My March Madness

This is going to be an amazing month. We have the official publication date of my first novel, Murder Boy, on March 31. But even before that, we have the Super Awesome Happy Time Pre-Launch Tour on March 19 in Scottsdale, Arizona at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore and on March 20 in Houston, Texas at Murder by the Book.

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I can’t imagine a dreamier way to start a book tour. I’ve spent the last week ordering some fun promo items as well. I designed some post cards, some business cards, and, much to my surprise, some book marks. We’ll see how popular they all turn out to be.

But wait, there’s more.

Even before the book signings start, I’ll get my dream box in the mail some time this week. This is the box that contains finished copies of Murder Boy. Have I mentioned this is all very dreamy? And I’m excited.

Then, once we get the southwest taken care of, it’s time to come home for an even more exciting April. I’ll be doing local book launches for friends and family in Flint on April 11 at the Barnes and Noble, and in Ann Arbor on April 14 at Aunt Agatha’s.  And before you can catch your breath from that, I’ll be popping up in Chicago for the C2E3 comic book and entertainment extravaganza where I’ll be on a panel about humor in dark fiction. Along with the physical book tour, I’ll be popping up online at some cool places  talking about myself. Murder Boy, and even occasionally topics completely unrelated to myself or books.

So stay tuned over the next couple of months for some exciting life-changing stuff.

Some Thoughts On The Two And A Half Men Finale

 

Two and a Half Men

I’m long on record of being a fan of this show and thought it was better than a lot of people gave it credit for. I watched sporadically after Charlie Sheen left and thought the middle two seasons did some nice work with Alan and Walden, but overall thought they never had a bead on who Walden really was and they turned Alan into a horrible mess of a person who could never catch a break and suddenly became the worst gay stereotype without actually being gay.

I watched the finale last night though with great interest and loved it. It was weird and creepy and funny and meta and everything I wish the show would have been after Charlie left. And on that note, I wanted to dig up this piece I wrote right after Charlie left in which I make the case that he was the ultimate noir character.

The Tragic (And Entirely Appropriate) Death Of Charlie Harper

Let me tell you a story about a guy. He’s an aging California boozehound with a lot of money and no visible source of income. His bed is a rotisserie of ever-rotating women, many of dubious reputation (*cough*strippers and whores*cough*), and his family includes a divorced alcoholic mother with a sexual appetite to rival (and occasionally overlap) her son’s and a brother with a failed career, several failed marriages, and an idiot son who freeloads with him at the boozehound’s house. Ultimately our man-whore boozehound is killed by a deranged stalker he acquired during an ill-fated one-night stand and unwisely cultivated as a de-facto life partner. Sounds like stock players from the Jim Thompson Theatre Company, doesn’t it? But it’s really the cast of America’s most popular sitcom, Two and a Half Men.

Spun off from the life of star Charlie Sheen (a noir trope himself), Two and a Half Men wallowed in the hedonism and coldness of its lead character for eight scotch- and lube-soaked seasons before the real Charlie’s behavior forced a day of reckoning with the creator of the fake Charlie. Under a different set of circumstances, Charlie Sheen could have cleaned himself up off-camera while still mocking his bad behavior publicly. This scenario would have resulted, I believe, in keeping Charlie Harper alive longer than would have been appropriate for the character. There was flirtation with this sort of out-of-character development toward the end of last season when the show became nearly unwatchable as Charlie Harper got monogamous, got engaged, and got very, very, oh-so-very boring. Given two or three more seasons, which would have been guaranteed provided Sheen didn’t melt down, the show’s creators would have given in to the weight of clichéd expectations and ended the show with one of those happy, bring-it-all-together endings sitcoms are famous for.

Instead, Charlie Sheen pissed off Chuck Lorre, the creator of Two and a Half Men, and CBS, the network who broadcasted the show, so thoroughly that just firing Sheen wasn’t enough. Had Sheen gone off to melt down privately, he still probably would have been written out of the show, but the vitriol needed to generate an appropriate end for Charlie Harper wouldn’t have been present, and we would have been left with some lame-ass exit from the Big Book of Stock Sitcom Replacements. But the fates, the gods, and Charlie Sheen himself created the perfect atmosphere for the perfect ending, and true Charlie Harper fans like me are better for the experience. There’s no room for enterprising academics to propose a less disturbing ending for our hero. Under no scenario will we see an ill-advised reunion where we find he was never really dead, or where he wakes up in bed with Bob Newhart, or winds up in the shower with Patrick Duffy.

