The Toll hits the streets!

It feels like such a long time coming, and the day is finally here: The Toll has finally landed! A million thanks to all the folks who preordered, shared links, and generally have been so wonderfully supportive through this book’s journey to publication. It was a bit fraught, and the book is a bit late (no drama or anything, just Stuff That Happened) – but I’m so glad it’s finally here.

I first pitched it to my editor as “Night Vale Radio meets the Dirty South,” and I still stand by that assessment. This is a story for anyone who’s ever lived in someplace small, somewhere out-of-the-way, or somewhere insular with loads of secrets that aren’t readily shared with outsiders. It’s also a story for anyone who finds that stuff Creepy As Shit.

As a point of note, before I start getting emails about some of the more peculiar details in the book… most of those odd details are directly taken from places I’ve called home. For example, there’s a dog in a tree. There’s nothing wrong with him, he’s happy as a clam, and he’s always in the same spot. People give directions and say things like, “Turn right at the dog in the tree.” Well, that dog’s name was Eddie and he lived in Saint Elmo.* The uncanny valley of doll collections was inspired by something in rural Washington. The Very Strange Town Square (and many of its features) – prompted by something near my parents’ place in rural Kentucky.

The bridge itself? A one-lane jobbie out near Snoqualmie, which both charmed and horrified me the first time I drove over it. Weirdly, I’ve been out there several times since and can’t find it. I’m sure it’s there, don’t get me wrong. Just… not where I remembered it, I guess.

So the little town of Staywater is an amalgam, yes – but it’s entirely true, for all its strangeness. Hell, some of my long-time readers will even recognize the ghost at the haunted bar stool. He’s a very old, dear friend of mine who passed away a handful of years ago. I wrote him and his dog into some of my first books, and dedicated one to him after he died. Why not keep him around? (I think it would give him a giggle.)

At any rate, Publishers Weekly gave The Toll a starred review, calling it “Moody and mysterious, this gothic tale touches the heart even as it wraps chilly fingers around the spine.” And says “If you’re looking for a summer read featuring swamp monsters, haunted bar stools, a creepy doll museum, a town populated with charmed weirdos, and two absolutely badass old ladies, well, welcome to Staywater.” I’m especially fond of those old ladies. Don’t underestimate old ladies. They know shit, and they are absolutely prepared to throw down in ways nobody expects when they know what’s at stake.

If you’re so inclined, here are some links where you can order this freaky little project that’s been so long in the making. And if you do give it a read, please leave a review at your preferred spot! Reviews are like ammo in a zombie game. They’re like Pac-Man pellets for authors. They’re power-ups in a retro side-scroller. We love them!

Preorder The Toll at [trade paperback or Kindle]
Preorder The Toll at Barnes & Noble [trade paperback or Nook]
Preorder The Toll from an independent retailer near you

Thank you so much, everyone. I couldn’t do this without you!

* He was a little shih tzu who climbed up a five foot fence every day, and then scaled another half dozen feet to reach his preferred vantage point. He was also elderly and almost completely blind, but that never stopped him.

Finding my feet in 2019

Good heavens, it’s been a minute, hasn’t it? I had all these PLANS for my late winter/spring of ’19, didn’t I? Ah, well. It’s a funny industry, and I sometimes have trouble saying “no” to projects, even when I’m well aware that I ought to. SPEAKING OF. The secret project mentioned in my last (now surely long forgotten) post was handed in early this month, and later this week I should get my notes for revisions. Then next month, it’s more secret project grinding and yes, one day this should probably be announced. April, I’ve been told. We shall see.

I’ve still got a lot of work to do before I’m free of this one and back to the thing I tried to start, but then put down; also some rewrites on my wacky little mystery project that still needs to make the submission rounds; and furthermore some fleshing out on Cinderwich because I’ve finally come to peace with the idea that it needs to be a full length novel, drat it all; and I’m noodling with some thoughts for another Wild Cards project, but that one’s on the back burner for now (by necessity).

And to think, I had plans to take a break this year and maybe just work on, like, one thing.


On the home front, things continue as things are wont to do. In sad news, we lost our beloved eldercat early in the new year. She was quite ancient and dearly loved. We found her one morning atop her favorite heating vent, having settled in for a nap and never awakened. (That we all should be so lucky.) We had her cremated, and her tiny urn is on the mantle with her collar and tags wrapped around it – because we’re sentimental, that’s why. She lived with us for nearly twenty years, and she was an adult when she arrived in our home. You’re allowed to be sentimental when you’ve had a really great roommate for that long.

