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The Order of Oddfish

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Dare to Know Is Everywhere Now!

October 8, 2021

Lots of events coming up! On October 20, Keir Graff will interview me for the Authors On Tap series at Chicago’s Exile in Bookville bookstore. On November 9, I’m one of the three featured speakers at the Assistance League Chicagoland West’s 25th Annual Books & Brunch. On November 17, I’m doing a virtual event for Off The Beaten Path Bookstore in Lakewood, NY. And on November 18, I’m doing a virtual event for the Lincolnwood Public Library in Lincolnwood, IL. Complete events here.

I really loved being on the Largely The Truth podcast! Host Brennan Storr (of the popular Ghost Story Guys podcast) started it to have conversations about “life, the universe, and everything, with artists, musicians, activists, and anyone else he happens to meet along the way.” Brennan has a broadcasting voice to die for, and he’s an insightful and astute interviewer. Do give our episode a listen—we talk not only about Dare to Know, but also videogame urban legends, the ancient civilization of Cahokia, modern loneliness, and much more!

Speaking of great voices: I finally got a chance to listen to the audiobook of Dare to Know, and it’s incredible. Bradford Hastings did the voice work, and he really makes the story come alive. He absolutely sells the sometimes-exasperating narrator, making him much more appealing than on the page. Bradford also brings out the humor of some passages with a standup comedian’s timing, and nails the more dramatic parts too. I couldn’t be happier about his performance. Bravo, Bradford!

The good reviews for Dare to Know continue to roll in: The New York Journal of Books praised it as a “genre-bending thriller… Good pacing and clever plotting keep the pages turning.”

Geek Dad says it’s “like reading a kaleidoscope… mind-bending… a book well worth reading.”

And the Guam Daily Post challenges you to “imagine what would happen if Chuck Palahniuk, Enrico Fermi, and the Brothers Grimm got together to raise a child… This novel is weird, in a terrifyingly techy, could-be-so, where’s-this-going? kind of way… Sci-fi, snark-horror and futuristic thriller fans will love it.” I’m big in Guam!!

I love independent bookstores, so I was particularly excited and honored when Dare to Know was voted onto the September Indie Next Picks list. I like it especially when booksellers take pictures of themselves with the book. Thank you! Keep ’em coming!


Kat at Books Inc. in Oakland, CA

Sylvie and David at Content Books in Northfield, MN

Zach at McLean & Eakin in Petoskey, MI

Secrets of Story Episode 32: How Should You Give (And Receive) Notes?

September 24, 2021

All right, before we get into the podcast, a quick update on how it’s going with my just-released book Dare to Know.

The reviews are good! The Southern Bookseller Review praised it as “a personal and riveting horror story . . . frightening and smart.” SFBook Reviews says it is “perfect for science fiction readers who like their concepts intelligent and complex, but also like to have characters with developed personalities.” And SF2 Concatenation calls it “a mind-twister reminiscent of Philip K. Dick.” Philip K. Dick?! I’ll take it!

You can read all the reviews here. It’s available for sale everywhere, but of course I encourage you to buy Dare to Know from your local independent bookstore if possible.

On to the podcast! In this episode, Matt and I talk about how to give “notes” on someone else’s writing (that is, helpful criticism) graciously and effectively; and how to accept those “notes,” even if they make you feel weird:

The uncomfortable issue simmering in the background of this conversation is the fact that Matt and I have, as Matt admits in his blog post about this episode, “a contentious history of giving (or not giving) feedback to each other, and we reveal some big philosophical differences on the fraught topic of how to give and receive notes.” It’s a good episode!

More news: Devi Bhaduri interviewed me for the Chicago Review of Books. Read it to find out about my “Elf Theory” of friendship, and how Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard stole the girlfriend (and life savings) of one of the people who inspired Dare to Know.

We also had an outdoor book release party at the Book Cellar bookstore in Chicago:

I also got to speak on a panel discussion at the Printers Row Lit Fest with old friend Dan Kraus (The Living Dead) and make new author friends such as Stephen Graham Jones (My Heart Is a Chainsaw), Meredith Westgate (The Shimmering State), and Dan Chaon (Ill Will). Here we are after the panel:

Later on that night, Betsy Bird—wife of Matt, and author of the upcoming Long Road to the Circus—texted me to meet her at a bar, where she happened to be hanging out with . . . Daniel Handler, a.k.a. Lemony Snicket of A Series of Unfortunate Events! And so we all hung out and drank and talked for a few hours. I was walking with gods!

