How About a Riot Load Update?

I sent a version of this to my newsletter subscribers last week. If you want to make sure you never miss these important updates, be sure to sign up here.

With the release of Riot Load just under a month out now, I figured the timing is perfect for an update of what’s been happening and what will happen with my second novel (that never gets old to say).

So let’s start with the big news first: My finished copies of Riot Load arrived yesterday.

Well hello beautiful.

Once again Jason has done an excellent job of putting out a really high-quality product. Their arrival was actually kind of a surprise which was fun. I got home late last night after a rather rotten and depressing day and saw a couple of boxes of books on the porch. I’m involved with a project that has seen a lot of books being mailed to me recently so I didn’t think anything about it until I cut into the first box and saw these babies looking up at me. My day was immediately better. I held it and ran around the house with it and showed the kids where their names were in the acknowledgements. This whole thing still feels pretty unreal to me.

But it is real, and it will be out in the world in less than a month. I will be doing a substantial blog tour for this book, The schedule is still being finalized but I can confirm there will be guest posts at Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds site, John Scalzi’s Whatever, and Criminal Element among others. There will also be interviews at The Big Thrill, Steve Hockensmith’s site, Steve Lauden’s site, my own local paper, The Canton Observer, and a special appearance to talk books and college sports with Dave White at the Rutgers sports blog On The Banks. When the schedule is finalized I’ll post it on my appearances page .

The first interview out of the gate is live now and that’s a rather unique interview I did with Dan Malmon over Facebook that was posted to the Crimespree Blog.

In addition to online events, I’ll also be popping up several places in person. The tour will kick off June 11-12 in Chicago, IL for the Printers Row Lit Fest where I will be doing panels and book signings with the Midwest Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America as well as interviewing debut author Shaun Harris. Then it’s off to a trio of amazing indie bookstores: Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, AZ on June 14, Murder by the Book in Houston, TX on June 16 with debut author Gina Wohlsdorf, and Seattle Mystery Bookshop in Seattle, WA on June 18 with non-debut author Bill Cameron. My local book launch will be at Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor where I will be appearing with wine and cake in addition to fellow Polis Books author Patti Abbott. If you’re close to any of these stores, I’d love to see you and sign your books. If you can’t make it when I’m there, be sure to contact any of these store in advance to order a signed (or the more rare and valuable unsigned) copy. Again, info is available on the appearances page of my website.

For anyone concerned about what they’ll be in for when buying a copy of Riot Load, the first chapter is available to read for free on this here website.

Finally, these things always seem to end with recommendations of things the author has experienced that they enjoyed and I have a few of those. In books I’ve really been enjoying Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing by Matthew G. Kirschenbaum. This hits the sweet spot for me between computers and author interviews. In music I’ve been listening to Wynonna and the Big Noise. I’d been out of country music for a while because the mainstream stuff was just so awful and I had no idea how to find the good stuff I knew was being produced. Thankfully I found Outlaw Country on my XM radio and that opened a big new world to me. In addition to reacquainting me with one of my favorite artists it’s helped me find great new artists like Derek Hoke who reminds of the great voice, great guitar, and happy-go-lucky spirit of Vince Gill.

Dates, Ruts, And Adventurous Eating


Becky and I have been lucky our entire time together to enjoy each other’s company and have a nice dating life. We’re blessed with parents who are okay taking the kids once in a while overnight or on the fly so we can do fun stuff together. Now that Natalie is getting a little older, I’m really hoping we can do more traveling together. But for now, we make sure to focus  on our dating life though we’ve been falling into the trap of quantity over quality. We had a run of a couple funky dates because we pushed the chain restaurant/movie date too far. So when we decided it was time for another fancy date night, I wanted to do something different.

The Holly Hotel is a fancy Victorian building in the old village part of Holly, a ruralish area about 20 minutes south of Flint. They have a fine dining restaurant and a basement comedy club. A quick look at the menu showed us this was going to be more adventurous than most outings because the menu tended to change frequently and you were at the mercy of the chef most of the time. But feeling adventurous, we dove in. The atmosphere was indeed excellent, nicely quaint and historical enough to trigger my imagination a hundred different ways. When it came time to order though, I did something uncharacteristic for me, I picked the most adventurous option. It was an 8 course chef’s selection meal when I wouldn’t know what the next course was until it was brought out to me. I’m usually a pretty picky eater but as a writer looking for the next interesting thing to inspire me and as a person who doesn’t want to die early from eating crappy food too much, I’ve been trying to get out of my comfort area more.

