Thursday, January 26, 2012

Writer's Digest Reject a Hit

Looking through the recent issues of the Writer's Digest Magazine, I have been quite amused by the "Reject a Hit" articles. What they're about is people write in with a fake rejection letter than an editor or agent might send to a writer. Usually they are from either a classic or a well-known book. The last one (February 2012) was from Moby-Dick. I was planning to write in with one about Ivanhoe and I thought I would post something about it so that if any of my readers might like to do it too, you could have a go at sending your submissions in.

Here's what the magazine says about it:

"Let's step once again into the role of the unconvinced, perhaps even curmudgeonly or fool-hearted editor: What harsh rejection letters might authors of some of our favorite hit books have had to endure?

Call for submissions: If you'd like to be the one doing the rebuffing, channel the most clueless of editors by humorously rejecting a hit in 300 words or fewer. Then, submit your letter via e-mail to with "Reject a Hit" in the subject line."

If any of you decide to do this, let me know! Because I would much like to read what you end up with =) I will be posting mine once I write it.

Slainte, Hazel

Sunday, January 22, 2012

So, finally...

After two hours of scraping everything up and polishing it to a *hopeful* perfection, I have finally entered Ballad of the Highwayman into the ABNA contest. HUZZAH!!!!

Now I can relax and break out a square of my Ghiradelli 72% cacao chocolate to celebrate and sit and read for a while. There's nothing left to do except wait until...Feb 23rd, when I'll find out if I got through the first round. Blast, that's a long time to wait!

I'll be back around soon; I have found something very fun, that I want to share with you, and anyone who wants to do it to is welcome!

Oiche mhaith, (good night)
Slainte, Hazel

Friday, January 20, 2012

And After Long Last, I Present....The Pitch!!

Okay, well, I only started working on it this week, but, well, that's just the way I am. But tonight after many glasses of coke and even more editing, much thanks to my mum ;-) I have finally gotten my pitch ready to enter into the ABNA contest this coming monday! Can you believe they only wanted 300 words or less??? I could have sworn the first year I entered it was 500. They just love to make it hard on us. Here it is for you all to read:

Kilroy Allen has been searching fifteen years for the man who sent his father to the scaffold. Executed under false pretenses of treachery against his king, Charles I, Kilroy’s father was betrayed by a man whose face he never saw. Now with the same man after him, Kilroy has no choice but to take on a false identity and lure this unknown man out of hiding so he can exact justice for his father’s murder all those years ago. Now he’s become the infamous highwayman, Emerald Sword, by night and the not so infamous merchant, Jeremy Glennon, by day. But no plan is without its complications. If Kilroy cannot catch the man soon, it could mean his true love, the formidable, yet beautiful, Sylvia Davies, may be forced to marry an insufferable dandy she has no feelings for.
            With time running out, Kilroy seeks the sort of help that only his fellow highwaymen can give: Jeffcoat Mullins, his faithful partner in crime, Roster Scarcliff, a dashing rival he has dueled with for years, the famous Thomas Blood and Claude Du Val, and lastly, the Scarlet Blade, who is none other than Sylvia herself. With his band of comrades,* he sets out to honor the vow he made to his father as a boy—find the man who betrayed him and clear his family name once more.
            With adventure, romance, humor, sword fighting, wrestling, treachery, and a cast of memorable characters, Ballad of the Highwayman, in the tradition of Alexandre Dumas and Rafael Sabatini, is a revival of the classic swashbuckler that is sadly hard to find in today’s “all the rage” paranormal novels. I wrote Kilroy’s story because I think it’s just what the world never knew they were missing but desperately needs.

* This is where my good pen gave out on the editing and I had to resort in the scratchy one.

Okay, and now, after all that work, I even decided to give you a little entertainment. The pitch below is what I would have liked to have written and sent in ;). It's all in good fun mind, so ignore the terrible grammar and run-ons. I wrote this really late at night too, on too much caffeine, so it is a little whacky. This is definitely my writing and my humor at it's worst, so beware! But do enjoy it too, of course =P

Once upon a time, when evil Ollie Cromwell ruled England, there was a boy named Kilroy Allen. Kilroy’s father, unfortunately got falsely accused of treason against Charles I--even though he had already gotten his head cut off by then-- by this guy no one knows, and was executed, but not before he told his ten-year-old son to find the man who did it and kill him someday. People were a lot more mature back then.
So Kilroy--grown up now, of course--decides he can’t just go run around as himself because the unknown guy is still after him, so he makes this plan to become a merchant named Jeremy Glennon during the day, and a highwayman at night called, the much more epic, Emerald Sword. But of course there always have to be complications! His true love, Sylvia Davies who he promised her father he would protect after he too got betrayed by the unknown guy and executed--Kilroy needs to stop making promises--is of course supposed to marry someone else. That would be that annoying dandy, Giles Claybrook, who, in actuality, Sylvia is only getting close to because Kilroy thinks that Giles’ father had something to do with the unknown guy. Thus, you understand the complications.
So time’s running out, and Kilroy doesn’t know who to turn to except...wait! Those other highwaymen around! So he searches the world over for the perfect band of comrades to help him on his mission--that’s a lie. He just found them at the pub and most volunteered by themselves.--Jeffcoat Mullins, his sidekick--because every hero has one. His more dashing rival, Roster Scarcliff who he has used as dueling practice for years, and the two real highwaymen, Thomas Blood and Claude Du Val. And, of course Sylvia wasn’t going to stay out of this, so she makes some manly duds and becomes a highwayman herself called the Scarlet Blade, which she so did not really fashion after Kilroy’s highwayman persona.
This book has all kinds of stuff, fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, true love...wait, sorry, I stole that from another famous swashbuckler*, oops. ;) But despite that, it’s also a lot like Alexandre Dumas and Rafael Sabatini and it’s way better than those vampire/wearwolf books out there so you should read this instead because it’s way better. And because Hazel can’t even spell “werwolf” because you don’t wear one apparently. Anyway, the world needs Kilroy and Sylvia. The End.

