The Grym Brothers, page 1
THE GRYM BROTHERS
A Collection of Three Novels
Table of Contents
TWO AND A HALF DEAD MEN
THE DEAD COUPLE
BETTER OFF DEAD
Super Awesome Extra Bonus Content
Firstly, let me apologize in advance if you’ve downloaded only a sample and my forward here takes up most of that sample. You see, this isn’t just a collection of three and a half books; it’s a peek inside the process of writing the Grym Brothers. You might even say that this is my first and last word on the Grym Brothers (Unless, of course, a Hollywood producer or Network Executive happens to pick up this book and loves it so much they want to adapt it. In that case, six seasons and a movie!). The characters of Thane and Mort Grym will probably live in the Reapers in Heels series (more on that on a later) but this version of them? This particular reality of the Grym brothers? This is it.
So this isn’t just a collection of books. It's a collection of the process, the series, the characters and everything else.
The Grym Brothers has two origin stories. The first one was back in 2009 when my Dad died suddenly. There was no warning, no preamble. We never found out the exact cause of death. Quite simply, one minute my father was living and then the next, he was not.
The last time I spoke to him was that previous Sunday. I was trying to get his advice on how to fix a plumbing problem my wife and I had. He called back between performances at the local theater where he was handling the lighting. It was a conversation no different than other conversation's I’ve had with my father. There was nothing special about it, but then, neither of us knew that it was going to be the last time we spoke. Although, I wonder, would it have been any different had we known? My father and I were on good terms. There were no unresolved issues between us. We enjoyed each other’s company, we respected each other’s opinion. We had a good relationship. Honestly, though, my father and I had never had a difficult relationship. Oh sure, when I was a teenager, there was the typical crap that goes on between a parent and a teenager. But I grew up. I learned how to deal with my father and my father learned how to deal with me.
The last time I saw my father was a few weeks prior to his death. We had gone out to dinner with my wife’s sister, husband and children. My mother and father were there as well. I don’t know what was going on at the rest of the table because I was sitting at the corner with my Dad, as these things usually went. And, I’ll be honest, the majority of our conversation consisted of my Dad giving me a hard time about my creative ventures. My Dad was nitpicking at everything I had ever done, even to the extent of suggesting that all of my novels needed to be rewritten. But it was never an argument. It was a discussion. It was a discussion that annoyed me, yes, but it was still a discussion that I got to have with my father.
That’s probably where the initial idea for the Grym Brothers was born.
Flash forward to mid-2010. I was working on my 3rd Alex Cheradon novel, LITTLE PEOPLE, BIG CRIMES (Now available for purchase, along with the rest of the Alex Cheradon series. Plug, plug) and my wife and I were discussing starting a new series. My Alex books didn’t have the mass-appeal that I had hoped for, so we were bouncing around ideas for something between the genre-bending of Alex Cheradon and the mundane lives of my more character-based novels.
As we were drifting off to sleep one night, she mumbled out: grim reapers who hunt down dead souls on the run.
I was awake instantly.
It was a simple, but brilliant concept: Grim reapers as bounty hunters.
The pieces started to fall into place pretty quickly.
I made my lead characters brothers, Thane and Mort. They were complete opposites. Thane was the older, mature, responsible brother. Mort was the family screw up. I placed them at the bottom of the grim reaper totem pole, never missing an opportunity to dump more grief and aggravation on them. I gave them a missing father, who was also a grim reaper, to add some legacy and mystery to their lives.
My wife and I loved the idea. We loved it so much that we tried pitching it as a comic book. You'll learn more about that in the Bonus Features section.
After the Grym Brothers failed as a comic book pitch, we turned to my strengths: prose fiction. I had a lot of grand ideas about how the series was going to be executed and I've set those aside in a special section in the Bonus Features as well.
I really wanted to stretch as a writer with these books. I wanted them to be a blend of crime stories and supernatural tales. I wanted my characters to not always end up on top. I wanted to create solutions to problems that didn't always end in a hail off John Woo-esque gun fire(I love John Woo movies. I'm not ashamed of it. Hard Boiled and Mission: Impossible 2 were two of my favorite films in my late teens, early twenties. He's made a permanent impression on my style of action.). Honestly, I'm not sure how much I succeeded in any of that.
For all of my grand aspirations, in the end, the Grym Brothers ended up becoming a very public first draft.
My goal with the Gryms was to reach a wider audience. It was as simple as that. I wasn't trying to comment on the human condition or (insert any other random, uptight, artistic attitude). I was trying to write a bestseller. And for a while, it kind of worked. The series started off strong, but shortly after the release of the third book our sales started to go down. Maybe it was a natural entropy of the series, weeding out the casual readers and leaving me with the hardcore fans. I don't know. What I do know is that when you're this close to the bottom, any loss is a huge loss. And this was a huge loss.
During one of our walks my wife and I were discussing the Grym brothers and future books in the series when I suddenly had a simple revelation:
The Grym brothers should have been the Grym sisters.
