A reblog  …Even monkeys fall from trees you know…

A reblog  …Even monkeys fall from trees you know…

 
I recalled my first, heat filled fumble with a young lady who shall remain nameless, pressed up against a tree in the Phoenix Park as I tried to reimagine the moment to use in the sequel to Darkly Wood, The woman who never wore shoes.  I say lady and of course there are those who might argue that the very fact she was engaged with me in rather unladylike encounter disavows her of that title.  I disagree, after all I still consider myself a gentleman and I chalk those teenage experimental transgressions down to the vagaries of growing up.

Looking back, trying to draw on the memory for just a short but important piece in my book, I realised how serious I was and how funny it is in hindsight.   It was raining and we had sheltered beneath a big old horse chestnut tree far from prying eyes.  I know she kissed me first and it was a wet and warm confused mess of a kiss, which nonetheless raised my ardour and left me blind to almost everything else.  My hands held her be-jeaned hips and she pressed her body against me and pulled me close. I think I loved her for a minute as something was happening that I had only imagined might someday happen.

I felt her hand grasp at the blue and white checked cheesecloth shirt that I believed made me look cool, and she slid her small, cold hands underneath and held them still on the burning heat of my lower back.  God, in that moment she could have had one leg, a wonky nose and bad breath, I wouldn’t have cared. What was happening to me out of sight would in any other circumstances be an embarrassment to say the least, but she didn’t seem to mind and I know she couldn’t but have noticed. I’m not sure how I caught my breath, but when she slid her hand back and placed it on mine; I know I stopped breathing completely.

She encouraged my hand to explore underneath the folds of her heavy, navy woollen sweater beneath her open raincoat.  I was terrified but I slid my hand up and around, touching the soft, warm, naked flesh of her delicate back.  My head raced and I was filled with panic.  I even opened my eyes to see if she was looking at me, but she was trapped in the fantasy of our embrace.

I could feel a need in her, an urgency that I couldn’t match.  It was all happening too fast and I wanted to stop but she reached back again and encouraged my hand higher.   When my fingertips met the hard edge of her brassiere strap I almost choked.  This couldn’t be happening.  But she was relentless and again with gentle pulling and twisting, I found she had encouraged my hand to the front and I held it on her naked belly, suddenly faced with every taboo there was in my befuddled head.

Up until that day I was cruising at a high point of confidence in my life. I thought I knew everything and could handle anything. I was an expert at life. But experts need to be careful. Even Monkeys fall from trees.

  
I saw my mother and heard her voice.  My father loomed in the background and the picture of the sacred heart glared down on me from over the fireplace. ‘Jesus Mary and Joseph,’ I thought and I knew they were not the ones that I needed guidance from in that moment.  She pulled me closer and almost broke my wrist, sucking on my face and my jaw began to ache.  I thought I was going to explode.  This was not something I had prepped for.  Nothing had prepared me for this offering and when my hand touched the lower reaches of her breasts, all hell was breaking loose downstairs.

Catholic guilt was a terrible thing, but by God it grabbed me by my throat and shook me.  I wasn’t even that religious but my mother, the priests and Christian Brothers between them, had done a fine number on me.  I withdrew my hand and pulled out of the kiss.  She looked at me as if I had some kind of mental problem.  I know she was a good girl, she really was but she was wild about me and I didn’t know back then that girls could be filled with passion too.

But this wasn’t about her.  I could only see some terrible, half-baked consequences waiting for me when I got home, with a big guilty head on me through the madness that filled my brain.  This was all about me and my own personal inner conflict.  I had no clue what to do or say but I remember exactly what I did say.

“We’re goin’ to Salthill in August.”

I have no idea where it came from or what possessed me to kill her passion with such a declaration.  It must have sounded as though I was having an internal conversation that I just carried on out loud and she shook her head and pulled her hands away.

She loved me I’m sure, in that teen crush, can’t see anything else except my face in everything she looked at kind of way and I broke her heart for sure when I told her ‘it was all off’ a week later.  I had to, it was all too much pressure for me and it was easier not to have to have that stress in my life.

