Chuck Wendig: Terribleminds

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Dan Frey: Truth and The Real Power of Fantasy

Dan Frey has a new book out today — Dreambound — and here he is to talk about where that book comes from, and what the real world showed him about fantasy and imagination. And away we go:

I’ve been a fantasy fan since the double-whammy of Narnia and Middle-Earth hit me in childhood. But when I became a parent, I decided it was time to put aside childish things (bye-bye D&D group) and live firmly in the real world. Suddenly, I had a screaming infant to take care of, so I couldn’t be bothered with elves and fairies and magic.

I don’t just mean fantasy literature. The very concept of imagination felt like my enemy. I was extremely (obsessively?) protective of my newborn daughter, which manifested in inventing elaborate scenarios about saving her from outlandish danger. I’d hear a creak at night and imagine fighting off a band of home-invading child-traffickers. A bush would rustle at the park, and I’d envision myself tackling a charging bear (in suburban L.A.? You never know!)

These daydreams were insistent, vivid, and troubling… and they got me interested in exploring the dark side of imagination. The ways in which the inventive capacity of the human mind could weaponized against us. And that kernel led to Dreambound: a story about a series of fantasy books that takes on a dangerous life of its own, and a father trying to save his daughter from getting lost down a rabbit hole of fantastical beliefs.  

It was born out of my specific experiences as a parent… but it resonated with something much bigger that was going on in the world. Plenty of people have called out the “post-truth” paradigm we’re living in, one where the line between fantasy and reality has been hopelessly blurred, and objective truth feels like a quaint, distant memory. Fantasy is no longer just what you find in the nerdy corner of the bookstore; it has taken the form of conspiracy theories and bullshit masquerading as revelation, and it has become more popular than ever.

A decade ago, belief in such things might’ve just seemed quirky, but now it’s clear that fantastical thinking has real-world impacts. A President was elected on a platform of half- and non-truths, and then, when he lost his bed for a second term, used more of them to nearly unravel democracy (and may yet rise from the grave to do it all again). Meanwhile, we’re hurtling through grim climate milestones, driven just as much by decades of denial as by fossil fuels. Fear of child-blood-drinking coastal elites has resulted in real-world violence. And don’t get me started on anti-vaxxers.

Richard Andersen’s book Fantasyland persuasively argues that this tendency toward self-delusion is uniquely American, growing out of a four-century history of religious zealots and hucksters. It is seen in our collective stubborn belief in by-your-bootstraps entrepreneurship, and finds its latest expression in a Silicon Valley culture that chases one fantastical dream after another (often, off a cliff).

As I’ve watched these cultural waves spread in the last few years, I’ve felt myself gravitating away from fantasy. I wrote a sci-fi book that was as grounded in real science as possible. I worked as a screenwriter on projects that were less imaginative, trying to present myself as a Responsible and Professional Writer. And as a parent, I found myself determined to teach my kids to live in the real world, goddammit; I was going to raise intelligent, logical thinkers.  

Thus Dreambound was born, initially, as the anti-fantasy fantasy book.

And in many ways, the book is just that–an indictment of magical thinking, using the tropes of fantasy fiction to criticize not just the genre itself, but the impulse at the root of it. A way to question or desire for stories that transport us out of the real world, when there are so many problems in this world that urgently need our attention.

But I am grateful that it morphed into much more than that… because my perspective shifted when my daughter faced an actual life-threatening emergency. An ordinary COVID infection led to a rare condition called MIS-C. Her fever spiked to 106 and her organs inflamed, threatening heart failure. In case that wasn’t hard enough–while we were in the ER, desperately awaiting a diagnosis, my wife (who was 10 weeks pregnant) suffered a miscarriage, and had to be taken to a different hospital.

It was a hell of a week. And there was no time to grieve the lost pregnancy because I found myself in a COVID-isolated hospital room with a very active toddler confined to a metal crib, hooked up to an IV and EEG 24/7. The doctors told me to keep her calm, even as they kept coming in with needles and scary tests.

