About Sue Coletta

I am a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. I've authored four novels-- soon to hit the shelves so keep watch! To learn more about me and my books go to: http://www.crimewriterblog.com. Or visit me on Prose & Cons at: http://www.auniqueandportablemagic.blogspot.com Hope to see you soon!

Badass In Heels – Nerve Strikes

As a crime writer I often write my main character into and out of deadly traps. How I do that is to make her powerful. Incidentally, these techniques can be used for everyday women like you and me, too, should we find ourselves in a dangerous situation.

This post is geared toward the more petite woman, because often times they feel like they can’t defend themselves due to their size. Not true. For instance, I only stand five foot two, on a good day. A pipsqueak, as my husband would say. However, he also knows I could kill him 50 different ways. Don’t know what I mean? See my post and grab your free copy of 50 Ways to Murder Your Fictional Characters.

Let’s get started.

Your character’s elbows, knees and head are the bony parts of her body and, therefore, built-in weapons. Regardless of size, have her leverage her weight. It’s this principle that forms the foundation of martial arts like jujitsu and other self-defense programs where a smaller person is able to defeat a larger one.

Most women cannot go head-to-head with a man by throwing punches. Especially when there’s a huge size difference. That being said, your character wants to injure her attacker as soon as possible so she can either flee or end him with a weapon, depending on what kind of scene you’re writing.

Dark Alley Move

Let’s say Greg has murder on his mind and confronts Lacey as she’s walking through a dark alley — a shortcut home from a party. As Greg approached from the front he grabs Lacey’s left shoulder, the shoulder closest to him if Lacey’s on his right. Thinking quickly — because you, as her writer, have prepared her — Lacey sets her hand over his and grabs his thumb, shifts her weight, and bends Greg’s wrist back into his body. Which will cause Greg to bend forward at the waist. Now Lacey has the advantage. She’s still standing. Once Greg’s face is below Lacey’s hip she knees him in the face — hard — shattering his nose.

Impressive, right? This move would work perfectly fine in a novel and in life. But what if we want to make our character a total badass in heels?

I’m talking about…

Nerve Strikes

A sudden strike to the auxiliary nerve — the nerve that connects the deltoid muscle (top of shoulder) — causes a topic discharge, the uncontrolled firing of electric signals. Receptors in the brain overload, which signals pain. As the circuit overloads disruptive signals race to the limbs. Calcium and potassium flood the body. In a thunderous storm of zapping charges the entire system shuts down. Hence, the term “shooting pain”. Certain points on the body create the greatest density of nerve endings, like bundles of exposed wires, called clusters.

Now that we know what they are, how do we use them?

Ulnar Nerve Strike

ulnar nerve

The ulnar nerve is the bottom yellow one in this picture.

 

 

If you look at the underside of the upper arm the ulnar nerve runs down the middle, directly under the bicep muscle.

 

 

How does your protagonist use this to her advantage?

As the attacker reaches for her, she grabs his hand with one hand and, with the other, using the last two knuckles of a closed fist — top ring and pinkie knuckle — jabs an upper cut to that nerve. She wants to punch in and up, catching the nerve with those little knuckles. In turn, this sends shooting pains up/down her attacker’s arm giving her time to flee or grab a proper weapon.

Lung-6 Nerve Of The Arm Strike

radial nerve

It’s about dead center, in red.

 

 

Located on the radial nerve. Moving from the elbow to the wrist it’s about halfway down the inside forearm. If anyone has ever hit this nerve by accident you’ll know exactly where it is, because shooting pain runs down the arm into the hand. Ouch!

 

 

If the attacker had a knife, say, in his hand this move could save your main character’s life. As the attacker moves in with the knife your protagonist — using the bone of her forearm — strikes down on that nerve. Instantly, the weapon falls and shooting pains stun the assailant.

The Mental Nerve Strike

mental nerve

To see the mental nerve look at the chin.

 

 

Facing the opponent draw a line straight down from the corner of the mouth to the chin. Bingo — you’ve just found the Mental Nerve.

 

 

Let’s say your protagonist is laying in bed and wakes to find a masked man intent on raping her. The most effective way to use this nerve to her advantage is to dig the middle knuckle of her index finger into the nerve while holding the back of his head.

But suppose he’s moving around and not allowing her to dig her knuckle into the top of his chin. Her only alternative is to utilize vibration. How? Again she grabs the back of his head with one hand and, with the heel of her other hand, throws quick, firm, smooth jabs to that nerve. Which, at the very least, causes extreme dizziness in the assailant.

Listen, this is not the time to fight fair. Keep jabbing and jabbing until she disorientates her attacker enough to flee, or grab the gun off her nightstand. By continuously striking that nerve she’ll release the spinal cord in his neck, making her look like a total badass, and saving her life in the process.

Note: She must have one hand on the back of her assailant’s head with both moves. To utilize this nerve properly it needs double contact.

WARNING: I’m all for practicing real-life techniques to get the feel, smell, touch correct to make my scenes more believable. But, I must caution you, dealing with nerve strikes is extremely painful for the opponent. So don’t practice on your loved one, dog, best friend… anyone. If you must experience this in order to write about it only practice with a professional trained in this sort of combat.

