This is my first full-on We Are The World Blogfest post. The idea behind #WATWB was to say in even though it sometimes seems like it, the world isn’t really going to hell in a hand-basket. The bottom line is this: it seems dark and shitty, but the world will march on and eventually the evil bastards will be forced back into their holes with pitchforks and torches. With a bit of luck, we’ll remember these times and, just like the protest/counter-protest that erupted into violence, but ultimately descended into intelligent conversation, some day we’ll look back and wonder how we were manipulated into hatred so easily. Maybe it’s just in our nature.
But, just to prove Emperor Palpatine isn’t pulling the strings of the world, it’s important to remember good things happen, too.
Rather than focus on the differences and find the best ways to fight those things out until only one person remains, it’s still possible to engage those who think differently without resorting to violence. And even if the violence does erupt, that doesn’t mean it has to keep going.
There’s a video that’s been going viral lately about a man who breaks up a fight between a pair of 14-year-olds. In it, he encourages them to stop and think about why they’re doing what they’re doing. It’s far too easy to resort to fighting for everything and finding offense in every little thing, but that doesn’t help things. As I used to tell the kids’ Kenpo class, it’s always easier to avoid a fight than to win one.
If you’re down for spreading a little good news every now and then, hop on board with #WATWB, click here or go check ’em out on Facebook. There’s no obligation and, just like the video, sometimes all it takes is one person to make a positive change.
Val Tobin has a thing for the occult. She handles it well and makes the worlds of magic and UFO abduction feel real and tangible. Having tried to do this myself, I can tell you it’s no mean feat to integrate the paranormal with the mundanity of day-to-day life. This is actually the second of Val’s books that I’ve stumbled across. The first – The Experiencers – was cracking good read with aliens. Walk-In takes the reader in a different, but no less intriguing, direction.
Now, whether or not you believe in the paranormal aspects of Tobin’s work, you have to admit she’s done her homework. Magic’s an easy thing to completely screw up in a book. It can go from an interesting plot adornment to deus-ex-machina in the blink of an eye if it isn’t handled well. Tobin’s magic is still based on rules and – at least from my own research – seems to be based on real-world practices.
Into this world of magic and spirits, Tobin drops a psychic reader, a powerful (and evil) psychic, a witch, and a journalist who’s out of his element, but ready to understand. She manages to weave a mystery about a missing woman with a story of a budding romance and wrap it all up in a paranormal bow.
I can’t really comment too much on the romance aspects; that’s never been my genre, but I can say Val Tobin has crafted a believable world of unbelievable things and filled it with interesting characters. Hints of horror skulk around at the edges and there’s enough intrigue and action to satisfy almost anyone.
All in all, a highly entertaining read. Plus, it looks like there might be a sequel.
Questions plague psychic reader Viktoria Kovacs when her twin sister, missing for five years, appears at her door. Why did her sister leave? What happened to her memory? And how did she end up living with the mysterious millionaire who claims to be her protector?
When journalist Aedan McCarthy visits the occult shop where Viktoria works, he’s researching a novel, not looking for love. Unprepared for the jolt of electricity that sparks between them, Aedan wants to explore the possibilities.
But evil lurks, and not everyone is who they appear to be. Getting entangled with Viktoria might cost Aedan his soul.
A fast-paced romantic thriller with paranormal elements, Walk-In provides edge-of-the-seat entertainment.
Most martial arts books aim to teach you martial arts by showing you pictures of people doing things. Some do it really well, others do it exceedingly poorly. Some of the books out there that purport to teach a martial art through pictures are trying to teach a shitty martial art poorly. In those cases, you’ve got the double whammy of suck.
I have a huge library of martial arts books ranging from obscure treatises on Savate to modern explanations of Krav Maga and everything in between. Some are good, some not so good, but most of them can be counted on to have a gem or two ferreted away between the covers.
Whether or not you can learn a martial art from a book is debatable. I would argue that it’s really not possible to understand motion from static images, but once you’ve got a solid grasp of a martial art, you can start to pick things up from books and videos. The caveat, of course, is what you learn will be tainted by your understanding of whatever art you’ve been studying. In other words, you’d be doing Jeet Kun Do as a Kenpo practitioner, not as a Jeet Kun Do practitioner.
Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I’m not sure. I’m of the opinion that if you can make it work, it’s all good. Others would likely disagree.
But, I digress. Lee Wedlake’s The Kenpo Karate Compendium: The Forms and Sets of American Kenpo isn’t one of those books that aims to teach you a martial art. It’s written for people who are already proficient at Kenpo and shows some extra details and notes that may or may not have been picked up during live training.
Kenpo’s a fractured system. It started out in Hawaii, moved to Utah, and exploded after that. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), that explosion has lead to a lot of different schools doing a lot of different things. My school broke from Ed Parker’s school at some point in the distant past, but we still use a lot of his techniques and forms. In fact, the bulk of the first forms from Parker Kenpo are still extant in AKKA Kenpo. There’s more divergence as the belts go higher, but especially the early ones are almost exactly the same as what Lee Wedlake wrote his book about.