I can’t help but wonder though why audiences who will put up with this sort of weekly debauchery from a lead character would be put off by an ending that gave the character his just due at the end. Does a man who has ruined so many lives and tormented so many people without so much as a nick in his conscience really deserve happily-ever-after? Maybe the bigger question is why mass audiences who crave happy endings put up with a character like Charlie Harper in the first place? Let’s compare him to another one of my favorite characters on television, Hank Moody from Californication. Hank is generally regarded as a perverted degenerate, but the thing he struggles with even more than sex and drinking is finding the right balance with his family. He loves his daughter and has some sort of love-like feelings for his ex-wife but always manages to screw it up when he gets close to happiness. Charlie, on the other hand, hates his mother, hates his brother, and reserves his most emotional moments for his one-night stand stalker. But it’s Hank that’s seen as the worse character. People like my mother, who would never be caught dead watching Californication, love Two and a Half Men. Are fart jokes and slapstick comedy enough to take the edge off of a reprehensible character?

Well, sitcom history would tell us yes. Going back to Ralph Kramden on The Honeymooners and Archie Bunker on All In The Family to Al Bundy on Married with Children, racists, abusers, idiots, and ne’er-do–wells who would meet certain violent ends in noir fiction are lauded as social reformers and pop culture icons just because their stories are told with jokes and sight gags. Satire has always been a go-to medium for wicked social commentary, but in the case of a mass medium like the network sitcom, does it really count as satire if most of the viewers don’t get the joke? I think it can, but the problem you run into with larger audiences is that there is less room for risk and you almost always end up with a watered-down ending that pisses everyone off.

Two recent examples are the finales for Seinfeld and The Sopranos. The Seinfeld one was, in my opinion, the more successful ending because it stayed true to the characters. There were no epiphanies and no life-altering character changes. When they left their isolated world where they weren’t the center of attention, they were punished. The Sopranos ending was more problematic because the creators tried to have it both ways. Everyone knew what a scumbag Tony Soprano was and they knew what he deserved, but the writers couldn’t come right out and whack him. They had to imply it with gimmicky camera cuts and Journey songs. Both were unpopular, which makes the situation that presented itself for Charlie Harper and Two and a Half Men so perfect.

I suppose there’s always the chance Charlie Sheen cleans up his act and reconciles with Chuck Lorre during some kind of twelve-step program down the road, but I’ve read enough noir novels and seen enough TMZ to know how miniscule that possibility is. Hell, I’m still waiting for Robert Downey, Jr. to finally crack again so we can get a proper ending for The Singing Detective.

Greetings From Bachelorville

Becky finally left me. I think we all knew this time was coming. She took the kids with her too.

Of course they’ll be back on Sunday, but until then I’m living the bachelor life. They left last Sunday morning in a van packed with my mother and father-in-law, my sister-in-law, and my niece. I could hear clown car music playing as the drove away to Florida. I spent most of Sunday very depressed and very sad. I went to a birthday party up in Flint for my nephew who turned one and that was fun. But then it was over and I was sad again. I really didn’t expect to miss them that much.

Part of it was this weird habit I have of imaging the most horrible scenarios that could happen and figuring out how I’d deal with them. I’m sure it makes me a better writer, but after just a few hours of them being gone I was already halfway through the grieving process for them all having been killed in a car accident. It was a VERY weird day. But then I got to talk to them on the phone later and it was all better. I went to see KINGSMAN later that night and ate popcorn and Sour Patch Kids for dinner and I was off to enjoying bachelorhood.

Since then, the rest of the week has been pretty mundane. I’ve been eating lunch out more than I thought I would and dinner at home more than I thought I would. Last night I made the most complicated meal I’ve done in a long time with eggs and rice and chorizo. It was great. To pass the time I’ve been working on some editing projects and writing here and there on RIOT LOAD which needs to be done very soon. I’ve also been playing a lot of guitar very loudly and very badly. I’m still hacking my way through Secret Agent Man and Highway to Hell. Every once in a while Becky sends me a text with a picture of the kids or a funny comment and that makes me happy. So overall, I’m enjoying the best of both worlds. I get to be selfish with my time (even more than I normally am) and wallow in the worst of myself without the creepiness and sadness and crushing loneliness that comes from living like this all of the time.

