So much man…in just one man…

So much man…in just one man…

Hard as it might be to believe, I have been known to engage in a little hyperbole from time to time.  I know what you’re thinking, it can’t be true right? Well sorry to burst your bubble but I can’t help myself.  It is a sort of guilty pleasure if you will.  I blame it on my genes and my culture.  Yeah that’s it, a genetic and cultural addiction.  There is probably even a self-help group for it somewhere.

Not so long back, I was on a trip to Spain with a group of work colleagues and while out for dinner one evening , I was called on my tendency to exaggerate.  How very dare they!  Usually, I get away with murder, but it only takes one idiot cook to spoil the broth and one Smart-Alec to dig his heels in…and there’s always one isn’t there?

Anyhow it began with a simple enough exaggeration. I ordered beef carpaccio for my starter and the ‘idiot’ who poked the bear, was a younger member of the group, foolish enough to open the door. He had to ask “What’s carpaccio?”

Now there are a variety of versions of this classic dish, but on a basic level we explained, it is raw beef served with in this case rocket,  pecorino cheese and a balsamic dressing. It would have been fine if he left it there and we all thought he had.  It was sometime after the starter arrived and just as I dug into it, that the follow up question came from the same young man, “How’s your carpaccio?”

OK, I only have myself to blame for what happened next. I could have said, “Delicious.” Oh no not me. Instead I said, “Not as good as the one I make.” I formed a circle with my forefinger and thumb and kissed them, “mine is far superior.”  Most of them would have let it go. But there’s always one.

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“You make carpaccio?”  I acknowledged that not only did I make this dish at home, but it was the best version to be had anywhere.  Again those who know me well, usually don’t want to go beyond this point because they know, I will fill the room with BS.  Now of course I went into some detail about my delicious carpaccio until Alec the smart interrupted.

“Where do you get your beef?” I answered, “From the butchers,” but made the schoolboy mistake of gilding the lily. “Well – Joanna gets the beef.”  It was the beginning of my unravelling.  By the time smarty-pants had finished I was defending, “…so basically, someone else gets the ingredients and  all you do is put meat and rocket on a plate with a sprinkle of cheese and dressing on top?” I was caught rapid as we say in these parts.  But I never go down without a fight. 

“Well on that basis, you could say that basically all Michelangelo did was splash a bit of paint on the ceiling of a big church.  A recipe is more than just the ingredients.  The great chefs are all artists. Anyone can make any dish of your choosing.  All recipes are ultimately about arranging food on a plate… if you are a Philistine! The great talent is in how you create your own signature dish.”  The more experienced members of the group smiled as he looked for support.  They knew better and he retreated.

Now of course I had to change it so carpaccio was my ‘signature’ dish as though this made it somehow special but it worked.  We now place bets  on various work related events and if I lose, I will have to present my signature dish for lunch. If I win it’s doughnuts from the others.   So far it’s been doughnuts which I decline for health reasons (the old ticker) but in truth I’ve never been fond of them. Turning defeat into victory is never easy, but there would be no fun in stretching a tale if it was. But it doesn’t stop there.

This week I was tradesman extraordinaire.  What began as slapping a bit of paint onto walls, ended up as a full kitchen redesign and overhaul and electrical installation? How incredible you might think.  Surely we must have employed a range of highly skilled crafts persons to complete such complex redevelopment you are thinking, I know.  But it was just me, all by my lonesome… well sort of…

After I did a bit of painting, the auld knees and back were knackered so I had a sit down and a cup of tea.  It was at some point along here, the real tradesperson in our house came in and identified some of the many flaws in my delicate handiwork, before taking over.  I thought it was probably  unnecessary but I chose to be the better person and allowed her  feel a little superior in her ability… largely based on fact…  but  for the sake of this blog, let’s say it was a kindness on my part.

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Unfortunately  the pump for our heating system gave up the ghost and while my darling Jo rolled up her sleeves to help sort that one out, ( I had some small input, but I didn’t want to overshadow her) I got on with the major electrical installation.

