Sound and Fury: Fantasy’s Best Fight Scenes

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From spectacular choreographed sequences to outright reality-defying stunts, fantasy fight scenes have always stood out in literature and cinema. What other genre gives you battling robots, monsters, giants, and rats of unusual size? I figured it was time to put together my list of best fantasy fight scenes ever–according to me.


Firstly, let me just say these are not in any particular order. It’s hard enough to choose which fights make the list without having to rank them. Secondly, this list is based on my own preferences, so if I left out some iconic fight or your favorite, please feel free to disagree in the comments below. Considering this is a post about fighting, I feel like that would be appropriate. Thirdly, what constitutes a fight? Basically not a battle. It doesn’t have to be mano o mano or a one on one duel, but it can’t be a full-scale battle. Fights usually focus more on the inner conflict or personal investment of a couple of characters–not entire armies.

Gandalph vs Saruman: The Lord of the Rings

Who doesn’t like to watch wizards or old people fight? What could be better than both. This is a great fight because they wipe the floor with each other without touching. They are seemingly slapped, thrown, dragged, pushed, and hurled by magic–that I assume is coming form their staffs. What really makes this wizard war fun is the fact that the characters are played by Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Christopher Lee. I couldn’t imagine anyone else in these roles. The head-to-head (or staff-to-staff) fight between Gandalph and Saruman is certainly a highlight of the first film, especially after Lee’s death.


Hector vs Achilles: Troy

This movie has a lot of downfalls–fight scenes not being one of them. The best one is the death match between Hector and Achilles. To say I’m not a fan of Brad Pitt is a huge understatement. He ruined Troy in the same way he ruined Seven Years in Tibet with his bad acting and poor attempt of an accent. Even his face can’t act. It doesn’t help that this flopping fish was thrown in a sea of wonderfully talented actors: Eric Bana, Brian Cox, Brendan Gleeson, Orlando Bloom (even at his worst can out-act Brad), Sean Bean (doesn’t die in this film believe it or not), and Diane Kruger. Back to the fight scene. This one stands out not only for it’s well-orchestrated choreography, but also because this is before the overuse of CGI. My younger followers might be asking what did they do before CGI? Train the actors to fight of course. They didn’t use stunts for the fight scenes either. If you thought their characters were obsessed with honor, Pitt and Bana had an honor system of their own where they paid each other for any accidental blows. Pitt paid out $750 to Bana. Bana paid out nothing, proving who is the better actor and fighter. Sorry had to make one more dig at Pitt because he’s the pits. Anywho, aside from the fact that there is almost more at stake with this one on one fight than any of the full-scale battles in the film, it’s just exciting to watch. It’s high powered, action-driven man-on man action.


Aragorn vs the Nazgul: The Lord of the Rings

Yup, another from the Lord of the Rings. I know there are a lot of fights in this trilogy, but this one stands out in my memory. Firstly, it’s the Hobbits’ first fight, which they epic fail. Again, as with Troy, all the actors were trained to fight. Sean Austin (Sam) was really disappointed because after learning elaborate fighting sequences, he was told by Jackson to pull back. In an interview he stated being worried no one would know he was good at this “sword stuff.” The best part of the fight in my opinion is where Aragorn fights with a sword and torch in a display of epic badassery.


The Man in Black vs Inigo Montoya: Princess Bride

If you were afraid this one wasn’t going to make the list, fear no more. How could I exclude this epic sword fight complete with witty repartee, hilarious commentary, ostentatious bravado, and swashbuckling badassery. Elwes and Patinkin were both trained by coaches to master the sword right and left handed. Did I mention their coaches also worked on Star Wars. That means not only could Westley fight with Bonetti’s defense and Capa Ferro, he could also easily master a lightsaber. What really stands out in this fight is the fact that these two have no beef with each other, which actually makes it really funny. No vows of revenge, threats of pain or torture, just compliments, heart-to-hearts, and playful banter.


Jen vs Yu Shu Lien: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Yes, some ladies finally made the list. Probably one of the most memorable fights, not just between women, but in cinegraphic history. When I refer to the fight between Jen and Lien, I’m actually referring to the rooftop chase as well as the final showdown; however, the clip is just the final showdown. This fight is just marvelous. Probably one of the most spectacular fight sequences ever. It’s as exciting as it is beautiful. They are impossibly graceful and agile, not to mention they can fly.


