Friday, September 30, 2022

SMFS Members Published in JOURN-E: The Journal of Imaginative Literature: Vol. 1, No. 2, Autumnal Equinox 2022

Several SMFS list members are published in the recently released, JOURN-E: The Journal of Imaginative Literature: Vol. 1, No. 2, Autumnal Equinox 2022. Published by Mind's Eye Publications, the read is available in print format at The members in the issue are:


Brandon Barrows with "The Only One.”


Roger Johns with “The Middle Kingdom.”


Joseph S. Walker with "Clarity."



This is the second issue of JOURN-E: The Journal of Imaginative Literature (vol. 1, no.2, Autumnal Equinox 2022. The journal is a compendium of short fiction, poetry, non-fiction, and illustration across the five major genres of the Speculative: Adventure, Detection & Mystery, Fantasy, Horror & the Supernatural, and Science Fiction. Thus, JOURN-E is a pentapartite compendium of both new and classic work across these several genres.

JOURN-E is published twice a year by Mind's Eye Publications™ ( on the Vernal and Autumnal Equinoxes. Inquiries should be sent to: OR

SMFS Member Publishing News: Dancing in the Knee-Deep Midnight: a collection of short stories by John Weagley

SMFS list member John Weagley’s short story collection, Dancing in the Knee-Deep Midnight: a collection of short stories has been published by Close To The Bone Publishing. The read is available in both digital and print formats at Amazon.



Join award-winning author John Weagly in the ballroom for dark and witty tales of crime and disorder, heartache and turmoil, tension and whimsy. A flamenco of fortune telling. A polka for pot-bellied pigs. A morning after mambo. Neighbors tap dance on each other’s graves and violence erupts in a samba of bloodshed. All of these dark movements and more are found on the dance floor.

The band is warming up. The lights are flickering. Won’t you join the dance?

SMFS Member Publishing News: The Verdict Against the Shadwell Six by Dan Castro



The second part of SMFS list member Dan Castro’s short story, The Verdict Against the Shadwell Six, appears in the recently released Sherlock Holmes Magazine: Issue 10. Published in the United Kingdom, the magazine can be purchased on their websiteThe news post for part one can be found here. 


Publisher Synopsis: 

Issue 10 - Autumn 2022

A taster of the contents of Issue 10 of Sherlock Holmes Magazine:​




The sounds of Sherlock

Celebrating 100 years of Holmes on the radio


What if Moriarty was innocent?

An interview with the writer of a new podcast


My poison snake

Life as a child in a household of Japanese  Sherlock Holmes translators


A new Hound

The story of an unusual take on the classic tale


Big brother

Mycroft novels assessed


Building Baker Street

The story of a remarkable LEGO model


Sherlockian Scribblings

​​​​​​​The return of Bending the Willow


Pleasures of Holmes

Sherlock’s passions and pastimes


The Verdict Against the Shadwell Six

The conclusion of our brand new Sherlockian pastiche


Lines of inquiry

Holmes and the telephone


A study in Amatis

The true meaning behind Holmes’s violin


Mrs Hudson’s diary


A lunar chronology

Using the moon’s phases to date the canon



Crossword & cartoon

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

SleuthSayers: The Gift of Writing—and Reading—Fiction by Barb Goffman

SleuthSayers: The Gift of Writing—and Reading—Fiction: Families come in all shapes and sizes. Ideally, what keeps them glued together is love. With love comes understanding and acceptance and an ...

SMFS Member Publishing News: The Crimson Vial by William Burton McCormick

Today is publication day for Crooked, Volume 2, which includes the short story, The Crimson Vial, by William Burton McCormick. The universal buy link for the digital format version is here.


Publisher Synopsis:

Welcome to CROOKED V.2, the second volume of sci-fi crime stories edited by Jessie Kwak.

In this volume you’ll find 18 stories of mayhem and tangled loyalties. Bounty hunters chase targets who aren’t what they seem. Private eyes hunt wrongdoers in mean, futuristic streets—and are hunted in return. Easy jobs go wrong. Hunted bounties get wily. Mysteries are solved, only to lead to more horrifying mysteries.

