Monthly Archive: March 2008

It’s All Happening

Ah, the writing life. The indignities we sensitive artist types have to endure. The slings and arrows of unsatisfied readers, the hell of promotion–it is all ours to enjoy. A few things:

– First off, The Electric Church was involved in Fantasy Book Spot’s 2007 best Of Tournament, and before I even knew clearly what was happening TEC lost 6-1 to Gene Wolfe’s Pirate Freedom. For god’s sake, I was put up against Gene fricking Wolfe. If I’m going to be put up against geniuses – the man wrote The Book of the New Sun, a work I am still struggling to fully comprehend – then I might as well just go home. Damn you all.

But at least I didn’t suffer the indignity that Nick Mamatas suffered in the same tournament.

– Secondly, The Digital Plague, TEC’s sequel, has just been optioned by The Science Fiction Book Club! That totally rocks.

– Finally, I’ll be reading at KGB Bar in Manhattan in August. HUZZAH! Number one, me reading. Number two, me doing something other than heartfelt wishing to promote my own books. Number three, a tavern. Damn–I can get liquored up, stumble to the microphone, pass out, and still get credit for promoting my books! It’s a win-win!

WHEN: August 20th, 2008,
WHERE: KBG Bar, 85 East 4th Street, NY, NY
WHY: Jeff drinks and can only read when drunk

I realize this is a bit early, but naturally, all of you are coming. Simply by reading this post you have agreed to attend this reading. No, seriously–my last reading could politely be described as a debacle, so I will be using all manner of pleading, cajoling, threats and chicanery to get people to come to this one, so you might as well mark your calendar. If I have to slip you a mickey, roll you up in carpet, and drive you there in a van myself, I will. Don’t push me on this.

We Are Unshelved

This is the sort of thing that blows a writer’s mind:

My agent sent this along to me this morning, practically shouting in glee. You know, sometimes you try to promote yourself and your books and it’s a lot of drudge work for little or no return -  you send out emails, you make phone calls, you mail out ARCs, all that jazz, and two weeks later it’s like it all went into the dustbin of the universe, unnoticed. Then you wake up one day after having too much to eat the day before, feeling groggy and unfocused, and BAM – there’s a comic strip devoted to your book, read by gazillions of librarians across the country. Huzzah!

…and we’re back

In an event that very, very few people noticed, this blog was dark for a few days thanks to an inexplicable technical mishap. Never fear, I upped the Helper Monkey’s booze ration and we’re back online. Please go back to ignoring it. That is all.

Bad Review Contemplations

Ego surfing again – very bad habit of mine – and found this interesting rumination on bad reviews which mentions The Electric Church. An interesting quote:

2. Do you temper your feelings about books you didn’t like, so as not to completely slam them? Why or why not?

. . .I also temper them because sometimes I truly see reasons why others may like the book. For instance “The Electric Church” by Jeff Somers. I didn’t like his writing style, or the style/genre of the story. The writing style to me was annoying, but the story style may really appeal to some. I know it would, because I was one of the few that didn’t really like “Altered Carbon” by Richard Morgan. But in sci-fi circles, it is considered a great novel. And it is along some similar lines as “The Electric Church”.

Since I’m generally fascinated by bad reviews of my own work (which aren’t as rare as they should be, dagnabbit) I found this an interesting read. One important thing to remember, sometimes, is that reviewers are people and readers too, and they usually have very good reasons for not liking your work. You don’t have to agree with them, of course, but you should also remind yourself that you’re probably not half as smart and talented as you think you are. Or is that just me? Probably just me.


I’m sitting here working on Avery Cates #3, with a numb butt and a sleeping cat on the couch next to me, and my mind is wandering. A wandering mind writes no books, which is bad, as I believe my editor at Orbit will break my legs if I’m late with this manuscript.

I’m also enjoying a nice glass of Scotch as I write, which is one of the wonders of the modern age, that I can procure and drink such fine whisky any time I like (Glenrothes Select Reserve in case anyone’s interested). In the media writers are often portrayed as borderline (or even full-blown) high-functioning alcoholics, with the open bottle next to their desk. Indeed, a lot of great writers did hit the sauce pretty hard. Every few weeks or months I end up having a drink at The White Horse Tavern in Manhattan, which is where, of course, Dylan Thomas met his wet end. But I’ve always been suspicious of the old saw about inebriated writers – I don’t get much writing done when drunk. One nice drink after dinner, no problem. Even two sometimes causes no harm and I get a lot done while sipping the good stuff. But three sheets to the wind? Even if I did try to write, it would end up a sloppy batch of incoherency.

