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Writing Fight/Action Scenes

May 30, 2011 by in category Lyon's Lair tagged as , , , ,

by Jennifer Lyon 
I never thought I’d be forced to do this, but here it is…
I might actually have to thank my brothers. All these years, I have credited my parents and my sister for giving me my love of reading that led to writing. But more and more, reviewers are bringing up the fight and actions scenes in my books. I have a writer friend who sends me her fight scenes to critique…and you get the point.
So how is it I can write fight and actions scenes when I have not taken a single martial arts class in my life?
Because the first years of my life were practically on the job training. One of my earliest memories is seeing my older brother do a flying jump, snapping a kick in mid air, and break a board held by my other brother. I can still hear the crack that board made.
A few years later, one of my brothers went on to become a black belt, and he co-owned a karate studio with a friend. I remember being in the studio one day, I was about eight or nine years old, and watching him and the friend spar. It was terrifying and exhilarating. I remember the long wall of mirrors and the blue mat, the pungent smell of sweat and male, the sounds of flesh hitting flesh, the shouts and grunts, and how fast it all moved.
And most amazing of all, the expression in their eyes when they saw a weakness in their opponent then planned and executed a strike—all at lightning speed!
It’s all vivid and tactile in my memory.
And that’s exactly how a fight scene, or any action scene, should read in a book. It must be vivid and present…not distant and vague. The reader wants to see and feel with the point of view character. Here are some of my tips:
Establish point of view and stay there. This character is going to show your reader everything. It will anchor your reader into the scene and help them “see” everything that’s happening. And the same time, it should be revealing more about your character too. This is an example from NIGHT MAGIC:
Phoenix sprinted around the side of the building, followed the blood trail of the witch to a ladder on the side of the church and started climbing.
It was an A-line roof two stories up. Damn, he wasn’t a fan of heights. Why couldn’t people do their business on the ground? Hell. He grabbed the edge of the roof and silently hauled himself up to the wickedly slanted top. The tiles were slick, and he had to lay flat on the slope to keep from sliding off. He looked around while digging his fingers into the raised edges of the tiles.
In this snippet, first tension is building because there’s going to be a fight on an A line roof—someone is going to fall off, it’s only logical. But as we’re in Phoenix’s head, we’re learning about his fear of heights. And notice that while he mentally gripes, his fear doesn’t stop him.
Never use passive writing in a fight scene (and I can think of a time when I broke my own rule!). Passive writing of Phoenix keeping a woman protected behind his back while fighting his attackers: “In an instant, the rogue was on the ground.”
Yawn. A more active version:
He didn’t want to move and expose the woman. He ripped off his chain, snapped it around the knife hand, and jerked. The rogue fell to the ground, and Phoenix flipped his knife to stab the blade through the rogue’s back—
Choreograph the scene. Draw out the setting and all your characters on paper. It helps you build a visual in your head and then you know where everybody in the scenes is. And more importantly, what they are doing. You must keep track of everyone through your point of view character’s eye. That way you don’t start out with five people in a fight and two just fade away never to be seeing or heard from again. Drawing it out really helps—even with my stick figure drawings!
Action/fight scenes must be building your plot, otherwise they are just filler. Readers recognize filler. Make your action scenes work for you. Gratuitous fight scenes are as boring as gratuitous sex scenes.
Fast paced writing. This is the place for shorter sentences and carefully chosen description. In this example Phoenix spots the rogues and a woman, and goes after them into an alley. This is the entire description of the alley:
The cool air was blighted by the combined stench of rotting food, copper, and urine. Scanning the narrow street lined with weak light that spilled from the street-lights and buildings, he looked left and spotted the tops of the rogues’ heads on the other side of the blue Dumpster.
Just enough to set the scene, give the reader of visual. And notice we get the visual as Phoenix is looking for his prey. Fight scenes should be tight, clean writing using only the words you need.
And that’s all I can think of at the moment. Except to say thank you to my brothers!
Okay now for a little promo: Romantic Times gives SINFUL MAGIC, out May 31st, a 4 ½ HOT and said:
The power of undying love truly shines through here, adding plenty of emotion to an otherwise dark and action-packed adventure. Another Lyon triumph!
SINFUL MAGIC hits the shelves on May 31st, I hope you’ll pick up a copy!
Jennifer Lyon always wanted to be a witch. When her witch-powers didn’t materialize, she turned to creating magic in her books. NIGHT MAGIC and SINFUL MAGIC are the third and fourth books in an enchanting, passionate and supernatural series. 

