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.
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.
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.
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 blog, 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.
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?
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.
While the basics of writing – putting words on the page, telling a good story, basking in fame and fortune, etc. – don’t really change over time, the methods by which writers tell stories and the way in which we tell the world about those stories does change. Quickly. VERY quickly. My day job is in technology and web content management and that stuff is always changing and sometimes I wonder if it gives me a false sense of being tech savvy or at the forefront of digital promotion. Two recent examples give me pause about that.
Both of these resulted in my obsessive following and copying of Kameron Hurley’s promotional genius. She, like myself, is a content manager and has managed (haha) to use her day job skills to promote her fiction career to the next level (see her great piece for this very site here about writing and promotion). One of her mantras is to go where the readers are. To this end she is always exploring new social media models and new distribution models. Some of what she does I have no interest in doing (Wattpad) but two things sounded like something I should look into.
The first was Snapchat. I’ve been hearing about this everywhere and how it was the new thing and what a great tool it is for writers and editors. And I failed miserably to get it. I didn’t understand it and it just baffled the ever loving hell out of me. I couldn’t see a way forward with Snapchat that would either give me a new outlet to meet new people and hang out in a new way with my current friends or give me an outlet talk about writing and books and my bad luck with restaurants. As opposed to Instagram which I got immediately. I read up on Snapchat even but the terms they were using and the ideas being espoused were so far away from how I use the Internet and how I interact online that I knew I would never get it. So no Snapchat for me.
The other, more complicated, item I’ve been looking into is doing a newsletter. In general I hate author newsletters. I can only remember reading one in my life and that was Robert Crais’s when he was sending out excerpts of the new Elvis Cole book we’d all been waiting for since LA Requiem. Since then I’ve signed up here and there for author newsletters and some of them I even enjoy but none of them are anything I read regularly. Everything in the newsletters is stuff I already knew from following the author online. But a wise friend pointed out to me that a newsletter isn’t about me. It’s about my readers. And believe it or not, there are A LOT of readers out there not following my every move on Facebook or at this website.
That got me thinking quite a bit. I certainly don’t want to be leaving any readers on the table. He also raised a good point about distributing my content in a way that isn’t owned by any social media entity. That’s the main reason I host my own content here but not everyone comes to my site. So needless to say a lot of good points were raised by many people about why I should be doing it. And putting it together really wouldn’t be that hard. The templates they make these days are very easy to use and I’m already writing most of the content I’d fill it with here on the website, so it’s just a matter of cross posting it to the newsletter as well without the frippy posts that occasionally pop up here.
So why am I not jumping right on the bandwagon and getting this thing rolling? Because I’m not sure I have it in me to go begging for people to sign up. I hate asking people to sign up for my Facebook author page, I hate begging for reviews, and the idea of one more thing I need to beg readers for makes me sick to my stomach. I know this will be a slow build and over time the subscriptions will tick up, just like they did with this website, but I’m already torn in a bazillion other directions and the marketing effort needed to make sure I don’t fall on my ass with Riot Load is already making me anxious enough so I think this will be one of those back burner ideas I routinely think about but don’t do anything with until the very last minute.
See pictures from previous Easters: 2015, 2014, 2013, 2011
Spenser and I went to see it yesterday in IMAX 3D and I thought briefly about writing a full review of it like I did with Man of Steel, but frankly I’m exhausted by all of the hate for this movie so I’m just going to post my brief thoughts.
On a related note, I am becoming a huge fan of IMAX 3D for movies like this. It started when Becky and I saw Jurassic World that way because it was the only showing that fit our schedule. And then Spenser and I saw The Force Awakens that way and my love was sealed. So Batman V Superman:
-I really enjoyed it
-Superman was the worst part of the movie
-Clark Kent was the second worst part
-Wonder Woman was awesome and it’s stupid she hasn’t ever had her own movie
-It was stupid they had her dressed like a Viking stripper
-Ben Affleck is now my favorite Batman ever.
-The movie is about 1/2 hour too long
-Seriously, Superman, ugh.
Getting that first book deal is huge, but in many ways, it’s so much harder to get a second book deal. I know of many authors, most better than myself, who were never given that opportunity or who had to wait a decade or more for the opportunity.
But here I am, just two years removed from my first book deal, with my second novel set to publish just a few months from now, and I’m signing my second book contract. I’m a lucky, lucky man. This is what Publisher’s Marketplace will have to say shortly:
TRIGGER SWITCH, the third novel in CWA Dagger nominee Bryon Quertermous’s Dominick Prince series, in which the struggling writer/trouble magnet is promised fame by a former classmate-turned failed teen soap star who plans to stage a play based on one of Dominick’s stories, only to find that he’s being used as a patsy to track down a missing $1.2 million, to Jason Pinter at Polis Books.
I am stoked about this book. Considering that when I wrote Murder Boy I had no thought of it being a series, the fact that I’m capping off the first trilogy of books about Dominick is pretty cool. He’s taken on a life of his own in this series rather than remaining the vaguely disguised avatar for all of my life struggles in my 20s he was originally conceived as. Riot Load takes a darker turn (available for pre-order now!) as Dominick gets more and more beat down and disillusioned by the violence he experiences and Trigger Switch will cap that arc off. It’s much more of a revenge caper than a silly caper. When I pitched the idea to Jason I told him it would complete Dominick’s transition from Dortmunder to Parker.
So thanks to Jason Pinter for taking another chance on me. And thanks to all of the readers and booksellers who made sure we moved enough copies of Murder Boy to justify this new deal. And especially thanks to Dan Malmon who spent far longer than he needed to on Facebook Messenger bouncing title ideas back and forth. I love you all!