Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

Blackbirds

Posted: July 3, 2012 in Reading
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Lately, most of the books I’ve been reading have come from recommendations that other authors I like are also reading. Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig has come highly praised from a whole lot of corners of the internet. Wendig himself is one of this batch of authors I’ve been finding lately on ye olde internets that are selling me as people first, getting me interested in the stories they have to tell long before I hold ink and paper in hand. So in addition to being one of the more interesting people I follow on twitter, his writing is a swear filled festival of awesome.

What time is it? It’s 943. So what?? I type slow and had to feed the infant. But it’s also Back of the Book Time!

Miriam Black knows when you will die.

Still in her early twenties, she’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, suicides, and slow deaths by cancer. But when Miriam hitches a ride with truck driver Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days he will be gruesomely murdered while he calls her name.

Miriam has given up trying to save people – that only makes their deaths happen. No matter what she does, she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.

Oh my that sounds like the sort of thing that will mess a person up and holy crap Miriam is messed up. But by no means take that as a knock against the readability of Blackbirds. I don’t think I’ve ever read a protagonist as emotionally broken as Miriam. We don’t just get this emotional fragility first hand, it’s shoved into our faces, uncomfortably close, bleeding and slobbering all over your shirt while saying “eat a dick.”

This in-your-face fragility is oddly endearing. You just want to give Miriam a hug even though she’s swearing like a sailor. Actually out-swearing a sailor. I actually work in a shipyard, a sausage fest of crusty old men, and Miriam could put all of us to shame on our best swearing day. I never felt it was shock value though. Or more accurately, I never felt it was Wendig’s shock value. Miriam wants to shock people as a barrier to keep them at arms reach. Swearing as characterization, not gratuity.

There really is a lot to like about Blackbirds though. The book is mostly Miriam’s point of view, part of the whole in-your-face thing I mentioned above. Wendig weaves in these interludes which provide a bit of a break from the plot with some backstory. There’s a guy named Paul who interviews Miriam. I get the strange sense that he’s the author cameo. The interlude between 32 and 33 is actually one of the funniest chapters in the book. It really shouldn’t be because it’s actually gruesome, but in such a matter of fact tone, it becomes absurdest.

And that’s one of the talents Wendig’s got going here which I didn’t consciously think of until now. He’s taking the gruesome, the brutal, the sleightly horrible, and turning these things upside down. The tone and storytelling wordsmithing makes you ok with hacksawed legs and a fishknife in the brain. I feel like the whole novel is like the most beautiful train wreck you’ve ever seen, moving ever so slowly and getting ever so better looking the throughout.

So waxed prophetically about Miriam’s teetering state of being a lot. But what about the plot? What in the hell is she actually doing this whole time? There’s a philosophical battle with Fate going on. That’s capital F Fate. It’s not Incarnations of Immortality with a physical person acting as Fate, but it’s a very specific force at play here. It has it’s own rule set, even if we don’t quite get to see all of the rules in play. There’s a couple layers to all that’s going on and we get them pulled back slowly.

I feel like I’m shortchanging this book with this abbreviated amount of musing. But there is a very blurry line between talking about this and giving away too much. This book is too awesome to risk giving anything away as spoilers. After all this I’m still left with questions regarding Miriam. I can’t tell you what they all are, but it’s an appropriate amount of questions. I walked away from Blackbirds supremely satisfied. Angry Robot isn’t putting out the sequel, Mockingbird, until August so at least we’ve not long to wait to find out all these answers.

So as much as I have been hamstrung by my aversion to spoilers, all the praise this book has been getting is 143% justified.

As a related tangent, the cover is a work of art. Joey HiFi, out of South Africa who has also done covers for other Angry Robot authors, has set me out on a quest to find a frame to put my book in. It’s the most gorgeous cover I’ve seen in years.

Carpet noodle. Always carpet noodle. It makes sense now.

About Shultz

Posted: May 23, 2012 in Writing
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This is the first short story I’m throwing out to the world on this. Why? Well ’cause it’s the right time to do it and it’s a homeless story that I really like. About Shultz is the product of the 2011 Ocean State Summer Writer’s Conference. The exact exercise involved writing specifics about a character on a note card and passing it around the room, so everyone ended up with a card holding seven or eight different people’s answers.  Although not a genre specific writing conference, I managed to fit it in anyways. Hope everyone enjoys.

——–

Marcus trailed his frail fingers across the dirty chair haphazardly stacked with the other barn-fresh antiques in the shop’s back room. Memories of his childhood kitchen flooded his thoughts with the lines in the dust. The strong rays of a fading day came through the windows and made the dust sparkle. He envisioned the chair in the kitchen of the house his granddaughter just bought, tucked stately at the head of the table. He wanted it to share with his family, but also provide them with a physical link to a history he wouldn’t be able to share with them much longer. Marcus turned away from the other forgotten antiques. He could see a tremble in his hands and feel an ache in his bones. His aged body did not have enough time left on earth to save them all. Outside the Bull and Rabbit Antique Shop, the old kitchen chair soon saw the fresh air anew from the back of Marcus’ pickup truck.

#

Marcus rolled his weathered truck up next to his granddaughter’s polished foreign car. With pride, he carried the gleaming kitchen chair into Suzie’s home.

“Oh… um. It’s wonderful. It really is.” Suzie hovered around with a Starbucks while Marcus stood with a lean in the doorway, arms crossed, one foot kicked back resting on its toes.

Marcus came out of his lean calling out to his great-grandson, ignoring Suzie’s brush off. “Where’s Conner? I want to show him the chair.”

“It’s just a chair. It doesn’t matter now. It doesn’t even match any—“

“Of course it matters,” he pleaded. “It’s part of who he is.”

“A chair? Really? Look we have to go. Some other time.” Suzie shuffled her teenaged son out to her car. Conner looked back to Grandpa Marcus.

“Please…” Marcus reached out to her. His spirit was so wounded that when his body gave out right there in the driveway, there was no healing him.

#

“Mom, I’m going to be sixteen real—“

“I’m not hearing this.” Suzie waved that day’s Starbucks at her son.

“Grandpa Marcus wants me to drive his—“

A wordless frustration escaped Suzie. Coffee spilled. “My grandfather is dead Conner. He can’t want anything. And you will have a proper car, not a dinosaur he bought when my mother was little. It’s getting scrapped in the morning.”

#

Before morning came, Conner sat in the old truck’s cab. It smelled of oil and sawdust and work, his great-grandpa’s spirit on the cracked vinyl seat next to him. Conner breathed deep and felt love and respect. After a moment, he slammed the dash.

The mirror tilted. Conner saw the antique chair in the bed. Someone had put it back in the truck where it stood proud and proper in the darkened driveway. Conner could see how it fit Grandpa Marcus’ style, could see him relaxing in it. But why did he choose this specific chair and not some other antique? What made this one catch his great-grandfather’s eye? Did it remind him of a restaurant he enjoyed long ago or was it part of a set he always wanted but couldn’t afford when he had a young family? Knowing he could never ask made the death start to hit home.

#

Back in his room, Conner fussed with the chair, getting its position just right behind his desk. He stood back to take it in, leaning on his doorjamb with arms crossed, one foot kicked back on its toes. The air carried a hint of the refinished antique scent around the room. Between notes of a softly played swing album, he thought he heard the shade of Marcus Shultz speak to him.

“Let me tell you the first time I danced to this song…”