There were no child-traffickers to punch out or bears to wrestle. There were only countless hours at the bedside of a sick, restless little girl. And the only way I could keep her safe, physically as well as emotionally, was by making it fun. Playing make-believe with her toys. Inventing stories to keep her mind off the painful, frightening medical treatments. 

How’d we get through the hardest week of our lives? In a word: imagination.

As a result, she came home from the hospital with a healthy heart… and so did I. I finally understood why I had fantasized about fighting off all manner of absurd mortal threats. I needed to believe I could protect her. From anything. But it turned out, the key was not superhuman strength. It was simply hope, in the face of darkness. 

So as much as Dreambound is about the danger of fantasy, it is also about the power of imagination to get us through anything. And it’s dedicated to my daughters, who inspired the book, and I hope one day it will inspire them too.  

In this thrilling contemporary fantasy novel, a father must investigate the magical underbelly of Los Angeles to find his daughter, who has seemingly disappeared into the fantastical universe of her favorite books.

Dreambound is a glorious mash-up of fantasy and modern-noir. A little bit Jonathan Carroll, a little bit Neil Gaiman.”—David S. Goyer, executive producer of Sandman and Foundation

When Byron Kidd’s twelve-year-old daughter vanishes, the only clue is a note claiming that she’s taken off to explore the Hidden World, a magical land from a series of popular novels. She is not the only child to seek out this imaginary realm in recent years, and Byron—a cynical and hard-nosed reporter—is determined to discover the whereabouts of dozens of missing kids.

Byron secures a high-profile interview with Annabelle Tobin, the eccentric author of the books, and heads off to her palatial home in the Hollywood Hills. But the truth Byron discovers is more fantastic than he ever could have dreamed.

As he unearths locations from the books that seem to be bleeding into the real world, he must shed his doubts and dive headfirst into the mystical secrets of Los Angeles if he hopes to reunite with his child. Soon Byron finds himself on his own epic journey—but if he’s not careful, he could be the next one to disappear.

Told through journal entries, transcripts, emails, and excerpts from Tobin’s novels, Dreambound is a spellbinding homage to Los Angeles and an immersive and fast-paced story of how far a father will go—even delving into impossible worlds—to save his daughter.

Dreambound: Bookshop | Amazon

From Stem to Calyx: Black River Orchard News Roundup

We are two weeks out from harvest time, and before the fruits begin to drop and the book hits shelves, it seems high time for a quick news roundup.

Jenny Lawson — aka The Bloggess, obvs — recommended the book over at her blog, saying, “Would you like to be afraid of apples? Because you will be. Chuck Wendig never misses.” She also recommended What Kind of Mother, by Clay McCleod Chapman, which is the rare horror book that climbed under my skin and stayed there; Black Sheep by Rachel Harrison, which I’ve got on pre-order; September House by Carissa Orlando, a book I’ve been hearing a lot about since it launched, so I’mma get that; Stephen Graham-Jones’ most excellent comic, EarthDivers. And more! A kind recommendation. And also you won’t be afraid of apples after reading the book. You’ll love apples. And they’ll love you. And you’ll love yourself. And you’ll be better than you ever were.

Hey, not only am I going on tour and getting to chat with Owen King, Aaron Mahnke, Sadie Hartmann, and Clay McLeod Chapman — but now one of my best pals and also one of my favorite writers, Delilah S. Dawson, is joining the Lehigh Valley date. October 3rd, The End bookstore, in Allentown. I’ll talk Black River Orchard. She’ll talk Bloom. Huzzah farmer’s market horror? Is it a thing? It’s a thing. More tour details here.

A starred review from Publisher’s Weekly? Don’t mind if I do.

Book Riot’s Liberty Hardy did a round up of September’s scariest reads, and Black River Orchard makes the cut. “Chuck Wendig’s books are always a good time! This novel is one that is best read knowing as little as possible about it. It’s about a special apple orchard in the town of Harrow that grows apples unlike any other. People clamor for the apples, but they come with a cost. And in this tale, an apple a day won’t keep the nightmares away…

Kirkus says of the book: “The myth of the poisoned apple belies the very real evil growing in a Pennsylvania orchard… Wendig writes doorstoppers, but it’s safe to say there’s something for everyone here, from the creepy Eyes Wide Shut vibe (complete with sacrificial rituals) to the Stephen King–laced dichotomy between the world’s everyday cruelty and the truly grotesque carnage that follows…Both complex and compelling, a nightmare-inducing parable about our own wickedness.”

