Apple-Obsessed Author Fella

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Chuck Under Microscope

Transmissions From Toddlertown: The First Year

I keep trying to find poetry in this. I’m looking for words. Big words. Small words. Any words. I keep wondering what I’ll say — maybe I’ll say something about the unit of time known as a year in which it feels like not much changes. Some new television shows, some crow’s feet digging into the skin around your eye, maybe a pay bump eroded by new bills. But then you have a baby and time takes on new meaning: it collapses in on itself and big things happen in small spaces while at the same time the whole thing blows out like elastic in old underpants, time an exploding star, a year passing in blink-and-you-missed it eruption.

Maybe I’ll say something about babies and new parents. Maybe something about change. Or chaos. Or life and love and madness. Maybe poop and pee, since those are certainly themes. Can I find poetry in a smooshy diaper? (It’s best not to ask, because you can be sure I’ll try.)

I don’t know what to say.

I try to get my head around this last year and I come up empty. Not of feelings or emotions. I’m giddy! And tired. And utterly in awe. And confused. And did I mention tired? No, the emotions are all firmly in place; they have their orders and they’re sticking around. What’s missing is a sense of perspective, of any kind of clean orderly thinking — I don’t have any great revelations or insights, I don’t have a thesis or theme on which to hang my hat. When I try to think, what would I say about this past year? I’m mostly left, mouth agape, lips working soundlessly, a slight breathy squeak emerging as my only answer.

What I do have is:

A one-year-old little boy.

A beautiful, smart, dangerous, insane, giggly, smiley, assertive little boy.

*blink blink*

Holy shit, it’s been a year.

Things move fast but feel like they’re slow.

Or maybe, things move slow but feel like they’re fast.

I still remember that night in the hospital. Baby boy screaming. Saturday Night Live muted on the television in what was to be the first of many sleepless nights. My wife pacing with the tiny human, me standing on guard, bleary-eyed and feeling useless. Eventually the nurse coming in and us asking her, “Is he sick? Angry? Did we already do something to upset him? Does he need a hug? A car? Is there a widget out of place that, were we to adjust it slightly, it would allow him to stop crying and go to bed? I think he’s broken? Did we break him or… is there a warranty department we can call?” The nurse taught us a new term — cluster feeder — and said it was all fine, no problem, no worries. And oh, good luck.

That night seems like yesterday. And it also feels like ten years ago.

It feels like yesterday that we brought him home. That he learned to smile. That he said his first “goo” and rolled over and climbed onto the couch and climbed to the top of the couch and climbed out of his crib and went from crawling to standing to walking two steps — then four — then eight — then one day decided that crawling was for suckers and walking was what all the cool babies did.

That was two months ago that he started to walk.

And it feels like yesterday. And it feels like two years ago. And it feels like a dinosaur’s epoch.

Time stretches like taffy. Collapses like a house of cards.

It was the hardest year of my life.

And the weirdest.

And the most wonderful.

All in equal measure, not warring for dominance moment by moment but somehow sharing the space of each moment — emotions normally left to act as enemies suddenly getting all chummy with one another. Arm in arm. Hand in hand. Traipsing along, la-la-la.

It’s the lack of sleep, in part. You start slashing those restful hours — a pair of scissors cutting ribbons from a piece of paper until you’re left with half of what you started with — and your normally sunny outlook turns into a piano string pulled tighter and tighter until all it does is scream and threaten to snap. It’d be one thing if you lost sleep but then got to, y’know, relax. Watch some television. Read a book. But you lose sleep and you’re expected to endure the irrational screams of a very small person, and you have to feed him and try to somehow wrestle him into a nap. Babies need love and attention and at the very early ages don’t seem all that interested in giving it back. They take, take, take, and you give, give, give, and you hit these points where it’s like, “We can just put him out in a box by the curb, right? We’ll write on the side FREE LAWNMOWER PARTS and someone will snatch it up.” Or you think, “At midnight, I’m going to quietly pack up some toiletries and underwear and I’m just going to start walking until I hit the coast.”

As parents you fight and yell and his yells jack up your yells and you wonder:

What the hell were we thinking?

And just what the hell were we thinking? We waited to have a baby until things made sense, until it was the “right time” to do so. We lined up all our ducks in perfect quacking rows, arranging our life in impeccable order. Which is a lot like setting the perfect dinner table for a guest who is a coked-up chimpanzee with a loaded handgun. It’s like building a wonderful house in the path of a tornado.

