I am Chan

I grew up watching Kung Fu Theater back in the day, marveling at the majestic feats of those fighters as they battled their way through all manner of evils. These tales weren’t the martial arts tales you see so often nowadays, they were fantasy – pure and simple. But they were so amazing. This was the golden age of wire work and acrobatics.

kung-fu-hustle-o
This is actually from Kung Fu Hustle, a relatively new movie that managed to capture the essence of the classics while still being funny as hell.

In a sense, all those movies were classic fantasy stories where the protagonists used their fists instead of swords and sorcery. They were porn where people fought instead of having sex. They were, in a word, incredible. The bad guys were the worst, the good guys were the best. The good guy always lost initially but through training and hard work was able to overcome the incredibly powerful bad guy.

The story lines may have been trite and rehashed over and over again, but the action and the cinematography were the stuff of legends. This where people like Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, and Gordon Liu got their starts. And, well, to a lesser extent Chuck Norris.

Do you run away crying or do you put your fist through him?
Do you run away crying or do you put your fist through him?

The thing about all those movies, and the martial arts in general in the 1970s, is they really were fantasy. Sure, there are some people out there who can do some absolutely amazing things, but flying through the air simply isn’t one of them. Movies are movies. Arnold can’t get shot and walk away from it like nothing happened. Sylvester can’t avoid mortar rounds by simply running around them. And Lo Pan can’t shoot lightning bolts out of his fingers.

Well, maybe Lo Pan can do that; he was a sorcerer after all.

The world of the martial arts in the 70s and 80s embraced that fantasy some people honestly felt (some still do) that the more fantastic elements of the martial arts were real. Extended testing has not born out that theory. The actual, factual world of the martial arts is repetition and practice, not flying through the air or killing people with the vibrating hand of death.

dante001
Dim Mak is not exactly what Count Dante was advertising it was.

So I grew up with all of these and the newer movies that came long in the 80s and 90s. I came to see the martial arts as a way to solve a problem and took away the idea that with enough training and dedication you could do anything. Now my joints are sore and my knees make lovely cracking noises, but I’m relatively confident I can handle most situations, even if I can’t do the acrobatics.

giphy

But those classic movies are still so much fun. Even if Jet Li, Donny Yen and Tony Jaa aren’t using the old wire work and sorcery of the classics, they’re still amazing to watch, but the fantastical elements of the classics are gone. And that’s kind of sad. Granted, recent movies like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and – even though it’s a comedy – Kung Fu Hustle have brought back some of the magic, but the heyday of movies like Master of the Flying Guillotine are long  gone.

My homage to the martial arts classics of the 70s is Chan. He’s a character in a couple stories in The Clock Man (including the main story) and will likely be one of the primary characters in an upcoming Aluna novel. There are parts in The Protectors and The Clock Man that hint at Chan’s capabilities, but since those stories weren’t really about him, they’ll remain hints until he gets more developed.

In the interim, go watch some classics. Or even the new classics. Kung Fu Hustle is great place to start.

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The Clock Man

The Clock Man started with a single idea: what if you could meld the fantastic Chinese martial arts and mysticism with American steel? It would be kind of like Steampunk but without the Victorian underpinnings. Rather than brass and bronze and the analog details that make Steampunk so interesting, what if you had a world that was powered by magic? What if – like the stories in Kung Fu Theater – martial arts were an important part of that world?

Thus was born Aluna.

In all fairness, I think I should point out that Aluna (at least the name) was my son’s creation. He used to tell us stories of the wars and things that happened on Aluna; it was his planet and he was populating it with all manner of high technology and fantastic creations. I took the name and used it for a different world – with his permission, of course.

I like the way the story turned out. It’s rare that I’ll start editing one of my own stories and not be able to put it down, but the irascible Felix Crow still brings a smile to my face.

The book sort of snowballed from there. It was originally intended to be a short story collection but of the eight stories only a few fall into traditional short story parameters. Most of the stories fall into the novelette range and the Clock Man itself is toward the top end of the novella range. This must be just how I think about telling stories.

Some of the stories, like The Protectors, link directly back to the events of The Clock Man but take place outside of Aluna. Others have more tenuous links but Aluna is very much present. Other stories, Eve, The Hunt, and Awaken, are very much part of the Henchmen universe. Some flit back and forth between those two worlds.