This is Horror calls Black River Orchard a book to look out for.

The Escapist puts it on their list of best new horror in September. “Chuck Wendig has written so many novels that I absolutely adore. If you haven’t read Wanderers and Wayward, put those on your 2023 list. Right now. The Book of Accidents is outstanding, and if you’re a Star Wars Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy does a wonderful job setting the stage for the Sequel Trilogy.”

Library Journal says: “Insatiable, passionate, weird, and creepy, Wendig’s latest is perfect for those who appreciate the slow-burning horror tomes of Stephen King and Robert McCammon.”

Novel Suspects lists it as one of their most anticipated fall books.

BookPage puts it as one of their most anticipated SFF/horror books of fall 2023, as well, alongsize Scalzi and Martha Wells and Tanarive Due and the new Kadrey/Khaw jam and more truly excellent company.

Every Read Thing calls the book “a twisted, gnarly read that will absolutely find a spot in my top five fiction reads in 2023.” And, “While I still read dozens and dozens of books a year, it’s been a while since I’ve felt that compulsive need to race through a book. With Black River Orchard, if I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it.

I casually remind you that I’m running a pre-order giveaway — wanna win some books? Or a shirt? OR A SINISTER POSTCARD FROM ME WHERE I INVENT A NEW EVIL APPLE VARIETY FOR YOU AND YOU ALONE??? Ahem. Well, go on over and check out the rules. And get to pre-ordering.

It’s rocking five stars at Netgalley — with some killer quotes that honestly, I kinda love.

Just when I thought this book couldn’t get any darker, the moon went behind a cloud and I realized was darkness truly was. Masterful storytelling.” — Amanda A.

This had to start out as a dare. How great of an author are you? Can you write an award winning horror novel about the most mundane thing imaginable, an apple. And do you know what, Chuck Wendig absolutely nailed it.” — April J.

Without a doubt the horror book of the fall, “Black River Orchard” will have you never looking at an apple the same way again.” — Leah C.

Michael Patrick Hicks says some kind words about the book at his blog: “Nothing says fall has arrived quite like apples and cider. Throw in a farming community cult, a welcome dose of body horror, and a whole lot of bloodshed, and you’ve got yourself a new, quintessential fall horror book that I suspect will be ripe for loads of annual re-reads come spooky season.”

And finally, what may be one of my favorite reviews comes from Jordy’s Book Club on Instagram: “Let me be a little more clear: BLACK RIVER ORCHARD is one of the most unhinged books I have ever read… No seriously. I’m telling you right now, YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW FUCKED THE SHIT GETS IN THIS BOOK… That being said, I loved it. All the stars. #BlackRiverOrchard is my favorite Chuck Wendig book ever (and WANDERERS was a JBC TOP 10 title). This has the hallmarks of a classic Chuck Wendig novel: it’s horror infused with humor; part SALEM’S LOT, part IMAGINARY FRIEND, it’s dark and twisty, funny, emotional, and super violent. And did I mention weird? The book is truly bizarre. In all the best ways. And I promise you will NEVER look at **shudder** apples **shudder** the same way ever again.⁣”

Hashtag, blessed.

Two weeks till harvest.

Hope you check out the book and spread the good word about the Ruby Slipper apple. There’s no taste like home!

Black River Orchard Pre-Order Giveaway


BOOK STACK goes to Leah Adams

SHIRTS go to Chris Wolff, Paul Morello, Debbie Gruchalski

POSTCARDS to Tess Lecuyer, Paige Holland, Matthew Warnock, Alessandra Daudt, Jessica Judd, Jinks B, Jennifer Kristiansen, Katie Hoole, Matthew White, Beth Callaghan, Julie Brown, Megan Casilio, Sara Kuhns, Kevin Pech, Donna Sheerbrick, Paul Willett, Thomas Martin, Annie McAndrew, Courtney Cantrell, Margo Hardyman, Cynthia Butler, Amanda Evers-Bellace, Gretchen Hackard, K Moody, Mila Dean

Emails have gone out, if you don’t get one, hit me up at the email address in this post — congrats! Wooo! Welcome to the cult! I mean what cult!

