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Hey? Psst. Psst. Have you pre-ordered Wanderers yet? If you have — or if you’re planning to! — you can get a cool bonus: it’s a Shepherd pin, designed to look like an Interstate sign. Signifies that you’re one of the shepherds, walking with the sleepwalker flock, ushering them to their mysterious destination.

Thanks to Del Rey and PRH for setting this up — getting the preorder bonus is easy, just go to this website at Penguin Random House, upload an image of your pre-order receipt, and that will set you up to receive your Shepherd pin. (Note, too, if you click that link you can get a fairy tiny preview of my new author photo. Oooooh. Because who doesn’t want to look at my BEARDO FACE? Gaze upon it! Learn its secrets! Submit to its writhing cilia!)

You can preorder in print, eBook, or audio. (More robust pre-order list available at above link.)

In less than four months, the sleepwalkers walk…

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Listen, Eaters-of-Grilled-Cheese, put some fucking mayo on the outside of the bread before you pop it in the pan. Yes, instead of butter. Sure, you can still put butter in the pan if you really want. Yes, you heard me right. Mayo. Yes, that mayo, the mayo you know and love, not some different mayo. The mayo you think is gross. Yes, it’ll make your grilled cheese sandwich better. No, I have not lost my mind. I mean, maybe I have, but that’s more the fault of —

*gestures broadly*

— than anything related to food.

Okay, listen. Listen. Mayo isn’t some industrial food product. If you buy Duke’s mayonnaise (and you should), it contains the following ingredients:

Soybean oil, eggs, water, distilled and cider vinegar, salt, oleoresin paprika, natural flavors, calcium disodium EDTA.

That last one sounds weird, but it’s safe. Admittedly, “natural flavors” is a little vague, and could mean anything from “oregano” to “turns out, if you milk the sphincter of a corn-fed raccoon’s butthole, it produces a sphinctorial unguent that tastes a lot like butterscotch.” Hopefully in this case it’s more the former and less the latter.

The key thing here is that mayo is egg, fat, and acid.

When you bake, ever use an egg wash? Makes that baked good all nice and toasty-roasty brown, yeah? Same idea here. It evenly browns the outside of the grilled cheese while simultaneously lubing the pan (mayo is really just food lube, after all) and also giving you a little of that acid tang.

And by the way, also put some mustard on the grilled cheese.

Inside, not out. Mayo: outside. Mustard: inside.

It’s good. Just trust me. Dijon is good, honey mustard is fine, but honestly, so is straight-up YELLA MUSTARD. And while we’re here talking about mustard, that whole thing that In-N-Out does with cooking the patties in mustard? Yeah, that’s real tasty. Do that, too.

Let’s see, what are some other controversial food opinions I have?

You’ve seen The Sandwich. (Note: should be renamed to Chnurk Mandog to avoid any kind of cultural appropriation, my bad, oops, sorry. Not my intent!)

Cheesesteaks are the fake Philly sandwich — the real sandwich is roast pork and rabe.

Fish sauce goes in damn near everything. Sometimes Asian-style. Other times, Worcestershire. And yes, Worcestershire is fish sauce. Some people seem surprised by that? It’s umami, frandos.

“Clean” food is not a thing, that’s some Goop shit, don’t fall for it.

I do not believe a paleo or keto diet is necessarily healthy. If you like it, do it up, and I’m glad you found something that works for you. I do not believe science backs up most claims about such diets, unless you have specific conditions like epilepsy. Honestly, most diet trends are weird, and your best bet is simply the classic one: decrease calories, increase how much you move your body. But, YMMV.

I think being a vegetarian or vegan is great, both for flavor and for ethical betterment of our world. I also think a lot of vegetarians I know around these parts don’t eat enough actual fruits and vegetables, which is weird to say, but there you go. Regardless, I’ve cut meat consumption, though I won’t ever be able to cut it out entirely, because I’m a monster. (Though, I had the Impossible Burger, and holy shit. And that Just scrambled egg substitute was a capable imitation of scramby-eggs.)

We should be eating more bugs. Bugs are good, actually. To eat. Also for the world.

Pineapple pizza is fine. Relax.

And no, you probably can’t eat a pineapple the way that viral video wants you to.

Chicago deep dish pizza is delicious, also not pizza, but really just the baby of that time an inflatable mattress fucked a pan of lasagna. Still: delicious.

Kale is fine, but really needs the kale boiled out of it. Great in soup.

Don’t order steak at a restaurant. Nine times out of ten, you can do that at home.

You shouldn’t put butter on your pancakes / waffles / French toasts — and hold on, before you start yelling — because putting cold butter on the hot breakfast confection (which to be clear is really just cake) will cool it down unnecessarily. Also, you use too much syrup. I have a single fix for both of these, which is this: melt the butter you would normally use on your breakfast cake in a glass measuring cup, then add in some syrup. Real maple, if you have it. Warm that up, too, then whisk it together and serve over the breakfast cake. The fat carries flavor, which means it extends the sugar taste of the syrup like an extra warranty from Flavortown oh god I’m Guy Fieriing this I’m sorry. But still, the point stands: use a little more butter, melt it into the syrup, and you get butter flavor liquified on everything, and you can use less of the sugar stuff.

What else, what else.

Spam is good. Shut up, it is. Fried is best. And Spam musubi? Hnngh.

Your detestation of American Cheese is maybe misplaced. Yes, some of it is plasticky and creepy, but not all of it. Also it’s often the best thing to melt on a burger. I know, it’s “cheese product” and not cheese but you probably believe a buncha bullshit about this, like it’s got pieces of tire in it or antifreeze or something. Seriously, here is a very good unpacking of what American cheese actually is, and the things it is good for. And if you want an amazing melty American cheese, Cooper Cheese is your new favorite, trust me. Just don’t throw it at your cats or babies.

Your detestation of mayo might be misplaced, too. It’s fine not to like it, but to be repulsed by it — okay, sure, I blame the 1950s where American households wanted “fancy food” to go with newfound ideas of suburban wealth but didn’t know how to make it, so they just tried to fancify a bunch of stuff: “It’s Jell-O with bananas, hot dogs, and a sweetened mayo topping, all served out of crystal goblets.” But honestly, it’s good. It’s versatile. As I said, it makes for most excellent food lube. Also sometimes people make yucky faces when they see cake recipes that call for mayo, but seriously, it totally works, and helps make a very moist cake. (“Moist” is a word that has also gotten a bad wrap. DEFENDERS OF MOISTNESS, COME TOGeaaaaoh okay I see it, that is a little icky. But mayo in cake is not icky. Mayo on cake is probably nasty, though. So moist.)