Remember, when we originally came up with the idea of these grim reaping brothers, the plan was to create a more mainstream series that would appeal to an audience beyond that of the Alex Cheradon books. It never occurred to me that the mainstream reading audience was female and that the brothers should have been sisters.
During the course of our 30-minute walk my wife and I explored the repercussions of a gender switch. Mort's philandering and (according to some reviewers) misogynistic behavior suddenly became a bizarre take on female empowerment. The concept of two brothers talking about their relationships felt slightly awkward and metro, but as females, it takes on a Sex in the City-type quality. Side characters such as Alan Gold and Stanley Morris took on whole new and, frankly, more interesting interpretations.
By the end of the walk we had decided to pull the trigger. TWO AND A HALF DEAD MEN would become ONE STILETTO IN THE GRAVE. Thane would become Avery. Mort would be transformed into Brooke. I changed their last name to Graves and series name to Reapers in Heels.
And just like that, Thane and Mort Grym were done.
There's a certain amount of transparency with independent creators these days. It's because of the Internet and how easy it is to share our products. This happened to me once before when I did a webcomic, RUPERT & ME. My art style publicly matured during the year I did that comic. At the time, I didn't think anything of it. My audience was small (Really just family members) and I was giving it away for free. So what if it looked a little rough at first? The problems started when my art style improved and I started thinking about collecting the comics and putting them up for sale. The early stuff is a little embarrassing to look at and I don't like the idea of charging anyone for it. I didn't want to go through that again.
And yet, here I am...
I felt a little sad for the first few weeks. My characters are very much like my chi
So this is it. Everything I had regarding, starring and about the Grym Brothers. Original book outlines, covers, series outline, and the never completed fourth novel, DEAD CITY.
I hope you enjoy this collection.
TWO AND A HALF DEAD MEN
“What the hell?” the guy on the floor says, appropriately freaking out.
“I’m Thane,” the shorter man with the lighter, closely cropped hair says. He points to the guy standing next to him. “This is my brother, Mort. Our last name is Grym. It’s funny, you won’t get it right away, but you will in a minute.”
“And you’re dead,” Mort points to the man on the floor impatiently.
Thane shakes his head. “Geez, Mort.”
Mort’s the younger of the two. He stands about two inches taller. He keeps his dark hair long and unruly, slicked back with oil and grease. He’s dressed in a pair of ratty jeans and a stained t-shirt. The brown overcoat that looks like it’s been to Hell and back originally belonged to their father, with whom he shares the same dark brown eyes.
“What?” He holds up his wrist to show Thane the watch. “Do you see what time it is?”
Thane looks at the face of the watch, then at Mort. “Yeah. It’s a quarter past three.”
Mort’s face scrunches up. He checks the watch himself, tapping the faceplate with his other hand. He looks out the window as though to confirm it. It’s dark out and the moon is starting to rise.
“That’s not right,” he says.
“I know,” Thane replies. He stands straight, compared with his brother’s slouched posture. His clothes are clean and his jacket is stain free. He’s got his mother’s light blue eyes. “That watch hasn’t been able to tell the correct time ever since you got it.”
“It was Dad’s watch,” he says, like that was supposed to kill the argument.
“Which explains why he was always late.”
“Whatever,” he runs a hand through his dirty hair. “There’s a fight on in an hour. I don’t know want to miss it.”
“Of course,” Thane mutters.
“What?” Mort asks.
“Nothing,” Thane says aloud.
“Excuse me, but what the hell?” the guy on the floor asks again.
The brothers give him their undivided attention.
“You’re dead,” Mort repeats. “D-E-A-D,” and he tears off a bite from his foot-long sandwich he had insisted on bringing up with him.
“Are you threatening me?” the guy on the floor asks.
“We’re not threatening you,” Thane says, trying to calm him down. “Do you have to eat that right now,” he asks Mort, pulling out the crumpled paperwork from his jacket pocket. “It doesn’t lend itself to a professional image.”
“Yes, Thane, I have to eat it right now,” he says between bites. “You never want to stop for dinner.”
“We eat when we’re not working,” Thane crouches down next to the guy on the floor. “Hi,” he says to him.
“Easy for you to say,” Mort says. “You weren’t blessed with Mom’s low blood sugar. Do you know when my last meal was?”
“Neither do I,” Mort says. “That’s how much I had to drink last night. So forgive me for trying not to die of starvation.”
Thane rolls his eyes and checks the name on the paperwork. “Paulie?” he says to the man on the floor. “That’s your name, right? Paulie?”
The man’s eyes twitch back and forth between the two brothers. He’s confused and probably more than a little freaked out. His face glistens with sweat.
Mort sneezes and Paulie jumps a little.
Thane gently smacks Paulie’s cheek. “Hey, Paulie, I need you to focus.”
He looks back at Thane but his eyes are still glazed over.
