I am, as the kids say, chuffed to learn that Black River Orchard is a Bram Stoker Award nominee. (Do the kids say chuffed? Maybe it’s the Brits. Do the Brits say it? Do British children say it? Shit, I have no idea.) Point is, the book is amid some serious holy-shit company — Tananarive Due! Stephen Graham Jones! Victor LaValle! Grady Hendrix! — and so please believe me that it is an honor to be nominated amongst such rock stars. So, I’m geeked by this, and thanks to all of you out there who supported the book and helped make it… well, grow some deep roots and bear its weird fruit.
If you haven’t checked it out — well, hope you do so soon, and if you have checked it out, let me remind you that reviews are a vital necessity for any and all books and authors, so I’d sure appreciate it.
And read all the books nominated, willya? It’s a good batch in all the categories. A lucky, lucky year for horror.
So, it looks like Invasive is $1.99 for your various e-reader doohickeys, if you’re so inclined. You get a creepy thriller with sinister billionaires and scary ants and, as Kirkus put it in a starred review, “Will Graham and Clarice Starling rolled into one and pitched on the knife’s edge of a scenario that makes Jurassic Park look like a carnival ride.”
Curiously, this book was really the one that lead to Wanderers — and was literally connected to it, once upon a time!
Also, at some point, when enough time has elapsed, I will share with you the absolutely batshit story of when this book got optioned for TV and what happened to the project after that. (It is no longer under option, but hopefully someone out there sees the potential in Hannah Stander as a killer character to form a TV show around.)
I’d love to write Hannah again some day, too, so fingers crossed.
Anyway. So that’s out there.
You’ll also find that my cornpunk trilogy (YA Star Wars by way of John Steinbeck, featuring sinister corn, rich people living in sky cities, class warfare, weird plant-to-human illnesses, etc.) is also on sale, every book at Amazon for $1.99. Only there, at Amazon.
Also, Canines & Cocktails is out, though Amazon has totally borked some stuff and all we have up there right now is the POD paperback — other sites have e-books and will have audio. I’ll send up a signal flare when it’s all available and looking good.
It was maybe a few months ago where Empirical announced they were making and releasing DORITOS HOOCH, which is to say, alcoholic Dorito juice. I said at the time, this is the booze of bad decisions. Nobody’s out there drinking the Dorito Juice and feeding orphans. Nobody drinks the Dorito Liquor and rescues a puppy from a river. Doritos Hooch isn’t saving your marriage. No, you drink this stuff, you end up under an overpass, underwear on your face, your body burned from the heap of Hot Pockets you orgied upon last night with the other Dorito Juice drinkers, all of whom now probably communicate via a hive-mind telepathy of cackles and screams.
Needless to say, I wanted some.
I wanted some not because I was hoping to have one of those nights where you get drunk and fight a police horse, but rather, because I am weirdly susceptible to foods that maybe shouldn’t taste good. It was just prior to the pandemic when I kinda made the news trying a mac-and-cheese ice cream from one of our local ice cream joints. (This was in February 2020, thus marking February as perhaps a month of culinary disaster foods.) And I recently tried the Kraft mac-and-cheese collab with Van Leeuwen ice cream. (The local stuff was gross, because they froze the noodles in there, and they were hard angry teeth-cracking pasta boulders. But the Van Leeuwen stuff was actually pretty legit if you can find it.)
It’s not that I want the gag gift foods. “Oh, we made Kale chewing gum lol.” That’s there just to fuck with people. I want the stuff that… shouldn’t work, but also might work?
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, I bought the Liquid Doritos.
When it was announced, it was not available for purchase by like, normal humans, and honestly I expected it never would be. But I put my name on the list anyway, and then I received an email that said “psst hey kid, I hear you like making mistakes,” and then gave me a link to buy the Dorito Juice.
I clicked that shit so fast I cracked my trackpad in half.
How could you not? Doritos* is the ultimate snack. It’s like the UR-SNACK, the snack of Ancient Hyperborea, a zesty salt beast from before the advent of time itself, when it was just Triangle Doritos and Circular Oreos floating in the pre-creation void.
So, yeah, I ordered it.
And then I played the waiting game.