It is nearly harvest time, friends — the days are getting shorter, and the apples are growing red and ready to burst on the trees. Which is to say, Black River Orchard is almost on bookshelves (less than three weeks ahhh holy crap), and so it is time for a pre-order giveaway.

If you pre-order the book and send me evidence of that pre-order, you have the chance to win some neat stuff.

The neat stuff is:

One person will win a buncha my books, including but not limited to: the UK hardcover edition of Black River Orchard (for you collectors out there, because the cover is quite different and equally awesome), the UK paperback edition of The Book of Accidents, paperback of Gentle Writing Advice, paperback of Wanderers, paperback of its sequel, Wayward, a paperback of my middle grade spooky book Dust & Grim, and a hardcover of You Can Do Anything Magic Skeleton. I will sign and personalize these, if you’d like!

Three other people will win Ruby Slipper Paxson Family Orchard t-shirts (black) in the size of your choosing. (There’s no taste like home!)

And then twenty-five of you will win a weird skeletony-appley postcard from me to you, and on this postcard I will make up an entirely new evil apple: an heirloom variety from the dark orchard inside my mind.

(Art on postcard by Michael Walsh.)

So, how does this work?

You, a person in the United States (as this is only available to you, sorry), pre-order Black River Orchard from your choice of bookstore in whatever format you prefer. (If you need a place from which to preorder, I might recommend a signed/personalized copy from Doylestown Bookshop, or from any of the stores I’m visiting on my tour.) But any book store or merchant will do, and yes, it’s perfectly ok to preorder in hardcover, e-book, audio. (Links to other places to pre-order right here.)

You email me proof of this preorder to me at terribleminds [at] gmail [dot] com, ideally in some sort of screenshot format. You must, must, must title this email with the subject header: BLACK RIVER ORCHARD GIVEAWAY

This enters you into the giveaway.

As much as I’d like you to preorder a hundred copies, only one entry counts per person.

You have until 11:59PM EST on Sunday, September 24th to enter.

I will randomly draw the 29 names on Monday, September 25th. (First name gets the books, next three get the shirts, remaining picks get the postcards.)

I will announce those winners here in this post — I’ll edit the post, and pop the winners at the top. I’ll also email the winners, and you’ll need to give me your mailing addresses when I do. Because, y’know, that’s how I get the stuff to you. Otherwise I’ll just duct-tape it to a mourning dove and hope it gets to you, I guess. (Legalese: no mourning doves will be harmed in the engagement of this contest.)

I will mail the packages out when I am back from the first leg of the tour, likely the week of October 9th. (Also, come see me on tour. At many of the stops we will be eating strange heritage apples from local orchards.)

And that’s how it’ll go.

The days grow dark.

The fruit grows sweet.

Take a bite, and maybe win a thing.

Drop questions in the comments below.

Blurb Disk Horse

Alert, alert. It has now been *flips number to ZERO* days since fresh discourse. In this case, blurb discourse — I’m guessing based on this (IMO) rock solid Esquire article by Sophie Vershbow that talks about the blurb system in traditional publishing being irrevocably broken.

First, I’ll note here that I did a whole blurb post slash FAQ two-ish years ago, and you can find that post right here. You may find it useful or interesting. Or not. I don’t know. Click the tantalizing link to discover your emotional reaction to it! Perhaps you will be fizzy with rage. Who can say!

Second, I’ll note that I don’t agree necessarily that this system is “broken” in part because it’s not really a system so much as it is an agreed-upon norm and practice that has, like many such traditions, wormed its way into book publishing not unlike a set of pushy, urgent roots. On the other hand, everything in publishing is kind of… mmm, if not broken, then chaotically janky. Publishing is a set of highly-complex but poorly-connected flywheels and dongles, and I think the poor connections between these aspects has only grown softer and jankier since the pandemic.

