Monday, February 24, 2020

Body Moving

As a fight scene editor and writing instructor, I get asked
some pretty odd questions: The most efficient way to go through a portal if some one is shooting at you. The best weaponry for use on the back of a dragon. How to outrun a robot in the docking bay of a space ship. Where you can stab a character and them die but not so quickly that they can't have a conversation before going to glory.

This is my life.

And, I love it.

I have been asked many times how characters in manuscripts should move a corpse. Half of the time the writer's tone is dead serious - pun intended. The other half of the time they are laughing but I know they still want the answer. Well, y'all,'s how to move dead weight.

In the video I will explain why dead weight is hard to move. How to move a character that is unconscious, then how to move a character that is dead. And, just as there is more than one way to butter bread, there's more than one way to move a body. What I do in the video is the best way for me and my size.

My assistant in the video is my buddy, Julia, who is hilarious. People should have to buy tickets to hang around her.  

There you have it, FightWriters. That is my take on the predicament of dead weight. As you can see I'm trying to do more videos. You have requested them in ALL CAPS MESSAGES, sent me emails and shouted out on social media and I have heard you. I'm trying to do more. Be patient. 

Until the next round at FightWrite™.net, get blood on your pages!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

What Your Character Should NOT Do When they Punch

"He clenched his fist tightly and swung hard." Ever read that? It makes sense. For your fist to be solid, it makes sense that you'd clench it tightly. And for your punch to hit like a wrecking ball, seems like you'd want to swing it like one. The thing is, clenched fists aren't as solid as a wrecking ball. And, to knock down a wall, you don't swing a wrecking ball hard. In both cases, what you need more than what makes sense is science. 

Efficient fighting is anchored in science. That science is generally physics. And, if you aren't familiar with physics, it be crazy.

It is also because of physics that you do NOT clench your fist and swing hard. Watch this video and you'll see what I mean. Pardon my cat.  

Everything in the video is in my book Fight Write: How to Write Believable Fight Scenes out with Writer's Digest - Penguin/Random House. It's available just about everywhere and creeping into libraries. If your library doesn't have it, request it! But, don't tell them it's because you have want your hero to bathe in the blood of their vanquished. At least not right off the bat. Start with something lighter like, "I'd like to request the title Fight Write: How to Write Believable Fight Scenes. It's published with Writer's Digest. That sweater is lovely. I WANT MY HERO TO BATHE IN THE BLOOD OF THEIR VANQUISHED!!! Choose the pic to buy the book from Amazon.

Until the next round at, may be the mass x acceleration be with you.

(In case you are wondering why physics isn't capitalized, it is because you only capitalize it when it is the first word of a sentence or the proper name of a class.  "My Physics101 teacher be crazy as physics.")

(If are reading this far, in the video, see how my nose points to the side a little? I took a leg to the face while training MMA. The cartilage was displaced and my nose looked like it was trying to tell my ear a secret. I straightened it by hand the best I could. But my nose still looks like it is thinking about running away. I also have a calcium deposit on my chin from getting punched. And my ears are get weirder. And my fingers are a wreck. And I have a chunk of metal in my back... Other than that, fighting has been good to me!!! )

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Carrying a Sword on the Back with Edged Weapons Expert Kirk McCune

Kirk vetted the blade portions
of my book for accuracy.
Do to the public outcry that begged the question, can your character carry a sword on their back, I did a podcast with edged weapons expert, Kirk McCune. Kirk is a Bahala Na Master but his expertise extends to swords of the Western world as well. In fact, I once asked him what sword he would have as an everyday carry and he said a rapier. 

I love interviewing Kirk not only because of his vast knowledge, but the man is a writer at heart. He sees things in a writerly way. You will see that in this interview when he talks about why the big screen and graphic works place the swords on backs of characters.

This is a summary of my podcast with Kirk. You should give it a listen. It's purdy good, as we say in Tejas. 

