Opening Lines

By Riley Amos Westbrook


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The start to any project is principal. The opening needs to sink its hooks deep into your readers, to keep them interested and reading.

The beginning of any journey is paramount. It’s important that your words draw your reader farther into your rabbit hole, so they keep reading.

The opening lines to anything you write are important. They need to have a certain amount of pull to keep your readers engaged, or you risk losing them to other entertainment means. (What if we, later in the document, go back to this opening sentence and rewrite it several different ways, as an example?)

I’m not one of those authors who has to have the perfect opening. I don’t stress over every word, making sure it sounds exactly as I want, before moving on to the next section of the story.

Still, I struggle when I start a new project to come up with a great opening sentence.

The great thing about first drafts is you can come back and fix anything that doesn’t sound right.

For instance, when I started writing Everyone Dies At The End, I wondered how I was going to convey the sense of urgency a heroin addict might experience after a long period of withdrawal. I tried a dozen different lines before I ended up with what I felt was the perfect opening paragraph.

I can’t help you attain perfection, I don’t even chase that goal for myself, but I did want to take the time to offer some suggestions when it comes to opening lines.

1. Think of your story.

With “Everyone Dies At The End” (“EDATE”), I weave together two story lines. One is a family just trying to survive the zombie apocalypse, the other is a heroin junkie looking to score his next fix. The opening lines to this book could have gone one of two ways (More on this in a second).

If your story is meant to be a light-hearted romp through life, then your introduction should be that. If your story is a harrowing journey full of action and adventure, then you need to give your readers a sense that something fantastical is coming.

When thinking of your opening lines, think of where you want your story to go. How can you firmly establish in a reader’s mind just what kind of a journey they’re about to go on?

2. If it isn’t working, try something else.

For a while I debated opening “EDATE” with a scene from the family. A happy scene full of love and compassion. I must have written it six times over the course of a couple weeks before I realized it wasn’t working for me. It felt too campy, and though there are moments of levity and joy in "EDATE,” for the most part it is a dark book that explores the darker side of humanity.

When I switched to the other story line, the heroin addict, everything started to come together. That storyline was much easier to create a compelling beginning from, and I soon found myself whipping through the book.

If something isn’t working, you know it. If something is, you know it. Trust your gut as a writer, and let your words do the talking.

For example, the first lines I came up with for “EDATE” were along the lines of, “The heroin junkie sat on the stairs, thoughts of her addiction at the top of her mind.” While I felt this was a good line, I knew it could be better if I tried. A little bit of reworking, and this is the line I ended up with: Jadee scratched her arm, feeling the itch in her veins that begged her to inject herself with tar. 

3. Use power words.

I hope you are already doing this in your writing, but if not, now is a good time to learn. Power words are an excellent way to create a compelling opening for your book. Using words that connect to people’s feelings will help to draw them into the story, and keep them glued to it until the end. If you get them interested, they will stay for more.

Like in the example above, adding in Jadee scratching her arm, and feeling the itch in her veins makes it so people connect a little more with the character. The more you can do to make your readers see, feel, taste, touch your environments in your book the better. If you immerse them in your world, they will be lost in it for hours.

4. Use a headline analyzer.

I use these a lot when I’m writing blurbs, and lately I’ve found them extremely helpful in writing opening lines. It sounds strange, using a marketing tool for your start of your book, but I think it works out. If you haven’t played with one of these before, you should try it. It’s amazing how small changes in word choice can change a simple sentence into a compelling bit of storytelling, and this is one of many tools I use for word choice.

My two favorite are the Advanced Marketing Institutes, great for short lines, and Co-Schedule’s, which you can use for entire articles.

http://www.aminstitute.com/headline/

http://coschedule.com/headline-analyzer

This is just a few of the things I try to keep in mind when starting a new project. Whether it’s a short story, a novel, or a blog post, your opening can make or break the rest of your book. A few well placed lines can make everything else come together with hardly any effort. 

And remember: although the opening line is very important to the story, what’s more important is not to allow the opening line to hold you back as a writer. I have known writers to get so caught up on writing the opening line that they never actually write the rest of the book because they’re so hung up on starting it right. Sometimes, it’s best to just press on and keep writing, and sometimes, the perfect line will come to you once you’re further into the story.

Happy Writing!

SIA Tutorials: Write-A-Line

with V.M. Sawh

“Can you hold this for me real quick?” The stranger slides a black package in my lap before I have a chance to respond. It jostles on top of my nervous knees as I hear it start to tick.

***
What are you feeling right now, after you’ve read that line? Think about the emotion on your mind at the moment. Chances are, you’re curious. Maybe a little nervous. After all, who wouldn’t be - in that situation. This is what opening lines are all about. They set the scene and ideally, put your reader into the story right away. But I want to set the tone of the story first, the classics never tried to start ‘in medias res’, they took their time, you might say.

This is true, but there’s a reason those are called classics. They are representative of a time long past, but have flourished due to their exemplary nature. There’s nothing wrong with them, but there’s a reason “It was a dark and stormy night” has become cliche. Everyone knows it already. Your readers certainly do. So as an innovative and original writer, what are you to do? Our venerable Riley Westbrook has provided you with a great lead-in and some good advice. 

To add to it, I would say that your Opening Line should immediately establish the following:

  • The narrative voice of the story
    • Why? This gives insight into the lead character (if first person) or into the narrator. Some people know right off the bat whether or not this book will work for them by the tone of voice in the opening lines. It could be wistful, sarcastic, funny, absurd, dramatic, angry, sad or any combination of emotions. Even the way the author chooses to describe a sunset will tell the reader something about what kind of writing lies ahead. For books narrated by one of the characters, the voice is the determining factor that influences the reader to pick up the book - this person has to start telling the story in a way that makes you want to spend enough time with them to hear the rest. Consider this: you’re about to be told a funny story about something that happened at the grocery store. Would you rather hear your mom’s version, your sister’s version or your best friend’s version? Each one might start the story in a slightly different way. The answer to that question should tell you about whose voice is best suited to tell that story in a way that makes it funny to you.
    • Examples:
      •  “You’ll never believe what happened to me at the grocery store today!”
      • “OMG Can I tell you something? So I went to the grocery story to get some apples and…”
      • “Yo, the stupidest thing just happened! I was out getting stuff from the store when…”
  • The style of the prose.
    • Why? Because whether or not your story has cutaways, asides, internal monologues, or a prologue will also inform the reader whether or not this story meets their tastes. This is part of the reason Amazon offers that Look Inside preview - to give potential readers a taste of how this book’s story is likely to be told. Some books may have a specific structure to it, like being written in the form of journal entries, emails or even text conversations. Readers generally know if that’s a format they’re willing to stick with, so be aware that if you’re switching up styles later on in the book, it can have an impact on reader expectations. This is particularly relevant when it comes to switching POV and formats in your book. If you’re consistent throughout, then you run less of a risk of losing the reader, based on their expectations of what the style was going to be from the opening line. 
  • The First Line Hook
    • Why? The hook is often what’s discussed first when we talk about creating opening lines. There are many articles dedicated to showing you how to hook your reader from page one. Let’s review some types of First Line Hooks:
      • In the Middle of the Action - A hail of gunfire pinning down an innocent. 
      • A Vivid Image - A bright pink flower blooming amongst the smoldering black ruin of a forest fire.
      • A Summation of the Story - This is the story of how a great love toppled the empire.
      • A Philosophy - They say you should always keep your friends close, but your enemies closer…
      • A Line of Dialogue - “Whatever you do, don’t drop the bomb.”
    • Each of these first line hooks has a different effect on your reader. It may or may not work to get them to read your book. A lot of this has to do with their expectations of what they’re about to read. For some, In the Middle of the Action is exactly what they want out of a gritty crime novel, whereas using this for a complicated fantasy novel with a huge war featuring 13 races may not work, as readers won’t know the stakes right away. Likewise A Philosophy may work for Literary or Historical fiction, but perhaps less so for Romance, given what the readers are looking for. Of course, a talented writer can make anything work, but it helps to know what the challenges and expectations are.
  • The genre of the book
    • Why? The types of acceptable opening lines can be genre specific, as readers will pick up a genre book to have a certain type of experience ie. Romance-lovers will open a book hoping to feel a certain rush of emotions such as excitement, intrigue or lust from reading the text. Fantasy fans, on the other hand may be seeking a more detailed & immersive form of escape into a land of magic and races and swordplay. Sci-fi aficionados may be looking for the mix of technology and wonder right off the bat. So how you open your book will be judged by the genre-expectations of the reader. Certain openings are expected, for example in Historical fiction one of the first things we’d expect to see is the date whereas with Fantasy we might expect to start off with a description of the lineage of a particular race, custom or conflict. Romance readers may prefer a flowery passage on the nature of feelings, or a captivating look at the main character’s object of affection. While we’d like to keep things original and there are no hard & fast rules, being aware of genre expectations gives you both freedom and guidance as to how you open your novel.

Now your Gentleman Ninja (yours truly) will take you to task. Click here to download the Write-An-Opening Worksheet, which contains some neat little thought exercises to get your brain moving about what kinds of Opening Lines you can create. What’s more, because we always want to hear from you, feel free to post your worksheets on your own Member Showcase threads and discuss!

From Brainstorming to Writing: The Tutorial

By Ann Livi Andrews

So you’re ready to start work on your next writing project. 

Congratulations! The beginning is always one of my favorite times. The idea is still fresh, still exciting, and still full of potential. Your mind is probably racing with plot points, character development, and the various conclusions that you could lead your readers to. 

So, let me ask you this: what do you do first? 

There are organized authors, who immediately open up a Word Doc, Word Perfect Doc, Google Doc, Scrivener Doc, or even a Ulysses Doc (just to name a few) and immediately jot down a rough outline of where they’d like the plot to go. It might look a little something like this:

Or, you might put together some sort of brainstorming bubble, a semi organized/semi chaotic way to get all of your ideas that are shuffling around in your head onto paper. That could look like this: 

Or maybe you just start writing. Maybe the words have already been forming into sentences as you’ve been pondering this latest work. Maybe you get three chapters written before you even realized what you’ve done. We all know what that looks like, no need for an example. 

Or maybe you take the Ann Livi approach and you simply stare at the blank sheet of paper for what seems like an eternity, then you give up, browse Pinterest for a while, answer a few emails, read someone else’s book and review it, patrol the SIA forum for a while, possibly make a few changes to the website, and then write a sentence. That ends up looking like this:

The point of all of this is that I could go on and on. Each and every author is going to have a different method that they rely on to start their work. There are some courses out there (I won’t name names, but I can tell you they probably range from $99.99 to $299.99) that will tell you “sure-fire methods” of making sure you’re writing a book a month, or every two months, enabling you to become the next Best Selling Kindle Author! 

But I say do what works for YOU. Be the author YOU want to be. Not the author that someone else tells you to be. In this day and age, the chances of becoming a best selling author and living off of your written word, well, it’s a slim chance. It can be done - if you’re working very diligently and are amazing at maintaining a balanced budget. 

Be an author because you want to be an author. Write for yourself. That will keep it fun and will help feed your passion for it. And believe me, that shows in your work. 

So keep that chaotic brainstorming bubble. Write an entire chapter just because you want to see what would happen if your character chose Path E instead of your preferred Path A or B - even if you don’t intend to keep it in the book. 

Use the methods that make you happy and keep the words flowing. There’s no wrong way - I promise you. 

Just write. 

Cheers to a Happy and Writing Filled 2017
Ann Livi Andrews

#SupportIndieAuthors

Covers Design Tutorial Series by CB Archer

We here at Support Indie Authors are going to be doing some tutorials to help our fellow authors learn about different tasks that might come up while being an Indie Author!

Covers Design Tutorial Series

Tutorial 1. File Set Up

In this cover design tutorial we will begin at the start. The absolute start. With file set up. 

File set up is not the most glamorous step in designing a cover, but it certainly will be the first step. You might not think there is a lot to file set up, and you would be correct most of the time. But, one day something could come up that you didn’t expect. If you didn’t know to prepare your files properly then you could be forced to do hours more work, or even worse not be able to use your cover at all and have to restart!


Step One: File Type

There are a multitude of programs that you can use to create a cover. From design suites such as Adobe InDesign, to free graphics editors like Gimp, to the program that most every writer probably owns - a word processor.

No matter what program you use, the file type will be one of three things. It is a good idea to think about what kind of file will best suit your purposes before starting. Personally, I mix programs.

Type A: Vector Files

Common Programs that use Vector Graphics: Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape, CorelDraw

Vector graphics are mathematical formulas that use nodes and curves to form shapes. What this means is that no matter how large, or how small your graphic is it will always scale to that size correctly and it will never artifact (become all blurry with pixels).

The most common form of vector graphics is type. 

If your cover has silhouettes or symbols on it, then you will benefit from using vectors. Vector programs are used less in cover design, but they do have a billion uses.

Type B: Raster Graphics

Common Programs that use Raster Graphics: Adobe Photoshop, Gimp, MS Paint

Raster graphics are coloured pixels placed side by side. When viewed from a distance they produce a crisp image.

The most common form of Raster Graphics are photographs. 

If your cover will have photographs and text effects you will benefit from using raster graphics.

Type C: Layout Files

Common Programs that use Layout Files: Adobe InDesign, QuarkXpress, Miscrosoft Publisher

This isn’t really a file type per se, but it is important enough to include. A layout program will reference other files on your system and help you to lay everything out. Not a necessity, but they can be handy, especially when you have a series of book covers and want to keep everything together.

If your cover mixes elements of raster and vector graphics this might be the type for you. 

Additionally: Vector programs often allow the use of raster graphics as well as vectors. They are not as powerful at laying out as the powerhouses, but consider using one as they often have better text layout capabilities than raster programs.

What you pick is up to you. All of these programs and more can be used to make a book cover!


Step Two: Sizing

Sizing is one of those choices that can break your cover later, so taking a few moments to get it right now could save you a lot of time in the long run.

I am going to make a suggestion: Regardless of what you think your book will be, plan for the possibility that it might one day become a print book! 

If you are making your print book cover with a print on demand service, then they will likely have a cover template you can download for the exact size, which can save you a lot of time. 

Dimensions:

There are a lot of set sizes for books on print on demand services that you might like. If you have no idea I suggest going for one of the most common sizes, like 6”x9”.

Resolution

This. This is one of the things that can break your cover in the future. 

Raster graphics programs will require this before you even start the file. The important thing to know is that resolution can always be lowered at a later date, but it can never be raised. Online book sellers will often say that their minimum requirement is for the file to be at 72 dpi (dots per inch). I suggest that you don’t listen to them. 

Print files for book covers need to be much higher than 72dpi. I would never make a print file with less than 300 dpi, and prefer to be as high as 600 dpi. A 600 dpi file can bog down your system, but if it can handle it, then do it. This will allow you the most flexibility in the future.

Vector programs and layout programs will not require a resolution. It is important to note that any raster images you import into those programs should be at a high enough resolution to fit these requirements.


Step Three: Bleed and Margins

Bleed

Printers cannot print to the edge of a piece of paper. This is where bleed comes into the picture. Bleed is an additional area of graphics that bleeds off the final image size. On a book cover the standard amount of bleed is 1/8” or 0.125”.  This means that your final document size will be larger than the finished size by 1/4” in both dimensions.

Ebooks do not require a bleed but it is still a good idea to include this. If later you go to a physical book and used graphics that cannot now be moved around, you will be in trouble. Nobody wants a thin white line around their covers and bleed is easy enough to remove if you need to! :)

Margins

Margins are safe areas right inside the final ‘cut line’ that help to protect your vital graphics from getting cut off. These are also 1/8”. Margins are handy in ebook covers are they prevent you from putting graphics too near the edge of your cover. Some readers and sites might cut off a little bit of your cover to fit their standards, so having this safety space can prevent you from losing portions of your text. 

Combined, margins and bleed work together well. Here is an image showing how they look.

Guides
if your design program does not allow you to have bleeds and margins automatically setting up a guide to work on top of with the bleeds and margins will help. Even if you take a piece of paper and draw the margins, final size, and bleed, you will be in better shape than going in blind!

This concludes the tutorial on File Set Up, let me know if you have any other questions about File Set Up! I will try and answer them.

Presented by CB Archer

Maximizing your writing time during the holidays

By Riley Amos Westbrook

I don't know about all of you, but the holidays can be a stressful time of year for all of us.
Dinners to go to, people to see, and that's not mentioning the financial side of things.

All of that can add up to one heck of a stressful situation. What can you do to maximize your writing time during the holidays? How do you keep people from calling you a shut in or hermit? These are some of the steps that I take, so I can keep up my writing.

1. Tell people you need personal space.

Believe it or not, sometimes a blunt answer is best. I see no reason why you can't take notes or plan a scene while doing your socializing. If something comes to you, take a second to write it down. If your friends and family are like mine, they already consider you to be a little crazy.

2. Use your phone or tablet to write!

I am so thankful for the time we live in. A lot of us carry these amazing devices in our hands, and we don't even realize their potential. My phone and tablet are slowly starting to replace all my other devices, just because of their ease of use. The portability of these electronics make it simple to write and take notes anywhere, and I do constantly.

I've now used my phone and tablet to write seven books, all while on the go! Could you imagine doing that ten years ago? Twenty? I know we had laptops, but I can carry my phone in my pants pocket.

These little devices are a godsend to those of us who tell stories. Don't forget to use them. If you have trouble writing quickly on a tablet's inline keyboard, there are a number of wireless keyboards/docks that can easily pair with your device. It can turn your tablet into a mini laptop if you need it.

3. This last piece of advice is going to sound counter-intuitive, but it isn't. Take the time to get away from the story and spend time with your loved ones.

This is always my favorite option. Don't think about your story. Don't stress over that plot point. Spend time with your family, and bask in their love.  In the long run, connecting with people will help you to understand people. Understanding people will help you write relatable characters. Getting away from your story can open up possibilities you never considered.

Our understanding of the world is central to the conflicts and characters of our story. So step back and get to know your world a little more, and you just might find your way past that plot point. Who knows, your biggest fan may already be there at the table.

The only thing that can keep you from writing is yourself, especially nowadays. Remember that as you join your family for a feast, use your time and your tools for the best advantage. After all, one never knows where inspiration will come from. Keep being awesome, and #SupportIndieAuthors.

 

 

New Release from Award Winning Author & Supporter of Indie Authors Samuel Marquis

Blurb

Cluster of Lies (Coming September 2016): The hero in 2015’s Blind Thrust is back to solve the mysteries at Dakota Ranch. Why were four boys diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer at the same time? Was business owner Gus McTavish murdered? Are the two events related? Joe Higheagle is determined to uncover the truth.