Neo vs Agent Smith: The Matrix

This is a classic. What television show hasn’t referenced this iconic battle. One of the reasons this fight stands out in my memory is because I just remember thinking, there’s no way Neo can win. The odds are stacked so heavily in Agent Smith’s favor. Another reason is the variety of fighting styles from gun fights to karate. It’s almost Dragon Ball Z-esque with all the rapid fire punches. Partly the time the movie came out helps. A fight scene like this would not stand out anymore in a world where we’ve seen it already. But for the time, this was cutting edge. I think most fans agree though. This fight still stands out even above the final showdown because of the tasteful use of CGI. The more they tried to top this fight in later films, the more this one just comes out on top.


The Black Knight vs Arthur: Monty Python

This is the funniest fight to make the list. It’s probably even more iconic than Princess Bride. It’s just clever and silly. Not to mention the black knight is played by my favorite Monty Python comedian, John Cleese. I really like the humor, from the moment Arthur tries to pass him, exclaiming that he “makes him sad” to the point where he literally has to disarm him. This fight as well as the entire movie is extremely quotable. I’m sad to think that there will be a generation that won’t understand references from this film.


The Mountain vs Prince Oberyn: Game of Thrones

Of all the fights in A Game of Thrones, you might be wondering why this one? Let me explain . . . No, there’s not enough time . . . Let me sum up. This fight had an Inigo Montoya feel. You could easily replace Oberyn’s lines them with, “Hello my name is Prince Oberyn. You killed my sister. Prepare to die.” I loved his emotion and energy tied in with his desire for revenge. I was really wanting him to win. It was a pranciful revenge–had only it ended in revenge. Don’t watch to the end if you are squeamish or don’t want spoilers. One of the things I liked the most about this fight was the variety and contrast. They pitted a nimble, handsome spear fighter with a large, ugly man with a long sword. What you get is a fight of skill vs strength. It’s just visually stunning.


T-Rex vs Raptors: Jurassic Park

Ok, credit goes to the first movie, not Jurassic World when it comes to memorable dino duels. Let me start by saying, I loved Jurassic World, so my preference isn’t based on a bias. I just really liked that short-but-sweet final battle between the T-Rex and the raptors. It looked more realistic than the final fight in JW,  Also, in comparison, it wasn’t over the top. It had that great finisher. T-rex hurls the raptor into the bones and roars while the banner is falling. Great stuff, great stuff..


Per my sister’s request, here are some honorable mentions that didn’t quite make my cut.

  • Flynn Rider vs Maximus: Tangled
  • Moon vs Flying Snow: Hero
  • Tristan vs undead Septimus: Stardust
  • Elsa vs guardsmen: Frozen

There you have it. Please agree or disagree in the comments below.

Yes! It’s A New Book by Tolkien! ‘The Story of Kullervo’

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Good news for Tolkien fans!

A Tolkienist's Perspective

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In what seems to be a yearly tradition, the Tolkien Estate is treating us to a new book by our favourite author.

If you’ve done some reading about the Professor (beyond Middle-earth, that is), you may have encountered many references about Tolkien’s love for the Finnish epic tale of the Kalevala.

Well, turns out when he was a young man – already teeming with ideas and exquisite writing skills – he decided to write his own version of the book.

Here’s what an excerpt of what Harper Collins had to say on their site:

Kullervo son of Kalervo is perhaps the darkest and most tragic of all J.R.R. Tolkien’s characters. ‘Hapless Kullervo’, as Tolkien called him, is a luckless orphan boy with supernatural powers and a tragic destiny.

Tolkien himself said that The Story of Kullervo was ‘the germ of my attempt to write legends of my own’, and was ‘a major…

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Ask An Author

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The first Friday this month happens to fall on the first. It just so happens to also be time for another Ask the Author, the feature that puts the author in authoritative.


phpXT7GODPMMay’s featured author is none other than Charles E. Yallowitz, author of the Legends of Windemere. He also happens to be one of the first authors I followed when I started my blog back in 2013.

Back then he had two books published in his fantasy series. Now he’s up to number seven in just over two years! He makes it seem easy, doesn’t he, but planning and writing a series is hard work. Have no fear, because Charles has plenty of advice about planning, writing, and marketing a series whether your series consist of three or twenty books.


