The Time I Made a Haunted Christmas Present (or else, haunted myself with a Christmas present)

There is a slight-but-important distinction between the two ideas presented in this title, I swear. Also, hello, welcome to my spooky Christmas story!

Context: I’ve been mostly-in-charge-of-myself (with relatively more successes than failures) for a long time. I’m competent at Not Opening the Door to Strangers. I can use the stove and I know all the different kinds of wounds and how to first-aid them, and to never throw flour on a fire and when to call Emergency Services or Poison Control. In fact, I even have a long and uneventful history of supervising other people. Most of my income from ages 11 to 19 was derived from babysitting—sometimes as many as five tiny people at once. I’m very good at remembering who will eat sandwiches with mustard on them, and who won’t.

Over the years, I’ve proven how very much I’m allowed to be in charge of myself.


There is one specific area in which I am really, really bad at supervising myself. It’s when I’m asleep.

I’m pretty sure I know what you’re thinking right now, which is that most people don’t actually need very much in-sleep supervision.

And I’ve talked about this before, but I think maybe I didn’t convey how dramatically bad at sleeping I am. I am SO BAD that it’s almost like a joke or an urban legend. Among my distance-friends—anyone who ever has to travel with me, really—it’s become a poorly-understood but generally-accepted phenomenon, kind of like gravity, complete with concise, factual explanations for the benefit of others (Tess) and dramatic reenactments (Maggie).

Sharing a room with me is the kind of thing that no one is just born ready for. It’s an intermediate endeavor. You have to work up to it.

At home, the situation is normalized. It’s fine. I’m married to someone who pretty much takes these things in stride and explains to me (patiently) that no, the ceiling does not in fact have an octopus on it, and the closet is just a closet, and it’s not flooding outside, the water is not higher than the windows.

But sometimes, D has to go out of town for work, and then I’m left unsupervised.

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The Last Visible Dog

I’ve been away. I know this.

I’ve been away, writing an all-new secret book, full of all-new secret words and kisses and the kind of deep relational dysfunction that was all I ever, ever wanted to hear about at sixteen.

Now, that book is safely in the capable hands of Agent Sarah, and even though many esteemed writers of my acquaintance are often driven to anxious rocking and madness by this part of the publishing process … I kind of love it.

Not because I’m willfully contrary or a masochist, but because in that brief window of Circumstances Yet Unknown—for that one finite spoonful of time—this whole physical world/gainful employment/concrete consideration/behaving sensibly business is distinctly Not My Problem. I LOVE when things are not my problem!

However. I realize there’s a flip-side. That flip-side is: uncertainty.

I have a long, storied, and overly-complicated relationship with uncertainty.

(This is not a post about Fiendish.)

Let me tell that relationship to you.

(Later, I will make a post about Fiendish. MANY, even. Right now, though, this is a post about personal growth, the power of literature, and the confusing phobias of my youth.)

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I See You Over There, 2014

Today is 2014. Which seems vaguely implausible, since yesterday it was decades ago and I was nine and twenty-four and twelve and also eighteen and thirty, because historically, I have a very hard time noting/remembering/reconciling myself with the passage of time.

(I think it might be fake.)

Here are some of the things that happened this year:

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This isn’t a post about writing books.

Or even a post about responsibility or creativity or the writing life or being gainfully employed.

I mean, it’s kind of about those things? But also, it is so much bigger.

Sometimes I use this blog as a place to talk about my favorite things, and today I’m going to tell you my favorite thing about being an adult.

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Hey, Remember That Time I Was on TV?

Once, I was on TV!

Here is a half-hour interview I did with the Bookends Program, for my hometown school district. It is conducted by two really wonderful local students, and the dear and indispensable children’s librarian of my youth, Sue-Ellen Jones.

In it, I answer a lot of questions about The Replacement and The Space Between, and talk about high school, folklore, and Shirley Jackson.

