A Bucket Of Thought-Spiders Dumped Inelegantly Upon Your Head

Once more I return with a newsletter-flavored blog-post of various updates and notions and herbs and spices. Behold my thought spiders as they skitter upon your scalp, delivering the good word! And the good word is sesqupedalian. Anyway. Let’s do this.

Where Waits Wayward In The Wake Of Wanderers?

Hey, guess what? Not only did I turn in the first draft of the Wanderers sequel, Wayward, I also got my edit letter back and apparently it’s… not terrible? I dunno! I confess that writing this strange post-pandemic book during an actual pandemic was super-weird, and looking back over the book, I realize a not-insignificant portion of it was written in a fugue state. Like, I somehow wrote 280,000 words, but it feels like a dream?

So, to discover that the book apparently was not a dream and that works is… well, that’s good fucking news. Especially since it is so huge, so to find out that I’d actually written 1100 pages of ALL WAYWARD AND NO WANDERERS MAKES CHUCK A SAD BOY would have been, uh, bad.

There is no cover yet, but it is in-process. That said, there is a publisher landing page for the book now where you can go and read the book’s synopsis (note: contains some Wanderers spoilers, obvs), and at that link you can also pre-order the book, hint hint. The book releases, good lord willing and the creek don’t rise, this summer, on August 2nd, 2022. I’m excited for people to read it. I didn’t plan to do a sequel for the first book, but I always said, well hey, if I come up with something and the sales from the first book justify it, fine, okay, I’ll do a sequel. I had an idea on tour for the first book that set the path, and sales (thank you, all!) were really good.

So: book. Sequel. Soon. Yes.

Poly Ticks

There existed some political shit last week, what with the Tuesday elections swinging weirdly and wildly toward Republicans in a lot of places — I know here, locally, we had some schoolboard races go firmly into the column of some Q-Anon or Q-adjacent, militia-backed batshit motherfuckers, which is, uhh, not ideal? We’re a fairly well-to-do county, purple in parts, and blue at its heart, but its more rural environs are deeply red. Growing up I had viewed the GOP presence here as bad, but like, regular bad. You know, capitalist big-business bad. Not gonna rock the boat too much because, well, that’s not good for profits. But it wasn’t really culture war crazy, or so I thought. Maybe it was, maybe I was sheltered or naive. Whatever the case, it’s culture-war-crazy now, and it’s bold-facedly, unashamedly so. The GOP these days increasingly rises, falls, and from its rotten mulch emerges a new pillar of slime and fungus, this one stenchier and weirder than the last. And now it’s all anti-vax, anti-mask, Trump-is-Jesus, celebrities are coming back from the dead, Satan is in your medicine, whackadoo bullshit.

I know too that from Tuesday’s results, we’re going to see a lot of talk of WHAT DEMOCRATS SHOULD DO, and most of that is going to be wrong-headed, and I know everyone is going to give into the fallacy of the single cause, but of course, this is a many-headed hydra we’re dealing with: a Democratic Party always pushed back on its heels in an awkward, defensive posture; a media glad to carry water for the GOP in the false religion of Both-Sidesism; a GOP willing to embrace truthiness and bigotry and offer a host of lies that Democrats counter logically but rarely emotionally; Democratic gridlock nationally, because we have the narrowest of majority margins, with our arteries blocked by the human cholesterol blobs called Manchin and Sinema; and most notably, a roughly-irrefutable pattern of voter behavior dating back 50 years where the things that are happening are sadly to be expected. The VA GOV always swings back to the opposing party of the president and has for decades. Hell, the fact a Democrat governor won re-election in New Jersey hasn’t happened since what, 1977? (And despite the narrative that Youngkin’s win was decisive and Murphy’s win was narrow, it’s important to realize Murphy’s win at this point is the bigger of the two. Once again, media carrying water, yadda yadda.)

I dunno. I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about, honestly, but it seems to me we already have a lot of people saying, WELL, IT’S BECAUSE THE DEMS ARE TOO WOKE NOW, TOO PROGRESSIVE, THEY NEED TO BE MORE CENTRIST, except hear me now that this is the worst thing you can do. You can only go more progressive. You cannot go the other way, because then you’re just GOP-adjacent, and if someone wants to vote GOP, they’ll vote GOP, not someone gussied up like the GOP. We want bold action that brings us in line with the rest of the first-world nations. Here, our “progressive” is their centrism. We’re way behind. Democrats just need to do work better messaging. All the progressive policies are designed to be popular. They are popular when you actually explain them. People want jobs and child-care and not to be buried by health care debt and student loans. Help people, and then say, “Here, look, we helped you.” Oliver Willis on Twitter talks about how we need that Trumpy bluster, and he’s not wrong. As he notes, can you imagine a Democrat using Trump rhetorical tactics except they actually have truth and justice on their side?

