Tackling the Beast – A perspective…

Tackling the Beast – A perspective…

I have subdued the beast within me, the monster, and the creeping thread picker of my soul.  Every word I write comes past him.  I don’t need his approval or consent, but I do need to get past him and that is never easy.  Yesterday I edited a very sad story that I am working on, trying hard to get it just right.  The beast within tried to gobble me up.  I know that sounds like absolute nonsense, however it is an entirely apt description for what sometimes happens.

Those who know me know my smiley side mostly and I have written many times about the melancholic spirit that inhabits the heart beneath the smile.  In an older blog, I wrote about the importance of letting that spirit free on occasion, to flow into my written word and I while do of course it is tempered by something pernicious.  There really is a beast.

My book Darkly Wood deals with a beast of sorts, although some don’t see past the outer monster and that is fine, as the book is intended to work a bit like radio; each reader should create their own picture.  Larry Flynn is full of monsters, all human or inhuman perhaps and my third book Bad Blood, has beastly blood flowing through the veins and genes of some of the more monstrous characters I have written into life.  In writing Little Big Boy, I explored monsters from a different perspective, that of a small boy, full of love and innocence, discovering monsters in the outside world and closer to home.

I always espouse the idea that at the heart of every book there is love or the absence of love.  It is unavoidable and be it the most violent thriller, dark fantasy, swashbuckling adventure or children’s story, it can be found lurking beneath the surface at the very least.

So then, why the monsters you might ask?  The beast within that I speak of is unkind.  Perhaps it might be better to say he is unkindness itself.  Writing for me is something very special indeed.  I am in love with the process.  Every writer has their own way of finding their stories and developing them.  I become them.

I ran through Darkly Wood, across the meadow and over the bridge by the stream.  I looked up and saw the darkening sky and felt the clawing branches closing in, as I listened to my heart beat with fear.  I looked down my nose at Larry Flynn, the disgusting old man and I was filled with contempt for him.  When I found out why he was the way he was, I felt a lump in my throat and prayed that he might redeem himself before it was too late.  In writing Bad Blood, my heart pounded with fear when Jamal stepped into the Wainwright’s yard and I was stunned at the death of one of my characters.   For me they were all real and I lived in the moment and that is when the beast arrives.  My vulnerability, my Achilles heel like many writers, is uncertainty.  The beast within knows it and wants to take advantage of that knowledge.

Yesterday, I went over a piece that I had written in my latest book Little Big Boy and it made me cry.  It had been some time since I had written that particular chapter, but in an instant, I was holding a little boy’s hand and he squeezed it.  He wanted to know if everything would be alright.   You see, there was a monster there in the room with us and he had no one, only me.  It was such a responsibility, but I knew what I had allowed to happen next and it upset me.  I could have saved him there and then, but then again what happened next had already happened in a sense, when I first brought that scene to life.  I could no more change the outcome, than rewrite history.

So the beast arrived and picked at my thread of vulnerability, hoping to pick apart my confidence.  He wanted to consume me and stop me from setting this part of the story free.  The beast that is in me, that wants me to fail, that wants to push back the tears or else to let the melancholy totally consume me and allow darkness to take over so I won’t write, is very big and very strong.

Writing about Love and monsters all in the same swirl of a pen is a beautiful thing for me.  The glow I feel from the love in my life is what sustains me and the darkness in my centre is a part of me I have to live with and love, because it is from both that I find my way into the moment of the book that I am always writing.  It is a dangerous thing to do sometimes, to immerse myself in the story, in the moment of my book.  I know I am safe as long as I go with my heart, but I have to be careful how far I go and how much trust I give to myself.  I have to watch out for the beast…….