Most of all, have fun. Nothing’s more sexy than a badass in heels.

 

 

 

A Voice on Outline Driven Writing

Sue Coletta:

As some of you know I’m working on a deadline, trying to get Timber Point ready for submission to a publisher whose window closes on Saturday. So, I came across a perfect post to reblog instead of writing one, and save myself time in the process. Win win. Hope you enjoy it. And please, tell me what you think.

Next up: I’ll continue with the series, Badass in Heels.

Have a great, productive day, all!

Originally posted on James L'Etoile:

Outlining versus Free Form writing is a hotly contested debate in author circles.  I know, I know, the subject doesn’t carry the weight of  discussing a solution to violence in Afghanistan, or searching for a missing jetliner in the middle of the Indian Ocean.  But the fact that writers seem willing to spill blood over the issue, says something about us – we’re a bit too tightly wound for our own good and the voices of the characters in our heads start to take over if left unattended too long.

Image courtesy of getkjfit.com Image courtesy of getkjfit.com

I’ve written a few novels using a detailed outline and others in a free-form, or more commonly called the seat of your pants method, used by “The Pantser.”   Both methods work, but recently, as I wrote a section for a novel from an outline, a voice called out…

Voice:  Hey!  Whatcha doing?

Me:  Writing.  Hush…

View original 694 more words

A Heartbreaking Goodbye

Many of you know that my dog, Gideon, has been gravely ill. And I thank you for your patience while we’ve gone through this terrible time.

Today, we had to say goodbye.

In remembrance of my baby Gid I’ve posted this poem. A kind soul posted this on my FB page when Gid’s illness took an awful turn. Grab your Kleenex. You’re going to need it.

THE LAST BATTLE

If it should be that I grow frail and weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then will you do what must be done,
For this — the last battle — can’t be won.

You will be sad I understand,
But don’t let grief then stay your hand,
For on this day, more than the rest,
Your love and friendship must stand the test.

We have had so many happy years,
You wouldn’t want me to suffer so.
When the time comes, please, let me go.
Take me to where to my needs they’ll tend.

Only, stay with me till the end
And hold me firm and speak to me
Until my eyes no longer see.

I know in time you will agree
It is a kindness you do to me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I have been saved.

Don’t grieve that it must be you
Who has to decide this thing to do;
We’ve been so close — we two — these years,
Don’t let your heart hold any tears.

~Unknown

Interview with Bestselling Author Larry Brooks!

It’s no secret that today’s guest is my favorite author. In my opinion, he’s written two of the best craft books ever written — Story Engineering and Story Physics. Matter of fact, he has a new e-bookstore in the works, with craft books ranging from .99¢ – $2.99. Once he releases an official page I’ll add it to the Crime Writer’s Resource and link for easy access.

Larry Brooks is the author of six critically acclaimed thrillers, and the guy behind www.storyfix.com, one of the fastest-growing and most respected writing sites on the internet, voted one of Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers every year since its inception. His latest novel is The Seventh Thunder, released April, 2014 by Turner Publishing. Other titles include Deadly Faux, Darkness Bound, Bait and Switch, Pressure Points, Serpent’s Dance, released as trade paperbacks.

I’m reading Bait and Switch — and it’s AWESOME!

Story EngineeringStory Physicsstructure demys

Hi Larry! I am so excited to have you here.

In Story Engineering you focus on the Six Core Competencies of Storytelling. To help explain what each core competency is I’ve taken quotes from your book.

This sums it up nicely… 

“A Story Viewed As A Living, Breathing Thing” 

“A story has many moods. It has good days and bad days. It must be nurtured and cared for lest it deteriorates. And it has a personality and an essence that defines how it is perceived. Just like human beings. In fact, comparing a well-told story to a healthy human being becomes an effective analogy to better understand the interdependency of the parts and the delicate balance of chemistry and biomechanics that allow the body– and the story– to move, to thrive, and to grow.”

“When applied to the story development process, you end up with an approach that is based on nothing short of what it is, in essence, story engineering. It works for writers for the very same reason it works for the folks that build stadiums and skyscrapers. It’s based on natural law. On time-tested, basic truths. For builders, that’s physics. For writers, that’s the Six Core Competencies. In no way does using these compromise the experience of the writer or the value of the end product. The Six Core Competencies create a story development model that leaves nothing out of the writing equation, except perhaps the need for an abundant number of drafts.”

“Execute them at a professional level and you may find yourself in the hunt for a publishing contract.”

The Six Core Competencies are: CONCEPT, CHARACTER, THEME, STRUCTURE, SCENE EXECUTION and WRITING VOICE.

In Story Physics you look at the six essence of storytelling. Physics are essence, forces, catalyst for an outcome. Competencies and Essence are “Completely different things… Yet connected at the hip.” The six basic essences of storytelling are: COMPELLING PREMISE, DRAMATIC TENSION, PACING, HERO EMPATHY, VICARIOUS EXPERIENCE, and NARRATIVE STRATEGY.

