Archive for October, 2007
This morning I woke up in a completely different hotel room. Slightly better condition, more generic. The windows have all been blacked out, and there’s no phone or other indication of where I am. What’s worse, they’ve taken away all my clothes and left behind a note that everything is being laundered in preparation for my appearance at World Fantasy Con in November.
I imagine I’ll meet a lot of interesting people at WFC. Certainly, I’m looking forward to meeting people I’ve worked with or known from a distance, like the incredible Lili Saintcrow. Plus I’m looking froward to meeting people who may have bought my book and liked it. People who bought my book and ended up putting it in the freezer because of its inherent faults and disturbing horribleness, well, I don’t want to meet them so much. I suspect they may try to attack me.
Of course, these sorts of things generally mean answering the same sorts of questions over and over again. One that I get a lot is: Did you have any connections in publishing in order to get published.
There’re writers in this world who are convinced that the world is stacked against them and that you need to have some sort of special relationship or advantage in order to be published. This attitude is less prevalent in the genres than in mainstream fiction, but you still get it–or at least I do, leading me to suspect that people read my prose, scrunch their faces up in confusion, and think How did this kneebiter get published?
Conspiracy theories are easy, of course–any time something doesn’t seem to add up, it’s easy enough to file it under Those Damn Bastards are Screwing Me and move along. Writing is so subjective, and all of us can come up with a short (or not so short) list of writers we think suck, so the jump to imagining that people get published solely due to personal relationships or monied existences or something is tempting. Now, I am sure that this actually happens: There are probably writers who got big advance checks or big promotional pushes or simply got published because they “knew someone”. Or because their social status simply gave them access that the rest of us are denied. But all I can discuss, really, is my own experience, natch. As a matter of fact I am often guilty of making the logical mistake of assuming my own personal experience is general truth, as in I see a little leprechaun named McEgo who talks to me, therefore everyone probably sees lilttle leprechauns which leads, obviously, to me daydreaming about getting everyone’s little leprechauns together and having them grudge match until a Supreme Leprechaun is crowned.
But I digress.
My own personal experience includes almost zero connections. You know how I got published? Baby, I submitted. I licked envelopes until my tongue was raw.
As a matter of fact, I am rather a scourge on the publishing industry as I am too lazy to do things like read guidelines or send for sample issues and such. I kind of blindly paper the world with my submissions and hope for the best, garnering tons of rejections as I do so. Just about every story or novel I’ve sold can be traced back to this sort of submission, including both my novels. And I have the rejections notes here in my desk to prove it, all 1000+ of them*. I’m tempted to start carrying my rejection slips around with me, and the next time someone snidley asks if I had any connections that helped me get published I can pull them out and inflict severe paper cuts on the questioner, shouting incoherently until I removed by security. I mean, my evenings usually end with me being removed by security anyway, might as well get it over with.
I supposed as I get bloated and bloviated and super super famous as a writer this question will die off as everyone assumes I am swimming in a pool of cash and hobnobbing with the literary elite, if indeed people who write books about brain-stealing cyborgs are allowed to get near the literary frickin elite. Until then: Remember kids, you don’t need connections. You need lots of stamps, and the ability to ignore almost all negative comments that come your way.
*A few years ago, when I only had about 500 rejections, I wrote an article about it all in my zine The Inner Swine. You can read it if you like.
“. . .it was a new style for me. Iâ€™m an organic writer by nature, and usually like to waddle around inside a narrative dressed in an imaginary bathrobe, cocktail in hand, exploring, often running up thousands of words before I even have a clear idea what Iâ€™m writing about.”
Every now and then this Internet thing pays off, like yesterday when Dani Romero sent me an email letting me know they’d been inspired to draw a scene from The Electric Church. I was delighted, and asked if I could post it here, and here it is (click for larger version):
“Since it was the most vivid, I chose the scene when the ‘kid’ walked into the room and saw Avery, Pick and Belling in the room, so Pick is at the furthermost left, Avery in the middle, and Belling to the right.”
Rock on! Thanks mucho to Dani for letting me post this.
I’ve once again fallen behind on blathering here, because I am slightly busy. Between revising The Digital Plague and submitting it to my Corporate Masters and beginning the earliest draft of the third, as-yet-not-officially-titled Avery Cates book, I’ve been doing some promotion (i.e., interviews) and resisting summary dismissal at my day job, which is always a near thing considering how often I’ve exploded into incoherent expletives at staff meetings. And then my agent sent me a note asking me to look over the last draft of Chum and revise as I see fit. Chum, for those of you who can’t read my mind, is actually the manuscript that my agent signed me on. It’s not Sci Fi, it’s more of a black comedy with murder thrown in. My agent took it on years ago, but it got back-burnered when the sale of The Electric Church sort of came out of nowhere. She closed her note by saying “that working for a living is totally over rated, right?”
