River Flight (short story)

Cover for River Flight
River Flight $3.99

Juliette is an undercover princess, working as a boatman in the military.  The worst of her concerns is what work detail she will be on next … until a messenger brings word her father, the king, is dead at the hands of his brother.  Now he’s coming for Juliette and she’s running out of time.

Available from your favorite booksellers:

Star Wars’ 40 Years Ago Today

It’s hard to believe 40 years have passed since Star Wars was released, on this day.  I saw it in its original run and remember how people lined up outside the movie theaters to see it…not once, by multiple times.  People didn’t watch it twice; they watched it twenty times.

It wasn’t like any other science fiction movie before it.  The ones I grew up watching were astronauts visiting another planet at getting stalked by an alien monster; a scientist inventing a monster and getting stalked by it; a monster rising from the depths and stalking the human cities–well, you get the idea.

But Star Wars was pure adventure, and fun.  It has space battles, a cool villain–Darth Vader was so different from the standard villains who were either monsters or cackled dementedly about taking over the world.  There was something about James Earl Jones’ voice that really brought him to life from behind that mask.

But then George Lucas did a rookie mistake, like I’ve seen some writers do.  He had this hugely successful movie, and instead of spending the next forty decades writing other movies, or even TV series, or how about novels like Stephen Cannell, he fixed Star Wars.  He was never happy with the special effects of the time, so he “improved” on them.

I know the cantina scene was a challenge to shoot because there was no budget.  The actors wore Halloween masks.  Yet, Lucas did a good job shooting it because it doesn’t look like cheap Halloween masks (there are a number of movies I’ve watched where the costuming looks like no one cared).  He transformed us into a different world.

It’s also one of the scenes that fans talk about.  It introduces our naive character Luke Skywalker to the rest of the galaxy and how dangerous it will be.  And it’s fun!

And Lucas fiddled with it because all he could remember was the bad parts of the shooting, that the technology of 1977 didn’t match what he pictured.

In getting what he pictured but couldn’t do, he broke things that fans liked.

5 Fantasy Heroines

Cover for Five Fantasy Heroines

Five of Linda Maye Adams’ fantasy stories. The collection includes Writers of the Future honorable mention “A Quartet of Clowns,” the action story “River Flight,” the flash fiction “Healer’s Tent,” the action story “Booby-Trap at Beaver River,” and reader favorite “Words of Rain and Shadows.”

Available from your favorite booksellers for $4.99, including Amazon and Smashwords.

Writing Action Scenes with Women Characters

One of the hardest things about writing an action scene is when there’s a woman character.  Most women aren’t as strong as a man, and punching out a bad guy just ain’t in the cards.

In fact, it’s so hard that writers use all of the following:

  1. Write the woman like she was a guy.  Pretty fake.
  2. Give the women supernatural powers, then write the action like she is a guy.
  3. Have a male character do the action while the woman stays off to the side.

The first time I wrote an action scene with a woman character, it was both exciting and scary.  I didn’t want to screw it up, and I wanted it to feel like if it was the woman reader, she could imagine that it was something she could.

Minus all those scary parts.

How the heck do you write an action scene with a woman?

It actually took quite a bit of creativity and thinking.  I knew from my time in the Army that there were some things that the guys could do but that women wouldn’t be able to.  Most action films use the man’s upper body strength—dangling from rooftops, punching the bad guy out … well, you get the idea.

Women don’t have that upper body strength.  Heck, I’m struggling to get above six pounds on free weights at the gym!

For that first action scene, the woman character was locked in a room and directed to come up with a formula.  Bad guys outside the door.  Typical guy action scene would have the hero lure the guard in, deck him, and escape.

Since she couldn’t punch him out, then it was time to put her smarts to use.  Since she was in a room with a bunch of chemicals, she builds a small bomb that smokes up the place.  Bad guy comes in to investigate, boom!  And she escapes.

Action Scenes with Men and Women

These are about as challenging.  I always think everyone should be equally in deep do-do.  So the bad guy (or monster or alien) needs to do something to screw the characters up.  So the male character might get whacked, and the female character is trying to keep him from getting whacked worse, and bad guy is not cooperating.

And meanwhile, they’re hopelessly outnumbered.

But it is a lot of work keeping it so that both characters are respected.   One of the most disrespectful books I read had a woman main character with a male sidekick.  During the big action scene early in the book, she falls down the stairs, and out of the scene, so the sidekick could do the fight.  Very lazy writing and made me think a lot less of both the character and the writer.

