Archive for April, 2008

Another Review of TDP

By | April 30, 2008 | 0 Comments

Hey there hi there ho there–just a quickie to point y’all to another very positive review of The Digital Plague. Yahoo!

“Let’s be honest here: Jeff Somers may never win a Hugo Award. Nevertheless, as long as he cranks up these explosive and entertaining balls to the wall and action-packed near-future thrillers, Somers will continue to rank pretty high on my reading list! Two volumes into the Avery Cates series, and these books are definitely becoming addictive!”

Huzzah! I never wanted a Hugo anyways.

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Miscellany

By | April 28, 2008 | 6 Comments

TDPHola, my beautiful babies: Been away for a bit due to unavoidable personal business. But my thoughts were never far from y’all! As in, damn, I hope all those people are pre-ordering copies of my new book The Digital Plague right now! and similar sentiments.

Speaking of: The second review is in! Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review has weighed in on TDP, and thank goodness, they like it:

“Highly recommended to anyone who likes their sci-fi mean, streetwise and drenched in bullets!”

Check it out and then buy four copies so’s I can drink my blues away.

ALSO, Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist is giving away a copy or two of the book to a few lucky readers, so surf on over, scan the rules, and put your name in. Why not?

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Filthy Lucre

By | April 19, 2008 | 1 Comments

I was reading Nick Mamatas’ interesting take on SFSignal’s posting “MIND MELD: Is the Short Fiction Market in Trouble?” the other day. The long and short of the SFSignal piece concerns the SF short story market, whether anyone can make a living writing short stories any more, and how the payment for short stories hasn’t kept up with inflation. Nick’s look at it is, as always, interesting stuff:

“I’m reminded of the equally old canard that ‘Nobody can make a living writing novels anymore,’ which shares an implicit claim with the short story version of the complaint. When someone complains about making a living writing novels, what they really mean to say, ‘I cannot maintain a bourgeois existence that matches the perceived social status of being a novelist by writing just the novels I would like to and at the rate I’d wish to’. . .While generally not possible to make a living writing short stories for genre magazines and anthologies. . .even when it was possible it was hardly anything more than a miserable existence. The ‘can’t make a living’ crowd makes the same error as a novel crowd: they are ultimately complaining that they cannot make a living writing just those stories they wish to write, at the rate they wish to write them.”

Personally, I’ve never tried to make my sole living from writing; I’ve always had a day job. I’m too soft to try and survive from just writing – I like my Scotch too much, eating out too much, my house too much. I am about as bourgeois as they come and don’t feel too badly about that.

Could I survive just writing? Maybe, depending on what kind of survival I’d be willing to accept. Last year my earnings from writing – including book advances, short story sales, column fees, and, believe it or not, revenues from The Inner Swine (I can’t believe it either!) – put me over the 2006 official U.S. poverty line for an individual. Of course, I’m married, but let’s stay simple for the purposes of mental experiment. Assuming the old saw that housing should not exceed 40% of your income, and assuming I had all my writing monies available either all at once or at least on a steady monthly basis (ridiculous, of course; writing money trickles in like molasses running uphill) AND overlooking my tax bill for the moment, I possibly could find an apartment in Jersey City that would be barely affordable. If I chose to move back in with my Mom, we’re in jackpot-city.

Of course, remove the assumptions and add in my bill to the IRS, and that all kind of falls apart. I might be able to survive, but I don’t think I’d be happy – I am a flabby little man, after all, and quite whiny when my comforts are taken away. Then consider that my writing earnings were twice as much as 2006 and twenty-five times as much as 2005, and that there is little guarantee I will earn the same amount in 2009 (my advance for the third Avery Cates book will probably keep me at a similar level this year), and you see a problem developing. When you consider my problemed-drinking combined with the quality of booze I’d be able to afford on such an income, it becomes obvious I would be dead within two years of embarking on such an experiment. This also includes my book advances in the mix; if we’re talking about just short stories (which is the sole subject of the SFSignal posting), then I earned a whopping $460 last year from story sales. I think I might have to scale back my lifestyle unacceptably to live off of that, to be honest.

I don’t cry about this. Aside from being enormously lucky in most respects, from upbringing to education to having a good job that leaves me time to write at all, I am precisely the sort of author Nick describes: I want to write leisurely and write only what I want to write about. I would love to ‘write for a living’, but I am far too lazy to actually work towards that goal, which would involve pursuing freelance work of any kind to pay the bills. It is, strangely, much easier to have a day job, which pays for my crippling bar tabs while I poke around submitting stories here and there, making a sale now and then. I much prefer to pray for a film rights sale or that Orbit will want a fourth Avery Cates book and then spend some time figuring out how to reduce my whiskey bills without giving up the single malt. This is the literary life I’ve chosen, and it may well sentence me to a life of day jobbing. Oh well.