Biography

SAMUEL MARQUIS is the bestselling, award-winning author of The Slush Pile Brigade, Blind Thrust, The Coalition, Bodyguard of Deception, and Cluster of Lies. He works by day as vice-president and hydrogeologist at an environmental consulting firm in Boulder, Colo., and by night as writer of historical and modern suspense novels. He holds an M.S. degree in geology, is a registered professional geologist in eleven states, and is a recognized expert in groundwater contamination and hydrologeology, having served as an expert witness in several class action cases. He also has a deep and abiding interest in military history and intelligence, specifically related to the Golden Age of Piracy, Plains Indian Wars, World War II, and the current War on Terror.

His technical scientific background and passion for military history and intelligence have served Marquis well as a suspense writer. His first two thrillers, The Slush Pile Brigade and Blind Thrust, were both #1 Denver Post bestsellers for fiction, and his first three novels received national book award recognition. The Slush Pile Brigade was an award-winning finalist in the mystery category of the Beverly Hills Book Awards. Blind Thrust was winner of the Foreword Reviews’ Book of the Year Awards and Next Generation Indie Book Awards, and an award-winning finalist of the USA Best Book Awards and Beverly Hills Book Awards in the thriller/suspense category. His third novel, The Coalition, was the winner of the Beverly Hills Book Awards for a political thriller. The first book in his WWII Trilogy, Bodyguard of Deception, was an Amazon Top 15 Bestseller for Historical Thrillers.

Former Colorado Governor Roy Romer said, “Blind Thrust kept me up until 1 a.m. two nights in a row. I could not put it down. An intriguing mystery that intertwined geology, fracking, and places in Colorado that I know well. Great fun.” James Patterson compared The Coalition to The Day After Tomorrow, the classic thriller by Allan Folsom; and Donald Maas, author of Writing 21st Century Fiction and two novels, compared The Coalition to the classic political assassination thriller The Day of the Jackal. Other book reviewers have compared Book #1 of Marquis’s World War Two Trilogy, Bodyguard of Deception, to the spy novels of John le Carré, Daniel Silva, Ken Follett, and Alan Furst. 


Interview

1. Tell us a little about how you prepared to write your new work. Is there a lot of mental prep involved or more research and note taking? 

My Joe Higheagle Environmental Sleuth Series (Blind Thrust: A Mass Murder Mystery and Cluster of Lies, Book 2 of the series, just released) is based on my nearly thirty years as a professional hydrogeologist involved in environmental health risk assessments, groundwater flow and transport modeling investigations, and serving as a groundwater expert witness in class action litigation cases. Joe Higheagle, the hero of the series, is a Denver-based, Northern Cheyenne geologist who solves environmental crimes. Because he does what I do for a living, I did not have to perform a ton of research on either Blind Thrust or Cluster of Lies. For both books, I just had to take a typical, large-scale environmental contamination project and make it ten times more toxic and dangerous and the corporate polluters far more cunning, lethal, and corrupt than such individuals would be in the real-world. That’s writing thriller fiction: taking reality and ramping up the scare factor ten-fold.

2. How does this book compare to your previous works?

I have eclectic reading and writing tastes so I actually have three independent book series that are quite different from one another despite all being in the thriller/suspense genre. The first series is the Joe Higheagle Environmental Sleuth Series that includes Blind Thrust and Cluster of Lies, described above. The second is my Nick Lassiter International Espionage Series (The Slush Pile Brigade, and The Fourth Pularchek coming in 2017), featuring Nick Lassiter, a young American who as the series progresses transforms from a Mr. Everyman struggling-writer to a bestselling author and reluctant CIA intelligence asset. My third series of books are my standalone modern and historical suspense novels with new characters introduced in each novel. Within this group, I published the political thriller The Coalition in early 2016 and I have an ongoing World War II Trilogy featuring different settings and characters, but all dealing with espionage during WWII. The books in my WWII Trilogy include Bodyguard of Deception and Altar of Resistance (coming in January 2017). All of my books are in the suspense genre, but like Dennis Lehane, Ken Follett, and Stephen Hunter, I like to have the creative freedom to explore different time periods and not be restricted to a single series or protagonist. Plus I just love history so all of my books fit best into the Thriller/Suspense – Historical subgenre because the common thread that runs through all of my books, whether they are modern or historical, is they are rich in history. 

In both Blind Thrust and Cluster of Lies, my Cheyenne geologist Joe Higheagle solves environmental crimes working with his curmudgeonly grandfather, Chief John Higheagle, a former tribal lawyer and Contrary (a Cheyenne holy man who does things in opposites). The two are like the Odd Couple except the main source of conflict between them is Old vs. Young, Traditional vs. New. And yet they both embrace Cheyenne culture and their Indian heritage plays out in everything they do in the books as they attempt to bring corporate villains to justice. The series evolves by Higheagle and his grandfather solving one major environmental crime after another, and the young, single Higheagle garnering a new love interest in each new book, a la James Bond.

The first book in the series, Blind Thrust, is specifically based on my experiences in California and Texas as a Registered Professional Geologist in assessing earthquake hazards and fault classifications on behalf of real-estate developers in environmental site assessments. The original inspiration for Cluster of Lies, Book 2 of the series, was drawn from my professional experience working on the Rosamond cancer cluster case in Southern California. In Cluster of Lies, Higheagle and his grandfather the chief solve the mystery of a childhood cancer cluster at Dakota Ranch outside Denver, Colorado, where four boys have been diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer. Think Erin Brockovich, A Civil Action, and Michael Clayton. In writing the novel, I drew heavily from my actual professional experience working on the aforementioned cancer cluster case in the Southern California desert. Visiting the town of Rosamond, reviewing the documents on file in the local library, and interviewing the residents who had experienced the cancer cluster firsthand had a profound impact on me and served as both the inspiration and framework for the novel. 

3. In what ways have you seen yourself grow as an author throughout your writing career?

I went from being perhaps one of the world’s worst thriller writers to a modest-bestselling, award-winning author. But it took several years and at least three suspense novels to become respectable as a writer. This was accomplished by writing and re-writing incessantly, over and over and over again, and working with two literary agents and solid editors that offered valuable advice. Having honed my craft to a respectable level, my thrillers have been #1 Denver Post bestsellers, have received multiple national book awards (Foreword Reviews’ Book of the Year, USA Best Book Awards, Beverly Hills Book Awards, and Next Generation Indie Book Awards), and have garnered glowing reviews from #1 bestseller James Patterson, Kirkus, and Foreword Reviews (5 Stars). But it took a lot of hard work to get even this modest amount of literary recognition, and I have a long way to go before winning or being selected as a finalist for the bigger national book awards.

4. If you had to pick one of your books as your favorite, which would it be? What do you think are your best works?

My favorite (and best) book is Altar of Resistance, Book 2 of my WWII Trilogy, coming in January 2017 that covers the Italian campaign and papacy of Pope Pius XII during the German Occupation of Rome and Holocaust in 1943-1944. My two best books not counting Altar of Resistance would have to be my political thriller The Coalition (which has been compared to the works of ‎Frederick Forsyth, James Patterson, Baldacci, and Vince Flynn), and the recently released Cluster of Lies. The Coalition will be available for FREE as a Bookbub Featured Deal from September 29 through October 3, 2016. 

5. Is there anything you'd like your readers to know or be thinking about as they begin to read your new book?

I think readers of both literary and commercial fiction will like Cluster of Lies because of its authenticity and because Higheagle and his irascible grandfather-fellow sleuth, Chief John Higheagle, are memorable and believable characters. For an unbiased book review of Cluster of Lies as well as Blind Thrust (Book 1 of the Higheagle series), readers should check out my Foreword Reviews for the two books (https://www.forewordreviews.com/books/contributors/samuel-marquis/). I think readers should also know that although Blind Thrust was the winner of the Foreword Reviews’ Book of the Year (HM) and the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and an award-winning finalist of the USA Best Book Awards and Beverly Hills Book Awards (thriller and suspense), Cluster of Lies is an even better novel because the characters are richer and more complex.

Readers also might be interested to know what sparked my interest in Cheyenne history and made me want to have a Northern Cheyenne protagonist in my books.  The answer is I was inspired by the history of my great-great relative, Thomas B. Marquis. Dr. Marquis (1869–1935) was a physician, author, photographer, and important chronicler of the 19th Century American West. He practiced medicine in Montana, was with the U. S. Medical Corps during World War I, and served as government physician on the Tongue River-Northern Cheyenne Indian reservation after the war. Because of his interest in Plains Indians, he eventually gave up his medical practice and devoted full time to learning Indian sign language, gathering historical data from the Northern Cheyenne, and writing about their culture and the Plains Indian wars. During the course of his medical career among the Northern Cheyenne, he interviewed many old warriors who had participated in the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn. The Indians trusted him, allowed him to photograph them, and told him things via sign language that they would reveal to no one else. His books include Wooden Leg: A Warrior Who Fought Custer (1931), Two Days After the Custer Battle (1935), Custer, Cavalry and Crows (1975), Keep the Last Bullet for Yourself: the True Story of Custer’s Last Stand (1976), and many other works. It is because of Thomas B. Marquis that my protagonist, Joe Higheagle, and his curmudgeonly grandfather, John Higheagle, were created and why I weave the Cheyenne, Custer, and the Little Big Horn into my books. The Northern Cheyenne loved Thomas B. Marquis like a brother and he loved them back. Like him, I greatly admire the Cheyenne Indians, the finest horse people of the Great Plains along with the Comanche.


May's Short Story Contest - "Must-Read-Minis: The Incredible Shrinking Story"

"Within An Inch"

Joed Jackson

“Holy shiitake!” said I—and by shiitake I meant to say succotash. Because I wouldn’t say shiitake—but this is some serious shi—stuff. What the hell just happened? This chair smells like—never mind, not going to say it.

The fan whirring within the computer tower swirled and roared like a cyclone. It drowned out every other noise—even my voice—but its hollow, unyielding, cavernous maelstrom forced me into conscious realization of . . . reality? Spinning about I took in what my senses could give me but they must be lying, this cannot be so.

Pop quiz buddy, I’m half the size of Dennis Hoppers good thumb. How in the crazy world could this be happening to me? Well, Trump is running for president, relatively speaking this isn’t that strange.

Ok, seriously, take stock. Don’t panic any more than you already are. Oh jeez, I think I’m gonna throw up. Breathe, buddy, breathe. The computer is still there—obviously—blue and red LED’s like winking luminous orbs, that damn fan is hindering my ability to remain calm—why is it so loud? And that broken USB port—why it’s absolutely cavernous. No help there. What’s on the screen, what’s changed? I can’t see the screen. Maybe If I head over to the edge of the chair I will be able to see it better. Maybe not, this cheap cubicle reject chair fabric is waxy-slick and those foam rounded edges don’t inspire me at all.

“Hello? What the hell is going on here?”

What was that? I froze bodily, trembling from within. Was that a bark? The dog! Oh no. He looks so far-off. His head looks more like a great fuzzy white boulder, but it’s in his usual spot—the living room couch. Has he noticed me? No. Good.

“Oh nuts!” A colossal terror took hold of me; nearly collapsing I realized that the wife will be home in just a few minutes.

“She is gonna be pissed!” I whispered the words desperately—hoarsely. I have got to get out of here. How am I going to get off this chair? Think. No, really think—and don’t do anything stupid!

Okay, I can see the desk pretty good. Well not really, I can see its edge well enough. But those cubbies under it are a mess, the wife is right, I have clutter issues. The book totes are there against the wall, like stacks of misshapen skyscrapers. Man, I can’t be any taller than one of those book bindings, what is that, an inch—maybe 3 centimeters? This is so weird. Can I fly, I wonder? Don’t be stupid, not gonna try.

Oh snap, duck! And I did. That damn dog. Why is everything so loud—the fan, the dog barking—why? What is it this time, the mail man? Or maybe it’s Mrs. Gellerson, taking her mutt for a walk? I don’t care. I’m one inch tall. I have—here it comes—bigger issues to deal with.

I need a plan. What are those three steps again? Survive. Stabilize. Succeed. Oh hell—and I thought they sounded dumb when applied to finance. Hmm, this fabric isn’t too bad out away from my butt-imprint. It’s tufty like bunched crabgrass in faded blue and it clumps nicely. Okay, that’s something, now I need priorities.

I have to get some cover lest the dog decides I’m lunch. That thing eats before he looks and that

is no longer a cute little quirk. I suppose I could hide under the wicker-stand. It’s only a meter from me. How vast it seems now, like a boundless square mountain of woven wicker, the carpet below is a swirled sea of peppered beige.

Crawling on my hands and knees I approach the seat edge. “Woof—that’s a long way down.” My new Elvis slippers (they’re blue, it’s just a nick-name) they could break my fall. Let me see here, that’s about an eighteen inch drop. At my present stature one inch is roughly six feet, multiplied by a foot and a half is a hundred feet, give or take. Even if I bounced that’s a ten story drop—equivalent. My weight would drop exponentially relative to my size reduction so leaping and landing may be more fantastic than expected but I aint no guinea pig.

I could use my clothes as a make-shift parachute. Yeah, that would work. I looked down and gave myself a-once- over.

“Where are my clothes?” I blurted out. I ducked instinctively, not out of embarrassment, but out of fear the dog might have heard me. He was silent, only the vortex computer fan was blasting away incessantly. I remembered that my clothes were on the couch.

I wonder what will be harder to explain. How and why I am one inch tall or why I was sitting at the computer naked? Even money—both are completely beyond my ability to rationalize.

I felt dizzy. Blackness whooshed over me like a spectral tsunami. I began to drift—fade. What is happening to me? I wanted to cry out and shriek in terror but I only collapsed, grappling for every breath. The dim-witted, off white sky, a tacky popcorn texture—was unbearable. I clenched my eyes shut, overwhelmed by sadistic fate.

I jolted up, roused by sounds of the wife bringing in the groceries. My heart was racing; I was drenched in sweat like I’d just had a swim. I was me—the big, all, full, complete, proper sized me.

“Honey, there are more things in the car. Are you wasting time again?” My beautiful, sex-goddess bride dragged in the weekly supply of toilet paper, chicken pot pies, and organic produce. At five-foot- two I really couldn’t call her short—not anymore.

Oh, thank God! It was just a short story contest. That was scary as hell. I mean I really thought that was it, I mean succotash—and by succotash I mean holy shiitake!

Social Media

Will It Sell Your Books For You?


Ann Livi Andrews

When my husband and I decided that we were going to self publish my writing, he immediately signed me up for several online "courses" that claimed to have all the answers. And you know what each and every single one of them said?


PROMOTE PROMOTE PROMOTE


But more than that, they claimed that I needed to be spending hours a day getting my name out there via forums, author groups, book groups, literary newsletters, and (you guessed it) social media platforms. My husband forced me (I'm not joking here, dragging and kicking I was) to join Twitter. For the first several months, I hated it. Absolutely despised it. And I was quick to realize that a) no one wanted to see me promoting my own work 5+ times a day. And I'm just not that witty to come up with a bunch of 140 or fewer tweets to draw in attention, retweets, and to *gasp* reach the ultimate "trending" goal. 

So what did I do instead? I made friends. Sure, I made a few reader friends, a few marketing "friends," a few blogging friends, but mostly, I made Author friends. And to me, that has been the best thing to come from social media. Plus, let's be honest, as long as you maintain a PC and Professional Attitude on those platforms, being well-rounded on social media makes you seem a little more legit. 

Have I made sales due to my social media presence? I don't think so. If anything Goodreads has aided me far more than Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest ever have. But that's just my opinion. 


Riley Amos Westbrook

As an author, I love social media for all the wrong reasons. I believe these are great tools, but they are nothing more than that.

Twitter:

I love twitter. I can’t just jot down whatever I want and hit the submit button, I have to take the time to craft my message. 140 characters or less in order to convey my meaning to you. Twitter is great for talking to friends and fans, but horrible for selling. I use twitter cards, and I use them a lot. I tweet about my books everyday in one form or another. However, I don’t really think this has translated into sales, at least not directly. But that’s only half the battle of social media. Getting your name in front of other people’s eyes is the other battle, and that’s one I find twitter is excellent for. With just a few hashtags, you can spread your words across hundreds of thousands of people.

Facebook:

I am a HHHUUUUUGGGGGEEEE fan for Facebook. Not for sales or marketing, but for interacting. I look at Facebook, and I see a giant bulletin board, one full of your friends, family, and acquaintances. I don’t try to sell books on Facebook, because I know it’s not going to have a very good return on investment. Think about the things you like and share on Facebook, and think to yourself how many of those are books. That’s not to say that people don’t buy books from Facebook ads, just that not all results are typical. They’ve changed quite a few of their algorithms, but Facebook is still my go to place to waste time online.

Pinterest:

Another great social media site. I love Pinterest, because it’s nothing but pictures. I love looking at pictures, and troll the site for inspiration on a weekly, if not daily, basis. Great to find images related to your books, and save them into folders. You can make casting lists, show images that help give shape to your world, and post covers to your books. That being said, I really use the site more to connect with other people. While I’m not going to deny the power of pictures in marketing, I can’t say directly whether or not it leads to sales, but it is another great way to waste time.

GoodReads:

Finally, a social media site all about books! This is a great place to meet others who love the craft of writing. I’ve met so many authors and readers through Goodreads, and it is easily my best resource for procuring reviews. It even has a place for you to create an author profile, and list your books with links to buy. I still don’t know if this has translated into sales yet, because I don’t try to market my author page (Might be something to consider!). I do know I’ve made a lot of friends and met a ton of amazing people from the communities offered on their boards.

Blog:

While not technically a social media site, blogging is yet another way to connect to people. A chance to write down your thoughts and connect with people who may not know you. I actually have mine connected to all my social media accounts, so I get to double-triple-quadruple dip with a blog. If I post a blog, it also posts to my Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads' profiles. Not to mention, with the proper tagging of your posts, you can quickly find yourself rising up the ranks of Google searches. If anything has generated sales for me, it has been my blog. However, it takes a lot of time and energy to be constantly posting and keep things fresh. Still, a great way to get your daily ideas out, and give you more eyes on your work.

If there’s one thing you can see, I view social media as a time sink that could pay off in the end. As with all things in life, you should be careful to put all your eggs in one basket and moderation is key.


Christina McMullen

Authors need to have a social media presence.

We hear that a lot, don't we? For the sake of this conversation, let's just skip over the fact that I tend to hiss and spit like a vampire caught in a sunbeam any time I hear anyone say that authors need to do anything. Social media is no different. I know a couple of very successful authors with no social media presence. It's not a requirement, but I can't deny that for those of us without luck and magic on our side, it's a simple and cost free way to get our names out there. 