Sometimes the bad guys win, sometimes the good guys do. And, hey. It’s a crime anthology. Most of the time it’ll be pretty damn hard to tell the two apart. These folks are just trying to do their best (or not) in morally gray worlds.

This anthology contains stories by C.E. Clayton, Austin Dragon, Jim Keen, G.J. Ogden, Patrick Swenson, Maddi Davidson, Kate Sheeran Swed, Frasier Armitage, Mark Teppo, E.L. Strife, Greg Dragon, William Burton McCormick, Erik Grove, Mark Niemann-Ross, Caitlin Demaris McKenna, R J Theodore, Andrew Sweet, and Jessie Kwak.

SMFS Member Publishing News: Maddie Day/Edith Maxwell


Today is publication day for two books by Edith Maxwell writing as Maddie Day.

Out today is Murder in a Cape Cottage: A Cozy Capers Book Group Mystery and is the fourth book in this series. Published in print, audio, and digital formats by Kensington Cozies, the read is available through a number of vendors including Amazon.



It’s beginning to look a lot like murder in Agatha-awarding winning author Maddie Day’s latest Cozy Capers Book Group Mystery, as Cape Cod bike shop owner Mackenzie “Mac” Almeida and her book club sleuths must solve a murder before Mac and her fiancée’s New Years Eve wedding...

'Tis the day after Christmas, following a wicked-busy time of year for Mac’s bike shop. It’s just as well her Cozy Capers Book Group’s new pick is a nerve-soothing coloring book mystery, especially when she has last-minute wedding planning to do. But all pre-wedding jitters fade into the background when Mac and her fiancé, Tim, begin a cottage renovation project and open up a wall to find a skeleton—sitting on a stool, dressed in an old-fashioned bridal gown . . .

As Mac delves into the decades-old mystery with the help of librarian Flo and her book group, she discovers a story of star-crossed lovers and feuding families worthy of the bard himself. Yet this tale has a modern-day villain still lurking in Mac’s quaint seaside town, ready to make this a murderous New Year’s Eve . . .

Includes Recipes!


Today is also publication day for the anthology, Christmas Scarf Murder.  The read includes her novella, Scarfed Down. Published in print, audio, and digital formats by Kensington Cozies, the read is available through a number of vendors including Amazon.



They’re coziest of wintertime accessories…unless, of course, they become accessories to murder! USA Today bestselling author Carlene O’Connor teams up with Maddie Day and Peggy Ehrhart for a holly jolly Christmas collection of seasonal stories, as their beloved series sleuths each solve cases revolving around handknit Christmas scarves.



When grinchy thefts steal the good cheer at a local nursing home, Siobhan O’Sullivan manages to identify one missing item before Kilbane, Ireland’s Christmas tractor parade—a hideous shamrock scarf wrapped around a very dead body. Now, with her holiday farmhouse bash approaching, Siobhan must dash to stop a deadly Secret Santa from gifting another unwanted surprise.



It’s beginning to taste a lot like Christmas at Pans ‘N Pancakes, as twelve days of menu specials dazzle hungry locals. But the festivities go cold the instant a diner dies while knitting a brilliant green scarf. With Aunt Adele tied into a murder investigation, it’s all on Robbie Jordan to find out who’s really been naughty or nice in South Lick, Indiana.



Suspects pile up faster than New Jersey snow when frosty-tempered Carys Walnutt is found strangled by a handmade scarf auctioned at Arborville’s tree-lighting ceremony. Between a winning bidder hiding behind the alias “S. Claws” and a victim who deserved coal in her stocking, can Pamela Paterson and the crafty Knit and Nibble ladies freeze a killer’s merry murder plot?

Monday, September 26, 2022

SMFS Members Published in Unspeakable: Anthology of Contemporary Fiction, Volumes I and II

Several SMFS list members are published in Unspeakable: Anthology of Contemporary Fiction, Volumes I and II. Published by PulpCult, the recently released reads are available at Amazon in both print and digital formats. Volume I is here and Volume II is here.


Members in Volume I


Wil A. Emerson with “Unfurled.”


Steve Liskow with "The Inconstant Moon.”


Rob D. Smith with "Angel in a Spider's Web."