When I think of it now it makes me laugh, but the rawness of the emotion that drawing that memory back to the fore gave me, allowed me back into a place to write a rather tense piece for one of my female characters in The woman who never wore shoes. That is how it happens for me. I didn’t take a piece of my life and transcribe it to the page, far from it.  Instead I took the passion, the fear, the trepidation and sheer blind panic that I felt, and used the rawness of those memories as I felt them again to bleed them onto the page.

  
It makes writing so much fun for me and hopefully, my readers will experience some of the embarrassment and discomfort that I felt at the time to make the scene more real and imaginable.  I don’t have sound or pictures to bring my creations to life so instead I use emotion.   Luckily, I have lived a foolish enough existence to have a huge store full of cringe, pain, laughter and sorrow to fill a library.  The woman who never wore shoes is reaching its climax and I have loved every minute of it.  Writing Darkly Wood was enormous fun and I never imagined I could have that much fun writing the sequel, but do you know what? I am…

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Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Larry Flynn Bad Blood and Little Big Boy

You can find more details about Max Power’s books here : – http://www.amazon.com/author/maxpower 

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Monsters within and Monsters without

Monsters within and Monsters without

I remember pulling the curved metal brake handle of my bike from my stomach.  It punctured my lower abdomen when I took a tumble on a rough patch of ground when I was fourteen years old and I told no one.  Everything stopped in that moment; I still remember the pain and the fright as I looked down and discovered that I had somehow impaled my body on my bicycle.  It was a moment that required a certain amount of composure and I had already developed that skill from early on, as much through necessity as anything else.

It could have been the wrong thing to do, but in that moment I decided to pull the metal straight back out again and once I made my decision, I simply clenched my teeth and pulled.   There was no sound but more dramatically there was no rush or spurt of blood.  It bled but only just and I looked at the length of metal I had just pulled from my body in disbelief and relief.  I was in a good deal of pain, but the absence of an obvious weeping bloody wound, meant I didn’t have to tell my parents and that was the most important thing.  Telling them would be to confess that I was riding my bike in a prohibited area, off limits I had been told because it was too dangerous.  They were right of course as my accident proved, but the miraculous bloodless hole saved me.

There was a marvellous conflict of bravery and cowardice suddenly thrown into the mix all at once.  I was too afraid to confess to my misdemeanour, but brave enough to remain calm and pull the offending object from my body and take the pain.  It was not the only time in my young life where I discovered that fear and bravery come hand in hand.

It turned out that discovering your courage could only be achieved by finding your fear and I had long since found both by the time the biking accident occurred.  I remember being confronted with a knife for the first time when I was twelve and believing whole heartedly that the wieldier would happily cut my throat for the price of a loose cigarette and a match. How I managed to smirk and softly brush off the threat from a much older and bigger boy is simple.   I had already had my courage tested and while I was afraid and didn’t know if I could survive such a potential knife attack, what I had learned was that my choice was limited to hiding from the fear or standing up to it.

It hadn’t always been so but once learned it is the saviour of many a boy and girl and the dark hole of subjugation and terror for many others.  I could perhaps flippantly say I was lucky to have been faced with the chance to discover courage at an early age, so that I was enabled to face the many dangers that later came to me in life.  But I wasn’t lucky.  In many ways I consider my self unfortunate to have had to bear witness to the fear that made me brave.  I saw so many others crushed by the same things that I somehow managed to survive.  It was something I used in writing Little Big Boy.11412254_821168391305785_7843808354768340342_n

So many people considered it to be autobiographical and wondered how I could write with such affinity using my imagination alone.   But of course I never write with imagination alone.  There are bits of me and my experiences all through my books.  In Little Big Boy however, readers are hearing in the first person a voice, a very special and vulnerable voice and how could it not be real?  The idea that it is autobiographical is a huge compliment as it means I got the voice right or at least the way I wanted it to sound.

