Another Year Odder: The 2018 State of the OTIS

It’s that time of year to swipe through our calendar apps and our photos in the cloud and the social feeds on our phones, to gaze through the fog of the near-past and take stock of the previous 365 days…because taking stock of the next 365 days is a really, really hard thing to do. My highlights of 2018 were pretty highly lit, I think.

1. Disney World

I visited Disney World for the first time in my conscious life this year (My parents took me before my brain fully formed—I don’t really have any memories of it). That means I entered my middle age years before I entered the Mouse’s gates. But I loved it. Absolutely. I totally understand why people get obsessed with it. Why they go only there on vacations. Why their closets look like Disney stores. If I lived in Orlando, I would dedicate OTIS to it. 

2. Cross-Country Trip

I’ve wanted to roll wheels between the coasts ever since I discovered the joys of roadtripping. This summer we did 4,130 miles in about 15 days, from the Atlantic shores of New Hampshire to the Pacific shores of Washington, seeing lots of oddities and wonders and hotel beds along the way. I think I could spend my life traversing back and forth between the coasts, like Jack Kerouac in On the Road, but with, you know, more stops at graveyards and giant statues. 

3. Baby 

In October, Lindsey and I put another human being on this peculiar planet, our third daughter, Olive Autumn. Nothing much more to say about that. Just need to mention it since I assume I’ll need to live in her basement one day and I need documentation that I heralded her arrival. 


I visited more than a hundred oddities this year. On OTIS, I posted 38 OTIS Visit articles and eight general blog pieces this year. So that’s almost one per week. Not exactly the stats of a high-performance content engine, but it was a good pace for me. My favorite oddity visit I posted about would be maybe the grounds of a hollow sphere cult in Estero, Florida, or the crystal skull at the British Museum in London (which I visited in 2017) or the mummified serial killer head at the Wisconsin Dells. Eh, who am I kidding? It was definitely the mummified serial killer head. If I had to pick one of the most interesting oddities that I visited this year but haven’t written about yet, it's probably either the death site of Buddy Holly in Iowa or the bullet that killed Abraham Lincoln in Maryland. 

5. OTIS Halloween Die-ary

The act of posting articles on OTIS has always been an act of journal-writing, but this year’s OTIS Halloween Die-ary completely stripped off the general-interest veneer of oddity visits and focused directly on the black and orange parts of my life. I wrote that die-ary for 61 straight days—all of September and October. Those entries included the entertaining bits and boring bits, the tangents and the only-of-interest-to-me bits. The exercise feels a tad self-indulgent, but, personally, I love having that record to look back on. Also, counting that two-month block of entries, I actually averaged two posts a week on OTIS. Manipulating statistics is fun. 

6. OTIS Club

We crossed the 70-member mark on OTIS for the first time this year. We also reached 135 newsletter issues. So technically, I posted three times a week on average, but you’d need to be an OTIS Club member to see a third of that content. The important point here is that the OTIS Club is going strong 2.5 years since its inception. This is the part where I beseech you to join. That’s right, I’m hoping an archaic verb will convince you. Only $1 a month gets you a membership card, one issue of the weekly newsletter a month, and access to Patreon updates. Or you can join at one of the higher tiers and get even more stuff (and gratitude) from me. Be one of my 2019 highlights! 

7. Book Life

We hit some nice milestones in my publishing career-hobby this year. First, I’m under contract for two books simultaneously for the first time ever. And not in the usual way authors go under contract for multiple books. These books are with two different publishers. Which is another milestone. It doubles the number of publishers I’ve worked with in my book life. Another milestone is that both books were sold by my agent, Alex Slater. I’ve never had somebody sell a book for me before, and without him, I wouldn’t have either of these projects slated for public consumption and judgment. Partnering with him has been a real highlight this year.

The final milestone is that one of those books, Twelve Nights at Rotter House, is adult fiction. It’s technically my second novel, but the first one, Death and Douglas, is a middle grade novel. You probably shouldn't let your kids read Rotter House, but that's up to you. It comes out this fall from Turner Publishing. I have a nonfiction book, Cursed Objects, coming out the fall after that from Quirk. So I’m a real author for two more years.

And that’s it. Even thought there’s a lot here, I don’t feel like it characterizes my year well. Good stuff happened, bad stuff happened, and frequently nothing happened at all. Years are years. So I hope your 2018 had enough good in it to make a short list, too. That’s all we really need to keep going. A short list of good things.

Happy 2019, everyone!