Here then is maybe my most controversial food statement: a lot of the things you really hate are classist. And I’ve fallen into this trap, too, trust me, I’m no pure spirit. I’ve fallen prey to the organic hipster non-GMO thing too where it’s like, NO NO I AM AUTHENTIC AND ONLY EAT REAL [insert food product here]. Yes, some things on your grocery shelves contain a wealth of weird ingredients, half of which are corn. But many are also the products of really genius food science, and also are the things that, I dunno, low- or middle-class people can afford to eat. Sure, okay, fast food ain’t great, but consider the great many food deserts (not “desserts”) that exist across the country. Like what you like, absolutely. Dislike what you dislike, yes. Just try to recognize when your biases against “low-class” things also transfer over to people, and be aware how it looks to others when you shit on what are honestly common ingredients and foods. I’m sure I’ve said things in this very post that are privileged or classist, so again, I’m guilty as you are.

So endeth the lecture.

And so endeth my controversial food post.

I’ve probably offended *looks out over the crowd* all of you. And that’s okay! Food is personal. Food is home. And at the end of the day, we should like what we like and don’t like what we don’t like. Huzzah and hooray. Buy my books or I die. Moistly.

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Terrible Minds by Terribleminds - 1w ago

I have a Star Wars proposal, and it is this:

It is time to acknowledge that Poe Dameron is the unacknowledged love child of Han Solo and Lando Calrissian. Wait. *checks notes* Okay, that’s not it. *rifles through some papers* Is it that Lucasfilm should finally put an openly and obviously LGBT character on-screen and in a film soon? YES. Yes! Yes, but also, that’s not this post. Wait, so, what’s this post again?

*shuffles more papers*

AH HERE WE GO.

I propose that, after Episode IX, it’s time to separate out a Star Wars Cinematic Universe.

The SWCU.

You might be saying, “But wait, isn’t that already a thing?” And the answer is no, but also kinda yes?

The existing status of the Star Wars universe is this: pretty much everything is canon or canon-adjacent, meaning, it is existing across the spectrum of a singular Star Wars timeline. Everything is, for lack of a better term, connected along, and by, that timeline. The stories form a kind of narrative web, and every piece of the story is part of the tension of that web.

Here’s the problem, though: a web is a perfectly stable structure, as long as you don’t fuck with it. You can’t pull too hard or push too hard or create any dramatic movements, lest the web unthread and fray and fall to wisps of silk lost on the wind. And so it is somewhat with an increasingly large narrative web: you just can’t fuck with it too much, or you’ll tear the web. And that term I just used, increasingly large, is part of the problem: the web is getting bigger and bigger, because the Star Wars universe is growing across theoretically infinite borders. It’s films. It’s TV. It’s books, comics, games. Shit, it’s even a theme park, now. The Galaxy’s Edge theme expansion probably isn’t precisely canonical — but given that it’s getting a great deal of source material devoted to it, it’s at least canon-adjacent. And it seems to be “set” in a particular timeframe: the current-era sequel timeline, during the Resistance vs First Order struggle. It’s part of the material.

To go back to the question, isn’t the SWCU already a thing?

I answered the ‘no’ part.

But the ‘also yes’ part is important, too. The Star Wars Cinematic Universe does exist already, it’s just that nothing else really exists beside it. All are part of it. What I mean is, at present, the Star Wars universe is driven explicitly by the films. The films, understandably, set the course for the rest of it. In this great web, the films are less a part of the web and more the spider making it: I can speak from some experience writing the books and the comics that all the narrative work that goes into the Star Wars Universe is effectively happening in the wake of the films. They can’t get ahead of the movies. They can’t contradict the movies. They can’t deal with material that might one day be dealt with in film. They can only be additive to the cinematic experience, not really separate from it.

They do not stand alone.

They do not stand on their own.

To be clear, that’s sensible. The films are the driver of the universe and have been from the beginning. They were not adapted from pre-existing material. They were the pre-existing material.

Just the same, it presents problems. One problem is that ultimately, nearly all of the new material is essentially prequel material. It’s there to fill in gaps and details — essentially, an information-delivery-system nestled inside narrative. That’s not to say there’s no interesting stories to tell there, or that it’s impossible to craft a compelling narrative, but it does mean that very little is straight-up new, and not written to fit an existing pipeline. It means most of the stories are *record scratch* I BET YOU’RE WONDERING HOW I GOT HERE. That’s okay for a while! But as the universe continues to narratively expand, it ends up starting to feel like it’s just mining pre-existing material. Like any gold rush, you get that initial surge of cool new stuff, but it’s not long before you’re panning for meager flecks of shiny stuff and not great big nuggets of value. And to be clear, this is by no means a dig at my work or the work of any body telling stories inside Star Wars, it’s just a note that everything that happens in that space is happening in service to pre-existing material. Again: it’s all prequels.

Prequels represent a tricky conundrum because a story should have everything it needs to be understood in its first iteration. Right? From start to finish, the audience needs all the salient details to parse the plot and more importantly, the emotional throughline. So, to prequelize anything either means you’re going over redundant information or you’re leaving required material out of the prime narrative so that it can be told later. Neither are super-delicious choices. If you go over redundant information you run the risk of being bored, or actually changing the story (think of stepping on a narrative butterfly in the narrative past which then retroactively changes the future, like how Darth Vader’s redemption is very seriously complicated by Anakin’s choice to kill children and physically abuse the pregnant mother of his future Jedi-babbies). And if you’re leaving required information out, now you’re just doing the equivalent of offering paid DLC to complete a game someone paid full price to play in the belief it was, well, complete already. Which can be frustrating for the audience.

That’s not to say, again, there’s no room for this. Certainly there is! A character may not be fully-revealed on-screen, just by dint of a limited run time. A world may not be fully explored. Supplementary material can do this. But again, it’s important to see that phrase: supplementary material. Because that’s what it all ends up being. Very little standing on its own. Nearly all of it requiring service to a larger story property. (And it also falls prey to the “we need to explain every single detail, like gosh, where did Han Solo get those leather pants, and what is the epic origin story of the phrase, How Rude! —?)