*Of course this belongs to William Goldman who wrote that lovely story The Princess Bride. Give credit where credit is due! I never steal from a fellow author. ;-)

So good night everyone! I hope to be back with more posts soon!

Slainte, Hazel

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Writing Good Fight Scenes: Part One-Hand to Hand with Various Weaponry

This is a series of articles I have been wanting to write for a long time. I just thought of it again as I was talking to someone about a lamentable fight scene in a certain book I will... not mention. So I decided to write these articles for new writers, or writers who may need some help on the matter. There are many different kinds of fight scenes you may encounter while writing, especially if you do adventure, historical, fantasy, or whatever. Even if your story only has a small fist fight between the protagonist and a bully, it still counts as a fight scene. The first kind I am going to talk about is the most common: the simple, man to man confrontation.

First Fight Scenes:

Everyone knows that the final confrontation in a story is a very important part of the plot line, but this may not be the only fight that you see in a book. If a hero and a villain are at odds (as they obviously should be) there will probably be more than one confrontation between them in the book. The first one should be not quite so epic as the last fight--you should never outdo your last fight with the first one. The first fight in a story is usually to introduce the readers and the characters alike to the character's style and endurance. A scrap, a touch of the blade, an interrupted duel--any of these might work for the first fight of your villain and hero. Perhaps, the hero gets beat pretty badly and he's wounded, thus giving the villain confidence that he is fighting a "weakling" and that the next time they meet, he'll do away with the hero once and for all. This gives the hero the opportunity to train and get better than the villain, thus vanquishing him in the end. Or perhaps, it goes the other way, with the hero vanquishing the villain and he seeks revenge through the whole book and vows to end the hero (it's still the same plot, you just get to it in different ways.) However it goes, you just need to make sure, as I said before, that this fight scene is not one that will override the last confrontation. That is the one the readers look forward to through the whole book and you need to write it to their expectations. There is nothing worse for me than a fight scene that does not meet my expectations.

Friendly Fight Scenes:

All right, no fight scene is really friendly, but sometimes friendships come out of them. Some characters (mostly male characters) need to punch each other around a bit before they can earn respect from each other. A good example is Will and Horace in the first Ranger's Apprentice book (by John Flanagan). It starts out with the two somewhat at odds, but after certain events, they become really great friends. Characters like this might start off as not liking each other and always being at the other's throat, but after they have a confrontation and beat each other sufficiently, they will most likely respect each other and become really good friends and back each other up in the hero's quest to vanquish his/her villain.

Final Fight Scenes:

This is the climax of the story, the final confrontation between the good guy and the bad guy, the scene that the whole book builds up to and the reader is on the edge of their seat waiting pressure though, really; the final fight is not as hard as you might think. To write the last confrontation, you're going to have to take into consideration several things which will be listed below. This is the scene where you pull everything out of the hat; all the tricks you've been saving--and your characters have been saving. The villain is at his worst, the hero is either at his best or worst, depending on his character type ( see the Grey Areas article) and you get to decide whether the hero actually gets to kill the villain or *sequel!* he escapes! The death is another thing to consider, but see my other article for that.


First of all, how long do you make it? If your two characters are experienced fighters and have a great amount of stamina, the fight might last longer than one with somewhat inexperienced characters. Different types of fight scenes also last longer than others, but I'll get into that later. Secondly, you also have to decide how bloody you should make a fight scene. This is typically personal preference. I like a bit of blood myself, because it's more realistic. Again, this depends on the type of fight you're going for. If it's a swashbuckling rapier duel, there will probably be less blood than if you're going for a realistic Medieval broadsword fight. Wounds are always a bit of a tricky thing when writing a fight scene, especially if they are given to your hero; you may want to keep a medical advisor on hand to make sure that your characters shouldn't be dead by rights. You don't want to wound your hero so badly he can't carry on the fight, but you also need to add that suspense where the reader might think for a minute he's not going to make it. He might be backed against a cliff, or he might have received a hard hit, and the reader is hanging on every word to make sure the hero gets out alive! Oh, the power of being a writer!

