Experience the Magic of Wuxia

The Clock Man – the story, not the whole book – is a wuxia story set in another world and wrapped with a detective noir bow. Normally I hate referencing what I’ve written as it relates to something else but in this case it’s okay because reasons.

“What is wuxia?” you might be asking. For that matter, what is detective noir? We’ll save detective noir for another time because it’s much more common in the United States and focus on your new best friend: wuxia.

wuxia-2-638

Wuxia, pronounced wu-she-ah, is a primarily Chinese genre of fiction and movies that incorporates martial arts and sorcery. Think of it as a Chinese version of the classical knights and magicians of the West. Perhaps the best examples in the West would be movies like A Chinese Ghost Story, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Kung Fu Hustle. To a lesser extent, but no less important, would be Big Trouble In Little China.

Like most genres, wuxia has rules that define it. The protagonist must have certain characteristics.

  • altruism
  • justice
  • individualism
  • loyalty
  • courage
  • truthfulness
  • disregard for wealth
  • desire for glory

Wuxia stories tend to follow those rules, but the key point is the martial arts side of things. Anyone who’s ever seen a Kung Fu movie and enjoyed has enjoyed wuxia, even if all they were paying attention to was the martial arts side of things. The best Kung Fu movies had a solid plot that was chassis for the martial arts. The movies that were fairly plot-less were really nothing more than martial arts porn. Think of the differences between a pair of Van Damme classics: Kickboxer and Hard Target. Kickboxer was essentially martial arts porn – there was a story but it was really only there so Jean Claude could do the splits. Hard Target was a different beast entirely – there was a story and, over-the-top as it was, the story carried the movie rather than the martial arts carrying the movie. Hard Target was also special in that it was directed by the master of Hong Kong action cinema: John Woo. Woo’s movies tended to emphasize gun play, but he got his start directing some classic Kung Fu cinema.

10_3_king_hu_1000_420_90_c1

The movies are fairly common in America, but the books are far less available. Most of the titles are written in Chinese and there’s simply not enough of a market to translate them and print them for a Western audience. There is, however, a group on the Internet that’s made it their goal to find, translate, and bring these stories to those of us who don’t read or speak Chinese.

And, of course, there are those of us who are taking the classic wuxia genre and importing it into the West. Oddly enough, it’s incredibly difficult to write and have it make sense. The action sequences in particular are tricky to block out in any kind of sensible way. I actually wrote a blog post about what it takes to put the martial arts into text. It’s a very different style of writing from gun play. With a gun the bullet hits someone and that’s pretty much it. With fighting the writer has to be very cognizant of positions, types of strikes, and the general outcome of those strikes. In other words, it’s either going to take a lot of research or a lot of experience.

What started out as Chinese swords and sorcery has expanded over the years. I’d actually argue the works of John Woo – even the gun play heavy movies like A Better Tomorrow, The Killer, and Hard Boiled – are modern twists on classic wuxia tales. It’s the flexibility of the genre that makes it appealing to me as a writer. Well, that and a general love of martial arts. But it allows room to navigate and write a swords and sorcery fantasy story without having to rely on the common stories in the West. It also allows for some flexibility in the characterization. Much like Woo takes Chow Yun Fat’s character Ah Jong in The Killer and turns him into a kind of anti-hero, I took Felix Crow and turned him into a kind of anti-hero.

There’s also the magical side of classical wuxia that is ripe for play. I’ve used magical elements – well gods and demi-gods more than magic – in Henchmen and Arise – but never really referenced them as magic. In The Clock Man, I actually got to explore magic and make some use of it. In Greetings From Sunny Aluna I’ll get more of a chance to create a wuxia world. In the interim, The Clock Man was my take on wuxia and my first shot at blending martial arts and magic.

