Monthly Archive: April 2010

I Have Never Signed So Many Books

At least not with real live people requesting me to. Sure, I’ve sat alone in my room, weeping, signing my own books for hours – what author hasn’t? – but last night at the Crimes by Moonlight launch I was part of a child-laboresque conga line of signing authors and I think I signed 100 books by the end of the night, between the ones for folks buying the book and the ones the store wanted for stock. MY GOD, the hand cramps.

I had a blast. I got to sit next to the amazing Dana Cameron (who shares my agent, and who is up for the Best Short Story Edgar for her tale “Femme Sole” in Boston Noir) and the uproarious Toni L.P. Kelner, and we were, I think, the raucous end of the table, hatching plots to disrupt the evening and keeping each other laughing. Of course, there had to be a moment of Jeff Somers incompetence; otherwise it just wouldn’t have that Somers flair, you know? So of course, there were multiple instances of incompetence. And that doesn’t even count the fact that everyone I was introduced to asked me why I was wearing pants. That isn’t a joke: Every person I met asked me this. I think perhaps I’ve taken that theme a bit too far.

Incompetence #1: My wife decided she would give a copy of the anthology, signed by all authors, to her mother as part of her Mother’s Day gift. So she hands me a copy and says sign it, and so I proceed to inscribe a delicate love letter to my wife in the book, which, when presented to her mother, might have caused some confusion. The Duchess, amused, made fun of me for the rest of the night.

Incompetence #2: When I sat down at the signing table, Dana Cameron immediately pulled out these beautiful and practical bookmarks to stick in everyone’s book as she signed them. I stared at them, thinking, gosh, that’s a pretty good idea. I did not have pretty bookmarks, but I did have a stack of horrible business cards I’d printed myself a few years ago, so I put that grubby pile on the table and slipped them into the books as I signed. Every now and then I’d glance at Dana’s bookmarks and a wash of shame would flow through me.

But that’s okay – I had a great time and the evening was a success, though The Duchess and I begged off dinner and drinks afterwards due to weariness, gaining some black looks from my agent. Earlier in the day the Uber Agent and I did share a drink in her office, though, contemplating the rather disturbing covers of the German editions of The Electric Church and the rather stunning covers to the audio CDs of The Electric Church. Here’s the latter in all its glory:

The Electric Church Tantor Cover

Purty, ain’t it? Although I must discover who chose that horrible picture of me for the back, and assault them. I HAVE A BLURRY PHOTO FOR A REASON, DAMMIT.

Reminder: Jeff in the Wild Tomorrow

Just a reminder that I’ll be at the “Crimes by Moonlight” Launch party, posing in authorly poses and trying hard to look pensive when in fact I am trying to figure out if there’s any free booze to be had:

APRIL 27th, 2010, 6:00 pm:

Launch party for the MWA‘s newest anthology “Crimes by Moonlight” at Mysterious Bookshop (58 Warren St, NY, NY).  The party will be part of the MWA’s Edgar week festivities. My short story “Sift, Almost Invisible, Through” appears in the anthology.

Come on out and mock me!

Final “Face the Fiction” Note

The kind folks over at SFSNNJ sent me a neat link encapsulating my appearance at their Face the Fiction event a few weeks ago, with video, pics,  and a write up. This was a total blast and It’s great to have a record of such a fun event. So check it out and if you’re in the Northern New jersey area, why not join and then you can start agitating to have me invited back.

Free Fiction Related to Yesterday’s Post

I was thinking about the novel I referred to yesterday (the one whose plot is a bit too close to Avatar to really try and sell now, thanks, Cameron!). I figure, if I’m going to bury the damn thing anyway, might as well post some of it here. Why not? So here are the first ~8,000 words or so of The Only Time, by Your Humble Author. Love to hear your thoughts, private or public, on it.


by Jeff Somers

I. The Long Dark


Hollith was hell.


One thousand men and women died on Hollith every day, defending the Pump Stations and fighting for control of new territory on hot, wet Hollith. No one could say accurately how many Holls died every day, and very few people asked.

Hollith was a large planet second from its sun. There were few bodies of water to speak of. It appeared to be one huge land mass, covered almost completely by vegetation. The only non-vegetable life forms on Hollith were insects, microbes, and the creatures that everyone called, simply, The Holls. No one who hadn’t seen one could understand what they were like, or so it was said.

On video they appeared to ape-like, a grey-white in color, with rudimentary faces comprised of a jagged rip for a mouth and two small, dark eyes. They had fearsome claws and a thin, fleshy frame that sagged almost comically when they were viewed in captivity.

