Double Dead by Chuck Wendig: review.

Double Dead (Double Dead, #1)Double Dead by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The premise of this book is so cool that after reading it any Fantasy Author will say “Why didn’t I think of that?!” Or maybe it’s just me.

Coburn the Vampire wakes up post apocalypse in a world overrun by zombies. To a hungry Vampire, humans have gone from a fast food level of availability to foraging in the desert in July levels. They are very hard to come by and when he does find them he has to fight the zombies for them. If that isn’t an awesome concept, I don’t know what is.

In order to survive he forges a fragile alliance with a group of people who promise to offer him some of their blood in exchange for his help in fighting the zombies while they try to find a safe place to stay. They, of course, run into a lot of undesirable characters and compromising situations during their journey but Coburn helps them through it all as his humanity slowly overcomes his baser side.

The story is one we’ve all seen before in the post apocalypse spectrum. The world is full of danger; good people turn bad due to circumstance and commit terrible atrocities in the name of survival, but it’s done well and is convincing.

In many ways this book reminded me of Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’ in its harshness, imagination and emotion. I have said this before but I’ll say it again: Chuck Wending is this generation’s Stephen King. He writes with grit and doesn’t spare any punches, only his is a more millennial style. He is more concise in the creation of his universes, but no less rich, and the work never suffers. He just knows that readers today want to get there faster.

I don’t mind that. If I’m being perfectly honest I’ve yet to see anyone reach King’s levels of character development or world building and neither would I want to; King is King and Wendig is Wendig. I make the comparison simply as a way of highlighting his skill level.

Double Dead is part of a series of Coburn the Vampire books so I was left with a few questions about how he came to be and why some characters exhibited certain abilities. I was also slightly irked by the fact that he’s virtually indestructible, but his weaknesses fill that void. In all I would have like a little more background on Coburn but no doubt that’s to come later.

Great crossover of the Zombie and Vampire genres.

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Writing Advice I like to like!

As an author I believe it’s imperative to strive to improve your work. For that reason I like to look at successful authors (or not so successful, but able ones) and see what insights they might have on this multifaceted craft we call writing. I don’t want to say that I’ll try to do reviews of this kind frequently because I’ve discovered that any long term planning is like the kiss of death when it comes to blogging, but I’ll definitely keep my eyes open for good writing advice. When I can, I’ll endeavour to share this research with you.
I couldn’t start a blog post on writing guides without mentioning Stephen King’s “On Writing.” Lets be honest the guy could wipe his arse on a blank piece of paper and I’d want a copy. He can do no wrong in my eyes; I consider him the best living author and would even go as far as saying he’s a literary genius-original I know! It doesn’t take much to figure out that I’m a huge Stephen King fan.

Stephen King: On Writing.
The book isn’t what one would traditionally call a Writer’s guide or manual but a more of a personal look at his life and methods. This book reads very easily and you don’t have to be interested in writing in order to like it, it is entirely aimed at Stephen King fans be they authors or lay persons.
Structure wise, it is separated into two parts with the first half going into some detail about his childhood, his reading, writing and movie going habits as well as his early days as a teacher and his break into publishing. Despite the autobiographical feel, it allows the reader a glimpse into the life of the man and his influences to large degree.
The second half of the book is where it really gets interesting, because that’s where the Authorly “advice” comes in by way of his habits. He doesn’t analyse or advise so much as he breaks his own process down; we are told for example that come rain or shine he has to write a few thousand words every day. There is no talk of waiting for the muse to strike or of other obligations or delays, he just writes. Through mention of his process he mentions problems or stumbling blocks he might have had with projects such as the ending to the “Stand” (if memory serves) or the length of time and research it took him to complete “It,” so this book works best if you’re familiar with his work. There’s also mention of the fact that he writes with music blaring, which I thought was a very cool touch.
The other thing that struck me was that he advises authors to read (well ok duh!) both good but also bad books in order to be able to make the distinction between the two. Personally I’ve often struggled with this because if a book does not interest me I zone out, which is an issue. Also, I believe life’s too short for bad books but all the same, the advice is there, and it’s from Stephen King for chrissakes!