And for the most part I was rewarded for the effort. There was nothing that completely grossed me out and everything was amazingly fresh which contributed to some intense and delightful flavors. The only thing that really disappointed me was the entree course, a tiny little quail that I didn’t care for, but by that point I was so full, and the side dishes were so good, that it didn’t matter. The dinner took so long to serve that we ran a bit late to the comedy show and they served the last two courses, a cheese course and desert course, down there. The comedians were funny in a solid pro, but nothing original kind of way and the first pushed really heavy on weight jokes and the second relied a lot on relationship/ men v women jokes.

Becky got the duck. She did not care for it.


Booklist Likes Riot Load Too


Booklist, another publishing trade industry juggernaut, has weighed in with a review of Riot Load.  Even though there is no really great pull quote like Publishers Weekly had, they still seemed to enjoy it and get what I was trying to do. That’s what counts. You can find the full review at Booklist Online, but here are a few of my favorite passages:

“This is hardly the first book about writing a book, but usually they tend toward the arty—Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet, for example. Quertermous is after something different.”

And that’s true. I was aiming for the opposite of arty. I like this one too:

“Readers must abandon expectations for a conventional crime novel and enjoy, if they can, the way one absurd situation flows into another. Eventually, we get a glimpse of the novel he’ll (Dominick, not me, that would really change the tone of this review) write, and if we’re never sure it’s a novel we would want to read, we can’t quite stop ourselves from reading about it.”

Again, right on. While the overall tone kind of hedges on coming right out and saying the book is good, I think the reviewer really got what I was trying to do with the book and seemed to appreciate it. I’ll take it.

Want Exclusive Access to The First Chapter of TRIGGER SWITCH? Sign up For My Newsletter.

Here’s a note I just sent to my newsletter subscribers:

We’re about a month removed from the last newsletter and I’ve been thinking about what to do with this thing. I love the intimacy of it and the feeling of talking directly to you all, but every time I start to write something here I write in for my website instead. I’ve thought about writing one big piece here every month and cross-posting it to my website, but that seems like cheating. And I thought about just waiting until closer to the June 14 publication of RIOT LOAD (available for pre-order now!) and sending out a breezy update with sales links and links to pre-pub reviews (I can’t tell you which one or when it will run, but we got our second pre-pub review in and it’s another good one, shhhhhhh) and links to the interviews I’ll be doing and such, but that seemed like a waste of this very awesome format.

So I looked back at what I’ve done so far and realized the note I sent out with the first page of TRIGGER SWITCH, the novel I’m writing right now and the final book of the trilogy that started with MURDER BOY, was very, very popular. So I though, why not double down on that and send out the whole first chapter? Early on in a book I tend to do this a lot and routinely send around chunks to friends and occasional strangers. My beginnings also don’t tend to change very much (it’s the back half of a book that always gives me fits) so for all you know you could be reading the close to final version of this book right now.

I don’t know if I’ll do this every month or if I’ll send every chapter. Maybe I’ll send sneak peaks of random chapters. Maybe I’ll only send single random pages. Who knows. But for now, until we get too deep into the book for this to make sense or until I come up with something better, the subscribers of this newsletter will be the only people to read these exclusive chunks. They won’t be archived on the newsletter page and they won’t be available on my website (so please don’t share the link to this newsletter on social media). I hope you enjoy.

It’s not too late to get in on the action. Sign up now and you’ll receive the first chapter of TRIGGER SWITCH right in your email.

April Showers Bring May Godawful Freezing Wind and Rain Mix Which is Total BS

Another day, another race.

Becky ran a half marathon yesterday and she got up at an unholy hour and I slept and at some point felt a little bad that I didn’t take the kids to cheer her on. Today she was running a 5k to support something or other related to our kids’ school and Spenser and Holly stayed the night at my in-laws so I figured I could take Natalie out easier than all three of them. What I gained by sleeping in an extra hour I lost in much, much worse weather. But at least Natalie and I could go warm up in the car during the hard part of the race where Becky was, you know, running. Ew.

There’s a lot of talk in the mystery community about finding our tribe and Becky has found hers in the running community. There’s some weird factions we try to avoid, but for the most part it’s been good for her. Also, her involvement with Girl Scouts has been good for her and for Holly.

Anyway, Happy May. Pretty soon it will be all me all the time as we roll out the promo for Riot Load, so I should get in as much stuff about my family while I have the chance.

Enthusiastically supporting mommy while she runs.

Publishers Weekly Review of Riot Load


The first review of Riot Load is in and it’s a good one from Publishers Weekly. In fact, this is my first trade review ever and I find that very cool. The full review is here but here are the juicy bits:

An over-the-top premise drives Quertermous’s offbeat second novel featuring medical administrative assistant Dominick Prince (after 2015’s Murder Boy).

