Apple-Obsessed Author Fella

Digging A Grave For 2023, As 2024 Struggles To Be Born

Well! I see we find ourselves once again at the turn of the tide. The one year recedes. Another year washes up in its place, eating all the sandcastles you made. Washing away your footprints. Time, and life, and the universe —

They go on.

This peculiar moment is both an excellent time for reflection and a piss-poor time for reflection — the former because, it is useful to take stock, and what better moment than during this interstitial notimeplace? The latter because, we are in the interstitial notimeplace. I don’t know what day it is, so how the fuck am I expected to look both backward and forward with any effectiveness at all? I can’t remember shit. I don’t even know who you people are or how you got here. I’m pretty sure it’s The Fifth Garblesday, or maybe Bleenstag. I’m wearing underpants on my head and pants on my arms. I am half-chocolate and half-cheese. It’s foggy out. It’s foggy in. Everything is Betwixt. But this is all my problem, not yours.

I shall rally. I shall muster. I SHALL FORTIFY.

To reflect back: 2023 was, personally, I suppose, a pretty good year. I wrote and sold a new middle grade, Monster Movie!, and yes, that exclamation point is part of the title because fuck yeah, let’s exclaim excitedly about things. I published my next adult horror novel, Black River Orchard, which to my shock and awe became a USA Today bestseller? Got to go on tour for that book, as well, which was a true delight — I met cool readers, ate weird apples, got to hang out with the writerly likes of Paul Tremblay and Aaron Mahnke and Chris Golden and Sadie Hartmann and Clay McCleod Chapman and Owen King and of course Kevin Hearne and Delilah Dawson. Plus, I got to visit some of the greatest bookstores in the country. Especially ones I’d never been to, like Montana Book Co and Gibson’s.

It was genuinely fucking great.

(And in case people are like, but book tours aren’t effective, why do you think Orchard hit the USA Today list? Because of bookstore visits.)

(Also: thanks to Powell’s this morning — particularly, Nick K! — for putting Black River Orchard on his top five staff picks of 2023.)

Plus, there was Gentle Writing Advice this past summer, too — which I hope has been helping people navigate the labyrinth of a writing life. I know I needed to write it — I needed to talk about navigating the creative and emotional challenges of the modern age, and also I needed the book as a response to me, where I got to use the book as a weird, I dunno, remix or rebuttal or reconsideration of who I am as a writer. But also ideally for those writers out there who know that this thing we do is work, that it’s hard, that it’s satisfying, that it’s challenging, and that to do it requires a measure of mindfulness and self-care. And the book is very much about that, and also about challenging the idea of self-care, too, to become a more nuanced and meaningful aspect of your work. It’s not just about HAVE A DONUT, but about how taking yourself and your work seriously is itself a form of self-care, you know? Anyway. So that came out.

Wayward hit paperback. That’s good, too, though I still meet people who loved Wanderers and don’t realize it has a sequel? (Whispers: it has a sequel. It’s called Wayward. Pass it on.)

Oh, and I was on the cover of a magazine?? What the fuck is that? Who lets that happen? Writer’s Digest did, apparently.

Life was, mostly, pretty good? My family is good. Kid is nailing school and now, the electric guitar. (He’s been playing since he was in kindergarten but I think the electric opened him up to the experience in a big way.) He’s getting older now and that’s weird and wonderful and awful, because you see TIME ITSELF cascading past like the scenery on a long car ride, and you see it in their faces and how tall they’re getting and in the cracking voice and in the books they’re reading, and, and, and. It’s great. But also, oof.

Saw Yeah Yeah Yeahs in concert. That was amazing. Some bands you see live and you realize, yeah, fuck, they’re better on the album. But YYYs fucking bring it. Legit amazing show.

Went to Europe for the first time — Netherlands, Germany, Spain. Truly amazing. Beautiful experience. Best travel I’ve ever done, hands down. Thinking of going back this next year. Portugal, maybe.

Got COVID. Wouldn’t recommend it. Zero stars. Had Pax-Mouth, which was like licking a robot’s corroded asshole. Was not the worst I’ve ever been sick but you can definitely feel like, without vaccines and other remediations, COVID could definitely kick down the gate and escape containment inside your body real fucking quick.