And by getting our names out there, I do not mean just dropping a bunch of LOOK AT ME! BUY MY BOOK! posts into Hootsuite and spamming the hell out of your followers. As Riley points out, social media isn't a direct market for selling your books. It's called social media for a reason. You need to be social. And for some of us, that's terrifying. 

You see, being social online is no different than face to face and when you're a naturally introverted author with a network of thousands, well, panic attacks can happen. Understandably. So where is the balance between social interaction and careless spambot? The answer is wherever you set it to be. 

Give yourself limits. Try one or two outlets at a time. If that doesn't work, do not feel bad for abandoning the failed attempt, but keep in mind that it may take a while to ease yourself into it. Heck, it took me a solid year to start joining discussions on Goodreads and probably closer to two to make anything happen with Twitter.

And just like in real life, taking a timeout from time to time is good medicine. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Your media empire will not crumble if you decide you don't have something clever to say today. Besides, you can always come back later and say you were too busy penning your next bit of brilliance. (Quit giving away trade secrets, Christina!-Riley) ;)

INCOMING TRANSMISSION


***And now, a brief message from your Supreme Overlord***


For those of you wondering who on earth I am and are raising your eyebrows at the Supreme Overlord reference, my name is Ann Livi Andrews and I run Support for Indie Authors, SIA for short (no relation to the Australian singer). What started as a small idea in January 2015 has quickly turned into a vast wealth of support, encouragement, resources, etc for Indie Authors.
 
We have now grown to 5,000+ members and having outgrown Goodreads, we began our own website (www.supportindieauthors.com) dedicated to helping Indie Authors be the best they can be. We are now 13 Moderators strong and have put in countless hours to ensure an organized and well managed group.
 
Sure sure, Ann,” you might say. “But what’s with the blog post?
 
Right – to the point.
 
We are about to undergo a major transformation on the Goodreads' side of the equation. We just celebrated our First Birthday, or First Anniversary, whichever way you’d like to look at it, and with over 5,000 members, I’m sure you can imagine just how many folders, topics, and comments we have to sort through on a daily basis.
 
In addition, with this many topics to sort through,  it becomes difficult for our members to find the answers they’re looking for to questions that have already been posted. We receive a lot of “Do you know where that one post that the one guy posted a few days ago is?” queries from our members.
 
So here’s the deal: tons and tons of posts are going to be deleted.

BUT DON'T PANIC.

We’re compiling all of them into an easy to read and easy to search PDF that you’ll be able to download from our website. (For free, of course) This will be updated on a semi regular basis (as often as I or my other moderators can – I don’t pay them, you know – at least not yet.)
 
In addition, we’re going to be posting a new set of rules in response to some of the criticisms and . . .um. . .how shall I put this. . .harassment that we’ve received. The majority of you are super amazing members and we're grateful for your participation and the respect that you show one another. Unfortunately, a handful of people haven't been quite as understanding. 

With this in mind, we are going to be a little stricter in the future, to keep things safe for everyone. These rules will be straight to the point with no room for imaginative interpretation. With so many members, we’re going to have to toughen our defenses in order to maintain an organized and peaceful environment. We want to keep this forum and our group just as awesome as it’s been for the past year.

So there you have it. Changes are a-coming. But we’re still the same fun-loving Mods that we always have been. The Fun Folder won’t be disappearing. We’ll still be joking around etc. Just remember to keep it respectful and you won’t wake up to a cut-in-half bookmark lying on the pillow next to you.

As always, if you have any questions, or you feel that you have an issue with me or one of my Mods, please send me a message about it. Despite my tyrannical title, I am actually all about resolving conflicts. A happy and content army is one who can conquer many. 


***End Transmission - Resume your regular routine***


February's Short Story Contest - "Find Me Love" Winner

Dating An On-Liner

By Amanda Siegrist

"Oh. My. God." Chilly's eyes bulged as she looked at the picture hanging in the middle of the wall. "Please tell me that's not your date."

Daphne smiled with satisfaction. "Uh, girl, look again. That's my date."

"I'm so damn jealous. He's like a Greek God, just sculpted into perfection."

Daphne rounded her bed, walking up to where she pinned the picture on her bedroom wall. Teenager-ish, yeah, she knew it. But she couldn't help but print out his profile picture and hang it up to drool over whenever the urge struck. Which was often.

She took a spot next to her best friend, Chilly, or Chillavella, as her horrible parents decided to name her. They both tilted their heads to the side as they stared in awe at the picture.

Bronzed skin, not the fake kind where he visited a tan salon. Oh, no. This was real, honest-to-goodness bronzed skin from the beating sun. She could already picture him shirtless; sweat gleaming off his chest, working on, well, whatever she thought he'd be doing outside in the sun. The sweat rolling down with slow precision, just waiting to be licked off. She never thought of licking sweat off before. Downright disgusting, actually. But when she pictured him shirtless, yeah, she could see herself licking off his sweat.

Perfect posture with broad shoulders showing the muscles she knew he had. Of course, she couldn't see his chest, or any defining six-pack that she knew would feel delicious under her hands. The picture only showed the profile of his face and just a hint of his shoulders. Enough to paint a beautiful picture for her.

Short, cropped black hair that made you wish it were longer so you could brush it back with a slow, delicate hand. But she could work with short hair. At least she knew she wouldn't get her fingers stuck if the urge came over to comb her fingers through his hair. Yeah, that actually happened to her once. She even managed to scrape his skull with her finger, almost drawing blood.

A strong jaw line, chiseled, some would say. Kissable, to her. Definitely kissable. Defined cheekbones with a nose just proportioned to his face. A wide mouth curved into a beautiful smile, just a hint of his white teeth showing. Perfect white teeth. Did he use a whitening of some sort? Hers were yellow like a sunflower. Although, she loved her coffee. At least three cups every morning before she could even function. She'd take yellow teeth any day for her coffee.

And his eyes. Bright blue eyes. They shined like the sky on a perfect day, no clouds blocking the view. Or like the ocean. Deep blue ocean filled with many wonders. She knew he was filled with many wonders, all those edges and curves just waiting for her fingers to touch. Or like a lake, sparkling like a diamond. A treasure just waiting to be found.

Yeah, this would be a date for the history books. She couldn't wait to meet this perfection staring back at her.

"When do you meet him?" Chilly asked breathlessly, her eyes still transfixed to the wall.

"In an hour."

Chilly pulled her eyes away from the wall to look at her friend. Her eyes slowly went from her head down to her toes. "Please tell me you're not wearing that!"

Daphne looked down at her nice, pretty black dress, and frowned. She thought it was debonair, alluring, classy. The dress had no sleeves, giving a lovely view of her shoulders. Not that she had as nice of shoulders as Brent, her Greek God, but they were lovely, nonetheless.

It scooped with grace on her chest, just giving a hint of cleavage, but not actually throwing her jugs out there for the world to see. It flowed nicely down her body, not too tightly, of course, ending at her knees. It happened to be one of those dresses, that if he chose to ask her to dance, it would twirl with style. Yeah, she really hoped he asked her to dance. She wanted to twirl a little. In fact, she had twirled some before Chilly came over.

And to top it off, a pretty bow wrapped around her waist. Like a present that he could unwrap with his heart's desire. She thought it was the perfect dress. She wanted to be unwrapped by him. The way those eyes stared her down, she felt like he already was.

"I'm wearing this. It's perfect."

"It's too conservative. This is a man who looks at a woman and says, "Yes, I'll do her." This dress doesn't say that."

"Chilly, he is not like that."

Chilly propped a hand on her hip. "Because you know him so well. You've what, been talking to him a few times on that dating website, and you think you know him to the T."

Daphne mirrored her actions, propping her hand on her hip. "I think I know him better than you. We're soul mates. I can feel it. He'll like this dress."

"I'm not letting you walk out of this house with that dress on."

Daphne sighed. "And just what do you think I should wear?"

Chilly's lips curled with devious delight. She walked to the closet, yanking open the doors. She sorted through her clothes before her eyes landed on something tucked way in the back. Her fingers curled around the outfit and carefully pulled it from the hanger. She turned around slowly, her devious smile getting creepier by the minute.

"You'll wear this one."

Daphne's eyes bulged out. "Hell, no! That's from our senior year in college when you decided I needed to get laid, for whatever reason or another. There's no way in hell it still fits. Not to mention—"

"You got laid," Chilly finished for her.

"Well, yeah," Daphne muttered. "But this isn't about sex this time. This is about finding someone to settle down with. Someone to build a life with. My soul mate."

"I know, sweetie, I know. But if you get some sex with that soul mate business, and it turns out he's not, you still had sex with a Greek God."

Daphne cringed, turning back to look at the picture of perfection. Brent. Her Brent. She looked back at the green dress dangling from Chilly's fingers. It was low cut, tight as could be, and the kind of dress that yelled commando. It would never fit. She had added a few pounds since her college days.

"It'll bring out your eyes. Your beautiful green eyes. Any time you wear green, they sparkle like an emerald. Just try it on. If it doesn't fit, then you can wear the boring black dress."

"Fine. Twist my arm," Daphne said with aggravated patience, snatching the dress from her hands. She bee-lined it to the bathroom, slamming the door shut.

"Hurry up. You have less than an hour before you officially meet your Greek God," Chilly hollered, smiling with satisfaction. She took one more look at the picture before swooning onto the bed. "I want a Greek God, damn it."

***

Daphne blew out a breath, then tried sucking it back in. She couldn't breathe. She couldn't think. Hell, she couldn't move from her spot. A small hand on her back, pushing her forward didn't even help.

"Quit standing there like an idiot and go inside the restaurant." Chilly tried pushing her again.

"Why are you here again? I am not a child."

Chilly raised her eyebrows in disbelief. "Apparently, you are. You're still standing outside the restaurant doors like a deer caught in headlights. And Francello's, best Italian in the city. Oh, man, is he trying to impress you. I'm so damn jealous. What can I say? I want a sneak peek at this guy in person. I need something to hold me over, some wet dreams 'til the next man walks into my life."

Daphne chuckled, although mortified as she glanced around the sidewalk. "Can you talk quieter? Geez, the things that come out of your mouth."

"That's why you love me. Quit standing around. You wanted to find a man, that's why you decided to try this on-line dating business. And shit, your first try with a date and you snag a Greek God. How do you do it?"

Daphne laughed, fanning a hand over her forehead. "I'm a sex Goddess. Only a Greek God would go well with that."

Chilly busted out laughing, pulling the door open. "After you, my sex Goddess. I'll be sitting at the bar doing some recon."

"Okay, Sergeant Sex Master." Daphne saluted her and walked inside the building.

"Ooh, I like that title. You must call me that all the time." Chilly winked, dashing away to the bar.

Daphne gave a small laugh, blew out another breath, and walked up to the hostess. "Good evening. I'm here to meet someone. Blind date, sort of. On-line dating. First time. On it all. First date with an on-liner. Is that a word? On-liner. Well, it is now. I just said it. Didn't I? First time with this guy as well. He's dreamy. I mean, the definition of perfection. I brought his picture. Do you want to see his picture?"

The hostess stared at her with glossed eyes, a bit of horror tinged in. Daphne paused, her hand frozen on the zipper to her purse. "Rambling. I'm rambling. It happens sometimes. Rare. But happens. Yeah, I'm a bit nervous. It isn't that obvious, is it?"

The hostess pressed her lips together, probably trying to hold in her laughter. She moved them into a gentle smile with ease. It was Francello's, for heaven's sakes. It wouldn't do well for their employees to laugh at their patrons.

"A little. But just take a deep breath. You look lovely. I'm sure this will be a wonderful date. We'll make sure of it here at Francello's." The hostess gave her another sweet smile. "What is your date's name?"

"Uh, right. Brent. He said he would have a red rose. So sweet, don't you think? And I'm wearing a white corsage. This way we know who each other are." Daphne held out her hand where the white corsage wrapped around her small wrist, a white bow tangled delicately within the flower.

"But, of course, it's not a blind date. We've seen each other's profile picture. On-line. You know, we're on-liner's. I feel like I should use that word a little bit more so it becomes an actual word."

Daphne recognized the look from the hostess. "Right. I'm rambling again. I'll shut up."

"He's already here. I'll escort you to the table."

Daphne held up her hand. "Wait! Just point me in the right direction. I might need to take my time. Inhale a few more deep breaths."

The hostess smiled warmly. "Of course. You'll be fine. Go straight through, then take a left. He's seated in the corner of the room. He asked for privacy."

"Mmm, privacy. How nice." Daphne's smile widened. "Thank you."

Daphne forced her feet to move, wondering why she was so jittery. She never acted like this. Well, okay, if she was honest, she did tend to get nervous anytime she dated. Which is why she didn't date much. It's why she finally took the plunge with on-line dating. She thought it would be easier to meet the guy if they talked a little beforehand. Boy, was she wrong. She could feel the nerves swimming in her stomach, like little fishies in a tank, running away for their lives as the big net came down from the heavens to swallow them up.

She took deep breaths every time she stepped forward. She probably looked like she was hyperventilating to the other patrons. She couldn't help it. She was never good at this stuff. Which is why she normally had Chilly help her out. And, while the damn green dress fit, she felt very exposed, her jugs definitely falling out in heaps. She hoped he could keep his eyes on her face. Of course, he would. He was her soul mate. He'd never stare at her like a juicy steak. How deplorable.

She turned the corner, her feet slowing more and more as she continued. She glanced around the room, her eyes zooming to the corner the hostess informed her of. Sitting on the edge of the table, a red rose, red as the blood pooling in her veins. Her heart beat erratically, her nerves now jumping like a jackhammer that lost its owner.

She saw the back of his head, his black hair just asking her to run her sweet hands through it. She started making her way to the table, a bit of resurgence flowing through her veins at the thought of doing that. She paused halfway there. His hair shouldn't be that long. It was short, cropped,  barely enough for her to grasp. His hair now had a slight wave to it, long enough for her to grab a portion while they made sweet love.

Hmm, perhaps he let it grow out after he took the picture for his profile pic.

She continued, not worrying about that little detail anymore. She wanted his hair to be a bit longer anyway. She took quick, steady steps, dying to make it to the table. She took one last deep breath and walked up to the edge of the table.

His head turned towards her, instinctively knowing he wasn't alone anymore.

Her eyes dropped down in shock. "Adam! What the hell are you doing here?"

"Daphne?" His eyes dropped to the corsage on her wrist. "Shit, Daphne. What the hell?"

Her eyes darted around the restaurant, noticing a few people staring. She slid into the booth, the anger prominent on her face. "You're not Brent. Where is he?"

He looked uncomfortable. "Well, about that. I am Brent."

"No, you're not." She quickly opened her purse, pulling out his picture. "This is Brent."

He grinned like the devil. "Yeah, that's a damn good picture."

"This isn't funny, Adam."

He shrugged. "What can I say? So I used a different profile picture. I tried with my own and I didn't get many hits. You know, that's kind of a blow to a man's pride."

"And just how were you going to explain the name change and the wrong picture?" Daphne asked with irritation.

"I could ask you the same thing. You didn't use your profile picture."

"Sure I did. I just used a little Photoshop."

A long shadow fell over the table. The hostess stood with her same friendly smile. "Is everything alright? I just wanted to see what wine you would like to start with."

Daphne inhaled another breath. "You know, I'll take the most expensive bottle you have. Put it on his tab. And I would say, no, everything is not alright. This is my damn brother."

Write-A-Fight with VM Sawh

Welcome to the Write-A-Fight Club with V.M. Sawh. The First Rule of Write-A-Fight Club is, you DO talk about Write-A-Fight Club. No… really. This is how we learn about fights and writing fights as a result. Now I’m not going to Tyler-Durden-you and advise that you aspiring fight-writers go out and get yourselves into brawls. Save your fists, you need to type.

As a writer with more than a decade of martial arts training/teaching experience, a black belt, several books on weapons & guns, a ridiculous library of Eastern and Western fight movies and a penchant for dissecting fights in every movie I see… I am here to help you figure this out. I’ll be referencing author Rayne Hall’s book Writing Fight Scenes (Writer's Craft Book 1), which I’ve found to be an excellent resource for writers looking to get more information. After you read this piece, I highly recommend you pick it up.

Now, some of you may be thinking: “Why is this important? I don’t read books for the violence, and none of my readers are going to want a blow-by-blow description of the action. Besides, I’ve never been in a fight in my life!”

Right, but the hook of any good plot is conflict. Period. End of story. Whether it’s the emotional violence done between Victorian characters or the the face-wrecking inflicted between cage fighters. Violence is usually the way people resolve things, at least in a way that makes things interesting. Sure, your characters could sit down for tea and talk things out, but if everyone could do that, there’d be no wars. Even in our relatively safe modern society, there are still numerous movies & sports (both combat and team-based) serving as entertainment-based ciphers for us to get our need for violence and aggression out. So it is with this in mind that I want you to approach your potential fight scene. This is conflict-resolution for your characters as well as entertainment for your readers.

All other things being equal, your reader will need to be invested in the characters in order for the fight scene to matter. If we do not know or care about who is fighting, then the fight itself becomes largely irrelevant. 

Let’s say you’re on your way to an important appointment and you see a fight break out in the street. Are you more likely to care if the combatants are:

  1. Two random MMA fighters getting ready to throw down?
  2. Your mother trying to hold off a man who is hitting her in the face?

Feel that tightening in your gut? Even though these are just words on a page, I’ll bet you had an immediate response.That’s a instinctual reaction brought on by a rush of brain chemicals preparing your body to either fight or flee. Whenever we see violence being done to someone we care about, our bodies go through the same response. We either get ready to Run Away/Run Get Help or Lay A World-Class Smackdown. In psychology, this is known as “Fight or Flight” response usually occurs when a person feels that they are in danger. You need your reader to have that same reaction for your character. They need to be the either rooting for your hero to win or rooting for your hero to get away. The way you do that is by ensuring the reader is invested in the characters involved in that conflict by building up the circumstances leading up to that fight.
 

BACKGROUND/INCITING EVENTS

The first question you, as the author, need to answer before you write your fight scene is WHY?

  • Why is this fight happening? 
  • Why these two (or more) characters?
  • Why at this location?
  • Why now?

In order to figure this out, you will need some more information.