The other guide book I’ve read recently is Chuck Wendig’s “250 Things You Should Know About Writing.”
I hadn’t read any Chuck Wending before this, but I’m totally sold on the guy now. He takes writing advice and makes it a really memorable and fun read through a mixture of metaphors and profanities (I mean who doesn’t love a bit of profanity?). He’s brutally honest about the difficulty of being a writer but is also encouraging about being unconventional and original especially when it comes to self-publishing and eBooks which offer the budding author more flexibility than conventional publishing.
One of his subtler touches was the suggestion that you shouldn’t actually buy said book because everything he says in there can be found for free online; which is true, but I promise you you’ll be missing out on a great little book if you do. It is laugh out loud good, and his drive and enthusiasm are thoroughly contagious. Totally worth it. He’s also published other books in the same vein, and even though he probably doesn’t want me to buy those either, I probably will eventually.

Lastly my third contribution to this post isn’t a book at all but a podcast with only fourteen entries.
When I first discovered this guy I was chuffed because he’s a true writer. He loves and explores the craft even though he’s not well known and as far as I can tell not even published. I tried googling and amazoning him but to no avail. I can find none of his work regrettably.
“So how do you know this guy is any good?” I hear you ask in unison. Technically I don’t, but my gut tells me he is because this blog is masterful in its production and I was very sad to see that it only lasted 14 weeks. You can hear the death rattle signs at about the 11th or 12th recording where he starts to waiver with the regularity of posting, and ironically he says that the irregular offerings are not a sign of the dying podcast, but lo and behold they just stopped coming soon after that. All joking aside though, I was quite saddened by this because it was a really good job and it had potential for greatness. All that said, it does not diminish from the excellent advice already on there nor from the interviews he’s done with some very interesting authors. I hope sincerely that one day he’ll pick up where he left off and give us a glimpse of his writing. Who is this man I speak of? They call him Brad Reed.

On success, dreams, aspirations and fluidity.

I like to think that people have dreams. All people.  There are billions of people on this planet and for the most part they work in areas they are not drawn to, are not happy in and dare I say, are not where they hoped to be when they were kids, astronaut ambitions notwithstanding, and that’s just the developed world, to say nothing of the millions living in abject poverty scraping a living in inhuman conditions in sweat shops and the like if I am allowed to speak broadly.

Everybody wants to be happy and successful though success means different thing to different people. Some want to reach the highest echelons in large corporations, others think lots of money means success no matter how they make it, whereas most consider a happy family life to be the key. There are also those who want to be spiritually fulfilled and those who are happy living in the moment with no further thought to the future. Success is very relative and we must always judge it by our standards and not those imposed on us or expected of us by our environments.

For those working in fields they find uninspiring and who are judged by the success yardsticks of others, breaking the drudgery of uninspiring routine, are the occasional stories they hear of the lucky few who through hard work, luck or a combination of the two, managed to make their dreams come true in the nick of time and break away from the poverty or the soul destroying grind they had to endure for years on end, finally reaching their goals, achieving their ambitions and living happily ever after. But what about those that never made it? What about the majority of those people who believed the rhetoric, tried really hard, made the affirmations day in and day out and still ended their lives far from completing or even approaching the dreams they had harboured for a life time? Who thinks of them? Who tells their story? What do they teach us?

Like many of the people I know, I too belong to the millions of dream-bearers who live in small communities which are unable to sustain the more artistically inclined individual. I have but one life ambition: to make a living from my writing which would allow me the freedom to explore all my other artistic outlets such as my sculpting, cooking, silver work etc. In truth I want a Renaissance lifestyle, art sustaining art, just for the sake of my piece of mind and spiritual completion. I would love for my work to achieve meteoric success but the truth is I would be head over heels happy to have a steady average income where I could support my modest lifestyle, currently sustained by my corporate employee status, without the fear of being unable to pay my bills, feed my cats, go out to dinner from time to time and maybe even the odd trip abroad. At the time of writing this I am in the middle of having my first book edited, which will be released in a matter of weeks. I have high hopes for this book, but I am also mature enough to realise that life is not made merely of dreams but some very harsh realities too. Maybe this time next year, I will still be here struggling with my writing; maybe it will have had some average success though apparently the majority of self-published authors sell an average of 300 books before plateauing which is a very sobering thought indeed, considering how many authors I have come across in the brief time that I have been interacting with the fascinating world of indie publishing, some of which are very good indeed. Hindsight might be 20-20 but future-sight is blind as a bat with broken sonar and the only thing I, and I guess a lot of other creatives, have is non dithering confidence in our work and lots of hope for the future, only it’s sometimes very hard to keep that up, especially when the current and the odds are constantly against you. Confusing? Yes! Ironic? Even more so! When you’re a one woman marching band, you just have to keep going.