“What were we thinking? Did we make a terrible mistake? What keeps us keeping on?” — and then the tiny human reminds you why. He smiles or laughs or does something so cute you wish that he and a baby seal and a trio of puppies had a television show where they travel around the country just being totally adorable, and then your mind unfolds an infinity of good thoughts for his future — his first taste of ice cream, his first day of kindergarten, his first Prom — and once more time goes all wibbly-wobbly and the weird and wonderful parts sandbag the difficult ones and you are again reminded why you do this thing you do.

They change month to month. Week to week. Moment to moment.

That first year is a year of transitions.

Talking to not talking. Laying to rolling to crawling to walking to oh shit he’s running (and sweet mercy can this kid run — often into the hardest object into the room). Liquids to liquidy-solids to solids to sharp teeth to holy-crap-I-think-he-just-gnawed-the-cabinet. He hates books and thinks they’re food or objects for throwing until the day comes when he starts bringing you books, one after the other, for him to read. He crawls in your lap and stares at you expectantly and may the gods help you if you don’t start reading double-quick because by gosh and by golly, baby wants a story.

So many transitions.

One day he can’t see you, then one day he can. Babies move from this internal locus of solipsism (I am the only thing in this universe) to realizing that more exists beyond the borders of their eyes and fingertips (I am just one part of this place and OOOOH PUPPY).

Every day a new experience.

Today he got a balloon. Yesterday he had some pizza. Soon he’ll have cake and, c’mon, cake. He walks. He runs. He jumps. He dances. He knows where his ear is, where my nose is. He says “Mom, Dad, dog, door, yes, turtle, book.” Not all at once of course, for that is the cheat code that destroys the universe.

It’s an endless series of firsts, one tumbling after the next.

But the biggest transition is from take-take-take to give-give-give.

He gives. He tries to make us laugh. He gives kisses. He gives hugs.

When he sees you, he squeals and runs toward you to grab your legs and squeeze them tight.

He takes love. But now he gives it, too.

It melts even my crunchy dry ice heart, it does.

You play this game with yourself, and this game is not the “fun” kind of game so much as it is the kind of game where you see if you can beat yourself about the head and neck with a club made of delusion.

The game is this:

You say, “It’ll get easier when _________.” And you fill in the blank with some foolish dipshit milestone, some magical pivot point where things are supposed to turn suddenly and get easier. You say, ahh, soon as he starts eating solid food? Easier. Soon as he can walk? Easier. Soon as he can entertain himself? Easier.

Ah, self-deception. Sure, he eats solid food, but then he learns to splurt it into your hair. Sure, he starts to walk, but then he learns to run into hard objects. (The other day, he literally stopped in the middle of the hallway, paused, turned his body toward the wall, and ran straight into it. Then cried for five minutes.) Sure, he can entertain himself now, and one of the things that entertains him is opening drawers and accidentally slamming his fingers in them. Or trying to touch the dog’s tail which often means miscalculating and reaching for the dog’s butthole. Or trying to eat pieces of mulch he finds on the floor.

As one thing gets easier, another thing gets harder. It’s like leveling up in a video game — you hit your level, ding! — and you get new powers and new toys but at the same time you have to fight a harder class of creatures and it’s not easier or harder so much as it is different. Which, at the least, keeps things interesting.

Oh, I’m not kidding when I say he’s active.

Some babies are lump babies.

Some are not content with such lumpishness.

We sometimes wish we had a lump, but it was not to be.

When only his head had popped out of the womb he was already looking around, bright eyed and curious. Probably wondering what he could grab and break. A trend that continued. You think babyproofing works? Good luck with that. This kid rips those babyproof plug covers right out of the wall. We can’t get them out with our adult gorilla fingers, but this little ninja flings them away like they’re nothing at all.

Here’s the secret, though.

After that first year, things do get easier. That’s the milestone that matters. That’s when the game is played and the game is won — if only for a short time, at least. Because by the time the tot is a year, things start to make more sense. Everybody’s getting more sleep. Routines are fairly well dug in. He’s more fun. More talkative. He appreciates things — like, actually seems to appreciate them.

Maybe it’s not that they get easier. Maybe it’s just that they make more sense. Maybe it’s that you come out of the storm and find peace even though your life has been tossed ass-over-shoulders by the human hurricane and tottering tornado known as a “baby. ” The dark clouds have passed and you can comfortably start to rearrange the pieces without worrying about getting smooshed by a flying bovine.