I present:

The Time I Was Interviewed for Bookends

Where I’ve Been While I Haven’t Been Here (also, a fashion tip)

I’m back!

(In an ephemeral and transitory sense of the word.)

(As in, I’m back until I leave again on Sunday.)

BUT, I’m happy to report that this last month has been really excellent and full of All Good Things.

Paper Valentine has been out for two months. Seriously you guys, I can’t even explain how grateful I am for all the reader-love it’s been getting, and how fantastic it was to talk to so many of you during the Breathless Reads tour.

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Emergency Preparedness

The power is on at my house!

Normally, this wouldn’t actually demand any sort of joyous announcement. But the other night, we had this windstorm.*

And then the block went dark.

And then I discovered that even though I’d grown up in a relatively rugged and weather-ready household, as an adult, I was ill-prepared for any sort of actual situation. As it turns out, there were many, many things pertaining to emergency preparedness that as a child, I had come to take for granted.

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Today’s Favorite Thing: Looper

I kept trying to make this post be about how, thanks to my dad, I have a fairly decent working knowledge of science fiction, but am not necessarily a science fiction FAN. Mostly because all my favorite sci-fi is still primarily classed as horror. It seriously took me five paragraphs to say that. Which seemed inefficient and off-topic. So I deleted it.

Then I tried to tell you why I like the movie Looper so, so incredibly much. But I wound up telling you the whole plot, because I am a spoiler-monster.

Okay, I’m going to try one more time, starting now.

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This is not a post about inspirations. Also, it is not a post about nostalgia, artistic influences, where I get my ideas, or whether I spent my childhood watching movies I was way too young to be watching.

I’m not sure what it’s about, exactly. Maybe just those moments that seem to loom up out of nowhere to shape someone as an artist or a writer or as a person who thinks and breathes and dreams and lives in the world and grows up there.

I have this indelible memory of seeing Harold and Maude for the first time.

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Hiatus Over—I Am Back!

Hey remember that time I wrote a book and then revised it and then revised it again and then did line-edits and D went on a business trip and there was no one around to tell me to sleep so I didn’t which gave me all this extra time to do line-edits, and then I finished them and had three minutes left to throw all my clothes in a suitcase to take to New York for BEA, but I missed some of the clothes and didn’t check the weather report and it was raining there, but it wasn’t raining here, but I just assumed that the weather would be the same and it wasn’t and then it was time to run out of the house with my haphazardly-packed suitcase of inadequate clothes and that’s how I wound up in New York in the rain, with a suitcase full of exclusively sundresses and no socks and that hollow-eyed incandescent look that I get when I don’t sleep.


Well, then everything slowed way, way down.

(Which yes, in retrospect, that’s kind of a strange thing to say about Manhattan.)

(Also, it’s a strange thing to say about a week in which six people are staying in 800 square feet filled with luggage and books and laptops and one bathroom.)

But everything DID slow down. I stopped having to juggle all-the-everything. Which was really nice. Usually, I only had one thing to do each day, and sometimes after I was done, I took a nap. I had coffee with my agent, and met Editor Jocelyn for lunch and we talked about what I should write next, which is always the most exciting thing! I rode in taxis and went to The Strand, and one night we all went and saw a play, which was Newsies. I had Chinese food, which is always better in New York than any other place I’ve ever been.

Lerner did some amazing stuff for The Curiosities, starting with the blogger breakfast, and afterward I got to sign ARCs with Tess and Maggie and the line at the booth was really long, which was exciting, and everyone was so nice and Editor-Andrew put a picture on Twitter and I stole it from him and posted it here:


And as she does, on the last night, Jackson coerced us into making a video. Also, we were pretty delirious by this point in the trip, and she didn’t have to coerce very hard.

It’s worth mentioning that this is about as comfortable as I ever look on film, and it’s taken me literally years to get to a point where I don’t simply go silent and hold very still when someone points a video camera at me. I’m counting it as a success!

Also, that’s the Psyduck dance I’m doing. In case you were wondering.