The result: kwan daos, magic, martial arts, a snarky dragon, and a hint of Steampunk make up the world of Felix Crow and Chan. Wuxia – Eric Lahti style.

rsz_a_better_tomorrow

Author Resources

Excellent resource list from the talented RA Winter

Ra Winter Writer

Today, I want to pass on a few free resources for Authors.  If you are published, soon to be published or an avid reader, these sites are for you.

photoAs always, check out the Indie Author Support and Discussion for author resources, our upcoming critiques of our work, and join in the fun. Our site is expanding and there are exciting changes coming in the future.  Here you can chat with many talented authors, find new releases and some great writing.

The second is Onlinebookclub.org.  Here you can upload your book for a  free review.  They will give honest feedback and have a huge following of readers.  Once your book is reviewed, the reviewer blogs it (and sometimes adds it to Goodreads and Amazon).  A few of these bloggers have large followings.

The third is Bookvetter.com. On this site, reviewers and authors read and rate books based on…

View original post 378 more words

The Blurbery, Part II

I know I said the next post would be about wuxia, but time makes fools of us all, right? The reason is I had something come up that needed dealing with quickly and the long reason is … well, it’s pretty much the same reason: something came up. See how I used a colon there? That makes it a longer reason.

As I am wont to do, I leapt into action to meet the problem head-on.

bollywood

Some people think one gun is enough. Those people are wrong.

Back in April of 2015 I wrote a post on writing blurbs. Wrote about writing descriptions about other writing. Whoa. Very meta of me. At the time the blurbs for Henchmen and Arise were basically crap and I decided it was high time I figured out how to do it correctly. The Internet, being the wonderful place that it is, had a wealth of information about writing blurbs so after tearing myself away from porn and cat videos I did some research and figured out how to write a decent blurb.

Sales didn’t exactly skyrocket but they got better and I felt better so everything was better.

Well, it was anyway.

Well, it was anyway.

Then I finished The Clock Man and was faced with a whole new problem. Like the doof I am sometimes, I decided to power through without thinking it all the way through. See, the thing is, writing a blurb for a novel that tells exactly one story turns out to be a wee bit different from writing a blurb for a book with a bunch of stories.

Here’s the original blurb for The Clock Man:

“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.”

Shut_up_and_take_my_money

Wonderful, yes?

In a fit of mediocrity last night I swapped a couple stories around and set about rewriting the blurb. This is what I came up with.

Felix Crow is a legend in his own mind, a fallen cop in a dangerous city full of thugs and magic. He’s become a kind of alcholic fixer of problems, a man both haunted by his own past failures and simultaneously okay with them. After waking up in a dumpster one morning, head splitting and covered with lo mein noodles, Felix gets the worst opportunity of a lifetime. All he has to do is kill the most important person in the world.
In a world filled with martial arts, mayhem, magic, and the odd dragon, Crow will find himself in the fight of his life against the mysterious Clock Man.

Zapp Blander dreams of a better life, a life filled with action and adventure the likes of which would make Doc Savage proud. He soon finds himself in the presence of a strange man with a fantastic car. Zapp is given a choice: stay and clean up brains, or risk his life in pursuit of a magical thing that could shift the balance of the universe.

Wilford Saxton finds himself in the posession of a gun that can talk to his mind. His job is gone, his life as he knew it is over, and his body is forever changed. The gun drags him to a small town in New Mexico where he’ll get a chance at redemption. All he has to do to rebuild his life is learn how to work with gun, survive Cuba, New Mexico, and hunt down the bogeyman.

A scream pierces the night. Parents stumble downstairs to find their child shaking and pointing down a dark hallway, certain he saw a pair of ghosts. At first the child’s parents are dismissive until they meet the ghosts themselves. Desperate to remove a perceived threat, the family tries to find a way to trap the spirits. But a pair of ghosts might not be the worst thing that can happen.

For decades the body of a man has lain dormant and unchanging on a stone altar far underneath the city. He’s been watched and monitored, secrets slowly stolen from his body and turned into weapons. The whole time the man’s body has been completely still. Last night a finger twitched, then the shadows started moving. The people studying the body don’t realize it, but the God of Dreams is about to wake up. And he is not happy.