The thing is, I think writing has become a lifestyle choice, and people have this movie-image of what a writer’s life should be. It should be book signings with big crowds, some inexplicable fame and lunches with your agent, a comfortable life including a nice lake house or something, and long shots of you at your typewriter or computer, pensive and brooding with a glass of wine or cognac or some shit next to you while you contemplate your next brilliancy. When people who have dabbled in writing because of this attractive image do sell their first book, they often (usually) discover that the advance is nothing to write home about and the royalties vanishingly small, if there are any. Of course, some folks do get huge advances from the get-go and possibly lead that movie-writer lifestyle, but I think 99.99% of us do not. Naturally, I state this with the usual level of Somers research and fact-checking, which is to say none. Your mileage may vary when quoting me as an authority on, well, anything, bubba.

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Fun with Reviews

By | April 17, 2008 | 4 Comments

Okay, so a little ego surfing today yielding the following trail through the heaven and hell of being a writer. First off, we stumbled across Wred Fright’s review of The Digital Plague. Full disclosure: Wred’s a zine acquaintance so we dig each other’s musky odors and cocky strut from the get go, but he does say

“Fans of Somers’s longtime zine The Inner Swine will find much to like here, as will any devotee of cliffhanger thrills, futuristic action, brutal humor, and thought-provoking commentary on the future of society and technology.”

Huzzah! At the same time, I came across a comment on a bulletin board that sported what will become the slogan of my nightmares for some months to come, found here [emphasis mine, because I enjoy taunting myself]:

“I’ve just finished The Electric Church by Jeff Somers. It is the shittest book I’ve read since Punktown by Jeffery Thomas.

BOO-YA, now that is what an author likes to come across. It’s like going down to the kitchen to get a glass of water in the middle of the night and stepping on a broken glass! I’m thinking of having mugs and T-shirts made up.

Ah, but the universe, she is merciful as well as cruel, because my ego-Googling also turned this awesome review of TEC in The New Straits Times, which is out of freakin’ Malaysia, boyos:

“A brilliant novel within its genre.”

So we’ve just been through all of life’s emotions in one blog post. Some wonder why I insist on pointing out things like the middle review; I think I simply enjoy Schadenfreude wherever I find it, even if I find it in me.

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Mashups

By | April 14, 2008 | 7 Comments

I’ve been on an incredible mashup kick with songs. Something about combining disparate styles and attitudes grabs me – I can’t easily explain it; but put The Beatles and Metallica together in a song and I’m in love. And a lot of rap or pop songs I’ve hated suddenly become immensely catchy once they’re paired up with a good guitar riff and some Bonham-level drums, you know?

What can I say? I have a pretty pedestrian palate. When it comes to wine, I can rarely tell the good stuff from the vinegar, and so far have met very few bottles I didn’t find something to like about, even if my epiphany didn’t come until I was two glasses in. Subtleties just escape me, unfortunately. I’m pretty basic, and that goes for music as well. My brother has an encyclopedic knowledge of classical music and while he can appreciate a hot pop gem on the radio, he’s kind of horrified at my general musical peasantry, and who can blame him? A three-chord riff, a good honest backbeat, and lyrics about screwing and I’m a happy man. Anything more than that is just frippery, as far as I’m concerned.

I never said I was proud.

I’m also lazy, so while I’d like to find all sorts of new music to ooh and aah over and call my precious, I’m damned slow and useless about actually finding new music. I listen to some Internet radio. I tried Satellite radio but found it a little overwhelming–I’m lazy, remember? I don’t want to sift through 500 channels searching for one goddamn eclectic station I like.

A year or so ago someone sent me a CD in the mail with a bunch of songs they liked, and I actually found one or two of them pretty cool, and it reminded me of the old mixtapes I used to make and receive back in The Day. This was before MP3s, so it was me and friends with our double-deck cassette racks, making 120-minute mixes for each other, timed to perfection, complete with liner notes. When I made new friends, say in college, one of the first things that got done was the making of a new mix tape, and I now realize that for years I was getting lots of great leads on music from mix tapes made for me.

Nowadays, no one does that any more. Least not for me.

So, anyone want to trade mix-CDs? I’m down. Send me some songs and I’ll send you a CD back, all random and shit. Why not? Or, you could surf on over to www.muxtape.com and make a muxtape for me (and the world!) and check out mine. We could exchange muxtapes! HUZZAH!