Two days ago, Fed-Ex came to my door in a hazmat suit, and deposited a mysteriously trembling package on my front step with very long metal tongs, and in that box was:
My now-blogged thoughts on the DRUNKEN DORITO MILK, then:
It is a clear spirit with no identified provenance. The ingredients, as you’ll see here, say nothing more than BASE SPIRIT, which for all I know, means the box it came in is a ghost trap, and they trapped a ghost in there and force-fed it Dorito powder until it pissed zesty ectoplasm into a bottle.
(I also like that the front of the bottle just says the word UNCATEGORIZED, which actually feels pretty accurate to how you would describe this to anyone in any direction.)
That said, the closest spirit I get from it is tequila.
I don’t think it is tequila.
But it kinda vibes tequila.
In the parlance of the youth, it is giving tequila.
It smells that way. Like tequila and corn chips. On the nose there’s no Doritos zest. It’s just corn chips. Like you took a waterproof duffel bag full of tequila, emptied a bag of tortilla chips into it, and let that all come together for a week or three before filtering the tequila — now redolent with corn chip miasma — through. It’s not unpleasant. It is, however, distinct.
Drinking it, I honestly expected a very bad experience. I first assumed that the sip would be like battery acid and that it would hurt my face and throat and very possibly some part of my soul, perhaps even irrevocably, the damage so complete that no afterlife would have me. It just has that sense about it. Like, if you told me “Taco Bell makes wine,” I would assume that wine would taste like the inside of a vigorously-used prison toilet, and here, I figured Dorito booze would be a real rough rider, a spicy mix of vinegar, kerosene, cigarettes, and infinite regret.
But that initial taste, and subsequent tastes, were mild — pleasantly mild but with flavor, not just liquid cardboard. And boy does it bring the Doritoness.
This is liquid Doritos.
Boozy liquid Doritos.
It is very, very savory.
Not salty savory.
But umami savory.
Doritos have MSG. This juice has to have MSG. I use MSG in my cooking when called for, and the taste is absolutely present here. It’s that, plus all the zesty Dorito flavor — the nacho business, the spirit of the snack chips distilled into a, well, a spirit. It’s almost magic.
And the aftertaste, as I note in the video, is long. It grips your mouth like the hug of a once-lost child. It lives upon the tongue, on your gums. It puts up shelves, it hangs up pictures of its family, it pays a year’s rent in advance. You are the landlord of the taste after just one sip.
So, the thing is, this all sounds weird and maybe horrible but I gotta tell you, it… isn’t? It’s actually… not bad? Again, I bought this bottle, nobody gave it to me, this is not coerced via some sponsor deal or at gunpoint. I have the bottle and I am sure I will drink it all. (Er, not in one go. I still think this might be a bottle of Liquid Mistakes if you do it right. Right, meaning, wrong.) Given the tequila whiff, I figured —
So I made one.
I give you, the Doritorita.
Or, umm, the margorito? The margadorita? The dormagaritota?
I dunno. Shut up.
1.5 oz DORITO JUICE
1 oz Combier orange liqueur
juice of half a lime
half oz simple syrup
glass rimmed with a mix of: chili powder, salt, coconut sugar, and MSG.
It was pretty legit.
I figure, if you need a good way to break your DRY JANUARY, why not with a margarita formed of Dorito Juice?
One must only hope they do not make a Cool Ranch Juice. I mean, I’ll buy it but there’s no way that doesn’t end me up in some special singular Hell. Or at least the hospital. Probably the hospital.
Drink your Distilled Dorito Broth responsibly.
Buy my books so I can afford more dubious food collabs.
* I note here, for the sake of completeness, that at the very fore of the pandemic I did an, um, deep dive on the history of Doritos that began with the phrase, “Buckle up, butterdicks, it’s time to talk about Doritos.” It has since been assumed I, a cringe-fed goon, actually talk like this in my daily life, as if I show up to Home Depot and find a worker there and say “Hey, chucklefucker, where’re your wall anchors at, you herky-jerky cheese dick?” but it was supposed to be a riff on the whole “buckle up let’s talk about Triscuits” thing. Anyway it was a fucking joke about Satanic snack chips and some people take shit way too seriously here on Al Gore’s Internet.