One of the other problems is that a single timeline is essentially treated as a history — it’s why canon is a tough nut to crack, because canon treats stories less like stories and more like a history book. Everything becomes the fucking Silmarillion. Everything becomes binary — er, not the binary language of moisture vaporators, but rather, meaning things in the stories are either TRUE or they are FALSE, and realistically, in a connected canonical timeline, everything must be true, and nothing can disagree. Even though actual history books are full of disagreement (which is why historians are a thing). Because every single story informs every other single story — and the whole body of storytelling! — it means canon is a pair of goddamn zip-ties that gets tighter and tighter as more material is added, as you wriggle around.

Things don’t get looser and freer. They become more concretized, more calcified.

Think of it like that old Tron lightcycle video game — at first you have ultimate freedom but eventually, your lightcycle is building literal walls behind it that you will soon be trapped by. You do not have an infinite range of movement. One day: you gonna crash.

The more you establish about characters and worlds, the less you can continue to establish about characters and worlds. You’re filling in a finite number of boxes. It’s a crossword puzzle — all the things have to line up. Which, on the one hand, is an amazing achievement in narrative. But, on the other hand, is really, really difficult, and eventually maybe almost impossible.

As a sidenote on canon: it’s already kinda mostly broken. Stuff doesn’t line up nice and neat anyway, which is an understandable side-effect of a huge, connected universe. The end of Rogue One doesn’t actually line up neatly with A New Hope. The Solo movie tweaks the origin on stuff — like the dice — that is different elsewhere. Kylo’s scar moves. Stuff inside Battlefront II doesn’t agree with Aftermath.

Whatever. It’s cool. It’s part of the package.

Here is where I explain that my favorite metaphor to explain Star Wars:

Star Wars is the Millennium Falcon. It’s a hastily-cobbled together junk-boat that flies fast and is amazing and it’s full of heroes and we fucking love it for its flaws as much as not. This may sound like an insult, but I promise, it’s not: Star Wars is a glorious fucking mess. It probably shouldn’t work, but through the artfulness of the storytelling and the care of the designs and the passion brought to the stories, it doesn’t just work, it flies at lightspeed. Think, honestly, how much of Star Wars is junk in the story: from the Falcon to Mister Bones, from Jakku to the trash compactor, from Watto’s black market to the building of Threepio, it’s characters cobbling together stuff that shouldn’t work, but does. Just like Star Wars itsowndamnself.

“The garbage will do!”

And that’s a spirit I love about it. This brave, bold, gonzo mode of just smashing stuff together — it’s very much kid playing with dolls and action figures, writ large, and again, if you think I’m saying that as an insult, you seriously don’t know me. But what it does mean is that the brave, bold, gonzo stuff gets harder and harder to do in a deeply enmeshed, super-connected, singular-timeline universe.

So, to (ahem finally) get to the point of all this:

You gotta blow it all up.

It’s been sensible to keep it going through this sequel trilogy. You don’t want information competing with what’s out there. You don’t want Luke competing with Luke. (Though in writing the Aftermath trilogy I wish we’d been able to keep the Luke chapters! They were fun and wouldn’t have disagreed with anything, but I also get that they need to err on the side of caution.)

But, once Episode IX hits?

Blow it up.

Establish a SWCU, where the films and TV shows are explicitly their own thing. That, similar to the MCU: what happens in Marvel films do not necessarily impact what happens on the comic book pages, or in the novels, or in the games. They can! But they don’t have to. It’s loosier and dare I make a Captain Marvel pun, goosier.

(Captain Marvel was so flerkin’ good by the way. Also a good example of why it’s good to disentangle these stories — some of the decisions made there are explicitly different from what’s on comic book pages, and because it can play with conventions and expectations that way, it gets to tell its own story, not one married to something else. Yes, the way SW is doing it now is arguably “cleaner” — but “clean” is not an adjective I’d happily want to describe Star Wars. I like it messy!)

What does this allow you to do?

Well, for starters, you can —

(I know, I’m sorry)

Bring back Legends. While, yes, some Legends groups were, uhh, a little unpleasant to deal with at the release of Aftermath, I also recognize that there was an unholy host of stories that just kinda… end. So, do more. Finish that story. Or spin it out into more stuff.

It also lets you get back to Old Republic era stuff. Games, books, comics, whatever.

It also lets you go fucking wild. You can tell alt-universe Luke or Rey stories, or you can make up whole new eras that never have to be represented in film — they can be, but don’t have to be.

You wanna get real weird, play with some of the time-traveling features born in Rebels with some Spider-Verse thrown in. Different universes of Luke and Leia, different Rey and Kylo, whatever. So, splitting off into other universes can be literally reflected in the narrative. I mean, why the fuck not? A lot of Star Wars is narrative convenience. How long does lightspeed take? Some people want you to believe it has some kind of equation you can figure out — but trust me when I tell you, lightspeed takes as long as the story needs it to. Long enough to have the right conversation or discuss the right plan and then, zoop, you’re out.

(Well, actually, if you wanna get real real weird, you do the comic book universe reboot. You start alllllll over again. Which I suspect will happen, though I hope not for a couple decades. But it would give a change to adjust some of the prequel stuff which feels weird now, and maybe the Luke and Leia relationship, and you could sand down some of the rougher bits…)

(Anyway.)

We already have a little bit of this — the From a Certain Point-of-View anthology is, despite what some people think, non-canonical. Nothing there is “true” in the sense of the larger universe, and in fact, no one single story is true in relation to the other stories. They don’t connect. Each is a weird, wonderful little island. And who cares? Is the dianoga in that anthology the same as the dianoga in the movie? As much as I deeply appreciate the hyper-connected state of the SW universe, I also miss the unruly Wild West days where the stories were just stories — as isolated or as connected as they needed to be, understood to all be from their own certain point-of-view. Staying married to that approach runs the risk of the narrative becomes data-driven, where the spider web becomes chains more than flexible silk, where everything is forced to homage everything else. It’s not that it won’t work — it can, and will, because honestly, the SWU as-is exists as a property driven by people who are fans as much as they are capable creators. Just the same, I also look forward to them blowing it all up, and freeing the narrative to go wherever it wants, to whomever it must, however it can.

p.s. seriously though it’s time for LGBT representation on-screen, LFL

p.p.s hey did you know I write books, like this one…

* * *

WANDERERS: A Novel, out July 2nd, 2019.

