Chuck Wendig: Terribleminds

Apple-Obsessed Author Fella

Social Media Network Report Card (Translation: I’m On Threads Now?)

So, how are the various social media platforms doing? Are they worth your time as a person, as a writer, as seven possums in a trenchcoat? Given that community and audience are both found and earned through these social networks, I figure it’s worth taking a gander at them again as I’ve done a number of times over the last year — in part because the social media landscape has broken into a number of little islands thanks to various tectonic shifts beneath the internet crust and we’re all just trying to find a place to rest our digital heads at night. Also in part because, as a writer, I need to find not just a place to HAWK MY WORDY WARES, which is of dubious value, but rather a place where I can meet writers and readers and agents and publishing folks and bookstore people and in general contribute to a larger, greater, cooler bookish ecosystem.

That said, as always, this is all purely my perspective. It is zero percent useful wisdom and one hundred percent just some bullshit that passed through my head like a cloud of stupid. I am not to be listened to. I’m just some jackass with a blog. Proceed with that situational awareness.


So, to jump to the start, I’m on Threads now.

It’s fine!

That’s more or less my capsule review. It’s fine! It’s fine. It’s fine.

Some general thoughts about it:

a) It’s obviously tied to Instagram and Facebook and therefore is tied to Zuckerberg which is bad and not good. No, it’s not awesome having to pick your social media platform based on which billionaire sociopath upsets you the least? But it is what it is, I guess. Our choices in life do not always amount to great ones, woefully.

b) If you want the place where the celebrities, the brands, the media outlets, are all going, it’s probably there. It’s got a big crowd — a lot of transfers over from Instagram, I guess? Despite the big crowd I don’t think it feels that peppy as yet. I can’t actually tell how many people I’m following (?) but it seems like a good group. That said, I do see a lot more general activity happening on Bluesky. Still, Threads is not precisely quiet, either, and even in the week since I’ve joined it looks to have picked up a bit.

c) There is a “who you follow” feed, which appears to present the posts of your followed accounts in the order they are posted. But it defaults to an algorithmic FYP feed, which shows a random disgorgement of… I mean, I assume it’s whatever the Insane Robot That Governs The Place wants you to see. It definitely seems to prioritize verified accounts over non-verified.

d) There does seem to be a pretty good bookish crowd of writers and readers.

e) The vibe there is… I dunno, is it wrong if I say, Ruby Tuesdays? Applebees? Like, if Twitter is currently your local Nazi Bar, and Bluesky is your local Eclectic Diner, this definitely feels like a popular-but-functional chain restaurant. People are having a nice enough time and it feels pretty reliable. It’s the “Hey, let’s go to Chili’s” variant of social media. Sometimes, you want that, and that’s okay, no shame.

f) The one thing I like about it in theory but not in practice is the granularity of how you can see your engagement — there’s All, Follows, Replies, Mentions, Quotes, Reposts, Verified, Dunks, Trolls, Posts By People Who Don’t Know What They’re Talking About But Probably Mean Well, Devil’s Advocates, Robots, Dog Photos, Replies From Stalkers, and People Who Still Think NFTs Are Cool. Or something like that. Point is, it’s definitely more granular but… I also don’t feel like each tab works great, and I’m really not seeing a lot of actually existing replies, and the overall GUI of those pages feels noisy and hard for me to parse, for some reason. That might just be me, though.

So, it’s fine! I don’t hate it. I don’t yet love it. It exists and I’m using it and have found some value there and in part that value is finding friends who are using it, too. Which is nice. I wasn’t going to join it but… real talk, writing is a lonely gig and sometimes you want to feel like there’s a room you can go into and hear some voices. Further, publishing is in a place where it’s still not sure exactly how to navigate the shattered social media landscape, and as much as I hate to say it, that means it’s (yet again) on writers to actually carve out their spaces and — well, we’re all just trying to either not die in the abyss or, at the very least, find other people dying in the abyss with us so we can commiserate with one another as we sink softly into the pudding of oblivion.

(Also, The Pudding of Oblivion is my next next novel, out in 2026.)

At the very least, Threads is not Twitter.

