Publication Schedule — Books for Release


This is a list of my books coming out for the next few months.

June 2015

Writer's Guide to Military Culture

A Writer’s Guide to Military Culture

This was from an online class I did for Forward Motion in 2012.

July, 2015

Cover art for Curseo of the Cat

Curse of the Cat

A Steampunk fantasy short story

Cover - Layers2 - May 2015

Layers: A Desert Storm Veteran and September 11

It’s surprising to think that we aren’t that far away from the 20th anniversary.  This was originally published in a collection curated by Holly Lisle called Together We Stand in 2002.

August, 2015

Cover for Panters Guide to Writing You are Not BrokenPantser’s Guide to Writing: You are not broken!

There are only TWO other books for people who don’t outline by people who write that way.

The other two:

  • Story Trumps Structure by Steven James
  • Writing into the Dark by Dean Wesley Smith

Soldier, Storyteller: A Woman Soldier Goes to War

Soldier, Storyteller: A Woman Soldier Goes to War

This is a compilation of my blog posts from last year, but it also includes some additional entries and a poem that did not appear on the blog.

Guest Post: Liv Rancourt on Five Tips For Writing Fight Scenes


Cover for The Santa Drag showing a front view of Santa Claus against a pale pink and white background.Today, Liv Rancourt is going to be guest blogging on Soldier, Storyteller.  Liv was in the same blogging class, We Are Not Alone, that was I in, and she has a  great book called The Santa Drag out just in time for Christmas.  An excerpt is at the end of this post.  Liv was also kind enough to help me with research on Washington State for a short story I’m working on for a Green Man anthology.  Onto the action stuff!

Thanks, Linda, for the chance to write a guest post for you blog. I took a look through some of your older posts and saw you like things in fives, and since I’m working on choreographing the final showdown for my current WIP, I thought I’d see if I could come up with five ideas on how to write fight scenes for your readers.

  1. Describe the setting before the fight, so you don’t need to waste time during the heat of battle. Poorly timed details can kill your momentum and bog down the scene. One blogger suggested having the characters visit the setting a chapter before the actual fight, to get some of the scene building out of the way. While that may not always be possible, taking a couple lines in the middle of things to describe the antique Wedgwood vase that your hero just smashed over the villains head is going to kill your tempo. You can work details in as you go, but be cognizant of how it effects your pacing.
  2. Fights don’t last long, and a real bar brawl quickly becomes a bear-hugging wrestling match. Which is another way of saying you should have a good understanding of how fights work  – regardless of the style of fighting or weapons involved – so  that the action you present is realistic and believable. One of the things I love about Laurell K Hamilton’s writiing is how knowledgeable she is about the guns her character Anita Blake plays with. Laurell really knows her stuff, and  her commitment to getting the details right helps the rest of the story work.
  3. Make sure YOU have a clear idea of who’s doing what where, because if you can’t picture it, the reader won’t be able to either. All of my five points are interrelated, but this one is key. Whether you need to borrow your kids little plastic toys to stand in for your characters or draw diagrams to help clarify things, you need to know exactly who’s doing what where. The action has to make sense in terms of the setting details, meaning doors and windows can’t come and go, and if you’re writing fantasy or paranormal, you have to be consistent with the worldbuilding you’ve already done. The more truth you can put on the page, the better the scene will work.
  4. Writing fight scenes are a little like writing sex scenes in that it’s easy to drop into a ‘he did this then she did that – put tab A into slot B’ pattern, which is a recipe for BORING. This is where your creativity and knowledge of the style of fighting (see #2) can come into play. My first draft blocks out the scene in all its clunky, awkward glory. Then I go back through, making certain that each action is physically possible, given the laws of the world I’ve created (see #3). The next trip through is to massage the language, getting rid of any clichés or phrases like the dreaded “he turned and looked”.  I strive for language that is fresh, lively, and supportive of the tension I’m trying to build, so the reader will keep turning the pages.
  5. Conflict is great and all, but make sure that your character’s motivations are clearly tied to the action you’re describing. Action is good, and a fight scene is a great way of moving your plot forward and peeling back layers of your character. It’s more effective if it means something, though, and the more challenges you can throw at your character, the more satisfying the ending will be. Make the conflict cost them something and make it hurt so that the payoff at the end is greater. The build-up, or process that brought your character to the brink of an awful situation, is as important as the fight itself.  Keeping your character’s goals and motivations in mind as you develop the conflict will help make sure EVERY scene moves the story forward.