So, Stephen Blackmoore is a friend, a good dude, and further, a damn fine author who writes the Eric Carter urban fantasy series, which are books you really wanna get and read because they’re great. (Don’t yell at me, I’m behind on catching up, because though this picture depicts four books, there’s actually nine.) But, despite being a good dude who has written nine successful books, he, like many authors, needs some help, and so I’m asking if you’ll take a look at this Gofundme and, should you have coin to spare, spare it in his direction. And then, I’m also saying, if you have additional coin, you should pick up his books, starting with Dead Things. It’s real, real good.
Aaaaand, let me add, Blackmoore also writes all kinds of cool game stuff like for pen and paper games and video games and also probably murder games that take place in a maze where Stephen Blackmoore hunts you through the twists and turns with his trusty pet hatchet.
So, what I’m saying is, he’s also a guy you can hire to write cool shit.
I went in for a physical the other day. Now, I was sick at that time — not real sick, not COVID, probably RSV since that was going around, and since also the transmission timeline tracks. I was in the middle of it and honestly, still have a really irritating cough (though, be advised, nothing serious, just annoying). I went in with a mask on.
Nobody at the doctor’s office was wearing a mask. Lady at the front desk: “Oh, you don’t have to wear that!” That said, while pointing at my mask. I say, I’ve got a cold, she lets it go. I then fill out the paperwork that talks about my current situation: what meds I’m taking, have I been in surgery, etc.
Then, the nurse lady comes and gets me. First thing she says, pointing at my mask: “You don’t need to wear that in here.” She says it like it’s a favor to me, like, oh, honey, we’re not going to be mean and make you wear that big ol’ horrible ugly mask around your beautiful breathing hole and your luxurious food-catcher of a beard, why don’t you just pop that thing off and suck in a lungful of America.
You don’t need to wear that in here?
Well, I fucking do, SANDRA, because as it turns out, the doctor’s office is where the sick people go. It’s like going to the pharmacy. You mask anywhere, do it in the pharmacy. Everybody in there is horking up lung beef. The respiratory illness is so thick in the air you can catch it on your tongue like snowflakes. I go there, or the doctor’s office, sick people are going to be present. That’s the deal, obviously, wtf. I don’t want what they have, and nobody present should want what I have, what the fuck.
I say, again, I’m sick. I’ll keep the mask on, thanks.
Then she measures me and all that shit, and says, somewhat aggressively, “You are not 5’8″.”
“You have it down that you’re five feet eight inches.”
“You’re only five feet seven and three-quarters.”
“…okay. S… sorry?”
It was such a weird ding, I still don’t know what to make of it? Like, “Hah, gotcha, you were pretending to be a NORMAL HUMAN with a NORMAL HUMAN HEIGHT, but I have discovered a GNOME AMONGST US.”
So then Nurse Sandra, not her name, asks what medications I’m taking and if I’ve had surgery and all those same health questions, making me think that I filled that shit out in the waiting room and then they immediately took the form and threw it in the trash. “Fuck this piece of paper,” they say, with vigor and spite. Fine. Whatever. Then we go throughs some new questions, the fun ones about, “So, who in your family is dead now, and what did they die from?” And that’s a fun little litany to recite.
Nurse takes my blood pressure. It’s high. Not like, blood is about to squirt out of my eyes high, but like mid-high, and that’s odd, because my blood pressure is never high. So, that’s noted.
She leaves. Doctor comes in.
Now, my doctor has the bedside manner of a lamp. Some may find this comforting but you can’t joke with him, you’ll learn nothing about him, he knows nothing about you — he is simply present, like if one of those grocery store robots were a doctor.
Oh, also, you also get like, one question. If you go in for WEIRD ELBOW, you talk to him about WEIRD ELBOW and you get the fuck out. Do not ask him about the ODD EAR GURGLE. He does not want to talk about that. You’re signed up for a WEIRD ELBOW session. You got EAR GURGLE, that’s a different appointment, and this train is a-rollin’, pal.
So, he sits down.
And he says
wait for it
wait for it
waaaaaaait for it
“You don’t have to wear that.”
That, meaning, presumably, my mask.