Writers: I found it best to first read Story Engineering and then delve deeper with Story Physics. When put together these books will transport your writing to a whole new level. For today, though, we’ll concentrate on The Six Core Competencies of Story Engineering. Perhaps at a later date Larry could be persuaded to come back for Story Physics, or one of the many new craft e-books (click the cover to go to Amazon page).

Warm hugsThe Liersz_nanowrimo-cover-kindle3Men

Let’s get into the Six Core Competencies…

CONCEPT 

“The idea or seed that evolves into a platform for a story. Best and most powering when put as a “what if?” question. The answer leads to further “what if?” questions in a branching and descending hierarchy, and the collective whole of those choices and answers becomes your story.”

Many writers struggle with the difference between PREMISE and CONCEPT. I know I sure did before reading Story Engineering. When I was first taught PREMISE by a college professor he phrased it as a “what if?” question, and I think that’s why the two — PREMISE and CONCEPT — are so easily confused. Can you define the difference for us, please?

Writers: Larry gets into a higher level concept, or ascending value-add, and a lateral, or a descending value-add, that drills down deeper into the actual storyline. There’s so much information in this book it’s difficult to pinpoint what message is more important than another. Which is why I’ve only concentrated on the difference here.

Over to you, Larry…

LB:  To simplify even further, the two context-setting essences required for a story to soar are CONCEPT and PREMISE, the latter being what you just referred to as “a lateral, or a descending value-add, that drills down deeper into the actual story line.”

This is both a pothole and an opportunity.  It’s a pothole because too many writers don’t recognize the difference between them.  Because there is a natural affinity between them, writers just plow ahead.  It’s like a student going to medical school (that’s a concept, “I want to be a doctor”) and then, before graduating with the skills and knowledge necessary, they begin practicing dermatology in their spare time.  The actual practice is composed of hundreds or even thousands of pieces of information, specific protocols, criteria, benchmarks, models and sequences, the sum of which, while flexible, constitutes a successful practice. And yet, “being a doctor” remains a singular idea that fuels the whole thing.

With concept, we are looking for something fresh, compelling, provocative and inherently interesting.  It’s a notion, a proposition, a “what if?”  Or an arena, a landscape, a specific social or geographical or historical playing field for the story (like, a  love story about firefighters who live together for three days at a time… that’s an arena that is inherent interesting, because the only way we can enter that world is vicariously).  Or, it can be something about a character around which you can build a story, such as a terminal patience, someone with supernatural gifts, someone who is a psychopath or immortal or the best looking/ugliest person ever… all of those precede a storyline, but they all create a CONCEPTUAL context for one.  That’s the goal of concept.

Premise, however, isn’t all that simple.  While it can and should be stated in one or two sentences, those sentences need to cover a lot of ground – what the hero needs and wants in the story (your hero’s journey or quest), with a goal, something opposing that goal, something that creates conflict and tension and urgency, with clear stakes involved, and some sense of what the hero must DO to reach the finish line.

Every genre except “literary fiction” has this criteria.  No exceptions.  And each genre becomes, in a way, its own conceptual essence, but we need to add another layer to it within the parameters of the genre.

Get them both right – concept and premise – and you’re in the game.  Take one for granted, or lightfoot it, and you’re already behind, or even DOA.

CHARACTER

“Don’t leave home without one. Every story needs a hero. We don’t need to like him (contrary to what your high school composition teacher told you) but we do need to root for him.”

It would be great if you could explain the three dimensions of character. Understanding this really helped me on many levels. I know agents/editors use this as a reason for rejection quite often. Writers get a form letter with “I didn’t connect with your character” and no explanation. And I think the three dimensions of character will help with understanding why and hopefully how to prevent it in the future. Writers: that’s not to say if you nail this one of the six core competencies you won’t get rejected. You need all six — executed correctly.

LB:  Character isn’t over-rated, but it’s often misunderstood.  Seeking to tell the life story of a fictional character rarely works, and yet many new writers go down that fatal path.  Rather, the story is about the hero’s journey and quest (with the criteria mentioned earlier), and it is through the hero’s decisions and actions TOWARD the pursuit of that goal that becomes the tapestry of the story’s character arc.

The acid test is easy.  If you have a scene that is solely, without linkage to the plot, about showing who the character is, then chances are you’re already off the mark.  You can get away with only one of two of those, but they must be in the first quartile, before the First Plot Point really launches the core story (hero’s journey/quest).

One other note.  If the hero’s goal is to “be happy” or to “find love,” that’s not it.  It’s what they must DO or CONQUER – decision and action – that will empower them to be happy or find love that becomes the fodder for the story.  Story isn’t about happiness and love, those are OUTCOMES.  Rather, story is about WHAT HAPPENS to get to that ending.

stuckin the middlesix epiphaniesnewbie guideGoneGirl

THEME 

“Yes, it’s like putting smoke into a bottle, but it can be done. Not to be confused with concept, theme is what your story is illuminating about real life.”

