Monday, April 08, 2013

Free books!!!

Sadly, I probably should have mentioned that I was published with A Pius Man a while ago.

But, here, FREE BOOKS!! INTERVIEWS! DID i MENTION FREE BOOKS?  http://apiusman.blogspot.com/2013/04/vlog-free-books-and-interviews.html

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cover Art, Graphics, and Slowly Going Blind.

So, I've been busy blinding myself.

No, I'm not kidding.

So, you know that It Was Only On Stun! will be self published. And, I gotta tell you, I didn't particularly like everything that was offered to me, in terms of cover options at the self publishing places I'm looking at -- Amazon.com, and Lulu.com.

So, I decided to try it myself.

I know, I know. You're thinking, "John -- or is it Declan now? -- we've seen your artwork.  Your Vatican ninjas were a bit of a joke. Why do this to yourself again?"

Well, because I'm stubborn, and because this should have been simple.


Let's start with what I showed you already.

Now, this photo on the right is what I originally had up.  There are a few problems with it.  The quality isn't that good when you look at it up close, the blood spatter on the badge isn't that good, and the "Junior" has become unneccessary.

"Junior" by the way, is because my father had his own company called "Declan Finn Associates," a little side gig for resume building and interview preparation.  Anyway, that's where the Junior came from.

Then my father said I could drop the Junior.

Did I mention that I love him dearly?

Anyway, so there was that.


So, what's the next step, you ask?  Well, there had been an option on Amazon.com that gave you a banner-type display for your title and author name.  It looked kind of nice, actually. Also, someone suggested that they liked one of the earlier "flair button" image that said, "Good Morning, I see the Assassins have failed."

And, so, I started to build that with the Amazon cover generator.

Unfortunately, it didn't want to work for me.  The image I had was always getting cut off from the cover layout that Amazon had. It was a pain in the ass.

So, I built that myself.  While it looks nice, can you see the problem?

It now looks like I have two titles to the book.

Oh joy.  Shoot me now.

So, once again, back to the drawing board.

I knew I had to go back to the original thoughts on the matter. I knew the assassins comment had to go. The blood covered badge seemed to offend no one, and it's part of the convention, called C-Con in the book.

So, that's good, right? Perfect?  I copied a "Hello, my name is" badge from offline, then slapped it on, morphing it a little, and presto, done.

Not quite.  You see, Amazon's cover creator requires 300 pixels per inch. I had 96 PPI.

AAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!

Ahem.  Anyway.  So, back to the drawing board.

So, I had to go back to the beginning on the badge.  The image I had stolen from online hadn't been that high definition to start with, and I didn't like the blood spatter.

I made my own badge, from scratch, and tinkered with some blood spatter online. I had to adjust it later, in the image itself later on, but aside from that, it seemed to work.

After that, it was easy.  Start with red background.  Add black circle, white letters, past the badge over it, and we're done.

Then what do we do with the author name?  Simple white lettering?  Black on red?  Orange on red?  Seriously, what would make it easily distinguished from everything else? What would be bright enough to leap out and grab someone's attention if this were on a screen, or a bookshelf?

Enter Clive Cussler.  He's been an author I've read since I was a kid.  His Dirk Pitt novels were very much straightforward adventure stories, and he's been a bestselling author since, well, forever.  I remember he once mentioned how he was in advertising and insisted on four-color covers, so that it would be eye-catching.




So, I cheated.

Do you see something somewhat similar between the Flood Tide cover, and mine for It Was Only On Stun!  

I literally took the color from the title graphics, and used it to ink my own title.

And then there was the back cover, which I had to jury rig multiple times because I had to put text in with margins I couldn't see, and I had to account for a bar code I didn't have yet.

Not to mention, I hated the lower cases in the author name.


So, then it ended up like this.




And then there was the author picture.  A friend of mine told me I had a great Facebook photo, but it wasn't professional.  So, I had to fix that with freeware called Photofiltre.

So, at the end of the day, what does the full cover look like?

It looks something like this.





So, what do you all think? Good? Bad? Indifferent? Leave a comment below, and tell me what your opinion is.

We're getting close, people. Almost there.... We're so close, the next blog entry is number 300. I want to hold off until next week. I hope to have an announcement then.

What announcement? Well, the title I want is "Forget Sparta: I! AM! PUBLIIIIIIISHED!"

Let's see if Amazon can keep up with my ambition.

So, until next week, all.

Monday, July 16, 2012

What Happened To A Pius Man?

So, I mentioned the book I'm about to publish, called It Was Only On Stun.  As I said, it's a murder mystery / comedy with bullets thrown in.

After pushing A Pius Man here for years, you would think I would want to publish that first, no?

No.

You see, I'm going to bounce A Pius Man off of one or two more people while I'm at it. There's a small Canadian publishing company with an editor who really wants me to submit it to her.  My first agent (no contract), Joshua Getzler, wanted to use my book to graduate from his apprenticeship (but was too bogged down to follow through) now has his own agency. So I want to see what Josh wants to do, if anything, then try the other publishing company, and then self publish it.  I liked Josh enough back then that I want to see if he's still interested now.

Why self-publish It Was Only On Stun then? Why not wait?  Simple answer: the wait was killing me.

Let me put it this way -- I have been writing since I was 16. I have written, rewritten, spiked, and reconstructed 17 books to the level where I would unleash them on the general public.  Problems include how many are sequels to other books, etc.