I know it’s temporary. I know as we level up with each year he’ll gain new tricks just as we gain new tricks and sometimes the battles will get easier and sometimes they’ll get harder. I am assured, in fact, that when he one day becomes a teenager we will find ourselves living with some grumpy emo hell-beast who will revert once more to the take-take-take of his infant predecessor. But that’s okay. We have time.

Hardest, weirdest, and most wonderful year.

Time blows up, blows out, implodes, goes sideways.

From order to chaos and back to order. At least, a little bit of order.

From taker to giver, from loved to giving love.

It’s been an awesome year in the truest sense of the word. Just as he’s different than from when he emerged into this world, I’m different from when he emerged. I’m more confident and driven and happier and, well, a lot more tired (and I probably get twice the sleep that my wife gets). Everything has changed and it has changed for the better. As Jonathan Coulton sings, “You ruined everything — in the nicest way.”

Happy birthday, Baby B-Dub.

I love you, your mother loves you.

You’re the best thing that ever happened to us. I am happier every day because of you.

Now please stop trying to touch the dog’s butthole.

Blackbirds: In Which I Beg, Plead, Wheedle, Cajole

My little book-baby, Blackbirds, is born tomorrow.

And I’m traveling — so, while I’m doing some pimping on the ground, I don’t know how much online pimpage I’ll be doing. And so I look to you fine feathered humans. And sentient spam-bots.

I am not above begging you people to do a little pimpage for me.

If you would be kind on the morrow to spread the word about the book? I would offer you endless gratitude. And a cupcake or a shot of something liquor-based if ever we meet. And a ride on a unicorn. Okay, there’s no unicorn, there’s just me in a white sheet with a cardboard paper towel tube duct-taped to my head, but as is said in the novel: “It is what it is.”

The book features everything you could ever want. Death! Sex! Profanity! Blood! Nightmares! Love triangle! Snark! Doom! Fate! Free will! Violence! Psychic powers! So much fun! Eeeeee!


Please tell a friend. Or many friends. Or a parent, child, stuffed bear, or imaginary foe.

My secret hope is that the book rockets up the charts like a mercury bullet popping out the top of a glass thermometer, but that’s not in my hands. I just hope you’ll help me spread the word is all.

And, in case my earnest plea is doing nothing for you…

First, it was my birthday yesterday. So. Y’know. *nudge nudge*

Second, I have a tiny human who needs food and clothing. I mean, jeez, just look at the poor kid:

Third, and finally, if you don’t buy the book and spread the word, I’ll weaponize herpes and give it to all of you. And I’ll use an enormous flock of blackbirds to deliver the disease. Because I’m a showman.

So, to review:

a) Earnest plea.

b) Birthday wishes!

c) Sad baby falling down.


Thanks for helping spread the word.

BLACKBIRDS. April 24th.


Bait Dog: Second Book Unlocked!

And we did it!

We unlocked not just one but two new Atlanta Burns novels.

Which geeks me out to no end.

Now I will pause to do a happy dance. And fire my shotgun up in the air.

But — but! — we’ve still got six whole hours left.

If we get to $9000 by the close of the Kickstarter, that will unlock a third Atlanta Burns novel.

Holy crap.

Can we do it? I don’t know. The power of the Internet is glorious and weird.

I will add here that anybody who pledged at the $25 rate and higher gets an e-book copy of each unlocked novel (in the e-book format of your choice). So, if we unlock three novels, at the $25 and up level you get three novels. The more novels unlocked, the greater value the pledge brings.

Thanks all who supported it and spread the word.

Let’s see where we land with this thing, yeah? Eeee!

Oooh! Me! Me! Call On Me!

Another “Where’s Wendig?” update comin’ atchoo.

• I spoke with Kelly Carlin (daughter of, yes, the nation’s greatest comedian) at her Smodcast show, Waking From The American Dream. I talk about writing and Blackbirds and hallucinogens and vaginas and all kinds of crazy stuff. Give a listen here.

• Looks like I’ll be rocking a Blackbirds launch party on April 24th (Tues) at 7:30pm at Mysterious Galaxy in Redondo Beach (Los Angeles). Where my LA peeps at? Who’s out on the West Coast? Hope you’ll swing by! I’ll be in the City of Angels for just shy of a week, I think.