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Terrorizing the Airwaves

By | April 10, 2008 | 0 Comments

Well, I’ll be appearing on The Joey Reynolds Show again, despite feeling like I was more ridiculous than usual last time. Somehow they’ve decided I was a good guest and asked me back – who knew? The universe is confusing.

I will, of course, be struggling to mention the new book, The Digital Plague, as often as possible, resulting in some amusing outbursts, like this:

JOEY: So, Jeff, you’re from Jersey City originally, yes?

ME: DIGITAL PLAGUE, JOEY!

JOEY: Uh, what?

ME: DIGITAL PLAGUE! DIGI-TAL-PLA-AGUE!

And then I will be removed by security.

Anyways, I’ll be on May 12th at 1AM, which means it’s actually early morning May 13th, on 710AM in NYC and elsewhere in syndication. If you’re awake, tune in and snicker at me. If you can’t stay up that late, no doubt I will have MP3s of my brilliance available for general mockery shortly thereafter.

Wish me luck.

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Jeff and Jeof Wrote a Comic, Once

By | April 6, 2008 | 1 Comments

Blood and SplendorHey there–some may remember that years and years ago, when I was a little more hip in my music and reading tastes but much less amazing in general, I co-wrote a comic book with old, old friend Jeof Vita (the same man who draws most of the covers for The Inner Swine). The comic was a tie-in to the television series Sliders, which I watched a few times. Jeof worked for the comic publisher that was putting out those tie-in books and thus it was easy to pitch the idea to them. We worked on it for a few months and ta-da! Blood and Splendor was born to comics greatness.

Anyway, the comic has enjoyed a surprisingly long and loving Internet life, as Sliders Fandom is a powerful thing, and a few weeks ago we were contacted by Earthprime.com and asked if we had any notes or information about the comic to pass along for enshrinement. Naturally, I have everything, because Jeff, he don’t throw anything away, hoss. We exchanged a few emails, I burned up the scanner digitizing several dozen pages of circa-1996 genius, and now the article is up on Earth Prime for all to see! I AM FRICKIN FAMOUS, BUBBA! Sort of. Still not listed on Wikipedia, though, so I can’t be that famous, can I?

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Brutarian #51

By | April 5, 2008 | 0 Comments

Brutarian #51As many of you know, I write a regular column for the magazine Brutarian, which is probably the best magazine out there you can’t easily find on racks. Four bucks an issue to Dom Salemi, 9405 Ulysses Court, Burke, VA 22015.
Aside from my genius column (“The Inner Swine Guide to Ignorance”), there’s a regular column from the hilarious Gene Gregorits and fiction from D. Harlan Wilson and Libby Faucette, and an interview with Joe Hill among others. Damn, you should possess this. For one more reason, in this issue there’s even a really nice review of my novel, The Electric Church. Conflict of interest? Perhaps, but I doubt I’d have gotten a rave just because I write a stinking column for the mag.

“A thrilling, top-notch roller coaster ride filled with all manner of thrills, spills, and chills that, in the process manages to turn the conventions. . .of cyberpunk on its head.”

Huzzah!

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Pantsing

By | April 5, 2008 | 2 Comments

It’s a gloomy morning in Hoboken, and while I’m enjoying the nifty little weather icon in my AWN Dock I just installed on my Kubuntu desktop (I lurves the eye candy, even though whenever my friend Jeof Vita sees my desktop he accuses me of secretly wanting a Mac, which infuriates me) the tiny clouds are a little grim to my eye. I’ve been going through a bit of home-improvement fever, too, resulting in much aching and sleepiness. Nothing like wiring up three or four new light fixtures, along with the accompanying drywall repair and painting, to make one feel one’s age.

In the writing front, I’m almost done with the seat-of-my-pants first draft of Avery #3, about 3-4 chapters from the very end. Thus, writing has slowed to a crawl. This always happens to me. I like having a lot of blacktop out in front of me, with vague but blurry ideas of where things are going and lots of room for sudden ideas and twists. Once I get to the very last few inches I generally know exactly what’s going to happen, and actually writing it becomes something of a chore, somehow.

I don’t like to plot out too much, or do outlines, or anything like that. The technical term, I’ve learned, is Pantsing(1). Some people plot, some people write by the seat of their pants, just making it up as they go. I Pants. Plotting just makes me sick, to paraphrase Gene Wilder in Blazing Saddles.

So, 3-4 chapters to go and it’ll probably take me 3-4 years to finish. Just kidding, editors and agents who might be reading this! Damn, I wonder if this is what J.D. Salinger’s been up to for 60 years? One chapter to go and he just can’t bring himself to finish?

Yes, I just brought up Salinger in connection with myself. I am going to be punished. For hubris.

(1)This is appropriate since I spend so much time searching for lost pants, and going about pantsless.

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