Monday, May 30, 2011

Write the Fight Right

Write the Fight Right by Alan Baxter

A fiction writer's resource for creating realistic, convincing fight scenes.

Author and martial arts instructor, Alan Baxter, presents a short, ~12,000 word, ebook describing all the things a writer needs to consider when writing fight scenes. Baxter's experience from decades as a career martial artist make this book a valuable resource for writers who want to understand what fighting is all about - what it really feels like and what does and doesn't work - and how to factor those things into their writing to make their fight scenes visceral, realistic page turners. Baxter won't tell you how to write, but he will tell you what makes a great fight scene.

--Write the Fight Right by Alan Baxter, Copyright ©2011 by Alan Baxter

My Review

You’re making great progress in writing your novel and then you come to the climactic fight scene. You know how it’s supposed to go. You can see the whole thing in your head, blow for blow, until the bad guy is down on the ground, bruised, bloody and unconscious with the hero standing over him, fists clenched, barely breathing hard, not a hair out of place. The girl runs into the hero’s arms, they kiss, end of story.

So you write it, and somehow, on paper, it’s not as good as it was in your head. Or your critiquers put voice to your fear: “Sorry, it’s just not realistic.” So you rewrite and rewrite and you just can’t get it. You need experience, you figure, but you’ve never been in a fight in your life. You’ve only watched them on television and in movies. How can you write what you don’t know? Short of starting a barroom brawl, what do you do?

Start by reading this book.

Write the Fight Right by Alan Baxter, writer and martial arts instructor, knows how to write and knows how to fight. He wrote this book to help you and me, the non-fighter, write our fight scenes with confidence and accuracy so no one can tell us, “Sorry, it’s just not realistic.”

The book is broken out into small chapters that cover the various techniques of fighting as well as reactions and outcomes. It also includes a cheat sheet checklist and a sample fight scene.

“This book won’t teach you how to fight, but it will teach you some of the things you need to know to write convincingly about fighting.”

As you read this how-to-write book, keep paper and pen handy because you will want to take notes. Some of the information seems obvious, like “nothing is more important in fighting that footwork,” and “it’s hard to hit a moving target.” We know those things already (right?). But how about “when you fight, you will get hit.” We may not want a single hair on our hero’s head to be disturbed, but in a real fight, his opponent will land blows and he will get hit. He has to, if you want to keep it real. And getting hit hurts. It hurts everyone, even the most intrepid of heroes. He may even feel like crying after being hit, which is a natural reaction. Add these facts into your story, and the realism starts to come. Readers will start to believe your fight scenes.

(But of course, we’d never allow our hero to cry. Let the bad guy be the blubbering baby after the hero delivers a crushing right cross.)

“When two tigers fight, one limps away, terribly wounded. The other is dead.” – old Chinese proverb.

You can’t learn fighting from a book, but with this book and your fertile writer’s imagination, you can factor in elements you may not ever have considered and make your fight scenes realistic, so readers will think you know what you’re talking about. And they’ll want to read more. That’s the hallmark of a good story.

Alan Baxter is a British-Australian author living on the south coast of NSW, Australia. He writes dark fantasy, sci fi and horror, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog. He also teaches Kung Fu. Read extracts from his novels, a novella and short stories at his website – – and feel free to tell him what you think. About anything.

Write the Fight Right is currently available only as a Kindle e-book through the Amazon link below or through Smashword’s web site (click here for a direct link to the book). The price is right ($1.99 USD) so click away!

I give the book FOUR stars.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rain Fall

Rain Fall by Barry Eisler

Born of an American mother and a Japanese father, John Rain is a businessman based in Tokyo, living a life of meticulously planned anonymity. Trained by the U.S. Special Forces and a veteran of Vietnam, he is a cool, self-contained loner—and he has built a steady business over the past twenty-five years specializing in death by “natural causes.” He is also a man struggling with his own divided nature: Japanese/American; soldier/assassin; samurai/ronin.

