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.




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, 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.”


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).

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Let’s get into the Six Core Competencies…


“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.


“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


“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.


“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.


“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.


“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, 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



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?


A Badass In Heels – 3 Self-Defense Moves

We, as crime writers, need to come up with many ways to make our characters prolific and not look like a wimps when confronted with a dangerous situation. We also know if we have a PI or detective as a main character who’s all hearts and roses that would be boring. She needs to kick some serious butt, or at least be able to defend herself without her male partner jumping in.


To help create a badass in heels I’ve come up with three scenarios she might find herself in and three ways she can get herself out.

1. Nose slam

A masked man breaks into Kate’s home in the middle of the night. She awakes to find a stranger on top of her intent on doing ungodly things to her body and mind.

What can she do? He outweighs her by a good sixty pounds and has arms the size of Schwarzenegger’s. Hand-to-hand combat isn’t an option at this point. She’s on her back with an intruder straddling her hips. There are no guns laying nearby and no one is coming to save her.

A terrifying situation to be in – a perfect one for your character.

With the butt of Kate’s hand, using an upward trajectory, she slams him hard in the nose, jamming the nose into the brain. A petite woman like Kate knows this move can stop a full-grown man dead in his tracks. If it doesn’t kill him, which it absolutely could, it will stun him long enough for her to get out of bed and grab a proper weapon. Or run away. But unless the stranger catches up to Kate her writer might want to reconsider the scene, because we know conflict drives the story forward. Right? Right.

2.  Throat punch

You know that little V at the base of the neck? That’s your trachea. Let’s say Sally is walking home from the diner after a double shift on her feet. She’s exhausted, the front of her baby blue dress and white apron has ketchup and mustard stains and some unidentified goo is stuck in a few loose strands of hair that had fallen out of her bun. All day long she’s had to listen to people gripe about cold coffee, mayo instead of tartar sauce, the usual bull from jamokes trying to get out of paying their $10.00 tab. Sally knows it isn’t wise to cut through the alley, but it’s quicker than going around the block. She just wants to get home and soak in a hot bath. Halfway through the dark alley Sally finds herself face-to-face with a gang member intent on making his bones.

He approaches.

Sally’s gaze narrows on his crimping eyes. He pitches toward her, and Sally punches him in the trachea. That’s called a throat punch. Instantly he loses his breath and falls to his knees. Here’s where Sally’s writer can decide whether he chokes to death– because that’s possible– or hacks up a lung (figuratively), and then takes off after her. Either way, you’ve got a very tense scene. Always a good thing in crime fiction.


3. Everything is a weapon

When used properly a ballpoint pen or car key is very effective in self-defense. Let’s say Jane is out Christmas shopping. She’s deck to the nines in heels and a crushed velvet pantsuit. Jane is hopelessly single. Not a hair out-of-place, flawless make-up, smells like she bathed in Chanel No. 5. It’s important to her that she look her best in case Mr. Right works at the Gap. Doubtful, but she’s not taking any chances.

Jane doesn’t meet Mr. Right that night so she plods back to her car, parked way in the back lot under a blown-out street lamp. Her mind goes on high alert. Her gaze shifts between two vehicles on either side of her Rav4– a black windowless van and a Lincoln Town car with tinted windows.

Jane slides her shopping bags over her left wrist, balls her right hand around her car key, the jagged end protruding between her index and middle finger. Her manicured nails bite into her palm, her nerves jumping like Pop Rocks in her belly.

Which vehicle holds the danger?

Jane approaches her Rav4. Slowly she lowers the shopping bags to the ground. In the driver window’s reflection she finds a man in a ski mask standing a mere three feet behind her.

Jane twirls around. And thrusts that jagged key into the stranger’s carotid artery. With the beat of his heart blood pumps from the side of his throat. She ducks. Crimson sprays on the driver’s door.

Jane gapes left and right. Notices the Town Car’s rear door ajar and quickly rolls the corpse out-of-the-way with the toe of her Jimmy Choo. Her hands shake unlocking the door. Someone is driving that Lincoln. There’s no time to stand around. Jane slips behind the wheel, glides the stick-shift into gear and barrels out of the lot. Driving with her knee she untwists the cap on a flask, she keeps in her handbag, and downs a quick belt to calm her nerves.