Which brings us to —


For a while now, my interaction with Twitter has largely been:

Posting promo. Replying to a few people. Reading DMs. Boosting the signal on stuff that needed (in my mind) boosting. I spent very little time on the site daily. But my new book is finally out on shelves, plus the local school board election is over (we won thank fucking god, the M4L nightmare people are out the door, though not before handing their partner in crime, Superintendent Abe Lucabaugh, a whopping $700k+ retirement package ahhh what the actual fuck), so given that the site is a demented disinformation machine run by a racist emerald mining antisemite fuckface who is now winking at Q-Anon bullshit, I’m all the way out. Account is still there but I’m happy to be not in it. It is a hollow shell.

The bar is a Nazi bar, snout to tail, now.


I dunno if we’re still calling it BLOOSKY and SKEETING SKEETS or whatever, but I still really like the platform and it works for me. It’s peppy, chatty, and increasingly engorged with good people. It does seem to have lost some of its weird, feral edge — that edge, I think, dulled by a lot of news-flavored stuff getting posted. On the one hand, I really like that it’s becoming more a place to get informed about stuff — on the other hand, I miss people posting Alf Hog and Gandalf Tits and Bird Photos. There was a powerful chaos energy to the earlier days akin to walking into any Waffle House at 3AM — you just had no idea what was going to be on the menu that night. Now, it’s settling into something that feels a little more predictable, like it’s speed-running the Midseason Twitter era. Again, this isn’t necessarily good or bad in terms of assigning it a value — and I may be experiencing something different from what others are experiencing. I do like it though and it remains my Social Media Network of choice.

(And, currently, also the one where I get the most outright engagement. Even compared to places where I have more followers.)

(Also, I have a few Bluesky codes I’m just noticing — if you want ’em, comment below and I’ll toss one atcha.)


I continue to like it. I see photos of dogs and birds and food and books and as such, it is vaguely relaxing and a place to stop. Increasingly it’s pivoting to video and I hate that, mostly, though I’ve popped a few reels up there and they’re fun enough, I guess.


I continue to not be on there or literally see anything that happens there and I’m probably better for it, and you’re probably better not seeing me there, and I think that’s a good decision we’re all making. I do understand that BookTok is currently *checks notes* kind of in control of publishing, whether it realizes it or not, and as such, I guess I should probably be there and be paying attention? At the same time, I can’t control it, and I suspect it would just cause my brain to swell up like an overfed tick and then it would pop and there’d be anxious brain goo everywhere. So, again, I remain here. Without the Tiks or the Toks to keep me warm at night.


Listen I don’t hate Mastodon at all but I can only do so much. So it’s currently not on my menu. My mind can only handle so many social media platforms before it shits its brainpants. Sorry!


If you need to know what your racist aunt or that guy from high school is up to, Facebook is your jam. I dunno. It seems to throttle links now and ennh. I use it as a walled garden to keep up with family and friends, that’s it.

The Others.

Is Post still a thing? Spoutible? Ello? MySpace? Bramble? Bumblr? Faceyplace? Me-Cave? U-Circle? Hangzone? Lasertag? Are any of these even real? What is happening? I dunno. I’m not on these.

The Blog.







Or something.

Reminder, you can subcribe if you’re so inclined.

Anyway, that’s it. Buy my books or I die. Bye!

December 4th: Last Day To Order Holiday Tomes of Wendig

PSSST. Hey, if you were thinking of ordering one of my books from Doylestown Bookshop for the holidays, the last day they guarantee shipping by the holidays is if you order by December 4th. (That’s not to say you can’t order after that, but at that point, they won’t make the guarantee it’ll get to you in time for whatever mirthful celebration you, um, celebrate.)

Reminder that if you nab a copy of Black River Orchard for me to sign and/or personalize, you also get some manner of EVIL APPLE STICKER and I invent an EVIL APPLE VARIETY all for you, Damien, all for you.

(Details here.)

And I’m throwing in a new offer here, too, as I found these:

And here you might say, “Chuck, these look like shiny possum stickers, but the possum is also an astronaut,” and you might further surmise, as you are smart, “Hey, I think the brilliant Natalie Metzger designed these,” and on both counts, you’d be right. Ring the bell, you win. The Cosmic Possum is from You Can Do Anything, Magic Skeleton, which Natalie illustrated.

I also have a smaller amount of her Bagel Possum stickers.

So, here’s the new deal —

Order any non-Black River Orchard book of mine from Doylestown Bookshop to be signed and personalized, you get a shiiiiiny Cosmic Possum sticker. (Supply limited, and when I’m out, I’m out.)