GETTING A FEEL FOR YOUR FIGHT

Author Rayne Hall believes that there are two main kinds of fights: The Entertaining Fight and the Gritty Fight. In her book, she provides a succinct definition of each type:

The GRITTY fight scene This type shows violence as it is: Nasty, brutal and quick. The typical gritty fight scene could be written in three words: Slash. Gore. Dead. In this type of scene, the actual fight is over quickly. The build-up to the fight is slow and suspenseful, and the Aftermath is prolonged. The fighters sustain terrible injuries, with spurting blood and welling gore. The Aftermath is horrid, with mutilated corpses, guts spilling from slashed bellies, and people dying in their own excrement. The gritty fight scene invites the reader to feel revulsion and horror. Its purpose is to shock.

 HALL, RAYNE (2014-01-07). WRITING FIGHT SCENES (WRITER'S CRAFT BOOK 1) (P. 13). SCIMITAR PRESS. KINDLE EDITION.

The GRITTY fight scene will almost always end in a gory, bloody, horrible death.

The ENTERTAINING fight scene This scene is heroic, spectacular, exciting, acrobatic, entertaining, theatrical, fun. It allows the protagonist to show honourable behaviour and display impressive skills. The fighting Action is prolonged while the Aftermath is often non-existent. Entertaining fight scenes can be unrealistic: The hero finishes off five attackers without breaking a sweat. There’s little blood and no gore, and wounds are mere scratches. If there’s any blood, it blooms like a red rose on a white shirt. The hero may get a slash on his cheek which will heal into a fetching scar, while the loser limps off with a couple of bruises and lives to fight another day. Death is rare. Even if someone dies, they finish as decorative corpses. The entertaining fight scene uses the location creatively: fighters leap across gorges, slide down banisters, jump onto tables, somersault across motorbikes, swing from rafters. The Action involves jumping, spinning, whirling, twirling and acrobatic feats. The entertaining fight scene invites the reader to feel admiration for the fighters’ skill. Its purpose is to entertain. Critics say that these scenes fight scenes glorify violence.

HALL, RAYNE (2014-01-07). WRITING FIGHT SCENES (WRITER'S CRAFT BOOK 1) (P. 13). SCIMITAR PRESS. KINDLE EDITION.

The ENTERTAINING fight scene is least likely to end in death, and if it does, it will be bloodless and/or comedic. Often ends in a knockout, escape, surrender, or is interrupted by a third party.

I`ll expand on that and add a few more categories because I believe there are a couple more different styles.
 

GRITTY/ENTERTAINING:

This is a mix between the first two types of fight. This type of fight scene mixes the elements of both the gritty fight scene and the entertaining one. There is violence, the stakes are generally high and there are injuries sustained, which may linger. There is more blood present than what would normally be considered an entertaining fight scene, but the resolution is often quick and there are no deadly consequences. This type of mixed fight also opens up the possibilities for an artistic flourish on the part of either fighter, where they show off their respective skills. There are also more quips in this type of fight, where the opponents do trash talk each other, often ending the fight with a snappy one-liner. Think of this as a more violent form of the ENTERTAINING fight. The goal of this type of fight scene is to portray the fighters as both flashy and dangerous. Generally ends in a satisfying knockout or a non-gruesome death.
 

INTENSE (WITHOUT GRIT):

This is the mix between the two different styles, and it’s one that’s become very popular in the past decade or so, as the forms of entertainment with the most fights have all become centred on the PG-13 demographic. With more and more teens reading books and watching movies with violence than ever before, authors and film-makers have had to straddle a very fine line in order to produce fight scenes where much action occurs, but few consequences of violence is shown. For example, whereas a Gritty fight will focus on the action, the injuries sustained, the fighters’ pain, the danger, and the aftermath, the Intense fight scene will focus on the action and the danger, with little or no attention paid to the rest of the elements. There is no talking in an intense fight scene. The goal of an Intense fight scene is to elevate the pulse and grab the audience’s attention without repulsing them or making them cringe at the fight’s true effects. Think Hunger Games, Mission Impossible or Jason Bourne. Generally ends in an escape, violent knockout or a non-gruesome death. 
 

EMOTIONAL: 

This one is an important category to consider because it is the most character driven of all the fights. The participants in an emotional fight will definitely know each other and have had previous interaction supplying background context for this type of fight. In an Emotional fight, the focus of the writing should be on the complexity and depth of feelings on the part of the characters in the fight. While this may seem counter-intuitive, given the adrenalized nature of most fights, it is the nature of the fighters’ relationship that will motivate how and why this fight goes down. This fight’s stop points are more likely to be different from the other kinds of fights as the resolution to the fight comes from an emotional breakdown or breakthrough. The goal of the scene is not to entertain the reader or viewer, but to invoke a sensation akin to seeing a car crash in slow motion. The fights are likely to have a shift point once blood is spilled, as a line has been crossed which much be addressed in an Emotional fight. Fights are likely to end once one party has been hurt or gives up. There is more room for verbalization in this type of fight from either fighters or the third party. Some examples include scenes of domestic violence, fights between family members, and those between mentor & protégé. We’ll discuss an example below.
 

EROTIC:

This type of scene is very tricky to pull off, as our society frowns on violence between the sexes or between sexual partners. As Rayne Hall describes:

Genuine fights aren’t erotic - but they can build up an intense sexual charge. Many law enforcement officers, women as well as men, find that after a dangerous fight, they get seriously horny. This is probably caused by the hormones which get injected into the bloodstream, combined with stress and the instinct to procreate when one’s life is threatened.

HALL, RAYNE (2014-01-07). WRITING FIGHT SCENES (WRITER'S CRAFT BOOK 1) (PP. 158-159). SCIMITAR PRESS. KINDLE EDITION. 

However, with the goal of escalating or exploring erotic tension, this fight can function similarly to both a flirtatious scene and a sex scene. The goal with this fight is to titillate, arouse and/or amuse. The audience is invested in the characters and want to see them together, so an erotic fight can serve this function without having the characters sleep together. The violence is usually playful and light. Blood is usually non-existent, unless the scene is very erotic… or between vampires… or between very erotic vampires… but I digress. The injuries are usually glossed over, if mentioned at all and sometimes, the fight can lead to sex. The level of violence is usually commensurate with the level of steaminess in the rest of the book or scene. Erotic fight scenes will not end in death, unless well… there’s vampires again, or… zombies, I guess? But that’s kinda gross. Anyway, teasing talk, double entendres and moans/groans, sighs and gasps are all par for the course. Fight usually ends with an escape, comedic knockout or sex scene.

The most important part of understanding how to write a fight scene is this: the fight must tell a story. Yes, there are tons of movies and books with well-executed fights scenes, but the ones that resonate with the readers are the ones where the stakes are clearly defined and the fight contributes to the overall story in a meaningful way. With every fight that I read or watch, I look for the story within that fight. This is what we'll explore a little later on, but here's something to remember: A good fight scene reveals as much about the characters involved as a well-written scene with dialogue.


LOCATION: 

This is one of the overlooked aspects of writing a fight scene. Where the fight takes place can have game-changing effects on the characters, flow, turning point and climax of the scene. Describing the locale should occur before the actual fight takes place. As Ra’s Al Ghul says to Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins in the clip below, you must always learn to mind your surroundings. Choosing the ice field as the location for this fight allows for multiple environmental effects and complications in the fight. The ice underfoot heightens both the danger facing both combatants, making Ghul’s skill as he outmanoeuvres Wayne all the more apparent. The deep rumbling sounds of the glaciers moving around around them adds a sonic texture to the fight that heightens the viewer’s sense of unease. The ability to slide across the surface, as Wayne does to evade Ghul’s strike, and retrieve his sword is something that is unique to this locale. And finally, when Wayne seizes the upper hand, it’s swiftly undone because he neglected to ensure that the ground beneath him was secure, allowing Ghul to completely reverse the outcome with a single strike from his back.

The location of your fights should fit in with the theme, setting and tone of each fight. A skillful writer knows that each fight should have it’s own distinct flavour. Reading about the hero mowing down waves of cannon fodder in a single room is not very interesting, unless it’s his or her’s last stand. 

Here’s a thought experiment for you that will help you understand why the location of the fight is extremely important. I want you to outline the Sights, Smells, Sounds, Textures and Potential Complications for the following fight locations:

A: On a winding staircase in a Victorian House.

  1. During a thunderstorm.
  2. While the house is on fire.
  3. While the house's aged foundations are crumbling

B: On top of a modern bullet train.

  1. That`s stationary in the train yard at dusk.
  2. At night while the train is rushing through the countryside.
  3. On a snowy day when the train is just getting started

C: Next to a volcano.

  1. At its base, while it's active, spewing lava and pyroclastic material.
  2. At its rim, while it's dormant.
  3. On the slope halfway up the side, when the first eruption hits.

Each location and sub-location has its own set of variables that you must consider when you are writing your fight. You should be researching the location before you settle down to write your fight. 

Here`s a nice rule to remember: If your fight can be moved to another location and have it be written EXACTLY the same, then you`re not utilizing your location to its best potential.


UNDERSTANDING THE PLAYERS IN YOUR FIGHT

HERO/PROTAGONIST: 

What kinds of skills or experience does your hero have? As the writer you cannot simply rely on instinct and/or punching to get your character through a fight. You and therefore your reader has to know if that character has ever balled a fist correctly before. If they never have, and decide to throw a punch, the character is likely going to do it wrong and it is going to hurt. 

As the author, you need to communicate facts about your hero’s height, weight, build, body type, stance, strength and other physical attributes before you get to the fight. A broad-shouldered man is going to move differently than a small-waisted woman. The power and weight distributions are different, even when they take the same actions. Fight training can bring these more in line, but keep in mind what kind of history & exposure to violence your hero has. A professional fighter is going to have different lines of attack and movement than a street fighter or someone who’s taken a self-defence class. Someone who’s been in fights before is likely to be aware of what strengths they have.

As Tyler Durden said: “How much can you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?”

As Tyler Durden said: “How much can you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?”

You can also use the fight to reveal things about the hero that were previously unknown ie. an old injury, an artificial limb, or a bad memory of another fight. How your hero reacts in a fight situation says a lot about who they are.

 

A note on creating a likeable hero:even if your hero is the best fighter in all the land, you must ensure that the opponents are at least challenging enough to be interesting. Nobody wants to see Wolverine fight a panda.


OPPONENT/ANTAGONIST:

Now, how much you reveal about the antagonist or opponent can vary, but when writing a fight the one thing you absolutely must include is how much of a threat they are. The threat level can vary anywhere from a kid with a gun to an expert assassin and everything in-between. 

If your opponent is just another stormtrooper, then you need to have either a previous scene or a character react in a way that lets the reader know what the threat level is ie. “Oh no the stormtroopers are here, which means the Imperial Star Destroyer is in orbit. We’re all gonna die!”. Think of what Peter Jackson did with the Orcs in Lord of the Rings. Yes, they appeared to be an endless horde, but he prepped their inclusion by showing how fearsome they were beforehand. This way when Legolas peppers them with arrows, we understand that it’s because Legolas is a badass, not that the Orcs are made of kittens and incompetence.

If, on the other hand, your opponent is somebody like Voldemort or Vader, then it is vital that both the hero and the reader understand what the stakes are for the fight and how dangerous their opponent is.The more formidable the villain, the greater the triumph when the hero wins.

Should your antagonist defeat your hero, then it has to be done in a way that your reader still empathizes and roots for your hero to come back. This can be a very effective way of building up the threat of the villain.


THIRD PARTY/WITNESS: 

This character is actually a very important piece of the fight, if they are present. In some of the fights we’ll be discussing below, there is a third party who either interrupts or lends context to the fight. Remember during a fight, the two or more parties involved can`t stop and talk about their feelings! Your third party can act as a cipher and allow the reader access to more insights than either protagonist or antagonist can deliver during the fight. The third party character can help tell the story of the fight or be a plot device to break up or end the fight. This can serve the function of demonstrating the badassery of both your hero and the antagonist without having either one lose.


STRUCTURE OF A FIGHT

  1. The Build Up/Suspense: This is everything that leads to start of the fight. The key here is Rising Tension. Everything that happens during this point should lead to the two characters coming to blows. While some fights happen spontaneously, fights between protagonists and antagonists rarely occur without a series of escalating events or dialogue. Anticipation is everything, so get your reader rubbing their hands together.

  2. Kick-Off: Oh here we go! the first strike is everything. Who throws it? What kind of strike is it? That sets the tone for the fight. How it’s answered sets the pace and tells you something about the person being struck. Do they block or take the hit? This is the pay-off for the Build Up/Suspense. This is what the fans have been waiting for, don’t let them down. 

  3. Escalation: At this point in the fight, things have to get worse. The fight has to get increasingly harder or faster. The pace has to quicken in order to show the reader that the fight is progressing past the opening volley. As each fighter uses more of their tricks or grows more desperate, the blows and counters have to reflect that. 

  4. Turning Point: If your Location is going to play a role in the fight, here is where it steps in. The roof collapses, the fighters slip on the ice, a stream of lava bisects the fighting area. Alternately, the stakes are raised when either of the fighters gains an advantage, either through skill, chance, power, weakness or any combination thereof. This can be reflected in the fighters’ increased determination to end the fight. You may choose to re-iterate the reason for the fight or the reason why one of the characters believes they should win. This can be the hero’s lowest point, where they fall to their knees in defeat, before rallying back for the win.

    Note: A good fight can have multiple Turning Points and Escalations as the fight progresses. This can be an inventive way of keeping your audience at the edge of their seats.

  5. Climax: The final blow, the last strike, the Hail Mary, the lucky blow, the last ounce of strength. This is what separates the winner from the loser or it’s the biggest blow, the big action point. When neither party wins, this climax point can be an emotional breakdown, a revelation or an intervention of the third party. A really satisfying fight nails the climax by making the deciding factor something that’s intrinsically tied to one of the fighters or features a callback to the relationship between the two fighters.

Now, are you still standing? Ready to go another round? 
Let’s look at some examples. I’ll give you the breakdown for each fight as we go.

Notes: 
While I could easily populate this entire list with any major Eastern Action star (Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Donnie Yen, Tony Jaa,  etc.), I’ve chosen clips from popular, accessible Western Action movies which may make it easier for everyone to understand the storytelling aspects of each conflict and relate to the characters.

For simplicity’s sake, I went with one-on-one fights so they are easier to follow. If you enjoy this WriteAFight article, let me know and I’ll do another one including group fights.

Spoilers Abound!


THE ENTERTAINING FIGHT

AVENGERS: IRON MAN VS THOR:

Background/Inciting Events:

  • Iron Man & Captain America have apprehended Thor’s brother Loki, after he tried to enslave humanity.

  • Thor retrieved Loki from their custody, intent on making him face Asgardian justice.

  • Iron Man is set on taking Loki back to Shield HQ
     

Location Factors:

  • A temperate forest at the base of a rocky cliff.

  • The forest allows for the fighters to show their strength and power through destruction of the forest without worrying about any human casualties.

  • The surrounding trees and cliffside allow for a natural setting that invokes the feeling of two bulls going head-to-head.
     

Hero: Thor

Super strong Norse God, brave, loyal and fierce

Antagonist: Iron Man

Genius, Playboy… Armoured Anti-War Weapons Manufacturer turned Energy Baron

3rd Party/Witness:Captain America

Original Super Soldier and all-around stand-up guy

  1. The Build Up/Suspense:

    • Iron Man tackles Thor off the cliff top where he is having a conversation with Loki, who gets a quip in.

    • They land in the forest, relatively unharmed when Thor warns Iron Man against further aggression

    • Iron Man snaps back, equally cocky, unwilling to back down.

    • Quips and barbs are traded, Iron Man calls Thor a tourist, to which Thor replies by...
       

  2. Kick-Off:

    • … hurling his hammer, Mjolnir, at Iron Man. The impact sends Iron Man crashing through some trees and landing on his backside.

    • Iron Man’s fire is lit, as he responds with an “Okay,” through gritted teeth.

    • Thor starts to spin his hammer, but Iron Man hits him with a repulsor, following up with a flying kick to the sternum. It knocks Thor back and he loses his hammer.
       

  3. Escalation:

    • Thor demonstrates the ability to call his hammer into his grasp. He uses it to call forth a towering pillar of lightning, which he sends toward Iron Man.

    • Iron Man is unable to avoid the blast and his armour takes the full brunt of the blast.

    • But the lightning ends up boosting Iron Man’s power cells, which he then utilizes by blasting Thor with repulsors and then launching them both into the air.

    • Iron man slams Thor into the cliffside, flying higher and higher until Thor pushes off from the cliff and they rocket back into the forest.
       

  4. Turning Point:

    • The two square off again in a hand-to-hand show of strength, with neither side backing down.

    • However, Thor uses his superior grip to crush Iron Man’s gauntlets, further damaging his armour. Iron Man is visibly alarmed by this.

    • Iron Man tries to retaliate with a blast and a head-butt, but Thor responds in kind, and sends him hurdling back.
       

  5. Escalation Two:

    • Iron Man uses his speed to charge at the Norse God, grab him by the previously-mocked cape (setup & payoff) and slam him into a tree.

    • Thor turns the tables, picking Iron Man up and body slamming him into the ground. Momentarily triumphant, he calls for Mjolnir.
       

  6. Turning Point Two:

    • Not wanting to get caught by that hammer again, Iron Man rockets out of the way, causing Thor to face-plant with his swing.

    • Iron Man uses his speed and aerial manoeuvrability to deliver a dive-bombing rabbit punch, knocking Thor down.
       

  7. Climax:

    • Having fought back to an equal standing, the two square off again, only to be interrupted by the third party, Captain America, who appeals to their better natures and calls for a cease-fire.

    • Iron Man quips a warning and Thor hits him out of frame

    • Thor refuses to back down. He charges at Cap, who raises his shield. Thor hits it full force, causing a backlash which knocks them all down.

    • The three rise together, each displaying a new-found respect for each other’s fighting abilities.
       

FIGHT ANALYSIS:

At the end of this fight, no one was hurt, injured or upset. We’ve learned that Iron Man is cocky, even in the face of physically superior foes. He’s determined, but sometimes finds himself in over his head, and relies on his technology to pull the win. Thankfully, being the genius he is, he can quickly improvise and won’t give up until he’s defeated his opponent.  He will always make a quip, even in the heat of battle.

We’ve learned that Thor did not initially wish to fight, but was provoked by Iron Man’s disrespect and arrogance. Once the fight started, Thor was fully engaged, pounding and crushing Iron Man’s chassis with cudgel-like blows. He depends on his hammer for his best strikes and will not back down when called to reason, unless he respects the third party.

As for Cap, this fight showed that he was absolutely fearless when faced with two other powerful opponents. He is calm, rational and gutsy, willing to put himself in the line of fire in order to defuse a situation. He is somewhat impatient and annoyed by the other two’s inability to follow simple instructions.


