Blackbirds – Chuck Wendig

Blackbirds (Miriam Black, #1)Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve been a huge fan of Chuck’s blog for many years, but this is the first book of his that I’ve read.

It’s stunning.

It grabs you by the throat from the very start, and refuses to let go. The writing is gritty, dark and visceral – wonderfully-realised, deeply interesting and complex characters doing all manner of things to each other.

Miriam Black is a great protagonist, and I love the way we get flashbacks interspersed with the main narrative. And what a story – Miriam’s special talent is to be able to see how you die – all it takes is a touch of skin on skin. So we know where the story is headed right from the start, and the players of the game are all inexorably being drawn to that point in time. Can they get off the ride? Do they *want* to?

It’s not a book for everyone. If you’ve not come across Chuck’s writing before, be warned that it’s not PG-friendly. Language and imagery is used and bruised, and is not for the faint-hearted.

But, if you’re up for the ride, strap yourself in. Fantastic stuff.

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To write, or not to write

On "Aspiring" Writers...
On “Aspiring” Writers… by curious_spider on Flickr, aka Chuck Wendig

Sage words (as ever) from Chuck. If you’re even remotely interested in writing, get yourself over to his blog, sign up for his emails and buy his books.

I’ll wait.

Right. I’m done waiting. Onwards.

I’ve got ‘writer’ down in my bio on most places around the internet but I usually feel slightly fraudulent in putting it there.

Then again, I *do* write. I write this, for example. I also do a mean line in email.

I’ve written a couple of short stories which have been published[1] and well over thirty thousand words featuring Monty, arch gentleman thief. Some of which ends up on here. I’ve ‘won’ NaNoWriMo, though the sheer effort of churning out 50 thousand words in 30 days left my writing mojo quivering in a dessicated heap, sobbing quietly to itself.

I learned some lessons in the process, but I’m not sure I’ve entirely recovered from the experience.

It’s just that it never feels like *proper* writing. My friend Rachel over at Courtyard Lullaby summed up it up in a recent blog post:

Whenever I read a great novel like Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman or A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin, the sheer gravitas to these books makes me want to shrink away and hide like the amateur I am.

Which captures exactly how I feel about my writing.

I’ve read a ton of brilliant books this year – Nick Harkaway‘s stunningly brilliant Angelmaker is just one example. I marvelled at the sheer scale and inventiveness of the ideas, and the beauty of the prose. There were sentences and paragraphs in there which I stopped and read and re-read several times just so I could savour them.

Then I looked back at the stuff I’ve written, and it’s just a pale shadow, wilting in comparison.

OK, I know it’s probably an unfair comparison, and I strongly suspect (nay, hope) that Angelmaker didn’t leap fully-formed from Nick’s head onto the page. His first draft probably sucked.

Then I saw Chuck’s post this morning and was struck by the statement.  Yoda summed it up neatly too.

Do, or do not.

I write, therefore I am.

Look out world.

Writer on the loose.

[1] though I suspect that I’m one of the few people with actual physical copies of the publications in question. One was a very trendy artsy heavy-on-the-style magazine, full of beautiful people doing beautiful things, mostly wearing sunglasses indoors. One of *those* types of magazine.