The nice thing about giving Eve, Wilford, and Dreamer their own stories is it allowed me to answer questions left over from Henchmen and Arise without having to muck up the narrative of both of those books. Those two novels are told from the point of view of Steven and he doesn’t know everything nor is he really meant to.

Bar none the most difficult to write was Duérmete Niño. That started out as a simple look at the world through the eyes of Coco, but how do you make the bogeyman a sympathetic character? He doesn’t talk, he’s got a limited understanding of the world, and exists solely for the purpose of eating children. There’s not much you can do with that. I like to think I found a way to make him work, though.

Awaken was originally published as a stand-alone piece and was available online for quite a while. The sales were dismal – I think because no one wants to pay to read a short story that’s not erotica. Even as a free download it really didn’t go anywhere. I made some serious edits to it, added a bit of Dreamer’s point of view, and included it here because I think it’s an interesting story and does a pretty good job of setting up Dreamer’s motivations.

As an interesting side note – The Protectors was based on a dream I had. The story is almost a scene-for-scene retelling of that dream. Some embellishments were added (like the entire end scene). If you’ve ever wondered where stories come from, that’s definitely one place: an overactive dreamer.

At some point I need to figure out what to do with Jack and his devil girlfriend. She’s only referenced Zona Peligrosa, but she has her own story in the Holes anthology. I think they’re both interesting characters.

Without further ado, the Clock Man is now available on Amazon for $2.99 or you can read it on Kindle Unlimited.

Enter worlds of magic and dragons, martial arts and mayhem

  • A woman waits in a plain white room, wondering why she’s there and what’s about to happen.
  • A man and his talking gun hunt the bogeyman.
  • A family finds its house is haunted and sets out to trap the ghosts, but what if the ghosts aren’t the real problem?
  • Far underneath a city, the figure of a man rests. For decades he’s remained perfectly motionless. Last night he moved.
  • In a world of magic, martial arts, and dragons, one man controls the flow of magic. Now his daughter wants him dead.
  • Zapp Blander always dreamed of being a hero. When a man named Jack shows up, Zapp might just get his chance.
  • She was designed to choose which slain warriors got to go to Valhalla, but Kara has developed her own ideas.
  • The bogeyman of New Mexico is beaten and fed what should be a simple task: Kill the boy.

TheClockManFinal

Get your copy here and spend the weekend curled up with some amazing stories.

The Max Power book of the year 2015

And the winner of the prestigious Max Power Book of the Year Award is…

Maxpower's Blog

As a writer I understand the value of reading. It is one of the great pleasures in life for me and as I posted my 100th review on Amazon this week, I revisited all those wonderful reads and tried to select my favourite book from all of them.  It was a difficult choice at first and then I re-read the review of one very special book that I had posted and I was instantly reminded of the effect this book had on me when I read it.  Here is my review, judge for yourself, but first a word about the author.

I first discovered Jim Murray’s books while sitting by the pool on vacation in the Canary Islands. I was absolutely hooked on Jim’s magnificent book Brother. It connected with me on many levels, partly perhaps there was instant ease as we both hail from Ireland and I wallowed in…

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The Max Power Reccommended Read Award 2015

The top 10 for 2015 from the amazingly talented author and man with the coolest name in the world: Max Power.

Maxpower's Blog

To coincide with the publication of my 100th review on amazon, The Max Power Book Awards were created to celebrate great Indie authors and to highlight the depth and quality of talented available through the world of Indie publishing.

In addition to the overall winner of the Book of the year award, the Indie Author Story-teller Award and the Max Power Choice award, ten special Authors have been awarded the Max Power Recommended Read Award for 2015.

These are books of quality that inspired me to pick them out from the 100 reviews and highlight them for a little special attention. Spread across genre, the selection criteria was strict.  Importantly the selection process was not inter-genre with each competing on its own merit across all genres. This was perhaps the most difficult challenge in terms of selection for there were so many books I have loved  that choosing ten was tough. That…

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The Max Power Book Awards ; My five star reads..

More excellent reads from the one and only Max Power.