(List of my books on their shelves here.)

Order You Can Do Anything, Magic Skeleton specifically, you get both the Cosmic Possum and the Bagel Possum sticker. (Supply limited here, too.)

The same order deadline applies — December 4th.

Again, you can order from the bookstore’s website or call the store directly.


Or something. Shut up.


If you’ve read and enjoyed any of my books, please leave a review somewhere. Amazon, Goodreads, Storygraph, wherever. It helps! It’s nice! It’s a treat! It gives us a small frisson of joy before we sink again into the dark depths of our imagination prisons where we are forced by the demons inside us to continue mining our misery for your entertainment!! Ha ha ha! Just kidding! That doesn’t happen! I have to go now! Definitely not because the DEMONS are getting PUSHY please leave a REVIEW jesus christ

Suyi Davies Okungbowa: A Sequel, In Protests

And now, a guest post from gifted writer, Suyi Davies Okungbowa, author of the new novel, Warrior of the Wind.

In the peak days of quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic, I ordered a bike-in-a-box from Walmart. It arrived stealthily at the front door of my one-room-one-bathroom casita in Tucson, the delivery worker gone before I could offer a tip. I pulled it into the backyard I shared with a student couple and their exuberant border collie. With the toolbox I’d borrowed from my landlord, I put the bike together, tested its sturdiness, and rolled it out into the empty streets.

I had never ridden a bike before. As a child growing up in 90’s Benin City, my parents were not well-off enough to buy one, so I went over thirty years before getting on my first bike. I could say it was great timing that Tucson’s streets were populated only by javelinas and coyotes by the time I got on one, but that’ll be diminishing the devastating effect of the pandemic conditions that made it possible.

Like institutions of education everywhere, the graduate program I was attending at the time had shut down, and for the first time since I moved to the US, I wasn’t teaching a summer class. I spent most days working hard on the first draft of Warrior of the Wind,my second novel under contract for my Nameless Republic trilogy (Son of the Storm, the first, launched in 2021). I took breaks only to call my spouse back home in Nigeria and to take my permitted evening walk or the long hike for a grocery run at Fry’s during the three daily hours they were open with essential staff.

The bike was to be my salvation. I just had to learn how to ride it.

I was having similar challenges with my novel. Second books in a trilogy are infamously difficult to get right, and mine wasn’t any different. Digging into the state of mind of characters who had just found a bit of freedom only to realise they were still being hunted was not something I’d say I had experience with (even though, like most of us during the pandemic, survival was on my mind every day). But I had to find a way to ride this bike, even though I’d never been on one before. My survival—mental, physical, economic—depended on it.

My first few tries on the saddle—bike and book both—were disappointing. I went again. Little difference. I tried each day, hoping for some spark to light the path ahead. Finally, when a spark did arrive—for book and bike both—it was not the one I expected.

On May 25, 2020, news broke that local Minnesotan, George Floyd, was murdered by police action during an attempted arrest.

What followed was a summer of protests fuelled by the discontent felt by Black people in the United States (and allies sympathetic to the experience of living while Black in America), extending to raising awareness to the state of Blackness as a global concept, reverberating with Black people existing everywhere in the world. The feeling of having tried so hard to escape generations of torment, the weight of it passed down (if not physically, then mentally, socioeconomically, and otherwise), only to come out on the other side still being hunted. Alone at home, avoiding the protests downtown (as a non-American, I was concerned about the damage an arrest could do to my immigration status), I channeled my rage and discontent into my sequel novel, realising that I finally understood what these characters were going through. My complicated, messy, too-much feelings were the exact same as those of my protagonists. My path ahead was finally lit, and so was theirs.

I would go on to encounter three more such sparks in the two-ish years it took me to complete writing Warrior of the Wind. After opting not to renew the lease on my casita in Tucson, I left the US for Nigeria in October 2020 for a brief family visit. I was still in the enforced three-day post-travel quarantine in Lagos when the whole country erupted in a weeks-long anti-police-brutality protest now collectively known as #EndSARS. From my quarantine perch, I watched young Nigerians pour into the streets—some crowds were so close to home that I could hear their chants and smell the pungent smoke of burning tyres. Yet another synapse came alight in my brain. Just like the characters in my book—just like the summer I had recently emerged from—they were saying: Enough is enough.

