Why Monkey Knife Fighting Is Important

One of my Theatre teachers (note, The Theatre, as opposed to the pedestrian theater that screens “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride”), liked to say, “No one writes plays about people brushing their teeth.” Her point was we, as an audience, want the exceptional, the crazy, the amazing story, not the pedestrian stuff we all do every day.

There was a scene in The Simpsons back in the day where Homer & the gang took Mr. Burns’ yacht out into international waters. Now, for those of you in the know, that means US law no longer applies and the sky’s the limit. Of course, also for those of you in the know, it doesn’t quite work like that, but for The Simpsons, it was a great excuse to go nuts.

How did they go nuts? Monkey knife fighting, of course.

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Actual scene from Canada, monkey knife fighting capital of the world. They just want you to think they’re all nice up there.

Whether or not monkey knife fighting is a thing – and I’ve heard it’s extremely popular in Canada and Yonkers, NY, but that could fake news – it served as an example of what Homer thought going bonkers was. That and drinking in the nude, if memory serves.

Of course, as the Canadians will tell you, monkey knife fighting isn’t really all that bonkers. For true, balls-to-the-wall, pissing-on-cop-cars, pants-on-head-crazy, you really need to turn to the master of the art. The man who made Gonzo Journalism a thing; the one and only Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.

“I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.” Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

Dr. Thompson lived the life he wrote about and not all of us have the iron-clad constitution to wake up every morning to a glass of whisky or the balls to pull a gun on a crowd of people during a speech. But that was Thompson, he lived his life like he wrote about the world and we, as a people, are better off for him doing it.

Writing fiction shouldn’t be about people brushing their teeth or sitting in offices hammering GPS code; that’s boring stuff that we all do every day. Or at least I do. So, if your audience is already living it, or worse, inured to it, it’s probably not a great thing to work with. Likewise, if the story has already been told, don’t tell it again. The world needs to be amped up if people are going to want to lose themselves in it.

Sure, even The Bible (Ecclesiates 1:9) said there’s nothing new under the sun, but that doesn’t mean there’s no new way to tell that tale. Rather than building a fantasy world where the spotless hero is trying to take the castle from the evil villain, how about a fantasy world where the bad guy took the castle because he wasn’t really bad, just a victim of bad press? What about an alien abduction story where the people getting abducted steal the UFO?

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Chimps are apes, so this technically isn’t a rehashed monkey joke. The more you know…

The bottom line is, we live in a world where the president of the United States communicates through Twitter and has accused his predecessor of tapping his phone lines, what seemed crazy and abnormal last year is becoming the norm this year.

Don’t be afraid to include monkey knife fights in your story, maybe not literally, but figuratively. Unless you’re planning on selling a lot of books in Canada. Get nuts, make the dragons duplicitous bastards who’ve managed to turn religion into a drug or make a main character a Valkyrie who thinks Odin isn’t doing enough to hasten Ragnarok.

It’s time to put on the tinfoil fedora and go a little nuts. Make it surreal, make it fun, make it so outside the ordinary people will have to sit up and notice it.

As usual, Hunter S. Thompson has a quote that needs to be applied to more fiction.

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

Go bonkers with your writing. Don’t be afraid to write that scene; I assure you its only problem is it’s not crazy enough.

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Indie Authors & Fantasy Art

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This isn’t exactly a guest post, but it’s kind of a guest post, so bear with me.

For anyone interested, a buddy of mine is holding a Facebook discussion panel tomorrow (02/24/2017) on Fantasy Art, Book Cover Design, and the Indie Author. Come by and check it out. I’ll be on over my lunch break, so I may be chowing down at my desk while I’m answering questions. My slot is 12:30pm to 1:30pm, but the event runs all day and Michael Dellert (the host) has a whole host of indie authors, cover designers, and illustrators slated throughout the day. If you’re an author, designer, or illustrator, come on by and chat it up. This is a great opportunity to meet some new folk and share some ideas and stories.