Ok now she might say “You put up three spots.”  But I’m afraid, there is a bigger picture. There was, as I later explained to the love of my life, multi-disciplined work going on with those ‘three spots.’ There was the electrical work, which did involve a bit of cable and there might even have been a plug re-wire involved let’s just leave it at that – I’d hate to overstate the detail of the task.  impressive as the end result was, I’d prefer not to blow my own trumpet. There was, as I explained to my darling later, all the carpentry involved.

“CARPENTRY?!!” I think that’s how she responded but there was a pelmet made of wood and some cutting and drilling and screws into wood type stuff going on so technically …yes carpentry.

When I mentioned the plumbing she drew a line.  I reminded her about the work around on the new taps, to which she replied, “Working your way ‘around’ the taps doesn’t count, but I think that’s just semantics. At the end of the day, the pump was fixed…and I did have some input, we have the kitchen painted, let’s not get bogged down on who did what or how much of it any one person may or may not have completed – in this regard, that’s not important and ultimately I ‘installed’ a new lighting ‘system’ as I prefer to call it. Yep I basically redesigned the kitchen when you add it all up.

I excelled across all construction disciplines, electrical, carpentry, plumbing, we might add fitting, architectural even… and finally as I left for work this morning, feeling quite manly, I laughed off my dearest sweetheart’s attempt to reduce the grandeur of my efforts, by reminding her that I’d forgotten about the tiles.

“Tiles?” she laughed. Now to be fair, she had done some tiling and I hadn’t been a party to that, but I wasn’t talking about the walls. 

I asked her how many floor tiles were left over, after they had been laid and as I had assumed, there were only a couple.  “There you go.”  I explained. “Another example of my many construction related skills.” When she asked, in fairness through laughter, how I could possibly exaggerate any connection to the floor tiles to my new found expertise in building, I told her straight that I had measured the floor and got it bang on the money – expert measurement.  As she tried not to choke from the laughter she wondered aloud, “and what does that make you?”

Now I think she may have had a different answer in mind, but I clarified in my usual modest way.

“Quantity Surveyor” I told her.  All she’s thinking about that point is “A woman’s work is never done.” Me? I’m thinking “Yep there is no end to my talent…”

Haven’t read a Max Power book yet?  I think it’s time to pick one up.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, 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
https://maxpowerbooks.wordpress.com
fhttp://facebook.com/maxpowerbooks
twitter @maxpowerbooks1

Universal book links
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood-II
http://getbook.at/Little-Big-Boy
http://getbook.at/Larry-Flynn
http://getbook.at/Bad-Blood

all 5

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Crimblemas, the solstice, the smell of sh*te and a dead head in a box…

Crimblemas, the solstice, the smell of sh*te and a dead head in a box…

Today being the shortest day of the year brings back a particular memory for me. It reminds me of school trips when I was a nipper. God be with the days when school trips were crap and educational.  Nowadays they seem to have injected some element of actual fun into them which God forbid, the Christian Brothers of my day knew little about.

In a time when pleasure was sinful, yes sinful or so it seemed, you wouldn’t want to be enjoying a school trip now would you.  When sex was eventually explained to me by the fine De La Salle Brothers, it involved not mentioning the act but making clear that it was something that happened inside the sanctity of marriage and was only sinful if you derived any pleasure from it.  As far as they told us it was only about making good catholic babies – heavy on the procreation please, hold the pleasure.

This day, specifically the 21st of December, reminds me of a trip to Newgrange. For the unfamiliar, Newgrange is older than the Pyramids and is a passage tomb which has a central chamber lit by light through a roof box on the Winter Solstice.  It is an amazing place and today there is a very modern visitor’s centre at the site, with lots to do and see.  When I was a nipper, we were brought there, not I might add on 21st December as there is a waiting list for that, but we got to see the chamber long before the site was developed into the tourist attraction it is today.

Now while, this holds fascination for me now, when I was a little maggot of a fella, I had about as much interest in going to stand in a dark stone cave as I had in watching the news.  Some auld lad (probably about twenty five but back then anything older than eighteen was old) explained something about something, yadayadayada , snore fest, where’s the shop to buy some sweets kind of thing.