In Son of the Storm, the first book in the trilogy, Danso, a scholar, uncovers long-hidden secrets about the empire in which he serves. His quest for truth inadvertently opens up a can of worms. These exposed truths are received differently. Rightfully, many are aghast, and wish to set their nation right. Rebellion coalitions become on the upswing. But there remain other actors who see these new truths as opportunities to gain power, to plant lies that promise freedom and liberty, yet offer anything but.

Upon returning to the US in January of 2021, I was still unpacking in my new apartment when I watched, with horror, as misguided and malicious US citizens attempted to overthrow a democratic procedure. Sitting there in that empty apartment—surrounded by unopened boxes, new mattress still in its wrapping, TV plugged in on the floor—it felt so surreal, life imitating art like that. My art, in particular. In Son of the Storm, a specific bad actor, who I will not name for spoiler-y purposes, hijacks emergent truths for personal gain, culminating in an uprising that wears the veneer of common good, but rots inside with selfish desire.

My discombobulation and annoyance that all previous attempts to educate had clearly been for nothing was a frustration I shared with my protagonists. In Warrior of the Wind, while being literally pursued by the consequences of truths rightfully exposed, each protagonist begins to consider how to stand up to their assailants. Multiple approaches emerge: Danso, being a scholar, wants to employ stories in service of enlightenment; Lilong, a warrior, wants to hit back where it hurts hardest. Others have different ideas. However, all agree on one thing: always running solves nothing. Standing up, in the small way you can, even against behemoth forces that seem impossible to counter, counts.

Only a year later, I had moved to Canada, and yet again, had barely settled in my new city, Ottawa, when a convoy of Canadians drove trucks into the city and occupied it, blaring ten-wheeler horns throughout the night. I lived downtown, close to the epicenter of it all, and my spouse and I were welcoming a new child into our family. Like Lilong, I was furious, maddened. But like Danso, whose father had once told him, Stories are like knives; weapons, or tools, depending on who is wielding them, I understood why stories mattered—for ill, but also for good. So when I walked those streets, sidling between parked semis, I thought of Danso and Lilong teaching each other a different kind of fighting skill: word and sword. There and then, I decided: This is what I want this book to be for me and anyone out there who needs it. Word and sword.

But I still needed to learn how to ride a bike.

The bike of this book, in particular. Second books in a trilogy are hard for a good reason—you want them to connect the first to the third, but stand in their own right. I remember turning in the first draft of Warrior of the Wind and getting a lengthy editorial note from my editor that amounted to: I know you can do better. As a formerly-touted gifted kid, that was more of a punch in the gut than a flat out, “This sucks.” So I threw myself back, elbow-deep, into the trenches.

Luckily, I did not have to labor for long. These sparks and moments of clarity, albeit on the back of alarming and disconcerting events, arrived at just the right times. They allowed me to, for lack of better parlance, feel my feelings. In opening myself up to feel what I needed to feel in order to work through what was happening in the real world—even when they happened in spaces in which I was still new, still a foreigner in many ways—I could finally open up to what my protagonists were similarly feeling in their own world. When my protagonists turned to darker tendencies, like I sometimes did (Fucking burn it all down!), I felt free to let it happen, to allow them follow their feelings to ends that I wouldn’t. When they struggled to do the right thing, when they failed at it, I let them navigate, because I understood that such impulses are just as human as doing the right thing. I had to let these characters go, to find their own way in the same way I had found mine.

Letting go is the first step to taking control. This was a lesson I learned from bike and book both.

Back in that summer of 2020, after trying and continuously failing to remain balanced on the bike, I entered into YouTube’s search bar: How to learn to ride a bike on your own. One of the video results suggested I take off the bike’s pedals, find a slope, and learn to balance the bike by letting go. Focus on steering, staying upright, and braking at the end of the slope. Focus on what you can control. In a world where things are designed to make you fall, taking control requires first trusting in yourself and letting go.

That evening, despite the city of Tucson’s curfews, I grabbed my new pedal-less bike, went to the top of my street, got on, and let go.

Suyi Davies Okungbowa: Instagram |  Newsletter | Website

Wisps Of News Make A Nest

Who wants news? You want news. I know you want news because I can see the news hunger in your bloodshot eyes. You slaver for it. You hiss and shake your head, saliva spattering everywhere! Settle down, news beast.