A decadent rock star. A deeply religious radio host. A disgraced scientist. And a teenage girl who may be the world’s last hope. An astonishing tapestry of humanity that Harlan Coben calls “a suspenseful, twisty, satisfying, surprising, thought-provoking epic.”

A sleepwalking phenomenon awakens terror and violence in America. The real danger may not be the epidemic, but the fear of it. With society collapsing—and an ultraviolent militia threatening to exterminate them—the fate of the sleepwalkers and the shepherds who guide them depends on unraveling the mystery behind the epidemic. The terrifying secret will either tear the nation apart—or bring the survivors together to remake a shattered world.

Preorder: Print | eBook

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It’s Friday. I got stuff to talk about, so let’s goddamn talk about it.  First things first?

Holy shit, I finished a novel. Er, another novel? I mean, I’ve finished a lot of these, to be a little self-congratulatory. In fact, this one will be my 24th novel, I believe. (I know! I know. I need an intervention.) In this case, it was The Book of Accidents, a kind of… intimate-but-then-epic family-besieged-by-horror story. And it ended up (coughs into hand) at 175,000 words, which is long? Probably too long. But it’s at least 100k shy of Wanderers, so, hey, there’s that. Is it good? I have no idea. Is it done? It sure as fuck is. PARTY TIME, PEOPLE. *rips off pants* *reads comic books*

Here is your membership to the Assassin’s Guild. Did you know that Chuck and Anthony are back castin’ some pods? We return with The Continental, a three-part narrative excavation of John Wick. And the first part — “Save the Cat, Kill the Dog” is live now at chuckandanthony.com. Come give a listen! Don’t forget to pay a gold doubloon first. Bonus: first episode also stars Mikey Neumann!

Roses are red, the Sleepwalkers are coming, along with their shepherds, and war-drums a-drumming. A couple new promo-scented blurb-cards for Wanderers are up:

Again, book comes out July 2nd — preorder print, eBook, or audio! Or add on Goodreads. OR TATTOO IT UPON YOUR FLESH. We have such sights to show you.

Onward, we travel. And soon I should be announcing bookstores I’ll be visiting for Wanderers — if you’ve got a bookstore you’d like me to visit, drop it into the comments. I can’t promise anything, as I can’t be everywhere nor am I the one who sets all this up necessarily, but it’ll help to know where people might like to see me instead of, say, throwing cans at my head.

AND THAT’S ALL SHE WROTE.

Happy Fuck It Friday, Frandos!

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A new Cold War threatens the galaxy, in this fast-paced and wisecracking thriller of spies and subterfuge.

Simon Kovalic, top intelligence operative for the Commonwealth of Independent Systems, is on the frontline of the burgeoning Cold War with the aggressive Illyrican Empire. He barely escapes his latest mission with a broken arm, and vital intel which points to the Imperium cozying up to the Bayern Corporation: a planet-sized bank. There’s no time to waste, but with Kovalic out of action, his undercover team is handed over to his ex-wife, Lt Commander Natalie Taylor. When Kovalic’s boss is tipped off that the Imperium are ready and waiting, it’s up to the wounded spy to rescue his team and complete the mission before they’re all caught and executed.

Don’t get ahead of yourself

Writers, especially novelists, think big. Big ideas, big plots, big ambitions. Hell, we’re often trying to cobble together a whole universe using nothing but our brains as a sort of pan-galactic spackle.

I love big sprawling stories, but when thinking big, it’s easy to get carried away, sketching out the entire epic seven-volume series before even a single book has been sold. Publishing is a tough gig, and I’ve learned the hard way that no battle plan survives contact with reality. So as tempting as it is to just pick up where my last story left off, I’ve realized that I need to pace myself, and tell stories that stand on their own two legs.

While I don’t want to get into all the gory details, you might notice I’ve got two books set in the same universe but from different publishers. That’s no coincidence and if you catch me at the bar at Emerald City Comic-Con or Worldcon, I may weave the whole wacky and wondrous tale for you. But each book stands firmly on its own and I learned that approaching The Bayern Agenda not as a sequel, but as a self-contained story, definitely helped me make it the best book it could be.

Continuity is the worst

When you write the first book in a universe, the sky is the limit. You want this character to have a tragic backstory? Bam. Done. Wanna pull a whole planet right out of where the sun don’t shine? No problem. Sure, when you’re editing later, you might need to check that you didn’t say Dirk Strongjaw’s eyes were piercingly blue on page 12 and then liquid chocolate on page 237, but that’s why god invented the Find command.

But now you’ve got two books, and suddenly your creative freedom has bounds. Things are established. There is…continuity. And let me tell you, you’re lucky if you even remember you’ve already written a book, much less what was in it. So when you’re trying to recall if you’ve already used a certain name or previously described a solar system, well, you better have a copy of that first book at your fingertips to check. Because a good copy editor may catch these things, but there’s no guarantee. Honestly, nobody will ever be as invested as you are.

In writing another book in the same universe, it was fascinating to discover just how bad my memory is for the very people, places, and ideas that I myself had created. Me, who could once relate the name and backstory of any alien in the Mos Eisley cantina!

Huh. I guess that’s probably what’s using up all the room in my brain. Curse you, Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes.

Leveling up

Getting that first book out there isn’t easy, but it comes with a sense of accomplishment. You have set yourself this goal—this singular task that most people never achieve!—and you have put a stake in it, vampire-slayer style. But with a second book come the dreaded expectations. You’ve established a bar you must meet and, hopefully, vault over without face-planting.

I’m not going to pretend that my writing automatically leveled up after my first book came out. It was not as though a Greater Writing Spirit tapped me on the head with their wand and bestowed upon me enough XP to make me a Level 4 Wordsmith.

That said, it’s pretty hard to put a 100,000-word work out there in the world without learning something. When I first started trying to write novels, I’d invariably give up in frustration around 10,000 words. But having already summited Mount Deathcrag, it’s clear that there is a way to the top, and this time I know that all it takes to get past the slavering wyverns is tossing them some raw steaks and giving them a scratch under the chin.

Don’t make the same mistakes (make new ones)

You know what’s a little humiliating? When somebody—let’s say, totally hypothetically, the audiobook narrator of your first novel—points out that you made a basic math error at a critical juncture in the book. Turns out dividing and multiplying aren’t the same! Who knew? (Look, I have a degree in English, not in dividing, okay?)