Here I figure I’ll talk a little about my feelings regarding blurbs, since the link above is more or less an overview, and also because the Esquire piece lays emphasis on how much authors hate them and how they are, quote-unquote, a plague on the whole enchilada.

My feelings on blurbs are like a freshly separated couple on Facebook:

It’s complicated.

First, I am honored to receive every blurb I get for one of my books. Some author with probably too little time on their hands took a hefty chunk of that too little time to read my book and then figure out something nice — arguably very nice — to say about that book. They were under no obligation to do so (and it is not, or at least should never be, an obligation), and I am infinitely thankful that they did so.

Second, I am honored to get asked to blurb a book. Someone for whatever reason thought my name and praise on their book would help it instead of, I dunno, marking it like a cursed sigil, and so it is genuinely a kind thing to be asked. Bonus: free book! Free early book! That no one has read yet! I fucking love free early books that (er, mostly) no one has read yet!

Third, I hate when an author has to ask me for a blurb directly. Not because I dislike them or their ask, but because I know that is very hard for them to ask, and then it makes it different for me to engage with the request, and worst of all, it makes me suspect that they do not have an agent or editor looking out for them. Because in a perfect world, that’s where the currency of blurbs should be earned and spent: within publishing. Someone representing the first author should be asking someone who represents the second author about a blurb. These official layers ideally pad everyone from the emotional entanglement of ripping out your heart and showing it to a fellow wordperson and saying “hey could you take a look at my heart and carve your praise into its meat, or you could instead just kick it under the bed where the cat throws up sometimes.” This is where the system is, or can be broken: when publishing is not handling the good work of making a book marketable at various levels. The publishing system all too often leaves authors swinging in the wind, and it can be real cold out there. (I note my fortune here that my editor handles these requests for my books deftly, and I appreciate it oh so very much because we put together a theoretical list of blurbers, it goes out, and I only get to see the good results.)

Fourth, I think blurbs represent a way to leave a light on and a ladder out for other authors. It’s hard for many of us, harder for many more beyond us, and successful writers have certainly been the recipients of kind words and praise from others in the past. Thus we pass it down. Not in a one-for-one currency (I blurb you, you blurb me) but in a larger, more general sense.

Fifth, and because of the last point, I can also feel that blurbs represent an occasional source of guilty obligation around the practice. I want to do my best. Books — writing them, selling them, hell even just getting them seen by readers — is fucking hard, and those last parts are getting harder. So, I always feel shitty not being able to blurb a book — or not being able to even read the book in order to get a blurb. So, I try my best, but I’m a slow reader, and I don’t like to read on screens now. Further, I have a TBR pile of already-published books that’s Babel-high, but I tend not to read from that pile if I have a “books to blurb” pile, but I aaaaalways have a books to blurb pile, and so blurbing has at its core a sort of ill vibe, a bad and unintentional feeling. It’s a me problem, not a problem for anyone asking. And I could get ahead of it by just turning on the NO VACANCY sign, but that makes me feel bad, and honestly, the blurb requests come in anyway.

But here is one place where the so-called system really does fail: authors are often given very little time to read and blurb a book. I’ve had blurb requests that require as little as two weeks to read a book and return a blurb. Maybe they expect me to do that in that time, or maybe they’re just hoping I’ll cobble together some very generic “wow book good go author many words make happy” marketingspeak. But that is not enough time. Six months. That’s enough time. Probably too long by some timelines, but you really need a lot of time to get this right.

So, should we eliminate blurbs? Ennh. I guess not, but it’s probably best we also don’t take them too too seriously, at the same time. Why? Listen–

Blurbs themselves are not going to be make-it-break-it for an author or a book, but they represent one of many theoretical points-of-contact for new and even existing readers, and the more of these points-of-contact that exist for a book, the better a shot that book gets. Right? Like, every blurb, every review, every BookTok video, every time someone has cause to buy the book for their bookstore or buy the book from a bookstore, that’s giving the author one more pinball for the table to try and hit a high score. Remove that and I don’t know that you address the blurb problem so much as you simply eliminate a point of access to give that book another chance at success. And success is hard. The Esquire article estimates that there are, what, at minimum half-a-million books traditionally published every year? This doesn’t include self-published books, either.