Action scenes are best served when all the characters get to participate.

She-Ra and the Action Heroine

I do a lot of women characters in my stories.  When I was growing up, there wasn’t much representation for women in books, film, or TV.  Especially not for the kind of stories I liked: Action and adventure.

I wanted my characters to be part of the adventure – beyond being a victim to be rescued.  She-Ra was great for that, but there’s still been far too few of anything for women.  She-Ra was 30 years ago!

But it seems like every time the women get any of the action, the men complain, like for the upcoming Ghostbusters:

This echoes what many detractors have been saying about the film: This isn’t about misogyny, they say. Ghostbusters was my childhood. Indeed it was—but one based on a model that snuffed out alternatives in which women, just like men, could lead, fight, and prevail.

I’d tell other writers that I was writing action and adventure for women.  The women writers were all like “Cool!”  The male writers were not only derogatory; they were way over the top.  It was like it was deeply offensive that women might actually want to read about other women having adventures.

Why can’t women have action and adventure in fiction, too?

Cover for Rogue God, showing a tiki face on a surfboard.Rogue God

Anton Keymas is part of a magical Special Forces, the Vai, and blessed by a party goddess.  His mission?  Hunt monsters that no one believes in any more and try not to get killed.
But this new monster has killed two soldiers.  Now that it’s gotten a taste of human flesh, it will be back for more.
Keymas has little time to stop a monster that is intelligent and cunning.  He may have to do the one thing he has refused to do, and even that has a cost, especially when gods get involved.
** He has a woman side kick to help him with his adventuring.

This, That, and Zap! 10/05

We’re still green in Washington, DC, but it’s a dried out green (must be all the hot air coming from downtown). Rumor has it that we might get a speedy fall color.  The weather still can’t make up it’s mind.  Yesterday was lots of rain and today was humid and 80.  Off to This, That, and Zap!

THIS is the arrival of my Moo cards. I’m going to take the plunge and leave them on the con table.  My imagination is already hard at work, convinced the flyer police will make some kind of announcement over the hotel speakers that I shouldn’t have put them on the table.  The cards are below, and are a very pretty high gloss texture:
Obverse: Blue card showing "Soldier, Storyteller" and green reverse, showing my name and website.

THAT is Rabia Gale’s post on book covers of Strong Women.    We see so many that turn women into objects that this is a refreshing change. I started rebelling against the really horrible covers by voting with my wallet.

ZAP! Combine a tornado and a fire, and you get one big scary thing.  Can you imagine even being near this?  Though I’m sure SyFy has probably already done a movie on it, though the tornado will probably chase people like it has a brain.

What’s it like where you’re at?  Are you getting any fall colors?

Remembering Jonny Quest

Music can be a powerful memory.  Hearing the theme from Jonny Quest brings back of exciting adventures to exotic places.  I always watched the credits to try to match them up to episodes I’d seen and make sure I’d hadn’t missed any.  Unfortunately, not all the footage was part of an episode.  Not fair!

It was rerun for a while but eventually went off the air, for quite a few years.  But there were two episodes that were my favorite that I remember:

1.  The spider in the spaceship.  A spaceship lands, and this creepy spider comes out.  The military tries to blow it up with artillery, and nothing works!  Really creepy when the guy gets hit with the suction tentacle.

2.  The invisible monster.  A scientist accidentally creates a monster that feeds on energy.  The only way anyone can see it is by its path of destruction.

Thankfully, it’s available on DVD so I can enjoy all the episodes all over again.  One of the things I was really impressed with was that despite the age of the show, it still holds up well after (pauses to subtract dates) — 48 years!  Holy cow!  Has it really been that long?  But good writing always stands out, and it’s obvious that the writers there were trying to turn out something good.  I was also amazed at the quality of the animations.  No computers, and yet, the animators took the time to draw everything realistically, right down to the  shadows to give the scenes depth.  Even the characters had creases in their clothes from sitting or moving around.

The show’s so popular that it was remade recently.  What did you think of the remake?  Like the other reboots, I thought the producers didn’t really understand what made the show successful.  I mean, while I would have liked to see girls represented, it felt like girls were simply shoehorned into the show.  I could imagine the network telling the producers, “Have a girl character.  We need girls to watch.”  So instead, she felt like the token girl, getting in the way of the adventures.

What are your favorite episodes?  Any favorite monsters or bad guys?