Of course, that meant when my second book rolled around I checked my math much more carefully. (Which means that somebody will find a math error in 4…2…1…) But, by the law of “only so many spoons”, it also means that I probably screwed up somewhere else, my gaffe lying wait like so much unexploded ordnance.

But, by the same token, each subsequent book is an opportunity to improve your game, to right your wrongs. For example, one of the things I regretted about my first book was not featuring a more diverse cast of characters. This is a story set in the future, after all, and the future belongs to everybody. The importance of representation was not something I had given much conscious thought to ten years ago when I was drafting what would become my first book, but by the time it came out, it was hard not to see where I’d fallen short. I can’t change that book now, but I can aim to do better with each successive story I tell, starting with The Bayern Agenda.

Gimme a break

I’ve wanted to do nothing but tell stories since I was old enough to write down words. Actually getting a chance to do so? It comes with its fair share of pressure, from deadlines to reviews, but the worst of it comes from my own head: Do I really deserve to be here? Am I any good at this whatsoever?

It’s easy to let these insidious thoughts turn into self-doubt that stymies any sort of productive work. For me, the biggest mistake was trying to break through with brute force, dragging the words out one by one, like chiseling them from stone.

So, perhaps the most important lesson I learned from writing my second book was that it’s okay to take a break sometimes. Take a walk. Go to the gym. Play some video games. Anything, really, that’s not writing. Because sometimes when something on the page isn’t working it’s not a problem that your conscious mind can solve, and all staring at the screen is going to do is make you spiral further into feeling like you’re failing. Just like when you work out, sometimes you need to rest that big old brain muscle before you start exercising it again. It’s all part of the process.

* * *

Dan Moren is the author of the sci-fi espionage thrillers The Bayern Agenda and The Caledonian Gambit. By day, he works as a freelance writer, hosts technology podcasts Clockwise and The Rebound, and talks pop culture on The Incomparable podcast network. By night, he fights crime while dressed as a bat. He could use some sleep.

Dan Moren: Website | Twitter

The Bayern Agenda: Amazon | iBooks | Indiebound

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Here, then, is a cardinal truth in creative industries (and there are very few cardinal truths in creative industries): you are going to be rejected. A lot. A lot a lot. A lottalottalot. It’s just a fucking thing. It’s water, to fish — you’re going to have to swim in it. It’s like being a baseball player and not wanting to get hit by a fly ball now and again. It’s like being a chef and thinking you’re not going to fillet your hands and fingers from time to time. It’s like being Indiana Jones and thinking there won’t be Nazis all over you like bees. (Nazis: I hate these guys.)

You’re

going

to

get

rejected.

By agents, editors, reviewers, award-givers, readers, and, I dunno, birds? Probably birds.

But rejection, like the existence of birds, is an external phenomenon.

It comes from *hastily gestures* OUT THERE.

It should not come from *thuds chest with fist* IN HERE.

What I mean is, let others reject you.

Do not self-reject.

Now, it is of course vital to right up front recognize that there is a serious difference between a proper sense of distant self-criticism and straight-up self-rejection. It will be absolutely necessary for you to judge your own work and to test its mettle, again and again. But it’s critical to do that with a clear eye, and note the word I used above: distant. You gotta gain some yardage, even mileage, away from the thing to really see it for what it is. You can’t just read a thing you just wrote, make a big trumpeting FART NOISE and then flush that thing down the creative porcelain. There exists a keen difference between judging the work on its merits, and prejudging it based on… well, we’ll get to what it’s based on. And if you cannot see the forest for the trees in terms of identifying the distance between self-rejection and self-criticism, between judging and pre-judging, just assume it’s the worst kind and you shouldn’t do it. Get clarity another way.

Let us say this up front:

Writers are the worst judges of their own work.

Especially, particularly as you write it. What I mean is, in the day to day my own feelings about the writing I just did or am currently doing vacillates like a drunken yak. It pinballs between THIS IS THE BEST THING I’VE EVER WRITTEN to OH GOD WHO EVER LET ME BE A WRITER to MEH JUST MEH FUCK IT MEH MEH ENNH PPBTT GRR. Even after I’ve written a thing, I have moments where I think, okay, with some edits, this thing is really going to work, and then the next day I’ll decide, oh god it’s horrible I should just burn it in a barrel and go be a longshoreman, whatever the fuck a longshoreman is, see I don’t even know what that means, I can’t be a writer, words are meaningless to me.

(Like, is it the shore that’s long? The man? What does the man do on the shore?)

(Whatever.)

In there lurks the slime-slick boogeyperson that is: self-rejection.

Self-rejection, as noted, is you pre-judging the work as lacking in some critical way, and so you take action to sabotage it or cease it entirely.

But it is a beast with many faces.

The most obvious of the bunch is, you say, FUCK THIS SHIT, and you either stop writing the thing you’re writing, or you take the thing you wrote and chuck it in a trunk before immediately burying it in your backyard. You pre-judge the work. You find it wanting. You quit. Problem there is, of course the work is inferior. Of course it fails to match the vision in your head. The perfect will always be the enemy of the good, and the first draft of a thing is never the final draft.

So, don’t do that.

That is self-rejection. And huzzah, we solved it! *begins to load up the parade float*

Wait, what’s that? More insidious versions exist? Well, shit.

Let us identify those insidious faces of self-rejection, shall we?

“I’m not even going to start.” Self-rejection can hit before you even begin. You wanna do a thing. You’re excited about the thing. And then that voice gets in you — it’s the Momo Challenge, man, that horrible stretched-out goblin face jumping in the middle of your shit and telling you not to even start.

“I have decided that my work is not good enough for the big leagues, so I will instead aim only for the minor leagues.” What this means is, you come out of the gate and decide the work isn’t good enough for the Big Agent or the Big Publisher, and instead you aim for a small publisher or to publish it yourself instead. Now, before you get salty, there exists perfectly excellent reasons to self-publish or publish with a small publisher. (Note, however, some small publishers are ill-equipped to handle the realities of Actual Publishing and may inadvertently or purposefully fuck over you and your book. Do your due diligence.) But some also treat those like secondary or tertiary markets, and they move the bullseye closer so they can more easily hit it. They refuse to test its mettle and give the work its day in the sun, preferring instead the shelter of obscured shadow.