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It wasn’t easy being a kid sometimes.  Those days out, were meant to be fun in our heads but they seldom were.  The Brothers had a way of sucking the life out of everything. It always seemed that other kids from other schools went to interesting places. Us? We went to see rocks and religious relics and to add insult to injury; we’d have to spend hours on a smelly bus to get there.

Some kid who’d eaten all the goodies his Ma gave him before we even got on the bus would always puke half way there.  The smell would fill the bus and we’d all try lean as far away from the poor beggar as we could. It never seemed to be sunny.  Now I know we have a lot of rain in Ireland but for feck sake, it was like the Brothers had prayed for rain.  You’d be cold and wet and miserable, and a little travel sick from the bus whenever you got to where you were going.

I remember one year the destination was a surprise! Wo-Hoo I hear you say.  Well hold your whisht. We got off the bus, delighted to get some fresh air at last after travelling an hour and a half on the bus, only to be told we were in Drogheda. Now don’t get me wrong, Drogheda is a fine place if you like that austere, what the feck is the layout of this place all about, sort of way. But we weren’t just in Drogheda the fine Brothers told us …oh no. We were actually standing outside the church, were the relic of the head of St Oliver Plunkett was kept. Don’t ask look it up, he was basically hung, drawn and quartered by the English in the 17th century during a time of religious persecution, something the Christian Brothers took personally and seemed to not be able to forgive the English for.

Now to be fair, our first reaction was “deadly… a human head in a box!” We were ten year old boys with wild imaginations and the notion of a dead man’s head preserved in a box on display, sounded like the coolest thing ever.  When we finally got to go inside, we were mightily underwhelmed.  What followed was a half hour lecture on the wonderful St Oliver Plunkett and yadayadayada, stuff about religion, snore, snore, boring stuff, now where’s the shop to buy some sweets.  Eventually we were brought to see poor auld Oliver’s head and it was a bit of a let-down.  We should have seen it coming. I had a little bit of interest in that my mother’s name was Plunkett, but other than that frankly I probably would have preferred to stay on the bus.

The worst thing about that trip was that essentially once we’d seen the head, we were only given half an hour to wander around before getting back on the bus and heading home. That was the long and short of it.  What a lousy tour. Of course it did mean we were not in class so there was that element.  We did get to sing the odd song about the bus driver, until we got too rude and one of the Brothers shut it down.

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The nearest thing we had to a fun trip was when they brought us to a farm, only we weren’t allowed touch any of the animals and there really weren’t that many.  I think they thought that because we were city kids, we’d never seen farm animals, but we had of course.  One mucky old pig looks pretty much the same as the next one and once you’ve seen a cow covered in its own excrement, then that box is ticked.  There were apparently some chickens on the farm, but it was cold and wet that day so apparently they had the good sense not to come outside so we didn’t get to see them.  We wanted a talking pig or at least a bunny rabbit.  There was nothing fluffy to pet, and I remember thinking that life should be better than this. 

Aah, I’m making myself a little sad thinking back now.  But I guess times were different.  There was the memory of course and the stories to bring back. In the case of the head of St Oliver Plunkett, it had already developed worms crawling out of its eyes by the time I got to tell anyone who hadn’t been there and  the smell of sh*te on the farm was good for a few tall tales and laughs.  I guess we made the most of it.

But back to today.  The shortest day of the year, you wouldn’t really notice now would you?  When I was a kid I thought it meant the days were literally shorter, as opposed to there just being less light. The good news is that it’s all downhill from here as the days inevitably get brighter.  Something to smile about …oh yeah and there is that Christmas thing just around the corner.  A Crimblemas  it always makes me nostalgic…

Haven’t read a Max Power book yet?  I think it’s time to pick one up.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, 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
https://maxpowerbooks.wordpress.com
fhttp://facebook.com/maxpowerbooks
twitter @maxpowerbooks1

Universal book links
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood-II
http://getbook.at/Little-Big-Boy
http://getbook.at/Larry-Flynn
http://getbook.at/Bad-Blood

C’mere ’till I tell ya…

C’mere ’till I tell ya…

Someone just told me they were getting more and more scorpy the older they get. I told him to get up the yard and that he was already a scorpy auld bowsey. His reply was to say that I might be living in Kildare but I’d a mouth on me like a true Jack, followed by him imploring me to go on te’ feck with the big Dublin head on me.  Ah words, aren’t they great?