On Hollith, in the jungles that were their homes, the Holls were terror. Their entire bodies acted as sails as they leapt from tree to tree, flying short distances, like bats. In the endless rains of Hollith they blended into the night and were invisible. They clawed through bullet-proof vests with small difficulty and they screeched. Grown soldiers heard that sound in their sleep, and shivered involuntarily.

The Holls attacked in groups, which the soldiers called Tribes. From fifteen to thirty at once in an attack. If the Holls had the element of surprise, a similarly numbered human patrol usually suffered fifty-percent casualties, at the least. The Holls usually had surprise. There was no way to accurately track them: their body temperature did not vary noticeably from the atmosphere’s, and they rarely seemed to gather in numbers sufficient to track excretory gasses.

On Earth, many of these facts were at best little-known. The predominant theory as to why these nontechnological savages continued to offer stuff resistance to the human invasion was: sheer numbers, meaning there were simply too many Holls. The fact was, Military Intelligence could not accurately say how many Holls there were. They died at an incredible rate, and still they came on. They died and died and died —were slaughtered— and yet, after twenty years of war the human race held only three percent of Hollith, and that precariously. And the humans died and died and died —were slaughtered— and the Holls never spoke, never retreated, and never relented.

Hollith was hell.


Ambrose Bierce Probably Had It Right

Hot damn, I’ve been busier than a cat on a hot tin roof. Normally, Your Humble Author here likes to move at a stately pace, a princely sort of slow motion that affords plenty of time for dignity, breath-catching, and refreshment. As a young lad playing Little League Baseball in Jersey City, I learned a valuable lesson: When I try to move fast, I look awkward, and sweat copiously. So I always try to keep my pace steady. Otherwise you might spill your drink.

Recently, though, that’s been hard to do. I’ve just had a lot of physical-labor type work to do recently (the joys of home ownership) leaving me with a lot less time to do my usual. As some of you know, I try to write a short story every month (well, try is a bad word for what is really a compulsion). Forcing yourself to write stories means you grab onto any piece of inspiration that floats by, and you worry about how good it is later. Usually years later, because fresh prose is pretty vitriolic and might explode in your face while you’re handling it. You also can’t think too hard about the provenance of ideas: In other words, write the damn story and worry about how original it is later.

First off, just because someone else had an idea first doesn’t mean you can’t do it better. And second: There is nothing new under the sun, only things we didn’t know about before. Trust me: The chances that the central idea in your latest story has been done somewhere, some time before are pretty goddamn good. People have been writing, in all languages and cultures, for thousands of years. You’re simply not smart enough to outsmart the rest of the world. The flip side of that is when you have a story you really like and think it’s got that certain something to become a great story, a sold story, and then … someone else beats you to the idea.

My best example of this is actually a novel I wrote some years ago. I like this novel; not sure it ever would have sold, but I like it nonetheless. It involves a force of human marines securing an alien planet in order to extract vital resources from it, while fighting and subduing the indigenous race, and eventually everyone realizes that the planet itself has a  consciousness.

Right: Basically Avatar. Except in mine, the aliens are horrible, screaming demon-like creatures who tear the marines to pieces. Still, if I tried to market this book now a lot of folks would likely think I was just copying James Cameron, and I would die of shame.

The only way to handle shit like this is to shrug it off and take your base: There is simply no way to avoid occasionally sharing your ideas with other folks in the universe. As a matter of fact, a lot of books and movies out there are just riffs on old ideas anyway – there’s nothing weird about that. And since there’s some question about just how great the plot of Avatar is, anyway, maybe I should be happy that my novel remains in my desk drawer, unseen. Thanks, universe!

Watching Technology Pass You By

Y’know, since 1986 I’ve submitted 1167 short stories. Believe it: One thousand, one hundred, sixty-seven short stories. I was just preparing five more to go out today and discovered that four of the five markets I’m submitting to require paper submissions. Which means I have to print out a copy of the story, print out a cover letter, get a manila envelope for the whole enchilada and a regular #10 with stamp for the SASE. The waste of paper and time is immense.

John Scalzi, god bless ‘im, has stated categorically on his site that he doesn’t mess with paper submissions any more, and in spirit I agree: This is frickin’ 2010. The excuses and explanations as to why a magazine doesn’t accept email subs are ludicrous, and fall into one basic category when you parse them closely enough: The editors of these magazines simply do not like email submissions. They may gas on and on about printing costs (unnecessary) how difficult it is to read on screen (2000 words? Really, Mr. Magoo?) and, unbelievably, how difficult it is to share an electronic sub with other editors. Yes, you read that right: An electronic file is more difficult to pass on to readers than a pile of paper.