Different Methods:

You have to match the right method to the kind of story you're writing. If you're writing a Western, you're obviously not going to have the characters pull swords on each other, and if you're writing a Medieval novel, they're not going to have a Smith&Wesson shoot out. (Not that I would expect anyone to write anything THAT inaccurate unless it was an alternate history ;) Fighting styles also depend on the type of characters you have (see my article "Hack and Slash or Dash") Some will depend only on their swords, some may love their firearms, and others might just enjoy brute force and boxing. It all depends on genre, time period, or character types. This is mostly up to the writer.

Ways to Research:

Watching the style of fighting you want to portray in a book is a good start, but be careful! You can't always trust movies to portray anything accurately. I can speak highly of The Princess Bride though, because they used all real techniques in that movie and it looks great. My best advice is to watch reenactors. They really know their stuff. DO NOT watch modern fencing for a historical fiction book and expect it to be right. Those people don't know a thing about real fighting. Their bouts last less than a minute and all they do is stare at each other before that. D'Artagnan would die laughing. (No real offense meant, but the fencers I saw do a demonstration offended reenactors by saying they didn't know what they were doing and there was a reenactor in the audience who stood up for them as do I. In short, fencing is a sport, it is not a fighting style, and it is certainly not historically accurate.)

While watching is good, an important thing to remember when writing a fight scene is just that, you're writing it. This is, I think the problem with most fight scenes that don't quite go over well. You need to read some really good fight scene writers. Brian Jacques, who writes the Redwall series does a wonderful job, though his characters are animals. He has probably every different type of fight scene except gun battles seeing as there are no guns in Redwall. For hand fighting/boxing scenes, read Louis L'Amour. This is how I learned to box. He goes move to move and you can picture it perfectly in your head. He's a master at that art (and also gun fighting). In short, if you plan to write westerns, don't do so unless you read Louis L'Amour. He is the master of the genre.

I'll be posting several other installments for this series. The next one is going to cover battle scenes which is a little trickier.

I hope this was a help to people who might be having problems with their fight scenes! I'll be back soon hopefully with more blog posts.

Slainte, Hazel

(By the way, Samuel Pepys is sad no one has written into his advice column. Someone has to have a question about something?)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Procrastinating Much?

Well, it turns out that I did just what I was trying to avoid again this year, which is procrastinate until the last week before getting all my stuff ready for the ABNA contest. It is a well known fact that I always do things on the last minute; in fact, I am probably the world's worst procrastinator. For all you writers out there, here is a list of symptoms of procrastination that if you are suffering from, you should stop doing what you're doing, and go and go what you're supposed to!

How to know when you are Procrastinating:

1. You do weird things like clean off your desk even though you never would on a normal day.

2. You sing the LONG versions of the ballads during your inspiring guitar playing time.

3. You think of lots of different scenes you can write for all the books you have forgotten as well as the ones you have been writing.

4. You write blog posts like this...

5. You get out of the house as much as possible so you don't have to look at the pile of things you need to do back home.

6. You read lots of books, telling yourself it's for "research".

7. You stay in bed longer and claim it's because of the cold weather, but you're really just lazy.

8. You linger over coffee and have a second cup, and a third...

9. You buy new books so you'll feel bad if you don't read them before you start on what you're supposed to be doing.

10. You read blog posts about procrastinating.

So, now I'm going to take my own advice and go and work on my book for the contest. It's next Monday which is also a fun day for me because it's the anniversary of my other blog, Bonnets and Broadswords, and the Scottish holiday, Burns Day!!! So stop by B&B next Monday because I will have a post beginning my third year of writing for that blog.

Slainte, and a death to procrastination!


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Musings for the New Year

First of all I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday. I didn't take advantage of the time as I should have and I feel guilty about not writing anything, but I have now thought about some writing resolutions I want to accomplish this year.

First of all, I'm planning on entering Ballad of the Highwayman in's ABNA (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award) this year. The deadline is on the 23rd so I'm going to be busy tuning it up grammatically so it will be as perfect as possible. I'll not give those stuffy reviewers any reason to snub my grammar at least!

Secondly, I have many writing ambitions to accomplish this year. My main goal is to complete two novels I have been working on for several years. Firstly, is my original Wallace novel. It is, in all rights already written, but going back through it, I decided I wanted to add more to it and try to make it as thorough as possible. I have learned a lot since I first wrote the book, and also decided to go back and add parts I hadn't before. I hope to have this book out before Wallace Day on Aug 23rd. My other novel is kind of a pet project for me and is about the fighter pilots in WWI. I would dearly love to finish both of these, but I am also still working on the sequel to Ballad of the Highwayman and also a new series I at least hope to put some teasers up for this year, even if I don't actually finish it. I'm very excited to share with you all my new stories and characters. It's going to be a busy year!

I'm also going to endeavor to sell more copies of my books. Market and such as that. I need to find my cutthroat sales person persona (yah right). However you look at it, this year is going to be quite exciting for me, and I hope to share my results with you all!

Slainte, Hazel