• I talk a bit about how having a kid changes a writer’s life in unexpected ways over at The Qwillery. Go there, and leave a comment — you then get a chance at winning a paperback copy of Blackbirds!

• “Chuck Wendig has a reputation for being insightful, foul mouthed and as American as long dusty roads, apple pie and presidential assassinations, so it comes as no surprise that his latest novel Blackbirds is clever, vile and firmly set in the heartlands of the USA.” Blackbirds nets an 8/10 at Starburst Magazine!

• “…in the coming months you’ll be seeing a lot of what I’d like to call ‘sandpaper reviews’ of this book. There will be a metric ton of words like gritty, abrasive, rough, harsh, and edgy. Yes, this book would make a sailor blush. Yes, horrible, terrible, awful, no good, very bad stuff happens to almost everyone. And yes, you’ll be a little shocked if you’re like seventeen year old me. But honestly, by the time I was twenty pages into this book I wouldn’t have put it down for $50. By the time I was 80% of the way through, I wouldn’t have taken $250. Understand, I’m not a rich man, and $250 would do a lot for me. But I HAD to know what would happen to Miriam.” My Awful Reviews gives a glowing high-five to Blackbirds! *happy dance*

• “Reading Blackbirds feels a little like you’re riding a rollercoaster; after tipping over that first crest you’re pulled forward with a momentum that is paralyzing and a force that is unstoppable.” Fantasy Fiction gives the book five stars! *spins around violently until throwing up with sheer dizzying joy*

• “Read this book. Trust me. Blackbirds takes you for a late night cruise down a dark and twisted road without the benefit of headlights. Something bad is just around the bend. You can feel it coming and there’s not a damned thing you can do to stop it.” Woo! Another rave review, this one from Sean Cummings (Poltergeeks). *guzzles whiskey and punches a stuffed pheasant*

I chat with Mighty Matt Forbeck over at his website: we talk Kickstarter and Angry Robot and all kinds of good stuff. He’s a great writer in his own right (do read Carpathia).

• Speaking of Kickstarter! Bait Dog‘s Kickstarter event has only a week left! And we are (at the time of this blog writing) at $4730, which means we are a) completely funded for the first novel and b) underfunded by $1270 to unlock the next novel. Spread the word! If you’ve pledged: thank you! If you’ve shared this with others: thank you! If you gave me a cookie: thank you!

• And Smallsmall Thing, a documentary about the tribulations of a young Liberian girl (on which I did some script work) — has crossed the halfway mark at Kickstarter! Very excited to see this come to light.

• Finally: OH HELLO DINOCALYSPE NOW COVER. *strokes you lovingly*

Wuzza Wooza Wendig?

So, first things first, I have to show you that. “That” being that image up there. That’s right, cats and kittens — another jaw-dropping eyeball-popping Joey Hi-Fi cover for yours truly. This time, for the next in the Miriam Black series, Mockingbird. (Cool interview with “Mister Hi-Fi” right over here.)

I’m the luckiest book boy in the world.

What else is going on?

Well. Lessee.

• The Bait Dog Kickstarter has 20 days left and we have crossed over the $4500 threshold. Which is crazy delicious. But, as yet, we have not yet crossed over into the “second book a-coming” bracket, which is set at a $6000 milestone. So, if you want to make me write another Atlanta Burns novel beyond Bait Dog, well, you know what to do.

Shotgun Gravy (the novella that comes before Bait Dog) has been picking up a ton of very loving reviews lately. Producer Paul says, “I continue to be more and more impressed with author Chuck Wendig, and Shotgun Gravy is no exception.” Josh Loomis says, “It’s a tense read, crackling with nervous energy and dread anticipation of what will happen next.” Jess says, “[Atlanta Burns is] human, vulnerable and yet ballsy in a way most people just wish they were.” Oh, and finally, 58 smashing reviews hanging out at the novella’s Amazon page.

• Another Kickstarter is doing well, and it’s also one to which I contributed — Smallsmall Thing is a documentary about the rape of a little Liberian girl and what that means for her family, her community and her country. I did some script work on it, and it’s a very powerful story. It’s already over 33% — worth taking a peek (click here).