Kathryn Devereaux got a message at work to show up to a particular room at a particular time with an adominition to not be late. Now she sits in a plain white room where time doesn’t work like it’s supposed to and wonders what’s going on. Her job – designing demons – was strange enough, but the room is in a whole other league. When a man with a sheaf of papers shows up and starts asking questions her day gets a whole lot stranger.

Valkyries were designed to choose warriors for the final battle. They were strong, excellent fighters, and – above all – obedient. All except for Kara who has her own ideas about how to choose the dead.

Coco was the bane of Northern New Mexico, a bogeyman who was famous for devouring children. He stalked the night like he owned it, flitting from place to place and following the orders of his mysterious masters to kill and enact vengeance. But even the greatest of monsters sometimes come across something even more frightening than themselves. Now Coco has a new task – something right up his alley. All he has to do is kill a child, but that task proves more difficult than it should be.

tldr

Fortunately, the good folks at IASD set me straight (much thanks to S.K. Sylva, RA, Val, Nico, and Ian) and reminded me that a blurb doesn’t need to be huge. In fact, anything too long will just get overlooked.

I was looking at a story collection blurb as basically nothing more than a composite novel blurb. Therefore, it seemed logical to me to write mini-blurbs for each story. The individual blurbs are okay, not great, but okay. The problem is there’s eight of them. And, contrary to popular belief is eight is not enough; it’s actually too damned much.

So, I picked a couple authors I know had written short story collections – Stephen King and Harlan Ellison – and checked out what kind of blurbs their professional blurbers had come up with.

For Harlan Ellison’s The Top of the Volcano

”Only connect,” E.M. Forster famously said, and Harlan Ellison was canny enough to make that the lifeblood of his achievement from the get-go.

New, fresh and different is tricky in the storytelling business, as rare as diamonds, but, as a born storyteller, Harlan made story brave, daring, surprising again, brought an edge of the gritty and the strange, the erudite and the street-smart, found ways to make words truly come alive again in an over-worded world.

From the watershed of the ’50s and ’60s when the world found its dynamic new identity, to a self-imitating, sadly all too derivative present, he has kept storytelling cool and hip, exhilarating, unexpected yet always vital, able to get under your skin and change your life.

And now we have it. ”The Top of the Volcano” is the collection we hoped would come along eventually, twenty-three of Harlan’s very best stories, award-winners every one, brought together in a single volume at last. There s the unforgettable power of ”’Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman,” ”The Whimper of Whipped Dogs” and ”Mefisto in Onyx,” the heart-rending pathos of ”Jeffty Is Five” and ”Paladin of the Lost Hour,” the chilling terror of ”I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream,” the ingenuity and startling intimacy of ”Adrift Just Off the Islets of Langerhans…”

These stories are full of the light and life of someone with things worth saying and the skills to do it, presented in the book we had to have–not just a Best-of (though given what’s on offer it may just fall out that way) but in one easy-to-grab volume perfect for newbies, long-time fans and seasoned professionals alike to remind them just how it can be done.”

Stephen King’s The Bazaar of Bad Dreams

“A master storyteller at his best—the O. Henry Prize winner Stephen King delivers a generous collection of stories, several of them brand-new, featuring revelatory autobiographical comments on when, why, and how he came to write (or rewrite) each story.

Since his first collection, Nightshift, published thirty-five years ago, Stephen King has dazzled readers with his genius as a writer of short fiction. In this new collection he assembles, for the first time, recent stories that have never been published in a book. He introduces each with a passage about its origins or his motivations for writing it.

There are thrilling connections between stories; themes of morality, the afterlife, guilt, what we would do differently if we could see into the future or correct the mistakes of the past. “Afterlife” is about a man who died of colon cancer and keeps reliving the same life, repeating his mistakes over and over again. Several stories feature characters at the end of life, revisiting their crimes and misdemeanors. Other stories address what happens when someone discovers that he has supernatural powers—the columnist who kills people by writing their obituaries in “Obits;” the old judge in “The Dune” who, as a boy, canoed to a deserted island and saw names written in the sand, the names of people who then died in freak accidents. In “Morality,” King looks at how a marriage and two lives fall apart after the wife and husband enter into what seems, at first, a devil’s pact they can win.