From its richly atmospheric and ominous opening pages—in which we witness the death of a stranger in a crowded subway car—Rain’s carefully ordered world begins to unravel. Unknown agents from within and without the international intelligence communities have been circling him for years and, having connected him to the subway job, now have the scent they have been seeking. At the same time, Rain is drawn outside his private world by an alluring jazz pianist, the dead man’s daughter, who is the key to the very secrets that her father died trying to reveal.
John Rain, a Japanese American konketsu, or half-breed, learned his lethal trade as a member of the U.S. Special Forces. Although tortured by memories of atrocities he committed in Vietnam, he has become a paid assassin, a solitary man who lives in the shadows and trusts no one, even those who pay extraordinary sums for his ability to make murder look like natural death. But the aftermath of an otherwise routine hit on a government bureaucrat brings Rain to the attention of two men he knows from the old days in Vietnam: a friend who's now a Tokyo cop and an enemy who betrayed Rain long ago and is now the CIA's station chief in Japan. Like the gangster who hired Rain to kill Yasuhiro Kawamura, they want something the dead man had--a computer disk containing proof of high-level corruption, information that could destroy Japan's ruling political coalition. The search for the disk leads them to a woman Rain has come to love, a talented young jazz musician who also happens to be Kawamura's daughter. --Jane Adams – review

--Rain Fall by Barry Eisler, Copyright ©2002 by Barry Eisler

My Review

Rain Fall is the 1st book in the John Rain series.

John Rain, professional assassin, has only three rules. One, his target must be male. Two, he works exclusively—no competition. Three, the target must be a principle, no killing one person to send a message to another. So when he accepts the assignment to take out Yasuhiro Kawamura, a bureaucrat connected with the Liberal Democratic Party, he confirms these three facts and sets out to learn as much as he could about his target in order to make the man’s death look as natural as possible. That’s his specialty, after all.

When Kawamura collapses on the Tokyo subway, it looks like a heart attack. The autopsy will reveal that the man’s pacemaker must have malfunctioned, eliminating any needs for a homicide investigation. Rain is satisfied that the job is complete, however, he’s mildly bothered by the gaijin, a Westerner who appears to be trying to help Kawamura, but in fact, starts searching the dead man’s pockets. But there’s nothing he can do about that.

Days later, Rain finds out that during Kawamura’s funeral, someone tossed Kawamura’s apartment. He comes to the conclusion that the Westerner was supposed to meet Kawamura and receive something from him, something that would cause a later search of the dead man’s apartment. Not his problem, but he’s intrigued to find out Kawamura had a daughter, Midori, and that she was an up-and-coming jazz musician. Rain enjoys jazz and decided to catch one of her performances at a local club. But he’s not the only aficionado of Midori’s music. The Westerner who searched Kawamura’s pockets shows up. After her performance, Rain follows the Westerner to a nearby Starbucks, where he’s arranged a meeting with Midori. Rain, watching from a diner across the street, sees that the meeting does not go well and can’t help but want to find out what exactly is going on.

His curiosity is aroused even further when he receives another job assignment. The target? Midori Kawamura. Kawamura had something he was supposed to give to the Westerner, but was unable to. Now the people hiring Rain believe Midori is in the possession of the mysterious “something,” so she must be eliminated as well.

This violates one of his rules and he decides to do the exact opposite. Instead of taking out the target, he’s going to protect the target. And in the process, becomes a target himself.

I’d seen Barry Eisler’s Rain series on the shelves of my library but with so many unread books at home, I couldn’t bring myself to insert this book ahead of all those. But two weeks ago, looking for something new, my mind latched on to this book and wouldn’t let go. So I went ahead and checked it out. I’m glad I did because this was a very well written story, although it did delve rather strongly into Rain’s background. All the forays into the past began to bother me after a while, but I knew that they were necessary to explain Rain’s history and how he became the man he is today. I’m hoping that the remaining books in the series, Hard Rain, Rain Storm, Killing Rain, The Last Assassin and Requiem for an Assassin will not go so much into the past (unless truly necessary) and will focus on Rain’s future adventures.

I give it THREE stars.