Miles down the road she notices the Town Car in her rear view mirror. Jane bangs a right, then a left. The Lincoln stays on her tail. She leans over the passenger seat and pops open the glove compartment, where she had stashed a Beretta 9mm pistol, days before. Jane’s writer knows not to have her load bullets in a revolving cylinder because a Beretta 9mm pistol doesn’t have one. It’s a semiautomatic weapon, not a revolver.

Jane releases the magazine from the magazine well and checks the cartridge. When she sees it empty she again drives with her knee while she feeds bullets down and to the rear under two ridges– called feed lips– on the top inside lip of the magazine. She loads one round after another until she fills the magazine, or clip. Inserts the full clip into the handle of the weapon and slams her palm against the bottom to make sure it’s in there tight. Nothing would be more embarrassing than aiming a weapon at a bad guy and having the clip fall out.



With her thumb facing her, she slides the top half of the gun (the slide) toward her– the muzzle always pointed away from her. This strips the top cartridge (bullet) and sets a round in the chamber. Jane’s writer can not have her thumb the safety switch because a 9mm doesn’t have one.

With one in the chamber she’s ready to rock someone’s world, preferably the driver of the Lincoln. Good thing too because the Lincoln guns it, swerves around her and cuts the wheel slamming the Rav4, running Jane off the road. She careens down a slight incline through the woods.

Her head swarming from striking the dash, Jane wobbles getting out of the SUV. She ducks behind the rear quarter panel. Waits. Watches as a well-dressed man approaches. In one fluid motion Jane stands. Aims through the front scope, her sight level with the back. Jane does not tilt her wrist to the side like some gang banger. That’s a good way to break her wrist. Instead, she sets her finger on the trigger. If she wasn’t in danger, say at the range, she’d rest her finger along the side of the slide.

Jane’s had plenty of practice. She knows to wrap her middle, ring and pinkie finger around the grip. With her left hand she folds her fingers around her right, marrying her thumbs– meaning, side-by-side and not interlocked– her arms out in front of her, her feet squared with her hips. This is called an Isosceles/modified stance. The name is taken from the Isosceles triangle– a triangle with two sides that are equal in length. In shooting, the Isosceles is referring to the shooter’s arms, held straight out making them the same length. Of course Jane knows a slight bend to the arm better absorbs the recoil.

She fires.

The stranger stumbles back, his hands clutching the gaping wound in his chest. He tosses one last spiteful glare at Jane and then crumbles to the snow-covered earth. Dead. Jane blows the smoke off the barrel. I’m kidding! Jane’s writer knows this is a corny thing to do.

This is what really happened next…

Safely back in her Rav4 Jane adjusts her rear view mirror, smooths back her hair, and then engages the four-wheel drive. As she drives up the hill she looks in the side mirror at the stranger sprawled out on the snow. “With my luck,” she says, “I just killed Mr. Right.”

Hyperbole aside, these techniques can help make your character a badass in heels. What self-defense techniques have you read about, or used in your writing?


Feel free to grab yourself a copy of “50 Ways To Murder Your Fictional Characters” by clicking this image.50WaysToMurder with caption





Crime Writer’s Resource

Anyone who’s followed this blog for a while knows I never post twice in one day. Normally I post once or twice a week. However, I’m very excited to show you this fantastic resource I’ve compiled for you.

You might have noticed the new sidebar, where I’ve added links for crime writers. They aren’t solely for crime writers. Anyone who has murder in their plot will find them useful. In addition to the sidebar I’ve created a page where you can find all the links in one place. See the menu bar? Click on “Crime Writer’s Resource”.

Not yet! I’m going to give you a sample of what you’ll find there.


How many of you have struggled with what to do with your detective once he/she arrives at a crime scene?

There are specific steps he/she must take to ensure evidence is collected properly and the scene doesn’t get compromised. On the resource page you’ll find “Homicide Detective Checklist”, taken from Ron Mitchell’s Law Enforcement Training Website. This is what he uses to train his officers. It doesn’t get any more authentic than that! Bear in mind every scene is different so you won’t always need everything listed here. It’s a guide to help your stories ring true.

Here’s a small sample of what you’ll find there…

Homicide Detective Checklist


1. Enter scene by route least likely to disturb evidence, noting route of travel.

2. Check victim for signs of life (breathing, neck area for pulse).

3. Note time of arrival


1. Summons Medical Assistance

2. Dying Declarations

a. Conscious Victim – If victim is conscious, attempt to obtain the following information:

1. Who did this to you?

2. If name of assailant is not known to victim, commence identification by description: man, woman, race, height, weight, color of hair, eyes, type of clothing, etc.

