and Google Play on June 15th, 2015, again for 99 cents. It’s a direct continuation of the story from The Shattered Gears. It’s available for pre-order now, in fact!

I have a whole story arc laid out, and what I’m going to do, until someone tells me to stop, is write chunks of the story and release them as novella-length pieces. Each piece will be a standalone story as well as a piece of a larger story. When all the chunks are out, I’ll combine them into the complete novel and release it separately.

Why not? This way I’m not trying to write a whole novel while trying to write six other things, but I still get to play in my favorite universe and sell some writing. It’s a win-win, I think.

Feel free to spread the word to any Avery fans out there. Here’s a little video trailer I made for the new story:

Any questions, just shoot me an email!

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Why I Was So Smug in College

Digging through rejections, another non-rejection that’s still kind of interesting, I think. I’ve told this story before, but now with pictures!

Back in 1989 I was a young kid, and I’d written a science fiction novel called White Rabbit, which was about a specially trained agent of a galactic civilization who could control his musculature so minutely he could actually change his appearance just by concentrating in order to infiltrate groups and such. On a mission, he discovers a terrible secret, and finds himself at odds with his own people, and on the run. Yada yada yada. Was it good? I haven’t read it over in 26 years, so who the hell knows. I did, however, manage to get someone to agree to publish it. In fact, I have the letter to prove it (and the contract):

Sic-Sic by the Seaside? WHAT THE HELL, 17-YEAR OLD ME?

Sic-Sic by the Seaside? WHAT THE HELL, 17-YEAR OLD ME?

Yup, not only was he not looking for submissions, and not only did I apparently write him an incoherent cover letter in which I assigned us code names, I also left several pages out of the photocopy I sent him. PROFESSIONALISM: Look into it. Hey, I was in high school! And any way, it worked: He wanted to publish me. We actually signed a contract. There was no advance, and about a year and a half later he wrote to say he had to cancel everything due to financial and health reasons.

Just goes to show that you just never know. I mailed 350 pages of manuscript, unsolicited, to a guy based on a (dubious) listing in the Writer’s Market, and came close to actually seeing a novel in print. No wonder I was such a prick when I arrived at college.

What I really wish is that I could see the letters I wrote this guy, especially that first one. I have no copies of them, and this was snail mail, so my letters are likely lost forever. That first letter must have been something, though, and certainly set the tone for the rest of my literary career. Which is to say: Batshit.

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Rejection-palooza Part the Fourth

Once again, I’ve taken a walk through my many, many, many rejections letters in search of interesting or humorous things. This time I switched over to my pile of short story rejections.

I write a fair number of short works out of love, and also because I think writing short stories keeps you in practice. By forcing myself to think up a premise and knock out 1,000 – 5,000 words that conclude with a recognizable ending every month, I’m keeping my skills sharp. Or so I tell myself. Whatever, shut up. Anyways, as a result of this practice I have tons of short stories to sell, and so I, er, sell them. I’ve been trying to hawk my short stories for decades, and I have the rejections to prove it.

These days, most of those rejections are emails, because I don’t submit via paper any more. But back in 2006 I was still sending out paper submissions, with HILARIOUS cover letters. Trust me: Hilarious cover letters for the win. I got this response for a short story called “Time’s Thumb”:

NO PANTS for the win.

NO PANTS for the win.

I don’t recall what I wrote in the cover letter about my pants, but it amused the editor enough to invite me to submit again. Did I? I honestly can’t recall right now. Probably not, because I am incompetent.

I do think selling writing is 50% finding someone on the other side that sees things the way you do, who gets your jokes and references. Making an editor laugh is a good way to be memorable to them, and to wedge your story into their brains. Also, it’s one more step towards a world where everyone just accepts that I don’t wear pants. Mission: Accomplished.

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The Vantage Disadvantage

So, we’ve been discussing Jeff’s awesome History of Fail in terms of rejection letters I’ve gotten along the way to my stunning … is “success” the word we’re using? Anyway, yes: Rejections. I have many. This one actually isn’t a rejection. And it made me very angry. And if you’ve ever met me, you know it’s really difficult to make me angry. Like, people have stabbed me and I’m all like “Oh, no worries.”

Subsidize This

If you were submitting novels to every single listing in the Writer’s Digest back in the Day, you probably came across Vantage Press. Founded in 1949, sued for millions in 1990, they finally shuttered in 2012 and were for a time the most recognizable and well-known “vanity” publisher, or subsidy publisher. This was in the Dark Times before POD and easy eBook self-publishing, you see, and it worked like this:

  1. 17-year old Jeff mails a photocopy of his novel Cravenhold (previously discussed) to Vantage Press via the listing in the Writer’s Market, which does not mention the words “vanity” or “subsidy”.
  2. Jeff receives the following letters, informing him a) they love the novel and want to publish it! b) it will only cost Jeff $14, 675 to do so [the fact that I would be paying them and the actual amount wasn’t in the letter; it was in the contract] ! c) wait, what?
Why yes, I *am* pleased.