So there you have five points for building fight scenes. I hope you find them helpful. I also hope you’ll check out my newest release, The Santa Drag. There are absolutely no fight scenes in this one, just a clever holiday story with a warm and fuzzy ending.

Things aren’t always what they seem,

and this shopping mall Santa has secrets only her true love can reveal.

Peace,

Liv

Liv Rancourt writes paranormal and romance, often at the same time. She lives with her husband, two teenagers, two cats and one wayward puppy. She likes to create stories that have happy endings, and finds it is a good way to balance her other job in the neonatal intensive care unit. Liv can be found on-line at her website & blog (www.livrancourt.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/liv.rancourt), or on Twitter (www.twitter.com/LivRancourt).

Santa Drag exerpt

On a particularly busy Saturday, I was tired and thinking more about a double shot of espresso than I was about the pile of kids who wanted to sit in my lap. The weak winter sun was making its circle over the atrium where the Christmas Village was set up, and my roommate Shauna was buzzing by every so often to giggle at me from the sidelines. She was trying to get all of her Christmas shopping done in one day, which was a good trick for someone with as many fertile brothers and sisters as she had.

“Come sit on Santa’s lap.” Maya, the photographer and kid-wrangler, invited the next kid in line approach my golden throne. Well, it was fake gold, but the kids didn’t know that.

“No,” said a little girl with a stubborn crease between her brows. She was dressed in Seattle’s version of Christmas formal, a stiff, red velvet dress, likely made from organic fabric dyed with beets and rose hips. On her feet were two-toned leather MaryJanes that probably cost sixty-five dollars. At least the green corkscrew ribbons tied around her blond pigtails looked like they belonged on a child. I made myself as approachable as possible, getting down to her level and producing a big smile.

“Come on, Thula,” her mother said, tapping one French manicured nail on her cell phone. “Go sit up there with Santa so we can take your picture.” She sounded as if this was just one more thing to knock off the list.

“It’s okay, sweetie.” Maya put on her encouraging smile. Maya was a tiny thing, barely bigger than most of the kids we saw, with long dark hair, a tiny gold hoop pierced through one nostril, and bugged-out eyes that looked like they’d been molded out of chocolate. She was non-threatening as an adult could possibly be. The kid stared at her and bit down on her bottom lip. At least she wasn’t crying. Yet.

“You want to come tell Santa what to bring you for Christmas?” I kept my voice pitched down somewhere under my sternum. It helped that I had one of those raspy lady voices that earned me a permanent spot in the tenor section whenever I sang in choir.

“No.”

Sometimes less is more when you’re dealing with preschoolers. We went back and forth for several minutes until  the kid went from biting her bottom lip to letting it pooch out and tremble. Never a good sign. Finally, after a ton of coaxing, she was more-or-less close to me,  squatting down on the other side of one of the big pretend presents that ringed my throne. That was good enough for her mom, and Maya snapped a picture.

When she was done, the little girl glared at me from behind the big, glossy red ribbon that topped the present. “Bring me a baby brother,” she bellowed and took off running..

Mom’s glare was meaner than the kid’s had been. Hey, it’s not like I made any promises.

The kid ran full tilt past the pseudo-Tyrolean houses that made the Village, and out through the crowds of shoppers. She stopped in the middle of an open space and cut loose, her sobs echoing around the smoky glass dome that covered us. We could hear her carrying on until she and her mom got swallowed up by the Ross store at the end of the north hallway. The whole place fell into a bit of a hush when she was gone, as  everyone exhaled in relief. This close to Christmas, none of us needed a crying child to ratchet up the stress level.

A young mother was next in line. She came into the Christmas Village and positioned a slightly damp baby on my lap, moving as if something hurt. The baby was so young that Mom still looked a little pregnant under her loose denim-blue shirt. Or maybe she was already pregnant with number two. I’m not so good with the principles of baby production. Well, I understand the basic concepts, but haven’t had that many opportunities to put them into practice.

The brief quiet was interrupted by a yodeling squeal that I recognized. I stared into the crowd until I caught Maya looking at me funny. I stuck on a smile as close to my normal, jolly-Santa shtick as I could get, and she settled back down behind her camera. The reason for my roommate Shauna’s squeal had me completely rattled. In the two or three beats I’d looked out from behind my wire-rimmed glasses as Mack-the-girl, I’d seen Shauna giving someone a big hug. A really handsome someone. Joe McBride. Joseph Timothy McBride. The actor. The real-life, got a soap opera gig and several commercials and you saw him in Scream 2 actor. The only guy I ever really loved

Ooh, now she’s got a problem! Will Mack turn all Creepy-Kringle? Will Joe recognize her? What’s a Santa to do?  😉

The Santa Drag is available from Still Moments Publishing, Smashwords, and Amazon.

