A Dose Of Optimism

I posted this over on facebook and liked it enough to want to put it here for the archives. I’m sick of the media and political industrial complexes making money off of keeping America scared and paranoid and want to do whatever I can to let people know it’s not as bad as we think out there while still respecting the genuine tragedy some folks are experiencing. 

I know things seem awful right now, but don’t let the media fear mongering and political appropriation of tragedy convince you we’re living in dystopian times.

We certainly have a lot of work to do as a society, but there has never been a safer time to be alive. Violent crimes across all demographics are down substantially from where they were in the 60s and 70s. Children are safer than they have ever been and even police officers are safer than they have ever been.

Children, police officers, black men, and white men, and just about everyone else are far more likely to die in a car accident than they are to die from terrorism or assassination or any other form of violent death.

So get out there in your community and talk to people. Be nice wherever you go and don’t let anyone convince you society is on the verge of collapse.

And for crying out loud, wear your damn seat belt.

I Got Bent In Minnesota

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Photo by: Melissa Olson with Jeff Shelby looking on lovingly

Did you know I was in the Twin Cities over the weekend? Yeah, I didn’t promote that very well. I was feeling pretty crappy leading up to it and just didn’t have the energy for a lot of hype. But I had fun and got to hang out with a lot of great people including my hosts Dan and Kate Malmon. The trip was capped by my reading at the Bent Brewstillery for the Noir at the Bar: Twin Cities which was awesome.

I’ve been trying to get to Minnesota for years, and it’s just never worked out so this was a treat. I don’t generally like reading from my work because with a lot of dialogue and action scenes it doesn’t lend itself to good readings. In honor of the event and finally making it to the state though, I wrote something specifically for this event that features Dominick Prince, the main character of my two novels out right now. You missed a great event if you weren’t there, but I thought I’d post the story here for you to read and at least get a little taste of the fun.

 

HOT DISH HOOLIGANS
By Bryon Quertermous

 

Minnesota is different.

Picking out what to wear is usually the hardest part of readings for me; I always feel like a goofy stooge showing up in jeans and a t-shirt, but I feel like a traveling gavel salesman if I wear a sport coat.

Minnesota requires me to bring a hotdish.

Whatever the hell that is.

We’re also having the reading at a supper club.

Whatever the hell that is.

Then there’s the flight.

From Detroit to Minneapolis, with three different connections and no checked luggage, cost me almost $800.

But really, the hardest part of all was trying not to think about the note someone had left for me at the hotel.

It was a handwritten note on hotel stationary that said:

Looking forward to your reading. If you use the word of the day, we’ll kill you. – The Hotdish Hooligans.

I really wanted it to be a joke, and if I knew these people better I would immediately assume it was a joke. But I was still getting to know the crime fiction community. Everyone told me how special it was and how welcoming it was, but I’d also heard sarcasm and dark humor were rampant and I’ve never had a very well-tuned sarcasm detector. So I needed to treat the note seriously. Not seriously enough to go to the cops of course, they’d laugh me out of town, but seriously enough to protect myself.

Initially I thought about packing a gun or a knife, but that seemed like a good way to get myself stabbed or shot with my own goods so I passed. While researching what in the hell a hotdish was though, I found out that they were best served in a heavy glass casserole dish. Part of the reading included holding your hotdish up and explaining the recipe and what it had to do with crime. That seemed like a perfect way to protect myself and make for an interesting introduction.

My hotel had a small kitchen with a stove and was a few blocks away from a Target where I was able to buy a bag of frozen tater tots, some ground beef, a giant bottle of hot sauce, cream of mushroom soup and a Pyrex glass baking dish.

I didn’t care how the thing tasted when I was done cooking it, I just wanted to make sure it hurt if I had to I hit someone with it.

When I showed up to the reading, I was surprised how many people were there. On the outside Mama Jake’s Supper Club looked like a haunted motel and on the inside it looked like a hipster food service genius had decorated a restaurant with crap he found from my grandma’s trailer home. I was standing on a platform in the main dining room with polka instruments lying behind me. My hands trembled as I held the hotdish up and told my story about the note.

“I cut my finger with the knife they had in the hotel kitchen and I think maybe a piece of me fell in the mix before I baked it. But a cannibal casserole seems perfect for this crowd, right?”

Nothing.

Not even nervous laughter.

I scanned the crowd while I babbled through the rest of my introduction looking for anyone who could be one of the hooligans. Two characters jumped out at me. One guy was stocky with shifty eyes and wearing one of those weird hats without a top like my dad’s douchy friends wear on the golf course and the other guy sitting a few seats away from him was on the shorter side wearing some kind of Minnesota soccer shirt. That guy was bouncing with a nervous energy that weirded me out and he had a nauseated look on his face that made me suspect he was up to something he might regret.