THE GRITTY FIGHT

THE HUNTED: L.T. VS AARON:

Background/Inciting Events:

  • L.T. originally trained Aaron in military survival and combat skills and became a pseudo protege

  • Aaron became a Black Ops soldier carrying out clandestine missions for the US government until he suffers severe PTSD from his time in Kosovo

  • Aaron returns to the states and starts murdering people

  • L.T. is asked to track him, but then becomes Aaron’s target

  • Aaron and L.T. both craft improvised knives to fight with, but while L.T.’s is a wooden shiv, Aaron’s is a large metal blade

  • L.T. is caught in a trap and wounded, then escapes.
     

Location Factors:

  • The riverbank straddling the treeline, next to a rushing waterfall, on a bank of slippery, moss-covered rocks.

  • With the water nearby and L.T. barely surviving drowning, the feeling of danger is ever-present.

  • The rushing sound of the river adds to the adrenalized movements and the viewer is worried that one or both men may end up in the river again.

  • Furthermore, the slippery rocks and cold, wet stone heighten sensations upon the skin. For example, think of how your skin feels when your clothes are wet vs dry.

  • Coupled with the inherently deadly nature of knife fighting, this location suits this fight well
     

Hero: L.T.

Aged Civilian Combat Instructor who never killed anyone

Antagonist: Aaron

Black Ops soldier in his fighting prime, mentally unstable

3rd Party/Witness: None

None until the end, when Special Agent Abby arrives by helicopter.
 

  1. The Build Up/Suspense:

    • L.T. tracks Aaron in the woods, using all of his senses to try and ascertain where the inevitable attack will come from.

    • He hears the creaking noise too late to realize it’s a distraction and ends up with a wooden pike in his thigh and a noose around his ankle, hanging above the freezing rapids.

    • L.T. manages to survive and crawl ashore - cold, wet and exhausted, he finds Aaron waiting for him, like a panther ready to strike.
       

  2. Kick-Off:

    • The first strike is a brutally effective one, Aaron steps to the side and cuts the tendons on the back of L.T.’s hand, rendering him unable to use it.
       

  3. Escalation:

    • The two roll and tumble, with Aaron trying to slash open the side of L.T.’s neck by forcing his own hand.

    • L.T. is able to reverse this by slicing Aaron’s arm above the elbow, but pays for it when Aaron cuts upon his cheek.

    • Both Aaron and L.T. check their injuries, but Aaron uses the split second to throw some of his pooled blood in L.T.’s eye, buying an escape.
       
  4. Turning Point:

    • Aaron binds his wounded arm, tosses a spare shiv, which L.T. deflects and attacks again.

    • L.T. is able to wound him in the leg, strategically limiting his movement, and during their exchange L.T. stabs Aaron under the clavicle.

    • The major cost to this is that Aaron breaks L.T.’s shiv, leaving him defenceless.
       
  5. Escalation Two:

    • Now unarmed and facing an incensed Aaron, L.T.’s desperation grows.

    • Aaron presses with the knife, using his free arm to block L.T.’s view as he cuts open the older man’s torso

    • He presses his advantage by going for the neck once again, which L.T. is forced to defend, at the cost of the tendons in his left hand.

    • Aaron grows more aggressive by slicing diagonally across L.T.’s existing wounds - a particularly brutal cut as it intersects the already bleeding wounds and tears both open even more, ensuring that any potential recovery is even more difficult, if not impossible.
       

  6. Turning Point Two:

    • Aaron’s bloodlust and desire to cause L.T. pain makes him strike, stabbing up through the older man’s tricep as he tries to keep Aaron at bay.

    • L.T. knows that if he doesn’t act immediately, Aaron is likely going to kill him with the next strike. With one arm disabled, L.T. knows he does not possess the strength to stop him.
       
  7. Climax:

    • L.T. distracts Aaron by pretending to go for the younger man’s throat. When Aaron pulls back, L.T. yanks the knife out of his arm and stabs Aaron through the sternum, using a knee strike on the hilt to drive it deeper.

    • Special Agent Abby arrives as Aaron falls to the ground, mortally wounded.
       

FIGHT ANALYSIS:

At the end of this brutal fight, we’ve seen the payoff of both Aaron’s training and L.T.’s instruction. Because Aaron is psychotic, the audience never sees him react to his wounds with the pain, hurt or fear that L.T. displays. We are encouraged to root for L.T. as he is older, more vulnerable, cautious and has a less effective weapon. As he is wounded before the fight starts, the odds are even more against him. He fights a strategic, defensive battle, whereas Aaron’s approach is one more akin to ‘death from a thousand cuts’. He methodically dismantles L.T.’s defenses instead of using brute strength or speed. One gets the impression that Aaron is trying to beat his mentor at his own game. When L.T. gains the initial strikes, Aaron reacts with anger, slashing L.T. across the face and throwing blood in his eye, as if he was insulted by his teacher’s prowess.

Since Aaron was using his skills to hunt L.T., to have his supposedly decrepit prey fight back and actually gain a hit must have been a blow to Aaron’s pride, something his psychosis could not allow. L.T. is forced to kill for the first time in order to survive and collapses from exhaustion and his wounds at the end. Were it not for the arrival of Special Agent Abby, L.T. would likely have died right there. In a way, Aaron succeeded in showing L.T. the horrors that his training can cause. Neither L.T. nor Aaron communicate verbally during this entire fight. There is no music and the audience knows that this is to the death.


THE GRITTY/ENTERTAINING FIGHT

THE MATRIX: - SUBWAY FIGHT - NEO VS AGENT SMITH:

Background/Inciting Events:

  • Agent Smith hunts the free users of the Matrix, the ones who plug in and try to disrupt the system.

  • Neo, a free user. Was previously interrogated by Agent Smith. Is now on the run, having helped Trinity save their mentor, Morpheus, from the Agents' clutches

  • Agents have never been defeated.
     

Location Factors:

  • Inside the Matrix virtual reality system, where users can perform superhuman feats, if they believe, but Agents are programmed to be stronger & faster than the average person.

  • On a empty subway platform with no human collateral.

  • The concrete surroundings make for a harsh, if familiar environment, as most people have been on a subway before.

  • The supporting pillars and the walls give the fighters a place to interact and provides a visual for us to understand the superhuman power behind their blows.

  • On oncoming train provides auditory cues to both fighters, who can time its arrival to use it as a trap to eliminate their opponent.

  • A lone newspaper blows by during the initial face-off, invoking a western feel.
     

Hero: Neo
Hacker turned freedom fighter. Trained by Morpheus and via brain download of multiple fighting styles

Antagonist: Agent Smith
Undefeated hunter program of the Machine world. Able to regenerate and exceed all programmed limits

3rd Party/Witness: Morpheus and Trinity,
From the real world. Their reactions help sell the danger of the fight and Neo's injuries.

  1. The Build Up/Suspense:

    • Neo and Trinity have escaped the clutches of the Agents and whisked Morpheus to safety via the phone exit in the subway.

    • Trinity wants to tell Neo something (*spoilers* that she loves him) but the train interrupts her moment, so she reluctantly takes the phone exit, while a homeless man looks on.

    • Just as Trinity jacks out, she spots Agent Smith taking the homeless man’s place and shooting at her. She makes it out just in time, and urges Tank to send her back but the phone has been destroyed.

    • Neo turns to face Agent Smith, who greets him with aplomb. Morpheus and Trinity are panicked, knowing Smith’s formidable nature and question why Neo won’t run.

    • Neo makes the choice not to escape and instead, turns to engage Smith in a tense standoff reminiscent of a gun-slinger’s duel. 
       

  2. Kick-Off:

    • The initial kick-off occurs when Neo pulls his Beretta 9mm and starts firing, using a pillar to leap into the air.

    • Smith mirrors this action with his Desert Eagle and intercepts Neo in mid-air, though neither is able to get off a clear shot

    • They land together, with both guns empty, which they acknowledge and leads to…
       
  3. Kick-Off Two:

    • They stand and straighten, preparing for the hand to hand combat they both know is coming.

    • Smith straightens his tie and then Neo attacks

    • Smith counters effectively, driving Neo back against a pillar, which Smith smashes with his fist.

    • Neo rallies back with kicks to the torso and finishes the exchange with a spinning crescent kick which drives Smith back against a pillar. Smith's ubiquitous sunglasses break - a sign of vulnerability in the previously-unflappable program's facade.
       

  4. Escalation:

    • Smith acknowledges this verbally before taking the sunglasses off and attacking with more ferocity, driving straight, powerful punches and kicks into Neo’s body, knocking him off balance.

    • Smith demonstrates his speed and power by sending Neo smashing into the subway wall.

    • Neo knows he’s in trouble now, so redoubles his efforts and attacks Smith with greater speed; Smith takes several blows without flinching before countering Neo’s attack and trapping his arms.

    • Neo eats several head-butts from Smith (a particularly crude move for an Agent, which indicates his rage). Smith follows up with more linear punches.

    • Neo is forced to dodge more strikes and tries to fight back but Smith blocks his strike and lands a huge blow to Neo’s chest, sending him flying backward.
       
  5. Turning Point:

    • Neo lands hard and skids across the floor. He gasps in pain and spits out blood (both in the Matrix and the real world) indicating that he’s injured internally.

    • Trinity moves to nurse his wounded body in the real world, indicating both to Morpheus and the audience that Smith is killing Neo.
       
  6. Escalation Two:

    • Instead of giving up, Neo rises and strikes a kung-fu pose, demonstrating his determination and unwillingness to quit

    • With his circular arm movements, Neo reasserts himself into a position of confidence, referencing his time in the dojo with Morpheus, telling the viewer that he understands he's facing a similar situation (against a more skilled opponent) and that he believes he will eventually triumph

    • Neo taunts Smith, which causes the Agent to attack. Note the way Neo ties Smith up and delivers a series of head-butts back - he’s answering Smith’s attack and giving him tit for tat.

    • Neo presses his momentary advantage and engages in more wire-fu style acrobatics, showing off the more flashy aspects of his downloaded knowledge.
       
  7. Turning Point Two:

    • Smith isn’t going to play this game however, and catches Neo’s leg. He slams him into the wall, creating another crater not far from the first.

    • Smith utilizes the full strength and superior speed of his Agent form to pummel Neo, and send him crashing back into a wooden stand, injuring him further.

    • Hearing the sounds of the oncoming train, Smith drags Neo out like a limp piece of meat and tosses him upside down into the tunnel wall.

    • Stunned and hurt, Neo is now completely helpless.
       
  8. Climax:

    • Smith grabs Neo in a rear naked choke and pins him to the subway floor. He intends to sacrifice himself and allow the subway to hit them both, in order to kill Neo. He re-affirms his dominant position by calling him "Mr. Anderson" - another set-up and pay-off from their earlier interrogation scene.

    • Neo resists the label by responding: “My name… is Neo.” He then jumps up, smashing Smith into the roof.

    • The land in a heap and Neo back-flips out of way of the oncoming train, which pulverises Smith.
       

FIGHT ANALYSIS:

This one is quite the doozy, with Yuen Woo-Ping’s brilliant choreography doing a lot of story-telling for us. It is complimented by the dialogue and performances of the actors. The fighting styles of both Neo and Smith are completely in line with their characters. Every strike, movement, evasion or trap reflects the opposing nature of each fighter. Smith’s movements are machine-like in their precision, while Neo’s are more kung-fu flashy. Neo is only able to pull out the win because he refuses to give up and improvises an escape which causes Smith to fall victim to his own plan.

Note that while this scene is incredibly violent, and there is blood, the fighters stop several times to taunt each other and egg each other on. While Neo is visibly injured by Smith’s attacks, those injuries do not linger. In fact, the blood around Neo’s mouth completely disappears and never reappears even when Neo is injured even more. Contrast this with the GRITTY fight scene where the escalation takes a toll on the fighter’s bodies. Also pay attention to Neo’s kung fu flourishes during this scene, something that would never fly during a GRITTY fight scene. And while Neo and Smith do talk to each other during the scene, they do not swear or scream at each other, lending their threats a certain lightness, even as their fighting is fierce. This is what separates the GRITTY/ENTERTAINING fight from the others.

Neo’s victory over Smith does not result in the permanent death of his antagonist and Neo, despite the beating he took, does not appear worse for wear afterwards.


THE INTENSE FIGHT

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER: - HIGHWAY FIGHT - CAP VS WINTER SOLDIER

Background/Inciting Events:

  • Winter Soldier has already attacked and ‘killed’ Nick Fury in his first appearance.

  • When Cap pursued him from his apartment, Winter Soldier was able to stay ahead and even catch Cap’s thrown shield, something that had never been done before.

  • With Black Widow, Falcon and Cap on the run from corrupt Shield agents, they are ambushed by Winter Soldier who attacks them on the highway.
     

Location Factors:

  • City street near some wrecked vehicles.

  • Winter Soldier is firing automatic weapons while walking down the middle of the road. Civilians are fleeing. Potential for casualties is high.

  • Blowing up vehicles is a good way to show the effectiveness of the attack while confining collateral damage.

  • Cars, vans and trucks allow for multiple levels and launch points for attacks as well as provide cover to hide from weapons fire.

  • Open public area near highways and buildings allows for aerial attacks from above as well.
     

Hero: Captain America
Original Super Soldier and all-around stand up guy… now slightly more suspicious of everything

Antagonist: Winter Soldier
Brainwashed assassin with a bionic metal arm, armed to the teeth and very intense.

3rd Party/Witness: Black Widow and Falcon,
Black Widow and Falcon, the former for the suspense portion, the latter for the climax

  1. The Build Up/Suspense:

    • Opens with a running gun battle on multiple levels as Cap takes cover behind a car. Without his uniform, he is slightly more vulnerable.

    • Falcon offers cover fire, giving Cap time to escape

    • Winter Soldier is hunting Black Widow, his stride is both confident and assured as he uses the grenade launcher on his M4 rifle to take out a cop car.

    • He stalks Widow but is faked out by her cell-phone trap. She surprises him from behind and attempts to choke him out with a garrote, but he easily flips her onto a car.

    • He retrieves his fallen M4 but Widow disables his bionic arm with a taser disk before running away (an act which, in and of itself, reinforces how dangerous Winter Soldier is if Widow is running from him)

    • Widow frantically tries to get bystanders out of the way, but Winter Soldier shoots her from behind. She falls and crawls to cover, but he’s already spotted her and takes aim...
       

  2. Kick-Off:

    • Cap leaps into action, charging up the car towards Winter Soldier, who stops him in his tracks with a bionic punch to his shield.

    • Cap is forced to brace himself against the blow, which Winter Soldier follows up with a kick, sending him falling down to the asphalt. Before Cap can recover, Winter Soldier fires a burst from his M4, forcing Cap to duck and cover.
       

  3. Escalation:

    • Cap tries to engage Winter Soldier hand to hand, but the latter pulls a Skorpion machine pistol, forcing Cap to retreat.

    • When Cap closes and kicks the weapon away, Winter Soldier pulls a SIG pistol and continues firing

    • Cap finally get in close and disarms Winter Soldier, striking him with his shield...
       

  4. Turning Point:

    • While trading some rapid over/under punches, Winter Soldier grabs hold of Cap’s shield and rotates, spinning Cap in mid-air and effectively stealing the shield!

    • He knocks Cap to the ground and holds the shield up. Cap is now at an even greater disadvantage.
       

  5. Escalation Two:

    • Cap charges in and Winter Soldier throws the shield into a van, just barely missing Cap’s head.

    • He also pulls a combat knife, once again shifting the odds in his favour

    • Winter Soldier and Cap trade rapid-fire blows as Cap tries to keep his enemy off balance until he eventually disarms him with a powerful spinning back kick.

    • Cap presses this advantage with a flying knee and a judo hip toss.

    • Unfortunately Winter Soldier responds by...
       

  6. Turning Point Two:

    • … grabbing Cap in a choke with his bionic arm, which Cap can’t conceivably break. Things look bad for Cap.

    • Thankfully (sort of) Winter Soldier chooses to throw him over the hood of a Jeep instead of choking him out.
       

  7. Escalation Three:

    • Now the bionic arm is emphasized in the attack as Winter Soldier pile-drives his fist into the road, causing the asphalt to crack.

    • Winter Soldier leads with his bionic arm, driving blows into Cap’s side and pressing him up against a van.

    • Winter Soldier shifts the odds again by pulling another combat knife, giving him an additional weapon.

    • Cap is forced to evade and uses a German Suplex to slam Winter Soldier head-first into the ground.
       

  8. Turning Point Three:

    • The balance shifts again when Cap retrieves his shield to even out the odds. He uses it to block Winter Soldier’s strikes.

    • With his shield, he is able to hack at Winter Soldier’s bionic elbow joint, block another strike and then flip him over, causing Winter Soldier to lose his mask...
       

  9. Climax:

    • With the mask gone, Cap sees that the Winter Soldier is none other than his childhood friend Bucky! The shock is palpable on Cap’s face, as he thought his friend had died in the war.

    • Winter Soldier is distracted by this revelation long enough for Falcon to literally swoop in and dive bomb him before he can shoot at Cap.

    • Black Widow doubles up the save by firing a grenade at Winter Soldier, forcing him to retreat.

FIGHT ANALYSIS:

This back-n-forth scene is a really great example of how Escalations and Turning Points can lead to a very INTENSE fight as each side tries to outmanoeuvre the other. Note that each turning point changes the rules of the fight by removing or introducing elements, whereas the escalations capitalize on strengths and weaknesses. Also note that while the blows being delivered to either party should leave significant bruises and cause horrific bodily damage, both parties emerge relatively unscathed. The violence of this fight is mostly in how the intensity of the conflict is emphasized ie. the speed, power, danger and intent of the opponent vs the will, heart, and resolve of the protagonist. Intense fights should get the reader/watcher’s heart pumping!


THE EMOTIONAL FIGHT

WARRIOR: - FINAL FIGHT - BRENDAN VS TOMMY

Full Version not available due to Copyright. We recommend searching via Youtube (except in US)

Background/Inciting Events:

  • Brendan and Tommy are both sons of an abusive, alcoholic father

  • Both were trained in MMA

  • Brendan left Tommy, his father and his terminally ill mother behind to escape the abuse and marry his girlfriend, Tess.

  • Tommy resents Brendan for the abandonment and Brendan resents their father for the years of abusive behaviour.

  • Brendan and Tommy both start fighting professionally. Tommy for the family of a murdered soldier and his own guilt for deserting his squad; Brendan because his family is experiencing money problems and are about to lose their home.

  • Tommy has left a dominating streak of wins on his journey to this fight, whereas Brendan has had a much harder time, relying on skill, endurance and luck to make it this far.