The violence and danger that my Little Big Boy faces is not my personal journey, but I know of it.  The world in which he lived in terms of school and church, was the world of my childhood for sure.  But I wanted the book to be about so many things, innocence, love, fear; hate, bullying, friendship and I used the presence of abject fear and the search for courage in those moments when it was most needed, to demonstrate their intrinsic connection to each other.  Finding it or not finding it, standing up, backing down, making choices never right nor wrong but always surrounded by an urgency to make such choices.  In there lies the path to allowing my readers to discover each character in their truest sense.   Only through challenging what we know can we discover what we don’t.covers

This duality is present in Darkly Wood with Daisy May and her almost impossible need to discover courage in the face of incredible odds.  In Larry Flynn, I wrote a character so flawed, fearful and desperate, that it made it near impossible for him to find the courage to do the right thing.  Martin Doyle, the priest in Bad Blood is a man running away from everything and time and time again it is a theme I love to play with.

Fear creates monsters within and monsters without.  I remember the first time I chose not to back down and it was the most terrible and wonderful moment of my life and it is un-writeable.  As I write the sequel to Darkly Wood, that fear and how it strips us of courage or helps us to find it, is once more at the heart of my writing.

Little Big Boy perhaps shouts about it louder than the rest.  Maybe because the main character is so young or maybe because it is written in the first person I don’t know.  I know he made me cry more than any of my other characters when I wrote his story and I know why.  I understood his fear, I know his pain and I so much wanted him to be OK in the end.  As a writer I always knew the outcome but the reader will not know right to the last.

My writing is very much like I want and expect life to be.  In my case for example there will be a definite end.  I am not looking forward to it but it’s there waiting some day and we all know that.  But it can never be about just the destination.  In writing terms getting the end right is very important and I spend a huge amount of time trying to get that part right.  Hopefully I get it right each time.  I am nearing the end of writing the sequel to Darkly Wood and I’ve always known where it was going and now it is close to the time where I have to wrap it up.  I know getting it right is important, but once I’ve done that, I also  know in my heart of hearts that like life, reading a book is not just about the end, it’s is all about the journey.

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Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Larry Flynn Bad Blood and Little Big Boy

You can find more details about Max Power’s books here : – http://www.amazon.com/author/maxpower

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twitter @maxpowerbooks1

Stop the clocks, slow the car down, leave a parting gift…

Stop the clocks, slow the car down, leave a parting gift…

Slow the car down, open the door and push my body into the ditch.  That is not from one of my books, rather a tasteless joke I have made in the past about how to deal with my mortal remains after I have departed this world.

The idea behind my suggestion is that I won’t actually care as I will be dead.  Those that love me were unimpressed with the suggestion. In truth I am not sure how much I was joking and how much of what I said came from a place of honesty.   Everyone handles grief in such different ways.  I’m not too good with it if the truth be told and I reckon I hold on to it for far too long, much to my detriment.

To a large extent, how people grieve is touched by their faith or lack thereof and what they believe to be in store for their loved ones, or indeed themselves when they ultimately pass on.  In Ireland there is a great tradition when it comes to mourning our dead.  Death is mourned but also celebrated, in that we very much celebrate the lives of those that we have lost and there is a wonderful coming together, a solidarity and sense of community, that gathers a special momentum when someone dies.

This week tragically, six young Irish students died in a terrible accident in Berkley California and the reaction of the country as a whole, reflects very much the way death is handled on a local level.  We all turn out for the funeral; we all offer our sympathy as if the country was a small village mourning one of our own.  Of course each and every one of those young students belonged to us, a nation used to seeing our loved ones travel abroad to study in the summer, or more heartbreakingly emigrating to further fields with the fear we will lose them forever.

I doubt there is an Irish person who does not have a family member or close friend, living in some far flung field less green in colour but greener in its opportunity.  My family lost my brother to Chicago a long time ago and with him, we lost the next generation who became part of the culture and country that welcomed them and nurtured them.   Sadly we also lost him forever when he died all too young and that double mourning is a hard one to handle.

At least in the familiar world of home, we can visit a grave or a place where memories can be touched and accessed, by recreating a time in a place that was shared.  The unspoken fear of many parents who lose their children to the diaspora, is that such a tragedy will befall them.

But no one tragedy is worse than the next. There is no competition in grief. Everyone loses.  When I was fifteen years old I wrote a poem that opened with the line,

I’ve lost my Church but not my faith,

People stare and wonder what’s gone wrong with me.

They seem to think it’s God I hate,

But I’ve lost my Church – not my faith. 