Little Big Boy by Max Power. Coming soon…

Max Power’s other books include, Darkly Wood, Larry Flynn and Bad Blood, all available on amazon to download or in paperback. You can find more details about Max Power’s other books here : –

http://www.amazon.com/author/maxpower

maxpowerbooks.wordpress.com

facebook.com/maxpowerbooks

Twitter @maxpowerbooks1

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Watching Feet

Watching Feet

Little Big Boy coming soon from Max Power

Just a teaser

…..“Aaaaah shut up your shaggin’ moanin’ will ya”

I knew the signs.  It is hard to remember them all, but some arguments stick in my mind.  There were so many, they often blend together in a mush of loud voices, fear and sometimes outright terror.  This particular one was most certainly not the first one I had witnessed, but it sort of marked the beginning of what was to come.  I think this was the start of the decent for me.  I’m not sure why, but it felt like a transition.  There had been some kind of truce after Lo-Lo was born.  Everyone got along and it was like a golden age in my little world.  Dad resumed drinking again after a few months of course, but then when my brother died, he stopped again and our house was a calmer place for sure.

The transition I speak of was a change in my sense of security.  It coincided with the move to big school and all at once, I went from feeling safe and protected by my doting mother, to a sense of abandonment.  It wasn’t entirely true but it just felt that way.  My brother Eamonn had discovered rebellion and was already on the receiving end of brutal beatings.  Lo-Lo had taken my place as the one in most need of protecting.  The loss of my baby brother changed Mam. I think prior to this particular argument, I had been kept away, spirited away sometimes, but now Mam had Lo-Lo to keep safe.  Sometimes she didn’t seem to see me.

“..You’re disgusting.  Look at you.  You’re drunk.  I don’t know why you drink when you end up like this.  Did the neighbours see you waltz up the path like that?  You should be ashamed of yourself…”

I didn’t want my Mam to fight with Dad.  She was going to make him angry and he frightened me when he was angry.  While it was my father I feared, I was annoyed at my mother for rising him to a row.

“Feck the neighbours!  That auld bitch next door should look to her own family… and where’s my dinner?  A man shouldn’t have to listen to this tripe after a hard day’s work.”

He was slurring his words and his voice was getting progressively louder.  Neither of them seemed to notice me.  They were in the kitchen and I was in the sitting room, but the door was open and I could see them.  His body language frightened me.  Dad seemed to be moving menacingly, constantly turning toward and then away from my mother, as if confused about where to go.  I sat on my Mam’s chair and hugged my knees.  I was wearing short trousers and they felt cold against my warm cheek.  It was strange, but even in the height of a crises, my mind could wander to find curiosity in the smallest of things, a distraction if you will and for the tiniest moment, I wondered why my face was warm and my knees were cold.

“Work?”  Why did my mother use her angry voice, she was going to make matters worse?  “What work?  You were in the pub all afternoon.  Look at you, you reek of drink, you should be…”  Whatever she planned to say was cut off by my father turning towards her and slamming his fist down violently on the kitchen table.  He was so drunk it made him loose his balance slightly and he wobbled.

“Shut up…shut up… SHUT THE FECK UP!”

“Don’t you raise your voice like that to me in front of the children?”

I couldn’t believe she was admonishing him in that way.  He was breathing heavily and I knew the signs.  She was making him more and more mad and he was going to explode.  Lo-Lo was upstairs asleep and the others were out, so I was the only one in the house to witness the unfolding agreement.  Something bad was going to happen.  I wished I could stop them.  I wanted to stop them.  Fear grabbed me by the throat and I tried to fight it.  But this wasn’t like Mark O’ Connor picking a fight with me in the school yard.  I couldn’t stand up to… this.

I ran over to the sofa and dropped to my side, sliding underneath between the legs like a cowboy sliding for cover.  Once underneath, I shimmied to the very back against the wall and lay on my belly.  From there, I could see into the kitchen, but all I could see were my parent’s feet.  Even they told a story.  I covered my ears and tried to block out the sound, but it was impossible.

There was a brief silence, as though my mother had capitulated or my father had got fed up.  In a bizarre ritual of normality, he sat at the head of the table and I saw my mother’s feet take her to the cooker.  His dinner was in the warm oven covered by another plate, waiting for his inevitable return that day.  She retrieved it and placed it before him.  I couldn’t see from my vantage point, but I knew she would be taking the top plate off and that she would put it in the sink before getting the salt for my dad to shake over everything.