In 2007, I started looking for an agent for my best novel -- it was historically accurate, edifying, educational, filled with character and story and explosions and fight scenes .... A Pius Man/ I had Josh by April, 2007; he became "too busy" by that September, and 12 months later, in 2008, told me to move along. 

By March of 2009, I had another agent.. I let him go this month, as I mentioned earlier.

Every book and every author and everyone at every convention I've ever been to have told me that if I have an agent, I have a foot in the door. It's only a matter of time. Be patient. And I did everything that everyone told me to do.

And, following those guidelines, I waited 5 years to publish one book. Playing by the rules, I got absolutely nothing.

I know that other authors have been rejected 27 times by other publishers.  I know that "it's been tough" on publishers. I know that  


Will I try small presses in the future? Certainly. I have other books. I could (self) publish a book a month for the next year and a half before I can slow down. But I'm going to dedicate at least six months per book, possibly more (since IT WAS ONLY ON STUN! is a mystery at a science fiction convention, I'm going to
try visiting DragonCon, New York Comic-Con, and I-Con, a major local convention in April).

But, short of someone telling me they want to buy my book with a full publishing contract, I am not going to put my livelihood in the hands of anyone else so I can be whipsawed for another half a decade.

Patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. And through the Holy Spirit, patience is probably infinite. But I am 30 years old, unemployed (except for my Ambit Business), and due to some bad educational decisions (degrees in European history when no one is hiring in that field), I am probably unemployable.

Prudence is telling me that patience is going to kill me.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

So, now what?

So, I mentioned that I fired my agent, started the process to self-publish my own novel. I have a cover design.  I have a synopsis, a flap copy, and a novel being edited as I type this blog (I have editors, my sister's English degree has to be good for something).

Right now, as I put family members to work on editing the novel, I'm looking over self publishing companies.  At the moment, I think I have it narrowed down to either lulu.com, or Amazon's self publishing outlet, Createspace.

Now, a little bit about the novel, It Was Only On Stun.  It's one of my earlier non-science fiction works, though it took place at a science fiction convention.  And, despite that it hasn't been looked at in two years, it holds up.  However, it needed an opening.

Thankfully, you folks have already given it to me.

A while ago, I wrote a short story called One Way To Stay Out of Jail.  It showed Sean AP Ryan, security specialist, and weapon of mass destruction, being booked and thrown in jail by the LAPD.  Along the way, he explains where he gets his toys, meets a former special operations officer, and tries to recruit one of the people interrogating him, during the course of the interrogation.

If you don't remember the story, you can check out the whole story here.  In fact, that is the prologue to It Was Only On Stun. Where do I go from there?  We flash forward to Sean Ryan giving a security lecture to a science fiction convention. Assassin's are coming to murder one of the con's guests -- when she left her Eastern European country, she had pissed off all sides, Serbians, Croats, and the "Ethnic Albanians" (ie: Muslims).  Fringe groups and war criminals who want to get back in the game, terrorist organizations who want to prove they're not impotent ... and someone who thinks he's an elf assassin.

That last part is my father's fault, actually.  During A Pius Man, my father had some fun typing away at one passage in Sean Ryan's resume.  This was after I had written It Was Only On Stun, and he threw in a line about how Sean had taken on Middle Earth's Most Wanted Elven Assassin.

So, I had to go back to It Was Only On Stun, and insert a psychotic stranger with a bow and arrow kit who had to prove to Sean's client that she was really an elf. No matter whose blood he has to spill.

It's coming along well.  I'm just navigating the world of self publishing sites.  At the moment, well ...

There's a story in the Mass Effect franchise, told by an alien, Garrus about pre-combat rituals among his people's mlitary -- mostly, fighting.  He discussed how one women he fought was a tough opponent.  He had reach, she had flexibility.  Afterwords, they had a remake in her quarters. He summed it up as "I had reach, she had flexibility."

Amazon has reach. Lulu has flexibility. We'll see what happens. I might be able to use both. But, one thing at a time.

I'm getting published

So, I fired my agent.

Why?  Don't get me wrong, I like Sam Fleishman.  I could talk to him, he could understand what I meant, what I wanted, and what I wanted to do. Unfortunately, he himself told me he had problems selling anything by nonfiction lately. As much as I would have liked to stay with him until the bitter end, it's been three years of my life. There has been no movement. And I'm only going mildly insane. I need to do something, and, even though I have my own business now, it's not exactly going as fast as I would like (granted, if it went as fast as I would like, I'd be going door-to-door, but I'm told that's frowned on. And illegal in some cases).

So, I fired Sam.  He was understanding about it.

So, while this did not lead to a sudden discovery by a publisher, this did lead to a decision.  I'm going to start self-publishing my books.

You read it correctly, books, plural.

You see, A Pius Man was never a one shot; not only was it a trilogy, it was also the last in a series of novels I had written.  Characters like Scott Murphy and Giovanni Figlia had been bit players in two previous novels (though they never met). You can imagine the rewrites I had to put in to make A Pius Man intelligible. It had gone from being the last in a series with people the reader should be moderately familiar with, to a first book published.



For example, Maureen McGrail and Sean AP Ryan had met in a comedy-thriller called It Was Only On Stun.  In A Pius Man, we only know that McGrail dislikes working with Ryan, and we can only imagine why.

Now, you're going to find out.  Yes, I am going to publish my first novel, It Was Only On Stun, through a company called Lulu.com.  Here's hoping all goes well.  I have to do a few things first, like layout design.  And I've got two different versions of the book, which means two different openings.

