TIME HAS SUCCESSFULLY PASSED, I say, though I don’t find nearly as much evidence of that as I’d like. My wife compared Pandemic Time to defragging your hard drive — the relevant data bits are fewer, and so they get juggled together to free up space, which makes time and memory collapse and crumble in really weird, off-putting ways.
I definitely exist, mentally, in this strange in-between zone. It is, I expect, purely the nature of the pandemic that has caused this — I am increasingly aware that the pandemic made us all Definitely Not Okay, and that there are a great many tremors and temblors rolling deep beneath the surface that we are only peripherally aware of (but are pretending not to feel at all). Lots of little micro-fractures and fissures forming that we don’t notice or are assured will be fine, just fine, don’t worry about it, the bridge is still up, keep driving over it, don’t worry about falling into the river below.
It’s been weird in that sense, as 2022 definitely felt like the year we were all collectively going to decide THIS PANDEMIC IS OVER, even though it is plainly not. And when I say “we all,” note that I don’t necessarily mean you and me, I only mean that collectively, shit has been forced into normal. The square peg had its corners sheared off with a chainsaw so it could fit in the circle fucking hole, geometry be damned. This isn’t our fault, necessarily. The leadership isn’t there. The messaging isn’t there. The CDC is a clown orgy, these days.
And of course, there’s Twitter. The wheels have been coming off Twitter for a few years now, though we’ve all dutifully done the work of jury-rigging up new wheels and tank treads and ice skates to keep that thing upright and moving. But then Musk came along and, I dunno, musked all over it, and now it’s swiftly degrading. I don’t need to reiterate alla that — I covered it here in THE BIRD SITE IS FUCKED. But, y’know, TERFs and antisemitism and anti-vax and welcoming Nazis back and and and, the whole thing is set to go up in flames like your average Tesla. Never mind the fact that the site was hacked, had 400 million accounts exposed, and also, the damn thing doesn’t even work that well. For all the people who lamented how unstable and unsafe Hive is or was, Twitter doesn’t have much room to talk. It’s janky shit right now.
And that to me is maybe the ultimate theme, if you will, of 2022 —
Welcome to Janktown, Population All Of Us.
It’s janky, hinky, wonky-ass business. Airlines (looking at you, Southwest) and inflation and people attacking power substations and god publishing is fucking weird right now and oh there’s still a pandemic even though we’re pretending there’s not — I’m just saying, does it feel to anyone else like the seams aren’t lining up anymore? That we’ve lost symmetry? The edges are fraying, the paint is chipping off, there’s a sound in the engine we can’t quite identify, kind of a tink tink tink, a thwup thwup, maybe a belt is loose, maybe a mouse is dead in there and the gears and flywheels are passing its body around? Janky-ass vibes, all the way down. Not broken, necessarily. But breaking. That’s not to say shit won’t get fixed, or that it’s unfixable. It just sense the vibration in my bones: the gentle hum of entropy, of chaos settling into the marrow.
I’m probably just imagining it.
Pay no attention to the TREMBLING CICADA-SHRIEK VOID behind the curtain.
To be clear, it’s not all bad. As much as things feel janky, sometimes it also feels like maybe some stuff is starting to get glued back together. The election was way better than we thought it was going to be. Progress is happening. I have… I don’t want to say optimism in that regard, but a general sense that it’ll all come together eventually. And that even in the turbulence and the cascading failures we’ll be all right. But I do think it means the turbulence and the cascading chaos isn’t… done yet. Not by a country mile. So, we hold tight and link arms and stand against the tide and help each other where we can, right?
Me, personally, 2022 was… good? I say hesitantly? I try to note every year that I’m a pretty lucky ducky, a very fortunate soul shoed with the iron of privilege and as such, I am fairly well taken care of. I had a book out, Wayward, and I think people liked it? I hope people continue to buy it and like it? (Consider this my not-so-subtle nudge to please review the book if you’re willing and able.) My middle grade novel, Dust & Grim, came out in paperback and… somehow hit the New York Times’ bestseller list? That’s pretty wild and I’m very geeked about it. D&G also landed on the Lone Star list in Texas, which — woo hoo!