Nothing to Lose

Nothing to Lose by Lee Child

Two lonely towns in Colorado: Hope and Despair. Between them, twelve miles of empty road. Jack Reacher never turns back. It's not in his nature. All he wants is a cup of coffee. What he gets is big trouble. So in Lee Child’s electrifying new novel, Reacher—a man with no fear, no illusions, and nothing to lose—goes to war against a town that not only wants him gone, it wants him dead.

It wasn’t the welcome Reacher expected. He was just passing through, minding his own business. But within minutes of his arrival a deputy is in the hospital and Reacher is back in Hope, setting up a base of operations against Despair, where a huge, seething walled-off industrial site does something nobody is supposed to see . . . where a small plane takes off every night and returns seven hours later . . . where a garrison of well-trained and well-armed military cops—the kind of soldiers Reacher once commanded—waits and watches . . . where above all two young men have disappeared and two frightened young women wait and hope for their return.

Joining forces with a beautiful cop who runs Hope with a cool hand, Reacher goes up against Despair—against the deputies who try to break him and the rich man who tries to scare him—and starts to crack open the secrets, starts to expose the terrifying connection to a distant war that’s killing Americans by the thousand.

Now, between a town and the man who owns it, between Reacher and his conscience, something has to give. And Reacher never gives an inch.

--Nothing to Lose by Lee Child, Copyright ©2008 by Lee Child

My Review

Nothing to Lose is the 12th book in Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series.

After spending the night in Hope, Colorado, Reacher heads west. He’d been in Calais, Maine, and decided to go to San Diego. Rather than catch a cross-country bus to get there in a couple days, he walks, or hitches rides, or catches a bus to get from one place to the next, slowly making his way to the south and west. He’s in no hurry. Jack Reacher is a man with no responsibilities and he has all the time in the world.

West of the town of Hope is the town of Despair. He stops in at a diner for a cup of coffee but has a hard time getting service. He eventually gets his coffee, and then he gets arrested for vagrancy and a ride back to the boundary between Hope and Despair with a stern warning not to return.

Leaving town is fine with him, but he didn’t want to go east. If the deputy had taken him to the western town border and dropped him off there, he would have happily gone on his way to San Diego. But the deputy took him to the east, backtracking Reacher’s path, and Reacher hates turning back.

Deputy Vaughn of the Hope P.D. picks him up and takes him back to town. He questions her about the unusual treatment he got in Despair and doesn’t like what he hears. He decides to defy the Despair judge’s orders and returns to do a little exploring. On his way back to Hope, he stumbles over a dead body. A young man who likely died of dehydration, he figures, but can’t tell much in the darkness. When he returns in the daylight with Vaughn, the body’s gone.

He borrows Vaughn’s truck so he can better explore the area. He drives the long way around and approaches the town from the west, where he finds a small military guard post. Now why would a small town in Colorado have a military guard post on the only road west of town manned by soldiers fresh from Iraq?

Deciding he needs to investigate even further, he returns again the next day and enters the metal processing plant. He explores the facility and before long, is apprehended by plant security. Jerry Thurman, the plant’s—and the town’s—owner decides to give Reacher a tour of the plant. He answers Reacher’s questions and though they’re perfectly plausible answers, Reacher doesn’t believe them.

Being the sort of man he is, Reacher doesn’t like unusual situations. He also doesn’t like it when people lie to him or when bodies of young men disappear. He wants to know what’s going on in Despair and he’ll do whatever it takes to expose all of Despair’s secrets.

As I read this story, I couldn’t help but emphasize with the people of Despair. They’re just living their lives, maybe not happily, but it’s not a bad life. And here comes this know-it-all former Military Policeman, butting his nose into their business, asking all sorts of questions and making demands for information. Why is there a walled-off section of the plant’s compound? Thurman flies his airplane every night…where does he go? Why does he do it? What is the military guard post guarding against? What’s in the sealed shipping containers? If the plant is doing so well, why isn’t the town prospering? Plus he’s asking a lot of other questions that have nothing to do with Despair. Why can’t this guy mind his own business?

Of course, when you reach the end of the story, you’re grateful he did butt his nose in and prevented a cataclysm of epic proportions.

I give this story THREE and a HALF STARS.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Where am I?