Ha! Who has time for all this? Plus, I’m working on writing the next issue of The Inner Swine. A little personal zine might not seem like much, but when each issue is about 20,000 words and you put it out 4 times a year, it does eat into your time. I’m frickin’ booked.
So, there have been a few interviews to point you towards: First off, Mike Collins interviewed me for Your Mom’s Basement:
11. Your book was chosen as one of the launch titles for Orbit in the US. What’s that been like?
Well, it’s interesting to have so much publishing muscle behind you. My last book was published by the tiniest of tiny publishers and the marketing team was me, my wife, and my Mom. Things went about as well as you can imagine.
Everyone is so excited about Orbit entering the US market–I’ve literally have people go from Listening Politely to Rabidly Interested in my book just because they hear that Orbit’s publishing it. To have that kind of clout behind you is intoxicating, and I’ve started walking about with a crown and a T-shirt that says KING OF ALL SPEC FIC. Is that wrong?
You can read the whole thing here.
Was being a writer always your goal?
At first my goal was to be a brain surgeon. When I was in kindergarten or 1st grade, and people asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I generally said “Brain Surgeon”. It impressed the adults, especially since my Mom liked to dress me in white shirts and ties.
Then, heartbreakingly, I realized one day when I was 27 or so that becoming a brain surgeon would require lots of school, hard work, and a basic understanding of math. So I decided to write.
Whew! Is it any wonder I drink? I mean, this kind of pace is killer. I actually had to wake up before noon the other day. It was traumatic.
This morning, instead of my usual beating for failure to blog, I received a box of chocolates from My Corporate Masters. I haven’t eaten much, or regularly, since being confined to this hotel room, so I threw them up almost as quickly as I could eat them, but it was still a banner day.
The reason? I got some more local press. There’s a really great article on me in today’s Jersey Journal, in their entertainment section called URGE. I was interviewed by the mega-cool Michele Donohue, who turned my mumbled and barely-coherent grunts into something entertaining.
If you’re in the local Hudson area, pick up a copy and let me know what a jackass I come off as. If you’re not local, I think it’ll be added to the web archive in a few days, so you can search on my name at their site soon and find the article there.
When I was plugging my first novel a few years ago I organized the “Big Assed Famous” tour, which was meant to be funny since the end result of a self-organized book tour is bankruptcy, not fame, but I still like the phrase, so you’ll start seeing it an awful lot here. Emphasis on “awful”.
So, I was on the radio last night, on the Joey Reynolds Show, and it was a blast. My lovely wife and I plowed into Manhattan at about 1:45AM and showed up at the studio without incident, and I think I was mildly coherent, emphasis on the word “mildly”.
Everyone was super nice, and Joey is a real marvel. He’s very smart and warm, making you feel at home immediately. His other guest during that hour was the famous writer Marc Eliot, so it was a little intimidating as I was, as usual, the slowest man in the room. Joey was great about throwing me things to talk about, though. When I was first seated in the studio I was alone, and the producer explained the mikes and everything, but no one told me that my time hadn’t yet come and the mike wasn’t going to be on until Joey was ready to talk to me, so I spent a half hour or so grunting into the microphone as Joey and Marc spoke, and no one could hear me.
If nothing else, my name and the title of my book were mentioned a lot, and my pants didn’t fall down while the dying Pac Man sound played softly in the background, so it was a triumph. I almost managed to appear adult and informed, sort of. At least no one had the urge to stand up and slap me during the show.
Anyway, here are some lo-fi MP3s of the show, broken up into 3 delicious parts. Download ‘em and listen to me stammer my way through the show!
I’ll be on the radio for the first time in my life tonight. My Corporate Masters are sending along someone to actually speak for me, as my own voice has been deemed “irritating” and “fey” and “mumbling”. They’ve applied some construction-grade duct tape to my mouth and I will pass notes to the Voice Actor, who will read my comments in a stentorian boom.
Well, I should be insulted, but to be honest I’d love to have a Voice Actor follow me around and boom out my thoughts to the world. I’m much better at communication when I’m writing as opposed to speaking. When I speak I forget words and get lost chasing the tail of my admittedly shallow thoughts, and sometimes my pants just fall down with a whoop noise.
