The Oughts Are Dead, Long Live The Twenties

I don’t think time works well anymore.

Obviously, it seems to exist — there is a flow of time, stuff happens. It’s not like I’m getting younger or people around me are suddenly babies (*stares suspiciously at Yoda*), but there is definitely the feeling of being out of sync with time’s movement. Any watch-tuned precision I might have felt — where a unit of time felt like a unit of time — has gone out the window. It’s just chaos, now. A heady broth of temporal muck. If you asked me how long ten years ago was, I’d say, “2016,” because of course it feels like that was a decade ago. Maybe a lifetime. But how long ago was the 1990s? Also a decade? Shit. And if you told me 2009 was ten years ago, I’m not sure I’d agree — I’d also look back and see who I was ten years ago and swear that was 20, even 30 years past.

Christ, I don’t even know what day it is.

I had to look at a calendar. “Oh, it’s Monday? What the fuck?” That interstitial period between Christmas and New Years is a bewildering wasteland. A dark forest. An Ikea store.

So, having to do one of those year-end wrap-ups, much less a decade-level summary, is fucking hard. It’s a mountain to climb, dizzying in its vertiginous ascent.

Let’s try the year, first.

2019, you raggedy scamp. You were good for me and bad for the world.

(As seems to increasingly be the case.)

In 2019, right at the cusp of the year, I released the last book in my Miriam Black series, Vultures. It landed with little fanfare, woefully — real-talk, the publisher turned out to be not an ideal fit for these books, and was a fairly fraught relationship with lots of red, red flags. Which means some of my most favoritest work, the Miriam Black books, were in the hands of someone who didn’t seem to care about them very much. Or know what to do with them. Or want to do anything at all. So — that book came out, and it exists, and I’m very proud of how it wrapped up, and I hope that over time, we will see that series find its readership. I so far can’t technically say that it’s been optioned for a couple years now, and it’s in fact optioned by a team of all-women creators, so pretend I didn’t say anything at all.

(But I did find out the Miriam Black books are big in China, apparently?)

Then, in July: Wanderers. Arguably an entirely opposite publishing experience — the book found an editor, an imprint, and a parent publisher who appeared to care very much about the book, and who had a plan, and who executed well on that plan. And as such, it’s a book that’s done very well. Hit a bunch of bestseller lists, and then at year’s end hit a bunch of those. I’m very proud of it, and glad that Tricia is my editor there, because her editorial hand is deft — it’s like having a doctor who cares about your health and isn’t just there to make a buck. Yeah, they’re gonna wanna cut parts off and stitch pieces up, but it’s in service of your health, not just a butcher’s desire to see you bleed.

I got to go on tour. I met wonderful readers and fans. (And I met Lin-Manuel Miranda, one of the loveliest people.) I got to hang with so many great writer pals, like Erin Morgenstern, Delilah Dawson, Kevin Hearne, Paul Krueger, Adam Christopher. And hey, I had no idea I could turn out a crowd — I knew, okay, I could turn out 20-30 people, probably. But in Portland, I was coming up on a hundred people showing up. Most events were packed rooms. And it was fascinating to see how people came to me not just from one book, but at different points — people hopping on the Wendig Train (okay I immediately regret writing “the Wendig Train” but here we all are, deal with it) from Blackbirds, or Star Wars, or the blog, or the writing books, or even as far back as my RPG work. I compared this to forming geological strata — not just one cataclysmic event forming lava rock, but rather, years and years of bedrock and granite and schist and fossil. It’s nice to see that slow and steady build.

Wanderers was optioned by QC Entertainment, which has been great — obviously, anytime anything is optioned you have to reckon with the reality that the likelihood of that thing getting made is a lot closer to zero than any other number, but just the same, I’m hopeful. I at least know that the right people have it, which is as good a chance as you can give it.

I’ve also done some other things which I can’t even talk about. Which is always weird to have like, ohh, let’s say hypothetically three book deals — three separate book deals! — you can’t even talk about, yet. Not that I have three book deals, of course. *looks shiftily left and right* It’s pure conjecture on your part. You weirdo. Quit making things up.

I went to Hawaii with my wonderful family.

I ate a lot of apples.

My mother died.

That last one is hard. Now, especially — the holidays have a big piece removed, an essential organ. They live and go on, but not without pain, not without feeling that blank space where something essential once existed. My father died around this time twelve years ago. My mother, this year. It’s weird thinking of yourself as an orphan, but here we are. It’s not that I was necessarily looking to my parents for any kind of help anymore — but without them, you really start to feel like, you’re it. I’m the terminus of this line, now. I was already a functional adult (shocking, I know!) but now, I really have to be. Because people are counting on me to be that. And then you look down the line too and you see, well, one day this is what my son will endure. I’ll go. My wife will go. And he’ll be looking back as I am now — hopefully with love and fondness and a true sorrow. Hopefully not like, with a HAHA MY FUCKIN DAD IS DEAD LET’S GET LIT party.