At their peak in 2018, I think the most movies released theatrically was under a thousand — so publishing is a crowded, crowded, crowded field. (I’m not advocating for fewer books to be published, because I know how that goes and who will get cut from that list.)

So with such a massive number of books coming out, finding as many hooks are possible for those books is key.


Blurb thoughts, complete.

Discourse beast, fed.

Now is the time I ask you to look away.

Look away, I say!

For now I will peacock my utter shamelessness to note that my upcoming book, Black River Orchard, has a phenomenal spread of blurbs from some truly spectacular voices, and I’m going to be additionally shameless and post those blurbs now, because I am a monster, but also because I die in the abyss if I can’t get people to read my books. Clap your hands if you believe in fairies, and pre-order books if you believe in authors.

The blurbs for Black River Orchard:

“Chuck Wendig is one of my very favorite storytellers. Black River Orchard is a deep, dark, luscious tale that creeps up on you and doesn’t let go.”—Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus

“An epic saga that is at once a propulsive horror novel and a parable, a thriller and a cautionary tale, Black River Orchard is the immensely talented Chuck Wendig at his finest.”—Lisa Unger, New York Times bestselling author of Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six

“A gripping story of love and legacies gone rotten, deeply rooted in the landscape and as twisty and gnarled as an ancient apple tree.”—T. Kingfisher, USA Today bestselling author of What Moves the Dead

“This will undoubtedly be heralded as one of the finest horror novels of the twenty-first century.”—Eric LaRocca, author of Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke

“Enchanting, exquisite and dark, Chuck Wendig masterfully weaves a new horrifying fairy tale in Black River Orchard.”—Cynthia Pelayo, Bram Stoker Award winner of Crime Scene

“Creepy and insidious, Black River Orchard whets your appetite and then turns you inside out.”—Hailey Piper, Bram Stoker Award–winning author of Queen of Teeth

Black River Orchard should come with a warning label: You’ll never bite into another apple without remembering this dark, demented, and genuinely frightening novel.”—Jason Rekulak, author of Hidden Pictures

“Dark. Visceral. Creepy. Smart. Deep. So red it’s dark brown. Chuck Wendig’s Black River Orchard slithers and shines, its dangerous belly full of dark magic and accusations. I’ve been a fan of Wendig for years, and this is his best novel yet.”—Gabino Iglesias, Stoker Award-winning author of The Devil Takes You Home

“An essential for horror readers, and buy it for new horror readers—it will convert them instantly.”—V. Castro, author of The Haunting of Alejandra

“Plucks your heartstrings and preys on your fears at the same time . . . High-stakes horror meets peak emotional investment means Total. Reader. Devastation.”—Sadie Hartmann, author of 101 Horror Books to Read Before You’re Murdered

“A fresh and unexpected horror feat, expertly drawing from the ancient, endless wells of our greatest fears.”—Premee Mohamed, Nebula Award–winning author of Beneath the Rising

Also I’m going on tour, and you can preorder the book from any of those bookstores to get a signed, personalized copy. Or nab from my local, Doylestown Bookshop.

Some Very Brief Capsule Reviews Of Stuff I Am Shoving In My Mindholes

HERE ARE SOME MEANINGLESS THOUGHTS. Reviews are of course in no way particularly valuable or impactful in that they do very little critical thinking or intellectual heavy lifting, but fuck it, here is my thoughtbarf anyway. *yarrrrrrfffggh*

Video games? I got both Starfield and Baldur’s Gate 3 (PS5 ed). Starfield is really pretty and, so far in the early game, spectacularly dull. Both Fallout and Skyrim start in a way that’s pretty compelling right out of the gate, whereas Starfield is like, “I dunno, I guess you’re mining shit,” and it feels hand-wavey. There’s actually a moment early on where you emerge from an airlock and the music swells and the light grows bright — echoes here of leaving one of the Fallout vaults — except then you just walk out onto some ugly-ass moon with some industrial video game shit around you. You expect it to be this beautiful galactic moment and it’s just chalky and bland. Which so far is my experience with the game. It probably gets better.