     
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Bigger Books and Themes

March 25, 2011 by in category Lyon's Lair tagged as , , ,

by Jennifer Lyon

A friend and I were discussing what makes a “bigger” book. There’s no real definition for bigger, but the one thing I can guarantee you is that it’s not word count. Words are a tool to tell a story, they are NOT the story.

So what is “bigger?” I think it comes down to universal themes that resonate with a larger audience.

For instance, in the Harlequin/Silhouette category books, like Desire, Special Edition, Super Romance, etc, the writing is tightly focused on the emotions of falling in love, and therefore, limits the audience. That does NOT make these books any less enjoyable, it just narrows the audience.

But a bigger book has more ‘commercial’ themes. As an example, let’s talk about the movie Ghost. It works the same in books or movies, and my husband and I just watched it over the weekend so it’s fresh in my mind. The movie has been out for something like 20 years, yet it has a timeless quality to it, and I think that’s because of its themes.

The sudden loss of a loved one. Every person has or will experience this.

What happens when we die? Look at all the books, movies, religions and philosophies dedicated to trying to explain it.

Can a dead loved one reach us? Can we reach them? There’s a whole industry of psychics and others making money off “contacting the dead.” The emotional fragility of grieving will make even the strongest of us reach for any flicker of hope.

Letting go of a loved one. There’s many shades to this one. In the movie, it was time for the hero and heroine to let go of each other so the hero could move on. I had a moment like that with my mom at the very end of her life. She was so sick and I remember the moment clearly where I finally closed my eyes and said to my deceased brother; “You can have her now. Anything to stop her pain.” I was ready to let her go and she passed soon after that.

Betrayal by a friend. In the movie, the hero is betrayed by someone he knows and trusts. Who hasn’t at least seen that happen if not experienced it?

These themes touch all of us, helping us to relate to the movie or book on a personal, intimate level. And that helps create a bigger feel to the book.

In my books, I try to find these universal themes. It’s even more important, I think, because I’m writing paranormal. In NIGHT MAGIC, my heroine, Ailish, is handfasted to a demon and has two weeks to either complete the bond and become a demon witch (who is evil), or she dies.

Now I doubt many of us have ever been in that predicament. But the core theme there is something like: Can a good person be betrayed or tricked into becoming evil? That’s a pretty timeless theme, one that religions have explored and argued since the beginning of time. These themes spin off into more:

Betrayal: Ailish trusted her mother, and she betrayed her.

Redemption: Can Ailish atone for a mistake she made when she was 16?

Handicap: Ailish is blind, something that I believe really humanizes her.

Can she face her own death?

How far will the man who loves her go to save her?

I’m using the idea of “themes” here loosely, but these are the universal concepts that we have some familiarity with and therefore connect us to the characters strongly enough to feel like we’re in their skin. We understand their struggles and conflicts.

P.S. NIGHT MAGIC, the third book in my Wing Slayer Hunter Series went on sale March 22nd, and the forth book SINFUL MAGIC will be out May 31st.

Jennifer Lyon always wanted to be a witch. When her witch-powers didn’t materialize, she turned to creating magic in her books. NIGHT MAGIC is the third book in an enchanting, passionate and supernatural series. Jen’s also has a super secret alter ego known as Jennifer Apodaca, the author of the award winning Samantha Shaw Mystery Series. Visit Jen at http://www.jenniferlyonbooks.com/

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New Sale Story

March 23, 2009 by in category Lyon's Lair tagged as

At the last OCC meeting, I received two roses for selling two more books in the Wing Slayer Hunter Series. When I went up to get the roses, I just gave a brief line about the next book and got off the stage.

My friends were annoyed with me. They said I should have talked more about all the books, and the series, and the sexy hunters…but that isn’t exactly what I would have wanted to say.

This is…

This series is about magic, and the witches and witch hunters who wield the magic to fight against evil. The first book, BLOOD MAGIC, is truly the book I always wanted to write and, interestingly enough, it was the hardest book I’ve written. I drew on everything I had, and when that wasn’t enough, I drew on friends: Marianne Donley, Laura Wright, Michele Cwiertny, Maureen Child, Kate Carlisle, Mindy Neff, Michelle Thorne, Sandy Chvostal and some that I’m sure I’m forgetting. They never let me lose faith in the book or myself, and they stepped in when I was in a panic. During revisions when I was so lost I couldn’t eat or sleep, Marianne said, “Send it to me right now.” And they got right back to me with suggestions that were dead on.