(Better that than, say, my pants. “You don’t have to wear those dungarees,” he says, a coy twinkle in his once-dead eyes.)
I sigh, and explain, well, there’s a lot of sickness going around, and also, I am presently sick.
When I say this, he visibly flinches and asks, with serious panic:
“Do you have COVID?”
And I need you to understand here that in that exact moment I proved undeniably that I have a superpower, and that superpower is unshakeable willpower. Because I really, really wanted to take my mask off and then answer, confidently, “Oh, yeah, it’s COVID.” Just before coughing.
I did not do this, thus confirming I am a good person.
But I mean, what the fuck, they don’t ask before I get there if I had COVID. They don’t supply tests. They just gleefully tell me to take off my mask. I absolutely could’ve had COVID. And given how glibly the entire office treated the situation, I’d think they actually don’t care very much about COVID — or any other illness! — at all.
(Which is why I mask there!)
So, he then asks, and once again, please wait for it, wait for it —
“What medications are you taking?” And then, you know, have I had surgery, who in my family is alive and how did the dead ones die.
At this point I’m fairly convinced that I’m being punked, like this is some kind of joke, right? They all tell me, ha ha, no masks, also, please give us the same information you just gave to the last three people. Is anybody writing this down? Two of the people seem to be tapping it into a fucking iPad, but at this point I’m pretty sure they’re just playing Wordle. There is literally no continuity of information. I sigh, and I tell him the information AGAIN.
So, he says, “You’re still on the lansoprazole.”
Meaning, my heartburn meds. Proton pump inhibitors.
OTC, yes, yep, I take it every day.
Last year, he asked me this question, and I said yes, and he said, “OTC? I’ll give you a prescription for the prescription dose,” which is twice as powerful, I guess, but I said I didn’t need it, and he gave me the prescription anyway. I asked him then, “Well, I hear there are some risks with the PPIs, so I dunno if I should get a bigger dose when arguably I should wean off this one maybe?” And he said those studies aren’t really great, don’t worry, get the prescription, you dolt. So me, the dolt, said fine. (I did get the prescription. I did not take any. I still have the bottle.)
This year, he says, “You should probably try to get off that.”
That, meaning, the thing he wanted me to be on last year at a higher dose.
He says to just take a lesser heartburn med, I say those work but not like the PPIs work, and we’ve had this conversation before, and he’s like, “Well maybe we oughta get you scoped to see what’s going on.” I also explain last year he didn’t seem that concerned and wanted me on a higher dose.
The doc shrugs that off. Like, so what.
Okayyyy. I’m not opposed to changed thinking. Changed thinking is good! But this isn’t presented as changed thinking, it’s just, wild spasms from one direction to the next.
Then: time to address blood pressure. It’s high. I don’t know why it’s high. It’s been low all my life, except when I’m sick. And, during this appointment (and even now, a little), I’m sick, so maybe that? Also… I had COVID over the summer. And COVID seems to be consistent with a risk of triggering a rise in blood pressure after the fact. Doctor waves this off. Says it’s because I’m basically a fat piece of shit. Not his words, precisely, but he said blah blah blah, high BMI, blah blah blah, I could stand to lose 50 (!) lbs. Which, I mean, feels like a big suggestion? “Hey, you should lose 22% of yourself.” I have not been that thin since *checks notes* high school.
“We need to whittle you down to your teenage weight” does not seem like a healthy, or even doable, suggestion.
And then he’s on about cholesterol. “Your cholesterol is high.” I haven’t even tested this year, but it was high last year, and it has been my entire life. Not one test has ever come back without it. It’s familiar. I dunno. We’re Eastern European. Pork fat is in our blood, literally. My grandmother had it, but okay, she cooked everything in lard. My mother had it, but she was thin as a bird and ate very little. Father, yep, sister, yep, cholesterol. We’re just made of the shit. We’re like animated wax figures, except, fatty blood goop. And to be clear, not one of these people ever had a cardiac event. Cancer was what killed them, not cholesterol. But he’s like, “Well, it’s bad and you need to be on a statin.” I tell him everybody I know who went on one did pretty poorly, from mood changes to muscle pains to headaches to diabetes to depression/fatigue — obviously, this is artisanal data (aka anecdotes), but if you Google statins and side effects, holy crap, it’s a lot. A lot of people with a lot of problems. And he’s like, nah that’s fine, it’s rare, you need to be on a statin. It’s familial, I need to be taking the pills. I don’t want to be taking the pills, but no other alternative is on the table, from his view. Okayyyyy.