Maxpower's Blog

In advance of the 2015 Max Power Book Awards I would like to remind book lovers of some of the great books I have read by reposting here some of the five star reads I have enjoyed on the way to posting my 100th review on amazon. Pick one of these wonderful Indie books today and discover a whole new world of talent.

choicempstacropped-111.jpgreccomno1

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5.0 out of 5 starsA superb collection of short stories for a worthy cause., July 14, 2015

This is an incredible collection of short stories from a variety of international Indie authors, who have come together to help raise money for MacMillan cancer care. It is a book to be picked up not only because this is such a worthy cause, but the multiple talents of the authors involved make this one of the finest collection of short…

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The Max Power Book Awards ; My five star reads… (ed.3)

Maxpower's Blog

In advance of the 2015 Max Power Book Awards I would like to remind book lovers of some of the great books I have read by reposting here some of the five star reads I have enjoyed on the way to posting my 100th review on amazon. Pick one of these wonderful Indie books today and discover a whole new world of talent.

choicempstacropped-111.jpgreccomno1

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5.0 out of 5 starsUnderstanding horror, October 27, 2015

This book does exactly what it says on the tin. It is a collection of three short stories and each one is a little gem in their own right. I am a fan of a good scary story and the author clearly understands the requirements of a writing a quality horror story. Many authors fail to fully appreciate just what is needed, fear, surprise, suspense, mystery and even an element…

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Watch Your Language

I’ve kind of covered this before, but had a few more things to add.

When I was growing up my cousins and I spent two or three weeks each summer at my grandparent’s house. I’m not sure what sin my grandparents committed to get all three of us at the same time, but it happened pretty frequently, so their sin must have been a doozy. Us kids, being kids, ran completely roughshod over their house, ate all the sugary cereals, and generally tore things up as kids are wont to do.

Now, my grandparents came from a different era. They’d lived through the Great Depression, my grandfather fought Nazis in France, my grandmother raised my mom and her sister on her own while my granddad was busy beating hell out of evil.  He came home, became a carpenter and moved on with his life.  He never really wanted to talk about his time in the war, though. After reading up on World War II I can completely understand why. But he did his job and he did it well and I’ve still got the photo wallet he carried with him during the war. It has a picture of my grandmother and my infant mother. It was, I suspect, good to know who he was fighting for.

Paul Sizer drew this. He's awesome. Check him here: http://paulsizer.deviantart.com/art/KICK-THEIR-AXIS-Propaganda-Poster-108576739
Paul Sizer drew this. He’s awesome. Check him here: http://paulsizer.deviantart.com/art/KICK-THEIR-AXIS-Propaganda-Poster-108576739

He was the one who taught me what little carpentry skills I have. I can build a bookshelf. He built an addition onto his house. He used to take us (my cousins and I) to his favorite bar when no one else was around and he felt like having a drink. We never thought much of it. As kids, we got Shirley Temples and Cherry Cokes and got to ponder the myriad bar signs that adorned the place.

What does it mean that that guy has a screw through him?

Can we come back tomorrow when everything is free?

dogbeers

lowcutblouses

It was baffling but fun.

As I recall, my grandmother, mother, and aunt were less than thrilled that he took us to a bar for a few hours, but we loved it. No one got hurt, no kids got drunk, and the only thing anyone had to deal with was some kids hopped up on sugar and wondering about those marvelous signs. It was a little disingenuous for my grandmother to get upset about granddad taking us to a bar because her favorite Mexican restaurant was a cantina in a less than savory part of town.

Here’s a pro-tip for you: the best Mexican food is always found at catinas in less than savory parts of town. You might get in a knife fight in the parking lot, but that’s a small price to pay for really good enchiladas.

It's kind of like this, only less lobstery.
It’s kind of like this, only less lobstery.

But I digress.

Even after that little dust up, we still went to the bar from time to time. Still got Shirley Temples, still got Cherry Cokes and still wondered exactly what was meant by “Liquor in the front, poker in the rear.” We assumed there was a card game going on in the back room somewhere.

So we’d get hopped up on sugar and run roughshod all over the house. My granddad was a patient man, but he’d snap at us occasionally saying things like “You honyocks quit jumping on the davenport.”