Friends like that? Priceless.

And my ace in the hole? I love my editor. I clicked with her from the first time I talked to her. She worked hard on that book, pushing me to do major revisions, always there to answer questions or brainstorm. We have a genuine respect for each others talents, and a trust that we each will do exactly what we say we will. She made BLOOD MAGIC a better book, and me a better writer.

Then the economy tanked. My publisher restructured and laid off employees.

I was trying not to panic.

My editor called to assure me that my place at Random House was secure. Oh good! My editor still had her job! The book was still on track to publish. I turned in the second book and wrote the proposal to sell more books in the series and was feeling pretty good.

Six weeks later, my agent let me know my editor had been laid off.

I was devastated. Losing an editor who believes in our work at such a critical time, particularly when publishers are tightening and cutting, meant the series could be dead before it even got started. My agent swore it was okay. I tried to believe her. (My agent and I were both very sad for my editor, who was simply a victim of the economy as a last hire.)

The weeks of waiting were endless. I did revisions on the second book, and kept trying to believe that they would buy more books.

It was getting harder.

Then I got the call from my agent that the publisher had offered for two more books.

Selling two more books under these circumstances is amazing, incredible and makes me feel very lucky. In spite of the tough economy, BLOOD MAGIC is doing well and the series is starting off strong.

So the one thing I want to get across is that this business of publishing—it’s always a struggle. But doesn’t that make success so much sweeter?

And the friends we make along the way? Priceless!


Jennifer Lyon always wanted to be a witch. When her witch-powers didn’t materialize, she turned to creating magic in her books. BLOOD MAGIC is the first book in an enchanting, passionate and supernatural series. Visit Jennifer Lyon at www.jenniferlyonbooks.com

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Releasing the Lyon

February 23, 2009 by in category Lyon's Lair tagged as


Building a name in publishing is tricky under any circumstances.

Changing your name after you’re published is just crazy.

So of course, I changed my name.

When I began my career with the Samantha Shaw Series, there was talk about Apodaca being too difficult to pronounce. I said, “Uh, hello, Evanovich?”

Okay, I didn’t say it, but I thought it! As it turned out, my publisher grew comfortable with the name and we went forward.

Several years later, my agent began submitting a paranormal proposal I wrote that was bought by Random House/Ballantine.

Insert HUGE excitement here. It would take six blogs to tell you how surprised I was, how scared, how sure I was that they’d realize their mistake. All the usual insecure crap. But enough of that!

Everything was going along swimmingly until I got a call from my agent, “We have a problem.”

No one wants to hear that from their agent! I sincerely thought my editor hated the completed book. I saw a blue vest at Wal Mart in my future. Then my agent said, “The sales people can’t pronounce your name.”

Holy Cow—way to scare me to death!

Long story short, Jennifer Lyon was born. Now we had to introduce her around and we had to do it fast. One thing I have learned over the years is that the promotion that works best is the promotion we enjoy.

So even though my Wing Slayer Hunter series is dark and sexy, I decided to go with a light and fun plan to promote Jen Lyon. First I set out to differentiate the two names:

Apodaca writes mysteries and romance. She is the boring serious one. She never gets into trouble.

But she has an alter ego: Jen Lyon, who insists of writing paranormal. Lyon is a lush who thinks she’s a witch, and if there’s no trouble around, she goes out, finds it and drags it home. She does the things Apodaca would never dare do.

Then I created a blog-site for Lyon where I gave her this whole personality. She loves witches and appletinis and men. This has turned into an ongoing joke on the blog. People who visit the blog bring cyber-appletinis. Sometimes they conspire to steal things (and by things, I mean the hunky men I’ve posted on the blog in a category called Wing Slayer Worthy) and they give Jen Lyon appletinis so she won’t notice their theft.

It’s taken on a life of its own. It’s hilarious and fun.

Will it sell books? I have no idea. All I know is that we’ve released the Lyon and I don’t know if we’ll ever cage her again!

BLOOD MAGIC is officially released tomorrow!


Jennifer Lyon always wanted to be a witch. When her witch-powers didn’t materialize, she turned to creating magic in her books. BLOOD MAGIC is the first book in an enchanting, passionate and supernatural series. Visit Jennifer Lyon at www.jenniferlyon.com

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