Saturday, February 19, 2011

And the Winner Is...

First, thank you to everyone who entered my first contest. It was great reading your stories and I wish you all the best.

Now to announce the winner of a PDF copy of Death Sword and a $10.00 Barnes and Noble gift card. The winner is...


Congratulations, Teresa! Please email me with your address to pamturner97(at)gmail(dot)com so I can send your prizes.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I've been given the Life is Good blog award!

The requirements for the Life is Good Award:
1. First, thank and link back to the person that gave the award. (Thank you, Marsha!)
2. Answer the 10 survey questions.
3. Pass the award along to other bloggers whom you think are fantastic.
4. Contact the bloggers you have chosen to let them know about the award.
1o Questions

1. If you blog anonymously, are you happy doing this? If you are not anonymous, do you wish that you had started out anonymously, so that you could be anonymous now?

I blog under my name. To be honest, I never considered posting anonymously.
2. Describe an incident that shows your inner stubborn side.

A couple of times I needed paperwork signed and the staff refused. I wouldn't leave until they gave in, albeit reluctantly. LOL

3. What do you see when you really look at yourself in the mirror?

Someone whose intense and driven, not afraid to look at the shadow aspect of life.  

4. What is your favorite summer cold drink?

Does it have to be cold? Coffee. Yep. Okay, if it has to be cold, then iced coffee.

5. When you take time for yourself, what do you do?

You mean besides write? Read, play video games, walk around my neighborhood or the park,  hang out at the library or bookstore. 
6. Is there something that you still want to accomplish in your life? What is it?

Publish a novel. At least I've completed the first step: I wrote one. :-)

7. When you attended school, were you the class clown, the class overachiever, the shy person, or always ditching?

Shy person, the one always teased and picked last in gym. 

8. If you close your eyes and want to visualize a very poignant moment in your life, what would you see? 

Following a hearse down a lonely country road to a rural cemetery to bury my mother who died in a car accident.  

9. Is it easy for you to share your true self in your blog or are you more comfortable writing posts about other people or events?

I'll share information about myself but I also try to give other people a chance to talk about themselves as well. That's why I have Tuesdays set aside for guest bloggers. :-)

10. If you had the choice to sit down and read a book or talk on the phone, which would you do and why?

Read a book. I'm actually phone shy and would rather communicate via email.

I am passing this award on to:

Cassidy Hunter
Amy McCorkle
Sonya Clark
Nerine Dorman
Lindsay Below
Rosalie Stanton

Friday, February 11, 2011

Anniversary and Contest

Today's my 18th wedding anniversary and to celebrate I'm holding my first contest. The prizes are a PDF copy of my short novel, Death Sword, and a $10.00 Barnes and Noble gift card.

What do you have to do to enter? Just leave a comment about meeting someone important in your  life. Don't forget to include your email so I can contact you if you win.

You can read how Xariel and Karla, my hero and heroine from Death Sword, met here.

The contest runs from now until Friday, February 18, 2011 at 11:59 p.m. The winner will be drawn from the number of comments received by a random number generator on Saturday, February 19, 2011. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Major Accomplishment

For years I thought I was stricken with the 50k word curse. Maybe it was a subconscious mental block but, for whatever reason, I couldn't write past 50k, give or take 1k. This meant I would never have any manuscripts to submit to agents and my chances of getting my book into a brick and mortar bookstore were practically nil. (Considering the volatile condition of the publishing industry that probably still holds true.)

But yesterday I accomplished something I never thought I would. I finished a novel at 102,468 words. The Zaphkiel Project, tentatively titled Forgotten Angel, is a paranormal/urban fantasy/dark fantasy. And while I'm still working on the pitch, here's a rough draft: "When an archangel unleashes hell on earth, he must enlist the help of Lucifer to set things right." (Yeah, told you it sucks.)

I'm letting the first draft sit for a few days before I start revisions. Meantime, I need to finish two short novels and start a rewrite on another.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Guest Post: Rayne Hall's WRITING SWORD FIGHT SCENES 101

Readers love swords, especially in historical and fantasy fiction. Even if you've never wielded a sword, you can write a great sword fight scene.

How much realism?

Real sword fights are short and violent, with blood and gore. Fictional fight scenes don't necessarily reflect this reality. They can be more entertaining: The fighters clank swords for a long time without spilling a drop of sweat, let alone blood. They perform acrobatic feats, swing from the rigging, slide down banisters, dangle from balconies, and leap across gorges - and all the time, they exchange taunts of sabre-sharp wit.

You may choose to reflect gory reality, or to entertain the reader with a sanitised skills display. You can also mix elements from both. This depends on the genre you write, as well as on your personal taste. Often, our task as writers is to create not reality, but an illusion of reality. If you inject enough realistic elements, the readers can suspend their disbelief about the rest.

Where does the fight take place?

To make your fight scene entertaining, choose the weirdest possible location: How about a duel in a wine cellar, in a cow shed, in a kitchen, in a lady's boudoir, in a steam bath, in a rowing boat, in a bakery? Let your fighters jump onto tables, duck under hurdles, leap across gorges, dangle from balconies, balance on standing stones, climb masts, and somersault across hedges. You can add a measure of realism by having them pant for breath.

Stairs are a popular location for sword fights. The fighter who stands higher up and fights downwards has the advantage, so your characters probably jostle for that position.