Those of you just about to say and what would the difference from your sober writing be can just stuff it. I’ve heard them all.

So that’s an interesting question I don’t think I’ve ever seen treated in an author blog or literary web site. How much does booze help or hinder the process? I mean, not all writers drink, of course, and even those who do like to tip a glass have varying degrees of tolerance and appreciation, ranging from the folks who’ll have a single glass of sherry on New Year’s Eve to those like me who have to measure their whisky intake in units similar to crude oil (i.e., the barrel). But it’s certainly part of the writing mythos that we’re all unapologetic boozers. Yet I’ve never seen a serious attempt to quantify the affect booze has on writing. As usual, Your Humble Author here is more than willing to sacrifice his time and, more importantly, his dignity, on the question. So here’s my personal table of booze intake versus literary output:

Number of Whiskies Literary Output
1 Mellow, contemplative mood resulting in intricate plot ideas and soulful dialogue.
2 I begin to think what I’m writing might be the best stuff I’ve ever done, though I remain cautious.
3 I have written four words in the last half hour, but they are fucking golden
4 Man, this commercial for life insurance is the saddest thing I have ever seen. I am weeping openly and don’t care who knows it. I’m going to adapt it for a scene in my science fiction novel about murderous home appliances taking over the earth. I think I may be a genius.
5 I suddenly realize I have fallen asleep and drooled all over my pages, smearing the words beyond comprehension. That, and I need to use the bathroom. Immediately if not sooner. I don’t think I will write any more tonight.

So there you have it, a scientific examination of the effect of liquor on my writing. I hope the world benefits from my fearless reporting. What about you? The world needs more data points so the young writers of the world can learn from their elders and make good decisions about whether to drink and write.

Ah, Sweet Airports

My wife always checks bookstores for my books when she travels, and she sent this from the Denver airport last week:

TEC at an airport!

I am all the way on the right, right next to Joe Hill. PRAISE THE LORD WE’RE IN AIRPORT BOOKSTORES. I expect to be rich in 5. . .4. . .3. . .2. . .1. . .

God Wants You to Self-Publish

My wife just called from an airport to tell me that The Electric Church is sitting there on airport bookstore shelves. That’s pretty cool.

As some of you may know, I publish a zine, The Inner Swine. I’m putting together the 50th issue right now, actually (late; it’s the March 08 issue and it’s now. . .March 08). For a few years I had national and international distribution for the zine, and it was on sale in places like Japan, Ireland, Seattle. Pretty cool to get emails from people saying they were in the Tokyo Tower Records and found my zine.

Alas, those days are gone. My distributors have largely gone out of business, and I’m down to a few hundred hard-core fans, which is actually nice as I don’t have the energy for all the folding and stapling required for sending 1200 copies out to the world any more.

I do publish my own fiction in TIS – no, I don’t take submissions; it’s a personal zine and I publish myself in it, and whoever I decide to make exceptions for. Self-publishing can be a slippery slope for a writer, because the common advice is that publishers don’t want to see anything that’s already appeared out there – be it on the Internet or in your crappy zine. Most of the stuff I put in TIS is kind of just-missed stuff, stories and novellas that I think have a lot going for them but which are not good enough to shop around. This gives them a life they otherwise wouldn’t have.

And that’s the thing – I think self-publishing can, under certain circumstances, be a great thing. You just have to be aware of certain things:

1. You will not get rich self-publishing. For every story of someone who peddles 10,000 copies of their self-published book and parleys that into a big deal with a traditional publisher, there are fifty billion stories of folks with boxes full of their books in their garage. Chances are your sales to non-family and friends will be in the single digits.

2. You won’t get respect self-publishing. No matter how well you do with it, people will sneer at your work and question your sanity. Trust me.

3. A vanity press (like Publish America) is not self-publishing. If you either pay a publisher to publish your book, or take a $1 advance from a company that will then do nothing to promote you and expect to make all its profit from your family and friends buying mandatory copies from you, you are not empowering yourself, you’re being a sucker.

4. Whatever you self-publish probably won’t get published anywhere else. Ever.

That said, if you have something to say and find yourself frustrated by not finding anyone willing to get it out there for you, why not fire up the old desktop publishing program (Scribus is nice and free, but in a pinch any old Word Processor can probably handle it for you) and put out a zine? Or go on over to or similar and put out your book for cheap. You’d be amazed at how much fun it can be to cut out the middle man and sell dozens of copies of your work for a buck or two.