“What’s this…MUCK?”  I heard the sound of his knife and fork hit the table as he tossed them down in anger.  “It’s all dried up!  What sort of woman are ye?  You’re useless!”

“Well if you came home in time, instead of drinking away my shopping money in the pub with your drunken pals, your Dinner would be fine.”

That escalated matters.  I watched in horror and squeezed my hands harder over my ears, trying desperately to make myself invisible beneath the sofa.  His chair was pushed back as he rose and in the next moment, I saw his plate, dinner and all come crashing down onto the kitchen floor.  He had thrown it down in anger and began shouting at my mother.

“mmm …mmmmm…mmmmm…mmmm”

I hummed and squeezed my eyes closed and the nonsense humming sound I made, sounded really loud in my head as my hands covered my ears.  Mam was screaming at him and he was roaring back, but I didn’t want to know the words.  I didn’t want this to happen.  Inside, my stomach hurt.  I felt lots of butterflies but they weren’t nice ones.  Then I opened my eyes, but I wish I hadn’t.

Watching feet doesn’t tell you everything but some things are unmistakeable.  I saw Dad’s feet stagger back a little in his drunkenness, to establish a stance from which to strike.  I watched my usually fearless mother’s feet, shimmy back a little in nervous anticipation.  There was a shift and a twist in my Dad’s stance and in my horrified trance, I released the pressure I had been applying to my ears, just in time to hear the sound of my father’s hand strike my mother on her face.

I instantly clamped them back again, but the damage was done.  My mother’s feet quick stepped backwards as she reeled from the blow.  Then everything stopped still.  I opened my eyes and I didn’t even know that I had been crying.  Little boy snot rolled onto my upper lip and as I tried to sniff it back, I felt that uncontrollable breathy sob that comes with little boys tears.

I took my hands from my ears and watched the feet……..

Little Big Boy by Max Power. Coming soon…

Max Power’s other books include, Darkly Wood, Larry Flynn and Bad Blood, all available on amazon to download or in paperback. You can find more details about Max Power’s other books here : –

http://www.amazon.com/author/maxpower

maxpowerbooks.wordpress.com

facebook.com/maxpowerbooks

Twitter @maxpowerbooks1

A very different kiss…

A very different kiss…

Max Power’s Little Big Boy.. a timely extract for Valentine’s Day

…..My father loved special occasions. Christmas, birthdays, Easter, Halloween, it didn’t matter. Valentine’s Day was no different.  The problem for the rest of us was not that he loved them, rather it was his motivation that concerned us and even as a small boy I recall becoming increasingly stressed as such occasions drew close.

There were months at a time when Dad simply didn’t drink and they were the best of times.  Occasions were excuses for him to start again and we all knew it.   Despite the threat of relapse at every turn and the danger it placed her in, my mother loved special days with equal enthusiasm.  Every Valentine’s Day we all received at least one card from a secret admirer, even little me.  I didn’t particularly like girls at that stage but I liked the notion that someone was my secret admirer.  Even when I guessed it was probably Mam, I chose to imagine a grander explanation.

The year after Lo-Lo was born, something terrible happened on February 14th that changed its meaning forever.  Mam was pregnant and I knew my new baby brother or sister would arrive any day.  It didn’t overly bother me.  Lo-Lo was the one I felt sorry for.  She was still a baby herself and very soon, she would have to relinquish that prized spot just as I did when she came along.  At least I had several years as the centre of attention, poor Lo-Lo couldn’t even speak properly yet.

I was a little worried of course.  I had already felt the push to the side and I figured another cute baby would only make that worse.  But I loved Lo-Lo so I figured I’d love the new one as well, even if it was another girl.  Not so secretly I hoped for a boy.  I wanted to be the big brother to another boy for once.  While I was already a big brother to  Lo-Lo, I knew instinctively that being a big brother to a boy, was more interesting than being a big brother to a girl.