So, as I’m getting paper cuts and searching for stamps, I’m grousing and thinking how I would have been done with my subs an hour ago if I could have simply typed up a cover email, attached a file, and clicked send. Grouse, grouse, grouse. Mmmmn, Famous Grouse is damn fine whiskey . . .  But I’m still doing it, because I still dream of selling short stories. There’s a glamour to it as far as I’m concerned. Certainly no money, but whenever I sell a short story I feel like F. Scott Fitzgerald for a moment. Plus, I’ve got a lot of stories. I write them constantly, for my own satisfaction, and once they’re done some of them stay with me and I decide to try and do something with them. No use in leaving them in notebooks for the Alien Archaeologists of the future to discover and puzzle over.

I’m not exactly George Jetson with the technology, either. Not only do I not have a smartphone of any kind, I don’t even own a cell phone for personal use.  A lot of new thingies leave me cold and I’m fairly slow to get on the various bandwagons that our glorious computer companies trot out every year – but let’s be serious. Email was invented seven hundred years ago. If you’re worried about attachments, let us paste plain text in. For god’s sake, it is the twenty-first century. We may not have transporters and replicators, but by god we have electronic mail.

Enough ranting. I’m still mailing the subs when I have to. I’m just amazed. A few years ago I managed 107 submissions in one year, and that was when I was still typing everything on a manual typewriter and making photocopies to send everywhere, believe it or not. The thought of doing that many paper subs today makes me feel sleepy and irritated, so every time I find a new story market that takes email subs, I rejoice. As should you.

Crimes by Moonlight

Crimes by MoonlightHey kids, guess what came out last week while I was apparently too drunk to notice? That’s right, Crimes by Moonlight, the supernatural noir anthology edited by Charlaine Harris! In which I have a story! No, really.

Gotta start payin’ attention.

Anyways, yes, my short story “Sift, Almost Invisible, Through” is in this sucker, so right there is a reason to buy a copy. And also some other folks you might have heard of:  Dana Cameron, with whom I share an agent, Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane, Barbara D’Amato, Carolyn Hart, Margaret Maron and many more.

I’ll be taking part in the launch party over at Mysterious Bookshop (58 Warren St, NY, NY) on April 27th, as previously noted. Be sure to buy several copies just in case the world ends and you have to barter for food or something.

SFSNNJ Face the Fiction 4-10-10

So, The Duchess, my brother Sean, and I descended on the Borders in Ramsey, NJ on Saturday night to be the guest at The Science Fiction Society of Northern New Jersey’s Face the Fiction night. I always get nervous about theses things, assuming that my invitation was a mistake and that no one really wants to see me. Here’s what I imagine:

ME: Here I am! Where’s my contractually mandated keg of beer with bottle of whiskey not costing less than $10?

THEM: Uh, who are you? And . . . my god, man, where are your pants?

I mean, these folks out in Ramsey had Charlaine Harris reading not so long ago! What in hell am I doing here? We had a blast, though, as I think the videos will prove. I got to insult my brother a little, which is always fun; The Duchess got outed by a regular reader of my blog and Facebook page; the audience had apparently actually read my novels; and I wasn’t ejected by security despite setting off the security system when exiting the bathroom and exiting the store. We were invited to join various people for drinks/dinner afterwards, but sadly we had to get home to our cat Pierre, who is, as this photo demonstrates, the Unhappiest Cat in the World these days:

Cone Cat is Unhappy

We have the video that the SFSNNJ itself posted to Youtube. You’re horrifyingly close to me in this, so don’t eat lunch right before viewing, but the sound is a little muted:

I have an hour of video as well, and if I can think of a creative way to post it I will (or if people want to have a virtual reading from me, I’d be happy to). Until then, enjoy!

A Good Time Had by All

Welp, went to Ramsey, NJ last night and had a great time reading and talking with the Science Fiction Society of Northern New Jersey. They’re a great group – interesting folks who asked really great questions, and I think my stumbling shtick went over well. Working on video of the event; for now here’re some photos:

Me reading fromThe Eternal Prison:

Jeff reading

Me signing some books:

Me signing books

My heartfelt thanks go out to Chris and Ann-Marie for the invitation and for organizing everything! A fuller description of the event to come, along with (hopefully) some video.