And, in case you're wondering, yes, I will be writing under an alias. Konecsni isn't easy to spread by word of mouth, now is it?

While I am tempted to list this book with a subtitle of A Novel of A Pius Man, I don't think I have quite that many fans.

In short, this is not the end. This is not the beginning of the end.  But we hope, pray God, that this is the end of the beginning.

And now, a flap copy (what you see on the back of the book) of It was only on stun!




When security specialist Sean A.P. Ryan agrees to protect actress Mira Nikolic at a Science Fiction convention, he thinks it can't be all bad. It's only a three-day weekend with some colorful characters in costumes.

But Sean is hardly prepared for what awaits him; the costumes, the fanboys, the freaks and geeks are only the beginning. There are actors with attitude problems, writers with rabies, and how do you spot an assassin when everyone is wearing a mask?

This doesn't even account for the real threats. When his client left Europe, she had been a figure of peace in a region that didn't want it. Now that she's an international celebrity, factions from the old country see her as the start of a reunion tour, with guns. Not only that, but she is being stalked by Middle Earth's Most Wanted Elven Assassin; he thinks that the actress is actually an Elven princess, and will do anything to prove it to her, including murder.

And what is that body doing in the middle of the vendor's floor with a sword-cane through his chest?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Catholicism in review, March- May, 2012


Under the heading of "it's been awhile"....

Empty suits, the lot of them.
Anyway, this is what's been happening since last I posted anything about my Catholic Examiner.com articles.

'Anonymous' shuts down the Vatican Website a group of hackers, who are probably six prepubescent delinquents in Europe, got busted. They had a temper tantrum that shut down the Vatican's public website ... because, obviously, they couldn't shut down someone important. File this under "display of impotence."

Pope's brother speaks out in new book. (video) -- you didn't know the Pope had a brother, did you?

Karina Fabian has a book on spirituality she wrote with her father the Deacon. I interviewed them about it for Lent.

Catholics beating Obama in polls -- Obama went after Catholics. Catholics win in polling data. Muahahaha.

'Reason rally' in Washington, DC, because atheists are more reasonable than you. -- seriously, atheists had a "reason rally" to improve their public perception. However, you could say they were screwed, from the start, since, oops, the title sounds like "we're better than yoo--uuu," which always helps.

And then Richard Dawkins, one of the High Priests of atheism, decided to call for mockery of Catholics at the 'Reason Rally' .... which is always a good way of curing the public perception of professional atheists as professional schmucks.

At which point, it was time to ask, Are Catholics stupid?

Then, at Easter time, I decided to have some fun. First, I answer, What happened on Good Friday? -- mostly looking at Jesus from the point of view of, well, everyone else, and answering theological reasons why he was nailed to a set of 2x4s, and why the men with the hammers nailed him.

He is risen: another way of looking at Easter -- okay, I was a little snarky here.

The science of resurrection -- with information from Doctor Who, and the man who wrote The Exorcist.

Interview with 'Live and Let Fly' author Karina Fabian... -- you may remember this. I also had a part one, part two, and part three. and a part four..

Catholic Bishops said they wanted to sue Obama. And then they do -- 43 Catholic orgs file religious liberty suits vs. Obama.  Shortly thereafter, Notre Dame President John Jenkins explained the lawsuit.  And, then, for a comedy portion, we had a note from Nancy Pelosi, as she declares it a fraud to protect religion.  Then the media coverage started by whining that the Catholic church was to investigate "nuns." -- who weren't nuns.  This is while they were busy not reporting the lawsuit for over 72 hours (and counting).




And, then, Catholics have started their own group, Fortnight for Freedom will occupy DC. Muahahaha.



Not long after, President Obama came out for gay marriage.  When Christians objected, Stephen Colbert decided to tell Christians what Jesus said, and missed the point altogether. Who could have guessed.

Then I posted reviews for Karina Fabian's "Live and Let Fly" and  "Neeta Lyffe: Zombie Exterminator.




Monday, July 09, 2012

Fighting and writing workshop, Day 4: Guns in Fighting.


This is the online workshop in writing fight scenes that I did for the Catholic Writer's Conference.  Karina Fabian had managed to draft me ... or I volunteered, I'm not entirely certain.  Either way, it was an interesting little experience.

Since most of you folks have been with me for a while, I'm going to give it to you.

Don't worry, I wasn't paid for this, so giving this away for free will hurt no one. And, few to no people wanted to show up and play with my workshop, even though there were over 25 viewers for each post.  But, I've been told few people showed up anyway for the forums, something to do with schedule confusion.

So, here is day four.

***

Day 4: Guns in Fighting.


There are more weapons in Heaven and Earth than there are in Thomistic
philosophy. However, guns seem to be the magic weapon that everyone
uses, and uses badly.

With any weapon you decide to use, make certain that you have a basic
knowledge of these weapons, even if it's merely researching them
online. This day will also assume that you've never even seen a gun
up close and personal – perhaps an erroneous presumption, but I'm
not going to assume everyone knows guns. If you have do know things
about guns, please bring it up.


Weapons are tools. Knives do more than stab people. Lead pipes do more than club people
over the head. And guns do more than shoot people. Don't get me wrong, guns are great. But if you're writing for someplace like New York, guns are not readily available to the general populace.

Remember Day One, writing the rules for the culture on fighting? Now you know why we
bothered.