In the podcast, Kirk talks a good bit about Master Leo Giron. Master Giron was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal for heroism in WWII. He and his commando regiment were under the direct command of General Douglas McArthur. Giron and the 978th Signal Group fought the Japanese hand-to-hand, blade-to-blade in the jungles of the Philippines. Master Giron is the father of the Giron Arnis Escrima/Bahala Na Martial Arts system composed of twenty styles including sword, stick, knife and empty hand techniques. In this summary, Master Kirk's words are in italic.

Why do we often see swords carried on the back in TV and movies?

I understand the question. The tradition in pop culture and films is heavily weighted with characters carrying a sword on their back. I just watched Conan the Barbarian again and he had a nice little mechanism where he took the blade from his back to his hip. The movies Blade and Beastmaster have it on the back too. Legolas in Lord of the Rings carries his on his back. But, his first weapon is a bow so he needs his hands free. He needs the secondary weapon on his back.
I think there is a reason why the weapon is on the back in films and comics: It's more dynamic. It's the same idea as how in movies the detective sneaks into a room and he's got his gun up by his face. That's not the place that you want your gun. But in the movies that's awesome because you get the actor's face and the gun and you get the music going... It's a similar idea that you can show the actor's face with his sword hilt right by his head. And in scenarios where it's more practical to have the sword on the hip, it's not in the scene because it's not in the face shot.

(Notice in the video how the face is not in the same shot as the hip draw or sheathe.)

Yes, and in the case of Conan the Barbarian, Arnold Schwarzenegger was Mr. Olympia! Of course they will want him to put his arms back behind his head.
You don't see ... all this...with a hip draw.
Just sayin'. This pic
is from Fine Art Americahim to put his arms back behind his head!

Exactly, that's going to show his biceps and that's not wrong if you're wanting to show that feeling of power and that's what's important in your writing there. But, yeah if you need to fight somebody in that moment and you are drawing from your back and he is drawing from his waist, like an ambush, well, you're dead meat. Grand Master Giron said it best, whoever gets there first is the winner and that means whoever delivers the real cut first will win.

How long are real sword fights?

Here's something interesting, Grand Master Giron fought the Japanese with a sword, he won two bronze stars for his bravery in combat. He fought those men in arm's length with a sword. And he said the longest engagement that he saw was two strikes. He either swung and hit him or the guy swung and was countered. 


Duels can last a little longer but duels come down to one or two decisive actions.They started making duelists fight without their shirts because they started wearing chain mail to protect themselves.

What's better? Draw from hip or the back?

All things being equal, you and I face off and we have the same wielding speed, when you have it on your hip and I have it on my back, what is your advantage?

A draw from the hip allows for the classic upward rising strike which we call an upward figure 8 and it is a wicked strike to try and deflect or evade. It comes from below your eye sight and my body as a target moves away from you as my blade moves into you. Whereas the downward strike inherently brings the arm and torso into the fight as a target. 

Talonasan blade as used by Master Giron in WWII. More
info at the bottom.
Exceptions, Ninjas

There's always exceptions though. There are whole arts dedicated from drawing the sword from behind and the swords are specifically made to be efficient for the draw from behind the back. Many of the ninja arts have this. But they needed it behind the back because maybe it was a secondary weapon and they needed their hands. I think that access point at the hip is superior.
Many times the old treatises show the soldiers of fortune carry their swords on their back but they were carrying them as gear. That's not how they were worn into battle. Sometimes the soldiers just carried them in their hand.
You can carry your weapon many ways. But as you get close to the combative action, you need to have your weapon out.

Reality in Writing

That's important for writers of fantasy, (if the sword is on the back) what's the practicality of what your character is doing? And that might change depending on range and what your character is doing. You also need to consider the length of the weapon when you draw it off the back.
If you are going for reality in your writing, these men have been training their entire life, they want to kill and stop their opponent as quickly as possible because it is so dangerous. So, again, (in carrying it on the back) I think you can do it, but should you do it, how can you do it, why are you doing it - all those things need to be brought out to have realism.