Creating and Marketing a Series

may5The Legends of Windemere series is a fantasy adventure that currently has 7 books out and is planned for 15 overall. I believe this is where people groan or run away because long series seem to scare many readers and writers. Well, they are a big challenge and I’m here to give some advice on how to create and market a long series.  (Note: All advice is personal opinion and can be discarded as the ravings of a madman that needs to get out more.)

Planning a Series

First, I’m going to talk a little about planning. I use a lot of notes and outlines to keep my series going smoothly. For Legends of Windemere, I’ve had all 15 books outlined since I finished writing the third one. This helps me create foreshadowing and get a sense of where I want the long term storylines to go. A full outline isn’t even necessary if you want to dive into the writing immediately. Maybe you only need a page of notes about what you want to happen later on or a few future events that you’re heading for. To be honest, mine tend to get changed as I go and I have to rewrite the next outline after every book I write. Still the meat of the story is there and that’s what I use to help me guide my characters to their various destinations. The truth is that every author has his or her own system of organization. Detailed outlines and character bios work for me, but there are those who create great stories out of a trio of Post-It notes.

One of the biggest challenges for a series author is continuity. You need to make sure the rules and details remain the same throughout the adventure. This is where character bios and outlines can come in handy. Even if you don’t do a full outline, future installments can be helped by jotting down important information as you move along. Take a little time to review what you wrote every night and list whatever you think you won’t remember. For example, I kept forgetting character eye colors early on and one of my heroes abruptly changed from green to blue for some reason. I had to keep a note by my laptop for a few chapters to make sure I remembered. Eventually, it locked in and then I did the genius maneuver of having something change his eye color to brown. Worked for the story, but it was one of the spontaneous decisions that caused a few stumbles in the next book. A common question in regards to planning a series is the following:

How Long Should Your Series Be?

The answer is as long as it has to be. You might be scared of readers dropping out before the end, but that happens with trilogies too. Yes, the longer the series, the higher the chance of a reader walking away. So the author has to decide if they’re writing to tell the story they want to tell or the story that they think will sell better. These are not always the same thing. I can only speak from my personal experience and I will say that I couldn’t do Legends of Windemere in less than 15 books. It used to be 12 and then I realized that there were characters whose stories weren’t being told. I write using an ensemble cast, which means I want each hero and villain to get a story to shine in. Many of them can do this within the original stories, but I had those that needed something more to evolve. Do I regret doing a series this long, which nets me a few complaints? No. I’m happy with the adventures I’m telling and that should be one of the author’s main goals. If you’re enjoying what you write then it will come through your words and draw in the reader.

Marketing a Series

A brief mention of marketing since this is an area that many authors are concerned with. I’ve found that later books in a lengthy series will not have the same impact as the earlier ones. Not unless you have a massive support system and fan following. The reason for this is because you have people going in and out of the series all the time. A person drops out after Book 3 while another picks up Book 1, but you only see how there are fewer sales for Book 4. It took me some time to realize this and then I aimed more for continuous sales across the board instead of major sales of the most recent. So I do the big marketing things on either most recent book or the first one, Beginning of a Hero. I try to do a little for the middle books too, but you’re going to see a wide variety of sale numbers in there. It’s the nature of the series beast and all you can do is keep pushing on.

Tweets, blogging, guest posts, interviews, various chat platforms, and helping to promote other authors are where you will find most of your marketing power. (Note on that last one: Reciprocation is a great thing. I’m a big believer of helping those who help me.)

All of what I said might seem like an overview and oddly brief considering a big series is a major undertaking. Well, you would be right because all another author needs in terms of advice here are the basics. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that every author, actually artist, has his or her own methods. My series is long because I focus a lot on character development, but it would be shorter if I was more concerned with the main plot. That’s just my way and it took quite a few years for me to realize that along with my specific style. So I give advice and add that this is my personal experience.

Now, is writing a long series a thing for everyone? No because it’s a lot of work and dedication with a high risk of writing yourself into a corner. Still I say follow the story and your gut. If it says a 10 book series then go along with it until you finish or find that it might work better as 5. You can always rewrite the outline.


51WkCW8ZDoL__UY250_To connect with Charles and to learn more about the world of Windemere, check out his author website and blog.

You can also follow him on Twitter or Facebook

Check out his Amazon author page here to purchase his current novels as well as learn about future projects.

Don’t forget to be on the lookout for the next book in the series.