The Idiocy of Women Characters

One of the most frustrating things for me as a reader is that it’s tough finding books with women characters who are competent.  We get ones who are smart-mouthed and can’t go a day without insulting ten people; or seem to be smart and then blunder into trouble for the sake of the plot; and then there are the idiots.

That’s the book I was reading.  It’s a typical religious thriller — search for the lost relic, cryptic ancient clues, and murder.  The protagonist is a woman, and she has a male sidekick.  They spend the rest of the book trying to stay alive and find the relic first.

In an early scene, a gunman spots them in a museum and tries to kill them.  The characters flee, but they end up boxed in at a bad location: the restrooms.  Sidekick thinks fast and suggests they go into the ladies room.  What does the protagonist do?  Screech at him about not being allowed in the ladies room.  Not once, but multiple times.  She seems more worried about a man in the ladies room than a man trying to kill her.

I finally had to put the book down because the protagonist continued to be an idiot, while the sidekick got all the stuff the protagonist should have been doing.  I’d like to say this was the exception, but it’s hard for me to find an adult action book where the woman is reasonably competent.  Most of the times, she’s lucky she doesn’t get herself killed because of what she does, and there are plenty where she qualifies as TSTL.  We have women fire fighters, women police officers, and women soldiers, all in situations where they have to be competent because lack of it can mean death.  Yet, in an action novel, a lot of these women not only do nothing to even help themselves, they often make things worse.

And who are the worst culprits?  The male writers generally have trouble making the woman competent.  The TSTL tends to come from women writers.

It makes me wonder if writers feel like they’re somehow devaluing the intelligence of the male characters by making the female characters smarter.  In terms of the story, I’m all for making ALL the characters smart.  It just makes for a better story conflict with worthy characters.

#Reading Gifts for the Woman Who Wants #ActionAdventure

Sometimes it’s tough finding books that have a heroine part of the adventures — it’s even tough finding ones with men!  Action-adventure isn’t about having a major battle scene at the end of the story–it’s a major component of the story.  That being said, here are three books that women or girls looking for adventures will enjoy as a Christmas gift:

Green Rider, by Kristen Britain.  This was such a good book that it was an instant reread for me.  The heroine of the story accepts the duty of delivering a message for her country and ends up on her own with bad guys in pursuit. The author has three more books in the series, with the most recent one, Blackveil, just out.  What drew me to this one: The cover.  Girl on a horse, clearly running from danger.

Lady Knight series, by Tamora Pierce.  The main character wants to become the first female knight.  The series takes us through the different stages of the character going through training, all with action.  The third book in the series, Squire, is my favorite.  But I hate the new covers–they don’t convey a different image of the books than what they actually are.

Open Minds, by Susan Kaye Quinn.  Spotted this one through a cover contest.  The cover was a draw, but the title, not so much.   In a society where everyone communicates telepathically, the main character finds out that she has a talent for jacking minds — and uncovers a government conspiracy.  The book starts rough — too much repetition, but gets much better after all the setup.  This is the first book in a series.

Any titles you can recommend?

Also check out my post on What Makes a Good Action Scene?

What Makes Up A Good Action Scene?

Action scenes — good, exciting ones — are tough to write well.  It’s not just a matter of writing short sentences and having two characters throw punches at each other.  Heck, not all action scenes have fights.  That’s be pretty boring in an action novel to just have all fights!

There are three key elements to an exciting action scene:

Reaction.  The reaction is probably one of the most important components — and also the one that often gets left out.  There’s nothing more disappointing than reading a story where the characters trade blows, and no one reacts.  The victim doesn’t stagger back, momentarily stunned while the opponent moves in for a killing blow.  The reaction heightens the next elements:

Danger.  This one probably sounds obvious, but the scene has to make the reader feel like the character is in danger.   The character can be outnumbered or just facing a much better opponent.  In The Green Rider, Kerigan faces a master swordsman, and she knows she isn’t skilled enough to defeat him.  That’s danger!

Risk.  But the above aren’t enough with the risk.  What are the stakes if the character doesn’t survive the action scene or gets captured?  In Clive Cussler’s Sahara, the stakes of the action are that the world may end if the characters die.

When combined together, these three elements make for riveting action scenes!

What’s your favorite kind of action scene?

Please check out my other action titles, including:

Action, Adventure, Earthquakes — 3 Interesting Facts

Action, Adventure, Earthquakes — What Does One Sound Like?

Earthquakes are action scenes, too!