J. M. Taylor with "Best Day Ever."



Members in Volume II


A I. Dawson with "Eurydicie in the Flows.”

Patrick Kendrick with “The Hunting Grounds.”

Madeline McEwen with “No, Grandma, No.”

Little Big Crimes: The Golden Coffin, by Emory Holmes II

Little Big Crimes: The Golden Coffin, by Emory Holmes II:   "The Golden Coffin," by Emory Holmes II, in South Central Noir, edited by Gary Phillips, Akashic Press, 2022. The publisher sen...

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Little Big Crimes: Cold Case, by Bev Vincent

Little Big Crimes: Cold Case, by Bev Vincent:   "Cold Case," by Bev Vincent, in Black Cat Mystery Magazine, Issue 12, 2022. This is the second story by Vincent to make my bes...

SMFS Member Publishing News: The Worst Kind of Truth (River City Book 11) by Frank Zafiro

Today is publication day for The Worst Kind of Truth by Frank Zafiro. This is the 11th book in his River City series. Published by Code 4 Press, the read is available in digital format at Amazon.



Detective Katie MacLeod has her hands full.

It has been four years since her promotion to detective, and after paying her dues in property crimes investigations, she has made it to the Major Crimes unit. This is where the highest profile cases land—homicides, robberies, serious assaults, and sexual assaults.

Katie catches two rape cases almost back-to-back. One victim is a prostitute with an unknown suspect… who Katie fears may be gearing up for more assaults. The other victim is a college student who has accused her boyfriend, a popular baseball player, of raping her at a party.

Both cases have their own set of perils. Katie juggles her time investigating each one, encountering many obstacles—a lack of evidence in one, and wondering how to parse conflicting statements in the other.

As she battles past these difficulties, Katie faces another fact… that both cases hit home with her in very different ways. Solving them becomes more than just a job for her, but something deep-seated and personal… something that may exorcise some of her own demons from the past.

Or will they consume her?

Monday, September 19, 2022

SMFS Member Podcast News: John Floyd

SMFS list member John Floyd’s short story, The Wading Pool, is featured in the NoSleep Podcast: Season 18, Episode 12. Part of the podcast is free, but Mr. Floyd’s story is deeper in the podcast in the paid part. Mr. Floyd also reports that his short story is approximately 12 to 13 minutes long and that the illustration you see here from the website of the little girl looking out the window is inspired by his tale. You can learn more and listen to it at the website.

Delancey: Paid Book Editors: Worth It?  

Delancey: Paid Book Editors: Worth It?      It used to be ...: Paid Book Editors: Worth It?      It used to be that getting a book published was a lengthy process that had to be handled by the informat...

SMFS Member Podcast News: José H. Bográn

SMFS list member and past Vice President, José H. Bográn, is the featured guest this week at The Sisters in Crime Writers' Podcast. More information, including links to listen, is at their website.



The Sisters in Crime Writers' Podcast is a conversation about writing. Featuring SinC members, and hosted by executive director Julie Hennrikus, this podcast is about the writing journey, lessons learned, publishing journeys, and the importance of community.

Episodes are released Monday, and they are available where you download podcasts, or through the links on this page. Just click on the image to download the podcast.


José H. Bográn is the internationally published author of novels, short stories, and scripts for film, plays, and television. José's genre of choice is thrillers, but he likes to throw in a twist of romance into the mix. Although he’s the son of a journalist, he ironically prefers to write fiction rather than fact.

His latest novel, DARKSOUL, co-authored with Steven Savile, is about Sophie Keane, an assassin devoted to the criminal organization called The Hidden, but her loyalty is tested with an impossible mission: supply children to be used as test subjects for a new bio weapon.

He serves as the Assistant Editor for The Big Thrill, and writes the occasional book review for The Washington Independent Review of Books.

In his native Spanish, he’s collaborated in three 20-episode TV serials for domestic broadcasting, and has penned several screenplays; the latest one for the movie 11 Cipotes, which was an early contender for the 2016 Oscars in the Foreign Film category.

He’s a member of the Crime Writers of Color, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, and Short Mystery Fiction Society where he served as the Vice President.