To show the importance of theme I’ve taken another quote from your book: “If your concept doesn’t naturally align with a journey for great characters and deliver a thematic punch along the way, one that makes people resonate with their own humanity, it isn’t a good concept after all.”

This is where I think I had my biggest epiphany. Sure, I knew about theme. At least I thought I did. But I had no idea just how big of an impact it made on a story until I read Story Engineering. And while reading The Seventh Thunder, your incredible, heart-thumping secular thriller, I saw theme in action. For those who missed my post about The Seventh Thunder you can find it here. 

In Story Engineering you reference The Da Vinci Code, along with others, to help drive home the importance of theme. I, too, have referenced a secular thriller, The Seventh Thunder. But I don’t want to give writers the impression that theme must relate to religion. You talk about exploring an issue vs. making a point.

Theme is such an important factor in storytelling — theme as a whole and when it refers to character. To truly grasp the intricacies they need to read the book. ;-)

Did you hear that, everyone? You need to read the book!

So, what can you tell us about theme?

LB: Well, I agree, of course. (grinning)  Theme can easily be overplayed.  Often it enters a story naturally… you can’t set a story in an orphanage and not have it be thematic by definition.  It’s simply the “issue” or “life experience/lesson” that the reader is being asked to engage with in the story.  The hotter the buttons being pushed, the better.

STRUCTURE

“What comes first, what comes next, and so forth… and why. And no, you can’t just make it up for yourself. There are certain expectations and standards here. Knowing what they are is the first step toward getting published.”

There’s a lot to structure. In the book Larry talks about four buckets. Each bucket represents an Act. He goes into depth about what each bucket should contain, where it appears in the story, and why. In the interest of time, so we can get more in-depth in other areas, could you please explain the difference between Story Structure vs. Story Architecture?

LB:  Structure is the grid, the skeleton.  Story Architecture is what you hang on the skeleton.  Engineers pay attention to structure first, because it bears all the weight.  Architectures, while totally engaging with structure also think about aesthetic choices, colors and surfaces and art and design.  In writing, these two become separate focuses, yet are sequential and eventually one in the same.  If you put a great character into a cool setting but the structure is off, it won’t work.  Conversely, if the structure is stellar but the story isn’t, then you’re not there yet.  We need both.  They are the same, but different.

SCENE EXECUTION

“You can know the game, but if you can’t play it well you can’t win. A story is a series of scenes with some connective tissue in place. And there are principles and guidelines to make them work.”

Here’s my favorite quote in this section: “As for your writing skills… it isn’t always the fastest or more athletic player who wins, or even becomes champion. It’s the player who has the most heart, the player who won’t quit, and the player who gets the most out of what she knows and has been given. To which she is always striving to add.”

Isn’t that empowering, folks? Fabulous!

Here’s another place I had epiphanies galore. In the book you talk about “ushering the reader into a new scene” and how every scene must have a mission.

LB:  I believe that the single most illuminating, powerful and career-changing principle is just this: every scene needs an expositional mission, IN ADDITION TO illustrating character and place.  The plot must be visible in every scene, and it must be either in the process of being set up (in the first quartile) or being forwarded (beginning with the First Plot Point forward).  It’s that simple: what’s the mission of the scene?  If the answer doesn’t forward the plot, then the answer isn’t good enough.  Yet.  Fix it.

A reminder, “literary fiction” has a different set of expectations and criteria.  The plot/conflict criteria is lower or absent, while the character and writing voice benchmarks are vague, elusive, and considered to be higher.

The ushering part is a function of how well the story adheres to a solid structural plan.  Because each scene is forwarding plot exposition, the each scene can be – should be – developed in context to full knowledge of what happens before it, and after it.  Which, in turn, facilitates transitions between those scenes.  That in itself is an art form, the sense of where and how to end a scene with an open-ended moment, something that compels the reader to keep going.  Television does this really well (especially drama), pay attention to the last moment before a commercial, that’s all by design, you really want to stay tuned.

WRITING VOICE 

“The coat of paint, or if you prefer, the suit of clothes, that delivers the story to the reader. The biggest risk here is letting your writing voice get in the way. Less is more. Sparingly clever or sparsely eloquent is even better.”

This I’m not going to ask you about, because, frankly, it’s too involved. Writers: you’ll really want to know what he talks about in the book with regards to Writing Voice. There’s only so much room without making this post way too long. You know what to do. Buy. The. Book. I promise, it will be the best investment you’ve made in your future thus far.

Thank you so much for joining us today, Larry.

Thanks for having me here, I hope someone out there has a little Epiphany or two from this experience.

Larry Brooks1

To learn more about Larry Brooks and his work visit his author’s page here or go to his website, Storyfix.com. Larry also offers coaching and story empowerment services… four levels, all really affordable. Find out more here, or by visiting his website. Also, he’s in the midst of publishing shorter tutorials (more than just those pictured in this post).