Take a Break from Life to Watch this Video: Game of Thrones/Taylor Swift Mashup

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Life has been firing lemons from a lemon-grenade launcher at me all week, so instead of my planned post, here’s one I whipped up in a pinch just for fun. After all, humor is the cure-all for life’s troubles. But don’t worry, for those of you who follow me for content, I will try to resume my regular blogging schedule on Tuesday with a new Tuesday Tip.

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A blog post is coming. It’s on it’s way. It’s gonna be amazing.

In the meantime, I’m going to be catching up on my blog, writing, editing, and life in general, I’ll also be catching up on Game of Thrones. One more disc and I’ll be finished with season 4.

And speaking of Game of Thrones, if you haven’t seen it yet, please enjoy this Game of Thrones/Taylor Swift parody “Blank Page.” I promise you, there are no spoilers, but I warn you, it will be stuck in your head for days.

http://www.nerdist.com/vepisode/nerdist-presents-game-of-thrones-meets-taylor-swift-in-blank-page/

Favorite Fantasy Deaths

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Tuesday I told you how to kill and how not to kill your characters. For fun, let’s look at some of the fantasy genre’s best deaths. Those that made us laugh and those that made us cry.

The Lord of the Rings: Boromir

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Even though this list isn’t in a particular order, this one definitely belongs on the top of the list. Not only does the death of Boromir dissolve the fellowship, it proves the danger of the One Ring (for those of us who may have been questioning its power). Those who are tempted by it (Gollum, Isildur, Boromir, etc), ultimately meet their demise. All of that aside, who doesn’t enjoy a death scene where men hold and kiss each other. With all the pawing, kissing, and panting, this could have easily been a make-out scene if not for the arrows.

Dragonheart: Draco

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For a B movie, this death gets an A. Fans of the movie loved this movie for what it could have been if not for the poorly developed characters, bad acting, and bad writing. For what it’s worth, there’s emotional payoff at the end to make up for all that. You know the dragon is toast from the moment he performs the scientifically impossible feat of sharing half a heart with a human (so much wrong with this scenario). To kill the villain, he has to sacrifice himself. And worse, his best friend has to be the one to kill him. Heavy stuff. In the end, the sad, defeated Sr. Bowen ask his dead friend, “Where do we turn?” The response: “To the stars, Bowen. To the stars.” Best last words ever–delivered after death on top of that as Draco becomes a star constellation. Those words combined with the theme song made me sad and tricked me into thinking this was a good movie..

The Hobbit: Thorin Oakenshield

The_Hobbit_Battle_Of_The_Five_Armies2014720p_DVDScrx264Ok, for those of you who hate any deviation from the books, I think Peter Jackson improved the final words of Thorin Oakenshield. Those tear-jerking last words are not only relevant to the story, but to modern society. “If more people valued home above gold, the world would be a merrier place.” Those final words left me crying and nodding in agreement. I was also very moved by Bilbo’s reaction to his death, but I don’t think enough time was spent on that or the other dwarves’ reactions. I also think they should have included his funeral. Regardless, I will remember this death as one of the highlights of the film. Not enough emotional payoff or closure for the Bilbo/Thorin friendship arc, but good never-the-less.

The Princess Bride: Westley

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Well, this hardly counts. After all he was only mostly dead. But reading or watching this for the first time, who didn’t react like the little boy from the film. Fake deaths were sort of a specialty of Westley. After all, this wouldn’t be the first time he “died.” Buttercup loses him to pirates long before the pit of despair or the zoo (depending on the book or film. I prefer the movie). Another reason this is a great death. He’s topless. Notice he has a shirt in the next scene. So thoughtful of Inigo and Fezzik to remember to put a shirt on a dead guy before taking him to the house of Miracle Max. In all honesty, what really makes this a great death is because he doesn’t die, and why not? For love, of course. It cannot stop true love, only delay it a little while.

Braveheart: William and Murron

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This is a two for one. I really couldn’t pick between the two. The entire story is the result of the death of Murron. William spends the entire movie fighting for freedom, which includes certain freedoms that married people are supposed to have (wink, wink) that are denied by the English. You feel the love for his deceased wife in every scene, especially in the last scene. As he’s dying he clutches her childhood gift to his last breath and thinks he sees her walking toward him out of the crowd. That was a good emotional cleanse after watching a guy get tortured. Good end to what could have been an overly gory scene.