Location Factors:

  • This fight takes place in the Octagon at a UFC-type event.

  • There is a sizeable crowd present, as it is a major sporting event with multiple camera coverage and screens high above the octagon, so the crowd can follow the action.

  • The ring posts are lined with padding and each post is connected by a metal fence.

  • Because this is a professional fight, there are rules to the engagement and a break between each round. This location offers multiple opportunities for announcers, onlookers, the fighters and even the coaches to weigh in on what’s happening.

Hero: Brendan

Brendan, Tommy’s older brother and High School teacher who’s turned to fighting to save his family’s home. He's a calculating counter-fighter (reactive vs active) with jujitsu experience.

Antagonist: Tommy

Tommy, Brendan’s younger brother, who’s deserted the military after watching his squad die. He saves another squad and is inadvertently hailed a hero. He is a devastating powerhouse with an indomitable will and an aggressive nature.

3rd Party/Witness: Tess, Frank, Paddy & the crowd

Thousands of witnesses, as this is a major sporting event. Brendan’s wife, Tess is watching from the crowd. Brendan & Tommy’s father, Paddy is also in the crowd.
At ringside, Frank - Brendan’s trainer is coaching.

  1. The Build Up/Suspense:

    • Brendan makes his way to the octagon first, with Tess looking on nervously from the crowd. Brendan dances around the ring, clearly battered from his last fight, and apprehensive about the fight with Tommy.

    • By contrast, Tommy emerges from the locker room with a dour expression, clad in a black hoodie and walking with a purposeful, determined gait.

    • As Brendan catches sight of Tommy, he grows more anxious, as not only is he about to fight his own brother, but Tommy had previously indicated that he would not be showing Brendan any mercy…

    • A fact that was communicated the night before during a verbal confrontation.

    • Tommy eyes Brendan with a predatory glare, but does not show fear of any kind.

    • During the stand-off Brendan appears reluctant, asking Tommy about their father, but Tommy just walks away. Their emotional states are completely different before the round begins

    • Brendan makes eye contact with Tess. The sight of her reminds him of his reasons for doing this, so he musters up the courage to fight his own brother.

    • Tommy raises his fists with hungry anticipation and charges in...
       

  2. Kick-Off:

    • Tommy batters Brendan’s midsection with heavy, clubbing blows, driving his older brother up towards the cage wall

    • Brendan is immediately in trouble, so he slips out from the assault, with one hand outstretched to try and make some distance.

    • Frank calls out, urging Brendan to relax
       
  3. Escalation:

    • Brendan knows he must get his head in the game, so he rallies back with clean punches and a kick, which Tommy absorbs.

    • Frank gives the viewer a warning that something bad is about to happen with his fearful cries just before…

    • Tommy tackles Brendan to the ground. In MMA, being on your back with a heavy, muscular ‘ground & pound’ fighter on top is the worst place to be!

    • Tess reinforces this point with her alarmed reaction (cupping her hands over her face).

    • Frank calls out for Brendan to breathe and stay calm, even as Tommy picks him up and slams him down to the ground repeatedly (listen for the crowd’s excited response)

    • Tommy continues to pound on Brendan, while we, the audience watches from Tess’s point of view. She tips us off to what we should be feeling with her frantic words at this stage ~ especially when Tommy lands an illegal hit.
       
  4. Turning Point:

    • Frank plays a critical role here, trying to remind Brendan of his game plan, but his eyes are on his brother, who refuses to sit down.

    • Frank is telling both Brendan and the audience how he must fight in order to survive, but Brendan isn’t listening because he is too busy watching Tommy.
       
  5. Escalation Two:

    • Tommy goes on the offensive again and lands a heavy blow to the head (the crowd reacts) and then a high knee to the temple, further stunning Brendan

    • Tommy increases his pace, forcing Brendan back against the fence, continually raining down blows on him while evading Brendan’s submission attempt.

    • Tess reacts by telling the audience what they want Brendan to do: “Get off the fence!” Everyone is worried now, as even Frank’s instructions have a note of urgency to them.

    • Tommy grabs hold of Brendan and slams him down again, hard enough to shake the octagon and rains down more vicious blows on him.

    • When the bell sounds, Brendan calls Tommy out for his rage.
       
  6. Turning Point Two:

    • The fight continues with Brendan on his back, absorbing more of Tommy’s heavy hands until he switches up his strategy, trapping Tommy’s arm in a desperate gambit to stop the assault.

    • He’s able to twist his body and roll out, trapping the arm in an Omoplata shoulder lock. This demonstrates Brendan’s jiujitsu knowledge as he’s hoping to submit Tommy and end the fight without further violence.

    • Tommy resists, striking Brendan with powerful elbow until the latter is forced to dislocate Tommy’s shoulder entirely. Tommy has now lost the use of that arm.

    • Knowing the extreme amount of pain Tommy must be in, Brendan stops to check on him, but Tommy reacts violently, choking his brother and pushing him up against the fence.
       
  7. Turning Point Three:

    • What happens in the corner on both sides is very interesting, as Brendan wants to stop the fight, but Frank reminds him why he came. Brendan insists that he’s hurt Tommy already.

    • Tommy, on the other hand is alone in his corner, and watches the soldiers that came to support him. He believes he can’t let them down, because his entire self-worth is wrapped up in doing right by the men who died in combat. He’s experiencing survivor’s guilt not only from his family, but from his experiences in the army.

    • Tommy emerges from the corner, ready to fight to his last breath.
       
  8. Turning Point Four:

    • Paddy arrives and watches his sons fighting. He’d had a relapse the night before after many months of sobriety.

    • He sees Brendan pleading with Tommy to give up, because Brendan knows he’s fighting a wounded man and he doesn’t want to win.

    • Tommy refuses to back down, urging Brendan to continue beating him, even goading him on.

    • Brendan catches sight of Paddy, and they share a moment of acknowledgement, that their family is broken and this is the end result of Paddy’s inability to parent.

    • Tommy cries in his corner, because he knows he’s about to lose this fight, despite all of his strength and the beating he put on his own brother.
       
  9. Escalation Three:

    • Brendan recognizes that Tommy won’t allow himself to simply give up. He watches as his brother limps on in agony and knows he has to end the fight like a real fighter.

    • He lands a brutal head-kick on Tommy, sending his younger brother to the mat.

    • Brendan jumps on him, pummelling away before deciding to switch things up, trapping Tommy in a rear-naked choke, a move from which he cannot escape with a wounded arm.
       
  10. Climax:

    • Through sweat and tears, Brendan pleads with Tommy, begging him to surrender as he squeezes with all of his strength.

    • He holds his brother tight, telling him “I love you Tommy! I love you!”, reminding him that even in this moment of combat and carnage, that they are still brothers, and that he doesn’t have to fight any more.

    • Tommy taps.

    • Seeing this, Paddy starts to cry.

    • Brendan puts his arms around his brother protectively and leads him out of the arena as the crowd cheers.
       

FIGHT ANALYSIS:

This is one of those fights that doesn’t come along very often. The emotional fight between men is a rare one, as men in modern society are trained to believe that victory in a fight means utter dominance over your weaker opponent. This is why when wars are fought, both sides try to demean the other, as they both want to consider themselves the heroic party. However, when you are fighting a family member, as Brendan finds himself here, the lines become blurred and the emotions are much more conflicted.

There are many things going on in this fight that make it quite complicated. The long, tragic history between these two brothers means that this confrontation was always going to be about their feelings about each other, not who wins the fight. Tommy is physically stronger, a veritable beast, but looking at his situation one wonders if his size and fighting style isn’t more about trying to control the fight in a way he couldn’t control the actions of his father and brother in life. Abandoned in both cases, Tommy struggles to find any sense of warmth or compassion for either man when he returns to them as an adult. This fight is more about Tommy punishing Brendan for what he sees as selfishness. Brendan left his young brother behind to care for their dying mother, under the harsh rule of his alcoholic father.

This type of back-story is unlikely to be present in most fights, which is why the EMOTIONAL fight is more character driven than many of the others.

Brendan, on the other hand, learns much about Tommy in this fight. He recognizes that Tommy is in deep, emotional pain and that fighting is his way of dealing with the situation. When his pleas fall on deaf ears, Brendan comes to understand that Tommy won’t allow himself to fail, as he saw both Paddy and Brendan as failures.

Brendan realizes that he has to bear the brunt, the result of Tommy’s pain because he is partially responsible for it. The only way for he and Tommy to reunite is for Brendan to physically put him down and defeat him, to prove that he could take all Tommy had to give and still be his brother.

This fight was an emotional expression of a conversation the two men couldn’t allow themselves to have. At the end, they are reunited as brothers.


THE EROTIC FIGHT

THE MASK OF ZORRO: ELENA VS ZORRO

Background/Inciting Events:

  • The new Zorro infiltrates the abode of Don Rafael Montero to steal a map containing the location of a gold mine.

  • Zorro has already defeated several fighters in both hand-to-hand combat and sword-fighting

  • Zorro previously met Elena when she caught him stealing a horse, where she swooned a bit over him.
     

Location Factors:

  • The stables attached to the hacienda.

  • Multiple compartments for horses (which never play a role, but theoretically could)

  • Lots of hay and straw which can be used to trap or distract, along with horse-riding equipment within easy reach for defence.

  • Porthole windows allow for rays of light in the enclosed space and offer a romantic ambiance to the setting.

  • Stable is sealed off with only one exit, once Zorro closes the door.
     

Hero: Zorro

Zorro, or rather, the new Zorro-in-training, former thief

Antagonist: Elena

Elena, daughter of the original Zorro, accomplished fencer

3rd Party/Witness: None
 

  1. The Build Up/Suspense:

    • Elena confronts Zorro about having stolen something from her father, which he has.

    • Their mutual attraction is evident from the way they greet each other and engage in smiling banter, that is… until Elena draws her rapier and puts it under his chin.

    • Zorro responds by running his fingers down the end of her sword and drawing himself out to the tip of the blade, before swatting it away, and dismissing her as a threat

    • Elena responds by reaffirming her skill with the blade and sliding back into an attack stance and giving him a challenging look.

    • Zorro um… rises to the challenge as his sword pops up suggestively
       
  2. Kick-Off:

    • Zorro and Elena engage in an initial flurry which ends in a draw

    • They give each other a look of appreciation, presumably checking each other out as they circle around.

    • Zorro smiles but Elena wants to be taken seriously
       
  3. Escalation:

    • Elana leads the flurry this time, increasing the pace of her jabs, stabs and strokes as her face lights up with glee.

    • Zorro is forced back against the fence as Elena takes the upper hand and cuts his shirt with a cry of triumph

    • She poses with her sword with a prideful, yet playful expression on her face. She has proven herself a threat.

    • Zorro is annoyed by the damage to his clothing so they remove their outer layer, ensuring that the next exchange will be more … free-flowing.
       
  4. Turning Point:

    • Both partners engage with equal speed this time, with Elena trying to press her initial advantage early on.

    • This advantage is negated when Zorro slices a slit in her skirt, revealing her leg. She appears amused by this, at first.

    • He builds on this moment by drawing close and stealing a kiss from Elena, which causes her to gasp.
       
  5. Escalation Two:

    • Zorro, now with the upper hand, takes out another piece of Elena`s clothing - one of her straps, which falls revealing her shoulder.

    • Now unbalanced, Elena charges again, which Zorro sidesteps and steals another kiss
       
  6. Turning Point Two:

    • Enraged, Elena engages in a back & forth exchange which sees her disarm Zorro and approach him with menace. Note her wild hair and heaving … um, breaths. Clearly this fight has gotten quite heated.

    • She charges at him while he quips and takes cover in the loose hay.
       
  7. Turning Point Three:

    • Zorro manages to disarm Elena when she thrusts her sword and he allows it to slide through a harness before dislodging it from her grip.

    • Now disarmed, Elena runs for his fallen sword but he catches her in a vulnerable position and beckons her to rise from her kneeling position.
       

FIGHT ANALYSIS:

Can I just go ahead and say it? This fight is all about sex. Sexy-time sex and all the kinds of sex you can’t show in a PG-13 movie. So, the way this fight is constructed is through suggestion. None of the things Zorro and Elena are doing are overtly sexual. There is no nudity, nor foul language nor any mention of sexual acts. Nonetheless, this is a great example of an erotic fight that can easily translate to a book. Note the lack of blood or violence in this kind of fight - very similar to the ENTERTAINING fight, except that this has the added sexual tones. 

The eroticism is subdued and suggestive only to those who really know what’s going on. Zorro and Elena never actually hurt each other and both leave the scene completely intact. What started out as a confrontation, turned into an evaluation of each other as skilled partners in a sort of mating dance. The end result was that in each other, Zorro and Elena found worthy adversaries that they’d like to meet again. She may no longer care what he’s stolen and he may no longer care if she tries to stop him. 

The purpose behind this fight was to show courtship and raise the audience’s anticipation of Zorro and Elena meeting again. This type of fight can be a very good way to show chemistry between two characters without either of them having to address it directly.


WRITTEN EXAMPLE:

I’m including a short example of how a fight scene can been described on the page.

EXCERPT FROM V.M. SAWH’S SHORT STORY - HONTAS:

One of the fools came rushing from the car, pistol barking.

She sent her first arrow through his eye.

Another fool leapt through the window, screaming as the flames took him. Another bolted out the door, firing wildly. The one in flames took a shot through the neck and crumpled. Hontas jumped to one side, but felt a bullet lance across her back nonetheless. The pain drove the air out of her. She flattened to the ground. A few more shots dug into the dirt before Hontas heard the familiar click of an empty chamber. She looked up to find that this fool was the one had one of her Colts. Her eyes narrowed. Hontas rose, nocked her final arrow and took aim. The fool started to run. Hontas let out a breath between her teeth and adjusted her aim. The arrow flew. It hit the fool in the back of the shoulder and knocked him down.

She was on him in an instant, pressing her knee into his neck. He tried to raise the Colt but Hontas grabbed hold of the arrow. Hontas went to pull it out, but he rolled suddenly, throwing her on her side.

She cried out as impact jarred her wound. Her head swam. She felt nauseous, like she was going to puke her guts out right there. She felt her bandages, fearing the worst.

Her chest had started bleeding again.

The fool was hauling himself to his feet, reloading quickly. The arrow’s shaft had splintered, causing it to hang down from his back. He raised her Colt and pointed it at her head.

Hontas threw herself to one side. Bullets chipped into the ground. Her hand closed around her hatchet and she swiped at him as hard as she could. The hatchet cracked on impact. Her shoulder lit up burning.

Blood sprayed across the hatchet’s handle, soaking her hand. She heard the fool gurgling. Her Colt sank to the dirt. The fool tried to clutch at his hand, now hanging from bits of skin and tendon at the wrist. But the arrowhead in his other shoulder made that impossible. His knees buckled and he fell screaming.

Breathing raggedly, Hontas let the broken hatchet drop from her bloody hand. She lay there a moment, panting, feeling her chest pulse with every breath. It took some for her world to stop spinning. After few long moments, she got to her feet and picked up the Colt. Its weight was familiar and comforting, as if she’d found a piece of herself, but also put an uncomfortable strain on her arm.

The fool was still screaming when she pressed it to his forehead.

“No! No! Don’t!”

The Colt kicked once. The fool’s brains sprayed.

Hontas panted hard, feeling her chest pulse with every breath. The smell of burning wood and flesh filled her nose. There were a few scattered pops as gunpowder from the weapons in the burning car ignited.

Her vision blurred slightly as she checked the remaining bullets in the Colt. For a moment she thought she had six left instead of three. She raised her head, thinking where the Colt’s twin had gone.

Empty anyway, she thought with a huff, and don’t have time to look for it, John ne-

She didn’t hear the door slide open from down the train. She didn’t even hear the shot until after she saw her leg pop with blood where the bullet had gone through.

***

And With That, The Fight's Over... Stay Down!

This brings us to the end of this first Write-A-Fight article! I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself, and picked up a few helpful tips on how to go about writing your own fight scenes.


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Supporting Indie Authors 101

Featured Article by Christina McMullen

Hey there fellow Indies! Christina here. You know, the mean mod. ;) 

I've noticed that once again the issue of support has been cropping up all over the Goodreads group. It seems as if a lot of friends and family just don't know what to make of us and therefore tend to either say the wrong thing or nothing at all. That, my friends, is why this article is for them, not you. Yep, that's right. I'm not writing to you, fellow author. I'm writing to your somewhat confused and slightly awkward family member or friend who wants to support you, but has no idea what to do. Go ahead, hand over the phone/tablet/computer, I'll wait.

Hi there supportive friend! My name is Christina and I am an indie author, just like your bud. Yes, the one who just handed you this to read. They think you're the bee's knees, by the way. And handsome. And smart too. I bet you're proud of the work your friend has done. I know I am. But like me, you might find it hard to express this without it sounding weird or thinking that you've suckered yourself into buying a book or something equally as panic-inducing. Believe it or not, your friend only wants your respect. 

You see, we understand that our books may not be to everyone's taste. Just because we're friends does not mean that we have to share all likes and dislikes. Your friend writes in one genre and you read another. Or even more likely, you don't read. Seriously, reading. Who has time for that? That's fine. You are not bound by the friendship contract to immediately run out and purchase a copy of your friend's book just because they wrote one. If that was the case, none of us would have friends and we'd all be sad.

But pretending they didn't write a book is pretty lousy, don't you think? Look, we're not going to ask you to read our book if it's clear you aren't interested, but you know, a congratulatory comment or even just a like on Facebook would go a long way toward letting us know we have your support. You liked that picture they put up of kittens eating a plate of bacon, so why not like the status update on how the editing process is going? Why not a ‘Way to go!’ when they update their employment status to ‘Author’?

If you're feeling super generous, you might even share a post. 

“But that's soliciting and I don't want my friends to think I'm shilling your book!”

Okay, sure, I can see where you might feel that way, but you can easily assuage your own guilt by adding a quick message. Something along the lines of:

“Hey, my buddy wrote this book. If you're into the blahblahblah genre, you might check it out.” 

There you go. You've supported your author friend without insinuating that everyone on your friend list is a potential customer. 

Now, perhaps you actually have read your friend's book and thought it was great. That's awesome and you should definitely tell them, but be mindful of how you word your compliment. Words that sound like praise to you, such as:

“Wow, this is good enough to be published through a major publishing house!”

-and-

“I can't believe this is self-published!”

...are not compliments. 

Self-publishing is not a consolation prize and it is not the easy route by any means. Chances are, if your friend's book is ‘worthy of a publisher’ then it's actually better than you thought. Authors who publish through traditional means are only responsible for the first draft. They have a team of editors, proofreaders, marketers, public relations specialists, you name it. Indies do not. 