Just When You Thought it Was Safe to go to Critique Group


Action is fun to read about, but reading has a nice safe distance.  It’s definitely not fun when it intervenes in real life!  Our critique group meets in the food court of a local mall in the evening.  During lunch, a man dropped a Molotov Cocktail from one of the upper floors into the food court.  Evidently, he wasn’t very good at building Molotov Cocktails, since it didn’t go off.  By the time I got there, law enforcement had finally removed the police tape.  Only about three restaurants remained opened open — everything else had shut down.

You can read the news story here in the Washington Post.

We still met, by the way.

What’s the scariest things that you just missed?

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!

The Importance of Being A Title


I just stumbled across a random title generator.  Click the button, and it creates a list of titles from words.

Hmm.

Titles are the first impression of a book to a reader:

I walk past a table, and the book title catches my eye.

I scan a website with cover shots, and the book title catches my eye.

Titles tell me …

What genre the story is.

If it has action in it.

A hint of things to come in the story.

This is a book I want to read.

This is a book I don’t want to read.

How do you decide on a title for your book?  What types of titles draw you to books or films and why?  What types of titles will make you pass on a book or movie?  Why?

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I hope you’ll check out my article Critiquing Omniscient Viewpoint in Vision: A Resource for Writers.

Hawaii Five-0: Action in Paradise


Hawaii was a great initial reason to tune into the TV series Hawaii Five-0.  It’s a Hawaii 2.0 of the original series which starred Jack Lord.  One of the comments made at the time of the new series premiere was that the original version was an average detective show with Hawaii, a great theme, and Jack Lord’s hair (hair makes people watch a show?).

It’s still a detective show, but it has Steve McGarrett now as a Navy SEAL (that’s a very elite military role that only a few attain), so there’s lots of action in episode.  But it’s a fun kind of action, meant simply to entertain.

My favorite characters are not the main stars, but the Asian actors who play Kono (Grace Park), Chin Ho (Daniel Dae Kim), and Wu Fat (Mark Dacascos, who is also appearing on Iron Chef America).  First time Mark Dacasos appeared on the screen, my response was, “No way!”  His casting made me want to see more.

Thankfully, one thing the show has stayed away from is dressing Grace Park as often as possible in skimpy clothing or bikinis in every episode.  There’s some of it, yes, but we viewers don’t see with regularity in scenes with the guys.  Many of those scenes have clothing that is appropriate for for climate and locale (sleeveless t-shirts).  Whereas, on Charmed, which had all an women cast, the way the characters dressed made me wonder how the women could be respected for anything.

Kono has a pretty decent role in the show — it doesn’t feel like she’s a token female the networks told the producers to add (Caitlin on Airwolf), especially since the show also has two other semi-regular women characters.  Kono’s had some storylines about her, and she’s — my own personal favorite — had some action scenes of her own.

But I have to say, one of the things I like best about the show is simply that’s in Hawaii. Since Magnum P.I. went off the air years ago, nothing’s been filmed there, and it’s such a great location.

What’s your favorite part of the show?  Tell me about it!

I hope you’ll have a look at my story Grateful for a Gift to ‘Any Soldier,’ published in The Washington Post.

Action, Adventure, Earthquakes — 3 Interesting Facts


An earthquake makes a great action scene.  Hollywood’s done a number of movies, including Earthquake and 10.5.  More recently, the TV series Bones had what looked like an earthquake but turned out to be a water main break.  As the shaking starts, Booth says something like, “Washington DC doesn’t have earthquakes.”

A year later Virginia was struck by a 5.8 earthquake that damaged the National Cathedral and the Washington Monument.

Hollywood is all about making the earthquake exciting, so moviegoers see the ground splitting open and then snapping shut after it swallows a hapless Red Shirt.  Or the ground splits open and follows the fleeing heroine (hmm — Didn’t know earthquakes could see and think).  Of course, the reality is quite different.

These are some interesting facts I discovered while researching earthquakes for my contemporary fantasy, Miasma:

Richter Scale

The Richter Scale is no longer used.  According to the Southern California Seismic Center:

Because he [Richter] defined his scale in terms of these torsion seismometers, once these instruments were replaced by more modern equipment, the conversion used to turn seismogram readings into a measure of magnitude was no longer the exact same scale established by Richter in 1935.

Thank goodness fore research.  This would have been easy mistake to make.