There you have it FightWriters. It's not a matter of can you carry a sword on your back. It's more of a question of should you and why are you? It may be that your character might need to carry a sword on their back. If that is the case, it is because it is a secondary weapon or they need their hands free. 
Or, you know what, the purpose of it being on the back may just be for the sake of coolness. And that is fine! There is something to be said for putting some razzle dazzle in your work. But, the back carry is not as efficient a carry. And, guess what, capes are not practical for super heroes but that doesn't stop people from putting a cape on them! We love the capes. Capes are cool! (I'm wearing one now!) So, if you want to put a sword on the back of your ronin, you go right the heck ahead! But, when it comes time for battle, your character better get that blade to the hip!

And that's it for this round on FightWrite®.net. Until the next round, get blood on your pages!

To see Master Giron's system in practice, skip over to 1:50.

The Talunásan (Talonason) is a 36" blade from the northern Luzon island of the Philippines. It is named after a long, thin eel from that region. Master Giron also called it "long knife." This was the blade used by 978th Signal Service Company fighters.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Fight Thoughts

I got a question on "the Tweeter," recently that, I have to
say, I've received more than a dozen times.

I answered Tim's question in the most recent episode of the FightWrite podcast. But, I figured I'd post on it as well. Some prefer to read rather than listen. And I give different details in each.

What are the thoughts and feelings experienced by people as they fight?

To get to the heart of this answer, we need to go to the tops of the kidneys and look at the adrenal glands. When our bodies go into fight or flight mode, adrenaline is released.  I've done a few posts on this amazing hormone, its rush and ensuing dump. There's even an entire section in my book on it.The reason I've given it so much attention is because it is that important. Its effects on the human body are all-encompassing: physical, mental and emotional.

 BUY THE BOOK!Although every fighter is different, there is something they all have in common in the midst of the fray: adrenaline is in control. And, because of this, thoughts are simple and emotions are dull. Notice, I said, in the midst of the fray. When the mind is no longer occupied with self defense, thoughts and emotions might change a bit especially as adrenaline ebbs. But, for this question, we are only focusing on what is happening as the fighter fights. 
Now, let me say up front that with fighting, there are no absolutes. Like any other aspect of life, there's exceptions and anomalies. However, when those quirky moments do pop up they are contradictory to what our bodies are designed to do while in fight or flight. When you are fighting to survive, complex thoughts and rich emotion are a detriment.

When a character is fighting for their life, adrenaline diminishes critical thinking skills. That is a function of self preservation. In a dire situation, reaction is generally more important than reason. You run from a bear. You don't reason with it.

However, thoughts do enter the mind. They tend to be shorter and less wordy than usual thoughts especially in an attack scenario. Those thoughts may be little more than, survive, get away, stop, help. In the post, Being Attacked, a woman recalls being assaulted by a half dozen people. She told me her thoughts as the attacked occurred. Check it out for a first-hand example of not only the thoughts but emotions that occur during an attack.

The thoughts of trained fighters might be a little more complex even if the fight they are in is not sanctioned, but a fight for their life. That is not because they are not in an adrenaline rush. When your body releases adrenaline, it doesn't discriminate between threats.

Fighters do several types of training. Some training hones skills, some builds stamina, and one is for the sole purpose of dealing with adrenaline. That training is called live sparring. Live sparring mimics a fight and forces the fighter to perform under the effects of adrenaline. Sparring isn't when a fighter learns skill. Sparring is when a fighter learns to use what they know when they aren't thinking as clearly. It is when they use muscle memory. "Muscle memory" is created when you practice a certain response so much that it becomes what you do without even thinking about it. We all have it whether we realize it or not. Which, is kind of the point. 