Below are Larry’s pulse-pounding thrillers (linked at the beginning of this post). If you’re looking for an un-put-down-able read you can’t go wrong with any of these talented author’s books.

darknessImageProxyserpeantbaitdeadly faux7ththunder

 

 

Tag, You’re It – With Excerpts From My New Book

Recently I’ve been tagged for two blog tours– one on Twitter from the awesome Crispian Thurlborn and again by Craig Boyack, blogger and scribe extraordinaire. Crispian has the patience of a saint because he tagged me in the middle of March to list the best characters in film/TV, then tagged me again a week later for the worse characters. But with my dog (and all the grueling work it requires daily to keep him alive) and trying to get at least some work done I’m just getting around to it now. Crispian runs a great site called Wyldwood Books. Visit his best/worse characters list, then stay because he’s. . . well. . . a cool dude. 

The talented and sweet Diane Mannion aka Heather Burnside (her pen name) graciously nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award. I’ve placed the award on the Awards page (see menu), but instead of listing ten more random facts about myself I’m counting this as completing the guidelines. And instead of nominating 15 bloggers I’m inviting all of you to consider yourself crowned with the honor. Anyone who wants can link back to this post and grab your award off the award page. Boom, done!

Next, but certainly not last, Craig Boyack tagged me for The Work In Progress Blog Tour. Check out his site, Entertaining Stories, where you’ll fine some of the best short stories I’ve ever read, musings, and anything and everything in between. His WIP sounds fascinating. You can read all about it here.

Okay, here’s goes. Three tags, one post.

Favorite character/least favorite character in no particular order.

hannibal

Dr. Hannibal Lecter

I loved Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Lecter and thought no one could ever play that role as well as he did, but as you can see Mads Mikkelson is also in my favorites column.

Margaux

Margaux LeMarchal, Revenge

 

 

 

 

I used to like Margaux from Revenge, but lately she rubs me the wrong way. I realize that’s the point. She’s the woman you love to hate.

dexter

Dexter Morgan

Dexter Morgan is a multi-faceted character that I adore. His flaws, his “dark passenger”, there isn’t anything I don’t like about him. Especially when he gives other killers their just desserts.

 

 

I’ve already explained why Mads is in the “love” column. He did an excellent job, one that most people, likeFrom NBC archives myself, thought he could never pull off.

 

channing

Louis Channing, The Good Wife

Does anyone like Michael J. Fox’s character on the Good Wife? He’s obnoxious, uses his disability to sway the judge and jury, just a despicable human being.

 

 

I’m using two on this one. Richard Castle and Kate Beckett, because they go together like peanut butter and jelly. Love them!Castle&Becket

 

 

 

NCISThe new chick on NCIS. Can’t stand her! She’s actually ruined the show for me with her stupid little antics. I don’t even know her name, nor do I care. She will remain nameless here. She’s the one with Gibbs who can’t even hold a gun the right way. Idiot.

Red

Raymond “Red” Reddington

And who doesn’t love James Spader’s interpretation of Raymond “Red” Reddington on Blacklist. He’s evil, yet loving when it comes to Elizabeth Keene. Underhanded, yet wants to do good. He’s flawed and I adore every one of his many layers.

 

norman

Norman Bates, Bates Motel

Norman Bates on the TV series Bates Motel. Freddie Highmore has done a superb job of capturing the eccentricities of Norman Bates. But he’s so. . . so. . . Norman. A geeky, mamma’s boy with a warped mother/son relationship. He’s irksome, to say the least. And yet, no could play the role as well. I’m kind of mixed on this one, but am putting him in the dislike category.

Stopping at a combined ten, instead of listing ten each, to save room for the blog tour. Sorry, Crispian!

The WIP Blog Tour

I’m working on a few different projects now. The latest one, A Deadly Yearning, is based on a “What if” question that’s haunted me for years. What if you could spend one more day, or be reunited with, a lost loved one? How far would you go to make that happen? The second excerpt is from Timber Point, a completed novel that I’m updating for submission to a publisher that has a narrow window where they’ll accept thrillers without an agent. And it’s closing fast. Timber Point is about a cat burglar who stumbles across a serial killer’s lair and accidentally steals his trophy box.

A Deadly Yearning Excerpt

“Let’s celebrate the fact that we’ll never have to walk around with baby puke on our shoulder. Or have half-slit eyes from sleep-deprivation. Let’s rejoice that we won’t prematurely gray from dealing with teenagers who think they know everything. Because believe you me any kid of mine would have been a terror once his hormones kicked in. We won’t have to join the PTA, drive carpool, or host twenty screaming brats at the opening of the new kid flick at the Cinemax. We can grow old peacefully, use swear words and make love on the kitchen table. We dodged a bullet today, darlin’.” Lee Meadows shifted in his seat. A smile masked a sadness Aubrey had seen many times over the last six months, one that broke her heart again and again.

“As a matter of fact. . .” He lifted one cheek off the leather upholstery and rooted around in the front pocket of his khakis. When he withdrew his hand a delicate gold necklace with a chocolate diamond pendant hung from his fingers. “For you, my love.”

“If we dodged a bullet today, then why did you have that in your pocket?”