Eventually I started reading and occasionally looked up from my paper to see if any of the words I used were setting anyone off, but noone seemed to be paying any attention to what I was saying. For once that was a relief. I was getting into a rhythm with the story and really started enjoying myself when the guy with the topless hat stood up.

This was it.

I took a natural pause in the story and waited to see if he would really come for me. But he turned away from me and headed to the back toward the bathroom. I let out a deep breath and continued reading. The story was supposed to be funny but no one was laughing. It was almost over though. One more dialogue exchange and then the stinger paragraph at the end.

So close.

And then the guy in the soccer shirt stood up. The other guy must have been a decoy so I’d let my guard down. I grabbed my hotdish and tried my best to hold it naturally and make it a part of the story as the guy in the soccer shirt headed my way.

This was it.

I didn’t know what the word of the day was and I suspected it didn’t even matter. This was all a big joke I bet. Or a gag. For a brief second I actually thought about looking up over my head to see if there were any buckets of pig’s blood ready to dump on me.

I kept reading. He kept walking, no one paying attention to him.

Then I saw a knife. It was a switchblade like I’d seen in any number of gang movies from the 50s or stage versions of West Side Story. But I wasn’t going to get out of this with a dance off.

I gripped the hotdish tightly in my hands and rolled my wrists around trying to find the best grip for swinging it at my approaching enemy. I’d survived a lifetime worth of violence in the last year and I sure as hell wasn’t going to go down in a fucking supper club in Minnesota holding a glass bowl of offbrand beef and hot sauce covered in frozen tater tots.

Oh god. The smell.

I flashed back to my hotel room and the first time I pulled the dish from the oven. It smelled like a rancid grease fire mixed with rotten vegetables.

I choked back a burp and kept reading. One more sentence left.

And then I barfed. All over the microphone. All over the stage. And all over the guy in the soccer shirt who was still coming at me with the knife in his hand.

A knife that turned out to be fake as a matter of fact.

A fact I didn’t find out until I clobbered him in the head with my hotdish and sent both of us to the ground splashing in fresh, hot vomit. The microphone stand was the last thing to fall on top of me and it was still live so I said, with as much dignity as I could muster, “My name is Dominick Prince and that’s my time.”

What The Three New T-Shirts I Bought Mean For My Legacy

Two things I worry about too much are my legacy as a writer and what I wear as a writer. Clothes, as a part of my identity, have always been a struggle for me. Back in elementary school and junior high my clothes marked me as a nerd and the harder I tried to dress like the other kids the worse I looked. In high school my clothing choices had multiple personalities. I was preppy sometimes and scruffy some times and “fashionable” some times and there were two years I wore cowboy boots with everything. All of those styles fit me in some ways and but really none of them did. At my core I am a jeans and t-shirts kind of guy. It’s the best mix of comfort and style I’ve ever known but I’ve never been able to stick to it for very long without trying to be someone else.

As I prepared to go on tour for Riot Load I had a really hard time deciding what to wear. For a long time I debated taking several sport coats and button up shirts with me but seeing as I would be talking about a book about a sperm bank robbery that seemed like overkill. Two things saved me from making a colossal blunder and packing a wardrobe that would have made me look like a traveling gavel salesman: space constraints and the weather. It was going to be over 100 degree in Phoenix and Houston and I was only traveling with a single carry-on suitcase. That made sport coats incredibly impractical.

So I thought about polo shirts. They rank a close second in things I like to wear with jeans, but they’re also very boring. Even my striped ones. And every time I wear them I can’t help but think I look like Alan Harper from Two and A Half Men. So I went shopping to look for something that would be easy to pack and was more professional than a t-shirt but still had some style. I settled on two Hawaiian shirts.  There were great in the heat and I love the designs and I will wear them a lot, but they still reeked of trying too hard not to be who I really wanted to be.

Which brings us to last night when I was at the store exchanging a pair of shorts I bought for a smaller size. They were having a sale on their novelty t-shirts and I had to take a look. At first it seemed like nothing but superhero shirts which I am SO over, but I found a few gems I had to have. I got a Schoolhouse Rock one, a Fallout one, and, my favorite, a Duck Tales one. I will be wearing these to Bouchercon and to Noir at the Bar in Minneapolis and to Murder and Mayhem in Milwaukee and possibly even to the wedding I’m in this weekend (note to my sister-in-law if she’s reading this: I’m kidding). I don’t care if anyone thinks I’m a stooge.

This is who I am and if you don’t like it you can suck it.

The End Of The Tour

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I had my final bookstore event for Riot Load on Saturday at the wonderful Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor with the delightful Patti Abbott and that brings this tour to a close. I still have a few more appearances this year but I don’t really consider them part of this tour. So, now that I’ve had a few days to decompress and evaluate everything I’m sure you’re wondering if I think it was all worth it.