That kind of fracturing isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s nice sometimes to go back to the source and see that it hasn’t changed as much as we sometimes like to think it. It’s also nice to get some insight from someone else. Not knocking my own Kenpo instructors here, but it can be a great thing to break out of the norm and see what someone else has to say.
The bottom line for a book like this is it isn’t a great book for beginners. This is for people who want to dig into the original forms and pick up what’s changed here and there over the years or catch those little details that get lost from time to time. It’s also nice to have a different take on something.
Back when I was a young lad growing up in Farmington, NM, I read a lot of books. It was a way of escaping a system that rewarded jocks for being jock assholes and didn’t care for creativity. I wasn’t a jock, although I did go out for basketball in the 6th grade (didn’t get to play in the one game we won) and track & field in High School (okay at shot put, miserable at discus). Personally, I didn’t care too much for either. I guess I’m not much of a team sports guy.
This was when Stephen King was doing his meteoric rise to, well, where he is now. I didn’t read a whole lot of horror – I was mostly into SciFi – but, of course I read King’s early works just like everyone else. It was required reading in the 80s, just like it was expected that you listened to Oingo Boingo. He did some pretty clever horror stories back in the day. Christine, Pet Sematary, Misery, It. He also did a great co-authoring work with Peter Straub called The Talisman which was pretty awesome.
I could usually be found with my nose in a book, listening to Iron Maiden or any number of 80s heavy metal bands and doing my best to avoid the multitude of bullies and assholes that thrived in an environment where athletic prowess was valued more than anything else. I also worked on the yearbook and that probably didn’t help my social standing.
Quick funny story for you: Our senior year yearbook has a strange aberration on the cover. If you look on the back there’s a piece of the wall that’s a different color from the rest. The reason that’s there is because it’s covering an anarchy symbol. We put the anarchy symbol on the cover because we thought it was cool. The school brass nearly had a heart attack over it and ordered it covered. I still think we should have kept it intact.
Now, what’s funny is at this time, a lot of people thought Stephen King was a hack. Nowadays, he’s considered one of the greats, but in the early 80s, he didn’t have such high regard. Nevertheless, he sold books like a mad motherfucker and everyone was reading him no matter what the critics had to say.
King was making money and doing what he loved. While all the critics were going to sleep in their one-room flophouses and fighting cockroaches the size of Panzer tanks, Stephen King was sleeping on a huge pile of money, surrounded by many beautiful ladies.
He kept going and he kept doing things his way and now very few people consider him a hack. And he’s not the only one, either. Science Fiction as a genre was long considered the repository for people who couldn’t write good stories. Bradbury, Williamson, Heinlein, Asimov, and many others were looked down upon, not because of what they were writing, but because of their genres.
In Kenpo, we line up in class according to rank. During one of my first classes my teacher made an interesting point. “The difference,” he said, “between being at the front of the class and the back of the class is simply a matter of time.” If you stuck with it, you got better. It was that simple.
Writing seems to be no different in that respect. Keep practicing and you’ll get better. At least I like to think I’ve gotten better at it.
Of course, I’m still working at that “world thinks he’s a hack” level of popularity, but perhaps it will come in time. If it does, and I still get a bunch of reviews calling me a hack, hell, that’s a bunch of people that read that book and cared enough to leave a comment. I’m cool with that.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this: if you’re struggling with something – anything, really – keep at it if you love it. Keep trying to make it better, keep trying new things, keep trying in general. There was a time when even Stephen King was an unknown tacking rejection notices to his wall.
If you’ve ever wondered how it is I come up with some of my more bonkers ideas, let me tell you a little tale.
Back in and around the turn of the millennium, when everything was supposed to go to Hell in a hand-basket because of the Y2K bug, I was living down the street from where I am now. Truthfully, that’s not that important, except it put me in close proximity to the house of one of Diazien Hossencofft. That name, in conjunction to the time frame, should trigger alarm bells in anyone versed in Albuquerque’s strange and savage history.
Now, I have never met Hossencofft, nor have I met any of his multiple wives, but he was living a short distance from me and I didn’t even know who or what he was until I repeatedly saw news crews outside his house as I driving home.
Diazien Hossencofft and his girlfriend were convicted of murdering Hossencofft’s wife (whose body still hasn’t been found) and sentenced to whole mess of time in the big house. That, in and of itself, isn’t all that crazy. What is crazy, is there were allegations during that trial that they killed her to get ready for the mass invasion of reptilian-alien masters who already ran the US government and Hossencofft and his girlfriend may have eaten at least part of his murdered wife.
That’s bonkers, even in New Mexico where alien abduction is a perfectly valid excuse for being late for work.
Remember, this is a state that gave the world the Roswell Incident and all the allegations about a secret base in Dulce, NM run by aliens and former Nazis who are trying to create alien/human hybrids. (Admit it, you thought I was making all that up in Arise, didn’t you?) Even here in the Land of Enchantment, the story of Diazien Hossencofft is outlandish.
