Odd Lang Syne: The 2019 State of the OTIS

December 31, 2019—We’re here—2020. The year that optometrists have been looking forward to for decades. That means it’s time for the annual State of the OTIS, when you and I cut through all the online cacophony and personally catch up on what’s been going on in OTIS-Land over the past year.

This year has been one for the books, and I mean that metaphorically. I had one novel come out this year (my first adult one, in fact), have been working steadily on a nonfiction book that comes out in 2020, and my agent sold two middle-grade horror books at auction to a Big 5 publisher. He’s…pretty awesome.

Let’s start with the book that came out in October, Twelve Nights at Rotter House (Turner Publishing). My experience with this horror novel has been a wild one. If you’d told me a few years ago that my debut adult novel would be a meta-haunted house tale with a twist, I’d tell you that you didn’t know me very well. And I would be wrong. If you’re one of the ones who picked it up, thank’e. If you’re one of the ones who liked it and rated it on Goodreads or Amazon, thank’e x1000 (rating helps soooo much). If you hated it, don’t worry, my next horror novel couldn’t be more different, although it’ll be even more personal. Just like with OTIS, weirder stuff is what I’m after.

The nonfiction book lands in September 2020 from Quirk Books, and it’s called, as of right now, Cursed Objects: Strange Accounts of the World’s Most Infamous Items. This is going to be sort of like the Grimpendiums in terms of the style of content, but fully illustrated and designed with Quirk Books’ usual flare for book packaging. It’ll be a good gift book for the weirdo in your life.

The two middle grade horror novels will be coming out from HarperCollins in summer 2021 and summer 2022. The first is called The Smashed Man of Dread End and the other is TBD.

Odd Things I’ve Seen: The Podcast
This year was the one I joined the masses of people who love to hear themselves talk by launching a podcast. And…I kind of love it. Not because I like talking into a mic (It’s a one-man show, so it borders on performance and that makes me uncomfortable and I always put off the next episode longer than I should because of that), but because of the variety of forms we’ve been able to do with the episodes. We’ve done 18 so far that include recounting past oddity hunts, talking about trips to places that I’ve never written about, taking you on oddity hunts in-situ, and then there’s that time I interviewed my wife.

The OTIS Halloween Season
The OTIS Halloween Blog returned this year like a Halloween special that you’re not sure if you’re tired of watching every year yet. I managed 51 seasonal posts over September and October, which exhausts me just thinking about that (it’s a lot different in the moment). Those articles are still accessible on the OTIS navbar, for those who want to time-travel back to that season.

Oddity Visits
I visited close to 100 oddities this year and posted about my visits to about 40 different oddities on OTIS from this and past years. OTIS is alive and well amidst all these other projects…somehow.

I thought that I didn’t do a lot of traveling this year until I sat down to figure it out for this post. Turns out, I spent time in New Jersey, California, Florida, New York, Maryland, Nevada, Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Colorado, Washington D.C., and five out of six New England states. I missed Vermont this year, which is probably the first time since 2006 that I didn’t visit all six New England states in a given year. I also made it out of the country to England and Switzerland.

What can I say about the OTIS Club. Its members mean a lot to me. And we’re at 75 strong as of writing this. I’ve written 187 newsletters, and I’ve gotten to know more readers personally beyond their social media avatars, which is the whole point of the thing. I encourage everyone to join. Sure, it supports me financially for a good bit of what you see me recapping on this page, but it also means a lot to me personally.

Random Stuff
I did a handful of appearances and interviews this year, because I try not to say no to any opportunity, no matter how awkward it promises to be:

  • Wrote an article for CrimeReads about the time I cleaned up a crime scene
  • Guested at Westport Library’s Storyfest in Westport, Connecticut
  • Hosted pub trivia and a book launch at that same Westport Library
  • Interviewed for Harvard Magazine and Norwegian Airline’s N Magazine
  • Interviewed for a documentary that will appear only on cruise ships
  • Did a second appearance on the New England television show Chronicle, where I obsessed about plaques
  • Guested on a few podcasts and terrestrial radio:

That’s it. When you look at a list like this, it looks like a busy and fulfilling year for my side hustles. And I can’t argue, although I always want to. Here's to 2020. May cool things happen to all of us.