Lee broke eye contact.

“You went out and bought me a chocolate diamond, my favorite by the way, but you knew that, because you thought the doctor would say we were pregnant. Admit it.”

“Aubrey, honey, listen–”

She turned toward the window. “Let’s just go.”

“Did I do something wrong? Won’t you at least look at it, really look at it? It’s the exact one you saw in that little shop on the Cape, last summer.” When he got no response he said, “I know what’ll cheer you up. How ‘bout I take my best girl to the new restaurant that just opened up in town?”

“Why, so I can gain weight and look like I’m pregnant? No thank you.”

Aubrey heard Lee sigh as he pulled away from the curb, and her heart crumbled. He didn’t ask to marry a woman with faulty parts. She turned back to apologize and saw a flash of white. Loud bangs crashed around her. Her head slammed the windshield. Glass shattered, flew like angry spears inside the SUV.

The Honda Pilot slid sideways, tires screeching on sun-bleached asphalt. Smashed through a barrier supporting the sides of covered bridge and then plummeted toward a wooded field below. Flailing arms and legs intertwined. Mangled shoulders and hips. She wasn’t sure whose they were, her mind littered with unanswered prayers. Blood sprayed from somewhere, from one or from both her and Lee. Everything went silent, except a long steady hum that vibrated through her core as her body sailed through the air.

When her eyes fluttered open it was dark. Cold. Musty. Headlights screamed across the field inches from the earth, its beam ricocheting off broken trees.

Am I dead? she wondered.

Unwilling to believe, she touched her cheek, lips, forehead, then raised her palm in front of her eyes and watched warm blood leak down her fingers, snake across her wrist and down the soft underbelly of her forearm.

Timber Point Excerpt

The still silence of the night is my addiction. There’s no better drug on earth. It’s an incredible feeling to know I’m the only one awake. The only person stirring among peaceful, darkened homes. Alone in the dark I am free. Alive. Invincible. Nothing can touch me.

The crescendo of my cell phone sliced through the warm summer night. Checking the caller ID I muttered, “Damn. Not now.” I pressed TALK. “Hey, Nay. Whassup?”

“Where are you?”

Standing in the middle of Timber Point, a gated community with million dollar homes, my eyes slid to a contemporary house fronted with glass and stucco. “Home. Why?”

“Shawny Daniels, don’t you dare lie to me. Christopher just drove by your house and your car’s gone.”

“You checking up on me?”

“That’s not the point. You’re out catting again. Aren’t you?”

“No I’m not catting again. Geesh. I ran to the store for kitty litter.” Not that it’s any of your business, I wanted to add. “Did you want something, Nadine? Or did you just call to harp on me?”

Her tone softened. “I’m calling because I care about you, Shawny. You promised you were done with that life. It’s not like you need the money anymore, anyway. Turn around and go home. Please.”

“First of all, I do need the money. You know as well as I do Ed won’t give me a dime of my inheritance. And second– Ah, forget it. I’m hanging up now.”

“So you are catting again. I knew it.”

“Nay, listen–”

“I don’t want to hear it. You’re breaking the law. I have a good mind to turn you in myself.”

This was so not how I’d envisioned this call going. “Nay, I’m beat. I’m hanging up before one of us says something we can’t take back.”

“But–”

“Goodnight.” I stuffed my cell in the front pocket of my skin-tight black stretchy jeans and thought, she really knows how to kill a mood. I shook my head, trying to erase the last few seconds of my life.

A dark-haired man rushed out of the contemporary house and into an ebony van, parked in the carport, and started the engine. That was my cue to hide behind the nearest tree. I checked my watch as he drove off. Twelve-oh-five a.m.

Even though I’d cased this property for several nights the homeowner’s schedule was hard to nail down. He’d left at all hours of the night and didn’t return until the early morning. And sometimes not alone. Being Sunday night, the last hoopla before the work week, I figured he went clubbing. He was a bachelor, I found out. Probably needed to scratch an itch. Typical man.

I climbed the wrought iron gate, jumped off the top monogrammed crest and landed hard on the tarred drive. My knees barely had time to absorb the blow when I heard stomping of many feet heading in my direction. I bolted for the catwalk in time to see a pack of Dobermans charging straight at me. Long, white canines snapped at my feet as I pulled myself up the railing and then sprinted along the wooden slats.

I thought, where the hell did they come from? During my reconnaissance I never once saw Dobermans. Maybe one. Not a pack. And not loose on the grounds at midnight. Which made me wonder what the guy was hiding. What he had inside the house that was so valuable he went to these lengths to protect it. My interest peaked.

Vibrations shook the catwalk.

Glancing over my shoulder I saw two attack dogs in the lead. Sleek muscles flexed with their fast-moving gait. Their short fudge-colored hair hackled and their lips flapped with the force of their stride. With one foot set in front of the other I moved cat-like, my arms extended out, poised on the three-inch railing like a balance beam. The dogs bared their teeth, lips curled, snarling. Sharp claws scratched and clawed at the baluster rods, their massive paws trying to knock me off.