“Your name’s Paulie, right?” Thane tries one more time. He likes to be sure.
He blinks, shaking his head. “Yeah. Yeah, I think,” he trails off. “What happened? I’m dead?”
“Yeah. You got yourself shot at point blank range with a double barrel shotgun,” Mort chimes in helpfully. “Boom. Instant death,” he pretends his sandwich is a gun and mimes shooting with it
“For crying out loud,” Thane mutters again. “Do you mind?”
“Yes, I mind,” Mort says. “There’s a fight on in an hour. I don’t want to miss it. I promise to coddle the next one.”
“You’ll be lucky if I bring you along on the next one,” he says under his breath.
“Just stand there,” Thane says aloud. “Just stand there and eat your stupid sandwich.”
The older brother shakes his head and turns back to Paulie “Do you remember what happened?”
Paulie’s face scrunches up. He’s clearly thinking real hard, but it’s not something he’s used to. His face almost looks like it’s mimicking someone else.
“I, uh,” he stutters and trails off.
“It’s okay,” Thane says. “Most people who suffer this kind of trauma tend to have temporary amnesia.”
“You’re saying I’m dead?” he asks again.
“Buddy,” Mort cuts in again, “you’ve got your legs violently separated from the rest of your body. I can see parts of your entrails on the fireplace. It is not possible for you to get any deader.”
Paulie’s eyes go wide and suddenly he seems to be aware of his surroundings.
It’s a middle-class suburban home, about six blocks from the A-Line. They’re in the living room and it’s in shambles. It’s obvious there was a fight with a clear winner and loser. And, sure enough, Paulie’s upper half is separated from his lower half.
And his entrails are definitely on the fireplace.
“What the-” Paulie breaks down into a stream of obscenities as he twists his neck around, trying to take it all in at once.
Thane lets him go on for a few seconds before clamping his hand down over Paulie’s mouth. He immediately regrets it. It’s like touching a thousand tiny ants all moving around together at the same time. He hates touching dead people.
Thane looks back at his brother. “Thank you.”
He tosses Thane the cuffs. “No problem. Can we please get going now?”
Thane catches the cuffs with his other hand. Paulie eyes them and they’re not making him any calmer.
Thane keeps his hand securely over his mouth. The tiny invisible ants squirm around, like they’re trying to burrow themselves into Thane’s hand.
“Okay, this isn’t what it looks like,” Thane tries one more time. “We aren’t who you think we are. And these,” he shakes the cuffs, “aren’t normal handcuffs,” he twists them around so Paulie can see his name, PAULIE, etched into the metal. “I would like to explain everything to you in a calm manner, but I can’t do that if you’re going to freak out and swear like a some diseased ridden prostitute that just got gypped out of her share by her pimp. So, do you promise to calm down?”
Paulie hesitates a moment but nods his head.
“Good, I’m going to remove my hand now,” Thane pulls his hand back and immediately feels better. He fights the urge to wipe it against his pants. Paulie keeps silent. “So, here’s what happened, Paulie. This place belongs to Steven Waldo. Mr. Waldo walked in on you trying to steal his priceless collection of porcelain Indian clowns. He subsequently shot you in self-defense.”
Paulie’s brow furrows. “I was stealing from this guy?” he asks.
He thinks about it. “I don’t carry a gun? I don’t carry a gun,” he repeats it more definitively.
Thane checks the paperwork again. “No, you didn’t have any weapons on you.”
“Then how the hell does that count as self-defense?” he snaps.
“Dude,” Mort says, “totally raw deal. But you did try to steal from the guy.”
“I think it’s coming back to him,” Mort looks at his brother.
“Look, Paulie,” Thane starts, but Paulie has other ideas.
He starts shrieking and flopping around on the floor like a half eaten merman. One of his hands smacks Thane’s face.
Thane looks at Mort. He shrugs. “Not my fault. You’re the one that wanted to talk to him.”
Mort steps forward and sets a foot on Paulie’s chest, holding him in place. That stops him from bucking around, but he’s still shrieking. Thane clamps his hand back down over his mouth.
“Look, Paulie, we’re not unsympathetic to your plight,” Thane starts.
“I am,” Mort interrupts. “I have a fight I don’t want to miss it.”
“As I was saying,” Thane resumes, “Your death was particularly traumatic and incapacitating. Even though you have no real physical body to speak of, subconsciously you’ve amended your soul body to match your physical body. Which means you have no legs to carry you to the afterlife. And that’s why we’re here,” Thane pulls out the dull brass badge from his pocket. “We’re dead soul collectors. Grim reapers for souls who can’t or won’t find their way to the afterlife. We’re here to escort you to the afterlife, but before we do that, I just want to give you the opportunity to share with us any good-byes you wanted to make or see if there are any unresolved issues that we could help you with before we send you on your way.”
Other author's books:
- Graveyard RomanceThe Grym BrothersDeath & Stilettos
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