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Research & Why

The background research for the Henchmen series was based on experience. I had already worked with things like the locks in Radula and Mosler safes. The fight scenes were based on years of training in Kenpo, Kenjutsu, & Okinawan Karate. Some of the later stuff, especially the spin-offs in the Saxton series and a couple of the stories in The Clock Man required looking a few things up, but again, it was all stuff I was relatively aware of. In other words, I didn’t have to do a lot of original research to get those books off the ground.

In some ways, I guess this is to be expected. They say the first novel is always somewhat autobiographical. Not that I’ve fought gods and monsters, mind you, just that a lot of the background details were already firmly in place.

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What a Mosler may look like

I’m working on a new book, a follow-on to the events of The Clock Man novella, that explores the world of Aluna further. It’s moving along nicely. Thank you very much for asking. Greetings From Sunny Aluna takes a look at the fallout from the events The Clock Man and, more importantly, asks the question of “Why”?

Greetings is my first true fantasy novel in that it takes place on a planet that doesn’t exist and makes use of magic. At least, that seems to be the functional definition of fantasy. Aluna is a world populated by people from Earth at some point in the past. Magic there is a fundamental force; someone with enough skill or training can handle it, but most people use it to turn on their lights.

The magic part is neither here nor there. You can research magic until the cows come home and never get to the bottom of it because there’s no scientifically valid research to do on it. Seriously, even the Time Life Mysteries of the Unknown series doesn’t do a very good job with magic. This leaves me with non-standard research sources.

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My Zatanna comics didn’t help much, either.

In the end, I decided the magic part was best handled delicately and in small doses. And no, Zatanna doesn’t make an appearance.

Other research I wound up doing – stuff that is a bit more grounded in the real world – pertained to the cultures that would spring up when people were transplanted and forced to deal with an alien world. Certain things, like mammals, would be forgotten after a few generations on a planet that doesn’t have those things. A simple thing like a dog would be incredible. Other things – food, for instance – would adapt to the available buffet. In a world with no mammals, steak simply wouldn’t exist. Fortunately, I can look to extant cultures and extrapolate what the food would look like. Probably fried tarantulas and extremely large bird barbecue.

Those are the fun things about building a new world and, I have to admit, I’m having a lot of fun integrating a culture with heavy Chinese influence into a world where magic and dragons are very real. Speaking of Chinese, integrating the language into text has been, at best, problematic. I would like to take a public moment here to thank Google translate. Without that, I’d be dead in the water.

But the best part about writing fantasy is realizing that no matter where you go and who you talk to, people are still people. Organized crime will still exist. Drugs will still be peddled. And, most importantly, the quest for power will still be there. All good fantasy should focus on the characters; the world and all the accouterments that come along with it are window dressing.

In case you’re wondering, yes, Greetings From Sunny Aluna spends a lot of time in the gutters of Aluna. Consider it fantasy crime noir with a touch of wuxia.

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Power is always a good motivator.

Which leads to the “why”.

I studied LEAN Six Sigma some time back because my job decided we all needed to be Six Sigma certified. For those unfamiliar, Six Sigma is a process for examining (among other things) efficiency and defects in manufacturing. We were shoehorning it into a programming environment to mixed results. One of the things I did pick up on was the Six Sigma concept of root cause analysis. That’s the idea that for a given problem there might be dozens of symptoms, but when you dig down far enough, you’ll find a single cause that explains the myriad of problems. I took that one to heart in development.

Root cause analysis can also be useful in writing. We already know we need conflict and fun characters and all kinds of wacky adventures, but the root problem isn’t always easy to ferret out. Why did the Clock Man go off the rails like he did? What precipitating event kicked off the events of that story and lead Felix Crow down the path he wound up on? In the story, I hinted at those things, but they were guesses from Crow’s point of view. Greetings From Sunny Aluna is told from a lot of different points of view and when each character realizes they have a part of the solution, the whole reason is laid bare.

Trust me on this, it’s a doozy. To find out what it is, you’ll just have to read the book when it’s done. In the interim, have a fried tarantula and revel in the fact that you live in a world where you can get a steak.