3. Establish the fact that the victim knows that he/she is dying.

C. Unconscious Victim

1. At scene – If victim is unconscious on arrival at scene,


2. At Hospital – Upon arrival at hospital alert medical personnel to possibility of dying declarations. Request them to note same if made during operative period.

3. Notification – Request to be notified if victim regains consciousness so that you will be present when any dying declarations are made.

Secure Scene

1. Block or rope off scene (“Bigger is better”).

2. Persons at Scene

a. Clear unauthorized person from the scene. NOTE: You cannot worry about hurting someone’s feelings. If they do not belong tell them to leave. This must include any unauthorized police command.

b. Prevent anyone from touching the body or disturbing anything pending the arrival of the medical examiner, identification personnel, and investigative officers.

And then there’s…

Crime Scene Forensics

Good forensic matches, through techniques such as DNA analysis, latent print development, or microscopic comparisons, are more the exception than they are the rule. These matches can certainly strengthen a case, but should not be counted on in every case. Good forensic crime scene processing starts with two simple steps:

        1. Making appropriate observations

        2. Properly documenting those observations

Crime scene interpretations, crime scene reconstructions and eventual expert opinions, should always be left to qualified experts. Or to crime writers! In any given case, it will be impossible for a forensic expert to give such an opinion, if the crime scene is not properly documented.

In the everyday context in which the word forensics is used, it implies an advanced degree of training, education, experience, and very expensive equipment. Crime scene processing, however, is quite simple, and when the crime scene investigator makes all the appropriate observations, and then properly documents those observations, the role of the expert witness becomes much simpler.

This site offers general information on the most popular fields in forensic sciences.

Crime Scene Investigation – Introduction

A body washes up on a lonely stretch of beach. A fire in a methamphetamine lab devastates an apartment building. A car accident claims the life of a driver during her trip home. These are all potential crime scenes.

By conducting a systematic examination of these areas, crime scene investigators uncover the physical evidence to help identify what happened and who was involved. This process must be conducted carefully and thoroughly to ensure that crucial evidence is collected and fragile evidence is not destroyed in the process.

A deceased man surrounded by crime scene tape and investigators collecting evidence items

At a scene, the case investigator and crime scene personnel work together to: define and secure areas that may contain evidence; examine and document the scene; collect physical evidence; and preserve, package and submit the evidence to the laboratory for analysis. With these key pieces of evidence, the investigator can attempt to reconstruct the elements of the crime.

The more thorough the crime scene team is at conducting its job, the more likely it is to accurately determine the facts of the case. The quality of the evidence and the manner in which it is handled will also impact the ability of the attorneys to argue the facts of the case and ultimately the jurors’ ability to come to conclusions regarding guilt or innocence.

Howdunnit Forensics and Forensics Books

This will bring you to Dr. Lyle’s website, where if you click on “links” it will take you to “Writer Friends”. There’s a wealth of information there.

For instance:

Baby Names: To help find names for your characters.

Building Fictional Characters: Charlotte Dillon’s free detailed character chart and more links about character building.

Creativity Portal: Among other things you can unblock your creativity by visiting the Zen garden.

Crimes and Clues: Various topics related to crimes such as finding fingerprints with super glue, conducting successful interrogations, lies and lie detection.

How Stuff Works: From, does punching a shark in the nose to get him away from you really work? to all about mysteries. There’s so much information here it will take you hours to go through.

Writers Magazines, Radio, T.V., etc.: A list of these with links to each one.

Writers Conferences: List and links.

Writers Organizations: List and links.


In this Crime Writer’s Resource you’ll find just about everything you’ll ever need to write a true-to-life mystery, suspense, thriller. I’ve tried to make this a one-stop place for your research. And I think I’ve accomplished that. It would take days to go through all of this information.

By using this resource you’ll save yourself time surfing the internet. You can trust your sources, although you should always double-check any information you receive. You will also find links to crime experts in the field who are crime writers themselves. If you get stuck, have a question you need a fast answer to, or you want to double-check your research– shoot them an email. It’s like having your own personal consultant at your fingertips. Who knows, you may get lucky and form friendships with these people. I have, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world!

I hope you’ll take a moment to check it out and tell me what you think.




Cop Talk: Crime Writer’s Dictionary J – M


I hope you all are loving this series as much I am. Not only will it help strengthen our stories and make them more believable, but knowing the right terminology helps bring our characters alive. Thank you again to Lee Lofland for his hard work putting this together for crime writers and/or anyone else who has a law enforcement character.

