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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Battle Stations!

Please welcome PAN author Annette McCleave as she discusses action scenes.

Some people find action scenes hard to write. Other writers pour those scenes straight from their imaginations onto the page with effortless detail. The paranormal and speculative romance genres lend themselves well to action scenes, so developing a talent for them certainly couldn’t hurt.

Personally, I think writing an action scene is similar to writing any other kind of scene. Lively pacing, strong emotions, and clear cause and effect are all vital to a good action scene. But that would be true in a group conversation amongst your characters, as well.

My favorite kind of action scene is one where the hero, competent and supremely confident fellow that he is, gets his ass kicked. Okay, it doesn’t have to be literal. But think back to Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers. The battle for Helms Deep. The hero, Aragorn, is manning the castle walls with a competent group of archers. Does he succeed in pushing back the hordes of Orcs? Or does he get his ass kicked? For the sake of those who may not have seen the movie, I won’t give the answer, but which result do you think would be intrinsically more exciting?

In my upcoming release, DRAWN INTO DARKNESS, my hero battles his nemesis in the early part of the book and despite his skills, comes up short. That remains one of my favorite scenes in the book. Not because I want my hero to look bad, but because he needs to discover new levels of himself and one of the more emphatic ways to do that is to face defeat.

A dustbowl of swirling red miasma rose up from the damp pavement, encircling the two of them as they dueled. Spinning madly, the crimson tornado lifted higher and higher, until it obliterated every star in the night sky. Then white-hot fireballs began to rain down on Lachlan.
His shield charm took a heavy beating. In a disquietingly short time, the hellish fury pitted the protection spell to rice paper density. But Lachlan had little time to spare for repairs.
He was battling an expert swordsman.
Had he been the same rough soldier Drusus had manipulated all those years ago, his defeat would have been quick and brutal. The demon held nothing back, hitting his blade with powerful, bone-rattling blows, the kind of blows one avoids in practice sessions for fear of irreparably damaging a blade.
Fortunately, though, Lachlan was no longer a backward Scottish knight who only hacked and thrust. With the help of Italian and Spanish masters, at whose feet he had studied for a hundred years after his death, he’d honed his talents to a lethal edge. Talents that now served him well.
He cut and thrust with smooth, almost effortless technique. He broke through the demon’s defenses twice, slicing through the leather jacket and biting deep into flesh. His new sword glowed green with the taste of demon blood.
But victory eluded him.
The sword was not enough. Not only did his opponent’s wounds heal with incredible speed, allowing Drusus to continue fighting without respite, but moments after Lachlan scored his second successful slice, the beleaguered shield charm collapsed, leaving him dreadfully barren of protection. He swiftly called forth another, but it was whisked away before it was fully formed, with no more exertion than a horse swatting a fly.
The swirling red vapor dissolved, carried away in wisps on the night breeze. Drusus paused, staring curiously at Lachlan’s heaving chest and sweat-drenched brow.
“You Gatherers are little better than humans,” he observed, sounding disappointed. “This is hardly the challenging duel I’d hoped it would be.”
Lachlan responded by whipping a restraining spell at him, roping the demon in thick white cords and pinning his arms to his sides.
Drusus broke the binds with a single in-drawn breath. “Very rudimentary stuff, that. There’s a much better spell in the Book of Gnills. Where’s the Linen?”
As the tattered remnants of the binds fell away, the gap in the demon’s leather jacket widened, and Lachlan caught a glimpse of a faint golden glow about his neck—the reliquary. A bitter dose of failure poured into his throat, choking him. Drusus could crush him, right here and right now, if that was his desire. Not without a fight, of course, but slowly, inevitably, courtesy of the indefatigable power the bastard borrowed from Satan. And when he fell, the souls of his family would be cast into hell, never to be recovered.
No. He could not let them down. Not again. He drew deep on his powers and straightened to his full height.
“F*** you.” *****Edited by Blogmistress for public*****

Action scenes give you a chance to show the inner stuffing of your character. They can be a testament to his worth. Despite my hero’s defeat, he comes across as competent, brave, and determined to win. Why? Because the reason he fails has nothing to do with those elements of his character. He doesn’t go down easy and he doesn’t betray his principles in the battle. Principles that become very clear as he fights. How far will he go? What’s he willing to lose? What level of punishment will he endure?

Did anyone here see the updated version of Casino Royale with Daniel Craig as James Bond? A very good example of defeat doubling as a win for the character is the torture scene. An action scene that still makes me cringe, by the way.

Do you find action scenes easy to write, or hard? As a reader, do you enjoy action scenes in a romance, or skip over them to get to the ‘good stuff’? Are there romance authors you think write unskip-able action scenes? Share!


This is one of the stops on my Cross into Darkness blog tour. In celebration of my release, I’m offering one commenter here today a copy of DRAWN INTO DARKNESS. In addition, over at my personal blog, I’m running a grand prize contest. I’ve posted a mystery photo, and at each stop on my tour, I’m giving a clue about the identity of that photo. If you guess correctly and submit an entry over at my site, you could win a silver Celtic cross not unlike the one my hero Lachlan MacGregor wears. Contest details, including the stops on my tour are listed on my blog.