The Irish have a particular fondness for bastardising the English language.  We are said to speak the best English (in some parts) even better that the English themselves – whether you’d want to believe that one now is entirely up to you.  That being said, we have more accents than you can shake a stick at and you can literally cross a street to find a different local accent in some parts of Dublin

Now accents are one thing, but words, well we like to make them up as we go along.  The yis, yisser and youse group of pronouns are a classic example of Dublinese for example. “is that yisser bike?” for example, or does da belong to youse?”

Grammar, now that has its own special treatment in the city of my birth.  How can I describe it?  Well what you do is take the rules of grammar and then apply them  to words that they don’t have any business being associated with, so that you create new words within the context of a pretence at speaking the ‘proper’ way. Let me give you an example… Work this one out if you’re not Irish, if you are then you’ll be familiar – “Woh’en e noh?”

Here you have a whole range of confusion starting with the fact that I’ve spelt this phonetically. It should read, wonten he not? Any better?  You could bring it closer to the source by trying ‘won’t he not’ or ultimately ‘will he not.’ Double or even multiple negatives abound in this part of the world. ‘Doesn’t he not be doin’ nothin.?’ There is nothing like a little local flavour to spice up a language. 

“I will in me” or “you will in your” followed by an appropriate part of the anatomy, hole for example,  is a good way to say no.   Why use one word, when five can do the same job more effectively.  Some words have gone out of fashion and when I hear them occasionally, I get quite nostalgic.   An older generation than mine can still be heard using the word Idle for people who are unemployed.  While it may sound politically incorrect, if not downright offensive, it was a term used without any disrespect intended, in the not too distant past.  “I remember when my Mick was idle for a couple of months.” From the mouths of an octogenarian this would simply be explaining that the person was unemployed not lazy, as it would be perceived today.

There are a million and one made up words, colloquialisms and mangled words that you would find hard make sense of, but every language has these.  There are terms and words that come from folklore, tradition, stories etc. and they are often the most fun.

Skinny Malink was a name I was often called as a chiddler.  I remember the rhyme from whence the term came. “Skinny Mallink melodeon legs, umbrella feet, went to the pictures and couldn’t get a seat.  When the picture started, Skinny Malink farted, Skinny Mallink Melodeon legs umbrella feet.” Skinny Malink being a thin person of course, melodeon legs referred to the shape of his legs and the pictures is of course what we all called the movies as kids.

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My Ma used to make us walk away from walls or railings for some reason.  If someone walked along by a wall she’d refer to them as “Go be the wall and tiddle the bricks.”  She’d use the full expression in a disapproving tone ,to indicate that it was not a behaviour she wanted to see replicated as if it was demonstrative of some mental illness perhaps.  “There’s go be the wall and tiddle the bricks” she’d say if she saw a fella doing just that and maybe even throw in a tut or two.

Things can be rapid (Cool) deadly (great) banjaxed (Broken) bollixed (again broken), people can be gombeens , gobdaws, gobshites, eejits, hoors, scuts or wagons.  The best part of it, is that depending on the relationship and context, many of these words can be either insulting or complimentary.

“Sure, he’s a cute hoor.”

“He’s a hoor for the drink.”

“That feckin’ hoor of a bollix, wait till I see him next.”

If one girl embarrasses her friend she might laugh it off with “I’m scarlet -ya wagon” On the other hand if she doesn’t like a girl, then she’s “a wagon.”

“C’mere ‘till I tell ya.” While it is not strictly necessary for you to actually come here, this is an invitation for you to listen to what I have to say and it is a particularly common phrase in this part of the world where we all love to talk.