Shortly thereafter, we lost the fish, too – so we are now a tank-less household. I could’ve restocked that tank, but it felt like too much effort after we lost the little old lady. Now it’s in the garage.

In the wake of the eldercat’s passing, Quinnie has decided to become The Cat, rather than the smallest and least respected dog – so it’s been a social adjustment, but it’s gone smoothly for the most part. Lucy is learning to pay the House Yeti a little of the respect that she used to show the little old lady cat, and Greyson doesn’t really seem to have noticed that anything’s different.

Of course, Greyson is also trying to eat his own tail at the moment, so I won’t hold him up as a bastion of wisdom or anything. He has a little cyst toward the end of his tail – far enough down that he can still reach it with the cone, ugh. It’s no big deal, but he won’t leave it alone. The vet and I are in the process of deciding whether to remove it or just try to keep it wrapped up until he forgets to gnaw on it.

As for Lucy, she’s doing quite well. Why, just yesterday she horrified me by either finding or catching a large black coot. (A water bird about the size of a duck.) There’s always the chance that it died on the property for some reason and she found it; we aren’t terribly far from a lake, so it’s not like it’s a total freaking mystery as to how the poor thing got here – but Lucy can’t possibly have caught it out of the air (she’s rather fat, tbh) and it didn’t hit a window, that’s for damn sure. That bird was big enough to take out an airplane engine, and there are no signs of cracks, breaks, or splats.

Anyway. Yesterday was gross and bad. Let us speak no more of it.

In other news, I’m still working on the house in my copious downtime. I’m down to three sets of ugly light fixtures to be removed and three lovely new fixtures with which to replace them. They’re going to be a BEAR to install, courtesy of some ridiculous ceilings. But I have a ladder and when I have the motivation, I’ll put the last of these ugly 1990s cheap-ass builder grade rusted-out lights to the curb. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe not.

Tomorrow I’ve got a guy coming over to take something off my hands via NextDoor, and I’ve got a couple of new things coming in. I also have picked out some vinyl flooring for my bathroom, and if I like it, we’ll do the kitchen, too. I will get this house looking like civilized adults live here and care about our surroundings if it freaking kills me.

And oh yeah – publishing news. My southern gothic project The Toll will be dropping in July instead of this coming fall. I know, right? Cool and a tad scary – because I’ve been eyeballs deep and it’s not that I’ve forgotten about it, but it was easier to worry about when it was still happening all the way out in November.

But no. July. It got a starred review from Publishers Weekly and everything. You can read that starred review here, if you like.

They called it “Moody and mysterious…[a] gothic tale [that] touches the heart even as it wraps chilly fingers around the spine.” I’ve been calling it a low-brow southern gothic meet-cute between Welcome to Night Vale and William Faulkner, so … your mileage may vary.

If you’re the generous, lovely, pre-ordering type – please feel free to click whichever of the following is most relevant to your interests:

Preorder The Toll at [trade paperback or Kindle]
Preorder The Toll at Barnes & Noble [trade paperback or Nook]
Preorder The Toll from an independent retailer near you

At any rate, thanks so much for reading, and as always – I’ll try to do a better job of updating this thing once in awhile. I promise.

Never mind for now

Things are strange over here, so I’m going to put down the thing I mentioned in my last post. Not forever, but for now. I still dig the project and I have it more or less mapped out – but this isn’t the time for a variety of reasons, not least of all the fact that I’ve had something potentially time-sensitive and time-consuming land on my plate. It’s not set in stone yet, but if it all comes together it’s going to eat my life for a couple of months and there won’t be room for anything else from a creative standpoint.

Anyway, my agent is working on it. We shall see what happens. No, I won’t tell you what it is yet (or maybe even ever! you never know…).

Besides, I don’t know. I was on fire for the story for a few weeks, but I’m losing steam – which usually means that I’m coming at it from the wrong angle. Maybe I should’ve actually taken the break I promised myself, rather than jumping into something new right away.

At present, I have five projects hanging about on my agent’s desk and on the desks of a few editors here and there; there’s no way to know which of these – if any of them – will find a home and need my attention for awhile in 2019, but maybe that’s enough just for now. Come the New Year, I’ll reevaluate and maybe sit down with my agent for a “What next?” conversation. For now, I think it’s time to recharge.

Be well, everyone. I’ll be around, but I need to declare at least a semi internet hiatus through the holidays. Follow me on Twitter for your daily recommended dose of adorable animal pictures, if you like. Otherwise, I’ll see you next year!