And in other news the folks at My Bookish Ways, who I’ve never met in person and aren’t even related to me, have named MURDER BOY one of the Must Reads for March. Go me. And go them.

Remember That Time I Stalked Dennis Lehane? I’ll Finally Get A Chance For Redemption.

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I mentioned in my previous post that I’ve been slowly working away on the next book in my series. Well, we officially have a title for the book: RIOT LOAD and it will be shooting your way in Spring of 2016.

I also mentioned I was planning some events for the launch of MURDER BOY. And boy oh boy has that worked out. We’ve actually bumped up the publication date of the book to March 31st to take advantage of some great opportunities. The first leg of my tour will be launching even before the book is officially out! I’ll be starting at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona on March 19 signing with Owen Laukkanan and David Joy. I’ve known Owen for a while and attended a couple of his signing but I’ve never met David and I’m looking forward to it. A fun side note to this: I’ll be getting in the night before and I’m thinking of going to the Dennis Lehane signing at PP that night to get a redo for the last time I met Dennis and creeped him out.

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The next night I’ll be over in Houston at Murder by the Book signing again with Owen and David, but also with special guest Duane Swierczynski. I’ve nattered on here a lot about how Duane was a big inspiration for me moving away from PI novels into the sort of crazy fun crime novels like MURDER BOY, so signing with him is a great treat. Have a look at my Appearances page for other cool events I have lined up.

And speaking of MURDER BOY, it’s getting more real by the day. I’ve seen page proofs and now it’s up on Edelweiss for those who are interested in grabbing a digital copy for review. If you want a digital review copy and you’re having trouble, email me at bryon@bryonquertermous.com and I’ll see if I can help. If you want a print copy, you’ll have to wait just a bit longer. For print copy requests, contact my publisher at info@polisbooks.com

Prepping The Place For a Promo Volcano

Things are going to start ramping up here pretty quickly on the promotion front for MURDER BOY. I plan to write something here every day for all of March and all of April as well as a good chunk of February if I can. And this really does make a difference. The more I post here the more traffic I get and the more traffic I get the more people are clicking on the pre-order button over there which is what this is all about for right now. Now the posts aren’t going to be all book related (not until April at least) so don’t freak out.

I’ve also been updating the site here with some shiny new features. We now have a media kit with author photos (courtesy of my fab cousin Sandi Sutton), a cover image, and a press release and I also added an excerpt that includes the entire first chapter of MURDER BOY. Go check it out and then pre-order the book at your favorite retailer. There’s also a button to click to add MURDER BOY to your shelf on Goodreads. All of this really does help.

Possums and Posies

I’ve been swamped with editing work, work on writing the next book on my contract with Polis, and planning some very exciting launch events for MURDER BOY. But I was able to take time out of my schedule for a few important events. The first was spending almost 3 hours trapping a possum that got stuck in our basement and then last night I took Holly to the local Butterfly Ball. We drank punch, got her face painted, and danced so hard to crappy pop music that she ruined her little wrist corsage (it may or may not have been posies, but that flower name worked best with possum). It was a riot and I’m looking forward to a few year from now when I can take Holly and Natalie.

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Finally, At The Age of 38, I’m The Proud Owner Of An Electric Guitar

Specifically this one.

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It’s a Fender Squire Affinity Strat and came as park of a value pack at Guitar Center with an amp and cord and strap and some picks. It’s the design and color that reminds me most of all the guitars my guitar heroes play(ed). I know I was just talking about how much fun I was having with my ukulele but really all the ukulele did was reignite a long-standing desire I’ve had to learn how to play the guitar and I decided now was the time to do it. But instead of buying a cheap acoustic like I always have in the past, I really indulged myself and got my very first electric guitar. And boy did I make the right choice. I’ve been documenting the last two days since I got it on Facebook.

I’ve had my new guitar for less than 24 hours and I’ve only thought about returning it twice. I had fun last night fooling around with it and the amplifier and then immediately got frustrated with what I can’t do on it. I went online and got immediately overwhelmed which did NOT help at all. But this is something I’ve always wanted to do so I’m sticking with it and here’s how:

I have three songs I want to learn: When Love Comes to Town (BB King & U2), and Blue on Black (Kenny Wayne Shepherd), and Leaving on a Jet Plane (John Denver). They all use open chords I know how to play so I’m going to start with the easiest of them and work on them a little bit every day until I can move between chords easily and cleanly, strum properly, and sing along with the songs. When I can do these three songs perfectly I’ll move on to other songs until I run into chords I can’t play and I have to learn new ones.