Everything in a fight has to feel fast-paced, as we said before. But when you introduce a weapon into any scenario, the characters and the writing have to move fast. Or at least intelligently. What do I mean by
this? I mean that no one is going to outrun a bullet – the best they can do is be faster than the trigger finger of the person targeting them – but finding cover, providing distractions, and shooting elements of the setting or other uses of the gun.

In actuality, gunfights are not like an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie – if someone is moving in a straight line, a smart gunman will lead the target. However, smart gunmen do not use fully-automatic fire in extended
bursts. Firing a full magazine of ammunition on full automatic will not lead to a stream of bullets that come out in a straight line, but will cause the muzzle of the gun to jerk around like a spastic mime having an epileptic fit. In a gun battle, at a distance, even slight deviations of the gun's barrel will cause bullets to go wildly off
course.

Then again, stupid things happen with guns. The average shootout with the police takes place at a distance of nine feet, but three out of every four bullets will missmainly because everyone is popping in and out of cover, snapping off shots and hoping they'll hit something.

Again, now is not the time for technical terms. If you're writing for a medieval setting, or a fantasy setting, if specific parts of specific weapons are going to come into play, you may want to introduce them before the fight even begins. And, if you're using a technical detail of a gun that only people who field-strip their own weapons would know, don't discuss it in the middle of a fight. A previous example has been the Lee Child model, where his character Jack Reacher describes how a fight will turn out and why, before the first punch was even thrown. You can have such discussion then, but when the bullets start flying, try not to dwell too much on the pieces and parts.


You can, however, have a technical analysis as the hero/ine is taking cover, and thinking about what to do next. If the pieces of the gun are important to the solution, and you can provide a “lull” in combat (if that's how one can describe taking cover while being shot at), then by all means, make it relevant. However, you do not want to give the vital statistics on a gun in mid-battle. In fact, you might not want to go into it at all.


The most anyone needs to know about most guns might include:

Ammunition capacity: Do not use Hollywood forever shooters. You will want to reload – if only because it's more thrilling to have a count of how  many bullets your hero/ine doesn't have. (Would the end of Die Hard
work at all if John McClane had had a full magazine left, instead of just two bullets?)

Type of ammunition: This only matters for level of impact, and penetration. If it's a .22-caliber from a handbag pistol, you can stop if with a pocket Bible. If it's a .45-caliber, you will stop someone if only from the shock value (no one takes an impact from a .45, rolls into a doorway,and returns fire. It's gonna suck to be that person). If it's a.50-caliber handgun, you can disable engine blocks and amputate limbs. If you're writing science fiction, ammunition type is doubly important.

Type of gun: Revolvers, pistols, assault weapons, submachine guns, hunting rifles, and machine guns all have different strengths, ranges, weaknesses, and abilities inherent in the type of gun. You will not put a bayonet on a pistol, and no one should try to rob someone with a sniper rifle.

Length of weapon (optional): many handguns make for great blunt-force weapons.

Appearance: I'm a very visual reader. There are some guns that are very visually distinct: a FAMAS assault rifle looks nothing like an M-16, which looks nothing like an Uzi, which looks nothing like an H&K G-11,
which looks nothing like an AK-47. However, there are a lot of knockoffs that resemble M-16s, AK-47s, and Uzis. You don't need make, model, and serial number; just say “it looked like X, Y, or Z” gun, unless you want to go into more detail.

In essence, you can boil down someone's handgun to “short-barreled .22-caliber revolver,” or “a semi-automatic that looked more like a hand cannon” (for an example of this, look up the image of a “Desert Eagle” .50 caliber.)

Note:
Please remember that Kevlar is not a magic shield. At best, it will take that small metal object going at hundreds of feet per second, and redistribute its force so that your character will essentially feel like s/he's being slapped with sheet metal at ten miles an hour.


Assignment #4: Choose Your Weapon.

Take your setting, hero/ine and the enemy from assignment #3. Pick a weapon and put it into a fight between the two. It does not have to be a gun (for thoughts on weapons, and improvised weapons, check the “How To” article link in the initial documents packet). It doesn't matter if your hero has the weapon, or your villain does. It doesn't matter if the weapon was found at the fight location, or if it was brought.

If your hero does not have a weapon to start with, they will need to disarm the bad guy and/or find their own weapon.

Youcan check the how-to article again to at least get the principles for gun and knife disarms, though the
principle is mostly based in common sense – don't get in the way of the weapon.

Remember, you do not need to have anyone killed, even if you're using a gun in the scene. Guns can shoot the environment, make people flinch, duck, or buy the characters time.

Fighting and writing workshop, day 5 and 6: military fight scenes


This is the online workshop in writing fight scenes that I did for the Catholic Writer's Conference.  Karina Fabian had managed to draft me ... or I volunteered, I'm not entirely certain.  Either way, it was an interesting little experience.

Since most of you folks have been with me for a while, I'm going to give it to you.

Don't worry, I wasn't paid for this, so giving this away for free will hurt no one. And, few to no people wanted to show up and play with my workshop, even though there were over 25 viewers for each post.  But, I've been told few people showed up anyway for the forums, something to do with schedule confusion.

So, here is day five and six.... Day five was merely an assignment. Day six was more interesting.

 Day Five: Putting It Together

At this point, you should have an idea of what you're doing. Take assignments three and four, and put them together. Whether you start from a weapon and go to hand-to-hand, or vice versa, is up to you. This is the
assignment.

Like with most writing, practice makes perfect. So don't be discouraged if you're not writing full-scale battle choreography by now.