He signs his emails with the motto: “I never tell lies; I only write them.”

Sunday, September 18, 2022

SMFS Members Published in Pulphouse Fiction Magazine: Issue 19

Several SMFS members are published in the recently released, Pulphouse Fiction Magazine: Issue 19. Published by WMG Publishing, the read is available in print and digital formats from Amazon, the publisher, and other vendors. The members in the issue are:


David H. Hendrickson with “You Know We’ve Got a Hell of a Band.”


Robert Jeschonek with “The 1970s Must Die!”


O’Neil De Noux with “No. 40 Basin Street.”


Annie Reed with “A Quiet Neighborhood.”


C.A. Rowland with “Gone with the Flamingos.”


Lisa S. Silverthorne with “A Father’s Daughter.”


J. Steven York with “Self Service.”


The Cutting Edge of Modern Short Fiction

A three-time Hugo Award nominated magazine, this issue of Pulphouse Fiction Magazine offers up twenty-one fantastic stories by some of the best writers working in modern short fiction.

No genre limitations, no topic limitations, just great stories. Attitude, feel, and high-quality fiction equals Pulphouse.


“Bump in the Night” by Kevin J. Anderson

“Holding Out for a Hero” by Christina F. York

“A Father’s Daughter” by Lisa Silverthorne

“Bones” by Rob Vagle

“You Know We’ve Got a Hell of a Band” by David H. Hendrickson

“No. 40 Basin Street” by O’Neil De Noux

“Duck” by Ray Vukcevich

“Creative Constructions, Inc.” by Kent Patterson

“The Last Lonely Day in the Orchard of Lost Travelers” by Scott Edelman

“One Wild Night” by Adam-Troy Castro

“The Tombstone Barber” by Robert J. McCarter

“Wicked Local Food Fight” by Johanna Rothman

“Elf Help Seminar” by Stefon Mears

“Gone with the Flamingos” by C.A. Rowland

“If I’m Lyin’, I’m Dyin’” by Jason A. Adams

“Terrier at 20,000 Feet” by Jerry Oltion

“Self Service” by J. Steven York

“Five Starving Cats and a Dead Dog” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

“A Quiet Neighborhood” by Annie Reed

“The 1970s Must Die!” by Robert Jeschonek


Several SMFS list members have works in the recently released book, FOR UKRAINE: WRITERS TOGETHER. Compiled by Patricia Le Foll, the book is a charity project with the goal of raising funds to help the Ukrainian people. You can download a PDF of the book for free at William Burton McCormick’s website and he also has links to where you can make a donation to assist Ukraine. The SMFS list members with works in the book are:


Kaye George with the poem, “Healing.”


William Burton McCormick with the essay, "Four Visions of Kharkiv."


Elizabeth Zelvin with the poem, "Sons of Ukraine."



Patricia Le Foll has assembled FOR UKRAINE: WRITERS TOGETHER, a collection of single-page personal essays, recollections and thoughts about Ukraine from people in that country and across the world.  Contributors include Caroline Kerlin, Bonnie Wehle, Leslie Berlot, Pat Zeukat, Sandra H. Luber, Serhiy Vovkiv, John Burlinson, Olena Zamperini, Pamela Uschuk, William Burton McCormick, Anastasia Paraskevova, Sharyn Rafieyan, Cate Gable, Elizabeth Zelvin, Kaye George, Kim Thomsen, Fraser Massey, Susan Oleksiw, Maksym Kosenko, David Gibson, Brenda Perrott Williamson and Ija Kiva.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

SMFS Member Publishing News: Naming a Murderer by John M. Floyd

SMFS list member John M. Floyd has another mystery short story appearing in the Woman’s World Magazine. His latest mystery short story, “Naming a Murderer” is in the current issue (September 26, 2022) of Woman’s World Magazine. The publication is available on some newsstands and by subscription.

SleuthSayers: Real or Nonreal? by John Floyd

SleuthSayers: Real or Nonreal?: I was asked an interesting question a few weeks ago, about writing. First, a quick story. Years ago a writer friend of mine had just publish...