I am here to feed you.

It looks like Black River Orchard hit NPR’s end of the year BOOKS WE LOVE list, which is a really, really cool list to be on — not only is is among truly excellent company, but hey, holy crap, it’s NPR. That’s so cool. Bonus: it’s tagged under Dark Side (horror stuff!) SFF & Spec Fic, Rather Long (guilty as charged), and hot damn, under Seriously Great Writing.

“A demon, a farmer, a cat, a teen wannabe influencer, a cheating wife, a dom, a Richie Rich type, and a rare fruit hunter walk into an apple orchard. At 640 pages, this horror novel might feel daunting to some. But it’s so good that, if you’re anything like me, you’ll end up bingeing it over a couple of days. The story crisscrosses through time and characters as author Chuck Wendig shows readers the consequences of power. It’s intense, frightening, and a little bit gross, but also wonderfully diverse. Also: evil apples.”

You can check out the whole list here. You’ll also find some excellent book-friends in the form of Tananarive Due, Nat Cassidy, Victor LaValle, SA Cobsy, John Scalzi, Alix Harrow, Daniel Kraus, Isabel Canas, Cassandra Khaw, T. Kingfisher, Paul Tremblay, Lee Mandelo, and more.

Go graze the list. You will be well-fed from it.

(Also, as a sidenote, Black River Orchard also hit the ABA Indiebound bestseller list the week it launched, and I totally did not know that. So it hit that and the USA Today list, too, so hey, I got a national bestseller on my hands. I hope you check the book out and, if so, leave a review at Amazon or Goodreads or Storygraph or somewhere! On a wall! On a human face! Screamed so loud the words carve themselves into the very fundament of reality’s flesh like fissures from a raptor’s talons!)

Let’s see, what else?

Wanderers! It’s on sale for your Kindlewangs and your e-Dongles. It’s $2.99. Why? I don’t know! But if you haven’t checked out this apocalyptic epic, this is an easy opportunity to do so. Amazon, Kobo, Apple, B&N, etc. I’ve no idea how long this is happening — I assume just today? Shrug.

Bonus: it has a sequel, which sometimes people don’t seem to realize, somehow? Wayward is out now in trade paperback. Yay books.

Oh, also, for those who miss The Very Good Boy, Gumball the Golden, from Wayward — please know that I’ve written a novella featuring the dog’s return. The novella, called Whiskey Sour, is set after Wayward, and takes place in Ouray, Colorado. It’ll be part of the Canines & Cocktails trifecta, alongside pals Kevin Hearne and Delilah S. Dawson. Did I show you the cover? I honestly forget if I did; my mind is a sieve. BUT HERE IT IS AGAIN.

Cover by the inimitable Galen Dara. Release date tba, probably in the first quarter of 2024! More as I know it.

A reminder too that I’m signing/personalizing books for the holidays from Doylestown Bookshop, and that there are some cool bonuses (sticker! your own evil apple variety!) if you do. Details here.

I think that’s about it for now? Now I go back to work. I just finished edits on my next middle grade, called Monster Movie! and that should come out in… fall 2024, I think. And in spring 2025(ish) will be Staircase in the Woods, about five teenagers who find a, well, staircase in the woods in the 1990s, one goes up and never returns, and the others are haunted for the rest of their lives by the loss of their friend and the mystery of where he went.



Brian Keene: “Let’s Open A Bookstore!”

Brian Keene is awesome. So is Mary SanGiovanni. And they’re opening a bookstore. Read on for Brian’s words about the why and how of it, and also how you can help —

It was summer of 2006 when I realized that — while they may be able to write them — most writers didn’t have happy endings.

I’d just participated in a mass book signing in Washington D.C. — one of those events that combined then big name veteran authors like Douglas E. Winter, F. Paul Wilson, and Steven Spruill with then still-newbies like myself, Mary SanGiovanni, L. Marie Wood, and J.F. Gonzalez. After the signing, author Matt Warner invited everyone back to his home for a party. Mary, J.F., L. Marie, and I were hanging out in his kitchen, talking about J.N. Williamson and Charles L. Grant. Williamson, the author of over forty horror novels and nearly two-hundred short stories, had passed away in a nursing home the previous December. During his funeral service — the sparse attendants of which were basically his sister, and authors Gary Braunbeck and Maurice Broaddus — the preacher disparaged Williamson’s life’s work, taking all of the joy and entertainment it had brought teenage us and reducing it to glorification of the devil. Our conversation then transitioned to Mary’s mentor, the great Charles L. Grant, who — having written countless horror novels and short stories and edited some of the best quiet horror anthologies spanning two decades — was in very ill health and wasting away in hospice. It disturbed me that an author whom Stephen King once called “One of the premier horror writers of his or any generation” was spending his final days that way.