Training is also how people who deal with adrenaline as a part of their job are able to function productively. Emergency room doctors work in the ER a long time before a patient's life depends on the doctor's ability to stay calm. And, yes, you can learn to stay calm when adrenaline is surging. Do your pupils still dilate, your heart race, your body feel spring loaded? Yep. Absolutely. But your brain is more accustomed to the effects and can navigate them better. 

Ok, now, the emotions...I will tackle that subject in another round. I was told by a pro that I shouldn't give so much info at once. ¯\_(ヅ)_/¯   

Until the next round at FightWrite®, get blood on your pages.

To prepare you for upcoming posts, watch this video. Notice how the fighter reacts AFTER hitting the dummy. Watch him closely.



Thursday, December 5, 2019

Crime Scene Cleaning Pt 2 - Writer Questions

Recently on the FightWrite podcast, I interviewed David
Morales of BioTechs Crime and Trauma Cleaning Services. He was kind enough to do two interviews with me. In the first he told me a bit about his job. I've done a summary post about that interview here.

The second part of the interview is featured today. It is not word for word what was said, just a summary. I really suggest you listen to the interview. Especially because of the jugs of urine. Yes, I said "jugs of urine." Keep reading, you'll see what I mean.

How is crime scene clean-up different from CSI?
Crime scene investigation and is a function of the police department. Their job is to gather evidence in order to piece together what happened. Anything they remove from the crime scene is for the purpose of investigation not to clean the area. Crime scene cleaners are private entities and actually clean the crime scene to remove biohazards.

How do you clean up horrible crime scenes and stay emotionally healthy?
It helps to know that we are helping families and loved ones. It keeps the family from experiencing further trauma. I try to keep that in mind.

Is there is a type of crime you are called most often for?
The majority of the jobs are suicides or unattended deaths.

Do you ever have to deal with pieces of human matter?
We have picked up ears, noses, teeth, eyes, fingers, nothing like a leg or arm. The medical examiner takes the large parts of the body for the family for the funeral.

How do you dispose of that?
We put them in our biohazard boxes and, per OSHA guidelines, the boxes are incinerated.

Where are they incinerated?
There are places around that specialize in incinerating this sort of thing. We store the biohazard boxes in a separate location and they are picked up for disposal once a month.

Are there times of the years that you have more activity?
We see more suicides around the holidays. In the summer we see more unattended deaths.

Is there a time of year where you see more car crashes?
No, that's consistent. There's crazy drivers year round.

Do you follow the same procedures for cleaning cars?
Yes, the carpet and anything that can't be sanitized has to come out. We go down to the metal if necessary.

What does human death smell like?
You never forget the smell of human death. It is a bitter, sour milk smell. It's "mushy" and you can smell the metal in the blood. The health of the person can change the smell as can the environment. If it's hot, the smell will be stronger.

Have you ever not been able to get the smell out?
No, but there's been times it's taken longer than expected. We've had to go through sheet rock and studs. Once the smell was caught in the a/c and we had to clean the air ducts. In that particular instance it took a week to get the smell out.

How do you help people who have a shared wall? How do you help them with the smell?
We may have to go to the next apartment. Once we had to take out the cabinets of the neighbor and there was actually more fluid under their cabinets than in the apartment of the one who passed.

Is the smell of a dead animal the same as a human?
The smell of a dead animal seems to stay consistent. Human smell tends to just get worse. I think animals smell worse.

When you enter a hoarder house where there is a death, what's the worst smell?
In a hoarding situation there are a lot of different smells. Sometimes the smell of the hoarded material is so strong you don't even smell a dead body until you are right up on it. 

Are things collected at hoarding situations destroyed as bio-hazardous weight?
It depends if a body is present and how long it has been there. If the body has been there a week or two weeks, the body starts to decompose and it attracts maggots. The maggots turn into flies which fly around the house. You can see little black dots on the windows and walls where the flies have tried to escape. They are so full of contamination that every time they hit the window or wall, they leave spots. Anywhere a fly has been, there is contamination. It all has to come out. We've had to tear out carpet and wipe walls all over.