It was clear from the context at the time that he wanted us crazy kids to quit jumping on the sofa. If you hadn’t had the experience or been there you might look at “You honyocks quit running on the davenport” and think he was batty.  But he wasn’t, he just came from a different time. In the time and place he’d come from you could call someone a honyock or tell them about your new davenport and they’d get you.

Think about this way. The phrase “I need to Xerox this thing” probably makes sense to most people, but if you examine it closely, it’s kind of baffling. Xerox is a company that makes quite a lot of things (including the very first GUI for computers).  You’re not saying “I need to ‘company that makes a lot of things’ this thing”. You’re saying “I need to copy this.”

Everyone knows this now, but will they fifty years from now? Just like will anyone remember that the Davenport company was so famous for the sofas that the word Davenport came to be synonymous with sofa?

The Davenport was a very popular line of sofas made by A. H. Davenport and Company
The Davenport was a very popular line of sofas made by A. H. Davenport and Company

That’s the rub. Aspirin was actually a trademarked name from Bayer. Xerox is a company. Davenport was a company. It’s kind of amazing how many things become part of the lexicon because they’ve become so ubiquitous.

The problem, though, is ubiquity is a fleeting thing.  Language changes over time and slang language even more so. If I were to say:

“That hard-boiled greaseball’s dizzy with my dame. I’ll you a sawbuck and a snipe that egg’s trying to slip my moll a honey cooler. He’s gonna need to get sized for a Chicago overcoat.”

Would you get it?

That dame got lips just begging for a honey cooler.
That dame’s got lips just begging for a honey cooler.

If you were a mobster in the 30s, you’d probably get it. If not, try this modern Rosetta Stone. Language in general, and slang in particular, is tied to a particular time and place.

 ...pray to J I did the same-ol', same-ol'!
…pray to J I did the same-ol’, same-ol’!

So what does this mean for writers? Well, that’s kind of complicated. It used to be said if you want your writing to be timeless, avoid slang and avoid things that are tied to a particular point in time.  The problem with that is you can wind up with some major boring stories or things that don’t feel right when they’re set in a particular place and time. Imagine a man who’s supposed to be part of a street gang saying, “They will pay dearly for their insolence. They will rue the day they messed with John Cougar Skull Cruncha.”

Doubtful. No one says rue anymore.

Conversely, you can also wind up writing a story that only makes sense during the time it’s written for and people wind up needing a dictionary and a few college credits to get through your work. Shakespeare wrote for his audience using the vernacular of his time. Now some of that vernacular has been lost. He’s widely credited as one of the greatest playwrights of all time, but he’s a bear to read sometimes.

The other problem with vernacular is it changes over time.  Not just that it gets lost – although that happens pretty frequently – rather that the meaning (or even the perceived meaning) changes. My granddad called my cousins and I a bunch of honyocks. In my kid mind, given the context of the statement, it implied kids running on furniture. I later expanded in mentally to mean anyone getting out of control.

It was only recently that I finally looked up the term.

According to wiktionary it doesn’t mean that at all.

Etymology

The word first appeared in print in the late 19th century, often applied to people who were unwelcome among their family, friends and/or community. A common theory of the origin of this word is the merger of the first syllable of the word Hungarian and the last syllable of the ethnic slur Polack. However, a more likely origin is the Hungarian adjective hanyag, which has a variety of negative meanings including careless, sloppy, slothful, and slow.

The word is derived from the German “Honigjaeger”, which litteraly means “honey chaser”. The name was given to immigrants to Montana looking to take advantage of land offerings, without realizing how difficult farming in Montana was. The word is pejorative, and is used in reference to a clueless farmer.

Noun

honyock ‎(plural honyocks)

  1. (US, slang, derogatory) An immigrant to the United States from east-central Europe.

  2. (US, slang, derogatory) A rube or simpleton.

  3. (US, slang) A hardscrabble farm (this usage known in parts of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Alberta and Saskatchewan).

Since my cousins and I were neither immigrants nor farms…

Fortunately, Urban Dictionary has my back.

Youngsters up to mischief. Euro-slang.
 Whew. I was worried.
Does this mean avoid all slang and vernacular? Of course not. Slang and vernacular give stories – especially dialogue – a special kind of oomph.  But make sure it fits the story and place, and be wary of expecting someone to understand it fifty years down the road.
Now you’ve got the low down, you dig?