Friday, September 16, 2022

The First Two Pages: We Are All Strangers Here by Art Taylor

 The First Two Pages: We Are All Strangers Here by Art Taylor

SMFS Member Guest Post: Who Are You When I’m Not Looking? by Paula Messina

Please welcome fellow member Paula Messina to the blog today...


Who Are You When I’m Not Looking?

by Paula Messina


Two sisters in their early thirties came through the checkpoint at Logan Airport where I worked for the Transportation Security Administration. One of the sisters, “Merriam,” opted for a pat down. It fell to me to screen her. I turned to her sister “Sarah” and, in my sternest voice, said, “Stand over there and don’t move.”

I gave Merriam the same command. “Don’t move.”

I followed proper procedures. The pat down went smoothly, and the sisters were quickly on their way.

When I screened a wheelchair-bound, elderly woman with cognitive issues, I bent at the waist in order to maintain eye contact and chatted cheerfully the whole time. That screening also went smoothly, and the woman was quickly on her way to the gate.

I reacted differently in both instances because the situations and individuals required it. This is hardly surprising. Adapting to different situations and individuals is something we do instinctively. After all, we’d be in hot water over and over again if we weren’t adaptable. As circumstances demand, we even alter our behavior when dealing with the same person.

We wear many hats, but we forget we’re wearing them. We change those hats more skillfully than a juggler keeping a dozen hats in the air. We’re masters at changing our behavior to fit the situation and the individuals involved.

You might ask what these two sisters and the elderly woman have to do with writing. They relate to character development. In order to be well rounded and imitate life, our characters must adapt as well.

One of Blake Shelton’s songs is “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking?” Shelton sings that he wants to know what a beautiful woman does when he’s not around, when he’s not looking. Even if we could keep our loved ones, friends, and colleagues in constant view, we can only know a portion of who they are. We can never know what they are like when we’re not looking. That’s not true when we write. We create the many worlds our characters inhabit. We get to see what others cannot see when they’re not looking.

Laurie Schnebly, author of Believable Characters: Creating with Enneagrams, says, “We've all experienced changing our behavior to fit the person we’re with. It makes sense to behave differently around your four-year-old niece and your company CEO, around your college roommate and your elderly neighbor. That doesn't mean you're putting on a false act. It comes naturally based on your relationship with each individual.”

In my work-in-progress novel, Donatello, my shy main character, becomes tongue-tied when he meets beautiful Rosa. He tugs his cap down over his eyes to hide his red face. This same shy guy verbally pins his parish priest to the wall for accusing Donatello of murder. When his initial efforts to stop Luciano from committing suicide fail, Donatello resorts to humor. Luciano dissolves in laughter and lives.

Different characters. Different situations. Different reactions.

In my first pass on the suicide scene, Donatello spouted trite phrases to convince Luciano to live. Luciano wasn’t buying it. Neither was my writers group. I put on my thinking cap and went back to the drawing board. I asked myself how would Donatello react in this situation? The answer was humor.

Once I had the key to how Donatello would interact with Luciano, the suicide scene worked.

But there’s another side to that story. Well, in this case, three more sides.

Donatello’s shyness might have put off another woman, but Rosa is charmed by it. She’s as smitten as he is. A different priest would have thrown Donatello out on his ear, but Father Quaranta realizes he, a man of the cloth, has sinned. And if Donatello’s humor had bombed, he would have been attending a funeral. Humor was the right response for Luciano.

Our characters need to be as adept at juggling all their hats as we are. And just as we change hats instinctively in our day-to-day living, we writers might be unaware that our characters are doing the same thing.  Whether we spin our characters’ different traits consciously or not, it’s a good idea to be aware of how differing personalities and events change characters and ultimately dictate a story’s direction.

Stephen D. Rogers says, “Once I learned about using characters to round out the main character by exposing other traits, the approach became: What personality traits has this character not exhibited? What kind of other character would bring one of those out? For the main character, I repeat the cycle multiple times.”

Rogers, whose short story “Sensing the Fall” appears in Black Cat Weekly #54, repeats the cycle for major characters at least once.

“While the rounded character is not one-dimensionally consistent, the character has to be consistent within the different specific relationships,” Rogers says. “For example, the main character is only mean with one certain person, and that mean streak appears whenever they interact.”