So where am I...This time last year, I had read 30 books. As of today, it's 20 with two rejects (two books that I stopped reading because I lost interest in the story). I'm just a wee bit off my pace, wouldn't you say? At this rate, I'll be lucky to finish 50 books by the end of the year. But my life has changed so much in the last year--I have a job and I work out at the gym four or five days a week, things that take up much of the time that was free the previous year. Yard work is starting to take over as well, and there's a lot of work to be done in my yard.

It bothers me a little that I'm not reading as much as I used to. I tell myself it's no big deal...I have things in my life now that take me from being very sedentary to busy and active, and that's a good thing. But I also kinda miss the books. And since I'm not reading as much, I'm not updating this blog as much, which, I hope, is not disappointing to my many followers .

But anyway, that's all I wanted to say. Thanks for sticking with me and I promise to keep updating as I finish books. There just won't be quite as many as there were last year.

Keep reading everyone!

Bad Luck & Trouble

Bad Luck & Trouble by Lee Child

From a helicopter high above the California desert, a man is sent free-falling into the night. On the streets of Portland, Jack Reacher is pulled out of his wandering life and plunged into the heart of a conspiracy that is killing old friends . . . and the people he once trusted with his life.

Reacher is the ultimate loner–no phone, no ties, no address. But a woman from his old military unit has found him using a signal only the eight members of their elite team would know. Then she tells him a terrifying story about the brutal death of a man they both served with. Soon Reacher is reuniting with the survivors of his team, scrambling to unravel the sudden disappearance of two other comrades. But Reacher won’t give up–because in a world of bad luck and trouble, when someone targets Jack Reacher and his team, they’d better be ready for what comes right back at them.

--Bad Luck & Trouble by Lee Child, Copyright ©2007 by Lee Child

My Review

Bad Luck & Trouble is the 11th book in Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series.

Reacher is in Portland, checking his bank balance at an ATM (he finally got an ATM card!) and discovers a discrepancy. There’s too much money in the account. One thousand thirty dollars too much, to be exact. One-Oh-Three-Oh. He knows that number. One of his old team is reaching out for his help. A call to the bank gives him the answer. It’s Frances Neagley (from Without Fail), a member of an elite Army Military Police special investigation team he headed up for two years.

He joins Neagley in Los Angeles where she tells him some bad news. Another member of their team, Calvin Franz, was found dead in the desert outside L.A. (you might remember him from The Enemy). He was murdered, pushed out of a helicopter. The bad news doesn’t end there…she’s tried contacting all the members of their old team and none of them so far have responded. No one but Reacher. We need to reunite the old team, she says, so we can find out what’s going on.

Eventually, two more members of the team find them, Carla Dixon and David O’Donnell. Tony Swann, Manuel Orosco and Jorge Sanchez remain missing. Together, the four of them begin to piece together the few clues they have…a confusing series of figures, a list of five names, and a note scribbled on a napkin. From the figures, they divine the number 650 is important, but how it relates is anyone’s guess. Of the list of names, they figure the first is someone’s real name followed by four aliases. They decide one of their four friends ran into a situation and called for help from the three that lived closest. But which one called on the others is another unknown. Since Manuel Orosco and Jorge Sanchez ran a casino security firm in Las Vegas, they figure the numbers have something to do with the casinos, so they go to Vegas. But Vegas proves to be a waste of time. Except for the man who tried to kill them on a deserted side street.

That’s when things get interesting.

Who is this almost-killer? Who does he work for? What’s his connection—is there a connection?—to any of their missing friends? Who is the man with the four aliases and how does he figure in?

With the dead man’s identity known, they’re able to start putting the pieces together. And the picture isn’t a pretty one. But in the end, the bad guys find out exactly why the old unit’s motto used to be, and still is, “You don’t mess with the Special Investigators.”

I think it’s nice that Reacher got to reunite with his old friends, even if some of them are, sadly, unable to join the party. It’s almost too bad that they part ways at the end of the story. I’d love to see the four of them working together again in the future. But even though I’m pretty sure that won’t happen, I’m also pretty sure we’ll be seeing Frances Neagley again. Just a feeling…

I give this story FOUR STARS.