“I will neg my own work.” As I noted a few weeks ago, one of the skills authors gotta manifest is the ability to tell the story about your story — meaning, how to talk about your work. But one of the tricksier faces of self-rejection is when you talk about your work but you hamstring it with a lot of negative flimflammery. You bleed out your confidence and say, “Well, I dunno if it’s any good,” or, “It’s not as good as so-and-so,” or, “You probably won’t like it.” Don’t fucking do that. Don’t do it. You worked hard. You don’t have to present the thing like it’s the greatest thing since tacos, but be confident. Be excited! Don’t poison your thing with that kind of negativity.

“Hey, my aspirations aren’t that important.” A combination of the two prior is this — underselling your aspirations. You want to be a professional author? Then try to be one. Own it. Don’t shortsell it as a hobby, don’t claim you’re not a ‘real’ writer, don’t handwave away your goals and desires in the face of mounting pressure.

“I’ll change who I am and what I write to suit somebody else’s idea.” One version of self-rejection is putting our creative fate in the hands of someone else. We let their vision become our vision because we don’t trust our vision enough. You’re going to find a whole lot of people who have the wrong idea for you and your career. They mean well. But they’re still fucking wrong. Don’t walk their path. That’s theirs. Their path is fraught. The ground is loose. There are wasps. Fuck that path. You gotta make your own way. Have that clear vision for yourself, and none can take it from you.

“The work isn’t ready yet so I’ll just do these 400 other things first.” Procrastination is a snake masquerading as a tool. You’re like, “Oh hey I need this screwdriver OH GOD IT’S A PIT VIPER IT’S BITING MY EYE.” We do this thing, and I’ve done this thing, where we pre-judge our work to be unready, and so we choose to do more work on it — a bunch of worldbuilding, one more draft, another draft, a 453rd draft, a rewrite, a new outline, maybe I’ll start this other book first and then come back to this one (spoiler warning, I won’t come back to it). This is one of the nastiest versions of self-rejection because it doesn’t feel like self-rejection. It feels like progress! It feels like work! “I’m working! I’m doing stuff! I’m a writer!” And yet, somehow, the work never seems to actually get done. You kill it under a smothering blanket of love and it dies ten feet from the finish line.

Those are just some of the manifestations of self-rejection.

So, what do you do about it?

Well.

Uhh.

*taps pen against desk*

Don’t do it?

Okay, okay, it’s not that easy.

First things first, just be aware of it. Be aware it’s a thing. Scrutinize your motivations for giving up on a project, guard yourself for ways you’re underselling it or sabotaging it. Yes, it’s okay to decide a project isn’t right for the world. I wrote a lot of bad novels before I ever wrote any good ones. But I also learned not to give up on them, either. That sounds like the same thing, but it’s not. You can still write a thing, believe in it, and try your best to put it out there. And when it doesn’t make the cut, then you know. It’s the difference between letting rejection come to you naturally versus, say, just smothering the thing in its crib.

Second, turn off your brain when you write. Like, okay, not the part you need to write, you don’t wanna open the Word *.doc the next day and see SMUHHGH FUHHH TOLEDO TOILET BEANS JUNIPER NNNN777 65432 — some kind of inane, brainless version of Jack Torrence’s all work and no play repetition. I do mean that there is a part of your brain that is reserved for criticism. It’s the editor side. In there somewhere is a dour little prick with a tut-tut finger and a sour face. He’s an accountant. Fuck that part of your brain for now. It is Cask of Amontillado time. Get the bricks. Wall him up. Let him out later. He’ll be drunk on sherry, it’ll be fine.

Third, recognize that sometimes the voices of self-rejection are not your own. People in your life will fill your skull with bad advice and negativity. Sometimes they do this to be kind, trying to warn you away from a hard career or trying to deliver unto you their vision of success. But their intentions don’t matter; the result remains poisonous. And those voices in your head create long, loud echoes. They echo back and forth inside your braincave so often you start to take on their voice as your voice. Don’t adopt their negativity as your own. Don’t code bad advice — or worse, abuse — into your own narrative program. Get shut of it. Kick ’em out of your head.

And then finally, just care less. I’m wont to give this advice most often about writing, but you can actually care too much. Take some fucks out of your fuck basket. Not all of them! You need some fucks to give to the work. But too many fucks makes the basket too heavy to carry. Caring too much turns into a burden. Even autonomous actions like breathing and sleeping become difficult if you think too much about them.

That’s it. That’s self-rejection in a nutshell.

It’s a thing. Be aware of it. See it. Shut it up and out.

Go make stuff, unburdened by fear and sabotage. I’ll wait here.

* * *

WANDERERS: A Novel, out July 2nd, 2019.

A decadent rock star. A deeply religious radio host. A disgraced scientist. And a teenage girl who may be the world’s last hope. An astonishing tapestry of humanity that Harlan Coben calls “a suspenseful, twisty, satisfying, surprising, thought-provoking epic.”

A sleepwalking phenomenon awakens terror and violence in America. The real danger may not be the epidemic, but the fear of it. With society collapsing—and an ultraviolent militia threatening to exterminate them—the fate of the sleepwalkers and the shepherds who guide them depends on unraveling the mystery behind the epidemic. The terrifying secret will either tear the nation apart—or bring the survivors together to remake a shattered world.

Preorder: Print | eBook

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Hey, I got a new camera! The T6i has worked very well for a good while now, and though I thought HEY MAYBE I’LL JUST DROP A HUGE CHUNK OF CHANGE ON LIKE, A 6D OR SOMETHING, I instead opted for an incremental upgrade. I skipped over the T7i and went to the 77D. Here’s a couple of doggo pics, to show off the camera’s cred:

Those were taken with a Canon 100-400mm zoom lens. That lens ain’t cheap, but it gets a loooooot of use. That, my macro, and my 50mm prime portrait lens.

And, if you want to see one of the last photos I took with the T6i —

Here, have some bluebirds!

HAVE THEM I SAID

Anyway. Yeah.

Onto some news-slathered news snibbets —

Oooh, feeling fancy. So, Del Rey has done up a particularly nice ARC/ARE (advanced reader edition) of Wanderers that are going out now — it has a slipcover on which are gathered a number of the blurbs the book has received. It’s pretty sexy, I’m not going to lie. Oh, also, some folks in the UK noted their pre-order of the book kinda vanished, or got canceled — panic not, folks. There will be a UK-specific version, and that’s the one that will need pre-ordering. Otherwise, if you haven’t preordered yet, feel free to nab: Print, eBook, Audio. All coming 7/2.