Do good things, offer good things, say they’re good, and own them. Dems always feel like they have this not in the face, not in the face factor, like they’re ashamed of wanting to enact all these programs and policies. It’s weak and they really have a huge branding and messaging problem and uggh gods, this is boring, let’s talk about something else now.

Process Talk

For writers, I think it’s important to note: your process can change. I feel like a lot of writing advice, even from me, sometimes acts like your writing process is a thing carved in bedrock, a signpost on a mountain that will forever point the way, but it is vital to be aware that your process is a series of teleporting bullseyes. For a very long time I identified myself as a ‘pantser by heart, a plotter by necessity,’ meaning outlining was a vital part of my process. But I didn’t outline Wanderers, and I haven’t outlined since. That’s not a decision that has a value to it — it’s not good that I changed, and it’s not bad. I think we can get caught up in making moral judgments about writing processes, ours and others (which is pretty inane), often based on, “Well, if I do it, and it’s successful, then it is the correct way.” (Survivorship bias is a helluva drug.)

For me, I think it’s just important to note that you’re allowed to change, and often, different books demand different things. And we are different writers at different periods of our lives. And the world around us affects who we are as writers, too. The pandemic stopped me from writing much early on, but then also began to change how I interface with my writing, why I do it, what kinds of stories I want to tell. I don’t think that’s strange, really — you plonk a big-ass boulder in the middle of a river, the river waters will change direction, they’ll push up the shores, they might even form a new tributary. Life changes with age, experience, existence. It’s not odd that your writing process changes, too. I feel like a different writer when I finish a book, and then when I start a new book, I feel again like a whole new writer — both in the sense of being refreshed and also, uhh, well, completely unsure what the fuck I’m even doing. And I’ve taken that to be normal.

Either way, remember the cardinal rule:

Writing advice is bullshit.

But bullshit fertilizes.

My Nanowrimo Pep Talk 2021

Ooh, I sometimes do one of those and I haven’t this year. Do you want one? Are they helpful? Well you were too slow to answer because HERE GOES:

Go wild. Throw yourself into the work like a rabid chimp against a sliding glass door. Run pantsess through Wal-Mart. Any of the safety mechanisms and limitations you might usually place on your work, smash ’em with the heel of a boot and see what happens. Like, if we are to view this month as an opportunity to not fall into the trap of but what does the market want, what are the trends, what will an audience think, and we further view it as a chance to use our writing as an explosive testing chamber, then you can do anything you want. It’s a sandbox on fire. A heart gushing aerated blood. The empty page is a chance to write the most wonderful thing, or the most fucked up thing, or the most wonderfully fucked up fucked-upedly wonderful thing. Like, sometimes, it’s good to stop and look at that blank page and realize fully, I can do whatever the hell I want here. Really. Anything. And I think looking around us, seeing the pandemic, seeing the world changing, seeing the chaos, maybe that’s a sign to embrace this outlook, even if only for this month. We are not guaranteed more time or more chances, but you have this time, you have this opportunity, so why not materialize every want and fear and idea and anxiety you have roiling around your skull? Bring the monsters out to play. See what happens. Throw all the fucks out of the fuck basket, and the fuck basket is now a boat, and you’re going over the waterfall. See you on the other side. Try not to die!

The Birdsite Is Bad, Actually

Read this from Fonda Lee: Twitter is the Worst Reader.

It is very, very good.

I’ve seen Fonda get put at the bottom of some of Twitter’s harassment funnels for some pretty innocuous stuff (as she points out), and having been someone who’s been there himself, well. Yeah. I used to love Twitter a whole lot, and it has done me a world of good. It’s also, obviously, done me the opposite, and sometimes it’s just corrosive, having to deal with like, people literally talking about killing you because they think you insulted J.R.R. Tolkien when really all you said was, you didn’t finish the book. (And honestly, to think that Tolkien somehow needs defenders is already quite puzzling. First, he’s dead. Second, I think he’s doing okay in the cultural importance realm, okay? Nobody’s demanding that we tear down his statues. He’s a treasure, it’s all good.) Other times, you get a right-wing bot-army to get you blacklisted from writing Star Wars, ahem.