Becoming an author is really quite simple. You just sit down at a keyboard and bash away at your amazing story. Easy! Ok, maybe it’s not that simple, but truth is I really do believe that you don’t need much to be become a novelist as long as you fulfil certain criteria. Everybody can tell a story, some more successfully than others and each in their own style. I’ve been racking my brains and cannot think of a single person I’ve ever met who is incapable of telling a story. Telling stories, describing situations, verbally communicating is what makes us human. Not everyone needs to be a Shakespeare or a Dickens or a Marquez to be able to tell a story because, lets be honest, not everyone wants to read Shakespeare, Dickens or Marquez. Everyone has their own style and everyone has their audience.

Someone once said that everybody has a book in them, and Christopher Hitchens went that little bit further and added that that’s where it should stay, but much as it pains me, on this matter I disagree with the great man. I love listening to people’s stories; they don’t have to tell you every single fact of what happened to them from the moment they were born to the moment they came to stand before you to realise that there is something interesting about everyone, so maybe in our core we are all little storytellers and listeners. Whatever the field, who doesn’t like books and if not books then movies, or TV series and soap operas even? Stories are in all of us. The mind’s innate curiosity searches them out in our routine, in gossip, in the news… The world is made up of big and little stories.

I believe you can have a talent for writing and storytelling but I also believe it can be acquired if you have certain personality traits such as a good imagination and good observation skills. Obviously good command of your chosen language is mandatory but that too can be worked on. Those with the need to write don’t have to have a degree in English Literature, a good author will always shine by the quality of their work. What helps, is a thirst to read because other authors are our greatest teachers. Through them we are taught what works and what doesn’t in the written form. In his book On Writing, Stephen King advises potential authors to read voraciously, and not just good books but bad ones too, because there is nothing more obvious than a bad book pointing out in practice what doesn’t work in the written word. That having been said however, “good” and “bad” is all relative because there have been countless books released which have found incredible commercial success that I would label as terribly written or cliché. Is it all subjective? Does it depend on the reader, the genre, the style of writing? Probably, but who can tell for certain? There’s that fluid concept of success again.

If indeed everybody has a book in them, then I have several. Hell, I make up of stories in my head about people I come across in the street just by what they’re wearing or holding or driving or I make up scenaria from bits of what people say to me or even what they don’t, simply by the way they behave or their body language. I like this so much that sometimes I don’t even want to know the truth about what they were really doing on Saturday night because my version is so much more entertaining and way more interesting. Does that make me unstable? I don’t know. The ghost in the attic will neither confirm nor deny, he’s had the hump with me since the exorcism. I am not a traditional author. I have two degrees in History and am well read and though I’ve always dabbled, I never thought I could be an author for real, or even if I was to become one, we all know the astronomical odds against getting published. I realise however that we are living through a very exciting time where anyone with a dream has the means and the opportunity to go after it a lot more easily than in the past. I am grateful for the indie movement and am awed by the opportunity to be part of it, come what may.

In conclusion, I wanted this blog to act as somewhat of a timeline or a record of my author voyage right from the start, a bit like a captain’s log on a journey with an unknown (but hopefully long and prosperous) duration, perhaps in solidarity to other people who are dedicated to changing their lives and doing something that gives them pleasure, as opposed to something that causes them pain or that they consider to be meaningless or unchallenging. It is not my intention to give writing tips as I am not an expert though I would perhaps enjoy the using the editing skills I’ve gained from my professional experiences and help people on their writing journey as others have helped me. This blog is purely a record of my writing adventure and a soapbox, so as not to say pulpit, for my thoughts and experiences of this new field that I have come to love and admire, and I hope it gives you food for thought whether you are a reader or writer. It is fluid, just like success…

Oh and to answer your question, no I don’t have an attic.