Like I said, you can feel… publishing going through some things, though. Not just PRH losing the S&S bid, not just the Harper-Collions union strike (keep up with the union here, and solidarity to the striking workers who deserve to be paid a living wage), but — I dunno that it’s any one thing? Paper shortages, bookstore sales dropping, just a general sense of not knowing what works and what doesn’t. It’s definitely problematic that one of the primary vectors of BOOK LOVE, Twitter, is violently shitting the bed, leaving an authorial community without stable ground, without as much access to a readership, without (perhaps even more importantly) access to an author community. It wasn’t always perfect and it was often messy, but it was essential, and it’s really just not there like it was before. If at all.
And I think for so long publishers have kind of leaned on authors to have these (vigorous air-quotes) PLATFORMS and BRANDS and those things both really require social media to implement — never mind the fact it also requires authors to be the architects of something in which they are largely inexpert and that, arguably, this is something publishers should be there to handle or at the very least coach you on. (Some are far better at this than others, lemme tell ya.) And even when they’re not relying on authors to do it, I think publishers have still been leaning — understandably — on social media and the internet at large to convey that necessary BOOK LOVE, but that all seems to be crumbling. And it’s possible it was never really as useful as thought to be. Traditional legacy media still seems to actually work at generating buzz and selling books, but fewer and fewer of those outlets exist, and the ones that do — well, they don’t have as much space dedicated to BOOKS anymore, which fucking sucks.
And, I suspect the pandemic damaged a lot of institutional knowledge.
So, authors and publishers and by proxy readers are in this interstitial space. It’s not that there’s not a lot of good books out there. There are. It’s a great time for books. (A great time for horror, actually, if I’m being honest.) But the pipelines and wires with which we connect books to readers are fewer now, and tangled in general, and so I think there’s this great rebalancing going on. We don’t yet understand what comes out of all of this and how it’ll work. Which is not a fun time to go through, because… it’s uncertain and it’s janky and once again we return to the core problem of 2022: AMBIENT JANKINESS.
Anyway. Back to me, because, I dunno, this is my blog and I’m selfish.
Things are good. My books are doing fine. I earned out Wanderers and Book of Accidents in this past year, which is big. And I earned them out internationally, too, across a handful of countries, so I thank readers for that.
Family is good. Dogs are good. (Though our one dog became so plagued by her FART GHOSTS it started to impact her quality of life, and so we put her HAUNTED BUTT on Prozac and… well, that really helped, to be honest.)
And into 2023 we go.
What do I have going on in 2023?
A proper cover will come in the new year, but for now, may my hasty Photoshop suffice: BLACK RIVER ORCHARD is my new horror novel, coming out in September of 2023 from Del Rey Books. A very bad apple comes to town, and those who eat it are not the same as they were before. It’s all about small-town horror, troubled American history, ingrained wealth, folk horror cults, violent ego, all that good fun stuff. Plus, y’know, APPLES. Apples apples apples. You can pre-order now, I think, from most sites, though I’ll note that first out of the gate was Gibson’s in Concord (and I ordered a book from them recently and got it lickety-quick), so you can pre-order from them if you so desire. You can also pre-order from my local store, Doylestown Bookshop, to get signed and personalized.
I’m just finishing up edits on that book right now, so yay for that.
Meanwhile, I’ve got a spooky MG I wanna write, and also have another horror novel for Del Rey to write and turn in (codename: STAIRCASE, coming ~2024). For those who want to ask, “Will there be more Dust & Grim?” my answer to you is, I hope so, but there’s no current deal, only a couple pitches. I honestly like to hope that after a NYT list hit and the Lone Star list, they’d want more, but so far the publisher hasn’t committed — if you wanna ping LBYR on Twitter and tell them you or your kids would like to read more, you’re certainly welcome to!
Finally, I’m going to… Spain??
Yep, in July 2023, I’ll be at Celsius 232 (with Alma Katsu, too!) in Aviles, Spain, which should be super awesome. I speak… approximately none of the language, so I’ve got some work to do there, but they will of course have translators to make my guttural Pennsyltucky tongue sound like poetry.
I’m sure there’s more, but my brain is as janky as the world.
So, to close this post (and this blog) out for the year 2022, here are some of my favorite photos I’ve taken in the last 12 months —
All right that’s probably enough.
HAPPY NEW YEAR, NERDS
*turns into a pillar of salt*