Doug Winter, who had come into the kitchen for a beer and was then eavesdropping on us newbies, squeezed my shoulder and said, “Now you know what keeps us awake at night, kiddo.”  

On the drive from D.C. back to Pennsylvania, J.F. and I vowed to each other that we weren’t going out like that. Despite our then relatively young age, we were already both aware that death comes for all, horror writers included. Richard Laymon, Karl Edward Wagner, Mike Baker, Buddy Martinez, and Mark Williams were already gone by then. We knew it could happen. And so we made plans to take care of each other’s literary estates, should we eventually pass. I’d oversee his and he would oversee mine. Our goals were the same — keep our stuff in print and make sure our children benefited from it.

Something else we used to discuss at length was coming up with a viable second revenue stream. We’d heard about a well-known author (whom I won’t name here to protect his family’s privacy) who — after a storied and celebrated career writing prose, comics, television, and film — was now suffering from dementia and still beholden to cranking out a novel every year to keep a roof over his head. That was a terrifying prospect.  And J.F. and I had learned by then that advances and royalties don’t last very long, even when you’ve written bestsellers (as we had with The Rising and Survivor, respectively). We’d also begun to learn — much to our dismay — that most writers have a shelf life, no matter how popular they are. Sure, everyone still reads Charles Dickens or Mark Twain or Charlotte Brontë, but what about their peers? What about the hundreds of authors who were published alongside them? This was particularly true for mid-list authors such as ourselves, and doubly true for genre authors. J.F. — a student of the pulps — could spend hours rattling off the bibliographies of pulp-era horror writers who nobody else remembered. It bothered him greatly that they’d been memory-holed. But that’s what happens. It’s inevitable. Case in point — how many of you reading this have actually heard of or read J.N. Williamson or Charles L. Grant? Props to you if you have, but it’s okay if you haven’t, because that’s what happens. Those guys were giants to people like J.F. and I, but eventually, all that’s left of giants are their footprints, and in time, even footprints fade away.

What’s worse is being forgotten while you’re still alive, and yet, we saw that unfolding before us, as well. There was an entire generation of horror novelists — folks like Ronald Kelly, Ruby Jean Jensen, and William Schoell, to name a few — who had seemingly disappeared from the face of the Earth during horror fiction’s mid-1990s collapse. Where were they now? Nobody knew. They could have been working at Walmart or a factory somewhere. Or teaching, perhaps. Or dead. It wasn’t until Grady Hendrix’s Paperbacks From Hell, and the subsequent imprint from Valancourt Books, that readers began to discover these long-lost treasures again.

J.F. and I knew it could happen to us, as well. Indeed, it was already beginning to happen. With horror’s second implosion, we’d both seen the end of our nice little midlist careers, and new we were in danger of having happen to us what had happened to Ronald Kelly and the others. We scrambled to make sure that wouldn’t happen, helping to reinvent and mainstream independent and small press publishing, and in the process finding a home for many of our peers in the same situation. But we were still fearful of what was to come. Those lessons learned from Williamson and grant still loomed large. And so, we’d return to brainstorming those ideas for a second revenue stream. I suggested we become forest rangers. I envisioned us in a tower somewhere, overlooking the Pacific Northwest, writing novels and stories while getting paid to watch for forest fires. J.F. was of a mind that we should buy a tugboat and become independent operators in the Baltimore harbor.

We never got to do either of those things, because cancer struck him down. But because we’d planned ahead, I’ve done my duties as his literary executor, and made sure his stuff remains in print, and that readers haven’t forgotten him, and that his family benefits from it all.