Oh, and for double-extra-fancy with fancy-foam: Behold, this Erin Morgenstern blurb:

The Honeyed Dead. So, with the Miriam Black series over, there was one more tale to be told — and that is the tale of Wren, set between books 5 and 6. It’s a slasher-killer psychic mayhem tale called “Interlude: Tanager” and you can grab it as part of Death & Honey, a collection of three novellas by me, Kevin Hearne, Delilah S. Dawson. Print, eBook, Audio.

And I think that’s it.

Have a wonderful week, FELLA HUMANS, HUMAN FELLAS.

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Terrible Minds by Terribleminds - 3w ago

So, a little while back, Kevin Hearne, Delilah S. Dawson and myself joined forces and did a trio of novellas packed into a collection called Three Slices, the theme of which is, quite literally cheese magic. Every story contains cheese and magic in some connected proportion. It was fun, and we had a blast, and it’s done pretty well, and so we are back.

This time, with Death & Honey, a collection featuring —

uhh

well

*clears throat*

You know, death and honey.

The official description is as follows:

Death & Honey contains three novellas by New York Times bestsellers Delilah S. Dawson, Kevin Hearne, and Chuck Wendig. Each of the stories features a full-color, full-page illustration by Galen Dara, who also contributed the cover and a full-color frontispiece.

In The Buzz Kill by Kevin Hearne, Oberon the Irish wolfhound and Starbuck the Boston Terrier sink their teeth into a new Meaty Mystery when they discover a body underneath a beehive in Tasmania. It’s been badly stung, but the bees aren’t at fault: This is homicide. The hounds recruit the help of their Druid, Atticus O’Sullivan, and the Tasmanian police to track down the killer in the interest of a reward—but this time, they want more than food and justice.

Grist of Bees, by Delilah S. Dawson writing as Lila Bowen, follows Rhett Walker, who has given up his destiny as the monster-hunting Shadow to settle down with his beloved Sam. But when the call to action grows too strong, Rhett saddles up to follow a peculiar bee into the unforgiving desert. The bee leads him to a weeping mother in a strangely prosperous valley, and Rhett has no choice but to hunt the creature that’s stolen her child—even if it destroys a land of milk and honey.

Interlude: Tanager by Chuck Wendig returns us to the world of Miriam Black. Lauren “Wren” Martin is a young psychic woman who can see the stained souls of killers; it is her gift, or as she sees it, her curse. And up until now, it has been her mission to kill those killers, to remove them from the pattern so that they may not murder again. But now, after a death that may not have been deserved, she’s left rudderless, without plan or purpose, until a woman with a strange power of her own takes her in and gives her a new mission—and a new target.

It’s very exciting, and we hope you like it.

This time around, we have a limited print edition through Subterranean Press, which you can order from them directly in a signed, numbered edition — or in a leatherbound signed edition, ooh fancy.

Or you can grab it in eBook or audio.

For my part in it, Interlude: Tanager takes the character of Wren and puts her on a journey set between the fifth and sixth books of the Miriam Black series (The Raptor & The Wren and Vultures, respectively). It’s got psychic slasher-killer fun-times. Hope you check it out and enjoy it.

(The audio of Tanager is read by Xe Sands, who also did Invasive.)

Art by the inimitable Galen Dara.

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The world is dying. 

The Sunset Lands are broken, torn apart by a war of ideology paid for with the lives of the peasants. Drought holds the east as famine ravages the farmlands. In the west, borders slam shut in the face of waves of refugees, dooming all of those trying to flee to slow starvation, or a future in forced labor camps. There is no salvation.

In the city of Lord’s Reach, Seraphina, a slave with unique talents, sets in motion a series of events that will change everything. In a fight for the soul of the nation, everyone is a player. But something ominous is calling people to Lord’s Reach and the very nature of magic itself is changing. Paths will converge, the battle for the Sunset Lands has shifted, and now humanity itself is at stake. 

First, you must break before you can become.

History is grimdark.

Usually, when I have a story idea gestating in my hindbrain, I end up going to the library and basically checking out every historical nonfiction book they have on shelves. Then, I start reading. I read until one triggers whatever I’ve got stewing. What ended up poking this particular bear was a book called Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. It opened up by talking about the Holodomor, an event that is absolutely tragic, horribly brutal, and almost unknown to the wider world.

The Holodomor took place between 1932-1933 in Ukraine. Essentially, Stalin passed a bunch of measures like poorly implemented collective farming, the imprisonment of kulaks (land owners), and the destruction of local traditions which uprooted families, which destroyed lifestyles, overworked land, and resulted in the starvation of millions of people. He also imposed these insane grain requisition quotas which left people with nothing – literally. Estimates vary between 3.3 to 7 million people died of starvation in the Holodomor.

I’ve spent the past year basically inhaling all the history I could about the Holodomor, and Stalin. I can’t even tell you how many books I’ve read on these topics. Thousands and thousands of pages, at least, in preparation to write this book. I can tell you, however, that while I am a dark fantasy author, any darkness I could have possibly thought of has already happened somewhere in history.

I hear people say that grimdark fantasy isn’t realistic. I learned, in writing Seraphina’s Lament, that our own history might be the most grimdark story ever told.

There aren’t many secondary-world fantasy books featuring communist government systems.

Once I started talking about Seraphina’s Lament with people, trying to get reviewers to read my book, I realized that there are almost no fantasy books set in secondary worlds with communist government systems. Kings, queens, and emperors seem to take center stage, and a bunch of government systems born from that. While I call my governmental system in Seraphina’s Lament “collectivism” it’s largely the same thing.

The world is a big place, and a large part of writing, at least for me, is to explore parts of it—both ideas and ways of life—that I may never actually experience. I’ll never get to live in Ukraine during the Holodomor, nor will I ever live in Russia when Stalin was the Premier, but learning about it, and twisting it so it fit into my own secondary world and story, was a really interesting, if sobering, experience, and broadened both the world I live in, and the world I created.

Interesting things happen when I take real world events, and set them in secondary worlds.