Originally I was miffed they referred to him as a medical administrative assistant, like that was the hook of the series, but I got over it and it’s not untrue. Here is the money line that I’ve pulled out for all my marketing stuff:

Fans of gonzo noir will find a lot to like.

I love that. I also love that it doesn’t have any qualifiers. A lot of the other reviews from PW are worded something like “the author resorts to cliche too many times but overall the story is strong and the characters are excellent” but there was nothing like that in this review. I’ll take that as a good sign. For my first trade review I really couldn’t ask for better.

Everyone Gets A Trophy


Sure, that’s a cute picture of my awesome little boy holding his trophy and his Pinewood Derby car, but there’s actually quite a bit to unpack there. Let’s start with the car.

Spenser’s never been particularly keen about his involvement in Boy Scouts. I think he thought it was going to be more outdoors stuff and less meetings and sitting around learning crap. This extended to his involvement in the Pinewood Derby. He had kind of a meltdown at the boat race earlier in the year when he competed well but didn’t win. At the boat race there was only one person in the entire pack who got a trophy. Spenser came in somewhere in the top ten. So he wasn’t especially concerned about participating in the car race, he was more excited about the snack time they kept mentioning. Since he wasn’t very excited, and my crafting skills are abysmal at best, I didn’t push him to do anything with and hoped it would all go away.

Well, it didn’t. And I finally took him out to the store a week before the race to buy a pre-cut kit and some spray paint. And then I sat on that until the night before weigh-in and really, really hoped it would all go away. I was swamped with day job work AND freelance work and generally feeling miserable, so this was one more thing I really didn’t want to face down. But Becky stepped in and did a much better job of painting and assembling the car than I ever could have and Spenser was happy with it. And I was saddled with more fatherly guilt – a recurring theme through his entire time in Boy Scouts.

A side note to this guilt bit, Spenser had been asking me for a week to play video games with him and I kept putting him off. He would say ok but I could tell he was crushed. It made me feel awful and this just added to that guilt.

So we showed up to the race and his car was just awful. It was the slowest one there by far and I felt bad for him. But he was having fun and he really did love the snacks. And then a funny thing happened. Due to the small size of his den, and the fact that the top four in each den got a trophy, his second place finish, out of two participants, won him a shiny trophy that he was so proud of. I know we make a lot of noise about everyone getting a trophy and how it’s ruined a generation, but anyone who has dealt with millennial in person, not in theory or just by reading about them, realized what an asset they are. Facebook was invented by a millennial and so were most of the other things that are, or will, change our world in the next few decades. And in that context, I’m fine with Spenser getting a trophy for doing absolutely nothing but showing up.

He turned the trophy into a hammer and a tree de-barker a few days after, so there’s also that to be proud of.

Dispatches From The Stooge

Can I tell you a secret?

I’m in a confessional sort of mood thanks to working with TinyLetter and thinking about my newsletter. The idea that what I write can be delivered directly to a reader’s inbox, the most sacred personal space we have in this digital world today, fills me with a desire to make that permission worth it. But then I started wondering why you, the readers of this site, my longest tenured outpost on the web, shouldn’t get to benefit from my newly intimate and conversational mood.

So let me tell you a secret.

I’m afraid I’m the stooge of the mystery community. I’m afraid that my natural tendency toward self-deprecation and my desire to be funny at all costs has damaged my reputation as a writer and that I’ve lost hope of ever being taken seriously as person or as a writer. I think about all of the people who laugh or glare at me when I show up to book events or conferences in jeans and goofy t-shirts instead of a sport coat.  I think about all of the condescending comments from even my friends when it seems I’ve gone too far with a joke. I genuinely worry that, despite joking about it, I’ll only ever be known as that guy who insults Laura Lippman online.

I’m thinking about this as we approach the launch for Riot Load. I’m thinking about it a lot and I worry that this book that means a lot to me, that I put a ton of effort and emotion into, won’t get it’s true due because everyone sees its author as a goof and assume the book – about a sperm bank robbery no less – is a goof as well.

I first knew this book and this idea was going to be a hard sell when I did some events for Murder Boy and the inevitable question of what I was working on next came up. I would jokingly say it was about a sperm bank robbery and when the audience, or bookseller’s face would cringe, I’d try to explain that at it’s heart though it’s about the fear of fatherhood, the fear of disappointing those who vouch for you, the fear of being stuck in a dead-end life to support a family and the fear of being a racist or a sexist or an asshole without even realizing it. But by then I’d already lost them. The guy who wrote his first novel all about vomit had written a second novel about sperm. End of story. Peace out.