If you’ve missed the first two posts in the series you can find them here: A – E, F – I.


Junior Franklin, well known to all the local cops for his kiting expertise, was keeping-six in a beat up and rusty loser-cruiser while his KA, Little Larry Mazo, set a bit of Lex talionis in motion on the kiddie cop who once gave him a severe case of lead poisoning.

Not familiar with the terminology in the previous and somewhat odd sentence? No problem. Here’s J through M from Lee’s handy-dandy, mini crime writer’s dictionary.


Jack Wagon: Jerk/idiot. “I don’t care if he is your captain, that guy’s a real jack wagon.”

JAFR: Just another f***ing rookie.

Jailitis: The mysterious illness/injury suddenly contracted the moment handcuffs are applied.“Easy, man, I have a bad heart and you’re going to make me have one of my spells. Besides, I’m allergic to jail sheets.”

Jail Credit: Time served while waiting for trial. Jail credit is deducted from the overall sentence.

Jet: Get out of here! “The cops are on the way, Boo, so I’m ’bout to jet.”

Jiggle Keys: Homemade keys used to pick (jiggle) locks on automobiles.

John Wayne: Assuming an over-the-top tough-guy role. “Old Chicken-Wing Jenkins went all John Wayne on that guy. Messed him up, too. I heard the ‘other guy’ has three broken ribs.”

New Picture

Junior Officer: Next thing to toilet tissue stuck to the bottom of a veteran officer’s shoe.

Jurisdiction: An area of authority. Sheriff Lock M. Up has jurisdiction over the entire county and all towns and cities within.

Justifiable Homicide: Killing of another in self-defense or the defense of others.


KA: Known associate

Keepers: Thin leather straps used to attach a gun belt to an under belt, or dress belt.

Hamilton One 046

Belt keeper

Without belt keepers the duty belt would easily and quickly fall down to your ankles, especially when chasing someone through a dark alley.

Hamilton One 094Two belt keepers positioned between handcuff cases

Keeping a Gambling House: A proprietor is said to be “keeping a gambling house” if he has knowledge and consents to gambling at or on his premises, or at a place under his control. If true, the proprietor is guilty of Keeping a Gambling House.

Keeping Six: Watching your back. The numerical reference is to the number six on a clock face. Standing at the center of the clock, facing twelve, six would be to your rear.

Kiddie Cop: School Resource Officer.

Kill: To deprive of life.

Kiting: Taking advantage of the time between when a check is deposited and when the funds are collected at another bank. This time period is known as “the float.” Drawing checks against deposits/funds which have not yet cleared. Writing checks against an account having funds insufficient to cover the check amount(s).

Kleptomania: An irresistible, uncontrollable propensity to steal things.

Knock and Announce: The rule that requires police to knock and announce their presence and purpose before entering a home. No-knock search warrants are the exception to the rule.


Laundering: Transfer of money gained illegally into legal channels for the purpose of hiding its true source.

Lawn Ornament: An intoxicated person who passed out in someone’s front yard.

Lay Witness: Person offering testimony who is not an expert on the subject matter at hand.

Lead Poisoning: Shot multiple times. “Wow, twenty-three gunshot wounds. The cause of death is definitely lead poisoning.”

Lex talionis: The law of retaliation. An eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth.

Light ‘Em Up: Activate emergency/blue lights. Initiate a traffic stop. “That car matches the description of the one used in the armed robbery. Light ‘em up.” This phrase was often used on the television show Southland.


Liquid Jesus: Pepper spray…because it has the capability to instantly convert the mean and nasty into sweet and compliant.

L.K.A.: Last Known Address

Lockdown: To temporarily confine prisoners to their cells during an emergency, or for added security during, after, or to prevent an “event”.

Lockup: Temporary holding facility.

Looky-Loo: A person who cannot resist watching anything related to police, fire, EMS, train wreck, car crash, and general death and/or dismemberment. AKA Rubberneckers.

Loser Cruiser: A retired police car, now civilian-owned. Typically, the loser cruiser still has at least one spotlight still attached, as well as a couple of other police-type identifiers—antenna, etc. These cars are often purchased and driven by cop wannabe’s.


Mace-greff: In Old English law, one who buys stolen goods. A fence.