Taking Cover

When I was growing up in Southern California, we went through earthquake drills.  One of the things taught was when an earthquake starts to get into a doorway.  That’s now outdated advice, according to the US Geological Society:

In past earthquakes in unreinforced masonry structures and adobe homes, the door frame may have been the only thing left standing in the aftermath of an earthquake. Hence, it was thought that safety could be found by standing in doorways. In modern homes doorways are no stronger than any other parts of the house and usually have doors that will swing and can injure you.

Locations

When the word ‘earthquake’ is mentioned, we immediately think of California.  The state has been the site of several very destructive major quakes — I’ve been in two.  For Miasma, I based my story on Hawaii, and that state has earthquakes.  In the last week, there were 14.  Just for a comparison though, in the same time frame, California had 398!

What kinds of interesting facts have you run across in your research for your book?  Tell me about them!

I hope you’ll drop in for a visit with my article Writing a Novel When You’re Right-Brained on Vision: A Resource for Writers.  I also have a guest blog on setting on Sue Santore’s blog on October 28.

Six Second Sunday


These six sentences are from an action scene involving Olive, one of my characters, in my contemporary fantasy/action-adventure Miasma.  This is the book I’m considering publishing Indie once I finish it in December.  Olive is a military enlisted woman and sidekick to the main character.

One sharp pull — both her feet came out from under her, and she went down, face first into the ground. The backpack fell under her, the gun she could not get at digging into her hip bones.

Two seconds of surprise. That’s all she allowed herself before she kicked her brain out of the shock of the fall. Even that may have been too much. She was much smaller than he was and recognized that he was stronger than her.

To see other authors or participate, visit http://www.sixsunday.com/

5 Reasons to Watch NCIS


NCIS is one of those television shows that has kept me coming back again and again to watch it, even as it enters its 9th year.  That’s pretty big deal because the writing often starts to suffer after about 7 years.  Each show is like a novel, so that’s a whole lot of novels.  Writers often simply run out of steam.  Last night’s show was the best of the season so far, with a B story about Abby discovering she has a brother.  That’s one story I want to find out more about.

A few highlights on what I like about the show:

  1. It never takes itself that seriously.  There’s always light humor in the story, but it’s humor that comes out of the characterizations.  It’s not the dumb humor I find in sitcoms that make me cringe.
  2. It has action, but it’s not terribly violent action.  I don’t like gore, and this show keeps it pretty clean.  I’ve also heard from gun enthusiasts that this show is probably the closest on the way law enforcement uses their guns.
  3. I like the way the military are presented.  They make an effort to get it correctly, right down to details like how the women wear their hair.  I wanted to smack Hawaii Five-0 the other night because they had a woman military officer, and she was outdoors and no cover (hat)!
  4. The women characters are competent in what they do.  It seems like in a lot of shows and movies, the women are there basically to attract the guys, so they’re in skimpy clothes and have roles that just aren’t much of anything.  Here, we have women agents who take down bad guys and arrest them, and of course, women soldiers pop up periodically.  And they act like people doing their job.
  5. Finally, the stories are just plain good, and consistently so.  It doesn’t just feel like another cop show, even though there are certainly some elements.

The one thing I do laugh about is how they use Washington, DC.  I live in the area, so I know that they’re not shooting the show here.  I remember one episode where they described a computer company out in Annandale, and I kept thinking, “Have you guys been to Annandale?”

NCIS is a good show that remains fresh, even after so many years on the air.

How the Heck Do You Brand a Novel?


Non-fiction writers have been preaching to novelists to get a “brand.”  But when the novelists ask how, the non-fiction writers give examples applicable to non-fiction writers.  If you’re a time management guru, the brand is obvious.  But a novel?  How the heck do you brand that?

This is what I think a novel writer’s brand is:

Reader walks into a bookstore and sees a book by Jane Writer.  He’s read Jane’s books before and know that he’ll always get X, Y, Z in her books.

Examples:

Clive Cussler: A historical aspect involving shipwrecks; political intrigue; lots of action.

Tamora Pierce: Strong girl characters; loves animals.

Not all authors have brands though.  I’ve liked what an author did in a particular book or series, got a different one and not had those same elements.

So I’ve been thinking about what my brand is:

  • Fun action.  Not just fight scenes but other kinds of action.  My action is escapist and entertaining, like what’d you might see at a Saturday matinee.
  • Setting.  My setting is always a character in the story.  It has an impact on every part of the story, from what happens to the feel of the story.  After all, it’s hard doing great action scenes without working the setting.
  • Competent heroines with realistic action scenes for their gender.   My women characters are competent and know what they’re doing.  They play to their strengths.

What’s your brand?