Veronica Leigh, whose story "My Brother's Keeper," appears in The Saturday Evening Post, says, “I usually have a plot line in my head first, then as I'm outlining the story, the characters come into fruition (their names, personalities, histories) and it's during the course of writing the story that I observe how my characters behave.”

To get back to those pat downs mentioned at the beginning, that isn’t fiction. They really happened. Why did I act that way?

When the sisters came through the checkpoint every couple of weeks, I patted down Merriam, who was undergoing cancer treatment. Each time, Merriam appeared sicker, weaker, more desperate, but she could not fly unless she was properly screened. The sisters were uncooperative. Their difficult behavior only prolonged their agony and mine.

The truth is I identified with Sarah. I knew what she was experiencing, and I ached for Merriam. If it had been in my power, I would have waved the sisters through without any screening. I couldn’t do that. By being dictatorial, I actually made a terrible situation easier for the three of us. Kindness and sympathy wouldn’t have worked with the sisters.

Leigh says, “Often my characters who are familiar and comfortable with one another will show their closeness in dialog or their demeanor. If there's tension or a complicated past, well, that too will be obvious in how they treat each other. It's a delicate balance between propelling the narrative forward and showing character development, personal arcs, and character interactions. It's a challenge not to neglect one or the other.

“The character's interactions with others - whether they're close or strangers or enemies, must complement the protagonist's growth and contribute to the story arc,” Leigh says. “My protagonists are never in the same place by the end of a story. The circumstances, the plot, and the characters they encounter and interact with, force them to evolve. That's how it is in life too - people and circumstances force us to change.”

Schnebly notes that writers are “all astute observers. We know how our protagonist feels about every other character in the story.”

We can’t always control the individuals who come and go in our lives. One of the things that makes writing so delicious is that we are the masters of our characters’ fates. Schnebly says, “If their relationship is already defined, it’ll be easy to tell how they’re going to behave with each person they encounter. If it’s not yet defined, here’s a great chance to show what you want or need it to be simply by describing how they behave around each other.”

If we writers never step into the same river twice, our characters don’t either. In each scene, they step into a new world with a new cast and new challenges. It’s how they react to those challenges that brings them to life.


Paula Messina ©2022 

Paula Messina’s “Indiana Jones and the Horse Bit Cheekpiece” appears in The Ekphrastic Review. She is writing a novel set in Boston during the 1940s.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

SMFS Member Publishing News: Red Riding in the Hood by Francelia Belton

Francelia Belton’s short story, Red Riding in the Hood, appears in the anthology, Bizarre Bazaar: A Collection of Short Stories from Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Published last month in print and digital formats by the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, it is available at Amazon.

SMFS Member Guest Post: Writing violence in your stories by Teel James Glenn

Please welcome fellow member Teel James Glenn to the blog today..... 

Writing violence in your stories by Teel James Glenn


Since the first storyteller sat around a campfire spinning tales of gods and heroes it has been a given that a little action makes a mildly interesting story into a real grabber. Put your hero or heroine in physical jeopardy and you can have a winner.  Conflict is the key to drama in your story and physical conflict, i.e., a fight, can really seal the deal with a reader.

Of course action is not the only answer, to be sure, and emotional conflict is the real essence of drama, but the line where drama ends and adventure or melodrama begin is an iffy one. If the level of your drama is high, if the characters are convincing and we as a reader care about them then you can get a real frenzy of worry out of us by having a villain try to club our hero. Or shoot him or…you get the idea.

Any physical violence, however, has to serve the purpose of the story so you have to use the same criteria for its inclusion as any other story element. Ask yourself, ‘is this fight necessary?’ That is when you ask yourself the six questions your journalism teacher used insist you ask: Why, Who, How, Where, What and When?



Why is this fight the solution to this moment of the story, instead of a dialogue scene?  After all, Shakespeare put the fight at the end of Hamlet for two very strong reasons. It was the dramatic climax that brought together several plot threads, and it was used as a device to reveal the true personalities of the major participants:  Laertes regrets using the poison, Hamlet is proud of his swordsmanship, Claudius reveals his cowardice etc. Even Conan Doyle threw in action scenes in his intellectual puzzlers—albeit in brief, intense moments.