Realistically I shouldn’t care about any of this. I should trust the work to stand on its own and realize that I’m hyper aware of this sort of stuff and that the online community and the social media community are not the end all and be all of publishing. I’m sure there are plenty of people who bought Murder Boy without knowing who I am or my reputation. They saw a great cover in a great package in a great book store or online from one of the people who was kind enough to spread the word about the book.

But I’m also a bit sensitive about this idea of maturity anyway. I’ve been making an effort to act my age more, without becoming depressing and boring, but it’s so easy to fall into bad habits and cover my insecurities with humor. But that shit won’t fly in this marketplace. Today’s publishing marketplace is an expert-driven market place. The authors with the biggest footprints online are seen as experts in their field or experts in publishing. They aren’t seen as the butt of jokes. There again though, I’m equating the online world with the real world.

As always I just hope everyone sees me as a work in progress and judges my books on their own merit. Sure, they’re goofy and they’re fun – lord knows this world needs some humor – but they are grounded in genuine emotion and a genuine desire on my part to write the best book I can. So take the word from the expert on this book, pre-order Riot Load and tell your friends in real life about it. Thanks.

Newsletter Update

I buried the lead in my last post so for those who missed it: I finally started a newsletter.

People have been telling me for years now that I need to do a newsletter, or, at minimum, begin collecting an email list. They all raised very good points but I never followed through with it. I’m not really a newsletter fan and I thought my own website along with my social media presence was my best marketing asset. I’m also lazy and the thought of one more thing to manage made me sick.

But the good points kept sticking in my mind and as I approach the release of Riot Load in two months I figured now was a good time to start.

I originally went with MailChimp because it’s the one I’d heard the most about. I liked it enough but it seemed a bit overwhelming as I tried to create templates and all of that nonsense. And then I saw cool stuff that other folks were doing with auto-responders and giveaways and I freaked out some more at the effort and at the price.

So I sat back and really thought about what I wanted my newsletter to accomplish. I want the best info from my website and from my social media posts sent to the inboxes of those who may not always (or ever) be on social media so they can support me. And MailChimp wasn’t meeting that need. This is when I looked around at who was doing newsletters I liked and seemed to have the same goals like Sarah Weinman, Alex Segura, and Gwenda Bond and it looked like almost all of them were using Tiny Letter.

I signed up, imported my email list and within a half hour had sent out my first newsletter. That’s when I knew I had found the right platform because if I was still with MailChimp I’d still be trying to figure out all of the bells and whistles. Once I was rolling with Tiny Letter, it all made sense. I finally saw that this newsletter can be complimentary and co-exist with the website and blog. It will get some of the same content but also some different content geared specifically toward these users. Much like my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts work together.

Now I just need to keep building the list without sounding like a beggar. Anyone have newsletter war stories or tips?

Opening Day…Of My Brand New Website


Today is the Tigers home opener and in honor of the true start of spring (and to kick off the official promotional season for Riot Load) I present to you my newly revamped website. All of the content you know and love is still here, just better organized and better optimized for mobile. But I also have LOTS of new content. The pages for Murder Boy and Riot Load have been updated plus I added a page for Trigger Switch, the book coming out in 2017 that I just signed a contract for. Keep your eye on that page for some cool stuff in the near future.

The cornerstone of the new content though is two long-lost short stories that relate, loosely, to my two current novels. Murder Boy is based quite substantially on a short story that appeared in Thuglit back in 2006 and Riot Load is based, much more loosely, on a story I wrote called Load that was published in Crimespree Magazine way back in 2005. As a reader and fan I always like reading this kind of stuff from my favorite authors so I thought it would be cool to post here. I’m also in the process of collecting all of the rest of my limited short story output into a collection as a freebie to give away as we get closer to Riot Load‘s June release date. More on that to come.

And that brings me to my next update. I’ve finally gone all-in and created a newsletter. If you want to keep up on all of the updates and make sure you get in on the best freebies and deals without having to check in here every day, you can sign up for my low volume newsletter and let the info and freebies come to you. Related to this, I’ve closed down my author page on Facebook and will be focusing my efforts more on curating my newsletter list and providing a quality email experience for those who just want updates on book related stuff and not my parenting rants about homework and recess.

Finally, I’ve updated my editing services page and tried to make it a cornerstone of my web presence here. I’ve added more testimonials and updated my recent projects list with better covers and links to Amazon so potential clients can get a good idea of the range of my experience and background.