A Game of Thrones: Ned Stark

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I know Game of Thrones fans are very sensitive about spoilers, but at this point is Ned Stark’s death considered a spoiler? This happened in season one, people. Besides who was surprised. He was played by Sean Bean: most of his characters die! Who couldn’t love the honorable Ned Stark–except for maybe Jaime Lannister. He was a good father and husband . . . aside from the fact that he cheated on his wife. Not so honorable after all, are you Ned? Regardless who didn’t cry when they cut off his head, a scene that empowered Arya and Robb . . . and momentarily empowered Sansa. If she’d just pushed Joffrey off the building. Almost, Sansa.

A Game of Thrones: Viserys

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For those of you not familiar with the name, maybe this picture will refresh your memory. This is one of those great deaths because of the irony. All he wanted was a crown . . . and he got one. Need I say more.

Star Trek: Spock

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This is how great this death is. I haven’t even seen this movie yet, and I want to cry. That’s the power of this picture. That hand. That face. That noble sacrifice. I don’t even know what he died for. It’s particularly sad today considering as I was writing this post, Leonard Nimoy passed away. What a sad day for fantasy fans.

Star Wars: Qui Gon Jinn

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Like DragonHeart, this wasn’t the best movie, but Qui Gon Jinn is sort of the Draco of this film. He’s noble and good–sort of Jesus like. I think his death is the highlight of this film (considering Jar Jar didn’t die). Obi Wan dramatically shouts NOOOOOOOOO!!! and then there’s that thing Qui Gon does with his finger where he just taps Obi Wan’s face. It’s got all the elements of the Boromir death/makeout scene.

Bridge to Terabithia: Leslie Burke

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I think this one gets overlooked for several reasons. It’s not dramatic–heck it’s even off screen. The girl doesn’t get shot by a hundred arrows, beheaded, or drawn and quartered like our above heroes. She simply drowns. It’s so touching and sad because of how the characters react. I cried and cried while all the characters cried. I’ve only seen this movie once, and I’ll never watch it again. Too sad. Leslie is just a wonderful character you can’t help but like.

Share your thoughts. What is your favorite fantasy death? Which ones made you cry or laugh?

Ask an Author

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If you have a question about writing, the right person to ask is another writer. Once a month I’ll be featuring writers who put the author in authoritative.


book-photo-nr-500My first author is writer, avid reader, and blogger Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series, and children’s books, all of which have repeatedly reached #1 on Amazon. : )

My sister and I have asked Nicholas for advice many times, so naturally he was the first person I contacted to share advice with my readers.

Nicholas is an author who is always eager to give free advice, encouragement, and books–that’s right books. I noticed Nicholas has a lot of success with giveaways and special offers, so I asked him to share the benefits of giving away books for free.


Just Give it Away: Does Free Work?

From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

From timashton.org.uk

I keep reading contradictory information on this. One of my blogging friends, Jack Eason, complains that it attracts trolls. Effrosyni Moschoudi – and many others – have told me that free doesn’t work – in the sense that it fails to generate subsequent sales.

So, does free work?

Quick answer: yes and no. It does as part of an overall strategy, and it can do wonders to put a new author on the map. However, it can be ineffective or even counterproductive if not used properly.

For New Authors

As I explain on my A-Z guide: How both my books reached #1 on Amazon, free books can be used to build a fan base. New authors keen to build their brand have used free to great effect. This can be done in innovative ways, like Matt Mason did with Pirate’s Dilemma, which he distributed via BitTorrent. As he puts it, getting your book in front of 160 million users is usually a good thing.

It has also been used in extremely creative ways by authors like Ksenia Anske, author of the Siren Suicides. Readers are encouraged to pay through a virtual tip jar if they enjoyed the book. In a fascinating recent blog post titled I give my books away for free: here are my sales numbers, she announced that she has made $4,000 in little over six months that way. Her books were downloaded 1,600 times within the last 6 weeks. She also used her newly found fame as an author to raise money through Kickstarter, raising an extra $3,000.

What about the Rest of us?