“Would you ever” can be followed by “feck off” and the word feck of course is typically Irish and is the acceptable form of the more vulgar ‘F’ word. Fr. Jack in the series Father Ted made it more familiar to a global audience. “Would ya” is certainly a useful precursor to a favour or a brush off. “Would ya give us a hand.”  or “Would you ever go and ask me Bo**ix.”  Even “Would ya go away out of that” if you want to express disbelief in something.  Honestly, we can be hard to understand sometimes. 

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As a writer, I love words and language in general. The problem of course is that it is a difficult thing to put into the mouth of a written character, for unlike speech, the written word doesn’t have the same natural ease, flow, rhythm and cadence, so much of what a writer wants to get across can easily be lost in translation. I have to consider an International audience and as I always say books are more radio than television, so much should be left to the imagination.  Everyone imagines characters in books differently to some degree.  Their speech is very much a part of that. If I wrote some of my Irish characters speaking like much of the above in any detail, many readers would tune out.  There is a delicate balance to be achieved and if done correctly it shouldn’t even be noticed. 

I’m not fond of the phonetic approach.  I prefer to sprinkle my books with occasional colloquialisms to give the flavour of a character’s origin, but then let the character and story direct my readers to the accent.  I think it is more comfortable to sneak the accent into a reader’s head than to try to place it on the page to be read.  Sometimes it misses the mark completely.

But look at me rambling on.  I guess that’s probably the key factor in how us Irish speak.  Yep, I admit it… I do talk a whole lot of Sh*te.  Everywhere I travel, people have their own little twists on their own language, whether it’s Swabish in Germany, a good northern twist on the world in England or Glasgow v Edinburgh, we all have our own idiosyncrasies.  But look at me, I’m still rabbiting on,  I do like a good auld ramble now and then even if it is only on paper…. 

Haven’t read a Max Power book yet?  I think it’s time to pick one up.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, 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
https://maxpowerbooks.wordpress.com
fhttp://facebook.com/maxpowerbooks
twitter @maxpowerbooks1

Universal book links
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood-II
http://getbook.at/Little-Big-Boy
http://getbook.at/Larry-Flynn
http://getbook.at/Bad-Blood

all 5

 

What’s in a name?

What’s in a name?

Believe it or not, I’m very popular with hotel receptionists and it all comes from one simple thing – my name.  This doesn’t apply in Ireland, only when I go abroad. The sex is irrelevant, (how often do people say that, I wonder?) and to be honest the men are more impressed by me than the women.  Now given that I travel a lot and I’m partial to a cheeky upgrade, I do try to use what little charm God gave me, to get a better night’s sleep by asking for a better room.  I’ll use any excuse.  My name – yeah if it’s working- why not?

Now before you get misled, it is not that people go … “Oh my God it’s the famous writer!” Far from it.  However – and this came as a surprise to me at first – The minute I hit mainland Europe, the name Power tends to get some people a little excited.  To be fair it’s not just hotel receptionists, but they are the ones I am most likely to disclose my name to, as in “I have a reservation in the name of Power.”

You would want to hear the utter scutter that comes out of their mouths. “Oh Mr. Power (as their eyes light up) we have been expecting you.” Now, try saying that with a coy and excited German accent and you’ll get the gist of it.  This is usually accompanied by a smile and sometimes a wink, and that’s just the men. But they don’t leave it there.

“What a great name you have.  I wish I had such a great name.”  In fairness that came from an Austrian whose name was Kitzbitchler, so maybe I understood the preference for a change of name in his case – No offence to any Kitzbitchler’s out there.

Then you get the “But we were expecting someone…” then the awkward pause as they realise they are about to offend me, but they are committed to finishing the sentence and with limited English, they fall into the trap of   “… a little taller.”

I don’t mind, if anything – being insulted by someone who is embarrassed for insulting you, makes it easier to get an upgrade. Hell I encourage it.  I am just back from a trip where the guy immediately launched into a speech about how great my name is when I checked in.   I led him along the path as far as I could…

“Why do you like the name so much?” I enquired.  Now this question floors your average receptionist because quite frankly, they haven’t really thought about it beyond a vague, ethereal, fondness for the word Power being attached to them. They seem to instantly create a fantasy, whereby they possess the name and it sounds more than a little cool in their mind’s eye.  Again, it doesn’t apply in Ireland where you’d be tripping over Power’s, especially if you get lost in Waterford, but the Europeans, especially the Northern ones, do get almost inappropriately excited about the name.