Day Six: Writing For Military Fights

Writing a military fight scene is no different from any other, when you get down to it. Do some research on terms, maneuvers, etc., but don't overstress that part. It's mostly just a matter of vocabulary.


But, seriously, there's little difference from warfare fighting.

Character: In describing filming for Lord of the Rings, and the Battle of Helm's Deep, director Peter Jackson discovered a basic law of fight scenes – Jackson had hours upon hours of stuntmen beating each other to a pulp, but the battle was boring when the camera was not on the primary characters.

The important thing you need to know is, no matter what, you need to focus on the individuals involved. The more modern your setting, the more things are done by groups of individuals, squads and fire teams, and not massive lines of fire, one against another.

However, no matter how many people you have fighting whatever enemy, you need to have individuals the
audience can focus on and care about. Writing about a line of tanks is boring. Writing about someone the audience has met, and is invested in, is much, much better.

For great examples of this, read the Richard Sharpe series by Bernard Cornwell – he has, on average, about six players in any battle that he focuses on, as well as a massive, historical battle taking place.

Setting: If you want to focus on a full-scale battle, in whatever age and setting, one thing you'll want to focus on is the field of battle. You're going to want to focus on the sounds, and the sights, perhaps even the smells. You want to recreate it as though the battlefield is a character. A loud, monstrous, messy, rampaging character, with lots of property damage.

The best I've ever seen of this type of recreation is John Keegan's The Face of Battle, where he recreated the battlefields of Agincourt, Waterloo, and Verdun.


Hand-to-hand combat and weaponsDepending on the scenario, military battles do not start with close combat, unless it's a type of covert infiltration, where getting in close and killing people silently is important. And, let's face it, the use of weapons will vary wildly depending on what time period and setting you're using. For the most part, it boils down to individuals.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Fighting and writing workshop, day 3: Writing Fight Technique

This is my online workshop in writing fight scenes that I did for the Catholic Writer's Conference.  Karina Fabian had managed to draft me ... or I volunteered, I'm not entirely certain.  Either way, it was an interesting little experience.

Since most of you folks have been with me for a while, I'm going to give it to you.

Don't worry, I wasn't paid for this, so giving this away for free will hurt no one. And, few to no people wanted to show up and play with my workshop, even though there were over 25 viewers for each post.  But, I've been told few people showed up anyway for the forums, something to do with schedule confusion.

So, here is day three.


****

 Day Three: Now, Let's Talk About Writing Fight Technique.



There are a lot of basic moves that you don't need to describe too much. Most kicks and punches are like
that, for example. You don't necessarily require a full description on a “forward vertical defensive kick” (as seen in the article on how to throw a stop kick) – you can just write “X kicked Y in the chest the way a fireman would kick down a door.” It's the same
kick, just a less technical way of writing it.

Speed of attack: keep in mind that most fights don't even last for five seconds. A kick to the groin, a
punch to the throat, and it's game over. Even a fight with a weapon
can only last so long. Fighting over a knife will ensure that all
sides get cut, and someone will be hurt in short order.

And, keep in mind, fighting is hard work. Even something as simple as punching is going to take a lot
out of someone. If you don't believe me, go hit a punching bag for a minute. Punch it, kick it, headbutt it if you like, but do it at full speed, as hard as you can. You're going to find that it is very, very hard work. After the initial burst of energy, you're going to slow down after thirty seconds. Stamina should not be important
in a fight, because most fights shouldn't last very long.

Another element to keep in mind: the enemy is also reacting. We don't need three-dimensional chess with
hand-to-hand combat, but we also have to remember that (for example) kicking someone between the legs (even if they're feeling no pain), will still force the body to lean forward, and that opens up possibilities. If we punch someone, their head will go back. If we feint, they become defensive, preferably where we don't want them to be.

If you're going to have a long fight scene, it should be for a good reason. Either it's a war—in which
case it's perfectly understandable—or there are multiple attackers, or both participants are very, very well-trained.

Yes, you can have a half-page of description for something that takes only a split second. You can
have all of the technical details down cold, but you must at least convey to the audience the speed. And, even if you don't go into exacting, excruciating detail for your audience, you should at least know the mechanics, so you know what you're doing. Don't be insulted – trust me, I used to do that a lot.

If you like, look at the fights scenes of Lee Child's character Jack Reacher. He'll give a half-page dissertation on something like the tactical usefulness of a headbutt, or he will work out a fight, chess-like,
before the first punch is thrown. He then does it, writes a few lines of the enemy's reaction, and keeps going.

Note: If you have formal training, or have practical experience in a self-defense system or martial art, realize that high kicks, spin kicks, or any kick that goes above the hip can pose a danger in a real fight. In a real
close-combat situation, there are no rules, and there is no tapping out. This may sound patronizing, but trust me, there are plenty of people who try to use fancy moves they learn on a gym mat and try to use the same moves on concrete. It doesn't end well, sometimes.


Assignment
#3: Writing Hand-to-Hand Technique

Look at the various articles assigned here: http://shar.es/giQgAChoose at least one technique. Do not worry about plagiarizing; there are only so many ways to describe some moves. All that I require is that you use one element of one described technique over the course of your fight scene.

Step 1: Set up the fight, be it a mugging, or something with a minor villain, what have you. Write out
a full technical description of what your character will do – not only with the technique, but most importantly with what comes next. (Continue to fight, to run, et al). How does the other combatant react/reply?