My chest heaved in and out, my gaze shifting behind me. I turned back to my mark, inhaled a deep breath and narrowed my concentration on a wide ash tree with long, thick branches hooding the main entrance.

According the blog hop rules I pick two of you to carry the torch. Not an easy job. I’m going to pick two I’ve never chosen before. Beth from I Didn’t Have My Glasses On. She’s a mother of grown daughters, with grandchildren galore, an enthusiastic dater, a lover of the arts, a teacher, a cupcake maker, a Twister and Trivia champ, and most of all, a keen observer of life.

Fran from Fran Writes Stuff, a fellow crime writer, reader, watcher of crime dramas, and animal lover based in the UK. I know she’s working on two WIPs, and can’t wait to hear more about them.

Fran and Beth, just ping backwards (here) to say who tagged you, post excerpts about your WIPs and choose two new victims to continue the tour. Have fun!

Everyone else: I need to tag a few of you on Twitter for the best/worst characters. Watch out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of Storytelling

As I mentioned in an earlier post I am reading The Seventh Thunder by Larry Brooks. I don’t normally discuss the books I read because I’ve geared this blog more toward crime related topics and not book reviews. This book, however, grabbed me by the throat and hasn’t let go. Even when I’m not reading, I’m thinking about it. Over the last few days I’ve tried to work, but this book keeps calling me back again and again, demanding that I jump back into the story.

As a reader and a writer I am no longer content with crime thrillers with a subtle or non-existent theme. I want books that go beyond genre, that make me question, think, imagine. The Seventh Thunder does all that and more.

The 7th Thunder

Here’s the blurb:

When Gabriel Stone’s devout wife dies in an unlikely airline disaster, he pours himself into the writing of a story that has haunted him since his youth, a story his wife had warned him never to finish. Inspired by a life-changing visit to the island of Patmos years earlier, he is fascinated with the visions beheld there by St. John The Divine while in political exile as penance for his devotion to Christ. Those visions included frightening sights delivered by what John described as the “seven thunders,” visions he was instructed to withhold from us, to seal up and write them not (Revelation 10:4).

As Stone becomes entrenched in his writing, the Book of Revelation begins to reveal startling connections to covert operations that are about to tear the world’s political landscape to shreds. When the book nears publication, Stone suddenly finds himself the pawn in a war between superpowers and supernatural forces, each with hidden agendas beyond his comprehension and stakes that pivot on his ability to accept the unbelievable and stop the unthinkable. Juxtaposing choices that are at once spiritual and life-dependent, The Seventh Thunder stops at nothing short of our very souls hanging in the balance.

Sounds amazing, right?

Are you ready for some incredible news? Larry Brooks is coming here! That’s right. I’ll be interviewing Larry about his craft books, Story Engineering and Story Physics- Harnessing the Underlying Forces of Storytelling

Story Engineering

We’ll discuss what the Six Core Competencies are and how they can transform your writing. No longer will you need to worry about why a story went wrong, or why every agent/editor you sent it to rejected it. With the Six Core Competencies Larry teaches us how to dissect those stories, see them as a whole and discover where they went wrong. These two books surpassed any and all expectations I had. They super charged my writing to the next level.

After reading Story Engineering and Story Physics I was forever changed as a writer, and I think that’s why I’m loving The Seventh Thunder so much. I can see its power, feel its theme. It’s as if I’ve been let in on a well-kept secret that best-sellers keep close to the vest, or been handed the keys to an exclusive club. I want to shout my heart out about how happy this makes me. I can achieve my dreams because I have the know-how to turn them into a reality.

In a past post I said I’d been converted from pantser to planner by using Joel Canfield’s method of outlining. Who, by the way, is a big proponent of Larry Brooks’ work. Now, I’ve evolved even more. We all should strive to learn more about storytelling, reach beyond what’s easy, hone our craft, dig deeper into why it works. Gone are the days of minimal planning, winging it and hoping for the best. I know exactly where my story will take me, how to get there and how it will end. No more staring at a blank computer screen wondering what to write next. By implementing the techniques in Story Engineering and Story Physics I know how one scene transitions smoothly into the next, and the next, and the next, each mission-driven and executed properly.

I can’t tell you how good this feels! What an incredible feeling it is to rip apart my stories and see where I veered off course, or how to make them stronger, better. I cannot simply tell you this. You must find out for yourself.

It’s an exciting time as a writer because we have easy access to so much information. But sometimes that isn’t a good thing, sometimes it can steer us wrong. Not the case here. This is craft at its finest.

Many writers rage against structure. They’ll tell you rules were made to be broken. I don’t believe that. A building can’t stand without a foundation and walls. Why would we think our stories could survive without structure? And structure placed at key moments. Just like a tent that sags in the middle because a pole is out-of-place, so will the story if we don’t hit the right milestones at the right time. It’s architecture and physics and they’re invaluable tools for a storyteller. Having structure won’t stifle creativity. It enhances it.