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Supposedly they’re pretty tasty.

The Darkness is back …

Darkly Wood was an amazing book. The sequel looks to be pretty incredible, too. It’s good to see Max Power (the man whose name you want to touch, but you mustn’t touch … Max Power) taking us on another tour of the Darkly Woods.

Maxpower's Blog

I have a secret.  The thing about secrets is that the minute you spill the beans the secret is gone and it loses all of its power.  In a sense I have lots of secrets because every book I write has something waiting at the end that I don’t want to reveal until the moment is right. Today I published my fifth book and it is the second in a series of three.  I always say that every book I write is completely different in subject and genre but today I theoretically at least put that idea to bed by releasing a sequel.

That being said I do have a secret.  Writing is much tougher than many people think.  I find the actual creative bit easy and I suspect all writers feel much the same.  The difficult part is the work that goes in after and in my case, my five…

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Book Review – Born Of Shadow by Richard Murray

It’s really hard to set yourself apart in the monster-hunting genre these days. The market is saturated and it takes a clever hand to pull something new out of a genre that some people say has been done to death.

Enter Richard Murray, who would like to kindly explain there are new things under the sun.

The thing about the monster-hunting genre is it was pretty clever back in the day. “Hey, instead of running from this vampire, let’s whoop his ass and take his castle.” John Steakley did it with Vampire$. Laurell Hamilton did it with a whole whack of books. Hell, I’ve done it. What sets Richard Murray apart from all of us is how he treats his subject matter. There’s a certain moral flexibility at play and an idea that not everything is as obvious as it first looks. Those a great things to play with in a story.

Take a hefty dose of action, a cast of interesting characters, introduce an unexpected element, shake well, and you’ve got Born of Shadows. One of the things I look at to determine if a book is “good” or not is whether or not I go back over it in my head at a later date. I’ve relived some of the key elements more than a few times and wondered how I would handle those things were I inserted into the story.

All in all, Born of Shadow (Shadow Walkers Book One) was an entertaining story that leaves enough questions to make you look forward to the next book in the series.

The world is full of monsters. At least Lena believed that was true. After all, she’d once witnessed a monster tear apart her family, leaving her broken and bleeding. All alone in the world except for the one person who was always there for her. Her best friend, Evelyn.

Her search for the truth reveals not only was she right, but that she is one of those supernatural creatures that fills the world. Taught how to use her powers, she joins with a team of hunters in their war against the supernatural monsters.

She soon finds that not only is she fighting the monsters, but also her growing feelings for the one person she’s terrified of losing. As truths are finally revealed, Lena will come face to face with the creature that’s haunted her nightmares and be forced to choose what side she’s truly on.

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Find Richard Murray on Goodreads

Book Covers – Transmute

Transmute is almost ready to fly. I’ve got a couple beta readers still flipping through things, but the main text is done. In the interim, I’ve been tweaking the eBook cover and working on the print cover. The print cover is, of course, far more time-consuming. After some back and forth with the good people at Indie Author Support & Discussion, I think they’re pretty much done.

What do you think?

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Here’s the eBook version, which has slightly different dimensions than the print version.

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And the print version, complete with blurb.

SIBA 2016

SIBA, for those of you not in the know, stands for Summer Indie Book Awards, an annual award for indie authors promoted by Metamorph Publishing. It’s a great (and free, free is important) chance for indie authors to get our works out a little further and explore some of what other people are doing. All in all, it should be fun time, especially since the rules are pretty lax. Essentially, during the nomination phase, you’re allowed to vote for as many books in each category as you feel like each day for ten days. Then some magic happens and something else will happen. I’m honestly not sure what will happen next; I was nominated and was pleasantly surprised to find Henchmen came in 2nd in fantasy. If it goes further, great. If not, that’s cool, too.

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This was my shocked and awed face.

Honestly, I just thought it was cool someone nominated me. And contrary to what you might have heard, 2nd place is not the first loser.