Magnificent, eerie, utterly compelling, these stories comprise one of King’s finest gifts to his constant reader—“I made them especially for you,” says King. “Feel free to examine them, but please be careful. The best of them have teeth.”

Stephen King’s Night Shift

“More than twenty-five stories of horror and nightmarish fantasy transform everyday situations into experiences of compelling terror in the worlds of the living, the dying, and the nonliving.”

I particularly loved the one for Night Shift: short and to the point. But, let’s face it, this is Stephen King we’re talking about so the blurb could have been nothing more than “King’s newest collection. Buy it” and it would have sold like hotcakes.

wewantsit

A few examples do not research make, though. I started searching for more pointers. There are a ton of resources for a single novel blurb, but resources for  story collections seem a bit rarer. I did find a few, including one from Tam Francis that had some interesting pointers and another from Owen Adams that was a little lighter on the details but had some useful pointers, especially about how it’s perfectly okay to talk yourself up on your Amazon author page. I intend to add the phrase “the laws of physics do not apply to Eric Lahti” on mine.

Booksoarus had some good pointers, too. In the final analysis, though, it doesn’t seem like there’s a whole lot of consensus about how to handle collections of stories. There seem to be two major fields of thought on the subject: highlight each story with a mini blurb or write a paragraph that describes the theme and the feeling of the book. As someone else said “The story is the roller-coaster while the novel is the theme park.”

Take that a step further and you could argue that the story is still the roller-coaster while the collection of stories is the theme park. Maybe that’s not the best analogy in the world, but it works for right now.

The problem is how to get the theme out of a collection of stories. The Clock Man consists of eight stories ranging in length from about 7,000 words to around 32,000 words (I know, 32k is a bit long for a short story, it’s a novella), There’s a hefty degree of interlocking in the stories, especially if you’ve read Henchmen and/or Arise, even if all the stories stand on their own. A common thread is an element of magic and an element of horror. It could also be argued that the stories – as the talented S.K. Holmesley put it –

“…extraordinary stories are a mixture of humorous satire, irony and the macabre, in which the stupidities and hypocrisy of conventional society are viciously pilloried.” – S.K. Holmesley

I like the idea of things being viciously pilloried. In fact, more things need to be viciously pilloried. And put in stocks.

I’d tried the single line approach to each story, but it didn’t do much, so I’ve decided to go for a paragraph approach and highlight the major themes (viciously pillorying things, magic, and horror) and the general feel of the book: somewhat lighthearted but still scary as hell in places.

One thing that really sticks out, though, no matter who you talk to is this: “Take a good deal of time to really perfect the book description”

And that is truth. After the cover, the blurb is your last chance to get someone to read your book. If the cover blows chunks no one but your friends will read it. If the blurb is equally bad, you’re dead in the water.

I used the King and Ellison examples, along with some other theories and some back and forth with Ian D. Moore from IASD and came up with:

Eric Lahti creates eight brand new tales of magic, mystery, horror and just plain mayhem. From the dusty shelves of a forgotten gas station to a graffiti tagged alleyway on another planet come a series of quests, epic battles, and good old fashioned mystery interlaced with the paranormal.

The Clock Man and Other Stories shows the world as seen through the eyes of the bogeyman, a talking gun that knows far too much, and a man eating a fried tarantula. Read it with a friend or read it alone, but be sure to leave a light on.

What do you think?