I am wont to say that Twitter started out as a watercooler around which to gather, then without warning it became a stage where everyone is performer and no one is audience. Then, it shifted again, and now it’s a fight club. And you have to fight. Some of that fight is just and righteous, but not always, and that’s the problem. It becomes very hard to tell when what you’re seeing there or even participating in is justice, or performative justice, or disinformation, or simply, someone else’s revenge. It gets rather muddy, and mis/disinformation takes off at a rather aggressive gallop. And nobody has time to fact check, and even when they do, the fact checks lay discarded on the ground while the air above is filled with the rabid bats. Twitter has become a live-action, 24/7 scroll of people’s collective thoughts, and we’re all plugged into it, and that’s pretty fucked. You get any attention over there and next thing you know, it’s all sewer clowns and biting flies. I’m already using it a lot less than I used to, and I anticipate that trend will continue into the new year.

Next, I’ll hop to Tik-Tok, where I will embarrass myself doing various out-of-trend dances while trying to awkwardly hawk my books. It’ll be great. My journey to CRINGE LORD will be complete. I will be the Colin Robinson of Tik-Tok, just psychically draining you all of your will to live.

BUY MY BOOKS, HUSKS. MY AWKWARD GALLUMPHING DANCE IS TOO PAINFULLY ALLURING TO IGNORE.

Anyway. Read Fonda’s post. It’s right on.

Media In My Brain

Reading: Alex Segura’s Secret Identity, which is damn fine reading. Comic book noir about the comic book industry. Yes, please. Did I mention I finished Kiersten White’s Hide? Goddamn that was good. It’s a horror-fed American fable, a thrilling rendition of the nightmare of the prosperity gospel set in a ruined amusement park. Really good.

Watching: Nothing too exciting right now? Bob’s Burgers and Archer because apparently I needed my H. Jon Benjamin fix. Oh we saw Nightbooks too, if you need a good family-friendly scare-fest. Today, gonna carve out time to watch The Harder They Fall. Oh! You know what we liked? Cruella. I thought it was going to be awful and unnecessary but… it was really, really well-made? I wanted to hate it a whole lot but came away totally in love with it. Still not sure how they move forward with that character since in the cartoon she’s a puppy-murdering psychopath, sooooo. OH and duh I mentioned Colin Robinson — as always, What We Do In The Shadows is fucking sublime.

Playing: Sorry, still Mass Effect 3: Legendary. Almost through it.

How about you? What have you been digging lately? RECOMMEND.

Where’s Waldig

The Wall Street Journal reviewed The Book of Accidents:

‘Mr. Wendig has created a setting that matches up to H.P. Lovecraft’s Arkham and the back-country woods of New England. Instead of a mythology, he supplies constant domestic tension. Husband and wife, father and son, boss and rookie, strain whipped up by fear and doubt, magic looking for a weakness to exploit. After a hundred pages you feel like shouting at the characters: “Just run away and never mind the house!” But can you run from your own past? “The Book of Accidents” is a new classic in the haunted house genre, and it’s not just the house that’s haunted.’

(It’s always weird when anyone calls me “Mr. Wendig.” Like, what?)

Hey, I was on TV! Philly Live! Talkin’ books! And stuff!

Dust & Grim got a starred review from Shelf Awareness:

Dust and Grim, the middle-grade debut from Chuck Wendig (The Hunt), is a spooky, heartfelt, darkly funny adventure. Wendig’s renderings of various fantastical beings are vivid and unexpected, as are Jensine Eckwall’s spot illustrations. The monsters Molly assumes will be terrifying–such as Dave the Vampire–turn out to be harmless and very funny. Instead, the danger often comes from creatures of which Molly has never heard. The importance of relationships, regardless of blood relation, runs deep and gives an endearing core to this perfect Halloween read’

Oh also, Fangoria posted an excerpt of Dust & Grim right here.

Finally, I get to chat with the two-in-one author of James S.A. Corey regarding their final Expanse novel, and I’ll be talking to them (virtually) at the Brookline Booksmith on 12/2!

And Now, Photos

As always, we end with oooh pretty pictures.