Blackbirds rocks another very kind review — “This is a relatively small price to pay though when you’ve got Wendig throwing you into any number of violent and chilling encounters with what is becoming his typical abrasive attitude. The guy has only written two books and already I can’t get enough. If you’re after some urban fantasy that is by no means typical then ‘Blackbirds’ is probably already on your wish list. For everyone else, give it a go anyway and have your mind blown. Wendig takes you on a journey, down the forgotten highways of America, that you won’t soon forget.” From the review at Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review!

• Oh! Another great Blackbirds review (at the World Writ Small) says: “Probably the best thing about this book is that it never leaves you time to feel sorry or second guess any of the characters. They are so clearly drawn that everything about them feels realistic, and hate them or not, you know they’re just going to keep on keeping on. The worst thing about this book is that it ends.”

• Dang, the hits just keep coming! From Dead End Follies: “There are many plot twists to Blackbirds that will make you stand up and yell ‘OH MY FUCKING GOOOOOOD. NO WAY’ but they are strategically placed in the story, so you never know when you’ll be slapped across the face. Keeps a reader tense, believe me. All in all, it’s a crazy story I could very well see on film in the new few years.”

• A very kind review of Double Dead by writer pal Eddy Webb, where he refers to me as a “subtle storyteller.” And then, surprisingly, does not admit to having just eaten a faceful of acid.

• Holy crap! Bad Blood cover! (Sequel to Double Dead, in case you didn’t realize.)

• Holy crap! I just saw the Dinocalypse Now cover! But you can’t see it! Yet! Soon! I’m sure! Exclamation point!

• Some of my #fakeoscars tweets were agglomerated at the Washington Post culture blog.

• Am in the process of unfucking my own YA cornpunk novel, Popcorn.

• Our son took his first step — like, he was holding onto the couch, he pivoted, took a full step on his own, and then tumbled into his mother’s arms. It’s not walking, not yet, but I think we’re getting closer now. He’s nine months old and he’s been standing up like crazy (15 second record!). And he also built an F-14 out of our couch and flew it to the moon where he established a lunar colony for lost puppies. Okay, maybe not so much that last part.

• Finally, the good news is, terribleminds is getting to be very popular. The bad news is, that popularity costs. My web fees have gone up again in response to “increased compute cycles,” which is I guess the same as saying, “The robots are having to work harder to manage the strain your blog is causing on the rest of the robot universe.” Or something. May need a new host soon, or may really need to start considering new ways to fund this site.

What’s The Poop, Wendig?

Some very quick news-scented bits:

• The Bait Dog Kickstarter went live yesterday around 1pm, and by 10:30 or so, the book was at 100% funding. So, Atlanta Burns will officially get her standalone novel where she goes toe-to-toe with a dog-fighting ring and a town-wide conspiracy built on the backs of bigotry. Thank you, awesome humans, for helping make that happen.

• That said, we’ve still got, ohhh, 30 days left on the clock. Which means it’s time to talk about going the extra mile in terms of “unlocked rewards.” Here’s how it works: for every additional $3000, I will write a new Atlanta Burns novel. Anyone who has pledged at the $25 level or higher will receive every Atlanta Burns novel (in the e-book format of your choosing) that is unlocked during this Kickstarter drive. I don’t know how long it’ll take me to write each novel, but I’m going to loosely give each a three-to-six month window (I’ve got a few already outlined, so I’ve got a jump on new Atlanta tales). So, if you continue to pledge, not only will you earn the rewards of your pledge tier but you’re also contributing toward more Atlanta Burns books.

• Yes, this means I’ve effectively committed to writing infinite novels.

• Yes, this probably means I’m crazy. But fuck it, I’m in it to win it. Go big or go home. Pedal to the metal! Rubber meets the road! I’m here to kick ass and chew bubble gum because bubble gum is delicious and I enjoy violence! And other pithy statements of triumph and encouragement.

• In case you don’t know why you might want an Atlanta Burns novel, you can find the novella, Shotgun Gravy, free for a short time over at Amazon.

• Hey, hot damn, Blackbirds earned a short-but-sweet review at Publishers Weekly.

• Oh, and here’s a Blackbirds review that calls the book “brash and brilliant.” It goes onto say: “Blackbirds is one of those books that lingers with you a bit– in a good way. Wendig has such a bold style that the emotional payoff is as big as the characters. It’s the kind of book that has the potential to put Wendig on the map as a ‘must-read’ author– I know he’s made my list. Highly recommended.” That’s a squee-worthy review if ever there was one.