Step 2: Give reasons for their actions, and how it fits with your character.

Step 3. Repeat step one, only take the entire technique and condense it. Boil the technique into only a paragraph, at most. Now that you know what your character is doing, there's no reason to belabor the point
for your audience. You can go into great detail, if it's an obscure method, or if you have a style similar to Lee Child, described above. You don't have to do one or the other in your writing, but you should at least be able to do both.

Please note: when writing your fight scene, be certain that you, and your readers, can keep track of
what side everyone is on. Even professional writers of military fiction, like Bernard Cornwell, will occasionally leave out details like “Character Y is blocking with the sword and hitting with the empty hand, and kicking someone else …. what direction are all of these people coming from!!!

Fighting and writing workshop, day 2, Setting the Chessboard


This is my online workshop in writing fight scenes that I did for the Catholic Writer's Conference.  Karina Fabian had managed to draft me ... or I volunteered, I'm not entirely certain.  Either way, it was an interesting little experience.

Since most of you folks have been with me for a while, I'm going to give it to you.

Don't worry, I wasn't paid for this, so giving this away for free will hurt no one. And, few to no people wanted to show up and play with my workshop, even though there were over 25 viewers for each post.  But, I've been told few people showed up anyway for the forums, something to do with schedule confusion.

So, here is day two.... see you next week.
***

 Day Two: Setting the Chessboard


Before even beginning a fight scene, you should know where it is, what happens to
be lying around, and what is or is not available.

Keep in mind that you're going to have different rules of engagement for each fight, depending on the
setting and the bad guy. If you're in the middle of a fantasy universe, where the technology is pre-atomic, the moment that some random adversary pulls a weapon, your hero/ine can immediately counterattack – be it a full disarm or a quick kick where it hurts – if only because the likelihood of your character being arrested
for defending him/herself will be nonexistent (and you thought day one was a waste of time, didn't you? Heh.).

Obviously, the method and manner of the counterattack will be dictated by your character, and the situation. A civilian who knows Krav Maga will have different instincts than, say, a police officer with a gun.

Step one, of course, is your players. What is the physical condition of your character? How tall? How fat? How many protagonists vs. how many antagonists? If your hero/ine is seven feet tall, or three feet wide, it would be difficult to hide. An athlete can, at the very least, run or hide. Are either or both armed? With what?





Step two is knowing
where your players are in relation to one another, and in relation to
the environment. Fights do not take place in a vacuum. Pick a setting
for your fight. Set it up in your own home, or someplace you know
well, or someplace you've created out of thin air. Is it a place
rich with weaponry? (See the improvised weapons article.) Or is it
a place rich with hiding places?





Important note:
consider that while your paper is two-dimensional, your setting need
not be. In fact, unless you're on a stretch of highway in one of the
flatter parts of Ohio, or in a strange part of a desert without sand
dunes, you're going to have three-dimensional elements to it. Just
something to think about.

Step three: Where is your hero(es)/heroine(s)? Where is your bad guy? This will dictate many of the choices for your main character. Is it easier to run, fight or hide? Does your character need to take cover? Can s/he
get to a weapon, or will s/he have to work for it?


Assignment #2: Setting the Chessboard

Create a setting for your battle, keeping in mind everything discussed in the reading. Go as big or as small as you want. And keep in mind while your page is two-dimensional, your setting is three-dimensional.

What weapons areavailable to each character involved? What hiding spaces or cover is there? What would your hero/ine notice? What would the enemy notice?

In short: describe a room with a tactical eye. Can you characters run? Hide? What can they fight with? Throw?


For more ideas on the matter, I recommend looking at the
http://shar.es/giQg reference link, mainly for some basic ideas on being aware.

Fighting and writing workshop, from the Catholic Writer's Conference: Introduction

I hosted an online forum workshop in writing fight scenes, for the Catholic writer's guild.  Karina Fabian had managed to draft me ... or I volunteered, I'm not entirely certain.  Either way, it was an interesting little experience.

Since most of you folks have been with me for a while, I'm going to give it to you.


Don't worry, I wasn't paid for this, so giving this away for free will hurt no one. And, few to no people wanted to show up and play with my workshop, even though there were over 25 viewers for each post.  But, I've been told few people showed up anyway for the forums, something to do with schedule confusion.

So, since this workshop screwed over my blog posts last week, I figure that I should get some use out of it.

This is how I began.
*****

Introduction: Writing a fight scene –
Who or what is a “John Konecsni,” and why does he get to tell me
about fighting?

It's a good question, and one that needs to be answered before many of you begin this workshop. I have been writing fight scenes since I was sixteen. I've written many
novels, most of which fester on my home computer, and that I constantly revise the more I learn about life, the universe, and how to better destroy both. I grew up wanting to write thrillers and
science fiction military novels, and I originally thought the best way to go about having a fast-moving novel was to have as many fight scenes as often as possible. Then I read them, and spiked more fights
than I can recall.

In short, I'm a person who has studied many a fight scene, and has learned from his own mistakes. I mention
this because there will be instances where you will read some of this and wonder, “Why is he telling me this? Does he think I'm stupid?”

The answer is no, but these were mistakes that I have made repeatedly over time, and sometimes still
make when I don't think.

One of the documents that you will need can be found at this link here. It is a collection of “how to” articles for self defense and fighting. It is a compilation of a lot of basic fighting techniques, as well as things related to fighting. In short, you don't need any previous knowledge of any fighting technique, martial art, or even the basics of street fighting for this workshop. I will, however, recommend right now that you check out the link, and at least give each article mentioned a passing glance. They will be used over the course of the workshop.