But the idea of that second revenue stream still haunts me, and it haunts Mary, as well. In the years since that sobering conversation in the kitchen, when Doug Winter scared the hell out of us, she and I have gotten married. We make an okay living together — as good of a living as two midlist horror writers whose core audience is beginning to age out can make. But we are fifty-six and forty (clears throat) and most of our readers are that age, as well. Over the next two decades, that audience will continue to dwindle. We are painfully aware that those royalties will lessen over time, and that we could very well go the way of the giants.

So, we decided to do something about it. Mary wasn’t inclined to become a forest ranger or a tugboat captain, so we opted for a different second revenue stream instead — one that is connected to writing, but doesn’t involve writing. One that, when managed properly and professionally, can supplement those royalties and advances. One that will allow us to give back to our community and our peers, both locally and nationally, and keep those forgotten giants in the collective memory a while longer, as well as elevating today’s new voices, so that they will one day be giants, too.

We’re opening an independent bookstore.      

Inspired by Dark Delicacies, Butcher Cabin Books, The Poisoned Pen, Bucket O’ Blood, Mysterious Galaxy, and other indie bookshops, we are opening an independent bookstore specializing in Horror, Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Bizarro, and other speculative fiction genres. Vortex Books & Comics will open Spring of 2024 in the historic district of beautiful Columbia, Pennsylvania — easily and quickly accessible from Baltimore, Philadelphia, Harrisburg, New York City, Washington D.C. and more. We’ll carry a full complement of books from the Big Five, as well as hundreds of books from many cool indie publishers and small presses, and titles in Espanol and other languages. We’ll host weekly signings, readings, workshops, and other events. Our goal is to make the store a destination.

Understand, this is not something we’re doing on a whim. I didn’t wake up one morning and roll over and look at Mary and say, “Hey, you know what might be fun?” This is something we’ve been researching and investigating for several years. We’re confident we can make it a success, and we’ve invested in the tools and resources to achieve that. Indeed, we’ve invested a significant amount of our own money into this endeavor. We have a thorough, intimate knowledge of this industry — wisdom gained from thirty-five years of writing, publishing, and selling. We’ve talked the the marketers and the distributors and most importantly, other booksellers. We know this business, and are familiar with its ups and downs, ebbs and flows. We realize that we are uniquely positioned to make this work.

After investing our own money, it was suggested to us by several knowledgable mentors that we give the community an opportunity to chip in and help. And thus, we’ve launched a GoFundMe. If you would like to show your solidarity and support with a donation, it will be put toward further set-up costs such as fixtures, security, inventory, marketing and advertising, signage, etc. thus giving us a bit of breathing room and time to make the store profitable. However, you are under no obligation to donate. We appreciate your support regardless of whether you wish to donate or not.

Thanks to Chuck for allowing me this space, and thanks to all of you for reading us these last thirty years, and allowing us both a place at the table. We are very excited for this next chapter of our story, and giving back to our peers and fans in an all-new way.

Eliot Peper: Five Things I Learned Writing Foundry

This is a story about two spies locked in a room with a gun.

This is a story about how semiconductors are refactoring 21st century geopolitics.

This is a story about the greatest of games, the game that subsumes all other games, the only game that really matters: power.

This is a story about finding yourself before they find you.

This story is a trap.

You will face catastrophe, so get over it

Foundry began with a dream.

I woke up in the middle of the night with an emotionally resonant image hanging in my mind, but no memory of the dream’s larger context. I made a note and went back to sleep.

The next morning, I read the note and realized it was the perfect opening line for a novel. So I wrote the next line, and then the next. I didn’t have an outline. I didn’t have a plan. Lines became paragraphs, paragraphs became chapters, and Foundry took shape.

Writing Foundry line-by-line taught me something interesting. Reflecting on his time at Pixar, Ed Catmull says that the team would face a catastrophe during the production of every single movie. Initially, they tried to put processes in place to prevent the same thing from happening on the next film. But no matter what they did, the next film would bring a new kind of catastrophe. So instead of trying to avoid catastrophes, they focused on building a team that could respond to them with grace and efficacy.

Just so, when I write a novel, I inevitably face a creative crisis. Foundry was no exception. In fact, because I didn’t know what was going to happen next, drafting the manuscript felt like a single extended creative crisis. But precisely because the crisis never ended, my angst about creating in the midst of crisis sloughed away through sheer exposure. I could face the unknown without emotional baggage. I could ignore sunk costs and release expectations. I could discover the story alongside the reader.

