Monday, February 27, 2017

Know Your Weapons: Writing Fight Scenes in Fiction


By Morgan Chalfant


As writers, we all have our strengths and weaknesses. For me, a strength is how to write a kickass fight scene. If it is one area of my writing (especially my novel, Ghosts of Glory) I have received lots of positive feedback about, it is how I write action. Fight scenes, whether one-one-one or one-on-many are not as simple as they may seem and it is easy to get lost, forget something critical, or lose track of where your characters are in relation to one another, all things that will harm the credibility of your scene. Scenes of the many vs. many variety are different.

Yes, they are technically fights, but on a large scale. Thus, I tend to file those under battle scenes, which are another ballgame altogether, so we won’t go into that here. Here is what you need to know:
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Know Your Protagonist’s Weapons – This is important for your story in general, but when it comes to fighting, it’s equally critical. You must be fully aware of your main character’s strengths, weaknesses, and special skills, whether you’re hero/heroine is a demon, an angel, a vampire, a regular human or even a super-sentient gelatinous mass named Kenneth Brownstone. If your protagonist, Grognor Deathhammer, is an ex-Olympic wrestler (know your wrestling moves) who used to do side work as a mallet-wielding carnie is about to throw down with an angry band of post-apocalyptic road ninjas, you better not have him flipping around like Simone Biles on a balance beam. Know your character’s capabilities.
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Research, Research, Research – This area gets a lot of people in trouble. If you don’t know anything about martial arts and your protagonist is a fourth degree black belt in Kung Fu, you’re going to want to check out a book on Kung Fu to learn some of the terminology so you can at least appear credible. Even better, enroll in a Kung Fu class (first-hand experience is always good) or interview a Kung Fu expert. 
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Know Your Location – If you’re going to have your hero and villain square off, it’s a good idea to choose a location that is dynamic. Don’t choose a static empty room, set their showdown on the docks among the freight ships, chains, ropes, cranes, storage crates and things they can interact with or even better, use as a weapon. Heck, stage the fight in a donut shop. I guarantee is someone gets killed by an apple fritter, your reader will thank you.
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Don’t Skip the Banter – There are some great fight scenes on film that are all about two people just beating the ever-loving hell out of one another with stoic tenacity. However, this does not work so well in written form. Banter between characters can give us a look at what they are feeling before the punches start flying. All fights aren’t physical, some are intellectual. The fight could start three minutes before a punch is even thrown with dialogue and steely stares. Maybe nobody throws a single punch at all. We all love a villain who tries to get under our hero’s skin. This is your chance. Throw in some witty dialogue. Show us who these people are by their words as well as their fists. 
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Environmental/Physical Awareness – As you navigate your way through the fight scene, always stay conscious of where the protagonist is in relation to his opponent. If he’s been hit and is on his knees, he can’t suddenly be standing, he must transition in some way. If the enemy is four feet away, the hero is going to have no chance of reaching him with a punch. Be aware. The same goes for if the hero is holding a rope in one hand and a baseball bat in the other. If his hands are full, he’s going to have to drop something to grab ahold of something else. Be aware of your choices. Always know where your characters are in the scene, as well as what they’re doing.
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Know the Ending – This one isn’t as dire as the aforementioned tips, but I find it’s a good idea to know how the fight is going to end before you start. Now that doesn’t just mean who lives and who dies. If Johnny lives, but is going to leave the fight with a broken arm, it’s a good idea to make a note of that ahead of time so you can show the arm being broken. That way when Johnny shows up in a sling in the third act of the book, the reader isn’t left without explanation.

When you approach writing a fight scene, consider some or all of these ideas. Yes, there’s always the “just start writing” approach, and that’s okay if you like going back and fixing inaccuracies and problems, but you can avoid many of these mistakes to begin with by just taking a moment to consider some important elements of combat that can elevate an action scene above just the cliché Rock’em Sock’em Robots head-punching session.
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Morgan Chalfant is a native of Hill City, Kansas. He received his Bachelor's degree in writing and his Master's degree in literature from Fort Hays State University. He is the author of the horror/thriller, Focused Insanity, the urban fantasy novel, Ghosts of Glory and the forthcoming sequel, Infernal Glory. You can find him at http://the-morgan-chalfant.tumblr.com/, on Facebook at Morgan Chalfant's Real Page, or on Twitter: @MorganChalfant1.