References for certain techniques:
http://shar.es/giQgA



References for guns:
http://world.guns.ru/main-e.htm


References for army technology:
http://www.army-technology.com/





Recommended reading:


Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series
(for fight scenes on both small and large scale)


Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels (for
hand to hand combat)


David Weber's Honor Harrington series
(for navel warfare)


John Ringo's Posleen War, Ghost
and Princess of Wands
series (mostly for hand-to-hand, infantry, and special warfare)

Fighting and writing workshop, Day 1: fighting, your characters, and your world

A few weeks ago I hosted an online forum workshop in writing fight scenes -- it was loosely based on one of my own blog posts. It just spun out of control.  Karina Fabian had managed to draft me ... or I volunteered, I'm not entirely certain.  Either way, it was an interesting little experience.

Since most of you folks have been with me for a while, I'm going to give it to you.

Don't worry, I wasn't paid for this, so giving this away for free will hurt no one. And, few to no people wanted to show up and play with my workshop, even though there were over 25 viewers for each post.  But, I've been told few people showed up anyway for the forums, something to do with schedule confusion.

So, since this workshop screwed over my blog posts last week, I figure that I should get some use out of it.

This was the first day.
***

Day One:
Fighting, Your Characters, and Your World.



Before one even gets to writing a fight scene, you have to answer multiple questions, not only about you
character, but about the world s/he inhabits.

For example: if your main character is a civilian in the modern world, not only do you have laws to contend
with, but a question of training.

Start with a situation. Your character is mugged. Some strung-out druggie who needs a fix wants your
character's money. This character has a feeling that things are going to end badly no matter what s/he does. It is time to resist.

But then you have a problem before you even get to the technical aspects of writing a fight. Why would your
character know how to fight?

Family – is fighting in the family business? Mercenary, samurai, knight, military family?

Culture – does your world resemble Sparta 2.0? Are there laws against fighting? For fighting? Is
dueling outlawed or celebrated?

Profession – is your character a SEAL? An enthusiastic reservist?

Sports: Does your character like MMA? Wrestling? Target shooting? Hockey? Soccer? Any of these can be adapted to create the realities of a fight scene.

Hobbies: Your character may be nothing more than a smart, reasonable person who believes in self defense.
S/he may also be a ballerina who can launch a nasty spin kick because that's what s/he did in Swan Lake – don't laugh, it works for actresses Jennifer Gardner and Summer Glau. S/he may have taken capoeira because s/he thought it was only a dance class. If s/he likes to fire off a hundred rounds a week at the local shooting range, why not? Even the basics of handling a gun can be useful.



Now, fight scenes do not necessarily require fisticuffs. Running away is a good, reliable tactical
maneuver. Your character can always run.

Why does this matter? Establishing your character's own style of fighting is perfectly reasonable, otherwise,
you have fight scenes that you've stolen from action movies … Yes, I've done that. Then I took a real self defense system, and I'vesince rewritten every last one scene.














Assignment
#1


1) What are the cultural rules/legalities of your world when it comes to fighting? In modern
settings, these laws vary by country, and even by state. In New York, if you defend yourself against an armed mugger, laws can be used to prosecute you. In Texas, if you defend yourself, you get a
medal.

2) If your character had to fight, how would they do it? What is the style of fighting your character uses?
It can be straight up punching and kicking, or furious punching and gouging, or something more informal like Krav Maga, or much more formal, like Tae Kwan Do. Does your character fight with improvised weapons, or instead use traps and trickery to dispose of the adversary? Or (also acceptable) do they run away until they can find a solid position to fight from?

3) Why does your character know that system of fighting? If you're writing the character of a Navy SEAL,
that's one thing. If it's the civilian offspring of a military family, that's another. Does a family member teach the fight system? Was it something they thought was cool when they were twelve? Did they read too many thrillers growing up? Did they take ballet, or soccer, or football – something with a lot of kicking?

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Self defense in review, February-May, 2012


So far, I hate 2012. I'm behind on blogs and Examiner columns and still working on my Ambit business .... which is itself a long story.

Anyway, these are the self defense columns I've written since February.

The 'how to' columns of self defense in New York. -- a compilation.


How to punch someone -- because otherwise, you can break your wrist, and your fingers. And your hand.

Trayvon Martin, the facts as we know them -- remember this case? As more and more facts come up, we hear less and less about it in the media, but back in February, this was news. Unfortunately, you can twist the facts any way you like.

Trayvon Martin, a self-defense perspective -- looking at the facts one way, Trayvon Martin was the innocent party.

George Zimmerman, a self defense perspective -- looking at it this way, Trayvon Martin's shooter was the innocent party.

Trayvon Martin shooting a showcase of self defense -- either way, it's a train wreck.

Interview with Krav Maga instructor Dariel Williams -- exactly as it says.

A serious look at guns -- when people use one incident to generalize beyond all sense, I get uppity.

Superheroes guide to self defense, part 1: the Batman approach.

Examiner.com wanted me to write articles with superheroes for the Avengers craze. So, I obliged them.

Superheroes guide to self defense, part 2: the Iron Man Approach. Innovative weapons making.

Superheroes guide to self defense, part 3: the Sherlock Approach How to handle gun problems.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Marketing concerns and self publishing

One of the dangers of self publishing is marketing. How do you get people to hear about a book that you alone published?  I don't have the money to take out a lot of internet ads.  In fact, I have only a Google adwords coupon for $80, so figure that might be it there.

