All posts by Bryon Quertermous

About Bryon Quertermous

Writer. Editor. Cautionary Tale.

What a Lovely Day

Yesterday evening and all of today I was able to do something I haven’t been able to do much of recently: read for pleasure and relax. I finished up a big editing project after having big editing projects back-to-back for quite some time and looking at back-to-back editing projects for the near future. While this is certainly good for my bottom line (though after paying my taxes I sometimes wish my bottom line was much lower), working that much without reading for pleasure or letting my brain recharge depletes me creatively (and yes, editing is creative as much as it is logical).

I was lucky over the first few months of the year to read enough great short stories to prime myself creatively to write a short story I had due that turned out much better than I expected, but short stories are easier to fit into my schedule and the writing only took a few days, again, much easier to fit into my schedule (and even then, I missed the deadline by a day).  I still have a really ambitious book I want to write this year and to do that book justice, my brain and subconscious need to be working at peak capacity.

And even for my editing clients, the vast majority of whatever editing skill I possess didn’t come from my college classes or from any sort of training I got when working in NYC, it comes from decades spent reading everything I could find and thinking about story and structure and development analytically and methodically. To maintain that skill, I need to make time to read current books and keep thinking about story and structure as it has developed over the decades. So that means that, yes, the nap I took today and the book I read are as important to my process as my senior English seminar on Shakespeare. Maybe more so.

It certainly helped that the weather was absolutely gorgeous. Sunny and mid-70s, so I spent more time outside than I have recently, though I regret not taking a walk like I’d hoped to do, and I’ve noted here before that warm weather always refreshes and re-energizes me.

The book I read helped as well. For the last few years I’ve been trying to work more non-fiction into my reading diet and there’s nothing I like more than stories about writers and behind the scenes stories of stuff. So Seinfeldia, a book about the behind the scenes development of Seinfeld that details a lot about how the writers worked and found their ideas was right in my sweet spot. Reading books like this always inspire me to look at the world anew creatively and help me avoid becoming complacent in my very fine workaday middle class white collar life. I want more from life than any office job or banal hobby can offer and it’s good to be reminded of that on a regular basis.

I also have to shout out to Greg Herren, one of the many writers I spar with online but secretly respect (even if he is an SEC football fan, UGH) whose daily blog posts of the mundane and small moments of his life are always infused with humor and intelligence. There aren’t many author still blogging with any regularity anymore, and even fewer from the crime fiction community, so reading his posts also inspires me to return here on a regular basis instead of wasting all of my good material on Facebook.

Me + Libraries: A Love Story

I was in the mall branch of the Ann Arbor District Library the other day and snapped this photo of Murder Boy in the wild.  I previously saw a copy in the downtown branch when I was there for an event and I thought I’d talk about why it’s important to me to see my first novel in those two branches.

I grew up in libraries and they are responsible, in almost every way, for who I am today as a writer. I started in what passed for the young adult section (Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Bobbsey Twins, Boxcar Children, Tom Swift, Choose Your Own Adventure, and Laura Ingallas Wilder, and so many books on card tricks and ventriloquism and space and any number of hobbies I briefly pursued) and moved quickly to the adult section with Agatha Christie, Stephen King, Isaac Asimov, and so, so many Star Trek and Star Wars novelizations.

This is also where I made the pivot into crime fiction with Robert B. Parker, Sue Grafton, Robert Crais, and Michael Connelly. The books I read in the library growing up formed my base of reading and inspired my various attempts at early fiction writing. And the best part about my time in those libraries is that I never doubted I would be a writer. It was only a matter of time.  But the two Ann Arbor library branches I mentioned correspond to a time when I was at my lowest financial and creatively.

I was so, so poor and frustrated with where my life was and stuck in an epic battle in my mind about what kind of writer I should be and wondered any number of times if I would ever write another novel again, let alone have one published. But I kept reading. I watched great movies and TV shows for free from the library and went to author events for free, all of which helped chip away at the doubt and get me back to where I needed to be.  So to see these books on their shelves represents such a turnaround from where I thought I would be and I can’t say thanks enough. The Ann Arbor District Library was also the first library to buy my books. I donated copies to my own local library, and I’ll donate a copy of Riot Load to AADL so they don’t have to spend money on it, but that  initial purchase will never be forgotten.

These days I’m lucky to be in a position to buy just about any noveI I want to read, but I still hang out at the library and do a lot of writing there. I take the kids there. I check out a ridiculous amount of non-fiction from there. And I hope it’s around for a very long time.

Hey, I Finished A Short Story Tonight

I finished my first short story in almost nine years today and it feels great. This is a story I’ve had in my head for a while and wanted to write, but I’ve mostly been focusing on novels lately and have gotten out of the writing for free game, so options were always going to be limited. Then lo and behold last year I got an email from an old friend who was editing an anthology and wondered if I might like to submit something. The money offered was good, and provided the story wasn’t awful, acceptance was virtually guaranteed, so that gave me the freedom to really dig into the uncomfortable parts of this story without worrying about how it would appeal to a submissions editor.