Friday, February 24, 2017

Putting Away my Phone & Other Things


By Tracy Bryan


About two years ago I was sitting in a restaurant with my family and I had one of those inspiring writer epiphanies. You know when something inside you triggers and you’re prompted to write about it because it has new meaning to you? This was mine. 

We had just finished ordering and as I was about to reach for my phone, I glimpsed around the room and I noticed that so many other people were fidgeting with their phones too. It was at that exact moment that I realized that this story needs to be told. This could be a great picture book.

This was not the first time lately that I had seen a group of people socializing while on their smartphones. My family alone had all become accustomed to doing this and we were doing it more frequently.

What was this phenomenon with smartphone behavior and why was I just noticing it? 


So what’s the harm? Based on the research I did, my opinion is that it’s not so much that smartphones are harmful, but It’s more that when not used in balance, smartphones can become somewhat addictive.

Our fast-paced contemporary world depends on technology. In order to function more efficiently, I think we need our phones and other devices in our everyday lives for communication, education, and innovation. Most people come to rely on this valuable technology for essential work and leisure related activities and it’s difficult to imagine a world without it. 


 We continue to spend a huge amount of time using our technological devices and a study done by Deloitte in 2015 reports that, “On average, people in the United States across all age groups check their phones 46 times per day, according to Deloitte. That’s up from 33 looks per day in 2014.”

The good news is that awareness about smartphone use is growing more widespread.

With regards to personal development, family values, and social behavior, how will this growing issue relate to the next generation of adults and children? For kids, seeing everyone glued to their devices must create little space for basic interaction with the important people in their life. 

I’m personally curious to see how these figures will affect the children of the future and their families. How do contemporary kids feel about excessive smartphone use?

Meet Emma…she’s the main character in my newly released picture book called Put Away Your Phone! Emma is the voice of kids and frustrated adults everywhere. She’s a hero in a little girl's body. Instead of a cape, she wears red overalls. She is smart, clever, humorous and just a little bit too impatient!

Join Emma in Put Away Your Phone! as she counts her way through the zoo and help her shout PUT AWAY YOUR PHONE! to all the grown-ups she sees.

Emma’s message is a relevant one that we can all pay more attention to. As our world becomes increasingly more reliant on technological devices, it’s important to keep in mind that there’s a time for smartphones and a time to connect with the people (and animals) in your life!
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Tracy Bryan is an award-winning Indie author. She writes whimsical books for kids ages 4-12. She just released her debut fiction picture book called Put Away Your Phone! with illustrator David Barrow. They are currently working on their next book together called Too Many Things! due to be out early 2017! Tracy writes a monthly personal Blog for adults on her website and one for kids aged 6-12 called The Awesomeness Blog. Follow her on Facebook , Twitter , Goodreads & AmazonTo learn more about Tracy or contact her, please email tracy@tracybryan.com or visit her website tracybryan.com


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Peeking Over Your Neighbors Fence


By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine


If you are like most Americans there is a good chance you live in a subdivision or neighborhood where neighbors are close at hand and fences divide your yards and provide your privacy. I’m no different. I have great neighbors but do appreciate our fences. As they say good fences make good neighbors.

We do get curious about what is going on in our neighbor’s back yards and will on occasion take a peek over the fence. I sometimes look through the cracks or knot holes that have popped out. Now this isn’t something we hide from each other. We do talk to each other by climbing up on the fence or will even put a ladder against the fence to get a better look. 

We admire our gardens, lawns, flowers and especially the smoke rising from the BBQ. We share gardening and lawn tips and recipes for outdoor cookouts. As divisive as the privacy fence may appear, and it can be, we openly look beyond it and happily share with our neighbors. As a matter of fact there is a sense of pride in being asked about our backyard success. There is also a great deal of wisdom shared and gathered from the peeking across the fence visits.        

Southern Writers Magazine is what I call the ultimate peek over your neighbor’s fence. Your author neighbors are similar to my own. They are happy to see you looking over the fence or through the cracks and knot holes. They do the same. They share their wisdom and seek yours. Each author has a sense of pride in their back yard a sense of pride in sharing with others. They, like us, want their yard as well as their neighbor’s yard to look great. It makes for a better neighborhood and community.

If you had been following Southern Writers Magazine since its first issue you would have taken a peek over the fence of 1,032 author neighbors. Each having a story of their own and each allowing you to peek into their backyard. They know they achieved a great back yard by peeking over their neighbor’s fence and are happy to share with the next neighbor over.