Embrace Fear

I’ve been placed in Amazon’s horror category for some time now. Type in Eric Lahti horror into Amazon’s search engine and all of my books pop up. Go ahead and try it.  Feel free to buy them while you’re there. I’m not 100% certain how I wound up that genre but I’ve decided it’s probably best to just embrace it and move forward. While I’ll never consider myself a horror author in the gore splattering around or haunted place realm (although I have written a ghost story: The Protectors), I guess I do have some bit of horror elements in my books. Maybe it’s just the paranormal aspects or maybe the genre isn’t as narrow as I had previously thought. Some horror books are cheap schlocky thrills while others are more ponderous; slowly building to that conclusion that doesn’t really hit you until you shut off all the lights or you’re lying in a jungle bleeding to death.

TheHorror

The horror.

Of all the horror books I’ve read (not a huge amount, I admit) very few stick with me. Some of Stephen King’s works and some of the canon from Lovecraft are notable examples. The funny thing about H.P. Lovecraft is I like his ideas but have trouble actually reading his work. Granted, it’s been a while since I’ve read any of Lovecraft’s books, so maybe I need to try it again and see what shakes loose. The last Stephen King book I read was From A Buick 8; hardly a representative example of the horror genre but a fun read nonetheless. In fact, From A Buick 8 spans a lot of genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror, Speculative fiction are genres that it at least kind of fits into.

Maybe that’s why I enjoyed it so much. It had its scary parts, but it wasn’t a gory splatter-fest; it was musings and ponderings and it didn’t give you all the answers. If that’s horror I’m happy to be included in the genre.

One of the scariest scenes in any movie is this one

AlienRises

Carrie Henn’s only role, but she totally rocked it. The xenomorph went onto to have a starring role in the abhorrent Alien 4.

You don’t see much of anything, just the Xenomorph (that’s what the cool kids call the aliens) rising from the water, Newt turns and screams. Boom. That’s it. Then, of course, Ripley tapes some guns and a flame thrower together and heads into the nest to kick some Xenomorph ass.

Now, here’s the thing about the traditional horror genre: there’s a creeping sense of hopelessness. Traditional horror with all the running and screaming and getting slaughtered is the emo kid of the movie world. I don’t think you’ll find a whole lot of people who would argue Aliens wasn’t a horror movie, but the characters were far from helpless.

ALIENS, Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, 1986, TM and Copyright (c) 20th Century-Fox Film Corp. All Rights Reserved

ALIENS, Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, 1986, TM and Copyright (c) 20th Century-Fox Film Corp. All Rights Reserved – Totally not helpless

Even Lovecraft’s stories featured protagonists who weren’t helpless. They used magic and arcane knowledge to fight the unnameable horrors of Lovecraft’s blasphemous world. They usually lost and lost horribly, but they weren’t helpless.

Which means horror elements can be used in place of traditional conflicts in literature. Traditional conflict falls into one (or more) of categories:

  • Person versus person
  • Person versus society
  • Person versus self
  • Person versus nature

There’s nothing in the rules that says person versus person can’t include a vampire (or a God of Dreams). Person versus nature could easily include our Xenomorphs – although it could be argued that Aliens was nothing more than an analogy for trying to shop during the Christmas season. Person versus nature could also include these guys.

straight-outta-lovecraft

So, once I wrapped my head around the fact that horror doesn’t have to mean teenagers having sex and then getting slaughtered (or given to some strange naked following woman), I realized I think I’m quite cool with being called a horror author. There can be monstrous things going on and heroes (or villains) that combat those things. I like the idea of writing about people who would see this coming at them and decide – in that moment of pants-wetting terror – to stand their ground and fight like madmen (and women).

HorrorCritter

Lotion is your friend, bro.

That’s the fun kind of horror. They may not win, but they’ll at least try. And the scary parts don’t even have to be the main thrust of the story. From A Buick 8 was a horror story, but the thrust of the story about something strange dropping into the midst of a group of people and how the people themselves dealt with it. Person versus nature and – more importantly – person versus self. The horror aspect was a backdrop for the real story. The same could arguably be said of a lot of King’s work. Someday, I hope to be good enough that people will say the same of mine.

