I keep struggling with how I want this post to start. When I reflect back on this year, even though some really great things happened, there is also a sense of relief in this year being done. 2019 came with fantastic high points, and stressful, anxiety-inducing challenges that led to some rough lows for me. Some of the most impactful lessons I learned this year were that I need to be busy — I like being busy and it helps me thrive, but at the same time if I don’t learn to manage my stress better, I am afraid I’ll drive myself into an early grave because of how damned awful stress can be on your mind, body, and willpower. I hope 2020 shows me a better way to live (honestly being an overworked adjunct has just chewed up my soul, so send me good vibes in my job search for this year, please); again, I like being busy, but I don’t like being so overworked and underpaid that I feel desperately hopeless. I recently felt so guilty that I did not make my small Goodreads goal this year, but then I remembered how long I spend reading hundreds of student papers, journals, projects, and more in order to provide substantial and helpful feedback, so hey, fuck that guilt.
I want 2020 to be a year of hope, and a year where I do not feel guilty for things like the above example. While some things are out of my control, I will do everything in my control to make it a year that I can embrace and look forward to. I like keeping my private life private, and while I share a bit on social media, it’s been really peaceful to keep much of my life to myself and to those I love. I am immensely grateful to my friends and family who have been incredibly supportive this year and all years. And of course it’s been a blast getting to know more authors, readers, and reviewers through social media — I hope to meet so many of you in person soon!
Here are a few of my highlights from 2019, and a few things I am really looking forward to in 2020!
2019 in Review:
*StokerCon in Grand Rapids, Michigan was probably the highlight of my year. I wrote a recap of that here, so I won’t echo too much again, but in a nutshell I got to hang out with some of my favorite humans in existence and The Devil’s Dreamland took home a freaking Stoker Award, so it doesn’t get much more surreal and amazing than that. I also got to sit with Gwendolyn Kiste who has become such a sweet friend and watch her win an award for The Rust Maidens, which was spectacular!
*The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes was included in Night Worms! (yay!)
*My debut novella, To Be Devoured, was released in July by Unnerving! I was nervous about this book, so to see positive (and repulsed) receptions and reactions of this sick and twisted glimpse into my prose has been incredibly motivating. Thank you to everyone who picked up the book and dared to dine with the vultures.
*To celebrate the tenth year of Women in Horror Month this past February, I did 10 posts (9 of them feature interviews) with some incredible ladies in the genre that I hope you will check out if you did not before!
*Having my short story, “Smeared Star in Your Hands” be selected from over 700 others to be included in The Twisted Book of Shadows (I doubt myself a lot as a short story writer, so this was an amazing moment)
*Some other writing-related things I enjoyed this year included this podcast interview by Unnerving’s Eddie Generous with myself and Gwendolyn Kiste, guest editing an issue of Eye to the Telescope that featured an infection theme, writing up a post called “Killing the Tortured Artist” for the Ladies of Horror Fiction, doing this in-depth interview by David Cowen who asked such wonderful questions, and chatting about Pet Sematary with the Ink to Film Podcast!
I was fortunate to do a few other podcasts and posts this year, all of which are compiled here (plus other years) if you are interested.
*Shortly after StokerCon, Mike Arnzen and I collaborated on getting the HWA Pittsburgh Chapter up and running! We had our first two meetings this year and are greatly looking forward to the future of the chapter. Thank you to everyone who has attended meetings, helped organize events and readings, and been as enthusiastic as we are for this creation! If you are local and interested in joining the HWA and our Pittsburgh Chapter, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bring on 2020:
What am I working on for 2020? Right now it feels like a million things, but let me share what I can…
*My third poetry collection, which is inspired by the Black Death and other plagues and diseases is coming along (I should be able to share more about this soon!) — you can read a poem from the collection below!
*I am currently working on a really cool collaborative project, but that’s all I can say for now 🙂
*I am so looking forward to working with my mentee through the HWA Mentorship program! (*waves* hi Angela!)
*Also looking forward to FINALLY attending Scares That Care! I will see you in Virginia this summer if you’re going — please come say hi!
*One of my biggest goals this year is to write a novel I’ve been plotting; if I can get a draft done by the end of the year, I’ll be thrilled
*And finally, perhaps what I am most excited for….NOT ALL MONSTERS! (!!!!) This gorgeous book brought to you by Strangehouse Books will be out in Fall 2020. It is all full of deliciously dark stories by women who write horror, and I cannot wait to get this beautiful beast into your hands. Check out the TOC here.
It has been an honor to be the editor for this project, truly. Huge thank you to Nicholas Day and Don Noble for their organization, team work, art work, and for being lovely humans.
*All in all, 2020 is shaping up to be busy. I am excited for the challenges, for the late nights and early mornings, for new adventures and for something that I hope continues to give me courage. I wish you all nothing but amazing successes in the new year.
And finally — thank you to everyone who voted on my Twitter poll for which poem I should share from the new collection. I hope you enjoy reading this piece, “Blackbirds, Black Death”
Blackbirds, Black Death
Blackbirds outside my window
have you come to take me away?
My sister is dying, but together we waste
and count the days, the days, the days…
I’d rather follow you into the skies
away from choking black smoke,
away from dark soil where death blooms
on grotesque petals and charcoal stems
swell until blood drips down the stalks.
Bells sing distorted songs in the distance
chiming again for departed souls, striking
melodies against the harsh growl of thunder,
but sister still dies, crinkled like a lifeless spider
in my arms, for she is dead, and I am dead
in this place the blackbirds call home.
When blackbirds come to drain my blood,
their beaks stuffed with straw and juniper
I offer my eyes as penance for sin, to combat
God’s severance, but we are despised
and left nothing but rot, and ruin, and rats.
When blackbirds come to take her away at last,
we decompose together, imprinted memories
stain childhood blankets, infection reeks
from frayed threads as doctors dressed in black
pretend they are birds, but it is too late,
and I no longer count the days, the days, the days…
We twine together and choke, smoldering embers
of our home reach across the floor
colored in our bloodletting, yet the smoke
smells like mint as the blackbirds retreat,
and we will never follow them into the skies.
Because when blackbirds come, they are but men
buttoned up in masks, coats, and presumptions
that they know better, they know a cure,
but they know nothing except death,
the scent of putrid bodies mixed with herbs,
the swelling of buboes before they burst.
Sister, we once planted imaginary gardens
for imaginary birds, but now blackbird men
have materialized from that secret place
and stand guard outside my window,
have they come to take me away?
Dear sister is dead, so together we waste
and count the days, the days, the days…