If you have missed taking a peek you can start today. You simply go to our subscription site    http://www.southernwritersmagazine.com/subscribe.html  and subscribe. Whether a reader and want a look inside your favorite author’s way to write or an author and looking for ideas that will help you along the way you will enjoy each issue. So take some time and take a peek. You won’t regret it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

WRITING IS A BUSINESS


By Catherine Brakefield


A well-written book should inspire your imagination.

I shall never forget when I read about Helen Keller. I remember thinking, “I want to write so descriptively that a woman like Helen Keller who has never seen the sunset, heard the laughter of a child, or smelled the lusty scents of horses, will have no problem experiencing it through my words.”
I use descriptive scenes in my novels because I want my readers to be immersed into my settings, swept away into that time period, and to enjoy stepping into the role of my hero or heroine. This is so important to me that in my recent novel, Wilted Dandelions, I took a road trip out west just to make sure my scenes accurately depicted the landscape of my story.

But I often get too caught up in my characters and settings and forget that writing is a business. In “How Much Do you Know About your Target Audience, author and writing coach Debra Butterfield writes “People read to meet a need in their life.” Butterfield does a great job in describing how the author must be very familiar with their target audience and how this steers their writing.

I steer my writing toward saved and unsaved women between mid-twenties to seventy years old. In the past, I wrote editorial articles for local newspapers and magazines. I have also written some history books, and I find that most of my readers are historically curious and romantically inspired by my novels. But men and young adults have expressed their appreciation for my novels as well. 

Here comes the hard work. How do you get that great book of yours into your unknowing readers’ hands and into their hearts?

In Emma Siemasko’s article dated February 17, 2011, “15 Ways to Let the World Know About Your Awesome Business,” she says “When our founders started Grasshopper, they were intent on using natural and transparent ways to get the word out. Their goal was (and still is) to get people gabbing about what we do. If they’re happy with our product, they’ll tell their friends, who tell their friends, and so on and so forth.”

Research shows that your time has become more valuable than money. I agree. Monetary pleasures will fall by the way side. Watching my parents I realized that the older we become, the more our memories become cherished commodities. Not that couch or bookcase you bought ten years ago. Ah, but your family, good songs and good books that memory remains with you…

That is why when your novel is complete, your real work begins. Fine tune the essence of your book into one sentence and be ready to stimulate your potential reader into the imagination of words. Once you get your book out there, the next step is, as Siemasko says, “To get people gabbing” about your book.

One of the best ways to get the word out about a product and about your book is through positive reviews. Siemasko says her research shows that an army of fans can out do anything a fancy PR firm can do for a favorite author. If you like a book you need to say so to your friends and social media. The best advertising is word of mouth.

Get your book in front of the right people. If you have written a children’s book, visit day cares, parent’s groups, elementary schools, and other places where your target market is likely to be. Faith-based historical romances often find their niche in libraries and women’s and church groups. Self-help and inspirational books do well with self-help church groups, YWCA groups, and adult educational groups. 

Love, life, and the legacy of words, whether you expertise is intrigue, history, romance, insight, or inspiration, a thought provoking story should encourage, up-lift the heart, and carry the reader through their trials, providing biblical wisdom for life’s decisions.

Writing is a business, and no one can sell your product better than you. Be friendly, be assessable, and be excited. You’ve created a great book, now go out and tell the world!
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Catherine says, “My readers inspire my writing! Catherine Brakefield is the author of three faith-based historical romances; The Wind of Destiny, Wilted Dandelions, and the first of a four book Destiny series, Swept into Destiny scheduled for release in May 2017. She has also written two Pictorial history books: Images of AmericaThe Lapeer Area, and Images of AmericaEastern Lapeer County. Her short stories have been published in Guidepost Books True Stories of Extraordinary Answers to Prayer Unexpected Answers and Desires of Your Heart; Baker BooksRevell, The Dog Next Door and Horse of my Heart; CrossRiver Media Publishers, The Benefit Package and Abba’s Promise; Bethany House Publishers, Jesus Talked to me Today. She enjoys swimming and horseback riding and lives in Addison Township with her husband, Edward, and their Arabian horses. Now that her children are grown and married, she and Edward are the blessed recipients of two handsome grandsons and a lovely granddaughter! See www.CatherineUlrichBrakefield.com for more information
Her author Facebook page is www.facebook.com/CatherineUlrichBrakefield To purchase Wilted Dandelions and book promotions visit www.CrossRiverMedia.com 


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

That Oscar Feeling!



by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine


For my money, there is no greater example of artistic collaboration than movies.  Where else do writing, music, acting, directing, choreography, cinematography, set design, editing, etc all come together as one? The exhaustive list of credits at the end of any feature film catalogs hundreds and sometimes thousands of people who all contributed to the project in a significant way.