How do you dispose of big things like carpet?
It all has to be broken down, boxed up and incinerated.

If a writer has a murder scene in their book, how should their character cover up evidence?
I would burn evidence or use oxygen producing detergents or replace the wall, floor etc.

What are writers of books and movies not getting right with violent crime scenes?
It's not that I don't think they are getting it right. I think sometimes it is a little too elaborate, a little too much blood etc. But, that makes for a good movie or book.

Have you ever had to testify in court?
I haven't but I know others who have. By the time the scene gets to us it's pretty well investigated.

What's the craziest thing you've seen in a hoarding situation?
Jugs of urine. Lots of jugs of urine. With details of the filling! (You really need to listen to the podcast for the details on this one! It's crazy!!!) 

If you get blood on the carpet at your house, what do you do to get it out?
If it's my house and it's from a cut on my finger, I will use chemicals. If it's a larger amount, I would cut the carpet out!!! What you see on the surface is only a hint of what is underneath. It might be a small spot on the surface but a huge circle underneath.

That's it fightwriters! Again, I suggest you listen to the podcast. It's an interesting one. On the note of maggots on a body, here's how they help solve crimes!

On the next round of, get blood on your pages!

Friday, November 15, 2019

Crime Scene Cleaners

After the corpse has been collected and all evidence
documented and bagged, what's left at a crime scene is a big ole' mess. And, I don't mean dirty dishes. Human matter doth abound. That is generally the end of the scene in movies and books but the fact is somebody cleans up that mess. And it's not the police or paramedics. Glory, they have enough to do. The job falls to private contractors such at BioTechs Crime and Trauma Cleaning Services here in the greater Houston area.

I interviewed David Morales at BioTechs and asked him a bit about his job for the FightWrite Podcast. The first interview was so good that I asked him to come back for a second and he did.

In this post, I will summarize what David told me about his work in our first interview. I'm giving you bare bones here. You really should listen to the interview. Just sayin'.

First, crime scenes indoors are generally cleaned by private contractors and they should be. Special care should be taken to eliminate bio hazardous material from an area. Blood born pathogens are nasty things and should be treated as, well, bio hazards.  

When David is called for a job, he first visits the site personally. He first walks onto the property or looks in the vehicle to estimate the time and manpower needed for the job. He then provides the property owner with an estimate. Homeowners and often renters insurance covers his services (who knew?). I am not sure if vehicle insurance does or not. I'm waiting to hear back from him on that. Also, some states will give you money to help you pay for the services.  

After David knows what he is in for, he and his crew suit up in hazmat gear and get to work. Anything porous that is soiled with blood or body fluid is taken away. That includes carpet, wood, dry wall, fabric. His crew boxes it up and stores it until it can be picked up by a company who destroy bio hazardous waste. Nonporous surfaces such as glass and metal can be sanitized. 

Although the hazmat suits have filters, the smell of death still permeates. David said that once you smell it, you never forget it. To him is has a sour but also metallic odor. He said that he personally had never gotten sick by the smell of human decay but fecal matter he just couldn't take. He also said that the smell of a dead human is very different than that of a dead animal. For him, the latter is worse.

I asked him how he did his job and stayed mentally healthy. There had been a few cleanings that had gotten to him, he said. He and his crew don't always operate in a vacant residence. Sometimes loved ones are still in the house mourning the loss. That is tough for him and his crew. But, what keeps him going is that not only is he doing something that keeps the family healthy, he is helping them through a traumatic event. And, he does that by doing more than cleaning. If there is anything the family needs from the room or residence where the death occurred, he will retrieve it for them. In fact, that's one of the first things he offers. He treats the people he cleans for with kindness and compassion. After all, his services aren't really something anyone wants to use. But, he said more than one homeowner has hugged him and thanked him for his services. And, I don't doubt that at all.