And this guy was living a stone’s throw from me.
All those ideas that seem so far-fetched – aliens, secret bases, alien/human hybrids, Satanic plots – are pretty run-of-the-mill in New Mexico. We were telling those stories long before Scully and Mulder showed up on the scene; I just took those tales and used them as plot points in fiction.
When it comes to high weirdness, we’re experts, so it shouldn’t be surprising that magical realism is a common theme here. We made international news in 1947 and have been riding high on it ever since. The first atomic bombs were detonated here in New Mexico. We’re used to this kind of thing. If that makes us weird, then so be it. As the master of Gonzo himself said,
“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” – Hunter S. Thompson
They say when it comes to writing, write what you know. And I know weird.
Max Power is back and in full force with his very first sequel. Over the years, he’s written five books (including this one), but this is the first time he’s written a sequel to any of them.
That’s a good thing. Darkly Wood (check my review here) was a great horror story with other horror stories interwoven with it. It was a very unique story that handled the exposition of the titular wood through a series of old tales about the horrible thing that had happened there over the years, even as it was dragging us – and the protagonist, Daisy May – through the muck and claws of the woods.
Darkly Wood ended like any good horror story should – leaving you wanting more. The main story was finished, but it added more questions and begged for a sequel. Now, three years later, we get a sequel that answers some of the questions and introduces more. Darkly Wood II: The woman who never wore shoes picks up the story of Daisy May when her granddaughter wanders into the woods and history repeats itself.
This time, though, the stakes are higher and there’s a twist.
Power himself has claimed this isn’t a horror story. He sees it as a romance with horror elements and there’s certainly a bit of romance lurking in the dark corners of the story, ready to snatch you up and lovingly shred you. Certainly, Darkly Wood II uses the romance elements to both humanize and demonize his primary antagonist and give us tantalizing hints as to why he is the way he is, but the magic of the story lies in how we learn more about why the woods are the way they are.
As before, Power weaves stories of the woods into the narrative of the story, but this time the stories become important parts of the whole. Rather than simply provide exposition and allow us to see Darkly Wood as a long-time menace, the old stories become important elements in the final narrative.
Max Power is a masterful story-teller, so masterful you don’t always realize just how well-woven the tale is until the whole of the story hits you full in the face. If you haven’t read Darkly Wood, it’s not strictly necessary to start there, but it would definitely help.
If you like your horror stories with a bit of soul instead of a lot of blood, check out Darkly Wood II. It has some intense scenes, but it’s not meant as a scream-fest. This is the creeping, gnawing horror that sneaks up you in the middle of the night. Well written and entertaining, Darkly Wood II is a great read.
This chilling sequel to Darkly Wood brings us back to the mysterious wood perched above the sleepy village of Cranby. The mystery returns with love and terror walking hand and hand through the seemingly innocent paths of the place that has generated many fearful tales. This time however, there is an even more sinister presence. Much time has passed since Daisy escaped the terror of the wood and on the surface little has changed. But behind the tree line, a new danger lurks. Fans of the original will be taken to darker depths and first time readers will discover the true art of storytelling from the mind of the award winning author Max Power. Heart stopping, fast paced, unrelenting danger lies waiting for you between the pages. Sometimes love is all you have. Sometimes, love is not enough. Darkness is coming…
Twitter, in addition to being the US President’s defacto choice of late-night communication, is rife with all manner of interesting information. Once you scrape past the people that all repost the exact same click-bait news stories (5 reasons why this post is awesome, you’ll never believe number 3!) and ass-random posts about how terrible the last Ghostbusters movie was, you’ll find a vibrant writing community.
I’m sure this is probably true of everything from programming to HR, but it’s the writers I tend to look to. In particular, I’ve started playing some of the Twitter writing games. There are scads of them out there, but I only follow a few of them because I like to at least attempt to do them justice.
Writing on Twitter isn’t always about getting the snappiest line together – although, choose a good one – it’s more about seeing what other people are writing. Each day I take a bit of time to find a few lines from whatever I’m writing and post it. Of course, lots of other people are doing the same thing, so it gives me a chance to see how other writers are putting things together. Think of it as an amuse-bouche for words.
Anyway, if you’d like to join up, it’s as simple as posting something with the appropriate hashtag and reading what others are doing. Beyond that, there aren’t any requirements. Other than don’t be a dick, but that kind of goes without saying.
Don’t expect a lot of feedback, but do expect to find some interesting new writers and see what they’re up to. Here’s my daily routine:
Go forth and check these out; there are good times ahead and you’re likely to meet someone interesting. To play, all you have to do is either write something up or pull something from your work in progress, tweet it, and make sure to add the appropriate hashtag for the day. Then, kick back and see what everyone else has written. It’s great fun and it exposes you to writers you might not have come across before.
Got any other games you like? Leave ’em in the comments!