“”I don’t know.” They openly admit this failing and almost scratch their heads before defending their fondness for my name. “But it must be cooool to have such a name.”  Then they let it slip, especially the German hoteliers “It must be like…you have Power… you know…you are Powerful…it’s …it’s… just cool you know?”

 I don’t know to be fair.  I hadn’t thought about it much until the world outside of Ireland started to comment on it. I do know that people used to sing that bloody stupid Cliff Richard Eurovision song to me in school when I was about ten. Once they heard my name was Power, they’d sing “Power to all our friends.”  It got very old very fast I can tell you. 

Still, I am a believer of making hay and so on, so it is around about this point, while the receptionist is still distracted by his or her secret fantasy to have such a “cool” name, that I chance my arm.

“It is a great name to have.” It’s a lie but now I’m reinforcing their positive feeling for me.  I look at their name badge. “Andreas…mmm… Yeah that would work for you…Andreas Power… Can you imagine.”  I watch their eyes lift as they picture it. As soon a smile starts to creep across their mouths, I go for the kill.

“Now you know what tends to happen when you have a name like this don’t you Andreas?”

They rarely answer, perhaps just a quizzical raised eyebrow as they are still trying to imaging what their children would be called if they only had such a wonderful surname.  I don’t wait.

“Smart, ambitious, (you can see the additional positive reinforcing can’t you) young hotel staff like you, generally give me a complimentary upgrade.”  Then I smile.  You have to smile; it’s all part of the deal.

Now here is where you sort the wheat from the chaff. I said earlier that the sex is irrelevant but to be fair, the women are much shrewder than the men.   Maybe if I was twenty years younger and a whole lot cuter, the ladies might fall for it more, but I find the men are bigger suckers for an ego boost. That’s not to say the girls don’t occasionally think “Cheeky bas**rd” and give me an upgrade anyway, but the lads are definitely easier.

You have to know how and when to play to your audience.  I do best with older ladies and young gay men for some reason.  Luckily there are not a lot of older men on reception in most hotels, they just scowl at me. For the young female receptionist I have to use humour to get an upgrade.  I think they see me like a father or even a grandad so that sometimes gives them a soft spot.  For the older girls a nice obviously over cooked compliment that makes them give me a wry smile as if to say “heard it all before” but if delivered with a touch of polish, I do well in getting the upgrade here.  As for gay men, why wouldn’t they fall for my charms?  

Importantly, I am always polite, I never overstep the mark and they all ultimately know what I am doing. That being said, I seem to wangle the occasional upgrade despite or perhaps because of my obviousness. You know what they say, if you don’t ask…

To be fair, I will try to get a free upgrade given a hint of an opportunity.  I once walked into a room that was already occupied by a colleague of mine as it turns out. I went back to reception and plaumaused the bejaysus out of the receptionist with a load of auld guff until she put me into a suite.   Now I laid it on a bit thick, so much so that at one point she said, “You can stop now, I’ve already allocated the room.”

Ah yes… It always feels like a little victory when you get something for free.   On my most recent trip, between two of us we got room upgrades, free cakes and an extra driver for free on our hire car and all it cost, was a little bit of time spend talkin’ sh**e.  They say where there’s muck there’s brass, but do you know what, where there’s guff there’s free stuff.   Go on, next time you’re travelling, give it a bash, or failing that, change your name to Power...

Haven’t read a Max Power book yet?  I think it’s time to pick one up.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, 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
https://maxpowerbooks.wordpress.com
fhttp://facebook.com/maxpowerbooks
twitter @maxpowerbooks1

Universal book links
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood-II
http://getbook.at/Little-Big-Boy
http://getbook.at/Larry-Flynn
http://getbook.at/Bad-Blood