I was reading a great post on how to monetize free, at the Author Marketing Experts blog. Penny, its author, was explaining how free stuff can help you sell more of the paid merchandise, but you have to be careful, because some people just want freebies. That’s fine, of course, but they are not your customers. She offers some helpful tips to help us maximize the use of free:

  • Why free? You need to be clear as to why you are doing this. Unless you’re a charity, free content should be offered to make sales down the line. This can be done by helping build an email list, raise awareness, build your brand, or get new people into your marketing funnel.
From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

From adamhcohen.com

  • What sort of free? Once you’ve figured out why you want to give away something, you can choose the what. For years, I’ve been giving away my Greek translation of the Tao Te Ching. I set up a virtual tip jar and waited to see what would happen. Four years and 7,000 downloads later, only one person had tipped – 10 bucks. Only ten people had actually thanked me for my work, despite me having a link saying “if you don’t want to pay, that’s fine, a simple thank you would suffice.”Then, a few months ago I decided enough was enough, and set up a mechanism to ask for people’s emails before they can download the file. The book is still free, but I also link to a print version on Createspace. Downloads have plummeted from thirty a day to just a couple, but last month I made more from selling the print copy that I had from tips during the past four years. I also have collected hundreds of emails from people who are genuinely interested in my message.In my book (pun intended), that’s a win. 🙂
  • Make sure it’s really free and worthwhile: A lot of people have content that is purported to be free when it’s not really free. For example, they will give away only a portion of their book, but  you have to pay to read the juicy parts. This is a big no-no. If you give something away, make sure it’s something really valuable. Virtually any electronic product is easy to create and deliver, so put your best foot forward. After all, this is what you will judged by.
  • Take names: One thing I learnt from my Tao Te Ching experience: You should never give free away without asking for an email address. I see people do this all the time; they have a ton of free stuff but never collect emails. If that’s the case, the freebies you are offering may be of great value to your end user, but they won’t matter to your marketing. Get emails. Ask for reviews. It’s called an ethical bribe. You get something (their email) and give them something (the free stuff).
  • Make it easy to download: Don’t make free difficult. It should be easy to get your free stuff. If people have to jump through hoops, they won’t do it and the free stuff won’t matter. For example – put your free stuff on your home page. Add links to it on the sidebar. Remind people at the end of your posts.Accordingly, when you ask for people’s email, make it easy. A simple click or two is all it should take. Don’t ask for too much information. If you ask me for my address, birthday, and whatnot I doubt I will want your free stuff that badly. Shorten the staircase. If you make it complicated, it’s not really free, it’s bait. And people will call you out for it.
  • Make the free stuff work for you: If you give away something, make sure that it works for you. Add links to your other books. Ask for a review at the end. Encourage people to follow your blog, Facebook or twitterfeed. Every giveaway should include a call to action. You are collecting names and email addresses and building your list, and that’s great. But what do you really want people to do? Define what you want them to do, and then include your call to action in the free stuff. You can also offer specials and change these periodically in the giveaway.
  • Follow up! The best kind of free stuff is, as Penny points out, the gift that keeps giving. If you are collecting names and then never contacting your prospects again, what’s the point? People need to be reminded, and reminded again.The real key here is that free stuff can work well for you in so many ways, but free stuff without a goal is just free. Great to get free stuff, right? But then how is all of this hard work going to pay off for you?
  • Will it slow down my sales? This is probably the most common question I’m asked on the subject. On my blog, I link to the free copy of Pearseus: Schism on Goodreads. Surprisingly enough, sales of the book on Amazon have increased since doing this. So, in my experience, free does not slow down sales.

If you still aren’t a believer of free, try it for 90 days and see what happens. If you do it right, free can monetize your audience like nothing else will. The biggest reason is that in an age of pushing things on consumers, your audience really wants to sample what you have to offer before they buy. Free is a great way to do that. It’s also a great way to stay in front of your audience, build trust, and develop a loyal following. But it has to be planned carefully, or it will be an ineffective tool at best.


7182i2gWs2L__SL1500_Speaking of free, check out Nicholas’ children’s book, Runaway Smile on his blog or you can purchase it from Amazon. I’m definitely getting a copy for my son–this would be right up his alley.

If you liked his advice about book giveaways, there’s plenty more on his blog. You can connect with Nicholas here and learn more about Runaway Smile and his other books on Amazon.

Join me again in February for more awesome author advice!

Writing Recap and Resolutions

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During the first week of a new year, I tend to get a little retrospective before moving forward. So much happens, a lot changes, and there’s so much left undone–unless you’ve been avoiding life for the last 12 months in a  basement or bomb shelter, or you are a cat.