So, here we are.

A year gone, nearly.

And a decade almost in the rear-view.

It’s strange to think my career as a novelist (which sounds less haughty than “author” but more self-important than “bookmonkey”) has been made in this last decade. It feels like I’ve been doing this forever. And Christ, I’ve written a lot of books. I’ve written and published (*does a hasty, clumsy count*) 25 books in the last decade. Actually, since around 2011. That fails to include some self-pubbed writing books, or comics, or film/TV work, or, or, or.

I had a writing career before that — as noted, RPG books, having contributed to like, 70-80 of the damn things. But the goal was always books, and somehow, I did it. Mostly by luck and privilege and sheer bloody-mindedness. I put the bucket on my head and I headbutted the wall until the wall fell down and I was only mildly brain-disordered.

It’s also strange to think I have a kid now, and didn’t ten years ago. That’s weird. He’s wonderful and hilarious and gifted and artistic. I’m a lucky guy. We’re lucky parents.

Amazing how much can happen in ten years. It’s tempting to see myself, at the low-end of my 40s, as being somehow nearer to the end than the beginning. And one supposes that’s true, but that’s not to say a lot won’t change or happen still. Because ten years is a long time. And every decade can be transformative, in its way. You’re never too old. Even a year can see wild swings and shifts.

What comes next? I’ve little idea. As a writer I’m oft to espouse writers should try to plan for the year-ahead, but also for five years, and ten — though the further out you go, the hazier that plan gets. The more it becomes less a “straight line” and more a “sinister glowing cloud.” In the next year I have a book coming out — The Book of Accidents. Not sure of a date yet, I think around October. (Was originally in the summer, but I don’t think it’s a summer book.) And then 2021 I think I’ll have… two books? Maybe three. But again, I can’t talk about those, and they’re not even real yet, I’m definitely not talking about real books. *clears throat, looks around nervously, sweats*

The decade ahead is, well.

I don’t know.

I’m hoping we’ll come through 2020 with a new president — I’ll speak more on in a different post, but we gotta get rid of this fucking asshole by burying him under a tide of votes. I’m an Elizabeth Warren voter, because I think she’s got big ideas and plans to bolster them. But I like a lot of the candidates running, and I’ll vote for any one of them before I vote for the oleaginous sack-of-baby-diarrhea currently in the White House. I’m hoping we fix that error and can course correct, maybe start addressing some of the existential threats ahead of us — climate change being the biggest. Because if we fail to do that, we’re going to get a front-row seat to a coming apocalypse. Maybe we already have that seat, I don’t know.

But I like to be optimistic. Optimism is rebellion, in its way, just as art is resistance. Margaret Atwood is fond of saying that writing is an act of optimism, because you’re envisioning someone out there to read it. So, I will continue to engage in that act of optimism, because I’m going to place a bet that we’ll all be around to read it — in one year, in ten, in a hundred. So, let’s all pinky-swear that we’re gonna get our shit together, okay? Okay.

Onward, we go. Into 2020, and the years beyond.

Thanks for reading, and see you on the other side of the (time) war.

p.s. it’s weird we’re gonna be in The Twenties, because historically that evokes a very specific thing to me, which means if we’re not all wearing Mad Max flapper dresses and tattooing ourselves in apocalyptic art deco I will seriously be disappointed

21 responses to “The Oughts Are Dead, Long Live The Twenties”

  1. I’m sorry about your mom. I hope your warm memories and stories help and comfort.

    Yes! I was thinking the same thing, that I ought to be practicing the Charleston and getting my hands on a beaver coat. (faux, of course)

  2. I’ve read this a couple of times and can’t find the joke, so I have to assume you meant the TEENS are dead?

    Just finished Wanderers, good stuff. Keep it up. 🙂

  3. You’ve had quite a year and quite a decade! I’ve been following your blog/career since 2010 when I began my own blog and started writing more seriously. So, illogical as it may be, I feel like we’ve been on a similar path (albeit with mine NOT including multiple book deals, bestsellers, book tours, fans or…ok, yeah it’s not been similar at all.) But you do make it feel like we’re all in this together, and I DO like to think that my .0001 percent piece of your readership pie has possibly contributed to your successful path over the past 10 years. Looking forward to reading more from you in the decade ahead.