Of course, it all begins with a story.  When the Academy Award nominations are announced each year, it's an interesting exercise to look into the written origins of each Best Picture nominee.  In alphabetical order, here are the ones that made the grade for the February 26, 2017 telecast:

http://amzn.to/2kPBKA1
ARRIVAL
This Sci-Fi flick, starring Amy Adams as an interpreter commissioned to decode alien communications, was based on a 2010 short story called Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang. One reviewer, noting significant differences between the film and the original story, made the insightful observation that it's like two friends telling you about the same event from their individual viewpoints.

FENCES
In 1950s Pittsburgh, an ex-con blames discrimination for his failures and alienates his family through stubbornness and drinking. Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reprise their roles from the Pulitzer Prize winning play Fences by August Wilson.

HACKSAW RIDGE
This WWII tale about a combat medic who refuses to carry a gun because of his religious convictions but earns the Medal of Honor is based on real-life hero Desmond Doss. A 2004 documentary film called The Conscientious Objector and a 1960s biography, The Unlikeliest Hero, led Mel Gibson to put the story on the silver screen.

HELL OR HIGH WATER
Jeff Bridges plays an about-to-retire Texas ranger working his last case, tracking bank robbers. This original script was one of the "most-liked screenplays yet to be produced" in a 2012 survey known as The Black List. Published every December, this list has been influential in getting other Oscar picks produced, including recent Best Picture winners Argo, The King's Speech, Slumdog Millionaire, and last year's top dog, Spotlight.

HIDDEN FIGURES
NASA's first female mathematicians and America's early victories in space add up to an out-of-this-world history lesson in this movie based on Margot Lee Shetterly's Hidden Figures: The Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race. She began research and writing in 2010 and sold the film rights before the book was published this year. Some liberties were taken in the movie for dramatic purposes, including portraying astronaut John Glenn as a much younger man than he actually was at the time.

LA LA LAND
This acclaimed musical romantic comedy/drama was written and directed by Damien Chazelle, whose Whiplash also caught the eye of the Academy two years ago. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling carry this well-told tale of an actress and a musician trying to make it in Tinsel Town. While completely original, it draws its inspiration from the spirit of every Hollywood musical, romance, comedy, and drama Chazelle pays affectionate homage to.

LION
Based on Saroo Brierley's memoir A Long Way Home, one challenge the filmmakers had was to adapt the bookwhich primarily focused on online researchinto a dramatic chronicle of a lost Indian boy who doesn't know where he's from when he falls asleep and wakes up in Australia.

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
A handyman's past comes back to haunt him in this original screenplay written by its director, Kenneth Lonergan, who also wrote a polar-opposite The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (2000). It's total fiction, but there is a town called Manchester-by-the-Sea in Massachusetts, where this atmospheric film was shot.

MOONLIGHT
The struggles of a bullied child begin a raw portrayal of three stages of his life, with lots of drugs and sex. This is based on a semi-autobiographical play called In Moonlight Black Boys Looks Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney.

So, of the nine Best Picture nominees this year, four began as books, two were stage plays, and three were original screenplays. As you watch any of these movies, and as you cheer on your favorites this Sunday on ABC, I hope you'll feel a sense of pride as the whole world honors the magic of storytelling, which always begins with a storyteller.

I also hope you'll enjoy my tongue-in-cheek musical tribute to this year's Best Picture nominees. As a writing challenge, I find it a fun project each February to turn one of the Best Song nominees into a parody that fits the flicks. Pass the popcorn! bit.ly/OscarsParody2017




Monday, February 20, 2017

Plan Your Writing Ideas for 2017


By Maritza Martinez Mejia


Are you organized? What is your plan for the New Year and the rest of the year? I have some ideas that may help you find the right path for a successful beginning.  Step by step you reach far. Go ahead! Have a productive 2017.

1.    Use Dream Boards, also called Vision Boards to remind you the path you desire to follow, and the goals you hope to achieve during the upcoming year using the power of images.  For detailed information visit here.

2.   Planners or Calendars to mark important due dates, meetings, anniversaries, birthdays or any important days you don’t want to miss. There a vast variety of calendars and planners. Which one is your best planner or calendar? I frankly use the calendar I received at the New Year’s Mass at my local church. I use it as MASTER CALENDAR. I mark all my children’s important school days and activities in black pen. I use blue pen for my working days as substitute teacher and purple for my book signing or book exhibitions. Finally, I use a red pen for important family activities or medical appointments. I happily use green for our TRIPS.