Personally I’ve changed a lot in 2014. The reflection I see in the mirror everyday is starting to deviate from my drivers license photo, which was only taken a little over a year ago. Hair makes a difference, I will say that. I started growing out my hair in 2014 and it went from a bob to past my shoulders in a year.

But physical changes don’t matter as much as personal growth or life changes. This year I ended a relationship and moved into a new house. Shortly after my mom was diagnosed with cancer. I just felt powerless, like someone who has been buried to their neck so people can throw stones at them. I’d say 2014 was the year that taught me life is not fair and bad things can happen to you. But in all fairness, it’s also the year that truly taught me how to be strong.

It’s also the year I found a balance between life and writing. I mean the scales are still tilted in favor of life, but I’ve come to terms with that.

I really feel like I rang in the New Year right because I spent it with people I love doing what I love: writing. I re-re-re-wrote the beginning of my current fantasy novel. I’ve been working on it for roughly a year or two now, and though it is a long way from being done, it has come a long way.

I Changed the Beginning

This time last year, the beginning of my book was a giant info dump. Although it established the conflict, it had way too much information for a reader to digest in one chapter, which was told by a secondary character no less.

My novel now begins with the main character and introduces him, his goals, his fatal flaw, and the conflict. I’m still not completely satisfied with the beginning. I don’t know exactly how it should start. I’m sure I’ll rewrite it a few more times, but it’s come a long way, and that’s what I remind myself when I feel down about it.

I Removed a Main Character

For those of you who read my Tuesday Tips, I take my own advice. Remember how many times I’ve encouraged you to remove or change characters who don’t function with your plot? I ran into a character like that. Her name was Elewyn. When I planned my story, I thought she’d be helpful to the plot, but in the long run, she was just extra noise. The only downfall is now I have a lot of rewriting to do.

I Finished the First Draft for Book 2

I only wish I could say the same for book one. I really wanted to release the first book in 2015, but I may have to wait until 2016. My goal was to have the first draft of book one, book two, and the prequel finished before publishing book one (that way if I make any major plot changes in any of the books I still can go back and make changes in the previous ones). With book two already drafted, half of the prequel drafted, and book one off to a good start, I may still be able to get something out this fall.

I Came Out of the Closet

This year I not only started calling myself a writer, I also discussed my current project with someone other than my sister. Telling my coworker that I wrote fantasy was like pulling teeth, but telling all of my followers on WordPress and Twitter about my novel was a walk in the park. In prior post, I barely teased my WIP until my sister invited me to participate in her blog tour. Not only did I have to discuss my novel’s plot, but I had to describe characters and scenes. Before I was always too uncomfortable to talk about my WIP in great detail. Now I know it’s not that scary.

Writing Resolutions for 2015

Now that I’ve recapped my WIP’s progress in 2014, what is in store for 2015. Again, I’m pretty sure publishing is out of the question, but this is the year I’d like to share my writing with readers and get feedback. I’d also like to have it fully edited and formatted so it’s ready to go at the end of this year or beginning of next.

I’m really looking forward to sharing more about my novels in the new year. Thank you all for reading and sharing in 2014.

Tuesday Tip

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After several weeks, I’m finally going to revisit the editing checklist. Remember that? I posted it back in October. It’s a long inclusive list, and I haven’t even touched mechanics and grammar yet. To see the full editing checklist, click here.

Moving right along, it looks like next on the list is editing characters. You might notice after your first draft that some or many of your characters just don’t work. They may need tweaking or to be cut entirely.

Remember, these are all tips on how to go back and edit existing characters, not how to create them from scratch. That’s for a later post.

Make Sure They Have Motivation

Poor motivation, or none whatsoever, is often the culprit if you’re character is falling flat. Goals, dreams, wants, desires drive every action your characters make. Your characters’ motivation can be simple or complex, as long as it’s the driving factor.

Examples of Character Motivation

Troy

I chose this movie because A. I just watched it and B. there are so many characters with motivations that clash and cross I just had to use it.

Achilles: To be remembered forever and ever and ever and ever

Paris: To be with Helen

Helen: To be with Paris

Hector: You know what, I’m just going to use his own words: Honor the Gods, love his woman, defend his county.

Agamemnon: Take over Troy

Menelaus: Get his wife back from the Trojans and regain his honor.

Odysseus: Not die and go home to his wife

Patroclus: To fight

So how do all of these varying motivations come together? Well, they weren’t randomly selected. The movie differs from The Iliad slightly, and for this example, I’m using the film.