  4. I am very sorry you lost your mom. It has been quite a year. I just wanted to say thank you for all the joy you’ve brought me since I came across your work. It’s been just about three years — I happened across you and Sam somehow on Twitter in March of 2017 and followed you both right away. I was reading the You Might Be the Killer tweets in real time, and that was an absolute JOY. I love the movie! I bought it and watch it every couple of months. You have been a bright spot for me during these dark few years, and I want you to know that I appreciate your mind and your work very much. Thank you, Chuck! Best wishes for you and yours going into 2020. VOTE BLUE NO MATTER WHO!! <3

  5. Chuck, I’ve been following your blog most of this decade (maybe since 2012, when I started publishing? Dunno), and it’s been fun to watch you (and the kid) grow and mature, as a writer and as the person we see here. May the 20s treat you well!

    P.S. You really don’t want to see me in a Mad Max flapper dress.
    P.P.S. You totally nailed it with that idea that last week was a decade ago, and so were the 1980s (well, I’m older than you, so…).

  6. Thank you for being here this decade. I’ve referred to your stuff often – literally just posted one of your 2015 posts about outlining to a writerly Discord – and Miriam has been a gift. Fingers crossed her story finds the right home.

  7. Thanks for all you do, Chuck. You’re quickly becoming one of those authors whose stuff I’ll devour no matter what; Wanderers was the best book I’ve read in a long while, and I also loved Unclean Spirits and Blackbirds. I also loved Damn Fine Story, which helped me overcome a book I’d been struggling with, and will finally be releasing in 2020. I’ve since passed Damn Fine Story to a co-worker who wants to write children’s books, and I’m hoping it does for her what it did for me.

  8. Chuck, this blog has helped make the last half of the decade cheerier, despite the tragic events you’ve written about (personal and political). Warm wishes from the other side of the world – Melbourne, Australia.

  9. I’m sorry to tell you this, Chuck, but the older you get, the faster time goes, and by the time you hit your eighties you’re having breakfast every five minutes… and therefore presumably having a presidential election every five days or so. (Disclaimer: am not octogenarian, have not tested this myself).

    It didn’t even occur to me until I started reading others’ posts that now was the time to look back over a whole decade, but considering I started the decade over-educated and under-employed (MA in Creative Writing, so… unemployed for a year), I am not feeling too bad about how the decade has panned out in my life. Got a job (yay!), ditched said job to write (double yay!), married wonderful man (more yays than I can count), and published One Whole Book.

    TBH I think I will probably die of old age before I publish the number of books you’ve produced in a decade, but MMV, that’s life. For a habitually second-guessing person I am feeling surprisingly ok with the years to achievements ratio… and looking forward to what the next decade will bring. Besides slightly more frequent breakfasts.

  10. Thanks for the heartfelt and inspirational New Year message, Chuck. I recently finished ‘Wanderers’ and found it your best work yet (even reviewed it on Amazon and Goodreads – brownie points there?) Anyway, here’s wishing you a great 2020 and the elevation of your latest Trump description to viral proportions – ‘ oleaginous sack-of-baby-diarrhea’ had me in stitches!

  11. I’m surprised that a publisher didn’t know what to do with Vultures. Really? Reaaaallly? I always thought of the Miriam Black series as your, sort of, center of gravity. People seem to read the first one, get hooked, discover your website and move on to your other writings. I finally just got a copy of it, can’t seem to find it hidden away in any brick and mortars. I’ll check out Wanderers at some point, if I whittle my reading pile down enough to warrant buying any more books, which I will. If you want to give me the publishers addresses, I can go over there and issue some agonizing cock knocks with my size ten. I’ll even take a picture of their agonized face for you. Have a happy New Year and keep on keeping on.

  12. First of all, my condolences to you about your mom. I can only imagine what it must feel like. Secondly, I’m sure the Miriam Black novels will catch on here. I can’t even remember how I stumbled across “Blackbird” so many years ago, but I immediately feel in love with the foul-mouthed, unapologetically crass scrappy psychic/medium that is Miriam. Also, “Wanderers” was an amazing novel I ordered it the day it was released, then spent the next day reading it. It would make an excellent movie, as it has been optioned for QC Entertainment or even better, a television show so you wouldn’t have to cut anything out for time constraints.
    As for the um… ‘president ‘ you’re absolutely right. I’m getting ready to root for nearly anyone that’s running. As long as they replace the giant Oompa-Loompa who if someone doesn’t reign him in, we’re all going die. Either from global warming, or in a fiery apocalyptic explosion from a missile strike.
    Anyway, on to another, lighter subject. You’re writing a new book! “The Book of Accidents” from the title, it sounds pretty good. I’ll be waiting to buy it, but in the meantime I’ll be sketching me out some apocalyptic art that I can get tattooed on me.

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