No.

Really.

This was quite a humbling experience to say the least. I had six people at my event in Phoenix, three at my event in Houston, and seven or eight walk-ins in Seattle, all of whom were there to see Bill Cameron. So yeah, humbling. It helps a bit to know authors bigger and more famous than I am had these same struggles early in their careers but I’m guessing those tours weren’t self-funded. Sounds like a horrible investment, right?

Well, not so fast. While on the surface and strictly from a numbers point of view the money and time away from work and family and other responsibilities was very much not worth it. But I’ve also spent more money on stupider things with even poorer returns. So let’s look at what did work about this tour.

The biggest advantage to traveling for a book is the immense free publicity that goes with it. Book stores ordered more copies of my book than they would have otherwise and placed those books prominently at the front of the store and in other key sales areas. That’s co-op gold that would normally cost a publisher serious change. It also gave me a chance to talk about the book and remind people the book was out without having to do cheesy and explicit BUY MY BOOK type messages.

One of the hardest parts of promoting a book is finding savvy and interesting new angles to bring up the book here on the site or on social media or in conversation. But a book tour provides a built in angle with lots of ways into that conversation. Travel stories, rental car horrors, tweets about the weather in AZ, and other things like this are a great way to remind people I have a new book out and I heard this first hand from several people who bought the book because of it.  And even though only a handful of people showed up in person at the events, many more people pre-ordered the book so I had stacks of mail orders and web orders to sign that had already been purchased. And many more people who weren’t able to attend for whatever reason will head to the book store after the fact to purchase one of the signed copies I left behind.

Finally, I had a chance for great in-person connections with some of the best booksellers in the country. We talked about books and sports and music and movies and video games and it was just wonderful all around. These are the best advocates a book and an author can ever get and I had a rare chance for an audience with them to make a connection and build a friendship. That’s invaluable from both a career and a human level. We all got into this because we’re readers as much as anything else and in an increasingly isolated world in-person contact is a gift to be shared and enjoyed. The friends and family I was able to hang out with during this trip make all of it worthwhile.

So while the melancholy of the worst parts of the tour may color how I approach touring, if at all, for Trigger Switch next year, I can’t say this was the worst way to spend money. I’m sure I could burn through that much on a good binge at the casino and feel much, much worse about myself the next day. I’m a lucky man in my life and my career and traveling around the country to bookstores to hang with friends is a key part of that. If you are interested though in making me feel better about this whole thing as well as supporting the great work indie bookstores do, contact The Poisoned Pen, Murder by the Book, Seattle Mystery Bookshop, or Nicola’s Books to order one of the copies I left behind. Thanks!

We're bribing our audience with cupcakes at Nicola's books today.

Favors and Agents and Blurgh.

I’m back from my intense but wonderful, west coast tour for Riot Load and ready to get to work selling it to the rest of the country. I’ve had so many people love and support me and my books so far and I’m asking for more because I’m greedy. But I also want to see the people who had faith in the book rewarded for that faith. Sales are great, but customer reviews are even better.

Reviews on Amazon make it easier for strangers, for folks outside of this loving and tight-knit community to find my book. Reviews on Amazon make it easier for my amazing publisher to promote the book online and through his sales reps. Reviews on Amazon also make it easy for you to tell other readers about how much you loved (or didn’t – honestly an honest review is helpful whether it’s good or bad) Riot Load.

So please take a moment today to click a few stars and say a few words about Riot Load today. I’d really appreciate it.

I took my own advice and reviewed a few books I’ve loved lately including:

CITY OF ROSE by Rob Hart – a great refresh of PI and strip club tropes
NOT EVEN PAST – another great twist on the PI novel that manages to wring an amazing amount of emotion out of its characters
SECURITY – A wonderful, trippy debut novel that’s part Agatha Christie, part Stephen King, and part Psycho.
THE FAR EMPTY – An amazing debut that really kind of made me regret ever being a writer in the first place because I’ll never be this good
SHOT IN DETROIT – a book that would be impossible for anyone without Patti’s talent and empathy and eye for detail to pull off.

Also, today I’m over at Hey There’s a Dead Guy talking about why I don’t have an agent and whether that’s the right move for everyone.

Something Something Frasier And Grunge

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I had a blast in Seattle, but I’m ready to go home. It’s kind of weird how the first few days away from home I really enjoy the quiet and the freedom and feel guilty for not missing my family more and then something happens by day three and the crushing loneliness and homesickness sets in and I miss them terribly. Thanks to everyone at Seattle Mystery Bookshop for having me and thanks to Bill Cameron for letting me horn in on his event. As always, if you missed the event feel free to contact the store to order a signed copy.

I’m at the Delta Sky Lounge now waiting for my flight to leave at midnight and this is the best $60 I ever spent. I’ll have a longer post soon about whether this tour was worth it but for now, I’m happy I did, I loved everyone I met, and I am very, very happy to be going home.