There might be an easier or better way to do it, but I think this is what will work for me.

Nice side benefit to playing guitar is that I’m SO bad at it that it makes me feel better about the parts of writing I still struggle with (cough, plotting, cough) because even my worst writing weaknesses are light years ahead of my most basic guitar weaknesses.

Today I found the overdrive settings on my new amp and cranked everything up to ten and jammed to the easy riff on When Love Comes To Town. Also fooled around with learning the Star Spangled Banner

Natalie is sleeping while I wail away on the opening riffs of Highway to Hell. She has the peace that comes with being a third child.

I’d also add that I learned the opening lick and chords for Secret Agent Man today as well. All in all a productive day of ax work.

2014 Income Distribution Chart

I like how a bunch of writers detail their income every year to show how much (or little) real working writers make. I didn’t make enough from writing novels this year to make it a worthwhile experiment here, but I did have substantial income from freelance editing. Kameron Hurley had a great post about how her writing income compared to her day job income and I thought that would be a great way to frame it here. So without giving away actual numbers here’s how my income broke down in 2014:

2014

A couple of things of note. The day job income includes my Angry Robot income from January until June plus my severance payment as well as work at my new day job from October through December. The freelance editing income includes work I did during the months between leaving AR and starting my new job as well as a few projects I’ve completed while in the new day job. It’s interesting to note that due to higher rates overall and a couple of very high paying publisher projects, I only made $170 less in freelance editing income in 2014 than I did in 2013 working 8 fewer months.

For 2015 I expect the freelance editing income to diminish a bit and the day job income to increase a bit and the novel income to increase a good bit. Here’s hoping, right.

Success, Like Revenge, Is Best Served Cold

This is something I posted to Facebook today that I think is important enough to be archived here permanently.

I was just talking to a friend about how long I’ve been around this industry and this community without a book deal and how it actually worked out in my favor.

If I had been published in 2003 like I wanted, when my very first novel was shortlisted for the Debut Dagger award, it would have been with a mediocre book that likely would have dropped without a trace in a very tough publishing climate. Of the 8 blurbs I’ve been blessed to receive for Murder Boy, only one of them was published in 2003. The writers I knew and would have blurbed me in 2003 would not have had the name recognition and industry sway of those who blurbed me now. I also have a much larger readership waiting for my book than I would have then. By publishing short stories and having cute babies I’ve raised my profile in way that wouldn’t have been possible in 2003.

And I would have taken that inevitable failure SO much harder in 2003 and likely wouldn’t have written again for a while. I could very well be rehabilitating my career in 2015 rather than launching it with the best book I’ve ever written.

So take heart, be patient, when you’re ready, when your book is ready, and when you’ve accumulated enough embarrassing photos of famous authors and newly launched publishers, your time will come too.

A Long Overdue Post About My Ukulele

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I bought this little beauty in January 2013 with an Amazon gift card I got from my in-laws for Christmas. I had already bought as many books as I wanted at the time and still had about $50 left on the card. I’d been following John Scalzi’s adventures with his ukulele and it seemed like a cool instrument. I have a long history of wanting to play the guitar as well as a long history of giving up on the guitar when it gets hard and my small little hands require more strength and practice than I’m willing to put in. But this is smaller, with fewer strings with the ability to play many many songs, not just creepy novelty tunes and Train covers.

But January 2013 was a rough month for me and so I put the uke away and completely forgot about it for about two years until I was cleaning our bedroom and I came across it. Coincidentally, I found it as that urge to play guitar made its semi-regular appearance in my brain. So I took the uke out and starting fooling around with it and quickly learned a song. Go me. Since then I’ve taken it out a few more times and have enjoyed it. Spenser is fascinated by it too and likes to watch me play.

It’s a Diamond Head DU-100 soprano ukulele that turns out to be a pretty good instrument according to the reviews I’m only now reading. The size is a little too small though for some chords and I have dreams up moving up to a slightly bigger concert size one when I have some extra money, but for now, this one does the job quite well. I think I’m going to invest $10 in a set of higher quality strings, but other than that I just want to learn to play a few more songs well on this one before getting carried away with buying something newer and shinier.