That year, we all received our Valentine cards when we came down for breakfast as usual.  It was just like the year before, the house filled with laughter and jokes and my dad was hilarious.   He loved making fun of us but we knew it was all well-meaning.  After breakfast we all disappeared to school and work, leaving my heavily pregnant mother alone.  Everyone was smiling, everyone was happy.  When I returned home that day, everything had changed.

Mam was crying.  I say crying, but really she was finished crying.  When I came in the door, I threw my bag on the couch and ran to hug her, but she sat forward and shot out her arms to stop me.  Something was very wrong and as she held me at arm’s length, I noticed the silence.  There was always a radio playing in our house during the day, always.  I could hear the ticking of the clock on the mantelpiece and then I noticed that she hadn’t lit the fire.

I looked into her eyes.  They were red and her lip quivered.  She leaned toward me and ever so gently pulled me close, but not onto her lap as she usually did.  Mam kissed me.  It was a different kiss.  She pressed her lips to my cheek and held them there for ages and then she hugged me tight.  After a while, she drew back and I could see her eyes were filled with tears that didn’t quite want to escape. I rubbed her cheek with my little cold hand and one fell out.

“It’s OK Mam, don’t cry.”  I didn’t know what was wrong but I knew that was what I should say.  I wiped away the solitary tear.

“Thank you baby.” She called me baby and forced a smile.  She hadn’t called me that in such a long time.  Lo-Lo was the baby now and soon there would be another baby.  But then she rubbed her tummy as though the word had reminded her of something.  It had indeed and it was something terrible, something barbaric even…..

Little Big Boy by Max Power. Coming soon…

Max Power’s other books include, Darkly Wood, Larry Flynn and Bad Blood, all available on amazon to download or in paperback. You can find more details about Max Power’s other books here : –

http://www.amazon.com/author/maxpower

maxpowerbooks.wordpress.com

facebook.com/maxpowerbooks

Twitter @maxpowerbooks1

Every picture tells a story

Every picture tells a story

Little Big Boy cover reveal..
..Long before I finish writing a book, I have an idea in my head as to how the cover will look.  It never ends up quite how I first imagine because while the concept always comes from the writing, the translation to an image is something I leave to my very talented daughter.

For Darkly Wood, I simply gave her a notional sense of what I wanted and she created what is a stunning and simple representation of the feeling that I wanted to evoke.  Cover design is for me, as much about emotion as imagery.  I want my book covers to be suggestive of something but not too revealing.  Maybe this is because it suits my story telling style.  I like to tease, entice and I never really want to let the reader in on the full secret until the moment is right.

The closeness of our father-daughter bond helps in that above and beyond her talent, she gets me.  There are few people in this world who can claim to really know me but for sure she is one of them.  When I wanted the drama that is her design for the cover of Larry Flynn, once again she stunned me with her translation of the elements I wanted to incorporate on the cover of my book.  It is full of subtleties and bold images all at the same time.  Indeed I think it is perhaps the most striking of her designs.

For Bad Blood she was given an entirely different, less clear concept to portray as suits the story. As always, she hit the nail right on the head and delivered just the right hint of the concept.  Beyond that I have some very rigid guidelines that I insist we work within and somehow, time after time she delivers.  I don’t even always want the same amount of detail and I change my mind like you would not believe but somehow she delivers exactly what I want.

My next book to be released hopefully in late March is now in the editing- re-editing phase and Little Big Boy needed something special.  As with all books sometimes the imagery on the cover makes more sense in the reading, but while again we began with a simple concept, where it has ended up is I have to say, something beyond what I had hoped for.

All artists have to let go of at least some element of their work and for me it is the cover design.  I know it is an area where many authors struggle, while others simply out-source the job to someone else without a second thought.  I am blessed to have the confidence to be able to entrust this very important part of my work, to someone who is not just talented but to someone I trust, love and admire.  Here you see the cover design for ‘Little Big Boy’ ….
Ciara Power… Take a bow.

amazon.com/author/maxpower

Little Big Boy is due for release late March 2015 For more details keep checking in to my blog or find details on facebook.com/maxpowerbooks or on twitter @maxpowerbooks