Some of you might remember that I have a history with Daniel Handler. At the Chicago Humanities Festival, where I appeared with him back in 2013, I revealed Daniel Handler’s true origin: that he is in fact a SENTIENT TUMOR, a mischievous polyp that had been discovered growing out of my head when I was born. Indeed Daniel Handler and I spent a happy childhood together, a boy and his tumor, but Daniel Handler was surgically excised from my head when I had to “grow up”—if you call losing your best friend “growing up”! You can read the whole sordid story here, and gape at photographic evidence like these:

Again, you can find the whole story here.

And by all means, get yourself a copy of Dare to Know!

DARE TO KNOW is out at last!

September 14, 2021

The day of reckoning is here! My adult speculative thriller Dare to Know has finally been unleashed upon the world.

Is it any good? According to reviews, yes! The Guardian named it in its “Best Recent Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction” roundup, calling it “a fascinating, compulsively readable thriller.” SFX Magazine praised it as “audaciously clever and well written… [a] superb piece of storytelling: vivid, thought provoking and unsettling. After you finish it you’ll want to go back to the start and read it again.” Booklist says it “will keep readers on the edge of their seats wanting to find out the next piece of the puzzle.” And so on, and so on!

Are you in Chicago? Please join me tonight at the Book Cellar (4736-38 N. Lincoln Ave) at 7 pm. We’re doing a relaxed outdoors book release and signing thing. A chance to hang out! (Want a signed, personalized copy of Dare to Know? The Book Cellar can hook you up.)

I know, I know: it’s been a long time since my first book The Order of Odd-Fish came out. So much else has happened in the meantime: my wife and I had two daughters, I started the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival, empires have risen and fallen. But I’m so thrilled to be back to writing and publishing books.

There are so many people for me to thank, but I don’t think I did it any better than in the acknowledgements section of the Dare to Know, so I’m going to reprint it below, with some amendments. THANK YOU EVERYONE for accompanying me on this weird journey. I promise it won’t be a decade before my third book!

Second chances are real! A few years ago, I was on the ropes. A book deal went south, I lost my old agent, and my confidence collapsed—though I was loath to admit it. Everlasting gratitude to my current agent John Cusick for picking me up, dusting me off, and putting me on the right track. John, your enthusiasm and wise guidance have turned everything around for me. Special thanks to Dana Spector at CAA for extending my good fortune.

Tremendous thanks to my editor Jhanteigh Kupihea and everyone at Quirk Books for taking a risk on this book. Jhanteigh, you have energized my words beyond anything I could have done on my own. I have learned so much from your editing. Jane Morley, your copyediting and proofreading have improved my prose and saved me from many embarrassing errors. Ryan Hayes, the cover you designed is perfect: something I never could’ve imagined, but exactly what I was hoping for. Nicole De Jackmo, Jennifer Murphy, and Chrstina Tatulli, your powers of marketing and publicity have been awesome to behold. I am lucky to work with such a dedicated team of pros. (Edited to add: Jamie-Lee Nardone of Black Crow and Gabrielle Bujak too, you have also been fantastic publicists! But I didn’t know you yet when the Acknowledgements went to press!)

I am also fortunate to have many smart friends and family who read early versions of this manuscript and helped with their advice, encouragement, and support. These include Christy Allen, Kate Babka, Matt Bird, Joe Cannon, Noah Cruikshank, John Fecile, Joe Fusion, Rob Goodwin, Keir Graff, St. John Karp, Rob Knowles, Sam Malissa, Chris Norborg, Chris Norborg Sr., Heather Norborg, Jennifer Norborg, Ellen Palmer, Alice Setrini, Abi St. John, Laura St. John, Freya Trefonides, Theo Trefonides, and Brandon Will. If I’m forgetting anyone, I apologize! Thanks particularly to April Osborn of MIRA Books for helpful guidance.

Over the years, I have been fortunate to meet many wonderful librarians who have been generous in their assistance and friendship. There are too many to name here, but I must particularly thank my friends Eti Berland and Betsy Bird.

I am indebted to the archeologists and scholars who have brought to light the story of the Native American city of Cahokia. I was especially inspired by Timothy Pauketat’s 2009 book Cahokia: Ancient America’s Great City on the Mississippi and the more recent work concerning Mound 72 done under the direction of the Illinois State Archaeological Survey by Thomas Emerson, Kristin Hedman, Eve Hargrave, Dawn Cobb, and Andrew Thompson. Of course, the fantastical extrapolations in this book are my own.

I have had many great teachers and professors in my life, but the ones who most directly influenced this book are James Group, J.T. Cushing, and J.B. Kennedy.

At last, I will always be grateful to my mother Priscilla Kennedy who never stopped encouraging me, and to my father James Kennedy who showed me how never to lose faith or quit. I love you both.

Finally, my inexpressible love and gratitude to my wife Heather Norborg. Without your love, support, and constancy, there would be no book. I am so happy to share my life with you and our daughters Lucy and Ingrid, who have made my life a thousand times richer than I could have imagined.

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