It is interesting looking back to a world of staunch Catholicism in Ireland where I was naively demanding that I could believe differently.  I didn’t know what I believed in, but I knew it wasn’t represented by the church that I saw back then.  The loss of that comfort blanket of a Church that I had fallen out with, didn’t hit me until I experienced true deep loss on a personal level for the first time.  Everything centred on the Church traditions and despite my reservations; it was I thought, a great comfort to me.  The night before the funeral we gathered for prayers and friends and family come to offer their condolences in the formal setting of the church with my father present in his coffin.  While I had lost relatives before, his death was the first that I was to experience in my immediate family.

The first time I experienced this from the receiving end I remember being struck by one person in particular.  He was a neighbour that I barely knew, but he took my hand and held it and when I looked into his eyes he held my gaze.  I saw the sadness of understanding there and recalled that he had not long since lost his mother.  In that moment I felt the truth of community in that church that had long since lost me.

The day of the funeral is a devastating affair.  To say goodbye is one thing, but to say goodbye forever… my heart broke I know because I felt it break.  I have sadly had this experience more than once in my life and I dread to imagine how I will cope the next time because heart break is unpredictable and always unique.

The solidarity of an Irish funeral, the sense of community, the love, the memories and wonderfully, thankfully, the laughter as we wake those we loved and remember fondly is something to behold.   We each do it differently, from country to country, tradition to tradition, but I think the thing that matters most, is not to concern ourselves with the afterlife.  What may or may not be there can either be a comfort or despairing.

Whether we are fortunate enough to have a faith to hold close as a comfort, or whether we choose to hold onto something else to keep away the overwhelming burden that grief can become is not important. The important thing for me anyway, has been what happens afterwards.   When the ceremonies have passed and the spotlight dims, those who may have spoken openly loud and often during the period of mourning, will generally all lower their voices and the silence is deafening.

That our loved ones should have disappeared is shocking, that they also fall silent; that others shy away from mentioning them in your presence is indescribable.  The world moves on and the key is not to let it leave you behind.  I have taken my loved ones with me on my journey.  The ones I have lost are generally quiet and their memories are neatly folded in the drawers of my mind. Some are left open so I can dip in and have a rummage about whenever I feel the need for comfort.  Some are very special and private.  These are carefully folded beneath sheets of tissue paper, safely locked away in the bottom drawer, to be carefully taken out and cherished in the times I need them most.

So what of me and my demise and will I really be happy to be discarded as I said in my opening lines. I guess not.  I don’t ever concern myself with leaving my mark.   When my time comes, I suspect there will be a wake.  No doubt there will be some stories told and reminiscences reminisced. Hopefully, smiles will be smiled because after the din dies down and the laughter fades, when all go home to leave the ones who loved me most alone with my memory, I want the sadness to be tinged with something that remains outside of their control.  I hope to leave a parting gift. When the fuss is gone and as I imagine they look at my face in a picture, the thing I want to find its way through the dark moments, the thing that will hopefully form despite the tears, is a memory, perhaps simple, perhaps precious, but hopefully one that means a smile will curl on their lips to soothe their sadness.  I only hope I do enough today, to pay that gift forward when the time comes.

Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Larry Flynn Bad Blood and Little Big Boy

You can find more details about Max Power’s books here : – http://www.amazon.com/author/maxpower

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Getting behind the little boy’s smile

Getting behind the little boy’s smile

I had to make this little boy on the cover of my book cry, but not too much.  Getting into his head meant getting into his heart and that’s a strange place to go when you know what he has been through.  When I wrote Little Big Boy, I always knew where I was bringing him and it wasn’t always going to be a very nice place to be.

One of the nicest compliments I have received about this book, is that it felt almost autobiographical.  It isn’t an autobiography but of course there is a big piece of me in Little Big Boy.  I think there was always going to be something of me in there and I knew if I was to get to the heart of this story, I would have to volunteer a good deal of mine.

Making a five, six or seven year old cry in a book sounds easy.  It isn’t hard to find a reason for him to cry.  My challenge was more often than not, finding a way for him not to cry.  The title is all important.  His internal conflict is not unique.  For him being big is an aspiration.  As a little boy, like most little boys and girls for that matter, there is often an urgency to grow up.  How many boys now men, recall their first attempt at a moustache or beard?  I have the pictures and they still make me laugh.