BG3 on the other hand is kind of the opposite. It’s colorful and kind of batshit right from the get-go, and I spent about mmm 47 hours on character creation alone. I’m not far in it, but I’m digging it. While I suspect the PC version is better, the PS5 is easily the best console RPG experience I’ve had yet in terms of that crunchy kind of dice-rolly goodness. It’s cool.

I’m watching Ahsoka. It is a show I am watching. (Honestly, it’s fine, I guess, but I love Rebels and I loved her character in the past and this just feels like it’s a paint-by-numbers ‘Star Wars’ show with a whole different character. Ahsoka isn’t the quixotic, slightly quirky non-Jedi that I remember and, honestly, that I adored — she’s now somehow the dour, grumpy ‘follow the Jedi rules’ Jedi, and shit makes little sense and there’s a lot of weird logic potholes I keep tripping into and, ennnh. Ennh. Ugh.)

I am LTTP, but loved Barbie. Obviously. I think it missed the mark in a few places — not even in the “overarching point” way just in a sort of plot-narrative-logic way, but it doesn’t matter, because I had a blast.

Deadloch. That is all. Just watch it. (Amazon Prime is where it lives.)

Just read a new Hailey Piper novel (All The Hearts You Eat) and whoa, wow, holy crap. It’s kind of one thing for a little while and then it turns into this whole other glorious monstrosity. And also about finished with Forgotten Sisters by Cynthia Pelayo which I’m also loving a lot — there’s some deep, dark poetry happening in her writing you need to witness. Also fascinated by how many horror novels out soon and recently have water as a focus. Piper’s All the Hearts and also No Gods for Drowning. Pelayo’s Forgotten Sisters, where the river plays a focus. Clay McLeod Chapman’s What Kind of Mother. Even Black River Orchard which, again, has a river focus, has a character who fears drowning. Just an interesting thing. Not sure what it means. Shades of anxiety over climate change? Or a deeper feeling of being overwhelmed and drowning in our own daily lives? Or is it just some weird cool psychic shit that happened to line up in our minds as we wrote these books and put them out into the world? Dunno, can’t say.

(Also: farmer’s market horror! Present in What Kind of Mother, plus Delilah Dawson’s Bloom, and also, Black River Orchard. I selfishly also note I’m getting to chat with the two of them at different events on my tour, which you can find details for here — Delilah is joining the Lehigh Valley date at The End bookstore. It will be a goddamn delight.)

Anyway. That’s it for now.

Here’s a shiny happy tour graphic, if you care to have it:

What are you digging these days? Or not digging? Whatever works. Pop into comments and Speak Your Words.

Announcing: The Evil Apples Tour! Black River Orchard And Me Coming To Your Bookstore! Maybe!

Hey! I’m going on tour with my new book, Black River Orchard. Come, I’ll talk, I’ll A your Qs, I’ll ruin your books with my authorgraph, and oh, yeah, we’ll eat interesting apples. For some of the New England dates, we’re pairing with local orchards (listed where I know them, more details to come) so we can chow down on weird, maybe even evil, apples. And on the dates where we’re not pairing with an orchard — I may still have some strange and sinister apples to bring. (The Western dates, I’d like to have apples, but no promises.)

The tour dates are below — note that a fancy graphic will be coming soon, shareable across all social media. And note too that some of these may yet change — I think most of them are pretty set in stone, but the date for the Denver might be a day later (the 14th, just need confirmation), and I don’t have a time for that or the Montana event quite yet. But, given that this tour starts in less than a month, I wanted to at least get it on your calendars.

The places, the dates —

Monday, September 25th, 6:00PM

Doylestown, PA

Doylestown Bookshop

Pre-launch event details here! Preorder from the store.

(Featuring apples from North Star Orchard)

Tuesday, September 26th, 7:00PM

Portland, ME

PRINT Bookstore

Launch event details here! Preorder from the store.

(Featuring apples from a local orchard.)

Wednesday, September 27th, 7:00PM

Boston, MA

Porter Square Books, Cambridge location

* in conversation with Aaron Mahnke, of LORE

Event details here! Preorder from the store.

Thursday, September 28th, 6:00PM

Providence, RI

Books on the Square

Event details here! Preorder from the store.