There are four chief reasons to have a fight in a story, though often a fight (or action scene) can and should serve more than one of these reasons.

1: To amaze or confuse a character (in a mystery particularly as misdirection)

2:  To scare a character (to raise the stakes in a story)

3: To conceal/reveal some plot point within the smoke and mirrors of an action scene (see #2)

4. To reveal or accentuate a character trait (is he a coward, a hero, a fool?)



Who is involved in the action; the principal? A secondary character?  If so, what is their stake in the confrontation (their personal why)?



How did the fight come about? How does it end? And in what state are the participants when it is all over? Will there be lingering effects? And will the effects be physical or mental or both? There is also the mechanical how of a fight; that is, how to plan it out. You can’t build a house without a plan and just as you would plan out a book or story by making an outline you must do the same thing with the ‘story’ of a fight.

You can write a fight to be specific in these details--to reveal some of the traits above--or make it an impressionistic (i.e. shaky camera) description, this is especially useful when you want to obscure some plot point. And, of course, in first person POV stories the ‘combat literacy’ of the main character can determine a lot of these factors—i.e. a suburban housewife will not be able to describe a martial technique with any accuracy but a boxer might use specific terms.



Where does the action take place? Is it an interesting enough place, i.e. a kitchen, a garage, a spaceship port? What makes that place of particular interest? Does it add color to the story, or is it just a drab background, a diorama in front of which the action takes place?



What is involved, physically in the fight? A sword fight; if so, what style? Or styles. Do they use the objects at hand or did they bring the ‘death dealers’ with them. (Jackie Chan movies are especially good at finding clever things to do with found objects in action scenes—you don’t have to be ‘clever’ funny but you should clever smart.).



       When is it appropriate to have a fight instead of a non-physical solution? I know I keep stressing this, but that cuts to the heart of the situation of many literature snobs who will not deal with any ‘action’ because they feel it cheapens the purpose of a story. I refer you back to Hamlet on this point—sometimes you need a good dust up!





Flavors of violence and the ‘ouch’ factor:

Fights, like dramatic styles, come in a variety of flavors, each suited to the overall tone of the story.

A grim, down and dirty knife fight might be fine for a thriller, but wrong for a romantic comedy.

Once you understand that it hurts you can think about the ‘ouch factor’: that is, how much damage and how much recovery time.

This is where the flavors come in— how you balance these elements: how real, how much pain, and to what end the action in the scene in the story determine if the fight is farce or frightening

So how does it break down—what makes a fight funny or scary or realistic?

 Not everyone is a fight choreographer, but every one can choreograph a fight. Really.

The first thing you do is to decide the type of fight. For argument’s sake we will assume you want to design a sword fight. Short swords.

I know, you don’t have any short swords sitting around the house. No problem. Get some rolled up newspaper and a congenial friend/mate/sibling. Now slowly, as in really slow like an old Six Million Dollar Man episode, walk through five or six moves.

Just like a slow motion dance. Then write it down; but in the writing the newspapers become real swords and you are moving at breathtaking speed.

Now this may not be possible; you might not be able to physically execute the moves, or have a long suffering conspirator to collaborate with.

No problem. Just let the inner child out and get a couple of movable action figures. Even the art store pose-able figures with no features. Tape some short swords made out of pop sticks into their hands and let them do your fighting for you.

Then write it all down. 


Teel James Glenn ©2022 

Teel James Glenn has killed hundreds and been killed more times, as he has traveled the world for forty-plus years as a stuntman, swordmaster, storyteller, bodyguard, actor, and haunted house barker. His poetry and short stories have been printed in over two hundred publications including Weird Tales, Mystery Weekly, Pulp Adventures, Space & Time, Mad, Cirsova, Silverblade, and Sherlock Holmes Mystery. His novel A Cowboy in Carpathia: A Bob Howard Adventure won best novel 2021 in the Pulp Factory Award, the winner of the 2012 Pulp Ark Award for Best Author and he was a finalist for the Derringer short mystery award in 2022. Learn more at