Perhaps there are a handful of authors who still consider getting a publishing contract the sign that they have ‘made it’. But the majority of us do not think that way. Self-publishing is a viable option for authors now more than ever before and many, even household names that have ‘made it’, are embracing the DIY method. 

Okay, I've told you what not to say, so it's only fair that I tell you what you should say. Well, that's easy. Tell the truth. If you liked the book, say that you liked it. If it's truly one of the better books you have read recently, there is no need to qualify that with a comment about the traditional route. By all means, hold us to the same standards that you hold traditionally published books, but don't be surprised when we exceed them. After all, we're not shoehorned into writing the same old story now, are we?

"November Short Story Contest - A Bitter Harvest" Winner

THE FARMER’S DAUGHTER

by Michael R. Worthington

Sue woke to sound of her dog barking; she turned on her bedside lamp and glanced at the clock; it was nearly time for the asteroid explosion. She slipped on her flip-flops and went to her daughter’s room to wake her to see the event, only to find the bed empty. She didn’t panic, but peered out the bedroom window to see why the dog was barking because it was her daughter’s constant companion. Out across the field, she spied Linda standing on top of the windrow, silhouetted against the night sky, with the dog on the ground, unable to climb up to join her.

After George had been killed by a drunk driver, Sue had used some of the settlement money to move away from the congested city that held so many painful memories. The twenty-acre tract was relatively cheap because it was covered by trees, and the only access was by a narrow dirt road. Loggers had harvested the timber on half the land, and bulldozers had pushed the stumps into a ten-foot high windrow along the edge of the field. She had purchased a manufactured home, and filled the little house with pictures of George because she worried that Linda wouldn’t remember her father; she had just learned to walk at the time of his death.

The little girl helped her cultivate the organic produce and sell the vegetables at local farmers’ markets. The business only generated a modest income, but they lived a frugal lifestyle, and she had some income from investing the remainder of the money. There was something very satisfying about growing most of their own food; she canned as much as she could, and stocked a freezer with more vegetables.

Sue clung to Linda as her only physical link to her deceased husband, and their constant companionship had produced a very close mother-daughter relationship. Now Sue faced the decision whether to homeschool Linda, or to send her on the long bus ride to the public school. She considered the wisdom of her past decisions as she walked across the field to the windrow. Had she denied her daughter the chance to play with other children, and to learn from museums and performances? But the news about the approaching asteroid had set off riots around the world, so she was glad that they were away from the urban madness.

“Honey,” Sue said. “What’re you doing out here by yourself?”

“Looking at the sky, Mommy. Is it time for the big light?”

“In just a few more minutes,” she answered as she climbed up the mound.

The girl pointed at a bright point in the sky. “Is that the asteroid?”

Sue took a moment to orient herself and recall her astrological knowledge. “No, that’s the planet Venus. Sometimes it’s so bright that people call it the ‘morning star’ because you can still see it even when the dawn light blots out the stars. Don’t worry about the asteroid. They’re going to blow it up with atomic bombs; we’ll be safe.” Silently she added, “I hope.”

Sinking down on top of a stump, she pulled the little girl into her lap.  She struggled to remember the names of constellations to point out to her daughter: Orion’s Belt, Pisces, the Big and Little Dippers. Without the glare of city lights, the celestial objects shone clearly in the sky.

They sat quietly contemplating the vastness of the heavens, when the bright light blossomed in the sky. They watched in awe as it temporarily eclipsed the moon in brightness, and then slowly faded away.

Linda pointed out a ‘falling star.’ More lights streaked across the sky as the pieces of the asteroid started to fall through the atmosphere. Linda danced in a circle as she tried to count the meteors. Then she stopped and pointed out another bright light in the sky.

“What’s that?” the little girl asked.

Sue wasn’t sure; it was much brighter than the other points of light, even Venus. As they watched, it seemed to grow in size. Sue tightened her grip around her offspring as she slowly realized what it must be. They had said that the explosion would break the asteroid into smaller pieces that would burn up in the atmosphere, but they hadn’t said anything about the possibility of bigger pieces. Maybe they hadn’t wanted to cause more panic and unrest.

She said nothing as she watched it grow brighter and bigger. There was nothing she could do; they couldn’t run from a rock falling out of the sky. Slowly she noticed a slight shift in its position against the field of stars; she relaxed her grip around her daughter with the realization that it wasn’t coming right at them.

The apparent movement of the object accelerated until it streaked across the dark sky from left to right. A bright tail trailed behind it, and it created enough light to cast shadows on the ground. Sue stared at it, mesmerized by the approaching disaster, yet praying it would pass them by to strike somewhere else.

Suddenly it exploded in a blinding light; too late, they turned their heads and threw up their hands to cover their eyes. Sue blinked in the aftermath as orange orbs danced in her vision. She knew what would follow from the innumerable hours of media coverage about the approaching asteroid. Jumping up, she blindly stumbled down the slope, dragging her daughter by the hand while the frightened dog howled and ran towards the safety of his doghouse. Her vision slowly returned so she could see again by the time they reached the ground.

The blast wave knocked them down. The sound was too loud to be heard; they felt the sound as pressure on their skin. Sue covered her baby girl with her own body as small pieces of debris rained down. She looked up just in time to see the house disintegrate in the wind that carried off the walls and roof. Her pickup truck rolled over and over like a toy kicked across the ground by a petulant child. Luckily, the mass of dirt and stumps in the windrow provided some shelter from the blast, or else their bodies would have been blown away like the house and vehicle.

There was total silence. Her body felt like a cattle stampede had run over her. She felt wetness on her face, and her hand came away covered with blood when she touched the side of her head. Her baby girl laid unmoving on the ground with blood oozing out her ears, but there were no other visible signs of injury. Fearing the worst, she stretched out her fingers to feel her daughter’s neck. It would be a bitter harvest to lose her baby girl on top of losing her husband. She couldn’t bear the thought, but she felt a faint pulse, which gave her hope.

She realized that her daughter needed help or she would die. Sue tried to stand, but her legs were too weak, so she crawled on her hands and knees towards the wreck of her truck.

Her little farm had been transformed into an alien landscape. The blast had blown the trees down on the ground, all pointing in the same direction as if a giant had stomped them flat. Tree limbs littered the ground, and she stuck her hand in a gooey mess. She pulled back her hand in horror after realizing it was the remains of an animal; she wondered if it was their dog. When she reached a tree branch too large to crawl over, she used it to pull herself upright and scrambled over it. She found a stout stick for support, and used it to hobble along to the wreck of her truck lying on its top.

She cut her hand on broken glass when she reached through the window to find her backpack. Normally she would have freaked out over the cut, and rushed to the Emergency Room for stitches; now it was just a minor inconvenience. Blood dripped down her fingers as she used her stick to stir the pile of belongings inside the cab, hook the strap of her backpack, and drag it out of the twisted metal.

Slinging the backpack over one shoulder, she applied direct pressure on the cut with her other hand as she stumbled back to her daughter. She collapsed beside the unmoving form, and simply stared at her baby girl until she saw her chest rise. Then she dug around inside her first aid kit for a roll of gauze to bandage her cut, and used the same roll of gauze to sponge some of the blood off her daughter’s face. The little girl’s skin felt cold and clammy, so she pulled a sweatshirt out of the bag to drape over her body.

Her baby was in shock; they needed warmth. Sue crawled around a ten-foot circle, tossing the debris into the middle. She found a piece of paper in her backpack—a flyer for the market scheduled today—and touched it with her lighter. The tiny flame slowly consumed the paper as she added pencil-sized twigs to the fire. She fed larger sticks to the hungry flame as it slowly built into a raging bonfire. She had to drag her daughter away from the fire as the heat increased, but she still continued to toss wood on the fire. It was all she could do to feel like she was accomplishing something.

The bright light from above blinded her, and the strong downward wind blew the flames in all directions. She threw her body on top of her daughter to shield her from the dust and debris flying around. Then the light moved away, and she passed out on the ground beside her girl.

Someone shook her shoulder, and gently pulled her away from her daughter. Two men in khaki jumpsuits lifted her baby girl into a stretcher, while the other man held her head and shined a flashlight in her eyes. His mouth moved but she heard nothing. He helped her to her feet, and supported her as they followed the stretcher to the helicopter.

She woke up on a narrow gurney, surrounded on all four sides by light green curtains. The gurney and curtains reminded her of the morgue scenes in crime movies. With a great effort, she tried to get up to find her baby girl. The IV stent ripped out of her arm as she staggered to her feet; nurses in green scrubs rushed through the curtains to restrain her and ease her back onto the gurney. She fought their efforts until she saw the man in the khaki jumpsuit who had helped her.

He pulled a pen from his chest pocket, wrote on his palm, and held his hand before her eyes: “She’s OK.” As Sue relaxed, he leaned over her and said with exaggerated mouth movements, “She just has a concussion. We came when we saw your fire, and getting her to the hospital quickly probably saved her life.”

Sue finally relaxed and let them install a new IV stent. A concussion would have been a major worry a few hours ago; now it was a major relief. Mere things could be replaced; her daughter was all that mattered.

Unauthorized Sales

UNAUTHORIZED SALES OF YOUR BOOK: What to do?

A Featured Article by Brian Dingle


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So, what is the downside of eBook publishing, as an independent author? Sometimes, I guess, your books get sold on a site that you have not authorized. 

Take this example. 

I was checking out my visibility on Google (part of my on-going marketing strategy) and I decided to Google my name and my book title.

I was thrilled to see my book up on Amazon, for about thirty seconds, until I realized that I had a contract with Smashwords--not Amazon.

Smashwords told me they didn't give it to Amazon.

I didn't think I gave it to Amazon, though with computers, I wasn't immediately sure ... but I called Amazon, and they kindly told me it was not me, and it was not Smashwords. 

Stop here: both companies, Amazon and Smashwords, behaved very professionally! As soon as I informed them, they were very helpful. Amazon had to do due diligence ... after all, I might have been the sneaky-dog here, but within 24 hours they had gathered enough evidence to believe me, and within seventy-two hours the problem was gone.

So what happened? Well, now I know for sure. Someone, some nefarious character, took a free sample ( 20% ) of my book off Smashwords, in this case the first eight chapters that I give out to anybody who will take it, and they set up a contract (I presume) with Amazon, and uploaded the 'book' for sale, the first eight chapters, and set the price at around USD $1.99. This money was set to go to someone else, and I had no part in this arrangement; I would get nothing from these sales.

The embarrassing part is that no copies sold during the time this was up. When I learned this I didn't ask how long it had been selling; my ego couldn't take it.

I managed to get the book taken down BEFORE any copies were sold, but I didn't know that until a few days later.

The book looked just like mine: same cover, same title page, even saying it was a Smashwords Edition. I believe it was mine! At the end of the eight chapters, there was a statement that if you wanted to buy the whole book, go to Smashwords to purchase it. Again, of course, because at this point the customer would have already paid $2.00 ($2.64 in Canada, by the way).

Smashwords does sometimes distribute its books to Amazon, once sales exceed a couple of thousand dollars I think ... sadly, mine are at about $20, so I was pretty sure I didn't fall into that category.

What did I do?

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1. I freaked out, wondering if during some idle moment I had set up an account with Amazon, but pretty sure I had not, because I was still doing paper work to get an ITIN, as a Canadian citizen, with the USA IRS.

2. I contacted Smashwords. They responded very quickly, basically within hours. In fact, at one point I left a message for Mark Coker, the CEO of Smashwords, on his Facebook page (I'm his 'friend,' among a small select group of about 3,000+), asking for his help. He wrote back within a few hours. I was blown away.

3. I contacted Amazon. I persisted and asked them, on their webpage, to CALL ME. They did! Within five minutes! Really.  I was  blown away, again. They sent me a form, which I thought would be the dead end, but I filled it out anyway. And the nice guy on the phone gave me a free copy of my 'book' so I could look at it (remember, at this point I didn't know it was the Smashwords sampler I was dealing with). Call me a miser; I just didn't like paying $2.00 for my own book.

4. The most important move I made, I think, was to put a 'review' on the Amazon site, stating that the 'book' in question was only the first eight chapters, and that if any patron had been 'ripped off,' I would give them the whole book for free. Now, I really think this is something that Amazon should have done, but given that there had been no sales, they didn't actually get the chance, so I don't know what they would really do if faced with this problem. But the most important thing from my point of view was not to have customers associate my name, my book, with a bad experience. After all, what would it cost me?

Once the book was taken down, the 'review' came down too. This was particularly important because Amazon does not accept reviews without a rating. And, of course, in order to post my 'review' telling people to write to me if they got ripped off, I had to put up a rating.

What rating would you give your book?

So it is equally important to tell them that the rating is specious, biased,  because it comes from the author. I did that. Right there in the review.

I know, I know. It's the only five star rating I'll ever get and it was up for two days, three max, and now its gone! But I could not give myself a zero rating on Amazon (you can that on Goodreads, by the way, give yourself a zero rating, but Amazon goes from 1 to 5) and I would have done that, given myself a zero, if I could. But I couldn't. So I will feel forever guilty over my three day five star rating. Anything in between felt like a real rating, and that's not fair.

5. I wrote a couple of posts on Goodreads, in various spots, to let people know this was a risk, that your book as a free sample could be stolen and put up on another site. That spawned this report.

6. I registered with Amazon, and published my books there. I got a lot of support from Goodreads authors about signing up with Amazon. In the future, I will upload my books to Smashwords and Amazon at the same time, and this will never happen again.

7. I asked Smashwords to develop a database of sites to which they do not distribute, reasoning that Indie Authors could help police these other sites. They said this was too much work. I still think this is a good idea. A database of ALL ebook distributers, with their URLs for complaints or copyright infringement reporting, would be a great step forward. When you had nothing better to do, you could cruise through these sites and check if your books are being published without your knowledge. Properly done, you could cross-reference sites your aggregator does distribute to with this database, and check out the BIG ones that should NOT have your book!

8. I did not take free samples down. The only time I would do that is if I thought my writing was so bad, 20% of the book would turn buyers off. And even then I wouldn't do it.

At the end of the day, the most point is to do what you can to make sure that the customer does not suffer from this. After all, we really want to keep them happy.

Click Here to check out Brian's blog!

How Fake Reviews Can Hurt You

Featured Article by Riley Amos Westbrook

There's a reason I personally preach the message of not paying for reviews. Is a review you paid for trustworthy? Or is it fluff for your ego? Is it honest and ethical for a company to paste false reviews of any products?

I can't bring myself to deceive others that way. I think of all the products I've bought based off reviews, and I would be angry, and distrustful of the store if I found out they housed fake reviews. I'd feel violated by the company, and I'd never buy from that company again.

Why would it be any different with a book? If you pay someone for a review, and they obviously didn't read it, would you be happy with it? For those of you that would, wouldn't you rather have readers you don't have to pay? If the reviewer does read it, are you going to be happy with a 2 or 3 star review? Are you looking to lift your ego and deceive? Part people from their hard earned money? Or are you looking for people to really enjoy your story?

I believe in taking the time and searching for honest reviews. Even my worst ones have information in it that helps me become a better writer, or helps me to connect with my readers in some way. I wouldn't be able to do that if I paid for them.

It's a matter of integrity and honesty. I would feel unclean and shamed if I paid for a review. That's why I've taken the True Review Pledge, and suggest that you do the same.

Mods Weigh In: Social Media Automation

Hey all: Ann here. I'd like to take a moment to introduce one of our new blog sections titled Mods Weigh In. From time to time you'll see these pop up on hot topic discussions. I know it comes as a surprise, but not all of us mods are have the exact same opinion. We discuss and debate amongst ourselves all the time - each of us providing valuable points and perspectives to one another. So we thought we would share that with you. 

With no further ado, I'm happy to share with you our first ever Mods Weigh In: Social Media Automation between Riley, Christina, and myself. Enjoy. 


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PRO Autotweet - Riley Amos Westbrook

I LOVE auto-tweet services such as Tweetjukebox and Roundteam.co, they help me so much. They save me time and energy that might be better served elsewhere. However, they are robots, and aren’t all that good at interacting with people on twitter. You’ll still have to do that part.

I know, they can be annoying, spammy, and downright a pain in the butt to manage, but as my parents always told me, nothing in this world is perfect! Properly managed, these tools can help you realize your top potential.

With Tweetjukebox, I just set up the tweet I want to share, and how often, and before you know it you’ve got a regularly scheduled blast for your book. Paired with graphics, links, and hashtags, you can get the ball rolling on advertising.
Roundteam.co is another great tool, one you can set up to auto-retweet certain hashtags. If you can get a group of followers, that regularly uses your hashtag, this is another great way to spread the word.

But like anything, all tools have their downside. Would I suggest you use these exclusively? Hell no! You still have to go onto twitter and get your hands dirty every once in awhile. These just make it so you can focus on interacting, and not on marketing.

Anti-Auto Tweeting - Christina McMullen

Automated tweets sound amazing in theory. Authors need a social media presence, but as indies, we already don’t have enough hours in the day for writing, let alone the tangential activities like tweeting. There exists services that will tweet for me? That’s like a dream come true!

Except it’s not.

To me, the worst part of automation is that it is obvious. Your account is no longer that of a living, breathing person, but that of a robot. What’s worse, your robot is only on the radar of other robots. Authors who are trying to build their brand (I know, silly corporate terminology, but it works here) should be mindful of how they portray themselves to potential readers. Services that scour the internet looking for potential followers, who then spam followers with an automated direct message asking them to buy something, are not doing anyone any favors. Setting up the same content to be recycled over and over again only makes people ignore you faster. 

Even worse, these services typically tweet on your behalf and usually, they make you sound like a jerk by spouting off meaningless statistics about how many followers you gained, who your best followers are, and other nonsense. Think about this. If everyone just used automated services to manage their social media, then it would be nothing more than a bunch of robots shouting at each other. There would be no humans left. What’s the point?

I try to live by the philosophy of treating others the way I want to be treated. This applies to my social media presence as well. I don’t want to be bothered by robots, so why would I sic my robots on potential readers? Also, there is something to be said for silly spontaneity. I’m immensely grateful for the fact that I’m able to be silly and spontaneous pretty much whenever the moment strikes me.

Now, does this mean I don’t have shortcuts? Of course not. I have a list of all of my shortened links on all of my devices should I decide I need to promote. I’ve also got a convenient folder full of Twitter-sized cards with images and quotes for the same purpose. However, they aren’t cycled through like clockwork. The way I see it, with a 140 character limitation, I can take the time to write an original and compelling tweet.