Ok, sooooo what about the gross stuff? Well, that will be in the next post. OR, you can listen to it in the second part of my interview with him.

Until the next round at, get blood on your pages.

Here is an episode of Crime Scene Cleaning. Enjoy. Should I say, "enjoy?" I don't know. Anyway, here ya go!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

WIN IT WEDNESDAY - Tosca Lee's, A Single Light.

We interrupt our crime scene series (podcast) for this
special announcement: IT'S WIN IT WEDNESDAY!

So begins a new series at On win it Wednesday we will examine a fight scene from a book and by commenting on the post, you could win that book and/or a copy of my book, Fight Write: How to Write Believable Fight Scenes. The contest runs Oct 16 - 23. Leave a contact email or keep an eye out for the winner announcement Friday, Oct 25.

Our book for this Win It Wednesday is Tosca Lee's, A Single Light, the sequel to The Line Between. We will look at what Tosca writes, a video of what might be taking place and what we as writers can learn from both.

A Single Light: Chapter - 10:25 P.M.

By the time we arrive on the east side of the building, Chase has the second guard pinned on his back ten feet from his rifle, arms locked around his neck and under an arm. The guard kicks like a half-squashed bug, tries to buck and roll. Chase just pivots with him.

For the record, when I said that coach Galvão was trying to get up, I meant as a mere mortal would try not as a now fifth degree black belt would. You could park a truck on his chest and he'd get up. He's magical like that. Like a magical, bald unicorn.

From the video: We see that there's several things that Tosca could be describing. And, what I didn't cover is why all over those pins/holds work. In every case, I have pinned coach Galvão's chest and shoulders with either weight or discomfort. Yes, even though I weigh less than he does, it is enough to limit his movement enough that he can neither turn nor raise up. He can turn his hips but without being able to move his shoulders, it doesn't matter. 

If I am too far down on his chest, none of that works. These pins do work on opponents at least 100lbs heavier. I know from experience. However, my technique has to be spot on and I need to attack as soon as possible. Also, if my legs are too far from my opponent's head, they can reach them with their legs and pull me away. Every part of my body is where it is for a reason. Even in what looks like the most simple moves, technique matters.
Ok, why Lee's scene is a great example of how to write a fight scene:

She keeps it simple. With the video explained a little more, you can see that there are a lot of details that Tosca could have added such as where Chase's legs were and where his weight is distributed. She doesn't because she chose to serve the story instead.

She serves the story. To serve the story is to only use what is necessary to further the story. Tosca could have added in the details I mentioned but she didn't because they didn't matter in the scene, chapter or book. What mattered is that Chase is pinning the guard and he does it in a way that is in keeping with his character who is a former fighter.

She doesn't use technical jargon. Tosca does not tell us the name of pin/hold Chase is using. That would show her knowledge of fighting without consideration of her reader's knowledge of fighting. Requiring a reader to know what they don't can take them out of a moment. A reader should be in the fight, not trying to figure it out. 

Writers, it can take a whole book to win a reader, but just a page to lose them. Don't lose your reader by using jargon they don't understand. Yes, there are times when technical words must be used. If that is the case, show the meaning of that jargon. Don't tell. Show. I cover that a bit more in my book.
She uses description everyone can relate to. Tosca writes that the guard "kicks like a half-squashed bug, tries to buck and roll." That is a description that many people can visualize. It also gives us an idea of how much pressure Chase is putting on the guard's chest. Plus, it's kinda funny to think about. In that hold, I have totally bucked and kicked like a squashed bug.

Make your fight scene simple, relatable and serve your story. I know it is hard to not add in all the technical details especially if you have a specialized knowledge. You have to ask yourself if your reader would still understand the scene if they had never seen a fight, weapon or martial art in their life.

Comment below for a chance to win Tosca Lee's A Single Light swag bag or my book Fight Write: How to Write Believable Fight Scenes. You might just win both!

Until the next round at, get blood on your pages.