FF&P Clue: May have been the birthplace of Pontius Pilate

Good luck!

DRAWN INTO DARKNESS will hit store shelves on September 1st. The second book in the Soul Gatherer series, BOUND BY DARKNESS, releases in May 2010.

***********EDITED TO ADD*****************
With the help of Random.org, I have a winner for yesterday’s copy of DRAWN INTO DARKNESS: darkangelauthor. Congratulations!

Thanks to all of you who stopped by and commented,

Monday, August 17, 2009

New Releases to Look For

We have a lot more releases at the end of this month and going into September. Keep an eye out for them.

Desire to Die For
by Jessica Lee
Release date: Aug 4, 2009
Publisher: Loose Id

Kenric St. James wants revenge. Three hundred years ago, an ancient female vampire turned him against his will and killed the woman he once loved. He’s spent more than a century building an Enclave of warrior vampires who have sworn their allegiance to defend humanity and to eliminate the ancient vampire determined to destroy them all. After two centuries of denying his body’s needs and with vengeance finally at hand, the last thing he expected to find was the one woman he burns to claim as his own. If only giving her his love wouldn’t surely mean her death.
Emily Ross is a nurse struggling to start a new life. She’s a survivor, coming off the tail end of an abusive relationship and the tragic death of her parents. All she desires is time alone to learn who she is without a man and to save the home that holds her heart. The last thing she wants is another controlling, dominant male calling all the shots, in bed and out. Never would she have thought stopping her car one night to save a dying man might change her mind, and her life, forever. But is what they have, their desire, worth dying for?

Monday, August 3, 2009

New Releases to Look For

Celebrate the unknown with this week's FF&P author releases.

Dark Warrior Unbroken
by Alexis Morgan
Available August 2009
Pocket Star

Enter the secret world of the Talions—fierce, passionate warriors fighting for their very existence—in Alexis Morgan’s sizzling new paranormal series.

Sandor Kearn is the Talion Enforcer tasked with policing his people, the Kyth. His latest assignment is the new killer stalking the streets of Seattle. But while Sandor is hunting the Kyth renegade, someone else is hunting him.

She’s on a quest for the truth.

When Lena Wilson’s friend and mentor died investigating an arson case and the police ran out of leads, she vowed to find justice herself. Lena—who doesn’t know she is part Kyth—has the ability to see fragmented flashbacks of the crimes she’s investigating through her sense of touch. And when she meets Sandor, she feels suspicion—and desire—like she’s never known.

It’s only a matter of time before they touch. . . .

With dark forces closing in, Sandor must keep Lena from digging deeper and exposing the existence of the Kyth. The only way is to convince her of his innocence. But how can he when he can’t keep his hands off her?

by Marcia Colette
Available August 4, 2009

Someone wants their perfect weapon back, only she’s not coming quietly.

Alexa Wells wants her life back. She’s just not sure what that life was. The memories inside her head—a stripper’s—aren’t hers, and before she humiliates herself onstage one more time, she sets out to collect the scattered pieces of her mind. The trail leads to Boston, charges of identity theft and murder, and the real bombshell: a forgotten werewolf lover who insists she’s a werewolf hybrid.

Matt York doesn’t care that she looks at him like he’s been smoking crack between court cases. Now that he has her back he’s not about to let her go it alone, even if she can easily kick ass and take names all by herself. Amnesia only scratches the surface of her problems, and like it or not, she’s stuck with him.

She’s also stuck with Robert Gamboldt, a venture capitalist who’s not above murdering his way to the top. He’s not about to lose his prize possession without playing dirty. It’s a simple enough offer. Be his personal assassin, or go to jail.

With options like that, it’s enough to make a hybrid go full-blood.

The Bad Boys Guide to the Galaxy
by Karen Kelley
Release Date: 8/6/09

Take me to your leader. Come to think of it, just take me.

Planet Nerak was perfect—no disease, no darkness, no hunger—until an expedition to Earth brought back an unwanted guest. Enter one talented Nerakian named Lara, sent on a special fact-finding mission in the vast region called Texas. Fortunately, a warrior (he calls himself a “cop”) named Sam Jones has offered to help. Unfortunately, Sam's skill at sex is quite distracting—as are plenty other earthly delights, like the dangerously addictive substance called chocolate. Temptations such as these could seriously compromise Lara's—ahem—research...

Crazy, that's what Sam is. What sane man would voluntarily isolate himself in the Texas woods with an alien, not to mention a female one with a superiority complex, legs that won't quit, and a penchant for walking around buck naked? Between bragging about her home planet and levitating, Lara wastes no time getting on Sam's last nerve...and even less time getting into his bed. Talk about going where no man has gone before. Of course, when you’re from Texas, nothing—not even an entire planet—is going to stop you from getting what you want.

“Fun and romantic with the perfect blend of spice!”