Why yes, I *am* pleased.

That’s right: A mere $15,000 (that’s about $30,000 in 2015 dollars, BTW) and my book would be published! Along with this list of absolutely hilarious promotional efforts:

"Study additional promotional steps after publication." UH, *sure*.

“Study additional promotional steps after publication.” UH, *sure*.

Yes, an advertising announcement not in The New York Times, but the “The New York Times”! And they will “suggest” “autograph parties” (what in bloody hell is an “autograph party?)! But the best is the “Production Specifications” section at the bottom, which assures me the trim size will be “about” 6×9, and that it will be printed on “quality” paper.

I mean, seriously. That this place operated for more than 60 years is a crime. I was 17 but not stupid, so I wrote them back a nasty letter telling them to return my manuscript or I would burn their place of business down. And this is what I got in response:

Just THIRTY THREE easy monthly payments of $350.

Just THIRTY THREE easy monthly payments of $350.

Yup – a fucking discount. They were sorry to hear I wasn’t incredibly stupid, or rich, or both, so they generously double-tapped me by suggesting I was so fucking talented, they could swing publication for just $11,675, saving me $3,000 over the suckers who didn’t bitch and moan. Even better is the suggestion that I could make monthly payments of $350 and they “would work on your book as we received the payments” so my book would publish three years later.

Oh this was rich. So I wrote a second letter demanding they return the manuscript or I would show up at their offices and perform the Daffy Duck Gasoline Trick He Can Do But Once, and they finally relented and returned my manuscript … but included this final gem of passive aggression:

"we do believe it would be worthwhile for you to make the effort."

“we do believe it would be worthwhile for you to make the effort.”

Holy hell. “You might be one of the fortunate few.”

I mean, seriously: My fault for not knowing any better, but assholes like this are why people think publishers are evil gatekeepers. Don’t worry; a few years later in 1990 they were successfully sued and ordered to pay $3.5 million to 2,200 authors who had paid them for services that were never actually performed, and the business moved to Massachusetts. Still, they stayed somehow in business for another twenty-two years, and apparently when they closed up shop they left a lot of authors in the lurch. Just goes to show: I’m dumb, but I ain’t that dumb.

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How to Annoy Your Agent

Your Anti-Monkey Rhetoric Makes Me Sad.

Your Anti-Monkey Rhetoric Makes Me Sad.

When you’re a young writer seeking an agent, you always think getting an agent will be like it is in the movies: They’ll buy you an expensive lunch and then start sending you plenty of contracts. In other words, we all think getting an agent is pretty much the same as becoming rich and famous. And then you get an agent and you discover what it really means is there’s someone to tell you how incredibly annoying you are, and that if you weren’t such a genius writer they would certainly have a restraining order against you.

This past week I tortured my lovely agent excessively with a series of oddball contracts, opportunities, and mysterious contacts from mysterious people. I had the following conversation with her at least three times:

<phone rings>

ME: Hello I am required by court order to inform you that I am not wearing pants.

AGENT: What in the sweet sainted hell is this?

ME: A short story contract.

AGENT: Who wrote it? Monkeys? DID MONKEYS WRITE THIS CONTRACT?

ME: Uh —

AGENT: IS THIS A JOKE? ARE YOU PRANKING ME? I Swear if you are pranking me I will have you killed.

ME: Uh — No prank. Is it okay to sign?

AGENT: Jebus. Yes, I’ll mark a few changes and you can sign it. Tell whoever wrote this contract they should plan carefully to never meet me in a dark alley.

And so on.

I did earn the ultimate compliment from my agent, though, when I sent her something on Saturday night around 10PM and happened to catch her still checking email (and a version of the conversation above did in fact occur), when she said “You really do provide the most entertainment of any client I have.”

Frankly, if I make you swear and then tell me I’m entertaining in the same breath, I figure I am doing my job as a writer. Right? This is why you need an agent: A lot of people out there think they know how to write a contract, or how to run a magazine or publisher, or how to do, well, anything. As a writer I have realized that the ONLY thing I know how to do competently is write (and believe me, there is a long string of Day Jobs where world-weary bosses will back me up on that). There have been plenty of contracts large and small that I would have signed without hesitation, only to pause when I spied the rictus of horror my agent’s face had taken on.

Am I saying that without my agent by now I’d have signed a contract written by monkeys and would be, in fact, working for Monkey Overlords and being paid in abuse and grooming sessions? That is exactly what I’m saying.

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