View From The Hotel: Seattle Edition

Your scenery pleases me Seattle.

This might be one of the best hotel views I’ve ever had. It’s far colder here than I expected so showing up in shorts and a t-shirt was not wise. Luckily I packed jeans and a hoodie with me so I should be fine. I was able to check into my hotel early so I can wash the stink of travel off of me and then spend valuable time calling National Car Rental, again, because they botched my rental something fierce in Houston and put me out a good chunk of change.

But that view is very calming and after catching up on some more work here I hope to take the light rail into the city for a while. Tomorrow I’ll be appearing at the Seattle Mystery Bookshop with my buddy Bill Cameron so come out and say hello and buy a bunch of copies.

View From The Hotel: Houston Edition

Not a bad view, Houston. Not bad at all.

I made it to Houston. Huzzah! I had a heaping plate of reasonably priced mediocre Chinese food at a place called Kung Food and then headed over here to check in. The hotel is lovely and has a great work station set up which I’ll need because I have work to be done. If you’re in the Houston area, come see me tonight at 6:30pm at Murder by the Book. If you can’t make it out, go ahead and order a signed copy anyway to support the store and the great work they do.

Greetings From The Ugly Side Of The Morning

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I’m writing this from the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport where I had to wake up at 3:30am this morning to make it to the airport on time. I know, right? But it’s all been worth it so far. The flight into AZ was great and the combination of using noise canceling headphone for the first time and using Afrin nose spray right before take off really made a difference in how I felt during and after the flight. I was still wildly disoriented because of waking up so early, but at least I felt healthy and disoriented instead of having a stuffy head and dizziness like I normally do for several hours after a flight.

My event at Poisoned Pen on Tuesday went well and I had a fun time talking with Patrick Millikin who is a very smart, very engaging man in the field. While the crowd was sparse, there were some people there which is still better than some horror stories of folks showing up to bookstores with no one in attendance. Patrick mentioned several big name authors who visited PP and had small crowds early on. If you weren’t able to make the event and you’d like to support Poisoned Pen and the great work they do, contact them to order one of the signed copies they have available. Thanks to James Thane for the photo above.

I had an off day yesterday and did some editing and worked some on the book but also found time to go to a baseball game which was fun. Even though Chase Field is an indoor park, it didn’t feel like it. Very enjoyable experience.

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Now I’m on my way to Houston where I will nap, then shower, then get ready for my event at the ever-awesome Murder by the Book. I’m signing with Gina Wohlsdorf who’s debut novel Safety is an amazing, trippy experience of a book that I highly recommend.

Also a quick reminder that I’ve added a few more links to my Blog Tour roundup post for this tour as well. Check it out!

Today is RIOT LOAD Launch Day!

My second novel, Riot Load, is available today at bookstores and online in ebook format. It’s so exciting to say that, my second novel. I’ve known too many authors better than me who have not been given the opportunity for a second novel so I thank Jason Pinter and all of the readers who made this possible.

I’m writing this from beautiful Gilbert, AZ where I am prepping for my event tonight at the world famous Poisoned Pen Bookstore. Thursday I’ll be heading to Houston and Murder by the Book followed on Saturday by a stop at the Seattle Mystery Bookshop. Full details of each event can be found on the appearances section of my website.

It’s always better when an author has the chance to let other folks do the cheering for a book, so I’m happy to point you to this Crimespree Magazine review from the ever delightful Kate Malmon.  My local paper, The Canton Observer did a great front page feature story about my books and my writing process that was picked up by the Detroit Free Press.

A fun side note about that story: I was in the grocery store yesterday getting allergy medicine before my flight and someone actually recognized me from that story. She has a friend who’s husband’s name is Jason Pinter and wondered if he had a new side hobby. I guess relatives think it’s so funny that over the years they’ve bought this guy the entire collected work of Jason’s novels. Small world and such.

I also had the privilege of writing a Big Idea essay for John Scalzi’s site about what happens when we achieve our dreams too early.

As fun as all of this attention is though, the main purpose is to sell books. So here are some places you can get a copy of your very own:

Here’s where to buy the print version:

Amazon.com I Barnes & Noble I IndieBound I Books-A-Million

Here’s where to buy the e-book version

Amazon.com I Barnes & Noble I Kobo iBooks I Google Play

Here’s where to order the e-book version from some of my favorite indie bookstores:

Schuler Books Murder by the Book I Seattle Mystery Bookstore Centuries & Sleuths

If your favorite indie isn’t listed, check out the IndieBound ebook list to find a store in your area that sells ebooks.

Once you’ve had a chance to read it I know everyone involved in producing the book would appreciate you leaving an honest review at Amazon.com or Goodreads. Thanks and happy reading!