Anyone who’s ever taken a creative writing course learned basic structure. That’s not what I’m talking about today. I’m referring to deeper structural elements, like the Six Core Competencies and the Six Essence of Storytelling. Structure being one of the core competencies.

Successful authors like Stephen King who publicly declare he’s a panster inherently knows the fundamentals of storytelling. Instinctively he’s structuring his novels. He’s just doing it without forethought or planning. But how many of us are Stephen King?

I’m not saying he’s the only best-selling author who writes from the seat-of-his-pants. But the others also have a firm grasp of the Six Core Competencies and Six Essence of Storytelling. For the rest of us it’s better to plan. Notice I’m not using the word “outline”. You don’t need to outline to plan your novel. James Patterson writes a 50 page outline before he ever writes one word. I am not suggesting that. Are you kidding? That would drive me nuts. Plan your Acts. Whether you use a three Act structure or four is up to you. Personally, I prefer a four Act structure because that’s what Larry advocates and that’s what I find works for me. I’m not suggesting my way is the right way, or the only way. Whatever works for you.

Once you read Story Engineering and Story Physics it becomes almost impossible not to see structure in everything you read. The milestones pop out like a neon signs. Even in television series and movies it’s easy to find the milestones because they occur at the same point in every film/episode. I’m constantly pressing pause, shouting, “Inciting Incident! First Pinch Point! All is lost moment!” I’m driving my husband insane. Course that’s nothing new. Neither is the knowledge of basic structure, but seeing it everywhere is.

Story Physics

Plotter or planner any and all successful novelist will have the same structure. It’s only a matter of how many drafts the author wants to write before getting there. Because if you want to publish traditionally or do well with self-publishing your stories will need structure. Them’s the facts, Jack. So why not save yourself a ton of time and plan it out?

Story Physics digs deeper into the Six Essence of storytelling. Which is different from the Six Core Competencies. We’ll get into that during the interview. For now, I recommend buying both books, because together they are absolutely mind-blowing. From the novice writer to the professional novelist Story Engineering and Story Physics have something for everyone.

A former minor league pitcher turned professional writer Larry Brooks is one of the best authors/teachers/writing coaches in the industry. His passion shines through everything he does. And his voice– amazing! Honestly, I haven’t been this excited about an author in a long, long time, and it’s because of the magic within the pages of his books, both craft and crime thrillers.

So please join us for an incredible interview where Larry will discuss what the Six Core Competencies are and why they matter. And if you’re looking for a new book, one that forces you to turn the page, makes you question, think and feel deep in your soul, I highly recommend The Seventh Thunder. Clicking the title will take you to the Amazon page.

For your convenience I’ve added Larry’s blog, Storyfix, to the sidebar and to the Crime Writer’s Resource page, along with other incredible finds. If you’ve used the Crime Writer’s Resource page and referred back to it from time to time I think you’ll be pleased with the new additions. Also, you’ll notice I’ve added new menu options: Appearances shows where I’ve guest posted or been interviewed, along with future appearances. I don’t often reblog my guest appearances so now you can see what else I’ve done, if interested. My Guests shows who’s appeared on this blog. I’ve had some incredible guests, so if you’re looking for a specific post by one of them they are all conveniently located in one place now. Lastly, Blog Awards are no longer on the sidebar. I’ve placed them on one-page with links to the posts and to the bloggers who nominated me.

Do you plan your books in advance? Or do you write from the seat-of-your-pants?

Does delving deeper into the craft of storytelling excite you as much as me, or is my inner geek showing?

 

Where I’ve been… and why.

I don’t normally talk about my daily life. I guess I’m private that way. But I feel I need to clear some things up. I’ve been seriously lacking lately in reading your blog posts. I know this and I’m doing the best I can to rectify this. There is a good reason for it though. One of my dogs– Gideon, I’ve talked about him before– is gravely ill.

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Gideon

 

He’s been sick for a few weeks, but took a turn for the worse six days ago. Without going into detail, he requires massive amounts of my time while I attempt to keep him alive, with a quality life. At the same time my other dog, Cascius, is seething with jealously. So I try to give him extra attention. It’s both physically and emotionally draining.  lazylion

As such, everything else falls to the wayside. Family first. It’s a must.

I wish this wasn’t the case. I wish Gideon would magically bounce back, return to being healthy, running and playing. I wish I could leave him for a few hours to see my granddaughter, too. She’s growing so fast and we’re missing it. But the sad reality is I don’t know how much time he has left, could be days, could be weeks. When I do get a break I read to escape the horrors of my reality. Books are magical in that way. Don’t you agree?

Image from Dishin’ the Dirt with My Friends

Image from Dishin’ the Dirt with My Friends

So, I haven’t abandoned you. I always have and always will support you in any way I can. I just need a little time to deal with the ones I love. I think everyone can understand that.

I do have some exciting news, a surprise guest appearance by the author of six critically acclaimed thrillers, who’s also written two of the best craft books I’ve ever read. A must for every writer’s toolbox, IMO. I’ve also added some new links on the crime writer’s resource page and added menu items. More on all that later. For now, I’ll hold you in suspense.

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This pic just never gets old.