Now, all in all this should be an easy thing. Vote. Count votes. Announce winner(s). Easy peasy, right?

Apparently, during the nomination voting phase a couple authors had to be removed from the competition for sending threatening emails, at least one winner that I know of got a 1 star review on his book from a friend of the 2nd place guy, and there were apparently vast accusations of cheating and other chicanery. I know a guy who’s getting off Facebook because he won his category and has gotten nothing but grief and nasty messages.

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Now, let’s be clear here: As far as I know the winner gets bragging rights and a featured spot on Metamorph’s web page; nothing more. It’s not like we’re all competing for a million-dollar contract or anything (those don’t really exist anyway), you get a featured spot and the ability to say you’ve won.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s cool stuff right there – and I applaud whoever wins in the end – but it’s hardly something worth threats, nasty messages, and accusations of cheating. And how, exactly, do you cheat in a contest where you can vote every day for as many books as you want and rope your friends into doing the same?

So, for a group that always pats itself on the back about how supportive it is, there are at least a few indie authors being real dicks. To those people, I say, “You’re acting like children, grow the heck up.”

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In case you’re wondering who won the fantasy genre nominations, it’s this book and it looks like it might be interesting.

And thanks to Metamorph Publishing for doing this award and putting up with all the nonsense that came along with it. You people have the patience of saints.

Sniffing girls, wildlings and finding my butterfly…

Wonderful stories from the one and only Max Power.

Maxpower's Blog

I remember the pressure of the knife against my throat as clearly as if it was yesterday and the sense that in that moment, things might go terribly wrong. Having skedaddled out of a very hairy situation only minutes before, more as a precaution than anything else, being trapped and surrounded by a marauding gang of knife wielding men in a remote part of town late at night, left the three of us feeling less than confident that we might escape unscathed.

That we did, was more down to experience than luck, an element of comradery, balls that were needed and applied at the right moment and a hint of cowardice in one of the gang members that surrounded us, threatening to cut us up and throw us in the river. God it seems like such a long time ago now. I’m not sure if I’d handle it with such…

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4 Quick Ways To Write A #BookReview And Overcome Your Fears #MondayBlogs

I know I’ve said it before, but reviews are good things. Leaving a quick review that consists of nothing more than “Cool book” can make an author’s day.

Rosie Amber

Authors WANT  Reviews

Make an Author's Day

Simple! How many times have you read pleas on social media for readers to write reviews? – Probably Loads.

Does the thought of writing a book review send you racing to the hills? – I can see plenty of you nodding in agreement.

WHAT holds you back?

Reading Soft edge

6 common replies:

I can’t write.

I can’t write paragraphs about a book.

I don’t know what to write.

I’m afraid of what people will think of my review.

I’m an author and don’t want a backlash on my own books.

I don’t have the time.

Let’s turn this around

I can’t write – I bet if you can read, you can write.

I can’t write paragraphs about a book – Good News, Amazon accepts one sentence reviews now as do many other sites.

I don’t know what to write – Ah! Quick Question – Why did you like or Dislike…

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The World’s Most Evil Books – in movies and real life

Had to reblog this one. Who doesn’t like books? Especially the ones brimming over with power and madness.

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The World’s Most Evil Books – in movies and real life

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For conjuring, spells, invocations and summoning the dark powers and Demonic entities

Books for summoning dark powers, entities, and magicks are often called Grimoires. These Grimoires were often collections of incantations and spells that practitioners accumulated in their travels, rewritten in an orderly fashion. Some were more intensive studies by monks, Satanists and sorcerers interested in the dark arts and attempting to unlock the secrets of death and the great beyond. Here’s a brief look at some of the most powerful dark arts books in the world.



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The Black Pullet – 1700s

This book from 18th century Rome gives instructions and guides on creating and using Talismans. The magic of the rings is known to bring forth a multitude of extraordinary powers of protection, healing, and spellbinding. One such ceremony concerns producing the Black Pullet, known as the…

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