“You need to get a colonoscopy,” he says.
I tell him, yeah, I know, I’m scheduled for one in a few weeks. “Because you have to get one at this age,” he insists, and here is another dose of irony, because at age 45, 46, and 47, I told him, “They changed the guidelines, I can get a colonoscopy now,” and he said, “no they didn’t, not until 50, sorry,” every fucking time. Now, now he’s like, “WELL YOU BETTER DO IT, WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN WAITING FOR.”
The appointment is over, then, and I say, with great reluctance, “I think you have to check my prostate.” Which means, y’know, the ol’ wiggly finger test. One of our least most dignified tests during a physical, for either of us. Last year he did it. This year he said, “You’re not at risk until 50.”
And I’m like, motherfucker, you JUST ASKED ME five minutes ago about all the deaths in my family, and I said, as I have said every time, my FATHER died from *does jazz hands* PROSTATE CANCER. Which is why I get the prostate checked. It’s not because I enjoy the experience! It isn’t a treat for me! There’s no romance! No Lindt truffle gently pressed into my mouth! It’s unpleasant for both of us. (Though I note, no joke, I had a doctor many years ago compliment me during the process saying, and I quote, my sphincter had “good snap.” As if it were a bratwurst he was biting into instead of a butthole his finger was plundering. I guess he meant my nether-ring returned to form easily, like a rubber-band? Better that than a blown-out pair of elastic underpants, one supposes.)
Well, no such compliment from this current doctor. I remind him that, hey, hello, my father died not from cholesterol but from eating a big ol’ bowl of Oops, All Prostate Cancer, and he says, crestfallen, “Oh.” Then he thinks about it and you can see the war on his face where he’s deciding if he’s going to glove-up and do the deed. The slot machine in his eyes stops spinning and it lands on, mmm, not today, Satan.
Instead he just says, “We’ll just have the blood test check your PSA numbers, no digital test necessary.”
And so endeth the appointment. Now, I get it, this is far from the worst anyone has experienced — and certainly women get a lot more handily dismissed than I do. (God only knows what trans people have to deal with at the average American doctor; I imagine it is, how you say, unideal.) When I had COVID this past go-round, they gave me Paxlovid fast. My wife got COVID and they told her to eat rocks. I had to call and kick over a bunch of bee-hives telling them they were being sexist by denying her the same medication I was getting, and they finally relented and gave her the drug, too. So, even there, a disparity from the same doctor.
I bring this up because, you know, I find when you have a lack of trust in one doctor, it kind of cascades outward — the doubt, the distrust, it reverberates. It means I’m less interested in going to him for problems, for care, because either I can only bring up the one thing that’s bothering me, or worse, he’s just gonna say “BMI cholesterol” loudly at my broken ankle or my pulsating neck tumor. When I get inconsistent, incomplete, or outright wrong information from a health provider, it dents and dings my overall feelings about healthcare in general — and my feelings about healthcare in general, as a capitalist endeavor driven by money as much as (if not more than) actual health, ain’t great as-is.
It’s not just that they’re wrong sometimes. Science is wrong often! Then we adapt, we course correct, we learn and grow. But healthcare providers seem extra resistant to that growth, to any new thinking, and are still just as happy throwing antibiotics at a clearly viral infection even though it… doesn’t do anything, like teachers who give an excess of homework just because parents demand it, not because it actually improves anything at all. And once you start to doubt the doctor, once you start to doubt why they want to just throw medication at a thing instead of trying to root out a cause or find deeper adjustments, that doubt swells and blooms.
And it becomes much easier to end up in the place where you’re questioning good advice, where you’re doubting settled science, because your doctor — your representative in this strange world! — isn’t someone you trust as easily as you’d like. It’s like holes in rotten wood — spores are going to get in there and grow, and those spores could be stuff like anti-vaxxer nonsense bullshit. Right? We have to be our own advocates in medical spaces, but being our own advocates means… trying to know ourselves but also trying to know more than our own doctors know. Which leads us to potentially harmful sources of information and, of course, as information fidelity online is getting worse and worse (search engine enshittification!), the fidelity of good medical information is worse, too. Made worse, by exploitative actors and by unregulated unfettered capitalism.