3.   Monthly Check List for a simple way to mark important dates in a list by month. After the task is done, you cross it off the list with a red pen or your favorite color pen. For me, the satisfaction of completing a task is unique.

No matter the style you use, it is important to get organized and set goals to achieve success. 

Make your dreams and turn them into goals to 2017. What is your planning style?
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Maritza Martinez Mejia a bilingual substitute teacher born in Colombia lives in Florida with her husband and their two teenagers. For her active participation and service to the community, she is the recipient of the "Crystal Apple Award 2006." Maritza published her memoir "Hazel Eyes" (2010), "Vanilla and Chocolate" (2012), "Grandma's Treasure" (2014), "Poems, Thoughts and More" (2015), by WRB Publishing and  Ojos Avellana (2016) by Entre Lineas. She won the FAU Treasure Coast Poetry Contest Spring 2010, Virtue Christian Book Awards for Best Poetry 2015 and Latino Book Awards 2016 for BEST Translation and EBook. Both Bilingual Children Books received a FIVE Stars Seal Review by Reader's Favorite. Maritza obtained a Bachelor's degree in Humanities with a Certificate in Women's Studies from Florida Atlantic University. She graduated from Universidad Mayor de Cundinamarca in Commerce and Foreign Language. She translated into Spanish "Temporary Permanence" by Yashi Nozawa, "The Legend of the Colombian Mermaid" by Janet Balletta, and "Hazel Eyes" as "Ojos Avellana." Maritza writes to inspire others to be good. 
Author page: www.amazon.com/-/e/B009DKDXFW  Website: www.luzdelmes.com

Friday, February 17, 2017

TELL YOUR STORY


By Janetta Fudge-Messmer


We’ve all heard the saying, “The Lord works in mysterious ways”. In my case, He directed me on a path I could never have imagined, and blessed me beyond measure.

Almost two years ago I had the privilege of spending a month with my mom after she transitioned into the nursing home. One day I started to ask her questions about her life. Each evening I’d go back to her home and type out what she’d shared with me that day. In the end, I had thirty-five pages of “Mom’s Story.” Later that year, I compiled it into a book (with photos) and ent it to my siblings. They loved it.

Also, while visiting Mom, I put the finishing touches on the novel I started the year before. I tell people that Early Birds is loosely based on my husband and my life. Our dog told us to quit our jobs, sell everything, buy an RV, and get on the road. (I’m happy to report we took Maggie’s advice and have traveled for over three years now.)

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t see a correlation with us hitting the highways and my mom’s story. But the Lord sure had a plan. A few months after Winged Publications published my debut novel, my hubby came up with a grand idea. We could sell my RV-inspired novel at RV rallies.

He called different RV groups and the state directors at the rallies wanted me to set up a booth and sell my book at them. Some even suggested I do a seminar, along with selling my book. I said, “Sure”, but didn’t have a clue what I’d talk about. Then I remembered “Mom’s Story”.

She had a story to tell and it was if the Lord was telling me, “Other people do too.” At my first seminar I shared my mother’s story and gave them questions to jumpstart their own writing. I also used my novel as an example of more ideas they could write about (friends, adventures, trials and tribulations, etc.).

It’s funny how two unrelated events ended up going hand in hand.  I’m learning so much on this writing/marketing journey, especially how much the Lord directs our paths when we let Him.

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your path; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Psalm 25:4
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Janetta Fudge-Messmer is an inspirational author, speaker and editor. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and spent seven years as a speaker with Toastmasters International. Her first novel, Early Birds, was published January 2016. The sequel, Southbound Birds, followed in October 2016. Her newest novel, Chords of Love, is in a compilation with four other authors entitled My Secret Love.  Janetta’s past publications include a fiction article, A Working Relationship, published in Guideposts Magazine. Guideposts Books published, "Shorthaired Miracle”. She resides in Florida, or wherever the wind blows, with her husband of 35 years and their precious pooch Maggie. The three of them became full-time RVers in 2013 and enjoy traveling around the USA in their Minnie Winnie. All of Janetta’s novels are available on Amazon: https://goo.gl/rd0X4T  Website: http://janettafudgemessmer.com/ Blog: http://www.nettie-fudges-world.blogspot.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/janetta.fudge.messmer Twitter: https://twitter.com/nettiefudge