Now, this is not to say all conflict must have a horror element to it, let alone a paranormal element. Being tied to a chair and forced to listen to Barbara Streisand songs is certainly conflict – and quite possibly horrifying – but it lacks a paranormal element. Someone between you and your love may or may not be horrifying, and unless that person is a sparkly vampire there’s no paranormal element to it.

But I’ve learned to embrace the paranormal horror elements; they’re fun to write, fun to work with, and I love the idea of interesting things inhabiting our otherwise mundane world. Even more than that, though, I love the idea of people fighting back against the things that aren’t supposed to be beatable. Even when the situation seems absurd.

Alien Wars by Byzko Wader

Alien Wars by Byzko Wader

So, there you have it. I have embraced my horror side. Don’t expect me to write any stories filled with gore, but I fully intend to keep right on tilting the windmills, fighting the unbeatable foes, and standing tall in the face of the nameless horrors. Since I started this post with Colonel Kurtz, it only seems fitting that his words – even though they represent a kind of existential horror – end it.

HorrorAndMoralTerror

Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared.

How do I intend to get characters to fight these things? Well, Henchmen and Arise used a lot of guns, but it’s Chan and Crow in The Clock Man and their methods that I really want to explore. Tune in next time when I discuss the ancient and deadly art of Wuxia.

Tips for editing your writing

I really need to put my MA in Speech Comm to good use and start reading my work out loud. Maybe I’ll even cut a short MP3.

World of Horror

image

No matter what type of writing you do, it can be easy to miss your own mistakes in the editing process. Since you wrote the words, you often read what you intended to write (and not what is actually written). You can’t see any flaws in your writing because you’re just too close to it.

Use these five tips to edit your own work more effectively — and to improve your writing.

1. Let Your Writing Rest for a Few Hours or Days

The more distance you put between yourself and your writing, the easier it is to make improvements and find mistakes. When possible, let important writing sit for a few days. When you pick up the material again, it’s almost like proofing someone else’s work.

If you don’t have the luxury of letting your work sit for days, then a few hours will have to do. Find another…

View original post 422 more words

You’re Not Alone: An Indie Author Anthology: Reviews Links and Excerpts, Part 4 – 100% of Proceeds to Charity

From the talented Felipe Adan Lerma, his final mini-reviews of You’re Not Alone.

© Felipe Adan Lerma - All Rights Reserved - Blogging at WordPress Since 2011 🙂

you're not alone coverYou’re Not Alone: An Indie Author Anthology: Reviews Links and Excerpts, Part 4 – 100% of Proceeds to Charity

(from product page description) : An international group of indie authors, inspired by the personal grief of one, decided to collaborate in the spring of 2015 in a project to create this multi-genre smorgasbord of original short stories, all with the same potent theme – relationships. Some are heartfelt, some funny, some poignant, and some are just a little bit scary – much like relationships themselves. All are by authors fired by the shared enthusiasm to give something back in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. Cancer touches us all. It has in some way affected those who have contributed their time and talent here. This is our way of showing that we care.

100% of the royalties earned or accrued in the purchase of this book, in all formats, will go…

View original post 2,299 more words

The Quill Pen Recommends – 2016

A couple reads for you. I’ve been through most of Little Book of Horrors and have The Third Servant on my TBR list.

The Quill Pen Writes

Yes! We made it through another year and what better way to kick off the new one with my first book reads. Granted, much of them were read last year but hey, who’s counting? First up, a collection of three shorts that’ll put the heebie jeebies up you, and rightly so.

The Little Book of Horrors - Lacey Lane Click image to buy

Here’s my Amazon Review of this book, The Little Book of Horrors – Lacey Lane (5 Stars)

Shorts.

You’d think that such stories, condensed versions where everything happens in the turn of a few pages, wouldn’t appeal. That, my friends, is where you’d be wrong. A well-written short story has the ability to give the reader all of the sensations of a full novel and these three little gems are no exception.