Globally, shit kinda sucked. All over the place. I mean, I suppose in a ‘grand scheme’ sorta way, there’s a lot of THINGS SUCK every year, and I do think it’s important to also recognize THINGS DON’T SUCK IN EVERY DIRECTION AND SOMETIMES GOOD THINGS HAPPEN TOO. But it’s hard not to look at climate change and rising vaccine denial and Israel/Palestine and marching fascism and feel like, “we’re really nailing it right now.” But, but, but, locally, at least, I’ll note: we kicked Moms For Liberty out of our school district. And M4L is dying fast on the vine right before our very eyes, and that’s something I’ll cherish forever.

The death of Twitter was a real good news bad news thing — good news because, honestly, Twitter had gone rotten long before Musk took over, and he just pulped it into rancid wine and tried to make everyone drink it. But losing it sucked, too, because you lose real connections, real community, and also for creatives, we lost a pretty useful way to reach the audiences we have earned there. But it’s hard to be there and stay there and support that place. (See also: Substack, now. If you’re on it, I’d start finding a way off it.) Bluesky has been a pretty great replacement. Threads less so — it’s good in a lot of ways, but just this week alone there’s been a lot more FIGHTY RAGEBAIT ENGAGEMENT going on and it’s tiresome and also the UI is fucking Byzantine.

The continued rise of AI in art and writing is hopefully soon going to do what all of these (at the core) lazy get-rich-quick bullshit jawns do over time — like NFTs and all that shit, I’d love to see the air leak out so I can watch the balloon squeak around the room in a pathetic death spiral. It’s theft, and a lazy theft at that — you know it’s theft because, as others have said before me, it wouldn’t exist without other art and writing doing the work of pre-existing. It feeds on that, chews it up, spits it back out. Folks who use it, they just have an idea and want a Work Button to make the robot shit out their idea. But even there, the execution is based on everybody else’s work, not your own mind — you just fed it a line of words and now it’s crapping out a digitized regurgitate of someone else’s effort. (Never mind the environmental impact.)

Let’s be shut of it.


So, 2024.

Um. Whew. Yeah. I dunno!

There are of course concrete things I’ve got going on — I have to finish The Staircase in the Woods and send that off to the editor. I have to pitch my next middle grade. I’ll have Monster Movie! out in the world come late September. I’ll soon show you a cover for that and a cover for the paperback version of Black River Orchard, too.

I think the hardest thing that’ll happen professionally this year will be having to pitch new books — you know, a writing career, I often note, is one of peaks and valleys, and more to the point, cliffs you’re always about to drive off of, and so much of our careers are spent simply trying to furiously get a ramp built at the edges so we can jump the valleys instead of crashing down into them. And that means this year is one of those inflection points where I have to see if the ramps I’ve been building will carry my ass over the void and to the next stable landmass, or if I’m going to be extracting myself from a fiery wreck and have to climb back up and out. There’s no shame in that, it happens to all of us, we all have careers that catch fire once in a while, but obviously the hope is, the ramp holds, and I jump the gap.


Publishing is definitely continuing its trend of “going through some things,” and it’s always weird any given year but the weirdness quotient seems to have gone up, up, up. And that’s for a lot of reasons, I suspect. The rise of AI, the impact of pandemic emotions and trauma, the cascading weirdness of inflation slash greedflation, the crash-and-burn of reliable social media. Best we can do is hold tight to the bucking beast and try not to get thrown.

Otherwise, who knows? I can’t predict what the year will bring. I will try to enter it creatively and with curiosity and with compassion — I enter it with the desire to keep telling stories and keep reading them in turn. I’ll travel, long as the pandemic lets me. I’ll keep trying to blog here, because it remains a stable place for me to set up shop and say my silly bloviating shit. And I hope you’ll keep coming along with me here, too, on whatever this odd journey is, until this odd journey ends. (Which, hopefully, will be a good long time from now, but that’s never guaranteed, is it?)

All right. To close it out, here are some of my favorite photos of the past year.

Have a wonderful NYE, don’t drink lighter fluid, do kick 2023 out the door with the heaviest boot you can find, let’s all wish each other the best version of ourselves in the year going forward, and I’ll see you next week sometime with my “writerly resolution” for 2024.