(Featuring apples from a local orchard.)

Friday, September 29th, 7:00PM

Concord, NH

Gibson’s Bookstore

* Dual launch event with Clay McLeod Chapman for WHAT KIND OF MOTHER, which is excellent

Event details here! Preorder from the store.

(Featuring apples from a local orchard.)

Sunday, October 1st, 4:00PM

Saratoga Springs, NY

Northshire Bookstore, Saratoga Springs location

Event details to come! Preorder from the store.

Monday, October 2nd, 6:30PM

Rhinebeck / Red Hook, NY

Rose Hill Farm & Orchard / Oblong Books

* In conversation with Owen King

Get your ticket here! Preorder from the store.

(With apples from Rose Hill Farm, where the event is located.)

Tuesday, October 3rd, 6:30PM

Lehigh Valley, PA

The End Bookstore

* in conversation with Delilah S. Dawson

Event details here! Preorder from the store.

(Featuring apples from North Star Orchard)

Friday, October 13th, 6:00 PM

Denver, CO

Tattered Cover Bookstore

More details to come! Preorder from the store.

Sunday, October 15th, 4:00 PM

Helena, MT

Montana Book Company

More details to come! Preorder from the store.

Monday, October 16th, 7:00PM

Portland, OR

Powells Bookstore, Cedar Crossing location

Event details here! Preorder from the store.

Wednesday, October 18th, 7:00PM

Seattle, WA

Elliott Bay Books

* In conversation with Sadie Hartmann

Event details here! Preorder from the store.

Why should I come to these?

Well, because books and apples and horror and hilarity. Plus, you can ask me weird questions and I will answer them and it’ll be a real goddamn hoot.

The also-answer, a frankly-speaking 30,000-foot-view answer, is that these days, publishers are not as convinced that bookstore appearances by authors are necessarily valuable — I, obviously, argue that they are! Good for readers, good for stores. Ideally, good for the author too. But that means, whenever possible, you gotta show up to give the stores the evidence to take back to the publishers. Events like these help the stores, help me, help the overall bookish ecosystem. It sends a message up the chain. It ripples! So, hopefully you can make one of these and come say hi and eat an apple. It’ll be great.

Doubly good: bring a friend! A family member! Some affable rando! Tell others! Scream it so the cheap seats can hear.

Will you sign my other books that I bring?

Sure, though please note, you still gotta buy something from the bookstore you’re visiting. That’s just good bookstore manners.

Will you sign babies and/or body parts?

I mean, I have in the past.

Do I need to do anything in advance?

You only need to apply the proper unguents and creams in order to prepare your flesh for the transformation. Ha ha I mean, no, though please note some of the stores may want you to register in advance or buy tickets (like with the Rose Hill event in NY). But also, the unguents and creams. For real.

Why aren’t you coming to [insert my local bookstore here]?

It’s for a lot of reasons! First, maybe I’ve been there recently. Second, maybe they don’t want me, or more to the point, can’t accommodate me and this book on their schedule. Third, I can only go so many places, and so I’m doing less a nationwide be-everywhere thing and more a targeted clustered approach centered in part around where there are apples and cool bookstore access. Hopefully I’ll make it to your neck of the woods at some point going forward, tho.

Is there Black River Orchard merch I can wear to these events??


There sure is.

There’s a tour shirt

And also one without the tour deets, just advertising the good ol’ Ruby Slipper apple from Paxson Family Orchards, nothing to see here, nothing evil, everything’s fine, just take a bite and get the shirt:

Plus there’s some other cool WENDIG merch, designed by the ineffable, ever-delightful Jordan Shiveley. You can find all that merch right here.

Bonus: if you wear the Ruby Slipper shirt (or any Wendig merch shirt) to any of the above events, I will give you something secret and special. A sinister token! A terrifying trinket! A small but potent icon of your FAITH AND OBEISANCE TO THE APPLE GODS uhh I mean, you know, a li’l gift.

So, that’s that.

Again, some of the deets may change, and I have a couple more tidbits of info to add yet. Pretty tour graphic to come. Hope to see you soon.