Mail Fraud: The use of the mail to defraud (mailing a letter to set a scheme in motion, or to continue the criminal act). Mail fraud is a federal offense.

Major Crimes: Unofficially, the broad classification of the most serious crimes—Murder, Rape, Robbery, etc. Lt. Leadfoot is the detective in charge of the Major Crimes Division.

Malice: Intentionally committing a wrongful act, with the intent of causing an injury of some type.

Manslaughter: Unlawful (inexcusable) killing someone without premeditation or malice.

M.E.:  Medical Examiner

Mens Rea: A criminal intent.

M.O.:  Modus operandi, or method of operation. A pattern of behavior.

MCT:  Mobile Computer Terminal

Hamilton One 061

Monger: A seller, or dealer. For example, fishmonger.

Mug Book: A collection of mugshots/photos of suspected and convicted criminals.

Mugshot: Photo taken of suspect during booking/processing.


I’ve heard the term “Got your six.” many times, even used it myself, but I never knew the origin. I found that very interesting.

If you’d like to see the wealth of information Lee has over on The Graveyard Shift I’ve included his website/blog in the sidebar under crime writers. I’ve also included blogs that give excellent writing tips, ones that I follow, and ones that I contribute to. Since I follow so many of you I wasn’t able to include everyone. Please know it isn’t because I don’t enjoy your blog, I wouldn’t be following you if I didn’t. I just had to draw the line somewhere. Periodically I will add to the list hoping to build a great resource for all of you.

Have a great weekend!


Cop Talk: Crime Writer’s Dictionary F – I

We’ll continue with the dictionary today. I’ve found this reference indispensable. My hope is that you will too. If you missed part one of this series you can find it here. As a reminder, this dictionary was created by Lee Lofland, veteran officer/detective/K9 handler and the author of Police Procedural and Investigation: A Guide for Writersand many other worthwhile reads. To find out more about Lee’s books click the title. It will bring you to his author’s page.

“Get small, Spanky, Jr., here comes a ghetto bird!”

“We’d better jet, Spanky, Jr. Here comes Pork Chop Ledbetter and he’s totin’ that nine with one in the pipe!”

Not familiar with the above terminology? No problem. Here’s F through I from Lee Lofland’s handy-dandy, mini crime writer’s dictionary.



Fact-finder: Judge or jury charged with determining the facts of a court proceeding.

FADARSitting on the side of the road giving the appearance of running radar, but with absolutely no intention of stopping a car. It’s a great tactic for reducing the speed of travelers. It’s also a great time to read a few pages from a favorite novel.

False Arrest: Unlawful restraint of one’s personal liberty.

Hamilton One 019

FD: Fire Department

Felony: A high/serious crime typically punishable by imprisonment (not jail), or death.

Felony Blue: When the chemical in a field test kit for cocaine turns blue. A positive result.

Fighting Words: Words that incite violence and breach of the peace, and that cause injury.

Fire Bomb: Any container of flammable material such as gasoline and/or kerosene, or other chemical compound, having a wick composed of any material which is capable of igniting the contained flammable material.

Flight: Leaving or concealment/hiding to avoid arrest.

Forcible Entry: Entering the property of another without that person’s permission. In some areas a mere trespass is considered forcible entry.

Fourth Amendment: Prohibits unreasonable search and seizure.

Fratricide: The killing of one’s brother.

FTD: Fixing To Die (often used when describing a severely injured victim of a vehicle crash).“Rescue is on the way to the ER with the driver, but he’s FTD.”

Fresh Pursuit (Hot Pursuit): An immediate, ongoing chase of a fleeing criminal suspect who is attempting to avoid capture. During a fresh pursuit, officers may cross jurisdictional boundaries, and they’re permitted to make an arrest of the fleeing subject without a warrant.


Gabaloo: a real dumbass who believes he’s heaven’s gift to everything on earth—the best singer, the sexiest, etc.

Gag Order: When a defendant becomes unruly a judge may order that he be bound and gagged to prevent further disruptions. The term is also used when a judge orders attorneys, witnesses, etc. to not discuss a case outside the courtroom. Note – Some would prefer the bound and gagging approach be used on attorneys as well as a defendant/client.

Gear Hound: An officer who has far more equipment than that issued by the department. A gear hound is frequently seen shopping in police supply stores.

Get Small: Hide, or run away.

Ghetto Bird: Police helicopter.

Ghetto Cattle: A pack of feral or abandoned dogs.