In the case of Little Big Boy, I wanted the desire to be big to revolve around something far more important than vanity.  My little boy, has less a desire than a need to grow up because of the world in which he lives.  The little part in the title, refers to the fact that he is still just that, a small boy, an innocent.

There is something truly special about being the apple of another’s eye.  Be it you girlfriend or your boyfriend, it doesn’t matter.  Being that someone special creates a warmth in your heart that is the subject of countless love songs.  My little boy is introduced at a very difficult transition in his life.  The arrival of his sister denudes him of his special status, that of the ‘baby’ of the family.

That conflict, the desire to stay as his mother’s baby versus his need to be a big boy at the same time because of peer pressure and more compelling pressures that I can’t mention without spoiling the story, is very much the device around which the plot revolves.

We have that much in common Little Big Boy and I, as I was the baby for seven years and I recall the shock to my system when I was usurped by my sister much like Little Big Boy experiences.  Such connections can be important as a writer, well they are for me at least.   I need to feel my characters so I can make them shed a tear or be terrified when they need to be.  But there is more to it than that.

I didn’t want Little Big Boy to be just tale of woe and abuse.  This couldn’t be just be an adults perspective.  My little boy needed to tell his story from his point of view.  There are some things that go unexplained in the book and they are deliberate.  A seven year old does not understand the world as I do.  Sometimes things go over their little heads and that’s just the way it is.  For Little Big Boy to work, he couldn’t know the inner workings of his alcoholic father’s mind.  He shouldn’t know the thoughts that cross the minds of the more evil creatures that he encounters.

Importantly, the horror and awfulness that Little Big Boy encounters,  is balanced by a love and compassion that is instilled by his one beacon of light, his mother.   His misunderstanding of evil is equalled by his lack of understanding for the suffering of others.  What makes his mother’s influence important in the story, is that she has planted the seed of kindness in him which is something he cannot ignore.

Making my Little Big Boy cry was harder than you might imagine in the end, because as he grew on the page before me, I found strength in him that I envied.  I began to admire him the more I developed his character and that is probably true of most of the characters I write about.   Somehow it is what I instinctively feel the reader might want.

Writing stories, strange as it might seem to some, is exactly like telling a story in person for me.  If I was to tell you what happened to me today, I would only tell you that story if I felt I could grab you and pull you in.  I feed off the response of the listener.  Some people say I belong on the stage but I know I don’t.  My stories can’t be rehearsed or ever the same on the second time of telling.   Call it exaggeration, embellishment, call it whatever but I have to get your attention or there’s no point in telling you the story.  It has to come from the heart.

That is the place from which I write.  But it comes at a price.  Pouring your heart into a book, baring a piece of your soul to the world can be dangerous.  It opens you up to be vulnerable and makes it hard to let go.  But I have an analogy that helps me carry on with this reckless behaviour anyway.

When people meet and fall in love, the ultimate success of that relationship hinges on their ability to trust one another with their biggest vulnerability.  To entrust your weakness to another can backfire and often does, but when someone takes that gift and cherishes it, true and lasting love is born.

Little Big Boy is all about vulnerability, but more than that it is about strength and courage and ultimately, true unflinching love.  As I wrote the book, I knew where it was leading me and the challenge was enormous.

Some books are easy to finish.  Some books can have a nice bow tied up and wrapped around the final page and that is that.  Clear cut villains and heroes make for easier conclusions.  Little Big Boy had to end in a way appropriate to the telling of the story and it took one final push, one last dig into my soul, to find the flourish to bring his story to a conclusion on the right note.

There is no more I can do now, I have entrusted my little book into the hands of those that choose to read it and all I can do is wait and hope and trust

Little Big Boy is available on amazon here : http://www.amazon.com/Little-Big-Boy-Max-Power-ebook/dp/B00WRP0J8E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1431693531&sr=8-1&keywords=little+big+boy+max+power

Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Larry Flynn Bad Blood and Little Big Boy, all available on amazon to download or in paperback.

You can find more details about Max Power’s books here : – http://www.amazon.com/author/maxpower

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twitter @maxpowerbooks1