Not everyone is well-versed in critically-thinking every problem, and it’s easy to be like, “Well, yeah, my doctor was wrong here, so when they tell me to get vaccinated, I’m like, hey, maybe I should question that a little bit. And then I found one of the Kennedy’s saying that nature is good and vaccines are bad and I agree with the first part and my doctor is a dickhead soooo…”
What I’m suggesting here is that your doctor is your first line of defense against all the bullshit, and all too often, they’re a very, very weak defense. I know friends who had doctors tell them stuff like, “Whoa, don’t get that COVID vaccine, it changes your dang DNA.” Like, no it fucking does not. But there they are. Medical personnel. Saying it. Telling you that, or not to wear a mask, or take these antibiotics for a non-bacterial problem, or, or, or.
It just kinda sucks.
I have no solution here, I have no deeper thoughts, I just want to yell and sigh and grump a bit here. But also I wanted to point out that bad experiences with doctors has a knock-on ripple effect. (And no, I am not an anti-vaxxer, give me the shots, get a mask on my face when needed, and I try to take my health seriously, erm, maybe sometimes too seriously, given that I have hypochondriac obsessiveness at times.)
Again, tl;dr I don’t like my doctor, and I need to find a new one.
Which is a sucky journey, even suckier than like, buying a mattress. And buying a mattress is a journey into Hell.
Have a nice day.
Buy my books or I explode, like the bus from Speed.
Here are some good things! Er, to be clear, these are of the selfish self-promotional variety, not the “nice things going on in the world” kind. I apologize, but we writers are locked in an eternal battle against obscurity, and once in a while, I must fire my weapon.
First up: hey, holy crap, Black River Orchard is on the preliminary ballot for the Bram Stoker Awards. Which is to say, it is not yet on the final ballot and therefore is not yet a nominee, but it could still jump there if enough people in the HWA love it enough and want it to saunter over to the next round. No matter what happens, it is presently in some most wonderful company; you can see the list here. Congrats to all who are on the preliminary ballot, and further, if you readers out there looking to fill out your reading list, then checking out those candidates will bring you terror-fueled delight. And thank you to whoever helped put this book on the early ballot.
Then: RUSA, the Reference and User Services Association (a division of the American Library Association), put Black River Orchard on the short list for RUSA’s best-of reading list for the year, alongside Grady Hendrix (How to Sell a Haunted House, so good), Tananarive Due (The Reformatory, truly excellent, holy crap), Jordan Peele’s Out There Screaming (I have it but haven’t read it yet don’t hate me), and the top of the list was Carissa Orlando’s September House (also have not read though I hear it’s delightful). Thank you to RUSA! And, as always, fuck yeah, libraries.
Next: New Demons, a horror anthology edited by Joe and Keith Lansdale and Patrick McDonough, is coming soon to Kickstarter — I’m in it, with a dizzying array of excellent writers like Joe Hill, Robin Hobb, SA Cosby, Owen King, Chuck Palahniuk, and more. I’ll pop the link here when it’s live.
Finally: The End of the World as We Know It, a King-approved anthology of stories set in the universe of The Stand. I’m writing a story for it now, and needless to say, it’s fucking awesome. Er, being included. Not the story. Er, hopefully the story! I hope the story is fucking awesome but I don’t feel like I’m the best judge of that I should stop talking now. ANYWAY I’M IN IT. And I’m super fucking excited for it.
As a sidenote, I’ll remind people that if you checked out my books and you liked them, please leave a review somewhere! Carve it into the internet! Scream your book joy at the world with an appropriate star rating! Appease the algorithm! EVERY REVIEW YOU LEAVE ME GRANTS ME ONE MORE DAY OF LIFE probably, or something. Seriously, thank you. Heart eyes.
Also, it snowed, which is great! And I am sick, which is less great! But here is a proof of life photo, plus a couple dogs who look like they’re trying to murder each other but actually they’re having a blast.