Ghost Riding: A patrol car rolling down the street without a driver. Officers sometimes are in such a hurry when arriving at the scene they simply forget to shift to park.

GGW: Girls gone wild.

Ghetto: Gangster

Good Cause: A legal excuse for doing something that’s typically considered illegal. (Think politicians).

Good Moral CharacterDo NOT think politicians.

Gorilla Anus/Gorilla Ass: term used when someone refuses to do something you want them to do. “No, Lil’ Dirt Bag won’t go to the store to get me no Cheetos. He’s being a real gorilla ass.”

Gorilla Biscuits: an old street term for meth.  Zookeepers may have another definition.

Grass Widow: A woman separated from her husband by abandonment.

Grill: Teeth, or face.



Habeus CorpusTo bring a party before the judge.  The most common of the writs is to release a prisoner from unlawful imprisonment. Jailhouse lawyers make a living drafting these for fellow inmates.

Habeus Grab-Ass: To catch/arrest a suspect.

Hairbag: Rookie who thinks he knows it all, even if he’s only been on the job for an hour.

Hatch Act: Statute prohibiting federal, state, and local employees from participating in certain political activities.

Hats and Bats: Riot gear—helmets and batons.

Horner: A person/addict who inhales/snorts heroin rather than inject it.

Hillbilly Meth: Mountain Dew (soft drink). The soda was given the nickname due to its high sugar content.

Holster SnifferA woman who has sex with cops simply because they’re cops. AKA – Holster Humper, Cop Stalker, Badge Bunny.

Horizontal Highway Hostess: Prostitute who works the streets.

House Mouse: Officer who typically works behind a desk.


Hurrication: Time off work due to do storms.

Hooptie: Any car that’s still rolling despite troubles, such as windows that won’t roll up or down, hood or trunk lid wired shut with baling wire, missing window glasses covered with garbage bags and duct tape, broken taillights covered with red duct tape, missing hubcaps, radio antennae missing but replaced with coat hanger, and so on. “Lawdy, is Bubba still driving that old hooptie car his daddy bought from the junk yard? “

Hot BloodWhen someone’s emotions/passions have been heightened to an uncontrollable degree. A case of “hot blood” may be cause to reduce a murderer’s charge to a lesser offense.

Hydrant Humper: Firefighter.

Hulk-Out: To become extremely angry in an instant. “Seargent, be careful with that guy. He’ll hulk-out on you in a heartbeat. Took six of us to get him cuffed last time.”



ICE: Immigration and Customs Enforcement

ICE is also an acronym for “in case of emergency,” and it’s a nickname for methamphetamine.

Illegal: Not authorized by law.

Illegally Obtained Evidence: Evidence obtained in violation of a person’s rights (officers had no warrant or probable cause to arrest, seize property, etc.).

Imminent: Near at hand. “The threat to his life was imminent.”

Imprisonment: Detention of a person against their will/wishes.


Indecent: Offensive. Obscene. Vulgar. (See politician).

§ 18.2-67.2. Inanimate object sexual penetration; penalty. (Virginia law) An accused shall be guilty of inanimate or animate object sexual penetration if he or she penetrates the labia majora or anus of a complaining witness, whether or not his or her spouse, other than for a bona fide medical purpose, or causes such complaining witness to so penetrate his or her own body with an object or causes a complaining witness, whether or not his or her spouse, to engage in such acts with any other person or to penetrate, or to be penetrated by, an animal, and

1. The complaining witness is less than 13 years of age; or

2. The act is accomplished against the will of the complaining witness, by force, threat or intimidation of or against the complaining witness or another person, or through the use of the complaining witness’s mental incapacity or physical helplessness.

Indictment: A charge, in writing, investigated and found by a grand jury.

Informer: A person who discloses information regarding violations of the law.

In jure: According to the law.

Innocent: Free from guilt.

In The Pipe: A weapon with one round in the chamber.

New Picture (6)

In The WindThe suspect is a runner/has fled the scene. “Little Earl took off as soon as he saw the police car. Man, he was in the wind.”

Quiz time! Now that you know the terms, can you put the quoted statements (found at the beginning of the post) into words the rest of the world can understand? Leave me your answer in the comment section.

Fadar was a bit shocking– those little buggers had me fooled. And who doesn’t like Gabaloo? I’ve personally known plenty of Gabaloos in my time. Now, I know what to call them. But I think Holster Humper/Holster Sniffer is my favorite here. What’s yours and why?