Agamemnon wants to take over Troy and finds an excuse to attack the city when his brother Menelaus comes to him asking him to fight with him so he can get his wife back from the Trojans and regain his honor. Helen left her husband to be with Paris who sneaks her into Troy so they can be together. Agamemnon is going to have a hard time taking the city because it is protected by high walls and Hector, the prince of Troy and the city’s mightiest warrior. Of course we know his motivation: defend, honor, love wife, etc. To insure victory, Agamemnon hires Achilles, the supposed greatest warrior of all time, to fight for him. Achilles, though he hates Agamemnon, agrees to fight because he knows anyone who fights at this battle is going to be remembered forever and ever and ever. He really doesn’t have a personal stake in the battle, which is why towards the end he decides to go home, taking his fleet with him; however, his cousin (in the book he’s just a friend) Patroclus wants to fight, so he steals Achilles’ armor and fights the Trojans. He’s slaughtered by Hector who thinks he is Achilles. Enraged by his cousin’s death, Achilles returns to the battle and kills Hector. Greek victory, right? Wrong. There are still those high walls. They aren’t simply going to crumble just because Troy lost its prince. Odysseus knows that they can’t take the city, and they will all die trying. He does not want to die. He wants to go home to his wife, so he comes up with the plan to turn the ships into a Trojan horse so they can invade the city. The rest is history.

Edit for Function

Your character’s function is to serve the plot. When you designed your main character, hopefully you didn’t just pick random traits. Design a character with your plot in mind. Chances are, when you’re planning your story you had some idea of what the plot would be or at least what would happen. Give your character attributes (strengths, weaknesses, fears) that will aid your plot.

Example: Indiana Jones is afraid of snakes. This would be a pointless fear–distracting from the plot even–if it wasn’t for the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where, in order to find the Ark, he must pass thousands of snakes in the Well of Souls. His fear is not pointless or random. It was a character trait designed to give him something to overcome. It also happens to make him more relatable and believable.

Edit for Consistency

Inconsistencies are very distracting. Make sure your character is consistent throughout the entire book.

name: This is very important. Readers are ruthless when they find mistakes, don’t make a mispelled name one of them. First things first, decide on a spelling and keep a sheet where you list your characters’ names alphabetically. If you’re not sure how you spelled a name in chapter one, refer to your sheet. If you change the spelling of a name, or the name entirely, simply use the search and replace feature to correct it.

physical appearance: I’ve read books where a character has green eyes in one chapter and then brown in another. It doesn’t seem hard to keep these facts straight. Again, instead of planning your characters as you go, plan them beforehand. Even if you never describe the color of your characters’ eyes or hair, decide what they are just in case you do. Draw a picture, cut out clips from magazines, or write out a description. Refer to it whenever you need to describe your character in narrative.

personality: It’s not enough that your characters look consistent but that they act consistent. If your character is a pessimist, it would be character assassination for them to look on the bright side of a bad situation.

To make sure all of your characters’ attributes are consistent, create a character sketch for each one. Not a drawing per se, but a list of traits or a brief description. In this include their goals and conflicts. A character interview is a great way to get to know your character. For tips on this, see Tuesday Tip #2.

So you can see what a finished character sketch looks like, this is my character sketch for Thaolas.

Thaolas is one of four children. He is blond with blue eyes. He has the body of a warrior, but he doesn’t want to fight. He was his mother’s favorite, but he is despised by his lord. He was born the night of a red moon, which is considered an unfavorable sign where he’s from. He is not his father’s heir, not suited to be a soldier, and his brother does not want him as an advisor, so he has a hard time finding his place. He is a thinker, self-punisher, and avoider of conflict. He is also very curious and likes to learn, which means he ask a lot of questions.
Too Many/Not Enough Characters

Your problem might not be the characters you created, just the number. Maybe your main protagonist spends too much time in thought because you gave her no one to talk to. Perhaps there aren’t enough background characters to make your world believable.

To know for sure if a character is hurting or helping your novel, simply ask yourself , does this character enhance or distract from the main protagonist or the plot. For more detail on this, check out this post where I discuss multiple POVs.

My number one tip when it comes to characters, plan them in advance. This will cut down on edits and rewrites.

I hope you find that helpful. Please comment below. What are some helpful tips you have for keeping character traits straight?