The opening story, Karma’s a Psychopath, reminded me of another novel I’d read about revenge not so long ago. This wasn’t about personal…

View original post 1,018 more words

Better, Stronger, Faster

I don’t usually blog about exercise for a few reasons:

  • I’m not exactly the Bronze God I claim to be
  • I’m not an expert at exercising
  • There are a short-ton of people who are experts already blogging about exercising

But January is that magical part of the year when half the country decides – with a sweaty, wheezy cry – to get its collective ass to the gym to lose weight, look better, or any of the myriad reasons people have for suddenly deciding exercise is something they want to do. Personally, I go to the gym because it keeps me sane. I gave up on that whole lose weight look better crap a number of years ago when I realized I like food too much to ever look like a sculpted bronze god. Punching, kicking, and lifting weights let me get my aggression out safely. I also use the time to think about plot lines for books, solve complicated problems at work, and other such things. It’s almost a meditative thing for me.

January is rough, though, because my normally placid gym (The JCC in Albuqerque) gets chock full of people for a few weeks. You know the people I’m talking about, the jock who used to be able to lift 400 pounds back in high school but hasn’t touched a weight set in twenty years and just dropped a huge amount of weight on his chest, or the people who are struggling with how to do exercise x, y, or z and failing miserably at all of them. People in spandex flexing in the mirrors. The kind of people who hurt themselves trying to get their fingers around the body society tells them they need to have.

new-years-resolutions-gym-e1387129952673

I’ve honestly seen people do stranger things.

The gym will be crazy for a while; I’m kind of resolved to that. It doesn’t really impact me all that much since I usually go at 5am and only lunatics like myself are there. Sundays, though, are a regular gym day and they can get pretty hectic. All through December I dread the arrival of the New Year’s Resolutioners. They’ll tear it up for a few weeks and then disappear. But while they’re there, things can get ugly.

477571-1

Say what you will about a Battle Royale; it’s a great workout.

Then those people all fade away, their New Year’s Resolutions to lose weight and look better forgotten and replaced with stale Cheetos and re-runs of B.J. and the Bear. New Year’s Resolutions lack staying power and the brief, desperate desire to lose weight and look better comes with a sudden realization that exercise is hard work.

Hard work is anathema to most people. Especially when you’re engaging in hard work to look better for someone else or fit someone else’s idea of what you’re supposed to look like. And that’s unfortunate. I used to really get frustrated with people filling up my gym for a couple weeks before they faded back into the couch cushions but I’m beginning to wonder if the problem isn’t the people: it’s the resolutions.

piechartresolutions

With God as my witness, I will stick it the man.

If your sole goal for going to the gym is to lose weight and look better you’re in for a long haul. If you hold up fitness icons as your ideal and refuse to accept anything less than perfection you’re likely going to be disappointed. I used to look at people like Joe Manganiello or any of those people who are paid to look buff and wonder why I couldn’t accomplish that. The simple fact is, I probably could, but it takes an enormous amount of time. Actors, fitness models, professional martial artists – all these people look the way they do because they’re paid to look like that. That is their job. My job is to try my damnedest to be a good husband and father with a side of slinging code around. Looking sculpted is way down on my list of things to concern myself with.

So, how about going to the gym and just enjoying the feeling of exercise? Sure, it hurts at first. I’ve been doing it for years and I still get sore sometimes, but I’ve found I’m in a much better mood and have much more focus when I get my heart beating and sweat a little. Plus, it’ll make the 3rd Black test a bit easier.

88b38e2b7cbb26937746f84d856a4a6c

I’m not big on motivational speeches. People have asked me what it takes to write a book and I paraphrase Neil Gaiman: Start writing. Keep writing. Quit when you’re done. Start the next book. The same thing holds true with pretty much everything else in life. If your New Year’s Resolution was to get in shape, just go do it. Keep at it. And don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. If it’s important enough to you, you’ll find the time to do it. I won’t promise it will be easy, but it will be worth it in the long run. Just be smart about it. There are always trainers who are happy to help you learn how to do it right. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t worry about how you look.

Just do it. Do it and never look back.

173f8ccce3f37476df57db9dfefa667e