The next week I filled out the contract, opened a file with the story name and then sat on it for a long time mulling the story over in my head. The final version is much, much different than from the version I originally had in my head. It was originally going to be a revenge/protector story featuring a complicated and horrible character I wanted to attempt to make sympathetic. But as I worked through the story in my head, the plot just wouldn’t work. I finally cracked it open when I switched to the POV of the mother involved and suddenly I had a doozy of a piece about a mother faced only with bad choices and how she navigates the loss of her daughter. I’m very happy with how it turned out and hope my career included many more invitations to write for anthologies because I love doing it this way (actually, I have one more invite I accepted that it technically writing for free but the proceeds will be donated to a cause I care a great deal about, so I’m excited to do it).

Happy Marriage Announcement Party Day To My Wife

It hasn’t been a full decade yet, but the other day I was thinking about how wholly and wonderfully I have been transformed since I married Becky. The year before our wedding I was petty and weird and unmoored and way too old to be living life the way I was living it. My dreams were messy, my finances were abysmal, and my maturity was non-existent. And then in the space of just under a decade, this woman got me married, got me into steady, full-time employment, got be into being a homeowner, a father, and a fully contributing member of society.

With all of that real world growing up she encouraged me in, wouldn’t you know that my artistic dreams began flourishing as well. Since we’ve been together I’ve published short stories in award-winning anthologies, built a respected and enjoyable freelance editing business, and published two well-received novels. And because of Becky, all of that means so much more than if I was doing it by myself.

And you know the best part? We’ve barely even scratched the surface of what we’re capable of together. I can’t wait to see what the next 9 years and the 9 years after that bring for us. And we are an us. We are individuals, yes, with individual tastes and personalities and dreams, but we are only as successful as the other is.

So happy anniversary, baby (even though this isn’t the actual day we were legally married) and thanks for everything.

My First ER Visit of 2017 is in the Books

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Thanks to the good people at the Oakwood Hospital ER who helped me last night after an embarrassing incident that resulted in two fractured toes and a sprained knee. Was happy for once to go to the ER and leave the same day.

I was yelling at Holly for the millionth time that day to clean up her crayons in the living room and I tried to storm out of there dramatically and, instead, kicked the step from the living room up to the kitchen so hard I blew out two toes and my knee and don’t remember a period of about five minutes after it happened.

Oops.

It was awful. Holly was crying because she thought it was her fault and my screaming in mortal pain didn’t help any.

Still though, it was nice to be the ER for my clumsiness and temper rather than my bad diet or other health reasons.

The Most Important Office in a Democracy is Citizen

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DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley used under a creative common license.

“The most important office in a democracy is citizen.”

This line from Obama’s farewell address last night really stuck with me. I experienced an epiphany/horror or sorts as I watched that speech last night as it dawned on me what we’re really losing with this president and what we’re in for with Trump. I took to Facebook with a bit of a rant, but wanted to drop those words here for the archives as well.

It’s really just now hitting me that we’re going from this to.. that…He’s always just seemed like a sideshow to me, but now…oh, right, this is happening.  It’s all the wistfulness of watching the last episode of Friends, but also finding out I’m starring in a reality TV version of The Hunger Games the next day.

I’m having visions of Jackson Browne’s The Load Out and I just want Obama at the piano alone for a few more songs.

I did not expect to be as angry at the end of that speech as I was, knowing what we’re missing out on.

I have friends and family I love who voted for Trump and I’ve avoided saying anything up to this point and tried to be neutral, but screw that.

Other people I love will be worse off at the end of a Trump presidency and that’s not cool. Trump is a disgusting, shameful president but really I think it would have been worse with a more conventional Republican candidate because there wouldn’t have have been as much anger and scrutiny. The current iteration of the Republican party uses hate and ignorance and fear as its currency and it needs to die. Soon.

‪The best thing I can say tonight is to remember WE elected a president like this and we can do it again.‬

 

So You Want to Build an Author Website

I’m a web content junkie and I pride myself on the usefulness of this website and the great comments I’ve received from folks on how easy it is to use. Many of the best parts of this site came from ideas generated by Judy Bobalik’s annual Facebook post about it. Judy reads a ton and has handles programming for several large mystery conventions, so she knows what she’s talking about. That FB post is hard to find though the rest of the year, so with Judy’s permission I’m posting it here for the archives. Feel free to share to anyone who could use it and share your own tips in the comments.

From Judy:

I’ve started my research on authors who are wanting panels for Bouchercon 2016 (we do not start programming until June 2016). This means I have been visiting author websites. Here are my requests (other programmers, readers and bloggers feel free to add if I’ve left something out)

If you’ve hired a publicist and they haven’t told you things, find another publicist. This is not rocket science.

1. Have a website and keep it up-to-date.
2. A brief bio. It’s fine if you have the long bio about how you wrote your first book at 4 but have a brief one also.
3. A downloadable photo (I don’t care about this but I know reviewers do.)
4. A printable booklist with date of publication or series books in order.
5. A brief synopsis of the book. It’s wonderful that so-and-so thought your book was wonderful but blurbs don’t do anything for me. Give me a synopsis.
6. Contact information.
7. And I can’t believe how often I go to a Facebook page of an author and am not able to find a link to their website.
8. Tour dates with either the year or add the day. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at an events lists and thought oh they’re going to be in Chicago next week and then find out it was two years ago.
9. An up-to-date events list.

Me again…I would also recommend this post from John Scalzi about why every person, writer or otherwise, should have a space on the web to call their own rather than just relying on social media or commercial blogs that own the content you create and can delete it forever with no notice.

This site is currently hosted through 1and1.com and I use WordPress to create and maintain it. I recommend both highly.