Stories are about one thing

Novels are long. They are complex. They are pocket universes. One of my favorite feelings is to wander the shelves of a bookstore and run my finger along the spines, each a world patiently waiting to be explored by the right reader.

So when I sit down to write a novel, I often try to come up with long, complex story ideas. I worry that without sufficient material, the narrative may peter out prematurely. What if you tell everything there is to tell and it’s not enough? That never happens. Every time, I wind up having to cut the complicated ideas. What I forget is that stories are about one thing.

Foundry is about the memory of a dream. I mean, sure, it’s a near-future espionage thriller that spirals across time and continents to reveal the games people play to win control of the technology at the heart of modern civilization. But the entire novel is about unpacking that single haunting image I woke up with in the middle of the night. Everything derives from that. There’s no need to manufacture material. Stories are fractal. The closer you look, the more there is.

If given the chance, don’t travel back in time

Judging by headlines and social media feeds, we are barreling toward apocalypse. Wars rage. Disease runs rampant. The planet is in jeopardy. Corruption plagues our institutions even as our culture shatters into a thousand razor-sharp shards.

Fucking bleak, am I right or am I right?

After a recent conversation enumerating these many and varied woes, my mother-in-law asked me what historical period I would travel to if I had a time machine. I answered immediately: I would decline any temporal voyages and stay right here in the present, thank you very much.

To write novels set in the near future, I read a lot of history. From a certain angle, history and science fiction are two aspects of the same genre: both explore realities different than the world we inhabit—experiencing the gap between our world and the historical or science fictional one is part of the appeal—and both suggest explicit or implicit theories of historical change. You can learn a lot from reading history, but one lesson overshadows all the others: the farther back you go, the worse life gets.

Augustus may have ruled an empire, but he didn’t have antibiotics, electricity, Wikipedia, or burritos. Many of those lucky enough to survive childhood would go on to die young in violence or childbirth. Slavery was commonplace. Plumbing was exceedingly rare. People drank astonishing amounts of alcohol in order to avoid contracting waterborne illnesses. Basically, it sucked.

So no matter how bleak things appear right now, don’t fall into the trap of seeking to return to a mythologized past that never existed. Instead, study the past to make sense of the present and contribute to building a better future.

Treasure thorny questions

You’re reading this sentence on your phone or laptop. Do you know how the chip powering your device is made? It’s TOTALLY INSANE.

A robot the size of a room drips a tiny droplet of molten tin into a vacuum. Then it hits the droplet with a laser, turning it into a falling pancake. Then it hits the pancake with a more powerful laser, vaporizing the tin and releasing a flash of light with a wavelength so short it can only survive in outer space. The light goes through a reticle that gives it a pattern and then bounces off a series of mirrors that shrink the pattern still further before hitting a silicon wafer, drawing billions of resistors on a chip the size of a fingernail. Oh right, and you have to repeat the procedure fifty thousand times a second with perfect accuracy. It makes the Apollo Program look like child’s play.

Even wilder, almost all advanced chips are manufactured in Taiwan, one of the most hotly contested territories on Earth. So this intricate supply chain is a magnet for high-stakes espionage. What if China invades Taiwan? What if a typhoon or earthquake takes out key fabs? What if a new discovery revolutionizes the production process? What if spies weaponize the semiconductors civilization depends on?

The more I learned, the more intriguing the questions became. None of them had easy answers. Each of them connected to all the others. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. That’s how I knew I needed to weave the implications into Foundry—not because I had something to say, but to figure out how to even make sense of the possibilities. Writing often seems to be a way to capture answers, and it can be. But it’s also a way to explore questions, the thornier the better.

Share your enthusiasm

Remember that high school teacher who made you fall in love with a subject you thought would be boring? Their enthusiasm was contagious. Just so, a writer’s enthusiasms define their writing. You can only write well about something you genuinely care about. You thinking something is cool is a key ingredient in readers thinking something is cool, so the best books are about what the author thinks is cool.

So be selfish. Indulge your curiosity. Go down the rabbit hole. 

And then be generous. Report back. Tell us what you found. Show us why it matters.

This is the power of art: enriching our lives by inviting us into each other’s worlds.

Eliot Peper is the bestselling author of eleven novels, including, most recently, Foundry. He also works on special projects. The best way to follow his writing is to subscribe to his newsletter.

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