Pro AutoTweet Rebuttal - Riley Amos Westbrook

Christina makes some excellent points! I do vouch for automation, but only in places where you aren’t going to be as active. I love twitter, to a point, and found myself spending way too much time on it, the auto-tweets help keep me on a service that I tend to ignore.

But she is right in one area, a direct response to readers is going to net you the best results! Remember guys, you want people interested in you, and the only way to really do that is to interact!

The Compromise - Ann Livi Andrews

Both Riley and Christina have valid points. But I have a slightly different opinion, and true to my nature, it finds a compromise and takes the best of both worlds. 

But first, let’s discuss Twitter and what I think I know about the World O’ Tweets. 

Twitter serves several purposes: 

  • Helps you gain exposure
  • Helps you connect with your fans
  • Hashtag trending can increase your popularity
  • Gives you the possibility to gain new fans

Now, if you’re only posting once or twice per day, you are not getting noticed. That’s almost a fact. You won’t even show up on feeds unless you’re posting multiple times per day (I’ve heard once an hour to err on the safe side). And, if you’re anything like me, you don’t have time to log in to Twitter every hour and post concise and thoughtful tweets. 

Oh wait? You do? Well, then by all means: ignore me and carry on your merry little way. 

For those of you who are going “A UNIQUE TWITTER POST EVERY HOUR?????” allow me to calm your nerves. There IS a way to compromise between coming up with unique tweets every hour (taking up your entire day) and allowing a twitterbot to post generic posts on your behalf. 

Hootsuite (and several other services) allow you to schedule posts. So you can log in, oh say, Sunday night or Monday evening, and spend an hour creating unique Twitter posts for the week and schedule them to post every hour on your behalf. That way you’re getting unique and real posts, from you the author that are pertinent to your situation and writing, without filling your followers’ feeds with generic quotes, inspirational messages, or interesting statistics that have nothing to do with you or them. 

There it is. The best of both worlds. It compresses your time, saves you time and frustration in the long run, and shows that you’re willing to put real content out there, even if you do have to schedule it in advance. Hey, even the best of us schedule a few blog posts now and again. It’s a matter of time management. 

So tweet away and #savetime while #gettingexposure and continue to #supportindieauthors.

Building Blocks Featured Guest Article - Ashley Capes

Originally Featured on The Writers Bloc on July 20, 2015

Few aspects of the writing world are quite as mercurial and challenging as marketing.

What works now may not work next year – or even next month. And with digital publishing, shifts in audience tolerance and interest happen more quickly than ever. However, it must be done – people need to hear about your books if you want to be read.

In this article, I’ll outline some of the marketing approaches and techniques that indie, small press and big publishers are currently using. Hopefully this will help build your readership and generate some income, too. I’m not an expert and I’ve only been employing these techniques for a short time, but I will say that I’m seeing results and I wouldn’t have anything if I’d simply sat back and waited.

For a long time now, advertisers have been talking about ‘clutter’ and how to break through it. People are exposed to so many commercial impressions that it all becomes clutter. It’s all noise, it’s all spam – and obviously there’s no use spending time, money and effort sending promotional material for a thriller to a person who doesn’t read thrillers – or worse, to a person who doesn’t read at all.

And so, several questions follow:

  • Where do readers converge?
  • Where do they seek books or information about what books to buy?
  • How do I put my message before them?
  • How do I get my message to stand out from all the others?

Before I go further, there are two pieces of advice I’ve come across repeatedly over the years, which I believe can seriously impact the techniques I’m going to outline, both in negative and positive ways.

1. Write more books:

The more good titles you have available the better. Ten readers who buy all six of your books are better for you in the long term than ten readers who buy your only book. If you’ve only got one book, any fan you might win over cannot buy anything else from you.

Of course, this is hard work. It can take years to release multiple books and so for a while at least, you might only have one title to offer readers. And that’s why so many writers advocate for you to ‘write another book’ when you finish the first one. And then another. And another...

2. Write a series:

This advice is, to some extent, targeting ‘binge readers’ of certain genres, especially mystery, thriller, fantasy and romance. It does allow you to ‘guarantee’ income from readers who enjoyed Book One, when you release Book Two, and so on.

If this is something you feel comfortable doing, or that fits with your writing style, then you have a partial advantage in building an audience over writers who release unconnected stories. It also ties in well with some of the techniques below. For poets and writers of a literary style, this approach might not be a good fit for you – but tip #1 holds true whatever style or form you write.

So, let me summarise the techniques now that your book is ready – start by publishing the title, then seek reviews, run your giveaways and finally list your book with promotional (promo) sites. Sounds easy enough, right? Now let’s talk specifics.

Whoever publishes it, your title will probably be available via Amazon and similar sites, which are key places readers look for books.

Onlinebook retailers, especially Amazon are vital to the success of the following techniques. Due to its market share, Amazon is the giant here. But these retailers are also vital due to their ‘recommendation/also bought’ algorithms. Suppose someone purchased Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy and one of your novels featured similar dystopian elements, next time that customer browses Amazon they might be recommended your book. Especially if it happens to be on sale for 99c.

And if the customer likes your book, you have a new fan who goes on to buy your other titles – often at full price. Again, this is especially useful if you’re writing a series.

But let’s back up a bit first.

How does the reader even make a decision, once they’ve seen your book, as to whether they’ll buy it?

Aside from word of mouth, four things matter now: cover, blurb, sample and reviews (if you have them). Three of these elements are under the direct control of you and/or your publisher. Some readers only need to see a single element, or a combination of the first three, to make a decision. Others will want to read a range of reviews first, which is why a listing with many of the newsletter/book club-style promotional sites  (more on these sites below) will require your book to have a minimum number of reviews and a decent average rating – say, 10 reviews and 4+ out of 5 stars.

And so sourcing reviews becomes important to the process of getting your book in front of more interested readers.

Reviews

Send review copies to a range of publications, book bloggers and readers (e-copies can be best, especially if you’re approaching international reviewers). Common advice suggests targeting reviewers who read in your genre and post reviews to their own publication/blog along with Goodreads, Facebook and/or Amazon – which becomes very important for promotion later.

Be sure to plan your approach in advance. Most reviewers are booked up weeks or months ahead. Make sure you have the capacity to send out ARC (advance reading copies). The more you do this, the more reviews you will land. You won’t catch every book blogger’s eye but that’s just the way it goes; keep sending queries.

Be polite and personalise your query when you approach a reviewer. Many will also list their requirements for review queries – it’s like submitting a short story to a literary journal. Follow their guidelines so that you aren’t automatically dismissed.

If you’ve queried all the reviewers you can and still can’t hit that minimum quota of reviews required for a listing with the promo sites, consider running a Goodreads or LibraryThing giveaway in order to garner more interest in your book. Hundreds to thousands of readers gather here. If interested, they will ‘add’ your book to their ‘shelves’ (which indicates the intent to buy/read it later). Friends of each person adding your book will see your book and maybe add it themselves – and their friends will, and so on.

Run the giveaway, send off the paperback (LibraryThing allows eBook giveaways) and hopefully you score a review out of it – Goodreads encourages it, and many readers who like to review will post both at Goodreads and Amazon, increasing your visibility again. 

Okay, so you’ve got ten reviews. Time to hit the promo sites and get your book in front of thousands more possible fans.

Promo sites

Promotional sites usually operate by featuring a dozen or so discounted books per daily newsletter. A typical newsletter will be a single ‘page’ that shows thumbnails and blurbs along with purchase links to major e-retailers.


This ad will be sent out to their mailing lists and featured on their site, though the mailing list is more important as it’s solicited mail for the reader.

Further, readers who sign up to these sites usually choose which genres they wish to be notified about. Some of the sites have a more sophisticated preference list, such as The Fussy Librarian (circulation 115k), where readers can choose languages and whether or not to limit graphic content. This, of course, gives the reader more confidence in the recommendations from the newsletter.

Listing your book on one of these sites could result in anything from a handful to hundreds or thousands of sales in a single day.

A boost of thousands of sales in one day will probably put your book into the top ten of a genre or subgenre at Amazon – after which, Amazon will begin recommending your title to interested readers left, right and centre. Your book might stay in the top ten or top fifty of your genre/subgenre for weeks or months. 

Of course, that sort of success is dependent on various factors – some genres sell faster than others. The cover, blurb and sample also need to be ace, and the price has to be right. Often these promo sites are only effective if the price of your book can be set at $0.00 or $0.99c – basically, the book you list with the promo site operates as a ‘loss-leader’ and buyers move on to buy your other full-priced titles.

So, how do you choose a good promo site?

Check to see if the site lists subscriber numbers per genre. For instance, the biggest name in the game, BookBub, lists 1,750,000 subscribers for the ‘contemporary romance’ category. An ad for your free book might cost $345 – but they estimate anywhere between 11,000 to 49,900 downloads after your promo has run.

That means you could potentially earn tens of thousands of new fans who will buy future releases. Other promo sites will have smaller projected returns and costs, but all should get your book in front of interested customers.

Personally, I’ve just started running promos on two of my titles, City of Masks (traditionally published) and The Fairy Wren(self-published). Being able to control the price of my self-published title made it easier for me to trial several of the smaller promo sites.

During my last two week promo for instance, I sold 103 copies of my short fantasy novel The Fairy Wren at $0.99c. Prior to March I sold perhaps 10 copies a month. For my traditional title, where the price was still below $5 but not discounted, the same methods netted me a dozen or so copies.

The promotion cost me approximately $5-$15 per listing and I used around eight different sites (each requiring a 10 review minimum on Amazon). Now, the promotion didn't net me a profit but more importantly, it earned me new fans who have since gone on to buy my other titles – which is the true value of the marketing approach I’ve discussed.

Even so, don’t expect lightning fast results, even with these techniques. Remember, writing and publishing is for the long haul, but if you try the above methods you may build a fan-base a lot quicker.

Ashley Capes is a poet, novelist and teacher living in Victoria. He teaches Media and Music Production, and has played in a metal band, worked in an art gallery and music retail. Aside from reading and writing, Ashley loves volleyball and Studio Ghibli – and Magnum PI, easily one of the greatest television shows ever made.

He is the author of six poetry collections and three novels and was poetry editor for Page Seventeen from issues 8-10. He also moderates online renku group Issa’s Snail.

You can see more of his work at his website www.ashleycapes.com.

Making Wattpad Work for You - V.M. Sawh

Hello Again My Lovelies, 

Welcome to V.M. Sawh’s Very-Much-Wattpad Bootcamp! Where you will learn some neat tips for using Wattpad to your advantage.

What’s Wattpad, you ask?

The Youtube of Writing. Wattpad is the world’s largest online community of readers and writers, numbering over 40 million users on it’s platform. Based out of Toronto, the site is fully mobile with its own app. With over 100 million stories to read and thousands more added each day, it’s a great resource for making inroads with a newer, younger, international audience.

Woah Woah Woah, What do you mean International? I don’t speak anything but…

It doesn’t matter, because you are free to write in the language you prefer, be it English, French, Spanish, Hungarian, Klingon, whatever you like. The point is, Wattpad is a place for you to connect with anyone, anyone who chooses to read your story. 

I get it, I get to reach out and poke someone, right?

Please don’t poke people. Online, face-to-face, on the bus or in a biker bar, seriously - don’t poke people. What you can do on Wattpad is make some friends. Users are encouraged to write, leave comments and vote on every part of every story they read. Every read, vote and comment is recorded and displayed for you, the author to see and respond to. So if someone leaves a nice comment on your work, feel free to hit ‘reply’ and say thanks! If they ask a question, you are free to answer it or not. This is a marked contrast from markets like Amazon, B&N or Kobo, where the user comments and reviews are meant for other users. On Wattpad, you have to be a user to in order to post your story, so interact! This is how you will grow your audience.

Hey, these kids seem kinda young…. 

That’s because they are. The demographic is 65% teens (13-18), with the rest being adults. Most of the stories are PG-13 rated with the appropriate breakdowns for violence/sex/triggers in content disclaimers. Stories rated R will not be promoted at all, so if your book contains explicit sex and violence then Wattpad is not for you. 

Wattpad is completely equal opportunity, which means that if you’re an adult, you should adjust your interactions with the younger readers appropriately. Wattpad and all of its interactions are monitored. So imagine a big, humourless, sunglasses-wearing agent is looking over your shoulder. If you’re good, he won’t have to hurt you. Got it?

Can I use it for Market Research?

Oh yes, Wattpad represents a direct hook & line to your target audience. For those of you writing YA (and any of its myriad sub-genres), Wattpad will be your jam. You get to conduct some informal market research on what your potential audience is reading by checking out the Wattpad Stories section, which is a curated collection of works worthy of front page status. These will be the most popular, the completed works and the most successful authors. Pay attention to what these authors are doing right. 

Seems like a lot of One Direction fanfiction….

Yep. Those boys make the teen girls go crazy. Remember a portion of your audience may be writing as well.

What are Watty Awards?

These are the annual contests held by Wattpad which are open to everyone. There are numerous categories representing every genre under the sun. Every winning story gets a Featured Story - front page spot. These entries also tend to get the most readers, so it behooves you to enter the contest when it rolls around. There will be front page announcements, and all it takes to enter is adding a specific hashtag to your story.

Cool! Profit, here I come!

Not so fast. Here’s the thing. While Wattpad does present some tremendous opportunities, namely in terms of gaining attention, recognition, representation and perhaps even print publication (see some success stories), but this type of success is rare. Garnering 1000 reads over time however, is totally possible, if your story connects with the audience.HOWEVER, those of you looking to monetize those reads should be aware that WATTPAD IS FREE. Yes, free. As in, every book and story on the site is available to be read by anyone who signs up. If you have a series of books, posting the first in the series as a loss leader can be a good way to garner more interest and gain more exposure for the rest of your series. Look back up at the number of readers. Yes, that’s a big pool. Someone’s bound to pay attention. If they do, you might just make the Wattpad Featured List - stories recommended by Wattpad’s staff. If your work takes off, you’ll make to Wattpad’s Hot List - stories with the fastest rising number of reads.

Okay I’m interested. How do I sign up?

Right here: https://www.wattpad.com/signup 
Set up your profile and you can start posting straight away!


V.M. Sawh is the author of the Good Tales For Bad Dreams series of dark fairy tales. His story, “Anastasia” has been a Wattpad Featured Story and made it on Wattpad’s Hot List. At the time of this writing, it has garnered over 14,000 reads. You can contact him on Wattpad, Twitter, Amazon, Goodreads, Pinterest, Google+  and Facebook.

See? He told you social media was important ;)

Ebook Giveaway - How To

A Featured Article by Riley Amos Westbrook

Now to show you how to do an ebook giveaway. The first one of these I did, with minimal effort, I was able to put out over 100 books. I’ll admit, I didn’t garner many reviews, but I didn’t ask for them either.

The steps are fairly straightforward, but I’ve included pictures to help.

Step 1
Go To Events:

Step 2: Make an event.

Step 3: Type in your info. Be sure to include website and other pertinent info. Set your start date for when you wish the giveaway to end.

Step 4. Share with friends!

Facebook sharing is a pain, you can only invite one at a time. Goodreads sharing is better, you can invite an entire page of friends, but must cycle through them to include all if you have a lot of them.

And there ya go! You’ve created your very own ebook giveaway!

Do Reviews Even Matter?

Featured Article by Riley Amos Westbrook

How important are reviews? Do they make a difference on whether or not you sell? And what's the best way to collect them? One thing I will tell you, NEVER pay for a review. It's against Amazon's TOC, and really all you're doing is cheating your readers.

Today we'll cover the ways I used to collect reviews for an ARC copy of Everyone Dies At The End, and maybe you'll find what I do useful.

Step 1. Set a goal.
Set a number of reviews you'd like to hit. I used 100, just because it sounded like a good round number in my ears.

Step 2. Find reviewers interested in your genre and write them a PERSONAL email.
There are a lot of ways to go about this. From a simple Google search, to scouring a list of reviewers that accept independent books. This will be the most time consuming aspect, especially if you keep it personal.

I find a personal touch is much more likely to garner you a positive response than a canned one. It also lets the reviewers know you're more than willing to talk to them about your book if they would like.

Things to include in your request:

Blurb, Cover, Word count, Page count, and last but most importantly, GET THEIR NAME CORRECT! You'd be surprised how many people mess up the name, and I guarantee you they will delete your email if you can't get their name correct.

Step 3. Exercise Patience.
This is the hardest step. I know, you want to pester them, ask if they've had a chance to get to your book yet. I'm here to tell you, Don't!

I know when an author contacts me and asks for a review, I've agreed to read their book. I don't want authors bugging me to see if I've started it. It irks me, and is likely to get your book moved to the bottom of my TBR list, if not removed completely.

Bugging a reviewer is a great way to get on their bad side.

Sometimes you'll send out books and a reviewer will tell you they will review the book, but they can't. Children, work, life gets in the way. Understand just because you send a reviewer a book, you're not guaranteed a review. Still, Don't Pester Them! A soft poke several months later can help garner some of those reviews, but it can also lead you to a heap of trouble.

Step 4. Get your review!
Yay! You got your review! Was it less than what you wanted star wise? Well, suck it up buttercup. You did write asking for a review, and one thing reviewers are great at is giving their honest opinions. Arguing with them isn't going to change it. Trying to explain an important plot line, still probably not going to change it. Don't argue with the person who read your book, they are allowed to have their own opinions!

There are a lot of places to collect reviews, and the ones I use require you to do a lot of work. I've included a short list of the sites I use to garner my reviews.

http://www.tweetyourbooks.com/#!free-reviews/c1yij
A listing of reviewers. They aren't separated or anything, you need to sort through them and find ones compatible with your genre.

https://bookreviewdirectory.wordpress.com/
Sorted by genre, a little easier to navigate.

http://www.amazon.com/Book-Reviewer-Yellow-Pages-Publishers-ebook/dp/B00X5YTXQ0
Keep an eye on this one, I picked it up free on Amazon and it helped a lot. Chock full of reviewers eager to read your book.

Goodreads
This one is a bit tougher. Once you've started to establish yourself in the community, I advise you to search out groups specific to your genre. For Everyone Dies At The End, I kept it simple. I looked for boards related to Zombies and Horror stories, and posted an ad stating I would give a free copy for reviews. I've gained about half of my reviews this way, but it takes time! You need to generate interest, or people will just scroll by your post.

I hope the things I've listed help you on your journey, and garner you a few more reviews. It's a lot of work, and it's no guarantee of success. After all, reviews do not necessarily mean sales, but I'm a firm believer that they can't hurt. Besides, they can be a blessing and a boon when it comes to promotion.