While my book may be based on historical events, it is set in a secondary world. While I was building my world, some interesting things developed that I just didn’t foresee when I was doing my research. For example, in Russia, collective farming plots were often given based on how large the family was that was living on it. Many Russians would consider farm workers and hired help as family. In this way, they’d get more land to farm. (This detail was taken from the book A People’s Tragedy, The Russian Revolution: 1891-1924 by Orlando Figes)

So, I took that idea and sort of poked at it a bit and twisted it. In my world, collective farming evolved in the same way, but resulted in non-nuclear family units. Most collective farmers are part of polyamorous groups, numerous husbands and wives. This evolved as a way for people to band together, pool resources and protection, and work larger plots of land. Larger families, essentially, boosted the chance of survival. I don’t really go into too much detail on it in the book, but it’s touched on.

I was also very careful about some details. I have interludes sprinkled throughout the book that detail short snippets of life of the average citizen in this world, unattached to my core characters. These stories (all but one) are directly influenced by eyewitness accounts of the Holodomor that I read in my research. I changed them to fit my world, but I left them there as homage to those who experienced these tragic events, and really lived them. (These interludes were largely inspired by eyewitness accounts in the books Red Famine by Anne Applebaum and Bloodlands by Timothy Snyder)

In this way, building a secondary world based on real-world events was really interesting. It was a challenge to see how to alter which important bit of world building, what to add that is pure fantasy, and which parts of the book to keep as homage to all those who lost so much due to Stalin’s horrible policies.

I can’t outline to save my life.

I tried. I tried so hard, but I just can’t do it. I keep seeing people wax poetic about the glory of outlines, but for me they just make me feel confined, constrained, and tied down. My story freezes and my muse basically just flips me off and walks away. I’ve never been able to color inside the lines. I decided, in writing this book, that I need to stop paying attention to how other people write and just write the way that works best for me. Once I really got that in my head, the floodgates opened and this book just poured out. Sure, editing it was a lot of work, but it was worth it.

There is an incredible amount of vulnerability involved in sharing your art with people.

Once this book goes out into the world, it will stop being mine. It will be yours.

And that is absolutely terrifying, exciting, and intimidating. I’ve been a reviewer for ten years now, an editor for two, and you’d think between all of that I’d be ready for this step but I’m finding that nothing really prepares you for this. Here is what I’ve spent the past year pouring my soul into. Now it is yours.

* * *

Sarah has been a compulsive reader her whole life. At a young age, she found her reading niche in the fantastic genre of Speculative Fiction. She blames her active imagination for the hobbies that threaten to consume her life. She is a writer and editor, a semi-pro nature photographer, world traveler, three-time cancer survivor, and mom. In her ideal world, she’d do nothing but drink lots of tea and read from a never-ending pile of speculative fiction books.

Sarah Chorn: Website

Saraphina’s Lament: Amazon

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So, you maybe know this, you maybe don’t, but John Hornor Jacobs is a helluva writer. He is easily one of my favorite writers. If we’re being serious? Just between you and me? He’s too good. It’s gross. He needs to dial that shit back a little, come back down to Earth with the rest of us. I mean, The Incorruptibles is what if Lord of the Rings seduced The Gunslinger and had a heretic demon babyThe Twelve-Fingered Boy is Shawshank Redemption in Juvie except then, it’s also the X-Men? And I hate doing that, I hate dicing his books up into har har what if The Terminator and the Gilmore Girls got stuck in a teleporter together, because they’re so much richer than that. He has a way with words, with characters, it’s honestly a writer working at the top of his game — and you probably haven’t even read his books. (Nab ’em in print or eBook.)

That ends now, I hope.

He’s got a couple new novellas coming out collected in a print edition called A Lush And Seething Hell, which contains the novellas The Sea Dreams It Is The Sky and My Heart Struck Sorrow.

Both of which are amazing, and I’d say more about them now, but I can’t — because I’m also writing the introduction to this collection of novellas, because I’m fancy like that.

But! We will cover reveal the amazing cover to this collection below.

First, the book’s description:

The award-winning and critically-acclaimed master of horror returns with a pair of chilling tales—both never-before-published in print—that examine the violence and depravity of the human condition.

Bringing together his acclaimed novella The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky and an all-new short novel My Heart Struck Sorrow, John Hornor Jacobs turns his fertile imagination to the evil that breeds within the human soul.

A brilliant mix of the psychological and supernatural, blending the acute insight of Roberto Bolaño and the eerie imagination of H. P. Lovecraft, The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky examines life in a South American dictatorship. Centered on the journal of a poet-in-exile and his failed attempts at translating a maddening text, it is told by a young woman trying to come to grips with a country that nearly devoured itself.

In My Heart Struck Sorrow, a librarian discovers a recording from the Deep South—which may be the musical stylings of the Devil himself.

Breathtaking and haunting, A Lush and Seething Hell is a terrifying and exhilarating journey into the darkness, an odyssey into the deepest reaches of ourselves that compels us to confront secrets best left hidden.

And some blurbs for spice:

“It’s time to declare John Hornor Jacobs as major author: every sentence he writes feels drawn from a pit of fire and hammered into a sword. The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky is transporting, disorienting, appalling, and gorgeous.” – Daniel Kraus, Award-winning author of The Shape of Water, Trollhunters, and The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch

“Jacobs just keeps getting better. Seldom has cosmic horror been so naturalistically, so vividly, wrought. The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky is a squirm-inducing glimpse of humanity’s inner darkness, and worse.” – Laird Barron, Award-winning author of Blood Standard, The Croning, and Occultations

“The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky is lush, terrifying, beautiful, and disturbing–and hands-down my favorite novella of the year. John Hornor Jacobs’ language draws you into a world of mounting dread, where all-too-human acts of violence bleed into supernatural horror. I read the last half of the book in one sitting, and I’m going to be thinking about it for a long time. Don’t miss this.” – Daryl Gregory, Award-winning author of Spoonbenders, Pandemonium, Raising Stony Mayhall, and We Are All Completely Fine

“Ending stories of cosmic horror effectively is perhaps the most difficult part of writing them. So much has been hinted at in the early pages of the story, it’s a challenge to arrive at a climax that doesn’t squander those hints by either diluting or overinflating them. Jacobs walks this narrative tightrope with grace and bravura, bringing his novella to a crescendo that is at once shocking and resonant. A story of transformations and translations, of the wounds history inflicts upon the self, of the scars we embrace to save ourselves, The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky is moving and memorable, one of the novellas of the year.” – John Langan, Bram Stoker Award-Winning author of The Fisherman, writing in Locus Magazine

A dash of buy-this-damn-book links…

Psst buy it.

And now, the cover:

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