For inspiration, watch this famous sword fight scene from Scaramouche (highly unrealistic, but entertaining, and full of creative location use):

What are the spatial restrictions?

To keep your sword fight realistic, consider the space, especially for indoors scenes. Is there enough room to swing the sword? Is the ceiling high enough to raise the weapon overhead? If there isn't room, this can actually make the scene more interesting - but you have to write it accordingly.

Medieval castles were designed for defence, and the spiralling staircases wound in the direction which favoured the defenders. The right-handed fighter facing downwards had room to swing his sword - the right-handed fighter facing upwards had not.

Can they talk?

In a real fight, the fighters don't waste breath on conversation, and are too focused on the action to think out witty repartees. However, readers love dialogue, especially in entertaining scenes. Create the appearance of reality by using very short, fragmented sentences. This conveys the breathlessness of the action. Cut every superfluous word. Delete any utterance which isn't funny or profound.

This sword fight scene from The Princess Bride is famous for its entertaining dialogue. The fight is highly unrealistic, but this doesn't stop audiences from loving it.

Creating excitement

Here's a psychological trick for making a scene exciting: use sound effects. In a sword fight scene, this is easy. Insert sentences like >The bladed hissed through the air.<, >Steel clanked against steel.< or >Metal chimed.<

Speeding up the pace

The sword fight is probably the fastest-paced scene of your novel. Adapt your writing style to the pace of the action.

Use short paragraphs, short sentences, and short words.  Instead of >Immediately, he endeavoured to take measures to prevent the occurrence by executing a blocking motion<, write >At once, he tried to stop it with a block.<

Use adjectives sparingly, and try to avoid adverbs.

How technical?

Even if you're knowledgeable, avoid getting bogged down in technical details. Blow-by-blow accounts are boring.

Describe the first few movements of the fight, and make sure they are feasible for this type of sword and the space.

After that, focus on the direction of the fight e.g. >He drove her closer and closer to the cliff.< >Simon's strength seeped away, and he struggled to block the blows.< >She moved fast, using her speed against his size.<

The moves which end the fight need to be specific again.

Do they carry shields?

Sword fighters often carry a shield in their other hand, to deflect their opponent's blows. This is especially important in battle scenes.

What kind of sword?

If you have experience of sword fighting, use it to make your fight scene ooze authenticity. Write about the type of sword you're familiar with. You can even create a fight in which the opponents wield different swords.

If you're not a sword expert, you can bluff your way. You need to avoid three gross blunders:

1. Inventing a fancy-shaped sword. Most swords invented by writers wouldn't work in reality.

2. Using a sword which didn't exist in that historical period.

3. Using a sword which can hack, slash, cleave, stab, slice, pierce, thrust, cut through armour, split bricks and whirl through the air. Different swords can different things. No single sword can do everything.

To make your sword plausible, simply base it on one of these three types:

The thrusting sword
This sword is straight, often thin, maybe lightweight, always with a very sharp point. It is a good choice for entertaining fight scenes, duels, non-lethal fights, non-gory deaths, and swashbuckling adventure, especially in Europe from the Renaissance onwards. The typical user is slim, with good aerobic fitness, and may be female or male. It's best for thrusting, piercing, stabbing. In a lethal fight, the aim is to pierce a vital organ. The typical injury involves seeping blood, and blood stains spreading across garments. It cannot hack through skulls or slice through or armour. Examples: the rapier, the gladius.

The cleaving sword
This sword is broad, straight, heavy, solid, big - sometimes it's so huge that it needs to be held in both hands. Both edges are sharpened. Choose a cleaving sword for historical novels set in medieval Europe, for brutal fights and for battles. Its main actions are cleaving, hacking, chopping, cutting and splitting, and it can cut through armour. The typical user is a tall brawny male with broad shoulders and bulging biceps. The main type of injury is an amputated limb, and the aim in a lethal fight is to hack off a leg or to decapitate the opponent. The disadvantages are its size and weight. It's too big to carry concealed, too heavy to carry in daily life, and too slow to draw for spontaneous action. Examples: the greatsword, the claymore.
(Update: This video is apparently no longer available.)

The slashing sword
This sword is curved, often slender, with an extremely sharp outer edge. It's a good choice for shipboard fights, cavalry charges, and Asian or Middle Eastern settings. The typical user is a pirate, a sailor, a mounted warrior, a cavalryman or an executioner. This type of sword excels at slashing, cutting, slicing. The typical injuries involve lots of spurting blood. In a lethal fight, the aim is to slash a vital artery (e.g. on the thigh). If you want a sword which serves the hero in non-combat situations - slashing rigging, zropes, fabric and leather fetters - this is the one to choose. However, it can't cut through armour and it won't split bricks.
Examples: sabre, cutlass, saif

In reality, the lines are often blurred: Some slashing words can also stab, some slashing swords can cleave, and some cleaving swords can deliver a thrust. To avoid blunders, stick to one main function.

Rayne Hall writes dark fantasy and horror. She has published more than twenty books under different pen names in different genres, and her stories have earned Honorable Mentions in 'The Years' Best Fantasy and Horror'. She holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing, and teaches online classes.

Even if you've never wielded a weapon, you can write an exciting fight scene. Rayne will show you how, in her workshops on 'Writing Fight Scenes.