So, with limited amount of funding, and no big names publishing house behind me, now what?

Well, I've got a plan. Sort of. Consider Facebook, twitter, and Myspace (sort of) accounted for. And stumbleupon. And the Catholic writer's organization mailing list.  (Where do you think I met Karina Fabian?). And virtual book tours on blogs.

Celebrities: Anyone I can get my hands on, really. I'm apllying to be a guest at DragonCon in Atlanta, I-Con in New York, and NYComic Con. So, I hope to both talk at large groups of people, and bump into a few people. Peter David checks in at all three Cons, John Ringo is at DragonCon-- I don't intend to harass anyone, but more like say "Hi, I have a gift for you. Autographed. It mysteriously has the author's contact info."

Churches (churches have book groups, don't they?)

Senior groups -- make a large print edition, swing by a nursing home, a senior center, and start speaking like it's a Barnes and Noble reading.

My alma maters. I have people I would like to tell about my success. What there is of it.  This includes my high school, my college, my and those of my family members.

The American Society for Clinical Laboratory Scientists. I know, it sounds strange, but my parents are members of this society, and I have gone to enough meetings to be considered a mascot.

Libraries, of course.

Instapundit.  This one is going a suggestion from my friend Jason over at Axes and Allies.  Instapundit is a massive news site, and the man who runs it is also a science fiction fan.  If Jason gets his attention on my behalf, you will know because my website will crash with the increased traffic flow.

Glenn Beck -- Wait? What? Yes, Glenn Beck, that wierd little fellow with his own radio channel. Why?  It Was Only On Stun is not a political book.  All of the politics in it is from Europe, and a lot of those are from the 1990s -- remember them? However, he does read thrillers -- he has interviewed Brad Thor and Vince Flynn, other thriller authors that I also read. He is also a fan of science fiction.  He might like a thriller set at a science fiction convention.  It's possible.

Literotica.com -- After the last one, this is also going to stand out as strange. As you can tell from the url, this is a written erotica website. However, they have a non-erotic section, and I've posted some of the stories from this website there. I figure that if I start posting little slivers, one chapter at a time (or modified chapter -- maybe a few pages at a time, a few scenes at a time), and when I get a few dozen pages into the novel, the last post says, "Thanks for reading. To get to the rest of this story, buy the book, muahahahaha."  Well, maybe without the evil laughter.

These are only some of the ideas I have right now. With luck, I'll have more soon.  If you have some thoughts, let me know.  If you're a publisher with an offer, let me know. :)

Be well, all.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Music Blog .... Classical music

You've probably heard this before without ever knowing the name.

It's called Pachelbel's Canon .... though this version has a few variations.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Review: Live and Let Fly.



Karina Fabian has done some novels that could only be qualified as interesting. She's written theology, Catholic science fiction, rescue nuns, zombie exterminators, and those are just the ones that we'e taken a brief look at here.

And then there's Vern, the Dragon Private investigator.

Welcome to Los Lagos, Colorado, home of the Gap; in this case, the Gap is an inter-dimensional hole in time and space, and we can be grateful that this one isn't set in Cardiff.  The Gap has made Los Lagos home of plenty of interesting species from the Faerie dimension, a realm that is quite Catholic, and the original home to Vern, who was a dragon of some repute even before he had an encounter with a knight named George.

Now, banished to our world by the Duke of Pebbles-on-Tweed, Vern has made his living as a PI, along with his sidekick, the Vatican Mage Sister Grace.

Like every good PI story from Dashel Hammet to Jim Butcher, the story starts small, and spirals out of control quickly. What starts as the search for a missing ring after an assault, quickly turns into a murder mystery, with a kidnapping for a side dish, and it turns into race to stop the end of the world, dun dun dunnnnnnnn.....

But how do you stop a killer that leaves no trace? Not even a scent a dragon can follow?


Overall, the story is fun. There are some nice shots at Hollywood along the way(let's start with the chapter titles "Murky but Present Dangers," or "Gapraker").  And it includes the best take on Disney animatronics that I've seen since Peter David's Psi-Man series. The chapter titles were something else ("Seven Habits of Highly Defective Henchmen.")  In fact, the humor that works best is when Vern narrates events in term of cliche (see: excerpts here).  The satirical elements are possibly the funniest parts of the novel. I'm not sure if one of the villains was supposed to resemble Dilbert's Pointy-Haired-Boss, but it works.

Also along for the ride is the Bureau of Interdimensional Law Enforcement. ("BILE?" Vern thinks. "There's a name that must have been made in committee.")  With some entertaining parodies of James Bond thrown in, as well as one character who should be played by Marvel's Agent Coulson.

And, seriously, who can argue with a book where Shiva is a war correspondent?  Or where the Vatican has its own SpecOps team, giving a whole new meaning to the term "church militant"? It's right up there with John Ringo's Princess of Wands novel, that was based in the real world, with a little more strangeness attached.

There is also a wonderful sequence of negotiating with the kidnappers. It's only two pages long, but it's truly entertaining.

Live and Let Fly has some good solid action sequences. Like the attack of the killer animatronics, or a scene with an airship that was a cross between Final Fantasy VI and a John Nance novel.

And then, there's the line "I wanted the Holy Hand Grenades on standby in case all Hell did break loose."

Yeah, this was fun.