Plus, there’s the cussing.
I don’t actually curse all that much in my daily life, although you probably wouldn’t guess that from my fiction. As several reviews of The Electric Church have mentioned the sheer level of foul language in that book, I suppose it’s something to consider—is there such a thing as too many F-bombs? I wouldn’t think so. Foul language, like everything else, is meant to be used.
In real life, however, I sometimes let loose a string of invective at the wrong times. It sort of comes naturally. I don’t curse a blue streak in general conversation, but if my brain decides a phrase or comment needs a little oomph, it does not hesitate to drop a green and shining curse into the stream of words. Sometimes I realize what I’ve just done and sort of freeze up for a second, shocked at what my own subconscious has done. Then I shrug and move on. To hell with it, I figure, I’ll blame it on the booze.
Will they have a delay button on the radio tonight? Lord I hope so. Maybe I should go into the bathroom and just unleash a string of horrible language, get it out of my system.
In my writing, I make no apologies—certainly you get a sense of the language in the book pretty quickly, so I think a quick scan in the bookstore will turn certain people’s hair white and they will put the book back on the shelves with trembling hands, and that will be that. If you skim the book and buy it and then get upset at me for finding 23 new ways to use the word fuck as an adverb—look at me, I’m the Shakespeare of invective, inventing new cursewords!—well, too damn bad. No refunds.
I was woken up at 2AM last night by several men and women in dark suits, smoking cigarettes and definitely not smiling. Half asleep, I was dragged out of my sheets and into the bathroom, where my head was dunked into ice cold water for thirty seconds. Then I was left to flop on the slimy tile floor for a few moments while one of them sat on the toilet and smoked.
I choked up water and demanded to know what that was for.
“Training,” he said. “Yer goin’ to be up late.”
Believe it or not, I will be on a national radio program, trying to convince people across the country that my book is worth their pesos. I’ll be on The Joey Reynolds Show Wednesday night/Thursday morning:
WHERE: WOR 710 AM
WHEN: 2AM, Thursday 10/11 (or you could think of it as Wednesday 10/10 evening if you like)
WHY: Jeff needs liquor monies, and this will be a good way to announce my new cult I want everyone to join, wherein you give me all your monies.
Please tune in, or at least get the podcast next day, and tell me how incoherent I am. I’ve never been on radio before. I imagine I will have a Brady-esque freezeup moment the second the LIVE light goes on.
Since there’s nothing in my contract that specifies I must blog about my own damn book all the time, I think I’ll take a break here and flog something else. My Corporate Masters might send someone to break a finger or perhaps deny me potable water for a few days again as punishment, but screw it. What’s life without chances?
So I direct your attention to The Whirligig. The Whirligig used to be edited by Frank Marcopolos, who later sold it to the indomitable J.D. Finch. The first issue of the new Whirligig is coming out very soon, and I have a story in it. Huzzah for me.
The Whirligig is a litzine, though now that it’s a paying market I’m not sure it’s a zine, really, but screw semantics. What it is is a grand read—always was under Frank’s stewardship and I have no reason to doubt the new incarnation will live up to the legend. Here’s the description:
“Included will be Bram Stoker nominee Nick (Move Under Ground; Under My Roof) Mamatas with another of his well-wrought entertaining/disturbing stories. Longtime zinester Jeff Somers, who has a new novel called The Electric Church (Orbit) out now, will be represented with a hard-edged story that almost needs a new genre to describe it — how about avant-noir? Jeff will be at WFC with the book, as will I, to catch any stray rays of his reflected glory, which I’ll use to illuminate the wonders of The Whirligigzine, Issue 1a. Or something like that. (Jeff’s site, http://the-electric-church.com/ is worth a visit.)
And if you like hard-hitting stories, where horror is an everyday occurrence and the writing keeps you off balance, Karl Koweski and Kevin Dole2 will set you up with a couple that make Palahniuk look like a sissy. And top it all off with an excerpt from Arik Berglund’s novel The Prodigal sending you on an all-expenses-unpaid trip to one of the circles of an outrageous and hilarious Dantesque hell in the modern world.
And then the poets…
But I’ll tell you about them in another update. They deserve one of their own.”
Finch will be attending World Fantasy Con concurrent with the launch of the first issue, so if you’re planning to be there come find us and we will tell you more than you want to know about TW and my story in it. In the mean time, you can also check the Whirliblog to keep updated. Send him some money, dammit.